Friday, January 30, 2009 1/30/09--Buddhist Monasteries

In today's excerpt-from modest beginnings in India in the sixth century BCE, Buddhism had spread through Asia and along with it arose a vast chain of Buddhist monasteries that by the seventh century CE provided commercial and diplomatic links throughout the Asian world. This network of monasteries extended from Persia (Iran) and Afghanistan through the steppe country to India, China, Korea and Japan, and then south to Java (Indonesia). Some monasteries housed more than 10,000 monks. Yet within a century, most Indian kings were patronizing Hindu gods and temples, and Buddhism began to disappear from the country of its origin, though it continued to flourish elsewhere:

"In Buddhism, the individual monk was responsible for his own progress toward enlightenment. It was up to him to seek knowledge, study, and find the correct path. In [the sixth century CE], the institutional structure for this search was the chain of monasteries across much of China. ...

"Buddhism spread steadily within India and out from India along both land and maritime trade routes. By the first centuries of the Common Era, Buddhism was the predominant religion in the sprawling Kushan Empire that stretched from Central Asia through Pakistan and Afghanistan to the plains of India. Monasteries were an important part of every oasis town on the caravan routes from Afghanistan to China. Some monasteries were built in isolated places to accommodate caravans whose traders, in turn, donated money for their upkeep. Along water routes, Buddhism spread from India to Sri Lanka, into Southeast Asia, and eventually reached coastal China. ...

"Buddhist monasteries provided practical benefits for both a king and his subjects. The chain of monasteries was an infrastructure that promoted trade. Wherever Buddhism flourished, traders were prominent patrons of shrines and monasteries. One incarnation of the Buddha, the compassionate Avalokiteshvara, became a kind of patron saint of traders and travelers. In a world of disease and death, monasteries were also repositories of medical knowledge. ...

"Everywhere Buddhism flourished it was supported by royal and noble patronage, supplemented by pious women and traders. Across the chain of Buddhist institutions moved teachers, ritual objects, texts, medicines, ideas, and trade. Curiosity and hospitality were hallmarks of the system. Although specific practices might differ, all Buddhist travelers, whether monk or layman, found similar settings and symbols in Buddhist monasteries and rest houses."

Stewart Gordon, When Asia Was the World, Da Capo, Copyright 2008 by Stewart Gordon, pp. 4-17

Thursday, January 29, 2009 1/29/09--Sir Isaac Newton

In today's encore excerpt--Sir Isaac Newton, whose masterwork Mathematical Principles of Natural History was one of the two or three most foundational and influential works in all of Western Science. This work had as its core his three laws of motion and his universal law of gravitation:

"Newton was a decidedly odd figure--brilliant beyond measure, but solitary, joyless, prickly to the point of paranoia, famously distracted (upon swinging his feet out of bed in the morning he would reportedly sometimes sit for hours, immobilized by the sudden rush of thoughts to his head), and capable of the most riveting strangeness. He built his own laboratory, the first at Cambridge, but then engaged in the most bizarre experiments. Once he inserted a bodkin--a long needle of the sort used for sewing leather--into his eye socket and rubbed it around 'betwixt my eye and the bone near to the backside of my eye as I could' just to see what would happen. What happened, miraculously, was nothing--at least nothing lasting. On another occasion, he stared at the sun for as long as he could bear, to determine what effect it would have upon his vision. Again he escaped lasting damage, though he had to spend some days in a darkened room before his eyes forgave him.

"Set atop these ... quirky traits, however, was the mind of a supreme genius. ... [As recounted by] Newton confidant, Abraham DeMoivre, 'In 1684 Dr. Edmond Halley [of Halley's comet fame] came to visit at Cambridge and after they had some time together the Doctor asked [Newton] what he thought the curve would be that would be described by the planets supposing the force of attraction toward the sun to be reciprocal to the square of their distance from it.' This was a reference to a piece of mathematics known as the inverse square law, which Halley was convinced lay at the heart of the explanation, though he wasn't sure exactly how. 'Sir Isaac replied immediately that it would be an ellipse. The Doctor, struck with joy and amazement, asked him how he knew it. 'Why,' saith he, 'I have calculated it,' whereupon Dr. Halley asked him for his calculation without further delay, Sir Isaac looked among his papers but could not find it.'

"This was astounding--like someone saying that he had found a cure for cancer but couldn't remember where he had put the formula. Pressed by Halley, Newton agreed to redo the calculations and produce a paper. He did as promised, but then did much more. He retired for two years of intensive reflection and scribbling, and at length produced his masterwork: the Philosophiae Naturalis Principia Mathematica or Mathematical Principles of Natural Philosophy, better known as the Principia."

Bill Bryson, A Short History of Nearly Everything, Broadway Books, Copyright 2003 by Bill Bryson, pp. 46-48.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009 1/28/09--Our American Ancestors

In today's excerpt--early British colonizers of America in the 1600s and 1700s needed laborers for their new colonies:

"They needed a compliant, subservient, preferably free labour force and since the indigenous peoples of America were difficult to enslave they turned to their own homeland to provide. They imported Britons deemed to be 'surplus' people--the rootless, the unemployed, the criminal and the dissident--and held them in the Americas in various forms of bondage for anything from three years to life. ... In the early decades, half of them died in bondage.

"Among the first to be sent were children. Some were dispatched by impoverished parents seeking a better life for them. But others were forcibly deported. In 1618, the authorities in London began to sweep up hundreds of troublesome urchins from the slums and, ignoring protests from the children and their families, shipped them to Virginia. ... It was presented as an act of charity: the 'starving children' were to be given a new start as apprentices in America. In fact, they were sold to planters to work in the fields and half of them were dead within a year. Shipments of children continued from England and then from Ireland for decades. Many of these migrants were little more than toddlers. In 1661, the wife of a man who imported four 'Irish boys' into Maryland as servants wondered why her husband had not brought 'some cradles to have rocked them in' as they were 'so little.'

"A second group of forced migrants from the mother country were those, such as vagrants and petty criminals, whom England's rulers wished to be rid of. The legal ground was prepared for their relocation by a highwayman turned Lord Chief Justice ,who argued for England's jails to be emptied in America. Thanks to men like him, 50,000 to 70,000 convicts (or maybe more) were transported to Virginia, Maryland, Barbados and England's other American possessions before 1776. ...

"A third group were the Irish. ... Under Oliver Cromwell's ethnic-cleansing policy in Ireland, unknown numbers of Catholic men, women and children were forcibly transported to the colonies. And it did not end with Cromwell; for at least another hundred years, forced transportation continued as a fact of life in Ireland. ...

