The editors' blog


    ~ Posted by Maggie Fergusson, March 5th 2015

    In the town of Beauly, ten miles west of Inverness, there’s a tweed shop much beloved of Highlanders. Until last month it had been in the same family since 1858, and had been run for time immemorial by the same trio: a brother (the tailor) and his two sisters, all unmarried. The sisters, a friend tells me, were wonderfully “perjink” old ladies.

    Even if you’re not familiar with “perjink”, I bet you can intuit its meaning. It has shades of neat, tidy, pernickety and prim—yet none of these alone quite nails it. It set me thinking of the wealth of Scottish words so subtle and expressive and many-layered that they make the English language seem suddenly poor and thin. Here are ten more I would not be without:

    read more » BooksLanguageLiteratureMaggie FergussonScotland

    ~ Posted by George Pendle, March 4th 2015

    One of the least mourned casualties of the smartphone revolution has been boredom. Whether we are queuing up for coffee, waiting at a doctor’s surgery, or even stopped at a red light, our smartphones can now fill any dead moment with instant distraction. But are we losing something vital by not allowing ourselves to wallow in what Tolstoy termed “the desire for desires”?

    This is the question behind a campaign called "Bored and Brilliant", launched recently by the New York radio station WNYC. It encourages people not only to rethink their relationship with their digital devices, but also tries to overturn the negative preconceptions surrounding boredom itself. The campaign used as its theoretical basis a groundbreaking experiment in boredom studies first carried out by the British psychologists Sandi Mann and Rebekah Cadman in 2014. In this experiment, subjects who were asked to perform boring tasks like reading the phone book subsequently showed more imagination in performing creative ones. Boredom, in other words, was beneficial. So "Bored and Brilliant" sought to squeeze boredom back into our lives by squeezing our smartphones out.

    read more » george pendleLifestylePsychologysmartphonestechnology

    ~ Posted by Simon Willis, March 2nd 2015

    Every issue of Intelligent Life features a selection of dos and don'ts for a different part of the world, from Istanbul to Botswana. And in every issue the slot, called When In..., is illustrated by Neil Gower. In this video, filmed in Gower's studio, he talks about visual puns, where his ideas come from, and why he's inspired by coffee cups. 

    read more » IllustrationSimon WillisVideo

    ~ Posted by Marion Coutts, February 27th 2015

    Twenty-three of the most extraordinary images you might wish for are on show at the Courtauld in London. You might wish for them, but you would scarcely be able to imagine them for yourself. The show recreates for the first time the sequence of drawings from "The Witches and Old Women Album", or "Album D"—one of eight, late albums Goya drew for private consumption between 1819 and 1823. These were drawings made for himself and a group of friends. All market pressures were off, and the liberation is palpable. He could do exactly what he liked.

    read more » ArtcultureExhibitionsMarion Coutts

    ~ Posted by Georgia Grimond, February 27th 2015 

    As Rio de Janeiro slowly returns to work after its annual carnival, the celebrations tell a tale of two cities. At the Sambadrome, home to the official carnival, thousands of smiling, shimmying dancers competed to be crowned carnival queens. Tickets were sold, sponsors schmoozed and businesses hosted lavish boxes. Questions are often asked about how the elaborate floats are financed and this year was no different. The winner, with a near-perfect score, was the Beija-Flor (Hummingbird) samba school with its celebration of Equatorial Guinea. Though its dictatorial president is one of Africa’s richest men, many of his people live in deep poverty. Allegations flew among the glitter and feathers that his government gave millions of reais towards the float, and that Brazil has been seen to support the regime.

    read more » BrazilGeorgia GrimondMusicRio de Janeiro

    ~ Posted by Isabel Lloyd, February 26th 2015

    Reading a George Bernard Shaw play can be a dry and tedious affair: all those endless monologues of ideas, all that gnawing at dead Edwardian moralities. And in the first minutes of “Man and Superman”, which opened at the National Theatre in London last night, there doesn’t seem to be much to lift the 21st-century heart. A white-haired man in a pin-stripe suit sits reading a will in an Edwardian library; a lovesick young man enters to discuss the potential marriage of his guardian. So far, so creaky, even with the deliciously pompous Nicholas Le Provost booming and tutting as the paterfamilias. And then the double doors slam open and in bursts—Leonard Rossiter!

    read more » cultureIsabel LloydTheatre

    ~ Posted by Kassia St Clair, February 26th 2015

    Kinky films work best when they touch our own ordinary lives rather than remaining trapped inside erotic echo chambers. Few well-to-do housewives were likely to supplement their routines with stints working in a brothel, à la “Belle de Jour” (1967). But many could identify with the depths of her boredom and the richness of her fantasy life. Similarly, the appeal of “Fifty Shades of Grey” may be the goings on in “the red room of pain”. But its success is probably owed to its timeworn theme—a strong but damaged man saved by the love of a good woman. And Peter Strickland's new film, “The Duke of Burgundy”, pulls off the same trick. Despite having a lesbian couple keen on S&M at its centre, it has the fundamental truths of all relationships at its heart.

    read more » FilmKassia St Clairmovies

    ~ Posted by Simon Willis, February 26th 2015

    For each issue of Intelligent Life, we ask a selection of contributors to record their pieces for our digital editions and website. Below you can listen to Robert Macfarlane on the landscapes of Nabokov's "Lolita"; Rebecca Willis on fashion's ebb and flow; Maggie Fergusson on her pick of the best new books; the novelist Benjamin Markovits on how he found a sense of belonging at the breakfast table; and Ed Smith on sports stars who seem to have more time. 

    read more » audiomarch/april 2015Simon Willis

    ~ Posted by Simon Willis, February 25th 2015

    On February 20th 1962, the astronaut John Glenn blasted into space on board Friendship 7. He had with him a 35mm Ansco camera, bought for less than $20 at a high-street store. From the capsule’s small window he captured a simple, pale picture of broken cloud patterns, milky-white against grey, shrouded in a thin powdery atmosphere (above). It was the first picture of Earth from space that a man ever took.

    read more » culturePhotographySCIENCESimon WillisSpace

    ~ Posted by James Tozer, February 24th 2015

    Fans of the vintage Bond films will enjoy “Kingsman: The Secret Service”: it’s been made for their enjoyment. Based loosely on a 007-inspired comic book series, Matthew Vaughn’s tale of an aristocratic spy ring disguised as Savile Row tailors attempts to revive the Bonds of the Sixties and Seventies—not in the slick Bourne-ified way of the Daniel Craig reboots, but with all the swagger and slapstick of the Moore and Connery classics. From the promo poster’s homage to “For Your Eyes Only” to the knowing jokes between the suave hero, Galahad (Colin Firth), and the lisping villain, Valentine (Samuel L. Jackson), this is a tribute that glories in its source material—bulletproof umbrellas, well-shaken martinis and cringe-worthy one-liners abound.

    read more » espionageFilmJames BondJAMES tozermovies