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. 286, No. 9005, 2001

Amorous Intentions
No life We'd been standing in the queue at the supermarket checkout for what had seemed like a very long time. A three-toed sloth on Mogadon would have been quicker at locating the bar codes than the young trainee at the till. My heart went out to the...
Ancient & Modern
AS Aristotle pointed out, the world is divided into those who can plan their lives and those who can only follow the plans of others. In a democracy, then, 'liberation' to plan one's own life is a worthy modern rallying-cry, never more so than when applied...
An Intrepid Traveller's Flight of Fancy
The complaint goes that this planet, like an overused adventure playground,. no longer provides the thrills of the unknown, and that from Kamchatka to Cape Horn there is no more to be said or done. Luckily original travellers continually appear. Those...
Author Makes Good - and So Does Dad
I nearly wrote to Faber about Intimacy, Hanif Kureishi's previous novel. I wanted to know how they could lavish such a beautiful, banana-yellow jacket, such luscious paper, such stylish graphics on such an awful book. Intimacy was a tedious whinge in...
A Virgin Sacrifice
The cover illustration shows Napoleon dressed in preposterous rig - red velvet matador cape embroidered with golden bees and lined in white satin, his stocky legs encased in white silk stockings - at his marriage to his second wife, the Archduchess Marie...
Backstage Time-Warp
Travelling musicians have the opportunity to collect things. Stamps, coins and colourful visas, obviously, but also things like metro systems, art galleries, cuisines, promoters, journalists and members of the audience. Some of these have to be sought...
Banned Wagon
A weekly survey of the things our rulers want to prohibit WHEN the `Liberty and Livelihood' march eventually goes ahead, its title will not be without a certain irony. liberty and the countryside, not for the first time, have shown themselves to be uncomfortable...
Blinded by His Own Cleverness
GORDON Brown is in an enviable position. Inflation is under control, unemployment is so low that is has ceased to be an issue, the public finances are in surplus, the economy has been growing for the past nine years - and the politics is as roseate as...
Broccoli Transformed
While Mark Steyn was musing a fort-- night ago in these pages, on the enchiladas that President George Bush would have enjoyed for lunch last month at President Vicente Fox's Mexican hacienda, I was interested also to learn, from another report, that...
Dear Mary
Q. For years my partner and I lived in a lovely house in a waterside suburb of Sydney owned by a well-off local family. The rent was well below market rates, and no lease or bond was expected: solid tenants introduced by a reliable source were enough....
Diary
Hippolytus scratched his generous belly, took a long pull at his drink, and informed me that his family had been living in the Chaco for 500 years. He is the head of a community of the hunter-gatherer Guarani Indians, the drink was a curious cold herbal...
Dog Tired
Best in Show (12, selected cinemas) Christopher Guest will always have a small but important place in motion picture history for his role as guitarist Nigel Tufnell in This is Spinal Tap. Since then, he's become the leading film-maker in the 'mockumentary'...
Don't Say What You See and Hear
Speech has never been so free and easy, or so you might assume. Anyone with Internet access can articulate an idea and transmit it instantaneously around the world. If the thought is sufficiently lurid perhaps the enthusiastic details of an erotic encounter...
Every Now and Then the Arguments for Job Cuts Go Dry in Your Mouth
There was one reason to hesitate before writing this: what if the News International copytakers thought I only went to their leaving do to get a column out of it? I didn't. I formed no such intention when, on seeing their invitation on the Times's internal...
Fingers Crossed
An economic adviser sent for after the fall of communism to boost new enterprises told me once that when the international hotel chains moved into Eastern Europe they set out only one restriction in their job ads. Those who had previously worked in the...
Guns before Buddha
I WAS standing on his head and really rather enjoying it. The view was excellent. In front of me, beneath a strong autumn sky, lay Bamiyan, a valley of prelapsarian serenity situated at an altitude of 8,000 feet in the heart of the Hindu Kush. Brightly...
How Gordon Will Become Prime Minister
GORDON is tired of waiting. If you have the stamina for a late-night drinking session with a gaggle of Labour backbenchers, that is what you will be told very forcibly. The current obsession among the government's underemployed foot soldiers is the question...
