Tuesday, August 25, 2009

The Best Vice Presidents (And What They Did That Makes Chuck Norris Look Like A Girl Scout.)

Anyone who knows me knows that I frequently despair over the state of schools and education. This isn't a new thing for me. I'm not one of those people who says when I was a kid, schools were good and we didn't have any of this "whole language" stuff and they taught us arithmetic, not calculators, and we learned math the old fashioned way, by hating it until we remembered it."

Okay, so I do say that, and have even thought about having it tattooed on my bicep, now that I have a bicep thanks to my patented Baby Workout program.*(*note: not actually patented, but I do have "dibs.") But I'm not really kidding myself when I say that, as I also realize that my own education was perhaps less-than-successful, owing in part to my own inability to pay attention and in part to the fact that my chemistry teacher focused primarily on teaching us about blood grooves in arrows.

I've never stopped learning, or loving learning, though, despite Big Education's best efforts, and I've remained concerned that kids today don't get even the partially-adequate education I got.

I think a big part of the problem with education is that there are so few teachers like Mr. Schaeffer, my 9th Grade English teacher who made learning fun and interesting because he loved reading and literature so much that his enthusiasm just bubbled over into his students. There are few teachers like him, or the rare other teachers I had who made learning fun and interesting and related it to our lives some how.

Another big part of the problem is that the media, and government, and society, confuses "celebrity" with "knowledge" or "importance." This happens all the time; it happens everytime someone asks Brad Pitt what he thinks about anything beyond his own life. Who cares what Brad Pitt thinks about New Orleans, architecture, politics, or anything? Not me.

It's not just Brad Pitt, either. All kinds of celebrities -- that should be "celebrities?"-- get into the act, as was shown recently when Battlestar Galatica's Space President Roslin was asked to work with the United Nations to address global issues. The UN, apparently unaware that Space President Roslin (a) cares little for human rights and (b) died upon founding earth millions or billions of years ago, asked her and Whoopi Goldberg to teach the world how to live in peace, or crib an ending from Douglas Adams, or something.

Why are we listening to actors tell us how to get along, and why are students getting worse and worse at education? Because nobody cares enough to try to actually teach students, in a fun and educational way. Students don't know anything about science or math or history or anything these days, and as a result, they'd rather hear what Space President Roslin has to say about stuff, while making up Chuck Norris jokes.

Chuck Norris jokes, I've noticed, are an increasingly big thing, and I'm not sure why. I was never a big fan of Chuck Norris'. In fact, the only thing I've ever liked about Chuck Norris was that line from Dodgeball when Vince Vaughn says "Thank you, Chuck Norris." But kids today idolize Chuck Norris and make up myths and legends about him, myths and legends that The Boy and his friend can recite from memory.

So I put two-and-two together (something kids are increasingly unable to do without help) and decided: If you can't beat 'em, beat 'em harder. (That's my line, and don't you steal it, Chuck Norris.) I decided to help out educators, and societies, by giving some pointers on how to really teach kids, how to connect with them, and I will do that, using the most boring, least inspiring subject around: US Vice Presidents.

Without further ado, here are

The Best Vice Presidents (And What They Did That Makes Chuck Norris Look Like A Girl Scout.)

Plus, as an added bonus, I've thrown in an inspiring quote that can somehow be related to science fiction -- so that the general public might stop listening to Space President Roslin and start listening to... people who actually have accomplished something in life.

And, just to make things more difficult for me and thus prove something-or-other about something or other, I've picked out Vice Presidents with uncool names. Let's go!

1. Elbridge Gerry. Elbridge (there's a name you don't hear a lot, anymore, but maybe this blog will start a craze and all the kids'll be named Elbridge in coming months) was the fifth Vice President, and the first VP who didn't then run for president. That might mark him as a loser, a man who didn't want to try to be number one but was content as a runner up, but you're judging too quickly; he died in office. So it's not really a big deal that he was the "first VP not to run for president," since he never had a chance to do so. Also, back then, everyone was the first at something. It's easy to be first this-or-that when you've just started keeping track.

