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Book reviews for "Brand,_Stewart" sorted by average review score:

Original Whole Earth Catalog, Special 30th Anniversary Issue
Published in Paperback by Whole Earth (December, 1998)
Authors: Stewart Brand and Peter Warshall
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5 for the history and 5 for the future
This was a special issue of the Whole Earth Review to celebrate 30 years of change. It's amazing how much of the original material is still interesting and to realize how far ahead of the curve Steward Brand was.

I found the real value in the new interviews with people who were the leaders in the 60's and 70's about what they think is important now. The two viewpoints, 30 years of maturity as it were, makes this more than just a trip to the past. If the WEC/WER didn't change your mind, you weren't paying attention.

It was our bible
If you were a sudent at the time of Still Nash and Young, Chicago Transit Autohority, "Jesus freaks" and protests against Vietnam war you must have bought the original version of this book. Full of facts, names, adresses, direct advice on sensitive subjects. It was our bible. This book is full of practical and inspiring solutions for free people like you and me.

Updated Last Whole Earth Catalog
Published in Hardcover by Viking Press (September, 1975)
Author: Stewart Brand
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DR's Trip
Several years after reading about Divine Right's adventures in The Last Whole Earth Catalog, I pulled into a shopping center and saw a Volkswagon bus with the license plate URGE. Of course I had to wait around for the owner to return to his vehicle and when he arrived I went up to him and asked "Are you DR?" "No" he said with a smile, "He went on a trip".

A Reference for a sane life...
What can be said? You had to be there. The Whole Earth Catalog series was a sort of an instruction manual to living a useful life during the difficult years of the late 60's and early 70's. It showed all the parts, and contained alot of information about how to put them together (even though the catalog enspoused the idea that "We can't get it together... it IS together"). The Last Whole Earth Catalog also contains the added delight of "Divine Right's Trip", a novella by Gurney Norman; the tale of one Freak's quest to find meaning in the drug-hazed world of little money but lots of deep-thinking during the counter-culture revolution of the Vietnam era.

"DRT" also happens to be the only thing I ever ordered from the catalog. Sort of. In a fit of nostalgia I purchased it a couple of months ago from, well,

So welcome to the 90's! It's a different world now, and you probably can't find many of the businesses and vendors listed, but if you can find a copy... GET IT! It's history, man. Farout.

The Next Whole Earth Catalog
Published in Paperback by Random House Trade Paperbacks (October, 1980)
Author: Stewart Brand
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The Next Whole Earth Catalog (Access To Tools)
To review what was relevent to review, in the early 80's, is to go back twenty years in time to examine the past. This catalog of catalogs is extremely interesting to anyone who wants to remember two decades ago, or to anyone who wants to be mesmerised by the written materials that were available at the time. I found myself amazed, intrigued, revitalized, and thoroughly entertained for hours reading about the tools and ideas compiled therein. There is something to interest almost everyone in this big book that captures informational history at its best!

How Buildings Learn: What Happens After They're Built
Published in Paperback by Penguin USA (Paper) (October, 1995)
Author: Stewart Brand
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excellent, thought-provoking, calm
I've hesitated to review this book because I'm personally suspicious of glowing praise. However, this book deserves it. Brand's starting point is the observation that most architects spend most of their time re-working or extending existing buildings, rather than creating new ones from scratch, but the subject of how buildings change (or, to adopt Brand's metaphor, how buildings learn from their use and environment) is ignored by most architectural schools and theorists. By looking at examples (big and small, ancient and modern), Brand teases out patterns of re-use and change, and argues (very convincingly) that since buildings are going to be modified many times, they should be designed with unanticipated future changes in mind. Of course, the same is true of programs, and I found again and again that I could substitute the word "program" for "building", and "programmer" for "architect", everything Brand said was true of computing as well (but much better written than any software engineering polemic I've ever read).

Buildings Come Alive!
'Buildings That Learn' covers the adaptation over time of buildings to tenant needs, often hindered by all of: the 'fixed solution in year xyza' aesthetic architects; the vagaries of the real-estate market; and the short-lifetime of modern buildings (quality not increased at same or better rate of increase in human life over centuries). Interestingly, software 'guru' Ed Yourdon flagged up similar problems hindering software productivity and quality in his 'Rise & Fall of the American Programmer' (e.g. non-customer focus, markets prices & labor costs, poor quality development etc..).

