Weekly newsletter 103

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

Best of the Week

Steak Shows Its Muscle

A.A. Gill | Vanity Fair | 12th April 2013

Sensibility alert: Begins with a description of drinking a half-pint of blood from a live cow. Before relaxing into a lyrical appreciation of steak and steakhouses. "We live in the steak age; marbled fatty buttock is the defining mouthful of our time ... A slab of bleeding meat is symbolic of something fundamental, something pre-banking, pre-mortgage, predownsizing, prehistoric. It is a metaphor for the most basic achievement: to kill for sustenance, to be strong, to man up"

Gay Marriage: The Joint Tax Return

Caleb Crain | Slate | 11th April 2013

You think US taxes are a pain? Try filing as a gay married couple when the constitutionality of marriage is still under review. "Each spouse had to complete a federal tax return as if he were single. Next the couple completed a third return, based on the counterfactual premise that the federal government did recognize their marriage after all"

A Wild Country Grows In South Sudan

Patrick Symmes | Outside | 9th April 2013

Adventures in the world's newest country. Ten million people, 60 tribes. "South Sudan is not a society in recovery: there never was any real infrastructure, government, civil society, rules, laws, or rule of law here, so there is nothing to recover. It’s a scratch country, invented as a solution to an insoluble problem of semipermanent war and defined by what it lacks ... There are more guns than people who can read; refugee camps are more common than towns"

After 27 Years Of Burglaries, ‘North Pond Hermit’ Is Arrested

Christopher Knight | Morning Sentinel | 9th April 2013

Man disappears into Maine woods. Lives there alone for 27 years reading, meditating. Keeps a pretty tidy house in a shack made of garbage cans and plastic sheeting. The problem: he steals food, books, daily necessities from neighbouring houses. Never very much. But over 27 years it adds up. Policeman tracks him, spots him on a webcam, arrests him. "He hasn't seen himself in the mirror for well over 20 years. It's a very unusual situation."

The End Of Sleep

Jessa Gamble | Aeon | 10th April 2013

Imagine a disease that deprived people of a third of their conscious lives. We would be clamouring for a cure. We don't have a cure for sleep yet, but the palliatives are getting better. Take 400mg of modafinil every eight hours, and you can sleep just one night in three. A mild version of electroshock therapy cuts the optimal nightly sleep time down from eight hours to four. As to what we would do with the extra waking hours, science is silent

In Conversation With Robert Silvers

Mark Danner | New York | 7th April 2013

Editor of the New York Review Of Books talks about the first 50 years. Starting with how the copy for the launch issue was commissioned: "Jason called his friend Wystan Auden. Lizzie called Mary McCarthy, and so did I. Barbara called Gore Vidal. I called Irving Howe, Alfred Kazin, and Norman Mailer. In the next two days I talked with Jonathan Miller, who wrote on Updike, and then with Philip Rahv, and Dwight MacDonald, who wrote on Arthur Schlesinger"

A History Of Like

Robert Gehl | New Inquiry | 27th March 2013

I missed this when it was first published; all the more reason to return to it now. Facebook has turned "liking" into a driving force of social media and commerce. But why "like"? All is explained here. "The marketing subfield of Liking Studies, which began before Internet use became mainstream, is key to understanding how this somewhat bland, reductive signal of affect became central to the larger consumer economy we live in. It also explains why Facebook will never install a Dislike button"

Scientology: The Story

Diane Johnson | New York Review Of Books | 5th April 2013

Book review, of Going Clear, by Lawrence Wright, and Beyond Belief, by Jenna Miscavige Hill. "Not to be read home alone on a stormy night: Lawrence Wright’s scary book about Scientology and its influence, with its accounts of vindictive lawyers and apostate captives, [is] a true horror story, the most comprehensive among a number of books published on the subject in the past few years, many of them personal accounts by people who have managed to escape or were evicted from the clutches of a group they came to feel was destroying them"

Video of the week: Got Me A Beard

Thought for the week:

"If any past civilization had succeeded in protecting its values, we’d be stuck with values that we would find horrible" — Robin Hanson

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