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.)

Wednesday, July 31, 2013

T-shirt #132: Detroit Tigers Stadium and Billy Sauce

T-shirt #132: Detroit Tigers, Tigers Stadium, and Billy's Hit-a-Ton Barbecue Sauce & A BIG ROUNDUP OF RANDOM STUFF!!


Good morning from the Bloggy Carnival of Towerness. By the time I finished writing this one, it was no longer morning.

It's Wednesday the last day of July 2013, and it's a good day to be a Detroit Tigers fan.

I was actually watching last night, and I was actually hoping with the power of my mind and heart for the very outcome that occurred as Alex Avila clubbed a two-out, grand slam in the sixth off one of the best pitchers in Baseball, the Washington Nationals' Stephen Strasburg. It was Avila's first career GRAND SALAMI.

Usually, if I send a Twitter message during a game, crowing about something that happens in the game, I jinx the outcome, and the Tigers lose. Last night, I sent the message, and the Tigers still won, by a score of 5-1.

In other Tigers news, a big trade went down last night that will bring Boston shortstop Julio Iglesias to the Tigers as a backup in case regular and All-Star shortstop Jhonny Peralta is suspended by the MLB on the bogus Biongenesis scandal. The Tigers gave up OF Avisail Garcia and RHP Brayan Villarreal in the deal.

Stories. I love Baseball's stories and I love its statistics. History and numbers. The history of numbers. The human interest of stories. The numbered story of history. The personalities and the oddities. Today, I am going to feature a little bit of all that delightful big country buffet in one roundup blog post.


I have been disloyal.

I bought barbecue sauce featuring a Kansas City Royals player named Billy Butler or as he's known by the nickname: "Country Breakfast."

And this was not an impulse buy in the store. I sent away to Kansas City for this sauce and paid extra fees in Federal Express shipping.

In my defense, proceeds from the sale of the sauce benefit a Kansas City food pantry and community kitchen charity called the Bishop Sullivan Center.

Also, hey, I kind of like the Royals. There, I said it.

The Kansas City Royals would not be on my list of "most hated" Baseball teams. I kind of like the current crop of young players who are making a run in the AL Central. And I have always liked the franchise, going back to the days of George Brett. If a team is going to duke it out with the Tigers down the stretch, I would rather see the Royals in the fight than the Indians and Twins (whom I do hate) or even the Chicago White Sox (about whom I am on the fence).

Plus, I like Billy "Country Breakfast" Butler. He was a pick up on my main fantasy Baseball team a few years back (is anyone surprised that I play FANTASY BASEBALL? I thought not.), and he has "hit a ton" for me ever since.

Plus, in these days of summer, I am keen to try specialty BBQ sauce. And Kansas City intrigues me as a great place to visit.

And though the Royals have produced "Fear the Sauce" T-shirts, I do not expect to purchase and wear one of those shirts. Sauce for another team I will try; T-shirts for another team, a RIVAL team? No way.

If you are interested, here's some LINKS:






Is it any surprise that I play Fantasy Baseball? I thought not. I have played for many years and in many leagues. For the last ten years or so, I have run my own league: The Tiger Towne Baseball League. Our league eschews team stats like RBIs and runs and focuses on more individual stats like OBP and Total Bases.

In 2013, I chose to play in six leagues. I know this sounds like a lot, but it really isn't that difficult once the drafting is done at the beginning of the season. I am not in first place in any of these leagues. But I won each of my main two within the last few years, and I always place highly.

Every morning, I record the Tigers and Cubs scores on my own special log sheets. I read recaps just for those two games (three yesterday as the Cubs played a double-header), and then I study the box scores. After devoting some times and attention (while playing SportsCenter on the TV), I look at each box score from the day's games and watch for what a lot of my fantasy players are doing. After all of that, I set my fantasy lineups. I used to set the week in advance, but I have gotten away from that in an effort to save time on Sunday. This ritual may sound time consuming, but it only takes 30-60 minutes depending on how many non-sports Yahoo stories catch my eye, how tired I am, and if my fantasy teams need new players.

Patience is a virtue in Fantasy Baseball, but too much patience can be a killer. In several leagues, I drafted Victor Martinez because he would qualify as a catcher all season without playing catcher and would get more plate appearances than most catchers. But Victor struggled to start the season batting .221/.290/.274 in April with no homers and .235/.257/.333 in May with two homers. But things started to go up in June, and in July, Victor hit .380/.421/.580 with three homers, ELEVEN doubles, and an OPS of 1.001.

So that's patience, but one of my league mates could not be patient. He dropped Toronto 1B/3B Edwin Encarnación on April 15th just two weeks into the season (before Edwin even qualified at two positions) when Edwin got off to a lousy start at .184/.247/.386 with two homers. I snatched him off the waiver wire immediately. Edwin has gone on to hit 27 homers since April 15th. In July, he has hit .321/.432/.641 for an OPS of 1.073. Not patient enough. In fact, I just noticed that in this league I had not drafted VMart to start but grabbed him off waivers in the same player dump by my friend and his team the Fastball Flakes.

Now, not to say that I will hold on to a player past all reason. In some cases, I will give up on a player. I gambled that Encarnación had more upside than Adam LaRoche, and so I gave up on the Nationals' first baseman when I grabbed Encarnación. How did I fare? LaRoche has 14 homers, and Encarnación has 29. After a decent May and June, LaRoche is batting .167/.237/.298 in July with two homers.

