EVERYBODY ASK “WHEN?”
Bobbi Mastrangelo is best known for her great grates–a body of work based on manhole covers. Years ago she became fascinated with the variety of graphic designs water companies all over the world use to identify sewers, water mains and outlet pipes. Her trompe l’oeil sculptures capture the unexpected aesthetics of utility covers in urban settings. Thanks to Bobbi, the Trashman no longer misses the beauty that is right under his feet when he’s on his daily litter-run.
Bobbi also creates prints and sculptures about litter. Trashman has one hanging in his home. Naturally, they are made of litter that has been recycled into hand-made paper. Then they are embossed with pithy admonitions, like: Don’t Do It!
Yes, agrees the Trashman. Just don’t do it…
JUST BARGING ALONG…
It’s the 25th anniversary of the infamous Mobro Incident. The Trashman remembers it well because he was right there along with Supervisor Frank R. Jones when the Town of Islip tried to solve its disposal problems by barging the contents of community landfills to neighboring states. But once the barge–the Mobro–was filled with garbage and tooting down the Atlantic coast, the recipient states had second thoughts about toxicity and refused to allow the barge to dock. So the Mobro roamed the salty seas for months and became an international cause celebre in the process.
This week, The New York Times launched a site featuring retro news, and chose the Mobro Incident as its very first story, along with an interesting update that is good news for Trashman. New, improved incinerators mean trash can be converted to fuel. Scandinavian countries are already on top of the technology. In 25 more years, people may be purchasing trash the same way they now buy gas. And the streets will be clean because litter will be selling for $3.69 a gallon.
Click on the link to read the Times celebratory report:
TOO MUCH OF A BAD THING
The Trashman saw Trashed the other day. It’s a great movie narrated by Jeremy Irons about–you guessed it–trash, ta da!. Of course Trashman loved it, but he and his faithful partner in litter removal were a bit overwhelmed. Yes, the movie was stunning and informative… but so informative that it gives new meaning to the cliche “too much information.” And that’s the problem with important works about important problems: they tend to be heavy dumplings, hard to digest in one sitting.
And Jeremy Irons is soooooooooo earnest.
Every Easter weekend, usually on Good Friday, Trashman watches The Mission, also starring Jeremy Irons–this time as a doomed Jesuit priest in colonial-era Peru. Trashman just loves that movie. It’s a Catholic thing. And once again, Jeremy is soooooooo earnest about an important and tragic topic.
Trashman worries about litter one piece at a time. Not possessing a garbage truck of his own, that’s all he can actually pick up. And he does. He leaves the huge worries he can’t do anything about to others. He salutes Jeremy Irons and his ambitious documentary. No one does earnest better than him.
WHEN KIDS ARE JUST TRASH TOO…
Trashman visited the new downtown extension of the Mint Museum in Charlotte, NC, recently, just in time to check out an exhibition of Vik Muniz photographs of garbage. Muniz is one of Trashman’s favorite artists. Yes, it’s the garbage and trash thing he does…but it’s more than that. Muniz comes from Brazil, a country known for its tragic slums and lost children, many of whom survive by scavenging recyclable material from the largest landfill in the world, Jardim Gramacho at the outskirts of Rio de Janeiro.. Thanks to Muniz and his foundation, these throw-away kids have jobs creating art.
At the Mint, Trashman was taken by Venus, a 12- foot long photograph of a rendition in garbage of Botticelli’s famous Birth of Venus. As it happens, the Trashman has a Vik Muniz serving platter at home. There’s a photo imprint of Carravagio’s Medusa right in the center, done in pasta marinara. It’s messy, kind of disgusting…a show-stopper at Trashman’s gracious arty dinner parties.
TRASHMANIACS AT WORK
If you didn’t visit areas devastated by Superstorm Sandy in person, you just can’t understand the extent of the damage–or Mother Nature’s awesome power. The Trashman’s modest beach house on Fire Island was tossed and turned a bit, but the homes around him were swept out to sea. Gone. As if they had never existed. Trashman and his faithful companion visited cleanup crews last weekend and were stunned by the mountains of debris, piled 20 feet high and waiting for a maritime trip to a landfill. Cue the crew: hard-working men in hardhats, having fun with heavy equipment, dropping plastic water bottles and sandwich wrappers anywhere but a garbage can. They were littering litter lightly laughing…or something like that. Ordinarily Trashman would have stopped to politely reprimand, but criticism in front of trash mountains seemed petty. So he gave the guys a thumbs up and merrily said, “looks like things are picking up.”
When the beach is back to normal, he’ll resume his usual arched-eyebrow smack downs.
I’LL FLY AWAY…OR NOT
It’s hard to convey how something with such a cute name like “litter” is really a profound global problem. But artist Chris Jordan has found a way. Jordan’s pictures and films of birds in Antarctica dying from ingested bits of plastic is, as Trashman so eloquently puts it, a smack upside the head. If you don’t get it after looking at Midway, Trashman will track you down until you do.
And check out Jordan’s stupefying riff on Seurat’s Sunday in the Park, made of bottle caps. Click on the image. He can take those Lego champions any day of the week.
Jordan strikes just the right tone between accessible and awing. He is a teacher for our time, and a modern-day trash hero. Trashman salutes him.
TRASH MYSTERY #4
Trashman has just come back from Puerto Morelos, Mexico. He says it is the place where old volkswagens and campers from the 60′s go to die. There’s nothing there except a dock, a church and some sidewalk restaurants. Time has stopped in this little fishing village. What’s the big deal, Trashman’s friends ask every time he gets on a plane for his annual pilgrimage south of the border. The coral reef outside Trashman’s modest adobe apartment is the second largest in the world–only slightly smaller than Australia’s Great Barrier Reef. That’s the big deal. But the reef isn’t what it used to be. The nearby Institute For Marine Research has been studying Yucatan’s dying coral for decades and concludes that trash is one of the top culprits. Trashman doesn’t need a Doctorate to know that. Every time he walks the Puerto Morelos beach he sees the most beautiful blue water in the hemisphere. The softest sand. The warmest winter weather. And trash. He knows just where it comes from. All you have to do is look in a mirror. It’s no mystery.