How To Negotiate With North Korea

Robert Carlin | 38 North | 19th February 2019

North Korean negotiators “pay a lot of attention to atmospherics”. However heated the exchanges in public, they will expect the atmosphere at the negotiating table to be “civil and professional”. As an opening position they will declare everything asked of them to be “impossible”. Movement will come only when (and if) they think they can glimpse the outlines of an overall deal. The key phrase to listen out for from the Korean side is “changed circumstances”. This signals room for eventual manoeuvre on a given point, even if the stated Korean position remains, for the moment, unchanged (1,350 words)


Lyndon LaRouche’s Long March To Nowhere

Scott McLemee | Jacobin | 16th February 2019

Remembering the bizarre self-publicist and conspiracy theorist Lyndon LaRouche, who has died at the age of 96 after troubling the fringes of American politics for decades, starting out as a thuggish Trotskyist and ending life somewhere to the right of the Ku Klux Klan. LaRouche claimed that world history was produced by two secret elites vying for power — an Aristotelian cabal that wanted to restore feudalism, and a Platonic cabal that loved technology and classical music. He alleged that the Queen of England was the current leader of the Aristoteleans, whom she funded by smuggling drugs (1,880 words)


An Interview With Fritz Lang

Michael Gould & Lloyd Chesley | Mubi | 24th December 2018

Rediscovered transcript of a late interview that the great director gave to two student journalists in 1972. Rambling in parts, but filled with glimpses of Hollywood’s Golden Age, and of Lang’s part in it as an escapee from Europe’s Dark Age. “When Goebbels offered me the leadership of the German film industry, I left Berlin the same evening. Otherwise I would end up in a concentration camp, right? I looked out the window and it was already too late to get my money — that is another story” (10,500 words)


When Kodak Discovered The Atom Bomb

Matt Blitz | Popular Mechanics | 20th June 2016

The summer of 1945 brought a surge of complaints from users of Kodak’s X-ray films: Prints were coming back fogged. Kodak traced the problem to cardboard film packaging sourced from paper-mills in the mid-West. The mills were using river water tainted with by-products of nuclear fission. Kodak had accidentally stumbled on to America’s deepest wartime secret: Nuclear weapons were being tested. After the war, with the nuclear programme continuing, Kodak negotiated a secret deal. The US government would give Kodak advance notice of tests, in time for Kodak to take the precautions needed to protect its stock (1,930 words)


The Maimed And The Healing

Stefanos Geroulanos | Aeon | 13th December 2018

The battlefields of World War One supplied every possible combination of physical and mental suffering. The War became a “giant laboratory” that changed basic thinking about medicine. Doctors had tended to approach the human body as a collection of standard parts, each of which could be treated separately. The war encouraged a new paradigm: The body was a complex whole whose main parts reacted (and failed) together. A man might die of shock unless you covered him with a blanket. Pain was recognised as a central fact of medicine, not merely an inconvenience for the surgeon (2,900 words)


Video: Sogni Di Segni. Precise, elegant, delightful tribute to Giorgio De Chirico and other great Italian artists of the 20th century (1m 15s)

Audio: Where Do Good Ideas Come From? | Freakonomics Radio. Stephen Dubner looks for the secrets of creativity. How do the people who change the world come up with their ideas? (1h 02m 36s)

Afterthought:
“If you can tell me precisely what it is that a machine cannot do, I can make a machine to do precisely that”
— John von Neumann

A weekly selection of podcasts from The Browser

The Smoking Gun

Episode: “The Widow and the Winchester” | Podcast: Criminal | 22m25s

Exploration of the strange widowhood of nineteenth century American heiress Sarah Winchester. Upon the death of her husband, the gun manufacturer William Wirt Winchester, Sarah inherited a fortune valued at around half a billion dollars in today’s money. She devoted the last 40 years of her life to overseeing the construction of a bizarre 160-room mansion in San Jose, California, which contains odd features like staircases that go nowhere and false doors. It is considered to be extremely haunted, and this episode suggests it was designed for this ghostly purpose — Sarah supposedly believed it housed the spirits of those killed by the new, efficient type of rifle her husband had introduced to the market (22m25s)


Al Fresco

Episode: “Behold the Monkey” | Podcast: The Lonely Palette | 40m06s

Art historian conducts an in-depth appraisal of the viral “monkey Jesus” fresco restoration. The well-intentioned efforts of 81-year-old Cecilia Giménez rendered the nineteenth century Ecce Homo by Elías García Martínez completely unrecognisable and turned it into a meme with a life of its own. But somehow, this podcast argues, the omnipresence of this image and the plethora of comic parodies it inspired stops us looking at it critically. The art world and the public alike were quick to dismiss Giménez’s restoration attempt as a botched job, which it may well be. Yet it also tells us something much deeper about how an image becomes famous and what we value in art (40m06s)


Mr Whippy

Episode: “Ice Cream Vans” | Podcast: The Boring Talks | 15m57s

Former ice cream van worker reveals the secrets of this niche and esoteric trade. Driving a vehicle that sells sweet treats and blares music to attract attention might seem like an easy job, but in many ways it’s highly regulated and challenging. Routes are worked out in advance so no two vans from the same fleet are competing for business. The characteristic chimes may only be played for a few seconds at a time in order to comply with noise regulations. The work requires physical strength, manual dexterity and a lot of mental arithmetic. Plus, it’s very difficult to take bathroom breaks (15m57s)


