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. 289, No. 9072, 2002

Ancient & Modern
THE mathematician Stephen Hawking wants engraved on his tombstone not an epitaph but a formula relating to his work on black holes. He is not the first to have thought in this way. The epitaph is the origin of the literary genre that we know as the epigram...
Buffoonery on the Box
HERE'S a tricky one. Who do you think is the bigger buffoon: Jeremy Vine or Charlie (gizza job) Whelan? Both men have distinguished themselves during this World Cup by behaving in a fatuous manner, and there can't be more than a fag paper between them....
Buy the Barrel, for Peat's Sake
IT's easy enough to buy an expensive malt whisky. But why have a single bottle of the good stuff at the back of the cupboard? Why not have a whole barrel and drink it every day? I went for the cask option back in 1992, when the small Springbank distillery...
Criminal Justice
HARARE Magistrates' Court, a panopticon-style building on Rotten Row, is more surreal than Dickensian. Around its portals float young black women shimmering in white bridal regalia, there for civil-marriage ceremonies, mingling with the muggers, buggers...
Dear Sir, in Response to Your Request, Here's a Poke in the Eye from Sharp Stick
CITY AND SUBURBAN The affair of Her Majesty's gas bill continues to reverberate, with attention focused on Major Alaric Cheesecutter-Hatt, who holds the historic office of Sharp Stick in Waiting. As I disclosed on the eve of the Golden Jubilee celebrations,...
Diary
However you look at it, and from whatever angle, Tokyo is a calorific blend of the fabulous, the mildly baffling and the completely alien. It is a city which plays with the future while always taking care to acknowledge the past. The first time I went...
Disgusting, Delicious
Fast food New York I ALWAYS envied my friend John. Now a senior manager with PriceWaterhouseCoopers, his rapid promotion within that company was as nothing to the success he enjoyed during one golden summer he spent working at the Cambridge branch of...
Fitting In
The new series of Radio Four's On the Ropes, featuring people who've been up against it, began in lively fashion this week (Tuesday) when John Humphrys introduced his guest with the words, `You don't see many insurance companies being promoted by its...
Folk Fortunes
Olden but golden You are to imagine me this week with straw sticking out of my hair and a pint of regrettably alcohol-free Scruttocks Old Dirigible at my elbow. For the past month I have been immersing myself in British folk music, and what a long strange...
Food
I WAS going to beguile you with a Proustian evocation of dinner at Les Pres d'Eugenie, Michel Guerard's triple-rosetted palace of gastronomy in the Landes. `The foie gras en gelee lingers in memory from 20 years ago. . . ' it would have begun; but a...
Go East, Young Man
SAMURAI WILLIAM by Giles Milton Hodder, L14.99, pp. 400, ISBN 0340794674 Three years ago Giles Milton rocketed onto the bestseller lists with the quirky and entertaining Nathaniel's Nutmeg, the story of the battles for the Banda archipelago in the Spice...
Grubs Treat
THE petrol-pump attendant fixed me with an intense yet somehow vacant stare, and shuffled across the deserted forecourt. `Aha! You must be here for the Wildfoods Festival,' he said. I had no idea what he was talking about but I've seen Invasion of the...
Guess Who Recruited Tony Blair to Be Lead Singer of Ugly Rumours
Full summer in all its glory arrived in London last week. But there was a tetchy feel at Westminster. The government is drifting to the end of one of its thinner legislative sessions. The Whitsun recess stretched on for two weeks, while the summer term...
Hypnotic Attraction
Television Now and again, when a special effects film is coming out, the tabloids run a feature about the stars' make-up. 'It takes four hours to turn gorgeous Helena Bonham Carter into the Queen of the Apes for her role in the sci-fi thriller Planet...
If You Want to See Labour Getting a Soft Ride, Look No Further Than the News Pages of the Times
To hear some people talk you would think the whole of the press was lined up against the government, and gunning for Alastair Campbell. It is not like that at all. Newspapers are not monolithic, and even within individual titles there are contrary voices....
Italian Style
Dance Stravinsky Programme (Teatro Valli, Reggio Emilia) Among Diaghilev's collaborators, Igor Stravinsky was one of the few who never totally fell out with the celebrated impresario, and there is little doubt that it was the composer's ability to surprise...
Letters
Beware lamp-posts From Mr Guy Walters Sir: The following sent a chill down my spine: `He failed. . because he cared only for the facade. This was a government of the media, by the media, and for the media. Instead of a philosopher-king, [he] was a journalist-dictator.......
Looking Hard
Exhibitions Lucian Freud (Tate Britain, till 22 September) Half the point in painting a picture, Lucian Freud has remarked, is that you don't know how it is going to turn out. Indeed, he went on, he sometimes thinks 'that if painters did know what was...
Malus Aforethought
NEW from British Airways: the malus. The airline lost money last year, jobs have gone and so has the dividend, and the board, led by Lord Marshall of Knightsbridge, is sharing the shareholders' pain. The executive directors have had their pay cut by...
Micro Economics
Beer IT's official. The British Beer Belly is a myth. The average British male may carry a bit of padding round his waist, but new research says beer is not to blame. A survey from Beer Naturally, an organisation set up to promote the health benefits...
Morals and Economics
The turf The BBC made such a hoo-ha in advance about the Kenyon Confronts examination of racing that I was expecting something altogether original. Instead, the programme proved about as revelatory as an expose of Soho discovering that tarts take off...
No-Good Boyo Scores Elegantly
THE KICK by Richard Murphy Grants, L20, pp. 379, ISBN 1862074577 It is possible to flinch on hearing that a writer has stored up millions of journal words from which a book has been extracted. The good news in the poet Richard Murphy's case is that the...
