365 T-shirts - the reasoning

This blog should be sub-titled: a journal of my life in geek.

I get my geek on with things about which I am geeky: comic books, Baseball, Ultimate, science fiction, my favorite bands, books I have read and loved, and Jungian psychology to name some of the most frequently traversed subjects.

I began this project simply as a way to count my T-shirts. I own a lot of T-shirts. But how many do I have? Do I have 365? We shall find out.

When I started this blog, I thought about how each T-shirt means something to me. I bought it for a reason, after all. I set myself the task to post an entry about a new T-shirt every day as a way to simply write something every day, a warm up for writing fiction, which is my passion. Writing is like exercise. Warm ups are good for exercise. But after completing a month of blogging about T-shirts, I have learned that this blog serves as a journal; it documents my life in geek, sort of a tour of my interests in pop culture. The blog serves as a tool for self-inventory, for assessment and analysis of self and the origins of self, for stepping through the process of individuation in catalogues, lists, and ranks.

The blog also made me aware that I have some serious gaps in my T-shirt ownership, and I am in the process of collecting some new T-shirts for several of the great popular culture icons that I truly love. Stay tuned.

I was also a bit surprised that people checked out my blog and continue to check it, read it, and even comment on it. I am very appreciative of this readership. Please feel free to share your thoughts in my comments section. I will respond.

Also, please note that I have moved the original introductory text to the side bar. And now, I present to you the most recent entry of 365 T-shirts: a journal of my life in geek. Thank you for reading.
(Second Update - 1310.24. First Update - 1306.05 Originally Posted - 1304.25.)

Tuesday, April 30, 2013

T-shirt #40: Indiana University in Hebrew

T-shirt #40: Indiana University in Hebrew - GO HOOSIERS

Today feels a little milestone-ish. Welcome to 365 T-shirts: Blog #40. After the last few days, I feel a bit like I have been dragged for a few miles by crazed apocalyptic warriors riding motorcycles across the hard-packed wastelands of the desert climates of Australia. (Does Australia have deserts or was that just a movie thing?)

My shirt for today features the word "Indiana" in Hebrew, meant for Indiana University. I received the shirt in the mail last week as a gift from my best friend, Tom Meyers, who attended IU back in the 1990s for law school. Tom has some Jewish heritage, which makes the gift resonate a bit more vividly. During our regular correspondence, I sent Tom links to my blog, and he was inspired to send me this shirt as a gift. Though it's a LARGE, and typically I wear an EXTRA LARGE, just to be comfortable not because I am all that extra or large, it does fit well. And though this is not the usual practice, I am wearing it right now as I type this blog entry.

Monday, April 29, 2013

T-shirt #39: The UFP symbol: United Federation of Planets

T-shirt #39: The UFP symbol: United Federation of Planets

This shirt was my first Star Trek related shirt as an adult.

In previous blog entries, I have shared about my affection for logos. And one of my favorite logos is this one for Star Trek's  United Federation of Planets, the United Nations of the future, and the overseer of organizations like Star Fleet.

Isn't this a beautiful logo? I have a book published in the late 1970s with this logo on the cover. I think it is the perfect logo for the UFP, even if it is strongly derivative of the United Nations logo.

This shirt was also a gift from my parents, and I am very fond of the shirts I have received as gifts. I have another gift shirt scheduled for tomorrow (which recently came in the mail), and I will fill in more text on the sentimentality and importance of gifts in my life in future blog entries.

This entry is very brief today because I have been buried with a huge homework project, which put me behind with the jobs I do for actual money.

Mainly, I just want to dangle a teaser for the upcoming Star Trek film, which is due on May 17th. There was also a delicious clip in the IMAX feature of the Hobbit for those who managed to spy it there. Our beloved crew (and especially Mr. Spock) are in for quite the ordeal.

Though this movie clip really does not feature the United Federation of Planets in any way, it really fuels extremely well the overall excitement I have for the upcoming JJ Abrams film Into Darkness. I am certain that I am not alone in watching the clips that are released on the Internet with an increased salivation factor and eager anticipation.

Star Trek Into Darkness Official Trailer #3 (2013) - JJ Abrams Movie HD


While I wait for the film's release, I will be wearing this and other Star Trek shirts with pride.

This one was the first.

If I am going to advertise something, and I am going to advertise something all the time, then it's logos.

It's all about the logos.

-chris tower - 1304.29, 16:21 (a bit late today, school and work, you know?)
Photo courtesy of Liesel MK Tower

Sunday, April 28, 2013

T-shirt #38: GODLAND: "Violence is the new black."

T-shirt #38: GODLAND: "Violence is the new black."


The T-shirt for today is dictated by my mood.

In my continuing series of providing justifications and rationalizations for wearing certain T-shirts, I want to share a bit about how mood often dictates the shirt. But first a bit about reasoning.

