Tuesday, September 27, 2005

Peculiar Signs

Ever since my Europe trip, I've thought it would be cool to collect images of interesting signs.

On the train from Germany to Denmark, there was a sign -- rays emanating from a hand -- posted next to the doors between compartments. The sign was supposed to indicate that passengers should wave their hand to open the automatic doors. I thought, however, that I was supposed to hold my hand up and wait for energy waves to flow from my palm. In Denmark, I laughed over a sign that I interpreted as meaning, "Do not drive your car off the end of the pier."

It seems someone beat me to the punch. Check out Swank Signs, a hilarious Web site that I came across. Half the fun is reading visitors' posted comments on what various signs might mean.

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Sunday, September 11, 2005

The Politics of Clothing

"A friend of mine who manufactures cloth once boasted to me that nowadays, on cheap clothing, New York 'beats the world.'" ... The bulk of the sweater's [sub-contractor] work is done in the tenements, which the law that regulates the factory labor does not reach. ... Ten hours is the legal work-day in the factories, and nine o'clock the closing hour at the latest. Forty-five minutes at least must be allowed for dinner, and children under sixteen must not be employed unless they can read and write English; none at all under fourteen. The very fact that such a law should stand on the statute book, shows how desperate the plight of these people. But the tenement has defeated its benevolent purpose. In it the child works unchallenged from the day he is old enough to pull a thread. There is no such thing as a dinner hour; men and women eat while they work, and the 'day' is lengthened at both ends far into the night. Factory hands take their work with them at the close of the lawful day to eke out their scanty earnings by working overtime at home."
-Jacob Riis, "The Sweaters of Jewtown" from How the Other Half Lives


"The economics of the garment industry, like the market forces that govern much American enterprise, work against decent wages at the bottom because competition is fierce, margins are razor thin, and many employers feel vulnerable. ... [Joe Zabounian] and his wife together took $5,000 or $6,000 a month out of their small, eighth-floor sewing loft called Adrienne, where about fifteen employees (down from twenty-two in better days) used old machines to stitch the hems and seams of evening gowns and other apparel more elegant than any of them could ever afford. ... That black strapless gown on the rack would ultimately sell for $200 or $300, Joe figured, and he charged just $20 to sew it together, which was about 15 to 20 percent more than it cost him to make."
-David K. Shipler, The Working Poor: Invisible in America

On a slightly different note, in a Summer '05 Bitch magazine article about the use of sex in American Apparel's ads, writer Erica Wetter notes, "A company that has sold many of its fans on social responsibility lets its ostensibly progressive politics stop short when it comes to objectifying women. Then again, Charney remarked in a 2004 Los Angeles Business Journal article that he's 'getting a little bored' with the emphasis on his company's labor practices anyway."

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Saturday, September 10, 2005


I agree with the Associated Press Stylebook, which notes that the term "Sept. 11" is preferred over "9/11." I find the term 9/11 too informal. For one, it sounds like 7-11, like it could be a competing convenience store (anyone remember 6-12?). Also, it's as if people say 9/11 because it's only four syllables, as opposed to six in the term Sept. 11.

Walking home from the train station tonight, I saw a beam of light stretch overhead, reminding me of the significance of the date. Apparently, the city is staging its "Tribute in Light" tomorrow night only, so I guess the light was just being tested. But I became a little sad upon noticing the light. I remember last year, looking out my kitchen window and seeing the twin towers of light prominently rising from Lower Manhattan. If the World Trade Center towers were still there, I'd have a perfect view of them from my apartment.

It also makes me a little sad to think that so many people seem to have forgotten that day. No one I know has mentioned going to the memorial at Ground Zero tomorrow morning, and I myself almost forgot that it is occurring. I know some people are more concerned with the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina right now; New York City is host to some of the evacuees. But I also think a number of people are just caught up in their normal lives, whether it's school, work, family, friends, or some other concern. Maybe like me, you sometimes forget about the fragility of life.

After doing some research, I found out that it's supposedly not a big deal if your birthday is incorrect or there are incorrect previous addresses on your credit report. It might signify that someone has stolen your identity, but most likely an agency submitted wrong information about you to the credit bureau. Guess the industry doesn't value "attention to detail" too highly.

Tuesday, September 06, 2005

The USPS Pulls Through

They can still get mail!

