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, June 30, 2013

T-shirt #101: Jetsons

I know Noel has his eyes closed, but my
sister's smile is nicer in this one. 
 T-shirt #101: Jetsons & Family - part one

Today's blog post is dedicated to family. I have a second upcoming post about family as well.

Upon working on the blog, one of the neat things I discovered is that there are intersections of shirts and people. For instance, when a friend visited from out of town, I took the opportunity to feature a Star trek shirt, an interest we shared: T-shirt #81; when having breakfast with my friend Chris Dilley I wore a shirt that I could connect to the subject of friendship: T-shirt #54; and I have twice featured pictures of my parents: T-shirt #69 and T-shirt #41. See? The T-shirt blog is nothing if not self-referential and in touch with its own history.

In composing the entry for T-shirt #69--dedicated to Space Ghost--I had wanted to feature a picture of my parents and a picture of my sister. But as fate would have it (or the gremlin who lives in my phone), the HTC Evo ate the picture of my sister, and so I was left with just featuring my parents, again. Not that that's a bad thing. For those keeping careful records, I did mention my intention to pose for a shot with my sister in T-shirt #69.

The occasion to get a picture with my sister and as a bonus with her husband, Noel, came at the most recent family gathering: a combination Father's Day and birthday celebration at my parents' house. (My father turned 78 on June 26th 2013.)

I purposefully grabbed a Jetsons shirt, which is another Hanna-Barbera creation, like Space Ghost.

My sister has always been an important part of my life, and we watched a lot of Jetsons and other Hanna-Barbera products together. She was born when I was seven years old, so I had enjoyed years of being an only child  before she came along. I was never sorry my parents had another child. We were very close growing up. My sister is a wonderful person, and I am very proud of her. She and her husband just bought their first home; her faith in God is strong and a source of inspiration.

Her husband Noel is obviously very good for her, and after over ten years of marriage, they seem solid and in love.

Noel won me over when he was too choked up to get his wedding vows out easily at the ceremony. He loves my sister, which makes him highly regarded in my book.

One of the aspects that makes the Jetsons so great is family. The Jetsons are a family. There's an allure to stories about families, and many of my favorite TV shows from my formative years were about families: The Jetsons, The Munsters, The Addams Family, The Herculoids, the Fantastic Four, The Beverly Hillbillies, Good Times, All in the Family, The Brady Bunch, The Partridge Family, and to a lesser extent, the Flintstones. (I was never a huge fan of the Flintstones.)

There's more than schedule-programming going on here. We are being programmed to place a great importance in family. Or maybe our culture's high regard for the family unit is reflected in these media products. Surely, something like the family unit and the importance of having a family unit is not an idea that the media needed to create. This idea existed prior to shows like the Jetsons. And yet, much of what I think about families or more importantly what I EXPECT of families comes from these TV shows that model families and how they function, shaping our expectations and behaviors.

The Jetsons appealed to me particularly strongly because it was a futuristic family with flying cars, high-rise homes, robots, and all sorts of advanced gizmos. Elroy was cool. I wanted to be Elroy.

I am frequently amazed when I research one of my beloved childhood media products to find out things I did not know, such as The Jetsons originally aired from 1962-1963, and given my birth year, this means I watched all of it later in reruns.


Slightly ahead of the news feature with my own posting:


"Everything about "The Jetsons" was space-age cool. And in 1962 when it first debuted, it all seemed oddly possible. From suits to make us fly, to colonies on the Moon -- even pneumatic tube transport. The Jetsonian future -- the year 2062, to be exact -- seemed full of promise. Just ask Matt Novak, a self-described Jetsonologist.Novak tells Cowan that he agrees "The Jetsons" is "just a cartoon, and I totally understand and recognize it. But as a parody show, I think it's important." He analyzed all 24 episodes of the original series for Smithsonian Magazine, making the case that despite being a half-century old, "The Jetsons" still sets the bar for what we expect."The Jetsons represent this retro-future, but in a lot of ways, a lot of those elements still feels very futuristic to us," Novak said.......After all, gadgets are still only as good as the people who use them, even in the year 2062."

 via @CBSNews

That's all for now. No great catalogue of Jetsons lore, though I will leave you with a top ten list for those who love the top ten lists.


  1. Space Ghost
  2. Jonny Quest
  3. Atom Ant
  4. The Herculoids
  5. The Jetsons
  6. Fantastic Four
  7. Wacky Races
  8. Super Friends
  9. Birdman and Galaxy Trio
  10. Moby Dick and the Mighty Mightor

HONORABLE MENTIONS: Yogi Bear, QuickDraw McGraw, Top Cat, Scooby Doo, Hong Kong Phooey, Harlem Globetrotters, and Josie and the Pussycats.

The Jetsons Intro

"Jane! Get me off this crazy thing!!"

I wanted to name Satchel after the Jetsons'
dog: "Astro."

-chris tower - 1306.30 - 17:46

PS and update: I forgot to mention that this shirt was a gift from my parents for Christmas in 2010.

Saturday, June 29, 2013

T-shirt #100: Kalamazoo College

T-shirt #100: Kalamazoo College: Identity, part one

Where does identity come from?

How is it established?

Is it solely formed through experiences?

Or does some identity derive innately from genes, from connections through a spiritual fabric?

When I began this blog one hundred days ago, I did not realize what it would become. The first impetus for this blog came simply from the question: "do I have enough T-shirts to wear a different one each day of the year?" Later, when I began writing, I considered the blog simply a way to exercise my writing muscles, to give me a reason to write every day. The T-shirts became the vehicle, more of a jumping off point than an end point.

I never imagined I would earn actual readers. I assumed that if anyone read the blog at all that it would be a very hit and miss thing. These readers would catch it maybe as often as once a week, or by request, as I tell actual people I know: "hey, I am really proud of yesterday's blog" or "hey, I brought up this exact subject in a blog earlier this week."

