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When I was in my late teens or early 20s, I was at Rich’s Cigar Shop in Portland, Oregon, which had the best magazine selection in the city in those days, and I picked up a copy of a magazine called Adbusters. The magazine had a hole in it, and a card insert with just a black spot on it, both of which were part of that particular issue’s design. I liked it. The subtitle was: “A Journal of the Mental Environment,” or something similarly boldly rhetorically Structuralist. I was surprised. I was excited. The articles were different, advocated for political agency in a way different than any I’d experienced. I felt that naïve vitality that, at 31, seems more and more difficult to kindle.

Today, I find Adbusters kind of stupid. Its lefty academicese smacks of the do-nothing superiority that masquerades as contemporary liberal revolutionary spirit. Honestly, Adbusters and your flock, what revolution has your “culture jamming” actually accomplished, other than inspiring many people to spend their money on your magazine and schwag and to read with a sense that they’re doing enough because they know enough to be in on the dark joke of the present? I enjoyed the snarky Obama-with-a-clown-nose cover, sure, but your magazine is a waste of time.

In any case, I was at Powell’s this week and saw another magazine which transported me back to the original geeky, excited tingle I felt when I saw my first Adbusters. This magazine, The Baffler, is less revolutionary in its rhetoric and sharper in its content than Adbusters. Volume 2: No 01, which I couldn’t help but purchase, contains an essay about what the Internet looks like, a follow-up to No Logo by Naomi Klein, images of “feral houses,” a “motor city elegy” written by a Detroit native, articles on finance, politics, social networking sites—the usual sort of upper middle class political stuff—and poems by Rae Armantrout, Thomas Sayers Ellis, Jack Spicer, and Devin Johnston. Poems!

I leave you with encouragement to check The Baffler out, should you be in need of baffling (or in need reading for the train or plane), and the second section of Armantrout’s fine, “This Is”:

2

This is a five star trance

To have this vantage
from the cliff’s edge,

to get drunk on indifference,

to stare

at a bright succession
of crests

raised from nothing

    and flattened

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Evan Hansen lives in San Francisco. He drives across the Golden Gate Bridge and looks at tourists every day on his way to and from work. His poems have appeared in the Burnside Review, Cimarron Review, Cortland Review, Drunken Boat, Juked, Maggy 1, and a variety of other publications. He and his fiancée are adopting a puppy.

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  • the truth hurts. December 15, 2010, 4:25 am

    Brilliant critique of a magazine you haven’t bothered to read in ten years and are too lazy to research. Excellent criticism of any movement towards real change, in favor of “the usual sort of upper middle class political stuff” and poems! (for the same price!)

  • Anonymous December 15, 2010, 5:55 am

    hey truth hurts
    thanks for reading and commenting on thethe. in the future, though, we encourage you to be a bit kinder in your comments. it’s perfectly acceptable for you to tell evan you think he’s being unfair to adbusters or to offer a critique of his ideas. we encourage that, in fact. who knows? a fruitful discussion might follow from which you both come away enlightened. but we ask that you do so in a way that raises the level of discussion. we will try to do the same.
    thanks!

  • Yourdadsbud23 January 6, 2011, 4:21 am

    Hey I haven’t read these magazines in ten years either, I haven’t done any research… and I thought it was a brilliant critique. So next time be nicer, friend.

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