On My Left ... on My Right
DOVES OF WAR by Paul Preston HarperCollins, L16.99, pp. 469, ISBN 0002556322 FIGHTING FOR FRANCO by Judith Keene Continuum/Leicester University Press, 25, pp. 310, ISBN 0718501268 How many more books on the Spanish civil war is Professor Paul Preston...
Politically, If Not Poetically, Correct
52 WAYS OF LOOKING AT A POEM, OR HOW READING MODERN POETRY CAN CHANGE YOUR LIFE by Ruth Padel Chatto, 12.99, pp. 272, ISBN 0701173181 Not owning a wheelbarrow I never buy a newspaper at the weekend. I've been missing out. For the last two years the Independent...
Prepare for the Bill Chill
THE Earth's climate is changing in a dramatic way, with immense danger for man and the natural systems that sustain him. This was the frightening message broadcast to us by environmentalists in the recent past. Here are some of their prophecies. The...
Refusing to Give the Salute
DEFYING HITLER: A MEMOIR by Sebastian Haffner, translated by Oliver Pretzel Weidenfeld, 14.99, pp. 210, ISBN 0297607626 Theo Richmond The particular fascination of this memoir stems from the time it was written: 1939. Early in that year Sebastian Haffner...
Rod of Steel
Nothing except a battle lost can be half so melancholy as a battle won. Thus the Duke of Wellington after Waterloo; and it is in a similar mood that this magazine surveys the wreckage of the Downing Street spin machine. What a rout. So the children of...
Seconf Opinion
AS everyone knows, multiculturalism means universal tolerance and goodwill: though - in the words of St Augustine in connection with his wish that God should make him perfectly virtuous - not just yet. In the meantime, certain frictions are likely to...
Sleeping Rough
Low life Normally I have my boy and his halfbrother to stay at weekends, but my boy's mother doesn't allow him to stay with me while I'm staying at Geoff's. She doesn't know Geoff, she says. He's a stranger. For all she knows, she says, Geoff could be...
Spotting the Insiders and Outsiders
ASCOT by Sean Magee, with Sally Aird Methuen, 125, pp. 420, ISBN 0413?72039 When Dame Edna Everage, sporting a four-foot-wide hat incorporating a model of the Sydney Opera House, made her first visit to Ascot for the Royal Meeting in 1976, she confided,...
Swimming in Magic Realism
GOULD'S BOOK OF FISH: A NOVEL IN TWELVE FISH by Richard Flanagan Atlantic, 16.99, pp. 404, ISBN 1843540215 D. J. Taylor First things first. The winner of this year's Commonwealth Writers' Prize, compared by the critic in the New York Times to, let us...
Tense Moments
Opera Macbeth (Royal Opera House) Macbeth is the first of Verdi's operas in which his characteristic urgency and pace are allied to a subject which is wholly serious, or at least which we can take wholly seriously. All the previous nine operas have plenty...
The English Gandhi
THE CRIPPS VERSION: THE LIFE OF SIR STAFFORD CRIPPS, 1889-1952 by Peter Clarke Allen Lane, L25, pp. 574, ISBN 0713993901 The British Left lacks a Titan. It has no Gladstone, no Churchill. The more we know of the rest of Labour's postwar leaders, the...
The King of Bosnia
A FORTNIGHT after taking over as Bosnia's international High Representative, Lord (Paddy) Ashdown claims that he has already taught the Bosnians a valuable lesson in democratic procedures by sacking an elected deputy prime minister and barring him from...
There Is No Alternative
PEGGY NOONAN, one of America's most revered Republican writers and former speechwriter for the Reagan White House, looks up from her chicken salad with an expression of baffled determination. `It is obvious to me, Mary, that we live in a time of extraordinary...
This Good Boy Deserves Favour
DOUBLE ACT: A LIFE OF TOM STOPPARD by Ira Nadel Methuen, 25, pp. 621, ISBN 0413730506 The last time I played a round of that favourite parlour game, The World's Shortest Books, I couldn't come up with anything better than Great Canadian Composers (effortlessly...
Trouble in Soho
High life Where was I? It's been a rough week. Following Robert Miller's and King Constantine's bash at Annabel's - more about that later - I found myself somewhere in Soho, alone and facing a young man covered in blood. `Good God, what happened?' said...
Venus Jigsaw
Salerooms When the 29-year-old William Weddell acquired a marble statue of Venus in Rome in 1764, he paid the dealer Thomas Jenkins an astronomical but undisclosed sum. The most conservative contemporary account has it at L3,500 (plus a lifetime annuity)...
Who Needs Friends?
Singular life I was in a rather chirpy mood the other day, when somebody said to me, 'I was defending you at dinner last night.' Immediately my mood turned to one of blackest rage. Defending me? Why? Against whom? Who were these detractors and how great...
Why Chicks Love Becks
SOMETHING curious is going on in this World Cup. Not just Les Bleus crashing out, mighty Argentina flying dejectedly home, the plucky Irish so nearly toppling suave Spain. No, stranger than that: women are getting in on the act. Football used to be a...
Widow's Might
Champagne THE tediously regular invitations in my email inbox to double the size of my wedding tackle, halve the size of my overdraft, and see pictures of Britney Spears doing something unspeakable with a furry animal have been joined, of late, by excited...
Without Weapons of Mass Destruction, the Subcontinent Would Be a Lot Less Stable
Two cheers for weapons of mass destruction. If India and Pakistan were not nuclear powers, there is a good chance they would now be at war. I can think of no clearer practical illustration of the case for the possession of an atomic bomb than the chapter...
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