Tag Archives: Fall 2010

What Technology Wants

What Technology Wats by Kevin Kelly
Viking / On Sale: October 14, 2010 (Hardcover Edition)

How is technology like a living system?
Today no technology can stand alone. Each piece made is dependent on hundreds of other technologies, in either its manufacture or operation. The incredibly complex interdependencies between modern technologies resemble a rainforest more than a machine. Engineers create new technologies by recombining old technologies, much like sexual reproduction in genes. Innovations follow a pattern of improvement that is almost identical to natural evolution. Our technological system as a whole exhibits emergent behaviors and tendencies, just like all living systems do.

What does it “want”?  Where is technology taking us?
The emergent tendencies of interacting technologies tend to favor the very things life favors. High tech industries demand pure water, as animals do. Over time technologies tend toward energy efficiency, as living organisms do. Technologies begin as generalists (a simple camera) and evolve toward specialists (a panoramic camera, an underwater camera, a spy camera, an infrared digital camera) just as natural evolution does. Technology is taking us more towards life, or rather a more extreme form of life.

Is a modern life full of technology natural?  Is it good?
Every since we left Africa, we humans have been remaking ourselves. We long ago invented the technology of cooking, which serves as an external stomach, and has allowed our teeth and jaws to shrink, and altered our body chemistry. Without technology of any sort, humans would die in a few months. We are naturally technological because we are, in part, our own inventions.

You say technology is a positive force, yet people are constantly talking about how gadgets and the Internet are dumbing down culture – how do you reconcile those two viewpoints?
Both views are true. We are slaves to our own inventions. Complex modern inventions are self-inflating; they tend to make the world friendlier to more technology. For instance, TV is a device to sell more devices. We have to guard against that tyrannical tendency in our own personal lives by occasionally saying “no” to new stuff. (No Twitter for me!) At the same time technology’s self-enlargement keeps bringing us many new choices and endless possibilities. Progress is founded on these increased choices.

Many people say that every new possibility for good developed by technology is cancelled by a corresponding new possibility for harm, and therefore technology is simply neutral. But they forget that that the very choice between good and harm birthed by a new invention is itself a good, and that tiny unexpected advantage tips the balance – just a wee bit – away from neutral toward the good overall. Turns out that a wee bit is all you need. If you create just 1 percent more possibilities than you destroy, then that tiny advantage, compounded over centuries, is enough to make civilization and to reveal technology as the most positive force in the world.

For More Information:
Press Release (hardcover only)
Cover Image (hardcover only)
Author Q&A
Author’s Website

Please note: For paperback edition details and images (Penguin Paperback / On Sale: September 27, 2011), please contact Yen.Cheong [at] us.penguingroup.com

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Filed under Science, Technology


Miral: A Novel (Movie Tie-In) by Rula Jebreal
Penguin Paperback Original / On Sale: November 3, 2010 

Now a major motion picture from Director Julian Schnabel featuring Slumdog Millionaire’s Freida Pinto

“Miral tells a gripping story with nuanced characters and historical context that thoroughly humanizes the Palestinian-Israeli conflict.”
Associated Press

“Jebreal’s refusal to categorize her characters as angelic or evil is refreshing; she simply demonstrates that each acts according to circumstances.”
Library Journal

“An incredibly moving story that sheds light on the problems of a country torn by conflict, and told from the unique perspective of a young girl.”
Corriere Magazine (Italy)

“Poignant and disturbing.”
Femme Actuelle (France)

“Moving and tragic, but always full of hope.”
Mujer de Hoy (Spain)

For More Information:
Press Release
Cover Image for Download
Author’s Website

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Filed under Current Events / Politics, Fiction

100 Facts about Pandas

100 Facts about Pandas by David O’Doherty, Claudia O’Doherty, and Mike Ahern
Penguin Paperback Original / On Sale:  September 28, 2010

In Victorian London, panda bears were often used as chimney sweeps. (fact #21)

Psychologists have discovered that it is virtually impossible to lie while staring into the eyes of a panda. And that increasingly, bears are being used in criminal trials. (fact #52)

Norwegians believe that carrying a picture of a panda protects you from illness. (fact #59)

