Freebies Aren’t Free, According to the FTC

October 19, 2009 at 2:27 pm | Posted in News | 7 Comments

USA_federal_trade_commission_001Back when was still brand-new, I searched the Web for other blogs on similar topics. It struck me then that a lot of blogs with “green” and “eco” and such in their names had a LOT of threads enthusiastically praising products. Like … ready-to-eat vegan food. Clothes and decor made from recycled materials. Low-energy gadgets. I wondered why, if these sites were ostensibly about a certain kind of minimalism, they kept promoting merchandise to buy. Not that I’m a minimalist myself – I’m just not into shopping, especially when it involves paying retail for brand-new items.

At the time, I suspected that those threads on those blogs had something to do with free merchandise having been given to the bloggers in exchange for online publicity. Turns out I guessed right, and now the Federal Trade Commission is getting involved. Revisions to the FTC’s Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising announced today specify that “material connections” (such as or free products) must be disclosed by those who promote these products: ” The revised [guidelines] specify that while decisions will be reached on a case-by-case basis, the post of a blogger who receives cash or in-kind payment to review a product is considered an endorsement. Thus, bloggers who make an endorsement must disclose the material connections they share with the seller of the product or service.”

According to ReadWriteWeb, “bloggers who fail to disclose that they have received freebies when they write about a product can now be fined up to $11,000 per post. … Because these posts are now officially considered endorsements, bloggers who receive freebies must now disclose this fact on their sites.” Nonetheless, “blogging Payola is unlikely to go away completely because of these new rules.”

Recycled Construction Materials Part of Embarrassing Story

October 16, 2009 at 9:19 am | Posted in News | 6 Comments

glcOuch! This scavenging-related project in London’s Islington district is cringeworthy:

“Red-faced council realises ‘G’ doesn’t always stand for green,” reads the headline in today’s Islington News:

“It was hailed as ‘another green first for Islington’ when it opened to a fanfare two years ago.
Celebrity experts in ‘urban eco chic’ used recycled water bottles, floorboards and natural paints to create Islington’s Green Living Centre [depicted at left] –- a shining beacon of the borough’s green credentials.

“So there were red faces amongst council politicians last week as it was revealed the centre is housed in the worst building in Islington for energy efficiency. … 222 Upper Street, where the Green Living Centre is situated, has topped the government’s new energy ‘Sin list.’ …

“Blustin Heath Design, set up by ITV presenter and writer Oliver Heath, won the contract to design the Green Living Centre’s interior in 2007.

“The team used recycled floorboards for the exhibition panelling, recycled plastic tables and natural paints. The pièce de résistance was the low energy light, made from 1,200 recycled water bottles, lit by ‘gently twinkling fibre optic lights’ to attract visitors inside.”

But “all public buildings have now been issued with Display Energy Certificates (DECs) that rate the operational energy efficiency of a building on a scale from A to G,” and the old building housing the Green Living Centre “is rated G, the lowest rating possible on the scale. It scored 264, nearly doubling the G rating threshold of 150.”

Killers Use Yard Sale as Alibi

October 12, 2009 at 7:34 am | Posted in News | 2 Comments

After committing a bloody and senseless murder in New Hampshire eight days ago, four teens brought their victim’s jewelry to a mall’s “cash-for-gold” shop and claimed they’d bought it at a yard sale, according to yesterday’s Union Leader:

“In a case so apparently random and vicious as to have stunned the state and grabbed the attention of the nation, four teenagers — Steven Spader and Christopher Gribble of Brookline, and William Marks and Quinn Glover of Amherst — are accused of entering Kimberly Cates’ home at 4 Trow Road [in Mont Vernon, NH] around 4 a.m. last Sunday with a plan to rob and murder.

“In the early morning hours one week ago, Cates died in a flurry of machete strikes and knife slashes. Her 11-year-old daughter, Jaimie, was slashed in the throat but managed to call police, and is now recuperating at a Boston hospital.

“Almost as chilling as the attacks themselves: What followed was something at least resembling normalcy on the parts of the accused. Around noon that Sunday, Marks entered the Mobil gas station on Route 101A in his hometown, filled up gas and grabbed a pack of Newport 100s, as he had many times before….