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Important Financial Information

Beginning last Thursday, New York residents could order once a year a free copy of their credit report from the three major credit bureaus (Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion). You can request a free report from all three companies at the same time or stagger your requests, getting a free report from one of the bureaus every four months.

So I requested a credit report from Experian. Man, am I glad I did. While every single one of my past addresses was listed on the report, a bogus address had managed to sneak in there. There were some invalid variations on my name. Most disturbing was that Experian got my birthdate of all things wrong. I knew there was a reason it's advised that you check your credit reports for errors.

On the topic of credit and personal finance, the Motley Fool reports that one of the most common types of identity theft involves the opening of a credit card account in someone else's name. In the spirit of that advice, I decided to opt out of pre-approved credit card offers, which can be stolen and used.

  • Request free credit reports at www.annualcreditreport.com.
  • Opt out of pre-approved credit card offers at www.optoutprescreen.com.
  • For more fun, get onto the National Do Not Call Registry at www.donotcall.gov.

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  • Sunday, September 04, 2005

    Politics in Media

    Another interesting discussion that I heard recently on public radio is called "Political Spectacles," on The Leonard Lopate Show. Guests Matt Taibbi and Alexandra Pelosi talk about the role of the media in the last presidential election. Taibbi is a journalist, and Pelosi directed Journeys with George.

    They mention the "pecking order" among journalists traveling with the presidential candidates. As one might expect, the New York Times reporters get preferential access.

    Another point is what the media focuses on, like the Dean Scream. Pelosi said the following:

    "I always got the impression that the press corps really wanted to get page one above the fold. Like if you're a reporter covering the campaign, you want to make the paper. So I always thought that the reporters did things, took moments and tried to turn them into something so that they could get in the paper."

    Referring to the bulge in the back of Bush's suit, Taibbi said the following:

    "This whole blogger phenomenon has had an impact on the way the news is covered. In the old days, in order to get a story on the front page, you had to make sure it was true. Nowadays, all you have to do is cite some blogger who's running with a story. You can say, well, this Web site claims that it's a transmitter, so let's write a story about that story. It's an end run around the usual journalistic ethics where you have to actually confirm something before it's true."

    Pelosi and Taibbi note that there are many journalists whom they respect. But Pelosi believes some journalists are "out of control" because they just want the byline, no matter how accurate or relevant their stories. In turn, these journalists are able to influence the way the public views the viability of each candidate.

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    Friday, September 02, 2005

    Ethical Issues Surrounding Disaster Photos

    I find a lot of the photos coming out of the disaster area disturbing. Like the photo on today's front page of the New York Times, showing a body floating face down. Or this photo on the Los Angeles Times Web site, which makes MSNBC.com's precaution with a certain photo (12 in this slide show) -- a photo that I've seen on other sites -- seem almost quaint.

    Photos like this (under Day Four, Evacuation, photo 2), in which another photographer is visible, make me wonder if people from the media are helping individuals in addition to reporting.

    Back to the photo on the New York Times' front page. It reminded me of photos the newspaper published of people falling from the top of the World Trade Center on 9/11. Or the picture of a dead Marine being dragged through the streets of Somalia. An ethics class that I took first semester took time to discuss the ethics of publishing provocative photos. Is it ethical if a person in distress or a corpse is identifiable in a photo? What if a person isn't identifiable? Should such a photo run on the front page or inside the paper?

    I don't remember if the photos of people falling from the World Trade Center ran on the front page of the New York Times, but I'm a little shocked that they went with the photo that they did today. I know a lot of people have drowned in the flood, but I think this picture shouldn't have been featured so prominently in the paper because the corpse is so visible. (The Los Angeles Times published a photo on its Web site in which a floating corpse, which one might be able to identify because of the woman's clothing, is even more visible. I feel guilty for not being able to look away from the picture.)

    I thought today's discussion of race and Hurricane Katrina on the Brian Lehrer Show was interesting. You can listen to a stream of it or download it. The segment is called "Like Being in Steerage in the Titanic?"

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    Race and Hurricane Katrina

    I've wondered why the images coming out of Hurricane Katrina seem to be dominated by black people -- stranded on the highway, lingering at the Superdome, being rescued from the water and rooftops. The images that I can recall of white, non-elderly people show them retrieving possessions from flooded homes, protecting their businesses, or safe with relatives away from the disaster area.

    I just heard a discussion with Leonard Pitts, Jr., who wrote the editorial "Katrina's Eye Was Colorblind" in today's issue of the Detroit Free Press.

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