Tag Archives: cicada

Why ‘Government’ & ‘Creative’ Aren’t Usually Found in the Same Sentence

In a county known for cul-de-sacs, the logo is all right angles

In a county known for cul-de-sacs, the logo is all right angles

Prince William County, VA — where I live — has an official seal that’s been in use since 1854. But that seal — or logo, to use up–to–date terminology — just wasn’t happenin’ for the county staff. Staff evidently felt a balance scale held over a bunch of tobacco leaves just screams 19th century. Plus the tobacco is a big problem. Who wants a logo that can only be displayed 25 feet from a building entrance and never in a bus shelter?

So the staff hired a firm based in the People’s Republic of Maryland to design a modern logo for the county. Something the economic development staff could use in their marketing efforts. A new design in keeping with the county’s prosperity, potential for job creation and spectacular rush hour gridlock.

There were probably a few simple guidelines for the designer on what not to include. No stars and bars allowed and no cotton. If the design incorporates a Civil War reference, the symbol must be limited to either a nurse or a female impersonating a soldier, preferably unarmed, or maybe wounded and suffering from PTSD. The staff certainly wouldn’t want the public to think they’re in favor of guns or violence.

Other than that, the county has a wide range of sites and events that have shaped its history. To name just a few: two major Civil War battles, Quantico Marine Base, the largest number of foreclosed homes in VA, the only Northern Virginia county to take up an anti–illegal ordinance (some overlap in the last two), a shooting site from the Beltway Sniper rampage, John Bobbitt’s bobbed penis, a George Mason University satellite campus, innumerable cul–de–sacs that make it impossible to get there from here and jam packed I–95 (more overlap).

So what did taxpayers get for their money? A shiny dark blue square surrounded on three sides by a shiny lighter–blue square and even though the design just screams “Prince William County,” the designer still put ‘Prince William County, Virginia’ in all caps below the squares . As you can see from the accompanying photo, it’s bland, boring and bureaucratic — all the modifiers a politician wants associated with his jurisdiction. What’s more, it has no relation to the county other than the fact we paid for it.

On the other hand, my wife thought the shiny blue sheen on the logo was reminiscent of aluminum siding and harkened back to the county’s previous image of a region inhabited by trailer park rednecks.

In an online comment a gentleman named Tom Fitzpatrick explained that while his first impression of the logo was negative, “Now that I’ve had a chance to settle down, I realize I’m not really being fair. I’ve just learned that the County’s first choice was a dead on representation – 8 clowns sitting around a table deciding how much to cut taxes by raising them a little less. However, there were copyright issues with Ringling Brothers, the catered lunch was already eaten, and it was time for another international trip by the members. So, this is what they came up with, within those constraints.”

County spokesman Jason Grant defended the “design” choice, “The brand is the connotation, it’s not a literal meaning. It is a new logo. The connotation isn’t there because it’s not affiliated with anything yet. . . . Does it literally represent Prince William County? No. That’s not the type of logo we designed. It shows there’s a sense of place, there’s a cornerstone, it’s corporate, all these things that people will fill in.”

That droning you hear in the background while Grant speaks is not cicadas, it’s corporate buzzwords. Hint for government flacks: any time your explanation would not look out of place in a Dilbert speech bubble, you are losing the argument.

According to Tom Jackman in the Washington Post, Grant claimed the staff was borrowing a marketing strategy from Madison Avenue. Grant said Nike’s swoosh logo doesn’t look like a shoe or Lance Armstrong injecting dope, but over time it comes to be associated with the brand and all its products.

Imitation may be the sincerest form of flattery, but it’s also one of the most consistent indications of incompetence. Besides borrowing strategy from Nike, the county is also going to have to borrow some money to make this logo penetrate the marketplace. Nike’s annual marketing budget of $2.7 billion is double PWC’s entire annual budget of $1.2 billion. By my calculations, at that rate of spending in 159 years the double boxes logo still won’t have the market identity of the current county seal.

The staff claims the logo only cost $750, while the website Sheriff of Nottingham in Prince William County asserts the logo design was part of a redesign contract that cost between $9,500 and $11,000. Either way taxpayers would have received more positive benefit if they’d just sent the money to the IRS and told them to have a party.

You could have gotten better design work and made at least one PWC family happy if the staff had solicited logos from high school or college art & design classes.

But now the bureaucracy has dug in it’s heels and it appears we may be stuck with this collection of right angles. So in the spirit of public service, I’ve come up with a few slogans to use with the logo at no cost to the county.

  • Prince William County — Where Every Square Peg Has a Square Hole
  • Prince William County — You’ll Love Having Your Company Absorbed by the Borg
  • Prince William County — Land of Boxy Houses and Boxy People
  • Prince William County — Home of the Square
  • Prince William County — Where the Cube Farm Is Our Identity
  • Prince William County — Embracing Boredom Since 2013

The Bugs are Back

The cicada: Mascot of the federal bureaucrat?

