Author Archives: Carl Zimring

About Carl Zimring

I study junk and talk trash. Author of Cash for Your Trash: Scrap Recycling in America and general editor of The Encyclopedia of Consumption and Waste: The Social Science of Garbage.

An Appreciation of Bottomless Pit

bottomlesspitKEXP2014This week brought word that the Chicago-based quartet Bottomless Pit is on indefinite hiatus, so now is a good time for an appreciation of the band. Bottomless Pit began after the tragic death of Michael Dahlquist in 2005 ended the brilliant Silkworm. I could spend several paragraphs extolling what that band accomplished in its almost two decades, but you are better served by simply watching the documentary Couldn’t You Wait? if you are unfamiliar with the band and the men who made up the band. Without Michael, there could be no Silkworm.

Bottomless Pit continued the partnership of Silkworm songwriters Andy Cohen and Tim Midyett, who brought in Brian Orchard of .22 and Chris Manfrin of Seam for the new band. Tim had primarily played a Travis Bean bass in Silkworm; for the new band he shifted to an Electrical Guitar Company baritone guitar, leaving bass duties to Brian. This lineup produced a distinctive and wonderful sound, in which the low end of the bass and baritone provided some of the textures of early New Order while Andy (who had earned the nickname “the Hebrew Hendrix” years before) provided the high end. Bottomless Pit immediately found its own identity.

Over three albums and one EP, this lineup made uniformly excellent music. In particular, Tim’s writing reached a new level of excellence with the debut album Hammer of the Gods, eulogizing Michael with the gorgeous “Human Out of Me” and Tim’s writing continued to grow right through the epic “Felt a Little Left” (the closing song from 2013’s Shade Perennial). Andy alternately used the lineup for intricate textures (“Null Set,” “Dogtags”) or muscular, thunderous cacophony (“38 Souls,” “Fish Eyes”), continuing the impressionistic lyrical concerns he had developed in Silkworm. (A particular favorite of mine was 2013’s “Sacred Trench,” a rumination on the emotional fallout of a flood from one of the affected people.) I was fortunate enough to live in the Chicago area for much of Bottomless Pit’s career, and so I managed to see about ten shows over the years. Two constants informed those shows. First, the sets were always over too quickly (meaning some great songs were omitted). Second, it always seemed like they played one or two fantastic songs that had not yet shown up on a record. I learned to go into shows both anticipating great performances of songs I knew and also anticipate the unexpected.

The links below give good representations of Bottomless Pit. The first is a full set in a Memphis parking lot from 2012, and the second is a performance of four songs in the KEXP-FM Seattle studios from earlier this year. The complete discography is available from the band’s website, and not only do all of the records include brilliantly written and played songs, but the production is immaculate.

People interested in hearing Tim and Andy play live can attend either the Pittsburgh or Columbus Karl Hendricks benefits this August for solo sets.  I imagine both men will produce more great music in the future, and I hold out hope for a Wilma Pool triple album.

Thanks, guys.

Karl Hendricks Benefits to Defray Medical Expenses

Readers of this blog may be familiar with Karl Hendricks from a post I wrote about his music relating to the emotional pull to hoard (among other things) as well as having his most recent album The Adult Section firmly atop my list of favorite records from 2012.  In addition to owning Sound Cat Records in Pittsburgh, Karl is one of the more thoughtful writers and vocalists I know. This makes his diagnosis of oral cancer earlier this year particularly cruel.

Jon Solomon has set up a fundraising page to help meet Karl’s medical expenses.  You can donate here, and please see Jon’s message below to see some amazing fundraising events later this summer with music and readings from many of Karl’s friends (including my fellow onetime WRCT old, weird Americana DJ Jason Baldinger and some of the best musicians in the world).

For over 20 years Pittsburgh’s Karl Hendricks has been not only a good friend, but one of my favorite musicians. I’m not alone in either of these regards.

Karl has personally served as an inspiration to me as a dad, a writer and a small business owner as Karl’s the individual who keeps the excellent Sound Cat Records running smoothly.

He’s a quiet guy, not one to draw attention to himself and certainly not a person who is comfortable asking for help in this fashion.

His friends however aren’t as reserved. That’s why I am writing these words today.

In short: Karl Hendricks has oral cancer. He is working to get better, but it is going to be a long road to recovery.

If you would like to make a financial contribution to Team Hendricks, you can do so using this site. This fundraiser is being done with his consent.

With Karl unable to work this summer as he mends, times are tight in his household and if you’ve ever appreciated what Karl has done to better your own life, please consider passing some money his way.

There will be at least three benefit shows for Karl and his family you are encouraged to attend and spread the word about.

A series of rare items will also be auctioned off to benefit Karl around this time.

