This isn’t normally something that I do, but caitlinfaith tagged me and Caitlin is awesome and is one of my favorite Tumblr buddies, so here we go.
Name: Anthony Bergen
Selfie: This is a photo of me after reading half of the questions that I receive:
FAVORITES (du jour)
Food: Pizza. I’m 34 years old, and this isn’t going to change. Ever.
Drink: Hi, my name is Anthony, and I am a Pepsi-holic.
Book: Fraternity: A Journey in Search of Five Presidents by Bob Greene (BOOK | KINDLE)
Author: Sam Shepard. I am a historian and 99% of what I read is non-fiction, but Sam Shepard is my favorite writer, whether it is his short stories, his poetry, or his plays. I say this nearly every time that I mention him, but Sam Shepard is a national treasure. If you’ve never read a Sam Shepard book, pick up a collection of his short stories and poetry, and then see how quickly it takes you to go back to the bookstore and buy the rest of his work.
Song: This depends on the day or my mood, but I’ll always love "Nuthin’ But A G Thang" by Dr. Dre & Snoop Dogg, "Triumph" by Wu-Tang, the "I Got 5 On It" Remix by Luniz (feat. Spice 1, E-40, Richie Rich, Shock G & Dru Down), "Ms. Fat Booty" by Mos Def, "Passin’ Me By" by The Pharcyde, everything by 2Pac ("Never Had a Friend Like Me" and "Blasphemy" are my two favorite ‘Pac songs), and that’s just a sampling of my favorites from hip-hop. I feel wrong leaving so many songs out, particularly anything from Jay-Z. Two songs that some of my readers might be surprised about my appreciation for are "Sleep Walk" by Santo & Johnny, and Radiohead’s “No Surprises”, which I wasn’t familiar with until 2009 despite the fact that it was released in 1997.
Movie: The Assassination of Jesse James By the Coward Robert Ford. I love everything about the film — the story, the visual beauty, the musical score — everything. I don’t normally re-watch movies or television show and I don’t re-read books, but I feel an almost physical need to watch this film again at least once a year, even though it’s damn near three hours long.
TV Show: The West Wing. Caitlin had the same answer in her post, so good work, Caitlin!
Band: The Wu-Tang Clan. For those who are not familiar, this particular group of musicians includes “The RZA, the GZA, the Ol’ Dirty Bastard, Inspectah Deck, Raekwon the Chef, U-God, Ghostface Killah, and…the M-E-T-H-O-D Man.” (And, for completists, Masta Killa and Cappadonna.)
Solo Artist: 2Pac.
Place: Capitol Park in Sacramento, California during the magic hour.
Subject: History. I hope this isn’t a shocking revelation.
Sport: Does professional wrestling count? Because, if so, professional wrestling. Otherwise, soccer and basketball.
Male Actor: I don’t really have a favorite actor that comes to mind — Johnny Depp, I guess?
Female Actor: Again, I don’t necessarily have a favorite. Meryl Streep is the easy answer because she’s always incredible in everything, but I don’t know if she’s my “favorite”. Let’s just go with her since I’ve spent way too much time on this question already.
Siblings: One younger brother. Three significantly younger half-sisters.
Dream Job: Chief of Staff/Chief political strategist to an executive branch politician. That doesn’t mean it would have to be at the federal level (President, Vice President, Cabinet secretary). I might even prefer working for a Governor.
Political Ideology: Liberal/Democrat, possibly bordering on Socialist. The reason why the previous question’s answer won’t ever come true is because declaring yourself as a “Fidel Castro/Che Guevara /Camilo Cienfuegos Democrat” can be troublesome.
Religion: Atheist. Wish I could believe, but my mind doesn’t allow me to. If it means anything, I love Pope Francis!
Languages: English. I can read Latin, understand a good amount of it by ear, but I can’t speak it or write purely in Latin myself (I can translate Latin to English). I can read quite a bit of Spanish, understand enough while listening to recognize what I’m being told, but I am a poor Spanish-speaker myself.
Reason Behind URL: When I first started Dead Presidents, I didn’t really have a game plan behind what I was going to use it for and had no idea that it would gain a following. Originally, I was going to post essays about how each of the Presidents died. I also thought it was a catchy and memorable title, and it tied in to my love and appreciation of hip-hop.
Reason Behind Icon: One of my fans (sorry, that sounds pretentious…one of my “readers”) customized the Presidential Seal to reference Tumblr.
Tracked tags: None.
Why You Joined: Honestly, I started it as a strictly personal place to write and archive essays about the Presidents and Presidency — initially, as I mentioned, planning to write essays focused on each President’s death, funeral, and lasting legacy. I had no idea that there would be an audience for my writing about Presidential history, especially since I definitely have a wordy, longform style. When I started, I simply liked Tumblr’s interface and basically decided to use it as an online word processor. Eventually, I expanded on the variety of aspects of the Presidents/Presidency that I wanted to write about, and started gaining a significant number of followers. Once I started answering questions from readers, it really took off, and the opportunity to capitalize on the blog’s popularity financially presented itself, and I took advantage of that because I am, at heart, a red-blooded, capitalistic, opportunistic American consumer with high hopes of being able to become fully materialistic. USA! USA! USA!
First URL: It’s always been deadpresidents, and it always will be.
