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.

I’ve been candid in several past entries about my flagrant disdain for how one is “supposed” to blog. I hate self-promotion. I recoil at the words “marketing”, “search engine optimization”, and “influencer”. I loathe the idea of deputizing a “street team” as if it’s other people’s responsibility to grow my readership for me. I’m an introvert who sucks at networking. I never belonged to any of the correct message boards, discussion groups, or comments sections that I could then convert into an instant entourage. I value honesty to a fault, have no interest pretending things are fine when they aren’t, and refuse to conform to the legions of online reviewers who publish only positive glowing remarks, never a word of negative or even constructive criticism. Conversely I also don’t follow anyone who act as if everything sucks and ignore any evidence to the contrary. Sometimes my opinions line up with crowds, but at other times I’m out of lockstep and wandering away from the herd into a dark ravine that swallows my echoes so no one can hear me begging for rope.

Sometimes I also publish photos of myself, which is arguably not a winning idea. The generous side of the internet that supports body positivity forgives and embraces the fat. They’re kindly to the old. When your years’ worth of photos reveal incontrovertible evidence that you’re getting older and fatter, onlookers start staring down at their shoes, murmuring to themselves, and retreating to Instagram to gaze upon shinier, happier, more photogenic specimens who provide far more inspirational and reassuring Comfort Content. I don’t blame them.

Cube notes!

8/27: Atlanta’s Center for Puppetry Arts preserved documents from the making of Jim Henson’s 1969 TV special The Cube.

In my weaker moments, the isolation can get to me. I sleep on it a couple of nights without posting, then get back up and get back to the hobby grind. It’s fun when it’s fun. But you don’t get to commit as many blatant blogging faux pas as I do with relentless stubbornness and then wonder why your audience is tiny. You made it that way. I made it that way. I can either keep whining or own that, take it as a given, blog anyway, and celebrate whenever a breakthrough happens and a tiny, lovingly rendered sliver of MCC light pokes through the internet forest canopy and distracts a reader along their cluttered walking path.

It’s therefore my own fault in numerous ways that total MCC traffic in 2019 was down 32.8% from 2018, less than half what what we saw in our banner year of 2013. I posted 216 new entries across the usual range of topics — movie reviews, our annual road trip, our comic convention experiences, random photos, and assorted life moments along the way. And see, that’s another of my sins laid bare: I refuse to reduce MCC to singular topicality. Focused blogs rule and scattershot blogs drool, unless the writer is renowned for something other than blogging. Since I have no books to sell and no claim to media personality, a site whose primary focus is “whatever preoccupies this one dude at any given time” will remain a tiny boutique.

But sometimes boutiques can be fun li’l shops to visit. And sometimes stats can reveal bright sides to the boutique life. And I’m a total stats junkie. In that spirit, let’s move on to the annual MCC countdowns, plus a selection of random 2019 photos never before shared on MCC till now. Enjoy!

Lost in Space merch!

9/21: A selection of classic Lost in Space merchandise on display at Cincinnati Comic Expo.

2019 on MCC looked like so:

2019 POSTS WITH THE MOST OVERALL CUMULATIVE HITS

  1. Kid Dungeon Master’s Neighborhood Reign: Nostalgic Confession Inspired by “Die”
  2. Our HorrorHound Cincinnati 2019 Last-Minute Photo Parade
  3. C2E2 2019 Photos, Part 5 of 8: Last Call for Cosplay
  4. [3-way tie] Star Wars Celebration Chicago 2019 Photos #1: Imperial Cosplay
  5. [3-way tie] Star Wars Celebration Chicago 2019 Photos #3: Scum and Villainy Cosplay
  6. [3-way tie] Our Cincinnati Comic Expo 2019 Photo Gallery
  7. My Free Comic Book Day 2019 Results: The Best and the Least Best

I confess I tried some outreach once this year. Kieron Gillen, writer/co-creator of the Image Comics series DIE, explicitly invited readers in his back-page essays to hit him up with their responses. The book’s horror-fantasy setting in the world of role-playing games inspired me to take a deep dive into my own RPG phase as a kid, how that united the kids in my neighborhood, and how that all later fell apart. When I posted the entry, I did something I never, ever, ever, ever, ever, ever, EVER EVER EVER EVER EVER EVER do: I tagged Gillen on Twitter. Tagging other humans, especially if they’re notable, is strictly against my personal Twitter rules of conduct. But, well, he asked for it, so I did. Not long after, he shared the entry in one of his newsletters. Thus my childhood baggage found an audience for a while.

