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.)

Friday, May 31, 2013

T-shirt #71: IsoHunt

T-shirt #71: IsoHunt: Freedom of Information

In keeping with the theme from yesterday's shirt, today's shirt features one of the most popular BitTorrent engines on the Net: IsoHunt.

Prior to the proliferation and accessibility of streaming technology, BitTorrents offered a relatively quick and easy way to download music, films, and TV shows (and still do). I discovered IsoHunt after some power failures caused me to miss certain TV shows that I watched avidly and regularly. I used BitTorrents to download them. Though some downloads were slow due to a low number of seeds, others were lightning fast and downloaded in under an hour, even the slow ones, usually finished overnight. For fear of legal reprisal and because I do not like leaving my computer powered on all the time, I did not re-seed the files for others users.

And, yes, I do feel guilty about this.

IsoHunt also helped my mother and me with our daily addiction to the soap opera The Young and The Restless. Before SoapNet began rebroadcasting the day's soaps and before a streaming version was available online each day, I would use IsoHunt to download the soap broadcast, which was always available on the day we missed it as, apparently, the show is broadcast a day ahead of time in Canada. The Canadian torrents would already be loaded on the days we missed episodes due to power outages or preempted programming. A quick download and burning to a DVD allowed me to supply my mother (and myself) with our Y&R fix. I have watched Y&R with my mother since it came on the air in 1973. In 2000, when my mother spent eleven days in a coma, I played Y&R in her hospital room in the hopes that the familiar sounds would be comforting to her or that she might wake up to watch our soap together. Earlier this week, I spent the day with her in a soap marathon as I was behind in my viewing. One May 28th, we watched soaps for May 3rd-May 16th, such is the power of the DVR.

I bought this IsoHunt shirt to support IsoHunt, since a part of the cost of the shirt funds the site. IsoHunt turned ten years old back in January (of this year, 2013). This shirt commemorates the eight-year anniversary. The IsoHunt founder had this to say about still being active after ten years of battling Internet shutdown:

When I started isoHunt during engineering school, I truly did not think I'd be working on it for 10 years, but here I am... I saw solidarity against tyranny in protests against SOPA, which did not pass (happy coincident that Internet Freedom Day, Jan. 18 when SOPA failed, is so close to our anniversary)...We are moving into the world of science fiction. Will copyright or even money be relics like in Star Trek, where all material scarcity and wants are gone, replicators can make anything needed, and holodecks can create any world imaginable? Too utopian perhaps, but if someone from 100 years ago is to look at technologies we have now, a lot of it maybe construed as magic, too... To quote Breaking Bad, am I "in the empire business", subverting the establishment? No, we are in the culture business. Culture, distilled into digital files, shared by people, on the Internet. In the culture business, there are creators, and there are consumers. In this age of "broadcasting yourself", we are often both creators as well as consumers. And in my ideal world, consumers will share what they want, freely, and creators will be promoted accordingly and compensated fairly. Minimal friction, and minimal middlemen in the way who doesn't help in connecting consumers directly with creators... I've fought Hollywood's lawsuit for almost 7 years now, it's so ancient it's almost not even worth mentioning... Thanks for your support! Cheers to the next 10 (IsoHunt, 2013).

As a final thought, a comment on streaming: You may notice some widgets to stream music on my blog site. Currently, I have three: SiJ - Daguérose, The Catalanian Tapes, and ZENИTH. This kind of streaming was not readily available five years ago, let alone ten years ago when IsoHunt went into operation. Ownership is changing as more and more material is available to stream both from a desktop or laptop computer or any mobile device. Maybe I am old fashioned. I own all three of the musical art works featured on my page. I paid for each and download the files. I do believe in paying artists for their work. I think it's important. And yet, I like information; I like the freedom of information.

When the network finally wakes up and says "I am," everything we think or think we understand about data will change forever. Until then "information wants to be free" is just a cute saying. After, who knows what we will be saying?

- chris tower - 1305.31 - 10:18

Thursday, May 30, 2013

T-shirt #70: NO DVD CCA

T-shirt #70: NO DVD CCA - This shirt is illegal

Information wants to be free.

But is a movie information? Is it data or a work of art?

With the advent of DVD recorders came the arrival of DVD decrypters. I found this shirt online as the situation was becoming nationally known.

From August 4th 2000: "Copyleft sued over DVD code: LOS ANGELES (Billboard) - A T-shirt with the DVD encryption source code printed on its back has elicited the ire of the MPAA. The organization has added the shirt's creator, Copyleft, to the list of defendants in its lawsuit centering on the propagation of the DeCSS computer code, which cracks the encoding of DVDs. A small, New Jersey-based company, Copyleft specializes in items of interest to the "open source" sector of the technology community, who favors openly available coding for software so other programmers can improve upon or adapt it. Copyleft donates $4 for every DeCSS shirt sold to the Electronic Freedom Foundation, which is providing legal defense for Eric Corley (aka Emmanuel Goldstein) in the same lawsuit in which Copyleft now finds itself embroiled. Corley is being sued for publishing a link to the information that Copyleft printed on the controversial shirt" (Billboard, 2000).

I bought the shirt, which then promptly became illegal. The code for decrypting the copy protection on DVDs is printed on the back of the shirt. The shirt also came with the text of the code in text file format.

Copyleft as a concept is a thing described here: COPYLEFT.

Copyleft the concept is separate from the Copyleft organization that created this T-shirt.

The issue with the T-shirt is also well-described in a CNN article.

Also, RGTOnline has a good article.

As of 2013, the DeCSS source code and several clones can be readily obtained on the Internet.

Copyleft, which was to be found at  www.copyleft.net, is defunct.

The DVD CCA is at www.dvdcca.org.

A great resource for these issues is the Electronic Freedom Foundation (EFF). The EFF is at www.eff.org.

