Claire McLean of the Presidential Pets Museum wrote to me a couple of days ago mentioning that she’s looking for someone to take over her Presidential Pets website. She’d like to retire from it but not simply let it whither. It’s a great site but not one that I’d want to take over myself.
No front page change this month. I’m on vacation.
White House Press Corps stalwart Helen Thomas has announced her retirement in the wake of the controversy around her recent comments about Israel. Thomas, 89, has been a part of the press corps since the early 1960s and traditionally ended all presidential press conferences by saying, “Thank you, Mr. President.”
I caught the beginning of The Special Relationship on HBO last night. It purports to document the relationship between Bill Clinton and Tony Blair in the 1990s (and the US and the UK in general). It stars Michael Sheen as Blair and Dennis Quaid as a passable Clinton. Blair is the protagonist, more or less, so the story focuses on him, often contrasting the pomp and luxury of the White House with the simplicity of Blair’s life, especially before he became PM.
I was very disappointed in the White House scenes. This is the first film I know of that has used the WHM as a resource—I was contacted during pre-production and exchanged several e-mails—but the interiors are not convincing. From what I saw of the first 30 minutes or so, there was a good North Portico, a passable Entrance Hall, and a good Oval Office. But the more private rooms were nothing like the real thing and often rather silly. The film depicts Clinton inviting Blair into a large, sofa-strewn sitting room just off the Oval Office in the space we know to be occupied by a little corridor, lavatory, a tiny study, and a private dining room. The Master Bedroom is depicted with a nod to the Reagans’ Chinese wallpaper, but not much else.
I imagine that the movie did not have a large budget and so they spent their pennies on the UK sets that were more central to the action and on the Oval Office.
By contrast, I happened to catch the end of Thirteen Days on TV earlier in the weekend and found its reproduction of the White House as faithful as one could hope, as Pete Sharkey’s write-up attested.
I’ve changed the front page to a new one: the Music Room that Hilary created for Bill in the late ’90s. It’s the room the Truman plans refer to as the “Play Room” and which was used as a bedroom by Jack Ford.
Big update today, with nearly two dozen new photos, mostly recent ones of the Obamas from the official Flickr feed. The photos are from all over, but most from the West Wing.
I’ve changed the front page for May to the second Roosevelts’ West Sitting Hall.
I got a note today asking about the flags in the Roosevelt Room. The question focuses on the numerous streamers on the flags, wondering if they represent individual battles for each of the branches, if the Battle of Wounded Knee is included, and who decides which battles to include. I’ve never heard of such a thing. Anybody else?
Hey, what do you know? Almost 23,000 views. I never did finish the smoother version that goes inside the Oval Office and does a little tour of that….
Apparently, my April Fool’s joke was to forget to change the front page for the month, but I’ve done it now. I’ve chosen a pic of party guests in the China Room in 1958, one of my favorites.
I don’t know what to make of this image. Conceptually, it’s a weird mash-up of the famous Dogs Playing Poker painting and the Boulevard of Broken Dreams painting (dead celebrities in Hopper’s Night Hawks diner). It’s also simultaneously hilarious and vaguely touching.
All I know for sure is that Nixon is going to clean the rest of them out. He was a poker fiend.
UPDATE: There’s one of Democrats, too! Check out Truman’s shirt!
Sky, the magazine of Delta Airlines, has as their cover story for March some interviews and photos with some of the folks who work in the West Wing, including the president himself. The photos aren’t much to look at (they’re portraits mostly in the EEOB), but the interviews have some pleasant human interest about the pace, the treasure of small moments, and favorite rooms. Deputy Chief of Staff Mona Sutphen says the Kennedy Garden. Deputy Assistant Danielle Crutchfield says the West Wing corridors, where the photos on the walls change frequently. Photographer Lawrence Jackson says the Palm Room. Director of Online Programs Jesse Lee says the Diplomatic Room. And the president gives a total cop-out answer (where Michelle and the kids are).
Man up and say “the bathroom with the sports page.”
Former First Lady Barbara Bush has been hospitalized in Texas for tests after feeling ill for some days. Best wishes to her and her family.
The White House Flickr feed has some more new photos in and around the White House, including some rarely-seen offices.
Also, I’ve done another search of the Library of Congress holdings and expect to add a few more vintage photos to the grounds and overview pages.
I’ve change the front page to a picture of JFK, Jr. in the Rose Garden around 1962.
I’ve changed the front page for January. It’s a photo of the original Press Briefing Room created by Richard Nixon that I first used back in the fall of 2007.
Also, I’ve changed the menus a little. This puts Air Force 1 and the vice-president’s residence pages on the Home menu and moves About, Q&A, and Site Map over to Overview. However, I haven’t extended the change to every page yet, just the main ones.
My resolution for the new year is to rebuild the site in a format that is easier to maintain in this way, probably using PHP rather than straight HTML, or possibly using a wiki. This would break any links that outside sites have to the current pages, which is something I hate, but I should be able to figure out some automated way of making sure it degrades gracefully (automatic redirects, etc.).
I’m open to any ideas about layout changes. Since I designed the site in mid-2006 (3-and-a-half years ago), the collection of photos for each room has ballooned enormously. I hate galleries of images that are displayed in separate pages or pop-ups, but loading all the images can be tedious.
At last, with the fantastic help of Peter Sharkey, I’ve created a page for Air Force One. You may recall that there is already a page for the 3D model of Air Force One, but the new page includes a full history and photos of all the different versions of the airplanes of the chief executive, from Sacred Cow to SAM 29000.
Don’t forget that you can keep an eye on Pete’s work on Wingnut’s Workings.
EDIT: Weirdly, I happened to be watching Stephen Fry in America episode 7 (because I’m cultured, you know) and he visited, among other places, the Air Force moth ball facility in the desert. I immediately picked out one of the 707-based Air Force One aircraft among the planes, altho the tail number was obscured by sun.
The White House photostream has put up some photos of the Christmas decor and events. There are some wonderful images of performers, guests, and ornaments for the holidays.
Also, I just noticed an image of the president getting a vaccination in the White House doctor’s clinic, a space we haven’t seen for quite a long time.
The White House has released a great video showing off the Sit Room.
Thanks to Colton, and also to Pete, who has already done some captures.
I’ve changed the front page to a nice photo of Obama walking thru a corridor in the West Wing with a gift-wrapped present. It’s by Pete Souza, of course, from back in October, but seems appropriately Christmasy.
Visitor “The Subtle Knife” points out that the VP’s office in the West Wing has been repainted blue. Quite a bold choice.
A couple apparently crashed the White House state dinner the other night, held in a fantastic tent on the south lawn that I think the Bushes used a couple of times. I don’t typically blog about news events, even as they pertain to the White House, but I just wanted to note a couple of things about the coverage.
- It’s a slow news day, so anything of national interest is going to make headlines.
- Even proper party guests don’t get into the White House without being screened for weapons.
- People who represent a serious security risk would not have gotten in.
- That was a beautiful dress.
I regard this as less a breach of security than a breach of state protocol, but the couple will obviously face some serious questioning, and shrugging it off as a harmless prank isn’t going to cut it. I see a public apology and community service in their future.