I talked with science journalist and author Kara Platoni about her new book We Have the Technology, all about how scientists, inventors, and others are working to understand and possibly move past the limits of human senses and perception. It's a fascinating book full of cutting-edge science and big questions, and I enjoyed talking with Kara about it.
Twilight Greenaway, managing editor of Civil Eats, talked with me about the big stories shaping the American food system right now, what Civil Eats does (and would do if it had more resources), and how she manages the sometimes tricky food politics of parenting her two-year-old son.
Kaya Oakes, a religion writer from Oakland, was struck by the rising number of Americans who say they don't practice any particular religion -- even if they profess to believe in a god, even if they pray every day. What were the stories hidden under the statistics about this 22% of Americans? Did they lose faith, or find it? And why are people so worried about them? After contacting "nones" from all over the country, she gathered some of their stories in her new book, The Nones Are Alright. Kaya and I talked about the stories she found, why she think "the nones are alright," and about her own search for a religious home.
Comedian W. Kamau Bell has made a career out of being funny, serious, and smart (all at the same time) about race and racism in America. He's working on a new stand-up special, touring colleges with his one-man show, making a weekly podcast, and returning to television soon with The United Shades of America, coming to CNN in early 2016. He's also working with local public radio station KALW on a live talk show-style event, Kamau Right Now. He took some time out of all this work to talk with me about it, about balancing work and family, and about the fallout and follow-up from the well-publicized incident earlier this year where he was shooed away from a Berkeley cafe where his wife, child, and friends were having lunch.
I interviewed author Ishmael Reed about his latest book, The Complete Muhammad Ali, a biography of the famous boxer constructed mostly through interviews that contextualize the fighter in his times. We talked about Ali, parallels between writing and fighting, and the changes the Reed has seen in his North Oakland neighborhood in the 35 years he's been living there.
Eliot Peper is the author of the Uncommon Stock trilogy, a series of thrillers set in the world of tech startups and venture capital. They tell the story of Mara Winkle and her company Mozaik, which makes financial fraud detection software. Over the course of the trilogy, Mara and her team must handle not only the challenges of growing the business, but also a deadly conspiracy that wants to murder them because of what and whom their software threatens to expose. Eliot and I talked about how he came to writing, why the startup world seemed like a good setting for thrillers, and how he navigated the business of publishing and marketing books as a first-time, unknown author -- plus a lot more.
C.J. Hirschfield has been the executive director of Children's Fairyland, Oakland's storybook theme park for children, since 2002. She's led the park through a period of rebuilding and navigated changing technology and local demographics, all while honoring Fairyland's 65-year history. C.J. and I talked about why she left the cable TV industry (where she had a two-decade career) to come to Fairyland, how the park has changed in the time she's been there, and what makes something "Fairylandish".
Robert Roper is the author of a new book, Nabokov in America, that traces the influence of Vladimir Nabokov's 20 years living and working in the United States on what would become his best-known (and arguably best) works. Roper's books tells the story of Nabokov's flight from France as the Nazis invaded, how he traveled around the US every summer in search of butterflies, and how America fed meaning into his writing, producing works like Lolita, Pnin, and Pale Fire. In our conversation, Roper and I discussed how he came to write this book, what he learned while doing so, and his other work, including his most recent novel (set in Berkeley, where Roper lives) and his teaching.