It’s been another exciting year, and we want to thank you all for reading and, if applicable, posting comments on our blog. Once again, we would like to close out the year with some summary remarks about good and bad stuff related to film, music, books, sports, food, and family.
Jim: This year I saw a lot of intense films, including Baby Driver, Dunkirk, and It, which are intense in very different ways. I appreciated the innovation of Baby Driver—an action adventure film meticulously choreographed to an eclectic but somehow seamless musical soundtrack. The WWII film Dunkirk is powerful in its realism, but suffers for lack of character development. And despite its over-the-top frenetic scare scenes, It has a surprisingly human touch. But the film’s highlight is Bill Skarsgard’s performance as Pennywise the Clown. Split is a riveting psychological thriller with a surprise connection with director Shyamalan’s earlier film, Unbreakable. Really looking forward to the upcoming film Glass, which will be the third film of what is now being called the Eastrail 177 Trilogy. But my favorite film experience of the year was Star Wars: The Last Jedi. This installment gives us more superb acting performances (even from Mark Hamill), surprising plot twists, and—in Adam Driver’s Kylo Ren—the most complex and compelling villain in a Hollywood film since Norman Bates.
Amy: My highlight features the small screen and is probably a bit more sentimental than entirely critical. Stranger Things Season Two is likely to be the last series I watch with all the kids and piling in front of the TV with all four of them to cheer on Mike and the gang will long be a long-cherished memory. I do consider Stranger Things a well-produced as well as well-acted show worth the trouble of coordinating everyone’s schedules and staying up past bedtime. Another favorite for sheer entertainment value was Guardians of the Galaxy Volume 2 which we all watched in the theater. On a more serious note, my experience of film was forever changed this year with the avalanche of sexual harassment claims coming out of Hollywood. I am both sickened and frustrated by the accusations of seemingly innumerable women, and this cements my belief that the City of Angels is the most ironically named metropolis in America.
Jim’s Best Musical Experiences of the Year: Lots of good music from old artists and new. I’ve enjoyed U2’s Songs of Experience, which seems more like the second half of a time-released double album (along with Songs of Innocence). “Red Flag Day” is instantly one of my favorite U2 songs. I also, at last, discovered the genius of Taylor Swift, whom I now regard as one of the best songwriters of our time. (More on that later in a separate post.) My son Bailey introduced me to the gritty and soulful Robert Finley, whose Goin’ Platinum sounds like it came right out of the early 70s, thanks to the retro production of Dan Auerbach (of the Black Keys). My son Sam turned me on to Foxygen, a band that can traffic in more musical genres in one song than most bands explore in an entire career. For a stimulating taste of their Rundgren-flavored R&B check this out. And then from the Next Saviors of Classic Rock category, there is Greta Van Fleet. They still are recording their first full-length album, but the early hype seems well deserved. Here’s a nice sample. (And, no, you’re not the first to note the similarity to Led Zeppelin, especially the Plant-like lead vox.) But the very best musical experience of the year was seeing Manchester Orchestra in concert at the Newport Music Hall in Columbus, Ohio with my son Sam who is as big a fan of the band as I am. Finally, I’ve enjoyed seeing our boys improve on their instruments—Bailey on guitar, Sam on drums, and Andrew on piano—even teaching himself some challenging sections of Tchaikovsky’s Nutcracker Suite. Good stuff.
Amy’s Best Food Experiences of the Year: Will you think me completely full of myself if I confess that my favorite meals this year were prepared by yours truly? I tackled Indian samosas this year and have made myself sick on their deliciousness on more than one occasion. Getting a stamp of approval for my homemade tortillas from a native Mexican had me on cloud nine for days. The highlight for eating out this year was my birthday meal which had less to do with the food and more to do with the company. My sister and brother-in-law joined Jim, my folks and me for the holidays for the first time in more than a decade which was food for the soul well worth the wait.
Jim’s Favorite Sports Moments of the Year: Not many major sports highlights for me this year, unfortunately. But seeing the New Orleans Saints’ resurgence has been fun. I believe they have a decent shot to go on a playoff run and make it to the Super Bowl this year. Seeing Bailey and Sam play soccer together on the Eastbrook high school team, which advanced all the way to the state regional finals. Also, seeing my friend Chris Holtmann hired as the Ohio State head basketball coach was exciting. He’s probably going to take them to the top eventually, as hard as that is for me to say as a U-M fan! Chris is a man of moral integrity, and I love seeing that rewarded.
Amy’s Favorite Sports Moments of the Year: Okay, I am clearly getting soft in my old age because my favorite sports memories all involve my kids. Andrew pitched crucial closing innings in his team’s championship game which they won. Bailey’s and Sam’s soccer team won their sectionals tournament for the first time in school history and lost the regionals final in a nail-biting shootout. Maggie’s and Andrew’s team made it to the semi-finals and watching them play together was pure joy.
