Shrubbery, Taliban, Counterculture, Harp, Fortune

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The World's Longest Shrubbery  

Kamala Thiagarajan | BBC Future | 25th August 2021

It seems hard now to believe, and not a trace of it remains, but when the British ruled India in the mid-19th century they partitioned the country with a fortified hedge 2,300 miles long — an "impenetrable thicket of thorny native shrubs" — to frustrate smugglers. "By 1869, the great hedge stretched from the foothills of the Himalayas to Odisha, and then inched towards the Bay of Bengal" (2,200 words)

Tetlock And The Taliban

Richard Hanania | Substack | 25th August 2021

Thoughts provoked by America's failure to stabilise Afghanistan, despite spending billions of dollars and deploying thousands of specialists in warfare and nation-building. What colossal failure of expertise allowed pundits and policymakers to spend 20 years "making a living off the idea that the US was doing something reasonable in Afghanistan"? And what else are they getting wrong? (5,300 words)

Culture As Counterculture

Adam Kirsch | New Criterion | 18th August 2021

On taste, snobbishness and the rejection of cultural hierarchies. In the last two centuries, everything has been reversed. "Preferring things that are old, distant, and difficult to those that are immediate and ubiquitous means alienating oneself from one’s community, in some cases from one’s own family. It is at best an inexplicable quirk, at worst a form of antisocial arrogance" (3,952 words)

Video: Harp Distortion | Emily Hopkins. A harpist demonstrates the effect of a heavy distortion pedal on two different harps. She utterly transforms the instrument's sound into something from a metal band (3m 52s)

Podcast: A Tale Of Edible Intrigue | Subtitle. Who writes the fortunes in fortune cookies, and how did this practice begin? A blend of language analysis and history here explains — it's not a Chinese tradition (27m 38s)

Interview: Baiqu sits down with Sylvia Bishop, who is a children's book writer with nine titles translated into 16 languages, part of the musical improv duo Peablossom Cabaret, and (not least) Assistant Publisher of The Browser (17m 03s, podcast or transcript here)

"We enormously exaggerate the part that law plays in the universe. It is by means of regularities that we understand what little we do understand of the world"
— C.S. Peirce

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