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 …

This wonderful life

I've just read a review by David Quammen of Dutch biologist Menno Schilthuizen's Darwin Comes To Town. Apparently, rapid speciation is happening in our cities because of the peculiarities of urban environments: there are now at least three distinct species of mosquito - each descended from the same common above-ground species - living their separate, …

R.I.P Mary Midgley, 1919-2018

The excellent and hugely underrated philosopher Mary Midgley has died at the age of 99, shortly after completing yet another book. She was a subtle, scientifically literate scourge of scientism - career highlights included high-temperature roastings of what she saw as the presumption and intellectual laziness in Richard Dawkins's The Selfish Gene and E.O. Wilson's …