Thursday, August 23, 2012

My Ethnic Heritage

I've never been obsessively interested in geneology, but I have done enough online research to learn a little bit about my family history. The name Pettigrew means "small growth" in French, which sounds a lot like a wart to me. Not exactly complimentary, but it beats being called Pettipoo and Pettipants (two of my unwanted nicknames when I was in grade school).

You might think that I was French, but not so. It seems that my family line goes back to the days of William the Conqueror, according to one family member who researched the matter. Now, Willie was from France, but he became a resident of the U.K. (not yet united in any way) by leading the Norman Conquest.

A lot of French folks also moved to England during the aftermath of the Catholic persecution of the French Huguenots in France. One of the infamous incidents related to that persecution was known as the St. Bartholomew's Day Massacre. That incident happened in 1572, so it clearly followed the Norman Conquest by about 500 years or more.

It should hardly be a surprise that the Pettigrew clan has leaned towards Protestantism ever since, or that my research has shown that the Pettigrew family members who moved to Ireland to moved to the northern part of that country. One ancestral place in Ireland was known as Crilly House. There were also Pettigrews in Scotland, especially around Lanarkshire. From Scotland and Ireland, Pettigrews seem to have migrated to the United States, Australia and other English-speaking countries.

I've never actually visited those countries, and at this late stage in my life, it seems unlikely that I ever will. But it's interesting stuff to learn, nevertheless.

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Decoupage Magic

"Decoupage is artistic sleight of hand. What appears to be a painted design is actually paper, glued in place. What looks like lacquer is just a few coats of clear varnish, and what begins as an unremarkable piece of furniture becomes a bold, modern design statement. We've gathered our best ideas for you to use in your home or to make as original, custom gifts for friends." So says Martha Stewart's web site (

Regardless of what one may or may not think about Martha in terms of the financial shenanigans that sent her to prison for a while, it's hard not to admire her for helping to explain crafts techniques in easily understood ways. I used to enjoy watching her on TV for that very reason.

My mother was the person who first introduced me to decoupage, back in the 60s when I was a kid. She took some wood plaques (which she made from lumber from the local lumber yard) and laboriously sanded them and prepared them to receive the glued-on artistic images, which she had clipped from magazines and similar sources. There was no medium designed specifically for decoupage, as I recall, but she still managed to create some very nice plaques with which she decorated our home.

These days, it's possible to buy prepared plaques and panels (wood, MDF, metal, bamboo, etc.). No need to laboriously sand and prepare lumber from the local lumber yard. (One support that particularly attracts me is known as Duho. But there are numerous other competing options.) As for the decoupage medium, art supply stores and crafts shops sell Mod Podge and Aleene's specifically for the purpose of making decoupage.

Decoupage can be used to decorate all kinds of products, including furniture, papier mache boxes, bound Moleskine journals and much more. My primary interest, however, is in using the technique to add digitally printed images (made at a local store which offers laser photocopies or digital laser prints) to the aforementioned plaques and panels.

There are also digital flatbed printers such as the marvelous Durst Rho, capable of printing directly on plaques and panels with no need to mount or transfer images to those supports, but the cost of such units can be much higher than most mere mortals can afford, so if you go that route, you will need to find a company which can print your files. For many situations, decoupage can be a much more accessible option.

For the purpose of making salable products which need no framing or matting, decoupage can sometimes be a great option. The fact that they need not be framed is useful because one does not have to worry about glass or plexiglass "glazing" materials breaking during shipment. I hope to make such pieces to be sold via the nearest eBay consignment shop, to bring in a little bit of extra money.

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Options for Decorating T-Shirts and Garments

The following is a partial summary of various options for decorating T-shirts, hoodies, etc. with custom images such as art, photos and graphics (including my latest obsession, QR codes which can enable you to more easily send smart phone owners to your web sites, Amazon aStore sites, blogs, etc.).


