June 18, 2019

Famous war-related and “fighting words” quotes uttered on June 18…


By an odd coincidence, a number of famous war-related quotations were uttered on the date June 18.

On June 18, 1757, at the Battle of Kolin, Prussian King Frederick the Great urged his hesitant troops to attack the larger Austrian army by shouting:

       “Rascals, would you live forever?”

Thousands of those rascals didn’t live much longer. The Prussians were defeated and nearly 14,000 were killed or wounded. 

On June 18, 1798, at a dinner in Philadelphia honoring future Chief Justice of the United States John Marshall, a group of U.S. Congressmen were discussing a recent demand made by the government of France.

French vessels had been plundering American ships in a piratical manner. French foreign minister Talleyrand informed American officials that the attacks would be stopped if the United States paid him $250,000 and gave France 50,000 pounds sterling and a $100 million loan. 

As toasts were made at the Congressional dinner, South Carolina Congressman Robert Goodloe Harper sent his own defiant reply to the French with this toast:

      “Millions for defense but not one cent for tribute.”

Harper’s famous quote is sometimes attributed to South Carolina politician Charles C. Pinckney, who denied saying it.

Seventeen years later, it was a French leader’s turn to utter famous words of defiance.

On June 18, 1815, French Emperor Napoleon Bonaparte’s Imperial Guard, led by General Pierre Cambronne, was surrounded by combined British and German forces at the Battle of Waterloo.

When asked to surrender, Cambronne reportedly replied:

       “The Guard dies but never surrenders.”

The French lost at Waterloo, ending Napoleon’s reign as Emperor. And, historians have questioned whether Cambronne actually uttered those famous fighting words. Some reports claimed he simply said “Merde!” (“Shit!”)

On June 18, 1901, German Emperor and King of Prussia Wilhelm II (dubbed “Kaiser Bill” by British and Americans), gave a rousing speech to the North German Regatta Association.

In that speech, he famously used the phrase “a place in the sun,” a German nationalistic phrase first given notoriety by German Chancellor Bernhard von Bulow.

In 1897, von Bulow had defended Germany’s right to a colonial empire by saying that Germans “demand our own place in the sun.”

“Kaiser Bill” consciously echoed those words in his speech on June 18, 1901, saying:

“We have conquered for ourselves a place in the sun. It will now be my task to see to it that this place in the sun shall remain our undisputed possession.”

Flash forward to World War II, when some other famous fighting words were uttered on June 18th.

In the spring of 1940, Adolph Hitler’s Nazi troops invaded and conquered France, setting up a puppet government under Marshal Philippe Pétain.

French General Charles de Gaulle, and other “Free French” forces refused to recognize Pétain’s “Vichy” government and vowed to fight on.

In exile in London, de Gaulle made a radio address on June 18, 1940, famously saying:

      “France has lost a battle. But France has not lost the war!”

On that same day, British Prime Minister Winston Churchill gave one of his most memorable speeches in the House of Commons.

After discussing the fall of France and the recent evacuation of British and French troops from Dunkirk, Churchill noted that Hitler now had England in his sights.

“I expect that the Battle of Britain is about to begin,” Churchill said. “The whole fury and might of the enemy must very soon be turned on us. Hitler knows that he will have to break us in this Island or lose the war.

If we can stand up to him, all Europe may be free and the life of the world may move forward into broad, sunlit uplands.

But if we fail, then the whole world, including the United States, including all that we have known and cared for, will sink into the abyss of a new Dark Age made more sinister, and perhaps more protracted, by the lights of perverted science.

Let us therefore brace ourselves to our duties, and so bear ourselves that if the British Empire and its Commonwealth last for a thousand years, men will still say, ‘This was their finest hour.’

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June 06, 2019

The secret behind the famous phrase “the heart is a lonely hunter”…


On June 4, 1940, Houghton Mifflin published the first novel by the American writer Carson McCullers, a sensitive story about misfits and social outcasts in a Southern mill town titled The Heart Is a Lonely Hunter.

The success of McCullers’ book made its title a familiar and oft-quoted phrase.

The novel was later adapted into an excellent movie, as were McCullers’ other best-known works, Reflections In a Golden Eye and The Ballad of the Sad Cafe.

