Hey-ho, reader! Welcome to the seventh annual Midlife Crisis Crossover year-in-review. This tiny sandbox was formed 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 waiting for excuses to reply to strangers who didn’t ask my opinion. Often it’s been a fulfilling use of galleries, memories, 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 fulfilling, but something I continue cobbling together anyway, as long as I can keep the fires of motivation stoked.
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:
I launched Midlife Crisis Crossover on April 28, 2012, three weeks before my 40th birthday as a means of charting the effects of the aging process on my opinions of, applause for, revulsion at, and/or confusion arising from various works of art, expression, humanity, inhumanity, glory, love, idolatry, inspiration, hollow marketing, geek life, and sometimes food. It was also my way of finding a way to give myself excuses to write during a time when joining other people’s conversations was becoming increasingly dissatisfying and rare. Nobody talked about what I wanted to talk about; when they did, my opinions usually got me sent to go stand in the corner or flat-out ignored. And I couldn’t just not type.
Six years and 1,772 entries later, here I remain, not permanently burnt out, not yet out of anecdotes, still finding new experiences to relay, and, once in a blue moon, pulling out a different Moral of the Story to share with the kids these days that I haven’t already hammered into the ground in twelve previous posts.
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.
Hey-ho, reader! Welcome to the sixth annual Midlife Crisis Crossover year-in-review. This unassuming site was launched on April 28, 2012, as a cathartic experiment in writing whatever came to mind without waiting for other people to start my conversations for me, and so far it’s been a fulfilling use of galleries and essays that might otherwise either languish unwritten in my head or collect endless rejection emails from every professional website ever. Come January we’ll be reaching our 1,700th entry, reflecting once more on the thousands of man-hours expended to date on this self-expressive vanity project, and rationalizing new excuses to keep sharing even on those harder days when it’s just me, an unresponsive void, and my wife Anne saying nice things to cheer me up.
Good news on the stats front, in a way: 2017 site traffic was up 10.75% over 2016’s, which had nearly matched 2015’s. We’re still nowhere near returning to 2014’s historic levels, but I’ll take any signs of improvement. MCC had a few memorable moments this year, including one special, horrible, awful occasion that saw our largest traffic influx since 2013, the last year we posted costume photos from Gen Con. Curiously, our biggest attraction the previous year was also the result of an unhappy headline that sparked interest in our own personal tangent. The readers of the internet have spoken loud and clear the past two years: they love us most whenever we have something to share about unhappy things. In a coincidental twist, this may also be why people turn to Twitter more than ever for their daily fix of news and/or commentary and/or metaphorical exploding heads.
Onward, then, to our annual blog-stats party! Featuring a selection of photos from the year that was, all outtakes previously unposted here on MCC. Enjoy!
As a Halloween extra for Midlife Crisis Crossover readers who’ve joined us in recent times, or for anyone who loves a good rerun, we offer any or all of the following links to previous themed celebrations of the Halloween season, all eminently worth reviewing and/or sharing with your closest 50,000 followers. Enjoy, and Happy Halloween!
* “The Seven Habits of Highly Effective Trick-or-Treaters” — In which I give American kids unsolicited advice on how to do their job properly and earn their free junk food with a clear conscience.
* “Pumpkin Flavored Everything” — Among the precious pieces of fiction ever attempted in MCC’s 1600+ entries to date, this 1000-word tale about family, obsession, and the Great Pumpkin remains the most-Liked.
* “Back When I Wore Halloween Costumes” — Memories of my personal cosplay history, from trick-or-treating as a kid to dressing up in the workplace and other scenarios. Someday I need to plunge into our 35mm collection and dredge up a few of the more embarrassing ones.
* “The Mantis (With Apologies to Poe)” — This obligatory spoof of “The Raven” is based on the absolutely true story of the time a most peculiar animal sat upon our door for several days. And sat. And stared. And sat and sat and SAT.
* “Halloween Stats 2016: Rattling Sabers at Absent Neighbors” — I’ve kept track of our trick-or-treater traffic every year since 2007, when we became first-time homeowners and escaped our old apartment that trick-or-treaters refused to approach. It helps me determine the next year’s inventory, and sometimes I think counting things is fun. Expect a follow-up Tuesday night, though hopefully more than two dozen kids show up for us this time.