Property bargains, a star storm, making fetch happen and a hipster New Year


Not so des res?

Got a few million spare and finding it hard to choose between Egerton Crescent near Harrods (average property price £8.1m) and Leys Road in Leatherhead, Surrey (average price £3.1m)? Perhaps you might wish to consider looking further afield? Because while the UK continues to experience a boom in house prices, hard-up stars in the United States are being forced to slash the prices of their properties. Take poor Sheryl Crow. In 2010 she listed her solar-powered, multi-building Cross Creek Farm, in Tennessee, for $7.5m (£4.5m) and now she's put it back on the market for $5.8m (£3.5m). Sitcom star Suzanne Somers, meanwhile, is still looking for a buyer for her "glamorous Palm Springs estate", down from $35m (£21m) in 2008 to a mere $14.5m (£8.7m). And if you fancy Reese Witherspoon's ranch in Ojai, California – complete with stables and organic gardens – that can be had for $5.9m (£3.5m), reduced from $10m (£6m). Happy hunting. (All prices from and correct at time of writing.)

Let's call the whole thing off

The run-up to Christmas was relatively quiet on Twitter, but comedian Steve Martin still managed to upset people with a tweet widely reported as being racist. It all started when he was "riffing" about grammar with his followers. "I was going along fine," he explained on his website later, "when someone wrote, 'Is this how you spell lasonia?'" Martin answered, "It depends if you are in an African-American neighborhood or an Italian restaurant." He went on: "I knew of the [African-American] name Lasonia, I did not make it up nor do I find it funny. So to me the answer was either Lasonia (with a capital), or lasagne, depending on what you meant. That they sounded alike in this rare and peculiar context struck me as funny. That was the joke." The "joke" was then widely misquoted with the word "neighborhood" changed to restaurant, so as well as looking as if Martin was making fun of African-American names, it also implied that African-Americans could not spell lasagne. Martin deleted the tweet and apologised fully. His conclusion? "Comedy is treacherous. I used to try out jokes in clubs and the audience's feedback would tell me when I had crossed a line … Today, the process is faster. It's your brain, a button, then millions of reactions."

The white stuff

Grafitti artists have long known about the impermanence of their work, but Simon Beck is lucky if his creations are still there the following morning. Beck, 54, and originally from Somerset, is a "snow artist", and he spends his winters carving intricate patterns made of footprints in fresh powder around the ski resort of Les Arcs, in France. He explains: "The first one was roughly at Christmas in 2004. I made a 10-pointed star and made straight lines linking all the points and filling in the resulting areas alternately. The result looked so good I attempted a larger one. This was hard work as the snow was too deep, so I bought snowshoes and that was where the idea really took off." But why does he do this painstaking work, alone, at night, in the freezing cold? "I hope to spread the message that the mountains and snow are beautiful and worth preserving." View Beck's work at his Facebook page, snowart8848

Hyper local New Year

It is one of the joys of this time of year that pundits start offering up their predictions for the future – and the relatively new world of social media is no exception. But if you find much "management speak" indecipherable, get a load of the language used on websites such as and Here are 10 predictions and snippets of advice to help you stay ahead of the curve in 2014, apparently:

1 Short form content will dominate.

2 Social listening will become a requirement not an option.

3 Quit trying to make fetch happen through Twitter clickthroughs.

4 Social PPC becomes a discipline in its own right.

5 Google will open up its API to enable more scheduling options and data capture by social monitoring tools.

6 Businesses will embrace the "fandom".

7 Customer-centric is the new social-centric.

8 Real-time marketing will die.

9 Social business will be the new norm.

10 Hyper local location-based campaigns will spread.

The place to be?

Everyone gets a touch of Fomo (fear of missing out) on New Year's Eve. But instead of wishing that you could be anywhere other than stuck at home watching Jools Holland as you ring in 2014, why not thank your good taste and fortune that you are not at any of these events when the clocks chime on Tuesday night:

London, 02 The word is that the Prodigy will play "Firestarter" at midnight. "Yo peoples," says the band's Liam Howlett, "it's gonna be large, bring the noise."

Birmingham, Jam House The Subterraneans bring their range of "U2, Queen, Kaiser Chiefs and many more anthems to rock your socks off right into the New Year."

Brighton, Sticky Mike's Frog Bar "You're just not ready for Hypnotized. Good luck finding your shit … because you're definitely going to loose it [sic] during their performance. Psychedelic as FUCK!"

Newcastle, Salsa Congress III "New Year's Eve party followed by five days of workshops, parties, shows and much more in the Party Capital of England."

For no rhyme or reason

Another in an occasional series of limericks based on recent events:

Gangsta Granny was mildly amusing

Doctor Who was extremely confusing

Though we didn't approve

We just couldn't move

(And while Downton was on we were snoozing)

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