McCullers took the title of her first novel from an old poem by the Scottish poet Fiona Macleod.

This sad, dreamy poem, called “The Lonely Hunter,” is about a girl who mourns her dead lover and thinks about joining him.

It was published in 1896 in the book From the Hills of Dream, a collection of Macleod’s Celtic-flavored poetry.

The line in the poem that inspired McCullers’ book title is the last line in the third verse:

“Green wind from the green-gold branches, what is the song you bring?
What are all songs for me, now, who no more care to sing?
Deep in the heart of Summer, sweet is life to me still,
But my heart is a lonely hunter that hunts on a lonely hill.”

Between 1894 and 1905, many readers in Scotland and Europe loved the romantic poems, novels and stories of Fiona Macleod. She was celebrated as one of the greatest writers associated with the revival of Celtic literature, along with poets like W.B. Yeats.

Oddly, Fiona never made any public appearances. She declined interviews and speaking engagements.

All communications and business with Macleod were conducted through her agent, the Scottish literary critic and biographer William Sharp.

It wasn’t until Sharp died in 1905 that the truth was revealed.

William Sharp was “Fiona Macleod.”

He apparently created his secret identity, in part, to protect the credibility of his more scholarly (and snootier) works — the collections of poems by famous poets that he edited and his series of biographies about poets such as Dante Gabriel Rossetti, Percy Bysshe Shelley, Heinrich Heine and Robert Browning.

Sharp’s deception may also reflect the fact he was, in general, a pretty strange dude.

For example, he is said to have been a member of “The Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn,” a little-known cult whose beliefs combine a belief in the “divine feminine” with elements of magic, astrology, Egyptian mysticism, the Qabalah, Gnosticism, Rosicrucianism and other mystic stuff.

When Sharp died, he left behind a letter revealing he wrote the literary works attributed to Fiona Macleod.

When the letter was made public, it sorely distressed “Fiona’s” fans and damaged the reputation of all of Sharp’s books and poems for a while.

But, starting in the 1920s, poems and novels by “Fiona Macleod” steadily became popular again in the UK. Awareness of them also spread to other countries, where they were read by literature buffs like Carson McCullers.

Today, thanks to McCullers’ use of a line by “Fiona” as a book title, most Americans have heard at least one line of his/her poetry.

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May 21, 2019

“Luke, I am your father!” — the most famous movie misquote ever?

On May 21, 1980, The Empire Strikes Back, the second film in the original Star Wars movie trilogy, had an initial release at a limited number of theaters in the US.

The nationwide release came nearly a month later on June 20, 1980.

Now called Star Wars: Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back since George Lucas decided to start producing Star Wars prequels, it’s still a favorite of many Star Wars fans — including me.

I can’t recall if I first saw The Empire Strikes Back at my local move theater in May or June of 1980.

But I know I went as soon as it was shown there, along with my daughter, who was already a Star Wars fan at age 6.

I vividly remember that, like other fans who saw it for the first time, my mind was blown by the shocking climactic scene in the huge air shaft of Cloud City on the planet Bespin, when Luke Skywalker (played by Mark Hamill) fights a lightsaber duel with Darth Vader (played by David Prowse, with the voice overdubbed by James Earl Jones).

The first shocker in that scene (which you can watch in video clips online) is seeing Darth Vader cut off Luke’s right hand with his lightsaber.

Then Darth shocks viewers — and Luke — even more by saying he is Luke’s father.

Vader’s revelatory line is widely misquoted and often spoofed for comedic effect as: “Luke, I am your father!”

As serious Star Wars buffs know, Vader doesn’t say those exact words.

But somehow, the misquoted version took on a life of its own shortly after The Empire Strikes Back was released.

For example, a review in the June 28, 1980 edition of the Montana newspaper The Missoulian, says of the final fight scene between Luke Skywalker and Darth Vader:

“Both are silent. After a few minutes, Luke’s hand is cut off and his lightsaber falls into a chasm surrounding him. Then all of a sudden Vader turns off his lightsaber and says ‘Luke, I am your father!’”

I’d guess that a review in a small Montana paper didn’t create the famous misquote.

I suspect it was floating around elsewhere in print and conversations in the weeks after the film was released.

