Midlife Crisis Crossover 2021 in Review: The Not-Great, Not-Terrible Sequel to 2020

Welcome Back to the Office!

A fun pandemic moment from June 7th when my workplace held a “return to office” party for anyone ready to end work-from-home. Thanks to this premature jubilee our stalwart skeleton crew had free leftover snacks for days after.

Hey, there! Welcome, gracious non-bot readers, to the tenth annual Midlife Crisis Crossover year-in-review! Once again we run down the site’s highlights and lowlights among readers, search engine stragglers, and anyone else who trips over us on their way to other, more popular internet destinations. Over twelve months those fleeting glances add up to concrete stats that may or may not be reliable indicators of things!

This virtual cubicle was opened for beeswax 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, after spending years as a participant and content provider in assorted online hangouts and apps with dwindling populations, diverging interests, and/or mounting behavioral issues. 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, with or without a responsive audience. Preferably with one, but that isn’t up to me. Either I have one or I don’t.

Tomorrow I might be bummed, but today I’m fine with that. This candor might sound like sad self-deprecation, but it’s backed by hard data that verifies my little-fish status in your local internet’s big pond. My wee wordy Web-hole feels more fulfilling when I regard it less like a wannabe career and more like a personal journal. If someone besides my wife Anne reads it — like, actually reads it end-to-end, with comprehension and emotional reactions and opinions about it and everything — then that’s a little victory for me. If nothing else, all these recounts are frequently useful whenever I need to refresh my own memory about something I’ve done or seen. Each day I owe special thanks to Past Me for being extremely helpful to Present Me with all this recordkeeping, and even deeper thanks to Anne with her loving assists whenever I failed to write something down or whenever I wrote it down wrong.

Church's Chicken Chairs!

March 12th: Church’s Chicken down the road from our house was open for takeout, but sitting down and loitering were forbidden.

Despite the best efforts of 2020 and 2021, I’m not dead or ready to quit yet. The looming reaper that was 2020 cast its oppressive shadow well into the spring, when we each got our two shots and resolved to emerge from hiding. Those plus one autumn booster apiece went a long way toward reclaiming our lives beyond the couch, at least to the extent that we had lives in the Before Times. I largely stopped my COVID-era personal updates in the form of solipsistic stream-of-consciousness thinkpieces because I was beginning to bore myself and had pretty much run out of new ways to describe the same unresolved anxieties over and over and over again, especially as those anxieties did indeed lessen over time. They’re not cured by any means, but they’re not quite so overwhelming lately and consequently don’t feel worth transcribing beyond what you’re seeing in this very entry.

On the bright side, in 2021 I saw five times as many films in theaters this year as I did last year. We attended one (1) geek convention, which is an infinity-percent increase over 2020’s big fat zero. Our 2021 vacation was far more expansive, more ambitious, and overall more-more-MORE in every possible way compared to 2020’s dread-filed series of short local hop-arounds. This year we actually attended family gatherings, none of which have gotten us killed yet, up to and (so far) including one Christmas event at which over half the attendees were coronavirus survivors, two of whom had spent days hospitalized but ultimately persevered. In eight days we’ll know for sure if we likewise escaped that shindig unscathed. As of this moment we’re good and none of those relatives have yet been diagnosed with a second infection.

That preceding paragraph is shared with You, The Viewers At Home, along with this long-distance dedication to longtime MCC readers who enjoy my penchant for burying ledes. The fun thing about scaring away netizens with an irrational fear of paragraphs is that means I can share any private revelations online without fear if I encase them in a 5000-word lead coffin that few will dare peek inside. If there’s one lesson I hope to reinforce with myself and perhaps get across to other folks in 2022, it’s that sometimes it can be okay and even emboldening to be alone in a crowd without letting it drive you mad. I think.

Close to the Edge!

The elevator lobby ceiling at the Skyline Club, a 36th-floor restaurant in Indianapolis where I attended a party for about five minutes.

From a blogging perspective, in 2021 I posted 119 new entries, even less than usual as I divided my attention between too many hobbies and distractions, and occasionally went to bed too early, a side effect of this stupid aging process. Site traffic was down -10.1% over 2020, which is neither shocking nor disappointing after 2020’s surprising traffic increase over 2019. Bounceback doesn’t hurt my feelings. 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. Pride in proprietorship is nonetheless a warm feeling whenever I let myself dwell on it.

