East Germany, Bats, Clothes Pegs, Japanese Sexism, Kathy Acker, Marina Abramovic


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

Russians At The Gate

Durs Grünbein | New England Review | 1st October 2016

Remembering the Soviet occupation of eastern Germany. “And so one day, shortly after the end of the War, the Russians entered Dresden. They took over the old barracks to the north of the city, distributed themselves among various official buildings throughout the city, and were there to stay. Soon it was as if they had always been there. They seemed to have come from another planet, a star that appeared on their caps and the gates of their inaccessible quarters: they were from the Soviet star” (5,000 words)

Bat Chat Decoded

Nicola Davis | Guardian | 22nd December 2016

Bats spend most of their time arguing, according to a machine-learning programme which decoded bat-language by analysing 15,000 bat-calls. “The algorithm correctly identified the bat making the call around 71% of the time, and what the animals were squabbling about around 61% of the time. The system was also able to identify with less accuracy who the call was aimed at, and the fallout of the disagreement, revealing whether the bats would part, and if so, which bat would leave” (800 words)

A History Of The Clothes Peg

The Economist | Medium | 22nd December 2016

The two-pronged wooden clothes peg looks so ancient and suggestive, “like a forked mandrake root”, that you might expect its origins to lie in Sumer or Phoenicia. Far from it. The history of the clothes peg begins in the early 19C with a patent application from one Jérémie Victor Opdebec, of whom nothing else is known. Until then wet clothes were hung unpegged or spread out on grass. The sprung peg was patented in the US in 1853 as a “new and useful spring clamp for clothes lines” (2,700 words)

Japan Says Sayonara To Sexism

Kaori Shoji | Japan Times | 26th December 2016

Being a woman in Japan “has never been more ラク (raku, relaxing)”, as male sexism recedes. Terms such as “結婚適齢期 (kekkontekireiki, marriage eligibility)” and クリスマスケーキ (kurisumasukeki, comparing an unmarried woman over 25 to an unsold Christmas cake) are rarely heard. In place of the old workplace brush-off, “女のくせに (Onna no kuse ni, you’re only a lowly woman)”, you may as easily hear now that “女の方が使える (onna no hō ga tsukaeru, women are more useful [than men])” (930 words)

The Last Days Of Kathy Acker

Jason McBride | Hazlitt | 28th July 2015

With cancer throughout her body and a week to live, Kathy Acker checks into a Mexican clinic for a last salon. “Her hair, kept short for much of her life, has stopped growing. Her voice has lost much of its strength. While she could once magick her jagged prose into something sublime at readings or on recordings, she now speaks little. Her muscles, painstakingly sculpted, have atrophied, distorting the elaborate tattoos that cover them. She looks, somehow, younger” (2,960 words)

Attention Seeking As Art-Form

Julie Burchill | New Statesman | 12th November 2016

Thrillingly contemptuous review of Marina Abramovic’s memoir, Walk Through Walls. “She stands behind a table with 72 objects on it, from a feather to a loaded gun, and announces that anyone can do anything they want to her. For three hours the audience seems shy; then ‘a very small man’ (presumably an art-lover) loads the gun, puts it in her hand and then moves it to her neck, his finger on the trigger. You’d have to have a heart of stone not to be in stitches over what happens next” (2,600 words)

Video of the day: The Lazy Conductor

What to expect:

Masterclass in conducting from Sir Adrian Boult (who appears at 0’40”) on BBC Television in 1971 (4’31”)

Thought for the day

Trust those who seek the truth. Doubt those who find it
André Gide

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