No-money Suelo: a response

July 28, 2009

A few days ago I posted this article about a dude named Daniel Suelo who chooses to live in a cave in Utah with no money. Someone on Metafilter wrote a response to that same article.

Apologies to Mr. Suelo, but modern western civilization is the shit

I am by no means a rich man, but in comparison to most of the world and most humans who lived in any age preceding ours, I live like a king. By the mere accident of birth, I came to live in a country that bombards its citizens with comforts. I woke up this morning and put two cups of fresh, clean water into a metal pan and boiled it on my electric stove. I then stirred in some 7-grain porridge and some raisins and cooked up my breakfast. I didn’t have to grow the grains and process them and I didn’t have to grow the grapes and dry them into raisins – it all came from the store, packaged and ready to go! From the same store, I also obtained some butter without having to own a cow and some honey without having to put on an apiarist’s suit and squeeze it out of a hive. I put the porridge and honey and butter into a ceramic bowl that I did not cast and stirred it all together with a metal spoon that I did not forge.

Scarcely half an hour after climbing out of my bed – that is, a queen-sized mattress supported by a boxspring and a metal frame, covered with flannel sheets that I did not and could not weave – I had prepared myself a delicious, nutritious breakfast. And I know how long it took because of the digital alarm clock sitting on my bookshelf – a bookshelf that is packed out with volumes on a wide variety of subjects which were written by learned men and women from all over the planet. Were I to pick up one of these books, I would find pages filled with words in clear, uniform type on smooth, machine-pressed paper. Their spines are sturdily bound and some of the covers have absolutely beautiful art or photographs printed on them. I could read it on my sofa while an electric fan controlled the temperature in my apartment and better see the pages by way of an electric light if I found the sunlight streaming in through my double-paned windows wanting. Fucking. Awesome.

Instead, I decided to watch a DVD of Flight of the Conchords while I ate. A DVD player built in Taiwan streamed images of a sitcom filmed in New York, built around the act of a guitar-playing folk-satire duo from New Zealand into a cathode ray device built in China, all for my amusement. Once upon a time, only nobility got to be so entertained, and only then if they shipped in live performers. Today, a machine on a shelf above my television used a fucking laser to extract entertainment from a paper-thin disc, all because I pushed a few buttons on a small, infrared transmitter called a “remote control.” Wow! No Pharaoh ever had it so good!

I looked at Mr. Suelo’s site for as long as I could stomach the sanctimony and noticed a number of quotes from luminaries of ages long dead. These quotes make for good copy, but I don’t know how good a job they do of decrying our age and our currency, given that these people never saw it and never spent it. Is Suelo absolutely certain that Thoreau wouldn’t have loved microwave popcorn? That Lincoln wouldn’t have wanted the extended editions of the Lord of the Rings trilogy? He did fancy a play from time to time, after all. St. Augustine’s piety was never, ever tested against central air conditioning or drive-thru burger joints.

The folks who lived without money and modern comforts in ages gone by did so largely for lack of any other choice. People crave comfort and safety – greed is naught but an extreme expression of these universal needs. The average Roman legionnaire would have gladly killed to know the comforts of a Victorian and a Victorian would have done the same to enjoy the leisurely life of a modern American, same as I would to vault into the 24th century, where waste-processing nanites keep my large intestine clean and translator microbes in my Broca’s region enable me to speak with anyone in the world as if we grew up with a common language. I’m aware that greed and sloth have us in a bit of a mess right now and I’m confident that greed will lead us back out. The energy problem won’t be cracked because we all come together and build non-profit solar power co-ops. It’ll happen when some greedy son of a bitch decides he wants in on the ground floor of The Industrial Revolution, Part Two – Green Electric Boogaloo.

The modern world absolutely teems with marvels. In a couple hours, I’m gonna hop on my bike, a miracle of a machine with a fiberglass frame and rubber tires, and ride on paved, light-controlled roads to a job where I help disabled folks manage their lives. These guys have disabilities that would doom them in a fortnight in Mr. Suelo’s ideal world. But thanks to modern medicine and machines, these men may live for much longer and in much more comfort than they ever could before. I know what a lucky bastard I am, living in the twenty-first century United States. I’m thankful to live in such a place, where a man with cerebral palsy can have orange juice whenever he pleases and even folks who elect to live in a goddamn cave get to wear sturdy boots and maintain a blog that the whole planet is welcome to read.