I do switch out relievers a lot. I will rotate these guys based on who is hot and who is not, and who is accumulating HOLDS, which is the most overlooked stat in fantasy, while maintaining high strikeout numbers, low walks, and low ERAs.

It's also key to draft well and spot players who are not on anyone's radar but who are going to out perform top ranked players by miles and miles. Sometimes, I will not even draft these little known players or I will wait and draft them last. Some picks this year include Arizona's SP Patrick Corbin and Seattle's SP Hisashi Iwakuma. The main measure I like best for starting pitchers is the QUALITY START stat, which a pitcher earns if he throws at least six innings while giving up three runs or fewer. Without looking at other important pitching stats, Corbin's 18 Quality Starts puts him in first place in the majors along with Bartolo Colon, Adam Wainwright, Clayton Kershaw, and Travis Wood (many of whom were not the highly touted pitchers by fantasy "experts"). Iwakuma's 15 Quality Starts ranks him 21st on the list, still higher than so-called studs like Justin Verlander, Matt Cain, and CC Sabathia.

For more on Quality Starts and meaningful pitching stats, check out:


I may not be winning that league (I am in third and I am playing 4th place Fastball Flakes this week), but I am holding my own. I will make the playoffs if my team does not have an epic collapse. Still, as much as I banked on these pitchers, I am not leading the league in Quality Starts. I am 5th. However, I am leading this league in pitcher strikeouts, holds, saves,  wins, and WHIP. I am second in ERA. I am not leading in any offensive category, but I am holding my own with decent numbers.

Patience but not too much patience.


More on statistics. Back in the 1980s and 1990s, old school Baseball minds evaluated players on "gut" and not so much on numbers. When the old school Baseball scouts, managers, and coaches looked at stats, they looked at things like wins for pitchers and batting average for hitters as key factors. As it turns out, neither statistic is very useful for evaluating performance. As I already mentioned, Quality Starts is a much more revealing statistic for pitching performance than Wins totals. A case for this and other related measures can be made by looking at the Pittsburgh Pirates.

The Pittsburgh Pirates are in first place in the NL Central after taking three games of a five game set (a four game series with a double header for a make up rained out game) from the previously NL Central leading St. Louis Cardinals.

How are they doing it? Not with offense. Their offense is anemic, ranking 20th in Total Bases, 22nd in Runs, and 20th in OPS in the Majors.

The story for the Pirates is pitching and defense and how these work together.

First, some stats history and then back to the Pirates and how this all relates. Bill James began publishing statistical analysis of Baseball in the late 1980s. By the mid-1990s, this stuff was immensely popular among Baseball geeks, like myself. However, most actual MLB teams were not making decisions based on these new statistical innovations (such as runs created, range factor, and win shares) until the coming of Billy Beane to the Oakland Athletics, a transformation immortalized by Micheal Lewis in the 2003 book Moneyball: The Art of Winning an Unfair Game. In the book, two key measures helped Beane to make player decisions: drafting or acquiring players for whom a strong set of data existed (relying on high school stats or a scout's "gut" alone was not a good predictor), and the belief that offense is twice as important as defense. In other words, a team could absorb some losses and some of a player's mistakes to benefit from his increased On-Base Percentage and/or Runs Created numbers that translate to WINS and placement in the division.

However, since Moneyball, statistically-minded analysts have discovered that defense does matter, and how defense functions with pitching can make up for an anemic offense depending on divisional competition.

Though the Pittsburgh Pirates have the best ERA in the majors, they are 21st in Quality Starts, 6th in walks allowed, and 10th in strikeouts. So how are the Pirates then second in the MLB in wins by the pitching staff? It's a combination of pitching and defense.

The Pirates get more swinging strikes on bad balls than any team in the NL. When the opposing batters do make contact, the results are batted balls that are easy for the defense to gobble up. Between how well the pitchers fool batters and how easy the results are for the defense to handle, the Pirates may continue to win and stay atop the NL central, breaking a trend of 20 consecutive losing seasons, a record in North American team sports (not just Baseball).

I love this kind of statistical analysis to explain what we see in the standings. For the full explanation, see the following article.



It's difficult to have a favorite Detroit Tigers player. For a while, I was a Brandon Inge fan, and then an Alex Avila fan. But how could I not love Justin Verlander and Miguel Cabrera? And what about Prince Fielder, Victor Martinez, Jhonny Peralta, Doug Fister, and Joaquin Benoit?

They are all favorites. They are all special because they are on my favorite team. Even when the Tigers acquire someone I did not like previously, such as Jose Valverde, I have to come to like the player because he is now a Detroit Tigers player.

I already liked Max Scherzer before reading the Sports Weekly article from July 18th, which is mostly cribbed from these articles by Jeff Seidel of the FREEP:

Detroit Tigers first-time All-Star Max Scherzer takes modesty, intellect to mound


Detroit Tigers' Max Scherzer (10-0) shows all his talent, strength.

There's also a good blog post here:

What I read in these articles makes me love Max Scherzer all the more. He was an under-valued, smart pick up from the Arizona Diamondbacks, and he's having a career year following a very good year to prove it.
I learned how competitive he is, how much he studies the game, that he loves scuba diving, that he is a kid at heart, and most importantly that he's a life long learner, learning and reading all the time, getting into what he calls "Google Freefalls."

