Holy relics in Mecca demolished

The photos Saudi Arabia doesn’t want seen – and proof Islam’s most holy relics are being demolished in Mecca

The authorities in Saudi Arabia have begun dismantling some of the oldest sections of Islam’s most important mosque as part of a highly controversial multi-billion pound expansion.

Photographs obtained by The Independent reveal how workers with drills and mechanical diggers have started demolishing some Ottoman and Abbasid sections on the eastern side of the Masjid al-Haram in Mecca.

The building, which is also known as the Grand Mosque, is the holiest site in Islam because it contains the Kaaba –  the point to which all Muslims face when praying. The columns are the last remaining sections of the mosque which date back more than a few hundred years and form the inner perimeter on the outskirts of the white marble floor surrounding the Kaaba…..

The Independent


In 1967, the Beatles sang “All you need is love”. But does this still hold true? We rationalize and optimize every single aspect of our lives but leave the greatest irrationality in place: romantic love. We want to debate why this is and what it means to love in the 21st century…..

The European Magazine

Nietsche on Love

Willow Verkerk considers what Nietzsche has to teach us about love.

What could Friedrich Nietzsche (1844-1900) have to teach us about love? More than we might suppose. Speculations about his sexuality abound: did he really contract syphilis at a bordello, for instance? And what about Lou Salomé: did he love her, or were his feelings towards her something she exaggerated? The answers to these questions vary. What can be found in Nietzsche’s letters is that he had quite a few friendships with educated and musical women throughout his life, and that he thought about love and marriage. His solitude and corresponding loneliness, often assumed to be a matter of preference, were predicaments of his nomadic years, when he had to travel to seek out the best climate for his ailing health. Even during these times, between physical suffering and intense periods of writing, he pursued the company of learned women. Moreover, Nietzsche grew up in a family of women, turned to women for friendship, and witnessed his friends courting…..

Philosophy Now

Jean-Luc Godard’s 3D film

In “Goodbye to Language,” Jean-Luc Godard invites the viewer to seemingly touch what’s on the screen.
Jean-Luc Godard’s initial idea for the film “Goodbye to Language,” he said, was a simple one: “It’s about a man and his wife who no longer speak the same language. The dog they take on walks then intervenes and speaks.” That does happen, sort of, eventually, without the talking. Like many of Godard’s later films, “Goodbye to Language,” which opens today, is a kind of collage, a compilation of images and sounds, incidents and phrases that don’t tell only one story but bring lots of stories together, in a cycle that fulfills a grand idea. In this film, that idea is also something that Godard mentioned in the same interview, and it worked out exactly as he anticipated: “Maybe I’ll even shoot my next film in 3-D. I always like it when new techniques are introduced. Because it doesn’t have any rules yet. And one can do everything.”…..

The New Yorker

Montaigne and Shakespeare

The Inner Light
What Shakespeare saw in Montaigne’s reflections

Although he’s revered as a great classic writer, Michel Eyquem de Montaigne (1533-1592) is an author we read because we want to, not because we have to. He’s intimate, erudite, chatty, and expansive—qualities well suited to the peculiar genre he essentially created. While puttering around his tower library in 16th-century France, Montaigne crafted conversational observations into familiar prose, inventing the personal essay as a new literary form. Others had composed essays before Montaigne, but they wrote as kings, soldiers, officials, or philosophers. Montaigne wrote simply as himself—a bemused and befuddled French aristocrat trying to make sense of it all…..

The Weekly Standard

Nabokov’s letters to Vera

Vladimir Nabokov
Translated by Olga Voronina and Brian Boyd

On June 1, 1926, Véra Nabokov set out from Berlin for the Black Forest, where she hoped a stay in a sanatorium would enable her to recover from depression and anxiety. Accompanied by her mother, she left behind the husband she had married just the year before, along with a pad of paper with dated and numbered pages. Vladimir Nabokov had promised her an account of his daily life – what he ate, what he wrote, what he wore. The letters he sent that summer at the age of twenty-seven contain some of the most moving passages he would ever write, full of alternately impressionistic and exquisitely detailed glimpses at the world around him, which he portrays as almost painfully beautiful…..