Also, these issues are frequently written about at one of the 'Net's best blogs: BOING BOING.

Information wants to be free.

- chris tower - 1305.30 - 10:25

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

T-shirt #69: Space Ghost Coast-to-Coast

T-shirt #69: Space Ghost Coast-to-Coast: RANDOM THOUGHTS

Today's blog will be quick, random thoughts associated with today's T-shirt.

I love SPACE GHOST. I have loved Space Ghost since I was a kid and saw the original run of the 1960s Hanna-Barbera cartoon featuring designs by the legendary Alex Toth. This shirt is from the Cartoon Network Adult Swim revival casting Space Ghost in a faux talk show format. Not as big a fan of that vehicle for Space Ghost, but I did find it highly amusing.

I love my family. This shirt is significant as it was a gift from my parents, probably between 2003-2008. I love that I have the kind of parents who would buy such a gift for their adult son. As I have mentioned before, I am sentimental about gifts, and so I like to acknowledge the givers. Gifts show me that people do care about me, love me. This is a powerful realization to have: being loved, realizing that one is loved. Yesterday (May 28), I spent the day with my mother while my father went to Midland to visit his dad's grave, as May is the anniversary of his death. My sister brought pizza. I also had a picture taken with her, but my phone ate it. I will have to feature my sister another time. I am not the first person to write that "family is important," and yet people share this sentiment all the time as if it is unique. I guess some people may not hold their families in the same high regard as I do, and so I have trouble understanding feeling that way. Family is very important to me.

I love capes.

Space Ghost has a cape.

I love Space Ghost.

This blog (the whole project not just this entry) is a unique vehicle for self-inventory, for making categories, for reflection. More on this process as I proceed. Maybe it will inspire others for similar reflection and self-inventory. Maybe some of the entries will remind people of pop culture icons long forgotten or make others ask: "who the Hell is Space Ghost?"

SPACE GHOST COMIC. There have been a few comics featuring Space Ghost. I have at least one more Space Ghost shirt, so I will have another chance to catalogue and review. I like this one by Joe Kelly and Ariel Olivetti very much.

Would there have been a Buzz Lightyear without a Space Ghost?

- chris tower - 1305.30 - 16:18

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

T-shirt #68: 87 Years of Tigers Stadium

T-shirt #68: Attending a Detroit Tigers game on 1305.26

Today's shirt is not going to perfectly match the event I am sharing. On Sunday, May 26, I attended the afternoon game between the Detroit Tigers and the Minnesota Twins. I wanted to wear a white shirt to the ballpark, Comerica Park, and so this one is elected.

As much as I loved old Tigers Stadium, Comerica Park is a great place to see a ball game.

My friend Jeremiah Newhouse obtained tickets for us. We had a great day: good talks, good coney dogs, and a great game. Scherzer was dealing. Tigers were hitting. First pinch-hit triple since 1981. Crazy, good.

I love going to see baseball games. Last year, I went to just one game (opening day). The before I made it to only one game. The year before that (2010) I did not make it to any Tigers games. So I have already increased my games per year. Maybe I get to a third game later this year.

I have many great memories of Tigers Stadium. Those stories can wait for another time and another shirt.

Still, in mode for brief blog entries. I may not write anything of length and girth until the end of the week.

Tigers won again yesterday. One more home game against the Pirates tonight before heading off to Pittsburgh for two more against the Pirates.

Go Tigers!!

- chris tower - 1305.28 - 11:36

Monday, May 27, 2013

T-shirt #67: Dead T-shirt #4: Madonna

T-shirt #67: Dead T-shirt #4: Madonna

Continuing my "dead" T-shirt theme and short posts to observe a "vacation" from the blog, here's today's shirt, another former pajama turned rag.

This shirt came from the defunct video rental business Movie City, where I worked from 1990-1995. It was a free shirt meant as a giveaway to promote the Madonna film Truth or Dare.

I disliked Madonna when she first burst onto the movie scene. I developed begrudging respect for her during the middle segment of her career, especially for her facility in manipulating opinion, making news, and generating sales through "phenomenon." Lately, I have engaged in arguments with my wife and step-daughter, playing devil's advocate to defend Madonna and her impact on the modern music industry. I did really like Ray of Light, which of course was produced by William Orbit, a favorite of mine.

- chris tower - 1305.27 - 9:03

Sunday, May 26, 2013

T-shirt #66: Dead T-shirt #3: Free Detroit Tigers shirt

T-shirt #66: Dead T-shirt #3: Free Detroit Tigers shirt

I am going to Detroit to watch the Tigers play the Minnesota Twins as Max Scherzer, a strikeout machine, faces off against Mike Pelfrey, a former Met and owner of a 6.69 ERA. This fact about Pelfrey makes me hopeful that the Tigers can beat the Twins today. However, often, when I crow about a game before it's over, I seem to jinx my team with a loss. So I am hesitant to even express hope for a win in case there is a very real psychic jinx relationship with my karma.

I love going to Tigers games. I am attending this one with my good friend Jeremiah "The Miah" Newhouse, recent father, awesome husband (married to another good friend Maria (Markus) Newhouse), superb Ultimate player, and   an ardent, passionate Tigers fan like myself. Also, Miah is one of the nicest people I have ever met in my whole life. Miah hooked us up with tickets. Thanks Miah! And thanks to Maria for letting Miah out to play. I am always amazed when new parents of infants can do anything out of the house let alone away from home.

This shirt is another in the series of "dead" T-shirts. Now a rag, this one served as pajamas for a time. I was given it at a Tigers game when I signed up for a credit card, which I did not get. I knew I would not get the card. I just signed up for the shirt. If some company is going to give away Tigers shirts, what the heck.

Enjoy your Sunday and thanks for reading.


