Some cool celebrities will be doing gigs throughout October in Oxfam shops — Oxfam is England’s biggest thrift-shop chain — for charity. Participants in the annual “Oxjam” festival, now in its third year, include Fatboy Slim, VV Brown, Basement Jaxx, Editors, Just Jack and Nitin Sawhney.
According to the Charities Aid Foundation:
“Editors lead singer Tom Smith commented: ‘Putting on shows in Oxfam’s high street stores is a great idea. These places are part of everyone’s daily lives these days, so come September they”ll also be the hottest ticket in town.'”
Oxjam has raised over £1 million for the charity since it was launched in 2006, enough money to secure safe water sources for some 1.3 million people.
According to Virgin’s Music News:
“VV Brown said: ‘The charity shop shows are the highlight of the festival season for me.’
“Each show, held in a specially converted Oxfam shop in London, will be limited to just 150 audience members…. The Oxfam shop, the location of which remains secret until later, will become an Oxjam shop for the week, selling the best second-hand music in London during the day. During the evening, it will be converted into a gig venue, playing host to the intimate performances. This year the festival will be helping deprived people cope with the devastating effects of climate change. Gig goers will be painting their faces blue as part of a visual statement to the Government to take immediate action.”
I haven’t watched a Shirley Temple movie in ages, and I suspect that several generations have now reached adulthood without ever even having heard of Shirley Temple. Suffice to say, she was the ultimate child star — singing, dancing and acting in many blockbuster films in the decade or so before World War II. Yes, they were incredibly sappy films with incredibly old-fashioned messages — be brave, be kind, don’t give up hope, remain cheerful in the face of adversity. But the thing is, Shirley had amazing talent. She didn’t write the sappy screenplays, but she could act the heck out of them. And for someone so young to sing and dance so well, with such precision, is pretty astounding in this age of digitally altered voices and images.
Okay, so the reason I bring this up is that I was “scavenging” entertainment at YouTube over the weekend, searching (as it happens) for videos involving the word “temple.” I do that sometimes, just pick a word or phrase at random or a word or phrase that holds some intrigue for me at the moment, and just see what comes up. As in all forms of scavenging, I can’t really predict what I’ll end up seeing. And, as in all forms of scavenging, I always learn something. So, because someone I know recently showed me the Zen temple where she goes to meditate, I had a hankering for some temple footage — all kinds of temples, I thought, all around the world. So I typed “temple” into the search thing, and one of the videos that popped up was this clip from Shirley Temple’s 1934 film Bright Eyes. In the film, Shirley plays a poor child whose mother works as a maid for a rich family. The rich family’s daughter Joy (played very well by fellow child actress Jane Withers) is incredibly obnoxious. In this clip, Shirley is taking out the trash and, little scavenger that she is, finds a doll in the bin that has clearly been thrown away by spoiled Joy.
“Why, you poor little thing,” exclaims Shirley, picking up and cradling the doll. “You must have cracked up. You should be in the hospital.” This is a reference to her father, a pilot who has “cracked up” — that is, crashed.
Joy, bicycling nearby, spots Shirley with her new find.
“Hey,” Joy snarls, “that’s my doll.”
“Well,” Shirley points out in true scavenger fashion, “I just found her here.”
“You can’t have her,” Joy cries, seizing the doll from Shirley’s arms and spanking it viciously.
“If you give her to me,” Shirley reasons, “I’ll take care of her. I’ll wash her face and make her some clothes and ever’thing.”
“You can’t have her,” Joy repeats. “You wanna know why? Because I’m gonna kill her.” And now, in a scene that I had no idea would affect me so strongly, Joy tears the doll to pieces, finally flinging the shreds to the ground and skipping away in her perky pink dress, chanting “Happy happy happy day” as Shirley stands by the trash, her expression containing the angst and insight of the ages. That’s it up there in the picture.
You HAVE to see this.
It’s always nice to see some of our own kind in films. Today at Backstage.com, we learn that the new Tim Burton-produced futuristic animated sci-fi production 9, set to open nationwide next week, includes scavengers:
“Its heroes are what [animator Shane] Acker calls ‘stitchpunk’ creations — 8-inch puppets sewn together by a divine creator, in this case, the human inventor of the evil Great Machine — that carry possessions within zippered bodies and have been endowed with a ‘soul’ by their now-dead creator.
