Our 2002 Road Trip, Part 1 of 5: A Special Sojourn for Star Wars

Star Wars party!

Anne with our companions Shannon and Katrina in a movie theater far, far away. Well, okay, admittedly it wasn’t far for them

Every year since 1999 Anne and I have taken a road trip to a different part of the United States and seen 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. My son rode along from 2003 until 2013 when he ventured off to college. From 2004 to 2011 we recounted our experiences online at length for a close circle of friends. From 2012 to the present we’ve presented our annual travelogues here on this modest website for You, the Viewers at Home, which I’m grateful includes some of those same friends who haven’t quit us yet.

Previously on Midlife Crisis Crossover, we told the stories of our first three road trips together: Wizard World Chicago in 1999; a St. Louis science fiction convention in 2000; and the 2001 Superman Celebration in Metropolis, Illinois. In 2002 we continued our convention streak with Star Wars Celebration II, which was held here in Indianapolis and saved us the hassle and joy of a road trip. We had a ball, stood in lines for actors from the first five movies, and were pleased to meet a dozen-plus friends we knew from the Star Wars message board that was like a second home to us for years. Great time, but not a road trip.

We remedied that two weeks later with an idea that combined elements from our first three outings: a major cultural event plus Star Wars plus internet friends plus driving hours away from home. Add a dash of MST3K and a bit more standard tourism than usual, and that’s the story of how we planned a five-hour drive for a four-day getaway to Grand Rapids, Michigan, to hang out with fellow fans and see Star Wars: Attack of the Clones on opening day. Twice.

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Road Trip Origins Year 2, Part 3 of 3: The Gateway Attraction

Gateway Arch!

Normally when our kind sees giant metal legs, they’re in a movie attached to a dumb robot spider.

Previously on Midlife Crisis Crossover: a flashback to our second annual road trip, attending St. Louis’ second and final Gateway Science Fiction Convention in the year 2000. Actors from Mystery Science Theater 3000 were met, autographs were treasured, panels were enjoyed, dozens of internet peers showed up to put faces with names. But we didn’t limit ourselves to the convention hotel’s property. None of us were from St. Louis; some of us were eager to explore and see what else the city had to offer. Our first try was a Saturday night group dinner that begged for comment cards.

Sunday morning after a great big fan-group breakfast, five of us decided to skip out on the con’s early hangover hours and see what other sights might be of interest to outsiders enjoying their first time in St. Louis. If only there were a conspicuous, gargantuan, possibly even famous architectural feat sticking out in the city’s skyline and having things named after it such as state nicknames and science fiction conventions.

Right this way for the answer to this super hard riddle!

Road Trip Origins Year 2, Part 1 of 3: Internet Fandom Rendezvous 2000

Gateway program!

If you recognize the logo that this program cover is aping, then you may appreciate who we met that year…

Every year since 1999 Anne and I have taken a road trip to a different part of the United States and seen 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. My son rode along from 2003 until 2013 when he ventured off to college. From 2004 to 2011 we recounted our experiences online at length for a close circle of friends. From 2012 to the present we’ve presented our annual travelogues here on this modest website for You, the Viewers at Home, which I’m grateful includes some of those same friends. Previously on Midlife Crisis Crossover, we told the story of our very first road trip together, an amateur expedition to Wizard World Chicago 1999.

Fast-forward one year later to July 14-16, 2000. While we remained best-of-the-best friends in separate apartments, we had begun pooling resources on select line items and seen our situations improve when she left McDonald’s after a ten-year stint and switched to an adjacent, much better-paying career track — call-center work for a major mail-order club. It was still customer service, but with 100% less grease and 0% chance of having to stand for hours at open drive-thru windows in zero-degree weather. Overall we were in slightly better standings one year after WWC when an idea for a second road trip walked right up, pinched my cheeks, and wouldn’t let go.

As with our inaugural outing, this would be another geek convention in a state beyond our own, with a guest list of well-known media personalities and hotel accommodations required. However, the proposal was far more ambitious in one groundbreaking respect: it would be our first time meeting people we knew only from the internet.

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A Second Get-Together for Second Breakfast

Dahlia!

This week my wife and I have been taking advantage of our hotel’s complimentary breakfasts to save as much money as possible (their modest, cook-to-order omelet bar is a nice touch), but sometimes a guy needs a change of pace. For lunch today I drove an hour north to check out the Denver Biscuit Company, part of a restaurant triumvirate that was featured in a 2013 episode of Guy Fieri’s Diners, Drive-Ins & Dives. That’s not a show we usually consult for travel reference (thanks to a 2012 disappointment in Topeka), but this particular joint had other incentives to lure me away from Colorado Springs.

