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Old Guy with a PS3: Year 4 Results

Red Dead Redemption!

This throwaway exchange in the original Red Dead Redemption turned into foreshadowing for me. I see what you did there, grizzled frontier helper guy.

Previously on Midlife Crisis Crossover, at the beginning of 2016:

As a kid, I frequented video arcades regularly. As a parent, my son and I spent a good decade playing games together on his various systems. When he graduated and moved away to college, he took all his systems with him, leaving me with only my old Nintendo that won’t play cartridges unless you keep the Game Genie firmly inserted, and an Atari Plug-‘n’-Play Controller I got for Christmas a few years ago that interested me for about two weeks. On Black Friday 2014, I decided I wanted back in the 21st century gaming mode and picked up a used PS3.

Naturally I started off a generation behind the rest of the civilized world, but I didn’t care. After fifteen months without, holding a controller felt abnormal and rusty for the first few weeks. Once I got used to it again and figured out how to disable the “Digital Clear Motion Plus” feature on my TV, I could shake the dust off my trigger fingers, choose the games I wanted to play, sprint or meander through them at whatever pace I saw fit, and try some different universes beyond Final Fantasy and our other longtime mainstays. The following is a rundown of my first year’s worth of solo PS3 adventures…

…and it’s been a minor MCC annual tradition ever since. Last year’s entry covered how I spent literally all my gaming time in 2017 on Borderlands 2, which fascinated me on all the right guilty-pleasure levels. 2018 was a bit more varied, though not vastly so. I found myself skipping more gaming sessions than usual as other hobbies, responsibilities, and conventions overtook my schedule and kept the ol’ PS3 waiting. The following is a rundown of my retro gaming in that busy year, in two or three short sessions per week, in the order played and with my trophy percentages included to reinforce the fact that I’m neither a gaming wizard nor a helpless grandpa:

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My Entry in the Internet Peanut-Gallery Database

Charles Linn page!

It’s cool to see your name in print even when you don’t understand all the words around it.

When you make a longtime hobby out of turning words and pictures into hopefully entertaining compositions, more for the sake of self-satisfaction and human interaction than for lofty aspirations to widespread fame and/or corruptive fortune, it’s always a pleasant surprise when something you did — no matter how tiny or inconsequential it seemed at the time — somehow catches the eye of just the right person and creates an unusual opportunity you’ve never had before, never saw coming, have trouble explaining to others, but draw a bit of pride from anyway.

I’ve had a few such occasions pop up in my life. Another one of those odd little things recently happened for me. I think I now have enough to assemble my own checklist. It’s not long or dignified enough to call a bibliography, but if there were an Internet Peanut Gallery Database — like IMDb, but for nobodies like me — then my IPGDb page would presently look something like this:

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Halloween Stats 2018: 78 Minutes of Human Connection and Candy

Lowes Witch!

When the Halloween, Thanksgiving, and Christmas decorations all compete for shelf space at the same time, it gets hard to remember which holiday is WITCH. EEEEEEH-HEE-HEE-HEE-HEEEEEEEE!

Previously on Midlife Crisis Crossover: each year since 2008 I’ve kept statistics on the number of trick-or-treaters brave enough to approach our doorstep during the Halloween celebration of neighborhood unity and beneficent snack donation. I began tracking our numbers partly for future candy inventory purposes and partly out of curiosity, so now it’s a tradition for me. Like many bloggers there’s a stats junkie in me that thrives on taking head counts, no matter how discouraging the results.

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Mighty Mighty Bosstones and Dissonance & Dissent: Ska Night at the Vogue

Mighty Mighty Bosstones!

Never, ever let them forget your band’s name.

Dateline: August 21, 2018 — Tuesday night I found myself once again ignoring my social awkwardness issues and venturing out solo to the Vogue, Indianapolis’ number one nightclub for hosting bands that were in heavy rotation on my CD player throughout the ’90s. My wife Anne and I share a lot of important commonalities, but one of our smaller Venn diagrams is “musical preferences”. Nearly everyone I know with similar tastes lives in other states. Therefore I can either attend concerts alone, attend only when Anne wants to (not impossible but rare), make new friends to attend concerts with, or never experience live music again. Once every 1-2 years, I let option A win.

This year’s reason for me to leave the house and touch a dance floor: the Mighty Mighty Bosstones! If you don’t know the name offhand, your best chance of hearing them was the 1997 single “The Impression That I Get“, which achieved modest airplay beyond the usual alt-rock channels. They were among the first and few ska bands I listened to back in the day, still have four of their first five albums, but had lost track of them and countless other bands over the past 10-15 years. It was great to get reacquainted and find out they’re still recording and touring.

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What We Didn’t Do on Our Summer Vacation

Anne head-tabled.

Anne waiting for paint to dry, glaciers to melt, and dinner to arrive at an Irish pub in Philadelphia.

Our 2018 road trip is behind us at last. After seven days and 2,056 miles together on the open road, Anne and I arrived safe at home Friday night, several hours later than expected and ready to retreat into overnight catatonia. Five out of six previous evenings ended much the same way — with a number of new achievements to our credit, new memories to add to our mental slideshows, new regrets to tally up, new aches and pains to nurse, and new letdowns from the unchecked items on our lengthy to-do list. In some ways that’s a typical vacation for the two of us, but what stings most are a few omissions that weren’t our fault.

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99 Ways to Get Chopped from “Chopped”: A Handy Tips-‘n’-Tricks Checklist

Chopped!

Who among us has never looked at a bag of Cheetos and thought, “I bet I could turn this into haute cuisine”?

For years my wife Anne and I have been addicted to the Food Network’s cooking-competition series Chopped, in which four chefs must outcook each other under strictly timed conditions using four specific ingredients. Inside every Chopped basket of goods lurks a surprising combination of the rare, the delicate, the expensive, the complicated, the whimsical, the outlandish, and/or the thoroughly disgusting. Every substance can be used, though not every substance is very good.

Food Network continues gifting us with new episodes every week hosted by the amazing colossal Ted Allen, who presides over this fast-paced showcase for chefs of every conceivable demographic from various American restaurants, caterers, bakeries, or other private businesses, each of whom keeps their eyes on the $10,000 prize to be had if they’re the last entrant remaining after three grueling courses of speed-heating, kitchen-racing, and power-serving.

After watching several dozen episodes, Anne and I began to notice recurring patterns and tried to capture those observations and our fandom back in 2014 with a previous MCC entry called “How Not to Get Chopped from ‘Chopped’: A Starter Guide“. I’ve been meaning to overhaul that entry for a while now that we’re four years and literally 200+ episodes later, which includes every episode of the kids-only spinoff Chopped Junior and a handful of episodes of Chopped Canada, which was an interesting effort with its own angle and demeanor but wasn’t quite the same thing. I’m ashamed to confess it was tough to watch for more than a few minutes before I started poking fun in a goofy faux-Fargo accent.

The following compilation is our revised armchair-chef advice for future would-be competitors on how not to do Chopped from where we sit. This list is doubtlessly 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 trained gourmet by any stretch, we hope this helps someone out there anyway. If you raise a skeptical eyebrow at any of these, well…it’s positively flabbergasting how many of these downfalls we’ve seen happen in actual episodes at the hands of trained professionals who run fantastic eateries back home but who lose their poise in front of the cameras. Even the best can make mistakes or watch their plans spin out of control.

Enjoy! Learn! Win!

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