Cows, Emoji, God

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

Who’s Killing Buck Birdsong’s Cows?

Leif Reigstad | Texas Monthly | 27th August 2018

A Texas murder mystery. A rancher finds that his calves are being systematically poisoned over a period of years by an unknown hand, for an unknown reason. The police are baffled. “Usually, when you get into these deals where somebody is poisoning somebody else’s animals, they are not the cream of the crop people in the world. Someone will get pissed off at a neighbor and use antifreeze or rat bait to kill their dog. It is usually not somebody like Buck who is involved in something like that. He is an upstanding citizen, always has been” (4,300 words)

Emoji: The Beginning

Keith Houston | Shady Characters | 26th August 2018

On the origins of emoji in 1990s Japan. “Japanese culture and public life are suffused with visual symbolism. Comic books are read avidly. The Tokyo Olympic Games of 1964 pioneered the use of symbols to help visitors find their way. Kanji, the ideographic script, expresses complex ideas in a single characters. Drawing on all these influences, Shigetaka Kurita designed a font containing 176 monochromatic but lively icons — smiley faces, thunderous clouds, cartoonish bombs and gibbous moons — and embedded it into Docomo’s new system. Emoji was born” (1,590 words)

Deleting The Digital Name Of God

David Auerbach | Tablet | 27th August 2018

“It is a longstanding prohibition that one cannot erase Shem Hashem, the holy names of God. Writings containing the names cannot be destroyed or mutilated, but must be stored in a geniza for later burial. But what are we do to with monitors, hard drives, and Kindles? The idea of burying them in cemeteries seems absurd at first glance, but as writing moves into the digital realm, it also seems implausible to claim that the increasingly dominant vehicle of communication and writing is incapable of possessing sanctity” (1,280 words)

Cats, Doris Lessing, And Me

Vivian Gornick | New York Review Of Books | 27th August 2018

In which the writer acquires two kittens; learns to love them; and finds that she can never feel the same about Doris Lessing after reading how the young Lessing helped slaughter 40 cats. “Doris and her father herd all but a single favorite into a spare room and, one by one, the father shoots all the cats. As I’m reading, my mouth opens wider and wider, until I feel it dropping nearly to my chest. Mainly, I am shocked because the mature Lessing relates this grisly tale with extraordinary equanimity — not a blink, not a gulp, not a syllable of distress in a single sentence” (2,750 words)

The Lost Civilisation Of California Wine

Esther Mobley | San Francisco Chronicle | 23rd August 2018

A visit to California’s “strangest vineyard”, the Renaissance Winery, owned by the Fellowship Of Friends, a religious group “known to many as a doomsday cult”. The Fellowship was founded in the 1960s by an East Bay schoolteacher who received his instructions, he said, from, an angelic incarnation of Leonardo da Vinci. Tithes from Fellowship members paid for the vineyard; at its peak in the 1970s the cult also had its own opera company, theater troupe, ballet, and zoo. “To be a winemaker at Renaissance during the early years was like being part of the pantheon of the gods” (6,700 words)

Video of the day Tiny Desk — Yo-Yo Ma

What to expect:

Yo-Yo Ma plays selections from J.S. Bach’s suites for cello (12m 09s)

Thought for the day

I would like to understand things better, but I don’t want to understand them perfectly
Douglas Hofstadter

Podcast Check Yourself | Hidden Brain

Shankar Vedantam talks to Atul Gawande about how doctors can use check-lists to avoid mistakes
(51m 43s)

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