Jonathan Franzen, Toronto, Automation, New York, Goodnight Moon, History


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

Is It Too Late To Save The World?

Jonathan Franzen | Guardian | 4th November 2017

Muddled but consistently interesting essay involving the 2016 American election, writing, being edited, smoking, the New Yorker, bird-watching, cats, the Audubon society, climate-change, Nate Silver, and Zagat. “There are only two ways to organise material: ‘Like goes with like’ and ‘This followed that’. These precepts may seem self-evident, but any grader of high-school or college essays can tell you that they aren’t. Patterns have a way of turning into stories” (6,775 words)

A Restaurant Ruined My Life

Robert Maxwell | Toronto Life | 4th November 2017

An enthusiastic amateur cook with a limited amount of money opens a restaurant, with results foreseeable to everybody except the principal. “I looked haggard. I had lost 20 pounds. I rarely smiled. Since the beer kegs could be bought on credit, I drank lustily from them. I hated myself, I hated my new life, and I was having trouble sleeping. My stupid restaurant dream had turned into a nightmare. And just when I thought things couldn’t get any worse, I ran out of money” (5,800 words)

The Real Story Of Automation

Scott Santens | Basic Income | 24th October 2017

We know that robots displace workers. We know that displaced workers can find new jobs, and treat this as a solution. But what are these new jobs? “The only honest debate to be had is over the nature of re-employment, and all evidence points to a shrinking employment-to-population ratio, a growth in low-skill jobs, a transition to alternative work arrangements, and what can only be called a pandemic of economic insecurity. Survival becomes the primary goal of the majority of Americans” (2,900 words)

Under The Banner Of New York

Zadie Smith | New York Review Of Books | 4th November 2017

A declaration of solidarity with New York, and with New Yorkers. Precious but persuasive. “We can often be found screaming at strangers in the street but we just as frequently pick them up off the floor. We are every variety of human. Some of us are dopers and junkies. Some of us are preschool teachers and nuns. None of us deserve to be killed in the street. We are a multiplicity of humans in an elastic social arrangement that can be stretched in many directions. It’s not broken yet” (2,500 words)

Runaway Money

Joshua Prager | Longform | 4th November 2017

Margaret Wise Browne left the copyright in Goodnight Moon to the child of a friend and neighbour in New York, called Albert Clarke, who was “a rascally nine-year-old” when he inherited in 1953. The legacy was meant as a kindness, but could probably have been better directed. In adulthood Mr Clarke has “floated on the fringes of society. No steady job. No fixed place of abode. Dozens of arrests”. Book royalties have yielded him nearly $5 million. “Today, he has $27,000 in cash” (4,060 words)

Paleo Politics

Jedediah Purdy | New Republic | 1st November 2017

Political scientist James C. Scott argues against the Whig view of history as an ascending process of social and economic advancement towards the domesticated societies of today. “In our own minds, we are the descendants of people who couldn’t wait to settle down”. But what if the dreaded barbarians drew more pleasure from life? What if the settling of society through the rise of agrarian farming and the founding of cities was a “vast technology of exploitation by a small and rapacious elite?” (2,520 words)

Video of the day Why Can’t You Go Faster Than Light?

What to expect:

Don Lincoln explains ALbert Einstein’s theory, for Fermilab (8’36”)

Thought for the day

Prison continues on those entrusted to it a work begun elsewhere
Michel Foucault

Podcast of the day Maslow’s Human Needs | TED Radio

Guy Raz investigates Abraham Maslow’s innovatory approach to psychology as a means of self-improvement
(48'45")

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