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 2011

Alternative Universe
There was a scary moment on last Sunday's The Reunion when we heard that the derivatives market has 'exploded' since the collapse of Barings in 1995. Banking has become more, not less, dependent on the kinds of gambling on future (i. e. , virtual) values...
ANCIENT AND MODERN - Rome's Death Penalty
The government has set up a system of e-petitions which, if they garner a million signatures, may - or may not - trigger a debate in parliament. The capital punishment lobbies, pro- and anti-, immediately sprang into action. Ancients would have been...
Appetite for Destruction
Civilisation is supposed to tame our innate savagery - but our civilisation seems to celebrate it Only the wilfully blind could have been surprised by the scale or ferocity of the riots that have engulfed Britain in the past week. Unfortunately, most...
A Well-Told Lie
The Cat's Table by Michael Ondaatje Cape, £16.99, pp. 265, ISBN 978224093613 Autobiography provides a sound foundation for a work mainly of fiction. A voyage in an ocean liner provides a sound framework of time and place. Michael Ondaatje was born in...
Blighted by Dylan
Is it true that Bob Dylan is 70? I would never have guessed: there has been so little about it in the newspapers. No doubt he is out on the road right now, on his never ending tour, murdering his old tunes with a relentless indifference, unbothered...
Burning Issues
When David Cameron returned from holiday on Tuesday to find volunteers cleaning up the mess left by the riots and shopkeepers making plans to protect their property at night, he did not dare mention the Big Society. Perhaps he should have. The Londoners...
City of Eternal Scandal
Death and the Dolce Vita: The Dark Side of Rome in the 1950s by Stephen Gundle Canongate Books, £14.99, pp 353, ISBN 9781847676542 At about 5.15 p. m. on 9 April 1953, Wilma Montesi, a 21-year-old woman of no account, leaves the three-room apartment...
Close Thing
The strongest ever British Championship concluded in Sheffield last week, supported by the chess-loving City firm Darwin Strategic. The results at the top were as follows: Michael Adams and Dr Nigel Short both 81/2, Gawain Jones and Jonathan Hawkins...
CULTURE NOTES - Heaps of Fans
Imogen Heap, the English songwriter whose gloves let her control her music with hand gestures (see above), has perfected the art of delegation. While most musicians leave it to their labels to sort out a press biography, she forged hers from 1,500 contributions...
Dear Mary Your Problems Solved
Q. We live in New Zealand and under our 'business immigration scheme' a delightful Korean family has moved into the neighbourhood. They are required to buy a business and provide local employment opportunities. Accordingly, they have bought a cafe,...
Death Watch
In Competition No. 2708 you were invited to submit an obituary of either God or Homo sapiens. There is space only to congratulate the winners, printed below, who get £25 each, and to share this delightful and pertinent limerick by Gerard Benson: There...
Delightfully Not Cricket
CrickiLeaks by Alan Tyers and Beach John Wisden & Co, £9.99, pp. 128, ISBN9781408152909 Even brilliantly accurate satirists can become boring unless they have something to say. That is the triumph of CrickiLeaks. Purporting to be a series of spoof...
Diary
Watching the breakdown of law and order on Monday night was an appalling experience. It was a reminder of Berlin in the worst days of the Weimar Republic, before Hitler's grossly excessive smack of firm government. One waited in vain for some authority...
Dorset Delight
Tosca; Otello Dorset Opera Dorset Opera dates back to 1974, but I have only just been for the first time. The quality of what I saw and heard was such that I'm annoyed with myself, ashamed even, for not having been before. The annual effort begins each...
Double Vision
Tretower to Clyro by Karl Miller Quercus, £20, pp. 240, ISBN 9780857385802 Karl Miller wrote a book called Doubles, exploring the duality of human nature, Jekyll and Hyde, and such like. Duality fascinates him. Another book was Cockburn's Millennium,...
Euroscepticism Isn't Just for Tories Any More
When Ed Balls lists the greatest accomplishments of his career, he does so with a wonderful lack of modesty. He may have been a mere Treasury adviser when Labour came to power, but even then he was - we now learn - pulling the strings of Tony Blair's...
Help Yourself to Self-Help
Follow my one simple tip, and you'll never need to buy an advice book again This be ing summer, many of us are going to spend a lot of time in airports. So we may as well make the most of it. During half an hour in WH Smith in Dublin airport, I learned...
High Life
On board S/Y Bushido According to C.M. Bowra, gold had a divine association with the Ancient Greeks, being more than just a symbolic value, as when Pindar wished to stress the splendour of something he called it golden, whether it was a victor's crown...
Ice Men
Joanna Kavenna ponders revisionist examinations of the 'heroic age' of polar exploration An Empire of Ice: Scott, Shackleton, and the Heroic Age of Antarctic Science by Edward J. Larson Yale University Press, £18.99, pp. 326, ISBN 9780300154085 In Shackleton's...
Is It Me, or Has Something Happened to the News?
I'm not expecting sympathy. Really, I'm not. But there was a time, and really not so long ago, when you knew where you were with news. Day one, thing happens. Day two, thing gets in the papers. Then, on day three, the parasites like me weigh in. That's...
Is Revenge Sweet?
Stieg & Me: Memories of my life with Stieg Larsson by Eva Gabrielsson (with Marie-Françoise Columbani, translated from the French by Linda Coverdale) Orion Books, £12.99, pp. 211, ISBN 9781409141341 Stieg Larsson was a rather unsuccessful leftwing...
Letters
Press complaint Sir: Charles Moore's comments on the PCC last week (The Spectator's Notes, 6 August) contained several significant inaccuracies. Lord Wakeham didn't leave the chairmanship of the commission as a result of criticisms from the Telegraph...