Pictured above is the Dahlia — sausage, egg over-easy, apple butter, and maple syrup on “biscuit French toast”. It’s one of several creative biscuit sandwiches they serve for breakfast and lunch. For that “Triple-D” episode the esteemed Mr. Fieri sampled their “Elmer”, topped with pulled pork, barbecue sauce, coleslaw, onions, and homemade pickles. For him I imagine it was the only logical option. But I’m a big fan of imaginative breakfasts and knew I had to try it once I confirmed it was real.

The other incentive for my mini-road trip was an invitation from an old friend.

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Prayers and Thoughts Needed for the Rarasaur Family

Grayson Queen.

Rarasaur’s husband Dave, a.k.a. “Grayson Queen”.

Last year around this time, MCC brought you an inadequate summation of the story of Rarasaur, an optimistic, indefatigable, widely beloved WordPress blogger who’d been sent to prison under deplorable circumstances.

As of this writing she’s still serving the remaining time on her sentence. We asked for your prayers, thoughts, and other forms of benevolence on her behalf. The happy dinosaur button in the lower-right corner of this page remains in place as tribute. Before The MAN sent her up the river, she was among the neatest of the coolest of the awesomest ’round these parts.

In her absence, her husband continued his own blog and self-publishing efforts under the name Grayson Queen. It goes without saying that times were tough for him throughout her initial months away, but a series of entries earlier this year had indicated an upswing in his fortunes, new employment opportunities, and a renewed dedication to the pursuit of his creative endeavors.

Up until last week, anyway. In the two most recent entries he reported signs of physical issues that to me sounded downright frightening at the time. His subdued writing style conveyed some slight urgency, but not really panic. Maybe he downplayed the symptoms. Maybe he did have them under control. Maybe they were wholly unrelated to what happened next.

Last night the WordPress community received word from the couple’s loyal friend DJ Matticus that he passed away this week at age 35.

At the moment few details are available, but the gracious Mr. Matticus, who’s already been immensely generous in helping to relay Rara’s ongoing behind-bars journals to her fans where possible, has provided what little is known, and he’s provided contact info for anyone who’d like to mail condolences, prayers, thoughts, or other direly needed supportive expressions of love to Rara during this absolutely tragic worst-case scenario.

I’m fumbling for words on this inconceivable occasion, but that last link has the important details and an outpouring of heartfelt words in their honor.

Thanks sincerely for your consideration.

#RawrLove

There’s Nothing Wrong with Your Internet Connection. For Now.

Net Neutrality.

90% of the following message was provided as an unpaid courtesy by Battle For The Net. The other 10% is value-added MCC editing and reformatting.

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If you woke up tomorrow and your internet looked like this, what would you do?

Imagine all your favorite websites taking forever to load, while you get annoying notifications from your ISP suggesting you switch to one of their approved “Fast Lane” sites. Think about what we would lose: all the weird, alternative, interesting, and enlightening stuff that makes the Internet so much cooler than mainstream cable TV. What if the only news sites you could reliably connect to were the ones that had deals with companies like Comcast and Verizon?

On September 10th, just a few days before the FCC’s comment deadline, public interest organizations are issuing an open, international call for websites and internet users to unite for an “Internet Slowdown” to show the world what the web would be like if Team Cable gets their way and trashes net neutrality. Net neutrality is hard to explain, so our hope is that this action will help show the world what’s really at stake if we lose the open Internet.

If you’ve got a website, blog or Tumblr, get the code to join the #InternetSlowdown at the official site. The Internet Slowdown official Tumblr also has a quick list of other things you can do to help spread the word about the slowdown.

Get creative! Don’t let us tell you what to do. See you on the net September 10th!

Net Neutrality.

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Special thanks to Automattic, the talented minds behind WordPress, for supporting this effort all the way. This isn’t the first time I’ve seen them advocating from the front lines of the internet battlefield. If I could hug or high-five each of their employees personally, I totally would.

Why I Shouldn’t Be Around Memes

Family and some friends may have noticed I’m not on Facebook often nowadays. Or maybe they haven’t noticed because so many other people aren’t on Facebook often nowadays, including said family and friends. Naturally I have a long list of reasons for this, because having long lists is this thing I do, but one of the more benign reasons in the middle of that list is I begin to have issues whenever I’m around memes, Photoshop jokes, partisan pie charts, Buzzfeed quizzes, and fake Morgan Freeman quotes. Since this is now 90% of what Facebook is, abstinence becomes a sort of self-defense.

