Farewell, Daily Post: A Very Special MCC Clipfest

Mega Jenga!

Sooner or later all games must come to an end, as in the collapse of this adult-sized, hand-crafted Mega-Jenga collapse at a 2012 gathering with my wife’s cousins.

Over the past several years the good folks at WordPress.com, facilitators of this very website you now clutch in your device, have provided bonus services to users in the form of The Daily Post. A fine team of editors provided springboards for would-be bloggers who were interested in writing but needed ideas, offered networking opportunities between WordPress users like me who lack the skills to meet fellow entertainers, start conversations, find the right cliques, and expand both their online reach and their Friends lists. The Daily Post’s guidance came in the form of writing prompts every day, weekly mixers for new bloggers to ask questions and seek suggestions, and the regularly scheduled themed “challenges”, which invited our take on whatever particular word of phrase came to the editors’ minds. We were free to interpret and respond to their suggestions at our discretion, then seek out other respondents and compare their approaches to ours. It was a fun way for WordPress customers across the board to expand their horizons and bond as a community.

Alas, that era of fun corporate block parties has come to an end. As of May 31st The Daily Post has shuttered its services and will no longer offer new topics or assignments for our use. We writers, photographers, artists, poets, mommy-bloggers, retired wool-gatherers, lecturers, fireside storytellers, collegiate navel-gazers, marketer wannabes, spammers posing as humans, and all-around social typists are left to our own devices, to create our own ideas from whole cloth, and to figure out how to network without trained professionals lending us a hand. Frankly, some of us may be doomed.

Regardless! Over the past six years we’ve had our own stories to tell and opinions to express here on MCC, and are in no danger of running out anytime soon. Current projections show that I may be in for awkward times around late 2019, but for now we’re good. Throughout the long history of the Daily Post’s Weekly Photo Challenges and Weekly Writing Challenges, MCC participated roughly 95 times among our 1700+ entries to date. The Daily Post’s editors signed off their final programming week with a retrospective of their favorite results from years past. Now, it’s MCC’s turn. The following is a look back at our most popular Weekly [whatever] Challenge submissions — the all-time favorites as determined by You, The WordPress Viewers at Home.

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Crane and Panes, Their Lines Entwined

Indianapolis crane

Crewman tinkering with a sign on the Capital Center in downtown Indianapolis this morning.

Today while on my weekly walk to and from my local comic shop, I paused for thought in front of this scene while waiting on the WALK signal to reappear and let me get back to work. I looked up, saw the crane stretching its arm across the building, itself a series of crisscrosses and crosshatching all over. I wondered how many total points of perspective a comic book artist would require to reproduce such a scene on their art board, how many lines would intersect how many times, whether or not artists still use T-squares or protractors to create or replicate precise angles, whether or not they even use rulers, whether there are young upstarts in the world who will one day draw comics without having owned or even touched any of those items, whether it would be easier to draw on a PC or a Cintiq or one of those newfangled Super-Etch-a-Sketch monitor-shaped computers ending in “-pad”, whether the artist would be ambitious enough to draw everything themselves or if they would sketch in a few diamonds and then email the colorist and beg them to do all the heavy lifting for them, how many of today’s colorists have been stuck in worse situations inserting more complicated linework for lower pay than the penciler receives, if this division of labor is harder to keep peaceful than it used to be back in the day when colorists only had Day-Glo dots in their toolkit and virtually nothing else, whether or not any colorists alive actually miss the dot system, if 22nd-century kids will have the foggiest clue what Roy Lichtenstein was up to, how far into the future Pop Art will still be a thing, whether this would make Warhol happy or sad, whether we should add the Andy Warhol Museum to our 2018 road trip itinerary since it looks like we’ll be passing through Pittsburgh for our third time, whether or not I have enough energy tonight to delve more into our vacation planning, and which is more important: writing lots of paragraphs or going to bed early so sleep deprivation doesn’t further damage my aging systems.

Eventually the WALK light did its one job and interrupted my reverie. I shuffled away from the web of lines that had caught my attention for that brief yet eternal moment, returned to my job, and tried not to spend the rest of my day exactly like I just did above, rambling and rambling and rambling like one of those great old Dead Milkmen album tracks like “Stuart”.

These are the kinds of thoughts I dwell on when I’m trying to be patient when a stoplight is holding me back during a week when I’ve slept very, very poorly.

Another Smile in Chicago

Anne at Geno's!

The lovely Anne — wife, travel companion, convention partner.