As is the annual tradition, my inner stats junkie compels me to share the annual MCC charts and countdowns, plus a selection of random 2021 photos never before posted here until today. Enjoy!

August Wilson USPS postage stamps!

February 13th: A sheet of stamps Anne ordered for me featuring August Wilson, renowned playwright whose works have been adapted into such grade-A films as Fences and Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom.

2021 POSTS WITH THE MOST OVERALL CUMULATIVE HITS:

  1. Yes, There’s a Scene During the “Venom: Let There Be Carnage” End Credits
  2. Dragon Con 2021 Photos #2: A Cosplay Sampler
  3. Dragon Con 2021 Photos #9: Winding Down the Parade
  4. Dragon Con 2021 Photos #3: Some Cosplay Parade
  5. Yes, There’s a Capybara After the “Encanto” End Credits
  6. Dragon Con 2021 Photos #4: More Cosplay Parade
  7. Dragon Con 2021 Photos #10: Day Zero
  8. Dragon Con 2021 Photos #8: Last Call for Parade Cosplay
  9. Dragon Con 2021 Photos #1: Return of the Jazz Hands
  10. Yes, There’s a Scene After “The Green Knight” End Credits

I know two things about internetters: they love cosplayers, and they love movies with scenes after the end credits. I’m a big cosplay fan frustrated with our lack of solid comic-con opportunities of late, but gratified that we could make our big Dragon Con getaway count, exhaustingly and exhaustedly yet safely.

I wish we’d had more cosplay pics to pass along to the world this year, or for that matter new comic-con pics and new actor-encounter memories, but we’re a little nervous about committing to giant public gatherings, especially if there’s a chance they could be canceled days before showtime and refuse to issue refunds. We’re also a little unenthusiastic about adding to our celebrity jazz-hands photo collection in an environment that requires Plexiglas barriers between stars and fans, which are an understandable safety precaution but make for a far less tempting memento when they’re still charging pre-2020 prices despite the compromise. With actors likewise hesitant to mingle amongst large mobs, guest lists are shrinking and failing to rope in new performers from movies and shows we like. I’m happy for anime fans who’ve had recent chances to meet their favorite voice actors, and for other fans who don’t mind paying to meet the same ten actors who attend every con again and again and again and again. Our preferences simply aren’t aligning with the current state of the con industry. We’ll see how 2022 goes in this area, but we remain skeptical about its odds of imminent improvement.

Recaps of end-credits scenes in new films are the closest I let myself to dabbling in true, unrepentant clickbait territory. That’s an old MCC tradition dating back to that time in 2012 when I was wishing someone would pay attention to me and, of all things, my thoughts on Wreck-It Ralph caught like a tiny wildfire, then was quickly overtaken by its entirely jokey, non-serious follow-up. Anne and I had a long-standing habit of sitting through the entirety of films, all the way to their boilerplate ends, so parlaying that pre-MCC pleasure into a recurring special feature here didn’t require much extra effort.

That said, it’s aggravating to me that a review of one of my least favorite films of the year experienced and sustained such colossal traffic compared to anything else I’ve done lately by a ludicrous margin. I should be grateful its figures alone boosted our overall year-end tallies so much, but it’s due entirely to a lucky intersection between my odd habit and Venom 2‘s status as a sort-of prelude to the year’s biggest blockbuster, though their connection proved to be little more than a tenuous, two-part Easter egg, a bit like DC Comics’ bygone Crisis on Infinite Earths “crossovers” that amounted to a single panel of a character looking up at roiling red skies before returning to their own doings.

Regardless, uh…thanks, world?

Stan Meets Whoopi!

April 13th: An excerpt from Abraham Riesman’s True Believer: The Rise and Fall of Stan Lee, in which he describes the time convicted felon and business pal Peter F. Paul introduced Stan to Whoopi Goldberg, which…has to be read to be believed.

BACK-CATALOG POSTS WITH THE MOST HITS IN 2021:

  1. The 10 Best Episodes of “The Crown” So Far According to a Guy Who Barely Knows Royal Family Stuff
  2. The Resources After the “Spotlight” End Credits
  3. “The Crown” Season 4: All Ten Episodes Ranked According to a Guy Who Barely Knows Royal Family Stuff
  4. Slices of Life After the Tennessee Fireworks Fire
  5. The “Wreck-It Ralph” Easter Eggs You’ll Never See

See what I mean about Wreck-It Ralph? No major surprises in our evergreen posts for longtime readers.

