40% off sale of Aluminum Upcycled ends July 15

zimringpostedThe Johns Hopkins University summer sale ends Monday. Between now and July 15, you can get my book Aluminum Upcycled: Sustainable Design in Historical Perspective for 40% off plus free shipping. Buy the book at this link; at checkout, enter code HHOL.

The first sentence of the book reads: “Waste is a product of design.” If that argument interests you, consider purchasing Aluminum Upcycled.

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Aluminum Upcycled on sale (40% off) through July 15

zimringpostedJohns Hopkins University Press is having a summer sale. You can get my book Aluminum Upcycled: Sustainable Design in Historical Perspective for 40% off plus free shipping between now and July 15, 2019. Buy the book at this link; at checkout, enter code HHOL. About the book:

Beginning in 1886 with the discovery of how to mass produce aluminum, the book examines the essential part the metal played in early aviation and the world wars, as well as the troubling expansion of aluminum as a material of mass disposal. Recognizing that scrap aluminum was as good as virgin material and much more affordable than newly engineered metal, designers in the postwar era used aluminum to manufacture highly prized artifacts. Zimring takes us on a tour of post-1940s design, examining the use of aluminum in cars, trucks, airplanes, furniture, and musical instruments from 1945 to 2015. 

By viewing upcycling through the lens of one material, Zimring deepens our understanding of the history of recycling in industrial society. He also provides a historical perspective on contemporary sustainable design practices. Along the way, he challenges common assumptions about upcycling’s merits and adds a new dimension to recycling as a form of environmental absolution for the waste-related sins of the modern world. Raising fascinating questions of consumption, environment, and desire,  Upcycling Aluminum is for anyone interested in industrial and environmental history, discard studies, engineering, product design, music history, or antiques.

 

Celebrate the Brooklyn Fashion + Design Accelerator June 3

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Celebrate the BF+DA June 3.

“Make the Future Here.”

That’s the slogan of the Brooklyn Fashion + Design Accelerator. In the five years since Debera Johnson and her team made the BF+DA a reality, that is exactly what the venture fellows and research fellows working in the Pfizer Building have done. Pratt is an amazing place to practice sustainability education because our colleagues and students are so creative. That creativity shaped BF+DA’s work, and will no doubt continue to shape the community’s work after the BF+DA shuts its doors on June 30.

Before that happens, however, the space will host one more event: “Mainstreaming Sustainability: A Conversation with Changemakers at a Time of Change, June 3 at 6pm.

The BF+DA is bringing together our community to celebrate on June 3rd. Come toast the BF+DA team and share one last evening with amazing people.

Lewis Perkins, President, Apparel Impact Institute
Deb Johnson, Executive Director, BF+DA
More panelists to be announced

As we approach 2020, the benchmark year for achieving sustainability targets for many companies and institutions, it’s time to assess our success. How are we faring, what gains have been made, what do we need to accomplish by 2030? From supply chains to policy change, investment to education, labor justice to bio-generated materials, sustainable solutions are gaining traction globally. Leveraging this traction and scaling change is key. Maintaining our passion amidst the complex set of interrelated levers that drive change is critical, especially when the goal requires a massive change to how we think and act.

Join us for an inspiring conversation to examine the future and current state of sustainability with leaders who are implementing real-world solutions from the perspectives of circularity, policy, business and education.

This will be our farewell event at our old home and the inauguration of a new series in thought-leadership events to come.

There is limited seating so please RSVP (see the registration details at the bottom of this page).

One of the highlights of teaching Pratt’s Sustainable Core course has been bringing undergraduates to the BF+DA to introduce them to the amazing work done there. Whether BF+DA Executive Director Debera Johnson or Center for Sustainable Design Strategies Director Carolyn Shafer showed the students the production facilities, venture fellows’ workspaces, s.Lab, and meeting places, the students were thrilled to see BF+DA’s approach to creative business practices. Visiting from semester to semester and year to year, I got to see businesses like Kirrin Finch and Make It Black grow and thrive. As an author, I was fortunate to participate in the BF+DA’s book fair and discuss sustainability with likeminded scholars and writers. At the end of every year, the Positive Impact Awards ceremony was a great way to toast the work of the year (and buy holiday gifts from the various venture fellows).

The mission of Pratt Institute is “to educate artists and creative professionals to be responsible contributors to society. Pratt seeks to instill in all graduates aesthetic judgment, professional knowledge, collaborative skills, and technical expertise.” The BF+DA has been an inspiring force advancing that mission.

“Make the Future Here.” Even after June passes, I expect the lessons the BF+DA gave the venture fellows, Pratt’s students, and the world will continue to inspire people to make a more sustainable future.

