2004 on the Crusty Curmudgeon: a retrospective

December 31, 2004

It seems only fitting, in the last few hours of the year, to look back at my first full calendar year of blogging, and post a few reflections about the experience.

Best posts: I submitted my five favourites by request of The Corner and won’t repeat the list again tonight. If I had to choose my favourite of these five, I think it would be God’s “perfect will” and Romans 12, which best represents what I strive for in a theological post.

My best idea: The September moratorium on science fiction broadened my horizons a bit, and even though I didn’t get through my entire planned reading list, I read some stuff I wouldn’t have bothered with otherwise. Strictly speaking this was a personal reading idea, not a blogging idea, but the reason I decided do it in the first place was that I was tracking my reading habits on the blog and wouldn’t have noticed otherwise. One thing blogging has done for me over the last year is help me to organize my thinking, somewhat.

From the another-flagstone-on-the-road-to-hell dept.: My best-intentioned idea that went nowhere was “Required Reading Month” in November. As it happened, the books on my list were perpetually checked out of the local library system and never available, with a single exception that wasn’t the one I wanted to start with. So I never actually got around to reading any of them.

Books read: Since I started keeping track at the beginning of June, I’ve read 44 books. My habits didn’t change just because I started charting them, so it’s a safe estimate that I completed about 75 books since January. My favourite of the lot was The Life of Pi by Yann Martel.

I wrote 13 reviews, in varying lengths, of books this year.

Movies viewed: Again, since June, I have viewed 27 films, either at home or in the theatre. My favourite for the year was also the best movie from this year: The Village, M. Night Shyamalan’s most recent.

Of those 27, I reviewed eight.

Out and around the blogosphere: Finally, so as not to toot my own horn endlessly, my favourite blog that I discovered for the first time in the last year is La Shawn Barber’s Corner. Alphabetical order put her at the top of my blogroll, but over the last few months I’ve really begun to appreciate her insights, especially in those areas where our interests appear to cross.

My favourite “re-branding” effort is the one at Challies.com. Not that the old version was bad, but the new design is truly spectacular. Also, affirming the dictum that simplest is best, the new look at Coffeehouse at the End-Of-Days is very nice as well.

“Most improved blog” goes, without question, to James White, who finally ditched hand-coded HTML and all its attendant inconsistencies for actual blog software and a PHP backend. (And the content is top-shelf, with or without all the technical wizbangery.)

Summing up: I spent the last quarter of 2003 banging the Crusty Curmudgeon into shape and feeling out this blogging thing. In 2004, it actually became what I wanted it to be. If anything it has exceeded my expectations, as I suspect this blog has superseded my original Web site as the front end of my presence on the WWW. Finally, I close the year as the fifth most relevant site on Google for the search term “crusty.” (I actually peaked at #2 just before Christmas!) I haven’t lost interest in the blog yet, so on the whole it’s been a very good year. Best of all, I’ll be able to hit the ground running in 2005. My first post of the new year will detail some of my plans.


R.I.P. Artie Shaw

December 31, 2004

I’m listening to Frank Sinatra and the Tommy Dorsey Orchestra perform “Stardust” as I write. Shaw, who lived to the ripe old age of 94 before dying yesterday, didn’t write this song, though it was one of his signature tunes.

Shaw was a compulsive perfectionist: he quit playing clarinet in the 1950s because he just wasn’t good enough to satisfy himself. Nor, apparently, did his first seven wives – who included gorgeous Ava Gardner and the lovely and talented Lana Turner – before he found true love with Evelyn Keyes for nearly 50 years.

Darn good music though.

It’s Friday

December 31, 2004

And Friday is the day I’ve chosen to highlight other blogs who have posted something noteworthy in the past week. I’ve been on a sort of hiatus from meta-blogging for about the last month. Frankly, the extended reading and writing required to give a fair shake to the various Carnivals and so forth can get wearying, so I took a break from it for the most of December. Not that I had any obligation, but having done so regularly sets an expected trend, I’m sure. Anyway, in the new year I hope to get back into the swing of things in that respect. Here’s a start, sort of.

Over at Challies.com, Tim takes Brian D. McLaren to task for his Orwellian redefinition of Calvinism. McLaren defines himself as a “Fundamentalist/Calvinist,” but his self-identification is belied by his abandonment of traditional Reformed theology and a remaking of the Five Points (i.e. the so-called TULIP) into something apparently more palatable to the new kind of Christian. Tim’s conclusion:

Brian McLaren has rewritten the doctrines of grace, the doctrines that summarize what the Scripture teaches about redemption; about how sinful men can be reconciled to a holy God. He has taken these doctrines, which in part and in totality focus exclusively on the works of God in, to and through us, and has rewritten them in terms of what we can offer God and each other. He has given them a man-focus rather than a God-focus. Further, and this is consistent with a theology of redemption and justification drawn more from N.T. Wright and the New Perspective on Paul than from the Bible, he removes the emphasis from reconciliation, substitution and judgment to mere human acts.

[Read Brian McLaren’s TULIP]

I haven’t gotten on either the “Emergent Church” bandwagon, nor the “bash the Emergent Church” bandwagon – both seem fashionable these days – but I agree with Tim’s assessment of McLaren. As my sidebar currently indicates, I’ve read both his “didactic novels,” A New Kind of Christian and The Story We Find Ourselves In, recently. Both books are (pardon my French) pseudo-theological masturbation – self-satisfying, I’m sure, but plotless, ponderous, and ultimately pointless. McLaren likes to question things, but since he doesn’t argue for any alternatives, he leaves readers like me cold.

