Canadian Shipping Container House

As a chaser to yesterday’s post about the artist pods in Scotland, here’s a nice video tour of a shipping container house in Canada.

Shipping containers are a classic of Tiny Home design (see New Escapologist Issue 8 for further insight) and the chap in the video has a directly Escapological reason for taking on such an alternative dwelling:

I just decided the working life wasn’t for me. And I wanted a lifestyle change, so [I researched it] and found budget shipping container living and thought I’d give it a try.

The hours were long, working for someone else. Yes, I was trading my time for good money but at the end of the day it wasn’t really worth it. It took its toll on my body and my social life. It was not ideal.

I’ll confess to being attracted to this lifestyle and to the rewarding nature of having built your own home with your two bare hands.

Of course, anyone who knows me at all will be in stitches at the thought of my flailing around with power tools, knowing full well I’d saw those “two bare hands” off in no time at all.

But if nothing else, imagine being done with mortgage or rent so quickly and cheaply and forever. This shipping container home cost between 13,000 and 14,000 Canadian dollars, which is very little and means the owner can just live how he wants to live now, not worrying about pulling in the huge sums of money required for having the audacity to live in a conventional house in the city. Small business or romantic cottage industry (or washing your hands of money-making altogether) suddenly becomes viable.

It’s another escape. Let nobody tell you there is no way out, especially for those with willpower and imagination.

Check out the video. It’s a dream situation, planted in the wilds of Victoria, British Colombia.

Here is New Escapologist‘s Patreon for your support. And here is Living Big in a Tiny House on Patreon too.

Artist Pods

I visited Cove Park in Scotland last week, a place for artists to escape the city and get some work done.

As much as anything, I wanted a peek at the living-and-sleeping quarters, some of which are dome-topped wooden pods while others are converted shipping containers. They all seem to have grassy green roofs.

At the time, it was not my intention to post about the visit so my pictures aren’t the best, but here’s what I snapped up anyway.

The interior shots are all of the oakwood pods (I didn’t take any inside the shipping containers) except for the final picture, which is in a separate non-pod building serving as a communal workspace.

Psst. Please support New Escapologist on Patreon.

Should I Buy a Record Player?

Should I buy a record player? I’d genuinely like some advice on this, whether from vinyl enthusiasts or from get-a-grip friends. So leave a comment below or drop me an email.

Whenever I betray my anti-consumerist, minimalist ethics by joining in with some craze or other, I usually regret it. Joining Twitter for example was a mistake that has cost much fretting and fiddling that I could have done without.

Buying a record player would be the physically-biggest move I’ve made away from minimalism in years, currently owning absolutely no physical media. After a few months or years of buying records, it would likely be the most expensive too, and it would also represent a significant bump in energy usage here at Escape Towers.

On the other hand, it would be nice to correct a certain lack of music in our lives. Yes, we can currently play music from YouTube or Spotify (and I digitised my 300-strong CD collection before selling it a decade ago, so it still lives on in the cloud). But this involves a dependency on Silicon Valley and the infernal jab-screen, which is something I’d like do less of, and it’s not much fun to stab at an app when what you want from music is human connection.

Moreover, I’m sometimes a little (though not a lot) embarrassed to invite friends to Escape Towers when we offer little here but quiet retreat. A record player, would offer a bit more event to an invitation. “We’ll play some records,” I’ll say and “bring a couple of records over.” Selecting music would become a social activity and friends won’t have to watch me fumble with an app, playing autocratically-selected music, and trying to remember if I have a certain Stereolab album because I can’t see the whole collection and the search function isn’t working properly.

I like the idea of browsing the records in Monorail (fun local spot steeped in history) on a Saturday morning with Samara and of hanging out with Friend J who works in a second-hand vinyl shop with more reason to my being there than just to stare at his face. But is this not precisely the sort of positive lifestyle situation dreamed up by any product-hungry consumer?

Having set off my own vigilance-against-consumerism alarm, I at least think this could all be done fairly cheaply and with a non-rampant consumerist credo if we just buy our equipment and the bulk of our records second-hand and never from Amazon. Of course, this could just be a sort of internal green-washing on my part to justify what would actually be quite a silly purchase.

