Consumption: Now With More Minimalism!

Ever since discovering The New Minimalism last week I've been taking inventory of my life, both literally and metaphorically, and I've come to the realization that I am indeed in thrall to my own possessions. Do I really need that climate-controlled penguin habitat? When was the last time I actually used that sausage maker? Is it worth employing a live-in massage therapist when I actually have a deep-rooted phobia of human touch of which my live-in psychotherapist has as yet been unable to cure me?

Alas, these are simply things that "society" and "commercials" and "the system" and "Wall Street" and "Madison Avenue" have duped me into thinking I need, and in reading the "Far Beyond the Stars" blog I've finally been awakened to the fact that I'm merely a slave to those insidiously catchy sausage maker jingles with which we are eternally barraged. I've also learned that it's important to be mobile, and that I've actually been foolish to pack up and fly with my climate-controlled penguin habitat every time I leave town. Instead, I should be like the "Buddhists:"

Oh, those wily Buddhists. Oh, those stupid Americans. "Can you imagine what it would be like to simply fly from New York to Chicago with just a satchel bag?" Actually, yes. It's only like a three hour flight. In fact, I can't really imagine flying from New York to Chicago with more than just a "satchel bag," and I'm sure many business travelers feel the same way. (By the way, a satchel is a bag--for a minimalist he really likes to waste words. Calling a satchel a "satchel bag" is like calling a bike a "bicycle cycle.") However, I can imagine traveling without "a laptop bag with a couple of books in it." I thought this guy had an iPhone. Doesn't he realize you can read books on them now?

Anyway, after berating his fellow travelers the minimalist asks this question:

1, What would you bring with you, if you had to leave now?

Say in a hypothetical situation you wanted or needed to leave your house at this exact moment. What would you bring with you? You have to go right now! There’s no time to sit around and mull over the decision.

Holy crap! Right now?!? What's going on? Are we being attacked by terrorists again? Is the building on fire? Have the penguins escaped? Actually, I know exactly what I'd bring in any of these situations:


I'd just "GTFO," as they say in Internet parlance.

Clearly, though, I've got a lot to learn about minimalism. Actually, in the event of terrorist attack, conflagration, or stampeding penguins, you should bring the following with you when you flee:

Here’s my list:
5 shirts, 5 underwear, 5 pairs of socks, 1 pair of jeans. Suitable jacket for overnight weather at my destination. iPhone, iphone charger. Moleskin. Cash, credit cards, and ID.

The "moleskin" is especially important. Penguins, as everybody knows, are deathly afraid of moles, so disguising yourself as one by donning a moleskin is a highly effective means of self-preservation in case of penguin attack.

Of course, if it's really urgent--like, if the penguins also have rabies--you should bring even more crap:

If it was an emergency: sleeping bag, tent, any food available in my area, water bottle.

I can't believe he left out the duct tape.

Oh, and if the situation is less urgent--like the terrorists are attacking, but in sort of a "half-assed" fashion and not so violently that there will be a disruption in Internet service--you can bring a laptop:

Less urgent situations: I’d bring my laptop.

He also adds the following:

Obviously this is a rather small list, but I actually don’t own many more things than this.

Actually, he does. We know he has 57 things (not counting the stuff he shares with his partner), and he's only listed like 10-25 things here, depending on how you count and how serious the emergency is. So, at most, this isn't even half of what he owns.

Still, this doesn't change the fact that it's important to be prepared, and he presents us with the following exercise:

Think about what you would bring with you, if you had to leave now. Make a list. Maybe even pack a bag and see how heavy it would be. Consider if you had to walk 50-100 miles with that bag. Does it still seem doable?

After thinking for approximately a half a second, I made the following list:

Actually, I dictated the list to my helper monkey, Vito, whose penmanship is improving considerably thanks to the journal he's been keeping. (He carries a Moleskine notebook at all times.) In any case, it definitely seems "doable," and when the Penguin Apocalypse begins and I run past some guy who's carrying a week's worth of clothing, a suitable jacket for the weather at his destination, a sleeping bag, and a tent--while simultaneously making notes in his "moleskin" notebook and checking his iPhone for the signal that no longer exists--I'll be sure to thank him for all the great advice.

But what if you decide to flee the Four Penguins of the Apocalypse by bicycle? What sort of bicycle would you bring, and how much stuff would you carry? Well, if you're these two, you'd just bring a couple of brakeless "fixies," a couple of messenger bags, and a whole lotta love:

A reader recently alerted me to this couple's journey, and they are the latest fixed-gear riders to heed the call of the open road but to ignore the call of practicality by not using things like brakes, derailleurs, panniers, or even water bottle cages:

Though in a surreptitious nod to hydration one of them does use "butt rockets," the favorite accessory of both the NĂ¼-Fred and the "tri geek:"

Together, they're elephant trunk skidding their way across the American Southwest:

When you consider those guys who went to the pyramids, and those other guys who went to Japan, and now "American Fixed Gear," as well as all the other ill-prepared "fixie" riders who have "lit out" in search of meaning and sore knees, it's clear we're close to a moment in which every single fixed-gear rider in the world will be on a journey of some kind. At that time, the "hipster ghettos" of all the world's cities will be empty, leaving their lofts and artisanal boutiques unguarded and vulnerable to looting and plunder. The masses will rise up and seize any Apple products or similar "minimalist" commodities they may have left behind, the "minimalists" will become the hunted, and the penguins will roam free.

Speaking of minimalism, another reader forwarded me this grotesque example of conspicuous minimalist consumption:

The builders call it a "nice little commuter," and it is indeed a perfect commuter if you need to ride to your job as an animated extra in a Japanese cartoon, or you're competing in an Ironyman--which is of course the "hipster" equivalent of an Ironman. (Ironman finishers get this; Ironyman finishers get this.)

Really, sometimes it seems like the only true minimalist is Mario Cipollini, who doesn't even wear a jersey when he rides:

"Cycle smarm" is the new "cycle chic."

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