Bookmarked 1991 saw the music industry turned upside down, and 30 years later, its echoes remain by Matt Neal (ABC News)

In the music industry in the ’80s, there were two worlds of music — the mainstream and the alternative. Then a new decade dawned, the worlds collided and music changed forever.

Matt Neal reflects on the impact of 1991 in music and how it brought the two worlds of together. Beginning with bands like REM, Jane’s Addiction, Metallica and Faith No More, alternative artists were starting to show up on the charts. It was Nirvana and the grunge movement which totally changed things:

If the likes of Metallica, Faith No More, and Pixies had prised the door open, Nirvana kicked it off its hinges.

Neal explained how this paved the way in Australia for acts like SIlverchair and You Am I.

Another approach is suggested by Matthew Ball and the development of SoundScan, a computerized sales database:

Until 1991, Billboard charts weren’t based on actual unit sales or radio play. Instead, it was assembled using (white) retail clerk estimates of what was selling best and what (white) DJs considered to be “hottest” each week. According to The Atlantic, both groups had reasons to lie. For example, labels would pressure radio stations to favour “hand-picked hits” if they wanted to keep receiving the newest single on time (stations sometimes received bribes to play specific tracks, too). Meanwhile, labels would force inventory on their retailers, who would then overreport sales to convince music fans to buy excess inventory.

Naturally, those who ran the music industry saw little need to overhaul how it worked. And thus while the book and film industries had shifted to computerized sales databases in the 1980s, not one of the top six record distributors signed onto SoundScan before its release in June 1991. But this resistance didn’t stop N.W.A.’s N***az4life from debuting #2 on the Billboard Top 100 the very next month under SoundScan. This was the highest charting performance in rap history – and happened without any radio airplay, music video airings on MTV, or a concert tour. The failings of the old honour system were further demonstrated by the fact that N.W.A. debuted at only #21 on Billboard’s R&B chart, which wasn’t yet on SoundScan. Somehow it was possible that N***az4life was the second biggest album in the country by units purchased, but 21st in its own genre when it came to what was “selling” and “hottest.” One week after it’s release, the album hit #1 on the Billboard chart (displacing R.E.M) as hundreds of thousands flocked to the record store in search of the “surprise” hit.

In the following years, the R&B/hip hop genre achieved three other industry “firsts.” It saw the fastest rise from a non-top ten genre to Billboard’s most popular one, has been the most dominant #1 by share, and holds the longest run as #1 (note the chart below ends in 2010, but this reign persists through to date).

Bookmarked Trade war? China was buying goods from Australia long before 1788 by Gareth Hutchens (ABC News)

From the 1700s (at least), well before the colony of New South Wales was established in 1788, the Aboriginal people of northern Australia were trading trepang (sea cucumber) with fishermen from Makassar, a port-city on the island of Sulawesi (now Indonesia).

The “Macassan” fishermen would sail to Australia around December each year, with the north-west monsoonal winds.

They would spend months living on Australian beaches, collecting and processing the trepang, before returning home with their haul.

Their catch was destined for China.

“The north coast of Australia, southern China and Makassar were all connected by an international trading network that centred on trepang,” curator Alison Mercieca, of the National Museum of Australia, said in a 2008 lecture.

That trade network matured over centuries, and became a popular source of food for the Chinese market.

“Throughout the nineteenth century it would appear that a majority of trepang traded from Makassar was supplied by the fleets which sailed to Arnhem Land and perhaps even supplying about a quarter of the total Chinese market by the mid-nineteenth century,” she said.

Reflecting upon Australia’s current dependency on China for trade, Gareth Hutchens discusses the relationship that existed between the Aboriginal people of northern Australia, Makassar and China before the arrival of Europeans to Australia.
Bookmarked
In lieu of Ever Given’s temporary blocking of the Suez Canal, Matthew Gault talks about the last time it was blocked in the aftermath of the Six-Day War. From 1967 to 1975, in the aftermath of the Six-Day War, fourteen ships were stranded in the Great Bitter Lake. These ships, dubbed the “Yellow Fleet”, collected together to form their own micronation in which they shared resources, created their own postal and ran their own form of the Olympics.

Over the next eight years, a weird system developed. The companies that owned the ships were allowed to cycle crews through the ships, maintaining skeleton crews to keep them afloat, but weren’t allowed to sail the ships out of the canal. As time passed, the ships communicated with each other and grew into a community. They formed the Great Bitter Lake Association to administer to the needs of the crew.

