The Fluchtverdachtiger at work

A reader emails to demonstrate his use of a Fluchtverdächtiger in the workplace. He’s cleverly made the symbol into the user icon on his office PC.

Good idea. Downloadable Fluchtverdächtiger icons, wallpaper and screensavers available here soon.

Keep your examples Fluchtverdächtiger usage coming in.

Against the Grain. Or: Huysmans’ Check-List

The following entry is by our sub-editor, Reggie Chamberlain-King. The illustration is by our arts editor, Samara Leibner

The title of J-K. Huysmans’ most famous novel, À rebours, can be translated as Against Nature or Against the Grain. But, for me, it is the second possibility that is the more appealing.

In the novel, the high-dandiacal protagonist, Des Esseintes, escapes into a Hinterland of his own creation, living a stylised, aesthetic life far from the nearest townfolk; he reads heretical literature, he mixes experimental cocktails, and he emblazons the shell of his pet tortoise with a wealth of precious stones. His tastes are decadent, gaudy even, and in their concentrated contrarianism, they are against nature. But Des Esseintes’ desire to escape is entirely natural; that he contrives to do it, and succeeds in doing so, is against the grain.

The idea of Against the Grain is wider-reaching, spanning from the self-indulgent aesthete to the self-effacing ascetic and all the points between. Any Escapologist (and you, reader, may be one) would fall somewhere along the spectrum, as Escapology itself requires one to break from convention or go against the accepted way of doing things. How else would one escape?

Huysmans himself never made the sort of escape that Des Esseintes did (although, interestingly, they would die in similar circumstances). He whored and debauched in his youth, but was subsidised through it all by his well-paid job in the civil service; he was a weekender, working five days, writing at night, then carousing with artists in his free time. It was only after the success of his novel, LĂ -Bas, an exploration of Satanism in 19th century Paris, that he contemplated change.
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EVENT. Breakfast Party @ The School of Life

8:30am, 13th August 2010 sees the New Escapologist breakfast party at the School of Life in London.

Founded by Alain de Botton and friends, the School is the perfect venue to mark the launch of our philosophy-inspired fourth issue. The School is officially closed for the duration of August, but they’re opening especially for us. Special thanks to The School for this.

The event will feature a talk by New Escapologist Editor, Robert Wringham and a unique ‘conversation breakfast’ run by Mark Vernon. It’ll also be a great opportunity to meet some of the New Escapologist staff and writers as well as other New Escapologist readers.

We’ll have advance copies of the magazine for sale (or for free collection to subscribers).

For those who fancy it, the event will informally continue at the nearby St. George’s Gardens and/or local Camden drinkery.

The event is limited to twenty places and costs ÂŁ20. Tickets will be on sale until July 30th (or until they sell out, whichever comes first). Come along! It’s going to be great.

Get your tickets here.

Frugality versus miserliness

In the very first essay of our very first edition, we printed a tabular manifesto of things an Escapologist might want to ‘escape from’ and ‘escape to’.

As a point of interest, this was adapted from an exercise practiced by the English poet, Brian Christian de Claiborne Howard, who originally drew up lists under the headings J’adore and J’accuse. He was in favour of love, food, freedom and art. He was against missionaries and bureaucrats.

One of the things we sought ‘escape from’ was miserliness. Escapologists should not be fiscally mean. Rejoice and be merry. Don’t abstain from pleasure. With time, company, action and thought, be generous to others.

Paradoxically, a key to maintaining a life free from debt and excessive labour is frugality. So how does one resolve frugality with the pledge against miserliness?

1. Frugality doesn’t exactly equate to miserliness. Learning to make your own burger patties or to stoke your own woodfire are frugal activities. It would be incorrect to describe them as miserly. Apollonian, perhaps, but not miserly.

2. Frugality need not exclude expensive purchases. You can afford the finest essentials if you stop buying poor quality things that need to be replaced all the time (highstreet clothes and sweatshop shoes) and things that serve only to distract and rot the mind (computer games, convenience food). The purpose of spending more money on a bespoke suit or the finest beers known to science is that the quality is better and you’ll get more out of them. Remember your quality budget.

3. If money is scarce, there are other things with which you can be generous: time, action, company and thought. Time is abundant when you don’t work, so it’s easier to be generous with it as a successful escapee. Action can be given to assist friends on their projects now that your actions aren’t owned by an employer. Company in the pub should be as inclusive as possible: you might learn something from people from other circles. Thoughts can be shared freely when you don’t need to compete with colleagues for managerial affection: commit your unconventional Escapologist’s mind to mulling over other people’s problems, offering your Jeeves-like miracle solution. Cultivate a generosity of mind: give people the benefit of the doubt.

