Thursday, March 31, 2005

Professor Ha Lectures President Roh for Lecturing Dr. Rice

Dr. Ha Young-sun, professor of international relations at Seoul National University, made the following remark with nicely understated irony:

"It is said that President Roh Moo-hyun lectured on pending issues between Korea and Japan to U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice when the latter paid a courtesy call on the president on March 20. I wonder what Ms. Rice, a former international relations professor, was thinking as she heard the lecture?"

The details of Roh's lecture go unreported, but I suspect that they're related to views that he recently expressed at the Korea Military Academy about Korea's role as a "balancer" in Northeast Asia. Perhaps Roh was signaling to Rice that Korea is willing to distance itself from Japan over the Dokdo controversy even if this means edging closer to China and farther from the United States. There may have been a subtle implication that the U.S. should therefore side with Korea against Japan over Dokdo.

This presumes that Roh can do subtlety.

Be that as it may, Professor Ha argues that Korea cannot play the role of balancer:

"Let's compare the gross domestic product (GDP) and military expenditures of the regional powers to read the power structure of Northeast Asia. The GDP of the United States is $11 trillion and military spending is $450 billion; Japan's GDP is $4.3 trillion and military spending is $43 billion; China's GDP is $1.4 trillion and military spending is $30 billion (unofficially $60 billion); Russia's GDP is $400 billion and military spending is $17 billion; North Korea's GDP is $20 billion and military spending is $1.8 billion (unofficially $5 billion); and South Korea's GDP is $600 billion and military budget is $17 billion. Anyone who can do elementary school level math can see that at the moment, Korea is not in a position to be the balancer of Northeast Asia or change the structure of the balance of power."

Notice that Professor Ha can do subtlety rather well. He has, in passing, subtly accused Roh of innumeracy. Ha's deeper concern, however, is that without a proper understanding of 21st century power:

"Korea will be downgraded to an outsider, far from being the balancer of Northeast Asia."

Or worse still, in my opinion, Korea might find itself so far inside China's sphere of influence that it never can escape.

Wednesday, March 30, 2005


In the late fall of 1986, I was living in Switzerland and wanted an addiction, so I took up smoking.

I aimed to become a writer, and I imagined that I could develop into a better writer by experiencing more of life, including deadly habits.

A little critical thinking would have killed that fantasy, but I was more into creating than critiquing.

I began with the roll-your-own type of zig-zag cigarette, figuring that I'd look more the part of the cultured Swiss-French 'alternatif' intellectual, sitting in a Fribourg cafe reading Tous les hommes sont mortel, blue smoke wreathing my head like the halo of some fallen angel.

Beyond the frisson of a Baudelairian aesthetics, smoking came to play a functional role in my reading. I discovered that my French improved more quickly. Previously, I had detested thumbing my way through a pocket dictionary for a ride to fluency. Somehow, I had never reached my destination.

Now, however, I began to enjoy looking words up . . .

Let's see, "soupçon." Hmmm . . . what does that mean? A kind of soup? Soup's on? Nah, doesn't fit.

At that, I'd reach for my French dictionary, take a deep drag on my cigarette, and search for the word, exhaling slowly, leisurely.

Ah, here it is: "suspicion." Okay, gotta remember that.

I'd then lean back, take another drag, and think about the word, memorizing it as I let the smoke escape from my lips . . .

That was fun. It was cool. It was effective. My French improved.

Moreover, I achieved my primary goal of addiction and switched from roll-your-owns to prefabricated Galois cigarettes for more quickly satisfying my craving.

Months went by . . .

I returned to Berkeley, registered for the French exam required by my degree, and passed without difficulty.

Ah, two birds with one stone, time to stop smoking.

But I didn't want to stop yet. Not that I was still enjoying smoking. Its ephemeral pleasures had passed, and I wasn't using it to learn Greek and Coptic because I didn't smoke in the coffee lounge where I worked and studied. Rather, the smoking detracted from my language study because I would step outside to light up.

I wouldn't say that I had a monkey on my back, but something simian was perched there, invited by the sleep of my reason.

More months passed . . .

I returned to Switzerland, this time Basel, where I lived for the summer of '88 with anarchists, Greens, and 'Sandalistas' -- as the young, leftist supporters of Nicaragua's Sandinistas were sometimes called. These various Alternativen, as they termed themselves, had occupied the Old City Gardens on the bank of the Rhine and had set up tents for the homeless and beer kegs for everyone. By day, they marched in protests along the main avenue, shattering plateglass windows. At night, they retired to the Gardens to drink and, with a Swiss passion for cleanliness, sweep the loose dirt from the hard-packed dirt.

I avoided the protests but showed up evenings for the beer, developed an inebriated affinity for the unruly mob that milled about, and reveled in the vague notion that I was part of a larger significance.

My fool's paradise didn't last long. One night, the riot police appeared to evict us from the garden. They looked impressive in their dark rows of body armor, helmets, long shields, and tear-gas guns.

Without warning -- or none that I heard -- the guns went off and gas cannisters hailed down.

Surreal . . .

White, burning fog welling up from the ground, enveloping everyone . . .

People coughing . . . weeping . . . vomiting . . .

Mucus streaming from mouths and nostrils . . .

I ran to escape, slipped through the lines unhurt but alone, my fair-weather friends elsewhere . . .

Hurrying homeward along back streets, I arrived to an empty, unlit house. Spooky. Haunted by absences.

To wash the reek of tear gas from my skin, I showered. I could still smell it, though, and my eyes continued stinging throughout the night, keeping me from sleep. I surrendered to wakefulness and sat up reading Simone de Beauvoir all night. Les Mandarins. And I smoked cigarette after cigarette after cigarette . . .

At six that morning, I left the house, still empty, and headed downtown. Unexpectedly, an open cafe appeared. I found a German newspaper and sat down to drink a cafe creme. I lit and tried to smoke another cigarette. It sickened me. I stubbed it out, barely used.

Later that morning, I sat in the university library, exhausted, and again tried to smoke. The cigarette tasted horrible. Again, the nausea.

For a long time after that, I couldn't even think of tobacco without a profound feeling of disgust. The disgust has passed, but I haven't smoked a cigarette since that morning in Basel.

That's how I kicked the habit.

Tuesday, March 29, 2005

Wuthering the Heights of Northeast Asia

It's not every day that one applies literary analysis to international relations, but Professor Kim Sung-han does so today:

"The circumstances in Northeast Asia nowadays remind me of Emily Bronte's novel Wuthering Heights. The story of love and revenge encompassing three generations on a windy Yorkshire farm is quite similar to Northeast Asia today."

Kim never specifies how these are "quite similar."

Does his remark about the "stormy Northeast Asian situation" hint at similarity? The word "wuther" means "to blow with a dull roaring sound," which might imply "stormy." But Shakespeare's Tempest would more strongly imply this.

Or perhaps a comparison was implict here:

"The Northeast Asian situation is made up of a triangular structure, with the United States, China and Japan as the major players."

Hmmm . . . "triangular structure" . . . "three generations" . . . and possibly even a bully like Heathcliff? I can almost glimpse a parallel. But not "quite."

Advice to all writers: Don't leave your readers hanging on the wuthering heights.

Monday, March 28, 2005

Kids Say the Damnedest Things

For over a year now, I've been commuting from Osan City to Korea University, a four-hour-long round trip, but we're moving to Seoul this coming Friday. My wife tells me that we'll be living near a subway stop that will get me on a train arriving at the university in only 15 minutes.

Two weeks ago, we informed people at our Songtan church, so they bade us good-bye at yesterday's Easter service. In a semi-formal ceremony, we stood before the congregation and took our leave with a few carefully chosen words of parting.

I thanked the church for giving me the opportunity of teaching a Sunday School class to adults and for giving our children a friendly place that they looked forward to visiting every Sunday.

My wife then spoke about the church holding a special place among her memories because she was baptized there. She also thanked the church for helping with our children and recalled that En-Uk had been only a baby in the nursery when we arrived but was now so big that he was beginning to speak about the things that he was learning in Sunday School.

Suddenly, our daughter wanted the microphone, so my wife announced, "Sa-Rah has a few words to say."

Sa-Rah took the mike and said, "I want to talk about En-Uk."

We all looked at this little girl of merely 8 years, wondering what she would say about her 5-year-old brother. We didn't have to wait long:

"En-Uk says that God does not exist," she announced.

An audible gasp arose from the congregation. I saw the visiting minister gape in astonishment.

Undaunted, she continued, "He says that God exists only in stories."

Everyone stared silently, shocked at this revelation.

"En-Uk comes to church every Sunday," she observed, "but what I want to know is . . . why does he come to church if he doesn't believe in God?"

Everyone glanced at little En-Uk, who seemed mildly amused and vaguely embarassed by the attention.

Sa-Rah, having had her say, relinquished the microphone. I accepted it, wondering if En-Uk had some similarly dark secret to reveal about his sister, but he seemed content to bask in his newfound notariety.

"Uh," I said, "I think I'd better explain." The whole church seemed agreed upon that.

"A couple of weeks ago," I began, "En-Uk said to me, 'God does not exist.' I asked him, 'What do you mean?' and he told me, 'God exists only in stories.' I thought about this, then asked him, 'Do you believe that monsters exist?' He said 'No.' So, I said, 'But you're scared of monsters, right?' He said, 'Yes.' So, I asked him, 'Are monsters real?' He said, 'Yes.' So, I asked, 'Then, you believe that God is also real?' He said, 'Yes.' So," I triumphantly concluded, "En-Uk believes that God, like monsters, exists only in stories but that He is real."

