Bookmarked The American Abyss – A historian of fascism and political atrocity on Trump, the mob and what comes next. by Timothy Snyder (

Audio Recording by Audm

Timothy Snyder, the author of On Tyranny, places the current situation in time. He discusses the historical divide in 1877 and how back then it was actually the Democrats who were trying to suppress African-American voters.

Some things have changed since 1877, of course. Back then, it was the Republicans, or many of them, who supported racial equality; it was the Democrats, the party of the South, who wanted apartheid. It was the Democrats, back then, who called African-Americans’ votes fraudulent, and the Republicans who wanted them counted. This is now reversed. In the past half century, since the Civil Rights Act, Republicans have become a predominantly white party interested — as Trump openly declared — in keeping the number of voters, and particularly the number of Black voters, as low as possible. Yet the common thread remains. Watching white supremacists among the people storming the Capitol, it was easy to yield to the feeling that something pure had been violated. It might be better to see the episode as part of a long American argument about who deserves representation.

He then makes the comparison between the lie perpetuated by Trump and that perpetuated by Hitler.

The lie outlasts the liar. The idea that Germany lost the First World War in 1918 because of a Jewish “stab in the back” was 15 years old when Hitler came to power. How will Trump’s myth of victimhood function in American life 15 years from now? And to whose benefit?

Snyder considers what this might mean for the future, especially for 2024.

Trump’s coup attempt of 2020-21, like other failed coup attempts, is a warning for those who care about the rule of law and a lesson for those who do not. His pre-fascism revealed a possibility for American politics. For a coup to work in 2024, the breakers will require something that Trump never quite had: an angry minority, organized for nationwide violence, ready to add intimidation to an election. Four years of amplifying a big lie just might get them this. To claim that the other side stole an election is to promise to steal one yourself. It is also to claim that the other side deserves to be punished.

Ibram X. Kendi approaches the situation differently highlighting that such white terror is not new and to treat it so is to deny both the past and present.

Americans remember and accept the enfranchising of citizens and peaceful transfers of power as their history, while forgetting and denying the coup plots, the attempted coups, and the successful coups. White terror is as American as the Stars and Stripes. But when this is denied, it is no wonder that the events at the Capitol are read as shocking and un-American.

Bookmarked Denial Is the Heartbeat of America by Ibram X. Kendi (

We must stop the heartbeat of denial and revive America to the thumping beat of truth. The carnage has no chance of stopping until the denial stops. This is not who we are must become, in the aftermath of the attack on the U.S. Capitol: This is precisely who we are. And we are ashamed. And we are aggrieved at what we’ve done, at how we let this happen. But we will change. We will hold the perpetrators accountable. We will change policy and practices. We will radically root out this problem. It will be painful. But without pain there is no healing.

And in the end, what will make America true is the willingness of the American people to stare at their national face for the first time, to open the book of their history for the first time, and see themselves for themselves—all the political viciousness, all the political beauty—and finally right the wrongs, or spend the rest of the life of America trying.

Ibram X. Kendi suggests that to consider what happened on the 6th January as the death of democracy is to deny all the other injustices that have been lived out through history. He lists a number of past events, as well as Child Gambino’s This is America, and argues that, “This is not who we are must become, in the aftermath of the attack on the U.S. Capitol: This is precisely who we are.”

This is something that Keith Knight captures in the form of a cartoon:

The K Chronicles: Not Who We Are?

Liked (

“[T]echnology, as such, makes nothing happen,” Leo Marx stresses. Humans make things happen, but for nearly a century now, we’ve let “technology” take the credit and the blame. Technology has “been endowed with a thing-like autonomy and a seemingly magical power of historical agency. We’ve made it an all-purpose agent of change.” We now regularly “invest” technology with the power to initiate change, alter the course of events, make history itself.

Bookmarked Why Was Flash Doomed to Fail? Usability, Usability, Usability (Tedium: The Dull Side of the Internet.)

Pondering the demise of Adobe’s Flash through shifting approaches to digital creation these days—and why we may not have anything quite like it again.

Ernie Smith reflects on the death of Flash and rues the lose to creativity.

Developing a website nowadays is full of parameters. It needs to be flexible enough for different use cases and screen sizes, considering of accessibility and convention. And things like development stacks have to come up at the beginning of the conversation. It can feel like a lot of rules for people who want to simply create even before they put down their first brush stroke.
And that left a class of users, the pure creatives that found something appealing about Flash’s simplicity, behind.

