The Spectator

A weekly, UK-based magazine covering current political, economic, and cultural issues. Articles include interviews, commentary, opinion pieces, essays, and cultural criticism.

Articles from August 2012

Ancient and Modern - Dead Good Olympian
How the Olympics have changed! Even our 'Greco-Roman wrestling', which bars leg-holds and is scored by judges (unless a pinfall is registered), bears no similarity to any ancient version. In ancient Olympia, the first to three falls was the winner,...
Band of Brothers
Do rock stars buy life insurance? If so, there must have been payouts aplenty this summer, as several more breathed their last. Levon Helm of The Band croaked in April, followed in May by Adam 'MCA' Yauch of the Beastie Boys, the famed session bassist...
Barometer
Family fortunes Louise Mensch became the latest MP to resign in order to spend more time with her family. The phrase has become something of a euphemism over the years to refer to somebody who has made a suspicious exit, not least because the original...
Bookends - Umpty, Umpty, Umpty. .
According to Ogden Nash, the reason the British aristocracy wrote so much is because they could never understand what they were saying to one another. Much of the advice proffered in Gentlemen's Pursuits (Simon & Schuster, �12.99) from the pages...
Breast Beating
Recently, I took my baby daughter to the park. When I pulled out a bottle to feed her, some nursing mothers a couple of picnic blankets away stopped their conversation to gawp. They exchanged derogatory looks and clutched their suckling children closer...
Dear Mary - Your Problems Solved
Q. I own a house in west London and my drawing-room window gives on to a pedestrian-only bottleneck where people hang around to smoke. Sometimes these are well-known and interesting figures who are on their way to a nearby newspaper office and I feel...
Diary
Omigosh I don't know why I allowed myself to go in for this one. It is Tuesday afternoon, I am trying to complete a Spectator Olympic diary, and it will be a triumph of speed and nerve. I have three speeches to write, half an hour till deadline, and...
Eastern Promise - Will the Legacy List Live Up to the Hype? Asks Jack Wakefield
The Olympic Legacy List has less to do with the Olympics than its name suggests. True, it is responsible for the long-term cultural programme in the 618-acre Olympic Park but, as one insider put it, the real work begins when the circus leaves town....
Embattled Dystopiar - Justin Marazzi Sees Years of Sectarian Strife Ahead for Syria
The Syrian Rebellion: The Fall of the House of Assad by Fouad Ajami Hoover Institution Press, �14.95, pp. 216, ISBN 9780817915049 A Woman in the Crossfire: Diaries of the Syrian Revolution by Samar Yazbek Haus, �12.99, pp. 258, ISBN 9781908323125...
Fat Society
Considered historically, debt and fat are twin phenomena. Thirty years ago neither was a problem; today, they are two crushing burdens on the western world. Britain has a trillion pounds of debt. A quarter of our population is obese. If you were to...
I Had to Run from the Olympics. I Care about It Too Much
The London 2012 Olympics, seen from a distance of more than a thousand miles, is a peculiar, shimmering thing. Our capital city dominates the news every night but, for reasons which I cannot explain, the Croatians are not exultant about the fact that...
Inside the Tory Party, Boundaries Are Shifting
You know things really are difficult in the coalition when neither side is bad-mouthing the other. These days, when those around David Cameron and Nick Clegg bite their tongues, it tends to be because one jibe might bring down the coalition. Since 24...
Is the Dull Dog of International Banking Really a Sanctions-Busting Rogue?
If you had asked me last week for a thumbnail sketch of Standard Chartered, I might have said: 'Steadily profitable overseas bank, strong historic franchise in Asia and Africa, keeps its nose clean.' I might have added that Peter Sands, its chief executive,...
Letters
Beware the drones Sir: Well said, Daniel Suarez ('Drone warfare is coming, '4 August). These flying killing machines we call drones are a menace to humanity. We had better wake up to the threat they pose before it's too late. Anybody with a cursory...
Opera Dorset Cream
Il Trovatore; Le Carrosse du Saint Sacrement; Suor Angelica Dorset Opera My first visit to Dorset Opera, last year, left me very impressed. If anything this year was even better, though I found one of the three operas dull. In last year's programme,...
Our China Syndrome
The prominent story of London 2012 has been that of a country which was once an underachiever in the Olympic games but which, through sheer hard work on the part of its athletes, has hauled itself to the top of the medals tables, producing in the process...
