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Nick Waterhouse. (Courtesy of the artist)

Nick Waterhouse On 'Song Travels'

Jul 28, 2014

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Vocalist, guitarist and songwriter Nick Waterhouse has been called "the young man who makes old R&B" (LA Weekly). His first single, "Some Place," was recorded in an all-analog studio and released on vinyl. Although his records recall the sound of the 1950s, his style is all his own.

On this Song Travels, Waterhouse joins host Michael Feinstein to shares his love of 45 rpm records and raw, live rock 'n' roll. Joined by Jay B. Flatt on piano, the session includes his original songs "Sleeping Pills" and "Hands on the Clock."

Subscribe to the Song Travels Express podcast.

Copyright 2014 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

Set List

  • Waterhouse (voice), Flatt (piano), "Hands on the Clock" (Waterhouse)
  • Waterhouse (voice, guitar), "High Tiding" (Waterhouse, Stephens)
  • Waterhouse (voice, guitar), "Dead Room" (Waterhouse)
  • Waterhouse (voice, guitar), Flatt (piano), "Well It's Fine" (Waterhouse)
  • Waterhouse (voice, guitar), Flatt (piano), "Some Place" (Waterhouse)
  • Waterhouse (voice, guitar), Flatt (piano), "Raina" (Waterhouse)
  • Waterhouse (voice, guitar), Flatt (piano), "Sleeping Pills" (Waterhouse)

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Copyright(c) 2014, NPR
Profile illustration of a brain in black and white. (iStockphoto)

Cognitive Science Honors Its Pioneers And Leaders

by Tania Lombrozo
Jul 28, 2014

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Every year in mid- to late summer, cognitive scientists from around the world gather expectantly in a hotel foyer or a university courtyard, eager to learn that year's winner of the David E. Rumelhart Prize. Established in 2001, the yearly award honors "an individual or collaborative team making a significant contemporary contribution to the theoretical foundations of human cognition." The award includes $100,000 and a custom bronze medal. It's the closest thing you'll find to a Nobel Prize in cognitive science, the interdisciplinary study of the mind that arose after the "cognitive revolution" of the 1950s and 60s.

This year's winner, announced last Friday in Quebec City at the annual meeting of the Cognitive Science Society, is Michael Jordan. (No, not that Michael Jordan.)

Michael I. Jordan is the Pehong Chen Distinguished Professor of Statistics and of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science at the University of California at Berkeley, where his research has focused on learning and inference in both humans and machines. Jordan is a leading figure in machine learning and Bayesian nonparametrics — a statistical approach that supports flexible models that can "grow" as more data becomes available. The computational models he's developed have been applied to learning, memory, natural language processing, semantics and vision, among other facets of natural and artificial intelligence.

Fittingly enough, Jordan was a student of David Rumelhart (1942 - 2011), the pioneering cognitive scientist in honor of whom the Rumelhart Prize is named. Rumelhart made seminal contributions to our understanding of the human mind, developing mathematical and computational approaches that still shape the field today. He's probably best known for his work with Jay McClelland (the 2010 Rumelhart Prize winner) on neurally-inspired, parallel distributed processing systems.

In an email conversation with me, Jordan praised Rumelhart's broad, interdisciplinary approach:

"Dave had an expansive vision of cognitive science — ideas from psychology, linguistics, AI, statistics and philosophy infused his thinking. Where lesser minds tended to develop cartoon versions of ideas from other fields — the better to dismiss those ideas and continue to focus on one's narrow perspective — Dave always found something useful in other traditions, and was able to creatively shape ideas from those traditions to tackle challenging problems in cognition."

At various points in his career, Jordan has asked himself, "What would Dave have thought about this?"

The Rumelhart Prize owes its existence to another student of David Rumelhart, Robert Glushko, whose foundation funds the award. Glushko was also kind enough to correspond with me by email, explaining that he established the yearly prize because:

" ... [Rumelhart was] a brilliant scientist who made fundamental contributions to the foundations of cognitive science, but also to honor a person who was personally and professional generous - a great model for aspiring scientists."

