Friday, October 14, 2016

The Cubs, Trump, and Armageddon

The Chicago Cubs haven't won a World Series since 1908 and haven't even appeared in a World Series since 1945. It's not exactly a novel joke to suggest that the Chicago Cubs winning the World Series would result in armageddon. I've heard that joke all my life and have alluded to it on numerous occasions. And that's all it is: A joke...or is it?

The Cubs have made it into the postseason a few times in recent years, and each time I've been reminded of a particular short story by W. P. Kinsella. For those of you who aren't fans of baseball literature, Kinsella is a Canadian writer known in the U.S. for his stories about baseball, and his plots often involve at least a slight supernatural element. (His best known work is a novel called Shoeless Joe, the basis for the movie Field of Dreams.)

The short story in question is called "The Last Pennant Before Armageddon" from the collection The Thrill of the Grass. The premise is that the Cubs are having an unbelievably good year, but their manager has been receiving messages from God in the form of recurring dreams in which various people (including Al Capone and longtime Chicago mayor Richard J. Daley) plead with God to let the Cubs win. God tells them that the Cubs will win the last pennant before armageddon. Finally, with the team on the verge of clinching the pennant, international tensions between the United States and USSR have reached a critical level, and the Cubs' starting pitcher is showing signs of fatigue. The manager needs to decide whether to leave his starter in, which might cause the Cubs to lose but would also keep the world from ending, or whether he should pull his starter and bring in his reliable closer, thus winning the pennant but leading to a nuclear war that would wipe out civilization. (I won't tell you what happens.)

Even though that story is about the Cubs winning the National League championship, not the World Series,  I've always considered this a creative look at the typical "The Cubs winning the World Series will lead to armageddon!" joke. In the past it was just amusing but this year, just a few days after the end of the World Series, America will vote for a new president. That president might be Donald Trump, which could very well lead to the end of the world.

As I write this, the Cubs have won their Division Series and are headed to the National League Championship Series against the Dodgers. (It should be noted that in Kinsella's story, the championship series is against...the Dodgers!)

Now, I'd love to see the Cubs in the World Series. I'm not exactly a Cubs fan, per se, but they've always been my favorite National League team. I spent good chunks of my childhood in Chicago and live in the Chicago 'burbs now. (It would be even better---though possibly more damning---if they face the Cleveland Indians, another perennial loser that hasn't won the World Series since 1948. I grew up an Indians fan in Northeast Ohio and have been waiting my whole life for them to finally win the whole thing. There's no doubt that a Cubs-Indians matchup would signal an apocalypse.)

Over the past few days, Donald Trump's campaign has taken a nosedive, so it seems less likely that he can win. Does that also mean the Cubs will lose? We'll have to wait and see.

Back in 2003, the Chicago Tribune ran an article about Kinsella's story. The Cubs were in the playoffs that year as were the Boston Red Sox, who hadn't won a World Series since 1918. In that article, Kinsella said that he wasn't rooting for either team to win because he likes them more as lovable losers. Neither team made it to the World Series that year. The Red Sox did wind up winning the World Series the following season and the world did not end, which is further proof that armageddon is dependent on the Cubs and not any other team.

In that 2003 article, Kinsella was asked what would happen if the Cubs won. He said, "You never know. We'll just have to see." Sadly, Kinsella won't know how it turns out this year because he died last month, which seems like a classically Kinsella-esque twist to this whole scenario.

Am I being melodramatic and superstitious? Yes, absolutely, and hopefully that's all it is. But if the Cubs and Donald Trump both win, there's no way you'll convince me it was just a coincidence.

Sunday, October 9, 2016

DIY Presidential Rings

A few months ago, as the Fourth of July approached, I realized I didn't have anything specifically presidential with which to accessorize my holiday outfit. Then I remembered some presidential spoons a friend had sent me a while back, and I realized I could turn one of those into a bracelet.

I scoured the web and YouTube for tutorials on making a bracelet out of a spoon, and somehow I decided it would be better to turn the spoon into a ring. I don't remember how or why I came to that conclusion, but I'm not sure that matters.

This is a mandrel
The problem with this plan was that I really needed a ring mandrel, something I hadn't even heard of until I started researching this whole thing. Luckily they sell them at Michael's, and with a 50% off coupon I got my mandrel for only $10. Turns out you can also get them for around the same price on Amazon. Make sure you get one that's all metal! There are some that are plastic, which is fine for making wire rings or whatever, but if you're going to be hammering this thing, it needs to be solid metal.

