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History Lesson

Discussion in 'Fan Fiction and Fan Art' started by newsmanfan, Jun 25, 2012.

  1. newsmanfan Well-Known Member

    (Author's Note: While I have never been a flag-waver or pledge-sayer, the ideals inherent in the founders' speeches and writings and edicts are, I believe, excellent ones, and all too often neglected by the very people who wrap themselves in flags and publicly claim the highest patriotic motives for their attempts to stifle the rights and freedoms of anyone not themselves. It seems a shame to me that many Americans don't know much about their own history...so I give you this one-shot for July, to address a little-known aspect of our Revolution. Apologies for the preaching. Enjoy!

    For those interested in matters of continuity, this story falls between "Love Reign O'er News" and "Death and the Matron.") WARNING: History puns involved!
    ----------------

    Newsie looked up from his laptop when Gina gave him a kiss on his forehead in passing. He smiled at her, watching her finish packing a small picnic satchel with bottles of water and candy-coated pretzels. “Ready to go, soon as it gets dark,” Gina said, taking a seat next to her Muppet at the kitchen table.

    “Wonderful!” Newsie responded. “I’ve never seen the fireworks from the ferry. This should be enjoyable.” Glancing again at the open screen, he asked, “Um...anything we had planned for this weekend?”

    “No, I don’t think so...why?”

    “There’s an exhibit of Jasper Hornswoggle’s work at the Don Music Center for Muppet Arts,” Newsie said. “I’ve seen a couple of his paintings before, but never the whole catalogue! The Mallory Gallery loaned the Center their collection of his early works from the Revolutionary period!”

    “Jasper who?” Puzzled, Gina scooted her chair closer to read over Newsie’s shoulder. He obligingly turned the laptop so she could see the web page more easily.

    “Jasper Hornswoggle, one of the great Muppet painters...you’ve never seen his work? The Guggenheim owns his painting of the battle of Trenton!”

    Gina frowned. “Newsie...I’ve been to the Guggenheim lots of times, but I don’t recall ever seeing that.”

    “Well, er, you have to sign up for the basement storage room tour...but what do you think? Would you, um, have any interest in going to the exhibit?” Shyly, Newsie looked up at his beloved, realizing that although he was excited about it, she might be bored stiff. After all, art was always a matter of personal taste; he himself didn’t see the point in Jackson Pollock, for example, and couldn’t differentiate one of the abstract expressionist’s works from one of Gonzo’s paint-related motorcycle-stunt incidents if he tried.

    “Um, sure,” Gina said slowly, studying the page; Hornswoggle’s triumphant This Means War! was pictured at the top of the exhibit announcement. Gina clicked on it to enlarge the unfamiliar painting, which depicted members of the Second Continental Congress standing and applauding an incredibly tall man in a red uniform. “Uh...is that supposed to be George Washington?”

    “Yes. He was over six feet tall, you know,” Newsie said.

    “So was everyone else in the room, apparently, except for this guy...”

    “Oh – that’s Erieomiah Frapdoodle, a delegate from Pennsylvania. He was a Muppet,” Newsie said.

    “Um, I see that,” Gina murmured. The entire painting seemed to be done from a perspective from the height of the short, blue-felted delegate in knee breeches, with a ponytail tying back his long, dark green hair. From that point of view, the other men in the room appeared to be Colonial basketball players, and Washington a giant. “I didn’t know Muppets were at the Congress back then.”

    “You didn’t know that colonial Muppets all supported the formation of a new government? You’ve never read Somewhat Slightly Less Common Sense?” Aghast, Newsie stared at Gina when she shook her head. “Oh! Well...er...it...it was also influential in persuading the colonial leaders to reject the Intolerable Acts – maybe not as famous as that Paine guy’s pamphlet, but still...” He searched her eyes, amazed at the confusion and embarrassment he saw there. “Gina, you...you didn’t learn about the Muppet contribution to the American Revolution in school?”

    “Uh...history was boring,” Gina offered apologetically. “I liked art and English.” She brightened. “Oh – in high school, there was a Muppet Studies class...um...but I didn’t take it. It was taught by a real witch of a teacher, this two-foot-tall, mean orange woman who should have retired fifty years before, who yelled at students and threw things at them when they got answers wrong...”