“The clerk, who declined to give her name, said Marks came to the store about twice a week and always bought the same cigarettes. She said he entered the store alone Sunday, but she didn’t know whether anyone else was outside waiting for him. Also on Sunday, Gribble, 19, and Spader, 17, went to a Cash for Gold kiosk at the Pheasant Lane Mall in Nashua and sold rings and necklaces, according to the clerk there, who also declined to give her name: ‘They just came with smiles on their faces and said, “We got this gold at a yard sale,”‘ the clerk said last week. ‘They didn’t even look like anything had happened,’ she said. ‘I didn’t even think that they had stolen it.’

“The clerk said Gribble and Spader were at the mall with two girls. After learning the identities of the girls, the New Hampshire Union Leader contacted them, but both refused comment.

“On Monday, the day after the attacks, Marks, 18, and Glover, 17, attended class at Souhegan High School in their hometown.

“But that’s when any sense of normalcy began to erode.

“According to Christa Dacus of Amherst, whose daughter had been a good friend of Glover’s, Glover was seen crying in school, and police were able to home in on him and his friends after Marks told a fellow student about the murder. That student called police, Dacus said.

“Spader and Gribble each were charged with first-degree murder, attempted murder and conspiracy to commit first-degree murder; Marks and Glover charged with burglary, conspiracy to commit burglary and armed robbery.”

Canoe, Vintage Condom Donated to Thrift Shops

October 8, 2009 at 6:27 pm | Posted in News | 2 Comments

denturesWhere else but at would we read this article about zany donations to English thrift shops (aka charity shops) run by the People’s Dispensity for Sick Animals organization?

“Freeze dried ice cream for astronauts, a canoe and an emergency distress flare all feature among the most bizarre items donated to PDSA charity shops during the past year. In among the daily donations of clothing, books and bric-a-brac, the leading veterinary charity has received a wide range of weird and wonderful items recently, from the quirky to the downright dodgy.

“A deadly Samurai sword was one of the more frightening donations pulled from a PDSA pink collection sack and was immediately handed to police. Other dangerous donations included live rifle rounds, replica handguns and an emergency distress flare.

“PDSA’s top ten list of bizarre items:
Freeze dried astronaut ice cream, vacuum packed (Leeds)
Canoe, including paddles (Morriston, Wales)
Emergency distress flare (Newton Abbot, Devon)
Shower cubicle (Merthyr Tydfil, Wales)
34-year-old condom, still in its original wrapper (Kilburn, London)
False teeth (Barkingside, London and Elgin, Scotland)
Live rifle ammunition (Glenrothes, Scotland)
Mobility scooter (Shirley, West Midlands)
Samurai sword (Shanklin, IOW and Poole, Dorset)
A musical organ (Huyton, Liverpool)

“It was music to PDSA’s ears when an electric organ was donated to Huyton charity shop in Liverpool. The instrument was sold to a specialist collector in Germany who paid £700. A euphonium (tuba-like instrument), and a Fender guitar also fetched hundreds of pounds for the charity.

“The shop survey also revealed that kinky Brits donated an assortment of risqué items, including vibrators, a penis enlarger manual and a leather whip. A very old condom, with a use by date of February 1975 was given to Kilburn shop in London and a bag of blue pills, suspected to be Viagra, was found in a carrier bag at Dover shop and hastily taken to a nearby pharmacy.

“Some of the more saleable items included six Radley designer handbags, which were quickly snapped up by eager bargain hunters, raising over £300 at the Wellington shop in Shropshire. A large Canoe, including paddles sold for £30 at the Morriston shop in Wales, a collection of China dolls fetched £250 in Knowle and 500 golf balls sold for 20p each in Diss, Norfolk….

“PDSA receives no government or lottery funding and relies on the kind donations of the public to support its vital veterinary work. PDSA’s retail network of 179 shops provides a vital source of income for the charity.”

Rocking-Chair Mystery Might Be a Hoax

October 6, 2009 at 4:23 pm | Posted in News | 4 Comments

keyHorizontalThe Seattle Times tells us: “An Illinois woman who set out on a treasure hunt for buried gold coins after finding a cryptic note in an antique rocking chair may have been the victim of a prolific prankster who died more than 30 years ago.

