Tuesday, May 08, 2007

Quipstory and Quipstorians

I've found a new sound that has replaced celtic music as my least
favorite thing to hear.

It is that oft-told story about McClellan reporting to Lincoln that his
cavalry horses are tired, and Lincoln responding with “ Will you pardon
me for asking what the horses of your army have done since the Battle
of Antietam that fatigues anything?”

Har, har, har! Didja' hear that Ma? That Macllellander sure was an

I hear this one a lot at the park, usually by casual visitors and all
too often by outside "expert" tour guides who bring groups
through..."the carriage trade".

If you've ever been to lovely Mackinac Island in Michigan's upper lakes
region (www.mackinacisland.org) you've probably gone for a carriage
ride. The carriages are driven by college kids who learn early to lay
on the apocryphal island stories thick because tourists who laugh the
most are generally swell tippers.

Let's not confuse entertainment with history, or Mr. Lincoln's sense of
humor with his grasp of matters military.

“He has got the slows, Mr. Blair.”

Quips are no substitute for analysis although it is astonishing how
many peddlers of history will practice otherwise.

People enjoy jokes, but they value knowledge...

and knowledgeable guides.

Ranger Mannie


Anonymous said...

The problem is that most people simply don't have the time or the inclination for an in-depth analysis...thus, quips, sound-bites and other assorted things, the "color" of history, if you will, provide a means of giving the basic story + a little frosting on top. After all, who would eat a cupcake without frosting? If the individual's interest is sufficiently piqued, then he might pursue the matter further and learn about things as they stood without the quips, et al. Life is about much more than dispassionate analysis, ya know...

And how is the above Lincoln quote entertainment rather than history? Did not Lincoln actually say those words in a dispatch? What then makes it entertainment rather than history? How does the implied use of his remark about horses as a critical commentary about McClellan's effectiveness completely negate its usefulness? If the remark could not have been proven to been written, then it would be a different story.

Oh, and there's nothing wrong with Celtic music...so there.

Anonymous said...

Mannie, you don't like Celtic music? And here I used to think you were an alright guy...Ranger Maria

Anonymous said...


You'd best be careful. You're really close to becoming a revisionist apologist ;-)

You're spot on, once again (except for the Celtic music - I've seen the Chieftains 5 times).

The quips pass for insider winking; they allow the listener to feel like he has a shared expertise with the presenter. But this "frosting" can distort the product of the propane grill of dispassion; make it taste like something entirely different. Who wants frosting on their steak? In this particular instance, few ever mention that AL had to eat crow after the uninformed one-liner. Upon rational review, it reflects more poorly on the President than on the general.

Sadly though, this is the stuff that most casual consumers, the majority of the market, is looking for. Something light and sweet, like a cupcake. Not steak.

Thinking is hard. Winking is not.