Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Studicus Selects 2013

Once, long ago, I posted on the internet as Studicus, an in-joke nickname related to a skit from high school. When I first started blogging, I called my year-end entries "Studicus Selects." The tradition has continued since 2005...although I skipped 2006 for some unknown reason.

You'll find past entries here (scroll down for the 2013 picks):

Studicus Selects 2012
Studicus Selects 2011
Studicus Selects 2010
Studicus Selects 2009
Studicus Selects 2008
Studicus Selects 2007
Studicus Selects 2005

Best sports game mode from 2011. That's not a misprint. I'm talking about NBA 2K12's My Player mode. I'm obsessed with this game. I bought it at Gamestop (while also purchasing other past-their-sell-by-date games like Assassin's Creed II and Red Dead Redemption) during a buy 2, get 1 free deal and dove right in. I'm a 6'11" power forward for the Phoenix Suns. Kobe and the Lakers bounced us out of the playoffs last season. We shall write a different script for this season, Mr. Bryant. The Lakers shall burn.

Strangest gift given, meat category. Meat cards! After my brother-in-law sponsored a llama last year, I had to strike back somehow. My solution? A beef jerky "business card." I got one for each of my brothers-in-law. One thought it was the best Christmas present ever; the other simply thought it was weird. If you're ever looking for a unique gift sure to leave your loved ones scratching their heads or extolling your gift-giving prowess, go buy them Meat Cards! For years, we will have a family joke when someone opens a gift: "And it's made entirely of beef jerky!"

Newest Crimsonstreak book, sequel category. We went Crimsonstreaking again with II Crimsonstreak! Last year marked the release of my very first novel; this year marked the release of my very first sequel. The book ends with a cliffhanger--a decision that readers either love or loathe--and I'm hard at work on prepping III Crimsonstreak for submission so everyone knows what happened to Chris Fairborne and his family. I think it may include some time travel. Actually, I'm 100% sure that it does. I'll send it off to Candlemark & Gleam very soon.

Best television show, program I never thought I'd watch category. Breaking Bad is a show I never expected to like. Seriously, Tim Whatley is a cancer-stricken science teacher who decides to make meth to earn money for cancer treatments? No way. Not interested. Sounds completely absurd. People said it was great. I ignored them. They said the finale was incredible. My Twitter feed exploded during the "Ozymandias" and "Felina" episodes. I became intrigued and started watching it on Netflix. I shotgunned the series in about three weeks, and had to get "creative" to find the second half of the final season. What an incredible show...from the acting to the production and writing. I loved how Walter White and Jesse Pinkman couldn't get away from each other. I thought the final scene was absolutely incredible:

Fondest farewell, Little Muchacho. Our KIA Sportage was a fantastic little car. We miss the SUV affectionately known as "Little Muchacho." I eulogized him in this Facebook post from July:
Today we honor the 2000 KIA Sportage my wife and I called Little Muchacho, a car that "just kept running" past the 200,000-mile mark. He began his life driven primarily by my father-in-law on sales trips around the state before spending the last half of his life as Anne's trusty sidekick.

I had just spent the day with him Sunday, when we stopped for breakfast at Hardee's before catching a morning matinee of "Man of Steel." I filled his tank and put air in his tires, and all seemed to be fine. Last night, his engine stopped for good.

Anne promised to replace him with another KIA, so we bought a KIA Forte last night.

It's hard to say goodbye, but here's to you, Little Muchacho:

Biggest acquisition, family category. And so my wife and I welcomed a new car into the family. With Little Muchacho's passing came the arrival of this KIA Forte. Anne was reluctant to warm up to him, but she's given him the nickname "the Blue Bandit," so we're getting there. The car gets awesome mileage and offers a smooth ride along with some cool extras like Bluetooth phone connectivity and steering wheel buttons that allow you to adjust the radio volume.

Favorite Twitter non-trend, Colts category. I'm a dedicated Colts fan, and I've been a huge supporter of Griff Whalen since the team signed him last season. He was sidelined by a foot injury and missed last year. In this year's campaign, he's been moved to the practice squad and elevated to the main roster approximately 8,000 times. But while some fans call him "Griffer," I prefer to call him GRIFFNATION. Will you join GRIFFNATION? Will you?

Most bittersweet homecoming, NFL legend category. After Peyton Manning's release, some Colts fans suddenly became lifelong Denver Broncos fans. That's fine for them. That's not how I roll. Look, I loved Peyton. Only the most stubborn fans can fail to see how there was no real way for the team to keep him and put together a well-rounded football team. It was a move they had to make given questions about his health and (the really big factor) his gigantic contract. That doesn't mean I love Peyton any less; he's a legend and I want him to win.

His return to Indianapolis couldn't possibly live up to the hype, could it? A Sunday Night Football game at Lucas Oil Stadium against his old team and the guy who replaced him? What we ended up getting was a classic, with Peyton and the Broncos jumping out to a quick lead and the Colts systematically dismantling Denver to build a huge lead in the second half. Then, in classic Peyton Manning fashion, he nearly pulled off an improbable comeback.

For me, the best moment was just before the game, when the Colts showed a video tribute to the beloved QB and the crowd gave him the most heartfelt cheer anyone's ever gotten in all of sports. Peyton got a little misty eyed; I did, too. It's one of those things I'll never forget. It was the fans' way of saying, "We'll never forget you, No. 18. We love you and we didn't get to say goodbye."