Ironically, it was the Six-Day War that created the situation for the creation of mega-containter ships.

In regards to other links, ABC provide an explainer to the Suez Canal, CNN provide an interactive experience of travelling through the canal, while Garrett Dash Nelson allows you to place the Ever Given everywhere.

Bookmarked FROM MY TO ME (INTERFACECRITIQUE)

Don’t see making your own web page as a nostalgia, don’t participate in creating the netstalgia trend. What you make is a statement, an act of emancipation. You make it to continue a 25-year-old tradition of liberation.

To understand the history of the Web and the role of its users, it is important to acknowledge that people who built their homes, houses, cottages, places, realms, crypts, lairs, worlds, dimensions [Fig.1–13] were challenging the architecture and the protocols, protocols in a figurative not technical meaning. Users hijacked the first home page of the browser and developed this concept in another direction.6 A user building, moving in, taking control over a territory was never a plan. It was a subversive practice, even in 1995.

In an extract from “Turing Complete User. Resisting Alienation in Human-Computer-Interaction”, Olia Lialina traces a history of the people who challenged the architecture and protocols in the development of the web. He explains how this has evolved to web focused on graphic design.

There is no web design and web designers any more, there are graphic designers and developers again, front-end and back-end developers this time. For me as a net artist and new media design educator, this splitting of web designer into graphic designer and front-end developer is bitter, because it is the death of a very meaningful profession.

Lialina closes with a call to reclaim the web:

Don’t collaborate! Don’t post your texts where you are not allowed to turn it into hypertext.

Don’t post your pictures where you can’t link them to whatever you like. Don’t use content management systems that turn your GIFs into JPEGs. Don’t use hashtags, don’t accept algorithmic timelines. In short, make a web page and link to others who still have one.

Leaving monopolists and/or using alternatives is easy to suggest. And many of us made the first step – for example, created a page on neocities.org or on tilde.club, or even bought a superglue.it kit and hosted their home page at their actual home, supporting the Reclaim hosting initiative.

This reminds me of other histories of the web, such as Parimal Satyal’s small web, Eevee’s dive into the world of CSSCharlie Owen’s call to return to the beauty and weirdness found in the early web and Kicks Condor’s discussion of what we left in the old web.

“Reverend” in Known Issues with the Web Garden | bavatuesdays ()

Liked 100 Years Ago in Photos: A Look Back at 1921 by Alan Taylor (The Atlantic)

A century ago, Russia was enduring a terrible famine, the Irish Free State was created, U.S. President Warren Harding was inaugurated, the Tulsa Race Massacre took place in Oklahoma, a new machine called a “dishwasher” was introduced, New York’s Madison Square Garden was home to “the world’s largest indoor swimming pool,” and much more. Please take a moment to look back at some of the events and sights from around the world 100 years ago.

Replied to Nine Russian adventurers mysteriously froze to death—a new theory explains why (Ars Technica)

60 years later, new evidence points to a peculiar kind of avalanche as the culprit.

I am still left wondering who some of the people were missing their eyes and tongue?

The primary cause of death was hypothermia—temperatures would have been well below zero degrees Fahrenheit the night they fled—but two of the deceased were missing their eyes, and another her tongue.

Liked The Seductive Appeal of Urban Catastrophe by Annalee Newitz (theatlantic.com)

Perhaps the fear of becoming one of those “loser” civilizations helps explain the current anxieties about how the coronavirus pandemic is causing people to flee San Francisco. When our only models for urban transformation come from lost-city tales, it’s hard to wrap our heads around the idea that some people will leave, some will stay, and still others will work to make the city more livable for the next generation. Imagining an apocalypse against which a city is helpless may be psychologically easier than doing the hard work, over years or decades, to bring about slow but wrenching change. Nevertheless, urbanites must be prepared for a gradual, bumpy transformation—at least, if they hope to base their futures on lessons from history, rather than on myths inherited from colonizers, travel literature, and action movies.

Liked The bravery, tragedy, and mystery of Captain Smirnov’s secret diamond delivery by Mike Ladd (ABC News)

There’s gunfire in the distance as a famed Dutch pilot takes off in a desperate bid to reach Australia. He’s unaware that in the plane’s safe are millions of dollars worth of diamonds — most of which have never been found.

I love the closing statement of this WWII story:

After the war Palmer never really has to work again.

“He always said he loved to sit down and smoke, put his feet up for the rest of his life,” author and historian John Thompson-Gray says.

