04 October 2016
Writing about the arts, ideas and sciences, as it seems I mainly do, I am used to dealing with clarity of thought and high intellectual and aesthetic ambition. Not that I often find them – and almost never in myself – but I do at least know they are there to be found. Not one of these things, I concluded some time ago, was to be found in politics. Here, instead, is a sort of Wreck of the Medusa, a … More
26 September 2016
I have been getting quite a few YDUB (‘you don’t understand, Bryan’) responses when I tweet my less than enthusiastic feelings about Jeremy Corbyn. YDUBs cause a red mist to descend more effectively than outright abuse – it’s the lugubrious condescension – and especially so in the case of Corbyn because, you see, I do understand.
I have known Corbyn for most of my conscious life. I knew him at school, at university and at work, notably when certain gangsters – … More
16 September 2014
Schrodinger’s cat, you may recall, was neither alive nor dead. It only became one or the other when the box in which it was imprisoned was opened and the experimenter could feel its pulse or whatever. This was an explanation of one interpretation of quantum theory, but it’s an equally good comment on some of the more awkward aspects of art.
Having finally finished all six series of The Sopranos – seven years too late, I know – I came upon … More
24 May 2014
Here is a statement of the obvious: problems with mass immigration may be caused by racists (closet or otherwise) but they will, nonetheless, be problems. Also obvious is the fact that racism intrudes in the imaginations of most – perhaps all – people. The left, for example, can say things about Israel which, if said about Palestine would attract charges of racism, if not violence. Racism is a very bad thing indeed and, like all really bad things, we won’t … More
19 March 2014
Bertrand Russell’s celestial teapot is an object orbiting the sun somewhere between Earth and Mars. It is too small to be detectable so any insistence that the teapot exists cannot be refuted. Russell made the point to show that such unfalsifiable claims demand proof from the believer rather than disproof from the sceptic. In other words, the belief is itself carries no special authority.
The teapot – rather than, say, an oddly shaped asteroid – is chosen to make the assertion … More
19 December 2013
I have been interviewing an unconscionable number of very famous actors lately. You know of Dench and de Niro and there are more to come in the New Year. In the course of doing one phoner with a very big actor indeed, I was stopped in my tracks when she apologised for talking about the film in question because she knew actors sounded so boring when they did that.
Well, I’m afraid she was right, they often … More
14 December 2013
This may sound a bit specialised and I know I’m a photo bore, but, bear with me, it’s might be worth it.
’The death of photography: are camera phones destroying an art form?’ runs the headline. Standing up this line is Antonio Olmos who says, ‘Photography has never been so popular, but it’s getting destroyed. There have never been so many photographs taken, but photography is dying.’
I think this is daft. It’s good lots more people are taking … More
03 December 2013
The core of Stefan Zweig’s magnificent story Chess is summarised in the observation, ‘the more a man restricts himself the closer he is, conversely, to infinity’. This is said of Mirko Czentovic, a grandmaster who knows nothing but chess; he can barely communicate and has no social skills, he inhabits the game and the world is, to him, just the place where it is played. Nothing can lie beyond chess, it is, therefore, infinity.
Published in 1942, the year of Zweig’s … More
30 November 2013
I am a Manchester City fan so you can aim off for a degree of prejudice in what follows. I also think more about photography than anything else at the moment so you can also aim off for obsession.
‘For his 40th birthday @ManUtd have published a pic of Ryan Giggs in a fascist pose with a violent caption. Classy’
This tweet produced some odd responses: bafflement, derision and one responder who said it was ‘just’ a head … More
06 September 2013
The concave glass walls of Rafael Vinoly’s 20 Fenchurch Street in the City of London focus sunlight so effectively that they melted parts of a parked car, a Jaguar XJ to be exact. Vinoly’s earlier building, the Vdara Hotel in Las Vegas, singed the hair of at least one visitor by the same mechanism. The fact that nobody in the City of London noticed this in the planning process is a very funny comment on the continued competence of our … More