Interview with Yesterday Girl

Information technology, cleaner industry, women’s rights and advances in medicine: our vast inheritance from postwar Democratic Capitalism is undeniable. Yet we’ve arguably thrown a few babies out with the bath water. As individuals, we’re all too often lonely, unhealthy and anxious. As a society, we’re demanding too much from our human-made economy and our natural environment. As workers, we’re lethargic, subservient and unsatisfied. Thank goodness for people like Jennifer Siggs, who promotes a return to an old-fashioned charm at her blog, Yesterday Girl.

As a society, we’ve turned our backs on certain ideas, trends and aesthetics in favour of completely new and fashionable ones. Sometimes this might be for the best, but I bet we’ve made some mistakes too. What, most of all, do you think it was a mistake to turn our backs on?

The thing that saddens me most about society in general today is the lack of community spirit. I know in some areas this still exists, but as a whole I think we’re less likely to know our neighbours, as perhaps people did fifty years ago. It’s not just neighbours, but that whole idea of being able to say ‘good morning’ to someone when you pass them in the street without fearing that they might find you a little strange. Being scared to talk to people at the bus stop, or on a train, general friendly chit-chat between strangers that years ago was commonplace, now is something feared by the majority.That is why when people are in need of help when out in public, often they remark afterwards that people just turned their heads and pretended they didn’t see. This may be just a consequence of increased crime over the years,and distrust of anyone unfamiliar, or perhaps increased crime in some parts stems from a lack of community and personable relationships. Who knows? But this is definitely one way I feel society has changed for the worst.

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Cribbage, anyone?

I’m writing a short essay about pub games. These simple ways of spending time are actually quite rebellious. The first ever attempt to enforce legislation upon pubs was not against the alcohol but against the games: Henry VII saw pub games as a distraction from more productive, patriotic activities such as archery practice and so he went against them.

Today, pub games can be a middle finger to The Corporation in that a dart board can provide pleasure for decades, and doesn’t require any batteries, apps or expensive upgrades. Some games, like word association or coin tossing, don’t require any special equipment whatsoever. Others, such as a ring-toss or a trivia quiz, will also involve several people or even the whole pub: a contrast to the lonely-making technologies of iPods and Wii-fit and the likes.

Instead of marinating in our Claustrospheres and consuming phosphur dots, let’s go to the pub and reinstate low-tech games.

Diary of an Escapologist. Part 21.

Here in Monreal, the idea of a white Christmas is meaningless. There’s already two feet of snow on the ground and it won’t go anywhere until March or April.

As a Brit, it’s amazing to witness the ease with which Montrealers adapt to the snow. Because of its predictable regularity, people simply aren’t bothered by it. There aren’t even many special measures taken: people and cars just cut their own way through the snow. Some quieter streets have the snow removed by bulldozers. Nothing closes down. Nothing grinds to a halt. The problems faced in the UK whenever it snows could be avoided with some very simple advice: individuals need to reassess the meaning of ‘wrap up warm’ and governments need to at least partially subsidize central heating. British suburbia’s obsession with gritsalt is a red herring.

Personally, I love the snow. I’ve been playing in it. I’ve not even curbed my resolution to walk everywhere. I honestly thought I would begin using public transport once the snow arrived, but I’ve found in practice that it’s not a big deal. I simply wear warm clothes and big boots. The sub-zero temperature transpires not to be a problem: I actually find myself overheating from the exertion of walking against the snow and need to remove my hood periodically to let off heat. The real challenge in walking long distances in the snow is the physical work involved. You use different leg muscles in the snow: muscles that aren’t accustomed to being used. Since one of the objectives of walking everywhere is to get exercise, the snow actually adds value. It’s fun too. I like to imagine I’m Scott of the Antarctic.

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Criticisms of minimalism

We often talk about minimalism at New Escapologist and our interest is three-fold:

– Environmental: by reducing your consumer habits, you have less impact on the natural environment.

– Financial: by consuming less, you don’t need to spend as much money. Consequentially you don’t need to work so hard at earning money.

– Aesthetic: by reducing physical possessions, you can have a cleaner, more manageable living or working space.

In our time talking about minimalism, we’ve encountered a few criticisms. Some of them are fair, some understandably verge on the hostile (understandable because minimalism asks people to curb their consumer freedom), and others are from people who’ve completely missed the point. In this post, I respond to some of the most common or most remarkable.

I have a guest post at a blog called Skool of Life. My piece responds to six real and fairly common criticisms of minimalism.

The post has also resulted in some reasonable comments, to which I am able to respond. In particular, a bloke called Andy worries that defining one’s self as a minimalist is as bad as defining yourself as a materialist. It gave me the opportunity to say this:

1. The desire to define yourself one way or another is a piece of psychological baggage a minimalist might want to jettison. Let’s not worry about defining ourselves. Self-expression is a nonsense championed by Freud’s nephew, Edward Bernays. It is little more than a marketing device that minimalists should proof themselves against.

