Mars, North Korea, Robert Caro, Jonathan Meades, Bereavement, Ticketmaster


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

Mars Madness

Alina Simone | California Sunday | 2nd February 2017

Could an amateur make it to Mars? A rich one, possibly. And plenty are planning to try. “You could do a two-person Mars flyby for a billion dollars. Elon would sell you the launchers for a couple of hundred million dollars, you could develop the spacecraft for a couple of million dollars. All they need is a capsule, a heat shield, a life-support system, which might be within the competence of people who are not part of the professional aerospace community to develop” (5,400 words)

Propaganda As Literature

Xavier Marquez | Abandoned Footnotes | 13th February 2017

Quantitative analysis of North Korean propaganda, using 17 years of headlines from the Korean Central New Agency. “One striking pattern is that the Kims rarely ‘order’ anyone to do anything. The picture is of kindly guidance and filial duty, not of command. Though they teach or inspect various establishments, they never simply assert their dominance; and though they receive many gifts, a substantial proportion of their activity consists in sending wreaths to the biers of the illustrious dead” (8,100 words)

Robert Caro: The Art Of Biography

James Santel | Paris Review | 2nd May 2016

Caro talks about his life of Robert Moses, and his monumental, still-uncompleted biography of Lyndon Johnson. “Power doesn’t always corrupt. But what power always does is reveal, because when you’re climbing, you have to conceal from people what it is you’re really willing to do, what it is you want to do. But once you get enough power, once you’re there, where you wanted to be all along, then you can see what the protagonist wanted to do all along, because now he’s doing it” (10,500 words)

The Plagiarist In The Kitchen

Andrew Nixon | The Dabbler | 10th February 2017

Jonathan Meades has written a practical cookbook — perhaps even an excessively practical cookbook: “To kill an eel you need a brick and a concrete surface. Hit it on the head. Then hit it again. To skin it, nail it by what remains of its head to a rough wooden work surface. Cut round the skin then make incisions to loosen the skin. This should allow you to grip the skin with the aid of a cloth or gardening glove and pull it off. Should allow you: it’s not a straightforward process, bear with it” (980 words)

Everything Was Suddening Into A Hurricane

Binyavanga Wainaina | Granta | 13th February 2017

Turbulent memoir of personal tragedy. Wainaina suffers a stroke in the United States and returns to convalesce in Kenya, only to find his father dying. “The Provincial General Hospital toilets smell of urine, the critical-care unit is kept warm by a small heater. His hand is so strong and he smells on Tuesday night of him, his heart beating of him, on Friday the machine is switched off. One eye of him half-crying open like a glue eye and his hand is warm, but in his head it is already finished” (1,875 words)

The Man Who Broke Ticketmaster

Jason Koebler | Motherboard | 10th February 2017

An online ticket scalper explains his trade. “The last piece of the puzzle was Ticketmaster’s anti-bot CAPTCHA system, which requires a human to type in crossed out or fuzzy words to prove he or she isn’t a robot. Wiseguy learned that Ticketmaster’s CAPTCHA system had only loaded 30,000 unique images into its database, rather than millions. So Lowson’s team downloaded every image they could find as a .jpeg file, stayed up all night typing them out, and taught their bot how to match the images” (6,600 words)

Video of the day: The Voice (Siri)

What to expect:

Cartoon. What if there were a real Siri, trying to answer all those questions? (2’08”)

Thought for the day

The present engenders the past far more energetically than the other way around
Joseph Brodsky

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