Twitter Minus Twitter

This Tweet.

What was he thinking about? I’ll never know.

Twitter isn’t for everyone, but the designers have created a number of tools that allow users to shape their experience, curate their input streams, intertwine narratives, choose overall reading tone, defend themselves against the forces of evil, hide from polite disagreements, and, in my case, remove irritants. The tools aren’t perfect, but I appreciate their usefulness when it comes to surgically removing unnecessary ugliness and repetitive stresses that damage my calm. For me, internet moderation is a form of self-care.

Sometimes the results amuse me more than I’d intended.

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The Best I Could Do on Twitter (So Far)

Clueless Detective Pikachu!

The internet in microcosm: strangers in varying garb, a few of whom actually like being around each other.

I’ve been online for nearly twenty years. I’ve been on Twitter for 9½ years. MCC is nearly eight years old, though I blogged intermittently for six years before that in an even tinier space. I’ve scampered around the tunnels of Usenet, dallied in several message boards, volunteered as an unpaid moderator/admin on one site for nine years, tried the untamed DMZ that is comics discussion sites before running away screaming, and learned quickly that comments sections on major news sites were even larger sinkholes. My internet experience has been a rewarding, exhausting, surprising, discouraging, uplifting, heartbreaking search for the right environments and vehicles for my expressive impulses and my feeble attempts at what those who fit in with others call “networking”.

Luckily for me and my shifting moods, the internet offers a variety of writing formats that suit my ideas, topics, styles, visions, objectives, and wordiness vibe on any given evening. In recent years I’ve carved out comfort zones for myself in two primary outlets: Twitter and this very blog. Each option has its pros and cons. Each yields different rewards.

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MCC Live-Tweet: Our First Star Wars Celebration Chicago 2019 Line

Star Wars Celebration Chicago 2019!

Yep, this thing again.

Previously on Midlife Crisis Crossover: this weekend Anne and I are attending this year’s Star Wars Celebration in scenic, freezing Chicago. Once again we returned to McCormick Place, a mere three weeks after C2E2, so the layout and the stress levels of Chicago traffic were still fresh in our minds.

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C2E2 2019 Photos, Part 7 of 8: Who Else We Met, What Else We Did

Tyler Hoechlin!

Once again my wife brakes for Superman.

Previously on Midlife Crisis Crossover:

It’s that time again! My wife Anne and I just got home from the tenth annual Chicago Comic and Entertainment Exposition (“C2E2″), another three-day extravaganza of comic books, actors, creators, toys, props, publishers, freebies, Funko Pops, anime we don’t recognize, and walking and walking and walking and walking. Each year C2E2 keeps inching ever closer to its goal of becoming the Midwest’s answer to the legendary San Diego Comic Con and other famous conventions in larger, more popular states. We missed the first year, but have attended every year since 2011 as a team…

…and found activities together as a team. Given that C2E2 is the most comics-centered of all the giant cons we attend each year, its activities often appeal more to me than to her. But we do try to take turns being each other’s plus-one throughout our various cons and travels, so eventually it balances out.

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Is There Room at the Table for the Fake Followers Among Us?

Buy Followers!

One of many robo-concierges polluting Twitter and willing to assist with your shallow self-image needs.

My favorite piece of journalism so far this year was just published January 27th over at the New York Times and struck a nerve in a number of places. In an epic-length article entitled “The Follower Factory”, the NYT plumbed the wobbly world of Twitter and those peculiar, insecure users who boost their Follower head count by paying a company actual money to bless them with hundreds of thousands of automated “bot” accounts that pretend they’re fans clinging on to their every tweet, for the purpose of making the paying customers look more popular. Some are piecemeal accounts, with profiles barely filled out. Quite a few are the product of surface-level identity theft, cribbing photos and usernames but with a character altered to make it unique (relatively speaking). They don’t praise you, go forth in your name, act as your “street team”, or interact with you or other humans in any meaningful way. They just Follow. They sit there, shut up, and act like you rule.

