Voices 'Selfie': One of the peculiarities of the past few months has been how the idea of taking a photograph of your own face has become something new and interesting

'Banter', 'Aspiration', 'Selfie'? Not this year, thank you very much

Album: James Brown, The Complete JB Christmas (Hip-O)

As a boy, the Godfather of Soul didn't get toys for Christmas.

Harriet Walker: No one wants to be pretentious, but no one wants to be dull, either

I have long been under the impression that the great age of pretension was over. I thought that nothing was original enough to be pretentious any more, and that anyone purporting to be slightly higher-minded than the rest of us was probably doing so with good reason, given that popular culture has sunk so low into the mire as to be accessible only with a snorkel.

Hip-hop deciphered at the British Library

When hip-hop artists stand in a circle and rap it's called a cypher," says Mobo award-winning artist Akala, who will be part of two events at the British Library this evening; a one-off language-based panel discussion, Voices of Hip-Hop and Late at the Library. "It's a common hip-hop word which came from the Islamic influence on hip-hop culture, and it's just one of tons of examples of the impact of hip-hop on the English language and the way people use that language."

Dylan Jones: 'Over the past 25 years, irony it has dominated our pop culture'

While some like to say that irony was invented by Plato, as far as the entertainment industry is concerned, it reared its knowing, nodding felt head in the mid-to-late Eighties, roughly between the first sighting of Bruce Willis's smirk in Moonlighting, and Jack Nicholson's ya-gotta-love-me grin in Tim Burton's Batman.

'Always wear a safety helmet' and other advice: Surveying British poster art

An exhibition and book look at 'Modern British Posters'

Mpho, Pop Art (Wall of Sound)

Mpho Skeef was born to a Zulu father and white mother at a time when apartheid forbade such liaisons. She has, therefore, rather more life experience than the average conveyor-belt diva.

DJ Taylor: The name of the dame

Whoever gave Vera Lynn the nickname ‘forces’ sweetheart’ knew what they were doing. The TUC is feeling purposeful too, and true to its roots

Andrew Grice: Grayling's high wire act

"Never work with children or animals" is an old rule. Perhaps politicians should add another: don't invoke popular culture unless you are sure of your ground

Leading article: Shameless

Things have a habit of going embarrassingly awry when politicians descend to populism. So Chris Grayling, the shadow home secretary, should have known better than pursue an easy headline by comparing parts of Britain to the gang and drug infested streets of The Wire.

Observations: All aboard the pop art bus

Sir Peter Blake might have been in the news recently for feeling sidelined by the Tate galleries, but hopefully having his own double-decker art bus will help to ease the perceived snub.

Japan eye comics and pop art to ride economic storm

Japan's manga-loving prime minister, Taro Aso, has long touted the importance of "soft power" content such as comics and anime to boost Japan's global diplomatic status.

DJ Taylor: Let them drink Scotch

Welcome to a world where the booze lobby looks on through rosé-tinted glasses, film buffs don't get a chance to see Gilliam's vision, and we all watch poor Jade's suffering packaged for primetime TV

Keeping The Dead, By Tess Gerritsen

What does the crime writer Tess Gerritsen have in common with Clint Eastwood – apart, that is, from being a massively successful purveyor of entertaining popular culture? In order to buy studio funding for his personal projects, Eastwood would periodically turn out a crowd-pleasing thriller that focused on suspense rather than character. That appears to be what the highly talented Gerritsen has done in Keeping the Dead. Yet her seamless blend of good writing and pulse-racing tension has long been a stock-in-trade, so no division between serious and popular books was ever on the cards.

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