How Bing Crosby Made Silicon Valley Possible: The singer who popularized “White Christmas” was also a visionary tech innovator (TED GIOIA, DEC 21, 2023, Honest Broker)

Just a decade later, Crosby launched another technology revolution in entertainment. And this time he helped create Silicon Valley.

I’ve written elsewhere about the strange ways in which music made Silicon Valley possible. But Crosby’s role in the rise of Ampex is the most fascinating chapter in this story. Ampex revolutionized data storage—the cornerstone of the tech revolution—but only because a famous jazz singer felt overworked, and needed a way of pre-recording radio shows that sounded as good as live broadcasts.

That singer was Bing Crosby.

Crosby felt exhausted in the mid-1940s. And who could blame him?

Bing was the most popular musician in the world—and it wasn’t just “White Christmas,” which sold more records than any other song in history. He eventually recorded more than 1,600 songs, and more than forty of them reached the top of the chart. But he was just as popular in movies, winning the Oscar for Best Actor in 1944, and getting nominated again in 1945. During that same period, Crosby was tireless in touring and entertaining troops overseas.

But it was his radio show that proved to be too much.

Because of the time difference, Crosby had to do two different live broadcasts—and the network refused his proposal that they pre-record the later West Coast show on 16-inch transcription disks, basically a very large phonograph record. NBC had good reason for this. The sound quality on the disk recordings of that day were noticeably inferior. And the disks were cumbersome to edit—negating one of the major advantages of pre-recorded shows.

Crosby needed better recording technology. And in 1947, a stranger from Northern California made the trek to Hollywood with a big box that not only solved Bing’s dilemma, but set the wheels in motion for a whole host of later innovations.


Why conservatism is rational (Rhianwen Daniel, 12/27/23, The Critic)

Conservatism is typically contrasted with progressivism, where progressivism conjures up thoughts of improvement and moving forward with the times. Who in their right mind would oppose this? Hence the inference that if you’re not progressive, you must be regressive or reactionary.

Such an inference, however, rests on an equivocation whereby two senses of the term progressivism are fudged. The specific progressivism which conservatives have traditionally been sceptical of is the Enlightenment concept that society is perfectible via rational intervention. Such social, cultural and economic progress will cumulatively unfold with the succession of time.

This ideology, in its various guises, ranges from the political thought of Voltaire, Hegel and Marx, the Progressive Era, through to the post-civil rights proliferation of social justice and welfare reforms. Although it clearly differs from the everyday sense of the term, equivocating between both senses all too easily yields the conclusion that conservatism opposes progress without qualification.

The fact, however, is that conservatism concerns the optimal rate of change, as opposed to resisting it altogether. Indeed, conservatives have always maintained that change is necessary to conserving institutions in the first place. As Burke puts it, “a state without the means of some change is without the means for its conservation.”


Israel’s choices — not Hamas — are an existential threat to the Jewish state: The true threat to Israel’s survival hides not in the shadows, but in the mirror (Jerome Karabel, December 20, 2023, The Forward)

The true threat to Israel’s survival hides not in the shadows, but in the mirror. Against the backdrop of its violent occupation of the West Bank and obstruction of Palestinian statehood, Israel’s apparent disregard for Palestinian lives in the current Gaza campaign risks not only global condemnation, but the fate of South Africa during apartheid: economic, political and cultural isolation — and, ultimately, collapse.


In the music of Bob Marley, a deep connection to Judaism (Benjamin Ivry, May 19, 2021, The Forward)

As a Rastafarian, an adherent of an Abrahamic religion and social movement that developed in Jamaica during the 1930s, Marley was a student of the second book of the Torah, among other Jewish sacred writings. His 1977 song “Exodus” demonstrated as much, voicing the hope that Rastafarians, downtrodden socially and economically in Jamaica, would be led to freedom, as Moses led the Israelites out of Egypt.

Marley’s uplifting words, “Open your eyes and look within/ Are you satisfied with the life you’re living?/ We know where we’re going/We know where we’re from/We’re leaving Babylon/ We’re going to our Father’s land” stirred audiences to empathize with a quest for a new spiritual homeland.

“Exodus” was written at a particularly fraught moment of Marley’s life, after he had survived an assassination attempt in Jamaica in 1976.

An earlier song, “Iron Lion Zion,” again referred to the biblical Promised Land in the context of Rastafarian belief that their restored homeland of liberation and salvation would be Ethiopia.

Marley’s “Redemption Song,” written circa 1979, refers to being sold into bondage: “But my hand was made strong/ By the hand of the Almighty” which is seen as a direct allusion to Genesis 49:24: “…the arms of his hands were made strong by the hands of the mighty God of Jacob.”

His musical transmutations of Jewish history followed charismatically in the footsteps of other Rastafarian-inspired musicians such as Count Ossie, a Jamaican drummer and bandleader; or Desmond Dekker’s 1969 hit “Poor me Israelites,” later retitled simply “Israelites” to refer to the Rastafarian Movement’s links to the Twelve Tribes of Israel.

Bemoaning family separations caused by poverty, Dekker’s song advised Jamaican Rastafarians not to accept social marginalization as an excuse for taking to a life of crime.

In the same year, The Melodians, a Jamaican group, sang a Rastafarian version of Psalm 137 under the title “Rivers of Babylon, a cover version of which by the Euro-Caribbean group Boney M became an international hit in 1978: “By the rivers of Babylon/ Where we sat down/ And there we wept/ When we remember Zion/ For the wicked carry us away captivity.”

So Marley’s creativity was part of an overarching cultural, social and spiritual identification between Rastafarianism, Reggae music and Judaism.


Going for a walk wasn’t really a thing 300 years ago – the Victorians turned it into a popular pastime (Lauren Nichola Colley, 12/27/23, The Conversation)

You might be surprised to hear that “going for a walk” wasn’t really a thing until the late 1700s.

The term “pedestrianism” may have Latin roots, but in the 1800s its first association would have been a sporting one. “Professional pedestrianism” or “race-walking” was fiercely competitive by the 1850s.

Tournaments in America took place over six days, with entrants walking the equivalent of 450 miles, taking naps in tents by the track and sipping champagne en route. The stringent “heel-to-toe rule” still in place states that “the advancing leg must be straightened from the moment of first contact with the ground.”

Walking as a leisure activity came about around the 1780s. Until this point walking had been an act of necessity, associated with poverty, vagrancy and even criminal intent. Many individuals would live and die never having seen beyond a few square miles of bleak cityscape and only slightly further for those in the country.

Along with the rural appreciation of the Lake poets – including William Wordsworth and Samuel Taylor Coleridge – at the turn of the century, famous walkers such as Charles Dickens brought the pastime of walking into vogue.