Companies such as Devumi cheerfully offer low-price options for ordinary web-surfing rabble like me, but they also bank some major cash selling bot followings by the hundreds of thousands to B-list celebrities, politicians, creators, reality TV dwellers, and others at varying levels of fame. The NYT named a few names I recognize — actor John Leguizamo, Chef Michael Symon, onetime MST3K guest star Kathy Ireland, and film critic Richard Roeper, whose Chicago Sun-Times reviews have been suspended pending their internal review. Of those who responded to requests for comment, a few buyers insisted it wasn’t them personally pushing the buttons, but an assistant or social media manager who bought a hollow audience on their behalf for PR strategy or whatever. Whether their deflections are true or not, boosts of fake fame are kind of sad. Granted, some personalities receive perks and bonuses from their corporate overlords based on the looks of their social media metrics, which means a return on their invidious investment is entirely possible. To them I imagine it’s all part of the Game.

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Trump: Trump trump Trump? (Trump…Trump?)

Trump Trump!

Trump trump trump Trump Trump trump trump, trump trump trump trump trump trump trump Trump trump trump.

Trump. Trump, trump.

Trump trump trump trump trump trump trump trump trump trump trump trump Trump Trump trump trump trump trump trump trump-trump trump trump trump. Trump Trump trump trump trump trump trump (trump) trump trump trump trump Trump trump trump Trump Trump trump Trump. Trump trump trump trump trump trump trump trump trump trump.

Trump trump trump trump…trump, Trump. Trump.

MCC Live-Tweeting: The “Sleepy Hollow” Season 3 Finale

Sleepy Hollow!

In which Ichabbie bids us a clumsy, ill-conceived Ichabbye.

Okay, after a self-mandated 24-hour cooling-off period, I think I’m ready to tackle that Friday night fiasco.

Once upon a time, Midlife Crisis Crossover provided same-night recaps of every episode of Sleepy Hollow. I’m not a pro reviewer entitled to advance copies of any TV shows, so every recap was an intense, on-the-fly, two- to three-hour marathon writing session, thinking and typing as quickly as I could to combine plot summary with top-of-my-head commentary in 1500- to 2000-word bursts — partly to see if I could do it, partly because sometimes there’s an audience for such a thing. This formerly fun exercise became a thankless chore if I paid too much attention to the competition from actual pro websites given days to prepare their material so they can click “Publish” mere seconds after each episode ends. It’s a nice luxury if you can work your way into it and don’t have to worry about sleep deprivation disrupting your full-time day job.

When Fox moved Sleepy Hollow to Fridays for the back half of season 3, I figured it was the perfect time to pull the plug on that ongoing MCC feature, not only due to diminishing returns but also because we have a family commitment every other Friday that precluded same-night recaps. Past experiences have taught me that delayed recaps are a waste of time and bandwidth, so that wasn’t an option, and that’s why this entry is not a straight-up recap. My wife and I still followed the show as fans, and every other week I’ve been live-tweeting it, which turned out to be a much better format for me. All of the MST3K-style improv joke-writing, none of the boring golf-commentator filler.

The timing worked out so that I could live-tweet last night’s season finale, “Ragnarok”, an astoundingly disappointing episode that encapsulated all of this season’s flaws to date, then one-upped them with the most poorly orchestrated mistake in series history. And after it was all over, I was there to watch the internet burn. Not just once, but twice.

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On Pasta and Copypasta

Spaghetti!

I guarantee this spaghetti dinner was not made by photographing someone else’s spaghetti dinner and then cranking out a replica on a 3-D printer.

Last night my lovely wife made spaghetti for dinner because it’s a thing we like. Buried inside the sauce are meatballs she made using a recipe online. It’s slowly becoming one of my favorite home-cooked meals. I’m sure Chopped judges would probably have copious disappointed notes about what they would do differently. They wouldn’t mix two different kinds of pasta just to use up a nearly empty box in the pantry. They’d make fresh sauce from scratch rather than rely on a national jarred brand. Their meatballs might be more consistently colored and stuffed with fifteen extra ingredients. They’d serve it on a set of plates that cost more than we spend on one week’s groceries, with a side of fresh bread bought that same morning from a renowned Italian baker. And so on.

Their level of pasta craft doesn’t invalidate our meal. But at the same time, Anne didn’t claim to create her own sauce recipe, or make her own pasta from the flour up. She’s not gunning for the position of Prego family matriarch. It’s just supper at home. I reiterate: to this biased reviewer, A-plus.

