Newsletter 971

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

Damnation Of St Christopher

3rd April 2013 | Michael Wolff | GQ

Posthumous, patronising profile portraying "highbrow barfly" Christopher Hitchens as a mediocre thinker inside a brilliant self-promoter. "I never had any sense of whether he was happy or despairing. Lonely or content. Satisfied or self loathing. But certainly being drunk so much of the time would not suggest he was tiptop. It was an external life. His greatest effort always seemed to be to live in public, with the effort itself being more important than the nature of the opinions or controversy that got him there"

Ratko Mladic: How He Evaded Capture

2nd April 2013 | Julian Borger | Guardian

Investigation. Bosnian Serb army chief Ratko Mladic evaded the Hague war-crimes tribunal for 14 years, initially with the help of the Serbian army. "Such was the determination of the Serbian general staff to keep Mladic both comfortable and hidden that an entire department was established in Belgrade to that end, called the 30th Personnel Centre. Alongside a permanent retinue of about 10 bodyguards, Mladic had a driver, a cook, even his own personal waiter". Those who helped him were given pictures of their children. "The implication was clear: if we can shoot them with a camera, we can shoot them by other means as well"

A Day In The Life Of A Black Guard

2nd April 2013 | Lan Fang | Caixin

Portrait of a "petition stopper", a job probably unique to Chinese politics. The Chinese constitution guarantees citizens the right to petition government offices in Beijing; so every provincial government employs "petition stoppers" to intercept protesters who reach the capital, and take them home, so that no petitions need to be registered. "After identifying each petitioner, the guards first approach them and ask that they get into a car, saying that officials from their home have made the trip to Beijing to resolve their problems ... If the person refuses to cooperate, the guards simply grab them by the arms and legs and force them into the car"

The Bitcoin Bubble and the Future of Currency

3rd April 2013 | Felix Salmon | Medium

Analysis. The price of Bitcoin has gone exponential and is bouncing around at crazy levels. There's a bubble. There will be a crash. But the product — an anonymous, computer-generated, digital currency — is admirable. "Bitcoin is in many ways the best and cleanest payments mechanism the world has ever seen. So if we’re ever going to create something better, we’re going to have to learn from what bitcoin does right – as well as what it does wrong. The source code for bitcoin is free and public, which means that just about every hacker and cryptographer in the world has had a crack at it. And they’ve all come to the same conclusion: it really works"

Facebook Leans In

3rd April 2013 | Kurt Eichenwald | Vanity Fair

Big backgrounder. Tech followers will know the story. Others will value a well-reported piece, even a slightly gushy one, on an always-interesting company, written with access to Mark Zuckerberg, and with lots of eyebrow-raising quotes and facts. Here's Marc Andreessen: “A lot of people looked at Facebook and saw a Web site. None of the people close to Mark and the company thought of Facebook as a Web site. They think of it as a data set, a feedback loop". Sample fact: L'Oréal has 400 staff dedicated to posting stuff on Facebook

Those Irritating Verbs-As-Nouns

30th March 2013 | Henry Hitchings | New York Times

On "nominalizations" — the use of verbs and adjectives as nouns. Sometimes irritating; sometimes invigorating. "Nominalizations can have a distancing effect. What is the ask? is less personal than What are they asking? This form of words may improve our chances of eliciting a more objective response. It can also turn something amorphous into a discrete conceptual unit, of a kind that is easier to grasp or sounds more specific. Whatever I think of what is the ask? it focuses me on what’s at stake" (Metered paywall)

Video of the day: Re-Enacting The Night Watch

Thought for the day:

"Americans believe in the future as if it were a religion; they believe that solutions wait somewhere for all problems, like brides" — Frances FitzGerald

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