Monthly Archives: December 2013


Recently, I got yet another email from Adbusters in my inbox. Normally this is merely inconvenient, since I’ve unsubscribed from them at least three times, and delete it. But something about the subject line pulled me in and I opened it to see this:

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I’m livid. A major aim of Adbusters is to educate Americans about when they’re being manipulated by advertising — so important that busting the Ad industry is right in their name. It’s a great goal, and Adbusters does many other great things: they organized Buy Nothing Day, and promote Buy Nothing Christmas.

But here’s the thing: you don’t get to boycott Christmas, and then use the same holiday to fund-raise for yourself.

You don’t get to condemn Santa and then use him to pull in cash (and I’m not even a fan of Santa).

You don’t get to convince me to not spend money, and then ask me for money.

You don’t get to tell me to not spend money specifically on gifts that my family wants, and then ask me to spend money to give them a gift of your product (let’s not pretend that this magazine is anything other than product sold for profit, no different from the book my father-in-law wants or the Cosmo magazine my sister reads).

You don’t get to wish me a “corpo-free holiday” at the end of the email from “everyone at Adbusters”– itself a corporation! Does size alone determine whether a corporation is worthy of my dollars (indeed, worthy of existence) or not? What is the tipping point? Is it measured in dollars or employees? WorldVision is huge and does lots of good; Adbusters maybe tiny, but without integrity.

There is so much bullshit here. Buy Nothing for Christmas, sure, but certainly don’t buy into a manipulative a deceitful Adbusters. At least be honest about what you’re doing, corpo–it’s what you want from Kraft and Phillip Morris.

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remember death

Recently, a friend sent me this piece in which Russell Banks discusses his inspiration for writing: a gravestone inscription of Remember Death that sits near his desk.

I’m reminded (as I read Banks’s words now, and often when I write) of Andrew Marvell’s line, “at my back I always hear Time’s wingéd chariot hurrying near.” For some reason it gives me the feeling of a hand lightly touching the small of my back; a feminine image, a tuxedoed man ushering me inside while holding open the door. I don’t need to look over my shoulder to know that it is no mortal, but Death’s skeletal hand, resting on the curve of my spine.

Yet death is such an abstraction, so hard to keep near. I’ve more than once tried to be decisive about killing myself, tried to pick a date, so that I could write a suicide letter about the way I experience the world. Undoubtedly, the letter would turn into an essay and then a book and maybe something worthwhile would come of it. But I can’t convince myself quite enough that I’ll actually follow through with the suicide, at least never for long enough to actually write something worthwhile. Or, the times I begin to draft such an essay in my head, I’m already so far in despair that I know—with supposed certainty—that nothing worthwhile would ever come of it, or of any work at all. Everything is meaningless, I mumble to myself, everything is vapor.
Sometimes I worry that because I don’t remember death and because I don’t write—the causation is important—I’ll be diagnosed, someday soon, with an exotic, fast-moving, incurable disease and have to scribble down just one of the dozen books I have inside me before the spirit expires.
So here I am. Anxious, unproductive. Paralyzed.
Jesus said: If you bring forth what is within you, what you bring forth will save you. If you do not bring  forth what is within you, what you do not bring forth will kill you. It feels true. And I don’t now how to get it out.
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