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

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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 deftly argued case for a new kind of socialism that, while sure to inspire controversy, bears widespread discussion.

CAPITAL AND IDEOLOGY

A massive investigation of economic history in the service of proposing a political order to overcome inequality.

Readers who like their political manifestoes in manageable sizes, à la Common Sense or The Communist Manifesto, may be overwhelmed by the latest from famed French economist Piketty (Top Incomes in France in the Twentieth Century: Inequality and Redistribution, 1901-1998, 2014, etc.), but it’s a significant work. The author interrogates the principal forms of economic organization over time, from slavery to “non-European trifunctional societies,” Chinese-style communism, and “hypercapitalist” orders, in order to examine relative levels of inequality and its evolution. Each system is founded on an ideology, and “every ideology, no matter how extreme it may seem in its defense of inequality, expresses a certain idea of social justice.” In the present era, at least in the U.S., that idea of social justice would seem to be only that the big ones eat the little ones, the principal justification being that the wealthiest people became rich because they are “the most enterprising, deserving, and useful.” In fact, as Piketty demonstrates, there’s more to inequality than the mere “size of the income gap.” Contrary to hypercapitalist ideology and its defenders, the playing field is not level, the market is not self-regulating, and access is not evenly distributed. Against this, Piketty arrives at a proposed system that, among other things, would redistribute wealth across societies by heavy taxation, especially of inheritances, to create a “participatory socialism” in which power is widely shared and trade across nations is truly free. The word “socialism,” he allows, is a kind of Pandora’s box that can scare people off—and, he further acknowledges, “the Russian and Czech oligarchs who buy athletic teams and newspapers may not be the most savory characters, but the Soviet system was a nightmare and had to go.” Yet so, too, writes the author, is a capitalism that rewards so few at the expense of so many.

A deftly argued case for a new kind of socialism that, while sure to inspire controversy, bears widespread discussion.

Pub Date: March 10, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-674-98082-2

Page Count: 976

Publisher: Belknap/Harvard Univ.

Review Posted Online: Dec. 22, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2020

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