I'm posting this more for my own benefit (able to find it later) than anything, but while working on a master page customization for a client I stumbled across a posting on MSDN on how to create a minimal master page (http://msdn.microsoft.com/en-us/library/aa660698.aspx).
I ran into a few issues simply using the code as presented...
- SPD didn't like the ASP.NET style comments... that really threw it for a loop and it kept removing items from the code with no warning... changing those comments to HTML-style fixed things
- The first item in the community content section didn't seem to apply... things looked fine.
- The second item in the community content section was correct.
- I also had to add a content placeholder stub for "PlaceHolderTitleRightMargin" in order for everything to work properly for me