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 September 2006

A Hunt for Origins
EVERLASTING FLOWER : A HISTORY OF KOREA by Keith Pratt Reaktion, £19.95, pp. 320, ISBN 186189273X . £15.95 (plus £2.45 p&p) 0870 429 6655 No modern country wishes to understand itself through its remote past more ardently than does Korea. Nineteenthcentury...
Ancient & Modern
A group of gangsters' molls in Pereira, which evidently has the highest murder rate in Colombia, has decided to withhold sex from their boyfriends until they give up their guns. Inevitably they have been likened to the women in Aristophanes' comedy...
Another Country
Tai-Shan Schierenberg: Myths Flowers Central, 21 Cork Street, W1, until 7 October There's something different about TaiShan Schierenberg's new show at Flowers Central: it has a title, Myths. This may not sound like much -- and Schierenberg shrugs it...
A Terrific Deal for Mr Silverstein - but Will Governor Pataki Get His Monument?
Larry Silverstein, the 75-year-old property developer who bought a lease on the twin towers of the World Trade Center six weeks before they collapsed, has been a lonely defender these past five years of his right to build the office space of his choosing...
A Tropical Parallel World
I watched Fidel Castro's speech on 26 July in the luxurious air-conditioned cool of an eco-cabin on a tiny atoll 20 kilometres north of the coast of Cuba. Outside the door were mangroves, white sand and turquoise sea, and a small group of fellow tourists,...
A Vision in Lilac Driving a World-Class Business
Asilhouette of a faceless giant hangs on Bupa's atrium wall. The piece is bisected and has vaguely medical undertones, appropriate for the corporate offices of a private healthcare group. But the parallels do not stop there. Bupa has another almost...
Berlin's Heart
Everybody wants to go to Berlin these days. The restored capital city of the unified Germany is a popular spot for highculture tourists, with its three opera houses and superb art collections, and also with younger folk who imagine they are following...
Biggles Plus Brains
THE ADVENTURES AND INVENTIONS OF STEWART BLACKER : SOLDIER , AVIATOR , WEAPONS INVENTOR edited by Barnaby Blacker Pen & Sword, £19.99, pp. 211, ISBN 1844154319 . £15.99 (plus £2.45 p&p) 0870 429 6655 How on earth would Stewart Blacker have made...
Bogey Women
Golf's Ryder Cup is uniquely irresistible. Like most show-stopping spectaculars, the biennial challenge boasts 'a full supporting cast', in this case the two distinctive dolled-up distaff teams -- a shapely sorority of Stepford Sindies vs a bevy of...
Brave Knight
First and Last Loves: John Betjeman and Architecture Soane Museum, until 30 December It all sounds very kinky, really, bringing together the two Sir Johns under one roof; Sir John Betjeman, so amiable, house-trained and telly-friendly, and Sir John...
Britain Really Does Need a Debate This Conference Season. Shame It Won't Get One
Leaders of failed coups either have to get out of town or abase themselves before their still-reigning targets. Gordon Brown, who feels his future career opportunities are greater in Britain than anywhere else, chose the latter course, trundling from...
Brooklands Goes Ballistic
KINGDOM COME by J. G. Ballard Fourth Estate, £17.99, pp. 280, ISBN 0007232462 . £14.39 (plus £2.45 p&p) 0870 429 6655 An oddity about J.G. Ballard is that his unquestionable truths about English society are often encased within deliberately, and...
Cameron Will Have His Own Tax Inquiry
It was fun for David Cameron while it lasted but the Conservative party's uneasy moratorium on talking about tax cuts is about to come to an abrupt end. The Tory Tax Reform Commission, launched by his predecessor Michael Howard, will shortly deliver...
Carry on Camping
At last the BBC has worked out what to do with Graham Norton. The series How Do You Solve a Problem Like Graham? (sorry, silly me, Like Maria) has just ended and it was so achingly, screamingly, dementedly camp it made its host, clad in a suit which...
Church and Chapel
FROM CRANMER TO SANCROFT by Patrick Collinson Continuum, £25, pp. 276, ISBN 185285118X . £20 (plus £2.45 p&p) 0870 429 6655 I ought to declare a tribal interest in Patrick Collinson's latest instalment of collected essays: he and I both grew up...
Departing Wisely from the Text
DIVAS AND SCHOLARS : PERFORMING ITALIAN OPERA by Philip Gossett University of Chicago Press, £22.50, pp. 704, ISBN 0226304625 . £18 (plus £2.45 p&p) 0870 429 6655 This enthralling and important book offers vital reading for anyone with a serious...
Diary
Talk about from the ridiculously sublime to the sublimely ridiculous. My fiancée and I have just been staying at the incomparable 13th-century Château de Bagnols near Lyons. Spectacular panoramic views of the Beaujolais countryside; a Michelin-starred...
Diary of a Notting Hill Nobody
MONDAY Look, this thing with the tree isn't funny. It's deadly serious. Jed has found out from the ad agency where they got the template and it's not good news. Terrible showdown with little guy in red specs who looked just like Lord Saatchi's mini-me....
