Oh, This Is Just Awful

October 17, 2009 at 3:19 pm | Posted in Uncategorized | 7 Comments

The owner of a thrift shop in Stafford, Virginia was found murdered in his shop on Thursday. According to MyFoxDC:

“The Stafford County Sheriff’s Office is investigating the murder of a shop keeper found dead Thursday morning. The victim is a well-known businessman and respected father and husband, 66-year-old Jimmy LeRose.

“His murder has sent shock-waves through the rural Virginia community. Police are still looking for the killer.

“There are bullet holes in the door of The Second Time Around Thrift Store, and a sadness is now setting in on this community.

“‘It’s horrible. Words can’t describe what a wonderful man he was and the kind things he did for everyone in the community,’ said Rhonda Mirvine, a family friend.

“It happened off of busy Warrenton Road. The thrift store sits next to the new Wal-mart

“The Stafford County Sheriff’s office says LeRose was killed as he opened his store early Thursday.

“Police say Mr. LeRose had gone to his store, located at 1183 Warrenton Road, at about 6:00 a.m., as was his custom. A family member found him dead at 8:13 am.

“Michael Carter has known LeRose for nearly 30 years and rents a house from him next door to the thrift shop.

“‘Total shock that something like this would happen– especially to someone like Mr. LeRose. I don’t know why they had to shoot him. He was the most friendly, outgoing, warm, gentle person you would ever meet in your life,’ said Carter.

“Family members say LeRose was shot in the back and the bullet came out his chest during a robbery.

Friends say the man never kept more than $100 in the store. They also say there was no need to rob him– he was usually very giving.

“With the economy being like it was, people would come in and say, “Jimmy can you buy this from me? I need cash.” Jimmy would buy it,” said Carter.

“Friends say LeRose was a fixture in the community and went out of his way helping people out. He didn’t run the store to make money– he simply liked staying in touch with his neighbors.

“‘He was retired. He was looking for something to do. He didn’t have to come here every day. He wanted to get out of house and talk to people, meet people,’ said Mirvine.

“The sheriff’s office is hoping someone saw who was near the store between 6 and 8 a.m. Thursday morning.

“The brutal crime has shaken everyone. The loss of such a beloved community member makes it even worse.

“I know he would have given them the money and let them go out the door. Why they did what they did is unbelievable. The whole family is devastated,” said Carter.

“The Stafford County Sheriff’s Office is asking anyone with information that may help identify the person or person responsible for this crime, or anyone who saw what happened at the Second Time Around Thursday morning to contact the Sheriff’s Office at (540) 658-4400.”

Urban Farming Forges Onward

September 9, 2009 at 11:23 am | Posted in Uncategorized | 2 Comments

teds12Urban farms are popping up all over. City Farmer News is one blog that’s tracking this trend, with revelations about inner-city farms producing edibles on rooftops and traffic islands and in backyards, former empty lots and other such spaces that would otherwise have gone to waste. For example:

“The New Roots Community Farm, developed by refugee aid group the International Rescue Committee, celebrates its official opening day on Thursday, September 10, 2009. What once was a vacant lot in a barren neighborhood in the City Heights section of San Diego has been transformed into a thriving community farm that promotes sustainable agriculture.

“The eighty families who till the land are from all over the world: Cambodia, Somalia, Burma, Laos, Uganda, Congo, Vietnam, Mexico and Guatemala. Here, the farmers cultivate not just corn, tomatoes and eggplant, but also a deeper understanding of their neighbors’ cultures. Down amongst the rows of vegetables, you can hear exchanges about the merits of Machicha and Kunde and how they compare with lettuce, beans and cabbage….”

Recycled Books Become Sculptures

August 16, 2009 at 4:56 pm | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

su-blackwellLondon-based artist Su Blackwell makes beautiful sculptures out of cut-up book pages. As an author of books who prefers my own work to be read rather than snipped into bits and fashioned into replicas of flowers and cathedrals, I find this a bit upsetting. But as a scavenger, I think it’s great.

Blackwell explains, in her artist statement: “Paper has been used for communication since its invention; either between humans or in an attempt to communicate with the spirit world. I employ this delicate, accessible medium and use irreversible, destructive processes to reflect on the precariousness of the world we inhabit and the fragility of our life, dreams and ambitions.

