Tuesday 27 February 2024

generally meant to be discarded (11. 385)

Via Colossal, we are introduced to the work of ceramicist Yoonmi Nam in her exhibit featuring pottery and architectural elements made on a substrate of single-use, disposable containers. Displayed on traditional soban (์†Œ๋ฐ˜, used as dining trays and general purpose tables) as pediments—Nam employs the green-grey hued glaze, which reminds us of Frankoma ware and also of the craft of kintsugi, both dating from the era of the Goryeo kingdom that once covered most of the peninsula. It is an interesting meditation on the nature of trash and consumption, encased forever as something beautiful and permanent.  Much more at the links above.


one year ago: Campbell’s cocktails plus the Lion-Eating Poet in the Stone Den

two years ago: assorted links to revisit plus the Peace of Stolbovo (1617)

three years ago: The Lady’s Mercury (1619), artist Carel Fabritius, most quoted and remixed works in the Anglophone literary canon, Walter Cronkite’s Report from Vietnam (1968), reanimating old photos plus the Conservative Political Action Conference

four years ago: more links to enjoy plus birthright citizenship in the US in jeopardy

five years ago: the Reichstag Fire (1933), the art of Alex Moy plus synthetic DNA

Thursday 11 January 2024

11x11 (11. 259)

cheesemongering: a specialist seller experiments with fifty-six varieties to find the perfect grilled sandwich 

vector portraits: photographs of drivers at speed traveling in Los Angeles  

decision 2024: this is the biggest year yet—and possibly democracy’s biggest test with over half the world’s population voting within the next twelve months  

run, rabbit, run: an AI-powered gadget designed to use one’s apps for one sells out 

electronics gives us a way of classifying things: Microsoft (now the most valued company in the world thanks to its part in AI, a font of misinformation) once explained to author Terry Pratchett how technology referees would make propaganda a thing of the past  

squaring the circle: Substackers against Nazis—reloaded—and a reminder that one can’t be just a little bit facist  

re-migration: a coalition of the far-right met outside of Berlin in November to discuss mass deportations  

blanket immunity: Trump’s legal team presents arguments for a president above the law—setting up the US Supreme Court to either rule on his exoneration or eligibility  

proxima swarm: US space agency supports bold proposal to reach the next nearest star system with a wall of tiny craft propelled by photons—see previously 

flower taxi: a mobile florist from 1960s London  

marie harel: producers of Camembert in Normandy fear EU recycling regulation could mean the end for their traditional wooden box packaging

Wednesday 5 July 2023

church key (10. 862)

From the shifting onus of mass-delivered single-use that incentivised disposing of one’s beverage container properly to the technological innovations that allowed beer from a can to be palatable and not compromised in the filling and distribution process while being easily and readily accessible, to follow-on safety concerns about the opening mechanism and wide-spread pull-tabs, which led to engineering that we are familiar with today, we are directed towards the design history of the aluminium can. Learn more from Tedium at the link above—with plenty of top-popping detail.

Friday 7 April 2023

exposome (10. 658)

We learn via the New Shelton wet/dry that the field of exposomics was coined in 2005 to describe the aetiology of chronic disease and cancers due to environmental factors and has since been expanded as a heuristic approach to gauging exposure to pollutants and how toxins are metabolised and change in the body once incorporated. Taken rather dismissively like the statistic that we swallow a fair share of spiders annually, the idea that we ingest a credit card per week of microplastics ought to be a cause for alarm and what’s inert and what’s potentially reactive and enduring is a big unknown for public health and well-being as we continue to trash our planet.

Thursday 23 March 2023

poly s tyrene (10. 631)

Artist and beachcomber Duke Riley has turned the trash he has gathered washed up on the shore into art in various forms including a selection of oceanic plastic transformed into scrimshaw recalling its original motifs, portraying those whom profit off of our collective addiction to single-use and out-of-sight conundrums just like the ships’ captains and corporations, addressing both past and present injustices and criminal exploitation of the environment and the inured consumer.

