Yuletide Viewing for Escapologists

Can’t believe I never thought of this before.

Colonel Von Luger, it is the sworn duty of all officers to try to escape.

the-great-escape

One man here has made 17 attempted escapes. Group Captain, this is close to insanity.

Quite.

And it must stop!

Colonel, do you expect officers to forget their duty?

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Escape Facebook

Renegade freak that I am, I deactivated my Facebook account last week.

Life is better without it. Already I feel calmer, happier, no longer irritable or twitchy. I bloody knew coffee and tea were nothing to do with that! Sorry I doubted you, oh lovely cuppa.

You’re all your own bosses, but I’d urge you to leave Facebook too. Read our happiness editor’s thoughts on the subject if need a further nudge.

Rather pathetically, I hesitated for about three weeks before finding the courage to click “deactivate.” I kept turning the possible consequences over and over. Would I become a full-on social outcast? Would I lose precious connections to the past? Is there actually something transcendent to be said for participating in the social network, even if it really is a glorified advertising scam?

I made sure I had alternative contact details for people I didn’t want to lose touch with. In doing so, I was strict about who I’d take with me: part of my reason for leaving Facebook was to shed the 250 people I don’t have any meaningful relationship with. I was only in touch with those people in the hopes that they were “potential future friends” or as egotistical social trophies, neither of which is healthy or right. Maybe I’ll reconnect with these people again one day, but in deliberate and organic circumstances.

I also downloaded my “information” before leaving. I only wanted my photographs but the download also contains old messages and posts. I had a quick look at these and, oddly enough, the first to catch my eye was a friend’s public declaration that he’s “winding up his Facebook account.” This message was about seven years old and the fellow in question is still on Facebook today, posting embarrassing status updates around the clock. This was the final nudge I needed!

Doubtless, it’ll be a pain in the arse for a while because almost everyone’s on Facebook, making it a super-convenient directory of humanoids (a “Face Book” even), but ubiquity is just another thing to dislike about it. Facebook is humongous while small is beautiful.

Not that it’s essential to be on a social network at all, but an appealing Facebook replacement might be Ello, a burgeoning ad-free, neatly-designed alternative. It doesn’t come from greedy, world-dominating Silicon Valley but from a bike shop in friendly Burlington: a town I’ve been to and which struck me as lovely.

Ello seems fated to become the betamax of social media: superior to its competitor but failing to win popular traction. But it doesn’t matter. It’ll work for the people who use it. A social network doesn’t need approval from everyone to work. Invite your ten best friends to Ello–the people you actually want to hear from instead of the 300-strong rolodex your Facebook has become–and it’ll work for you. It doesn’t matter what the majority are up to.

In any event, escaping Facebook has been an end in itself. It feels good to have let go. I feel like I’ve passed a gallstone or something.

I’ll now get news from less-dubious reliable sources, accidentally click fewer Daily Mail links, expose myself to less anxiety-producing litter, and talk to friends in more personal ways.

Here’s Tom Hodgkinson on the subject:

Facebook is another uber-capitalist experiment: can you make money out of friendship? Can you create communities free of national boundaries and then sell [crap] to them? Facebook is profoundly uncreative. It makes nothing at all. It simply mediates in relationships that were happening anyway.

★ Tired of the everyday grind? Pre-order the New Escapologist book today.

Issue Eleven — Out Now!

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Here comes the slow stepper. New Escapologist Issue Eleven: Small is Beautiful.

Featuring Justin Reynolds on William Morris, Neil Scott on Russell Brand’s revolution; Tania O’Donnell on book excerpts, a new story by Ian Macpherson; Robert Wringham on E.F. Schumacher and a beautified reprint of Bob Black’s important 1985 essay The Abolition of Work. 96 pages. £6 / €7.80 / US$10 / C$10

Now available in the shop. Subscriber copies will be dispatched soon.

Give The Gift Of Nothing

On a recent flight, I felt a strange compulsion to peruse the shopping magazine “conveniently located in the seat pocket in front of me”.