I watched the entire congregation chewing on that . . . . Did Jeff just compare God to a monster? And what was that distinction between God not existing but being real? What has he been telling his kids? And what the devil has he been teaching in adult Sunday School class?

Realizing too late that discretion truly is the better part of valor, I leaned on the microphone's false staff, smiled bravely, shrugged, and explained, "Uh . . . well, you know . . . "

And I must have looked so ridiculous standing there in my awkward position that the entire congregation laughed, releasing all of the gathered tension.

The visiting minister's Easter sermon: "Not Just a Story: The Resurrection Really Happened."

I hope that En-Uk was listening . . .

Sunday, March 27, 2005

My Beautiful Wife

Some months ago, a woman who lives in our apartment complex encountered my wife and recognized her as "the person married to that foreigner." What the woman particularly wanted to know was:

"Why did he marry you? You're not beautiful."

I suppose that there's always a story to tell . . . I met my wife in Germany, on a train. I hadn't noticed her standing on the platform before boarding, but she had already observed me, perceived the danger, and kept her distance.

Despite her effort to avoid me, I happened to sit down beside her. Pure chance -- it was the only empty seat. (My wife says fate.)

"Hello," I said, noticing her for the first time, and liking what I saw.

"Hello," she responded, in a low, wary, but husky and thereby enticing voice.

"I'm Jeff Hodges," I told her.

"I'm Sun-Ae," she told me.

"What does your name mean?" I asked.

"Good Love," she revealed.

I took it as a sign and decided to marry her. But I had to win her heart. So, I asked her what she was studying.

"Robert Musil," she said, still wary.

Now, I don't know that "Musil" derives from "muse," and it may be just a variant of "mueseli," but I took him as my inspiration:

"Oh," I noted, "The Man Without Qualities."

By chance (or was it fate?), I had recently begun reading that novel.

In German.

In fact, the entire conversation with this unexpected love of my life was taking place in German.

I am terrible at foreign languages, not particularly eloquent in my own, and was having to woo in a tongue suited less to expressing passionate love than to explaining the mechanical workings of an internal combustion engine. Even the German title of Musil's book sounds mechanical: Der Man ohne Eigenschaften.

Rather like a piston, isn't it: Ei-gen-shaft-en. Ei-gen-shaft-en. Ei-gen-shaft-en. Ei-gen-shaft-en. Ei-gen-shaft-en . . .

She, however, was impressed. Especially when I related the opening story, which introduces the main character, Ulrich, who meets a beautiful, mysterious woman through a series of unfortunate events and accidentally wins her heart.

This introductory part of the novel ends with the dry observation that:

"One week later, she was already seven days his beloved."

Which I quoted.

I may not have won her heart with that, but I caught her attention. And over poetry the following evening, I captured her heart.

When I took her to my Ozark home to meet my family, everyone was impressed with her but also baffled. My youngest brother put it succinctly:

"How did Jeff ever get such a beautiful girlfriend?"

How indeed. I owe it all to a man without qualities.

Saturday, March 26, 2005

"A Message to the Nation Concerning Korea-Japan Relations"

The Cheong Wa Dae website now has an "*Unofficial translation" of President Roh's letter. I am not clear on why this translation is unofficial since Cheong Wa Dae is the official website for the Office of the President of Korea. Perhaps an official translation is still being prepared. We shall see.

Meanwhile, here is this unofficial translation's rendering of President Roh's views on Japan's motives:


The Russo-Japanese War was not a conflict between the two countries over territory, as the name implies, but one of aggression into the Korean Peninsula that Japan started for the complete dominance of Korea. In fact, a victorious Japan immediately stripped Korea of its diplomatic authority and began de facto colonial rule.

During the war, Japan incorporated Dokdo island into its own territory. Indeed, it robbed us of Dokdo with military might. Japan's Shimane Prefecture declared so-called "Takeshima Day" on February 22, the very day when Japan incorporated Dokdo into its territory 100 years ago. That is an act justifying its invasion and denying Korea's independence.

The same goes with the textbook issue. In the past, when distorted textbooks were adopted by only a few Japanese schools, we placed high expectations on the conscience of Japan and had an optimistic outlook for the future of Northeast Asia. But now, those distorted textbooks are about to be revived. That, too, is an attempt to justify Japan's history of aggression.

We cannot help but regard these acts as those of the Japanese nation because they are not simply committed by a local government or a group of thoughtless ultra-nationalists; they are being done with implicit support from the country's ruling group and the central government. These acts nullify all the reflection and apologies Japan has so far made.

Now, the Korean Government has no choice but to respond sternly. We can no longer stand by and watch Japan's attempts to justify its history of aggression and occupation and its intention to achieve hegemony again, because this is a matter that will determine the future of the Korean Peninsula and Northeast Asia.


Put more concisely, President Roh holds that Japan's central government implicitly supports both the ultra-nationalists who are rewriting textbooks that justify Japan's imperial policies, including its annexation of Korea, and the Shimane Prefect's governmental personnel, who have declared an official Takeshima Day in honor of Japan's 1905 annexation of Dokdo.

The crucial expression here is "implicit support" (cf. 방조), which can be interpreted to mean that although Japan's central government has no intentional policy supporting the aims and views of ultranationalists or local governments, it provides unintended support by not speaking out against these aims and views. My wife initially read the Korean version as having this sense, taking 방조 to mean "watching without doing anything," which she thinks is the usual colloquial meaning in Korean.

Dong-A's Prime Korean-English Dictionary, however, defines the term as "aiding and abetting." In this, it probably follows the original Chinese meaning rather than the Korean colloquial one. The ambiguity between "watching without doing anything" and "aiding and abetting" probably accounts for the definition "implicit support," which can be read either way. Roh perhaps means aiding and abetting, depending upon how we understand his reference to:

"Japan's attempts to justify its history of aggression and occupation and its intention to achieve hegemony again."

This sounds very strongly and directly expressed, but a word of caution is in order. The Korean original says the following:

침략과 지배의 역사를 정당화하고 또다시 패권주의를 관철하려는 의도

My wife notes that a literal translation here would be:

"The attempts to justify the history of aggression and occupation and the intention to achieve hegemony again."

Unclear is whether or not Roh intended to refer here to the policy of Japan's central government or merely to the aims of the ultranationalists and the local officials of the Shimane Prefecture.

However, since Roh states that one "cannot help but regard these acts as those of the Japanese nation," then he seems to mean that Japan's central government is attempting to justify its past aggression and trying to achieve hegemony again. If so, then by "implicit," he means that Japan's central government secretly supports the aims and views of the ultranationalists and local governments.

At any rate, whether Roh meant "watching without doing anything" or "aiding and abetting," this public expression of his views on the issue as Korea's head of state was perhaps ill-advised. Normally, it's better to leave such statements to lower-level officials so that the president can speak in a more statesmanlike manner.

That being said, I find Roh's words far less emotional than they sounded in the previous newspaper reports, and I'd no longer describe it as "hot-headed." Moreover, I don't find this statement in the Cheong Wa Dae English translation:

"I can't tolerate him (Koizumi) any more." (Joong Ang Daily)

I asked my wife about the Korean text, and she says that no such statement can be found there either.

One lesson that I can draw from this is to read the English-language Korean newspapers with a shaker of salt handy.

Friday, March 25, 2005

President Roh Moo-hyun's Letter to the Korean People

As everyone here in Korea must know by now, President Roh Moo-hyun has personally written and officially released a letter (original Korean) on the Cheong Wa Dae Website that criticizes Japan in extraordinarily blunt language. The letter is titled "A Letter to the People in Relation to the Recent Relationship Between Korea and Japan." I have not yet seen a full English translation, so I cannot analyze it in detail.

For readers unfamiliar with the Korean situation, you need to know that Japan colonized Korea from 1910 to 1945 and that Japan still claims a small, rocky island that it calls Takeshima in the body of water separating Korea from Japan. Korea currently possesses the island, which it calls Dokdo (or Tokto), maintains a presence there, and seems to have the prior legitimate claim (based on old maps).

Recently, a provincial government in Japan (Shimane Prefecture) declared Takeshima Day to celebrate the 100th year anniversary of the island's incorporation into Japanese territory. Many Koreans have protested and pressed for the Korean government to take a harder official line on this issue.

President Roh has now met those demands.

