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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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!

My Super Awesome “Frosty the Snowman” Reboot Pitch

Frosty the Snowman!

Millions of viewers used to love watching Frosty the Snowman every year when it aired around Christmastime. The beloved 1969 animated special was one of several perennial favorites in my childhood household. We knew the song, we knew most of the lines, we recognized those familiar cartoon voices, and we knew every beat of the story, from the flop magician to the snowman’s parting promise. Frosty was common knowledge among us kids.

See that face up there, full of angst and pathos and magic? That classic hero just turned 45 years old. Isn’t it time for his 21st-century reboot?

I don’t mean as a feature film, because that declining box office is depressing. I also don’t mean another one-time TV Christmas special, because that’s thinking too small. See, I’m thinking live-action regular series. So many facets of this undervalued intellectual property yearn for a modern update with better fashions, extra pizzazz, hipper attitudes, and supernatural warfare. Frosty himself could stay CG, but there’s no reason Karen, her friends, the other townspeople, and most of the town scoundrels couldn’t be played by real actors so we can crank out episodes more quickly and minimize our animation needs. Unless we send this proposal to Fox, animating it will get us nowhere. I say it’s time for Frosty to start over, but this time keep it real.

I’ve taken the liberty of mapping out a hypothetical thirteen-episode first season that would rebuild the Frosty universe from the ground up and make it relevant and “sick” to a whole new generation of impressionable prime-time viewers. This, then, is what my preliminary episode guide looks like for…

SNOWMAN: THE SERIES!

Right this way for capsule summaries of all thirteen season-one episodes and a sneak preview of future storylines!

Former Kickstarter Junkie III: the Former and the Furious

Molly Danger!Behold two panels from the cool thing that landed in my mailbox last week: Jamal Igle’s graphic novel Molly Danger. This forty-eight page tale about the responsibilities and hardships of a government-allied teen super-hero is spunky, dynamic, written from the heart, suitable for all ages, and highly recommended for anyone who could use a break from comics about white guys by white guys.

This first volume was made possible through a Kickstarter project that was launched in August 2012. My local comic shop had a copy on the shelf in November 2013. As one of the 1,240 backers whose pledges helped make the project possible, my copy just now arrived, seven months after retailers could sell it and nine months after the original, estimated delivery date of September 2013. Unfortunately for everyone, U.S. Postal Service rates skyrocketed sometime between project launch and project completion, which means shipping/handling costs exceeded what he’d expected. Once the books were printed, Igle mailed out backers’ copies a few at a time whenever he could afford to do so.

It’s a great book and I look forward to seeing future Molly Danger projects, but this aspect of the experience didn’t turn out quite like anyone had hoped.

Igle’s story is ultimately understandable and pretty benign compared to others I’ve faced. Am still facing, in fact.

Hang out at any geek-news site, wait a week or two, and you’re likely to see the latest headline about a Kickstarter fiasco whose broken commitments ended in teeth-gnashing and garment-rending. Here’s a link to a recent one in which things have turned so grim and sour that the Washington State Attorney General’s Office is involved. Since Kickstarter assumes no accountability or liability for its users’ inaction or delinquency, it was only a matter of time before someone began channeling consumer rage into legal threats.

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

Right this way for never-ending status updates…

“Star Wars: the Clone Wars” Season 6: Ranking the Story Arcs

Jar-Jar Binks, Mace Windu, Star Wars, Clone Wars  Season Six

Our Hero and his new partner, Mace. #TrueDetectiveSeason2

My wife and I were previously disappointed when Cartoon Network pulled the plug on Star Wars: the Clone Wars for what I imagine were the worst of reasons, which wouldn’t be out of line with their past history of greedily motivated cancellations. We were surprised and a little excited when Lucasfilm announced that season six would be released on Netflix, not even a month after we finally became official subscribers.

Though many fans put life on hold and held a thirteen-episode Season Six marathon as soon as they woke up on release day, we didn’t complete our own leisurely runthrough till this past weekend. She’s the hardcore Expanded Universe enthusiast who’s frequently taken issue whenever the animators have wantonly disregarded the novels in every other episode. I’m a more casual SW viewer who’s liked many episodes, but I’ve had my own recurring peeves about the series since season one. Together we have our opinions as to how the four arcs in this season worked out. Of those four, I most enjoyed the one that I thought I would give me convulsions, and the one I ended up loathing the most convinced me the Cartoon Network execs weren’t entirely off-base for once.

This way for the opinions of a pair of happily married madpeople!

Please Crowdfund My Awesome New Project So I Can Pretend to Make Cool Stuff

Napkins Begone, Ultracausal Hygiene Science

Every good campaign has a catchy slogan. Pretend this is one.

Finally, after minutes of brainstorming ways to make a difference in this broken world, leave a lasting legacy, and accept money from strangers in exchange for pleasant-sounding promises, something has popped into my head that’s hopefully the magic bullet everyone needs, and by “everyone” I mean my bill collectors and I. I hope you’ll hear me out and then shower me with gifts so I can make my brand new dream come true if I work hard enough, the stars align, miracles happen, and no one stops to think anything through.

