Consumed reader Q&A No. 4: Rob Horning

Continuing the effort to put Consumed readers in the spotlight, here’s the latest a series of mini-Q&As with some of the interesting people who have joined the Consumed Facebook page.

Today: Rob Horning, author of Marginal Utility on PopMatters.

s1384150395_2603What are you working on now, or making public soon, that you’re particularly excited about (and why)?

Aside from continuing to post on weekdays at Marginal Utility, I’ve just started to go through and try to tag all the blog posts I’ve written since I started in 2004. My hope is that this process will not only make the blog marginally more useful but will help me consolidate my ideas for a possible book. I’m trying to fight my own tendency to keep pressing forward, keep dashing off more or less spontaneous responses to things to satisfy my inclination to write, and put together something more carefully reasoned than what I generally do in blog posts — probably it will be about that very tendency at some level, the currents in contemporary culture, in consumerism, that work against our slowing down, dwelling with things, encouraging us instead to accumulate experiences and things without the hassle of thinking of them too particularly.

And of course, I’m excited to have discovered Hipster Runoff [rw note: sometimes NSFW] a blog that is well worth blogging about — I hope my efforts at placing the ever-ludic Carles in his proper theoretical context at are helping lift the veil on his philosophy a bit.

Is there something you would have bought, or used to spend money on, a year ago, that you would not today?

I used to be stuck in a pattern of eating lunch and then buying a cup of coffee at Starbucks or wherever to take back to the office where I work. (The office provides only Flavia, that awful boil-in a-bag crypto-coffee.) But then on a whim I bought a hot pot at a drug store and started making my own coffee at my desk. It’s been a curious source of camaraderie with coworkers in close proximity ever since. Now I’m very conscious of buying coffee — it seems to happen now only when I am on road trips.

What have you bought/spent money on/or otherwise consumed lately that you’re really pleased with?

In a way, I answered that above, but aside from my hot pot, I’m really inordinately pleased with basically everything I buy at Aldi. I feel like I am consuming the essence of frugality itself when I eat, say, their house-brand prunes. I’ve made a strange fetish out of Aldi that I need to get over. I want it to represent the promise of a post-brand future for the retail of staple items, but my own fixation with it imbues its brand with the halo value I would like to see negated. It seems as though all signifiers inescapably become brands, imbued with commercial identity-shaping ramifications; I wish it was possible for me to see a way through to how brands could become simple signifers again.

And on a related note: Name, if you can, one thing that a friend/coworker/acquaintance bought lately that you find surprising or puzzling.

I just went in on a share of a CSA ["community-supported agriculture," a kind of farm co-op] with a friend. I still don’t think I quite get it; I have no idea what to expect. I have this vision of joylessly and hurriedly eating turnips and dandelion greens to make room in the fridge for the kale shipment.

Thanks for the answers! (And thanks for both of your fine blogs.) Next mini-Q&A might be in one week, with Alan Lugo, if he sends me answers as promised. We’ll see!

Join the Consumed Facebook page here, and if you’re interested in being Q&A’d, just let me know.