Great Moments in Campaign Advertising: Confessions of a Republican

Often overshadowed by LBJ’s infamous “Daisy” ad, “Confessions of a Republican” is great mostly because it’s so weird. It’s also really long—four minutes and change. I haven’t been able to figure out when exactly it aired, or how really, because four-minute ad breaks aren’t particularly common even now (and TV commercial breaks have stretched drastically in recent years).

In the ad, an actor (although the ad doesn’t say as much) talks about how he’s always been a Republican, but the party’s candidate that year, Sen. Goldwater, is too extreme for his comfort. Sure, this is mostly an artifact of the era during which party affiliation was determined more by lineage than political ideology. He goes on to light a cigarette (!) and say that if the KKK is supporting the candidate, either they’re not a Republican or he isn’t. Anyway it’s a fun ad to watch, so enjoy.

Hell Bent for Election

So this is friggin’ cool. Above is an animated film directed by Chuck Jones that was basically a union-sponsored campaign ad for FDR. From the YouTube description:

Hell-Bent For Election was a 1944 two-reel (thirteen minute) animated cartoon short subject now in the public domain. The short was one of the first major films from United Productions of America (then known as “Industrial Films”), which would go on to become the most influential animation studio of the 1950s. As UPA did not have a full staff or a studio location until the late-1940s, this film was made in animator Zack Schwartz’s apartment with the help of moonlighters from various local Hollywood animation studios. Among the moonlighters was Chuck Jones, who directed the film.

The film is an allegorical campaign film, designed to inspire viewers to register and to vote for Franklin D. Roosevelt. The Democratic Party candidate, Roosevelt, is depicted as a then-modern streamlined steam locomotive, the Win the War Special, pulling a high-speed freight train of war materiel, whereas his Republican opponent Thomas E. Dewey is depicted as an old creaky steam locomotive, the Defeatist Limited (numbered 1929 as a nod to the 1929 stock market crash) pulling cars variously representing hot air, high prices, taxes, business as usual ( a sleeper car), poor housing for war workers, and finally a caboose named “Jim Crow.” The conflict in the film centers on Joe, a railroad switch operator who represents the American voting public. He is warned by the station master, Sam (a representation of Uncle Sam), not to fall asleep at the switch as he did in November 1942. Joe must then decide whether to listen to the influence of a cigar smoking gnome-like Dewey supporter and wrecker who tries to make him fall asleep at the switch, or to fight his influence and make sure that the FDR “Win the War Special” stays on the track. (At one point, the phantasmagoric saboteur briefly metamorphosizes into Adolf Hitler whilst trying to beguile Sam into neglecting his duties.) After a notable nightmare sequence, Joe pulls the switch, sidelining the Defeatist Limited. The film ends with a paean to the bountiful post-war world to come; the Win the War Special’s caboose is the Post War Observation Car, and generic constituencies such as Joe Soldier, Joe Farmer, J. Industrialist, Joe Industrialist, Jr., and Joe Worker are shown examining fold-out brochures depicting the benefits of the American post-war world.

H/T to Crooked Timber, who also noticed that the film also interestingly is probably the first to tie Jim Crow to the Republican candidate.

Book Review: Forgotten Drinks of Colonial New England, by Corin Hirsch

Before pilsners and whiskeys were the tried and true choice of Americans, those in the New England colonies put their lips around a wide collection of concoctions to keep things loose through the day.  In Forgotten Drinks of Colonial New England, Corin Hirsch explores not just what we used to drink but how we drank it.  And drink we did.  Bitters before work was a morning ritual, cider at each meal was thought to keep one hydrated while avoiding polluted water, and if there wasn’t rum in your cup each night then good luck keeping pace with the national average.  Hirsch writes that when the Revolutionary War began, “colonists older than fifteen each drank 3.7 gallons of spirits per year . . . [and that by 1790] that figure had swelled to 5 gallons, in addition to 34 gallons of beer and 1 gallon of wine.”  That is roughly 3 shots a day, a beer, and then wine on fun days.  Not to mention the cider, which was consumed as water.

Flip, drink of choice in many taverns.
Author’s photo: Flip, drink of choice in many taverns.

The assortment of drinks at the town ordinary (tavern) was driven by availability.  Apple trees provided cider when the European hops wasn’t an option, and rum became a staple when people discovered that the molasses from Caribbean sugar cane production could be used for libation.  Everything from twigs, berries, pumpkins, and roots were used to make bitters and ales, and then mixed in with drinks.

