Grand Theft Auto, Twitter and Beowulf all demonstrate that stories will never die

Storytelling is under assault in schools, universities and from the internet, but the power of narrative shows no sign of waning, says Sam Leith

“Tell me a story.” It’s a plea that echoes through the ages: not only the ages of human civilisation, but the ages of man. As a child, tucked up and ready for bed.

As an adult, settling deep into a popcorn-scented cinema seat as the house lights go down. In old age, becalmed, combing your memories. Telling stories is as old a game as language itself.

Read the rest here.

The Secrets of Storytelling.

Chinese ‘classical poem’ was brothel ad

Science journal mistakenly uses flyer for Macau brothel to illustrate report on China

By Clifford Coonan in Beijing


A respected research institute wanted Chinese classical texts to adorn its journal, something beautiful and elegant, to illustrate a special report on China. Instead, it got a racy flyer extolling the lusty details of stripping housewives in a brothel.

Read the rest here.

Evil paradises: Neoliberalism’s degenerate utopias around the world

By Reed Eurchuk

From time immemorial, the “city as utopia” has been a recurring theme in religion, politics, and literature. From the “city on the hill” of classical Christian belief, to Balzac’s Paris, to the socialist city of the Paris Commune, there have been many versions of the utopian city.

Given this long history, how does the city as utopia manifest itself today? According to co-editors Mike Davis and Daniel Bertrand Monk, in their new book Dreamworlds of Neoliberalism: Evil Paradises, today’s “new luxury cities” are nothing less than a utopian frenzy that “enflame desires” for infinite consumption, total social exclusion, and physical security, and architectural monumentality. The book provides a guided tour of the globe’s urban luxury palaces: the gated communities where elite groups live in a privatized heaven amid the public squalor that lies just beyond their gates.

Read Mike Davis’ Fear and Money in Dubai here.

Goofing around

The Three Muscateers in a barbershop trio
The Three Muscateers in a barbershop trio

The Three Muscateers in a barbershop trio

Checking out the possibilities of a pleather man-thong for Christmas ...
Checking out the possibilities of a pleather man-thong for Christmas ...

Checking out the possibilities of a pleather man-thong for Christmas …

Tracey is captivated by the huge variety ...
Tracey is captivated by the huge variety ...

Tracey is captivated by the huge variety …

One of Santas bigger elfs ...
One of Santa's bigger elfs ...

One of Santa’s bigger elfs …

See more here.

Contemporary Chinese Art: the Chinese equivalent of Damien Hirst?

Zhang Huan

The art world success of Zhang Huan makes a compelling story, the postmodern Horatio Alger myth at the heart of contemporary Chinese art. Today, at the age of forty-three, Zhang is a multimillionaire. In New York, he is represented by PaceWildenstein, which held a survey of his latest work in Chelsea last spring. At his factory studio in Shanghai, a hundred assistants living in dormitories churn out labor-intensive carvings of propaganda scenes, photorealistic “ash paintings,” and fifty-foot-tall giants constructed of calfskins stitched with wire. After a decade and a half of privations, Zhang has become a giant himself, one of the artistic titans of the new Chinese economy. But his tale should come with a warning label. Zhang has struck it rich through cunning and compromise and contamination. He embodies all that it means to be a contemporary artist “made in China.”

Read the rest here.

Armchair philosophy out, experimental philosophy in?



“If anything can be pursued in an armchair, philosophy can,” the esteemed Oxford philosopher Timothy Williamson told the Aristotelian Society, of London, a few years ago. That may sound like an innocuous truism: No one pictures Bertrand Russell doing his philosophical cogitation anywhere but in a club chair, or perhaps in bed, postcoitally (given his adventurousness in that arena). But, in fact, Williamson’s remarks are fighting words these days, thanks to the rise of a cohort of philosophers who believe that the armchair arguments of philosophers need to be probed and tested through surveys of ordinary people and laboratory experiments using human subjects. If philosophers want to demonstrate that their arguments comport with how the mind really works, say the proponents of experimental philosophy, they need to get off their duffs.

Read the rest here.

Early Christmas 2008

Slideshow from our ride on the Christmas Train in Stanley Park

Aran checking out my flowers