“It is the delicacy, the slight feeling of claustrophobia, as if these characters, the landscape have been trapped inside the book all this time and are now suddenly released. A number of the compositions have an urgency about them, the choices made for the cut-out people from the illustrations seem to lean towards people on their way somewhere, about to discover something, or perhaps escaping from something. And the landscapes speak of a bleak mystery, a rising, an awareness of the air.”

Comprising hundreds upon hundreds of pieces cut into the necessary shape, her works are very delicate and detailed, often conveying a fairytale quality and sometimes in literary themes. Open books form the pedestals on which the sculptures stand.

Stolen Goods Turn Up at Neighbor’s Yard Sale

August 12, 2009 at 10:54 am | Posted in Uncategorized | 1 Comment

BeanieBabiesA Maryland burglary victim was startled to see her former possessions — worth tens of thousands of dollars — on offer at a neighbor’s yard sale last weekend, according to the Baltimore Sun:

The woman, who had not been living in the house at the time of the burglary because it was going through foreclosure, “recognized an array of her items — including Christmas decorations, Beanie Babies, an Oriental rug and a dresser — being sold by a man who was wearing one of her T-shirts, charging documents say.

“Police said they found $25,000 worth of her clothes, furnishings and other possessions — even a fur coat — on the property.

“The victim … discovered Thursday that her house had been burglarized. On Saturday, she and her daughter were on the way to the house in the 800 block of Reece Road in Severn….

“When they spotted the yard sale nearby, they ‘were shocked to realize that every item’ came from the victim’s house, according to charging documents.

“Stunned, the women stopped and told the seller he was peddling the woman’s stolen goods. He admitted that the merchandise was hers, not his, and she called police, court papers say.

“The officer who responded saw a front yard, and later a porch, with towels, kitchen knives, a ceiling fan, shelving, telephones, in-line skates, dishes, an exercise bike and more — all of which the woman said came from her home.

“The seller told police that he bought the woman’s belongings for $100 from a man who came by a few times, most recently about three weeks ago, in an aqua-colored pickup truck, according to charging documents.

“The officer, however, suspected that the seller had looted what he thought was an abandoned home. Asked if he had more of the woman’s belongings than what was offered for sale, he pointed to a blue tarp on the porch that covered more of her possessions, including heaters, silverware and the fur coat, police allege. Detectives searched the home and found more, police said.

“The woman’s belongings were returned to her.

“Police charged David Anthony Perticone, 46, of the 800 block of Reece Road, with burglary and theft. He was out of jail in lieu of $80,000 bail, according to court records. Attempts to reach him Tuesday were unsuccessful.”

Garbage Garb Is King at Trashion Show

August 11, 2009 at 10:11 am | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

soda-canClothes made of paper, aluminum cans and other recyclables will get their chance on the runway at Canada’s upcoming Trashion Show.

According to British Columbia’s Arrow Lakes News: “The Nakusp Fall Faire is celebrating its 99th year this year, and in its pre-centennial year is featuring a new event with a focus on recycled clothing; the one catch is it’s not about the wares you’d find in the thrift store — it’s all about the recycling bin.

“’We had considered planning a fashion show as a fundraiser and I had the idea to combine our recycling theme and use it to raise funds at the Fall Faire,’ says this year’s coordinator Janet Royko. ‘Someone came up with the idea to call it a Trashion Show.’

“The trash-fashion show is free for entry and winners will be chosen by a public vote. Those who create their own clothing are allowed to use connecting materials such as thread, wire or glue, which do not have to be recycled. ‘The garments have to make a decent presentation and hold together for a walk across the stage,’ says Royko. ‘The person who made the item of apparel need not model it, another person can wear the item.’

“Royko gives ideas for recyclables such as using newspaper, tin cans and other metals, plastic bags and any other recyclable materials. “There may be some beautiful items of clothing which will have been made from recycled fabric and old clothing as well.”

“The event begins at about 1:30 on Sept. 12, after the judging for the Fall Faire and the Zucchini Races, and entries must be registered on Friday, Sept. 11, from 3 p.m. to 6 p.m.

“’It is something new and different to attract newcomers to contribute entries and more spectators,’ says Royko. ‘The recycled concept of “Trash to Treasure” is popular now.'”

Yeah — but I’m a little curious about those zucchini races.

