Edith Piaf, Reince Priebus, Reference Books, Vacuum Cleaners, Francis Bacon, Migration

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

The Sound Of Cold Oysters

Bee Wilson | London Review Of Books | 19th May 2016

Edith Piaf was “part wounded animal, part passionate woman”, with a voice “like cold oysters being opened outside a bistro”. She began her career as a street urchin and ended it as the spirit of France. The tipping point came in the Occupation years when her melancholy songs “came to personify a Paris lost”. But she was not a résistante. “She spent most of the war drunk, waiting for it to be over. She survived the Vichy era with a pragmatism that was neither disgraceful nor very honourable” (4,000 words)

The Hardest Job In America

Joshua Green | Bloomberg Business Week | 26th May 2016

A spellbinding interview with Donald Trump lies within, although the piece is mostly about Reince (rhymes with “pints”) Priebus, chairman of the Republican National Committee. Trump says he wants to turn the GOP into “a workers’ party, a party of people that are angry”. Which is approximately the opposite of what Priebus has been trying to do for the past five years. And now it’s Priebus’s job to get Trump elected. Will he do it? “I’m not pouring Baileys in my cereal” (5,150 words)

Before Wikipedia

Peter Thonemann | Times Literary Supplement | 25th May 2016

You Could Look It Up, Jack Lynch’s history of reference books, “scampers along” from the Code of Hammurabi to Schott’s Original Miscellany by way of James A. Yannes’s Collectible Spoons of the Third Reich. The “deep erudition lightly worn” and the “infectious delight in anecdote and human eccentricity” evoke Bill Bryson at his best. The triumph of Wikipedia appears in this context as a loss, rather than a gain, to learning. In Wikipedia’s long shadow few new reference books can grow (2,550 words)

This Sucks: A History Of The Vacuum Cleaner

The modern vacuum cleaner was invented in 1907 by a 60-year-old department store janitor called James Murray Spangler, whose name has been largely airbrushed out of the story because, when he was running out of money, he turned to his cousin, Susan Hoover, whose husband bought the patents. The Hoovers did right to pounce, despite initial misgivings; Spangler had nailed it. “A vacuum cleaner from 1910 would clean the rug just as well as a modern vacuum cleaner from today” (1,800 words)

A Short Guide To Francis Bacon

Andrew Stewart MacKay | AnOther | 5th May 2016

Bacon accumulated “rare medical textbooks, snapshots of crime scenes, crumpled Renaissance reproductions and technicolour celebrity photographs” in his “famously messy” London studio. His “confident erudition” digested equally, if not indifferently, Old Master paintings and Hollywood stills. He worked from images or memory rather than life, developing “a radical technique based on creative accidents”. His social life was like his working life: “calculated chaos” (1,150 words)

Looking For Home

Tom Nuttall | Economist | 27th May 2016

Introductory article from a survey of migration, all of which bears reading (this piece, I believe, is outside the Economist paywall). The world’s displaced population stands at a post-war record of 60m, including 20m seeking refuge in other countries. Rich countries have bound themselves to provide relatively well for refugees in theory; but they struggle first to keep refugees out, and then to deny them refugee status. The result is a rising stock of forced migrants living semi-permanently without papers (2,500 words)

Video of the day: Kung Fu Motion Visualiser

What to expect:

By Tobias Gremmler. Visual abstractions derived from movements in Hakka martial arts (4′)

Thought for the day

Inside every old person is a young person wondering what happened
Terry Pratchett

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