Category Archives: Interviews, Features & Arts

Pregnant Marissa Mayer got the top job at Yahoo – is she the future or a blast from the past?

Scotland on sunday 22 July 2012

Marissa Mayer will have a few weeks of maternity leave from her new job as CEO of Yahoo, but insists she will work through it

IN THE data torrents of computer code which power the world’s most ubiquitous websites, a single random digit can crash a system or throw a household name offline. No-one knows that better than Marissa Mayer, the newly appointed CEO of ­Yahoo.

At the beginning of last week, Mayer was the 37-year-old high-flier whose appointment to the top job at Yahoo had just capped a Silicon Valley dream ­career at Google. Former colleagues lined up to heap praise on the computer engineer. Working women delighted in the fact that a woman had just taken a top job in an industry dominated by nerdy men.

But then came the nugget of data that changed the tone of the conversation; Mayer is due to have her first child in October. And she intends to work through her maternity leave. Overnight the technology superhero, riding in to save the troubled internet giant, became an over-achieving hate figure, demonised for her lack of maternal feeling and patronised for underestimating the challenges of motherhood.

Mayer, who announced her pregnancy to the world via Twitter, has defended her decision:

“I like to stay in the rhythm of things,” Mayer said in an interview. “My maternity leave will be a few weeks long and I’ll work throughout it.”

Mayer has praised Yahoo for “their evolved thinking” in not questioning her about her pregnancy during the recruitment process.

So is Mayer an inspirational figure smashing a double-glazed glass ceiling and soaring to the top while pregnant, or is she a self-absorbed careerist blind to the life-changing challenge which motherhood is about to hand her?

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Shabby or chic? New York’s Bowery House hotel

The Guardian 28 October 2011

New York’s Bowery House hotel, on the Lower East Side

New York’s past and future jostle for position on the weed- and graffiti-strewn Bowery. A century after it became a byword for desperation, the wide boulevard on the city’s Lower East Side is undergoing a transformation.

The homeless shelters and soup kitchens are still doing a brisk trade but they have been joined by modelling agencies, style bars and sleek hotels.

Homeless men and women file in to the Bowery Mission to be fed and showered. Across the street, at number 220, visitors from every corner of the globe check in at the front desk of the Bowery House hotel which opened with little fanfare in July.

Built in the 1920s to accommodate 200 people, The Prince Hotel as it was called then, was one of dozens of flophouses which sprang up on New York’s infamous Skid Row to give returning soldiers, down-and-outs and the down-on-their-luck a place to sleep.

On the second floor of 220 Bowery, long-term residents still pay minimal rent to sleep in tiny stalls, six feet long by five feet wide. Directly above them, on the third and fourth floors, aspiring actors, creatives and international tourists pay $62 to $129 a night to sleep in renovated designer versions of the tiny flophouse cubicles, complete with Ralph Lauren towels and Egyptian cotton sheets.

Guests have a choice of private rooms or dormitories. Their shared bathrooms have marble sinks, heated floors and expensive toiletries. Film posters and black and white photographs from the 1920s and 30s on the walls hark back to the Bowery’s edgier days.

The developers of the Bowery House have made a feature of the “flophouse aesthetic”, describing the hotel as “a living museum”.

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Gagaku: Imperial Court Music and Dance of Japan

The Arts Journal, 23 August 2012

Four Stars

Gagaku is the world’s oldest living orchestral tradition

The court music of Japan is an art form dating from the 5th century, performed in the Imperial Palace by a select group of musicians, many of them descended from families with centuries of musical heritage. Ritualised, decorative, strictly choreographed and austere in its execution, Gagaku is a living, unbroken musical tradition.

Wednesday night offered a rare chance to experience a programme of music and dance performed by the Musicians of the Imperial Household Agency, the Tokyo group’s only performance in the UK.

The capacity audience at the Festival Theatre might not have known in advance what to expect from Gagaku which translates as “elegant music” but they looked on in silent wonder as the musicians, dressed in burnt orange robes and sitting cross-legged on a green silk carpet, plucked, struck and scraped an intriguing mixture of ancient musical instruments, including a bamboo mouth organ, and a four stringed lute strummed with a large plectrum.

If the music and movement of Gagaku and the accompanying Bugaku dance can be austere, the stage was a feast for the eyes, festooned with embroidered silk hangings and large, elaborately decorated ceremonial gongs.

The static but hypnotic instrumental pieces of the first half gave way to a series of elaborate and tightly choreographed dances after the interval. Dressed in silk pantaloons, masks and fringed tunics, the dancers performed traditional dances representing mythical creatures including a phoenix and dragons. Japan’s martial history was referenced in the final dance, Bairo, traditionally performed before battle, in which the dancers staged an elaborate clash of halberds, shields and swords.

If one of the purposes of the Festival is to expose audiences to art forms which emerge from radically distinct artistic traditions, then the strange, ritualised world of Gagaku succeeded in presenting a powerful impression of a complex and self contained artistic world.

‘Auld Lang Syne’: New Year’s song has a convoluted history

The Washington Post 30 December 2011

Emmanuel Dunand/AFP/GETTY IMAGES – “Auld Lang Syne” translates as “old long since” — “for old time’s sake.” On that point, there is consensus. But more than two centuries after Scottish poet Robert Burns’s death, opinion is divided on the source of the song and how much credit he actually deserves

As the clock strikes midnight on New Year’s Eve, one song will usher in 2012 in time zones around the world: Robert Burns’s “Auld Lang Syne.” Even in Burns’s native Scotland, many people don’t understand all the words, but that’s done nothing to diminish the song’s appeal.

Although it’s most often associated with the new year, “Auld Lang Syne” is a global anthem of remembrance and fraternity: Type the title into YouTube, and more than 32,000 versions come up, sung by everyone from Aretha Franklin to Alvin and the Chipmunks to toddlers and their grannies. The song is sung throughout the English-speaking world and has been translated into more than 40 languages.

“It has traveled and embedded itself in cultures across the globe,” said Burns biographer Robert Crawford. “It’s a malleable song — it’s quite unspecific about the nature of friendship — so it lends itself to many different occasions.”

Its title translates as “old long since” — “for old time’s sake.” On that point, there is consensus. But more than two centuries after Burns’s death, opinion is divided on the source of the song and how much credit he actually deserves. The poet — author of works such as “Tam o’ Shanter” and “To a Mouse” — denied that “Auld Lang Syne” was his. Rather, he said, “I took it down from an old man.”

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