Christmas in November

November joy!

Yes, it’s early, but hey, free speech.

This afternoon of November 7th, the Lord has blessed Indianapolis with 72 degrees of bright warmth in defiance of humanity’s calendar. Anne and I enjoy a sunny walk through a day that could have been darker like others around it.

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The Least August of All Augusts

Wizard World Chicago 2020!

The formerly real Wizard World Chicago 2020 guest list, still happening this weekend in a much brighter timeline.

August has never been my favorite month under ordinary circumstances. Comics creator Evan Dorkin recently and accurately captured the essence in describing every August as “31 hot Sundays in a row”. Perfect description.

August has no major holidays and no whimsical minor holidays apart from fake internet ones. (I once created my own party-a-day August calendar, but no one supported this ambitious and deeply time-wasting endeavor.) Nearly all our local schools reopen, which means more traffic clogging up my daily commute. Temperatures soar to unpleasant levels. TV networks continue airing dross until the fall season’s starter pistol is fired. Movie studios run out of highly excitedly anticipated blockbusters and fill out their slates with second-tier products that should’ve gone straight to home video. Augusts would be a total waste of calendar space if not for the events humankind created to pass the time until September at least does us the kindness of bringing our next federally sanctioned three-day weekend.

Leave it to 2020, which is less like a year and more like a nonstop acid-rain thunderstorm over a minefield cursed by a cackling witches’ coven, to lay waste to any and all potential August plans and make the worst month even worst-er.

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5 Months’ Growth, 3 Months’ Retreat

June 2020.

Adrift in an off-white limbo. Hair by slapdash fiat. Old Hawaiian shirt by, I dunno, probably Kohl’s or J.C. Penney.

June 25th marked five months since my last haircut. Some people wait that long on purpose. When your naturally curly hair is a curse, that’s not usually your Plan A. But sometimes your plans need a change in ranking.

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The Horrors We Can Contain

Arkham Horror!

Sometimes systems that look like unmitigated chaos from the outside are easier to navigate once you’re fully on the inside. Or they can consume you whole.

If now is not the time for a tortured metaphor involving a convoluted board game set in a fictional universe created by a flagrant racist, I don’t know when is.

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Forfending a Fearful Phase with a Fleeting Flashback to a Forgotten Fair Photo

Indiana State Fair 2017 Jazz Hands!

Photo by one of Anne’s old schoolmates.

Whenever you’re having the sort of week that might be more endurable if you could spend the rest of it under your bed and away from keyboards, it’s cool just to post a single photo and declare you’ve fulfilled your blogging responsibilities for the week, right? That’s a remarkably wide divergence from my modus operandi, but I’m trying it just to see what happens. It’s my site and I’ll shirk if I want to.

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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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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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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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Disease Control: The Home Game

Pandemic!

Whoever chose the cities represented in this board game totally whiffed when they left out Seattle.

Four months ago our family added a new board game to our collection. Pandemic’s what-if scenario of infection spiraling out of control worldwide has been a plot device in occasional movies and TV shows. It seemed like an interesting concept for a fun game. Any supernatural foreshadowing inherent in this benign purchase was lost on us at the time.

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The Delaware Problem

Pixar Collection!

Once upon a time Pixar was so bulletproof that I aspired to a complete collection as each new film was released. You’ll note there are now intentional gaps as well as one pretender that speaks to why there are gaps.

Collections. Series. Runs. Seasons. Sets. Discographies. Filmographies. When geeks love a thing, they’re often overwhelmed with the desire to consume or possess all of that very thing. It’s not enough to say you’ve done some or many or several or a lot of a particular thing. Whatever you did, watched, read, listened to, or owned, what matters most is you managed all of it.

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The Best I Could Do on Twitter (So Far)

Clueless Detective Pikachu!

The internet in microcosm: strangers in varying garb, a few of whom actually like being around each other.

I’ve been online for nearly twenty years. I’ve been on Twitter for 9½ years. MCC is nearly eight years old, though I blogged intermittently for six years before that in an even tinier space. I’ve scampered around the tunnels of Usenet, dallied in several message boards, volunteered as an unpaid moderator/admin on one site for nine years, tried the untamed DMZ that is comics discussion sites before running away screaming, and learned quickly that comments sections on major news sites were even larger sinkholes. My internet experience has been a rewarding, exhausting, surprising, discouraging, uplifting, heartbreaking search for the right environments and vehicles for my expressive impulses and my feeble attempts at what those who fit in with others call “networking”.

Luckily for me and my shifting moods, the internet offers a variety of writing formats that suit my ideas, topics, styles, visions, objectives, and wordiness vibe on any given evening. In recent years I’ve carved out comfort zones for myself in two primary outlets: Twitter and this very blog. Each option has its pros and cons. Each yields different rewards.

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My Just Barely Black Friday 2019

Kohl's Pillows!

Wheeling down the aisles at Kohl’s with my tiny cart piled high.

The one Black Friday item that Anne and I wanted more than any other this year was cheap pillows. We’re that old now.

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Our First Day Trying the New IndyGo Red Line, Which Sucked

Red Line Anne!

My wife Anne hanging out in the bikers’ wing because there was no room for us anywhere else aboard.

