Thursday, January 28, 2016

Separated at Birth, part 12

Presidential hopeful Chris Christie and the captain from Wall-E.

This is my favorite one yet. Look at them. The mouth, the jowls, the eyebrows, the hairline, the tie, even the little button/pin. Eerie.

Monday, January 25, 2016

James Madison's Favorite Lip Balm

Last week I read with great interest an article about lip balm because I live in Illinois and we're in the depths of winter and my lips are falling off. None of the balms in the article interested me, but someone in the comment section (yeah, I read them sometimes) mentioned this stuff called Hurraw! Lip Balm. Being in favor of products with fun names, I decided to check them out.

The Hurraw! balms are everything-friendly: all natural, vegan, organic, free-trade, cruelty-free, etc., but I was more interested in the scents because I'm selfish. Many caught my eye: Chai Spice, Earl Gray, Green Tea (plus more "typical" flavors like Black Cherry and Orange). The one that really stood out, though, was called Vata. It's described as "soothing almond, spicy cardamom, and a lovely lingering of rose."

Cardamom and rose? Hello! That sounds just like my Dolley Madison Cake! I've actually been dying for that cake lately, but I'm on a diet, so it's a no-go. I figured a similarly-scented lip balm might be next best thing, or possibly torture. So I ordered some.

My order arrived quickly, and whoever packaged it had drawn little hearts all over the invoice. It was kind of a cute human touch. The lip balm itself isn't a typical cylinder; it's more of an ellipse, making it easier to fit in a pocket without creating a weird bulge. I like it.

And this Vata Balm...oh my gosh, it really does smell like my cake, and it feels wonderful. It's possibly the most exquisite thing my lips have ever touched (apologies to Mr. Presidentressor and any ex-boyfriends who might happen to stumble upon this). It's like kissing James Madison! Or Dolley! I don't know. But I do know I want cake, and more of this lip balm.

Without saying anything about the scent to my 6-year-old daughter, I stuck the lip balm under her nose and she said, "Mmm! It smells like cardamom! Like that cake!" Definitive proof that it's not just me.

You can order some of this wonderful stuff from the Hurraw! website, and most (all?) flavors seem to be available on Amazon with free Prime shipping, too. (Although it sounds like it, I haven't received anything free nor have I been compensated for my opinion on this lip balm. I just really love it.)

I'm not sure what James Madison used for keeping his lips moist and supple, but I think he would have been a fan of this stuff.

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

The Presidential Mystery Doodle

Dear readers, I need your help in solving a presidential mystery.

As you might remember from my recent post about a bawdy picture that was sent to James Monroe, I'm currently reading a book called Presidential Doodles. I first became intrigued by presidential doodles after reading this post from Mental Floss. There are some fascinating doodles there, but I was especially drawn to the strange bird and goofy-looking face from Warren G. Harding. (Because they look cool, not because of my growing obsession with Warren G. Harding.)

So imagine my surprise as I was flipping through my book and saw these doodles not in the Harding section but in the---gasp!---Benjamin Harrison section. Long-time readers will remember that I consider Benjamin Harrison the most forgettable president, and that I'm actually a bit confused as to why that is.

I had a conundrum on my hands: Who drew the weird bird and creepy face? Harding or Harrison? I decided to do some research, and by "research" I mean that I sent an email to the Harding Home Presidential Site and the Benjamin Harrison Presidential Site to ask which president doodled the doodles.

I heard back almost immediately from the Harding folks: It wasn't him.

It's been a couple weeks now and I haven't yet heard back from the Harrison people. Maybe they have better things to do than worry about some doodles. I'm going to go ahead and assume that my book has it right, and the doodles really are his. That's good news because Benjamin Harrison finally has meaning for me! He's grown a nugget! (If you don't understand what I mean, click the link up above about Harrison being the most forgettable president.)

But there might be an even greater mystery surrounding these doodles. While I was thoroughly scouring the web trying to find the source of the doodles, I came upon a blog post that compared the presidential doodles to album art. Amusing, but not really my thing. In the comments to that post, though, was an interesting observation by someone who said both doodles are "actually drawings that result from a cute story you tell kids" and that the bird one is found in a Little House on the Prairie book.

I'm not as familiar with those books as I should be, so I turned to some people who are. Through their help, I located the bird story, which Ma tells the girls in On the Banks of Plum Creek.

This blog post does an excellent job showing how the story is told/drawn, but if you don't want to click over there, the idea is that the bird's body is a pond, and the feet are houses where people live, and the legs are the path the people in the houses take to get to the pond, etc. By the time you're done telling the story you have the complete bird. (The tail is fish flying out of the pond, and the beak is an old guy's nose. But click over to that blog to get the complete idea.)

Now, I have to admit that Harrison's bird does look like it could be telling that story, although the bird's head is supposed to be a house, and his bird's head isn't a house. But maybe there's another version.

