Sunday, January 4, 2015

Andrew Jackson's Parrot

            Andrew Jackson’s parrot, Poll, was ejected from his funeral for his use of blue language.
            This fact gives me pleasure, if indeed it is a fact. More likely it’s just a baseless story, like George Washington’s wooden teeth. It turns out that when you marry the richest woman on the continent, like George did, you can afford dentures made of human teeth, gold, and hippopotamus ivory (although all the wealth in the world couldn’t save him from the lifelong misery caused by his inflamed gums).
            I encountered this story about Poll the parrot quite a while back, but I thought of it again recently after a question came up on Trivia Crack, my latest addiction. Trivia Crack is an aptly named app that pits players against challengers, either friends or strangers, to answer questions about history, entertainment, the arts, sports, geography, and science. Although I’m a lifelong sports fan, you would never know it by my performance in that category, where my accuracy hovers around the 79 percent mark.
            I don’t know what it is about besting complete strangers over sets of fairly obvious questions, but I confess—I like it. I do not like losing to friends, something that happens with some frequency, so I just avoid them, and instead I opt to impress strangers with my knowledge of the fact that Vincent Van Gogh was Dutch and the chemical symbol for Sodium is Na—really heady stuff, in other words.
            It seems to me that young people may not understand the way we used to live in the years before WiFi. If we didn’t know a fact, we would argue about it, ideally over drinks.
Van Gogh was Belgian.
No, I swear he was Dutch.
Van Gogh is clearly a Belgian name.
Oh, yeah? Well, I’ve been to Dutch, and I was in Van Gogh’s house. I even saw where his ear was buried. There’s a stone.
And that last person of course is adjudged correct, the “I’ve been to …” sort of the adult equivalent of the double-dog dare—the logical end of the discussion, or the illogical one, as the case may be. At any rate, it is usually the loudest.
These days, if we wonder where Van Gogh was from, a half-dozen people pull out their phones and check. Before you can take enough sips to stop caring, you know beyond a doubt that Van Gogh was born in Zundert, Netherlands, that his middle name was Willem, that no one ever found the gun responsible for his so-called self-inflicted gunshot wound.
I don’t doubt that we have a richer life because of our access to information—no one loves a good factoid more than I do. All I really know is that it’s far less rewarding to be a loudmouth in the current climate, and that hurts some of us more than others.
Enter Trivia Crack, which lets me jab my finger in the air and proclaim that, yes, Nashville is the capital of Tennessee, and touch is the first sense a baby develops, and the first modern Olympic Games were held in 1900. (No? Hell!)
The bluster of the pointless debate is rich. Although mistakes are quickly noted and turns are lost as a result, it is good to try to one-up strangers. And bluster makes me think of no one so much as Andrew Jackson, that old Presbyterian warrior, sitting alone in a room and cussing a blue streak beside his dead wife’s gray parrot until his own dying day.
            I think I would like to live a life like that—loud and at turns pious or profane—so that at its end, some dumb animal might curse my departure, shock everyone with his vehemence.



  1. So I tried Trivia Crack and couldn't figure out how it works!!! Every time I miss a question I lose one of my cute little trivia characters! Blargh!!!

    1. I'm only now starting to figure it out completely. It certainly does consume a lot of one's time! Fun, though. :)

  2. My son was playing something that sounds like this for a while. I wonder if it's th same thing. :) i thought the questions were pretty hard, actually. .... But I don't know if I want to download it to my own phone and find out. :)

  3. Some of them are hard, and they take you by surprise amid all of the easy ones! Also, I keep losing to friends and kicking strangers' butts. Yes, I have smart friends, but I think I also have friend anxiety!

    1. =) I remember you and I were doing some kind of Harry Potter trivia game (or something... I don't remember what it was exactly.. it was on FB, I think? but I don't remember this for sure, either) at the same time, and I felt like a complete nerd, making progress after progress.