Low Life
I don't think any of us were really that interested in being shown over his 14th-century chateau, and very quickly it was clear that neither did he really want to show it to us. But a personally guided tour of his chateau was on our itinerary, and presumably...
Mixed Messages
Eyewitness: Hungarian Photography in the 20th Century Royal Academy, until 2 October Richard Long: Human Nature; Giuseppe Penone Haunch of Venison, 6 Burlington Gardens, W1, until 20 August Thomas Struth: Photographs 1978-2010 Whitechapel Art Gallery,...
Monkey Business
Rise of the Planet of the Apes 12A, Nationwide Apes have always made lousy movie stars. They never have front-page affairs with other celebrity animals; there's no Most Emotional Grunt category at the Academy Awards; and teenage girls don't lie in bed...
My Other Car Is an iPad
A fortnight ago, I wrote about the arbitrary metrics applied to train travel - and how a trivial reduction in journey time, a measure with little relationship to human pleasure or productivity, has been used to justify the insane cost of a new rail...
Potrait of the Week
Home Parliament was recalled as rioting spread across London and to other cities. It began in Tottenham on Saturday night, two days after a black man, Mark Duggan, was shot dead by police during an attempted arrest. Friends gathered at Tottenham police...
Power Games
The Homecoming Swan Theatre, Stratford-upon-Avon, in rep until 15 October A Midsummer Night's Dream Royal Shakespeare Theatre, Stratfordupon-Avon, in rep until 5 November There's something decidedly odd in being part of a largely grey-haired audience...
Pushy Mothers
The Mother The Scoop, until 4 September Blue Surge Finborough, until 27 August Weird experiments in stone and glass clutter the South Bank opposite the Tower of London. The near-spherical City Hall looks like a speeding squash ball photographed at the...
Real Life
Looking for ways to de-stress and cure my eczema has become my new obsession. It is very, very stressful. It often involves hurtling to the corner shop to buy chocolate. I was doing this the other day when I happened upon a little spa next to the Spar....
Rich Seam
Angus Macqueen is a film-maker whose CV includes The Death of Yugoslavia, Gulag, Cocaine and a slightly odd period commissioning the likes of The Secret Millionaire as Channel 4's head of documentaries. These days, happily, he's back making his own...
Rome's New Emperor
Having restored the Colosseum, could Diego Della Valle bring down the Berlusconi empire? Rome. A summer evening at the Colosseum. Snarling traffic and noisy crowds can be heard, but inside the arena the air is cool and still. On the dais, here to formally...
Spectator Mini-Bar
These days the famous El Vino wine bar has spread its net beyond the European classics, and has a large selection of New World wines, some very delectable indeed. This is an Anzac minibar. It was, topically, Keith Murdoch, Rupert's father, who established...
The Age of Funny Money
Forty years ago, the world's reserve currency severed its last link with gold. The speculative bubbles have hardly stopped since The Standard & Poor's headquarters, inside one of the biggest skyscrapers in New York's financial district, houses just...
The Hard-Working Bloke in His Burned-Out Shop Is the True Symbol for Our Times
What horrors. As I write, the FTSE 100 index has dived below 5,000 for the first time since last July, the mood of the London investment community darkened by the sense that civilisation is breaking down. There's no glimmer of goodness or optimism in...
The Polar Bear Problem
They're thriving - and they're hungry The terrible story of the boys mauled by a polar bear in Spitsbergen has sparked a debate about the risks of adventure travel. But what does it tell us about polar bears? Some have claimed that this month's tragedy...
The Short Life of Tara Browne
I received a call from the Irish writer Paul Howard, who, as Ross O'Carro-Kelly ('Rock') has written a number of popular satires about Ross and the Celtic Tiger, a series now necessarily discontinued. Howard is presently embarked on a new project -...
The Spectator's Notes
If it is any consolation to David Cameron, the last really big nationwide outbreak of riots was even worse for the prime minister than this lot. This occurred in 1981, when Mrs Thatcher faced maximum danger from her Cabinet colleagues and from public...
Titus at Large
The Illustrated Gormenghast Trilogy by Mervyn Peake Vintage Classics, £25, pp. 943, ISBN 9780099528548 Titus Awakes by Maeve Gilmore, based on a fragment by Mervyn Peake Vintage paperback, £7.99, pp. 265, ISBN 9780099552765 The first two volumes of...
Tottenham Notebook
Every reporter knows the feeling. I'm watching television at around 11.30 p. m. on Saturday night when my phone begins buzzing. It's the distinctive number of the New York Times newsroom: 111 111 1111. Answering means being pitched into chaos. 'We're...
Vintage Reminiscence
Ou sont les bouteilles d'antan? With the onset of middle life, a good bottle can take on a melancholy aspect. The other day, I was lucky enough to be at the drinking of a '67 Yquem, which I had not tasted for nearly 20 years. Magnificent then, it had...
We Have Failed the Black Youth of Britain through Fear of Being Labelled Racist
So appalled and incensed am I at the killing of gentle, loving family man Mark Duggan last Thursday that I feel only the immediate illegal acquisition of an expensive consumer durable, preferably a top end watch, will assuage my righteous wrath and...
Western Exoticism
Mariinsky Ballet Royal Opera House It's somewhat surprising that there are many people who are still amazed by the Mariinsky Ballet's sparkling response to the choreography of George Balanchine. After all, it is well known that the father of modern...
Wild Life
Indian Ocean On Hassan's dhow, shaped like Vasco da Gama's caravel, I can forget about dry land for a fortnight of holiday. If I could, I'd give it all up and set sail for the outer islands - to Aldabra, to the Chagos, to Socotra. And then I realise...
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