“Are you going to the Quiz on Saturday?” my friend Mary asks me.
“No, I’m going to see a Rubbish Film.” Even as this comes out of my mouth, I am aware that this is not a good explanation. ”I mean, it’s a film about rubbish. It’s good. I think. I’ve been told it is, anyway.”
What I mean to say is that I’m going to a Community Screening of the “Clean Bin Project” film. Although I’m part of the moderating team of the Lewes Freegle internet based reuse group which has organised the event, it’s another of our mods, Liz, who has done most of the actual organising. I’m just coming along with cakes for the fund raising sale (which we started running last year – Freegle is free to use, but not free to run.) And to be honest, I’m a bit dubious about my choice of activity, since when I look on the internet, I can’t find much information on what this film is about and whether it’s any good.
So now I’ve watched it, this review is partly to help answer these questions.
The film was made by Grant Baldwin and Jenny Rustemeyer, a couple who decided to have a go at living for a year buying nothing, and producing as little waste as possible. If you look at their blog, you’ll find some background on their thinking behind this – it was conceived as a challenge and an experiment. Grant and Jenny explain early on that they are a competitive pair and the idea of making a competition out of it spurs them both on.
The rules are:
- No buying material goods
- No producing waste (ie all packaging must be recycling)
- Take responsibility for your waste (ie if you are out and about, take everything home to compost or recycle)
It’s fun and interesting seeing the everyday challenges of this. However, where the film really takes off is where it hooks in with the work of the internationally acclaimed artist, Chris Jordan
Chris was taken with the idea of what rubbish looks like from afar.
Here is one of the first of his works that we are introduced to:
The website is clever; from afar, the work is like an impressionist painting. But as you zoom in, you realise that each dot is a plastic bag, and that the total work is made up of 60,000 plastic bags, which is the number used in the US every five seconds.
This one here is my favourite:
because it’s so mathematical and beautiful. And herein lies the disturbing truth, which is that we mostly blind ourselves to the true cost of what our consumerism, because of our desire for the beauty facilitated by what we throw away.
There is no such ambiguity however when the film moves on to photographs Chris has taken:
These are pictures of baby albatrosses who have been inadvertently fed so much plastic by their parents that their digestive systems stop working and they die and decompose.
Grant and Jenny make judicious use of these poignant moments, keeping most of the film light hearted despite the seriousness of the subject matter. But they do question what difference two people can make in the light of what is going on in the world around us. For example, Grant in filming from the middle of a frenzied price slashing session in a shoe store. He is interviewing a shopper, and asking her what she thinks of the fact that she is, er, shopping on World Environment Day…
“It’s OK, I got this tree…” she says, and even as she holds up a little plastic trinket that she has picked up from somewhere, her smile is already fading and frozen.
It made me think about where I am currently on the subject of waste. I used to be much more hardcore about it. I used to make pasta using flour and eggs, because these items came in cardboard packaging that could be composted. Instead of crisps, I used to make my kids potato bhajis for their school lunches and they had home made cakes and bread.
As the years went on, little by little, my habits slipped. The main issue was the fact that they really weren’t that keen on the food. Home made bread makes a great accompaniment for soup, but a really, really bad packed lunch sandwich. And your diet can become quite restricted if you are making your choices around packaging, as I was. And you do wonder what difference your tiny contribution can make.
But… seeing two people produce so little waste less than a bucketful over the whole year) was impressive. OK, it was extreme. But it goes to show that it can be done. And it makes you think – what if everyone could aim for that? Then there would be a difference…
Acknowledging this in the film, one of the messages from Grant and Jenny was that if it all seems too much, then just do one thing to cut down on your waste.
The biggest thing you can do, apparently, is to stop putting your food in the landfill bin, if you haven’t done so already. Methane from rotting food waste is one of the biggest environmental problems to come out of landfill.
“Do you remember those potatoes I used to fry for your lunch box?” I ask my daughter when I get home.
“Yeah. Crisps are better though,” she says.
