America’s Incarceration Crisis: Are We ‘Doomed To Repeat The Same Failed Policies’?

June 25th, 2017 Books

In this week’s episode of “Scheer Intelligence” for KCRW, Robert Scheer speaks with James Forman Jr. The Yale Law School professor once clerked for former Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor and is a former public defender. His new book, “Locking Up Our Own: Crime and Punishment in Black America,” delves into the issue of systemic incarceration of black men in the United States.

“We rarely have good alternatives to offer to prison—that’s our default,” Forman says. “And until we fix that, until we move from a mindset that says, ‘People addicted on the street are a criminal justice problem,’ and move to thinking of them as a public health problem, until we make that transition as a society, we’re doomed to repeat the same failed policies generation after generation.”

Forman begins the conversation by sharing an anecdote from his time as a public defender when he was representing a 15-year-old black male in front of a black judge in Washington, D.C. He goes on to explain how this case represented the nationwide attitude toward race and incarceration in the 1990s.

He and Scheer then discuss another of Forman’s cases, in which a prosecutor wouldn’t offer drug rehabilitation to a heroin addict with two previous convictions.

“How come we never use prison, the failure of prison, as a reason not to give more prison? There’s never a moment where we say, ‘OK, well, prison hasn’t worked, so we’re not going to try that again,’ ” Forman says. “But we do that with drug programs all the time.”

The two also discuss the war on drugs and the issue of decriminalization, specifically decriminalization of marijuana and the racial disparities in marijuana-related arrests. The conversation concludes with a broader look at the historical trauma of slavery and why an open, in-depth discussion of slavery is a crucial step in fixing America’s incarceration crisis.

Listen to the full conversation and to past editions of “Scheer Intelligence”at

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19 Adorable Harry Potter-Themed Products For Pregnant Women

June 23rd, 2017 Books

There are lots of awesome Harry Potter-themed products for babies ― from onesies to bibs to nursery decor. But if you’re pregnant, you don’t have to wait until your baby is born to get in on the action.

Moms-to-be can enjoy a variety of maternity shirts and baby shower products inspired by the wizarding world. 

In honor of the 20th anniversary of the first Harry Potter book, we rounded up some of the best options on Etsy. Keep scrolling for some magical gift ideas for pregnant women. 

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Alexis Bledel Is Signed On For Season 2 Of ‘The Handmaid’s Tale’

June 23rd, 2017 Books

Warning: spoilers ahead!

Because Season 1 of “The Handmaid’s Tale” ended in the same way as its source material ― with its heroic central handmaid Offred being escorted out of her assigned home, either by the corrupt government or by the burgeoning resistance group ― Season 2 seems shrouded in mystery.

We have a few predictions: Offred (Elisabeth Moss) will visit the environmentally toxic colonies; she’ll stray further from her husband, Luke, before they’re reunited.

On Thursday, Hollywood Reporter shared news that sheds light on next season’s plans: Alexis Bledel, who plays Offred’s confident Ofglen, will return for at least one more go-around.

At the end of last season, Ofglen was presumed dead ― at least by Offred, who witnessed her attempt to steal a car in the middle of a farmer’s market. Before that, Ofglen was mutilated by Gilead officials, punished for her sexual orientation.

So, what does the return of Ofglen mean for Season 2? It could be that Ofglen is actually a member of the resistance, an underground group that Offred will learn more about in coming episodes.

In Atwood’s 1985 novel, the story stays close in on Offred and her small attempts to find joy in language and the quiet details of the world, as well as her memories. It’s effective, but perhaps not enough fodder for a multi-season drama. So, showrunner Bruce Miller has said that he’ll deviate from the book, while staying true to its spirit and intentions.

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#Ebook Deal/Day: Building Microservices with ASP.NET Core – $25.49 (Save 50%) Use code DEAL

June 23rd, 2017 Books

Get “Building Microservices with ASP.NET Core” today using code DEAL and save 50%!

This sale ends at 2:00 AM 2017-06-26 (PDT, GMT-8:00).

Jimmy Fallon Announces New Children’s Book

June 22nd, 2017 Books

Jimmy Fallon entered the children’s book world in 2015 with the release of his New York Times bestseller Your Baby’s First Word With Be DADA. Now he’s back with a follow-up that’s all about moms.

On Tuesday, Fallon announced his new picture book, Everything Is MAMA. The book is scheduled for an October 10 release from publisher Feiwel & Friends. 

Introducing the book on “The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon,” the host said Everything Is MAMA was a natural sequel to Your Baby’s First Word With Be DADA

“Even though I basically forced my second child to say ‘dada’ as her first word, every other object that mattered in her life was ‘mama,’” Fallon explained.

“The idea of this one is that moms are trying to educate and teach their babies other words, but the babies are obsessed with the word ‘mama,’” he added.