I also learned that his nickname on the team is "Mad Max."

Go Mad Max.


Because no one demanded it, but you are all wanting to see it, today's list of loved, liked, and hated MLB teams.

LOVED: The Detroit Tigers and the Chicago Cubs!!

LIKED: In the AL: The Oakland Athletics, The Kansas City Royals, and the Tampa Bay Rays.
In the NL: The Washington Nationals, The Pittsburgh Pirates, the Arizona Diamondbacks, the Colorado Rockies.

HATED: In the AL: The Minnesota Twins, The Cleveland Indians, The New York Yankees.
In the NL: The St. Louis Cardinals, and The Atlanta Braves.

I am luke warm or on the fence about all the others.

As I conclude today's blog entry, the Tigers are about to start a day game against the Washington Nationals, whom they beat last night on Avila's Granny.

It's a good day to be a Detroit Tigers fan.

And just because I am not yet done with it, another photo of pages from the ticket book. There are more Tigers tickets in it than any other single thing.


- chris tower - 1307.31 - 13:01

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

T-shirt #131: Starfleet Academy

T-shirt #131: Starfleet Academy Training: THE KLASSIC ARCADE

I have read a lot of very good books this year.

I would be hard pressed to pick a book of the year out of this year's choices--at least so far--and my "to read" book stack is looking very good with works like Joyland by Stephen King and Gadget Girl by Suzanne Kamata up next followed by City of Bones, Kite Runner, and Earth Afire among so many others. I also have a plan to re-read Dune and Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell.

I posted about books that I have enjoyed recently in T-shirt #107: The Daily Planet with some newsy lists of favorite things. One of the books on that list was Ernest Cline's Ready Player One. I liked it so much that I also blogged about it here in T-shirt #61: Blade Runner. So far, everyone to whom I have recommended Ready Player One has loved it and had a difficult time putting it down. Though I thoroughly enjoyed John Scalzi's Red Shirts and Warren Ellis' Gun Machine, if forced at threat of a boiling in a pot surrounded by hungry cannibals, I would choose Ready Player One as my book of the year.

Is it cheating to quote myself? Well, I am going to do it anyway.

"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.)" (T-shirt #61: Blade Runner).


"But really, out of this list, Ready, Player One by Ernest Cline is the most amazing. Everyone to whom I have recommended it has loved it, and the audio edition with narration by Wil Wheaton is fantastic! Beware. You will not be able to put it down. I originally mentioned Ready, Player One in the entry for T T-shirt #61: Blade Runner, another post that could have made the top five and of which I am enormously proud. (See how I am sneaking in more than a top five in posts?)" (T-shirt #107: The Daily Planet).

Here's my Goodreads review. I gave Ready, Player One FIVE stars: "This is one of the single most entertaining reads I have had in a long time, and I give it five stars with no hesitation. I finished it a week ago, but I have been waiting to share my review because I thought it needed a long review.

It does not.

Certain readers, geeks like me, will love this book. It's a lovefest for the 1980s. With a constant stream of TV show, movie, music, video game, and other game references, this book will be adored by any fun loving geek who grew up and/or lived through the 1980s. It's delightful.

The reading experience is made more delightful by listening to the audio book narrated by the brilliantly funny Wil Wheaton. This marks the third Wil Wheaton book I have listened to recently. The last one was the book I read right before this one, Scalzi's Red Shirts, which gave me a back-to-back Wil Wheaton love fest. The other book was Scalzi's Fuzzy Nation, which was another immensely entertaining reading experience.

I only wish to applaud this book and reveal no spoilers. Beyond sharing that it's an '80s love fest, I do not want to share anything else. I went into it with no pre-knowledge except the rave reviews of several of the vendors at Fanfare, the local comic and game shop.

All I can say is to READ IT. If you are in any way like me, you will love it.

Thank me later" (Goodreads review, 2013).

I have been informed that I was wrong that only those geeky kids of the 1980s would thoroughly enjoy this book. One reader, a child of the late-1990s and early 2000s, told me I was dead wrong. So, I will qualify: the resonance for those who grew up in the 1980s or the late 1970s and early 1980s will find a richer experience here than those who have consumed 1980s culture in retrospect. The experience of reading the book will be just as enjoyable for both readers, but their experiences will inform their enjoyment differently.

At this point, many of you may be asking: "what does Ready, Player One have to do with that Starfleet Academy shirt you are wearing and the Klassic Arcade?"

Good question.

First, the Klassic Arcade. After finishing  Ready, Player One, I did a Google search to find a local arcade. With my love of old 1970s and 1980s electronic arcade games rekindled by this book, I needed an outlet to play the classics. This is how I discovered the Klassic Arcade of Gobles, Michigan. But this was back in March. My delayed gratification system seems to be working well. Four months after finding this place, I made my trek on Saturday July 27th, accompanied by my step-son Ivan and his girlfriend Olivia (pictures courtesy of both). Believe me, after visiting this great place and spending most of my time at the Asteroids machine, I will be back soon.

Second, the shirt. I have featured SEVEN Star Trek shirts so far on this blog. This one makes eight.

This was my first Star trek shirt, and it was a gift from my parents (or my sister, I forget). I may have lied when I claimed in T-Shirt #39 that the UFP logo shirt was the first Star Trek shirt that I owned. Since I am committed to accuracy, I may have to try to fact check these claims, but that's nothing I can do now. So it goes on my list (it's a short list) of potential updates to make later.

