30 August 2004

Naipaul on W.E.B. and Booker T.

In two chapters of A Turn in the South entitled "The Truce with Irrationality" (I and II) Naipaul interviews mostly black Southerners in Tallahassee, Florida, and Tuskegee, Alabama. The title comes from Naipaul's gloss on a literary quote.
"The most difficult (and most rewarding) thing in my life has been the fact that I was born a Negro and was forced, therefore, to effect some kind of truce with this reality." The words by James Baldwin (among the most elegant handlers of the language) had stayed with me since I had read them, nearly thirty years before.... But now, in the South, in the middle of my own journey, I began to wonder whether the truce that every black man looked for hadn't in fact been with the irrationality of the world around him. And the achievement of certain people began to appear grander.
Besides interviewing living people, Naipaul rereads famous works by two famous men, and examines their literary and educational legacies.
Tuskegee was still a going concern. It had a devoted community; and it still had heart. Its financial predicament was the predicament of black schools generally; and it was better off than some. Its physical condition was very far from that of Fisk University in Nashville, Tennessee, where in parts the campus looked ruined. There was a melancholy bronze statue there too, at Fisk, meant to set the seal on glory, but now seeming to watch over the ruins. The statue was of W.E.B. Du Bois, the rival and critic of Washington....

The quarrel or debate between the two men, Du Bois and Washington, both mulattoes, is famous. Du Bois might seem closer to contemporary feeling. But his best-known book, The Souls of Black Folk (1903), a collection of essays and articles, is a little mysterious....

If Booker T. Washington can make a darky joke, Du Bois can speak of "the joyous abandon and playfulness which we are wont to associate with the plantation Negro"; can say, "Even today the mass of the Negro laborers need stricter guardianship than Northern laborers"; and he can ask, "What did slavery mean to the African savage?"

But we can read through both the Du Bois way of writing and the Booker T. Washington manliness to the facts of Negro life of the time, and see the difficulty both men would have had in defining themselves, and establishing their own dignity, against such an abject background. As if in resolution of that difficulty, Du Bois's book seems lyrical for the sake of the lyricism. It can appear to use blacks and ruined plantations as poetic properties. It deals in tears and rage; it offers no program.

In this beginning of Du Bois there was also his end. He lived very long, and towards the end of his life--facing irrationality with irrationality--he left the United States and went to live in West Africa, in Ghana, a former British colony that had in independence very quickly become an African despotism, and was soon to revert to bush and poverty, exporting labor to its neighbors.

At the very beginning of the century, in Up from Slavery, Booker T. Washington, in his late-Victorian man-of-the-world style, had cautioned against just that kind of sentimentality about Africa. "In the House of Commons, which we visited several times, we met Sir Henry M. Stanley. I talked with him about Africa and its relation to the American Negro, and after my interview with him became more convinced than ever that there was no hope of the American Negro's improving his condition by emigrating to Africa."
SOURCE: A Turn in the South, by V.S. Naipaul (Vintage, 1989), pp. 120, 151-153.

Up from Slavery: "A painful coded work"

On this journey I read [Booker T. Washington's] Up from Slavery twice. On the second reading, after I had been nearly four months in the South, I found that the book had changed for me. It became more than the fabulous story of a disadvantaged man's rise. I began to see it as a painful coded work, making separate signals even in a single paragraph to Northerners, Southerners, and blacks.

I also began to see the book as the work of a man constantly concerned to raise funds for his school. That should have been obvious to me always, but it hadn't been; that had been swept away by the power of the fable. Below that primary appeal, however, there were others: the man of the world appealing knowledgeably to the very rich on behalf of the wretched, representing himself as honorable and worthy and manly and educated; yet at the same time taking care to do the contrary thing, and making it clear that as a black man he knew his place.

Hence his confident, socially knowing talk, like any solid late-nineteenth-century citizen, of the "best people" and the "vices" of "the lower class of people." But he is mortified when, on a train journey from Augusta to Atlanta in Georgia, in a Pullman car "full of Southern white men," two ladies from Boston, "ignorant, it seems, of the customs of the South," insist on inviting him to supper. The meal seems very long. As soon as he can, he breaks away from the ladies to go to the smoking room, where the men now are, "to see how the land lay." It is all right; the men know who he is and are anxious to introduce themselves to him.

In England he develops a high regard for the aristocracy and the time and money they devote to philanthropic works. He is impressed by the deference of servants, who are content to be servants all their working life and, unlike American servants, use the words "master" and "mistress" without any constraint. In that ambiguous observation there are consoling messages both for blacks and Southern whites. He becomes friendly, he says, with the Duchess of Sutherland. She is a famous beauty. But as a black man he will be out of place to say so directly. He writes, "I may add that I believe the Duchess of Sutherland is said to be the most beautiful woman in England."

So many snares; so many people to please; so many contradictions to resolve; so many possibilities of destruction. The achievement was great. But at what cost. He died at the age of fifty-nine.
SOURCE: A Turn in the South, by V.S. Naipaul (Vintage, 1989), pp. 153-154.

29 August 2004

Yapese Spelling Reform: "That Damn Q!"

Like Marshallese speakers at the eastern end of Micronesia, Yapese speakers at the western end seem to be resistant to spelling reforms designed by outside linguists.

The most recent Yapese Bible orthography makes do with only 5 vowels, but writes all the consonants. However, it spells glottal stop inconsistently. A glottal stop is implicit between any two adjacent vowels in a word, as in gaar 'to say', which has two syllables with a glottal stop in between. People used to use the same device to indicate final glottals, as in pii 'to give', but the most recent Bible orthography now writes the final glottal with an apostrophe, thus pi'. Except on a handful of grammatical forms, like u 'at', i 'he, she, it', glottal stops are predictable on words written with initial vowels, just as they are in English or German, so the Bible orthography doesn't write them at all.

In the new orthography, however, the glottal stop is everywhere spelled with a q, and resistance to the new orthography centers on "that damn q" in new spellings like Waqab 'Yap', girdiiq 'people', qarcheaq 'bird, bat', and even Qapriil 'April' and Qaawguust 'August'. (Imagine German Qach, du lieber Qaugustine!)

The decision to use q in place of the apostrophe for glottal stop was motivated by the fact that the apostrophe was already used to indicate a glottalized release on consonants. Yapese, like Navajo, has a whole series of glottalized consonants in addition to plain equivalents in initial, medial, and final position within the word, thus:
p, t, k vs. p', t', k'
m, n, ng vs. m', n', ng'
f, th, vs. f', th'
l, y, w vs. l', y', w'
So, in theory, it is possible that rung'ag 'to hear' might be ambiguous between rung+'ag and the nonexistent forms *ru+ng'ag or *rung'+ag. In practice, this seems to be an awfully weak justification for introducing "that damn q."

Writing more vowel distinctions, on the other hand, seems well motivated. Yapese distinguishes among 8 long vowels, with a further possibility of 8 short vowels--although length is partially predictable from the position of the vowel in the word. All eight long vowels show up in the following minimal octet, so convenient for linguistic analysis: miil 'to run', meel 'sail rope', meal [æ] 'rotten', mael [a] 'war', maal [a] 'taro type', mool 'to sleep', moel 'adze handle', muul 'to fall'. Using digraphs to write vowels, of course, precludes the old reliance on adjacent vowels to indicate glottal stop.

Examples of the old and new renditions of the most common greeting exchange follows.
  • 'Where are you going?'
    Old: Ngam man ngan
    New: Nga mu maen ngaan

  • 'I'm (just) going over there'
    Old: Nggu wan ngaram
    New: Ngu gu waen nga raam
The Pacific Area Language Materials website gives a sample of what the Japanese story Momotaro looks like in the new orthography. Look at all those paragraphs beginning with Q, especially on Qeree 'and then', which in the Bible is written Ere.

Once again, a socially optimal orthography in actual use can get by with even fewer alphabetic distinctions than a linguist might desire for the purpose of distinguishing each word in isolation from the sentential, semantic, and social context in which those words are normally used. A simpler, underspecified writing system would allow more Yapese to write their own language without having to run everything by someone with sufficient linguistic training to understand the New Orthography. It would take literacy out of the hands of experts and give it back to the people who need it most.

SOURCES: John Thayer Jensen, Yapese Reference Grammar (Hawai‘i, 1977; out of print) and Yapese-English Dictionary (Hawai‘i, 1977; out of print); Thin Rok Got nib Thothup ['Word of God that's Holy' = the Bible].

28 August 2004

Identity as Religion, Religion as Identity

Naipaul interviews theology students in northern Georgia.
Identity as religion, religion as identity: it was the very theme of another theology student, a young man from a background quite different, a mountain community in northern Georgia.

He said, "When I think of growing up, the two things are very much the same thing--family and church. The church was a small church, with about forty-five members, all related. Seven or eight generations ago the first member of our family moved into that area and bought four hundred acres, and we still live on that. It isn't a plantation. There might have been slaves early on, but that disappeared pretty soon. We were a family of small farmers. My grandfather had fifteen or sixteen brothers, and their descendants all live within three miles of one another. It is very rare that anybody moves away. When you go up there you know people, and you know them as relatives.

"At the same time it is very easy for your own identity to get lost. But I have since grown to appreciate how wonderful that is: a warm, loving, open kind of family, not just father and mother and brothers and sisters, but cousins, aunts, and uncles.