Friday, August 22
Brillobox (21+)
Pittsburgh, PA
8:00 pm ET
$10/door – if you wish to donate more you will be able to.
———————–
Line Forms
Tim Midyett (Bottomless Pit/Silkworm)
DAMA/LIBRA
Andy Cohen (Bottomless Pit/Silkworm)
The Gotobeds
Carousel

Saturday, August 23
2950 N High Street (21+) Update: Show moved to Little Rock Bar (944 N. 4th Street)
Columbus, OH
8:00 pm ET door : 9:00 pm ET show
$7
———————–
Marcy Mays (Scrawl)
Sue Harshe (Scrawl/Ft Shame)
Andy Cohen (Bottomless Pit/Silkworm)
Tim Midyett (Bottomless Pit/Silkworm)
Kyle Sowash
Lizard McGee (Earwig)
+ more to be announced.

Saturday September 27
Modern Formations
Pittsburgh, PA
8:00 pm ET
$7/sliding scale
———————–
Readings by:
Jason Baldinger
Kris Collins
Jerome Crooks
Lori Jakiela
Jeff Martin
Dave Newman
Bobby Pajich
Scott Silsbe
Hosted by Red Bob

Karl’s short story chapbook “Stan Getz Isn’t Coming Back” will be repressed in an edition of 100 copies for this reading.

Thank you very much.

Jon Solomon
July 2014

Again, the link to make a contribution is here. Karl should have the last word on this post, so here he is performing solo at the Pittsburgh Children’s Museum from 2011. 

 

Seats Available in Pratt’s Sustainable Core (Fall 2014)

As Pratt’s Sustainability Studies minor gets set to celebrate its first anniversary of being in the catalog, the upper-division SUST offerings are enrolled to capacity.  Students interested in developing the environmental dimensions of their education do have options, however. In Fall 2014, for the first time, Pratt’s Sustainable Core course is offering two sections, and both sections currently have some seats available. I am leading the Monday 2-4:50pm section and Jen Telesca is leading the Wednesday 5-7:50pm section. Each section will include participation by various Pratt instructors, giving students a sense of how sustainability is approached in design, architecture, the social sciences, the natural sciences, and humanities. This course is designed as our introduction to sustainability, and it is a required course for Pratt’s Sustainability Studies minor.

SUST 201 The Sustainable Core

This course provides an overview of sustainability by exploring definitions, controversies, trends, and case-studies in various systems and locales (urban/rural, local/national/global). Investigation of critical elements of sustainability, including environmental history and urban ecology, sustainable development and landscape transformations, recycling/waste management, ecosystem restoration, and environmental justice.

Fall 2014: SUST 201-01 Mondays, 2pm-4:50pm; SUST 201-02 Wednesdays 5-7:50pm.  3 credit hours.

This course may count as a Social Science or Philosophy elective, and has no prerequisites. If you are a Pratt student and have any questions for me about either of these courses, please feel free to contact me at czimring@pratt.edu.

A Question for Chicago Residents

Chicago is the City That Works.  But do its recycling services work?  Take the survey to let the CRC know.

Chicago is the City That Works. But do its recycling services work? Take the survey to let the CRC know.

Granted, people in Chicago make up a fraction of this blog’s readers, but as a member of the Chicago Recycling Coalition’s board of directors, I need to ask this question.

Have you taken the CRC’s recycling survey?  The CRC is trying to assess how well Chicago’s recycling services actually work and have developed a survey to assess services by neighborhood and building type.  Aside from monitoring quality of service, the questionnaire is also a good place for you to express your preferences on how local waste management might be improved. If these services matter to you, please take five minutes to answer a handful of questions.

AESS 2014 Recap

 

Pace University's downtown campus, home to this year's conference.

Pace University’s downtown campus, home to this year’s conference.

The Association for Environmental Studies and Sciences conference met in New York City this year, allowing me to participate despite moving house the same week. AESS is a relatively new association, having had its first meeting in Madison, Wisconsin five years ago. My experiences at that meeting and subsequent ones is that AESS is a genuinely interdisciplinary conference, attracting scholars focusing on natural sciences, social sciences, policy, humanities, and the arts, so long as there is a dimension involving the environment.

The arts played a particularly visible role in this year’s meeting “Welcome to the Anthropocene.” A performance troupe including actors, a dancer, a slam poet, and a sketch writer based a series of performances throughout the weekend on scheduled papers and panel abstracts.