4. Look for economies of scale to increase the potential for generosity. When a round of drinks in the pub exceeds a day’s income, it is reflexive to balk at such an expense and hard not to feel like a miser for worrying in this way. If, however, you brew five vats of beer in your cellar, you’re unlikely to feel the same pinch when it comes to giving it away. Become a good host. Be the person who welcomes everyone for a home-brewed beer. When the Idler‘s Tom Hodgkinson moved into a big old house in North Devonshire, he converted the scullery into an in-house pub where he shares beer and plays darts with his family and friends.

Brian Christian de Claiborne Howard may have been in favour of love, food, freedom and art but—by necessity, as a lover of freedom—also practiced frugality. He was a Bohemian: one of the truest breeds of Escapologist.

How does one resolve frugal behaviour with a pledge against miserliness? Recognise the difference between the two, look for opportunities to be generous and become a Bohemian.

Castaway on the moon

We saw a Korean romcom last night called Castaway on the Moon: a genuinely funny movie with an Escapological bent.

In it, a debtor attempts suicide by jumping into the Han River. Instead, he ends up stranded on a decorative islet a small distance from the shore. Unable to swim or attract attention, he is forced to live there on his own, cultivating crops with tools improvised from city flotsam. Charming and strangely inspirational.

We saw the film as part of the Fantasia film festival but the entire movie is on YouTube. This version doesn’t have English subtitles but, in the tradition of all good castaway movies, has minimal dialogue anyway. Here’s the trailer:

Algeria, South London, Bad Faith, & Plonk’stalibon

The following is a guest entry by sociologist and prankster, Wolfgang Moneypenny. He advocates sovereignty for South London. In this post he writes on the topic of Bad Faith: the theme for our pending fourth issue.

Bad faith. I can barely continue. But I must.

Hello. You might well recognise me. I’m a radically free being. And so are you! However. I’m probably more radical and more free than you. But don’t worry. Don’t panic. You can be so too.

Bad Faith, mauvaise foi, has an equivalent in the old edge-of-extinction-bring-it-back-with-EU-funding South London dialect of Transpontongue. That word is plonk’stalibon and means, quite approxiliterally, an inauthentic lack of appreciation in one’s free choice and choice-responsibility. It is believed by etymologists to be the root of “plonker”.

But to really sink our teeth into Bad Faith and what we can learn from it, let me take you back to that less cinematic but more profound Vietnam… An Algerian War of Independence…

A war that is Sartrean in one variety of interpretation. A particularly juicy. flavoursome variety. A variety so splendid that it’s tempting to stick with it. Whilst it’s oh-so-important to appreciate our free choice, too much choice must dualitially be recognised as a bad thing. I’m here to fight the spread of hypercapitalist postmodernity, people!

Algeria et al. did what they had to do. They overthrew, first, their own denial of their free choice, and, in so embracing a vividly nauseous stench of authenticity, inevitably overthrew their imperialist masters, The Bastard French.

Sartre was the hero of this war. Undoubtedly. He had ideas. And words. Some sort of anti-Sartrean movement has insisted on peddling some sort of quote from some sort of Algerian farmer, some sort of “No matter the consequences I will fight to keep my family alive” faux peasant-hero being-in-itself counterrevolutiography. Laughable. Ha ha ha!
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An Escapologist’s Diary. Part 13.

Resolutions. My resolve to bake fresh bread every couple of days has fallen by the wayside. Not the result of laziness exactly, but a lack of motivation in the face of steep competition: there are just so many Portuguese bakeries and Jewish-style bagel outlets offering cheap and delicious goods nearby.

My resolution to walk everywhere, however, is still in full force. Resolve was tested on Thursday by the prospect of a long walk in the hot sunshine and the knowledge that I’d have to do the very same walk a day later. In the end, I packed a canteen of water and a couple of cookies and walked anyway. I may have failed the bread project slightly but my enthusiasm for walking remains exceedingly intact.

It was a wonderful walk. I was able to observe that the seasons have changed slightly since last week. We must be entering the second half of summer now. Last week was about ants (swarming underfoot and in the air) but this week was about bees (busily commuting from flowering plant to flowering plant). The cicadas have also begun making their impossibly loud noises from the trees. It must have been this time last year when I first heard cicadas in Montreal. It sounded like a powerful electric current, emanating from somewhere unseen in the rooftops. I had stopped in my tracks and my girlfriend had to explain that the noise was the song of a harmless summer insect.

