Squiddies 2016

(originally posted August 24, 2016)

The Armchair Squid turns seven years old today.  It's time to hand out some hardware.  And the Squiddy goes to...

Biggest Surprise: Calvin Trillin in Sleepless in Seattle
via Wikipedia
Calvin Trillin has been a star of my blog this year.  I featured his books three months in a row for the Cephalopod Coffeehouse.  Trillin writes about all kinds of things including a recent book about the civil rights movement.  He came to my attention because of his food writing - absolutely delightful.  The surprise came when I saw him sitting at the dinner table in Sleepless in Seattle!  Apparently, he is friends with the film's director, Nora Ephron.

It made for a funny family moment.  My wife explained to our daughter, "You know those books Daddy's been reading and giggling over?  That's the guy who wrote them."


Biggest Disappointment: Droid Episodes
via Wookieepedia
I love R2-D2 and C-3PO.  Star Wars wouldn't be the same without them.  They are an important link to Hidden Fortress, one of the most important films in the original's cinematic heritage.  They provide comic relief and they frequently drive the plot.  Artoo has been called a McGuffin but I don't think he quite qualifies as he serves a clear, demonstrable purpose.

But Clone Wars stories involving the droids as central characters tend to be darn near unwatchable.  Marvel had a comic book series starring the droids back in the day and those were also awful - not as bad as the Ewoks series but still embarrassing.  Clear lesson: the droids are great for the small work but let the organic beings bear the narrative heft.


Best Read, First-Time Category: Being Mortal: Medicine and What Matters in the End by Atul Gawande
via Amazon
I read a lot, or at least I aim to do so.  However, I rarely read anything that I immediately start recommending to everyone I know.  Such was the case for Being Mortal, Dr. Gawande's exploration of the choices we must make for ourselves and our loved ones as we age and die.  It's heavy reading to be sure but I appreciate the book's frankness and compassion.  So yes, you need to read it and get all of your loved ones to read it, too.


Best Read, Re-Read Category: Julius Caesar by William Shakespeare
via Wikipedia
I first read Julius Caesar in high school - 27 years ago, I believe.  It was nice to read it again as an adult, knowing more about life, politics and so forth.  Julius Caesar is an unusual and clever story for the fact that it's never fully clear who the good guy is.  Plus the title character dies a lot earlier than he usually does in a Shakespearean tragedy!


Best Comics Find: Trinity: A Graphic History of the First Atomic Bomb by Jonathan Fetter-Vorm

Don't go thinking I don't remember book suggestions.  I picked this one up after my blogger pal Suze recommended it to me.  I've read a lot of graphic novels about history, including several about World War II in general and the A-bomb in particular.  Trinity earns big points for the clear explanation of the science of atomic energy, demonstrating the effectiveness of the sequential art medium.  I also admire the book's attention to the reactions of the scientists once they learned the full scope of their project and realized the unforeseen consequences of using nuclear weapons.


Athlete of the Year: Seabiscuit
via Wikipedia
For the second year in a row, I choose a deceased athlete from the 1930s.  Seabiscuit was also a horse - an unconventional choice, I'll admit.  While Sports Illustrated balked at choosing American Pharoah over Serena Williams - they were very wise to make that choice, by the way, and I'm ready to defend it anytime - my equine star had few rivals on the blog this year.  Harry Potter was tempting, though he's only a fictional character and my post about him didn't address his quidditch prowess.

Seabiscuit (1933-47) was one of the great celebrities of the 1930s.  More recently, he has been the subject of a highly successful book and movie.  I read the former last September.  Seabiscuit was a late bloomer.  I always have great sympathy for those.  Author Laura Hillenbrand did a wonderful job conveying the personality of the beast, as well as those of his human attendants.


Best Family Adventure: Nova Scotia
via Wikipedia
I have come to realize an undeniable truth of my adult life: I love Canada.  I love its quiet, its friendliness, its multilingualism, its beautiful, seemingly endless landscape, all of it.  This summer's big trip was Nova Scotia, the most populous maritime province.  We stayed in the Annapolis Royal area, not far from Digby, a stretch of coast famous for its scallops and for historical preservation.  They have lobster club sandwiches there.  What more does one need?  I truly did not want to go home from this trip.