January 31, 2005

Sick, sick, sick

Terrorists used a disabled child as a suicide bomber on election day, Iraqi interior minister Falah al-Naqib said today.

In all, 44 people were killed in a total of 38 bomb attacks on polling stations. Police at the scene of one the Baghdad blasts said the bomber appeared to have Down's syndrome.

[Full Story]

Hell doesn't burn hot enough for these troglodytes, whom Michael Moore and his Hollywood moron friends want us to believe are like the Minutemen.

Disgraceful

Yet another outrageous policy from the moral cesspool that is Old Europe:

A 25-year-old waitress who turned down a job providing "sexual services'' at a brothel in Berlin faces possible cuts to her unemployment benefit under laws introduced this year. . . .

Under Germany's welfare reforms, any woman under 55 who has been out of work for more than a year can be forced to take an available job – including in the sex industry – or lose her unemployment benefit. Last month German unemployment rose for the 11th consecutive month to 4.5 million, taking the number out of work to its highest since reunification in 1990.

The government had considered making brothels an exception on moral grounds, but decided that it would be too difficult to distinguish them from bars. As a result, job centres must treat employers looking for a prostitute in the same way as those looking for a dental nurse.

[Full Story]

So now the German government thinks it's just grand to offer unemployed women the choice between starvation and sexual exploitation, simply because some bureaucrats are too lazy to draw an important legal and moral distinction between a whore and a waitress.

*sigh* The Law of Unintended Consequences strikes again.

January 30, 2005

Iraqi elections in a nutshell

Given the method the scrutineers in Iraq are using to prove someone has voted, Jimmy Akin's headline is the best summation of today's election.

Joel Osteen: Easy listening Christianity

I'm ok, you're ok, we're ok, so
I think I'm gonna buy my own radio show
Spread the good news and the Barry Manilow
Happy talk, no rock, non-stop easy listening

- Steve Taylor, "Easy Listening"

I have heard an awful lot about Joel Osteen over the last year or so, mostly positive. But I've never had a chance to see his program until today - in Canada it only airs at 9 am Sundays on Vision TV, when I'm normally at church. Well, today I was under the weather, so I skipped the morning service and took advantage of my situation to turn Osteen on.

Well, as the Dread Pirate Roberts told Buttercup, I should get used to disappointment. The message was theological pablum, along the lines of: Have a positive attitude and trust God when things don't go your way.

Giving Osteen the benefit of the doubt - perhaps this was an atypical message - I downloaded a couple more from his Web site. It wasn't. In fact, after viewing two more messages - I really couldn't have handled thirty more seconds of his plastic smile and feel-good "preaching" without a massive dose of insulin - I concluded that Have a positive attitude and trust God when things don't go your way is pretty much the sum total of Osteen's message. He's a one-trick pony. Start with a positive-thinking theme. Throw in a few illustrations from Scripture (from the Old Testament exclusively, from what I saw) and some personal anecdotes. Sprinkle liberally with Holiness buzzwords like "abundant life" and "victorious living." Congratulations, you've just built the largest church in the United States.

Unfortunately, Osteen's message is about a mile wide and a millimeter deep. Osteen's Bible gets the most miles on it when he holds it aloft and leads his congregation in the weekly "This is my Bible" mantra. Where is "repentance toward God, and faith toward our Lord Jesus Christ" (Acts 20:21)? Where is "Jesus Christ, and him crucified" (1 Cor. 2:2)? Where was Jesus at all, outside of the formulaic "salvation prayer" he tacks onto each message with no connection to what was said? Is a church that professes Christ fulfilling its mandate if it fails to preach Christ and the whole counsel of God?

Call it what you will, but don't pretend Christless vapidity is "Christian." 35,000 people in Lakewood Church want to have their ears tickled with this easy-listening message.

The motto of Osteen's massive Lakewood Church is "Discover the Champion in You," which strikes me as a great motto for Wheaties. Of course, boxed breakfast cereal is sweet, tasty, convenient, and doesn't require the hard work and sacrifice of a big breakfast. But it's a poor substitute for oatmeal, bacon and eggs, and Joel Osteen's happy-sappy affirmations are a poor substitute for authentic, biblical Christianity.

Postscript: After posting the above, I did my sort-of-daily blo run. Coincidentally, Michael Spencer, the redoubtable Internet Monk, has also been thinking about the same subject, obviously for longer than me, and posted a call to Evangelical bloggers to "out" Osteen. The iMonk has accrued considerable "credibility capital" on the Net and deserves to be read. He asks: "When evangelicals have been represented by John Stott and Billy Graham [and Francis Schaeffer, as he says elsewhere], are we going to be silent while Osteen becomes the new voice of evangelicalism?" I'm not usually one to jump on the bandwagon, myself, but in this case it looks like I was already on the side of the road, trumpet in hand, waiting for it to arrive.

January 28, 2005

And now . . . this - Jan. 28/05

Beer: Not just for breakfast anymore

Who says drinking is bad for you? From the home of one of my favourite lagers, or at least near it:

A Slovak man trapped in his car under an avalanche freed himself by drinking 60 bottles of beer and urinating on the snow to melt it.

Rescue teams found Richard Kral drunk and staggering along a mountain path four days after his Audi car was buried in the Slovak Tatra mountains. . . .

He had 60 half-litre bottles of beer in his car as he was going on holiday, and after cracking one open to think about the problem he realised he could urinate on the snow to melt it, local media reported.

[Full Story]

This does raise an important question. Since beer looks like urine, how come the more beer you drink, the less your urine looks like beer?

I knew I liked Stolichnaya for a reason . . .

Another heartwarming story of a life-saving adult beverage:

A 30-year-old Muscovite fell out of the window of his friend's apartment on the fourth storey of an apartment block. The man stood up on his feet and returned back to the apartment as if nothing had happened.

According to the information from the Moscow Rescuing Service, the man named only as Oleg, came to see his friends on Friday night to have a friendly discussion. The company of men finished with two bottles of vodka rather quickly. No one of them saw Oleg leaving the party. They noticed that Oleg did not return to the apartment from the balcony, where he went out to have a smoke and take a breath of fresh air.

[Full Story]

I suspect the vodka had little to do with saving his life so much as numbing the pain of the sudden stop at the bottom. I'm reminded of one Friday night in university when one of the engineering frosh, in an extreme state of chemical-induced merriment, launched himself out of our second-story window. He enjoyed it so much he came back for another jump. (God bless you, Skippy, wherever you are!)

Screw you!

Friends don't let friends drink and ice-fish:

A man is accused of attacking a friend with an ice auger after the two argued over where to drop their fishing lines during an ice-fishing outing.

Michael Olson, 25, suffered cuts on his arm and had to be taken by ambulance to St. Cloud Hospital, where he was treated and released, the Stearns County Sheriff's Department said.

[Full Story]

You know, you can really do some damage with one of those things, if you can get your enemy to stand still for about five minutes.

Torpedoes away, Keptin!

The story is a bit old, but the rumour mill only brought it to my attention today:

The U.S. Air Force is quietly spending millions of dollars investigating ways to use a radical power source - antimatter, the eerie "mirror" of ordinary matter - in future weapons. . . .

The energy from colliding positrons and antielectrons "is 10 billion times ... that of high explosive," Edwards explained in his March speech. Moreover, 1 gram of antimatter, about 1/25th of an ounce, would equal "23 space shuttle fuel tanks of energy." Thus "positron energy conversion," as he called it, would be a "revolutionary energy source" of interest to those who wage war.

[Full Story]

Yeah, but the thing is, they're also going to have to spend gazillions on R&D for the kick-ass vehicle they're going to need to deploy this puppy:

Klingons off the starboard bow!

