The Luncheon Society—San Francisco/ Philippe Petit and the World Trade Center walk and his book, “Why Knot”/April 22, 2013/Palio d’Asti

Okay, we are now catching up on our Luncheon Society gatherings.  I have nearly two years of Luncheon Society narratives that will be inserted, roughly 1-2 per day if things go according to plans.

Philippe PetitWhile so many of our Luncheon Society gatherings address serious subjects, this one was a blast.  Philippe Petit had a new book out called “Why Knot,” a playful book on the creation of knots.   Petit might come out with the “Yellow Pages,”  but everybody still wants to talk about what happened during the summer of  1974, when Petit and his team of Frenchmen  climbed the tower and then he began his famous tightrope walk

However, when you think about it knots played an important role in keeping him alive.  The tightrope was shot from one tower to the other by bow-and-arrow and then carefully tied down to ensure that he would not fall 110 stories to his death.  His action added a special poignancy now that both towers were destroyed in the 9.11 attacks.

His book “Man on Wire” is a riot to read.  The book, which became an Academy Award winning documentary, detailed Petit’s extraordinary journey from a dental office in Paris to the chasm between both Towers.  It was capped off with a surprise by Petit himself at the Oscar telecast.

There is a new movie arriving in the fall of 2015, directed by Robert Zemeckis, which Joseph Gordon-Levitt as the title role.  It will be one of those “tent-pole movies that will hit the theaters this October.

One funny story.  On the day Petit walked, it was a foggy day and it was very hard to see him from the ground.  His girlfriend stood on the streets below “ginning” up interest by pointing into the sky to a very faint and blurry figure 110 stories up. Continue reading

The Luncheon Society—San Francisco/Reagan OMB Director David Stockman on his book The Great Deformation/April 11, 2013/Palio df’Asti

Stockman coverOkay, we are now catching up on our Luncheon Society gatherings.  I have nearly two years of Luncheon Society narratives that will be inserted, roughly 1-2 per day if things go according to plans.

David Stockman, a former congressman who served as Ronald Reagan’s polarizing OMD Director during his term, sat down with The Luncheon Society for a different kind of conversation about the direction of the American economy.

Special thanks for Tim Farley to moderate while I was overseas in Europe. To get a backgrounder on Stockman, please link on the following

the-great-deformationHere is the book jacket blub on The Great Deformation from David Stockman. The Great Deformation is a searing look at Washington’s craven response to the recent myriad of financial crises and fiscal cliffs. It counters conventional wisdom with an eighty-year revisionist history of how the American state—especially the Federal Reserve—has fallen prey to the politics of crony capitalism and the ideologies of fiscal stimulus, monetary central planning, and financial bailouts. These forces have left the public sector teetering on the edge of political dysfunction and fiscal collapse and have caused America’s private enterprise foundation to morph into a speculative casino that swindles the masses and enriches the few.

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The Luncheon Society—Manhattan/Millennial Futurist David Burstein/February 27, 2013/ Blue Water Grill

Okay, we are now catching up on our Luncheon Society gatherings.  I have nearly two years of Luncheon Society narratives that will be inserted, roughly 1-2 per day if things go according to plans.

This Luncheon Society gathering took place in 2013 with a very smart young man who –no doubt-will go very far.

davidbursteinA Millennial examines how his generation is profoundly impacting politics, business, media, and activism. They’ve been called, entitled, narcissistic, “the worst employees in history”, “trophy kids”, and even “the dumbest generation.” But, argues David D. Burstein, the Millennial Generation’s unique blend of civic idealism and savvy pragmatism, combined with their seamless ability to navigate the 21st century world – where constant and fast change is the new normal – will enable them to overcome the short-term challenges of a deeply divided nation and begin to address our world’s long-term challenges.

With eighty million Millennials (people who are today eighteen to thirty years old) coming of age and emerging as leaders in America alone, this is the largest generation in U.S. history, by 2020, its members will represent one out of every three adults in the country. They are more ethnically and racially diverse than their elders, they are the first generation to come of age in a truly global world, and the first to come of age in the new digital era. Millennials have begun their careers amidst a recession which has seen record youth unemployment levels, yet they remain optimistic about their future. Drawing on extensive interviews with his Millennial peers and compelling new research, Burstein illustrates how his generation is simultaneously shaping and being shaped by a fast-paced and fast-changing world. Part oral history, part social documentary, FAST FUTURE reveals the impact and story of the Millennial Generation – in their own words.

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Updating our TLS naratives

luncheon-logo-fc71We should have the rest of the 2013 and 2014 luncheons up on the website soon.  To get an idea of our gatherings, please go to our “past gatherings tabs” and learn more.

The Eds.

The Luncheon Society—Manhattan/Larry Berman on life of Navy CNO Elmo Zumwalt and the US Navy/March 21, 2013/Bar Americain

Larry BermanLarry Berman returned to The Luncheon Society with another new book on the Vietnam era. He joined us in Manhattan on his new biography on Elmo Zumwalt, the youngest Chief of Naval Operation is history and who is chiefly responsible for modernizing the US Navy.  From 1970 until 1974, his management style lessened the racial tensions, raised morale as the Vietnam War wore down, and dragged the service into the 20th century.