I may be getting a little insufferable in mentioning the blog, actually. I am going to have to watch it. I noticed that at a family function yesterday I brought it up three times in a two hour period. I doubt any one wants to hear about it that much.

Though I know that I have many occasional readers, I have had people tell me that they are actually trying to read the ENTIRE blog. I find this to be a little insane, but I am honored that some people would actually try to accomplish this goal. Mainly, for them, I have tried to mix some shorter entries in among the longer ones, especially last week during Grading Robot Hell. Since I never really considered having readers when I began, thinking about readers has changed the blog. I am tailoring content based on reader feedback. So, if you are reading, thank you. Keep the feedback coming.

Though the readership has changed it, the blog has also evolved as I explore what kind of content I would like to create and keep circling back to the starting question:

"why am I doing this?"

After a month of blogging, I updated the header text, which provides some explanation and justification. In preparing one of the pivotal entries for the blog--Narcissism T-shirt #77--I changed the top header text yet again.

I have described the blog as "my life in geek." I have called it a journal, a self-inventory as well as an analysis of self and the origins of self, my self, me.

Are my experiences that different from your experiences? How does my self-inventory reflect your self-inventory? What would be your defining experiences?

I put a great deal of thought into what shirt should be featured for T-shirt #100. Many T-shirts have been considered; many subjects have been considered.

Ultimately, I arrived at the subject that would answer this question:

What is one of the most critical defining experiences of my life?

Answer: attending Kalamazoo College.

I attended Kalamazoo College from 1980-1985. Because I play Ultimate Frisbee, I continued to be a part of the life of the college ever since I graduated. For a few years, I was still a frequent campus visitor as I had many friends still living in the dorms through 1988 or so. For years, I played Ultimate with the Kalamazoo College students, and eventually, when my great friend Uncle Marc (Marc Zigterman) left town, I took over "teaching" the K ultimate class from about 1991 through 2009 with the help of such great K people as Jason Atkins, Daniel Lipson, and Lanny Potts among many others (for years I let the students run the show). So, Kalamazoo College has always been a part of my life.

But that's just Ultimate. How was Kalamazoo College a "defining experience"?

I would not be the person I am today if I had not attended and ultimately graduated from Kalamazoo College.

I do not believe that identity comes solely from experiences. I believe in how both nature and nurture contribute to identity, but I also believe that there is a spiritual aspect to identity that transcends both concepts of nature and nurture. Setting aside discussions of my innate, genetic identity as well as the spiritual side of my self, who I am in the core, if I am listing defining experiences (and I am not sure I am ready to make the actual list yet), one of the pivotal, seminal experiences of my life was earning my Bachelor's Degree at Kalamazoo College.

All the previous content serves as introduction for the following thesis: Because of the academic rigors, the people, the K-plan, and the place, Kalamazoo College forever changed who I am as a person and ranks as one of the most significant experiences of my life.

Kalamazoo College proved to be the most difficult academic experience of my life. Graduate school paled in comparison. And though, I have put in more work hours in a day on average since my days at Kalamazoo College, the academic rigors prepared me to achieve great things, provided me with a strong work ethic, and  set me forth on a path as a lifelong learner. Kalamazoo College fanned the flames of my ambition and passions like nothing else, nowhere else. I am not sure that I am ready to define these so-called "great things" I have achieved ("great" being a matter of personal perspective), but I do feel that Kalamazoo College cultivated my intellectual garden like nothing else in my life. Though there were periods of goofing off at K, there were also periods of intense work and long hours, experiences on which I draw every day as I plow through even more enormous mountains of work in my current life (as I have alluded to this last week during the time of Grading Robot Hell). And in addition to academics and work ethic, Kalamazoo College shaped my critical thinking faculties like nothing else; I have become a lifelong learner, always interested in learning new things, because of my time at K-College. Though I am always hot and cold on applying the label "intellectual" to myself, Kalamazoo College provides a breeding ground for intellectuals, myself among them. At the very least, K-College shaped my views of politics, religion, social causes, economics, and the arts. One of the greatest elements of these was Jungian Psychology, which I have studied and taught ever since my days learning about it at K, in a variety of capacities (right now in a mythology course).

I deviated from the K-Plan, which is a course of study including a career development experience, a study abroad opportunity, and a senior project in addition to the regular course work. At K, when a person does not follow the K-Plan, he or she is said to have "deviated" and is by the default use of the language, a "deviant." I skipped study abroad. Originally, I was struggling in the fast paced French course and balked at the number of hoops that K makes students jump through to go on what was then called foreign study and is now called study abroad. By nature, I am a devil's advocate type. I like to go a different way than the herd. I am always seeking an alternate route or arguing an alternate position simply for the fun of being different. So, it came to pass with K's study abroad program. My reaction is a good example of how K changed me. Eventually, I came to understand my nature as a rebel (though as rebels go I feel that I am tame in most respects and far less rebellious than I was in my younger days), and I realized why I was reacting to the study abroad program as I did, but by then, it was too late. Once I decided that I did want to go somewhere, there was not enough time, my grades were not good enough in the languages, and there was not enough money to take advantage of the study abroad program. I did go to New York City for a career development, though not during the quarter I should have gone according to the K-plan, but that is a story for another time.

Some of the most important people in my life came to be my friends because of Kalamazoo College. There are far too many to mention them all, and I hesitate to name any because I am afraid to offend someone by not mentioning her or him. So, if you are reading and are not mentioned, please forgive me. Time and space. It's all about time and space. It's also about saving certain stories for future installments (if you think I own just one K-College T-shirt, then you are missing the point of this entry), and of course, there are some stories that are private and I will probably not tell on the blog, despite its limited readership. I have already flirted with disaster by listing the celebrities I find attractive, so if I were to document the romantic relationships I had at K, I might surely dig myself a very deep hole in my current personal life.