The Premise:

We can be certain of few things in life, but three of those things are these:

1. People want to kill fewer trees.
2. People will always be sloppy eaters.
3. People want phone apps to do everything for them.

The man who figures out how to combine those three arbitrarily chosen certainties will be the next man to rule the world. I agree with the puzzled look on your face that my path to world domination and self-esteem is littered with several obstacles, including but not limited to the laws of physics.

Intrigued so far? What do you mean no? Click here and learn more about it anyway!

How Not to Get Chopped from “Chopped”: a Starter Guide

Chopped, Food Network

[Special note for this historic occasion: 70% of the following entry was written by Midlife Crisis Crossover’s very first guest contributor, my wife Anne. She knows I welcome her input anytime — above and beyond her ongoing, invaluable photo contributions — but she’s never taken me up on my standing offer on a writing basis till now. Remember: the more you applaud and embrace this entry, the more leverage I’ll have in wheedling her for more contributions in the future.]

* * * * *

Blame our 2013 road trip for this entry. We discovered the Food Network’s Chopped while flipping channels late Tuesday night in our Boston hotel room. The concept of this cooking-competition series is cerebral and daffy at once: four chefs are given a basket filled with four different ingredients that must be transformed and worked together into a single course, even if they don’t go together, even if they don’t go with the course in question (e.g., meats in the dessert rounds), even if they’re the vilest substance on Earth (durian!), even if mishandling the ingredients might kill put one of the judges in the hospital. (We’ve never thought that last one was a good idea…) The winner selected by three judges earns $10,000.00. The rest are treated to an empty-handed walk down the Hallway of Disappointment, with reactions ranging from excited letdown to disgusted fury to indignant self-hatred to horrific realization that defeat has destroyed their livelihood. The show can be funny and inspiring and tear-jerking and tragic in the space of a single episode.

After vacation we marathoned every Chopped episode available On Demand, caught many of the Tuesday and Thursday reruns, and are now keeping up with new episodes each week. Even though we’re recent converts, we’ve been taking mental notes along the way of the errors and omissions that occur with the most frequency, from the stupefyingly obvious to the obscure-but-fatal. Just in time for the upcoming Chopped five-part “Tournament of Stars” miniseries (yay celebrity contestants!), the following compilation is our armchair-cook advice for future would-be Chopped competitors based on the dozens of episodes we’ve devoured to date. This list is far from complete, and we welcome any additions in the comments below, especially from those among you who can truly cook. Though neither of us is a fancy gourmet chef by any stretch, we hope this helps anyway.

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Midlife Crisis Crossover 2013 in Review, Including Last-Minute Posts Seen Only in NYC and LA

Hi-dee-hoo, fans and visitors! Welcome to the second annual Midlife Crisis Crossover year-in-review for this humble site, launched on April 28, 2012, as an excuse for one guy to do things, try stuff, and think whatever aloud. Next week will mark MCC’s 600th post, but that’ll be in an entirely different year and is therefore ineligible for celebration at the moment, so forget I mentioned it till next week.

This occasionally purposeful experiment has lasted a full twenty months without crashing and burning yet, though we’ve seen some excitement, some tears, some discomfort, some joy, some serious stress, and some much-needed days off. And that was all just over Christmas break. 2013 was a year of successes and failures, of triumphs and tragedies, of records and horrors. MCC’s own fortunes have ebbed and flowed depending on which subjects caught my attention at the right time, which times I was utterly out of step with the rest of the world, and what moments of synchronicity were the most unexpected of all.

Of all the nouns to frequent the site this year, none had a deeper effect than Boston.

Boston Public Garden, Boston vacation

Continue here for MCC’s own best and worst of 2013!

My First Boss, 1950-2013

first bossAt age 16 the thought of a part-time after-school job never occurred to me until I received a letter one day from a man named David Sleppy, owner/operator of the McDonald’s down the street from my high school. His store had launched a new recruitment program that offered a higher starting wage to applicants who were on the school’s honor roll — $3.85/hour at a time when minimum wage was $3.35/hour. As an introverted, insular kid with no self-awareness and minimal exposure to social worlds beyond my own limited boundaries, it wasn’t tempting until I did the math and realized that $3.85/hour was greater than my $5/week allowance. I figured why not. And hey, the letter guaranteed the job. Back in those days, silver platters were my favorite way of receiving things.

Mom drove me down there the next day and I filled out an application, but left most of the blanks empty because I had no experience and no idea how to sell myself on qualities alone. I saw no blank that allowed me to describe myself as “smart” and “nice”. But it didn’t matter to me anyway. I had the letter.

When I handed it to the manager on duty, he said they’d keep it on file. He brusquely sent me on my way, despite the letter. I was crestfallen.

Later that same day, David called me personally and told me I was hired.

For me, that’s when life began.

