It has been another eventful year. Jim continued his work as Head of School at Lighthouse Christian Academy in Bloomington, and Amy continued her role as an agent with State Farm Insurance. Now we are looking forward to the next chapter of our lives, as we will be moving to Hillsdale, Michigan where Jim starts work at Hillsdale College next week. 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: 2022 was not a particularly good year for me, as regards film. I didn’t have the time to take in as many movies as I normally do. And most of the films I watched were oldies, from the Silver Chalice (Paul Newman’s film debut) to several classic Dirty Harry and James Bond films. Among the new releases I did see, Amsterdam was noteworthy. Well-acted with a strong script and an interesting, if somewhat predictable, plotline. This year we watched the conclusion to Better Call Saul, the Breaking Bad prequel. While never matching the quality of Breaking Bad (what TV series possibly could?), Better Call Saul is nonetheless compelling, if only for the tremendous performances by Bob Odenkirk and Rhea Seehorn. I also enjoyed The Thief, His Wife, and the Canoe, a fascinating four-episode drama about a man who faked his own death in order for insurance money to avoid bankruptcy. Based on a true story, it is a powerful cautionary tale about the tragic outcome that may follow if you refuse to face the just consequences of your actions. If the series had a subtitle, it could be “How to Make a Bad Situation Far Worse.”
Amy: Like Jim, this wasn’t the year of the film for me, not because I didn’t have time but because I have lost patience with Hollywood’s agenda pushing. Most of my watching hours were spent with crime series, true and otherwise. You may call it dark voyeurism, but nothing thrills me more than watching the good guys and gals track down the bad ones. The Puppet Master, Untold: The Girlfriend Who Never Existed, Girl in the Picture, Bad Vegan, Heist and The Tinder Swindler were some of my favorites. The Unbearable Weight of Massive Talent with Nicholas Cage was a surprising gem, though somewhat profane. A few disappointments were An Enemy of the People (starring Steve McQueen, just in case we are tempted to think Hollywood went woke in this century), The Glass Onion: A Knives Out Mystery (a victim of poor casting despite the treasure trove of talented actors and lack of plot creativity, though the visuals were superb) and Persuasion (I have been anticipating this film version of my favorite Jane Austen novel in “half agony, half hope.” It wasn’t the anachronistic casting that bothered me but the complete reinvention of the characters, especially my beloved Anne Elliot, which lowered it’s worth in my eyes. If you want to make a film about a cynical, alcoholic spinster, fine; just refrain from hijacking the heroine of someone else’s creation and go make your own.)
Food and Music
Amy’s Best Food Experiences of the Year: This year I, along with my senses of taste and smell, fell victim to Covid . . . twice. Therefore, food became a lot more about the company I was sharing it with than the meal itself, which wasn’t such a bad thing. Meals shared with new friends in Bloomington and old friends passing through. A meal graciously brought to my dad’s hospital room and eaten with my sister and mom while we rejoiced in my dad’s recovery from life-threatening blood clots. And, of course, any meal we got to eat as a whole family since those are rare these days. I did conquer the art of croissant making this year, which I am quite proud of. There is nothing more heavenly than layer upon layer of flaky butteriness.
Jim’s Best Musical Experiences of the Year: In terms of listening experiences, my 2022 highlights were Weezer and Sinatra. Since the early 2000s I had not followed Weezer’s releases very closely. But last Spring their 2021 OK Human album caught my eye—a fully orchestrated collection of songs that is now my favorite Weezer album. The band immediately followed this with Van Weezer, which hails their metal heroes, and in 2022 a series of four 7-song EPs entitled SZNZ, each named for, and released on the first day of, one of the four seasons. That’s nearly 50 songs over the past two years from these guys. And it’s all wonderful stuff. In a completely different stylistic vein, I have greatly enjoyed Frank Sinatra’s Watertown, a concept album released in 1970. The only album in which Sinatra sang over pre-recorded instrumental tracks, it has a very different feel than all of his other material, and in a good way. There is a certain intimacy in the songs that you don’t hear in his other work. Upon its release, the album was met with tepid reviews. But a half century later, Watertown is now widely regarded as one of Sinatra’s best. If nothing else, I recommend you check out my favorite cut from the album, “I Would Be In Love Anyway.” Beautiful.