“With help of a donated backhoe, Patty Henken recently tore up a vacant lot in Springfield, Ill., where a typewritten note signed by ‘Chauncey Wolcott’ – found in an old chair she bought at auction last November – suggested she would find a chest containing more than $250 in U.S. gold coins.

“The dig turned up nothing but bricks and old bottles. Henken planned to return Tuesday with the donated services of a man with ground-penetrating radar meant to detect any buried items, but the treasure note’s promise may already be debunked.

“An Iowa woman who read news accounts of the hunt said she knows Wolcott’s true identity: John ‘Jay’ Slaven, a notorious practical joker and coin collector who often used a typewriter in his pranks.

“Slaven used the pen name “Chauncey Wolcott” and lived for decades at the location where the dig took place, until his 1976 death, according to Betty Atkinson Ryan of Mason City, Iowa. She e-mailed a columnist for the State Journal-Register of Springfield to set the record straight.

“Atkinson Ryan told the newspaper that Slaven was her boss in the Journal-Register’s classified advertising department decades ago. She said Slaven often used a typewriter to compose some of his jokes and signed them ‘Chauncey Wolcott.’ The newspaper said archived news articles described Slaven as an actor with a ‘booming voice’ that he used in television appearances, about 50 radio shows and to narrate the annual Illinois State Fair film.

“Ryan does not have a listed home telephone number and could not be reached by The Associated Press on Sunday.

“Henken’s life got interesting in May when, while prying off the seat of a rickety rocking chair she bought at auction five months earlier, she discovered a small envelope with ‘Finders Keepers’ typewritten on it. Inside, a key was taped to a typed note. ‘This DEXTER key (number sign) 50644T will unlock a lead chest,’ the note began, before spelling out a location in Springfield – 1028 N. Fifth St. – where a chest containing more than $250 in U.S. gold coins supposedly was buried 12 feet below ground.

“The stash, the note claimed, included eight $20 gold pieces, six $10 gold pieces, five $5 gold pieces, three $2 1/2 dollar gold pieces and two $1 gold pieces.

“The undated note, signed by a ‘Chauncey Wolcott,’ included a request to contact the Springfield newspaper if the chest was ever found.

“It wasn’t.

“Henken, of Mount Sterling, Ill., said Sunday that she was disappointed there’s no closure but still was hopeful Slaven may have left something to unearth.

“‘My friends feel like I was cheated out of finalizing this,’ said the 48-year-old Henken, a window clerk at the post office in Mount Sterling. ‘There’s something down there. He wouldn’t play a practical joke without leaving me something.’

“That property’s current owners gave Henken permission to tear up the site in search of the supposed booty if they got an equal share of any find. But they pulled the plug on any more digging now that Slaven may have pulled one over on everyone.

“‘It’s done, other than me fixing up their (torn-up) yard,’ Henken said. ‘It’s been fun, though. I’d do it again tomorrow. I just hope my life isn’t so boring from now on.’

“She’s not averse to a copycat caper: ‘I fully expect to do something like this before I die,’ she said. ‘But I would leave them something to find, a clue to who I was and not leave them wondering what kind of sick person would make them do this.'”

Thrift-Shop Thief Nabbed!

October 4, 2009 at 11:07 am | Posted in News | 1 Comment

Last week, a thrift-shop thief in Ohio got two things he deserved: injury and capture! The Falls News Press of Cuyahoga Falls tells how it all went down:

“Police plan to file charges against a man who allegedly robbed a State Road thrift shop, after he is released from an Akron hospital.

“Charges against the 42-year-old Akron man were signed Sept. 29 by the district manager of Village Discount Outlet, said Police Det. Randy Tlumac. According to the police report, the man came into the store on Sept. 23 at 8:10 p.m. and forcefully stole an undisclosed amount of cash from the cash register….

“A cashier suffered a sprained left wrist while struggling with the suspect over the money, the report said. A manager-in-training told police the cashier began to chase after the robber, but the manager yelled at the cashier to get back in the store.”

Now that was one brave cashier — but the manager did right, because no theft is worth dying over.

“Several people witnessed the robbery, the report said. A customer outside the store gave police the suspect’s license plate number. Falls Police asked neighboring departments to be on the lookout, providing them with descriptions of the suspect, his car, and his license plate number, said Tlumac.

