Midlife Crisis Crossover 2022 in Review: A Report Card from the Pandemic’s Junior Year

Anne at the Indiana State Fair with a raspberry soft-serve ice cream cone, looking up at the camera like a gleeful toddler. Even she thought this photo came out goofy.

August 18th: Anne proudly wields a raspberry ice cream cone at the Indiana State Fair, looking like an ecstatic kindergartener.

Hey, there! Welcome, gracious readers and bots, to the eleventh annual Midlife Crisis Crossover year-in-review! Once again we run down the site’s highlights and nadirs among readers, skimmers, search engine gadabouts, and any other casual internet users who come within fifty years of this li’l flyover site. Over twelve months those fleeting glances add up to concrete stats that may or may not be reliable indicators of trends, fads, and successes ‘n’ sins on my part.

This virtual shack opened its creaky wooden door 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 when I’m awake and the mood permits, I’ll still make room for one of my most time-consuming hobbies anyway. When my head is in the right space, I can enjoy the process and the results, with or without feedback. On rarer occasions, I’m also privileged and honored to enjoy any and every external response received from outside my own head.

A Mystery Machine van (from "Scooby-Doo") in a church parking lot for no apparent reason.

July 3rd: someone drove a Mystery Machine to our Sunday church service. To this day none of my questions about this have been answered.

After the raging inferno that was 2020 and the dim but not-so-endless tunnel that was 2021, most of our 2022 went better than it did for some folks. I tried not to complain, not even about turning 50. We attended four entertainment conventions, investigated this whole “Vermont” phenomenon that had been getting rave reviews over the years, took ourselves on two birthday weekend road trips, visited family and friends in person that we hadn’t seen in years, consumed some pop culture slightly above FDA-recommended intake levels, got a few major repairs done around the house, and kept our medical calamities to the bare minimum. Throughout the year I shared our experiences with many of those things…but not that last one, until now.

In the end, 2022 was like Old Yeller: it was a faithful companion that gave us a lot of warm memories, up until the very end when it turned rabid and tried to bite our limbs off, so now we’re more than ready to shoot it in the face.

I’d hoped never to learn what a positive COVID test looked like, but here we are.

My positive COVID Test. Ugh.

December 5th: now I know how to work one, which is knowledge I didn’t want to need.

Storytime:

The inaugural GalaxyCon Columbus was easily our favorite of the four cons we attended this year. We arrived Friday morning and drove home Saturday night. As of Friday it had been six months and one day since my second booster shot. I figured I’d get booster #3 the following week.

Middle of the night Sunday, I was struck by surprise misery that kept me up till four in the morning. All day Monday I ran a temperature, reaching at least 100.7 before I stopped checking. By Tuesday night my fever was gone, but I had no energy or appetite all week, lost my sense of smell for five days, and endured the worst sinus pains I’d felt in years. The following Sunday morning, I was elated by the scent of stale bread crumbs on our kitchen counter. By the Wednesday after that, I tested negative and was mostly symptom-free except a resurgence of the same old wintertime sinus troubles that were once a pre-pandemic seasonal tradition for me. But for that one week after the con, I was wrecked.

Results varied for other household members. Two days after my worst day, my son — who hadn’t come with us and never does cons — awoke to the sensation that he’d just collided with a bullet train. He was a coughing, hacking, steaming volcano for over a week. The vaccines loved Anne best and protected her from full-strength COVID even though she’d been all the same places I had (well, except the Greater Columbus Convention Center men’s room, so maybe that’s my prime suspect). She never had any fever or loss of senses, though on Thursday she awoke to find herself cursed with Natasha Lyonne’s voice for two days, which isn’t so endearing when your day job involves phones. And after two jointly masked, 30-second visits to my mom, she wound up sick, too.

We’re not all 100% back to normal, but we’re getting there. We’re grateful none of us were hospitalized. It could’ve gone far, far worse. Nevertheless, that sucked and now we’re angry with 2022 for its last-minute backstabbing.

Same as I put it last year:

That preceding [storytime] 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 3000-word lead coffin that few will dare peek inside.

My negative COVID test, FINALLY.

December 14th: and the crowd goes wild! *yeeeeey*

That’s enough family-Christmas-letter chitchat. Hope your year was a kind one. Onward to those blogging stats!

In 2022 I posted 144 new entries, an encouraging improvement over the last two years. Site traffic was up 8.0% over 2021, which makes sense consider I wrote more this year, even though it doesn’t feel like it, given how often I went a week or more without writing. We’re a long way from the intoxicating highs of 2013, back in the days when WordPress was far more congenial and assiduous in encouraging bloggers to seek each other out, and back when I was in more of a mood for self-promotion and actively inviting the kindness of strangers. Ten years into this blogging experiment, if folks show up, that’s sincerely fantastic. If they don’t…let’s just say I’m getting better at coping. I can’t let it get to me anymore. Some days are harder than others, but in this age where the biggest challenge to building an audience is overcoming everyone else’s self-absorption, my lifelong validation addiction will inevitably lead me to not writing if I can’t kick 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 2022 photos never before posted here until today. Enjoy!

