21 May 2011

Yarn Bombing: Creating Graffiti with Yarn

I like it! Woolly Bully indeed!

Reposted in full from New York Times, 18 May 2011

'The bronze statue of Rocky near the Philadelphia Museum of Art irked Jessie Hemmons. She found the statue too big, too macho and too touristy, so last month Ms. Hemmons, a 24-year-old artist, bombed him. With pinkish yarn.

Using a stepladder and a needle, Ms. Hemmons stitched a fuchsia-colored hooded vest on the fictional boxer with the words “Go See the Art” emblazoned across the front, to prod tourists to visit the museum that so many skip after snapping their photo with the statue.

She calls the act of artistic vandalism “yarn bombing,” adapting a term for plastering an area with graffiti tags.

“Street art and graffiti are usually so male dominated,” Ms. Hemmons said. “Yarn bombing is more feminine. It’s like graffiti with grandma sweaters.”

Yarn bombing takes that most matronly craft (knitting) and that most maternal of gestures (wrapping something cold in a warm blanket) and transfers it to the concrete and steel wilds of the urban streetscape. Hydrants, lampposts, mailboxes, bicycles, cars — even objects as big as buses and bridges — have all been bombed in recent years, ever so softly and usually at night.

It is a global phenomenon, with yarn bombers taking their brightly colored fuzzy work to Europe, Asia and beyond. In Paris, a yarn culprit has filled sidewalk cracks with colorful knots of yarn. In Denver, a group called Ladies Fancywork Society has crocheted tree trunks, park benches and public telephones. Seattle has the YarnCore collective (“Hardcore Chicks With Sharp Sticks”) and Stockholm has the knit crew Masquerade. In London, Knit the City has “yarnstormed” fountains and fences. And in Melbourne, Australia, a woman known as Bali conjures up cozies for bike racks and bus stops.

To record their ephemeral works (the fragile pieces begin to fray within weeks), yarn bombers photograph and videotape their creations and upload them to blogs, social networks and Web sites for all the world to see.

Sometimes called grandma graffiti, the movement got a boost, and a manifesto, in 2009 with the publication of the book “Yarn Bombing: The Art of Crochet and Knit Graffiti,” by Mandy Moore and Leanne Prain, knitters from Vancouver, Canada. It is part coffee-table book, with color photographs of creative bombs, and part tutorial, with tips like wearing “ninja” black to avoid capture.

The book borrows from the vernacular of street graffiti and half-jokingly positions yarn bombing as an illicit alternative for knitters bored making yet another Christmas sweater. It asks readers to get off their rocking chairs and “take back the knit.”

Since the book’s publication, Ms. Prain said, she has been getting dozens of e-mails a week from yarn bombers from as far away as Russia, Morocco and Iran. The last month has been particularly busy ever since a Canadian knitter declared June 11 International Yarn Bombing Day on Facebook.

Three film crews contacted her about making yarn bombing documentaries, and several graduate students e-mailed her about writing theses on the subject.

Many of these people also reached out to Magda Sayeg, a 37-year-old Texan who is considered by many to be the mother of yarn bombing. By her recollection, it started on a slow day in 2005 at Raye, her quirky boutique in Houston. On a lark, she knitted a blue-and-pink cozy for the shop’s door handle, a piece she now calls “alpha.”

Passers-by loved it, stopping to admire her handiwork. “People got out of their cars just to come look at it,” she said.

Next, she knitted what looked like a leg warmer for a stop sign down the street; from there she slowly infiltrated Houston with her stitchery. Within a few years, she had tagged dozens of lampposts and stop signs and assembled a crew of fellow yarn bombers she called Knitta Please.

Soon, Ms. Sayeg was commissioned to do larger projects. Photographs of her pieces spread online, inciting other knitters to take up the budding art form.

