Michael Lewis: Moneyball Prequel Arrives December 2016

Michael Lewis: Moneyball Prequel Arrives December 2016

By Alison van Diggelen, host of Fresh Dialogues

Last night, I had the pleasure of meeting the talented and influential author, Michael Lewis. You probably know he wrote Moneyball, The Big Short and The Blind Side and has been compared favorably to literary genius, Tom Wolfe. Lewis revealed that he’s almost finished a prequel to his huge bestseller, Moneyball and it will be published in December 2016. Although his publishing schedule precluded him from accepting an in-depth interview with me last night, he did agree to one in December. So, not a strike out, just a delay in play.

Details of the prequel are under tight wraps, but I did learn this: it’s been eight years in the making, and he’s completed about 45,000 words (about 150 pages). He’ll send his trusty editor at Norton the remaining chunks every six weeks and is on schedule for a September completion. He says “once it’s on track, it’s like a freight train.

The topic? It’s about sports (possibly just football) and analyzes the distribution of pay across teams. As with most of his books, it’s a character driven story, featuring people who surprised him and are in a situation that forces them to reveal their true character. The only other clue he shared was that he had access to the “brain trust” of the San Francisco 49ers.

Here are highlights from the evening’s onstage conversation with Brian Adams at Foothill College Celebrity Forum Series:

On The Big Short Movie: Lewis described it as “a relief” to see how good the movie was and praised the talent and craftsmanship of the production team. He called out Christian Bale for his exceptional performance as Michael Burry, the Silicon Valley financial whiz, whose character “led us through the jungle of complexity.”  Lewis explained that Bale spent a day with Burry and was able to channel his breathing and his awkward mannerisms with incredible accuracy throughout the movie.

Lewis also praised the straight to camera moments, especially Margot Robbie in the bathtub and lamented the production limitations of being a mere writer. He didn’t feel ownership of the movie as he’d sold the rights, and didn’t sit on the set since he considered it “a pointless exercise.” He was, however, involved in promoting the movie with the cast and says they’re really “not that good looking,” with the exception of (gorgeous) Brad Pitt. In Lewis’s opinion, their star appeal is more to do with their force of personality and talent. He added, “I’m not a good judge of male beauty.” That got a huge laugh from the audience.

Michael Lewis with Barack Obama, Photo credit: Vanity Fair On Politics: Lewis considers Donald Trump a bully and that the race would now be between Hillary Clinton and Jeb Bush, if Trump hadn’t bullied him so hard during the early Republican debates. He thinks that Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders wouldn’t be candidates today without the financial crisis of 2008 and mass outrage that followed, with the widespread feeling that the financial system is rigged. He asks: “Is this the beginning of something or the end of something?

It’s a very good question indeed. He even alluded to a dystopian future where fame rules supreme and the Kardashians become viable leaders of the modern world. A true horror indeed.

Lewis doesn’t like to make predictions, but when pushed, he admits that he thinks Trump will get the Republican nomination and he’ll lose spectacularly to Hillary because “he does dumb things.

On the Panama Papers: Lewis thinks the biggest leak of the century won’t have big reverberations in the US. He added, “You can go to Delaware to hide money…wait for the Delaware Papers!”

On Upcoming Projects: Lewis is working on a screenplay pilot re Wall Street in the 20’s; a book on President Obama that explores how leaders make decisions (based on the fabulously insightful Vanity Fair profile); and a book for kids about money: how to make it, use it, and the “social power of money.”

Do check back here in December for my interview with Michael Lewis!

Many thanks to Celebrity Forum founder, Dick Henning for the kind invitation backstage.

Update: This afternoon, I’ve been invited to join the BBC World Service show Business Matters to discuss my Michael Lewis encounter. Check back soon at Fresh Dialogues for more news on that.

BBC Report: How will El Nino impact CA drought, water conservation?

BBC Report: How will El Nino impact CA drought, water conservation?

By Alison van Diggelen, host of Fresh Dialogues

Anticipation is building that El Nino will bring much needed relief to drought stricken California this winter. But will it end the drought? And how will it impact the Golden State’s impressive drive to conserve water?

In my recent report for the BBC’s Business Matters, I explored the, um, creative ways in which the water conservation message is being spread and how things might change when the deluge arrives.

