Strange Sports

Via Crooked Timber, I learn that Simon Kuper (author of the excellent Football against the Enemy) has an article in the Financial Times on strange sporting contests involving animals (elephant polo, that kind of thing), which discusses the impressive athletic achievements of Rosa Luxemburg, the Balliol College tortoise…

Tortoise racing, too, has failed to conquer the world. It barely exists outside Oxford University. Each June the university’s leading tortoises race in the garden of Corpus Christi College, spiritual home of the sport. But this year the race was not held due to bad organisation, and last year’s race was spoiled when a student entered in a tortoise costume and declared himself the winner.

Presumably this refers to someone at Magdalen, since the JCR here is very proud of its tortoise costume, and I certainly woudn’t put it past them to disrupt a major sporting contest like this. Vandals.

Corpus’s own reptile died years ago and the college now usually fields an animal borrowed from a tutor. “Various tutors own tortoises, bizarrely enough,” explains Jack Clift, former president of Corpus’s junior common room.

I don’t know which tutor’s tortoise gets borrowed: in the early 1990s, when I used to pay attention, I think the race was a three-cornered contest between the Balliol tortoise, the Corpus tortoise, and the Corpus gardener’s tortoise, who was (if I remember rightly) called Bulldozer.

Like goats, tortoises prefer sex to running. This favours Balliol’s veteran female champion, Rosa Luxemburg. “The tortoises we tend to borrow are male, so she toddles off and the males follow her,” complains Clift.

I hadn’t come across this theory before, and I wonder whether it is true. In fact, I’ve no idea whether Rosa Luxemburg actually is a female tortoise, having very little idea how to sex tortoises. I always thought she used to win owing to her combination of rigorous physical and ideological training provided by an elected official known as Comrade Tortoise, together with her unique diet consisting of the cigarette butts left out on the Garden Quad. But what do I know?”Sex is the whole point of camel wrestling…”, the article continues, at which point I think this discussion should draw to a close.

There’s Only One Martin O’Neill

Clearly writing a sunday newspaper is much like writing a weblog: sometimes you just feel the need to fill space. And so, armed only with the google search engine, Tom Shields was able to fill up pages and pages of this week’s Scottish Sunday Herald with an article devoted to the observation that some people have the same name as other people who are a little more famous than they are…

But not at the Virtual Stoa, where there’s only one Martin O’Neill…

Make Mine A Double: An internet search reveals lots of faces running around with the same names

… Martin O’Neill’s primary interests are in moral, political and legal philosophy, the philosophy of action, and the philosophy of Wittgenstein. This may well be how the Celtic manager spends his off-duty hours, but the Martin O’Neill we are talking about is the PhD student at Harvard University.

The philosopher O’Neill is author of a treatise called “Pele, The M25 And Artistic Post-Modernism” and is obviously almost as cerebral as the football manager O’Neill. Philosopher O’Neill is described as ‘the Bard of the Hanger Lane gyratory system, West London’s Wittgenstein, and Man with a Liver of Steel’. But can he find a goalkeeper to get Celtic through the remaining European Champions League fixtures?

Martin is, of course, a Celtic fan himself (and Arsenal and Ireland, and, I hope, the Boston Red Sox — not that anyone should think that my attention is drifting towards Fenway Park a little too often these days as the playoffs draw ever closer). But it was in his Leicester City FC days that Martin used to receive email at his account imploring him to stay with the Foxes…

And the most objective sources I have are people on my staff

Here’s a snippet from Brit Hume’s interview with W on
Fox (Via LBO-talk):

HUME: How do you get your news?

BUSH: I get briefed by Andy Card and Condi in the morning. They come in and tell me. In all due respect, you’ve got a beautiful face and everything.

I glance at the headlines just to kind of a flavor for what’s moving. I rarely read the stories, and get briefed by people who are probably read the news themselves. But like Condoleezza, in her case, the national security adviser is getting her news directly from the participants on the world stage.

HUME: Has that been your practice since day one, or is that a practice that you’ve…

BUSH: Practice since day one.

HUME: Really?

BUSH: Yes. You know, look, I have great respect for the media. I mean, our society is a good, solid democracy because of a good, solid media. But I also understand that a lot of times there’s opinions mixed in with news. And I…

HUME: I won’t disagree with that, sir.

BUSH: I appreciate people’s opinions, but I’m more interested in news. And the best way to get the news is from objective sources. And the most objective sources I have are people on my staff who tell me what’s happening in the world.

That’s reassuring. Karl Rove, no doubt, is the most objective of them all.

World’s Least Likely Baseball Fan

I thought that I was the world’s least likely baseball fan, but in the last few lines of David McKie’s fine obituary for Guardian columnist Hugo Young, it turns out he rooted for the New York Yankees. Somehow that doesn’t quite fit the image I had of him, after fifteen years of reading his columns.

(For fellow Red Sox fans: as of last night, the magic number is down to four…)

Our Regicide Past

I was very pleased to see, over at Labour MP Tom Watson’s blog, the death warrant for Charles I, which he has posted in order to publicise the parliamentary contribution to Archives Awareness Month, which, apparently, is this month, so there’s not too much of it left.

I’ve said it before, and, no doubt, I’ll say it again: People in this country aren’t nearly as aware of our regicide past as we ought to be, except for the loons over at the Society of King Charles the Martyr (patron, Lord St John of Fawsley, no surprise there). Long before the Jacobins executed Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette, or the Bolsheviks gunned down the Tsar and his family, the political authorities in London in January 1649 organised the trial and execution of the man of blood, Charles Stuart. It was a great moment in these islands’ story.

Things didn’t work out terribly well for the regicides in the long run, but it’s certainly high time we had another go at republican self-government. Who knows? It might be more durable this time around.

There’s some thoughtful revisionism by my friend Ted Vallance, now at Liverpool University, over here, which was written to mark last year’s wretched jubilee. He seems to think that if we are going to get rid of Brenda, lopping off her head probably isn’t the best way forward, and not just because killing people is wrong.

UPDATE [22.9.03]: Roll on the Jamaican Republic!