Gary Hart has consistently trod the unbeaten path. As a young Denver attorney, he hooked up with George McGovern, the darkest of dark horses, and together rewrote the book on how to win the Democratic nomination. Two years later, Hart ran for the US Senate from Colorado, a state where Nixon had crushed McGovern two years before. He rode the post-Watergate Democratic tidal wave and entered the Senate at the tender age of 37. In 1984, Hart’s own presidential insurgency nearly knocked off Walter Mondale as he challenged Democrats to look to the future instead of their past.
By crafting a candidacy based on “the new,” Hart discovered the door which others, like Clinton and Obama, successfully opened in later contests. Walter Mondale, on the other hand, represented the past and became a forlorn caricature that Republicans were able to lampoon to a 49 state win. Continue reading →
Behind every well-written satire lies a fountain of truth. In 1980, Lisa Birnbach, then a young feature writer for The Village Voice , found herself working on a project 38 other writers had rejected.
It would be a small book with Workman Publishing, a quirky imprint in Manhattan known more for their calendars and a series of successful “How To” books. Yet, in the course of ten short weeks, Lisa created what became a field guide for a declining species of an American subculture: preternaturally wealthy WASPS, their tribal customs, behaviors, etiquette, families, and mating rituals. However, as a graduate of Brown and Riverdale Country School , it came as second nature.
When it hit the shelves in October 1980, the initial printing redefined modest. The book cost $4.95 and was sold only in soft cover. However, 2 ½ million copies and 41 printings later, The Official Preppy Handbook remained on the New York Times Best-Seller list for 38 weeks. Critics raved and Birnbach demonstrated a sharp eye for social commentary and biting satire. In fact, The Official Preppy Handbook (OPH) remained Workman Publishing’s best-selling title until the “What to Expect When You’re Expecting” series came along in 1984.
For a book that has been out of print for a quarter century it has aged rather well, like those featured within its pages. Copies can be purchased on eBay for as high as $150 and signed copies (like mine) are sold for as much as $250 to $300. Continue reading →
“If you think the night sky is a tranquil place,” former Apollo astronaut Rusty Schweickart says, “consider what may tumble down from the heavens.”
65 Million years ago, a Near Earth Asteroid (NEA) 6 miles in diameter, slammed into the Earth along the Yucatan peninsula, near Chicxulub. It had the power of a 100 Million megaton nuclear blast (the largest man-made nuclear bomb is only 50 megatons) and over 75% of life on Earth, including the dinosaurs, plants, and other life forms vanished. Life hung by a thread.
The Discovery Channel created a stark video which detailed what would happen if a 500 km NEA crashed into the Earth.
There have been at least 5 ELEs (Extinction Level Events) during the last 500 million years of Earth’s history, not counting the Big Daddy of them all when a Mars-sized object slammed into a young Earth 4.5 billion years ago. The collision was so immense that the Earth’s surface melted, was blasted into space and the core was exposed. Over the next millions of years, the Earth slowly healed. However there is a nightly reminder of what took place; the gravitational pull of the debris coalesced into the current consensus of how the Moon was formed.
These events have happened before and they will most certainly happen again. “We live in a cosmic shooting gallery, Rusty Schweickart noted, “and that being hit by a ‘big one’ is simply a matter of time. We have in our sister planet, the Moon, an excellent history of the visitation record of NEAs and comets to our local neighborhood.” Those craters on the Moon are the results of direct strikes.
Consider this. On Friday April 13, 2029 (yes, Friday the 13th) 99942 Apophis, a Near Earth Asteroid, will pass within 24,000 miles of Earth, just under our geosynchronous satellite field. In astronomical terms, this is an incredibly close call. When first discovered in 2004, there were global concerns that it might hit the planet in 2029 or on its return trip on Easter Sunday 2036. NASA has since downgraded the strike percentage to 1:233,000 and they will better refine their calculations in 2013 when the orbit of 99942 Apophis next brings it within tracking range. While the NEA is only three football fields in length and no more than 300 meters across, its packs a punch. If it were to collide with Earth, it would unleash the equivalent of a 510 megaton nuclear blast. Continue reading →
To understand the political despair found in the African nation of Cameroon, look at those who have left the county.
Not only are the Best and Brightest are leaving, the brain drain is accelerating, and those who travel overseas to further their education rarely return home. Within a short period of time, they join the growing ranks of Cameroon’s Diaspora, which now numbers in the tens of thousands. They have resettled across the globe but in the United States, most live in Boston, New York, Washington, Houston, San Francisco and Los Angeles. They have become successful in their chosen fields and they are raising their families with one foot in the United States and one foot back home in Cameroon.
