Friday, April 29, 2011

"You Lose"

Calvin never lost his cool.
That is the hat of someone who never loses his cool.
Julia Mansfield wasn't even able to muster one vote per Hail to the Chief episode.

 Coolidge vs. Mansfield
Calvin Coolidge 16 (76.2%)
Julia Mansfield       5  (23.8%)

We knew going in that it was going to be a quiet week in terms of votes. It wasn't expected to be a very exciting matchup. We had a guy who is known for being quiet and composed going against some obscure '80s TV character who, while strong-willed, doesn't seem like much of a fighter herself. In fact, this very point was made in the comments section.
It probably would be a pretty boring fight to watch in real life.

Coolidge moves on to the 2nd Round, though members of the commentariat will have us believe that it's going to a be a short ride. He faces Harry S Truman in the 2nd Round, in a fight scheduled to kick off Oct. 17.

Be sure to check us out next week when Richard Nixon returns, this time with the rest of his body, to face Morgan Freeman's Tom Beck from Deep Impact.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

A Peek Into an '80s Presidential Sitcom

Hail to the Chief premiered in April of 1985. Only seven episodes aired before ABC canceled the show that July. As a service to later generations, I painstakingly transcribed a scene to show what America missed out on.

The set up: Some high-ranking Air Force officer has snapped and locked himself in the room in a missile silo in Fargo, N.D., threatening to launch nuclear missiles at the Soviet Union if they don’t abandon Communism. The Soviet Union caught wind of this and has announced that if they are attacked, they will retaliate.

President Julia Mansfield has called a meeting with her top advisers. The main players in this scene are:

National Security Adviser Helmut Luger
Joint Chiefs of Staff General Hannibal Stryker
Secretary of State LaRue Hawkes.
STRYKER, HAWKES and LUGER are sitting in the Oval Office, waiting for PRES. MANSFIELD.

So that’s it, general, Mr. Secretary; we have 64 hours.

I say push the button. What the hell? We’re here.

Are you crazy? We’re talking about the destruction of the world.

Not all of it, most of it. Look what most of it is: the Chinese are an aggravation. And Africa —
    (to HAWKES)
if you pardon me — is a real pain in the butt.

India’s a zoo.

    (to HAWKES)
You ever see those people, Hawkes? They’re the dirtiest looking bunch with the most God-awful teeth.

You are talking about God’s children, here. You’re talking about my brothers.

No, Hawkes. You negro guys have great teeth. Those big white ones. I love your teeth.

Oh, they’re the best, those teeth.

It’s Indian teeth I’m talking about. I bet there’s not one dentist in the entire country.

Dentist? They don’t have food! They’re starving.

What difference does it make? They don’t have teeth.

(STRYKER and LUGER laugh at STRYKER’S zing.)

As long as one man starve, we all starve. As long as one man weeps, we all weep. As long as one man suffers, we all suffer.

(STRYKER and LUGER are facepalming at HAWKES going off on a diatribe.)

    HAWKES (cont.)
As long as one man dies—

    (interrupts HAWKES)
Now look at it this way, this could be the best thing to happen to this world. We’d be purifying it. Europe would probably survive, so you’d still have terrific shopping. The tropical islands will be left with those great drinks.

It would be a public service, Hawkes.

Did it ever occur to either of you maniacs that a large portion of the United States would be destroyed.

Well, let’s hope it’s the part of the country that needs destroying, Hawkes. Let’s hope it’s our prisons, our slums, our ghettos.

Let’s hope it’s Detroit.

Well, maybe it will be New York.
    (to LUGER)
Maybe it would be the end of Hymietown. Hmm?

Are you calling me a Hymie?

Helmut, are you a Hymie?

I am NOT a Hymie!
    (MANSFIELD and SEN. COTTON enter)
How dare you call me a Hymie!

    (rightfully shocked)

    (to LUGER)
Ya know, my wife thought you might be a Hymie.

What is going on here?! We are in the midst of an international crisis. This is unbelievable.

    (pointing to HAWKES)
He started it. He said I was a Hymie.

Mr. Luger, if you please.

I’m sorry Madame President, Senator.

I need you with me gentleman. Please. I’ll be talking to Premier Zolotov this afternoon. And I will probably meet with Major Brower again. As you know, this is all top secret. There could be no leaks — not even families. You will be kept informed and updated as the situation changes. We have 64 hours. That will be all gentlemen.

    (LUGER, STRYKER and HAWKES head for the

    (stops LUGER)
You sure got Hymie hair.

Mind you, this is directly after a scene where the president’s husband tells their young son not to let an Arab classmate bully them. “You let an Arab talk to you like that? Jews beat up Arabs. If they can, you can. You kick the humps off his camel.”

An episode later, we’re introduced to a televangelist character who talks about his recent appearance on The Phil Donahue Show where he “completely destroyed that faggot atheist abortionist.” I'm not sure if Phil Donahue, himself, was the "faa," or if the "faa" was another guest on the show. Either way, he seriously used the words "faggot atheist abortionist."

So what did we miss by only getting seven episodes of Hail to the Chief? More horribly offensive TV.

Now, I’m willing to give the show the benefit of the doubt. Yes, it was the ‘80s, so we were apparently able to say horrible things on TV. I’m also willing to concede that the writers made it offensive on purpose, to show how ignorant these people are. Look at Blazing Saddles.

The difference here is that this movie took place in 1874, when people really were horrible. Also, the ignorant characters here were either the bad guys or the townsfolk. The bad guys remained ignorant and eventually got what was coming to them and the townsfolk came around and learned that Black Bart was a good guy.

The show, however, makes the protagonists ignorant. Okay, the evangelist isn’t a protagonist — he’s trying to get the president impeached because she’s a woman. But everyone else mentioned above is a supposed to be on the protagonist’s side.