Dateline: Friday night around 7-ish in downtown Chicago. Twice per year my wife Anne and I travel three hours northwest from our Indianapolis home to visit their two big comics/entertainment conventions, meet comics creators, have our photos taken with actors from some our favorite movies and TV shows, and enjoy a weekend getaway from the workaday world.

Sometimes we need moments away from the convention scene and the thousands of like-minded bodies crammed into those cavernous yet ultimately finite spaces. After a successful first day at C2E2 and checking in at our hotel, we grabbed dinner a few blocks away from Geno’s East Pizzeria, one of many renowned establishments in the Windy City and one we’ve visited in the past. It’s always busy and it’s weird at first to find yourself in a place where customers are permitted and encouraged to write on any and every available surface (you’ll note one such culprit caught in the act behind Anne), but you get used to it after a few minutes.

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Give Our Regards to the Indiana Flower & Patio Show

Tulips!

Shout-out to the wandering stranger who just had to stop and ogle the wooden reindeer at that exact moment.

Previously on Midlife Crisis Crossover:

Twice per year my wife Anne and I escort her grandmother to one of two special events at the Indiana State Fairgrounds. Each November we visit the Indiana Christmas Gift and Hobby Show. Each March the highlight of her month is the Indiana Flower & Patio Show, which features numerous displays of colorful flora, booths where gardeners and homeowners can peruse and pick out their new seeds, plants, implements, and accoutrements for tending and cultivating their yards in the forthcoming spring and summer. Assorted horticulturists and lawn care companies show off bouquets, sample gardens, and ostentatious flowers you’ll wish you owned.

[After the 2016 show] Mamaw…expressed some concern about how many more times we’ll get to share this outing. She’s 91 years old, isn’t beautifying the plots outside her house as much as she used to, and is finding the sensory overload more exhausting than ever. As long as she’s still interested in attending her annual Super Bowl, we’re happy to keep seeing her there.

Now she’s 92. Despite our hopes for a miracle or a superpower origin or even a monkey’s paw, she isn’t getting any younger. After her medical event last November we wondered for months if she would feel up for any more public outings. Neither Anne nor I wanted Mamaw to miss out on her favorite place in the springtime…but as of right now, our annual tradition is officially not happening.

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We’d Rather Be Conventioning

DeLorean!

My wife Anne enjoying a ride in a DeLorean (under 88 mph) at Wizard World Chicago 2011. If only Doc Brown could chauffeur us away today.

You know that feeling when the end of a long winter is coming, but it feels like the doldrums are the only state of mind you know because they’ve pervaded your everyday world so deeply that you forget what life was like without them? Or is it just us? Did everyone else have a positively thrilling winter and we’re the only ones yearning to ditch it all for just a few days out of town? Or at least a few minutes away from early post-winter potholes?

Longtime MCC readers know Anne and I love to travel together. We look forward to our annual road trips to different parts of the United States every year. In recent years we’ve added a slate of in-state birthday outings for more quality time together. Then there’s our favorite penchant for frequenting the Midwest comic/entertainment convention scene. Even before February had ticked off its twenty-eight days with Oscar season and not much else in its favor, the two of us were already putting our heads together and planning our 2018 getaways from our present homebody status. We have a loose framework for our 2018 road trip, early into its mapping stages and too soon to share spoilers. We have no idea how to spend this year’s birthdays because it’s far too soon for such talk. Conventions, on the other hand, are already nigh.

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Faces in a Crowd of Caring

Gleaners Food bank!

Our team of volunteers busy and bustling and bagging away.

Previously on Midlife Crisis Crossover, each year from 2014 to 2016:

[My employers] gave several hundred of us the opportunity to spend half a workday (on the clock!) participating in scheduled acts of service at various charities throughout Indianapolis — charitable synergy courtesy of United Way. I signed up and went forth to serve at Gleaners Food Bank of Indiana, one of the most prominent resources in local hunger relief efforts. Despite their long-standing presence and far-reaching efforts, Gleaners has yet to run out of work. Like any major city, Indianapolis has its share of poverty-stricken residents, food deserts, regrettable layoffs, and hard times during recessions. Officially, the Food Bank doesn’t hand out food directly to the needy; it’s the distributor that provides foods to food pantries, soup kitchens, homeless shelters, domestic abuse hideaways, and the like. The Food Bank, in turn, receives its supplies via donations from the big-box stores (Kroger, Meijer, Marsh, Walmart), from government suppliers, and from food drives held by other corporations and organizations. It’s a complex delivery system with many important components, and help is always welcome.

