Houston: It's Worth Hurricane Ike

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Photos by Katharine Shilcutt
HIWI: Ike, the exhibition at the Galveston Arts Center
Nearly five years ago, Houston became home to one of the most unusual and subversive tourism campaigns in recent memory. The Houston: It's Worth It (HIWI) campaign began with a simple website and a list of twenty things that Houstonians -- and the world at large -- despise about our fair city. Among them were annoyances -- or what the group behind the HIWI campaign, ttweak, calls "afflictions" -- like traffic, mosquitos, billboards and the long summers. But the underlying message of the campaign was clear: despite these idiosyncrasies, Houston was completely worth it.

Almost overnight, the underground campaign became a huge success with Houstonians who felt the group -- comprised of ad guys from Bill White's original mayoral campaign -- hit the nail on the head. The idea resonated with native Houstonians and transplants alike: Just because the world don't get our city, doesn't mean we don't. We know what sucks about Houston and we love it anyway.

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​The culmination of the campaign was a photo exhibition of only-in-Houston photos and a hardback coffee table-style book released in 2007 called -- fittingly -- Houston: It's Worth It, which was compiled entirely of those photos and quotes about the city, all of which were submitted by HIWI fans across the city (full disclosure: some of the quotes are mine). And now, the people at ttweak have pooled their efforts once again to publish a new book, called HIWI: Ike.

The book is set to be released later this week, right before the one-year anniversary of Hurricane Ike itself and nearly two years after the first HIWI book hit shelves. But unlike the first book, HIWI: Ike won't be at your local big-box bookstore. It's primarily being sold in small, offbeat book shops like Domy, Kaboom Books and Brazos Bookstore. The book retails for $24.95, a portion of which goes to support the Galveston Arts Center, which was devastated by Hurricane Ike. (And, yes, you can also buy HIWI: Ike at the GAC.)

Once again, the pages inside the latest HIWI book are entirely comprised of Houston residents' photos and recollections of the storm and its aftermath. However, instead of focusing on the destruction and misery that Ike bestowed upon the city, the book is a celebration of Houston's spirit and pluck in the face of disaster, Houston's unwavering commitment to community and neighborliness, Houston's ability to laugh it off and say, "It could have been worse." In this way, it's a sister to the original Houston: It's Worth It in more than just name. Like the original, HIWI: Ike salutes the cheerfully stubborn attitude that makes anything possible in a humid, flat swamp like Houston.
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