Anne takes a selfie in a Trek shirt. I'm at left over her shoulder, staring at my phone and holding my chin in my hand in a weird way that makes it look like I'm picking my nose.

October 23rd: Anne takes a selfie while we hundreds of Trek fans wait for Kate Mulgrew to arrive.

2022 POSTS WITH THE MOST OVERALL CUMULATIVE HITS:

  1. Captain Janeway’s Homecoming: Star Trek Fans Welcome Kate Mulgrew to Bloomington
  2. “Jurassic World: Dominion”: The Locust Job
  3. Indiana Comic Con 2022 Photos, Part 1 of 2: Cosplay!
  4. Star Trek: Mission Chicago 2022 Photos, Part 1 of 4: The Stars in Our Galaxy
  5. Our 2021 Road Trip #46: The Final Five Photos
  6. “The Crown” Season 5: All Ten Episodes Ranked According to a Guy Who Was Never All That Attached to Princess Diana

I usually only list my Top 5, but I needed my gratuitous mention of The Crown. Previous entries about the Netflix series did massive traffic numbers, so it’s fun to keep that running gag going, all the more gratifying for a show that genuinely fascinates me even though Anne has to keep explaining historical contexts to me because that’s more her thing than mine.

One trend I’ve known about for years is MCC entries do far better when we’re recounting major events here in our home state of Indiana. I hate SEO and anyone who mentions “SEO” in a sentence, but the fact is our big event with Kate Mulgrew — which wasn’t even our first time seeing her in person from mere feet away — was the biggest entry since 2018, probably in no small part owed to its conventionally constructed headline. Not even the events of COVID-free 2019 put up those kind of numbers. It also helped that: (a) Anne has gotten generous about sharing MCC highlights with others online (I’ll do it on occasion, but usually talk myself out of it); and (b) the event management’s promotional efforts failed to reach all possible Trek fans in range, prompting several on Facebook to ask when this shindig even happened, because they didn’t know about it till it was too late. It was a rare opportunity for MCC to provide a useful ICYMI service to fandom at large.

We have a couple of anomalies on the list. The modest conclusion of our 2021 Road Trip maxiseries was more of a quick epilogue than a full chapter, the small-scale grand finale to our big Yellowstone adventure that contained nary an ounce of Yellowstone imagery in it. I don’t get how in the world it sneaked up the list like that. Maybe people really love the sight of Nissan Altimas covered in bug guts.

As for Jurassic World: Dominion, one of my least favorite films of the year: many viewers were unaware that Campbell Scott’s antagonist was not new. Dr. Lewis Dodgson was a minor character in the very first Jurassic Park, played originally by an actor who’s now in prison for sex crimes involving a minor. A curious number of researchers stopped by here on their way to more informative articles on the perpetrator. We’re glad we could help.

The Indiana Historical Society building next to the White River Canal on a pretty summer day.

August 26th: My first visit to the Indiana Historical Society was for lunch, not perusing. That came three months later at Christmastime.

BACK-CATALOG POSTS WITH THE MOST HITS IN 2022:

  1. Yes, There’s a Capybara After the “Encanto” End Credits
  2. Yes, There’s a Scene During the “Venom: Let There Be Carnage” End Credits
  3. The Resources After the “Spotlight” End Credits
  4. Slices of Life After the Tennessee Fireworks Fire
  5. “Star Wars: the Clone Wars” Season 6: Ranking the Story Arcs

The Spotlight review remains one of our all-time evergreen classics because interest in Catholic-church sex crimes will never die until the responsible evildoers and their enablers knock it off. (Between them and Dr. Dodgson, y’all out there are leading me to believe MCC should cover pop-culture sex criminals on the regular.) Discussions of films with scenes after the end credits likewise always lure in curious movie-going hordes, especially in the cases of Venom 2 and Encanto, which both racked up embarrassingly ludicrous views throughout the end of 2021 and well into January, wildly skewing that month’s data. Encanto didn’t even have an end-credits scene. I was just making a joke. I can’t help feeling guilty for that. Just a tad, mind you.

The Tennessee tale — one of several stops on our drive home from a 2017 comic-con in Knoxville — has somehow become a July 4th tradition in a couple of Facebook corners. If someone out there’s enjoying that gallery, more power to ’em. As for the ancient, obsolete listicle up there: sure, we’ve written about Star Wars dozens of times over the years…but why did that one show up out of nowhere? Total mystery.

