Brand Manifesto Inspiration

At work I’ve been tasked with writing a brand manifesto. So to get inspired I dug out some of the greats. Enjoy!

A manifesto is your brand’s Magna Carta, Rosetta Stone, and Declaration of Independence all rolled into one; it’s the halftime locker room speech given by the CEO; the words the founder heard on the mountaintop before bringing down the stone tablets. Reading a great brand manifesto should make you wanna run out and try the product. You should feel the brand fire in your bones. … They can serve as true north on a brand’s compass and be used for all kinds of creative decisions.

– Luke Sullivan, Hey Whipple, Squeeze This

Apple – Think Different

Harley Davidson Creed


Victoria’s Secret – Student work from the VCU Brandcenter

The Returned: Watch It

This weekend was quiet in the best possible way. We watched the entire first season of The Returned, episode after episode (it’s the kind of show you want to binge watch). Amy, Heather’s sister, came over so all the dogs could play (I finally got a pomeranian! I’ve been wanting one for years.). We drank coffee throughout the day while cozied up on the couch, went grocery shopping on Saturday night, and to the dog beach on Sunday. Relaxing, restorative, wonderful.

But I’m really posting this to say: The Returned. Go watch it now. It’s on Netflix. Every fall I get into a watching spooky movies/TV shows mood, and this fall has been no exception… and this show perfectly suited the mood.

The Returned is set in a sleepy mountain town in France. The general premise is that years-dead loved ones suddenly and mysteriously come back to life, as though no time had passed. They’re not ghosts: it’s more like they’re resurrected, in flesh and blood.

The first season consists of 8 episodes, each about an hour long. Yes, that means I watched a good 8 hours’ worth of TV in one weekend. And loved every minute of it. So there you have it, your next show to watch.

“It Doesn’t Get Better. You Get Better.”

joan rivers

“Listen, I wish I could tell you it gets better, but it doesn’t get better. You get better. I’ve gone up, I’ve gone down, I’ve been bankrupt, I’ve been broke. But you do it, and you do it because we love it more than anything else. That’s why you’re doing it.”

Every once in a while you read a quote that’s exactly what you needed to read that day; and that’s what that quote was for me, today.

Rest in peace, Joan Rivers.

(More here.)

Weekend Jaunt to New York City

nyc-1-buvette nyc-2-buvette nyc-3-buvette nyc-4-highline nyc-5-katz nyc-6-little-italy nyc-7-fire-escape nyc-8-soho

Last year we had eight full days to sink into New York City, this year, only a three-day weekend. The highlights:

  • Breakfast at Buvette, an adorable French bistro in the West Village. I guess adding a gob of butter to belgian waffles does the trick. Melt-in-your-mouth goodness!
  • On that note, staying in the West Village again – at the same Airbnb we rented last time.
  • Checking out the Lower East Side… and Katz’s Delicatassen, where the famous scene from When Harry Met Sally was filmed (I’m a bit of a Nora Ephron fan.)
  • Visiting the Tenement Museum, and learning about immigrant life in the late 1800s/early 1900s
  • Dinner in Little Italy
  • Shopping around Soho
  • A quick trip to Williamsburg to say hi to a friend

Far too quick of a trip – but it’s always good to spend some time in New York City.

Also, in writing this post, I’m realizing how neglected this blog has been over this past year, and how I’ve missed it. I’ll make a point of it to start posting more regularly again. :-)

One last stop, and thoughts on Puerto Rican independence (Part ii)

Before heading to the airport to return to Chicago, we made one last stop: to Panadería la Ceiba.

“Most of the bakeries in San Juan are run by old Spanish guys,” Gil, Vanesa’s husband told me. La Ceiba is a sort of deli-style bakery with concrete floors, white walls, and lots of typical Spanish dishes.

“Did you see the desserts?” Vanesa’s dad asked me, pointing to the cases filled with Spanish pastries and desserts.

Vanesa ordered for the lot of us – Gil, her dad, her brother, her sister-in-law and baby niece, and me. They ordered Cuban sandwiches and seafood paella and other tapas to share.

“You probably understand him better,” Gil mentioned to me, indicating the blue-eyed Spaniard with the weathered tan who was serving us. I ordered a tortilla española. It had been so long since I’d had a good one; since it seems the only good tortilla españolas are to be found in Spain. (It was okay; finding a good tortilla española outside of Spain remains elusive.)

To end the meal, Vanesa’s dad ordered a plate of quesitos to share. “You can find these anywhere in Madrid,” he said, grabbing one of the long, flaky pastries filled with sweet cream cheese.

There seems to be some pride in their Spanish heritage in Puerto Rico. They speak the language. And for 400 years, they were Spain’s colony. It shows. The language, the food (the quesitos!), the whole quarter of Old San Juan feel very Spanish. With a Carribean twist.

In 1898, the U.S. took Puerto Rico as its own “unincorporated territory”. And while we ate, Gil and Vanesa’s brother Luis, took their time to explain to me Puerto Rico’s situation – from a Puerto Rican perspective.

“We’re a stupid ass colony,” Gil said, not one to mince words. Vanesa’s family are independentistas. They don’t want to be an “unincorporated territory” of the United States. They certainly don’t want to be a state. They want to be their own country.

“We independentistas are in the minority. It’s about 10% of us. Typically the more educated Puerto Ricans are pro-independence. Other Puerto Ricans want to be a state, because they think it’ll make us instantly rich. ‘We’ll be like Miami!’, they think.” Gill laughed.