Other recipients of the Rumelhart Prize have included Ray Jackendoff (2014), Linda Smith (2013), and my own PhD advisor, Susan Carey (2009).

I asked Glushko what Rumelhart might make of the field today:

"Rumelhart liked mathematical rigor but he also liked elegant models that gave unexpected insights, and that perspective characterizes the best scientists of any field at any time. I think that Rumelhart might be surprised at how computational cognitive science has become."

Glushko noted that students don't just drift in to cognitive science from psychology anymore — they often come from mathematics, computer science and related fields.

Jordan speculated that Rumelhart would have embraced the computational tools available to today's cognitive scientists:

"I don't recall Dave ever uttering the word 'Bayesian' ... [but] as I've explored Bayesian ideas over the years I often thought that Dave would have enjoyed this exploration as well, with its natural connections to psychology, computer science and stochastic processes."

"I think that he would have been a particularly enthusiastic participant in the rise of Bayesian nonparametrics, appreciating its freedom to allow new entities and structures to emerge as data accrue. Anyone who is pondering the use of statistical models as models of thought must eventually wonder 'how does the model itself evolve?' and 'what happens when data arrive that appear to go beyond the scope of the current model?' The ability of Bayesian nonparametrics to face these questions should be appealing to anyone in cognitive science."

Of course, cognitive science is itself evolving, arguably becoming more relevant than ever. With the rise of intelligent technology comes greater need to understand both the nature of intelligence and of ourselves. In concluding our interview, Glushko noted:

"Our machines are getting increasingly smart, especially when they can learn. Cognitive science is essential in making them learn the right things and in interacting with each other and with people in ways that make human existence better."

So, about this time next year, you can expect to find another cohort of eager cognitive scientists congregating in some hotel lobby or reception room, waiting to learn the next winner of the Rumelhart Prize and hoping to play their own small part in the next cognitive revolution.


You can keep up with more of what Tania Lombrozo is thinking on Twitter: @TaniaLombrozo

Copyright 2014 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

Set List

  • Waterhouse (voice), Flatt (piano), "Hands on the Clock" (Waterhouse)
  • Waterhouse (voice, guitar), "High Tiding" (Waterhouse, Stephens)
  • Waterhouse (voice, guitar), "Dead Room" (Waterhouse)
  • Waterhouse (voice, guitar), Flatt (piano), "Well It's Fine" (Waterhouse)
  • Waterhouse (voice, guitar), Flatt (piano), "Some Place" (Waterhouse)
  • Waterhouse (voice, guitar), Flatt (piano), "Raina" (Waterhouse)
  • Waterhouse (voice, guitar), Flatt (piano), "Sleeping Pills" (Waterhouse)

Missing some content? Check the source: NPR
Copyright(c) 2014, NPR
George Takei's personal story is illuminated in the new, funny documentary To Be Takei. (AP)

From Star Trek To LGBT Spokesman, What It Takes 'To Be Takei'

Jul 28, 2014 (Fresh Air)

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Many fans know George Takei from his role as Mr. Sulu on the 1960s show Star Trek. But in the past decade, he has drawn followers who admire him because of who he is — not just who he has played. Now, the new documentary To Be Takei may interest more people in Takei's life.

Takei's personal story offers insights into a couple of key chapters of American political and cultural history.

After Japan bombed Pearl Harbor in 1941, Takei and his family were among the 127,000 Americans of Japanese descent forced into internment camps. He was 5 years old.

"We were first taken to the horse stables of Santa Anita racetrack because the camps weren't built yet and we were housed there ... narrow, smelly, still was pungent with the smell of horse manure. And we were housed there for about three months while the camps were being built," Takei tells Fresh Air's Terry Gross. "And then [we were] put on railroad cars with armed guards at both ends of each car and transported two-thirds of the way across the country to the swamps of southeastern Arkansas. There [were] barbed wire fences there — tall sentry towers with machine guns pointed at us."