However you can reach out to consumers in their language, that’s how you do it, so if sex is the way to reach the end user and it achieves a good societal goal, I have no problem, because this is a crisis. Gary Kremen, Chairman Santa Clara Valley Water District

The report aired on the BBC World Service last Thursday (Listen from 16:45 in the podcast). Here’s the original report and a transcript of the program, edited for length and clarity.

Fergus Nicoll: The last month has seen some pretty freaky extremes of weather across the U.S. We reported on the drought in California and the flooding in South Carolina…bursting dams that have been caused by torrential rain in different parts of the state. Well maybe California can expect more of the South Carolina treatment?

I’m going to bring in Alison van Diggelen of Fresh Dialogues for more on this. Set the scene for us…it seems, partially at least, down to El Nino?

Alison van Diggelen: Absolutely. The experts have called it a “Godzilla” El Nino. An enormous one is building in the Pacific right now and experts are predicting record breaking rainfall this winter. As most people probably know, we’re in our fourth year of drought (in California) and things are getting pretty desperate. But people have been pretty good about water conservation…so I wanted to explore how authorities are getting this water conservation message out and how things might change, once the rain does start falling.

I interviewed Elizabeth Dougherty. She’s the founder of Wholly H20, a nonprofit in Oakland that wants to make water conservation, as she calls it, “hip and sexy.” She says it’s not a supply issue but has to do with our relationship with water.

Elizabeth Dougherty Wholly H20 Photo by Alison van DiggelenHere’s the piece:

Ambi: Sound of bucket being put in shower, tap turning on…water running, shower hitting tub

Dougherty: I keep a bucket in the shower…you can use that water to flush the toilet, water your outside plants, give water to your animals….

“Extreme water saver” Dr. Elizabeth Dougherty says her phone has been ringing off the hook with people looking for rainwater harvesting and graywater systems for their homes. Her California non-profit “Wholly H20” aims to make water conservation “hip and sexy.” Dougherty, an anthropologist, wants us to explore our relationship with water.

Ambi: Sound of running water in sink…

Dougherty: The water crisis in California, the world, is not a crisis of supply; it’s a crisis of connection. We are so disconnected from water, we don’t even know where our water comes from, how much we use every day.

And this crisis has produced fertile ground for water and landscape consultants. Water maybe scarce in CA, but it’s boom time for water related “green jobs.”

Dougherty argues that it’s normal to ask: where does my food come from? The energy for my home? So why not ask: where does your water come from? What’s “on tap” in your home?

Dougherty: We want the hipsters in Downtown Oakland to be thinking water conservation: Wow, hey….so where do you get your water?

This Fall, Wholly H2O is partnering with Burning Man artists on community interactive water features; and is launching a series of crowd-funded video shorts to get the message out via social media. Dougherty has Hollywood connections and hopes to get “green” celebrities like Leonardo DiCaprio, Matt Damon and Gwyneth Paltrow to take part. Is California’s Governor on her list?

Dougherty: (CA Gov) Jerry Brown skips a shower for the day. I’m thrilled, I’m glad. Would I hold him out as one of my hip and sexy people? No I wouldn’t. I’d like to see Batman…how about Michael Keaton? Let’s see you bucket your heat-up water from your shower and dump it in your garden!

Dougherty’s mission to make water conservation hip and sexy has been adopted by the San Francisco Public Utility Commission. Here’s one of their video ads:

SFPUC Video: (Sultry baritone like Barry White, sound of tap running) Conservation can feel, ohhhh, so right. Turn off the faucet while soaking those…oh so dirty…hands. Get some efficient fixtures for your kitchen and bathrooms…screw them on…yeah! Beat the drought. Hetch Hetchy water is too good to waste.

This summer, the commission spent $300,000 on billboard ads with provocative demands like “Go full frontal, upgrade your washer!” and “Nozzle your hose, limit outdoor watering.”

Love them or hate them, the water conservation message is sinking in. In July, Californians reduced their water consumption by over 30% (compared to 2013 levels) in response to a state mandated reduction of 25%. But with dramatic El Nino conditions building in the Pacific and predictions of an unprecedented deluge of rain hitting drought-starved California this winter, will the “save water” mantra evaporate as the first raindrops fall?

