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Draplin Design Co., North America
February 01, 2000
Draplindustries Gazette no.16 � February 2000
Posted at 10:14 PM

February was a good month for cultural media studies. Lots of reading took place. As explained in earlier Gazettes, I have been getting more and more consumed with printed information. The pile by the sleeping pit grows bigger daily…one stop to the thrift store or campus bookstore can send me reeling into oblivion trying to pick what to read first. I wish I had a couple more hours in the day for all the words and sentences out there that fascinate me.

I have been digging around in the spare time…collecting images, collecting quotes, pondering statistics. I have been taking lots of notes, filling up my little idea book. I keep a little journal/sketchbook/idea scribbler on hand at all times as you never know when the ol’ creative juices will kick in and generate some material worth scratching down. Like on the bus…yer mind whirling off in another world as the avenues roll by…that’s when something worth writing down will come to me. Or when yer waiting for the meal to show up. That is prime time for working out the details for a project. I remember back to my critter days when we’d all sit down and Mom would dig in her purse for a pen for me, so I could draw on the back of my place mat. I think the key to good idea charting is having the necessary supplies on hand at the right little moment. All lectures I attend I find myself scribbling key phrases or interesting words or ideas into my little book. My hands are usually littered with cerebral snippets from time to time also.

Always keep a pen in yer pocket.

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Soapbox in place, step up, let me rant:

>> “Rolex Watches for 15 bucks! Tommy Hilfiger sweatshirts for 10 bucks! Real Gucci Handbags!” - Battery Park, Lower Manhattan

I’m in my 4th of 5 MCAD semesters and I’m in the middle of the research stage of my Senior Project. This our be/all-end/all project: A chance to show conceptual, form-makin’ and implementation muscles, and maybe make a statement somewhere in the midst of all of it; if that’s what yer project might call for, that is. There are a number of different projects that are being tackled by the students, some projects are explorations of personal aesthetics, some projects are graphically approaching sensitive or far-fetched subjects. Myself, I’m gonna prod a skeptical finger into the phenomena of branding. Note: Put the project statement here.

As I reread my statement my mind reflexes a cautioning questioning of my stance. As a “Graphic Designer” it’s my job to communicate, illustrate and express ideas. And very, very often, it’s our job to design the/build on the identity of a product or organization… constructing an image for the product that people can correlate the companies ideals with. Challenging the building blocks of our profession makes me a tad uneasy as I very well may be faced with doing exactly what I’m rallying ideas against someday out there in the “real world”.

This is what blows my little mind: You look around and people are walking billboards!…Polo t-shirts and Tommy pique shirts and Calvin Klein sweatshirts. Brands brands brands. Why do we need to advertise for these companies? Is a t-shirt with a screenprint of Abercrombie any better than a plain one? Hell no. It’s just ink. It’s an image, an illusion of some sort of value being placed on an object simply with ink/stitching etc.

So, I get worked up by what I see as people buying into the illusion of status. Walking around a mall I find myself sickened…some gal pushing a stroller with a CK sweatshirt on…a walking advertisement for Mr. Klein. A sweatshirt is a sweatshirt, but to pay the 50 smackers for the embellishment of the CK Brand?…do people need that sort of consolation to feel they are buying into quality, glamorous items? Maybe they do. But there really isn’t too much glamour in a sweatshirt.

Do people need identity cues that bad?

I’m focusing on the lower denominators…t-shirts, sweatshirts, hats >> excellent vessels for the brand’s logos. These are affordable items/disposable items that multiple demographics can afford. Everyday people can’t afford the new Kenneth Cole line or some DKNY suit…they can afford/buy into the low-end items as I mentioned at the start of this paragraph.

Yes, this is very judgmental and the last thing I want to do is preach from my soapbox but damn, this stuff creeps me out and saddens me because I really think it is a problem. School is this perfect womb setting to incubate ourselves and mold our beliefs based on idealistic solutions, and or course, the rest of the world outside of these halls operates considerably different. Idealistic cliques exist within the pile of 500 students and man, if I could round up 10 other fuckers who wondered about these same things, I’m sure I they would agree. But that is ‘preaching to the converted” and I’m hoping my little paranoid message will reach another level. Of course, apathy is a great remedy when faced with an issue. We all know how easy it is to simply say, “Fuck it, I don’t care…it doesn’t affect me.” or, “Yeah, you are right, let them throw their money away.” I guess I’m reacting against the slot I might find myself in someday…creating these logos that might end up on a t-shirt or billboard or the emblem on a pair of shoes…that some kid just got robbed for. Scary.

