Curious about that froth on your cappuccino? Here’s the place to take its measure. But it is the reader who will have to...

UNIVERSAL FOAM

FROM CAPPUCCINO TO THE COSMOS

An exploration of the science of foam that is also an engaging appreciation of its cultural uses—think of your beer’s head or cappuccino’s cap—from physicist Perkowitz (Empire of Light, 1996).

Foam is one of those peculiar and intriguing semi-states, not really liquid or gas or solid, but an arrangement of adjoining bubbles and cells of gas within a liquid or solid. Perkowitz takes readers on a Cook’s Tour through the substance’s extensive and quirky world, from ocean whitecaps to champagne, pumice, and bread—the foamy turmoil of quantum events. He works his thrall mostly in the cultural aspects of foam: how it effects the flavor of beer, the taste of bread; how it brought about an environmental crisis with its near indestructibility as exemplified by packing peanuts and Macdonald’s clamshell burger containers; the ethereal pleasures of meringues and soufflés and mousses; the aesthetic chords struck by paintings of churning waves from Hokusai to Homer. But when Perkowitz delves into the physics of foam, he gets bogged down. It may be that the mechanical and dynamic properties of foam are simply not compelling, but it does seem as though something as wondrous as sonoluminescence (the act by which bubbles change sound into light) ought to have readers gasping in awe. It doesn’t, here. More problematical is that Perkowitz at times comes perilously close to a tone of cooing condescension: “No doubt you’ll soon notice the remarkable diversity of matter that surrounds us.” At the end of the book, he does manage to make his science sing when he describes the cosmos as having the distinct qualities of foam as witnessed through the distribution of galaxies across space.

Curious about that froth on your cappuccino? Here’s the place to take its measure. But it is the reader who will have to provide the initial spark of interest, for though Perkowitz can be entertaining, he is not alluring.

Pub Date: July 1, 2000

ISBN: 0-8027-1357-2

Page Count: 208

Publisher: Walker

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2000

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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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IN MY PLACE

From the national correspondent for PBS's MacNeil-Lehrer Newshour: a moving memoir of her youth in the Deep South and her role in desegregating the Univ. of Georgia. The eldest daughter of an army chaplain, Hunter-Gault was born in what she calls the ``first of many places that I would call `my place' ''—the small village of Due West, tucked away in a remote little corner of South Carolina. While her father served in Korea, Hunter-Gault and her mother moved first to Covington, Georgia, and then to Atlanta. In ``L.A.'' (lovely Atlanta), surrounded by her loving family and a close-knit black community, the author enjoyed a happy childhood participating in activities at church and at school, where her intellectual and leadership abilities soon were noticed by both faculty and peers. In high school, Hunter-Gault found herself studying the ``comic-strip character Brenda Starr as I might have studied a journalism textbook, had there been one.'' Determined to be a journalist, she applied to several colleges—all outside of Georgia, for ``to discourage the possibility that a black student would even think of applying to one of those white schools, the state provided money for black students'' to study out of state. Accepted at Michigan's Wayne State, the author was encouraged by local civil-rights leaders to apply, along with another classmate, to the Univ. of Georgia as well. Her application became a test of changing racial attitudes, as well as of the growing strength of the civil-rights movement in the South, and Gault became a national figure as she braved an onslaught of hostilities and harassment to become the first black woman to attend the university. A remarkably generous, fair-minded account of overcoming some of the biggest, and most intractable, obstacles ever deployed by southern racists. (Photographs—not seen.)

Pub Date: Nov. 1, 1992

ISBN: 0-374-17563-2

Page Count: 192

Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 1992

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