A weekly selection of audio from The Browser

What Is Ong’s Hat?

The Incunabula Papers | Decoder Ring

Ong’s Hat is an early internet-driven conspiracy theory named after a ghost town in New Jersey. It is said to have begun as an 1980s experiment into how easily a story could be spread online, and eventually expanded to encompass elements of physics, speculative science, mysticism, radical politics and inter-dimensional travel. Slate TV critic Willa Paskin investigates, interviewing obsessives and participants to create a compelling version of a very strange story (53m19s)


The Sonic Landscape Of Video Games

Xbox Startup Sound | Twenty Thousand Hertz

Podcast about the world’s most “recognisable and interesting sounds”, and the people who design and make them. This episode scrutinises the sound emitted by an Xbox video-gaming console when it boots up — a swhooshing rush initially intended to keep gamers entertained while the machine warmed up, which morphed into the audio equivalent of a logo and became an intrinsic part of the Xbox’s appeal to fans (24m38s)


How To Win Your Favourite Game Show

Fastest Fingers First | The Modern Mann

Jovial, fast-paced — and PG-13 — magazine podcast with various segments touching on various topics in music, politics, campaigns, and lifestyle. Highlight of this edition is a section on TV game shows and the people obsessed with appearing on them (skip to it here, at 15:19). Veterans of Pointless, Eggheads, Countdown, Mastermind, The Chase and plenty of others share insider knowledge about tactics, psychology and the constant lure of the next perfect score (67m22s)


The Limits Of Philosophy

About Time | Guardian Audio Long Reads

Audio version of a feature article written by the philosopher Julian Baggini, arguing that we should reach beyond the Western philosophical canon to discover new and sometimes better ways of thinking about life and the world. He shows how conceptions of time, notably, differ across cultures and traditions: time is linear in Western thought, cyclical in many other cultures. The audio format is perfect for avoiding distractions and focusing on the argument (23m26s)


So Foul And Fair A Day

Sleep No More | Almost Tangible: Macbeth

First part of an audio adaptation of Shakespeare’s Macbeth, recorded on location in Scotland at Glamis Castle with a full cast. Worth putting on a decent pair of headphones, because this has been recorded in astonishingly high-quality, bi-aural sound which distributes the soundscape and dialogue spatially around the listener; it feels at all times as though you are immersed in the action, hearing the battle unfold around you and the witches whispering in your ear (35m20s)


Audio Editor: Caroline Crampton
CEO: Uri Bram (uri@thebrowser.com)

Psychology, Spelunking, Morals, Sheriffs, Tolkiens, Lions, Verdi

Evolutionary Psychopathology

Scott Alexander | Slate Star Codex | 3rd December 2018

“Evolutionary psychology is famous for having lots of stories that make sense but are hard to test. Psychiatry is famous for having mountains of experimental data but no idea what’s going on. Maybe if you added them together, they might make one healthy scientific field? Enter Evolutionary Psychopathology: A Unified Approach, by psychology professor Marco del Giudice. It starts by presenting the theory of ‘life history strategies’. Then it uses the theory to shed new light on psychiatric conditions. Read this book at your own risk; its ideas will start creeping into everything you think” (5,302 words)


Miracle At Tham Luang

Sean Flynn | GQ | 3rd December 2018

Well-crafted account of the Thai cave rescue which held the world’s attention earlier this year. A teenage football team and their coach are trapped by flash floods while exploring deep inside a cave system. They survive mainly by keeping calm and conserving energy until divers can organise their rescue 18 days later. “Coach Ek had been a practising monk for ten years, during which, like most monks, he’d learned how to meditate. He taught the boys to breathe slowly and purposefully, to clear their minds, to remove themselves mentally and emotionally from a muddy slope” (5,200 words)


Matters Of Life And Death

Rowan Williams and John Gray | New Statesman | 28th November 2018

A cleric and a philosopher discuss amicably the decline of Christianity, the origins of virtue, liberalism, eugenics, and the quest for eternal life. “Most people who support eugenic engineering have a very simple view about who the good people are: people like themselves, but more so. If only the world was filled with people all like me, but even more like me than I am! No Gypsies, no poets, no one disabled. Everyone would be somewhat thinner, I suppose. We’d all live a bit longer, we’d all be more virtuous. My god! It’s not the kind of world that I would want to live in” (4,500 words)


Two Faces Of Lummie Jenkins

Alexandra Marvar | Topic | November 10th 2018

Older white residents of Wilcox County, Alabama, remember Lummie Jenkins as a gentle giant of a man, universally admired, who served eight consecutive terms as county sheriff from 1939 until 1971. Older black residents remember his reign somewhat differently. “Even if they could overcome the fear of death and register to vote, black residents of Wilcox confronted the near-certainty that their job and their homes were at risk if they did so As of January 1965, registration of eligible African American voters in Wilcox was 0 percent, while white registration was at 113 percent” (5,200 words)


The Steward Of Middle Earth

Hannah Long | Weekly Standard | 24th November 2018

In praise of Christopher Tolkien, son of J.R.R. Tolkien, and the 40 years he spent organising and editing his father’s notes, drafts and manuscripts into publishable books, beginning with The Silmarillion in 1977. The Fall Of Gondolin, published this year, is the 25th posthumous book to emerge from the Tolkien archive — and the last. “At the age of 94, Christopher Tolkien has laid down his editor’s pen, having completed a great labor of quiet, scholastic commitment to his father’s vision. Without Christopher, we could never have beheld the sheer scope and wonder of his father’s achievement” (3,100 words)


Video: A Lion Attacked By Hyenas. Awe-inspiring, tension-packed wildlife documentary clip from the BBC. David Attenborough narrates (3m 33s)

Audio: La Traviata | Aria Code. New podcast from Metropolitan Opera, analysing great arias. In this episode, Rhiannon Giddens and guests discuss ‘Pretty Woman’ from La Traviata (33m 10s)

Afterthought:
“I don’t believe anything, but I have many suspicions”
― Robert Anton Wilson


Editor’s note: I will be in New York early next week, with free time mainly on Monday December 10th. I always enjoy talking with Browser subscribers. Please email me — robert@thebrowser.com — if you would like to meet. Robert Cottrell

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