Book Book Book Book
Commentary Commentary RSS Reviews Podcasts_Audio Podcasts RSS Blog Links Archives Indexes
03-13-09 : A 2009 Phone Interview with David Eagleman : "I'm a possibilian"

For a guy who spent a lot of time — and I'll let him tell you just how much — thinking about the afterlife, thinking about what might happen to our soul, our perceptual self when our bodies give up the ghost (literally!) — David Eagleman is a happy-sounding scientist.

I rang up Eagleman on the phone because like a lot of people, I was pretty damn knocked out by his book 'Sum: Forty Tales from the Afterlives.' It's a superbly written work on a variety of levels. As a work of philosophy, it's clear-headed, easy-to-read and endlessly thought-provoking. The language is sparkly, shiny-clean and poetic. The compact thought and rigorous extrapolation are science at its brain-bending best. It does one thing, forty times, each of them nigh-well perfectly, a record that would challenge Moses. Best of all, Moses would probably enjoy this book! As a religious work, it treads fearlessly on a path heretofore only trodden on by serious theologians, and it does so with a priestly (but never heavy-handed) authority. You can catch Eagleman's enthusiasm for neuroscience and beyond by following this link.

03-12-09 : A 2009 Interview with Molly Wizenberg : Choosing the Salad

When Molly Wizenberg appeared at the Capitola Book Café, they were serving her Fennel and Pear Salad. How's that for a promo package? Wizenberg is a great example of a new food culture that's really blossoming now, because it's the perfect time for a more home-cooked approach to eating. Not only is the food we make at home better than that found in most restaurants (we can afford to eat in), it's also demonstrably better for us.

I call it the Food Convergence. On one side, we have the theorists like the brilliant Michael Pollan, who look at our food supply and eating habits from an almost industrial- anthropological perspective — and don’t like what they’re seeing. Ann Vileisis covers the history, and on the other side, we have the cooks, like Mollie Katzen and Molly Wizenburg, who are approaching food preparation as a sort of home-made art. You can hear the passion behind Wizenberg's blog by following this link to the audio interview.

03-11-09 : A 2009 Interview With Daniel Pinchbeck : "It scares the mainstream"

Daniel Pinchbeck isn’t here to offer readers unwarranted consolation, nor is he eagerly awaiting the Apocalypse. What he is interested in doing, with his books, his website and his various productions, is giving readers a clear view into a world of differences. You step into Pinchbeck's world and find yourself well outside the mainstream, outside the world you thought you knew.

I talked to Pinchbeck shortly before his appearance at the Capitola Book Café, and found him refreshingly willing to be engagingly pessimistic. He's not at all certain that we're going to make it through the next bit without ending up in some sort of fascist hell; but he's not committed to that vision either. What he is committed to is a shamanic perception of the world around us, a view that seamlessly melts and melds our perceptions and cognitions with Cartesian reality. He wants to blur the boundaries and does a damn good job of it. He's sharp and really on top of any question you may care to throw his way. And I have to admit, he's probably the only writer that I've interviewed who is familiar with the HAARP project and 'Angels Don't Play This HAARP' by Jeanne Manning and Dr. Nick Begich. You can hear him talk about the wave of change upon us by following this link to the audio interview.

03-10-09 : Agony Column Podcast News Report : Bat-Manga! For Day to Day

In case some listeners missed my report for NPR's soon-to-be-sorely-missed show, Day to Day, I'm podcasting a high-quality MP3 version. Even as I write this, 'Bat-Manga!' is visible, prominently displayed because it's just so damn good looking. I suppose it's a good thing that I don’t have a coffee table, because you'd never see the surface.

One way readers can help Ricky get a Coffee table is to contact NPR and ask for more reportage for Yours Truly, pointing out earlier reports or this website. You can also make the same requests at American Public Media. And as ever, if you want anything covered in this column, feel free to email me. We now return you to your regularly scheduled podcast!

03-09-09 : A 2009 Interview with David Grann : Actually Lost

David Grann is the first to admit that he doesn't look, at least, like the prototypical Amazon rainforest explorer. But he's also quick to admit that he has the one trait really required to send a man into the "green hell" that looks sort of friendly but proves to be inimical to human life. Obsession.

Grann's obsession was the sort of compulsion that bore tangible fruit, because he made some real discoveries on his quest. His book, 'The Lost City of Z,' is a case study in how obsession might be the one thing needed to make the breakthroughs that matter. I also want to take this opportunity to mention that in the ARC I read, there were no maps or photographs, but the final copy includes plenty of both. It's a handsome hardcover that is well worth the cover price. I would recommend that you spring for a Bro Dart or Demco plastic slipcover, because you're going to want to loan the book; or those you talk to are going to ask to borrow it.

In person he proved to be funny and still a bit surprised — perhaps a bit fearful — of his own inner resources. One of the things he does well is to tell you a story; you can find it in the book, and you can get a pretty good idea of how excellent the book is by listening to him tell his own story in the linked interview.

Current Commentary &
Podcast Index

Archives Indexes How to use the Agony Column Contact Us About Us