Timing is everything

Blogging from Squaw Valley Ski Resort, where we have been blessed with 48 hours of non-stop rain. The good news? Forecast teperature for each of the next three days is a winter wonderlandy 69 degrees.

Still, it could be worse. Bill O’Reilly could be getting laid this year – in Nevada anyway.

That visual should stop those sugar plums from dancing in your head.


If it was good enough for a rodent, it’s good enough for a marsupial.

Just in time for Christmas, which is actually summer in Australia, and explains a whole lot, comes news that kangaroo meat may henceforth be called “australus,” as in, “How do you want your australus? Rare, medium or well done?”

The folks behind this rebranding effort claim they want to encourage more people to eat kangaroo meat, but we think there is a more sinister motive — pest control.

To us here in the Northern Hemisphere, the kangaroo is a cute hopping animal, most notably epitomized by “Kanga” one of the stars of Winnie the Pooh’s universe. In Australia however, even though it is a national symbol, it is a pest. With nearly 50 million of them running around, there is a yearly culling to control the size of the kangaroo population. And what do they do with the culled roos you ask? They make pet food.
They also sell the meat as people food. But the only people who really like kangaroo meat are the Japanese and the Germans who turn it into sausage.

If this rebranding of a rapidly multiplying pest sounds familiar it is. Remember the coypu? A few years ago, Louisiana was swarming with these water rats who were eating everything in sight and causing untold amounts of damage. So the folks in Louisiana decided, it was either eat or be eaten. But who wants to eat water rat? So their solution was to rename the rat Nutria.

So you see, renaming kangaroo meat “australus” is really just pest control disguised as fine dining.

Landor terror alert

Your branding tax dollars at work, creating an empty vessel. From today’s Washington Post:

The Department of Homeland Security was only a month old, and already it had an image problem.

It was April 2003, and Susan Neely, a close aide to DHS Secretary Tom Ridge, decided the gargantuan new conglomeration of 22 federal agencies had to stand for something more than multicolored threat levels. It needed an identity — not the “flavor of the day in terms of brand chic,” as Neely put it, but something meant to last.

So she called in the branders.

Neely hired Landor Associates, the same company that invented the FedEx name and the BP sunflower, and together they began to rebrand a behemoth Landor described in a confidential briefing as a “disparate organization with a lack of focus.” They developed a new DHS typeface (Joanna, with modifications) and color scheme (cool gray, red and hints of “punched-up” blue). They debated new uniforms for its armies of agents and focus-group-tested a new seal designed to convey “strength” and “gravitas.” The department even got its own lapel pin, which was given to all 180,000 of its employees — with Ridge’s signature — to celebrate its “brand launch” that June.

“It’s got to have its own story,” Neely explained.

Nearly three years after it was created in the largest government reorganization since the Department of Defense, DHS does have a story, but so far it is one of haphazard design, bureaucratic warfare and unfulfilled promises. The department’s first significant test — its response to Hurricane Katrina in August — exposed a troubled organization where preparedness was more slogan than mission.

Happy Merry!