"The church is very much the same thing. Family members. The Holiness Church is a very emotional religion, and what struck me early on was how very different people were in church from what I knew of them at home. The emotion they expressed in church was different. There would be a lot of shouting. The preacher would try to work them up to the sinfulness of human nature. There would be moments during the service when people would get up and speak in tongues, and people would try to interpret what was being said. And there were times when people would get saved."

"This religion was not a reaching out to the world?"

"This religion was a calling away from the world, an excluding of the world. I still struggle to find how I relate to all that now. The first year in college I spent alone in my room. I was scared to go out. Then I became angry with some aspects of the faith that had such a rigid view of the world."

But now (like the Mississippi plantation, and for the same, economic reason) the mountain world was changing. "A lot of the people have to go away to get work." They came back, it was true; they never lost touch. But: "The twentieth century is pouring over the mountain."
SOURCE: A Turn in the South, by V.S. Naipaul (Vintage, 1989), pp. 48-49.

Politics as Identity, Religion as Community

Mountain family, old planter family: old ideas of community no longer served, and the descendants of those families were finding a new community in the ministry. But it hadn't been quite like this for Frank. He grew up in a blue-collar white urban neighborhood. It wasn't "ethnic," and it had no sense of community. It was Southern, but the Southern history and Southern past that were bred in the bones of the mountain boy and the plantation girl had had to be learned, studied, by the boy from the city. Because he had been born into a crowd, his early ambitions had been different.

"I wanted to be an individual, a nonconformist, a person with his own rights, opinions. But at the same time I did want an identity. And I found that in the Democratic Party. It started at high school. I got into the Democratic group and quickly became a leader of the teen Democrats. It became my religion, because I evaluated everything according to the party's success or failure. When I left school I went straight into the party organization. The party became my community. But it wasn't a real community. It didn't have the caring that a Christian community should have. In the Navy I had the sense of meeting Christ in reading the Scriptures, and I was touched by that. But it was isolated until I came here, which makes real on earth this relationship with God. I have found the real community here, in theology school."
SOURCE: A Turn in the South, by V.S. Naipaul (Vintage, 1989), pp. 49-50.

27 August 2004

Muslim WakeUp: Progressive Muslim Voices

Muslim WakeUp, a site I just discovered via One Hand Clapping, has a couple of stories with nice ironical twists.

The first concerns a young Muslim woman, whose singing is banned in North America but welcome in Southeast Asia.
If anyone needed a reminder about how far out of sync the American Muslim establishment is even from most Muslims in the world, then this is a good example.

A few months ago, Ani, a Los Angeles-based American Muslim artist who has produced some of Malaysia's top music albums and worked with top performers from around the world, decided to make an album that expresses her faith as a Muslim and a message of empowerment for young people and women. The album (whose title and title track was inspired by our website) is called Ummah Wake Up, and MWU! was the only American Muslim site to feature it.

She reached out to American Muslim distributors, American Muslim music festivals, American Muslim websites. The response she got almost across the board was, Sorry, but women's voices are awra, religiously prohibited due to their allegedly harmful effects on public morals. Effectively, her work was banned by North American Muslim institutions, including the recent Muslim Fest in Canada.

Now Ani is in Malaysia where she is embarking on a major media blitz there and headlining several concerts, including a huge stadium show to celebrate Malaysia's National Day on Monday and a benefit Concert for Palestine on Saturday, September 4th at Kuala Lumpur's Renaissance Grand Ballroom where she will be joined by Raihan, the country's top nasheed group. Then she's off on a similar itinerary in Indonesia.

In both countries, Ani will be appearing on over a dozen major TV and radio programs promoting her album's official release in Malaysia and Indonesia....

So once again, what's good enough for some 200 million Muslims "over there" is not good enough for 6 million or so Muslims "over here." Shame on the self-appointed Islamic morality police in Los Angeles and Toronto and Indiana and Illinois. Ummah Wake Up indeed!
The other article, entitled Excuse Me While I Kiss the Sky: The Hollywood Pagan Islamic Sajdah, explains an Olympic moment misunderstood by many non-Muslims.
Hicham El Guerrouj of Morocco won the Gold in the 1,500 meters race at the Athens Olympics....

But we are not here to talk of sports. The San Francisco Chronicle sports page has a large headline about the event that reads "A Gift from God." There is also a giant picture of El G doing a post race sajdah. The picture caption says that Hicham is kissing the track. He is not!

So here is a little trivia for the non-Muslim readers of MWU! Muslims perform a particular prayer ritual five times a day called the salat (or namaz in Persian/Urdu/Turkish speaking areas). The sajdah is one of the physical motions that make up the salat. The movements of the salat are performed in simple cycles. You can think of movement as a very simple cycle similar to yoga's sun salutation. Strict Muslims would probably find this analogy a little annoying.

The sajdah is performed by men just as Mr. El G is doing in the picture. The women do a slightly different version, keeping their elbows and butts a little lower. The forehead and often the bridge of the nose touch the ground. The lips never do.

26 August 2004

Confederates and Shias

Naipaul interviews the scion of a former plantation owner in South Carolina.
The North was now very concerned with all its minorities. It might have been thought that they would have considered the South a minority area. But they didn't. The official Northern view could be put like this: "The white Southerner is not a minority. He is a backward fellow American who oppresses a minority, the Negro."

Had he looked at his father's book about the plantations recently? No, not recently. But he knew the book well, and he had some of the feeling for the old plantation life.

I said, "But you can't feel nostalgia for what you don't know?"

"Although I didn't grow up with any knowledge of the working life of the plantation, still, life on the plantations--when we went to visit them when I was a child--it was more like the old Southern countryside, even though we didn't have slavery. It was the old easygoing rural life, and relations between the races were much more what they had been. So I can feel nostalgia for a past."

He was as concerned, even obsessed, as his father had been by the superficial destruction of the South--the highways, the fast-food chains--and pained by the alienation of some of the plantations to people and firms from outside.

The past as a dream of purity, the past as cause for grief, the past as religion: it is the very prompting of the Shias of Islam to nobility and sacrifice, the dream of the good time of the Prophet and the first four caliphs, before greed and ambition destroyed the newly saved world. It was the very prompting of the Confederate Memorial in Columbia. And that very special Southern past, and cause, could be made pure only if it was removed from the squalor of the race issue.

When--again as in a stage set--we got up from our chairs and went inside, for a salad provided by our hostess, I said I felt he was dealing in emotion without a program. He agreed; but then he said the program was being created....

He told me because of the developments of the 1950s his father had ended as a Southern separatist; and that was where he himself was now. The defeat of the South, the surrender of Lee, was for him an unappeasable sorrow, I felt.
SOURCE: A Turn in the South, by V.S. Naipaul (Vintage, 1989), p. 106-107.

Stepin Fetchit in Trinidad

"Does the name Stepin Fetchit mean anything to you?"

It certainly did. Stepin Fetchit was adored in my childhood by the blacks of Trinidad. He was adored not only because he was funny and did wonderful things with his seemingly disjointed body and had a wonderful walk and a wonderful voice, and was given extravagant words to speak; he was adored by Trinidad black people because he appeared in films, at a time when Hollywood stood for an almost impossible glamour; and he was also adored--most importantly--because, at a time when the various races of Trinidad were socially separate and the world seemed fixed forever that way, with segregation to the north in the United States, with Africa ruled by Europe, with South Africa the way it was (and not at all a subject of local black concern), and Australia and New Zealand the way they were--at that time in Trinidad, Stepin Fetchit was seen on the screen in the company of white people. And to Trinidad blacks--who looked down at that time on Africans, and laughed and shouted and hooted in the cinema whenever Africans were shown dancing or with spears--the sight of Stepin Fetchit with white people was like a dream of a happier world.

It wasn't of this adored figure that Jack Leland was speaking, though. He had another, matter-of-fact, local attitude. He said, "The ambitious people went north, and we were left with the Stepin Fetchits." Now there was a movement back; not big, but noticeable.
SOURCE: A Turn in the South, by V.S. Naipaul (Vintage, 1989), p. 109.

25 August 2004

Marshallese Spelling Reforms

The public renunciation by several media giants of spelling reforms promulgated in Germany less than a decade ago has generated some discussion in the blogosphere, notably on Rainy Day, Crooked Timber, and a Fistful of Euros, the last two with wide-ranging comment threads.

To take the discussion a little farther afield, I'd like to add a glimpse of what teachers and writers of two Micronesian languages are up against. In Marshallese and Yapese, spelling reforms promulgated in the early 1970s have yet to take hold. (I use "promulgated" to mean 'imposed by specialists whose expertise is unimpeachable, but whose vision is clouded by thoroughly impractical ideals'.)

In both cases, the new orthographies suffer from two major drawbacks. (1) The only major literature written in each language has been the Bible. One tampers with holy scripture at one's peril. Just witness how many Christians still stick to the King James Bible or to Latin liturgy. (2) Linguistic experts were overzealously committed to the "one phoneme, one symbol" principle of orthography design. Among all the languages I've dabbled in, Marshallese, Yapese, and possibly Nauruan seem the most resistant to any orthography that places that principle above all others.

Here's a bit of a glimpse at Marshallese. Yapese will follow in another post.

Marshallese can be analyzed as having only four vowel phonemes that differ by height, but whose roundness (oh-ness vs. eh-ness) or backness (uh-ness vs. eh-ness) depend on their neighboring consonants. For instance, the vowel phoneme /e/ can sound like eh (open e), uh (schwa), or oh (o). In the textbook Spoken Marshallese (1969) the vowels are written i, e, a, & (yes, ampersand, but it was later replaced with an ę). The linguist Mark Hale refers to these four phonemes as cup of coffee, telephone, yinyang, and soccer ball, presumably because each word or phrase contains the varying sound values of the respective abstract phoneme.