RSVP to “Mainstreaming Sustainability.”

Join Pratt’s 9th Annual Sustainability Crash Course Saturday March 23, 2019

crashcourse-470x260On Saturday, March 23, Pratt’s Brooklyn campus (200 Willoughby Avenue) will host the ninth annual Sustainability Crash Course. The Crash Course runs from 9am to 5pm with talks, workshops and a keynote discussion. Whether you are interested in policy, activism, art, history, or design, the Crash Course will have events of interest.

On Saturday, March 23, 2019, Pratt’s CSDS will host the 9th annual Sustainability Crash Course, a day-long series of presentations, panel discussions and workshops with a host of experts from Pratt’s faculty and elsewhere.  In years past we have had over 20 different speakers present topics including Ecology, Biomimicry, Packaging Design, Life-Cycle Assessment, Fashion, Architecture, Policy and Environmental Activism. This year we have an entirely new line up of exciting and inspiring presenters. As in the past, the event is free and open to the Pratt Community as well as the general public, but registration is requiredView the eventbrite page.

The Crash Course is a production of the Center for Sustainable Design Strategies, and this year will feature speakers from the Pratt community, New York City, upstate New York, and around the world. It begins Pratt’s annual Green Week activities, a detailed list of which are available from the Pratt Sustainability Coalition. For free registration and more information, please visit the Eventbrite page.

Ashley Dawson “Energy Democracy and the Green New Deal” at Pratt, noon, March 21

 

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Ashley Dawson is an author, activist and professor of English at the CUNY Graduate Center, and at the College of Staten Island, City University of New York.

I will have more to say about Pratt’s Green Week (scheduled to begin March 23 on the Brooklyn campus) in this space shortly. I want to first mention an event that serves as a preview of Green Week. We are proud to present CUNY Professor Ashley Dawson speaking on “Energy Democracy and the Green New Deal” on Thursday March 21 from noon to 1:30pm in ARC E-02 (200 Willoughby Avenue).

The future is electric. At least, it had better be if we are to survive as a species. We know that we must decarbonize societies the world over with all due haste in order to avoid climate catastrophe. The scale of this task is mammoth: contemporary energy systems must be switched to 100 percent renewable energy within the next decade or so. In addition, other key infrastructures such as transportation and the heating and cooling of buildings must be converted to running on electricity derived from renewable power. This means that we have to triple the current amount of energy being generated while also ditching fossil fuels. Although renewable power has experienced remarkable growth in recent years, this expansion has taken place in tandem with a massive expansion of fossil fuels. We are not, in other words, experiencing a transition of the scale and scope necessary to avert planetary ecocide. Feel-good bromides about a market-led transition to a green capitalist future will no longer do. We need an emergency plan for a rapid and massive transition, one grounded in ambitious ideas about how to heal the deep economic and social wounds inflicted by decades of neoliberal governance. This presentation will define energy democracy, explore the models for Green New Deal and just transition being advanced by the contemporary climate justice movement, and examine historical precedents for a democratic and equitable transformation of the energy system.

Professor Dawson currently works in the fields of environmental humanities and postcolonial ecocriticism. He is the author of two recent books relating to these fields: Extreme Cities (Verso, 2017) and Extinction (O/R, 2016). Extreme Cities argues that cities are ground zero for climate change, contributing the lion’s share of carbon to the atmosphere, while also lying on the frontlines of rising sea levels. Today, the majority of the world’s megacities are located in coastal zones, yet few of them are adequately prepared for the floods that will increasingly menace their shores. Instead, most continue to develop luxury waterfront condos for the elite and industrial facilities for corporations. These not only intensify carbon emissions, but also place coastal residents at greater risk when water levels rise. Extreme Cities offers an alarming portrait of the future of our cities, describing the efforts of Staten Island, New York, and Shishmareff, Alaska residents to relocate; Holland’s models for defending against the seas; and the development of New York City before and after Hurricane Sandy. Our best hope lies not with fortified sea walls, the book argues, but rather with urban movements already fighting to remake our cities in a more just and equitable way.

Extinction: A Radical History argues that the current devastation of the natural world, which affects not just large rhinos and pandas but humbler realms of creatures including beetles, bats and butterflies, is the product of a global attack on the commons, the great trove of air, water, plants and creatures, as well as collectively created cultural forms such as language, that have been regarded traditionally as the inheritance of humanity as a whole. This attack has its genesis in the need for capital to expand relentlessly into all spheres of life. Extinction, the book argues, cannot be understood in isolation from a critique of our economic system. To achieve this we need to transgress the boundaries between science, environmentalism and radical politics.