I was reminded of our evening meal plans earlier in the day when a friend of mine retweeted the following clever joke:

One of the twelve million “It’s funny because it’s true!” wisecracks that pop up on Twitter during any given day. Some go no further than a single circle of friends. Some might be shared with friends-of-friends. Some go “viral”, a word I’ve grown to detest. But you get the picture.

Then I was reminded of something else: I’d seen this joke before from another user. Possibly from more than one.

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Scenes from the Class Struggle in Ferguson, MO

Ferguson.

Michael Brown’s stepfather Louis Head walks through Ferguson, on or after 8/9/2014. (Photographer as yet unknown. Source: blue cheddar via Flickr cc)

I’ve lost all ability to concentrate tonight because I’m transfixed by the current scene this evening in Ferguson, Missouri — a scene of protesters, armed police response, copious canisters of tear gas, alleged attempted media blackouts, and two journalists who were under arrest for nearly an hour when they failed to leave a McDonald’s in the correct fashion.

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MCC Live-Tweeting: “Sharknado 2: the Second One”

Sharknado! Two!

Shark and Tornado. Tornado and Shark. Who’s the master and who’s the servant?

Because too many viewers patronized the first one! Thanks to America’s unreasonable groundswell of bemused support of the original Sharknado, Syfy and The Asylum felt emboldened enough to scrape together a few more quarters, call in some former celebrities for cameos, clear the browser cache in their visual-effects software, and make Sharknado 2: the Second One on purpose.

I can’t imagine why anyone would write a straightforward review of this, not even if you were a paid TV critic, unless you’re keen to address the arguments for or against the concept of meta-grade-Z flicks. I see both sides of the debate over which is morally superior, mocking unintentionally bad films versus mocking intentionally bad films, but I opted out of the debate and launched into an evening of fun, carefree live-tweeting without contemplating my justifications or pondering the ramifications of encouraging Syfy’s agenda.

Collected below for posterity or whatever are the results of that experience. MAJOR SPOILERS ahead…

MCC No-Reason Live-Tweeting: “Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance”

Ghost Rider: Spirits of Vengeance!

How much of this mid-transformation shot is CG and how much is the real Nicolas Cage? I’m not asking him. YOU ask him.

While my son is off living at college and my wife finds other things to amuse herself, my Wednesday nights have become one-man movie nights at home. I work an earlier shift that day, arrive home mid-afternoon, and watch stuff and things for a while. It’s a pleasure I’ve rarely afforded myself, as evidenced by the towering pile of unwatched DVDs and my slowly lengthening Netflix queue.

On Twitter I’ve not been one for constant live-tweeting, but a few months ago I spent one Wednesday live-tweeting my viewing displeasure of Batman and Robin at a friend’s suggestion. This past Wednesday I repeated the experience at absolutely no one’s suggestion with a fifty-cent Blu-ray rental of Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance, starring Idris Elba, Ciaran Hinds, exactly one female, and Academy Award Winner Nicolas Cage as the notorious Marvel antihero. Collected below for posterity or whatever are the results of that experience.

Right this way for another fun MCC exercise!

MCC Request Line: Live-Tweeting “Batman & Robin”

Batman and Robin

That time when Batman, Robin, and Batgirl started wearing black…black like the studio executives’ hearts.

Fish in a barrel? Sure. But sometimes it’s nice to relax for one evening with some frivolous writing that breaks no new ground, fails to expand the creative boundaries of the internet, but relieves the typical tensions that dogpile on you in adulthood.

Wednesdays are one-man movie nights for me, a chance to spend time watching whatever while my wife busies herself with her own pursuits. This week I decided on an unusual direction. Anyone who follows me on Twitter (@RandallGolden) was given a short window of opportunity to stage an intervention:

Batman and Robin has been on my shelf for months. It was part of a four-pack, and geek completism forbade me from giving it to Goodwill and leaving the set 25% incomplete. I haven’t relived it in its entirety since the original, degrading theatrical experience. My plan was merely to see if I could watch it a second time without suffering a breakdown. Then a longtime friend asked me to live-tweet it, and a different kind of survival game was afoot.