As I have previously addressed, different shirts have different uses. There are "dressy" shirts, which I am wear only when I go out of the house dressed to the "nines." I have mentioned that some shirts are for sleeping, and others are more or less exclusively worn when there's a chance they will get soiled. (I am ashamed to say that yesterday's shirt, T-shirt #37, is one of those shirts. I am so ashamed of this fact that I have "hidden" the fact here rather than in yesterday's entry. It is my logic that those Facebook friends who spot the shirt for Take Back the Night may just click on that post and not this one, and therefore, not be offended by this confession. I could be wrong.) I have described that some shirts fit the season, like my yellow shirts, such as KID FLASH T-SHIRT #30. And back in my media studies teaching days, I often wore a shirt for the musical artist that I was featuring in class that day, such as T-shirt #35:  Joy Division. (By the way, I added videos to my former music blog entries, which I should have done in the first place. These can be found at T-shirt #35: Joy Division: Unknown PleasuresT-shirt #36: Kraftwerk: We are the robots and T-shirt#6: Discipline. I provided the links here as a service to my daily readers, or randomly regular readers, who may want to dial back and watch the videos.)

Saturday, April 27, 2013

T-shirt #37: Take Back the Night circa 2005

T-shirt #37: Take Back the Night circa 2005

I had the pleasure of being asked to speak at a rally for Take Back the Night in 2005.

When I spoke, I was teaching a course in media studies in the Gender and Women's Studies department at Western Michigan University.

I was a bit surprised to be asked.

I was humbled and honored to be asked as well.

My ten years of tenure as the instructor of the course Media and the Sexes (should have been called Gender and the Media) was the best job I have ever held. I did my best teaching work in that course. I feel like I made a difference.

Friday, April 26, 2013

T-shirt #36: Kraftwerk: We are the robots.

T-shirt #36: Kraftwerk: Dedicated to GRADING ROBOT

I am Grading Robot.

Though I have been a college instructor for almost 30 years [gulp: how did that happen], and though I have graded my way through thousands of papers in my career, I did not start calling myself GRADING ROBOT until I started teaching for various online universities in 2009.

Currently, I teach for four schools, and three of them are online schools. With my current course load, I have a maximum of about 160 assignments to grade per week. This number represents a potential maximum, and actual numbers are much lower. For instance, this week I graded two sets of assignments for my main school early in the week. With 30 students in each class, I generated about 60 comments for those sets, but the comments are all much the same and the classroom activity system generates scores for me. Easy Peasy. Posting the comments for the first two sets takes around two hours total time. I had discussion assignments to grade at another school, but these can also be completed quickly. With lower enrollment numbers, I worked through about eighteen assignments for one class and ten for the other class; but not all the students completed the discussion, so actual numbers of comments I must concoct are probably closer to fourteen and six or twenty total. Next up, I had written assignments at the main school, which could be another sixty assignments, but actual numbers totaled only 30. Yes, HALF the students do not submit the written work (at least not on time). Still, this is the most time consuming part of my week. I still have three more sets of written work at the other school to grade by Sunday (though I am supposed to be done by Saturday but so far this has proven to be a soft deadline), and a new set of assignments at the one ground campus school (but this is a class of four people) to grade by next Wednesday. The second school has an extra set of assignments for the week, which will bring my total to around thirty-six assignments, accounting for attrition, to complete by Sunday (as I said, the soft deadline).

And then I get to do it all over again next week!

See what I mean? Grading robot. The only way to survive such a work load is to streamline the process, find ways to speed up the repetitive feedback, and watch the clock. It's all about rhythm, repetition, and a certain tempo. Even so, grading written assignments can be quite time consuming as each student receives individual feedback. Yet, the process is much like Kraftwerk's music. Clockwork grading machine. Machine, Machine.

"We are the robots."


So, this Kraftwerk shirt really calls to mind the idea of my work as Grading Robot; this is one of Kraftwerk's robot shirts. (I have another; stay tuned.) The shirt's image is just the kind of thing I love. It would be even better if Kraftwerk's name was not on the shirt. The image speaks volumes.

Damn, I love this shirt.

I have reams of material to assault your senses about Kraftwerk, but today's post is dedicated to how I think of myself as Grading Robot when I wear this shirt (and often when I am not wearing this shirt). In perspective, I am operating on--at best--six hours of sleep. I got up at 5 a.m. this morning to finish grades due at 9 a.m., which sounds easy enough, and it is when I am not so exhausted. But the work is repetitive and only takes a small portion of my brain capacity.

Grading robot.

Robot. Robot. Robot. Robot. Robot. Robot. Robot. Robot. Robot. Robot. Robot. Robot. Robot. Robot. Robot. Robot. Robot. Robot. Robot. Robot. Robot. Robot. Robot. Robot. Robot. Robot. Robot. Robot. Robot. Robot. Robot. Robot. Robot. Robot. Robot. Robot. Robot. Robot. Robot. Robot. Robot. Robot. Robot. Robot. Robot. Robot. Robot. Robot. Robot. Robot. Robot. Robot. Robot. Robot. Robot. Robot.
Robot. Robot. Robot. Robot. Robot. Robot. Robot. Robot. Robot. Robot. Robot. Robot. Robot. Robot. 
Robot. Robot. Robot. Robot. Robot. Robot. Robot. Robot. Robot. Robot. Robot. Robot. Robot. 
Robot. Robot. Robot. Robot. Robot. Robot. Robot. Robot. Robot. Robot. Robot. Robot. 
Robot. Robot. Robot. Robot. Robot. Robot. Robot. Robot. Robot. Robot. Robot. 
Robot. Robot. Robot. Robot. Robot. Robot. Robot. Robot. Robot. 
Robot. Robot. Robot. Robot. Robot. Robot. Robot. Robot. 
Robot. Robot. Robot. Robot. Robot.
Robot. Robot. Robot.
Robot. Robot.

