Check out the robotic, kinetic, found-art sculptures of Nemo Gould! This clever Midwesterner-turned-Californian — whose work has been exhibited at many galleries and the San Jose Museum of Art, the Berkeley Art Museum and the Arizona Museum for Youth — uses salvaged metal, wood and more to make sleek, witty, irresistible pieces that flash, glow and gyrate. Among the elements of his 2008 work “Housecat,” you can spot a saw handle and part of a walking cane. “Octovarius” includes a salvaged violin. “Little Big Man” includes deer antlers and what looks like the casing from a vintage radio. Get a gander of ‘em here. Gould himself has this to say:
“What makes a thing fascinating is to not completely know it. It is this gap in our understanding that the imagination uses as its canvass. Salvaged material is an ideal medium to make use of this principle. A “found object” is just a familiar thing seen as though for the first time. By maintaining this unbiased view of the objects I collect, I am able to create forms and figures that fascinate and surprise. These sculptures are both familiar and new. Incorporating consumer detritus with my own symbology, they are the synthesis of our manufactured landscape and our tentative place within it– strong and frail at the same time.”
A little-known federal law which came into effect on February 10 has banned the sale or distribution of any children’s book made before 1985. Yes, you read that right: It’s now illegal to sell old books which children might touch or read.
You might be wondering: Why?
Well, according to the law, which is called the Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act of 2008, or CPSIA for short, books made before 1985 might contain tiny of amounts of lead in the ink, and kids might chew on the pages and eat the lead. Therefore, old kids’ books are a health hazard.
And it’s not just limited to books: An alarmist article published in the Washington, D.C. City Journal (one of hundreds of similar alarmist articles published across the country) contains this disturbing passage:
Among its other provisions, CPSIA imposed tough new limits on lead in any products intended for use by children aged 12 or under, and made those limits retroactive: that is, goods manufactured before the law passed cannot be sold on the used market (even in garage sales or on eBay) if they don’t conform. The law has hit thrift stores particularly hard, since many children’s products have long included lead-containing (if harmless) components: zippers, snaps, and clasps on garments and backpacks; skateboards, bicycles, and countless other products containing metal alloy; rhinestones and beads in decorations; and so forth. Combine this measure with a new ban (also retroactive) on playthings and child-care articles that contain plastic-softening chemicals known as phthalates, and suddenly tens of millions of commonly encountered children’s items have become unlawful to resell, presumably destined for landfills when their owners discard them. Penalties under the law are strict and can include $100,000 fines and prison time, regardless of whether any child is harmed.
Consequently, some thrift stores have panicked, leading to scenes like the one described in this letter from an Etsy.com reader, reprinted in the City Journal article:
I just came back from my local thrift store with tears in my eyes! I watched as boxes and boxes of children’s books were thrown into the garbage! Today was the deadline and I just can’t believe it! Every book they had on the shelves prior to 1985 was destroyed!
While some blogs have speculated that the ban on old books in particular is a thinly veiled attempt at expunging any politically incorrect literature from our children’s consciousness — 1985 being the approximate historical moment when political correctness became nearly universal in kids’ books — a counter-backlash has now emerged of anti-alarmists claiming that the whole thing is overblown, and not to panic. The San Francisco Examiner, for example, just published “Stop! New law doesn’t require book burning,” which poo-poos the whole crisis, saying no one is burning any books.
However, the Examiner is setting up a straw-man argument, because no one’s claiming that the government is burning any books — only that some retailers and citizens are throwing old books away lest they be fined or imprisoned for poisoning children. But even the Examiner concedes at the end of their article,
CPSIA’s major provisions went into effect on February 10. Some used bookstore owners and resellers are worried about their livelihoods, and they have reason to be concerned. They could be forced into expensive testing or curtailing sales for a painfully long time.
No one, however, should be destroying books.
True, no one should be destroying books — but some people apparently are, out of fear.
What do you feel about the Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act of 2008?
The reporter covering the Academy Awards for the BBC this year will wearing a thrift-shop dress to tonight’s extravaganza.
