2021 Year in Review: Memorable Events

I started a tradition back in 1996 of making a list of the most memorable events of the year.  I always say that memorable does not mean it is necessarily positive, so don’t be surprised to see negative experiences on this list.  That first list in 1996 had exactly twenty items, so I’ve made the list a top twenty every year since.

Here is my 26th annual list.


… NEW YEAR IN NEW HAMPSHIRE – We escaped cabin fever at home by kicking off the New Year in an actual cabin in New Hampshire.  We played games, there was lots of snow, and went tubing at King Pine Ski Area.


… POLITICAL UPHEAVAL – On January 6, white supremacist insurrectionists attacked the U.S. Capitol and attempted to overthrow our government.  Now if Islamic jihadists, Black Lives Matter, or Leftists did this we’d probably be still talking but for some reason it’s all ho-hum now.  I guess that’s white privilege at work. In better news, Joe Biden was actually inaugurated on January 20, so at least there’s some hope of preserving democracy.

… BACK TO WORK – I started going to work in person one day per week in January.  I have an odd nostalgia for riding the empty subway to the empty library and taking lunch in the empty cafeteria. The kids started going back to school part time in March and full-time in May.  Then I started working onsite 2 days per week.  Finally, in August, it was back to the new normal with 4 days onsite and 1 day work from home.


MOVING MOM – My mother got a new apartment in the Bronx so I spent a long weekend helping her pack and clean.

… NEW BOSTON MAYORS – President Biden appointed Boston Mayor Marty Walsh (whom I loathe) to the Department of Labor and suddenly Boston had a new mayor.  As Acting Mayor until November’s election, Kim Janey became the first woman and first Black person to serve as Mayor of Boston. In the general election, my favored candidate, progressive Michelle Wu, was elected in a landslide and became the first woman and first person of color elected to the office.  As an added bonus, we got a great new progressive City Councilor for our district, Kendra Hicks.

A STROLL IN THE PUBLIC GARDEN – It had been a long time since we’d been downtown, so we actually drove down there for a nice walk through the Public Garden on a pleasant spring day just as the flowers were starting to bloom.

… NOT THROWING AWAY MY SHOT – Susan and I got our first COVID vaccine shots in April.  Peter got his shots in May and Kay was finally eligible in November.  Here’s to hope for a healthful and less topsy-turvy future.


… TO THE END OF THE WORLD – We enjoyed another outing on a spring day to World’s End Reservation in Hingham.

… FLYING SQUIRRELS – My daughter’s youth baseball team was sponsored by the neighborhood Facebook group and named “Flying Squirrels.”  They had a great season where they all got better at hitting and fielding, plus there were mid-inning sing-a-longs and costumed adults cheering them on.  She also was selected to the All-Star Game.  If that wasn’t enough baseball, my son played on like three teams in the spring, summer, and fall.


… BEFORE BOSTON – I researched and wrote a new tour for Boston By Foot that focused on Boston before 1630. It’s probably the first walking tour to focus extensively on Native American peoples in Boston. We finally got to debut the tour in June after a COVID delay.

… UP THE CAPE – We spent a week at a rental cottage in Wellfleet with my Mom.  We went to beaches, took long bike rides, strolled around Provincetown, and got a seafood dinner takeout!

RETURN TO OLD HAUNTS – In June, when it seemed like COVID might actually go away I took great delight in doing things I hadn’t done in a long time like seeing a movie in a theater and drinking a beer at a pub.


SWEET INDEPENDENCE DAY – We had a quiet 4th of July, but Kay baked us a delicious cake in patriotic colors.


THE WILDS OF NEW YORK – We paid a visit to my Mom in New York and a spent a day apiece at the Bronx Zoo and the New York Aquarium, enjoying the animals.

¡WEPA! – There’s a new ballclub in Massachusetts, the Worcester Red Sox (a.k.a. WooSox, a.k.a. Los Wepas), and we visited Polar Park for the first time, enjoying a double header against the Syracuse Mets followed by fireworks.