Fizzing with Fun

Episode: “Now Fizzing with Amanda Brennan” | Podcast: Seltzer Death Match | 11m29s

Glimpse into an internet subculture devoted to the avid appreciation of seltzers. As explained in this interview, hundreds of fizz fans gather in a private Facebook group on a daily basis to share reviews of different beverages, discuss rare finds, and keep up with drinks industry news. This community has its own vocabulary: a seltzer with added sugar is a “snake”, “fizzio” is a live video of someone trying a seltzer for the first time, and a “ghost” is a seltzer without a flavour. Additionally in this episode, the hosts attempt to make a coffee fizz drink with a SodaStream, which is amusing to experience only via sound (11m29s)


On The Record

Episode: “The Tape” | Podcast: Dead Man Talking | 37m27s

First of a multi-part series investigating the undetected crimes of the so-called “Railroad Killer”, Angel Maturino Reséndiz, who was executed in Texas in 2006. While he was still on death row, Reséndiz told a journalist that there were many other murders he had committed beyond those cited in his conviction and that innocent people were in jail for his crimes. The tape of this interview resurfaces years later, so the podcast’s reporters set off to investigate whether there is any truth to these claims and if so, what can be done to belatedly see that justice is served. A gritty, well-produced example of the popular true crime podcast genre (37m27s)

And the winner of the best podcast or audio for January 2019 is....

The Browser newsletter celebrates the best writings and listenings from around the web, pieces of lasting value on any topic that surprise and delight. Every month we choose a written winner and an audio winner, from the Browser’s expertly curated selection, for a cash prize of $100. At the end of the year, we select the best of the year for a grand prize.

The Winner of the Golden Giraffe for Audio, January 2019 is….

Blúiríní Béaloidis for "Otherworld Islands In Folk Tradition"

Episode: ”Otherworld Islands In Folk Tradition” | Podcast: Blúiríní Béaloidis | 72m59s

Bewitching, soothing podcast about Irish folklore. It’s told bilingually, partly in English and partly in the Irish language, with plenty of music and poetry woven through. This episode deals with the recurring idea of “otherworld islands” in Norse and Celtic legends, where souls travel after death and happiness lasts for ever (72m59s)


Congratulations to Jonny Dillon, Claire Doohan and the whole Blúiríní Béaloidis team! Our two runners-up are the outstanding….

Flash Forward for "Spawn of Sponcon"

Episode: “Spawn of Sponcon” | Podcast: Flash Forward | 48m46s

Futurist podcast looks at the likely evolution of advertising. Via a fictional reconstruction and interviews with real-life commentators, host Rose Eveleth explores the idea that influencer marketing could move offline and into normal conversation. People are rewarded financially for mentioning products positively, while their smartphones listen constantly to verify (48m46s)

This is Love for "How to be Alone"

Episode: ”How To Be Alone” | Podcast: This Is Love | 25m51s

Beautifully produced interview with a man named Billy, the only inhabitant of a remote and abandoned mining town in Colorado. He moved there 40 years ago wanting to be alone. He’s still there. The daily weather information he collects is his only regular way of communication — it’s used by scientists. For him, knowing they read his figures makes his data a kind of conversation (25m51s)


Have a podcast you’d like to submit for consideration for future prizes? Please submit here. Congratulations to all of this month’s winners, and happy listening!

The Browser newsletter celebrates the best writings and listenings from around the web, pieces of lasting value on any topic that surprise and delight. Every month we choose a written winner and an audio winner, from the Browser’s expertly curated selection, for a cash prize of $100. At the end of the year, we select the best of the year for a grand prize.

The Winner of the Golden Giraffe for Writing, January 2019 is….

Labor Supply And The Attention Tax

Andrew Kortina and Namrata Patel | Kortina | 22nd January 2019

Young men are staying at home to play video games instead of going out to find jobs. There seem to be two related reasons for this: Video games are amazingly good; and there is no such pleasure to be had from anything else you might buy on a minimum wage, so why bother earning one? If this seems a sorry state of affairs, here’s a solution: tax media companies for the hours of human attention they consume. Give them an interest in reducing the hours that people spend staring at their screens (3,500 words)


Congratulations to Andrew and Namrata.

The two runners up for the Golden Giraffe for Writing, January 2019 are outstanding pieces by Michael Erard and Richard Gergal.


What People Actually Say Before They Die

Michael Erard | Atlantic | 16th January 2019

Deathbed aphorisms and declarations of love for one’s country are exceptions or inventions. According to one doctor, the last words of the dying are often strings of curses; a hospice nurse says that most dying men call for ‘Mommy’ or ‘Mama’, if they can call at all. “At the end of life, the majority of interactions will be non-verbal as the body shuts down and the person lacks the physical strength for long utterances. People will whisper, and they’ll be brief, single words — that’s all they have energy for” (2,430 words)


The Blinding Of Sgt. Isaac Woodard

Richard Gergel | LitHub | 23rd January 2019

Read and weep. A decorated and newly demobbed black war veteran boards a bus home from Georgia to South Carolina in 1946. The white bus driver takes a dislike to his passenger, stops at a small town en route, and reports him to the local police as drunk and disorderly. The arresting police sergeant beats the soldier unconscious with a baton and a blackjack. The soldier is locked up overnight. By the time he appears in court the next morning he has been blinded, permanently, by blows to both eyes. The judge sees no cause for concern. He fines the soldier $50.00, or 30 days hard labor (4,300 words)


We hope you’ll enjoy these treasures as much as we have.

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