What'd Elbridge Gerry Do That Would Make Chuck Norris Say "Uncle?" Elbridge, at the ripe old age of 42, married hottie (presumed) Ann Thompson, who was not only wealthy but also was 21 years younger than him, making him the only guy at the Constitutional Convention with a trophy wife. How hot was she? She had to be pretty hot, because she and Elbridge together ended up having ten kids. Sadly, I couldn't find a picture of Ann, but I assume she looked like this:

Not good enough for you? How about this? In the early days of the Revolutionary War, Gerry and the other Founders were in session at the Continental Congress when British troops approached. While the other important people fled (Continental Congresses being forbidden), Gerry and one other man remained behind in their house, ignoring the British troops, who at one point marched right up to Gerry's house.

True, at that point, Gerry fled in his pajamas and hid in a cornfield for an hour and a half, but up until that moment, he was superbrave.

Did Gerry Ever Say Anything That Could Potentially Apply To A Human-Cylon Conflict, thereby qualifying him to comment on the issues of the day? Sure: Gerry and Space-President Roslin were two peas in a pod when it came to their views on the Power of the People. Here's what Gerry had to say about democracy (which he helped found, remember):

The evils we experience flow from the excess of democracy. The people do not want virtue, but are the dupes of pretended patriots.

How doesn't that translate into a Cylon war? An excess of democracy is the root of all evil! And Cylons are evil! Let's get Gerry to the next UN convention. He can sit next to Brad Pitt.

2. Schuyler Colfax: Was there ever a name more designed to get a kid beaten up? Maybe kids were more tolerant back in the 1820s, when Colfax was born. I hope not, because I like to think of some bully-loser sitting around, reading his yellowish newspaper with tiny printing, on the day Colfax got inaugurated as Vice President, and saying to himself "Colfax? I used to beat that nerd up and take his coal money."

Colfax got elected vice president despite his name, and was part of the youngest team of President/VP in history, being surpassed only by Clinton/Gore in the 1990s. Schuyler's career saw him move from being a Whig to a "Know-Nothing" to a Republican, with each step representing a step down the intellectual ladder.

Could Schuyler Colfax have made Chuck Norris cry real tears? Most definitely, and he'd have done it debatin' style. One newspaper reported of his debating skills:

"Mr. Colfax took an active part in the debate, giving and receiving hard blows with all the skill of an old gladiator."

I choose to assume that they were actually boxing. It doesn't, after all, say they were not.

On the off-chance that you are not entertained by the idea of a VP boxing his rivals, I will point out, too, that "Smiler" Colfax (as he was nicknamed) was the genesis of all those stories about how far people walked back in the way olden days (before 2002), as he once had to change trains, and to do so was required to walk three-quarters of a mile outside when the tempertare was -30˚F. He did it without complaining.

And then he died, five minutes later.

What would Colfax have thought about the Human/Cylon War? That's not hard to know. Apparently, Colfax only said one quotable thing in his entire life, and this is it:

“These martyrs of patriotism gave their lives for an idea.”

Luckily, that's a quote that fits perfectly with the Cylon war. The idea the Battlestar martyrs were fighting for was, most likely, the idea that sex with hot cyborgs is okay, but at least they died for something, and Colfax would have approved of that.

3. Hannibal Hamlin: Everyone remembers Lincoln, just because he had that stovepipe hat and won the Civil War (almost) and got shot, but who remembers his vice president, Hannibal Hamlin? Just me, and probably his descendants, it seems, but that's about to change with this blog post. Blog posts can change the world, I tell you!