Number of Blogs: I maintained a personal blog, which is still up and never updated (anthonybergen), and my real-life friend, Keith (dividedbyframes), and I used our blogs for evil instead of good by trying to write funny shit. Some of it worked, some of it didn’t, but for about a year-and-a-half, my personal blog was actually far more popular than deadpresidents. Unfortunately, Keith and I eventually realized that we had to grow up because he got married and had an adorable daughter, and I recognized that Doris Kearns Goodwin and David McCullough probably didn’t have a personal blog apart from their normal websites where they did things like post their friend’s contact information and encourage people to send that friend explicit photographs of animal genitals and/or suggest that he was staying at a hotel in hopes of meeting another gentleman for sex (and sharing his contact information and immediate location) rather than staying at said hotel because he was actually out of town for work. Sorry, Keith. Anyway, I really had nothing to say on my personal blog that I couldn’t say here to a far bigger audience. I also started a companion blog to Dead Presidents called Dead Popes (deadpopes), and would love to have the time and energy to post updates there, but I can’t even clear out the questions in my Dead Presidents inbox.
This is where I end this exercise by tagging all of my other friends, but that would require “other friends”. I don’t want to talk about it, okay? Even if I don’t have “other friends” or “many friends” or “a friend”, I do have a lot of followers, and that helps to filter out the sadness and fill the emptiness with…something? Right? Am I sharing too much? Anyway, if you are one of those followers and want to do this, consider yourself tagged. Oh, and totaldrivel (who I’ve been Tumblr buddies with from almost the beginning), existentialandshit (my favorite Guamanian), overworked-wino (my favorite Jewish girl smart enough to escape Texas), and the recently-married jheath and irish-mexi (if they aren’t too exhausted from their grueling honeymoon). Or don’t do it. After all, as Giovanni Pico della Mirandola wrote in his Oration On the Dignity of Man in 1486 (as I’m sure you all recall), “thou mayest fashion thyself in whatever shape thou prefer.” He also said, “Thou shalt have the power to degenerate into the lower forms of life, which are brutish” and “Thou shalt have the power, out of thy soul’s judgment, to be reborn into the highest forms, which are divine.” But let’s not get ahead of ourselves. It’s just an internet meme.
Really? This might be the strangest question or request that I’ve received (no disrespect). It just sounds like something that would interest absolutely nobody. Plus, “snarky”? When have I ever been “snarky” (I’ve never liked that word for some reason) or even a bit of a smart-ass when answering questions? I’m always very respectful and straight-forward. Even kind and gentle, if I say so myself.
Anyway, yes, I’ll grant you your odd request even though I felt like a total douche (unquestionably warranted) taking a self-portrait of myself. This is how I look when answering dumb questions:
I would like to take a moment to confirm that the rumors are true: Yes, today, January 20th, is my birthday (or, as the cool kids like to call it, my “birfday”). I appreciate all of the nice birthday messages that I’ve already received through Tumblr, Facebook, and/or e-mail. I’d also like to compliment President Obama for cleverly (and graciously) deciding to be officially sworn in for his second term today at noon in a low-key event and postponing the ceremonial Inauguration Day activities until tomorrow so that he would not be overshadowed by my very special day.
Now, I’m sure that many of you are looking at your computer or your phone right now and thinking, “Goddamn, I really love Anthony Bergen. How could I possibly pay back my all-time favorite Presidential historian with a birthday gift that would show my appreciation for everything that he’s ever done for me?” Don’t worry — many people feel the same exact way today, so you are not alone.
However, I am more than happy to share my stories with all of you and your support is the best possible gift that I could ever receive. So, instead, I want you to do something for yourself today. Instead of the $50-to-$500 that you intended to spend on me (and with good reason), I want you to spend $6.99 on yourself — the very best $6.99 you’ll ever spend. For my birthday, I want you to buy YOURSELF a copy of my recently-released book, Tributes and Trash Talk: What Our Presidents Said About Each Other, a candid look at how each of our Presidents was thought of by their peers in the world’s most exclusive fraternity. Over 350 pages of brilliant, poignant, funny, mean-spirited, contradictory, and petty quotes by American Presidents about every President from George Washington to Barack Obama, including Confederate President Jefferson Davis. For just $6.99, not only can you get a copy of my book instantly, but it’s a perfect opportunity to treat yourself on my birthday.
You can get Tributes and Trash Talk immediately and start reading it this morning. If you have a Kindle, iPad, or iPhone, my book is available right now via Amazon. Those of you who don’t have an actual Kindle device can download Amazon’s Kindle app for your iPad or iPhone for FREE and then read my book. For those who have a NOOK, Tributes and Trash Talk is available just as instantly and at the same low price of $6.99 via Barnes & Noble.
I’d have the most wonderful birthday if my wonderful readers (that would be you) bought themselves a copy of Tributes and Trash Talk today! I’d love to see 20 books sold today. Get yourself a copy of the book, for your sake and for mine. You won’t be disappointed!
I sincerely doubt any of my readers know or care about the neighborhood I grew up in, so this question is probably REALLY local.
Yes, I was born in Sacramento (Sutter Memorial Hospital represent!) and I grew up in North Sac — the Del Paso Heights neighborhood, specifically. It certainly wasn’t the nicest neighborhood in town and I kind of hate you for being from Granite Bay (which is really, really, really nice and wealthy for those who aren’t from Northern California), but it wasn’t the Garden Blocc either (that’s the place you REALLY don’t want to go if you’re in Sacramento). When I was an adult and out on my own, I mostly lived in the Natomas area and near Fulton/El Camino/Marconi/Howe Ave before I left California in 2010.
As for the last part of your question, I think one thing is certain: a person like me who deeply studies the Presidency, the Presidents, Presidential politics, and all aspects of United States History simply exudes street cred. There’s nothing more gangsta than a comprehensive understanding of the American Presidency. Right?