music, technology & life in pasadena, california

The Reading List – Spring ‘05

OK, it’s time for a wrap-up on some of the books I’ve been reading lately…you can order by clicking the links on the sidebar ->

Disney WarDisney War
Disney and Michael Eisner get the full treatment from James B. Stewart, who gave us the incredible story of insider traders Ivan Boesky and Michael Milken in the Pulitzer Prize-winning Den of Thieves. Given unequalled access to the company and Eisner himself, Stewart shows how petty some Hollywood moguls can be when there are nothing but Yes Men surrounding them. It’s incredible that Eisner is seen in Hollywood as a genius considering how many bad moves he made for Disney. The sections on Jeffrey Katzenberg and Michael Ovitz are fascinating and Pixar’s break with Disney is detailed as well. A story of extreme hubris at its best/worst. You’ll be disgusted but you won’t be able to put it down.

Malcolm Gladwell’s latest reads like the amazing New Yorker articles he’s known for. This has probably been the most talked about book on the internet since its publication. A fascinating and compelling look into the psychology and makeup of split decision-making and how it affects our daily lives.

The Zen of CSS DesignThe Zen of CSS Design
My good friend and percussionist extraordinaire, Wade Culbreath, taught me how to handcode HTML many years ago and since then I’ve been intrigued with the intricacies of it. This year I decided to delve further into the subject and see what all the fuss was concerning web standards. What an eye opener! Structural XHTML markup along with presentational CSS style sheets is such a perfect combination it makes you want to cry. After your keyboard dries out, head on over to the CSS Zen Garden where Dave Shea introduces his readers’ new designs regularly, all of them based on the exact same markup and altered only via the external CSS style sheets. This beautiful book showcases many of the best designs on the site and shows how they were conceived and executed. A must-have for the inner geek!

v. Goliath - The Trials of David Boiesv. Goliath – The Trials of David Boies
I’ve always been fascinated by the legal world and David Boies is probably the most in-demand lawyer in the country right now. A list of the cases he’s been involved in is daunting. Bush vs. Gore, RIAA vs. Napster, U.S. vs. Microsoft. It seems that almost every major litigation of the last decade has included him in some way. Although at times it seems she has an axe to grind, author Karen Donovan writes a no-holds-barred profile that doesn’t sugar-coat Boies’ flaws. I haven’t read Boies’ self-penned memoirs yet but this is an excellent introduction to a brilliant legal mind. There’s much to be learned here even if you’re not in the legal profession.

Everything Bad Is Good for You: How Today's Popular Culture Is Actually Making Us SmarterEverything Bad Is Good for You: How Today's Popular Culture Is Actually Making Us Smarter
I met Steven Johnson at Vroman’s Book Store in Pasadena last month. I’d been reading his blog regularly and heard about his new book, so I headed over to hear what he had to say. From the very beginning when he reminisced about playing a childhood statistical baseball game with dice & cards, I was hooked. I remembered games similar to those made by the 3M Company. They were called Bookshelf games and they were really difficult to play. I had their horse racing game as well as their stock & bond trading one. I could never get anyone to play with me since no one had the patience to learn the incredibly complex set of rules. So I sat in my room alone (just as Steven had) and played against myself. Steven explains the Flynn Effect, that IQ scores have been rising steadily and dramatically since the early nineteen hundreds. Much of the cause of the early portion of that rise can be attributed to better nutrition, better education and the general rise of standards of living during that time. But what about the last 30 to 40 years? Where we would’ve expected a flattening of the curve, it continues to rise. Johnson argues that popular culture has played an important part in this ascent. The chapters on complex video & computer games and multi-threaded TV plots are especially interesting. This is a very readable and entertaining book, and one that parents should read. Don’t let your intellectual prejudices stop you from enjoying this one. Malcolm Gladwell’s review is here.

June 6, 2005 | Link to this entry


Paul Viapiano is a guitarist working in film, television and live performance based in sunny Pasadena, California.

You can email me here.

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