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.


Film Experiences

Jim:  Most of the new films I saw this year were good. The biggest loser of the year was Joker. Yes, Joaquin Phoenix’s acting is superb, but the script is poor, the violence is gratuitously graphic, and the plot has more holes than a cheese grater. Ugh. But a big thumbs up for the film Us, which is freaky scary but somehow fun at the same time. From here on out, I’ll be seeing every Jordan Peele film as a matter of principle. I enjoyed Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker and consider it an appropriate finish to the nine-part saga that took four decades to complete. But the best film I saw this year was Rian Johnson’s Knives Out, a superbly written who-dunnit which isn’t impeded by its star-studded cast. A close runner-up was Once Upon a Time in Hollywood. Who can build a comical, poignant, and redemptive story around a despondent fading Hollywood star and the Manson murders in the ill-fated summer of 1969? Quentin Tarantino, that’s who.

Amy:  Several of my best movie experiences were with Jim this year so we have quite a bit of overlap with Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker, though I wasn’t as keen on it as Jim, Knives Out, which I thought was great, and Once Upon a Time in Hollywood. I did have some small screen experiences that were quite good: Unbelievable, Great British Baking Show, The Good Place, and Monk were a few of the shows I enjoyed this year.


Food and Music

Amy’s Best Food Experiences of the Year:  Like most exceptionally delightful food experiences, the one that tops my list this year was a combination of delicious food, wonderful company, and conversation enjoyed in an ideal setting. Jim, some of the kids, and I were invited to join a graduating student and his family for dinner at Bluebeard in downtown Indianapolis. The food was simple but quirky in its creativity (roasted cauliflower and mint!) but one of my favorite parts of the evening was that rather than ordering individual meals, we got a few bites of everything. It was a night we won’t soon forget shared with people dear to our hearts. A close second was a breakfast shared with Sam while visiting him in Bolivia. A good croissant with homemade jam is hard to beat but throw in a son you haven’t seen in months who can’t wait to share with you all of his adventures and it’s a meal to remember.

Jim’s Best Musical Experiences of the Year:  This was an exciting year for new album releases by many of my favorite artists, including the Black Keys’ solid but not ground-breaking Let’s Rock, the Avett Brothers’ sometimes preachy Closer Than Together, and Taylor Swift’s Lover, which I reviewed on this blog a few months back. My favorite album of the year was Vampire Weekend’s Father of the Bride. It is a rich, thoughtful, and memorable record—perhaps the band’s best, which is saying a lot. But the highlight of the year for me was seeing Bob Dylan in concert at Ball State’s Emens Auditorium in November. This is the sixth time I’ve seen Dylan in concert, and I continue to be amazed at his endless rearrangements and reinventions of his songs. Incredible.



Jim’s Favorite Sports Moments of the Year:  I loved watching Drew Brees break two NFL records in the same game two weeks ago, as he eclipsed the all-time career touchdown passing mark and had the all-time highest completion percentage for a single game (29 for 30!) in the New Orleans Saints’ defeat of the Indianapolis Colts on Monday Night Football. Incredible.

Amy’s Favorite Sports Moments of the Year:  I watched Andrew play a lot of basketball this past winter which is always a treat, especially when there is fresh popcorn involved. He also treated me to Buffalo Wild Wings to watch the NFL playoffs which was a pleasure.

Jim’s Most Disappointing Sports Moments of the Year:  The New Orleans Saints were robbed of an NFC championship and Super Bowl appearance due to a blown pass interference call against the Los Angeles Rams last January (which did result in a league rule change, which I guess counts for something). This makes for the second consecutive year in which the Saints have finished their season in heartbreak fashion, as the 2017-18 season ended with the “Minneapolis Miracle.” Ugh. The retirement of Colts quarterback Andrew Luck was another disappointment, but hope was renewed by the emergence of Jacoby Brissett as a solid starting quarterback, only to be dashed by a rash of injuries to several Colts offensive players. Oh well.

Amy’s Most Painful Sports Moment of the Year: Seeing Joe Maddon dismissed as the Cubs manager was a knife to the heart. Andrew Luck’s retirement has seen my interest in the Colts fall to zero, having grandfathered him after Peyton.


Good Reads

Jim:  As usual, most of my reading this year pertained either to classes I was teaching or publication projects I was working on. Regarding the latter, I read dozens of journal articles and book chapters on divine and human agency, in preparation for a book chapter I’ve nearly finished on George Berkeley’s view on the subject. As for new reads for classes, I enjoyed Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s Ethics, a work that is especially intriguing because it was written during the final years of Bonhoeffer’s life when he was wrestling with one of the most excruciating of moral issues, namely how to respond to a tyrannical national leader. Knowing that Bonhoeffer ultimately took part in a plot to kill the Nazi Führer casts a fascinating light on his discussion of the legitimacy of civil disobedience. My favorite book among those I read this year was James Waller’s Becoming Evil: How Ordinary People Commit Genocide and Mass Killing—a work that is as insightful as it is disturbing regarding human nature.

Amy:  My reading this year is clearly delineated into two eras: pre-working and post. In the first category are some of my favorite reads in quite some time: The Great Divorce by C.S. Lewis,  Life on the Mississippi by Mark Twain, The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt, The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry by Rachel Joyce and Rules of Civility by Amor Towles and several by P. D. Wodehouse. The post-working era is dominated by books on sales and business which I would never have predicted enjoying but which have taught me a great deal, both professionally and personally. A few favorites have been: Sell or Be Sold and Be Obsessed or Be Average by Grant Cardone, The Entitlement Cure by John Townsend, and The Top Ten Mistakes Leaders Make by Hans Finzel. I also listened to the entire Harry Potter series while driving for work and loved every magic filled minute of it despite the fact that J. K. Rowling uses the word “sniggered” entirely too often.


Best 2019 Family Memories

Jim:  Like his older brother, Bailey, did a few years ago, our son Sam spent the Spring semester living in La Paz, Bolivia attending Highlands International School. It was fun to witness his personal development through this experience and especially thrilling to hear him speak Spanish fluently upon his return in June. Then this past Fall semester we hosted a friend that Sam made during his time in Bolivia. It was fun knowing that the experience here in the U.S. for Sam’s friend would be as life-changing as was Sam’s experience in Bolivia.

Amy: I got to visit Sam in Bolivia this spring which was a thrill. Being gone so much for work this fall has honestly made any time with the kids feel like a gift, except when I’m tired and they are being annoying—ha ha. Our Christmas felt special with Bailey home from college and watching the kids connect with one another more as adults than kids; their shared humor, conflicting opinions, and overall weather-beaten affection is something to behold.


Best Kids’ Quotes of the Year

As usual, most of the best quotes of the year come from Maggie:

  • Maggie: “What’s the difference between a Presbyterian and a normal person?”
  • Bailey: “I could spice up cardboard and make it taste better than anything you’ve ever eaten.”
  • Maggie: “If you don’t do anything wrong, then you won’t get caught doing it.”
  • Maggie (Regarding my giving her some spending money): “Dad, you’re like a young male grandma.”
  • Maggie (after my sugar-holic daughter hypocritically lectured me about the sugar content in a food product I was buying): “I don’t obey the rules, but I know the rules.”


New Year’s Resolutions

Amy:  To continue to introduce more discipline into my time management. To figure out how to keep up my love of reading and cooking despite working full-time. To be ambitious in my Bible reading plan for this year.

Jim:  To pray more, to fast more, and to remember that this world and our time in it is, as Kanye West puts it, a “God dream.”


Happy 2020 everyone!

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