Kraftwerk 3D: The Robots Live 13-10-2011

To close today's entry, a few random Kraftwerk facts.

1. My first Kraftwerk album was a used copy of Trans Europe Express, though I may have heard Computer World at my friend Steve's house (Steve Curl as mentioned in T-shirt #32: D&D) before purchasing that LP.

2. I did not see Kraftwerk live until a few years ago at the State Theatre (now the Fillmore) in Detroit: June 3rd 2005. (I updated this date and the pic of the ticket on 1306.13.)

3. I own another Kraftwerk shirt though I do not like it as much as this one.

3.5. Kraftwerk's style of music and live presentation fits my geeky aesthetic perfectly.

4. Since the initial purchase in the 1980s, I have purchased the band's entire catalogue either on compact disc or LP.

-chris tower, 1304.26 11:58
Photo courtesy of Liesel MK Tower

Thursday, April 25, 2013

T-shirt #35: Joy Division: Unknown Pleasures

T-shirt #35: Joy Division: Unknown Pleasures

This shirt features the cover art of the debut studio album by the band Joy Division (1976-1980) called Unknown Pleasures. The Manchester label Factory Records issued the album in June of 1979. The iconic image derives from radio waves imagery from the pulsar CP 1919.  When the pulsar was first discovered, the regularity of its signal prompted many to propose that it may be a signal from a sentient civilization and thus was nicknamed LGM-1 for Little Green Men. A similar image was also featured in the 1979 film Alien by Ridley Scott, resonating with fans of both.

At the time of its release, Unknown Pleasures failed to chart and was a commercial failure. I did not discover Joy Division until much later, sometime around 1981-82 when the legend of the band had begun to grow and news of them to trickle into America. The band's second album, Closer, was my first experience with Joy Division. I do not have a T-shirt for Closer (at least not yet). Shortly after discovering Closer, I purchased Unknown Pleasures, Still, and the maxi-single for Love Will Tear Us Apart. These were all LPs back then, "in the day," as it were. I did not buy the T-shirt until much later.

I bought this T-shirt after seeing it advertised in a British music magazine. I am mad for British music magazines, such as Mojo and Uncut, the antecedents of classic music publications, such as NME and Melody Maker. I sent away to the U.K. for this shirt and a few other Brit-centric items that will surely be featured in this blog soon. I paid extra in pounds to dollars and shipping only to discover the Joy Division shirt being sold here in the States, even locally. I love the shirt's image and the meaning behind it, even though I love the album Closer more.

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

T-shirt #34: Death of Superman - the pajama shirt

T-shirt #34: Death of Superman - the pajama shirt

As I had shared before in these posts, different T-shirts have different roles in my life. Though this T-shirt, also from the Death of Superman stories back in 1992, has not always been worn at bed time, this is its role now. It's part of my pajamas.

I am not sure that I ever wore this shirt out of the house. It is a bit garish. Also, in the failing memory department, I am not sure that I remember where I was when Superman died since the Man of Steel's death was a story and not an event playing out in all-day, regularly scheduled TV programming pre-empted news broadcasts. It was a big event in comics, but it was hardly akin to the Challenger space shuttle accident or the attacks on the World Trade Center, events that I watched closely via my television.

I did have a black arm band, though. I would display the arm band for you here  if I knew where it was. I still have it somewhere. I am sure it is considered a collector's item. Kind of a clever idea actually. DC Comics mass produced a free giveaway (at least, I think they were free) for comic book stores to promote the Death of Superman comics in the form of black arm bands with the Superman logo in glossy red. We could wear the arm bands in mourning for

Superman. I know I wore mine at least once.

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

T-shirt #33: Go Golden State Warriors!

T-shirt #33: WE BELIEVE!

I like the Golden State Warriors. Yes, you read that right.

Perhaps some Pistons fans will hurl invective at me: "Sacrilege!" and "Aren't you a DETROIT Pistons Fan?"

Can't I like more than one basketball team? Sure, I can.
Back in 2007, I joined the "We Believe" fandom for the Golden State Warriors while also cheering for my Pistons who made it all the way to the Conference Finals versus the Cleveland Cavaliers.

And why not?

The Golden State Warriors play in the West. Though the Warriors and Pistons play two games a year, for the playoffs, they were not yet in competition in 2007. I wanted to see a Pistons-Warriors finals. Instead we were treated to a Spurs-Cavaliers finals.

In 2007, I liked the Golden State players, and I really liked the sea of gold as everyone in the Oracle Arena wore this golden shirt featuring the "We Believe" slogan. It was a free giveaway shirt to anyone who attended the game (sponsored by Comcast). I bid on a short via eBay and won.

I was not totally a band wagon fan. I had always liked the Golden State Warriors, if for the name alone. Though I am not much of a fan of things in California (which may change if I ever actually set foot in California), "Golden State" just sounds cool, and when paired with "Warriors," the name has cool power.

Also, I like underdogs. Golden State was the ultimate underdog for many years. With the advent of the 2006-07 season, Golden State held the ignominious record of the longest time (12 years) without a playoff appearance in the active record (of teams then active).

I liked the players on the 2007 roster: Baron Davis, Jason Richardson (from MSU), Monta Ellis, and Latvian Andris Biedrinš. Then a smart trade created a run-and-gun offense with Al Harrington and Stephen Jackson added to the mix. (Though for the record, I am no Stephen Jackson fan given his involvement in the infamous "Malice at the Palace" event of Nov. 19, 2004.) I liked Don Nelson, their coach, one of the top ten best coaches in NBA history.

