Curatorial coup: Nairy Baghramian and Phyllida Barlow share a show at the Serpentine

It's a good idea, from time to time, to forget what art is. We vaguely know what it's meant to be. But imagine you didn't know, and then you came across it, and tried to work out from scratch what role it might have in our lives. There's something that lies on the floor by the entrance. It's a small object. It has the form of a plastic inflatable, with ridged seams, roughly the shape of a biscuit tin, or a small cushion, but not firmly inflated, so that its form is rather squashy. But clearly it isn't literally squashy. It is black, and polished, and solid. It must have been cast in some hard medium – hard rubber, in fact. Doorstopper is its name. Nairy Baghramian made it.

Dancing all the way to Moscow

If you think you’ve got what it takes to be the best, and you dream of visiting a place that could change your career, you could be a British Airways Great Briton

Pandora: 'Godfather' star Duvall to be Gilliam's Don

Maverick director Terry Gilliam's ongoing battle to get his big screen version of Don Quixote off the ground has proved one of the movie industry's more fraught sagas in recent years.

Book Of A Lifetime: Pedro Páramo, By Juan Rulfo

For me, reading Pedro Páramo is like opening a small mosaïque box, only to discover that it is empty, save for the whispers of those who had opened the box in the past. The novel is set in the post-revolutionary dustbowls of early 20th-century Mexico, when rapid industrialisation left hundreds of ghost villages scattered across the rural south. Urged by his dying mother to reclaim his patrimony, Juan Preciado arrives at Comala, and finds that things are not as they seem.

Pandora: Depp's trip back in time with Gilliam called off

He may boast one of the most prolific big-screen careers in recent history, but it seems that Johnny Depp has been forced to abandon his long-planned project with the former Monty Python star Terry Gilliam.

Protocols of the Elders of Sodom and other essays, By Tariq Ali

Tariq Ali momentarily puts his politics aside, to write of books, films and sticky wickets

Pandora: Esther wins her most important endorsement

Esther Rantzen may have the unyielding support of the 24-hour news brigade, but not everyone has been quite so easy to win over in her bid to stand as an independent MP.

Screen Talk: Gilliam tilts at windmills again

One project certainly getting everyone geed up is the prospect of Terry Gilliam resurrecting his ambitions to make a movie based on Cervantes's "Don Quixote". Gilliam has hooked up with Oscar-winning British producer Jeremy Thomas. Screenwriter Tony Grisoni's script revolves around a film-maker who is charmed into Quixote's eternal quest for his lady-love, becoming an unwitting Sancho Panza. The move is the latest twist in a movie-making saga almost as epic as Cervantes' 17th-Century classic. Nine years ago, the original shoot suffered a series of setbacks captured in the documentary "Lost In La Mancha", which went on to became a cult hit in its own right.

Howard Jacobson: Someone should make a final stand for humankind before it's too late

Those who say we misplace the threat of terror are committing us all to suicide

The Complete Guide To: Spanish journeys

Whether you crave a spiritual pilgrimage to Santiago de Compostela or prefer to follow in Don Quixote's fictional footsteps, you can find your perfect route

London Philharmonic Orchestra/Nézet-Séguin, Royal Festival Hall, London

You generally know within seconds of the start of a performance if a conductor has what it takes to take us to that other place where senses are heightened. It was the performance of Ravel's La Valse at the start of Yannick Nézet-Séguin's first concert as principal guest conductor of the London Philharmonic that will have convinced a lot of people of great things to come.

London Philharmonic Orchestra/ Nezet-Seguin, Royal Festival Hall

Conducting is a mystical business. You generally know within seconds of the start of a performance if he or she has what it takes to take an orchestra and an audience to that other place where senses are heightened and the air seems to move a little differently.

Kermit Love: Designer of Big Bird

With a background in designing costumes and marionettes for ballet productions, Kermit Love created for television a towering, iconic character that would achieve worldwide fame in a programme acclaimed for its educational qualities. The 8ft 2in Big Bird, with bright-yellow feathers, orange legs and big feet, is one of the mainstays of the American series Sesame Street, aimed at pre-school children and set to celebrate its 40th anniversary next year.

Christina Patterson: We are all following the gospel of recyling

In a wonderful short story, first published in 1939, the Argentine writer Jorge Luis Borges introduced the work of a minor French writer called Pierre Menard. In an extended passage of literary criticism, he contrasts the contemporary prose of Menard with that of Cervantes. While Cervantes, he says, indulges in "mere rhetorical praise of history," Menard's work, much "richer in illusion", explores ideas, about history and truth, which are "staggering". The texts he is comparing are, by the way, identical. The (fictional) Pierre Menard has sat down with Don Quixote and copied every word.

Lars and the Real Girl, (12A)

Shy young man brings home his ideal woman – and she's an anatomically correct plastic doll! The premise shrieks indie quirkiness, and the opportunities for smutty humour abound; but as it turns out, Lars and the Real Girl is a humane, and often sweet, study of the strain of growing up and having adult relationships. Why, at times it's almost plausible.

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Homeless Veterans Christmas Appeal: ‘We give them hope. They come to us when no one else can help’

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Most of us would prefer to die in our own beds, with our families beside us. But, as a GP, Margaret McCartney sees too many end their days in a medicalised battle
Thomas Cook's outgoing boss Harriet Green got by on four hours sleep a night - is that what it takes for women to get to the top?

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Christmas jumper craze: Inside the UK factory behind this year's multicultural must-have

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French chefs have launched a campaign to end violence in kitchens - should British restaurants follow suit?

French chefs campaign against bullying

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Radio 4 to broadcast 10-hour War and Peace on New Year's Day as Controller warns of cuts

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Cuba set to stage its first US musical in 50 years

Cuba to stage first US musical in 50 years

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Christmas 2014: 10 best educational toys

Learn and play: 10 best educational toys

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Paul Scholes column: I like Brendan Rodgers as a manager but Liverpool seem to be going backwards not forwards this season

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Lewis Moody column: Stuart Lancaster has made all the right calls – now England must deliver

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Sol Campbell cries foul at Labour's mansion tax

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Nicolas Sarkozy returns: The ex-President is preparing to fight for the leadership of France's main opposition party – but will he win big enough?

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