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 October 2012

A Guide to the Media Circus
Caitlin Moran's bestselling How to be a Woman careered with reckless frivolity from the personal (eldest of eight, home-schooled in a council house in Wolverhampton) to the political (better pornography, larger pants, more body hair). Her latest effort,...
A Tale of Three Cities
Conference Season: for people watching it on telly, it is noise coming from Huw Edwards's face, with pictures of people waving. For the rest of us, the devil has blown into town. First come the Lib Dems, in Brighton - the only party sentimental enough...
A Utopian Nightmare
Tombstone by Yang Jisheng Allen Lane, £30, pp. 656, ISBN 9781846145186 The Great Famine in China, 1958-1962 edited by Zhou Xun Yale, £35, pp. 256, ISBN 9780300175189 What must Mao have thought when in 1968 he heard that towering intellectuals like...
Back to the Future
Two pop-up art fairs border Regent's Park in London. To the south is Frieze London, an edgy fair-cum-fairground offering the thrills and spills of the latest and most innovative trends in global contemporary art. Launched a decade ago, it was unique...
Barometer
Matters of record German skydiver Felix Baumgartner attempted to become the first man to break the sound barrier outside an aircraft when he dropped from a balloon at 120,000 feet over Mexico, reaching 690mph 40 seconds later. Other feats still to be...
Cicero on Public Emotion
If Ian Hislop in his new TV series is right, the English up to the 19th century were a bunch of softies. It was from studying the Romans, among others, that they learnt about the stiff upper lip. True enough, but the reality behind such behaviour is...
Cinema Don't Look Now
Pusher 18, Nationwide I don't know quite what I was thinking when I went to see this film as it is full of everything I personally hate. Low-life gangsters. Drugs. Violence. Liberal use of 'pussy' and the c-word, which I loathe so much I cannot say...
Concert Teenage Fanclub
As I entered the O2 Academy in Oxford last Saturday, something felt strange. The air was thick, the bar was crowded and the DJ was already playing in anticipation of the headline act. It all seemed perfectly normal. Yet, something was amiss. And then...
Dear Mary - Your Problems Solved
Q. I sent out email invitations to my forthcoming book launch. After a week, only about half of my A list had replied. Then I found that my spam box was full of acceptances, consigned there by my computer which had failed to recognise the email addresses...
Diary
Straight off the overnight plane from a work trip to Miami I head for Paddy Power in Camberwell. I think I know what the result of the American election is going to be. Luckily for me (or perhaps for them) they are still closed so I wheel my suitcase...
Drink A Conference of Bottles
There was a girl who had a goat. By the standards of her species, she (the goat, that is) was not excessively surly or truculent. She permitted herself to be milked, and rarely butted the milkmaid. The girl turned the milk into cheese. News of this...
Early Edition
If you were to ask the editor of one of our quality newspapers whether he had thought about how to adapt to the internet, he would look at you as if you had been locked in a basement for 20 years, and then tell you that he thinks of little else. And...
Eavesdropping on the Enemy
Soldaten: On Fighting, Killing and Dying: The Secret Second World War Tapes of German POWs by Sohnke Neitzel and Harald Welzer, translated by Jefferson Chase Simon & Schuster, £25, pp. 437, ISBN 9781849839488 Say 'Colditz', and the name immediately...
Exhibitions Picturing Dickens
Dickens and the Artists Watts Gallery, Compton, near Guildford, Surrey, until 28 October Michael Kidner: Dreams of the World Order: Early Paintings Flowers, 82 Kingsland Road, E2, until 20 October Jeremy Annear: A Kind of Music Campden Gallery, High...
Fringe Benefits
The Tory party conference this year was a remarkable success, a festival of conservatism with an impressive array of radical ideas on display. But almost all of them could be found in fringe events, and pitifully few in the hall of the conference. Even...
High Society
How thrilling it is when someone finally stages a demonstration against you. All right, it was a very small protest (one person), and it was in Southampton on a wet Sunday morning. But it was all mine. Stretched by the roadside was a dank bedsheet bearing...
Homage to the Sage of Shepperton
Extreme Metaphors: Interviews with J.G. Ballard, 1967-2008 edited by Simon Sellars and Dan O'Hara Fourth Estate, £25, pp. 503, ISBN 9780007454853 L'Arenas, between Cote d'Azur airport and a dual carriageway patrolled by prostitutes, is a banal stretch...
How Nice to Hear Tories Called Stupid, Not Evil
The most significant bit of Ed Miliband's speech last week (which I bet you watched in the office, from beginning to end, like I did, because that's not weird in most jobs at all) was the bit where he called David Cameron an idiot. Did you catch it?...
Letters
The views of Sentamu Sir: I wonder if Archbishop Sentamu is really the best candidate for Canterbury as you suggest (Leading article, 6 October). Cutting up his dog collar on live television in protest against President Mugabe was a splendid gesture;...
LIFE - High Life
'Your future is in Hollywood. I can make you the next Bela Lugosi, ' said James Toback, looking me straight in the eye. Jimmy Toback is a hell of a fellow. An obsessive with an encyclopedic knowledge of sport and other data, he directed such great films...
Long Life
In one of those futile bits of research on which academics waste time and money in the pathetic hope of getting mentioned in the press, Hiroshima University in Japan claims to have discovered that people work harder if they have a picture of a pet on...
Love Letters to Foreign Lands
Patrick Leigh Fermor: An Adventure by Artemis Cooper Penguin, £25, pp. 384, ISBN 9780140297720 Xenophilia is as English as Stilton. Despite a reputation for insularity, no other nation has produced so many writers who have immersed themselves in other...