At any rate, since 1980, “Luke, I am your father” has become one of the most familiar movie misquotations of all time.

Indeed, it’s often included in lists of top movie misquotes.

In case you can’t recall what Darth Vader really said, here’s a transcript of the exchange between him and Luke Skywalker with the actual “I am your father” quote.

DARTH VADER: “Don’t make me destroy you. Luke, you do not yet realize your importance. You have only begun to discover your power. Join me, and I will complete your training. With our combined strength, we can end this destructive conflict and bring order to the galaxy.”
LUKE SKYWALKER:
“I’ll never join you!”
DARTH:
“If you only knew the power of the dark side. Obi-wan never told you what happened to your father.”
LUKE: “He told me enough! He told me you killed him.”
DARTH: “No. I am your father.”

This freaks out Luke as much as it did audiences.

He cries: “No! That’s not true. That’s impossible!”

Then he pushes himself off into the void of the Cloud City air shaft, seemingly falling to his death.

Of course, Luke lived on.

In the highly unlikely event that you haven’t seen the movie, I won’t explain how he survived.

What also survived long after The Empire Strikes Back was released in 1980 is one of the most famous movie misquotes in the known universe.

Maybe the most famous.

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May 18, 2019

“Greed is all right” — the forerunner of “Greed is good”

Ivan Boesky, Greed is all rightWall Street whiz Ivan Boesky was riding high in 1986.

During the early 1980s, he’d made hundreds of millions of dollars trading stocks, doing real estate deals and masterminding leverage buyouts of distressed businesses.

He was lauded as a financial genius in many magazine and newspaper articles and often invited to speak at business seminars, colleges and universities.

On May 18, 1986, Boesky gave the commencement address at the UC Berkeley’s School of Business Administration. 

One of the things he told the students in that speech became a famous (and infamous) quotation that led to an even more famous movie quote.

“Greed is all right, by the way,” he said blithely. “I want you to know that. I think greed is healthy. You can be greedy and still feel good about yourself.”

Boesky was feeling less good the following year.

Federal SEC investigators had discovered that many of Boesky’s huge stock profit windfalls were based on illegal insider information.

In November 1986, he was arrested and eventually convicted, after providing evidence that led to the downfall of some of his other ethically-challenged Wall Street friends, including financier Michael Milken.

Based on a plea deal, Boesky was sentenced to 3 1/2 years in prison and required to pay a record-breaking fine of $100 million.

Boesky’s rise and fall and his “Greed is all right” speech were part of filmmaker Oliver Stone’s inspiration for the movie Wall Street.

Stone co-wrote the script and directed the film, which was released on December 11, 1987 in U.S. theaters.  

The movie stars Michael Douglas as Gordon Gekko, a ruthless Wall Street investor who specializes in hostile takeovers, leveraged buyouts, and junk bond financing.

Michael Douglas Greed is Good Wall Street (1987)Gekko has no pangs about taking over, gutting, and reselling companies regardless of the impacts on employees and local communities.

In fact, he’s proud of his takeover record, as he explains in the memorable speech he gives that includes the line usually misquoted as “Greed is good.” It’s a pithier, shortened version of what Douglas actually says.

In that scene, he’s speaking to a meeting of shareholders of the company Teldar Paper, which he wants to take over.

To encourage them to approve his takeover bid, he tells them he has studied the company and found that the current management is wasting money and shortchanging shareholders.

Then he says:

“I am not a destroyer of companies. I am a liberator of them. The point is, ladies and gentlemen, that greed, for lack of a better word, is good. Greed is right. Greed works. Greed clarifies, cuts through and captures the essence of the evolutionary spirit. Greed, in all of its forms – greed for life, for money, for love, knowledge – has marked the upward surge of mankind and greed, you mark my words, will not only save Teldar Paper but that other malfunctioning corporation called the USA. Thank you.”

The Teldar shareholders like what Gekko says and give him a standing ovation.

Despite the fact that Gekko is a slimy character who, like Boesky, ultimately goes to prison for insider trading — and despite the financial scandals and meltdowns that happened before and after Wall Street was released — there are still those who essentially agree with what he and Boesky said about greed.