Please Release Me
I am writing this at teatime on Sunday - day nine of the Olympics. So far: 34 medals, we've all gone completely bananas, and the Great British mood has improved by what commentators call 110 per cent. Andy Murray has just won gold, beating Roger Federer...
Portrait of the Week
Home The Olympic Games dominated national life. Eight of Great Britain and Northern Ireland's first 22 gold medals (outdoing its 19 golds in Beijing in 2008) were in cycling. Sir Chris Hoy brought the total of gold medals in his Olympic career to six,...
Pussey Riot Were Wrong
It's hard to tell which is the more absurd over-reaction to Pussy Riot's 51-second performance of political and religious blasphemy in Moscow's St Saviour's Cathedral in February - that of the Russian state or that of the western media. It shou ld go...
Quarter-Pounders with Guilt
The McDonald's in the Olympic Park has 1,500 seats and is the biggest McDonald's on earth. Let us ignore the cognitive dissonance of McDonald's sponsoring the Olympics because we have screamed about that. Let us forget other complaints about the Olympics...
Quit Afghanistan, Yes - but Don't Declare Victory
Military commanders, announced last weekend's Sunday Telegraph, 'have warned the Prime Minister that Afghanistan's future could be jeopardised with al-Qa'eda returning to the country if foreign troops are withdrawn too quickly'. What the newspaper calls...
Reykjavik Notebook
Anybody hunting for Britain's lost summer need look no further than Iceland. I spent last week there salmon-fishing, in torrid sunburn conditions caused by a northward shift of the Atlantic jetstream which means that the place has scarcely seen rain...
Save Our Soap
It's no good. We've been putting up with weird character changes, laughably unconvincing plotlines, calculating theatricals for a while now. But life in Ambridge has now plunged into the danger zone. If we don't rise up in protest, The Archers is doomed,...
Scattergun Speed-Dating
360 15, Key Cities OK, let's get this over with quickly so we can all hurry back to watching the Olympics. I'm obsessed by the Olympics (Go, Mo, go! ; Yes, Jess, yes! ) and all our gold medals. It's like we can't stop being showered with them. In fact,...
Sorry, Boy, but You Were Right . You Really Did Have to Be There
'But Dad, it's a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. We can't miss out. We can't. . . .''No, Son, it will be a complete ruddy waste of time and money. We're too poor. Even if we tried to get tickets we'd only get really crap ones like Albania versus Belarus...
Spirit of the Fringe
In the beginning was the Edinburgh International Festival, a carefully curated exhibition of high culture. Then came the Fringe, in which every pub and church hall in the city became a venue for everything from student theatre to experimental dance....
The American Way
It is a paradox that the nation most committed to free enterprise - the United States - can be one of the most aggressively protectionist countries on earth. The accusations made this week by the New York State Department of Financial Services against...
The Great Games
The other day, I was listening to Radio 5 from Crystal Palace, where there had been a Diamond League athletics meeting. By this time the stadium was all but closed, the event had finished, the lights were out and the rain was falling. But what the commentators...
The Rules of Middle-Class Camping
I 've just returned from a middle-class camping holiday. I don't mean one of those camping weekends that doubles as a literary festival, like Port E liot in Cornwall. I mean I 've just spent three nights at a campsite that is middle-class all year round....
The Spectator's Notes
Departing as Conservative MP for Corby, Louise Mensch writes a 'letter of resignation' to the Prime Minister. Why? Being an MP is not a government post: she is not a minister. An MP should write to his or her constituents and/or the chairman of the...
Touch of Evil
Richard III Globe Theatre, in rep until 13 October Richard III is seriously bad for your health. Any actor will tell you that the part of the 'bunch-backed toad' is so physically punishing that the chap in the title role usually ends up being injected...
Unholy Alliance
Shakespeare: staging the world British Museum, until 25 November Supported by BP The British Museum has collaborated with the Royal Shakespeare Company on this exhibition, in order to make links between the rich array of BM treasures and Shakespeare's...
Unionist Gold
Britishness was supposed to be finished, its last flickering embers to be snuffed out by Alex Salmond when he holds his 2014 referendum on breaking up the Union. The London Olympics, the Nationalists claimed, would be the last at which the Scots, English,...
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