A perfect moment.

Best post about a scuttled video game studio. LucasArts had to shut down this year. I grew up playing countless LucasArts games and gave the fallen studio my own little love letter. It was one of my most popular posts of the year. Star Wars games by LucasArts dominated almost every era of video gaming for me, from the NES to the Xbox 360 and all my consoles in between.

Best movie I liked that no one else did, superhero category. I adored Man of Steel. I didn't get the common reaction that the movie was "cold and lifeless" or that it's "the movie where Superman murders everyone." People commonly said things like "that's not MY Superman," and I think they missed the point. It's not your Superman, and it's not supposed to be. This was a portrait of a man who isolated himself from society and didn't know how to handle his own gifts. While he wore the S-shield, he's not Superman yet. I'll give the filmmakers credit because they've given Superman room to grow and to learn from his mistakes (we're hoping DC/Warner Bros. can do the same thing, but...you know there's this website). I also thought Russell Crowe, Diane Lane, and Kevin Costner were terrific in supporting roles. Maybe it was my Midwestern upbringing talking here, but I felt a connection to Clark and his childhood in Kansas.

Best internet/Twitter freakout, movie casting category. Ben Affleck is the next Batman. People called him Batfleck. I called him Batben. Batfleck won. But the real winners were those of us who watched the internet burn and contributed things like this:

Most inept attempt at a homegrown internet meme, presidential surfing category. My wife volunteers at the Benjamin Harrison Home in Indianapolis. Harrison is the only U.S. president from Indiana. One day, she blessed us with the following gem on Facebook about her experience with a group of touring students:
Had a group of 2nd graders at Harrison Home today. When I took questions at the end of the tour, one little girl raised her hand.

"You said Mr. Harrison passed away after being sick. What does that mean? Where did he go?"

I have to admit, I was at a loss for words. How do you answer this question in an appropriate manner to a public school kid without bringing your personal beliefs into it or scaring the kid. My saving grace was one of her classmates, who chimed in with this tid bit:

"When my grandpa 'passed away' my Mom said he went to visit my Uncle in Colorado, but I didn't believe her, cause my Grandpa didn't like my Uncle Rob. I think he's in Hawaii surfing and I'm going to visit him there someday."

Then he turns to me, "That's probably where Mr Harrison is, too, right?"

Thank God, Roger came in right then and said that bus was there, otherwise I might have found myself saying, "Yes, Mr. Harrison is catching waves and rays in Hawaii." lol!
And, lo, did Benjamin Harrison surf:

I usually play this post for laughs, but I also have some serious business to attend to.

I gained a sister-in-law. It was a lovely August wedding in which she married my brother-in-law. I think this photo says it all:

Last, but certainly not least, I want to remember a few people we lost this year.

Grandpa Riley. My grandfather passed away in March. It was unexpected. My grandparents live in Tennessee and I don't see them but a few times a year. Still, they were an important part of my life and were always interested in what my brother and I were doing. I remember Grandpa visited us when I was playing in a fall baseball league and I had the best game of my life at the plate. He also witnessed the infamous game in which I, a first baseman, got called for a balk in a nebulous umpire ruling that remains incomprehensible to this day. Going down to Tennessee to say goodbye was hard for the whole family, especially after we heard his back surgery had gone okay. Gene Riley was many things to all of us, but we'll remember him best for being a great man who was the rock of our entire family. I don't think his passing really hit until we went down to the annual family reunion in July and he wasn't there. Find his obituary here.

Jim Ladd. Jim Ladd was a good friend of my grandfather, and it seems fitting that they both passed in the same year. For several years, I had a paper route in Williamsburg, Indiana, and Jim was one of my customers. We had a fun little rivalry while I was a paperboy. At one time, Jim raised exotic animals. I had my brother call him and tell him that the FBI was investigating him for improper licensing, and Jim bought it hook, line, and sinker until I came to his door in a trench coat. He knew he'd been had. Things escalated from there, with Jim posting my face all over the local post office for "impersonating a paperboy" (he claimed he never saw me deliver a single newspaper). I also once made a mockup of the front page of the local paper (the Palladium-Item) in which the cover story was about an animal scam Jim was running. When I delivered the paper to him, he was talking to a couple people about some emus, and I remember his eyes got big as dinner plates when he saw the fake headline and quickly tucked the paper away. Find his obituary here.

Mike Ryan. If two polar opposites ever coached baseball together, it would be my father and Mike Ryan. My father was quiet, reserved, and never yelled at his players. Mike was fiery, opinionated, and always yelled at his players! He coached me for several years in youth league, where he uncorked a few gems. When a player would recoil at an incoming baseball, Mike would yell, "You're ten times bigger than that ball! That ball can't hurt you!" That maxim remained true until Mike got belted in the side by a foul ball. As he walked around in pain, my father reminded him that he's "ten times bigger than that ball," and Mike wasn't very appreciative of the gesture. I also quote him often when something goes wrong. "Ain't nobody hurt, ain't nobody hurt," Mike would say when someone made an error or a mistake. Find his obituary here.

These three men helped guide and shape me throughout my life, and I will certainly miss them.

On that note...here's to a great 2014.