Let’s Get Gleaning

July 22, 2009 at 4:32 pm | Posted in Uncategorized | 1 Comment

applesForage in your own yard to help the hungry! We’ve just received this heads-up from a Bay Area organization that’s making it happen:

If you have an overabundance of fruits and vegetables from your back yard garden, here’s a great way to help those in need.  The Mt. Diablo Peace and Justice Center of Walnut Creek is collecting your fresh garden produce weekly and transporting it to the pantry shelves at the Monument Crisis Center (MCC)  in Concord.

The program is entitled “Let’s Get Gleaning” and its objective is to help us help nourish the community by delivering fresh, healthy food to families and individuals less fortunate. In addition to collecting fresh fruits and vegetables, the Peace Center accepts donations of canned and non-perishable packaged foods.

For those with more home grown produce than you can use after your weekend harvest, there are three locations where you can drop off your fruits and vegetables. The Peace Center is working hand in hand with the Organizing for America (OFA) team on this project.

1. Morning Drop-Offs at the Peace Center Office on Mondays between 10:00 AM and 2:00 PM. The Peace Center is located at the Mt. Diablo Unitarian Universalist Church, 55 Eckley Lane in Walnut Creek 94596. The website is http://www.mtdpc.org.

2. Evening drop-offs Thursdays, starting through July 31, from 6:00-8:00 PM at 1346 Keywood Court, Concord 94521.

3. Another drop-off place is at MCC itself, at 2350 Monument Blvd. Suite B, Concord, CA.

We Get Around

July 16, 2009 at 8:12 am | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

And here we are in the current issue of Shoestring Magazine! Editor Melissa Massello set out to spend a week or so without spending a cent, but “so far, I’ve completely failed at ‘freeganism.’ The counter-culture movement du jour is a lot harder than just diving into a few dumpsters or picking up a few errant treasures from your neighbor’s curbside trash, as I found out firsthand last month when I attempted to go ‘freegan’ for a week, to little avail….

“I ran out of both eggs and milk on day one of my free week and had to sell a shelf on Craigslist before refilling my cabinets, drinking black coffee for two days and munching on Luna Bars while waiting for the email offers to come pouring in. Lesson learned.”

Nonetheless, she offers useful tips on the free life from a wide array of experts, including us.

Made Penniless by Madoff, She’s Forced to Scavenge

June 30, 2009 at 9:19 am | Posted in News, Uncategorized | Leave a comment

siegAt Bernie Madoff’s sentencing yesterday, one of the swindler’s victims told the court that, due to Madoff’s depredations, she now scavenges food from trash cans.

As reported in Time, 65-year-old Miriam Siegman “described how she … can’t afford to buy new reading glasses and sometimes rummages through trash cans to eat.”

As reported in the New York Daily News, Siegman — depicted at left, wearing a hat — told the court:

“Madoff took away my ability to provide for myself. I lost everything, I lost my life.”

She said she was in court to represent those hundreds of unsung Madoff victims who lost their pensions and retirement funds: “There’s this notion that all Madoff’s victims were well-to-do,” Siegman said, “but that’s not true.”

Yodel, Advises Anti-Spending Sage

June 28, 2009 at 9:29 am | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

dreher_cd2“Most Americans,” writes Jeff Yeager in his infinitely useful book The Ultimate Cheapskate’s Road Map to True Riches, “suffer from what I call anal glaucoma when it comes to forms of transportation other than the automobile. That is, we just can’t see ourselves dragging our asses down the road unless we’re driving a car.” A diehard scavenger who adores “quality Dumpster-diving” and “curb-shopping” and has restored, repaired, remodeled and furnished his Maryland house with scavenged materials for the last twenty years, Yeager bicycles just about everywhere, even when he has to travel out-of-state:

“A bicycle is arguably the fastest machine ever invented,” he writes. “When you factor in the time it takes to earn enough money to buy a car (plus gas, insurance, etc.)” alongside the comparative prices for a bicycle, “the bicycle wins hands down.”

On every page of his book, Yeager offers sage advice on not spending. Covering nearly every aspect of life from investments and equities to the many uses for baking soda, his thousands of practical tips include buying only groceries that cost under a dollar a pound; adopting free or frugal hobbies such as whittling, yodeling, palm-reading, ghost-hunting, masturbation (hey, it’s mentioned on page 194), ventriloquism, origami, and gravestone rubbing; and buying a “starter home” but staying there. His “cheap-speak glossary” includes such terms as “Diluter,” denoting a subset of cheapskates who “add water and other less expensive substances to stretch supplies of things like milk, juice and detergent,” and “BOGOF,” meaning “buy one get one free.”