Well, OK, this is not really an option for precision reproduction (e.g., the QR codes), but arts and crafts still enjoy decorating their garments with markers and paints designed for use on fabrics.

The old tie-dye method offered interesting options, especially when combined with screen printing. Ditto for batik.

BLOCK PRINTING (Linoleum, Wood, Rubber or Photopolymer Stamps, etc.)

If you've ever made relief prints using linoleum, you should know that block printing has long been an effective way of decorating fabric and fabric items. Difficult if you require multiple colors, but great for line art in single colors.


This would be another option if you want the option of repeatability. Nice as long as you do not mind the look of stencils, which require connecting "bridges" between the islands (although you can circumvent this if you cut multiple stencils based on similar images with different locations for the bridges).  Hand cut stencils have always been an option, but they can be a pain, especially in the era of computer graphics. If you can find a company which can use a laser cutter/engraving machine to do a one-off stencil for you, it's worth it.

Google search to find a company which will make such a stencil for you. Even Etsy has a listing for a company which will do so; click this link for information.


Screen printing used to be called "silk screen printing", but the word silk is usually omitted these days because the screens tend to be made of synthetic materials. Needless to say, the main advantage is elimination of the issue with regard to islands and bridges, in terms of a comparison with standard stencils.

Hunt Manufacturing (Speedball) still makes traditional screens, frames, inks and other materials for people who want to try their hand at screen printing. But there are now some modern options in terms of making things easier. Print Gocco (Japanese) was probably the first kit of this kind, but it was eventually driven out of business by digital printing options. Since then, there are several relatively new options: YuDu, the Tulip ScreenIt, and the Plaid Simply Screen kit. (The Plaid is a bit primitive compared with the YuDu and the ScreenIt, but if you take care, you should still be able to use it to get reasonably decent results on a limited quantity basis. The Simply Screen Kit seems to be the most affordable option by far.

By the way, if you want to screen print full color images, you can, provided that you find a company which can make color separations from your image. Resolution is limited by the "mesh count", but it can still look pretty cool, if it's done by a pro. I've seen some beautifully screen printed shirts featuring wildlife (at Bass Pro Shop), motorcycles (most noticeably, Harley Davidson) and other subjects.

By the way, the fine art term used for screen printing is "serigraphy".


One has long been able to buy sheets of transfer materials designed to work with toner-based prints or inkjet prints. (Make sure you have the right kind of sheets.)
Avery sells transfer sheets of this kind in office supply stores. Some even work on dark fabrics (which is cool, because sweat stains tend to be less noticeable under the arm pits on black shirts).

You can transfer such prints with a standard iron, but I highly recommend a professional heat press if you plan to make more than a few shirts this way. Here's a link to a YouTube video showing the use of such a heat press. will take you to one company which sells heat press machines of this kind.

Here in Bellingham, there's a little shop known as Graffiti Shirts, where they will transfer images to your shirts using a heat press of that type.

Serigraphy was once the preferred method of reproducing art, but it tends to be more complex that giclee printing with a wide format printer from a company like Epson, Canon or Hewlett Packard. And then there are the wide format digital printers (such as the Durst Rho) which can print almost anything on any rigid substrate (such as wood, glass, Gatorboard, Duho art panel, etc.), even if it requires the use of opaque white inks so that the image will have maximum color fidelity.

But I was discussing shirts and garments. The best digital printer for this type of printing is the Direct To Garment printer. This seems to be the kind of printer used by companies such as and, for printing digital images on T-shirts. If you are made of money, buy your own DTG printer; otherwise, do the smart thing and have the printing done by a company which does it on a regular basis.


So there you have it: A basic summary of the primary methods of creating images an
d graphics on T-shirts and garments. Of course, I haven't discussed options like embroider from digital files, etc., but those are not the most predominant methods in use today.

