Sydney, Turkey, Beauty, Reverse Logistics, Lebanon

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

This Is Not An Opera House

Darryn King | The Monthly | 31st October 2017

Beautiful from a distance, Sydney Opera House is wildly impractical once you get inside. The acoustics are horrible, the side-by-side stages are tiny, the maintenance costs are all but insane. “The Opera Theatre stage is crushingly small. Ballet dancers bump into sets, or snag tiaras and costumes. Ballerinas are in danger of careering into walls when they flock from the stage at high speed, so backstage personnel stand on the sidelines, as vigilant as slip fielders in cricket” (4,400 words)

The Sultan And The Sultan

William Armstrong | History Today | 10th November 2017

When Turkey was Westernising in the 20th century Kemel Ataturk enjoyed almost sacred status. Now, as Turkey turns Eastward, Ataturk is losing ground to Sultan Abdülhamid II, one of the last Ottomans. Abdülhamid began as a reformer, then veered towards despotism. “The parallels with Turkey’s mercurial president Erdoğan seem obvious. A cult of personality is in full swing, with Erdoğan embodying the frustrations, hopes and grievances of Turkey’s conservative masses” (2,300 words)

Is Beauty Universal?

Anthony Brandt & David Eagleman | Nautilus | 10th November 2017

No. In the visual arts, symmetry seems to be generally pleasing, but great artworks depart from it. Newborns are fascinated by patterns that display some, but not much, complexity; these don’t offer much to grown-ups. Music ought to have some universal principles, by virtue of its abstraction, but tastes differ completely across cultures. The idea that babies prefer Mozart to dissonance is an artifact of bad experimental method, babies gravitate towards whatever they heard first (1,800 words)

Underwear Of Uncertain Origin

Andy Kroll | Pacific Standard | 9th November 2017

What happens to the products that you return to the store or sender? Returns used to be a tiny share of sales, but with online shopping they have boomed. “Some 8 to 10 percent of all goods bought in the U. will be returned. For online sales, the rate is much higher, in the range of 25 to 40 percent.” The term of art is “reverse logistics”. To a first approximation, everything from unwanted blenders to tried-on underwear will be auctioned for cents on the dollar in Los Angeles (5,600 words)

Saudi Arabia’s Power Struggle With Iran

Martin Chulov | Guardian | 11th November 2017

Trepidation in Lebanon, as Saudi Arabia girds for a fresh struggle against Iran, Sunni against Shia. “Saddam was the Sunni bulwark. That is only now being understood by the Saudis, who are trying to position themselves in his wake, all these years later.” The Saudis want a government in Lebanon ready to face down Hezbollah, the militant group loyal to Iran. But at what cost? “This one’s different. It could lead to every valley and mountain top. And if it starts, it may not stop.” (1,400 words)

Video of the day Strangers

What to expect:

Modern dance. Characters move around the same small space without ever encountering one another (3’15”)

Thought for the day

What is irrational divides us; what is rational unites us
Bertrand Russell

Podcast of the day A Conversation With Ian Leslie | The Browser

In this first Browser podcast, Robert Cottrell talks to author and journalist Ian Leslie about advertising, writing, editing, The Guardian, tweeting, Malcolm Gladwell, the New Statesman, and staying civil

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