Saturday, October 10, 2009

Yeah, no kidding

Mr. Obama won a Nobel Prize? For what I wonder. Oh, says so right here; for not being George W. Bush. Wish I could win a prize for not being somebody. Nevertheless, it is historic. Some day kids will read about it in school and find it very boring.

The reason schoolkids think history is boring is because nobody tells them the good stuff. Like it's about to be Columbus Day for instance. Besides meaning that furniture made in China is on sale all over the tri-state area, means teachers will have to mention it in the daily lesson, well perhaps.

Lord only knows what that'll look like in some school districts. The day Europeans introduced the concept of violence to peace loving native Americans maybe? Yep, that's right kids! Pre-1492 the entire Aztec empire was wandering around Central America hugging trees.

Why don't they tell the kids how America got its name? Oh sure, you say everybody already knows that. America is named for Amerigo Vanconfucious, famed explorer, philosopher and furniture maker. I didn't say "from whom" I said "how."

America got its name because an oversexed pickle merchant's butt kissing letters home got plagiarized. OK, I put it to a show of hands in a classroom of teenagers. Who wants to hear about the Louisiana Purchase, and who wants to hear about the oversexed pickle merchant? It's an inescapable fact; teenagers are fascinated with pickles.

Amerigo had the contract to provide pickles for the Columbus expedition. Pickles are really good on an ocean voyage. They don't spoil, and they're an excellent source of vitamin C, prevents scurvy. And look, while we're at it? Wasn't like Chris was the only person who thought the Earth was round. Every blue water ship captain knew it. Lots of folks in Arabia and China knew it too. What they didn't know was the circumference, which is what made the Chris gambit rather daring. Actually a Greek cat named Eratosthenes had figured Earth circumference back around 300 BC, by measuring shadows of sticks placed on a wide flat plain during solstice. He was only off by five percent too, rather impressive. But hey, even I have journalistic standards, so I'm not going to dwell there. Had he measured the shadows of pickles, I could work with that.

So when Chris came back, lots of people said, "Wow! No kidding?" Except they said it in Spanish of course. Amerigo saw opportunity. He prevailed upon his employers the Medici family, to pull strings and get him on future voyages. Frankly, Amerigo wasn't a fundamental contributor on any of the four voyages. He was more like a celebrity contestant on "The Dating Game."

His honest claim to having two continents named for him? He was the first person who publicly said, "Ya know what? I don't think this place is Asia at all." He didn't intend to say it publicly. He wrote it in butt kissing letters to his boss, Lorenzo Medici. He wrote lots of letters to Lorenzo. An oft visited topic was how native American (yeah, they weren't called Americans yet) girls weren't like the girls back home, if ya know what I mean? These letters widely circulated among European nobility and were read with much interest and some drooling.

Then some plagiarizer got hold of them. You got these letters from an oversexed pickle merchant. You got the recently invented Guttenberg press. What are you gonna do? Soft core pornography, DUH! Lots of embellishment added to the already randy letters from Amerigo, and was it a popular book? Think JK Rowling and Dan Brown have a baby and he grows up and writes a book, like that popular.

So Amerigo was widely associated with the new land mass about a decade later when a group of cartographers met and decided on the name. That's how America got its name.

Even the Louisiana Purchase is interesting, if you tell the good stuff. For one thing, Napoleon needed the money to finance his wars of conquest. His Russian invasion was doomed in part by the alloy French uniform buttons were made from. Brilliant strategist really, his army did well in button friendly warm climates. His navy? Napoleon was a land guy. He never understood naval warfare. Still, they'd have done well if not for Nelson. Nelson was DA MAN! Walking around the decks in full dress uniform during an intense firefight might not have been a good idea in hindsight. Want a pickle?

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