First step on the road to happiness? “Put away your wallet,” he asserts.

Our Yard Sale

June 21, 2009 at 7:03 am | Posted in Uncategorized | 1 Comment

Age of film 3d - Slide carouselWell, we had a yard sale yesterday. We do this every two or three years as a way to clear out excess stuff that has been piling up in the garage. Stuff we’ve scavenged and thought we could use, mostly, but then realize that we won’t. Might as well put it back into the endless flow of acquisitions and possessions.

Because we live on a street with very little foot traffic, we didn’t have a great turnout, but everyone who arrived ended up buying at least something — and then being given a free thing or two just for stopping by. Among other visitors, we met a young couple who just moved back to California after a long stint in Connecticut. (I asked them what Connecticut is like. The woman said, “Um — a lot of trees.” The guy said, “There’s not much else there.”) We met an artist who has great plans for those slide carousels she carried away from our free-box. We met a man who told us he is “intensely devoted to picnics,” and bought some picnic supplies as well as a beige china teapot. Curiously, no sooner than we had sold the teapot than a neighbor who works in the food industry came over and brought us a big free bag of tea — apparently it had been mis-mixed at the factory and two varieties got into the same bag, so it couldn’t be sold. We were glad to get it, and will brew it in saucepans having sold the teapot (which we never really used anyway). This neighbor bought a radio, a vintage can with Chinese writing on it, and a large faded flag which we think was once on a boat or ship. We gave him a sumo-wrestling program (as his wife is Japanese and a big sumo fan) and a bag of lemons.

When you give yard sales, people always ask for stuff you don’t have. This time it was jewelry and camping equipment. But we DID have books, scented candles (still in their original boxes with German labels), a toy balalaika, computer parts, a sequined sundress, pan-pipes, lampshades, a pocket-sized slot machine, and so much more. For some reason, no one bought the pan-pipes. Also, no one bought the two walking-canes, the wheelie-cart or most of the clothes. A row of free-boxes is now lined up at the top of the driveway, just waiting for some scavengers.

Loving the Cracks

June 17, 2009 at 12:15 pm | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

IMG_0698A local lumber store lets Susan Duhan Felix scavenge sawdust from its floors and gather plywood remnants from its scrap heap for free. Her art goes like this: She digs deep holes in the sand at the beach. Into the holes go clay slabs, over which she sprinkles the sawdust along with salt and copper carbonate. In go combustibles, which she then ignites, letting the piles smolder for hours.

A creator of ritual objects, Felix never knows what she’ll take out of those pits. Exposed to extreme heat, salt creates white areas on the clay, sawdust creates black areas, copper carbonate creates red or pink. The shapes these colors will take on any given piece — blots, billows, speckles, streaks — are anyone’s guess, as is the texture of each finished piece. No two are alike. One might resemble human skin, the next a bullet-riddled wall. This is pit-firing, the earliest known mode of firing clay. Our primitive ancestors did it.

“Pit firing is a very amazing process because you have so little control over it,” says the award-winning ceramicist whose exhibition, “Mystery Made Manifest,” is currently on display at the Pacific School of Religion in Berkeley, California. “You take a blank slab of clay. You make a big fire. What happens in that fire is completely unpredictable. In Hebrew, the word for ‘faith’ and the word for ‘art’ come from the same root. Pit firing is a test of faith.”IMG_0696

A devotee of both Buddhism and Jewish mysticism, she sees both reflected in her work. In the kabbalistic creation legend, God sent forth vessels filled with primordial light to illuminate the brand-new world. But the vessels broke enroute, scattering sparks, which rendered the world imperfect. According to the legend, humans must gather and nurture the sparks in order to fix the world. Working with fire and clay, Felix is surrounded by sparks and imperfection. As for Buddhism — unlike other art forms, pit firing allows no control and no do-overs. It’s all about random chance, and you get whatever you get. (In that sense, it also echoes the spirit of scavenging.)

Among her works are a series based on the idea of b’reishit or creation, another series of pieces all expressing the imprecation “Stay Amazed,” and another incorporating the Hebrew letters spelling Shaddai, one of the names for God which is affiliated with the word for “breast.”

She never discards a piece that breaks. Sometimes she glues its bits together. And sometimes she uses the bits to augment or create a new work.

