Archive for Case 2: Paper


by cindy

Finally watched this movie last night.  It is really great.

In its own way the film covers so many of the ideas that we have discussed in class over the semester: the practice of gleaning, the process by which waste policy can be formalized by outsiders, the contents of trash as a reflection of a culture’s ideas and values, trash as the great equalizer (the trash of the rich mixing with the trash of the poor), the social judgements projected upon those who process our garbage, etc.   It leaves the attentive viewer with a lot to think about on the topic of waste management without becoming a didactic work on the subject.

Of course the film is equally about the transformative power of art and the evolution of the artist through the process as well.

The narrative reminded a bit of the Oscar winning film “Born into Brothels”.   While uplifting on one hand, Born into Brothers had did have some problematics around the lens in which it was observed, ie: western white eye goes to Indian brothels, uplifts street kids through art, sells art to rich white people.)  Wasteland is a bit less problematic in this regard since the subjects are adults (less inherently exploitable) and because they are being observed by a native of their culture and background.   I appreciated that aspect of the film making as well.

It’s worth a watch for sure.


on paper: a few more thoughts


I know that plastics are on the brain this week, but I wanted to throw out a few more thoughts to Ran and Ray about paper. As I was walking around my neighborhood yesterday afternoon, it occurred to me that – amidst all that provocative talk about the comparative value of paper as a communication medium in the digital age – we did not really discuss it in the context of the city. So in the spirit of the discussion that Ran and Ray began about those sheets of paper that are heavier with significance and those that may be less so, here are a few captures:

9/11 missing posters at St. Vincent’s Hospital in the Village

9/11 missing posters at Ray’s Pizza in the Village

the ubiquitous newspaper dispensers (monuments to all variations of communication, trash, loitering, and occasional creative reuse in the city)

Cobble Hill message board

found paper relics rewriting “literary” classics

by cindy

a propos of what we discussed in class today, this just in on

Peanuts- The Least of Our Problems

By: Elizabeth

Obviously, as Susuan Stasser points out, much of the economic and cultural structures built around paper are reliant upon preoccupations with hygiene and general cleanliness. Or as she puts it, a younger generation with “a  passion for clean garments and the feel of personal daintiness.” She then goes on to outline the many ways in which cleanliness “became big business,” a business largely built upon scare tactics regarding the “Dangers of Dirt.”

However these have proved to be ironic breeding grounds for this industry, as now many studies are now pointing to the potential dangers of humans sanitizing themselves out of a functioning immune system. There has been much published on this topic but there was an interesting article in The New Yorker just last month about the ways in which scientists and nutritionists are changing their tune about how to prevent (the alarming rise of) food allergies in children. Essentially the shift is one from a belief in protecting children from anything potentially harmful early on to an educated understanding that in fact you MUST expose them to these things (be they foods, germs, or “dirt”), or risk raising little bodies that never learn how to process these things and thus develop dangerously low levels of immunity.

Of course this could turn out to be the ultimate (long term) ideal for the Pushers of Paper (and cleanliness in general): If you successfully create a society of people unable to set foot outdoors without sneezing, you’ll be selling more Kleenex than ever.

paper world

by Tassos Lockbird

I am just amazed by the infinite forms of “paper”. It sounds silly and naive but it is really impressive when you think about the variety; the paper-sheets in my notebook, the kleenex in my bag, money in my wallet, kitchen paper, toilet paper, rolling paper, newspaper, wallpaper, and so on. Paper literally surrounds our worlds, and it’s daunting to think about the different purpose of each kind and the various ways it’s being processed to serve all it’s purposes. I don’t know if paper will go “out of fashion”, or if it will be considerably less used, but up until now it holds an imperative part in human society, and it’s waste.

paper or plastic?

There have been a lot of posts about how paper is kind of being phased out of our everyday life..that it is somehow a distant memory. I started thinking about how paper is represented and used in our society. Even though we don’t notice as much, paper is just as ubiquitous as plastic. Paper or plastic? Tho two are often compared and for some reason,  paper has always had the image of being “better” for the environment that plastic or foam. As Royte mentions in Garbage Land, when McDonald’s switched from styrofoam packaging to paper as if it was a positive thing for the environment. As demosntrated from the documentary Supersize Me, to think that the trash of McDonald’s paper packaging alone produces “enough garbage to fill the Empire State building. When posed with the question – paper or plastic? at a grocery store, I think the belief is still that paper is better for the environment than plastic., even though I think the cons are fairly equal (not too sure..but according to a few articles I read). We have also come to associate paper with money (tangible, real) and plastic with credit cards (over-consumption, gluttony)..also goes back to my earlier post about how we give these materials meaning and  associate them with grand ideas or themes. Words that are often associated with plastic are: fake, phony, unreal and paper is more: organic, natural.



A recent trip to City Hall (as a witness to a friends’ union), got me thinking about the timeless importance of paper as a platform for all of the life’s important documents: Marriage License, Birth Certificates, Death Certificates.

At City Hall, i was ogling vast dusty records of these Marriage unions, initially a private affair, later a public entity. The Licenses end up on display  behind glass doors of fancy bookshelves.Paper has a timeless appeal. Handwritten records on paper are more meaningful than typed.  Signing someone’s guest book at a wedding, party or a bed and breakfast requires a minute of pondering… what kind of mark do I want to leave behind.

by Kasia