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Wanted: Christian Life Coaches

In 2003, when I still lived in Chicago, I saw a TV reality show (when such shows were quite popular on the networks because the production costs were relatively low) called "Starting Over". (See

What impressed me about the series was that the role played by the life coaches on the series seemed to be somewhat different from the role played by a typical counsellor, psychiatrist, or mentor.

Essentially, the life coach's role seemed to be to help women to achieve their dreams. (The concept would be just as applicable to the needs of men.)

Of course, encouragement is part of what coaches do, as is honest feedback, but it seems to me that the life coaches on the show went beyond mere talk. I particularly remember one woman who desired to make it in the music business. The life coach assigned to help that woman did not just sit and talk about the woman's career goals. She actually used personal resources to make career connections which would help that woman. They did something similar with another woman who dreamed of becoming a stand-up comedian.

Of course, it may well be that that kind of help was unusual in terms of what a life coach does. It may also be that the fact that the woman had access to the resources of a major television series made it easier for her to perform that function than it would be for the average life coach. Even so, I found myself thinking that I could really use help of that nature, because I'd long held some rather ambitious personal goals, but I'd felt stymied by my limited resources.

It seems to me that a properly functioning Christian church is in a good position, especially if it's networked with numerous other churches, to perform a similar function.

I have heard some pastors talk from the pulpit or their websites about how "equipping the saints" is an important function of theirs, but my observation is that this is often meaningless rhetoric, especially when it comes to eradicating impediments which prevent believers from being all that they can be. I believe that more creativity needs to be used when seeking ways that church leaders can play this very important role in the lives of their fellow believers. Maybe that seems like it's too much to expect or hope for, but that is my fervent desire nevertheless.

By the way, the title of the aforementioned TV series seemed to capture what many people desire, and what they hope to be able to do after they come to Jesus Christ, thanks to the fact that God is the god of second chances.

Tuesday, August 07, 2012

They Elected The Wrong Black Man for President

I have long considered myself to be a political conservative, even though some of my positions (specifically, my conscientious objection to war and the military "service" which makes wars possible) would cause some people to question that label when applied to me.

I couldn't care less about the issues which get the "tea party" folks into a lather. I don't know where Barack Obama was born, and frankly, I think that it's a trivial issue used to distract people from the things that really matter. Don't get me wrong, I do believe that presidents need to uphold the law, and if the Constitution specifies that presidents should be native born, then people need to either follow that law or do what is necessary to legitimately amend the Constitution so that it enables qualified candidates to run for the highest office in the land, regardless of where they happened to be living when they first came into this world. A person's place of birth has nothing to do with his or her personal character, in my opinion.

What is a matter of personal character, however, is the ability or lack thereof to understand and defend basic principles of justice. Jefferson Davis, the president of the Confederacy during the Civil War, apparently could not grasp the idea that he was fighting on the side of the Prince of Darkness, not on the side of the angels. Abraham Lincoln was not perfect, but he was indisputably fighting for justice.

But that is not the issue of our day. The matter has long been settled, with regard to ending slavery, not just in the sense that the issue has been settled legally, but in the sense that it has become part of the values which make America one of the greatest nations on earth, regardless of the current state of the American economy.

The issue which has most shaped my political alliances is the one which divided Ronald Reagan from his political adversaries: the issue of abortion. Reagan spoke what he believed to be the truth about that issue, and I strongly agree with his position on that subject. It is utterly hypocritical to claim that all people are created equal and then to attempt to rationalize the purposeful destruction of the most innocent people one can possibly imagine on the basis of lame arguments relying upon euphemisms like "choice," as if the nature of the choice being made is utterly irrelevant. No one has a right to choose to destroy an innocent human being, any more than he or she has a right to choose to own and abuse slaves or to commit genocide.

Reagan may very well have been the last successful Republican politician to pose a serious threat to the Democratic liberal/progressive juggernaut. Neither George Bush Senior or his son had any demonstrable passion or commitment to the pro-life cause. They were the best we pro-lifers had, at the time of their elections, but my enthusiasm for them was tepid at best.