How are we supposed to pull for the woman who marries a philandering racist?

She picked a general for Chiefs of Staff who seems to believe that Europe would survive a full-scale nuclear war between the U.S. and the Soviet Union, so clearly, he’s not much of a strategist. Anyone who has seen Wargames can tell you that the only way to win a nuclear war is not to play. Oh also, he uses the word “negro,” and not to describe what league the Kansas City Monarchs played for.

She picked a National Security Adviser who thinks he got a teenager pregnant, called the Ayatollah a “raghead” (no, I mean while talking to him) and who thinks being called Jewish is one of the worst possible insults.

For Secretary of State, she went with the guy who uses the phrase “Hymie Town.” Yes, I understand that that’s a reference to Jesse Jackson the previous year. My point is that didn’t quite work out for Jackson when he used it while trying to run for president, did it? It's a shame too, because up until that point in that scene, LaRue Hawkes seemed to be the voice of reason among the three of them.

So if they were going for Blazing Saddles-style offensive, then they failed pretty hard. If they weren't, then holy shit, what were they trying to do?

I guess it’s probably a good thing that this show didn’t last very long. At the very least, it freed up the writers and producers to work on another project of theirs that began airing on NBC that fall.
Thank you for being a friend

FUN FACT: There was another failure that also lasted April to July of 1985, the months Hail to the Chief aired.
New Coke — The New Coke of all failures
And I can say what I will about the quality of Hail to the Chief, it actually lasted a few weeks longer than New Coke.

And remember, the show's lack of quality has no bearing on Julia Mansfield's ability to fight Calvin Coolidge... or does it? 

Monday, April 25, 2011

Coolidge vs. Mansfield

Calvin Coolidge
30th President of the United States
Served 1923-1929
Age during term: 51-56

PROS: Silent... but Deadly — We'll be honest. Calvin Coolidge is not exactly the most renowned president in American history. However, there is one story about ol' Cal that has made the rounds for a long time, and you've probably heard it, somewhere. The gist is, Coolidge was a man of famously few words. One night, at a White House dinner party, Coolidge allegedly found himself seated next to poet/socialite Dorothy Parker. Parker allegedly remarked, "Mr. Coolidge, I've made a bet against a fellow who said it was impossible to get more than two words out of you." Coolidge's alleged reply? "You lose."
After that, Parker was immediately whisked to the hospital, where she was admitted to the SICK BURNS unit.
"So what?" you say, disdainfully. "That won't help him in the arena." How can you be so sure? After all, that time Coolidge spends not talking? Is spent thinking, calculating, strategizing. He's going to find your weakness, and he's going to exploit it.

Ironic side-note: Silent Cal was not only the first President to have a speech broadcast by national radio, but he was also the first president captured on film with sound included.

Self-made Man — Coolidge spent his years before going into politics as a rather successful lawyer, founding his own law firm in 1898, and steadily growing it over the years. Not bad for someone who never spent a day in law school! Yup, you heard that right, Coolidge passed the bar in Massachusetts having never attended law school. Instead, Coolidge apprenticed at a law firm, and built his legal knowledge through a practice known as "reading law," which sounds boring, but apparently produced many a lawyer in the days before attending law school was, you know, required.
Frank Abignale never cared for such requirements. But that's beside the point.
You can't teach the kind of self-confidence that comes with that sort of start. And, you can't deny Coolidge was a success, either. Those factors are going to give him a good mental edge headed into his deathmatch.

CONS: Melancholy — All that stuff about Coolidge being Mr. Confidence-Pants? Well, that only really would count if we're getting a 1923-early 1924 Coolidge in the arena. Otherwise? Tragedy struck the Coolidge family in the summer of '24, when Cal's youngest son, Calvin Jr., developed a blister while playing tennis at the White House. Hey, no big deal, just a blister, right? Right, until young Cal developed sepsis. And died within days.
We don't really have a joke for this, so... kittens!
This occurred right in the middle of the 1924 presidential election campaign, which ended up being a much more subdued affair. Yes, Coolidge won handily (even though parts of his own party split off after the Republican Convention), but he was observed to be severely forlorn and withdrawn afterwards. Coolidge himself later admitted, "when [Cal Jr.] died, the power and glory of the Presidency went with him." Coolidge never really recovered, and declined to run for re-election in 1928. This kinda doesn't seem like someone who could win a fight to the death, you know?

Too lassiez-faire? — Look, the economy tends to go in cycles. The 1990s were boom times. Then, the dot-com bubble burst, September 11 happened, and it was bust times. The pendulum swings back and forth. However, that's not to say that the wrong actions at the wrong times can't make a big difference.
For example, giving Hans Gruber your gun definitely counts as the wrong action at the wrong time.
Even if it's not loaded.
Enter Calvin Coolidge. The entire decade of the 1920s was known as the Roaring Twenties for good reason: it was a boom period. Coolidge's economic philosophies favored small government, low taxes, and little regulation. And hey, why not? Things were good! Those of you with a basic grounding in American history, however, know that by 1929, when Coolidge left office, things were... perhaps a bit shaky. And wouldn't you know, a few months after he left office, the stock market crashed, ushering in a period known as the Great Depression. Coolidge's successor Hebert Hoover was left holding the bag when blame time came around, but... maybe a more involved government could have helped out? Maybe? Just saying.

Julia Mansfield
Fictional President of the United States portrayed by Patty Duke
Served in the ABC sitcom Hail to the Chief (1985)
Age: Duke was 38 when the show aired

PROS: Surrounded by hatred — With the exception of a few people, everyone in Mansfield’s inner-circle is a horrible bigot of some sort. Her husband called the gay Secret Service agent every homophobic slur in the book, including ones I didn’t realize you were able to utter on network television in the '80s.

