Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Donald Trump Refrigerator "Poetry"

Earlier today on Twitter, I commented that someone should use Donald Trump's favorite words to make one of those refrigerator poetry sets. Then I realized: Why not I?

Thus, the Donald Trump Magnetic "Poetry" was born, and you can download it for free! The set includes more than 100 words, including all of his favorite ones, like "huge," "tremendous," and "me."

To make your own set for hours of terrifying fun, download this PDF.

You'll need to print it out, of course. If you have magnetic printer sheets, that's best because they're... you know... magnetic. Otherwise you can print it on regular paper for constructing phrases on your desk or whatever.

Then you need to cut out the words, which seems daunting but really takes only a few minutes. I used an Xacto knife and my very favorite ruler (it has a non-slip back and there's a groove to protect your fingers) but you could use scissors, a paper slicer, whatever. There are grid lines to cut on, but you might want to trim a little closer on the single letters that are included: I, a, and s (for use at the end of most verbs or nouns.)

Then it's time to create your own xenophobic, misogynistic phrases!

Even though Trump seems to have a rather limited vocabulary, I'm already thinking of other words I could have included. If there are some you'd like to see, let me know and maybe I'll make a second version.

Update: I've made an expansion pack! I realized I forgot some very important words like "Obama," "bimbo," and "rapist." I also included some more prepositions and suffixes to give you more flexibility in constructing your masterpieces. Download the expansion pack here.

Feel free to share photos of your sentences (or fragments) on the Presidentress Facebook page.

Monday, July 25, 2016

Cooking with the Presidents: Dolley Madison's Gingerbread

If you don't already know, I'm a huge fan of a cake Dolley Madison used to make (well, with a few modifications). I had a hankering for something sweet yesterday and decided it was time to try out another presidential recipe. I perused through my copy of The Presidents Cookbook and was reminded once again how dramatically eating habits and tastes have changed. I mean, no offense to James Buchanan, but I have no interest in eating "Calf's Head Dressed as Terrapin."

Thankfully the dessert options tend to be far more appetizing, and although several recipes piqued my interest, I was once again drawn back to Dolley Madison. (In fact, the Madison section of the cookbook has several sweet recipes I'd like to try, which got me wondering if that's the reason Hostess created the "Dolly Madison Bakery" brand. In three minutes of googling, the best history I could find indicates that the bakery wanted to suggest their products were good enough to be served at the White House, but it doesn't specify why Dolly/Dolley in particular was chosen.)

Anyway, the recipe I decided to tackle was her gingerbread. According to the description, Dolley referred to it as the "Jefferson gingerbread," and she gave the recipe to Martha Washington to preserve, so this gingerbread's significance seems to span several presidents. Other First Ladies have used the same recipe, and apparently one chef made it for the Eisenhowers. I figured it must be good.

I didn't really make any modifications to this recipe, so here it is:

Dolley Madison's Soft Gingerbread

2 1/2 c. flour
4 tsp. ground ginger
1 tbsp. ground cinnamon
1 c. molasses
1 c. hot water (divided)
2/3 c. fresh beef drippings or lard
1 1/4 tsp. baking soda

Before I get into the instructions, let's talk for a moment about this beef dripping/lard issue. I don't have any beef drippings on hand, nor have I ever. I do have lard (don't judge---I use it for making tortillas). I wasn't thrilled with the idea of dumping a bunch of lard into a dessert and considered substituting butter, but ultimately I decided to be "authentic" and go with the lard.

Also this recipe, like many old recipes, calls for dissolving the baking soda in hot water and adding it to the wet ingredients. I considered not doing that and just mixing the baking soda in with the dry ingredients like I usually do, but, again, I went for authenticity and did what the recipe said.

All right, so start by preheating the oven to 350, then mix the flour, ginger, and cinnamon in a bowl.

In another bowl, mix the molasses with your drippings or lard or whatever fat you're using.

Dissolve the baking soda in 1/4 c. hot water and add it to the molasses/fat.

Heat the remaining 3/4 c. water until it's almost boiling. Alternate adding the water and flour mixture to the molasses mixture, and stir until combined.

Pour into a greased baking dish (I used a 9 x 9 square) and bake about 30 minutes. You'll know it's done when a toothpick comes out clean. Or just by smell. Seriously, you'll know. (My cookbook joked that you should make this in the winter with the windows closed, because if you bake it with the windows open the whole neighborhood will come over. I was like, "Yeah, right," but really...my house never smelled so amazing.)

It wasn't until I was already mixing the ingredients that I noticed the recipe calls for no sugar. (It actually does call for a dusting of powdered sugar for serving, but there's none in the recipe.) I checked another gingerbread recipe in the book and it didn't include sugar either, so...hey, whatever.

The verdict?

This gingerbread was extremely moist, although surprisingly not very gingery. The predominant flavor was molasses, which isn't a bad thing, just not what I was expecting. I didn't bother telling my sugar-loving family that there was no sugar in the recipe, and they didn't complain (although the dollop of whipped cream on top probably helped).

If I were to make this again I'd likely go a little lighter on the molasses, a little heavier on the ginger, and I'd add a bit of salt to help bring out the flavors.

I have at least two more presidential gingerbread recipes I want to try, so stay tuned. We'll see how they stack up.

Saturday, July 23, 2016

Separated at Birth, part 14

Many years ago I kept a picture of John Kerry on my desk. Before you get weirded out, I didn't actually display the picture---it lived in a pile of other papers. And the only reason I had it at all was to collect photos of other people/things that look like him. Whenever I encountered a John Kerry doppelgnger, I'd print out a picture and tape it on. It got to be quite the collection.

Here are two people he looks like.

