Midlife Crisis Crossover 2019 in Review: The Hermit’s Hunt for Happiness in Hiding

CNN Tour 2!

8/26: An unused souvenir photo from our tour of CNN Studios in Atlanta. The rain is fake. The 2019 mood is real.

Hey-ho, reader! Welcome to the eighth annual Midlife Crisis Crossover year-in-review. This virtual cubicle was slapped together on April 28, 2012, as a place where I could entertain myself by making essay-shaped things out of whatever words and pictures I had at hand, as opposed to surfing social media and hoping all those wandering strangers might make for sufficiently provocative brain engagement. Often it’s been a fulfilling platform to share galleries, memories, Grandpa Simpson-style rambling jags, and peculiar opinions that might otherwise either languish unwritten in my head or collect endless rejection emails from every professional website ever. At other times it’s been less satisfying, but I keep whiling away at one of my most time-consuming hobbies anyway. When my head is in the right space, I still enjoy the process in and of itself. Often I still enjoy the results. On rarer occasions, I’m also privileged and honored to enjoy any and every external response received from outside my own head.

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Midlife Crisis Crossover 2018 in Review: The Good, the Bad, and the Blogly

me at club!

4/23: Me at a business lunch, which are two words I haven’t strung together in over a decade.

Hey-ho, reader! Welcome to the seventh annual Midlife Crisis Crossover year-in-review. This tiny sandbox was formed on April 28, 2012, as a place where I could entertain myself by making essay-shaped things out of whatever words and pictures I had at hand, as opposed to surfing social media and waiting for excuses to reply to strangers who didn’t ask my opinion. Often it’s been a fulfilling use of galleries, memories, and peculiar opinions that might otherwise either languish unwritten in my head or collect endless rejection emails from every professional website ever. At other times it’s been less fulfilling, but something I continue cobbling together anyway, as long as I can keep the fires of motivation stoked.

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C2E2 2018 Photos, Part 6 of 7: Who Else We Met and What We Did

Svengoolie!

Warrior Woody Woodpecker cosplayer interviewed by Chicago’s own late-night horror-flick host Svengoolie. Can it get more comic-con than this?

Previously on Midlife Crisis Crossover:

It’s that time again! The ninth annual Chicago Comic and Entertainment Exposition (“C2E2″) just wrapped another three-day extravaganza of comic books, actors, creators, toys, props, publishers, freebies, Funko Pops, anime we don’t recognize, and walking and walking and walking and walking. Each year C2E2 keeps inching ever closer to its goal of becoming the Midwest’s answer to the legendary San Diego Comic Con and other famous cons in larger, more popular states. My wife Anne and I missed the first year, but have attended every year since 2011 as a team.

In this special miniseries I’ll be sharing memories and photos from our own C2E2 experience and its plethora of pizzazz…

We’ve covered our latest additions to our jazz hands catalog. We’ve shared nearly five dozen cosplay photos. We’ve saluted the comics creators who successfully divested us of cash. That wasn’t all the fun that C2E2 had in store for us this year.

(The following narrative of our two-day C2E2 walkabout will make more sense if you’ve already read Part One and Part Five. As you go, you should see where the photos from those entries slot into the storytelling.)

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Midlife Crisis Crossover 2017 in Review: Our Colossal Comic-Con Year

Queen Anne!

Alternate take of Queen Anne on the Iron Throne at Wizard World Chicago 2017.

Hey-ho, reader! Welcome to the sixth annual Midlife Crisis Crossover year-in-review. This unassuming site was launched on April 28, 2012, as a cathartic experiment in writing whatever came to mind without waiting for other people to start my conversations for me, and so far it’s been a fulfilling use of galleries and essays that might otherwise either languish unwritten in my head or collect endless rejection emails from every professional website ever. Come January we’ll be reaching our 1,700th entry, reflecting once more on the thousands of man-hours expended to date on this self-expressive vanity project, and rationalizing new excuses to keep sharing even on those harder days when it’s just me, an unresponsive void, and my wife Anne saying nice things to cheer me up.