“They are. But what about the packaging? Every time you eat crisps you have to throw away the packet. And I’ve just been to see this film where…”
She does get it, when I explained it. And it does make her think.
“It might not be crisps,” I say. ”But what if you gave up one thing, made one choice, that would make a difference?”
It comes down to choice. We like choice. We like the choice, of flavours, of shapes, and we like the choice to be in the here in now. As my daughter proves, if it’s our own choice to give something up, and not a choice made by someone else, we will like that decision more.
The film was well received by those who attended the screening and I think it made us all think seriously about the choices we make.
If you are interested in watching The Clean Bin film, go here, or leave an email address in a comment at the end of this blog for me to contact you through – it may be possible to arrange this through the Freegle organisation.
Last Tuesday, I forgot both my lunch and my mug on the way out of the house. I knew that the missing lunch would be easily rectified by a visit to the canteen and any one of a selection of low-cost/high-carb options. The mug was a different problem. Now I know that a lot of people do use staff room mugs, and there is probably nothing wrong with them. I’d just rather not if I didn’t have to.
So my morning petrol stop at the garage turned into a quest for a Costa Coffee, or more precisely, for the paper cup surrounding the liquid ejected from the 2 minute machine next to the doughnut counter.
I went into work clutching my cup, feeling like a refugee from another life, where I was an employee from a high tech company, working all hours on projects to deliver glamorous products to glamorous clients. Especially as it was still dark when I got in. Part of these delusions were, I imagine, caused by the coffee. During the morning, I got unusually excited about the case studies I am writing, and even more excited by my positive data trends, which I was very careful to double check in case I was hallucinating them.
In the evening, while Lovely Daughter #2 was at ballet, I felt like I was in need of something. This need drew me into town, where I came across the Real Eating Company. Whenever I’ve passed it, the Real Eating Company has been impossibly packed, but it seems that in the evening the ratio of staff to customers drops to 1:1.
It was very quiet, and warm, Nina Simone was on the speakers singing one of her best songs, Mr Bojangles, and there was the smell of COFFEE! Everything was pretty and bright and shiny, and they had cakes on the counter, and on the blackboard, promises of hot apple and ginger toddies, and Apple gin with Fevertree tonic water, which I knew from James meant that it was dead posh.
I wrote quite a lot. Why is it that you get more done when you are out and about somewhere quiet and warm with Nina Simone in the background? Is it the lack of wireless distractions? Or do you feel that having made the effort and spent your £2.30 you need to get your money’s worth? Or it could just be the coffee.
Anyway, today’s question is totally unrelated to coffee.
At work (it’s a school), we do Drop Everything And Read, where we all read for fifteen minutes twice a week. Following on from this, our Head of English has suggested that some of us might like to apply to be book givers.
Now despite the fact that The History of Western Philosophy is the only book blurb stuck on my door to have been requested by anyone (actually, by two members of staff!), it’s not the sort of book you would actually thrust at anyone going, “You must read this!” (You’d be in danger of knocking them out for a start.)
The only book I’ve felt that about recently is Me Before You by Jojo Moyes. The colleague I gave that to loved it and passed it on to her friends after that. I’ve read a lot of good books recently but most don’t come with a comparable combination of sensitivity and popularism to Me Before You.
Is there a book you’ve ever felt compelled to pass on to a friend of yours? And which you were fairly confident they would love so much that they would want to do the same?
[Well!!! I thought I'd posted this on Monday evening! But it was sitting in my draft box. Thought everyone was being a bit quiet! Try again.........]
On Saturday I went to an all day school governors’ conference at the local hotel/conference centre.
They gave me some liquid that they called “coffee”. It was horrible. And also very strong. During the lunch break I nipped back home to give the girls some food and say hello. Then I nipped back again. This meant that I missed out on the hot buffet lunch which looked quite nice… it also meant that I had no time to make my usual comforting milky teas and so by the end of the day had downed rather a lot of these hot strong coffees .
The conference itself, I have to say, unearthed some exciting ideas.
