Thursday, March 29, 2012

The Bell at Sealey Head, by Patricia A. McKillip

The Bell at Sealey Head odd book. Again, this is not a book that I picked for myself but rather was thrown at me by Katie over at I Smell Sheep. Because there wasn't any smut. All right, all right, I'll finish ranting about the Sheep and get to the actual book.  The Bell at Sealey Head takes place in a small coastal town called Sealey Head which is, for the most part, unremarkable. Except...except that at sunset every day people hear a bell. No one has ever seen this bell but they have heard it ring for hundreds of years. Most people of Sealey Head assume that it is the echo of a ship that went under at sunset years ago and after a while they cease to notice its ringing, it becomes part of the background noise. However there are a handful of people who suspect that there is more to the bell and that it might have a connection with Aislinn House, an old manor on the cliffs over Sealey Head. 

Ultimately my response to this book is that I feel it should have been a little longer. It's a fairly short book, coming in at under three hundred pages, and that is of course plenty of time to develop a plot. The problem I have is that the book drags in so many plots that I feel the book never adequately addresses all of them by the end of the book. We have Judd Cauley, the son of the local innkeeper who suddenly finds himself hosting the curious scholar Ridley Dow who has come to Sealey Head to investigate the bell. We have Gwyneth Blair, the local merchant's daughter, being courted by Raven Sproule, son of the local squire. However Raven is only interested in horses while Gwyneth is more interested in reading and writing her own explanations for why the bell tolls at sunset. In this respect Gwyneth has more in common with Judd who has a more intellectual turn of mind himself. And this doesn't even touch on Aislinn House with Emma the maid who for her entire life has been able to open doors to an alternate Aislinn House where a princess named Ysabo lives. Ysabo herself begins questioning the life in her own world where each day she performs the same rituals day after day and no explanation is given. Well, beyond the moon will fall and the seas will run dry, but it's hard to connect turning a page in a blank book in a locked tower with any of that. It seems there is something inherently wrong with Ysabo's world and it too is connected with the bell. 

I want to say that I liked this book, but I felt that what it did could have been done better. I liked the various plots which sort of snaked around and you had to guess what was going on because the characters themselves didn't have all the information, and in some cases weren't sharing information because they didn't know each other. It would have been a great opportunity for us, the readers, in the privileged position of knowing everything to work out the plot on our own. Unfortunately while the book's plotlines do come together at the end, I feel like it's rushed and lumped together rather than building to a climax. That is my main issue with the book, and other than that I liked it. I mean, the book never explicitly states where Sealey Head is geographically or for that matter temporally, but based on what I know of history and geography I placed it on the English coast sometime in the late 1700's or early 1800's. I couldn't place it any more specifically than that, but the exact time and location are sort of secondary. 

Despite the rushed feeling at the end of the book, I at least enjoyed it. I also have to give McKillip credit for creating characters which evoked an emotional response from me. Granted, the characters were Raven Sproule and his sister, Daria. And my emotional response was, "Dear god, I want to shove these people off a cliff." Seriously, they're constantly talking about marriage and balls and parties and society and AGGGGGHHHH! I just wanted them to fall off a cliff because they were so insipid. So I felt that was a strength of McKillip's writing and showed that this book could have been better if it was a bit longer. I don't know why it's the length it is, maybe she had a deadline to meet, I don't know. 

If you're looking for a fantasy book that's a little different from the standard quest and has a bit of a mystery, I'd suggest you give The Bell at Sealey Head a try. Just try to not push the Sproules off of a cliff. Even if they deserve it. 

- Kalpar 

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Revoluticon Battle Report

Greetings, dear readers, today is the Thursday after the glorious event which was Revoluticon this past March 16-18. And let me tell you, it was one heck of a convention and I am still recovering from all of the excitement. I met lots of cool people, went to some pretty cool panels and even did my own super-special awesome panel. All while wearing my ever-trusty press hat.

It says Press, that makes it official
First off I'll talk a little bit about my panel and how that went overall. There were a few initial set backs, such as getting the one panel room that didn't have a projector so I couldn't show my hand-crafted powerpoint for the awesome people who showed up. I also was up against some pretty big events in the time slot so I ended up getting an audience of about four.

Half of the people in this picture are people I used to live with.
Well, okay, about three other guys showed up after I started and they didn't get to be in the picture, but it was still a pretty small crowd. But out of the people who attended all of them left at least a little more interested in Warhammer 40,000 and a little more knowledgeable so I would call it an overall success. And for any staff members of Revoluticon reading this, I am immensely grateful for the opportunity to talk at your con and hope you're all foolish, I mean wise enough to let me give more panels about my obsession in the future.