We all know that people are the same wherever you go

Friends of Democracy reports on the first political debate in Iraq:

A member of the audience stood up and asked Mr. Hakem Khazal: did you obtain your seat at the council as a result of an argument with Sami Ghazara? Mr. Hakem answered: I represent a political movement. A man is judged on what he did and what he will do, this is what determines his success in elections. He added: you know that four people so far have been killed because of the fuel crisis; does this show that the governorate administration is successful? He then accused Mr. Al Zayadi of not having completed his high school education.

It is worth mentioning that the debate was very hectic at times and that the two candidates presented the problems of the governorate in a way far from expressing a clear political concept.

[Emphasis added; Full Story]

Ah, it's so nice to know a politician is a politician anywhere in the world.

Friday in the wild - Jan. 28, 2005

Here's my usual end-of-the-week roundup of what I found new and interesting around the blogosphere (and elsewhere) since last Friday.

My first laugh of the week came from Judd at Melodion, who received an absurdly over-packaged order from Amazon.com. (H/T to Boar's Head Tavern.)

Tim Challies rethinks his indifference to anti-rock crusades:

This morning at church I noticed an invitation to attend a Media Awareness Seminar at a nearby church. They provided a link to the organization which provides these seminars and I decided to visit their web site. There is an interested section on that site where they break down the top 40 countdown from a certain popular radio station. The list is current as of May 18, 2004  - a little dated, but recent enough to be relevant. I am not easily shocked, but samples of lyrics from the songs on this list blew me away. Despite spending my life as a believer, I don't consider myself sheltered, yet these songs still made my eyes bulge a few times. I don't even know some of the words, though I can generally guess at their meanings.

[Read Top 40 Radio Examined]

Wittenberg Gate wants to play a game of Spot the Fallacy with an article about evolution and intelligent design. Have fun.

Parableman notes the discovery by archæologists that (surprise, surprise, surprise!) the Edomite nation existed when the Bible said it did. As Jeremy notes: "About 50 years ago the general attitude was to doubt anything in the Bible that didn't have specific evidence (besides the record in the text) confirming it." At this rate in another 50 years the trend will be to trust the Bible unless there's evidence to the contrary.

Marla Swoffer things the Godbloggers have hit critical mass and are up To something.

Looks like Darren of Nicene Theology is starting a series critiquing the theology of the Holiness movement, about which I have also made the occasional remark here and there.

Mr. Standfast has been running down the categories in his blogroll this week. I highlight the generalists simply because I get a mention there, thanks to my saying pretty much what's on my mind instead of sticking to a particular theme like many bloggers do. The whole series is kind of fun reading, since I don't classify my favourite blogs like this (I do catalogue my personal list of blog bookmarks in very broad categories such as "Christian" or "News" or "Canadian," but wouldn't have to explain them).

This week I exercised my personal prerogative and added the just-started blog of Don Elbourne, Locusts and Wild Honey, to my blogroll. Don is a Baptist pastor in Louisiana, a Ph.D. candidate, a contributor to the SWORD Project, and all round Web wonk from whom I've learned a fair bit about designing my own sites. He has also scanned and made a whole bunch of historic Southern Baptist literature available.

In the Google rankings, the Crusty Curmudgeon moves up to #4 in searches for crusty, although it was actually at #3 yesterday. Apart from that, no interesting search queries brought the curious to the blog.

January 27, 2005

And now . . . this - Jan. 27/05

Nice kid, but he's about as sharp as a bowling ball

Here's an idealist who could out-weird Dennis Kucinich:

Dueling roosters donning gloves and electronic sensors would box without bloodshed under a Henryetta senator's plan to save Oklahoma's gamefowl industry and bring more dollars to the state.

"Who's going to object to chickens fighting like humans do? Everybody wins," said Sen. Frank Shurden, a longtime defender of gamefowl breeders' right to have cockfighting.

[Full Story]

I do believe he's serious.

Followup on the preacher who died while preaching about heaven

Remember the story a couple of weeks ago about the Presbyterian pastor who dropped dead in the pulpit in the midst of a sermon about heaven? It made the rounds of the blogosphere and was the most-read story on Yahoo at that time.

It turns out that Jack Arnold's son is a writer, and he has contributed his own side of the story to the Chatanoogan newspaper. He writes:

My family is certainly sad to lose our father, but we are also glad he went out precisely the way he would want. Nevertheless, we have scratched our heads regarding why it became an international story. Our best guess is that people are concerned about the next life. Most of us have some early childhood image of the preacher urging us to prepare to meet our Maker. And when the man connected to God gets snatched away after a final warning, it makes you stop and think. . . .

He did struggle. He would fall and get up again. Yet he also improved and persevered. Yes, his final moments were glorious, but his journey also involved much pain and failure. Ironically, he finally made national and international headlines 24 hours after his death. But this too should encourage all of us who believe our reward is most likely on the other side of the river. And even the more secular folk can be encouraged that their labor and love may finally find its fruit and fulfillment in post-mortem fashion.

[Full Story]

Dean W. Arnold, the author, sums up by saying his father ended his life the way he lived it: always persevering, always giving his best. Do read the whole thing, it's well worth it.

(H/T: Religion News Blog).

The Christian Carnival is LIV[e]

The 54th installation of the Christian Carnival is up thanks to Neil at DF&C.

It's about time I got back in the swing of participating in these things one way or the other, so hopefully I'll get a chance to blog it a little later.

January 26, 2005

And now . . . this (Jan. 26, 2005)

Since the world seems to have taken a turn for the stupid of late, I've started dating these entries lest Blogger choke on the scores of identically titled posts.

They blowed him up real good!

You just can't trust anyone these days:

The young Saudi man told investigators this month that he wants revenge against the Iraqi terrorist network that sent him on the deadly mission that he survived.

Ahmed Abdullah al-Shaya, 18, told Iraqi investigators during an interrogation early this month that he was recruited to drive a car rigged with explosives to Baghdad and blow it up. . . .

"They asked me to take the truck near a concrete block barrier before turning to the right and leaving it there. There, somebody will pick up the truck from you," they told him. "But they blew me up in the truck," he says.

[Full Story]

I'm trying to work up some sympathy for this guy. Really. But it ain't working . . .

Reason #86,205 to nuke the Dutch

A Dutch court has allowed a bank robber to claim the £1,400 cost of the pistol used in the hold-up as a legitimate business expense.

The 46-year-old bank robber was permitted to set the cost of the gun against his gross proceeds of £4,700, gained during his raid on a bank in the town of Chaam.

The judge at Breda criminal court duly reduced his fine by the same amount, in addition to sentencing him to four years in jail. A Dutch prosecutors’ service spokesman said the judge followed sound legal precedents on the confiscation of criminal assets.

[Full Story]

You know what they say. If you can't do the time, claim the expenses for the crime.

January 25, 2005

Spiritual gift assessments and the Bible

This is the sort of notable post I would usually reserve for my Friday roundup, but since it's a topic I've already blogged about (briefly) and have some opinions on, I decided to single it out.

Over at Challies.com, Tim has posted a critique of those ubiquitous spiritual gift assessment surveys. If you're active in an evangelical church, you've probably heard people talk about trying to "find their spiritual gift," or you've even taken one of these surveys yourself.

I have. It told me I have a "gift" for teaching. This comes as no surprise to me: as a technical writer, I make my living explaining things to other people. Herein lies one of Tim's objections: the methodology of these spiritual gift assessments is similar to secular personality tests such as the Myers-Briggs Type Instrument. Is the spiritual gift assessment measuring my spiritual gifts, or my personality? If the latter, it shouldn't surprise me that I have the "gift" of teaching; theology, in a sense, is simply another complex subject (on which I am relatively well informed) that I can break down into simpler, manageable concepts and communicate to others. That's what I do. It's part of my nature.

