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 Vol. 284, No. 8948, 2000

Agassi Unbound
'DO I contradict myself? Very well then I contradict myself, (I am large, I contain multitudes.)' But Walt Whitman's notion (surely the journalist's motto) is seldom applied to athletes. Of athletes we require simple characterisations; archetypal personalities;...
Ancient & Modern
Ancient & modem SUCH is the pace of technological advance that we shall very soon each possess just one electronic book, able to store up to 200 volumes. Bulky libraries will be a thing of the past. Egyptians probably invented the book-as-a-roll...
A Wise Head on Young Shoulders
TUDOR CHURCH MILITANT by Diarmid MacCulloch Allen Lane, 25, pp. 284 Robbie Millen With a name with such Celtic resonance, you would suspect that Diarmid MacCulloch must be in the vanguard of the monstrous regiment of Catholic historians. Led by 'Colonel'...
Banned Wagon
IN one of James Thurber's short stories, rabbits were blamed for starting earthquakes by beating their little hind legs against the ground. It could well have been inspired by officials at the Ministry of Agriculture. Not satisfied with having tried...
Bush Gets the Shove
New Hampshire 'GET out there, meet lots of people,' I told Dubya at Laconia Country Club a couple of days ago. 'Ah'm meetin' lots of people,' Dubya tittered. (He titters a lot.) 'Yes, but you've got to meet more,' I pleaded, staring into his blazingly...
Camping at a High Altitude
Camping at a high altitude Katie Grant SMILE PLEASE by Jonathan Keates Chatto, 15.99, pp. 330 Aa novel written by a straight man, Smile Please would constitute a feat of extraordinarily acute observation directed at the self-obsessed, narcissistic world...
Catch; Livebait Notting Hill
IT was not long ago that we were reading of a celebrated band of meteoric City traders called the 'Flaming Ferraris', Lord Archer's son among them. They managed to make colossal sums via some ingenious market wheeze, although, after subsequent investigations,...
Counting on Viewers
While the papers fuss about Greg Dyke's share dealings, it's worth looking at the viewing figures. Even people who have satellite and cable spend more than five times as long watching BBC I as Sky One. If you lump together BBC 1 and 2, the same people...
Crusading Tempered by Realism
The flow of books about Winston Churchill shows no sign of drying up, and one can understand why. He was a truly great and variously fascinating man, who has the advantage - in an age of growing historical amnesia - of belonging to the quite recent past....
Danish Treats
Dance Bournonville 2000 (Royal Theatre, Copenhagen) Danish treats Giannandrea Poesio The scholarly preoccupation with authenticity that underscores contemporary ballet has had a considerable effect on performance tradition. In the search for a hypothetical...
Dear Mary
YOUR PROBLEMS SOLVED Q. While my late father-in-law was recovering from a stroke several years ago, he and I were taking tea alone. In his confusion he started talking, in the third person, about what a super chap his son-in-law was (i.e. myself). He...
Despotism, Dithering Diplomacy -- and Death
MILOSEVIC: PORTRAIT OF A TYRANT by Dusko Doder and Louise Branson Free Press, 17 99, pp. 304 David Pryce-jones Slobodan Milosevic is a man on the make. Although he proclaims fierce old slogans about Greater Serbia, he does not appear to believe them...
Diary
I'm in the Dome: a six-ft light-box of me looking rather ravissante bundled up in a blanket on Brighton Beach. I'm in the SelfPortrait Zone, which has 00.00 queuing hours, rather than the Body Zone, which apparently has 02.00 queuing hours. I hope the...
Down the Drain
THEY still don't get it, do they? The Equitable Life - unused, as its president says, to blame rather than praise - has turned to advertising. Its new ads hit your screen this week, shot in black and white and featuring John Peel, Tim Bell and Amanda...
From the Bard's Harp to the Tango
In the 1960s, when I was contemplating writing a history ot tolivia, I spent some time in its bleak capital. In a country of Indians and llamas, Europe seemed a world away. On my arrival in Buenos Aires, in the first cafe I entered, sat a man in a beret...