“Akron Police spotted the car around 11 p.m., Tlumac said, but the suspect fled when police tried to pull him over and crashed his car into a utility pole. The detective said the man will likely be charged by Akron Police after he gets out of Akron General Hospital. Once he is in the Summit County Jail, Falls police will file their charges against him, said Tlumac. According to Tlumac, the suspect has a broken hip. James Gosky, media director for Akron General Hospital, said he is in serious condition.”

Scavenged Chair Contains Secret Message

October 1, 2009 at 8:35 am | Posted in News | 6 Comments

imagesThis is our favorite kind of story — in which scavenging mixes with history to become a wild adventure. According to the San Francisco Chronicle:

“Patty Henken always thought she found great value in the rickety rocking chair when she plunked down $200 for it at an auction, figuring she could restore the century-old relic to its former charm. Five months after hauling the chair home last November, Henken spent hours in May prying the seat off it in her garage in Mount Sterling, Ill. A small envelope fluttered from it as she tossed the seat aside — ‘Finders Keepers’ typewritten on it. Inside, a key was taped to a note.

“‘This DEXTER key (number sign) 50644T will unlock a lead chest,’ the note began, before spelling out a location in Springfield, Ill. — 1028 N. Fifth St. — where a chest containing more than $250 in U.S. gold coins supposedly was buried 12 feet below ground.

“The stash, the note claimed, included eight $20 gold pieces, six $10 gold pieces, five $5 gold pieces, three $2 1/2 dollar gold pieces and two $1 gold pieces. The note, signed by a ‘Chauncey Wolcott,’ included a request to contact the Springfield newspaper if the chest was ever found. Henken finds that intriguing, thinking Wolcott perhaps has left a confession in the chest or ‘wants to give us an answer to an old mystery.’

“For now, any treasure remains elusive. A search of the site — currently a vacant lot — with a donated backhoe last Sunday came up empty, though Henken pledges to be back at it this weekend. Whatever the outcome, ‘it’s the fact that there’s a story there that’s exciting,’ Henken, 48, said Wednesday….

“The note at the crux of the mystery isn’t dated — though its insistence that the chest ‘cannot be located by metal detector’ suggests it could have been written anytime since about World War II, when the first practical metal detectors came to be.

“At the supposed burial spot, the home on the lot was torn down many decades ago. The owners of the land — retired state corrections workers Dennis and Sharon Chrans — live next door and, at least initially, disregarded Henken’s voicemail approaches as the workings of a telemarketer.

“‘We were skeptical all the way,’ Sharon Chrans recalled. But the couple eventually were swayed and met with Henken and her husband, hashing out a deal to split any costs of the dig — and the proceeds of whatever they found. Henken’s scouring of genealogy records and courthouse documents in Sangamon County, which includes Springfield, has offered no clues to anyone named Chauncey Wolcott. Dennis Chrans found no such name on his property’s abstract.

“Yet last Sunday, the dig began. A couple dozen folks showed up, many of them friends of the Henkens. Some brought lawn chairs, others drinks and snacks. A co-worker of Patty Henken’s brought a toy magic wand….

“‘It was a happy event, a party-like atmosphere,’ Sharon Chrans said.

“The women wanded the backhoe for luck, and the machine began clawing up earth and eventually turned up a cistern — something onlookers considered promising until it yielded only bricks and antique bottles. Elsewhere on the lot, the digging revealed a well too deep to really scrutinize despite their efforts to siphon out some water.

“‘Some people think it’s still down there,’ Chrans said, speculating that if the booty really does exist, Wolcott knew what he was doing by leaving it in a lead box that wouldn’t deteriorate.

“Still, everyone accepts that it all could be a hoax. Henken isn’t sweating that prospect, having lost plenty of far more relevance in recent years — a brother to brain cancer, a son in an Easter Sunday rollover crash and a nephew to leukemia. One of her sisters died of breast cancer in 1990.

“She admits the effort could be fruitless, much like the time in 1986 when TV host Geraldo Rivera and a demolition crew drew a worldwide television audience when they blasted away a 7,000-pound concrete wall of a basement chamber billed as 1930s gangster Al Capone’s vault in Chicago’s former Lexington Hotel. Even the Internal Revenue Service was on hand to lay claim to any cash or bullion — but all Rivera found was empty booze bottles and an old sign.