The arts also informed our discussion symposium “Design for Living: Considering Sustainability Pedagogy in Art and Design Education,” which we offered on Thursday afternoon. Our panel, Hélène Day Fraser of Emily Carr University of Art and Design, Amy Deines of Lawrence Technological University, David Bergman of Parsons The New School of Design, and I were joined by several audience members in discussion the ways we teach different definitions of sustainability in our classrooms and studios, how our curriculae are designed to engage art and design students, how concepts of materiality and life cycle assessments might inform our assignments, and what conversations art and design educators might have with the broader environmental studies community.

This discussion grew out of the work several of us have done in the Partnership for Academic Leadership in Sustainability (PALS) that Deb Johnson pioneered over the past five years, and it was a pleasure to bring that discussion to AESS. The discussion was the ideal way to contextualize what we’re doing at Pratt with the Sustainability Studies minor and Center for Sustainable Design Strategies, and to learn from each other about creative ways to engage our students. I am grateful to Hélène and Amy for joining us in New York and to David for joining us not only when he (like me) is moving house, but doing so with a broken elbow. Above and beyond the call of duty, David! Thank you all, as well as the audience members; our 90-minute discussion will inform revisions I make to some of my assignments, and it was fun to boot.

Slide from Robin Nagle's presentation in one of Friday's hydrocarbon/discards panels.

Slide from Robin Nagle’s presentation in one of Friday’s hydrocarbon/discards panels.

My move limited my conference participation (though I missed the Friday field trips, I thankfully can visit such interesting sites as the Sims Sunset Park MRF facility, Newtown Creek Wastewater Treatment Plant, High Line, American Museum of Natural History, and other local sites in my own time – sometimes involving class field trios), and AESS’s rich schedule always means interesting panels conflict (for example, my new colleague Jen Telesca presented on ocean governance at the same time as the “Design for Living” discussion), but I managed to catch a few other panels. Of note were the two “Anthropocenic Discards and the Hydrocarbon Economy” panels Samantha MacBride assembled for Friday morning, featuring 3 ½ hours of engaging interdisciplinary discussion of the links between waste management and hydrocarbons. Perspectives covered ranged from architecture (with a focus on upcycling), toxicology, sociology, economics, engineering, and policy. Thanks to panelists Sasha Adkins, D. G. Webster (via Skype), Simone Feracina, Will Delavan, David Ruppert, Robin Nagle, and (once again) the highly engaged audience members who participated in the discussion. Discard studies was well-represented at these panels.

It was also a pleasure to end the conference on Saturday at the “Innovative Pedagogies for Environmental Justice and Community Engagement” panel featuring Deborah Rigling Gallagher and Rebecca Vidra, Susan Mooney and her student Jess, William Grady Holt, and my erstwhile colleague from Roosevelt University’s Sustainability Studies program Mike Bryson. This panel focused on service learning approaches, especially at the undergraduate level. Though the schools vary in organization and geography, key themes in the discussion involved establishing trust with the communities in which the classes engaged and the importance of taking time to build those relationships. I enjoyed seeing the work continuing in Roosevelt’s Sustainability Studies program and also enjoyed sharing a table with Mike and emeritus RU colleague Dan Headrick at Katz’s Deli.

Thanks to all at AESS for a terrific meeting here in New York City. For more on the conference, please see keynote speaker Andrew Revkin’s own recap in the New York Times or follow the Twitter hashtag #AESS2014.

AESS Roundtable on Sustainable Art and Design Education Thursday

AESS-Conference-Website-headerThe Association for Environmental Studies and Sciences is holding its annual conference “Welcome to the Anthropocene” in New York City June 11-14, and I will participate in the discussion symposium “Design for Living: Considering Sustainability Pedagogy in Art and Design Education” with Lawrence Technological University’s Amy Deines, Emily Carr University’s Hélène Day Fraser, and The New School’s David Bergman.
This discussion takes place Thursday from 2:00pm–3:30pm in classroom G at Pace University.  For registration and additional information, see the conference website.

Two Sections of Pratt’s Sustainable Core Available Fall 2014

How do humans live in concert with the environment?  Discuss this question in these two Fall 2013 courses.

How do humans live in concert with the environment? Discuss this question in these two Fall 2014 courses.

In Fall 2014, for the first time, Pratt’s Sustainable Core course is offering two sections. I am leading the Monday 2-4:50pm section and Jen Telesca is leading the Wednesday 5-7:50pm section. Each section will include participation by various Pratt instructors, giving students a sense of how sustainability is approached in design, architecture, the social sciences, the natural sciences, and humanities. This course is designed as our introduction to sustainability, and it is a required course for Pratt’s Sustainability Studies minor.

SUST 201 The Sustainable Core

This course provides an overview of sustainability by exploring definitions, controversies, trends, and case-studies in various systems and locales (urban/rural, local/national/global). Investigation of critical elements of sustainability, including environmental history and urban ecology, sustainable development and landscape transformations, recycling/waste management, ecosystem restoration, and environmental justice.

