The editors' blog


    ~ Posted by Lucy Farmer, August 19th 2014The Edinburgh Fringe always offers one-man shows and two-handers in pop-up spaces so intimate that you can see a tear fall down an actor's face or the white knuckles of a clenched fist. “Lungs”, a play about a thirty-something couple deciding whether to have a baby, is one such show: the production may be small, but its theme is big.

    In a world of overpopulation, climate change and political unrest, should we have as many kids as we want—or even any at all? For our recent Big Question, we asked six writers: how many children should we have? Duncan Macmillan's play asks, does anyone really think about these things—seriously?

    read more » Edinburgh FestivalLucy FarmerThe Big QuestionTheatre

    ~ Posted by Simon Willis, August 19th 2014"Minetti", by the Austrian novelist and dramatist Thomas Bernhard—staged at Edinburgh's Lyceum Theatre—is a play on a play. The eponymous Minetti is an old actor who hasn't worked for 30 years. He walks into a hotel lobby in Ostend. It's New Year's Eve and there's a snowstorm blowing outside. He's there for a meeting, he says, with the artistic director of a small-town theatre where he's due to play King Lear. But the director isn't there, and while he waits he talks, endlessly, to anyone hanging around—the concierge, a girl waiting for her boyfriend, a mysterious woman getting drunk on her own—about art, provincialism and how he lost his job as a theatre director in Lübeck and spent the rest of his life in a tiny town called Dinkelsbühle, where he grew vegetables, bottled sauerkraut and rehearsed Lear every day in front of the mirror. The parallels between Lear and Minetti are obvious: both have lost their power, their influence, and their minds, and if Minetti doesn't knock about the lobby naked as Lear does on the heath, at least his underpants are showing.

    read more » Edinburgh FestivalSimon WillisTheatre

    ~ Posted by Simon Willis, August 18th 2014 If the Irish poet Paul Muldoon was a sofa, he would be one of those battered brown-leather sofas—sagging, effortless, cool and comfortable—as much at home in the pub as in a stylish apartment. He published his first collection while he was still a student, and now occupies many of poetry's highest perches: poetry editor of the New Yorker, a professor at Princeton and a Pulitzer Prize-winner. But with his shock of unruly grey hair and his black-framed glasses there's something of the ageing rock star about him, and some of his author photographs show him holding a guitar. From countless frontmen he's borrowed the trick of delivering an important line to a particular member of the audience, and holding their gaze unflappably. Yesterday at the Edinburgh International Book Festival he read from "Maggot" (2010), a collection largely about "sex and the dead", and "The Word on the Street" (2012), a volume of song lyrics written under the influence, he explained, of the songwriters Cole Porter and Warren Zevon. read more » Edinburgh FestivalPoetrySimon Willis

    ~ 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