Brewers have long appreciated the value of hops from the Pacific northwest, but it was Cascade, a variety practically synonymous with craft brewing, that made the area more generally famous among beer drinkers. Cascade was named for the Cascade Range, which runs down the west coast of North America. The home of the Cascade hop is the Willamette valley, roughly halfway between the mountains and the coast. Cascade was released in 1972, but the history of hops in the Willamette valley goes back to the 1830s. The industry has seen more than its fair share of ups and downs, all examined by historian Peter Kopp in his book Hoptopia.
The whole question of changing tastes in beer, and how that affects the fortunes of different hops, is fascinating. If you’ve been a listener forever, you may remember a very early Eat This Podcast, about the rediscovery of an English hop known prosaically as OZ97a. Deemed too hoppy and abandoned when first tried, the vogue for craft beers resurrected its fortunes. It’s a fun story, though I say so myself.
Cover photo is Ezra Meeker, the early grower of hops in the Willamette valley who pioneered the global marketing of Oregon hops. The booming hop business made him the territory’s first millionnaire, and perhaps also its biggest bust. Hop King: Ezra Meeker’s Boom Years chronicles that part of his long, rich life.
I had a roommate in college from the Czech Republic who fondly remembered spending time on hops farms picking what he called the county’s “green gold”. It’s interesting to think about the economic and cultural differences and norms built up around such a product. I hadn’t known that the Pacific Northwest figured so prominently in production and find it amazing that the economic timing for the industry was so fortuitous.
In the early 1960s, the Pentagon set up a top-secret research project in an old villa in downtown Saigon. The task? To interview captured North Vietnamese soldiers and guerrillas in order to measure their morale: Was the relentless U.S. bombing pushing them to the brink of capitulation?
Mai Elliott, working in the RAND villa on Rue Pasteur. The windows are taped to prevent the glass from shattering in case of an explosion from a mortar round.
Saigon, 1965 is the story of three people who got caught up in that effort: a young Vietnamese woman, a refugee from Nazi Germany, and a brilliant Russian émigré. All saw the same things. All reached different conclusions. The Pentagon effort, run by the Rand Corporation, was one of the most ambitious studies of enemy combatants ever conducted—and no one could agree on what it meant.
VIETNAMESE TRANSLATION COURTESY OF RONNY CHIENG
"My father-in-law was a government scholar and later government official in South Vietnam during the Vietnam war. After listening to this compelling and well crafted episode of Revisionist History, I knew he too would find this perspective on the war fascinating. So I set about to produce a Vietnamese translation of the episode so he could fully understand all the nuances of the story in his native language. Thankfully I found the extremely capable professional translator Miss Died Ngoc Bui who not only created the written translation, but also went out of her way to create the audio translation below. I hope all Vietnamese speakers, including the elderly Vietnamese diaspora who lived through the events described in the story can listen to this episode and get as much out of it as I did."
- Ronny Chieng
The American RAND staff and Vietnamese interviewers on the front porch of the villa on Rue Pasteur. Courtesy of Hanh Easterbrook.
A disclosure, in the fall of 2015, I was named to the Board of Directors of the RAND Corporation—the subject of this episode. It’s not a paid position (RAND is a non-profit). And I did the bulk of my reporting for this episode before taking the position. But you should know, that when I say that Rand is a incredibly fascinating place, I’m biased. And if you were on the RAND board, I daresay you’d think the same thing.
Some really great history and analysis here. It reminds me I need to go back the Vietnam doc on PBS.
In the late 19th, a painting by a virtually unknown artist took England by storm: The Roll Call but after that brilliant first effort, the artist all but disappeared. Why?
The Lady Vanishes explores the world of art and politics to examines the strange phenomenon of the “token”—the outsider whose success serves not to alleviate discrimination but perpetuate it. If a country elects a female president, does that mean the door is now open for all women to follow? Or does that simply give the status quo the justification to close the door again?
I can tell that I’m going to love this series already. Strong and interesting theses melded with some great stories.
What does it mean to be the first of something? Does it improve things for those who come (or don’t) after?
Revisionist History is Malcolm Gladwell's journey through the overlooked and the misunderstood. Every episode re-examines something from the past—an event, a person, an idea, even a song—and asks whether we got it right the first time. From Panoply Media. Because sometimes the past deserves a second chance.
Recorded live Saturday, May 13, 2017. The Gang takes nothing off the table as Doc describes a near future of personal APIs and CustomerTech.
