BOOK REVIEW: The past is a foreign country, but youth is a different species

Getting older is a bizarre experience.

When we’re young, we are, understandably, not very good at anticipating the sort of person we’ll one day become; only in hindsight do we realize that. More surprising, or at least challenging to our sense of continuity, is that once through the veil of maturity, we’re just as poor at retrospection. It’s as if we’re reincarnated with mostly vague recollections of our previous life—we retain something of before, but we’re no longer the same person.

Cognitive neuroscientist Sarah-Jayne Blakemore’s book Inventing Ourselves is a fascinating examination of what recent decades of technological progress and investigation have shown us about the teenage brain.

Continue reading “BOOK REVIEW: The past is a foreign country, but youth is a different species”

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BOOK REVIEW: Love yourself enough to not read “The Hope Circuit”

The Hope Circuit by Martin Seligman is like reading a Wikipedia article about someone accomplished enough to have their own entry but not so much they can resist editing it themself.

Also, that article continues for 400 pages.

Subtitled A Psychologist’s Journey from Helplessness to Optimism, surely it’s the amount of unpleasant reading that makes the experience most unpleasant, but to be fair, Seligman — or “Marty” as he’d prefer his coed undergrad students call him — also establishes himself as an unlikable person very quickly. That is a truly remarkable accomplishment for a memoir where he controlled the entire narrative and reached me as a blank slate with no prior knowledge about his life.

Continue reading “BOOK REVIEW: Love yourself enough to not read “The Hope Circuit””

BOOK REVIEW: Christian Davenport, for one, welcomes our new “Space Barons”

The Space Barons is the longest and best-written press release I’ve ever read.

When, in the ending acknowledgment, author Christian Davenport thanked the billionaires so gracious with their time, including his own ultimate boss at the Washington Post, Jeff Bezos, it became much clearer how such a long work of this genre had come about and my disappointment resolved itself into a numb acceptance.

The title the publisher chose promised a very different sort of book, more critical and honestly probing than an employee can reasonably be expected to write of their employer while maintaining employment. In a world where journalism continues to desiccate because its lifeblood is disappearing into the distended bellies of Facebook and Google, all journalism resembles tech journalism.

“Oh Golly wow! Which public-private space company is going to be the neatest going forward?” is about as much as a person could reasonably ask for, and the competing book Rocket Billionaires by Tim Fernholz stole the more serviceable title and likely the original pitch.

However, the title I had was The Space Barons, and I was not prepared for the sincerely fawning devotion to a cyberpunk dystopia that I discovered myself to be reading.

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BOOK REVIEW: Saadia Zahidi’s “Fifty Million Rising” delivers even more than promised

Fifty Million Rising by Saadia Zahidi is that rare book that does everything it sets out to do then goes beyond it.

Zahidi’s look at the cohort of “The Generation of Working Women Transforming the Muslim World” (239 pages / Hatchette) doesn’t contradict itself, but golly is it large and containing multitudes. It couldn’t be anything less and still true, spanning as it does 30 Muslim-majority countries from North Africa all the way to Southeast Asia.

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The curious logic of Professor Adam Carroll

Last week, Indiana University School of Medicine professor Adam Carroll filed a piece for the New York Times with a provocative premise. Titled Preventive care saves money? Sorry, it’s too good to be true, it argued that investing in preventative care doesn’t actually yield savings. Here’s its opening and closing: Continue reading “The curious logic of Professor Adam Carroll”

Steve Bannon, NAMBLA, and free speech: when ‘neutrality’ is picking a side

‘Steve Bannon Accepts Invitation to Speak at the University of Chicago’

HUMAN 0
This is bullshit.

I’m calling the administration to register my displeasure, and I suggest you do too if you’re an alumni.

I’m not going to ask the University to block the invitation, but I at least want a statement that he does not represent the University’s views.

If you’re an elite foreign student, someone who’d create a successful business but aren’t white, Bannon doesn’t want you in the United States.

