TV and film

Pam & Tommy’s wildest moments: what really happened?

Before Paris Hilton (and Rick Salomon), before Kim Kardashian (and Ray J), there was Pamela Anderson (and Tommy Lee), with the first celebrity sex tape scandal. The Lumière brothers of internet porn, the OG viral sensation. An intimate home video of the couple on holiday was stolen in 1995 and sold on the nascent internet. Now a Disney+ and Hulu miniseries, Pam & Tommy – starring Lily James and Sebastian Stan, and directed by Craig Gillespie – tells the tale of pop-culture history in eight episodes.

How a 557,000-word, ‘woke’ Harry Potter fanfic took on JK Rowling

The magical world of Harry Potter extends far beyond the original books written by JK Rowling. With films, plays, spoofs, theme parks and more than a million pieces of fanfiction, the HP universe could one day come to rival Marvel, or even Star Wars. But as the cultural gap widens between the source material, a modern audience and a very controversial creator, so does the world of Harry Potter change with the times.

‘I thought, if I f--- this up I’ll need witness protection’: Chris Columbus on directing Harry Potter

When Chris Columbus first heard that he would be directing the film adaptation of Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone, he was ecstatic – for about 20 seconds. “Then I was overcome with a wave of incredible terror,” the Pennsylvania native tells me. “I thought, oh my God, I’ve got the weight of millions and millions of people who love this book – if I f--k it up, I’m going to have to get into witness protection.”

‘I thought, if I f--- this up I’ll need witness protection’: Chris Columbus on directing Harry Potter

When Chris Columbus first heard that he would be directing the film adaptation of Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone, he was ecstatic – for about 20 seconds. “Then I was overcome with a wave of incredible terror,” the Pennsylvania native tells me. “I thought, oh my God, I’ve got the weight of millions and millions of people who love this book – if I f--k it up, I’m going to have to get into witness protection.”

'The Snowman' is the most powerful Christmas film of them all

Do you ever want to go back in time? Are you dreaming of a white Christmas? Do you still wish you could fly? There is a film that makes all of that possible. In 1978, English author Raymond Briggs achieved success with a wordless children’s picture book. The illustrations were animated into a 26-minute special by Dianne Jackson, and broadcast by Channel 4 on Boxing Day, 1982. This was The Snowman.

In Almodóvar's masterpiece 'Hable con ella', none are guilty but all are punished

What is a liminal space? From the Latin limens (threshold) the liminal is a place of in between: of ambiguity, of the nebulous line between conscious and unconsciousness, reality and fantasy. It is not where you’d think to look for decisive action, passion or indeed, transgression of boundaries. And yet the liminal is precisely where the actions - and transgressions - of Pedro Almodóvar’s’ Hable con Ella (‘Talk To Her’, 2002) play out.

Art and photography

Sting, Shakti and sex: The exhibition changing our understanding of tantra

A woman has her legs slung over the shoulders of a man, bent backwards like a stone comma. One of her feet is on the man’s headdress, while he rests his chin on her “yoni”. I’m hunkered down on my knees in a back room of the British Museum, staring at a carved depiction of oral sex. Not your typical Tuesday. My guide tells me that the statue is 11th century, possibly from the Elephanta cave temples near Mumbai, and came to the museum in 1865. It venerates the vulva, or the source of creation, s

Take an LGBTQ museum tour in Cambridge — it’s not all gay penguins

When Robert Falcon Scott led his ill-fated expedition to the South Pole in 1910, one of his team saw something unexpected. A male Adélie penguin finished mating with his partner, dismounted — and swapped positions. George Murray Levick, observing, concluded with shock: homosexuals. After Levick recorded his observations, he crossed them out and rewrote them in Greek so that only educated gentlemen could read them. His paper on the penguins’ proclivities was deemed too controversial for publication.

Welcome to Fusterlandia, the Cuban design project that transformed a community

A stone’s throw from downtown Havana and its grand dilapidation is the unassuming village of Jaimanitas – and an architectural dreamscape. Inspired by his time in Europe and public architecture projects like Gaudi’s Park Güell, celebrated Cuban artist Jose Rodriguez Fuster went back to his fisherman roots and to the impoverished costal town to begin a transformative project. In 1975, he converted his own home into an art museum by adorning it with mosaic tiles. “I started building my dream,” h

Sport

Child sex abuse, corruption and cover-ups: How football can and must move on from its darkest time

Andrew Woodward has no idea how many times he was raped as a child. In November 2016, the ex-footballer waived his right to anonymity and revealed that he had been a victim of sexual abuse for more than six years in the 1980s. The one-time Crewe Alexandra defender named his former coach, a convicted paedophile who police would later say had “almost an insatiable appetite” for young boys: Barry Bennell.

