Useful Framing

IMG_7116Over the years, we’ve accumulated a lot of Russell’s artwork, dating back to his first paintings from the dawn of his artistic endeavors in middle school.  They’ve been stored, and now Russell is home for a brief visit, to decide whether to keep those pieces — or to remove the heavy staples one by one, strip off the early efforts, and recycle the valuable wooden frames and, where appropriate, the yards of canvas, and set them aside for use in creating new pieces that are more befitting his current artistic vision.

it’s kind of wistful to see him disassemble the older pieces that have become part of the family repository of stored items . . . but it’s also nice to see that he is winnowing out the older stuff and looking forward to what he can create with the wood, and canvas.  For artists, and for the rest of us, too, the vision must always be forward looking.

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RecycleArt

IMG_6653_2Somewhere along the Maine coastline, you will find Nervous Nellie’s Jams and Jellies.  It’s home not only to some great and inventive jams and jellies, but also to the sculpture of Peter Beerits — an artist who creates interesting pieces out of discarded odds and ends.

The area around Nervous Nellie’s is chock full of Beerits’ work, including pieces organized into an entire Old West town, complete with jail, general store, and a saloon with card players.  The artwork has a certain fascination to it, because Beerits obviously can see through the current condition of an object to its ultimate, artistic realization — where a rusted top of an outdoor grill becomes the shell of a tortoise, or an old washtub serves as the legs of a goat.  It’s all quite in line with Michelangelo’s purported statement that his sculptures were always there, lurking inside the block of marble — he just was able to see them, and then could chop and smooth away the unnecessary stuff.

It’s cool to see what most of us would consider to be junk reused, and reimagined, into interesting pieces of art.

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Rubber Tire Recycling

As I’ve mentioned before, I am all in favor of increased recycling and minimized use of landfill space.  I zealously recycle cans, bottles, plastic, and paper items.

So, I was happy to see that our neighborhood playground has done its part by using shredded rubber tires to spread under the swings, teeter-totter, and slide.  I discovered the recent addition when I walked past with the dogs, and noticed a distinctly springy feel underfoot.

The black shards of shredded tire look good on the playground — like high-end mulch, but without the odor — and I have to believe that the rubbery surface is much safer than cement or asphalt (the preferred surface in the death trap playgrounds of my childhood) or wood chips, which was the immediately preceding surface.  The rubber shards are an inch or two deep, and when you walk across them you feel like any kid toppling off the teeter-totter and falling onto the springy surface would be likely to bound three feet in the air.

Well done, New Albany!

Garbage, Our Leading Economic Indicator

Amidst the durable goods orders, and factory output analyses and aging inventory evaluations that typically are the focus of the dismal science, there lurks an economic indicator that is highly accurate and smelly, too — garbage.

A study has concluded that, of the 21 categories of items shipped by rail, the one that has the highest correlation to Gross Domestic Product is garbage.  Trash has an 82 percent correlation to economic growth.  The correlation is logical, and obvious, because the more people produce and purchase, the more they throw out.  So, if you want to assess how the economy is doing, keep an eye on the volume of refuse collected by your friendly neighborhood garbagemen.

Unfortunately, the garbage indicator isn’t predicting good economic news — carloads of waste are way down.  We’ll just have to keep our fingers crossed that the decline no longer accurately predicts economic activity and instead reflects that our neighbors have finally gotten serious about recycling and composting and other trash-minimizing activities.

Reducing Our Garbage Footprint

Every Thursday, the houses in our neighborhood put their trash out by the curb for pick-up. When I walk the dogs on a Thursday morning, I’m always amazed by the cumulative output, from just one neighborhood in just one suburb of just one American city.

My goal therefore is to make sure that our house sets out the smallest amount possible.  I toss every bottle, aluminum can, milk jug, and other plastic item in their recycling bin.  I break down even the most sturdily constructed cardboard box and throw every stray scrap of paper — newspapers, brochures, mail-order catalogs, and junk mail included — into the paper recycling container.  I put food scraps into the garbage disposal and rake yard waste into the beds behind our shrubs.  I know these efforts are small, but the multiplication effect means that little efforts can have large consequences.

In any case, I feel better knowing that our garbage footprint is as small as possible.  Some years ago I had a case involving landfills that addressed how they are constructed and operated.  I learned how they are lined, and capped, and how leachate — great name for the fluid that inevitably seeps out of  crushed garbage, isn’t it? — is collected.  Landfills are carefully regulated and engineered, but the fact remains that they are permanent pockets of garbage buried across the landscape that will forever limit how those locations can be used.  I don’t want our little household to contribute unnecessarily to their proliferation.

The Horrors Of Recycled Paper Napkins

Our office has long tried to be “green.”  We recycle paper products and aluminum cans.  We don’t use styrofoam coffee cups.  And, recently, we started using recycled paper napkins at our coffee stations.  The napkins are brown and are proudly stamped with the green recycle stamp and the messages “Made with 100% recycled material” and “Save the environment, one napkin at a time.”

The napkins are in a dispenser right next to the sink and the coffee brewer.  Their intended use is plain:  they are supposed to help you as you rinse out your coffee cup in the morning and scrub out the remaining coffee film.  At this simple chore, however, the recycled paper napkins are a complete, abject failure.  A single napkin is so flimsy that it dissolves and falls to pieces at the slightest touch of liquid.  So, you use three napkins together — thereby saving the environment, three napkins at a time — but as you clean out the cup you realize that you are leaving behind moist, rice-sized paper pellets adhered to the bottom and sides of the cup.  The brown paper residue then needs to be swept from the cup, by hand.

We used to have sturdy, presumably non-recycled, napkins for this purpose.  One napkin filled the bill admirably and left you with a spotless, shining cup, ready to accept the morning’s first touch of black magic.  Now, what used to be a simple, mindless part of the morning routine has become a source of grim frustration, all because the environment-saving recycled napkins suck at their job.  The first rule of napkin technology should be, “no residue left behind.”  Our gossamer recycled paper napkins not only are incapable of removing existing residue, they compound the problem by leaving their own trail of brown crud.

I’m all in favor of recycling — really I am — but we shouldn’t be guilt-tripped into buying inferior recycled products that fail to perform their intended function.  No amount of “green office” awards can make up for the horrors of trying to use recycled paper napkins.