Good news on the stats front, in a way: 2017 site traffic was up 10.75% over 2016’s, which had nearly matched 2015’s. We’re still nowhere near returning to 2014’s historic levels, but I’ll take any signs of improvement. MCC had a few memorable moments this year, including one special, horrible, awful occasion that saw our largest traffic influx since 2013, the last year we posted costume photos from Gen Con. Curiously, our biggest attraction the previous year was also the result of an unhappy headline that sparked interest in our own personal tangent. The readers of the internet have spoken loud and clear the past two years: they love us most whenever we have something to share about unhappy things. In a coincidental twist, this may also be why people turn to Twitter more than ever for their daily fix of news and/or commentary and/or metaphorical exploding heads.

Onward, then, to our annual blog-stats party! Featuring a selection of photos from the year that was, all outtakes previously unposted here on MCC. Enjoy!

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FandomFest 2017 Photos, Part 1 of 2: The Hopeless Optimists’ Version

Matthew Lillard!

Ladies and gentlemen, Matthew Lillard! You might remember him from such films as Scream and Scooby-Doo! He’s a party!

“…and that’s why I say Louisville CANNOT STAND for this grave injustice one moment longer!” I bellowed into the Q&A stage microphone.

The crowd of righteous, wronged fans cheered me and waved their Funco Pops in the air while a pair of Louisville detectives escorted the owners of FandomFest away in handcuffs, ankle cuffs, and scarlet letter Rs (for “ripoff”) spray-painted on their thousand-dollar suit jackets. At last, all the sins of these unrepentant hucksters stood exposed and would be held accountable. Justice would soon be ours thanks to the newly instituted Department of Geekland Security.

I passed the mic to the nearest Colonel Sanders cosplayer, who had been hastily appointed the convention’s interim chairman in accordance with Kentucky convention regulations. Next to him stood a six-foot tall KFC bucket because of course it did. He shook my hand and faced the crowd.

“I am SO SORRY that fandom has had to endure this charade, but soon we will put this right!” He pointed emphatically at random points in the crowd. “I vow that you shall get a refund! And YOU get a refund! And YOU get a REFUND! ALL Y’ALL WILL GET REFUNDS!”

The applause and roars and whistles reached ear-shattering decibel levels, a standing ovation rivaling any ever endured at the Oscars. And just when we thought we fans couldn’t explode any harder, a pair of hands burst through the giant paper chicken bucket and waved at everyone.

Out of the mega-bucket climbed an enthusiastic Weird Al Yankovic. He’d come after all, cleverly disguised as food. We should’ve known.

Weird Al took the mic from the Colonel, summoned his band out from behind the nearest support columns, and proceeded to play a free three-hour greatest hits dance-party concert, followed by unlimited photo ops and autograph signings that lasted well into the night.

We were content.

* * * * *

…okay, so FandomFest didn’t turn out exactly as I’d imagined.

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“Transformers: The Last Knight”: The Super Awesome Ultimate Recap

Nemesis Prime!

Hey, kids! Hope you love our new movie and all the cool toy tie-ins! Mom and Dad, sorry all our human friends keep saying the S-word so much.

Midlife Crisis Crossover calls Transformers: The Last Knight “The worst Knights of the Round Table film of 2017”! This may sound like nonsense, but I would say “You had to be there” if that weren’t the opposite of my final opinion about this misbegotten mess.

Michael Bay’s latest assemblage of toy robot fight footage extracted from a wheat thresher doesn’t stop at just King Arthur for his pop culture cribbing. After an opening fray that brings us the Game of Thrones/Armageddon crossover no one ever asked for, Bay and his four credited screenwriters go out of their way to photocopy portions of Suicide Squad, Downton Abbey, National Treasure, Aliens, Stand by Me and Three’s Company while trying to turn giant toy robot fights into Serious Business, to come up with clever disguises for sports-car placement ads, and to perpetuate the four previous films’ ongoing YVAN EHT NIOJ-style recruitment campaign.

Fair warning: I’m getting into MAJOR SPOILERS because I don’t feel like being kind to this ostensible “movie”. If your love for Transformers is so unconditional and fanatical that you’re hoping to keep the surprises fully preserved so that your first viewing will be as pure and blissful as possible, then this entry is not for you. Then again, you’ve likely avoided any and all critical analyses of your beloved robo-family’s entire series to date anyway, so I imagine I’m safe and talking to myself, which is not uncommon for me online.

