Demand Satisfaction

It has been observed by numerous readers, and spelled out explicitly in the book itself, that the character of Alexey Karenin is rather unlikable because of his lack of spirit. What stands out particularly is that he is unwilling to challenge his wife’s lover to a duel. The baser sort of people in the book judge him harshly for this. However, the modern reader should feel more inclined to his side. He reasons that a duel does no good. No outcome of a duel can be really satisfactory. In one scenario, he, the innocent and injured party is shot. This, of course, would not do. In the other likely outcome, the offending party is shot. This, one may suppose, is a sort of justice  of which he could approve. But what would this result earn from his wife? He still cannot trust her and she must resent him for killing her lover. No, a duel simply will not serve the purposes of a modern rational man.

Avenging one’s honor has not even always required a formal duel; for Benvenuto Cellini, a flying assault with cutlery or a patient ambush from behind some shrubbery would be adequate. According to Cellini’s autobiography, there was a certain young man named Luigi who was much obliged to Cellini for assisting him in a time of illness. Cellini advised this young man against getting mixed up with the wrong company. One evening, while attending a banquet at the house of his good friend Michelangelo (yes, that Michelangelo,) Cellini overheard Luigi cavorting with a “shameless strumpet” with whom Cellini already had quite a bit of bad blood. Rather than standing on ceremony, Cellini promptly launched himself out of the dining room window with his dinner knife in hand, intent on killing Luigi for disrespecting him. Luckily for Luigi, he was able to make his escape, leaving Cellini holding his cape. Undeterred, Cellini remained “bent on punishing the infamous young man, who showed how little he regarded” his erstwhile patron. Cellini promptly collected his sword and laid in wait for Luigi, hiding in a particularly thorny bush. When Luigi finally arrived, he was accompanied by a dozen or so soldiers. Undeterred, Cellini sprang into action yet again. Through the sheer chaos that accompanied his 1 on 12 attack, he got in a good shot against Luigi and slashed the strumpet right in the face. So surprised were the soldiers that several actually injured themselves and Cellini got away unscathed.

Unfortunately, this story really sends the wrong message. Luigi dies (although several days later in an unrelated equine accident) and Cellini doesn’t suffer any negative repercussions from his insane actions. If Cellini had been mortally wounded by one of the soldiers, one must wonder if he would have decided that it was worth it. Indeed, the dying thoughts of every man who ever fought a duel over a perceived insult and lost would be interesting to know. I side with most modern men (and, I suspect most men throughout history) who say, “Dueling swords hurt more than words, ’cause words can never hurt me.”

Beer of the Week: Kirin Ichiban – In the United States, a bottle of “Japan’s Prime Brew” will note on the label that it was brewed by Busch in California (or somewhere else on the continent.) In Korea, however, this “Imported” beer would surely be shipped in from the original brewery, right? No such luck. The Korean version is imported, but not from Japan. Instead this brew comes from China. Not withstanding, this is a pretty good beer. It starts with a light, but slightly hoppy aroma. There is a crisp, almost spicy, hops presence and it finishes with a pleasant lingering bitterness. Nothing too powerful, just a nice tingling on the tongue.

Reading of the week: The Autobiography of Benvenuto Cellini – If the story of his attacks on young Luigi seem incredible, that shouldn’t be too surprising. Elsewhere in his autobiography,Cellini describes conjuring demons in the Colosseum. But don’t call him a liar, or he’ll come after you with a knife.

Question of the week: What ever became of honor?

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