Monthly Archives: March 2012

Happy Birthday to the Almighty MC HAMMER! 50 years ago, you graced this earth with you presence, and we have loved it ever since!   Thank you for loving Oakland so much and helping put Pop Music on the map, out here.  May you enjoy many more birthdays.  Oh yea, and good luck on your Search Engine Venture.  If you don’t know what I’m talking about, check out Wire Doo.  Hopefully it’s working out.

Also, thank you for Hammer Pants.

If you don’t know who MC Hammer is, you live under a rock, but here is his Wikipedia.


Fashion darling Alexander Wang was served this month with a $50 million lawsuit from a man who used to sew his clothes. Wenyu Lu describes having worked 25 hours continuously without break or overtime pay in an unventilated, windowless part of Wang’s New York City design firm, and claims he was ultimately fired after voicing his complaints to management and filing for worker’s compensation. He sued, and dozens of his fellow employees signed on. The headlines that have rocked the fashion world put a name to Lu’s allegation: Wang ran a “sweatshop” in the United States of America.

Subpar working conditions in garment factories around the world have long been the subject of stateside media attention, but conditions in American factories largely slip under the radar. In fact, most consumers spy a label like “Made in the USA” and assume the workers who made their T-shirt are paid and treated better than most. As the Wang suit shows, even an expensive garment—an Alexander Wang tee can cost upwards of $200—doesn’t guarantee better working conditions for its producers (many of Wang’s clothes are also made in China). The truth is that U.S. sweatshops have been on the rise for the past several decades.

Today, the term “sweatshop” conjures up vague imagery of concrete floors, low lights, heat, and, well, sweat. The term used to refer to a much more specific work environment: Its origins date back to the “sweated” trades of 19th-century Britain. The first sweatshops were the homes of manual laborers, sewers, cobblers, and furniture makers who worked for piece rate wages from the small spaces of their homes. Later, “sweatshop” came to include overcrowded and dangerous “official” workshops. By the turn of the century, the term had expanded to mean “any factory workplace in which workers are employed for long hours at low wages and under unhealthy or oppressive conditions.”

These kinds of workplaces popped up in the United States as part of the industrial revolution, too, concentrating in big cities in New York, New Jersey, and PennsylvaniaFactory managers locked doors to prevent unauthorized breaks. Safety regulations were lax. Child labor was not uncommon. This kind of neglect culminated in the disastrous Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire of 1911: 146 garment New York City garment workers, mainly young women, were killed inside the blouse factory after realizing they couldn’t open the locked doors leading to fire escapes.

World War II temporarily alleviated the worst working conditions, and by the 1950s and ’60s, the booming post-war economy and a highly unionized apparel production industry rendered the American sweatshop virtually obsolete. Wages were now well above the poverty line, and unions achieved gains in health care and pension funds.

But that era of American clothing production wouldn’t last long. In Slaves to Fashion, Robert Ross writes that apparel jobs took another turn for the worse in the 1970s, thanks to the rise of globalization, weakening unions, a surplus of willing workers, and an influx of undocumented immigrants. Garment workers who could not organize made exploitation easy, a race to the bottom necessary, and the rise of a new era of sweatshops possible.

Today, Congress’ General Accounting Office provides a simple definition of “sweatshop”: “a business that regularly violates both wage or child labor and safety or health laws.” At this point, much of America’s cheapest garment production has moved overseas, but Ross estimates that as late as 2000, there were still 255,000 sweatshop workers in the United States. Sweatshops can be found in New York City, California, and Texas. Factories that produce military uniforms are listed by watch groups as repeat offenders.

Meanwhile, watchdog organizations like the Fair Labor Association and The Worker Rights Consortium are spread so thin around the globe that inspections of domestic factories and workshops remain rare. A national code of conduct and laws to enforce it are still elusive. Corporate codes of conduct generally bind only the brand and the subcontracted vendor, leaving little to no incentive for the vendor to adhere to oftentimes vague guidelines that are never subject to outside accountability. Consumers keep buying clothes without really wanting to know who made them.

It doesn’t have to stay that way. The U.N. Global Compact plans to implement an industry-wide code of conduct this year, with details to be announced at the Copenhagen Fashion Summit and Rio+20. The code could lead to a universal “sweatshop-free” label that’s clear to off-the-rack consumers, a move that would throw a wrench in the cheap fashion race to the bottom. For the movement to be effective, every part of the fashion food chain must establish a commitment to accountability and transparency in the fight for workers’ rights, for garment workers both documented and not, at home and abroad. The real story of the working conditions at Alexander Wang’s camp is still up for debate—Wang denies he runs a sweatshop. But if Wenya Lu hadn’t spoken out, most consumers would never have begun to think about how their American T-shirt was made.

via Hyperallergic

LOS ANGELES — I see them everywhere these days. QR Codes have become a staple the world over, in large advertisements and small handouts in multiple countries. They don’t always make sense, but it’s impossible to deny their ubiquity.

The one place I rarely see them is on street art and murals. The new QR_Stenciler, a Processing-based application developed by F.A.T. Labs, now makes it easy. The downloadable software takes a standard QR code and turns it into a PDF that can then be manipulated and edited for a laser cutter.

Why not just fire up Illustrator and make your own QR codes? F.A.T. Labs pointed to a post by Fred Trotteridentifying part of the issue:

But what is the problem with a QR code stencil? In a word, islands. In order to make a stencil with, say, photo paper (which would otherwise be a great technique), you need a way to address bits that the stencil needs to block, that are not physically connected to the rest of the stencil. Its easier to show than explain.

The QR_Stenciler side steps this with hair-thin cuts that hold the islands in place while allowing you to easily spray paint the entire area.

It’s not clear yet whether QR codes are here to stay, or if they’re a growing trend of that will be replaced one day by near field communications or RFID.  But unlike the latter, QR codes remain very much physical, and therefore a great tool for artists.


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