Saturday, August 24, 2019

Squiddies 2019

The Armchair Squid turns ten years old today - a full decade!  It's time to hand out some hardware.  And the Squiddy goes to...

Biggest Surprise: Jake Shimabukuro

I will readily admit that I had no idea jazz ukulele was a thing.  I found several astonishingly amazing covers of Chick Corea's "Spain" for my post but none more surprising than Jake Shimabukuro's.  Ukuleles are definitely the it instrument these days but I haven't seen anyone else play like this guy.  Here he is performing "While My Guitar Gently Weeps":

And still, my all-time favorite song:

Biggest Disappointment: The Playwright Passes

I have not written about it on the blog until now but we lost a dear friend this past year, one I have mentioned many times nicknamed here as The Playwright.  He and English Prof are the closest thing our daughter has to godparents and his passing was a major blow for our family.  Since they moved to New England, we have spent more Thanksgivings together than not.  The holiday will never be quite the same for us.

Best Read, First Time Category: The Boys of Dunbar by Alejandro Danois

The tale of the Dunbar Poets of 1981-82 was already one of my favorite sports stories.  Generally hailed as the greatest high school basketball team ever, the squad featured four future NBA players, three of them lottery picks, one an All-Star.  Their All-American was Reggie Williams whom I got to know later as one of Georgetown's all-time legends.  But their real star was a 5-3 point guard named Tyrone "Muggsy" Bogues, the shortest man ever to play in the NBA and one of the most extraordinary athletes of all time.  I was always going to love this book.  Am I biased because of the subject matter?  Undoubtedly.  I would happily read more just like it.

Best Read, Re-Read Category: Hamlet by William Shakespeare

Hamlet is eternal.   Is it truly the greatest work of literature in the English language?  Debatable.  But it's on a short list.  This was my first reading since high school and, as is the true mark of any great work of art, I view it completely differently with greater life experience.  Perhaps I should try again in another quarter-century or so.

Best Comics Find: The Graphic Canon

The Graphic Canon is a wonderful concept beautifully executed.  Russ Kick collected and solicited graphic novel renditions of dozens of world literature classics, ranging from antiquity to the late 20th century.  Volume 1 is the first of three in the original compilation.   Shakespeare, Dante and Cervantes are all in Volume 1, among many others.  Kick wrote thoughtful and informative blurbs to introduce each chapter.  While I am certainly interested in the second and third volumes in the series, I am just as inspired to explore the original works.

Athlete of the Year: Muggsy Bogues

Since reading The Boys of Dunbar, I have also watched Baltimore Boys, an ESPN documentary about the same team.   It was great to be able to see video footage of the team.  For Muggsy, especially, seeing is believing:

Best Family Adventure: Finishing My Master's Degree

Graduate school was, without a doubt, a full family effort.  Yes, it was a lot of work for me but I couldn't have done it without the patience, understanding and support of my wife and daughter.  The benefits, both personal and professional, were tremendous, including two deeply meaningful trips to England I haven't blogged about until now.  The family will see the benefit, too.  With a master's degree, I get a raise in salary.

As an added bonus this year, Decade Squiddies to celebrate the best from the humble beginnings to the humble present:

Biggest Surprise: Roberto Alomar Tweeting Me

The third year I did the A-to-Z Challenge, I featured second basemen.  My A submission was Roberto Alomar.  At the time (zheesh, seven years ago!), it was my practice to post a link on Twitter for each of my posts.  Who should tweet me later on to thank me for the post but Mr. Alomar himself?  @Robbiealomar: a confirmed account!  A Hall of Fame baseball player tweeted me!!!

Biggest Disappointment: The Playwright's Passing

See above.

Best Read: Being Mortal by Atul Gawande

I still recommend this book to any and all who will listen.  Because if we're lucky, we grow old.  Regardless of luck, we're all going to die.  This is true for you and everyone you know and love.  Dr. Gawande's book is the most frank, informative and ultimately hopeful discussion I have encountered about aging and death.  No joke, you need to read it.

Athlete of the Decade: Roberto Alomar

Sure, other athletes have been more successful in the teens: Novak Djokovic, Serena Williams, Mike Trout, Steph Curry, Lebron James, Tom Brady, Michael Phelps.  But Alomar probably didn't even have to get up from the couch to make my day. (see above)

Best Family Adventure: The UK

Canada was a strong contender here.  We love our northern neighbor.  The city of Montreal alone has been my choice in this category twice.  I am certain our Canadian explorations will continue to be an important part of our family life for years to come.  But when I think back on this ten-year stretch in the future, I know that it will be the trips to Britain that stand out.

Some of my favorite people in the world live in England.  I don't mean that in the sense that one might say "some of my best friends are Republicans."  Rather, I don't see some of the people I love most in the world often enough because they live in London.  Through three separate trips within a year's time - courtesy of one family trip and the two as part of my grad program - I was able to be a part of their lives again for an all too short time.  Sharing that part of my life with my wife and daughter was also deeply meaningful.

During our family trip, we also went to Scotland: the highlight of the European trip for both my daughter in me.  Indeed, spending three days in Edinburgh, we all felt we'd just scratched the surface and we're eager to go again.

Oh, and did I mention this lifelong Beatles fan got to visit Liverpool?  Twice!


  1. I was very dismissive of Shakespeare when I was a teenager, mostly because of too many assigned readings of R&J and Macbeth. However, all of that changed when I read Hamlet (I think I was 17?). That's when I understood what the big deal was. And rightly so.

    I have no words for the loss of your friend. I mean, what could I even say that would be meaningful? I don't want to offer that oh so favorite of the GOP: thoughts and prayers.

  2. Thanks. We were just visiting his partner over the weekend. It's so hard to get used to the idea that he's not going to come in from the next room at some point. His presence his still real, though. Sad. This one will take us all some time.