    “Erasers?” Newsie asked, recalling a similar teacher in his own elementary school.

    “No. Chairs. Everyone assumed she was on steroids.”

    Newsie sighed. “I was never all that comfortable with the schools offering a course just for Muppet Studies...that makes us sound more important than other cultural groups, and I always thought we were all supposed to be equal under the law of the land. I think incorporating Muppety facts into the general curriculum would give students a better picture of our overall history...”

    Gina smiled at him. “That’s very, um, equitable of you.”

    “Well, historically, Muppets have always been for equality!” Brightening, Newsie opened a search page and typed in a name. Clicking on one of the results, he showed it to Gina. “Here...Hezekiel Jereboah Claptrapper! He led a Muppet group that settled in Rhode Island, after they escaped the Massachusetts Bay Colony.”

    Gina tried not to laugh at the image of the skinny, banana-headed Whatnot in lacy clothing and with buckles on his shoes as big as his fat squarish nose. “Escaped? What happened?”

    Newsie scowled. “Er...supposedly the Puritans thought some of the group were demons. It was fairly soon after the whole Salem thing, though.” In the background, several Whatnots stood mingled with a number of Muppet monsters; horns, protruding teeth, and a rainbow of fur colors enlivened the dull poses.

    “Crazy Puritans,” Gina remarked. Newsie grimaced.

    “Well, it was a more superstitious time...there was also an unconfirmed report that one of the settlers tried to eat an alderman.” He searched out another name, and brought up another link. “Here: the Boston Massacre!” The picture, a crude cartoon of the period, was very similar to the Paul Revere engraving in every child’s history book, except for the pink Whatnot woman screaming as she raised her skirts to flee, a hail of British bullets bearing down on her and the rest of the crowd in the wintry street. “That’s Molly Bearinggrim. She was shot sixty-three times by the Redcoats!”

    Gina sobered a bit. “Yikes. That’s terrible! But why wasn’t her name in the roll of the dead?” Although she didn’t remember any of the names except for Crispus Attucks, she was certain she would have recalled a Muppet name.

    “Oh...well...she didn’t die. The bullets stuck in her foam. People called her ‘Molly Bullet-face.’ She toured the colonies with a patriotic speaker, demonstrating what atrocities the British were capable of inflicting.”

    “Gotcha,” Gina said. She patted his shoulder, rose and fetched them both cold iced tea with mint from the ‘fridge. Newsie smiled thanks at her, then showed her another early American painting.

    “Valley Forge. The one holding Von Steuben’s horse is Johann Billyclubfoot. Came with him from Prussia.” As a mounted General Washington inspected his ragged troops on a snowy parade ground, and the rotund German taskmaster stood barking orders, in the background the reins of a stout draft horse were held by a scruffy Muppet goat with a scarf draped over his curling horns, a pipe billowing smoke clenched in his thick teeth. “You know, they say the troops were so short of food that winter that Billyclubfoot actually ate his own socks!”

    Gina shook her head, amazed. “Sweetie, I had no idea Muppet history was so...um...entwined with America! I mean, the first I ever heard of you guys was when I was a kid, watching reruns of your old TV show...” Realizing this might make her beloved feel old, she leaned over and kissed his cheek. “Little did I dream I’d wind up with the most handsome cast member!”

    Newsie blushed, and turned to kiss her mouth; they explored that idea a while happily. When Gina released his tongue and he caught his breath, he looked back at the laptop. “For some reason...a lot of people think we’ve only been in this country a few decades. I know some of the crackpots contribute to that fallacy; I saw a report last week on some Muppet splinter group that insists we didn’t exist before the 1950s, and came from Mississippi, but I give those guys as much credence as I would the lizard-people-living-in-the-center-of-the-earth crowd!” He snorted, indignant.

    Gina regarded the picture on the screen with a more serious eye. “So...were Muppets fighting with the Minutemen? Or in the Continental Army?”

    “Some did, sure,” Newsie replied, typing in more search terms until he found what he wanted, and showed Gina. “Battle of Freeman’s Farm – widely regarded as one of the most chaotic, bloody battles in the whole conflict. This is by a modern artist, but he used eyewitness descriptions of the action to create the painting.”