Addressing the building layers (site, structure, skin, services, space plan and "stuff") through a logical sequence of chapters, to get the most out of this book deserves a thorough read rather than a surface glance. The deeply referenced & illustrated, entertaining chapters span:

Flow- introduction and the time dimension; Shearing Layers- of the different rates of change in buildings; "Nobody Cares What You Do In There": The Low Road- easy adaptation in cheap buildings; Houseproud: The High Road- refined adaptation in long-lasting sustained-purpose buildings; Magazine Architecture: No Road- where tenants needs ignored for photo-aesthetics; Unreal estate- and markets sever continuity in buildings; Preservation: A Quiet, Popularist, Conservative, Victorious Revolution- to address incontinuity and frustrate innovators; The Romance of Maintenance- and preservation; Vernacular: How Buildings Learn from Each Other- and respect for design wisdom of older buildings; Function Melts Form: Satisficing Home and Office; The Scenario-buffered Building; and Built for Change- imagining buildings inviting adaption.

Strengths include: the great depth of reference material, illustrations and evidence; easy-readability; an insiders' window on the international world of architects and civil engineers; and suitability for wide audience including lay-people interested in the built-environment and society, as well as complex systems architects (hard engineering or software development).

Rarely the text becomes a bit rambling (more sidebars or bulleted lists?) and repetitive with unsupported assertions- but that is the only negative. Improvements could include an additional chapter cross-referencing (learning from?) 'adaptive systems', 'scenario planning' etc.. from the other professions that explicitly use these approaches to develop longer-term customer-centric complex adaptive systems.

Overall a great read, that encourages re-evaluation of living and working space (don't accept those dis-functional anonymous boxes behind the trendy outer skin!). 'How Buildings Learn' is best read with both something like 'E-topia' by Mitchell (Architect and Computer Scientist at MIT) for a visionary (and sometimes contradictory) view of the future of the built environment; and Schumacher's 'Small is Beautiful' for a sustainable economic-development viewpoint.

Fascinating book about how and why buildings change
I read this book after reading several books by Christopher Alexander. I'd heard that Brand was inspired by Alexander's work, and I was pleased to find that Brand makes his own quite original contribution to the study of what makes buildings work -- and how we change buildings to make them work better.

After reading this book, I gave a talk to my student housing co-op based on what Brand taught me. I began to think about the co-op buildings as "living things," and indeed, looking back only a year, I realized how much we had changed at the co-op: we had installed new windows (to be compliant with the fire code, plus they gave better soundproofing against noisy courtyard parties); we had added emergency lights to our hallways; replaced carpet; installed new locks to keep interlopers out. All these changes worked to subtly transform the environment, and over the course of a decade, the "same old building" has become a quite different place. Brand provides ample photographs, anecdotes, and theories to show how this happens.

The Fringes of Reason: A Whole Earth Catalog
Published in Paperback by Ted Schultz (January, 1989)
Authors: Ted Schultz and Stewart Brand
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Not just kooks, but critical thinking as well.
Though billed as something of a guide to various eccentric views and kooks generally, this is not so much a "freak show" (as is, say, Stang's "High Weirdness by Mail") as it is a painless introduction to critical thinking on such subjects. Mostly skeptical in outlook, it does have material on what appear to be genuine mysteries -- for example, the best short review of spontaneous human combustion I've seen. Also a nice short piece on the real (so to speak) "Men in Black" (before the movie ...), and a very entertaining and lucid explanation of a common pyramid scam in New Age clothing.

Lots of illustrations and sidebars on further reading in the style of the old Whole Earth Catalog and CoEvolution Quarterly. Individual articles seem very well researched.

Fringes of Reason a well-grounded skeptical look at cults
The Fringes of Reason is an unique look at religious cults and movements in the US. Organized in the style of "The Last Whole Earth Catolog," the books highlights such movements as occultism and shamanism, along with such sects as one which believes John F. Kennedy is God (I'm not kidding). A nicely logical,reasonable look at religion and its stranger manifestations.