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The Unkindest Roads

Birdseye.

For all we talk about road trips, sometimes the open road is not our friend. Last Saturday it was determined to be the enemy.

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Road Trip Origins, Part 2 of 2: Our First Wizard World Chicago

Wizard World Chicago 1999!

July 17, 1999, a day that shall live on in the hearts and minds of at least two geeks.

Previously on Midlife Crisis Crossover:

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. Every tradition begins somewhere. As longtime friends and readers might expect, ours began with a convention.

Enter Wizard World Chicago 1999. It was probably the largest comic con within 500 miles of home. We figured if we could handle a 2½-hour excursion southeast to Kings Island, then we could handle driving three or four hours northwest to Chicago.

Thus did two twentysomething best friends embark on their first real road trip, arrive at their destination in the Chicagoland town of Rosemont, and walk into the largest geek convention they’d ever seen in their lives.

Right this way for our grainy 35mm photo gallery and a big batch of exhumed memories!

Midlife Crisis Crossover 2016 Year in Review: The Likes, the Loves, and the Losers

Monument Circle!

May: a rare selfie with my wife Anne on Monument Circle downtown on the day of the Indianapolis 500 Festival Parade.

Hey-ho, reader! Welcome to the fifth annual Midlife Crisis Crossover year-in-review. This unassuming site was launched on April 28, 2012, as a cathartic experiment in writing whatever came to mind without waiting for other people to start my conversations for me, and so far it’s been a fulfilling use of galleries and essays that might otherwise either languish unwritten in my head or collect endless rejection emails from every professional website ever. Sometime this spring we’ll be reaching our 1,500th entry, reflecting once more on the hundreds of man-hours expended to date on this self-expressive non-profit project, and rationalizing new excuses not to stop, even if by the time I die it’s just me and ad-bots posting harsh emojis at each other down inside the spam filter.

Right this way for our rundown of MCC’s best and worst of 2016!

Indiana Comic Con 2016 Photos #4 of 4: Who We Met and What We Did

John Rhys-Davies!

Gimli. Sallah. Treebeard. Professor Arturo. da Vinci. Kingpin. All those names and personalities don’t prepare you for the fact that John Rhys-Davies will tickle you in the middle of your photo op.

Previously on Midlife Crisis Crossover: Friday and Saturday, my wife and I attended the third annual Indiana Comic Con at the Indiana Convention Center in scenic downtown Indianapolis. Previous chapters in this special MCC miniseries:

* Part One: Costumes!
* Part Two: Cosplay!
* Part Three: Cosplayers!

The TL;DR rundown of our weekend experience: this was the best-run Indiana Comic Con to date. The showrunners evidently took notes last time, focused on their weaknesses, streamlined their processes, and exceeded our apprehensive expectations. We came away with a new set of happy memories, several cool books, another gallery of photos, a few minor suggestions for future years, and no sour complaints this time. A fine convention at last, would run through again, 10/10.

Right this way for pics of actors and comic creators we met! And more!

MCC Live-Tweeting: The “Sleepy Hollow” Season 3 Finale

Sleepy Hollow!

In which Ichabbie bids us a clumsy, ill-conceived Ichabbye.

Okay, after a self-mandated 24-hour cooling-off period, I think I’m ready to tackle that Friday night fiasco.

Once upon a time, Midlife Crisis Crossover provided same-night recaps of every episode of Sleepy Hollow. I’m not a pro reviewer entitled to advance copies of any TV shows, so every recap was an intense, on-the-fly, two- to three-hour marathon writing session, thinking and typing as quickly as I could to combine plot summary with top-of-my-head commentary in 1500- to 2000-word bursts — partly to see if I could do it, partly because sometimes there’s an audience for such a thing. This formerly fun exercise became a thankless chore if I paid too much attention to the competition from actual pro websites given days to prepare their material so they can click “Publish” mere seconds after each episode ends. It’s a nice luxury if you can work your way into it and don’t have to worry about sleep deprivation disrupting your full-time day job.

