Work, Sokushinbutsu, Antarctica, Diplomacy, Chicago, American Power

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


James Palmer | Aeon | 4th October 2016

China is “the land of corner-cutting”. Instead of craftsmanship you mostly get chabuduo, which means “close enough”. “It’s a phrase you’ll hear with grating regularity, one that speaks to a job 70 per cent done, a plan sketched out but never completed, a gauge unchecked or a socket put in the wrong size.” Chabuduo “implies that to put any more time or effort into a piece of work would be the act of a fool”. Sometimes the result is improvisational brilliance; sometimes it is national disaster (3,200 words)

The Monks Who Mummified Themselves

Davey Young | Atlas Obscura | 4th October 2016

A thousand years ago, Japanese Buddhist monks discovered a way of mummifying themselves while still alive, so their dead bodies would not rot. The practice — Sokushinbutsu — continued into the 20th century. It required the mummifying monk to eat only nuts, buds, and roots from trees for at least three years. When he felt death approaching, “his disciples would lower him into a pine box at the bottom of pit three meters deep, pack charcoal around the box, and bury their master alive” (1,500 words)

Cape Adare

Maciej Cegłowski | Idle Words | 6th October 2016

Diary of a sea-voyage through Antarctica. “Of all the penguin species, Adélies are the most cartoon-like. Sitting among the king penguins on Macquarie Island felt like watching the deliberations of a select committee, whose members would confer among themselves before sending an inspection team to peck your boots. Adélie penguins give the impression of forever being late to an important appointment. When they run, they fling back their flippers and rock perilously back and forth” (6,100 words)

The World And President Trump

Brendan Simms | New Statesman | 7th October 2016

America will survive a President Trump, but the rest of the world should tremble. “The Chinese are contemplating the prospect of a Trump presidency with remarkable insouciance. They seem to regard him as one of their own, a man who will not bother them with sermons and with whom they can do business. In some ways they are right: he is one of them. That, however, is the problem. Trump shares their zero-sum view of the world, and he intends to prevail at their expense”

Operation Smoke And Mirrors

Jamie Kalven | Intercept | 6th October 2016

Gripping multi-part exposé of a vast criminal conspiracy in the Chicago police force, and the hounding of officers who tried to blow the whistle on it. In the city’s big housing projects, instead of suppressing the drugs trade, the police organise their own protection racket around it. “Think of the police as the working poor. Create a situation in which there’s lots of money and drugs on the street in neighborhoods no one gives a f**k about. What do you think is going to happen?” (7,000 words)

Grand Strategies

Michael Mazarr | War On The Rocks | 5th October 2016

Notes on the ways in which America may need to adjust to the relative decline of its power in the world. Among them: Should America give priority to the spread of liberal values, or to the stability of great-power relations? It has pursued both equally since 1945, but soon it will have to decide between them. It can choose to become “definitively more accommodationist in its approach to Russia and China”; or it can “redouble its efforts to enforce the norms and rules of the liberal order” (1,440 words)

Video of the day: Celebrity Nano-Impressions

What to expect:

Twenty cameos from Jim Meskimen, including “John Malkovich compliments an ugly baby” (2’37”)

Thought for the day

If a lie is worth telling, it is worth telling well

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