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July 24, 2005 - CaféPress to the columnist's rescue? Becoming a millionaire the existentialist way?

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World's Laziest Journalist

July 24, 2005

By Bob Patterson


The blogs and talk shows lately remind me of the old Monty Python routine with the debate about whether contradicting is or is not a valid example of effective argumentation.  The relevance of the Weapons of Mass Destruction just won't go away despite the voters' mandate for Bush to soldier on.  People on both sides of the issue seem to have firmly held convictions and might be willing to buy a t-shirt to promulgate their point of view.


On Wednesday May 4, 2005, the Wall Street Journal ran a page one feature story, written by Pui-Wing Tam, about selling t-shirts on the Internet - and since this columnist has been threatening to become a millionaire by doing just that, I saved the article and e-mailed some friends that I was going to go into the t-shirt business.


The plan will be to start out selling a time-value item and then build up a stock of perennials.  The master plan calls for starting with t-shirts both advocating and opposing a Constitutional Amendment that advocates for and against a change in term limits for the president - so that Bush can run for a third term.  If he could do that, then it seems natural the Democratic candidate will be Bill Clinton. 


An e-pal in Australia, replied that if I didn't hurry up already, Bush would be serving his third term before I could sell my first t-shirt.


He had a point and so I contacted CaféPress because they offer a quick easy way for people to start an online store offering advocacy t-shirts to the world.


Contacting CaféPress (they are located up in the San Francisco Bay area) to see if they would be attending Comic Con in San Diego seemed like a good way to start, after reconnoitering their website.  The CaféPress folks were mentioned in the Wall Street Journal article and I had heard the Instapundit recommend them some time ago when he spoke at a seminar at UCLA.  CaféPress has been around for several years and are expanding by opening a second plant, so one can assume that they intend to be around for some time.


We had hoped to confer with them at the 2005 Comic Con in San Diego and get some of our initial problems solved.  We had talked with them at the 2003 Comic Con, so we thought we'd be able to see them at the San Diego event.  They replied that they wouldn't be at Comic Con in 2005, because they were working on the opening of their new second plant.


Their web site suggests that would be t-shirt entrepreneurs (that me!) should submit their artwork in the form of PNG files.  Since this columnist is about as good with computers as dead man competing in a tap dancing contest, I figured I'd need to talk with them about the basics such as what is a PNG file. 


[Here's what they say on their website: "PNG - Portable Network Graphics format is a completely loss-less compression. Gradients come out much smoother and do not have the distortions that may appear in a JPG.  PNG is CaféPress.com's recommendation for image uploads."]


Since they weren't going to be available for face-time in San Diego, I figured it was like the bit in the old John Wayne film Hondo, where he teaches the kid how to swim by picking him up tossing him in the middle of the pond and shouting: "If you cup your hands and go like this, you won't drown."  Wayne did a demonstration of the old windmill stroke.


I started inspecting the various programs on my computer and got a good clue about going into an Adobe mode and saving the results as a PGN file.  OK!  Maybe I'll be able to not drown, just like the kid in the movie.


Suddenly there was an increased interest in online sites devoted to typography.  Since, this columnist has had some experience in a litho camera room, doing type sizing in Microsoft Word isn't quite as difficult as expected. 


Thinking up two diametrically opposed designs – one for a third term for Bush and one against such a move – is not just aspiring to "fair and balanced" t-shirts, it's also good business.  Why just sell to one group when you can sell to two.  When you see which way the wind blows, you can adjust from there.


Gotta plan ahead.  Someday the 2008 election will be history and it might be best to include some perennial humor slogans to provide some sales during the transition in 2009 to prospects for the 2012 election, so we began to think up some slogans for things that will never change such as existentialism t-shirts for college kids.


Maybe t-shirts that just use the punch line to some classic jokes would work?  How popular would "… and feed 'em cheese" be?  Or  "What do you mean 'we' white man"?


Checking at CaféPress we found some new offerings include one that offers t-shirts for fans of Irish drinking songs about cats.   (We're not making these facts up!)


According to a news report on the radio recently 60% of the suicide bombers in Iraq come from Saudi Arabia.  Osama is still on the loose.  Recently the former adversaries Iraq and Iran have made some moves toward a closer relationship.  Some reports have said that Iran will help train the Iraqi Army, so if brotherhood via democracy is going to flourish like that, the market for t-shirts about the war in Iraq aren't going to go away before the 2008 election.  The pro-Bush faction will see that as progress, the Democrats will continue in the "just don't get it" mode.  The pro-Bush forces will be very anxious to "stay the course" and not "change horses in the middle of the stream.  Others will want to maintain term limits.  (What about a t-shirt showing Dubya and the words "Let someone else fix the mess in 2009"?)


