Turner Prize 2004 – Jeremy Deller

Tsunami Relief – Red Cross – Red Crescent

La Scala reopens

Bambiland by Elfriede Jelinek

Oceans 12 by Steven Soderbergh


The Millau Bridge, France
The world’s highest road bridge has been inaugurated in southern France by President Jacques Chirac. The Millau bridge over the River Tarn in the Massif Central mountains is more than 300m (984ft) high – taller even than the country’s Eiffel Tower. Seven slender piers support the roadway, rising into seven graceful pylons bound to the bridge with what look like cobwebs of steel. The architect Norman Foster said the bridge was designed to have the “delicacy of a butterfly”. Like Concorde and the Channel Tunnel, the bridge is Franco-British. The construction removes a bottleneck at the town, completing a new motorway link between Paris and the Mediterranean.

Madame Tussaud’s Nativity, London
The representation of the Nativity, as well as other religious symbols such as the Crucifixion, still today have the capacity of giving tangibility to great human values. This power leads to a continuing process of reflection, discussion and also controversy about the reinterpretation revival of this symbol. The human need for concrete portrayal and contextualizing in our material world the archetypes, has brought to the nativity, the meeting of man and Divinity that takes shape. Thus we shouldn’t be surprised by the great public success of Madame Tussaud’s waxwork Nativity scene, realized in London for Christmas 2004, featuring famous contemporary characters, David Beckham as Joseph and his pop star wife Victoria as the Virgin Mary, Bush, Blair and the Duke of Edinburgh as the three Wise Men. The celebrity nativity scene has also brought many angry reactions, most of all from churchmen, who defined it as, if not blasphemous, certainly in very poor taste.

Nike Advert
The US sportwear firm Nike has apologised for running a commercial in China which has been banned by popular demand for offending the country’s national dignity. The 90-second adcertisement was meant to combine Kill Bill-style and martial arts with basketball heroes, starring Lebron James running his ball around an astonished kung-fu master, two Chinese women in traditional dress and a Chines dragon. The protest started on the chat rooms on the internet, followed by a state administration message on radion and television saying that Nike had violated the condition that all advertisements in China should be respectful of national dignity. “This ad shows Chines characters losing again and again. It makes our country look helpless against America” said one chat room contributor.

Muji in Milan
The 10th of December, saw the opening in Milan of the first italian Muji store, the paradise of the “no logo” shopping (Muji stands for “mujirushi ryohin”: quality goods, no labels). Muji is internationally known for its clean and essential style, but at the same time being sophisticated. The four keypoints of its philosophy are simple and functional design, low prices, sober colours and wide range of products. The added value of Muji is in the product itself, not in the name of the designer. The big store – located in the central Corso Buenos Aires – could hopefully be only the first one of a bigger series. In the last 24 years, Muji successfully suggested its philiosophy in Japan and also in Paris and London.

The OZ circus
The OZ circus started as a fringe event staged by a dedicated troupe of Melbourne actors and acrobats back in the 1970s. Nowadays, the circus is well known for it’s humour, outlandish costumes and dare devil bravery, with no performing animals to be seen. Circus Oz was back in town for its annual visit to Moore Park in Sydney at the end of December and included several new acts as well as some re-vamped old favourites. The show opens with a clown walking upside down from a suspended ceiling, chatting to the audience seating below and it includes twelve performers, all of them doubling also as musicians.

IBM sells PC division to Lenovo
IBM will sell its PC division to China-based Lenovo and take a minority stake in the former rival in a deal valued at $1.75bn, the companies announced. The two companies plan to form a complex joint venture that would make Lenovo the third-largest PC maker in the world, behind Dell and Hewlett-Packard, but still give IBM a hand in the PC business. Lenovo will be the preferred supplier of PCs to IBM and will be allowed to use the IBM brand for 5 years under an agreement that includes the “Think” brand. Chuanzhi Liu, current chairman of Lenovo Group, said, “As Lenovo’s founder, I am excited by this breakthrough in Lenovo’s journey towards becoming an international company.” “While we will have less revenue, we will have an improved financial profile,” said Mark Loughridge, IBM senior vice-president. It will also allow them to sell more services in China. If it goes through, the deal would allow IBM to continue its shift from selling so-called commodity products toward selling services, software and high-end computers. Although it helped make PCs a global phenomenon, IBM makes little profit from PCs and often loses money, despite the fact that it’s an $11bn business for the company.

Genius Love Company, Ray Charles
Ray Charles‘s duets album ‘Genius Love Company’ is one of the hits surprise of the year, having received nominations for the Grammy Awards in the two big categories of album of the year and record of the year. But the succes that restored the legend of the artist the same year of his death just before his life picture film was released is mainly due to the coffee-chain company Starbucks Coffee, who sold 350.000 copies of the album on his cafes, more than Tower Records, Virgin and Wal-Mart. The unexpected record is futrhermore the signal of an increasing interest for a new customer not catered by the music shops which aim is focused on the youth market, the adults audience. Starbucks’s music label Hear Music, specialised in compilations, coproduced the album with the jazz label Concord Record, and is already planning new albums on release that would strengthen the link between coffee tasting and music listening.

Theo van Gogh’s Final Film
Murdered Dutch director THEO VAN GOGH’s final film 06/05 was premiered in The Hague on the 13th of December – despite protests from Muslims who claim the film-maker created negative Islamic stereotypes. Van Gogh, 47 – who was related to legendary artist VINCENT VAN GOGH – received death threats regarding his controversial movie SUBMISSION, which depicted violence against Islamic women, and was shot and stabbed to death in Amsterdam in November. But Van Gogh’s family bravely attended the screening of his last movie, which tells the true story of anti-immigration politician PIM FORTUYN’s murder in 2002. The film will become available on the internet on Wednesday December 15th and will go on general release in Dutch cinemas in January 2005.

Gucci cafe, Milan
The very first Gucci cafè was inaugurated this month in Milan and can be found inside the Gucci boutique in Vittorio Emanuele Gallery. After the success of the coffee shops proposed by Roberto Cavalli and Giorgio Armani, Gucci offers to its fans a place to taste exotic teas as well as hot chocolate and exquisite snacks, proposed by Ernst Knam one of the most famous pastry chef in Milan. He is the one that designed the Gucci cube-like chocolates and the muffins decorated with the double G. The interior design is a elegant solution to the space restrictions: two simple counters that can disappear behind two sliding glass doors.

Miss Artificial Beauty, China
China chose its first Miss Artificial Beauty on December 18th, giving the crown to a 22-year-old from the northeastern city of Jilin who couldn’t have done it without the help of her plastic surgeon. Twenty contestants aged 17 to 62 competed in the final round of the “man-made beauty” pageant at a Beijing opera house, all having gone under the knife to improve their appearance. When the result was announced, it was a buoyant Feng Qian who had doctors to thank for four procedures that added a fold to her eyelids, liposuctioned fat from her belly, reshaped her cheeks, and injected botox to alter facial muscles. Feng, wearing a flowing gold evening gown and a bright smile on her resculpted face, said she hoped the event would remove some of the stigma associated with plastic surgery.