Beheading, Privacy, Oulipo, WTO, Snowbound

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Beheadings As Honest Communication

Radu Umbres | Cognition And Culture | 16th August 2018

The particular quality of beheading as a form of execution is that it demonstrates to anybody nearby that the victim has been killed, and yields a proof of death — the head — that can be despatched elsewhere. Beheading was thus the preferred form of execution in medieval times for high-value captives — rebels, pretenders — whose death had to be credibly proved. The association between decapitation and high status evolved into the custom that European nobles sentenced to death had a right to choose beheading over other means of execution (995 words)

Self-Invasion And The Invaded Self

Rochelle Gurstein | Baffler | 17th August 2018

Privacy is “a distinctly modern product, one of the luxuries of civilization, which is not only unsought for but unknown in primitive or barbarous societies”. The concept of privacy as a human and legal right in America crystallised only at the end of the 19th century, in reaction to the rise of mass-circulation newspapers. Brandeis and Warren published their landmark article, “The Right To Privacy”, in the Harvard Law Review of 1890. “The first defenders of privacy became aware of its value at the moment they were on the verge of losing it” (3,600 words)

Oulipo Ends Where Work Begins

Christopher Beha | Believer | 1st September 2006

Notes from a conference of American Oulipians at Princeton. The Oulipo school of experimental writing is a form of “literary bondage” that aims to produce new and unforeseen aesthetic effects by imposing arbitrary rules on the process of writing. Early adherents included Raymond Queneau, Georges Perec, Italo Calvino. One canonic Oulipo rule is the lipogram. “A lipogram is a text of any length that excludes one or more letters. The lipogram par excellence, Georges Perec’s ‘La Disparition’, is a full-length novel that excludes the letter e” (5,600 words)

What Is The WTO?

Peter Ungphakorn | Trade Beta | 17th August 2018

Useful explainer of how the World Trade Organisation works, by a former official. The WTO is a forum for negotiation and agreement among governments; it has no power over them. “The WTO is democratic among governments. All members have equal say. But does it represent the people? At least as much as any other international organisation. Some governments are democratic; some are not. If a country is a dictatorship, its representative is probably not elected. But no one wants the WTO to interfere in that, so it accepts whatever each country’s domestic system produces” (1,360 words)


Doug Robinson | Outside | 16th August 2018

Winter storms come early to northern New Mexico, blanketing the area with several feet of snow. A veteran hiker is caught unprepared on the Continental Divide Trail. Freezing and running out of food, he scrapes his way to a campground latrine, holes up inside, and prays for help to arrive, nourished only by a store of horse-feed found at the camp. “Dec 17th. Clear but frigid. I’m still here and fighting. Gonna try to melt water by body heat. Actually don’t feel too bad. Have to stay in sleeping bag all day eating one oat at a time. Wonder how long I’ll last” (6,600 words)

Video of the day Landing Tokyo

What to expect:

Cockpit view from an Air France Boeing 777 landing at Haneda airport in Tokyo (19m 13s)

Thought for the day

A proof tells us where to concentrate our doubt
Morris Kline

Podcast Disco Star | BBC Outlook

Marcia Barrett, lead singer of Boney M, reminisces about her career as a 1970s disco diva
(25m 37s)

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