I am inspired by Marion to admit that every now and then I notice I am a target. We who consume a certain amount of media (that amount being quite a bit), especially of the electronic variety, end up with those concentric circles on our backs. The periodical-addicted, another population that counts me in its number, may sometimes notice the plethora of crosshairs woven into their shirts. Live in an advertising-drenched market, like, say, the town that told Mad Men what to call itself—you’ll notice the bullseye all the more often.
I refer, less cleverly than I’d like, I’m sure, to that the cross-platform, multi-media, several stage marketing campaign that seems to find you everywhere you go, from the morning’s stumble to the bathroom, to the evening’s quiet repose. Somehow, some algorithm-armed marketer fed all the raw numbers into the machine and it spit out a picture of you. And so, everywhere you go, you are pitched the new product, told it will go great with whatever it is you already consume, that it is what people like you are forking over good money for these days.
To be clear, I don’t mean one of those carpet-bomb campaigns that hit everyone. (I’m looking at you, Watchmen.) I’m talking about the product that isn’t being pushed on most people more than once or twice, but, because of your particular predilections, it’s being waved in your face, from multiple angles, multiple times a day.
This plague befalls me a few times a year. For a few weeks, I’m inundated with the same ad again and again. And then, Keyzer Soze-like, the ad is gone. I’m not sure what the last one was, but I remember Pom. You know Pom. It’s that insanely-expensive pomegranate drink that, in some vague way, is more healthy for you than, for instance, falling downstairs into an open box just filled up at the needle exchange. Antioxidants or something. When the Good Lord saw fit to bless this earth with bottles of this stuff, the Pom people had their sights on me. The ads fluttered out of my magazines with the subscriptions cards when I went to my mailbox. They obscured the articles I tried to read online with pop-up, pop-over graffiti. They interrupted the rebroadcasts of the Daily Show I used to avoid reality. People I know—people I liked—told me they had tried it. I felt like the over-sexed wolf in one of those Tex Avery cartoons. I could put Pom in a safe, jam it into the cargo hold of an Antarctic-bound plane, take a cab to the world’s tallest building, ride the express elevator to the top floor, lock several doors behind me and turn around… to find Pom, Droopy Dog-like, right behind me.
You’re wondering, perhaps, if I tried Pom. Of course I did. I’m not made of stone. And it was terrible. Or, if not terrible, significantly disappointing. I knew it would be. We all did. But in the face of so much effort to get the bottle to my lips, I was unable to escape the coordinates locked on me. I did as I was told. I poured the intravenous blood-colored stuff down my throat, almost gagging on my own shameful weakness. You have done this too. I know it. You have been made curious. You have been seduced into believing Pandora’s better treasures are inside that new box of, what is that stuff?, cereal?! It looks like the stuff I sweep up from under my couch once a year! How could you eat that? Ugh. ….What?…um, yeah…no, I did see that ad during Friday Night Lights…yeah, with that talking bird, yeah….uh, okay…sure, I’ll try a bite.
I write all of this as preamble to the following promise: I will not try the Kindle.
Bezos wants me to have one. He wants it so bad. Bezos, I get a strong sense, is staying up nights calculating how he can bump into me on the street and send both of our accoutrement sailing, papers dancing in the wind, so that in all the confusion to get my beloved paper back in the right order, he can slip one into my bag, like a gray, mute stowaway who will become a charmingly fish-out-of-water/beloved companion and win me over, all the while secretly trying to destroy the very way of life all that I hold dear and the livelihoods of professional lumberjacks the world over.
Bezos has gone on the Daily Show to tell me about the Kindle. He has convinced my friend Jonny to tell me about the one he got as a present. Bezos has convinced talented comedic writers to insert the word Kindle in the dialog of characters I hold very dear. Today, he even blackmailed (for that is the only possible explanation) Josh Marshall of Talking Points Memo, a 21st Century sage if e’er there was one, to start an ongoing conversation—ongoing!—about the merits of the Kindle.
Well, Bezos, if you’re listening—and I know you are—listen to this: No. Not no thanks. No. No Kindle. No glorified etch-a-sketch. No fake book that smells like what I can only assume is not a book. No safe harbor for trees doomed to become the novels I buy and read half of. I will chop down that tree, pulp it up, print words upon it, bring it to St. Marks Books, pay for it with my credit card and then read half of it all by myself if I have to! No more wire hangers! I mean Kindles.
Sometimes you have to take a stand. Like Mel Gibson at the end of Braveheart. Or that other time, when he was drunk and said all that Anti-Semitic stuff. I take my stand here, on the Internet, less racistly, sure, but with no less conviction, and with that same crazed look in my eye. Because just as Gibson was raised as some sort of Catholic who apparently thinks he is persecuted by Jews even though he’s been paid millions of dollars often by Jewish people to have strange things done to his hair, I was raised a book-lover who will not forsake his Luddite fetishization of printed matter, even if, hypocritically, I declares so here, in the pixelated world of words that do not sit reassuringly on the shelf but instead slip a bit farther down the page every day. They, Bezos and the Pom people, they’re out to get us, they’ve targeted us, me and Mel. And we won’t go quietly.
….What’s that? Rehab? …Tell you what…you give me a month in that nice one where Mel went, and I’ll give the Kindle a shot.
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