Fifty miles south of SF, in Silicon Valley, Gary Kremen, board chairman of Santa Clara Water Valley Water District, is taking nothing for granted.

Kremen: Water districts are conservative. We have to assume it’s not going to happen. We have a comprehensive education enforcement campaign to make sure one raindrop doesn’t cure the drought. The good news is people in Santa Clara Valley are pretty educated, they can hold two thoughts at the same time: we’re in a drought, you have to conserve, and you have to prepare for flash floods.

Wholly H20 shower Photo by Alison van DiggelenWhat does he think of SF’s sexy water conservation efforts?

Kremen: However you can reach out to consumers in their language, that’s how you do it, so if sex is the way to reach the end user and it achieves a good societal goal, I have no problem, because this is a crisis.

And he predicts the crisis could get worse as climate change produces a “new normal.”

Kremen: What climate change could mean to us is more volatility: more floods, more droughts.

I ask Wholly Water’s Dougherty what one thing we all can do to end the water crisis. Her answer is surprising. She’s not pushing low-flow toilets, rain barrels or graywater systems…instead she says:

Dougherty: Go and sit next to a river and not talk, but simply watch the river for half an hour.

For Dougherty, the anthropologist, it’s all about strengthening our connection with water and thinking of that river every time you turn on the tap.

Ambi: sound of tap going on, water hitting sink.

Fergus Nicoll: Very nice piece, Alison. Thank you.

It’s going to be a bit of a culture shock if California goes from drought to heavy rain?

Alison van Diggelen: Yes, it’s going to be a major shocker, but as Gary Kremen from the Water District says, they can’t rely on the El Nino conditions coming. It’s been predicted before and it didn’t materialize, so we may get floods but they’ve got to store that water and make sure that it’s available for future years.

Fergus Nicoll: All options still to be considered. Great to have you with us.

Read more

BBC Letter from Silicon Valley: Tech in the Time of Drought

BBC Dialogues, California Water Official Advises Tech Entrepreneurs: Get your Hands Dirty

Read more from Fresh Dialogues Archives

Meryl Streep’s Green Interview with Alison van Diggelen

Meryl Streep’s Green Interview with Alison van Diggelen

By Alison van Diggelen, host of Fresh Dialogues

We were delighted when Meryl Streep agreed to a Fresh Dialogues interview last month in San Francisco. We had a lively conversation about why she’s become an activist for the environment.


Meryl was charming and generous, but I left the interview feeling that I’d just talked with Margaret Thatcher’s younger sister. Perhaps my British accent sparked the Queen of accents channeling her inner Iron Lady?

Interview highlights

Why should we care for the environment?

We’re all part of the ecosystem. We’re all connected. You can’t go around in a bubble…

On why green design guru Bill McDonough inspires her

Unlike so many environmental messages which are negative: “don’t this…don’t that!”  Bill approaches things in a positive, restorative, beneficial way…with a focus on abundance. His mantra is a beautiful thing: “Designing a safe, healthy and delightful world for the love of all children, for all species, for all time.”

He’s a fervent optimist. His cup is never half empty or even half full. It’s always full of water and air. We were both profoundly affected by similar things: Silent Spring (the book by Rachel Carson) and concern for the impact of toxins on children. He’s the consummate multi-tasker. He leaves me breathless.

On the roots of her environmental consciousness

It all goes back to being a mother. That’s the most invested relationship. You pay attention, perhaps for the first time. What is going in your child’s mouth? What’s her environment like? What will the future be?

In 1989 Streep cofounded “Mothers and Others” to raise awareness of toxic pesticides used in food production.

How did Julia Child influence her? Click here for more interview highlights.

Check out the video of Meryl Streep’s hilarious tribute to Bill McDonough.

The interview took place at the Cradle to Cradle Products Innovation Institute Gala at the Bently Reserve, San Francisco on Wednesday November 14, 2012.

Jean-Michel Cousteau: On Climate Change

Jean-Michel Cousteau: On Climate Change

By Alison van Diggelen, host of Fresh Dialogues

The facts of climate change are still disputed, despite consensus from a majority of scientists. Last Friday, Fresh Dialogues sat down with ocean explorer and film maker, Jean-Michel Cousteau to to get the facts from an expert who is seeing its impact in our oceans and beyond.