Here are some excerpts of Roh's letter, culled from various news sources, so I cannot be sure of the sequence (and excuse the repetition):


"Japan seized Dokdo with armed forces during the Russo-Japanese War in which Japan invaded Korea." (Dong-A Ilbo: DAI)

"Shimane Prefecture in Japan publicized February 22 as the day of Takeshima (Dokdo's Japanese name) to celebrate the inclusion of Dokdo into Japanese territory 100 years ago. This could mean that Japan is trying to justify the war in its past and deny the independence of Korea." (DAI)

"Japan also justified its attack on Korea and denied Korea's liberation by declaring Takeshima Day on the day when Japan forcibly included Tokto to its territory 100 years ago." (Korea Times: KT)

These are "acts designed to justify Japan’s past invasions and deny the liberation of Korea." (Chosun Ilbo: CI)

"Takeshima Day" is being used "to justify Japan's past invasion and to deny the liberation of Korea." (Joong Ang Daily: JAD)

"Now the government cannot but squarely address the matter. We can no longer sit idle as Japan's imperial move will (adversely) determine the future of the Korean Peninsula and Northeast Asia." (KT)

"We can no longer sit and watch Japan's intention to carry on with its domination by rationalizing its history of invasion and colonization." (Korea Herald: KH)

"We can no longer overlook Japan’s intention to justify the history of colonial rule and to enhance hegemony again." (DAI)

Japan is trying to "justify its history of invasion. . . . Japan's ruling forces and central government help from behind the scenes." (JAD)

"The core of our diplomatic countermeasure is to flatly demand the Japanese government fix (the problem)." (KH)

We "will be urging the Japanese government to backtrack." (KT)

"I have doubts whether the Japanese government would give a sincere response, but we must do what must be done with persistence." (KH)

"Although there is concern that the Japanese government will fail to come up with a sincere response to our request, we will persistently call for it." (KT)

"Whatever difficulties may arise, we shall neither retreat nor fudge." (Hankyoreh: HKR)

"We cannot help regarding these actions as Japanese because all these things are occurring with the support of the Japanese government, which has closed its eyes on this issue. They are not isolated incidents by mere local governments or irrational nationalists. Such attitudes are nothing but the nullification of apologies and self-examinations done by Japan in the past." (DAI)

"Such behaviors nullify all the remorse and apologies of the past. We cannot but judge that such acts were committed with the consent of the Japanese central government. They were not done by only a certain prefecture and some chauvinists." (KT)

"The visits to the Yasukuni shrine of Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi are almost the same as hindering the honesty of introspections and apologies of Japanese leaders in the past, since an apology exists on the premise of self-examination. And then, necessary actions should be followed up, accordingly." (DAI)

"I can't tolerate him (Koizumi) any more." (JAD)

"There will be many situations I will confront without hiding my anger." (JAD)

"We will root out (such misbehaviors) this time so that the people can see a more tangible outcome." (KT)

"I have doubts whether the Japanese government would give a sincere response, but we must do what must be done with persistence."(KH)

"Although there is concern that the Japanese government will fail to come up with a sincere response to our request, we will persistently call for it." (KT)

"We have to make decisions with discretion, and speak and act as slowly as necessary." (JAD)

"But I believe the people don't have to worry about it too much as we have already been equipped with enough capability to cope with the matter." (KT)

A “merciless diplomatic war with Japan” could break out. (CI)

"[S]uch war will not end in a day." (KT)

"Whatever difficulties may arise, we shall neither retreat nor fudge." (HKR)

"Korea will triumph in the end." (CI)

"I will not leave the problem in a question and eradicate it this time, no matter how difficult." (DAI)

"The government will do its utmost until acceptable results to the public come out." (DAI)


President Roh looks at Japan and thinks that he perceives a concerted pattern. Japan continues to claim Dokdo as Japanese territory. Japanese Prime Minister Koizumi keeps on visiting the Yasukuni Shrine honoring Japan's war dead. Japanese nationalists repeatedly attempt to rewrite Japan's history texts to glorify their nation, including its annexation of Korea. And now, the Shimane Prefecture in Japan declares Takeshima Day and claims that Dokdo is part of its jurisdiction.

Roh therefore concludes that all of this was done "with the consent of the Japanese central government."

Whether Roh's opinion is correct or not, that a head of state would personally write such a blunt, accusatory letter is astonishing. I understand the anger at Japan, based on its colonial past here in Korea, but this hot-headed letter will prove counterproductive.

If Roh felt that an official letter needed to be released, there are diplomatic expressions and diplomatic channels proper for that.

Roh has shown lack of tact and tactics. The letter has accomplished nothing positive and can only anger the Japanese.

Roh also fails to have a strategic vision for handling the delicate, changing circumstances in Northeast Asia. China is growing in power and attempting to reassert its traditional hegemony in this region. It has declared the ancient kingdom of Goguryeo to have been Chinese territory, which could be interpreted as a claim on the northern portion of the Korean peninsula. Korea therefore needs to focus more on China's intentions than Japan's.

Concern over China's role in Northeast Asia has already brought closer relations between Japan and Russia. Korea should be pursuing closer long-term relations with both of these countries. A continued, long-term alliance with the United States would also be in Korea's interests, but Roh (and many Koreans) seem to think otherwise.

Northeast Asia is not an inherently stable place. Any stability here is an achievement, not a given. If Korea fails to nurture good relations with Japan, Russia, and the United States, to whom can it turn in its future hour of need?

Thursday, March 24, 2005

High School English Assignment (A Few Years Late)

Remember those creative writing assignments back in high school? If I could just re-write the one where we had to respond to Marlow's immodest proposal in "The Passionate Shepherd to His Love," I'd take a different approach . . . . That's the poem where the lovestruck shepherd says,

"Come live with me and be my Love,
And we will all the pleasures prove . . ."

"And pray, what hast thou in mind?" queried the damsel, interrupting.

"Well," the shepherd replied, "I was thinking of all the pleasures . . .

That hills and valleys, dale and field,
And all the craggy mountains yield."

"I see," observed the winsome one. "Sorry, I don't do 'craggy.' "

"No mountains, then," he quickly promised, "but . . .

There will we sit upon the rocks."

"What," she retorted, "dost thou mean by 'will we'? Art thou posing a question?"

"I mean," he corrected, "there we will sit . . .

And see the shepherds feed their flocks,"

"Oh, great," muttered the lady, "more 'passionate' shepherd boys. So, we'll all sit together on rocks with thy sheep-herding friends watching ruminants chew their regurgitated cuds."

"Uh . . . right," he conceded. But we'll also be there . . .

By shallow rivers, to whose falls
Melodious birds sing madrigals."

"Shallow," she remarked, "isn't half of it. Songbirds competing with waterfalls for our attention. Sweaty shepherd lads telling rustic jokes. And thou art promising melodious madrigals? More like malodorous male oddballs"

"But," he protested . . .

There will I make thee beds of roses
And a thousand fragrant posies,
A cap of flowers, and a kirtle
Embroider'd all with leaves of myrtle."

"First," retorted the cool object of his fervor, "fix thy syntax. It's 'I will,' not 'will I.' Second, not even a myriad of posies would cover the stench of thee, thy unwashed shepherds, and thy odiferous sheep on those overgrazed hills. Third, I need no bed of thorny rose. And last, I have no lust for flower cap or floral gown."

"No flower-kirtle!" the herder cried. "It will be . . .

A gown made of the finest wool
Which from our pretty lambs we pull."

"Barbaric," she pronounced, "not to shear the wool but to pull it out by root!"

Desparately, the rustic tried, "Then, perhaps . . .

Fair linèd slippers for the cold,
With buckles of the purest gold."

"Fair linèd or fur linèd mean'st thou?" asked she. "And where comest thou by money for such buckles of gold?"

"Gold drawn from mountains' veins," he declaimed. "And I'll make thee . . .

A belt of straw and ivy buds
With coral clasps and amber studs"

"Gold buckles? Straw belt with ivy buds?" she high intoned. "Am I some dandified 'Harvest Queen'? All gussied up with amber -- and coral? High-altitude coral, I suppose?"

"I'll do it all," the young man swore, "everything I have proposed . . .

And if these pleasures may thee move,
Come live with me and be my Love.
Thy silver dishes for thy meat
As precious as the gods do eat,
Shall on an ivory table be
Prepared each day for thee and me."

"I see," she perceived, "that I'm not getting through to thee. I find here no pleasures 'me to move.' And 'love' rhymes not with 'move' -- nor with 'prove.' Art thou poetically challenged? As for silver dishes, intend'st thou to dig both gold and silver? Or behold, that ivory table. Might I surmise: from tusk of mastodon?"

"Oh, please," pleaded the desperate, would-be lover, "I vow that . . .

The shepherd swains shall dance and sing
For thy delight each May-morning:
If these delights thy mind may move,
Then live with me and be my Love."

"Swains singing?" the lady sighed. "Peasants' poems for turkey trots, no doubt. A life-long love, thine? Nay, merely a month of May. Ah, such 'delights' move me not. I shan't live with thee. Farewell. Oh, and get it straight: 'love' doesn't rhyme with 'move.'"

Wednesday, March 23, 2005

Physician Makes House Call, Leaves Calling Card

An email arrived today from "khan27" bearing this greeting:

"full of the bile of satan you who call yourself a scholar"

I know nothing about Satan's physiology and thus cannot confirm khan27's diagnosis of my medical condition, but I would appreciate a second opinion. Are there any blogospheric experts on the old humoral theory of the four fluids who could confirm or reject this diagnosis? Am I suffering from "bile of satan"?

The message posted after this greeting prescribes the following medical treatment:

"there is no abrogation in the quran go to the site . . . were you will find the answers & there is no compulsion in religion you either believe the truth or you do not if you do not then that is a choice for you and your soul which will be made clear to you on the day of judgement."

I wish that doctors would write their prescriptions more carefully -- they're always so hard to read!

But no matter. I've not gone to this site to pick up my bitter medicine, for I don't feel ill and don't want to treat myself for a condition that I likely don't have.

Okay, enough humor (so to speak). This email came to me out of the blue. It may be a particularly unpleasant sort of spam, or it might be a rather hostile reaction to some remark that I've made somewhere about abrogation in the Qu'ran.

To khan27: If you are intent on rejecting the view that some Qu'ranic passages have been abrogated, then don't come to me. I didn't abrogate them. The principle of abrogation is one attested to in traditional Muslim texts. If you can conclusively show that the passage promising "no compulsion in religion" has not been abrogated, then more power to you. But since you greet me as "full of the bile of satan you who call yourself a scholar," then don't expect me to read anything on your website.

The Next Nobel Peace Prize?

In a March 20th op-ed for The New York Times, Tom Friedmann 'nominates' the man he thinks deserves to receive the next Nobel Peace Prize: "A Nobel for Sistani."