“What do you think would happen if Puerto Rico gained independence?” I asked.

“Well, it would be hard at first,” Gil said, and left it at that.

It was time to head to the airport. After kisses on the cheeks and goodbyes and gracia’, it was good to meet you, see you in Chicago, Gil, Vanesa, and I drove the rental car back to the airport, to leave that sunny island and head back to the urban north. It was time.

8 Days in Puerto Rico (Part I)

Puerto Rico is many things. It’s Spanish. It’s American. It’s Caribbean. And frankly, I hardly feel qualified to write anything about it at all, which is perhaps why it’s taken me over a month to work up the nerve to write this post, because who am I to say anything about Puerto Rico?

Luckily, I did get to visit Puerto Rico with Puerto Ricans, who helped me see a side of Puerto Rican that most tourists don’t get to see.

The idea to go to Puerto Rico started out at Three Dots and a Dash, a trendy new cocktail tiki bar in Chicago. Heather and I were there hanging one night with our friends Vanesa, who is from Puerto Rico, her husband Gil, and Mariana and Alex. Vanesa said, “hey, we’re going to Puerto Rico during Semana Santa (Holy Week). Wanna come?”

Yes, we said. Yes, we did want to come. The next day, we booked our tickets, and started planning our trip to Puerto Rico.

That’s how trips start, you know. With simply the decision to go.


So, here goes.

Day 1

We take the flight with Vanesa and Gil from cold, dreary Chicago to the sunny skies and blue waters of Puerrrto Rico! This was in April, and believe me, in April, Chicago is still cold and dreary.

We land, pick up our rental car, and head to our hotel, Da House (despite the name, perfectly charming…), right in the heart of Old San Juan. We parked our stuff in the hotel and then set out to explore the streets. (Vanesa and Gil had headed to their family’s house, where we later joined them for dinner.)

For the first time in months, I felt the sun’s warm rays on my skin again. Every time this happens, it’s like I’ve forgotten that such pleasant weather can actually exist. And then summer comes again, and I forget all about winter. (My short-term memory for the weather is probably the only thing that gets me through living in this climate.)


Day 2

Time to leave San Juan! In Puerto Rico, a rental car is practically indispensable, unless you plan to spend all your time just in Old San Juan. Even San Juan is largely navigable only with a car. We spent the morning exploring Old San Juan again, walking those charming, colonial streets, eating mallorcas and drinking cafés con leche. A mallorca is a pastry from the Spanish island of Mallorca, where it’s called an ensaimada. Vanesa’s dad told us that in Puerto Rico, they started calling them mallorcas, because that’s where they’re from, and the name stuck.

From there, we drove to the west side of Puerto Rico, where we would be joining Vanesa’s family for a few days on the beach. We went to Cabo Rojo/Boquerón, a place, Vanesa told me, that was more “internal tourism”. Puerto Ricans vacation there much more than Americans do. (Americans apparently go to Rincón.) So Heather and I headed to our Airbnb digs of… a tent. I’ll admit that I had my reservations. Sleeping in a tent in the jungle of Puerto Rico was more Heather’s idea of a good time than mine, but we made shrimp scampi in the attached outdoor kitchen and listened to the coquis all night long, and all was well. (It was really a pretty extravagant tent.)


Days 3-4

Beach time! Basically, this:

heather on the beach

There’s something about sand and sun and lapping sea water that just feels so indulgent.

Not Waving but Drowning

not waving but drowning

Not Waving but Drowning

by Stevie Smith


Nobody heard him, the dead man,

But still he lay moaning:

I was much further out than you thought

And not waving but drowning.


Poor chap, he always loved larking

And now he’s dead

It must have been too cold for him, his heart gave way,

They said.


Oh, no no no, it was too cold always

(Still the dead one lay moaning)

I was much too far out all my life

And not waving but drowning.

This morning, in a cleaning purge, I found an old box full of letters. Over a decade of letters stuffed inside. In 2014, I don’t get as many letters these days, sadly. But leafing through those old letters, many of them from the ages of 18, 19, and my early twenties, I was reminded of my many literary ambitions. I missed that, reading those old letters, when friends and I would put pen to paper and write to one another. Can’t we do that again?

That poem was mentioned in an old letter, and so I revisited again. Beautiful.

(Illustration by Stevie Smith, which accompanied the poem)

Go See: Blue Is the Warmest Color

The other night, I saw Blue is the Warmest Color. The movie itself is three hours long, during which I only looked at my watch once, out of mere curiosity. I have never been so wrapped up in a film. It could have gone on and on.

Directed by French-Tunisian filmmaker Abdellatif Kechiche, it won the Palme d’Or, the highest prize at the Cannes Film Festival… and no wonder. Steven Spielberg, who headed the jury, called the film “a great love story that made all of us feel privileged to be a fly on the wall, to see this story of deep love and deep heartbreak evolve from the beginning.”

Partly a coming-of-age story, the film chronicles the life of Adele, played by Adele Exarchopoulos, who is 15 when the film starts, and Emma (Lea Seydoux), a college student. The two begin a passionate love affair that lasts, I’m not sure how long, but maybe ten years. The ending is heartbreaking, and very real: The sad and heart-wrenching reality that sometimes one person moves on from a relationship, and the other doesn’t.

I don’t want to say too much else about it, because I want to leave some of the surprise for just seeing it, but this film left a real impression on me. Have you seen it? If so, let me know what you thought! If not, get yourself to a theatre and see it. I myself might have to go see it again…