Houdini, Shakers, President Zuckerberg, Theatre, Advertising

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

Harry Houdini, Secret Inventor

Jackson Landers | Smithsonian | 9th January 2017

Most of Harry Houdini’s great escapes relied on machinery that he invented; but he couldn’t seek patents, for those would reveal his methods. To stop rivals from copying, he relied on copyright and secrecy. For his “Chinese water torture cell” escape stunt, Houdini “gave a single performance of the trick as a one-act play in England before an audience of one. This allowed him to file for a copyright on the act which legally prevented imitations without explaining how the trick worked” (2,400 words)

The Last Of The Shakers

Ed Simon | Religion Dispatches | 12th January 2017

The death of Sister Frances Carr reduces the ranks of America’s surviving Shakers from three to two. Pacificist and celibate, the Shakers — officially known as “The United Society of Believers in Christ’s Second Appearing” — were founded by an English blacksmith’s daughter called Ann Lee who emigrated to America in 1774. They believed in equality of the sexes and expected Christ to return as a woman. God’s gender was “always dualistic, containing the masculine and the feminine” (1,200 words)

Democracy 3.0

Gideon Lichfield | Quartz | 15th January 2017

Fiction, for the time being. “Strange to think now that it’s been only seven years since Mark got the idea of being president. Until that moment, the idea of a 30-something going straight from Facebook CEO to the White House would have been crazy. Then Trump got elected and nothing was crazy anymore. Still, I don’t think anyone fully believed it at first. Much less that he’d win in 2020 with an unprecedented electoral-college margin and the highest voter turnout ever recorded” (4,020 words)

Places, Please

Peter Marks | Washington Post | 12th January 2017

Behind the scenes at the The Front Page, revived on Broadway with Nathan Lane, John Slattery and John Goodman — a rare straight play in an age of musicals. “It’s a complex organism, a production of this caliber, with a backstage so teeming with experience, talent and ego it could be the subject of an anthropology class.” The first raising of the curtain is the bellwether moment. “We all listen to the applause for the set. If we don’t get that applause, it’s going to be a lousy evening” (3,100 words)

Vegetarian Nightmares

Jason Toon | Dangerous Minds | 28th May 2013

How television advertising operated in the Soviet Union. A director explains. “Selling a product was not as important as the entertainment value, thus making the ads themselves the product to be consumed. Products vanished from the shelves without need for any advertising but ads were produced nonetheless. Quite often adverts provided a financial basis to make television programs with more creative freedom. To this end my adverts possessed an artistic value” (1,400 words)

Video of the day: Ice Call

What to expect:

Mind-boggling stunt-skiing on the Mer de Glace near Mont Blanc (3’13”)

Thought for the day

Go where the silence is, and say something
Amy Goodman

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