‘This is not what we fought for’: The battle to end Iran’s ban on female football fans

When Iran beat Cambodia 14-0 in its home qualifier for the 2022 Qatar World Cup last night, only one corner of Tehran’s stadium cheered. A small section, ringed with metal fencing, was packed full of jubilant Iranian women, sporting painted faces and national flags. Hundreds more queued up outside. It was a pocket of celebration in a nearly empty stadium. Because for the first time in four decades, Iran had allowed women to buy tickets to a match. It was too late for Sahar Khodayari. Almost a m

Literature

Pippi Longstocking turns 75: The legacy of Astrid Lindgren and the world’s strongest girl

She’s the strongest girl in the world. With her carrot-coloured pigtails, her striped mismatched socks and her freckles, she’s instantly recognisable. She’s a financially independent child, a reckless but compassionate anarchist with an intolerance for bullies. She’s a feminist role model who has inspired everyone from Michelle Obama to Lady Gaga, Madonna, Amy Poehler, Studio Ghibli’s Hayao Miyazaki and The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo.

The new edition of the Kama Sutra proves it is about more than just sex

The elegant Folio Society produces only a handful of limited editions a year; all artistic but never pornographic. So you might wonder why such a society would pick now to republish a 2,000-year-old Sanskrit guide to sex positions – literary legacy notwithstanding. But in fact (to give it its full title), The Kama Sutra of Vātsyāyana is only partially about sex. One seventh, to be exact – or so the limited editions commissioning editor James Rose assures me.

Music and podcasts

Even for Pussy Riot, gender equality must begin at home

In Pussy Riot, male members are in short supply. But while the Russian punk feminist collective does not have a defined list of participants, one man, Pyotr Verzilov, is usually included. The husband of Nadezhda “Nadya” Tolokonnikova (the group’s most famous member), is well known thanks to fighting with his wife while she was in prison, gatecrashing the 2018 football World Cup final in Russia and the fact that he was poisoned last year, allegedly by intelligence agents.

Spice Girls exhibition: Viva Forever shows Girl Power's still got it

If there was ever anything you could call a phenomenon, it would be the Spice Girls. The Fab Five entered the public’s consciousness in a way not seen since The Beatles. They became the unofficial soundtrack for a genius piece of political spin known as Cool Britannia; dragged the music industry out of its male-dominated Britpop indie-funk into a cheesy pop utopia, and flourished at the intersection of music, branding and merchandise the way no other band had done before.

HowTheLightGetsIn festival review: A rare combination of fascination and fun

“In these dark and turbulent times, we face many dangers, threats and unknowns. What beliefs and authorities have led us here? What dreams and visions for the future might enable us to create a better world?” This was the question posed by HowTheLightGetsIn, the world’s biggest philosophy and music festival (put on by the Institute of Art and Ideas and founded by director Hilary Lawson – not to be confused with the nearby Hay festival). At first glance, it seems an oddly depressing premise.

Bastille and Billy Bragg at the Union Chapel for Streets of London: A remarkable offering of solace

Put anti-homeless charity ambassador Dan Smith (Bastille frontman) and protest singer/veteran activist Billy Bragg on stage just before a general election, with an audience of 20-something-year-olds – in 2017 – and what do you get? Politics. But for a generation cowed by a political movement they (by and large) didn't vote for, and to a city overwhelmed with near-daily seismic Trump bulletins, a fundraiser for the homeless community felt almost transgressive in its sheer usefulness.

Stormzy dominated the stage at O2 Academy Brixton and proved what a superstar he really is – review

Stormzy famously said in an interview with The Guardian: “Respect me like you would Frank Ocean or Adele.” Captivated by grime’s golden boy at the O2 Brixton Academy, with that rare mix of raw talent, stage presence and humble competence, it’s impossible not to. On the last night of his sellout tour, Stormzy (Michael Omari) expertly navigated the line between meticulous control and emotional energy, visibly delighted to be back in his hometown.

Ho ho ho? The Bolivian pirate video and music industry

Let’s say you’re in Bolivia for the first time, and you hear a band you like, or fancy renting a DVD for the night. You soon notice the near-complete absence of original material in the country - no large record shops to speak of and just one or two video clubs with an impoverished catalogue. And well, the reliably unreliable internet connection - incidentally, one of the slowest in the continent - means that downloading is out of the question.

Lifestyle and travel

I joined a sex toy festival in Belgium to raise money and awareness

As I waded through the mud, swinging my spade like a medieval axe, I grew increasingly desperate to find a vibrator. And no, this isn’t a tale of rural sexual repression. This was the annual sex toy hunt in Wépion, Belgium. In a little village just outside of Namur, the capital of Wallonia, I found myself knee deep in a crowded, muddy field, digging for dildos at the highlight of the “Chasse aux Sextoys” festival.

8 best microbead-free face scrubs

Everyone's skin is different, but all skin has one thing in common – needing regular exfolation. This is an all-too-often skipped step in skincare regimes, but it's vital in the fight against fine lines, dead skin and impurities. If everyone's skin is different, it stands to reason that they all require a different type of exfoliation, and it's important to find a product that fits your lifestyle, so you'll actually use it.

10 best microbead-free body scrubs

When TLC said "I don't want no scrubs", they should've added "which contain microbeads". Tiny pieces of non-biodegradable plastic, microbeads are so small that they can't be extracted during water treatment after they go down the drain, so they end up in the oceans. Now, there's a huge mass of floating debris in the Pacific Ocean, known as the 'Great Pacific garbage patch' - estimates range from about the size of Texas, to up to twice the size of the continental US.

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