the corner office

a blog, by Colin Pretorius

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The Spectator

Speaking of engaging with current issues, one of the magazines quickest to tell the government where to put their 'press regulation' ambitions a few months back was the Spectator. Now, dear reader, I'm not one for Making Statements and the like, but I was sufficiently taken by their principled stance to take them up on their quid-an-issue introductory subscription offer. And so it came to pass that a new copy of the Spectator arrives in the post every Friday, and is duly added to the pile on the coffee table, and dutifully worked through over the coming week(s), and then added to a nascent collection on the bookshelf, alongside the National Geographics and Popular Sciences and Astronomys which mark earlier M-P dalliances with periodicals highbrow and improving.

I am, as Hayek once said, Not A Conservative, and I remain wary of being tarred and feathered thus, but I've always enjoyed the Spectator online because while notionally 'right-leaning,' they endeavour to stir none of the reactionary outrage of the Torygraph or the Mail, nor do they tend to the dear-god-why-can't-stupidity-be-painful posturing and pontificating of lefty rags like the Grauniad or the New Statesman. Instead its views, to the extent that there are any official views, are generally on the more libertarian side of things, and there's enough diversity of thought to allow columnists to have near stand-up rows with each other about Islamism, or gay marriage, or whether investing in gold is sensible or not. And for that, a number of left-leaning authors contribute, too. In fact, what I like most is precisely the fact that should any columnist or author spout an opinion which I find annoying, then the odds are pretty good that someone will come along and disagree, and do so in a way that isn't just the usual us-vs-them left-vs-right sniping that usually goes on across papers and blogs, but is more in the vein of 'I think so and so was talking crap and this is why.'

Politics and current affairs aside, what I'm really enjoying about the Spectator, is first the writing, which is usually just excellent, and second, dare I say it, some of the more 'sophisticated' content. Only on reading the paper version, do you start appreciating the wry style of the weekly summary of the news, the side-column which contrasts some Pressing Issue Of The Day to what was going on in ancient Greece, or Rome, the writing feature (just called 'Competition', in which people compete by submitting funny writing or poems, and succeed in being funny), the agony column, the words column, and more.

On top of that, the reviews section is fascinating. I'll admit I skip the theater and opera (guiltily - I paid for those pages dammit), but the book reviews - of books I'm mostly likely to never read - are nonetheless enlightening, and interesting, and fun to read about, and you never know: I've lost track of how many 'add to Amazon wish-list' mental notes I've filed and forgotten already - but the magazines are there, on the bookshelf, waiting for a quick whip-through in future, for when a bookish me with more free time starts casting about for things to occupy my commute.

I had promised myself that I'd wean myself from internet news, and feed my mostly pointless giving-a-shit-about-what's-going-on-in-the-world habit purely via the paper version of the Spectator. I still succumb occasionally and click around online (some guilty pleasures remain), but for the most part it's working.

Oh yes, and there was actually a point to this post. This week the Spectator has opened up its archive, dating back to 1828. It's an amazing piece of history, incredible stuff.

{2013.06.16 - 23:56}


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