You'll also need a presidential spoon, of course. The spoon collection my friend sent included George Washington, Millard Fillmore, Andrew Jackson, Andrew Johnson, Rutherford B. Hayes, William Henry Harrison, James K. Polk, and Calvin Coolidge. Since this was for the Fourth of July I decided to go with Washington (plus I had a backup Washington spoon in case I destroyed the first one).

Besides the mandrel and spoon, the other tools you'll need are a rubber mallet (or something similar), a block of wood (or something similar---this is for you to set the ring and mandrel on when you pound away at them), a hacksaw or something else that will cut through metal, and a metal file. Thankfully Mr. Presidentressor had all those items. Well, actually, he didn't have a rubber mallet, so I wrapped two thicknesses of washcloth around a regular hammer for my first attempt, but I got a mallet for the second one. I recommend the mallet (more on this later).

I didn't take photos while I made the ring because for some reason I didn't think I'd blog about it, but then the ring came out so well I realized I had to. As it turned out, the only other person in my life who was actually excited about my Washington ring was my cousin Christina, who demanded one for her birthday. She chose Andrew Jackson because she hates him and wanted to be ironic. I just recently made hers, and I was smart enough to photograph the process this time. (Also, her birthday isn't until December so she's probably going to see this in advance and it'll ruin the "surprise." Sorry, Chris.)

So, how to make one of these rings? First thing is to measure how much spoon you'll need. I wrapped a thin strip of paper around my finger, cut it to the right length, then I used that to mark the back of the spoon in Sharpie.
Bent spoon. I wound up
bending it even more
before we cut it.

(Come to think of it, the very first thing you should do is check eBay to make sure the spoon you're cutting and bending isn't worth, like, $900. I didn't check until after my ring was finished, but the first auction I found for the George Washington spoon was $3.95, so it's all good.)

At least one of the tutorials I found said to pre-bend the spoon into a loose ring before cutting it, since the extra length of the spoon would allow for more leverage. I did that, and while it's true that the spoon is easier to shape that way, it also made it harder to cut with the hacksaw later. For the Jackson spoon, I left it straight for cutting, but then it was really, really hard to bend it without that extra leverage. When I make another ring (and yes, there will be a next time), I'm going back to bending it first, and we'll just have to struggle a bit to cut it.

Cutting Andrew Jackson

Once your spoon is cut, the edges will probably be a bit sharp. Use a metal file to smooth those down.

Okay, so when your spoon is cut and filed, it's time to start using the mandrel and mallet/hammer to bang the ring into shape. The idea is to put the spoon on the mandrel and use the mallet to bend the spoon around the mold. Don't worry too much about properly sizing the ring right away. Start big and work your way smaller. You can fine-tune it once you're further along. Remember to set the mandrel on a wooden block while you hammer. I covered the block with an old washcloth to help protect the spoon and to keep the block from chipping.

Some tutorials showed using a vice to hold the ring onto the mandrel to keep it in place while hammering. That would probably help a lot, but when I made the Washington spoon, Mr. Presidentressor was in the middle of some other stuff and I didn't want to bother him for a vice. For the Jackson one, I just forgot, plus I'm not sure that would have worked with these spoons anyway. So what I did was set the mandrel down on the block of wood with the spoon in the middle. I held one side of the mandrel down with my right foot and the other with my left hand, then used my right hand to beat the crap out of the spoon. This was...maybe not the smartest setup, but it worked.

A few words of caution: Be really careful when you're banging away at the spoon, especially if you have body parts nearby. It hurts to whack yourself with a mallet. What hurts even more is when you hit yourself and skin your hand with a mallet. Don't be me.

The shaping process was fairly quick and easy with the Washington spoon. The Jackson one took some more effort because I hadn't pre-bent it before cutting. For that one, Mr. Presidentressor wound up clamping the mandrel to our block of wood, with the spoon between the mandrel and the block. He then used some pliers to bend the spoon up enough that I could start hammering away at it.

(At this point, could I have left it clamped and continued to hammer the ring that way rather than holding everything with my foot and hand? Probably, yes, but it didn't occur to me. Also, it's important to rotate the ring to hit it from different angles, and it needs to be moved up the mandrel as it gets smaller, which would have involved a lot of unclamping/reclamping, so I'm sticking by my rudimentary process.)

