New Orleans Branding Different Here

Roof Copy
Roof Copylines
Water is Rising
Water is Rising

“It’s New Orleans. You’re Different Here.” Or are you? How does one ‘brand’ a place that has just been devastated? Where does it even start? Does the process of design or visual communication even matter at this scale of suffering? To the people of New Orleans–who depend on tourism after major economic shifts in the 50s and 70s–it does.

After the physical devastation of Hurricane Katrina, the ensuing media maelstrom resulted in a tarnish settling over the image of the South’s multi-faceted and multi-cultured gem. So the problem is then very specifically a branding one. The people of New Orleans and Louisiana would take care of the physical space. Peter Mayer Advertising would help handle the image with a multi-faceted campaign explained in part here.

Though this is not a full look at the incredible body of work Peter Mayer produced for its city it brings to mind some intriguing questions about the role branding places in defining place, or redefining it. Commercial art has not ever been shy about its role in manufacturing image. When combined with the discipline of design and the psychology of Peter Mayer’s public relations team, the city of New Orleans was beneficiary to a positive aspect of branding. A real physical city with real and tangible and hurting people needed real help to bring the tourism dollars back.

You’re Different Here Marque

I have heard arguments on the impossibility of branding something as public and multi-variabled as a modern city. In this case, we see undeniable evidence of success. Though we in America will forever remember the travesty of Hurricane Katrina in 2005, some songs ultimately go unsung when things are being rebuilt. In this case, New Orleans is still standing and probably stronger than ever. The city’s people are survivors. The campaign to keep the economy going through tourism dollars was not only a success in branding, but also a shining example of the benefits of commercial art in our society.

I was privy to a lecture fully explaining this body of work through my local Pensacola Bay Area Advertising Federation. Though I understand the ethical implications of generating this type of work for something as ephemeral as a city and its people, it was an incredible experience to witness firsthand the effect the work could have. The potential for art and creative thinking to influence people around the world into visiting a specific region is no small task. It was a pleasure to more fully empathize with the reasoning behind attempting such a task, but also in grasping that ‘re-building’ a city is not always about plywood and nails. Our cities are complex. Keeping them going often requires complex systems of communication and influence that have a global reach. Who better to attempt this mammoth task than a local and passionate agency with Peter Mayer?

Follow their work here. They’ve grown with their city. What type of relationship do you have with yours?



The Savage Grid

the ethereal ideas of Milton
and heartache of millions…
where leave s        do      nt tur                 n
and skies don’t shine.

but constant change
lies about illusions of a mirage
games about wars
where fac     ts    tu          rn          fict     io                    n
and science becomes religion.

become extended
into McLuhan’s wake and burial
mounds for dreams
and realities          ho        ld      t               ur                 ned
hands of electric aliens.

Journeys taken seated
Where Life becomes logic
love becomes come
and poe        sy try to          turn

to Great       Pyramids.
A small pumpkin

a high fort     he                fa           ll
right    through a mind’s glass                            sky.
Welcome to now or tur         n to the                         n or whe          n?

my her               his         she’s       t        urn

What is Reality?

What is its form? Is it context-sensitive? What function does it perform? Is it collective or firmly rooted in the psyche of the individual? Can we see its grid lines? Is it possible to manufacture such a thing from ideas into physical form? Are cities representation of it? Is money? Is language? Is love?

Is it possible that schizophrenics merely experience more reality than the average mind is capable? Is it possible that burning bushes really do speak? Is it palpable to think that entire systems of belief–including the ones we hold most dear–are based on misrepresentations of the physical world, lies if you will? What makes one lie better than another? Why do some become ‘memes’ passed on not simply from one generation of memes to another, but from one physical and genetic generation to another?

Reality is not a faith-based endeavor. Whether you choose to believe in its happenings or not, it is there. It can be touched or experienced through our other senses and then translated into data for our comrades in experience to share or to refute. Somewhere along the way in this extremely complex process, something happens to certain experiences. Perhaps a mind-altering substance is ingested. Perhaps there are certain disturbances in the force lines of the world that are refracted and reflected when two specific people come together–or love, sometimes even lust.

I believe that these moments of experience are always framed by choice. That in this sense, reality is one hundred percent manufactured. Reality, like the ever-famous Mother Nature is an uncaring force which cares not for our choices even if it allows them to take place within the confines of its physical space and boundaries. Reality is not the tree in the forest. It makes sounds whether we are there to hear them or not. Perception is not requisite for this force and neither is choice, though our experience within reality is often determined by our choices.