As an adult, Takei became active in the civil rights and peace movements. But he couldn't support the movement that most directly affected him, the gay-rights movement, because coming out could have ended his career. It wasn't until after former Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger vetoed legislation for marriage equality in California in 2005 that Takei decided to break his silence.

"That night, [now-husband] Brad and I were watching the late-night news and we saw young people pouring onto Santa Monica Boulevard, venting their rage against Arnold Schwarzenegger," he says. "And we felt just as angry as those young people. We discussed it and we decided that I should speak out. And for me to do that, my voice had to be authentic — so I spoke to the press for the first time as a gay man."

Now Takei is a forceful spokesman for gay rights. He has been with Brad since 1985. They were married at the Japanese American National Museum in Los Angeles in 2008.

To Be Takei, directed by Jennifer Kroot, was an official selection for the Sundance Film Festival.


Interview Highlights

On being closeted for most of his life

The thing that affected me in the early part of my career was ... there was a very popular box-office movie star — blond, good-looking, good actor — named Tab Hunter. He was in almost every other movie that came out. He was stunningly good-looking and all-American in looks. And then one of the scandals sheets of that time — sort of like The Enquirer of today — exposed him as gay. And suddenly and abruptly, his career came to a stop.

That was, to me, chilling and stunning. I was a young no-name actor, aspiring to build this career — and I knew that [if] it were known that I was gay, then there would be no point to my pursuing that career. I desperately and passionately wanted a career as an actor, so I chose to be in the closet. I lived a double life. And that means you always have your guard up. And it's a very, very difficult and challenging way to live a life.

On growing up in Japanese internment camps

I grew up imprisoned in American barbed wire prison camps simply because Japanese-Americans — American citizens of Japanese ancestry — happened to look like the people who bombed Pearl Harbor. For that, we were summarily rounded up and imprisoned with no charges, and therefore we couldn't call for a trial ... and [there was] no due process.

I had just turned 5. ... The soldiers with bayoneted rifles came to our home in Los Angeles and ordered us out of [our] home.

On life after the internment camps

When we were released, I was almost 9. My baby sister was almost 5. ... She was an infant when we went in, and my younger brother was a year younger. The coming out [of the camp] was, to us kids, the most terrifying part of it because we [had] adjusted to the routine of living in imprisonment.

We were penniless. The hatred was still intense. The first job my father was able to secure was as a dishwasher in a Chinatown restaurant [in Los Angeles]. Only other Asians would hire us. Our first home was on Skid Row. That was really traumatic for us — the stench of urine everywhere.

On being a Hollywood actor in the 1960s

That was a time when most roles for Asians or Asian-Americans were very stereotyped, very shallow, cardboard figures, and not very attractive stereotypes at that — the buffoon, or the pliant, silent servant, or the evil villain.

When I decided to become an actor — and I had those discussions with my father — I promised him that I would not do anything that would make him ashamed. And so I had been avoiding stereotyped roles. Until, one day, my agent came up with me for this — as they called it "opportunity" — in a Jerry Lewis movie.

He said, "Jerry Lewis movies make tremendous money at the box office. They're very successful and it's very important for a young actor to be associated with a moneymaking project."

And I said, "Fred, this is the very kind of role that we don't want to get — and I really don't feel up to playing that."

On Star Trek's success

When we were filming the pilot for Star Trek back in 1965, I said to Jimmy Doohan [the actor who played Scotty in the series], "I smell quality with this series."

Well, the scripts were intelligent, well-written scripts and the actors were very fine, professional actors. And I told Jimmy, "We're going to be proud of what we did, but this means we're in trouble."

Because all the TV series that I loved — all the ones that I thought had some substance — were immediately canceled.

And I said, "We won't last a season."

Well, I was wrong on that — we lasted three seasons. But nevertheless, we were canceled, so I had no idea in reruns we would finally find our audience and become enormously popular.

On speaking out for LGBT rights for the first time as a gay man

It was liberating. It was so freeing, but at the same time I was prepared for my career to go on the downward, but the polar opposite happened — it has blossomed. I was invited to do guest appearances on various shows as gay George Takei [such as] Will & Grace or The Big Bang Theory. I got the invitation from Howard Stern to be his official announcer, which [my partner] and I talked about, too.

