Our 2017 Road Trip, Part 21: Visionary Mementos


Hi, I’m Zoltar! You might remember me from such films as Big and…well, sadly, that’s it. A shame no studio would greenlight Big 2: The Embiggening starring Ted McGinley.

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. For 2017 our ultimate destination of choice was the city of Baltimore, Maryland. You might remember it from such TV shows as Homicide: Life on the Street and The Wire, not exactly the most enticing showcases to lure in prospective tourists. Though folks who know me best know I’m one of those guys who won’t shut up about The Wire, a Baltimore walkabout was Anne’s idea. Setting aside my fandom, as a major history buff she was first to remind skeptics who made worried faces at us for this plan that Maryland was one of the original thirteen American colonies and, urban decay notwithstanding, remains packed with notable history and architecture from ye olde Founding Father times. In the course of our research we were surprised to discover Baltimore also has an entire designated tourist-trap section covered with things to do. And if we just so happened to run across former filming locations without getting shot, happy bonus…

Sure, the American Visionary Art Museum had art like we’d never seen before from a variety of self-taught, non-professional, iconoclastic, inimitable artists from all walks of life working in every conceivable medium plus a few no one thought to conceive till they came along. Sure, it was three buildings and a garden full of whimsy and wonder and imagination and intimidating bewilderment. Sure, one-third of it was free and the rest was worth the admission price.

But my absolute favorite part? The gift shop.

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Moving Away from Evergreen Terrace

Simpsons DVDs!

Guess which season saw the introduction of a new box design. And guess which set I hate most for ruining everything.

Obsessive completists who collect physical media and refuse to give up on The Simpsons received heartbreaking news this week when longtime producer Al Jean revealed Season 17 would be the final DVD/Blu-ray set produced. In numerous back-and-forth discussions with fans on Twitter, Jean cited poor sales in a world where streaming media has become the preferred viewing option for a lot of former disc buyers. It’s not hard to argue the diminishing aesthetic returns on later seasons may also have contributed to America’s growing consensus as to exactly how much of the show deserves to be archived in their own homes.

For anyone with the true collector mentality, this cancellation poses a special form of anguish: a no-frills Season 20 set was rush-released in 2010 as an anniversary merchandising tie-in. Anyone who’s bought them religiously since Season 1 will now have a eternal gap between 17 and 20 that can never be filled through legal means, to say nothing of the unreleased 21 through 60. Granted, you could pay to watch those online via Amazon, or indulge in the Simpsons World app if you care to watch the show on certain devices. You could store said device on the DVD shelf between 17 and 20, and argue till your face is Homer-pants-blue that it’s close enough. You’d be wrong.

For my wife and myself, it’s another stumbling block to our once-fervent Simpsons fandom.

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Free Comic Book Day 2013 Results, Part 1 of 3: Familiar Names and Faces

Star Wars, Dark Horse Comics

From “The Assasination of Darth Vader” by Brian Wood and Ryan Odagawa.

As previously recounted, my wife and I had a ball on Free Comic Book Day 2013 two weeks ago. Readers flocked to our local stores and had the opportunity to enjoy samplers from all the major comic companies and many of the indies.

How did the finished works do? Did they present an enjoyable, self-contained experience? Were they welcoming to new readers? Did they adhere to the old adage that every comic is someone’s first?

My reading results were as follows:

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The 2011-2012 Emmy Nominations That Actually Noticed My Shows, Great or Small

I’ve never watched a complete Emmy Awards ceremony. I follow several different TV shows each season, but I don’t watch nearly enough of the “right” shows to have a sizable stake in the proceedings. It’s with good reason that I don’t write about television seven days a week.

