100 years since the Triangle tragedy

A hundred years ago today 146 people scrambled toward the exits attempting to flee the inferno that had enveloped the Triangle Shirtwaist factory.

The exits were locked. The women were trapped in the factory and they were trapped in a world that didn’t value them beyond their piece count.

The only way “out” was the windows. Women hand-in-hand jumped to their death.

I’ve read about the tragedy in countless books, but none of them paint the tragedy with more humanity than Robert Pinsky in his poem “Shirt.” I appreciate poetry more when it’s read aloud, so give this a listen. The poem begins at 2:49, but his comments before will be of interest to any engaged consumer.


Here’s a short passage to show…

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Lessons from a flooded living room

I’ve been in deep water before.

I’ve filled my lungs to the point of embolism and swam to 100’ feet beneath the ocean’s surface. I grabbed sand to prove I made it to the bottom and swam for the surface. Swimming to 100’ is the easy part. Swimming back is the hard and essential part. My legs grew heavy with lack of oxygen. My hand oozing with sand broke the surface first.

That felt like deep water.

I turned the water on and plugged the drain. I left to get diapers, diaper rash crème, pajamas, and my daughter Harper. By the time I returned the bath was half full. If she rolled over on her…

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A song I didn't "get" until I was a parent

A confession: I have a Rod Stewart channel on Pandora. Harper and I listen to it every night when I giver her a bath.

The first song that came on tonight was Rod Stewart’s “Forever Young.”

And when you finally fly away
I’ll be hoping that I served you well
For all the wisdom of a lifetime
No one can ever tell

But whatever road you choose
I’m right behind you, win or lose
Forever Young, Forever Young

I’ve known the song for years, but I really never felt the lyrics until I became a parent.

Another confession: I saw Rod Stewart in concert…with my mom!

So there I sat at the side of the tub staring all sappy-eyed at Harper, and she gave me her cheese smile. A knot grew in my chest as I thought about…

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Message in a Bottle Reading Series

Once upon a time authors shared their work at independent book stores filled with folks who loved books. The big boxes killed the radio star…I mean the independent book stores. Writers were forced to arrange readings at the big box stores who begrudgingly stuck the writer in the corner and did nothing to promote the event.

Here’s my reenactment of the big box experience vs. a book club visit…


Today, the big boxes are dying too.

What now?

The writing community needs to pull together to shine the light on local writers. The Midwest Writers (who have a new website, and are accepting registrations for their awesome summer conference) are hosting a new reading series in Muncie: The Message in a Bottle Reading Series.

If you are in…

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Do what you do and make the world better doing it

(Justin in Kenya with photographer Brian MacDonald)

I get compliments all the time on my blog. I wish they were all on the writing, but more times than not they are on design. This quickly leads to a discussion on how awesome the design firm that worked their magic here is.

If I had an ounce of artistic ability, if I could write instead of scrawl my name, if I could draw anything, I would beg for a job at Rule29. That’s about the highest compliment that I can dish out because, you know, I don’t want a real job. Every chance I’ve had to work with them has been loads…

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American clothing companies shouldn't even try

I’ve been asking people where they are wearing for about two years straight now. But George Stephanopoulos asks it and folks start stripping in Grand Central Station. It must be his impish TV-ready good looks.

Anyhow, people don’t know where they are wearing. I had the pleasure of talking with a few fashion/design classes recently and they didn’t even know. If they don’t know, no one does. Except me. Right now I’m watching the Colbert Report about to hop into bed and my underwear were made in Nicaragua. How about you?

When it comes to clothing American consumers should try.

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How to be an engaged consumer

I’m speaking at the Progressive Jewish Alliance tonight in LA. I’ll be sharing some thoughts on how to be an engaged consumer, so I though I’d share them here too.

What we buy impacts our world for better and worse. Things like sweatshops and child labor are symptoms of the immense poverty that exists in our world. I believe the apparel industry should play an important role in lifting families out of poverty, but it has a long way to go.

Here are a few tips and tricks on how to be an engaged consumer.

How to think

  1. Check the tags of your clothing everyday before you put them on. Take a moment and think about the hard work, sacrifice, and skill that went into making…
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LA here I come

PZ20091201-005 I have a confession. I’ve never been to Los Angeles.  I know that might be hard to believe, what with all my Hollywood good looks and all, but it’s true.  (Of course I did spend 12+ hrs of my life at the airport that I’ll never get back, but that doesn’t really count.)

That’s about to change.

This week I’ll be in the LA-area speaking to three different groups, two of which are open to the public.  If you are in the area, stop in and say “Hi” or heckle me.  The question I’m really loving being heckled with right now is, “What ’bout ‘merica? We had jobs. We made stuff.  Now look at us.  We need…

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STLCC-Meramec Goes Glocal!

Today and Friday I’m speaking to the students at St. Louis Community College – Meramec.  If you happen to be one of the students who heard me speak today, this post is for you.

I want this post to be a place where you can share experiences and thoughts about what it means to be a glocal living in St. Louis.

What opportunities and organizations are their in your area that need volunteers?

What opportunities are there for the Meramec community to reach out to the world (study abroad programs, cultural exchanges)?

Here are a few of the resources I mentioned during my presentation today:

Glocal Travel Guide/Glocal Volunteering Guide / Glocal Consumer Guide

Join  The Go Glocal Project

Ways to Join:

  1. Sign up forRead More >