Tim's other quite valid objections include:

  • No one can seem to agree on the precise list of spiritual gifts, or when or how they are administered.
  • The Bible doesn't teach that we are supposed to "find" our gifts, nor does it narrate any examples of primitive Christians doing so.
  • Unbelievers could take these tests and "discover" their spiritual gift, yet without the Holy Spirit, by rights this ought to be impossible. Of course, if a spiritual gifts survey is really measuring personality, then it's to be expected.

My opinion remains that our gifts are something that are given, not something we have to "discover." As I wrote back in August on the related topic of "finding God's will":

[I]t is the will of God that we build up the Church ([Rom.] 12:3-8). Paul uses one of his favourite analogies for the Church: one body with many parts. God has made us all different, giving us different abilities and gifts with which to serve one another. Many people agonize unnecessarily about "finding their spiritual gift," just as they do with "finding God's will for my life." Why? Do you see a need in the body? Can you meet it? It is God who has given you that ability. Take advantage of it! No one will file a grievance.

Bottom 100 movies

Ghost of a flea notes that he has seen seven of the bottom 100 movies as listed on IMDb.

I'm not quite as privileged. I've only seen six:

As a self-described aficionado of bad cinema, I'm ashamed to say that they're not even the worst six.

How do you score?

January 24, 2005

How's the weather?

Be thankful that you don't live in Athens, Ohio and have to watch this guy. Even for college television, this is truly uncomfortable to watch.

Louis is the Takahiro of weathermen.

And now . . . this

Hmmm. Maybe they wanted to go visit Punxsutawney Phil a few days early:

Three 11-year-old boys and a 10-year-old girl tried to hijack their school bus near Punxsutawney this morning.

State police said the four hatched the plot yesterday. Just after 8 a.m. today, one of the boys pulled a knife from a book bag and held it near another student. He demanded driver Janet McQuown, 52, stop and get off the bus.

A police news release says she pulled over along Pine Tree Church Road in Oliver Township and "the knife was removed from the juvenile's possession." It doesn't say how.

[Full Story]

Maybe something like this:

[Mrs. Crabtree from "South Park"]

Sit down and SHUT UP!!!

And . . . this: Funniest. Obituary. Ever.

Archibald "Archie" Bennitz passed away this week, but the big hockey fan, who was 84, didn't go quietly after having to put up with the indignity of an NHL lockout.

In fact, the former Royal Canadian Air Force mechanic, who was stationed in London during the Second World War, had NHL commissioner Gary Bettman and players union leader Bob Goodenow in his sights before he died, and let go a volley at the two that he told his son, David, could be repeated in his obituary.

"He asked that Mr. Bettman and Mr. Goodenow know that they are 'skunks' for denying him the pleasure of watching the NHL on TV this year," read his death notice in yesterday's Citizen. "He also asked that Mr. Bettman step aside and give Wayne Gretzky the job that rightfully belongs to him."

[Full Story]

FYI, here's the full text of the obit. Also, kudos to the late Mr. Bennitz for showing admirable restraint in his choice of epithets, especially considering he could have used something more colourful than "skunks" knowing he was going to get away with it for good.

(H/T to Cindy Swanson for cluing me in to this one. Imagine an Ottawa boy getting a tip on a local story by a resident of Illinois. I'm so embarrassed.)

And . . . even this: Anonymous Germans are making a striking statement about . . . something:

Police in Germany are hunting pranksters who have been sticking miniature US flags into piles of dog poo in public parks.

Josef Oettl, parks administrator for Bayreuth, said: "This has been going on for about a year now, and there must be 2,000 to 3,000 piles of excrement that have been claimed during that time."

Claimed? Are the little poo piles U.S. territory now?

Legal experts say there is no law against using faeces as a flag stand and the federal constitution is vague on the issue.

[Full Story]

Darn their lack of foresight!

January 23, 2005

Theeeeeere goes Johnny (1925-2005)

Consummate entertainer and legendary Tonight Show host Johnny Carson has died at the age of 79 of emphysema.

Funny as Jay Leno is, he couldn't fill Johnny's shoes. Farewell to a true professional.

Johnny Carson, as
Karnak the Magnificent,
didn't predict this.

January 22, 2005

And now . . . this

The road to lung cancer is paved with good intentions:

Holy smokes! Inmates at Headingley Correctional Centre have had their prison-issued Bibles confiscated because too many pages were being ripped from the books and used as rolling papers.

The jail is supposed to be smoke free. . . .

The Winnipeg Sun first reported in December inmates in Manitoba's provincial jails were getting around a smoking ban by making "tobacco" from nicotine chewing-pieces and used tea leaves.

[Full Story]

Mmmm. Now there's a fine smoking experience.

Still, as one commenter in the article points out, it's a symptom of a schizophrenic government system: Winnipeg has a needle exchange program to "help" those who want to shoot heroin. But God forbid anyone should want to read a Bible in prison lest he use it to smoke tea leaves.

The Decablog

Adrian Warnock has created the Decablog, a group consisting of ten of the highest ranked Christian blogs in the TTLB Ecosystem. The purpose is to spread the influence of Christian blogging, essentially by using these ten as point men.

Turns out I'm already a regular reader of seven of the ten, and a good portion already appears in my blogroll. If the Decalog collectively is the powerhouse it is individually, it's a blogging force to be reckoned with.

Adrian has also created an aggregator, which I have also blogrolled.

Interesting medical results

The BBC reports on this encouraging bit of medical research:

Scientists have reversed the damage caused to the brain by Alzheimer's disease during tests on mice.

The US team used an antibody to remove the build up of potentially damaging deposits from the area of the brain responsible for memory and cognition.

[Full Story]

Of course, without the use of a single embryonic stem cell, it can't be a real breakthrough. [extreme sarcasm mode off]

From the way-too-much-time-on-their-hands dept.

Here's a guy who did a day's worth of hardware hacking and converted a 50-year-old rotary phone into a cellular phone.

(H/T: /.)

January 21, 2005

Friday in the wild - Jan. 21, 2005

From Theophilus over at Notes at the Front Lines comes this gem:

Today's "News of the Surreal" comes to us from Hollywood (surprise!), where Fox TV, of all people, acknowledged that it covered up the rear end of a cartoon character recently because of worries about the FCC.

[Read The Amish Take Over Fox TV]

Yeah, we all know how the FCC has cracked down on Fox for all those views of Homer's butt over the years. . . .

I don't believe for a minute that Fox is trying to cover its rear (so to speak); what we are seeing here is a sarcastic backlash against the general public, which is getting fed up with increasing levels of T&A being shoveled at us by the media.

Here's a gem that's been floating around the blogosphere since about Monday (I first picked it up on Slashdot. Someone managed to dig up some old publicity photos of Bill Gates, circa 1985, following the release of the original Windows. I know it was the 1980s and all, but they still look needlessly homoerotic. At the time of writing, the original source was suffering from the Slashdot Effect, so you might want to try here instead.

According to Tuesday's Daily Bulletin, after a vehicle accident damaged one of Waterloo's really bad sculptures, the powers-that-be have decided that it is beyond repair and will be removed. Good riddance, I say, though it won't make me many friends in the artsy community, and admittedly, "Joy" is one of the less ugly sculptures on campus (when compared, say, to the fountain outside the Math building that looks like a giant egg taking a whiz). My only complaint is: Couldn't the driver have run into one of those hideous, orange-painted piece of bent sheet metal instead?

The Jollyblogger quoted a famous passage of Pilgrim's Progress that he regards as the greatest words in all uninspired literature. Well, it's darn good stuff at the very least, and I'm not just saying that because I'm a big fan of John Bunyan.

This week, the Crusty Curmudgeon drops to #5 for searches on the word "crusty." (On the other hand, on MSN Search, I'm now #3!) Also, for no apparent reason, earlier this week I was #8 in a search on ttlb ecosystem. Not bad for a small furry rodent . . . Most interesting search engine referral this week goes to "i have a dream-martin luther speech in midi format." Yeah, I'd like to see that too. It'd be quite a marvel of computer science.