That's Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, the religious leader of Iraq's Shiites. If you have any interest in Iraq, then you should have heard of this man. Briefly, he's the Shiite authority who exhorted fellow believers to vote in the Iraqi elections, telling them it was their "religious duty to vote." And vote, they did.

Of course, with around 60 percent of the population, Shiites must have understood that it was in their overwhelming interest to vote, for this meant that they could rise from second- to first-class citizens in a new Iraq. Therefore, Sistani can't take all of the credit.

Friedman, however, emphasizes three other things that Sistani has done that have been good for democracy in Iraq and the Middle East:

"First, he built his legitimacy around not just his religious-scholarly credentials but around a politics focused on developing Iraq for Iraqis," and he did this "by focusing on a positive agenda for . . . [his] own people, not negating another."

Second, he "put the people and their aspirations at the center of Iraqi politics, not some narrow elite or self-appointed clergy," thereby helping "to legitimize 'people power' in a region where it was unheard of."

"Third, and maybe most important, Mr. Sistani brings to Arab politics a legitimate, pragmatic interpretation of Islam, one that says Islam should inform politics and the constitution, but clerics should not rule."

These three things are surely something, and Sistani has been better than one might have expected. As an ethnic Persian born in Iran, this Ayatollah might well have reacted to America's presence in Iraq in a far more negative fashion -- such as labeling America "the Great Satan. "

But a Nobel Peace Prize? Is Friedman serious? In his own words: "I'm serious."

It seems that we have to take this proposal seriously. Well, if Yassir Arafat can get a Nobel Prize, then the far superior Sistani can surely get one. But before we go jumping on this bandwagon, I'd like to caution us on two things:

First, peace has not yet come to the Middle East, and don't expect democracy to bring it anytime soon -- especially if democratic movements really do take hold. The old authoritarians won't go quietly into the night, and the Islamists will fight savagely against this innovative heresy called democracy.

Second, pay attention to the fact that Sistani issued a fatwa, a quasi-legal religious opinion, to legitimate voting. Clerics might not officially rule, but the issuing of religious opinions with binding legal status comes close.

And keep this in mind. According to Hala Jaber's report in the March 20 issue of The Sunday Times:

"Iraq's women are encouraged to vote as they wish but according to Grand Ayatollah Sayyid Ali Husseini al-Sistani, Iraq’s most powerful cleric, they should not shake the hand of a man other than a father, brother or husband. He also forbids women to leave home dressed in any clothes that allow strangers to see parts of their body."

This forbidding sounds foreboding. Is it a fatwa? If so, will fatwas have the force of law in a democratic Iraq? If they do, will they apply only to Muslims, or will they hold for all others: Christians, Mandeaens, and other Dhimmis?

Only time will tell.

Tuesday, March 22, 2005

A Thought for Al

About 25 years ago, a friend of mine was murdered in a swamp not far from Little Rock, Arkansas. The police found his ring finger near the side of a road some miles away, apparently tossed from the window of a car.

I hadn't seen Al since the seventh or eighth grade, but I can't forget him because I've got a scar on my forehead from a rock he hurled at me. I don't blame him for that. I was hurling rocks at him, too. He just had a better arm (and better aim).

We were throwing from opposite banks of the creek that ran between our homes. I was preparing for one final toss, and so was Al. Reaching down, I grasped a stone, looked up, saw a rock only inches from my eyes, then felt it thud against my forehead. From my hand slipped the stone I'd grasped. From my head streamed blood.

Possibly, my skull was cracked. I don't know because my grandparents didn't take me to a doctor. We never went except for emergencies. Once, I got a three inch splinter in my upper thigh. Grandmother attacked it with a sewing needle, extricating a bit. Most of it's still there, just under my skin. Anyway, grandmother looked at my injured head, judged I'd live, put me in bed, and swabbed to staunch the flowing blood.

Al, apologetic and defiant, came to see me: "I'm sorry, but you were throwing rocks, too."

I should have said, "Yeah, it's okay," but I didn't. I said, "Al, you know I can't throw."

Poor Al. He got blamed for everything bad that happened even though he didn't do anything worse than I did. We both torched some vacant, grassy fields, but Al got caught. I didn't. I knew to crouch, use a small match, get away quickly, watch from hiding. Al ripped open a cardboard box, set that aflame, then danced across the field screaming "Wooooo-eeee!"

Another time, he and I worked a concession stand at the annual Rural Electrical Cooperative Day Fair. At twilight, I saw him turn his back to the fairground tents and crowd, grab a huge sack of raw popcorn, hoist it up 'hidden' in front of him, and hurriedly waddle across the long fairgrounds to stash it under a bush. In the dark, I stole it from there before he had a chance to retrieve it. Al got blamed even though the evidence was never found.

We had BB-gun fights, too. Al shot me in the leg. One of my brothers got him back in the ear. He'd aimed for an eye but missed. People knew of Al's shot, but not of ours.

Al met a bad end. I didn't. What was the difference? That Al got caught? Possibly, but getting caught would have cured me.

I think, rather, that Al couldn't foresee consequences. And he didn't learn from them either. He went from bad to worse, from worse to worst. By age 14, he was in reform school. After that, I don't know.

I only know that he turned up dead, murdered in a swamp, minus a ring finger.

So, rest in peace, Al. Maybe you don't deserve peace, but I knew you as a kid. I was, in an odd way, your friend.

Monday, March 21, 2005

Guilt Trip

My daughter and son speak fluent Korean, in part because of me. They weren't born here in Korea -- Sa-Rah was born in Armidale, Australia, and En-Uk in Jerusalem -- but I advised my wife to speak to them only in Korean. I wanted them to be bilingual even though I didn't expect to wind up living in Korea.

I expected to be a great, non-gypsy scholar at some university in the United States.

American universities, however, didn't show as much interest in me as I showed in them. In 1999, coming off of a Golda Meir Fellowship at Jerusalem's Hebrew University and heading for the annual AAR/SBL Meeting in Boston to give three presentations, I imagined at least a modicum of interest. None. Not even an offer of an interview at the conference.

For the first time in my life, I understood the importance of connections. I had never taken them seriously before, and hadn't especially suffered from lack of them. I also began to recognize that my intellectual path baffles academics who think along departmental lines. My Berkeley advisor and friend Robert Bellah once confirmed this:

"Your unusual academic path has contributed to your intellectual development, but it's made you hard to classify."

True enough. Even I have trouble classifying me. I studied English literature for a B.A., then history of science for an M.A., then passed my oral exams in history of science but changed fields to ancient history, then headed off to a German seminary as a doctoral exchange student doing research on John's gospel and Gnosticism. After that, a postdoc on Manichaeism, followed by another on Judaism and early Christianity. Now, I teach mainly English literature but also some history.

Though I would like to think otherwise, I see that my gypsy-scholar status was not something imposed on me by external forces. It's my authentic intellectual spirit -- I've simply never settled down intellectually.

At my age and with a family to support, I ought to be more established, but I've indulged in an intellectual journey that, circuitous and long, has taken me not very far professionally, and from this road less traveled by, my family has a lower standard of living.

You might call it a guilt trip.

Sunday, March 20, 2005

I, Exocoetidae

For about a year now, I've been teaching an adult Sunday school class at an English-language church near Osan Air Base. Given its location, the church serves a lot of people connected to the U.S. military, so the congregation is always in flux as tours of duty begin or end and as contracts are approved, renewed, rejected, or even cancelled. The previous teacher had to leave, no new teacher stepped forward, the pastor at that time discovered that I have some learning in Greek and Hebrew . . . and I found myself a Sunday school teacher.

I'd never done this before, but I took to it as a fish takes to air.

I mean a flying fish.

Flying fish don't really fly, I'm told. People claim it's more of a gliding. But according to a certain online source, flying fish "can glide as far as 100 metres and as high as one metre above the surface of the water." That seems rather far just for gliding, and the mechanics involved make the process sound remarkably like flying:

"The enlarged lower lobe of the tail acts like an outboard motor, the speedy sideways motion of the tail allows the fish to gain height from the surface of the water, and extend the flight time."

It seems to me that this fish is propelling itself through the air. Isn't that flying rather than gliding?

I ask because . . . yes, I am that fish. I submerge myself in the biblical currents, dart among the passages with my school of student fish, pick up speed as I gain confidence, then burst from the surface and fly gloriously through the bright air jabbering (that's right, I'm a talking flying fish) about Milton's clever exegesis of temptation in Paradise Lost, Derrida's unexpected remarks on the Christian God watching secretly in The Gift of Death, or Karl Barth's relentless dismantling of theological liberalism in The Epistle to the Romans . . . only to crash back into the water, temporarily incapable of propelling myself further.

The Osan Airmen are not impressed.

Saturday, March 19, 2005

One other thing . . .

There's one in every crowd, so there was also one at Korea University's Nobel Laureate Lecture Series presentation on Thursday.

After the first three queries in the question-and-answer session following McFadden's talk on economics, Professor Jae Chun Hyun intervened in his role as moderator to request that we not expend time on thanks and introductions but that we keep our remarks short and in question form only.

The very next person given a microphone and recognized to speak said:

"Thank you, Professor McFadden . . . for a very interesting talk. Quite interesting. I am a student here . . . at Korea University, a student in the graduate school. Actually, I am not just a student. In addition to being a student, I am also working . . . at a job. I am a journalist. I noticed that you were interviewed by the Chosun Ilbo. Well . . . the Chosun is a . . . sort of newspaper . . . that has a particular . . . point of view. You might want to express yourself . . . in a different interview. So, what I want to ask . . . is if you would be willing to give me 15 minutes of your time . . . after this session . . . for an interview. I work for a different newspaper. . . . Would you be willing to do this?"

