A little more than a century ago, a charismatic British army captain called T.E. Lawrence and fearsome Bedouin warriors swept through the sublime canyons around the desert city of Al-’Ula where I stroll today. They blew up the Hejaz railway, built to transport hajjis from Damascus towards Mecca but repurposed during the first world war by Turks to ferry munitions and troops. Such was the 1916-18 Arab Revolt that threw off Arabia’s Ottoman yoke.
Yay, life just gets better and better. World War Three and now this. More petulant popcorn pre-school punk in which Avril spells words stupidly and tells ‘bois’ how much she weally, weally hates them but acksherly weally loves them.
This was momentarily captivating on the magnificently catty glam-rock thrash of ‘Girlfriend’ 15 years ago. Trouble is, Avril is now 37, older than the Prime Minister of Finland – and there’s something a little unbecoming in a mature woman still hanging around the school bike sheds and shrieking at those bois: ‘When I think of you I wanna throw up!’ Shouldn’t she be writing about pre-nups, the onset of the menopause and the spiralling cost of divorce lawyers?
Still I quite liked this for a bit.
The Collaboration is set in the 1980s when Andy Warhol teamed up with the painter Jean-Michel Basquiat to create bad art and flog it to idiots. The play unfolds like a documentary and we meet the real-life Warhol. In interviews he rarely said more than ‘yeah’, or ‘cool’, and he explains that this taciturn style was a defence mechanism developed in his youth to protect him from homophobic bullies who found his camp voice offensive.
The most disappointing pop performance I’ve ever seen – and in the course of my 15-odd years as a music critic I saw an awful lot – was Kanye West at Glastonbury in 2015. Perhaps he was making some kind of ironic statement on the nature of celebrity and fan expectation: blinding lights all focused on himself; no attempts to engage with the crowd; relentless, mechanical rapping but with most of the amusing samples and catchy hooks removed, the better to punish us all by ordeal with loud, righteous verbiage.
The room is immersed in semi-darkness. Light filters down from above, glistening on polished marble as if it were flesh. This is the installation for Le Tre Pietà, a remarkable micro-exhibition that has just opened at the Museo dell’Opera del Duomo in Florence. It is low in quantity, containing just three works. But stratospherically high in quality, since it comprises Michelangelo’s three versions of the Pietà – that is, the Madonna mourning the dead Christ.
The latest Batman film, The Batman, may be a reboot, or even a reboot of a rebooted reboot that’s been rebooted. Hard to tell any more. Tracey Ullman once joked that her mother had served leftovers for so long that no one could recall the original dish and this feels like that. What was the original dish? Was it Tim Burton’s version from 1989 starring Michael Keaton? I don’t know.
All I know is that you hope each time for something fresh and surprising and entertaining but every film since has simply attempted to out-film noir the last.
When I was ten years old I had a babysitter who was a beautiful graduate student at an Ivy League university who loved to read celebrity gossip tabloids to ‘turn her brain off’. After I’d finished my homework, she and I would watch the only reality TV show I’ve ever loved, The Hills, and read magazines about Brangelina. This all ended when I was with my mom at the grocery store and I tried to buy a tabloid, and my mother, a Woman of Taste, asked what on earth I was doing.
This year is the centenary of the birth of Iannis Xenakis, the Greek composer-architect who called himself an ancient Greek stuck in the contemporary world. His instrumental music at times suggests an alien species trying to communicate with us through our musical instruments, his electronic music a distressed animal on the receiving end of amateur dentistry. For his part, Xenakis said that music ‘must aim… towards a total exaltation in which the individual mingles, losing his consciousness in a truth immediate, rare, enormous and perfect’.