Recent Arts Articles

SuperFreakonomics – How to lose friends and irritate people

by Unity     October 23, 2009 at 2:53 pm

If there really is no such thing as bad publicity then Steven Levitt and Stephen Dubner will surely be laughing all the way to the bank as sales of their new book ‘SuperFreakonomics’, the follow-up to their 2005 bestseller ‘Freakonomics: A Rogue Economist Explores the Hidden Side of Everything‘, head through the ceiling.

In a little under a fortnight since the book’s release, Levitt and Dubner have already walked straight into one major shitstorm by, seemingly tweaking the noses of a prominent environmental blogger and a well-known environmental advocacy group with their chapter on climate change.

And if Anna North’s article at is anything to go by, their chapter on the economics of prostitution looks set to have a few feminists chewing the furniture as well, in very short order.

Controversy sells, even if its misplaced, which seems to at least partially the case here as neither chapter looks to be anything like as contentious as some of the book’s more vocal critics are trying to make out.

So what exactly, have Levitt and Dubner done to piss these people off.

Climate Change

Taking the climate change chapter  first [pdf no longer available], and with the caveat that I’ve not yet had time to exhaustively examine all the claimed examples of misrepresentation and/or technical errors cited by its critics, what Levitt and Dubner have done is poke a stick at what is by far the largest and most intractable problem facing climate scientists working on global warming; their inability to make anything that remotely approaches a  reliable prediction of its likely impact on the global climate. continue reading… »

Does the Arts Council need trimming too?

by Guest     October 17, 2009 at 4:00 pm

contribution by pagar

Unity wrote an article recently questioning whether, as we approach an era of fiscal restraint and pressure on public spending, it was appropriate to give public money to a rich organisation like the Catholic Church. And this got me thinking.

Are there other areas where we are currently spending public money that it would be appropriate to axe before we have to get to the nurses and teachers?

I came up with quite a few but perhaps the most obvious is funding for the Arts Council.

In September 2008, a £150,000 managed funds grant enabled 40 artists and scientists to set sail on Cape Farewell’s 12-day Disko Bay expedition. The trip aimed to put artistic responses to climate change in the spotlight, and the crew featured 10 musicians (including KT Tunstall, Martha Wainwright, Jarvis Cocker and Ryuichi Sakamoto), two architects, two oceanographers, a ceramicist and a comedian. This was the organisation’s seventh expedition.

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How did Nazi admirer become a national treasure?

by Sunder Katwala     September 22, 2009 at 10:26 am

I enjoyed reading the Alan Clark diaries back in the 1990s. They merit their classic status, in capturing a political age, while the dramatic descriptions of the plotting in the final days of the Thatcher premiership mean they are a historical document which will endure.

As Robert Harris writes in his Sunday Times review, “the universal acclaim for the high literary quality of his diaries, transformed Clark’s reputation. From sinister, adulterous crypto-fascist he morphed into lovable, roguish national treasure”.

And yet Ion Trewin’s authorised biography may be becoming the occasion for a reversal in reputations, with several reviewers focusing less on the personal infidelities for which Clark became renowned as on the extent of his fascist sympathies.

Dominic Lawson led the way, putting Clark bang to rights in a devastating Independent column last week. But this is also a theme followed up by Edwina Currie in The Times, and in Robert Harris’ Sunday Times review too.

This is the Alan Clark conundrum: how were literary talent, and a reputation as an entertaining and incorrigible rogue, enough to make a national treasure of a man who made little effort to hide his pro-fascist views? After all, Clark gained Ministerial Office, and was even able to return triumphantly to the House of Commons in 1997 before his death.
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The Treehouse Gallery

by Robert Sharp     August 8, 2009 at 2:05 pm

Treehouse Gallery Advert

There’s a great little project happening in Regents Park at the moment. The Treehouse Gallery is an ever growing collective of artists, designers, musicians and educators, who have constructed their own public space in which to hold exhibitions and events.

I’ve been following the development of the events schedule for a few weeks now, which is steadily filling up with workshops and other events, but I don’t see much in the way of debates programmed. Surely some LibCon readers and writers could get together to argue about something? Localism is a live debate at the moment, and would seem a perfect topic to discuss in a community-made space. CSJ? Fabians? Demos? SMF?

#MichaelJacksonRIP vs #IranElection

by Robert Sharp     June 29, 2009 at 10:17 pm

Evenin’ all. I wanted to make a quick point about certain global news stories, and the relative amount of news coverage given to each.