Sometimes I can keep to myself while I’m catching up on recent events. Sometimes I lose control and make things worse. This most recent example was shared by a friend today:

The Doctor v. Twilight v. Harry Potter

Whoever made this doesn’t understand how lucky we were.

Right this way to see things go south!

Rallying for Rarasaur.

Rarasaur!

The original Rarasaur mascot says hi!

Once upon a time, there was a happy, prolific blogger named Rara, read and loved by many. In her time on WordPress she’s been a font of creativity, effervescence, community spirit, encouragement, whimsy, thoughtfulness, and simple ways of pulling out of downward spirals. She’s been featured on WordPress’ Freshly Pressed main stage more than once. She’s been a frequent guest contributor on other sites, from relative unknowns to the official site for The Queen Latifah Show.

Full disclosure: I’m a follower. We’ve exchanged comments back and forth on each other’s sites and shared geek thoughts and sensibilities. Many, many other folks in the WordPress community could say the same and have better, more inspirational stories to tell. She’s respected and cheerily infectious that way.

And then one dreadful day she saw coming, The MAN sent Rara to jail.

How you can help in little ways…

Comics are for Everyone. Period.

Comics are for everyone

Design by Jordie Bellaire and Steven Finch. See unaffiliated link at end of entry for buying from them.

This shirt doesn’t exist yet, but I’ll be camped out in line as soon as the line forms.

Hot on the heels of last week’s double-barrel underage-hero-ogling/rape-threat controversy, another brouhaha hit the comic spheres Sunday evening when comics writer Landry Walker (The Incredibles, Danger Club) wandered around the show floor at WonderCon and was startled to find the following objet d’hate existing for sale:

…ugh. Not that exclusionary fanguys didn’t already have plenty of merchandise tailored specifically to them, but this one speaks directly to the heart of so many recent hostilities. I may not read the same comics as everyone else, but it’d the height of arrogance to proclaim that all the comics should be all for me. Some publishers may be better a diversity than others on all the available levels, but taken as a whole, if you can find trusty guides to point you in the right directions, the medium really does have something for every reader out there. As well it should.

To that end, colorist extraordinaire Jordie Bellaire (Deadpool, Moon Knight, Magneto, Pretty Deadly, Three, etc., etc.) and a cohort named Steven Finch (parenthetical credits here if I knew who he was) designed the proposed T-shirt you see at the top of this entry. Bellaire hopes to have a site up and running circa May so this can exist, so supporters can buy several for themselves and friends, and so she and Finch can die heroic and wealthy. She hopes to see stickers and buttons in the mix as well for all your anti-dudebro needs.

I’ll happily update here as more info becomes available. The C.A.F.E. shirt sadly won’t be ready in time for this weekend’s C2E2, but I’d love to sport this at Indy Pop Con at the end of May. I can bide my time if I must, but I wouldn’t be surprised if we start seeing other artists producing more merchandise along these lines, in even bigger and bolder designs. It’d be nice to fortify my wardrobe with more defenses like this to wear at cons and balance out the presence of card-carrying reps from the He-Man Woman-Haters Club or the boys down at the Get Rid Of Slimy girlS treehouse.

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[Updated 5/13/2014: Shirts are now available for purchase! Go buy some for the entire family!]

How Do You Solve a Problem Like Internet Rape Threats?

Kenneth Rocafort, Teen Titans #1

The cover heard ’round the world. Art by Kenneth Rocafort.

Other working titles for this entry included “Why I Avoid Comic Book Discussions”, “Comics Industry Spends Easter Week Debating Baseline Human Interaction 101”, “Uppity Chick Dares to Critique Corporate-Approved Pandering”, and “Comic Book Fans Argue in Favor of Exploitative Art and Rape Threats”.

Earlier this week Comic Book Resources published an astute piece by a writer/editor named Janelle Asselin offering thorough, point-by-point analysis of the proposed first-issue cover to DC Comics’ upcoming relaunch of Teen Titans. Of all the aspects she skewered — perspective, anatomy, body language, energy level, demographic narrowcasting, complete lack of salesmanship toward new readers in general — one in particular struck a nerve with the audience at large: incredulity at the portrayal of a teenage character as an improbably shaped fantasy porn object.

Not that this is new to comics, mind you.

The issue in this instance: the complaint wasn’t from a stodgy old guy like me. This time, it was from a lousy dame, clearly speaking out of turn against her male superiors who need their super-heroes to look like this. It’s not enough to have genuine porn at their disposal for their eye-candy needs; they apparently want visual representations of the female figure in all media kept inflated and distorted at all times for the sake of their personal viewing euphoria.

And then it got worse…

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