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OS X Yosemite: The Missing Manual (Missing Manuals)
OS X Yosemite: The Missing Manual (Missing Manuals)
by David Pogue
Edition: Paperback
Price: $28.02
133 used & new from $1.49

44 of 47 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The gold standard of manuals., January 15, 2015
Because of the updated content, this version of the OS X Missing Manuals is only a little bit better than all the rest of the series on OS X. But, those other versions have all been great so that must mean that this one is great-plus.

It is. It follows the familiar template patented by author, David Pogue, containing comprehensive coverage of the Mac operating system, loads of practical tips, and an easy to digest writing style. Yosemite is not a major upgrade all by itself. However, one of the key aspects of Yosemite is that it largely converges in both features and looks with the mobile system operating system. Hence, the new content is not only about Apple's latest version of its computer operating system but also how it coordinates with Apple's hardware devices, including those running the mobile system, iOS. Another component to this Apple ecosystem is iCloud, the online suite of services and applications which complements the two operating systems and all of the Apple hardware family.

Pogue covers nearly all the relationships among these components while emphasizing OS X Yosemite, of course. Yosemite itself has over 200 new features including some significant new elements. Continuity and Handoff are services which sync documents and media across devices. Mail Drop allows for attachments of up to 5 GB. The Air Drop file transfer system now works across both computers and mobile devices. Other Yosemite upgrades include Family Sharing of an iTunes account, enhanced screen sharing options, batch file renaming, a PDF markup feature, and much more. The book tells you what else is new and how best to use it.

The book has five parts covering the desktop elements, the built-in OS X programs, the components and technologies of OS X, and online elements. There are four appendices covering installation (it's now easier than ever but there are still tricks and tips to learn), troubleshooting, a Windows-Mac directory for converts or cross-platform users, and a “secret” keystroke list. A handy index covers 31 pages all by itself.

Those familiar with any of the Missing Manual series books will recognize the production template: well-structured content; easy on the eyes (and brain) formatting; graphics, illustrations, and/or screenshots on nearly every page; and plenty of sidebar Notes, Power User Tips, Hidden Gems, and the like. All the material is guided by the well-practiced hand of (maybe) the “World's Greatest Explainer,” i.e., Mr. Pogue.

The best parts for users already familiar with the Mac OS are the practical tips. There are the 15 tips for better surfing with the Safari browser, secret Wi-Fi configurations, an extensive list of Spotlight features, and the keystroke shortcuts. New computer users and new to the Mac folks will get plenty of guidance on nearly everything they may want to know about the OS. Readers can pick and choose topics or go cover-to-cover like I like to do.

What's not to like?

(FTC disclosure (16 CFR Part 255)): The reviewer has accepted a reviewer's copy of this book which is his to keep. He intends to provide an honest, independent, and fair evaluation of the book in all circumstances.)
Comment Comments (5) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Jun 8, 2015 8:00 AM PDT

iPhone: The Missing Manual (Missing Manuals)
iPhone: The Missing Manual (Missing Manuals)
by David Pogue
Edition: Paperback
Price: $21.24
39 used & new from $1.74

43 of 43 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Top Notch Manual!, December 22, 2014
Beautifully produced. Great attention to detail. Wonderfully useful. A bit of style. That set of descriptions describe Apple's iPhones, especially the latest 6 and 6+ versions. It also describes the book, "iPhone: the Missing Manual," by acclaimed communicator, David Pogue.

The 8th edition of this Missing Manual is produced on 628 pages of heavyweight, glossy paper in full color. It is intelligently organized into 5 parts, 18 chapters, and two appendices, including an extensive 26 page index. It covers nearly everything a user could want to know about the iPhone itself and it's integrally-related software and services like iTunes and iCloud.

It's not accurate to think of the iPhone as a mere mobile device. It is a part of an eco-system, so to speak, where it is integrated into Apple's online set of services and applications, a “home” Mac (or Windows) computer hosting iTunes, and other Apple devices on one's own Wi-Fi network or even elsewhere. The author makes clear in every section how and why this integration works. More importantly, he advises how the user can decide for himself how to take best advantage of it.

The book covers iPhone 6 and 6+, mostly, but touches briefly on previous models which can still run the latest IOS software, version 8.1. All of the newest features of the iPhone and IOS 8.1 operating system are covered including the fingerprint identity system, Apple Pay, the Handoff and Continuity services, iCloud Drive, the touted Health app, and more. Also covered is syncing the iPhone with iTunes on a Windows computer, or just using iPhone without any computer at all (using iCloud for syncing and backing up.)

