Anya Schiffrin

Out of office … forever

Anya Schiffrin
Apr 25, 2011 20:33 UTC

I am so jealous. I wrote to Nassim Taleb this week. He is famous for writing The Black Swan and also has a section on his website devoted to his predictions of the 2008 economic crisis (which began in 2007 with the collapse of the mortgage market). Note the apt url if you decide to click on it. Anyway, the reason I am struck by admiration and envy is the auto reply I received:

(Please ignore this message if you are a regular correspondent).

Dear correspondent;
I am currently disengaged from the rest of the world (until September 2011).
 I had to stop replying to emails outside of the strictly personal (friends, 
family, citizens of Amioun, etc.), except for extremely important/urgent matters.
 Please note that, except for emergencies & appointments,  I reply to 
mails with an equivalent frequency to that of classical letters.

(REQUESTS: Also note that 1) I no longer do media interviews (except
 those scheduled by publishers), 2) can no longer endorse books, 3) do not  participate in documentary films, 4) will not give lectures in Asia,
 Australia, and other places entailing severe jetlag, etc. I apologize for the inconvenience.


Like many people, with multiple accounts and dozens of emails each day, I’ve often fantasized about how to make email go away and I thought Taleb’s auto reply seemed rather persuasive. But then I remembered Financial Times columnist Tyler Brule scoffing in his column last year at people who reply with what he calls the dreaded “OOOR”. The OOOR (out of office replier) is about as far as you can get from Brule’s thrusting entrepreneurial style and he called for the UK journal, The Lancet, to publish medical research about the kinds of people who are prone to be OOORs. Brule helpfully provided an abstract as to what such a paper could look like:

The article will prove that people who like to post elaborate out-of-office replies not only dislike their jobs but also tend to be less entrepreneurial, poor team-players and, in many cases, lazy. At the same time, it will also reveal that OOORs frequently end up making elasticated stretch trousers (Fast Lane’s international symbol for having given up on life) a wardrobe staple, and that these tend to be closely associated with an unhealthy appetite for daytime TV, eating biscuits from the packet and, ultimately, unemployment.

from The Great Debate:

Does everyone have a price?

Anya Schiffrin
Apr 7, 2011 15:36 UTC


On Monday I went to Bloomingdales, the Gap and Starbucks but passed on a visit to Magnolia Bakery. Instead I  stopped by the St. Moritz bakery where you can order hot chocolate and sit by a video of a cozy winter  fire that overlooks the indoor ski slope and is just around the corner from the largest candy store in the world, which happens to face an aquarium that occupies an entire wall on one side of the world’s largest shopping malls. This by the way is opposite of what claims to be the world’s largest candystore whose mission statement is to make every day “happier’. Earlier, while exploring the watery depths of the bright Pink Atlantis Hotel (one of the white elephants of the property crash of 2007) I knew it was really the last kingdom because the fish swam around two cracked thrones and other kitschy stone artifacts.

Dubai is utterly overwhelming, the kind of  dystopia that blogger Evgeny Morozov sees in Huxley, a consumeristic paradise where mind-numbing shopping replaces real thought. Most of the I had no idea where I was except that my passport had been stamped Dubai  and many of the mall-going women were shrouded in black. After a few hours I sank into a state of ennuie. Given boatloads of oil money in the 1970s and the chance to build a whole new city, who on earth would decide to build a series of shopping malls?

It’s not like the developers didn’t have ambition, what with the architecture that demands superlatives -- the gondolas, medieval stone houses and soaring illuminated sky scrapers and islands built in absurd never-before-seen configurations. But why not build a museum with, say, the most incredible collection in the world or a university with the finest research laboratories? With so much money why build this Disneyland? And what about the workers who make up most of the population?