Our good friend and collaborator Chris Frey has been promising to contribute to Buckslip for a while now – maybe now that he’s finally finished this epic essay for The Globe and Mail about every opportunity we held in our hands in the 1990s that we proceeded to squander, he’ll get around to it! Nostalgia is a hell of a drug, but however much of it Charli XCX has been huffing, it’s best not to forget that our present darkness wore a flannel shirt back when it was young.
It’s never very hard to find things to mock about what we once believed or enjoyed, even in the not-so-distant past. What’s uniquely striking about the nineties is just how deep our delusions went, how preposterously confident we were in our suppositions, jettisoning much of the history that the 20th century had taught us.
Rather, the eternal rightness of market economics, the nation-state’s declining relevance, the end of battles over ideology and the unipolar American moment – all were accepted as faits accomplis by much of the political and media class, as though it were the new permanent state of things.
Instead, two decades later, the liberal-democratic ideal appears more fragile and fractured than most of us imagined, even billionaires are questioning the viability of market capitalism and much of the 20th century’s baggage is washing back ashore. Since [Tony] Judt’s death in 2010, his appraisal of the nineties only appears ruinously more so. Everything that seemed possibly bright and good about the decade may have just been a mirage.
Fun paper from the National Academy of Sciences on why even the most cutting edge of contemporary science could do well to learn from philosophy.
In The New Yorker, Rachel Riederer picks up on our theme of last week (and always) of the mental health costs of environmental despair. Folks, keep your guts healthy and your friends close, it’s a long way down from here.
The Baffler turns its eye to Toronto’s Sidewalk Labs mess with a surprisingly dry (for a Baffler salvo) but useful, comprehensively reported overview by John Lorinc of pretty much everything we know to date about our home’s desire to be a petri dish for Alphabet’s smart city experiment. Lorinc straightforwardly articulates the diverse catalogues of fears and unease without devolving into shouting or Luddism, making this in a much more useful piece than most for those far from the shoreline of Lake Ontario.
Related, and wild: none of us know we use it, but apparently Foursquare is still the mayor of us all. Meanwhile, FastCo survey the vast web of data brokers who already have a piece of you.
“Things can get better if we want them to — through regulatory oversight and political pressure. That said, I also don’t believe in being a sucker.” Zeynep Tufekci tears into the details of Zuck’s “pivot” of the creaky old ship to what he would like us to believe is a privacy-first model. Meanwhile, at Nieman Lab, Laura Hazard Owen asks the reasonable question of, if Facebook does genuinely transform as promised, where will all the toxic bullshit go? It’s got to go somewhere, that’s just physics. (Of course, there’s still plenty of room for it on the film review boards.)
While we wring hands, the latest Infinite Dial report from Edison Research (always worth keeping an eye on to track the reality of the podcast industry hype against the real world where people still listen to CDs in their cars) shows a drop of 15 million Facebook users in the US this year, and a strong demographic shift into the 55+ market that will surprise exactly none of you. See y’all on TikTok and Peach, we guess?
Life for the Uighur in Xinjiang has been horrific for a long time, of course, and it has certainly never been simple. This story from the South China Morning Post about the time a century back when the region briefly appointed an English pickle king, is just weirdo lost history reading at its best.
“One of the significant battles we face at the moment is a war between music from nowhere, and music from somewhere. Music designed for instantaneous engagement, and instantaneous dismissal, and music that communicates with an archive.” In a long but fascinating lecture transcript, Mat Dryhurst picks up on themes from Liz Pelly’s takedowns of Spotify playlist culture that we’ve linked to here in the past. Where it winds to, in the end, is exploring something we tend to think about a lot right here: what does independent culture look like in the near future, and rather than fetishise what we lost, how do we shape that in a manner appropriate for the realities we face?
Maybe Spotify should flip the script and refer to its recommendation algorithm as an Artist. It could curate festival line-ups with soon-to-be stars, plug into beat-making software to provide dynamic suggestions for optimizing hit potential, and maybe even lay down a verse. This is AICAN’s model for using the AI to capture every dimension of value in the frothy commercial Art World.
Milestones, eh? Thanks, you!