ZumwaltLarry Berman is also an old professor of mine when I was an undergraduate at UC-Davis.  There he wrote three well-regarded policy books of Vietnam, including Planning a Tragedy-The Americanization of the war in Vietnam,” which made the case that Lyndon Johnson knew that he was going to escalate in South Vietnam but craved a consensus position that would create unity from within his government.  He found out the hard way that what works for domestic political consensus failed him in foreign affairs. Lyndon-Johnson’s War/The Road to Stalemate in Vietnam, takes us to 1968, when the failure of the decision-making process in July 1965 (from Berman’s first book) is fully observed as a train wreck in policy and politics.  The third book, No Peace, No Honor/Nixon, Kissinger, and the Betrayal of South Vietnam, Berman looks at the last years of the American involvement in South Vietnam, as the war winding down. Both Richard Nixon and Henry Kissinger never expected the North Vietnamese to honor the terms of the agreement and once the terms were broken, they would be able to resume bombing runs over various North Vietnamese targets.

For me, as an undergraduate and a student of Larry Berman, I found myself reviewing what few saw at that time, recently declassified documents of the Johnson White House, notes which led up to the decision to escalate American troops.  I felt like a fly on the wall and the arguments between McNamara, Rusk, George Ball, and others came alive throughout the rooms in the White House.  It was like watching a play and seeing the plot unfold when you already know the ending will be tragic for all involved.

Berman’s next book, his book Perfect Spy: The Incredible Double Life of Pham Xuan An, Time Magazine Reporter and Vietnamese Communist Agent, was well-received both here and in Vietnam. The book told the story of Phạm Xuân Ẩn, served as a North Vietnamese spy while he served as the only accredited Vietnamese reporter for Time Magazine in Saigon. An was also friendly with Nguyễn Cao Kỳ, who served a South Vietnam’s Military chief, Prime Minister and later its Vice President under Nguyễn Van Thieu—An trained Ky’s German Shepards.  He was brought into the Communist Party by Le Duc Tho, (who would later negotiate the Paris Peace A cords with Henry Kissinger) who sent him to California to learn about America because Hanoi was convinced that after the French left, the Americans would be next. Interestingly enough, An had the chance to leave as Saigon fell but hung around and even helped the Chief of South Vietnam’s Internal Security Forces escape communist capture.

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The Luncheon Society/ Jill Tarter and SETI Research/SF-Fior d’Italia February 21, 2013/LA-Napa Valley Grille December 17, 2013

Jill TarterJill Tarter only needs to be right once.  In a universe where there are more stars in the sky than grains of sand on our beaches, is does intelligent life exists out there?

As a longtime member of The Luncheon Society, we were pleased that she was able to join us in both San Francisco and Los Angeles for an update on SETI as well as the latest findings from the Kepler spacecraft.

As the retiring Director of SETI Research at the SETI Institute and the winner of the 2009 TED Award, Jill believes that time is on her side.  We concur.

Jill served as the model for Jodie Foster in the Robert Zemeckis movie Contact , a fictional account of what might happen should an alien message find its way to our home planet, based on a novel  written by Carol Sagan. Much is to be discovered.

It is a good bet that microbial life will be found within the moons orbiting the gaseous outer planets of Saturn and Jupiter.  As you read this, there is a hunt for microbial life or existence of past life on Mars, especially since unmistakable signs of ancient rivers and lakes have been discovered.

Kepler’s planet hunting probe studied a section of sky no larger than your extended fist and found 134 confirmed exoplanets in 76 stellar systems, with another 3,200 potential planets that are awaiting further study.  With that in mind, NASA has concluded that there might be as many as 40 million earth-sized planets, with roughly a quarter of them orbiting around star not unlike our sun.  Astronomers have identified 1,055 exoplanets, and more are on the way. Continue reading

The Luncheon Society-NY/Andrew Blum on “Tubes: A Journey to the center of the Internet.”/Blue Water Grill/2.20.13

Tubes coverThe Luncheon Society kicked off its New York gatherings with Andrew Blum, the author of “Tubes, A Journey to the center of the Internet.”

Last year, I found myself listening to a Terry Gross interview with Andrew and it was a wonderful and enlightening conversation about the mechanics of the internet, something we take for granted but cannot explain how it works.

It just is.   Watch his TED talk on the Internet to get an idea about the platform of “old fashioness” that drives our modern communications.

The title comes from a quote from former Alaska Senator Ted Stevens, who believed that  the internet was comprised of a whole bunch of “tubes.”  While he was ridiculed at the time, Andrew Blum essentially confirms Stevens assessment.  Beneath the internet protocols, the fiber optic relays, and whatever else is down there that nobody understands, he essentially got it right.

Here is the book jacket synopsis:  “When your Internet cable leaves your living room where does it go?

Andrew BlumAlmost everything about our day-to-day lives—and the broader scheme of human culture—can be found on the Internet. But what is it physically? And where is it really? Our mental map of the network is as blank as the map of the ocean that Columbus carried on his first voyages. The Internet, its material nuts and bolts, is an unexplored territory. Until now. Continue reading