Saturday, February 21, 2009

Amherst's 250th vs. Hadley's 350th: Battle of the Tchotchkes

Calendar, calendar on the wall: who's the fairest of them all??

Although public reaction to the town's anniversary celebrations thus far seems overwhelmingly positive, I have begun to hear some murmuring to the effect that the much-touted anniversary calendar is not an object of overwhelming beauty.

Personally, I don't worry about the criticisms that the historic photos are not dramatic enough or cannot always be easily identified with the current sites; the first is a matter of subjective choice, and the second may therefore be in the nature of the beast.

That said, I do the see the point to the criticism of aesthetics and production quality: Design and materials are less appealing than they could be.  I've heard them compared unfavorably with those of Hadley's (see below).  Above all, some of the photographs show the telltale halftone patterns of old newspaper or other gravure printing.  Anyone with a copy of Photoshop, a few free hours, and an ounce of artistic sense could have avoided that ghastly problem.

The calendar conundrum prompted me to ponder the deeper crisis in which we find ourselves.

It is a particularly grave matter that we seem to be losing the merchandising competition (oh, the eternal oedipal rivalry) to Hadley and its 350th anniversary marketing program: Our parent town and neighbor has simply produced more and better souvenir crap.  Their calendar is in color and cheaper. Sure, our t-shirt--with the sassy slogan, "Amherst, MA Where only the 'h' is silent"--stacks up well against Hadley's bland blanket, but they've got us beat hands down with the wine glass, Polish music CD, soy wax candles, and other tchotchkes (originally from the Polish and other Slavic words for toys, appropriately enough for Hadley). Haven't we been planning this thing for five years? Hasn't the Chamber of Commerce been urging us to buy local?

On the other hand:
  1. The Amherst calendar costs only twelve dollars.  That's a buck a month. Come on.  
  2. You get what you pay for.
  3. It's ugly, but so are many of your relatives, and you love them, don't you?
  4. It's for a good cause.  (Don't you buy a lot of hideous or just unnecessary crap--Girl Scout cookies, bushels of fruit for that school band fundraiser, etc. etc.--to help out your kids and the neighbors' kids?)
  5. Be glad it came out at all.  If production had followed the normal Amherst habits, we probably would have debated the issue to death and then had to appoint a committee to study the recommendations of the committee, so that we might still be waiting for this calendar on the occasion of our 300th anniversary in 2059.

No comments: