Nuggets of Wisdom: The Art of Crap Curation

Last night, as so often happens, I fell asleep in my bathtub. While I do my best to stay awake, once those soothing bath crystals take effect I am powerless against sleep's gentle caress, and even though my helper monkey, Vito, is under strict instructions to wake me before midnight he often cannot find me amidst all the bubbles. (I like my baths like Vegas showgirls or hastily-poured beer: bubbly and voluminous on the surface, but ultimately shallow.) Awaking this morning to the sound of Vito's electric toothbrush, I extricated my shriveled carcass from the tub, said my morning prayer to the Lobster God (crustaceous and ornery be He) and shuffled over to the computer in order to check my electronic mail. Among the emails I am fortunate to receive from readers are ones containing photographs, and among those photos was this one of a bicycle tool designed specifically for minimalists:

Obviously, this is yet another transparent attempt to capitalize on the minimalist trend that is taking the nation by storm (or, more accurately, by brief rainshower, which is a minimalist storm). Not only is this so-called "minimalist tool" not designed by Apple, but ten tools is also grossly excessive and no self-respecting minimalist would be caught with such a bulky and unwieldy contraption. Fortunately, Steve Jobs is creating a true multi-tool for the minimalist cyclist:
Granted, there's not all that much you can do with it, but it's sleek and elegant, and it costs $250.

Of course, once the subject of minimalist tools arises, my mind turns immediately to the ultimate minimalist tool: that "57 things" guy. "What self-indugent inanity hath he wrought today?," I wondered, and so I pointed my Internet browser (I'm using Rivendell's lugged browser, which is slower than other popular browsers but allows me to "surf the web" in a comfortable, upright position) to his blog, "Far Beyond the Stars," where I was overjoyed to discover that he was about to reveal the "secret of success:"

("I draw my douche-piration from the forest.")

Talk about fortuitous timing! Visiting a minimalist blog just as its "curator" is about to reveal the secret of success is like tuning in to "Basic Instinct" right when Sharon Stone reveals her vulva. So what is the secret of success? Hard work? Passion? Dedication? Owning and operating a lucrative chain of donut shops? Hardly. If you want to be successful, "You need to lead a lifestyle that you want people to live." Then, once you're leading this "cool lifestyle," you need to "describe it on your blog:"

I admit that I was skeptical when I first read this, since it didn't seem to correspond with the career paths of any successful people. For example, Warren Buffett's successful, and I'm pretty sure that leading a cool lifestyle and blogging about it is not the way he got started in life. Furthermore, many people have been successful over the centuries without being especially "cool" or without having access to blogs. Mahatma Gandhi, George Washington, Leonardo DaVinci, and Dave Thomas of the Wendy's fast food chain (all four of their visages are carved into a hillside in suburban New Jersey called "Mount Rush-meh," by the way) are just a few examples. In fact, "lead a cool lifestyle, and describe it on your blog" struck me as being a poor formula for success but an absolutely perfect recipe for being a giant asshole.

Suddenly though I realized the problem was not with the formula but with my own lack of understanding, for the truth is that what I consider "being a giant asshole" is in fact the minimalist version of success. I also realized that the reason I'm such a failure is that, while I may have a blog, I don't lead a "cool lifestyle"--unless testing bicycles in flip-flops and being covered in baby puke is cool. Really, on the vast spectrum of success, I'm little better than some two-bit chicken nugget blogger:

But is blogging about chicken nuggets really so lame? I'm not so sure that it is. The truth is that a truly enlightened person could divine the essence of the entire universe from a single chicken nugget. "57 things" guy might realize that if he actually meditated under that tree instead of simply using it for cover while "foffing off." Plus, there's this:

Something like this will do for your chicken nugget blog what "I'm Too Sexy" did for Right Said Fred's singing career (by which I mean make it incredibly popular while at the same time making people puke), and if nothing else this amazing and disgusting discovery is proof that if you eat enough chicken nuggets eventually something exciting will happen. As the Buddhists say, “Before enlightenment I carry water and sweep the floor. After enlightenment I carry water and sweep the floor.” Similarly, chicken nugget bloggers say, "Before amazing deep-fried chicken head I eat chicken nuggets. After amazing deep-fried chicken head I eat chicken nuggets." Or, if you prefer, "To thine own self and snack foods be true." (This was actually the slogan for McDonald's "Hamlet"-themed Happy Meal.)

