Tuesday, April 28, 2009

What the Moving Finger Wrote

Renowned intellectual and social commentator Barbra Joan Streisand quoted Shakespeare at a 2002 Democrat fundraiser in Hollywood:

"Beware the leader who bangs the drums of war in order to whip the citizenry into a patriotic fervor, for patriotism is indeed a double-edged sword. It both emboldens the blood, just as it narrows the mind. And when the drums of war have reached a fever pitch and the blood boils with hate and the mind has closed, the leader will have no need in seizing the rights of the citizenry. Rather, the citizenry, infused with fear and blinded by patriotism, will offer up all of their rights unto the leader and gladly so. How do I know? For this is what I have done. And I am Caesar."

Brr. I just felt a chill, the icy hand of frisson run down, or maybe up, my spine. Yummy.

Yep. Sounds like Quackspeare to me. An hears an other uv hiz qwotes!!! "O! Dost thou likest thine gruel, good footling? Harken unto it, verily! Avast, varlet, and be recognized unto the gloaming sprites come nigh!!!"

I think I know a little something about Shakespeare, having myself written several of his plays. No, you wouldn't know that, dire slubgudgeon that you are, too sated with your puddings to explore the luculent pages of these several blogs. But I know Shakespeare. I worked with Shakespeare. And this, sir, is no Shakespeare.

Y'see, that Streisand thing is just bad. Leaders do not bang the drums -- drummer boys do, even in Shakespeare's day. "...for patriotism is indeed" -- it's not wrong, it's just wordy, a false formality masquerading as nobility. I'd allow something like that construction in these pages, because this is informal writing, but Julius Caesar is a masterpiece, and crap fauxpoetry just won't do. Shakespeare wrote in iambic pentameter, not in sophomoric copperplate. "It both ... just as" -- crap. Drums do not reach a pitch. " "...blood boils" -- maybe it wasn't a cliche when Shakespeare was writing? "Citizenry". Lord. What personage would use a word like "citizenry"? "Citizenry" is a word unknown to the Elizabethans, as is "patriotism". "Unto" -- a Shakespeare word! Maybe, just maybe this is authentic! "And I am Caesar!!!" So dramatical! That Barbriam Shakesand is a genieass!

Streisand's publicist, Dick Guttman, reported her response to the astounding unmasking of this unknown nonquote: "Her quote is: 'It was just called to my attention, but it doesn't detract from the fact that it is powerful and true and beautifully written. Whoever wrote it is damn talented. I hope he's writing his own play.'" Oh. Uh, well, in that case, uh, I wrote it. Yes, it was me, Jack H, genius of the cyberwaves! And I have this script? -- about this hot leggy young babe with ESP, and who can sing? -- and she's a spy on a boat? -- you'd be perfect for the role, Ms. Streisand, if you'll just take a look at it.

Al Gore in his Assault On Reason, The (name of his book) claims this quote comes from Lincoln:

"I see in the near future a crisis approaching that unnerves me and causes me to tremble for the safety of my country. As a result of the war, corporations have been enthroned and an era of corruption in high places will follow, and the money power of the country will endeavor to prolong its reign by working upon the prejudices of the people until all wealth is aggregated in a few hands and the Republic is destroyed."

Well this one is a true one! I bought, some decades ago, the collected works of Lincoln, and found this not in one of his speeches, but in the draft of a lecture he prepared in the 1840s for the Springfield Lyceum, entitled, Prophetic Utterances Granted Unto Me, Future-President Abe Lincoln, the Man on the Penny, by the Limpid Moon Men and Rudy Denizens of the Sun, that All May Stand Forewarned, and Bear the Burthen of the Future With Fortitude that Freedom May Prevail, and I Am Also on the One Dollar Bill, No, I Mean the Five. In the seventeenth quatrain of this opus, Young Abe goes on to explain all about Global Warming and how Bush stole the election. It's amazing.

I actually do have the Collected Works. It sounds like nothing of his I've ever read. He was dealing with a real threat to destroy the Republic. He recruited Chase to help him with the corporations, concern over which in this non-quote is just a tad anachronistic. It wasn't until the Progressive Era that this was an issue. And Lincoln, it must be remembered, by those who ever knew the fact, was a corporate lawyer who worked for the biggest thing going at the time, the railroads. Hm.

We do all love quotes. We learned to love them in junior high when we had to write an essay and discovered Bartlet's and how smart it made us seem. Quotes are almost as wonderful as statistics, to make us sound right. The only thing better than stats is the Bible. And Shakespeare of course, who resides on his own lofty Olympus of quoteables. But you'll notice something, even in yourself.

Most of what we quote isn't from the source. It's secondary. No shame in that, but no honor either. What's a disgrace is the phony quotes. And what's really pathetic is when someone notable for something other than their brains gets it so wrong. Like a nodding dashboard doll, bobbing up and down just because there's movement. Uh huh, that's right. Streisand can't be taken seriously, so she's just providing amusement. Gore should know better. He was, what, a D student in law school? I might be misremembering myself, but he weren't no genius. But he passed the bar, and he wrote some laws -- a frightening thought -- and he was VP, and almost president. You'd think he'd have a fact checker, for his bigtime fancy book about ... assaults on reason, fer cripe's sake. Pretty hard to come to valid conclusions if you're using faulty data, eh?

How are we to respond to these rented suits with their ponderous internet prophecies? With reasoned corrections? With derisive laughter? With sullen silence? With tacit consent? I don't know. Nothing seems to do any good. Sometimes nonverbal communication is so much more expressive. Shall we give it a try? Let's do!

Hey Babs! Yo, Al! Quote this, hotshots:

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Will C. said...

I believe you are correct in your assumption that the Lincoln quote is false. And boy howdy do crazy people love to use false quotes as "appeal to authority" arguements, don't they?

Jack feel free to elaborate on this topic further. This hungry reader needs as much ammo against the crack-pots as he can get, and yours is a gem, in a mine full of fool's gold.

Jack H said...

I'm afraid these little posts exhaust the entire body of what I know on a particular topic. The ocean of my knowledge is broad but shallow, like a mesozoic sea -- a few feet down and I'm busy making shale.


chuck e. boy said...

Brilliant. I'm still laughing.
Thanks again, Jack Haitch.

Will C. said...

"But I know Shakespeare. I worked with Shakespeare. And this, sir, is no Shakespeare."

I missed this little tidbit last time you posted this entry. Homage to a certain VP debate no doubt?

Jack H said...

You do know you will be graded on these, don't you? Please. Concentrate.