Yarn bombing grows out of the larger D.I.Y. movement, which seeks to resurrect traditional handicrafts “more typically associated with grandmothers, like knitting, canning, gardening and even raising chickens,” said Annette DiMeo Carlozzi, a curator at the Blanton Museum of Art in Austin, Tex. In March it commissioned Ms. Sayeg to cover the trunks of 99 trees in front of the museum.

“You see the resurgence of handicrafts in art, too,” Ms. Carlozzi said. “It is part of the appeal of yarn bombing: the surprising juxtaposition of something that is clearly personal, labor-intensive and handmade in an urban, industrial environment.”

Not all artists who use yarn in their work are thrilled with the woolly trend.

“I don’t yarn bomb, I make art,” said Agata Oleksiak, 33, an artist in New York who has been enshrouding humans, bicycles and swimming pools in neon-colored crochet since 2003. Last Christmas Eve, Olek, as she prefers to be called, blanketed the “Charging Bull” statue near Wall Street in a pink and purple cozy, and uploaded a video of it to YouTube. “If someone calls my bull a yarn bomb, I get really upset,” she added.

Olek, whose work has been shown in museums and galleries worldwide, considers yarn bombing to be the trite work of amateurs and exhibitionists.

“Lots of people have aunts or grandmas who paint,” she said. “Do you want to see that work in the galleries? No. The street is an extension of the gallery. Not everyone’s work deserves to be in public.”

Whether yarn bombing is the work of artists or glorified knitters, the view of law enforcement is clear: it is considered vandalism or littering. Still, the police seem to tolerate it. Yarn bombers say they rarely have run-ins with the law. And in the few instances when they are stopped, yarn bombers say, the police are more likely to laugh at them than issue a summons.

Ms. Prain once tried to yarn bomb a sign post in Washington, in front of F.B.I. headquarters. A security guard wearing a bulletproof vest approached her, she said, and demanded that she stop immediately. “Ma’am,” she recalled him saying, “step away with the knitting.”

Still, yarn bombing seems to be having its moment in pop culture. Fortune 500 companies have paid Ms. Sayeg as much as $20,000 to wrap their wares in yarn. Toyota hired her to knit a Prius a Christmas sweater last year for a promotional video. The makers of the Smart car flew her to Rome to wrap a car in what looked like 1970s-inspired throw blankets, and Mini Cooper recently commissioned a similar ad.

Ms. Sayeg has so much work that she closed her shop in 2009, moved to Austin and turned her hobby into a full-time job. Clients have included the Montague Street Business Improvement District in Brooklyn, which paid Ms. Sayeg to knit covers for 69 parking meters, and Insight, an Australian company that sells surfing clothing, which has an ad featuring a scantly clad woman riding a yarn-covered scooter. Last month, Ms. Sayeg wrapped all the heating ducts at the Brooklyn offices of Etsy.com.

Companies seem to be attracted to the retro handcrafted cheeriness of yarn. Toyota chose Ms. Sayeg for the Prius sweater project because her work is “optimistic and community oriented,” Sona Iliffe-Moon, a marketing executive for Toyota, wrote in an e-mail.

Ms. Sayeg now has five assistants to help her knit, which she now does primarily on looms rather than needles to meet the demand.

“In the early years I identified with underground graffiti artists,” she said. “Now the very people I feared I would get in trouble with are the ones inviting me to do this work for them.”'

19 May 2011

Growing Consumption a Bane for India: Chandran Nair

Excerpt from The Economic Times, 16 May 2011

'Author and think-tank founder Chandran Nair is a second-generation Indian-origin Malaysian based out of Hong Kong. He made news in India a few years ago at a conference in New Delhi, where he took on American political scientist Francis Fukayama over what he calls the latter's "odd view of the world based on an inherent belief in American exceptionalism". 

Nair advocates a new model of capitalism for Asian economies—constrained capitalism-—that particularly wants governments to regulate the use of natural resources, and therefore the nature of consumption, through a range of policy tools. In his new book, Consumptionomics, he argues that the consumption-led Western economic model, which is based on under-pricing resources and externalising the true cost of goods and services, won't work in resources-constrained Asia...