Keith outlines an excellent thesis about media moving from “one to many” to increasingly becoming “one to one”. It points out the issue for areas like journalism, which can become so individualized, and democracy which often rely on being able to see the messages that are given out to the masses being consistent. One of the issues with Facebook and the Cambridge Analytica problem is that many people were getting algrorithmic customized messages (true or not) that had the ability to nudge them in certain directions. This creates a lot more control on the part of major corporations which would have been far less likely when broadcasting the exact same message to millions. In the latter case, the message for the masses can be discussed, analyzed, picked apart, and dealt with because it is known. In the former case, no one knows what the message was except for the person who received it and it’s far less likely that they analyzed and discussed it in the same way that it would have been previously.
In the last portion of the show, Doc leads with some discussion about identity and privacy from the buyer’s perspective. Companies selling widgets don’t necessarily need to collect massive amounts of data about us to sell widgets. It’s the seller’s perspective and the over-reliance on advertising which has created the capitalism surveillance state we’re sadly living within now.
In the closing minutes of the show Steve re-iterated that the show was a podcast, but that it’s now all about streaming and as such, there is no longer an audio podcast version of the show. I’ll have something to say about this shortly for those looking for alternatives, because this just drives me crazy…
The Daily is the New York Times’ daily news podcast, hosted by Michael Barbaro. In this special edition of Song Exploder, composers Jim Brunberg & Ben Landsverk (aka Wonderly) break down how they composed the show’s theme song. You can listen on the New York Times website at nytimes.com/dailysong, or below:
A fantastic little podcast breaking down music. I always wish I knew more about music and structure and have some real appreciation for analysis like this. I’m considering subscribing to the rest of their content. Interestingly this looks like the same host as The West Wing Weekly. I suspect this may be how I came across it originally.
NPR's Ailsa Chang speaks with Sandy Parakilas, who worked as an operations manager on the platform team at Facebook in 2011 and 2012. In the wake of the Cambridge Analytica scandal, Parakilas says Facebook cannot be trusted to regulate itself.
A bit “I-told-you-so” without any indication of how hard he may have fought for better handling of the data, but there were certainly others outside the company decrying their practices at the time.
Also check out my On This Day page and my Subscribe page, which includes my daily email syndication of my website activity.
There’s a lot going on here and a lot to unpack for such a short episode. This presents an outline at best of what I’m sure was 10 or more hours of work. One day soon, I hope, we’ll have some better automated tools for exporting data from Facebook and doing something actually useful with it.
How technology can create, and can break, our filter bubbles.
We’ve long heard that the ways the web is tailored for each user—how we search, what we’re shown, who we read and follow— reinforces walls between us. Veronica Belmont investigates how social media can create, and can break, our filter bubbles. Megan Phelps-Roper discusses the Westboro Baptist Church, and the bubbles that form both on and offline. B.J. May talks about the bubbles he encountered every day, in his Twitter feed, and tells us how he broke free. Rasmus Nielsen suggests social media isn’t the filter culprit we think it is. And, within the context of a divided America, DeRay McKesson argues that sometimes bubbles are what hold us together.
I wasn’t able to attend the original presentation, but I think it’s even more valuable to listen to it all alone rather than in what was assuredly a much larger crowd. There is a wonderful presence in this brief history of the internet, made all the more intriguing by Jeremy’s performance as if it were poetry about technology. I find that he’s even managed to give it an interesting structured format, which, in many senses, mirrors the web itself.
I hope that if you’re starting your adventure on the web, that you manage to find this as one of the first links that starts you off on your journey. It’s a great place to start.
Refugees selling the food of their homeland to get a start in a new life is, by now, a cliché. Khaled (in the photo) joined their ranks a year ago. But cliché or not, selling food is an important way to give people work to do, wages, and hope. If it’s happening on your doorstep, which it is, and the food is good, which it is, what’s a hungry podcaster to do? Go there, obviously, and report back. Which is why, a couple of weeks ago, I found myself, microphone in hand, waiting patiently in line for a falafel wrap.
Truth be told, there aren’t that many Syrian refugees in Italy. The most recent official statistics put the total at around 5000 with a little over 600 in Rome. Hummustown is helping a few of them.
Mark Zuckerberg comes out of his Congressional testimony unscathed. China will dominate AI in the coming decade. HomePods are not selling like HotCakes. Apple leaks leakers leaking leaks. Waymo wants to test truly driverless cars in California.