A well-intended and insightful but messy treatise.




Quirky but sprawling indictment of our Internet-dominated society.

Lanier, an iconoclastic speaker, columnist, computer scientist, musician and innovator of virtual-reality experiments in the 1980s, skewers the degeneration of the modern digital world. The author convincingly argues that changes in digital and software design affect human behavior, just as small changes in virtual-reality simulations modify the player's experience. One of the problems with the modern Internet culture, he writes, is that people get locked in, or confined, in their responses by the software they use, and hence lose their sense of individuality. They must conform to pre-defined categories in Facebook, and get automatically directed by Google search engines to Wikipedia entries that are bland and uninspiring. Lanier is particularly incensed by the “hive mind” mentality, which posits that group-think articles in Wikipedia are better than a creative, inspired article by someone who is a true expert on the subject. The flat structure of the Internet not only results in mediocre content, but allows for trolls, or anonymous users, who use their anonymity to behave badly and to trash others. It was also a blind belief in technology, Lanier asserts, that led to the financial debacle, as rogue traders relied on sophisticated computer algorithms without understanding what they were doing. The author is less convincing when he moves to a larger systemic argument about how an advertising-focused capitalist system directs money where the most clicks go, instead of toward individual talent. It's a difficult argument to prove, and his example of how pop music is less innovative now compared to music in the 20th century, while intriguing, seems a bit removed from the wider claims he makes about the creativity-stifling effects of big business. The last section, in which Lanier describes some inspiring potentials of modern computing, is a disjointed attempt to put a positive spin on a pessimistic view of modern technological culture.

A well-intended and insightful but messy treatise.

Pub Date: Jan. 12, 2010

ISBN: 978-0-307-26964-5

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2009

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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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With this detailed, versatile cookbook, readers can finally make Momofuku Milk Bar’s inventive, decadent desserts at home, or see what they’ve been missing.

In this successor to the Momofuku cookbook, Momofuku Milk Bar’s pastry chef hands over the keys to the restaurant group’s snack-food–based treats, which have had people lining up outside the door of the Manhattan bakery since it opened. The James Beard Award–nominated Tosi spares no detail, providing origin stories for her popular cookies, pies and ice-cream flavors. The recipes are meticulously outlined, with added tips on how to experiment with their format. After “understanding how we laid out this cookbook…you will be one of us,” writes the author. Still, it’s a bit more sophisticated than the typical Betty Crocker fare. In addition to a healthy stock of pretzels, cornflakes and, of course, milk powder, some recipes require readers to have feuilletine and citric acid handy, to perfect the art of quenelling. Acolytes should invest in a scale, thanks to Tosi’s preference of grams (“freedom measurements,” as the friendlier cups and spoons are called, are provided, but heavily frowned upon)—though it’s hard to be too pretentious when one of your main ingredients is Fruity Pebbles. A refreshing, youthful cookbook that will have readers happily indulging in a rising pastry-chef star’s widely appealing treats.    


Pub Date: Oct. 25, 2011

ISBN: 978-0-307-72049-8

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Clarkson Potter

Review Posted Online: Jan. 13, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2011

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