An important record of forward-looking thought cut short.




Collected writings of Aaron Swartz (1986-2013), prescient programmer and technology critic.

Swartz remains a beloved figure, due in part to the unfortunate circumstances of his death. In 2013, he committed suicide following an arguably overzealous federal prosecution for downloading large quantities of scholarly articles while at MIT. This approachable anthology allows his ideas and general philosophy regarding the importance of transparency to further speak to his legacy. The large volume of Swartz’s writings has been organized into sections, with notes by writers and scholars, including Cory Doctorow, David Segal, Lawrence Lessig, and Astra Taylor. Lessig provides the introduction. “In the essays collected here,” he writes, “you can watch a boy working on many problems at the same time….Few of us will ever come close to the influence this boy had.” The organizational focus on such diverse topics as “Free Culture,” computers, politics, “Unschool,” and books (in his spare time, Swartz wrote enthusiastic reviews from his prolific reading, promoting the work of like-minded thinkers) reveals the broad nature of Swartz’s worldview. In his own words, he wanted to counter “a social norm that how much we discuss something should be roughly proportional to its importance.” His writing is ideally suited to longer, discursive essays on prickly social issues—much like his professed idol, David Foster Wallace—shown here in sharp, funny pieces on the capture of the political process by special interests and on the creativity-killing nature of contemporary public education. Much of Swartz’s work originally appeared online, and some essays discuss his work on projects like Wikipedia and the RSS web format. Swartz seems clearheaded and generous in his discussion of technology while always emphasizing collaboration and open access: “I often think that the world needs to be a lot more organized.” While his conceptual and argumentative brilliance is certainly present, there’s also a youthful naiveté here, which makes for a wistful reading experience.

An important record of forward-looking thought cut short.

Pub Date: Jan. 5, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-62097-066-9

Page Count: 256

Publisher: The New Press

Review Posted Online: Oct. 6, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2015

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This early reader is an excellent introduction to the March on Washington in 1963 and the important role in the march played by Martin Luther King Jr. Ruffin gives the book a good, dramatic start: “August 28, 1963. It is a hot summer day in Washington, D.C. More than 250,00 people are pouring into the city.” They have come to protest the treatment of African-Americans here in the US. With stirring original artwork mixed with photographs of the events (and the segregationist policies in the South, such as separate drinking fountains and entrances to public buildings), Ruffin writes of how an end to slavery didn’t mark true equality and that these rights had to be fought for—through marches and sit-ins and words, particularly those of Dr. King, and particularly on that fateful day in Washington. Within a year the Civil Rights Act of 1964 had been passed: “It does not change everything. But it is a beginning.” Lots of visual cues will help new readers through the fairly simple text, but it is the power of the story that will keep them turning the pages. (Easy reader. 6-8)

Pub Date: Jan. 1, 2001

ISBN: 0-448-42421-5

Page Count: 48

Publisher: Grosset & Dunlap

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2000

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Noted jazz and pop record producer Thiele offers a chatty autobiography. Aided by record-business colleague Golden, Thiele traces his career from his start as a ``pubescent, novice jazz record producer'' in the 1940s through the '50s, when he headed Coral, Dot, and Roulette Records, and the '60s, when he worked for ABC and ran the famous Impulse! jazz label. At Coral, Thiele championed the work of ``hillbilly'' singer Buddy Holly, although the only sessions he produced with Holly were marred by saccharine strings. The producer specialized in more mainstream popsters like the irrepressibly perky Teresa Brewer (who later became his fourth wife) and the bubble-machine muzak-meister Lawrence Welk. At Dot, Thiele was instrumental in recording Jack Kerouac's famous beat- generation ramblings to jazz accompaniment (recordings that Dot's president found ``pornographic''), while also overseeing a steady stream of pop hits. He then moved to the Mafia-controlled Roulette label, where he observed the ``silk-suited, pinky-ringed'' entourage who frequented the label's offices. Incredibly, however, Thiele remembers the famously hard-nosed Morris Levy, who ran the label and was eventually convicted of extortion, as ``one of the kindest, most warm-hearted, and classiest music men I have ever known.'' At ABC/Impulse!, Thiele oversaw the classic recordings of John Coltrane, although he is the first to admit that Coltrane essentially produced his own sessions. Like many producers of the day, Thiele participated in the ownership of publishing rights to some of the songs he recorded; he makes no apology for this practice, which he calls ``entirely appropriate and without any ethical conflicts.'' A pleasant, if not exactly riveting, memoir that will be of most interest to those with a thirst for cocktail-hour stories of the record biz. (25 halftones, not seen)

Pub Date: May 1, 1995

ISBN: 0-19-508629-4

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Oxford Univ.

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 1995

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