Those who would be king

Authoritarianism is on the rise ... measurably. Nobel prize-winning economist Angus Deaton has said that one of the most fundamental determiners of your life's good or ill fortune is whether you live under a transparent, democratically biddable government, or under an opaque and corrupt one. In a world that seems to be full of pitiless …

Ralph and Cleopatra

Antony and Cleopatra in the Olivier at the National Theatre; a bracingly modern techno-thriller with executive suites, machine guns, and a cleverly-done modern submarine. Also Sophie Okonedo in the role of Beggared-all-Description, and Ralph Fiennes as her shaggy-paunched pursuer. Starry stuff, and if a touch bombastic it's a very entertaining production in all sorts of …

Brilliant idiom

Over dinner in London, a fascinating discussion is launched by my American friend John A., who has been in-country for months but is struggling still with the local patois. How exactly should you use "brilliant"? The Brits around the table weigh in, but quickly grasp that it's a tougher question than it looks. Rule #1 is …