…and so it went again in this outtake from September 2017, when dozens of my coworkers and I flocked to Gleaners once more for another round of assistance with their various anti-hunger processes. This year I was on a team tasked with filling up bags of groceries that would be handed out to local schoolchildren in need — canned, boxed, and pouch-shaped items of varying degrees of nourishment, all to ensure they’d have something to eat besides their school lunches.

I didn’t write up the experience this time for MCC because honestly, after four years, what else is there to say? Other than copying-and-pasting the same description, which I just did there? The work is sadly still necessary, and many of us were happy to pitch in. We weren’t there to show off or stand out or selfie our way to victory. We were just faces in a crowd ready and willing to do our little part. I lost track of how many bags we put together in all — somewhere in triple digits? — but we kept busy, kept the assembly line going steady, and kept up hopes that we made a difference to someone out there.

security camera!

A reflection of our volunteer group off the overhead camera shield, milling about in our service.

Six Sweet Shots: Our 2017 in Sugary Outtakes

BJ's Brewhouse!

April 1st: BJ’s Brewhouse presents the Baked Beignet. Fried dough tossed in cinnamon and sugar, topped with whipped cream, vanilla bean ice cream, strawberries, and strawberry puree.

I had something else planned for this space tonight, but it’s been the kind of week that’s left me wanting to drown some sorrows instead. I could flail about recent stresses on either a personal or national level, potentially spewing a 3000-word tirade that only my wife would read. Or I could take the safer clipfest route and meditate on some of the carefully crafted calories that brightened our days throughout the past year, none of which ever made it into any MCC entries till now.

Perhaps “meditate on them” is a bit too lofty. Ogle them. Savor the memories. Wallow in these past comforts. Take some solace that staring at these photos is less unhealthy than having all six dishes in front of me right now and feasting upon them all at once in one sweet smorgasbord.

For now, for tonight, this shall do.

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Our 2008 Road Trip, Part 6: By Neptune’s Trident!

Neptune + turtle!

Beware the power of my trusty trident and my TERROR TURTLE!

In designing and composing our travelogues, we pride ourselves on capturing the narrative that we lived through. Sometimes we find ourselves in a state of zealous motion, pausing only for fleeting glimpses of our surroundings. Other times, a notable sight will stop us in our tracks and invite closer examination, sometimes indulging in variations on a theme like the following mini-gallery. Such was the case when we approached Virginia Beach, where a certain King of the Sea towers over the boardwalk and commands the attention of anyone with an eye for detail who isn’t in a hurry to go get sunburned.

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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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The Annual Monumental Christmas Transformation

Monument Circle!

My walking path to the comic shop on Thanksgiving Eve.

Here in Indianapolis every year, the Soldiers and Sailors Monument in the center of downtown is upconverted into “The World’s Largest Christmas Tree”, as it’s been billed for decades. I have no idea if that record holds, or if it was later disqualified for lack of organic roots, or if it was cute hyperbole from Year 1 onward. Regardless, it’s one of our most beloved holiday tourist attractions, and a far more tasteful and aesthetically pleasing tradition than Black Friday shopping.

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Our 2017 Road Trip, Part 30: The Dragon Experiment

Dragonriders!

Helen of Troy’s “face that launched a thousand ships” is absolutely nothing next to the smile that launched this dragon.

Thor Heyerdahl. Leif Erikson. Amerigo Vespucci. Vasco da Gama. Cap’n Quint. Princess Moana. The Fed Ex guy from Cast Away. These mighty explorers braved the open sea in the name of exploration, discovery, adventure, salvation, and/or Because It Was There. To millions of Americans, water travel is an exotic activity best left to professional captains and drivers while the rest of us assume passenger positions and let others choose our paths and our destinies.

But I understand that sometimes taking charge of a vessel and setting your own course can be quite fulfilling and build confidence that you can draw upon in future endeavors. And when a lovely lady like my wife wants to try something completely different, something involving animal-shaped things and scenery almost as beautiful as her, I really, really like to make that happen for her if it’s within my power. And sometimes even when I think it isn’t.

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Mamaw’s Temporary Setback

Mamaw!

Nine time out of ten, when Mamaw believes she’s smiling for a photo, this is the result. Technically it’s a good sign.

Previously on Midlife Crisis Crossover: each November my wife Anne and I take her grandmother to the Christmas Gift & Hobby Show at the Indiana State Fairgrounds. Now on its 68th year, the Show provides a variety of vendors selling Christmas decor, Christmas gift ideas, loving handicrafts, licensed character products, off-topic home improvement services, telemarketing schemes, and more more more. For Mamaw the fairgrounds are a premier destination for her two biggest annual affairs. The Indiana Flower and Patio Show in March is her Super Bowl; the Christmas Gift and Hobby Show is her San Diego Comic Con. Longtime MCC readers were treated to photos of previous expeditions from 2012, 2014, 2015, and 2016.