Jim’s Favorite Sports Moments of the Year: Watching Sam emerge as starting goal keeper on the Taylor University soccer team. He had some spectacular moments in goal this year, and he was recently named as a captain on next year’s team. That’s my boy.
Amy’s Favorite Sports Moments of the Year: Watching Sam play is almost equal parts thrill and terror for me, so I don’t know that I can say I enjoy it until it’s over. With Andrew away during most of the NFL season, I became Jim’s companion for Sunday football watching and thoroughly enjoyed it. We predicted winners and losers each week and I even managed to come out on top a few times. I also loved watching my Tennessee Volunteers return to their former glory. Go Vols!
Jim’s Most Disappointing Sports Moments of the Year: The Atlanta Braves getting bounced by the Phillies in the National League Division Series playoffs. I really don’t like how this new playoff system effectively punishes the best teams with long layoffs before their first playoff games. Unlike many other sports, in baseball such layoffs disrupt players’ rhythms, especially hitters, and therefore hurt rather than help teams. Oh well. Hopefully, MLB officials will recognize this and revise the playoff format.
Amy’s Most Painful Sports Moment of the Year: Falling victim repeatedly to renewed hopes that the Colts really did deserve my allegiance as well as witnessing the demise of Tom Brady. I have never liked the guy, on or off the field, but it’s just sad. As one of the greats, you’ve gotta know when to walk away.
Jim: I highly recommend Carl Trueman’s The Rise and Triumph of the Modern Self, an astute study of the historico-philosophical developments which led to the sexual revolution and ultimately our current confused cultural condition regarding sexuality. Rod Dreher was right in calling this one of the most important books of the decade. I also appreciated Pete Hegseth’s Battle for the American Mind, which I used for an LCA faculty book study this Fall. Hegseth traces the history of the progressivist takeover of American public education and issues a compelling call to the growing classical Christian education movement. But the best read of the year for me was a work of fiction: Alexander Dumas’ Count of Monte Cristo. At 1250 pages, reading this book takes commitment, but it is well-worth the journey in terms of the moral and even theological insights that Dumas’s rich, multi-layered narrative provides.
Amy: My reading slowed down quite a bit this year but I managed to read some great ones: Man’s Search for Meaning by Viktor Frankl, Lonesome Dove by Larry McMurtry, The Midnight Library by Matt Haig, A Kim Jong-II Production by Paul Fischer, Intellectuals by Paul Johnson, Ordinary Men by Christopher Browning, and Soundtracks by Jon Acuff. Some were heavier than others but all insightful and well worth the time.
Best 2022 Family Memories
Jim: Although it wasn’t a family memory as such, the highlight of the year for me was when we sent Sam and Maggie down to Bolivia to spend six days with Bailey and Andrew the week before Christmas. A cross-cultural experience for all of our kids to remember, for sure. And they sent us some spectacular photos.
Amy: The birth of Austen’s puppies was definitely the highlight for me. Life truly is a miracle and our dogs are a focal point of love we all share. Car rides with the kids and walks with Jim and the dogs. Watching Bailey launch himself into the world after graduating from college.
New Year’s Resolutions
Amy: Getting off the couch and getting more active. Spend more time reading and less streaming.
Jim: To post more consistently on Wisdom & Folly!
Happy 2023 everyone!
Missing and likely for a good reason – the favorite quotes of your children.
I also enjoyed _The Unbearable Weight of Massive Talent_ – such a great high concept! It must be simultaneously freeing and frustrating to play “yourself” on film.
I enjoyed reading the above and “catch up” a little with the Spiegels! I have missed you!
Molly, I completely agree about the new version of “Persuasion.” So disappointing! I couldn’t make it past the first 30 minutes.
Jim, I love the book The Count of Monte Cristo. I have read it twice in my lifetime! Definitely worth pushing through!
I could have commented on more, but will leave it at that! Sounds like you are all doing well! I’m excited for you about the new position at Hillsdale!