Marshallese consonants distinguish only three main positions of articulation: lips (p, m), tongue tip (t, n), and tongue back (k, ng). Voicing (t vs. d, p vs. b) is not distinctive, but three secondary articulations are: "light"/palatal (py, my, ly), "heavy"/velar (p, m, l), and rounding (kw, ngw, lw). The parenthetical examples are not orthographic, but only intended to hint at pronunciation differences. One solution is to write the "heavy" consonants as if they were voiced: b, d, g vs. p, t, k, but that doesn't help with the nasals: m, n, ng (the latter also written g).

The "light" consonants front the neighboring vowels (e > eh), the "heavy" consonants back them (e > uh), and the round consonants round them (e > oh). Two different consonant types on either side can pull the vowel in two different directions, creating dipththongs.

Examples of "improvements" in the 1969 textbook orthography:
  • 'Hello'
    Old: Yokwe yok
    New: Yi'yaqey y&q

  • 'I'm going to Ailinglaplap / Jaluit'
    Old: Ij etal ñan Ailinglaplap / Jaluit
    New: Yij yetal gan Hay&l&gļapļap / Jalw&j
Since Marshallese makes too many distinctions for the standard keyboard, a linguistically optimal solution to facilitate literacy in Marshallese could go in either of two directions. The first direction seems by and large to prevail.
  • Write more vowels than strictly necessary in order to keep them less abstract and because vowel diacritics are easier to keyboard, while relying on the neighboring vowels to show some of the consonant distinctions. This allows people to write with lower levels of linguistic or computer literacy.

  • Write only the minimal (four) vowel distinctions, and add diacritics to distinguish all the consonants in order to show the full beauty of the underlying phonological system. This requires higher standards of linguistic and computer literacy before people can write their own language.
I would suggest that a socially optimal orthography might get by with even fewer alphabetic distinctions. People could write fewer vowels and consonants than would be optimal in isolation, while relying instead on sentential, semantic, or social context to reduce ambiguity. But this approach would make linguists feel rather less useful.

A revised Marshallese Bible was published in 2002. I'm not sure which of the several previous orthographic practices it relies on. Marshallese editions of (portions of) the Bible go back to the the 1860s, after the first missionaries had arrived, some of them from Hawai‘i.

Sample PDFs of Marshallese materials in a vowel-rich, consonant-poor orthography are accessible from the Pacific Area Language Materials website.

SOURCES: Heather Willson, A Brief Introduction to Marshallese Phonology (PDF, UCLA); Byron Bender, Spoken Marshallese (Hawai‘i, 1969); R.W.P. Brasington, Epenthesis and deletion in loan phonology (PDF, U. Reading, 1981).

UPDATE: David at Rishon-Rishon examines the question of "social optimality" at greater length, with evidence from Russian and Hebrew, noting that Russian writes consonantal palatalization on the vowels, while Hebrew writes velarization on the consonants.

23 August 2004

U.S. Dialect Survey Map and Results

Like so many of the old Anglo-immigrant stock along the coasts from Cape Cod to Chesapeake Bay, I say ahnt and peeKAHN. I alternate between UMbrella when I'm not thinking about it and umBRELLA when I stop to think. And, although I pronounce poem in two syllables, my reduced vowel ("barred i") always elicits correction from my daughter. What these dialect survey results show is how mixed-up, scattered about, and network-based U.S. dialects really are. The old regions overlap all over the place.

Protest: "It's what we know how to do."

V.S. Naipaul interviews a white liberal activist southern woman in Atlanta in 1987.
"Do you think protest is being so formalized that even black people are beginning to lose contact with what they feel, and often say what they think is expected of them?"

"I think that rote and rhetoric have replaced outrage. The first thing that happened after the very real shock about the business in Forsyth County--the shock that it, the Southern violence, wasn't dead--what swung into action then was the perfect march. And we knew just exactly how to do it. As though some cosmic march chairman pulled all the switches--and, goodness, in a week we had the perfect march.

"We had the right component of public-safety awareness, the right component of media awareness. The right crowd makeup, a nice balance of young blacks and old battle-scarred lions; and we had the right component of white liberals. You wouldn't have found an ex-president marching in that first civil-rights march. You know, the organization! The buses appeared, just like that. That's Hosea [Williams]. Boy, can he stage a civil disobedience now!"

Wasn't it good, though, that protest in the United States could be ritualized like this?

"I don't want to sound pejorative. How else would I have it? I am so thankful no lives were lost in Forsyth County, no harm was done. What I miss are the howls of pure outrage that greeted the murder of the three civil-rights workers in Mississippi. In the 1960s. But it was the spilled blood that called out the outrage. And we must not have the blood."

But there was this to the formalization of protest: there was an orthodoxy of thought about race and rights. Perhaps people would be censoring themselves sometimes, to appear to be saying the right thing.

Anne Siddons said, "I guess that happens in all revolutions. They don't end. They just pass into caricature over the years. And therefore they lose their credibility. The civil-rights movement will lose its energy and peter out into a series of sporadic brush fires, as other things come up. The civil-rights movement began to die as the peace movement and the women's movement came to life in the sixties. As I said, Americans protest anything. We are protesters. But protest made the country. It's what we know how to do."
SOURCE: A Turn in the South, by V.S. Naipaul (Vintage, 1989), pp. 44-45.

21 August 2004

Yakuza Japanese

Yakuza Japanese is just the site for those who wish to improve their J-gangsta street cred in the Kansai area. Or just to follow Japanese crime shows on TV. (Takes me back to high school days in Kobe.) It's rough talk, but most of it's not unique to yakuza.

via Language Hat

Taiwan's Distinctive Pro Baseball League

The Chinese Professional Baseball League began play in 1990 with four teams--each, as in Korea and Japan, owned by a major corporation, mainly for marketing potential. However, unlike Korea and Japan, or any other major professional league for that matter, none of the teams in the CPBL had a permanent home base. Instead, the four teams traveled around Taiwan, playing at five parks. As the league explained: "In the absence of clear demarcations of 'market territories' for the teams, plus the fact that fans do not entertain a strong sense of geographical division, scheduling and assigning game locations are done in such a way that the area factor does not distinguish host from guest. Rather, the host-or-guest designation is determined with a formula by which teams equally take turns playing the host or guest roles at a given location." Weather was a consideration in the unique setup as well. The lack of permanent home sites enabled the league to schedule more games in the warmer south earlier in the season.

Unlike Korea, which imposed revenue sharing on its teams during the early days of professional baseball, the CPBL fostered stronger competition--or, at the very least, a perception of incentive--by decreeing that "the take of each team from the proceeds of the games [shall be decided] on the basis of win or loss percentages." Teams would play a split, ninety-game season with the winners of each half meeting for the league championship. If a team won both halves, it would be declared "Grand Champion of the Year," and playoffs would be held for the runner-up "Challenge Cup."

There were two other distinguishing features in the CPBL. One was that pitching mounds varied in height from ballpark to ballpark. Another was that league rules permitted teams to carry as many players as they liked. Corporate budgets decided roster limits. Some teams carried thirty players, others only twenty-two. There was, however, a limit to the number of foreign players each team could sign. Originally, it was set at five, and no more than three could be on the field at anyone time. That first season, the four teams recruited a total of sixteen foreign players, paying them U.S.$4,000 to $5,500 per month for their services.
SOURCE: Taking in a Game: A History of Baseball in Asia, by Joseph A. Reaves (U. Nebraska Press, 2002), p. 149

Korea's Baseball Diaspora

The Korea Baseball Organization League has prospered, but not in proportion to the talent levels of Korean players--the best of whom often play in the Japanese professional leagues. In The Chrysanthemum and the Bat, Robert Whiting wrote about the roles foreign players from the United States and Korea played in Japanese baseball. "The American is not the only 'outsider' in Japanese baseball, he's just the most visible," Whiting observed. "Koreans also fall into the same category. But while the American is merely resented, the Korean is often looked down upon." Whiting claimed many Koreans born and raised in Japan played baseball because the game offered a way up and through Japan's strict social hierarchy. Even so, the escape route was only open to those Koreans who suppressed their heritage by assuming Japanese names and trying to pass for natives. Most did it so well that even their Japanese fans were duped. A favorite activity in Japanese ballparks to this day is "Korean spotting"--trying to figure what players, if any, are second-generation Koreans. Whiting quotes another knowledgeable writer who calculated there were so many Korean players in Japan "if you removed them all there wouldn't be any more Japanese baseball."

To underscore Whiting's point, few realize that Masaichi Kaneda, considered the greatest pitcher in Japanese baseball history and nicknamed the "God of Pitching," was a Japan-born Korean. Scores of other stars in Japan's two professional leagues actually were born in Korea and emigrated to play baseball.

Much has changed in the more than two decades since Whiting broke cultural and historical ground with The Chrysanthemum and the Bat. And the Korea Baseball Organization is one of those changes. Korean stars now have a native outlet for their talents. And many are eager to pursue that outlet. But the level of play in Korean professional baseball still is universally regarded as inferior to that of Japan and, certainly, the United States. The Chinese Professional Baseball League in Taiwan is widely considered better than the Korean professional league. So there still is an allure for talented Korean players to look elsewhere to challenge their abilities. Japan remains a ready and lucrative forum for them.

