Guilt, Ketchup, Syria, Bald Eagles, Virgil Thomson


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

The Strange Persistence Of Guilt

Wilfred M. McClay | Hedgehog Review | 2nd April 2017

The advance of civilisation brings guilt, not pleasure. Freud was right and Nietzsche was wrong. The greater our power and knowledge as human beings, the greater our sense of responsibility for all that is wrong in the world. Loss of faith in God only makes things worse: We have nobody to blame but ourselves. Victimhood becomes an escape route: “Making a claim to the status of victim offers a means by which the moral burden of sin can be shifted, and one’s innocence affirmed” (6,900 words)

The Ketchup Conundrum

Malcolm Gladwell | 6th September 2004

Why does mustard come in dozens of varieties, but ketchup in only one? Because ketchup, the way that Henry J. Heinz invented it, is the perfect food of its kind, combining all five tastes fundamental to the human palate — salty, sweet, sour, bitter, and umami. It pushes all the primal buttons. All variations detract from the original. Early in childhood, while our tastes are still evolving, ketchup is our friend at table; we can make strange food familiar by putting ketchup on it (5,300 words)

Four Perspectives On Syria

Thanassis Cambanis et al | Century Foundation | 30th March 2017

Well-crafted roundtable discussion of recent events and near-term outlook in Syria. “The Syrian government seems to be on track to stabilize much of the country under Assad’s control, securing a strategic, political victory but not a military victory overall. There’s not going to be a day when the opposition gives up and guns fall silent. More likely, Syria will imperceptibly shuffle into a situation where military campaigns are reduced in scope and lose their political centrality” (16,000 words)

Dirty Birds

Laurel Braitman | California Sunday | 30th March 2017

Letter from Dutch Harbor in Alaska, home to 4,700 people and 800 bald eagles. “We’re used to seeing our national bird as a valiant hero. But in Dutch you see eagles for what they really are: hardy, scrappy scavengers. When you live with a federal symbol up close and personal it’s a little harder to think of them as majestic. Bald eagles show up in the local police blotter alongside reports of drunk fishermen passing out in the wrong bunk or taking off in someone else’s forklift” (1,300 words)

Knight Errant Of Music

Christopher Carroll | New York Review Of Books | 3rd April 2017

On Virgil Thomson, composer and chief classical music critic for the New York Herald Tribune. “He was hardly a model critic. He gave friends positive reviews, enemies negative reviews, and usually made sure his own music was reviewed by a stringer (occasionally he did it himself). He routinely slept through performances he was reviewing, had a penchant for making sweeping and sometimes perplexing generalizations, and dismissed beloved works and composers with little explanation” (3,400 words)

Video of the day: Building A Cathedral By Hand

What to expect:

Documentary. Justo Gallego has spent 53 years building a cathedral, single-handed (2’22”)

Thought for the day

The best way to get a busy person’s attention: Help them
Ben Casnocha

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