Correspondence related to newspaper articles and TV programs


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Correspondence related to newspaper articles and TV programs
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Mathematics -- History -- 20th century

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August 18. 1986

Rco KQEDa l 500 Eighth Street, San Francisco Ca. 94103
Dear Mr. MacNeil,

This is about your program "Creating", part pf Heart of Dragon.
It contains a correction and a question. I hope you, not some machine.
will read the letter and send me a reply.
In the book "tjeart of the Dragon", the (deceased) author did not
say that Shen Cungwen, if anybody, should get the Nobel prize for lite-
rature. Since I am one of the original proposers for Shen's nomination
(together with Jeff Kinkley et al), and Kinkley did not know your source
of information, may I ask you how the narrator reached such a conclu-
sion? Of course he was right, though Shen is still waiting.
Whoever translated the "Cold Mountain Temple" poem for you made a
serious miatake. That temple is as famous among the Japanese as among
LLa 3hinese, because the poem is like their haiku. The second couplet

means: Midnight sound of bells reaches (comes, to)-e* the traveler's
(guest's) boat. The narrator said something like this: "... the boat
comes" or "comes the boat". As you can sees that is quite wron nd
seriously distorts the feeling that the guest in the boat hears the
bells. I am surprised Gith all the scholarship available in making
the film, such an elementary error in Chinese could be made. Your
program has been repeated on different channels. A correction is due.
I watch your newshour regularly, beginning with the first day when
you did it alone. Let me hope to hear from yoa.


Professor of Mathematics


The MacNell/Lerer


September 25, 1986

Kai Lai Chung
Professor of Mathematics
Stanford University
Stanford, CA 94305

Dear Professor Kai Lai Chung:

Thank you for your letter to Robert MacNeil. I am responding
for Mr. MacNeil in my position as the researcher for "Heart
of the Dragon," and as the reporter for the Newshour covering

First of all, it is very good to hear that people of your
background and expertise have been watching the "Heart" and
that you frequently watch the Newshour. In response to
your question about Shen Cungwen's Nobel Prize nomination,
I am afraid that I don't know the answer. It was an over-
sight on the part of the author, and at this late date it
would be very difficult to go back and find out where exactly
he got his information. For a documentary like the "Heart
of the Dragon" which covers such an enormous amount of
material, it is unfortunately true that certain oversights
would occur. As a student of Chinese literature myself,
I agree that Shen Cungwen is uniquely deserving of more
international recognition and perhaps a Nobel Prize. If
we overlooked this information in the documentary, all I
can do is apologize.

Thank you very much for your correction of the translation
of the "Cold Mountain Temple" poem. Translating poetry
from another language is always fraught with difficulty -
translating from Chinese into English is nearly impossible!
Still, that is no excuse for the mistake that you have
pointed out to us, and in the future all we can do is
double-check the work of scholars and translators.

Despite the errors and oversights you have pointed out,
I hope you agree with us that bringing such an in-depth
and informative documentary about China to western audiences
has been a valuable experience.

Again, thank you for your letter

Sincerely, -
-(703) 998-2870 /
3620 27th STREET SOUTH Alisa Joyce

At < Uh Rork Siteg

October 26, 1987

Dear Professor Chung:

Touche! You are quite right that
I should have written "which held."

september 13, 1988
The Editor
ahe New York Times
229 West 43 't.
New York, N. Y. 10016


I amr surprised that in these late days your venerable paper
has not yet learned to address a Chinese person correctly. Issue
September 12, 1988, page C4, "Consumer Protection 101 etc,", you
have printed
Ms. Yuanmin Mr. Yanshou Mr. Fln eng

This is like saying "Mr. Arthur Ochs" or "Mr. Walter (E.)".
It is a trivial matter %g distinguish the family nriae from the
given name of a Chinese person, even although their order is some-
times reversed and sometimes not. With a very few exceptions, the
family name is the short one of ONE syllable. Thus the above should be:
Is Li Mr. Li Mr. Bu
respectively. It is true that you would have trouble with two dis-
t ct Li's if the first one did not happen to be a Ms. In such cases
I suggest you print the full name (and drop those "honorifics"). For
instance, you can address me as Mr. or Dr. or Prof. or simply
Chung, but no way you can call me "Mr. Kai-Lai".
I expect a reply to this letter.

Yours sincerely,

(Mr., Dr., Prof. Kai-Lai Chung)


Silc tv Mork Sim0
NEWYORK. N.Y. 10036

September 27, 1988

Dr. Kai-Lai Chung
Department of Mathematics
Stanford University
Stanford, California 94305

Dear Dr. Kai-Lai Chung:

Most of the editors of The New York Times are
indeed aware of how to address a Chinese
person correctly.

