What is the measure of a good life?
Calvin Trillin is a journalist, humorist and novelist. Best known for his humorous writing about food and eating, he is also the author of several books of fiction, nonfiction essays, comic verse and plenty of more serious journalism.
Trillin was born in Kansas City, Missouri in 1935. He received his BA from Yale University, where he was chair of the Yale Daily News, in 1957. In 1963, after a serving in the U.S. Army and then working at Time magazine for a short time, Trillin joined the staff of The New Yorker magazine, where his reporting on racial integration at the University of Georgia eventually developed into his first book, An Education in Georgia: Charlayne Hunter, Hamilton Holmes and the Integration of the University of Georgia. Trillin's 1967-1982 column "U.S. Journal" for The New Yorker documented events throughout the nation, both funny and serious; since 1984, he has written a series of longer, narrative pieces under the title "American Chronicles."
Trillin is also a longtime contributor to The Nation magazine - is, in fact, the single most prolific contributor to that magazine to date. From 1978-1980 he penned a column called "Variation"; from 1984-1990 another called "Uncivil Liberties"; and from 1990 to the present a weekly one called "Deadline Poem" consisting of humorous poems about current events.
Calvin Trillin's most recent novel is Deciding the Next Decider: The 2008 Presidential Race in Rhyme (Nov. 2008)
Calvin Trillin: Well my father had very good advice about that. It’s the only advice I can ever remember his giving me. He was not a heart-to-heart sort of father. He was a good father, but not a “Come in my study and we’re gonna have a heart-to-heart.” I actually never met a father like that, so maybe they . . . only in the movies. But my father used to say, “You might as well be a mensch.” A mensch is a German word and also Yiddish word. In German it means “human being”, and in Yiddish it means “upright person” in big things and small things. So he not only . . . A mensch would not only come to the aid of a friend even if at his peril; but also if he borrowed your apartment would leave it slightly nicer than he found it. And I was always impressed about the way my father put it. My father grew up in St. John, Missouri and spoke very much like Harry Truman even though he was born in the Ukraine and he came as an infant. And he used phrases like, “I haven’t had so much fun since the hogs ate little sister” and stuff like that. But he said . . . He always said, “You might as well be a mensch.” I mean it was never, you know, “Our family is . . . Our honor depends on it” or anything like that. It was . . . He sort of considered the alternatives, and at the end decided you might as well be a mensch. It’s a sort of a Midwestern way to phrase it.
Recorded on: 9/5/07
You might as well be a mensch.
The 21st century is experiencing an Asianization of politics, business, and culture.
- Our theories about the world, even about history or the geopolitics of the present, tend to be shaped by Anglo perspectives of the Western industrial democracies, particularly those in the United States and the United Kingdom.
- The West, however, is not united. Canada, for instance, acts in many ways that are not in line with American or British policies, particularly in regard to populism. Even if it were united, though, it would not represent most of the world's population.
- European ideas, such as parliamentary democracy and civil service, spread across the world in the 19th century. In the 20th century, American values such as entrepreneurialism went global. In the 21st century, however, what we're seeing now is an Asianization — an Asian confidence that they can determine their own political systems, their own models, and adapt to their own circumstances.
Research has shown that men today have less testosterone than they used to. What's happening?
- Several studies have confirmed that testosterone counts in men are lower than what they used to be just a few decades ago.
- While most men still have perfectly healthy testosterone levels, its reduction puts men at risk for many negative health outcomes.
- The cause of this drop in testosterone isn't entirely clear, but evidence suggests that it is a multifaceted result of modern, industrialized life.
Can sensitive coral reefs survive another human generation?
- Coral reefs may not be able to survive another human decade because of the environmental stress we have placed on them, says author David Wallace-Wells. He posits that without meaningful changes to policies, the trend of them dying out, even in light of recent advances, will continue.
- The World Wildlife Fund says that 60 percent of all vertebrate mammals have died since just 1970. On top of this, recent studies suggest that insect populations may have fallen by as much as 75 percent over the last few decades.
- If it were not for our oceans, the planet would probably be already several degrees warmer than it is today due to the emissions we've expelled into the atmosphere.
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