The editors' blog
~ Posted by Pip Wroe, February 21st 2013
Today we launch our latest Big Question: what is the best smell? Some of the smells chosen by our six writers—wild roses, rain, freshly-mown hay—are freely available; others—frying bacon, baking bread—involve very modest expenditure. But some smells are much pricier and yesterday I went to the launch of one that costs £3,000. It was so expensive that the journalists there weren't allowed a single sniff.
We had been invited to Bentley's main showroom in Berkeley Square, and instead of climbing in and out of cars that cost six figures we stood in front of a table that had eleven glass bowls. Each bowl had its own smell: cedarwood, patchouli, musk, benzoin siam, galleon rum, cinnamon, clary sage, leather, black pepper, bay leaves, and bergamot. The perfumier, a blonde French woman in her 30s, talked us through the science of making the car company's new range in luxury fragrance.
In the office there had been jokes about "notes of gasoline" and "hints of axle grease" and it was surprising that Bentley's thinking ran along similar, if classier, lines. The creators wanted the smell to resemble that of getting into a Bentley (a new one), with its heady blend of leather and wood. If science had allowed them to distill the sweet smell of success (the Bentley Mulsanne costs £225,000), no doubt they would have added that too.
There were three fragrances in the range. The first, "Lalique for Bentley Crystal edition" (above), a collaboration with the French glass designer, has a limited run of 999 bottles priced at £3000 each. The second was "Bentley Intense" (£76) and the third "Bentley Eau de Toilette" (£69). I opened the last of these and sniffed tentatively. It was surprisingly good: rich, sweet but not overwhelming (that’s what "Bentley Intense" is for).read more »
~ Posted by Charles Nevin, February 19th 2013
Considerable mockery from the outside world has attended a Norwegian television programme showing a fire burning in a fireplace for 12 hours, beginning in Friday night prime time. Paint and spin drying were popular comparisons; other shows happily recollected included the complete seven-hour train journey from Oslo to Bergen, and the six days of live feed from a ship sailing up the fjords, watched, allegedly, by almost the entire nation.read more »
~ Posted by Tim de Lisle, February 15th 2013
In journalism, the great reporter Phillip Knightley likes to say, no "no" is ever final. Our latest cover is a case in point. On landing in this seat five years ago, I had a few cover targets, led by Gustavo Dudamel (right), the conductor whose concerts are so exciting that he seems to be conducting electricity.
Dudamel was in his first flush of fame and the world had woken up to the success of El Sistema, the education programme that produced him and over which he now presides. He was hot, we were new, and the answer from his New York PR was "no". We tried again and then gave up (Knightley would not have approved), until one day last September an e-mail arrived from the broadcaster Clemency Burton-Hill.
She hadn’t written for us, but her diverse CV—acting, writing a novel, playing the violin—included an internship on The Economist. She had got to know Dudamel through her work as a presenter and thought she could get access for a long-form profile of the kind we had run on Ralph Fiennes and Sergei Polunin. "I do think", she wrote, "this piece deserves the space and tone only offered by Intelligent Life." It was already becoming clear why her various careers were flourishing.read more »
~ Posted by Robert Butler, February 14th 2013
Should we learn poems by heart? The British government thinks so, which is why the Department of Education has set up "Poetry by Heart", a competition that challenges pupils and students to learn and recite poems.read more »
~ Posted by Robert Butler, February 13th 2013
It looked as if most of the humour from the Eastleigh by-election on February 28th, which was caused by the sudden resignation of the former cabinet minister Chris Huhne, was going to come from two sources. One was the sight of the two parties in government tearing each other apart; the other was the remarks of the Conservative candidate Maria Hutchings, who describes herself as "a straight-talking businesswoman".
On Sunday, BBC Radio 4's "The World This Weekend" ran an item where the presenter Norman Smith trailed round Eastleigh attempting to interview Hutchings, who kept finding herself unable to make the interview. The next day, Hutchings was asked, "Are you a feminist?" She replied, "I don't believe in labels. I am a Conservative."