Aside from giving my own panel, I also got to attend a couple of really informative or funny panels at the convention. The people over at The Analytical Couch Potato gave a really interesting panel about Klingons from Star Trek and viewing Klingons from a feminist perspective. I personally would like to hear more from them in the future. I also got to talk with the awesome nerd comedy team +2 Comedy and catch a little bit of their stand-up performance. Unfortunately I had to leave halfway through their show to set up my own panel,  but I would definitely suggest checking them out and they might be doing a convention near you.
Alex Pearlman (Left) and Noah Houlihan (Right) of +2 Comedy
Finally I got to meet a couple of aspiring artists at the convention like the team of With a Grain of Salt Designs, as well as the art of Julie A. Wright and Lesser Key Studios. They had some interesting stuff and while not all of it was my taste it was definitely pretty good.

Artists doing artist things. 
If only they had something that included three of my main passions: History, reading, and science fiction. Oh wait.

Awesome bookmarks from Julie's table 

- Kalpar

Thursday, March 15, 2012

The Edge of Reason, by Melinda Snodgrass

Recently Katie over at I Smell Sheep mailed me a big box of books she had been meaning to read but decided to instead send to me. As my readers are probably aware, the reason most of these books ended up being shipped to the Arsenal is because of the lack of smut. Seriously if a book does not meet Katie's smut quota, which is so high the book might as well be pornography, then it gets shipped over to me. The Edge of Reason is one such book and while I went into it having doubts, I'm fairly satisfied with it. I also want to apologize for the lack of Roman-themed things this Ides of March, but I simply didn't have anything on the docket.

The Edge of Reason reminds me of Good Omens and The Passion of Timmy Christ in the sense that they are all books set more or less around the year 2000 and have religious figures such as Satan, Angels and Jesus in a hidden world just below our own. Unlike Good Omens or Timmy Christ in which God is well-meaning if somewhat absent-minded, in The Edge of Reason God, all gods as a matter of fact, are outright malevolent. It is an interesting twist to the genre, however it gave me some initial doubts. I ultimately was satisfied with this book and look forward to reading more from Melinda Snodgrass, especially when I found out she wrote the Star Trek: TNG episode The Measure of a Man, the episode in which Lt. Commander Data is given the legal status of a sentient being. That's a damn good episode.

The plot of The Edge of Reason details a secret war that has been going on since humanity first imagined something greater than itself. There are these beings which call themselves Old Ones who feed off of human emotions and have powers which are...well simply put magic.While it is possible for Old Ones to feed off of positive human emotions such as love and happiness, it is much easier for them to feed off of hatred, anger and fear. As a result the Old Ones pass themselves off as gods (Including the God of monotheism) and encourage religious wars and blood sacrifices, which increase their strength and let the Old Ones enter our world. On the other side is a man known simply as Kenntnis who promotes science and math to push back the superstition and hate-mongering of the Old Ones and allow humanity to expand beyond the boundary of Earth itself. At the center of their shadow-war is Richard Oort, formerly a wealthy socialite of Rhode Island, now a beat-cop in Albuquerque, New Mexico. Both sides of the war between science and magic want Richard because he is a paladin, a human completely devoid of magic and a powerful piece in their cosmic chess game. As both a devout Dutch Calvinist and a man who believes in science, Richard is forced to choose the side he believes will best benefit humanity and face his own internal demons.

I personally had some issues with this book, the first one being the overall science vs. religion plot. It is perfectly acceptable to portray gods or God (in the sense of the one true all-encompassing God of the monotheistic religions of Christianity, Judaism and Islam) as outright evil. Even based on citations from the Old Testament a very convincing case can be made that God is kind of a dick. That being said, there are lots of very devout people who are going to be very angry if you go around saying their God is evil. While I agree with the book's universe that the Old Ones certainly do not seem to have humanity's best interests at heart, I feel like they never really get a chance to voice a good argument. The science side of the debate gets to defend themselves and carefully outline why the religion side is bad, but I feel like the religion side's opportunity within the novel isn't as optimized. I also had a slight issue when the book said that all monotheistic religions promoted violence against non-believers  because, well, it simply isn't true. Yes, okay, if you look at the Old Testament and the origins of Judaism they are extremely xenophobic and participate in a number of holy wars against non-believers. (I'm looking at you, Maccabees) However if you look at the origins of Christianity and Islam you see that they are very much religions of peace. Yes, both religions get subverted and introduce the holy-war philosophies of Crusade and Jihad, but they are initially religions of peace. I feel like Snodgrass grasped that concept with Christianity, but didn't really grasp that about Islam. I only mention this because I get tired of people grouping all Muslims into the same category with groups such as al-Qaeda which follows an extreme Wahhabist doctrine of Islam and in no way represents the majority of Muslims in the world. If you want a comparison, saying all Muslims are like al-Qaeda is like saying all Christians are like Westboro Baptist Church. It's an inaccurate and unjust assumption and fails to understand the larger picture.