In any case, why this shirt? Well, why not? I have written quite a lot of Star Trek related content. My love for Star Trek is well documented on this blog. So, I do not feel that I needed to write more about Star Trek (though I could and I probably will as I expect purchasing at least one more Star Trek shirt before this yar of 365 days ends). Also, I do not own an Asteroids or an Atari shirt. No classic arcade game shirts, though, again, this may change. So, it seemed fitting to wear my Starfleet Academy shirt. After all, what is the Kobayashi Maru but a big video game? And what better training for something like Starfleet than simulations like electronic games, which will be demonstrated in the Ender's Game film due out this fall (and the controversy over which is the subject of an upcoming blog post). My friends and I always said we were the military's secret training project, and each game had a hidden video camera that sought the best and the brightest to recruit for the future war against the alien invaders. Hmmmm... there's a book there.

I am afraid I will have to sign off soon before I can do a full love letter to the games of the 1980s as Grading Robot is still in high production mode. But as I share my silly pictures, more snippets of fun. Thanks for reading me today!

I have always pronounced the game in the sign above as "Gal-AH-ga" rather than "GAL-a-ga," IE. a long "a" sound on the middle A and emphasis rather than a short "a" in the middle and an emphasis on the first "a." My wife and step-kids love to tease me about this pronunciation, but before them, no one corrected me. Apparently, I have been mis-pronouncing this game's name for years. And yet, when I look at the word, it makes more sense to me to pronounce it my way. Hey, I have to do my own thing. Besides, I have always preferred Galaxian anyway, and I know how to pronounce that name.

My favorite all time video arcade games are Asteroids, Joust, and Robotron followed by Galaxian, Tempest, and the little known Elevator Action.

Sadly, the arcade's Robotron is in for repairs.

But the arcade has a Joust machine. This games is prominently featured in Ready, Player One, and its pairing with another great 1980s popular culture artifact is reason alone to read the book. If you read it, you will see what I mean.

But Asteroids is my all time favorite game.

When I arrived at the arcade, I went straight for the Asteroids machine. I set the high score for the day at 13,500-ish because playing Asteroids is like riding a bike. I had not forgotten how to fly and shoot and avoid death, especially in killing the tiny, annoying spaceship with the excellent targeting system.

For my old days, 13,500 is a low score for me, so I was definitely rusty. But hey, I haven't played Asteroids in about 25 years, so give me a break.

The rest of our time at the arcade (about two hours), I could not beat my first game score. The closest I came was 11,000-something.

I also had forgotten (but quickly remembered) that I used to sign all my high scores with the initials ARM, which comes from Larry Niven's Gil Hamilton books.

One important play tactic with Asteroids is to use the thrust to fly, not only to dodge asteroids but also to avoid and KILL the two ships that will come to break up asteroids and kill you. I call them fatty and the annoying little fucker, respectively.

I also remembered that we used to often cry out "certain death! certain death!" while playing games like Asteroids and Robotron.

If you are interested, play of all of these games can be found on You Tube, including my wife's favorite: Moon Cresta.

- chris tower - 1307.30 - 9:23

Monday, July 29, 2013

T-shirt #130: KUDL 2012

T-shirt #130: KUDL 2012: Zombie Grass

Hello ever faithful readers. It's KUDL Monday and you know what that means: Another KUDL shirt.

Grading Robot has final grades due for one of his universities on Tuesday, so this one is mostly pictures with pithy comments. At least, I hope they are pithy.

How am I looking? This is a frightening photo on the left. I do not think I am even aware that a picture is being taken, so it's not like I am giving the camera person the stink eye.

Or am I?

The photo to the right was shown before, and for once, I am not referencing the former post with a link. It's a photo from costume night in 2012. We were named Zombie Grass because dead grass is yellow and dead things are zombies. If that makes no sense, then leave it alone. We're Ultimate players; we do not need to make sense.

STOP MAKING SENSE! Words to live by.

As for the picture to the right, for costume night last year, we were zombies. This is us being zombies. Josh Danks (who is usually shirtless) is in front. I am behind in my yellow nightie to give with our yellow shirts.

Really, it's not that exciting. I know.

Something happened with the Patagonia shirts we use in KUDL last year. This one seems thinner and more insubstantial than the rest. Plus, yellow is not really my color, at least this hue of yellow, because if you have been reading I have already featured several yellow shirts and wrote about my Spring yellow shirt thing, such as in T-shirt #30: Kid Flash (yes, Kid Flash, despite what's in the URL). So this shirt is more or less my work shirt. I wear it when working around the house or in the yard, which I do not do (the work that is) nearly enough.

But yesterday was more or less a day of rest, and so I decided to get pictures taking the puppy for a walk.

"Satchel, don't pull."


"Dad... come on, what's the hold up.
And what's Adam Kemp doing
with your phone?"
Photos with Satchel courtesy of Adam Kemp (not pictured).

Since you did not get a really good look at the shirt, here's art proofs from last year that we did not use. I kind of like the disc and our league name, though, but we have to be consistent with our brand.

KUDL enters week nine tonight. Only one more Monday left after tonight and then the end of the season tournament on Saturday August 10th.

Our team, FUNKTION JUNKTION, is very excited. We have a great team. Expect to see more pictures.


