It's time for "Best of 2016" lists and each year my family collects and debates them -- the best and worst movies, books, TV shows and songs. Because 2016 was the year everyone lost faith in experts, we decided to do our own homegrown list.
Our list mimics a game my wife, Barbara, played with our kids every day after school. She would ask them for a "best and worst" event of the day and then a number, 1 through 10, for the day. We'll dispense with the number here and just go some of the best and worst. You will notice that not everything on our list was new in 2016; the rules were to name the best book you read during the year or best movie you saw and so on.
Mark: Johnny Got His Gun, by Dalton Trumbo -- no more war
Emily: A Little Life - This will give you a “book hangover” caused by emotional turmoil, but it’s worth it. Just like a real hangover.
Peter: Thinking With History, by Carl E. Schorske. Surprisingly personal update to one of my favorite books, Fin De Siecle Vienna.
Sarah: A Little Life. Dad, we have been telling you to read this for a year.
Barb: The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt. I so enjoyed her character Boris. He is still with me.
Gary: The Orphan Master’s Son. Easy to pick a Pulitzer winner but the story is unrelenting and the treatment of propaganda in North Korea is amazing.
Mark: Tattoos on the Heart, by Fr. Greg Boyle - too too much
Emily: Swamplandia - (Unfinished) Dad says that an leaving a book unfinished is the worst thing that can happen to a story, but I think he would understand with this one.
Peter: Burmese Days, by George Orwell.
Sarah: The Story of My Teeth. Won LA Times Fiction book of the year. It was worse than one of those dreams where all your teeth fall out, which I have often.
Gary: Tinkers. Honestly, I don’t remember one thing about this book.
Mark: "The Duellists" -- bang bang bang bang owwww
Emily: "Hunt for the Wilderpeople" -- Uplifting, and funny at all of the right moments. Watch if you’re thinking of living off the grid once the Trump presidency begins.
Peter: "Spotlight," for being the first Boston-set movie not to have overblown accents. Also no Mark Wahlberg (pry related).
Sarah: "Hunt for the Wilderpeople" Bittersweet. Adorable. I laughed, I cried. Peter says that's me on a regular day though.
Gary: "Arrival." Amy Adams and the heptapods make it great. Everyone else is just scenery.
Barb: "Arrival." I have become fluent in logograms. I now communicate only in smokey circles and swirls.
Mark: "Barry Lyndon" -- one of the most excruciatingly boring experiences of my life, but I did it
Emily: "To Catch a Thief" -- the only thief here is Alfred Hitchcock, who stole two hours of my life.
Peter: "Hail Caesar" mostly cause I'm a big Cohen Brothers fan and it was a let-down.
Sarah: "Unfriended" -- an HBO movie horror flick shot entirely as a screenshot of a Skype call between high school students. By worst movie I mean best movie ever.
Gary: "Jason Bourne" -- okay maybe not the worst but my expectations were high and Matt Damon (man crush) seemed to lack passion.
Best TV Show
Emily: "Last Week Tonight with John Oliver" -- Hopefully I can still stream HBO online once Trump gets his tiny hands on the nuclear launch codes. John Oliver is the only person who will get us through this.
Mark: "Seinfeld" -- 17 years and running badowdowdowdop
Peter: Once again HGTV's "Fixer Upper"
Sarah: "Twin Peaks" -- I finally watched the 1991 cult classic. I'm kind of sad I went 27 years without it, but I'd also like to watch it all over again. Luckily Showtime is coming out with a continuation of the series in 2017.
Gary: "Veep" -- a ridiculous and vulgar show but less so than the real thing.
Barb: "Veep" -- such effective and funny swears.
Worst TV Show
Emily: "Scandal" -- but I think it’s supposed to be bad, right?