The other issue I have with this book is that it sort of shifts emphasis halfway through. Initially the book is an introduction to this secret war and Kenntnis and Richard gathering friends and allies for a coming conflict with the Old Ones and their human allies. However as we to about halfway through the focus of the book shifts from this expanding war to a character arc of Richard. In the end I actually ended up liking Richard's character arc and came to see him as a deep and realistic character, but the shift in focus was so abrupt that I found it hard to adapt. In the end I wasn't as mad about it as I thought I would be and the character development is very well done, but I felt the transition could have been handled better.

Overall I actually liked this book. It's a little rough around the edges and has a few teething issues, but I liked it. Richard is a well-written character and I enjoyed watching his arc unfold, and the plot is pretty good as well. I definitely recommend this book for fans of urban fantasy, however if you're uber-devout please don't get offended. I definitely will be getting to The Edge of Ruin, the sequel to The Edge of Reason when I get the chance.


Monday, March 12, 2012

West Wing: Why I'll Be Running for President Someday

Now I know what you're thinking. "Carvan! You're British! You can't possibly run for president of the United States!" Well, gentle reader, in reality the president is only a minister of the royal family, given that the United States are a colony of the British Empire. I will petition her majesty for the position and move into the White House at once to begin governing, once the redcoats finish putting out the fire of course.

I think the place is rather CHAR-ming.

But I am getting ahead of myself, so let me begin this by explaining what I fear may become a standard trope of my posts: I'm usually several years behind the times. My frugality (or as Kalpar calls it "Being a cheap bastard") leads me to postpone many of the joys in life until they come down in price. This usually relates to video games, films, etc, and as such I will likely tend to discuss things which have been out for ages already. This must be clearly understood or nothing wonderful can come of the story I am about to tell.

When I was still but an undergrad in college, 10 many many months ago, I was given something. It was a small box containing a number of discs; these discs were of great value and importance so naturally when I received them I was warned against their misuse or abuse. I took the box in my hand and the warning still rings in my ears as I remember the event. She looked my in the eye and said "If you lose or damage these, I'll hunt you down and kill you." And so began my journey through the West Wing series.

If this were an episode, this would be the point where the title sequence would begin

West Wing began airing on NBC in the fall of 1999 and ran for seven seasons, ending in the spring of 2006. It was created by Aaron Sorkin, whose recent works include The Social Network about the rise of Mark Zuckerburg, and Sports Night. Sorkin left the show after the fourth season, and it does show a little in the writing, but the show still holds up as an excellent witty and dramatic series across the board. The series also has a strong cast led by Martin Sheen as President Josiah (Jed) Bartlet, and other cast members such as Allison Janney, Dule Hill, Bradley Whitford, Rob Lowe, Kristen Chenoworth, Jimmy Smits, and Alan Alda.

I'll stop paraphrasing Wikipedia now.

West Wing follows the events surrounding Democratic President Josiah Bartlet's two terms in the executive mansion, and how Bartlet and his staff deal with the crises which arise when one attempts to govern one of the most powerful nations on the planet. The show brilliantly mixes the events of being a world power with events in the characters' lives, pacing out the character development and story development very nicely.

The series begins in Bartlet's second year in office, and progresses to the end of his second term as the series ends with he and his wife flying back to their home state of New Hampshire. During his term, the Bartlet Administration deals with legislative issues, military police actions, an assassination attempt, sex scandals, medical scandals, the deaths of members of staff, terrorism, re-election and campaigning, information leaks, foreign policy issues, threats and kidnapping, the post-Bartlet campaign, and Alan Alda.

I'd like to think he is just playing Hawkeye on this series too, and like many other veterans, he decided to run for president.

As you might have guessed from that list, the series is largely dramatic and has many expertly crafted moments of tension, grief, or conflict. That said, there are some very light tones at points in the program and the banter between the characters is exquisite. The writing of the series is one of its strongest points. Sorkin's first four seasons have a definitely witty tone to them and the character interaction is pulled off to near perfection. The pacing is there, the delivery is there, the dry wit/sarcasm/deadpan humor is there. I have a hard time not singing praises for this. For example, take 57 seconds out of your life (you're reading this blog, so I assume you have time to spare) and watch this clip.

