A heck of a yarn, full of vivid characters, reversals of fortune and stubborn determination: Pixar should make a movie out...

THE PIXAR TOUCH

THE MAKING OF A COMPANY

Brisk history of an entertainment juggernaut that is also the history of computer animation.

While it’s now standard in children’s entertainment, writes Price (Love and Hate in Jamestown: John Smith, Pocahontas, and the Start of a New Nation, 2005), computer animation was in its earliest incarnations the province of technically minded geniuses beavering away in universities and labs. There they constructed impossibly complex algorithms that solved problems of realistic movement, texture, lighting and a host of other reality-mimicking conditions out of sheer scientific zeal; practical applications ran along the lines of enhanced medical imaging. A small handful of individuals, including former Disney animator John Lasseter, saw the new technology as the next step in animated storytelling. George Lucas played a critical (if characteristically aloof) role in early support of Pixar’s efforts, and offbeat, difficult and preternaturally charismatic visionary Steve Jobs funded the company at a financial loss for years, furiously determined to prove that his phenomenal early success at Apple was no fluke. Lasseter, a dreamy California kid obsessed with juvenile Americana, emerges as this story’s hero: a tireless, passionate advocate of the possibilities of computer animation who applied the classic Disney lessons of emotional involvement, expressive characterization and solid storytelling to the new medium and produced such modern classics as Toy Story, Finding Nemo and Cars. Pixar’s relationship with corporate parent Disney provides much of the book’s drama. Jobs and Disney head Michael Eisner locked horns in an epically ugly battle over the terms of their companies’ collaboration, and ex-Eisner lieutenant Jeffrey Katzenberg waged a frontal assault on Pixar’s market under the auspices of DreamWorks SKG. But the heart of the story is the animators, gentle revolutionaries and oddball alchemists who never faltered in their quest to wed hard science to creative vision and bring animation into a new era of artistic accomplishment.

A heck of a yarn, full of vivid characters, reversals of fortune and stubborn determination: Pixar should make a movie out of it.

Pub Date: May 14, 2008

ISBN: 978-0-307-26575-3

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2008

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Striking research showing the immense complexity of ordinary thought and revealing the identities of the gatekeepers in our...

THINKING, FAST AND SLOW

A psychologist and Nobel Prize winner summarizes and synthesizes the recent decades of research on intuition and systematic thinking.

The author of several scholarly texts, Kahneman (Emeritus Psychology and Public Affairs/Princeton Univ.) now offers general readers not just the findings of psychological research but also a better understanding of how research questions arise and how scholars systematically frame and answer them. He begins with the distinction between System 1 and System 2 mental operations, the former referring to quick, automatic thought, the latter to more effortful, overt thinking. We rely heavily, writes, on System 1, resorting to the higher-energy System 2 only when we need or want to. Kahneman continually refers to System 2 as “lazy”: We don’t want to think rigorously about something. The author then explores the nuances of our two-system minds, showing how they perform in various situations. Psychological experiments have repeatedly revealed that our intuitions are generally wrong, that our assessments are based on biases and that our System 1 hates doubt and despises ambiguity. Kahneman largely avoids jargon; when he does use some (“heuristics,” for example), he argues that such terms really ought to join our everyday vocabulary. He reviews many fundamental concepts in psychology and statistics (regression to the mean, the narrative fallacy, the optimistic bias), showing how they relate to his overall concerns about how we think and why we make the decisions that we do. Some of the later chapters (dealing with risk-taking and statistics and probabilities) are denser than others (some readers may resent such demands on System 2!), but the passages that deal with the economic and political implications of the research are gripping.

Striking research showing the immense complexity of ordinary thought and revealing the identities of the gatekeepers in our minds.

Pub Date: Nov. 1, 2011

ISBN: 978-0-374-27563-1

Page Count: 512

Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Review Posted Online: Sept. 4, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2011

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A declaration worth hearing out in a time of growing inequality—and indignity.

ECONOMIC DIGNITY

Noted number cruncher Sperling delivers an economist’s rejoinder to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.

Former director of the National Economic Council in the administrations of Presidents Bill Clinton and Barack Obama, the author has long taken a view of the dismal science that takes economic justice fully into account. Alongside all the metrics and estimates and reckonings of GDP, inflation, and the supply curve, he holds the great goal of economic policy to be the advancement of human dignity, a concept intangible enough to chase the econometricians away. Growth, the sacred mantra of most economic policy, “should never be considered an appropriate ultimate end goal” for it, he counsels. Though 4% is the magic number for annual growth to be considered healthy, it is healthy only if everyone is getting the benefits and not just the ultrawealthy who are making away with the spoils today. Defining dignity, admits Sperling, can be a kind of “I know it when I see it” problem, but it does not exist where people are a paycheck away from homelessness; the fact, however, that people widely share a view of indignity suggests the “intuitive universality” of its opposite. That said, the author identifies three qualifications, one of them the “ability to meaningfully participate in the economy with respect, not domination and humiliation.” Though these latter terms are also essentially unquantifiable, Sperling holds that this respect—lack of abuse, in another phrasing—can be obtained through a tight labor market and monetary and fiscal policy that pushes for full employment. In other words, where management needs to come looking for workers, workers are likely to be better treated than when the opposite holds. In still other words, writes the author, dignity is in part a function of “ ‘take this job and shove it’ power,” which is a power worth fighting for.

A declaration worth hearing out in a time of growing inequality—and indignity.

Pub Date: May 5, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-9848-7987-5

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Penguin Press

Review Posted Online: Feb. 26, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2020

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