“These creatures, with only numbers for names, must battle mechanical monsters in the ruins of a vaguely European city, a vast junkyard from which they scavenge useful debris.”
The film’s voice talent includes Elijah Wood, John C. Reilly, Jennifer Connelly, Christopher Plummer, Crispin Glover, and Martin Landau. Crispin Glover’s actual middle name is Hellion, and I’m not sure I will ever forget his freaky original song, “Clowny Clown Clown,” released in 1989. “Scavenge” a free look/listen at YouTube!
Paul McCartney’s ex-wife Heather Mills has launched a new line of clothing made with recycled fabrics. According to fashion-model Mills’ web site, “her fabulous new Be@one recycled clothing line” premiered last week:
“Society throws away over a million tones of clothing and textiles into the rubbish bins annually. Many of these items could be resold or remade into something new and exciting. This is why eco aware and fashion loving Heather had the idea to develop this new inspirational clothing line. The collection consists of women’s and menswear, designed for the assertive, fashionable and eco-conscious person. All the fabrics used in the pieces have been carefully sourced and remodeled into something unique and highly wearable. From a haute couture recycle lace white evening gown to a pair of high waisted trousers for the office, B@one is about to show there is nothing trashy about recycling unwanted clothing!
“Be@one will produce two collections per year which will be a tran-seasonal collection for men and women of all ages and backgrounds.”
Uh, that should be “trans-seasonal.” Isn’t it always sad when famous people (especially famous vegans) misspell words and you’re sitting there correcting them in your mind, thinking: I can spell better than so-and-so? Heather should hire me as a website editor or spelling coach.
“Not only is the clothing sure to create an impact but also the premier of a breathtaking video produced by Heather & edited by Bill Civitella which projects images of the beautiful world we live in and how it is changing through society’s carelessness.”
Mills’ clothes were first unveiled at the Celebrity Catwalk charity fashion show last Thursday in Hollywood.
“Celebrity Catwalk has been set up in order to help make a difference and support the National Animal Rescue that works tirelessly to improve the lives of homeless animals. The Humane Society estimates that animal shelters care for between 6-8 million dogs and cats every year in the United States. There are simply not enough responsible homes for all these innocent animals. Every year in Hollywood, the rich and famous lend their time and talent by hitting the catwalk for charity raising funds and awareness for national animal rescue charities. Jamie Fox, Nicole Richie and Melissa Rivers are a few of the luminaries who have hosted this fashion show in the past fusing the world of fashion and entertainment into one unforgettable evening for a wonderful cause. This years host” — Uh, that should be “year’s” … so she should hire me as a punctuation coach as well — “of Celebrity Catwalk is the lovely Bridget Marquardt, co-star of Girls Next Door. It promises to be a very busy and glitzy night for animal loving Heather. Heather’s hands on” — uh, that should be “animal-loving” and “hands-on” … hire me!!! — “approach in helping our furry friends is to be honored with an award to congratulate her commitment to animal activism. … Grammy award-winning” — uh, that should be Award, with a capital A; Heather, please contact me through this blog! — “singer Mya, high fashion Photographer” — please, that should be “photographer, with a lower-case p” — “and judge of Americas next top model” — good gosh! that should be America’s Next Top Model! See, Heather, it’s not so difficult — “Nigel Baker will also be receiving awards for their work helping to protect animals. Such an exciting fashion fundraiser for a very worthy cause.”
And it ends with a sentence fragment.
The blogosphere is laughing its head off at the clothing line. “Heather Mills creates laughably horrid eco-friendly clothing line,” jibes Celebitchy, which provides photos. “We couldn’t agree more that recycled clothes can be cool,” notes The Frisky, “just not the ones Heather made.”
Some of history’s coolest people have been scavengers. According to today’s San Francisco Examiner,
“None of the music that rocks the world would exist without Les Paul, who figured out how to get a bigger sound out of his cheap Sears-catalog guitar by hooking it up to a microphone he made from scavenged telephone parts. He was 13 then. He died Thursday at 94 years old, but the music his electric guitars made possible will rock forever.
“Les Paul had many disciples. Among them is Green Day’s Billy Joe Armstrong, who rocks a vintage Les Paul Jr. guitar.”