I hope you see what I mean. In addition to Lord Marbury being one of my favourite cameo characters in the series, the interaction between the characters is nearly flawless. As much as it requires strong actors (of which West Wing has many) to play dialogue like this well, the pith and power that most of the speech carries is extremely well crafted.

The acting and characters themselves add so much to the show. Sorkin and the writing crew tend to put a lot of silence in a few of the episodes and the actors use that silence to the fullest. Subtle actions, looks, gestures and all number of tricks convey immense emotion without endless dialogue. In short, they SHOW things without always having to TELL them. Furthermore, the characters themselves each have their own arc carved out over the 7 years of the show and even minor characters become likeable or despised in the short time they have on screen. Each has a distinct drive and motivation and a distinct way of looking at the world which sometimes creates enough drama without having to deal with a national or global crisis.

In addition to the technical aspects of the show itself, one thing which I greatly enjoy about the series are the little tidbits and references which crop up from time to time. Those of you who are history scholars, or who just really enjoy the musical 1776 might notice that President Bartlet shares his name and home state with one of the signers of the Declaration of Independence, and it is mentioned that President Bartlet is a descendant of said individual. Bartlet's wife is named Abigail, and throughout the series she is a strong first lady who supports her husband in his actions; she is clearly not just arm candy. Abby Bartlet is a force to be reckoned with in her own right, cowing her husband at times with her intellect and insight. Abby is also shown to be an avid proponent of policies like education and womens' issues. In my humble opinion, she bears a striking resemblance to first lady Abigail Adams who shares her name and many of her character traits and policy goals. This one you could also pick up on from being a history buff or really liking 1776. I happen to fall into both camps, so I can't really judge you either way.

History is fabulous

However, nothing is wholly perfect. One of my biggest gripes with the show is the somewhat "revolving door cast" they have for some of the minor characters. People will disappear for whole seasons or simply leave the show without explanation. I understand that the White House is busy and that often the show is juggling a number of plotlines all at once, but the tendency for characters at times to vanish without a trace and then appear months later is a little irksome.

A second problem the show suffers from is the occasional deus-ex-machina. In West Wing, this usually takes to form of one character holding onto a particular piece of information or course of action for the duration of the show, only revealing it to the audience at the end of the program as a magic wand to solve the problem. The dramatic tension that is ended when the magic wand comes out feels a little hollow and cheap, and smacks of "we wrote ourselves into a corner". I wouldn't say that it doesn't make sense in the context of the episode because everything does fit neatly together, it just seems a little lazy at times.

Thankfully instances of this issue are rare, and tends to happen with larger government issues like foreign policy or key legislation where one side is playing the other, however a much more common problem is that Bartlet seems to always win. Seldom does the audience have to deal with instances where Bartlet doesn't always come out on top. He seems to solve so many problems in the country and abroad within his eight years that my suspension of disbelief gets a little stretched. He is the protagonist and we are supposed to root for him, but I struggle to think of more than a few instances where Bartlet has to face a no-win scenario or does not ultimately come out on top.

These flaws aside, West Wing is an extremely solid TV series which I would heartily recommend to anyone with a penchant for higher brow material. It definitely helps to have an interest or understanding in history or public policy, but they do things in baby steps enough that a general audience could watch and enjoy the show. Mixing drama and wit and wordplay the show is intellectual for sure, but it will be a breath of fresh air for anyone seeking a witty series.

And it just goes to show, if running for President in one series doesn't work out just star in a John Candy movie that will let you be in charge

God Save the Queen

- Carvan

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Brotherhood of Dwarves, by D.A. Adams

As anyone who has ever played Dungeons & Dragons with me can attest, I love dwarves. I love their tendency towards the Lawful Good alignment, I love their dour outlook on life, I love their emphasis on tradition and history and the fact they're metallurgical experts is an added bonus. This strong preference for dwarves has brought me into conflict with numerous people, including Carvan who among his many English failings is a preference for elves. What with their prancing around the forest and being in harmony with nature and not being able to wear heavy armor because their brittle little bones snap like twigs. Hate elves. Where was I? Oh yes. So anyway, many fantasy books have dwarves or dwarf-like characters in their universes, but the dwarves are seldom the main character. And to an extent that makes sense because the majority of the fantasy-reading audience is human, so we like human main characters because they're easier to understand. However I recently found out that there is an entire series of fantasy books in which dwarves are the main characters. Needless to say, I was excited.