Dylan Thomas

n Wales, a Toast to Dylan Thomas on His 100th Birthday

LAUGHARNE, Wales — Down the footpath from his writing shed, along the curve of the water and up the hill, you see what the poet Dylan Thomas once saw: tall birds on the “heron priested shore,” a “sea wet church the size of a snail” atop the ridge, the castle ruin to your left still “brown as owls.”…..

New York Times

Fom Beijing to New York and Swansea to Sydney, the 100th anniversary of Dylan Thomas’ birth has been celebrated all over the world.
Dylathon: Stars turn out for celebration of Dylan Thomas’ life…..


Cannes 2014: Mr Turner review

What a glorious film this is, richly and immediately enjoyable, hitting its satisfying stride straight away. It’s funny and visually immaculate; it combines domestic intimacy with an epic sweep and has a lyrical, mysterious quality that perfumes every scene, whether tragic or comic.

Mike Leigh has made a period biographical drama before: Topsy-Turvy (1999), about the rewarding but tense association of Gilbert and Sullivan and their own rewarding but tense association with the theatre-going public. Now he made another utterly confident excursion into the past and into the occult arcana of Englishness and Victoriana: a study of the final years of the painter JMW Turner, played with relish and sympathy by Timothy Spall…..

The Guardian

Richard Dawkins

The Closed Mind of Richard Dawkins
His atheism is its own kind of narrow religion

John Gray

If an autobiography can ever contain a true reflection of the author, it is nearly always found in a throwaway sentence. When the world’s most celebrated atheist writes of the discovery of evolution, Richard Dawkins unwittingly reveals his sense of his mission in the world…..

The New Republic

Walter Benjamin

Fallen Angel
The tragic life and enduring influence of critic Walter Benjamin
Ian Penman

Benjamin’s reputation has soared since his death in 1940.
Nearly 75 years ago, at the outset of World War Two, stranded between official borderlines, right on the edge of things, the German Jewish philosopher and critic Walter Benjamin slipped out of life. His passing barely registered beyond a small circle of friends and fellow travelers—habitués, like himself, of severe literary journals, fringe politics, esoteric philosophies. Like that of Benjamin’s own literary heroes, Franz Kafka and Marcel Proust, his posthumous career was to prove far more lively…..

City Journal

The Naysayers
Walter Benjamin, Theodor Adorno, and the critique of pop culture.
By Alex Ross

In Jonathan Franzen’s 2001 novel, “The Corrections,” a disgraced academic named Chip Lambert, who has abandoned Marxist theory in favor of screenwriting, goes to the Strand Bookstore, in downtown Manhattan, to sell off his library of dialectical tomes. The works of Theodor W. Adorno, Jürgen Habermas, Fredric Jameson, and various others cost Chip nearly four thousand dollars to acquire; their resale value is sixty-five. “He turned away from their reproachful spines, remembering how each of them had called out in a bookstore with a promise of a radical critique of late-capitalist society,” Franzen writes. After several more book-selling expeditions, Chip enters a high-end grocery store and walks out with an overpriced filet of wild Norwegian salmon…..

The New Yorker

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Are today’s intellectuals are too obedient?

The Responsibility of Intellectuals, Noam Chomsky’s classic essay, is now approaching its 50th anniversary. His mighty polemic was written as his country, the US, moved deeper and deeper into national and international crisis. The tonnage of high explosive dropped on Vietnam finally exceeded the entire total of Allied bombs dropped on Europe during the Second World War. The American nation’s response to this horrifying display of brute power was a combustible mixture of more-or‑less approving indifference and, especially in the universities, passionate dissent, ardent opposition and, on the part of some thousands of young men awaiting conscription, the criminal, high-minded and public burning of draft cards…..

Times Higher Education

The New Luddites

The new Luddites: why former digital prophets are turning against tech

Neo-Luddism began to emerge in the postwar period. First after the emergence of nuclear weapons, and secondly when it became apparent new computer technologies had the power to change our lives completely.