… umm, so good. I heart MeFi.

No money, no problem

July 22, 2009

Daniel Suelo decided to quit money cold-turkey. He lives in a cave in Utah and scavenges for everything he needs.

His hands are black with dirt, and his hair, which is going gray, looks like a bird’s nest, full of dust and twigs from scrambling in the underbrush on the canyon floor. Grinning, he presents the booty from one of his weekly rituals, scavenging on the streets of Moab: a wool hat and gloves, a winter jacket, and a white nylon belt, still wrapped in plastic, along with Carhartt pants and sandals, which he’s wearing. He’s also scrounged cans of tuna and turkey Spam and a honeycomb candle. All in all, a nice haul from the waste product of America.

This isn’t really a sustainable lifestyle for everyone, even if none of us cared about being dirty and having mice in our caves. He’s living off the garbage of a system he denounces, but without the system, he wouldn’t have any cans of Spam or honeycomb candles. Still, this kind of lifestyle is interesting.
Via The Awl

Your business card sucks

June 7, 2009

This kind of guy makes me wanna run away fast, but also makes me wanna stay to videotape the madness. I started a new category just for this guy, and Toast from last week. Keep an eye on the “douchebaggery” category for more videos that will make you feel really good about your own social skills.
Thanks to Ryan for the tip.

Rules for negotiating

March 3, 2009

This is great- rules of thumb for negotiating your own deals. I have seriously made some dumb negotiating mistakes in my time. This one time I agreed to work in exchange for a pat on the head. And the hand that patted me was all the way across town and I hadda take the Queen Streetcar and I got leered at on the way, and at the end of it all they didn’t even reimburse my transit fare. And to top it all off, I think that patting hand had, like, some gum stuck on it, because later I found some gum stuck in my hair and the flavour was almost gone.

So, uh, these rules should really help me.

2. Never go to money

By this I mean you should try to get the person who you are pursuing with your script to come to your place of work. If they don’t ever come to you, you are essentially dealing with an onanist. The theory is that, if the person will not leave their yacht, penthouse or mansion to come to visit you, then they will never take you seriously.

More here, on the Raindance site, which is full of good articles and kicks in the pants for filmmakers.

How to be a super shopper.

December 5, 2008

Every now and then, I have to run out and buy a bunch of clothes all at once for work, then test them out, and then return whatever isn’t right. This has taught me a lot about shopping. Here are my tips for being an amazing shopper:

Rule number Zero, don't bring a cat.  That is not sane.

Rule number Zero, don't bring a cat. That is not sane.

1. Eat.
Start with breakfast, and caffiene. Shopping with low blood sugar is like being on a plane with a screaming baby, when you’re the baby.

2. Think.
Know what you want, at least vaguely. A ballpark idea, like “I would like a warm, professional-looking sweater in a neutral colour” is a much better start than “…um.” Look on the internet for inspiration if you really don’t know.

3. Groom.
Do your hair, wear a little makeup, shave your legs, etc. Clothing stores are full of mirrors, and if you look like a peehole in a snowbank, seeing the proof again and again in a million mirrors is demoralizing.

He would be much happier if he'd worn a little lipgloss.

He would be much happier if he'd worn a little lipgloss.

4. Go alone.
Friends are fun for browsing, but if you really need to get specific items, bringing friends just makes everything take longer.

5. Dress for the mission.
Wear clothes & shoes that come off easily- avoid your “thigh-high lace-up-boots-worn-with-a-damp-swimsuit” outfit just this once, maybe.

Wearing a tight, plain tank top or T-shirt under your shirt will make life easier too, because you can try things on faster and with less privacy if you’re already wearing a fitted layer.

Wear a nice, plain outfit that matches the formality of the outfit you’re trying to buy. This way, things you try on will match with whatever you’re already wearing, which takes a lot of the guesswork out of trying stuff on.

Also, wear (or bring) the right kind of shoes for the outfit you’re trying to buy. It sucks trying on a dress if you’re wearing sneakers.

No, please.

No, please.

