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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.

via Good.is

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.

via Hyperallergic

LOS ANGELES — The Polaroid is deadLong live the Polaroid. They used to be a staple at any gathering, and then one day, they weren’t. Those tangible remembrances of fine times had soon turned into cell phone camera snaps and then Facebook and Flickr albums. And now they’re Instagram pictures.

Enter Instaprint, a new Kickstarter project which aims to bring back something like the Polaroid, with a physical document of your photos.

Instaprint is a location based photo booth that can transform parties and events by putting a camera in everyone’s hand. By setting Instaprint to look out for specific locations or hashtags, any Instagram tagged appropriately will automatically be printed out on inkless paper. Get one for your next party, event, wedding, fiesta or anything you like.

Unlike Instagram, which is free, Instaprint has a hefty starting price of $399. Which is why Breakfast studio is aiming to raise $500,000 on Kickstarter to launch the product. They also have a live feed of an actual Instaprint that will take your photos and print them, showing just how easy it is once it’s set up.

I could see this being most fun when implemented at a gallery opening or afterparty. On weekends, I’m already transported to a half dozen parties around the world thanks to Instagram. It’s great to see a product that makes photos local again and gives us something tangible to take away.

So far, the Instaprint Kickstarter project has raised $155,000 of its $500,000 goal with 39 days to go. You can see this project, along with others on Hyperallergic’s Kickstarter page.

Eddie Colla will be releasing a new set of nine original pieces of art, titled HK, available at fiftyseven-thirtythree.  These nine pieces were featured at Telegraph Art Cafe for February’s installation of Oakland Art Murmur. The first 3, titled, Air, Air City, and Rolex Tudor, will release Wednesday, March 28  on the fiftyseven-thirtythree Website.  They are all original artwork and one of a kind on wood panels.  The other 6 pieces will be released in 2 sets of 3 at later date to be named in April 2012.

For updates on the release, here is a link to the Facebook event.

via Newser

(NEWSER) – Wall Street firms may soon have a new gig: landlord. A number of them are looking into getting directly involved in real estate, buying up foreclosed properties from Fannie Mae in bulk, reports the Wall Street Journal. They couldn’t then flip the houses—per the deal, they would rent out the properties and not resell them for several years, in an attempt to unclog the housing market. And that arrangement likely sounds fine to many investors: Goldman Sachs economists pegged the annual yield on rental units at a 6.3% average nationwide, though that figure topped 8% in some areas; mortgage bonds, meanwhile, are yielding about 3%.

The planned bulk sale is not huge: eight pools that contain a total of 2,500 houses, worth about $320 million. “We’re investing a lot of capital, a lot of time, with the expectation that this is a very small beginning to a very big movement,” said the head of one securities company considering buying. But will the bids be too low, or will investors make healthy offers in the hopes of convincing Fannie Mae that bulk buys are the way to go? On the investor side, one warns that it’s tough to get a “responsible return on capital” due to the costs associating with renovating and managing the properties. Bids are due next month.

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