When her eldest son, a tennis star, was asked about an upcoming match, he dismissively pointed out that his opponent was Bulgarian and all he needed to win was Lysol. What?! I didn't even know that was a thing.
Again... kittens!

I could go on, but it only gets more upsetting from there. Mansfield seems to be one of the few voices of reason in this White House. On the surface, she doesn’t seem the type to resort to racial epithets, but she’s surrounded by people who do — even if they don’t make sense (I didn’t even know there were stereotypes about Bulgarians). Being around that much negative energy angers up the blood, which should serve her well in the Arena.

Pent up energy — Mansfield’s husband can’t perform in the bedroom. She doesn’t know the real reason, but it’s because he feels guilty about cheating on her for years and years.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not trying to play the misogynistic “What’s the matter, toots? Not getting enough of the good stuff at home?” or “All a dame really needs is a few minutes with a REAL man,” card. But really, there’s something everyone needs every now and again — regardless of what gender — a release. Especially Mansfield.

Being president is stressful. She narrowly avoided a nuclear war with the Soviet Union, her husband’s running around with KGB spies and the Christian Conservative groups — who also have no problem throwing around the word “faggot” like it’s no big deal — are willing to do anything to get her impeached.

Mansfield needs a release and if her husband isn’t going to give it to her, she’s going to punch a wall... or someone’s face.
... or she could go the Andy Bernard route and punch a hole in a wall of the Oval Office.
CONS: Voice of reason — Even when things were at their toughest, Mansfield kept a level head. She didn’t do anything too impulsive and she tried to use reasoning whenever she could. It served her well in the White House.

This is not the White House. This is the Presidential Gladiatorial Arena™. There’s no time for reasoning. Leave your level-headed demeanor at the door, because it won’t do you any good here.

Oliver Mansfield is still sleeping around
— After the First “Gentleman” confesses to his wife about all of the cheating, he has a near-death experience (he’s shot by a character played by the same guy who played the dead guy from the Weekend at Bernie’s movies... long story). After coming out of the coma, he really promises to turn over a new leaf.

Then he boinks his mistress a few more times.
You know how pirate fetishists are.

Aside from a comical slap, Mansfield’s husband goes on largely unscathed. If she can’t work up enough ire to wallop her cheating husband, how can she get anywhere in the name of blood sport?

The Fight
Doug: All of that silent time thinking, calculating and strategizing and he couldn't see that his economic policies were (maybe) leading to The Great Depression coming? Yeech! I'd hate to think about what ideas he cooks up when he's to enter the ring.

Truth of the matter is that Mansfield is married to a loudmouth and she filled her top Cabinet posts to other loudmouths. Mansfield feels at home around loudmouths. I'm not exactly sure why, but hey, who am I to judge? Silent Cal's, well, silence is going to put Mansfield ill at ease. No one, including her, knows how she'll act in that situation.

Tony: Yeah, but here's the thing: Mansfield has a lot of problems, right? Not necessarily her, but here administration at large. What does she do? Nothing, really. Ooh, she slaps her husband! Please. Any good combatant would have gotten a crotch shot in at that point. I think Coolidge can do better than that. At the very least, dude's capable of drawing blood.

Doug: Coolidge can do better than that? Coolidge did nothing.

That's what "laissez-faire" means. When Cal Jr. died, did he beat his other son for letting him play tennis without socks? Did he start funding medical technology to help cure sepsis so that other people don't suffer the same loss? Did he make his son the poster child for preventing blood poisoning?

No, no and no. He did nothing. I'm not critiquing the guy for becoming sad and withdrawn when he lost his 16-year-old son. But we should expect nothing less from Mr. Laissez-Faire. So, I'm not really sure what he'd do in the arena, if anything.

Tony: Coolidge knew better than to try and switch horses in mid-stream. As long as the American economy was humming smoothly along, why upset the apple cart? No, Coolidge got on the trolley and rode it to greater financial success. I don't see why you'd penalize him for that. Look, maybe his Presidency didn't have any big crises to rise to, but was that the only executive job he ever held? Certainly not! What of his time as Governor of Massachusetts? What of the Boston Police Strike? Did Coolidge do nothing when 75% of Boston's police force walked off the job? Certainly not! He called in the national guard and proceeded to fire all the striking workers! Boom! Results! When the time came for action, he took action. And nothing says "action" like "President Coolidge, you must kill this woman, or she will kill you." Q.E.D.

Doug: I'd have to say, I know I'm supposed to be arguing that Mansfield would kick Coolidge's ass, but I honestly don't see it. Luckily for my side of the debate, I don't see Coolidge bringing the beatdown to Mansfield, either.

To be honest, this will probably be a very long, drawn out fight. Probably boring, too. It could last years and it may not end until one of them dies of old age. Since Coolidge was older as president and died at 60 (less than four years after leaving office), it would make sense that he would die first.

Let's just hope that when his death is announced in the ring, Dorothy Parker will be around to quip, "How can you tell?"

Tony: Eh, I dunno, I think Coolidge eventually gets fed up and starts getting sneaky. Like, he'd say something like, "look, your husband is philandering, again!" And when Mansfield turns around, he would take out her knees. Which is kind of hard to do from behind, but, whatever.
I do agree with you: not the most dynamic fight in the bracket. But hey, those matchups just help you appreciate the gems all the more, right?

Friday, April 22, 2011

The Truman Show

Just out of habit, the Chicago Tribune went with another Truman-related inaccurate headline.
What, you didn't see this coming?
For the record: Truman actually ran away with it.