It was the Christmas edition, and as I flipped through it, I recalled my childhood in rural Canada. Each November, my brother and I would comb the pages of the Sears Christmas catalogue, carefully highlighting the toys that we wanted. We didn’t know it at the time, but we were subjecting ourselves–and our parents–to a huge marketing scam, founded on guilt.

I like to think I’m wiser now. And the shopping magazine served as a hilarious proxy for the non-existent in-flight entertainment system.

For what home is complete without a 21-inch, 19-pound Santa table, at the very reasonable price of $129.00?

Santa

Or, for the nature lover, nothing says “Yuletide” like this 6-foot tall, plastic pop-up poinsettia tree. Yours for just $129.99.

Tree

And for the Ukrainian in your gift-giving circle, this little gem. Please don’t confuse it with an amputated, bronzed ear…it’s actually a fake dumpling.

Perogi

I’m increasingly amazed/amused/dismayed at the sheer volume of crap being relentlessly peddled. Christmas, of course, is Exhibit A of mindless consumerism. We’re subconsciously ransomed into spending our money on mass-produced plastic decorations, and on gifts purchased at the last minute when our pre-Christmas angst finally forces our hand.

To fight this tendency, my wife and I have binned or donated 99% of our accumulated Christmas junk…there’s no tree, no lights, no Santa table, and no plastic pierogis chez Gagne. We have, however, retained the important parts of Christmas: food, friends, family.

We hold a secret gift exchange each year: names are picked from a hat, everyone gets one gift, and there’s a $30 limit. It tends to work better when it’s not just the two of us. I usually give books that I think will hold meaning for the recipient. Failing that, I make sure they hold meaning for me. This year, “someone” is getting Thoreau and Seneca.

My friend Izzy, a dedicated Escapologist from the UK who quit everything a couple of years ago to travel, has taken it a step further. She wrote to me recently about the simplicity of Christmas on the road, and the lasting impact that had:

I loved the fact that I didn’t have to write 100 cards, lick all those yucky envelopes, buy all those expensive stamps, or traipse round shops looking for things in desperate hope that people might want or need them, and, best of all, not getting in return a pile of tat  (mostly) that I neither wanted or needed. So when we got home, I simply decided not to do it any more. I just send an email around saying “happy whatever you are celebrating this month” and give a donation to charity (one for the homeless).

I think Izzy nails it. We buy things for people because it’s expected, or because we’ll look bad and/or feel guilty if we don’t. If I’m honest about the gifts I’ve received over the years, I neither wanted nor needed them. Acknowledging that, I certainly wouldn’t want my loved ones to waste their time, money, and emotional energy on a gift for me.

What if everyone else feels the same way? Could it be that we’ve all been duped, and Christmas is just one big scam? It’s worth considering.

And since you’re probably well behind on your Christmas shopping, here’s a suggestion that will make life easier for you. This year, share the gift of leadership with your family and friends.

Take a stand and say NO! to gifts.

Merry Christmas.

★ If you insist on giving gifts, make them count: pre-order the New Escapologist book for your friends and family.

Shop Update

bookshop

Making changes to our online shop is always an adventure. Such a fiddly and complicated business, after which I’m invariably moved to fix a stiff beverage.

Be that as it may, I’m proud to draw your attention to our new back issue packages. Gone is the old “complete back catalogue” offer (with eleven issues under our belt, it became a rather expensive product) and in its place are two new bundles: Issues 1-7 (£35) and Issues 8-11 (£22).

The same bundles are available in PDF for £33 and £20 respectively.

Far more affordable in every instance, I think you’ll agree. The bundles are also 10% cheaper than buying each issue individually.

The keen-eyed among you will have noticed my reference above to eleven issues rather than the factually extant ten. That’s because Issue Eleven: Small is Beautiful is almost ready to go, earmarked for release on December 17th 19th.

I chose to forego the usual pre-ordering process on Issue Eleven, so you can’t actually order it yet unless you cleverly buy the aforementioned 8-11 bundle. Why so? I’m already up to my eyeballs in expectational debt over the book (now 68% funded!). Instead, I’ll let you know as soon as Eleven’s available.

Seasons Greetings, everyone! Ho Ho Ho etc!

