Sunday, January 1, 2017

Studicus Selects 2016

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 2016 picks):

Studicus Selects 2015
Studicus Selects 2014
Studicus Selects 2013
Studicus Selects 2012
Studicus Selects 2011
Studicus Selects 2010
Studicus Selects 2009
Studicus Selects 2008
Studicus Selects 2007
Studicus Selects 2005

Worst pre-ordering fail, large online retailer category. I usually don't pre-order items because you'll usually find plenty of stock at the store (NES Classic excepted, of course). However, I was super excited about the arrival of Star Wars: The Force Awakens on Blu-ray and pre-ordered it from Target.

While friends who ordered their copies from Amazon got them on the day of release, I waited and waited for my precious copy to arrive. It finally came Saturday morning. The Blu-ray was released on the previous Tuesday.

I'm still ticked off.

Best sports adventure, brothers category. Proving that 2015 was a giving year, my brother and I went to see the Cincinnati Reds on Star Wars Night. This was a 2015 Christmas gift from our mother that combined our two favorite things: baseball and Star Wars.

It was notable for a couple reasons: 1) the Reds won (they didn't do that a lot last year) and 2) there were fireworks set to John Williams' iconic Star Wars themes. It was awesome.

Best sports adventure, father-in-law category. Before 2016, I'd never been to Hinkle Fieldhouse. That all changed when my father-in-law took me to a game in February. The Bulldogs lost to Xavier, but it was a great experience. We even got t-shirts because it was a "whiteout!"

Best spoof, Star Wars: The Force Awakens category. I'm so happy Adam Driver was game for this. He reprised his role as Kylo Ren for a fake episode of Undercover Boss. First Order Force wielder/patricide enthusiast Kylo Ren portrayed "Matt the Technician" for a truly memorable sketch with some laugh-out-loud moments.

"I'm 90% sure Matt is Kylo Ren."

"After the rain comes the rainbow. Sorry I killed your son."

"Kylo Ren is a punk b****. That guy looks like he weighs 30 pounds soaking wet underneath that little black dress."

Best get out of the house experiences, couples category. My wife and I haven't always had the opportunity to get out that much, but we did a couple really cool things this year. In July, we saw Beauty & The Beast at Beef & Boards. One of our first big dates in college was going to see the traveling version of the show in Indianapolis. Anne loves Beauty & The Beast!

She's also always wanted to see the stage version of The Lion King. We traveled to Dayton to see that. I bought Anne the soundtrack, which came with a free Lion King tote bag.

Most touching welcome back ceremony, great uncle category. My Uncle Morrie took part in an honor flight to Washington, D.C. Anne and I traveled to Columbus, Ohio, to welcome him and a large group of veterans back from their trip.

These men fought for their country and we're losing more of them by the day. I think they got the heroes' welcome they deserved, no matter which war they fought in.

I should probably also mention that we used the trip as an excuse to "do history" and stopped by the Rutherford B. Hayes home in Fremont, Ohio. By the way, there's no quick way to get between Fremont and Columbus.

Saddest passing, family category. We said goodbye to a good man this year when my brother's father-in-law, Mark Gardner, passed away in December. Mark was an incredibly smart man with a great sense of humor.

We loved him even though he was a Kentucky Wildcats and Pittsburgh Steelers fan. He always had a kind word and a quip whenever I saw him, and he never failed to ask how Anne and I were doing--and he genuinely cared about the answer.

We mourn the loss, but we know Mark's in a better place free of pain and watching over his family from above.

Remarkable comeback, knee surgery category. My father has had bad knees for as long as I can remember, and things had gotten worse over the last few years to the point where he's been in pain and unable to enjoy much.

He had knee replacement surgery in June at Ortho Indy, and it's been great for him. A few months out of surgery now, he's walking about 90 minutes a day--which is a big deal because Dad loves to walk and hasn't been able to because of his knee.

The picture above was taken in July a little more than a month after surgery. He wasn't walking long distances then, but he was way ahead of schedule.

Best 100th anniversary event, Indianapolis 500 category. The Greatest Spectacle in Racing reached a milestone in 2016 with the 100th running of the race. I've worked a fair amount of Indy 500 Sundays because I work in TV news, but this year I got to go to the race as a spectator.

My father-in-law, mother-in-law, brother-in-law, and sister-in-law went to the 100th running, which was full of pageantry and great racing. In the end, rookie Alexander Rossi took the checkered flag, somehow defying the laws that say you have to have fuel to win the race.

Best Star Wars movie, non-episode category. For the first time, Disney-Lucasfilm released a Star Wars movie that wasn't part of the episodic Skywalker story. In essence, Rogue One is the very first Star Wars spinoff movie.

