Discover more from Mark Smith’s Newsletter
Saturday 14th May, 2022 - Culture Smash
Hello and welcome to my newsletter!
Another season 2 instalment…
The auto-save in the Substack web UI is somewhat temperamental and often results in parts being deleted / lost. Hoping that doesn’t happen this week, I usually am able to catch it before I send it out but the past few weeks have been rather time-pressured.
I’m still finding the Big Tech Sandwich metaphor quite useful to structure my thoughts around the future of tech. This issue has the same structure as last week, but I’ve embellished the section names a tad.
No blog posts from me this week, but I have made s bit of progress in my ssg development, mostly refactoring a particularly troublesome part of the dispatcher that creates render jobs. I also got plugins working. Next step is to do a minimal implementation of my linkblog.
Rainy season continues, still two abyss’ on my right knee.
On with the newsletter…
Basically that means APIs will start to work more broadly across environments, including browser based but also non-browser based such as NodeJS, edge workers and Deno. These environments are very different but they do share a lot of commonality, and this effort aims to build on that.
This week I’ve been reading up about Ska music. I’ve listened to a bunch of it over the years, and I’ve heard and read stories about some of the history. What I love about it is that it’s a story much bigger than just the music itself, with it’s roots in the unfolding of social integration in the UK in the 1970s, where two very unlikely groups became mates, punk and reggae.
Both groups were at the time disaffected for various reasons, and found themselves sharing concert venues. It became routine for DJs at punk shows to play reggae songs in between bands, and eventually a new music genre was born, with reggae baselines and horn sections but with the upbeat energy of punk rock.
The repercussions of the music can be seen worldwide, and in London in particular I feel that it helped immensely integrating society. It’s an incredible example of a seed growing organically that manages to make its way through all levels of the big tech sandwich. That’s why it’s so profound, even if you don’t know the history, you get a sense that something remarkable happened there.
I love that they describe the different eras as ‘waves’. I picture loads of surfers catching a massive wave all at the same time. By the third wave there are tons of present day bands that you recognise.
Em Moore over at Punknews released another selection of great tunes. There’s so much variety. What I ove is that there are japanese, french and spanish punk bands doing their thing, writing music about how things are for them. Interop rocks. Where is the russian and ukrainian punk rock?
The Brit & Yank combo that is the excellent Punk Till I Die Podcast have released another Offensive episode. You learn a lot about your own culture and that of others from shows like this. It’s very very offensive in places, but in others you get a sense that they aren’t really sure if it is or not. Where society draws the lines isn’t always very obvious. Free speech helps us discover things that can be improved, but it takes a long time, sometimes generations.
Agriculturisation of tech
I was listening to a piece covering the recent stock market crash of basically everything. Long time investor Masasan has said he will massively cut all investments into tech over the next 2 years. The thing that struck me was that VCs use the language of agriculture to describe how they invest in tech. They plant seeds, grow and harvest crops. It’s a little weird.
A couple of bits of context that may or may not be useful…
One thing I noticed from recent reading about European history is the central role the Ukraine played in the formation of Europe. Way way back, so far back that we don’t have many archeological records, there was a bunch of people called the proto-indo-europeans. These aren’t a real people that excisted, rather they are fictionalised hypothetical group that enable us to talk about what we think might have happened back then. Anyway this lot migrated from India and the east into what we now call Western Europe, and guess what, they passed through the Ukraine, which was at the time the gateway to Eurasia!
When you look at the map of the world it’s hard not to notice the vasteness of Russia. It’s enormous. But much of it is very cold. If you’ve ever lived in south east asia or the middle east, you’ll be aware of how warm it gets. If this global warming thing they say is happening really is happening, then it occurred to me that the one place displaced peoples are surely going to go is Russia, which will have warmed up by then. I’m not an expert but that seems kind of logical to me.
Slavery and bondage
Humanity has some rather large skeletons in it’s closets. The biggest of which is around our shared history of slavery faring nations. Slavery was once in almost every society. It was arguably one of the first globalised trades.
This week I discovered Dan Carlin’s Hardcore History Podcast. His shows are mind blowingly epic, but because of his style are very approachable. You probably want to consume his shows in multiple sittings, I listened to each one over two days, with several short walks between different locations.
The Celtic Holocaust episode gives a vivid account of the Celtic tribes that lived across Gaule, present day France, Spain, Italy, Belgium, Britain & Ireland, and Eastern Europe. Specifically their interactions and wars with the Roman Empire and the Germanic tribes of Northern Europe.
It was gruesome back then. After listening to the episode I feel like I have a much better understanding of how things are the way they are, the deep cultural tides that have shaped our past.
I also listened to the Human Resources episode on the transatlantic slave trade. It’s absolutely harrowing. And I’m not talking about the north west London suburb. Truly horrific things happened.
In particular I found the accounts of what happened in Haiti and Jamaica to be basically insanity. It makes the punk rock Offensive episode seem rather tame in comparison. This is the stuff our societies are trying to process in the current day. It’s really dark and difficult, but we’re making progress with art, music and cinema. Amazing.
If you can set some time aside to listen to these episodes, you will get a much better understanding of our shared past.
Another good episode of the Into the Impossible Podcast, this one an discussion with Eric Weinstein. Many subject covered including aliens, Fermi paradox, and Elon Musk buying Twitter among others.
One notion that I hadn’t heard before, and maybe I’m not understanding this correctly, is the idea that the United States constitution is a fiction, similar to how money is a fiction, but a useful fiction that we believe in because it makes the world a better place. I have no idea if this is true but anecdotally a middle aged american bloke I met at a bar in Cambodia a few years back kept going on about the US being ‘all a lie’, perhaps that’s what he was on about. Crazy world we live in.
We need more successful Culture Smash examples like Ska music. Culture seems to have somewhat stalled recently, but I feel like there is so much still to do, so much still to discover. We’ve got through the layers once, now we need to do it again, and again, and again, in many more places.
I got turned on to Dan Carlin’s Hardcore History from the Rest is History cross-over episode. Double parter, with light hearted history banter. There’s something magical about this encounter of history buffs with similar but differing backgrounds. I feel like this might be another yet very different example of a Culture Smash going through all the layers of the big sandwich. Podcasting is amazing.
Ok, here are the podcasts and links…
Interview with “After Steve” author Tripp Mickle (Vergecast Podcast) - All about Tim Cook and Johnny Ives, Portable Starkink, Xbox, Siri, Sonos, chromebook
We’re SPAs a big mistake? (JS Party Podcast)
Tuur Demerster on Online Cults (What Bitcoin Did Podcast) - The list of things that make you a cultist is so large that most of the podcasters I listen to are cult leaders based on this, however it’s an interesting and difficult conversation and worth listening to nonetheless
Chris Mason - Space Travel, colonisation and long term survival in space Ep #283 (Lex Fridman Podcast)
History’s Biggest Questions with Dan Carlin Part 1 Ep #183 (The Rest is History Podcast)
History’s Biggest Questions with Dan Carlin Part 2 Ep #184 (The Rest is History Podcast)
The Celtic Holocaust (Hardcore History)
Human Resources (Hardcore History)
State of the Universe with Eric Weinstein (Into the Impossible Podcast)
Em Moore tells you what to listen to (April) Ep #591.5 (Punk News Podcast)
Offensive III - listeners choice Ep #169 (Punk Till I Die Podcast)
anonrig/url-js - Super fast spec-compliant URL state machine for Node.js
That’s all from me…
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Have a great weekend and a fantastic next week!