6. Travel light.
Wear a thin jacket or none at all. Don’t bother with scarves, mitts, umbrellas, etc- the less you bring, the less you have to carry.

7. Use your camera.
Especially if you’re trying to match your new purchases to stuff you already have, either to finish an outfit or to create, say, a new work wardrobe. Grab the outfits you already like & lay them out on your bed (or hang them on a hook)- then take photos of them. These are known in the film industry as “Wardrobe Polaroids”. But who owns a Polaroid camera these days? Use your digital camera, and just leave the photos on there so you can quickly scroll through them in a store. This makes it easy to see, at a glance, how many outfits those new yellow hot pants will match. (Hint: ALL OF THEM.)

8. Conserve energy.
Go the the likeliest and largest stores first, when you have the most pep in your step.

9. Overbuy & return later.
Some big chain stores have amazing return policies- like H&M, Gap, Old Navy, Smart Set, Winners, and Banana Republic. In those stores, frankly, I don’t always even bother trying stuff on (especially H&M, with its madhouse changerooms packed with teens). Those stores allow returns for a full refund with absolutely no hassle, and since I pass the mall on my way home anyway, there’s no reason not to just do a second errand later that week to return stuff. Plus, that errand will give me something to check off my to-do list on another day, which is the exact definition of “productivity”.

Since I generally know my size, I’ll just buy whatever-it-is in my size and maybe the next size up, as well. Then I can try stuff on at home, where I can futz around with accessories and indulge my miniature attention span by making decisions while I watch Jon & Kate Plus 8. Once I bought THREE HUNDRED BUCKS worth of stuff at H&M in a single trip, do you have any idea how many pounds of clothing $300 will get you at H&M?

This many!

This many!

But after some trying on, I returned all but two items a few days later, how reasonable, right? No fuss, no muss. I seriously recommend this. Sometimes the salesgirl will look at you wide-eyed and ask, “You’re returning all this? Are you a stylist?” That’s because you’re so stylish! (Also, say no. Some stores will charge stylists a percentage fee, but they won’t press it if you just tell them you’re not. If they don’t believe you, show them your yellow hot pants.)

10. Consolidate purchases.
Put all your shopping bags together in one big bag. Carrying it all in only one bag means you’re less likely to accidentally forget stuff along the way.

A parable: I once bought a LabelMaker (I know!) and then forgot it in Urban Outfitters. By the time I remembered it, some hipster had stolen it, no doubt to make ironic labels for their indie music collection or something. So I went back to Grand and Toy and bought another LabelMaker. And twenty minutes later, I left that one behind on the subway. It was a really tragic day, you guys! Like Hansel and Gretel with a trail of LabelMaker breadcrumbs through the consumerist forest!

... wait, what?

... wait, what?

Luckily they were on sale for like $10, but STILL!
Later that week I bought a third LabelMaker, that is ridiculous!
(Although that one I managed not to lose, and it does make exceptionally nice labels.)

11. Be nice!
If the salespeople in a particular store are really great, grab a business card and call their manager to praise them. Sometimes they get bonuses or extra-long breaks when customers call to compliment their service, and working retail kind of sucks, so spread the sunshine, people!

12. Snack!
Make sure to fuel your travail mid-day with a carby snack. Sugary coffee, carrot cake, poutine with extra fries, extra gravy, and extra cheese, or even just an entire pound of Kraft caramels. You choose!

And at the end of the day, another snack! Or a new Labelmaker! You deserve it, snazzy shopper!

NoKa: No way.

December 3, 2008

This is a lengthy (10+ pages), but sublimely satisfying blog post.

NoKa is one of the priciest chocolate retailers in the world. Their plain truffles or matchbook-sized rectangles of plain chocolate sell for between $800-$2500/pound. As a point of comparison, the writer points out that “foie gras is $50/pound, marijuana in El Paso is $350/pound, and a fat stack of dollar bills is $454/pound”.

The obvious question is, What’s NoKa worth?

The answer, and the thoroughness with which the blogger (Scott of determines his answer, is pretty darn fun to read. Along the way you’ll learn some fun tidbits about chocolate production, too. (My only complaint with this article is that the female CEO of the company is criticized more harshly than the male, and it sounds to me like blame should be shared.)