Author Archives: Pat Higo

Think like a freak : the authors of Freakonomics offer to retrain your brain

thinkSteven D. Levitt, Stephen J. Dubner

The New York Times bestselling Freakonomics changed the way we see the world, exposing the hidden side of just about everything. Then came SuperFreakonomics, a documentary film, an award-winning podcast, and more.

Now, with Think Like a Freak, Steven D. Levitt and Stephen J. Dubner have written their most revolutionary book yet. With their trademark blend of captivating storytelling and unconventional analysis, they take us inside their thought process and teach us all to think a bit more productively, more creatively, more rationally—to think, that is, like a Freak.

Levitt and Dubner offer a blueprint for an entirely new way to solve problems, whether your interest lies in minor lifehacks or major global reforms. As always, no topic is off-limits. They range from business to philanthropy to sports to politics, all with the goal of retraining your brain. Along the way, you’ll learn the secrets of a Japanese hot-dog-eating champion, the reason an Australian doctor swallowed a batch of dangerous bacteria, and why Nigerian e-mail scammers make a point of saying they’re from Nigeria.

Some of the steps toward thinking like a Freak:

  • First, put away your moral compass—because it’s hard to see a problem clearly if you’ve already decided what to do about it.
  • Learn to say “I don’t know”—for until you can admit what you don’t yet know, it’s virtually impossible to learn what you need to.
  • Think like a child—because you’ll come up with better ideas and ask better questions.
  • Take a master class in incentives—because for better or worse, incentives rule our world.
  • Learn to persuade people who don’t want to be persuaded—because being right is rarely enough to carry the day.
  • Learn to appreciate the upside of quitting—because you can’t solve tomorrow’s problem if you aren’t willing to abandon today’s dud.

Levitt and Dubner plainly see the world like no one else. Now you can too. Never before have such iconoclastic thinkers been so revealing—and so much fun to read.


The improbable primate : how water shaped human evolution

primateClive Finlayson

In The Improbable Primate, Clive Finlayson takes an ecological approach to our evolution, considering the origins of modern humans within the context of a drying climate and changing landscapes. Finlayson argues that environmental change, particularly availability of water, played a critical role in shaping the direction of human evolution, contributing to our spread and success. He asserts that our ancestors carved a niche for themselves by leaving the forest and forcing their way into a long-established community of carnivores in a tropical savannah as climate changes opened up the landscape. They took their chance at high noon, when most other predators were asleep. Adapting to this new lifestyle by shedding their hair and developing an active sweating system to keep cool, being close to fresh water was vital. As the climate dried, our ancestors, already bipedal, became taller and slimmer, more adept at travelling farther in search of water. The challenges of seeking water in a drying landscape moulded the minds and bodies of early humans, and directed their migrations and eventual settlements.

In this fresh and provocative view of a seven-million-year evolutionary journey, Finlayson demonstrates the radical implications for the interpretation of fossils and technologies and shows that understanding humans within an ecological context provides insights into the emergence and spread of Homo sapiens worldwide.


Mass media and American politics

massDoris A. Graber


“Mass Media and American Politics is THE best book available for undergraduate classes in political communication. The book examines factors contributing to the content of news coverage as well as how the news media influence people’s views about politics. The new edition provides important updates concerning the changing media landscape as well as the growing negativity and incivility in the media. The coverage in this textbook is excellent and the approach is easily accessible to undergraduate students.” — Kim Fridkin “Doris Graber’s classic just got even better with Johanna Dunaway’s help. For those who want to understand what we know about the intersection of politics and the mass media, this book should be on the required reading list.” — Jason Barabas “Graber and Dunaway’s Mass Media and American Politics provides a unique perspective to undergraduate courses in media, politics, and political communication. Particularly valuable are the chapters dealing with media and journalists. Here, the authors go in depth into the norms and routines of journalists, media power, and issues associated with press freedom, giving students a behind-the-scenes look at American journalism. The book also details how media cover politics at local, national, and international levels. Highly recommended!” — Lindsay H. Hoffman “I have religiously used Mass Media and American Politics in my undergraduate level Media and Politics course due to its structure and coverage. The text gives students an in-depth look at how the news is made, the various rules and regulations placed on media organizations, as well as an overview of how citizens are affected by news content. This new edition also provides students with a chapter on bias in the news, which is a topic that excites my students. After reading the chapter about bias, students pay closer attention to how news stories are framed, which is one of my primary objectives in teaching this course.” — Heather Evans “Mass Media and American Politics is an indispensible resource for media and politics classes. This text is one-stop shopping for setting the stage and getting into the nitty-gritty details of the contemporary media system. From big-ticket questions of ownership and regulation, First Amendment case law, and the structure and routines of journalism, to issues of election coverage, media bias, citizen learning and other media effects, Graber and Dunaway cover the landscape and do so in an engaging and accessible style, providing a comprehensive and up-to-date account. The new chapters in the 10th edition promise to add significantly to this already-classic text.” — Paul Freedman


1776 (DVD)


You’ll be seeing stars and stripes as the most fascinating leaders in American history come to life in 1776, a musical about the birth of a nation! With the Boston Harbor still stained from over-taxed British tea, a revolution is brewing in the colonies! And now England has thousands of troops headed for America’s shores to squelch her subjects’ freedom-loving spirit! It’s up to John Adams, Benjamin Franklin and Thomas Jefferson to convince a stubborn congress of British colonists to unite as American patriots turn the inevitable war with England into a Declaration of Independence!

Additional Features

The 2002 DVD release of 1776 offers the 168-minute “director’s cut” version of the film, which is about 20 minutes longer than the VHS release (though still shorter than the previously released 180-minute laserdisc, which director Peter H. Hunt has said included some material he didn’t care for). Among the additions are a main title with overture, an introductory verse to “He Plays the Violin,” and more balance to the conservative Southern bloc of the Congress, especially in the musical number “Cool Considerate Men,” which–according to Hunt and screenwriter Peter Stone on the DVD’s commentary track–was removed at the request of President Nixon and supposed to have been destroyed. Hunt and Stone also offer historical background, comparisons to the original Broadway show (which they also directed and wrote), comments on what the cast is doing 30 years later, and satisfaction with this restoration (perhaps it will also lead to a long-awaited CD release of the soundtrack?). Picture and sound are very good, the widescreen anamorphic picture preserves the film’s wide tableaux, and five brief screen tests are worth watching once. In sum, it’s a very satisfying and often engrossing treatment of a lesser known but much loved musical. –David Horiuchi


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