What are the failures of the Western model of development and why do you think it won't work in emerging economies such as India and China? 

It is now a model of an entrenched political and economic ideology and at the same time has historical underpinnings based on colonialism and therefore global privilege with access to unlimited resources (example: colonies such as India, African nations or frontier land such as Australia). As such it does not belong in the 21st century where all the scientific evidence points to limits being surpassed on numerous fronts as the global population is set to exceed 9 billion in 2050 (it was only over 1 billion in 1900). It does not believe there are limits and this is simply a lie or, kindly put, "being in denial". It will not work in India and China because the pursuit of "more" at any cost will bring about catastrophic failure simply because there are far too many Chinese and Indians (India's population was slightly over 300 million at Independence 62 years ago and has increased almost four fold since then). For those who are not in denial, that is already all too obvious. But I must stress here as I do in the book that it does not mean they must remain poor. In fact, the book argues that the current trajectory is likely to shatter the dreams of hundreds of millions of the poor for a better life. 

You have warned the world of what you see as the worst-case scenario: Indians and the Chinese trying to consume like the Americans. As an antidote, you bring in a concept called constrained capitalism. Could you please expand on it?

I am not suggesting that we get rid of capitalism which some have lazily assumed. Nor is the book saying that the West has a free pass and Asians must now be poor. The book is very clear on this and it argues that capitalism has many elements that can be further refined for a crowded 21st century. But modern capitalism has morphed into something that seeks to benefit and thrive at every turn by under-pricing everything. You could look at the origins of capitalism in the US and argue that it even under-priced basic labour by using slaves. To various degrees that continues today in different parts of the word given how migrant labour is exploited in Asia. The focus of the book is on resource use. I am proposing that Asian governments start to reshape capitalism by making resource management the centre of all policymaking and to do this by putting in place the necessary frameworks and policies to price things properly. In a constrained world this is a fundamental shift that is needed and requires rejection of the Western consumption-led growth model where everything can be traded and has a price, but is actually under-priced to suit the needs of vested interests, industry and its lobbyists. 

What are the reforms required for the new model?

Making access to resources and the maintenance of their vitality the centre of all polices is the first step. I believe this is only possible if we have strong governments which are willing to stand up to vested interests and also the mainly Western-led international bodies which are wedded to the notion of the "globalisation of everything and anything" through free markets, free trade, the power of technology and the leveraging of finance...

To some extent, economic prosperity for the affluent classes may trickle down, but our priority should not be to make the wealthy wealthier and wait and hope for incomes to magically trickle down. We should instead focus on making resources available to more of the dis-enfranchised and thereby hopefully create more equitable (not equal) societies...

Won't 'benign authoritarianism' that you talk about rob people of their freedom? 

I use the term casually but to get my audience to understand that unless we have strong governments and we support them, we can give up any hope of solving the most pressing problems of human development because extreme capitalism will not deliver on that front. I am not advocating dictatorship. But the point is that authority is not a bad word, and that in societies there has to be some respect for the rules that allow for equal access and control overuse and regulate the way resources are used. It is in this context that I used the term and I would argue that we should have a more honest conversation about notions of freedom as currently narrowly defined with perhaps too much of a focus on democratic and political freedoms. The most basic and important freedoms and rights are those of access to food (secure and safe), water and sanitation, basic housing, education and health care. I doubt that one can honestly make a strong case for the current model of economic growth furthering these freedoms for the majority.'

18 May 2011

World Economics Association Launched

Sourced from World Economics Association, 18 May 2011

'The World Economic Association (WEA) was launched on May 16, 2011. It fills a gap in the international community of economists - the absence of a truly international, inclusive, pluralist, professional association. The American Economic Association and UK's Royal Economic Society provide broad associations mainly for their country's economists. The WEA will do the same for the world's community of economists, while promoting a pluralism of approaches to economic analysis.

