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 17, 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 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 1996

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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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