There was a Republican candidate I'd have greatly preferred to both Bushmen, even more than Mike Huckabee: Alan Keyes. Keyes was articulate (not in the sense that causes some black folks to think of that term as a term of condescension, but in the sense that any great leader needs to be able to articulately explain and defend what he believes in). Whether or not he's a viable political candidate, the fact is that he would make a great president. At the Renew America web site, he continues to fight the good fight in the war against ideological stupidity. See his latest article at

Fanny Packs Uncool? Who Cares!

Until very recently, I had gotten in the habit of wearing a very nice Jansport fanny pack everywhere I went. Eventually, that product wore out, and I still haven't replaced it, but despite derogatory comments I heard while staying at the homeless shelter (in relation to my disagreement with other people's pronouncements about what ostensibly was and was not cool), I plan to get another such unit as soon as I am able to do so.  One might say I'm an unrepentant fanny packer.

The guy who informed me that fanny packs were uncool explained that fanny packs changed one's profile and created an unsightly bulge which women found to be unattractive. He didn't seem to have an issue with guys who wore book bags, however, which I found to be a bit strange, inasmuch as a typical book bag bulges a lot more than a typical fanny pack. What's the standard? Little bulge bad, big bulge good? I confess, I don't see the "logic" there.

By the way, I've always worn my fanny packs off to one side, not so that the things bulge out straight from the back or the front. I agree, that looks bad. It looks like one is one of those women who need to exercise in order to get rid of their big butts. But it is possible to wear a fanny pack so that it looks fairly decent.

Anyway, I didn't wear fanny packs for reasons having anything to do with fashion. It was all about function. Basically, I have long been in the habit of being well prepared wherever I go, so that I always have multiple pens (in case one runs out of ink, which they annoyingly tend to do at the worst possible moments) and 3x5 index cards on which I can record any interesting or useful information. (Those little plastic boxes with snaps on them are great for that purpose, and one can stick two or three of those boxes in a sufficiently large fanny pack.)

Sure, I love using my laptop computer for that purpose, but hauling it out just to make a brief note can sometimes be a pain in the behind.

I find it amusing that people who are utterly lacking in taboos regarding morals manage to find other taboos with which to replace the ones pertaining to matters which, unlike fashion, actually matter.

By the way, if one really wants to look gay, then one should eschew back pockets (which are often missing from women's slacks) and wallets carried in those pockets. And if one wants to issue an open invitation to all the local pickpockets, one couldn't do so more effectively than to wear one's wallets in the traditional location in the back pocket.A fanny pack makes things a lot harder for pickpockets, even in a crime-ridden inner city while traveling on crowded buses and trains. Also, if you're in a dark movie theater, it's a lot less likely that your wallet will slip out of your back pocket and get lost in the theater on the floor if you put it in a fanny pack.

If I had my way, I'd be bulging all over. Not only a fanny pack, but also extra (preferably zippered) pockets on cargo pants. Pens, cell phones, eReaders, wallets, combs, index cards, GPS units and more cry out for places to put them.

If a woman is so stupid that she would reject me as a potential mate just because I wear fanny packs, then who needs her? At this point in my life, I am very unlikely to make a romantic connection with a woman, with or without a fanny pack, so it really doesn't make much difference in my opinion. I'd rather be known for my talents and good ideas and visionary projects than for my great choices regarding fashion.

Saturday, August 04, 2012

Some Thoughts About Honor And Fatherhood

Shortly after I had become a Christian, I found myself spending a great deal of time with people who identified themselves as "Jesus freaks" or "Jesus people". Some of those people were older than I, sometimes by as much as ten years or more. There were exceptions, of course, but in general, I found people in my own age group to be pretty boring and uninspiring people. The older Christians with whom I had begun to spend time made me feel loved and valued.