DIY Answers to Bad Fund Managers
When the Bank of England raised interest rates in early August the City appeared to be absolutely amazed. Never mind that the price of oil had tripled, that almost anything else you care to mention that can't be made in China had been soaring in price...
Feel the Fear
Children of Men 15, nationwide My nerves are still a bit jangled from watching Children of Men -- it is rare that a film succeeds in gripping me so totally as this. Alfonso Cuarón (Y tu mamá también, Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban) has, again,...
Friend of the Earth
I am beginning to suspect that my gardener is a Buddhist. That is the only plausible explanation for his reluctance to kill the caterpillars which destroy my Brussel sprouts. My inability to demand the use of pesticides is partly attributable to the...
Getreal
At last the Radio Four 'Controller' (does anyone know who dreamt up such an oddly Orwellian title for the head of a radio channel? ) has come up with something to fill the slot on Saturday mornings once filled by John Peel and his Home Truths programme....
Gods and Monsters
The pace of life on the Aeolian Islands, the rocky archipelago sprinkled just above Sicily's right shoulder, emulates closely the volcanicity of the seabed that formed them. For most of the year the Aeolians lie dormant, each populated by a couple of...
How the Empire Was Lost
THE ENDS OF BRITISH IMPERIALISM : THE SCRAMBLE FOR EMPIRE, SUEZ AND DECOLONISATION : SELECTED ESSAYS by Wm Roger Louis I.B. Tauris, £24.50, pp.1,065, ISBN 1845113470 . £19.60 (plus £2.45 p&p) 0870 429 6655 Roger Louis, one of the British Empire's...
I Accept My Destiny: Not to Be Prime Minister, but to Advise the World on Hair Care
It was never meant to be like this. I have become an alternative, counter-cultural hair-care consultant. The road from aspirant Cabinet minister to agony uncle of the hair and scalp has been tortuous, rarely appearing to lead where I now see it was...
John Reid: I Am Not Ruling Myself Out
'T he opportunity is that every end marks a beginning, ' John Reid says. 'That is the nature of life, and it's the nature of politics, and therefore we have an opportunity here to begin to shape an agenda for the next decade. People throw around this...
Making Arrangements
Recently I found myself lured for the second time in as many years to what is surely one of the most alluring music festivals in the world, the Handel Festival in Göttingen, Germany, which has survived -- nay, flourished -- for more than 80 years now,...
More Dirty Work in the Congo
THE MISSION SONG by John le Carré Hodder, £17.99, pp. 341, ISBN 034092196X . £14.39 (plus £2.45 p&p) 0870 429 6655 When we first meet Maxie -- he has no other name -- he is wearing a crumpled tropical suit with a sleeveless Fair Isle jersey and...
Mr Blair's Last Bow
In Manchester on Tuesday, Tony Blair will deliver his 13th and final speech as Labour leader to the party's conference. Over the years, his addresses to the rank and file have been a reliable source of slogans and soundbites that have entered the political...
Not So Duplicitous as Painted
THE SHADOW OF THE GREAT GAME : THE UNTOLD STORY OF INDIA 'SPARTITION by Narendra Singh Sarila Constable, £20, pp. 432, ISBN 1845293703 . £16 (plus £2.45 p&p) 0870 429 6655 Narendra Singh Sarila has a theory. Because he is a man of high intelligence...
Oneaway
An American friend has sent me the winning entries in the Washington Post's annual Mensa Invitational, in which readers are asked to take any word from the dictionary, add one new letter and supply a new definition. I liked Giraffiti, defined as 'vandalism...
On the Trail of Hogarth
'All gilt and beshit'. That was Hogarth's crisp verdict on French interiors when he visited Paris in 1748. As an image it is hard to fault, conjuring up gilded boiseries and the birddroppings of rococo plasterwork. 'In the streets [of Paris], ' the...
Pope Benedict Was Attacking the West, Not Islam
When he delivered his lecture on 'Faith, Reason and the University' in Regensburg last week, Pope Benedict XVI said some provocative and contentious things. His comment on Islam was only one of them, and was by no means the most significant; but quoting...
Restaurants
Pasha describes itself as a 'Moroccan oasis in the heart of Kensington', which you would do well to remember, as who hasn't, at some time or other, found themselves in the heart of Kensington thinking, 'I do so wish there was a Moroccan oasis around...
Revealed: The Eight People Who Know This Country's Future
Naming the likely winners and losers in a Gordon Brown government has become a favourite parlour game among the political class. Enthusiastic supporters of Tony Blair's agenda are routinely tipped for a long spell in political Siberia. Anyone with a...
Senior Sledging
Powdered with snow from head to foot, purple-faced, breathing like heavyweight boxers, we were waiting for a taxi in the centre of Méribel to take us uphill to our chalet. A pair of languid public-school youths joined the queue and stared at the big...
Sin City
Germinated on the greed and profligacy of mankind, it's now the fastest-growing city in the US whose every new building rises like a brittle, neon flower out of the scorched earth. Sticking up its finger to the notion of living anywhere close to within...
