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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The difference between America and Israel? There isn’t one

The difference between America and Israel? There isn’t one

Netanyahu knows he can get away with anything in America, says Robert Fisk
Families clubbing together to build their own affordable accommodation

Do It Yourself approach to securing a new house

Community land trusts marking a new trend for taking the initiative away from developers
Head of WWF UK: We didn’t send Cameron to the Arctic to see green ideas freeze

David Nussbaum: We didn’t send Cameron to the Arctic to see green ideas freeze

The head of WWF UK remains sanguine despite the Government’s failure to live up to its pledges on the environment
Author Kazuo Ishiguro on being inspired by shoot-outs and samurai

Author Kazuo Ishiguro on being inspired by shoot-outs and samurai

Set in a mythologised 5th-century Britain, ‘The Buried Giant’ is a strange beast
With money, corruption and drugs, this monk fears Buddhism in Thailand is a ‘poisoned fruit’

Money, corruption and drugs

The monk who fears Buddhism in Thailand is a ‘poisoned fruit’
America's first slavery museum established at Django Unchained plantation - 150 years after slavery outlawed

150 years after it was outlawed...

... America's first slavery museum is established in Louisiana
Kelly Clarkson: How I snubbed Simon Cowell and become a Grammy-winning superstar

Kelly Clarkson: How I snubbed Simon Cowell and become a Grammy-winning superstar

The first 'American Idol' winner on how she manages to remain her own woman – Jane Austen fascination and all
Tony Oursler on exploring our uneasy relationship with technology with his new show

You won't believe your eyes

Tony Oursler's new show explores our uneasy relationship with technology. He's one of a growing number of artists with that preoccupation
Ian Herbert: Peter Moores must go. He should never have been brought back to fail again

Moores must go. He should never have been brought back to fail again

The England coach leaves players to find solutions - which makes you wonder where he adds value, says Ian Herbert
War with Isis: Fears that the looming battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

The battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

Aid agencies prepare for vast exodus following planned Iraqi offensive against the Isis-held city, reports Patrick Cockburn
Yvette Cooper: We can't lose the election. There's too much on the line

Yvette Cooper: We can't lose the election. There's too much on the line

The shadow Home Secretary on fighting radical Islam, protecting children, and why anyone in Labour who's thinking beyond May must 'sort themselves out'
A bad week for the Greens: Leader Natalie Bennett's 'car crash' radio interview is followed by Brighton council's failure to set a budget due to infighting

It's not easy being Green

After a bad week in which its leader had a public meltdown and its only city council couldn't agree on a budget vote, what next for the alternative party? It's over to Caroline Lucas to find out
Gorillas nearly missed: BBC producers didn't want to broadcast Sir David Attenborough's famed Rwandan encounter

Gorillas nearly missed

BBC producers didn't want to broadcast Sir David Attenborough's famed Rwandan encounter
Downton Abbey effect sees impoverished Italian nobles inspired to open their doors to paying guests for up to €650 a night

The Downton Abbey effect

Impoverished Italian nobles are opening their doors to paying guests, inspired by the TV drama
China's wild panda numbers have increased by 17% since 2003, new census reveals

China's wild panda numbers on the up

New census reveals 17% since 2003