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Archive for December, 2009

The idea of a Hayes/Carter comparison originated when I viewed a PBS series called the American Presidents, during the episode titled “An Independent Cast of Mind.” In this episode the presidents were mentioned along with John Taylor and John Adams as those who “put the national interest above the concerns of their parties.” PBS goes on to say they were all one term presidents and wasn’t that a coincidence. PBS did not think highly of these four and out of respect for John Adams, I told the DVD narrator, “HEY WAIT A MINUTE.”

(I’ve been watching a lot of the West Wing lately and fun fact, my favorite president is John Adams and Martin Sheen’s favorite president is Jimmy Carter. I’m just saying, that would be a great icebreaker for when I meet Bradley Whitford.)

A biography of Hayes by Ari Hoogenboom points out the Hayes/Carter similarity, saying that the two were both more popular post presidency while doing humanitarian work. But Hayes and Carter have similarities beyond their humanity work and whether or not they were terrible presidents. The didn’t share the same pre-presidency career or the same political party, but they did have a whole bunch of similarities that would have been really spooky had they both been assassinated. Or mentioned in the same PBS series.

  • OOOooooOOOooooOOO. Rutherford B. Hayes and Jimmy E. Carter each have five syllables in their names. Carter was the 39th president. Hayes was the 19th president. Carter’s term in office: 1977 – 1981. Hayes’s term in office: 1877 – 1881.
  • They were both governors who became one term presidents.
  • Each focused on humanitarian careers post presidency and in the spirit of Lincoln/Kennedy list vagueness, they both had something to do with helping the poor (Habitat, whatever Hayes did).
  • Economic/civil rights/prison reform/Ohio reform. Hayes did a lot of good post presidency.
  • Both had vice presidents whose first names began with W.
  • Both of their successors were shot in ’81 by crazy guys obsessed with Jodie Foster or the 19th century equivalent, an ambassadorship to France.
  • Both were born in October. They were both Virgos. Or Libras. I’m getting mixed signals from what seems like an unnecessary amount of zodiac lists from Wikipedia.
  • Military service. They both fought for the Union.
  • A mutual love of the Northwest Ordinance of 1787. Actually, only Hayes had this quality according to biographer Ari Hoogenboom. But I’m sure Carter loves it too.
  • Both were preceded by Presidents whose monosyllabic names were both nouns and verbs (Grant/Ford). <- HOW ABOUT THAT ONE, HUH?
  • Goody two shoes. While Lemonade Lucy Hayes gets the credit for making the Hayes administration a dry White House, Rutherford probably helped push the idea along. Their house also banned smoking and profanity. Carter’s White House was technically dry, but the Carter’s did occasionally drink. And while I haven’t personally lived in that decade, I’ve read about the seventies, and I can’t say I blame them. It really sounded like just an awful, awful time.

Follow up questions:

1. What were the Seventies like? Anything like the 1870s?
2. Do you love the Northwest Ordinance of 1787? Circle Yes/No
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Best Nonfiction: Furious Improvisation: How the WPA and a Cast of Thousands Made High Art out of Desperate Times by Susan Quinn. A book about my two favorite things: federal arts funding and the depression.

Worst Nonfiction:
A Guide to Quality, Taste and Style by Tim Gunn with Kate Maloney. It turns out Tim Gunn is not that interesting in book form. He didn’t even say make it work, and that takes like, one second to type.


Best Fiction:
Hunger by Knut Hansum

Worst Fiction: The Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger. Maybe it’s because I read it a decade after I should have, but it was pretty forgettable. This does not bode well for The Grapes of Wrath.

Best Memoir: A Time to Heal: The Autobiography of Gerald Ford by Gerald Ford. Or as I liked to call as least half of it, “Hey, Let Me Tell You What Else I Don’t Like About Ronald Reagan by Gerald Ford.”

Worst Memoir: Dolly: My Life and Other Unfinished Business by Dolly Parton. It just kind of rambled on to nowhere.

Even the Author thought Chester A. Arthur was boring: Chester A. Arthur by Zachary Karabell

Sarah Vowelliest: Assassination Vacation by Sarah Vowell

Best of the Genre I’m Ashamed I Occasionally Read: Confessions of a Shopaholic by Sophie Kinsella. I kind of liked the movie.

Worst Chick Lit: Shopaholic Ties the Knot by Sophie Kinsella. You would think by now they would see that this woman has a problem.

Best Year of Doing Something: The Year of Living Biblically by A. J. Jacobs. Take that, book about a year of cooking recipes from the Bible.

I wonder if that would work?

Best Terrible Conspiracy Driven Online Publication I Regret Reading: Kissinger: the Secret Side of the Secretary of State by Gary Allen

Best Title: The Art of Tying the Cravat: Demonstrated in Sixteen Lessons, Including Thirty-Two Different Styles; Forming A Pocket Manual; and Exemplifying the advantages arising from an elegant arrangement of this important part of the Costume; Preceded by A History of the Cravat, From its Origin to the Present Time; and Remarks on its influence on Society in general by H. LeBlanc Esq.

