Comics in My Future, Ever So Slightly

Hawkeye Freefall set!

Those of us who’ve been patiently waiting to complete our sets of Matthew Rosenberg and Otto Schmidt’s five-issue miniseries Hawkeye: Freefall now have a conundrum on our hands. (All cover art by Kim Jacinto and Tamra Bonvillain, presumably including the itty-bitty one for #5.)

Previously on Midlife Crisis Crossover: as a direct result of the ongoing and measurably non-resolved Coronavirus epidemic, Diamond Comics Distributors effectively shut down the comic book industry at the tail end of March, a temporary but unprecedented cessation that has vexed comic book shops worldwide and deprived habitual comics collectors such as myself of their weekly fixes of printed, single-issue graphic storytelling. We understood the decrees and the crisis at hand, but we lamented seeing a large portion of the medium paused in unison.

America’s 2200 remaining retailers, many of whom were already surviving on razor-thin profit margins, were justifiably nervous about their long-term financial stability through this era, whenever they weren’t too busy grappling with pervasive COVID-19 anxiety. Or with literal COVID-19, for all we know. Those shop owners thinking ahead wondered aloud: what happens if our customers’ habits are suspended for too long? What if deprivation begins to feel to them more like liberation? What do we do if the audience that had already been shrinking for years gets even tinier? Especially if too many of them are unemployed and can’t afford comics anymore?

Fantastic questions, those. I’m still mulling over my parts in some of those equations.

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Updates from the Interim Normal: Masks and Other Tasks

Mask Black!

Our niece made us masks! Very sweet of her.

Previously on Midlife Crisis Crossover, everything’s coming up COVID-19 worldwide:

…whenever we think we’ve settled down and the tension has eased as we’ve adapted to each change thrown at us, some knowledgeable authority or some know-nothing internet crank picks up a megaphone and bellows in our ears like William Dozier on ye olde Batman TV show, “THE WORST IS YET TO COME!”

The story is far from over — more so in other countries disproportionately hit by the Coronavirus disease. I’d rather not imagine what a “Chapter 2” for this post would look like. I have other things I’d much rather write about, but I’m skeptical as to whether anyone would take a break from refreshing their Coronavirus phone updates to glance at anything else. Frankly, I know the feeling.

We’ve been rolling with the changes. Anne is still working from our home library while I’m among the 3% of employees in my legally Essential company still driving to the office every day, handling critical in-person tasks so my coworkers can stay home. I’m weathering the indefinite suspension of the comic book direct market, which has given me an opportunity to dive into my gigantic backlog of unread books. To while away the hours between shifts we’ve doubled down on family game night, supported our local journalists and their greedy overlords, reminisced about restaurants, and discovered Zoom. We enjoyed a weekend of free HBO, found mixed results with a new streaming service, and, may the Lord have mercy upon us, withdrawn from Tiger King mania.

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A Peek Inside Peacock

Peacock!

We named it after the old NBC mascot, but instead of a bird we thought a cooler image would be…this glow stick?

Our family prides itself on not being early adopters of new technology or services. We prefer to let upstart projects and products get up and running, figure out their processes, work out their bugs, set a price point that’s worth the venture, and build up a reputation, preferably a favorable one. Then we might give them the time of day. Maybe. Sometimes.

Streaming services are subject to the same vetting procedure. We ignored Netflix until the advent of the Google Chromecast (later renamed “Googlecast”) dramatically improved our streaming capabilities. Also motivating us: we reached the point in our newfound Doctor Who fandom at which the only episodes we hadn’t yet watched up to that point were in their clutches. For years we likewise lived well without Hulu despite a few temptations, until an outrageous Black Friday sale in December 2018 (99¢/month for 12 months!) lured me into their den.

The internet’s Baby Yoda obsession notwithstanding, we have yet to pull the trigger on Disney+. Star Trek in and of itself is not enough to justify CBS All Access. I refuse to pay a monthly price for shopping privileges and am therefore one of six people nationwide who doesn’t have Amazon Prime. Every single detail I’ve heard about Quibi implies it’s my exact anti-matter opposite. And as for YouTube Red…is that still a thing? Not for us, it isn’t.

The next contestant up in these highly competitive lockdown-era streaming wars is Peacock, a product of the NBC-Universal-Viacom multinational conglomerate. In a world where “cord-cutting” has been the trend because everyone thought that would be cheaper, Peacock is my favorite kind of service: bundled.

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My 2020 Reading Stacks #5

Bacchus v Emitown!