“When trying to find the right evening wear for Oscars correspondent Susanna Reid, the Beeb looked to a charity shop,” announces the Daily Mail. (“Charity shop” is what they call thrift shops over there.) “In contrast to last year, when the 38-year-old slipped into a white designer column dress, Susanna will be going vintage this year in second-hand clothes at Sunday’s Academy Awards.”
Oxfam is the UK’s biggest charity-shop chain.
“After being contacted by the BBC, Oxfam representatives scoured 700 of its charity shops across the country to put together a shortlist of what Susanna could wear.” The reps assembled “a selection of dresses from branches across the country for Susanna to try on. One of the dresses, a pink and cream floor-length number, was donated by an aristocratic family from Yorkshire. The stunning gown was made in the 1930s by a designer who created clothes for King Edward’s wife Wallis Simpson. Another on the shortlist is a midnight blue 1950s dress, which was found in the Worthing branch of Oxfam and costs a bargain £19.99….
“In previous years, BBC presenters have worn designer gowns worth thousand of pounds while interviewing the stars on the red carpet. In 2007, Susanna’s fellow correspondent Kate Silverton wore a bright red £9,000 Kruszynska gown.”
A new Nintendo Wii action game features a pair of scavengers searching for buried treasure in the desert. Billy Bob Thornton and Dennis Hopper provided the voices for the two seekers in “Deadly Creatures.” These scavengers, however, aren’t the game’s protagonists. Rather, gamers assume the roles of a tarantula and a scorpion who interface (wham! bang! crunch! bleed!) with a retinue of lizards, bugs … and treasure-seeking humans. Here’s a preview.
In what some are calling the celebrity garage sale of the century, over 2,000 items belonging to the financially strapped Michael Jackson will be sold during a five-day auction in Beverly Hills, April 21-25. The scavengeables include a gold-framed portrait of Jackson clad in Shakespearean garb; the wought-iron gates from Neverland Ranch, which is now in foreclosure; the singer’s famous jewel-encrusted glove; an antique two-person swing; an original painting by Macauley Culkin; a Peter Pan-themed golf cart, and many more garments, furnishings, and objets du freaky art. This is scavenging for the scavenger-who-has-everything, including beaucoups cash. Bidding for the glove is expected to start at $6,000; for the gates, at $20,000. (The Culkin painting, however, is expected to bring in “under $500.”) Jackson is said to be about $3 million in the red.
A slide show is here.
In our “Scavenging Code of Ethics,” Commandment #5 demands: “Don’t remove historical or archaeological artifacts from areas where they are protected…. As tempting as it might be, never ever remove any artifacts of any kind from protected sites such as these. It might feel like scavenging, especially when no one else is around, but there’s another name for it: looting. And it’s a scavenging no-no.” Historical-site plunderers give all scavengers a bad name. And they’ve become a real problem lately in Norfolk, on Great Britain’s east coast.
“Illegal metal-detectorists or ‘nighthawks’ are plundering historical sites in Norfolk on a weekly basis,” Norfolk Evening News 24 reports, “but too little is being done to arrest, prosecute and punish them…. Norfolk is one of the richest areas in the country for archaeological finds, but has the second highest number of cases of nighthawking after Lincolnshire, according to a survey published by English Heritage. Suffolk was in third place. Of 240 sites reported as raided between 1995 and 2008, 23 were in Norfolk, including a number of protected scheduled ancient monuments. Roman sites at Saham Toney, Brampton, Brancaster and Walsingham were among those targeted. In 1994 more than 400 holes were dug illegally inside the Roman town at Caistor St Edmund, near Norwich. Elsewhere, liaison with local metal-detectorists, landowners and the police has resulted in a number of successful prosecutions. David Gurney, acting county chief archaeologist, said: ‘I would be surprised if a week went by without somebody in Norfolk going on to a site illegally. It is a widespread problem. Many sites are being raided all across Norfolk but it is hard to know how many people are involved. Sometimes they can be quite organised. There have been instances with vans and quite large numbers of people in the back. They will post a couple of look-outs and then go about their business.’”
The looted items are usually kept by their finders or sold on the black market.
