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 July 2010

A Brave New Germany
William Cook, a 'closet Kraut', grew up feeling ashamed of his country. This summer, during the World Cup, he finds that the stigma has finally lifted I'm standing in a noisy bar in south London, watching a World Cup match on a giant TV screen, hemmed...
A Flammable Individual
CARAVAGGIO: A LIFE SACRED AND PROFANE by Andrew Graham-Dixon Allen Lane, £30, pp. 514, ISBN 9780713996746 On the night of 18 October 1969, thieves broke into the Oratory of San Lorenzo, Palermo, and removed Caravaggio's Nativity. The altarpiece...
A Man after His Time
BB, A SYMPOSIUM: A LIFE IN WORDS edited by Bryan Holden Roseworld, £30, pp. 286, ISBN 9780955313028 Denys Watkins-Pitchford (1905-1990) illustrated dozens of books under his double-barrel and wrote at least 60 of his own under the two initials 'BB'....
Ancient & Modern
Taxes, spending cuts, and a few sweeteners - rather how the emperor Vespasian dealt with his financial crisis when he came to came to power in Rome in AD 69, but less inventive. Nero had poured gazillions into military campaigns and the construction...
An Ideal Banker
HIGH FINANCIER: THE LIVES AND TIME OF SIEGMUND WARBURG by Niall Ferguson Allen Lane, £30, pp. 584, ISBN 9780713998719 At last, thirty years after his death, we have a proper biography of the enigmatic but inspirational banker Siegmund Warburg, extensively...
Animals without Backbones
BUGS BRITANNICA by Peter Marren and Richard Mabey Chatto & Windus, £35, pp. 500, ISBN 978070118102 What is a Bug? For this book, any animal that is not a Beast: the whole invertebrate realm, from the humble amoeba, through insects (more than...
Awe and Gratitude
Die Meistersinger Welsh National Opera, Cardiff and touring Welsh National Opera's new staging of Die Meistersinger von Nurnberg is a triumph. Not an unqualified one - I doubt whether there has ever been such a thing - but enough to leave the audience...
Battle Lines
South Africa Rarely is Jonathan Clayton, the Times man in Africa, far from the front lines - but this month when I stayed at his Johannesburg house the battlefield came home. My visits tend to cause distress to Christiane, Jonty's German wife. Christiane...
Character Building
Years ago, not long after Tony Blair's first landslide, I was asked by London Weekend Television to co-write a sitcom. The idea was to satirise New Labour, and it was cunningly set, not in the Houses of Parliament, but in a flat nearby shared by three...
Do You Want Someone like You in Charge?
Why must government be 'representative', asks Carol Sarler. It makes no sense. We must fight back against this pernicious new orthodoxy Only a week ago, as Julia Gillard was sworn in as Prime Minister of Australia, the sheilahood could scarcely believe...
Eyes Wide Shut
Blindfold simultaneous displays provide an astonishing demonstration of the powers of the human brain to remember and to calculate. Computers can in no way detract from such performances because there is no parallel in computer chess play. Blindfold...
Fever Pitch
On Saturday I went to a wedding and didn't touch a drop of alcohol and it was fine. I enjoyed myself more, I think, than if I'd been slinging them back. On Sunday evening, pleased with myself about this, and seriously considering permanent sobriety,...
Fighting Addiction
As was so often the case with Bertie Wooster when he faced an interview with his fearsome Aunt Agatha, I feel a sense of impending doom as I write this on a beautiful morning in late June. The roses smell sweet, the sun is shining, and a light breeze...
Guiding Principles
What are the ingredients of a good audio guide? Henrietta Bredin investigates These days you're more than likely, at any museum, gallery, exhibition or public building of interest, to be offered an audio (or even a multimedia) guide with which to 'enhance...
How Far Do You Truly Believe? Perhaps It's a Waste of Time Even to Ask the Question
Readers familiar with Idomeneo might have shared my pleasure (and bemusement) at a performance of Mozart's early opera at the Coliseum in London last week. The English National Opera production, which staged most of the action in what appeared to be...
Is Monarchy the Answer in the Middle East?
Sholto Byrnes talks to Bernard Lewis, our greatest living expert on Islam, who says that what both Afghanistan and Iraq really need is a king The name Bernard Lewis provokes very different reactions in different people. For some he is the world's foremost...
Let's Blame Fabio
Shrek Forever After U, Nationwide Shrek Forever After proves, once and for all, that this franchise is now a busted flush - personally, I've never seen a flush so busted - and while it would be wrong to blame Fabio Capello, just because he's being blamed...
Letters
No Alternative Sir: James Forsyth's article on George Osborne's machinations for a Conservative majority ('Osborne is becoming the true Tory leader', 26 June) at the next election failed to mention the most crucial matter - the Alternative Vote. We...
Might and Wrong
MORAL COMBAT: A HISTORY OF WORLD WAR II by Michael Burleigh Harper Press, £30, pp. 650, ISBN 9780007195763 'Was all this the realisation of our war aims?', Malcolm Muggeridge asked as he surveyed the desolation of Berlin in May 1945. 'Did it really...
More Than a Painter of Queens
PHILIP DE LASZLO: HIS LIFE AND ART by Duff Hart-Davis Yale, £30, pp. 412, ISBN 9780300137163 The last words of Hungarian-born portraitist Philip de Laszlo, spoken to his nurse, were apparently, 'It is a pity, because there is so much still to do.'...