It’s fits the Ayn Randian “enlightened self-interest” creed of the wealthy 1%ers and others who support the ideal of unfettered capitalism and oppose “over-regulation” of businesses — a subset of people who have increasingly dominated American politics.

Indeed, the economic and political trends of the past few decades could be summed up by something else Gordon Gekko says in Wall Street

He explains to his protégé in the film, played by Charlie Sheen:

“The richest one percent of this country owns half our country’s wealth, five trillion dollars...We make the rules, pal. The news, war, peace, famine, upheaval, the price per paper clip. We pick that rabbit out of the hat while everybody sits out there wondering how the hell we did it. Now you’re not naïve enough to think we’re living in a democracy, are you buddy?”

Flash forward to Ivan Boesky three decades later. 

After being busted in 1987, he spent a mere two years in the Lompoc Federal Prison Camp in California.

And, although he was permanently prohibited from involvement in the realm of stocks and finance and was required to pay out much of his past fortune in fines, he’s still better off than most of us.

In 1991, he divorced his wife Seema, who came from a wealthy family and had her own fortune.

She agreed to pay him $23 million and $180,000 a year for life. She also gave him one of their mansions, in La Jolla, California.

As of 2019, at age 82, Boesky still lives there. According one recent article, he is now “a wild-haired Rasputin-like recluse.”

I imagine him looking at the continuing wealth gap in America and who's in the White House and thinking, with some chagrin, that our country is clearly still run by people who believe in the greed principle he espoused. People who, like him, may have bent or broken a few laws to become rich and powerful.

He’s just one of the few who got caught and punished for it.

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May 13, 2019

Blood, sweat and tears — and toil...

Almost everything most people know about the origin of the phrase “blood, sweat and tears” is wrong.

Some people think Winston Churchill coined it in the famous speech he gave to the British House of Commons on May 13, 1940.

But, in fact, Churchill didn’t coin the phrase. Nor did he say it in that address.

Even though it is often referred to as his “blood, sweat and tears speech,” the phrase he actually used on May 13, 1940 was “blood, toil, tears and sweat.”

That’s probably why some books and online posts claim Churchill “never said ‘blood, sweat and tears.’”

But that’s wrong, too.

In fact, Churchill did use the phrase “blood, sweat and tears” in things he said before 1940.

He also approved its use as the title of a book of his speeches published in 1941, which included his May 13, 1940 speech — thus helping to create the confusion about what he actually said that day.

It takes a lot of Googling and reading to figure all this out.

I will save you some time by summarizing what I found after doing a lot of Googling and reading.

Some of the earliest uses of “blood, sweat and tears” are noted by quotation maven Ralph Keyes his excellent book The Quote Verifier, which says:

“A 1611 John Donne poem included the lines ‘That ‘tis in vaine to dew, or mollifie / It with thy Teares, or Sweat, or Bloud.’ More than two centuries later, Byron wrote, ‘Year after year they voted cent per cent / Blood, sweat, and tear-wrung millions—why?—for rent!’ In his 1888 play Smith, Scottish poet-playwright John Davidson wrote of ‘Blood – sweats and tears, and haggard, homeless lives.’ By 1939, a Lady Tegart reported in a magazine article that Jewish communal colonies in Palestine were ‘built on a foundation of blood, sweat, and tears’.”

Starting in the mid-1800s, the phrase “blood, sweat and tears” came to be used by in descriptions of the trials and tribulations of Jesus Christ.

For example, the lyrics of the 1842 hymn “Christ in the Garden” include the lines:

     “So deep was his sorrow, so fervent his prayers,
     That down o'er his bosom roll’d blood, sweat, and tears!”

In the decades after that, the phrase became — and remains — common in Christian sermons.

Wikipedia’s "Blood, toil, tears, and sweat" entry notes some other early uses, including one by UK poet Lord Alfred Douglas, who wrote in the introduction to a 1919 collection of his poems that poetry “is forged slowly and painfully, link by link, with blood and sweat and tears.”

By 1940, “blood, sweat and tears” and variations of those words had become a common way of describing the concept of extremely hard work needed to overcome challenges or hardships.

The evolution of Winston Churchill’s own uses of those words has been documented in articles by Churchill scholar Richard M. Langworth, posted on the websites of the Churchill Project and the International Churchill Society.

