Intellectual Public Property

The latest issue of Foreign Policy magazine has compiled a list of the top 100 public intellectuals. The criteria are defined simply as influential thinkers who feature prominently in public life beyond the borders of their native countries. Although such lists are generally to be taken with a pinch of salt and usually heavily biased, they do nevertheless make interesting reading. The usual suspects from a wide variety of fields are there – Noam Chomsky, Richard Dawkins, Joe Ratzinger (aka Pope Benny XVI), Umberto Eco, Orhan Pamuk and Steven Pinker among others.  I’m not sure if Salman Rushdie deserves a place in the top 100 though. He’s highly overrated as a novelist, let alone a great intellectual.

The compilers have deliberately tried to be as balanced as possible – the list contians both the atheist and the beliver (Dawkins and the Pope), the Israeli and the Palestinian (Amos Oz and Sari Nusseibeh), the neo-con and the leftist (Francis Fukuyama and Chomksy) – and for the sake of political correctness the token black African is Nigerian writer Wole Soyinka.
There is of course an emphasis on the word “public” here, suggesting that there is an infinite number of private intellectuals out there who are brilliant thinkers, but choose to stay out of the public eye.  Or maybe they just blog.  Top 100 private intellectuals anyone? Top 20 intellectuals within the Irish blogosphere? Any suggestions?
One major criticism I have about Foreign Policy’s list is that it leaves some of the world’s finest orators and people of letters –  intellectual heavyweights like Wayne Rooney, Katie Price and George W. Bush all fail to make the top 100.  Scandalous.


Gerry Moriarty in today’s Irish Times reports on Ian Paisley’s retirement from politics:

“Peter [the Punt/Hands (and feet) across the border] Robinson delivered the introduction, which was followed by a video of the Big Man’s life and time, climaxing with the fanfare of Dr Paisley walking slowly into the hall for a rapturous reception to the tune of the spring section of Four Seasons by Vivaldi (a Catholic priest).”




Sontaran                                 Avram Grant

Is it just me, or does recently deposed former Chelsea boss Avram Grant bear an uncanny resemblance to one of Dr Who’s old adversaries the Sontarans, a cloned warrior caste race from the planet Sontara, perpetually engaged in a millenia-old war of attrition with their sworn enemies the Rutans?

OK, maybe it is just me then.



The Keltic Kup and local variations

The Keltic Kup?
It was announced today that the football associations of Scotland, Wales and both parts of Ireland have agreed on a new annual tournament between their teams due to kick off in 2011. As the four teams involved rarely qualify for any major tournaments such an event can only be welcome and is long overdue. Like England, these four teams have all suffered from the foreign invasion of the Premier League as a result of which the opportunities to play at the top level are much more limited now than they were 20 years ago.

However, one bone of contention will be what to call this new tournament. They could take a leaf out of rugby’s book and call it the Four Nations. Another possibility would be the Celtic (as in “Keltic” not “Seltic”) Cup, but Rangers supporters would take exception to this. Whatever it’s called, it could be a massive money spinner for the broadcaster Setanta who never seem to miss an opportunity like this.

Local Variations
I notice the BBC website has a section devoted to the four regions, England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. England is simply listed as “England”, but Scotland and Wales are listed bilingually as “Scotland/Alba” and “Wales/Cymru”. Interestingly enough, Northern Ireland is just listed in English. I’m surprised the Irish and Ulster Scots lobbies haven’t been on the BBC’s case about this. But let’s face it – there just wouldn’t be enough room for “Northern Ireland/Tuaisceart na hÉireann/Norlin Airlann”.


* As a footnote to the first item above, I was baffled for years as to why the name of a certain Glasgow soccer club was pronounced as “Seltic” rather than the standard pronounciation “Keltic”.  I eventually found out that this was because the soft C pronounciation was in vogue in the 19th century when the club was formed, but the hard C took over as the accepted prounounciation in the 20th century.  This brings me on to a classic anecdote involving the Welsh actor Richard Burton.  Burton was allegedly asked in an interview with an irritating Hollywood hack “I suppose you would describe yourself as a selt?”

Quick as a flash Burton replied “Yes, and I suppose you would describe yourself as a sunt.”