The editors' blog


    ~ 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

    ~ Posted by Simon Willis, July 21st 2014

    In the winter of 2007, a young estate agent called John Maloof was rootling around in some boxes at an auction house in Chicago. He was looking for old photographs of the city for a book he was writing on the side, and came across a box of negatives. He didn’t know what they were, but he snapped them up and took them home. As he began to look more closely, he liked what he saw. There were shots of a black man riding a powerful horse under a flyover in New York, of an elegant white-haired woman in a lace veil glancing querulously at the camera, of a blond boy in a fur-collared coat crying his eyes out. They were intimate and spontaneous, and when he posted them on a blog the response was an ecstasy of exclamation marks. The pictures, which nobody had seen before, added nothing to Maloof’s book. But they did add a new name to the photographic canon: Vivian Maier.

    read more » AmericaDocumentaryPhotographySimon Willis

    ~ Posted by Nicholas Barber, July 16th 2014The ageism of the film industry is legendary—particularly where actresses are concerned—but it’s never been demonstrated more blatantly or weirdly than in “Before I Go To Sleep”, a British thriller which is released in September. The film stars Nicole Kidman (above) as Christine, a woman suffering from the same form of amnesia as Drew Barrymore had in “50 First Dates”, ie, when she wakes up in the morning, she can’t remember anything that has happened to her since her mid-20s. She can store up new memories as the day goes on, but when she falls asleep, those memories are erased, and she’s back to square one the following morning.

    read more » AGEFilmHOLLYWOODNicholas Barber

    ~ Posted by Tim de Lisle, July 16th 2014

    Our pick of six new songs that you should have on your iPod. Hear a selection on our player below, or find the playlist on Spotify by searching for IntLifeMag. All songs available (or will be) on iTunes.

    Passenger: 27
    How to paint a self-portrait in a few deft strokes.

    John Hiatt: Terms of My Surrender
    The blues renewed with a sly wit and a soft heart.

    Nick Mulvey: Juramidam
    Afro-pop-jazz-folk. More fun than it may sound.

    Grace Jones: Walking in the Rain
    “Nightclubbing” is back, remastered and still resplendent.

    Roddy Frame: Into the Sun
    From a sparkling new album, a pop gem.

    Jenny Lewis (above): Late Bloomer
    A sunny melody, a voice like spring water, and a lyric that unfolds like a good novella.

    read more » intelligent tunesMusicRockTim de Lisle

    ~ Posted by Melanie Grant, July 11th 2014During the 1970s a couple of geeky geologists, Warren Atkinson (above) and Frank Hughes, spent seven years looking for diamonds in the ruthless heat of north-western Australia. Then, on October 2nd 1979, in a dry river creek in East Kimberley, they found some rough pink diamonds that were 1.6 billion years old. Thirty-five years on, Argyle Diamond mine is responsible for 90% of the world’s pink diamonds. 

    read more » AustraliajewelleryMelanie GrantSHOPPING

    ~ Posted by Nicholas Barber, July 9th 2014

    Being a film journalist, I hardly ever go to the cinema. That is, I go to the cinema all the time, but only for press screenings, which means I’m always surrounded by fellow critics with takeaway coffees, rather than paying customers with popcorn. This week, though, I had to catch up with a film I’d missed, “22 Jump Street” (below), so I handed over actual money in an actual cinema for the first time in more than a decade. I was quite excited. For once, I was going to descend from my ivory tower and savour the authentic movie-going experience once again.

    read more » CriticismFilmsmoviesNicholas Barber

    Es Devlin from IntelligentLife on Vimeo.

    She is the most sought-after set designer in opera. And theatre. And rock, pop, hip-hop... Oh, and she also does the Olympics. For our cover story, Matthew Sweet went backstage with Es Devlin. Here, he introduces her work—from Take That's "Progress" tour to Berlioz's "Les Troyens".

    read more » OperaRockSimon WillisTheatreVideo