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Wanted: adulterers, slobs and sadists…

A lucrative double vacancy for ambitious media professionals has just become available. No outstanding writing skills are required but the two applicants should have a high threshold for personal embarrassment. They will also need to be a married couple and hate one another. Applications from adulterers, slobs and domestic sadists will be particularly welcome. Mrs and Mr Dhaliwal, the journalists Liz Jones and Nirpal Dhaliwal, are to get divorced. In one last, exhausted act of marital unity, they have each revealed in the national press that their marriage is over, achieving in their columns a synchronicity that, according to their own reports, they rarely achieved in their intimate life. It has been good to them, this bad marriage, providing writing material and thousands of pounds, but sadly nothing that dreadful can last for ever. Sensible, high-minded readers will not have heard of Jones or Dhaliwal. They will not have read...

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Are the bald ready for the trauma of hair?

It sounds enticingly simple. A snip of epidermis will be removed from the scalp. The activity will stimulate cell activity including the regeneration of hair follicles. If the effect of a gene called wnt is boosted, hair could well begin to grow where none had previously been. Researchers at the University of Pennsylvania believe that their findings have "opened a window" in the great quest for a cure for baldness. It sounds exciting enough and doubtless there are bald men all over Britain wondering whether it would be worth nicking at their scalp with a Stanley knife and hoping that the good old wnt gene does the rest. But I wonder whether scientists have thought through the full implications of opening this particular window. What the American author Nicholson Baker has described, rightly, as "the horror of hair loss" is more than a personal event. It has political, cultural and...

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The world according to Sir Alan Sugar? Now there’s a thought

Out of date, middle-class and generally a bit mimsy: the verdict of a focus group on the Today programme's Thought for the Day was so unambiguous that not even the BBC could ignore it. Will its replacement in the "God slot" work any better? A transcript of the first Celebrity Thought for the Day leaves room for doubt. "Look. I didn't come here because I fancy sitting in some bleedin' cupboard at the BBC. I came here because I'm Sir Alan Sugar, right? I've worked my way up from being a raggedy-arsed kid on the streets of Hackney who literally left school when he was seven years old. When other kids were learning their algebra and biography in school, I was out in the real world, kicking backsides and getting things done. "That's why today I drive a Bentley with customised number-plates and enjoy a luxury celebrity lifestyle. Because I...

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You’ve seen the Pink List – now here’s the Grey List

It was a marvellous thing, the Independent on Sunday's recently published Pink List, which graded the 100 most important gay people in the country in order of influence. Sexual preference is now such an important part of our culture that many will be hoping the trend continues, with the Top 100 Celibates, Top 100 Metrosexuals, and even the Top 100 People Who Are In a Bit of a Muddle About the Whole Thing. And yet some of us regret that this new type of list has pushed old favourites, like the Grey List, into the wings. Unlike gays, greys have never made a fuss about coming out. They have dared to be dull, and their successes have been achieved without recourse to charm, wit or even, in some cases, character. In an hype-addled society, there is a case for honest, open dreariness. For this reason, the Grey List's Top Ten...

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Will anyone listen to the views of farmers?

The political landscape is changing, with a new Prime Minister, Cabinet reshuffles and shifts of power around the United Kingdom, but, when the music stops, we can be sure that one thing will not have changed. Those in power will, like those who write about public affairs, come from our large cities. The landscape itself will be scantly represented. One of the most startling aspects of watching Molly Dineen's brilliant Channel 4 documentary on the crisis in farming, The Lie of the Land, was the way it reminded one that there are voices in this country which are simply not heard in the various national debates. Those who live on the land, like the people with whom Dineen spent time, have generations of experience of rural life and are often intelligent, but, over the past 30 or 40 years, they have become marginalised. Portrayed in the metropolitan press in simple-minded,...

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When the Queen invited the Queen to dinner …

While it is not a constitutional crisis on the scale of, say, Prince William breaking with a girlfriend or his brother kicking a photographer outside a nightclub, the row between the Queen and "the Queen" has been causing serious problems in royal circles. At one level, it was trivial matter - the Queen invited Helen Mirren to dinner and Mirren was unable to attend - and yet this apparent rejection has taken on symbolical importance. The fake monarch has snubbed the real one. "Her Majesty is seriously annoyed," a well-placed royal insider reports. "Last week she sat up in bed in the middle of the night and shouted, 'Who does that bitch think she is?' It gave the Duke of Edinburgh quite a turn and he was unable to get back to sleep. It's the talk of the palace." Who was to blame? Fortunately, we have been able to gain...

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Madam Whiplash will never run out of punters

A successful young British actress has just experienced one of those "I want to be alone" moments. While trekking in the Himalayas, Keira Knightley had noticed that what she liked most about her holiday was the fact that no one knew who she was. She had, she told a magazine interviewer, begun to see herself as "a tiny, insignificant speck - something I really needed". Cue the usual sneers. Ever since the first camera bulb flashed, there have been complaints from the rich, beautiful and envied about the heart-breaking loneliness of fame. If a film star truly likes the idea of being a tiny, insignificant speck, it could be fairly argued that the place to find out what it is like is not in the foothills of the Himalayas but on the Northern Line, packed into an underground carriage with smelly commuters during the rush hour. Just as the public...

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Lewd but likeable: the key to Naim Attallah

A mighty slab of autobiography, self-adoring, self-promoting and self-published, has just appeared in the bookshops. It will sell few copies - nearly 800 name-dropping pages about the life of a moderately successful businessman is not an obvious bestseller - but it will receive pages of publicity in the press. The British media has a peculiarly soft spot for its author Naim Attallah, the Palestinian businessman who for a couple of decades supported small but worthwhile publishing enterprises (The Literary Review, The Oldie, Quartet Books) employed some good-looking Sloane Rangers and held good parties. The progress of Attallah through the Britain of Thatcher and Blair provides an instructive little parable of influence. Everything about his career would seem to guarantee that he would be regarded with some suspicion and yet that he has always known what the British media establishment liked, and how far he could go. Under normal circumstances, a...

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Why I’m not sold on ‘The Apprentice’

Perhaps more than its executives would care to admit, British mainstream television throbs with the thin-blooded pulse of nostalgia. Top Gear reminds viewers of a time when it was all right for minor public school types to talk about cars and make feeble jokes about women and foreigners. Once or twice a week, there will be a drama series, usually with a part for Dennis Waterman, which brings back faces from the past, only with less hair and more midriff. Occasionally a cunning format like that for the series Life on Mars provides nostalgia but renders it respectable with a veneer of contemporary irony and knowingness. But occasionally it is difficult to judge whether programme-makers are knowingly travelling back in time or are simply stuck in the past without realising it. It may well be, for example, that the team responsible for the hit show The Apprentice thought that getting...

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You’re on my roll of honour, Sheryl

It would seem a fairly obvious rule of public life that references to daily, intimate activities be kept to a minimum. If a book called Tales from the Smallest Room were published, it would do little for the reputations of those included. Evelyn Waugh died there, Joe Orton spent a lot of time there, Rula Lenska once got stuck in there and George Michael was arrested there: it is all one needs to know. When the former star Jade Goody announced to the world's press her preference for quilted toilet paper, her days as a celebrity were numbered. Yet now, astonishingly, the brilliant country music star Sheryl Crow seems in danger of making the same mistake. Following a climate change-awareness tour - songs, satire, worrying statistics, clips from Al Gore's An Inconvenient Truth - the singer posted some provocative thoughts on her blog. "I propose a limitation be put on...

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