"Let life enchant you again." - Fernando Gros
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Blog // Simplicity
December 16, 2010

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.

Pop-up Stores
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.

Binary Oppositions
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.

Geoffrey Wu 13 years ago

Hi Fernando,

From food side, I want to propose the following:

Taiwan Bubble Tea
Molecular Cuisine
Private Kitchen
Organic Food

So tired of above, bring back the real food please!

Happy Eating!

Fernando Gros 13 years ago

Geoffrey – I’m pretty tired of the food fashions that the PR/Journalism machine is sending us right now. Molecular gastronomy appeals to the iconoclast in me. There’s a lot of popular ideas about food that don’t stand up to examination. But, the whole thing has gone too far. Just like what happens in music and art, when the game becomes about showing off technique, things get really ugly.

As for Organic Food – well that’s a big issue. I am very much into the ethics of food, issues like sustainability and provenance matter (e.g., I won’t eat grain-fed beef). But, the organic label is kind of broken now and doesn’t always mean better quality, or even better ethical practice.

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