- chris tower - 1305.26 - 7:57

Saturday, May 25, 2013

T-shirt #65: Dead T-shirt #2: Detroit Pistons

T-shirt #65: Dead T-shirt #2: Detroit Pistons

I am taking a bit of break from the blog for the holiday weekend, and so I am using this break to post three "dead" T-shirts, further developing what I wrote in T-shirt #44: "What happens when a T-shirt dies?"

The next three posts (including today's) will feature the fates of three T-shirts that died and were retired to rags after serving for a time as pajamas.

Today's Detroit Pistons shirt may have come as a free giveaway at the Palace, or I may have bought it. I am not sure how I came by it.

I do want to add a graphic and a point that I did not make back when I discussed the Detroit Pistons with T-shirt #29.

In the back-to-back championship run the Pistons enjoyed in 1989-1990 (The Bad Boys era), Joe Dumars stymied Michael Jordan. He shut him down. In one game, I believe Joe Dumars held Jordan to a career low (to that stage of his career) in points.

Joe Dumars is my favorite basketball player of all time.

But this T-shirt is dead. It's a rag. It mopped an oil spill last year.

- chris tower - 1305.25 - 11:56

Friday, May 24, 2013

T-shirt #64: Embrace Uncertainty; Question Everything

T-shirt #64: Embrace Uncertainty; Question Everything

Here's me on 1305.14 at the office of my therapist, Dr. Brady Harnishfeger
If college gave me anything valuable, and this question is open to debate, it instilled in me the value of questioning everything. From my first days at college, my mind opened in new ways to the power of possibility and to the mode of critical thinking. Drill backwards. Why? Is this accurate? Can this be viewed another way? Why am I rejecting what you are saying? Is there value in what you saying? In those days, my main credo was "question everything." I was unsatisfied. I was searching for answers. Not much has changed today. I am still searching, and though I have reached some conclusions, or what feel like conclusions, I have added to the credo a second motto that keeps me open to possibility.

In 1998, I was hired by the Gender and Women's Studies department at Western Michigan University to teach a media studies course called "Media and the Sexes" that would have been more aptly entitled: "Gender and the Media" or "Gender and Media Studies." I previously wrote about this job in T-shirt #37.

The central question posed by this course involved the intersection of gender and media, forming a kind of chicken and the egg type conundrum. Do media products reflect our ideas about gender as a culture or are our ideas about gender germinated and cultivated in the media products we ingest (often whether we want to ingest them or not)? My answer to my students about this question was "I don't know." It is a complex issue. And there may not be an answer. In fact, it may not be necessary to ask the question. If we want to transform our culture (and that's another question that's open to debate), then for this cultural transformation, attitudes need to be changed, and it doesn't really matter where or how they are formed. Focusing on transforming the attitudes is the key. If the attitudes change, then, well, the attitudes will have changed. It may take generations. But already the attitudes of today are more advanced and sophisticated than they were ten years ago. Social media has played a significant role in creating dialogue and dissemination of diverse viewpoints. We are poised on the cusp of great social change in our culture. Paradigm shift time. The Singularity is near in all kinds of ways.

So, back to the shirt. I created the motto "embrace uncertainty" to go along with "question everything." It made sense to me that some things did not have answers or that one might spend a lifetime seeking these answers. It also occurred to me that certainty can be a terrible thing. With certainty, people are closed off to difference, closed off to possibility. Certainty breeds conformity. You must think like me, dress like me, like what I like, act how I act, or I am not interested in having you around.

Granted, certainty in some things is essential. I am not uncertain about the horrors of rape, child abuse, and a host of other crimes or abuses. So, let's take that obvious counter argument off the table.

Just focusing on possibility, on respect for difference, and love of diversity, "embrace uncertainty" can help us to hear the opinions of others because a great many people cannot even get to the point of tolerance for opposing viewpoints because they are shut down and closed off before they have even fully heard the opposing view.

Why is this? Why do we as humans (or maybe more appropriately Americans) have trouble accepting the opinions of others? We have a mass insanity of conformism: everyone must agree, or there is something wrong.

Years ago, when I started teaching, students would parrot and oft-used phrase, one I found myself using, “I respect your opinion because you have the right to your own opinion.” The statement always preceded an attack upon the opinion, which, is what I was seeking: open dialectic. However, I arrived at another conclusion after a year or two of teaching. I respect all "reasonable" opinions--important emphasis there on the word "reasonable." I crave and thrive on difference, I adore the myriad and quotidian (and not so common) variations of humanity; however, I have absolutely no respect for opinions that pander hate and/or violence; I have no respect for the tools of prejudice and discrimination. I have no tolerance for those views, no respect, and certainly, no acceptance. And it's usually these opinions, ones promoting hate and/or violence, that are propelled by the greatest and most steel-hard certainty. There's often an almost fanatic and maniacal certainty behind those acts, at least the ones not lost in a a haze of rage, insanity, or blind emotion.

But reasonable difference of opinion, argument, dialectic, those things are my greatest sustenance. And though I may argue for my own views, good arguments give me pause, strong and compelling arguments force me re-consider and re-evaluate, to have doubt, to embrace uncertainty. And that’s one of my greatest mottos: Embrace Uncertainty. Because “certainty” has ruined a lot of lives...

Recently, I have been teaching a mythology course, and the more I often I teach it, the more I love it and its subject matter. The course gives me the chance to lecture with passion about one of my favorite subjects: Jungian Psychology. Last night, I linked Jungian thought to many world religions (especially eastern religions), the ideas of the British and American transcendental romantics, and gnosticism. We discussed the meaning of life and the collective unconscious. We hoped that the idea of "everything is connected" is real, though recognized that we are open to possibility, questioning, and the willingness to embrace uncertainty with this hope in our hearts. I spoke ardently about a book I dearly love called Jesus and the Lost Goddess by Timothy Freke and Peter Gandy, a book which questions established ideas about literalist Christianity in what seems like new and exciting ways but which are very old, the views of the original Christians. We watched many excellent videos, one of which I wish to share here.

