Myanmar , Umberto Eco, Leaf Blowers, Jack London, Speed Of Light


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

Naypidaw: A City Looking For A Purpose

Andray Abrahamian | The Interpreter | 24th November 2016

Why did Myanmar build a new capital at Naypidaw? First, it was customary: “In the Burmese context, shifting the capital is not an infrequent occurrence. The capital has been moved 38 times, with a tenure of only 52 years on average” Second, it suited the army: “North Korea helped build a vast network of tunnels under Naypidaw, connecting key infrastructure. The new city lent a degree of confidence that a transition to a more democratic system was going to be manageable” (1,000 words)

Ur-Fascism

Umberto Eco | New York Review of Books | 22nd June 1995

On growing up in Fascist Italy, the nature of Italian Fascism, and fascism as a political system. “Fascism was a fuzzy totalitarianism, a collage of different philosophical and political ideas. In spite of this fuzziness, it is possible to outline a list of features that are typical of Ur-Fascism, or Eternal Fascism. Many of them contradict each other, and are also typical of other kinds of despotism or fanaticism. But it is enough that one of them be present to allow fascism to coagulate around it” (5,300 words)

The Devil’s Hair Dryers

David Dudley | City Lab | 3rd November 2016

Running a leaf blower for 30 minutes creates more emissions than driving a pickup truck for 3800 miles. The noise of a leaf blower exceeds 100 decibels and carries hundreds of feet in every direction. “The tragedy of the leaf blower is that it makes assholes of us all, users and neighbors alike”. The suburban garden is conceived as peaceful refuge, “predicated on the assumption that other people are fundamentally irritants. And when we move there, we discover just how true that can be” (850 words)

The Short, Frantic Life Of Jack London

Kenneth Brandt | Smithsonian Magazine | 22nd November 2016

His mother was a spiritualist, his “probable biological father” a “traveling astrologer”. He grew up poor in San Francisco, worked as an oyster poacher, shipped out on a seal hunting expedition across the Pacific to Japan, returned to heave coal, then rode the rails as a hobo across America and served time for vagrancy, all before the age of 20. In 1897 he joined the Klondike gold rush, collected the material for his first short stories, and found wealth and fame at 27 with Call Of The Wild (2,400 words)

Giving Thanks For The Speed Of Light

Sean Carroll | Preposterous Universe | 24th November 2016

Notes on the speed of light, and why the universe needs a speed limit. “The speed of light enforces what physicists think of as locality — what happens at one point in spacetime influences what happens nearby, and those influences gradually spread out. A universe without the speed of light would be one where different parts of space were potentially connected in dramatic ways. That would be so utterly different that it’s hard to think through all of the consequences consistently” (1,400 words)

Video of the day: Ruben’s Elevator

What to expect:

Portrait of Ruben Pardo, oldest operator of a manual elevator in Los Angeles (4’28”)

Thought for the day

I am an author because I want to ask questions. If I had answers, I’d be a politician
Eugène Ionesco

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