Five Past Midnight
Published in Audio Cassette by Chivers Audio Books (February, 1998)
Authors: David Brand and James Stewart Thayer
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Worth reading if you love WWII spy thrillers!
Jack Cray, the American assassin sent deep into Germany during the The Third Reich's final days, is the focus point of this gripping WWII thriller. There is romance, and action, and suspense abounding. Though several of the plot twists can be forseen by regular readers of this genre, it does not make the story any less fascinating in the telling. If you liked Daniel Silva's The Unlikely Spy or John Lee's The Ninth Man, you will enjoy this exciting tale of an indomitable American's spy mission to infiltrate the German high command. This page-turner is peopled with just the right mix of sinister Nazis who are always just a breath away from capturing the good guys who are working to save the free world. It was also interesting to read the unsettling descriptions of German civilan life during the closing days of the war, to see how the Nazi's war machine had so adversely affected the average German's life in so many ways. I would recommend this book to anyone who enjoys WWII spy thrillers. A good one.

Excellent WWII Thriller
Five Past Midnight is an extremely suspenseful and dramatic fictional story about the Nazi powerhouse in World War II. The author, James Thayer, draws a captivating picture of what might have happened had Adolf Hitler's assassination attempt been successful. The American assassin, Jack Cray, escapes a POW camp and takes the reader on a journey of clever sniper tactics and cold- blooded killing, and he will not stop until he completes his mission. Cray gets aid from a few important characters along the way. Katrina von Tornitz is a young and widowed spy for the allies, adding a perfect dose of romantic spin to the tale. Otto Dietrich is brought back into the world after being imprisoned by the Gestapo to track down the well-known and feared American killer, adding suspense to the story. Thayer makes the characters very real. I could almost hear their voices while reading. The way he described Hitler through the characters emotions and thoughts was remarkable. The bunker scene, where Hitler was residing toward the end of the book, was particularly amazing. I recommend the book to any one with a taste for suspense, and those who enjoy history or war related topics.

Thayer's "Five Past Midnight" a thrilling look at history.
The chilling events in this book serve as a reminder of the grim reality and senseless brutality of war. James Thayer's "Five Past Midnight" is thought provoking; at times riveting; always well written. Jack Cray, an American POW in Germany during WWII, escapes from Colditz Castle as part of an elaborate plot to assassinate Adolf Hitler. A German political prisoner, Otto Detrich, formerly chief criminal inspector with the Belin Police, is freed from his inhuman existence in order to track down Cray. The heroes of this story are individual people, rather than nations or political philosophies, for the lines between good and evil are not as clear as hindsight might lead us to believe. I found myself being swept away by this amazing tale and its vivid characters, often wondering how much of this scenario might have a factual basis and how much was a product of meticulous research enhanced by skill and creativity. The violence is graphic and unsettling and no matter how much of this story is from the writer's vivid imagination, it is an eloquent reminder of the nobility of individuals amid the horrors of war. It's also a ripping good yarn

The Clock of the Long Now
Published in Hardcover by Basic Books (May, 1999)
Authors: Stewart Brand and Brand Stewart
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A unique view of our responsiblity for the future
This book examines the topic of thinking and planning for the long term - and the author definitely means the LONG term. The book focuses on two nascent projects headed up by the author and the "Long Now Foundation" - the effort to build a 10,000 year clock and a 10,000 year library. This projects are intended to help shift humanity's concept of "now" to a much longer time frame. And with this shift in the concept of now, it is hoped that a new concept of responsibility for our individual and group behavior will emerge.

This book and the thinking behind it represent an excellent counterpoint to the prevalent and destructive view of "now" as beeing some extremely short term time frame - today, this week, or (for many corporations) this quarter. One can only hope that it is widely read. If the ideas behind this book and its associated project change only a small segment of our population's view about stewardship and care for the long-term health and longevity of our planet and our race it will be well worth the effort.

While I thought the book was generally very well-written, and presented many, many thought-provoking points, some of the ideas seem to have been rather poorly thought out and gave the impression of having been simply tossed in to the mix. At one point a potential role of the 10,000 year library as a repository of both sides of important debates is described - an excellent idea, but the objective is described as allowing future generations to know who to "blame" if things go wrong. Going to all this trouble just so our descendants can engage in blaming someone for something seems rather silly. Fortunately, there are loftier goals for this project, and many are very well described throughout the book.

This book has strongly impacted the way I think about the future. I highly recommend it.

Thought-provoking book on thinking long-term
Brand, author of The Whole Earth Catalog, is part of a team that is endeavoring to build a clock that will last for ten thousand years. In here, he comments on the lessons to be learned from that effort and the result.

