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.
Best Film Experiences:
Jim: This was a big year in film, and I was fortunate to catch a lot of good ones, both at the theater and on DVD. A highlight in the latter category was watching Richard Linklater’s amazing Boyhood twice in as many days. All of the superlatives critics have laid on this one—“masterpiece,” “extraordinary,” “historic cinematic achievement”—are accurate. If you haven’t seen it, check it out. Another highlight was the new Star Wars film. With The Force Awakens, J. J. Abrams has saved the Star Wars legacy. He managed to achieve the same organic feel, character-centric storytelling, and campy wit as the originals, all while advancing a narrative that will hopefully keep us captivated for years, if not decades, to come. I also enjoyed Inside Out, which deserves accolades for its unique premise as well as its fine execution. Another major highlight was M. Night Shyamalan’s The Visit, which proved that, after a few stinkers, he can still make a great thriller.
Amy: It feels strange to say I am having a hard time remembering good movie experiences this year. While I loved The Visit as a film, the audience Bailey and I shared the theater with nearly ruined it for me. I wasn’t blown away by Star Wars. I mostly enjoyed things on the smaller screen. The Man in the High Castle for serious-minded alternate reality and Tommy and Tuppence for pure fun. There were some good PBS series this summer and I am holding my breath in hopes that Downton Abbey and Sherlock won’t disappoint this winter.
Jim’s Best Musical Experiences of the Year: The year started slowly but finished strong in terms of discoveries of good artists or new albums from artists I was already into. In the latter category, I finally got Manchester Orchestra’s Cope, which is even more addictive than their albums usually are for me, which is saying a lot. Also, after many recommendations from friends, I picked up an Arctic Monkeys album—Whatever People Say I Am, That’s What I’m Not. I was not disappointed. And I’ve been getting into the new albums by Alabama Shakes (Sound and Color) and Twenty One Pilots (Blurryface), as well as several albums by Cage the Elephant, which is my most exciting musical discovery in years. A virtue that all of these bands have in common is that they (or, anyway, their main songwriters) have something significant to say. That’s refreshing in an era of predominantly mindless musical fluff.
Amy’s Best Food Experiences of the Year: This year most of my food experiences have been in my own kitchen, the remodeling of which was a major highlight. I have done some experimenting, catered a friend’s wedding and decompressed with some serious baking. We also hosted our first Thanksgiving meal at home and though my rolls were undercooked and I was not impressed with the addition of cinnamon to my usually yummy pecan pie, filling our table with beloved faces and laughter was quite satisfying.
Jim’s Favorite Sports Moments of the Year: I am sincerely hoping that my favorite sports moment of 2015 is yet to come. This would be Michigan State defeating Alabama in the Citrus Bowl tonight, which is also the NCAA football playoff semi-final. We’ll see. Go Green, roll over the Tide! But if that doesn’t happen, then I would say that watching the Cubs make it all the way to the National League championship series—just a few wins shy of the World Series and thus breaking the “goat curse”—was the 2015 sports highlight for me.
Amy’s Favorite Sports Moments of the Year: Hopefully, Jim will forgive me for this one, but my favorite moment was randomly choosing to represent the Spartans while Jim cheered on the Wolverines in the Michigan intrastate rivalry game and then watching their unbelievable last second win. I felt slightly guilty cheering in his stunned face, but since he is rooting for MSU against Alabama, he must have gotten over it.
Jim’s Most Disappointing Sports Moments of the Year: I’m not even going to comment on that tragicomic finish in the UM/MSU game… This NFL season has been chock full of disappointments, as none of my three favorite teams—the Colts, Lions, and Saints—will make it to the playoffs. (Yes, three favorite teams—Amy calls me a promiscuous fan, but I own it proudly). And, regarding baseball, it was pretty deflating to see the Cubs bow out to the New York Mets in the NLCS. However, this made it all the sweeter to see the Kansas City Royals beat them in the World Series.
Amy’s Most Disappointing Sports Moment of the Year: Every year, I tell myself that a true Cubs fan knows they are cursed, has no hope, but cheers for them anyway. Still, hope will find a way to creep in and whisper sweet nothings in my ear only to give way to disappointment…again. This year hurt.
Good and Bad Reads of the Year:
Jim: As usual, my reading this year was almost exclusively non-fiction, and primarily scholarly stuff, especially having to do with ethics and philosophy of religion. Robert Reilly’s Making Gay Okay: How Rationalizing Homosexual Behavior is Changing Everything (Ignatius, 2014) is one of the best books dealing with ethics, not just sexual issues, that I’ve read in years. Reilly takes a natural law approach to the issue, and the book is replete with bold observations and profound insights. I highly recommend this book to anyone interested in the LGBT issue, whatever one’s perspective might be. My most disappointing read of the year was Thomas Jay Oord’s The Uncontrolling Love of God: An Open and Relational Account of Providence (InterVarsity, 2015). This book has been touted by some as a step forward for open theism. It is anything but that, as the author’s thesis (that God is essentially limited both in terms of knowledge and power) is problematic in itself. But he also commits glaring mistakes along the way in making his argument (if one can call it that). Steer clear of this one, folks.