In the first chapter Adams provides some important setup for his fantasy world and divides the dwarves into three distinct ethnicities. To the south are the Tredjards, known for their black beards and their war-like disposition, the result of constantly fending off the attacks of orc slavers. In a sort of central location are the Ghaldeons with brown or red beards, and who are more focused on commerce and interaction with humans, ogres and the other dwarves than with fighting. However the Ghaldeons are in a distinct decline after many of their lands have been conquered by the human Great Empire. Finally to the north in relatively remote mountain ranges are the Kiredurks with mostly blond beards. The Kiredurks are not particularly warlike, instead focusing on history, art and the promotion of culture, and because they live in rather remote mountain ranges are largely ignored by enemies.  

The Brotherhood of Dwarves follows the adventures of Roskin, heir to the Kiredurk throne, although he is far from a conventional Kiredurk. Roskin's mother was actually an elf, which makes Roskin the first half-elf half-dwarf I have seen...well...ever. As a result Roskin has a black beard instead of the usual blond of the Kiredurks and is constantly beset with an urge for adventure and excitement which his kingdom simply does not provide. Fortunately for Roskin it is a tradition among the Kiredurks that each heir is given one year to sow their wild oats before they have to take up the mantle of leadership. Roskin decides to use his year to find a platinum statue, the titular Brotherhood of Dwarves, which represented the unity of the Kiredurk and Ghaldeon dwarves before it was taken by the Great Empire. Legend has it that the Brotherhood is in a secret vault of the fortress Black Rock and the general who built that fortress has recently been exiled. If Roskin can find the infamous general known as Evil Blade, he might be able to reclaim the priceless artifact.

Overall, I have a couple of issues with the book, despite enjoying it. There is a lot of exposition that's kind of dumped on us throughout the book. Exposition is perfectly fine and whenever you make a new world it's important to explain a lot of elements, and I appreciate that Adams has put a lot of thought into his world. Unfortunately I felt a lot of the exposition was sort of dumped on us at once. I feel like it could have been incorporated into the book a little better rather than a third-person omniscient narrator telling us. Again, just my opinion.

Another issue that many people might have with the book is it has a lot of standard fantasy elements. The usual races are all there: human, dwarf, elf, orc, with the added bonus of ogre. The orcs and humans are evil, mainly because they practice slavery and genocide, and a lot of fantasy tropes are invoked. So in some respects parts of The Brotherhood of Dwarves treads the same ground that we've been through countless times before.

What I did like about the book, though, was the character development. Roskin and his ally Red go through significant character development throughout the book, which I appreciated and I found it to be realistic. Red and Roskin are at least developed characters rather than cardboard cut-outs. I sort of disagree with where this book left off but it at least left me willing to read the other books.

Ultimately if you're not really interested in dwarves like I am, you can probably pass this book by. There isn't anything here you can't find somewhere else. If you do like dwarves, though, then I'd recommend picking this book up. I definitely will be reading more books in this series from Adams and hope the books become more refined as the series continues.

- Kalpar

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Ohio Presidents: A History of Mediocrity and Failure

Ohio: At least our state flag is cool...
As it probably has been mentioned elsewhere, I am a Buckeye, a citizen of that mediocre State of the Union, Ohio. Believe it or not, Ohio used to actually be an important state back in the nineteenth century. Now it's to the point where people don't believe Ohio exists, and I really can't blame them. However, today is the "official" anniversary of Ohio's entry into the Union as a state back in 1803. (Technically we were admitted February 17th but there was a delay with the paperwork.) And to honor our entry to the union I'm going to talk about the presidents who hailed from Ohio.

Surprisingly Ohio shares the title "Mother of Presidents" with Virginia. Both states have, as of writing, contributed seven men to the office of President of the United States, and we share William Henry Harrison for a total score of eight.  Unfortunately while Virginia gave us presidents such as George Washington, Thomas Jefferson and James Monroe, Ohio has men like James A. Garfield, William Howard Taft and Warren G. Harding. Fully half of the presidents from Ohio died in office, and of those whose presidencies were not riddled with corruption the rest were mediocre at best. So I'll try to put a funny spin on things and be prepared for five presidents you probably never even heard of before today.

(All facts are taken from a combination of Almighty Wikipedia and the Scholastic Encyclopedia of the Presidents and Their Times by David Rubel. Images are from Wikipedia too.)