Sunday 19 March 2023

cross-cut (10. 620)

Introduced with the invention of the process of paper recycling, pulping (plus the discussion of the printed page as the medium of record) in an exchange between Matthias Koops and King George III, Tedium presents an interesting historical survey of the development of paper shredding, destroying that record of information, promoting privacy and salvaging the base medium, the mechanism first patented in 1910 by Abbot Augustus Low, a serial tinkerer and possibly by modern reckoning “patent troll” now forgotten but contemporarily only surpassed Thomas Edison. The shredding strips, called fantastically paper excelsior, and how they were created were subject to a series of lawsuits beginning in the 1930s with the publisher of anti-Nazi material, Adolf Ehinger, adapting a pasta maker to destroy errant copies of his pamphlets with competitors suppressing the innovative process with legal wrangling and countersuits. While Ehinger may not have been the paper shredders first and only inventor, he was the first to recognise its practical use in the Information Age and informed (see also) the industry as it exists today. Much more at Tedium at the link above.

Thursday 23 February 2023

8x8 (10. 566)

scoby: manufacturing electronics out of a kombucha culture  

ngc 1433: more incredible infrared imaging of neighbouring galaxies from JWST  

meanwhile back at the manse: documenting changing American architectural aesthetics in Barbie’s Dream Home  

recalculating: Karen Jacobsen—the original GPS voice multi-modal: code-switching in texting in Hong Kong  

kbbl: music streaming service is offering AI hosts with generative chatter—via Super Punch  

55 cancri ๐›ฟ: a collection of the most bizarre exoplanets discovered so far  

fomes formentarius: introducing the fungus that has the potential to replace plastics

Wednesday 7 December 2022

blue marble (10. 368)

Photographed by one of the crew, likely Harrison Schmitt or Gene Cernan but ever member took turns taking pictures with the Hasselblad camera, of the Apollo XVII mission on its way to the Moon from a distance of just under thirty thousand kilometers on this day in 1972. Backlit and slightly rounded—gibbous and hence the name—from the astronauts’ perspective and after Earthrise only the second whole planet image captured by a human photographer, the Blue Marble is among the most widely reproduced and circulated images in existence, it was received by the public at a moment of increased environmental activism and awareness and helped focus the movement by framing Earth’s uniqueness and vulnerability set against the endless expanse of space. Although recreated by satellite imagining, there have been no crewed excursions since that taken us high enough aloft—yet—to fit the entire planet in the view-finder.

Friday 22 April 2022

earth day

Organisers Denis Hayes and Wisconsin senator Gaylord Nelson who championed the establishment of the annual observance in support of environmental protection and better stewardship of the planet in congress—plus drumming up the earnest support of the United Auto Workers union which without the backing of the labour movement probably would have had no staying power—chose the date strategically as to time the holiday outside of college exams and Spring Break, student activism being among the important targets to carry the cause forward, and with the happy coincidence that the date range included the anniversary of the 1838 birth of John Muir—an American of Scottish extract regarded as the Father of the National Parks, avid naturalist, ecologist and conservationist who co-founded the Sierra Club and pushed the government to establish a nature reserve in the Yosemite region of California. 

Reportedly unbeknownst to Nelson and Hayes, the first 1970 celebration fell on the hundredth anniversary of the birth of Soviet revolutionary Vladimir Lenin (New Style, 1870), causing some media outlets to speculate at the time that it was not an unfortunately coincidence but rather signaled that the environmental movement was a “Communist trick” to subvert and indoctrinate the youth—apparently into caring for Nature and the world around them and engendered guilt over polluting and over-consumption. The themes for this year include Sustainable Fashion, the Great Global Clean-up, the Canopy Project (reforestation) and Climate and Environmental Literacy.