What I'm having a hard time with, though, is finding a story that goes with the face. Now that I've seen that bird story, the face looks like it really could be part of a story like that...but what is it? My exhaustive google searches are too broad to have brought up any results. AND I NEED TO KNOW!

If anyone has any idea what story might go with that face, please let me know! Or make one up. Maybe those little dots are cabinet members or something.

Wednesday, January 13, 2016

Prez Dispenser Analysis

I know there's nothing you'd rather do right now than scrutinize Presidential Pez Dispensers. So let's get to it!

This past Christmas, I was able to complete my collection of Prez Dispensers. I forget exactly how they released these, but I think they did two sets of five presidents per year. This year they released the final (for now) two sets, but since there weren't enough presidents to release two sets of five, the final two sets each have four presidents plus a presidential seal. Woo.

Anyway, when I got this year's sets, I was disappointed in the quality. I mean, yeah, they're Pez dispensers, but until now I'd been fairly impressed with their resemblance to the presidents they represent. Sure, they weren't all perfect. Calvin Coolidge was questionable. But generally, you could tell who they were supposed to be, and some were shockingly accurate.

But these last two sets

First, let's take a look at the quality between the first set and the last. Here's John Adams, and some guy.

Do you know who that guy is?

If you said Bill Clinton, I'm not sure whether to be impressed or concerned, because that looks nothing like Bill Clinton.

Even putting the facial features aside, you can see the difference in whatever materials/paint they used, too. Adams looks almost like a wax sculpture, whereas Clinton looks like a Pez dispenser.

Here's the first set compared with one of this year's two sets.

Okay, Jefferson looks more like Stephen Douglas than Thomas Jefferson, but at least he's detailed. Carter and Ford? Really? (Reagan is rolling his eyes at the whole thing.)

As I looked more closely, I noticed that many of the other sets also had that cheaper plastic look, but the guys still pretty much resembled themselves. Here's the FDR-LBJ set.

They're that fake shiny plastic, but they pretty much look like themselves. (Kennedy is a little questionable, but Truman and Eisenhower actually look more like themselves than the photo gives credit for. If you put these all in front of me with no names attached, I'd know who they're supposed to be.)

I'd never done a side-by-side comparison, and usually the Prez Dispensers live in their boxes on a shelf because Mr. Presidentressor hasn't yet built me a custom display. Because of that, I wasn't sure when exactly Pez changed from the "good" quality to the less-good.

Like American history itself, the tide seems to have turned between Buchanan and Lincoln.

You can see how the Lincoln set looks more "fake," but at least they pretty much resemble who they're supposed to. (Also, Buchanan doesn't really look like himself, but at least he looks real.)

Now, let's take a look at these two guys. Tell me who they are.

If your memory is good, you got Clinton (on the right) from when I mentioned him a minute ago. The guy on the left? That's George H. W. Bush (Bush the First), but I'd also give you credit if you said Ted Cruz, because it looks way more like Ted Cruz than George Bush.

See? Ted Cruz.

Here's the rest of the latest set.

I can't say I'm too impressed. W looks maybe passable., not really. And we've already discussed "Clinton" and Ted Cruz.

If Pez keeps with its tradition of releasing four or five presidents a year, it'll be at least 16 more years before we get another set. That should give them plenty of time to work on making the guys (and ladies?) more realistic again.

Monday, January 11, 2016

That Time Someone Sent a Dick Pic to James Monroe

One of my Christmas presents was a book called Presidential Doodles: Two Centuries of Scribbles, Scratches, Squiggles, and Scrawls from the Oval Office by David Greenberg. (Fun fact: Many presidential doodles would make great tattoos!)

Not surprisingly, there aren't many doodles from the earliest presidents. A lot of papers weren't preserved, plus it's probably harder to doodle when you have to keep dipping your quill into ink.

James Monroe doesn't seem to have left behind any doodles of his own, but we do have a doodle that was sent to him. It's a doodle of a penis. Supposedly.

Someone sent him a lovely letter that said:

You are hereby appointed president of The Baltimore Shithouse Cleaning Society. By order of the Committee, Jeremiah Jingle Bolloc, Acting Secy.

I hope you will accept my old

And then there's a drawing of a...thing. I don't use "thing" here as a euphemism for "penis." I mean, it really looks like some kind of...thing? A kitchen implement of some kind? I showed Mr. Presidentressor and he guessed starship. If the letter hadn't gone on to specify, I probably wouldn't have guessed penis.

But thankfully the letter does go on, immediately after that:

(i.e. cock). You are worthy of the appointment and it is worthy of you. Yours intimately, J. Jinglebolloc.

Hurra for the shitter presidents

I'm not sure if taking a photo of a public-domain drawing (which I imagine it is) in a copyrighted book is okay, so I went ahead and drew Mr. Jinglebolloc's member to the best of my abilities. (Based on my drawings of Chester Arthur and Woodrow Wilson, you can decide for yourself how much stock to put in it.)

Mr. Jinglebolloc's Jingle Bolloc
Really, though, that's what it looks like.