Some like It Hot
As far as I'm concerned, global warming was proved to be an incontrovertible fact last week in the beer garden of my local pub. The scepticism of scientists and academics no longer washes. For about the past five years I've been noting the warning signs....
Spycams in Seattle
SURVEILLANCE by Jonathan Raban Picador, £16.99, pp. 327, ISBN 0330413384 . £13.59 (plus £2.45 p&p) 0870 429 6655 Five years on, and the 9/11 books begin to mount up: we've had Philip Roth doing it as historical allegory in The Plot Against America;...
Tea, Cake, Buns 'And What Have You': An Evangelical Evening
The US evangelists Ira Sankey and Dwight L. Moody were a celebrated 19th-century Christian double-act. Sankey softened up the crowd with a couple of gospel songs; Moody reeled 'em in with a sermon and an appeal to the listeners to come forward and give...
The Bleak Back of Beyond
RIVER OF WHITE NIGHTS : AS IBERIAN ODYSSEY by Jeffrey Tayler Robson Books, £16.99, pp. 231, ISBN 1861059493 . £13.59 (plus £2.45 p&p) 0870 429 6655 Contemporary travel books often read like modern reworkings of the heroic quest, riddled with self-conscious...
The Candy Men
Bowater House, the strange, bridge-like eyesore opposite Harvey Nichols, under which you drive to cut from Knightsbridge's main strip into Hyde Park, has long been an anathema. Oddly reassuring, it stands there, between the gloss of the Mandarin Oriental...
The Hungarians Have Spoken for Voters Everywhere
The lies were the worst part: worse than the one-party system, worse than the human rights abuses, worse than the secret police. For four decades, the Hungarian polity was built on a series of falsehoods. Everyone knew it, but no one dared point it...
The Knitty Gritty
When I was growing up, knitting was something that only my maiden greataunt in Suffolk did. Every Christmas I'd get the same cardigan in another pastel shade. They were only worn when we visited her, to make her think I wore them every day. To me, knitting...
The Mystery of Moscow's Empty Supermarket Shelves
My local supermarket in Moscow is, by any standards, a well-heeled place. It's called the Alphabet of Taste, and its mission is to present its wealthy Moscow consumers with refined new ways of parting with their money. The deli counter offers more than...
The Original Dylan
The suggestion was made the other day that Dylan Thomas may have been dyslexic. Apparently, the experts deduced this from the style of his poetry. It seems an odd assertion. Dyslexic children find difficulty, and therefore no pleasure, in reading. Dylan,...
The Peacock and the Belly-Dancer
THE RUBY IN HER NAVEL by Barry Unsworth Hamish Hamilton, £17.99, pp. 327, ISBN 0241142202 . £14.39 (plus £2.45 p&p) 0870 429 6655 Although Barry Unsworth's latest novel might in some sense be about the relationship between Islam and Christianity,...
The Thai King's Wish Is His People's Command
On my first cinema visit in Bangkok, I dropped my popcorn. The lights had dimmed and I had settled back when the whole audience stood up quickly and obediently. The King's anthem had started. Flustered, not knowing that the anthem is played at every...
The Welshman in the Court of Vienna
FREUD'S WIZARD : THE ENIGMA OF ERNEST JONES by Brenda Maddox John Murray, £25, pp. 354, ISBN 0719567920 . £20 (plus £2.45 p&p) 0870 429 6655 In the opening pages of Italo Calvino's If on a Winter's Night a Traveller books are memorably divided into...
Thoughts Made Visible
Leonardo da Vinci: Experience, Experiment and Design V&A, until 7 January 2007 Sponsored by Deloitte Henry Moore: War and Utility Imperial War Museum, until 25 February 2007 It's very pleasant to be able to greet a small show at the V&A after...
Throne of Contention
A certain Amedeo d'Aosta is trying to steal the title of pretender to the throne of Italy with a contention that has the moral grandeur of a parking ticket. Victor Emmanuel, the pretender to the throne, is actually under house arrest in Tuscany following...
Weapons and Dark Places
MORAL DISORDER by Margaret Atwood Bloomsbury, £15.99, pp. 272, ISBN 0747581622 . £12.79 (plus £2.45 p&p) 0870 429 6655 'All that anxiety and anger, those dubious good intentions, those tangled lives, that blood. I can tell about it or I can bury...
Welcome Return
Il ritorno d'Ulisse in patria Welsh National Opera Faust Royal Opera Eugene Onegin British Youth Opera Welsh National Opera's new production of Monteverdi's finest surviving opera, Il ritorno d'Ulisse in patria, is an almost unqualified success, and...
Who Is Right about Home Schooling? My Colleague James - or Everyone Else?
Ithink it was the bit about Cézanne which really got to me. It came early on in last week's article. Perhaps you read it; my colleague James Bartholomew was explaining how he had intended to tutor his daughter Alex, now that he had taken the liberating...
Wolf vs Porcupine
Architecture is frozen music, and in Siena the music stopped in 1555, when the republic was eclipsed by Florence. But the republic still lives on in the 17 contrade (districts) of the city -- Eagle, Dragon, Tower, Porcupine, etc. -- each with its own...
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