Polk vs. Truman
James K. Polk14 (29.8%)
Harry S Truman    33 (70.2%)

What's interesting is that though Truman clearly dominated the voting, there weren't any comments supporting him. Even someone signing his comment as presharrytruman conceded that maybe Polk has this one sewn up. That wasn't the only presidential comment we got.
Ike provides an interesting peek into history while stirring up trouble with the Truman commenter. What follows is a brief back-and-forth that helps us picture the Nov. '52 to Jan. '53 White House transition playing like a Jack Lemmon-Walter Matthau movie.

These are the sorts of interactions we here at HttCttD headquarters truly cherish.

Harry S Truman moves on the 2nd Round and is scheduled to fight again Oct. 17. Next week, Calvin Coolidge will meet Julia Mansfield from the short-lived 1980s ABC sitcom, Hail to the Chief.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

James K. Polk's Excellent Adventure

This is the diary that President James K. Polk kept while he and a few of his political opponents from the 1844 election — former President Martin Van Buren, Secretary of State James Buchanan, Sen. Lewis Cass, D-Mich. and Former Sen. Henry Clay, Whig-Ky. — trekked from Independence, Missouri to Oregon City, Oregon. Polk was excited to see the land he recently acquired from the British. He was less excited about who he'd be traveling with.
April 1, 1848 — Independence, Mo. — Our first stop was Matt's General Store. With only $400 to buy our supplies, we tried to get the most for our buck. We left Matt's with 6 oxen, 5 sets of clothing, 100 bullets, 1 spare wagon wheel, axle, and tongue each, 750 lbs of food, and $40 left. Hot dang!

While in Independence, we were advised to bring extra sets of clothing to trade with the Indians. "They're sharp traders, not easily cheated."

“No, that’s the expansionist government's job to cheat the Indians.” Clay said in his snide way. Smug Whig prick.

April 5, 1848 — Kansas River crossing — The river is way too deep to just walk across, so we’re going to have to float the wagon across the river.

Aunt Rebecca — who is travelling with us on another wagon — started complaining to me about waiting for days for the ferry... but she was going to do it. Well, then, stop complaining.

The ferry operators advised us to take the ferry. I don't think so. I'm not shelling out $5 just because you said I should. Besides, I could use the time away from Aunt Rebecca. So, we caulked that shit and floated across the river without incident. That wagon was as solvent as the Independent Treasury.

April 14, 1848 — Fort Kearney — While here, I struck up a conversation with a fort scout. He went on about how there's plenty of game to hunt, but people heading west are hunting for sport. "With so many overlanders, I don't expect it to last more'n a few years." I thought, "Did he just say 'more'n'? Is that even a word?"

April 16, 1848 — Buchanan has typhoid. Don’t care, not stopping.

April 18, 1848 — Van Buren has exhaustion. Most likely just acting out to compete for attention, jealous of typhoid-addled Buchanan.

April 24, 1848 — Chimney Rock — This site would make an excellent tails side of a quarter some day.
Aunt Rebecca telling me that she heard of people running out of food.
"Have you run out of food?"
"No, I'm just saying..."
"Okay, Aunt Rebecca." Can’t imagine this trip with her in my wagon. That would not be pretty.

April 25, 1848 — Was able to start the journey again after a severe blizzard. While snowed in, we had an in depth discussion about the upcoming election. Van Buren is thinking of going again, only for a new party whose platform is against the spread of slavery. Cass says he’s going again too. Buchanan wants me to go for a second term... which... out of the question. I think Buchanan should try again. How bad could he be? "It’s “not his time,” he said. “Maybe in the ‘50s,” he said.

Clay wouldn’t shut up about how his Whigs would take this election and remain a relevant party “for centuries to come.” I don’t know about that, dude.

April 27, 1848 — Van Buren has died. That's what you get for thinking about splitting the Democratic vote in ‘48.

April 29, 1848 — Fort Laramie — I spoke to a Sioux Brave. The Pawnees are his mortal enemy, but he's never killed a white before. As long as the whites leave him alone, he's fine. I didn't have the heart to tell him about fulfilling the whole manifest destiny thing. Awk-ward!
Pretty sure wasn't referring to Pawnee, Ind.
Though their murals are rather offensive, so maybe he was.

I spoke to a woman who had just lost her husband to cholera. She was talking about how she could use some help with some harness if I could spare some time. I pretended that I thought I had heard Van Buren calling me, and I needed to see what he wanted. As I walked away, I remembered that Van Buren just died, like, two days ago. I hoped that I didn't run into that woman again and she didn't ask to meet Van Buren, because that would've been bad. Okay, I admit; dick move on my part.

We rested for a week to get more healthy.

May 8, 1848 — We found an abandoned wagon with an axle. Sweet!

May 11, 1848 — There was a fire in the wagon. No one was hurt, but we lost our spare wheel and wagon tongue. On the plus side, we have our original spare wagon axle, plus the one we found a few days ago.

May 12, 1848 — We were talking about yesterday's fire to a few people in another wagon. While those nitwits Clay and Cass were demonstrating how the wagon caught fire, the wagon caught fire again. We lost our two spare wagon axles.

May 17, 1848 — Independence Rock — Some kid came up to me telling me that he just carved his name on Independence Rock. I thought about laying down the awesome hammer of the Executive Branch, but then I found out his name was Andrew, like my mentor, President Jackson. I miss that dude.

Buchanan carved his name onto the rock. Then Clay came around and carved “is gay” under Buchanan’s name. Yikes, dude. Not cool.

May 20, 1848 — Cass has typhoid.

May 22, 1848 — Distracted by Cass's typhoid, we got on the wrong trail. We lost 2 days, but we're back on track now.

May 25, 1848 — South Pass — An Arapaho told me that there were too many white people nowadays. What am I supposed to say to this? Have some tact, buddy!

May 27, 1848 — Some asshole came by and stole 70 bullets.
I hope he accidentally shoots his dirtbag face off with one of my stolen bullets.