To this end, the WEA will initially publish three quarterly journals and host online conferences. Online subscriptions are free to members (a fee will be charged for print copies). The anticipated size of the WEA's membership means that its journals will have the largest readerships of any in the world.


The World Economics Association (WEA) seeks to increase the relevance, breath and depth of economic thought. Its key qualities are worldwide membership and governance, and inclusiveness with respect to: (a) the variety of theoretical perspectives; (b) the range of human activities and issues which fall within the broad domain of economics; and (c) the study of the world’s diverse economies.

The Association’s activities will centre on the development, promotion and diffusion of economic research and knowledge and on illuminating their social character. To achieve these aims the Association constitutes itself as a new form of worldwide, democratic, and pluralist organization with the following commitments:

  1. To plurality. The Association will encourage the free exploration of economic reality from any perspective that adds to the sum of our understanding. To this end it advocates plurality of thought, method and philosophy.
  2. To competence. The Association accepts the public perception that competence levels in segments of the economics profession were found wanting by recent events. So as to better serve society in the future, the Association will encourage critical thought, development of new ideas, empirically based rigor and higher standards of scholarship.
  3. To reality and relevance. The Association will promote economics’ engagement with the real world so as to confront, explain, and make tractable economic phenomena. In this context it will also encourage economics to give active consideration to its history, its methodology, its philosophy and its ethics.
  4. To diversity. Both the membership and governance of the Association are specifically constituted in order to embrace all forms of diversity within its membership.
  5. To openness. The Association intends to ensure that all its processes of publication, discussion, meeting and association are transparent and open to input from all its members. To this end the WEA will constitute itself on the internet and use digital technologies wherever possible, including online conferencing and virtual publication.
  6. To outreach. The Association recognizes the valuable contributions to economic thought that are made by researchers and thinkers outside the main body of economics. The WEA will encourage such people to become members and add their insights to our collective learning.
  7. To ethical conduct. The Association will establish a committee to draw up a code of ethics.
  8. To global democracy. The Association will be democratically structured so as not to allow its domination by one country or one continent.

The association believes that these commitments, when held in common by its members, will increase the relevance, breadth and depth of economic thought, so that in the future the economics profession and associated professions will be better equipped to serve humankind.'

OzHarvest Launches in Adelaide

Food rescue charity OzHarvest launched in Adelaide on 17 May. South Australian identity and Adelaide 5AA Radio's Keith Conlon, an OzHarvest Ambassador, offers a peek into how this free service (backed by philanthropic funding) works!

Sourced from 5aa Radio, 17 May 2011

UK Uncut: Turn A Bank Into A Hospital

Love your work, UK Uncut!

'On Saturday May 28th, join UK Uncut’s Emergency Operation and transform your local high street bank into a hospital. Tell the government to leave our NHS alone; it’s the banks that are sick.'

16 May 2011

UK Company Implicated in Toxic E-Waste Trail from London to West Africa

I know for a fact there are a few causes for concern here in Australia also.

Do you know what YOUR workplace does with old computers? Would your boss want to be responsible for confidential information and records being recovered from hard drives and publicised? It's happened!

In Australia, it is a FEDERAL OFFENCE under the 1989 Hazardous Waste Act to export any such material without a permit (to make sure the stuff is not going to a developing country where there are either ineffective or absent OHS and environmental protection standards).

Reposted in full from The Ecologist, 14 May 2011

'The Environmental Investigation Agency and BBC Panorama use GPS to prove British electronic waste is being exported to poor African nations where it threatens the environment and human health

One of the UK's leading waste and recycling companies has been linked to the growing underground trade in e-waste after campaigners uncovered evidence that broken television sets deposited at the firms facilities were exported to Africa in contravention of regulations designed to stem the flow of electronic waste to developing countries, the Ecologist can reveal. 
Merseyside-based Environment Waste Controls (EWC), whose clients are reported to include ASDA, Tesco, Barclays, the NHS and Network Rail, has admitted that electronic equipment from its amenity sites in South London ended up in West Africa after being exported by a third party company and says it has taken steps to prevent this happening in the future.