Its fashionable, yet incredibly easy to complain that the Michael Jackson death has crowded out news of other more pressing matters. Shawn Micallef sounded an early word of warning about this attitude:

There is no need to compare MJ & Iran – completely dif, just intersect on same medium, not a social/moral lesson to be learned.

Then (again via Twitter, though the link is now lost in the maelstrom) I came across this MJ/Election mash-up, and it occurred to me that coverage (be it on Twitter, blogs or the international MSM) is not a zero-sum game, and that coverage of one piece of news could promote awareness of another.
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Condom ‘optional’?

by Neil Robertson     June 15, 2009 at 7:13 am

There’s much I don’t understand about the porn industry: the poor writing, the implausible plotlines, the baffling belief that a man reaching orgasm near a woman’s face is somehow erotic. But of all these many mysteries, nothing causes quite as much amazement as discovering that the industry is averse to contraception.

It turns out that California is suffering from something of a porn panic after an actress recently tested positive for HIV. People who have worked with the woman are being told to lay off the heavy thrusting for a while and the state’s health & safety folks are busy trying to discover the source & stop it spreading. This might not be the easiest thing to do, however, for it turns out that safe sex isn’t sexy:

After an HIV outbreak in 2004 spread panic through the industry and briefly shut down production at several studios, many producers began making condoms a requirement. But they said both actors and audiences quickly rebelled.

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Parliamentary reform: What would Tom Paine do?

by Guest     May 30, 2009 at 1:34 pm

by Edward Vallance, author

To be a successful candidate, he must be destitute of the qualities that constitute a just legislator, and being thus disciplined to corruption by the mode of entering into Parliament, it is not to be expected that the representative should be better than the man.
— Thomas Paine, The Rights of Man Part the Second (1792)

The bicentenary of the death, on June 8 1809, of Thomas Paine, England’s most famous republican polemicist, falls at a time when our political leaders, and much of the media, tell us that Parliament is on the brink of a revolution. However, viewed in the context of historic radical movements, the ‘big change’ heralded by David Cameron really amounts to small potatoes.

The furore over MPs’ expenses has thrown up a number of proposals for political reform. From Gordon Brown’s call for an independent audit unit, to Alan Johnson’s proposal for a referendum on proportional representation, to Cameron’s and Clegg’s arguments for fixed-term parliaments, our politicians are suddenly all engaged in a game of ‘more radical than thou’.
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Mummy, what’s a Sex Pistol?

by Septicisle     May 16, 2009 at 2:50 pm

I don’t know a lot about art, but I know what I like. You can’t help but think that’s exactly what four supermarkets thought when they saw the cover art for the Manic Street Preachers’ new album, Journal for Plague Lovers, above. 15 years on from the release of their opus, The Holy Bible, the vast majority of the lyrics for which were written by Richey Edwards, who went missing less than a year later, the band have finally had the courage to return to the remaining lyrics which he left behind for them.

Appropriately, they decided upon using a painting by the artist Jenny Saville, who also provided a confrontational cover for the THB, a triptych of an obese woman in white underwear. The art for JFPL is undoubtedly striking; it’s also quite clearly one of the best album covers in years.
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Review: Jessica Valenti of Feministing’s new books

by Kate Smurthwaite     May 10, 2009 at 12:38 pm

Jessica Valenti, editor of the popular blog Feministing, in an effort to make us all feel like we should get up earlier, has not one but two new books out. Both were released in the UK this week on May 7th.

‘He’s a Stud, She’s a Slut (And 49 Other Double Standards Every Woman Should Know)’ looks like one of those rather meaningless “gift books” that you buy for friends when you can’t think of anything else they’d like or you’ve only just remembered that it’s birthday drinks you’re heading to when you get to the train station with two minutes to spare.

But we know Valenti better than to expect anything so simple. Inside, chopped into sassy bite-sized chunks Valenti presents an overwhelmingly compelling case for the existence of a double standard for women in every branch of society.
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Jade Goody, Russell Brand & the media

by David Semple     March 29, 2009 at 1:53 pm

Some say blog posts complaining about Jade Goody coverage apparently vindicate and perpetuate the rather nauseating circus. I think such logic is bollocks, of course, because the mainstream media – TV, radio, newspapers, blogs belonging to all the aforementioned and others – would have merrily continued to spout crap regardless of what a few poxy political bloggers decided to say.

Why bother writing about it then? These are good questions, and the answer is that not five minutes ago, I spotted a ridiculous article on the BBC website titled, Star dubs Jade ‘Primark Princess’, and then made the mistake of reading it. Thankfully we don’t allow firearms in this country or I reckon I’d feel compelled to hunt down Russell Brand and kill him, earning myself a British Comedy Award for services rendered.
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