Many complicate life by alluding to irreality. Newton famously balanced the world of calculus with imaginary numbers. This is not coincidence. The only way to make some things real is by belief in them. Extended into a faith in them, an even more complex choice is made. People will die for this faith in the imaginary. Consciously choose to do so–sometimes en masse–simply because others believe in a separate irreality.

And yet, in mathematics, it is this very irreality which allows us to send satellites into orbit, or fly to the moon, or overcome the overwhelming force of gravity to enter space. It is not a belief in them, but the articulation of a separate reality that brings new realities into existence. For example, if we began to practice various psychic things like ‘remote viewing’ on a grand scale, what would happen? Would the grand practice of such things we think are not real prove otherwise? Why is this so radical an idea if billions of people every single day practice a belief in a grand, unformed and all-encompassing force that knows all, sees all, and is everywhere at once? Why is it so radical to think that the true power has lain in our own minds all along? That any and all form of belief or faith stems from the human mind…

Reality is…what we make of it. If we want more, we can have it. If we decide to, we can continue being people PacMans. We can keep eating, consuming, believing in ideas like money and God, all the while ignoring the amazing things all around us–one another. We can kill for having separate beliefs, or we can disregard the beliefs that do not assist the evolution of the specie. And focus more on the ones that do. We are the only specie that can articulate our own destiny, and by belief in it, make it happen. Instead of focusing on today so much, we can focus on the 3rd and 4th steps. Or at least delegate a portion of the population to do so.

Reality is manmade. It is full of color and our desires and passions and beauty and hate and death and fear. It is both terrible and wonderful simultaneously. It is impossible. It is possible. Reality is human.

Edges and Thresholds

Egret taking flight
Down on Palafox Pier, the ink steps of Thoth…

Close to the edge of the free world, but not quite in the middle. Tallahassee is a three hour jump. Gainesville five. Orlando seven or so. Miami a good eleven. So close to the Keys relatively speaking, but most don’t realize how big Florida can be when you’re in Pensacola. Five hours, another planet. Eleven, another galaxy–in Miami.

Not all the way extreme. We have Joe Scarborough, after all. The conservative pedant that prefers money over pride. He who closely represents the values of the Irish and then mocks them by having a fair lass on his show to frown on now and again. She gets to introduce what’s next, though…

Seven hours from the land of the rat and her megaphones of a thousand languages.  Not completely fundamentalist. Not completely mono-cultural. Though it is full of a majority of the superstitious Christians for which our country is so well known. Not even close to anything intellectual, in the traditional sense, or remotely liberal, unless you mean our choice of footwear.

Not to say good things don’t come from bad systems–public education, aside. Not to say that generalities are everything. Or test scores retain meaning to the average morning Joe in Pensacola. Because they don’t. Because I’m writing. You’re reading. Things are changing. There is something in the wind.

We have Vinyl Music Hall. Downtown is alive with a gamut of sounds now, ranging from Punk to Hip Hop back to electronic on Wednesday nights at Seville. Look at the line-ups for De Luna Fest. Did you see who’s coming to Hangout? Does this mean that the business community will keep going on their current path of shaking things up?

With a liberal sprinkling of the remote and a pedantic crowd of 4 or so intellectuals that haven’t done anything or been anywhere liberal, Pensacola moves forward. Guns abound still, but the police are lazy unless you’re black or armed or wearing a hoody (not Pensacola, I know). Maybe it’s becoming less about who you know and which side of a bridge your family comes from nowadays in this town that once seemed asleep. Perhaps the business relationships based on an incestual scratching of backs and returns are fading and a new vibrance has arrived. Perhaps gallery nights are evidence of this. Perhaps our youthful mayor being seen at a G. Love concert is parcel to this.

The beaches are gorgeous here. But there’s more. And more to come.

Pensacola. Since 1559 approx. give or take.

Like so many cities, Pensacola is experiencing a revival. This citizen hopes to help in his own little way…

le concepteur gran


I think not. I think. Therefore, I am. Therefore He is?

Living in the greater Pensacola, Florida area is not like living in other areas of the South though I have often heard much of my home region of this country labeled vanilla. A strange friend lingers in the backs of many citizens’ minds.

This whisper is hypnotizing, like a close-up of Kylie Minogue’s lips moving around the warm, wet hole of her mouth. The teeth aren’t exactly straight, but somehow the apparition is beautiful. Thom Yorke’s contra-vogue gifts also come to mind. Pensacola has either the look of an angel with crooked teeth, or a cherubic voice on a wilted English Iris.

So who is this silhouette imprinted on the zeitgeist of the local populace? What is the constant factor that ties most together? We don’t have the rat like Orlando or the fallic capital in Tallahassee. We have an even bigger myth for sale.

