Smart Cities -- Big Data, Civic Hackers, and the Quest for a New Utopia by Anthony M. Townsend, Norton '13, $28.95, 384 pages, ASIN #0393082873. Index, notes, no bibliography or illustrations.
A telling indication of the timeliness of the urban experience comes at the beginning of Anthony Townsend's new book, in which he uses a whole page for a quotation from Shakespeare's The Tragedy of Coriolanus: "What is the city but the people?" What, indeed. Could Jane Jacobs disagree?
"Stroll through any neighborhood today and your body sets in motion machines of every kind," writes the author in his Preface. "Approach a building and the front door slides open. Enter an empty room and a light flicks on. Jump up and down and a thermostat fires up the air conditioner to compensate for the warming air around you. Roam at will and motion-sensing surveillance cameras slowly turn to track you.
"Day after day, these automatic electromechanical laborers toil at dumb and dirty jobs once done by people. At the fringe of our awareness, they control the world around us. At times they even dare to control us. Yet they are now so familiar, so mundane, that we hardly notice." Enticed? Read on.
Author Anthony M. Townsend is an advisor to industry and government at the Silicon Valley-based Institute for the Future and directs urban research at New York University's Rudin Center for Transportation. He lives in Hoboken, N.J.
Crab Monsters, Teenage Cavemen, and Candy Stripe Nurses, Roger Corman: King of the B Movie by Chris Nashawaty, Introduction by John Landis, Abrams '13 in oversized text on glossy stock, $35, 247 pages, ASIN #1419706691. Scores of b&w and color images sprinkled within text.
Don't pick up this book!! Not unless you're prepared to spend (some might say waste) previous time in B movie lore, and lurid photos ranging from an open coffin in Ray Milland's The Premature Burial to three naked actresses on the back cover flap. Not a B movie afficionado myself, I nevertheless found it difficult to skip over such low-budget cult classics such as Little Shop of Horrors (1960), Rock 'n' Roll High School (1979) and Galaxy of Terror (1981), all produced by Roger Corman, the self-proclaimed king of the B movie.
From the front cover:
"As told by Corman himself and by the showbiz legends that got their starts alongside him, Crab Monsters provides a comprehensive oral history of more than six decades of American cinema. Renowned directors and actors including Martin Scorsese, Francis Ford Coppola, Robert De Niro, and Peter Bogdanovich candidly recount working with Corman in the years before their big breaks, as if trading anecdotes at a Hollywood cocktail party." Novelist Stephen King writes that "I think it would be impossible to love 20th-century film and not love this book."
Author Chris Nashawaty is a senior writer at Entertainment Weekly. John Landis, who wrote the introduction, directed such classic films as Animal House, The Blues Brothers, and Coming to America.
Killing Machine -- The American Presidency in the Age of Drone Warfare by Lloyd C. Gardner, The New Press '13, $26.95, 289 pages, ASIN #159558918X. Index, notes, no bibliography or illustrations.
From the dust cover:
"With Obama's election to the presidency in 2008, many believed the United States had entered a new era: Obama came into office amid high expectations that he would end the war in Iraq and initiate a new foreign policy that would establish American values and the United States' leadership role in the world.
"In this shattering new assessment, historian Lloyd C. Gardner argues that, despite cosmetic changes, Obama has simply built on the expanding power base of presidential power that reaches back across decades and through multiple administrations. The new president ended the 'enhanced interrogation' policy of the Bush administration but did not abandon the concept of preemption. Obama withdrew from Iraq but has institutionalized drone warfare -- including the White House's central role in targeted assassinations. What has come into view, Gardner argues, is the new face of American presidential power: high-tech, secretive, global, and lethal."
Author Lloyd C. Gardner, now retired, taught history at Rutgers University and has written or edited more than a dozen books. He lives in Newtown, PA.