2. Even if you choose to define yourself by owning a small number of things, your doing so is certainly better than defining yourself as someone who owns a large number of things. Your reluctance to consume will help the environment and help your wallet. So, while I’d advise against defining yourself in this way, it is still outwardly and empirically better than defining yourself as a materialist.

Enjoy the post! Please Tweet the link around if you can.

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New Escapologist newsletter #2

Hello Readers,

Welcome to our second New Escapologist email newsletter. Among other things, we’d like to tell you about our Christmas and New Year special offer, and to solicit your own escape stories.

1. Yuletide and New Year offer

Get Issues One and Three together for just £7 (€8.40 / $11.16). This is a great opportunity for New Escapologist blog readers who’ve missed out on the printed editions so far. This is almost certainly the cheapest New Escapologist will ever be, so cash in quickly if you’re interested. Offer runs until the end of December at.

2. Survey results

Thanks to everyone who took part in our recent survey. 73 people have completed the survey to date: far more than we had anticipated. Feedback was largely positive, but we’ve got a feel for the areas in which you’d like to see changes and the direction in which we should now move. A summary of the results can be found at the blog.

3. Issue Five

Our fifth print edition is coming along nicely. Coming in January 2011, the Bohemia-issue will celebrate the artists and eccentrics of history who have chosen to live as Bohemians, plus lots of practical articles on how to live the Bohemian life. Featuring Jacob Lund Fisker (of Early Retirement Extreme), beards, entropy, rambling, flâneurism, bedsits, Quentin Crisp, garrets, Buddhism, Bohemian neighbourhoods, digital work ethics, Alexander Trocchi, Erik Satie, Emperor Norton, Bohemian dating, brewing your own beer, and more.

Pre-order Issue Five at the shop.

4. Expozine 2010

We had a great time at Montreal’s Expozine 2010. I’ve never seen so many dealers and consumers of independent media under one roof. I’m told it is the biggest event of its type in North America. Almost everyone to whom we spoke was enthusiastic about indie media. A journalist called Jeremiah had a very positive outlook, explaining that many of the big, exciting cultural movements — the Surrealists, the Beat poets, John Lennon, the Merry Pranksters, movements in jazz — began as single events such as this one. These happenings become legend. A nice outlook, I thought.

You can read about our Expozine experience in our blog report.

5. New Stockists

Thanks to Expozine, we have three new stockists in Montreal: Drawn & Quarterly Bookstore (211 Rue Bernard); the Concordia Cooperative Bookstore (2150 Bishop)); and Galerie Monastiraki (5478 St-Laurent).

The GmbH bookstore in Glasgow also recently took some of our stock. Stockists in other towns coming soon.

6. Wanted: escapee case studies

Have you escaped? Do you have particular ideas on how you might escape a tedious desk job? We’d love you to write about it at our blog. Simply reply to this email if you’d like to get involved. The best stories will get a free copy of New Escapologist.

7. Escapology Microblog

Rather embarrassingly, we’ve opened a Twitter account.

If you hate Twitter, you can also enjoy our lengthier blog entries by subscribing to our RSS feed.

8. An Escapologist’s Manifesto

A useful blog entry from a couple of weeks ago reproduced the mini-manifesto we published in Issue One. The feedback in the comments thread was great. If you’d like to offer an opinion on our manifesto and contribute to the interesting conversation, you can still join in.

Thanks again for reading.

Until next time,

Robert Wringham
Editor, New Escapologist

An Escapologist’s Diary. Part 20.

I’m feeling pretty sickly today after some home-baked pumpkin seeds proved impossible to digest.

Collapsed on the Chaise, reading Catch 22 and watching the snow fall outside, I tried to recall the last time I was properly ill. Aside from a couple of self-induced hangovers, I’ve managed to avoid all malaise for over a year.

But how can this possibly be? I’d be frequently bed-ridden with fevers and tummy bugs when I had a job. Ah! When I had a job.

That’s the answer, obviously. Work is bad for your health. The stress, the misery, the forced early rises, the bad canteen food and the fact that you have to share an office and a morning bus with so many sneezing, sniffling, moaning, grey-faced lottery players must have something to do with it.

Lordy. It’s at times like this (and most other times, come to think of it) that I’m really glad to be a skiver.

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Librairie Drawn & Quarterly

The latest Montreal stockist of New Escapologist is the prestigious Librairie Drawn & Quarterly, the only brick-and-mortar outlet dedicated to the famous Drawn & Quarterly publishing label.

This is quite a coup for us, so thanks to Julia for sorting out the consignment for us.

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