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SEO for A More Perfect Union

If there’s a magic word on the lips of online marketers, retailers, entrepreneurs, and pretty much anyone with a website these days, that word is SEO. Search Engine Optimization. A panacea to every woebegone website languishing somewhere down the rankings…three, four, five pages into a Google search, that lonely realm of cyberia where no one in their right mind would deign to scroll. Search Engine Optimization. The promise that, if you fill your pages with the right kind of content—content that Google’s spiders will crawl over and pick up—web traffic will follow. If only it were that simple. I recently finished a ...

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A Good Year for Scorpios

My resistance verges on the pathological, although I usually keep it to myself. If you asked me why exactly, I would be hard pressed to give you a satisfying answer. But in the way that so many of our deepest attitudes derive not from logic, but from a more visceral sense of things as they are and as they should be, my resistance to divination is instinctual. It’s not that I’m down on the grandeur of the universe and all the possibilities known and unknown that might be harbored here, nor do I submit to the limits of knowledge as if ...

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The Quality of Your Listening

Those days come back to me with absolute clarity, the merciless authority of detail, a precision so rarefied because it is absent from almost all of my other memories. Mostly, the past reveals itself to me in a kind of hazy unfolding, edges blurred against the sharp intensity of the present. But not those particular days, which I could recount for you with total accuracy, even though they were primarily days of waiting, moments stretched out just a bit too long, the persistent feeling of hunger, the taste of so many cigarettes in my mouth after all these years. And ...

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Skinny Dip

We had all trekked down to the rock that formed the upper ridge of Skinny Dip. It was our day off, and with this crew in Yosemite, that meant either hiking up something or jumping off something. And because I prefer the slow, steady pace of a climb to the wild abandon of free fall, these days of collective planning—which inevitably followed the whims of the more adventuresome members of the group—were sometimes cause for minor apprehension. This particular summer I was 18 years old and had returned to Bass Lake outside of Yosemite, where I had spent every July from ...

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The Conservatorship of A Body

It was September 1993 when Robert Wendland flipped his pickup truck off a freeway in Lodi, California. By the time I was writing about him in 2001, he had been living with a feeding tube down his throat for eight years. I was working as a researcher and writer in the Program in Medical Ethics at UC San Francisco and we were closely following the final stages of a trial that had raged on for six of those eight years and that had divided the Wendland family, who now sat on both sides of the courtroom. The trial hinged on the ...

posted in Art, Uncategorized, Writing
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In Pursuit of Mistake

Writing is a dangerous activity. These words come to me, seemingly of their own volition, as if writing wielded its own provocative powers. And I, always one to take the bait, retort: Please! What kind of danger could writing really present? Words on a page, as placid a threat as there could be. And yet, the eccentricities of language have always been made to stand trial—figuratively or literally—and I’m not just referring to the Baudelaires, the Flauberts, or the Oscar Wildes of history, whose writing has actually found its way into the courts of law. The danger that belongs to writing ...

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