Our 2021 Road Trip #2: Sandburg History Theatre

Carl Sandburg bust.

Kudos to the pedestal maker who saved me the trouble of researching the sculptor credits on this Carl Sandburg bust.

Sometimes we stop at historic sites that celebrate figures or events with which we’re well acquainted. Anne the history buff is far more versed and versatile than me in this regard. Oftentimes she’s read multiple books on a given subject and offers her own supplemental trivia as we walk along, especially where Americana is involved. Also oftentimes, I’m reminded of that episode of The Office where Ryan Howard, living avatar of skin-deep youth culture, anguished over premature reports of the death of Smokey Robinson and scolded others for not grieving as intensely as he, only to reveal he only knows one Smokey Robinson song. Sometimes in our travels, I can be kind of a Ryan.

At our next attraction, we were both the Ryan. We were faintly familiar with the subject, and “faintly” is an overstatement, but we were curious to see what was to be seen. Bonus trivia for the skin-deep youths out there: our subject was a strident socialist. It’s not the source of his renown, but it’s something that a fair number of the internet’s Ryans can latch onto and add to their idol collection.

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“Final Account”: Minutes from the Nazi-Occupied Neighborhood Association Meeting

"Final Account" movie poster.

A relic of the Before Times: a movie poster made of actual paper. I remember those!

Anne and I saw the new documentary Final Account in a county where masks were required of all patrons regardless of inoculation levels, in an auditorium where the A/C was on the fritz. Posted signs and the clerk warned us, but we insisted on proceeding anyway despite any consequences ahead. The environment was livable at first, but our comfort levels fluctuated as time went on and the air quality went from breathable to stifling and back again. Eventually we convinced ourselves to overlook our nagging concerns, but at no point could we simply sit back and pretend everything was fine.

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“The Crown” Season 4: All Ten Episodes Ranked According to a Guy Who Barely Knows Royal Family Stuff

Olivia Colman as Queen Elizabeth!

Queen Olivia Colman looks upon Margaret Thatcher and just doesn’t know what to make of her.

Previously on Midlife Crisis Crossover: last spring my wife Anne and I binged the first three seasons of Netflix’s The Crown and soon caught up with the rest of fandom. One slight hitch: while Anne is a major history aficionado, that was never my forte, especially not the story of Queen Elizabeth II and her ruled subjects, some of whom are incidentally also her family:

Compared to my blissfully ignorant self, Anne is far more knowledgeable of history in general and British royalty in particular. My interest in their reigning family went dormant for decades beginning on the morning of July 29, 1981, when my family woke up at 5 a.m. — over summer vacation, mind you — to watch Prince Charles marry Princess Diana, two strangers I knew only as frequent costars of my mom’s favorite tabloids. Their wedding lasted approximately six days and was performed entirely in slow motion with British golf commentators prattling through the lengthy silences in between the happenstances of nothingness. For the next 15-20 years I retained nothing of British history apart from their role as the Big Bad in the American Revolution. Frankly, I’ve learned more about their country’s storied past from my wife and from Oscar-nominated movies than I ever did from school. Sad, unadorned truth.

So far I’ve enjoyed The Crown anyway, and understood most of what’s gone on…

Season four may be its best yet. Olivia Colman gets comfy enough to have fun on the throne, Tobias Menzies bemuses and is bemused from the sidelines (for a while, anyway), Helena Bonham Carter selectively empathizes with other outsiders in their own skewed orbits, and Josh O’Connor triples his screen time as Prince Charles, the put-upon whiner who thinks he’s aged into a thwarted hero, doesn’t see himself becoming the villain. They’ve managed to survive into those lovable ’80s, when two new names emerged to take places for themselves in the British pantheon. Gillian Anderson transforms into Margaret Thatcher, the uncompromising Prime Minister who inspired thousands of destitute punk bands and numerous low-budget films about the political rage and hopelessness she instilled; and Emma Corrin (Pennyworth) as young Diana Spencer, who inspired thousands of tabloid reporters, paparazzi, impressionable little girls, and fabulous fashion mavens.

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2020 Road Trip Photos #19: War Mementos (Miscellaneous Wars Edition)

Time v Hussein!

Time gives the kill order on Saddam Hussein.

War. What is it good for?

For inspiring movies, TV shows, novels, video games, a few board games, protest songs, and museums about war.

Your move, Edwin Starr.

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2020 Road Trip Photos #18: War Mementos (WWII Edition)

Time v. Hitler!

Time gives the kill order on Adolf Hitler.

Anyone who really knows Anne is well aware of her long-standing interests in American history in general and World War II in particular, with an intense specialization in the European theater. When opportunities arise to learn more about it and to view its remnants in person, those tend to rise near the top of our travel to-do lists. And so it went in Vincennes.

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2020 Road Trip Photos #15: The Savior at Sackville

George Rogers Clark!

This place has everything: murals, markers, dioramas, statues, American history, and a guard with a mask!

