Music

George Michael - "White Light" (video)

George Michael celebrates Wham's 30th anniversary with a solo single which Andrew Ridgeley doesn't appear on, ironically.

While the title filled me with immediate dread (given Michael's serious bout of pneumonia last year), suggesting this was going to be some cloying pop star confessional (overlooking as I am, various lines about music, along with the power of his fans' prayers, saving him) "White Light" isn't the worst Michael effort committed to binary.

Part Giorgio Moroder, with a hint of Pet Shop Boys, "White Light" dances in similar territory to the more electro experiments on 2004's Patience album. There's also fair use of Michael's recent penchant for the Vocoder. (Few caught last year's True Faith New Order cover, but once over the shock of an entire vocal varied through said device, Michael's interpretation was really rather fine.)

While I can't shake the feeling that the former Wham man (this is intended as a -- marketing ploy, ahoy -- 30th anniversary celebration of Wham's debut. Which, given that Andrew Ridgeley doesn't appear on this, as neither did he any of the duo's records or in concert, doesn't change anything) could knock these kind of tunes out in his sleep, in truth I'm not sure Michael is all that bothered -- in a Prince kind of way -- about whether his singles are global smashes anymore.

Sure, some PR agents will probably walk the plank if the singer gets to feeling we're not talking about him enough. But then again, why shouldn't acts put songs out merely because they want to, rather than only once they've been tweaked and remixed and market road-tested and rewritten (with added Will.I.Be.Boring rap) for years, so as to ensure they're number one across the entire known universe?

So, in short: Not bad, but not brilliant. It'll be a hit, because he's got fans - and it'll no doubt turn up on Greatest Hits packages, simply because his ego will demand it. People will talk about it - not least Michael himself, as he relives (if you'll excuse the choice of words) his illness for the next three months in various publicity articles. But, other than that, it's merely alright. I think the best word to be used is: functional.

So far J. J. Abrams and Rian Johnson resemble children at play, remaking the films they fell in love with. As an audience, however, we desire a fuller experience.

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Theatre

​'The Ferryman': Ephemeral Ideas, Eternal Tragedies

The current cast of The Ferryman in London's West End. Photo by Johan Persson. (Courtesy of The Corner Shop)

Staggeringly multi-layered, dangerously fast-paced and rich in characterizations, dialogue and context, Jez Butterworth's new hit about a family during the time of Ireland's the Troubles leaves the audience breathless, sweaty and tearful, in a nightmarish, dry-heaving haze.

"Vanishing. It's a powerful word, that"

Northern Ireland, Rural Derry, 1981, nighttime. The local ringleader of the Irish Republican Army gun-toting comrades ambushes a priest and tells him that the body of one Seamus Carney has been recovered. It is said that the man had spent a full ten years rotting in a bog. The IRA gunslinger, Muldoon, orders the priest to arrange for the Carney family not to utter a word of what had happened to the wretched man.

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Aaron Sorkin's real-life twister about Molly Bloom, an Olympic skier turned high-stakes poker wrangler, is scorchingly fun but never takes its heroine as seriously as the men.

Chances are, we will never see a heartwarming Aaron Sorkin movie about somebody with a learning disability or severe handicap they had to overcome. This is for the best. The most caffeinated major American screenwriter, Sorkin only seems to find his voice when inhabiting a frantically energetic persona whose thoughts outrun their ability to verbalize and emote them. The start of his latest movie, Molly's Game, is so resolutely Sorkin-esque that it's almost a self-parody. Only this time, like most of his better work, it's based on a true story.

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7

There's something characteristically English about the Royal Society, whereby strangers gather under the aegis of some shared interest to read, study, and form friendships and in which they are implicitly agreed to exist insulated and apart from political differences.

There is an amusing detail in The Curious World of Samuel Pepys and John Evelyn that is emblematic of the kind of intellectual passions that animated the educated elite of late 17th-century England. We learn that Henry Oldenburg, the first secretary of the Royal Society, had for many years carried on a bitter dispute with Robert Hooke, one of the great polymaths of the era whose name still appears to students of physics and biology. Was the root of their quarrel a personality clash, was it over money or property, over love, ego, values? Something simple and recognizable? The precise source of their conflict was none of the above exactly but is nevertheless revealing of a specific early modern English context: They were in dispute, Margaret Willes writes, "over the development of the balance-spring regulator watch mechanism."

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