And, of course, in the 1990s, the United States finally began to be an option for truly exceptional players from Asia. The Los Angeles Dodgers created a minor sensation in 1993 when they paid $1.2 million to sign Park Chan Ho, an economics major and star pitcher at Han Yang University. Park went to the States, westernized his name to Chan Ho Park, and radically changed his pitching motion, which for years featured an excruciatingly long pause at the top of his windup. Japanese pitchers often use the same pause and compare it to ma, the dramatic pauses so essential to Kabuki dialogue. In You Gotta Have Wa, Robert Whiting quotes a fan of the famous Japanese relief pitcher Yutaka Enatsu, who claimed to know the secret of his hero's success: "He was good because he knew how to use the ma. He waited for just the right moment--a lapse of concentration by the batter--to deliver the pitch." But umpires and fellow professional players in the United States took one look at Park's ma and cried foul over something they had never seen before. Park took it all in stride, quietly altered a lifelong habit, and was a pitching star in the Major Leagues within two years.
SOURCE: Taking in a Game: A History of Baseball in Asia, by Joseph A. Reaves (U. Nebraska Press, 2002), p. 128-130

Reaves does best where he is able to draw on the work of previous researchers, like Robert Whiting.

20 August 2004

Philippines-Japan Prewar Baseball Rivalry

In ... 1913, the first Far Eastern Games were held in Manila. Billed as a biennial Asian Olympics, the first games featured competition in eleven events, including baseball. The Philippines won eight of eleven titles but lost the baseball competition to a team from Meiji University representing Japan. Two years later, the Philippines got revenge, winning the baseball championship at the second Far Eastern Games in Shanghai. From 1915 to 1925, the Philippines won five of six Far Eastern baseball titles, losing only the 1917 championship to a team from Waseda University....

Baseball continued to thrive in the Philippines until World War II, with Japan and the Philippines developing a particularly healthy baseball rivalry. Another article in The Sporting News of May 15, 1930, noted "the school championship of Japan attracted more spectators, average per game, than the World's [sic] Series in the United States" that year. The article then went on to say: "The National Game goes splendidly in the Philippine Islands" as well "and is played excellently by the natives. The Japanese say they cannot be outbatted by the Filipinos, but the latter affirm they are better baseball players than their neighbors to the North."
SOURCE: Taking in a Game: A History of Baseball in Asia, by Joseph A. Reaves (U. Nebraska Press, 2002), pp. 102-103

The chapter on baseball in the Philippines is much weaker than the earlier chapters.

Chun Doo-hwan Email Scam

I get a lot of so-called Nigerian scam letters by email. But yesterday was the first time I noticed a sender attempting to impersonate a Korean.
My name is JANG DOO-HWAN, The brother of Mr. CHUN DOO-HWAN, the former President of South Korea who seized power in a military coup in 1979 and who ruled from 1979 to 1987. My brother was pushed out of office and charged with treason, corruption and embezzlement of over 21billion won. He was wrongly sentenced to death but fortunately AMNESTY INTERNATIONAL stepped in and commuted the sentence to life. We thank God that he has finally being released though still under house arrest in the sense of conditions of the freedom. During my brother's regime as president of South Korea, we realized some reasonable amount of money from various deals that we successfully executed....
Gee, I can understand why Gen. Chun's brother would change his surname to Jang, but how could two brothers share the same given name? Were they perhaps conjoined twins at birth? Did the parents call one Doo and the other Hwan? These and other questions must receive satisfactory answers before I send any financial data to mrjangdoohwan@pnetmail.co.za.

19 August 2004

The Head Heeb on the Fur of Cairo

The Head Heeb blogs on the the Fur of Cairo.
Yasmine Fathi profiles the Darfur refugees in Cairo, a community of thousands that has existed in the Egyptian capital for years. Those who can make it out of the refugee camps in Chad, Libya and western Sudan often head for Egypt, which has liberal entry rules for Sudanese citizens and where an established Fur ethnic association and network of NGOs are available to help new immigrants. Although life in Cairo is infinitely preferable to the camps, much less the massacres of the janjaweed, it is often bleak
For fuller coverage of Sudan and Darfur, you can't beat the Passion of the Present. Black Star Journal, which focuses on sub-Saharan Africa, also devotes regular attention to Darfur.

Swimmer Ikarashi Goes for the Cold!

While all those fair-weather swimmers were going for their medals in Greece, a tough Japanese school teacher swam across Lake Baikal, where the water temperature is 9-11° C (48-52° F). Interfax reports:
IRKUTSK. Aug 13 (Interfax-Siberia) - Ikarashi Ken, 52, a Japanese school teacher, successfully swam across Lake Baikal from Cape Sredny to a bay near the community of Buguldeika on the lake's western coast in 15 hours on Thursday....

Ikarashi Ken has set several records by swimming across Pas de Calais, the 28-kilometer wide Tatar Strait, the 40-kilometer strait between Hokkaido and Sakhalin, Lake Biwa-ko in Japan, and also the straight between Korea and Japan.
via SiberianLight, who's back to blogging again after a hiatus.

18 August 2004

Philadelphia Bobbies Barnstorm Japan, 1925

Many people have written about the various barnstorming tours of Japan by male baseball teams from the U.S., the most famous being the 1934 tour sponsored by the Yomiuri Shimbun (owner of the long-dominant Yomiuri Giants), which included Babe Ruth. Not so many people are aware of the female "squad of semiprofessionals who made a remarkable and sadly ill-fated tour of the Orient in the fall of 1925."
That team was the Philadelphia Bobbies, composed of females aged thirteen to twenty, who went to Japan with the promise of making as much as $500 apiece for playing exhibitions. The Bobbies were one of two leading "bloomer girl" squads of the 1920s. The other was the New York Bloomer Girls.... The trip to the Orient in 1925 was collaborative effort of Mary O'Gara, the Bobbies' manager and chaperone, and Eddie Ainsmith, a former Major Leaguer, who, just the year before, had taken twenty-four young men to Japan and boasted that each earned $830 playing exhibition baseball....

Ainsmith handled financial arrangements for the tour. Three Japanese promoters agreed to pay one-way, first-class passage for the team across the Pacific and assured Ainsmith and the Bobbies that generous gate receipts would cover costs of lodging, meals, and return fare--with a tidy profit for everyone in the traveling party. Unfortunately, that never happened. The Bobbies received a typically warm Japanese welcome. Reporters were on hand to greet them when they landed in Yokohama. So were the university teams they were scheduled to play. Tour promoters passed out flowers, had welcome banners strung, and provided rickshaws to shuttle the Bobbies from the Tokyo train station to their rooms at the newly built Western-style Marunouchi Hotel....

By early November, as the Bobbies continued to barnstorm through central Honshu with stops in Kyoto and Kobe, they began to lose regularly, and the crowds began to dwindle. E. R. Dickover, the U.S. consul at Kobe, summed up the situation in direct--if hardly diplomatic--language. "Because the girls could not play a sufficiently strong game to compete with any school team in Japan and as the Japanese would pay only to see a baseball contest and would not turn out simply because one of the teams was composed of girls, the trip was a financial failure from the start, despite all the advertising efforts of the promoters."...

By mid-November, reality began to sink in. Two of the Japanese promoters disappeared without paying any bills. The third promoter, T. Shima, went bankrupt. Finally, on Friday the thirteenth--appropriately enough--Ainsmith and Mary O'Gara had a showdown about money. Ainsmith thought if the Bobbies moved on to Korea they could get a fresh start and turn their financial troubles around. O'Gara was afraid and wanted to go home. The two parted ways. Ainsmith convinced Leona Kearns and two other players--Edith Ruth, who played first base, and infielder-outfielder Nellie Schank--to go to Korea. With Hamilton, the three U.S. players, and four Japanese players, Ainsmith set out for Seoul. O'Gara and the nine remaining Bobbies threw themselves on the mercy of the expatriate Americans living in Kobe. But those U.S. citizens were being called upon constantly to bailout wayward travelers and were developing thick skins. The only help the Bobbies received was from an American named Henry Sanborn, who fed and housed the players at his hotel, the Pleasanton [scroll down], and tried unsuccessfully to convince an Osaka newspaper magnate to start a fund-raising campaign. The failed Japanese promoter, Shima-san, also tried unselfishly, in the face of his own financial problems, to drum up donations from wealthy Japanese to pay the Bobbies' way back. But he, too, was unsuccessful. Finally, and almost miraculously, a wealthy British-Indian banker stepped in to save the Bobbies. N.H.N. Mody, who was living at the Pleasanton Hotel, heard about the Bobbies' troubles and, without ever having met any of the players, wrote a check for 12,000 yen, approximately U.S.$6,000, to pay their passage back home.

O'Gara and the nine Bobbies in her company arrived home in Philadelphia on December 6, 1925, having done little to promote women's baseball. Around that time, Ainsmith and his group returned to Kobe, where they asked the U.S. consul to accompany them to the police to try to secure the funds they had been promised by the promoters who disappeared. The police said they could do nothing. Again, Henry Sanborn provided what help he could, housing Ainsmith, his wife, and the three remaining Bobbie players in his hotel. He even hocked some brass treasures and curios to try to raise enough money to ship the Bobbies home. All he could get for them was about $300, not nearly enough for the tickets. Ainsmith then announced he had managed to have money wired from the States, but only enough to pay for his and his wife's passage home. With his back to the wall, his patience running out, and his pockets only half full, Ainsmith told the players they would have to fend for themselves. The Ainsmiths sailed for home on December 27, 1925, leaving behind the three young women who had stood by the troubled tour leader all winter. U.S. Consul Dickover explained how such a callous abandonment was allowed to happen: "While Mr. Ainsmith was morally bound to care for the girls and should have remained with them until their repatriation, he could not be held legally responsible and so was permitted to leave."