All this meant that when I tried to get an early night on Saturday, the coffee said No. So I slept most of Sunday and then couldn’t get to sleep Sunday night either.
It didn’t help that I was up late on Friday night poring over this beautiful looking quiz:
with my friend Jane on the other end of Facebook.
I know there’s a lot of negative press about Facebook, but I like the way it lets me stay in touch with a very small selection of friends easily. I like it when they send me links to interesting things, and I can show that I appreciate by liking them. Sure, in an ideal world, I’d see and speak to them more often than I do, but a globalised world and busy lives mean that I don’t.
We got there together in the end – I would never have got the bottle clue without Jane’s hints and I had to practically tell her what the one with the Bomb was. We both thought the inclusion of the book behind the No Head Man clue was rather unfair.
Also on Facebook this week I have discovered that I am 69% right brained (creative) and 31% left brained (logical).
This is really weird for me, as I have always always always come out as left brained or balanced in the past. I think my right brain has become much more active recently as I am reading and blogging a lot more, and generally thinking more freely and outside the box. And I don’t always worry about making sense, either. As you can probably tell.
For Dr Who fans, see which companion you are here:
I am Clara Oswin Oswald: “You’re caring, curious, and clever. You’re good with kids and you have a big heart, but you’re by no means a pushover! Hello, impossible girl!”
Although I am happy about this mainly because I like her clothes.
Other Facebook finds that have kept me happy recently are:
“Our Education system in a nutshell”
and this cleverly illustrated video which my friend Jo sent me about the trend in the UK education system towards mere economic usefulness. Sadly this is leading to rewards for creativity being squeezed out of our current education system (file under Saturday’s conference…)
I went on to watch the full lecture here, which is even more powerful and, being a complete lecture, is even more evidently well thought out and argued.
I’ve got a new dustpan and brush! It’s so cute – it’s baby blue. And metal, with a huge brush to go with it. It cost about twice as much as a plastic one but because it’s metal, I can scoop warm ashes from the stove into it and dump them on the garden, which is so much better than the previous scoop-them-into-a-cardboard-box-aargh-aargh-it’s-started-smouldering routine that went on in our house before.
I also have a new Leifheit Rotaro sweeper(£59.99 new, £15 second hand!) I must admit I hadn’t intended to go so totally low-tech, but was really looking for an alternative to the big hoover, which was hurting my back. I also find sweeping and brushing really therapeutic and it’s helping polish my terra cotta floor, with which I have a love/hate relationship, up to a shiny finish.
I have to say I really like cleaning. The only problem with cleaning is that it takes time. And if I had the choice I’d rather be reading or writing than cleaning. And since my life priorities to go: work/kids -> school governance -> writing/blogging/reading, and since these things take up almost all my time, cleaning gets pushed right down the line.
But yesterday, I did make space for a bit of therapeutic me-time.
After having to take time off last week for OFSTED, and also because each of the Lovely Daughters had an appointment, I had to leave for work super early in the morning each day. On Wednesday I was practically falling asleep driving in. Thursday was my first normal time start for about a week, so waking up and not having to get up straight away was bliss.
Anyway, that’s where I’ve been all week, at work, trying not to fall asleep.
Although I’ve not been reading or writing, I have been thinking about various things. One of them is this post here: “Men can be feminists but should they?” from the ever thought provoking Leif.
Firstly, my own thoughts are that although I sympathise with and support many feminist causes, I can’t call myself a feminist because to me, being an anything “-ist” implies a total philosophy and orientation of your life style. It implies to me more than the passing interest in feminist theory and literature with feminist themes that I have, my interest being no more urgent than, say, literature on a multi-cultural theme.
Of course I could be wrong on this definition.
Secondly, I do not think that you can call yourself a something “-ist” unless you have lived and experienced that life for yourself. Life as a woman is more complicated than I thought it would be when I embarked upon it aged thirteen/fourteen.
