We love stuff. So much that in 2006, a study of LA middle class homes revealed that 90% of garage space was being used to store stuff, not cars. In Secondhand, Adam follows the life and death of stuff, and explores how manufacturers have been placating us with cheap and low quality goods.
In perhaps the most evocative part of the book, Adam begins by introducing us to Empty The Nest. Empty The Nest is an organisation that cleans out homes, and passes objects on to places where they can be resold and reused.
But our personal identities are shaped by the objects we possess. And because of this connection, it can be hard to let go of our stuff. Sharon Kadet, the account manager of Empty The Nest, shows Adam how most of the stuff we hold onto actually has little value. Adam draws up scenes of huge clean ups, which are carried out on the houses of deceased relatives. Wholly sentimental items are simply thrown away. Old envelopes, old letters—I think of all the cards and notes I have kept from friends and family, that have little meaning beyond my own life.
Wreck This Journal was possibly the coolest crafts project to do in 2013. Creative, subversive, and engaging. It definitely made me less inclined to colour inside the lines. Although I haven't finished my copy, or worked on a page for years, it's still a nice thing to look through. Here are my favourite pages.
The cover of my copy is plastered with headlines I'd cut out from the student University magazine.
Some mornings, I go to Pilates and the ladies tell me that they’ve seen me at the wharf again. We are putting out our mats and they are the same colour as the sky, when the wind has rushed all the clouds away. One of them exclaims that the other day, she actually didn’t see me at the harbour, which is the strangest thing. “Because you’re always there!” she says. Someone else makes an admiring comment about hard work.
After Pilates, I walk to the wharf, making a note of the sky. I remember what the weather forecast told me earlier and count up the variables. It is sunny, which means that it will be a busy day. A little windy, but not too gusty. A northerly, so I’ll have to open the window that faces south when I get to work. This little loop of thoughts is what I have been drawing all summer. Two streets across and a little more, and then I can see the food caravan sitting near the edge of the harbour, waiting for me. It is one of those days where the blue of the sky fights to melt into the ocean, their colours are so similar. The sunlight flickers over the water, following a trail of little silver fish that zip around plastic bottles and cellophane.
When I studied Classics at university, it became my world. Especially so in my last year, where I worked towards my honours degree.
I ended up going on a field trip to Greece for a month. There, I saw artefacts upon artefacts, studied variations, styles, riffs on myths and stories that were their great foundations. Stood on the Acropolis and gave a presentation on architecture, studied in the British School of Athens, got drenched in a Greek rain storm. Walked ancient cities that were now just brick, stood on top of crumbling stones that used to be part of a retaining wall. Visited small rural towns in the winter, where shopkeepers were so happy to see us. I was completely immersed in it. I came back home and wrote my final essay for the trip, then kept continuing and continuing to do what I needed to finish the last of my degree. Wrote assignment upon assignment, kept building upon those stories of an ancient culture, wrote my honours thesis. And then I graduated.
After I left university, my love of Classics seemed to dissipate. During my study, I read pages and pages of scholarship every week. But it took me a year after graduation for me to even pick up a book related to Classics. Classics had once been a defining feature of myself. And as the months passed, my university years felt like a nebulous dream and I became cloudy.
I don’t like setting New Year’s resolutions because I feel that the exercise is too strict to be productive. New Year’s resolutions place unnecessary pressure to hold a single goal steady from the first day of the year to the last. Because of this, when a New Year’s resolution fails, the rest of the year is turned into a write off. In reality, goals can be revised and changed, and this is not something to be ashamed of.
A woman in a group of four asks me if I can speak Chinese. In Mandarin, I say, only a little. My brain starts running through stock phrases that I might need for what’s to follow. I go through the motions, I stare at the shirt of the woman who spoke to me, a shirt embroidered with gold paisley. When I give her back her change, she asks, how long? Five minutes? I say, Yes, 十. The flock of women look at each other, then back at me. The woman in gold replies, what? Ten minutes? I realise that I’ve said the word for ten instead of yes—same letters but different tone—and then I am going, ah, um, sorry I meant, ah, it’s just five minutes. 五. The woman nods at me. The gold shimmers.
When I self-published my own little picture book, The Adventures of Moonbear, I went to a bunch of daycares armed with copies of the book to see if I could sell them. I also went to a bookshop. The book buyer flicked through the copy I gave her and then said it was too expensive. She pointed to some children's books on the shelves, little A5 books that were around the same size as my Moonbear. And then she said, your book is too expensive. These books are the same size as yours and are only four dollars each. I looked at the books. They were Thomas the Tank Engine books.
When I was a kid, I used to dream up the kind of home I wanted to have when I was older. A big feature in this dream home was a room full of books. Like a total library, with shelves going from floor to ceiling. I thought that would be the most beautiful thing, to be surrounded by so much literature.
A few years ago, I started collecting New Zealand poetry books. It was a nice and slightly niche category that I thought I could eventually turn into my own mini library. But my whole mindset on collecting things has changed. A few months ago, I sold half of my collection of New Zealand poetry books, around 30 books for $1 each.
Tetra Paks are difficult to recycle because they are made out of a number of different materials.
The main material in a Tetra Pak is paperboard. This is made out of wood and helps to keep the package stable and sturdy.
This paperboard is layered with polyethylene, a type of plastic that protects the paperboard from being damaged by moisture. It also protects the packaging from the product inside. Polyethylene allows the paperboard to stick to the aluminium foil.
The foil then protects the Tetra Pak’s contents from oxygen and light. Along with the use of sterilisation, this foil helps to keep perishable food inside safe for months, without refrigeration or preservatives.
Tetra Pak caps are also made from HDPE, a type of plastic derived from sugar cane.
Since the industrial revolution, we have undergone five waves of innovation. These waves have brought new technologies and have radically transformed society. This book predicts the sixth wave to come, a period that will be defined by resource efficiency.
Russian economist Nikolai Kondratiev put forward the idea that Western capitalist economies go through waves of innovation. These waves are like mountains, with a rise at the beginning and a fall at the end.