Spartathlon, Birth, Dr Faustus, Alan Yentob, Islamic State


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

Vomit, Bleeding Nipples And Hallucinations

The Economist | Medium | 18th December 2016

How it feels to run the Spartathlon, an ultra-marathon from Athens to Sparta, covering 245 kilometres in 36 hours. Finishers receive a laurel wreath — and, not infrequently, a saline drip. An Athenian messenger ran the distance in 24 hours in 490BC, seeking the Spartans’ help in resisting the invading Persians. “Unfortunately the Spartans were celebrating a religious festival, so could not offer help until after the Athenians had dispatched the Persians at the battle of Marathon” (2,900 words)

She’s Only A Four

Sarah Scullin | Eidolon | 12th December 2016

Comparing ancient and modern ideas of birth. Science has not advanced far. “Researchers don’t actually know how or why birth starts; once it starts, they have no idea how the muscles of the uterus work, or how long labor ought to last, or how quickly the cervix should dilate; they cannot accurately predict the size of a baby; they cannot agree on which elements of the birth process are electrical or mechanical or chemical; they still reckon the length of pregnancy using estimates from the Bible” (3,200 words)

One Devil Too Many

Ed Simon | Paris Review | 15th December 2016

On the peculiar power and lasting influence of Christopher Marlowe’s Dr Faustus, first produced in 1594. “If Dr. Faustus is the first modern man, it’s because he is the first of a modern type: the artist. Where once the individual was but a conduit for God, with Faustus he began to serve a different master. Dr. Faustus during the witching hour, with his leatherbound tomes and his scrying mirrors, divinating with the sacred geometry, wasn’t a mad scientist: he was the artist. He was Marlowe himself” (1,500 words)

Alan Yentob: The Last Impresario

Sam Knight | Guardian | 13th December 2016

Alan Yentob is Britain’s “most influential TV executive of the last half-century”. He created or enabled Omnibus, Arena, The Late Show, Have I Got News for You?, Life on Mars, The Office, The Thick of It, QI, Sherlock, Strictly Come Dancing — “and on and on and on and on”. So, is he a national hero? Not quite. “He is ludicrously vain, he lives ridiculously, and he is unbelievably snobbish. You ask yourself, does he deliver value sufficiently to justify all those nonsenses? And yes he does, you know, by miles” (8,300 words)

The American Leader In Islamic State

Graeme Wood | Atlantic | 16th December 2016

On the trail of John Georgelas, alias Yahya Abu Hassan, who was born to an American military family of Greek descent in Texas, converted to Islam and won a reputation as a brilliant Arabic scholar, trained as a soldier for Islamic State, and now writes “high-end English-language propaganda” for Islamic State’s magazines, Dabiq and Rumiyah. “Yahya maintained a typically American can-do attitude toward his religion: If he couldn’t understand or fix it himself, it didn’t feel like his” (8,600 words)

Video of the day: Burns And Smiles

What to expect:

A man disfigured by burns dons a vampire cape and goes out on Halloween (3’48”)

Thought for the day

The things that I really regret were not errors of judgement, but failures of feeling
Jeanette Winterson

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