As you can imagine, Anne and I are definitely looking forward to The Crown returning in November 2022. If only any other show I binged in 2021 had inspired similar listicles for me. My fascinations with new projects like Squid Game, Reservation Dogs, The Beatles: Get Back, Gangs of London, Leverage: Redemption, Cowboy Bebop, Y: The Last Man, and all the Disney+ Marvel series (excluding WandaVision, which I obliquely covered, but including the relatively dismissed What If…?, which the Dr. Strange 2 trailer confirms is indeed MCU canon) — or for that matter, new seasons of my ongoing stories Locke and Key, What We Do in the Shadows, Doctor Who, Chopped, Worst Cooks in America, Legends of Tomorrow, and The Flash — varied and amounted to much apiece, but not enough to feel like typing any of them out. For now their moments have passed.

(As always, feel free to ask me about any of them in the comments. I’m listening.)

Big Lone Mushroom!

September 12th: While attending a family reunion out at Turkey Run State Park, I left most of the unvaccinated attendees to confab in a picnic shelter while I walked around the woods and found the largest wild mushroom I’ve ever seen. I just couldn’t ignore an apt metaphor.

MOST “LIKED” POSTS BY OTHER WORDPRESS USERS IN 2021:

WordPress users love travelogues. They don’t talk or interact as much as they used to if you’re not actively networking with them, but they’ll show up for pretty pics of faraway places for the one gracious moment before returning to tend their own fields. No worries, totally understood — they’re on the platform to flourish as writers or photographers or quickie thought-havers, not as other WordPress customers’ prolific readers. There’s little money or fame to be had in reading a bunch.

Double Rainbow!

October 3rd: A double rainbow behind our house on a sunny/rainy day.

HIGHEST ISOLATED TRAFFIC SPIKES OF 2021:

  1. 12/21/21: The peak day for the Venom 2 entry, which curiously occurred the Tuesday after No Way Home‘s opening weekend, as if everyone needed a few days to recover before digging in.
  2. 6/30/21: A Facebook Group called Abandoned Tennessee shared the aforementioned “Slices of Life after the Tennessee Fireworks Fire”, one of several places Anne and I stopped on our way home from a Knoxville con in 2017. That sort of generous social media sharing happens rarely for me, and consequently sticks out more like a seismic tremor when it does.
  3. 12/27/21: A three-way confluence saw Venom 2 mania complemented with a steady persistence for the Encanto review, with its tongue-in-cheek end-credits mention, as well as that day’s new entry for Being the Ricardos, which then plummeted off the charts, just like the film itself.
  4. 12/28/21: Venom 2 and Encanto were joined by saga-length newcomer “Restaurants Rundown” and a peculiar surge for a 2015 gallery of pretty flowers, written back when we used to escort Anne’s grandmother to a local flower-and-patio show each year until she passed away. Why does someone care about that one just now? Got me.
  5. 8/20/21: The day’s new entry regarded a Grant Wood exhibit in Cedar Rapids, but our dashboard shows it was just one user pounding on the “Older Posts” button dozens of times. Thanks, anonymous curious person!
  6. 9/29/21: The peak of our Dragon Con miniseries, which we were just talking about up there. This was weeks after the show ended and we confirmed the 70,000+ attendees didn’t create a super-spreader event. Mostly likely our D*C galleries were several pages back in their “Dragon Con cosplay” search results and took a while to reach the forefront.
  7. 12/5/21: Venom 2 mania invited a different opening act, our shiny pics of Yellowstone’s Grand Prismatic Spring. On that very same day, one of my first bosses happened to stumble across my eulogy for our mutual former employer and shared it on Facebook eight years after the fact. Another win for the golden oldies in MCC’s deep way-back pages.
  8. 1/9/21: Comics artist Albert Monteys tweeted a link to my side-by-side, awed reviews of his and Ryan North’s Slaughterhouse-Five adaptation alongside Ann Nocenti and David Aja’s The Seeds.

About that last one: for the record, I never, ever, ever, EVER EVER EVER tag comics pros directly with my glowing reviews of their latest books, pestering them like a child begging Mommy to stick his crayon doodles on the fridge, in hopes that they’ll share it worldwide and make me a popular reviewer with their thousands of followers. That’s a deeply tacky way for reviewers to turn their own praises, sincere or otherwise, into shameless self-promotion. It drives me batty every time I see someone do it. Monteys ran across the entry and relayed it of his own accord, and in his own way brightened my day and made me feel a little less eccentric and amateurish about what I do here.