Since I graduated from Waterloo, an Emergent church called The Embassy has started to meet regularly on UW campus. I noticed three things about their Web site that started the red flags waving almost immediately:

  • The focus of the front page is about how “different” they are from other churches. (Are they in competition?)
  • While formally associated with the Pentecostal Assemblies of Canada, I could find neither a statement of affiliation nor of faith anywhere on the site. (Is The Embassy embarrassed by the PAOC or its doctrinal standards?)
  • The threads on the forums tend toward the same meandering, suborthodox wanking as McLaren’s books. (If churchgoers do nothing but speculate about faddish pseudo-theology, is the church faithful in fulfilling its divine mandate to equip the saints?)

In short, the Emergent emperor has no clothes. I’ll have little to say about it henceforth, since I don’t see the point in broadsiding every fad that comes along, but I’m glad others have taken up the cudgels.

Postscript: On a related note, for some reason I had flagged Tim’s post “Campolo on the Emerging Church.” I don’t recall why – I think it was primarily because another Emergent leader, Dan Kimball, got personally involved in the comments – but the fact I had it flagged means I had intended to highlight it.

Post-postscript: Yesterday Tim also posted a detailed review of McLaren’s newest book, A Generous Orthodoxy: Why I Am a Missional, Evangelical, Post/Protestant, Liberal/Conservative, Mystical/Poetic, Biblical, Charismatic/Contemplative, Fundamentalist/Calvinist, Anabaptist/Anglican, Methodist, Catholic, Green, Incarnational, Depressed-yet-Hopeful, Emergent, Unfinished CHRISTIAN. Frankly, the full title of the book (yes, that is real) tells you pretty much everything you need to know about this crap.

In other news

I’ve made an addition to my blogroll. Whenever I do a blog run on my larger list of favourites, I always anticipate reading Rebecca Writes, particularly when she’s working through some meaty theological issue. Plus, she’s Canadian, eh?

Post-post-postscript: From the I-blogrolled-her-before-she-was-cool department: La Shawn Barber has officially entered a higher plane of existence in which frothing lefties actually spend their free time creating hate sites about her. Congratulations!

Now I’ve heard everything

December 30, 2004

I’ve been listening to late-night shortwave radio since 1992, and I’ve heard every wacko in the phone book from Texe Marrs to “Brother Stair” to the überwacko himself, the late William Cooper his own self.

But it wasn’t until this week that I actually heard a conspirinaut ranting at her audience in a little-girl voice.

In my current digs, shortwave reception isn’t the best. On the other hand, reception in northern Ontario is superb, even on a cruddy radio. While scanning the dial a couple nights ago, I came across a program called “Divided Kingdom” on WWRB (5.085 MHz) at 11 pm EST, hosted by a woman named Elizabeth Border. I caught about the last 15 minutes of the show. She was – I kid you not – explaining chemtrails or Gulf War Syndrome or something in a series of different voices: a little girl, a deep, authoritarian “male” voice, and so forth. It was like a kid’s show on acid, or something. I thought I was picking up a pirate broadcast, or a conversation on a cordless phone, it was so bad.

In other conspiracy news, I have a new candidate for the stupidest conspiracy theory ever. This week Derry Brownfield insinuated that the U. S. government was “smuggling” mountain lions into Idaho and other western states. Why? No reason given, except maybe to inconvenience people. Apparently when cougar populations go up, it’s because of a gummint conspiracy (and not, say, more plentiful food supplies thanks to a decline in hunting).

One bright spot: on Sunday morning I heard Rod Hembree of Radio Weather on WWCR state that he didn’t buy into the conspiracy-theory worldview. I do believe this is a first for a World Wide Conspiracy Radio broadcaster, at least in my earshot. There’s a reason I’m not a total cynic.

Back from my holiday

December 30, 2004

What did I miss?

Christmas meditation

December 25, 2004

No comments tonight. Just two Bible passages to meditate on.

Comfort ye, comfort ye my people, saith your God. Speak ye comfortably to Jerusalem, and cry unto her, that her warfare is accomplished, that her iniquity is pardoned: for she hath received of the LORD’s hand double for all her sins. The voice of him that crieth in the wilderness, Prepare ye the way of the LORD, make straight in the desert a highway for our God. Every valley shall be exalted, and every mountain and hill shall be made low: and the crooked shall be made straight, and the rough places plain: and the glory of the LORD shall be revealed, and all flesh shall see it together: for the mouth of the LORD hath spoken it. (Isa. 40:1-5)

And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. And, lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them: and they were sore afraid.

And the angel said unto them, Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord. And this shall be a sign unto you; Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger.

And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying, Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.

And it came to pass, as the angels were gone away from them into heaven, the shepherds said one to another, Let us now go even unto Bethlehem, and see this thing which is come to pass, which the Lord hath made known unto us. And they came with haste, and found Mary, and Joseph, and the babe lying in a manger. And when they had seen it, they made known abroad the saying which was told them concerning this child. And all they that heard it wondered at those things which were told them by the shepherds. But Mary kept all these things, and pondered them in her heart. And the shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things that they had heard and seen, as it was told unto them. (Luke 2:8-20)

Christmas semi-hiatus

December 24, 2004

Due to travel – I’m blogging this from the Great White North of northern Ontario – blogging will be sparse until the new year, though hopefully not absent. Just the consequence of having to share the connection with four other people.

Later . . .