Ron Brownstein’s “Rock Me on the Water: 1974 – The Year Los Angeles Transformed Movies, Music, Television, and Politics” is a book that I’ve already given as a gift three times, teeing it up as a first choice Father’s Day or birthday gift for culture-loving Angelenos. Reading the Pulitzer Prize winning journalist and CNN political reporter’s book about the remarkable blossoming of culture in one single year is pure pleasure for Angelenos (especially boomers!) From Jackson Browne to Jerry Brown, Norman Lear to Jane Fonda, the post-60s reckonings in popular culture are presented in a month-by-month format that is highly appealing. January is about Hollywood (Jack Nicholson and Warren Beatty in the Hollywood Hills), February switches to rock and roll, (with famous musicians living in Laurel Canyon and singing on each other’s tracks), and so on through to December. The best part is unpacking how folks met, or which film came before which record, and understanding the time line with a retrospective eye. Brownstein did a charming interview with the folks at Chevalier Books recently – listen here, and pair it with this intriguing podcast from The California Sun in discussion with Michael Storper at UCLA’s Luskin School of Public Affairs about how the Bay Area gained on LA in the business sector over (roughly) the same time. (California Sun Podcast 5/6/21)
Michael Lewis in unsurpassed as a thinker who can not only “see around the corner” of issues at the center of American culture, but explain the complex topics in blockbuster books that move the needle on public opinion. Think: “Money Ball”, “The Blind Side”, “Liars Poker”, “The Big Short”. His latest, “The Premonition”, dives into the lives of three public servants who “saw around the corner” of disease and infection mitigation in the years before the pandemic. Rather than dwelling on facts we know too well about the coronavirus, Lewis offers compellingly noble portraits that add up to a very unsettling look at the thinking behind US public health policy. You won’t come out of this exploration impressed with the Centers for Disease Control, but you will fasten your science seat belt even tighter than before. Like most of Lewis’ titles, this has already been optioned as a film (to be directed by Phil Lord and Chris Miller) and we recommend listening to it on Audible.