A short list today: two gigantic, creator-owned collections that add up to 963 pages of comic book goodness.

Previously on Midlife Crisis Crossover:

Every year, each and every squarebound work of qualifying length that I’ve read gets a capsule review apiece. I refrain from devoting entries to full-length book reviews because 999 times out of 1000 I’m finishing a given work decades after the rest of the world is already done and moved on from it. As time permits and the finished books pile up, I’ll be charting my full list of books, graphic novels, and trade collections in a staggered, exclusive manner here, for all that’s worth to the outside world. Due to the way I structure my media-consumption time blocks, the list will always feature more graphic novels than works of prose and pure text. Novels and non-pictographic nonfiction will still pop up here and there, albeit in an outnumbered capacity…

And now, we rejoin reading time already in progress, this time with two massive collections:

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Eight Stubborn Years Down the Blogging Road

March 2020 sunrise!

The morning of Monday, March 9, 2020, in the early days of folks beginning to retreat from physical civilization.

I launched Midlife Crisis Crossover on April 28, 2012, three weeks before my 40th birthday as a means of charting the effects of the aging process on my opinions of, enthusiasm for, offense at, and/or detailed nitpicking of various works of art, expression, humanity, inhumanity, glory, love, idolatry, inspiration, hollowness, geek lifestyles, food, and Deep Thoughts.

Eight years later. 2,177 entries and over one million words later. Here I remain, still tending that same path.

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Reaching Out Through the Zoom Lens

Zoom Jazz Hands!

As you’d expect, our most requested pose. Special thanks to my sister-in-law for the screen shot.

Previously on Midlife Crisis Crossover: for the duration of the interim normal, all other human bodies are to be treated as walking land mines, held at a remove, and if one approaches you, go hide and let them detonate in someone else’s face instead.

In these extreme circumstances we’ve sometimes found ourselves doing things far outside the old, complacent, pre-fatality routines. Letting our hair grow into shaggy 1970s grotesquerie. Taking early morning walks around our neighborhood. Calling elderly relatives before they call us first. Posting on Facebook.

Our latest deviation from the norm: hopping on a communication technology bandwagon.

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“McMillions” and McMemories

McDonald's pins!

Just a few of the souvenirs we still have from our years with the Golden Arches. All of these are from Anne’s old pin collection.

Previously on Midlife Crisis Crossover: our family doesn’t subscribe to HBO, but from time to time our cable provider will offer free preview weekends that let us watch all we can within 72 hours that are meant to entice us to add it to our already overstuffed lineup. Instead we save up our HBO watch-lists, pace back and forth waiting for those rare weekends, then see how much we can speed through whenever we’re granted the opportunity. It’s a bit like composing lunches entirely from free samples handed out at the grocery, but in the proper frame of mind, satisfaction can be found in limited quantities.

At least, all that had been our usual approach. Among the more recent developments in the interim normal is both Hulu and our cable provider are now offering access to the HBO libraries for a nonspecific “limited time”, presumably with an end date their corporate overlords can shift back and forth as the winds change. Until then, we plan to see what we can work in while we’re busy catching up on other watch-list materials.

Naturally for us, priority #1 was a recent show that brought back memories of our old jobs.

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Restaurants In Memoriam: A Pre-Virus Retrospective

Mediterranean Grill!

Loukoumadis (fried dough), our final dessert at the Mediterranean Grill in Avon, Indiana. Taken in April 2017 on their final weekend in business. If only we’d shared more meals from there…

Midlife Crisis Crossover isn’t an official foodie blog, but restaurants are among the many and varied subjects we touch upon as we refuse to focus on a singular topic. Whether they’ve enlivened our annual road trips, featured in our wedding anniversary celebrations, given us something to do on Super Bowl Sunday instead of watching ads or sports, or simply welcomed us in for one-time tryouts, restaurants are a treasured aspect of our travel experiences, in other states as well as around our own hometown of Indianapolis. As you can imagine, my wife Anne and I are missing a lot of them right now rather intensely.

We’ve shared photos and warm feelings from dozens of eateries over the past eight years. Not all of them lived to see 2020, which in some cases may not be such a bad thing. Regardless, in this moment of wistful nostalgia, here’s a fond look back at some of the places that are no longer with us, who shut their doors after we visited them and didn’t even call us to say goodbye, because that’s not how it works.

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Twitter Minus Twitter

This Tweet.

What was he thinking about? I’ll never know.

