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Martha Washington’s Head and the Creative Chaos of AI


The future is now.

Big changes are coming! Plodding Through The Presidents has joined the Airwave Media podcast network, home to amazing history podcasts like History That Doesn’t Suck, Queens Podcast, Southern Gothic, My History Can Beat Up Your Politics, Ben Franklin’s World, and many more! We’re beyond stoked to bring our unique blend of engaging, deeply-researched storytelling and humor to the network whose motto is “constantly curious.”

We’re also changing up our format a bit. Starting February 13th, 2024—just in time for Presidents’ Day in an election year!—we’ll be moving from the short seasons we’ve done in the past to an ongoing biweekly format, so you’ll get more Plodding every two weeks. Our new trailer just came out today, so head over to your favorite podcast listening app and make sure you’re subscribed. Or, you can listen to all of our episodes right here from our site plodpod.com.

Upcoming episodes feature some of the mysteries of George Washington’s Mount Vernon and an interview with H.W. Brands about his new book Founding Partisans: Hamilton, Madison, Jefferson, Adams and the Brawling Birth of American Politics. And our first new episode, debuting February 13th, will be a little different than anything we’ve ever done. It might just change your life. (Results not guaranteed or even typical.)

Along with these changes, I decided it was time to update our cover art. The previous cover art featured a photo of a G.I. Joe George Washington action figure eating popcorn, a photo I first took ten years ago for a post called 10 Things George Washington Loved. That picture has served us well, but I felt it was time for a change.

Our original podcast cover art. RIP.

I still loved the idea of an action figure of George Washington, but I wanted something that conveyed that the podcast features two voices, so I had the idea to find an action figure of Martha Washington. It turns out, there are a lot of Martha Washington dolls out there, but none that really captured what I was going for.

I found a Martha Washington doll kit on eBay that came with a porcelain head, and I thought maybe I could use just the head and put it on one of our daughter’s Barbie dolls.

Martha Washington’s porcelain head

Work like this would require patience and finesse. I used a hammer. Somehow that failed, so I used some super glue.

This is how the Martha Washington Frankenstein came out.

Nothin’ a little retouchin’ couldn’t fix.

I thought maybe I could edit out the jagged neck or cover it with lacy ribbon or something. But eventually I realized, the project simply wasn’t coming together like I hoped, and I didn’t have the time or resources to achieve my vision myself.

So, full disclosure, I turned to AI. Artificial intelligence.

After countless attempts and editing with multiple apps, I developed the image used here:

I think it succeeds at saying our podcast is professional yet irreverent. And it hints at a male and female voice, and suggests that we’re entertaining. I’m happy with it for now.

And I’d like to share some of the failed attempts here.

From the beginning I wanted to stick with the action figures eating popcorn theme.

To be fair, this Martha figure is an accurate representation of what I look like when I eat popcorn. Right down to my popcorn necklace, thank you very much.

 

We want to think humans are more creative than computers, but no human would have thought, “You know what this picture needs? A little blond baby growing out of Martha’s pouch.”

At one point I expanded my vision to consider that maybe the art doesn’t have to feature action figures. Maybe a painting is the way to go?

When you see it. (My prompt mentioned Martha, George, popcorn, and a couch. But AI knew what the picture needed.)

 

Because I bring the stories to Jess in each episode, I wondered what it might look like if George were telling Martha a secret. Apparently it looks like they’re Lady and the Tramping some nose candy.

 

I think I was really on to something here.

 

Martha Washington had some pet parrots, so I thought it might be nice to add a parrot to the mix for a little authenticity and because we have several episodes about presidential pets. This is what parrots look like, right?

 

I’m pretty sure this is what Jess feels like when we record at night.

 

Does Mount Vernon send out holiday cards? I think I have a contender.

Ultimately, I decided I wanted to go back to the action figure route.

“Pardon me, ma’am, but your hand is a chicken.”

I can’t remember why I didn’t use this one.

 

I promise the podcast episodes themselves are 100% human-created, but now I’m starting to reconsider.

Join us for our brand new relaunch February 13th!

 

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2 Comments

  1. Carla Garner
    February 22, 2024 / 6:18 pm

    I thought the speedboat one was pretty good, but the two of them in bed is the best of the rejects! 😀

    • Howard Dorre
      Author
      February 22, 2024 / 6:21 pm

      It’s pretty great!

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