IMG_0697“When my pieces break, I don’t say, ‘This is garbage’ and throw them away. I heal them,” Felix tells me. “I put them together and I put gold in the cracks, which is a Japanese tradition.” She paints the glue gold, or adds gold leaf. “Somebody else would have thrown them in the garbage. In my work, nothing is wasted. Everything that comes out of the pit, I use.”

Cracked-and-glued pieces hang boldly on the exhibition hall’s walls. “One of the things this show is about is loving the cracks,” Felix says, “and the idea of cracks bing the place where the light comes through.”

The scavenged scrapwood becomes backings and frames.IMG_0705

Credit-Card Choker & Friend

June 12, 2009 at 5:27 am | Posted in Uncategorized | 11 Comments

So many obsolete credit cards … so many crafts. This time, I designed a choker — just in time for summer, when bright sunshine works wonders on the hologram:IMG_0217

I found the chain and glass beads in the street.

And just for the heck of it, I also made a bracelet out of a French phone card, scavenged on a pre-Euro trip to France:IMG_0221

Thailand’s “Garbage” Library

June 2, 2009 at 7:03 am | Posted in Uncategorized | 1 Comment

60px-GFDL_Krating_Daeng_150mlAn eco-friendly library in Bangkok was created last month with scavenged “garbage” including bottles left behind after parties, boxes left behind after a fair, scrap teakwood left behind at a building site, and much more — and it’s been built in an abandoned space. In what used to be a “shophouse” — that deep narrow retail/residential structure ubiquitous in Southeast Asia — the ceiling chandelier is made from soda-pop bottles; those old boxes have been transformed into bookshelves, and those naturally beautiful teak planks hide dirty concrete walls. A broken toilet has been converted into a planter. It’s the work of Community Architects for Shelter and Environment (CASE) group, a team of Bangkok-based architects devoted to improving life for the urban poor.

CASE’s founder Patama Roonrakwit — who became interested in what she calls “slum dwellers” while studying at Oxford — told reporters at the Thai paper The Nation: “Financial limitations inspired us to make full use of recycled items.”

Last year, drawing upon the Buddhist kathin tradition — in which donating goods improves karma — Roonrakwit set up sites where people could donate used construction equipment as well as books, paper, plants, toys, housewares and pet supplies.
Many of those donations went into this community library. Total renovations took only three weeks.

The abandoned shophouse was a remnant of the formerly thriving Chinese retail community that has since moved away.

Solar-cell lamps illuminate the space, which also has a garden. Local workers and children gather to read donated books and magazines and play with donated games. Donated paintings — and artworks created by local kids — adorn the walls. The upstairs mezzanine has been outfitted with pads for lounging and meditation.

Downed But Not Out

May 24, 2009 at 9:26 pm | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

bench_grassTrees that have been cut down due to disease often end up in landfills. But tree services in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania bring them to John Metzler’s 10,000-square-foot studio, Urban Tree Forge, where he and his workers give them a new life of sorts, repurposing this would-be junk into furniture, sculptures, and more. Metzler also uses scrapwood salvaged from urban building sites.

“Before the earth beneath Western Pennsylvania fueled one of America’s great industrial cities, it forged our first natural resource: Pennsylvania hardwood,” Metzler writes. “The mills are gone but the forest lives on in a thriving urban setting…. Our urban wood has character that can only be created by the challenge of city life….

“Re-using city trees not only helps us keep history healthy, it helps us sustain a healthy environment. It reduces our carbon footprint, lessens our dependence on wood from national forests, and keeps natural resources local. Let the urban forest live on.”

Kentucky Beachcomber

May 22, 2009 at 8:17 am | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

styroWe got a note yesterday from Albertus Gorman, who makes art from stuff he scavenges along the Ohio River near his Louisville, Kentucky home. To create whimsical sculptures, he mixes natural elements (sticks chewed by beavers are a favorite, he says) with human detritus such as household utensils, fishing gear, car parts, toys and (another favorite) plastic food. Anyone who lives near water knows that styrofoam is a virtual shoreline plague. Making the most of it, Gorman repurposes the white junk into dreamy figures resembling snowmen and ghosts. Scouring what he calls “the river’s scrap heap,” he has also assembled intriguing collections of found paintings, found fishing lures, found plastic food and found plastic toys.

“I have always been good at finding things and have thought that objects have an uncanny way of calling me,” Gorman writes. “I’ll just be walking along and for whatever reason I’ll look down at that moment and there will be something interesting to pick up. I always find stuff when I go to the river, which is a big part of the fun.”

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