On a recent visit to the Royal Academy, I noticed a tall, elegantly dressed man who spent quite some time admiring a square object attached to the wall. I wondered whether to tell him that far from being Russian avant-garde art, which was the theme of the exhibition, it was in fact the temperature and humidity control box. Many visitors to Revolution: Russian Art 1917-1932 … Continue reading Standpoint Magazine: Ironies of Ideology
A new show about consciousness takes a terrifying look at how scientists, philosophers and artists deal with “the hard problem” In the 17th century, Descartes famously argued that the body and mind are two different things. Philosophers have been discussing the difference ever since, and this “mind-body problem” is far from solved. Today, science is still struggling to explain how our soggy grey brains give rise to the … Continue reading The Economist’s 1843: The malleability of our minds
A new production of The Nose, Shostakovich’s opera based on Gogol’s mesmerisingly surreal short story, was part of this season at the Royal Opera House in Covent Garden. A Tarkovsky retrospective was held in Shoreditch. Any moment now, I expect to get invited to a poetry slam riffing on Mayakovsky. The Nose, one of Gogol’s Petersburg Tales, tells the story of Collegiate Assessor Kovalyov, who … Continue reading Standpoint Magazine: Golden Gogol
There were ten men in an audience of about a hundred at How To Date a Feminist, a new play by Samantha Ellis (the author of How To Be a Heroine) at the Arcola Theatre in Dalston. As a feminist, I was naturally curious to find out what it means to date me. But it quickly became clear that the feminist in question in Ellis’s play … Continue reading Times Literary Supplement: How to date a feminist
Hot Milk, the book for which Deborah Levy has been nominated for this year’s Man Booker Prize, explores hypochondria and the troubled relationship between a mother and daughter. It is characterised by a wicked sense of humour and sublime rhythm. Previously nominated for Swimming Home (2011), a novel on the insidious harm depression can have on apparently well-turned-out people, Levy is the only female British … Continue reading Jewish Chronicle: An interview with Deborah Levy
Tucked away between office buildings by Euston station is where I found the Camden People’s Theatre. It’s a little place with colourful bunting, a cheerful selection of chairs and flowery plastic tablecloths. It’s the kind of theatre where you can buy a packet of crisps in the interval, rather than wasabi peas. I went to see a talk and two plays that were part of Whose … Continue reading Times Literary Supplement: Whose London is it anyway?
What makes a genius? Since at least the 19th century, some have said it is down to genetics, while others have argued that upbringing is decisive. More recently, the idea that genius rests on sheer hard work — the “10,000 hours” thesis popularised by the writer Malcolm Gladwell — has gained currency. The latest contribution to the debate comes from the journalist and travel writer … Continue reading Financial Times: How to create a golden age
When short stories were still widely published in magazines, they had the capacity to react to unfolding events, writes Philip Hensher, the novelist and critic who edited these two volumes. Now the principal outlets for short story writers are no longer periodicals — apart from Standpoint and a few others — but competitions. “The dullest short stories I read from the last fifteen years were … Continue reading Standpoint Magazine: The Story Of The Short Story
I recently went to a public lecture at LSE hosted by the Forum for European Philosophy. The discussion was entitled “Does philosophy have to be obscure?” It struck me as a bit odd that both possible responses presume that philosophy is indeed obscure. If we understand “obscure” as “unclearly expressed” or “not easily understood”, so many things seem more obscure – Facebook’s terms of agreement, say, or … Continue reading Times Literary Supplement: Does philosophy have to be obscure?
Guy de Maupassant is considered the greatest short story writer in French literature. He is often said to have defined the modern short story and influenced the likes of Chekhov, Maugham, Babel and O. Henry. In France, his work is studied at secondary schools and universities, as it is in England. But it is probably true to say that in the English-speaking world generally he … Continue reading Standpoint Magazine: Found In Translation
The first time I came across the Israeli short-story writer Etgar Keret was through a comment he made about Franz Kafka. When Kafka died in 1924, he left his diaries, manuscripts and letters with his friend Max Brod, and ordered him to burn them unread. Instead, Brod released The Trial, The Castle and Amerika, turning Kafka into one of the greatest writers of the 20th century. But many manuscripts … Continue reading Standpoint Magazine: Israel’s Impish Ice-Breaker
He may be America’s greatest living comedian, but if you relied on British television you might never have heard of Jackie Mason. In this country, he must be the most underrated stand-up in the business. You have to see him live — and the opportunities are getting rarer. Three years ago Jackie Mason came to London on a farewell tour. This summer he returned to … Continue reading Standpoint Magazine: Underrated – Jackie Mason
Notes on a Voice: Marina Gerner pins down the work of a Nobel prize-winning novelist who revealed the inside through the outside “All I had to do was be there with buckets to catch it,” Saul Bellow said of his breakthrough novel “The Adventures of Augie March” (1953). Augie is a dreamy idealist with a drifting mind. The son of Russian-Jewish immigrants, he grew up … Continue reading The Economist’s Intelligent Life Magazine: Saul Bellow’s Introspection
Simon Blackburn credits L’Oréal’s slogan, “because you’re worth it”, as a source of outrage and inspiration for Mirror, Mirror: The uses and abuses of self-love. Drawing on the myth on Narcissus, Blackburn writes on vanity, pride and amour propre with deep insight. He introduces “lofty pride”, for instance, with reference to the House of Pride, allegory of fickleness and superficiality, in Spenser’s Faerie Queene. A more … Continue reading Times Literary Supplement: Book Review of Simon Blackburn’s “Mirror Mirror”
Women who engage in public speaking are seen as “freakish androgynes”, argued classics professor Mary Beard in her recent London Review of Books speech at the British Library. Throughout the centuries we have come to believe that public speaking is men’s business, Professor Beard said, citing Homer’s Odyssey and referring to the likes of Aristotle and Cicero. However, Aristotle and Cicero had female contemporaries who are … Continue reading Standpoint Magazine: Beards need not apply
