It has been another eventful year for the Spiegel family. After 27 years in Grant County, Indiana, we relocated to southern Indiana, where Jim assumed the position of Head of School at Lighthouse Christian Academy in Bloomington. We love our new community there as well as the town of Bedford, where we live. As usual we are closing out the year with summary remarks about good and bad stuff related to film, music, books, sports, food, and family.
Jim: It was good to get back to movie theaters after a year of Covid-induced cinema shutdowns. I enjoyed No Time to Die, Daniel Craig’s worthy swansong as the eternal James Bond character. And Free Guy was a lot of fun. Ryan Reynolds is tremendous in this creative adventure that blurs the lines between reality and digital fantasy. The long-anticipated Beatles’ Get Back documentary was wonderful to experience. For those who don’t know, this is Peter Jackson’s extensive re-editing of the original footage made of the Beatles during their writing, rehearsals, and recording in January 1969, which culminated in their famous EMI rooftop performance. Jackson casts this chapter of Beatles history in a refreshingly positive light, as he captures the Beatles’ wit and playfulness in a way that was missed by the original Let it Be film. It is six hours of pure joy for Beatles fans. As for disappointments, the most notable of these was Oslo, August 31st. Brilliantly directed by Norwegian filmmaker Joachim Trier, it is the most dark and depressing film I’ve seen since Darren Aronofsky’s Requiem for a Dream. Trier’s storytelling about a relapsing heroin addict is excruciatingly believable. I kept waiting for some light to dawn in the main character’s life. I’m still waiting.
Amy: Not many in-theater experiences to reflect on this year, but I do agree with Jim that Free Guy was a highlight. The Netflix series Maid was a well-acted look into domestic abuse and the razor’s edge woman trying to escape their abusers. Impressively, it is a well-balanced depiction of how broken many aspects of “the system” are without villainizing everyone who is involved in the system. If you are looking for a quirky, dark but touching series, The Cleaner is a good choice. If you are a true-crime addict like myself I highly recommend Heist, another Netflix series and This is a Robbery.
Food and Music
Amy’s Best Food Experiences of the Year: For food experiences, I’ll lump together all the lunches and dinners we have enjoyed as a family since moving to the Bloomington area. We have really enjoyed the variety of choices, everything from Indian and Thai to Turkish and Traditional American. The food has been great but also the joy of being together as a family, which with three of the kids living away from home, is priceless.
Jim’s Best Musical Experiences of the Year: I discovered and journeyed through the discography of the moody Canadian band Metric, whose musical style has ranged from new wave to dance pop to synth rock. I also enjoyed doing a deep dive into the music of Sia, whose addictive pop driven by her powerful, quirky vocals, feels like a guilty pleasure. It started with her Everyday is Christmas album (easily the most catchy, if utterly secular, Christmas album I’ve ever heard), and from there I traveled back to her early days in the alternative band Zero 7. She’s had a fascinating musical evolution. My favorite albums of the year were Flyte’s This is Really Going to Hurt, the Bleachers’ Take the Sadness out of Saturday Night, and Lord Huron’s incredible Long Lost—my favorite album since Cage the Elephant’s Melophobia. But the musical highlight of the year was seeing Bob Dylan in concert for the 7th time, with my daughter Maggie at Indiana University in November.
Jim’s Favorite Sports Moments of the Year: The Atlanta Braves are World Series champions! Oh yeah, baby.
Amy’s Favorite Sports Moments of the Year: Jim, Andrew and I have created a weekly family NFL pool. Winner picks our Sunday lunch spot and the loser mows the yard or does the dishes for the week. I consider having beaten Jim and Andrew three times a lifetime achievement.
Jim’s Most Disappointing Sports Moments of the Year: The Chicago Cubs let go of Javier Baez, Chris Bryant and Anthony Rizzo! What were they thinking? Combined with the previous dismissal of Jon Lester and Kyle Schwarber, this ridiculous fire sale cut the heart out of the team. Still, the Chicago Cubs will forever be the 2016 World Series champs. At least the Cubs’ front office can’t take that away from us.
Amy’s Most Painful Sports Moment of the Year: Bryzzo, say it isn’t so!
Jim: In 2021 I devoted more of my reading time to classic literature, which was a welcome break from virtually non-stop technical scholarly reading for the previous 30+ years. A definite highlight was Walt Whitman’s Leaves of Grass. I also greatly enjoyed reading the science fiction of H.G. Wells, including The Invisible Man, The Time Machine, and The War of the Worlds, all of which are replete with interesting lessons about human nature and the ethics of technology. Recently I began reading Ovid’s Metamorphoses. I’ve purchased four different translations and so far am most pleased with the rhymed version translated by Addison, Dryden, Pope, et al.
Amy: Reading The Rare Jewel of Christian Contentment by Jeremiah Burroughs had the unique effect of a balm to my battered spirits but also continually challenged my earthly perspective and called me to a deeper faith. I believe every committed Christian should read this book. Live Not by Lies by Rod Dreher helped me to articulate my feelings regarding our government’s approach to Covid and inspired me to hold the line of my convictions. Greenlights by Matthew McConaughey was as insightful as it was entertaining, and sometimes weird. I also discovered mystery writer Anthony Horowitz and only regret I have now read all of his books.
Best 2021 Family Memories
Jim: My favorite memory of the year, and one of the best of my life, was our son Bailey’s engagement to Grace Bennett a few weeks ago. The Bennetts and our family conspired for surprise get-together at the Bennetts after Bailey’s proposal. Fortunately, Grace said yes!
Amy: We have a little nook off our living room which I have spent a few afternoons curled up in listening to the kids joke around in the kitchen together. Also Austen and I have enjoyed many a delightful walk on the trail behind the new house, contemplating the universe and stalking squirrels.
Best Kids’ Quotes of the Year
- Maggie (about her brothers preparing steaks for dinner): “You’ve gotta love the mutilated bodies of tortured animals.”
- Bailey: “Before the Internet people were stupid.”
New Year’s Resolutions
Amy: To beat Jim in our fitness challenge, read more, and figure out what I want to be when I grow up.
Jim: To continue to pray every morning on my knees.
Happy 2022 everyone!