These days time seems to be getting ever shorter, our subjective "now" shrinking from generations to years or less. People need to think on the longer term, for the sake of earth and civilization. Brand broods on how to accomplish this with a series of short, themed articles addressing everything from a visit to Big Ben to a commentary on how the digital age has made things more impermanent rather than less. (Want to try to run a Commodore 64 program? Well, you might almost as well forget it.) He provides a list of levels of paces, from fashion (the quickest) through commerce, infrastructure, governance, culture, and (the slowest) nature. He points out the twentieth century phenomenon of organizations and movements devoted to historical preservation, both a luxury that earlier ages would have found it hard to afford and perhaps a need to be filled in our fast-paced age.

A fascinating and thought-provoking read.

Easy to read and pleasantly thought provoking
Stewart Brand definitely has a knack for presenting a cross-current of ideas in a way that is simultaneously engaging and thought provoking. While some will find the actual project of the Clock and the Library far fetched, it does form a very effective backdrop for "[forcing] thinking in interesting directions; among other things, toward long-term responsibility."

This is definitely a book to read more than once. I found new thoughts forming as I re-read chapters that were now framed by concepts presented in later chapters. Yet, the chapters are nice and short and self-contained so I could easily pick up the book, re-read some chapter that caught my fancy, and feel satisfied contemplating some aspect of the entirety -- like being able to savor a snack instead of having to eat an entire meal.

I dog-eared "The Order of Civilization" chapter which for me really crystallized analogous concepts concerning the construction of robust "organic" information systems (what I'm supposed to be doing for a living). I loved the concept of layers operating at ever slower paces maintaining the resilience of the overall system. I also found "Ending the Digital Dark Age" very interesting. I highly recommend this book to anyone designing systems that could have an impact on the world for any significant length of time.

Incidentally, the half-past chimes sounded on my century clock while I was reading this book. Maybe that is one of the reasons I liked it so much. Perhaps you have to be "over the hill", riding at ever increasing speed toward the future of your children to really be turned on by these ideas.

The Media Lab: Inventing the Future at Mit
Published in Hardcover by Viking Press (September, 1987)
Author: Stewart Brand
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History provides insight, but specific projects are dated.
If you've always wondered what the hoopla over the Media Lab was all about, this book can help fill in the blanks. It covers the basics about the founding of the lab and provides a little biographical background on people like Negroponte and Minsky.

However, a large portion of the book is spent describing specific projects, many of which are obviously a little out of date. Don't get the wrong idea, though. These projects were obviously very exciting when new. Further, some of the projects still seem so far out that I would not be surprised to see them announced as new research in 2000!

All in all, recommended. But perhaps you're better off skimming a copy from your local library than buying this one. That's why 3 stars instead of 4.

Future past?
This book was given to me as a gift when I learned that I was admitted to MIT in 1988. Over the years (and more so recently), I often see things that are the end result of the research done during the '80s at the Media Lab and documented in this book. Lego Mindstorms, custom Portals and personalized Internet, virtual reality games, this was all developed, envisioned, conceptualized, or influenced by Media Lab research.

After reading it, I lost it somewhere along the way. I came here to see if I could find a copy to re-read it and check my memory. It really should be an interesting read after all these years for anyone interested in the process and history of science.

The Millennium Whole Earth Catalog
Published in Paperback by HarperCollins (paper) (November, 1995)
Authors: Howard Rheingold and Stewart Brand
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if possible, I'd get this book less than one star
In comparison to "Whole Earth Catalog:Access to Tools" the Millenium Edition was - at least to my tastes - horrifyingly bad. "Access to Tools" presented information to solve problems. The Millenium Edition seemed to be more about winning arguments, and how to repair your local

Reading about how aging yuppies want to fix a neighborhood block to their tastes isn't worth 1 dime of my money. I feel disappointed and deeply cheated that I bought this tawdry book.

If you enjoy browsing the WEB for interesting IDEAS,then..
If you enjoy browsing the WEB for interesting IDEAS,then.. you will love this catalog. Why ? Because it's the only BOOK I know that gave me the same *magical* feeling, as if I am ONLINE. It gives you the FEELING that YOU could CHANGE SOMETHING in this WORLD.. and this just be reading descriptions of TOOLS and BOOKS for the 21st Century.

II cybernetic frontiers
Published in Unknown Binding by Random House ()
Author: Stewart Brand
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