Indirectly, Ainsmith's cold-heartedness led to Leona Kearns's death. By early January 1926, her parents were frantic. Kearns was embarrassed and ashamed and had never written about her troubles. But her parents read about the return of the rest of the Bobbies in early December and began making a series of increasingly worried inquiries about their daughter. When Claude Kearns finally learned in early January that his daughter was stranded in Japan, he rushed to a local bank and borrowed $300 to pay for a second-class ticket home. On January 18, 1926, a relieved Leona Kearns boarded the Empress of Asia with her two friends, Nellie Schank and Edith Ruth, whose fares were covered with Sanborn's help and the proceeds of a benefit dance.

The trip home was as disastrous as the tour…. [W]hen the ship finally got under way, it was battered by winter storms. For nearly four days, the crew plowed through winds as high as seventy miles per hour (112 kilometers per hour) that churned waves eighty to ninety feet high (twenty-four to twenty-seven meters). The second-class passengers rode out the tempest below deck behind steel storm doors. When the doors finally were thrown open the afternoon of January 22, Kearns felt as if she had been released from prison. She ran wild up and down the deck, delirious at finally sensing the end of her exciting but troubled journey. A ship's officer warned her it was dangerous to run around on deck since the ship was still rolling. So Kearns went to the salon to have tea. Her friend Nellie Schank had been feeling seasick and was out on deck getting some air. Kearns finished her tea and stepped out to join Schank just as a giant wave rose out of the sea. Kearns shouted a warning to Schank, leaped over a bench, and sprinted for a bulkhead door just as the towering wave crashed. Edith Ruth, the third of the stranded Philadelphia Bobbies, saw the horror unfold from the tea parlor. She ran to the door and was relieved to find Schank grasping a rail as the receding water swept almost everything from the deck to the sea. Kearns, however, was nowhere to be seen.

The crew of the Empress of Asia cut the ship's engine and circled the stormy sea for an hour. No trace of Leona Kearns ever was found. She was seventeen. Eddie Ainsmith, the quarrelsome catcher who already had a full career when he recruited her for the tour and left her behind in a strange land, lived another fifty-five years. He went on to become a Major League coach, an umpire, and a scout and, briefly, in 1947, managed the Rockford (Illinois) Peaches of the All-American Girls Baseball League. He died in Florida at the age of ninety in 1981.
SOURCE: Taking in a Game: A History of Baseball in Asia, by Joseph A. Reaves (U. Nebraska Press, 2002), pp. 59-63

16 August 2004

Grandfather of Chinese Baseball, Liang Fuchu

Shanghai's--and Old China's--glory days of baseball came in the late 1920s and early 1930s. Those days still are linked with memories of Liang Fuchu and the Shanghai Pandas. Remembered a generation later as the "grandfather of Chinese baseball," Liang had gone to Japan in the 1920s as a student and returned as a businessperson. He learned baseball in Japan and formed a powerful team nicknamed the Pandas when he came back to China.

Liang Fuchu's ties to baseball spanned half a century. In the 1950s, shortly after the founding of the People's Republic, Liang was brought in to teach the game to a group of Chinese sailors in the port city of Qingdao. His popularity there led him to the attention of Marshal He [Long, head of Physical Culture and Sports Commission], who decreed during the 1950s that certain units of the People's Liberation Army should be taught baseball. In 1953, Marshall He sent Liang Fuchu to coach army teams in Shandong and Sichuan Provinces.

Liang Fuchu passed his love of baseball on to his sons--three of whom were coaching the game in Beijing, Shanghai, and Guangzhou in the 1980s. Liang's fourth son was an umpire in Guangzhou.

One of the last happy moments for baseball in China in the first half of the twentieth century came in 1934, during the heyday of Liang Fuchu and the Shanghai Pandas, when Babe Ruth and a team of U.S. All-Stars stopped in Shanghai after their final prewar tour of Japan. Ruth predictably provided the greatest thrills, hitting three home runs in a game against a team of U.S. Marines. But another bit of baseball history came out of the trip. It involved a Shanghai native named Li Bao-jun, who was catcher, manager, and coach of a local team. Li volunteered to serve as tour guide and escort for some of the U.S. All-Stars, taking them to lunch at the famous Sun Ya restaurant and walking them along the city's world-renowned waterfront, the Bund.

To show their appreciation, the players gave Li two autographed baseballs. Fifty-five years later, one of those balls ended up in the National Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, New York. Li had hidden and protected it through the 1937 bombing of Shanghai, the Japanese occupation, the war between the Communists and Nationalists, the Great Leap Forward, and the Cultural Revolution. He donated it to the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1989....

Communist revolutionaries played baseball throughout the 1930s and 1940s ... In the past baseball was known as junqiu, or "army ball." ... For more than a decade after the founding of the People's Republic in October 1949, baseball was played across China. Both baseball and softball were included in the first postrevolution National Games held in 1956. The winning baseball team, from Shanghai, was coached by Liang Fuchu. Three years later, baseball was popular enough to attract more than thirty provincial, military, and city teams to the first New China Baseball Tournament.
It only fell from grace during the 1960s, like so many other traditions.

SOURCE: Taking in a Game: A History of Baseball in Asia, by Joseph A. Reaves (U. Nebraska Press, 2002), pp. 42-44

15 August 2004

Early Baseball Addict, Sir Chentung Liang Cheng

Probably the most famous baseball-addicted member of the Chinese Educational Mission [to the U.S. in the 1870s] was Liang Pixu, also known as Liang Pe Yuk, Pi Yuk, and, later, as Sir Chentung Liang Cheng. A member of the final detachment of students, he was just twelve years old when he arrived in the United States in 1875. He was in his third year of college preparatory work at Phillips Andover Academy when the mission was scuttled in 1881. Liang Pixu would return to the United States years later as China's top diplomatic representative, but not before he gained a measure of fame in New England as a clutch-hitting baseball star. His reputation was made in a game between Phillips Andover Academy and Phillips Exeter Academy in 1881, just weeks before the Chinese Educational Mission was called home.

Andover and Exeter were bitter rivals. The two schools were founded just five years apart--Andover in 1778 and Exeter in 1783--and were located just twenty-five miles (forty kilometers) from each other--Andover in the northeastern corner of Massachusetts and Exeter in the southeastern corner of New Hampshire. They attracted the elite of New England, who, like students everywhere, were prone to measure their pride as readily in athletics as in academics. The first time the two schools met on a baseball field was in 1878, the centenary of Andover's founding, when Exeter crushed Andover 11-1. Three years later, though, Andover got its revenge with a 13-5 win at Exeter. The star of that sweet victory was outfielder Chentung Liang Cheng, who drove in three runs with a pair of key extra-base hits under ugly circumstances. Seeing a Chinese student wearing the flannel baseball uniform of their bitter rivals, the Exeter fans behaved predictably. They greeted Chentung Liang Cheng with derisive ethnic jeers that played on the racial stereotypes of the times, yelling: "Washee, washee; chinkee go back benchee." Chentung Liang Cheng ignored the taunts and responded by hitting the first pitch he saw for a two-run triple. An inning later, he doubled home another run.

Judging from accounts of other baseball games of the times, the ethnic jeers that greeted Chentung Liang Cheng at Exeter were but a trivial annoyance. An Andover official recalled arriving at another baseball game on that campus and finding "the air blue from the smoke of exploding firecrackers hurled at the players by the respective opposition. In addition, a small cannon was installed near first base. Loaded with grass and dirt, from time to time it added to the hazards of trying to play on the diamond itself. Any base runner had to bury his face in his arms to protect his eyes, if not his life." Baseball games in New England at the time were chaos--much as they would be in Korea a century later.

There was chaos of a different kind when Chentung Liang Cheng and his Andover teammates returned home from their win over Exeter. In a speech he delivered twenty-two years later to mark the 125th anniversary of the founding of Phillips Academy, Sir Chentung Liang Cheng described the scene. "When the train arrived with the victorious nine, the whole school turned out to welcome (us) with torchlights, a brass band and an omnibus drawn by enthusiastic students with long rope," he recalled. "Even Rome could not have received Caesar with greater enthusiasm and pride when he returned from his famous campaigns in triumph."

The joy of baseball and of that triumphant moment stayed with Chentung Liang Cheng the rest of his remarkable life. After returning to China, he spent years in service of the Qing Dynasty government, rising steadily through the diplomatic ranks. In 1897, while serving in London as secretary to the Special Chinese Embassy to Queen Victoria's Diamond Jubilee celebrations, Liang Cheng was named an Honorary Knight Commander of Michael and George. At that time, he placed his Western "courtesy name," Chentung, before his family name to more readily conform to British custom. Had he failed to do so, his English-speaking friends inevitably would have called him Sir Liang, which would have been as wholly inappropriate as referring to Winston Churchill as Sir Churchill after his knighthood. Decorum decrees the nomenclature should be Sir Winston and Sir Chentung.

The crowning moment of Sir Chentung's diplomatic career came on July 12, 1902, when he became China's minister to the United States--the emperor's ambassador to Meiguo--a post he held until July 3, 1907. He was a natural at the job, fostering good relations on every level, from the White House to the New England schoolrooms where he had gotten his education years earlier.

