The Center for Land Use Interpretation Newsletter

Book Reviews

Books New to the Shelves of the CLUI Library

Exploding the Phone: The Untold Story of the Teenagers and Outlaws Who Hacked Ma Bell
by Phil Lapsely, 2013
In addition to being the “largest machine on earth,” the American phone system, before it was digitized, and fractured by deregulation in the 1980s, was controlled by internally-produced sounds, and was thus the largest musical instrument on earth. People slowly learned that 2600 hertz notes, which could be generated by things like cheap plastic flutes found in Cracker Jack boxes, and other signals produced with tone generators made by electronic tinkerers, could be used to take sonic excursions telephonically all over the country, and even to ring the president’s private line. Some of the pioneers of exploring the phone system—phone phreaks—became the innovators of the ensuing computer era, like Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak, who made and sold “blue-boxes” that enabled free long distance phone calling before turning to computers. Much of the ethos and culture of creative computer hacking formed in the phone phreaking communities of the early 1960s and 1970s. This book is that history, and in so telling reveals a vivid portrait of the workings of the phone system too, one of the most opaque and critical constructions of the modern era.

Ecologies of Power: Countermapping the Logistical Landscapes & Military Geographies of the US Department of Defense
by Pierre Belanger and Alexander Arroyo, 2016
Begun as a mapping project and research seminar at Harvard’s Graduate School of Design in 2009, this ambitious overview of the “largest developer, landowner, equipment contractor, and energy consumer in the world,” the US Department of Defense, became, as it must, a hefty and graphically volatile tome, published seven years later. The book covers the orbits of beltway contractors and satellites, and domestic desert practice ranges to global prepositional nodes, quantifying the massive infrastructure, not of war itself, but the logistics of preparedness: how everything—food, housing, weapons, planes, ships, soldiers—have to move all over the place, leading to the stunning circuitous fact that that the DoD, the largest institutional consumer of fossil fuels in the world, uses most of it just to move fuel.

The New Explorers: Making Meaning in the 21st Century American Landscape
by Kris Timkin, 2015
“This book offers a compelling selection of some innovative creative interpreters of the American land. Through their endeavors, these inspired artists help widen the spectrum of perceptual possibilities. They evoke the charisma and courage of the original explorers of the new nation, but probe instead into the world that we made, collectively—a constructed landscape whose complexities and mysteries are as rich and varied as its inhabitants.” That’s what we said for a promotional blurb that ended up on the back cover of the book—which talks about several contemporary artists, several of whom we have had the pleasure of working with—and we stand by it!

Big Science: Ernest Lawrence and the Invention that Launched the Military Industrial Complex
by Michael Hiltzik, 2015
Nice readable story of this wizard of physics, fundraising, and politics who more than anyone else fused and fuzed the atomic era. Focuses on the technology, as it should, and how he took the cyclotron from a hand-held flask to a building sized machine that smashed atoms and revealed new elements, and begat another of the “largest machines on earth,” the enrichment plant at Oak Ridge, which fueled the atomic bomb. Lawrence was perhaps the most influential scientist of the modern era, and the reason the Manhattan Project existed. His work lives on at Berkeley, Los Alamos, and at the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, where the hydrogen bomb was developed, and in other places where it seems we need bigger and bigger machines in order to see smaller and smaller things.

Networks of New York: An Illustrated Field Guide to Urban Internet Infrastructure
by Ingrid Burrington, 2016
A handy, almost-pocket-sized book that depicts and describes the wide variety of indigenous and exotic telefauna that abounds and thrives in the multi-spectral terrainium of New York City.

The Man who Found Thoreau: Roland W. Robbins and the Rise of Historical Archeology in America
by Donald W. Linebaugh, 2005
The self-taught are often the passionate pioneers of new fields of endeavor, but their efforts sometimes end up being occluded when the professionals and academics move in.  Such is the case of Roland Robbins, who located not only Thoreau’s Walden Pond cabin site and remains, but who went on to locate and exhume the Saugus Iron Works, Thomas Jefferson’s birthplace, and dozens of other historic sites in the northeast. Starting in 1945, he invented the basic tools of site surveys and excavations that were late in coming to non-native, historic archeology in the USA, though many who came after considered his methods crude and destructive. But as we know, it is often the amateurs who are the real professionals.

Shooting Space: Architecture in Contemporary Photography
edited by Elias Redstone, 2014
Big Phaidon book about what the title says, put together by former curators at the Barbican, Architecture Foundation, Photographers Gallery, and the curator for contemporary architecture at MoMA, features the work of 51 photographers, including Baan, Burtynsky, Gursky, Leibovitz, Opie, Ruff, Struth, Sugimoto, Tillmans, Welling, and one non-human photographer, the CLUI, doing its part to hold up the institutional minority.

Revolving Architecture: A History of Buildings that Rotate, Swivel, and Pivot
by Chad Randi, 2008
This look around the world of rotating structures is a missing link of architectural literature that nobody knew was missing till we found it, and another winning title from Princeton Architectural Press.

New Jersey as Non-Site
by Kelley Baum, 2013
In the old days, New York artists headed up the Hudson to pursue the romance of landscape portraiture, or to Long Island to work out more abstract and subjective interpretations of the natural world. By the time of the post World War Two and postindustrial era, New York City artists headed to the nearest landscape left in the overbuilt region—New Jersey, a land of relative freedom and mystery. This book is about artistic researchers and explorers in this terrain from the 1950s to 1975, by which time the state had become the ground zero for Robert Smithson’s dialectic of site/non-site. Interestingly, New Jersey was actually the site in this dialectic—the non-site was the representational, and commodifiable, object in the galleries of the New York City art world.

The American Country Club: Its Origins and Development
by James M. Mayo, 1998
American city clubs, based on the British model, were favored especially by wealthy financial professionals. In a way, the development of sporting clubs in the suburbs in the late 19th century were an extension of these urban clubs, though they were more inclusive—sometimes even allowing women and family members to engage in leisurely outdoor activities, such as fox hunting and golf. Though somewhat more democratic than their precursors, the country clubs of today essentially serve the same function, to provide an environment of leisure and sport for the exclusive use of their exclusive membership. This book is a history of these clubs, and thus a history of the powerful elite, and about the spread of this form of community space across the nation, with some interesting regional variations.

Where the Presidents Were Born: The History and Preservation of the Presidential Birthplaces
by Louis L. Picone, 2012
The President is Dead! The Extraordinary Stories of the Presidential Deaths, Final Days, Burials, and Beyond
by Louis L. Picone, 2016
More than you ever wanted to know about the beginnings and ends of the lives of the presidents of the USA #1 - 44. These encyclopedic and site-based tomes are resplendent with managed piles of sifted presidential research compiled by the author.