The dining room of The Tamale Place is all purple and tastefully decorated.

September 20th: my first time at The Tamale Place, a great restaurant 15 minutes from our house, seen years ago on Guy Fieri’s Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives.

MOST “LIKED” POSTS BY OTHER WORDPRESS USERS IN 2022:

1. Our 2021 Road Trip #45: Overdue Outtakes
2. [tie] Our 2022 Road Trip #6: Women’s Rights the Day After Dobbs
2. [tie] Our 2021 Road Trip #34: The Rough Rider’s Roofless Rumpus Room
3. [3-way tie] Our 2021 Road Trip #37: The Oversize Otter and His Feathered Friends
3. [3-way tie] Our 2021 Road Trip #36: Kaiju Americana Trilogy
3. [3-way tie] Our 2021 Road Trip #33: Valley of Gold, Valley of Shadow
4. [3-way tie] Our 2022 Road Trip #14: A Night at the Old “Newhart” Place
4. [3-way tie] Our 2022 Road Trip #12: The Armies Sacked at Fort Ticonderoga
4. [3-way tie] Happy 10th Anniversary to a Website Worth Slightly Under $44 Billion

Funny thing: whenever I go for more than a few days without writing, some bots from impersonal, lookalike travel blogs show up and begin adding Likes to our road trip entries, old and new ones. We didn’t pay for them, we didn’t ask for them, we don’t talk to them and they don’t talk to us, but there they are anyway, marching in like ants and adding their votes to travelogs even though they’ve never been programmed to read. This category is therefore mostly meaningless, but I keep it in anyway as a shout-out to yesteryear when real, actively networking bloggers outnumbered such roving android minions.

Then there’s the lone non-travel entrant up there, which commemorated MCC’s survival to its tenth birthday. Bloggers love reading blogs about blogging, so those Likes might be genuine. I accept that consolation with gratitude, a bit of comfort considering that when I modestly mentioned the occasion on my social media, absolutely nobody I knew gave a flying fig. Thanks, actual breathing bloggers! I’ll take every pat on the head that I can get.

James Arnold Taylor on stage, facing away from the crowd so everyone's in one big selfie.

December 2nd: at the end of every Q&A, GalaxyCon Columbus volunteers took photos of the guest with the entire crowd. At upper right you can find my face and Anne’s glasses. Cosmic COVID irony came two days later.

HIGHEST ISOLATED TRAFFIC SPIKES OF 2022:

The following rundown has been edited to remove large amounts of nonsense, as described below where applicable:

  1. 10/24/22: Kate Mulgrew’s Bloomington visit, as mentioned above. I rushed to finish the write-up ASAP, gave it an ordinary headline, and released it to the wild. Micro-mini-virality ensued for MCC for the first time in four years.
  2. 1/29/22: Of the highest traffic days on the unabridged list, the dynamic duo of Venom 2 and Encanto took 12 of the top 15 spots. That would make for a stupid-looking list, so they get one ranking, their biggest day, and the rest are disqualified. That day also saw a new entry about Teddy Roosevelt statues in North Dakota, but he was overshadowed by big-screen cartoons.
  3. 2/11/22: A few times per year, some newcomer will stumble onto the site, tap the “Older Posts” button dozens of times, then disappear into oblivion. This was one of those otherwise dull days. A second occurrence of this behavior in August has been disqualified.
  4. 4/11/22: Our gallery of jazz-hands photo ops from Star Trek: Mission Chicago, which we shared to the con’s Facebook fan group. I have to keep reminding myself targeted promotion can work.
  5. 4/17/22: Our cosplay gallery from Indiana Comic Con, which local geeks dig, especially on Facebook.
  6. 12/6/22: Our GalaxyCon Columbus coverage crested in its second smash day. Another Facebook crossover with an especially friendly, relatively new group.
  7. 7/18/22: Anne helped boost our Fan Expo Chicago miniseries to her circles on the very date of our wedding anniversary. I already love her, but now I’m beginning to think I should pay her for her service as MCC’s one-woman street team.

Lessons are to be learned here. Sharing your writings to specific cliques can work. Relying on my social media followers for attention largely does not. Facebook is filled with people like us and is at least 16% less toxic than Twitter. And everyone loves comic-cons. You’ll note all four of our 2022 comic-con experiences made the list, because folks love to hear about what they missed at big geek events.

Me in a Marvel museum exhibit surrounded by weird mirrors and purple walls.

May 13th: fun with mirrors at a Doctor Strange-themed room in the “Marvel: Universe of Heroes” exhibit at Columbus’ Center of Science and Industry.