Fallon and his wife Nancy Juvonen have two daughters, 3-year-old Winnie Rose and 2-year-old Frances Cole. 

He told People he believes the book is great for babies and toddlers.

“If you have a 3-year-old, they’ll love the pictures,” Fallon said. “And if you have a 1-year-old, they’ll love how it tastes.”

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Sheryl Sandberg On What So Many People Get Wrong About Expressing Sympathy

June 22nd, 2017 Books

Reading about grief and actually experiencing it are two very different things, as Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg has learned over the last few years. After the sudden death of her beloved husband, Dave Goldberg, in 2015, Sandberg understandably struggled with her immense grief. Now, she’s sharing the truths and lessons she learned from her bereavement in her new book, Option B, and in a “SuperSoul Sunday” interview with Oprah Winfrey.

Speaking with Oprah, Sandberg admits that, before experiencing this personal tragedy, she would express her sympathy to others in a very common way: by saying very little, as to not remind an individual of their pain.

“If someone in my life were going through something hard, usually the first time I saw them, I would say, ‘I’m so sorry,’” she says. “And then I would never bring it up again because I didn’t want to remind them.”  

Though well-intentioned, Sandberg now says she realizes the flaw in this logic.

“You can’t remind me I lost Dave,” she says. “You also can’t remind someone that she has cancer, or that his father just went to jail, or that she lost a job. It’s not possible. Big hardships, these challenges ― they’re always with us.”

In the above clip, Sandberg also addresses the trouble with asking, “How are you?” to someone grieving a loss. The rest of her conversation with Oprah airs this weekend on “SuperSoul Sunday” at 11 a.m. ET on OWN.

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8 Summer Books To Keep You Laughing

June 22nd, 2017 Books

Originally published on Kirkus. For more from Kirkus, click here.

Eat Only When You’re Hungry by Lindsay Hunter

“A savage tale of parenthood and squandered hope from an author whose unsparing eye never ceases to subvert the mundane.” A man goes in search of his addict son only to end up lost in his own relentless crises. Read full book review.

Black Moses by Alain Mabanckou, translated by Helen Stevenson

“This tightly contained, densely packed story issues a challenge that never loses its urgency: how does a person cling to a sense of autonomy when it’s under siege by so many powerful forces?” This ribald, acerbic, and poignant coming-of-age story throws open a window to an African nation’s struggle for maturity. Read full book review.

Moving Kings by Joshua Cohen

“For a writer whose last two novels total some 1,400 pages, Cohen has slimmed down here but still covers a lot of territory.” A New York City moving company gets into trouble when it starts doing evictions in a wide-ranging novel that touches on political, religious, and social issues. Read full book review.

Less by Andrew Sean Greer

“Seasoned novelist Greer (The Impossible Lives of Greta Wells, 2013, etc.) clearly knows whereof he speaks and has lived to joke about it. Nonstop puns on the character’s surname aside, this is a very funny and occasionally wise book.” Facing his erstwhile boyfriend’s wedding to another man, his 50th birthday, and his publisher’s rejection of his latest manuscript, a miserable midlist novelist heads for the airport. Read full book review.

Who Is Rich? by Matthew Klam, illustrated by John Cuneo

“A tale of middle-aged ennui that gets sharper as it gets funnier.” A down-on-his-luck cartoonist is besieged by worries about money, art, and infidelity. Read full book review.

Live From Cairo by Ian Bassingthwaighte

“The ironies of bureaucracy and wartime, à la Catch-22, meet the ironies of love and sacrifice, à la The Necklace, profoundly humanizing the global refugee crisis. Bassingthwaighte’s virtuoso debut deserves the widest attention.” This brilliantly conceived and artfully detailed novel set in the Egyptian immigration bureaucracy is both a comedy and tragedy of errors. Read full book review.

Spoonbenders by Daryl Gregory

“A skillfully written family drama that employs quirk and magic with grace.” In a nimble and substantial novel, Gregory (Harrison Squared, 2015, etc.) delves into the lives of the members of the eccentric and psychically gifted Telemachus family. Read full book review.

The Last Laugh by Lynn Freed

“Replete with references to Greek mythology, Freed’s modern retelling of a timeless tale of self-fulfillment wanders into surprising territory along the way.” Greece is the word for a trio of almost-septuagenarian women determined to enjoy an idyll free of family and romantic entanglements…or is it? Read full book review.

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Millennials Are Using Public Libraries More Than Any Other Generation

June 22nd, 2017 Books

Most likely to prioritize avocado toast over home ownership. Most likely to hate cereal. Millennials get stuck with the most grating superlatives, but according to a Pew Research Center report from last fall, they’re getting a lot of things right, too. The generation frequents public libraries more often than members of any other age group.

