A ravishingly designed and intelligently written study of modern technology.

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THE OBJECTS THAT POWER THE GLOBAL ECONOMY

An illustrated book provides a tour of groundbreaking technologies and their effects.

Esoteric, seemingly minor technological advances often produce monumental ramifications for society. In a companywide collaborative effort, Quartz catalogs the impact of 10 different discoveries that changed the world. For example, the active pixel sensor, invented by Eric Fossum, a professor of engineering, for the purposes of space travel, is the innovation responsible for the transformation of the cellphone into a pocket camera and also paved the way for far more sophisticated factory robots. Improvements in refrigeration, especially the creation of the “reefer,” a special refrigerated metal shipping container, has changed the way people eat, making food from around the world available everywhere. And the lithium-ion battery, constructed out of the lightest metal on the periodic table, permitting a maximum of energy to be stored in a minimum of space, has made mobile technology possible. Furthermore, the authors furnish an eye-opening discussion of server farms, which collectively constitute the backbone of the internet, with their suitable locations apparently nearly impossible to find. The authors permit themselves lots of fascinating digressions, too, touching on internet censorship in China, the adoption of solar panels in North Korea, and Tesla CEO Elon Musk’s ecological ambitions. This is more a coffee-table book than a traditional study, with its physical construction aesthetically striking and novel, a kind of homage to the creativity it chronicles. There’s even a pullout section illustrating the physical elements most central to the modern global economy. The pages are of different sizes, some matte and some glossy, some saturated in brilliant color and others black-and-white. At the very least, the book is a visual feast, gorgeously designed, a handsome display piece. The writing, though, is also sharp and clear, and the commentary supplied eclectic and consistently engrossing. But there are two conspicuous omissions. First, the authors neglect to establish an overarching mission statement, a thematic thread that more clearly binds together this pastiche of peregrinations. In addition, the work is the result of the Quartz company’s collective labors—nearly every staff member contributed in some way—but virtually nothing concrete is said about the news outlet itself.

A ravishingly designed and intelligently written study of modern technology.

Pub Date: Oct. 4, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-692-90914-6

Page Count: 113

Publisher: Quartz

Review Posted Online: Nov. 22, 2017

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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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Necessarily swift and adumbrative as well as inclusive, focused, and graceful.

A LITTLE HISTORY OF POETRY

A light-speed tour of (mostly) Western poetry, from the 4,000-year-old Gilgamesh to the work of Australian poet Les Murray, who died in 2019.

In the latest entry in the publisher’s Little Histories series, Carey, an emeritus professor at Oxford whose books include What Good Are the Arts? and The Unexpected Professor: An Oxford Life in Books, offers a quick definition of poetry—“relates to language as music relates to noise. It is language made special”—before diving in to poetry’s vast history. In most chapters, the author deals with only a few writers, but as the narrative progresses, he finds himself forced to deal with far more than a handful. In his chapter on 20th-century political poets, for example, he talks about 14 writers in seven pages. Carey displays a determination to inform us about who the best poets were—and what their best poems were. The word “greatest” appears continually; Chaucer was “the greatest medieval English poet,” and Langston Hughes was “the greatest male poet” of the Harlem Renaissance. For readers who need a refresher—or suggestions for the nightstand—Carey provides the best-known names and the most celebrated poems, including Paradise Lost (about which the author has written extensively), “Kubla Khan,” “Ozymandias,” “The Charge of the Light Brigade,” Wordsworth and Coleridge’s Lyrical Ballads, which “changed the course of English poetry.” Carey explains some poetic technique (Hopkins’ “sprung rhythm”) and pauses occasionally to provide autobiographical tidbits—e.g., John Masefield, who wrote the famous “Sea Fever,” “hated the sea.” We learn, as well, about the sexuality of some poets (Auden was bisexual), and, especially later on, Carey discusses the demons that drove some of them, Robert Lowell and Sylvia Plath among them. Refreshingly, he includes many women in the volume—all the way back to Sappho—and has especially kind words for Marianne Moore and Elizabeth Bishop, who share a chapter.

Necessarily swift and adumbrative as well as inclusive, focused, and graceful.

Pub Date: April 21, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-300-23222-6

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Yale Univ.

Review Posted Online: Feb. 9, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2020

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