    Gina stared at it, speechless. The painting was indeed a swirl of movement and color. She could see legs in breeches, some linen, some homespun; a fallen Redcoat reached beseechingly toward a Muppet whose yellow felt offset his blue coat nicely. The Muppet soldier wasn’t looking at the wounded man, instead reacting to something happening above him, his musket raised, about to fend off something with his bayonet. A few yards away, another Whatnot with pale green felt and a bright orange nose was aiming his own musket up into the fighting bodies all around him. While the Muppets and the British soldier on the ground were clearly portrayed, much of the rest of the painting was simply a mess of legs, horses’ feet, and puffs of smoke; anything taller than three feet seemed to be out of focus. “Umm...that’s kind of a...a unique perspective,” Gina offered uncertainly.

    “That’s by Lute Crumblebumpkin,” Newsie said. “He’s renowned for painting historical scenes from a more Muppety viewpoint.”

    “Good for him,” Gina sighed. She curled one arm around her journalist’s shoulders, enjoying his appreciative smile, and drank more of her tea while Newsie scrolled through more page listings. “So...did any Muppets sign the Declaration?”

    Newsie shook his head. “Well...Frapdoodle couldn’t reach the table, and although they sent someone to get a step-stool, it was sort of forgotten in all the excitement. There was another delegate from New York, Brom Van Bombrombon, who signed it on the back...there wasn’t any room on the front by the time the step-stool was located finally...” Perking, Newsie added, “But – Muppets were influential in creating both the Articles of Confederation and the Constitution!”

    “Really?”

    “Oh yes! You never heard of Folly Figgenbottom?”

    Gina stifled a giggle. “Nope. Sorry. Enlighten me.”

    “He was a close friend of James Madison, owned a small plantation near his in Virginia...Figgenbottom was the one who argued for equal votes for all free Muppets.” Newsie scowled briefly. “Unfortunately, some of his peers didn’t agree. They finally arrived at the two-thirds compromise.”

    “Uh...I’ve heard of the three-fifths thing...two-thirds?”

    “Yes. They argued that since a tall Muppet was two-thirds the height of an average nonfelted person –“

    “Ah. Okay. Two-thirds of a vote.”

    “A ridiculous insult, but the best compromise at the time,” Newsie sighed. “It was finally resolved by the Twenty-second-and-a-half Amendment, which granted all Muppets full suffrage.”

    Gina held back her chuckle, seeing the serious look on his face. “Why...why is it I’ve never heard any of this? I mean, I had to take American History in college, and that was way more in-depth than anything I had in public school, but even then we were never taught about Muppet-American history.”

    “Do you know much about other cultures’ backgrounds in this country?”

    “Not a lot,” Gina admitted. “I mean, some African-American, some Latin-American, some Native American...but mostly, all I know is the standard dates and events. Well, Grandmama Angie taught me about the Rom and their pilgrimage to a country which wouldn’t treat them as slaves, or refuse them a right to vote.” She frowned. “Gypsies didn’t fare too well in other countries, you know. They were slaves in some of the Eastern European nations! And even in England they were regarded as a public nuisance.”

    “Do Czech Gypsies get along with other ones?” Newsie wondered. “I know they all came here from different places, same as Muppets...”

    “Only if they’re teaming up for a legal fight against the gadje. Otherwise, each ethnicity pretty much keeps to themselves,” Gina admitted. “They still see themselves as separate clans.” She was glad her grandmother, though taking the time to relate stories, customs and traditions to her, hadn’t insisted she obey the cultural edicts of her family’s Rom lineage. “I grew up knowing I was Gypsy, but I never really thought of myself as all that different from my friends... New York is supposed to be the great melting pot, right?” She sighed. “Then again, there were plenty of times when being Gypsy made me the outsider. Did you...did you feel like that, growing up?”

    “Often,” Newsie said, giving her an unhappy look. “I...I suppose it’s progress of a sort that your school offered a Muppet Studies class, but it seems like that only emphasizes cultural separation...and frog knows there’s been too much of that. Heck, Mother...well...er...she didn’t, um, she didn’t favor integration...”