This is my summary of the man's statement. In reality, he must have used two to three times as many words as what you see above -- and he didn't speak at a particularly quick pace, either. Indeed, one might call the pace . . . leisurely. A slow, languid, linguistic stroll.

And, technically, the fellow did not pose a question. He made a request.

Professor McFadden responded with courtesy but noted that his schedule was not his own since he was a guest of Korea University and that any time for an interview would depend upon KU's timetable. He then turned to Professor Hyun, who must have been making a superhuman effort to control his annoyance at the journalist.

Hyun's response: "Next question." Not quite in so few words, but essentially that -- and properly so.

I assume that the fellow was a reporter for a left-leaning newspaper such as Hankyoreh or OhmyNews and that his reference to the Chosun Ilbo interview was a subtle criticism of the organizers for limiting interview time to a single, conservative paper. His implicit criticism might or might not be on target (I know nothing of the interview arrangements), but he chose the worst possible moment to make his point and request an interview.

Friday, March 18, 2005

Korea University: Daniel McFadden's Lecture

Korea University inaugurated its Nobel Laureate Lecture Series yesterday with Daniel McFadden's talk on "Economic Choices: Consumer Behavior and Economic Policy Analysis."

From the title, one might have expected McFadden to use his research and findings on consumer behavior to analyze economic policies currently being considered in the United States, for example, President Bush's proposed privatization of the social security system. In fact, he does mention this specific issue, but only in very general terms and only in his concluding remarks. Perhaps the title of his lecture should have been slightly different: "Economic Choices: Consumer Behavior and its Implications for Economic Policy."

The greater part of the lecture, however, analyzed the economist's standard model of consumer behavior. According to this model, there are two 'laws' of economics, and I reproduce these here from the lecture handout that McFadden provided for his audience's convenience:

1. "Individuals are consistently rational in their pursuit of self-interest" (p. 6).

2. "Rational consumers gain more from freedom of choice -- the more alternatives, the better" (p. 7).

The term "rational" is key here, so we have to know how economists understand it. McFadden presents three aspects:

1. "Preference-Rationality: Preferences are innate and stable, and do not flicker with experience" (p. 8).

2. "Perception-Rationality: Perceptions are formed consistently using statistical principles to process information and integrate it with experience" (p. 8).

3. "Process-Rationality: Given budget constraints and perceptions of alternatives, choices maximize preferences" (p. 8).

Dumbed down, this means that we know what we want, we know it when we see it, and we know how to get it.

Broadly formulated, this standard model sounds plausible -- though I found myself balking at the statement that the average consumer consistently uses statistical principles in processing information. Strictly speaking, I doubt that many of us do use statistical principles in this way. Isn't this a bit like saying that falling objects use the inverse-square law to guide their fall? Doesn't it make more sense to say that consumers' choices can be analyzed using statistical principles? Perhaps I should have inquired about this (or some of you economists can explain it to me).

Anyway, the model's plausibility proves trustworthy in the empirical realm:

"The economist's standard model of decision behavior is predictive and useful for a broad spectrum of choice behavior" (p. 50).

In short, it generally works.

McFadden used it to develop his own multinomial logit model, a mathematical formula that assigns preference values to discrete choices for calculating the probability of each choice (cf. discrete sets). This application works, too, and was used to correctly predict the number of commuters who would travel on the Bay Area Rapid Transit rail system, also known as BART.

Okay, this is quickly moving beyond my ability to follow -- as the links above will show -- but the point is that the standard model of rational economic behavior works in the real world.

But not always, for "people do not always choose wisely" (p. 19). In a section rather grandly titled "The Architecture of Cognitive Anomalies," McFadden notes that:

1. "Memory is fallible and selective, and recall is influenced by current context" (p. 23).

2. "Availability of information influences perceptions" (p. 23).

3. "Construal, affect, saliency, rules drive behavior" (p. 23).

To dumb down again, this means that we sometimes don't know what we want, don't know it when we see it, and don't know how to get it. We just think that we know.

Incidently, at this point, the standard model often slips from a descriptive rule to a prescriptive one:

"Dammit! Those consumers ought to be more rational!"

McFadden makes a move that bears at least a family resemblance to this, advising:

"Consumers who are aware of their own fallibilities and misperceptions have a better chance of detecting manipulation and avoiding choices they will later regret" (p. 50).

Correct, but I'll bet that McFadden himself wouldn't predict that large numbers of consumers will choose to adopt his advice. During the question-and-answer session following the talk, I had this in mind and asked him:

"Could you tell us any personal anecdotes of how you have used insights gained from your own economic findings for making decisions in your own life?"

Refreshingly frank, McFadden acknowledged that most of his important decisions had been made without really knowing enough to make fully rational decisions.

Those decisions, nevertheless, led to a highly successful career capped by a Nobel Prize, so maybe there's something to be said for intuitive judgements of the sort described by Malcolm Gladwell in Blink: The Power of Thinking Without Thinking.

McFadden didn't delve into that issue but, instead, gave the sensible advice that before making important decisions, one ought, for example, to seek counsel from older people who have faced similar decisions and can draw on their wealth of experience to help.

Most of us won't follow this advice consistently, as McFadden recognizes, so he also had larger advice, formulated in terms of "Implications for Economic Policy":

1. "The broadly rational pursuit of self-interest by consumers justifies in most cases the use of free markets for resource allocation and the principle 'He who governs best, governs least'" (p. 51).

2. "Systematic consumer mistakes in assessing risk and handling intertemporal choice justify public intervention in these areas to educate, regulate markets, and provide a social 'safety net'" (p. 51).

In short, a relatively free market but with some governmental intervention. Thus on the current debate over privatizing social security, McFadden counsels that:

"Unless private retirement accounts are very carefully designed to overcome the deficiencies in consumer rationality for risky intertemporal choice, they will fail to provide an adequate safety net" (p. 52).

Ignorant as I am, I wouldn't presume to risk a judgement on the Bush administration's privatization plan. I suppose that I generally agree with McFadden that government does have a role to play.

The question is how large a role. In the process of maturing and becoming wiser (which includes but is not limited to "more rational"), failure can play an important role. People do make poor decisions, and for some of the reasons noted in the talk. They also are not likely to listen to the advice of economists on how to become more rational. McFadden therefore turns to government as a means of protecting people from the mistakes they make (or would make). The danger here is that because people's poor choices go 'unpunished,' such protection can increase the irrationality of their future decisions because they have too little incentive to learn from (or even take note of) their mistakes. I suspect that the cost of protecting individuals would grow over time, both within the lives of individuals and across generations.

Any thoughts?

Thursday, March 17, 2005

In Another Country

I spent a cold winter in Switzerland many years ago. A friend had offered me a place to stay, and I needed time off from my studies to reflect upon the direction that my life was taking.

So, I found myself in the old, walled city of Fribourg on the Sarine River, which divided the town physically, culturally, linguistically. Those speaking French lived on its west bank, those speaking Swiss-German on its east. Most of my friends were Swiss-German because I spoke little French. I did manage to improve my French reading skills by wading through several of Beauvoir's novels, including Tous les hommes sont mortel, which taught me to be less sure that immortality would be a desirable thing.

I'm growing older and forgetting that lesson.

Switzerland was expensive, and my money seemed to evaporate. An acquaintance offered me work in a nearby village, where we were to tear down a nunnery. I'd long been interested in deconstruction, so I accepted the irony.

We used sledgehammers to shatter the plaster and useless particle board. In the dead of a frozen January morning, we'd retrieve our hammers from their cold storage in one of the nunnery's closets, heft them up, and swing hard. The first blow would send shock waves through the frozen wooden handles directly into our bones. We'd drop our hammers, cry out from pain, then pick up and start again.

Our job became intriguing as we began the more delicate work of dismantling the rafters. The boss, Tony, wanted to save the good wood, so we couldn't simply knock it all down. The building was well-constructed, and the roof seemed suspended from its main beam rather than held up by the walls, leaving us puzzled about how to take it apart. Did the rafters hold the walls in place? Would the entire ediface come crashing down?

It wouldn't. They didn't. We managed.

And we found something interesting. In each joint where one rafter joined another, a tiny pendant holding a medallion of the Virgin and Child had been placed. God for the gaps. The builders may have been good, but they clearly wanted to leave nothing to chance.

Winter days were as short as my money. At night, I sometimes found myself alone in my upper room, staring at a candle flame and dreaming of love:

In Another Country

I drank calvados, glistening brown,
and watched the candle gutter down
to smolder in a night of sighs
as deep as her nocturnal eyes.

I didn't find those eyes, but the calvados was almost enough.

Wednesday, March 16, 2005

Walk of the Town . . .

Twenty years ago, I lived in Berkeley, but just barely.

I shared an upstairs flat with four other students and a baby on Alcatraz Avenue -- so named because it aimed at the island of the damned. From the kitchen window, I could gaze out to see the Bay and Island as I washed dishes. At night, I would lie awake listening to the "Crack Wars," rival gangs battling in Oakland over pride and turf and addicts.

One Friday night, the war came to our front stoop. A car barreling down the avenue let loose with a shower of bullets and struck down two young men. We found them bleeding and moaning on the lawn opposite our place. That put them in Oakland.

Yeah, I lived in Berkeley, but just barely.

My soul was all for San Francisco. Every Saturday, I'd get up no later than six, quickly eat, catch a Bart train, and head for the City. Soon, I was roaming the hills, a different path each time, but I always ended up drinking an Anchor Steam at Vesuvio's Bar on Jack Kerouac Lane.