For More Information:
Cover Image
Press Release
Authors’ Website

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Manga Biographies

The 14th Dalai Lama by Tetsu Saiwai
Penguin Paperback Original /  On Sale: September 28, 2010

Press Release
Cover Image for Download
Sample Page

Che Guevara by Chie Shimano (illustrations) and Kiyoshi Konno (text)
Penguin Paperback Original /  On Sale: October 26, 2010

Cover Image
Press Release
Sample Page

Gandhi: A Manga Biography will be out in October 2011. To be included on the mailing list, please send an email to Gabrielle.Gantz [at] us.penguingroup.com

Cover Image
Penguin Group Page 

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Filed under Art / Design, Biography, Manga, Paperback Original

Off the Grid

Off the Grid by Nick Rosen
Penguin Paperback Original / On Sale: July 27, 2010

Off the Grid: Inside the Movement for More Space, Less Government, and True Independence in Modern AmericaBy Nick RosenI went off the grid seeking freedom and more space between myself and the system. I also wanted to save money. I do not think everyone ought to live off the grid. But I would like to make more people aware that living off the grid is an option.As I crisscrossed America visiting the publicity-shy, off-grid population, I encountered an unsatisfied, pent-up demand to live off-grid. Those who seek to live this way want to do so without obstacles like zoning, building permits, or social ostracism (all of which I encountered). I suspect most people consider using a composting toilet, for example, a fate worse than sleeping in their car. But for those on a limited budget, living off the grid appears to solve all sorts of problems., housing being the most immediate; there are no power or water bills, which reduces the amount of money one needs to live well. As long as one can afford the up-front payment for the equipment, one can live comfortably, use the latest gadgets, and avoid most of the hardships suffered by Sequoia’s generation.

The main requirement is a change of mind-set. Americans are happy and proud to buy and use recycled toilet paper, but a composting toilet is another matter, a level most people won’t even think about. Most Americans are taught, or at the very least encouraged to believe, that homes must be a certain way. Well before the invention of TV, marketers pushed “ideal lifestyle” scenarios that included fridges and washing machines and electric gadgets of all kinds. The power companies, of course, subsidized the development and marketing of these products, and intentionally or not, dependence on the grid became a fact of life in America. Living in homes that are the exceptions to this rule are hippies and traditional back woodsmen (and women).

The crunchy granola off-gridders—environmentalists and other anti-capitalists—are just part of the story. The other big off-the-grid grouping is made up of right-wing survivalists, veterans, and traditional good ol’ boys who were never on the grid in the first place.

Like many millions of Americans, they are losing faith in the ability of the state to fulfill its basic functions—to prevent the strong from oppressing the weak and to regulate the markets. The final straw was the triumph of the “banksters” (and insurers and hedge-fund managers) in keeping their jobs, barring a few layoffs. It was quite a trick the financial community pulled, scamming the world for billions of dollars through the real estate bubble, and then hanging on to the money while the rest of the world scrabbled around to keep them solvent. The anger is still palpable, and off-grid real estate may be the only remaining answer for many. It sure beats shaking your fist at the TV set.

I should point out that I am not an American. The collapse in trust, however, is global. With the global economy in danger, many believe that what’s needed is a glocal (global and local) solution.

Credit Line:
Reprinted by arrangement with Penguin, a member of Penguin Group (USA) Inc., from Off The Grid: Inside the Movement for More Space, Less Government, and True Independence in Modern America by Nick Rosen. Copyright © 2010 by Nick Rosen.

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Filed under Environment, Paperback Original

The Calculus Diaries

The Calculus Diaries: How Math Can Help You Lose Weight, Win in Vegas, and Survive a Zombie Apocalypse by Jennifer Ouellette 
Penguin Paperback Original / On Sale: August 31, 2010

A few questions for Jennifer Ouellette:

What can parents do to help their kids become interested in math?
This is a tough one, because I suspect many parents are also rather insecure in their grasp of math once their kids get to algebra and calculus, and feel a little lost about how to help and encourage their kids in this area. I think the most important thing is not to actively discourage their kids from math and science. I once heard a teenaged girl admit to being curious about physics. Her mother—who clearly had a very bad high school experience with physics and calculus—overheard and assured her daughter that no, she didn’t want to take a physics class! It’s not fun at all and anyway, “You don’t like math and wouldn’t be good at it.” Now, it’s true that our math and physics curriculum in high school isn’t as fun as encountering physics and math in the outside world. But when will this young girl ever get to discover that math and science can be amazing and reveal hidden patterns in how the world works, if she’s actively discouraged from being interested by her own mother, while still in high school?

