Fan club nostalgia

Listening to the radio today, someone mentioned being in the ELO fan club when they were 13 years old.

I think the first fan club I was ever in was either the Ladybird Book fan club or the Young Puffin Club. I was in both but can’t remember which came first. The club would send birthday cards to members and I remember Ladybird and Puffin cards adorning the mantle piece at the same time so there must have been at least some overlap.

Around the ages of eleven or twelve I joined the Dennis the Menace Fan Club. This involved clipping a credit-card-sized application form out of the pages of the Beano and sending a postal order for 50p. In exchange, you would receive an enamel Dennis the Menace badge and a furry Gnasher badge and a weird little plastic wallet, presumably intended for top-secret membership documents. Presumably, since 50p granted an unending membership, I’m still a member of this club!

A little later (ages fourteen to seventeen), I joined the Red Dwarf fan club, which would award you with a signed photograph of the cast, an enamel badge and four copies of a fanzine called Better Than Life over the course of a year.

These days I wouldn’t dream of ‘joining’ anything. I’m simply not a joiner any more and I wondered what psychology caused me to join these fan clubs as a child and as a teenager. The idea of loving something so much that I would clip out an application form and send away a postal order for 50p seems very alien. Is this because information moves much quicker now thanks to the Internet? Or is it because I/we simply don’t love anything so uniquely these days because so much more is available?

I think there is something in the information theory: the occasional updates by post were the only way of hearing about new developments. Today, you just get everything piped in via RSS or salve your curiosities in seconds with a quick Google search.

I’m not trying to make a point exactly, but there is something very lovely about the papery and analogue effort of ‘sending away’ for something and waiting patiently for it to arrive. Maybe I’ll set up a New Escapologist fan club with a PO Box address and exlusive badges and newsletters that can only be obtained by writing in.

Do you have any other fan club memories?

Weekday vegetarian

Lifestyle gurus and minimalist bloggers are not dietitians, so I think you’d be correct to meet their dietary pointers with skepticism. Moreover, there’s little worse than being cornered by a tedious vegan at a party, extolling the virtues of nuts and seeds.

For these reasons, I don’t tend to promote my dietary choices, especially through this blog.

But here’s an interesting thing for your consideration: weekday vegetarianism.

Would the world not be a better place if everyone ate meat just once or twice a week while maintaining a vegetarian diet the rest of the time?

– Omnivores wouldn’t have to give up on meat but would enjoy much of the health and financial benefits enjoyed currently by vegetarians.
– Vegetarians subscribing to this omnivorous system would be able to eat meat or fish once a week, thus enjoying the health that they sometimes (unnecessarily) forsake.
– Fewer animals would be sacrificed to our stomachs, which would be a huge ecological boon even if you don’t care about the animals themselves.

Graham Hill from says:

For your health, for your pocketbook, for the environment, for the animals, what’s stopping you from giving weekday veg a shot?

Here is Graham’s inspiring four-minute argument in favour of weekday vegetarianism:

Ask yourself this question:

If you had a year off—with pay—how would you spend your time?

Maybe you would travel the world (or even just your own country). Maybe you would start your own business. Maybe you would get comfortable on the sofa and watch back-to-back episodes of Columbo for twelve months.

At the very least, you could catch up on your reading.

This is a useful question because it basically asks, without the grandness, what it is you want to do with your life. It’s a far less daunting question though, less Existential and without the stage fright of having to make a big decision.

Best of all, a year off with pay is possible (if not easy) to engineer. Save 50% of your earnings for a year and take the next year off, paying yourself a monthly salary.

You could see this as a challenge. If you’re currently worth £0.00 or more, (i.e. you’re not in debt or already rich) try and save 50% of everything you earn in 2011 with the aim of taking 2012 off. I dare you!

New Escapologist newsletter #1

Hello readers,

Welcome to our first newsletter. Most people who completed our recent survey indicated that they’d enjoy receiving a newsletter, so here it is. A few of you also voted against a newsletter, so feel free to reply to this email with ‘unsubscribe’ in the subject heading if you don’t want it.