A blog published on the center’s site on Wednesday says, “53% of Millennials (those ages 18 to 35 at the time) say they used a library or bookmobile in the previous 12 months. That compares with 45% of Gen Xers, 43% of Baby Boomers and 36% of those in the Silent Generation.”

And, the question on the survey was explicitly about public libraries, as opposed to university libraries, so the fact that many millennials are still college-age is moot.

These findings are consistent with a 2014 study from Pew, which shows that millenials read more books than members of other generations.

It’s also possible that younger and more civically-minded readers are privier to the services provided by libraries that are unrelated to checking out new titles.

After last year’s presidential election, American Library Association president Julie Todaro played a part in updating an information evaluation system called the CRAAP test, which is used in schools to spot so-called fake news. And before that, librarians across the country have worked to provide information and safe spaces to LGBTQ visitors.

So, the need for libraries ― and the apparent desire young people have to visit libraries ― makes the possibility for budget cuts an urgent issue. In Trump’s proposed 2018 budget, the Institute of Museum and Library Services was eliminated altogether. In response, librarians put their advocacy experience to use, fighting for these spaces that are valued by younger generations.

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Kissing The Specious Present Goodbye

June 22nd, 2017 Books

Cross-posted with

Forgive me for complaining, but recent decades have not been easy ones for my peeps. I am from birth a member of the WHAM tribe, that once proud, but now embattled conglomeration of white, heterosexual American males. We have long been ― there’s no denying it ― a privileged group.  When the blessings of American freedom get parceled out, WHAMs are accustomed to standing at the head of the line. Those not enjoying the trifecta of being white, heterosexual, and male get what’s left.

Fair? No, but from time immemorial those have been the rules. Anyway, no real American would carp. After all, the whole idea of America derives from the conviction that some people (us) deserve more than others (all those who are not us). It’s God’s will ― so at least the great majority of Americans have believed since the Pilgrims set up shop just about 400 years ago.

Lately, however, the rules have been changing in ways that many WHAMs find disconcerting. True, some of my brethren ― let’s call them one percenters ― have adapted to those changes and continue to do very well indeed.  Wherever corporate CEOs, hedge fund managers, investment bankers, tech gurus, university presidents, publishers, politicians, and generals congregate to pat each other on the back, you can count on WHAMs ― reciting bromides about the importance of diversity! ― being amply represented.

Yet beneath this upper crust, a different picture emerges. Further down the socioeconomic ladder, being a WHAM carries with it disadvantages. The good, steady jobs once implicitly reserved for us ― lunch pail stuff, yes, but enough to keep food in the family larder ― are increasingly hard to come by.  As those jobs have disappeared, so too have the ancillary benefits they conferred, self-respect not least among them. Especially galling to some WHAMs is being exiled to the back of the cultural bus. When it comes to art, music, literature, and fashion, the doings of blacks, Hispanics, Asians, gays, and women generate buzz. By comparison, white heterosexual males seem bland, uncool, and passé, or worst of all simply boring.

The Mandate of Heaven, which members of my tribe once took as theirs by right, has been cruelly withdrawn. History itself has betrayed us.

All of which is nonsense, of course, except perhaps as a reason to reflect on whether history can help explain why, today, WHAMs have worked themselves into such a funk in Donald Trump’s America. Can history provide answers? Or has history itself become part of the problem? 

Paging Professor Becker 

“For all practical purposes history is, for us and for the time being, what we know it to be.” So remarked Carl Becker in 1931 at the annual meeting of the American Historical Association. Professor Becker, a towering figure among historians of his day, was president of the AHA that year. His message to his colleagues amounted to a warning of sorts: Don’t think you’re so smart. The study of the past may reveal truths, he allowed, but those truths are contingent, incomplete, and valid only “for the time being.”

Put another way, historical perspectives conceived in what Becker termed “the specious present” have a sell-by date. Beyond their time, they become stale and outmoded, and so should be revised or discarded. This process of rejecting truths previously treated as authoritative is inexorable and essential.  Yet it also tends to be fiercely contentious. The present may be specious, but it confers real privileges, which a particular reading of the past can sustain or undermine. Becker believed it inevitable that “our now valid versions” of history “will in due course be relegated to the category of discarded myths.” It was no less inevitable that beneficiaries of the prevailing version of truth should fight to preserve it.

Who exercises the authority to relegate? Who gets to decide when a historical truth no longer qualifies as true? Here, Becker insisted that “Mr. Everyman” plays a crucial role. For Becker, Mr. Everyman was Joe Doakes, John Q. Public, or the man in the street. He was “every normal person,” a phrase broad enough to include all manner of people. Yet nothing in Becker’s presentation suggested that he had the slightest interest in race, sexuality, or gender. His Mr. Everyman belonged to the tribe of WHAM.    

In order to “live in a world of semblance more spacious and satisfying than is to be found within the narrow confines of the fleeting present moment,” Becker emphasized, Mr. Everyman needs a past larger than his own individual past.  An awareness of things said and done long ago provides him with an “artificial extension of memory” and a direction.

