Don't miss John Burns' lovely evocation of life on the Isle of Man in the NYT today. In our cloistered, danger-phobic culture, when you have to wear a safety helmet to ride a bicycle, you've got to love a place that's proud of a motorbike race that kills people on a regular basis:

But with the tradition has come a grim record of deaths 224 riders killed over the years in the Tourist Trophy races and another motorcycle event, the Manx Grand Prix, that runs on the same course in late summer. Dozens more deaths have occurred among race marshals, spectators and “civilian” riders who take to the course after the races on high-powered road bikes and try to emulate the racers’ daredevil feats.

Despite a toll that mounts nearly every year, and a coroner’s report that identified major failings in track supervision after an accident last year that killed an English rider and two spectators, the Isle of Man clings proudly to the races...

“It’s like taking a fighter jet down to tree level, popping the canopy, turning upside down, then going down to road level and touching your helmet on the pavement,” he said. “One mistake and it’s your life.”

In the long run, maybe we'll all have to live on islands - “self-governing dependent territories” - to remember the shreds of freedom we once enjoyed.

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