    Remembering Newsie had grown up in the generation which saw the Civil Rights movement firsthand, Gina asked, “She didn’t want you going to school with black kids?”

    “What?” Startled, Newsie shook his head. “No, no, Gina – Muppets don’t see skin color! I mean...she hated it when the Supreme Court ruled that separate was not in fact equal, and they started bussing in nonfelted students.”

    “Oh,” Gina murmured, trying to integrate these facts with what she already knew of American history. “Um...yeah...I guess that caused some problems?”

    Newsie sighed. “Very much so! You never heard of the Whatnots riots?”

    “Uh...no.”

    “Well, it was ugly. I covered some of it for my college paper.” He shuddered. “Some of what I saw disturbed me for years afterwards! Gina, trust me, the mental image of a blue Whatnot with a brick permanently embedded in his nose is not one you’d want to carry around with you.”

    “My poor sweetie,” Gina said, hugging him. “So...cultural acceptance was a serious issue for a while, I take it?”

    “I think it still is,” Newsie replied. He put an arm around her waist, nestling close to her. “Just yesterday, I hear, some commentator on that awful cable channel accused Muppets of running some sort of secret show-biz conspiracy so that the nonfelted couldn’t get acting jobs unless they gave money to the Muppet performer’s union! Absolute horsefeathers!”

    “Was it Mel Gibson?”

    “No...but I heard about that anti-felt rant too,” Newsie grumbled, disgusted. He shook his head. “People seem to forget that they only have the right to spout such hateful views because so many different groups all came together, fought together, raised a new nation all in cooperation with one another! Not just Muppets and the nonfelted; there were freed slaves, and foreigners like Taddeus Kosciuszko, the Marquis de Lafayette, Von Steuben, even native Brits like Lord Stirling fought on the American side...”

    “People with religious differences,” Gina added, nodding. “We had the descendants of the Puritans in New England, and the French Huguenots in South Carolina, and some of the Quakers...General Greene was a Quaker. So was Ben Franklin. Thomas Paine was atheist; Thomas Jefferson a Deist. They all cooperated despite their differences in faith.”

    “Exactly!” Newsie said. “Rich merchants, poor farmers; all the sexes – I’m sure the men fighting wouldn’t have been able to keep going without the women supporting them with clothing and food, and I know some women fought in the battles too!”

    “Wait, wait...all the sexes?”

    “Um,” Newsie looked uncomfortable. “Well, er...some creatures aren’t picky about those classifications. There was a sort of snail-thing, an engineer, who helped build the fortifications at West Point...”

    “Ooo-kay,” Gina said, shaking her head. “But I get your point. It worked because everyone set aside their differences for the greater cause.”

    “Yes!” Newsie glanced at the small pile of things they planned to take with them on the Ellis Island Ferry cruise later, to view the fireworks above the Hudson: Gina had bought a couple of red-white-and-blue pinwheels, and Newsie had talked her into the matching straw boater hats with little flags sticking up from the bands. “I just...I just don’t understand why there’s so much hateful division. It seems like we ought to be past this by now.” He felt sad until Gina’s lips brushed his cheek; gratefully he turned to her again, and they spent a few minutes touching, kissing, felt gently caressing smooth skin, slender fingers stroking furlike hair.

    Gina nuzzled his long nose with her petite one. “You ought to speak your views more.”

    Embarrassed, Newsie shrugged. “No...a journalist should never cross the line into commentary, unless they want to be strictly a commentator. Too many people already mix facts with opinions...” He gazed soberly at her with deeply lined eyes. “It...it takes away people’s right to make up their own mind, if all they get is spoon-fed conclusions about important issues! No one should be told how to think!” Clearly bothered, he added softly, “I...I know that right isn’t in the Bill of them...but it ought to be. If we’re truly a free people, we should be free to think for ourselves.”

    Gina gazed at him in silence a minute. He blinked at her. “Uh...I’m sounding ridiculous again, aren’t I.”