Mark: CNN -- Emmy for best fictional television program
Peter: Tie between "Gilmore Girls" and "Gossip Girl." I lived in Connecticut during high school ("Gilmore Girls"), now live on the Upper East Side ("Gossip Girl"), and very soon will retire to Florida ("Golden Girls"), so I'm forcing myself to watch these terrible shows to celebrate my past, present and future.
Sarah: "Divorce" -- None of the characters deserve anything resembling happiness. They're all horrible.
Gary: "Walking Dead" because Glenn should be dead.
Mark: "2100" by Run the Jewels - an emotional song composed by my favorite Maoist and cat-Dude rap duo
Emily: Beyonce’s music video for "Lemonade."
Peter: "Lonely Lover" by Xenia Rubinos. Runner up: Boyish by Hippo Campus.
Gary: "Heaven Help Us All" -- Steve Wonder's 1970 single. For obvious reasons.
Barb: Nathaniel Rateliff's Wasting Time (so soothing)
Mark: Any of the nerdcore "rap" garbage from "Hamilton"
Emily: "Stressed Out" by Twenty One Pilots - The first two lines of the song are: “I wish I found some better sounds no one’s ever heard, I wish I had a better voice that sang some better words.” Me too.
Peter: That a capella song on "Life of Pablo" where Kanye just lists people's complaints about him.
Sarah: I can't believe that people are still listening to the song "Shut Up and Dance."
Gary: Please stop Vampire Weekend from screeching out another album.
Best Live Event
Mark: Ghost concert -- the aroma of Monster Energy drink and vape pen juice was overwhelming but the show was great
Emily: Bruce Springsteen’s four-hour marathon of a concert with Mom and Dad. Amazing.
Peter: My third prog-era Genesis tribute band concert. Bryan Ferry was a close second.
Sarah: Beyonce at Foxborough.
Gary: (Hunter) Mountain Jam because the guy without a shirt in front of us who was under the influence of something other than the music decided to roll like a log down the rocky hillside. He regretted it.
Barb: Bruce Springsteen concert on September 14 at Gillette Stadium, Foxborough, Massachusetts (what amazing energy he has - fun show.)
Worst Live Event
Mark: Modest Mouse concert -- we missed the first half of the set list and I saw MM humiliated by some trash band called "Brand New"
Emily: Any clown-related entertainment I may have seen this year.
Peter: Steely Dan concert where two guys who had body odor and knew the lyrics to every song sat in front of me.
Sarah: A David Bowie tribute show in which the audience was made to take a moment of silence to celebrate the fact that Bowie could now return to his home planet. It got weirder from there. I had to leave.
Gary: Any Yankee game in the first two-thirds of the season because ZZZZZZZ.
Mark: Sushi Kuu with Uncle Jeff in Hong Kong -- despite the raw egg soup medley
Emily: Fish and chips and English beer with Dad in London.
Peter: Taiyaki aka bean paste filled big animal cracker waffles from Japan. I used to eat it cause it was in "Kangaroo Notebook" by Abe Kobo, now I just eat it cause I'm a fat guy.
Sarah: I love food.
Gary: Ezekiel bread with cashew butter and banana. My father would have asked, "Are you eating that bird food again?"
Barb: Lobster roll at The Lobster Shack in Cape Elizabeth, Maine. (A summer treasure.)
Mark: Duchess Long Dog and Big Double D Burger - tastes good, feels bad in my tumtum
Emily: What’s the deal with airplane food?
Peter: One time I let a cuban sandwich get cold, not good. Reheat them!
Sarah: All of it.
Gary: Partially Popped Popcorn. I hate you. I love you. I hate you. I love you...
Mark: Hong Kong Tennis Expedition - the game of kings in the city of angels
Emily: ParisPhoto -- Everything I love in one place.
Peter: Eating tour across Japan.
Sarah: One week in Hudson in August where every day was Saturday and we biked to an ostrich farm and swam in a waterfall.
Gary: South Carolina cycling camp during the July Heat Dome. Oh, the chafing.
