Archive for June, 2009


Saturday, June 27, 2009

Lately, I’ve been hearing a lot about this guy David de Rothschild and his forthcoming voyage to the Great Pacific Garbage Patch on his forthcoming plastic bottle vessel, the Plastiki.

David de Rothschild

David de Rothschild

The boat and journey are loosely modeled on the adventures of Thor Heyderdahl, that salty Norweigian who sailed great oceanic distances on a flimsy-looking balsawood raft in the style of a Peruvian pae-pae.

Press coverage of this venture has been a joy to read. De Rothschild, in case you didn’t know, is an heir. In addition to personal wealth, he also has a posh British accent, rugged facial hair and his own eco TV show on the Sundance Channel.

According to Treehugger: “De Rothschild is a fascinating eco-warrior. He is gorgeous, rich and extremely eligible. ”

GOOD published this illuminating Q&A along with a sexy photo of de Rothschild sprawled in a bed of plastic. The New York Times did a thing. Even The New Yorker ran a profile.

But my favorite piece so far and by far—judged on both tone and informational content—is this SF Weekly blog post. Yay snark. Enjoy.

Oh, and not surprisingly, this guy has a sizable YouTube pressence.

Generation cassette

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

As part of their supercool series on music, uncomsuption posted a link today to the site cassette tape culture, a clearinghouse of upcyling ideas for old tapes. As it happens, I’ve been thinking a lot about cassettes lately—in the context of what is happening now in Iran.

tapes. tapes, tapes

tapes. tapes, tapes

I saw a great documentary once—on TV of course so I have no idea what it was called or how to track it down again—about new technologies and human rights. It ended on this very upbeat note saying that little camcorders were going to put an end to human rights violations because anyone could sneak one into a scuffle or stoning, turning every citizen into a potential reporter.

Behind every modern uprising, the documentary postured, lay a technological advancement. Leading up to the ’79 revolution, the Ayatollah Khomeini built his following by recording propaganda speeches on cassettes that were smuggled into Iran and passed around from person to person. Tienanmen Square was the fax revolution. And since then we have seen the text message and cell phone camera equivalents around the world. And here we are, 30 years after the Islamic Revolution, learning the true value of new media.

“So you know what Twitter is, now, right?” I asked my father on the phone this morning.  He lives in Tehran.

“Of course,” he said. “Hillary used it to send us a message.”

“And you know how it works?”

“BBC and Voice of America have been telling us how it works.”

So there you have it. Last week, he needed help to open his webmail account. This week, my dad understands the political implications of Twitter. And more importantly, my generation understands how to use it. And how YouTube and Facebook and camera phones and text messages all work.

Like everyone else I know, with or without family on the front lines, I am glued to the internet: hungry for any scrap of information or better yet context to the post-election melee and awed by the bravery of those on the streets.

Browsing these nostalgic reimaginings of cassettes makes me want to channel this nervous energy into an art project: a giant sculpture of the Ayatollah made of old cassettes with tangled strands of tape to represent his imposing eyebrows. It would have a sound element, this multimedia work of mine, a warbly cassette recording of Khomeini’s speech to the women who participated in the revolution (thanking them kindly for their participation and asking them politely to resume their places as subservient members of society). And I would call the piece “Be careful what you wish for.”

Trash for Teaching

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

How cute is this? Trash for Teaching, a Los Angeles based NGO, provide classrooms with trash that kids can transform into art, while learning all about the important stuff. Reminds me of my kindergarden days, where those carton rolls at the center of paper rolls could be used for virtually anything (these days I just recycle them, being old and narrow minded). Why isn’t this just mandatory everywhere?

Also, for $350, Trash for Teaching will entertain 15 kids at a birthday party. You supply tables and space, they do the rest.

Upcycled duck, you can buy these as kits

Upcycled duck, you can buy these as kits

The After Closing Party

Wednesday, June 24, 2009
the after closing party

the after closing party

Trash waters

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

For those who can’t get enough of shock in the face of the plastic et al. that floats around in our seas, I highly recommend the UN Environment Programme’s recent report Marine Litter – A Global Challenge. The report spells it all out pretty clearly – there’s trash in all our seas. We don’t know how much it is, or exactly how damaging it is, but we know that it’s terrible.

The report makes a number of recommendations, such as the ever needed raised awareness (garbloggers 4-ever!), but the significant components if you ask me are spelled enforced legislation and incentives not to dump in the sea (or the rivers that flow out to sea). Enforcement is not only punishment though, its also about preventive measures, such as ship and industry control. I. e., governments must step in and force the private sector to behave when the invisible hand fails to do so.

Lastly, a new lovely abbreviation (actually a combination of two): The NOWPAP MALITA (The North West Pacific Marine Litter Activity).

OK to dump US mining trash in lakes

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Eh, anyone who knows anything about mining trash, please explain this? The US Supreme Court ruled yesterday 6-3 in favor of a mining company who wants to dump 4.5 million tonnes of what’s known as coal slurry into Lower Slate Lake, Alaska.  The slurry is expected to annihilate life in these waters. Wikipedia says the following about coal slurry:

High-profile disasters associated with these slurry impoundments have called into question their safety. In February 1972, three dams holding a mixture of coal slurry and water in Logan County, West Virginia failed in succession: 130 million gallons of toxic water were released in the Buffalo Creek Flood.

Out of a population of 5,000 people, 125 people were killed, 1,121 were injured, and over 4,000 were left homeless. The flood caused 50 million dollars in damages. Despite evidence of negligence, the Pittston Company, which owned the compromised dam, called the event an “Act of God.”