I've been on speaking tours advocating for equality for the LGBT community. But what we noticed was I was already talking to the converted — either LGBT people or allies — and what we needed to do was reach what I maintain is the decent, fair-minded, vast middle — people who are busy pursuing their lives and don't stop to think about other issues.

Copyright 2014 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

Set List

  • Waterhouse (voice), Flatt (piano), "Hands on the Clock" (Waterhouse)
  • Waterhouse (voice, guitar), "High Tiding" (Waterhouse, Stephens)
  • Waterhouse (voice, guitar), "Dead Room" (Waterhouse)
  • Waterhouse (voice, guitar), Flatt (piano), "Well It's Fine" (Waterhouse)
  • Waterhouse (voice, guitar), Flatt (piano), "Some Place" (Waterhouse)
  • Waterhouse (voice, guitar), Flatt (piano), "Raina" (Waterhouse)
  • Waterhouse (voice, guitar), Flatt (piano), "Sleeping Pills" (Waterhouse)

Missing some content? Check the source: NPR
Copyright(c) 2014, NPR
George Takei's personal story is illuminated in the new, funny documentary To Be Takei. (AP)

Jenny Lewis' 'The Voyager' Is An Album To Spend Time With

Jul 28, 2014 (Fresh Air)

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To Be Takei was an official selection for the Sundance Film Festival.

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Copyright 2014 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

Set List

  • Waterhouse (voice), Flatt (piano), "Hands on the Clock" (Waterhouse)
  • Waterhouse (voice, guitar), "High Tiding" (Waterhouse, Stephens)
  • Waterhouse (voice, guitar), "Dead Room" (Waterhouse)
  • Waterhouse (voice, guitar), Flatt (piano), "Well It's Fine" (Waterhouse)
  • Waterhouse (voice, guitar), Flatt (piano), "Some Place" (Waterhouse)
  • Waterhouse (voice, guitar), Flatt (piano), "Raina" (Waterhouse)
  • Waterhouse (voice, guitar), Flatt (piano), "Sleeping Pills" (Waterhouse)

Missing some content? Check the source: NPR
Copyright(c) 2014, NPR
Jessica Williams. (Courtesy of the artist)

Jessica Williams On Piano Jazz

Jul 28, 2014

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To Be Takei was an official selection for the Sundance Film Festival.

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Pianist and composer Jessica Williams has gained critical acclaim and multiple Grammy nominations for her writing and remarkable skill at the keyboard. Dave Brubeck called her "one of the greatest jazz pianists I have ever heard."

On this episode of Piano Jazz from 1992, Williams solos on "Why Do I Love You" and joins host McPartland for "Straight, No Chaser" — one of two Thelonious Monk tunes during the session.

Originally broadcast in the spring of 1992.

Copyright 2014 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

Set List

  • Waterhouse (voice), Flatt (piano), "Hands on the Clock" (Waterhouse)
  • Waterhouse (voice, guitar), "High Tiding" (Waterhouse, Stephens)
  • Waterhouse (voice, guitar), "Dead Room" (Waterhouse)
  • Waterhouse (voice, guitar), Flatt (piano), "Well It's Fine" (Waterhouse)
  • Waterhouse (voice, guitar), Flatt (piano), "Some Place" (Waterhouse)
  • Waterhouse (voice, guitar), Flatt (piano), "Raina" (Waterhouse)
  • Waterhouse (voice, guitar), Flatt (piano), "Sleeping Pills" (Waterhouse)

Set List

  • "Why Do I Love You" (Hammerstein, Kern)
  • "I'm Getting Sentimental Over You" (Bassman, Washington)
  • "Misterioso" (Monk)
  • "Willow Creek" (McPartland)
  • "Free Piece" (McPartland)
  • "The Child Within" (Williams)
  • "I'm Old Fashioned" (Kern, Mercer)
  • "Straight, No Chaser" (Monk)

Missing some content? Check the source: NPR
Copyright(c) 2014, NPR

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