- chris tower - 1307.29 - 8:33

Sunday, July 28, 2013

T-shirt #129: The Who

T-shirt #129: The Who

After the first time I saw the Who live, I said that my life would be complete and fulfilled if I could go hear the Who play "Won't Get Fooled Again" in concert once a month for the rest of my life. I came to this conclusion because the song embodies all the rage and pain of trying to navigate this big world, in which the majority of the world's wealth is in the possession of the top 1% of the population. It's all rebellion, revolution, and anger. It's the very essence of rock and roll.

Before we get to far into this, I should mention that I do not really play the guitar. There are guitars in my house because my wife, Liesel, is learning and plays with my step-son Ivan and recently with her brother, Mike, who was visiting after a teaching stint in Iraq. I do own my own guitar, and I have had lessons, so I can play a few chords (can't everyone?), but I am not really musically inclined. I am simply posing with the guitar because it is here and makes a nice prop that logically goes with one of the greatest guitarists and bands with guitars in rock and roll history: Pete Townsend and the Who.

The Who was the second BIG band that I came to love in the earliest days of my musical exploration (the first being Pink Floyd).

Recently, I had breakfast with my friend Chris Dilley, and I was reminded of how much I love the Who and "Won't Get Fooled Again" in particular as Chris mentioned listening to the band's great 1971 album Who's Nextwhich ends, epically, with "Won't Get Fooled Again" but also features one of Chris' favorites "The Song is Over." Having forgotten that song, Chris' interest caused me to "dig" it out, though in this modern era digging out a song is as easy as typing a search in iTunes or using YouTube to find a live version.

"Who's Next" would be the best album for a lesser band. And though with the Who it is surely one of the band's best, a band with many classics must log it just as another classic among many. The Who has given us the rock operas Quadrophenia and Tommy, as well as early classics like My Generation and A Quick One, one of the best live albums in rock music, The Who Live at Leeds (1970), and the amazing soundtrack album for The Kids Are All Right movie (which is a great introduction to the band and my first Who album).

One listen to "The Song is Over" brings back memories of why it's such a great song (Thanks, Chris Dilley!) and why the whole Who's Next album is so great. The cover art (See image to the right) is also one of my favorites in all rock music and is a perfect companion to the music, especially "Won't Get Fooled Again" and the song people often mis-title as "Teenage Wasteland," which is actually called "Baba O'Riley," named for the song's musical influences Meher Baba and Terry Riley.

Interesting sidenote: Last night, I took the kids to the Klassic Arcade in Gobles (my first time), and I was playing tunes in the car to get us pumped up to play video and pinball games. I was scrolling the iPod to the Who because I wanted to play "Won't Get Fooled Again," having earlier in the day decided to make this today's blog entry. I was not even thinking of the Who's most appropriate song for our outing, but when I saw it, I played it: "Pinball Wizard." Serendipity. Synchronicity.

The sidenote is another synchronicity that takes place in our world all the time. We put out energy into the universe, and the universe returns it to us a thousand fold. Factors converge. The important thing is to be open to what the universe will return and to put out good, strong, positive energy to get back all that is good and wonderful about our world rather than the dark and negative.


In part, this blog (the whole thing not just this entry) explores LOVE. And I am trying to elevate this idea beyond narcissism for the things I love but rather sending out love, transmitting it into the universe, great waves of powerful and transformative love and remaining open for what I will get back, what we all get back.

I could list all the reasons I love the Who. I could write a love letter about the Who. I could write about the deaths of two of the band's original foursome: Keith Moon (to drunkeness) and John Entwistle (to cancer), and the sadness and loss therein. I could go into depth about how the Who, one of the best Mod bands of the UK's 1960s seminal rock and roll period, would go on to inspire one of my other favorite bands: the Jam (expect a future T-shirt entry on that great band). But after yesterday's enormously long entry, I want to keep this one on the shorter side (which for me is still kinda long). And those are subjects that I can explain in some fashion later, though this is my one and only Who shirt, and one, due to its collar and style, that I considered one of my "dressy" T-shirts.

Yeah, it's a thing.

I love this shirt. Its design has the mod flair. The target symbol--which is actually an appropriated version of the Royal Air Force Roundel logo--is THE mod symbol. If you don't know what I am talking about with mods, the Who's QUADROPHENIA is all about mods and rockers in England as well as drugs and the whole scene in the 1960s that gave birth to the Who. It's a great movie (see Sting as a young punk), and it is one of the best rock and roll albums ever recorded. It's also considered a "rock opera" like the much more well known and more popular "Tommy." (After all, there has not been a Quadrophenia musical on Broadway.) For more on Mods, check out Mod(subculture)1960s and Mod(revival)1970s.

But for now, I will leave those topics to your own exploration. I want to add a bit about resistance and protest, the very heart and soul of the Who and a song like "Won't Get Fooled Again."

I just finished reading Homeland by Cory Doctorow. The Who's "Won't Get Fooled Again" could be the theme song, the soundtrack, to this book. I reviewed it on Goodreads, which also posts to Facebook. And since this always comes up when I talk about Cory Doctorow: no, he is not related to the author E.L. Doctorow.

Here's my review. I gave it 4 stars in Goodreads. Read on for why I did not give it five.

Homeland is a great book. Make no mistake. This is another one of those situations in which the star system in Goodreads is not sufficient to my purposes. I want to give this more like a 4.75. I did not like it as well as his first book with these characters, Little Brother, and I probably enjoyed Makers more. I have not yet read more of his books, but they are on my list if not already in a stack.

