Browser Daily Newsletter 1287


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

Four Years Later: Haiti’s Heartbreaking Failure

Ben Fountain | New Republic | 13th April 2014

Notes from Haiti four years after the earthquake that killed 200,000 and left a million homeless. Port-au-Prince was going to be "built back better" by now: That hasn't happened. "You see the country’s terrible wear and tear, the old buildings in various states of collapse, the mountains turning gray as the topsoil washes away. On bad days, I think Haiti might be a sinking ship, too far gone, too used up to save" (1,725 words)

Michelangelo Made David A Giant

William Wallace | ARTnews | 14th April 2014

Michelangelo's David was commissioned for the roofline of Florence cathedral. But it was far too heavy to be lifted there by the means available at the turn of the 16th century. Michelangelo must have known exactly what would happen, even if the church elders didn't. He never intended to create a cathedral decoration. He meant to create a free-standing masterpiece. Where it went was a secondary question (760 words)

The Front Page 2.0

Michael Kinsley | Vanity Fair | 11th April 2014

If you had told newspapers publishers in 1994 that they could soon cut printing costs to near-zero, they'd have jumped at the offer. Which duly happened; but the resulting competition has ruined most incumbents. "Instead of being the only newspaper in town, every English-language newspaper in the world is competing with every other one". So be it. If two or three great world newspapers survive, that's enough (2,000 words)

Interview: Arundhati Roy

Siddhartha Deb | Bookforum | 10th April 2014

Interesting throughout, on India's politics and economy. Narendra Modi and the BJP speak for a "brash new middle class" panicked by slowing growth: "They were sitting in an aircraft hoping to take off and suddenly it's frozen". Corporate India backs Modi. It wants aggressive government. Modi will deliver. But his target will not be Muslims, as many have predicted. It will be anybody who resists massive industrialisation (3,080 words)

Is There Anything Beyond Quantum Computing?

Scott Aaronson | PBS Nova | 10th April 2014

True, we don't even have useful quantum computers yet, so it's early to be asking. But since quantum computing already "defies our preconceptions about the ultimate limits of computation", it's logical to be wondering what might lie beyond. Is there a problem that couldn’t be solved efficiently by a quantum computer, but could be solved efficiently by some other computer allowed by the laws of physics? (2,730 words)

How Kafka Actually Lived

Cynthia Ozick | New Republic | 11th April 2014

Another biography of Franz Kafka. But an exceptional one. Reiner Stachs does an "honest and honorable" job of telling the story without trying to impose his own meaning on it. He "offers no key, no code, no single-minded interpretive precept. The 'Kafkaesque' is mercifully missing ... The biographer excavates, he does not transcend; and through this robustly determined unearthing he rescues Kafka from the unearthliness of his repute" (7,100 words)

Video of the day:  Unsung Hero

What to expect: Heart-tugging advertisement from Thailand, about kindness

Thought for the day:

"You tell me where the top is, and I’ll tell you if I’m over it" — Nicholas Cage

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