In short, I met my best friends at Kalamazoo College, which include Tom Meyers, Elaine Klein, Jane Burchfield, Helene Dunbar (Baker), Mark Brager, Julie Peck, and Diana Cohen (Bury).  Through my association with Kalamazoo College, I have met many other amazing people with whom I did not actually attend Kalamazoo College, such as Bruce "Frisbee" Johnson, Stu Gulliver, the aforementioned Ultimate people, and many others (such as current super cool members of my KUDL team: Woody Tauke and Meredith Edwards). And then there's the professors, some of whom are my favorite people of all time and had an enormous impact in shaping the person I am today, such as Gail Griffin, with whom I am actually Facebook friends, and who, sadly, just retired.

And yet, aside from the academic rigor, the K-Plan, the people, and all the other elements of those three aspects of the Kalamazoo College experience, there is something about the place, something ineffable, though I will try to "eff" it with my wordy ability.  When I went up to K's campus with my step son Ivan on Friday the 28th (2013) to take all but one of the pictures featured here, I felt many things that are difficult to describe. The easy feelings are simple nostalgia, memories, the feeling of being home. But there's something else. There's a feeling that I might try to describe as spiritual. There's an energy, a vibe, that only exists on that campus and changes based on the time of day (or night) and weather. I had a glimpse of this feeling when I first discovered Kalamazoo College when I was trying to select a college.

My father suggested I look into it: "Why don't you consider Kalamazoo College?"

"Where is it?" I replied.

Obviously, it was in Kalamazoo somewhere. But where? I had no idea. I did not remember ever driving past it.

"That place out by your former partner's house?" By which, I meant Kalamazoo Valley Community College.

No, my father assured me that there was another school, one that I would find on Westmain Hill. He told me to follow Lovell from downtown Kalamazoo, and I would drive right to it. So, I took the young man I was supervising while his parents were away (we did not call it "babysitting" as he was no baby), and we drove up to Kalamazoo College on Lovell Street. We drove its campus (very short drive), we also walked around a bit, and I felt that feeling, that connection, that vibe, just a glimmer, just a smidgen, an iota, a quantum. But I was intrigued; I was inspired. I also tried to go back the way I came in the car, since I did not know my way around being a new driver at the time, back Lovell to downtown Kalamazoo, not realizing that Lovell was a one way street until young master Jon and I faced an on rush of coming traffic.

I don't know what it is, how to describe it, but there is something special about Kalamazoo College as a place as well as an idea.

How is that for an "essay" that is shorter than the introduction that preceded it? Such is the way of this blog.

Obviously, I am not done with this topic, but it's a good start. Stay tuned for more on identity and more shirts, especially more shirts featuring Kalamazoo College.

- chris tower - 1306.29 - 11:59

Friday, June 28, 2013

T-shirt #99: Moby

T-shirt #99: Moby 

Welcome to blog #99. You know what comes next? Never fear faithful reader, I have a special treat (at least I think it's special) selected for T-shirt #100. It's a milestone no matter how you slice it.

Today the blog spends less time on the featured shirt and its subject than on various random thoughts and ideas.


In 2002, I saw Moby live and in concert at the Area2 festival.

Playing on the Area2 tour: Blue Man Group,
John Digweed,


But I had been listening to Moby since the mid-1990s when a friend of mine (with whom I have since parted ways) gave me mixed tape (yes, cassettes, perhaps you've heard of them) of early Moby (first four albums through Animal Rights). I liked what I heard, especially the ambient stuff. But like most of the world, my Moby fandom did not became hard concrete until the release of Play in 1999. Upon falling in love with Play, and the double issue release with the Play: B Sides in 2000, I officially became a Moby fan and bought everything in his catalogue.

Recently (as in earlier this year), I was struck by a lightning bolt of realization: what has Moby been up to? I believe this hit me around the time that David Bowie announced his new album as Bowie makes me think of Moby. Rightly so, as the former strongly influenced the latter. Soon, I ordered Wait for Me (2009) and Destroyed (2011), which are both becoming my favorite Moby albums. I am listening to Wait for Me as I write this entry, and it's difficult not to list EVERY song in my upcoming Moby favorites list.

Moby would be at that dinner party with Suzanne Vega and Erykah Badu. I will mention here that Margaret Atwood would also be at that dinner party. I do not have a T-shirt showing off my love of Atwood. She is my favorite author, outside genre-specific picks.

Do you sense a future list in the making? I have already made a label for "Dinner Party" to keep these entries sorted to a category. If I had millions of dollars, I would pay these favorite people of mine (and encourage them to donate the money to charity) to attend this dinner party. It would be cool.

Hmmmm, Who else should be there? How big should it be? I must be choosy. Is it really a dinner party if there are over a hundred people? I think I might have to invite ELLIS. I would consider Adrian Tomine, but he wouldn't come (just like he assumed people would not come to his wedding in his little marriage book). But that's two authors, and the original concept was musicians, hence Suzanna Vega, Erykah Badu, and now Moby. Surely, Bowie would be there (or I would invite him), and never fear, I have not forgotten Mr. Bowie. As possibly my favorite musical artist, I am saving him for a special moment (no, not tomorrow).

Moby is another one of those kindred souls. I think we would have been friends had we grown up in the same town (Darien, Connecticut or if he had grown up here in Kalamazoo) or met early in his career. I do not share all of Moby's beliefs or convictions (sorry, buddy, I eat meat, though I do agree with your thoughts on the subject), but I share A LOT of Bowie's ideas. WOW. I meant "Moby's ideas." But I wrote Bowie, and then in editing, I decided to leave it. See how interchangeable they are?

These ideas I mentioned are all well documented in the Moby Wiki if you are interested.


I think MOBY's ideas about Christ and Christ's teachings compared to "cultural Christianity" are very interesting and right on target.

Upon researching for today's blog entry, I realized I had missed Moby's 2008 release Last Night, so my list of favorites is missing that contribution.