I've always liked to hike. Growing up in the Ozarks, I walked all over. In California, I nearly reached the top of Mt. Whitney with Maryska Suda, a Czech friend of mine, but had to turn back due to the lowering sun. An unexpected ice cliff had slowed us down. Thirty feet wide with a thousand-foot drop, so we'd inched across very carefully. That delay forced us to slide down the glacier, but we still only reached our base camp below the waterfall just before the gathering darkness made vision impossible. Exciting but a little too exciting.

Hiking the San Francisco hills had become more my style. I loved the steep, white, concrete streets that glistened in the morning sun before other people had gotten up. The best view was from Telegraph Hill:

San Francisco Morning

Sunday's sun-scrubbed, alabaster streets:

Clean as a hound's tooth ex-
tracted from the gutter,
as a whistle piercing
dark like a shaft of light,
as conscience swept clean
by the brisk whish whish
of inextricable steps,
each incalculably, ineluctably
to a fall . . .

I recited that one on a Thursday evening at Cafe Babar's "Open Mike" on Guerrero and 22nd Street, near the Mission District. Julia Vinograd remarked, "Nice." I guess that counts for something.

Tuesday, March 15, 2005

Korea's "New Right"

Monday's Joong Ang Daily has an interesting article on the Korean "New Right." I happened to see it because I subscribe to the International Herald Tribune, and the two papers are distributed together. Titled "The 'New Right': How new is it?," the article contains photos of three prominent members in this emerging political movement. The middle photo's caption caught my eye: "Shin Il-chul."

Yes, the very man whom I was introduced to in my March 1 luncheon meeting with Mr. Min Young Bin, founder of YBM Si-sa.

The article reports that Shin recently lectured on the New Right:

"The New Right is against the current administration, which possesses such characteristics of the 'Old Left' as being pro-North, anti-market and anti-liberty," Shin Il-chul, a philosophy professor at Korea University, said at a lecture last month. "The New Right has a vision for reform and progress under the flag of liberty."

From my own talk with Shin as well as from an NKHR lecture that he gave in 2001, I know that by "liberty," he means more than merely economic freedoms. At that meeting, he told me that he intends the liberal tradition's grounding in human rights. Neither the left nor the right in Korea have emphasized this, he explained, and he argued that this neglect is the main flaw in the "Sunshine Policy" of Kim Dae-jung and Roh Moo-hyun.

Shin thinks that engagement with the North should have been modeled on the Helsinki Accords, which emphasized human rights and cited the UN’s Universal Declaration of Human Rights. If this had been an integral part of South Korea's Sunshine Policy, then economic engagement would have been conditional upon the North's commitment to human rights.

According to the Joong Ang article, Shin's emphasis upon human rights is shared by others in the New Right, and they criticize the traditional conservatism of the Grand National Party for its neglect of human rights. The entire article is available online and is worth reading.

Monday, March 14, 2005

(Google Advanced Search) Squared

Maybe I'm the last one to figure this out, but . . .

As a gypsy scholar without access to libraries having extensive holdings of Western scholarly texts, I often resort to the internet to search for books and articles, and I sometimes even find a goodly number uploaded to the web.

When I was told about Google and its Advanced Search capability (a couple of years ago), I began using it to speed up my online searches. I soon learned the main drawback, an excess of items located in nearly every search.

For example, suppose that I want to find online sources that contain both the name "John Milton" and the technical expression "middle knowledge."

Previously, I would go to Google Advanced Search, enter "John Milton" into the slot labeled "with the exact phrase," then enter "middle knowledge" into the slot labeled "with all of the words," and then click. Let's enter these without using the quotation marks. Using this method, up come 34,000 results. Those would take a long time to wade through, and I would never try. Instead, I would narrow my search by entering more terms into the slot labeled "with all of the words." But this process is very time-consuming.

Now, however, I have a new method. Enter "John Milton" into the "exact phrase" slot as done above. But in the slot labeled "with all of the words," use the quotation marks: double-quote middle knowledge double-quote (i.e., "middle knowledge"). Then click. Now, up come 10 results. No more wading -- dive right in.

Update: I have now realized that by using quotation marks, two or more phrases can be entered into the slot labeled "with all of the words," and Google Advanced Search will find online sources that contain them. In fact, not even Advanced Search is needed to do this. The ordinary Google Search function manages such a search without difficulty. I guess everybody else knew this already but forgot to mention it to me . . .

Sunday, March 13, 2005

Il n'y a pas de hors-texte . . .

Recently, my five-year-old son told me, "God does not exist."

"What do you mean?" I asked.

"God does not exist in the world," he explained.

"What does that mean?" I asked.

"God exists in stories," he clarified.

My son loves stories, especially stories about monsters, so I asked, "Do monsters exist in the world?"

"No," he said. "They exist in stories."

"But you're afraid of monsters," I noted.

"Yes," he confirmed.

"So . . . monsters are real?" I suggested.

"Yes," he agreed.

"Is God also real?" I asked.

"Yes," he replied.

"But he only exists in stories?" I checked, just to be sure.

"Yes," insisted my son.

So, my little boy's opinion seems to be that God is real but exists only in stories -- a bit like the scarey monsters. And only yesterday, I learned that he believes that "God controls everything we do." From inside the text, I guess.

And wouldn't we be in there, too, what with God inscribing our every act? Stories within stories?

"Il n'y a pas de hors-texte."

"There is nothing outside of the text," not even God. My son has been reading Derrida.

Saturday, March 12, 2005

Korea University: Nobel Laureate Lecture Series 1

Those of you living within the vicinity of Seoul might want to attend Daniel L. McFadden's lecture on Thursday, March 17 at 2:00 p.m. in Korea University's Inchon Memorial Hall. McFadden's lecture will be the first in the Hyundai-Kia Motors Nobel Laureate Lecture Series, established to commemorate Korea University’s Centennial (1905-2005).

McFadden is the E. Morris Cox Professor of Economics at U.C. Berkeley (my grad school alma mater), and he received a Nobel Prize in the year 2000 recognizing "his development of theory and methods for analyzing discrete choice." This is not to be conflated with "discreet choice," a mistake I used to make (and still sometimes do). I'm not actually sure what a "discrete choice" is, but all will be made clear next week in language that even undergraduates can understand, for the lecture series is intended "to reach out to young people telling them of the importance of scientific knowledge."

There's a nice irony here since McFadden's talk promises to be about "the limits of rational behavior" in the private market decisions that consumers make. I take it that McFadden departs from strict rational-actor theory, but I probably won't find out until next week.

I'm becoming increasingly interested in economic theory because in my lectures on Western Civilization at Korea University, I've begun to emphasize the role of economics in historical change. If I don't know enough economics, how can I expect to explain -- or begin to explain -- such historical phenomena as Europe's commercial revolution in the twelfth and thirteenth centuries? If I can't do that, how can I attempt to explain the sudden renaissance of Europe so soon after the terrible Black Death of the thirteenth century? And if I can't do that, then how can I competently account for Europe's subsequent domination of the world?

Yes, I lie awake at night obsessing about such things . . .

Not that McFadden will be speaking about any of that. But given that his talk will present "an overview of research findings from consumer studies over the last 50 years," the historian in me is already interested anyway.

Friday, March 11, 2005

Ward Churchill: Another 15 Minutes of Infamy

Pardon me for another rant about Mr. Ward Churchill. I'd like to back up a couple of charges that I have made against him.

There is strong reason to believe that he has falsely claimed an Indian identity for himself.

There is convincing evidence that he has plagiarized works of art with American Indian themes and sold them under his own name as a Native American artist.

All this from a man who has made his scholarly career out of talks, articles, and books on how whites have stolen everything belonging to American Indians. What irony for him to be outted as a white man stealing their image, their identity -- and probably even one of their jobs.

Thursday, March 10, 2005

Ward Churchill's Analytical Failure

Unlike Ward Churchill, I really am part Cherokee. A good number of the old Ozark families are part Indian, usually Cherokee since the Ozarks were part of Indian territory when the tribe was removed from Georgia and North Carolina during the Jackson presidency in the early 19th century. Knowing these things, I have from early on had a double perspective on American history. When I was only about five years old, my maternal great-grandmother, who had married my half-Cherokee great-grandfather, informed me that I was part Indian, that I should be proud of this, and that nobody had been treated worse than the American Indians.

Be that as it may, I feel no resonance with any of Ward Churchill's statements in his article "'Some People Push Back': On the Justice of Roosting Chickens." On a few points, I might concede agreement. "The men who flew the missions against the WTC and Pentagon were not 'cowards.'" I agree. They did not fear death.

And on September 11, 2001, when I turned on the television and saw the destruction, I (like Ward Churchill) recalled Malcolm X's statement about chickens coming home to roost. It even framed part of my analysis -- except that I intended the expression in the sense of "blowback." I thought that our support of the Afghan jihad against the Soviet Union coupled with our subsequent neglect of Afghanistan after the Soviet Union's withdrawal had together catalyzed the growth of radical Islam worldwide and had blown up in our faces. In part, I think that this is what happened. But not entirely.

Precisely one year later, on September 11, 2002, I gave a presentation at Hanshin University in which I strove to understand the 9/11 attack. I noted there Malcolm X's remarks and acknowledged that Al-Qaeda doesn't like American foreign policy. But I then pointed out that:

"The flaw in an approach limited to this sort of analysis is that it makes the actions of the other purely reactive, as if Newton's third law of motion applied to political or religious movements, as if the other were not an active agent in world history. . . . 'Al-Qaeda didn't order the Taliban to destroy the Bamyan Buddhist statues because they hate America.'"