January 20, 2005

Crybabies

Michelle Malkin has a photographic journal of today's protests of George W. Bush's inauguration. This one is my favourite and pretty much says it all.

I was stuck watching CNN's surprisingly balanced coverage of the festivities (thanks to the chintzy CRTC not allowing FoxNews on any cable channel I can receive). Unfortunately, their camera crew near the "sanctioned demonstration area" was situated near an alleged man who spent that portion of the parade hollering "F--- Bush" at high volume. Meanwhile, on other stretches of the parade route, the lowlives flung stuff. And, of course, there were the requisit swastika-bearing nitwits.

There's some real classy folks in the Socialist Workers' Party, let me tell you.

On the other hand, Bush just gave the world its first sneak preview at the new Cadillac DTS limousine, which is quite funky, to say the least.

It's a . . . miracle, I guess

A bright spot in Benny Hinn's beleaguered crusade in India: he's healing people long distance, three days in advance!

It could be dubbed as a 'remote controlled miracle'. A paralytic patient, who was to be cured at the Benny Hinn congregation to be held in Bangalore from Jan. 21 was cured of his disease almost three days earlier at a far away village even before meeting the evangelist. . . .

As the media persons were coming out, Kuria Kose, all of a sudden got up from his chair, walked up to them and shook hands with them to bid farewell.

In fact, Bharathi had earlier told media persons that the oldman [sic] could not walk because of the stroke. He was being taken to Bangalore to be cured by Benny Hinn.

[Full Story]

No further comment necessary, I think.

(H/T: Religion News Blog.)

January 18, 2005

Well, that was tedious

But the Crusty Curmudgeon now validates as XHTML.

Not only did I cobble together my own template, which violated the standard six ways from Sunday to begin with, but when you include various scripts and buttons from external sites, there's always someone out there violating the standard for you <cough>Blogger Quick Editing<cough> via their code. And on top of that, now I have to be a lot more careful about how I write these things. Whee!

Well, now I have an excuse to clean up all those old posts.

January 17, 2005

Filling in time with another meme

La Shawn Barber is taking the weekend off blogging, but left her readers with a few good questions to answer:

1) How long have you been blogging?

Since September 2003, so not quite a year and a half.

2) Do you believe you’re addicted to blogging? Please explain, and be honest. It is habit-forming, I must confess. (If I decide to use your response, I may have follow-up questions.)

Sometimes I feel bad about not blogging anything for a few days, but I've never had the sort of guilt feelings about it that would suggest to me that I'm addicted. Usually I just don't have anything to say at the time.

3) Have you ever taken a hiatus? If so, for what reason and how long?

Never fully, but because of time constraints or just wanting to concentrate my efforts on something else, I've dialed back my blogging time now and then. I've never felt a pressing need to get away from it all; it's just a hobby that takes a lower priority when necessary.

4) Have you ever thought of giving up your blog? Why or why not?

No, never. In addition to being a convenient place to venty, it's of value to me for my technical and rhetorical skills - it keeps me doing something with the Web instead of just talking about doing something.

January 16, 2005

Blogroll update

This is something I should have included on Friday, when I focus on showcasing other people's blogs, but I just didn't get around to it until now.

While I actually have well over 100 blogs that I have bookmarked and pay attention to - and thank heaven for newsreaders like RssReader and like products - my current blogroll reflects the dozen or so blogs that I consciously look forward to reading when I see that they have been updated. Three more blogs have attained the status of Crusty Choices:

  • Challies.com: Not only is it really, really nice to look at, but I find myself agreeing with Tim more often than is probably healthy.
  • Parableman: It was the depth and breadth of the theological discussions here that originally attracted me.
  • The Evangelical Outpost: Joe Carter's Know Your Evangelicals series had me coming back for more.

I'm about to attempt to make this blog XHTML compliant, assuming such is even possible on a Blogger site. Part of the revamp will be a reworking of my sidebar, which to my eyes is getting a tad cluttered. As a way of being a little more friendly to other bloggers, particularly those who have been nice to me, I intend to add a list of reciprocal links, which will comprise anyone who links to the Crusty Curmudgeon or Sacra Eloquia and isn't otherwise already covered (e.g. as part of the League of Reformed Bloggers).

Jesus the Logician, supplemental

Speaking of Jesus the Logician, perennial contrarian and "reformed Catholic" Kevin Johnson apparently takes issue with Prof. Willard's thesis and includes the usual thinly veiled suggestion that he is a boob: "only in California," he scoffs.

Well, if there's anything I admire in Kevin, it's his consistency . . .

Jesus the Logician: Luke 4:14-32

Joe Carter at The Evangelical Outpost has initiated a project he has titled the "Jesus the Logician" Project. Apparently inspired by an article by Christian philosopher Dallas Willard, the idea is to demonstrate that Jesus' discourse involved sound reasoning and use of the forms of logic. This is the sort of endeavour I can really get behind.

For my contribution, I direct your attention to this passage in Luke 4, in which Jesus begins his public ministry:

And he came to Nazareth, where he had been brought up: and, as his custom was, he went into the synagogue on the sabbath day, and stood up for to read. And there was delivered unto him the book of the prophet Esaias. And when he had opened the book, he found the place where it was written, The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he hath anointed me to preach the gospel to the poor; he hath sent me to heal the brokenhearted, to preach deliverance to the captives, and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty them that are bruised, to preach the acceptable year of the Lord. And he closed the book, and he gave it again to the minister, and sat down. And the eyes of all them that were in the synagogue were fastened on him.

And he began to say unto them, This day is this scripture fulfilled in your ears. And all bare him witness, and wondered at the gracious words which proceeded out of his mouth. And they said, Is not this Joseph's son?

And he said unto them, Ye will surely say unto me this proverb, Physician, heal thyself: whatsoever we have heard done in Capernaum, do also here in thy country. And he said, Verily I say unto you, No prophet is accepted in his own country. But I tell you of a truth, many widows were in Israel in the days of Elias, when the heaven was shut up three years and six months, when great famine was throughout all the land; but unto none of them was Elias sent, save unto Sarepta, a city of Sidon, unto a woman that was a widow. And many lepers were in Israel in the time of Eliseus the prophet; and none of them was cleansed, saving Naaman the Syrian.

And all they in the synagogue, when they heard these things, were filled with wrath, and rose up, and thrust him out of the city, and led him unto the brow of the hill whereon their city was built, that they might cast him down headlong. But he passing through the midst of them went his way, and came down to Capernaum, a city of Galilee, and taught them on the sabbath days. And they were astonished at his doctrine: for his word was with power. (Luke 4:14-32)

Even without his supernatural knowledge, Jesus should have been able to read the body language of his hearers as he finished reading Isaiah and applying it to himself. They sat there and glared at him. How dare he! Who does he think he is? We knew this young upstart when he was still in diapers!

Here Jesus uses a logical form known as anthypophora: anticipating and immediately answering objections, as it were, a rhetorical pre-emptive strike. Sensing what they are thinking, he tells them: "You have heard about the things I've been doing out of town, and you're thinking, 'Physician, heal thyself.'" In other words, according to commentators Jamieson, Fausset and Brown, charity begins at home; the Nazarenes must have thought the hometown boy owed them a display of power like the one he'd given Capernaum.

But, Jesus adds, "No prophet is accepted in his own country." He immediately answers the anticipated objection with a proverb of his own: Familiarity breeds contempt. Joseph's boy may be a big shot around the Capernians [?], but he better not get any delusions of grandeur around us! And he continues his argument by comparing himself with the prophets Elijah and Elisha, whose most spectacular miracles were for the benefit of foreigners, instead of their own people. The Nazarenes wanted him to put on a dog and pony show, but that wasn't what Jesus was there for.