"The other unwilling participants in the colonial labour force were the kidnapped. Astounding numbers are reported to have been snatched from the streets and countryside by gangs of kidnappers or 'spirits' working to satisfy the colonial hunger for labour. Based at every sizeable port in the British Isles, spirits conned or coerced the unwary onto ships bound for America. ... According to a contemporary who campaigned against the black slave trade, kidnappers were snatching an average of around 10,000 whites a year--doubtless an exaggeration but one that indicates a problem serious enough to create its own grip on the popular mind.' "

Don Jordan and Michael Walsh, White Cargo, New York University Press, Copyright 2007 by Don Jordan and Michael Walsh, pp. 12-14

Tuesday, January 27, 2009 1/27/09--Beef

In today's excerpt-beef. In nature, cows graze and eat prairie grass. In the beef industry, cows are taken to CAFOs-Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations-where they live in stalls and are fed corn. It is this beef that ends up on our dinner tables:

"So then why [aren't steers fed grass]? Speed, in a word, or, in the industry's preferred term, 'efficiency.' Cows raised on grass simply take longer to reach slaughter weight than cows raised on a richer diet, and for half a century now the industry has devoted itself to shortening a beef animal's allotted span on earth. 'In my grandfather's time, cows were four or five years old at slaughter,' [a CAFO operator] explained. 'In the fifties, when my father was ranching, it was two or three years old. Now we get there at fourteen to sixteen months.' Fast food, indeed. What gets a steer from 80 to 1,100 pounds in fourteen months is tremendous quantities of corn, protein and fat supplements, and an arsenal of new drugs. ...

"[At the CAFO's] thundering hub, three meals a day for thirty-seven thousand animals are designed and mixed by computer. A million pounds of feed pass through the mill each day. Every hour of every day a tractor trailer pulls up to the loading dock to deliver another fifty tons of corn. ... [to which are added] thousands of gallons of liquefied fat and protein supplements, vats of liquid vitamins and synthetic estrogen, and ... fifty-pound sacks of antibiotics--Rumensin and Tylosin. Along with alfalfa hay and silage (for roughage), all these ingredients will be automatically blended and then piped into the parade of dump trucks that three times a day fan out from here to keep the [CAFO's] eight and a half miles of trough filled. ...

"We've come to think of 'corn-fed' as some kind of old-fashioned virtue, which it may well be when you're referring to Midwestern children, but feeding large quantities of corn to cows for the greater part of their lives is a practice neither particularly old nor virtuous....

"Cattle rarely live on feedlot diets for more than 150 days, which might be about as much as their systems can tolerate. 'I don't know how long you could feed them this ration before you'd see problems,' [Vetenarian] Dr. Mel Metzin said; another vet told me the diet would eventually 'blow out their livers' and kill them. Over time the acids eat away at the rumen wall, allowing bacteria to enter the animal's bloodstream. These microbes wind up in the liver, where they form abscesses and impair the liver's function. Between 15 percent and 30 percent of feedlot cows are found at slaughter to have abscessed livers. ... What keeps a feedlot animal healthy--or healthy enough--are antibiotics."

Michael Pollan, The Omnivore's Dilemma, Penguin, Copyright 2006 by Michael Pollan, pp. 71-78

Monday, January 26, 2009 1/26/09--Taste

In today's excerpt--the concept of good taste. As a larger merchant class and middle-class began to emerge in England and Western Europe, money alone was no longer a sufficient way for the wealthy to distinguish themselves from the lesser classes. So the concept of "taste" emerged as a means for the "elite" to assert superiority over those whose wealth was beginning to ascend:

"'Taste' is a term which first acquired prominence in England in the later 17th century. As goods multiplied, it became ... an important form of cultural differentiation. As a contemporary noted in 1633, 'great folks' always had a tendency to 'think nothing of that which is common and ordinary people may easily come by.' Taste involved transcending mere financial criteria when assessing the value of goods, introducing instead a subtler and more elusive yardstick.

"It implied a capacity for discrimination of the kind shown in 1606 by the wine connoisseur Captain Dawtrey, who, 'taking the glass in his hand, held it up awhile betwixt him and the window, as to consider the colour; and then putting it to his nose he seemed to take comfort in the odour of the same.' It required the ability to choose the best out of a wide range of functionally indistinguishable options, like the 50 different patterns of wallpaper that on one occasion in 1752 confronted the poet William Shenstone. The essayist Joseph Addison compared a person who had true taste in literary matters with the man who could identify each of ten different kinds of tea or any combination of them. ...

"Taste was notoriously a quality which the vulgar lacked, for they were without the necessary education and experience, whereas connoisseurs were cultivated, well travelled and 'conversant with the better sort of people.' 'Those who depend for food on bodily labour,' ruled the critic Lord Kames in 1762, 'are totally devoid of taste.' The middle-class inhabitants of the London suburbs were scorned by their social superiors for their bad taste, manifested in the embarrassingly derivative style of their houses and gardens. Taste was the prerogative of the 'polite.' It was a faculty which required education, foreign travel and close conformity to the standard set by an elite minority. In Samuel Johnson's words, 'a few, a very few, commonly constitute the taste of the time' (1754). ...

"The competition thus shifted away from the conspicuous display of opulence to a more restrained demonstration of elegance, refinement and fastidious discrimination. ... The ownership of culturally esteemed objects became a symbol of status; and the claim to superior sensibilities, defined as the capacity to feel pain at what causes no pain to others, emerged, in Jeremy Bentham's words, as 'a mark of ... belonging to the ruling few.' The purchasing power of the middling and lower classes might rise, but the elite could hold on to its monopoly of cultural capital by asserting that wealth was not enough."

Keith Thomas, "To Buy or Not to Buy," History Today, Volume: 59 Issue: 2 , pp. 12-13.

Friday, January 23, 2009 1/23/09--Fritz Haber

In today's excerpt--Fritz Haber, whose 1909 development of a process to synthetically manufacture nitrogen was perhaps the most important invention of the twentieth century, since it enabled the synthetic manufacture of gunpowder, thus enabling wars of the unprecedented scope of World Wars I and II, and also allowed the manufacture of artificial fertilizers, thus enabling the growth of world population from under two billion in 1900 to almost 7 billion in 2000. Haber's story embodies the paradoxes of science: the double edge to our manipulations of nature, the good and evil that can flow not only from the same man but the same knowledge:

"The discovery of synthetic nitrogen changed everything--not just for the corn plant and the farm, not just for the food system, but also for the way life on earth is conducted. All life depends on nitrogen; it is the building block from which nature assembles amino acids, proteins, and nucleic acids; the genetic information that orders and perpetuates life is written in nitrogen ink. But the supply of usable nitrogen on earth is limited. ... Until a German Jewish chemist named Fritz Haber figured out how to turn this trick in 1909, all the usable nitrogen on earth had at one time been fixed by soil bacteria living on the roots of leguminous plants (such as peas or alfalfa or locust trees) or, less commonly, by the shock of electrical lightning, which can break nitrogen bonds in the air, releasing a light rain of fertility. ...