Memories, whether directly or vicariously acquired, are “necessary to orient us in our little world of endeavor.”  Yet the specious present that we inhabit is inherently unstable and constantly in flux, which means that history itself must be pliable.  Crafting history necessarily becomes an exercise in “imaginative creation” in which all participate.  However unconsciously, Everyman adapts the past to serve his most pressing needs, thereby functioning as “his own historian.”

Yet he does so in collaboration with others.  Since time immemorial, purveyors of the past ― the “ancient and honorable company of wise men of the tribe, of bards and story-tellers and minstrels, of soothsayers and priests, to whom in successive ages has been entrusted the keeping of the useful myths” ― have enabled him to “hold in memory… those things only which can be related with some reasonable degree of relevance” to his own experience and aspirations.  In Becker’s lifetime it had become incumbent upon members of the professoriate, successors to the bards and minstrels of yesteryear, “to enlarge and enrich the specious present common to us all to the end that ‘society’ (the tribe, the nation, or all mankind) may judge of what it is doing in the light of what it has done and what it hopes to do.”

Yet Becker took pains to emphasize that professional historians disdained Mr. Everyman at their peril:

“Berate him as we will for not reading our books, Mr. Everyman is stronger than we are, and sooner or later we must adapt our knowledge to his necessities.  Otherwise he will leave us to our own devices… The history that does work in the world, the history that influences the course of history, is living history… It is for this reason that the history of history is a record of the ‘new history’ that in every age rises to confound and supplant the old.”

Becker stressed that the process of formulating new history to supplant the old is organic rather than contrived; it comes from the bottom up, not the top down.  “We, historians by profession, share in this necessary effort,” he concluded.  “But we do not impose our version of the human story on Mr. Everyman; in the end it is rather Mr. Everyman who imposes his version on us.”

Donald Trump as Everyman’s Champion?

Becker offered his reflections on “Everyman His Own Historian” in the midst of the Great Depression.  Perhaps because that economic crisis found so many Americans burdened with deprivation and uncertainty, he implicitly attributed to his everyman a unitary perspective, as if shared distress imbued members of the public with a common outlook.  That was not, in fact, the case in 1931 and is, if anything, even less so in our own day.

Still, Becker’s construct retains considerable utility.  Today finds more than a few white heterosexual American males, our own equivalent of Mr. Everyman, in a state of high dudgeon.  From their perspective, the specious present has not panned out as it was supposed to.  As a consequence, they are pissed.  In November 2016, to make clear just how pissed they were, they elected Donald Trump as president of the United States.

This was, to put it mildly, not supposed to happen.  For months prior to the election, the custodians of the past in its “now valid version” had judged the prospect all but inconceivable.  Yet WHAMs (with shocking support from other tribes) intervened to decide otherwise.  Rarely has a single event so thoroughly confounded history’s self-assigned proctors.  One can imagine the shade of Professor Becker whispering, “I warned you, didn’t I?”

Those deeply invested in drawing a straight line from the specious present into the indefinite future blame Trump himself for having knocked history off its prescribed course. Remove Trump from the scene, they appear to believe, and all will once again be well. The urgent imperative of doing just that ― immediately, now, no later than this afternoon ― has produced what New York Times columnist Charles Blow aptly calls a “throbbing anxiety” among those who (like Blow himself) find “the relentless onslaught of awfulness erupting from this White House” intolerable. They will not rest until Trump is gone.

This idée fixe, reinforced on a daily basis by ever more preposterous presidential antics, finds the nation trapped in a sort of bizarre do-loop.  The media’s obsession with Trump reinforces his obsession with the media and between them they simply crowd out all possibility of thoughtful reflection.  Their fetish is his and his theirs.  The result is a cycle of mutual contempt that only deepens the longer it persists.

Both sides agree on one point only: that history began anew last November 8th, when (take your pick) America either took leave of its senses or chose greatness.  How the United States got to November 8th qualifies, at best, as an afterthought or curiosity.  It’s almost as if the years and decades that had preceded Trump’s election had all disappeared into some vast sinkhole.

Where, then, are we to turn for counsel?  For my money, Charles Blow is no more reliable as a guide to the past or the future than is Donald Trump himself.  Much the same could be said of most other newspaper columnists, talking heads, and online commentators (contributors to TomDispatch notably excepted, of course).  As for politicians of either party, they have as a class long since forfeited any right to expect a respectful hearing.

God knows Americans today do not lack for information or opinion.  On screens, over the airways, and in print, the voices competing for our attention create a relentless cacophony.  Yet the correlation between insight and noise is discouragingly low.