When Fox moved Sleepy Hollow to Fridays for the back half of season 3, I figured it was the perfect time to pull the plug on that ongoing MCC feature, not only due to diminishing returns but also because we have a family commitment every other Friday that precluded same-night recaps. Past experiences have taught me that delayed recaps are a waste of time and bandwidth, so that wasn’t an option, and that’s why this entry is not a straight-up recap. My wife and I still followed the show as fans, and every other week I’ve been live-tweeting it, which turned out to be a much better format for me. All of the MST3K-style improv joke-writing, none of the boring golf-commentator filler.

The timing worked out so that I could live-tweet last night’s season finale, “Ragnarok”, an astoundingly disappointing episode that encapsulated all of this season’s flaws to date, then one-upped them with the most poorly orchestrated mistake in series history. And after it was all over, I was there to watch the internet burn. Not just once, but twice.

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Midlife Crisis Crossover 2015 in Review: Our 4th Annual Stats Party!

CARRIE FISHER COMPELS YOU!

The most intimidating command issued to me all year: General Leia Organa Solo yelling, “COME HERE, PHOTOGRAPHER.” What happened next was one of my most memorable moments of 2015.

Hey-hey, folks! Welcome to the fourth annual Midlife Crisis Crossover year-in-review! This modest site was launched on April 28, 2012, as a cathartic experiment in writing whatever came to mind without waiting for other people to start my conversations for me, and so far it’s successfully kept me busy enough to avoid 98% of all toxic social media hubs. Sometime this winter we’ll reach our 1,200th entry, look back on these hundreds of thousands of words generated to date, and thank the Lord my fingers and brain haven’t gone numb yet.

Right this way for our rundown of MCC’s best and worst of 2015!

Grieving the Erasure of Your Favorite Corporate-Owned Universe

DC: Where Legends Live!

DC Comics house ad from The Flash #339, cover-dated November 1984. A lot of ’80s characters are no longer around, and it’s been decades since fans begged DC to bring back “legends” like these.

We live in an entertainment culture where we take it as given that all the best ideas were conceived before we were born, so trying to forge new universes seems like too much effort. Reboots used to be a desperation move, but anymore they’re the norm for luring in new fans — not just for work-for-hire companies with an intellectual property catalog to keep fertile and growing, but for artists, writers, and filmmakers all too happy to make a lifelong career out of perpetuating the lives and histories of worlds and heroes they didn’t invent themselves. It’s a living.

It’s easy to scoff at reboots when they’re happening to characters that don’t matter to you. If you’re a geek for long enough, though, sooner or later they’ll get to a universe you do care about.

I’ve been there. I remember the first time I had a universe yanked out from under me.

Right this way for memories and lessons about two universes with a lot in common…

Wizard World Chicago 2015 Photos, Part 7 of 7: Why We Convention

Jeremy Renner VIP Badge!

Previously on Midlife Crisis Crossover:

It’s that time of year again! Anne and I are at Wizard World Chicago in scenic Rosemont, IL, where we’re so far having a blast even though parts of it resemble hard work and our feet feel battle-damaged after two days of endless walking, standing, lining up, shuffling forward in cattle-call formation, and scurrying toward exciting people and things…

My wife and I took an okay number of photos over the course of our three-day stay and will once again be sharing the most usable over the next several entries.

Tonight’s episode: the miniseries finale! The panels we saw! The comics pros I met! The winners of the Annual “Convince Me to Spend Money in Artists Alley” contest! The troubles with conventioning while old! And more!

Right this way for one last batch of photos, anecdotes from the weekend, and one (1) costume pic!

Confessions of a Former Costume Contest Fan

C2E2 2015 Finalists!

C2E2 semi-finalists, left to right: a Warhammer 40K Inquisitor; Takuto Tsunashi from Star Driver; an original Norse Valkyrie; the Khorne Marauder, also from Warhammer 40K; and I believe you’ve met Groot.

Each time my wife and I attend a convention, we love coming home with dozens upon dozens of photos to save for posterity once we’ve turned elderly and forgotten everything we ever did, to show to friends and family interested in what we do, and to share with followers and passing strangers here on Midlife Crisis Crossover. To us it’s all a part of the geek experience, a sort of community service for those who couldn’t be there, or for those who were there but are looking for more shots, different perspectives, or simply proof of their existence when they were unable to take or locate any pics of themselves.

