INFINITE REALITY

AVATARS, ETERNAL LIFE, NEW WORLDS, AND THE DAWN OF THE VIRTUAL REVOLUTION

Enthusiastic exploration of how virtual reality is impacting human consciousness, perception and social interaction.

Humans have been engaging with virtual realities since the dawn of storytelling, write the authors, experiencing them as printing, theater, radio and film and other mediums. Blascovich (Psychology/Univ. of California, Santa Barbara) and Bailenson (Virtual Human Interaction Lab/Stanford Univ.) focus on digital-technology–based immersive virtual reality, 2-D and 3-D environments that the mind buys into and responds to as “real”—although the authors are clear in their distinction between “grounded” (the natural or physical world) and virtual realities. While they provide an illuminating introduction to the processing cycle that generates today’s virtual realities, and an overview of appropriate social theory used therein, they hit their stride with their discussions of shaping and using avatars: digital representations of ourselves. The experiential possibilities of avatars are vast: “virtual worlds offer an unprecedented opportunity to separate people from the physical identity, and to role-play in a variety of manners.” Virtual classrooms help eliminate such problems as overcrowding and lack of direct teacher contact. Creating an avatar is also a step toward immortality: Your biological self may not be present, but future generations can engage with your likeness, where 3-D digital modeling sculpts your face and body, motion-capture technology acquires your gestures and soon-to-be artificial-intelligence technology will frame your personality traits and idiosyncrasies. On the downside, there is the spooky idea of someone pirating your avatar; indeed, the authors introduce a number of serious virtual-reality pitfalls, from over-identifying with your avatar to privacy violation through tracking. And there is a serious weakness with the lack of touch in the virtual world—yet behold forthcoming teledildonics, “sexually stimulating devices that can be controlled by others via the Internet.” A sweeping presentation of virtual reality’s ability to create new and multiform experiences and perspectives—likely to beguile more than a few skeptics.

 

Pub Date: April 5, 2011

ISBN: 978-0-06-180950-7

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Morrow/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: April 3, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2011

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WHAT A WONDERFUL WORLD

A LIFETIME OF RECORDINGS

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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MOMOFUKU MILK BAR

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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