How Much Am I Worth?
I finally know the answer - to how much I am worth. In pounds and pence, that is, not in moral weights and measures. The most extraordinary thing has happened. And when I say this I don't just mean run-of-the-mill extraordinary, like winning a raffle...
In the Beginning and at the End Was the Word
MAKING THE ALPHABET DANCE by Ross Eckler Macmillan, L18.99, pp.299, ISBN 033 39 03 34X Christopher Columbus, on one of his four voyages to the place he thought was India, saw a manatee swimming in the ocean and decided it was a mermaid. `Alas,' he noted...
Is John Bull the Fascist Heading for the Dustbin of History?
On Saturday morning I went, as I often do, to the Farmers' Market, which operates at the back of Kensington Place in Notting Hill. It was bitterly cold, and I wondered yet again at their courage and tenacity. These men and women drive up from Dorset...
Is King Money Dead?
THE CASH NEXUS by Niall Ferguson Allen Lane, Penguin, 20, pp. 552, ISBN 0713994657 A few years ago, in the Gloucestershire town of Stroud, a group of people invented a new currency called `the stroud'. The idea was to try and return some simplicity and...
Justified Anger
before a big new series starts, the BBC likes to generate lots of excitement in the press. They got what they asked for a couple of weeks ago when John Cleese declared that working on The Human Face for BBC 1 had been 'a total nightmare'. He blamed `needless...
Just Say Sorry
Already you can hear the muttering and, who knows, by the beginning of next week the muttering may become a roar. Apologise! Grovel! Be a man, Blair, and say sorry to Peter Mandelson. If the auguries are correct, the Hammond report is about to exonerate...
Letters
Conrad Black v. Taki From Nora Ariel Berger Sir: I am writing to praise Conrad Black for his courage `to tell it like it is' (`My friend Taki has gone too far', 3 March). Those of us living in Israel feet increasingly like Yossarian from Catch-22: are...
Lord of Landscape
THE OXFORD COMPANION TO TURNER edited by Evelyn Joll, Martin Butlin and Luke Herrmann OUP, 60, pp. 420, ISBN 0198600259 The past 30 years have seen the consolidation of Turner's reputation as Britain's greatest painter; indeed he is now widely acknowledged...
Mind Your Language
THE Elizabethan magician Simon Forman, about whom Leslie Rowse used to go on so, was a lecherous man. In a review of a couple of new books about him, Thomas Wright noted in the Daily Telegraph that Forman often referred to his fornication by the term...
No Justice
Rougemont This is by far the saddest column I've written in 24 years, and certainly the most frustrating. It has to do with a judicial decision that mocks justice, a ruling that renders null and void the cri de coeur of a young woman from beyond the...
Northern Lights
Visually, most of us have been brought up francophiles. Our grandfathers and great-grandfathers believed that the best art came from Paris (and after their day it was thought to come, if anywhere, from New York). But - though Paris really was the artistic...
Of Hacks and Heroes
THIS LONG, cold winter has claimed plenty of lives. The remaining heroes of the second world war are dying fast. Brigadier James Vickers, a proud Gurkha who earned his first DSO in the jungle war against Japan and his second in the Malayan campaign that...
One Hand Clapping
NUMBER9DREAM by David Mitchell Sceptre, L10, pp. 418, ISBN 0340739762 CIearly. the publishers of David of David Mitchell's novel are already all too well aware of what the reader is about to pay dearly for. The net they throw around it is a wide one....
Pop Goes the Bubble
FOR what can happen when a bubble bursts, we can refer to the world's second biggest economy, where the banks are under strain and the stock market has sunk back to its lowest level for 15 years. Japan enjoyed its bubble in the 1980s. Share prices and...
Portrait of the Week
Mr Gordon Brown, the Chancellor of the Exchequer, presented a pre-election Budget. He extended the band for the lowest tax-rate of l0p in the pound and stressed other measures that would return some of the surplus revenue he had already built up through...
