The editors' blog
~ Posted by Samantha Weinberg, October 24th 2014
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~ Posted by Samantha Weinberg, October 21st 2014
The news that Lonely Planet picked Salisbury as number seven on its list of top ten cities to visit in 2015 provoked derisive snorts in the Intelligent Life offices today—particularly from those of us who hail from Wiltshire. Salisbury cathedral is undeniably majestic and the sight of its spire from a distance, peering above the trees, never fails to lift the spirits. But away from the area immediately surrounding the cathedral—the Close—Salisbury is indistinguishable from all the other mid-ranking, Greggs- and Costa-filled city centres across England.
Lonely Planet chose Salisbury because it holds an original copy of the Magna Carta, which celebrates its 800th birthday next year. While there will be a special exhibition and lectures, the only thing that'll be different about the Magna Carta itself will be the number of tourists mobbing it. The city that tops the list is Washington, DC—chosen for the 150th anniversary of Abraham Lincoln’s assassination. Wow. Even the Washingtonian in the office, who is avowedly passionate about DC (as those who know it call it), laughed at the thought that it is the world’s best city to visit: “It’s just not.” The other eight were: Milan (“one big car park”), Zermatt (“full of flashy skiers”), El Chaltén (“where?”), Toronto, Valletta, Plovdiv, Chennai and Vienna.read more »
~ Posted by Tom Shone, October 20th 2014
Bennett Miller’s “Foxcatcher” gets under your skin. You have no idea where it is heading, only a vague but increasing sense that something is badly wrong, and when a gun is finally pulled and fired into someone’s gut you think: but of course. Did Miller get in training for this film by making “Capote”, his 2005 movie about the writing of “In Cold Blood”? There, the psychopathology was dirt-poor, rough-neck, as flat as the Kansas skyline. Here it comes from the poisonous mixture of wealth, power and thwarted dynasticism that grew like nightshade on the estate of John du Pont, the real-life heir of the du Pont business dynasty and a self-styled patriot. In the late 1980s, he built a state-of-the-art training facility for two brother wrestlers with whom he had become obsessed. We first see the brothers wrestling during training: Mark (Channing Tatum, above right) draws blood from his elder brother Dave (Mark Ruffalo), only to be put firmly in his place. The entire sequence—wordless but for the squeaks of sneakers and slaps of flesh—is a piece of silent, brutal ballet that tells you everything you need to know about the fierce fraternal bond that is about to be corrupted.read more »
~ Posted by Ed Smith, October 18th 2014
At Wembley next weekend, London will host the second of three NFL American-football matches, the Detroit Lions against the Atlanta Falcons. 84,000 people went to the first game last month (above) and this one is set to be another sell-out. There is now renewed talk of an NFL franchise being permanently stationed in London. Meanwhile, football (dare we say soccer?) is being targeted at India. The second season of the Indian Super League kicked off last weekend, boasting a bevvy of former international footballers—like Freddie Ljungberg and Nicolas Anelka—and backed by stars of Bollywood and Indian cricket, including, inevitably, Sachin Tendulkar. Cricket’s IPL, of course, has demonstrated India’s tolerance for an opaque mix of light entertainment and elite sport. But can football, which has none of cricket’s traditional resonance in India, pull off the same trick?read more »
~ Posted by Jainnie Cho, October 17th 2014
London’s Frieze Art Fair has added a new paintbrush to its pot this year with the launch of Frieze Live, a platform for performance art. Among the dozens of galleries showing paintings, sculpture and video art, Frieze has created six spaces for galleries showing live, interactive works.
Frieze is mainly about commerce, a place for moneyed collectors and buyers to do deals with gallerists. But performance art can’t be packaged up and stored away as an investment, so Live is less about selling and more a sign of Frieze moving with the art times. “Performance is coming into the institutions now”, said Nicola Lees, special advisor to the Live section. And the public is following: just look at Marina Abramovich’s “512 Hours” at the Serpentine Gallery this summer, which drew nearly 130,000 curious visitors.read more »
~ Posted by Alix Christie, October 16th 2014
Two striking vehicles carry a new exhibition on German history at the British Museum. One is a 1953 Volkswagen Beetle parked in the museum's grand hall, a design commissioned by Hitler which became a symbol of Germany's post-war “economic miracle”. The other is a rickety wooden cart like those used by 12m-14m Germans forced from eastern Europe after the second world war, the largest—and largely unacknowledged—mass-refugee movement in history.
