Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Scooter & Hum’s Top Five Books of the Year 2016: 10th Anniversary Edition


Can it really have been 10 years since the Scooties debuted? While that milestone took place during a year that didn’t allow me to read nearly as many books as usual (pesky grad school), I can say that the works I did read this year were universally great. In fact, I labored longer over the ranking (and omissions) this year than perhaps any other edition. I hope for more of the same in 2017.

Without further ado …


#1: “Ready Player One,” by Ernest Cline

What I Say Now:

Nothing reeled me in like this book in 2016. Over an eight-day period, I immersed myself completely into the text like I was logging into the OASIS. This book is a not-too-far-off depiction of the rise of virtual reality in a world destroyed by environmental degradation and lack of wealth distribution. I wouldn’t consider the writing to be great, but this is a tremendous story that lends itself easily to a (upcoming) movie.

Passages to Remember:

"I forgot that my avatar was sitting in Halladay's bedroom and that, in reality, I was sitting in my hideout, huddled near the electric heater, tapping at the empty air in front of me, entering commands on an imaginary keyboard. All of the intervening layers slipped away, and I lost myself in the game within the game."

"It was the dawn of a new era, one where most of the human race now spent all of their free time inside a videogame."

"The collected knowledge, art, and amusements of all human civilization were there, waiting for me. But gaining access to all of that information turned out to be something of a mixed blessing. Because that was when I found out the truth."

"It occurred to me then that for the first time in as long as I could remember, I had absolutely no desire to log back into the OASIS."


#2: “All the King’s Men,” by Robert Penn Warren

What I Say Now:

A brilliant work that faded slightly at the end, this was an eminently quotable beach read that dragged me away for hours. Halfway through, I came to the realization that this was not a book about Boss Stark, the presumptive protagonist; this was a story about Jack Burden and the circular arc of his life in the pursuit of morality and self-realization.

Passages to Remember:

"The end of man is knowledge, but there is one thing he can't know. He can't know whether knowledge will save him or kill him. He will be killed, all right, but he can't know whether he is killed because of the knowledge which he has got or because of the knowledge which he hasn't got and which if he had it, would save him. There's the cold in your stomach, but you open the envelope, you have to open the envelope, for the end of man is to know."

"A diamond ain't a thing in the world but a piece of dirt that got awful hot."

"Graft is what he calls it when the fellows do it who don't know which fork to use."

"Were we happy tonight because we were happy or because once, a long time back, we had been happy? Was our happiness tonight like the light of the moon, which does not come from the moon, for the moon is cold and has no light of its own, but is reflected light from far away?"

"But something happens, or almost always happens, to the gaiety, the brilliance, the communion. You remember the individual words from the old language you spoke together, but you have forgotten the grammar. You remember the steps of the dance, but the music isn't playing anymore. So there you are."


#3. “1 Dead in Attic,” by Chris Rose

What I Say Now:

I read this one near the 10th anniversary of Hurricane Katrina rewriting lives in New Orleans and surrounding areas. While ostensibly a story of a natural disaster and its ripple effects, I found it to be an emotional tale of a staggeringly talented writer who lost pieces of who he was, piece by piece, in passing floodwaters. This collection of columns comprised a very public recitation of someone descending into depression, and while the conclusion to Rose’s story has yet to be written, it unquestionably cost him an unspeakable amount to share these stories.

Passages to Remember:

"The prevailing sentiment among such folks was that New Orleans--bless her charming, offbeat little powdered-sugar heart--was not worth fixing."

"You can regulate our smoking and regulate our music and--hard to believe this day has come--you can even regulate our go-cups.
"But you cannot regulate soul. You cannot legislate funk. And you cannot pass an ordinance that makes us ordinary.
"The best things about us will never change."

"We dance even if there's no radio. We drink at funerals. We talk too much and laugh too loud and live too large, and frankly, we're suspicious of others who don't."

"Fly the flag. Be in that number. This is our battle to win or lose. Hopefully, of one mind and one message. That we are still here. And that we are still New Orleans."

"What doesn't drown burns."

"To the doctors, therapists, and counselors who have tried so valiantly to put me back together again.
"And to New Orleans, my sweet, bedeviling mistress; cunning, baffling, powerful.
"Never surrender."