Will Bedingfield also shares a similar sentiment:

It’s true—the Flash era web fell short in many areas where the modern web excels, not least in monetizing addiction and surveillance. The web’s messiness represented a kind of amateur autonomy. Flash never stood a chance.

Liked How an obscure British PC maker invented ARM and changed the world (Ars Technica)

As everyone with any urge to read this far likely knows, the 1980s were a very important time in the history of computing. IBM’s PC was released in 1981, setting the standard for personal computing for decades to come. The Apple Lisa in 1983 presaged the Mac and the whole revolution of the windows-icons-mouse graphical user interface that would dominate computing to come.

Acorn saw these developments happening and realized they would need something more powerful than the aging but reliable 6502 to power their future machines if they wanted to compete. Acorn had been experimenting with a lot of 16-bit CPUs: the 65816, the 16-bit variant of the 6502, the Motorola 68000 that powered the Apple Macintosh, and the comparatively rare National Semiconductor 32016.

None of these were really doing the job, though, and Acorn reached out to Intel to see about implementing the Intel 80286 CPUs into their new architecture.

Bookmarked Like Jazz, Bowling, and Old Hollywood Hairdos? Thank Insects. (Literary Hub)

Shellac is sold as a popular varnish for furniture and decks, it keeps the skins of citrus fruits and apples waterproof and shiny, it adds a glossy patina to candies, and it augments the drying properties of many types of nail polish, hair sprays, eyeliners, and mascaras. It appears on the ingredients lists of dentures and tooth fillings, and it is increasingly often used as a nontoxic preservative for cadavers.

Shellac is, quite literally, everywhere, from our hair and teeth to our fingernails and stomachs (even after death). Whether we are aware of it or not, we are all “in the groove,” moving to the rhythms of the lac bug’s life cycle.

In this excerpt from The Butterfly Effect: Insects and the Making of the Modern World, Edward D. Melillo unpacks the history associated with shellac.
Replied to The Eye of Providence: The symbol with a secret meaning? (

How has a seemingly straightforward image – an eye set within a triangle – become a lightning rod for conspiracy theorists? Matthew Wilson looks at the history of an ambiguous symbol.

I never realised that the Eye of Providence could be so complicated.
Replied to Could a Peasant defeat a Knight in Battle? by by (

In the Middle Ages wealth was closely associated with a military function. Either warriors were associated with lords as retainers or the lords were themselves fighters. In either case, these military men would have had better access to weapons, armor and training than peasants. They had the experience of battle and killing, and they could use all the advantages to be superior on the battlefield. If a knight came face-to-face with a peasant in battle, then the latter had the odds very much against them.

What I like about this response is that it depends on which peasant and knight we are talking about. I remember when I taught Medieval History a few years ago that we had an incursion which ended with the presenter donning some armour and taking on the students. It quickly highlighted the difference between the two.
Liked The Troubled Afterlife Of The Cranberries’ “Zombie”,The Troubled Afterlife Of The Cranberries’ “Zombie” (Stereogum)

For those who aren’t familiar with the Troubles, presenting a potted history is tricky. Like many political conflicts, incredibly painful questions of identity lie at its core. The Troubles usually refers to the decades between the 1960s and the 1990s, when violence broke out between Northern Ireland’s unionist/Protestant majority, who believed that Northern Ireland should remain part of the United Kingdom, and a growing nationalist/Catholic minority, who wanted to see Northern Ireland reunited with the Republic of Ireland. With the nationalist minority in Northern Ireland increasingly becoming victims of social and economic discrimination, tensions exploded between the two communities, resulting in decades of bloodshed, a violent army occupation, and complete political dysfunction. If you’re interested, there are several guides that will explain this much more effectively than I ever could.

Liked War in the time of Neanderthals: how our species battled for supremacy for over 100,000 years by Nicholas R. Longrich (

Even after primitive Homo sapiens broke out of Africa 200,000 years ago, it took over 150,000 years to conquer Neanderthal lands. In Israel and Greece, archaic Homo sapiens took ground only to fall back against Neanderthal counteroffensives, before a final offensive by modern Homo sapiens, starting 125,000 years ago, eliminated them.