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The Last Stand of the Drive-In Theater: Upgrade or Perish

Tibbs Drive-In, Indianapolis

The drive-in nearest our house is the Tibbs, still standing after 46 years. For now. (Photo from our 2008 personal archives. To date I’ve seen only two of these timeless non-classics…)

In my early childhood years, I had only two options for seeing movies: squinting at them on my family’s thirteen-inch black-‘n’-white TV (and I was rarely allowed to choose what channels we watched); or seeing them writ large on the giant-sized, outdoor screen down at the drive-in theater. In a world where limited technology narrowed our choices, this competition was a no-brainer to me.

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My Super Awesome Blockbuster Reboot of “E.T.”

E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial

Those eyes are pretty in the right light, but the rest of this will have to go.

February 2014 will see The Killing‘s Joel Kinnaman taking over for Peter Weller as the new Robocop. This fall Ironside returns to TV with Blair Underwood somehow replacing Raymond Burr. Batman, Superman, Spider-Man, the Lone Ranger, and the Green Hornet are but a few of the myriad characters to return from pop-culture limbo in overhauled guises. And this is the sentence I had set aside for DC Comics if I could narrow the possible examples down to less than four hundred.

At the rate our entertainment recyclers are plowing through their back catalogs, every intellectual property from the last fifty years will have been remade and/or rebooted before I’m fifty. Even if 90% of them flop, every producer, editor, or writer will convince themselves their attempt will be different from all the rest because they truly believe in themselves, if not their work. Maybe 10% of them will hit the jackpot, reap the rewards, and retire at forty.

Sounds like a sweet deal to me, even though I’m running dozens of laps behind the competition. If I’m to win, I need to move now. That’s why I’m calling dibs on E.T.: the Extra-Terrestrial. It’s not taken, right? Excellent.

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“Man of Steel”: a Farewell to Role Modeling

Henry Cavill, Superman, Man of SteelIn Part One of this two-part non-epic, I covered what I liked best about Man of Steel, the new Superman treatment from director Zack Snyder, producer Christopher Nolan, and screenwriter David S. Goyer. As I mentioned there, despite the team’s successes on numerous fronts, I thought the film had room for improvement.

Those examples require a courtesy spoiler alert because a few of my complaints happen toward the film’s back end and involve major plot points. If you plan to see it pristine and unspoiled for yourself, abandon the reading trail here, and I look forward to seeing you next time.

Onward, then, to what I liked least:

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Someone Please Resolve the “Geek”/”Nerd” Semantic Rivalry Before We Start Stabbing Each Other Over It

Chris Hardwick, The Nerdist Way

This book came close to changing my mind. So, so close.

The following entry is unapologetically subjective, will be unhelpful to most readers, and represents no definitive settlement of the matter for anyone except possibly myself, and I may even be wrong about that. Though I’m codifying my stance for the sake of never having to revisit this topic again if I can help it, I nonetheless reserve the privilege to change my mind without notice as time gallops forward, life experiences continue accumulating, and the aging process turns me either mellower or more crotchety than ever. I haven’t decided which road to take yet.

(Yes, that’s me front-loading the piece with an unwieldy headline and a nearly irrelevant disclaimer. If I were a film director, I clearly wouldn’t be the breed that insists Act 1, Scene 1 must be all about exploding cars. Between those and this bonus meta-parenthetical, I hereby declare the tone Properly Set.)

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“Revolution” 6/3/2013 (spoilers): Charlie vs. the Deadly Depths of Level 12

David Lyons, President Monroe, Revolution, NBCAfter an opening montage of moments from the first nineteen episodes set to the tune of “Can’t Find My Way Home”, at long last begins the Revolution season-one finale, “The Dark Tower” (not the first time they’ve referenced Stephen King). When last we left, Monroe Republic President Sebastian “Bass” Monroe and former best friend Miles Matheson were facing off inside the tower with coilguns at twenty paces. Will this be the duel to end all duels? Here in the first minute of the episode?

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A Perplexing Day with Commercial Radio, My Longtime Recurring Nemesis

107.9, Indianapolis radioYou know something’s afoot when you turn on the shower radio at 6:45 a.m. and hear Anne Murray crooning “O Come, All Ye Faithful”. Or maybe it was Julie Andrews.

I spend a minute or so trying to name the singer, ignoring for a moment that the radio was celebrating Christmas in May. The guessing game ends when the mystery diva is succeeded by Wham!’s “Last Christmas”, for which I have no use even in December. Somewhere in Indianapolis, either a DJ is greatly amusing himself, listener requests have taken a bizarre turn in the hands of joyous off-season mob rule, or Skynet is taking over the airwaves as part of a truly twisted master plan and doing a terrible job of acting naturally.

I’m not a morning person and my brain isn’t a morning organ. The confusion sown by my early-morning background noise inspires my brain to awaken more quickly than usual. Now it has a mystery to solve.

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The Fable of Why This Blog is C2E2’s Fault

Midlife Crisis Crossover, Randall A. Golden

Portrait of the would-be writer at C2E2 2012. Appropriate soundtrack: the theme from Laverne & Shirley.

Once upon a time there was a guy from Indiana who wrote a lot in college, took classes for it, thought that majoring in a related field would be the right choice, dropped out without credentials, stopped writing, but never stopped reading or wishing he would make time to think of reasons to write.

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