Friday 21 January 2022


wheelie bins: a collection of municipal-issue recycling bins from across the UK—via Pasa Bon! 

filmovรฝ plakรกt: a gallery of vintage Czech movie posters  

1 000 trees: drone footage showcases Heatherwick studios’ Shanghai shopping centre  

northwoods baseball sleep radio: a fake game with no jarring sounds designed for podcast slumber  

holkham bible picture book: a 1330 curiosity that illustrates select passages from the Old and New Testaments  

the great british spring clean: projects and programmes (see also) sponsored by Keep Britain Tidy

Wednesday 9 June 2021


Informed by the announcement of the EU parliament that from next month on, single-use plastic eating utensils, swizzle sticks, drinking straws, etc. will be banned, a design duo from Germany has exhibited as part of the London Design Biennale an installation called “Spoon Archaeology” of two decades of collected, curated strata—all part of a theme for a pavilion on ecological awareness and sustainability by putting problematic disposables on display as artefacts of the past that they should be consigned to. More from Dezeen at the link above.

Sunday 21 February 2021

scale model

Via the always marvellous Nag on the Lake’s Sunday Links (lots more to explore here), we are introduced to the life-sized sculptures by Swedish-born, Berlin-based artist Michael Johansson inspired by his fascination growing up with model kits (Plastmodelltillverkning) whose injection-moulded parts, prior to assembly are held in a plastic frame called a sprue or a runner. The pictured piece, this 1:1 dinghy with some assembly-required, is the first in his series spanning a decade with installations decorating recycling centres, fire stations, residential estates as well as an archaeological site, see also here and here. Johansson has also produced some smaller, deconstructed household items as wall hangings.

Monday 9 March 2020

anima mundi

Adding an extra dimension of respect and upcycling, reviving the mantra of reduce, reuse and recycle among the environmentally-minded (we might also add another r-word in refusal of what does not avail itself of one of the other options in the first place) that’s in danger of becoming a platitude, we thoroughly enjoyed this introduction to the Japanese concept of mottainai (ใ‚‚ใฃใŸใ„ใชใ„) exclaiming lament over waste and regret of something not being used to its full potential.
The sustainable antidote to affluenza—the plague of throw-away culture and disposable society, the term and its meaning correspond with other aspects of Japanese culture and reverence for resource and repair, mottainai premises that if one values an item intrinsically—to include its packaging—there’s no reason for waste at all. Much more to explore at the links above.

Friday 29 November 2019

uplifting stats

Via Pasa Bon!, we discover a yearlong campaign by Information is Beautiful (see previously), inspired by among other things the disabusing trends illustrated in Hans Rosling’s Factfulness, to release an infographic daily that features enlightening good news and positive trends (trajectories and the headlines not necessarily being the same thing). From their recently featured charts we glean among other things that Iceland had legally mandated equal pay for equal work for men and women, the precipitous fall of the cost of renewable energy, Africa and South America is quashing malaria and there is now a fourth type of chocolate aside from dark, milk and white with ruby.

Monday 30 September 2019


Much to my abject horror—especially considering how I nag H about recycling and how I aspire to be better—I was zero-days old yesterday once I realised to my shock (being raised around tubs of Shedd’s Spread Country Crock is no excuse as I’ve lived here going on two decades now) that plastic packaging like yogurt cups and containers for butter and other spreads have a printed cardboard hull that must be separated and sorted for proper disposal.
I know that once such things were wholly plastic, something more rigid and not needing the support of a cardboard frame, and many still are—but I shudder at the thought while the onus for reducing and recycling is on us as consumers to think how many good intentions have been spoilt through contamination. It’s a little sneaky and I’ve never seen the surface layer peeled back in the store or cupboard, but the labeling is present and I’ll wager Germany has conducted outreach campaigns. I hope through my disabused ignorance that a bit more trash gets sorted in the end.