William Henry Harrison 

Honestly there isn't much to say about Old Tippecanoe as president. Although originally born in Virginia, Harrison was living in Ohio when he ran for office in 1840 so both Virginia and Ohio claim him as a son, although I suspect we only do it so the other one can't claim "Mother of Presidents" undisputed. Honestly, Harrison hardly even counts as a president.  He gave the longest inaugural speech in U.S. history, talking two hours in extremely cold weather, without either a hat or coat simply to prove how humble he was. Seriously, that was Harrison's platform for becoming president, "I am a man of the people, just like you. Also I killed Indians." So to prove a point he stood outside in the cold, for two hours, without a hat and coat talking at people. Now for those of you that have heard this story, you know he caught pneumonia and died. Well, apparently standing for two hours in the cold wasn't what gave him pneumonia because he didn't catch it until three weeks later. Unsurprisingly, 1840's medicine being what it was, Harrison died shortly after catching pneumonia and served a grand total of a month as president. Go team.
Remember kids, even if you only had one month as president, somewhere, someone will erect a statue of you.
Ulysses S. Grant

Many people view Grant as a failure of a president despite being a great general during the Civil War, and to an extent this is largely true. Many people cite Grant's life-long battle with alcoholism and the fact he got a speeding ticket while driving a horse as president. Honestly those are just drops in the bucket compared to the larger issues with Grant's presidency. To be fair, during his two terms Grant passed a series of Civil Rights legislations in an attempt to secure the rights of not only African-Americans but also American Indians. Unfortunately most of those policies were mismanaged or poorly guided and ended poorly. What really marks Grant's presidency as a failure is the number of scandals enacted by his subordinates. Grant had a tendency to put friends, relatives, and old subordinates from the Civil War in positions of authority during his presidency and refused to accept any criticism of his subordinates from outsiders. Some of Grant's subordinates, like Grant himself, were simply not cut out for political life and lacked the necessary skills. Unfortunately a significant number of his subordinates were cut out for the political life, having no consciences and a consuming desire for money, and abused their positions of power for financial gain. In 1875-76 the Attorney General, Secretary of the Interior, Secretary of War, Secretary of the Navy and Grant's own personal secretary were all involved in separate scandals. That's four positions in the presidential cabinet, plus the president's own aide, being involved in financial scandals in the space of two years. Not to mention even the post office and tax collectors were corrupt as well. Grant may have not been involved in these scandals, but the fact that many of the perpetrators were his appointees, and the fact that he seemed to have no idea what was going on in his own administration made Grant look like a bumbling incompetent.
No, I'm sure it'll all turn out fine...

Rutherford B. Hayes 

Not to worry, though because surely the great Rutherford B. Hayes will be able to salvage Ohio's pride.

Let me explain. The 1876 presidential election was highly contested between the Republican Candidate, Hayes, and the Democratic Candidate Samuel J. Tilden. Both men had a reputation for being incorruptible and promised to reform the civil service system that had been so abused by Grant's subordinates. Unfortunately the election of 1876 was terribly corrupt and twenty electoral votes were left for either candidate, enough to make one president. A bi-partisan commission consisting of Representatives, Senators and Justices of the Supreme Court met to allocate the last twenty votes, however the eight Republicans of the committee suprisingly decided to give the votes to Hayes, much to the anger of the seven Democrats. As a compromise the Republicans promised to withdraw federal troops from the South and end Reconstruction. Although Hayes himself was an honest man who managed to reform some aspects of the civil service, many people viewed his election as fraudulent and gave him an overall bad public image. To his credit Hayes managed to reform the civil service, helped solve the economic crisis gripping the nation, and vetoed a bill that would restrict Chinese Immigration (Although that bill would be passed by Chester A. Arthur after Hayes's presidency. Oddly enough Arthur was an official Hayes fired for corruption.)
"I kick you and your mutton chops with my giant right foot of justice!"
Attempts at honest government aside, Hayes's agreement to end Reconstruction lead to the rise of the Ku Klux Klan in the South and an overturning of many of the Civil Rights advances made after the Civil War. At best, his one-term administration was mediocre.

James A. Garfield

Not to worry though, because James A. Garfield is next! He was elected fair and square to the presidency, unlike Hayes so there isn't as much of a stigmata surrounding his presidency. But wait, wasn't he involved in a significant railroad scandal in the 1860's? Will his presidency be just as corrupt as Grant's, if not more so? No! Garfield is a dedicated reformer, firing corrupt officials and pursuing any mention of corruption within his administration. Also he's supporting universal education to increase the literacy rates of African-Americans. Especially in the South where he's afraid their political freedoms are being hampered by their lack of education. Wow! It looks like Ohio might have produced a good president for once! I sure do hope he doesn't get shot by a crazy person or anything....

