Dream sleeves: How a 40-year-old idea could save the music industry

Digital downloads and free streaming have changed the music industry for ever. Now record labels have hatched a plan to revive the album format with 1960s-influenced, art-laden packaging. John Walsh thinks the idea rocks

Change of address: Direct marketing has the chance to slash its contribution to the UK’s waste mountain

At first glance, it may look as though the direct mail industry and the environmental lobby are at opposite ends of the green spectrum. After all, of the estimated 4.3 billion pieces of direct mail that are sent or hand-delivered to mainland UK addresses each year, well over half end up in landfill sites. But change is afoot.

Minor British Institutions: Paynes Poppets

In a changing world the gratifying thing about Paynes Poppets is, obviously, that they are still with us, but also that their cardboard box packaging remains uniquely inaccessible.

Focus on Forsythe, Sadler's Wells, London

Tracing the steps of life and death

Observations: Artworks that unlock the heart of Bronson's darkness

Ever on the lookout for a new enfant terrible, the art world's current darling would seem to be Charles Bronson, aka Britain's most dangerous prisoner. Next Friday sees the release of the film Bronson, with a beefed-up, bewhiskered Tom Hardy in the lead. The same day an exhibition of the artwork Bronson has produced over 34 years in jail will open at the Amuti bookshop and gallery in the West End of London.

The Word On: Amazon's Kindle 2

"Amazon's introduction of the Kindle 2 had all the makings of a product launch by consumer electronics wunderkind Apple. [But] As much as some might try to draw parallels between Amazon's approach to books and Apple's take on music... the latest generation of Amazon's sleek, white little electronic book reader is no iPod for the book world... The company is... reluctant to push too aggressively — most noticeably, by pricing the Kindle 2 at $359, the same price as its predecessor... Amazon is in something of a catch-22. Lowering Kindle's price too much might threaten Amazon's print book business."

Start of something: Snowdrops signal the first stirrings of spring

The first snowdrops were flowering in our garden by the end of December. Given the long (and fabulous) sequence of freezing days and nights we had over Christmas and the New Year, this was surprising. They are planted in ivy along the northern boundary, which faces south and slopes to the west. Over them hang stooled stems of hazel, the catkins already almost full length. The snowdrops were one of the few things I brought here from our old garden, where I had introduced them into a wooded, shaded bit of ground.

Used condoms found in beer packaging

A supermarket apologised to a customer today after used condoms were found in the packaging of four beer cans.

Sarah Sands: The true message of Dave's Christmas card

The Boden winter catalogue is a reminder of life's verities. It is always funny to wrap bright, knitted scarves round snowmen and old school ties round dogs. Young mothers should always have long, glossy, straight hair, scrubbed faces and coltish figures. Holidays do not require sunshine. Boden people paddle hilariously in Boden boots through rivers and run across beaches in woolly hats. Children scramble on to the bonnets of Land Rovers. If I buy Boden please, please can I be Samantha Cameron?

Playing poverty: The book in middle-class make-believe

As the economy nosedives, handbooks on cheap and simple pleasures thrive. Susan Jeffreys reads the new literature of atonement

Shedding light on credit crunch depression

Don’t be down in the dumps about the credit crunch. Sir Terence Conran helps Annie Deakin dodge the winter blues with improved lighting. It’s a bright idea.

Can you dig it? The easy alternative to clearing an overgrown allotment

I am a black-plastic convert. It's been a slow process. When I first took over my allotment last autumn I had very different ideas: walking around for the first time with Jane, my new allotment chief, I was proudly shown how she had covered her entire plot in black polypropylene sheeting. "You can buy it from the garden centre up on the A40," she enthused.

Paperbacks: The Gum Thief, by Douglas Coupland

Set in the aisles of a stationery superstore, and also in the pages of a novel about a stationery superstore, The Gum Thief is classic Coupland: so postmodern that by the end you won't know which way is up. Roger is a middle-aged alcoholic, writing about two comedy drunks. Bethany is his teenaged muse. Those who hate Coupland will despise this cute novel. Fans will find a thousand more reasons to love his inventiveness.

How to cut your paper footprint

Each of us throws away, on average, a quarter of a ton of paper every year. Vicki Hill meets a woman on a mission to slash our waste and save the forests

Tips for making the most of your lawn

Here are the tips for success, and the tools of the trade, to get your patch of grass into tip-top condition

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Homeless Veterans appeal: 'You look for someone who's an inspiration and try to be like them'

Homeless Veterans appeal

In 2010, Sgt Gary Jamieson stepped on an IED in Afghanistan and lost his legs and an arm. He reveals what, and who, helped him to make a remarkable recovery
Could cannabis oil reverse the effects of cancer?

Could cannabis oil reverse effects of cancer?

As a film following six patients receiving the controversial treatment is released, Kate Hilpern uncovers a very slippery issue
The Interview movie review: You can't see Seth Rogen and James Franco's Kim Jong Un assassination film, but you can read about it here

The Interview movie review

You can't see Seth Rogen and James Franco's Kim Jong Un assassination film, but you can read about it here
Serial mania has propelled podcasts into the cultural mainstream

How podcasts became mainstream

People have consumed gripping armchair investigation Serial with a relish typically reserved for box-set binges
Jesus Christ has become an unlikely pin-up for hipster marketing companies

Jesus Christ has become an unlikely pin-up

Kevin Lee Light, aka "Jesus", is the newest client of creative agency Mother while rival agency Anomaly has launched Sexy Jesus, depicting the Messiah in a series of Athena-style poses
Rosetta space mission voted most important scientific breakthrough of 2014

A memorable year for science – if not for mice

The most important scientific breakthroughs of 2014
Christmas cocktails to make you merry: From eggnog to Brown Betty and Rum Bumpo

Christmas cocktails to make you merry

Mulled wine is an essential seasonal treat. But now drinkers are rediscovering other traditional festive tipples. Angela Clutton raises a glass to Christmas cocktails
5 best activity trackers

Fitness technology: 5 best activity trackers

Up the ante in your regimen and change the habits of a lifetime with this wearable tech
Paul Scholes column: It's a little-known fact, but I have played one of the seven dwarves

Paul Scholes column

It's a little-known fact, but I have played one of the seven dwarves
Fifa's travelling circus once again steals limelight from real stars

Fifa's travelling circus once again steals limelight from real stars

Club World Cup kicked into the long grass by the continued farce surrounding Blatter, Garcia, Russia and Qatar
Frank Warren column: 2014 – boxing is back and winning new fans

Frank Warren: Boxing is back and winning new fans

2014 proves it's now one of sport's biggest hitters again
Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton: The power dynamics of the two first families

Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton

Karen Tumulty explores the power dynamics of the two first families
Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley with a hotbed of technology start-ups

Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley

The Swedish capital is home to two of the most popular video games in the world, as well as thousands of technology start-ups worth hundreds of millions of pounds – and it's all happened since 2009
Did Japanese workers really get their symbols mixed up and display Santa on a crucifix?

Crucified Santa: Urban myth refuses to die

The story goes that Japanese store workers created a life-size effigy of a smiling "Father Kurisumasu" attached to a facsimile of Our Lord's final instrument of torture
Jennifer Saunders and Kate Moss join David Walliams on set for TV adaptation of The Boy in the Dress

The Boy in the Dress: On set with the stars

Walliams' story about a boy who goes to school in a dress will be shown this Christmas