Any strong feelings? Would this thing (and that’s what it is: a thing) enhance life or would it just be another infernal regret and a loss of personal integrity?

I Fled Shrieking From That Madhouse of Boredom

I’ve been reading an humongous tome of autobiographical essays by “Designated Bad Seed” of science fiction, Harlan Ellison. I love his alive, cantankerous writing so much, and these essays have reconnected me with a deep well of pluck I’m sorry to say I’d forgotten about. Thank you, Uncle Harlan, wherever you are.

What I’d like to tell you about today, my fellow Escapologists, is a particular essay from this book in which Ellison describes working a drudge job for Capitol Records in 1953. He describes a first day of anxiously working quickly, fearing being judged not good enough by “the Demon God of Industry”, and then being told to slow down by a co-worker because his pedal-to-the-metal processing power makes the others look bad.

He talks to a long-serving Wage Slave, “a mouse of a creature” who has been filing bills of lading for eleven years, against his dream to “just go with the wind.”

The terror that froze my soul cannot be put into words. […This man was] set irrevocably on a cubicled routine of pointless chores making money for Gods on far mountaintops… and I saw what my future would be if I left my life in the hands of those prepared only to dole out thirty-six dollars a week for another human being’s existence.

Sensing a future echo in utero, Ellison’s had enough:

I grabbed up that sack of bills, leaped out of my chair, sending it crashing to the floor, and with all my strength and lungpower flung them into the air, screaming “FUCK IT!” Amid the bills-of-lading snowstorm, I fled shrieking from that madhouse of boredom and dead dreams on West 57th Street, never to return.

As far as I know, to this day, Capitol Records has an unclaimed check for one-half day’s work, in the name of Harlan Ellison.

Hah! Great isn’t it? I really just wanted to share this inspirational moment with you–you fine people with eyes on the door–but I also recommend The Harlan Ellison Hornbook more generally to anyone with low blood pressure.

Read this if you don’t like Patreon…

I’m building a little empire over on Patreon. Or, more honestly, I’m trying to use this Hot New Tech to scrimp up a $200 (£170) monthly income stream to keep the lights on at New Escapologist.

What it pays for is the energy, web hosting, MailChimp fees, and about 10% of the effort involved in running a four-part Web machine consisting of the main website, a reliable blog, a monthly newsletter, and an essay series.

I have dreams of reaching a $650 monthly income stream using the same Hot New Tech, which would pay me something approaching a stipend for the work I put into these essays and the New Escapologist machine, but I’m happy to park this dream for now on the grounds that (a) NE has always involved hundreds of pleasant hours in service to a labour of love, and (b) the dream is increasingly pipe-shaped since we’ve not even hit the supremely modest $200 target yet despite my gently nudging of this blog’s 2,000+ readership at the bottom of almost every entry.

I have seventy loyal subscribers on Patreon, to whom I feel genuine and heartfelt gratitude. Seventy is, however, a significantly smaller audience than when New Escapologist was in print. Some of you have emailed to say that the problem is Patreon itself: that it’s a grind to sign up for, that you don’t want to be involved in a another pesky platform with its own aesthetics and passwords and whatnot. I understand and respect such reservations.

So. If you’re interested in joining the cause and being able to read the new essays as they’re released, you can now subscribe through PayPal without fretting about Patreon at all.

I’d rather you used Patreon, frankly, because it handles the scheduling and distribution of the essays and the taking of payments quite smoothly, but I appreciate that the world would be a dull place if we all liked the same things. So here’s what to do if you’d prefer to use PayPal:

  • Visit our PayPal “donation” page (though what we’re talking about here is strictly a subscription, not a donation);
  • “Donate” £2.55 per month to be sent the monthly new essays and to get access to the new essays written so far.
  • “Donate” £3.70 per month to receive the above but also an old essay each month from the New Escapologist magazine days, spruced up a touch for the modern reader.
  • Thank you. And if you’d still like to subscribe but you hate PayPal as well, please email me and we’ll conspire together to mainline your monthly rates directly to the New Escapologist Grand Treasury without Silicon Valley ever hearing about it.

    So that’s Patreon, PayPal, or email. Together we can build that empire! Or, you know, stop New Escapologist from switching itself off. Thank you, m’lovelies.