And then there was that sea of gold.


Monday, April 22, 2013

T-shirt #32: Dungeons and Dragons

T-shirt #32: D&D: Got game?

Warning! Today's blog entry must be short. It's Monday. Start of the work week. There's work to do.

I am playing Dungeons and Dragons again. This is somewhat of a big deal.

Okay, technically, I am playing PATHFINDER, which is a revision of the core source rules for Advanced Dungeons and Dragons 3.5. But it is what it is. Gamers will stipulate that it is Pathfinder NOT D&D. But to the rest of the world, it's D&D.

Games are important. I need games in my life. This is part of self care. Luckily, there others who want to do some gaming, too. I am also gathering with friends to play board games from time to time. But that's a post for another time.

Sunday, April 21, 2013

T-shirt #31: Happy Anniversary Superman

T-shirt #31: The Death of Superman: Bleeding Superman Logo

Superman turned 75 years old on Thursday April 18, the date of the 1938 publication of Action Comics #1. It has taken me a few days to commemorate this event with a T-shirt. I may be a few days late, but still, happy anniversary Superman (or would we consider this a "birthday"?).

The arrival of the 75th anniversary makes me feel old because not only do I remember the 50th anniversary vividly, but I own the commemorative book.

Once again, I am going to plug Charles Skaggs'  excellent blog-- Damn Good Coffee...and HOT!--and his post on The Man of Steel: 75 Years of Superman. Charles did a great job writing about the history and significance of Superman, including the Death and Return of Superman stories, various movies including the upcoming Man of Steel film due in June, and TV shows like Smallville and Superman: The Animated Series among others. You can read his blog if you're interested. It's worth your time because I am not going to repeat the same material here.

I don't own very many Superman shirts. In fact, digging through my closet, I first laid hands on just this one, the bleeding logo from Death of Superman story in 1992. I think I may own a traditional logo shirt (blue shirt with the red and yellow logo) somewhere, but it's not a shirt I wear often.

I am not a huge Superman fan unless I am talking to someone who is not a huge Superman fan. Faced with someone dumping on Superman, I become a huge Superman fan and his advocate.  Many comic book fans love to malign Superman: "he's a boy scout"; "he's boring"; "he's too powerful"; "all the stories have been told, and there's nothing new"; "He's the first that doesn't make him the best"; and so forth. I react strongly to these criticisms, even though I am not a huge Superman fan when left to my own devices.

It has been a long time since Superman comics graced the top of my stack of comics for the week. I feel this statement deserves explanation, so you know what I mean. Each week, when I bring the new comics home from the comic shop, I put the new comics into the stack of comics that I am currently reading. There are ALWAYS comics already in the stack. I have never cleared out the stack from the previous week, though I do make substantial progress on days when I take time off to relax and read a couple of dozen comics in one lounging. I prioritize comics I want to read IMMEDIATELY first, and these go to the top of the stack. Current faves that go straight to the top of the stack are (in no meaningful order) The Walking Dead, The All New X-Men, The Age of Ultron, Daredevil, Aquaman, Justice League, Fantastic Four, Guardians of the Galaxy, Avengers, Uncanny Avengers, Uncanny X-Men, Hawkeye, and several more that probably do not leap to mind right now. See? No Superman.

1986 was different. John Byrne's issues graced the top of my stack every week. Not long ago, I enjoyed the run of All-Star Superman. I liked Jim Lee on Superman. I like JMS's run on Superman. And as I have already written in my FreakAngels post #22, I was a big fan of the Team Superman Group-think concept of interlocking issues creating one continuing story of weekly installments despite how many die hard comics fans detested those years (1991-2000ish). Though I do not count Superman even in my top ten of favorite all time heroes, unlike Bill Artis who sells me comics at Fanfare Sports and Entertainment (who is the single biggest Superman fan I know), I do have some Superman love in my deeper past.

My first issue of a Superman comic was the February 1967 issue of Superman #194: "The Death of Lois Lane." 

ASIDE: Damn, I love the DC comics Wikia.)

This excellent What If story was a great one to start my Superman reading as a child of five years of age. But most of my fond memories of childhood love of Superman are for Superboy and his adventures with the Legion of Superheroes, a future superhero club that I thought was a really cool concept. I also was very influenced by Alan Moore's Superman stories, especially the one from Superman Annual #11 featuring the classic "For the Man Who Has Everything" story.

This shirt in today's blog entry displays the main image from the Death of Superman storyline in 1992. This story seemed like more of a novelty at the time. These days it seems like crossovers and big events are continuous and overlapping with many running at the same time. Back in 1992, big events seemed less frequent, maybe just once a year, and did not seem redundant. I do not recall the comic companies trying a big death of a main hero event before the Death of Superman. Granted, DC Comics killed the Flash in 1985, but this was hardly a main event a huge crossover mini-series. Without doing any research, I do not recall any major superhero death event before the huge (and I do mean HUGE) Superman death event in 1992. The story was so pivotal it inspired me to buy the shirt featured here because to that point I did not own a Superman shirt, not even as a kid (unless my parents will tell me differenly).