On a related note, for better or for worse, MCC’s highest single-day traffic figures every year are nearly always from cosplay photo galleries. Longtime readers who have no use for cons may wonder why I devote multiple entries to each con, but for me the math is easy: cons provide plenty of new content, anecdotes, and visual wonders to share with the world; and we usually see a traffic spike with each miniseries, especially when it comes to reporting costume contest results. Everybody loves winners, and even runners-up in such showdowns are impressive in their own right.

The grandest of them all is Gen Con, which we’ve been attending since before the recent boom in the Indianapolis con scene. Anne and I aren’t even tabletop or TCG gamers, but their exhibit hall contains scintillating multitudes and their costume contest attracts some of the most imaginative, hard-working, dedicated fans around with a penchant for representing characters and concepts far from the mainstream norms. I come away from each Gen Con a little more wowed and schooled at the same time. I’ve made no secret that the costume contest is the primary reason I attend Gen Con.

After our recent con experiences and no small amount of self-examination on my part, I think I need to let the whole costume-contest thing go.

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Saturday Night’s Not All Right for Fast Food

Icky Dump

Three Saturdays ago my wife and I returned to town after a long, long drive and had neither energy nor willpower to cook supper at home. We weren’t in the mood to wait 60-120 minutes for a table at your Olive Garden/Red Lobster level of weekend hotspots. We’d already racked up a number of single-day expenses and were neither amenable nor properly dressed to go overspend on a nicer, classier, posher, less crowded establishment. So we decided to stop for fast food.

On a Saturday night. I know better than this.

When things went south, they set off a series of flashbacks to my previous career track and reminded me exactly why I should know better.

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Indiana Comic Con 2015 Photos, Part 4 of 4: Braving the Battle Lines

Jenna Coleman!

My wife and I in the presence of Jenna Coleman, a.k.a. Clara Oswald the Impossible Girl from TV’s Doctor Who. A friend of ours asked, “Can she BE any more adorable?” Well, no. No, she can’t.

Previously on Midlife Crisis Crossover: my wife and I attended the second annual Indiana Comic Con! Part One covered our Friday experience, a smooth and engaging experience. Part Two was our bewildering Carrie Fisher encounter. Part Three collected every usable costume photo we took on Saturday.

We knew Saturday would be a busier, more hectic, potentially more disappointing day than Friday. Some cons’ Saturdays are more challenging than others. When things go wrong, blame isn’t always easy or comfortable to assign, and it’s not always the con’s fault. But when it is, the flaring tempers can light up the evening sky.

We had four primary Saturday objectives and one secondary objective left over from Friday. We tried to adjust expectations based on the con’s disastrous Saturday 2014 performance and its vastly improved Friday 2015. Ultimately we nailed three out of four, though it required strategy and persistence on our part to navigate the obstacles. If ICC’s showrunners had ever attended other cons — I mean really attended them, immersed themselves in the full experience, not just skipped through exhibit halls and glanced at activities from a distance — I wouldn’t have had to abandon the fourth objective.

Right this way for the Indiana Comic Con 2015 miniseries finale!

Technically Easy Ceiling Repair for Hopeless Amateurs

Say! You, there!

Has this ever happened to you?

Ceiling Hole!

You’re at home trying to live or rest or hobby or whatever other normal things you do when you’re not working, unless you work from home and every day is an existential struggle over the Duality of Man, and then suddenly one day you realize you have a hole in your ceiling. Sometimes if you’re lucky, you’re present in the room when the hole is punched and you know exactly what to blame and how to swear vengeance properly. Most of the time, it’s a gradual process that may or may not have begun with a water stain that turned malignant. Still other times, you’d swear that hole wasn’t there when you left for work that morning, but now there’s a surprise ceiling hole and an innocent-looking family holding a football with everyone’s fingerprints on it. Whatever the cause, no two ceiling holes are the same, but the heartbreak is universal.