It's also important to note that (at least with my spoons) the part with the presidents' heads just would not bend. That wound up not being a problem, though, because it looked fine---possibly better---on my finger with that part lying flat.

One other minor snag was that at some point while making the first ring, the washcloth I'd wrapped around the hammer tore, but I didn't realize it. As a result, there's some scratching on the spoon to the left of Washington's head. His face is intact, though, so all is well. I didn't run into any issues with the rubber mallet and Andrew Jackson. For this reason, I strongly recommend a mallet.

My spoons started out quite tarnished, but by the time I was done, they were sparkling. Don't waste time and effort on silver polishes before you start. It'll probably work itself out.

All in all, I'm very happy with the way the rings came out.

Jackson looks like Buchanan here, doesn't he?

There was something cathartic about whacking away at Andrew Jackson's head. Also, before I made the Washington one Mr. Presidentressor and I had been out at breakfast. When we were done I said, "Okay, I need to get home so I can bang George Washington." Crafts are always better with innuendo.

Now, if anyone has any ideas on what to do with the other end of the spoons, let me know. The Jackson one has a scene of the Battle of New Orleans, and I can't just throw it away.

Monday, September 19, 2016

Giveaway! Vagenda of Manocide Pen!

***UPDATE: This giveaway is now closed. Congratulations to Joanna S. for winning her very own Vagenda of Manocide pen! Stay tuned for at least one more giveaway (not necessarily of a pen) before the end of the year.

Last week I brought you a review of the Vagenda of Manocide pens, designed for the feminist presidential candidate in all of us.

Well, the pens come in sets of six. After I wrote the review I put one of the pens in my purse, one on my nightstand, and one in my binder full of women, but then I wondered: How many pens does a modern girl really need?

Answer: A lot, really. But I'd also like to spread the love a bit, so I've decided to give my readers a chance to win one of these emasculating writing implements.

There are several ways to enter, and you can use any or all of them! (Some can be done more than once, too!) If you don't win the contest and still want some pens, you can order them from the shop at

Here is the not-so-fine print:
  1. The contest runs from 12:00 a.m. EST September 20, 2016, through 12:00 a.m. EST September 27, 2016. 
  2. There will be one winner, selected at random. The winner will receive one Vagenda of Manocide pen from the set that was sent to me for review.
  3. People who live in my household are ineligible, as are immediate blood relatives (I'm looking at you, Mom and Dad!).
  4. The winner must have a US shipping address and must be 18 or older.
  5. I will contact the winner within 72 hours of the contest closing. The prize will be sent via US mail. I am not responsible for the prize once it has left my possession.
  6. No purchase necessary.
  7. I will display the winner's first name and last initial on my blog and/or Facebook and/or Twitter unless you specify otherwise. 

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Monday, September 12, 2016

Hillary's Feminist Pens: A Review

A few years ago a Maine gun store displayed a sign that read, "Beware the Beast Hildabeast Clinton and its Vagenda of Manocide."

The store owner (I'm going out on a limb and assuming it's a man) must be even more fearful for his threatened, fragile manhood now that a woman is this much closer to becoming president. I'm sure her first act as president will be to emasculate everything in sight.

My friend Rachel, a Political Science professor at Pitzer College, alerted me that a website called has come out with a new line of pens for all of the evil feminists hell-bent on world domination. Behold the "Vagenda of Manocide" pens.

If you've ever thought to yourself, "I'm having fun in this meeting, but I wish there were some way I could subtly declare my intention to topple the establishment," these pens might be for you.

The see-through pens have silvery sparkles, with "Vagenda of Manocide" emblazoned in pink (of course), and they contain black ink. That's right: Pink, sparkly exterior and black on the inside, just like the heart of a every feminist seeking the death of the patriarchy.

How did the pens work? Great! Just like a mainstream pen. Did you think the female pen would somehow be inferior? If so, you're part of the problem.

I can't say whether or not these pens fit my dainty lady-hands as well as a Bic for Her (because I haven't tried the latter), but they get the job done.

"Vagenda of Manocide" pens are perfect for all your important feminine tasks, like making shopping lists, writing a manifesto, or tattooing Andrew Jackson.

You can buy a six-pack of pens at GetBullish's shop for $8.95. (Through October, they're donating profits to Clinton's campaign, so keep that in mind if you were looking to donate anyway.)

Thank you to GetBullish for sending me a set of pens to review. I was not otherwise compensated, and all opinions stated are my own.