The absurd notion of one

by Timothy Freke

Years ago, I started another blog: SENSE OF DOUBT. I had intended to write about embrace uncertainty there, but I became too busy with finding employment and making a marriage and a family and so I posted only very intermittently to the blog and never came around to writing about my main credo.

In 2009, I was inspired to write about Katy Perry's "I Kissed A Girl" : There's No Shame in What You Are Feeling. I faced several arguments from some readers about what I wrote in that blog. In response, I wrote a rebuttal that I believed would be a good introduction to my thoughts on embrace uncertainty. Now, four years later, I would rather close with this rebuttal, hidden in a jump break. If you have read through to here, thank you. Either way, I will see you tomorrow because unlike four years ago, I have found the time to post to a daily blog.

Many people have a difficult time with criticism because it feels like an attack, even if it is not an attack on them. It's a unique gift to be able to step outside of one's own perspective and look at a debate from an intellectual point of view. This always comes up when people read my criticism. There’s all these specious arguments about free will and freedom of choice.

For instance, with my blog about Katy Perry’s “I Kissed A Girl,” I hear arguments about how Katy Perry is an adult and can produce whatever songs and videos she wants. Well, of course, she can. I am vehemently against censorship. I am not arguing that her song and video should not exist. But if she is going to put those products out there, then I have the right to criticize them.

With this criticism, I am not even really criticizing Katy herself. She may be a fine and likable person. I wouldn’t know. And I am not making an argument for censorship. What I am doing is reading the signs, uncovering the subtext, analyzing the implicit messages that the media product, the meme, the infotoxin, transmits to an unwary and passive public.

I am always going to be instantly critical of ANY meme that glorifies one thing over another thing, thus negating or dismissing the other thing, marginalizing it, fearing its difference. In this case, it was the glorification of heterosexuality over any other sexual identity. I felt that Katy Perry’s video needed analysis and criticism as it is so insidious. It appears to be a positive statement for same sex desires, and yet, it is not at all. But that’s just my opinion. I believe in my opinion; I am arguing for it, but I accept that other opinions that differ from mine may have validity.

The greater issue is the red herring sidetrack of introducing the issue of censorship where it does not belong, of dismissing valid criticism with the argument that artists may produce whatever they want, or worse, of making a psycho-sexual analysis that I lust for Katy Perry, and since I will never have her, I shred her artwork in a public venue. To all of this, I say, balderdash. But it’s a great concern because these are the kinds of roadblocks students would throw up all the time in response to media criticism. 

Whew. Glad to have that off my chest after four years.

- chris tower - 1305.24 - 12:01

PS: The picture of me in my T-shirt was taken, as the caption shares, in the office of my therapist. As a lover of psychology, I have always wanted to be in therapy, but, for many years, I could not afford it. Now that I can manage to make use of it, I am zealot for therapy. Being open to possibility, embracing uncertainty, or rather freeing one's self from certainty about some things, is truly part of the therapeutic process.

Thursday, May 23, 2013

T-shirt #63: Comics Code Authority

T-shirt #63: I am "approved" by the Comics Code Authority

Given my love of logos and insignias, when this shirt came along, I had to have it.

I like the idea of being "approved" by the Comics  Code Authority.

Also, this shirt has special significance as it was a Christmas gift from my parents in 2011. I am sentimental by nature but especially sentimental about gifts.

What is the Comics Code Authority?

"The Comics Code Authority was formed by the Comics Magazine Association of America, to allow the comic publishers to self-regulate the content of comic books in the United States but its code, commonly called "the Comics Code," was ultimately abandoned by every major comic book publisher by the early 21st century. It was formed as an alternative to government regulation. Many have linked the CCA's formation to the publication of Fredric Wertham's book Seduction of the Innocent. Members submitted comics to the CCA, which screened them for adherence to its Code, then authorized the use of their seal on the cover if the book was found to be in compliance. At the height of its influence, it was a de facto censor for the U.S. comic book industry" (Comics Code Authority, Wikipedia, 2013).
EC comics were a thing of the past by the time I started buying comics. I have read many since, especially in the collected volumes. And though I have loved Mad Magazine and have been an avid reader since the 1970s, it was not the same as it had been in the pre-Authority days.

I remember how Marvel Comics earned itself a great deal of press when the CCA rejected issues 96-98 of The Amazing Spider-Man because of the depiction of drug abuse in the stories. I have always loved that Stan Lee chose to publish the stories without the CCA seal, a brash move for the House of Ideas, Marvel Comics.

I wear this shirt as a statement of irony: contrast and contradiction.

I would like to have the white shirt with the code symbol as I only wear black shirts in the cooler months and tend to wear white shirts all summer. Expect to see more white shirts hit the blog in the weeks to come.

- chris tower - 1305.23 - 10:27

PPS: Postscript note written 1310.27: Somehow I made a numbering error and so the T-shirt number in the URL for this entry is not accurate. But this is entry #63.

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

T-shirt #62: Nightwing

T-shirt #62: Nightwing

Brace yourself. I am going to reveal one of those opinions that may rock your world. You may brand me as blasphemous or completely out of touch with reality. But here it is anyway.

I like Nightwing better than Batman.

Those of you who are not comic book fans or only have the most casual interest and limited experience with comics, are probably asking "who?" right now. "Who the Hell is Nightwing?"

Comic book fans are surely crying foul, especially since Batman is one of the most loved super heroes in the history of comics, revered in the grand pantheon of stars alongside the likes of Superman and Spider-Man.