Some of us, alas, are still learning, and
beginners make mistakes. In this case, the
copy editor should have referred to "The New
York Times Manual of Style and Usage," Page
38 of which is enclosed.

I hope this restores your faith in our good
manners, and I thank you for taking the time
to write to us.


Harold Gal
Deputy Lifestyles Editor


command, such as chief of staff of a Chinese names. A modified form of
division. Also lowercase civilian re the Wade-Giles system is to be used
erences: John P. Manley, the W e in the transliteration of Chinese
House chief of staff names. The apostrophe and the two
Chief Petty Officer John P. M ley, dots (ii) that are traditionally part
Mr. (or Chief Petty Officer) Mnley, of this system are not to be used:
the chief petty officer. Chiang Kai-shek, not K'ai-shek.
Note that the name following the
Chief Rabbi John P. Manley Brit- hyphen is not capitalized. In Chi-
ain (or any country where the title is nese names, the family name or-
used); John P. Manley, Chie Rabbi dinarily comes first: Chou in Chou
of Britain; the Chief Rabbi, Rabbi En-lai, Chiang in Chiang Ching; the
Manley; the rabbi. Also: chief second reference is Prime Minister
rabbi, the chief rabbis (for dapital- Chou or Mr. Chou (without the En-
ized plural exceptions, see t tles). lai), or Miss Chiang. Some Chinese
Note that in Israel, Sephardi and (usually overseas or on Taiwan)
Ashkenazic Jews have sep ate have westernized their names, put-
chief rabbis. Follow the same s es ting their given names or initials
for Grand Rabbi in country first: Dr. Tsing-fu Tsiang, K. C.
where that title is used. Wu.
chief representative (at an interna- chinese red (color).

tional organization or conference).
Lowercase: John P. Manley, chief
representative of Britain at the
United Nations conference on the
law of the sea; Mr. Manley; the
chief representative. Also see
delegate and chief delegate. In
news stories, avoid substituting the
expression Ambassador or perma-
nent representative (which see).
Chief Warrant Officer John P. Man-
ley, Mr. (or Chief Warrant Officer)
Manley, the chief warrant officer.
chili, chilies.
China. Standing alone, it means the
mainland nation and is to be used
instead of People's Republic of
China except in texts or quoted
matter. Ordinarily do not use Com-
munist China (which see). Also see
Nationalist China and Taiwan.
Chinese (n., sing. and pl.; also adj.).
The people are always Chinese;
never use the disparaging China-
men or Chinaman, except in direct

Chock Full o'Nuts.
Cho Lon, the Chinese section of Sai-
chord (music, mathematics), cord
chow chow (dog).
Christ. See Jesus.
Christchurch (New Zealand).
Christian Church (Disciples of
Christ). The parentheses and the
words they surround are part of the
official name and must be used in
first references. In subsequent ref-
erences: the Christian Church.
Christian Era.
Christian Methodist Episcopal
Christian Science. The name of the
denomination is the Church of

September 6, 1989

Mr. Prank Viviano
San Francisco Chronicle

Dear Frank,

I know Mandarin (and a few other Chinese
dialects) as well as any living persons but
what tie SHIT is that "dung wan" and "wan dung"
you quoted from that novice Calhoun?? Even
with the English hints you gave there I can't
for the dung of me figure them out. Yes, the
Chinese have the lousy habit of epitomizing
things by some set phrases from folklore or
slang or bull, but you really must not use their
phonetic transliteration in your columns as if
they meant anything.
Will you please find out from one of your
Chinese friends the correct ideograms [Chinese
characters] for these two expressions and send
them to me? By the ways did you realize that
on the same page you had another WAN there?
Your articles are good---otherwise I would
n't have bothered to write. Carr(on~zhang wani


K. L. Chung
Prof. Emer.

,anm Fmrandiso hironuide

Prof. K.L. Chung September 12, 1989
Stanford University Math Department

Dear Prof. Chung,

Alas, all I can do is plead guilty, guilty, guilty. And
say that I am usually much more careful.

I talked to Calhoun a couple of months ago, and I suppose that
I convinced myself I had checked out the pinyin with him. But
more likely, it seems, is the possibility that I dashed down
the offending dung wan without confirming and didn't think about
it again until the opportunity to use same presented itself.

What's stranger yet is that I'm a fairly good student of
pinyin, and ought to have recognized that there is no such
animal as dung, etc.