Games of Illusion and Reality
Visitors to the house of the Dutch painter Samuel van Hoogstraten were likely to be surprised. If you reached for an apple from his fruit bowl, van Hoogstraten's pupil Houbraken relates, your hand might well close over a thin piece of wood cunningly...
Getting Away with It
Taki Rougemont There's a marvellous scene in Hucklebeny Finn in which Colonel Sherburn faces down a mob that has come to lynch him. With the gang at his doorstep, the good colonel appears at a window cradling a rifle in his arms. 'The idea of you lynching...
Great Expectations
Like several of its recent predecessors, 2000 looks likely to be a year in which many famous people release new records. The new Oasis album is imminent, apparently promising an exciting new direction in Noel Gallagher's songwriting, which almost certainly...
Hague Strikes with Mafia Professionalism; and May Face Revenge
Ian Clark was granted six final weeks last summer in which he knew that he was going to die. That short interval gave him time - amid other matters of yet deeper importance - to prepare with military precision every last detail of the profoundly moving...
Hand Them Over
The EU has decided that it will not have any doings with Jorg Haider because the policies of the Austrian right-winger are said to be 'against Europe'. Herr Haider is clearly not everyone's cup of tea. When he speaks of Hitler's sound employment policies...
Homosexuals Must Lower Their Expectations and Not Frighten the Horses
Never having sat on a real commission, royal or otherwise, and never being likely to, I decided, a few months ago, to accept an invitation to sit on the next worst thing - a mock-up of one on television. So, in the company of my fellow commissioners...
How the Left Has Won the Cold War
THE German foreign minister, Joschka Fischer, could not have been clearer. On Monday, after the European Union had announced that it would cut diplomatic ties with Austria if Jorg Haider's Freedom party entered the government, Herr Fischer said, 'We...
Just When You Thought It Was Safe
THERE is an air of triumph in the camp of the euro-sceptics. Its crash below dollar parity; the stain of corruption across French and German politics; the feeble toots of the pro-euro politicians; the Treasury's clear reluctance about monetary union;...
Leave Those Kids Alone
IF you are a middle-class 13-year-old boy you are probably asking yourself: why is everyone in the world having sex except me? Your literature - FHM, Loaded, Gear, Play Station is one long Oasis-style party. Hey! come and join us. You hurriedly switch...
Letters
Nuclear nonsense From The Rt Hon. The Lord Chalfont Sir: There is at least one statement in Andrew Gilligan's article ('Blair's plans for a Euro-bomb', 22 January) on the nuclear deterrent which, like the clock striking 13, casts doubt on its general...
Loads of Fun but Not a Barrel of Laughs
'I'm one of those rare chaps,' a genial Staffordshire landowner once told me, 'who can boast that my mother was a Trollope.' Arf-arf. Such gags would, I fear, fall into the 'hearty' category of male speech occasionally noted in Joanna Trollope's remarkable...
Madeleine Albright and the Italians Have Joined a Crusade-Against the Corrupt Inglesi
Speaking to world leaders in the Swiss skiresort of Davos on Sunday, Madeleine Albright, the US secretary of state, stated the obvious: corrupt politicians are one of the main threats to democracy. Yes, indeed. But then Mrs Albright did something remarkable....
Mind Your Language
I HAVE just moved the cat from the kitchen table in the hope that it had made a day-bed of some annotations I had collected on J.K. Rowling. I thought they would be timely (or timeous as people like to say, all of a sudden). Since I can't find them and...
Mozart Betrayed
It seems that there are people indeed their number may be increasing, who take Mozart's last two operas to be of comparable stature. They should go and see La Clemenza di Tito at the Royal Opera and The Magic Flute done by the ENO and see whether their...