And yet, there, I said it. Let me qualify a bit. As a character, I prefer Nightwing. I cannot argue against Batman's superiority with many of the aspects one would use to make such a judgment of heroic quality. Batman's story is one of the very best in all of comics. Batman has cool gadgets. Batman has had rigorous training. Batman suffers and has compelling pathos (though one could argue for pathos as worthy with Nightwing, Spider-Man, the Punisher, and a host of others).

Batman has also been written dozens of different ways. So, the assessment of his character must include a choice of which Batman to compare with Nightwing (or anyone). In my opinion, many writers have failed Batman. Some writers forget about Bruce Wayne. Since the Dark Knight Returns and Batman Year One era, many writers have made Batman too grim and gritty, too one-dimensional. It's always the same thing with him: he drives himself too hard, he doesn't eat right, he is inflexible, he is silent and deadly, he is not a family guy. Others who have taken on the stewardship of Batman have worked to round out his character by focusing a fair amount of attention on Bruce Wayne and telling stories that involve Batman's relationships with the people around him. And I do not mean the revolving cast of romantic interests since each new writer/artist team feels the need to invent some new woman for Bruce and/or the Bat. I mean the family: Alfred; all the Robins, which includes Nightwing; Jim Gordon, Batgirl/Oracle/Barbara Gordon, Helena Wayne, Talia, Catwoman, etc.

And this is one of the strengths of Nightwing: relationships. Nightwing has also had to struggle to define himself as he has forever been in Batman's shadow. Nightwing is more human, more caring, more imperfect than Batman.

I could write volumes about Nightwing and why I love him, but again, shortish though long for the blog.

Who is Nightwing? 

As the original Robin character, Richard "Dick" Grayson burst onto the comic scene in 1940. After being Batman's sidekick for many years, Dick Grayson/Robin broke away from the Dynamic Duo to pursue his own life and lead the Teen Titans. Dennis O'Neil and Neal Adams defined this era of Dick's life with stories involving him attending Hudson University with separate stories that ran in Detective Comics. Dick led the Teen Titans in the original set of ground breaking comics about young heroes published by DC from 1966-1976, which featured great stories by Bob Haney and Nick Cardy. These stories (both the Robin at college and the Teen Titans stories) are among my favorites in the history of comics.

But it was the revival comic, The New Teen Titans (1980), by Marv Wolfman and George Pérez that truly defined my love for this character. I loved him first as Robin and later when he quit being the boy wonder and assumed the name Nightwing. His new name was later explained as a Kryptonian urban legend, the name reflects Dick Grayson's dual homage to Superman and Batman. Though Nightwing was not featured in his own series until 1996, he was a main character on the DC landscape since changing his name in 1985 the class New Teen Titans issue pictured here. (And also one of my favorite sequences in comics as Dick strips off his Robin gear).

I followed all of Dick Grayson's various incarnations closely since the 1960s. In the late 1980s, I joined a fan organization that published an APA known as Titan Talk. An APA (Amateur Press Association) is periodical created by fans. Similar to fanzines, with an APA, members produce their own copies and pay a nominal fee to a collator, who assembles the book-sized periodicals, often multiple volumes, that are distributed to fans on a regular schedule, sometimes monthly or six times a year, whatever the fans wish. APAs and fanzines served the role of the Internet before the Internet existed. These publications were our chat boards and outlets for fan art, fan fiction, and fan revelry. In the late '80s and early '90s, I wrote a great deal of fan fiction, some of which went unfinished, that primarily featured my favorite character: Dick Grayson/Nightwing. My favorite such story was a "what if" type tale about Dick Grayson married to Donna Troy (Wonder Girl) and loosely based on a holiday episode of the TV show thirtysomething. I was what we call in the fan community a "Wingnut," IE a fan of Nightwing.

I am still a Wingnut and wear my Nightwing shirt with pride.

Some Nightwing resources follow.

Nightwing on Wikipedia

Nightwing: DC Comics Database

Dick Grayson on Wikipedia

Teen Titans on Wikipedia

The Many Costumes of Dick Grayson

Thoughts About Dick Grayson Tumblr

Nightwing Fan Page Facebook

Titans' Tower on Facebook

Nightwing Fan Fiction

The Nightwing Fan Club

- chris "Wingnut" tower - 1305.22 - 11:49

PS: Apparently, the movie that may spin off from The Dark Knight Rises (2012) may be about Nightwing.

PPS: Postscript note written 1310.27: Somehow I made a numbering error and so the T-shirt number in the URL for this entry is not accurate. But this is entry #62.

recent issue of Nightwing - April 2013

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

T-shirt #61: Replicant

T-shirt #61: Replicant: "You Blade Runner!"

Those who know me know that Blade Runner is one of my favorite movies of all time, and those who have spent any time with me know that the Vangelis soundtrack ranks as my number one favorite music, too. These people are probably sick to death of listening to the music of Blade Runner as I play it a lot.

So, when this "Replicant" shirt came through the Previews catalogue out of which I order my comic books and assorted merchandise through the great and awesome Fanfare Sports and Entertainment, I ordered one. A "replicant" is the movie name for the beings called androids in the book on which the film is based (Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep by Philip K Dick). The replicants/androids serve only on off-world colonies as slave labor. Many escape to earth to find their creator and a solution to the fixed four-year lifespan. "Blade Runner" is also a term used (again only in the movie) to refer to the bounty hunters that  track these androids who have illegally emigrated to earth. I will not repeat the entire plot here. If you don't know the plot, you should watch the movie and read the recaps posted online.

There were many great films from my formative years that would appear on my list of favorites. Over the years, I have seen and loved so many films that I resist making just one list of favorites. I would prefer to make several lists, one for each genre, as I think it's unfair to match great comedies like The Big Chill and When Harry Met Sally against serious dramas, such as Citizen Kane or There Will Be Blood. Certainly, a fantastic film for its time period, like Imitation of Life, must be measured on a different scale from a science fiction genre piece, like The Abyss, or a superhero genre piece, like The Dark Knight. All these films should be rated using separate lists.

But if I was forced to make one list of my top ten favorite films, I would have to put Blade Runner on that list. In fact, I am not sure I can think of a single film that has had a greater effect on me as a writer, a story teller, than Blade Runner. When I calculate the impact of the music on my emotional state and individuality through the years, how many times I have listened to that music, let alone the number of times I have watched the film, read the script, studied the images, read the original book, thought about all of it, Blade Runner has had a greater impact on me as a creative person than any other media product.

I cannot claim that it is the film I have watched more times than any other film. One reason is that I have spent much of my life using films as a teaching tool, especially in media studies classes. Thus, I have seen Fatal Attraction and Pretty Woman as many times as Blade Runner (unfortunately). Also, as a teenager, I binged on visits to the theatre to see Star Wars, which I saw 36 times in its original run and at least a dozen times (and probably more) since then. When Blade Runner came out in 1982, I was in college and very preoccupied, and yet I still managed to see it a half dozen times in the theatre. You have to remember that 1982 was still prior to the truly accessible age of video tape rental or purchase, and so paying admission to see a film in the theatre was really the only way to see it until about 1983-84 when videos began to be sold or rented in small shops, and even so, I didn't own my own VCR until 1986.

I did have the pleasure of teaching Blade Runner along with the book Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep in several classes in the early years of my teaching career. But eventually, I moved on to films and books that lent themselves better to the course objectives and less to my own personal oeuvre. But I had a lot of fun with the subject matter as a teacher. Back when Blade Runner first came out, I studied all related materials. There were books of art work, a partial book, and both books and magazines devoted to describing and explaining the special effects. I also bought a copy of the shooting script from a script service in California, which was how one obtained unpublished scripts before the Internet existed. I studied all these materials with a great passion.

The film's aesthetics carried greater weight and impact (at least one me) than the film's story and certainly more so than the performances in it. The film combined the talents of concept artist Syd Mead with special effects by Douglas Trumbull and Richard Yuricich. Director Ridley Scott also added many elements both to the visualizations and the film's story and dialogue elements that enhanced the film's overall tone and atmosphere. Scott has referred to the film's landscape as "Hong Kong on a very bad day" and has cited source material, such as Edward Hopper's Nighthawks painting, art work by Europeans such as Moebius from the magazine Métal Hurlant ( known in America as "Heavy Metal"), as well as Fritz Lang's Metropolis film ("Blade Runner," Wikipedia, 2013).

According to the Wikipedia page for Blade Runner, Philip K. Dick ultimately approved of the David People's rewrite of the original script by David Fancher and the 20 minutes of SFX he was shown prior to his death. Dick said,
"I saw a segment of Douglas Trumbull's special effects for Blade Runner on the KNBC-TV news. I recognized it immediately. It was my own interior world. They caught it perfectly." Dick also approved of the film's script, and of it, he said, "After I finished reading the screenplay, I got the novel out and looked through it. The two reinforce each other, so that someone who started with the novel would enjoy the movie and someone who started with the movie would enjoy the novel."[41] The motion picture was dedicated to Dick ("Blade Runner," Wikipedia, 2013).
There are some great resources on the web dedicated to Blade Runner. One such resource was the 2019: Offworld site, which has gone into retirement (pun intended by the site's author; BR fans will get it). But I made the link work because there's still a page that archives a lot of Blade Runner content. From that site: "For people looking for extensive, organized Blade Runner sites, I recommend BRmovie.com and BladeZone. They are two of my favorites and are full of information and links. (And I always recommend checking out Wikipedia for entries, including theirs on Blade Runner.)"

Blade Runner continues to have impact on me today, after over 30 years. I could write volumes about my thoughts on this film. But I want to keep this blog post relatively short. But before closing, a couple more things.

Recently, I read a great book called Ready Player One, which had references to Blade Runner among many other references to favorite '80s media. This was a GREAT book, and if you love 1980s geeky media as much as I do (and even if you do not), you must read it. (Basically, everyone should read it.)

The music. I am crazy for the Blade Runner music. Though there are cuts I like more than others, and I listen to those in sorted, special playlists rather than the soundtrack and its arrangement. As a huge fan of the music, I had a difficult time waiting for it. The actual Vangelis music from the film was not released for over a decade. The first music released was a weird interpretation of the score by the New American Orchestra. Yes, I owned it. Yes, I listened to it MANY TIMES. The first authentic Vangelis release of the music came out in 1994 with a trilogy of CDs with the comprehensive music and soundtrack in 2007. I have listened repeatedly and religiously ever since.

Here's my favorite cut, the "Love Theme"

There's nothing better than this.

- chris tower - 1305.21 - 16:13

Monday, May 20, 2013

T-shirt #60: MUSL 2007 - Team Venom

T-shirt #60: MUSL 2007 - Team Venom

People in Ultimate usually fight over which team gets to be black. Even though the shirts can be beastly hot in the summer due to black's heat absorbing properties, people still fight over the black shirts.

As an aside, I did get some field burn as the photo below demonstrates. Also, these photos date from the era in which I had long hair. I was also still wearing the ace bandages I bought in 1990, which is ridiculous.

In 2007, I had the pleasure to be chosen to be part of a truly great summer league Ultimate team.

My good friend Andrew "Little" Hamilton drafted this insanely good team in the South Bend, or more specifically Michiana Ultimate Summer League (MUSL). Since no one really knew the Kalamazoo contingent, Little filled his team's roster with our car pool of folks coming down each week to play in South Bend.