Chapter 1 is a guided tour of the hardware, mostly, covering the entire geography of the surface including microphones, cameras, the fingerprint button, and antennas. It also describes the home screen and “quick look” Control Center. The book progresses section by section from interacting with the phone component itself, the keyboard, photos and videos, music, and built-in and add-on applications. A separate section details the amazing voice system known as Siri.

Describing and explaining the ins and outs of a complex hand sized computer and its software and online capabilities is not easy. But Mr. Pogue's production template of intelligent organization, casual (but comprehensive) writing style, and easy on the eyes and brain page layout scheme makes the reading a lot easier than one might expect. The best aspect of the presentation is the constant focus on practical use. Why, for example, drill down layers to get to any settings page when you can just ask Siri to get you there with a single voice command. And, try using the SoundHound app instead of Shazam to identify music, including your own humming.

The book is filled with display screenshots; sidebar tips, notes, and tricks; and practical guidance on nearly every page. All of this is done in the awesome manner characteristic of the Missing Manual series with a bit of style, humor, and plenty of practical tips from an experienced user.

The best sections are on typing and editing and Safari use because of the many shortcut tips and tricks offered. The troubleshooting section in Appendix B includes a nice list of the 7 ways to reset the iPhone if you have a problem. A big section is devoted to the many accessibility features for those visually or aurally impaired. That section includes coverage of Kiosk Mode for small children and interface enhancements for aging baby boomers, perhaps. Separate chapters are devoted to using the device in a corporate setting and how to understand and configure the many settings of IOS 8.1 and the apps.The section on using the camera and photo apps is especially comprehensive and practical.

For $24.99, this book is a pretty great value.

(FTC disclosure (16 CFR Part 255)): The reviewer has accepted a reviewer's copy of this book which is his to keep. He intends to provide an honest, independent, and fair evaluation of the book in all circumstances.)

Debbie Doesn't Do It Anymore: A Novel
Debbie Doesn't Do It Anymore: A Novel
by Walter Mosley
Edition: Hardcover
Price: $25.95
104 used & new from $0.01

6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Vintage Walter Mosley, April 6, 2014
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Walter Mosley's fans are likely to be satisfied by this latest novel as it has most of the literal elements which have endeared him to them for years. The book's protagonist and first-person narrator is a lover of learning, self-educated, hard-working, good hearted, and soulfully out of place in a cruel and random world. In this case the main character is a young woman compelled by circumstances to work as a porn star. She is as reluctant to put up with the degrading environment as she is grateful for the economic opportunity to escape her hard childhood in the midst of poverty, crime, and desperation.

Debby, the porn star, decides to quit the industry at about the same time that her porn producer husband is killed in a hot tub accident. That event leaves her alone, in debt, and the target of her husband's murderous creditors. She spends the rest of the novel questioning whether she faces the future or the end.

It is unusual for Mr. Mosley to have a female as the hero, in a sense, of his familiar story template of a high character black person struggling–yet coping and triumphing (if only ethically)–with an unfriendly world. Even though the narrator is a porn star and a young woman the voice, perspectives, descriptive patterns, and worldly attitude seem nearly exactly those of many of the main characters of Mr. Mosley's other novels and, especially, those of his most popular character, Easy Rollins (of the Easy Rollins series.)

Not only that but the cast of supporting characters here seem about the same, too–mostly wounded sorts, many of whom are criminals, who are just ordinary folks just trying to get by in a cruel, heartless (whites-dominated) world. Their ethics, viewed from the establishment outside, are wrong, but on the inside, little different from anyone else's trying to live right and good as best they can (or allowed to, by circumstances.)

Mr. Mosley's writings seem to balance the good and bad, the inner and the outer, the sweet and the bitter, and the hopeful and despairing. There is a smoothness and an authenticity in how he writes. The fact that a lot (most?) of his novels have the same basic characters and elements probably is why he is so popular.

(FTC disclosure (16 CFR Part 255)): The reviewer has accepted a reviewer's copy of this book which is his to keep. He intends to provide an honest, independent, and fair evaluation of the book in all circumstances.)

iWork: The Missing Manual (Missing Manuals)
iWork: The Missing Manual (Missing Manuals)
by Josh Clark
Edition: Paperback
Price: $27.28
72 used & new from $15.58

9 of 10 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars This is a solid reference source., April 3, 2014
Apple's heavyweight suite of productivity applications called iWork is a trio of elegant yet surprisingly powerful tools. Each of the applications–Pages for word processing and document layouts, Numbers, for spreadsheets, and Keynote for slide presentations–have hundreds of features which provide users with enough to make highly sophisticated projects. However, despite the trademark Apple design elegance and consistency, completing high-quality projects is not easy. Even savvy computer users are unlikely to be efficient or do quality work until after a lot of familiarity with the programs.