What would Carl Becker make of our predicament?  He would, I think, see it as an opportunity to “enlarge and enrich the specious present” by recasting and reinvigorating history.  Yet doing so, he would insist, requires taking seriously the complaints that led our latter day Everyman to throw himself into the arms of Donald Trump in the first place.  Doing that implies a willingness to engage with ordinary Americans on a respectful basis.

Unlike President Trump, I do not pretend to speak for Everyman or for his female counterpart.  Yet my sense is that many Americans have an inkling that history of late has played them for suckers.  This is notably true with respect to the post-Cold War era, in which the glories of openness, diversity, and neoliberal economics, of advanced technology and unparalleled U.S. military power all promised in combination to produce something like a new utopia in which Americans would indisputably enjoy a privileged status globally.

In almost every respect, those expectations remain painfully unfulfilled.  The history that “served for the time being” and was endlessly reiterated during the presidencies of Bush 41, Clinton, Bush 43, and Obama no longer serves.  It has yielded a mess of pottage: grotesque inequality, worrisome insecurity, moral confusion, an epidemic of self-destructive behavior, endless wars, and basic institutions that work poorly if at all.  Nor is it just WHAMs who have suffered the consequences.  The history with which Americans are familiar cannot explain this outcome.

Alas, little reason exists to expect Becker’s successors in the guild of professional historians to join with ordinary Americans in formulating an explanation.  Few academic historians today see Everyman as a worthy interlocutor.  Rather than berating him for not reading their books, they ignore him.  Their preference is to address one another.

By and large, he returns the favor, endorsing the self-marginalization of the contemporary historical profession.  Contrast the influence wielded by prominent historians in Becker’s day ― during the first third of the twentieth century, they included, along with Becker, such formidables as Henry Adams, Charles and Mary Beard, Alfred Thayer Mahan, and Frederick Jackson Turner ― with the role played by historians today.  The issue here is not erudition, which today’s scholars possess in abundance, but impact.  On that score, the disparity between then and now is immense.

In effect, professional historians have ceded the field to a new group of bards and minstrels.  So the bestselling “historian” in the United States today is Bill O’Reilly, whose books routinely sell more than a million copies each.  Were Donald Trump given to reading books, he would likely find O’Reilly’s both accessible and agreeable.  But O’Reilly is in the entertainment business.  He has neither any interest nor the genuine ability to create what Becker called “history that does work in the world.”

Still, history itself works in mysterious ways known only to God or to Providence.  Only after the fact do its purposes become evident.  It may yet surprise us.

Owing his election in large part to my fellow WHAMs, Donald Trump is now expected to repay that support by putting things right.  Yet as events make it apparent that Trump is no more able to run a government than Bill O’Reilly is able to write history, they may well decide that he is not their friend after all.  With that, their patience is likely to run short.  It is hardly implausible that Trump’s assigned role in history will be once and for all to ring down the curtain on our specious present, demonstrating definitively just how bankrupt all the triumphalist hokum of the past quarter-century ― the history that served “for the time being” ― has become.

When that happens, when promises of American greatness restored prove empty, there will be hell to pay.  Joe Doakes, John Q. Public, and the man in the street will be even more pissed.  Should that moment arrive, historians would do well to listen seriously to what Everyman has to say.

The author of several books, including most recently America’s War for the Greater Middle East: A Military History, Andrew Bacevich, a TomDispatch regular, is currently trying to decipher the history of the post-Cold War era.

Follow TomDispatch on Twitter and join us on Facebook. Check out the newest Dispatch Book, John Dower’s The Violent American Century: War and Terror Since World War II, as well as John Feffer’s dystopian novel Splinterlands, Nick Turse’s Next Time They’ll Come to Count the Dead, and Tom Engelhardt’s Shadow Government: Surveillance, Secret Wars, and a Global Security State in a Single-Superpower World.

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#Ebook Deal/Day: Text Mining with R – $16.99 (Save 50%) Use code DEAL

June 22nd, 2017 Books

Get “Text Mining with R” today using code DEAL and save 50%!

This sale ends at 2:00 AM 2017-06-23 (PDT, GMT-8:00).

New ‘Game Of Thrones’ Season 7 Trailer Hints At Westeros’ Biggest Battle

June 21st, 2017 Books

On the first day of summer, “Game of Thrones” is here to give you chills.

With less than a month until the Season 7 premiere, HBO has dropped a second trailer for the beloved series. 

Set to the ethereal “Light of the Seven” tune that accompanied Cersei’s (Lena Headey) path of destruction in Season 6′s violent finale, the trailer reminds us of the only thing Westeros has ever truly had to fear: the White Walkers and their army of the dead. 

In a voiceover, Jon Snow (Kit Harington) delivers that timely lecture: “For centuries, our families fought together against their common enemy, despite their differences ― together. We need to do the same if we’re going to survive, because the enemy is real. It’s always been real.”

