Eleven Things I Can Do Without In 2011
Here’s a list of eleven things I can do without in 2011 Luxury Don’t get me wrong, I like good food, nice clothes and having a comfortable place to live. But luxury, as a way for brands to differentiate themselves, is a tired idea. In fact, anything that uses exclusivity or costliness as it’s main […]
Here’s a list of eleven things I can do without in 2011
Don’t get me wrong, I like good food, nice clothes and having a comfortable place to live. But luxury, as a way for brands to differentiate themselves, is a tired idea. In fact, anything that uses exclusivity or costliness as it’s main point of distinction feels vacuous and, well, cheap.
Foie Gras and Truffles
Perhaps nothing speaks more clearly to the failure of luxury as an aesthetic ideal than foie gras and truffles. While they are both ingredients that I love, their presence on a menu typically suggests a profound lack of culinary imagination. In fact there is nothing more tiresome than reading a restaurant menu full of expensive and rare ingredients flown in from all over the world. That is cookie-cutter epicureanism.
OK, this is a list, so I’m guilty of falling into this trap as well. As bloggers have gone after itinerant traffic from social media sources, we have succumbed to writing in list-based formats. We should call time on “the five best,” “the top ten” and “twenty-five ways,” style writing. Nick Hornby’s excellent novel, High Fidelity, made clear that thinking in lists is a by-product of delayed adulthood.
I’m tired of the whole expat thing. I’m tired of expats who claim to love their new city, won’t hear criticism of it, yet live totally immersed in the popular culture of their home nation and barely pause to wipe their feet as they run “home” once their “assignment” is finished. You would think that with their experience of travel and foreign culture, expats would consistently be fascinating people to meet. But, sadly, they often are less than the sum of their experiences.
My father taught me to value newspapers as windows into different ways of interpreting current affairs. The editorial standpoints of newspapers were a school, for me, into political and cultural ideology. But, far too many newspapers these days rely on lifted, borrowed and syndicated content. If you regularly read the major papers (like The Guardian or The New York Times) there is little reason to dive into smaller and regional papers.
Once a by-word for chic and current, they are now a tell tale sign for risk-averse, me-too retailing. They clutter otherwise navigable retail spaces and all too frequently don’t offer new brands or products, but simply extensions of existing brands, or tired and maxed out categories.
Even as I wrote this post, it is clear that binary opposition, what we can call either/or thinking has crept back into my mental repertoire. Breaking down that kind of logic was a big focus for me in the early 90s and most of my best academic writing (from 99-02) emerged from a more open and inclusive intellectual space. The time has come again to weed out the purveyors of binary opposition from my reading lists and conversational spaces.
I still really like Twitter. But it no longer has a place on my iPhone. Sure I’ll miss the quotidian tweeting about life in Hong Kong. But, it’s too much of a distraction, too much of a mental drag. I want to balance the immediacy of Twitter with a desire in 2011 to live a more reflective and intentional life.
I’ve been a fan of Monocle magazine since their first edition. I celebrated my 40th birthday at the Monocle acclaimed Hotel Nimb in Copenhagen, made a special detour to visit the Monocle store in London and enjoyed their hospitality at the opening of the Monocle store in Hong Kong. I like what they’ve done with their newspaper venture. But the quality of their output, online, in their podcast and most sadly, in the magazine has slipped dramatically in 2010. I hope they can right the ship next year, but the omens are not good.
In 2011 I bought an iPad, an iPhone, a MacBook Pro and upgraded my Mac Pro. I regret the first two of those decisions and was surprised by how time consuming the later two turned out to be. Of course, that’s only the tip of iceberg. Gadgets are a huge time suck – an enormous font of distraction and frustration. I love them, but it’s time to admit that it is, largely, a dysfunctional love-affair.
The digital age has bequeathed us a surplus of language-mangling puffery. Few things really are “game-changers,” calling young people “digital natives” is obscenely inane and the less we say about the abuses carried out on the word “conversation” the better. Language is like music theory and visual composition – you’d better demonstrate that you understand the rules before you try to change or break them. Otherwise, you will sound and look like a fool.