    –RW. x

    On the Box

    We’ve long looked down our aquiline noses at television here at New Escapologist.

    We’re relatively comfortable with latter-day “prestige television” (Breaking Bad, Glow, Russian Doll) that you can stream or download deliberately and consume relatively mindfully, but even in these cases we advise a degree of caution. Don’t be sucked into thousands of hours of vegetative slumber!

    But the literally-endless stream of patronising twaddle–from game shows to lethal-to-the-sanity rolling news, from tepid comedy panel shows to spiteful documentaries about car clamping or bailiffs–is to be shunned.

    It is the lowest of the low in terms of earthly experience. It is no hyperbole to say that you’d be better off staring at an unchanging ceiling tile or patch of mildew on your bathroom wall for the same amount of time: at least then your thoughts would be your own.

    In our FAQ, we answer the question of “why do you dislike television so much?” with:

    Because it advocates popular opinion. Escapologists should seek to build muscles of resistance instead of accepting whatever is popular, fashionable or conventional.

    A decade later, we stand by that, and today we learn from Oliver Burkeman that the evidence is in our favour and that we’re no mere snobs:

    What if, for example, part of the explanation for the “populist wave” of the last few years – Trump, Brexit, the rise of the European far right – is that voters watched too much crappy TV, and it rotted their brains? It feels obnoxious even to contemplate the thought, given how perfectly it plays into metropolitan prejudice about the other side being stupid.

    But a rigorous, data-rich new study makes it harder to dismiss the idea on grounds of queasiness alone. Researchers studied the growth of the Italian broadcaster Mediaset, and found that those heavily exposed as children to its pabulum of cartoons, soap operas and quiz shows were almost 10% more likely to support populists, because poorer cognitive skills left them more susceptible to politicians peddling simplistic arguments.

    Burkeman goes on to offer that it’s maybe the time wasted in watching mindless tellypap that leads to the poor cognition described in the study, but he’s being unnecessarily kindly because he’s writing in the Guardian.

    How can it not be the case that thousands of hours of Bradley Walsh saying “hey? what about it? eh? eh? hello, missus! oo’er! middle for diddle, is it? hey? c’mon lads, lets get crackin’, oo’er,” on ITV is rotting the amygdalae of swathes?

    Maybe the causal effect can be questioned and, in fact, thanks to a sort of democratic natural law of supply-and-demand, we only get the broadcasts that a nation deserves? In which case, we’re looking at the sort of dystopian programming featured in Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? (in which TV is dominated by a single Replicant comedian called “Mr. Smiley” or something) which is far worse than just saying, “TV makes treats you as a thicko and, as such, makes you thick.”

    Post Scriptum! You can do better than television. Read books. Read essays. Subscribe to New Escapologist’s essays through Patreon (or if you’re averse to this platform, send us a monthly £2.55 donation by PayPal).

    Debt: Intangible

    It’s been a while since we featured anything about personal finance here at New Escapologist, so here is some wisdom concerning debt from a thoughtful recent edition of The Whippet:

    Debt is a mental and emotional construct, not a tangible thing. That is, I loaned you $500 and now we both have the memory of that event, we share the opinion that you now need to pay me back that $500, and we share some values that you would be a garbage friend if you didn’t pay it back (unless you couldn’t, yada yada). So debt is the word that encompasses a bunch of ideas that we both have, that creates a relationship between us.

    But those beliefs can also exist in the head of a single individual. Maybe you asked for $500 as an outright gift, because you knew you’d struggle to pay it back. But I misunderstood and thought it was a loan. And now the debt exists in my head, but it doesn’t exist in yours. FRAUGHT.

    It’s an excellent read. Check it out, especially the points about the difference between technical and emotional debt as a way to stay mentally serene in the face of having a negative hi-score.


    Please support New Escapologist on Patreon here and, oh hello, The Whippet on Patreon here.

    The Success Trap

    Another day, another boring BBC article about work-life balance. And yet it’s interesting that such a mainstream media item would question (gently) the conventional idea of success. It is described (tentatively) in the article as a trap.

    There are [sic] “an endless amount [sic] of things you could be doing to make yourself look amazing,” [says the CEO]. “There’s big pressure to do that. You have founders [of companies] trying to achieve success on multiple fronts, whether it’s media attention, revenue growth, etc., and that’s where the trap sets in.”