UNIVERSAL – Our end of summer vacation took us to Universal Orlando for the first time, where we enjoyed the rides and attractions of Universal Studios Florida and Islands of Adventure for three days with almost no one else there.


13th INNING WALKOFF – I expected the Red Sox to have a better season than last year, but even I was surprised by how they exceeded expectations.  We visited Fenway for a game for the first time in a long time in June, and even saw the Red Sox on the road in Tampa Bay.  But the absolute highlight was seeing their Game 3 of the ALDS win over the Rays with a dramatic walkoff home run by Christian Vazquez in the 13th inning! Sadly, the dream came to an end against the Astros in the 6th game of the ALCS.


SUPPORTERS SHIELD – We didn’t make it to Foxborough for any New England Revolution games this year but I enjoyed watching their historic season.  The Revs not only won the Supporters Shield for the best regular season record in Major League Soccer but also set a record for the most points in a MLS season.  Unfortunately, like the Red Sox, the Revs dream season came crashing down in the playoffs with a loss in a penalty shootout to NYCFC.

THE THANKSGIVING OLYMPIC GAMES – Kay came up with a series of games for all of the family and our friend Anthony to compete in on Thanksgiving.  These include Flickin’ Chicken, Head Hoop Basketball, and our own unique sport of Anthony Funball.  I won three silver medals of which I’m inordinately proud.


THE ROOM WHERE IT HAPPENS – Kay and I finally got to see a live performance of the musical Hamilton at Providence Performing Arts Center.  It was a delight!

… INTERRUPTED REVELRY – I participated as a member of the chorus in the annual Christmas Revels show at Sanders Theater in Cambridge.  Despite COVID protocols changing a lot of the traditions, the show was an absolute joy.  Unfortunately, due to the omicron outbreak, the last 6 shows were canceled, but I’m glad we got to perform ten shows, plus all of the fun and camaraderie of the rehearsals.  Also, you can still stream the virtual Revels performance until January 9th!

That’s me in the green sweater on the last verse!


2021 Year in Review: Favorite Books

Here’s my annual list of my ten favorite books read for the first time in the year.  As always, this is merely the best books I read this year for the first time and not necessarily books published in 2021. For previous years see 2020, 2019, 2018,  2017,   2016,   2015,   2014,   2013,   2012,   2011,   2010,   2009,   2008,  2007 and 2006. You may also want to check out My Favorite Books of All Time or see Every Book I’ve Ever Read cataloged in Library Thing. Books published in 2021 are in bold.

Books Read in 2020

The books are rated on a scale from 1 to 5 stars with links to summary reviews. (A) is for audiobook. Here’s a thumbnail of what the ratings mean:

  • 5 stars – all-time classic (I’m very stingy with these)
  • 4 stars – a particularly interesting, well-written, or important book
  • 3 stars – a good book from start to finish
  • 2 stars – not a good book on the whole but has some good parts
  • 1 star or less – basically a bad book with no redeeming values















2021 Year in Review: Favorite Podcasts

Before reviewing the best podcasts of the year, I have an announcement to make.  I will no longer be posting Podcast of the Week columns on this blog, thus this a finale as a feature for Panorama of the Mountains.  With that said, let’s look back at the highlights of 2021.

Podcast Hall of Fame

I’ve added four new podcasts to my Podcast Hall of Fame.  These are podcasts that I look forward to listening to each and every episode even if that may not be reflected in the running tally of podcasts that appear in Podcast of the Week.

Class of 2021

Class of 2020

Class of 2019

Short Series of Note

Favorite Podcast Episodes



2021 Year in Review: Favorite Albums

I’ve reviewed 23 albums on this blog in 2021, and probably listened to just as many that I didn’t feel compelled to write about. From this list I’ve selected six of my favorite albums that I recommend you give a listen.

Check out my lists of favorite albums from 2014201620172018, 2019, and 2020 as well.