“The Henkens expect to resume the dig Saturday, hoping with the Chranses that there’s some resolution.

“‘I really don’t have a gut feeling,’ Sharon Chrans said. ‘We just had to try once that information presents itself. You just can’t leave it there with it just tempting you.’

“Henken isn’t willing to let it die.

“‘There may not be a penny in it, but I want to finish this. I want to complete the task this note started,’ she said. Given the recent tragedies, ‘I don’t have a lot of positives in my life. But this has kept me busy all summer, and nobody’s going to dash this for me.'”

Hope she finds that box….

Thrift Shop/Clinic to Open in SF

September 28, 2009 at 12:44 pm | Posted in News | 2 Comments

outThe HIV/AIDS foundation affiliated with Magic Johnson is opening a revolutionary new facility in San Francisco tomorrow where you can shop at the thrift store, have prescriptions filled, AND get free HIV tests. According to this press release:

“AIDS Healthcare Foundation (AHF), the US’ largest non-profit HIV/AIDS healthcare provider, which provides medical care and/or services to more than 100,000 individuals in 21 countries worldwide, is honored to announce the grand opening of the Church St. AHF Magic Johnson Healthcare Center, AHF’s first ‘all-in-one’ site–and the first of its kind in the nation. In addition to the Magic Johnson clinic, the new facility includes an AHF Pharmacy, an Out of the Closet thrift store and free HIV testing–all in one location.

“California State Senators Mark Leno (D-San Francisco/San Rafael) and Leland Yee, Ph.D., (D-San Francisco/San Mateo) will help AHF officially open this new venture in the fight against AIDS, with a ribbon-cutting ceremony on Wednesday, September 30th at 10am at the new AHF Magic Johnson Healthcare Center located on 100 Church St., San Francisco, CA 94114, adjacent to AHF’s Out of the Closet thrift store….

“All of AHF’s sixteen healthcare centers–located in California and Florida–provide comprehensive, patient-centered care designed specifically for HIV-positive clients, offering access to the additional specialists, medications and services they need to be as healthy as possible. This newest facility is AHF’s fifth clinic named in partnership with and in honor of HIV-positive basketball legend Magic Johnson….

“In addition to providing specialized expertise for people living with HIV/AIDS, AHF Pharmacy also offers the community a friendly, personal and not-for-profit alternative to the large, retail pharmacies. AHF Pharmacy is a full-service pharmacy, able to fill any prescription and open to everyone–HIV-positive or not. Revenues generated contribute to caring for AHF patients as well as supporting its prevention and testing programs worldwide. As its spokesperson in print and television advertisements, actor and activist Blair Underwood has urged widespread use of the AHF pharmacy as an opportunity to help others….

“With nineteen locations throughout California and Florida–including five in the Bay Area–AIDS Healthcare Foundation’s popular and award-winning Out of the Closet thrift store chain is the nation’s largest retail fundraising vehicle for HIV/AIDS medical care. Several Out of the Closet thrift store locations offer free HIV testing services, including the Polk St. location and soon at the newly opened Oakland store. AHF is the operator of the largest non-government HIV testing program in California currently providing more than 30,000 tests this year,

“AIDS Healthcare Foundation (AHF) is the US’ largest non-profit HIV/AIDS healthcare provider. AHF currently provides medical care and/or services to more than 100,000 individuals in 21 countries worldwide.”

Don’t Throw Those Out….

September 24, 2009 at 1:59 pm | Posted in News | 4 Comments

rollBecause now it’s … toilet-paper-roll sculptures! According to the Daily Mail:

“French artist Junior Fritz Jacquet, 30, who describes himself as a ‘creator and sculptor in paper’, then mounts his creation on steel stands and sets them loose on the art-buying world.

“The Parisian artist said his passion for paper started with school origami classes and he now takes inspiration from the unique characteristics of cardboard.

“He said: ‘I first concentrate on the construction of the eyes, then the nose, then the mouth and then the entire expression. I am trying to create funny and jovial expressions and will keep working on my technique because there is no limit to experimentation. I started to get interested in origami techniques when I was 14. At school the teacher gave us origami models to build ourselves. My connection with origami was immediate and I quickly understood that you could take it a long way from a single sheet of paper. I have perfected my technique since then. I work with every sort of paper and believe every type has its own personality. In the end, every mask is unique.'”