I must admit that I am one of the few people on the planet who actually liked the 2006 Bryan Singer film, Superman Returns, with the exception of yet what I consider another failed depiction of Lex Luthor despite the acting talents of Kevin Spacey. I am looking forward to the new film by Zack Snyder. I have liked the way DC has tried to make Superman more gritty, though the stories have failed to intrigue me enough to reach the top of the weekly stack; though do not get me wrong, I am reading both Action Comics and Superman each month or eventually when several issues clog up my stack. Maybe, if DC really wants to re-vitalize the character, the company should consider killing him and leaving him dead for 24 years. It worked for the Flash.

- chris tower - 1304.21 - 11:21

Saturday, April 20, 2013

T-shirt #30: Kid Flash: Where's Wally?

T-shirt #30: KID FLASH - The meaning of yellow - is it spring yet?

I had intended for today's blog to be dedicated to Superman in commemoration of his 75th birthday.

And then I woke up to snow on the ground.

Let me repeat that statement with emphasis in case you missed it: SNOW ON THE GROUND.

It's April 20th, by the way. Ten years ago, I was in East Lansing on April 20th playing Ultimate, and it was 90 Degrees. Not this year.

So, I have this funny thing with yellow.

For me, yellow means spring.

Maybe it's an Easter thing. Maybe it looks like sunshine. I don't know which is the core reason.

For some time, I only owned one yellow shirt (this one) as I tend to gravitate more to darker colors.

And in the spring, I wear the yellow shirt.

This one's for Kid Flash, though more in line with the cartoon animation versions of Kid Flash than the original comic book versions as seen in the images at the bottom of the entry. Kid Flash started out as Wally West, who took over as the Flash when Barry Allen died in 1985's Crisis on Infinite Earths. West started as Kid Flash in 1959 as the nephew of Barry Allen's wife Iris West. The same freak accident that gave Barry his powers happened a second time granting powers to Wally West. After all, each hero needed a sidekick to fill out the roster of the original Teen Titans (along with Aqualad, Speedy, Wonder Girl, and Robin).

Though the death of Barry Allen as the Flash was a major comic event, the "death" of Wally West is a non-event. When DC rebooted its characters and their origins for the New 52, Barry Allen was no longer married to Iris West, and thus, Wally West did not existence (apparently). Currently,  Bart Allen -- Barry Allen's grandson from the future -- serves on the Teen Titans as Kid Flash.

Where's Wally? The fan community has managed to extract some answers about Wally West. Though the official DC line is that West is "benched," current Flash creators Francis Manapul and Brian Buccellato claim to have submitted a proposal to deal with the character of Wally West. This is good news to a huge Kid Flash and Teen Titans fan like me.

I may have mentioned my love for the Teen Titans, and if I have not done so yet, I just did.
More Titans shirts to come.

And more of the yellow shirts here in the spring. I own more than one now.

- chris tower, hoping for a real spring and some sunshine, 1304.20

PS: Today's blog is dedicated to my sister and her husband and their 11th wedding anniversary. My sister always liked the Teen Titans. And she's more of a fan of yellow.

Friday, April 19, 2013

T-shirt #29: Detroit Pistons - the red logo shirt

T-shirt #29: Detroit Pistons - Here's some basketball love

The NBA regular season ended on Wednesday (April 17), and my beloved Pistons did not advance to the post-season, a fate decided months ago, even before the team's abysmal ten game losing streak in March. The Pistons posted one of the franchise's worst records for a month with one lone win in March (against the NBA's worst team, the Charlotte Bobcats), going 1-13.

Though the Pistons showed some spark in April, posting a record of 5-3 with a four game win streak and an impressive victory against playoff-bound Chicago, a 29-53 record on the season left the team in 11th place (out of 15 teams) in the Eastern Conference, 37 games out of first place in the conference, 20.5 games behind Indiana in the Central Division, and nine games behind the eighth playoff spot that went to the Milwaukee Bucks, who managed to secure it with a losing record.

Did this stop my fan love?

Are you kidding?

Given that I work at home, and am no longer a night owl, I record a lot of sporting events to watch while I am working. Though I did delete a lot of the losses, I did not delete all of them. I cannot claim to have watched even half of the 82 regular season games, but I did watch many, enjoying wins against Miami and San Antonio as well as some of the losses because of the play of  the new, exciting, young Pistons, the core of the future team. Though Brandon Knight, Andre Drummond, and Greg Monroe are not winning like the championship teams of the past, I am a Pistons fan, so I tune in, I watch, I wear my T-shirts, and from November through April 17th, I record the wins and losses on my score sheet, read the recaps, studied the box scores, and cheer for just one more bucket, one more rebound, one more win.

My love for basketball goes back far into my childhood but the love for the Pistons was more abstract since most the games were not televised locally. We would talk about the Pistons, but it's not the same if one can't watch it. My dad loves basketball, so we watched a lot of it as I was growing up, but he tuned in to Michigan Wolverines basketball more often, especially since the Pistons games were not carried as much outside of Detroit stations.

I discovered my basketball love in college, watching the Celtics and Knicks square off, watching Larry Bird, Magic Johnson, Patrick Ewing, and Kareem Abdul Jabar go head to head. Though I could catch more Pistons games at college because I had access to cable TV, my fandom really rocketed into orbit during the Bad Boy era. I graduated from college right about the same time as the Detroit Pistons selected my favorite all time basketball player as the 18th pick in the 1985 draft: Joe Dumars. Paired with the hot, new point guard, Isiah Thomas, the Bad Boys team began to take shape. I was hooked. There were heart breaking losses, especially the 1988 finals in which the Pistons blew a 3-2 series lead to lose to the Lakers in Game Seven. I kept watching, and I was rewarded (as all of us fans were rewarded).