Mark: Trip home from Bells Pond after Thanksgiving - sadness we all had to leave
Emily: Flight delay causing me to stay alone in a scary airport hotel in Dallas.
Peter: Business trips to Newark.
Sarah: Anything involving movement along the Northeast corridor of the U.S. Curse you Amtrak. and American Airlines.
Gary: Shop-Rite “to get a few things.”
Best News Event or Story
Mark: Vice article about grown man crying in a Lego store - obvious reasons
Emily: The grandma who would type polite questions into Google, because she thought she was talking to a real person. "Please translate these roman numerals mcmxcviii thank you."
Peter: When Maoist conspiracy rapper Killer Mike endorsed Sanders and Clinton responded by announcing that 50cent and Jadakiss endorsed her.
Gary: Year of Mercy declared by Pope Francis.
Worst News Event or Story
Mark: NYT gives Hil an 85% chance of victory on Nov. 8 - liberal media bias blinded us from the possibility of a fascist future
Emily: The new leader of the free world, Goldilocks. But at least the real Goldilocks could stick to her opinions.
Peter: Alleged death of Fidel Castro.
Sarah: Trump. And the death of truth and reason and the American experiment.
Gary: Lots of people ignored Pope Francis.
Mark: Current Affairs - funny, laugh, nice, good...these are all words I learned while reading CA
Emily: The New Yorker, for introducing me to the poem “On Friendship” by Hagit Grossman
Peter: Harper's I guess. There's a paywall so I don't read it much. I mostly read magazines I disagree with to get angry on purpose.
Sarah: The New Yorker, mostly for giving voice to Andy Borowitz who has led me in laughter through this election.
Gary: The Economist. Daily Espresso app makes you look smart.
Mark: The New Yorker - tome of elitist limo liberal lies delivered right to our doorstep every week, sometimes it's okay
Emily: All magazines other than the New Yorker
Peter: The New Yorker, aka Acela Pravda. At least New York magazine has pictures of food. Preview for 2017: The Atlantic, under the guidance of nominally literate Jeffery Goldberg.
Gary: National Enquirer for paying to kill a story on a Donald Trump affair with a Playboy Bunny.
Mark: The Reel Cinema Podcast - Ben is my friend, he has a podcast
Emily: Wait Wait Don’t Tell Me!
Peter: Giant Beastcast, which I like because its supposed to be about video games but they just wind up talking about New York metro area traffic and public transport problems.
Gary: The Forward. Yo, yo, yo. Lance Armstrong is a jackass but does good interviews. Check out the one with Gary Vaynerchuk.
Emily: Anything that analyzes TV show plots. I think that the script writers aren’t even thinking this deeply about the show. Too far.
Mark: Any of the 1,000s of podcasts about how mature and intellectual the latest AMC or HBO show is because it has nudity - too much
Peter: Gilmore Guys.
Gary: All the boring corporate podcasts trying to mimic Serial.
Mark: Lemon juicer - I no longer have to spoon the lemon seeds from the mug when mom makes arugula salad, yee haw
Peter: Uniqlo undershirts.
Sarah: My Paderno spiralizer. Zucchini noodles (zoodles, corgetti spaghetti) to trick myself into believing that I'm eating delicious pasta when in fact I am eating mediocre squash shaped like pasta.
Gary: My R5 Cervelo bike. It is the bicycle equivalent of an Astin Martin. Unfortunately, its engine -- me -- is a four-cylinder.
Barb: Nespresso Delonghi cappuccino maker (takes coffee drinking up a few notches.)
Mark: Apple Watch - looks bad, symbol of oppression, useful in identifying people I don't want to talk to
Emily: I never liked those electric knives used for slicing loaves of bread.
Peter: *Sagely* Nuclear Weapons.
Sarah: The latest Uber app update. Fails every time.
Gary: Donald Trump's thumbs.
That's our take on 2016. As my brother Ken says, "discuss!"