How The Empty Chair Stole Christmas

I’m not usually one for reblogging, but this post represents a milestone: my very first guest post on another blog!

The folks behind “Freshly DePressed” blog invited me to share a synopsis of my experience with having two entries slapped with the WordPress.com “Freshly Pressed” label. In previous FDP posts, past Freshly Pressed candidates have listed common symptoms associated with their fifteen minutes of fame, such as temporary euphoria, post-Pressed depression, and misplaced sympathy for actors who refuse to sign on to any movie that’s not instantly Oscar-worthy.

Enjoy! Also I may have to begin soliciting possible names for my theoretical new mascot. Please keep in mind “Obamachair” sounds lame and partisan, and “Chairy” is already taken.

Freshly DePressed

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Hi, my name is Randall at Midlife Crisis Crossover.  I was Freshly Pressed twice. Once for The Day An Empty Chair Ruled The Internet and again for Midlife Crisis Crossover 2012 in Review, Assuming the Next Thirteen Days are a Complete Write-Off. It’s been four months since I was first famous; three weeks since my encore.

One evening while pondering my blog’s tiny but breathing audience, I noticed millions of Americans were ignoring me and paying attention to an empty chair.  I could write and entertain.  It could not.  This imbalance seemed unfair.  However, the chair had the advantage of being lectured on live TV by a famous actor/director.  I can’t say for certain that that’s happened to me yet.  Advantage: chair.

Out of frustrated cognitive dissonance I wrote “The Day an Empty Chair Ruled the Internet”, the underlying moral of which was, “No chair should be this famous.”  Imagine…

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Midlife Crisis Crossover 2012 in Review, Assuming the Next Thirteen Days are a Complete Write-Off

Midlife Crisis Crossover was launched April 28, 2012, as a creative attempt to do something different with my spare time, my ostensible talents, and four decades of accumulated monumental mistakes and mental minutiae. Though it wasn’t my first blog, it was my first time attempting a blog without an immediate support system or preexisting audience. The MCC experience has been eight curious months of dedication, persistence, failures, sleep deprivation, loneliness, stubbornness, prayer, and occasional wild luck. Over the course of the first 240 posts I’ve discovered new peers, made new friends, learned new things about myself and HTML, improved 2% at photography, and remembered one or two stylistic rules I’d forgotten since college, with several more still repressed and yet to be rediscovered.

Empty Obama Chair, Clint Eastwood's arch-enemy

The infamous empty chair, a.k.a. “Obamachair”

The WordPress.com Weekly Writing Challenge has encouraged us to look back at our year and remember where we’ve been. Even before I began assembling my MCC year-end lists, I already knew which post would top most of them: “The Day an Empty Chair Ruled the Internet” was the watershed event that drew the most Likes, Comments, and Shares (and nearly the most traffic) of anything else I’ve written this year, arguably even in my full thirteen years of Internet participation, thanks in large part to its “Freshly Pressed” status that saw it spotlighted for all WordPress users to see over Labor Day weekend.

For its outstanding achievement of Attracting an Audience, “Empty Chair” is the first and only entry in the MCC Hall of Fame, even though it was about political events and my incredulous disdain for same. If we set it aside in a class by itself, my memories of 2012 look like so:

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The Day an Empty Chair Ruled the Internet

Empty Obama Chair, Clint Eastwood's arch-enemyBehold the face of America’s newest sensation. LOLcats, Kardashians, and the horrors of something calling itself “Honey Boo Boo” all took a back seat to the poor, defenseless chair that withstood a tongue-lashing from Academy Award Winner Clint Eastwood at the closing of the Republican National Convention, which in turn drew an awful lot of press to cover any number of foregone conclusions.

I refuse to watch the video on principle — the principle being, partisan politics don’t interest me. This keeps me shut out of a lot of online discussions and ensures no one will ever pay me a steady income to become a TV pundit. I’m fine with that, but it usually means I have to go slink off into a dark corner and find ways to entertain myself until politics go away.

My admittedly secondhand understanding of the situation, then, is that the 82-year-old director was invited to close the ceremony with no small amount of star power, somehow mistook the chair for President Barack Obama, and attempted to bully it until it cried. I’ve yet to confirm if anyone involved in the incident referred this peculiar condition to Dr. Oliver Sacks.

Maybe this merciless haranguing was the most hilarious improv set of the year. Maybe it was an unmitigated disaster, like the time Anne Hathaway and James Franco hosted the Oscars. Maybe I’ve misread and Obama was actually standing off-camera on the other side of the chair, or had been shrunk with Pym particles and was resting comfortably under the chair. All I know for sure is that this spirited but one-sided argument took over my Twitter feed Thursday night and effectively shut down all other topics and memes. On Facebook, the empty chair emerged from its humble beginnings in Nowheresville and became the talk of the town, superseding the usual daily barrage of Photoshop yuks and Zynga proclamations. This week, NASA launched a rocket bearing twin probes to study the Van Allen radiation belts (the real story here being: believe it or not, NASA is still in the launching business), but that link has now been kicked off all front pages in favor of headlines about verbally abused furniture.

Some people have joked about its unintentional symbolism. Others applaud the moment as Eastwood’s best comedy gig since the flicks he made with that annoying orangutan. Someone naturally registered “Invisible Obama” as a Twitter alias. Rest assured our nation’s crack Photoshop gag specialists rushed to fill the chair with repurposed images of Kermit the Frog, the Sad Keanu meme, and Lord knows what other variations I’ve missed. The Internet plans to milk this new, inanimate media personality for all it can, until the Chair gets greedy and begins demanding large paychecks to make forgettable cameos in terrible films.

Nothing I could write about anything right now could hold an audience’s attention a fraction as much as that now-legendary empty chair’s misadventure has. I’ll just shut up and let the video roll below for the truly, insatiably curious who missed this unique spectacle. I did watch a few seconds of it just to confirm that, of all the versions uploaded, the Wall Street Journal‘s version had the best screen resolution, but that’s as far as I went.

I salute you, empty chair. Enjoy your fifteen minutes, and try to be kind to us little people during your wild ride on the shaky wooden coaster of fly-by-night stardom. Remember, today’s celebrity is tomorrow’s Goodwill bargain.

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