Racing along with Mozart
For their spring season English Touring Opera are travelling more widely than ever before, from Perth to Jersey, Darlington to Truro. As always, they began in Cambridge, coping with the harsh and exposing acoustics of the Arts Theatre. The Magic Flute,...
Right Royal Celebration
When I opened an envelope containing a gilt-edged invitation to a party hosted by Prince Charles at St James's Palace to celebrate 50 years of Radio Four's The Archers, I immediately thought it was an elaborate hoax. As I examined it closely I wondered...
Rivers of Hague
It is the nation that is dying, it is dying politically - or rather, perhaps, it is committing suicide. SO Enoch Powell told Bromley Chamber of Commerce in July 1975. His natural and inexorable pessimism led him to imagine, after the British people had...
Rusbridger V. Neil: An Everyday Story of Revenge among Media Folk
This is about a clash between two Fleet Street behemoths. It all began well. On 16 February, Andrew Neil, the Barclay brothers' chief honcho, emailed Alan Rusbridger, editor of the Guardian. 'I hope this finds you well,' he started in sunny mood. He...
Spoilt for Choice
As is the Ch. De Sours Rose(3), also heavily discounted. It is a clairet (all 'claret' was originally translucent) made from Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon, just like a red Bordeaux except that the juice is whisked off the grapes after only seven to ten...
Tea with the Prince
AN eerie calm hangs over Highgrove this week. On a normal day there would be a steady flow of staff, advisers and public worthies crunching up the Prince of Wales's drive, past the sign that says `Beware! You Are Entering A GM-Free Zone' and on to the...
The Long Goodbye
New Hampshire THE United States's sudden decision to implement a Westminster constitution has passed off surprisingly smoothly. As you know, a system such as Britain's distinguishes between the 'dignified' and the 'efficient' parts of the constitutional...
The Man Who Really Mattered
VICTORIAN SENSATION by James A. Secord University of Chicago Press, 22.50, pp. 624, ISBN 0226744108 in November 1844 a book entitled Vestiges of the Natural History of Creation was published anonymously in London. It caused a sensation. 'I can make nothing...
The Mysteries of Shelf-Life
LOST CLASSICS edited by Michael Ondaatje et al Bloomsbury, 14.99, pp. 304, ISBN 0747553920 A fascinating subject, lost classics, and it's annoying that this book mostly fails to engage the interest. To ask a group of writers to nominate a single forgotten...
The Prince of Lightness
SEVEN MEN AND TWO OTHERS by Max Beerbohm Prior, L8.99, pp. 233, ISBN 1853754153 In his old age, Max Beerbohm described how he had recently reread one or two of his books `to find out what in them there was of virtue that had more or less atoned for my...
Trouble Comes to the Cotton Fields
A PAINTED HOUSE by John Grisham Century, L16.99, pp. 388, ISBN 0712670394 A writer who can go on about the logistics and economics of cotton-picking at some length without alienating the reader must have something going for him - in fact probably has...
Unsung Heroes
LAST weekend, a marshal at the Formula One grand prix in Melbourne was killed. He was struck by a wheel that flew from a crashed car. Jacques Villeneuve, who drove the car, walked away unhurt. Villeneuve gets paid L10 million a year. The marshal had...
West End Shame
Theatre Port Authority (New Ambassadors) The Secret Garden (Aldwych) Just about the worst seven days for the West End theatre since Edward Heath's three-day weeks of almost 30 years ago. In a city where, shamefully, box-office receipts are never made...
When a Lovely Flame Dies, Soap Gets in Your Eyes and You Lose a Trillion Dollars
How swiftly a bubble bursts, and how finally. The rainbow-coloured sphere expands before our eyes, and at the next moment they are full of soap. Nothing is gained by trying to put it together again. One year ago the dot.com bubble burst. The new, electronic...
Why France Courts Mugabe
THEY did not exchange Gallic kisses on both cheeks, yet the two men came close to a bear-hug. For the slight, balding figure of M Didier Ferrand, France's unctuous ambassador in Zimbabwe, it was a narrow escape. A bear-hug from the gangling, greying,...
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