This year, we’ve run into a bit of a complication.

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Scales of Danger!

Big Green Dragon!

Is there such a thing as “jazz talons”? If so: nailed it.

Previously on Midlife Crisis Crossover: last weekend my wife Anne and I drove down to Knoxville, TN, for an entertainment convention, but made a few stops on our way back for ordinary sightseeing. I nearly described it as “conventional” for the sake of wordplay, but we saw nothing conventional about this giant scaly monster looming over the interstate.

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Pedestrians Among the Not-So-Pedestrian

Sunsphere! Knoxville, Kentucky

It’s weird how residents of cities with colossal attractions develop an immunity to the awe-inspiring sights they walk past every day. I suppose it’s a necessary defense to function in their otherwise normal lives.

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A Day in the Waiting Rooms

Mom.

Last Friday we arrived at the hospital at 5:30 a.m. when the waiting room doors were supposed to open. The nurses were running a bit behind, leaving us waiting on the waiting room. While I paced back and forth, Mom sat quietly and tried to compose herself before her big transplant operation.

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Our 2017 Road Trip, Part 9: The Washington Monument, Mark I

Washington Monument!

The other tourists were too tired to get out of our way. We know the feeling.

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…

On our 2003 road trip to Washington, DC, one of the must-see marvels on our to-do list was of course the Washington Monument, that distinctive obelisk at the heart of the National Mall. It’s been a vital part of the DC landscape since 1885.

But it’s not the only Washington Monument around. It wasn’t even the first structure to bear that name.

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A Bridge Across the Monongahela

Monongahela River!

Once again my wife and I are on the road, now in the middle of our nineteenth annual road trip to another land not exactly our own. Above is a sneak-preview snapshot from where we spent our Sunday morning in the middle of the American heartland. It’s one among many images we’ve been taking and curating for our eventual 2017 Road Trip miniseries. But first we have to finish experiencing it.

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Give Me All the Health Care You Have, Please and Thank You

Health Care!

Workers Who Pay Higher Medical Insurance Premiums for Cigarette Breaks Disturbed by Medical Insurance March


Wednesday afternoon during my weekly brisk walk to and from the comic shop, along the way I passed a genuine protest march, something we don’t see every day in downtown Indianapolis. I counted at least several dozen people heading west on Market Street toward Monument Circle, chanting what sounded to my ears like:

“WHAT DO WE WANT?”
“HEALTH! CARE!”
“ARGLETY-BLARG?”
“BLAH! BLAH!”

…because sometimes my hearing’s not great.

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Keeping the Ships in Order

TARDISes!

I like to imagine myriad Doctors from across the multiverse fighting over which TARDIS is whose.

Pictured above is a forgotten scene from Indiana Comic Con 2016, a perfect example of how much work goes into planning and executing a convention, and how organized and squared everything appears to onlookers if you pull everything off without a hitch. Every large-scale convention requires a lot of moving parts — much in plain sight, a few under the hood, plenty moving across the counter if buyers and sellers each play their parts. Maintaining the order is no simple feat.

As the routines go for those behind the counter, so goes a different set for those of us approaching the counters, bringing our offbeat interests to the party, our want lists, our spending impulses, and other critical factors that make comic, toy, and collectible shops a viable career track for anyone. Planning is vital for the sake of the geek economy.

Right this way for not much more than this!

Our 2005 Road Trip, Part 6 of 10: Riverwalk Wanderlust

San Antonio Riverwalk!

If you think the only Texas greenery are tumbleweeds and tobacco, the San Antonio Riverwalk begs to differ.

Previously on Midlife Crisis Crossover:

Welcome to the first installment of another special MCC miniseries, representing the original travelogue from our 2005 drive from Indianapolis to San Antonio, Texas, and back again in far too short a time…

Our hometown of Indianapolis has its own Downtown Canal Walk, patterned after similar, larger pathways developed and fostered in other states. There’s something about a swath of nature cutting through the heart of civilization’s artifices and escorting tranquility and beauty into an otherwise hard-shelled environment. Anne and I have also visited riverwalks in Pueblo and in Milwaukee, but my favorite is still the first one we did through faraway San Antonio. Once we started up its staircases and across its bridges, it wasn’t long before wanderlust kicked in and I wanted to see every path through to its end, or as far as they’d take us before we collapsed in the dry Texas heat.

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