Low Life
We hop on a bus. It's moderately full. We stand downstairs, next to the doors. The bus pulls off and I study her from the side without her noticing it. In a Sunday newspaper style magazine that I read recently, there was a piece by a woman writer about...
Make a Distasteful Remark on Twitter, and Expect to Be Hauled before the Courts
I'm writing this waiting for Bob. I've been waiting for Bob since 27 August, which was when he first promised he'd turn up. Bob lied. He's lied lots since 27 August about when he's going to turn up, but every time he gives me a date I sit here transfixed...
Man of Many Parts
The Richard Burton Diaries edited by Chris Williams Yale, £25, pp. 704, ISBN 9780300180107 My father, a man not given to heroworship, once told me that the only actor he really admired was Richard Burton. Some years later, I put the question to Peter...
Meltdown in Valhalla
What begins with the borrowing of some capital ends 14 hours later with cataclysmic disaster. It is a drama thousands and thousands in the western hemisphere watch these days - from Seattle to New York, from London to Milan, and from Munich to St Petersburg....
Not in Front of the Children
Nobody this side of the indecently callous would wish to rain upon the parade in Machynlleth on Sunday. As it slowly wound its way through the streets towards the local church, we turned away, then watched, then turned away again from the raw faces...
Opera Accentuate the Positive
Siegfried; Gotterdammerung Royal Opera House, in rep until 2 November How should you feel at the end of a Ring cycle, before - at any rate if you're a reviewer - starting to list the pros and cons? Nothing very simple, obviously, but some kind of exaltation,...
Osborne Sends Boys Up Chimneys - but Offers Them Shares in the Sweeping Company
George Osborne knows how to stick pins in his enemies. Using the phrase 'Workers of the world unite' to introduce a wheeze that will allow employees to swap employment rights for shares in their employer got well up the noses of the left. 'There are...
Pop Sweet Serendipity
'If you liked that, why not try this?' Such tempting words, so hard to resist. I love the idea that some immeasurably complex computer algorithm, lovingly created by nerds, can sift through the teeming piles of new music out there and find something...
Portrait of the Week
Home 'Unless we take difficult, painful decisions, ' David Cameron, the Prime Minister, told the Conservative party conference, 'Britain may not be in the future what it has been in the past.' He said that it was 'an hour of reckoning for countries...
Radio Teen Spirit
A vital sign that radio is so much more vibrant these days than tired old TV is the way the networks are rebranding themselves, extending their range, developing their programme base. On Radio 1 on Monday night Keeping Mum took on the subject of young...
Real Life
The spaniel was given specific instructions. 'This is your big moment, Cydney. In fact, this is our big moment. Do not embarrass us.' We were driving up the long track to the elegant estate where the annual shoot barbecue, marking the opening of the...
Rural Idol
Ronald Blythe, our greatest rural writer, remembers sheep being driven through Lavenham, the Suffolk wool town, before the war. Now he's lived long enough to see the same street filled with Japanese tourists. On the eve of his 90th birthday, on 6 November,...
Spectator Wine Club
My colleague and friend the late Alan Watkins was for a spell wine writer on the Observer. Though I had not yet taken up the Spectator job, we disagreed on some important oenophiliac issues. I liked full, rich, strongly flavoured wines, often from the...
Still Waters Run Deep
San Miguel by T.C. Boyle Bloomsbury, £14.99, pp. 367, ISBN 9781408830697 T.C. Boyle is not one of those authors who can be accused of writing the same novel again and again. Over the past 30 years, his subject matter has ranged from 18th-century Africa...
Television All-Pervading PC
Do not read this review if you haven't seen the first series of Homeland. Because I'm a lazy bastard I have recently taken to farming out my TV criticism responsibilities to Twitter. The other day, for example, I Tweeted the vexed question: 'Should...
Textlexia
'Old people', as anyone under 30 calls anyone over 40, apparently suffer from textlexia. The word may be more painful than the condition. The wrong element in dyslexia has been taken to mean something like 'inability', and this, Greek in form, has been...
Theatre Rickety Racine
Berenice Donmar, until 24 November The President and the Pakistani Waterloo East, until 4 November High ambitions at the Donmar. Artistic supremo Josie Rourke has chosen to direct one of Racine's more impenetrable dramas, Berenice. The play introduces...
The Prophetic Fallacy
The Signal and the Noise by Nate Silver Allen Lane, £25, pp. 534, ISBN 9781846147524 This book isn't just about prediction, or even the limits of knowledge. It is about the ascent of man. According to Nate Silver, the American electoral analyst, the...
The Spectator's Notes
Birmingham It is such a mistake for senior Tory politicians and journalists - Ken Clarke and Max Hastings are the latest - to complain that Boris Johnson 'isn't serious'. It is because he isn't serious that people like him. And since we live in postmodern...
The Turf Staying On
Remember the one about the husband who goes home and gets clouted with a frying pan by his wife. 'Hey, what's that for?' 'I found a note in your suit pocket with a number and the name Fanny May on it?' 'Oh, that's just a horse I bet on last week.' Two...
The Wiki Man Learning to Say 'I Don't Know'
An evil wizard has captured 15 dwarves of rare mathematical genius. He informs them that, the following day, he will make them stand in a circle and then from behind will place a hat, randomly either black or white, on each of their heads. He will then...
Till Faith Do Us Part
A girlfriend who was about to get married was telling me about her wedding plans recently when she said, almost as an aside: 'Oh, and I've converted to Islam.' Her fiance was a Muslim but she thought it no more than a minor detail - like ordering the...
Will There Be Cracks over Cuts? It All Depends on Cable It a L L Depend S on Cable
In Birmingham this week all the talk is of two dates. There's 2015 of course, but also 5 December this year, because that is when George Osborne will have to spell out (in the autumn statement) how the coalition is planning to respond to our continuing...
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