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Going nuclear

Wednesday marked the 72nd anniversary of the dropping of the bomb on Nagasaki. The bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki prompted Emperor Hirohito to announce Japan’s surrender in a radio address, though fanatical war hawks tried to stop him. After 1945, Japan developed a pacifist movement and a so-called peace constitution. No country has deployed these

General rule

Dwight Eisenhower was right to warn Americans in 1961 of the ‘military industrial complex’, but perhaps it is now the only thing that stands between the US and chaos. The new White House chief of staff, General John F. Kelly, is the third general Donald Trump has appointed to his cabinet. Kelly is already getting

Don’t forget the Yazidis

As the floodwaters subsided, the Ark drifted across northern Iraq. Finally, with a crunching jolt, it hit dry land. Its timbers had scraped the peak of a mountain range called Sinjar. Water began to pour in. Fortunately, a black serpent, its coils as thick as an arm, moved to plug the breach. The Ark did

How I write

How do they do it? Among writers, the earnest audience member at a literary festival who asks, ‘Do you write by hand or on a computer?’ is a sort of running joke; an occasion for the rolling of eyes. And yet, let’s enter a note in defence of that audience member: how novelists and the

The joy of sex

Your typical Trollope-loving, Brahms-bothering Spectator reader probably won’t be aware that the most recent winner of Big Brother was a girl called Isabelle Warburton, but her victory was a joy to behold — and a lesson to be learned. The unemployed 21-year-old had a tan so orange it made Oompa-Loompas look pale and interesting, and

A tale of two Valleys

Silicon Valley looks like a cross between Milton Keynes and the set of the Stepford Wives. Row after row of ordinary houses and picket fences, clustered in villages notable only for the mega-companies they serve: Menlo Park (Facebook), Cupertino (Apple) or Mountain View (Google). There’s the odd charm, but it’s generally clean, sterile, young, overpriced.

Notes on...


Like many artistically inclined children, I was given a set of Daler Rowney watercolours for my birthday one year. My first paints! What delights would I unleash with these cubes of colour? Well, practically none, as it turned out. Unschooled in the art of watercolour and evidently lacking any instinct for the medium, I used