For fun, though, I decided for my very first time ever to read through today’s nominations and see if anything I watched in the 2011-2012 season qualified for honors. Any and all of them. The official Emmys site has a link to a handy PDF summarizing every single category and nominee for the media or obsessive TV stalkers to peruse at will. I encountered two surprises:

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My 2012 Season Finale Predictions, 100% Accurate on Some Alternate Earth

Another springtime tradition draws near as my regular TV shows each race toward their season finales. I never know how any given show will end, but it’s fun to pretend I do. Here, then, are my incorrect predictions for what’s in store for me over the next month. If any of these are remotely accurate, I’d be grateful if someone in charge would PayPal me a fraction of the ad revenues.

Community: Chang becomes the dean of the all-new all-different (read: even more destabilized) Greendale College. A shattered ex-Dean Pelton seeks a new degree and joins the study group. Troy and Britta still don’t hook up, but we discover a good reason why. The climax will be the destruction of the air conditioning annex in some sort of wormhole-based implosion that fits whatever the episode’s satirical target is. R.I.P. John Goodman’s character for arc-closure purposes, along with Pierce Hawthorne in some hideous yet hilarious manner that Dan Harmon will reveal to Chevy Chase after the episode airs, in the form of a TwitPic of his pink slip.

The Office: James Spader’s imminent departure was previously announced. Mindy Kaling’s Fox deal is reportedly reaching fruition. A spinoff is allegedly being constructed for Rainn Wilson. Other exits aren’t unlikely if the show is renewed. All signs point toward one inevitability: a natural disaster wipes out Dunder Mifflin’s Scranton branch, taking out half the cast. Those left standing at the end — Andy, Erin, David Wallace, Kevin, Oscar, Creed, Cathy the annoying temp, Nate from the warehouse, and a hastily rehired Todd Packer — relocate for season 9 to the scenic Utica branch, where hilarity can hopefully ensue after they pick up the pieces. If for some reason Parks & Recreation isn’t renewed, Rashida Jones returns as their new boss, Karen.

Parks & Recreation: Leslie loses the election because moving her out of the department would compromise the show’s basic premise. Somehow her loss is all Jerry’s fault, but the team holds their pre-planned victory party anyway with a little help from Donna’s cousin Ginuwine. Meanwhile, Tom fails one last time to win Anne’s heart, which is fine by me. The final scene in four words: either “Ben proposes to Leslie” or “Chris has a coronary.”

Mad Men: Reply hazy; try again later. It doesn’t help that I’m currently two episodes behind.

Once Upon a Time: In the final flashback, the dwarfs and fairies locate Charming, free him, and escort him to the comatose Snow to snap her out of it in the usual fashion. As they reunite and make wedding plans, elsewhere a rebuked Evil Queen pulls the trigger on the whole “Curse” plan…which, of course, comes with a price.

Meanwhile in the present-day real world, Henry’s stunt finally convinces Emma to believe, and I finally lose the urge to throw things at my TV. When she attempts to leave town forever for her seventh or eighth time — this time with Mary Margaret, David, and still-comatose Henry all along for the ride — she pushes her li’l jalopy so hard that the engine explodes. Everyone else is scraped and bruised, but the impact leaves Emma dead…for one whole minute. In homage to the Buffy season 1 finale, momentary clinical death is good enough to fulfill the terms and conditions for breaking the curse, leading up to a final scene of everyone remembering everything, capped with a tearful reunion between Grumpy and Amy Acker.

In the long term, Season 2 has everyone coming to terms with life in the real world despite knowing what they know and who they were. In Season 3, Our Heroes — now teamed up with a remorseful Regina, who’s at long last aware that all her problems were entirely her super-evil mom’s fault — finally find a way back to the Fairytale World, which in their absence has become a smoking crater ruled by some new evil dictator. My vote is for Jafar.

The Simpsons: Absolutely nothing of consequence occurs, except maybe another great couch gag by outside artists. My vote is for Studio Ghibli.

This list fails to include the several shows I abandoned this season. I assume their finales will also involve wormhole implosions, or cameos by Charlie Sheen. Good luck with those.

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