Fall 2014: SUST 201-01 Mondays, 2pm-4:50pm; SUST 201-02 Wednesdays 5-7:50pm.  3 credit hours.

This course may count as a Social Science or Philosophy elective, and has no prerequisites. If you are a Pratt student and have any questions for me about either of these courses, please feel free to contact me at czimring@pratt.edu.

Chicago Waste & Recycling Tour June 11

One of the benefits of being on the board of directors of the Chicago Recycling Coalition is interacting with the great people and organizations working to make Chicago a more sustainable place. These include fellow board member Tom Shepherd, who also serves on the Southeast Environmental Task Force. The Task Force runs regular events educating Chicagoans on waste handling, and a notable event is coming up next week. Chicago’s Waste & Recycling Tour will be held June 11 and features CRC President Mike Nowak.  Attendees will see how and where recycling, compost, and also hazardous wastes like petcoke are handled locally.

You can register through the links in the enclosed poster.  For more information contact the Southeast Environmental Task Force.

chicago-waste-and-recycling-tour-june-2014-jpg

When Art Schools Burn

GSA_Fire

Fire at the Glasgow School of Art, May 23, 2014.

Pratt_Fire

Fire at the Pratt Institute, February 15, 2013.

On the morning of February 15, 2013, I woke up to several emergency alerts from my employer.  Pratt’s main building had suffered a four-alarm fire in the middle of the night, necessitating 39 fire trucks and 168 firefighters to put out the flames.  Somehow the building was saved, though renovation continues more than one year later.

The fire fortunately killed no one, though it destroyed papers in administrative offices (including paperwork I had just submitted for an academic program five months in the planning) and several senior art majors lost their work less than three months before graduation.  Pratt’s campus still feels the effects of the fire as fences cordon off the building in hopes of completing renovations in time for fall semester.

Pratt mobilized quickly; administrative offices were transferred over to North Hall within days and studio space for students was created in the gym.  After suffering the loss of their work so close to the end of their studies, students spent the next couple of months quickly developing new paintings.  The local arts community  rallied to their aid; Aby Rosen and Larry Gagosian arranged for space in Manhattan to exhibit senior drawing and painting work in a show entitled “Flameproof.”

My attempt at capturing the beauty of Charles Rennie Mackintosh's library in the Glasgow School of Art, 2010.

My attempt at capturing the beauty of Charles Rennie Mackintosh’s library in the Glasgow School of Art, 2010.

This came to mind when I learned about today’s fire at the Glasgow School of Art.  Somehow casualties were avoided despite this fire breaking out at mid-day, but at best Charles Rennie Mackintosh’s magnificent building was severely damaged on all floors.  Students were literally hours from finishing their work.

I hope and expect the arts community will rally to these students just as it did to Pratt’s students last year.  In thinking about the safety of the built environment, I have to ask can these fires reasonably be avoided? I do not know if modern sprinklers were installed at the Glasgow School of Art (built between 1897 and 1909); I did not notice any when I visited in 2010.  Had Pratt’s main building (built as the campus was founded in 1887) been equipped with a modern sprinkler system, perhaps the water damage from all those trucks would not have been as extensive.  Months after the event, the fire department’s official report listed the cause of the Pratt fire as electrical; from early reports, the Glasgow School of Art fire may have been started by a spark in the basement.

My wish in the short term is that the students whose work was destroyed will be afforded all the support and care that is possible. In the long term, perhaps we at art and design schools need to evaluate best practices on fire prevention and safety, especially at heritage buildings created before modern building codes.  To the extent that these losses can be prevented, they should be prevented.  Beyond that, the community of the Glasgow School of Art has my best wishes as decisions on how to regroup take place.

May 24 Update: The fire department reports that the Glasgow School of Art fire is under control, and estimate around 90% of the building and 70% of the contents have been saved.  Unfortunately, the library was destroyed. Here is hoping that most student work is intact and that the process of restoring the building both reflects Charles Rennie Mackintosh’s original vision and features 21st-century fire-safety systems.

AESS Roundtable on Sustainable Art and Design Education June 12

AESS-Conference-Website-headerThe Association for Environmental Studies and Sciences is holding its annual conference “Welcome to the Anthropocene” in New York City June 11-14, and I will participate in the discussion symposium “Design for Living: Considering Sustainability Pedagogy in Art and Design Education” with Lawrence Technological University’s Amy Deines, Emily Carr University’s Hélène Day Fraser, and The New School’s David Bergman.
This discussion will take place Thursday June 12 from 2:00pm–3:30pm in classroom G at Pace University.  For registration and additional information, see the conference website.