As you all know, I like lists. Enjoy. :-)


  1. "Love Theme" - I Like To Score
  2. "First Cool Hive" - Everything is Wrong
  3. "Sevastopol" - Destroyed
  4. "Novio" - I Like To Score
  5. "Porcelain" - Play
  6. "Dream About Me" - Hotel
  7. "Summer" - Play B Sides
  8.  "Wait For Me" - Wait for Me
  9. "Sunday (The Day Before My Birthday)" - 18
  10. "Love Song for My Mom" - Animal Rights
Somewhat cheesy video, but I like some of the images, especially the birds.

Moby - Love Theme


So, yesterday, I am in Fanfare (the local comic book and geeky emporium) and out comes owner Tom Fleming with the statement: "I will have you know that I have heard of Optic Nerve." The blogger is busted. So, partially recanting. I know Fanfare has stocked Optic Nerve. I was chiding and teasing one of Tom's employees, a good friend of mine, via the blog for not having heard of Optic Nerve. But then is he expected to know every indie comic? Hardly.

But I was honored to have someone paying such close attention to my blog. Only hours after posting, I am nailed for comments I made. And you readers should know that I have done nothing but promote and praise Fanfare. I love that place. It's hardly REAL criticism, just a little teasing, and Tom knew that.


SPOILER ALERTS!! Skip this section if you wish to remain ignorant of the plot elements of Iron Man Three.

After going to Fanfare for the weekly comics, I went to see Iron Man Three before it left town. I caught the last show at the last theater where it was clinging to dear life for some last gasp box office. (This is what Grading Robot does when he finished being Grading Robot).

I had been warned away. Bill Artis of Fanfare had given it an emphatic thumbs down. Others had given it the face of distaste, the screwed tight features of the "that tastes terrible."

My friend and fellow blogger, who I plug often on these pages, the great Charles Skaggs gave it a reasonably favorable review on his blog (and apparently he has time to get to these movies sooner), here:


He ranked it in 15th place among his favorite comic book movies. Avengers holds third place.

I liked it. I was not bothered by the depiction of the Mandarin. I liked the turnabout trick that who we thought was the mastermind was just an actor and the true mastermind was who we thought was a follower. Several parts were dismissed weakly, such as the Maya Hansen's story. But I liked the little kid that was introduced and is now an official "Follower of Stark: FOS," basically president of Mechanic (Tony Stark's) fan club, even though his story was also hastily resolved. I hope there are good deleted scenes on the DVD.

I think Robert Downey, Jr. is a great actor. And though I like Don Cheadle, and though he came up bad ass in this film, I still do not think he is right as Rhodey at least for how he is depicted in the comics. But then, neither was the first guy the franchise hired.

Iron Man 3 is definitely better than Iron Man 2, and in many ways, I liked it better than the first one, which I thought had a lame villain and a hasty resolution.


Here's the weekly comic book stack in order, the feature I started in T-shirt #92.
You can read about the reasoning there if you wish.

A few thoughts: Aquaman has been hitting the top of my stack each month, even after Pelletier assumed the art mantle. I love Pelletier's work, so there was no loss of quality there for me. Justice League wrapped the Shazam! story that has been a back up and runs for the full issue this month, so it moved up in the stack because I love Gary Frank's art and have been loving the re-boot of the story (though I miss Jerry Ordway, and this is further proof that he should be getting work). I have not read all of these issues, but some people may be edified by DC comics taking the top two slots this week. It was a HUGE week. Yikes!


Aquaman #21
Justice League #21
All New X-Men #13
Guardians of the Galaxy #4
Young Avengers #6
X-Men #2
DareDevil #27
Hawkeye #11
Justice League of America  #5
Jupiter's Legacy #2
Nova #5
Flash #21
Captain America #8
Batman-Superman #1
Clone #8
Teen Titans #21
Lazarus #1
Uncanny X-Men #7
Wolverine #5
Catwoman #21
Age of Ultron Book 10 AI
FF #8
Masks #8

Deep stack: Secret Avengers #5, Superman #21, Ultimate X-Men #28, Avengers Arena #11.
NOTE: I really like Avengers Arena, but when the company puts out two issues a month, I may not get the last one read before the next one comes out.

Trade: Fatale #3.
I am reading this in trade, and it's great stuff. It takes will power to not start buying the issues.

That's all for today. Check back tomorrow for the big T-shirt #100!!

- chris tower - 1306.28 - 10:37

Thursday, June 27, 2013

T-shirt #98: Optic Nerve

T-shirt #98: Optic Nerve

Exciting happenings in magic bloggy land. First off, Grading Robot (aka, me) finished final grades for the Dread Forge, better known as the Grinding Wheel, better known as School that keeps in my cheese fries, better known as the steady paycheck that keeps me flipping-burger busy. So that's done. Though I have more grading to do before this week is over, I am no longer in high speed robot mode. Thank Eclipse. All hail the Grand Poobah of the chaotic realms.

Can you tell that I have been up since 5 a.m., have had too much coffee, and too little sleep? Is is that obvious?

The other exciting news is today's blog post feature. NEW OPTIC NERVE!!!

What is Optic Nerve you ask?

I know some alleged comic book fans who work in comic book stores who do not know what is this thing I speak of when I speak the title Optic Nerve. A few months ago, I was lauding the beauty and grace and wonder that is Adrian Tomine's Optic Nerve in Fanfare, my local comic shop, and not only had my dear friend the comic vendor never heard of it, but Fanfare did not stock any of the graphic novels (let alone ALL OF THEM as they should) because [a] they do not sell; and [b] I am the only one who has ever ordered them.

For shame.

Here are two pictures of me with one of the graphic novels: Sleepwalk and Other Stories (1997) and my Optic Nerve T-shirt.

I was thrilled when I did my comic order last week and discovered, on page 303 of the June Previews, a solicitation from Drawn and Quarterly Publications for the next OPTIC NERVE comic book (#13, collect them all). D&Q smartly re-issued all the awesome Tomine books and available issues of the comic, though I do not need them as I own them all.

ALSO, Tomine announced the new Optic Nerve on his web site: Optic Nerve #13.