A country is more than an economy. We’re a civic society.”

The exact quote starts around 17:40, but the link starts earlier than that for full context.

HUMAN 1
You should listen to the whole context. It’s a much more narrow scope than you are representing it to be:

“What do you think about this situation where you have American companies, particularly technology companies, that are letting go highly-trained American IT workers, blowing them out, having them train their replacements and hiring foreign workers. Just generally what’s your sense of that?”

That being said, I still disagree with his comment, but I don’t think you are being fair to it either.

Continue reading “Steve Bannon, NAMBLA, and free speech: when ‘neutrality’ is picking a side”

Mark Jackson, “That Man”, and Hitler — how an 85-year-old meme got new life in the NBA

Summary: NBA commentator Mark Jackson’s signature phrase is an old American joke about children not recognizing their father that became so widely popular in the 1930s it crossed the Atlantic and was used derisively of Adolf Hitler prior to WWII.

Full explanation: Mark Jackson’s “Mama, there goes that man (again)” is most closely associated with Kobe Bryant highlights from a decade ago, but Jackson has subsequently used it in his post-coaching announcing career as an acknowledged catchphrase for LeBron James and Kevin Durant, among others, and it pops up occasionally now in other sports.

Ever since Jackson started doing it on nationally televised NBA games, people have been asking “What’s the deal with Mark Jackson saying that?”

A popular answer on the Internet is that Steve Harvey had been using the phrase in his standup in the early 2000s and Jackson took it from that. While that may be the most immediate provenance, I’m not familiar enough with his comedy to recall it, and other than references to Mark Jackson, I couldn’t find evidence of that claim online.

What’s more likely is that he picked it up from a grandparent or great-grandparent, and that’s because “That Man” was an incredibly popular, international meme in the 1930s and early ’40s that all-but-evaporated in the meantime.

This is illustrated by the title of a former BBC show that generated quite a few catchphrases of its own during its run: “It’s That Man Again”. The radio program supposedly got its name from a common practice of the Daily Express newspaper calling Adolf Hitler “that man” in its headlines in 1939. I haven’t been able to find any of those headlines directly, but it’s widely cited and the explanation the creators gave for their choice in title, intending for it to be topical.

You might be fooled, then, into thinking the original meaning is referencing literal, historical Hitler. But to my knowledge, Jackson has never used it for a James Harden highlight, and the phrase was already ubiquitous when the Nazis came to power.

By 1934, it was popular enough that there was already a song called “That Man Is Here Again” by Cab Calloway, and a sort of common reference is made to it in the film “The Thin Man”, also released in 1934.

For a fuller explanation, skip to 16:45 of this episode of Lexicon Valley by John McWhorter as he goes into it and how it was a pervasive joke that made it into all movies and such around that era.

There was a joke and the joke was that a husband and father is away so much that when he comes home his child says, “Mommy, that man is here again.” For some reason that was considered hilarious.

A Dictionary of Catch Phrases” by Eric Partridge takes a more cynical view:

‘The joke-reference had to do with the basic situation of mummy’s boy friend being innocently identified by a child—”Mummy, it’s that man again”—as once more he comes calling while daddy is out’ (Wedgewood, 1977). But then Shipley writes, ‘My recollection [of “Mummy, it’s…, in the US] is that it began not as a story or a joke, but as a caption to a cartoon’—which he cautiously dates as belonging to the early 1930s.

Which also means Alex from Yahoo! answers actually had their shit together years ago, unlike apparently everyone else on the Internet. Well, except for one self-published racist hack, surprisingly.

So there you have it! When Mark Jackson is saying “Mama, there goes that man!” to punctuate a dunk, he’s ultimately referencing an, at a minimum, 85-year-old joke about absent fathers or cuckoldry. Either way, the player in question is a real motherfucker, which lines up pretty well with how the phrase is used today.