He buys a house in Broome, a blue Chevrolet, a boat and a business, and always has plenty of cash.

Bookmarked Ten Ways to Lose Your Literature by Ed Simon, Author at The Millions (themillions.com)

All literature is of a similar resistance against time, mortality, finitude, limitation. To write it to commit an act of faith, to pray that what words you’ve assembled shall last longer than you, and that they’ll hopefully be found by at least someone who shall be, however briefly, changed.

Ed Simon explores the world of lost literature. He breaks this down into ten ideas.

Literature as merely a fragment:

Literature as fragment, literature as rough draft, literature as the discarded. The history of writing is also the shadow history of the abandoned, a timeline of false-starts and of aborted attempts.

Lost literature as ‘wish fufillment’:

When it comes to such forgotten, hidden, and destroyed texts, Kelly argues that a “lost book is susceptible to a degree of wish fulfillment. The lost book… becomes infinitely more alluring simply because it can be perfect only in the imagination.” Hidden words have a literary sublimity because they are hidden; their lacunae functions as theme.

Literature as cultural memory:

In A Universal History of the Destruction of Books: From Ancient Sumer to Modern-day Iraq by Fernando Baez argues that “books are not destroyed as physical objects but as links to memory… There is no identity without memory. If we do not remember what we are, we don’t know what we are.”

Literature and the hope of being found:

There is no discussing lost literature without consideration of that which is found. Just as all literature is haunted by the potential of oblivion, so all lost books are animated by the redemptive hope of their rediscovery.

Literature and the subline:

Because the gulf between printed word and the meanings which animate them is a medium for sublimity, the entirety of all that which we don’t know and can never read as infinite as the universe itself.

Literature and the rhizomatic revision:

A final copy is the result of writing, but is not writing itself. It rather represents the aftermath of a struggle between the author and the word, merely the final iteration of something massive, and copious, and large spreading its tendrils unseen backwards into a realm of lost literature. Revision is a rhizomatic thing, each one of the branches of potential writing hidden and holding aloft the tiny plant. A final draft is the corpse left over after the life that is writing has ended.

Literature and the limits of the inert:

A script is an inert thing, while the play is the thing forever marked by its own impermanence.

Literature, fairy tales and anonymous authors:

So many variations, so many lost stories, whispered only to infants in swaddling clothe over millennia. We can never know what exactly the earliest version of those stories was like; we’ll never know the names of those who composed them.

Literature, fairy tales and anonymous authors:

So many variations, so many lost stories, whispered only to infants in swaddling clothe over millennia. We can never know what exactly the earliest version of those stories was like; we’ll never know the names of those who composed them.

Literature and the tangent of translation:

Translation is feeling about in a darkened room and being able to discern the outline of the door, but it doesn’t give one the ability to step through into the other room (only perhaps to hear some muffled conversation with an ear pressed against the wall).

When a tongue has genuinely stopped moving there is an insurmountable difference separating us from its literature

Literature as a belief in the future:

Literature is a vote of confidence in the future, in the present, in the past – it’s a vote of confidence in other people. The Future Library Project is in keeping with those theorists who are concerned with “deep time,” with the profoundly long view and arc of human history as it rushes away from us.

There are so many interesting ideas in this piece about the purpose and place of literature. It is one of those pieces to come back to and dig into further and possibly beyond just ‘literature’. For example, the idea of the rhizomatic revision has me thinking about music and the act of remixing and remastering.

“Clive Thompson | @pomeranian99
in Clive Thompson on Twitter: “In @The_Millions, @WithEdSimon alerts me to two fascinating books which I’ve just ordered: https://t.co/2QJ5EsNqzm One is “The Book of Lost Books”, a study of literature that has been lost to time. The idea that Euripides wrote 72 more plays than we have is a gut punch (1/2) https://t.co/OLUe0cnEut” / Twitter ()

Bookmarked Les Everett’s epic quest to uncover Australia’s ‘lost’ cricket pitches by Toby Hussey (ABC News)

Many of the long-forgotten pitches Les Everett finds are overgrown, and it’s been decades since they last heard the echo of willow striking leather, but he says they all have a story to tell.

It is fascinating to think that there are so many old cricket pitches out there, lost in time.
Bookmarked The American Abyss – A historian of fascism and political atrocity on Trump, the mob and what comes next. by Timothy Snyder (nytimes.com)

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 (theatlantic.com)

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 https://daily.jstor.org/how-technology-got-its-modern-meaning/ (daily.jstor.org)

“[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.