Anyway, at this point two things are now clear to me:

1) "Minimalism" is a cult-slash-pyramid scheme that brings together the worst aspects Landmark and Amway and appeals to either people who are way into "design" or people who have read the collected works of Napoleon Hill but are still not rich yet;

2) So far, the biggest marketing trend to emerge in the 21st century is "crap curation."

Until now, marketing was mostly about crap. Companies made crap, advertising agencies came up with clever ways to sell you that crap, and people defined themselves by what crap they owned and how much they paid for it. Now, however, simply having crap is not enough, and we must construct our identities out of how we manage our crap and where we keep it. This accounts for the "minimalism" phenomenon, which is based on bragging about how streamlined your crap is, and which is the opposite of the "hip-hop" phenomenon (which covers everything from actual hip-hop to fixed-gear "streetwear enthusiasts") in which participants not only brag about how much crap they have but also advertise it to others for free. It also accounts for our obsession with "crap portage." Consider this video (or "sizzle reel") for the ScotteVest, which I discovered thanks to a reader:

The ScotteVest is the perfect garment for the minimalist and/or douchebag on the go, and as you can see it has been featured in all sorts of TV shows that nobody has ever heard of and that will soon be in reruns in the middle of the night on the SciFi channel. I guess the appeal of the ScotteVest is that it transforms you from some schlubby bag-schlepper into an action star. But what kind of action star needs a special place to carry his bottled spring water?

(X-ray reveals vest's douche-cessory-hauling capability.)

"Back in the day," Dirty Harry withdrew that Magnum seemingly out of nowhere while wearing a simple sport jacket. Now, his modern-day equivalent can't go anywhere without a bottle of Poland Spring and an iPod so he can listen to the neutered warblings of Sufjan Stevens.

I wonder if Jared Leto's "Captain Eo"-inspired jacket has similar hauling capabilities:

Though I can't help thinking an X-ray of Leto's midsection would reveal something altogether different:

That's called "auto-erotic crap curation."

Brilliantly, the same reader informs me that the makers of the ScotteVest have also sponsored this "challenge" (a "challenge" is a form of advertising campaign), in which some guy will visit a bunch of places without carrying a bag:

Apparently, he can only bring what will fit in his ScotteVest--though of course he can also buy anything he wants:

Buying items along the way is permitted

On that same token, I am allowed to buy things for myself along the way. If I suddenly decide that I want my own toothpaste supply, I can buy a tube in Paris or Cairo or Bangkok. The same goes for clothing and accessories: If I want to buy a pair of sunglasses in Casablanca, a fresh t-shirt in Johannesburg, or a pair of flip-flops in Singapore, I can. I can even buy a souvenir and mail it home from some far corner of the world — so long as I don’t break any of the above rules in the process. This is all in keeping with another time-honored travel virtue: If in doubt, bring less gear and more money.

However will he manage? As I see it, the only challenge here is to travel around the world while looking like a complete dork.

But when it comes to "crap curation," few people get more excited about it than cyclists--though in cycling parlance "crap curation" is called "portaging." Here is an astounding example of conspicuous crap curation (from Portland, obviously) that was forwarded to me by another reader:

Generally speaking I don't have a big problem with leather, but I can't help lamenting how many animals had to die so that one person could be a self-contained "bike culture" cliché.

Self-expression through "crap curation" in cycling even extends to the portaging of children, as I mentioned yesterday:

There are two Cargobikes but no children. In all fairness the kids might have just been dropped off at the daycare center but again, seeing people carrying their precious cargo around on bikes is the surest sign of the perceived danger being low.

The reason for having children, of course, is so that you can express yourself through their "portage"--and a cargo bike has way more smug-appeal than a rideable stroller:

All of this is to say nothing of the vast array of expensive messenger-inspired bags and cycling backpacks that, while useful, have also in their sheer proliferation served to reflect the "bike culture's" transformation into a loosely-organized consumerist collective of preening bag whores.

Hopefully some artisanal bag maker starts making leather chicken nugget holsters for 2011.
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