I’m assuming the tradition continues today, albeit in virtual mode among the saner schools out there, but back in the ancient times of my childhood, every fourth-grade social studies class here in the Hoosier State had to include at least one full unit of Indiana history. We learned about the famous personalities who contributed to our formative years, and covered happenings from the tribal lands that white guys renamed the Northwest Territory to our official statehood in 1816. We sighed a bit to hear about severe underdog William Henry Harrison. Then we skipped a lot of locally uneventful decades until we got to more interesting subjects such as sports legends, Michael Jackson, and the original One Day at a Time.

In that semester’s specialized curriculum, teachers made sure to cover a Revolutionary War hero named George Rogers Clark. He may not mean much to most states, and he didn’t mean much to us after fourth grade, but we were told we needed to know about him anyway because he was on the test. Naturally there’s a memorial for him.

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2020 Road Trip Photos #2: And Man Created Ben-Hur

Lew Wallace statue!

Lew Wallace was an officer in the Union Army. No grappling hooks or toppling pulleys, pretty please.

Previously on Midlife Crisis Crossover:

Every year since 1999 my wife Anne and I have taken a trip to a different part of the United States and visited attractions, wonders, and events we didn’t have back home in Indianapolis. From 1999 to 2003 we did so as best friends; from 2004 to the present, as husband and wife. Then came 2020 A.D.

Even in an ordinary average year, sometimes you really need to get away from it all. In a year like this, escape is more important than ever if you can find yourself one — no matter how short it lasts, no matter how limited your boundaries are. Anne and I had two choices: either skip our tradition for 2020 and resign ourselves to a week-long staycation that looks and feels exactly like our typical weekend quarantines; or see how much we could accomplish within my prescribed limitations. We decided to expand on that and check out points of interest in multiple Indiana towns in assorted directions. We’d visited many towns over the years, but not all of them yet.

In addition to our usual personal rules, we had two simple additions in light of All This: don’t get killed, and don’t get others killed…

Though we couldn’t get into Crawfordsville’s special jail, we had no problem accessing their other unique attraction several blocks away. The town is home to a college campus, a number of non-franchise restaurants, and two museums found nowhere else. That’s our kind of small town.

Crawfordsville spawned a number of noteworthy contributors to society at large, either born or dwelt there in childhood — New York Times crossword master Will Shortz; playwright Maurine Dallas Watkins (Chicago); Space Shuttle astronaut Joseph P. Allen; comic strip writer Allen Saunders (Mary Worth, Steve Roper); cartoonist Bill Holman, creator of Smokey Stover; and the WWF champion known as The Ultimate Warrior. But only one Crawfordsville native has his own museum.

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The 10 Best Episodes of “The Crown” So Far According to a Guy Who Barely Knows Royal Family Stuff

Olivia Colman and The Crown!

From Hot Fuzz to Broadchurch to The Night Manager to The Favourite and more, Olivia Colman has already been ruling for years.

Previously on Midlife Crisis Crossover: a while back I spent an entire weekend watching the first episodes of twenty different series across multiple platforms. That experience provided us a blueprint for our binge-watching over the subsequent months. I haven’t written about everything we’ve watched, but since that entry my wife Anne and I have gone through Netflix’s Unbelievable (harrowing and unforgettable), Wild Wild Country (surprising and at times Too Much, by which I mean too much padding, but altogether illuminating), the first two seasons of House of Cards (despite potentially tossing fifty cents into Kevin Spacey’s tin cup), a wholly unrelated and regrettable detour for Tiger King (now we get all the references, but at a steep cost to our souls), and, far less dishonorably, all three seasons of The Crown.

My brief thoughts on the latter’s pilot:

Some early reviews had led us to believe writer Peter Morgan’s longform follow-up to his Best Picture nominee “The Queen” amounted to “Royal Sexytime”. Perhaps later down the road, the sight of Queen Elizabeth II snogging Prince Philip may be lying in wait to drive us to the brink of horror, like that one Marvel miniseries that dared readers to visit Aunt May’s heyday as a horny teen. Mercifully the first chapter didn’t go there and seemed much like any other British costume drama, save a few expletives and the Eleventh Doctor’s bare butt. Bonus points for casting consummate professional Jared Harris to take over for Colin Firth as King George VI. A pity Elizabeth herself hardly figured into her own story at first. Presumably Claire Foy has more lines later?

Thankfully she did, except in scenes where she consigned herself to historically accurate silence for the sake of burying feelings like true British royalty. Thirty episodes later, we’re caught up with other viewers and ready for more. Until season four presumably hits the broadband waves later this year, all we can do for now is ruminate on what we have on hand.

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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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Yes, There’s a Deleted Musical Number During the “Midway” End Credits

Midway!

Once again the world is saved thanks to EXPLOSIONS!

One of MCC’s steadfast rules is that every film I see in theaters gets its own entry, for better or worse or in between. My wife Anne and I saw Roland Emmerich’s Midway on opening weekend because World War II history is among her greatest proficiencies. Theaters don’t screen as many WWII films as they used to back in ancient times, but when they do, we try to be there. For us they’re good excuses for am afternoon date, even when they’re not a good use of filmmaking funds or resources.

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