"Before Fritz Haber's invention the sheer amount of life earth could support--the size of crops and therefore the number of human bodies--was limited by the amount of nitrogen that bacteria and lightning could fix. By 1900, European scientists recognized that unless a way was found to augment this naturally occurring nitrogen, the growth of the human population would soon grind to a very painful halt. ...

"This is why it may not be hyperbole to claim that the Haber-Bosch process (Carl Bosch gets the credit for commercializing Haber's idea) for fixing nitrogen is the most important invention of the twentieth century. [Geographer Vaclav Smil] estimates that two of every five humans on earth today would not be alive if not for Fritz Haber's invention. We can easily imagine a world without computers or electricity, Smil points out, but without synthetic fertilizer billions of people would never have been born.

"Fritz Haber? No, I'd never heard of him either, even though he was awarded the Nobel Prize in 1920 for 'improving the standards of agriculture and the well-being of mankind.' ... During World War I, Haber threw himself into the German war effort, and his chemistry kept alive Germany's hopes for victory. After Britain choked off Germany's supply of nitrates from Chilean mines, an essential ingredient in the manufacture of explosives, Haber's technology allowed Germany to continue making bombs from synthetic nitrate. Later, as the war became mired in the trenches of France, Haber put his genius for chemistry to work developing poison gases-ammonia, then chlorine. (He subsequently developed Zyklon B, the gas used in Hitler's concentration camps.) On April 22, 1915, Haber was on the front lines directing the first gas attack in military history.

"His 'triumphant' return to Berlin was ruined a few days later when his wife, a fellow chemist sickened by her husband's contribution to the war effort, used Haber's army pistol to kill herself. Though Haber later converted to Christianity, his Jewish background forced him to flee Nazi Germany in the thirties; he died, broken, in a Basel hotel room in 1934. Perhaps because the history of science gets written by the victors, Fritz Haber's story has been all but written out of the twentieth century. Not even a plaque marks the site of his great discovery at the University of Karlsruhe."

Michael Pollan, The Omnivore's Dilemma, Penguin, Copyright 2006 by Michael Pollan, pp. 42-44

Thursday, January 22, 2009 1/22/09--The French Language

In today's encore excerpt--the language of the French nation. With the arrival of the 18th and 19th centuries came the rise of the "nation" in a sense not previously seen in Europe. This nationalism--which was to be achieved through a common language and a common sense of identity and purpose--was needed in part as a replacement for the divine right of kings and the unifying influence that it had long provided. As Graham Robb's book The Discovery of France shows, this new nationalism came more readily in large cities than in remote villages in the period following the Revolution:

"Again and again, Robb shows how the centralizing ambitions of the metropolis were thwarted by peoples who barely considered themselves to be 'French' and did not even speak the language.

" 'O Oc Si Bai Ya Win Oui Oyi Awe Jo Ja Oua' is the title of one of Robb's chapters--just a few of the many words for 'Yes' in the micro-dialects of France. In 1794, the Abbe Gregoire sent out a questionnaire to town halls asking how patois--which the Encyclopedie defined as 'corrupt language as spoken in almost all the provinces'--could be destroyed. His survey revealed that France contained a mere 3 million pure French-speakers, 11 percent of the population. More than 6 million were in total ignorance of the French language. The abbe found this alarming. 'In liberty, we are the advance-guard of nations. In language, we are still at the Tower of Babel.' He followed this up with a report, 'The Necessity and Means of Exterminating Patois and Universalizing the Use of the French language'. To the abbe, the Babel of patois was dangerous because it undermined patriotism. How could there possibly be a nation without a common language?

"Reading Robb, one is left suddenly uncertain as to whether France ever really was a complete nation, at least until the early twentieth century. Even in 1863, a quarter of army recruits spoke only patois. As late as 1880, only a fifth of the population was entirely at ease in the French language. And this linguistic alienation went hand in hand with a hostility to the idea of France itself. The abbe was right to have been worried. In Gascony and Provence, they spoke contemptuously of the 'Franchiman' and the 'Franciot', by which they meant the people from the north [of France]. Elsewhere, Robb depicts fierce local communities in which there was violent prejudice both against visitors and against neighboring settlements. In the early 1740s, a cartographer taking part in the Cassini mission to make for the first time a reliable map of France was hacked to death in a tiny village in the Massif Central called Les Estables. A savage and irrational act? Not according to Robb, who argues that these people 'were defending themselves against an act of war'. To be mapped out was eventually, over time, to be phased out of existence."

Bee Wilson, "The Truth is Out There," a review of Graham Robb's new book The Discovery of France in The Times Literary Supplement, January 4, 2008, p. 13

Wednesday, January 21, 2009 1/21/09--Whitman and War

In today's excerpt-Walt Whitman in the American Civil War. Because his adored brother George was an officer in the Union army, Walt --who many consider to be America's most original poet--was drawn to the war as a hospital volunteer:

"Working as a government copyist to pay the rent, and 'hacking on the press' [for extra funds] whenever he could, Walt Whitman nursed and gave other assistance for four or five hours per day, five or six days a week [in makeshift Union hospitals]. By his own reckoning he cared for more than 80,000 soldiers in the course of the war. He assisted at amputations, carried bedpans, fed those too weak to feed themselves, held the hands or mopped the brows of men dying of typhoid, dysentery, pyemia (an epidemic blood infection), and systemic gangrene. He wrote hundreds of letters of condolence, and those few letters not lost to history exhibit an affecting restraint. Walt's instinctive sympathy for the parents and other relatives of the young men sacrificed in the war led him neither to patriotic effusions ('Rest assured that your son died in a noble cause, there being no greater honor than to shed one's blood for one's country,' etc.) nor to religious or religio-mystical hyperventilations. He was not of the school that asserts that the dead are better off, that they have gone to a better place. Rather, his letters of condolence tended to describe the young man so painfully lost in terms that a father or mother or brother or sister could readily understand and would long remember: how the boy behaved at the end; what he said, if anything; whether he had lost weight, had a haircut, or suffered some other notable alteration in appearance. 'Though I knew him but briefly,' a number of the letters say, in essence, 'I came to love him, beautiful and appealing young man that he was.'