2022 POSTS WITH COMMENTS BY AT LEAST TWO (2) LIVE HUMANS OR HUMAN-SHAPED USERS:

  1. Captain Janeway’s Homecoming: Star Trek Fans Welcome Kate Mulgrew to Bloomington
  2. “Jurassic World: Dominion”: The Locust Job
  3. Fan Expo Chicago 2022 Photos, Part 2 of 4: Fandom Artifacts

Low-traffic sites are quiet sites. And I’m a quiet site owner, so we don’t get loud ’round here too often. When we do, I break out the party favors — paper hats, confetti, slide whistles, local high school marching bands, milk served in dirty glasses, the works. The Best MCC Entry of the Year earned even more dividends as fans of the esteemed Ms. Mulgrew showed up en masse and were rather delightful guests. I wish I could’ve mailed them some snacks.

Among those other two entries: each of them got perfunctory two-word nods from a young blogger who has since apparently given up on it. The Fan Expo chapter welcomed an old compadre who, relatively speaking, is one of MCC’s most prolific commenters in recent years. We don’t get many repeat visitors anymore, which I understand. The internet content competition is a fierce one.

On a related note, the other comment on the Dominion entry was from Anne. That still counts. Maybe I should pay her to comment more, too. It’s been ages since we did our virtual vaudeville act for our mutual contacts.

Two cops part of a task force, staring directly into Anne's camera.

July 21st: the D.E.A. and numerous other agencies jointly staged over two dozen simultaneous drug-ring busts at multiple locations around Indianapolis, plus related places in Fort Wayne and L.A. Police woke us up at the crack of dawn as they took down one of our neighbors.

LEAST “LIKED” MCC POSTS OF 2022:

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.

We had exactly one entry receive zero Likes, no traffic and no notice, just a loud game-show buzzer spat down from the heavens like God was personally giving me a razzberry. That entry was “The Fantabulous 50s Weekend, Part 4: COSI All Around”, in which we shared a photo gallery from an all-ages science museum in Columbus, Ohio. Other chapters in that miniseries went over well enough, most notably one — covering the awesome traveling Marvel exhibit they were hosting at the time — that received a Like from a genuine, accredited, longtime comics professional. It’s been years since the last time a comics pro left a footprint here. I was over the moon for days after that. But Part 4 in the series died alone and unloved. Maybe all of WordPress was broken or choking on ransomware that day.

Beyond that ignominious runt of our 2022 litter, nearly all other 2022 entries received at least two Likes. For two sad entries, two was the best they could drum up. Even bots and spammers couldn’t be bothered to smash the button and at least feign validating me for these apparent turkeys. Thus we heap shame upon:

Our annual State Fair miniseries was posted too late after the fact for anyone to care, which is my own fault. Why their always dependable Lego sculptures were ignored more than our other activities, I can’t say. And my lone attempt at a song parody this year flopped because (a) I don’t do them often enough for them to attract song parody fans (I blame YouTube for saturating the market), and (b) people hate when I mention politics. So do I, which is why I rarely mention politics.

An old pond with tons of neglected overgrowth dilapidated bench and a shelter.

October 8th: on one of our semiannual visits to my aunts down in southern Indiana, Anne and I walked around an abandoned pond in the middle of the forest.

…and that’s the year that was, at least here on MCC.

If you reached the end of this entry 3,200 words later without thinking of it as “doomscrolling”: thanks for reading! Here’s hoping you find great reasons for internet usage in 2023, whether I’m included or not. Cheers!

Anne in front of a Star Wars photo backdrop.

July 8th: one last photo of Anne, at Fan Expo Chicago in front of a 501st Legion backdrop. Have I mentioned I love this woman? That’s what 2022 was really all about, Charlie Brown.

2 responses

  1. Wow! What a great entry of MCC!. My thanks to you for writing it up and sharing it w/the world! Here’s to two thousand and twenty two more years of Midlife Crisis Crossover! and an additional two thousand twenty three years more on top of it!

    I’m glad to see you and yours have recovered and I extend to all of you(s) my best wishes for your continuing health.

    (P.S. An errant semicolon and greater-than sign appear to have made their way into the following paragraph :

    “The Tennessee ta;e — one of several stops on our drive home from a 2017 comic-con in Knoxville — has somehow become a July 4th tradition in a couple of Facebook corners. If someone out there’s enjoying that gallery, more power to ’em. As for the ancient, obsolete listicle up there: sure, we’ve written about Star Wars dozens of times over the years…but why >did that one show up out of nowhere? Total mystery.”

    Accident? Deliberate artistic choice? Newfangled slang with which I am as of yet unfamiliar? Not for me to say! I bring it to your attention here and now alongside my honest appreciation for this entry and indeed all other entries of this weblog. In this year, past years, any and all years to come!)

    Like

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