Amy: So many good reads this year it’s hard to know where to start. The Wright Brothers by David McCullough. The Sisters Brothers by Patrick Dewitt. The Good Earth by Pearl Buck. Ghost Boy by Martin Pistorius. The Devil in the White City by Erik Larson. Half Broke Horses by Jeannette Walls. Most of the things that I read and didn’t like, I wasn’t really expecting to like in first place. Some disappointing mysteries and less than stellar fiction, but overall this has been a great year of reading for me. Check out my Good Reads page or Book Blurbs here on Wisdom and Folly to see more reviews.
Best 2015 Family Memories:
Amy: The kids and I had some good outings this year. Maggie, Andrew and I visited Dayton, Ohio and took in some Wright Brothers sites as well as Wright Patterson Air Force Museum. We also went to the Dunes in Michigan in the Fall and had a great day climbing in the sand and watching Penny bark at the waves. Teaching Bailey to drive has been memorable, to say the least. Having my niece Rachel living close by as a freshman at Taylor has been pure joy.
Jim: I had lots of good sports (baseball, soccer, and basketball) memories with the boys. And it was fun to see Maggie become an obsessive Beatles fan. Growing to love our new family member—our standard poodle named Penelope Lane Spiegel (or “Penny Lane,” for short—get it?), whom we adopted a little over a year ago—would probably top the list for 2015. And hiking the Smokies with Amy, the kids and my in-laws was another family highlight.
Best Kids’ Quotes of the Year
As usual, most of the best quotes from our kids this year come from our poet-comedian-dreamer daughter, Maggie (11). But Andrew (9) got off a few good ones as well:
- Maggie: “If I were God, the world wouldn’t be nearly so complicated.”
- Andrew: “Make-up is for people who can’t accept the truth about how they look.”
- Maggie: “If animals could talk, the world would have a lot more good stories.”
- Maggie: “This is my favorite hair on my entire head.”
- Andrew: “Everything that has to do with tomatoes is bad.”
- Maggie: “A poor man’s wisdom is a rich man’s folly…I’m not sure that that means, but it sound right.”
- Maggie: “Punching someone in the face is on my bucket list. If I have to, I’ll punch the nurse at my death bed.”
New Year’s Resolutions:
Amy: Not to sweat the small stuff and to keep showing up every day. Maggie and I are embarking on a Bible reading plan this year. Getting through five months with Bailey a continent away (as he attends school in La Paz, Bolivia this Spring) feels like quite the hill to climb so I suppose learning to entrust my kids ever further into God’s plan for their future should be among my loftier goals.
Jim: Last year my resolution was to read half as much as my wife did this year, which would have meant reading 25 books. I didn’t quite pull that off. Okay, I didn’t even come close. So next year, since it is 2016, I resolve to read at least 16% as many books as Amy. I think I can pull that off, then perhaps add a percentage point each year. By the time the goal becomes unrealistic again, I’ll be able to blame my failure on senility. Yeah, that’s the ticket.
Happy 2016 everyone!
Amy has signaled some interest, but I’d be more than happy if you two both read a manuscript for my first novel, Produce the Body.
In fact, tell Amy I cut out the parts I thought she would find offensive (not because I thought she, in particular, would be offended but because they didn’t really serve the story much :))
And to round out my trilogy of comments, here is an excerpt from a query letter I’m still working on before I send off for an agent:
“The story opens with the conviction and sentence of Spartan Card, an African American man charged with the murder of his Caucasian wife, Eileen. While his experiences in prison play a role throughout, the heart of the novel takes place twenty-three years later anchored by three interweaving storylines. First, and through the help of idealistic attorney Daniel McCoy, Spartan is provided a potential avenue to his freedom by way of a habeas corpus petition (Latin for “produce the body”). While Dan and his local team work with Spartan on that objective, Josiah Rooney, Eileen’s father and local business magnate, quietly, yet ruthlessly, toils behind-the-scenes to ensure Spartan’s petition is granted; his ultimate aim one of vengeance once Spartan is out on the streets. While Spartan himself is unaware of Josiah’s intention during all this, he also hopes for vengeance of his own. Only Spartan’s involves solving the very crime he was imprisoned for and bringing that unaccounted man (or woman) to justice. The novel also explores racial themes and proper legal procedure, but does so in the context of a good old fashioned whodunit combined with various elements of conspiracy, blind revenge, and a ticking clock.”