It's worth nothing that author Greenberg says, "Scholars of the early republic suspect [Jeremiah Jinglebolloc] was not his real name."

This just goes to show that the level of intelligence and civility you'll find in today's political discussions on Facebook existed in the early 1800s as well.

Thursday, January 7, 2016

DIY Woodrow Wilson Puppet

In this blog post, I'm going to show you how you can make your very own Woodrow Wilson puppet!!! But first, I'd like to share my favorite anecdote about Woodrow Wilson, which really has very little to do with the puppet but is worth knowing anyway.

Wilson's wife, Ellen, died during his first term as president. A few months later, he started dating Edith Galt, the woman who would become his second wife. One night they went to a play and, in one of the greatest typo-incidents in history, the Washington Post reported that "rather than paying attention to the play the president spent the evening entering Mrs. Galt." (They clearly meant "entertaining," but I'm glad they messed up.)

Another interesting fact about Woodrow Wilson (one probably more important than his dating practices and definitely more pertinent to this craft) is that he suffered a massive stroke during his second term, and his doctor and Edith basically kept it secret from the public and even from most people in Washington.

For the last year or so of his presidency, he was almost completely incapacitated. Although he eventually regained some strength and abilities, there were good chunks of time when he couldn't see, talk, walk, even sit up in bed. But why should that stop someone from being president?

His doctor publicly downplayed his condition, and his wife started serving as an intermediary between Woodrow and the rest of the world. When official business needed to be conducted, she would present it to the president in private, then report back with his input or decisions. (Supposedly. It's also possible she made decisions herself.)

On a few occasions, Edith and the doctor would put Woodrow in some nice clothes and prop him up in bed with a blanket pulled high over him to hide his partial paralysis. Then he would "meet" with other officials briefly, until he couldn't focus anymore.

Woodrow Wilson's wife and doctor had essentially turned him into a puppet...and now you can, too!

This is really more of an articulated doll than a puppet, but let's not get picky. Initially this was supposed to be one of those "jumping jacks," where you tie string to the back and then pull on it to move the arms and legs, but after numerous YouTube tutorials and hours of different attempts, that just wasn't happening. If you want to try, more power to you, and please share if it works!

Here's what you'll need to make the doll:

  • Woodrow Wilson Doll Template. You can click on the photo for a jpeg version, or click here for a PDF.
  • Heavy cardstock or cardboard (preferred)
  • Glue 
  • Crayons, markers, gel pens, etc.
  • Scissors and possibly a craft knife, depending on what material you're using
  • Tiny hole punch, a push pin, or an awl 
  • Brads/paper fasteners

I mean, really, you can print this thing out, color it, cut it, and stick it together. It's not rocket science. But if you want this to be a lasting heirloom for your grandkids or something, take a little extra time to do it right.

Here's what I did.

I printed the template on regular paper, colored it, then glued it onto thick cardboard.

After it dried I cut everything out, which was difficult because my cardboard was really thick. Feel free to use an Xacto knife, a box cutter, or whatever works for you. But do a nice job. This is a president we're talking about.

Once you have your pieces cut out, you need to make holes on the little black dots. If you're just using paper or cardstock, you can use a hole punch but it needs to be a very small one. If you don't have a hole punch, you can use a pushpin or something. Honestly, though, the easiest thing (and probably a necessity if you're working with something heavier) is an awl. Seriously, get one of these. So easy and handy for all your hole-making needs!

Then you can take your brads and fasten everything together. I wound up trimming the ends of my brads because they stuck out. I used scissors, but you should probably use wire cutters so you don't ruin your blades. But whatever works for you.

The brads (trimmed or untrimmed) can be kind of sharp, so be careful if you let kids play with this. I can just see Woodrow Wilson hanging around with Barbie and a couple Bratz dolls, can't you? I bet he'd like to spend some time entering them.

Hey, baby.

Congratulations! Now you have a Woodrow Wilson doll of your very own! Use it wisely!

In case you're wondering about the symbolism and authenticity of this...apparently when he was propped up in bed they dressed him in a gray sweater, not a suit. Oh well. He probably didn't have bunny slippers, either, if you want to get technical.

Wilson wanted the United States to join the League of Nations after WWI, but Congress didn't agree. It didn't help that Wilson couldn't campaign for his cause since he was a little incapacitated.

The sheep? That's because the Wilsons utilized sheep to keep the White House grass trimmed during the war. It cut down on costs and manpower, plus the sheep's wool was auctioned off to raise money for the Red Cross. (That should still be common practice as far as I'm concerned. I'd totally buy yarn made from White House sheep. On the other hand, people would complain about the sheep taking jobs from hard-working Americans. You just can't win.) Of course after his stroke, Wilson wasn't really holding sheep---or much of anything. So it's mostly symbolic.

If you make a Wilson doll, make sure you comment here or share your creation on the Presidentress Facebook page. You can also tweet it to me @MsPresidentress.