Rep. Traficant’s Bangin’ GIF

Rep. Traficant - Bangin' Away in DCWay  back in May 2001, I spoke at a forum hosted by American University on the topic of Congress on the Internet. For my remarks, I humbly submitted my suggesgtion for what I believed to have been the  Top Ten Milestones for Congress on the Internet up to that point.

And #4 on my list was “Animations Abound: Waving flags, flying letters, & Rep. Traficant ‘Bangin’ Away’”. The Traficant reference came from this blurb I wrote in a March 1997 online update to my book, The Hill on the NetHere’s what I wrote;

I wondered who would do it first. Which member of Congress would go beyond the standard official portrait on their home page and use animation to show themselves in action; smiling widely, giving a thumbs up, or offering a virtual handshake. I guess it should come as no surprise that a member who is well known for his animated floor speeches would not be happy with a gif that sat still. Representative James Traficant of Ohio has the first animated photo that I’ve seen on a member of Congress’ home page, and it’s a hoot.

The animation, shown at right, shows Rep. Traficant wielding a piece of 2×4, like a batter warming up to swing. On the board is his motto, “Bangin’ Away in DC’. He was well known for his outrageous one-minute speeches, which often included his appeal to ‘beam me up’. He was also well known for his uniquely difficult to describe hairstyle. (You can find some of his finest moments here and here).

Traficant was expelled from Congress in 2002, only the second member of Congress to suffer that fate since the Civil War, following his conviction for accepting bribes, making congressional staff work on his farm and boat, witness tampering, destroying evidence, and filing false tax returns. He served seven years in prison for these crimes. He died yesterday following a tractor accident on his Ohio farm.

Rest in Peace Rep. Traficant, and a hat tip to whomever it was on your staff that created that bangin’ animated GIF when they weren’t cleaning your boat.

Dancing Janet RenoIt was in 2002, when I was working on Janet Reno’s gubernatorial campaign, that I produced my most memorable political animated GIF (and for the record, count me in the ‘Hard G Pronunciation’ camp). The campaign had smartly embraced the SNL spoof of Reno, a bit titled ‘Janet Reno’s Dance Party’. The Reno campaign hosted fundraisers under the same name, and agreed to my suggestion that we animate a dancing Janet for our website’s promotion of the events. Somehow, it seems to me anyway, that my jerky attempt at animation mimicked well how most might imagine Janet Reno awkwardly dancing. (Coincidentally, Traficant was no Reno fan, having once belittled her as “a good prospect to run for governor of Beijing“)

And another hat tip the humble animated GIF, which fell out of use, but is now enjoying a wonderful resurgence. If you’re interested in learning more, this history from PBS titled Animated GIFs: The Birth of a Medium is well worth the seven minutes. Enjoy!

Book Review: The Great Agnostic

The Great Agnostic: Robert Ingersoll and American FreethoughtThe Great Agnostic: Robert Ingersoll and American Freethought by Susan Jacoby

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I first learned about the American politician, orator and ‘great agnostic’ Robert Ingersoll after reading a couple of books about American Freethinkers back in 2005 and 2006. I similarly enjoyed this biography about him, a book which now has many dog eared pages for particularly noteworthy quotes or passages. Among my favorites from Ingersoll is his creed,

Happiness is the only good.
The time to be happy is now.
The place to be happy is here.
The way to be happy is to make others so.

It’s opportune that I finished this book while near Peoria, I will try and pay a visit to his statue in Glen Oak Park while I’m here, and must later visit his resting place in Arlington National Cemetery. Robert, you have a standing invite to attend ‘Chris’ Afterlife Dream Party of Historical Figures’. I hope you’ll be there, oh wait… nevermind.

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UPDATE: We made our visit to Glen Oak Park and paid homage to Ingersoll!