Is my excitement obvious enough?
If my blog does anything, I hope it inspires even just one person to READ OPTIC NERVE!!! If I inpsire two or more then posting all this work without Tomine's permission has been totally worth it.

Readers of the New Yorker may recognize Tomine's art from the many covers he has drawn (see an example in the final image of today;s entry). These covers and his other illustrations were recently collected: New York Drawings.

Here's an article about Tomine and his first New Yorker cover from The Thought Fox, a great blog about Books and Culture hosted by Faber & Faber publishers.

I love my Optic Nerve T-shirt.


If I were to list my favorite artists outside mainstream, superhero comics, Adrian Tomine tops the list.

How to describe the work of Adrian Tomine and Optic Nerve? I am not sure I can do the work its due justice. Or maybe Grading Robot's batteries are too low to properly power Tower the Blogging Robot.

However, I do like this content: the Optic Nerve "stories [often] follow various socially awkward guys and girls through relationships, beatings, voyeurism, and other assorted plot lines. What seems to connect Tomine's stories throughout is the way in which each story is unnerving, some more than others...Other than being quirky, all of his characters can be characterized as being "outsiders", [sic] people who by choice or no choice exist at the fringes of our society... Each story, in some way, leaves you lingering (in a good way), mulling over the plot line and outcome of the story. I suppose what makes Tomine so intriguing is that each story is accessible to the reader, even the more extreme ones like "Pink Frosting" are, in reality, perfectly plausible in our reality" (The Graphical Neophyte, 2009).

This blogger has not blogged since 2009, but she does a very good job of capturing what makes Tomine such an excellent artist and storyteller.

There's even an Optic Nerve Wiki.

I love my Optic Nerve T-shirt.

my first Optic Nerve mini comic

I discovered Tomine and Optic Nerve back in its earliest days when it was still sold as mini-comics back in the early 1990s (pre-1995). I found a picture of one of these minis online and a page from my favorite ever Tomine story, which I will include here with all love and respect for the artist.

page from my favorite Tomine story

Is that too subtle?

Optic Nerve comics and collected graphic novels make great gifts.

Adrian Tomine's work is touching and beautiful. It is emotionally moving. I like to think that Adrian Tomine and I would be friends if we knew each other. He writes the kinds of stories that I was writing in college and would still write today if I was not doing others types of things. He and I seem to care about the same things.

I would like to think that Adrian Tomine might stumble across my blog somehow. Probably not likely, but it would be neat. If you are Adrain Tomine, and you are reading this (and cursing me for posting your art work without permission), I want to thank you. You have enriched my life in profound ways. I have read your works many, many times. Your books and comics are among my most treasured possessions, not for the owning, but for the viewing and reading and the feelings they all convey. Thank you, Adrian, for making my life and the lives of others (the world) a richer place. (Yeah, I know. I'm a dork and corny, but I can't help it when I get on a roll.)


Adrian Tomine Wiki

Adrian Tomine Tumblr

Tumblr dedicated to Adrian Tomine

Tomine-What Goes Into Creating a Cover

Paris Review Interview with Tomine

BUY Tomine art

Tomine on Fame, obscurity, craft, and drawing for the New Yorker

The RUMPUS: Spotlight on Tomine

Time's Summer Blonde review

Mother Jones: The Real Adrian Tomine

The Ephemerist on Tomine

The Casual Optimist - an illustration from March 12 2013

Review of 32 Stories - original mini-comics by Tomine

- chris tower - 1306.27 - 11:09

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

T-shirt #97 - KRAFTWERK

T-shirt #97 - KRAFTWERK - What albums do you listen to the most?

Grading Robot is still under the gun, hammered and harried, and so another short-ish posting.

Okay, it was not really shortish, looking back. But the original concept intended it to be short.

UPDATE as of 1401.13, at work on a post about Cocteau Twins, I had to update this post. I dropped Indigo Girls from my top ten and inserted a Cocteau Twins album, which is surely more accurate. I might question having a Kraftwerk album in my top ten, and I think I only included it because this is a Kraftwerk shirt. Still, it's reasonably accurate. I listened to the Trans Europe Express album a lot. I added some more Cocteau Twins albums in the later lists but held off from adding all of them, though they do all rank on the most listened to albums over many of these choices. But I wanted some variety.

I already wrote about Grading Robot and Kraftwerk in T-shirt #36 and how I saw them in concert in 2005. So, I am not going to expound on the joys of Kraftwerk or electronic music today. Grading robot must be robotic.

But today seems like a good day to make a list. This is the list of  the albums that I have listened to most often in my life. Is this the same as favorites? Maybe. Not examining that question right now.

I am not ranking this list because it would take longer, though the first album may be the number one most listened to album. I am going to sort the list into tiers and provide a few explanations.

I made a first attempt at this list with T-shirt #35.

The main rule for this list is that I can only choose full albums that I have listened to in their entirety over and over and over. Listening to individual songs, select tracks, does not count.

I am going to forgo the italics for the titles in the list for ease and speed of recording this data.

I have no method of counting, so this list has been assembled by memory alone. Here's the first ten that occurred to me. These may not be the MOST listened to albums. They were just the first ten that came to mind.

TOP TIER - first ten
  • Vangelis - The Soundtrack to Blade Runner
  • Brian Eno & David Byrne - My Life in the Bush of Ghosts
  • David Bowie - Low
  • Laurie Anderson - Mister Heartbreak
  • Cocteau Twins - VictoriaLand
  • Pink Floyd - Animals
  • Donald Fagen - Morph the Cat
  • King Crimson - Discipline
  • 10,000 Maniacs - The Wishing Chair
  • Kraftwerk - Trans Europe Express
I would say that it's accurate that the soundtrack to Blade Runner has been the main music that I have listened to the most in my life--as I described in T-shirt #61.

As I wrote, I did not rank these albums, but once I purchased a five disc changer, the Donald Fagen (of Steely Dan) solo album Morph the Cat became a daily listen. Literally, for almost three years, I listened to that album EVERY DAY. So by sheer repetitions alone--though it's only been out since 2006--I have listened to it hundreds of times. In fact, I decided to put it on right now. Ahhhh, bliss.