But yesterday evening the campaign's scope for humour widened considerably when Labour selected the comedy writer John O'Farrell as its candidate. O'Farrell has been a scriptwriter on two of British television's best satirical shows, "Spitting Image" and "Have I Got News for You". Three years ago, The Economist listed his memoir "Things Can Only Get better: 18 Miserable Years in the Life of a Labour Supporter" as the number three best-selling political memoir from the previous 12 years. O'Farrell was only beaten by Bill Clinton and Barack Obama.
If Hutchings's humour so far has been inadvertent, O'Farrell's has been the opposite. He is a pro. His tweets (20,000 followers and rising) have run:
Proud to have been selected as the Labour candidate for #Eastleigh
There is a great deal of hard work ahead. But first I am going to the pub
Labour's #Eastleigh by-election machine didn't actually allow me any time to get to the pub last night. I've already broken my first promiseread more »
~ Posted by Georgia Grimond, February 12th 2013
For our ninth Big Question, we asked six writers to choose their favourite month. When we opened the debate online, it was A.D. Miller’s choice, May, that went into the lead. It’s a month, he wrote, where "everything is possible". At the close of the poll, 17% of voters had been seduced.read more »
~ Posted by Robert Butler, February 11th 2013
It looked like it might be a quiet day for Giovanna Chirri, the Vatican correspondent for the Italian news agency ANSA. The main story was going to be the beatification of three Italian saints. But during that service she heard Pope Benedict XVI announce his retirement—in Latin.read more »
~ Posted by Tim de Lisle, February 8th 2013
Few rock stars have had a persona as sharply drawn as the late Joey Ramone, front man of the Ramones. The ripped jeans, the shaggy hair, the leather jacket, the shades, the voice halfway from a mutter to a croon: it was as if he had walked on stage from the pages of a comic. SuperPunk, here to save the world from the forces of prog rock.read more »
~ Posted by Hazel Sheffield, February 7th 2013
It lasted longer than it might have in a decade that was not kind to magazines. But the Stool Pigeon, a music newspaper that unleashed an inky tirade on British readers five or six times a year for the last eight years, announced this week that the January issue (below) would be its last.
The Stool Pigeon was born out of the death of a magazine. Its founding editor and art director, Phil Hebblethwaite and Mickey Gibbons, carried the computers out of the offices of Adrenalin, the extreme-sports glossy they worked for when they found out it had gone bust and they were unlikely to get paid. They put together the first issue of the Stool Pigeon with some funding from Levi’s, printed 10,000 copies on newspaper on January 2nd 2005, and handed them out for free to records stores and venues from London to Nottingham. When Phil gave out copies at a music festival a month later, people took its illustrated covers and irreverent style for a one-off joke.
But the joke endured. The Stool Pigeon pitched itself somewhere between Smash Hits and Private Eye, and after Smash Hits closed in 2006, its smart and salty voice stood out even more in an industry increasingly driven by the PR cycle. It prized independence above all else, and its humour could be brutal. "Oh my Christ, Adele is number one in 17 countries!" reads one 2011 dispatch from the paper’s fictional columnist, Miss Prudence Trog. "She’s massive!"
It looked different, too. Mickey spent days digging up old Victorian fonts from library books and digitising them to use in the paper. He’d design pages so complex and colourful that the text was barely readable. Phil fed him with headlines crammed full of puns on band names. A lifelong fan of Viz, Phil made room for an extensive comic section and was never happier than the day he saw a kid on the bus rip the comic pages from the staplefold of a discarded copy and throw the rest away. They adopted and resurrected old print traditions: the court circular, the penny dreadful, the exquisite corpse. One cover featured nothing but a large illustration of a bee and its species name, Beyoncé.read more »
~ Posted by Nicholas Barber, February 6th 2013read more »