commercial expansion

If you were visiting a Mediterranean harbour anywhere fro the 11th to the 19th century, you would have heard a strange yet familiar language.

Se ti saber, ti responder. Se non saber, tazir, tazir. *

Understood from Valencia to Istanbul, from Tunis to Venice, this was the language of commerce and diplomacy and commonly used among European renegades and the captives of the Algerian pirates.

This language, Lingua Franca or Sabir, flourished in the 10th century and was based on Toscan Italian and Occitan. (Back then, Catalan was a dialect of Occitan, so count us in as well!). It incorporated words from Arabic, Greek, Amazigh and Turkish, and later from Portuguese, French and Spanish, too.

[Image: expansion of the Kingdom of Catalonia and Aragon (green), its Consulates of the Sea (dots), and commercial expansion (orange lines). It is not hard to see why Sabir had such influence of Catalan.]

In the 19th century, with the expansion of European colonialism in northern Africa, Sabir was replaced by the colonizer’s languages.

Nowadays, lingua franca is used to mean any language or dialect which is used to communicate by people who speak different languages (nowadays, mainly English). This term originates from the Mediterranean Lingua Franca.

Sabir left traces in present Algerian slang and Polari, and even in geographical names. It also appears in literary works and theatre plays like Molière’s Le Bourgeois gentilhomme and different tales by Cervantes.


A little voice-reel I put together from my work on the commercial Half-Life 2 add-on, ‘Prospekt’: ;)


On this day in music history: October 17, 1919 - RCA (the Radio Corporation of America) is founded in New York City. The company is the incorporation of several different organizations including the Marconi Wireless Company Of America, General Electric, the Westinghouse Electric Corporation, United Fruit Company and American Telephone & Telegraph (AT&T). RCA’s first general manager is David Sarnoff plays an instrumental role in the success and growth of the corporation. Among Sarnoff’s achievements are the establishment of the first major radio and television network, the National Broadcasting Corporation (NBC), the film production company RKO (Radio-Keith-Orpheum), and in 1929, RCA acquires the Victor Talking Machine Company (later known as RCA Victor). RCA makes a massive impact on the communications and entertainment industries over the next sixty years, playing a vital role in the expansion of commercial radio and in the development of the television and music industries. Sarnoff works for RCA until retiring from the company in 1970, one year before his death in 1971. RCA is eventually taken over by GE in 1986 with the music division being sold to Bertelsmann Music Group (BMG) (later consolidated into Sony Music Entertainment), and its electronics division is sold to the French based Thomson Consumer Electronics. General Electric maintains ownership of NBC until 2011, when it is purchased by Comcast (NBC Universal) who purchases the remaining interest of the company in 2013.

Naming differences from dominant configurations of modern Eurocentric categories of sex, gender, sexuality, embodiment, and identity in different cultures or contexts, assigning meaning or moral weight to such difference, and exploiting that difference according to the developmental logic of commercial and territorial expansion, of colonialism and capitalism, has been a central feature of Western societies for half a millenium.
—  Susan Stryker and Paisley Currah, Introduction to TSQ 1.1-2 (7-8)

Federalist Papers published in New York, Oct. 27, 1787 (Politico) [x]:

The first in a series of 85 essays by “Publius,” the combined pen name of Alexander Hamilton, James Madison and John Jay, appeared in the Independent Journal, a New York newspaper, on this day in 1787. Publius’ essays urged New Yorkers to support ratification of the U.S. Constitution, which had been approved by the Constitutional Convention in Philadelphia on Sept. 17.

Hamilton, who led off the series, wrote: “After an unequivocal experience of the inefficiency of the subsisting federal government, you are called upon to deliberate on a new Constitution for the United States of America. The subject speaks its own importance; comprehending in its consequences nothing less than the existence of the Union, the safety and welfare of the parts of which it is composed, the fate of an empire in many respects the most interesting in the world.”

The advocates of the newly drafted Constitution held that a central government was essential to ensure the commercial and geographic expansion of the fledgling nation. Only a strong, adequately funded national government, they argued, could effectively negotiate with foreign countries, ensure free and open trade among the states while provide for a stable currency.

The essays addressed widespread concerns that a national government would soon fuel an era of despotism. In responding to such fears, the essays argue that the Constitution, by distributing power broadly across three branches of government, underwrites the needed checks and balances to skirt such dangers.