I was reminded of this last Friday. Amongst all the fun and laughter, a common theme emerged among the women there, and that was one of adaptations we had made to the way we lived our lives on behalf of our families in order to have children.
This isn’t true of all of us, of course. In some of our local families, mum has the main job and dad does more of the childcare. But I have found that usually, there is a “reason” for this set up, which is often that mum has the greater earning power. Where a man and a woman have shared a comparable level of education and previous job experience, it seems that the woman by default tends to give way for the good of family life. To them man, it does not usually seem that there is a decision to be made; he just carries on with life as it is. And to what extent do women limit themselves and their career ambitions, through cultural conditioning?
This isn’t supposed in the least to be a moan; trends aside, we all do what we think is best for our lives and our families. It’s just an observation, and I am interested to make this observation because when I was growing up, with all my hopes and future before me, I did not see why we could not all forge an equal society together, where legislation and logic would allow women to have a totally equal chance to compete with men in the job market.
I used to think that I could think my way to the solution for a better society. But now I have been through this realisation that lives look different when you experience and live through them, I have moved towards the opinion that you cannot truly understand something unless you have experienced it. Knowledge, even a very detailed knowledge, is not enough. It’s why, when you meet someone and you come from a similar background or past as they do, you feel affinity, even though you don’t know each other.
So, this is my argument why men can’t be feminists. Because they haven’t experienced the issues around what it is to be a woman.
What do you think? Have I just moved from one over-simplistic view to another?
[I want to say thank you to everyone who has been posting over the last two weeks. I've not been able to keep up with everything but all your thoughts have been spinning around in my head with, amongst other things, the above results.]
On Tuesday afternoon I checked my phone at work and the Head of the school where I am Chair of Governors at had sent me a message to say that OFSTED were coming in the next day to do a visit.
For those of you who don’t live in the UK, OFSTED is the school inspection body. They come round every three years or so and write a report on the school. In the old days, you used to get six weeks’ notice, but now they tell you the afternoon before, so that they can get a truer picture of the school in its everyday operation.
Part of the inspection involves a meeting with the Chair of Governors. This took place on Thursday morning, which meant that all Tuesday and Wednesday evening were spent reading up on my files. Normally when I try to do tasks in the evening, I get distracted with reading my blogs but for once there were no distractions at all. I can honestly say I haven’t concentrated so hard for ages. Not peeking at my blogs is a major thing for me.
I remained undistracted and very quiet in the blogosphere throughout Thursday evening, which was when I remembered I had booked into some other governor training, and Friday as well, when I was at a party until 3am.
At this party, I met my friend Jane and told her that I’d almost finished reading The Testament of Gideon Mack, which was part of the big pile of books she’d lent me a few weeks ago.
The Testament of Gideon Mack is the story of a Scottish minister who disappears in an accident and miraculously returns after three days. On his return, he insists he was cared for by the Devil and the big question is whether he is telling the truth, or whether he is lying, or whether he is just mad.
Jane has also read The Private Memoirs and Confessions of a Justified Sinner (1824) by the Scottish novelist, essayist and poet James Hogg, on which Gideon Mack is based, which I think added an extra layer of interest to her reading of it – she said reading the two together was fascinating.
Not having read The Private Memoirs, Gideon Mack was less fascinating for me! It began well, very eerily and creepily, and the description of Gideon’s childhood with his devout minister father was compelling. However, the middle portion of the book contained rather too much thinking and talking and not enough action for my taste.
I think religious belief is quite a minority theme in modern fiction. Off the top of my head, I can only think of a handful of examples. One of them is Stephanie Potter’s husband Daniel in A S Byatt’s Still Life, who takes on a career as a clergyman in order to do good, rather than because he believes. I am also reminded me of Yann Martel’s The Life of Pi and Sarah Waters’ Affinity. I am interested in the fact that in both these latter books, the author sets up a premise that seems impossible and demands belief from a reader. However, both these books ultimately come down firmly on one side or the other of belief or not. Gideon Mack does not do this, which I found made it much the less memorable. I think I demand definiteness and not ambiguity in order to get my kicks.
