Culture

Culture

The good, the bad and the ugly in books, exhibitions, cinema, TV, dance, music, podcasts and theatre.

Are kids’ games under threat?

Arts feature

We hear a lot about the rights of the child, but the first I heard of the child’s right to play was at the Barbican’s latest exhibition. Among the games-related facts in Francis Alÿs’s new show is a quote from Article 31 of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Children, confirming a child’s

Impossible to doze through, sadly: Twisters reviewed

Cinema

Twisters is an action-disaster film that follows ‘storm-chasers’ and is so relentless in its own pursuit of tornadoes that plot, character and dialogue are also thrown to the wind. It has a classy cast (Daisy Edgar-Jones, Glen Powell) and a classy director (Lee Isaac Chung) but if you believe, as I do, that once you’ve

Do men and women need different podcasts?

Radio

Do men and women need different podcasts? The notion goes against the unisex, every-sex, what-is-sex-anyway culture we have come to inhabit. Yet this week we find, on the BBC no less, a podcast dedicated to men’s problems and one satirising women’s problems. Some would say the pushback has begun. Geoff Norcott’s Working Men’s Club is

James Delingpole

Am I slightly psychopathic to be so obsessed with gangster TV?

Television

Most of my favourite TV shows seem to involve gangsters in one way or another: The Sopranos, Breaking Bad, Top Boy, The Offer (that brilliant series on Paramount+ about the making of The Godfather), series two of The White Lotus, Suburra, Gomorrah; even, you could argue, Game of Thrones (cod-medieval fantasy gangsters with dragons) and

A David and Goliath battle involving a billion-dollar pornography website

Lead book review

Laila Mickelwait’s Takedown describes in fascinating and often distressing detail both why Pornhub, the Canadian-owned internet pornography video-sharing website, needs to be destroyed and how this might be achieved. It’s not the story of a movement against the porn industry, like the one I have been involved with for decades, but more a woman’s lone,

Margaret Tudor – queen, regent and hapless intermediary

More from Books

The history of princesses and queens has become well-trodden ground in the women’s history genre, particularly the Tudors. Linda Porter’s The Thistle and the Rose, a life of Margaret Tudor, queen consort to James IV and mother of James V, provides a refreshing change in subject. Margaret has had to share the stage with some

Another mistress for Victor Hugo: Célina, by Catherine Axelrad, reviewed

More from Books

Recently I visited Hauteville House, Victor Hugo’s home on Guernsey, now magnificently restored, where he spent 15 years of exile in opposition to the autocratic regime of Napoleon III. His third-floor eyrie, a crystal cage with walls and ceilings of plate glass, resembles a greenhouse. Hugo wrote there, standing at a small, flat-topped desk, gazing

The irrepressible musical gift of Huddie Ledbetter

More from Books

Huddie Ledbetter, better known by the prison moniker Lead Belly, was a musical genius born in the southern United States just as Jim Crow laws were starting to bite. He fell foul of an unapologetically racist legal system and ended up serving on a chain gang in 1915, later doing time in state penitentiaries in

An AI visionary looks forward to the best of all possible worlds

More from Books

In 1993 Vernor Vinge popularised the notion of the Singularity – the point at which exponentially accelerating trends in multiple technologies move out of control in an endless positive feedback loop. Vinge was a science fiction writer; Ray Kurzweil is not. In 1993 he had already pioneered optical character recognition and synthesisers that could precisely

Snobbery in the garden: U and non-U borders

More from Books

Richard Sudell is the forgotten hero of the gardening revolution in Britain between the first and second world wars. A Quaker, born in Lancashire in 1892, the son of a straw and hay dealer, he left school at 14 and became a gardener, worked at Kew, then went to prison as a conscientious objector in

Will the Olympics ever be politics-free?

More from Books

The modern Olympics, first held in Athens in 1896 in a genuflection to their Grecian predecessors, was the creation of Pierre de Coubertin, a French aristocrat. As this septet of books shows from allusive angles, Coubertin’s best known quotation – ‘the most important thing in the Olympic Games is not winning but taking part’ –

Why I fell out of love with Wagner

Arts feature

It’s four years since I gave up opera criticism. The pandemic had struck, I had hit a significant birthday, and notched up three decades at the coal face – a quarter of a century at the Telegraph, and an earlier stint at this address. There were other things I wanted to do and after reviewing

The beauty of pollution

Exhibitions

On the back of the British £20 note, J.M.W. Turner appears against the backdrop of his most iconic image. Voted the country’s favourite painting in 2005, ‘The Fighting Temeraire’ (1838) was Turner’s favourite too. It remained in his possession until his death; the 70-year-old artist swore in a letter of 1845 that ‘no consideration of

Sam Leith

Completely batty: Vampire Therapist reviewed

More from Arts

Grade: B+ Looter-shooters, match-three games, dragons and spaceships… Sometimes you despair of video games doing the same thing again and again – and then a lone developer gets a severe bump on the head and produces something completely batty.  Vampire Therapist is a comedic adventure-story therapy-simulation starring a vampire, except he’s also a cowboy, and

Acceptable for a hangover day: Fly Me to the Moon reviewed

Cinema

Fly Me to the Moon is a romantic comedy starring Scarlett Johansson and Channing Tatum set during the 1960s space race but, unlike Apollo 11, this isn’t going anywhere we haven’t been before. The extent to which the film does take flight is largely thanks to Johansson’s charisma, even though I couldn’t help shake the

How cartomania captivated even Queen Victoria

More from Books

The wife of the Victorian photography pioneer Henry Fox Talbot called his first cameras ‘mousetraps’: little wooden boxes that were designed to capture anything placed before them. Yet most of Fox Talbot’s earliest photographs do not show living bodies at all. Long exposure times meant that the faintest twitch on a sitter’s face would dissolve

Why state bureaucracy is crucial to our happiness

More from Books

Most days, outside the local courtroom where I live in Finchley Central, a man holds up a placard that says in big black capitals: ALL OUR BRAINS ARE MICROCHIPPED BY THE SECURITY SERVICES. It’s a foolish conspiracy theory, of course, but it’s also a symptom of the fear and loathing of the state which has