Hirsch’s book includes dozens of recipes to ensure readers are experiencing history and not just learning about it.  Head over to the package store and stock your cupboard with dark rum, ale, cider, bitters, and brandy, for these are the foundational ingredients in many of the drinks.  With winter approaching, those preferring a warm beverage should grab some apple brandy and honey and fix yourself a Hot Toddy, raise a tankard of flip made of hot frothy ale, egg, rum, and nutmeg, or just mull some wine on the stove.  Just about everyone will be enlightened and thirsty after opening Hirsch’s book.

So, next time you are tippling with friends, go ahead and try something new that is old.

Watch: This day-by-day animation of World War I

With about the least amount of fanfare possible, yesterday was the 100th anniversary of the start of the Great War. It wasn’t just about the western front. Check out the above animation, which shows all the movements each day.

This is a war that may take a backseat in our history classes to the other big one, but all of geopolitics was formed by this conflict, especially the middle east (remember that the countries all in conflict right now are because of the fake lines drawn on a map after the Ottoman Empire was destroyed in this very same war).


Maroon = Central Powers and annexed lands.
Burgundy = Areas militarily occupied by the Central Powers.
Red = Central Power puppet or client states.
Brown = Central Powers in an armistice.
Pink = Central Power gains for that day.
Dark blue = Allied powers
Blue = Central Powered lands militarily occupied by the Allies.
Blue-grey = Allied powers in an armisitce.
Light blue = Allied gains for that day.

Today in History: The Sex Pistols play a poorly-attended show in Manchester

It just struck me that today marks the date in 1976 that the Sex Pistols played a show at the Lesser Free Trade Hall in Manchester. There were only about 35-40 people there (the space was big enough to hold hundreds), but it’s considered still one of the most important concerts in music history. Why? Well, there’s this:

“We know that Morrissey was there, who went on to form the Smiths. We know that the lads who went on to form the Buzzcocks were there because they organised the gig. We know that two lads from Lower Broughton were there who went out the next day and bought guitars at Mazel Radio which used to be on Piccadilly Station Approach, they formed a band called Joy Division; We know that Mark E Smith was there who went on to form The Fall; we know that Paul Morley was there who went on to become a writer and wrote about the scene for the NME etc.


Temperance Railway, next stop Cigaretteville


I love maps, I love transit, I love transit maps, I love historical documents, and I love all things drink. So, you can imagine that I love this map. It’s pretty great. From 1908, and recently dug up by the Library of Congress, it shows all the stops you’ll go through if you continue down your non-temperate life. Such places as Selfishburg, Hypocrisy Heights, Whiskeyton (my neighborhood), Treasondale, Malicefort, Cocain Park, Sing Sing, Dissipation Gap and Prizefight City.

Here it is full-sized and huge in case you want to print me a present.


V&V Oversimplified Explanation Theater: What the hell is going on in Ukraine?

A new series, where we try to give a short, easy, way-oversimplified background and history to a story that could use at least a hint of explanation, but really needs like a massive book or several.

So, what the hell is going on in Ukraine? There’s these protests, people are mad, it’s gotten violent, and at least 25 people have died just between yesterday and today.

Let’s start at the beginning:

  • Ukraine lies at the intersection of Russia’s and the European Union’s interests.
  • It also lies at the intersection of the Russian world and the European world.
  • The E.U. would like closer diplomatic, cultural and economic ties with Ukraine.
  • Russia sees Ukraine as a lost province that just needs to find its way home.
  • (There’s a ton of natural gas involved in this too.)
  • Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych is from the eastern part of the country, which is far closer to Russia than Europe.
  • He’s pretty much seen as wicked corrupt.
  • He was also a major figure the last time there were major protests in Ukraine.
  • In November 2013, he rejected a trade deal with the E.U.
  • And that’s when the protests began.
  • In an effort to quell the protest, parliament passes a draconian law outlawing them on January 16.
  • Doesn’t stop them, in fact, the first casualties occur just six days later.
  • As pressure mounts, on January 28, the prime minister quits and parliament annuls the anti-protest law.
  • There are about 25,000 protesters in Independence Square.
  • Yesterday, riot police attached the square, and at least 25 people died in the violence.
  • Today, the E.U. and U.S. are considering imposing sanctions.
  • Update: Lawmakers in the Lviv region (to the west bordering on Poland) have declared independence from the Yanukovych government.

Make sense? That’s what I thought.

This has been the first installment of V&V Oversimplified Explanation Theater.