May 29, 1848 — Green River crossing — A Shoshoni told me that there were too many white people nowadays. I don't see what these savages are getting all uppity about. Doesn't he appreciate the Christianity we're bringing to him and his types?

May 30, 1848 — Our tripometer flipped over to 1,000 miles.

June 7, 1848 — Soda Springs — Not much going on here. As we were leaving, I said, "Does anybody want to rest for a bit? Maybe if someone feels like they’re coming down with something?" No one spoke up, so we left.

June 8, 1848 — Buchanan has typhoid. "Didn't I say, just yesterday, that we could rest a Soda Springs if someone was coming down with something? And you said nothing!" He just coughed. What a jerk! In the argument, we lost the trail and lost another 2 days. Seriously, big jerk.

June 13, 1848 — Fort Hall — Aunt Rebecca is glad to be at a fort, because she can buy shit. Her complaint of the day is that there has been "hardly a stick of wood." Man, why doesn't she get typhoid?

We rested for a week, so that everyone could feel better.

June 21, 1848 — Cass has exhaustion. From what? We just took a week off!

June 29, 1848 — One of our wagon wheels broke, and I was unable to fix it, and the spare was destroyed in the fire. We're kind of up the creek.

July 9, 1848 — I traded a set of clothing for 67 bullets. I figure we have an extra set since what's-his-face kicked the bucket.
Right, him.
July 12, 1848 — Someone gave me a wagon wheel for 72 pounds of food. Fine, whatever, I'll take it! We hit the road.

July 14, 1848 — Snake River crossing — Some frantic woman started kvetching at me about how her husband won't use an Indian guide to help them cross the river. Seriously, woman, I don't know you. Please don't get me involved in your family drama, I've got enough of my own shit to worry about. To shut her up, I caulked our wagon and floated it across the river to show her that it would be fine.

It wasn’t fine. It tipped, and we lost three sets of clothing and 35 pounds of food. Oh, and also, Buchanan and Cass drowned.

I found it puzzling that even though we lost two people, we lost three sets of clothes, but Clay emerged from the Snake River as bare-assed as the day he was born. "How the hell did that happen?" I asked. He never really gave me a straight answer. Now we have to alternate who gets to wear the set of clothes.

July 18, 1848 — I went hunting. I bagged a 60 pound deer.

July 19, 1848 — Unhappy with yesterday's hunting, I hunted again. I got a 2 pound squirrel. I hope conditions improve.

July 20, 1848 — Third time's a charm. Two deer totaling 115 pounds.
And they look DELICIOUS!
Unfortunately, Clay and I were able to carry 100 pounds into the wagon. Odd, because the amount of time and energy spent removing those extra 15 pounds from that one carcass probably could have been spent just carrying the whole bodies onto the wagon.

July 22, 1848 — Clay has fever. AND we hit upon an impassable trail, so we just hung around for 4 days. I hope he doesn't think I stopped for him, because I didn't.

July 29, 1848 — Fort Boise — Aunt Rebecca pointed out that supplies get more expensive the further west we get. Someone needs to introduce Aunt Rebecca to the works of Scottish economist Adam Smith and the fundamentals of capitalism. I was going to go into a whole spiel about demand-push and cost-pull inflation, but I honestly believe those concept to be too much for dumb Aunt Rebecca to handle.

Someone ought to introduce Aunt Rebecca's backside to a boot.

July 30, 1848 — A thief stole 67 bullets. "Ironically," Clay pointed out "a different 67 bullets than the ones we got in that trade three weeks ago." I don't know how many times I have to go through the differences between irony and coincidence with this guy.

I went hunting. I again was effed by the 100 pound limit.
The 135-pound bear looks smaller than the 65-pound deer.
August 7, 1848 — Some jerk stole 78 pounds of food. How is it possible that one person can quietly make off with 78 pounds of food without anyone noticing, yet I can only take in 100 pounds per day from hunting?

August 9, 1848 — The Blue Mountains — Yeah, they're pretty. I’m so sick of being in this wagon that I can’t really drudge up any enthusiasm.

August 16, 1848 — The Dalles — So, this is it. Oregon City is just a float down the Columbia River. We rested a week before that whole deal. 

August 23, 1848 — We made it! Well... let me explain.
The riverside was surprisingly bare and there seemed to be this strange, pixelated aura surrounding our wagon.
The float was going very well up until I saw the trail to Willamette Valley. So I got the wagon over there, but then a rock came out of nowhere and hit the wagon. I lost 2 oxen, 8 bullets, and 7 pounds of food. I suppose I should also mention that Clay drowned — taking the last set of clothing with him.

But we made it. Or, I should say, I made it. Completely naked, with 2 oxen, five bullets and 53 pounds of food.
BLOGGER'S NOTE: Polk was killed in a saloon gunfight the following June.

But he's back and he's facing Truman this week in the arena. Mosey on over there and vote for who you think will win.

Monday, April 18, 2011

Polk vs. Truman

James K. Polk
11th President of the United States
Served 1845-1849
Ages Served: 49-53

PROS: Young Hickory — Polk earned this nickname because he was the protege of Old Hickory, fellow Tennessean Andrew Jackson. Yeah, people saw him as the next Andrew Jackson. Maybe he didn’t have the temper or thirst for pummeling people that Jackson had. But really, how many of those kinds of people do you want running around at any given time?

Did he duel a lot? No. Actually, when he was 17, Polk became very sick. It turned out he had urinary stones. You know how they dealt with this sort of thing 200 years ago out west (Tennessee/Kentucky)? Surgery sans anesthesia. “Here’s some brandy, kid. We’re about to cut into your junk.”

The Presidential Gladiatorial Arena™ looks simple after something like that.