Worst Title: Thirteen Days: a Memoir of the Cuban Missile Crisis by Robert Kennedy. So boring. He could have jazzed it up a bit. Every Pig has its Bay 2: Kennedy’s Revenge. Tagline: They’ve got almost two weeks to save the world.

Worst Book about Food: House of Plenty: The Rise, Fall, and Revival of Luby’s Cafeterias by Carol Dawson and Carol Johnston. Throughout the book the authors alluded to a terrible crisis in the restaurant’s history, calling it the “worm in the apple” with all the drama short of adding a Dun-Dun-Dunnn at the end of each chapter. In the final chapter we discover this crisis is the lawsuit over family money and that one side of the lawsuit actually wrote the book. It seems odd that this is presented as the worst part of Luby’s history, as the chain’s past includes multiple deaths, all of which, from a CEO’s suicide to a mass murder in Killeen are described in gruesome detail. Describing Luby’s as the pinnacle of the American Dream, this book’s highlights include randomly placed family photos of Luby’s founders and descendants posing together or square dancing and little of the actual restaurant. If you want to recreate Luby’s dishes, you’re in luck, they did print recipe cards with 1/3 of the ingredients and all the instructions missing. All in all, it really captures the spirit of dining at Luby’s.

Best Book about Food Save the Deli: In Search of the Perfect Pastrami, Crusty Rye, and the Heart of Jewish Delicatessen by David Sax

Best Collection of Martha Mitchell Quotes: On With The Wind: Martha Mitchell Speaks (additional dialogue by John Mitchell)

Reread Book I’ll Read Again: Inherit the Wind by Jerome Lawrence and Robert E. Lee

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In February I posted 25 facts about US Presidents in place of the 25 facts about me Facebook meme before it became 25 facts about swine flu or something. Now I have 25 facts about US Presidents (not mentioning Taft’s weight, Coolidge’s silence or Harding’s awfulness) and one about me.

  1. John Tyler named his home Sherwood Forest and considered himself an outlaw from his political party. Maybe the law too, I don’t know. Different times, the 1840s.
  2. James K. Polk’s political career was declared to be over after winning one electoral vote in 1840 and losing his gubernatorial bid in 1841 and again in 1843.
  3. Zachary Taylor was a poor dresser. He was eulogized by a fan of his, Abraham Lincoln.
  4. Millard Fillmore was the first president to discuss bird guano importation in his annual message and was surprisingly not the last.
  5. Franklin Pierce was not a foodie and was a mediocre president.
  6. James Buchanan was a foodie and also a mediocre president. So.
  7. Andrew Johnson’s wife Eliza taught him how to read and write.
  8. Rutherford B. Hayes’s name is an anagram for “Huh, red ferryboats.”
  9. James A. Garfield could write in Greek and Latin AT THE SAME TIME. He was the first left handed president THAT WE KNOW OF.
  10. Chester A. Arthur was America’s safety school of presidents.
  11. Benjamin Harrison pretty much disliked everyone and everything. He was also the last president to make any public mention of guano.
  12. William McKinley was 5’7”.
  13. William Howard Taft was a seventh cousin of Richard Nixon, an equestrian and the last president to milk a cow in the White House.
  14. Warren G. Harding was an advocate of eliminating the 12 hour workday. John Dean wrote a biography about Harding.
  15. Grover Cleveland put two criminals to death during his term as sheriff to spare his inferiors from doing the job. This remains my second* favorite fact about G.C.
  16. Calvin Coolidge’s voice was recorded on film in 1920 accepting the VP nomination on his birthday, July 4th.
  17. Herbert Hoover was almost declared dead at the age of two. He lived to be the first president to have a phone at his desk. Before that, they just yelled loudly.
  18. Harry S. Truman, like John Adams, had a biography written by David McCullough. I’m still waiting for the HBO series and what will no doubt be the most thrilling depiction of a haberdasher ever committed to film. (Would it be? I haven’t watched a lot of movies.)
  19. Lyndon Johnson paid $2.50 for Lady Bird Johnson’s engagement ring.
  20. Richard Nixon signed several bills preserving presidential birthplaces and homes as national historic sites. His own birthplace was registered as a national historic site during his presidency, because that sounds like something he would do.
  21. Grover Cleveland loved corned beef and cabbage. *This is my favorite.
  22. Gerald Ford was a good athlete and a pretty terrific human being. He was also in Glee Club in high school, which really changes the way I watch the show Glee, in that it makes it enjoyable.
  23. George H. W. Bush is friends with Teri Hatcher.
  24. George H. W. Bush. His museum has the best tour guides of any presidential site.
  25. Me I’m the same height as William McKinley.
  26. Barack Obama was the first president born in Hawaii. OR WAS HE? Yes, yes he was.


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