Special thanks goes to the instigator, Nanci over at Tosche Station, a highly commendable site for anyone who’s a fan of Star Wars in general and the SW Expanded Universe in particular, and they’re your new best friends if you think JJ Abrams’ Star Wars Episode VII should star Mara Jade as the main character. (For the record, I would not oppose this.)

And then it began. Right this way…

Seven Handy Tips for Winning at Live-Tweeting

Blue canary in the outlet by the light switch...

If Twitter ever needs TV ads, its theme should be “Birdhouse in Your Soul”.

Thanks to the invention of the internet, the convenience of the smartphone, and the rise of Twitter as the premier social-media beachhead for You Are There instant commentary, now billions of internet users worldwide have the tools at their disposal to pay homage to Mystery Science Theater 3000 anytime they want. The process is simple: watch something on TV; type every single thought you have while watching; stand by for accolades.

Sadly, the number of Twitter users who’ve parlayed their live-tweeting habits into fame and fortune without benefit of preexisting conditions is in the single digits. You might ask, how can this be? You’re using the internet, you’re saying what you think everyone is really thinking, and tens of people told you how special you were when you were in elementary school. Why aren’t your witticisms slaying all the other viewers? Why aren’t entire cities retweeting or Favoriting your bon mots? Why aren’t agents sending you offers? Why even bother paying for internet access if no one will pay attention to everything you do?

Calm down. Don’t throw a tantrum for the paparazzi. Someone out there still loves you. But you can’t tweet everything that pops into your head. Wait, no: actually, you can tweet it all. Really bad idea, though.

This way for Twitter tips that will change your life! I’m guessing!

Dear Event Promoters: Please Don’t Make Us Pick Your Twitter Hashtag for You

#ICC2014 #failtag

Ugh. Just…UGH. No, this won’t do at all. #ICC2014 #failtag

Midlife Crisis Crossover is coming to you live this evening from my living room while I’m in the middle of planning for our big day at the inaugural Indiana Comic Con on Saturday. (I’ve written about it here and here, so loyal MCC followers are well aware and waiting for it to be over with already.)

As part of my prepping, I thought I’d check in on the Twitter scene and gather impressions from the three-day attendees who edged ahead of us in joining the fray. I saw a fair amount of evidence that my sincere hopes for everyone to enjoy themselves are largely being realized. I’m looking forward to joining the discussion tomorrow myself.

That’s assuming I can figure out where the discussion is. Continue reading

Read. Think. Post.

Those three sharp words comprised one of the first, smartest lessons shared with me when I first hopped aboard the runaway internet express in a previous decade. Simple words bandied about by my earliest peers became a brilliant watchword trifecta to remind each other not to post in anger, to cool down before venting any immediate hostile impulses, to refrain from etching anything hasty and regrettable for eternal archiving. Self-control is key. You’re not required by law to reply immediately to anyone who stabs you the wrong way. Stepping back, breathing deeply, and taking a few hours away from your input device can do a world of good.

This snapshot, captured tonight through the magic of a few simple keystrokes and MS Paint, is how not to handle such potential fiascos. The amateurish content-editing is my doing, because of the lines I draw.

Twitter rage

The Twitter account in question was deleted less than half an hour later. A few earlier tweets were part of the same tirade, but I opted for moderate sampling over voyeuristic completism. I’m also not interested in linking to the tacky news story that sparked this reaction because I don’t believe they deserve any click-through traffic. At all.

I’m not normally one for ten-minute posts comprised of a single set of Words to Live By. Consider this an exception to the rule. From a Scriptural standpoint, I’ll point you to James 1:19-20 (NIV):

My dear brothers and sisters, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry, because human anger does not produce the righteousness that God desires.

Much more eloquent and pleasingly faith-based from my perspective, but not as easy to fit onto a T-shirt or scribble on a Post-It to stick to your monitor or the back of your phone.

Make these three words Today’s Secret Words, today and every day, and you’ll be astounded at how your internet experience will improve by leaps and bounds.

Read. Think. Post.

#BadTwitterRecs

One of the more amusing one-joke Twitter handles I follow is Bad Netflix Recs, which pokes fun at automated recommendation services with poor logical parameters. Behold examples of the joke:

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