Tom Hodgkinson: 'The only booming businesses are booze and payday lenders. No one buys books. The high streets are collapsing'

In the run-up to Christmas I found myself watching a lot of telly. My friends accuse me of hypocrisy since I used to rail against the evils of TV and even advised people, in a book, to chuck out their telly. I defend myself by blaming my children: I felt bad denying them the pleasures of schoolyard conversation about The X Factor.

Figures such as this 7th or 8th century tomb guardian show a new side to China

More than just vases: British Museum showcases the worldly masculinity of the Ming dynasty

An exhibition at the British Museum will show that Cold War-era ideas on China’s past gave a short-sighted view of the country

Fathers4Justice campaigner Tim Haries found guilty of defacing Queen portrait

A Fathers4Justice campaigner has been found guilty of defacing a portrait of the Queen with purple paint while it was hanging in Westminster Abbey.

Gone with the Wind actress Alicia Rhett dies aged 98

Rhett was one of the last remaining cast members from the 1939 classic

He's watching you: Celebrity Big Brother 2014

Celebrity Big Brother 5: Meet the 2014 housemates

Contestant Sam Faiers joins a host of other surprise names

In the studio: Varda Caivano, artist - 'My paintings are like thoughts... I make many of them at the same time'

Varda Caivano works in a studio close to the train tracks in semi-fashionable Hackney Wick, east London, near where she lives with her partner and young son. Her studio is small, with many paintings turned face to the walls. People are coming soon to collect paintings for her upcoming show at a gallery in Tokyo, and she is still considering what to send. "I always take 40 per cent more then I need so I can see how it looks in the space."

Great works: The Death of Marat, By Jacques-Louis David (1793)

Musées Royaux des Beaux-Arts de Belgique, Brussels

Michael Kagan's oil painting 'Pilot 2' for White Lies' album cover

White Lies astronaut album cover wins Best Art Vinyl Award 2013

Michael Kagan's oil painting was judged the most creative

This artwork by Banksy was found covered in brown paint earlier this week

Banksy paintings vandalised in Sundance Film Festival town

Two artworks by the graffiti artist were tampered with in Utah

Fiona Bruce's Antiques Roadshow ‘hunch’ leads to discovery of lost £400,000 Van Dyck masterpiece

The presenter said she recognised details of the supposed ‘fake’, bought for just £400 from her work on a programme about the 17th century master

Love it or hate it, 2013 will be remembered as the year of the selfie.

Year of the Selfie: The birth – and death – of 2013’s biggest star trend

From Beyoncé and Kim Kardashian to President Obama and Pope Francis, everyone has been getting in on the narcissistic portrait action

The National Portrait Gallery has commissioned a portrait of Tony Blair by Alastair Adams

A portrait of Tony Blair – and zealotry

A painting of the former PM for the National Portrait Gallery tells us much about him

The National Portrait Gallery has commissioned a portrait of Tony Blair by Alastair Adams

National Gallery unveils 'uncompromising' portrait of Tony Blair by Alastair Adams

Oil painting is a dramatic close-up of the former Labour leader

George Zimmerman has listed his first original painting on eBay for auction

George Zimmerman painting attracts $100,000 bid on eBay

The man who shot dead Trayvon Martin started the bidding at 99 cents

Catherine the Great, Russian empress

Page 3 Profile: Catherine the Great, Russian empress

David Cameron in drag?

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Independent Travel
Burgundy, the River Rhone & Provence – Five-star MS Swiss Corona 7 nights from £999pp
Lake Como St Moritz & the Bernina Express 7 nights from £809pp
Vietnam
Lake Maggiore, Orta & the Matterhorn 7 nights from £939pp
South Africa
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Prices correct as of 19 December 2014
Isis in Iraq: Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment by militants

'Jilan killed herself in the bathroom. She cut her wrists and hanged herself'

Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment
Ed Balls interview: 'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'

Ed Balls interview

'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'
He's behind you, dude!

US stars in UK panto

From David Hasselhoff to Jerry Hall
Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz: What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?

Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz

What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?
Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

Planet’s surface is inhospitable to humans but 30 miles above it is almost perfect
Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history - clocks, rifles, frogmen’s uniforms and colonial helmets

Clocks, rifles, swords, frogmen’s uniforms

Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history
Return to Gaza: Four months on, the wounds left by Israel's bombardment have not yet healed

Four months after the bombardment, Gaza’s wounds are yet to heal

Kim Sengupta is reunited with a man whose plight mirrors the suffering of the Palestinian people
Gastric surgery: Is it really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

Is gastric surgery really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

Critics argue that it’s crazy to operate on healthy people just to stop them eating
Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction Part 2 - now LIVE

Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction

Bid on original art, or trips of a lifetime to Africa or the 'Corrie' set, and help Homeless Veterans
Pantomime rings the changes to welcome autistic theatre-goers

Autism-friendly theatre

Pantomime leads the pack in quest to welcome all
The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

Sony suffered a chorus of disapproval after it withdrew 'The Interview', but it's not too late for it to take a stand, says Joan Smith
From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?

Panto dames: before and after

From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?
Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

Booksellers say readers are turning away from dark modern thrillers and back to the golden age of crime writing
Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best,' says founder of JustGiving

Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best'

Ten million of us have used the JustGiving website to donate to good causes. Its co-founder says that being dynamic is as important as being kind
The botanist who hunts for giant trees at Kew Gardens

The man who hunts giants

A Kew Gardens botanist has found 25 new large tree species - and he's sure there are more out there