In 1905, three decades after he left China as a twelve-year-old student, Sir Chentung wrote an article for a youth magazine in the United States in which he used baseball, among other games, to explain the wonders of life in his adopted country. "In a Chinese school it is all work and no play," he wrote. "There is no intermission from morning till night except for meals. There is no recess during school hours. There are no regular holidays, like Saturdays and Sundays, to break the monotony of daily routine. There is no summer vacation to look forward to as a season of relaxation and freedom." Things were different in the United States. "Here work is seasoned with play. Baseball, football, and other athletic sports furnish the necessary outlets for the escape of the superfluous energy of youth. In fact, what is positively forbidden to a schoolboy in China may be freely enjoyed to the full in America." The lengthy article was accompanied by a line drawing of a batter swinging at a ball and two photographs--one showing Liang Cheng in his Andover baseball uniform and one showing him as he appeared in 1903, dressed in elegant Chinese robes.

Liang Cheng was proud of his baseball experience and believed his proficiency at such an intrinsically American game helped his diplomatic career in Washington. Once, shortly after taking his post, Sir Chentung met U.S. President Theodore Roosevelt, who said an old friend recently told him he thought the new Chinese minister played baseball for Andover and helped win a championship with a key hit in the 1880s. Sir Chentung happily confirmed the story, and Roosevelt asked who had been the best player on that Andover team? The new minister temporarily abandoned his Chinese manners and diplomatic reserve and replied simply, he was. "From that moment the relations between President Roosevelt and myself became ten-fold stronger and closer," Liang Cheng said.
SOURCE: Taking in a Game: A History of Baseball in Asia, by Joseph A. Reaves (U. Nebraska Press, 2002), pp. 24-27

Unknown Regional Baseball Rules

All baseball teams in the Olympics may play by the same set of international rules, but there are many, many variations at national, local, and league levels. Here are some of the hitherto unknown rules of the game in different parts of the world.
  • In Mongolia, baseball is played on horseback, but without saddles. The horses wear shinguards and shaffrons. If the pitcher beans either the batter or his horse, the batter is awarded first base--provided he manages to stay on the horse.

  • In the U.S. Beantown League, by contrast, any batter who is beaned is permitted to go directly to second base--by way of the pitcher's mound, but without the bat.

  • In Philippines Peoplepowerball, the spectators in the stands are permitted to throw an umpire out of the game if they disagree with the call. The hometeam usually wins.

  • In U.S. Ownerball, the owners of the opposing teams are permitted to place bids with the homeplate umpire for as many as three strikes and four balls per game. The richer owner's team often wins.

  • In the sparsely populated Australian Outback, where the outfield is the outback and a home run is a walkabout, Ockerball only requires three players (and 27 beers) per side. On the tiny islands of the Torres Straits, this is known as Beach Baseball.

  • China's Iron Ricebowl League, by contrast, allows up to 18 players per side, two at each field position. In ideal cases, one is a better fielder and the other a better hitter, but in actual practice, one is usually an unambitious young person and the other an elder dependent.

  • In China, spitballs are permitted.

  • In Korea and the Philippines, hot dogs are served in bowls, not buns.

  • In Japan, tie games are permitted, but not counted as wins or losses. In Canada and New Zealand, a tie game is regarded as a win-win.

  • Japanese Pro Baseball allows foreign players, but with restrictions: only two foreign players are permitted in the field at any one time, and only one foreign player is allowed to be on base at any one time. If a foreign player comes up to bat when another is already on base, the former must either bring the latter home, sacrifice to move him forward, or strike out. (A walk, whether intentional or not, will advance the lead runner unless the manager of the team at bat elects to replace the batter with a native-born pinch runner. This is an example of how protectionism breeds regulatory excess.)

  • In China, first base is down the left foul line and base runners run clockwise around the diamond. In Taiwan, first base is down the right foul line and base runners run counter-clockwise around the diamond.

  • North Korea requires all players to bat, throw, and pitch left-handed. South Korea used to require all players to play right-handed, but its new Sunshine Policy now requires all players to be ambidextrous. The home team must play right-handed and the visitors left-handed.

  • In the Micronesian Lagoon League, the ball field is underwater and the infield must be at least 1 meter deep. A hit that lands in the ocean outside the atoll is a home run, and one that touches the land qualifies as a ground-rule double, even if it rolls into the ocean.

  • In the old Siberian League, the bases were 90 meters apart, the outfield barbed wire was at least 500 meters distant, the 50-meter warning track was mined, umpires were armed, and guard towers were placed at the end of each foul line. Home runs were extremely rare, but ground balls could go a long way on the ice if they got past the outfielders, and mine-rule doubles were fairly common.

SOURCES: Herodotus, Confuseus, Marco Polo, Reuters, Katie Couric, faroutliars

14 August 2004

McGrath: A special Olympic guide

I can sympathize more than a bit with columnist Jon McGrath as he opines on Olympic coverage.
The Olympics start today, and NBC is planning 24-hour-a-day coverage on its various networks....

But with so much coverage, no one can see it all. Here's one suggestion to narrow your viewing: weed out the events that aren't real sports.

My first rule of thumb is a simple one: if the results of a contest are solely decided by a judge or panel of judges, it is not a sport.

It is a skill. It is an event. It is a spectacle. It is something I could never do well if you gave me my whole life to train, but it is not a sport.

In addition to the "no judge rule," there are a few rules I have to further define a sport.

First, the term "Degree of Difficulty" can never, ever be used to help determine the outcome.

Can you imagine if baseball had such a rule? Let's say Manny doubles in Johnny Damon with a tying run in the bottom of the ninth. The umpire could then decide that, because Manny hit a nasty slider, low and away, on an 0-2 count, that he really deserves a home run because the pitch was much more difficult to hit than a fastball down the middle. Manny trots home, game over. It's ridiculous to even suggest.

You could argue that baseball has umpires and football has referees, etc. It is not the same. Those officials are there to enforce the rules, not decide who is best. Sure, they make mistakes that affect games, but they are not the sole arbitrators of who wins and loses.

Black Ships, Bêsubôru, and Big Macs

Baseball reached Japan the way it reached most of the rest of Asia, courtesy of missionaries and the military during the heady days of U.S. expansion. Commodore Matthew Perry arrived with his Black Ships in 1853 and forced the Japanese to end nearly three hundred years of feudal isolation and open their ports to the West. Little more than a decade later, the Japanese embarked on a national revolution, the Meiji Restoration, designed to unite the country under a strong central leadership and avoid foreign domination by embracing those areas such as education, technology, and military tactics where the West seemed superior.

During the early years of the Meiji Era (1867-1912), Horace Wilson, a young American brought in to teach history and English at Tokyo's Kaisei Gakkô (now Tokyo University), introduced his students to the fundamentals of baseball. The exact date, even the year, seems lost in history. But it was some time between 1867 and 1873 because by the latter year, another American teacher, Albert Bates, is credited with organizing the first formal baseball game in Japan. That game was played at Kaitaku University in Tokyo and is widely accepted as the birth of baseball in Japan.

Few historians, and even fewer fans, realize that baseball was being played in China more than a decade before Bates organized the first game in Japan. Baseball can trace its roots in China back to at least 1863, when the Shanghai Baseball Club was formed, two generations before the collapse of the Qing Dynasty. But while baseball was confined mainly to the expatriate community and a scant few Western schools in China, the game was almost immediately popular in Japan--first among elite university students and later among the population at large.

By 1878, Japan had its first organized team, the Shinbashi Athletic Club Athletics, founded by railway engineer Hiroshi Hiraoka, who had become a die-hard Boston Red Sox fan while studying in the United States. By the 1890s, baseball was hailed as "the fastest-growing college sport" in Japan. And by 1922, University of Chicago coach and educator Nels Norgren declared baseball already had become "more the national sport of Japan than it is of America."

A world war that pitted the baseball-loving lands of Japan and the United States against one another did little to slow the progress of the sport in Asia. If anything, the war quickened and legitimized devotion to baseball in Japan--and thence the rest of Asia. True, the dream of U.S. Army Major Roger B. Doulens still is a long way from reality. Doulens wrote to The Sporting News in March 1946 and painted a picture of the happy day--perhaps, he said, as early as 1955--when a shortstop for the Shanghai Spartans of the Yellow River League might be sold to the New York Giants for 500,000 Chinese dollars.

By 1955, Chinese dollars had fled the mainland to Taiwan. There were no Shanghai Spartans, no Yellow River League. And there certainly wasn't a shortstop within a thousand miles of Shanghai who could displace Alvin Dark of the Giants. But nearly half a century later, amateur baseball is gaining a measure of popularity in China. A baseball stadium recently was built in Ulan Bator, the capital of Mongolia. Professional baseball leagues--highly competitive leagues--flourish in Japan, Korea, Taiwan, and Australia. And nearly every country in Asia and Oceania competes in both the amateur International Baseball Association and the worldwide Little League baseball program.

Just as in the Americas, where the United States is baseball's foremost power, so, too, in Asia one nation dominates the sport. Japan is the keeper and guiding light of Asian baseball. The style of play and strategy, the reaction of fans and players--even the way games are officiated and reported--all mirror Japanese values, not American. That is why scoreboards in Japan, and across Asia, have an extra column labeled "B" for bases on ball. A walk may not count as an official at bat, but it helps the team and therefore deserves a place of prominence on the scoreboard.