This event is free and open to the public.

The Best Music of 2018

 

My favorite records of 2018 reflect several musical approaches to living in troubled times. Click on each album title to hear selections from each record and instructions to support the musicians by purchasing their work. This list is limited to ten, but I encourage readers to seek out additional worthy recordings from the past year by The Ex, Thalia Zedek, John Prine, and Barbara Manning.

TFS_Laughing_Death_cover
Some of the most cogent popular culture critiques of this year come from Australia. Hannah Gadsby’s Nanette takes the form of standup comedy to produce a searing critique of the misogyny at root in Western art, politics, and society (including comedy and the comedian). Tropical Fuck Storm (featuring Gareth and Fiona of the Drones) examine the corrosive effects of online discourse in late capitalism on A Laughing Death in Meatspace. My description gets at the lyrical content, but does not capture the tone or the music – this is bleak but also playful, brimming with energy, wordplay, tangled guitar lines, and male-female call-and-response vocals that owe a debt to Fela Kuti. At its best (like the album closer “Rubber Bullies”), this is bracing, witty, immediate, pulsating music, stuff that makes the listener hunger for what TFS will do next.

What this review is missing is adequate description of just how funny TFS are. I could quote the lyrics of “Soft Power” about “either going to Mars or war” or that song’s goofy coda referencing The Wizard of Oz and Happy Days, but instead I direct readers to watch the videos for “The Future of History,” “You Let My Tyres Down,” and “Chameleon Paint.” It’s an imperfect comparison, as the Drones released a lot of impressive music, but A Laughing Death in Meatspace feels like the advance for Gareth Liddiard’s music that the albums Post and Gossip represented in Paul Kelly’s career.

Though they are not on this album, I cannot discuss my favorite records of the year without mention of TFS’s stellar covers of “Stayin’ Alive,” “Back to the Wall,” and especially their brilliant take on Lost Animal’s “Lose the Baby,” which sounded equally terrific on their fall 2018 tour of the states. I hope to hear more from this band in 2019.

Mint Mile, Heartroller (Comedy Minus One)

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Mint Mile began as Tim Midyett’s post-Bottomless Pit solo project and have evolved into an honest-to-goodness band with some echoes of the Byrds and early-Sausolito Van Morrison. (Think especially of the feel and structure of Saint Dominic’s Preview, only without horns.) The interplay between baritone 12-string guitar and pedal steel guitar hits a sweet spot for me, and every one of the four songs here rank with Midyett’s best work. The closer “Disappearing Music” is as close to ABBA as Midyett’s ever gone, a cheerful roller disco anthem of life’s impermanence that I’d be happy to have my survivors play at my funeral. (Or not; I mean, I won’t be there to know one way or the other.) Heartroller is the third and best EP Mint Mile has released, and this is a terrific introduction for newcomers.

Charnel Ground, Charnel Ground (12XU)

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My favorite instrumental record of the year features Chris Brokaw leading the rhythm section of Kid Millions and James McNew through five guitar workouts. That description could raise warning signals of noodling to those unfamiliar with Brokaw’s strong sense of structure, but from the shortest (“Play La Ticla,” a playful number under two minutes) to the longest (the hypnotic 18-minute title track), each piece is grounded in a strong sense of rhythm and rewards repeated listening.

Alejandro Escovedo, The Crossing (Yep Roc)

Escovedo_The_CrossingEscovedo’s written on the immigrant experience of America before, not least on his wonderful By the Hand of the Father, but this album presents a new dimension of Americana with the tale of two friends — one from Italy, one from Mexico — and their experiences in Texas. Escovedo’s use of strings is one of the distinctive aspects of his sound, whiich will be familiar to fans of his work since the early 90s. Wayne Kramer’s presence on “Sonica USA” gives an idea of what the louder rock songs sound like, and their ferocity supports lyrics that are disgusted with how the white supremacist blood lust that dominates American political culture in 2018 has horrific consequences for vulnerable peoples as well as for the good people who actually are trying to help vulnerable peoples. The Crossing is an elegant expression of how diasporic movement of peoples is at the heart of American culture, no matter how much the modern Republican Party has reconstituted itself as a fundamentally racist movement attempted to restore an imaginary golden era of white supremacy like the Ku Klux Klan’s postbellum revolt against Emancipation. Escovedo’s music has always served as a cultural response against such revanchism and a better America would have 62 million people listening to him and no more than a few thousand thugs supporting Donald Trump, Cindy Hyde-Smith, and the rest of the Confederacy.