That was a wild deviation from MCC’s business-as-usual. Otherwise, it’s convention cosplay photos all the way. Cosplayers and their fans are among the greatest, most wonderfully awesome users of search engine users eager to see if anyone’s sharing pics of themselves or their friends. We aim to please where we can, as long as we’re not trapped in long lines where our cameras can’t reach anyone.

I’m surprised my annual Free Comic Book Day capsule reviews charted this year. I don’t write about comics often enough to attract a steady audience in that arena. I’ve been collecting for over forty years, but apart from DIE, very few of them evoke strong feelings in me that merit much typing here. Personal food for thought in 2020.

Parasite poster!

10/30: Poster for Bong Joon-Ho’s Parasite as it played at Keystone Art Cinema in Indianapolis.

BACK-CATALOG POSTS WITH THE MOST HITS IN 2019

  1. The Resources After the “Spotlight” End Credits
  2. The “Wreck-It Ralph” Easter Eggs You’ll Never See
  3. Ten Lessons Learned at Our “Late Show with Stephen Colbert” Taping
  4. Yes, There’s a Scene During the “Won’t You Be My Neighbor?” End Credits
  5. Yes, There’s a Scene After the “Django Unchained” End Credits

Search engine users brake hard for lists, listicles, and joke listicles. As the top three show, MCC is here for them. As an old fan of David Letterman’s Top 10 Lists I shouldn’t be surprised, though the rise of clickbait sites that treat the listicle as the one true writing format have dampened my enthusiasm for lists that I’ve held since childhood. I’ll still indulge when the mood strikes and the format fits what I want to express.

Users also love leaving a theater as soon as the end credits roll and threaten to make them do reading. My family believes in sitting through the end credits even if we know in advance there may not be a bonus scene at the end. Every so often, while we’re sitting and skimming patiently, and the cleaning crew is on standby and trying not to make eye contact, we’ll find other little treats and trivia in the fine print that ought to be shared, or hear music that deserves a shout-out.

Fun aside: we never got around to seeing Tom Hanks in A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood, but so many people confused it with the 2018 Mr. Rogers documentary Won’t You Be My Neighbor? that my review, widely ignored by WordPress users at the time, benefited from a fourth-quarter traffic spike.

On the other hand, I have absolutely no idea why the Django Unchained review lives on. The scene after its end credits — because it does have a brief one — is literally a four-word question and a title card. Is this a byproduct of Tarantino fans binge-watching his oldies after falling in love with Once Upon a Time in Hollywood? I don’t get it.

Toy Story Cake!

8/26: A Toy Story cake featuring a headless Sheriff Woody — presumably not the creator’s intent — exhibited at the Indiana State Fair.

2019 POSTS WITH COMMENTS BY TWO (2) OR MORE LIVE HUMANS, INCLUDING MY OWN WIFE

A fair side effect of introversion: when you’re quiet, the audience is quiet. Things were so quiet in 2019 that I even retrieved a a few comments from the spam filter and approved them because their fake blather was somehow magically on-topic. Spammer technology is improving in ways that let me pretend their interaction is real, like dolls at a kid’s tea party are talking to me.

My lovely and awesome wife Anne, who reads every entry but is usually content to hang back and let me do my thing, popped in a few times like Jackée Harry on 227 to correct me, to point out things I hadn’t mentioned to her in person, or in one instance to vow revenge.

Pollock's signature!

5/25: Closeup of Jackson Pollock’s signature on Greyed Rainbow, on display at the Art Institute of Chicago.

