Baby Rhino!

The Virtual Stoa has been down for a few weeks. Sorry about that: the WordPress installation came under some kind of sustained attack, the hosting company took it down, and I only just heard what I had to do to get it back up again. Not that it matters much–there has been so little fresh content recently.

However! I think we can now mark the Return of the Stoa with some pictures of Astrid the Baby Rhino, from our visit to the Cotswold Wildlife Park the other day. Astrid is a smashing baby rhino, and the Park’s first.

This is Astrid, with her mother Nancy (who was named by David Cameron, the local MP, after his daughter).


Astrid, the star of the show, aged about six weeks. Apologies for not getting the bump on the nose where the horn will grow into focus.




Astrid, having a feed (I think).


Roxy! Not a rhino, but a five-day old baby camel. (When the photo was taken, she was nameless. But she now has a name, and not one from David Cameron.)

Llabour and the llamas

I clearly haven’t been following politics closely enough recently, as the news that Labour attacked the Tory candidate in Crewe & Nantwich for living near llamas has only just caught up with me, thanks to popbitch.

This is just weird. It’s not violently grotesque, the way the “make foreigners carry ID cards” leaflet was violently grotesque, but it is very, very strange. Everyone I know is strongly pro-llama. (I think that everyone I don’t know is strongly pro-llama.) And the slow take-over of the English countryside by camelids is very much to be welcomed.

In a genuinely socialist Britain, we would probably all live close to llamas, what with the disappearance of the distinction between the town and the country; and we wouldn’t need lawn-mowers any more. (Charles Fourier probably said something about this.)

Camels, Wheels and Martin Ignoramis

Traffic has recently gone through the roof at the ironically-named Socialist Unity Blog, as Andy Newman has been giving us all invaluable blow-by-blow coverage of the split in the Respect coalition [now here and here]. And having built up a huge readership for the blog, it can finally turn its attention to the issues that matter — so Tawfiq Chahboune has been brooding on the issue that bugged me here and here, concerning Martin Amis, camels and wheels. Continue over the fold for the relevant portion, or visit the original over here.

Continue reading “Camels, Wheels and Martin Ignoramis”

Camels and Wheels

I read through Martin Amis’s long piece in yesterday’s Observer, and was struck by one thing in particular: he writes in the third part that

The tradition of intellectual autarky was so robust that Islam remained indifferent even to readily available and obviously useful innovations, including, incredibly, the wheel. The wheel, as we know, makes things easier to roll; Bernard Lewis, in What Went Wrong?, sagely notes that it also makes things easier to steal.

It’s a while since I flipped through a book called The Camel and the Wheel by Richard Bulliet that deals with the fascinating story of the disappearance of wheeled transport from the post-Roman Middle East, but I don’t remember the story there having much to do with the “intellectual autarky” of the Islamic world, and a glance at this article, in which Bulliet summarises his argument, suggests that my memory’s working along the right lines.

So is anyone seriously making the case against Bulliet that Muslim “intellectual autarky” (rather than the good old-fashioned historical materialist reasons of geography, political economy and camels) was a major cause of the collapse in the use of the wheel (whose decline, in any case, predated the rise of Islam), or is this just becoming something people like Bernard Lewis and Martin Amis can say in order to make the Islamic world sound more unreasonable than it in fact was?

This England

Here’s an uncharacteristically patriotic post (and the football match earlier today was a cracker, wasn’t it?). From the BBC, discussing the Lord Mayor’s parade:

Lady Chichester’s Bactrian camel Therese also took part, after undergoing special training to cope with crowds and noise on the parade ground at Tidworth, Wiltshire.

And here she is (Therese, that is; I’m not sure who the other person is; conceivably that’s Lady Chichester, but I doubt it).UPDATE [2 minutes later]: There’s more here, and the official-looking press release for the LM’s S has this:

One of the most unusual participants in this year’s Show is Bactrian camel, Therese. The six-year-old, who lives in Wiltshire with 17 alpacas and Larry the llama, is eagerly looking forward to strutting her stuff on the streets of London – a far cry from her ancestors in Outer Mongolia.She is probably the world’s only camel who is skilled in both dressage and show-jumping – so a brisk walk through the city shouldn’t pose too many problems for Therese. The last camel to appear in the Lord Mayor’s Show was 400 years ago for Elizabeth I and it drew crowds from all over England who had never seen such an animal, but it’s safe to say that Therese will revel in the attention.

OK. That’s enough about Therese the camel. Good to hear that she lives with seventeen alpacas and a llama.