The editors' blog


    ~ Posted by Charlie McCann, August 13th 2014When Belle & Sebastian, the Glaswegian indie group, formed in 1996, they were quick to attract a devoted fan base. Part of the allure was their impenetrable mystique. The band didn’t give interviews and they didn’t do publicity shots.

    read more » Charlie McCannFilmMusic

    ~ Posted by Tim de Lisle, 

August 12th 2014

    It is now 55 years since C.P. Snow reached for his clarion to raise the alarm about “The Two Cultures”—the dangers of the arts and the sciences not speaking each other’s language. Progress since has been fitful: the odd bestseller by Stephen Hawking or Richard Dawkins, programmes by Brian Cox, novels by Ian McEwan. The ability to mix the arts and science seems to be like swimming—somehow, we un-learn it. At 15, when life is tricky in many ways, we have no trouble going straight from history to chemistry. By 17, we have been pushed down one road or the other; by 19, in Britain at least, many bright young things are accidental specialists, locked in the library or the lab.

    read more » From the editorSCIENCEseptember/october 2014Tim de Lisle

    ~Posted by Nicholas Shakespeare, August 8th 2014A “dripping roast” is how some in Cambodia describe the hugely expensive UN-backed trial of former Khmer Rouge leaders.

    read more » CambodiaNicholas Shakespeare

    ~ Posted by Rebecca Willis, August 8th 2014

    Forty-five years ago today, four young men walked across a zebra crossing in north-west London, the shutter of a camera clicked, and history was made. The cover of the Beatles' 11th studio album immortalised the Abbey Road crossing—and everything else in the picture, too. (Apparently the number plate of the white VW Beetle parked half on the pavement in the background was repeatedly stolen.)

    Paul McCartney, who still lives around the corner, had the idea for the image and sketched it out. The creative director decided not to put the name of the band or the album on the cover—even though EMI wanted it—because "they were the most famous band in the world". And so, thanks to the contagion of celebrity, it's now the most famous zebra crossing in the world.

    read more » LondonMusicRebecca Willis

    ~ Posted by Lucy Farmer, August 6th 2014

    How many children should you have?

    A British sitcom in the 1990s called “2point4 Children” followed the lives of the Porter family: mum, dad, son and daughter. The title played on the once-average number of children per family in Britain. (The average fertility rate was 2.4 in the 1970s; it dipped to 1.7 in the mid-1990s and is now back up to around 1.9.) The global average today is 2.5—the population is rising.

    For our last Big Question, we asked six writers: how many children should you have? We then asked readers to enter the moral maze by voting in our online poll. Stats aside, it is a deeply personal decision, and one that most of us will have to make. There are many things to take into consideration, including the cost, your sanity, a child’s happiness and the planet.

    read more » FamilyLucy FarmerPsychologyThe Big Question

    ~ Posted by Rebecca Willis, August 5th 2014

    When you see an old friend after a couple of decades, it’s the changes that you notice first: the wrinkles and the greying hair. It’s the same with places, as I was reminded when I recently went back to Bali, 21 years after I first lost my heart to the island. The wrinkles are the urban sprawl and the new developments in the south of the island. The greying hair is the nose-to-tail traffic in the capital, Denpasar, and all the way from there to Ubud, the island’s self-proclaimed cultural capital.

    In the centre of Ubud there is now a Starbucks a stone’s throw from the royal palace, and the streets are clogged with people-movers shuttling tourists to and from the luxury hotels nearby. One of the first of these, and probably the most famous, is the Amandari hotel, which used to overlook a secluded valley of rice terraces and tropical vegetation—an uninterrupted palette of greens. Today, as you stand on the terrace, an ugly grey scar spoils the bottom right-hand corner of the view, where building work for a new Ritz-Carlton hotel scours the valley floor.

    read more » baliplacesRebecca WillisTravel

    ~ Posted by Lucy Farmer, July 31st 2014

    For staff birthdays we often celebrate with a cake in the office and an off-key rendition of “Happy Birthday”. Recently, we presented a colleague with a pile of gourmet marshmallows instead. He seemed pleased, and we felt fashionable for a few moments, but between chews there were murmurs that we should have stuck with cake—or even better, a cupcake each.

    Cupcakes are cake in its preeminent form, and they have been the tiny giants of the bakery world for more than a decade. According to the Canadian journalist David Sax in “The Tastemakers”, his new book about contemporary food trends, it's mainly thanks to a 20-second clip in an episode of “Sex and the City” that aired in 2000. When Carrie sat on a bench outside Magnolia Bakery in New York’s West Village and took a bite from a hand-held frosted-sponge delight, a trend was born. The cupcake was instantly lifted from a kids' treat to an adult indulgence, with all the attendant sex appeal.

    read more » AmericaFoodLucy Farmer

    ~ Posted by Charlie McCann, July 29th 2014

    If you're a truck driver following a SatNav or a tourist clutching a city guide, the question "what is a map?" is simply answered: it helps us get from A to B. But “Mapping It Out”, an elegant 240-page volume published this month, is an “alternative atlas of contemporary cartographies”. Here, maps produced by professional geographers lie side by side with maps made by scientists and mathematicians, writers and designers, artists and architects—everyone from Yoko Ono to our columnist Tom Standage.

    read more » ArtCharlie McCannculturemaps

    ~ Posted by Robert Newton, July 24th 2014

    Two inflatable silver cubes hang from the ceiling like shimmering disco balls. Noise blares from an array of loudspeakers. Gaudy placards attached to scaffolding poles bear slogans like “I wish my boyfriend was as dirty as your policies”. The latest exhibition at the Victoria and Albert museum in London, “Disobedient Objects”, brings together tools of protest from around the world. It takes the viewer on a tour of protest from a teacup embossed with a suffragette symbol (an angel blowing a trumpet) to a Palestinian slingshot cobbled together from the tongue of a shoe and a piece of string. The objects differ enormously in their aesthetic appeal, but the curators stress that they all have one end in mind—to show how people, not governments, hold the power to effect change. Gavin Grindon, one of the curators and a historian and theorist of activist art, says it is the "most socially engaged" show the V&A has done.

    read more » activismExhibitions

    ~ Posted by Robert Butler, July 23rd 2014

    Our app, which is available on iPad, iPhone, Android tablets and smartphones, also carries audio extras. You can listen to pieces from our July/August issue below.

    Robert Macfarlane reads his piece on Susan Cooper's "The Dark is Rising", Xiaolu Guo reads her piece on the food that takes her back to her childhood in China, Rebecca Willis reads hers on summer and the sarong, Jim Crace reads his about a delightful museum in Cornwall, Oliver Morton reads his on speaking up for carbon dioxide and Anthony Gardner reads his on the rise of the word "artisan". 

    read more » audioIntelligent Life