Tuesday, September 6, 2016

Ida McKinley's Slippers

Today is the anniversary of William McKinley being fatally shot, so I'm taking this opportunity to talk about his wife's slippers.

Ida McKinley was a troubled woman, and for good reason. She lost her mother and her baby daughter within months of each other. Three years later, her only other child died at the age of 4. Somewhere in that time, she suffered trauma to her head which led to her developing epilepsy.

She never recovered from these emotional and physical wounds. Not a lot was known about epilepsy back then, so it took a lot of trial and error to find solutions. One of the first cures they tried was having her rest in isolation since her problems were likely caused by her inferior lady-brain being too troubled by the man-problems of the big, modern world. Needless to say, that didn't work.

Ida went through phases of being very active (in life and in her husband's career) and other phases where she had less mobility and a decreased ability to socialize. At times she was very dependent on William. During her White House years, she often avoided social situations, sometimes leaving the duties of the First Lady to Jennie Tuttle Hobart, wife of VP Garret Hobart. Seating arrangements at dinner were changed so she could sit next to, rather than across from, her husband. At times Ida would have seizures, and William became adept at holding a handkerchief in front of her face until the seizure ended, then carrying on as though nothing had happened.

Of course, the tragedies that would strike Ida's life weren't yet complete. In September of 1901 the McKinleys were in Buffalo so William could make an appearance at the Pan-American Exposition. Ida wasn't at the Expo with her husband, which is probably a good thing because she was able to avoid witnessing Leon Czolgosz shoot her husband. After William was shot, he ordered people to go easy on his assassin, and also instructed his aide to be careful in breaking the news to Ida. He would die a week later.

Ida lived only a few more years after her husband was killed. But through her troubles, she kept busy crocheting thousands of pairs of slippers. She wasn't often able to attend charity events, so she would send slippers to war veterans and orphans. She would send slippers to charities to sell or raffle off to raise money.

I, too, crochet, so a while back I decided to see if I could find the pattern she used. Sure enough, someone had recreated the pattern, so I bought it immediately and set out making pairs for myself and a few loved ones. They're not the most stylish slippers by today's standards, but they're historic and that's what's important. I found that jazzing them up with fun colors helped.

Last summer I visited a couple important sites in Canton, Ohio: The McKinley Monument and tomb, and the National First Ladies' Library. The Monument is right next to a science and history museum that has a room dedicated to the McKinleys. Among the items on display is a pair of slippers that Ida had crocheted.

The First Ladies' Library is located less than a block away from a house Ida's family had owned, and a visit to the library includes a tour of the house as well. On the top floor is a very small museum, and I was pleased to find another pair of slippers there. In addition, there was a newspaper column (possibly an advertorial) about an Ohio company that provided leather soles that Ida would sew onto the slippers. My slippers don't have leather soles, but I loved stumbling upon that extra tidbit of information about how Ida made hers.

I told the docent about how I had found the pattern for Ida's slippers and had made several pairs. She seemed surprisingly underwhelmed to hear that. Oh well. I guess that's why I have a blog.

A couple other Ida McKinley slipper-fun-facts:
  • She kept a photo of William in her yarn basket. For inspiration while I made my slippers, I stuck a William McKinley Pez Dispenser in my yarn bag. 
  • When Ida learned that former president Rutherford B. Hayes was ill, she sent him a pair of slippers that he wore until he died. Because of that, I have started referring to these slippers as "The Rutherford B. Hayes Slippers of Death."

Now...don't get too excited...but if there's enough interest, I might consider doing a giveaway for a pair of custom slippers. I'd probably run this in time for the holidays, so if you win you could avoid scouring stores for the perfect gift for the person in your life who loves history and wears women's slippers. If this is something you'd like to see, be sure to leave a comment here or on my Facebook page.

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Give Andrew Jackson a Tattoo!

Now and then an article pops up about surprising people in history who have had tattoos. Always included on those lists are Andrew Jackson, James K. Polk, and Teddy Roosevelt.

Supposedly Roosevelt had his family crest tattooed on his chest, Polk had a Chinese symbol meaning "eager," and Jackson had---I kid you not---a tomahawk inked on his upper thigh.

Now, I don't want to call bullshit on all of these, because they're...possible? I guess? Especially Roosevelt because I could totally see him having a tattoo. The problem is that I haven't actually been able to find any proof other than the same articles repeating the same "general knowledge" without actually giving any sources. I'm inclined to believe that TR did not, in fact, have a family crest on his chest, but I'm open to the possibility that he did. Except I really doubt it.