Things are about to get very real, indeed: We see Dany (Emilia Clarke) arriving at King’s Landing, Jon fighting in the North, Bran (Isaac Hempstead Wright) using his sight, Sansa (Sophie Turner) looking pretty cold and Jaime (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau) going to town with a lance. Oh, and fire. A lot of fire.

In the end, Sansa offers a tormentingly vague hint about the legacy of the Stark clan: “When the snows fall, and the white winds blow, the lone wolf dies, but the pack survives.”

Fingers/paws/tails crossed for you, Sansa.

“Game of Thrones” returns July 16 to HBO.

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Understanding The Amazing Complexity Of Sign Language

June 21st, 2017 Books

Andrea Lackner, Alpen-Adria University Klagenfurt

Most people are familiar with sign language, the system that deaf people use to communicate. What fewer may know is that there are many different sign languages around the world, just as there are many different spoken languages.

So how does the grammar of sign language work?

Unlike in spoken languages, in which grammar is expressed through sound-based signifiers for tense, aspect, mood and syntax (the way we organise individual words), sign languages use hand movements, sign order as well as body and facial cues to create grammar. This is called non-manual activity.

To find out whether these cues are comprehensible to signers and non-signers of a country, my team of deaf and hearing linguists and translators conducted two studies. The results, which will be published in July, demonstrate the incredible complexity of sign language.

What signers and non-signers see

In the first study, which included both signers and non-signers from Austria, we asked participants to watch a set of videos of people using Austrian sign languages. We instructed them to try to break up the signed text into smaller units – the equivalent of cutting unbroken speech down into prosodic units.

The participants then went through the resulting segments and showed us the cues that had led them to break the videos where they did.

When it came to pauses and signs made with hands, signers and non-signers alike made similar decisions. All participants identified rest positions, such as crossing one’s arms, as pauses as well as discerned holds – where a signer maintains the same hand position for a longer period of time or repeats the last sign of a segmented unit.

But when it came to cues from other parts of the body – non-manual activity – signers and non-signers performed very differently.

Almost exclusively, sign language users also listed head and body movements as cues, as well as movements of the eyebrows, gaze direction and blinks. Non-signers tended to identify only one or two cues from the hands.

Meanings of non-manual elements

The second study involved only deaf Austrian Sign Language users.

Once again, we showed signed videos to the participants. But this time we instructed them to identify the non-manual elements that they thought had relevance to the language. That is, elements that acted as grammar.

Participants had to describe the form, meaning and function of each non-manual element.

The agreement between the signers’ description showed that certain body, head or facial movements have linguistic functions. They express assertion, negation, conditionality (a phrase using the word if, for instance), hypothetical thoughts and alternatives, as well as time, location, and cause.

While shaking one’s head can be used to simply negate a clause or thought, for instance, other head shakes, performed in a slow, small and tentative way, can express the signer’s negative attitude toward a hypothetical thought.

Gaze can also serve several functions. So far, our data shows that signers consistently looked upward when indicating a hypothetical statement.

The position of the signer’s head, too, conveys different meanings. Positioning the head forward while formulating a hypothetical thought can be used to express a self-addressed, hypothetical question (such as should I go to the movies tonight?).

But moving the head forward can also accompany an “if” clause (If I go to the movies tonight, I might see Wonder Woman).

In other contexts, it can also act as an exclamation or imply possibility.

To make our research publicly available, we used an approach that ensured accuracy of interpretation and translation.

Our linguists first discussed the outcomes with deaf native signers in Austrian Sign Language. Then, the native signers described the outcome from their deaf native signers’ perspective. Only then did the translators interpret the phenomena description into written German and English.

In a follow-up project (funded by the Austrian Science Fund), we will investigate the interplay of non-manual cues and clauses in several varieties of Austrian Sign Language, comparing our findings with non-manual activity of other sign languages to determine how the form and function of different sign languages vary across the globe.

Diversity in sign language

Including both non-signers and deaf signers in our study enabled us to learn not only about grammar among people who sign but about how we all interpret certain gestural behaviour. The – perhaps unsurprising – fact that a non-signer’s understanding of visual signals differs tremendously from that of a sign language user has pedagogical implications.

Because some of the same non-manual behaviours may signify different things depending on context, written explanations of sign language, such as textbook lessons, must incorporate the perspectives of native signers to avoid incorrect interpretations.

More broadly, the influence of body movements must be considered when describing any language. Our mental concepts are strongly shaped by visual configurations.

The ConversationIf sign language is any indication, the close relationship between how we gesture and how we think may matter more than previously thought.

Andrea Lackner, Linguist focusing on sign language research, Alpen-Adria University Klagenfurt

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

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LeVar Burton Has A Podcast For The ‘Reading Rainbow’ Generation

June 21st, 2017 Books

If you’re a bookworm who grew up between 1983 and 2006, there’s a good chance you were partially raised by LeVar Burton’s soothing voice as he guided young readers through the thrilling world of a book. “Reading Rainbow,” Burton’s beloved PBS Kids show, helped inspire countless kids with a love for reading.