Then came 1989 and 1990. Back-to-back championships. THE BAD BOYS. It all looked great until Michael Jordan learned to play team basketball. Despite drafting NBA poster boy Grant Hill, the Pistons did not win anymore championships for FOURTEEN years. With Joe Dumars now at the helm of team operations, the Pistons made smart trades (Rip Hamilton), free agent signings (Chauncey Billups), and draft picks (Tayshaun Prince), and the new era Pistons won the NBA championship in 2004 against the Lakers. If not for Larry Brown (whom I blame for sitting starters in the fourth quarter), the Pistons would have won again in 2005 against the San Antonio Spurs in a decisive game seven.

The Pistons have not been back to the NBA Finals since 2005.

But I watch. I cheer. I bleed the Pistons blue.

-chris tower 1304.19 - 11:55

Thursday, April 18, 2013

T-shirt #28: Batgirl (spoiler alerts)

T-shirt #28: Batgirl: Television, paralysis, and transgender

I dedicate today's entry to Batgirl, even though I am told that today is Superman's 75th birthday. But The Man of Steel will have to wait until I can find my Superman shirt. The T-shirt blog is starting to have a back-logged schedule.

This blog (the entire blog, not just today's entry) traces my life in popular culture: my life in geek. No such tracing could be complete without properly canonizing in a central position the influence of the Batman television show that ran on ABC from 1966 to 1968. And no discussion of how the Batman show influenced me could be complete without acknowledging Catwoman (we will deal with her a different day) and BATGIRL. (Also, always consult the super awesome DC Wiki.)

Batgirl serves as an example of how television produced media influence the comic books and how comic books depictions of heroes or the nature of the actual heroes (identity, personality, character) themselves will be altered to match (at least somewhat) television or film interpretations. Barbara Gordon as Batgirl was the brainchild of comics genius Julius Schwartz (previously mentioned in T-shirt #20, the Flash Logo) and the producers of the TV series in an attempt to boost ratings. By introducing Batgirl to the current comic books, the TV producers hoped to boost ratings by then introducing her to the TV show. PURIST ALERT!

Betty Kane? Yeah, okay, okay, I know. Comic book purists will cite that there was already a Batgirl character, Betty Kane, introduced by Bill Finger and Sheldon Moldoff in 1961 (before I was born), not counting Bob Kane's pesky girl version of Robin in the 1950s. But that was a one shot, and the real, true creation of the beloved Batgirl character came with this plan to boost ratings for the TV show, and the amazing Barbara Gordon.

In 1967, Gardner Fox and Carmine Infantino (also mentioned in the previous T-shirt #20, the Flash Logo entry) featured the new Batgirl in Detective Comics #359. In the story, Barbara Gordon, the daughter of police commissioner Jim Gordon, dresses as a female version of Batman for a costume ball. Inevitably, Batgirl comes to the aid of Bruce Wayne, saving him from being kidnapped by Killer Moth. The TV show producers made a short featuring the same basic story and ABC renewed the TV show for a third season, its last. Yvonne Craig played Batgirl in the TV show. Though Craig showed up in many TV shows throughout the 1960s and 1970s, such as Star Trek , she is best known for this role (with a dear place in my heart and the hearts of many Batman TV show fans). The TV show informed my ideas about justice, fair play, and heroism (though also a campy sense of fun) as a very young boy (ages 4-6) and the reruns that followed for a few years. With only two female roles on the show (not counting Aunt Harriet), both Batgirl and Catwoman influenced my ideas about women. Don't worry. I am not going to engage in any deep psycho-analysis here today. I will leave off with that last statement.

From those early days of the TV show, Batgirl became one of my favorite comic book characters along with her main ally: the original Robin (Dick Grayson). My life as a huge Teen Titans fan (even though Batgirl was never one of the Teen Tiatns) and fan of Robin and Batgirl will wait for another day as well. Suffice to say that I read apearances of Batgirl avidly until 1988 and Alan Moore and Brian Bolland's The Killing Joke. My world as a comic book reader and Batgirl fan was rocked when the Joker shot Barbara Gordon, quite unaware that he was also shooting Batgirl. The bullet to her spinal cord paralyzed her. (SIDENOTE: Criticism of this story and others in comics became known as "Women in Refrigerators," for which there many great web sources, though I cannot find my favorite from the iconic BITCH MAGAZINE.) Though other characters assumed the mantle of Batgirl in the intervening years, I remained a staunchly loyal fan of Barbara Gordon, who became Oracle and leader of the Birds of Prey from her wheelchair.

For many years, this new role of Barbara Gordon's seemed permanent, much like the death of Barry Allen as the Flash. But the comic book companies will do most anything to increase sales, and I can appreciate that fact of the industry. Though purists might cry foul at Barbara Gordon's miraculous recovery and resuming of the Batgirl mantle for DC's latest reboot 52, I was rather excited to have Barbara Gordon back in the cowl and new stories about one of my favorite comic book characters.