I already knew I liked Russell Crowe, but now this! I’ve admired his talents in so many films — even Cinderella Man, which I didn’t expect to like because I have no interest in boxing. Dude made me cry in that one!! But now … NOW he’s really done it. Crowe walked into a British charity shop (aka thrift shop) this week and donated £1,000, according to the Daily Mail:
“Charity shop volunteers are used to well-wishers handing them donations of old jackets, books and crockery. But staff at a Berkshire shop got a shock this week when they were given a cheque for £1,000, by Hollywood star Russell Crowe.
“The actor had been eating lunch at a cafe near the Cancer Research UK shop in Sunningdale, near Ascot. He then wandered inside and looked around before joining a queue and asking if the store accepted donations. Manager Julia Deane told the BBC Crowe had quietly chatted to staff….
“Crowe was taking a break from shooting scenes on his new film Robin Hood in nearby Virginia Water.
“The kind-hearted star has also been making friends on-set , after he gave movie worker Denise Yarde £5,000 so she could buy a new car.”
What a guy! (And check him out in his obscure 1992 film Romper Stomper. You won’t regret it.)
Great Britain’s new Poet Laureate, Carol Ann Duffy, has written a poem in praise of scavenging — specifically, in praise of thrift-shopping at Oxfam, the UK’s largest charity-shop (aka thrift-shop) chain. In so doing, she has just scored at least one brand-new fan: me! According to the Mirror, Duffy “wrote the poem to mark the launch of Bookfest, Oxfam’s first annual book festival. The event, which starts today, aims to fight poverty by asking book lovers to donate to and buy from Oxfam shops…
“Oxfam, which opened the world’s first charity shop in 1948, now sells 1.6 million books every month.
“The average price of a second-hand book from an Oxfam shop is £1.60. But you can also sometimes find rare treasures. The most the charity has raised from a single book is £18,000 — for a 17th century economic treatise in 2005 and also for a rare Graham Greene book in 2008.”
Here is Duffy’s poem, a to-the-point paean to which most scavengers can relate very well, and which was published for the first time ever in yesterday’s issue of the Mirror:
A silvery, pale-blue satin tie, freshwater in sunlight, 50p. Charlotte Rhead, hand-painted oval bowl, circa 1930, perfect for apples, pears, oranges a child’s hand takes without a second thought, £80. Rows of boots marking time, £4. Shoes like history lessons, £1.99. That jug, 30p, to fill with milk. That mirror, £5, to look yourself in the eye. A commemoration plate, 23 July 1986, marriage of HRH Prince Andrew to Miss Sarah Ferguson, £2.99, the size of a landmine. Rare 1st ed. Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone, signed by the author — like magic, a new school — £9,000. Pen, 10p. Pair of spectacles (longsight) £3. P/b Fieldnotes from a Catastrophe: Report on Climate Change by Elizabeth Klobert (hindsight) 40p. Jade earrings and necklace, somewhere a mother, £20, brand new gentleman’s suit, somewhere a brother, £30. Everything Fairtrade.
— Carol Ann Duffy
Prince Charles’ wife shops at eBay. According to the Daily Record, “Charles has revealed that his wife, Camilla, the Duchess of Cornwall, is a frequent buyer of knick-knacks from the site…. Camilla’s spokesman said she wouldn’t be shopping under her own name or official title, but Jeff Kroll, one of the founders of eBay, is delighted the company has been linked with the Royal Family. He said: ‘There is a rather famous person who told me recently that his wife buys things on eBay, and that would be the Prince of Wales.’ Camilla is said to snap up bargains online for her son and daughter from her first marriage, Tom and Laura, but has doubtless made a few purchases for herself and her husband.”
Also: “Noel and Liam Gallagher are regular users of the site.” You know you always loved Oasis.
And: “Lindsay Lohan loves surfing the web for unusual clothes and has a sunglasses habit that she feeds with regular bargain buys from eBay…. Tom Cruise’s wife Katie Holmes has solved the problem of what to buy by hunting down rare edition books on the site, while Jennifer Garner bought an antique barber’s chair for her husband, Ben Affleck.”
Truth be told, eBay isn’t our favorite scavenging venue, because the whole notion of having to outbid others for merchandise makes us want to run away screaming. But hey, it’s better than retail. And if it’s good enough for Jennifer Garner….
Rudy Rucker is a fan of scavenging, as I learned while interviewing the cyberpunk pioneer about his new novel Hylozoic, which comes out this week.