In theory, my father ought to have approved of the way I was spending my time. I could have easily spent my evenings doing drugs with kids from the high school I attended, since such things were hardly unknown. My father had spent at least 6 years of my early childhood behind the pulpit of two United Methodist country churches, and I suspect that the years I'd spent admiring him from the front pews of those churches had played a major role in making me sensitive to the voice of the Holy Spirit.

But by the early seventies, those things had become inaccurate indications of where my dad's mind was at. My father had begun to chafe at the bit, and he was showing signs that he resented playing a role which he seemed to regard as the role of a "goody two shoes". (I know this for a fact, thanks to a little drive he took me on one night in the subdivision where we lived at the time. Even though he was a member of the clergy, he made it clear to me that he was questioning the basic tenets of the Christian faith.) In hindsight, his ministry as a Methodist "lay minister" seems to have been motivated by self-centered reasons, not by any passion for people or for Jesus Christ. So when he saw evidence of my growing faith in Christ, he seems to have felt threatened, to the point that he clamped down on me and set restrictions which hindered my ability to fellowship with the very people who helped to nourish me spiritually. In particular, I remember that he told me one night that he no longer would allow me to attend a local prayer meeting at a place in downtown Springfield, MO named The Jesus Place.

I tried to be an obedient son for the most part, but it seemed to me that he crossed the line when he demanded that I relinquish the very relationships which had caused me for the first time in my life to be genuinely excited to be a Christian.

So when he forbade me from going to the Jesus Place, I disobeyed him and went anyway.

Years later, I spoke with a Christian "friend" in Springfield, MO, named Rick Armstrong. Rick had his good points, but I thought he was absolutely wrong when he chastised me for what he saw as my disobedience, after I had told him about that earlier incident. In Rick's view, parents reigned as absolute authorities, and believers ought not to ever disobey their parents for any reason. I repeat: FOR ANY REASON. (Ironically, Rick, the paragon of virtue who ostensibly would never disobey his parents, had at one point in his life been a dealer of crack cocaine. I'd never even smoked a joint.)

The implications of that extreme view were recently brought to my awareness once again after I borrowed a friend's DVD for the Viggo Mortensen movie entitled "Eastern Promises". The movie begins with a scene in which we see a guy sitting in a barber's chair at a place owned by a Russian guy named Azim. Azim and his customer are having what appears to be the sort of conversation which takes place at barber shops all over the world. The barber's son walks in the door, and the conversation turns to the subject of disobedient children. Azim tells the customer that his son is a disobedient young man, and cannot or will not even do a simple thing for him. The customer defends the young man, in essence saying that Azim should give the young man a break. Then Azim's speach becomes more harsh as he rebukes his son for his disobedience. He hands a straight-edge razor to his son, and commands the son to do what he was told to do. Too late, the customer experiences comprehension (and probably terror). The deed Azim wants his son to do is to take the razor and murder the customer, which the son does by slicing the customer's throat as blood spurts out, and as his father holds the customer down. (Shades of Sweeney Todd.)

It ought to go without saying that one's moral responsibilities to one's parents does not include the duty to commit murder. Such situations are not common, but they do happen, as many children of mafioso have attested over the years. The existence and perpetuation of crime syndicates has long relied upon a misguided and perverted sense of family loyalty. The mob often uses words like "honor", but it's clear from that organization's manner of operating that mobsters wouldn't recognize real honor if it bit them on their behinds.

Thank God, my father's immorality did not go that far. The worse thing my father ever asked me to do was to refrain from criticizing him when I came to realize that he had been committing adultery and betraying his marital vows. But I think that the fundamental point ought to be clear: No believer in Christ has the absolute responsibility to obey his or her parents in any and all circumstances. There may be times when one's faith comes into conflict with one's family obligations, and in such cases, one's priorities are clear.

One's obligations to one's heavenly father usurp one's temporal obligations every time. When we stand before God on Judgment Day, God and God alone will determine how we will spend eternity.