Following these words, I presented what I saw as some religious dimensions of the attack, citing Islamic tradition and commentary as well as the Qur'an itself as part of what motivated the terrorists.

Ward Churchill, however, had done some research and analysis of his own and had already concluded that the terrorists were:

"[not] 'fanatics' devoted to 'Islamic fundamentalism.' One might rightly describe their actions as 'desperate.' Feelings of desperation, however, are a perfectly reasonable -- one is tempted to say 'normal' -- emotional response among persons confronted by the mass murder of their children, particularly when it appears that nobody else really gives a damn (ask a Jewish survivor about this one, or, even more poignantly, for all the attention paid them, a Gypsy). That desperate circumstances generate desperate responses is no mysterious or irrational principle, of the sort motivating fanatics. Less is it one peculiar to Islam. Indeed, even the FBI's investigative reports on the combat teams' activities during the months leading up to September 11 make it clear that the members were not fundamentalist Muslims. Rather, it's pretty obvious at this point that they were secular activists -- soldiers, really -- who, while undoubtedly enjoying cordial relations with the clerics of their countries, were motivated far more by the grisly realities of the U.S. war against them than by a set of religious beliefs."

I don't know how soon after 9/11 Churchill published this, but his reference to "the FBI's investigative reports" suggests that some days had passed. If so, then he surely had time to read the text of the terrorists' last letter, which includes these words of guidance to prepare Mohamed Atta and the others for their act of sacred terror:

"6- Increase your mention of God's name. The best mention is reading the Qur'an. All scholars agreed to this. It is enough for us, that [the Qur'an] is the word of the Creator of Heaven and Earth, Who we are about to meet.
7- cleanse your heart of sins, forget and try to forget something called life. The time of play is over, now is the time of the true promise [of God]. How many [years] we have wasted [!] shouldn't we use these hours to present [to God, our] sacrifices and obedience."

Given these words, there can be no reasonable doubt that Atta and the others attempted to place their actions within Islamic tradition. The entire letter reads like a script for performing a sacramentally pure ritual. The terrorists were, despite Churchill, "'fanatics' devoted to 'Islamic fundamentalism.'"

In short, Ward Churchill, besides being morally obtuse in describing the 9/11 victims as "little Eichmanns," is also intellectually obtuse, even on a point as simple as this one.

Wednesday, March 09, 2005

Islam Needs an Enlightenment?

Some posts back, I expressed my doubts about applying the model of the Protestant Reformation to Islam. The Reformation was a bloody mess.

I also have reservations about applying the Enlightenment as a model. To the extent that the Enlightenment succeeded, it did so because Christianity had from its onset distinguished between a legitimate sphere for things religious and a legitimate sphere for things secular. Augustine called these the "City of God" and the "City of Man."

At issue was not the sacred/secular dividing line itself but precisely where to trace it.

Enlightenment thinkers wanted to draw the line as one between the public and the private. In their radical erasure and redrawing, the line that had separated two large, roughly equivalent realms was intended to become a circle of exceedingly small circumference. Christianity was to be circumscribed as an entirely private affair.

Islam, by contrast, has generally allowed no legitimate distinction between things religious and things secular. There is only one city, the "City of Allah" (i.e., Dar al-Islam) to which all else must submit or be submitted. With no distinction between mosque and state in Islam, could an Islamic Enlightenment succeed without destroying Islam?

According to the Ayatollah Khomeini: "Islam is politics or it is nothing."

Khomeini was a Shi'ite, but the same could be said for Sunni Islam.

Therefore if the Enlightenment model implies that Islam must first undergo an "enlightenment" so that it can subsequently distinguish mosque from state, then we face an intractable problem because the prior condition of a distinction between religious and secular is absent.

Yet if this Iraqi is right, then perhaps Islam needs no initial distinction between religious and secular: "The election was not only a triumph for our freedom, for our rebirth, but it was a nail in the coffin of Al-Qaeda." Politics is the art of discussion, negotiation, and compromise. Islam need not begin with the distinction between mosque and state. Given time, civil society can draw that conclusion.

Tuesday, March 08, 2005

Robert D. Kaplan Again

Kaplan's article "The Man Who Would Be Khan" in the March 2004 issue of the Atlantic Monthly introduced Colonel Tom Wilhelm as a soldier-diplomat in Mongolia. It's a fascinating portrait of the man and the mission. I note the article here because Wilhelm makes the claim that the effectiveness of the American military today stems from the growth of evangelical Christianity in its ranks, especially among its officers. Wilhelm is no evangelical, but he says that evangelicalism has reformed officers' personal behavior, broken down hierarchy, and brought the officers closer to the men serving under them, thereby enhancing bonding and loyalty.

I wish that I could quote his exact words, but the article has been archived (as you discovered).

Anyway, I was curious about this claim when I first encountered it about a year ago, so I wrote to a cousin of mine who is a officer at the Pentagon as well as an evangelical, asking his opinion. He hadn't read the article, but he admires Kaplan's work. His response was interesting in that despite being an evangelical, he didn't attempt to give credit to evangelicalism for the military's effectiveness. In his opinion, the reformed army's improvements stem from changes made by officers who had served in Vietnam and had seen firsthand the flaws that needed to be corrected.

I'd like to know more about Kaplan's own views on evangelicalism's role in the American military. Does anybody have a reference to an article or book where he discusses this?

Monday, March 07, 2005

U.S. Military: Pagan Ethos or Christian Ethic?

Robert D. Kaplan, author of numerous books and articles on topics military, political, and economic, has an interesting observation in his recent New York Times article, "A Force for Good":

"I have spent many months embedded with marines in Iraq, the Horn of Africa and West Africa, watching them fight, rebuild schools, operate medical clinics and mentor soldiers of fledgling democracies. I've learned that marines swear all the time out of habit, and love to be in on a fight, or otherwise they would not have joined the Marine Corps.

Yet those same swearing marines are capable of a self-discipline and humanitarian compassion -- drawn, often, from an absolute belief in the Almighty -- that would stun the average civilian. In Iraq, there was nothing more natural for marines (and soldiers, too) than to go from close-quarters urban combat to providing food and medicine, and back again."

I'm interested in the role of this "absolute belief in the Almighty" that Kaplan alludes to. I wish that he had explained how faith enables these marines to switch between the role of warrior and the role of humanitarian. Is Kaplan implying that their religious belief motivates them both as warriors and as humanitarians -- or that it motivates only their humanitarianism?

I ask this because elsewhere, in his book Warrior Politics, Kaplan apparently argues for the necessity of a pagan ethos rather than a Judeo-Christian one for leadership in war (and other realms).

Sunday, March 06, 2005

Pastor Choi Il-Do of Dail Church

My wife and I are working together to translate a Korean book by Pastor Choi Il-Do (최일도). For you Koreaphiles out there, here's the bibliographical information in Korean:

최일도: 밥짓는 시인 퍼주는 사랑. 시인목사 최일도의 아름다운 세상찾기.

We've finished a second draft of the translation and are currently reworking toward a third one. My wife hasn't yet translated the title, however, and due to the abysmal condition of my Korean, I cannot provide an accurate rendition. I think that it's something like:

"A Poet Making Rice, Scooping Love"

But I suspect that we're going to need to find some other title in English. First published in 1995, the book was a bestseller here in Korea. Choi now wants to publish it in the United States.

I'm trying to figure out what sort of marketing niche the book will fit into. It's a biography that explains how Choi founded Dail Church, which is located in a poor area of Seoul (Junnong-Dong, since you asked) and which provides free meals, shelter, and medical service for the poor and aged.

But the book offers more than this. It's also the story of how a young wanderer and aspiring Protestant minister growing up in the dictatorial era of President Park fell in love with a Catholic nun whose heart he won through poetry and persistance. In short, a love story.

That's the first half. The second half tells the tale of how Choi's life as a seminary student was transformed by a chance encounter with a homeless man in a train station. This so affected him that he began cooking ramyon (spicey Korean noodles) on the streets to feed the homeless drunkards. That was in late 1988, and by 1995, Choi was offering free medical care and planning a hospital. In short, a social-gospel story.

Two different stories, one life.

Anyway, for readers interested in learning more about the Dail Church, the House of Sharing, and Angel Hospital, please visit the blog of Dail English Pastor Aaron Krueger:

Those proficient in Korean (not I) can visit the official Dail Church website:

Dail Church welcomes any support and assistance, of course, so if anyone wishes to help, please visit the websites and establish contact via email.

Saturday, March 05, 2005

No Free Lunch

In the autumn of 1988, I was enjoying what was to be my final year living stateside. No longer commuting from Stanford, I was living in Berkeley and focusing on my doctoral research after some four years of knocking about intellectually. During that time of searching, I must have audited about every undergraduate history course that Berkeley offered, along with a few in sociology, religious studies, political science, and whatnot. I had finally stumbled across an idea on John's Gospel and Gnosticism, and that had given me direction.

To support my studies, I worked at two jobs. One was as a Teaching Assistant for a course with the odd title "Subject A." Informally, it was known as "Bonehead English," which was not quite politically correct but also not really accurate, either. I taught freshman students how to compose essays that argued for an explicitly stated thesis using basic logic and supportive evidence. This was my real job.