While it's tied to the events of the first Star Wars (that's 1977's A New Hope), it's not the continuation of a story and there won't be a sequel (or you could consider A New Hope to be the sequel).

I absolutely loved it. We got to meet some great characters, even though they weren't, um, long for the Star Wars world. And we got to see Peter Cushing again!

I thought Grand Moff Tarkin would make an appearance, but I never expected he'd have such a large role.

Best anniversary, marriage category. Incredibly, my wife and I have been married for 10 years. I really can't believe it!

While we didn't do anything remarkable for the anniversary itself, we had plenty of adventures throughout the year. I also put together a video of our wedding day (October 7, 2006).

Best short nonfiction novella, 40 Years of G-Man category. To my utter astonishment, my brother turned 40 year this year. I wanted to do something special to mark the occasion, so I came up with 40 different memories and wrote a short book with 40 chapters, one for each year.

Our mother even retroactively grounded us after learning about a couple of those memories, including Home Plate Collision, a baseball-themed game we used to play where a runner came in from third base and tried to knock over the catcher. My brother knocked me out cold one time when we were playing this. Not coincidentally, that was the last time we ever played Home Plate Collision.

David Pumpkins. I mean, Davis. S. Pumpkins. To be honest, I don't even know what this is. I've watched it a bunch of times, and I have no idea why it's so funny.

Is it Tom Hanks' dedication to the bit? The dancing skeletons and absurd music? I'm not sure.

Any questions?

Best movie experience, awesome AMC chairs category. I think AMC's new chairs have spoiled me forever. These things tilt back and let you put your feet up. They make every other theater chair seem inconvenient and uncomfortable.

I went to an IMAX movie with my brother-in-law, and we didn't have these chairs. That theater-going experience was definitely inferior as a result.

Movie Year in Review: The Good. I won't get into extensive reviews for any movies, but I'd like to mention some of my favorites. Rogue One, Captain America: Civil War, Moana, Deadpool, Dr. Strange, Sully, Star Trek Beyond, Zootopia, Finding Dory, and The Jungle Book are a few that stick out.

Marvel had a solid year with its latest entries. Dr. Strange was visually very cool and Civil War gave us some of the best superhero moments in the history of superhero movies. Deadpool was so right yet so wrong on so many levels.

I think it was a strong year for animated movies, with Finding Dory, Zootopia, and Moana giving us some of Disney's best. While Star Trek's 50th anniversary passed with little fanfare (thanks CBS/Paramount, losers) Star Trek Beyond was a terrific return to the big screen for the franchise.

Movie Year in Review: The Bad. While Marvel continued its roll, DC continued to try to find its footing. Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice was a mess. I couldn't wait for the credits to roll on that one. It was long, ponderous, and made zero sense. I will say the Ultimate Edition significantly improved the film, but that cut was nearly three hours and that's still way too long.

Suicide Squad appears on several "worst movies of the year" lists, and while I thought the villain was weak, I liked the characters enough to keep it off my worst list.

I didn't care for Warcraft. I don't remember much of the movie, and it was just kind of bland. Independence Day: Resurgence tried to mimic The Force Awakens template by mixing new characters with old ones but forgot to give us new, likable characters. Jeff Goldblum was Goldblumming hard, and it still didn't help. Brent Spiner appeared to be the only person in that movie who was having any fun at all.

I didn't like the BFG, which tried very hard but was sort of all over the place. The Ghostbusters reboot committed the ultimate sin of being simply mediocre. A couple of good laughs in there, but the story was thin and things never clicked. Too many distracting cameos as well, although the leads were likable.

Gods of Egypt was awful in that so-bad-it's-good way.

Writing Year in Review. I finished a few drafts of novels this year and polished a few manuscripts in need of some love. I had a short story published in an anthology and had some more nibbles on some of my novels.

I also attended the Midwest Writers Workshop for the first time since 2010. I pitched projects to agents and met some new writing friends. Toward the end of the year, I took a writing break, but I'll get back to it at the start of 2017.

Best impulse buy, Microsoft Surface category. When Anne's phone broke, we went to the AT&T store to get her a new one. At the time, they were running a deal on the Microsoft Surface, so I went ahead and bought one.

It's a great tool that's replaced my clunky (but faithful) laptop computer. I'm writing this blog entry on the Surface, in fact. It's compact and you can use it as a tablet or traditional laptop. The model I bought, the Surface 3, doesn't have the power of a Surface Pro, but it definitely gets the job done.

I found the keyboard cover--sold separately for an absurd $120--on clearance for $30 at Best Buy.

Unexpected purchase, replacement oven category. Appliances eventually break down. Nothing lasts forever.

Our gas oven bit the dust in July, and we replaced it with an electric stove. It's so shiny!