They are wonder aloud why the political reform is succeeding in neighboring countries like Ghana but has floundered in their own homeland.
The Diaspora Outreach. That is why reform-minded Presidential Candidate Bernard Muna is traveling around the United States, reaching out to members of the Cameroonian expatriate community, as he prepares for the 2011 national elections. Muna is here to make his case why his coalition can transform Cameroon politically and economically.
It is a rare to be present as democracy stirs in the hearts of those who want change. Roughly half who joined The Luncheon Society ™ gatherings in Los Angeles and San Francisco were members of the Diaspora. They came to hear Muna, an international attorney, who is early stages of running for President. He is running against Paul Biya, whose corrosive three decade dictatorship has driven Cameroon into the ground. Continue reading →
I thought I would quickly touch base now that we have completed the first half of 2010.Thus far there have been 19 gatherings San Francisco, Los Angeles, and Manhattan. We look for an equal number in the second half and should round out the year at 38-40.
Reminder.To remind everybody, the SF and the LA Luncheon Society gatherings for Christopher Hitchens have been postponed and will be rescheduled later in 2010.
The Luncheon Society website.For those who are unable to join us around the table, you can subscribe to have The Luncheon Society summaries sent via email. Click on the links below to learn more about the luncheons. Continue reading →
Our Luncheon Society friend Roz Savage completed her solo row across the Pacific Ocean last week. She broke the voyage into three legs, the first from San Francisco to Hawaii in 2008, the second, from Hawaii to Kiribati in 2009, and finally the third leg from Kiribati to Madang in Papua New Guinea, which she completed on Friday.
All in all, Roz covered 8,000 miles in a 23ft boat. To view the Luncheon Society summary from her meetings with the Los Angeles and San Francisco groups, link here.
As quoted in today’s London Daily Mail, “I’m already starting to think about the next one.” Roz previously crossed the Atlantic in 103 days and uses her trips to promote environmental causes.
Well done, Roz; well done indeed.
The Luncheon Society ™ is a series of private luncheons and dinners that take place in San Francisco, Los Angeles, Manhattan, and Boston. We essentially split the costs of gathering and we meet in groups of 20-25 people. Discussions center on politics, art, science, film, culture, and whatever else is on our mind. Think of us as “Adult Drop in Daycare.” We’ve been around since 1997 and we’re purposely understated. These gatherings takes place around a large table, where you interact with the main guest and conversation becomes end result. There are no rules, very little structure, and the gatherings happen when they happen. Join us when you can.
It’s an amazing story, one of those great tales from the early days of Rock and Roll.
In 1956, Mike Stoller took his wife to France for 3 months. After wandering around the countryside in late spring and early summer they return home on the Italian liner, the SS Andrea Doria. It was the largest, the most spectacular, and safest of all of the Italian liners. As Mike and his wife crossed the Atlantic, he purchased a copy of A Night to Remember, a best-seller by Walter Lord and considered the definitive reading on the sinking of the Titanic.
At 11 pm on July 26th, the Stockholm, a smaller passenger liner, crashed into the Andrea Doria and it began to list starboardand take on water. So instead of reading about the Titanic in Walter Lord’s book, he is actually living it. He thought, “That’s it; I’m a goner and I’m going down on the Titanic just like all of those poor souls who perished at the bottom of the Atlantic.”
However, the crash took place off the coast of Massachusetts in a heavy shipping lane and within a short period, there was a massive effort to rescue the passengers before if sank to the bottom of the Atlantic 11 hours later.
Mike Stoller and his wife were rescued and they met Jerry Leiber at the dock in New York. Leiber brought a full set of dry clothes for both Mike and his wife and once he made sure that his friends were okay, he exclaimed, “You won’t believe this, but Hound Dog is a #1 hit!” Stoller was taken aback and said, “You mean Big Mama Thornton’s version,” who did it in 1953? “No,” Leiber replied, “Its Elvis Presley.” “Elvis Presley?” Stoller replied incredulously, “who’s that?”
Watch Big Mama’s version. She simply whacks Elvis with big ol’ purse of hers. Look for a young Buddy Guy on that video. Nobody messed with her.
