J’accuse!

Phil Ford

I was going through my files at the end of last week, looking for a LeRoi Jones article from the hipster little magazine Kulchur, when I found this advertisement for The Evergreen Review, another hipster little mag.

Evergreen

The accoutrements of the square — Glen Miller, Edna Ferber, Walter Keane, a complete run of National Geographic — are particularly choice. What would the modern-day equivalents be?  Also interesting is the detail of the price of coffeehouse coffee. According to the inflation calculator, 75 cents in 1965 is worth $4.88 in 2007 dollars. The modern-day gripe about how a cup of coffee is too damn expensive turns out not to be so modern after all.

I love how reading Everygreen Review becomes like one of those "build muscle for fifteen minutes everyday — the Charles Atlas way!" self-improvement regimes, only with culture. What this demonstrates is what Thomas Frank shows us in The Conquest of Cool — the modern style of advertising (funny, self-deprecatory, low-key, wise to the minutiae of pop culture) was not a "co-optation" of hip culture, but one of its principal creations. Compare the style of this ad with another 1965 ad for the Chrysler Imperial. (Nice car!)  Note the bombastic appeal to the highest of high technology and the finest of fine materials:

The claro Walnut used within an Imperial is found only in Northwestern United States, and Eastern Kashmir.

Flitches [huh?] of the walnut (thin slices to be used as inlays) [oh] are examined for color, consistency, and directional grain.

Out of every 52 1/2 pounds of harvested fine-grain claro walnut, only eight ounces are fit for the Imperial.

The 52 1/2 pounds was a nice touch. It's science! And I also like the idea that extravagant waste is a necessary part of making such a fine automobile. ("We then shoot the remaining 52 pounds of claro walnut into high earth orbit, where it will remain for 4426 years, finally being immolated as plunges back to earth, its fiery trajectory through the starry firmament a fitting memorial to the Imperial's custom styling.") The advertising pitch based on the rare and exotic qualities of the materials ("Northwestern United States, and Eastern Kashmir") is reminiscent of Smoove B's game:

For dessert, we will eat sorbet from France. To procure this sorbet, I will take a plane to France and inspect all of the finest ice-cream merchants that I can locate, and I will purchase only the sorbet that passes my very strict standard of quality. It must be firm and flavorful, yet melt in your mouth. I will fly back to you with the sorbet, and I will feed it to you on a spoon of the finest silver construction, polished for days on end. I will slave with rags and polishing cleansers in agony just for one moment of your pleasure.

Speaking of the 1960s (how's that for a transition?) I should mention that I'm doing a talk this Friday at the music library on the auditory imagination of the 1960s radical left. This announcement is of course for the benefit of Bloomingtonians, though if you wish to procure the very finest of ideas, presented in lecture form with no expense spared, in a classroom equipped with the latest in smart-screen technology as well as a CD player, then you will surely board the most luxurious of private jets and make you way here from the farthest reaches of the world, from the burning deserts to the frozen wastes, including such places as the Atacama Desert and the Ross Ice Shelf. Let Smoove give you a lecture that will transport you to the wildest heights of learning. Damn.

About Phil Ford

Chairman of the Committee for the Memorial to the Victims of Modernism
This entry was posted in Hipsters, Humor. Bookmark the permalink.

9 Responses to J’accuse!

  1. Scraps says:

    I think it would be harder to assemble a similar quick hit of Square Markers today, since the notions of cool and uncool have been under attack for the last couple generations, first ironically, then sincerely (though even the irony was likely just a cover for most folks: the desire to openly like things while still keeping one’s cool credentials).
    Still: Kenny G seems pretty irredeemably square for now.

  2. Jonathan says:

    Never thought I’d see this again. My father cut it out, centuries ago it seems like, and I treasured it for years. “That Edna Ferber is one hell of a writer!” … “J’accuse!”

  3. Andrew DA says:

    Jonathan – great dads think alike, I guess – my stepfather also cut the ad out way back when and kept it, and passed it to me a couple summers back. (Phil, didn’t I give you a copy of it before you left us for more Bloomingtonian pastures? The handwriting on the upper left identifying the source looks suspiciously familiar, call me a paleography geek.) Wishing you both a great beginning-of-semester and thanking you for Dial M,
    Andrew

  4. Andrew DA says:

    Oops, make that the upper right. Clearly dislexic this evening.
    A

  5. PMG says:

    Do you watch Mad Men on AMC? If not, you will love it; sort of The Conquest of Cool dramatized as a television series.

  6. Phil Ford says:

    Hey ADA — So it was you who gave this to me! I couldn’t remember, and I couldn’t figure out whose handwriting was in the corner, though at least I knew it wasn’t mine. I’d forgotten about it until I was looking for that Jones piece and cracked up when I read it again. It’s a good piece of advertising . . . makes me want to subscribe to the Everygreen Review, even though it stopped publishing almost 40 years ago . . .
    *Everyone* tells me I have to watch Mad Men, but so far I have not. Perhaps this year!

  7. rootlesscosmo says:

    It might be worth the trouble to chart the subsequent fortunes of those magical names over the intervening 50 years. Monk? Merce Cunningham? Miraculous Mandarin? Horace Silver? You got it. Morning glory seeds? Summerhill? Gimme a break, zoot…

  8. Pete says:

    In the square camp I would definitely put Yanni (the Republicans called the DNC stage setup “reminiscient of Yanni Live at the Acropolis”) and Starbucks because it is the epitome of corporate fake cool.
    Also, I love the Smoove B reference.

  9. Marc Colten says:

    I found this article by searching for “Edna Ferber is one hell of a writer”. Still one of the funniest ads I’ve ever seen. The reason I looked it up is I was talking to someone and mentioned this ad. The question is since they were trying to sell subscriptions to their magazine, how ironic were they being? Sure the guy is square, but are the hipsters really cool or just phony and are they offering to teach you how to phony your way into the party (and get laid)?

Comments are closed.