He got stuff done — Polk’s Inauguration Day speech could have been boiled down to: “I have come here to chew bubblegum, re-establish the Independent Treasury, reduce tariffs, get the southwest from Mexico and get the Oregon Territory from the British... and I’m all out of bubblegum.”

Actually, bubblegum was yet to be popularized in the U.S., but that’s besides the point.

Polk went in with the intention of serving only one term, but that didn’t matter. He got it all done in four years, and he did it while keeping harmony between the states — something every president after him was unable to do leading up to the Civil War.
And look at what he added to the U.S.; everything west of the Louisiana Purchase with the exception of the 30,000-square-mile piece of southern modern day Arizona and New Mexico. I’m eyeballing it here, but it looks like it’s pretty close to as much land as the Louisiana Purchase. People make a big deal because of how great Jefferson was because of the Louisiana Purchase — all he did was cut Napoleon a check.
To get this land in the West, Polk had to complete the annexation of an independent republic, negotiate with Britain and wage war with Mexico. But he did it all. Yet, as the They Might Be Giants song says, he’s often forgotten.
If it weren't for James K. Polk, nostalgic 20- and 30-somethings wouldn't be able to make Oregon Trail jokes.
By the way, on the back of that tab that was ripped off reads “You have died of dysentery.” Speaking of diseases we learned about in Oregon Trail...

CONS: Cholera
— Polk’s wife, Sarah, spent a considerable amount of time worrying that the stress of her husband’s political life was wreaking havoc on his health.

Polk died of cholera in June 1849, 103 days after leaving office. He has the shortest retirement of any president. At 53, Polk was also the youngest president to die of natural causes. Point being, his wife was right to worry. Clearly, he was not in good health.

By the way, all that worrying seemed to do no damage to her health — she lived to the age of 87.

Nerd cred — As previously mentioned, They Might Be Giants wrote a song about Polk, making him — along with artist, James Ensor — a favorite among TMBG-fan nerd-types. Okay, "nerd-types" may be redundant there.
Belgium's famous painter, apparently, has a message for you.
The Onion once wrote a story about how the VH1's Behind the Music fictional episode centered around TMBG lacked anything “juicy.”

When I was 14, my parents allowed me to go to a TMBG show, my first concert without parental supervision. Why? 1) I was going with my older brother and 2) It was a TMBG show; what was going to happen to me?

Fair or not, by virtue of having a TMBG song about him, Polk is kind of King of the Nerds. No one has ever been given that title for fighting ability.

Harry S Truman
33rd President of the United States
Served: 1945-1953
Age during term: 60-68

PROS: Slightly ornery — Let's start out with a little anecdote from Truman's service in World War I. Truman enlisted in the Missouri National Guard, and wound up a battery commander of an artillery unit known for having discipline problems. When the unit came under attack by the German forces, Truman's soldiers started breaking formation and retreating. This, obviously, would not do, so Truman marched out and berated his soldiers using "curses he learned from working on the Santa Fe railroad."
Can't imagine any of these guys getting too salty, but there ya go.
His soldiers not only fell back in line, they managed to get through the entire war without taking any casualties. Probably because they were so afraid of Truman, their fear created a space-time warp around their bodies. Anyone with that much piss and vinegar in them would probably make for one hell of an opponent in the Presidential Gladiatorial Arena™.

Quick-thinking — Of course, Truman should never have been let into the Army to begin with. Why? Let's take a look at a photo of Truman as a young doughboy:
Now, we're wondering who came up with that fantastic fake background. But we digress.
Hello, four-eyes! When Truman first attempted to enlist, his eyesight was revealed to be an unacceptable 20/50 in his right side. His left side? Hardly better at 20/40. What was Truman to do? Well, he somehow managed to memorize the eye chart, whereupon he took the eye test again, and passed. This was a dude who really wanted to kill Germans (and put a pin in that thought, because we'll be coming back to it later).

Truman possessed the classic confidence and intelligence of your prototypical American self-starter, and appropriately so, as he was the last U.S. president to come to office without having first graduated from college.

Cold-blooded — And then, we come to this.

Okay, so, you're Truman. You've served your country with distinction during a rather bloody overseas war, which also happened to coincide with a rather nasty flu pandemic. The word comes down that an armistice has been signed with Germany, directing both sides to lay down their arms on the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month. As the deadline approaches, do you take it easy on the opposing forces, given that the war is pretty much over? Hell, no! Truman ordered his artillery unit to keep shelling up until the very end, making them one of the last American units to stop firing. In a letter home, written during this final bombardment, Truman had this to say:
"It is a shame we can't go in and devastate Germany and cut off a few of the Dutch kids' hands and feet and scalp a few of their old men but I guess it will be better to make them work for France and Belgium for fifty years."
"Wait, what?" - The Netherlands
However, even this would pale in comparison to a little incident we here at HttCttD headquarters like to call "dropping the motherfucking bomb." Yes, it was Truman, who only having heard of the Manhattan Project months before when he succeeded FDR, ordered the first use of nuclear weapons in war in August of 1945. In the years following the strikes on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, considerable controversy erupted over the beginning of the atomic age. Should Truman have given Japan more of an official warning about what was to come? Did the civilian casualties incurred outweigh the targets' value in military terms? Would an American-led invasion of the Japanese home islands have turned out to have been a far costlier option?

