Monday, October 26, 2009

More Horse Manure?

The New York Times reports that this year, newspaper sales dropped sharply lower to about 10 percent in the six months ending Sept. 30, compared with the same period last year, as disclosed by figures released on Monday by the Audit Bureau of Circulation.

To read the article:

The linked article referenced The Wall Street Journal as having actually increased circulation. It has my become my primary print news source, for many reasons. The Dallas Morning News circulation has plummeted, and that's too bad, but I suppose inevitable. When he toured the U.S. in the 1830s, Alexis de Tocqueville noted that, rich or poor, town or country, you could find a newspaper in virtually every American home, and he viewed that is not only good, but part of the American character to be well informed. Most of those 19th Century papers were intensely partisan, but were balanced because there was nearly at least one for every political stripe. Today, of course, we have many other sources for news and comment – even to the point of it being an embarrassment of riches. Unfortunately, radio and television reduces the information to incomplete sound bites that can easily mislead those who have not the time or inclination to fact check. The internet is somewhat better, but the short news cycle and the surfeit of information tends to force important stories into the background sooner than they should be. And there is the factual reliability. If print journalism goes the way of the horse and wagon have in our transportation system, we will be so much the poorer. At least the coming of the automobile eliminated most of the horse manure in our society; the end of print journalism seems bound to increase it.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

He Who Outlives This Day

October 25, 1415

This day is called the feast of Crispian:
He that outlives this day, and comes safe home,
Will stand a tip-toe when this day is named,
And rouse him at the name of Crispian.
He that shall live this day, and see old age,
Will yearly on the vigil feast his neighbours,
And say 'To-morrow is Saint Crispian:'
Then will he strip his sleeve and show his scars.
And say 'These wounds I had on Crispin's day.'
Old men forget: yet all shall be forgot,
But he'll remember with advantages
What feats he did that day: then shall our names,
Familiar in his mouth as household words
Harry the king, Bedford and Exeter,
Warwick and Talbot, Salisbury and Gloucester,
Be in their flowing cups freshly remember'd.
This story shall the good man teach his son;
And Crispin Crispian shall ne'er go by,
From this day to the ending of the world,
But we in it shall be remember'd;
We few, we happy few, we band of brothers;
For he to-day that sheds his blood with me
Shall be my brother; be he ne'er so vile,
This day shall gentle his condition:
And gentlemen in England now a-bed
Shall think themselves accursed they were not here,
And hold their manhoods cheap whiles any speaks
That fought with us upon Saint Crispin's day.

- Wm. Shakespeare, Henry V, Act IV, Scene 3

October 25, 2009

In addition to his titanic literary talents, William Shakespeare was politically savvy and knew how to ingratiate himself with the powers that were. Some have gone so far as to claim the Histories (which included Richard II, Richard III, Henry IV (parts 1 & 2), and Henry VI (parts 1 & 2) as well as Henry V) were written primarily as Tudor propaganda during the reign of Queen Elizabeth I. His depiction of Richard III as a depraved and deformed monster who was overthrown by the noble and virtuous Henry Tudor, Elizabeth’s grandfather, is a case in point. In any event, the St. Crispin’s day speech may well have been written to remind the English of Elizabeth’s exhortation to her forces to successfully repulse the attempted Spanish invasion of 1588, and thus foster English nationalism. It evidently served both of them well.

In addition to King Henry V’s victorious battle of Agincourt in 1415, St. Crispin’s was the day of the Battle of Balaklava during the Crimean War in 1854 wherein the less successful Charge of the Light Brigade occurred, and the Battle of Leyte Gulf in 1944 when the U.S. Navy consigned nearly the entire Japanese fleet to the bottom of the sea. Quotations from Henry’s speech have furnished many a title and pithy quote for military as well as other works of fact and fiction.

St. Crispin’s Day remains a Black Letter Saint’s Day on the Anglican Calendar (for obvious reasons), but not on the Roman. It seems that the Vatican II Council decided there was insufficient evidence that St. Crispin ever existed. Perhaps accurate history, but, as an Orthodox priest of my acquaintance once remarked, bad PR. Shakespeare, however, knew that when the legend becomes fact, print the legend. (Quote from The Man who Shot Liberty Valance, (John Ford film, 1962)