My other job was a sinecure. Near the top of Stephens Hall was a large lounge with a high ceiling, perhaps 25 feet up, from which hung two enormous chandeliers that would sway threateningly at the slightest Bay Area quake. We called the place Stephens Lounge, and two or three other graduate students and I were employed to keep it stocked with cookies, tea, and coffee -- at a price. No free lunch, remember? Anyone wanting cookies and a drink had to drop some small change into a styrofoam cup. We didn't police our patrons carefully, but most people must have been honest, for we always had enough money to purchase more supplies.

I loved the job. I needed only show up, make coffee, and settle down with my books for peaceful hours of study. As I said, a sinecure.

One of my co-workers was John Gerring, who now teaches at Boston University. I no longer recall if he or I had the idea, but we decided to pretend that the lounge was short on funds and now needed to charge for its various services, not just for the cookies and drinks.

But what services? There were none.

There was, however, the enormous, well-thumbed Webster's Dictionary positioned on its own proud podium and used by about everyone.

We decided to charge for words. I made a sign showing the prices. Nouns were more expensive than verbs, and abstract nouns were the most expensive. If I recall correctly, a verb was 10 cents, a noun 15 cents, and an abstract noun 30 cents, but you could get two non-abstract nouns for 25 cents.

We taped our sign and waited . . .

Nothing happened. We received some smiles but no extra small change.

Time passed. The sign was forgotten. Peace reigned supreme.

Until one day, late in the afternoon, as I sat in the lounge grading midterm essays . . . . So intent was I on my reading and marking that only gradually did it dawn on me that something was odd in the room.

I looked up, my pen still in my hand, uncapped, hovering over some unfortunate student's essay. Immediately to my left, and pacing to and fro, was a very filthy, very disturbed young man. The entire lounge had stopped all activity, attention focused on him. With all eyes following his movements, he briskly strode over to the dictionary and there began paging quickly through it, flipping great chunks of pages over as if they were blocks, letting them plop down again as though into mud, a few of the pages splashing up from the impact.

A young man asleep in the couch next to me awoke disturbed, rubbed his eyes, looked at the crazy from the street, then stared at me in astonishment. The insane fellow at the dictionary continued his research, mumbling audibly, incoherently . . . threateningly? By now, all eyes had turned to me, imploring that I do something, something please to get rid of this guy.

Not violently, you understand, for this was Berkeley -- no physical force allowed! At Berkeley, we'd much rather ignore, hoping that our problem would recognize that it is a problem -- holding ourselves indefinitely in this subjunctive mood.

But this problem insisted on remaining, and everyone realized it. I had to do something. But what?

Then, I smiled, remembering the sign. I got up, walked over to the gentleman, and -- pointing to our sign -- softly explained: "Um . . . excuse me, but if you're going to use our dictionary, you have to pay."

He glanced at me briefly, nodded, then returned to his preoccupation.

Unrelenting, I continued, "You see -- it's 10 cents per verb and 15 cents for a noun, but there's a special on two basic nouns for a quarter."

He looked up, concentrating now upon the notice.

"And," I added, "abstractions cost 30 cents each, no reductions or discounts on those."

He now looked directly at me, as though trying to gauge my honesty. I half-expected him to blurt out -- "But that's crazy!"

Instead, he asked, "Where do I pay?"

I turned, pointing across the room, and explained, "At the coffee machine -- there's a styrofoam cup with change. The honor system."

He walked over to the coffee table, stared at the cup for a moment, then looked at me again. "Does the coffee also cost money?"

"Yes," I said, "The tea and cookies, too."

He ruminated upon all this for a few moments, then turned to leave, apparently dissatisfied with our selection.

"Sure that you don't want any words?" I asked softly, as he walked away.

He didn't hear, though, but simply vanished as mysteriously as he had appeared . . .

Islam Needs a Reformation?

Does Islam need a Reformation? That's the claim sometimes made, but it's a problematic one. Protestants vowed to restore the early Church in its purity from idolatry and its reliance upon scripture alone. In the Muslim context, that could mean something like a Wahabi version of Islam. Perhaps a Muslim Reformation has been growing since the 19th century but is only now having a global impact on non-Muslims.

I've been reading Jacques Barzun's From Dawn to Decadence: 1500 to the Present: 500 Years of Western Cultural Life (New York: Perennial, 2001). Here's what he says about the violent years of Protestant reform:

"Violent events were to be typical of European life till the middle of the 17C. Riot, combat, sieges and sacks of towns, burnings at the stake, and escape by self-exile repeat without letup. In Germany, 23 years of war, with breathing spells, kept in the field two unstable leagues of princes, Protestant and Catholic. In the Netherlands, the seesaw went on for a somewhat shorter time; likewise in the Swiss cantons, where the capable leader Huldreich Zwingli, by combining theology with economic reform, provoked the war in which he met his death. In France the last 30 years of the century were devoted to eight bouts of civil war, with ambush, assassination, and massacre in between, including the famous one on the feast day of St. Bartholomew. The English Civil War, also impelled by sectarian passions, was reserved for the next century." (Barzun, Dawn to Decadence, 15-16)

From Luther's 1517 posting of his 95 proposition down to the 1660 reversal of the English experiment in Puritan politics covers about a century and a half. Religious turmoil can last a long time, and we currently suffer the misfortune of living in these "interesting times." Expect to remain 'interested' for a while.

Friday, March 04, 2005

I Serve the Queen

In the early 1980s, I had a conversation with the Queen of England, who made a point of thanking me for all that I had done for her.

At the time, I was taking graduate courses in the history of science at U.C. Berkeley and commuting by Guttenberg Express from Stanford. To earn money, I worked as a bartender for Victoria Emmons Catering. Victoria was a French woman who had studied various languages, including Russian, and was married to Dr. Terence Emmons, who taught Russian history at Stanford. My 'significant other' and I often babysat their young children ... for free.

Victoria was a great cook and a wonderful person whose logic usually escaped me despite her sterling Cartesian qualities. I was so accustomed to disagreeing with her that upon being informed that she was on my side in a dispute, I quipped, "Well, if Victoria is on my side, then I must be wrong!"

Victoria hadn't yet opened her restaurant, but her cooking was already renowned enough for Stanford to rely on her when somebody important needed good food.

The Queen was visiting Stanford, and she was considered important.

As bartender, my job was to keep her happy. Since I was head bartender, I was also selected to serve her the initial drink. We caterers were behind the kitchen in Stanford's Hanna House, working out of a tiny space that seemed more like a passageway between rooms than a functional workspace designed by Frank Lloyd Wright.

Some little guy from the British Consulate was going mad because he felt that we were taking too long, so he tried to squeeze into that narrow room where we were mixing the the Queen's drink, saying, "I'll do it." In one of my rare moments of grace under pressure, I turned to him and said, "No, there are too many people in here already. You stay out there. I'll prepare the drink." He backed off.

I mixed a gin and tonic (if I recall), with a liberal amount of ice, placed the drink on a silver platter, and accompanied the British fellow (we were friends now) to the terrace where the Queen was standing. He said, "Your majesty, your drink."

She turned, looked at the drink, then looked at me, then looked at the drink, then looked at me, then stated in a stately head-of-state way:

"Thank You." (Yes, it was unhyphenated, with both words capitalized. Somehow.)

I rose to the occasion: "You're welcome," I assured her.

Later, I remembered that the British don't put ice in their drinks.

Thursday, March 03, 2005

Those Earthy Germans!

Back when I was still a struggling graduate student, I spent six years (1989-1995) in Tuebingen, Germany pursuing my doctoral research. Professor Otto Betz, of the Protestant faculty, was my genial advisor, and I attended his weekly New Testament Seminar, which had the advantage (for me) of being held in English. Except for the Greek, of course. And the Latin. And the Hebrew. And the Aramaic. And the Coptic. And the ... but I'm getting off topic.

Betz used to relate a host of interesting anecdotes, including from his time in the 1960s teaching in Chicago, where he had even had Jesse Jackson as a student. According to Betz, Jackson often skipped class "to fight sin in South Chicago" but would drop by his place at midnight for a cup of milk.

Politically, Betz tended toward social liberalism. Theologically, he was conservative. Personally, he was generous, both with his time and his advice. He was the sort of advisor who always found time to chat, on practically any subject, and we often met for coffee and wide-ranging talks. Some of these meetings were arranged; others were purely by chance.

This one was a chance meeting. I was sitting in the theology building's cafe, enjoying a cup of bitter coffee in one of those small cups that Europeans like to use for cafe creme -- unlike an American cappuccino that'll mug you. Betz happened in, saw me, and shuffled over to join in a cup and klatsch. At that time, around 1991, he was in his 70s, so he was slowing down, physically, and was even a little stooped in the shoulders, but he was mentally alert and had a spry sense of humor (rather atypical for a German).

Somehow, our conversation wound onto the topic of my grandparents. I told Betz that my grandfather had been a pack-a-day smoker for his entire adult life, and that the habit had finally killed him at 87.

Betz smiled at my dry remark.

"Grandpa did manage to stop for a few years in his late 70s," I noted, "but when he got into his 80s, he took it up again, and Grandma let him."

"He probably got some pleasure out of that," Betz observed.

"Yes," I agreed.

Betz's words reminded me of an old joke, so I said. "There were two men talking about old age, and one of them boasted, 'My uncle never smoked, drank, or chased women, and he lived to be 105!' The other man retorted, 'What for?'"

At that, Betz laughed so hard that his shoulders shook and his eyes watered, so much so that he had to rub them dry.

When he had recovered, we talked a bit longer, but only a minute or so, for Betz had to go. As he was slowly raising himself up from his chair, I politely inquired, "You can't stay a little longer?"

"No," he replied, "I've got to go home and chase my wife."