I wonder how Abercrombie designers feel when they go to a mall and see the illusion of their product in full force. I bet top dollar they don’t wear those products. A+F has a new line of shorts that come in a “broken-in” look complete with frayed edges and worn out seams. You can instantly look like you broke in yer clothes, for a pretty penny though. Oh, they have a wonderful selection of hats with frayed tips too, that broken-in “look” safely offered up for busy shoppers….money spent on an illusion. It’s beautiful in a sick way.

I’d really appreciate any feedback from y’all…feel free to let me know what you think about these issues. Or this, the next time you walk through a Department store, take a closer look at a pile of Polo t-shirts…25 bucks! And why? Because it says “Polo” on it? Tommy Hilfiger makes these jeans that in two styles: one with lots of logos and one with no logos…both the same style, fit and price, yet, we have the option to adorn the function of wearing jeans with a that much more status. As the gal working in the Department said, “Oh, rich people don’t want the logos.” Interesting comment.

T-shirts with status symbols…the new generation of Izod alligators. Well hell, I might as well bootleg a pile myself and undercut Nordstrom’s by a couple bucks…I’d still make one payload of a profit just like Big Brother Hilfiger is. More on this later, damn straight.

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A couple summers back way up in the northlands of Alaska one knowledge-hungry Brian Johnsen turned me on to some Marshall Macluhan readings. It was the first I had heard of this name, as he sort of fell out a short-lived spotlight in the late 60’s. From what I gather, he was quite the public persona, often featured on television’s “Laugh-In” and the source of many political cartoons. With the changing times people seemed to accept his views. After he passed on many critics took advantage of his departure and negatively marked his name. Instead of being affiliated with new modes of thinking, he was known to be sort of a paranoid crackpot seer / visionary.

Here are some excerpts for you to ponder:

“The psychiatrist’s couches of the world are sagging with people who have lost their identity. They used to feel they were clearly defined entities; they had cards of identity, they knew who they were. Now they go to psychiatrists to be told or to find out, “Who am I? What should I be doing?”

“In the electric age we all wear mankind for our skin.”

“I think a great deal of the confusion and misery of our time is related to the fact that people are still trying to find goals in a world that is moving so fast that no possible goal could remain in focus for ten seconds.”

I guess his writings are totally fascinating me because we are living in such a rapid time…with things getting faster and faster and more streamlined in all aspects of our life. And he wrote these things 35 years ago! They couldn’t have hit the mark any better in this age. I would love to hear what he would think about the proliferation of the Internet. I read something where this person challenged the idea of how letter writing is going to be a lost art someday, like indigenous languages and forgotten cultures. And maybe it’s because people are communicating more and more by email in short blasts of info, with abbreviated sentence structure and symbols and coded words…all in the name of efficiency and time management. The art and act of writing may be obsolete and inefficient someday. Will things get to a point where we don’t need to write anymore…will handwriting be replaced by typing?.

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I’m finishing up a project in my Typography III class. Our assignment consisted of generating 2 posters dealing with the idea of “subject/object”. Now, this can and was, interpreted in many ways by the students.

I devised a plan to itemize my room…compiling every single item into a comprehensive, organized list. So I started the itemizing and quickly found out just how much I had my work cut out for me. Whoa, intense. And I’m talking everything too…every single item from compact discs down to pencils, in one big list. The first poster would frame the project, featuring banal pictures from the subject of the itemizing: my room. The 2nd poster would represent the object(s) element…my room (subject) full of lots of stuff (objects). Pretty cut and dry. The list now acts a time capsule. I can reflect on the state of my music collection, what sorts of books appeal to me at this point in my life, etc all in 6 point type.

I took it one step further and color-coded the items in the grand list based on emotional attachment, compiling the items into a matrix that showed the break down of my attachment to my possessions. In turn, clearly illustrating what percentage gap between the things I own that mean a lot to me, and what things could be parted with. The next Gazette will feature these percentages…a loose-fittin’ statement about personal possessions and collections. Kicking back and looking at the list, I think of my Dad. Damn, he left his mark on me. Those boxes among his treasures labeled “stuff” always made me laugh.

I guess I have a hard time parting with things. And that makes me think of the obsessive/compulsive brothers in Manhattan who saved everything everything everything over the last 50 years and have to pretty much swim / tunnel though the stacks of newspapers, grocery bags and empty pop cans in their apartment. Amazing! Just as I’m ready to put the item into the box marked “heading to Goodwill” something clicks and says, “Wait, you might need that extra piece of speaker wiring cord” because in the time-tested words of my Dad, “You never know.” Which reminds me of a story that might clue y’all into the dogma of Jim Draplin.

