The week’s best arts and culture reads – including what we can learn from Epicurus, the words English lends other languages and the poses of Marcel Marceau.

The great philosophers: Epicurus
Alain de Botton | School Of Life | 10 July 2014
Epicurus, born in 341BC, was famed for his “skilful and relentless focus” on one subject: happiness. “Previously, philosophers had wanted to know how to be good; Epicurus insisted he wanted to focus on how to be happy”. His advice: Don’t worry about pursuing love, status and luxury. Better to have a community of good friends, work for yourself, and spend part of each day thinking.

The many poses of Marcel Marceau
Mave Fellowes | Paris Review | 9 July 2014
Marceau was the first, and perhaps the last, master of mime as popular art. He infused formal traditions with the slapstick of Chaplin and Keaton. But when he died he left no heir. “He had performed the same sketches for sixty years. There was nothing for other mimes to build on. He inspires only poor imitations. Upon his death, the art of mime steps back out of the mainstream. It becomes a busker’s act–obscure, often mocked”.

Why classic rock isn’t what it used to be
Walt Hickey | Five Thirty Eight | 7 July 2014
What counts as classic rock? The radio industry put a lot of market research and maths into getting the formula right. The answer it comes up with is: rock recorded between 1973 and 1982, with some backdating to the 1960s for The Beatles, The Rolling Stones and The Kinks. REM, Nirvana, Metallica and U2 get in under the wire. Right in the sweet spot are Led Zeppelin, Pink Floyd, Aerosmith and Van Halen.

Transformers 4 is a masterclass in economics
Ezra Klein | Vox | 6 July 2014
The lessons are in the making of the film, not in the content. First, the real money comes from owning the machines: Transformers made $300m in its opening weekend, the biggest film of 2014. Second: humans are dispensable; the franchise has got rid of its human star Shia LeBoeuf, and nobody cares. Third: China is as big a market as America; this Transformers is full of scenes tailored to a Chinese audience.

Jeff Koons is back
Ingrid Sischy | Vanity Fair | 3 July 2014
Sympathetic portrait of America’s emblematic modern artist. His reputation boomed in the 1980s, crashed in the 1990s, and has surged back to a new high in the past decade. His Balloon Dog sold for $58.4m, the highest price paid for a work by a living artist. He sees himself as the new Picasso. But probably he is more like Warhol; he nails the Zeitgeist. And he understands selling; he used to trade commodities.

Gods in bottles and concrete crocodiles
Philip Hoare | New Statesman | 3 July 2014
An exhibition of British folk art at Tate Britain in London seeks to recover “an indigenous British culture” of the kind last celebrated a century ago before narratives of multiculturalism came to dominate public life. Perhaps the show portends, even unconsciously, “a new sense of nationalism”. At any rate, it is full of delights: “This stuff is beyond classification; that is part of its appeal; it is Britain’s feral past”.

Monty Python: A revolution in the head
Taylor Parkes | The Quietus | 1 July 2014
Monty Python was a product of its time aesthetically and politically. Trying to revive it now means losing what made it great. “Python evolved out of British satire much as psychedelia evolved from the protest movement, or Situationism from left-Libertarianism: disillusionment with straightforward political solutions, belief in the transformative power of imagination, desire to open minds by force”.

English, loanword champion of the world!
Britt Peterson | Boston Globe | 29 June 2014
English borrows words liberally from other languages, but lends plenty too, often with something gained in translation. Japan’s Pokémon takes its name from English ‘pocket monster’. Japan’s ‘puroresu’ is another abbreviated compound, from ‘professional wrestling’. Then there are loans where a word stays intact but the meaning shifts. A ‘smoking’ is French for a tuxedo, and a ‘dressman’ is a German male model”.

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