Istanbul, Car Etiquette, Mars, Jedi Temple, J.H. Prynne

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

Imperial Melting Pot

Maureen Freely | New Statesman | 1st February 2017

Bettany Hughes’s history of Istanbul, A Tale Of Three Cities, is “a brick of a book, thick with timelines, indices, references, illustrations and maps”. Her Istanbul is “a place of unfixed identity. Friends are always turning into enemies and enemies into friends, as traders, crusaders and invaders wash through. There is astonishing social mobility, with orphans, errand boys, slaves and prostitutes reaching the very highest ranks, though their ultimate reward is often to be stabbed or beheaded” (1,700 words)

Unexpected Consequences Of Self-Driving Cars

Rodney Brooks | 12th February 2017

Social acceptance of driverless cars is going to be complicated, because road etiquette presumes interactions between drivers and pedestrians, drivers and other drivers — and because the first driverless cars will belong to the rich. “Early on in the transition to driverless cars the 1% will have a whole new way to alienate the rest of the society. If you don’t think so, take a drive south from San Francisco on 101 in the morning and see the Teslas speeding down the left most lane” (5,600 words)

Whitey On Mars

Andrew Russell | Aeon | 1st February 2017

Elon Musk’s “fantasy” of colonising Mars is “a sign of an older and recurring social problem” — the dream of the rich to have a world of their own. “Musk wants to innovate and leave Earth, rather than to take care of it, or fix it, and stay. Like so many of his peers in the innovating and disrupting classes, Musk prefers to dwell in fantasy and science fiction, safely removed from the world of here and now. Repulsed by the world we all share, he dreams of a place that does not exist” (3,400 words)

The Circle Is Now Complete

Jack Hitt | VQR | 3rd January 2017

Conversation with Alex Bird, knight and deacon at the Temple of the Jedi Order, who explains plausibly why his choice of religion should be taken seriously. “My mythology is quite young. But it’s about context. Every myth digs into the same set of questions: Why am I here? What is my place in all this? What is my appropriate relationship with other human beings, with my environment? Some mythologies are better suited to speak to us in our culture and in our time” (3,400 words)

The Vending Machine Revolution

Our Industrial Correspondent | Guardian | 1st February 2017

From the Guardian of 1957: The coin-operated vending machine conquers Britain. “A slot machine which automatically dispenses tea to individual taste has been put on the market, and while it is still too early to say whether British families will take it to their hearts and hearths, it is said to be proving popular in sports clubs, and canteens”. There is more to come: “This summer it should be possible for a family on a day trip to, say, Margate or Brighton to live almost entirely out of slot machines” (760 words)

J.H. Prynne: The Art Of Poetry

Jeff Dolven & Joshua Kotin | Paris Review | 1st September 2016

Demanding conversation with the brilliant and elusive poet, about his own work, that of other poets, notably Dorn and Pound, Mao’s China, and his personal life. “You suppose that being in love would be a joyous and exciting and liberating experience. I found it exceptionally demanding. I couldn’t make my situations seem to work in a way that would do credit to both of us. It seemed difficult to act genuinely and with true emotion without being ridiculous and facile” (12,600 words)

Video of the day: Willie Nelson And His Famous Guitar

What to expect:

The story of Trigger. Documentary with Willie Nelson, narrated by Woody Harrelson (11’52”)

Thought for the day

What the crowd requires is mediocrity of the highest order
Auguste Préault

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