That's when a book like iWork: The Missing Manual becomes relevant and useful. The book is one of the Missing Manual series by the O'Reilly Media company. That series has become the benchmark for comprehensive, accessible, and practical guidance on how to use complex software well. While Mr. David Pogue is the ace writer of many of the manuals and is primarily responsible for its quality template of information, perspectives, wit, and practicality, the authors here--Jessica Thornsby and Josh Clark--are adept writers, too. Ms.Thornsby is an accomplished technical writer and Mr. Clark is a technical consultant with a background in multi-device design.

This hefty volume has 30 chapters in 6 parts covering the desktop (Mac OSX.9), mobile device (iOS), and Internet (iCloud) versions of these programs. Each of the parts covers a separate version of the applications and much of the substantive content is the same across parts, partly because of the Apple consistency of design, but also because a book like this is primarily intended for readers to pick and choose specific topics they need or want rather than reading the whole thing as one book. Some, like me, will read the whole book but it’s designed to facilitate most readers who will focus on the material which addresses immediate problems or concerns.

Each of the program sections covers the basics of opening and creating files, editing, saving, printing and distributing, and the like. Each section also provides tips and perspectives of how to work efficiently and with quality. Chapter 4 has a Typo-Busting Power Tools section, for example, covering spellchecking, auto correction, text substitutions, and more. There are big sections covering big topics like using styles in Pages, using animated slides in Keynote, advanced data crunching using formulas and functions in Numbers, and using templates everywhere. There is a lot of material on thinking like a designer, going beyond mere description on how to use a specific function of the programs.

The presentation is straightforward and casual. The authors sprinkle some humor throughout and a lot of practical advice. The text is complemented by a generous amount of greyscale illustrations, charts, and screenshots. That material is supplemented with numerous sidebars and callouts, some of them termed Notes, Tips, Design Time, Power Users Clinic, Up to Speed, and similar. There is an appendix which describes installing the various versions of the applications in the right places. In a number of appropriate spots, the authors refer to external resources (mostly websites) where readers can find examples of productivity documents, free photos and templates, and even free Apple mobile apps (for a select few.)
The material is geared towards the beginner or lower experienced users, primarily, but more experienced readers may find material they will learn from. One Clinic, for example, describes how to set up your own Wi-Fi station to access iCloud. Overall, this is a solid reference source.

(FTC disclosure (16 CFR Part 255)): The reviewer has accepted a reviewer's copy of this book which is his to keep. He intends to provide an honest, independent, and fair evaluation of the book in all circumstances.)

Money: The Unauthorized Biography
Money: The Unauthorized Biography
by Felix Martin
Edition: Hardcover
99 used & new from $1.09

2 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Interesting and topical view of the nature of money-it's not what you might think!, March 28, 2014
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Most of us know that making money is difficult and saving it is even harder, but understanding money is easy–it's just coins and folding certificates, a mere medium of exchange.

That's wrong! according to Felix Martin, author of “Money: The Unauthorized Biography.” Not only is that understanding wrong but it's responsible (in large part) for the 2007 Great Recession and the pitiful “recovery” from it as well as a number of previous financial and credit disasters.

Mr. Martin draws a comparison of the orthodox understanding of money as a mere medium of exchange as typified by material objects–coins, gold bars, measuring sticks, and the like and a different way of thinking about it--as a social accounting construction based on mutual trust. That way of thinking acts as a primary social organizing tool. As such, a monetary system is much more sophisticated than just a logical extension of primitive bartering systems. It is imbued with major political aspects which account, in part, for the differences between the haves and have-nots, the policies selected to address financial/economic busts, and the relationship of the state to the monetary/financial systems.

The differing understandings of money underlie even now the varied explanations by economists of the causes of the Great Recession and the varied reactions of political leaders to it. It is also relevant to the deliberate removal of the government from the monetary system in favor of an impersonal computer network, as in the digital coin system now developing.

The author is a professional economist, bond trader, and analyst with the George Soros Institute for Economic Thinking. The book is a very worthwhile look at the concept of money as a (implicit, at least) political and social determinant and is quite topical as alternative monetary systems (mostly digitalized) like Bit Coin and competitors are garnering much attention. While the book does not address those new developments, it's clear that the digitalized coin systems imply acceptance of the orthodox understanding of money as a commodity. Some of Martin's criticism of the limitations of the orthodox view seem to apply to these alternatives, as well.