#4. “Tar Baby,” by Toni Morrison

What I Say Now:

There are few writers I respect more than Morrison, and her prose is perhaps at its strongest in this one. The pacing and tempo are bolstered by a fragmentary style that is truly admirable. I had an initial qualm about the lack of context at the start, but it dawned on me that that trait helped spin me into the story. Morrison positions setting as a character, drawing out the characteristics with sensual, evocative, impactful descriptors.

Passages to Remember:

"He knew backs, studied them because backs told all ... A back where the pain of every canker, every toothache, every missed train home, empty mailbox, closed bus depot, do-not-disturb and this-seat-taken sign since God made water came to rest."

"Let go a woman who was not only a woman but a sound, all the music he had ever wanted to play, a world and a way of being in it? Let that go? 'I can't,' he said. 'I can't.'"

"For if he loved and lost this woman whose sleeping face was the limit his eyes could safely behold and whose wakened face threw him into confusion, he would surely lose the world."

"You loved my son, didn't you?" It was more a statement than a question.
"I love anything small that needs it," said Ondine.


#5. “Leftovers,” by Richard Perrota

What I Say Now:

This one was a very close translation to the terrific HBO series, but this was still a worthwhile read. Using solid, utilitarian writing, this book is powered by strength of story and the undeniable draw of ambiguity. The ending refuses to provide an easy out in a world that is so confusing and absent of easy outs. It asks us to consider what happens to the human psyche when nothing is guaranteed or certain anymore. The talk of the comfort level being day to day persists, but when that is really tested and demonstrated—when the idea of the future is rendered moot so definitively, how do personal interaction and societal mores change?

Passages to Remember:

"We all basically live in a world that we define by the people who have disappeared."

"They were never close—never socialized or exchanged more than the usual parental small talk—but there was always that secret between them, the memory of a summer night, the awareness of a road not taken."

"What he was going to miss was her smile in the morning, and the hopeful feeling she gave him, the conviction that fun was still possible, that you were more than the sum of what had been taken from you. It was hard to think about giving that up, especially when there was nothing waiting to replace it."


Honorable Mention (in 10 words or less):

“The Prince,” by Niccolo Machiavelli: Undeniable classic peppered with quotes that’ve stood test of time.
“The Day the World Came to Town,” by Jim DeFede. Fascinating read of small Newfoundland town harboring diverted 9/11 passengers.
“End of Watch,” by Stephen King. Finale of detective trilogy is unmemorable—unheard of for King.
“Apocalypticon,” by Clayton Smith: Sneaky, comedic apocalypse story falls short despite emotional, redemptive ending.
“Unhappenings,” by Edward Aubrey. Complexity compromises fascinating premise, though absorbing and fast-paced.
“Girl in the Spider’s Web,” by David Lagercrantz: Severely limited book unsuccessfully continues late Stieg Larsson’s Millennium Series.

Friday, January 06, 2017

Limerick Friday #419: The J-Train Stops In The Playoffs, Plus “Rogue One” Was All That And More


Wasn’t sure this day would return
To see a ‘Fins playoff berth earned
Partly due to mirrors and smoke
And a lot to a coach who’s not a joke
Nothing to lose, so let’s go out and burn

Stirred the echoes for me
Created a true sight to see
Reynolds Coliseum in new glory
A tribute to the Wolfpack story
NC State did it right, golly gee

The D has been less than poor
So we’re gonna have to score and score
Pittsburgh will load up vs. J-Train
So the spirals are gonna have to rain
No pressure, gunslinger Matt Moore

The Pack might land on the bubble
But the ACC just might be in trouble
Dennis Smith Jr. is the outright truth
On the rim he may break a tooth
Messed around and got a triple-double

“Rogue One” had an epic scope
And a storyline kinda dope
Fit well in the Star Wars canon
A masterpiece of film plannin’
Left us all with lots of “new hope”




Friday, December 30, 2016

Limerick Friday #418: Princess Leia Becomes One With The Force, Plus A New Hope Spurs The Dolphins



Small-boy crushes she gave
Especially when she was Jabba’s slave
She gave “Star Wars” it’s heart
And stole mine from the start
A princess who never needed to be saved

Finished the year right
Never gave up the fight
Pounded the Cheats
Knocked Vandy on its cleats
The Pack flexed promising might

This year had a bad soul
So many stars passed whole
Plus we elected a turd
And allowed racist voices to be heard
2016, you were a real asshole

Now the salt air beckons once more
The surf pounds with a welcome roar
The Outer Banks, a healing place
Before a new year we face
Dust off and gear up for more

I promise it’s not fake news
The Dolphins really didn’t lose
Made the playoffs, indeed
Nine out of ten did the deed
Can the J-Train light a postseason fuse?