When telephones were still a rare possession, the French artist Jean-Louis Forain decided to install a telephone in his town house. Wanting to surprise his good friend Edgar Degas with it, he invited him around for dinner and made sure to leave the table and conspicuously take a call. When he returned to the dinner table, Degas drily remarked: “So that’s the telephone? They ring, … Continue reading Standpoint Magazine: Phoney Freedom
Sometimes a chief executive must hope that an unwise quote from a while back would just curl up and die. Seven years ago, Mike Jeffries, the CEO of Abercrombie & Fitch, gave a frank interview to Salon explaining what kind of customers he liked in his stores. “In every school there are the cool and popular kids, and then there are the not-so-cool kids. Candidly, we go after … Continue reading The Economist’s Intelligent Life Magazine: The CEO and the Not-So-Smart-Quote
On Sunday, the cosmetics company Dove released a three-minute video on YouTube called “Dove Real Beauty Sketches”. By Friday it had nearly 9m views. The video features a former forensic artist from the San Jose police department sitting behind a white curtain as several women tell him, one after another, what they look like. “Tell me about your chin…your jaw,” he asks, as he sketches. Their replies are … Continue reading The Economist’s Intelligent Life Magazine: The Latest Beauty Product: Concern
There has been a “Women’s Library” in London since 1926, but this May it moves from its own premises in Aldgate to the fourth floor of the London School of Economics (pictured). The collection contains 60,000 books and pamphlets, press cuttings and banners about the British feminist movement. But I doubt the world’s largest library for social and political sciences—where I work as a research … Continue reading The Economist’s Intelligent Life Magazine: A Women’s Library? No, Thanks
Much has happened since I began writing this column more than two years ago: the UK has voted for Brexit, Donald Trump has been elected US president and new trade tariffs have been imposed. But some things haven’t changed. In my first column, I argued that cutting out your daily cappuccino won’t make you the next Wolf of Wall Street. Whenever it’s suggested that it … Continue reading Marina’s Monetary Musings: Invest your tuppence wisely – or better yet, feed the birds
There is a belief that people with psychopathic traits – like aggression, cold charm and a ruthless lack of empathy – do well in the financial industry. So a team of academics, led by Leanne ten Brinke, a social psychologist at the University of Denver, set out to investigate if that’s the case. Her team studied the video interviews of 101 hedge fund managers. The … Continue reading Marina’s Monetary Musings: Mirror, mirror on the wall – who is the best one of all?
In recent weeks, most of us have been deluged by a flood of emails asking if we’d like to stay in touch with a certain company or charity. That’s because on 25 May, the European Union’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) came into effect. The basic idea is to create one set of rules to modernise data privacy laws across European member states, currently including … Continue reading Money Observer: GDPR – what investors need to know
Following the recent introduction of Morningstar’s carbon risk rating by Morningstar, we reveal how carbon-heavy the most popular investment funds are An increasing number of investors look to environmentally friendlier and more ethical ways of growing their money, and choosing the right funds is part of that process. When choosing a fund, investors can invest in funds that are specifically ‘ethical’ or ‘responsible’. Alternatively, they can … Continue reading Money Observer: How carbon-heavy are the most popular funds?
Among millennials who don’t invest in the stock market one common objection is: ‘It’s too much of an effort for something I’d only get a few hundred quid out of it.’ But is this sentiment justified? To begin with, there are two glaring reasons for why millennials shy away from investing. For one, millennials mistrust financial markets, given that they – or we – came … Continue reading Money Observer: Here’s why it is worth investing small amounts
‘The lack of change is one of the more remarkable characteristics of the Finsbury Growth and Income investment trust,’ Nick Train said at a Frostrow Capital investment seminar today. Indeed, the highly regarded fund manager is known for the very low turnover of his portfolios, which keeps his trading costs down. Since 2011, Train has created just three new positions in this trust. ‘I’ve had … Continue reading Money Observer: Nick Train on the virtues of doing nothing
Large charities embroiled in scandals have brought charitable giving into disrepute, from Oxfam staff who sexually exploited victims of the Haiti earthquake, to harassment at Save the Children. But the failure of these charities should not put you off donating. Indeed, the philosopher Peter Singer argued that ‘if you are living comfortably while others are hungry or dying from easily preventable diseases, and you are … Continue reading Marina’s Monetary Musings: How to become an ‘effective altruist’
Last week saw the deadline for companies with over 250 employees in the UK to report their gender pay gap. The figures revealed that HSBC has a gender pay gap of 59 per cent, Lloyds has a 32.8 per cent gap, Legal & General have a 30.5 per cent and Aviva has 28.5 per cent. While the gender pay gap in the UK was at … Continue reading Money Observer: How to close the gender pay gap in finance
A new report by the Work & Pensions Select Committee is proposing the creation of a ‘default decumulation pathway’; in other words a default investment fund for those who do not make their own investment choices. The idea is to echo the success of auto enrolment – which ‘nudges’ people into saving for retirement by doing nothing. Similarly, these pathways would create a kind of … Continue reading Money Observer: Parliamentary committee calls for ‘default fund’ at retirement
A grandparent who looks after a grandchild, so that the child’s parent can go back to work, can boost the amount of state pension they receive. By applying for a national insurance credit, a grandparent looking after their grandchild for one year could add £230 per year to their state pension, or £4,500 over a typical 20-year retirement, according to Royal London. The credit would … Continue reading Money Observer: Grandparents can claim pension boost for looking after grandchildren