Norms, Prussian Blue, Ulysses, Keats, Cricket


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

Social Norms And Chili Peppers

Peter Turchin | Cliodynamica | 23rd July 2017

“Deeply internalised social norms rewire our brains to feel inappropriate pleasure as pain (just like chili peppers, although in that case pain is rewired as pleasure). It’s interesting that norm-breaking often evokes disgust (‘what he did made me sick to my stomach’). Cultural groups whose members internalise prosocial norms will sustain higher degree of within-group cooperation — and will win and spread at the expense of other, less cooperative groups. So will the prosocial norm” (2,800 words)

From Great Wave To Starry Night

Hugh Davies | Conversation | 20th July 2017

Elegant short history of Prussian blue pigment, beloved of Hokusai and Van Gogh, accidentally invented by a 17C theologian-alchemist called Johann Conrad Dippel who contaminated a sample of red pigment with poisonous oil while trying to make an elixir of immortality; it turned a glorious blue. “The recipe for Egyptian blue used by the Romans had been lost to history some time in the middle ages. The discovery of a stable blue colour was literally more valuable than gold” (1,600 words)

Straightening Out Ulysses

Bernard Hœpffner | Paris Review | 25th July 2017

Notes on re-translating James Joyce’s Ulysses into French. “Michel, the Lacanian, proposes the re-mors de l’inextimé as a translation of ‘agenbite of inwit’. Each of us tries to convince the others to accept particular exceptions to the rules we’d agreed on; invariably due to puns, or neologisms. Numerous emails follow: ‘So you think chiasse is too strong. What do you say to merdasse?’ ‘I’d like to replace mamelles with tétons.’ ‘I’m keeping the blenno’s blaireau” (1,840 words)

A Possible Keats

Fleur Jaeggy | New York Review Of Books | 24th July 2017

Imaginative reconstruction of the life and death of John Keats, adding colour to the known facts. “When he was brawling, Keats resembled Edmund Kean at theatrical heights of exasperation. His friends predicted a brilliant future for him in the military. Yet when his temper defused, he’d grow extremely calm, and his sweetness shone — with the same intensity as his rage had. The scent of angels. Moods, vague and tentative, didn’t settle over him so much as hurry past like old breezes” (3,980 words)

The Mad World Of Major Rowland Bowen

Russell Jackson | Guardian | 21st July 2017

“One September afternoon in 1968, Rowland Bowen, a renowned cricket historian and establishment-baiting controversialist, walked into the bathroom of his house in Eastbourne, set out a hacksaw, a hammer and a chisel, and sat down in the bathtub. Following instructions gleaned from years of obsessive amateur study, he set about amputating his own right leg. When he finished the procedure, he simply limped his way to the telephone and called himself an ambulance” (3,900 words)

Video of the day: Alex Jones As Indie Folk

What to expect:

Rants by Alex Jones set to indie-folk music in the style of Bon Iver (2’44”)

Thought for the day

He who knows how to wait need make no concessions
Sigmund Freud

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