Yeah, turns out there was an individual named Charles Guiteau, who for whatever reason believed he was personally responsible for Garfield's election to the presidency and Garfield owed him a position in Europe as a reward. Garfield, having never heard of Guiteau, refused his request, and Guiteau promptly shot Garfield in a train station. The truly ironic thing about Garfield's assassination is there was a pretty good chance he would have survived despite having a bullet in him. Yeah, pretty hardcore, right? You see, what killed Garfield was his doctors. Unable to find the bullet in Garfield's body, the doctors kept performing more and more exploratory surgery. With unsterilized instruments. And unwashed hands. Much to the doctor's surprise Garfield became ill after all this surgery and was moved to the Jersey Shore to get better. No, I am not fucking kidding. Anyway, 1880's medicine not being much better than 1840's medicine, Garfield died and doctors everywhere realized that maybe this washing your hands and instruments before operating idea might have some credit. And so for over a hundred years the death of President Garfield was the saddest thing to have happened to the Jersey Shore. ...and then MTV decided to make a show...

Benjamin Harrison

Benjamin Harrison is another one of those mediocre presidents. On the one hand he did some good things and wasn't corrupt. On the other hand, he annexed Hawaii. You may not think that's a bad thing, but I'll get to it. In Harrison's favor he managed to pass the Sherman Anti-Trust Act, a law which would prohibit monopolies such as Standard Oil. Granted corporate lawyers found a number of loopholes through the Sherman Anti-Trust Act and following presidents didn't really act on it, but it laid important groundwork for the trust-busting activities of Theodore Roosevelt and William Howard Taft. Harrison also created the Dependent and Disability Pensions Act which took federal surplus money and gave it to disabled Union veterans in the form of pensions, which was wildly popular, at least in the North. for Hawaii. I'm sure I have at least one reader saying, "But Kalpar! Hawaii is a wonderful vacation spot filled with sun, surf and sand! Why would the United States ever annexing such islands be a terrible idea?" Well...let me put it like this. Hawaii was never annexed just to provide a nice vacation spot for American citizens. Hawaii was annexed for the benefit of the Dole Corporation.

All right, to be fair, Harrison never actually finally annexed Hawaii, that was undertaken by President McKinley during the Spanish-American War. However, the overthrow of Queen Lili'uokalani by white settlers in Hawaii and then their request for annexation by the United States happened during Harrison's term. You see, there were, and still are, people who were native to Hawaii before the white folks showed up. Initially the white people were happy to live with the native Hawaiians and eat delicious delicious pineapple. However, the white people then realized that they could sell the pineapple to other white people back in the United States, because pineapple is delicious. However, since Hawaii was an independent country the pineapples would count as foreign goods and they'd have to pay a 48% tariff on said pineapples. However, if the white people were to..."remove"...the annoying native queen who didn't want to be part of the United States and convince the U.S. that Hawaii should be annexed as part of the United States, then they could bypass the tariff and sell their delicious delicious pineapples for great profit. So the white settlers promptly overthrew the queen, declared a Republic of Hawaii, and asked for the US to annex them. Harrison seriously considered annexing Hawaii and signed a treaty late in his presidency, but it was never ratified by the Senate and it would take another Ohio president to put Hawaii in the rightful hands of...the United States of America.

Who, these guys? Never heard of them!

 William McKinley 

Within his own time period, William McKinley was insanely popular, although I am less inclined to take such a rose-tinted view of him. To be fair, McKinley and Taft are so overshadowed by Theodore Roosevelt that many of their accomplishments seem small potatoes by comparison. Overall things went fairly well during McKinley's presidency. The country recovered from the economic troubles that had plagued the nation since the Civil War, and the United States accepted the Gold Standard. How much credit McKinley can actually take for bringing the United States into an era of economic growth is disputed, considering economics seems to operate on fairy magic even at the best of times, but he took credit for it anyway. However, McKinley had a very laissez-faire policy when it came to business and many trusts continued to grow during his presidency, in spite of the Sherman Anti-Trust Act.

What is most memorable about McKinley's presidency is the Spanish-American War, which surprisingly the Americans won. The war effort was plagued by supply shortages and disorganization so it was ultimately more a testament to the disorganization of the Spanish that the Americans won at all. However the war ended quickly and the Americans got the Philippines,Guam, Puerto Rico and went ahead and annexed Hawaii for the hell of it. And delicious delicious pineapples. Overall the American public was satisfied with the results of the war and ignored the growing pacification movement in the Philippines. You see, the Filipinos were initially joyful that the Americans had come to liberate them from the Spanish. However, when they discovered that the Americans weren't going to leave anytime soon they were less than thrilled. As a result a brutal and violent pacification campaign was undertaken by the US Army. However, since it was the US Army doing the oppressing everyone back home in 1900's America thought that was a-okay. *sigh*

Anyway, with the economic and military successes of his first term, McKinley was reelected and served an even greater second term until he was forced to step down due to a permanent case of dead.