“Climate change is a reality,”  says Jean-Michel Cousteau, the son of legendary explorer Jacques Cousteau. “What we are responsible for and the consequences we’ll have to face up to is that because our emissions of CO2 are accelerating the process, things are happening much faster.”

One of the biggest impacts he highlights is the reduced protection of our coastlines due to corals dying and sea level rising. He anticipates increased storms and flooding; and millions being displaced around the world.

I asked Cousteau: what advice does he have for people wanting to reduce their carbon footprint?

“It starts at home and by better managing our home, we save money and by the same token we save energy and emit less CO2,” says Cousteau. “The other one is our consumption. People eat too much. People are FAT!”

His forthright answer caught me off guard. No more Crème brûlée for me. We all have to make sacrifices.

Here’s a short segment of our interview. We also discussed China vs US action on climate change; President Obama’s response to climate change and his energy policy; and the important lesson his father, Jacques Cousteau, taught him.

Check out my story at:

KQED’s Climate Watch  for Cousteau’s views on California’s Global Warming Solutions Act, AB 32




Scene Magazine Features Fresh Dialogues

Scene Magazine Features Fresh Dialogues

By Alison van Diggelen, host of Fresh Dialogues

This month, Scene Magazine – Silicon Valley’s Guide to Style, featured a four page story by Julia Prodis Sulek all about Fresh Dialogues. Here’s a short excerpt of the article below – click here to see more




“Just Between Us” by Julia Prodis Sulek

Alison van Diggelen coaxes thinkers, activists and the merely famous to talk about green tech – and themselves

“Martin Sheen sends her old-fashioned handwritten letters. Maureen Dowd has invited her out for cocktails in Washington D.C. Marketing guru Guy Kawasaki sought her help with a few edits on his new book.

One time real estate investment consultant and mummy blogger Alison van Diggelen has remade herself into a citizen journalist, interviewing celebrities, Silicon Valley pioneers and the media elite in her fledgling video webcasts she calls “Fresh Dialogues.” Along the way, she also has established herself as a master networker and relationship builder, counting TV interviewer Charlie Rose and KQED’s Michael Krasny among her mentors.

For interview subjects jaded by “gotcha” journalism, they’re drawn in by her gentle charm and enchanting Scottish brogue.

“The relationship between a journalist and the interviewee is usually at best cautious and at worst paranoid,” says Guy Kawasaki, who just published his 10th book. With van Diggelen, “it’s much closer to a conversation between two friends. You can relax in an interview with her.”

Read more from the Scene Magazine Feature

Check out interviews with Martin Sheen, Charlie Rose and many other celebrities at the Fresh Dialogues YouTube Channel

Check out other Fresh Dialogues Media and Appearances

Maureen Dowd: Talks Green

Maureen Dowd: Talks Green

By Alison van Diggelen, host of Fresh Dialogues

This week, we take a look at the Fresh Dialogues archives. Last April, I met with the enchanting Pulitzer Prize winning columnist Maureen Dowd. We had an animated conversation during a green-themed morning in downtown San Jose. Over cups of delicious mint tea, we discussed Maureen’s Irish heritage and how that inspires her fiery prose. We also discussed her belief in America’s green future.

In this excerpt, we discuss fellow New York Times Columnist, Tom Friedman (whom she describes as “her office husband”) and his new book, Hot, Flat & Crowded.

“I try to get advice from Tom Friedman who is Mr. Solar around our office. He’s done a new book which is very involved with energy and his whole house is solar designed… I ask him and he’s trying to coach me in how to be more environmentally correct.”


Download or listen to this lively Fresh Dialogues interview


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“This was the first campaign I’ve ever covered where I’d go and watch Hillary and Obama in the primary and they were both competing to come up with a plan for green jobs and for me it’s very exciting because for the eight years that Bush and Cheney were in it felt like we were going backwards in every way. You know we weren’t coming into the 21st Century and we were kinda like the Flintstones – we were just not moving forward. So I love all that.”


To read the TRANSCRIPT of the full interview click here

To see many other exclusive videos at the FRESH DIALOGUES CHANNEL  click here

For a full archive of interviews with Tom Friedman, Paul Krugman, Martin Sheen and many other celebrities click here