If the reaction of the Nazarenes proves anything, it's that Jesus had them dead to rights. They try to kill him. Miraculously escaping the attempt on his life, he is true to his word and returns to Capernaum where the locals rightly recognized the authority of his teaching.

January 15, 2005

Evil corporations and The Corporation

Though I've been out of school just a few months shy of the time I spent in, I still regularly read the school newspaper, Imprint to keep abreast of goings-on on campus.

Here's an article that caught my eye simply because it is a review of The Corporation, something I've seen and reviewed on this blog myself. The author, a psychology major, makes note of a bit of intellectual dishonesty that I had overlooked (but he's right):

A highlight of this movie involves a U.S. government specialist performing a diagnosis of "the corporation" by using the DSM-IV (the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual, fourth edition - a tool that many psychologists and psychiatrists use to diagnose mental illnesses). Yet, the "specialist" does not focus his diagnosis on one single corporation, but instead takes the worst effects of many corporations - immorality of Enron, pollution by Exxon and the like - to paint an incredibly skewed picture of the whole.

[Full Story]

Put more simply, the producers found Corporation A guilty of Sin I, Corporation B guilty of Sin II, and so forth, therefore all corporations are guilty of I, II, etc. This is known as the fallacy of hasty generalization.

I used to love the freebie movies for the same reason as the author: you had a chance to see crap you wouldn't pay for otherwise.

We got pictures!

Following the successful touchdown of the Huygens probe on Titan this morning, NASA started receiving scientific data, including pictures.

Since Titan's surface is obscured by clouds, this is a human first. As the image to the right shows, Titan looks an awful lot like Mars - only it's a lot colder and there's water.

NASA has more pictures and complete coverage.

Another book meme: What authors are in your library?

Via Notes in the Key of Life: Cindy posted a list of authors she has in her library. The trick here is to take her list, delete the names of authors you don't have, and replace them with authors you do, in boldface. Then link back to the source (i.e. me, not Cindy).

Here's my list. Cindy had a mix of fiction and non-fiction that was heavily biased in favour of fiction, so I decided to balance it out a bit by contributing two of each:

  • Charlotte Bronte
  • Stephen King
  • Terry Pratchett
  • John Piper
  • J. R. R. Tolkien
  • Ann Coulter
  • Charles Dickens
  • John MacArthur
  • C.S. Lewis

Have fun!

January 14, 2005

Friday in the wild

Friday is the day that I highlight those blog posts that I found most interesting and were not otherwise featured, e.g. in the Christian Carnival.

From Theophilus at Notes from the Front Lines comes a blistering indictment of the marketroids who thought magazine-format Bibles were a good idea:

I guess I wouldn't be so disappointed by all this if I thought that all of it was being used for evangelism, if Christians weren't buying this stuff just to give to their neighbors and friends and people who had never, ever been inside a church. Then maybe, just maybe, I could buy into it. But I know that's not who's buying it, and I know that's not what it's being bought for. Christians are buying this drivel. We're marketing it, testing it, developing it and worst of all, buying it. We're buying it because the Bible, the Word of God that is living and active and sharper than any two-edged sword, that has had the power to transform lives for centuries, that is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, that somebody loved passionately and strongly enough to pen a 176-verse love song to it in Psalm 119, isn't exciting enough for us. And with our 15-hour work days, two-hour commutes, Bible studies, choir practices, kids' soccer games, teen retreats, MTV-mutated attention spans and keeping up with "24" and "Desperate Housewives," we don't have time for it.

[Read I Think I'm Gonna Be Sick . . .]

Conservative pundit Michelle Malkin chronicles some of the hate mail she receives constantly. Be warned: "I hope you get cancer and die" is one of the polite remarks. Four-letter words and vile stereotypes about Asian women abound. Don't believe all the lefty platitudes about equality; faced with an intelligent woman of a visible minority who doesn't toe their party line, their first reaction is to grab the sheets, hoods, and wooden crosses. For whatever reason, I've accumulated a fair number of Filipino friends over the years, and I'm offended on their behalf. Ms. Malkin would have been completely within her rights to post names and email addresses, and it would have done me a world of good to see some of these Neanderthals publicly humiliated. That she didn't, only proves that she has more grace than the entire population of liberal knuckle-draggers.

The Crusty Curmudgeon remains at #4 in Google searches on "crusty." And on that note, here's a first from the search engine front. The majority of search queries hit on the Crusty Curmudgeon seem to be looking for information on various literature. This kind is on the increase simply because the number of books I mention on the blog goes up with time. Every so often it is obvious that they are looking for my take specifically, for various reasons (searching on a particular turn of phrase I had used, including "crusty" in the query, or what have you.). But this week was the first time I've seen someone come right out and Google on "scott mcclare, canada." (I'm the only one.) Hello out there, whoever you are.

"My God, it's full of stars . . ."

According to Space.com, the European Huygens probe has separated from the Cassini spacecraft and is now on its way to Titan.

NASA TV will begin live coverage of the descent at 3am. This, of course, is too late for curmudgeons to stay up listening to engineers reciting telemetry figures over the radio. I'll be checking in on this story in the morning, and making sure we didn't offend the natives. If we haven't been enslaved by big-brained aliens, I'll assume all went OK.

Update: Success! The Huygens probe has touched down on Titan and beome the farthest man-made object to touch down on another world. It has also transmitted science data back up to Cassini. Here is Space.com's blow-by-blow.

January 13, 2005

And now . . . this

The headline pretty much says it all: Mich[igan] prosecutors seek mental exam for man accused of using poodle as weapon.

Prosecutors are seeking a new psychiatric exam for a man accused of swinging a poodle to fend off a sheriff's deputy during a traffic stop.

[Full Story]

"Careful, Sarge! It's yappy!"

Update: And now this, too: Oh, man, you just can't make this stuff up:

A "SEX bomb" that would make enemy soldiers irresistible to each other was considered by the US military.

Declassified documents reveal the Pentagon toyed with the idea of an aphrodisiac chemical weapon in 1994.

[Full Story]

1994, eh? On Bubba's watch. Surprise, surprise, surprise.

Better yet, how curmudgeonly are you?

Now here's a quiz a crusty curmudgeon can get behind. Test your history knowledge, courtesy of Barking Moonbat Early Warning System.

I scored 17, apparently atypical for someone of my tender years.

Just how nerdy am I, anyway?

I am nerdier than 73% of all people. Are you nerdier? Click here to find out!

What's your Nerd Quotient?

(H/T: Ramblings' Journal.)

How moonbats think, part IV

According to CathiefromCanada, the problem with U.S. Homeland Security nominee Michael Chertoff is that he looks too much like a character Laurence Olivier played in Marathon Man.

Heaven help me, I do believe she's serious.

And now . . . this

Once again, the minds of Great Britain have made another stunning scientific breakthrough:

PEOPLE are to be tortured in laboratories at Oxford University in a United States-funded experiment to determine whether belief in God is effective in relieving pain.

While enduring the agony, they will be exposed to religious symbols such as images of the Virgin Mary or a crucifix. Their neurological responses will be measured to determine the efficacy of their faith in helping them to cope.

[Full Story]

Well, I doubt it will have quite the effect they're hoping for. It might cut down on the indigenous vampire population, however.

(H/T: The Great Separation.)

January 12, 2005

Cool space news

Here's one of those space stories I can really get behind, as I'm a sucker for blowing stuff up:

A NASA spacecraft with a Hollywood name — Deep Impact (search) — blasted off Wednesday on a mission to smash a hole in a comet and give scientists a glimpse of the frozen primordial ingredients of the solar system. . . .

Scientists are counting on Deep Impact to carve out a crater in Comet Tempel 1 that could almost swallow the Roman Coliseum. It will be humans' first look into the heart of a comet, a celestial snowball still containing the original building blocks of the sun and the planets. . . .