"Walt came to believe that the details of the battles--the 'mere military minutiae,' as he called the information about tactics, victories, and acts of combat heroism--would soon be lost to history, and deservedly so. What would be remembered, instead, would be the acts of compassionate intercession: the nursing, comforting, and condoling to which he and other volunteers and medical personnel had dedicated themselves. A poet's narcissism may explain his praise for what he himself was undertaking to do--Whitman is, after all, the Poet of Himself, ever given to idealizing and mythologizing his own character and life. But other concerns were also at play. Though loyal to Lincoln and to the Union cause, Walt was disgusted by the war--his letters to his mother recount again and again the horrors he was seeing, the gross waste of young life, the hideous, pointless agonies. He was finally overcome by what he saw. In the spring of 1864, just as George was embarking on the final campaign of the war, Walt began to fail emotionally. He exhibited an assortment of odd symptoms and had to take temporary leave from the hospitals and go home to Brooklyn to be nursed by his mother. It is a testament to his devotion that, six months later, he returned to Washington and to the same grim, saddening work in the hospitals. His love for the young men and his pity for their suffering made his return unavoidable.

"Considering his uncanny insight into the hearts of men, the way Walt got things exactly wrong about the Civil War is notable. He abhorred violence and thought that the 620,000 dead of the war--a figure equivalent to six million Americans today percentagewise--would consign war to the ashbin of history. But the world was actually on the threshold of an enduring boom in war, with the Civil War marking but its initial stage."

Robert Roper, "Collateral Damage," The American Scholar, Winter 2009, pp. 78-79

Tuesday, January 20, 2009 1/20/09--Washington and Lincoln's Inaugurations

In today's excerpt-George Washington arrived for his New York inauguration in 1789 in triumph, Abraham Lincoln arrived for his Washington inauguration in 1861 in fear of assassins and civil war:

George Washington

"The public reverence accorded to royalty was put on display during [George] Washington's weeklong trip from Mount Vernon to New York [for the inauguration], which became one prolonged coronation ceremony. It began with crowds of more than ten thousand celebrants cheering him amidst cannon salutes and poetic tributes at Baltimore and Wilmington. Outside Philadelphia he was obliged to mount a white horse so that the twenty thousand spectators could see him as he crossed the Schuylkill. Charles Willson Peale had designed an arch of triumph over the bridge, and his daughter Angelica lowered a laurel crown upon Washington's head as he passed under the arch. At Trenton a chorus of white-robed girls tossed flowers from their baskets in his path while singing a tribute to 'The Defender of the Mothers, The Protector of the Daughters.' A congressional committee greeted him at Elizabethtown, where a fifty-foot barge manned by thirteen white-smocked sailors rowed him across the Hudson. A flotilla of decorated ships and sloops pulled alongside the barge as he approached New York Harbor and a chorus aboard one of the sloops sang an ode composed for the occasion to the tune of 'God Save the King.'

"The appointed day, April 30, was clear and bright. A crowd had been gathering outside the president's house since dawn. At nine, all the churches in the city were opened 'and prayers offered up to the Great Ruler of the universe for the preservation of the President,' wrote Tobias Lear, Washington's secretary, whose room was under the eaves. ... Washington ... was wearing a dark brown homespun suit made at Hartford Manufacturing with eagles embossed on the buttons, white silk stockings, and a close-cropped brown tricorn beaver hat made in Philadelphia. He wore no wig; his hair was pulled back and powdered. ... [Then] Washington stepped out onto a balcony, where the crowd of ten thousand was cheering wildly. ... The crowd roared, 'God bless our Washington! Long live our beloved President!' ...


"In an effort to remain undetected in route to his inauguration, [Lincoln] quietly slipped out of the hotel in Harrisburg. He was unrecognized because, instead of the usual stovepipe hat that had become his trademark, he wore for the first time in his life a soft felt 'Kossuth' hat someone in New York had given him, To help conceal his tall figure his long overcoat was thrown loosely over his shoulders without his arms being in the sleeves. He boarded a special train in Harrisburg, where all telegraphic communication had been interrupted to prevent possible leaks to the conspirators. ... Inevitably Lincoln's secret night ride attracted unfavorable comment.

"At noon on March 4, 1861 [outgoing president] James Buchanan and Abraham Lincoln entered an open barouche (horse-drawn carriage) at Willard's Hotel to begin the drive down Pennsylvania Avenue to the Capitol. Determined to prevent any attempt on Lincoln's life, General [Winfield] Scott had stationed sharpshooters on the roofs of buildings along the avenue, and companies of soldiers blocked off the cross streets. He stationed himself with one battery of light artillery on Capitol Hill; General John E. Wool, commander of the army's Department of the East, was with another. The presidential procession was short and businesslike, more like a military operation than a political parade.

"Entering the Capitol from the north through a passageway boarded so as to prevent any possible assassination attempt, Buchanan and Lincoln attended the swearing in of Vice President Hannibal Hamlin and then emerged to a smattering of applause on the platform erected at the east portico. Introduced by his old friend, the silver-tongued E. D. Baker, Lincoln rose but was obviously troubled by what to do with his tall stovepipe hat. Noting his perplexity, [Illinois Senator Stephen] Douglas said, 'Permit me, sir,' took the hat, and held it during the ceremony."

Joseph J. Ellis, His Excellency, Vintage, Copyright 2004 by Joseph J. Ellis, pp. 184-185; Willard Sterne Randall, George Washington, Owl Books, Copyright 1997 by Willard Sterne Randall, pp. 447-448; David Herbert Donald, Lincoln, Simon & Schuster, Copyright 1995 by David Herbert Donald, pp. 282-284

Friday, January 16, 2009 1/16/09--No Mas

In today's excerpt--one of the most famous boxing matches in the history of the sport, the 1980 rematch between Olympic champion Sugar Ray Leonard and the Panamanian legend Roberto Duran. Duran, who was perhaps boxing's fiercest fighter, and who had bested Leonard in their first fight, stunned Leonard and the sporting world when he simply quit mid-fight, declaring "No mas" (no more):

"Duran's surrender was so stunning that it all but overshadowed the brilliance of Leonard's performance, but, Ray pointed out, 'I made him quit-- and making Roberto Duran quit was even better than knocking him out. The fact that he quit and the way he did it doesn't take anything away from my victory. I'm the champion because he couldn't change and I could.' ...

