Augustine, Princess Margaret, Fashion, Tim Harford, Futurologists

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

Dialogue With God

Peter Brown | New York Review | 9th October 2017

Lyrical review of Sarah Ruden’s translation of Augustine’s Confessions. “Augustine has a deadly gift for miniaturizing sin. There are no large sins in the Confessions. Those that he examines most closely are tiny sins. He spends a large part of book two (nine entire pages) examining his motives for robbing a pear tree. We find Augustine looking at his sins as if through the diminishing end of a telescope. They are disturbing precisely because they are so very small but so very tenacious” (3,300 words)

Ma’am Darling

Julian Barnes | Guardian | 7th October 2017

Entertaining review of Craig Brown’s biography of the late Princess Margaret, glamorous but frustrated younger sister of Quen Elizabeth II. She was “the world’s most difficult guest”, capable of tipping the ash from her cigarette into a neighbour’s palm. She “conscientiously set people at their unease”, exploiting to the full “the royal protocol of guests not being allowed to sit down to dinner, or leave, or even go to bed, until the royal party had done so themselves” (2,600 words)

The Deformed Thief, Fashion

Elizabeth Hawes | Vestoj | 9th October 2017

Critique of fashion first published in 1937, though it might have been written yesterday. “One of the most fascinating things about the world of fashion is that practically no one knows who inhabits it or why it exists. There are a few people who know how it works, but they won’t tell. So it just goes on, getting in deeper and deeper, until something like a war or depression slows it up from time to time. But once the war or the depression lets up, off again goes fashion on its mad way” (2,700 words)

Tim Harford: Introductions To Economics

Sophie Roell | Five Books | 9th October 2017

Interview. FT columnist discusses the nature and purpose of economics with reference to books by John Kay, Avinash Dixit, William Goetzmann, Syliva Nasar, David Friedman. “Economists do tend to the right on certain issues and to the left on others. We tend to be pro-choice. We are pro-immigration, generally, and pro-human freedom in all sorts of ways. These causes are often associated with the left. But we also tend to be pro-choice when it comes to buying from Amazon” (6,800 words)

Know Thy Futurist

Cathy O'Neil | Boston Review | 25th September 2017

Futurists divide into four basic groups: Those who believe that machines will run the world and are happy about it; those who believe that machines will run the world are horrified by the idea; those who don’t have a big vision but generally expect technology to solve problems; and those who think technology creates more problems as it solves. The last is the group with the least influence, not because their view is less plausible, but because nobody wants to pay for bad news (2,700 words)

Video of the day: This Book Is A Planetarium

What to expect:

Exploring a magical book of mechanisms and instruments made out of paper (1’36”)

Thought for the day

It is so difficult to understand people who speak the truth
E.M. Forster

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