I love the idea of mass transit. I got used to buses as a wee tyke when my mom and my grandma took me on them all the time. As adults my wife and I have had positive experiences in Denver, DC, Chicago, Philadelphia, New Jersey, and Manhattan. (Baltimore was a mixed bag.) I loved the NYC subways so much after our first visit, I begged Anne to let me dig a subway tunnel connecting NYC’s MTA and our front door. My request died in committee.

Meanwhile back in Indianapolis, “mass transit” doesn’t mean quite so much. Our medium metropolis was built over the course of decades with no room allotted for subways or light rail. There’s no such thing as “hailing” a cab here — they exist but if you want one, you have to phone for one. We have a bus system called IndyGo, which is…well, it’s certainly a set of things on wheels that provides a traveling alternative under certain limited conditions. It isn’t exactly renowned. From time to time, some idealistic, would-be innovator comes to town with an idea to do a “mass transit” thing and improve quality of life for commuters and folks without cars. Nine times out of ten, those benevolent thinkers are sent packing. I’d use the old cliché “they’re run out of town on a rail”, but this would be an obvious lie due to the lack of rails to spare.

This year IndyGo and our city government conspired to introduce a new concept to our Indy road scene: Bus Rapid Transit. Per their grand vision and ubiquitous marketing boilerplate, it could change the very face of Indianapolis mass transit if their plans and dreams come true. If.

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Three Thoughts After Our First Dragon Con

Dragon Con Banner!

The start of Atlanta’s annual Dragon Con parade. Zillions more photos to come once I figure out some way to narrow them down to the best 200 or so.

Previously on Midlife Crisis Crossover:

For years we’ve been telling friends in other states that we’d one day do Atlanta’s Dragon Con, one of the largest conventions in America that isn’t in California or New York. We’ve been in Atlanta, but we hadn’t really done Atlanta. Hence this year’s vacation, in which we’re aiming for a double proficiency in Atlanta tourism and over-the-top Dragon Con goodness…

I’m typing this on Saturday night upon the conclusion of our virgin Dragon Con experience — two solid days of convention awesomeness plus a three-hour prologue on Thursday. We’re exhausted and disappointed we can’t stay longer, but we’re coming away with hundreds of photos to sort, a bit more reading matter to add to my collection, four new jazz-hands photo-ops to add to that collection, new memories to savor and share in the days and years ahead, and a wider basis for comparison against the Midwest cons we regularly attend. (Not counting the two we had to skip in order to work D*C into our schedule.)

Before I collapse into unconsciousness in preparation for the 8½-hour drive home Sunday, I need to jot down three key takeaways while they’re still fresh in mind and while I’m still riding high on my happy post-D*C buzz.

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Memo from the MCC Errors & Omissions Department

The Shirt!

File photo of a souvenir my wife picked up from Indy PopCon 2015, where the special guests included Charles Nelson Reilly, TV’s Charo, and Joan Embry from the San Diego Zoo along with her amazing thirty to fifty feral pigs.

Previously on Midlife Crisis Crossover: I wrote at length about a six-part miniseries that my wife and I watched on Crackle called The Final Tsars, in which I couldn’t be bothered to open an extra browser tab and verify the full name of the ruler at the heart of the story. The next morning, our first conversation after “Good morning” was a firm reminder that his official stage name was, in fact, “Czar Nicholas II”. MCC regrets the oversight and is sorry if any Russian historians were offended, but we don’t feel like editing the affected entry because it would undermine one of its underlying points and two of its jokes.

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Words of Advice from a Two-Time College Dropout

Graduation Cupcakes!

High school graduation parties can be cool, but what if life seems all downhill from there?

Like anyone with a working Internet connection, from time to time I find myself completing online surveys about various companies or products, whether for fun, for freebies, or in hopes that the survey will include an essay question that you can use as a soapbox to unleash a thousand-word tirade about the last time their services ticked you off and ruined your day. “That’ll show ’em!” you think to yourself as your carefully crafted vitriol is forwarded to the survey company and assimilated into the results database containing hundreds of thousands of other surveys, someday to be skimmed by a distracted HR rep who might raise an eyebrow at your poison-pen screed, if you’re lucky.

Every such survey has the obligatory section whose questions are designed for demographic pigeonholing of your results. I don’t mind revealing my ever-advancing age, blissful marital status, or conspicuously dull bloodline. My least favorite question is always, “What is the highest level of education you have completed?” It sounds simple and uncomplicated, especially if you earned a degree. Sometimes I wonder if those who attended graduate school and/or who hold multiple degrees receive a little bonus from the survey company in return, to thank them for bolstering the results with certified demographic classiness.

Mine is the humble ignominy that requires me to check “Some college”. It’s always a multiple-choice question, never a write-in field, so you can’t fall back on the standard glib answers such as “school of hard knocks” or “school of life”, joke answers such as “Rock ‘n’ Roll High School” or “Hogwarts”, or even obscure answers such as “School of Fish”, in hopes that someone in the survey company will agree how cool a song “3 Strange Days” was. Every time I spot the bland, undecorated phrase “Some college” on a survey, I wince for a second and have to shake off the reminder of a young adulthood that wandered astray.

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Midlife Crisis Crossover Celebrates 2,000th Entry with Gratuitous Food Metaphors

Indiana State Fair 2009!

Portrait of the author at the 2009 Indiana State Fair.

At times blogging can be like State Fair food science.

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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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