Drawing, Insomnia, Philosophy, Amazon Echo, Florence


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

Drawing Is Discovery

John Berger | New Statesman | 29th August 1953

An essay from the late John Berger. “A drawing is a private work, related only to the artist’s own needs; a ‘finished’ statue or canvas is a public, presented work. There is an equal distinction from the point of view of the spectator. In front of a painting or statue he tends to identify with the subject, to interpret the images for their own sake; in front of a drawing he identifies with the artist. This explains why painters always value so highly the drawings of the masters they admire” (880 words)

Staring Into The Soundless Dark

Andrew Kay | The Millions | 5th January 2017

Philip Larkin wrote the classic ode to insomnia with Aubade: “Waking at four to soundless dark, I stare”. But poets are often troubled sleepers. Before bed each night Byron “swallowed a single egg yolk whole while standing, then retired to his chambers, where he slept with two loaded pistols at his bedside and a dagger under his pillow”. Emily Bronte and Walt Whitman took long nocturnal walks. Sylvia Plath “began her nightly routine by swallowing one sleeping pill after another” (3,700 words)

Why Read Old Philosophy?

Katja Grace | Meteuphoric | 4th January 2017

To learn physics you read a physics textbook. You read old physicists if you want to research the history of physics. But to learn philosophy you read original papers and books by historical philosophers. Why? Because what you want to learn from the great philosophers is the way that they thought about things, not the conclusions that they reached. “This suggests a research project: try summarising what Aristotle is doing rather than Aristotle’s views. Then write a nice short textbook about it” (2,000 words)

Radio And The Rebirth Of Social Computing

Simon Roberts | Stripe Partners | 4th January 2017

It was Dad who bought the first radio a century ago, and Dad who was the intended listener, at first with headphones. But soon the family starting gathering round. There was something here to share. The Amazon Echo may follow a similar trajectory. It is probably still Dad who is doing the buying, a gadget for the den, but the Echo quickly finds its way to the kitchen. Is this the start of a turn back towards social computing, away from the solitude of tablet and smartphone screens? (770 words)

After The Great Flood of Florence

Marco Grassi | New Criterion | 4th January 2017

Memoir of the panicked struggle to save Italy’s art treasures when the Arno broke its banks in November 1966, submerging the Basilica of Santa Croce to a depth of 18 feet — and in it Vasari’s Last Supper and Cimabue’s 13C Crucifixon. “The raging torrent left in its wake a nightmare landscape of utter chaos and destruction.Thousands of gallons of heating oil had mixed with the churning waters, everywhere revealing horribly soiled surfaces as the flood subsided” (3,100 words)

Video of the day: Input/Output

What to expect:

American surrealism. Shades of David Lynch. Nothing does what you would expect it to do (4’08”)

Thought for the day

Pick a flower on Earth and you move the farthest star
Paul Dirac

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