Mr. Martin writes in a relatively accessible manner relating stories, mostly, about money in historical and global contexts. His approach reminds of Malcolm Gladwell's books which use elaborate historical stories to illustrate relatively complex topics. Gladwell writes better but, arguably, covers simpler issues. However, this book, too, is relatively simple. It is no treatise on money or systems; it doesn't cover every issue which relates to money and exchange; and it seems a bit thin on theory even on those topics it does focus on. The major topic is the nature of money–a medium of exchange or social/political organizing tool and that issue has been theorized differently for centuries.

Mr. Martin starts his critique of the orthodox view of money by explaining how the early Pacific island Yap culture relied upon the symbolism of large stones (known as “fei.") These stones were kept by individuals as value storage devices, even though they had few of the characteristics which typically would be present in money systems–tokens of some sort small enough to carry and to hide, a consistent look, ease of exchange, a readily determinable unit value, etc. None of that was relevant for the Yaps as they understood money as mere transferable obligations, commercial or otherwise, based on mutual trust. The bigger your stone, the more value you had to trade, even though no stones physically moved anywhere. The Yaps had a small community and violations of community trust were easily discouraged. The stones (including a large one on the bottom of the ocean) were only tangential to the much more relevant element of social trust.

Mr. Martin reviews a large handful of other historical situations involving credit collapses, bank runs, recessions, and big bank/governmental associations to make his main point that when money is rigidly understood merely as a commodity of exchange, bad things can happen to financial, credit, economic, and political systems, especially in difficult times. Take, for instance, the Irish potato famine of the mid-19th century where potential government/social aid to the jobless and hungry was stymied by creditor interests who valued the absolute sanctity of (bond and debt) contracts even at the consequences of millions of deaths. As they saw it, those victims were either responsible for their own problems or just losers in a competitive economy. Some economic thinkers at that time believed that those awful consequences were just part of the natural order and represented (unfortunately for the victims) unavoidable consequences of “good” finance.

While Mr. Martin doesn't address it much, most of the little people in America and elsewhere were also victims of the absolute sanctity of debt contracts. They lost jobs, homes, pensions, and savings in the Great Recession while big bondholders who legally had assumed investment risks lost nothing. Their debt contracts were inviolate. (The personal and social contracts of the little people naturally were worth nothing.)

Some of the major policy implications of money deal with: 1) inflation and deflation where a political decision is implied involving the contrary interests of creditors and debtors: 2) social responses to credit collapses and the role (if any) of government in moderating them; 3) who or what entities are or should be guarantors of trustworthiness (i. e., big banks? government? a computer network? 4) the role of formal contract law versus the principle of the good social good, and more. These are not mere abstract matters of formal theory but highly consequential matters of life and death (as the Irish potato farmers and lots of little people have found out.)

The author spends a lot of time explaining how trust works--in small organizations and communities, nations, and in globalized financial systems. At the top of the trust ladder (even for the most libertarian types) is the sovereign, i. e., government. There are important reasons why governments are generally lenders of last resort, stabilize financial and economic systems, and ultimately, the only potential savior for citizens from total economic collapse (as in the Great Recession.) There are various alternatives for the governmental role, none of which please everyone.

Hence, the political dimension of the money-social relationship. Mr. Martin comes down hard in favor of the flexible, social understanding of money. He praises John Maynard Keynes, Walter Bagehot, and even Salon, of centuries ago for their insights. He blames the great liberal philosopher, John Locke, of all people, for having a decidedly ill-liberal and ill-formed understanding of money. Lock was an orthodox monetarist and helped justify the philosophy which is still prominent. Each of the two philosophical approaches discussed here offer both liberal and conservative themes though rarely opposed as such.

That raises one major objection to Martin's thesis that orthodox monetary theory is wrong. He wants to substitute the social tool concept for it, but it seems pretty obvious that both frames of reference have their utility and truth. It's not easy to discredit respect for contract rights. On the other hand, it's hard to accept the starvation of millions of people to maintain them fully intact.

Nearly all such fundamental frames have their truths, even if inconsistent with the other. The better philosophical view is that we are guided (or not) by multiple, logically inconsistent frames. That is a philosophical point which he doesn't address well enough. He does concede that the orthodox theory mostly works well when times are good (but breaks down horribly when circumstances are bad.) This seems to imply a need for high-level judgment somewhere in the system, e. g., democratic political processes, a conclusion which tends to support his position.

He offers a couple of not very well-explained alternative monetary systems designed to remedy the faults of the orthodox approach while maintaining its virtues. He ends the book by suggesting that even if his thesis is correct, that getting the rest of the world to accept it is difficult–most people have rigid orthodox views, fiercely held. He lamely suggests without any elaboration that the power is within each of us to change those views. That would seem to require another book.

There is a lot of good meat, so to speak, to chew on in this book.