Nothing like this has ever been attempted before.

[Full Story]

Well, that last bit isn't strictly true:

The Infamous Brad Pitt Equalization Device!

Are you honked off because America's Favourite Couple, fashion plates Barbie and KenJennifer and Brad called it quits?

Cheer up. The only antidote you need is a liberal dose of the Brad Pitt Equalization Device. Repeat as necessary.

(Yeah, I've been waiting for ages for any excuse to link to that one.)

Silly but addictive

Being a sometime Flash user who would love to enrich his skills, once in a while I do a Google run to see how people are using Flash and what the current state-of-the-art is. Occasionally, when I'm in a weird mood, I'll google on "weird Japanese flash." The results range from the bizarre to the indescribable. Not understanding a word of Japanese, I just don't get the penchant for technomusic and ASCII kittens, and some of the recurring imagery in animations of this type is enough to induce weird dreams.

But since my last run a few days ago, I've found myself quite addicted to this game. Don't worry if you can't read a word of the text. It's pretty self-explanatory. My high score so far is a respectable 118.

January 11, 2005

Do not lose heart

I was tempted this week to follow suit with some of the other Godbloggers and engage in a little theodicy this week. But after hearing our Sunday sermon, I was inspired (no pun intended) to move in a different direction.

The sermon was titled "Seeing Forever" and was based on the last few verses of 2 Corinthians 4:

For which cause we faint not; but though our outward man perish, yet the inward man is renewed day by day. For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, worketh for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory; while we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen: for the things which are seen are temporal; but the things which are not seen are eternal. (2 Cor. 4:16-18)

It is tempting to look at the here and now and lose heart. The persecution of the Church - by which I mean real persecution, not those petty little annoyances from Barry Lynn that everyone complains about here in North America - in our time is unprecedented in history, even in the Roman Empire at its worst. Even with all our radar and satellite imaging, weather can still kill a quarter million souls without warning. Or on a personal level, we might be unemployed, or broke, or rejected. When our focus is on ourselves in the here and now, it is easy to lose heart.

And for Paul, in his day, it must have been easy to lose heart. As he writes to the Corinthians a few pages later, consider what he himself had had to endure for the sake of Christ (here's a list for you, Rebecca):

  • Of the Jews five times received I forty stripes save one.
  • Thrice was I beaten with rods,
  • once was I stoned,
  • thrice I suffered shipwreck,
  • a night and a day I have been in the deep;
  • In journeyings often,
  • in perils of waters,
  • in perils of robbers,
  • in perils by mine own countrymen,
  • in perils by the heathen,
  • in perils in the city,
  • in perils in the wilderness,
  • in perils in the sea,
  • in perils among false brethren;
  • In weariness and painfulness,
  • in watchings often,
  • in hunger and thirst,
  • in fastings often,
  • in cold and nakedness.
  • Beside those things that are without, that which cometh upon me daily, the care of all the churches. (2 Cor. 11:24-28)

But what of it? is Paul's point. His perspective was not on the external, but the internal. The outward man was perishing - helped along in his case, I'm sure, by all the abuse he had suffered at the hands of his enemies - yet thanks to Christ, his inward man was getting better.

Paul also admonished his readers to focus on the eternal rather than the temporal. The difficulties of the present day may seem heavy, he says. But against the "weight of glory," they are but a trifle.

The Hebrew Christians were suffering, and it seems as though many of them might have been motivated to pack it in and convert back to Judaism again rather than endure it. If Paul didn't write Hebrews, it almost certainly was someone who knew him and his teachings on this subject. The author concludes the great "faith" chapter, chapter 11, with another list of the sufferings of the faithful of old:

  • Women received their dead raised to life again: and others were tortured, not accepting deliverance; that they might obtain a better resurrection:
  • And others had trial of [cruel] mockings and scourgings,
  • yea, moreover of bonds and imprisonment:
  • They were stoned,
  • they were sawn asunder,
  • were tempted,
  • were slain with the sword:
  • they wandered about in sheepskins and goatskins;
  • being destitute, afflicted,
  • tormented; (Of whom the world was not worthy:)
  • they wandered in deserts,
  • and [in] mountains,
  • and [in] dens and caves of the earth. (Heb. 11:35-38)

And on top of all this, unlike the Corinthians (and us!) who had seen the promise of God fulfilled in Christ, these ancient and anonymous heroes had only the faith that God would someday keep his promises. And how much more, as the author says, should those of us on this side of Golgotha not lose heart? He continues his thought in the first few verses of chapter 12:

Wherefore seeing we also are compassed about with so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset [us], and let us run with patience the race that is set before us, looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of [our] faith; who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God. For consider him that endured such contradiction of sinners against himself, lest ye be wearied and faint in your minds. (Heb. 12:1-3)

One of my favourite Shakespeare plays is Hamlet, of which, God willing, I shall have more to say in the next few weeks. It happens to contain the best-known lines in all of Shakespeare's works, so well known, in fact, that they have become clichéd:

To be, or not to be: that is the question:
Whether 'tis nobler in the mind to suffer
The slings and arrows of outrageous fortune,
Or to take arms against a sea of troubles,
And by opposing end them? (Hamlet III.1)

Hamlet, faced with the choice between enduring the "slings and arrows" or avoiding them by committing suicide, chooses life because he fears the "undiscovered country" on the other side of death more. Paul would have made the same choice, but ironically for a different reason. The "slings and arrows" were external and temporal. He did not lose heart because enduring them prepared his inner man for the eternal, and its rewards which far outweighed the sufferings of the present.

January 07, 2005

Friday in the wild

It's Friday, so once again I present a compendium of interesting posts from around the blogosphere that I have encountered in the last week.

bLogicus reports on a Boston-area abortionist who freely admits that what she is doing is taking life. "I have the utmost respect for life," says the doctor (name withheld). Just not these lives, she doesn't add. [Read Abortionist Confesses 'Yes, I End Life']

Adrian Warnock, who recently came right out and said Emergent Church personalities are neo-liberals , by which he means "the intentional adaptation of Christianity to post-modernity," has put together a news aggregator comprising blogs that discuss the Emergent movement from both sides.

Russ at the Coffeehouse at the End-Of-Days calls nonbelievers to read the Bible, wondering why we Christians would rather have them start off with Mere Christianity or something:

I confess to my own shame that I am sometimes hesitant to turn non-Christians loose on the Bible lest they reject it and the Lord. If that isn't perverse, what is? Do I seriously imagine that books of lesser spiritual value (that is, all other books) will do a better job of penetrating the human heart than the very book that God gave to do that very thing? Do I think of the Bible as something a person "works up to" after they have developed a taste for religious things?

[Read Calling Non-Christians To Read]

Whenever I get around to it, one of these days I want to write my own essay with the working title, "Why you should study doctrine." In the meantime, however, Michael's thoughts over at Christian Conservative capture a few of my own sentiments:

What is doctrine? It’s a body of unchanging and specific principles. The Bible is specific in identifying God, the fall, sin, the law, salvation, and Christ. The Bible isn’t a nebulous book that speaks in secret code leaving every truth up to individual interpretation, as much as those who pollute its message would say in their own defense. Therefore we should understand these specifics, specifically. And that’s exactly what I’ve been doing these last few years: getting to know my religion, the fruit of which is the excitement I now have for this truth as an older man.

[Read Doctrine Matters]

He's also distilled a few of the historic Protestant confessions into basic but readable PDF files.

My friend Rand found a local Baptist church missing the point:

On the Lord's Day, in place of an evening service where God's people could be praising and worshiping the Lord, this 'church' presented a violent, stupid Hollywood movie. And this promise of dialogue, assuming it is somekind of Gospel presentation, still doesn't legitimize this nonsense.