Fatboy Slim to Perform in Thrift-Shop Music Fest

September 22, 2009 at 5:08 pm | Posted in Celebrities, News | 1 Comment

fatboy_slim_comes_home_recovered_after_his_alcohol_addiction_main_10376Some 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.”

Global Beach Cleanup Yields Hundreds of Tons of Junk

September 21, 2009 at 7:54 am | Posted in News | 1 Comment

beach-trashWe all love beachcombing, but on coastlines scattered with out-and-out garbage — stuff that wasn’t lost but simply tossed — it becomes downright depressing and misanthropy-provoking. Saturday was International Coastal Cleanup Day, with cleanups organized all over the world under various auspices. The 362-mile-long Oregon Coast, which is generally a scavenger’s paradise, held its 25th annual Great Oregon Fall Beach Cleanup. As revealed at Beach Connection, 3,700 volunteers removed an estimated 54,460 pounds of trash from Oregon’s beaches:

“Among the many interesting items found Saturday were a car bumper, a pacifier, a box of baby wipes, an unopened package of hotdogs that expired last year, a small refrigerator, a life vest, and over 125 shoes and flip flops. Volunteers reported finding an unusual number of homeless camps on the beach. At Beverly Beach State Park near Newport, four goats joined volunteers to help keep the coastline clean.

“Some of the most common items found on the beach included Styrofoam, plastic caps, lids, bottles and cigarette butts. While these are often small items, if they accumulate they can do big damage to marine wildlife and the environment, particularly the plastic debris that never fully degrade or disappear.

“Scientists have discovered that more than five million square miles of the Pacific Ocean is covered with trash, and it is believed that most of is comprised of the remnants of plastic trash from the world’s shorelines.”

As for the other side of the world, Express Buzz gives us this bulletin from Shanghumugham Beach in Kerala, India:

“This year … a majority of the litter collected as part of the coastal clean-up day was ice-cream cups and sticks. And if you thought there is no smoking happening in public places because of the anti-smoking law, you are wrong. The second largest litter items were cigarette stubs and burnt match sticks….

“Out of the waste collected and analysed, the major contribution was from ice cream-related waste including wooden ice cream sticks followed by plastic wastes including spoons, ice cream cups, bottles, food wrappers and disposable plastic cups. The plastic cups amounted to as much as 50 percent of the litter on the beach.

“The next major contributors were cigarette stubs and burnt match sticks. Surprisingly only 2 mineral water bottles and 4 liquor bottles were recovered. A disturbing recovery was that of two diapers. The way of disposal of these diapers show the careless attitude of the citizens to the environment…. The remaining contribution was from newspaper bits, abandoned toys, paper, thermocol and other miscellaneous items.

“A remnant of a Ganesha idol made of Plaster of Paris weighing around 5 kg was also found on the beach.”

New Doc Celebrates Dumpster Diving

September 17, 2009 at 8:18 pm | Posted in News | 4 Comments

david-and-gregNow making the indie-film-festival rounds, I Love Trash is a new documentary from Green Planet Films. Allegedly it can be viewed for free here. The 76-minute film documents when happened when pals David Brown and Greg Mann (depicted at left) decided to buy nothing for a three-months period, scavenging everything from the trash instead. At the start of the project, they rent an unfurnished apartment and move in with just a flashlight and the clothes on their backs.

They end up well-fed, well-dressed, and the apartment is furnished lavishly.

But you knew it would end that way, didn’t you?

Here’s a blurb from Green Planet’s website:

“David Brown and Greg Mann try an experiment in waste. After recognizing the huge amount of waste in the United States, David and Greg decide to see just how much people throw away. They move to a new city and get an unfurnished apartment. They bring only the clothes they are wearing and a flashlight and decide to buy nothing for 3 months. All their food, clothes, furniture, electronics, art supplies and entertainment all comes from the trash. It turns out that they are not only able to ‘survive’ but are able to find everything they could need and more. During their project they find many other dumpster divers and discuss all the different reasons for dumpster diving. There are people who dumpster dive for environmental reasons, to stop so much waste from going into landfills. There are people who dumpster dive for the easy lifestyle it provides. There are people who dumpster dive for the fun of finding. There are people who dumpster dive for food. There are people who dumpster dive to make art. There are people who dumpster dive to make money. There are as many different people who dumpster dive as there are reasons.”