Afrique Victime by Mdou Moctar

The Beginning, the Medium, the End and the Infinite by IKOQWE

Jubilee by Japanese Breakfast

Menneskekollektivet by Lost Girls

Really From by Really From

They’re Calling Me Home by Rhiannon Giddens with Francesco Turrisi

2021 Year in Review: Favorite Songs

Below are 15 of my favorite songs from 2021. Also check out my more expansive playlist of 60 great songs from the past year on Tidal and Spotify!




Frances Forever – “space girl”

Anna B Savage – “Baby Grand”


Danz CM – “Something More”

Dominique Fils-Aimé – “While We Wait”

Robin Foster · Ed Dowie – “Dear Florence”

Emily Scott Robinson – “Let ’em Burn”

Freedom Fry – “Le Point Zéro”

Japanese Breakfast – “Be Sweet”

Olivia Rodrigo – “good 4 u”

Orla Gartland – You’re Not Special, Babe

Ric Wilson – “Fight Like Ida B & Marsha P”

Snail Mail – “Valentine”

Tamar Aphek – “CROSSBOW”

Valerie June – Call Me A Fool [feat. Carla Thomas]

Favorite Songs by Year, 1973-2020

1973 1974 1975 1976
1977 1978 1979 1980
1981 1982 1983 1984
1985 1986 1987 1988
1989 1990 1991 1992
1993 1994 1995 1996
1997 1998 1999 2000
2001 2002 2003 2004
2005 2006 2007 2008
2009 2010 2011 2012
2013 2014 2015 2016
2017 2018 2019 2020


Classic Movie Project II Progress Report

16 months ago I introduced a project to watch and review every movie on three lists of greatest films ever: AFI’s 100 Years … 100 Movies (2007), The Sight & Sound Greatest Films of All-Time (2012), and Cahiers du Cinéma Greatest Films of All Time (2008). I’d to complete this project before the end of 2021, but here is where I stand:

So, I have just three movies to watch and review.  But they are three doozies!

  • La Maman et la Putain (#23 on Cahiers du Cinéma and #61 on Sight and Sound) – a 3 hour 40 minute film not available to stream or rent online and also not on DVD at any local libraries.  It is on YouTube, but I’m hoping to find a better source to watch it.
  • Histoire(s) du Cinéma (#49 on Sight and Sound) – an 8-part film project of Jean-Luc Godard’s that totals up to 4 hours, 26 minutes.
  • Shoah (#30 on Sight and Sound) – a 9 hour 20 minute documentary about the Holocaust.

I suspect that I will get to these early on in 2021, but effectively I will no longer be posting weekly Classic Movie Reviews on this blog.

Classic Movie Review: Ordet (1955)

TitleOrdet (The Word)
Release Date: 10 January 1955
Director: Carl Theodor Dreyer
Production Company: A/S Palladium
Summary/ReviewOrdet is a challenging movie to watch and a difficult one to review.  I could say I liked it but I’m not sure that word encapsulates my feelings accurately.  The film is a slow and austere examination of religious belief.

The story focuses on the family and community of Morten Borgen (Henrik Malberg), a widowed farmer in Denmark in 1925.  His eldest son Mikkel (Emil Hass Christensen) has abandoned religion but is married to the pious Inger (Birgitte Federspiel), and they are expecting their third child.  Inger’s troubled labor is central to the film’s plot.  The youngest son Anders (Cay Kristiansen) wishes to marry a neighbor, Anne (Gerda Nielsen).  But her father, Peter the Tailor (Ejner Federspiel), forbids the marriage because he lives by a more orthodox code of Christianity and doesn’t think Morten and his family are faithful enough.  Finally, there is the middle child Johannes who is under the delusion that he is Jesus Christ.

As I noted, this is a slow-moving film and a serious one.  It is a character study that explores the reactions of the characters to the challenges they face over the course of the film.  I feel I’ll have to watch it again to have a hope of “getting it” but it was definitely a thought-provoking film on the first viewing.