What is the one thing you now see in everyday life that you didn’t notice before starting THE CALCULUS DIARIES?
The world is filled with hidden connections and recurring patterns. Math describes nature at a very fundamental level and those underlying patterns are mostly invisible to those who don’t speak the language of Nature. For instance, I never realized that an exponential decay curve can describe the rate at which a cup of coffee cools, or the rate at which wet clothing dries, as well as certain processes in astronomy, economics and even population dynamics. Those seemingly very different things nonetheless are related mathematically; if you don’t “speak math,” or at least have a conceptual understanding of how it works, it’s much more difficult to see those connections. And yet they are there!

For More Information:
A Conversation with Jennifer Oullette
Press Release
Cover Image for Download
Author’s Website

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Filed under Math, Paperback Original, Science

The Atlas of Remote Islands

The Atlas of Remote Islands by Judith Schalansky
Penguin Original / On Sale: September 28, 2010


“This beautifully illustrated atlas reveals that cartography and the creative imagination have always intersected, spurred on by human wanderlust.”
– NPR’s 2010 Favorites pick

“By book’s end, I felt that I had traveled to all 50, my mind’s wings tired from all that flapping.”
—The Washington Post

“’Paradise is an island. So is hell.’ Or so says Judith Schalansky in the introduction to her charming, spooky and splendid Atlas of Remote Islands.”
New Yorker’s Book Bench

“…absolutely magical.”
– Conde Nast Traveler- CNTraveler.com

“The first five times (or so) that I paged through the Atlas of Remote Islands: Fifty Islands I Have Never Set Foot On and Never Will, I fell deeply in love with the book… Each of author and artist Judith Schalansky’s maps–hand-drawn in shades of gray, black, white, and brilliant orange on cadet blue paper–transported me to a, usually, remote island…”

“… A testament to the transformative power of maps. Atlas of Remote Islands is a celebration of what can still be accomplished with imagination, paper and ink. Holding it, you feel as if you’ve stolen the composition book that dreamy girl in the back row of our high school English class is always scribbling into. You page through it and think, Oh, my God. She’s a genius.”

“That impossible-to-please friend, that cranky relative, that coffee table begging for  something more interesting that last Sunday’s New York Times Magazine- worry about them no more. Here is your holiday gift, your birthday present, your living room’s conversation-igniter.”

“The most beautiful and powerful book I have ever seen like this is the Pennyroyal Caxton (King James) Bible, with haunting engravings by the genius Barry Moser. The second most beautiful and amazing book like this I have ever seen arrived, slim and stunning, on my desk days ago: Atlas of Remote Islands. For a child itching to see the world, for the child inside an aged and creaky vessel, for all of us who never stopped dreaming of faraway islands draped in amazing languages and wild stories and a wholly new angle of light, this is the perfect gift.”
– The Oregonian

Using historic events and scientific reports as a springboard, ATLAS OF REMOTE ISLANDS creates a story around each island: fantastical, inscrutable stories, imagined realities for surviving on a few square meters of land. Rare animals and strange people abound: from marooned slaves to lonely scientists, lost explorers to confused lighthouse keepers, mutinous sailors to forgotten castaways, upstanding convicts to officials exiled in punishment; in short, a collection of Robinson Crusoes.

Judith Schalansky was born in 1980 in Greifswald and studied History of Art and Design and Communication. She lives in Berlin where she is a writer and designer, and lectures on the fundamentals of typography in Potsdam. In 2006 her typographic compendium, Fraktur mon Amour, was published, and won several design prizes. Judith has been awarded a fellowship by the Villa Aurora in Los Angeles, starting at the end of 2009.

For more information:
Press Release
Quote Sheet
Download the Cover Image
Sample Page 

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Filed under Art / Design