Campaigners from the Environmental Investigation Agency (EIA) pinpoint the company in a report outlining Britain's role in the global e-waste trade, due to be published next week. The report details the findings of an 18 month investigation into how UK e-waste, much of it toxic, is ending up abroad where it is frequently processed in primitive conditions, posing a threat to the environment and human health.

A BBC Panorama programme to be broadcast on Monday night also investigates the trade and uncovers further evidence of UK electronics waste making its way to West Africa. 

As part of the probe, EIA staff visited civic amenity sites in Merton and Croydon where e-waste collection is run by EWC and were told that some of the electrical waste arriving at the facilities was routinely collected by a separate company who exported it to Nigeria and Ghana.

Investigators were told at the Merton amenity site that at least seven tonnes of TVs were being sold to the third party company each week, at a cost of between £1.50 and £2.00 per set. 

Under the Waste Electrical and Electronic (WEEE) Resources Regulations 2006, as long as the e-waste arriving at the sites was tested and found to be properly working its export would be permissible.

However, the EIA hid tracking devices inside television sets which had been disabled beyond repair and left them at the Merton and Croydon sites. Several weeks later, according to the group, GPS signals indicated that one TV had been shipped to Nigeria, ending up near a well known e-waste recycling centre, and one was found to have arrived in Ghana. 

The EIA says this evidence demonstrates that proper checks were not always being carried out and that the broken TV sets should, under WEEE regulations, have been be sent for recycling in the UK or another developed country, not shipped to West Africa. The campaigners believe this is not an isolated example and say that intelligence suggests that British e-waste is regularly diverted from local authority sites into the black market.

'When disposing of used electrical goods at civic amenity sites, the public has a right to expect that the equipment will be disposed of in accordance with the law,' the group states.

In a statement to the Ecologist, EWC said that it welcomed the EIA report and acknowledged that e-waste from its facilities had ended up in Africa in contravention of WEEE regulations: 'This is unacceptable and EWC has put in place measures to prevent a reoccurrence of this practice and to undertake a full investigation in cooperation with the regulator and relevant authorities. We have instructed all our sub contractors that no electronic equipment deposited at designated collection facilities operated by EWC should leave the UK until further notice.'

EWC, which runs 49 local authority waste sites as well as handling waste and recycling on behalf of the public and private sector, also told the Ecologist that it has not worked with the third party company involved in exporting the faulty TVs to Africa since October 2010.

E-waste is the fastest growing waste stream in the UK, with more than one-million tonnes being generated annually according to some estimates. The UN has stated that global production of e-waste now totals at 50 million tonnes, of which only ten per cent is recycled.

E-waste can be hazardous to the environment and people - computer processors contain a mixture of chemicals and cathode ray tubes fitted in many older style TVs can contain lead. These substances are released when e-waste is stripped down in destination countries, often on vast unofficial waste dumps where workers lack protective clothing and health and safety regulations are poor or non-existant.

In recent years the UK authorities have stepped up efforts to combat the illegal trade in e-waste following growing concern about the scale of the activity.

The Environment Agency has a National Intelligence Team and an Environmental Crime Unit working to tackle the issue and has recently brought prosecutions against a number of individuals involved in e-waste trafficking. There are concerns however that funding for the Agency's e-waste work will be slashed as part of current cost-cutting measures.

Earlier this year the Environment Agency's head Paul Leinster said the body had found evidence of e-waste from government departments forming part of illegal exports.

As the Ecologist revealed in December 2010, the e-waste trade has attracted the interest of highly organised criminal gangs who see it as a lucrative and relatively risk-free activity. The EIA says its investigations have established how a complex network of brokers and middlemen are increasingly facilitating the movement of e-waste, making detection even harder for legitimate companies and the authorities.

'E-waste isn't a new problem and it isn't going away. It's time for the government and enforcement agencies to give this issue the resources and attention it warrants,' EIA's Fin Walravens said.'