The desire to brew and drink beer

Sunday, 14 July, 2013 0 Comments

“So, if people didn’t settle down to take up farming, why then did they embark on this entirely new way of living? We have no idea — or actually, we have lots of ideas, but we don’t know if any of them are right. According to Felipe Fernández-Armesto, at least thirty-eight theories have been put […]

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Claude Monet and the Syrian connection

Wednesday, 19 June, 2013 0 Comments

This evening in London, Sotheby’s will auction 72 lots of Impressionist and modern art in one of the most anticipated sales of the year. When all the bidding’s done, Sotheby’s expects to have raked in more than £75 million. Undoubtedly, the star of show is Claude Monet’s gorgeous depiction of The Palazzo Contarini in Venice, which he painted during a three-month stay in the city in 1908. But it’s complicated.


What the Sotheby’s auction catalogue does not mention is that this particular Monet is from the collection of Helly Nahmad, a character for whom the adjective “colourful” was coined. The Nahmad family hails from Aleppo in Syria and its members operate art galleries in New York and London. Their collection of 3,000 works, including 200 oil paintings by Picasso, is valued at $5 billion by Skate’s Art Market Review.

Much to the surprise of its posh patrons, however, the Helly Nahmad Gallery in Manhattan was forced to shut its doors earlier this year after it was raided by US agents on the grounds that its owner was running a high-stakes gambling ring that catered to celebrities and the very wealthy. On 16 April, Helly Nahmad was charged with racketeering and money-laundering conspiracy. According to the indictment, Nahmad ran an operation that used illegal gambling websites to generate tens of millions of dollars in bets each year. The gambling ring was supported, in part, by the gallery, states the indictment. After such unpleasantness, it is a relief to lovers of modern art, no doubt, that the Helly Nahmad Gallery is open for business once more. The proceeds from this evening’s sale of The Palazzo Contarini painting, which should be spectacular, surely will comfort the proprietor during his difficulties.

Roger Ebert on the exploitation of film violence

Monday, 8 April, 2013 0 Comments

Reviewing Gus Van Sant’s Elephant in November 2003 for the Chicago Sun-Times, the late Roger Ebert had this to say about the uses of violence by the media industry: “Let me tell you a story. The day after Columbine, I was interviewed for the Tom Brokaw news program. The reporter had been assigned a theory […]

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Gatsby meets Beyoncé and Lana Del Rey

Friday, 5 April, 2013 0 Comments

In the run up to the premiere in Cannes on 15 May, Warner Bros. is giving the world a taste of The Great Gatsby soundtrack, filling its latest trailer for the Baz Luhrmann-directed film of the F. Scott Fitzgerald novel with music from Beyoncé, Andre 3000, Lana Del Rey and Florence and the Machine. It’s different. And it looks simply spectacular.

The new blind spot

Monday, 11 March, 2013 0 Comments

According to the Oxford Dictionary, one of the definitions of blind spot is “an area in which a person lacks understanding or impartiality”. The noun served as the title for the fifth episode of the first season of Homeland, which was originally broadcast on 30 October 2011. Storyline: The lone survivor of the al-Qaeda group that held Marine Sergeant Nicholas Brody (Damian Lewis) for eight years is captured and the CIA operatives Carrie Mathison (Claire Danes) and Saul Berenson (Mandy Patinkin) are assigned to interrogate him. At one point, Saul says to the captive:

“So, you’re a religious man and a torturer. What are you? A Catholic?”

With gore on its hands, Hollywood runs for the exit

Tuesday, 18 December, 2012 3 Comments

Yesterday’s post about Quentin Tarantino’s cynical exploitation of graphic violence for fame and fortune brought instant results. “In the wake of the school shooting in Newtown, Conn., the Weinstein Co. has decided to cancel the Hollywood premiere of its movie ‘Django Unchained,’ reports the Los Angeles Times. CBS News noted that, “In true Tarantino form, […]

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Tarantino’s aestheticization of violence on the road to Newtown

Monday, 17 December, 2012 1 Comment

The US premiere of the new Tom Cruise action film Jack Reacher has been postponed after Friday’s shooting in Newtown, Connecticut, of 26 people. Paramount Pictures says the decision was made “out of honour and respect for the families of the victims whose lives were senselessly taken”. The studio did not mention that Hollywood is […]

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The Fairytale Of New York nightmare

Thursday, 29 November, 2012 1 Comment

Oh, no! The Fairytale Of New York, the Christmas song by The Pogues and Kirsty MacColl, is back in the charts 25 years after its release. According to the NME: The Pogues’ ‘Fairytale Of New York’ bookies favourite for Christmas Number One. The terrifying thing about this song is that unimaginative radio DJs have been playing it ad nauseam for a quarter of a century and any emotional value that it had has been erased through overexposure. For those who hate the tacky side of Christmas, life has become even more horrid.

The nightmarish lachrymosity of Fairytale is discussed with passion at Mumsnet. “Hate it. Crappy cliches about drunken Irish people in prison singing songs from the auld country and gambling. Crappy video, crappy singing, crappy message,” writes SuePurblybiltbyElves. “And the boys of the NYPD choir still singing Galway Bay…”

Why? Because we can — maybe.

Wednesday, 17 October, 2012 0 Comments

“Space exploration? Send a robot. Deep-sea exploration? Send a robot. Killing people on the Afghan-Pakistan border? Send a drone. This is linked to the question of risk, since the main part of what makes experiments with humans expensive is the need to keep them alive.” So wrote John Lanchester in the London Review of Books […]

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When Louis Met… Jimmy

Monday, 15 October, 2012 1 Comment

“The creepiest moment in the documentary occurs late at night when he thinks the camera is off, and he talks about the dancehall days. “I wouldn’t stand for any nonsense whatsoever. Ever, ever. I never threw anybody out. Tied them up and put them down in the bloody boiler house until I was ready for […]

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Jimmy Savile will put a stake through the rotten heart of the BBC

Monday, 15 October, 2012

On 29 October last year, Jimmy Savile died. On 9 October this year, he returned from the dead. And this time round the undead DJ is dragging around with him a stake that will be driven through the rotten heart of the BBC. For make no mistake, the fact that the BBC spiked a story […]

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