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CultureHouse Daily

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Is there anything worse than kids’ parties? Actually yes – the shops that sell kids’ presents

19 August 2014 16:17

It has been a bad fortnight. Not only am I off the sauce for a few weeks to help my liver grow back, last weekend saw me preparing for a children’s birthday party. This was one I had to attend,… Continue reading

Robin-Thicke-Blurred-Lines-Video-Feature

I’d like to share my favourite violent pop video with you

19 August 2014 14:03

This week has seen the Prime Minister playing Mary Whitehouse again. On Monday he announced that, as of October, music videos on sites like YouTube and Vevo are to carry… Continue reading

Little Miss Muffet cast in sand at the  Creepy Crawlies Sandscupting Exhibition in Melbourne, Australia. Image: Getty

Spectator competition: recast a nursery rhyme in the style of a well-known author (plus pets who perish in unusual ways)

16 August 2014 9:28

I was prompted to ask for short odes on the death of a pet in unusual circumstances by Thomas Gray’s poem ‘Ode on the Death of a Favourite Cat, Drowned… Continue reading

Debbie Sledge of Sister Sledge at Tramlines Festival 2014. Photo:  Andrew Benge/Redferns via Getty Images

Roland Barthes was a fan of Sister Sledge – and I can see why

15 August 2014 11:36

Disco, the tackiest of music subcultures, is the nostalgia choice de nos jours. The sudden revival is a sort of pop gentrification. You want proof? They play Baccara’s ‘Yes Sir,… Continue reading

beer

A toast to beer, from Plato to Frank Zappa

Bookends

‘He was a wise man who invented beer,’ said Plato, although I imagine he had changed his mind by the following morning. Beer: A Global History (Reaktion, £9.99, Spectator Bookshop, £9.49) is the latest addition to ‘The Edible Series’, following… Read more

Shinkansen: one of the most powerful symbols of modern Japan

My addiction to the bullet train

Arts feature

In 1963, Dr Richard Beeching, an ICI director with a PhD in physics, a qualification that clearly boondoggled his credulous political patrons, published a government report called ‘The Reshaping of British Railways’. It identified 8,000km of painstakingly created track for… Read more

Natasia Demetriou

The best of the Edinburgh Fringe

Theatre

Rain whimpers from Edinburgh’s skies. The sodden tourists look like aliens in their steamed-up ponchos as they scurry and rustle across the gleaming cobblestones. Performers touting for business chirrup their overtures with desperate gaiety. Thousands of them are here. Tens… Read more

Daft, and sensationally innocent: the Inbetweeners down under

The Inbetweeners 2 is as filthy as a teenage boy – and it's hilarious

Cinema

The first Inbetweeners film made £45 million at the box office, and was such an unexpected smash there was always going to be a second one, which is fair enough. It is based on the TV sitcom (Channel 4, 2008–2010),… Read more

‘The Sutherland Cup’ by Angie Lewin

The perfect excuse to get out all the best Ravilious china

Exhibitions

A day trip to the Towner Art Gallery in Eastbourne is a summer pleasure, and two concurrent shows are proving a considerable draw, with their focus on design and applied art. Designing the Everyday is in some ways just an… Read more

‘Llyn Cau, Cader Idris’, 1765–67, by Richard Wilson

How Richard Wilson made Wales beautiful

Exhibitions

‘I recollect nothing so much as a solemn — bright — warm — fresh landscape by Wilson, which swims in my brain like a delicious dream,’ wrote Constable of his encounter with the Welsh artist’s ‘Tabley House, Cheshire’ after he… Read more

Ivan Vasiliev and Natalia Osipova, Solo for Two

Ballet’s super couple should stick to the classical repertoire

Dance

Last week, the feast of long-awaited dance events on offer echoed bygone days when London life was dominated by the strategically engineered appearances of rival ballet stars at the same time in different venues. At the London Coliseum, Solo for… Read more

Charlotte Salomen

Strauss and Hofmannsthal deserve better from the Salzburg Festival

Opera

The Salzburg Festival’s reputation might largely be one of cultural conservatism, but it made an impressive commitment to new works when it announced in 2011 that it had commissioned four operas, to be unveiled at the rate of one a… Read more

The new journalism: Vice leaves the rest of the West’s media standing

Scoops, snark and jihad – this is Vice News's war

Television

War can reshape the medium of television. The First Gulf War was a landmark moment in broadcasting: CNN had reporters in Baghdad when the first bombs fell, no one else did, America was riveted and the concept of 24-hour news… Read more

6 Music's success can be attributed to seasons from Bob Dylan, visitations from Jarvis Cocker, Alex James and more recently Iggy Pop

Why is Radio 3 still leaderless?

Radio

It’s happened almost by stealth but the number of listeners to 6 Music has now overtaken Radio 3, creeping up to 1.89 million per week (just .05 million more than the classical-music station). Actually the margin between them is probably… Read more

Urs-Fischer-Skinny-Sunrise-Nylind

Less cuddly, more creepy: The Human Factor at the Hayward Gallery

Culture notes

Jeff Koons’s ‘Bear and Policeman’ has been used to advertise the Hayward Gallery’s latest show The Human Factor (until 7 September). But don’t be fooled; this exploration of the human figure is neither cute nor cuddly. It includes photos of… Read more

Wynton Marsalis: ‘The pressure of playing in public makes it all for real’

'They took me in like I was their son': Wynton Marsalis on jazz's great tradition