Langworth notes that Churchill used the two-word phrase “blood and tears” in several conversations, books and articles between 1899 and 1940.

Churchill first added sweat to the litany in his World War I memoir, The World Crisis, vol. V, “The Eastern Front,” published in 1931. In the first chapter of that volume, he wrote:

“These pages recount dazzling victories and defeats stoutly made good. They record the toils, perils, sufferings and passions of millions of men. Their sweat, their tears, their blood bedewed the endless plain.”

In 1939, Churchill used the formulation “blood, sweat and tears” in a newspaper opinion piece he wrote about the Spanish Civil War. In that, he said “here are new structures of national life erected upon blood, sweat and tears.”

Finally, on May 13, 1940, Churchill used the version immortalized by his speech to the House of Commons.

A few days before that, British Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain had resigned in disgrace, after an unsuccessful attempt to avoid war with Germany by trying to appease Adolf Hitler with the “Munich Agreement.”

In that agreement, negotiated in September 1930, Chamberlain consented to Hitler’s demand to make the Sudetenland in western Czechoslovakia part of Germany, not long after Austria had been absorbed into the growing Nazi empire.

Chamberlain caved to Hitler in hopes of staving off a second world war. He apparently believed Hitler’s promise that, in return, Germany would refrain from attempts at further expansion.

On September 30, 1938, Chamberlain made the infamous, deluded claim that the Munich Agreement would ensure “peace for our time” (often misquoted as “peace in our time”).

Winston Churchill didn’t buy it.

He publicly lambasted Chamberlain, saying: “You were given the choice between war and dishonour. You chose dishonour and you will have war.”

It soon became clear that Hitler had indeed lied and Churchill was right.

In the fall of 1939, the Germans invaded Poland. Early in 1940, the Nazis overwhelmed Denmark, then invaded and overran Norway.

On May 9, 1940, faced with the failure of his appeasement policy, Neville Chamberlain resigned.

The next day, Winston Churchill was appointed as Prime Minister.

On May 13, Churchill met with his Cabinet. According to the International Churchill Society, one of the things he said to the Cabinet members was: “I have nothing to offer but blood, toil, tears and sweat.”

Later that day, he used the line in his first speech to the House of Commons as Prime Minister.

Some of the lines that came after that line in the speech also became widely quoted, and it’s still stirring to hear the historic recording of Churchill delivering them.

In the closing part of the address, Churchill said, in his inimitable way:

“I would say to the House, as I said to those who have joined this government: ‘I have nothing to offer but blood, toil, tears and sweat.’ We have before us an ordeal of the most grievous kind. We have before us many, many long months of struggle and of suffering. You ask, what is our policy? I can say: It is to wage war, by sea, land and air, with all our might and with all the strength that God can give us; to wage war against a monstrous tyranny, never surpassed in the dark, lamentable catalogue of human crime. That is our policy. You ask, what is our aim? I can answer in one word: It is victory, victory at all costs, victory in spite of all terror, victory, however long and hard the road may be; for without victory, there is no survival. Let that be realised; no survival for the British Empire, no survival for all that the British Empire has stood for, no survival for the urge and impulse of the ages, that mankind will move forward towards its goal. But I take up my task with buoyancy and hope. I feel sure that our cause will not be suffered to fail among men. At this time I feel entitled to claim the aid of all, and I say, ‘come then, let us go forward together with our united strength.’”

Shortly after Churchill’s May 13, 1940 address, some people were already misquoting or paraphrasing its most famous line.

When publishers used BLOOD SWEAT and TEARS as the title of a collection of his speeches that was announced by press releases in the fall of 1940 and published in 1941, it solidified the mistaken belief that those were the words he had used and his May 13 address.

It also helped ensure that the address would be commonly referred to as Churchill’s “blood, sweat and tears speech.”

Of course, Hitler and the Nazis were eventually defeated, thanks in large part to Churchill’s steadfast leadership.

As he urged, victory against the Nazis was achieved by an unprecedented, united effort by the people of Great Britain with the crucial help of the United States.

And, as Churchill said prophetically in his speech, that victory required a great deal of blood, toil, tears and sweat.

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