David Cameron, Panama Papers, Steam Trains, Dying, J.G. Ballard

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

David Cameron’s Fatal Insouciance

Dominic Sandbrook | New Statesman | 29th August 2016

History may remember David Cameron only for Brexit, much as it remembers Chamberlain only for Munich. But the greater likelihood is that Cameron will be completely forgotten within a few decades, like most other British prime ministers. The difference with Cameron is that he really doesn’t seem to mind. “Most prime ministers leave office bitter, obsessive and brooding. But, like Stanley Baldwin, Cameron strolled away from the job as calmly as he had strolled into it” (3,200 words)

Hidden Assets, Hidden Costs

Edward Luttwak | Times Literary Supplement | 17th August 2016

“The printed press may be dying but if so the Panama Papers revelations are a magnificent swansong”. They show tax evasion by the rich and powerful to be one of the great scandals of our age. Mossack Fonseca’s offshore companies alone handled trillions of dollars, subverting national tax regimes and fiscal policies. When the sheer magnitude of hidden wealth is better understood, the rise of inequality in affluent societies in recent years may need no further explanation (3,080 words)

Swifter Than The Bird Flies

Maria Popova | Brainpickings | 26th August 2016

British actress Fanny Kemble describes riding the world’s first passenger railway between Liverpool and Manchester in 1830. “We were introduced to the little engine which was to drag us along the rails. She (for they make these curious little fire-horses all mares) consisted of a boiler, a stove, a small platform, a bench, and behind the bench a barrel containing enough water to prevent her being thirsty for fifteen miles, — the whole machine not bigger than a common fire-engine” (1,700 words)

Death And The Internet

N.D. Kane | 28th May 2016

How we will die in our connected homes. “The fridge that you reluctantly bought on the advice of your doctor stops calorie counting, and gives you what you would like, not what you need. The things around you start to burn out and break. They have reached the end of their intended use. At the moment of death, the camera positioned to check up on you from well meaning relatives flicks from red to amber, indicating that it has stopped broadcasting to anyone but your GP” (3,300 words)


Toby Litt | Critical Quarterly | 27th April 2016

Can a film look too good? Yes, if the look overwhelms everything else about the film, as in Ben Wheatley’s adaptation of J.G. Ballard’s High-Rise. “Almost every object that appears on screen is surrounded by a painful aura of sourcedness. The production designer has done the job too well, they haven’t had to cut any corners in sourcing just the right thing. When you end up with set after set full of hundreds of just the right things, you end up with an oppressive sense of cultural narcissism” (2,500 words)

Video of the day: A Day In Pompeii

What to expect:

The eruption of Vesuvius, the end of Pompeii. Animation created by Zero One (8’38”)

Thought for the day

If a little learning is dangerous, where is the person who has so much as to be out of danger?
T.H. Huxley

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