Everyone and everything is telepathic in Hylozoic, the latest of the multi-award-winning mathematician/computer scientist’s nearly three dozen books. Reading the consciousness of anyone or anything — a rock, a president, Portland, a Bible, an embryo, an alien pitchfork that talks with a hillbilly twang, a “flimsy summer shift of lilac gauze” which in one scene convinces a three-eyed shopper that it complements her green skin — is called teeping. As the book begins, honeymooners and 24/7 reality-media stars Thuy Nguyen and Jorge “Jayjay” Jimenez awaken, with “Jayjay teeping Thuy teeping him teeping her,” accessible to a whole universe of eager teepers. “If you were doing something really private,” we learn, “you could always turn off your teep. But fewer and fewer things seemed private enough to bother hiding.”
Same as now. But that world, the futureworld of this sequel to Rucker’s 2007 novel Postsingular, swarms with flying stingray creatures, man-sized alien birds, rune-programmed atoms, addictive gel, deities, sparkly materialization dots, and the 15th-century Dutch painter Jeroen Bosch, who prays and teleports.
So basically these characters can scavenge each other’s thoughts. (And in one scene, a gang of down-and-outers brew soup using scavenged bones and cabbage: Some of these men “lacked limbs, others had twisted spines or egregious harelips”; one suffered from a flesh-eating plague.) But they can also scavenge actual stuff more readily than we can, because they’re also capable of telekinesis, aka teeking. So, ideally, I could teep beaches everywhere and, whenever something cool washes up on one, I could teek to it and nab that shark jawbone or Ming dish or gold ring. Then again, teeking would make theft effortless. Strong ethics and/or strong law enforcement would have to rule that world.
“My idea,” Rucker tells me, “is that if everyone has a telepathic ability to see things at a distance, then the physical world becomes like the Internet. Instead of searching websites, you can search your neighbors’ garages and basements for things to borrow.” Or swap, short-term or long-term. “Like — why buy an electric hedge trimmer when you only trim once a year? In my world, people become willing to lend things out because they’re able to keep telepathic track of where the stuff goes and how it’s treated. Borrowers and lenders acquire ratings, just like the people who currently buy and sell things online” at eBay and such sites, he says. “In principle we could already implement this” here in the real world. “Imagine a resource-sharing website called something like Our Garage. But in reality things never work as well as they do in SF novels.”
No, darn it, they don’t.
Rucker’s ideas “trickle in unpredictably,” he explains. “Often I’ll push for an idea, focusing on a story situation and trying to imagine what comes next. When I’m brainstorming like this, it helps to be taking notes, either on a scrap of paper, or by actually typing into my laptop. Making little drawings helps, too. But I don’t always get the full insight that I need while I’m pushing. The search seems to continue in my subconscious, and maybe a few hours or even days later I’ll get an ‘aha’ moment about what I need to do. That’s what we call the muse.”
How did Jeroen (better known as Hieronymus) Bosch end up in this book?
“I’ve been a fan of Bosch ever since high school, when my big brother showed me a book of his paintings. Given my bent towards science fiction, surrealism, and fantastical worlds, Bosch is a natural for me. I’ve often wondered what kind of person Bosch was. Some passages in his pictures seem rather cruel; in other spots you pick up a feeling of ecstasy, and then again there’s often a feeling of mockery and satire. I enjoyed trying to combine these hints into a character in Hylozoic — where he comes across as a genius, a devoted artist, somewhat sarcastic, a mystic, and something of a prick.”
While researching Hylozoic, the author visited Bosch’s Dutch hometown, s’Hertogenbosch: “I used that visit a lot; it was rich.” For the portions of the novel that are set in San Francisco, “my wife and I lived for week in a flophouse on Valencia Street … and I picked up some local color there. I read this scholarly book by David Skrbina, Panpsychism in the West, about the history of the idea that objects might be able to think. And always I’m cruising the web, watching movies, reading … looking for clues everywhere.”
Like Bosch, Rucker is a painter himself, employing sherbet-bright oils and acrylics in such works as Stun City, The Attack of the Mandelbrot Set, Arf and the Saucer (in which a dog barks at starfishlike creatures emerging from a spacecraft to leap into what appears to be a hot tub) and Welcome to Mars. Sometimes his paintings help shape his fiction, as in the image below, which depicts Bosch and a stingraylike Hrull.