(FTC disclosure (16 CFR Part 255)): The reviewer has accepted a reviewer's copy of this book which is his to keep. He intends to provide an honest, independent, and fair evaluation of the book in all circumstances.)

Survival of the Nicest: How Altruism Made Us Human and Why It Pays to Get Along
Survival of the Nicest: How Altruism Made Us Human and Why It Pays to Get Along
by Stefan Klein
Edition: Hardcover
Price: $24.95
71 used & new from $0.01

4.0 out of 5 stars Thought provoking and challenging thesis, February 13, 2014
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In a world of intractable wars and conflicts all over the place, spiteful and persistent political gridlock dominating (at least) American politics, rampant bare-knuckle capitalist competition and exploitation, and haters everywhere, Stephen Klein tries to convince us why it pays to get along and that we can be, and ought to be, “nice” for our personal and social benefits.

That is quite a challenge! Nevertheless, Mr. Klein constructs arguments deriving from current brain research and genetics; economics, history, and social psychology; game theory; and behavioral and anthropological experiments which are intriguing, to say the least. Klein is an acclaimed science writer and writes about complex ideas in an accessible (if not always coherent) manner. He has a remarkable synthetic overview of a large number of elements which condition human economic decisions and behavior. He draws upon individual human stories, social science research, and especially game theory and economic logic to show that purely rational self-interested behavior is rare and probably impossible on a broad, societal level. He implies that the macroeconomic theories of the Austrian school of essential self-interest are reductionist at best. Society would eventually collapse and die off without a substantial amount of altruism particularly when under stress from environmental or competitive pressures.

Emotions, psychology, and cultural conditioning play a huge role in how people interact with each other in terms of selfish versus social decisions and behaviors. He cites natural and social science research which suggests that giving and altruism are essential for happiness itself. (There's even a biochemical basis for this in oxytocin and other substances.) Elements of community-level trust and fairness are probably more prominent than naked economic calculations. He gives many examples of how these elements of trust and fairness run counter and (or are complementary) to what ought to be expected from pure self interested logic and calculation.

He also points out that even the perceived effectiveness of reason and logic strategies depends on often-ignored assumptions like differences in consequences over short, medium, and long terms, the presence of imperfect knowledge, and the like. He sprinkles numerous examples of how game theory favorites like The Prisoner's Dilemma, The Free Rider Game, Ultimatum, and the amazingly effective Tit-for-Tat strategy (where a certain short-term level of--irrational--trust is essential to its success) are relevant for a whole host of social and economic situations.

There are intricate arguments about how game-like stratagems combined with tribalist elements condition self-interest and social-interest behaviors. Surprisingly, he argues how the success of generosity and good-naturedness depend on the presence of some degree of self-interest. Community-wide mores depend on an us-them competitive situation where the tribal effects unify people into efficient social structures where altruism is essential for the group to compete with and/or defeat outsiders. If and when that competition subsides, the group may then develop "freeloaders" who will increase in number in effect and collapse the social interest by rejecting its mores of trust and fairness.

The historical perspective on all of this is not very well developed or very coherent nor are the references to evolutionary theory. Mr. Klein sides with the proponents of the current controversy over group genetic selection position versus the more established individual selection position. He argues that generosity is hardwired into the human species at both the individual and group levels. Nevertheless, Klein shows that the selfish-vs-social attitudes have evolved over the centuries due to advanced philosophical concepts and the influence of condensing world geography, cultural shifts, and globalization-like elements.

He draws upon this evolutionary process to propose that we are in a historical period (The Global Village) where people are becoming more and more interdependent, unified by communication and transportation developments, and less tribal (at the national and cultural levels, at least) than before. These events will likely promote greater elements of trust, converging senses of fairness, and a recognition of the long term efficiencies of social behavior versus that of the mere self-interested personal attitude.

As a better educated society (mainly in economic efficiency theory and morality) we can change our thinking about how we relate to one another. We will recognize the evolutionary advantages to altruism. We can practice habits of fairness and altruism. Interestingly, he refers to science which categorizes humans as comprised of three main groups: about one third are consistently self interested, one-fifth are consistently altruists, and the rest are pragmatic opportunists who act depending on the environmental variables. Optimistically, he states "The Future Belongs to the Altruists.”

I don't know how convincing this book can or will be given the enormous tidal wave of selfishness and narcissism which seemingly has infected our world. It seems right that a new way of thinking is a start towards something different, anyway, and this book certainly is intriguing and thought provoking.

(FTC disclosure (16 CFR Part 255)): The reviewer has accepted a reviewer's copy of this book which is his to keep. He intends to provide an honest, independent, and fair evaluation of the book in all circumstances.)

