only communists wear diesel jeans

i’m one of those assholes who doesn’t really watch tv* and might casually slip that knowledge into a conversation to try to divert the talk back to books or something else more gay.  which means i was pretty late to the game in learning about wieden + kennedy’s “go forth” campaign for levi’s.  and i don’t mind saying—it knocked my socks off.


but because i’m a narcissistic american, after i was finished being in awe of this thing, i immediately asked myself: what does it mean that i heart this commercial?

i nearly get chills hearing that dramatic reading—and pairing it with those striking visuals just ups the kickass factor for me.  but that may be because (a) i’m an idiot prose writer who can’t understand contemporary poetry and thus romanticizes 19th century verse, (b) i’m an idiot consumer who can’t separate the near mythological origins of levi’s jeans from the fact that 501s are now a fetish property manufactured in mexico**, (c) i’m just an idiot, or (d) all of the above.

i do wonder what whitman would have made of all this if he were alive today.  maybe he would feel artistically compromised by having his life’s work co-opted to shift units for a mega-corp.  maybe he would think that shit’s small potatoes, and been in awe of globalization.  maybe he’d be happy people are still reading his stuff after all the work he put into it (he was reworking leaves of grass almost until his death).  or maybe he’d just say “fuck it—it’s a beautiful day outside” and go run & play like those kiddies on the teevee.

* except for old episodes of “the wire,” “west wing,” and other things white people like.

**full disclosure: i am wearing a pear of 527s as i write this.  god bless america.


  • Amanda Bea says:

    Whitman would be wearing 501s, relaxed fit. Also, let’s get amped about poetry and it’s multimedia versatility. Todd Boss wrote an article for Poets & Writers about the audio possibilities. Billy Collins has a stash of video animated poems as well. I’m especially interested in “Forgetfulness” in the way that the multimedia may be an avenue in bringing poetry back into the memory. (Remember way back when poeple had at least one whole poem memorized?)

    Bringing poetry into the multimedia definitely seems to me to be the way to plug some literature and art into the ipod-youtube generation. Let us read, and listen, and watch, pioneers O pioneers.

    • Jason Sommer jason says:

      i could totally get into that. but i think poets would have to get beyond the “poet voice” we all know & love.

      also, i totally used to know stc’s “kubla khan” – but can only do the first stanza now.

      • Amanda Bea says:

        Kinda the point, as I see it. Poets might use poet voice b/c of some misfire in their head about their audience. Broaden the audience, calm the outliers of voice acrobatics.

  • Brett says:

    Todd Boss actually has done a whole slew of animated poems too.

    They’re pretty great.

  • tanya debuff says:

    I also heart that commercial. I had to google it to find out who was the author, but I agree. It’s dark and whimsical at the same time. Awesome.

    • Jason Sommer jason says:

      i guess i forgot to state up front that this post was all about uncle walt. i should fix that with a keyword tag or something.

  • Asa says:

    Totally random comment, but it fits in with the title. I was 18 when the Berlin Wall fell (yes, I’m old) and visited Russia a couple of times before Glasnost. The smart thing to do back then in terms of smuggling more than allowed currency into the USSR was to bring a couple of 501s and sell them on the black market. You’d get rubles galore for just one pair. I never tried it (I’m chicken), but my friend Tina did when her Russian class took an end of term field trip to Moscow. She and another friend promptly got arrested when trying to sell their jeans in a back alley. When taken into interrogation, they realized that they didn’t know as much Russian as they thought. They couldn’t understand a word of what the Militsiya officers asked and thought they were on their way to the gulag when all the officers wanted to know was what hotel they were staying at. True story!

  • Sam Edmonds says:

    Oh dear – this commercial is fucking awesome; I hate it when that happens. What do you suppose Kubla Khan could be read aloud to sell, aside from Vicodin?

  • TJ Fuller says:

    I still hate it when commercials co-opt great art. Sorry Don Draper, but these words deserve better. As ads get more creative, I get even more frustrated that they’ve captured something really moving and prostituted it with their logo. Maybe I’m being too old-school.

    • Sam Ligon Sam Ligon says:

      I was mortified when I heard a Zeppelin song pimping a Cadillac. For some ridiculous reason, I’d thought they were above that. I don’t want art to be selling me anything I can buy.

      • Pete Sheehy says:

        I was surprised Zeppelin hadn’t sold that shit sooner. I was shocked about ten years ago when some miscreant branch of the Hendrix family temporarily had rights to his music and one of his songs was used to sell something (I can’t remember what, but that really doesn’t matter).
        I had a drawing teacher at Evergreen who said TV ads were the only viable form of poetry left in our society. It made a lot of sense at the time, and perhaps this use of actual poetry in an ad was merely inevitable.

  • MelinaCR says:

    There’s no reason all you lovers of this commercial can’t go out into the fields of the Inland Northwest with a boom-box and reenact it, with or without your Levis. That’s you roaring with the torch at the beginning, Sam Edmonds.

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