In 1981, Masaru Ikei, professor of Japanese diplomatic history at Keio University, wrote: "Baseball, in Japan, though an imported sport, has been assimilated into the natural culture. Japanese values have suffused the sport." Ikei, of course, was correct. But he could have gone further. Confucian values have become rooted in baseball and have helped define the game in Asia. The Great American Game has become the Great Japanese Game in Asia largely because the Japanese suffused it with social and cultural priorities that more closely mirror their society--and those of their neighbors--than they do in North, and even South, America, where all too often money means everything and "me" is more important than "we."

To many baseball fans in North and South America, that might sound like heresy. But to most Japanese it is reality. The Japanese have done to baseball what they did to McDonald's hamburgers. They have taken something once thought to be "uniquely American" and turned it into something that is, without question, "intensely Japanese."

When McDonald's decided to expand to Japan, the company chose as its partner a Japanese businessperson who was at once both rebel and conservative. Den Fujita broke the Japanese stereotype of the team player who owed his loya!ty and identity to one of Japan's prestigious giant corporations. He was an aggressive entrepreneur who struck it rich at age twenty-five by starting his own business importing U.S.-made golf shoes and clubs. Yet Fujita was inherently conservative enough to understand and exploit the paradox of the Japanese, who envied the success of the West but cherished their own culture to the point of exclusion. "All Japanese have an inferiority complex about anything that is foreign because everything in our culture has come from the outside," Fujita once said. "Our writing comes from China, our Buddhism from Korea, and after the war, everything new, from Coca-Cola to IBM, came from America. Japanese people are basically anti-foreigner. We don't like the Chinese, we don't like the Koreans, and we especially don't like the Americans because we lost the war to them."

Fujita knew those feelings, and he knew how to use them to make a success of McDonald's. He created and carefully nurtured the impression that McDonald's was for all intents and purposes a Japanese invention. A survey done in the 1970s confirmed that the vast majority of young people in Japan believed McDonald's was a Japanese company. A similar survey done in late 1997 by Harvard University scholar James L. Watson revealed Hong Kong University students were unaware that McDonald's was a U.S. company. And in an article written for Foreign Affairs magazine in 2000, Watson cited other examples of the "localizations" of McDonald's, including a story about the children of colleagues from Taiwan and South Korea who were overjoyed to see the Golden Arches in the United States. "Look! They have our kind of food here," an eight-year-old South Korean shouted.

Much the same kind of localization, acculturation, and assimilation has occurred with baseball. The Japanese took a foreign product and made it their own--then became a driving force, and comforting example, in helping the same thing happen in other areas of Asia.
SOURCE: Taking in a Game: A History of Baseball in Asia, by Joseph A. Reaves (U. Nebraska Press, 2002), pp. 14-16
"Special books don't come along too often - if you are capable of looking past MLB then this book is a must read; it will change your whole take on America's game.

Only twice before have I given a book a perfect 4-ball rating - but this one gets it with no reservations at all. Run - don’t walk to your local store to get a copy of this one, or better yet order it [here]." --Jonathan Leshanksi, athomeplate.com

13 August 2004

UH Regents Discuss Evan S. Dobelle

Both major Honolulu dailies, the Star-Bulletin and the Advertiser, published their reports from what the latter describes as "hundreds of pages of documents released yesterday by the University of Hawai'i, including personal e-mails, UH Foundation documents, travel itineraries and draft minutes from two key meetings of the UH Board of Regents."

The Star-Bulletin focuses on the Regents' loss of trust and ends with a list of key issues.
Minutes of meetings and documents that led to the firing of University of Hawaii President Evan Dobelle show regents believed Dobelle misused a UH Foundation fund and lost the trust of the board because of his "lies."

In a discussion in executive session before the vote to fire Dobelle on June 15, regents expressed their reasons why the then-president should be terminated, including allegedly using UH Foundation money for personal benefit, and a lack of leadership, follow-up and credibility.

Regent Walter Nunokawa said the board should have taken action last year, but "the Lingle appointees wanted to have a chance to work with the president and see if they could do better than we did with him."

Board Vice Chairwoman Kitty Lagareta, who was appointed to the board last year by Gov. Linda Lingle, said she wanted to give Dobelle a chance. But, according to the minutes' summary of her comments, "the bottom line for her is that the president is a liar -- a habitual liar, and unfortunately a very credible liar." ...

According to the minutes, Deloitte & Touche auditor Gary Nishikawa told the regents that there was a "reimbursement frenzy" when the fund was audited. But he said it was not within the auditor's scope of services to render an opinion or determine whether there was an intent to defraud the university.

Dobelle has said there was sloppy bookkeeping with the fund but no intent to take money....


Problem areas related to the Board of Regents' June 15 firing of University of Hawaii President Evan Dobelle, according to documents released yesterday and cited by UH sources:

>> An audit report that shows $72,000 in undocumented expenses from Dobelle's protocol fund managed by the UH Foundation.

>> Use of about $7,000 from a restricted donation for a video showing Dobelle receiving a Salesman of the Year award from Sales and Marketing Executives of Hawaii.

>> Use of university funds for flights to the mainland to interview for positions at other institutions.

>> Dobelle, a former mayor of Pittsfield, Mass., flew the sheriff of Pittsfield to Hawaii and put him up in a Waikiki hotel [not just any old Waikiki hotel, but the Halekulani, "the premier luxury hotel"!] at university expense. Dobelle told the regents he was recruiting the sheriff to work on an educational program, but administrators of the program said they never heard of him.

>> Dobelle also used university funds for air fare and hotel expenses for the men's squash coach at Trinity College in Hartford, Conn., where Dobelle formerly was president, saying he was recruiting the coach, even though UH does not have a squash program.

>> Cost overruns for renovation of College Hill, the university president's residence.

>> A $4,000 trip taken by Dobelle's wife, Kit, to a conference in Massachusetts at her college alma mater.

Source: Associated Press [probably AP reporter Bruce Dunford; see this blog's initial post on Dobelle].
The Advertiser leads off with alleged misuse of funds and ends with assessments from each member of the Board of Regents.
During some fund-raising trips on behalf of the University of Hawai'i in the past nine months, Evan Dobelle was job-hunting and undergoing personal job interviews, according to documents released by the university yesterday....


Highlights from the minutes of June 15, when regents fired Dobelle "for cause." They later rescinded that decision:

Regent Myron A. Yamasato • "Regent Yamasato stated that since Dobelle has no solid support from any stakeholder group ... his appointment should be terminated."

Regent Walter Nunokawa • "Regent Nunokawa noted that after three years there is still no operational plan for the university, just a bunch of big ideas without priority or commitment attached to them. He noted it is particularly troubling, since he is one of the few regents who were on board when Dobelle was hired, to find that many side contracts were negotiated without the knowledge or oversight of the Board. Regent Nunokawa concluded that since there is no trust, and the feeling is unanimous that he has no integrity, there is no reason to continue his appointment."

Chairwoman Patricia Lee • "In the areas of scholarship and academics, it is questionable whether he is fit to lead a Research 1 (One) University and whether he would have earned tenure on his own given his academic credentials. If the public knew what the board knows and if these things could be brought (to) light, the public would be outraged."

Regent Charles Kawakami • "He stated that the president simply has no integrity and you cannot trust him so it is really impossible to work with him."

Regent Kitty Lagareta • "Regent Lagareta also noted that she had been deeply troubled by President Dobelle's inability to work effectively with women. She said that it was unbelievable when he told some male regents that things would be easier if he didn't have to work with two women as chair and vice chair."

Regent James J.C. Haynes II • "He said it is time to move on past Evan Dobelle because he is simply not good for the university."

Regent Alvin A. Tanaka • "Given all the lies, threats, and problems with money, Regent Tanaka said that personally he would not stay on the board if President Dobelle continued."

Regent Trent K. Kakuda • "Regent Kakuda said that he simply could not take another year of the president's lies and deceptions to the board and to the public."

Regent Byron W. Bender • "President Dobelle has demonstrated no leadership in dealing with problems, choosing rather to allow them to 'fester' and eventually land at the board's doorstep. He has a problem with money and the board cannot allow it to continue."

Regent Jane B. Tatibouet • "There is too much money being mismanaged and misused for his personal benefit rather than for the entire university."
A related story is headlined How regents reached decision.
The meeting at which University of Hawai'i regents decided to fire President Evan Dobelle — a decision they later rescinded in a settlement agreement — began with advice from the board's attorney and discussion of an audit of Dobelle's spending, draft minutes of the session released yesterday show....

According to the draft minutes, "Lee said that she favors a graceful termination or resignation, but President Dobelle already stated publicly that we 'can't fire him' and that the board will have to 'buy him out.'

"She added that this may be the president's final position, but that she has done some analysis and ... the university could save about $1,386,000 even if the board did buy him out of his main contract and probably much more once the board does an assessment of all of his side agreements."

She also said the university could save money with the departures of "his high-priced people, some of whom have already left," the minutes show.
Finally, the Star-Bulletin includes a sad sidebar story by investigative reporter Rick Daysog headlined, Dobelle siphoned off donation for Jewish studies at UH: The donor asks that the money be restored to its original purpose.

Well, I guess I've finally figured out what Evan S. Dobelle's middle initial stands for.

UPDATE: In the 18 August edition of Honolulu MidWeek, columnist Bob Jones reports on "What the Dobelle Report Left Out." His sources say that after the Regents decided to fire Dobelle for cause on the advice of their special-hire attorney, Barry Marr, UH attorney [and the Democratic Party's in-house watchdog] Walter Kirimitsu suggested that [long-time Democratic Party insider] Dobelle might sue the Regents individually, in which case it would be better to try mediation first.
The public also deserves some answers from former regent, chairwoman Lily Yao. The others gave her authority to work out and sign the Dobelle contract.

