T.E. Lawrence and the Making of the Modern Middle East

August 30th, 2013
History and great historical sweeps are generally not just a series of unfortunate events. Rather, they are part of long connected progression of events, that circle around and become knotted in each other and that have far reaching consequences that last years, decades and sometimes centuries.  It  often seems that, because we seldom learn from such events, that these historical events don’t have a normal half life.

Nowhere is this more obvious than in today’s Middle East. A place where today's troubles are often the result of yesterday folly.

Might it have been different, if a century ago the British had listened to T.E. Lawrence, the man popularized in the 1962 film Lawrence of Arabia.  

Journalist and author Scott Anderson, lays out the reality of those events that might have changed the world, in his book Lawrence in Arabia: War, Deceit, Imperial Folly and the Making of the Modern Middle East.

My conversation with Scott Anderson:

The City that punches above its weight class

August 28th, 2013
Given all the accolades that come to San Francisco, from its role in shaping our culture, and its inspiration for Tony Bennett, it’s often hard to believe that there are conflicting views. Recently, the co-founder of a start-up, credit card processing company, who was forced to move to San Francisco by his financiers, took to Medium with a different view.  

He said,  “San Francisco! It's the worst. The weather, the people, the cyclists, the dreary architecture and glum landscape... just ugh--why would any sane person want to live in this urine-scented homeless wasteland? Without the skrillions of available venture funding dollar and generous tech tax breaks, it's obvious San Franawful would drift off into an ocean of irrelevance.”

This is not the view held by Gary Kamiya, a Bay Area native, and a founder of Salon, who has just written Cool Gray City of Love: 49 Views of San Francisco.
My conversation with Gary Kamiya:

Religion and mass incarceration

August 26th, 2013
It has been said, although the origin is uncertain, that there are no atheists in foxholes. The same might be said of prisons.  Particularly prisons in America;  a country that has both a high regard for religion and and an even higher regard for mass incarceration.  

Joshua Dubler, in his new book Down in the Chapel: Religious Life in an American Prison, takes a look at how these ideas might be related and what his microcosm of prison and religion might say, not only about the men he talks to, but about our society at large.

My conversation with Joshua Dubler:

The last 100 days

August 22nd, 2013
Because there is no preparation for the burdens and responsibly of the Presidency, it would take JFK,  almost nine-hundred of his thousand days to reach his apogee.  With the death of his infant son Patrick, as a catalyst, the final 100 days of the Kennedy presidency, which began 50 years ago this month, would become the capstone of Camelot and the defining time of a promised unfulfilled.

Kennedy historian Thurston Clark, in JFK's Last Hundred Days: The Transformation of a Man and the Emergence of a Great President, takes us deep inside those final 100 days.

My conversation with Thurston Clarke:

Elmore Leonard 1925 - 2013 - Be Cool

August 20th, 2013
From the police logs in local newspapers to the Metro sections of major metropolitan dailies, from the pablum of TV drama, to pulp fiction, crime always sells.  But few dramatized it better than Elmore Leonard.  

He was the author of 45 crime novels including Cat Chaser, Fifty Two Pickup, Be Cool, Get Shorty, Maximum Bob, Rum Punch, Cuba Libre, Glitz  and Tishomingo Blues. He was an American original, who was one of the earliest to understand the heroes needn't be perfect.  Long before Breaking Bad, or Tony Soprano, he created a series of stories and characters, that blurred the lines between “good” and “bad.”

I had the privilege of talking to Leonard several times over the years, the last time in 2004. Here is compendium of some of those conversation:

Why Brainstorming Doesn’t Work - The case for thinking Inside the Box

August 20th, 2013
Who hasn’t sat in endless brainstorming sessions, trying to be creative.  We’re told to think outside the box, to magically conjure up new and different ways of doing things.  Often without structure.  Yet when we look at the history of innovation, we find that there are clearly patterns and techniques that do make a difference.  We find that product after product, innovation after innovation shows very clear methods as to how they were developed.