"The morning after the No Mas fight, [Panama's dictator] Gen. Omar Torrijos angrily ordered Duran and his entire thirty-six-member traveling party to return to Panama immediately, but the boxer ignored his country's ruler and went to Miami instead. It was weeks later that he went back to Panama, only to discover that in his absence his mother's home had been vandalized, his own house stoned. Newspapers questioned not only his courage, but his masculinity. A makeshift billboard reading 'Duran Is a Traitor' was painted on the seawall alongside La Avenue Balboa in Panama City. He heard himself described, variously, as un cobarde (a coward), una gallina (a chicken), and as, simply, maricon, or homosexual.

"And in perhaps the unkindest cut of all, the Panamanian government had repealed the special tax exemption it had granted Duran as a 'National Hero.' When he came home and tried to cash his $8 million letter of credit, the government grabbed the first $2 million off the top.

"Whatever might actually have been going on in Roberto Duran's mind when he said "No mas," he could hardly have anticipated the consequences. He became the butt of jokes, and even his most ardent admirers deserted him in droves. 'His image had been destroyed in a single moment,' said Bobby Goodman. 'When he got back to Panama, he didn't even dare show his face. He lived like a prisoner in his own home.' ..."

It was, in any case, a moment that would haunt Duran for the rest of his life. Worse still, he had turned his despised adversary into a boxing hero. Sugar Ray Leonard would no longer be regarded as boxing's pretty boy. He had added a new scalp to his collection. He was now the man who had made Roberto Duran quit. "

George Kimball, Four Kings, McBooks Press, Copyright 2008 by George Kimball, pp. 120- 121

Thursday, January 15, 2009 1/15/09--A Tiny Slice of Land

In today's encore excerpt--70% of the world's population resides on just 7% of the world's land:

"Today, there are just over 6 billion people on earth. Six hundred years ago, in 1400, humankind was just 6 percent of that, or about 350 million, slightly more than the current population of the United States. ... The 350 million people living in 1400 were not uniformly distributed across the face of the earth, but rather clustered in a very few pockets of much higher density. Indeed, of the 60 million square miles of dry land on earth, most people lived on just 4.25 million square miles, or barely 7 percent of the dry land. The reason, of course, is that that land was the most suitable for agriculture, the rest being covered by swamp, steppe, desert, or ice.

"Moreover, those densely populated regions of earth corresponded to just fifteen highly developed civilizations, the most notable being (from east to west) Japan, Korea, China, Indonesia, Indonesia, Indochina, the Islamic West Asia, Europe, Aztec, and Inca. Astoundingly, nearly all of the 350 million people alive in 1400 lived in a handful of civilizations occupying a very small proportion of the earth's surface. Even more astoundingly, that still holds true today: 70 percent of the world's six billion people live on those same 4.25 million square miles."

Robert B. Marks, The Origins of the Modern World, Rowman and Littlefield, Copyright 2007 by Rowman and Littlefield Publishers, pp. 23-24

Wednesday, January 14, 2009 1/14/09--Presidential Powers

In today's excerpt-the powers of the United States president:

"According to James Madison's Notes of Debates in the Federal Convention of 1787, the [powers of the president] received surprisingly little attention at the Constitutional Convention in Philadelphia. ...

"In the end, the Framers were artfully vague about the extent and limits of the president's powers. Article I, Section 8 of the Constitution, which empowers Congress, runs 429 words; Article II, Section 2, the presidential equivalent, is about half as long. The powers assigned to the president alone are few: he can require Cabinet members to give him their opinions in writing; he can convene a special session of Congress 'on extraordinary occasions,' and may set a date for adjournment if the two houses cannot agree on one; he receives ambassadors and is commander in chief of the armed forces; he has a veto on legislation (which Congress can override); and he has the power to pardon."The president also shares two powers with the Senate--to make treaties, and to appoint federal judges and other 'officers of the United States,' including Cabinet members. And, finally, the president has two specific duties--to give regular reports on the state of the union, and to 'take care that the laws be faithfully executed.'

"All in all, the text of Article II, while somewhat ambiguous--a flaw that would be quickly exploited--provided little warning that the office of president would become uniquely powerful. Even at the convention, Madison mused that it 'would rarely if ever happen that the executive constituted as ours is proposed to be would have firmness enough to resist the legislature.' In fact, when citizens considered the draft Constitution during the ratification debates in 1787 and 1788, many of their concerns centered on the possibility that the Senate would make the president its cat's-paw. Few people foresaw the modern presidency, largely because the office as we know it today bears so little relation to that prescribed by the Constitution. ...

"[In contrast], under the pen name 'Pacificus,' Alexander Hamilton wrote a defense of [a president's] power to act without congressional sanction. The first Pacificus essay is the mother document of the 'unitary executive' theory that Bush's apologists have pushed to its limits since 2001. Hamilton seized on the first words of Article II: 'The executive power shall be vested in a President of the United States of America.' He contrasted this wording with Article I, which governs Congress and which begins, 'All legislative powers herein granted shall be vested in a Congress of the United States.' What this meant, Hamilton argued, was that Article II was 'a general grant of ... power' to the president. Although Congress was limited to its enumerated powers, the executive could do literally anything that the Constitution did not expressly forbid. Hamilton's president existed, in effect, outside the Constitution.

"That's the Bush conception, too. In 2005, John Yoo, the author of most of the administration's controversial 'torture memos,' drew on Hamilton's essay when he wrote, 'The Constitution provides a general grant of executive power to the president.' Since Article I vests in Congress 'only those legislative powers 'herein granted,' ' Yoo argued, the more broadly stated Article II must grant the president 'an unenumerated executive authority.'Garrett Epps, "

The Founder's Great Mistake," The Atlantic, January/February 2009, pp. 68-71

Tuesday, January 13, 2009 1/13/09--Inaugural Receptions

In today's excerpt--on Andrew Jackson's Inauguration Day in 1829, crowds of well-wishers overwhelmed the White House, reinforcing the idea that--for better or worse--the United States was truly becoming a democracy. The Founding Fathers had intentionally crafted the Constitution to be a republic, but not a complete democracy, with only members of the House of Representatives directly elected by the people. Further, there were property and religious voting tests in many jurisdictions. But by 1828, that was all beginning to crumble away, and Jackson, a "westerner" and the first President elected who was not from either Massachusetts or Virginia, was widely viewed as a product of this newer, more democratic spirit as he defeated John Quincy Adams to take the presidency:

"Angry with Adams for the attacks on [his recently deceased wife] Rachel during the campaign, Jackson had refused to call on his predecessor, and so President Adams had moved out the night before and made no public appearances on Inauguration Day. It is possible that Jackson's failure to communicate directly with Adams helped lead to the disaster that followed, a legendary scene in American history that has forever linked Jackson with the image of a crowd trashing the White House. 'No arrangements had been made,' [local socialite Mrs. Smith] noted, 'no police officers placed on duty and the whole house [was] inundated by the rabble mob.'

