Just For Yucks

This is the personal blog of a stange entity called Dave Bealer, who has been publishing his humorous observations online since 1992 - before Al Gore invented the Internet. Dave's writings have been known to cause anger, confusion, and even the occasional laugh. Read the following at your own risk...

Tuesday, December 27, 2005

Lured By The Dark Side

I've been selling funny designs on t-shirts using "Print on Demand" (PoD) technology since May 2001. During all that time the major limitation has been the fact that all the available technologies can only print on white or light cloth. Two major PoD vendors, CafePress and Zazzle, began offering dark t-shirts to customers in November 2005, just in time for the holiday sales season.

I had been selling my designs exclusively through CafePress since May 2004. In November 2005 I began experimenting by offering a few of my designs on Zazzle as well. This allowed me to obtain sample black shirts with my designs from both vendors. The following is my review of these shirts.

Cartoon Designs

I ordered my new Christmas cartoon design, "Four Calling Birds" on a black t-shirt from both vendors. What follows are the thumbnails provided by each vendor, accompanied by a close-up photo of the actual shirt with the design as received from the vendor.

CafePress Thumbnail:
CafePress Cartoon Thumbnail

CafePress Black Shirt:
CafePress Black Cartoon Shirt

The flash probably washed out the shirt image slightly, but you can tell that the shirt artwork looks barely like the original artwork as displayed on the CafePress thumbnail. The colors are much less bright than in the original artwork. This is to be expected up to a point, of course. There is a world of difference between displaying an image in light on a computer screen and spraying colored ink onto black cloth. But CafePress has always advertised WYSIWYG (What you see is what you get), and that clearly is not the case with black shirts, at least so far.

Zazzle Thumbnail:
Zazzle Cartoon Thumbnail

Zazzle Black Shirt:
Zazzle Black Cartoon Shirt

As you can see, the Zazzle shirt is even more washed out than the one from CafePress. The top blue bird is basically white, and there are small flecks of white throughout the part of the design that was "transparent", where the shirt color should have shown through. It should be noted that Zazzle offers other dark colored shirts, but I've only been testing on black shirts, since black is all that CafePress offers at the moment.

Clearly Zazzle is having even more problems printing cartoon designs on black t-shirts than CafePress. The CafePress shirt might be considered acceptable by some customers, but the Zazzle shirt would be returned by most customers.

Text Designs

I ordered a new text design, "Already Quite Disturbed" on a black t-shirt from both vendors. What follows are the thumbnails provided by each vendor, accompanied by a close-up photo of the actual shirt with the design as received from the vendor.

CafePress Thumbnail:
CafePress Text Thumbnail

CafePress Black Shirt:
CafePress Black Text Shirt

As you can see, the text shirt came out a lot closer to the artwork as displayed on the CafePress thumbnail. The colors are less bright than in the original artwork, but probably within what should be expected when printing on black cloth. It's not really WYSIWYG, but the main problem with the design is that I should have lightened up the blue text at the bottom for printing on dark cloth.

Zazzle Thumbnail:
Zazzle Text Thumbnail

Zazzle Black Shirt:
Zazzle Black Text Shirt

As you can see, the Zazzle shirt is once again less accurate when it comes to reproducing color. The colored print appears brighter than on the CafePress shirt, although as you can see that may be due in part to the fact that the Hanes shirt from Zazzle has darker cloth than the Fruit of the Loom shirt from CafePress.

One thing is certain, Zazzle seems to be having at lot more trouble producing blue colors accurately on their black shirts.


None of the these shirts are really ready for shipment to customers, at least not if the customers actually care about WYSIWYG. It should be noted that all these shirts were manufactured and shipped around December 1, 2005. Both companies are obviously learning the new process and hopefully improving the process every day. If you order a shirt from them today, it may well look a lot better than the samples shown here.

I will be returning my shirts for replacement this week. I'll let you know how the replacements turn out.

Clearly these are exciting times in the PoD t-Shirt industry. Dark t-shirts will be major sellers for a lot of designers. But more work needs to be done before these shirts are ready for paying customers.

Dave Bealer

T-Shirts of the Moment: (Links to the two shirts mentioned in this article.)

Four Calling Birds

Already Quite Disturbed

Saturday, December 24, 2005

White is the New Red & Green

For some reason white Christmas lights are all the rage these days. This is a far cry from my childhood days in the 60s when most Christmas lights were red and green, with some blue and yellow mixed in for variety. Christmas lights rarely flashed - it was a big deal when they did.

Last year everyone was dismayed (well, those who cared were), by the hoax perpetrated by Alek Komarnitsky of Colorado, who claimed that you could turn his home's Christmas lights on and off remotely via the web. Well, Alek is back this year, and this time he claims it's all for real. Either way, you can check out his website here.

Most people don't have 26,000 lights up for the holidays, like Alek Komarnitsky claims to have. But flashing lights and all kinds of gadgets are the order of the day. My neighborhood has an amazing number of all-white light displays this year.

It appears the white light craze began with the "icicle lights" that were very popular a few years ago. But back then the white icicle lights hanging from the roof edge were accompanied by colorful lights on the trees and shrubbery down in the yard.