The cicada: Mascot of the federal bureaucrat?

People in the Washington, DC area like to worry. Part of it’s because leftists are required to show “concern” about the darnedest things and part of it is because a large government workforce has to discover something to do or at least find a way to look busy.

For example, the National Weather Service suffered a crippling budget cut of about 3 percent when the sequester went into effect. I had assumed that after the cut hit, a spokesperson would inform us there would be no more rain or rainbows due to evil Republican budget cuts.

Instead the service is now under a hiring freeze and unable to begin what the WaPost called “a major pilot project aimed at helping the local community prepare for extreme weather.”

For those of you who tuned in late, “extreme weather” is what used to be “global warming” before it stopped getting warm.

According to the Post, “Previously, the emergency response meteorologists were tasked to assist “on the scene” during major weather events, offering on-demand briefings to emergency managers and stakeholders. They also were charged with developing more event-specific forecasts, explaining possible impacts in detail, and getting key messages out using new communication technologies and social media.”

In laymen’s terms this means highly–paid government meteorologists would appear during a hurricane or tornado to tell damp citizens with frizzy hair that they had just been hit by a hurricane or tornado. The weather people would then pass out small, waterproof maps with colorful depictions of pressure zones and isobars. Then advise survivors to take shelter, cut down on salt and keep hydrated. Once the citizens were dispersed, the weather service employees would be free to teach elected officials how to post heroic photos of themselves in galoshes on Twitter.

How they intend to accomplish this without power remains to be seen. A more practical plan would involve teaching Pepco customers how to buy and install a generator, since long term loss of electricity is much more common here than severe weather.

Somehow, Oklahomans have managed to endure weather without federal intervention. Twice during my youth I lived in Duncan, OK. Smack dab in the middle of tornado alley. In spite of the fact we did not have weather service types parachuting in to state the obvious, we managed to survive. The municipal tornado siren sounded, you picked up the babies, grabbed the old ladies and headed for the nearest tornado/bomb shelter or leaped in a nearby bar ditch.

I distinctly remember one evening when we gathered in our neighbor’s backyard shelter to wait out the alert. Since I was just a kid, I had no idea how long a tornado lasted. My idea of a long duration was waiting for Christmas and that took forever.

What’s more, I was a chubby kid who suffered “food anxiety” before it came to Michelle Obama’s attention. Not wanting to add hunger pangs to potential tornado problems, I filled my pockets with cheddar cheese. (It could have been that I also wanted to prevent diarrhea, but my memory is fuzzy.) This caused something of a commotion later in the week when Mom opened the washer and saw the laundry looked like nachos.

So without the weather service to gin up worry, the media here has turned to the insect world and found this summer will mark the return of the cicada. Cicadas sleep underground for 17 years and then emerge blinking into the sunlight, looking for sex and a square meal. This alone would make the cicada a perfect mascot for the less motivated federal bureaucrat.

Insects on the make would not normally be an issue for the front page of the Metro section. What makes the cicadas newsworthy is they return in the billions. They cover the landscape and make a loud buzzing sound to attract a mate, similar to disco but without mirror balls.

The insects are about an inch long with red eyes. The outer shell is crunchy but they’re soft on the inside, much like a Democrat. The reporter even found publicity–hungry omnivore who claimed he eats cicadas. His recipe calls for sautéing them with lemon and butter. I can’t remember if he serves the finished product with MD–20/20 or WD–40.

After sex cicadas don’t smoke, which would at least shut them up, instead they eat the shrubbery. I actually saw a handful while walking the dogs, but the density did not begin to approach the 1,000,000/acre of which the WaPost warned. Maybe these were scouts, wary of people with frying pans.

The important part of the infestation for our purposes is that I’ve been inspired to write another song. This time to the tune of the Angel’s “My Boyfriend’s Back.”

 

The bugs are back and there’s gonna be trouble

(Hey la, Hey la, the bugs are back)

When you see them fly you better cut out on the double

(Hey la, Hey la, the bugs are back)

 

Cicadas been gone for such a long time,

(Hey la, Hey la, the bugs are back)

Better watch your step don’t slip on insect slime

(Hey la, Hey la, the bugs are back)

 

And the trees are full of buzzin’

And the males are wantin lovin’

 

A mating dance right on your front lawn

(Hey la, Hey la, the bugs are back)

They’re here right now, about a trillion strong

(Hey la, Hey la, the bugs are back)

 

Buried underground for 17 years

(Hey la, Hey la, the bugs are back)

It’s time to mate, so cover up your ears

(Hey la, Hey la, the bugs are back)

 

And the trees are full of buzzin’

And the males are wantin lovin’

 

Beady red eyes on a body one inch long (Wa–ooh, Wa–ooh)

Eating your shrubs while they play a mating song  (Wa–ooh)

It’s time to flee

 

The bugs are back and there’s gonna be trouble

(Hey la, Hey la, the bugs are back)

When you see them fly you better cut out on the double

(Hey la, Hey la, the bugs are back)