Though I had not read the issue yet, my wife told me the other day that Batgirl's roommate was going to come out as the first transgender woman in the history of comic books. DC is definitely breaking more ground in regards to LGBTQ issues with new gay characters, such as the original Green Lantern, Alan Scott, in Earth Two; various characters in Legion of Superheroes, whom fans have always argued were gay, such as Lightning Lass, Shrinking Violet, and Element Lad; and Batwoman. Now, Batgirl's roommate Alysia Yeoh reveals that she is trans. Writer Gail Simons handles the scene deftly as Barbara Gordon tells her roommate to call her "Babs" because "people I love call me 'Babs.'" Good articles about it have appeared on Art Threat and The Hufflington Post.

The new issues of Batgirl (through #19 as of last week) have been worth the twenty-four year wait to have Barbara Gordon back in the cowl.


- chris tower - 1304.18 - 9:54
Photo courtesy of Liesel MK Tower

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

T-shirt #27: The Iron Fist: would you like to live in a hidden city?

T-shirt #27: The Iron Fist: would you like to live in a hidden city?

The Iron Fist debuted in Marvel Premiere in 1974 as the creation of two of my favorite comic creators: Roy Thomas (Avengers, Conan as already mentioned in T-shirt # 21) and Gil Kane, one of my top five all-time favorite comic artists, a list including George Perez, Alex Ross, Jack Kirby, and John Romita. Cashing in on a martial arts craze sweeping the nation in the Seventies, Marvel introduced Kung Fu heroes, including Iron Fist and Shang-Chi. Though Shang-Chi is also one of my favorite characters, the Iron Fist was infinitely cooler with a dragon tattoo on his chest, a bright costume with the flared collar, and his namesake, the power to generate the first of iron, which smoldered like molten metal.

From the age of nine, the Iron Fist, Daniel Rand, grew up in a hidden city in the mountains of Tibet known as K'un-L'un. The city only appears on earth every ten years. Daniel learns martial arts there after both of his parents were killed during a journey to the mystical city.

The idea of a hidden city is one of the great archetypes in mythology. It was a very attractive idea to a young boy who was bullied every day in school. Not only was it a great escape from the abuse of bullies, but it was a place to learn to defend one's self against the bullies.

Apparently, I am not the only one who sought refuge from bullies in comics. In the latest issue of Wolverine (it's latest incarnation issue #2, writer Paul Cornell states that "the Claremont/Smith run of X-MEN was all that made me able to face school the next day [as a severely bullied child]." Though Wolverine and the X-Men are not the same as the Iron Fist (and those issues Cornell cites were published in the early 1980s ten years after the Iron Fist issues), the concept is the same: comics provide a means to escape the bullies.

The Iron Fist has seen many incarnations since his origins in the early 1970s. Iron Fist teamed with Power Man (Luke Cage) for many years as Heroes for Hire. But some of the best work has been done recently in Iron Fist vol. 4 in 2004 by Jim Mullaney (famous action writer on the DESTROYER series) and drawn by Kevin Lau. Though that series was good, the real definitive recent work was done by Ed Brubaker, Matt Fraction, and David Aja on The Immortal Iron Fist starting in 2007. This series was superb.

More 1970s nostalgia to come, because that's obviously a seminal period for me, but for now, I am thinking of that hidden city, nestled in the mountains of Tibet that only appears on earth once every ten years. At times like this with bombings and wars and militarism and poor economies, it sounds like a great place to go.

-chris tower 1304.17
Photo courtesy of Liesel MK Tower

PS: This T-shirt was a gift from my parents for my birthday in 2012.

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

T-shirt #26: Science is the new rock 'n roll

T-shirt #26: Science is the new rock 'n roll

Did anyone else go through a period of insanity during adolescence or was it just me?

Puberty seemed to obliterate parts of my personality like a disintegrating ray. I forgot about so many things I loved during my adolescence, like Baseball, Mad magazine, the piano, comic books (really! to some extent), and SCIENCE.

I love science. I really do.

I wish I had studied science in college. Right now, I would love to be a doctor of cognitive science or theoretical physics. But for some reason I chose English (creative writing) and Theatre.

I know I fancied becoming a filmmaker, and since my school did not offer film studies, I studied theatre with an emphasis in film.

Had someone clocked me hard upside the head to get my attention and rattle my brains, urging me
to choose something more practical and more fitting with my interests before puberty blasted a cloud of nonsense into my mind, I might now be working on intersections of artificial intelligence, genetic engineering, robotics, and nanotechnology at Google Labs.

So there's some regret. But not too much. Because what's the point of regret. Too much regret and one wallows in the past, stuck in the tar pit of the paleolithic. This is not for me.

I saw an interview once with Bruce Springsteen in which he said something that had a profound impact on me. I do not remember the exact quote, but in essence, he said: "I spent my whole life waiting to become the man I wanted to be, to live the life I wanted to have, until I realized that I needed to live the life I had, be the man I was."

Simple idea, and yet, I had not really considered it in those terms.

So, I am living the dream. I love my life. I feel like I have won the lottery. I am lucky. I am blessed. And though I may not become a futurist prognosticator with PhDs in cognitive perspective and molecular biology, I am in school studying computer science and using this blog as a daily warm-up exercise to writing a novel (actually, several novel projects).

And, in the words of the great David Bowie, "I could make it all worthwhile as a rock & roll star."


Science is the new rock 'n roll.

-chris tower 1304.16 12:19

PS: This is also probably a good time to plug my tumblr. Mostly I post science articles that may help me in my writing.