"The reception Jackson had planned turned chaotic, with his enthusiastic followers filling the house past capacity. 'The Majesty of the People had disappeared, and a rabble, a mob, of boys, negroes, women, children, scrambling, fighting, romping' replaced it, said Mrs. Smith. ... The household staff's attempts to serve the guests only made things worse. 'Orange punch by barrels full was made, but as the waiters opened the door to bring it out, a rush would be made,' said a congressman from Pennsylvania, 'the glasses broken, the pails of liquor upset, and the most painful confusion prevailed.'

"Standing in the mansion, Jackson was nearly crushed by the visitors. His aides formed a protective ring around the president and spirited him back to Gadsby's Hotel. Mrs. Smith thought of the sacking of Versailles--an excessive allusion, for the worst damage she could detect, she admitted, was that 'the carpets and the furniture are ruined.' The cost of the destruction was limited to a few thousand dollars, but the scene was further proof, if any were needed, that the armies of democracy were pitching their tents in Andrew Jackson's White House.

"[Jackson's niece and unofficial First Lady] Emily Donelson, was apparently horrified. The melee was the kind of thing that embarrassed Emily, who, as a newcomer to the highest levels, was, like her uncle, sensitive to making a good appearance and leaving the rougher elements of frontier life--even life in the frontier aristocracy--where she believed they belonged: back on the frontier, not in Washington. ... She knew that the sight of a crowd climbing through the windows of the White House for cups of spiked punch was the last thing her family needed."

Jon Meacham, American Lion, Random House, Copyright 2008 by Jon Meacham, pp. 61-63

Monday, January 12, 2009 1/12/09--Inaugural Addresses

In today's excerpt--presidents and the writing of their inaugural addresses:

"George Washington ... struggled ... to write the better part of a first draft, seventy-three pages of policy recommendations. Eager to assure Americans that he had not the least intention of founding a dynasty, he reminded Congress that he couldn't: 'the Divine providence hath not seen fit that my blood should be transmitted or my name perpetuated by the endearing though sometimes seducing, channel of personal offspring.' James Madison judiciously deleted that. Jackson made a stab at a draft, but his advisers, calling it 'disgraceful,' rewrote it entirely. After reading a draft of William Henry Harrison's inaugural, cluttered with references to ancient republics, Daniel Webster pared it down, and declared when he was done, 'I have killed seventeen Roman pro-consuls as dead as smelts.' Lincoln gave a draft of his first inaugural to his incoming Secretary of State, William Seward, who scribbled out a new ending, offering an olive branch to seceding Southern states:

" 'I close. We are not, we must not be, aliens or enemies, but fellow-countrymen and brethren. Although passion has strained our bonds of affection too hardly, they must not, I am sure they will not, be broken. The mystic chords which, proceeding from so many battle-fields and so many patriot graves, pass through all the hearts and all the hearths in this broad continent of ours, will yet harmonize in their ancient music when breathed upon by the guardian angels of the nation.'"

But it was Lincoln's revision that made this soar:

" 'I am loath to close. We are not enemies, but friends. We must not be enemies. Though passion may have strained it must not break our bonds of affection. The mystic chords of memory, stretching from every battlefield and patriot grave to every living heart and hearth-stone all over this broad land, will yet swell the chorus of the Union, when again touched, as surely they will be, by the better angels of our nature.'

"Revision usually helps. Raymond Moley drafted Franklin Roosevelt's first inaugural, but Louis Howe added, 'The only thing we have to fear is fear itself.' Sorensen wrote much of Kennedy's, but it was Adlai Stevenson and John Kenneth Galbraith who proposed an early version of 'Let us never negotiate out of fear, but let us never fear to negotiate.' Carter, who had a vexed relationship with speechwriters, wrote his own unmemorable inaugural, although James Fallows managed to persuade him to open by thanking Gerald Ford. ... Robert Schlesinger argues that Ronald Reagan gave, in the course of his career, iterations of what was essentially the same talk, known as the Speech. His inaugural, remarkable for its skilled delivery, was no exception. Clinton solicited advice from dozens of people, including Sorensen, and then tinkered. About her husband, Hillary Clinton once said, 'He's never met a sentence he couldn't fool with.' "

Jill Lepore, "The Speech," The New Yorker, January 12, 2009, pp. 51

Friday, January 09, 2009 1/9/09--More Hedge Funds

In today's excerpt-Nobel-prize winning economist Paul Krugman describes the activities of hedge funds. The collapse of 2008 was largely due to the overleveraging of mortgage lending markets, which was enabled by a variety of non-bank institutions that operated at very high leverage ratios, including those hedge funds that invested in mortgage loans:

"Hedge funds don't hedge. Indeed, they do more or less the opposite. To hedge, says Webster's, is 'to try to avoid or lesson loss by making counterbalancing bets, investments, etc.' That is, one hedges in order to make sure that market fluctuations do not affect one's wealth.

"What hedge funds do, by contrast, is precisely to try to make the most of market fluctuations, The way they do this is typically to go short in some assets--that is, promise to deliver them at a fixed price at some future date--and go long in others. Profits come if the price of the shorted asset falls (so that they can be delivered cheaply) or the value of the purchased asset rises, or both.

"The advantage of this kind of financial play is that it can deliver a very high return to the hedge fund's investors. The reason is that the fund can take a position much larger than the amount of money its owners put in, since it buys its 'long' position mainly with the cash raised from creating its 'short' position. lndeed, the only reason it needs to have any capital at all is to persuade the counterparties to its asset shorts that it will be able to deliver on its promises. Hedge funds with good reputations have been able to take positions as much as a hundred times as large as their owners' capital: that means that a 1 percent rise in the price of their assets, or decline in the price of their liabilities, doubles that capital."The downside, of course, is that a hedge fund can also lose money very efficiently. Market movements that might not seem all that large to ordinary investors can quickly wipe out a hedge fund's capital, or at least cause it to lose its shorts--that is, induce those who have lent it stocks or other assets to demand that they be returned.