MOST “LIKED” POSTS BY OTHER WORDPRESS USERS IN 2019

  1. [3-way tie] Our 2018 Road Trip, Part 42: The Week in Donuts
  2. [3-way tie] Our Art Institute of Chicago Tour, Gallery 12: An Omnibus of Outtakes
  3. [3-way tie] A Donut Run on the Way Back from Turkey Run
  4. Our 2019 Road Trip, Part 9: Soda Pop Art Productions
  5. [tie] Our Art Institute of Chicago Tour, Gallery 8: Posting Post-Impressionist Impressions
  6. [tie] Our 2019 Road Trip, Part 18: Eighty Stories Over Georgia
  7. [4-way tie] Our Art Institute of Chicago Tour, Gallery 11: Caveat Sculptor
  8. [4-way tie] Memo from the MCC Errors & Omissions Department
  9. [4-way tie] Our 2019 Road Trip, Part 4: Piquant Platters at Pittypat’s Porch
  10. [4-way tie] Our 2019 Road Trip, Part 19: The Hobbyist’s Shopping Interlude
  11. [3-way tie] Shrimp ‘n’ Grits and a Biscuit Burger Brunch
  12. [3-way tie] Our 2019 Road Trip, Part 1: Southern Accents
  13. [3-way tie] Our 2019 Road Trip, Part 21: A Limited Who’s Who in Georgia History

The international community of WordPress users aren’t the entire MCC audience, but the “Likes” they leave behind as they pass me by on their way to the top do create usable metrics. They hate my film reviews — I trust I’m doing something wrong there, too — but they love, love, love to see photos of travel, food, and travel food. It’s a shame our road-trip stories thrive for only a day or two before sinking to the bottom of the site forevermore. It’s rare for anyone to come stumbling across those, say, three or four years later. But for those first four hours while they’re still earning Likes, those hamster pellets are pretty gratifying.

I’m also grateful that a short comedy piece caught their eye. Good to know my funny-bone reflexes and instincts still work.

Indianapolis fire!

9/24: Downtown view of a west-side Indianapolis house fire in the late morning

HIGHEST ISOLATED TRAFFIC SPIKES OF 2019

  • 6/19/2019: The day Kieron Gillen’s newsletter linked to my DIE entry. It almost makes me wish I felt like pestering comics creators more often, but I’m not wired that way. At all.
  • 1/1/2019: DC Comics fans were dying to know the details behind the scene after the Aquaman end credits. For some reason we also saw a huge uptick of passersby curious to check out that one time we saw an old Times Square New Year’s Eve ball on display back in 2011.
  • 3/24-25/2019: A healthy clutch of C2E2 cosplay fans showed up. Their numbers were down from previous years, but strong enough to rank here.
  • 4/16/2019: Star Wars Celebration Chicago was one of the most expensive and heavily attended conventions we attended in 2019. Cosplay fans were apparently a minority among their ranks. I set aside many other activities and probably a few household responsibilities so I could rush those photo galleries into print. Interested viewers showed up for one (1) day and then never again.
  • 4/21/2019: April 20th, the day our dog Lucky died, was our worst day of 2019. The year in general had more lows than highs, but that was The Worst. I mustered up all the composure I could manage to eulogize him the next day. Anne was moved enough to share it with family and friends, which is not something she does lightly. That’s a weird area for us.
  • 5/20/2019: After we helped my sister-in-law move out of her longtime giant house, I wrote an off-the-cuff piece about how it amused me that her cats just stayed out of the way and stared at us the whole time while we dismantled their domain. Quite frankly, they were the only cats I found watchable in 2019. Anne shared it with her sister, who in turn shared it with her gigantic circle of friends. So that was nice and unexpected.
Taika Waititi boy!

11/13: Kanopy presents writer/director Taika Waititi, sharing a timeless message in his 2010 film Boy.

Okay, who’s ready for another round of unflinching honesty? Once again it’s time for our annual celebration of personal failure —

LEAST “LIKED” MCC POSTS OF 2019

Even when other WordPress bloggers shun me at my most tedious and verbose, usually I can count on bots, spammers, or this one guy to click the Like button and give me a gold-star sticker for every entry. In 2019 six entries were such calamitous duds, and/or were posted at such inappropriate times in the wee hours of the night, that they only earned a single Like apiece. The worst MCC entries of 2019 as voted by You, The Viewers at Home, were therefore the following:

Lessons are to be learned here. Folks have no use for reviews of movies more than three week old. Comics-related material is a hard sell when you’re not posting about comics all the time and thus fostering a regular audience for it. The only aspects of Star Wars Celebration Chicago that anyone truly cared about were learning Episode IX’s subtitle and worshiping all that sweet, sweeeeeeeeeeeet Star Wars merchandise. Cosplay? Actors? Personal experiences? Irrelevant and unwanted, it seems.