Would Hannibal Hamlin Beat Chuck Norris In A Fight? I'd bet on Hamlin. Hamlin was born in Maine, which was like the Texas of the original colonies, in that it was out-of-the-way, inhospitable, and possibly part of a different country. That pedigree alone matches Chuck Norris', and it's likely that Hamlin knew whether or not his state was a part of the United States (unlike Chuck, who's a little unclear on that stuff.) Not only was Hamlin smarter, but he also fought in a war, the Aroostook War, fought by Great Britain and the US over what should be the actual border between Maine and Canada. (It was called a "bloodless war" because after realizing that nobody cared, both sides went home without any actual fighting.) Hamlin later died playing cards. Details aren't readily available on how that happened, so I've reconstructed events a little here:

Scene: A tavern in Maine that happens to look like an old-time saloon in Texas. A couple of guys are sitting around a table drinking Maine Sarsaparilla and playing Maine Hold 'Em. One of them is Hannibal Hamlin. Suddenly, in comes a guy in a bushy, kind-of-lame beard wearing jeans and a cowboy hat. Nobody knows what a cowboy is, though.

The Bearded Guy mumbles something about being a "Texas Ranger," and Hamlin leaps to his feet.

"A foreigner!
" he yells. "Forsooth! [or whatever they said in the 1880s in Maine. Maybe, "Lobster!"]. "We must be getting invaded again! The borders must be protected!" Hamlin then tears open the thick wool suit everyone wore all the time in those days, even in bed, and underneath reveals a kick-ass karate suit, made of armor or something. The two have a karate fight, and the bearded guy is beaten, running out with his head hung low in shame. Hannibal turns around, brushes his hands off, and says "Lobsters! That was easy. Now, where were we?"

However, during the distraction, a British double agent at the table took the opportunity to load his musket and has it pointed at Hamlin. "For British Columbia's Borders!" he yells, and shoots Hamlin.

I'm pretty sure that's exactly how it went down.

What Would Hamlin Have Said If He Was Vice President Of A Ragtag Fleet Of Ships Trying To Find Earth? It's hard to say; search as I might (and I spent nearly 30 seconds on it) I couldn't find a single quote from Hannibal Hamlin. But I did find whole pages of quotes from Space-President Roslin, and I thought I'd include them to show you just why her character is such a fountain of wisdom:

Here's the first, said in a debate with a woman known as "Admiral Cain."

"The spirit of the law requires something more here than summary executions."

And here's the second, said to her military commander, about Admiral Cain:

I'm afraid this can only end one way... You've got to kill her.

4. Spiro Agnew. No wrap up of VPs would be complete without my own personal favorite VP ever, Spiro Agnew, the man who tried, resolutely, to bring back old-timey (meaning: funny) names to political office.

Spiro v. Chuck: Who wins? Spiro. Most people think of Spiro Agnew and say... Who? Or they remember that he resigned in scandal and was convicted of bribery. But people forget that years before he took bribes while serving in the second highest office, Spiro manned a tank company in World War II, receiving a bronze star for valor. And that wasn't the only war he fought in -- he was called up for Korea, too, and went to fight there, losing his income and his home while doing so.

Spiro was also taunted so badly by kids growing up that he briefly changed his name to "Ted." If only he'd stuck with that... you can't see a "Ted" getting into trouble and resigning in disgrace, can you? About the worst thing a "Ted" could ever do is maybe get angry that the convenience store raised the price of coffee and boycott it for a week, to make a point. Then he'd go back to the store, though, because it really is convenient.

What'd Spiro Say That Might Help Inspire A Generation Of People, Even Though He's Not On TV Fighting Aliens And Therefore Shouldn't Probably Be Listened To? Spiro was a fount of quotes that are well-known -- the "nattering nabobs of negativism" probably chief among them, but I'm concerned here with quotes that help us understand Human/Cylon relations - - you know, the important things. Here's one of those:

“They have formed their own 4-H club - the hopeless, hysterical hypochondriacs of history.”

Take that, you people who think that fighting Cylons is useless. You're in your own 4-H club. That'll show you.

Spiro, um, also said this, though:

"Three things have been difficult to tame: the oceans, fools and women. We may soon be able to tame the oceans; fools and women will take a little longer.”

I doubt he was very popular with Mrs. Spiro.

I tried to find a picture of Mrs. Spiro, but couldn't. I assume she looked like this:

No comments: