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.)

Sunday, May 5, 2013

T-shirt #45: Star Wars: The Evolution of Darth Vader

T-shirt #45: Star Wars: The Evolution of Darth Vader

When I started this blog project, I realized I did not own any Star Wars shirts.
Not a single one.

Reviewing even the shirts long discarded, out grown, or converted to rags (see yesterday's T-shirt #44), I never owned a Star Wars shirt.

Even back in the day.
Not a one.
(Yes, I know I am writing fragments, but I am doing so for effect).


As I mentioned yesterday, I have featured four Star Trek shirts already of a total of eight that I own. But I am a fan of both franchises. Granted, Star Trek had a more seminal effect on my geekhood. How could it not? It's older. Though I was pretty young when the original show aired in its nightly time slot (1966-1969), I did watch it as much as possible. I was already a huge fan of Lost in Space, and so I naturally loved Star Trek. It's original time slot made it easier to watch as a young boy between the ages of six and eight as it came on early in the evening, but when NBC dumped it into the 10 p.m. Friday night slot, I missed a great deal of the show. But the show lived on in syndication, and it filled one of three slots in the triple threat of after school programming in my intermediate school years (grades fourth-sixth). Every day, from  from 4-6 p.m. as I did my homework, I would watch a 30 minute block of Bugs Bunny cartoons, followed by Gilligan's Island, and then Star Trek. I collected all the Star Trek books, toys, and models. My cousin actually joined a Star Fleet fan club and had official uniforms, of which I was envious, but I did not have such opportunities. But, please realize that for most of my childhood, there was no Star Wars to love.

By the time Star Wars came along, I was fifteen years old and taking driver's education. Though it came out in May, I am not sure if I saw it until school recessed for the summer in early June. By the time I did see it, I was blown away and quite hooked. However, I did not forsake my Star Trek love. But I put a lot of energy into Star Wars geek love from 1977 to 1983. After all, at the time, the Star Trek franchise was languishing in mediocrity. Though many of us enjoyed the animated series(1973-1974), there were no new products (other than the books) issuing forth from the Paramount pipeline until the first motion picture (1979), owing its existence to the way that the Star Wars franchise revitalized an interest in science fiction (especially "space opera") that had waned for the better part of the 1970s from its filmic heyday in the 1950s and 1960s born of its "pulpy" popularity as a written form dating back to the late 19th century.

With these two great franchises, I do not see the decision of fandom to be a dichotomy, such as the question of PC or Mac. (Honestly, I do not even see that marketing strategy segregation as necessary.)

Why not both?

Sure, Star Trek has phasers, transporters, and warp drive, and these things are very cool. Spock is a fascinating character, rife with pathos, and Kirk gets to bed a woman in every port. The adventures feature wonderful humor and yet moments of high drama, albeit melodramatic and at times quite laughable drama, but still, it was all very cool. On the other hand, Star Wars has light sabers, land speeders, and the Force. It has one of the most compelling villains (Darth Vader) in the history of cinema. It also features great, snappy, humorous dialogue, and Han Solo gets the girl (sort of). Why do I have to choose? Fandom is hardly an either/or proposition. Why do we have to make it all competitive? It's not like loving a sports team, and even so, I am capable of loving more than one sports team per sport.

Okay, okay, not a perfect analogy. I would be the first to admit that I am a Detroit Tigers fan first and a Chicago Cubs fan second. But you get the idea...

Last year, when the news broke that Disney had bought the Star Wars franchise, followed by the news that JJ Abrams--well respected for re-vitalizing the Star Trek franchise with Star Trek (2009) and now Into Darkness (2013)--had agreed to direct the next Star Wars film Episode Seven, fans felt that not only did they have to choose but that Abrams should have made a choice, like a mom in the toy store: "You can't have both the Star Trek toy and the Star Wars toy. You have to choose." Maybe if you're a child with a parent who is only willing (or able to afford) one toy, then you must choose. But once we're adults, we can buy BOTH toys. Obviously, Abrams feels he can give his creative energy to BOTH beloved franchises, and this seems perfectly reasonable to me. If his Star Wars movie is as good as his Star Trek movie, then, well, ALL RIGHT. Sign me up.

Likewise, if you make me choose between these two awesome franchises, I would probably choose Star Trek for the following reasons:

1. Star Trek came out first. I had years to love Star Trek before Star Wars came along, and I came to love it, too. These were formative and impressionable years. This is similar to the "first album axiom." Say, with U2, I find that people love best the first album with which they fell in love. I fell in love with October first, and so I love it best. Others fell in love with Boy first. There's some truth (though not the last word of truth) on first loves, especially when it comes to things like this (not so much people).

2. Most people choose Star Wars, so I am choosing Star Trek just to be different and give the underdog some love. Believe me, I have taken polls, surveys, idle conversation over pitchers of beer. Most people pick Star Wars. Many years ago people used to say "neither," a lot, but I get this answer a lot less often since the geek became cool.

I could share copious reams of experiences of geek love with Star Wars. And these experiences will surely be the meat and bone of future blog posts. Though I have much to share, I will restrict myself to only three more things before I sign off as Grading Robot still had grades to complete before he can quit work for the week. (And, yes, if you are a regular reader, this is not quite the monster-sized blog entry I envisioned when I promised such a thing yesterday, but it will serve. Hey, it was only two things, and I expanded to three, so there you go. That's more monstrous.)

THING #1: NOT MY FIRST STAR WARS SHIRT BUT MY FIRST STAR WARS SHIRT: This is not the first Star Wars shirt I owned, but it is the first one I bought. I ordered this shirt online  because I liked the clever use of the evolution graphic. But since this shirt came from SINGAPORE (in which XL does not mean the same thing as it does in America), it was several weeks before it arrived, and so, meanwhile, I bought another Star Wars shirt (to be featured soon) at the local comics emporium. ALSO, I bought another shirt that uses this evolution graphic for a different and much loved movie franchise: STAY TUNED.

THING #2: Favorite Darth Vader related memory (since the shirt is about Vader). Shortly after the release of the original Star Wars film, the now defunct Burger Chef restaurant ran a special deal with its fun meals. By this time, owing to impressive merchandising, my friend Steve Curl (mentioned in T-shirt #32) owned a replica Darth Vader mask. Dressing up in the mask and an outfit resembling Vader's as much as possible at the time with limited means and resources, Steve entered Burger Chef and as Vader (with breathing noises and all) ordered a fun meal (and the toy that came with it).

THING #3: ON LIGHT SABERS: The same Steve Curl as previously mentioned brought two of the light saber I have featured in the picture to a magic club meeting at a local school (as this is how and where I met him). We re-located to the school's gymnasium, empty and unused at the time, turned off the lights and had an epic light saber battle in the dark with these glorified flash light light saber toys.

If this isn't one of the best examples of how I have enjoyed my life in geek, then I do not know if I will think of very many that are better.

- chris tower - 1305.05 - 14:29
Photos courtesy of Robert Tower