The amazing colossal Dragon Con was far and away our most expensive event of the year, possibly of our entire lives to date, and made for a successful road trip in every way imaginable. We traveled 500 miles to Atlanta and brought back several hundred photos, including the most cosplay photos of any show ever. No one cared to see takeaways from us first-time attendees, out-of-town bumpkins and social outliers that we were.

AT-AT diorama!

4/13: An AT-AT diorama at Star Wars Celebration Chicago.

MCC 2019 POSTS WITH THE LEAST OVERALL CUMULATIVE HITS

The previous list represented entries no one liked. The following represents the entries no one could be bothered to click on, let alone have an opinion on:

  1. Our Dark Summertime Binge: HBO’s “Chernobyl”
  2. MCC Live-Tweeting: That Final Trailer for “Star Wars Episode IX: The Rise of Skywalker”
  3. “The Lighthouse”: Did’st Thou See the Great White Light?
  4. With Wishes for a Happy and/or Restful Fourth of July
  5. “Bumblebee”: Bay Ban Breeds Better Bug-Bot Battle Ballet

Once again, reviewing non-current stuff can be a fun indulgence for me, but it’s a non-starter to the reading public at large. The Lighthouse wasn’t that old, but I’m guessing it was too far off the common Googler’s radar. Even the July 4th holiday entry was a short movie tribute in disguise, a quick nod to an obscure 2000 indie film I’d just watched called George Washington, from the same guy who directed that last Halloween remake. And the internet had no shortage of Episode IX trailer opinions, so my surplus wasn’t needed.

Fun math trivia: my dashboard says only ten (10) people clicked on the Chernobyl entry in all of 2019, but it received five (5) WordPress likes. Hm.

C2E2 DC booth!

3/22: The back of the DC Comics booth at C2E2 2019.

One more round-up just so we can end on a positive note:

OUR 2019 CONVENTION RUNDOWN

In 2017 we attended a record-breaking ten conventions in one year. We promised we wouldn’t go overboard like that ever again. We’ve kept our word ever since, though in 2019 it wasn’t hard. We had multiple schedule conflicts come up, including a family wedding held the same weekend as three different shows within driving distance. We don’t regret attending our very first Dragon Con at all, but the necessary arrangements meant we had to miss both Wizard World Chicago and Indiana Comic Con. Not only have we been doing both shows for years, but they’re consistently MCC’s two biggest events for cosplay photo traffic, year-in-year-out. Opting out of those did no small amount of damage to our overall traffic figures, opportunities for exposure, and this blogger’s ego. Dragon Con was an unrivaled blast to do, but it didn’t compensate in terms of net blogging results.

Linked for reference, fellow fans and a handful of celebrities caught us at the following seven events in 2019:

As of this writing, we’re committed to zero 2020 cons. We’ll return to the scene at some point — hopefully this year? — but for now I doubt C2E2 will happen for us. Updates as they occur. Hopefully happy ones! Cons are a thing we love doing together as a couple, but there has to be funding in place, and there has to be a guest list that excites us. Given that C2E2 is coming up at the end of February, so far it’s meeting neither of those criteria.

…and that’s the year that was, at least here on MCC. I’m proud of many of those entries and glad folks found value in some of them. From time to time I’ll find myself in a contemplative funk and wonder if it’s worth it. I’m reminded of a moment in Greta Gerwig’s Little Women when a frustrated Amy March glares at her paintings with dissatisfaction, sees only their imperfections as she defines them, and ultimately decides there’s no point to being an artist if one can’t be the best artist ever. Laurie tries to encourage her and compliments her talent, but she isn’t having it. “Talent isn’t genius, and I’ll not be some commonplace dauber.” And thus she allows life to lead her in a different direction from where her sister Jo wound up.

Here’s to 2020, and to all the other writers out there, whether they’re an Amy or a Jo, whether they’re bestsellers or fellow Peanut Gallery dwellers. If you reached the end of this entry 3,300 words later without scrolling, which is cheating: thanks for reading! Here’s hoping you find great reasons for internet usage in 2020, whether I’m included or not. Cheers!

Alex Trebek Funko Pop!

12/25: Anne’s cutest Christmas present to me, an Alex Trebek Funko Pop. Looking back on how Trebek’s 2019 went, it’s hard to complain about my own.

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