“It’s not pleasant or productive to sit at my computer trying to write all day,” he muses. “If I do that, I start feeling sorry for myself, like a shut-in. And, really, I tend get at most two hours of full-tilt writing per day. So it’s good to do something else. Painting is totally unlike using a computer. I smear things around, I drool over the pretty colors, and nothing is perfectly neat. My level of manual control is low enough that I tend to surprise myself with what I end up painting. Sometimes these surprises show me things that are a good fit for my current novel or story — you might say that I’m channeling information from another part of my brain. But it’s fine if I don’t use the images in my fiction. The main thing is that I’m feeding my soul and getting into the moment and, if I’m lucky, turning off my inner monologue.”
Seems to have worked thus far.
Can’t teek? “You can scavenge a free copy of Postsingular at www.rudyrucker.com/postsingular,” the author asserts.
We had a booth at a local Earth Day festival last weekend. Several passersby jokingly scolded us for selling a book about not buying anything. We half-agreed, but replied that a shopper would soon recoup the retail price of The Scavengers’ Manifesto by following the advice found therein. So it might be the LAST book that he or she ever buys retail.
Nonetheless, most authors find it a bit painful to imagine their books for sale at thrift shops and yard sales. Minnesota author Leif Enger told the Austin Daily Herald how it was for him:
“An old friend of mine took enormous joy in calling me on his cell phone from a garage sale in Iowa where he’d just found a hardcover copy of Peace Like a River” — his 2002 debut novel — “for 25 cents. I felt like a proverb about the insignificance of man, or a song by Kansas about blowing dirt.”
But ultimately, Enger said, “It made my day.”
Kylie Minogue is a scavenger. She was recently spotted at a Salvation Army shop in her hometown: Melbourne, Australia. According to store manager Natasha Scott, the superstar singer — disguised behind large sunglasses — bought two “summery” dresses, “a trendy little hat with a peak and a skirt” — all for under forty Australian dollars, which comes out to under thirty US dollars. According to Wikipedia, designer John Galliano once described Kylie’s fashion sense as “a blend of Lolita and Barbarella.” Let’s take that as a compliment.
Yay! We love it when celebrities come out of the thrift-shop closet and announce that they love secondhand clothes, because in our celebrity-driven society, this just makes our job of de-stigmatizing scavenging soooo much easier.
In the Daily Mail, we learn that top model-turned-designer Kate Moss is launching a new line of clothes to be sold (new, retail, etc.) at the UK’s Topshop stores starting today. Yes, these clothes are mass-produced and factory-fresh, but Moss is telling media that she drew her inspiration for the designs “from vintage items picked up in thrift stores.”
According to the Daily Mail, one example is “a cute floral full-skirted dress … that takes its inspiration from an old vintage item Kate picked up in a thrift store in LA that did not fit.” Other items in the collection include full-skirted minidresses (two are depicted above) and snug bolero jackets. As noted in our book The Scavengers’ Manifesto, Moss has been a proud thrift shopper (or, as they say in the UK, “charity shopper”) for years.
Myskip.com, a brand-new British Freecycle-type website, is celebrating its launch with a “Celebrity Throwaway.”
“Skip” is Britishese for “Dumpster.”
The “Throwaway” includes free items formerly owned — and then donated — by stars including Cilla Black, Gordon Ramsay, Ricky Gervais, Cuba Gooding Jr., Sheryl Crow, David Jordan, Alan Carr and Mamma Mia’s international cast.
Via its interactive web site, which reportedly cost £100,000 to create, Myskip plans to have a constantly shifting array of some 10,000 free items on offer at all times, in hopes of reducing the nearly 16 million tons of trash dumped every year in British landfills. Users post pictures and descriptions of items they wish to dispose of, citing their general vicinity. Whoever wants an item contacts its donor through the site and arranges a pickup.
This is an idea whose time has come. Welcome to the future!
Fabled investor and generous philanthropist Warren Buffett, whose wealth tops $40 billion, learned his financial skills at an early age and literally from the bottom up.
The son of a frugal Midwestern stockbroker, “young Warren inherited his father’s business sense and found he had a knack for entrepreneurship as well. He started with a paper route and gradually expanded his portfolio to selling scavenged golf balls,” writes David Billet in Commentary.
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.”