I am perfectly willing to go out on a limb and call BS on Polk having a Chinese symbol tattooed on him. What, did he have a small butterfly on his lower back, too? I'm trying to figure out a scenario in which this supposed tattoo would have happened. Oriental art has found some popularity here and there ever since America started trading with China, but not to the level that some mid-19th-century white dude would get a tattoo of a Chinese character. Polk's predecessor John Tyler was president during the ratification of the Treaty of Wanghia after the first Opium War, but I'm not aware of any significant dealings Polk had with China that might have inspired this "eager" tattoo in some way. (To be fair, I know very little about Polk's foreign affairs outside of the Mexican-American War and the annexation of various territories, so maybe he was really into China? But again, I doubt it. If any Polk scholars want to weigh in, please do.)

That brings us to Jackson. I love the idea of Jackson having a tattoo, but on his upper thigh? For real? And a tomahawk? That would be a pretty dickish move considering his track record, although I suppose in a way that's fitting for him.

I decided to go to the best source I could to get some answers about Andrew Jackson's tattoo: I emailed the people at The Hermitage. I asked if Jackson really (or likely) had a tattoo, or if this was all an urban legend.

Less than 24 hours later I received a response: "Unfortunately, there is no definitive proof that Jackson had a tattoo on his thigh. This story more than likely an urban legend that has grown in popularity over time."


Regardless, I thought it would be fun to give people the chance to ink a few tattoos on Old Hickory, so I present to you an Andrew Jackson template. I've provided the tomahawk; you provide the rest! You can download the PDF here or you can click on the jpeg up above.

Some tattoo ideas to get you started: a dreamcatcher, the Bank of the United States, a heart with "mom" written inside. The possibilities are endless! (And, yeah, I've covered up his ankles and wrists, which are prime tattoo locations. Sorry. I just thought the boots would be funny and I can't draw hands.)

If you tattoo Andrew Jackson, please snap a photo to share on my Facebook page or tag me on Twitter @MsPresidentress

Happy inking!

Monday, August 22, 2016

Musical Monday: Tippecanoe and Tyler Too

I'm just going to say it: No one will ever have a catchier campaign song than William Henry Harrison.

I had known of the phrase forever, but I first heard the song Tippecanoe and Tyler Too years ago at a They Might Be Giants concert. For the longest time I thought they had written the song. (It wouldn't have been their first foray into presidential songs, as they had previously released a song about James K. Polk.) But at some point I discovered that the band merely covered what had really been Harrison's campaign song in the 1840 election. (The song was really titled Tip and Ty but came to be known by its popular refrain of "Tippecanoe and Tyler Too.")

Here is TMBG's version, available on the album Future Soundtrack for America:

And here is a more traditional version:

I like They Might Be Giants' version more, but it's pretty true to the original.

"Tippecanoe" was William Henry Harrison's nickname, and Tyler, of course, refers to his running mate (and successor) John Tyler. The song is amazing not just because it will be stuck in your head for the rest of the week, but because it bolsters Harrison and Tyler while also denigrating Martin Van Buren, and what could be more fun than denigrating Martin Van Buren?

In addition to the addictive song, Harrison's campaign also incorporated the unique tactic of rolling giant balls from town to town. That's referenced in Tip and Ty's first verse: 

What's the cause of this commotion, motion, motion,
Our country through?
It is the ball a-rolling on

For Tippecanoe and Tyler too.
For Tippecanoe and Tyler too.
And with them we'll beat little Van, Van, Van,
Van is a used up man.
And with them we'll beat little Van.

Thus Harrison's campaign served as the origin of the phrase "Keep the ball rolling."

(If you watched Parks & Recreation, you might have seen the episode that featured one of those giant balls. In the episode, the ball actually represented one used in grandson Benjamin Harrison's campaign, but it was William Henry's run that started the practice.)

It's probably important to note that Harrison got the nickname "Tippecanoe" after a battle near the Tippecanoe river in which he defeated the Native American leader Tecumseh, who was trying to protect his land from white encroachment. That's not the greatest legacy by today's standards, but it sure worked for him at the time.

It's also important to note that while Harrison won the election, probably due in large part to his catchy tune and big balls, he died after a month in office, so all in all, it didn't do him much good.