Other albums were in rotation at different times. I remember a couple of years of listening to Laurie Anderson's Mister Heartbreak every day, though probably not quite EVERY DAY like with Fagen's album.

People who know me will not be surprised to see Bowie in this list. Though despite the album I listened to first (Scary Monsters) and the album that made me fall in love with him (Ziggy Stardust), over the years, I have found myself going back over and over to Low more than any other album. Same with the choices for the Indigo Girls, 10,000 Maniacs, King Crimson, and Pink Floyd in this first ten (remember, may not be a top ten).

Though I chose another Kraftwerk T-shirt for the number of times I have listened to Trans Europe Express,  I got the idea for this post when I put on Eno and Byrne's seminal masterpiece My Life in the Bush of the Ghosts yesterday in the car.

TOP TIER - second ten (okay eleven...)
  • Cocteau Twins - Heaven or Las Vegas
  • Indigo Girls - All That We Let In
  • Tracey Thorn - Out of the Woods
  • Brian Eno - Another Day on Earth
  • Sade - Love Deluxe
  • St. Germain - Boulevard
  • Portishead - Dummy
  • Stereolab - Dots and Loops
  • Radiohead - Kid A
  • Steely Dan - Aja
  • The Jam - All Mod Cons
Many of these albums were in constant rotation even before I got the five disc changer, and they could just sit in the player, repeating, for weeks at a time. 

Both the Brian Eno album and the Tracey Thorn album were on a daily rotation during work for a year or more.

TOP TIER - the remainder
  • Talking Heads - Remain in Light
  • Cocteau Twins - Blue Bell Knoll
  • Tori Amos - The Beekeeper
  • REM - Reckoning
  • Indigo Girls - Rites of Passage
  • Roxy Music - Avalon
  • Kate Bush - The Dreaming
  • Joni Mitchell - Mingus
  • Suzanne Vega - Suzanne Vega
  • Bjork - Homogenic
  • Rickie Lee Jones - The Magazine
  • Martha and the Muffins - This is the Ice Age
  • Innocence Mission - Innocence Mission
  • Machine Love - Supermarket Vamps
  • Style Council - Our Favourite Shop
  • William Orbit - Hello Waveforms
  • Genesis - Trick of the Tail
  • Peter Gabriel - Security
  • Sigur Rós - ( )
  • David Sylvian and Robert Fripp - Gone to Earth
  • Robin Guthrie - Angel Falls/ Carousel
  • Cocteau Twins etc. - Moon and the Melodies
  • Milt Jackson Quartet (1955)
  • Suzanne Ciani - Pianissimo III
  • David Sanborn - Close-Up
  • Spyro Gyra - The Deep End
I am sure that there are more albums that I would put in a top tier of most listened to albums if I put more thought into it making this list, but, like the first twenty, these are the first ones that I popped into my mind as I took little breaks from being grading robot yesterday to assemble the list. It was a nice diversion.

If you do not know some of these albums, I recommend them all (obviously). Long suffering Tori fans should listen to The Beekeper, as I might argue that it's her best, or at least prettiest. I am a fan of soft jazz. Sometimes, I will load up all the Sanborn and Spyro Gyra and spend days listening. However, these two are the ones I have probably come back to most often, even though Spyro Gyra's The Deep End came out in 2004. Some people may complain that soft jazz is very close to muzak. I don't care. When I am hard at work and must concentrate, these days, I prefer SILENCE, but when I need to fill space with background sound, I go for pretty, melodic, and lyric free music. Among the best for this kind of music from the list are William Orbit's Hello Waveforms and everything by a great San Francisco based electronic jazz group called Machine Love.

I know I have mentioned Machine Love on this blog somewhere. If there was a handy search function (I guess I could use Google but I am lazy....nah, nada), anyway, I did a whole blog entry about this great group in my other blog.

  • Erykah Badu - Baduism
  • Pink Floyd - Dark Side of the Moon
  • Pink Floyd - Wish You Were Here
  • The Clash - London Calling
  • Devo - Are We Not Men?
  • Bowie - Scary Monsters (and Super Creeps)
  • Bowie - The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars
  • Gary Numan - Telekon
  • Kate Bush - Hounds of Love
  • Ani DiFranco - Revelling/Reckoning
  • Beth Orton - Central Reservation
  • Lori Carson - Everything I Touch Runs Wild
  • Liz Story - Speechless
  • Joy Divison - Closer
  • Joni Mitchell - Hejira
  • Joni Mitchell - The Missing of Summer Lawns
  • Joe Jackson - Night and Day
  • Japan - Tin Drum
  • Jane Siberry - The Speckless Sky
  • Haircut 100 - Pelican West
  • Everything But the Girl - Everything But the Girl
  • CSN&Y - Déjà Vu
  • The Buggles - Living in the Plastic Age
  • Bryan Ferry - Bete Noire
  • U2 - October
  • OMD - Architecture and Morality
  • Thievery Corporation - The Mirror Conspiracy
  • Straight Ahead - Look Straight Ahead
  • Spirit - Twelve Dreams of Dr. Sardonicus
  • The Smiths - The Queen is Dead
  • The Jam - Setting Sons
  • The Style Council - Confessions of a Pop Group
  • The Style Council - Cafe Blue
  • Sarah McLachlan - Fumbling Towards Ecstasy
  • Rickie Lee Jones - Flying Cowboys
  • Rickie Lee Jones - Pirates
  • The Psychedelic Furs - The Psychedelic Furs
  • The Police - Synchronicity
  • The Pixies - Doolittle
  • Paul Simon - Graceland
  • New Order - Power, Corruption, and Lies 
I know. The list is getting rather long. But I also know that some of my readers like lists and may go trolling for new music or old music that they have forgotten existed.


Back to Grading Robotics.