Seriously, how flawed is the Clean Water Act if these things are ok? (And sure, this dumping is planned, so the flooding part isn’t going to happen, but its toxxxic man!)

York dustbin

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Couldn’t fly off for three nights to the UK without bringing back a pic of those handy dustbins on which there are some metal thingies for you to stub your cigarette before throwing it away where it belongs, could I? No, I couldn’t.

Yes, we paint our dustbins with gold, because trash is holy

Yes, we paint our dustbins with gold, because trash is holy

Trash Menagerie

Saturday, June 20, 2009
Sulphur Blue Smeck in mixed junk by Michelle Stitzlein

Sulphur Blue Smeck in mixed junk by Michelle Stitzlein

For anyone in, around or headed towards Salem, Mass., there’s a new trash art exhibit up at the Peabody Essex Museum. I don’t know about you, but I get a kick out of museum plaques that list “mixed junk” as an art medium.

Trash Menagerie presents over 30 improbable works of art created from things most of us simply throw away. This playful and poignant exhibition challenges visitors to think differently about the creative potential lurking in everyday objects. From an iridescent trout made from 70 different pieces of refuse to a flock of cheery birds made from tin cans, Trash Menagerie explores animals imaginatively made from recycled rubbish. The exhibition features hands-on activities, such as a trash collage magnet board and weekend art drop-in activities, to encourage visitors of all ages think creatively about trash in the museum and beyond. Trash Menagerie is on view in the Peabody Essex Museum’s interactive Art & Nature Center June 20, 2009, through May 2010.

Weekly Compactor

Friday, June 19, 2009

This week in trash news:

Trashmen of Tehran

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

As an Iranian-American and a journalist, it’s been hard to tear my mind away from what’s happening in Tehran right now. I worried the garblogging might suffer as a result, but Douglas Brodoff, whom you may remember from his paintings of “les petits hommes verts” in France, just sent me a link to his blog and this incredible YouTube video of Tehran’s garbage collectors calling for the removal of President Ahmadinejad. THANK YOU, Douglas.

They are chanting: “Take Mahmoud away! Take the garbage away!”

The seagulls of Edingburgh dive for “illegaly presented refuse”

Monday, June 15, 2009

Geoffrey K. Pullum of the Language Log (a blog about languages and linguistics, six years in action, also in hard copy) today presented the world with the most fabulous description of what happens when residents break trash regulations in a city of seagulls. Everyone, this is a mandatory read. To give you a taste:

What the Edinburgh city council finally did, in response to my calls to the Environmental Protection department, was to come round and note sacks that had been put out too early, and they stuck on at least one of them (the one I noticed on Thursday) a small sticky label saying “THIS REFUSE HAS BEEN CHECKED FOR ILLEGAL PRESENTATION.”

Waste store opens Sunday

Monday, June 15, 2009

For one week beginning next Sunday, the Yanbukis—New York’s local trash worshipping collective— will organize a “waste store” at Bullet Space, a squat-turned-theater on the Lower East Side. This is the End of the Waste World Supermarket we heard about back in April. And these are the only details I have so far: Bullet Space is located on 3rd Street between Avenues C & D; the waste store will be open Sunday June 21st-Sunday June 28th from 1-8pm.

End of the Waste World

End of the Waste World

An after party will take place when the store closes on the 28th, from 8pm-midnight and will include banging on cans, jamming and glorifying Anuki, god of all tides. Stay tuned for updates.

The kids are alright (Decorative Dumpster Jr.)

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Remember I told you all about our lovley Swedish tradition Pick Up the Trash Day? If you log on to this page (in Swedish) of Gävle Municipality, and klick the link “Här kan du se alla bidrag som kommit in till sopkorgstävlingen”, you will be able to look at about 50 home made decorated dumpsters by Gävle kids.

*Eyes watering with tears from cuteness overload*

Reimaging our waste

Friday, June 12, 2009
Upcycled band

Upcycled band

The good people of the Berkana Institute, a think tank of sorts, have started what they are calling an Upcycling portal. The aim is to unite a “community of practitioners” who share knowledge and stories related to making stuff out of trash. is a founding member, which means we—and by extension you—will have some say in how these concepts get fleshed out. Have a look and share your thoughts.

Bribed trash collectors as standard

Thursday, June 11, 2009

We’ve known for quite some time now that everyday city trash attracts a lot of black market services. The most famous example is of course the mobsters who control large quantities of Italy’s trash. In Sweden, while the mob doesn’t seem to take a heavy interest, a lot of trash is collected under the eye of the municipal authorities and companies officially running business.

In an intriguing piece for Swedish weekly magazine Fokus, Nuri Kino, Petter Ljunggren and Mattias Pleijel lift the lid of the bin that is the real trash collecting economy in my hometown of Stockholm, claiming that their discoveries are valid for most of the country. A system has developed where restaurant owners don’t want to pay for collection every day of the week, but rather once or twice, and then slip Mr. Trash Collector some $100 on the side for the other days of the week. Further, there’s complimentary food and drinks to expect.

For some trash collectors, this seem to have developed in to a full blown lifestyle, with some restaurant owners having no option but to put out that free lunch, or finding out that the refuse truck is suddenly broken, oh sorry there will be no collection today as scheduled.

Would be surprised if this doesn’t spark debate back home, as us Swedes always pose happily about sharing the top spot at the Corruption Perceptions Index (where being #1 means very little bribing), currently together with Denmark and New Zealand. Now, the obvious question to the rest of the world: Where there is no trash mobster boss running things, how do these things play out? Who are the beneficiaries, who lose and what is being done about it? Everydaytrash wants to know!

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