Twitter isn’t for everyone, but the designers have created a number of tools that allow users to shape their experience, curate their input streams, intertwine narratives, choose overall reading tone, defend themselves against the forces of evil, hide from polite disagreements, and, in my case, remove irritants. The tools aren’t perfect, but I appreciate their usefulness when it comes to surgically removing unnecessary ugliness and repetitive stresses that damage my calm. For me, internet moderation is a form of self-care.

Sometimes the results amuse me more than I’d intended.

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My 2020 Reading Stacks #4

Spooky Books!

Somehow while reading, I failed to notice the “spookiness” theme I had going.

Previously on Midlife Crisis Crossover:

Every year, each and every squarebound work of qualifying length that I’ve read gets a capsule review apiece. I refrain from devoting entries to full-length book reviews because 999 times out of 1000 I’m finishing a given work decades after the rest of the world is already done and moved on from it. As time permits and the finished books pile up, I’ll be charting my full list of books, graphic novels, and trade collections in a staggered, exclusive manner here, for all that’s worth to the outside world. Due to the way I structure my media-consumption time blocks, the list will always feature more graphic novels than works of prose and pure text. Novels and non-pictographic nonfiction will still pop up here and there, albeit in an outnumbered capacity…

And now, we rejoin reading time already in progress…

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The Costs of Record-Breaking Journalism

CVS stuff!

When your most prominent product makes your business “essential” and no one’s bullying you into refusing to sell non-essentials.

I’m generally happy to pay for journalism. I believe a free and fully functional press is a critical component to the structural integrity and ethics of any given country, state, and city. Local journalists in particular can cover topics too far below the radar of the numerous nationwide organizations out there. As a staunch anti-partisan who thinks extremely little of our feud-fueled political system, I don’t need to agree with every journalist’s tribal allegiance as long as I can discern either some capital-N News or some genuinely informed insights in their offerings. It helps that I tend to skim past the Opinions section and refuse to read the letters from readers unless they’re from someone I recognize, which so far this century has happened once (congrats to one of my wife’s cousins for that feat).

I’m old-fashioned enough to have a subscription to our local daily paper, the Indianapolis Star. A traditional seven-day subscription seemed a bit much, so I have a scaled-back subscription that requires one of their few remaining physical carriers to deliver a print-edition paper to our mailbox only on Sundays and Thursdays. Over the years the Thursday paper has turned slimline and provides me five minutes of preoccupation at most, but the Sunday paper remains their heftiest, with expanded content such as longform investigative pieces, restaurant news/reviews, faith-related essays, the starving remnants of the once-useful classifieds, retailer advertising inserts, grocery coupons, and four pages of Sunday comic strips in color. Longtime MCC readers can guess which section gets sorted to the top of my reading pile.

The Star shocked me three times this past weekend. Under the terms of the interim normal, two of those shocks were sorrowful but explainable. The third is debatable.

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Leaping Off the “Tiger King” Circus Wagon

I Saw a Tiger!

Out-of-context snippet from Netflix’s sing-a-long lyrics-video version of Joe Exotic’s “I Saw a Tiger”. Follow the bouncing tiger cub head. Yes, really.

I’m sorry, I just…I can’t with this anymore.

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MCC Housekeeping Notes: The “Mentions” and “About” Pages

Randall A. Golden, Midlife Crisis Crossover

The previous outdated photo from my “About” page, taken at Starbase Indy 2011.

In this time of uncertainty and depression and aimless meandering around the house, sometimes it’s a good idea to pause, take a hard look at our surroundings, and change things up a bit, especially those things that haven’t been reevaluated in years. It’s not much of an overhaul, but with MCC’s forthcoming eighth anniversary, some mild effort seemed in order.

I’ve spent this evening tinkering with the reference pages linked at the top of every MCC entry. The mandatory “About” page, a common stop for fleeting passersby, has been half-rewritten with new material that clarifies the basics of MCC a little better, in a way that hopefully makes more sense to non-geeks while alienating anyone who works in online marketing. I’ve replaced the photo with a much better one from 2018 that longtime readers may recognize. Please don’t roll your eyes at me for sharing it again. It’s a treasured keepsake and we’re determined to get our money’s worth out of it.

I’ve created a new “Mentions” page that lists other, larger sites that have shared past entries to much larger audiences, with my utmost appreciation and incredulity. Comics news sites, creators, and historic SF fanzines are among those who nodded in our direction like Farmer Hoggett in Babe.

The old “100 Bullet Points” page has been deleted because no one had clicked on it in years. A link to the original entry has been preserved for historical safekeeping, but its value as a feature attraction has plunged to near-zilch.

