Bird Presidents #16: Albatross Lincoln

Albatross Lincoln

Slavery is founded in the selfishness of birdkind’s nature — opposition to it, in his love of justice.
~ Albatross Lincoln

Abraham Lincoln; the albatross, no known subspecies of which wears a beard and hat but there may at this late date be things yet beyond the ken of avian science.

What would I write about Abe Lincoln? You know about him. I had to skim through pages and pages and pages of quotes looking for which one to use; he has a bigger wikipedia footprint than probably the ten preceding presidents combined. Civil War. Great Emancipator. Shot to death at (spoiler alert) the theater. It’s Lincoln. There’s a movie out.

To that point, actually, this one has actually had me a little nervous — you could say it’s been a bit of an albatross, ho ho ho &c. — because people know Lincoln. He’s got popular iconography. The beard! The hat! The beardless chin, sometimes! Even people who can’t draw a map to the gas station can draw you something on a napkin that everyone else at the bar will recognized as Honest Abe.

So there’s a kind of pressure here that’s was’t there with e.g. Moorhen Van Buren. “Oh, I can’t wait to see how you do the moorhen,” has said exactly no one to date. And I recognize I’m being neurotic but that doesn’t make the neurosis go away, and it actually gave me some pause this morning when I sat down to work on it, like: what if it’s not good enough? What if it’s not Lincolnian enough? What if the little hat I draw on the bird doesn’t look just so?


I have been recently reading a small book called Art & Fear, on the suggestion of my immensely talented internet friend Brad “Brad Sucks” Turcotte, and it’s very good and in part about exactly this sort of thing. And the main lesson I have taken so far from it is to shut up and just do a thing, which is a policy I’ve always endorsed but not so consistently applied so it is nice to be reminded of it by a sensible book by smart people.

And so, here it is: a drawing of Lincoln as a bird that I just shut up and did, and it’s good enough (I don’t actually dislike it) and I can now move on to president number 17 in the series instead of sitting around worrying myself to death about whether this one is The Best Lincoln Bird I Could Possibly Make. Forward progress, momentum, iterating on a useful form! That’s the ticket.

Also, on a personal note, my strongest association with “albatross” is neither the bird nor the metaphorical weight but the giant flying fortress thing that you had to beat at the end of Bionic Commando right before your final confrontation with Resurrected Hitler. It was hard to blow up Hitler in his helicopter, but beating the Albatross first was definitely harder.

Author: Josh Millard

I manage and help moderate the community website MetaFilter, where I go by "cortex"; in my spare time I get up to all sorts of creative nerdery on the internet and in Portland, Oregon.

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