"How big are hedge funds? Nobody really knows because until quite recently nobody thought it was necessary to find out. Indeed, despite occasional warnings from concerned economists, and even despite the events I'll describe shortly, hedge funds have been left virtually untouched by regulation. Partly that's because hedge funds--needing only a limited amount of capital, from a small number of people--can and do operate 'offshore,' establishing legal residence in accommodating jurisdictions to free themselves from annoying interference. To police their operations wouldn't be impossible, but it would be difficult. Moreover, for a long time the general consensus, at least in the United States, was that there was no need."

Paul Krugman, The Return of Depression Economics, Norton, Copyright 1999, 2009 by Paul Krugman, pp. 120-122

Thursday, January 08, 2009 1/8/09--Steve Martin Tries to Write

In today's encore excerpt--a young Steve Martin, still struggling for even modest success and confronted by the striking originality of contemporary comedians Mike Nichols and Elaine May, Lenny Bruce, and Tom Lehrer, realizes that he will have to try to write original material to succeed:

"In logic class, I opened my textbook--the last place I was expecting to find comic inspiration--and was startled to find that Lewis Carroll, the supremely witty author of Alice's Adventures in Wonderland, was also a logician. He wrote logic textbooks and included argument forms based on the syllogism, normally presented in logic books this way:

"All men are mortal.Socrates is a man.Therefore, Socrates is mortal.

"But Carroll's were more convoluted, and they struck me as funny in a new way:

"1) Babies are illogical.
2) Nobody is despised who can manage a crocodile.
3) Illogical persons are despised.
Therefore, babies cannot manage crocodiles

1) No interesting poems are unpopular among people of real taste
2) No modern poetry is free from affectation.
3) All your poems are on the subject of soap bubbles.
4) No affected poetry is popular among people of taste.
5) Only a modern poem would be on the subject of soap bubbles.
Therefore, all your poems are uninteresting

"These word games bothered and intrigued me. Appearing to be silly nonsense, on examination they were absolutely logical--yet they were still funny. The comedy doors opened wide, and Lewis Carroll's clever fancies from the nineteenth century expanded my notion of what comedy could be. I began closing my show by announcing, 'I'm not going home tonight; I'm going to Bananaland, a place where only two things are true, only two things: One, all chairs are green; and two, no chairs are green.' Not at Lewis Carroll's level, but the line worked for my contemporaries, and I loved implying that the one thing I believed in was contradiction."

Steve Martin, Born Standing Up, Scribner, Copyright 2007 by 40 Share Productions, Inc., pp. 74-75

Wednesday, January 07, 2009 1/7/09--Jackson and Patronage

In today's excerpt-Andrew Jackson, when he took office in 1829, made the first wholesale replacements of government employees, viewing them as corrupt and disloyal. Prior to Jackson, most employees in government remained from administration to administration:

"People like [Henry] Clay saw the replacement of federal officials as the ruin of the country. Jackson saw it as the nation's salvation. That a president would have wide power to reward loyalists with offices, both to thank them for their steadfastness and to ensure that he had a cadre of people at hand who would presumably execute his policies with energy and enthusiasm, is now a given, but Jackson was the first president to remake the federal establishment on such a large scale. The old officeholders could be forgiven for imagining themselves immune to the vagaries of politics. By James Parton's count, Washington and Adams had removed 9 people each; Jefferson, 39 (illustrating the victory of the Democrat-Republicans over the Federalists); Madison, 5; Monroe, 9; and John Quincy Adams, 2. By the time Jackson was done, he had turned out fewer than one might suppose, but still a historic number: about 919, just under 10 percent of the government. And he had made a particularly high number of changes among those civil servants directly appointed by the president himself. ...

"The human reaction to Jackson's reform among the officeholders and their families was swift and fierce. 'At that period, it must be remembered, to be removed from office in the city of Washington was like being driven from the solitary spring in a wide expanse of desert,' Parton wrote three decades after the purge. John Quincy Adams monitored the terror: 'A large portion of the population of Washington are dependent for bread upon offices. ... Every one is in breathless expectation, trembling at heart, to speak.' ...

"Still, Jackson was susceptible to emotional appeals from officeholders facing dismissal. He was moved by stories of courage, admiring in others what he saw in himself. In the fever of the firings, the postmaster of Albany, New York, the War of 1812 veteran General Solomon Van Rensselaer was slated for termination. ... To save his job, Van Rensselaer went to the White House and waited for Jackson to finish with his guests at a reception." 'General Jackson, I have come here to talk to you about my office,' Van Rensselaer said once he had the president alone. 'The politicians want to take it away from me, and they know I have nothing else to live upon.'

"Accustomed to such pleas and committed to his course, Jackson said nothing. Desperate, Van Rensselaer moved to strip off his own clothes. 'What in Heaven's name are you going to do?' Jackson said. ... 'Well, sir, I am going to show you my wounds, which I received in fighting for my country against the English!"

"[Later, he told his Vice President], 'I take the consequences, sir; I take the consequences,' Jackson said. 'By the Eternal! I will not remove the old man--I cannot remove him. Why, Mr. Wright, do you not know that he carries more than a pound of British lead in his body?' The postmaster was safe.

"John Quincy Adams tracked everything. 'The proscriptions from office continue, and, independent of the direct misery that they produce, have indirectly tragic effects,' Adams wrote on Saturday, April 25, 1829. 'A clerk in the War Office named Henshaw, who was a strong partisan for Jackson's election, three days since cut his throat from ear to ear from the mere terror of being dismissed. Linneus Smith, of the Department of State, one of the best clerks under the Government, has gone raving distracted, and others are said to be threatened with the same calamity.' Suicide and madness: it was the most unstable of seasons. "

Jon Meacham, American Lion, Random House, Copyright 2008 by Jon Meacham, pp. 82-84

Tuesday, January 06, 2009 1/6/09--The Eagle

In today's excerpt--the eagle on the reverse side of the United States one dollar bill:

"The reverse side of the $1 note that holds the most meaning. Our Founding Fathers were deeply aware of the importance of symbols. In fact, before the adjournment of the Continental Congress on July 4, 1776, a committee was appointed to create a seal that would symbolize America's ideals. The committee included John Adams, Thomas Jefferson, and Benjamin Franklin--three of the drafters of the Declaration of Independence.

"However, designing the seal was a difficult and controversial undertaking that spanned six years and three committees. The final proposal, as accepted by Congress, was submitted on June 13, 1782, by Charles Thomson, a prominent Philadelphia merchant and secretary of the Continental Congress. He is credited with finalizing the
design--unifying the ideas of the three committees, their consultants, and artists.