Very few of us can be sure that our jobs will not, in the near future, be done by machines. We know about cars built by robots, cashpoints replacing bank tellers, ticket dispensers replacing train staff, self-service checkouts replacing supermarket staff, tele­phone operators replaced by “call trees”, and so on. But this is small stuff compared with what might happen next…..

The New Statsman

Smartphones and Spatial Thinking

Navigation apps are transforming the way we experience urban environments—for better and for worse.

Like most New Yorkers, I spend an inordinate amount of time in transit. I have an unlimited Metrocard and a Citi Bike key, two bicycles and a motorcycle, and a dozen pairs of shoes. Proper wayfinding is my lifelong neurosis, as if a personal score could be tallied from the 10,000 rounds of Navigation I’ve played against the city.

But I’ve lately undergone a crisis of confidence: I find it hard to hit the road without consulting my phone. And while I’d like to think the recommended route (from Google, Waze, Hopstop, etc.) is just one influence among many—that I have other preferences their algorithms can’t perceive—I’m not too proud to confess that I trust the computer more than I trust myself. The habits, hubris, and quirky predilections that once manipulated my movements are being replaced by the judgments of artificial intelligence…..


Overcrowded museums

Is It Time To Break Up Overcrowded Museums?
September 4, 2014 by Judith H. Dobrzynski
Hrag Vartanian, whom you may know as the editor-in-chief and co-founder of Hyperallergic, had a very interesting opinion piece published on Al Jazeera America the other day. The headline was Break up the major museums to save them, with a deck saying “August institutions should build more outposts rather than cloister themselves in big cities.”
LouvreQuite a proposal. His thoughts seem to have been triggered by attendance at the Louvre (12 million a year by 2025), and the experiences of many museum-goers — who can barely get near the art because the galleries are so crowded. He recapped some of the complaints contained recently in a New York Times article, Masterworks Vs. the Masses, which noted “soaring attendance has turned many museums into crowded, sauna-like spaces, forcing institutions to debate how to balance accessibility with art preservation.”….

Arts Journal Blogs. Real Clear Arts

The Kinshasa Symphony Orchestra

Despite being ravaged by war and poverty, the Democratic Republic of Congo has produced the world’s first all-black symphony orchestra, which has grown from a small group with home-made instruments to a respected international outfit.

A day after arriving in England from Kinshasa, Armand Diangienda is evidently impressed by the facilities offered by his hosts, the Halle Orchestra in Manchester.

But when asked about the difference between the Halle and his Orchestre Symphonique Kimbanguiste, the first thing he mentions is not the rehearsal room, a former church converted by the Halle at a cost of £1.5m last year, where musicians from both orchestras are running through great works by Beethoven and Berlioz…..



‘Beethoven: Anguish and Triumph,’ by Jan Swafford

….The curtain opens on a difficult childhood: an abusive alcoholic father, a boy genius mocked for his dark skin. He survives, makes his way to Vienna for fame and fortune — only to be stricken by (gasp) deafness. In addition, we have impossible passions for mysterious beloveds, side themes of class struggle, freedom, individuality, the backdrop of Napoleonic conquest and a score (what a score!) surging with alternating storminess and tenderness. Beethoven’s story is almost too good to be true, and almost too bad to be television…..

The New York Times

How the Left became obsessed with ideology over beauty

Liberals Are Killing Art
by Jed Perl

….Instead of viewing life’s unquantifiable artistic experiences as a check on quantification, the well-intended impulse among many liberal commentators is to try and quantify the unquantifiable. But the power of art, which is so personal and so particular, is finally unquantifiableand therefore a source of embarrassment to the rationalizing mind. What is at stake is art’s freestanding power…..

The New Republic

Arts funding

John Tusa – Pain in the Arts
Arts must stop moaning and politicos must trust the public’s love of art, says culture chief

In the midst of ferment as the arts world faces fast-shrinking public subsidy, Sir John Tusa, former managing director of the BBC World Service and the Barbican Arts Centre, publishes this week a brisk new book that urges arts and politicians to reject the emotive clichés and lazy token battles and focus on what matters. In Pain in the Arts, Tusa urges that both sides take personal responsibility for an essential part of human life…..

The Arts Desk