This paragraph must be read as it has many a fable to offer…life lessons, moral implications-a-plenty. Read on:

This one Fall I just rolled in from the road down from Alaska. Dad is beaming, as he has something to show me, one of his newly acquired “treasures”. “Oooh-oooh! (Like the long U sound, in short punctuated bursts) Check this out, I got a real World War II parachute.” he proclaims as he retreats into the belly of the beast: his garage.

Turns out the old fucker was garage-sale-ing one day and came across this cat who was trying to sell an old World War II parachute for twenty bucks, without the straps! So my Dad says, “What the hell am I gonna do with a parachute? With no straps?! And for 20 bucks?” The guy puffs his chest and says, “Well, make me and offer.” (Now this is where some sort of nanosecond neurotransmitter throws an adrenaline switch instantaneously in the old man’s brain) Dad says, “I’ll give you a buck for it.” The man takes him up on his offer and my Dad leaves with his new treasure. Okay, an old parachute? Without straps? Huh? Well, some instances in the garage-sailing battlefield just can’t be rationalized, as they fall into categories dictated by a couple rules. And listen up, here they are: Rule 1 is “You never pass up a good deal.”. Rule 2 is “You never know.”

Okay, so I itemized everything and it has me consolidating, organizing and repositioning my things constantly, which is good cuz it’s super liberating to get rid of stuff. And I’m super-duper organized is really, really good considering the space I get to work with.

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February 12th is Abraham Lincoln’s Birthday.

One of the President’s bodyguards, who was on duty early in 1865, saw much of Mr. Lincoln, day and night, for several months. Early one morning he tapped on the President’s bedroom door. To his surprise he found the President of the United States, in a long nightgown and carpet slippers, sewing a button on his trousers. With a twinkle, Mr. Lincoln exclaimed: “All right. Just wait a minute while I repair damages.”

On punctuation: “With educated people, I suppose, punctuation is a matter of rule; with me it is a matter of feeling. But I must say that I have great respect for the semicolon; it is a useful little chap.”

A trip to the battlefield of Antietam served to accentuate certain malicious stories about the President, and Lamon urged him to deny the truthfulness, “No,” said Lincoln, “in politics every man must skin his own skunk. These fellows are welcome to the hide of this one.”

- excerpts from “Lincoln’s Wit” compiled by Brant House, 1958, Ace Books, (I got it for 12 cents at a school book sale not too long back.)

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As you know, Mike Watt has been and will always be a hero of mine. These days people just don’t do things the way they should be done. Watt does things “econo.” Watt’s a legend on the Draplindustries Factory Floor. Here’s an excerpt from his tour journals…which I keep close tabs on whilst surfing the Watt Hootpage.

“We say bye and head east, still on the I-70. Just past Missouri, el hombre pulls us over. he was sitting on the shoulder and I went a little over to give him some room. he says this is why he put on the lights, thought I was taking up two lanes. I do have Cali plates in the middle of Missouri. He trips on the bullet hole in the back hatch of the boat. I tell him I’m from Pedro. He asks me “Aren’t there enough gigs in California?” I say I like to tour the land, It’s my living. He says ok, and lets us get down the road w/out a ticket. Thank you officer.

>> “I say I like to tour the land, it’s my living.” –The Amazing Watt.


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Skateboarders unite. “Dysfunctional” is a book about skateboarding and it is for skateboarders. A “must have” for sideways types. Wonderfully designed. Beautiful images covering the entire history of the sport. The board graphics montages are the best. A V-day gift from Melissa (the finest I have ever received) this book has been the talk of the Factory Floor for some time now.

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Read Emigre from cover to cover. I find myself filling out order forms for older issues and Emigre-related publications. I can’t get enough.

Check out the latest Emigre no.53, the feature titled: “Ice Machines” featuring photographs by the Cynthia Connolly. Amazing pictures, amazing travels. Cynthia is a email friend I met through Arlie from Juno. And though I haven’t shook her hand in person, I know she is of the best stock. Check out her work in “Banned in DC” which covers the DC Hardcore Scene back in the day. I look forward to seeing one of her gallery shows and meeting the gal. Amazing.

{Please go to www.southern.com/southern/CYNTH/index.html and dig her work.}

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A Soft Bulletin: Hear it is, oh my gawd, clouds taste metallic! Hit to death in the future head, transmissions from the satellite heart in a priest driven ambulance providing needles for your balloons! The Flaming Lips in all their glory will be rolling through town next week. Melissa’s birthday is on the 11th and we are going hell or high water. Finally, a gig to get excited about. Last time I saw them was in March of ‘98 in Portland with their Boombox Experiment. It was pretty exhilarating.

