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
03 September 2013
Alfonso Cuaron’s Gravity – a ‘fall’ blockbuster as they say – is a post-human film. Its two stars – George Clooney and Sandra Bullock – could have been played by robots. Clooney plays a standard non-threatening alpha male with a gruff manner and one minor character quirk – an urge to tell stories. Bullock plays her usual sweaty, scared but, when the chips are down, brave and competent woman in a life-threatening crisis. Algorithms for either performance would taken an … More
31 August 2013
Staying at Mountain Village in the Colorado Rockies, I need to catch what the locals call the gondola but we would call a cable car to get down to Telluride. I start at about 9000 feet above sea level. The car first rises up to 10,500 feet and then falls 2000 feet to drop me downtown where the Film Festival is in progress.
For 13 minutes I skim through the ghostly aspens. I have not yet been alone. People jump into … More
27 August 2013
In the early years of Thatcher I remember a conversation with a triumphant right-winger (a self-described bastard) in which he snorted with disdain about ‘people who care.’ I knew what he meant and I still do. On the one hand there is the whole caring industry, always seeking out new ways in which we must care; on the other hand there is the bloated welfare state with all its injustices and ineffectiveness.
Personally, being hyper-empathetic (or so I am told (critically)), … More
22 August 2013
Arianna Huffington has decided to end commenter anonymity at the Huffington Post. Our conversation, she tells me, was ‘very important in my decision’. In my article wrote, ‘Somebody has to teach the internet companies some basic logic – anonymity and free speech are incompatible – and Arianna is in a position to do it.’ As many people don’t seem to understand this point, I had better explain.
Anonymity has been claimed by internet utopians as an aspect of free … More