Homeland is much more ambitious than Little Brother as Doctorow delves into all sorts of tech-related privacy and surveillance issues and drills deep into our culture. He starts and ends the book at Burning Man. He pens a large sequence inspired by the Occupy Wall Street protests; his is set in San Francisco. He brings together his take on WikiLeaks, Paranoid Android, Linux, Virtual Machines, camera-laden quad copters and drones, police state tactics, Internet censorship, hackerspace, Anonymous, and many other great aspects our our modern society. But it's all a little bit more than he can chew in one mouthful. I happen to like everything-and-the-kitchen-sink type books. I enjoyed this book immensely. But if I am going to make one criticism that's it: "whoa, Cory! This is a lot of stuff for one book." He makes it work. But I imagine it all may have worked better with a bit less. Still, it's an important book for our digital age and well worth reading if anything in the list of subjects interests you (and I left some out, like the math that inspired Gleick's The Information). As a painful and poignant final note, Doctorow has an afterword by Internet activist and Reddit co-founder Aaron Swartz, which was written shortly before Swartz committed suicide earlier this year (2013). The book makes no mention of Swartz's death, but those who know, can put the entire book and its story in a new context and that context is frightening and deadly.

For more Cory, check out the blog on which he writes regularly (and one of the Net's best sites)


or Cory's own personal site


Interesting links

Fox Shuts Down Cory Doctorow’s Homeland Book In Overzealous DMCA takedown

Cory on the content in Homeland: Liberty, technology, kids, and surveillance

Homeland Review: Wired: Geek Dad

Homeland Review: Functional Nerds

Homeland Reviews: Goodreads: average rating is 3.91

Excerpt of Aaron Swartz's Afterword in Homeland

RIP Aaron Swartz by Cory Doctorow on Boing Boing

Cory Doctorow: Aaron Swartz and Hacktivism

The Who - Won't Get Fooled Again - Live 1978
This live video features one of the final performances by Keith Moon and was filmed in 1978 at Shepperton.

As always, there's an element of status here. I am proud to have seen the Who in concert and wish that it was more than twice.

I was lucky enough to see them before John Entwistle died in 1989 (though I cannot find the ticket or the T-shirt I bought at that show, which may now be trashed) and then again in 2006 on the Endless Wire tour with the ticket I share here.

And once again, a shot of the ticket book, of which I am immensely proud.

Transmitting love.

- chris tower - 1307.29 - 10:31

Saturday, July 27, 2013

T-shirt #128: Captain Action, part one

T-shirt #128: Captain Action, part one: subtitle: "Who the Hell is "Captain Action'?"

At the risk of sounding too definitive or even reckless, Captain Action was my favourite superhero toy as a young boy. Some people, young people especially, are right now crying out:


"Who the HELL is Captain Action?"

Or other related and amusing questions, such as

"Is this another GI Joe?"

"Is he related to Action Jackson?"

"Wasn't there a toy named 'Big Jim'?"

These are all excellent questions. And the answers are as follows: hang on, I will explain who he is straight away; No, not exactly a GI Joe; No, no relation to Action Jackson; yes, there was a "Big Jim," but he is also no relation to the great Captain Action.

And as you can see, my Captain Action has lost his head.

(Though read on: that's not "Captain Action.")

To qualify this seemingly bizarre and outrageous statement, let me provide some background on the good captain.


Captain Action was a toy created by Ideal Toy Company in answer to Hasbro's wildly popular GI JOE. Joe was the first "modern action figure" for boys, a fully articulated twelve-inch toy and the first to be called an "action figure" rather than a doll.  A perennial cash cow, the toy company could manufacture limitless accessories for the action figure, creating a business that could have new cool products each year around Christmas time.

Toy developer Stan Weston took his profits from the successful GI Joe franchise and formed his own licensing company. Ideal Toys came to him to compete with Hasbro in the ever-growing toy market.

The original idea for Captain Action is that his accessories would be different costumes, so he was essentially many heroes in one, able to change his guise to that of Spider-Man, the Lone Ranger, the Green Hornet, among many others.

In 1967, the line expanded to include Action Boy and Dr. Evil as well as a vehicle called the Silver Streak among many other cool toys and accessories, such as the secret lair (HQ) carrying case seen in one of my photos.

As a kid, I wanted to own all the costumes, but my parents only had so much money. I do own the Silver Streak, which I will feature in a future post with my other CAPTAIN ACTION SHIRT. Yes, I have two Captain Action shirts as of the writing of this entry (and I could expand to three or more before I am done).

One of the things I love best about this blog is learning new things. I knew that Captain Action was one of the most beloved toys from that period and because of its limited market time (only produced and sold from 1966-1968), I assumed the figures were rare. As you can see, it appears that mine is NOT in good condition. Though, if you look closely, the figure in the suit is an African-American, headless GI Joe with the Kung-Fu grip and not the original Captain Action figure, who, incidentally, still has his head. Back to my subject, I love learning new things or finding out things I may have known long ago and have forgotten, such as that Ideal produced a line of girl action figures called the "Super Queens Posin' Dolls," featuring Wonder Woman, Supergirl, Batgirl, and MERA, who is Aquaman's wife!! I did not know this fact. How awesome is that? I am a HUGE Aquaman fan. I have already mentioned how much I am loving the recent comic (such as in T-shirt #99: Moby and T-shirt #126: New York). And for those who like previews, an AQUAMAN post is on the horizon. BTW, Aquaman was popular around the same time (1968) due to a re-packaging of Aquaman's half of the 1967 Superman/Aquaman Adventure Hour.