Also, full disclosure: this is an edited list. In the full-length, unexpurgated version, 16 of my top 20 daily spikes of 2021 involved Venom 2. I tossed out several results that were days when absolutely nothing else was happening except Venom 2 on its lonesome. MCC’s stats for the last quarter of 2021 have been all Venom this, Venom that, where’s Venom, why isn’t Venom here, it would be so much nicer if I wrote more about Venom, Venom Venom Venom Venom VENOM VENOM VENOM VENOM VENOM VENOM.

Sigh.

Arnold and Mr. Drummond 2021!

December 7th: John Lithgow and Kevin Hart as Mr. Dummond and Arnold Jackson in ABC’s Live in Front of a Studio Audience one-night-only revival of Diff’rent Strokes.

2021 POSTS WITH COMMENTS BY AT LEAST TWO (2) LIVE HUMANS:

I’m quiet. Our readers are quiet. It’s an awkward combination. Special thanks to the sixteen live humans who chimed in on our comments section in all of 2021, only three of whom were folks who knew me before MCC, one of whom was Anne correcting me on something. That still counts. Thanks again, dear! Love you!

You may also note this trilogy includes our final entry of 2021, posted on New Year’s Eve itself. This is why I never start my year-in-review entries until the year is actually out the door, well behind us, and can’t do any more damage. A lot of websites who were totally looking forward to Betty White’s 100th birthday gala should get what I mean.

Vulture vs. Squirrel!

October 16th: While on a breezy neighborhood walk, Anne and I came across a vulture tearing into a squirrel carcass on the sidewalk. Very much internet-troll-flaming-a-celeb-they-irrationally-hate energy.

LEAST “LIKED” MCC POSTS OF 2021:

It’s not always illuminating to examine my failures as judged by You, The Viewers at Home, but it’s a thing I do anyway. Some of the biggest influences on my online persona were all about brutal, self-reflective candor and not so much about hiding behind skin-deep marketing facades. Every 2021 entry received at least two WordPress Likes, but three sad entries were more neglected and unpatronized than the rest. Even bots and spammers couldn’t be bothered to smash those hamster-pellet buttons and at least feign validating me for these critical failures:

Movie entries do well for me, and movie entries do poorly for me. See, this is why nearly all my movie-chatter consumption is through Twitter more than anywhere else. Film Twitter is often educational and even fun from my distant, silent vantage in its Peanut Gallery, provided they’re not mud-wrestling yet AGAIN over the tired and tiring “Scorsese vs. Marvel” non-debate. I otherwise enjoy lurking in Film Twitter almost daily, learning from their aggregate experience and watching their more congenial and less hare-brained slap-fights. Far as I can tell, there’s no “Film WordPress” community that has a mutual space to do the same.

Cancel Trending on Twitter!

August 27th: A screen shot of an actual Twitter “trend” that day. Cheers to free speech and group experiences and all that.

…and that’s the state of Midlife Crisis Crossover today. But hey! 2022 is here and we’re not dead yet. We’re not testing positive yet. We’re heavier and wider and nowhere near calm, but we’re still here and still seeking new experiences, still praying for peaceful and effective solutions to the endless woes and still finding reasons to type out our feelings instead of bottling our emotions until we explode from lack of personal expression. Among other Coming Soon posts on the horizon, 2022 will bring MCC’s tenth anniversary in April, as well as (Lord willing) my 50th birthday in May, which I hope to celebrate without a literal midlife crisis marred by self-pity, depression, adultery, and/or ranting about The Kids These Days. I can make no guarantees about the latter.

If you reached the end of this entry 3,300 words later without cheating and scrolling down to these parting thoughts: thanks for reading! Here’s hoping your 2022 exceeds expectations, and here’s also hoping season five of The Crown does not feature a surprise cameo from Venom.

Bru Burger Bar's New Yorker Burger!

December 8th: To make up for our lack of local restaurant pics in 2021: the New Yorker Burger at Bru Burger Bar in Plainfield, IN — a burger topped with pastrami, slaw, caramelized onions and Swiss cheese. Cheers to 2022!

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