Sarah Palin’s favorite consignment shop has been forced to change its name, thanks to the publicity the vice-presidential candidate brought it. When Palin mentioned the Anchorage shop in an interview with Fox News last October, it was called Out of the Closet. When choosing that name, the shop’s owner Ellen Arvold had not realized that it was already the trademarked moniker of a Los Angeles-based thrift-store chain — whose lawyers served Arvold with a cease-and-desist letter. Rather than engage in a legal battle, Arvold agreed to change the name to Second Run. The change goes into effect today, which is the store’s fifth anniversary.
Following a hullabaloo about her expensive campaign-trail clothing, Palin told reporters that those clothes were neither her idea nor hers to keep. She said that she preferred to buy clothes inexpensively, and that her favorite place to buy them was “a consignment shop in Anchorage, Alaska, called Out of the Closet.”
According to this AP story, “Palin was last in the store a few days before McCain made her his surprise pick for vice president in late August, and sent Arvold a photograph from the campaign trail, showing her wearing a pink Dolce & Gabbana jacket she bought at the store.” Arvold said the Alaska governor subsequently sent her an apology “for all the flak we took, so that was really thoughtful of her.”
Mexico City is facing a trash disaster. Over 12,500 tons of garbage are produced each day by its 20 million residents. That’s enough garbage to fill four sports stadiums a year, according to this Reuters story, which goes on to say that Mexico City’s “sprawling dump [is] already crammed to bursting and under a closure order. One of the world’s biggest landfills, the Nezahualcoyotl dump site is a fifth the size of Manhattan.” It has spread so much that, now, “mountains of refuse piled several stories high are pressing against a major drainage canal that runs along the dump’s edge. That risks a rupture that could flood residential areas and the airport with stinking effluent and grime, says the federal government which ordered the dump closed in January. But city officials are stalling in court … asking for more time to implement ambitious recycling and green energy projects.
If the dump closes, citizens will “start chucking [garbage] wherever they can,” said Martha Delgado, the city’s head of environmental policy. “Crises should give us opportunities to change. We need a profound transformation in the way this city deals with its waste.”
Claiming to have seen visions of God revealing the location of a buried treasure, a man has hired a crew to conduct an all-out search in southern Louisiana’s bayou country. According to The Daily Iberian, Mike Hulin and his team have been at it for three months, and “there has been much testimony from workers who … stand behind Hulin’s beliefs that something is there. Workers have said they were skeptical at first, but after witnessing things Hulin predicted come true at the site, many are now believers.” After the hole they have been digging collapsed four times, they built a safety wall around it to forestall another collapse. No luck, though: It collapsed a fifth time.
“We gave everybody the weekend off after it fell again,” Hulin said. “But when God puts something in your spirit like this, you don’t need much time to come back to it.”
Now Hulin has hired welders to build a metal box that will be dropped into the hole to support the earth surrounding it. An excavating machine will then be dropped into the box.
Aubry Dauterive, one of the first people to dig at the site with Hulin, said Hulin told him he would find something at around 17 feet, and “sure enough, he was right within 2 or 3 feet.” They found a wooden plank which was sent for testing to Louisiana State University.
Gleaners have been quietly foraging in France for centuries. They’re the subject of Jean-François Millet’s famous 1857 painting The Gleaners (seen on the left-hand side of the montage above). And they’re the subject of Agnes Varda’s 2001 documentary The Gleaners and I. What are French gleaners up to lately? The Observers visits a few, with pictures showing them gathering discarded produce in trash bins and on the ground where farmers’ markets have been. One gleaner from Aix-en-Provence explains that he lives on 90 euros a month: “I started looking through bins because I was hard-up. … Now it’s become a way of life. I pick up everything. … I go gleaning at the market when I wake up in the morning. With what we get we make a soup. And on the market we don’t get any bother from the stall owners. … Homeless people never scavenge. They watch us from the bench, drinking their beers. … But between ourselves, we chat and swap products. We help each other. If someone finds a crate full of cauliflowers, he’ll hand them out to others.”
A new report issued by the Centre d’Etude et de Recherche sur la Philanthropie lists many forms of modern French scavenging and reveals that it’s remarkably common and practiced by people in all walks of life. Among other goals, the report’s authors hope that supermarkets will change their policies and improve access to their unsold merchandise.
