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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My 2020 Reading Stacks #2: The Horror and Heroism of “Becoming Superman”

Becoming Superman!

A highly recommended read, from the introduction by onetime Babylon 5 writer Neil Gaiman to all those other pages not written by Gaiman.

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…though this time with a single memoir that hit me on numerous levels.

7. J. Michael Straczynski, Becoming Superman: My Journey from Poverty to Hollywood. The sub-subtitle on the cover of the celebrated writer’s 2019 autobiography pulls no punches and tells no lies: With Stops Along the Way at Murder, Madness, Mayhem, Movie Stars, Cults, Slums, Sociopaths, and War Crimes. Those diverse, potentially lurid topics are by no means a complete list. He left more than a few surprises between the covers, where they await discovery as each is torn out of his family’s deep, dark closets and brought to light.

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The MCC 2020 Oscar-Nominated Animated Short Film Revue

Hair Love!

This white guy and his retreating hairline kinda wish we had this young lady’s tonsorial problems.

Each year since 2009 my wife Anne and I have paid a visit to Keystone Art Cinema, the only fully dedicated art-film theater in Indianapolis (for now), to view the big-screen release of the Academy Award nominees for Best Live-Action Short Film and Best Animated Short Film. Results vary each time and aren’t always for all audiences, but we appreciate this opportunity to sample such works and see what the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences deemed worthy of celebrating, whether we agree with their collective opinions or not.

We’ve already covered the Live-Action half. Next we present the Animated Short Film nominees, ranked from absolute keenest to mostly keen:

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“Knives Out”: Benoit Blanc and the Secrets of the Spoiled Socialites

Knives Out!

Three professionals want to know who killed Christopher Plummer and whether Kevin Spacey had an alibi.

Fans of writer/director Rian Johnson previously saw him dabble in the mystery genre with 2005’s Brick, a hard-boiled high school noir in which murder was afoot and everyone was guilty of something. After dabbling in preexisting universes with key episodes of Breaking Bad and that one time he turned Star Wars fandom into one big West Side Story gang war, Johnson returns to creating his own characters with Knives Out, a stellar whodunit that flips genre expectations, venerates a few old tropes, and, best of all, lets Daniel Craig have a rollicking vacation away from those glum Bond films and their even glummer press junkets.

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“The Farewell”: Grandma’s Not Run Over by the Pain, Dear

Farewell Family!

Family photos: hundreds of bucks. Honoring your family before they become “ancestors”: priceless.

“YouTube rapper” is among the myriad 21st-century phrases that strike fear and uncertainty in middle-aged fogies like me and makes us want to hastily close our browser windows and go seek refuge in MeTV reruns. I’d seen the stage name “Awkwafina” here and there in credits for such films as Ocean’s 8 and Crazy Rich Asians, neither of which I’ve seen yet, but I know zilch about her earlier works or online career. To be fair, most musicians whose entire resumes are less than a decade old are strangers to me. I figured I’d reach that age sooner or later in life, and knowing I’ve arrived there kind of sucks. I take heart that at least I’ve maintained a patient politeness with today’s bizarrely chosen entertainer names and I do try to suppress knee-jerk responses such as “In related news, I now wish to be known by my rapper name, Coo-Laid Mann.”

It’s been six years since the last time I had the chance to attend an advance movie screening (2013’s Broken City, for which I still want recompensated). Our city’s only verified art-house theater holds an occasional drawing for free screenings, which I keep losing. That changed this past week when I was a lucky winner invited to see Awkwafina star in the new A24 dramedy The Farewell, which I’d never heard of prior to the theater’s emails.

Thus my son and I found ourselves in a full house on a Monday night, snugly within an audience of whom the majority were over 65. This crowd was the most senior citizens I’ve seen in a theater in years. I’m pretty sure I knew more about Awkwafina than they did. Halfway through the movie the 80-something lady on my left fell asleep. At one point my son noticed someone behind us was listening to music on earbuds. On the bright side, no one in the rows ahead of us played on their phones during the movie.

Generational differences can be a funny thing.

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Not Put Asunder, 15 Years and Counting

Heart Walk 2010!

File photo of us from 2010, when we participated in the occasional miles-long charity walk.

It’s that time again! Another year of shockingly blissful marriage to the amazing Anne, another anniversary dinner to celebrate.

Sometimes on these annual entries I’ll use a photo from our recent road trip, but this year’s edition of that much-needed break from the rat race won’t be till the end of August. The wait is killing us, as is Father Time, which is another reason I went retro and dug into our personal archives for a younger photo of the two of us. This week some 150 million FaceApp users are out there having all their selfies converted to elderly “Have You Seen This Nursing Home Escapee?” mug shots and letting overseas marketers data-mine them into so much digital chattel, while I’m here swimming upstream toward youthful times. But, y’know, for love.

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How the Cats Watched Us Suffer

Orange Tabby!

That darn cat.

The tabby cared not that the once-furnished domain was now barren. We could take away the bedding and the collections and the clothing piles, but we couldn’t take away the sunshine through the window. Unless we hung the curtains back up. Which was tempting, just to be spiteful.

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