The actions of the characters reminded me once again of the way in which we can sleepwalk into making decisions with our lives, when we don’t question why we are doing things and why we have the values we have. For years, I questioned how I did things. When I was a youth worker, we were massively encouraged to be self-reflective of our practice. But it is only recently that I have started to think of why I have adopted the values I have adopted. Thinking about my values has changed them and I no longer feel the need to be doing things for other people all the time. However, we can only give so much of ourselves, and I want to do as good a job at the things I do that I can.
My desire to be good in the conventional sense is much less strong than it was. But I do question what goodness is. I think there is another kind of goodness, which is making other people feel good by being confident and happy and positive, rather than the discomfort that people can feel if you are tense or awkward. I quite like this sort of goodness and would like to have even more of it.
In the end, I think this is a zero sum situation, and the constant is my intention to be good, which I think I am pretty much stuck with. I just hope I am less annoying in my latter guise.
Posted November 10, 2013on:
I’ve been really busy this week (again). Firstly, due to being short staffed at work, I ended up back in my old post in the school’s first aid station for a few hours each day and I’m SO GLAD that I applied last November for the database manager job I currently do. My life has changed significantly in the last year, now that I am doing a job that concentrates on something I really enjoy, and don’t have the demands of students on me all the time. It is really draining trying to work when you are constantly being interrupted, sometimes by quite demanding situations.
I also went climbing during the week, off to another Governor-meet-parents thing on Thursday, and then on Friday night had a whale of a time meeting up with the youth workers I used to work with (before we all got made redundant in 2009). Friday night’s 1am finish was probably a contributing factor to me sleeping in until noon both today and yesterday.
I haven’t had time to read anything this week, but I thought I would have time to squeeze in the 88 minute DVD that LoveFilm sent me, really a long time ago now, as recommended by Kate at lookingglassblog.
Mary and Max is the story of an 8 year old Australian girl and her penfriend, 44 year old New Yorker, Max. They are both lonely for different reasons. Mary’s mother is an alcoholic and her father is absent in spirit. Max sees the world in a different way from most other people and is being treated by a psychiatrist regarding his troubles.
The film starts in a rather beautiful way and you are not sure where it is going to go because it seems rather shapeless. You are introduced in a very unhurried way to these two characters, and this works because each scene is animated in detail, and the narrative is very deadpan and random but at the same time tells you a lot about the characters, takes you right into their strange worlds, while also being hilarious. For example, Max describes the time he did jury service and just as it was getting interesting, with a case where a man murdered all his friends at his surprise party, Max is rejected from serving because someone finds out that he has spent time in a mental institution.
Likewise, Mary writes, “My mum says I am getting fat. She says I am growing up to be a heffer, which I think is a kind of cow.”
I laughed out loud at both these moments and Lovely Daughter #2 came across to see what was so funny and watched the rest of the film with me.
It’s clear that Max sees the world significantly differently from most people. I did wonder how they film would handle the (over?) sensitivity that we have these days regarding adults and children sharing friendship. And actually, the film didn’t shy away from this topic at all. Max’s lack of understanding does lead to some laugh out loud moments of inappropriateness, but his good intentions are always so clear that it just makes you wish that we didn’t have that suspiciousness in our society that we have grown so used to.
It’s no surprise when Max diagnosed with Asperger’s half way through the film. Max is adamant that he does not see himself as someone with a disability and that he does not want others to either. He does not want to be cured (there is some vague talk in the film of a future cure one day coming into being), because being “Aspie” is part of who he is. This made me think of several blogs I follow, and individuals I know, wondering how they would feel about a cure to change them. I would guess that in most cases, a cure would not be welcome.
The rest of the film sees Mary and Max battling their demons and their pasts, the stories intersecting beautifully, and there are some genuine edge-of-seat moments in the film as they come close to despair.
I was hoping for an uplift after A Tale for the Time Being. While Mary and Max was a tear jerker (at several points), I came away with a positive message: on facing your fears, and on letting others be who they want to be.