Marketing and innovation professor Drew Boyd has broken these down in a way that essentially enables us to think Inside the Box, to develop a Proven System of Creativity for Breakthrough Results.

My conversation with Drew Boyd:

This Cheese Does Not Stand Alone

August 19th, 2013
A magical cave, a piece a cheese, a 260 lb man,  a modern journey into a time past, and a new, old understanding of food and life.  Just a few of the elements of Michael Paterniti's new literary work of nonfiction, The Telling Room: A Tale of Love, Betrayal, Revenge, and the World's Greatest Piece of Cheese

Beginning in 1991 in a famed deli in Ann Arbor, Michigan, it’s a story, that like Robert Louis Stevensons’ s definition of wine as “bottled poetry,” resonates with the history and passion that some foods carries with them.

My conversation with Michael Paterniti:

The Life and Times of Charles Manson

August 16th, 2013
Often times through fictional characters we are able to capture an entire ethos.  Certainly Jay Gatsby defines a certain era, as does Don Draper, as does Woody Allen’s Zelig.  It’s a rare thing when a real life characters does this. But such is the case with Charles Manson.  

The Tate/LaBianca murders took place 44 years ago this week, and still Charles Manson resonates with us.  The media has often defined him as a product of the 60’s, but in many ways he also defines the 40’s and 50’s.  He was, according to award winning investigative journalist Jeff Guinn, the wrong person in the right place at the right time.

With all that has been written about Manson, Guinn’s book, Manson: The Life and Times of Charles Manson, is the first full account of who Charles Manson really is.

My conversation with Jeff Guinn:

One continent, indivisible…

August 15th, 2013
We are coming up next year, on the 20th anniversary of NAFTA.  It has created tens of millions jobs, more integrated a continent,  and dramatically increased trade.  Yet, for politically expedient reasons, we constantly seem to be re litigating these issues.

Arguably we should be looking at the success of NAFTA as a jumping off point for greater geopolitical and economic integration of the North American continent. 

The World is changing. With technology growing and business becoming ever more global, the future economic and national security of the US will be dependent on cooperation with our neighbors to the North and South. 

National security and Latin American expert, Dr. Robert Pastor makes the case for this future in his new book, The North American Idea: A Vision of a Continental Future.  The world is changing he argues and we can't go forward and make progress as human beings, while being held back by arbitrary political borders and nostalgia for archaic ideas such as isolationism and opposition to globalization.

My conversation with Dr. Robert Pastor:

Queens of Noise

August 14th, 2013
It’s hard to believe today, but there once was a glass ceiling in Rock 'n Roll.  That is, before the teenage members of the Runaways in the mid 70’s released four albums for a major label, toured the world and broke down barriers that would open the way for girl bands and female rockers to follow.

Their rise and fall is documented by Evelyn McDonnell in her new book Queens of Noise: The Real Story of the Runaways.
My conversation with Evelyn McDonnell: 

Jack Germond R.I.P.

August 14th, 2013
He was almost like a character out of The Front Page.  He loved newspapers, he loved reporting and most of the time, he loved politics.  In 2000 though he stopped writing his nationally syndicated column because he was fed up with what our political system had become. He wrote a book about it, Fat Man Fed Up: How American Politics Went Bad.

In July of 2004, Jack Germond and I talked, as we had many times before, about the state of politics and how it was so disappointing to him.  He pulled no punches as he talked about things that would only get worse during his final eight years.  They don't make reporters like Jack Germond anymore.  

Here is part of our conversation from July of 2004:  

The Future of Elections in America

August 14th, 2013
Reporting on presidential campaigns has become a kind of quadrennial ritual in which, after the election is long over, we get to go behind the scenes to understand what made the campaigns tick; what mistakes were made by the looser and what was done right by the winning team.

