Jon Christian

Comfort the afflicted. Afflict the comfortable.

The Freegan Revolution Will Not Be Kickstarted

Nearly a year ago, I was rummaging through a dumpster at a grocery store near Alewife when I met Maximus Thaler, a local dumpster diver. Soon afterward, Maximus became relatively internet famous for his plan to open a freegan cafe that would serve only food that they pulled out of dumpsters. He raised the modest startup costs on Kickstarter and attracted significant media attention for what he was going to call the Gleaners’ Kitchen.

Unfortunately, things didn’t work out. They got evicted before officially opening, and never regained their footing. I ended up writing a story about it for Boston Magazine, which came out today. It’s a sad story, but there are broader themes that I think are important: accountability and expectations in the age of viral media and crowdfunding, how to effectively fight food waste, the importance of a real-world community to accompany internet ambitions.

Late this past Saturday night, my partner and I went back to the same dumpster, the first time I’d been dumpster diving in many months. Maybe I was looking for a tidy moral to the story. We found a loaf of bread, some bags of tortillas, a carton of eggs, a half dozen artichokes, blueberries and raspberries, oranges and limes, a bag of avocados, boxes of mushrooms, a single huge onion and an absurd number of potatoes. Spreading it out on the kitchen table at 2am, it was easy to see why Maximus wanted to bring dumpster diving to a wider audience. I wouldn’t be surprised if he eventually finds a way to do so.

[The Freegan Revolution Will Not Be Kickstarted]

Maximus recently appeared on a WGBH story about reclaiming food waste:


Longform reading list, week of 3/10/14

Matthew Power: Mississippi Drift. Harper’s, 2008.

Power (who died this week in Uganda) joined a squad of punk, dropout radicals to sail down a Mississippi river “the color and foaminess of Coca-Cola” on a homemade raft. Along the way, anarchism itself started to fall apart.

Dan Barry: The ‘Boys’ in the Bunkhouse. The New York Times. 2014.

For decades, a community dutifully ignores a local company’s abuse and near-enslavement of disabled workers. Presented with haunting, looping videos and brief recorded interviews.

Eric Bangeman: Talking past each other: Bill Nye vs. creationist Ken Ham on evolution. Ars Technica. 2014.

Reflections on a high-profile debate.

Andrew Solomon: The Reckoning. The New Yorker. 2014.

Adam Lanza’s father speaks.

Susan Zalkind: The Murders Before the Marathon. Boston Magazine. 2014.

A lot can be said about Susan Zalkind’s fearless reporting on a triple murder that preceded the Marathon bombing — and the fact that the FBI shot a key witness — but she says it best. The week’s This American Life episode focused on the story.

Vanessa Grigoriadis: O.K., Glass: Make Google Eyes. Vanity Fair. 2014.

Love and betrayal in the upper ranks of Google, among the wealthiest and most powerful people alive. Calls to mind William Gibson: “And, for an instant, she stared directly into those soft blue eyes and knew, with an instinctive mammalian certainty, that the exceedingly rich were no longer even remotely human.” 

Joseph Williams: My Life as a Retail Worker: Nasty, Brutish, and Poor. The Atlantic. 2014.

A disgraced middle-aged journalist takes a job in retail.

The Bowl of Death


I wrote this story for Dig, one of Boston’s remaining alt-weeklies, on a portable mini-velodrome built by notable Somerville bicycle frame builder Paul Carson and associates. They’re soon going to raise funds for a larger, more durable version.

Lumber supports groan and chewed-up plywood rumbles under stressed wheels. Riders speed around the perimeter at something approaching a 45-degree angle with the floor, centrifugal force pressing them down against the track, their tires at face-level with onlookers, sometimes just inches away.

This is the Bowl of Death, a portable fixed-gear cycling track its creators describe as a “mini-velodrome.” Tonight is the second time they’ve set it up for public use in Somerville’s Artisan’s Asylum, and the vibe is somewhere between a skate park and Thunderdome. The stranger side of Greater Boston’s cycling scene is out in force, with punks, couriers, mechanics, and their friends drinking beers and crowding around the edge of the bowl, shouting words of encouragement at riders. M.I.A’s “Paper Planes” plays in the background.

Meet the Daredevils Behind the Notorious Bowl of Death

The Leftöver Crack/Kanye mashup I’ve been waiting for forever

From producer Jake Bowman, a seven track mashup of Kanye West and Leftöver Crack. There are weirder combinations than Kanye and LoC’s hiphopified crust punk, but I can’t imagine there are many people who listen to both (or at least who will cop to it.)

Here’s the playlist on Jake Bowman’s Soundcloud, which won’t embed.


Author & Punisher mixes death metal and shop class

I just discovered ungenreable musical act Author & Punisher. Behind it is Tristan Shone, a former mechanical engineer who invents dangerous-looking industrial quasi-instruments that shriek, pound, drone —  and build surprising compositional tension. He also screams and growls into homemade microphones, some of which snap shut with finger-crushing intensity. In a great interview, he talks about his inspirations in metal and noise.

Here’s a peek into what he does in the studio:

“Cool To Do Drugs” pencil recall


BoingBoing points to a 1998 incident in which a pencil supplier recalled a batch of pencils emblazoned with the message “Too Cool To Do Drugs” after students noticed that after sharpening the pencils, they displayed “Cool To Do Drugs,” and eventually just “Do Drugs.”

As a result of the discovery by Kodi Mosier, a 10-year-old student at Ticonderoga Elementary School, the company, the Bureau for At-Risk Youth, based in Plainview, N.Y., recalled the pencils.

”We’re actually a little embarrassed that we didn’t notice that sooner,” Darlene Clair, a spokeswoman, told The Plattsburgh Press-Republican.

A new batch of pencils will have the message written in the opposite direction, so when they are sharpened, they will read ”Too Cool To Do” and finally ”Too Cool.”

The New York Times: Slogan Causes Pencil Recall

Groupmuse: Crowdsourcing classical music house parties

I wrote this story for the Boston Globe on Groupmuse, a social network that lets people volunteer their homes for free classical music performances. There’s a fun party atmosphere and the musicians at the events I attended were excellent.

Kayana Szymczak provided the photography, which is larger and more beautifully laid out in the physical edition, which is on stands today.

There is clapping between movements, as well as whistling, shouting, and even cat-calling.

It probably helps that the alcohol started flowing an hour or more ago, as guests and musicians began to trickle into this cozy Jamaica Plain apartment. But there’s something else going on: This living room is full of 20-somethings — some in their socks, others recording the performance on their phones — who are genuinely excited about chamber music.

The unorthodox party was organized by Groupmuse, a website that matches up people who want to volunteer their home for a semi-public classical musical performance with musicians and guests. Tonight, a string quartet is playing a selection of works by Mozart and the “Notturno” from Alexander Borodin’s String Quartet No. 2 in D major, to a rowdy crowd of about 30, mostly people in their 20s. Some knew the hosts previously, others are strangers who signed up online. To the right of the performers is a set of bongo drums on a minifridge.

Full story: Expanding minds, social circles through classical music


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