[Read This Kind of Thing Drives Me Nuts!!!]

And he's right. I like the idea of watching thought-provoking movies and following them up with critical discussion, but that's something I would do at home and by invitation. The church is for the worship of God and the training of the saints, and as I've said before, any church that ignores this duty is missing its mandate.

Kids these days. "Shrode" over at Thinklings Weblog posted an intriguing article about a pastor-stumper from one of the rug-rats:

I love children. And I love their questions. And last night one stumped me. In the children's Bible study, they were studying the second great commandment, 'Love your neighbor as yourself'. This child asked her teacher, 'Does that mean we have to love Satan too?' The teacher said, 'Let's ask the Pastor'. When they came to me with the question after Bible study, I had to admit that I didn't know, but that I'd work on it."

[Read Do We Have To Love Satan?]

Actually, I've been trying to think about how I would answer that question, too. Well, it's good fodder for a future post.

Looking through my referrer links, I got hit with an interesting Google query this week, on yeastless factuality. It's interesting not because it's bizarre, but because it wasn't one that would have occurred to me. Obviously someone was looking for information related to The Life of Pi, and hit my review. What surprised me, looking through the hits, was how many hits were related to sermons and homiletics, some of them making use of Martel's phrase pretty well, others not. Obviously this novel has resonated with a lot of clergy, though as its theme is the dividing line between faith and skepticism, I guess that shouldn't surprise me.

In other search news, as of today this site ranks #4 on Google for the basic search "crusty." We're movin' on up . . .

Postscript: One more. It was posted this week, so it counts. From Varifrank comes this hilarious-but-pointed story about some Eurotrash IT workers getting what-for:

Today, during an afternoon conference that wrapped up my project of the last 18 months, one of my Euro collegues tossed this little turd out to no one in particular:

"See, this is why George Bush is so dumb, theres a disaster in the world and he sends an Aircraft Carrier..."

After which he and many of my Euro collegues laughed out loud.

and then they looked at me. I wasn't laughing, and neither was my Hindi friend sitting next to me, who has lost family in the disaster.

I'm afraid I was "unprofessional", I let it loose . . .

Only you'll have to go view the rest for yourself. (Hat tip to Brutally Honest.)

January 06, 2005

OK, I've said it before and I'll say it again . . .

Now I've seen everything.



Awww.

Just because I'm in a sentimental mood: here's a cute video of Laura Bush's new puppy, Miss Beazley, being bad.

Only 355 shopping days until Christmas

If you're wondering what to get for a tecnical writer in need, consider this:

MEETINGS will never be boring again. A high-tech pair of spectacles that allows the wearer to turn one of the lenses into a personal DVD screen is to go on sale in America after appearing at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas this week.

The French-designed glasses, called the Eyetop DVD, can also be used on public transport or at long, boring family gatherings. It comes with headphones, a portable DVD player with rechargeable battery and a carrying bag. The price has yet to be decided.

[Full Story]

Now there's a gadget I can get behind. In fact I have been hoping someone would come up with the idea for some time. Who cares about the size of your TV when you can practically beam a movie right onto your retina?

This, on the other hand, I'm not so keen on:

[Bill] Gates will also construct a “home of the future” in the car park of the conference. The so-called NextGen05 Demonstration House will feature lighting, climate control and a security system that can all be operated via a single remote control — or a computer loaded with Windows Media Centre software.

Yeah. I'm going to trust my home security to a Microsoft product. Talk about taking the "back door security alert" to the next level.

January 05, 2005

And now . . . this

A twofer from a pair of useless attention whores. First, guess who's back?

Dr. Michael Newdow, the California atheist who sued to get "under God" removed from the Pledge of Allegiance, says he has refiled a suit regarding the pledge and filed an additional suit to try to prevent members of the clergy from praying at President Bush's inauguration. . . .

In the new case, Newdow has been joined in the suit by three families who include atheists and claim they are offended "to have their government and its agents advocating for a religious view they each specifically decry."

[Full Story]

I guess if you don't like it, change the channel only works when it's the secular brownshirts telling other people what to do when they take offense. It doesn't count when the shoe is on the other foot.

Meanwhile, another California nitwit gets delusions of grandeur:

Actor Richard Gere has recorded a TV commercial urging Palestinians to vote in their election Sunday.

In a transcript obtained by The Associated Press, he said: "Hi, I'm Richard Gere, and I'm speaking for the entire world. We're with you during this election time. It's really important: Get out and vote."

[Full Story]

Hi, Richard Gere, I'm Scott McClare, and I speak for the entire universe. Shaddap!

You have to get up pretty early in the morning to fool the authorities

An Indian helicopter dropping food and water over the remote Andaman and Nicobar Islands has been attacked by tribesmen using bows and arrows.

There were fears that the endangered tribal groups had been wiped out when massive waves struck their islands.

But the authorities say the attack is a sign that they have survived.

[Full Story] (emphasis added)

January 04, 2005

Why do I let myself get dragged into these things?

Dave Armstrong is a Roman "Catholic" apologist. One of his more recent efforts is a newly published book titled The Catholic Verses: 95 Bible Passages That Confound Protestants: 95 supposed proof-texts that we Protestants can't handle.

In my experience, whenever someone claims to have an unanswerable argument, it isn't long before it is, in fact, answered. So I can't say I'm surprised to see James White begin to respond to Armstrong's claims. (White's blog makes use of blog categories, but at this point he seems to be applying them somewhat inconsistently. Nonetheless, a good bit of the DA material appears under the Roman Catholic category, so it's a good start.)

Then the meltdown started.

DA declared that he had had enough and wasn't going to argue with anti-Catholics any more. Complaining about the tone of the debate, he listed a number of "personal attacks" that he had endured. The problem is, none of them were in fact personal attacks.

An ad hominem argument is one in which the person rather than his point is attacked. For example:

  • "John Smith is an idiot; don't listen to him" is ad hominem. It is personal abuse.
  • "John Smith is no different from the people he criticizes" is ad hominem. It is a tu quoques (Latin for "you're another").
  • "John Smith disagrees with me here, but he agrees with me there, there, there, and there" is ad hominem: an accusation of inconsistency.
  • "If John Smith really believed this, he wouldn't have said that" is ad hominem: an accusation of irrationality.
  • "John Smith is an anti-Catholic, and you know how they are" is ad hominem. It "poisons the well" by associating Smith with something bad.

And so forth. There are multiple forms of the ad hominem fallacy.

On the other hand, saying that Dave Armstrong "doesn't even seem to understand what would be necessary for him to establish such a claim," as I quoted James White from DA's complaint page, is not an ad hominem. It says that DA's argumentation, not his person, is lacking - not that he is stupid, or that he does what he accuses others of, or that he is inconsistent or irrational or runs with the wrong crowd.

So, after having pointed out the obvious myself, one thing led to another and I found myself the privileged recipient of a trademarked Armstrong bloviated response,1 pointing out the many times that James White had, in fact, used an ad hominem argumentation. Disregarding the fact that out of about a dozen citations, only one of them was a clear-cut case of ad hominem, DA completely missed my point: that what he was billing as a "personal attack" was not, in fact, a personal attack.

What really gets DA going, I think, is that not only is White answering his "unanswerable" 95 proof-texts, but he's making it look easy and showing up DA's shoddy methodology to boot. So DA's packed up his ball and gone home.

1 Now that is an ad hominem argument.

Name that tune

There's a game going around the LiveJournal blogs: you set your MP3 player (or whatever) to shuffle play, then post random lyrics from the first 20 songs. As readers guess what the songs are, they're struck off the list.

Not only does a game like this satisfy my obsession with lists, not to mention my interest in music, but I kind of like the look of short lyrical fragments taken out of context. (I use them for font samples, for example.)