- chris tower - 1306.26 - 8:59

PS: Today is my father's birthday. He is turning 78. This blows my mind. Happy Birthday Dad. Thanks for being so kind and patient as I inflicted so many of these albums on the walls and rooms of our house (or outside as we worked) over the years.

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

T-shirt #96 - The House of Secrets

T-shirt #96 - The House of Secrets or why my T-shirt is cooler than yours

Another short post as the hammer time for Grading Robot continues.

I bought this shirt because I thought it was cool. Unlike the normal purchase process, my initial reaction for this shirt was not one of "oooooh, I MUST have that shirt to wear with the pride of my fan love" but rather "that's a cool shirt even though I am not reading that book."

I am not going to go into depth about House of Secrets, but here's a quick primer. The Silver Age House of Secrets ran originally from 1956-1966. After a three year hiatus, it returned in 1969 and ran until 1978 with great artists like Neal Adams (mentioned in T-shirt #43 and T-shirt #83), Bernie Wrightson, and Michael Kaluta working on stories for the comic. I was not a huge fan of this run, but I do own many issues and enjoy the work of all three of these great artists and many others who worked on the comic back then. The series was revived in 1996 by DC's Vertigo imprint written by Steven T. Seagle and art (mostly) by Teddy Kristiansen. I read some of it, but I did not keep up with it religiously. It's good stuff and on my list to read in trade paperbacks when I have time.

But that's not why I bought the T-shirt. I just bought the T-shirt because I liked the image and the text, and I liked the "cool" the shirt provides as if I am part of a secret brain trust (which I am). I also love the shirt as a well-made piece of clothing. I consider this one of my "dressy" T-shirts as this one is still in mint condition after 17 years (I bought it in 1996), and the collar is still tight.

I have written about why we wear T-shirts before on this blog (most notably in T-shirt #83, T-shirt #77, and T-shirt #87). I have realized that this blog will continue to explore this idea throughout the remaining 269 days. Why? Why do we wear the shirts we wear?

Or maybe a more interesting question is this one: "Do other people select T-shirts for the reasons that I select T-shirts?"

I will explore this question more in the weeks and months to come.

- chris tower - 1306.25 - 8:30

Monday, June 24, 2013

T-shirt #95 - KUDL 2013: Superheroes

T-shirt #95 - KUDL 2013: Six Degrees of Ultimate

Attention readers! Tower must be a serious grading robot for the next few days and so the blog's entries will be brief. Final grades for my most time consuming school are due Thursday morning, and I have several obstructions to working on them in the week, one of which is KUDL tonight.

As promised each Monday will feature a different KUDL--or at least an ultimate--shirt. Here's the 2013 shirt (in the light blue and pink). I plan to feature this shirt again, so I will not expound too much. But I will say that 2013 may be the best year of KUDL yet and that my team is simply AWESOME. We are known as Funktion Junktion, which I think is a brilliant team name.

Here's a photo that Bruce "Fris" Johnson made happen on June 17th, 2013 after our nightly KUDL games. It's meant to be a "six generations of Ultimate at Kalamazoo College" photo with the youngest and recent K students on the left and moving up the scale to feature the oldest alumni on the far right.

From Left to Right: Meredith Edwards, Morgan Mariama Mahdavi, Woody Tauke, Adam Smith, Jacob Meyers, Stu Gulliver, me (Chris Tower), and Bruce "Fris" Johnson
Look at those lovely people. There's some pride in both Ultimate and Kalamazoo College!

- chris tower - 1306.24 - 8:08

Sunday, June 23, 2013

T-shirt #94: Batman: The 1960s TV Show

T-shirt #94: Batman: KAPOW! Holy T-shirt, Batman!

"To the bat poles, Robin!"

"Atomic batteries to power, turbines to speed!"

"Holy Bargain Basements, Batman!!"

The Batman television series that ran from 1966-1968 and then in syndication for many years forged the cornerstone of my personality, my sense of humor, and my ideas about popular culture.

I owned many of the toys (seen in today's blog entry). I dressed as Batman not only for Halloween but for playtime in a cape my mother made for me.

Even better, my house had bat poles.

When my father designed our West Gull Lake Drive house, he added a 43-foot sliding pole (37 feet from the  floor of the fourth floor to the basement floor). The house was finished in 1979 and where I lived (except for my years in college) until 2003, and then again with my wife and kids from 2009 to 2011. I have added pictures here. For 26 years of my life, I could say "to the Bat Poles, Robin" and actually take the slide. I miss that house. I miss the bat pole. My father used the Tower room as his office for most of the years we lived there, though originally (for the first year or three) it was a TV room. From 2009-2011, I made my office on the fourth floor or the "Tower" room. When the washer or dryer buzzed or my wife came home, I could skip the stairs and shoot down the bat pole. Such, a great life.

To examine the importance of the Batman TV show I present the top ten reasons that I loved the show. These may work for you, too, if like me, you grew up with this show.


  7. THE VILLAINS (& cliffhangers)
NO RANKINGS: I did not rank this list. I cannot put these things in an order. What would really be number one? Maybe if you are a faithful reader and are reading this, you can give me your thoughts on appropriate rankings.




Written by Neal Hefti, the song captured the Zeitgeist of the times with its guitar hook bringing together soy film scores  (such as James Bond films) and surf music. I remember frugging out hard to the song every time the show came on the air. I would flail about the room like a spazz. Come on, I was only four years old when this show debuted. But between its original run and syndication, and then later covers by bands such as  the Who and the Jam, I have always had this song in my life.

It is definitely one of the best theme songs in TV history/

READ MORE: Bat Theme Wikipedia

Old Batman TV Show Theme Song


Of course, someone has collected all of Robin's sayings at an Internet site. Such resources. Back in "the day," we would have to do this ourselves. I have partial lists of these and McCoy's "I'm a doctor not a..." in my journals.

"Holy Bargain Basements, Batman!" is one of the best.

Robin's wacky sayings have been collected here: Holy Smokes, Batman!


Okay, I am just going to write this one statement and leave it alone without further embellishment.