The essays, although written primarily to muster support within a skeptical New York constituency, were picked up and reprinted by newspapers around the country. A bound edition of the essays, first published in 1788, played a key role in the campaign to win over New York and Virginia. In theory, the Constitution could have been ratified without the approval of those two populous states. In practice, however, the Founding Fathers knew that their approval would be crucial to the success of the new government.

So you want to be an Astronaut: America’s New Space Age

I took this panorama of NASA’s Kennedy Space Center last month. On the horizon across the water you can see several launch facilities. If you went there now, you might notice something new’s been added to the landscape:

(Image credit: Mike Killian)

This seeming mess is about to become America’s new crew access tower. This is a building designed to be the means of entry into a crewed spaceship. 

NASA hasn’t used one since the space shuttle program was cancelled. This specifically will be for Boeing’s CST-100 Starliner spacecraft.

In 2017 NASA may have up to two functioning spaceships again ~ that’s two different types of manned spaceships:

- Boeing’s Starliner which is designed to carry up to seven astronauts to orbit at a time

- SpaceX’s Dragon V2 which also can carry seven astronauts.

Soon after this NASA’s own Orion spacecraft will start launching in preparation for manned Mars missions (most likely to occur in the 2030′s).

Unrelated to NASA, American citizen’s will soon gain access to three other privately created spaceships:

- Virgin Galactic’s SpaceShipTwo

- XCOR’s Lynx spacecraft

- Blue Origin’s New Shepard

Let me paint a final picture now:

Apollo astronaut Buzz Aldrin just started a space institute in Florida with the sole purpose to research and develop methods to colonize Mars. They’re now offering business degrees for the “Commercial Enterprise of Space” (the mathematics level for this degree is only at the algebra level).

On that note, startup Planetary Resources has started sending spacecraft to space to prepare for a prospecting mission to mine asteroids. Estimates project that asteroid mining could be so profitable that the world’s first trillionaire may come from this sort of private space enterprise.

Given that rocket technology (thanks largely to SpaceX) is likely to become mostly reusable, the price to get to space stands to drop considerably. There will be a large expansion of commercial enterprise into space in the next decade.

What’s the point?

The dream job for many people, to be an astronaut, is probably about to become much more possible to accomplish. Already several companies have hired experienced pilots (often former NASA astronauts) to fly their spacecraft.

There aren’t many more NASA pilots to hire though and the new space age has hardly begun. 

If you’re a millennial you happen to exist at a time where, with the right education (STEM), you may have a better chance of becoming an astronaut than any other generation. Never has any country had six different types of spacecraft at its disposal - and until now it’s never been financially feasible to start a space-based business.

That’s changing fast and with it: you’ll see this in the “Employment”/“Careers” section of company webpages:

(Image credit: Screenshot of XCOR Aerospace’s career webpage)

“’When I started at Tate in 1989 a lot of art handlers were basically artists and art students who had a studio and wanted to earn a bit of money. I trained as an interior designer, got a diploma in graphic design and did an art foundation course at Chelsea College of Art. Now it’s a full-time recognised profession. Because of the expansion of commercial galleries you have people with engineering degrees and people from architectural backgrounds looking at art handling as a career. I didn’t expect I would be at Tate for 22 years! My plan was to learn as much as I could for two years and see if it could help my artistic practice. But it never feels like I’ve ‘seen it, done it’. For example Tate’s starting to acquire African and Asian art – that’s a whole new area to learn about. It’s the challenging environment, diversity and not knowing what’s coming next which drives me.’ – Mikei Hall @mikeihall Senior Art Handler, Tate Britain”  (Tate Britain)

Robert Rydell, All the World’s a Fair (1984)

Pithy two-sentence summary:

World’s Fairs and expositions, particularly their ethnological and anthropological exhibits, charted a course of American imperialism using racial science and wedding that “science” to notions of cultural “progress.” “Progress,” in turn, was measured by U.S. standards of industrial and technological development, and was glorified as a utopian ideal through the fairs themselves.

Pithy summary of my reading habits:

I only had to read three chapters. I will eventually go back and read the rest. I found a tidbit buried in here that I think is going to wind up being crucial to my dissertation, though, so YAY.