Though the prose is often florid, Pierson convincingly demonstrates that when it comes to relating to man’s best friend, one...

THE SECRET HISTORY OF KINDNESS

LEARNING FROM HOW DOGS LEARN

Pierson (The Man Who Would Stop at Nothing: Long-Distance Motorcycling's Endless Road, 2011, etc.) delivers a fascinating if sprawling exposition on the history and science of animal behavior.

Beginning with a close examination of methods she had to learn—and unlearn—when training her own dogs, the author probes the history of how humans have attempted to relate more closely to animals with whom they feel an affinity but find a daunting challenge when attempting to domesticate (“it is rarely a good idea to own a dog much smarter than you are”). How to bridge that communicative chasm is the main thrust of the book, which is rooted in the findings of behavioral psychologist B.F. Skinner. Skinner’s animal experiments from the mid-1930s, though pointed at illuminating the human condition, revealed the absolute power of reward. “There is no more powerful motive to learning, or survival, than fulfillment of essential needs,” writes the author, and animal trainers coming from Skinner’s camp have since believed positive reinforcement is key to need fulfillment achieved through operant conditioning, or “the manner in which learned behavior is acquired.” Pierson’s account is provocative since this line of thinking bucks the traditional behaviorist school of thought found in dog training in particular, which relies on a “classic conception of teaching as inseparable from threat and compulsion.” Punishment and deprivation of essential needs, as practiced by “Dog Whisperer” Cesar Millan and a number of zoos, Pierson shows, fly in the face of copious scientific evidence showing that animals learn most effectively through positive reinforcement. The author goes on to extrapolate this finding into broader realms of human commerce, such as politics, with varying degrees of success, creating at times a rambling discourse.

Though the prose is often florid, Pierson convincingly demonstrates that when it comes to relating to man’s best friend, one doesn’t have to be cruel to be kind.

Pub Date: May 4, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-393-06619-7

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Norton

Review Posted Online: Oct. 8, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2015

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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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Stricter than, say, Bergen Evans or W3 ("disinterested" means impartial — period), Strunk is in the last analysis...

THE ELEMENTS OF STYLE

50TH ANNIVERSARY EDITION

Privately published by Strunk of Cornell in 1918 and revised by his student E. B. White in 1959, that "little book" is back again with more White updatings.

Stricter than, say, Bergen Evans or W3 ("disinterested" means impartial — period), Strunk is in the last analysis (whoops — "A bankrupt expression") a unique guide (which means "without like or equal").

Pub Date: May 15, 1972

ISBN: 0205632645

Page Count: 105

Publisher: Macmillan

Review Posted Online: Oct. 28, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 1972

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