Obama Is in Hock to the Hawks
Andrew J. Bacevich says that, despite his bold move in sacking General McChrystal, the President remains impossibly mired in a war he has no wish to fight At the turn of the 20th century, an army of half a million Tommies imposed Britain's will on the...
Passport Control
On the basis that nothing is simple any more, I knew that renewing my passport was going to be a feat of mental and emotional endurance. However, I had not expected it to turn into an image consultation with the world's most insulting women. One of...
Portrait of the Week
The government's committee on public expenditure, otherwise known as Pex or the Star Chamber, gave departments a month to come up with spending cuts of up to 33 per cent. Mr George Osborne, the Chancellor of the Exchequer, said he would spend the summer...
Relative Values
The Wyeth Family: Three Generations of American Art Dulwich Picture Gallery, until 22 August There have been a number of painting dynasties in the history of art - families such as the Bruegels, the Bellinis and the Tiepolos - but fewer in recent years,...
Schlock Teaser
GYPSY: THE ART OF THE TEASE by Rachel Shteir Yale, £12.99, pp. 240, ISBN 9780300120400 The somewhat straightlaced theatregoing audiences of 1880s America, eager for performances by European artistes like Jenny Lind and solid, homegrown, classical...
Secrets and Silences
HANCOX: A HOUSE AND A FAMILY by Charlotte Moore Viking, £20, pp. 484, ISBN 9780670915866 Charlotte Moore's family have lived at Hancox on the Sussex Weald for well over a century. Hancox is a large, rambling house, and the Moores are a family who...
Spectator Wine Club
Claret prices for the 2009 vintage are going quite mad, and in my view you'd be quite mad to buy them, at least for now, and at these prices. Chateau Lafite has been changing hands for £10,000 a case - before it's even gone on to the market. Dozens...
Subject to Change
My last week in London and it is just as well. One more would most likely kill me. The least frantic event was the one that Simon Phillips and Roger Moore threw in Harry's Bar for Unicef, as worthy a charity as there is, following the Masterpiece Fair...
The Hell of Working
Joseph Conrad was 38, more than halfway through his life, when his first novel, Almayer's Folly, was published in 1895. He died in 1924 with more than 30 books to his name. A good enough rate of production, you might think. An astonishing one actually,...
The Scramble for the Seas
The Chinese have kick-started a new era of deep sea mining, says Charles Clover, and Russia, America and Britain will surely follow suit. The oceans are rich in oil and precious metals, but there is a price to pay for exploiting them Almost unnoticed,...
The Sound of Eternity
THE NINTH: BEETHOVEN AND THE WORLD IN 1824 by Harvey Sachs Faber, £12.99, pp. 225, ISBN 9780571221455 The Ninth is not necessarily Beethoven's greatest symphony. That honour is surely shared by the Eroica, in which the composer changed the course...
The Spectator's Notes
Unpublicised, David Cameron has been conducting some unusual job interviews in Downing Street. In hour long, one-to-one, informal conversations with each candidate, he is looking for the next head of our armed forces. The man he chooses will replace...
The Wiki Man
In the end I ignored my own advice and bought an Apple iPad, purely, as I explained to my wife, 'for the purposes of research'. The very same 'research' that has by now filled two or three desk drawers with a ridiculous assortment of electrical chargers,...
Time-Travelling on the Northern Line in Search of the Stone Parlour
I'm standing on a hot platform at Tottenham Court Road, waiting for the relief of the momentary breeze that precedes an approaching train. I'm staring at a T-Mobile poster featuring people dressed as nuns at what looks like a karaoke party. And I'm...
Trochaic
In Competition No. 2653 you were invited to submit a poem, written in the metre of Longfellow's 'The Song of Hiawatha', describing Hiawatha's experiences at his computer. Longfellow's epic, with its readily imitated metre, has spawned countless parodies....
True Blues
Talk of blues music and you're likely to think of Muddy Waters, B.B. King and Howlin' Wolf, but most of these guys actually learnt their craft from women like Memphis Minnie, Sister Rosetta Tharpe and Precious Bryant. In Lady Plays the Blues on Saturday,...
We Should All Be Free to Call Each Other 'Coconut'
The ill-judged remark made by a Bristol councillor of her colleague was stupid and possibly racist, says Rod Liddle. But should it really have led to a prosecution? I asked my local greengrocer for a couple of blood oranges last weekend. They were to...
Who Benefits?
The cries of unfairness which have gone up in reaction to George Osborne's assault on the £12.5 million annual bill for disability benefits are a sign of just how ingrained the welfare culture has become among Britain's workshy millions. They are also...
Will Duncan Smith Make Work-Not Welfare-The Logical Choice?
For one night only, the band was back together. On Monday night, Tony Blair - looking toned and tanned - addressed the Institute for Government, the think-tank set up by his ally Lord Sainsbury. Cherie was in the front row, resplendent in a white salwar...
Your Problem Solved
Dear Mary Q. At a recent funeral wake I was horrified to see a man who did much to make my life a misery during my schooldays. I have no wish to see this man again or to have anything to do with him. My attempt at avoiding him at the wake was unsuccessful....
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