The gmrstudios repository of doubt

PPS: Updated 1306.08 - I should have mentioned when I wrote this entry that the shirt promotes a comic from Image Comics called Nowhere Men. But since I am not reading the comic, I did not think to mention it. You can read the five things Craveonline loves about the comic here.

Monday, April 15, 2013

T-shirt #25: "Yes, We Cannibal"

T-shirt #25: "Yes, We Cannibal"

In my continuing series encouraging everyone to have a sense of humor, I present a clever take on Obama's "Yes, We Can" slogan from his 2008 presidential campaign.

Like many of my shirts, I buy them via the monthly Previews catalogue that I use to order my comic books from Kalamazoo's nirvana of comics: Fanfare Sports and Entertainment. Much like T-shirt #14: Occupy Sesame Street, when I spotted this shirt, I had to have it. It furthers my call to the world at large to "Lighten Up," which is advice that I try to take to heart all the time.

I hope you find it amusing, especially on this wonderful day: TAX DAY.

The analogy created by the shirt's slogan and choosing it for TAX DAY should not be lost on anyone.

To close (because this is another short entry), I want to use a quote from one of my favorite poets, Herb Scott, former professor at WMU (Herb died a few years ago, and he is missed). This quote comes from "Butcher's Dream," one of the poems in his book "Groceries."

"I always wondered, "what is the tenderest part of the human carcass?"
Then I seen some cannibal say "the palm of the hand."
A delicacy you can't find in another game.
He'd kill for the human hand.
How do you figure?
Not even a meal.
But it makes you wonder.
It makes you stare at your own hand, like a strange animal."

Okay, did I just diffuse the whole "lighten up" and "sense of humor" thing?

Off to finish my taxes...

- chris tower 1304.15 6:53
Photo courtesy of Liesel MK Tower

Sunday, April 14, 2013

T-shirt#24: My Sunday Best: Cerebus

T-shirt #24: Cerebus: "He doesn't love you; he just wants all your money."

I have been saving this shirt for a Sunday, especially since I spend a lot of my time discussing the Catholic Church with my wife the recovering Catholic.

This is a shirt featuring Cerebus, the aardvark, the most famous, non-mainstream comic and comic creation in all of comic book history. The first and best real "independent" and "alternative" comic published by Dave Sim's Aardvark-Vanaheim company from 1977 to 2004.

Over the years, I have spent a lot of time in the Cerebus universe. However, because of a lack of issues in the places where I was buying comics in 1977 (no direct sales specialty shops), I did not jump on the Cerebus bandwagon until late in the High Society run of the comic, around issue 47 (the run ended at issue 50). I was in college at this point, and a good friend, Mark Brager (who lived in Detroit and had access to direct sales specialty shops) recommended the comic to me. I was quickly hooked.

At this point in the long running Cerebus title, its creator, Dave Sim, had begun to divide the comic into novels, which would later be published in large collected editions resembling phone books. At the time that I started reading the series, there were no collected editions. My first real taste of the book came with the Church and State storyline collected in two volumes and consisting of issues 52-80 and 81-111 as well as the years of 1983-1988. Soon after I began reading Cerebus, the earliest issues, the sword and sorcery parodies, were collected as the Swords of Cerebus. I bought and read those issues (LOVED them), but I did not have the means to catch up on the High Society issues until Sim released issues 26-50 as the first collected volume in 1986.

I was hooked on Sim's creation from the beginning and quite enamored of this plan of his to write the life of his character in 300 issues. It seemed a huge and daunting task when he announced it in the 1980s. I cannot claim that I remained  as engaged by the stories, or by Sim himself, over the years. But I did read the ENTIRE run of the comic, even when Sim's own beliefs about gender, politics, religion, and many other things were not only unpleasant but downright offensive. (Though I do respect Sim's right to have and even proselytize those beliefs) After all, I am also a fan of Orson Scott Card, despite not agreeing with his views on sexuality. At least OSC keeps his views out of his fiction for the most part or is at least not quite as pedantic and insufferable about pandering these views as Sim became in the later years of the Cerebus novels. Though I did enjoy his essays on self-publishing, his published correspondence with Alan Moore, and his long diatribe essay on the religion of Islam, even though I disagreed with many of his ideas. Sim may be offensive, but he is an intellectual and a worthy opponent in an argument.

I tried Sim's follow up to Cerebus, a comic called Glamourpuss, but I quickly soured on Sim's heavy-handed treatment of his views on the world. Besides, the idea for the comic did not have the "legs" that the Cerebus idea had. I stopped buying it.

Criticisms of Dave Sim's views are very deftly handled on a blog called Upton Park by Andrew Rilstone, Gentleman.

I also quite like this essay on Cerebus by Andrew Hickey: "Cerebus is possibly the most daunting work in the whole history of art. This is not an exaggeration."

Still, I love the shirt. And the Church and State novel is definitely my favorite Cerebus book but also one of my favorite comic books of all time. It's one of the single best parodies on religion, especially Catholicism, ever written.

"At a time when the series was about 70% completed, celebrated comic book writer Alan Moore wrote, "Cerebus, as if I need to say so, is still to comic books what Hydrogen is to the Periodic Table'" ("Cerebus," Wikipedia, 2013).

So, I have included some great images here for your edification and amusement, including one of the best pages from the entire run of Church and State. Enjoy!!

And as always, thank you for reading my self-indulgent blog.

- chris tower 1304.14 12:00
Photo courtesy of Liesel MK Tower