In the face of all the controversy and criticism, Truman never wavered, never apologized. When he finally met J. Robert Oppenheimer, the man who had led the Manhattan project, Oppenheimer told Truman, "Mr. President, I feel as if I have blood on my hands." Accounts of Truman's reaction vary; in some, Truman said that the blood should be on his hands instead, so stop whining, while in others, Truman offered Oppenheimer a handkerchief to wipe off the aforementioned blood. However, all versions basically end the same way, with Truman being pissed at Oppenheimer for being such a ninny. The point is clear: Truman was a stone cold badass.
"What's cooler than being cold? Oh, Truman, right."
CONS: Needed a bit too much help from his friends — Truman's political career might never have gotten off the ground in the first place had he not fallen into the orbit of Missouri political boss Tom Pendergast. Pendergast served as a democratic political patron, and after Truman ran into Pendergast's son while serving in the Army, the elder Pendergast soon began grooming the future president.
Like a boss.
Thanks to Pendergast's connections, Truman was elected as a county judge after he returned from the war. And let there be no doubt who was pulling the strings; following the judgeship, Truman wanted to run for either the Governorship of Missouri, or for the U.S. House of Representatives, and Pendergrast squashed both ideas. Only after running out of potential candidates for the 1934 Senatorial election did Pendergrast begrudgingly offer Truman a shot.

Truman won in 1934, but faced stiffer opposition, especially within his own party, in 1940. So, Truman reached out to yet another political boss, Robert E. Hannigan. Even the combined efforts of Hannigan and Pendergrast weren't quite enough to ensure victory, and he had to turn to another powerful and shadowy organization: the Freemasons. Truman had been initiated back into Freemasonry back in 1909, and in 1940, was elected the Grand Master of the Missouri Freemason Lodge.
Truman, keeping the Martains under wraps.
Wait... that's something different? Huh.

I... I don't quite know what that means, but it sounds impressive, and Truman later credited this move with helping him retain his Senate seat.

And oh, by the way, when President Roosevelt needed to figure out someone to name to his ticket in the election of 1944, guess who was in the room pulling strings? Robert E. Hannigan. Let there be no doubt: Truman would have gone nowhere without the help of some powerful friends, but those friends will not be able to help him in the arena.

Possibly a bit too impulsive for his own good — Have you ever had a boss who would seize on particular ideas, no matter how stupid, and railroad them through despite any and all opposition? Truman was like that, sometimes. And occasionally, it didn't entirely work out well.

Take, for example, Israel. As the new Jewish homeland prepared to establish itself as a state, many of Truman's advisers (and diplomats from England, the State department, and the Arab world to boot) were cautioning the president to move carefully, fearing that recognizing Israel would seriously destabilize the Middle East. However, eleven minutes after Israel was made official, Truman gave the new nation diplomatic recognition. And everything has been hunky-dory in the Middle East ever since!
Everything, with the possible exception of... well... everything.
That, however, was nothing compared to the brouhaha that erupted when Truman fired General MacArthur. This was during the Korean War, where MacArthur had added to his already impressive credentials by spearheading an amphibious assault near Inchon, which had turned the tide against North Korea... at least until China decided to get involved. Since then, the war had devolved into a casualty-heavy stalemate, with MacArthur and Truman straining to find common ground. After a series of leaks in which MacArthur's criticisms of the president were leaked to the press, Truman gave MacArthur the boot.

It was a massively unpopular decision. How unpopular was it? Bad enough that the Chicago Tribune published an editorial calling for Truman's impeachment. So... rather unpopular. Now, making unpopular decisions is one thing. Making unpopular decisions that blow up in your face? That's behavior that will land you a quick exit from the Presidential Gladiatorial Arena™. Truman best watch himself.

The Fight
Doug: I'm sure Polk appreciates TMBG's efforts of getting his name out there. Really, the man added almost a third of the contiguous U.S. Jefferson's manifest destiny? Polk fulfilled that. He didn't just get a sliver of the Pacific coastline, he got what we have today. Yet people still lump him together with Millard Fillmore and Franklin Pierce. Or they did until the TMBG's song.

Ozzy Osbourne gave Alastair Crowley a pretty good following. What does Polk get? A nerd following. C'mon. He's Young Hickory. He used to pal around with bad ass Andrew Jackson, and now only nerds know who he is.

This must piss Polk off pretty badly. I bet he'd take all of this out on the first four-eyed dude he sees.

Enter Harry S Truman.

Tony: Okay, I'm going to go ahead and give Polk his propers for the whole, "adding a third of the contiguous United States" thing. But... come on. Nerd rage? You think that's going to be enough for Polk to take down Harry S Truman? The man who wanted to end World War I by chopping limbs off of Dutch kids?

Look, Truman obviously had a somewhat combative streak to him, and he tended towards taking that combat to extremes. You can't tell me that some TMBG song is going to turn Polk into a fighter; he's not Triangle Man, after all. Polk's going to get his rage on, rush Truman, and then Truman is going to both give him  and send him to  Hell. End of story.

Doug: Yeah. About that. Why was Truman bummed about not being able to dismember Dutch children? Sadly, I'm not asking what kind of sadistic freak shows disappointment over not being able to maim children in letters to his future wife (though, I am a bit curious of that myself), I want to know why he's doing this to Dutch children. Is he  confusing the words Dutch and Deutsche? I guess that's a common enough mistake; they call it Pennsylvania Dutch Country, even though everyone who lives there has German ancestry.

Or maybe he's just going after the wrong people.
"Hey, let's kill some Dutch people today!"
"Germans. We're fighting Germans."
"Right. What did I say?"
"No, not 'whatever.' The Dutch aren't even fighting in this war."

Who's to say he's not going to enter the ring and just decide that instead of Polk, he's going to beat the piss out of some random spectator? Given how cavalier he is about disfiguring defenseless children, I'd say it won't end nicely for that random spectator. You know who's fine through all of that? Polk, who is waiting for Truman to tire himself out completely eviscerating this poor schnook in the crowd.

Tony: Apparently, he thought it was one big crusade against the North European nations. Kind of inexplicable, and also, bad news for Denmark.

