Browser Daily Newsletter 1180

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

Pursuing The Platypus

Maciej Cegłowski | Idle Words | 4th December 2013

Notes on Australian fauna. The platypus "looks like it was designed in a pub, by a committee, the night before it was due. To make one at home you'll need a duck bill, a small beaver, four webbed feet, five X chromosomes and a watch battery. There are a few anatomical giveaways that this was a rush job — they forgot to give it nipples, so it has to sweat milk through its skin — but for the most part it holds together well"

Postscript: Nelson Mandela 1918-2013

William Finnegan | New Yorker | 5th December 2013

"He was the last of the twentieth century’s national liberators. He became a global symbol of righteousness and reconciliation. He led his beloved, tormented country from the howling darkness of apartheid to the promised land of democracy with shrewdness, courage, and visionary determination. It was a long and difficult trip, both for Nelson Mandela, who died on Thursday, and for South Africa"

The Rise And Fall Of BlackBerry: An Oral History

Felix Gillette et al | Business Week | 5th December 2013

When they started out, smart phones hadn't been invented and few people used email. "Mike and I got obsessed with auto-forwarding our Exchange mailbox messages to our belts. But at that time you couldn’t reply to anything. So one day, Mike came in and said he had decided to nix all the 30 software projects that we were spinning our wheels on. He said: We’re going to create a solution to this two-mailbox problem"

My Life As A Mushamuka

Kris Berwouts | African Arguments | 5th December 2013

In which the author is invited to serve as mushamuka ("wise man") helping a Kinshasa family to negotiate a bride-price, in cows, for their daughter. “They proposed two cows and a bull to us. Those lads completely missed the point. Bulls don’t count for us. Cows are capital. Bulls are food. It’s very friendly to offer us a bull. Now that I think about it, it’s even a brilliant idea. But it doesn’t count towards the bride price"

Thoughts On Ukraine

Timothy Snyder | New York Review Of Books | 5th December 2013

Excellent commentary on Ukraine's perilous turn. "Yanukovych seems to have thought he could simply ask the EU for cash, on the logic that Putin was offering him the same. There is a point where cynicism turns into naïveté." If disorder spreads, and if Yanukovych cannot prevail, then Russia may intervene. "Putin is no doubt too canny to really believe in some fairy tale of fraternal assistance. But it would be wise to make very sure"

Snark Against Smarm

Tom Scocca | Gawker | 5th December 2013

We need snark — the "hostile, knowing, bitter tone of contempt" common to internet writing — as an antidote to smarm. Smarm is the bogus language of politics, academia, corporations, public relations: "Smarm is a kind of performance — the forms of seriousness, of virtue, of constructiveness, without the substance. Smarm aspires to smother opposition or criticism, to cover everything over with an artificial, oily gloss"

Thought for the day:

"All plots tend to move deathwards. This is the nature of plots" — Don De Lillo

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