Prior to 2007, only a few of us had played in South Bend and were "known" commodities. Our car pool to South Bend is the birth place of our Kalamazoo Ultimate Disc League as we asked the question: how come we don't start our own league? We all enjoyed the car rides together and our discussions, and yet in  2006, we formed our Kalamazoo league. Some of us continued to car pool down to MUSL once a week for a couple of years, though we all mostly bailed by 2008, preferring to stay close to home, which was the whole point of starting our own league.

Because the South Bend captains did not know well the talent level of the Kalamazoo players, Little was able to draft Jacob Meyers in the seventh round. In our Kalamazoo league, Jacob was drafted in the first round, and some captains considered him the first all-around pick out of all the players in the league. Like Jacob, all of the Kalamazoo players were under-valued and ranked much too low, and so Little was able to stack his team with top talent.

I am not top talent, and yet I was honored to be drafted on the team. I was probably Little's last or next to last pick. But he likes me, and we enjoy joking around, and he knows I make the occasional great throw or get a block, so I have my role and my uses. In the end, Little was wise to draft everyone, even his friend "Big," who was tournament only, because of what happened to Little in the Finals.

Surely, Little will remember the events of the tournament day better. He has an eidetic memory for Ultimate games, which is pretty impressive given how many he has played. I will try to recreate events as best as I can. I remember that tournament day was HOT, especially for August. The fields were dried barren scrub. Nearly all the grass was dead, and there were gnarly sections of field not really covered with grass at all.

We played our way into the finals. I remember throwing one sweet forehand for a score in the semi-finals. I ran well and made some plays.  In 2007, SIX YEARS ago, I was younger and running better than these days. No heavy hitter as an athlete, I held my own against my match ups for the most part.

And then the worst possible thing happened, just before half time in the Finals, our team down a couple of scores to a very tough South Bend team stacked with club players, Little collapsed in heap, having town his ACL. Our captain was out for the count and unable to keep playing.

Our team rallied, and we came from behind to win the finals and take the league championship. It's an impressive thing to have a team click like ours did, especially coming from behind to win the game and the tournament for our fallen captain. Little was overcome with emotion during the award ceremony. Not only did it mean a lot to him to beat his friends in MUSL and take a championship with his skill in captaining and playing Ultimate, but the way we played and won for him made a huge impact on my friend, Little, an me, too. It was a very emotional win for all of us.

This 2007 win at MUSL remains one of my favorite moments in all my twenty-nine years of playing Ultimate.

Thanks Little!

- chris tower - 1305.20 - 14:49
L-R Back row Chris Tower (me), Andy "Big" Momotiuk, Matt Bateman, Jacob Meyers, Sarah Spruitt, Ira Bilancio, Alex Momtiuk; SecondRow: Mya Hernandez, Danica Hernandez, Kyle Shelton, Ed Kenny; Front Row: Andy Brewbaker, Andrew "Little" Hamilton, Chris Young. (I may have a couple of these names wrong.)

Sunday, May 19, 2013

T-shirt #59: KUDL T-shirt 2007

T-shirt #59: KUDL T-shirt 2007

I wanted a pink KUDL shirt for my 2013 team.

Last night, we held our KUDL (Kalamazoo Ultimate Disc League) draft, at which we select players for teams to achieve a well-balanced and all-inclusive league. We do some training for new and former captains, and we build our community with camaraderie, a kind of joking we call heckling, and good spirits. Friends. We are all good friends.

After we draft teams, we do a similar selection process for the color of each team's shirt. Once again we draw for order, and each pair of team captains gets to select a color.
For the first year since we switched from cotton shirts to the moisture-wicking shirts, pink is an available color choice in both women's sizes and, amazingly, in MEN'S sizes as well. As a fan of pink, I was hoping to snag it as your team color. But we drew the seventh pick of ten. Pink was chosen two picks before ours. "Stolen" from me in a blatant attempt to screw me over, which is part of our heckling camaraderie. I am not really upset (a little disappointed maybe), but  this subject is fodder for good-natured heckling all season long.

I do have a pink KUDL shirt, though. This one comes from our fall team in 2007 when we did a run of cotton shirts and were able to select pink as a color.

As for the pink moisture-wicking shirt, there's always next summer.

- chris tower - 1305.19 - 10:50
KUDL 2007 design by Ryan Walters

Saturday, May 18, 2013

T-shirt #58: Grey Area

Grey Area - 2005
T-shirt #58: Grey Area - It's an age-related joke

Time for another Ultimate shirt.

This time it's Master's Ultimate.

Master's Ultimate is for players 33 years old and up.

I helped form this team, which we called Grey Area,

I pushed to form this team after attending a Regionals Tournament in Columbus in 2001. UPDATE 1306.15: I verified my records, and I am now fairly certain that the Regionals I write of here was in 2001.

My friend the "The Brewmaster" and I (Greg Kormelink, the guy holding the beer on the left in the above photo) car pooled down to Columbus along with a few east siders to pick up with some guys from Minnesota who were short on players but wanted to play in the Master's division, which was only fielding five teams at Regionals with two teams advancing to Nationals. I had never played beyond Regionals before, and since I was still trying to run around like an idiot at the, then, age of forty, I figured I only had a few years to go to Nationals before I might have to give up the sport due to old age (BTW, still playing, if you can call it that).

Our rag tag almost took second place. We started with 13 players and ended the tournament with NINE. Somehow, we played seven or eight games in two days. I have rarely been so tired, but it was a good tired. Our final battle for second place and a bid to Nationals went into "overtime." We lost a close game 17-15 and took third place with a bunch of guys who had never played together before and two subs.

