Tuesday, November 21, 2017

Sunshine State of Mind with Adam Ware.

Dr. Adam Ware, the Orange County Regional History Center historian and research librarian gave a talk titled "Sunshine State of Mind" as the final installment of the Joseph L. Brechner series of lectures at the Orlando Public Library (100 E. Central Blvd., Orlando, Florida 32801). “The media” often refers to the news or entertainment media. But even an idea can be a medium – an idea, for instance, of a sunny paradise where any plant will grow, any idea will succeed, or any dream can be realized. Through real estate ads, citrus-crate labels, souvenirs, and shuttle launches, the idea of Florida has moved people to travel, to invest, to relax, and to persevere. In this program, Ware discussed the varied ways the Sunshine State operates in American feeling and memory, from “the Italy of America” to “Florida Man.” He discussed the materials that evoke and invent our image of Florida and the pioneers and entrepreneurs who mobilized the concept of Florida to change the course of the state’s history.

This was an insightful and entertaining talk that spanned several hundred years of our perceptions of what Florida is and could be. His talk began with a long dissertation about how media affect our perceptions of a place. As Marshall McLuhan stated, "The medium is the message." When Adam began digging into Florida's early history things really got interesting. Early explorers hoped for gold or slaves. For hundreds of years Spanish settlers attempted to set up colonies in Florida. Most of these colonies failed. The few who survived and returned to Europe described Florida as a desolate wasteland, a hell on earth that they never wanted to see again.

The first name for Orange County was Mosquito County. There probably isn't a worse name ever imagined for a place. Who would ever move to Mosquito County? It took railroad tycoons and developers to finally tame the land. But convincing people to move here was always a word game. Find the right word and you can change peoples' perceptions.  It wasn't until the 1970s that Florida became "The Sunshine State." Dr. Phillips changed the perception of orange juice, making it a staple of any breakfast, and making Florida Orange Juice more desirable than any other juice in the American mind.

There is a Twitter account called Florida Man that just posts news stories that begin with, "Florida man..." My favorite being, "Florida man tosses an alligator through a Wendy's drive through window." The man was arrested and charged with assault with a deadly weapon, illegal possession of an alligator and petty theft. He is also banned from all Wendy's and not allowed to come in contact with animals except for the family dog. Another that I just ran across is, "Florida man pissed that AT and T trucks are parked outside his house, shoots out their tires." I dropped AT and T because of their piss poor costumer service, so this news item didn't surprise me. Or, "Florida man claims dog shot girlfriend as she slept." Such strange stories are a daily occurrence, leading to Adam's favorite tag line and former state slogan, "Florida, you don't know the half of it."

Prints are available for each sketch for $250 and many originals can be purchased for $400. White museum grade shadow box frames are $100 more. You can e-mail Thor at analogartistdigitalworld@gmail.com

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