    In reply, she folded him into her arms, drawing him into her lap all the way, and kissed him firmly. By the time she pulled away to see his closed eyes, his expression of amazement, he was panting; she could feel his felt growing warmer by the second. “No, my Aloysius,” she whispered, “You sound...much more patriotic than those jerks who go around screaming about how much they love their country. And very...” She kissed him again. “Very...sexy.”

    He groaned as her hands moved down his body, shifting himself awkwardly; Gina put her arms under his, and shortly the two of them were on the sofa. In between kisses, Newsie cracked his eyes open enough to notice the light was fading outside the broad windows. “Mmmm,” he mumbled, gasped for air, and pointed out: “Er...it’s getting dark...we’ll...we’ll miss the ferry...and the fireworks...”

    His beloved Gypsy gave him a suggestive grin. “I promise you, my wonderfully American Muppet...there will be fireworks aplenty.”

    Newsie chuckled, and happily reached for her again.
    ------------------
    WhiteRabbit and The Count like this.
  2. The Count Moderator

    *Applauds.

    You know, I wonder if the exhibit will feature Jasper Hornswaggle's work previous to This is War!
    :batty: He did another piece before that?
    Sure, haven't you heard of Of Course You Realize?

    *Laughs at the thought of Molly Bulletface and Johann Billyclubfoot.
    Von Stewben, ah, Captain Stewben's longago ancestor.
    Brom Van Bonbrombon, if that isn't a reference to Ichabod Crane's rival for the hand of Katrina Von Tassle, I don't know what is.
    Too bad they don't have the painting of Grover's ancestor "helping" Washington crossing the Delaware though.
    Hezequiel Jereboah Claptrapper? Thought it was "Ezequiel".
    UD: And Jereboah?
    Oh, that's a jumping or kangaroo rat.
    :shifty: You called?
    Er, go knock on Apt 906's door, tell 'em you've got a candygram.
    UD: Candygram?
    Yeah, that's part of the whole landshark routine.
    UD: Oookay.

    There's also some good dose of reality here, glad you got inspired to write this piece.
    *Goes to archive it into the Newsie's Stories collection.
  3. newsmanfan Well-Known Member

    ------------
    Which then answers Ru's wondering whether anyone else here was old enough to know the landshark joke!

    I love making up Muppety names. Colonial names are kind of silly anyway, so it seemed a good fit... glad you enjoyed! :news:
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  4. charlietheowl Well-Known Member

    Great! I really liked the making up of all the names and the ideas of the Muppet POV paintings. A nice story with an excellent story that more people should pay attention to- the news is on at my work constantly and the negative attitudes depicted on the news are very discouraging. Thanks for posting!
  5. muppetfan24/7 Well-Known Member

    This is awesome! Why should us silly creatures hate each other. It is like we are not having our own rights. BTW: I love the idea you came up with, Newsman. Thank you for posting!
  6. newsmanfan Well-Known Member

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    Welcome. I consider this my Rodney King speech. With Muppets. :)

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  7. muppetfan24/7 Well-Known Member

    That's a really good theory. Rodney King speech? I don't believe it, but I love your ideas.
  8. miss kermie Well-Known Member

    I almost thought the names were real, ha ha.
    But I shall press the like button.

    You story.
    1,000,000 people like this.

    Yes, I edited one of the best shirts ever.
  9. newsmanfan Well-Known Member


    In the sense of, "Can't we all just get along?"

    Thanks!
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  10. Ruahnna Well-Known Member

    Lovely and well, um, played. You should pledge-say and flag-wave more often! I found the muppet history lesson entertaining--seems about what I remember from history class....

    But I hope they--eventually--make it to the fireworks! (My family once got to spend Independence Day in D.C. and it was stupendous to be in the nation's capital on the nation's birthday. I think I'll go wave a flag or something....
  11. newsmanfan Well-Known Member

    -----------
    Yes, I know it's gauche to bump one's own story. Apologies. But I hoped perhaps people would remember the Muppet role in our gaining independence from Britain, and refrain from tying anyone of the felted persuasion to their bottle rockets.

    :concern: Bottle rockets are for wusses anyway! Gimme a Roman Candle!

    Uh...right. Except him. He likes it.

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    The Count likes this.
  12. Ruahnna Well-Known Member

    Ooh! You beat me to the punch. Double Bump!

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