    There’s an “outside portrayal of founder life as this amazing journey that you have to make look so exciting and so high growth all the time,” says Moore. “I think there’s just an inevitable crash for a lot of people when they feel they’re not living their real life.”

    As we’ve said many times at New Escapologist, you need to know why you’re doing what you’re doing. Where are your actions taking you? What are they really giving to (and taking from) the world? When do you imagine you’ll start having fun? And what is the point of all this “success” anyway? Will it really make you feel good or is it just a rather base (and impossible to ever achieve) defence reflex to gaslight the entire planet?

    Post Scriptum! For the kind of insight not offered by copy-writing dullards hired by mainstream Web media, why not join New Escapologist on Patreon to access an expanding of amusing, interesting Escapological essays?

    Letter to the Editor: Somewhere in Austria

    Hi Robert,

    Last year, somewhere in Austria, I decided to drop out of university in my very first class. We can say actually in the first fifteen minutes. I was 18, took my backpack, got out of the building and said “Goodbye to all that!”

    I worked a bit after leaving university and saved money. I am now in a small town somewhere in the world, educating myself, reading Plutarch, and drinking chocolate in the afternoon, hoping to write soon.

    I live simply and I am very young and inexperienced, but Thoreau taught me to try the experiment of living to learn to live.


    Tory thinktank wants to increase retirement age to 75

    In today’s Guardian:

    An influential conservative thinktank – fronted by the former work and pensions secretary, Iain Duncan Smith – has proposed the state pension age should rise to 75 over the next 16 years. If the Centre for Social Justice (CSJ) had its way, the retirement age would go up to 70 just nine years from now, as the change is phased in.

    This has been on the cards for a while, hasn’t it? Four million women have already been asked to wait an additional six years for their promised pensions. They want us to work until we die. No gold watch! No respite!

    “Well, 75 isn’t quite the end of life,” one might say. Well, maybe that’s true for some but:

    In Glasgow, boys born between 2015 and 2017 have a life expectancy of just 73.3 years – meaning under this plan, many would never reach pensionable age.

    The wealthy and powerful Right don’t want us to ever rest.

    And it’s the way they put it too. That the unwilling sweat of their citizens will “boost the economy” as if that were’t tyrannical lunacy while also adopting the tone of all this doing the work-knackered elderly a favour:

    The CSJ’s idea of raising the pension age further received glowing coverage in sections of the rightwing press, with the Telegraph marvelling how it would “boost the economy” by £182bn and stave off the “escalating cost” of state pensions. As Duncan Smith tweeted this week: “Removing barriers for older people to working [sic] longer has the potential to improve health and wellbeing, increase retirement savings and ensure the full functioning of public services for all.”

    It really does feel like like we’re at an extreme crossroads now, at which we need to choose between expanding the leisure franchise or enslaving everyone forever.

    Escapologists may not be personally motivated by a state retirement as such, what with it requiring forty years of work to reach and all, but it would be nice to live in a world where Escapology (a rare and individualist act) were’t the only way to be free from drudgery.

    It’s a dystopian vision of life, in which capitalism tells workers who have already grafted for 40 years that working a five-day week through their 70s is in fact the path to a healthy body and society.

    Psst. Please support New Escapologist on Patreon. There are some thoughts about retirement in a subscription essay called Day of the Elephant.

    Latest issues and offers


    Issues One to Seven

    A bundle of our first seven issues. Featuring minimalism, Houdini, Leo Babauta, Bohemianism, Alain de Botton, Sartre, and Tom Hodgkinson. 567 pages. £35.


    Issues Eight to Thirteen

    A bundle of our last six issues. Featuring Luke Rhinehart, Flaubert, Mr Money Mustache, part-time work, Will Self, home life, Richard Herring, and E. F. Schumacher. 593 pages. £30.

    Issue Thirteen

    Our final issue. Featuring an interview with celebrity mortician Caitlin Doughty; Matt Caulfield on zen fool Ryokan; and Reggie C. King on David Bowie and Sun Ra. 122 pages. £7.

    Escape Everything!

    A hardback guide to scarpering. Essential reading for wage slaves and slugabeds alike. Published by Unbound. 230 pages. £12.