Rating: ****

Christmas Movie Marathon Review: The Bishop’s Wife (1947)

Title: The Bishop’s Wife
Release Date: December 9, 1947
Director: Henry Koster
Production Company: Samuel Goldwyn Productions

Post-World War II cinema offers many examples supernatural beings offering inspiration to the film’s protagonist.  These include angels (A Matter of Life and Death and It’s a Wonderful Life), Santa Claus (Miracle on 34th Street), and the … ghost(?) of a girl (Portrait of Jennie). Add to this The Bishop’s Wife, in which Cary Grant plays the dapper angel Dudley who answers the prayers of the titular Bishop Henry Brougham (David Niven) and his wife Julia (Loretta Young).

The problem is that Henry has become estranged from Julia and their old friends because he’s caught up in fundraising for a new cathedral.  And so Dudley steps into help by showing Julia a good time and falling in love with her.  This movie gets really awkward really fast especially since Dudley is awesome and Henry is a fuddy-duddy and we don’t really know who we should be rooting for in this bizarre love triangle.  There are some lovely performances and some charming moments, but the movie just feels off to me.  It’s not a surprise that it didn’t become a Christmas classic.

Rating: **1/2

Christmas Movie Marathon Review: Tangerine (2015)

Release Date: July 10, 2015
Director: Sean Baker
Production Company: Duplass Brothers Productions | Through Films

On Christmas Eve in Hollywood, Sin-Dee (Kitana Kiki Rodriguez), a transgender sex worker just released from 28 days in jail, learns that her boyfriend/pimp Chester (James Ransone) has been unfaithful. Sin-Dee goes on a rampage hunting down the cisgender sex worker Dinah (Mickey O’Hagan) for revenge. Meanwhile, her compatriot Alexandra (Mya Taylor) tags along trying to prevent “drama” and promoting her musical performance at a local bar.  While this is all happening, we also see Armenian cab driver Razmik (Karren Karagulian) pick up passengers, and also be a customer of Alexandra and Sin-Dee, as well as have Christmas dinner with his family.

As you may have guessed, this is not your traditional Christmas movie.  The humor can be very dark, but also offers a real glimpse into a subculture.  The film was shot on iPhones which helps lend it a verite feel.  I thought things get very grim for all the main characters by the end of the movie, but it ends with a scene of kindness that lends a sweetness to the whole movie.

Rating: ***1/2

Christmas Movie Marathon Review: Klaus (2019)

Release Date: 8 November 2019
Director: Sergio Pablos
Production Company: Netflix Animation | Sergio Pablos Animation Studios | Atresmedia Cine

I heard good things about Klaus, but ended up sorely disappointed.  Let’s start with the good things.  This movie is gorgeous, and a rare example of hand-drawn animation in this day and age of computer imaging.  There are shots of birdhouses swaying in beech trees with the sun filtering through that are stunning.  Unfortunately, the animation isn’t supported by a good story or characters.  The movie purports to be a reimagining of the Santa Claus mythos and every moment it winkingly lets you know how some different element of Santa Claus was created.

The story is set on a remote island in the northern latitudes where the son of the postmaster general is sent to work as punishment for his self-centeredness and laziness.  The first flaw of this movie is that Jesper Johansen (Jason Schwartzman) is so obnoxious in that ironic, detached manner of characterization that should’ve died in the 1990s. Jesper finds himself in a town with an ongoing feud between the two main families.  Their ongoing battles aren’t all that funny, but we sure do get to see a lot of them.

Jesper befriends a woodworker, Klaus (J. K. Simmons), who lives on an isolated part of the island and makes hundreds of toys. Jesper learns he can reach his goal of delivering 6000 letters by having the children write to Klaus asking for toys and then delivering them by night.  The beats of the movie that follow are pretty predictable – unexpected changes in the town, a moment of betrayal, a change of heart.  The movie wants you to feel everything as magical, but I found myself just getting whiplash between heavy snark and cloying moments.

Rating: **