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In fiscal news: I won another Merit scholarship, this time in the amount of 2000 clams! Much appreciation to the MCAD upper management. Fellow student Brad Randall of the 3M Corporation took home the top dog for 12 grand. Congrats to him on all levels. Those Merit scholarships rub those tuition woes just the right way.

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I went back to Michigan last weekend. Sarah was driving back from her Starkey internship and Melissa and I caught a ride. A surprise mission (for the folks y’know) this time with my better half in tow. Yes, we were on edge as this was one of my first “bringing-the-gal-home-to-meet-the-powers-that-be” sorts of deals. There was a good chance Mom was gonna play the “my baby is taken” card and resort to putting her head in the oven in protest. It’s a good thing Melissa is nice and pretty and clean and all, as any questionable characters could have thrown the family into all-out-war.

She took to the parents like waves to water. Dad won her over in no time. As she put it, “The only thing I saw yer Dad wear was a t-shirt and shorts the whole weekend.” Yep. She witnessed Dad in his famed relaxing/projects mode. Be it on the couch or doing yardwork, he dons the official Draplin t-shirt and shorts regal garb.

Lots of grub, ample tube and sleeping in. Good times were had by all.

We went out one night and saw all the dudes including Derek, Chad, Johnny White, Miner, Waller, Trav Thompson, Jordan, P-Rick. It was nice to see all the faces as always. Always gets me thinking about time and the years rolling by. Looking at each other and going, “Whoa, the 10 year school reunion is creeping up on us somethin’ fierce, eh?”.

Derek Denoyer’s house is taking shape! A roof! The heat is coming soon as well as walls and and finishing and stuff. Much respect to D and he is taking care of business.

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Shepherd Fairey was in town as February came to a close giving a lecture on his “Andre The Giant Has A Posse ” Phenomenology experiment at the Walker Arts Center (that alone is amazing.). I have followed him since around 1990, seeing Andre stickers on boards on the hill or on roadtrips. What started out as a joke, is still a joke, and damn, people are buying into it….and on the other hand, getting pissed. Andre faces are everywhere, for no real reason, and that’s the beauty of it. Guerilla postering tactics, his specialty…postering run-down buildings, construction sites and municipal canvases with his ominous images. Fairey utilizes and exploits the poster’s presence as a medium of distributing information. People take posters very seriously because they are used to finding out about a show or an event. The Andre the Giant faces are mysterious and brooding and don’t really convey anything…yet, people make them into all sorts of meanings. Awesome. Fairey has expanded his false propaganda arsenal to cover a wide range of images as well as Mao/Lenin/Che’/Castro’s potent faces to proliferate the nonmeaning propaganda of his “message”. These revolutionary faces connote a wide range of meanings from violence to revolution to paranoia, all in the name of Phenomenology. Fun stuff. This is art/design/communication, plain and simple, used in the name of swaying people’s thoughts, beliefs and meanings…one big experiment…and the scary part is it works.

Obey the net at www.obeygiant.com

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Spring’s cool temps and sunny skies are with us in the big city…and it is really nice. Melissa is getting on my case to pump up her bike tires so we can do some 2 wheeled exploring around the neighborhoods.

Take care of yer bad selves and send me some feedback on my Senior projects, that is, if you have 2 cents worth to deposit. I’d appreciate any comments.

Aaron James Draplin: year no.26
Draplindustries Design Co.

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- - - -
1. Reflections on Marshall Macluhan: Forward Through the Rearview Mirror
2. Design Writing Research - Ellen Lupton ( astounding.)
3. Wired ( I finally got a subscription…they list Macluhan as their “Patron Saint”)
4. Learning From Las Vegas
5. ID Magazine’s Vegas Issue (thanks to Kris Okins!)
6. Album Cover Art of Soundtracks
7. Emigre 53 cover to goddamn cover.

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1. Ennio Morricone Anthology - Fistful of Film Music
2. Chappaquidik Skyline (Pernice Bros)
3. Appendix Out - Daylight Saving
4. Damien Jurado - Waters Ave S
5. Flaming Lips - In A Priest Driven Ambulance
6. Yo La Tengo - And Then Nothing Turned Itself Inside Out
7. Doo Rag - What We Do
8. Sparklehorse - Distorted Ghost EP
9. Richmond Fontaine - Lost Son
10. Edith Frost - Telescopic (Melissa’s pick)