If you’re a renter, ceiling hole repair is as easy as 1-2-3:

1. Call landlord.
2. Complain about hole.
3. Watch your stories till hole is gone.

If you’re a homeowner with a home-improvement skill set, it’s not so simple, but you’ve probably got it covered. If you’re a homeowner without a clue like me, it’s a conscientious burden, it’s a drain on your heating bills, it’s an eyesore that has to be hidden from guests, and it might as well be a geotechnical engineering project for all you know. What do you do?

There’s the highway (i.e., abandon the house)…or my way.

Here’s what I did in too many embarrassing steps!

Former Kickstarter Junkie IV: Here, YOU Save Spaceflight

Fight for Space!

Moviemaking is like spaceflight. Dream big. Aim high. Don’t look down. Curse the budget issues.

Paul Hildebrandt needs your help. For over two years the director and his crew have been conducting dozens of interviews, sifting through countless hours of archival footage, knocking at closed D.C. backrooms, stumping for truth, analyzing the facts, looking for root causes, and working hard to bring you Fight for Space, an ambitious documentary about the sorry state of America’s position in the international space race, where things went wrong, why they’re still off track today, and what barriers still stand between humanity and our return to the stars.

I previously wrote about Hildebrandt’s project in July 2012 when I signed on as a backer to his official Kickstarter campaign. His quest succeeded and exceeded his formidable funding goal of $65,000.00, with pledges totaling over $105,000.00. For the next year-plus, Hildebrandt pursued more interviews, hit roadblocks in several areas (including any and all inquiries into Elon Musk’s SpaceX program, which availed him naught), wrapped filming, began post-production, and updated us once every few months when properly badgered.

Then the money ran out. Hildebrandt was taken aback and humbled by the process, but he means to finish what he started. To that end, he’s just launched a second Kickstarter campaign to raise more funds so he can afford to complete his work as he envisions it.

Hildebrandt needs your help, and so do I. You can make a difference and help this important project finish happening, in hopes that it could shed new light on a touchy subject and change minds nationwide. Also, if there aren’t enough backers in this second round of donations, I’m guessing the whole thing collapses and I’ll never see the rewards I’m still owed from his first Kickstarter campaign. I was kind of hoping to have those in hand before I die.

Hi. My name is Randy. It’s been 25 months since I last gave a single dime to a Kickstarter project…

Midlife Crisis Crossover 2014 in Review: Our 3rd Annual Stats Party!

Indy Pop Con!

This outtake from Indy Pop Con captures some of the brighter parts of my 2014: LEGO, conventions, new T-shirts, Star Wars, and my wife. Not in that order.

Hey there, supporters and strangers! Welcome to the third annual Midlife Crisis Crossover year-in-review. This modest site was launched on April 28, 2012, as a nervous experiment in writing whatever came to mind in a space to call my own, and so far it’s been a much more fulfilling pastime than lurking around message boards and tapping my foot impatiently while waiting for other fun people to discuss things I wanted to discuss. Last week saw the release of MCC’s 900th post, and so far I’m at a loss to explain exactly how that happened. I dreaded 2014 would be the year I ran out of anecdotes and opinions and jokes, but in hindsight I can’t think of a reason to let that stop me now. If this happened months ago, everybody do me a favor and don’t tell me, because the longer you let me ramble on like this, the funnier it’ll be to watch my eventual horrified epiphany.

MCC’s 2012 was a slow rise from nothingness to quantifiable somethingness. Our 2013 was about steady upward trending as I kept exploring my limitations and horizons. 2014, on the other hand, saw largely flatlined traffic except around a few key events. This peaceful plateau may be in part because 2014 was MCC’s first year without a single entry achieving the much-vaunted WordPress.com “Freshly Pressed” status, that prized occasion in which the WordPress staff shares a well-regarded work of yours with a much wider audience of fellow WordPress users. Without such a generous boost to accelerate audience growth this year, it meant trying to hold your attention with old-school methods — by keeping the content coming, by appreciating the greatest audience of all times, by digging into topics that might interest other humans besides myself, by trying not to suck, and by wishing really hard that magic search-engine genies would do all my marketing for me.

Continue here for MCC’s own best and worst of 2014!

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