My best guess is that what Calhoun actually meant was
hAn luan, i.e. "chaos." l

It's not the kind of lapse the Chronicle will find appropriate
for formal correction after three weeks. That's too bad,
because every reporter needs to be kept to the straight and
narrow, and seldom is. In any case, believe me, I won't do
it again. I thank you for your close reading and cordial


Frank Viviano

P.S. And thanks, too, for your compliments on my less haphazard


(415) 777-1111

September 19, 1989

Dear Mr. Viviano:

I appreciate your full response. Whereas -I. does mean
"turmoil", there is no "intrinsic order" or any suggestion of dancing
in tU The latter connotes somebody trying frantically to get
somewhere or something, like fishing in muddy water. It can be used
together with poking and screwing around. Tell Calhoun.
You need not worry about an occasional slip. For your amusement
I inclose a copy of letter to the mighty New York Times. They told
me that they now had this matter of addressing Chinese on file.
Since you are a scholar of Chinese (where did you study it?), you
may wish to listen to Robert MacNeil when he introduced one of the
scenes in Heart of Dragon (being re-run on KQED) and made a bad mis-
take in the translation of a famous Chinese poem:

I do not expect Bob to know Chinese but he could have consulted some
Chinese expert or simply look up an old translation. The mistake there
is a little subtle but undisputable. If you can read that poem and
want to know, I'll tell you. Regards,

1 A-


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In the Wake

Of Victory

Who lost Chinatown?
.Questions and recriminations still
reverberate with less than a week left
in the administration of David N. Din-
kins, whom personality, perform-
ance, perception ("I couldn't have
lost without you," he told reporters
recently) and politics doomed to be a
one-termer a fate that seems to be-
fall New York City's mayors about
once every two decades.
And if the challenge "Who lost Chi-
na?" helped define America's cold
war political realignment, lingering
concerns about what cost Mr. Dinkins
votes in Chinatown, Brooklyn
Heights, Park Slope, Forest Hills and
even on Staten Island may shape par-
tisan politics in New York City for the
next four years.
The Board of Elections only just
certified the dimensions of Rudolph ,,
W. Giuliani's once-in-a-generation up-
set of a Democrat an upset magni-
fied because it was accomplished in a
two-way race but diminished because
the Democratic Party is in disarray. :
An analysis of the results offers
new insights into why he won. And
into whether his winning coalition can
be reassembled in 1997, when New
Yorkers elect the mayor who will pred
side during the centennial of the
city's consolidation and over reflec-
tive celebrations of the millennium.
Four years ago, Mr. Dinkins won "
against Mr. Giuliani by about 47,000 f
votes. In last month's rerun, Mr. Giu-..
1liani defeated Mr. Dinkins by about
50,000 votes (suggesting that if, as ,
Mr. Dinkins maintained last week,
Mr. Giuliani's margin was no man-
date, then Mr. Dinkins's in 1989 was
even less of one).

What happened to those 97,000 or so
votes? Prof. John H. Mollenkopf of
the City University of New York
Graduate Center dissected the unoffi-
cial returns by election district for
"Dinkins got almost the same num-
ber of votes in 1989 as Giuliani got in
1993," Mr. Mollepkopf said. "Two
things combined to determine the dif-
ference: turnout and breakdown."
These are some of the components
he found: Staten Island, where white
residents, in particular, were moti-
vated to vote by the referendum on
secession, produced 21,000. Other pre-
dominantly white election districts
elsewhere generated another 38,000
of which 16,000 came from largely
Hasidic and Orthodox Jewish dis-
tricts in Brooklyn and 8,000 from
mostly liberal districts, including the
West Side, Greenwich Village and
Brooklyn Heights, and Forest Hills,
Queens, (where 2,400 votes shifted to
Mr. Giuliani while the district's and
the party organization's favorite son,
Alan G. Hevesi, was handily elected -:
Comptroller on the Democratic line).
Another 20,000 votes shifted in pre-
dominantly black districts about
10,000 in central Harlem, 3,500 in the ,
i heart of Brooklyn and 2,600 in south- ...
eastern Queens. *
SMr. Giuliani stoked indigenous sup-
port for change to cost Mr. Dinkins
8,000 more votes in mostly Hispanic .
districts. Asian-Americans ("forget
it, Dave, it's Chinatown") voted more
than 2-to-1 for Mr. Giuliani.
"There were some defections-
among white liberals and Hispanics,-
but they were not big enough to make
the difference," Mr. Mollenkopf said.
"Not as big a difference as black elec-
tion districts made, to say nothing of
whites other than the liberals."
But will they desert the Democrat-
ic Party again? Can Mr. Giullani re-
tain the alienated white ethnic Demo-
crats from outside Manhattan whom
he drew upon this time? Will his
Scouting of Hasidic and Orthodox vot-
ers eventually cost him the benefit of
t doubts held by secular Jews? '

