Sunday, May 30, 2004

One Planet: See It for Yourself (Armchair Reading)
(Lonely Planet)
Not nearly as valuable in showing you the world as reading the Lonely Planet guides to specific places-- perhaps they should just put together a greatest places collection, where readers can transport themselves with text, rather than images. The photos lean toward tribes in remote areas; I can't definitely recall any of the images, even though I looked through every page yesterday.
(Rem Koolhaas, editor; along with a posse of his associates; 544 pp)
A glossy advertorial of Koolhaas's work since the mid 1990s. The book "contains" provocative info-graphics, esp. concerning urbanization and shopping activity. The articles on each project (e.g., the Seattle Library or the HQ for China's Central TV) are not always readable, but the throw-away idea feel as if you're meeting an interesting madman at a cocktail party. The perspective of a megalomaniac architect leak through, and that has its own fascination: Rather than describe buildings, Koolhaas positions his work as world-changing, and he's willing to tackle the shifting place of the book in a digital age, the amplification of urban slums in the Third World in his Lagos Project, or the consumer impulse in his Prada store in NY. Since his ideas are so eccentric, it doesn't seem plausible that he could build sufficient consensus to really solve these problems, but he does hurl his perspective into the pot. His proposal for Cambridge to take over part of Allston, and shift the Charles River, is a great example of how he's 'mixing it up.'
Slab Rat
(Ted Heller, 10 CDs, punted after 4)
Clever, very arch description of the world of NY magazine sub-sub-editors: envy, polished backgrounds that are fabricated to fit in with the posturing senior editors, and anxiety are well described. I punted before finishing once I lost interest in the high envy, high anxiety, high hatred cubicle world that is depicted with art here.

Saturday, May 29, 2004

The Best of Broadside
(5 CDs with extensive liner notes)
A time capsule of topical protest songs: The first place to publish Bob Dylan, and an outlet from 1962 to 1988 for folk singers as varied as Janis Ian, Pete Seeger, and late in its day, Lucinda Williams. Pete Seeger was virtually blacklisted for taking the 5th in front of the House UnAmerican Activities Committee; the editors, Gordon Friesen & Sis Cunningham, were also dogged for their radical politics. It's difficult, from the liner notes to have a precise sense of what Broadside was like while it was published. They seem to have reprinted clippings from other newspapers, and of course, the lyrics and musical notes made the proto-zine so valuable to Washington Square Folksingers. There are some comments on how Broadside differed from Moe Asch's *Sing Out*, but it will likely require a book to fully document the role each played in feeding the underground folk movement.

Friday, May 28, 2004

The Essential Drucker: The Best of Sixty Years of Peter Drucker's Essential Writings on Management
(Peter Drucker, 10 cassettes)
Since this collection reprises his entire body of writing, it may be best to dip into only the parts that are new. I've been listening to the entire book, and it is never trite. Effective work can be likened to learning the multiplication tables; it requires repetition. A person should work at being effective until the skills of project management and effective work become a habit. Drucker emphasizes that as a knowledge worker, you should learn what you do well, and invest in those areas. On top of that, know what areas are weaknesses, and stop trying to become mediocre.

Saturday, May 22, 2004

Touched with Fire: Manic Depressive Illness and the Artistic Temperament
(Kay Redfield Jamison, jumped around)
Most interesting: the piece on Byron. Want to read more about his life.
An Unquiet Mind : A Memoir of Moods and Madness
(Kay Redfield Jamison, paused after first 95 pp)
Valuable, honest, lucid writing of a clinical psychologist who now teaches in the Psychiatric Dept at Johns Hopkins.
Diego Rivera: A Retrospective
(Linda Downs, 372 pp)
Not the best writing, but a valuable index of the murals. Especially valuable pointers to the murals in SF: The SF Art Institute, the Pacific Exchange, and a mural that was painted in the Atherton residence of the Stern family, and which now hangs in the Stern Hall at Berkeley.

Wednesday, May 19, 2004

The Greatest Minds and Ideas of All Time

(Will Durant, 3 CDs, unabridged)
I've enjoyed Durant's Story of Philosophy. I've no real argument with rating the top 10 "thinkers" in all time. But this book is lame; perhaps this can be explained by the fact that Durant was near death while composing this. I couldn't listen to the 3rd CD, which absurdly attempts to "outline history" by speculating wildly about cumulative progress in our species' biological evolution.

