Selective History

Where I come from1, when the state of democracy and society is the matter in hand, people might still—though rarely—be heard invoking Mai 68. What I had never heard, however, is this fine thread of 20th century history echoing from Scandinavia:

How Swedes and Norwegians broke the power of the ‘1 percent’

I will let the piece speak for itself, and just add this remark:

In my mind, the Swedes and the Norwegians had always lived a [relatively] stable life, one of high societal standards, throughout the past century; there had never been major shifts, nor power struggles, such as the ones described; exaggerating this Mediterranean layman’s perspective, they had “always” been, as though by nature, members of a just and wealthy—by all measures, not just financially—civilization. I was naïf. But I was also the recipient, since my early school days, of a conveniently tailored history of the world.

And yet there’s profound value in this particular thread. Not just because one may extract hope from it, but because it shows how, repeatedly, aiming for anything less than a truly democratic2 society is a recipe for disaster.

  1. things are very bad in most of Europe, but the current Portuguese government gave its citizens front-row tickets to Let’s Destroy 40 Years of Democracy in a 4-Year Term. 
  2. in its etymological sense 

We can’t trust Uber

New York Times: We can’t trust Uber

Not just Uber, but all the usual suspects.

Somewhere in the next couple of decades, there will be a tipping point. Scientific breakthrough in distributed systems will have to top the unassailable power, efficiency and convenience of today’s huge central service providers and gatekeepers. Why? Because no amount of regulatory oversight can prevent centralized abuse of power; this article provides just one of countless examples.

That new wave of decentralization may come through home-scaled nodes; it may come through communal pools, similarly to the feudalism of early days Internet. Either way, it has to come and succeed.

Swing dancing as a language: why Swing dancing is for geeks

Presented as a four-minute flash talk at Automattic’s 2013 Grand Meetup in California.

I want to talk to you about a language that is likely little known to many of you, which is dancing. Indeed, I dance something called the Lindy Hop. Probably the most iconic of Swing dances, reminiscent of the Thirties and such lively venues as the Savoy in New York City’s Harlem, Lindy is a fast-paced, spectacular and fun dance.

Lindy Hop

The Lindy Hop is powered by Swing music. Swing music takes roots in Jazz and is a very well structured kind of music: it gives you 8-count bars, usually 4-bar phrases, and you have progressions such as Blues or Dixieland Jazz progressions. This all means that it has a sense of order and predictability.

Now, the fact that the structure is, at its core, minimal and immutable means that it gets out of your way, and this allows a lot of freedom for improvisation, for bending the rhythm, etc., for musicians and dancers alike. In fact, even if they don’t know the music, dancers can follow it just because of that very structure, and even mess around with it. Continue reading “Swing dancing as a language: why Swing dancing is for geeks”