Monday 23 September 2019


Via her excellency Nag on the Lake, we discover that the infamous fatberg of Whitechapel (previously) has been memorialised with a special manhole cover.
The one hundred-thirty tonne blockage discovered beneath the east London district was comprised of an unsavoury amalgamation of wet-wipes, cooking oil and other items that are not meant for the sewer system—sort of like the problem of aspirational recycling whose good intentions can spoil the whole batch which can prove overtaxing for even the best engineered though ageing infrastructure.

Thursday 19 September 2019

cracker jack

In response to a petition levied against the fast food industry championed by two young people from Hampshire in southern England, one chain has committed to stop handing out promotional plastic toys with children’s meals, foregoing the chance for market tie-ins, out of respect for the environment.
Restaurants will also have an amnesty bin to return old, unwanted toys, whose plastic cannot be recycled in the collection schemes used by most municipalities for packaging, where they can be melted down and reincarnated as something else. The franchise’s chief rival countered that while it will not eliminate toys giveaways altogether, it will offer customers alternatives and look into manufacturing them from less polluting materials.

Thursday 5 September 2019

susan spotless says every litter bit hurts

Not to discount or dismiss the role of consumer-choice and the positive impact of reduction and reuse—and recycling programmes that are honest-brokers and not more greenwashing out-of-hand, but the manufacturing industry behind throw-away society has managed to deflect attention from itself and conveniently shift the onus and the guilt of pollution and over-consumption from themselves—saving their bottom-line, to the public.
Thoughline shows how industry launched a major re-education campaign to convince the public there was little need for thrift and re-use and to accept the single-use paradigm, seemingly enraged and enervated when the state of Vermont enacted legislation that outlawed the sale disposable glass-bottles, since they were ending up in pastures and the broken shards were dangerous for livestock gazing there. Fully aware of the down-stream effects of their actions and to sustain their profligacy as long as possible, food and beverage makers turned to the Ad Council to craft public sentiment with mascots (to include first that insufferable scolding child above, Lassie the television canine, and later Iron Eyes Cody, “the Crying Indian”) and public service announcements that make the disposable not just more palatable but patriotic (see also here, here and here). Their efforts have been pretty successful and tenacious, people internalising the message that our own greed, laziness and carelessness are the biggest contributors to the climate crisis and not industry or governments too cowed or complicit to regulate them. Listen to more episodes at the link above and subscribe for more disabusing origin stories.

Friday 26 July 2019

closing the loop

Previously we’ve discussed how the Tokyo Olympic and Paralympic Games are to make a statement on sustainability by salvaging precious metals for the placing athletes from electronic waste, and now courtesy of Dezeen, we see the committee has revealed their gold, silver and bronze medals.
Designed and conceived by Junichi Kawanishi, the medals and their cases are alloyed from substances recovered from old electronic devices donated by the public. All told, this netted—mostly from obsolete smart phones, some six million of them over the course of two years—thirty-two kilogrammes of gold, thirty-five hundred kilogrammes of silver and twenty-two hundred kilogrammes of bronze. Much more at the links above.

Tuesday 18 June 2019

keep britain tidy

As much of a focus-steeling, attention-grabbing sideshow Brexit and Theresa May’s leadership were her desired legacy and commitment—bringing the UK’s carbon contribution down to net-zero by 2050—is pretty admirable and make up for what she made everyone endure, notwithstanding a predecessor even more repugnant who’ll try to change course, though enshrined in law, it will be tougher to rescind.
Before leaving office nearly thirty years ago, Margaret Thatcher made a similar pledge, urging a global treaty on climate change and enacted policies to protect the ozone layer and curb acid rain. Would that all rubbish politicians had such redeeming potential. Although there’s quite some rough terrain yet to cover to attain that goal and admittedly we all ought to be in a better place by now, courtesy Maps Mania, we should pause and consider this interactive essay, chart and timeline from Carbon Brief illustrating the progress that the UK has already made in overhauling how it gets and uses its energy, an achievement encapsulated in the record-setting span of time that the country has gone without having to resort to coal. Records are made to be broken. Much more to explore at the links above.