Oh god, my pancreas!
McKinley was attending the Pan-American exhibition in Buffalo, New York when an unemployed mill worker shot him twice with a revolver. Doctors, perhaps remembering what happened the last time an Ohio president got shot, decided to be a little more careful when operating. When they were unable to find the second bullet they decided it'd probably do more harm than good to remove it and left it, and for a while McKinley seemed to be getting better. However McKinley succumbed to gangrene eight days after getting  shot. Really, I can't complain too much about it, though, because McKinley's death made Theodore Roosevelt president, and TR was a pretty kick-ass president. (TR was vice-president at the time and in the early 1900's vice-president was a job where you sent people you wanted to get out of the way politically. If McKinley hadn't died TR might have never been president.) So even in death, I guess McKinley managed to make himself useful.

William Howard Taft

You're probably familiar with Taft since he was our heaviest president , clocking in at over 300 pounds, and got stuck in the White House bathtub. If any president suffers from a public image problem it would be Taft, but he was actually a pretty okay president. Certainly not a great president, but I would consider him to be the one president from Ohio who breaks above mediocre into good.

As president Taft continued Theodore Roosevelt's trust-busting policies and managed in one term to bust more trusts than Theodore Roosevelt had in two. Taft also helped pass a corporate income tax which increased federal revenue and removed the dependence on tariffs for income. As a result Taft increased trade agreements with Central and South America as well as Canada and China. Taft also ordered the first presidential cars and, being a native Cincinnatian, began the tradition of throwing the first pitch at the first baseball game of the year. (Go Reds!)

What hurt Taft the most, though was his public image, especially compared to Theodore Roosevelt. Taft simply did not have the same energy and force of personality as Roosevelt. TR tried to help Taft by going on a safari to Africa, but the press just followed TR and recounted his many adventures of killing animals. Despite his good policies, Taft simply could not compete with the image and personality of Roosevelt. I mean honestly, who would you rather have for president? This guy?

....I really can't throw for crap, can I?
 Or this guy?
This is why no one can find Bigfoot anymore. He hunted them to extinction
Taft really didn't stand a chance image-wise, but he was at least competent and honest, unlike the last Ohio President...

Warren G. Harding

Oh Warren G. Harding, what to say about him? Well to begin, Harding planned on being an unremarkable president. After America's involvement in World War I and Woodrow Wilson's attempts to make America a player on the world stage, Harding campaigned under the slogan "return to normalcy". Harding supported the United States withdrawing from the world at large and life returning to what it was before World War I. Although it later turned out he had invented the word normalcy but since he was a senator everyone was too afraid to mention he had made a word up. However most people were in favor of returning to normalcy, whatever the word meant, and elected Harding in 1920. Harding immediately appointed a number of close friends and campaign supporters to positions of authority within his administration. And they of course all acted in a perfectly moral manner and were upstanding examples of good government.

Nah, I'm messing with you, they were corrupt as hell. Although only one scandal was publicly discovered during Harding's term, many of the members of Harding's "Ohio Gang" abused their positions of responsibility for individual gain. The Secretary of the Interior was caught taking bribes to sell of reserves of oil on government-owned land. The Attorney General took bribes from bootleggers and the Prohibition bureau was utterly corrupt. Most famous at the time was the director of Veteran's Affairs who over-charged the government for hospitals to help wounded veterans of World War I and kept the profits for himself. The American people were rather disappointed with Harding and weren't exactly eager to reelect him in 1924.

In an attempt to reconnect with the voters, Harding went on a railroad tour of the West in 1923. Unfortunately...or perhaps fortunately considering the corruption of Harding's administration, his health was not very good and the trip proved to be an incredible strain. Harding eventually fell ill and died in 1923. That's at least the official explanation and honestly the most likely explanation. I prefer the conspiracy theory because it's more interesting.

You see...Harding was a bit of a womanizer. I know his eyebrows might give you cause to doubt, but the man had two confirmed mistresses and one bastard child. Rumor has it that some of the underground tunnels connected to the White House were used by Harding to move his extramarital flings covertly. Enter Florence Harding, Warren G. Harding's wife.

Cheat on me again, Warren, and I will cut you.
Because Harding had died under somewhat mysterious circumstances doctors wanted to perform an autopsy, this was the president after all, but Florence declined. Some suspected that Florence got tired of Harding's infidelity and poisoned him, refusing an autopsy to cover her tracks. It was never proven of course and it seems unlikely, but you never know....

So that's the eight presidents hailing from the mediocre state of Ohio. Thanks for bearing with me and hopefully you learned something, even if it was Ohio has terrible luck when it comes to presidents. 

- Kalpar