Why did she give Dobelle everything he wanted, including expedited (immediate) tenure? That's not uncommon if a university is trying to hire someone who's a world-class scholar, professor or researcher. Dobelle was a politician with no professorial background and a record of administration only at three very small colleges--never at a Carnegie I research institution such as the UH. Why did Yao toss in a private letter giving Dobelle extra insurance and a year's paid sabbatical without telling all the other regents?

When the regents went into session on June 15, Evan Dobelle was going to be fired. There was no question of talking to him and trying to work things out. Too many were infuriated by a previous session in which they tell me he leaned back in his chair, put his hands behind his head and I gave them his you-can't-fire-me smile as they went on about what they saw as misuse of money, bad evaluations, bad management and missed meetings.

And he almost couldn't be fired. Not one word in the contract allowed him to be fired for insubordination, failure to carry out the regents' mandates or poor evaluations. He had been made virtually fire-proof by Lily Yao's solo signature. The only question on June 15 as the regents talked with Marr over several hours was if they could stretch to a for-cause firing. Just plain firing, they agreed, didn't cut it--mainly because of that tenure business. Marr said yes.
Good riddance. Dobelle was the last straw. I've lost whatever residual faith I once had in Hawai‘i's Democratic Party.

UPDATE: In the 20 August 2004 edition of Pacific Business News, Howard Dicus explains "How Hawaii Works":
To a journalist, Dobelle's failure to deliver was the story. Something that isn't surprising, isn't news. "Family of Six Survives as Boiler Fails to Explode!" But the gap between Dobelle's crackerjack billing and slacker performance? That was surprising. [Well, he did work for the State after all.] How could a former White House protocol officer be so bad at politics? [Well, it was the Carter White House.] How could a veteran of New England winters not learn to love slippas? [Well, he apparently didn't spend all that much time in the Islands.]

By contrast, if the regents mishandled his firing, where's the news in that? The regents are a committee. We all know how committees are.

Lewis Thomas once described the collective intellect of ants by saying that one ant is an idiot, two ants are the glimmering of an idea, but an entire anthill is a marvelous brain, "with little bits for its wits."

Humans work the opposite way. One human can be an Einstein. Two humans thinking together are a compromise. Put five or six perfectly intelligent humans around a table and a camel begins to appear in the paddock. And so on, all the way up to the Board of Regents.

12 August 2004

Republicans in Dallas, 1984

IT WAS in Dallas in 1984, at the Republican convention, that the idea of traveling in the American South, or Southeast, came to me. I had never been in the South before; and though Dallas was not part of the Southeast I later chose to travel in, I had a sufficiently strong sense there of a region quite distinct from New York and New England, which were essentially all that I knew of the United States....

It was mid-August, and hot. I liked the contrast on the downtown streets of bright light and the deep shadows of tall buildings, and the strange feel of another, more temperate climate that those shadows gave. One constantly played with contrasts like that. The tinted glass of the hotel room softened the glare of the hot sky: the true color of the sky, outside, was always a surprise. Air conditioning in hotels, cars, and the convention center made the heat, in one's passages through it, stimulating.

The heat was a revelation. It made one think of the old days. Together with the great distances, it gave another idea of the lives of the early settlers. But now the very weather of the South had been made to work the other way. The heat that should have debilitated had been turned into a source of pleasure, a sensual excitement, an attraction: a political convention could be held in Dallas in the middle of August.

On the wall at the back of the podium in the convention center the flags of the states were laid flat, in alphabetical order. The flags of the older states were distinctive; they made me think of the British-colonial flag (and the British-given colonial motto, in Latin, from Virgil) I had known as a child in Trinidad. And for the first time it occurred to me that Trinidad, a former British colony (from 1797), and an agricultural slave colony (until 1833, when slavery was abolished in the British Empire), would have had more in common with the old slave states of the Southeast than with New England or the newer European-immigrant states of the North. That should have occurred to me a long time before, but it hadn't. What I had heard as a child about the racial demeanor of the South had been too shocking. It had tainted the United States, and had made me close my mind to the South.

The convention center was very big. The eye could not take it all in at once. In that vast space the figures on the podium looked small. They could have been lost; but a big screen above them magnified their image, and scores of smaller screens all over the center repeated this living, filmed picture. It was hypnotic, that same face or gesture in close-up coming at one from so many angles. The aim might only have been communication and clarity; but no more grandiose statement could have been made about the primacy of men; nothing could have so attempted to stretch out the glory of the passing moment. And yet, almost as part of its political virtue, this convention dealt in piety and humility and heaven, and daily abased itself before God.

A famous local Baptist pastor spoke the final benediction. His church organization was prodigious; its property in downtown Dallas was said by the newspapers to be worth very many millions. His service, on the Sunday after the convention, was to a packed congregation. It was also being carried on television; and it was a full, costumed production, with music and singing. But the hellfire sermon might have come from a simpler, rougher time, when perhaps for five or six months of the year people had no escape from the heat, when travel was hard, when people lived narrowly in the communities into which they had been born, and life was given meaning only by absolute religious certainties.

I began to think of writing about the South. My first travel book--undertaken at the suggestion of Eric Williams, the first black prime minister of Trinidad--had been about some of the former slave colonies of the Caribbean and South America. I was twenty-eight then. It seemed to me fitting that my last [or, fortunately, latest] travel book--travel on a theme--should be about the old slave states of the American Southeast.

My thoughts--in Dallas, and then in New York, when I was planning the journey--were about the race issue. I didn't know then that that issue would quickly work itself out during the journey, and that my subject would become that other South--of order and faith, and music and melancholy--which I didn't know about, but of which I had been given an intimation in Dallas.
SOURCE: A Turn in the South, by V.S. Naipaul (Vintage, 1989), pp. 23-25

11 August 2004

"Everything happens in the church."

The church inside was as plain and neat as it was outside. It had newish blond hardwood pews and a fawn-colored carpet. At the end of the hall, on a dais, was the choir, with a pianist on either side. The men of the choir, in the back row, were in suits; the women and girls, in the three front rows, were in gold gowns. So that it was like a local and smaller version of what we had been seeing on the television in Hetty's sitting room.

At the back of the choir, at the back of the girls in gold and the men in dark suits, was a large, oddly transparent-looking painting of the baptism of Christ: the water blue, the riverbanks green. The whiteness of Christ and the Baptist was a surprise. (As much a surprise as, the previous night, in the house of the old retired black teacher, the picture of Jesus Christ had been: a bearded figure, looking like General Custer in Little Big Man.) But perhaps the surprise or incongruity lay only in my eyes, the whiteness of Jesus being as much an iconographical element as the blueness of the gods in the Hindu pantheon, or the Indianness of the first Buddhist missionary, Daruma, in Japanese art.

The singing ended. It was time for "Reports, Announcements, and Recognition of Visitors." The short black man in a dark suit who announced this--not the pastor--spoke the last word in an extraordinary way, breaking the word up into syllables and then, as though to extract the last bit of flavor from the word, giving a mighty stress to the final syllable, saying something like "vee-zee-TORRS."

He spoke, and waited for declarations. One man got up and said he had come from Philadelphia; he had come back to see some of his family. Then Hetty stood up, in her flat blue hat and pink dress. She looked at us and then addressed the man in the dark suit. We were friends of her son, she said. He was outside somewhere. She explained Jimmy's tieless and jacketless appearance, and asked forgiveness for it.

We got up then, I first, Jimmy after me, and announced ourselves as the man from Philadelphia had done. A pale woman in one of the front rows turned around and said to us that she too was from New York; she welcomed us as people from New York. It was like a binding together, I thought. And when, afterwards, the man in the dark suit spoke of brothers and sisters, the words seemed to have a more than formal meaning.

The brass basin for the collection was passed up and down the pews. (The figure for the previous week's collection, a little over $350, was given in the order of service.) The pastor, a young man with a clear, educated voice, asked us to meditate on the miracle of Easter. To help us, he called on the choir.

The leader of the choir, a big woman, adjusted the microphone. And after this small, delicate gesture, there was passion. The hymn was "What About Me?" There was hand-clapping from the choir, and swaying. One man stood up in the congregation--he was in a brown suit--and he clapped and sang. A woman in white, with a white hat, got up and sang. So I began to feel the pleasures of the religious meeting: the pleasures of brotherhood, union, formality, ritual, clothes, music, all combining to create a possibility of ecstasy.

It was the formality--derived by these black people from so many sources--that was the surprise; and the idea of community.

Someone else in a suit got up and spoke to the congregation after the black man in the dark suit had spoken. "This is a great day," the new speaker said. "This is the day the Lord rose. He rose for everybody." There were constant subdued cries of "Amen!" from the congregation. The speaker said, "A lot of people better off than we are didn't have this privilege."

Finally the educated young pastor in his elegant gown with two red crosses spoke. "Jesus had to pray. We have to pray. Jesus had to cry. We have to cry.... God has been so good to us. He has given us a second chance."

Torture and tears, luck and grief: these were the motifs of this religion, this binding, this consoling union--union the unexpected, moving idea to me. And, as in Muslim countries, I understood the power a preacher might have.

As Howard said afterwards, as he and Jimmy and I were walking back to the house, "Everything happens in the church."

SOURCE: A Turn in the South, by V.S. Naipaul (Vintage, 1989), pp. 14-15