This was such a good film! Thank you, Kate, for your recommendation.
It’s taken me a few days since I finished reading Ruth Ozeki’s A Tale for the Time Being to get round to doing the review.
This is because it’s easy to admire, but rather difficult to like. Even while reading it, I found myself putting it down to do something else, and then not being drawn to picking it up again.
As James said, “like every other Booker nominee…[it] doesn’t look very cheerful.” Yes, that’s right, this is about as cheerful as being run over by a train.
The book starts off deceptively perkily, with the bright narrative voice of 16 year old Nao’s, as written in her diary. Nao is a Japanese girl who has lived most of her life in Silicon Valley, but who is then transported to another life when the dot com bubble bursts, her dad loses his job, and the family have to return penniless to Japan.
The narrative quickly descends into some truly horrific bullying at school, which Nao’s parents are unable to comprehend, never mind protect their daughter from. Father is suicidal, leaving Mother to shoulder the burden of providing for the family’s needs. The only member of the family who offers any kind of hope is Nao’s Great-Grandma Jiko.
Nao’s narrative weaves in with that of Japanese-American author Ruth, who discovers the diary washed up on the Canadian shore ten years later. We see Ruth and her husband Oliver exploring questions on her life, on life itself, and on the effect that reading the diary has on her.
In the second part of the novel, Nao gains strength and inspiration from her relationship with her great-grandmother, and from the sad story of her uncle Harikai, Jiko’s son, who died in the Second World War. Ruth and Oliver continues to ponder, and don’t do much else apart from this.
The third part of the novel becomes increasingly experimental.
There are two reasons I’d describe it as an experimental novel. The first is that this novel pushes throughout at the limits of what a reader can be expected to bear on behalf of a set of characters.
The question this novel raises is: How do you behave when you are attacked and you cannot run away? How do you react when life deals you terrible, undeserved blows? And a lot of what happens to these characters is truly terrible, and they are truly helpless in their dilemmas. This goes against the convention of how novelists are advised to manage the emotions of their readers. Too much suffering can be a turn off, and lead to a number of reactions, such as: “this is not realistic”, “this character is defined only by suffering – I am not interested any more”, “this is ridiculous.” The novel pushes at those points, maybe sometimes too far, as I found myself switching off through some passages, although I do have to say though, that many of the descriptions of undeserved suffering make this novel memorable and made me think back to it at various points for days afterwards.
The other reason that I would describe this novel as experimental is that in the third past, it starts to play with time, alternative realities and with the role of the narrator and author. I was much less taken with the characters of Ruth and Oliver, as I did not feel I really connected with their motives, pasts or desires. But I wonder if this was intentional and that their intended role is to exist as kind of scientific observer?
In this article, http://arts.nationalpost.com/2013/10/15/ruth-ozeki-the-ocean-between-us/ Ruth Ozeki describes her aim of providing “emotional closure” as well as keeping “lively and relevant questions alive”. I did not feel much emotional closure. However, I do admire Ozeki’s aim to keep questions alive, and I am glad that a literary landscape exists where such questions can be explored, and in which the explorers of such questions are rewarded with recognition and, it’s clear from the Amazon reviews, admiration.
I just found it difficult to like, and it was an uncomfortable read. Which poses a question to me: primarily, I want a book to amuse me, to appeal to my senses, and to my desire for excitement and suspense. How do I feel when a book gives me only a fraction of these things and gives me instead things to think about and things that haunt me?
I wonder if perhaps Ozeki’s Zen Buddhism had an influence on how this book turned out. In my Westernised readings of things, I feel that I am looking for a narrative to produce a feeling of ultimate triumph, even if that triumph is just an internal feeling of being uplifted. Whereas this book was very much to do with coming to terms with terrible things where there is not going to be a feeling of uplift or triumph.
I think my answer is that I don’t mind being taken out of my comfort zone, but I only want this to form a fraction of my reading. And that I will be looking for a different kind of book next!