So far, the commissioners named
by Mr. Giuliani may further foster
y dissent among Democrats. The Rev.
Al Sharpton and others have suggest-
ed that their ideological soulmates
d defect and form a new party altogeth-
er. Herman Badillo, a Democrat who
- was Mr. Gaulian's Republican-Lib-
eral running mate for comptroller, -
urges another approach entirely. Y
"Al Sharpton represents a radical ;
wing of the Democratic Party, which
I don't think is the future," Mr. Ba-
dillo said. "Everybody keeps saying
that David lost the election narrowly,
- but when you put the blacks to one
side, it was a massive repudiation of
d his politics.
s "We hope to keep open our fusion
t offices and we will open more in Afri-
can-American and Latino areas," Mr.
L Badillo said. "We will be in a position
d to endorse candidates as a fusion op-
eration. In that sense, we are going to

Sbe changing the direction of the Dem-
. ocratic Party." And, perhaps, revital-
h izing Republicans, particularly if Mr.
SSharpton holds sway within the party.
Mr. Giuliani, Mr. Mollenkopf said,
"has to at least keep white liberals,
blacks and Hispanics divided, but he
Shas a mirror image of Dinkins's prob-
e lem: fusion won't sit well with his
e most ardent supporters," just as Mr.
r Dinkins's core constituency accused
Shim of appeasing Wall Street
Mr. Mollenkopf's book about the
- forging of the Koch coalition, which
- has now been reconstituted as Mr.
o Giuliani's, was titled "A Phoenix in
n the Ashes." The title may apply, too,
t to the smoldering remains of Mr. Din-
r kins's scattered supporters, though
v by the time they get a Phoenix Mr.
Giuliani might get re-elected.


Residents of East ant

The Associated Press
A post-Christmas rush of cold air
resulted in packed homeless shelters
on the East Coast yesterday and made:
travel an ordeal in the Great Lakes
states. ;
In Sault Ste. Marie, Mich., the mercu-:
ry dropped to 31 degrees below zero, a
record for the month, the National
Weather Service said.
A low of 50 below was reported at
Tower, a tiny town in the Iron Range of
northeastern Minnesota, and Grand
Marais on the shore of the Lake Superi-
or registered a wind chill of 68 below
"I saw the wrecker going out a lot
this morning because it was so cold,"
said Judy Perala, who works at a con-
venience store in Tower. "People were
having trouble getting their cars start-
Parts of northwestern Pennsylvania
had as much as 20 inches of snow on the
Shelters Fill
In Columbus, Ohio, the Open Shelter,
which has a capacity of about 120 men,
was more crowded than usual Satur-
day night. "We had 114, and that's 8 to
10 more than a typical night," said
Curtis Turner, a supervisor at the shel-
Ohio's cold spot at midday, with a
reading of 9 degrees, was Akron, where
the Haven of Rest Ministries men's
shelter was filled to capacity with 52
homeless people and 18 residents, said
the supervisor, Gary Meeks. Another
40 people were referred to a second
shelter. i
A supervisor for, the agency that
tracks heat complaints from renters in
New York City said his office had
logged 988 calls between midnight arid
noon. The. city's temperature started
around 20 degrees in the morning and
dropped through the day.
The Philadelphia Gas Works was
swamped with calls from people.with
heating problems, a spokeswoman, Clevela
Jacki Mungai, said. The Philadelphia
Electric Company said it would restore hours
power to customers whose service had
been cut because of overdue bills.
People in northern climes found Up ini
'nothing unusual in the deep-freeze con- ed, "We
editions. Tower.";
.'"We were way overdue for this," Indeec
Sault Ste. Marie's police dispatcher, for the
Bill Payment, said at 1 P.M. yesterday. said it,
"It's still about 20 below, and people Haws. "
are out running around without hats on. at least
We're used to this." nothing,