In my research, I found videos of the old commercial on You Tube, which is one of the things I love about the Internet and how people can resurrect these old things that I never thought I would see again, not ever!

Captain Action TV Commercial


Have you wondered why you are seeing some of my childhood toys?

I had written that my blog was a survey of my "life in geek," but I did not understand what that meant until I started actually doing it, writing it.

But the blog is more than just a journal of "my life in geek," as I have written before it's a self-inventory, a self-analysis, and in reading my analysis, I am hoping that my readers will see reflections of their own analysis or potential analysis.

To explain the toys, I have to drill back into what Jung calls "The Process of Individuation." I am wrestling through the Shadow, the Anima, the Ego, and I am stripping off the layers of conscious and unconscious contents that mask the Self to get at the core. In this process, drilling through the layers, I have to strip out fears (my parents are growing older), phobias (I do not like change, and I actively resist change), purpose (what is the value of these toys?), beliefs (toys are not just for children), and ultimately end up with the results of this process: Have I made progress?

The first step simply explains the toys: where did they come from? Finding the toys was one of the reasons I started this blog in March. One reason for writing this blog was well explained in T-shirt #77, if you have not read it already, I encourage you to do so if you are interested in why I have devoted myself to this enterprise. Another impetus for deciding to do the blog surfaced when moving my parents from their home of the last 10 years to a new condo and thus dealing with a lot of my things that had been packed away since the move from the old house in 2003 and possibly since the late 1980s when toys were packed away to make room for videos in the family room. Culling through old boxes of toys to identify what to keep and what to give away/purge meant a re-discovery of old loves and old toys, such as explored in T-shirt #79: The Planet of the Apes, T-shirt #111: Atom Ant, and T-shirt#94: Batman TV show.

As I culled through old toys, the idea for this blog kept bubbling up from my unconscious as a useful self-inventory tool. As I sorted my many possessions, I had to keep asking myself: "what do I value?" Because this is the essential question about whether I can part with something. In some cases, it's an issue of need: "Do I need these articles on gender and society anymore?" or "Do I need this book as a handy reference?" But other questions were more slippery: "Can I bear to part with this?" And the trickier "why do I value this old toy so much?"

The question of value always seemed moot to me before. It seemed like a question to which I knew the answer. I have always held to the opinion that toys are not solely the province of children. I love my toys. I still love stuffed animals. I may not play with toys as I did when I was a child anymore, I may not carry around the stuffed animal and sleep with it cradled in my arms anymore, but the toys themselves have not lost their value, and my affection for them has shifted but not really diminished.

Also, I do not believe that a person must give up toys as a demonstration of "growing up." Becoming an adult is NOT about giving up childish things, and anyone who thinks that is being incredibly shallow. As far as I have been able to tell, being an adult is about responsibility and maturity. Maturity is about handling responsibility and handling relationships in a sophisticated way, in a way that is the product of years of self-analysis and growth. Being an adult is not about giving stuffed animals and the beloved GI Joe play set to Goodwill or selling them on e-Bay. But the world is full of judgmental people who feel otherwise, and I have always avoided digging into this question because I am afraid that the answer is that I do not want to grow up, and that I am holding on to my childhood like a petulant and stubborn toddler clutching someone else's toy that does not belong to me.

The issue of growing up along with the issue of parting with old toys and their value to my sense of self, my identity, are the issues that I grappled with as I sorted boxes of possessions that would go to my house and boxes that would go to my parents house, many of which still remain in need of sorting to determine their permanent home. For instance, there is the lodestone of my comic book collection, which numbers close to 10,000 some issues, but that's a story for another time.

But it's not just about me. I hope that if you read this blog, then, it's also about you. What do you see of yourself in what I am doing? The blog has given me an excuse to re-discover loves of mine both new and old. I am re-connecting with the toys, TV shows, comic books, books, movies, music, comic strips, and other popular culture artifacts that have shaped me into the person I am today. It's a process that I hope inspires others to undergo a similar reflection. What are your experiences? What are your treasures? What do you cherish?

The natural follow-up to those questions is the question of "why?" Why that experience? Why that treasure? Why do you cherish that thing?

The "why" question is the drill bit. There's always another "why" question that strips the layers, that goes deeper and deeper and deeper. In T-shirt #64: Embrace Uncertainty, I posted a great video by philosopher Timothy Freke called "The Absurd Notion of One." I highly recommend it if you did not watch it already. From another direction, the video targets the same subject I am targeting here in this essay. Freke uses the same drill bit: "Why?" "Why do I want that?"

The answers to the questions of the value and the "why" bring some scary stuff to the surface of the reflecting pool, and my success at grappling with these demons will be the difference between my success or failure (or my rationalized perception of success as I fool myself smugly into thinking that I am making real progress) with the process of individuation. As I sorted through my possessions in order to help my parents move, I realized that one of the things I was really struggling with was their advancing age and how things were changing. Now that I am married and own a home of my own, with my own kids (step-kids), my relationship with my parents is changing. As I see my parents age, I am faced with the realization that they will not be around forever, and I do not like this eventuality. So, in part, this is all about change.