Jim’s Most Disappointing Sports Moments of the Year: It was fun to be able to celebrate the Cubs’ 2016 World Series championship for an entire year, but alas, all good things in sports must come to an end. But they’ll be back! Lots of other disappointments: It was tough to see the Colts tank this season with the absence of the slowly convalescing Andrew Luck. Same with the Detroit Tigers, who are now rebuilding. My Red Wings are also struggling as well. But the most disappointing single moment this year was watching victory stolen from the Detroit Lions in their game against the Atlanta Falcons because of a ridiculous 10-second “run-off” rule that I expect will be changed or qualified after this season.
Amy’s Most Painful Sports Moment of the Year: Watching Tom Brady and the New England Patriots win the Super Bowl…again. Seriously think the NFL should consider term limits, unless your last name is Manning.
Good and Bad Reads of the Year:
Jim: In addition to the usual countless scholarly articles I read his year, I found time to read more classics and a few contemporary works. I did a lot of reading of major works by the ancient Roman thinkers Cicero and Seneca, the latter of whom is my favorite Stoic author. Seneca’s essay “On Providence” is one of my very favorite works of philosophy. Both insightful and therapeutic, I recommend it to anyone who struggles in this world—that is, of course, everyone. I enjoyed reading two classic works from the early 20th century—Erich Maria Remarque’s classic All Quiet on the Western Front and Booker T. Washington’s inspiring Up From Slavery. I also really enjoyed What is Marriage? by Girgis, Anderson and George, a powerful defense of traditional marriage. Currently, I’m reading Edwin Friedman’s A Failure of Nerve, which is profound and insightful regarding so many aspects of contemporary American culture.
Amy: This year I fell seriously short of my usual reading habits but did enjoy several of those I did manage to finish. I read several of the Anne of Green Gables books. Delightful. I read The Case for Christ aloud to Andrew and while it was a discipline at times, seeing him make connections in sermons and other contexts was priceless. I find most contemporary fiction deeply disappointing and was pleasantly surprised by a friend-recommended read, The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry. Just in time for January book club meeting, I finished The Path Between the Seas, David McCullough’s tome on the building of the Panama Canal which was fascinating, inspiring and tragic all rolled into one hefty work.
Best 2017 Family Memories:
Amy: Once again, we welcomed family and friends as my niece lived with us for J-Term this year and a friend of Bailey’s from Bolivia joined us for the semester. They weren’t the only “guests” we welcomed this year. In May, Penelope, our beloved standard poodle, gave birth to nine, yes nine, puppies. Watching them come into the world, grow and find new homes was a source of seemingly ceaseless wonder and joy, especially the new homes part. But, without a doubt the most profound family memory I experienced this year was the passing of Jim’s mom. I arrived just in time to hold her hand and read the psalms to her before being the sole witness of her passing into eternity. She was one of my favorite people and I felt humbled and honored to be present at her death.
Jim: A major highlight of the year for me was learning to ride a unicycle. I’ve always wanted to do it and decided this was the year. While this wasn’t really a “family” thing, the learning process did involve Amy and the kids in various ways. Watching their reactions—from concern about my safety to cautious encouragement to awe at my mastery of the danged thing was amusing. Other highlights: our family trips to Tennessee, watching Bailey and Sam play together on the Eastbrook soccer team, watching Andrew win a 3rd consecutive baseball championship (this time on his 12U team), and seeing Bailey crowned as Eastbrook homecoming king, which was more humorous than anything else.
Best Kids’ Quotes of the Year
As usual, the best quotes from our kids this year come mainly from our poet-comedian-dreamer daughter, Maggie (13).
- Maggie: “I think most people spend most of their time figuring out ways to save time.”
- Andrew: (After listening to the Lil Yachty song “I spy”): “If that is what music is coming to, kill me.”
- Maggie: (After I told her repeatedly to clean her room): “It’s not messy; it’s just organized in a way that you can’t comprehend.”
- Maggie: “I hate being so funny.”
New Year’s Resolutions:
Amy: I am resolved to cherish this last year of having Bailey home full time and celebrate this new stage of life for him without getting too sappy or embarrassingly sentimental. Good luck with that, Amy. I also am looking toward the end of our years of homeschooling in a year and half and starting to consider what I want to be when I grow up.
Jim: My resolutions this year are to be more regular with posts on Wisdom and Folly and to purge some of our possessions, especially by trimming our book collection. We’re not pack-rats, but simplicity is a virtue.
Happy 2018 everyone!