Enjoy! Comments and questions welcome as always, even though I don’t always come out and say it because I thought it was implied by virtue of having a comments section.

Lafayette Vignettes, Part 6 of 6: The Birthday Menu

Quintessential Quiche!

The Quintessential Quiche at Eggshell Bistro in Carmel — topped with fresh herbs and filled with applewood bacon, caramelized leeks, roasted tomato, and Comté cheese on a multigrain crust. At least I think that’s the correct dish. It’s been a few months.

Previously on Midlife Crisis Crossover:

In addition to our annual road trips, my wife Anne and I have a twice-yearly tradition of spending our respective birthdays together traveling to some new place or attraction as a one-day road trip — partly as an excuse to spend time together on those most wondrous days, partly to explore areas of Indiana we’ve never experienced before. We’re the Goldens. It’s who we are and what we do.

Once upon a time in 2019 Anne decide she wanted to celebrate her birthday with a jaunt around the city of Lafayette, an hour northwest of our Indiana home. She cobbled together a short to-do list of things she wanted to see, not lengthy but enough for a leisurely afternoon — a bit of Indiana history, a bit of downtown tourism, and a bit of healthy walking…

Although Prophetstown State Park was the last stop on our one-day road trip before heading home, obviously it wouldn’t have been a satisfying birthday celebration without memorable foods of her choosing. Back in October 2019, restaurants were a readily available luxury where hungry patrons could enter, sit, relax, dine together, hang out, depart at their leisure, and, if they were of sufficiently upright character, make sure to tip the gainfully employed waitstaff. It was, in its own way, a golden age.

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Lafayette Vignettes, Part 5: Prophets and Poultry

Woodland Indians settlement.

The history aficionado and birthday girl at the replica native settlement.

Previously on Midlife Crisis Crossover:

In addition to our annual road trips, my wife Anne and I have a twice-yearly tradition of spending our respective birthdays together traveling to some new place or attraction as a one-day road trip — partly as an excuse to spend time together on those most wondrous days, partly to explore areas of Indiana we’ve never experienced before. We’re the Goldens. It’s who we are and what we do.

Once upon a time in 2019 Anne decide she wanted to celebrate her birthday with a jaunt around the city of Lafayette, an hour northwest of our Indiana home. She cobbled together a short to-do list of things she wanted to see, not lengthy but enough for a leisurely afternoon — a bit of Indiana history, a bit of downtown tourism, and a bit of healthy walking…

Upon visiting the centerpiece of our trip, the Tippecanoe Battlefield Museum, we covered the Battle of Tippecanoe in a somewhat reductive fashion:

On November 7, 1811, when future short-term President [William Henry] Harrison led an army against a confederation of tribes led by Tecumseh of the Shawnee and the adviser Tenskwatawa, alias “the Prophet”. The tribes weren’t thrilled with the pervasive intruders, the incoming settlers had reason to believe they weren’t safe, and it didn’t help that our old arch-nemesis England was taking steps to ratchet up the tension shortly before things escalated into the War of 1812. Harrison led a thousand men into two hours of combat against several hundred Native Americans. The latter retreated after dozens of casualties were incurred on each side. The following day, Harrison led his men to Prophetstown, where their opponents had been living but fled. On orders from Harrison, Prophetstown was burned to the ground, and the former residents’ supplies either appropriated or destroyed.

The museum and battlefield weren’t far from where the village of Prophetstown once stood. (Fun MCC trivia: they also weren’t far from Wolf Park, which we previously visited on Easter weekend 2008.) The acreage where the village was founded in 1808 and burned to the ground in 1811 is now Prophetstown State Park, established in 2004 with multiple missions — among them, to commemorate the village and to restore the original tallgrass prairies that were the dominant terrain before humanity arrived and redecorated. Or un-decorated, as it were.

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Pictionary Mysteries

Basketball Pirate!

Most likely guesses: basketball court, one of the Dippers, first aid kit, and…uhh, Rooster Cogburn?

It’s fun to dig through old possessions containing still older possessions — shoe boxes, plastic tubs, photo albums, and other stashes — and discover treasure troves of unrecorded history and lost secrets. Objects that would’ve evoked nostalgic memories if only you’d exhumed them sooner eventually turn meaningless when removed from their once-contemporary context and forgotten by their original buyers or creators.

Some families are more assiduous in their note-taking practices and and fully dedicated in passing on their stories to future generations. Other families have piles of letters and images filled with mementos of strangers they’ll never know, occasions no one can recall, anecdotes never to be retold, and feelings the descendants will never share.