We have the churches. All brands. Souls for sale. Preachers in Cadillacs. Evangelists at streetlights brandishing fancy leather bibles like clubs and swords. These people squelch science in this city; they attempt to squeeze the culture, crush the music, the art. We have Dr. Dino, Mr. Kent Hovind (I refuse to call him Doctor). And then we have the mainstays, those that vote how their preacher tells them. Those that propagate the myths, continue the same faiths their fathers and grandfathers had before them. Those that don’t mean any harm, but keep the status quo machine moving.

Perhaps I am the mutation. Perhaps I am the one that’s odd or strange. With my decision to verbalize my lack of faith and consciously fight for reason and beauty and truth in life on a daily basis, I could lose friends. My atheism is, I think the best choice for an honest life. I hold no hatred in my heart for any man, but merely for the creations which hinder his growth as a specie. There was something the ancients had that we do not. I believe it was a belief in ourselves. Perhaps it was given to us by something greater than ourselves. Perhaps that something lies within our minds and not without as some external bearded tripartite giver of laws and judge of the earthly. Perhaps the earthly is the divine. And perhaps our lack of faith in ourselves is what allows us to continue on our current path of self-destruction.

Perhaps willing a ghost into existence is the idea that should be more radical. Perhaps there are problems which surround us that are more demanding of our attention than those that do not at all. Perhaps the ghosts of the South are the ones that haunt us most.

I will continue this path. I have made my choice. I will not believe in an afterlife when I have problems to work on in this one. I hope to make some friends along the way, especially in a place where I am the alien…

What Comes After Sundays on Sir-van-teez?

Good Morning image
And a very merry un-morning to you.

It’s intriguing to me how quickly we label things. The passing of one minute into the next hour equals an entirely new day. Fresh and bright with the prospects of forgetting and remembering anew in the same timespace. And yet, this label doesn’t change the night. Nor does it protect and honor the day. Putting everything a day means into a little box neither improves its inherent ‘day-hood’ or creates a better space for that time to occupy. Nor a bigger place in our stories.

My best friend noted today as she began work in China, “people don’t seem to move to a schedule here.” I had to laugh a little because I’m not sure how much of a schedule I follow some days, or why I would want to on others. Then again, I live in the South, in the heart of the Bible Belt and near the liver of the Sun Belt. (It amazes me how the two work so closely together some days. There I go again, labels.) So I suppose most think I should be moving with all the schedule of molasses dripping down a piece of pine on a cold day. Or a cool bourbon down a parched throat in the unbearable summer.

If a schedule were something tangible, some craftsman of reality, how could it be that we would all have the same version everywhere in the world? Postmodernism teaches us that any minute difference in language or culture or psychological space creates a separation in narrative. For instance, the Spanish siesta. This part of Florida owes a great deal to Spanish culture, and yet as slow as we move, we have not taken on the beautiful nap. We both slur our words in a somewhat pleasant way, we both prefer sweet drinks over bitter, and we even have some of their words lining our avenues. Why not rest our big hearts a few hours in the heat of the day? Perhaps it would do this bloated liver some good.

Many of us take on the libation-enriched night-owl lifestyle of the current generation. We are in constant communication and in constant connection with much of the rest of the world–friends, Romans, other-countrymen. We work, we eat, some of us sleep. And then, we’re up again for coffee.

We remain in a constant state of multi-task on a very constant basis. Our play is often blended so perfectly with our work that the two are much one and the same. No time for a lounge in the hammock for 90 minutes around 3. Instead, let’s take b12. It feels like we rested. There are entire industries built around avoiding this natural instinct to reach the bottom of a sine curve and work our way back up again. Just ‘five more hours’ and I’ll be fine…

When did we forget about the value of a few hours rest and reflection? We take on other values from our mother cultures readily, but perhaps it is us who has a strange concept of ‘schedule.’ After all, China is quickly becoming a dominant force in the world. Their manufacturing has become the source for much of the world’s physical goods. Perhaps their concept of time is the right one. And ours is the one failing us.

It is much the same way we have a street called Cervantes here, but refer to it as Sir-van-teez. Or Tarragonna has become Terra-go-nuh.

If life is a narrative then I leave the reader with a few questions to help build their own. Have you ever vacationed with someone that planned every single second of your time that is supposed to be spent ‘relaxing?’ Or how about going to a new place with no plan at all? What are you doing for dinner tomorrow? And what is happening on Thursday at 845am?

If you can’t tell already, I rather enjoy having time unfold before me. I have often found myself at odds with individuals who allow time’s narrow hands to rule their lives. I have no opinion on which works better, though I think the choice decides much of the flow in our narratives and which characters we will meet as we flip the pages. What comes after Sundays? What doesn’t?