Letters to the Editor: The Weird One

Our print magazine doesn’t have a “letters to the editor” section. I long ago chose to shun the usual magazine ephemera (news, reviews, letters, ads) in favour of evergreen essays, opinions and stories.

I stand by this decision because it means our content can properly engage instead of distract, and also that our mags are still readable and relevant long after publication.

Still, I sometimes wonder if a “letters to the editor” section wouldn’t provide a sense of community around New Escapologist. It would confirm that there are other Escapologists out there: some successful, others struggling, but all with the shared and uncommon tendency to take escape seriously.

Well, luckily we have the blog. If you’d like to submit a Letter to the Editor, feel free to get in touch. Just let me know if you’re happy for it to appear on the blog.

Here’s our first LttE.

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Good morning/afternoon Rob,

I’m extremely excited to dive into the back issues. I’ve been a follower of your blog for some time and have experienced a complete 180 in my mindset over the past 1-2 years in regards to escaping it all!

I am actually a Certified Public Accountant in the USA located in one of the wealthiest parts of the country. The way I was raised and the things I have noticed as I’ve matured have caused me to rethink my whole mentality and what it means to “Live the American Dream”.

Seeing countless “wealthy” individuals in my hometown driving the luxury automobiles and building the $1-million+ mansions, all the while being shackled to creditors and ultimately their desks, has forced me to rethink my direction in life and strive to focus on something more fulfilling than punching the time card, taking a paycheck and keeping up with the Joneses.

Thankfully, I have been able to share my new attitude with many of my friends and colleagues in the hopes of helping them to revamp their total fiscal mindset (and not the typical tax advice that a larger mortgage/interest helps for taxes).

However, as I’ve become more open about my thoughts, plans, new mindset, I’ve met with a strange reaction. I’m being perceived as the “weird” one! It has actually been completely entertaining to see people’s reactions and their defense of the current system.

Anyway, I’m sorry to ramble. My point is that I am excited to read more and would be very interested in helping you and/or contributing to your mission if there is a need. I am not looking for compensation, only for a way to express my thoughts and research and/or to help refine others’ similar thoughts/research.

Thank you again,
L

Dear L. Thank you for writing in. I like the quotation marks you put on “wealthy”, especially given your job as an accountant to the American rich. Since coming to Canada, I’ve met a lot of these “wealthy” suburban types and it’s hard to see how they’re anything of the sort. If they’re in debt to creditors, it doesn’t matter how big or well-appointed their house is. Surely purchasing power isn’t the same thing as wealth, even in the world of finance. It can’t be healthy. For my sins, I went to an event at the Ritz recently and rubbed shoulders with multi-millionaires. They’re all insane, incapable of intelligible conversation or even dressing themselves properly. I can only imagine they’ve been driven mad with anxiety over the vast sums of credit (Mirror Universe money) they’re handling.

★ Tired of the everyday grind? Pre-order the New Escapologist book today.

William Morris at Home and at Work

williammorris

At Home:

If you want a golden rule that will fit everything, this is it: Have nothing in your houses that you do not know to be useful or believe to be beautiful.

At Work:

Nothing should be made by man’s labour which is not worth making, or which must be made by labour degrading to the makers.

★ Tired of the everyday grind? Pre-order the New Escapologist book today.

What’s the Point, If We Can’t Have Fun?

My friend June Thunderstorm and I once spent a half an hour sitting in a meadow by a mountain lake, watching an inchworm dangle from the top of a stalk of grass, twist about in every possible direction, and then leap to the next stalk and do the same thing. And so it proceeded, in a vast circle, with what must have been a vast expenditure of energy, for what seemed like absolutely no reason at all.

This is David Graeber on the “play principle at the basis of all physical reality”.

The idea is that everything we do in nature has a play ethic at the heart of it. Only under capitalism (or at least utilitarianism) has this become perverted by the economic imperative.

Remember Will Self’s advice:

Just breathe. Walk. Think. Meditate. I really, really urge you to get out and have a decent walk, preferably to a random destination, one that is not economically compelled. That’s all I really have to say to you.

Do something just for fun, if not everything.

★ Tired of the everyday grind? Pre-order the New Escapologist book today.

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