Shipwreck Coins: Lost, Found, Lost … and Found?

September 15, 2009 at 2:35 pm | Posted in News | 1 Comment

museumNew Zealand police are investigating whether historic coins — salvaged from two shipwrecks, housed in a museum, then stolen from that museum nine years ago — are now being sold on the Internet. According to the New Zealand Herald:

“Police have confirmed a Bay of Islands man contacted them and reported seeing coins, which he thought were part of the haul taken from Kelly Tarlton’s Tui Shipwreck Museum at Waitangi nearly a decade ago, for sale on Trade Me,” a New Zealand-based online auction site.

“Up to $500,000 of gold jewellery, coins and other relics recovered from the ocean floor by the late Mr Tarlton were stolen from a glass-covered vault [at the museum] on April 8, 2000.

“Kitchenhand Keith McEwen spent more than seven years in jail for the robbery, but has never revealed what happened to the booty.

“A $10,000 reward was offered by an insurance company for the return of the historic treasures, but not even that was enough to prompt a result.

“The stolen haul included gold sovereigns that Mr Tarlton, a diver, had salvaged from the ship Elingamite, wrecked at Three Kings Islands north of Cape Reinga in 1902, and part of the Rothschild collection he recovered from the ship Tasmania, which sank near Gisborne in 1897.

“The jewellery was not found and an insurance company rejected a $300,000 claim.

“Widow Rosemary Tarlton was not getting her hopes up after the latest revelation.

“Mrs Tarlton visited McEwen several times in Mt Eden Prison to try to find out where the stolen treasure had gone, but to no avail.

“Speaking from her Auckland home yesterday, she said she hoped that the information would lead to the recovery of the stolen treasures.

“‘I’ve always felt it may come back to me. Because it was under the water for all those years and Kelly was able to retrieve them with lots of hard work and then they were stolen. They may come back again,’ Mrs Tarlton said.

“Sergeant Peter Masters, of Paihia police, said a local man contacted police yesterday after he spotted what he thought were coins stolen from the Tui being sold on Trade Me.

“McEwen is back in jail after pleading guilty to a high-profile attack on two Dutch tourists. He admitted a series of charges, including aggravated robbery, kidnapping, sexual violation and rape in November 2006 and received a sentence of preventive detention . The charges related to the abduction of a couple on honeymoon in the Bay of Islands. Justice Tony Randerson described the crime as ‘cruel and sadistic in the extreme.’ Co-offender Christopher Manuel received a nine-year jail sentence.”

We might never know the answer to this mystery.

Are Thrift Shop’s “Dalí” Artworks Real?

September 14, 2009 at 1:11 pm | Posted in News | 2 Comments

6a0109811e5c13000c011016331431860c-500piWow — the New York Times is reporting on some possible Salvador Dalí artworks currently for sale in a Houston, Texas thrift shop:

“In a scene that would most likely appeal to the Spanish Surrealist Salvador Dalí, several works attributed to him are currently on display next to a disheveled tie rack at a Salvation Army Family Thrift Store in a seedy industrial neighborhood here. The pen-and-ink drawing, crucifix sculpture and set of six lithographs” — which are collectively titled “Le Jungle Humaine,” and including a turquoise giraffe with its mane on fire and a woman with shriveled breasts eating a bird — “are laid out in a glass case among the kind of crystal and brass tchotchkes more typically found in thrift stores. The shelves are lined with black fabric stitched with the words “I ♥ Jesus” in gold,” writes Kate Murphy in the Times.

Bids are being taken on the art, with $8,000 for each of the three lots having been reached two Fridays ago.

“The amounts have risen despite the ubiquity of Dalí fakes and the uncertain provenance of these pieces in particular.

“The works were given to the Salvation Army by an anonymous donor, and the man behind a two-year-old appraisal document — which suggests that they are worth more than $76,000 — says that he cannot be sure that they are the same pieces he evaluated and sold. Appropriately, perhaps, the answer to the question of whether the thrift-store Dalís are real Dalís turns out to be as elusive as the memory of a dream….

“’There’s nothing certain in the Dalí market,’ said Bernard Ewell, an appraiser in Santa Fe, N.M., who specializes in works by Dalí….