Light Coma, CONCORD (self-released)

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CONCORD does not sound like a band that had not put out a record in seven years. Actually, that span of time is not quite accurate, as Brian Orchard’s trio played Crazy Horse to Andy Cohen’s Neil Young on last year’s Unreality. The Crazy Horse comparison is apt, as like that band, Light Coma has a terrific feel for raw rock songs. This band has a tighter rhythm section than the Horse, and fans of Orchard’s previous bands .22 and Bottomless Pit will find CONCORD to be another stellar, no-nonsense collection of the kind of music that makes me miss living in Chicago.

FACS, Negative Houses (Trouble in Mind)

FACS_Negative_Houses.jpgTwenty years after Hurl decided to end the reign of the greatest math-rock band to call Pittsburgh home (yes, I said it), drummer Noah Leger has become the backbone of some of the best rock bands in Chicago. In recent years, he has played in Disappears with Brian Case, and now those two form 2/3rds of FACS, producing spare, heavy atmospheric rock that fits well in a set with the moodiest tracks from Tar and Bailter Space. Readers may take that description as confirmation that Negative Houses is mostly thick guitar, rumbling bass, and drums, but the epic “Houses Breathing” adds saxophone to the textures to great effect.

Sarah Davachi, Gave in Rest (Ba Da Bing)

Davachi_Gave_in_RestIf you want to use one word to describe Canadian composter Davachi’s music, “minimalist” gets you in the ballpark. This album, recorded in part with members of Godspeed! You Black Emperor and Thee Silver Mount Zion, and in part solo, draws on European Christian influences (both religious music and the acoustics of churches), and a mix of acoustic instruments, synthesizers, and room ambience. Gave in Rest sounds like something that wouldn’t sound out of place as a 4AD release c. 1986, and is perfect accompaniment to grey rainy mornings as the winter solstice approaches.

 

YLT_RiotJames McNew’s second appearance on this list in records produced by a trio comes with this album marking Yo La Tengo’s 34th year as a band. The title does not reflect the gentle textures within; Ira Kaplan’s guitar work leans more to his mining of the Velvet Underground’s post-John Cale melodies rather than the sheets of feedback that mark his more aggressive work. The music marks a return of sorts to some of the quieter, gently electronic sounds the band explored at the turn of the century. The lyrics reflect attempts to be good to one another amid troubled times, and that’s what I understand is the context for the title of this album.

Threadgill_Dirt
Henry Threadgill’s approach to bandleading has always appealed to me, as he strikes the balance between being a distinctive leader and organizer with a coherent compositional identity with being a collaborator allowing space for his bandmates to shape their work together. This is true of his work in small groups such as Air, larger ensembles such as Very Very Circus, or now this 15-piece band 14 or 15 Kestra: Agg. Not many composers use tuba and cello together, but both instruments are staples of Threadgill’s work. The sweep of this large band’s sound makes it a rich new chapter in Threadgill’s long career, and brings to mind the dedication and engagement Duke Ellington gave very late in life to his And His Mother Called Him Bill project.

SAVAK, Beg Your Pardon (Ernest Jenning Recording Company)

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Two years ago, I called SAVAK  a virtuosic and adaptable rock band from Brooklyn whose debut record Best of Luck in Future Endeavors ought to appeal to anyone who knows what the names Graham Maby or Greg Sage represent. That description holds true for their most recent release Beg Your Pardon. SAVAK continues to produce muscular, melodic rock with a good dose of horns. I wouldn’t call Beg Your Pardon power pop, exactly, but if you are looking to surprise a Cheap Trick or Lookout! fan with a record that mixes hooks and noise, you could take a reasonable change of introducing them to SAVAK with this record.

Check the links to hear what all this music sounds like, as well as for information on purchasing these fine records and compensating their creators. I thank all the musicians for the part they have played in making 2018 a little better.

Night One

Pittsburgh_strongAs Hanukkah begins, thoughts turn to our friends in Pittsburgh assaulted by a white supremacist in October. Jake Leger suggested the following places to donate, and I cannot think of a better way to commemorate this festival of resilience.

“I’ve been asked about donation sites, and upon family request I would like anyone interested to donate to https://www.jfcspgh.org/. There is also a large gofundme for Tree of Life as well that’s at the top of their page. Thank you so much to the outpouring of messages and I apologize if I can’t respond.
Love, Jake”

GoFundMe Link: https://www.gofundme.com/tree-of-life-synagogue-shooting

Jewish Family and Community Services Pittsburgh donation page link: https://donatenow.networkforgood.org/jfcspgh/mobile

ברוך אתה ה’ א‑לוהינו, מלך העולם, שהחינו וקימנו והגענו לזמן הזה