News

“Last Flag Flying” and the muddled politics of war

IN 1973, Hal Ashby released “The Last Detail”, a film whose anti-authoritarian politics made it an icon of the counterculture. It is the story of two Navy lifers (Jack Nicholson and Otis Young) tasked with accompanying a young petty thief (Randy Quaid) to military prison. Along the way they show …

News

The decadent late-Victorian and Edwardian era

Can you see the end of Empire, dear? The Age of Decadence: Britain 1880 to 1914. By Simon Heffer. Random House Books; 897 pages; £30. IN the late Victorian and early Edwardian period of 1880-1914, at least (see article), Britain had a swagger in its step. You could see it …

News

When architectural idealism meets reality

Four Walls and a Roof: The Complex Nature of a Simple Profession. By Reinier de Graaf. Harvard University Press; 528 pages; $35 and £27.95.  HIS name may not be familiar, but Reinier de Graaf’s architecture practice, the Office of Metropolitan Architecture (OMA), designed the CCTV building in Beijing and the Prada Foundation …

News

Kazuo Ishiguro, a Nobel laureate for these muddled times

WHEN Kazuo Ishiguro started to write fiction, he wasn’t steeped in literature. He said that he had not read very much at all. His distinctive style grew out of a desire to write the cleanest sentence possible, line by line; he has spoken of a wish simply for readers to …

News

Meet the invisible hand behind Hong Kong’s rise

Not pictured: the invisible hand Architect of Prosperity: Sir John Cowperthwaite and the Making of Hong Kong. By Neil Monnery. London Publishing Partnership; 337 pages; £24.50. DURING the 1960s, governments were responding to political unrest and economic challenges with nationalisation, centralised planning and public spending (financed by heavy taxes and …

News

An argument over the evolution of language, with high stakes

SPEECH leaves no fossils, so palaeoanthropologists have no direct evidence for the emergence of the quintessential human trait: language. Many scholars work on the topic nonetheless, but few of their findings have achieved consensus. On one thing, at least, most agree: though animals communicate, only humans have true language, with …

News

Why pessimism is key to understanding the Victorians

Victorious Century: The United Kingdom, 1800-1906. By David Cannadine. Allen Lane; 602 pages; £30. To be published in America by Viking in February 2018; $40. IN THE 19th century, Britain’s old enemy France was vanquished. Britain was industrialising faster than its European neighbours, while preserving its monarchy and parliamentary system. …

News

Two documentaries on policing, race and justice in America

AS THE Black Lives Matter movement has gathered momentum and racial injustice has come to the forefront of America’s national consciousness, it is no surprise that film-makers are exploring these topics. Many have focused on the past to shed light on the present. A recent spate of documentaries analysed the …

News

Can the marathon’s two-hour barrier be broken?

IT IS one of running’s three great barriers. The first, a sub-four-minute mile, was achieved in 1954 by Britain’s Sir Roger Bannister, on a gusty day at Oxford University’s dusty cinder track. The second, a sub-ten-second 100-metre dash, was credited by hand-operated stopwatches to American sprinter Jim Hines in 1968, …

News

Arte Povera’s radical simplicity

IN one room of Hauser & Wirth’s New York gallery, kettles whistle and hum inside a glorious assemblage of rags by Michelangelo Pistoletto. A second room plays host to one of Mario Merz’s igloos, this one small and rusted, with a bright neon strip-light protruding from the top. And in …