Browser Newsletter 1094

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

Best of the Moment

Ian Buruma: East And West

Alec Ash | Five Books | 26th August 2013

Interview in which Buruma recommends and discusses "five Western perspectives of the East": Chinese Shadows by Simon Leys, A Passage To India by E.M. Forster, The Inland Sea by Donald Richie, The Hidden Force by Louis Couperus and The Quiet American by Graham Greene. "What Couperus saw was that no amount of bullying will in the end lead to mastering countries which one doesn’t understand"

The Smugglers’ Prey

Eric Ellis | Global Mail | 25th August 2013

Dismaying portrait of life among Tamils on the Jaffna Peninsula in north-eastern Sri Lanka, four years after the Tamil Tiger army was wiped out by the Sinhalese, ending 20 years of intermittent civil war. Defeat has left them mired in poverty, misery, persecution, and under what amounts to a military occupation. Those who can afford it pay $5,000 to be smuggled to Australia — or to drown along the way

Assad’s Cold Calculation: Poison Gas

Christoph Reuter & Hans Hoyng | Spiegel | 26th August 2013

Syrian leader has been introducing the use of chemical weapons gradually: one hundred or more killed in March; a thousand or more on August 21st. He is testing the reaction in the West, before going on to bigger things: his father gassed 10,000 in Hama. "Assad believes that no one will do a damn thing to stop him. There is a good chance he is correct". Tally of the war so far: 100,000 dead, two million refugees

Cockpit Automation

Nick Valéry | Economist | 26th August 2013

Why we're not going to get pilotless planes, even when we get driverless cars. Because the pilot is needed, not so much to fly the plane, as to monitor the automated systems that do so, and, very occasionally, "pick up the slack" when a system malfunctions. Trouble is, the automation is getting so complicated that it's almost impossible for a pilot to be on top of everything at the same time. It might be easier for him to fly the plane

On The Thomas Pynchon Trail

Boris Kachka | New York | 25th August 2013

Profile of the publicity-shy author, pegged to the release of his latest novel, Bleeding Edge, a detective story set in New York, where Pynchon "hides in plain sight, on the Upper West Side, with a family and a history of contradictions". He has, according to this piece, "an IQ score somewhere in the 190s", buck teeth, and an unfulfilled ambition to write opera librettos. This feels like the first glimpse of an unauthorised biography, by the way

Bo Xilai: Last Of A Nefarious Trio

Thomas Kellogg | LA Review Of Books | 26th August 2013

Review of Death in the Lucky Holiday Hotel, by Pin Ho and Wenguang Huang, on the rise and fall of Bo Xilai. Useful background about Bo's policies in Chongqing (he borrowed recklessly to fund public services) and on Wang Lijun, Bo's brutal police chief, who had his predecessor executed for corruption, panicked when his turn came to be investigated, and denounced Bo's wife for murdering a British businessman

Video of the day: Cranberries

Thought for the day:

"An ounce of algebra is worth of a ton of verbal argument" — J.B.S. Haldane

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