The really good ones though, take us behind the scenes of the electorate itself.  They examine not just how power passes, but how the nature of the country changes every four years.  For Presidential votes are different than other kinds of elections. They are a kind of national gut check of the mood, temper, culture and divisions of the time.  They tell us about the candidates, but more importantly, the really good reporting also give us a snapshot of ourselves.

That's what Washington Post Chief Correspondent Dan Balz has done in Collision 2012: Obama vs. Romney and the Future of Elections in America

My conversation with Dan Balz: 

A Bipolar Life

August 10th, 2013
Kay Redfield Jamison, in her class book about depression, The Unquiet Mind, says that "manic-depression distorts moods and thoughts, incites dreadful behaviors, destroys the basis of rational thought, and too often erodes the desire and will to live. It is an illness that is biological in its origins, yet one that feels psychological in the experience of it, an illness that is unique in conferring advantage and pleasure, yet one that brings in its wake almost unendurable suffering."  

But imagine if no one knows what your illness is, or if it is mistreated by the medical community.  How much worse is it, when treatment is possible, but it is prevented or delayed  by ignorance.

That's the story that Melody Moezzi tells in Haldol and Hyacinths: A Bipolar Life

My conversation with Melody Moezzi:

Be all that you can be

August 6th, 2013
Look at most people that have achieved great success and you’ll probably find a great coach or a great mentor.  As a culture steeped in the ethos of success, its surprising really that we don't’ put more emphasis on and greater value for coaching and mentoring.  Think about some examples:  Dr. Martin Luther King, mentored by Benjamin E. Mays. Warren Buffett mentored by Benjamin Graham. Bill Gates who would later be mentored by Warren Buffett.  We marvel at the success of Steve Jobs, who had several mentors, including Robert Friedland and Andy Grove.  Jobs himself would become a mentor to Mark Benioff.

These relationships were not about just teaching. They were about inspiring.  As the great poet Robert Frost said of his work, “I am not a teacher, I'm an awakener.”  Mentors are about awakening us to be, as the slogan goes, all that we can be.  Few do this job better than renowned mentor David C.M. Carter, who now shares some of his secrets in Breakthrough.

My conversation with David Carter. 

John Palmer 1935 - 2013

August 4th, 2013
In this age in which news is often conflated with entertainment and job hopping is de rigueur,  John Palmer was the anomaly.  He reported for NBC for over 40 years.  He covered the White House, the Middle East and reported on some of the most important stories of our time.  

Back in March of 1997, John visited the Napa Valley and we had the chance to chat a bit about Washington in the Clinton years.  John was appalled by the way money had taken over politics, as well as the insular nature of Washington.  

He was a great reporter, who always defined the best of broadcast journalism.  

Here is seven minutes of that conversation from 16 years ago.

Technology is in your Brain.

August 2nd, 2013
We are all connected.  In a macro sense the Internet and technology connects us all.  But think about all of our individual networks.  Our social networks, on and off line, our business networks, our networks as customers, as consumers and as family members.  And like a complex venn diagram, these networks get stronger and denser and smarter as they all interconnect with each other.  

But is there a point where it’s too much.  Where the density or even the brittleness of these networks, affect our thoughts, our emotions and potentially, like an autoimmune disease, collapse in on themselves  by reaching a kind of break point?

That's the jumping off point for brain scientist and entrepreneur Jeff Stibel's book Breakpoint: Why the Web will Implode, Search will be Obsolete, and Everything Else you Need to Know about Technology is in Your Brain.

My conversation with Jeff Stibel:

Is youthful pain the key to success?

August 1st, 2013
We know that real success demands strange sacrifices of those who worship at its alter.  But do those willing to make those sacrifices possess of a unique kind of obsessiveness, the proverbial fire in the belly, that is often only fueled by youthful pain and determination?

In short, is greatness a kind of OCD run amuck, a kind of mental illness, that in the right mind achieves magnificent feats?  That's the idea behind Joshua Kendall's America's Obsessives: The Compulsive Energy That Built a Nation.
My conversation with Joshua Kendall: 
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