Now, the “Reading Rainbow” kids are all grown up ― and, fortunately for us, Burton is back with a new short fiction podcast on Stitcher. In each episode, he selects a short story and reads it aloud, dramatically, with the aid of sound effects and music to bring the story to life. It’s “Reading Rainbow” for adults, if you will.

Of course, the podcast isn’t exactly like the classic show ― it’s audio-only, it features literary and genre short fiction rather than picture storybooks, and you can’t get picked to go on the show and read a review of your own favorite short story.

(Those kids were so lucky.)

But of course it’s different ― we’re not kids anymore! The important thing is that we still need Burton to remind us about the magic held in a book, and he’s still here to do that for us.

Not only does he read great fiction, like Daisy Johnson’s “The Lighthouse Keeper” from her new collection, Fen, he puts his rich, fluidly expressive voice to the task of drawing listeners into a different world ― the world of the story.

And if you miss having Burton explain the themes of a book to you, you’re in luck: At the end of his reading, he talks a little bit about what he took away from the story. After reading “The Lighthouse Keeper,” he explains that the story “highlights one of the ills of our culture, which is the idea that women have a specific place and specific roles in society and that it is unacceptable for them to cross over.” His family, he adds, has been full of strong women who inspired him, like his mother. 

Listening to the new podcast feels sort of like finally developing a friendship with your parent. Burton isn’t just teaching us anymore; he’s sharing his feelings and life story. While the “Reading Rainbow” Burton might have delved into the themes of a book by showing us how to bowl or explaining photosynthesis, his fans are grown-ups now. 

Not too grown-up to have Burton read us a bedtime story, of course. That will never get old.

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Incident Management for Operations

June 21st, 2017 Books

Are you satisfied with the way your company responds to IT incidents? How prepared is your response team to handle critical, time-sensitive events such as service disruptions and security breaches? IT professionals looking for effective response models have successfully adopted the Incident Management System (IMS) used by firefighters throughout the US. This practical book shows you how to apply the same response methodology to your own IT operation. You’ll learn how IMS best practices for leading people and managing time apply directly to IT incidents where the stakes are high and outcomes are uncertain.

Creationist Fan Fiction Features Noah Fighting Giants And Dinosaurs

June 21st, 2017 Books

The biblical Noah faces off against a giant and a dinosaur in a gladiator-like setting in a new novel that a creationist group is promoting.

Noah: Man of Resolve is the second book in a promised trilogy by Tim Chaffey and K. Marie Adams, and it’s available for sale from Answers in Genesis, which runs the Noah’s Ark attraction in Kentucky. 

The group has claimed that Noah not only survived a global flood in his ark some 4,300 years ago, but did so with two of every creature aboard including at least some dinosaurs (which in reality died out some 65 million years ago).

The attraction shows dinosaurs living in cages aboard the ark, and features a diorama that shows a gladiator-style fight involving giants and dinosaurs.

The new book is a novelization of Noah’s life, and includes a scene where a giant holds him captive and in an arena, where he faces a dino-like “grendec.”

One passage reads: 

“Noah tightened his grip on Rayneh and hurried into the midst of the crowd with Elam right beside them. The horned grendec continued its pursuit of the moving targets, pausing occasionally for a deep, thunderous call.”

A supposed “nonfiction” section in the back says the “grendec” is based on a carnotaurus dinosaur.

In reality, the animal lived in the Cretaceous Period, some 64.8 million years before the appearance of the first homo sapiens, who evolved roughly 200,000 years ago.

Noah: Man of Resolve is is published by Master Books, which also sells creationist homeschooling materials and other Bible-based books. 

(H/T Friendly Atheist)

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Brace Yourself For A ‘Dracula’ Revamp, From The Creators Of BBC’s ‘Sherlock’

June 20th, 2017 Books

Mark Gatiss and Steve Moffat ― the duo behind BBC’s popular Sherlock Holmes adaptation, “Sherlock,” starring Benedict Cumberbatch ― are working on a new project, Variety reported.

The writer-producer team will update another literary genre story: Bram Stoker’s Dracula.

Like Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s stories, Stoker’s book was published at the end of the 19th century. Stoker, also like Doyle, spent much of his life living in London. Whether the shows will bear as many similarities as the source material remains to be seen. Will the Dracula reboot also take place in the modern-day U.K.? Will fun flashback episodes aimed at diehard fans? Will it launch the career of a new heartthrob like Cumberbatch, or will Cumberbatch himself play the lead?

There’s no word yet ― but here’s hoping.

What we do know is that Dracula adaptation will also air on BBC, likely in 2019, and will take on the same structure of longish, 90-minute episodes and shortish seasons.