Andrew Jackson:



and the composer-guy from Sesame Street:


Tuesday, July 12, 2016

Book Review: Assassination! and Revolution! Lego-style

Today I bring you a review of two books that recount important events in American history using Legos. Since "Lego" is a registered trademark, the artist/author of the books uses the generic term "brick," as I will, too, henceforth.

Assassination! The Brick Chronicle Presents Attempts on the Lives of Twelve US Presidents, and Revolution! The Brick Chronicle of the American Revolution and the Inspiring Fight for Liberty and Equality that Shook the World, both by Brendan Powell Smith, are somewhat self-explanatory, especially given the long subtitles.

I expected the books to be rather irreverent. After all, these are Legos---er, toy building bricks we're talking about. But the books are actually quite serious. I mean, things can't be too serious when they're illustrated with little brick people and whatnot, but the books definitely don't feel like they're going for laughs. The overall tone is similar to that of any high school history textbook, just with better illustrations.

There is a lot of clever usage of bricks, and a surprising amount of detail. The only photo that struck me as truly odd was this picture of a doctor operating on William McKinley with what appears to be a croissant.
I think maybe the croissant is supposed to be McKinley's perforated stomach? I don't know. It has become my favorite photo of William McKinley, though.

I was impressed by the length of each book. Apparently I hadn't bothered looking at Amazon's Product Details because I was expecting thin paperbacks with a couple photos per assassination attempt/battle. Instead, I received hardcovers that are nearly 300 pages long. (The Assassination! book is now available in paperback.) Each book contains more than 400 photos, and I can't even imagine how long it must have taken to create each scene. (The same artist had previously done brick versions of Bible stories, which must have taken even longer. Maybe this is how I can monetize my 11-year-old's endless hours of Lego play.)

Each page generally contains two photos with corresponding paragraphs. You'd think that with only two paragraphs per page reading these would be a breeze, but that wasn't the case. The text is detailed and informative, but also quite dry. I love these topics, but I found my mind wandering constantly as I tried to pay attention. The dull text and intriguing photos made for a weird and not entirely pleasant juxtaposition, but the cool photos wound up outweighing the bland text, so overall the result was positive, I guess.

The last 120 pages of Revolution! are dedicated to the French Revolution, which was surprising, especially since that wasn't mentioned in the exceptionally long subtitle. To be honest, I haven't even read that part yet, though I did look at some of the pictures.

The books get mixed reviews on Amazon. The negative reviews are largely from parents who bought them for their children and were disappointed at the gore and adult content in the books. Part of me thought, "It's a book about assassinations! What did you expect?" (Sort of how I felt about people giving negative reviews to the "biography" of Millard Fillmore, whose cover featured a photo of Fillmore riding a unicorn.) But then I noticed that Amazon has the books listed as suitable for 10-13-year-olds, and that doesn't seem entirely appropriate, at least not without a hefty dose of parental involvement.

A man's entrails wrapped around a tree
The "gore," of course, is all represented in bricks, but even Lego blood can get a bit overwhelming, especially when it's splashing out of a president's head. There are also references to other issues that parents might not want their kids exposed to. In Assassination!, for example, there is a description of the Oneida Community, where Charles Guiteau (James Garfield's assassin) had lived, and how the community practiced open love that required men to learn to have sex without ejaculating. It also describes how the federal soldier who shot John Wilkes Booth had previously castrated himself with a knife. In Revolution!, there is a description of soldiers contracting venereal diseases from prostitutes in New York, and how one man was found murdered and castrated in a brothel.

So, no, probably not light, fun reading for young kids. On the other hand, if you're okay providing some parental guidance when if/necessary, these books could serve as an approachable way to learn about crucial pieces of American history.

For adults, like I said, they're not really engaging reads so they're probably not great for people who want to learn the details of these events. For weird history buffs who already know the stories and want to see them illustrated in a unique way, I think they're amazing. Assassination! and Revolution! would be excellent additions to any history fan's coffee-table-book collection.

Wednesday, July 6, 2016

Abraham Lincoln Meets Teddy Roosevelt

During the school year, my 7-year-old daughter's favorite pastime was writing and illustrating stories. Sadly, she hadn't written a single thing this summer, so the other night I asked her to make me a book. The next morning, she presented me with a gift: an original story entitled "Aborham Lincon Meets Teddy Roseavelt." [sic]

In the story, Abraham Lincoln is illustrated as a ham, and Teddy Roosevelt is illustrated as a teddy bear. One would think her inspiration for the ham came from the series of paintings of presidents holding hams, but no! It was purely coincidental. In fact, she surprised me with the book mere seconds after I discovered the president/ham artwork. I consider it fate.

I thought the world would like to read her story, so I've transcribed it here. I've fixed spelling and added quotation marks and some other punctuation, but everything else (including the illustrations) is original.

***

Abraham Lincoln Meets Teddy Roosevelt

"Oh! Hi! I am Abraham Lincoln. What is your name?"
"Oh! Abraham! I found you a new friend," said George Washington.

"What!? A new friend? Cool!"

"Hi! I am Teddy Roosevelt! Are you Abracon Lincoln or something?"
"No, I am Abraham Lincoln!"
"Oh! Well hi!"


"So what do you want to do?" asked Teddy.
"What about catch?" said Albert. Albert was a very annoying bird. Never mind about him.


"Do you want to pretend we are hamsters?"
"Oh, do they sell ham there?"
"No, silly," said Abraham Lincoln.

"Get ham"

"Ya! Let's play that!"
"My name will be Ham and yours will be Teddy! Ok?"
"Sure!"

"Squeak squeak." "Oh."

Then the friends went to George's house for dinner. They first had chicken instead of ham, and pie for dessert. After dinner they went out to play catch. At last it was time to go home. They had so much fun together.

The End

***

I'm not entirely sure, but I suspect the chicken they ate was Albert, the annoying bird. What do you think?