Julie Newmar's Catwoman had a profound effect on my views about sexuality, femininity, and my attractions to women.

This video is an interesting tribute. Give it a look. Some fans wrote their own song, which seems dedicated to Newmar's Catwoman. Though other actresses played Catwoman in the original TV Series and the movie, and those these actresses (Lee Meriwether and Eartha Kitt), it is really no contest. Julie Newmar was the best.

Something Wild - Julie Newmar as Catwoman

Since the TV show, two actresses (Michelle Pfeiffer and Anne Hathaway) have played Catwoman in the movies, and both have done a very good job.  But I promised not to elaborate. I will let the pictures and the video speak for themselves. Okay, one other thing, during these formative years, my views about women and sexuality were also affected by Batgirl (see upcoming item below) and the women of Star Trek.

For more of Julie Newmar without the over-dubbed song:

Scat! Darn Catwoman


 As I mentioned before, we had bat poles at my house in Richland. The "bat pole" is pictured here. In the first photo, I tried to capture its length with what it looked like before you hopped on to slide down it. In the second photo, I shot the top of the pole where one hopped on in the "Tower" room, the fourth floor of the house. When I was younger, in the house before this one (the West Gull Lake Drive house), in the 7070 Hazelwood house, I always talked about having a trap door in my room and either a rope ladder to my "secret room" in the basement or just a bat pole behind a secret door in a bookcase, very much like the set up in the Wayne Manor of the Batman TV series.  Obviously, these influences are clear. Bat poles, the secret bookcase, the trip switch in the bust of Shakespeare, the secret entrance to the Bat Cave covered by the detour sign. All these things were what I wanted in my own house some day. I think it's great that my father architect decided to install a bat pole in our house in 1979. Everything named "Bat" was also a very powerful motif from the show. The idea was simple enough that it was easily imitated by children playing everywhere. If you're a super hero like Batman, and you invent cool gizmos and gadgets, you're going to name them all with the "Bat" brand: Bat Phone, Bat Signal, Batmobile, Bat Helicopter, Batarang, and my personal favorite: the Bat Shark Repellent. This is a link to the serious Batman gadgets, with more emphasis on the recent Dark Knight films. BATMAN GADGETS But there are sites devoted to the old show, too, such as THE BAT BLOG or for those who like chat: THE 1966 BATMAN MESSAGE BOARD Supposedly, the good people of the message board created a video of all the gadgets. Drill into the site if you want to know more. There's also a good list of gadgets in the BATMOBILE in the BATMAN WIKIA. The original Batmobile was auctioned off in January of 2013. Read about it here. How cool to have one's name on everything. Kind of like "Tower Room" and "Tower House" and "Tower Phone" and...

  5. DEATH TRAPS AND CLIFFHANGERS The original Batman TV shows were very formulaic. Often Batman and/or Robin were caught in a death trap at the end of the episode. The cliffhangers would often be resolved in the next episode. This motif kept viewers watching and arranging their days and nights to catch the next episode at "the same bat time and same bat channel." Comic books often use the same idea to keep people reading.

  6. BAT GIRL You know what I wrote about Catwoman? Ditto Batgirl. Yvonne Craig who played Batgirl also played the green skinned Orion Slave girl in the original Star Trek episode "Whom the Gods Destroy." But with Batgirl, the comic book company and TV show created a crime fighting girlfriend for Robin. How cool would it be to have a crime fighting girlfriend?

The Secret Origins of BATGIRL

Great video collecting Batgirl clips for the third season of the Batman TV show.


7. THE VILLAINS  The Batman show featured all sorts of wonderful villains with great performers playing them. In addition to the great Julie Newmar as Catwoman, there were the others for the big four: The Joker (Cesar Romero), the Penguin (Burgess Meredith), and the Riddler (Frank Gorshin and John Astin). There were many other greats who appeared on the show, such as Milton Berle, Michael Rennie, Anne Baxter, Joan Collins, Eli Wallach, Tallulah Bankhead, Art Carney, Roddy McDowell, Liberace, Shelley Winters, Vincent Price, and so many more. Life is always interesting with such interesting people in it. This is also true of the next item.

  8. SCALING THE BUILDINGS - CAMEOS Of course, someone has collected all the window cameos. Hilarious!!

The Complete 14 Batman Window Cameos

Also, my picture.
You should not be surprised to learn that I own(owned) many of the Bat toys, such as a "full size" cardboard Bat Cave play box pictured here with some other kid (pictures of me with mine are still locked away in the Tower vault).
This is a picture of my toys. CLOSE UP.
I still have the Bat Cave playset pictured here, which is currently on display as a cool pop culture artifact in my step-son's bedroom. I shared pictures of myself with the Bat Phone. I also own the Bat Utility Belt pictured here on the entry elsewhere, though I am not sure where it is, though I kept the bat cuffs hanging from a light fixture for many years. This kid in the photo with the Bat Cave could have been me. I played with Bat toys for countless hours as a child. The Batman and Robin figures feature wonderful detail in the way they are painted. I am sad that the uniform emblems have worn away. 10. BATMAN AND ROBIN (CAPES ARE COOL) The toys in the play set show Batman's plastic cape and its cool curve that makes my point well. But the capes are cool as the flow and fly. My mother made me a Batman cape and I used a small yellow baby blanket when I wanted to be Robin. I still have the bat cape somewhere. I was Batman many times for Halloween. MORE BATMAN TV SHOW RESOURCES BATMAN 1966 WIKI BATMAN 1966 IMDB A GREAT FAN SITE: Bat Mania BATMAN 1966 YOU TUBE CHANNEL Note - there are many videos of these shows on You Tube because for a long time since there were no commercial releases of the episodes. For instance, this appears to be the first episode.

Batman (1966) S01E01 Hi Diddle Riddle

DC is doing a 1966 Batman comic and then there will be new TOYS. They are already solicited.

Do you have great love for this old show? Leave a comment.

- chris tower - 1306.23 - 11:24