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Readers of this disturbing but entirely convincing account need to remind themselves that the Internet is pretty useful, but...

An ingenious overview of a wildly unreliable Internet.

Seife (Journalism/New York Univ.; Proofiness: The Dark Arts of Mathematical Deception, 2010, etc.) recounts the story of a Scottish blogger who, frustrated when his opinions on the Middle East were ignored, reinvented himself as a lesbian Syrian activist in war-torn Damascus and became a media star. Constructing an alternative reality once required an entire totalitarian state. Now a single person can do it, as online information moves around the world with the speed of light. It can be stored in virtually no space, copied with perfect fidelity at little cost and altered just as easily. Photoshop has changed the face of fraud. In 1990, image manipulation made up 3 percent of scientific misconduct, but by 2008, it had risen to nearly 70 percent. Most of the trillion emails sent every few days are spam, and most of several hundred million blogs are unreadable. Experts wrote traditional encyclopedias, while Wikipedia is open to anyone regardless of expertise. It’s more comprehensive and easier to navigate but nagged by propaganda, vandalism and hoax articles that may persist for years since, in the relentlessly democratic ethos of the Internet, those who detect them have no more authority than the fakers. Intelligent thinking depends on our ability to tell good authorities from bad, writes the author, but the avalanche of free information at our fingertips is marginalizing gatekeepers of the truth (reporters, editors, scholars), who cost money and work slowly. Googling for expertise turns up too many opinionated sources that may not even be human. Seife seeks “not to rail against the Internet, but to act as a guide for the skeptic [with] a handbook for those who wish to understand how digital information is affecting us.”

Readers of this disturbing but entirely convincing account need to remind themselves that the Internet is pretty useful, but they will not deny that it teems with garbage.

Pub Date: June 30, 2014

ISBN: 978-0-670-02608-1

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: May 16, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2014

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This is not the Nutcracker sweet, as passed on by Tchaikovsky and Marius Petipa. No, this is the original Hoffmann tale of 1816, in which the froth of Christmas revelry occasionally parts to let the dark underside of childhood fantasies and fears peek through. The boundaries between dream and reality fade, just as Godfather Drosselmeier, the Nutcracker's creator, is seen as alternately sinister and jolly. And Italian artist Roberto Innocenti gives an errily realistic air to Marie's dreams, in richly detailed illustrations touched by a mysterious light. A beautiful version of this classic tale, which will captivate adults and children alike. (Nutcracker; $35.00; Oct. 28, 1996; 136 pp.; 0-15-100227-4)

Pub Date: Oct. 28, 1996

ISBN: 0-15-100227-4

Page Count: 136

Publisher: Harcourt

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 1996

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An extravaganza in Bemelmans' inimitable vein, but written almost dead pan, with sly, amusing, sometimes biting undertones, breaking through. For Bemelmans was "the man who came to cocktails". And his hostess was Lady Mendl (Elsie de Wolfe), arbiter of American decorating taste over a generation. Lady Mendl was an incredible person,- self-made in proper American tradition on the one hand, for she had been haunted by the poverty of her childhood, and the years of struggle up from its ugliness,- until she became synonymous with the exotic, exquisite, worshipper at beauty's whrine. Bemelmans draws a portrait in extremes, through apt descriptions, through hilarious anecdote, through surprisingly sympathetic and understanding bits of appreciation. The scene shifts from Hollywood to the home she loved the best in Versailles. One meets in passing a vast roster of famous figures of the international and artistic set. And always one feels Bemelmans, slightly offstage, observing, recording, commenting, illustrated.

Pub Date: Feb. 23, 1955

ISBN: 0670717797

Page Count: -

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: Oct. 25, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 1955

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