The big thing this year seems to be those white "spiral trees" and motorized reindeer made of some white-coated wire material and lined with tiny white lights. There were one or two of these around the past year or two, but this year their population has simply exploded! Most people with these gadgets seem to have chosen small white lights for their trees and shrubs as well.

I wonder how much of it is southerners compensating for the usual lack of a white Christmas with white Christmas lights. Whatever the reason, I find it a bit boring.

By now I'm sure some readers are thinking something along the lines of "Alright, smart guy, what do you put up for Christmas decoration, if you're so smart!" Okay, if you want to be that way about it, I'll tell you.

I have no internal Christmas decorations, except for Christmas cards which are placed on top of the living room television when they are received, and knocked off by my cat, Rusty, within a day or two.

I have one Christmas decoration for external display - a rack of small multi-colored sequential flashing lights displayed in an upstairs window of my spare bedroom. These lights are not arrayed around the perimeter of the window - but left in the white plastic storage rack they came in from the factory. The rack is placed on top of an overturned facial tissue box and leaned up against the window with the lights facing outwards. The final effect, when seen from ground level, is kind of like a wreath of lights flashing in varying patterns. At least that's what I think it looks like - none of the neighbors have told me it looks ridiculous. But perhaps they're just being polite.

If I can find my digital camera and charger within the next week I may take a picture of it and post it here for your perusal.

Whatever your holiday display preferences, have a very Merry Christmas!

Dave Bealer

T-Shirt of the Moment:
3 French Hens

Friday, December 23, 2005

Smells Like Christmas Spirit

My father would have turned 90 years old tomorrow. He died of lung cancer in 1989, but I still miss him a lot. Dad never talked much, but when he did speak it was like E.F. Hutton - everybody listened, because what he said was always worth hearing.

Dad was a kind and gentle man, but he was never the wisecracking type. Neither was my Mom, so I always wondered how I got the way I am. It was only later in his life that Dad admitted to being sent to the principal's office in high school for playing a practical joke on somebody. So I guess the acorn really doesn't fall too far from the tree.

I always thought Dad got ripped off, having his birthday on Christmas Eve. People tended to give him one gift for both occasions. He claimed not to be upset by it, and he was probably telling the truth - as an adult. But it had to be tough as a kid. Of course back in those days they barely had enough money for food, so presents weren't the big deal they are today.

My parents both died in 1989, and I often wonder what they would have said about all the stuff they missed, like the Berlin Wall falling, the Clintons, terrorism, 9/11, and all the other nonsense we've been dealing with for the past 16 years. I thought about them again tonight as I was picking up some groceries. The clerk wished me "Merry Christmas" as she handed me my change, and I responded in kind. Then as I rolled my cart away, the clerk said to the clerk in the next lane "I said 'Merry Christmas' again - somebody will get mad at me if I keep that up."

My parents would have thought this completely insane. What kind of world are we living in when somebody can get mad at you for wishing them "Merry Christmas"? Okay, if you walked into a synogogue and did it, that might get you asked to leave. But barring such stupidity, what's wrong with saying "Merry Christmas"? Shouldn't freedom of religion extend to Christians, too? They are the majority religion in the United States, which was founded by Christians.

Before anybody asks, I've never been a member of any organized religious group. My parents were raised Lutheran, but by the time I came along Dad had become sick of church politics and stopped attending. I was never baptised or confirmed. Mom read bible stories to me when I was little, but they never really took, except as philosophy. If forced to state my "outlook", I say that I'm a Buddhist Libertarian. I'm not a member of any Buddhist temple or the Libertarian Party, but those are the groups with whom I most agree, at least from the standpoint of philosophy.

That said, Christian philosophy has something to teach the world, too. The same can be said for every religion I've read about. The problem seems to be people who take their religion too seriously. That seems to be especially true of Athiests today. Yes, athiesm is a religion - the central tenet of which is the nonexistence of god. And today's athiests are just as devout in their beliefs as the members of any other religion.

But the real problem with religion, as I see it, is the lack of a sense of humor in devoutly religious people. The open minded will find a humorous side to nearly everything that happens. The devoutly close-minded will take offense to anything or anyone who doesn't believe exactly what they believe.

Is there any real difference between these three people?
1) The devout Muslim who believes that infidels are offensive.
2) The devout Christian who believes that abortion doctors are offensive.
3) The devout Athiest who believes that public displays of the Ten Commandments are offensive.

None of these three is likely to have any sense of humor about anything involving their religion. It's always "their way or the highway". You can't talk to these people. Eventually you just stop trying. But ignoring their blather makes them more angry and less likely to see other points of view.

It's been my experience that you can't convince somebody to see things your way unless and until you're willing to try and see things their way first. You don't have to agree with the other person, but it helps to be able to see where they're coming from. It also helps to have a sense of humor, particularly when dealing with people who don't.

This time of year is important to everyone. Call it what you will - the Solstice, Christmas, Hannukah, Kwanzaa, or whatever. It's a time to reflect on the past year, look forward to the year to come, and mostly to enjoy the moment, as well as our friends and family.

So Happy Birthday, Dad! And Merry Christmas to everyone. Enjoy the spirit of the season as you will.

Dave Bealer

T-Shirt of the Moment:
Four Calling Birds