Thursday, July 05, 2007

Yo Ho Ho and a Bottle of Wine!

I've finished writing my paper on Sir Gawain and the Green Knight. My next step is to do the research.

I know, I know, that sounds like putting Descartes before the hearse -- 'he thought, therefore he was' in the way -- but that's how I write my scholarly papers these days. I have my 'big idea' first, I think about it a bit, I convince myself that I'm right, I write the paper in a short time, and I then set sail for the wide seas of scholarship on a treasure hunt.

I admit that I do look for a few trinkets in the process of writing, but the search for scholarly treasure generally comes later. I'm now at this "later" stage.

Anyway, for those of you still reading this stuff, here's what I finished up with yesterday, my grand "Conclusion":
As noted at the outset of this paper, Gawain's quest has led him through the paradox of Christian salvation wherein his very failure itself has prepared him properly for redemption. Although a pious Christian devoted to the Virgin Mary, Gawain is too proud in his virtues despite his courteous air of humility. As with the others at the court of Arthur, Gawain suffers a surfeit of pride, and his faith must be tested through the various games set up by the Green Knight. Specifically, he is tested in his courage, his troth, and his celibacy. Readers see clearly that he fails in his faith by placing his trust in the green belt rather than the Virgin Mary. This reliance upon the 'magical' belt calls his courage into doubt as well. Retaining the belt rather than handing it over to Lord Bertilak shows that he fails in his troth. The Green Knight observes that Gawain fails in his courage and his troth, so this is also quite clear to readers. Readers might miss the way in which Gawain falls into a lecherous adultery of the heart, for he seems to have displayed remarkable restraint in resisting the advances of an extraordinarily beautiful, charming, and seductive lady, and the Green Knight himself states that Gawain has not failed due to "wooing" (wowyng, line 2367 (cf. 2361)). However, from Gawain's self-condemnation, one sees that he focuses upon two failings, his cowardice and his sexual coveting (couetyse, line 2374) of Lord Bertilak’s wife. Gawain may have satisfied the Green Knight on this point, but the falseness of his own heart condemns him, for he has failed to remain chaste within -- he has failed to stay celibate and true to the Virgin Mary. His fall, however, can become a felix culpa, a happy fault, if the blow dealt his pride leads him to true repentance. Concerning this final stage of redemption, the text remains silent. Perhaps, then, Gawain has yet a few more quests to undertake in his path toward self-knowledge.
That brief conclusion brought my paper to precisely 24 pages ... though it will surpass that today as I launch my scholarly craft, run up my Jolly Roger, and start raiding other people's papers.

Now, however, is a moment to treasure. "Yo ho ho and a bottle of wine!" Just let me uncork a fine American wine. Yes, an American wine, despite the advice of Korean wine expert Lee Je-chun, proprietor of Jell Wine in Itaewon-dong. Some of you will recall Lee's remarks about avoiding American wines:
"They cost so much because the land is the most expensive in the world," says Lee. "With good American wines you are paying a lot for the soil and not so much for the grapes." (Daniel Jeffreys, "Looking for a good wine? It's all a matter of balance," JoongAng Daily, May 18, 2007)
At the time, I took issue with this ... twice. I doubt that American land is the most expensive in the world, even in California, and as my friend and wine expert Bruce Cochran retorted:
How much does land cost in those Burgundian vineyards he likes? Or Bordeaux (the best parts)?
I can't imagine that land in Europe is actually cheaper than land in the US, but I'm willing to hear what the real estate experts say on this. Meanwhile, I can report that one is not "paying a lot for the soil" in buying American wines. According to a recent article by Jon Herskovitz (and Jessica Kim) in Reuters, "South Korea wine mart ready to toast U.S. trade deal" (June 30, 2007), prices for American wines in Korea are "due to high mark-ups, taxes, distribution costs and government regulations" on the Korean side (and not because of American land prices). But those high Korean wine prices might be going down ... eventually. Here's the story:
South Korea's free trade pact with the United States signed at the weekend should nicely pair South Korea's steadily growing wine market with the export ambitions of U.S. wine makers.

But it may take several years of ageing before it leads to a drop in exorbitant wine prices in South Korea.

"Korea is due for a big boom in California wine," said Dan Schulte, a senior executive with major importer Pieroth Korea.

When the free trade deal comes into effect with the United States, it will lead to a lot more wine on the market, but the price drop from the tax cuts may not be quickly passed on to consumers, Schulte and other wine industry sources said.

The few South Koreans who are regular wine drinkers are used to paying a premium for the beverage and it will take a much larger number of consumers, who are better informed about global prices, before a bottle becomes cheaper, they said.

A paper from the U.S. Embassy in Seoul shows retail wine prices in South Korea are about two to four times those in the United States due to high mark-ups, taxes, distribution costs and government regulations.


South Korean media have said the trade deal with the United States, and one in the works with the European Union, could lead to a sea change in the world's 12th largest economy, turning wine from a niche drinking choice to a mainstream beverage.

A trade deal with Chile in 2004 brought about lower prices, more varieties of wine from the South American country coming into South Korea and led to about a five-fold increase in sales.


Jerome Stubert, general manager of the Novotel Ambassador in Seoul said the FTA would push up sales of U.S. wine in the same way it did for Chilean wine. But the free trade deal in the works with the EU is the one to watch.
In short, the high price of American wines, despite Lee Je-chun's remarks, is not due to high land prices in the States but, rather, a consequence of distribution costs combined with high markups and government taxes -- all of these on the Korean side of the wine trade.

This Reuters report also appeared in the July 2nd edition of The Korea Herald, (page 6, columns 2-5), but I couldn't locate the online version. However, I do have the hard copy, and I've a good mind to march right over to Jell Wine in Itaewon-dong and wave it in Mr. Lee's face.

Actually, I'd have to march right over to a nearby bus stop, catch a bus to Bonghwasan Station, march right down to the subway, catch a train to Itaewon Station, march right up to the street level, and then march right around looking for Jell Wine.

Sounds like too damned much marching for a hot summer day, so I think that I'll just stay here and enjoy a refreshing white wine from America and toast the day that the FTA brings those wine prices down and Mr. Lee gets his comeuppance in a new "Judgment of Paris"!

When I'll be chortling, "Yo ho ho and a bottle of wine!"

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