“Joseph Nuzzolo, president of the Salvador Dalí Society, an appraisal service and gallery in Redondo Beach, Calif., added that though ‘a lot of people want to have an original Dalí, a lot of them get burned when they buy a fake.’ So any unknown piece presented as the artist’s work calls for scrutiny, especially in a setting as unorthodox as this.

“According to the Salvation Army, the works were donated last year by a woman who is a longtime supporter of that charity’s Adult Rehabilitation Center for substance abusers in Houston. The woman does not want her name to be known, and would not speak to a reporter even on the condition of anonymity, said Juan Alanis, a Salvation Army spokesman in Houston.

“Although the pieces came with documentation from the Salvador Dalí Gallery, in San Juan Capistrano, Calif., Bruce Hochman, the gallery’s director, said he would have to see them in person to say unequivocally that they are the works he signed off on back in 2007.

“’I sold them to a dealer in Texas,’ he said, declining to identify the person. That dealer, he added, subsequently sold the works to the woman who donated them to the Salvation Army, whom Mr. Hochman described as the wealthy widow of an oil magnate.

“Mr. Nuzzolo, a vocal critic and business rival of Mr. Hochman’s, said that this year the Salvation Army sent him the pen-and-ink drawing — a whimsical rendering of what looks like a spinning man, titled ‘Don Quichotte’ — to see if he could sell it, and that he determined that it was a fake.”

Scavenged Carrots + Chocolate + Scrap Metal = Racecar

September 12, 2009 at 7:34 am | Posted in News | 1 Comment

2753__0075Researchers at Great Britain’s University of Warwick have unveiled what they’re calling the world’s greenest Formula 3 race car. Manufactured at a cost of £500,000 (aka nearly $1 million), able to reach speeds of 135 mph, and dubbed “WorldFirst,” the fully functional vehicle’s scavenged components include soda bottles, vegetable fiber, “waste chocolate,” flaxseeds, soybeans, and scrap metal, according to the business blog domain-b:

“Using recycled materials, and with support from over 50 companies, the design team headed by Dr Kerry Kirwan has created a car for just £500,000. And not just any old car, but a racing car capable of taking on the world’s finest.

“Unveiling his creation at the annual conference of the British Science Association, Dr Kirwan is confident that his innovative creation will not embarrass him. So confident, in fact, that he is entering his car in a Formula 3 championship race at the iconic Brands Hatch circuit in Kent….

“The car’s chassis has been reclaimed from a scrapped vehicle. So also its 2 litre BMW diesel engine, which was severely re-engineered so as to run on bio fuel. Recycled carbon fibres from old aircraft panels and recycled soft drink bottles that would otherwise have ended up in a landfill make up most of the vehicle’s body.

“Its steering wheel was manufactured by a company which uses carrot fibres, or cellulose nano-fibres, to give it its technical name, extracted from a carrot soup factory, with technology used to make fishing rods and other products. Curiously, the steering wheel is purple, instead of orange, which leads Dr Kirwan to speculate that beet fibres may have been added to the mix.

“For safety reasons, the wheels, tyres, and the cockpit had to remain conventional, and conform to rigid Formula 3 specifications. So, sadly, wheels made from recycled potato starch and brake pads from cashew nut shells had to be discarded in the design lab. The racing seat though, was made from flax fibre and soybean oil foam….

“Fuel efficient, as befits a ‘green’ vehicle, the car gives 35 miles to a gallon at race speeds. It has been engineered to run on any biodiesel, but so far, the team has been running it on fuel made from waste fat from a chocolate factory, and alcohol distilled from wine dregs. It is difficult to make a racing car that is ultimately sustainable, but Dr Kirwan thinks that this is a step in the right direction.

“Formula 1 racing has long been hated by environmentalists for its polluting ways. This car may be the first step to show people that environmental awareness has its place in motor racing. And this is not all. Some of the technology used in the design of WorldFirst could be successfully transferred to make ordinary cars more sustainable. In fact, Dr Kirwan is in talks to build yachts using recycled carbon fibre. To him, the car was a nice way of packaging up research in a credible way. His team and he hope to show the industry how much is possible using sustainable technologies.”

Warwick University’s website has more pictures of the car.

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