The aim of the newsletter is to keep you up to date with developments at New Escapologist. These newsletters will also be archived at the website.

1. ‘Collected Works’ book in production

We’ve almost completed work on a hardback compilation of New Escapologist Issues 1-4. The four issues will be presented in their entirety as well as a new introduction and some extra features. This is our bid to get a New Escapologist product into the shops. We’re currently in discussions with a few different distributors.

2. Different currencies and overseas shipping

Our online shop will now accept payment in Euros, US Dollars and Canadian Dollars. We’ve also reduced overseas shipping fees by committing to Airmail over other postal options.

3. Feedback

We’re always open to feedback and to suggestions for improvement. You’re welcome to reply to this email with feedback or to complete our open survey.

4. Articles elsewhere

I’m publishing an interview with philosopher, Joseph Heath in an arts magazine called ‘Side Street Review’ in December. In it, Joseph and I talk about consumerism, economics and rebel trends. There will also be a more directly Escapological piece in the 2011 edition of the ‘Idler’, which will focus on the business side of escape. I think it will be called ‘Business Plan / Escape Plan’. Finally, the hawk-eyed among you will already have noticed my guest post at Jacob Lund-Fisker’s website, ‘Early Retirement Extreme’, which contains detailed directions on how to leave office life behind.

5. New Escapologist at Czech typography conference

It was gratifying to present our approach to typography at the 4th International ConTeXt meeting in Brejlov, Czech Republic. We couldn’t attend the event in person, but our chief typographer was able to submit a conference poster depicting pages from our printed editions alongside a macro code used in the production of the magazine. Also on display were copies of our first three issues and take-away copies of sample material in pamphlet-form.

6. Expozine 2011

Montrealers are asking whether New Escapologist will be represented at Expozine in November. No details of this massive indie-press gathering have yet been released but, all being well, we will be there to peddle our wares.

7. Issue Five

Issue Five of New Escapologist is in the works. The theme is ‘Bohemia’. It should be available in December. We’re aiming to have a good body of historical and philosophical essays, and to salt-and-pepper it with shorter ‘How To’ pieces on the various qualities of the Bohemian.

Until next time,

Robert Wringham

New Escapologist reader survey

With an eye to improving our output, we’ve launched a survey.

Whether you’re a hardcore subscriber to the magazine or a casual browser of the website, we’d love to know what you think.

The survey should only take a few minutes to complete.

A great big thanks to anyone who does this.

Money as ‘life energy’ or ‘youth juice’

A 1992 book from the ‘personal finance’ genre that aught to enjoy some small renaissance is Your money or your life by Joe Dominguez and Vicki Robin. Tom Hodgkinson recently praised it and so did Oliver Burkeman. I can also vouch for its canniness.

To my mind, the book’s most revelatory element is its insistence that you see money as ‘life energy’: as the reified fruit of your labour. It is the only way of storing ‘work done’. It is, as these authors write, “something we choose to trade our life energy for”.

It’s great when someone’s thoughtful book articulates something you’d already deeply suspected but never articulated. I’ve always seen money as ‘life energy’, though I kept this opinion secret and referred to it in my head as something like ‘youth juice’. (I usually switch off when hippies start talking about ‘energy’).

Seeing money as ‘life energy’ makes it relevant to the human experience rather than just an annoying administrative hoop. Of course money matters – it is the modern resource necessary for survival and dignity – but we often treat it as an embarrassing necessity, a conversational taboo, or a tawdry chore. But it’s your life energy: the sum of your labours, the only fruit of the temporal and spiritual commitment to a task. It has to be managed deliberately and passionately. It mustn’t be squandered or consumed haphazardly.

The kinds of exercise the book sets for the reader help to highlight this. Is the casual purchase of an entertainment product at £50 worthy of the ‘juice’ squeezed out of you in the workplace? It may be. But if not, it’s a tragic human waste. A waste of precious life.

Your money or your life also contains the following brilliant passage about life energy/youth juice in relation to thrift:

Shopping smart, saving money, following the adage ‘use it up, wear it out, make it do or do without’ isn’t about deprivation; it’s about loving yourself and your life so much that you wouldn’t think of wasting a second.

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