I do not like change. I have always resisted change. I have always been afraid of change. When I graduated from Kalamazoo College, my girlfriend of that time urged me to move with her to New York. We had just met there a few months before and had held down internships, which could have become full time jobs if we had shown our value to those employers. I could have taken off the day after graduation, but I was afraid. All of a sudden, the school of which I had been so critical was my haven. I did not want to leave. I took a crappy job with the summer theatre just to continue to live in the dorms, eat in the cafeteria, and delay leaving the school I suddenly realized that I loved.

There have been other times in my life when I have resisted change. Had I been bolder, had I not been counting on the hints of promises of full time employment, I might not have spent ten years toiling away for poverty level pay teaching a Media Studies class, which I built into one of the most popular general education courses at the university. Maybe I would have made a change. But I was afraid. I was comfortable.

And I made rationalizations to avoid changes because the world changed around me. In 2000, my mother contracted bacterial meningitis that mostly paralyzed her and left her in need of total care. Rationalizing that my parents needed me to help manage her care helped me to avoid leaving, avoid change, and so I tried to do everything I could to keep our home the way she had kept it, the way it was throughout my childhood: unchanged. I developed many OCD tendencies to cope with the change that had happened to my mother, happened in our lives, which I did not want to face head on, that I wanted to deny.

But my efforts were futile. I could not avoid change. Change just happens. And more changes were to follow those of the eventful year of 2000. Starting in 2008, in a period of two years, everything changed. I lost my job at WMU. I met Liesel. We decided to get married. After trying to find a job out of teaching, I went back to teaching. After another two years, we bought a house. Within a span of three years, I had changed jobs, tripled more work load, married the love of my life, become a step father to two awesome teenagers, and become a home owner. For someone who does not like change, who actively resists change, that was A LOT OF CHANGE, and I had to devote myself tirelessly to making a transition.

I find change easier now. I resist it less. In part, I am more open to change because I have realized why I resist it, why I have avoided it, and have drilled to many of the roots of those feelings. And yet, my issues with change are strongly in force with my feelings about my old toys and my parents and my childhood, which brings my subject around again to this blog. Part of the impetus to write the blog came from the psychological work I have been doing to feel comfortable with change, and a good result of the blog itself is the self-examination I have performed here. If you read all of this, I thank you. I am honored to have your attention. I hope that my experience can inform your own experience.

I cannot escape change. My life changes, has changed, will change. The aging of my parents and the eventuality of life without my parents are things I cannot control. I cannot stop time. I cannot dial time backwards. And if I am psychologically healthy, I should not want to do either of those things. I can control the place of my childhood things in my adult life and question their value. I can also write, as I have here, about the reasons to start this blog and as I did in T-shirt #77, as I mentioned before. My work in this part of the Process of Individuation is ongoing and not yet complete. But I feel better having committed some of these thoughts and ideas to text. Thanks for reading.


Apparently, a Captain Action animated series is in the works. San Diego Comic Con took place last week, during which, for the second or third year in a row, Captain Action Enterprises hosted a panel.

There's a book by Michael Eury and published by TwoMorrows called Captain Action: The Original Super Hero Action Figure, which I have somewhere and cannot locate for this entry (which gives me another reason for the other entry on my other T-shirt).

I knew toys had been re-released in special collector's editions (see photo farther above) as I want to obtain these toys, but I did not know about Captain Action Enterprises and the possible animated series. Apparently, this T-shirt was produced by Captain Action Enterprises to promote its work and its future TV show. I thought it was a product of Moonstone Publishing who has been producing Captain Action comics since 2008 (for a full explanation see the CAPTAIN ACTION WIKIPEDIA).

I quite liked the new Captain Action comics from Moonstone, especially because of some great art by Paul Gulacy, and some smart writing by Fabian Nicieza, whose work I have followed avidly on comics like The New Warriors and Thunderbolts.

I love the 1960s spy flavor and Steranko-themed covers from Moonstone. For more on Steranko, see T-shirt #53: Agent of S.H.I.E.L.D. and T-shirt #106: Captain America.

There's also been a much needed addition to the cast via Moonstone with LADY ACTION, who works for the British branch of the A.C.T.I.O.N. directorate.

If you do some searching, you will find some intriguing Cos Play for Lady Action (not crazy about this name).

The image of Lady Action below comes from downthetubes.net from the comic that was created by Tony Lee and Jake Minor with this cover art by Gulacy. I am also throwing in an image from the full poster by Gulacy from which the image directly below is cropped in the cover gallery to follow.

Paul Gulacy, who is a great artist, can be found at GULACY.

Some links to current Captain Action activity:






Covers from the short DC comics run of Captain Action issues. The changing costume schtick couldn't work as Ideal produced costumes for both DC and Marvel Comics heroes. So Captain Action found ancient coins that gave him powers. Though not all toy tie-ins were worthy as comics in the field, this was the first tie-in by DC, and it featured some of the top talent in the business. The first issue is illustrated by the great Wally Wood and the other issues by one of my top five artists, GIL KANE (as described in T-shirt #83). The issues, especially the covers, are just gorgeous. Here's a cover gallery (with the first page of issue one thrown in for good measure). These are not scans of my issues, however. My copy of Captain Action #1 (if memory serves) is in better condition. I am adding a Lady Action poster at the end of the gallery just because. :-) ENJOY!


- chris tower - 1307.27 - 9:04