Things we noticed while reading for The Browser

Migraine was first diagnosed in 200 AD by Galen, who called it hemicrania, “a pain affecting half the head”

Chinese crooks are cornering markets in pigs and pork by using drones to spread swine fever

Each year, about 15% of queries on Google have never been searched for before

The average American church sermon lasts for 37 minutes — but only 14 minutes in Catholic churches

Japan now has over 70,000 people who are more than 100 years old

The average human-body temperature is 97.5 degrees, not 98.6 degrees

The average new American home now has more bathrooms than occupants

A selection from recent editions of The Browser

Dognapping Of The Century

Olivia Rutigliano | Truly Adventurous | 7th January 2020

When a ring of thieves steals a poet’s dog, the theft seals a romance and changes literary history. “London was notorious for its dog-stealers, who operated as a collective to capture household pets for profit. The tragic practice was sometimes fatal for the stolen dogs. Elizabeth [Barrett] would later learn that she and her sister had been shadowed from the moment they left their house that morning, to Vere Street, where the thieves found their opportunity to grab the dog from beside the carriage’s wheel” (7,400 words)


Family Resemblance

Colin McGinn | 14th January 2019

Wittgenstein argued against hard divisions between categories of things. He proposed more pragmatic groups, those of “family resemblance”. His main example was: “Games form a family”. But where is the truth in that? “Games don’t have family resemblances in any significant sense. Football does not have the same nose or mouth or eyes or gait as rugby. Games are not people with various observable bodily traits, so they cannot be similar in the way family members can be” (1,500 words)


Russia, My Homeland

Howard Jacobson | Tablet | 15th January 2020

Memoir. “On the streets or in the underground Russians don’t look at you. They are, I have been told, a diffident but not a hostile people. Here, they smile at me—though again not boldly—as they take their seats. There isn’t a face I don’t know, if not from family photograph albums, then from my imaginings of what the Mashas and the Ivans of the Russian novels I love must have looked like. Here, I think, are people with whom, without drawing a breath, I’ll be able to talk Jewishness and literature” (2,200 words)


Bringing Up The Bodies

Doug Horner | Guardian | 16th January 2020

Best lede of the year so far: “Gene and Sandy Ralston are a married couple in their 70s, who also happen to be among North America’s leading experts at searching for the dead”. They use sonar equipment to pinpoint drowned bodies — 120 in the past twenty years. “By the time the Ralstons arrive, no one expects the missing person to be found alive. What Gene and Sandy offer is not the hope of rescue, but the solace of finality. They have spent years criss-crossing North America in the service of grief” (5,500 words)


Lawyer X

Evan Ratliff | California Sunday | 16th January 2020

Epic, unputdownable true-crime tale from Australia. The twist is revealed fairly early in the story, so there is no harm in teasing it here: The go-to criminal defence lawyer for Australia’s top gangsters is a police informer, and has been one right through her career. The good news is that she helped police put away dozens of murderers and drug traffickers while purporting to defend them. The bad news is that the gangsters are now walking free, their trials invalidated and their convictions overturned (12,400 words)


Video Of The Week: The Ballet That Incited A Riot | TED-ed. Iseult Gillespie narrates an animated account of the tumultuous premier of Igor Stravinsky’s ballet, Rite Of Spring (5m 01s)

Audio Bonus: Robert Cottrell | The Reader. First in a new series of podcasts from The Browser’s CEO, Uri Bram, who begins by talking to Robert about curating The Browser (19m 51s)

Book Of The Year:The Browser 2019. Very possibly the best book ever written by anybody on any subject at any time. An anthology of the past year’s Browser, in hard copy, now available from Amazon.

Bringing Up The Bodies

Doug Horner | Guardian | 16th January 2020

Best lede of the year so far: “Gene and Sandy Ralston are a married couple in their 70s, who also happen to be among North America’s leading experts at searching for the dead”. They use sonar equipment to pinpoint drowned bodies — 120 in the past twenty years. “By the time the Ralstons arrive, no one expects the missing person to be found alive. What Gene and Sandy offer is not the hope of rescue, but the solace of finality. They have spent years criss-crossing North America in the service of grief” (5,500 words)


The Birth Of Stars

Alain Chenu | Books And Ideas | 16th January 2020

A French appreciation of Anglo-Saxon celebrity culture, with close reference to the work of Sharon Marcus, who contends that modern celebrity culture is a staged drama, but one whose course is unpredictable, because it is determined by intrinsically unstable relations between public, media, and celebrities themselves. Interactions between the three camps fall into eight categories: Defiance, Sensation, Savagery, Intimacy, Multiplication, Imitation, Judgement, Merit (1,900 words)


Boys In Motion

Nicholas Penny | LRB | 16th January 2020

If anybody has ever written better about Verrocchio, I would be pleased to have it drawn to my attention. In the meantime I salute this appreciation by Nicholas Penny, Slade Professor of Fine Art at Cambridge, which is free to read for so long as the LRB leaves its redesigned website ungated. “The Florentine sculptor and goldsmith Andrea Verrocchio (1435-88) took up painting relatively late in his career and then abandoned it on recognising the extraordinary ability of his pupil Leonardo” (1,560 words)


The Case Against Huawei

Christopher Balding | Balding’s World | 15th January 2020

Huawei’s Western critics are generally correct; but much of what is true of Huawei will be true of any large Chinese tech company. Huawei is “effectively state owned”, but even if it were privately owned, it would be obliged to follow the Communist Party’s instructions. It works closely with Chinese security services, and provides intelligence to them, as required by law; Huawei devices “quantitatively pose a high risk to their users”, because of vulnerabilities which may be accidental or deliberate (2,160 words)


The Search For The Possible

Brian Kogelmann | New Rambler | 15th January 2020

Continuing the re-appraisal of John Rawls’s Theory Of Justice led by Katrina Forrester. How could Rawls’s Theory have seemed so promising, and yet have delivered so little? Perhaps in part because the Theory is just that — a theory. “By abstracting away from the realities of everyday political life — which is what the Rawlsian does when she employs concepts like the veil of ignorance and the reasonable person — the liberal theorist is unable to say anything helpful about our current political situation” (3,200 words)


Video: The Ballet That Incited A Riot | TED-ed. Iseult Gillespie narrates an animated account of the tumultuous premier of Igor Stravinsky’s ballet, Rite Of Spring (5m 01s)

Audio: Shade | 99% Invisible. Getting enough shade from the sun is a matter of life and death in a scorching city. As temperatures rise, what can be done to keep Los Angeles liveable? (30m 47s)

Afterthought:
”Life is not a battle between good and bad, but between bad and worse”
— Joseph Brodsky

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