Right out of the blue, we happened upon a vivid passage about scavenging in Veronica Chater’s new book Waiting for the Apocalypse. It’s a lively and tender memoir about growing up in a large devoutly Catholic family during the 1970s, and has nothing else to do with scavenging, yet in introducing her two younger brothers, Chater writes: “If there is something lost, Nick and Danny are the ones to find it. Foremost, my brothers are treasure-seekers, scavengers of the world’s lost things. And that requires them to hover just a millimeter above all surfaces, their eyes darting around all the dark places where no one else bothers to look. Nick and Danny never see the view straight ahead where the light is good. They aren’t interested in what can be seen. They’re interested in what lurks in the shadowy crevices. Money, a comb, a pocket knife, a whistle, a pen, a Tootsie Pop, a lighter, a crayon, a dollar bill, a five-dollar bill, a hundred-dollar bill — you never know what you might find. They believe in chance. Chance that has to be snatched quickly and run away with before the opportunity is gone.” Now, those are our kind of kids.
Denny’s is giving away free Grand Slam breakfasts today. As a promotional strategy, they’re serving the free repasts — which include pancakes, eggs, bacon strips and sausage links — to any customer visiting any Denny’s restaurant before 2 p.m. on Tuesday, February 3.
In the Oscar-nominated film The Wrestler, Mickey Rourke’s character Randy and Marisa Tomei’s character Cassidy visit a thrift shop to buy clothes for Randy’s daughter, Stephanie.
“What is she?” asks Cassidy, riffling through racks, trying to find the right style. “Goth? Punk? Hippie? Preppy?” Sadly, Randy says he “ain’t got a clue,” then adds: “I think Stephanie’s a lesbian. Does that make a difference with you?” “No,” Cassidy replies. “That’s cool.” All around them rise well-stocked racks of clothing. Off one rack, Randy lifts a lime-green satin letterman-style jacket, beaming: “Oh wow! What about this? It’s got an S on it! It’s perfect.” Cassidy tries to hide her alarm, noting diplomatically: “It’s winter, so maybe we should get something warmer — like a peacoat.” She picks one out and shows it to him. At first Randy agrees, then raises the lime-green satin jacket high into the air, admiringly. “I don’t know,” he smiles. “This is pretty rock ‘n’ roll.” Cassidy smiles. The smile spreads slowly across her beautiful face.
“You should go with your gut, man,” she says.
It’s just like old times — like a Daphne Du Maurier saga about scrounging the washed-up cargo of wrecked vessels from the English shore. “Scavengers flocked to Kent’s beaches to collect some of the tens of thousands of planks of wood that washed ashore from a Russian cargo ship,” reads this account in The Daily Mail. Last week, the Russian-registered Sinegorsk hit rough seas and didn’t wreck but shed 1,500 tons of its sawn-timber cargo fourteen miles offshore from Sussex. Scavengers brazed icy surf to collect planks: “Despite having issued warnings about not picking up the timber, police failed to prevent locals from illegally taking the wood for themselves…. Under maritime law it is illegal to try to keep the cargo from the Receiver of Wreck — the official whose job it is to return booty to the ship’s owners. Offenders can be fined up to £2,500.”
In Zimbabwe these days, scavenging isn’t a hobby — it’s a means of base-level survival. “Along a road in Matabeleland, barefoot children stuff their pockets with corn kernels that have blown off a truck as if the brownish bits, good only for animal feed in normal times, were gold coins,” reads this New York Times story on a stark situation in which “the half-starved haunt the once bountiful landscape of Zimbabwe, where a recent United Nations survey found that 7 in 10 people had eaten either nothing or only a single meal the day before.” This mass starvation is the result of Zimbabwean president Robert Mugabe’s inhumane policies, by which farms were systematically stolen from their owners — with many farmers and their families slain in the process. The result is an economic catastrophe, as the farmlands now yield a minuscule fraction of what they once did, and unemployment is rampant. The U.N. survey “ found that the proportion of people who had eaten nothing the previous day had risen to 12 percent from zero, while those who had consumed only one meal had soared to 60 percent from only 13 percent last year. For almost three months, from June to August, Mr. Mugabe banned international charitable organizations from operating, depriving more than a million people of food and basic aid.” According to the Times, rural and urban Zimbabweans “have become scavengers, living off the land and surviving on field mice and wild fruit, white ants and black beetles.”