From Fruit to H

The Associated Press though
"Safety first!" is the nervous theme Oreg
of many state laws that will take effect $4.90,
in January from requiring helmets from th
for bike-riding children in California employs
and Tennessee, to checkiin-otential tion prc
teachers for criminal records in Ore- lived p
gon, New Hampshire and Tennessee, to den of s
.m-naking barbers train longer in Hawaii.- .And C
Whether seeking to protect children ed owner
from bad apples or consumers from
bad haircuts, state legislators strove
this year to bolster security in an irtse- Ba]
cure world.
Florida, stunned by a spate of tourist
killings, banned guns from the hands of gar,
anyone under 18, except for hunting,
marksmanship practice or competition .ev
under adult supervision. The threat :of
violence inspired a California lawto let al
schools ban gang attire in class. c
S New Hampshire doctors who test
positive for the virus that causes AIDS
or for hepatitis B will need special uums frd
permission to perform invasive sur- of the c
gery. League,
A Fresh Start ies. The
team at
There is no special reason to enact stray ba
laws in January, only the symbolism of
a fresh start at the top of the calendar.
MIany states set laws to take effect 60 Politi
or. 90 days after signing, or after the explain
legislative session ends. new lav
S ,In sifting the tea leaves of these "We'"
latest January laws, trends appeared. tration,!
Last year saw a lot of taxes and tax ing for
breaks intended to squeeze revenue ed Day
from an anemic economy. public I
A year later, money-making meas- School
ures were conspicuously absent, versity.

', '" 'C"

; V '*
"V I


..* C "
-"'" -, ,: L --

I1 ....^ .. iL --- l-- nl...g.ii
ii .. .- i j

Dear Paul,
I hope you will help me tp poke a little
fun at the great NYT. Take a look at the
incl. clipping [PLEASE RETURN] where I had
arrowed pointed. It seems to me, non statis-
tician, that instead of 97,000 it should be
half of that. If so, then the numbers follow-
ing this number must also be changed. Will
you give me your authoritative opinion on of-
ficial staionery with your official title?
I want to test the responsivity of the NYT
to such mathematical questions.
Thanks a lot.



From ps@playfair.Stanford.EDU Mon Jan 24 16:55:18 1994
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id AA08549; Mon, 24 Jan 94 16:55:15 PST
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Date: Mon, 24 Jan 1994 16:57:35 -0800
From: ps@playfair.Stanford.EDU (Paul Switzer)
Message-Id: <199401250057.QAA13551@playfair.Stanford.EDU>
To: chung@math.Stanford.EDU
Subject: NYT
Status: R

You are absolutely right about the double counting of the net voter
switch from Dinkins to Giuliani. It sure doesn't take a Ph.D. in
Statistics to figure that one. Give 'em hell.

--Paul Switzer

FAX: (415)725-4066
for Prof. Chung--
for Prof. ChungJanuary 29, 1994
Mr. Max Frankel, Editor-in-chief
New York Times
229 W. 45rd St
New York, N. Y. 10036
Dear Mr. Frankel:
I wish to bring to your attention an incredible mathematical-statis-
tical mistake in your December 27, 1993, issue, by Sam Roberts in the
Urban Journal. This is the kind of puerile mistake which shows the sad
state of affairs of elementary mathematical education in our country.
It is incredible that a columnist of your great newspaper should be so
poorly educated in an area of basic statistical sampling that he writes
about. What is more, I wrote a very nice letter to the same Sam Roberts
the day after his column appeared, and requested a correction. So far
as I am aware, no correction has appeared and no acknowledgment of my
letter. I am inclosing a copy of the latter, as well as a supporting
statement from my colleague Professor Paul Switzer, a noted statistician
in my university.
More than a m&nth has passed since the column in question appeared,
and since I wrote to have it corrected. As a faithful reader of your
paper and a share-holder of your company, I am writing you to request
an adequate response, by FAX if possible.

Yours sincerely,


Professor of Mathematics mer.
(1) Letter to Sam Roberts by Chung--
(2) Letter from Paul Switzer to Chung

December 28, 1993
Mr. Sam Roberts
New YorK Times

Dear M'r. Roberts,

Let me point out a mathematical error in your article in the
December ?7th issue of the NYT. Urban Journal. Clearly you have taken
the sum of the two numbers 47*000 and 50,ooo to ask ""hat has happened
to t-lose 97,000 or so votes'. But the correct number is half that sum
namely 48,500. To see this suppose G. won by exactly the same majority
47,.OO that D. won last time. Then it should be obvious that it took the
.same number of voters to switch from one to the other to give G. the same
majority. In the geSeal case (as we say in math) the argument is similar.
This mistake vitiates all the other numbers you used in the rest cf
the column (which incidentally included my son's who lives in Manhattan
but not in Chinatown!) Thus I think you owe it to the interested reader-
ship to make the correction in your paper's habitual column. I am looking
fMward to seeing it.
With my wishes for Happy Iew Years and expect a response from yous

Yours Inscerely

Kai Lai Chung
Professor of ;lathamatics