Ambiguity, Taylor Swift, Dissertation Titles, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, World Of Warcraft, Elephants

Hic sunt camelopardus: this historical edition of The Browser is presented for archaeological purposes; links and formatting may be broken.

Clearing Up Ambiguity

Tim Parks | New York Review Of Books | 1st September 2015

In almost every field of human activity clarity is a virtue. Only in literature (and sometimes in diplomacy) do we elevate ambiguity. But ambiguity is not something that an author can control; if attempted deliberately, it always appears contrived. Successful ambiguity comes when the author leaves the writing open to interpretations which the author herself does not foresee; it is the contribution of the authorial unconscious (1,800 words)

Taylor Swift: A Socratic Dialogue

Jared Smith | McSweeney's | 2nd September 2015

Another masterpiece from McSweeney's (the last one was Mamet’s Appliance Centre ( ). After a long low period, it's the renaissance over there. Socrates interrogates Taylor Swift about the contradictions in her lyrics: "It seems we’ve reached an impasse. If they fake, fake, fake then they do not always play, play, play for there must be at least some stay, stay, stay for otherwise, they only play, play, play and hence, are a player and not a faker" (780 words)

Bullshit Titles

Les Green | Semper Viridis | 27th August 2015

Rant against the naming conventions for academic books and papers. "A couple of examples should be enough. Since I don’t want to ruin anyone’s career (including my own) I’ll just make up them up: Agency, Structure, and Power: The Milk-Marketing Board of Ruritania, 2007-2009; Realising the Juridical: The Roman Law of Dogs in Later Imperial Sources. These titles are, in an obvious pre-theoretical sense, utter bullshit" (730 words)

The Believer

William McCants | Brookings | 2nd September 2015

Portrait of the soccer-loving introvert who morphed into a "monster" and now leads Islamic State under the name of Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi. He was born Ibrahim Awwad Ibrahim Al-Badri in 1971 in Samarra, Iraq. He studied hard under Saddam and joined the Muslim Brotherhood. In 2004 the Americans detained him for ten months. He went into prison a brooding zealot, flourished, and came out a charismatic leader (6,000 words)

A History Of World Of Warcraft’s Gold Economy

Stephen Winson | Memory Insufficient | 1st September 2015

"The general pattern went something like this. When a new server opened, prices would climb like crazy, because of the oversized demand. Everyone needed things to help level up their characters and professions, and there was no supply to speak of. After a while, perhaps a month or so at most, supply for basic materials and gear would begin to massively outstrip demand, dropping prices inexorably downward" (4,700 words)

Why Elephants Don’t Explode

Aatish Bhatia & Robert Krulwich | Noticing | 2nd September 2015

Big and small animals are made very differently. A vole eats 80 percent of its body-weight in food every day; an elephant, just 5 percent. A vole needs 11 times as much oxygen as an elephant, relative to body-weight. The difference goes right down to the cellular level: the cells of a shrew "are like Mexican jumping beans in a cocktail shaker". If a shrew doesn't eat for five hours it will starve (2,700 words)

Video of the day: Building A Cello

What to expect: Documentary in Spanish. For English sub-titles click on the CC at the bottom (24')

Thought for the day

A polymath is someone who is interested in everything and nothing else
Susan Sontag

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