So, needless to say, we were encouraged that with a real team of experienced players and some actual practice, we should have no trouble going to Nationals the next year. Returning to Michigan, I worked together with a few friends to form a team we ended up calling Grey Area, for the double meaning of grey hair and the middle ground of complexities between the polar opposites of black and white thinking. We practiced. We went to Regionals, and so did a bunch of other old men. Our competition was suddenly much more fierce. Chicago's Chronic and some Ohio-Kentucky conglomeration each had about 40 players. We played well, but we did not advance to Nationals.

I played with Grey Area for a few years in the middle 2000s as we tried again and again to advance to Nationals, always falling a little short. There are many potential causes. For my part, I ran out of both money and means. I could not afford (more in time than money) to journey to a tournament for a whole weekend and play only a half dozen points. Meanwhile, more players were joining ranks in Kalamazoo because of our KALAMAZOO ULTIMATE DISC LEAGUE (see T-shirt #56), and, ultimately, we formed a Kalamazoo Master's Team (Senior Discount) to square off against the east side Master's team (whose name I forget but has something do with the Motor City). Grey Area disbanded.

I have fond memories of my years playing with Grey Area. I have many good friends from those years and that team. We had a great group of guys.

ABOUT THE SHIRT: This is one of my first ever moisture-wicking shirts. I love our logo. I chose the number three to acknowledge two of my favorite sports players Alan Trammel (who wore number three for the Detroit Tigers) and Ben Wallace (who wore #3 for the Detroit Pistons).

- chris tower - 1305.18 - 12:13

Friday, May 17, 2013

T-shirt #57: Batman the Animated Series and my Mimobot

T-shirt #57: Batman: my Mimobot Died

I had planned to feature another Ultimate shirt today. Plans change. This is why I eschew theme weeks. I know this was surely of great concern to you, my readers (all two of you), but do not fret, 365 T-shirts will remain random and open to the vagaries of life and existence.

And so, today's shirt is brought to you by a sad event in my life: the death of my Batman Mimobot flash drive.

I love my Batman Mimobot flash drive. Well, I "loved" my Batman Mimobot flash drive. It has died. I can no  longer access its contents. It is kaput. These flash drives do not last forever. This one lasted about four years, and it had enjoyed nearly daily use.

I am a back-up freak. I back-up constantly. I am terrified about losing data. Back in the olden days, when my computer had no hard drive at all and all long-term storage was committed to 5 1/4" floppy discs, I spent an entire day writing a brilliant (at least I thought it was brilliant) chapter for a novel only to have it vanish in an unexpected power outage. I had not saved it once that entire day. I am sure I am not the only one who has ever had this experience. But for me, this experience heightened my neurosis and anxiety about saving and backing up data by an exponent factor so immense it takes scientific notation to measure its true value (how about at least 6 x 10^24 times the anxiety?).

Here's my neurotic back uppityness explanation: Every time I pause, I save. At least once an hour, and usually more like three-four times an hour, I drag the current files on which I am working to my flash drive, which is always plugged in. Folders are always open for quick drag and drop backup. At least once a week, I move all the recent files to my laptop, backing them up again, and a couple of times a month I backup to a third computer and a backup, external hard drive (totaling at least four backups in all). It's on my to-do list to set up an automatic backup to the external drive from the desktop, but then there are a lot of things on my to-do list. I am running a power backup after years of not having one, so at least, I am more protected from the unexpected power outage. I do not store very much in the "cloud," simply because I have not investigated its best use AND I do most of my writing in Word Perfect, which is not currently supported (as far as I know) in Google Docs. ALSO, I have found the Google Doc system to be slow quite often, and this annoys me.

I know that some of my astute readers will proffer advice about auto-back ups or synching systems in a way that would save me time. I do spend more time than I probably need to spend moving individual files one at a time off a "new file" temp folder on the flash drive to the laptop, the third computer, and the backup hard drive. But I like the process. Having to manually move the files forces me to think about them and consider ways to improve my sorting system.

Granted, my system is a bit old school. I was happy as a pig in slop when I upgraded from my original non-Batman 1 GB flash drive to the what seemed like a huge 4 GB Batman Mimobot drive. Still, I had to be selective as I could not store all my data files on the flash drive with only 1 GB or even 4 GB to work with. However, with my main data folder at 5.9 GB, and probably only another 3 GB at most of vital files I need to move around and backup frequently stored in other directories, I am surely going to be able to store all of that data on my new 16GB Batman Mimobot drive. Yay! Soon, Batman will be back in the HOUSE, suckahs.

Still, the death of my first Batman Mimobot makes me sad as well as increasing my determination to transfer files more often. Checking my records, I had not transferred files to the laptop since May 9th. So, to update the laptop, I ran a search for all the files on my desktop modified between May 9th through May 16th. I am still not quite done with the laptop update. And yes, I could achieve these ends with a wholesale overwrite of all the directories, but yesterday, in a rush to get to a class where I would have time to transfer files, I only had time for the search and moving a few files.

Bored yet?

OBVIOUSLY, I find my whole backup process quite fascinating as you may have inferred from the copious text I have devoted to it. In part, I am just working through the process as I describe it, analyzing whether or not it's the best system for my work, or at least a system I am willing to live with despite its inefficiency. At the very least, I will be moving files more often to the laptop to prevent finding myself in this situation again.

As for the T-shirt, it's one of the many Batman shirts I own. I already featured Batman or Batman related imagery/characters in T-shirt #7 and T-shirt #28. I love the cross-referencing. This one commemorates the Batman: The Animated Series TV show that aired originally on Fox from 1992-1995 masterminded by many people, but primarily, Bruce Timm and Paul Dini. The show gave Batman a stylized look that has become known as "Dark Deco," a very film noir-based approach to Batman. The show was outstanding and won many awards, including four Emmys.

I was sad to see the show end. But I am more sad to witness the death of my beloved Batman Mimobot. Luckily, I can buy another one.

- chris tower - 1305.17 - 9:51