December 31, 2005

State of the blog 2005: The year behind

Call it the Year of Best Intentions.

If 2003 was the year I discovered that blogging was sustainable as a hobby, if 2004 was the year I determined what, exactly, the Crusty Curmudgeon was all about, then 2005 was supposed to be the year that I decided how, specifically, that vision would take shape.

It didn't exactly happen as I planned. But then, what does?

How I did

Sacra Eloquia: A year ago, I started a second blog, Sacra Eloquia, as a space where I could "do" expository biblical theology free from the distractions of a general-purpose blog. It was easy enough to maintain as long as I had pre-existing material to draw on, but I got bogged down when I ran out. Nonetheless, because I started on schedule and stuck with it for as long as I was able, I can fairly declare this particular goal met. Besides, Sacra Eloquia isn't dead yet.

Reading and reviewing: I planned to review at least one book review every two weeks: 26 reviews. I successfully wrote one. Chalk this one up as a failure.

In my personal reading, which I log on my sidebar, I planned to read through the remainder of the works of Stephen King, Dorothy Sayers' mysteries, and Tolkien's The Hobbit and Lord of the Rings. I tackled one or two of King's novels, but none of the rest. Another miss.

Theatre time: Wanting to increase my output of movie revieiws, I planned to work my way through the films of Joel and Ethan Coen. Well, I did complete my review of Blood Simple, I have viewed all of them up to O Brother, Where Art Thou?, and I have a half-dozen half-completed reviews to show for it. Despite that prodigious hard work, I can't exactly chalk this goal up as having been attained, can I?

I had also planned to work through a series on the best science-fiction films of the last five decades, and the ten Star Trek feature films. Neither idea got off the ground.

Other plans: As I intended, I did make a few ventures into music reviewing. It confirmed a suspicion I had: even though I am myself a musician, and though I listen to an awful lot of music, I feel out of my depth when I try to write about it. Nonetheless, my review of Dire Straits' Brothers in Arms, commemorating the 20th anniversary of its release, was one of my favourite pieces of writing for the year, and I am gratified that it received such a favourable response from my friends in the blogosphere.

Summing up: It's a lot easier to maintain a blog when you just react to what others are saying. I commented on dozens of odd news stories, derided a number of public figures caught in flagrante stupido, and faithfully summarized the best of the blogosphere almost every week. But my own, original contributions were embarrassingly light. I can do better.

End-of-year roundup

My best idea: This September's Art Deco-inspired redesign of the blog stretched my creativity, not to mention my graphic and Web design skills to the limit. If I may say so myself, I'm still quite satisfied with the result three months later.

Best intentions: The September SF moratorium paved the way for CanLit Reading Month. Out of five planned recommended works, I finished one and a half. How was I to know at the time that a course in moral theology was going to dominate my reading time through to November? But, at least, I still have the list!

Books read: I kept faithful track of all my recreational reading this year, for the first time since 1994. Since at the moment I am in northern Ontario and my spreadsheet is in Ottawa, I can't do a count at the moment. Stay tuned for an update.

Movies viewed: I didn't keep count, but it's safe to say that the number of films I watch over the course of a year is somewhat greater than the number of books I read. My favourite movie of the year, hands down, was Serenity. The Hitch-Hiker's Guide to the Galaxy and Narnia were also well worth the wait. In addition, I was blessed this year to discover the films of acclaimed Japanese director Akira Kurosawa. This was the first time I had watched a Japanese production that didn't involve anime or giant green lizards, and I look forward to seeing more in the coming year.

2005 in the wild

Best new blog of the year: Was there any doubt? Phil Johnson did warn us that PyroManiac was a "fully armed and operational battle station," and this June we witnessed his rhetorical firepower, as half the blogosphere alternately tried to get Blogspotted or to fire a well-placed proton torpedo down his exhaust port. Frequently controversial, never dull.

Best re-branding effort: With a tweak here and there, Frank "centuri0n" Turk's blog, ... and his ministers a flame of fire, gradually became one of the most visually distinctive on the Net.

Most improved: Over the past couple of years, there have been a number of fine blogs that I might have read more than sporadically if they had an RSS or Atom feed, so I could read them in my aggregator instead of constantly having to check the site itself for updates. Steve Camp's CampOnThis, moved to Blogger from his own site, was one; Stand to Reason's excellent blog was another; Douglas Wilson's BLOG and MABLOG was a third.

Finally, I Created an Entire Category in My RSS Reader Just for People Like You: Seriously. My folder of "Whiners" was inspired by the temper tantrums of Michael Spencer, the Internet Monk, who was shocked to discover that there were people out there who had the audacity to read and respond to what he posted publicly to the Web. We can't have that, oh no. So over the course of the year, the IMonk shut down his blog, restored it, shut down comments, shut down comments on his group blog, the Boar's Head Tavern, shut down his blog again, deleted some controversial posts, made others available only to those who asked to read them, generally groused about the persecution he was suffering, and banned a number of sites from discussion at the BHT. The "Whiners" folder has since been populated at various times with pomos, emergies, lefties, Roman apologists, N. T. Wright fanboys, and "reformed Catholics" - but the IMonk got the ball rolling.

That was the year that was. In my next post I'll look ahead to the year that will be.