We've read somewhere on the Internet that Bush has been influenced by a book that maintains wars are too important to be run by generals.  Boiling all that information down to a few words that fit on a t-shirt will be a mighty challenge.  Don't folks who listen to Rush Limbaugh believe that fortunes are made by men who exemplify the rugged individualism philosophy?  Heck, once we get things underway, won't it be a natural for Rush to plug my efforts and online t-shirt store as proof that their point of view and philosophy is effective (and contagious?)


Some naysayers will object that the War in Iraq might be a moot point by the summer of 2008.  (The Brits would say:  "Not bloody well likely.")  If Bush quells the murmurs about troop levels being insufficient, catches Osama, maintains control over the Vichy government in Baghdad, repeals the New Deal, loads the Supreme Court with his posse, and produces his military records, then it might indeed be a non-issue, but given that there is no statute of limitations covering starting a war just to punish an old family enemy, he still might want to remain in office in 2009, because, if he did, only impeachment proceedings could ruffle his feathers.  Does America want to see a former president suffering from the "Pinochet Syndrome"?  Or should he get a third term?


How about a t-shirt that reads: "The Death of Democracy won't leave a paper trail."  What about: "Elect a president from Texas; lose a war! An American Tradition since 1964!"  Or: "Where is Hunter Thompson when we really need him?"  Thompson was referring to some well-placed politicians as "swine" way before the rich kid got a second term.


Obviously some marketing research should be conducted, but the mission object is for this columnist to have product available through CaféPress by the Labor Day weekend.  The Wall Street Journal article mentioned one website that does for t-shirts what Billboard Magazine does for songs.


Heck, now with the Internet, the regular reader in Australia can buy a t-shirt, so maybe we should have some Oz items, such as "Is there an underground music scene in Coober Pedy?"  Later, after building up a big Australian clientele, we could include the more esoteric items such as a shirt with a reference to the home of the funnel spider.


Some "doom and gloom-ers" might point out that if things start to seem to be going against a third term for Bush, there's no use trying to sell t-shirts about that particular issue.   Well I say: "Nuts!" (which isn't exactly what the general at Bastogne said [two words and they weren't "Merry Christmas!"] to the surrounding army) because Bush fans remember what the German guy who wrote the book about how to sway the public (Fact finders:  It's called "Mein Kampf") said: "As soon as our own propaganda admits so much as a glimmer of right on the other side; the foundation for doubt in our own right has been laid."  (Page 183)


With that in mind, the true Bush fan will never ever concede the smallest point to the opposition.  (Hence they will be potential customers for pro Bush t-shirts as long as hostilities in Iraq continue.)  Since most people believe that "all people lie," they believe that no lie is too big to tell because (quoting that German guy again):  "In this they proceeded on the sound principle that the magnitude of a lie always contains a certain factor of credibility, since the great masses of the people in the very bottom of their hearts tend to be corrupted rather than consciously and purposely evil, and that, therefore, in view of the primitive simplicity of their minds, they more easily fall victim to a big lie than to a little one, since they themselves lie in little things, but would be ashamed of lies that were too big."  ("Mein Kampf" Page 231)


"The dog ate my homework but I did not shoot the deputy down." - as Bob Marley might have put it.  (Yeah, yeah, yeah. We know Eric Clapton wrote that song.)


Aren't t-shirts marketed to nudist an example of the concept of an oxymoron?  If they are wearing a t-shirt they aren't nude.  If they are nudists they won't want to wear a t-shirt, will they?


There was a vast amount of information that didn't fit into this week's column, such as books about t-shirting and the Rin Tanaka book about the history of printed t-shirts in particular, so we will revisit this topic in the near future.  Then, when we really get the entrepreneurial spirit, we'll collect all the pertinent columns for a book (which can be published via [you guessed it!] CaféPress!)


According to the aforementioned Wall Street Journal article, one of the t-shirts that continues to sell well, proclaims: "Can't sleep, clowns will eat me …"


Our disk jockey was stumped trying to find a song that pertains to this week's column, so we signaled the bullpen and our musical adviser from Rochester, New York, came to the rescue.  He advised:  "One of my favorite fun little pop songs is 't-shirt Weather' by The  Lucksmiths (an Australian band). Great little song."  You can sing along  You can also just listen to it with real audio.


Our next column is scheduled to be a roundup of our favorite compulsions.  It will be the columnist's equivalent of a "best of" album.  Until then, have a week where you ask yourself: "Does Western Union still deliver epigrams?"



Copyright © 2005 – Robert Patterson

Email the author at worldslaziestjournalist@yahoo.com



Some of Bob's current collection -

Patterson t-shirt

Patterson t-shirt

Patterson t-shirt


Copyright © 2003, 2004, 2005, 2006 - Alan M. Pavlik
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