Sometimes such surprises are sprung on you from the unlikeliest hiding places. This past Saturday night we found one inside an old board game.

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Lafayette Vignettes, Part 4: The Legacy of Tippecanoe

battle simulator!

How we used to make lit-up battle simulators in the days before computers.

Previously on Midlife Crisis Crossover:

In addition to our annual road trips, my wife Anne and I have a twice-yearly tradition of spending our respective birthdays together traveling to some new place or attraction as a one-day road trip — partly as an excuse to spend time together on those most wondrous days, partly to explore areas of Indiana we’ve never experienced before. We’re the Goldens. It’s who we are and what we do.

Once upon a time in 2019 Anne decide she wanted to celebrate her birthday with a jaunt around the city of Lafayette, an hour northwest of our Indiana home. She cobbled together a short to-do list of things she wanted to see, not lengthy but enough for a leisurely afternoon — a bit of Indiana history, a bit of downtown tourism, and a bit of healthy walking…

On some of our past road trips we’ve visited battlefields at Antietam, Gettysburg, Saratoga Springs, and Chattanooga. The farther east we drive, the more battlefields become a tourist attraction, tragic parts of our nation’s history commemorated either with small markers or with full-fledged parks, depending on the enthusiasm of their local historical societies and the performance of their fundraisers.

Indiana doesn’t have quite the same wartime history as, say, Virginia or New York or Pennsylvania. Back in the early days when we still had land wars on American soil (or future American soil, as it were), not many armies wanted to march or drive out this far just to pick fights with large gatherings of opponents en masse. This was centuries before our vast highway system was invented to enable racist posses, drive-by shootings, interstate serial killers, and the occasional militia.

Indiana has one (1) Civil War battlefield down near Kentucky. We also have a handful of markers noting minor battlefields here and there, many of which involved assorted tribes who were there first, and a disproportionate number of which also involved William Henry Harrison. One of them has a museum.

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The Last New Comics Day?

New Comics 03-25-2020!

New releases on my pull list for the week of March 25, 2020, a date I can hopefully forget someday.

As dimwitted youngsters insist spring break simply must go on, as certain stubborn governors take turns doing their macho impression of the mayor from Jaws, and as other top-ranking officials demand we all agree to hurry up and pretend everything is basically fine ASAP…it’s painfully obvious Americans hate change, hate being told what to do, hate self-control and self-restraint, hate hate hate when someone tells us we have to be patient, and intensely, passionately despise when the solution to a problem is “do what other countries did”. Like an insufferable teen rebel, we think we know best and we want to do things our way because, like, freedom an’ fun an’ whatnot.

Thousands of people are hospitalized. More will need the same as Coronavirus/COVID-19 testing becomes less of a unicorn-level rarity. Sacrifices are being made on innumerable levels. Nevertheless, idiocy continues to run nearly as rampant as the virus itself because the ramifications aren’t being grasped, the horrors are being downplayed, and the fatalities aren’t occurring four inches away from those in denial. That senseless obliviousness can’t last. Sooner or later this catastrophe will get to someone or something they do care about.

It might be major upheaval. And it might be the small stuff.

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Communion in a Crunch

Home Communion!

All items readily available at your local grocer, appearing on no one’s hoarding list.

Previously on Midlife Crisis Crossover: my wife Anne and I keep rolling with the punches as the Coronavirus saga continues and we’re forced to adjusting our boundaries and personal thresholds in the face of what I call “the interim normal“. Among several changes I neglected to mention in Chapter 1 or Chapter 2 was that our church moved to online services effective March 15th. Once boasting a membership over 2000 at its peak, and located squarely within the very first Indiana town to confirm a positive COVID-19 diagnosis once those started happening here, our church knew they couldn’t procrastinate taking action. Thankfully the IT infrastructure needed for such an undertaking was already in place. They’ve been recording and sharing sermons online for years — an audio-only stream back in primitive times, now with value-added video today.

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The Interim Normal

workspace!

This is basically how I imagine a lot of CEO workspaces look at the moment.

For the past nineteen years my wife Anne and I have maintained firm boundaries between work and home. Home is our refuge from work, our earthly reward for jobs properly done, our container of collections and comfort, and our humble haven for our hearts. Work is an intrusion we’ve allowed inside only in extremely rare circumstances.

In this new era, our ongoing worldwide catastrophe, effective this week the line between work and home is one of many luxuries we’re no longer afforded.

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