Mr Hague Has Lost the Times, but He Could Still Win the Hearts and Minds of Other Right-Wing Papers
I was indisposed last week, so unable to say anything about the changes at the Times. Readers may dimly recall the character of Michael Gove, who almost exactly a year ago wrote a eulogy to his proprietor, Rupert Murdoch. 'Capt. Gove positions himself...
Nostalgia for L3.70
I lost a credit card on my day trip to London, but gained a copy of 'Britain's loveliest magazine'. Entitled This England, it described itself as a 'patriotic quarterly with over two million readers worldwide'. Impressive claims, but I was rather embarrassed...
Not Impressed
What can go wrong, will go wrong. That is the essential principle upon which safety systems ought to be based and, because of the inevitable consequences of failure, why I prefer to travel by train than in a helicopter. Accidents will happen, but when...
Old Master Surprises
There are two kind of discoveries made at Old Master sales: those made by the saleroom's specialists, and those made by their clients. The auction houses prefer the first. Certainly the last year or two has seen some spectacular 'sleepers' - like the...
Organic Rhubarb
This coffee is easy to drink, It was fertilised without chemicals And also without cruelty. Oh, it has taken the sweat and blood Of thousands of farmers, We who have known the worst of work conditions, Under the hostile hands of the hacienda 'patron'....
Petty Prejudices
I've taken an interest in the career of Sam Mendes ever since, at the first night of his revival of Cabaret at the Donmar Warehouse, I was plucked from the audience and inveigled into dancing with the leading man, Alan Cumming, tastefully accoutred in...
Portrait of the Week
General John de Chastelain reported to the British and Irish governments on the lack of signs from the Irish Republican Army that it was decommissioning arms; the report was not immediately published. But Mr David Trimble, the First Minister of Northern...
Second Opinion
THE World Health Organisation and the American government are fond of dedicating (at whose behest, and on whose behalf?) days and even whole years and decades to some medical or paramedical cause: World No Smoking Day, for example, or the Decade of the...
Squandering Resources
At last the BBC has one director general instead of two. Last week John Birt finally left the BBC, hastened out of the door two months early by a peerage so that his successor Greg Dyke could get his feet under the desk. To mark his departure, Radio...
Sympathising with Krapp
Krapp's Last Tape (New Ambassadors) The Island (National) My Best Friend (Hampstead) O.J. Othello (Riverside) The problem with Samuel Beckett for me at least, is that actors tend all too often to teach and preach rather than play him. Krapp's Last Tape,...
The Euro Goes Down like a Runaway Lift, the Chancellor Broods on New Tests
City friend presents me with a tennis ball got up to look like a euro. He wants to test my theory that, eventually, it will bounce. So it will, but it hasn't. This year has been even worse for it than last year, which is saying something. It plunged...
The Inconstant Moon
Rhoda Koenig The Rising of The Moon By Gladys Mitchell Virago, L (English pound)6.99, pp. 223 The Sunday before last, wanting to give my mind a holiday, I turned on The Mrs Bradley Mysteries (BBC 1). Having watched the programme once, I knew the writing...
Thrills and Spills
We can always celebrate the glorious uncertainty of racing. But I have to admit it comes more easily after a 16-1 winner. Six weeks short of the Festival which stirs the red corpuscles of every true jumping enthusiast, Cheltenham staged the perfect dressrehearsal...
Voyage into the Light
Halfway through Neil Bissoondath's impressive new novel, one of the characters says, 'Let's take a break ... Is hard on the eyesight, looking so much into the past.' The Worlds Within Her is, in many ways, hard on the eyesight too. A long, complex book,...
When Cap'n Bob and the Prince of Darkness Went Quark-Hunting in a Bubble Chamber
I do not claim to understand the physics of subatomic particles, but I am interested in their contribution to our language. I like the idea of a quark, an appealing creature which sounds as though it might have been invented by Edward Lear. Officially...
When It's OK to Kill a Hack
IT's official. Thirty-three journalists died violently in war zones last year. The figure - nine up on the year before - has just been released by the New York-based Committee to Protect Journalists. Sierra Leone was the most dangerous destination in...
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