Stoller had been out of the country and had not seen the explosion of “Black Music” that was recorded by White Artists like Elvis. In the span of 12 hours, Mike Stoller went from the brink of death to superstardom. Continue reading →
Notevery topic discussed by The Luncheon Society ™ needs to be weighty; in fact many of our best gatherings surround unexpected delights.
For example last year, writer Ayelet Waldman joined for a conversation after her column in the New York Times set off a firestorm because she loved her husband more than her children. A year or two earlier, Bob Hass, the former American Poet Laureate spoke about his new set of poems, Time and Materials, which would win the National Book Award and the Pulitzer Prize.
Mireille Guiliano took a backhand comment and created several New York Times best-sellers. Years ago when asked how she could dine out nightly without putting on any weight, she simply replied, “Well, French Women do not get fat.”
With that staircase rejoinder, a literary franchise was launched.
In 2004, Mireille published “French Women Don’t Get Fat,” which was a lifestyle book that explores the four basic food loves, freshness, variety, balance, and always pleasure. Janet Maslin of the New York Times noted, “Ms. Guiliano turns out to be eminently level headed. She combines reasonable thoughts about nutrition with a general endorsement of joie de vivre, and her tone is girl friendly enough to account for the book’s runaway popularity.”
Since then she has published three more books on the joie de vivre that the French (especially French women) bring to their daily lives. They include French Women For All Seasons, Women, Work & the Art of Savoir Faire: Business Sense & Sensibility, and her latest, The French Women Don’t Get Fat Cookbook. Each has done well and her initial book has been translated into 37 languages after spending a good deal of time atop The New York Times. Her writing has resonated with those who are turned off after reading through forests of yo-yo fad diets, where the weight often returns with a vengeance. Although counterintuitive at first blush, Mireille recommended bread, Champagne, chocolate and romance as key ingredients to a balanced diet and joyous lifestyle. Continue reading →
Whenever Warren Buffett speaks at an event, somebody in the audience usually asks for a stock tip. Buffett will pause, only to reply, “Please forgive me, I really don’t follow the stock market.”
The house will convulse in laughter, as it always does when the questions is posed. On the surface, it might appear odd or even counterintuitive that one of the world’s richest investors does not follow the stock market. However, what Buffett does—and does so well—is that he researches the company’s revenue picture and more importantly, searches for organizations that offers a durable competitive advantage for the long term.
It was a pleasure to have Mary Buffett , an old friend, join The Luncheon Society for a conversation on how Warren Buffett’s investment mind works. Mary, along with co-author David Clark have created a series of books under the banner of Buffettology, to help investors better understand how he grew Berkshire Hathaway into the investment powerhouse that it is today.
Mary’s latest best-selling book is “Warren Buffett’s Management Secrets: Proven Tools for Personal and Business Success,” which has had a smashing run on the business best seller lists and her books have been translated into 17 languages and published internationally by over a dozen publishing houses. The question they ask is this: Can Warren Buffett’s decision-making offer a keyhole into how he makes his investment choices. The answer is “yes.”
It is fair to say that Mary Buffett has lived an interesting life. At a young age, she found herself working in the music industry alongside a variety of people including Phil Spector. Later, she served as the Managing Director at Playboy/After Dark Records and managed Hef’s music businesses. She later co-founded a post-production company called Independent Sound, which provided musical content for a wide range of clients, including a wide variety of commercials as well as motion pictures, like “Dancing with Wolves.” Continue reading →
Imagine you are on the adventure of a lifetime, rowing across the Atlantic Ocean alone in a 24 foot rowboat to test yourself against the elements. You are completely isolated except for a satellite phone a GPS transponder and the occasional visit from one of the support craft. Halfway through, your two primary oars (plus both backups) have snapped, your camp stove has stopped working, and your satellite phone is cold dead.
Lashed by fierce storms and the occasional rogue wave, your only connection to humanity is a small GPS blip that charts your daily path to friends back home. There is no going back.
How do you cope with isolation and loneliness when you still have two months worth of rowing in front of you? With a fist full of calluses and a body that is wracked by aches and pains, do you even consider rowing across the Pacific? Of course.
The Luncheon Society ™ has been home to those who have climbed life’s tall peaks. Jim Sano led treks that followed the footpaths of Sir Ernest Shackleton and Didrik Johnck snapped the Time Magazine cover photo of Erik Weihenmeyer, a blind mountain climber who successfully made it to the summit of Mount Everest in 2001. When you add the mix the astronauts, cosmonauts, and other space pioneers that have joined us over the years, we’ve cheered them all from the safety of a private room at a great restaurant. Continue reading →