This wasn’t a blitzkrieg, as one would expect if Neanderthals were either pacifists or inferior warriors, but a long war of attrition. Ultimately, we won. But this wasn’t because they were less inclined to fight. In the end, we likely just became better at war than they were.

Bookmarked Audio’s Opportunity and Who Will Capture It by Written By Matthew Ball (

In recent years, we’ve seen the rise of spatial audio, Apple AirPods, digital walkie talkies, audio-based meditation and mindfulness services like Headspace (I’m an investor), and social audio experiences like Discord and Clubhouse. And this is what makes audio such a great category in 2020 – it’s not just growing faster than it has in decades, it’s diversifying and changing faster too. The cause: technology

Matthew Ball unpacks the impact that technology has had on music and video. He suggests that audio is ripe for innovation.

Starting with music, Ball starts with the 45 RPM and the impact this had on the length of songs. Even though such constraints no longer exist, others take their place. Now days it is algorithms and the measurement of attention limiting the length of songs. Taking a different perspective, Ball then talks about the advent of the transistor and the advent of SoundScan, a computerized sales database. He explores the impact that external technology has on what is popular.

Sixty years later, the significance of the transistor radio is easy to forget, or to otherwise lump in with less disruptive 20th century audio inventions such as the 8-track or cassette deck. However, the device “was the technological spark that lit the fuse of teen culture in the 60s,” CBS wrote in 2014. “It enabled both public and private listening behaviours in a combination equaled by neither prior nor subsequent technologies. Public, because you could take it anywhere and share music with your friends in the schoolyard, on the beach, wherever, in an unprecedented fashion. Private, because you could listen through an earplug as you walked down the street, or sat in the back of the class, or lay in your bed at night, under the covers, so your parents wouldn’t know.”

Ball then takes a look at innovation in regards to video. The story starts with television and the limited spectrum available. Cable opened this up, but was limited by requirements to one provider per household. This was then expanded further through the introduction of video on-demand streaming services. This has made possible series (and the practice of binging):

Rich, plot driven series like Breaking Bad or Game of Thrones aren’t viable if the audience can’t catch most (if not all) original airings exactly when they start. Without the ability to catch up on a show mid-run, these series would never be able to attract new viewers and would decline in reach with every episode forever. The removal of commercials, meanwhile, meant that series no longer needed to be structured around ad breaks that occur every four to six minutes, or plotted so that scene would be exciting and/or funny enough to get a viewer to come back after a commercial. Similarly, a show could be any length.

These developments have also led to the rise of user-generated content.

All these changes leaves audio the next medium to ripe for improvement. One of the current limitations is RSS. As a technology, Ball explains that it does not provide details of listener or listening data (where the audience skipped, whether they completed a file, etc.) Associated with this, there is no potential for dynamic ad insertion or programmatic advertising and no interactivity. This is something that Spotify are focusing on, however this is outside of any standards.

The other area of focus for are virtual concerts. As with video and user-generated content, there is the possibility for people to be involved.

This is an interesting read. It helps me appreciate the tapes, boombox and headphones we had in the house growing up. It also helps make sense about where the world of audio and podcasts is at. I am left wondering if more data is what we need? I am concerned about where platforms like Spotify are taking this. It feels like on the one hand, there are those like Cory Doctorow and EFF arguing for interoperability, while on the other hand there are those trying to lock things down in proprietary platform. I guess time will tell. I am interested in the opportunity to participate with the music and what this might mean for the remix culture.

Bookmarked China’s War on Uighur Culture by Yasmeen Serhan ([object Object])
Yasmeen Serhan talks about Uighurs and the fear of cultural genocide. The piece gives the example of the Sephardic Jews and the way in which they were pushed out of Spain in the 15th century.

Toward the end of the 15th century, the Iberian Peninsula was home to one of the largest Jewish communities in the world. That is, until 1492, when Spain issued its Jewish population an ultimatum: to convert, leave, or be killed. As many as hundreds of thousands of expelled Sephardic Jews (deriving from the Hebrew word for Spain, Sepharad) sought exile in places such as Portugal (which not long after delivered a similarly stark demand), Italy, and the Netherlands. Others, like Naar’s ancestors, made their way to the Ottoman empire.

It makes me wonder how many other cultures are silenced that are not given voice?