German success and German suffering: these are sensitive, if not taboo, topics in light of the crimes of the Holocaust. But this survey confronts Germany's central paradox head-on. Some 200 carefully selected objects situate the 12 years of Nazi horror in the long stream of the past 600 years. Neil MacGregor, the museum's director, coined the term "a history in objects", and they do speak for themselves: a replica of the iron gate of the Buchenwald concentration camp stands juxtaposed with the light of German humanism, symbolised by a portrait of Goethe (top) and an abstract cradle from the Bauhaus.read more »
~ Posted by Matthew Engel, October 16th 2014
For the past three years I have been with Kathy. Our mutual interest is travel, and we have done many thousands of miles together. She is not my partner exactly, more something between a constant companion and an imaginary friend. Nor is she aware of the intensity of my feelings towards her, though she would have known, when she accepted the gig, that she was leaving herself open to becoming a fantasy object for the slightly unhinged. In return, I have to say that her conversational range is limited, which is why, when she has nothing useful to contribute, I shut her in the glove compartment.
Kathy, as you may have gathered, is the voice on my satnav. She came into my life when I decided I could cope no longer with the screaming fits induced by the erratic signposting of English provincial cities. My technosceptic wife took an instant dislike to Jane and Tim, the English voices offered by TomTom. We experimented with Jacques from France, who was deemed educational. The language was not a problem but Jacques insisted on using metric. So we compromised on Kathy, who was listed as Irish. She is clearly from Ulster, as is brought home every time we approach a "roan-de-boat", and Ulster accents can be harsh; hers was soft and soothing.read more »
~ Posted by Hazel Sheffield, October 15th 2014
Arthur Russell’s father once said that he made music “you can’t really tap your foot to”. A generation of New York City disco dancers might disagree. Both were right: throughout the Seventies and Eighties, Russell’s work spanned contemporary, orchestral, country, disco and pop. It belonged in The Kitchen, a downtown avant-garde performance space frequented by Philip Glass, and The Loft, an underground dance party popular in New York’s gay scene. Russell was prolific, but struggled to finish anything. He only released one record, “World of Echo”, in his lifetime. When he died from AIDS in 1992, aged just 40, he was still relatively unknown and nearly broke.
History has been kind to Russell’s memory. A series of reissues in the last decade, compiled from the hundreds of tape recordings Russell left to his partner, Tom Lee, have introduced some of his music to new audiences and influenced the next generation of songwriters. Some of these songwriters feature on a new album of Arthur Russell covers, “Master Mix: Arthur Russell + Red Hot”, released next week to raise money for the AIDS charity Red Hot.read more »
~ Posted by Tim de Lisle, October 15th 2014
When you edit a cultural magazine, you have to decide where you stand on actors. There are a lot of them, they are highly recognisable, and many are on offer as interviewees. But the offer often has a Faustian tinge: if you accept, you lose a piece of your magazine’s soul. Not to the actor or actress concerned, who is probably deeply soulful, but to the grim machinery behind them. The interview may be for only an hour, it may be in a hotel, the publicist may be in the room: everything conspiring to deliver a piece of pap. And star power—or PR power—is now such that photo approval, even copy approval, is not uncommon. Our parentage, at the independent-minded Economist Group, means that we couldn’t play that game even if we wanted to.
The day after our last issue closed, an e-mail came in from Clemency Burton-Hill, who wrote our cover story on Gustavo Dudamel in 2013. She had embarked on a piece about Eddie Redmayne. “I realise most actors are far from your Platonic ideal, being PR’d to within an inch of their lives,” she wrote, “but Eddie is a different kettle of fish—clever & thoughtful, and he has had this extraordinary year playing Stephen Hawking for ‘The Theory of Everything’, for which I’ve been quietly observing him at close quarters...” Quietly observing: that sounded like us.read more »
~ Posted by Tom Shone, October 13th 2014
Not since the salad days of Robert Altman has a director packed a film with as much filthy talk, dark humour, puckish satire and deep relish for human fault and foible as Alejandro G. Iñárritu does in “Birdman”. A tour de force take on the soul of the actor in the era of the blockbuster, the film stars Michael Keaton (pictured) as Riggan Thomson, an ageing Hollywood star whose career and credibility have never quite recovered from playing the comic-book superhero Birdman. Now, he has decided to risk everything—his own money, his Malibu home—on a Broadway production of the Raymond Carver short story, “What We Talk About When We Talk About Love”. Anyone expecting a subtle subtextual glance towards Keaton’s own career since playing Batman in Tim Burton’s 1989 movie is in for a surprise: the film takes your knowingness and raises it several meta-levels. Even the journalists name-check Roland Barthes. They hound the beleaguered star to his dressing room, where he removes his gummed-on wig while a nubile Robert Downey Jr, as Iron Man, mocks him from the TV. “That clown doesn’t have half your talent,” snarls the voice of Riggan’s inner demon—Birdman presumably, but bearing a suspicious resemblance to Keaton’s Batman bass growl. “And he’s making a fortune in that tin-man get-up.”read more »