20 Feet from Stardom
20 Feet from Stardom
DVD ~ Darlene Love
Price: $9.19
20 used & new from $4.48

4.0 out of 5 stars Engaging documentary of gifted (but mostly anonymous) backup singers to 60-70's pop stars, January 23, 2014
This review is from: 20 Feet from Stardom (DVD)
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From the handful of poignant, personal stories of backup singers for star bands and performers presented in this movie it is clear that there is a lot more than 20 feet of space between these performers and stardom. Sometimes, but not always, it's talent. More likely: Bad luck. Lack of a big ego. Exploitation. Timing.

The producers of this movie have illuminated the professional lives of a handful of mostly girl-group backup singers who provided harmony to the best bands in popular music during the pop/rock development era of the 1960's to the 70's. The stars of the movie (although not in their professional lives) are Rock and Roll Hall of Famer, Darlene Love, Merry Clayton, Lisa Fischer, Judith Hill, and Claudia Lennear, who provided vocal highlights for some of the Rolling Stone’ s best classic hits.

While all of these women were professionally respected and accomplished they were never stars, although some tried and failed. Others never tried or never wanted to be stars. Many came out of church choir backgrounds where group harmony was essential and collective values developed. Consequently, some lacked the essential ego to be stars in the competitive business world of the time.

Regardless, all of them were/are incredible talents and, arguably, were as important to the commercial success of many hits as the ostensible stars. Consider the compelling background vocals in David Bowie's "Young Americans" and the haunting highlight vocals of Merry Clayton in the Stone's “Gimme Shelter.”

The movie contains the customary elements of popular documentaries: plenty of talking heads (Bruce Springsteen, Sting, Stevie Wonder, Mick Jagger, etc.), vintage concert and studio sessions footage, the requisite intellectual (Dr. Todd Boyd of the USC School of Cinematic Arts) providing academic structure to the situations, and contemporary interviews and scenes of the singers decades from their professional successes. The movie is a nice complement to others providing illumination on the mostly anonymous background people in popular music. See, for example, “Standing in the Shadows of Motown” (session bands), and “Tom Dowd and the Language of Music” (sound producers.)

There are some worthwhile sociological and historical elements dealing with race, gender, and class threaded throughout. Almost all of the background singers highlighted here are female and black. Having Merry Clayton and other black women singing backup for “Sweet Home Alabama” was a poignant and complex example of 1970's music-race relations.

This is a low-budget ($1 million) but good quality production even if the direction, cinematography, and editing are uneven and even odd at times. (For example, there are a large handful of apparently irrelevant cutaway shots of a microphone, wisps of hair, overly lengthy stills of nothing of significance, etc.)

Despite career frustrations, what is beyond doubt is the grace, class, and humanity of this subset of the time's music industry. Decades from their professional lives the women are positive, grateful for their opportunities, and mostly comfortable with their place in music history.

(FTC disclosure (16 CFR Part 255)): The reviewer has accepted a reviewer's copy of this book which is his to keep. He intends to provide an honest, independent, and fair evaluation of the book in all circumstances.)

OS X Mavericks: The Missing Manual
OS X Mavericks: The Missing Manual
by David Pogue
Edition: Paperback
Price: $27.75
187 used & new from $0.01

28 of 33 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Awesome!, January 22, 2014
Awesome. Awesomer. Awesomest! That pretty much describes the quality progression of David Pogue's series of Missing Manuals covering the Apple Macintosh's OS X operating system. He's written over a half dozen of the Manuals and each new one seems to be better than the last.

Mr. Pogue is popularly known as a great explainer and is developing a reputation as a great efficiency expert as well. The latest iteration of the Manuals covers OS X Mavericks (10.9) and is filled with examples, tips, and illustrations of how to be as efficient as possible using a Mac computer, as well as detailing and explaining nearly every feature of the operating system, both documented and undocumented.

I've read (and reviewed) every one of those books and have been delighted to learn dozens of new ways to use the system beyond just learning about the new features of each version of OS X. Pogue details the (usually) several ways to do things but nearly always offers a quicker, easier option, usually keyboard versus mouse-based. (See Appendix D, the Secret Keystroke List for 8 pages of shortcuts.) He has evolved his already Great Template for itemizing and explaining comprehensively the features, components, and technologies of each system towards offering more and more user perspectives, expert insights, and practical tips to being more efficient.

I don't know how much time or effort he puts into developing each book but it must be substantial. How else to find out about all of the undocumented features unless one either gets a cheat sheet from Apple or spends days (weeks? months?) Command, Control, Option, and Shift clicking all over the user interface to discover new and mostly useful things.