Last time


Friday, December 23, 2016

Limerick Friday #417: “Westworld” Pays Off A Riveting First Season, Plus “Walking Dead” Sputters Into Midseason Hiatus



A riveting finale indeed
Planting a Season 2 seed
“Westworld” with frantic action
A good show gaining traction
Just what TV does need

A predicted tank almost worth a chuckle
To the luckiest-ever motherfuckle
He’s got a shamrock in his arse
While I’m headed straight to bars
Quit the league or just sigh and re-buckle?

After a promising start
“The Night Of” fell apart
Potential uncashed
High hopes dashed
A good show got a little too smart

Nailed down victory #9
The ‘Fins put it all on the line
Hammered the Jets again
For a must-have win
Could this be a playoffs sign?

Another throwaway epi this week
More depictions of a new world, bleak
“The Walking Dead” has been uneven at best
I’m waiting to be more impressed
Coherence and momentum I seek



Friday, December 02, 2016

Limerick Friday #416: A Satisfying, Argyle-Tinted Pummeling In Kenan, Plus The Scooters Try To Disenchant A Shamrock



 After mind-blowing defeats
The Pack again pounded the Cheats
Doeren mighta saved his job
And quieted a gathering mob
But can he put butts in seats?

A dictator suffered his last blow
Boy did that f’er last, though
Took him long enough, say the people
As they spit on a grave near a steeple
Good riddance to Fidel Castro

Six straight for the flying ‘Fins
Games have me on needles and pins
Football kinda fun once more
Intensity lies in store
As we chase the playoffs and wins

Instead of “Oh no, not again”
The Fins finding ways to win
While Doeren hears more boos
As State finds ways to lose
Here comes a Miami bandwagon
 
A 9-3 regular season
The playoffs are here for a reason
Didn’t want to face the commish
A horseshoe he often does polish
Let’s hope the Scooters top teasin’



Friday, November 18, 2016

Limerick Friday #415: “The Walking Dead” Continues Depression March, Plus “Westworld” Finds Its Stride


Negan appeared a little soon
To bring Alexandria to ruin
Abraham made use of a shovel
While Rick continued to grovel
Hope Maggie’s safe on a babymoon

The Scooters limping to the end
Can we not break and just bend?
Injuries are taking a toll
Suspension is slowing our roll
And the Vikes forgot how to defend

Reality set in with a thump
On democracy we just took a dump
To racists he gave a voice
The uneducated made a choice
May four years pass quickly under Trump

Credit for staying the course
When things were getting worse
A win the Pack had to get
To have any bowl hopes yet
And delay a Doeren-State divorce

“Westworld” has shot on the scene
Violence under a landscape serene
Where AI meets fantasy
And augmented reality
Is this part of the future obscene?



Friday, October 28, 2016

Limerick Friday #414: Benched Back Salvages ‘Fins Season, Plus TWD Goes All In On Reboot


A team making a gain
Can the Dolphins sustain?
Gase finally finding his footing
The proof is in the pudding
All aboard the J-Train

They once called him the King
Had panache and a ferocious swing
A stylish raker
A helluva drink maker
Arnold Palmer, your praise golfers sing

Poor acting was all it took
To kinda ruin a great book
“11.22.63” wasn’t terrible
The story made it bearable
Stephen King deserved a better look

Players dropping like flies
But this fantasy coach really tries
I’ve moved to 6-1
But health, I need a ton
Before another great season dies

The uneven “Walking Dead”
That every fan did dread
The time had long come
To lose key cast and then some
But didn’t need to see that part of Glenn’s head