As Variety points out, there may be a dwindling appetite for vampire shows, after the genre saw a post-Twilight surge. In 2013, an attempted NBC “Dracula” revamp didn’t get renewed for a second season.

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You Belong To Me, A Novel By Colin Harrison

June 20th, 2017 Books

You Belong To Me, a novel by Colin Harrison

Reviewed by Lloyd I Sederer, MD

You need not be “into” maps, as is the protagonist of this page turning suspense novel, just ready for the intrigue summoned up by some powerful, devious and driven characters who inhabit the globe’s greatest city. New York, that is.

Maps can be instrumental, historical and revelatory. The show us the way, mark moments in our collective or personal history, or reveal the designs of explorers, warriors, investors or killers, among others. Two maps ground Colin Harrison’s (Disclosure: Harrison is the editor in chief of Scribner, where I have a book – non-fiction – in press) eighth novel: one a rare rendering of the New York City that George Washington employed in his campaign against the British; the other portrays a murderers’ plot to avenge the infidelity of the all American wife of an Iranian (by descent) immigrant and hugely successful, young global investment titan.

Maps can be worthless, or priceless; they can command a fortune, or not. They can incriminate, or not. They can fixate an obsessive collector. And all of the above. We see these functions served as this novel, set largely in NYC, with deviations to Texas, Reading Pennsylvania, New Jersey and upstate New York, sweeps up the reader to its satisfying denouement.

The characters are arresting, so to speak. They are bad guys (financiers), worse guys (Libyan and cartel trained hitmen), traumatized women and men, and the seemingly impassive Paul Reeves, our protagonist, an immigration lawyer, map collector and native New Yorker. To add more texture, we also have featured the upstate NY police, the NYPD, and Homeland Security. Not to mention the characters who surround the lead actors in this drama, namely their families, Paul’s so New York girlfriend, map restorers, and a variety of shady souls needed to propel the action.

The plot revolves around Paul’s pursuit of the precious Ratzen map, of which few copies exist, and which was instrumental to Washington’s defense of New York, enabling his troops to survive and stay in the fight with the powerful British when they stood to defeat the colonists. This map eludes his purchase but becomes the instrument of his taking control of his life, and becoming the man he aimed to be. While this is going on, his neighbor across the hall in a prosperous Upper West Side apartment building, Jennifer, has been upended from her life. She came to New York as a gorgeous blonde in her early twenties, fleeing the desperation of her family, the increasingly failing rust belt of this country, and her own shameful past. Soon she becomes the wife of an international financier, Ahmed Mehraz, serving as his arm charm at dinners, benefits, and society events, where she can dissipate the stigma too often automatically attached to middle-eastern and Arabic men.

The plot takes off when an American soldier, an army Ranger recently discharged after seeing action in any number of lawless countries, Bill Wilkerson, appears in the City, out of Jennifer’s past. The attraction is automatic and, like the film, fatal. They are swept up into lust and a romance that is unearthed by Ahmed, his family and their unscrupulous agents. No good can come of this, as we discover as the story unfolds laden with a host of other well drawn characters – generally with no redeeming qualities. It is no small feat to get rid of an Army Ranger, as both a lover and a man given to defending himself in combat.

But that is Ahmed’s aim, and he is a man who knows how to get tough things done. We enter a world of assassins who are engaged to do Bill in, and make him disappear forever. No spoiler here as to who wins, or how, but you will be turning the pages to find out.

As the story builds it seems that justice will not be served. But its long arc takes us there in graphic and just ways, like following a treasure map to its destination. In so doing, in the end there is the relief of some good and goodness that is achieved, some return to what gives meaning to our lives. But the price is very high, in dollars and despair.


Dr. Lloyd Sederer is a psychiatrist and public health doctor. The opinions offered here are entirely his own.

His latest books are Improving Mental Health: Four Secrets in Plain Sight (2017) and Controversies in Mental Health and the Addictions (2017). His book on drugs in America will be published by Scribner in the spring of 2018.


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#Ebook Deal/Day: Deep Learning: Practical Neural Networks with Java – $33.99 (Save 50%) Use code DEAL

June 20th, 2017 Books

Get “Deep Learning: Practical Neural Networks with Java” today using code DEAL and save 50%!

This sale ends at 2:00 AM 2017-06-21 (PDT, GMT-8:00).

Zero Trust Networks

June 19th, 2017 Books

The perimeter defenses guarding your network perhaps are not as secure as you think. Hosts behind the firewall have no defenses of their own, so when a host in the “trusted” zone is breached, access to your data center is not far behind. That’s an all-too-familiar scenario today. With this practical book, you’ll learn the principles behind zero trust architecture, along with details necessary to implement it.

How and Where to Reach Desktop Developers

June 19th, 2017 Books

This report provides insight into how and where desktop developers get their sustenance.