What It Means to Be American »
The greyhound racing tracks were like big shiny carnivals, but I could only see them from the outside. Kids weren’t allowed in where people were gambling. Sometimes mother took me with her and I got to watch from the lot where the dog men parked their rigs. They all knew my name and gave me bubble gum and candy. On my tip toes I could …
It’s not the gemstones or fossils
Sold to tourists and museums
Says Sherpa Lhamu of Dingboche.
Not even Dalh Baht that keeps us
Nepalese nimble like mountain goats.
The West calls it potato.
The Chinese call it tudou—bean of earth.
But we call it aloo—small, muddy, bountiful
Heavier than mountains.
In spring, before snow melts
The whole village stops:
No cooking, no music, no fire or visitor.
In silence we plough, bending over the soil
Until every seed …
What It Means to Be American »
When I was seven years old, in 1983, my family took a road trip from Stillwater, Oklahoma, to Branson, Missouri, a family-oriented resort town deep in the Ozark Mountains. Our destination was Silver Dollar City, a Christian-owned theme park that is like Disneyland reimagined as a 19th century mining village, all built around a cave that was a bat guano mine in the 1880s. There, …
Connecting California »
To Get Things Done in California, Listen More Than You Talk, Says the Most Effective Developer You’ve Never Heard Of
What do we do now, Nelson Rising?
I pose that question not just because this is a confusing and complicated era for California. And not just because no living Californian is better than Nelson Rising—a developer, lawyer, campaign manager, and civic leader from Los Angeles—at navigating our state’s complexities to create communities that endure.
“What do we do now?” is the question that concludes Rising’s one-and-only brush …
The Takeaway »
“Can television bring America together?” asked writer John Bowman, the moderator of a panel posing that question. He immediately answered his own query with, “God knows I’ve tried.” And so began a lively and engaged conversation between Bowman and several other writers and creators of television shows that have challenged traditional cultural and social boundaries.
The discussion, before a full house at a Smithsonian/Zócalo “What …
Where do big new ideas come from—the kind that break the mold and change how we see the world? As a sociologist, this has long been an interest of mine. So I was excited to read Michael Lewis’ new book The Undoing Project, which tells the story of Daniel Kahneman and Amos Tversky, the Israeli psychologists whose work on decision-making helped convince economists—and everyone else—that …
To understand where ideas come from and how they evolve over time, sociologist Randall Collins mapped the networks of 3,000 philosophers and mathematicians, a yeoman project that took him on a 25-year journey across the globe, seeking insights into the histories and inner workings of societies and the thinkers who shaped them.
More recently, Grant Oliveira, a data analytics consultant with an interest in …
Randall Collins’ curiosity about where ideas come from led him to do 25 years of research on the networks that connected thinkers and ideas through history and across continents. Collins, an emeritus professor of sociology at the University of Pennsylvania, presented these networks and the implications of his study in a 1998 book called The Sociology of Philosophies: A Global Theory of Intellectual Change. We …
Up For Discussion »
TV and Film Have a Role to Play in Repairing a Fractured America–History Shows We’re “All in the Family”
In American memory, if not always in reality, television and film once played a unifying role. During the Great Depression, decadent Hollywood productions delivered welcome diversion. At the dawn of rock n’ roll, Elvis and The Beatles landed in living rooms across America via The Ed Sullivan Show. During the upheavals of the ‘60s and ‘70s, Walter Cronkite functioned as a reassuring and trustworthy pater …
“When we were in the woods beyond Gowbarrow park
we saw a few daffodils close to the water side. We fancied
that the lake had floated the seeds ashore and that the little
colony had so sprung up. But as we went along there were
more and yet …