Tuesday, May 18, 2004

Living History
(Hillary Rodham Clinton, abridged on 6 CDs, read by Hillary)
It's difficult for me to skim this on an iPod. I'm trying to find the juicy parts--> Jump to the 5th CD, track 13. Bill told Hillary immediately after waking her up, a little late in the game. It's mind boggling to me that Hillary would be angry at her husband, but still report that she was glad Clinton was "my President." I never really think of anyone as "my President."
Zuckerman Unbound
(Philip Roth, 5 CDs, unabridged)
Great threads, but not a great tapestry.

Friday, May 14, 2004

It's not about the bike
(Lance Armstrong, 4 CDs, abridged)
Largest VO2 Max ever recorded at an athletic camp (mentioned in the first pages). Survivor of testicular cancer. Comeback champion of the Tour de France. Father of a son born with cancer. A Texan.

Wednesday, May 12, 2004

Library: An Unquiet History
(Matthew Battles, 6 CDs, unabridged)
Widener, the library that surged up from the depths of the Titanic, is the star here, but only gets a cameo. Some of the historical info is good, but it's not a great read. One haunting image: That libraries "breathe", exhaling volumes in the fall, and inhaling them again at semester's end.

Monday, May 10, 2004

Against All Enemies
(read by the author, Richard Clarke; 6 CDs, abridged)
The first chapter is a fascinating portrayal of how the day of 9/11 was actually steered by Clarke. Then, the book steps back to cover terrorist assaults back through the 90s, including the Oklahoma bombing, the sarin attack in Tokyo, and the cruise missiles shot at Al Qaeda during the Monica Lewinsky scandal. When the Bush world comes into the late chapters, Clarke makes a cogent claim that Clinton fought against terrorism even when accused of wagging the dog, whereas the Bush attack on Iraq, advanced as an election-winning strategem by Rove, is the true dog-wagger.

Wednesday, May 05, 2004

Franklin and Winston: An Intimate Portrait of an Epic Friendship
(Jon Meacham, unabridged, 11 CDs)
Churchill's my hero, and FDR, although not as great a personality, deserved to be a close friend of the great bulldog who defeated Hitler.
The Rehnquist Choice: The Untold Story of the Nixon Appointment That Redefined the Supreme Court
(John Dean, unabridged, 10 CDs)
Nixon's own henchman comes clean, reveals the rat bastard motives and underhanded tricks that gave Nixon a disproportionate impact on Court, with 4 seats appointed in his first term. Amazingly, Nixon dreamed of revenging himself on the liberals by deliberately putting Byrd on the Court, precisely because he had once been in the KKK. In the end, it's Rehnquist, who did so much dirty work, who got the last laugh and the key appointment. The last chapter is the most amazing, when Dean reveals the lies that Rehnquist chose to make to cover up his advocacy of 'separate but equal' schooling when he clerked for the Court, as well as his denying his role as a vote 'challenger' in the 1960s, when Blacks would try to register for the vote in Arizona.

Monday, May 03, 2004

The Second Coming of Steve Jobs
(Alan Deutschman; unabridged, 8 hours)
The icon of Silivalley, he's a bad boy who deprives himself of food, is such a perfectionist that he couldn't put any furniture in his house because only nothing could live up to his rigorous esthetic aspirations. This book covers the Pixar resurrection, which is presented as a near accident that saved him from his NEXT obsession. I eagerly await the 3rd coming, which will cover the iPod revolt.

Saturday, May 01, 2004

Revolution for the Hell of It
("Free" [Abbie Hoffman], published 1970)
After reading about the yippie antics in 1968, I decided to go to the source. Abbie Hoffman's playful genius is fresh and inspiring, even 3 decades later. Using the pseudonym "Free", he displaced all attention upon his own person by dropping in photos of women, old men, and random strangers, all of which are said to refer to the personality "Free." Hoffman pipes an alluring tune even when message is as naive as the Digger take on the economy.
Never Mind the Pollacks : A Rock and Roll Novel

(Neal Pollack, 272 pp)
Funny (Onion level parody), but only 1/10 as much fun as his amazing first book.
The Noblest Invention : An Illustrated History of the Bicycle
(Editors of Bicycling Magazine, 320pp)
Some nice photos, a few interesting historical anecdotes, but it does not live up to the promised paean to the greatest pair of shoes a person can own.