I had taken a slightly different route to usual, going via the main shopping precincts and Quartier des Spectacles. The Quartier is still very much under development and even though I was treated to some live Latin-style music from one of the public stages and saw some Papier-mâchĂŠ sculptures of Charlie Chaplin and the Three Stooges, I was also accosted by several genuinely desperate-looking homeless people. A teenage boy with a German accent offered to give me a blow job for 25¢, though he may have been joking and I wasn’t sure who he intended to be on the receiving end.
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I just finished reading a novel by one of my favourite ever writers, Alasdair Gray. The novel is called 1982, Janine. After a long night of introspection and an attempted suicide, the narrator gives himself opportunity to start afresh:

Will I start my own small business, if so what will it be? Will I buy a partnership, if so with who? Will I found a co-operative, start a theatrical company, join a commune? Will I invent something? Will I retrain myself to be a farmer of cattle and crops, a farmer of crabs and kelp? Will I join a political movement? Will I get religion? Will I hunt for women through contact magazines and singles clubs? Will I marry again and have a family this time? Will I emigrate? Will I roam the world with or without a companion? Will I discover that I am a homosexual, a cool-eyed gambler, a carver of clock cases, a psychopathic killer? Will I die in a war, a brothel, a famine, a bar-room brawl or beachcombing in Sri Lanka or in the Falkland Isles or in some other remote souvenir of the Great Britisher’s Empire? For I will not do nothing. No, I will not do nothing.

Later, the narrator is addressed by God (a character in the novel) who says this:

Stand up son. You’ve fallen and hurt yourself, but we all make mistakes. Regard these thirty or so mistaken years as the end of your schooling and start anew. There’s plenty of time. You’re not dead yet. You’re not even fifty.

It’s an astonishing novel, actually. Borrow a copy from your local library or order one from your local bookshop.

On Multitasking

Multitasking is crap. It is better to concentrate fully on one task at one time. By doing so, fewer mistakes are made and a little pride can be taken in a single job well done instead of pride being misplaced in creating an air of manic busyness.

Multitasking is actually a computing term denoting the ability for one server computer to look after multiple other terminals at the same time. But we’re not computers: we’re human beings and our work aught to be more organic, more considered and less complex.

Lets slow down an address one task at a time. This is a far more simple approach to work than multitasking. We’re even encouraged to multitask in our leisure lives. People on TV, when in relaxation mode, usually listen to music and read books at the same time. Captain Picard likes to listen to opera and read Shakespeare simultaneously. Frasier and Niles drink coffee as they go. Superman dashes all over Metropolis with four rescue missions on his mind at the exact same time, while also hobnobbing at a Daily Planet cocktail party. Maybe the Man of Steel can afford to multitask but your work probably doesn’t involve saving the planet from criminal geniuses and you don’t have alien superpowers working in your favour.

A pertinent symbol of multitasking is a takeout coffee cup with a plastic lid. They are designed so that you can drink your latte while dashing from one meeting to another, or so that you can knock back your Americano as you tap away at the monthly progress report. Would it not be better to slow down? Take half an hour (Hell, take an hour) to go to a coffee shop and enjoy your beverage properly and in a real cup. You’ll feel better for it. Write your report later and give it your full attention. Multitasking requires more energy than tackling one job at a time. With multitasking, you have to plan; you have to think ahead; you’re flying by the seat of your pants. It is complicated. I doubt it’s healthy either since you’re forced to cut back on those little sub-activities that make you human: daydreaming for instance or eating properly.

What happens when you plug four separate devices (an iPod; an internet connection; a Dictaphone and a digital camera) into a computer? It slows down. It crashes. It burns out.

Take one thing at a time.

Interview with James Mallinson

I hope you’ve been enjoying the recent blogger interviews. While a lot of these guys don’t claim to have all the answers or to have properly escaped yet, they’ve often put more thought into the escape question and ‘how to live’ than the typical person on the street. I should also point out that their opinions are often different from those held in the manifesto of New Escapologist but it all contributes to the discourse around alternative ways of life.

The following is an email interview with James from Part-Time Wage Slave.

Do you believe freedom is the natural state or a modern privilege?

True freedom as defined in a dictionary is impossibly hard to achieve in a modern society, so in that regard it’s a natural state. So, do we really crave freedom? Do we really want to live in a world devoid of regulation and law and obligation? Having to pay taxes is far from the notion of freedom in a traditional sense, but in return we get a police service, hospitals, etc. You could at any time, sell your home and your clothes and go travelling, but you couldn’t go robbing somebody in order to fund that travelling. The modern ideal is then perhaps freedom with fair boundaries or conditions attached in order to have a system that is stable, and in that regard it certainly is a privilege because there are many, many countries out there whose ‘boundaries’ on freedom are vastly more restrictive and anything but fair.
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