"The result was the Great Seal of the United States, and hidden within it are the messages our Founding Fathers wanted to send to future generations of Americans. Today, the two most prominent features on the back of the $1 note are the pyramid and the eagle, which together constitute the Great Seal of the United States.

"To solve the mystery of what these symbols mean, we go directly to the source, Charles Thomson, who presented his written description of the Great Seal to Congress on June 20, 1782. The most striking feature of the front of the seal is, in Thomson's words, 'an American Eagle on the wing and rising.' The eagle flies freely, independent of any support, holding in its left talon 13 arrows, signifying war, and in its right talon an olive branch, signifying peace.

"You may think which talon holds the arrows and which holds the olive branch is of little consequence. But, in the language of symbols, it is of great significance. The right side signifies dominance. Therefore, arrows depicted in the eagle's right talon can be interpreted as a warlike gesture. Failure to adhere to this concept almost got the United States into a war.

"From 1801 to 1807, the eagles on the backs of our silver coins were inadvertently shown with the arrows in the right talon instead of the left. Some European journalists and diplomats interpreted this as an expression of American belligerence and tried to use it as grounds for promoting war with the United States. In response, a new design was created in 1807 for the backs of American silver coins. This time, the olive branch--representing peace--was placed in the dominant right talon, putting an end to the journalistic saber rattling. The eagle holds a banner in its beak with the words 'E Pluribus Unum,' which Thomson translates to mean 'Out of many, one.'

"Thomson goes on to explain that the shield, or escutcheon, on the eagle's breast is composed of two major parts: a horizontal blue band, which represents Congress, extending across the top third of the shield supported by 13 red and white vertical stripes, which represent the 13 original colonies. The 13 stars above the eagle represent a new constellation taking its place in the universe, in the same way that a new nation takes it place among the other sovereign nations. The colors also have significance. Blue stands for vigilance, perseverance, and justice; red signifies hardiness and valor; and white indicates purity and innocence."

Stephen L. Goldsmith, Symbols on American Money, Published by the Federal Reserve Bank of Philadelphia, pp. 3-5

Monday, January 05, 2009 1/5/08--Hedge Funds

In today's excerpt-the popularity of hedge funds. The following excerpt was written just before the failure of Lehman brothers and the post-Lehman collapse of hedge fund performance. Prior to that time, hedge funds had for some years enjoyed an almost mystical reputation as a superior investment vehicle:

"Of 1,308 hedge funds that were formed between 1989 and 1996, more than a third (36.7 per cent) had ceased to exist by the end of the period. In that period the average life span of a hedge fund was just forty months. Yet ... far from declining, in the past ten years hedge funds of every type have exploded in number and in the volume of assets they manage. In 1990, according to Hedge Fund Research, there were just over 600 hedge funds managing some $39 billion in assets. By 2000 there were 3,873 funds with $490 billion in assets. The latest figures (for the first quarter of 2008) put the total at 7,601 funds with $1.9 trillion in assets. Since 1998 there has been a veritable stampede to invest in hedge funds (and in the 'funds of funds' that aggregate the performance of multiple firms). Where once they were the preserve of 'high net worth' individuals and investment banks, hedge funds are now attracting growing numbers of pension funds and university endowments. This trend is all the more striking given that the attrition rate remains high; only a quarter of the 600 funds reporting in 1996 still existed at the end of 2004. In 2006, 717 ceased to trade; in the first nine months of 2007, 409. It is not widely recognized that large numbers of hedge funds simply fizzle out, having failed to meet investors' expectations.

"The obvious explanation for this hedge fund population explosion is that they perform relatively well as an asset class, with relatively low volatility and low correlation to other investment vehicles. But the returns on hedge funds, according to Hedge Fund Research, have been falling, from 18 per cent in the 1990s to just 7.5 per cent between 2000 and 2006. Moreover, there is increasing skepticism that hedge fund returns truly reflect 'alpha' (skill of asset management) as opposed to 'beta' (general market movements that could be captured with an appropriate mix of indices). An alternative explanation is that, while they exist, hedge funds enrich their managers in a uniquely alluring way. In 2007 George Soros made $2.9 billion, ahead of Ken Griffin of Citadel and James Simons of Renaissance, but behind John Paulson, who earned a staggering $3.7 billion from his bets against subprime mortgages. As John Kay has pointed out, if Warren Buffett had charged investors in Berkshire Hathaway '2 and 20' (the typical fee and gain participation of a hedge fund manager), he would have kept for himself $57 billion of the $62 billion his company has made for its shareholders over the past forty-two years. Soros, Griffin and Simons are clearly exceptional fund managers (though surely not more so than Buffett). This explains why their funds, along with other superior performers, have grown enormously over the past decade. Today around 390 funds have assets under management in excess of $1 billion. The top hundred now account for 75 per cent of all hedge fund assets; and the top ten alone manage $324 billion. But a quite mediocre conman could make a good deal of money by setting up a hedge fund, taking $100 million off gullible investors and running the simplest possible strategy."

Niall Ferguson, The Ascent of Money, Copyright 2008 by Niall Ferguson, pp. 329-330

Friday, January 02, 2009 1/2/09--Porgy and Bess

During this holiday week, we are reaching back into our archives to bring you a few of the excerpts from the past that have elicited the most comments and requests. In today's excerpt--a tale of optimism to ring in the New Year, from Academy Award-winning screenwriter William Goldman. Here Goldman recounts his first trip as a young boy to Broadway where he attended the Gershwin play Porgy and Bess:

"My family went and we sat there and if you don't know the story, it's about this cripple, Porgy, who can't walk, and he gets around on this pathetic goat cart, towed by a scrawny goat, and we're someplace in the Deep South. Porgy is hopelessly in love with Bess, a beauty but weak. Toward the end, Porgy is sent to jail (he saved his friends by murdering the village monster) and while he is there, Bess is wooed by a pusher, Sportin' Life, who, using drugs as a lure, steals her away, takes her to New York City, which is the other end of the universe as far as anyone in this town is concerned.

"Porgy gets out of jail, and I am dreading the moment when he finds out Bess is gone. I mean, cripples don't win beauties in this world, not unless they are very rich indeed, and Porgy is a beggar. So he is out of jail and I am so scared for him, his life is over, how is he going to survive his loss, and he chitchats with the villagers and then he says it--where's Bess?

"No one wants to answer but finally he finds out - Bess is gone, she is gone forever, gone to New York City."

Silence in the theatre. Then Porgy says these three amazing words:

" 'Bring my goat.' "

William Goldman, Which Lie Did I Tell?: More Adventures in the Screen Trade, Vintage Books, 2001, p. 247