Like with the rest of the books, OS X Mavericks covers the Mac desktop elements (folders, windows, menus, accounts, the Spotlight search tool, etc.), the many included programs (Safari, Mail, AppleScript, etc.), the components (system preferences, Notifications, iTunes, etc.), the underlying technologies (firewall and Gatekeeper security, networking, printing, sound and speech, etc.), online issues (Messages, iCloud, etc.), and extras like installations, and troubleshooting, as well as a Windows–Macintosh translator/dictionary for crossover users. It is well organized into 5 parts, 21 chapters, and 4 appendices. There is a well-furnished 30 page index .

The text is well-supplemented on almost every page with grayscale but very clear graphics; screenshots; and sidebar tips, notes, FAQS, Gems in the Rough, and "Power User Clinic” items for more advanced users. This book is not merely a simplified guide to the Mac OS for the casual user or for Windows converts but amply provides discussion on advanced topics like SSH, VPN, and FTP elements for those extending their Macs beyond the usual. The Mac's hidden UNIX components and its terminal function are also covered in some depth as well.

The specific Mavericks' updates and improvements are covered, of course, but within the context of the operating system presentation as a whole. There aren't, after all, a lot of “biggy” updates with OS 10.9 as it is mostly an evolutionary convergence of traditional Mac desktop elements and the iPhone/iPod operating system, IOS. Some apps are shared, the look and some operations are converging, and the two sync more and better, especially using Apple's online iCloud system.

The Missing Manual is one heavyweight reference book filled with content as well as Mr. Pogue's trademark erudition, wit, and eminently practical examples of how to master your machine.

(FTC disclosure (16 CFR Part 255)): The reviewer has accepted a reviewer's copy of this book which is his to keep. He intends to provide an honest, independent, and fair evaluation of the book in all circumstances.)
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The Solution Revolution: How Business, Government, and Social Enterprises Are Teaming Up to Solve Society's Toughest Problems
The Solution Revolution: How Business, Government, and Social Enterprises Are Teaming Up to Solve Society's Toughest Problems
by William D. Eggers
Edition: Hardcover
Price: $21.89
116 used & new from $0.01

4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A radical new model of organization designed to bring new solutions to old social problems, December 6, 2013
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“Walmart, Shell, and General Electric and other multinational corporations are forces for the public good!” For most people who pay attention to these things that statement sounds ridiculous and just plain wrong. But that’s the (partial) claim anyway of the authors of “The Solution Revolution” who explore a radical new model of organization designed to bring new solutions to old social problems.

A number of the multinationals are becoming multi-rationals, according to the authors, evolving from purely self-interested capitalists to multi-focused entities now taking multiple stakeholders into consideration rather than simply shareholders. These corporations understand themselves as part of a large social ecosystem and have concerns for the environment, their energy and ecological presences, and recognize some sort of duty to help solve social problems.

This still sounds ridiculous given how the corporate elite treated taxpayers in the recent Great Recession, recognizing their disdain and disrespect of employees and labor in general, the crushing of smaller competitors, and the like. However, the book explores what the authors see as the early start of a new global model of social problem solving and these players do have some (tiny?) part. The reasons for this change in attitude includes new technologies, access to venture capital, increasing public-private collaboration efforts, and greater social awareness. All of these things add up, according to the authors, to mutual advantages for the public good and the multi-rational corporations.

The authors are public management advisors and students of the intersection of public, private, and the nonprofit spheres. They are very optimistic about these social/economic developments. The model itself is intriguing and appears valid as one kind of practical approach to social problem solving. The basic premise is that government, which has been the major, if not sole, party addressing social problems like poverty, education, health issues, etc. cannot do so anymore. It is losing its abilities to deal effectively with the issues primarily due to lack of funding, as well as political will. (That lack of funding may or may not have anything to do with pervasive corporate tax avoidance and evasion!) The fact is that government by itself is not going to solve many of these problems.

Fortunately, however, there is a confluence of separate developments which may work to address these problems in a new way based on public-private partnerships and teamwork. The players are government, the private sector (including the multinationals), the non--profit sector (including the big NGO’s--non-governmental organizations) and ordinary citizens (i.e., mostly middle and upper class folks with spare time and money) who are willing to be active. A big part of this is the amount of available money from the multinationals, entrepreneurial social investors, and citizen contributors. Capitalism, apparently, has generated so much profit that companies and individuals can now spread it about to some of the needy and for the public good. They are not giving it away, mostly, but are sponsoring collaborative projects and new business ventures to try to bring the have-nots into the world economy, even if only on a tiny scale, while obtaining various business and public relations benefits for themselves.