So here's my 20 songs. Hints: iTunes' Party Shuffle feature was using my 80's Hits playlist, and I edited out any repeat artists. Have fun.

  1. where's the streetwise Hercules to fight the rising odds?
  2. but I know the reason why you keep this silence up
  3. maybe I just wouldn't know what to do with my strength anyway
  4. and you can act real rude or totally removed and I can act like an imbecile
  5. the music makes you groove through the night
  6. either I'm wrong or I'm perfectly right every time
  7. I feel tragic like I'm Marlon Brando
  8. got a lion in my pocket and baby he's ready to roar
  9. never understood, never had a thing to prove
  10. I'll take any risk to tie back the hands of time
  11. just like a rainbow you know you set me free
  12. people in the park playing games in the dark
  13. there was a woman in the jungle and a monkey on a tree
  14. get angry at the weekend then go back to school
  15. like a Philistine we're burning witches too
  16. a skill I needed to have to be a survivor
  17. my heart's staying where my heart belongs
  18. strange is your language and I have no decoder
  19. the golden dance life could be
  20. when you fake it's hard to tell

2005 predictions (Or, blatant Carnival-bait)

(Wow, some original title, eh?)

I have been sitting out of the Christian Carnival for about the last month. Christian Carnival 51 (which I would abbreviate as "CCLI" except then I would have hordes of lawyer-toting Christian artists banging on my door) is being hosted at Weapons of Mass Distraction. This being the first carnival of 2005, the host asked contributors to consider making some predictions for the next year.

I'm certainly no prophet, or even much of a pundit. I pay far less attention to the news than even I would like to. No doubt about half my readers are going to think this is about the most naïve thing they've ever read, and the other half will think they're pretty unoriginal. So be it. Nothing ventured, nothing gained, right? These are the sorts of stories I expect to see in the news over the next 362 days, extrapolating from what I have personally observed over the last year or so.

In the world:

  • The secular Scrooges get a lot of press every Christmas season for their attempts to squash every last vestige of Chrsitianity out of December 25, but it seemed to me that the exposure was a lot higher this year. For 2005, I predict a major backlash against the ACLU, Americans United for Separation, and their ilk, as Christians and others get fed up with being told to keep their beliefs out of the public square. Remember a few years back when a graduating student brought a lawsuit against the high school that resulted in an injunction against an invocation at the commencement ceremony? Another student who was to deliver a speech that evening staged a sneeze, and a number of students who were in on the stunt replied, "God bless you!" thereby circumventing the court order and thumbing their nose at it. That kind of backlash, orders of magnitude larger.
  • The election in Iraq will go ahead as scheduled, but it won't be pretty. Whatever the outcome, I predict a lot of violence leading up to, and during, the election, and afterwards, as insurgentsterrorists continue to attempt to destabilize the country.
  • At least one of President Bush's Cabinet or Supreme Court nominees is going to get Borked, big time.
  • Here at home, the passing of legislation legalizing same-sex "marriage" is a foregone conclusion, but at a price to the minority Liberal government. I expect to see at least a few defections from Paul Martin's Cabinet, and possibly a few members actually crossing the floor over this. This issue is going to weaken the Martin government. (This is also the first year in a long time in which a minority government tabled a budget. For those unfamiliar with a parliamentary system of government, this is the most important legislation of the year, and a defeat of the budget is a vote of no confidence in the government, forcing the dissolution of Parliament. To pass this year's budget, the Liberals need around 20 more votes than they have seats.)
  • Generally speaking, same-sex "marriage" will continue to be the main battleground on which the culture wars will be fought this year.

In the church:

  • If same-sex "marriage" remains a hot-button topic, then Bible-believing churches are going to start to examine their relationship with the state as the line between politics and religion becomes blurred from the secular side. Notwithstanding the fact that there are plenty of mainline churches more than happy to solemnize such a union, I see the possibility that someone will try to sue to compel a clergyman of their choice to do so. (Whether they will prevail is another question, particularly in Canada where supposedly the proposed legislation specifically exempts clergy from this obligation.)
  • Judging by the way the issue is heating up amongst the Godbloggers, the whole Emergent Church thing will start to look less like a fad and more like a full-blown theological controversy, as more people read and scrutinize what its leaders believe and stand for.
  • While Open Theism remains an important controversy, the furor that culminated in the controversy over Pinnock and Sanders in the ETS has largely died down. The justification/imputation/"New Perspective on Paul" controversy will cease to be an in-house debate between professional theologians and interested by-standers, and take its place as a front-burner issue.

But most importantly: "the word of the Lord spread widely and grew in power" (Acts 19:20). This is, as it has always been, inevitable. Soli Deo gloria.

January 01, 2005

Sacra Eloquia is live

Not much to see yet, but my parallel theological blog Sacra Eloquia is open for business.

If you are using Internet Exploder as your browser, you may note a number of technical deficiencies. If you're well versed in HTML/XHTML and CSS, I'd love your assistance making it look consistent across browsers. The look in Firefox is the norm.

All my reviews - the master list

Books

Movies

Music

2005 on the Crusty Curmudgeon: a preview

And now that the new year has been ushered in, here are some rambling ideas about my plans for the rest of 2005.

Biggest change: I am happy to announce the inauguration of Sacra Eloquia, my theology blog. This isn't a "division of labour" thing; I'm not going to change the general focus of the Crusty Curmudgeon. Rather, I feel that the anything-goes format of my current blog just isn't conducive to extended and detailed expository theology, so I've started another one where I can post on-line "sermons" on a somewhat regular basis.

I am going to start by duplicating the material I posted here on sola Scriptura and solus Christus, and add the remainder of the five solas as the Carnival of the Reformation progresses. Then I am finally going to convert my partially completed Sunday school series on Galatians to Web-friendly HTML. Lord willing, I will complete that series online even if I never get a chance to preach it. My plans in the longer term include:

  1. switching to the Old Testament, to Daniel
  2. "First Principles," a series on Hebrews
  3. back to the OT again to work through Ezekiel, then segue into . . .
  4. . . . the Gospel of John

I have no intention of deprecating theoblogging here. If anything, I hope to revive and finish the series on God's will that sort of fizzled in the fall.

Reading and reviewing: In 2005, I don't intend to push myself to read more. I do enough of that as it is. But I want to double my writing output; my goal is to post at least one book review every two weeks: 26 book reviews for the year. I'm also going to focus my reading efforts: a few years ago I started reading all of Stephen King's novels in order of publication, so I'm going to pick that up where I left off, with Pet Sematary. I started reading through Dorothy Sayers' mystery novels last month, and I'll finish that series next year. And I'm just about due for another Tolkien blitz; it's been a few years. Apart from that, come what may.

Theatre time: My goal for 2005, again, is not to artificially increase my viewing. I watch enough TV and movies as it is. But I intend to bump up my writing about movies by focusing my viewing on a few subjects. First, as I mentioned some time ago, I intend to view all the Coen brothers' films in order of production, one film per month. Second, I want to go through all ten of the Star Trek feature films - again, one per month. And third, awhile back I made a list of my personal favourite SF movies, two per decade; having done so, it's only fair that I should post some extended critical commentary on all of them, starting with my Top Three: 2001: A Space Odyssey, Blade Runner, and Contact. "First," "second," and "third" don't indicate priority, just intention to focus on these three areas, but I do intend to finish the first two and at least make a serious dent in the third category.

Other plans: Not much, so far. One area I haven't explored yet is reviewing music. I listen to an awful lot of it, but I haven't felt that I could write an album review to quite the same standards as I can for books and movies. That's starting to change as I get more interested over time in listening critically to a wider range of composers and genres.

And, of course, there will undoubtedly be a redesign of the whole site sometime in September, on or about its second anniversary - as I always like to put what I learn about Web and graphic design over the year into practice.

I'm looking forward to sharing this year with you all. Soli Deo gloria.