However, I'm thinking this nationality confusion could wind up being really bad news for Polk. Why? Because what the hell kind of a name is Polk? I mean, we all know it's Scots-Irish, but Truman? Well, if Truman decides that name hails from, say, Liechtenstein, and that he has a beef with said principality, it's not good times. You don't know what he's going to do! He's unpredictable!

As for Polk, what is that guy really bringing to the table? Manifest Destiny? Not helpful in a fight to the death. Let's get real: he's toast.

Doug: Hypothetically, if Truman removed one of Polk's limbs, Polk truly would earn the nickname Napoleon of the Stump.

That's a fairly big "if." C'mon, war heroics/possible child mutilation aside, Truman doesn't have much on his own. Yeah, he's a big man when he's got weapons, or the bomb or his buddies to help him reach political heights. But he doesn't have much going for him on his own.

Polk obviously has a high threshold of pain, as evidenced by the anethesia-less scrot surgery. He'll let Truman get a few hits in and then Polk will give his, "Okay, you done yet?" face and then unload a barrage of fury that could only come from years of hanging around Andrew Jackson.

And Truman, like "the buck," will stop there.

The Chief: Vote! Comment! And tell your friends to do the same. Polls close Friday 9am Mountain Time.

Polk or Truman: it won't be a Good Friday for one of them.

Polk vs. Truman

Friday, April 15, 2011


The Little Magician needs to sit down after such a vicious fight.
It's not like they call him Young Kinderhook
Van Buren used his powers to become the only person to defeat two people at one time in the ring. (Though Nixon's Head and a Headless Spiro Agnew actually adds up to one whole person... or should we say, one whole loser.)

Nixon's Head vs. Van Buren
Nixon's Head  8  (38.1%)
Martin Van Buren    13 (61.9%)

This came as a bit of a surprise. With Spiro Agnew doing most of the fighting, we expected Nixon's Head to eke out a win. Instead, Van Buren pulled out the win by quite a margin. How did this happen?
Ouch, harsh words from the man who deemed Nixon worthy enough to share his presidential ticket... TWICE. But, Ike has a point. Seriously, Dick, wearing makeup isn't girly if you're going to be on TV. We're kind of curious if Eisenhower will support the whole Richard M. Nixon, and not the reanimated one from the 31st century. We'll find out in a few weeks.

Martin Van Buren will advance to the 2nd Round, where he is scheduled to face Ronald Reagan Oct. 10. Stay tuned for Monday, when polls open for James K. Polk vs. Harry S Truman. In the meantime, any NYC-area readers best beware... the Van Buren Boys are going to be whooping it up tonight.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

The Head of State

We'll admit it: including Nixon's Head in the bracket amounts to a bit of a stretch. After all, dude's just a head. He's obviously a very ambitious and clever head, as of all the other presidential heads hanging that have somehow been preserved in the year 3000, Nixon's is the only one that decides it's his destiny to return to the presidency.
And with eyebrows like that, who can blame him?
Now, we, the authors of this humble blog, will confess to being enthusiastic fans of Futurama, and as such, Nixon's Head was one of the first fictional presidents we wrote down when we were fleshing out the bracket. However, there's one question that, as we were preparing Nixon's Head's entry against Martin Van Buren, kept nagging us:

What exactly is Nixon's Head the president of?

Let's assess the facts: Nixon's Head presides over whatever government he's the... er... head of from a city called Washington. Specifically, he hangs out at the White House (or occasionally, a secret chamber deep beneath the White House), and "salutes" a red-white-and-blue flag. Oh, and when the Futurama gang makes a swing through West Virginia, the money they use has "pecatures of George Washington" on it.

On the other hand, Nixon's Head makes references to his fellow "Earthicans," the capital is in Washington A.C., and that red-white-and-blue flag? Is a teensy bit off:

Also, he's specifically referred to as the President of Earth several times. So, there's that.

On the other hand, there seems to be some confusion as to how united Earth's government really is. Sure, at one point Bender refers to his birthplace of Mexico as "America's heartland," but what happens when he and Hermes try to visit?
Mexico apparently hasn't been up to much in the ensuing... 1200 years or so.
That doesn't look like an entirely open border, does it? And indeed, in order to actually enter Mexico, they have to...
Yup, they have to show their passports, visas, and Homeland Security permission slips. All of which, apparently, go the cell phone route in the future and get smaller and smaller. Which is... cool, I guess?

(Side note: before we go, let's take a moment to enjoy a "blink-and-you'll-miss-it" joke from the same episode as our previous captures.)
If you don't get it, we're not explaining it to you.
(That is a quality joke right there, my friends.)
So, there is clearly some form of border issue when it comes to Mexico. What of other former Earth nations? Well, prior to Hermes and Bender's expedition to Tijuana, the Planet Express crew took a brief excursion to Rome.
Sadly, they did not stick the landing.
Did they have to go through any customs checks or border crossings to get there? Well, none that we saw. It's possible that, much like in The Amazing Race, those parts were cut out for expediency. However, the fact still remains that Mexico, a location with a prime location on the Earth flag, doesn't appear to really part of the same (planet-state?) as the rest of Earth.

And that brings us back to Nixon's Head, the so-called-president of Earth. Is he really the President of Earth? We're gonna say no. We're gonna speculate, in fact, that he just calls himself that, hoping for the day when his authority is recognized across the globe. It's the only explanation that fits all the facts.

Then again, it doesn't explain why Nixon's Head is eventually called upon to help negotiate with the extra-dimensional being Yivo... on behalf of the entire universe.
Nixon's Head: if you don't like it, suck it.
Maybe the writers of Futurama will one day clear up these discrepancies. While we wait for that, why doesn't everyone slide over to Monday's post and vote on the Nixon's Head vs. Martin van Buren matchup? Polls close on Friday. Vote now!