The authors identify new economic concepts like public-private and business-citizen collaborative organizations, social outcome markets, public value exchanges, social entrepreneurship, scalable business models, “wavemakers” (like the Gates Foundation and Warren Buffett) who are visionaries and problem solvers, and new social currencies like public data, volunteer time, and social venture capital. What holds all of these people together are new technological tools including cloud computing, data analytics, social media, geospatial analyses, and mobile computing.

The book is populated with dozens of examples of team-based innovative approaches to problems in primarily non-developed nations. Some examples include securing clean water for some African regions, distributing vaccines, programs to combat human trafficking, peer-to-peer learning programs and the like. There are also American innovations like ride-sharing (Zip Car, Car2Go), college-level online education developments, and the like which explore existing economic inefficiencies and fix them in novel ways.

The authors make a persuasive case of a coherent, valid model of social economy where new businesses focus on solving problems using new technologies, funding sources, and organizational schemes. The last chapter (Chapter 7) provides a quick guide to the reader on how to join the social revolution. There are 32 pages of notes, but surprisingly, no index. (I reviewed an advance pre-publishing copy.) The book has a handful of graphic illustrations.

(FTC disclosure (16 CFR Part 255)): The reviewer has accepted a reviewer's copy of this book which is his to keep. He intends to provide an honest, independent, and fair evaluation of the book in all circumstances.)

Spike Lee's America
Spike Lee's America
by David Sterritt
Edition: Paperback
Price: $15.84
34 used & new from $2.60

2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Interesting exploration of Spike's cinematic career., April 8, 2013
This review is from: Spike Lee's America (Paperback)
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Spike Lee may have the greatest ambitions and most cinematic weight of any current American filmmaker. He threads archetypical movie genres-drama, romance, crime, etc.-with provocative and didactic themes of race, culture, and class. Especially race.

No other filmmaker, black or white, has crossed over like he has with black and white film audiences. His breakout film, "Do the Right Thing" is an acknowledged masterpiece and "Inside Man" became a mass audience hit.

Author, David Sterritt, is an academic and chair of the National Society of Film Critics. He explores Mr. Lee's career from his college productions (1977-83) through all of his feature films and touches on his expanding scope into television, shorts, and other miscellaneous productions. He spends most of the book critiquing the feature films and also the critiques of those films by others in the film world from reviewers, scholars, and producers.

He makes clear that Mr. Lee is an enthusiastic provocateur, not only in the film industry but in American culture as a whole. No other filmmaker has sparked such controversy as Mr. Lee has. "Do the Right Thing" was filled with themes of black power, racial tolerance (and intolerance), immigration and ethnic resentments, contrasts between Martin Luther King's legacy and that of Malcolm X, and ended with a violent street conflagration. "Bamboozled" detailed the long, sorry history of racist denigration using objects, artistic works, and media presentations in film and TV, and in society in general.

Lee is not merely a defender of black Americans but a broad-minded critic of American cultural perspectives and values. No non-black filmmaker could persistently tell American blacks in movie after movie to "Wake up" (using both visual and dialogue film elements) and to take more personal responsibility about economics, politics, and cultural affairs. No other artist has argued for the relevance and worth of traditional "white" culture for black Americans while, at the same time, celebrating contemporary urban black culture. Few film artists of any race are so stridently didactic about cultural responsibilities.

Mr. Sterritt points out the complexity of Mr. Lee's cinematic themes with dozens of examples from the films. Some of this material is interpretive and not everyone will agree on some of his opinions. Some see Lee as just another angry black man. Others see him as too accommodating to the dominant white culture. Mr. Sterritt is clearly a fan of Mr. Lee's, however, and celebrates the dialectical nature of the films, especially-Black pride versus white culture appreciation, civil disobedience versus violence, protests versus assimilation, and more.

The book is part of the "America Through the Lens" series about great film directors. It is written primarily for academic-level readers although any movie fan will be educated and provoked by the commentary and critique. (Don't look for any mention of Mr. Lee's comical association with the New York Knicks or with basketballer, Reggie Miller.)

There are some interesting sections discussing Mr. Lee's tiff with Clint Eastwood's presentation of Americans at war in the Pacific during World War II. (Refer to Lee's "Miracle at St. Anna" versus Eastwood's "Flags of Our Fathers.") There's interesting commentary about Lee's cast regular, Ossie Davis, his politics, and his relationships with Martin Luther King, Malcolm X, and other prominent civil rights era leaders.

The latter sections of the book discuss the documentaries, not as provocative but still teeming with Mr. Lee's persistent themes of black versus white cultural differences and what they mean, or should mean, for all Americans. There are supplemental notes, filmography, references, and an index.

(FTC disclosure (16 CFR Part 255)): The reviewer has accepted a reviewer's copy of this book which is his to keep. He intends to provide an honest, independent, and fair evaluation of the book in all circumstances.)

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