The editors' blog


    ~ Posted by Charlie McCann, July 3rd 2015

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    ~ Posted by Hazel Sheffield, July 3rd 2015

    “Amy”, the new biopic about the troubled British singer Amy Winehouse, starts on the evening of her friend's 14th birthday. Winehouse is sitting at the foot of some stairs with two friends sucking lollipops, while the birthday girl films them on a home-video recorder.

    The trio start to sing “Happy Birthday”, but the friends’ childlike voices trail off as Winehouse’s voice—like “a 65-year-old jazz singer”, as her producer Salaam Remi will later put it—fills the air. Already she possesses a talent that can silence a room. At a screening at the East End Film Festival in London, followed by a Q&A with the film's director, Asif Kapadia, viewers erupted into laughter at the scene. It was a rare moment of light in what turned into a harrowing film.

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    ~ Posted by Tom Shone, July 1st 2015

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    ~ Posted by Tom Standage, July 1st 2015

    When Apple launched the iTunes Music Store in 2003, it was a pioneer: it provided the first download service that actually worked, and it went on to dominate the digital music industry. But when it comes to music streaming, Apple is a laggard. Does its new Apple Music service, launched yesterday, have what it takes to dethrone Spotify, the market leader?

    read more » MusictechnologyTom Standage

    ~ Posted by Simon Willis, June 30th 2015 

    Welcome to the Intelligent Life podcast, a series of short conversations hosted by Matthew Sweet, who is both a regular contributor to the magazine and a presenter on BBC Radio 3. They will appear here, on iTunes, on Facebook and on Twitter every two weeks. 

    We start with data. From the music industry to the boardroom, they dictate more and more of our decisions. But what room do they leave for the hunch? In this first episode, Matthew is joined by Ian Leslie, who looks at this subject in a main feature in our July/August issue, and by Kenneth Cukier, the data editor of The Economist. They talk about the power of intuition, the advance of the algorithm, and whether we’re heading for a post-human world.

    read more » culturedataPodcastSimon Willis

    ~ Posted by George Pendle, June 29th 2015

    Comparing a city to the body of a living creature is not uncommon. Peter Ackroyd advised those visiting London to “tread carefully over the pavements…for you are treading on skin.” But nowhere does this metaphor ring truer than in Los Angeles. On a good day the city’s trademark tangled freeways mimic the gushing arteries and veins of the body’s circulatory system. On a bad day they resemble nothing so much as the bunched and clogged gastrointestinal tract of a perennially constipated giant. But looking at Mark Bradford’s show of recent paintings at the Hammer Museum, one was granted a new view of the city, less as a living creature than as a dead one, splayed on the coroner’s table.

    read more » Artculturegeorge pendleLOS ANGELESpainting

    ~ Posted by David Bennun, June 28th 2015

    “Rap is the new rock’n’roll. We the rock stars. And I’m the biggest of all of them.”

    Self-awareness is not the strongest of Kanye West’s many suits. But with that line, from an interview in 2013, he both anticipated and nailed what lies behind the controversy over his Glastonbury headlining slot on Saturday night. (There were petitions against it, and endless fulminations on the internet.) “Controversial”, in today’s usage, typically serves as a euphemism for what follows when a terrible idea is forcibly instituted, or a delusional grievance is loudly voiced. In this case, it was very much the latter.

    read more » cultureDavid BennunFestivalsGLASTONBURYHip-hopMusicrap

    ~ Posted by Nicholas Barber, June 26th 2015

    “The Overnight”, like Noah Baumbach’s recent hit comedy “While We’re Young”, examines a dubious nascent friendship between two bohemian couples—one of them more bohemian than the other. The less cool couple are Alex (Adam Scott, above left) and Emily (Taylor Schilling), both in their 30s, who have just moved from Seattle to Los Angeles with their son, RJ. Alex, a stay-at-home dad, is worried that he won’t meet new people, so when RJ starts playing with another boy in the local park, Alex is happy to talk to the boy’s father, Kurt (Jason Schwartzman, above right). He is happier still when Kurt invites the family over for pizza. True, he seems a tad touchy-feely, and his hat is an even bolder fashion statement than Adam Driver’s was in “While We’re Young”, but, hey, that’s California.

    The evening begins promisingly. Kurt has an enviable gated mansion and a charming French wife, Charlotte (Judith Godrèche), and has apparently made a fortune from his water-filtration system. Without it, he explains, “You’re basically drinking liquid cancer.” Alex and Emily are so impressed that, after a few glasses of wine, they agree to let RJ sleep upstairs while the grown-ups keep the party going. Kurt then breaks out the marijuana, and proposes some naked swimming in the pool.

    read more » cultureFilmNicholas Barber

    ~ Posted by William Fiennes, June 25th 2015

    The American writer James Salter, who died at the weekend aged 90, visited Britain in 2007 to celebrate the publication of his collection of stories “Last Night” and the reissue of his novels “The Hunters” and “Light Years”. I introduced and interviewed him at two events, and in those public conversations he came across as shrewd, ironic, sharp-witted. (In a New York Times review, Anatole Broyard ridiculed the names Salter gave characters in “Light Years”. Salter wrote back: “Come on. Anatole?”) Sometimes the wit was edged with disappointment—a sense, perhaps, that his reputation hadn’t burgeoned and travelled like those of some of his contemporaries. But when recalling encounters with great novelists of the past, he warmed and brightened. He relished the story of Nabokov arriving at a party at Cornell. “Did you come in your troika?” the host asked. “No,” Nabokov replied. “In my Buicka.” As so often in his books, Salter slid into memory as if returning to his native element.

    read more » BookscultureObituaryWilliam Fiennes

    ~ Posted by Nicholas Barber, June 24th 2015

    The first thing that struck me about last weekend’s East London Comics & Arts Festival, or ELCAF, is that there were women there. Lots of women. Everywhere you looked, studenty women were laughing, hugging, leafing through books, chatting enthusiastically in various languages, and sitting at tables signing their sketches. That might not seem remarkable for an arts festival, but I spent many of my teenage weekends at comics conventions, and most of the people there were just like I was: male, pasty and dressed in extra-baggy Judge Death T-shirts. That went for the comics creators as well as the fans. With a few exceptions, the only women at those conventions were life-sized cardboard cut-outs of Wonder Woman.

    read more » ArtBookscultureNicholas Barber