Arts feature

At the end of his performance at the Barbican with the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra, Wynton Marsalis made a little speech. The next piece, he announced, was a number that Art Blakey’s Jazz Messengers used to play. Marsalis then… Read more

Latitude Festival 2010: Day 1

My daughter wants to know why you haven't heard of the Jayhawks

Music

One of the many delightful aspects of having children is that you can get them to do things you are too old, lazy or important to do yourself. My disinclination to attend any sort of music festival, owing to a… Read more

Anja Harteros (Leonora) and Vitalij Kowaljow (Marchese di Calatrava) in‘La forza del destino’

Jonas Kaufmann's illness, a muddled production – nothing can stop Bavarian State Opera's La forza del destino

Opera

Rather than brave the boos and the first reprise of Frank Castorf’s half-hearted Ring at Bayreuth, I decided to pay a visit to Munich and catch the last two days of its annual opera festival. Less of a festival, as… Read more

‘Equivalents for the Megaliths’, 1935, by Paul Nash

A lost opportunity to show John Nash at his best

Exhibitions

John Northcote Nash (1893–1977) was the younger brother of Paul Nash (1889–1946), and has been long overshadowed by Paul, though they started their careers on a relatively even footing. The crucible of WW1 changed them: afterwards Paul became an art-world… Read more

Doctor in the house: Alex Brendemühl as Josef Mengele

Allergic to blockbusters? See Wakolda

Cinema

Wakolda is not a sunny film for a sunny day, just so you’re aware, but as there is so little else around — August is a hopeless month for films; August is a dumping ground for the sub-par — you… Read more

Romeo and Juliet

Romeo and Juliet: a Mariinsky masterclass

Dance

According to some textbooks, one thing the fathers of Soviet choreography hastened to remove from ballet was that awkward-looking language of gestures generally referred to as ‘ballet mime’. Which explains why most Russian versions of Swan Lake lack familiar mime… Read more

Gillian Anderson in A Streetcar named Desire

Sorry, Gillian Anderson, but you've caught the wrong Streetcar

Theatre

Streetcar. One word is enough to conjure an icon. Tennessee Williams’s finest play, written in the 1940s, is about a fallen woman trying to salvage her reputation before madness overwhelms her. All its horror and tension rely on the Victorian… Read more

Gomorrah, Sky Atlantic

Gomorrah is gangsters without glamour – but it's still not as scary as Dance Moms

Television

Gomorrah (Sky Atlantic, Monday), the new, must-see Mafioso series, started promisingly. We met two hoods — one young, shaven-headed, good-looking; one weary, brow-beaten, middle-aged — filling up at a petrol station in Naples, an unfamiliar (to me anyway) setting that… Read more

Radio

Two lessons in listening

Radio

Our hearing is the first of our senses to develop while we are in the womb. It’s the first connection we make to the life around us, and to other people. In a new series of The Listeners on Radio… Read more

edinburgh

3,000 acts and no quality control – why the Edinburgh Fringe is the greatest (and patchiest) arts festival in the world

Culture notes

And they’re off. The mighty caravan of romantic desperadoes, radical egoists, stadium wannabes, struggling superstars and vanity crackheads is on its way to Edinburgh. This year’s Fringe sponsor is Virgin Money, which must be some kind of in-joke because most… Read more

home-front

Home Front: Radio 4's first world war drama will fight out the full four years

Arts feature

In a studio in Birmingham, there’s an air of excitement. Jessica Dromgoole and her team are recording new scenes for Home Front, Radio 4’s specially commissioned drama commemorating the first world war. They know that they’re about to launch on… Read more

‘Goose Woman’, c.1840, by George Smart

Why did it take so long to recognise the worth of British folk art?

Exhibitions

British folk art has been shamefully neglected in the land of its origin, as if the popular handiwork of past generations is an embarrassment to our cultural gurus and the kind of supposedly hip commentators who sneer at morris dancing.… Read more

© simon fowler/decca

I think I’ve found the new Maria Callas

Arts feature

Some of my most enjoyable evenings, when I reviewed opera weekly for The Spectator, were spent at the Royal College of Music, in the tiny but elegant and comfortable Britten Theatre. The performers, onstage and in the pit, are mostly… Read more

First night of The Proms, Royal Albert Hall Photo: Redferns/Getty

Was Elgar’s The Kingdom an attempt to write a religious Ring Cycle?

Music

To go from the second day of the England v. India Test match at Lord’s to the Albert Hall for the opening night of the Proms was to make a journey that a chosen few might find enviable. Nonetheless, different… Read more

Theater Freiburg present Tannhauser1

In Norwich, a director is caught trying to murder Wagner’s Tannhäuser

Opera

Seventeen years ago the Norwegian National Opera staged two cycles of the Ring in Norwich’s Theatre Royal, performances that have remained vividly in the minds of anyone who saw them. Now Theater Freiburg has visited Norwich with two performances each… Read more

Terribly, terribly English: Helen McCrory as Medea

Let’s face it, Greek tragedy is often earnest, obscure or boring. Not this Medea

Theatre

Carrie Cracknell’s new version of Medea strikes with overwhelming and rather puzzling force. The royal palace has been done up to resemble a clapped-out Spanish villa that seems to date from about 1983 if the kennel-sized TV set is anything… Read more

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Moon Indigo: an all-you-can-eat buffet for the eyes - but your brain will feel famished

Cinema

Your enjoyment of Michel Gondry’s Mood Indigo may entirely depend on how much visual whimsy you can take, what your threshold might be, whether you can go with it or whether it wears you out and brings you to your… Read more