Best of 2006

Today is the one day of the year where it’s proper to use that annoying “see ya next year” joke, and what better way of ending out a banner year than to follow the tradition of years past (2004, 2005), and list a few of my “bests” from A.D. 2006:

Best Novel (read in 2006): It’s a toss-up this year between two very different but equally grand novels: A Confederacy of Dunces, by John Kennedy Toole, and The Children of Men by P.D. James. Dunces is by far the funniest novel I’ve ever read, and James’ work (which has just been released as a feature film) is remarkable in its use of literary device to both draw attention to current issues facing mankind and to appropriate spiritual themes.

Best Nonfiction: David Wells’ No Place for Truth: or Whatever Happened to Evangelical Theology. It’s more than a decade old, but it still captures quite well the current state of evangelicalism, its deficiencies, and the key ingredient that’s missing.

Best Movie: Like last year, I didn’t make it out to the cinemas that much (I think that M. Night Shyamalan’s The Lady in the Water was the only one I made it out to see on the big screen). For the titles I saw on DVD, the quality of selection was pretty sparse. I did, however, spend much of the summer watching a different film noir selection each week. I saw many of the classic greats, including the 1949 Orson Welles classic, The Third Man, which as a 57 year-old film takes the honors for my best of 2006.

Best TV Show: If it had actually aired this year, Lost might get the nod for best TV show. But since ABC thinks it can stay on top with only 6 “Best. Episode. Ever.” spots, it gets demoted a bit in my book. Also demoted is House, which — while it still has good characters — has resorted to unnecessary plot gimmicks. These demotions notwithstanding, I’ll have to go with The Office as 2006’s best. There’s never been another show that does awkward better, and awkward is in.

Best Reality TV Show: Ever since the 33rd season of Survivor, I’ve pretty much given up on “reality” TV. Then, I got cable and discovered The Discovery Channel. Two of its recent shows have kept me and my wife riveted: Man v. Wild with the inimitable Bear Grylls, and Everest: Beyond the Limit — a harrowing record of this year’s expedition.

Best Comment Left At TruePravda: That will have to go to Ron Lowe’s successful attempt at outdoing my eulogy for Dr. Ronald H. Nash. In fact, the position of Lowe’s comment and my post should probably be reversed!

Best Quote: (from the ultrasound tech) “I’m 99.9% sure it’s a girl!”

What are your 2006 bests?

Dead man writing

The news of President Ford’s death has caused some bloggers to remember this video, where SNL comedian Dana Carvey, acting as Tom Brokaw, pre-records the announcement of Ford’s death — in 1996. It’s a funny video, given the fact that it is now common practice for news outlets to have completed obituaries on hand before a public figure passes on.

The practice, though common, is a vulturous tactic that places the need to be first over respect for the living. You just can’t get much worse than writing about the living as though they were dead, right?

Wrong.

This morning, I read the long, somewhat interesting obituary of President Ford in the Washington Post. At the end of the obit is the following notation:

J.Y. Smith, a former obituary editor of The Washington Post, died in January.

I quickly scroll back up to the byline:

By J.Y. Smith and Lou Cannon
Special to The Washington Post
Wednesday, December 27, 2006; Page A01

Yep. A dead man wrote the obituary. This takes “embedded reporting” to an entirely new level. Not since Lazarus have we had someone more qualified to write on the subject. I just a bit surprised that we didn’t get a report on the president from the other side…

SSNs, Slogans, and Irony

My newborn daughter recently received in the mail her social security card, complete with a nine-digit number that she’ll have to memorize and recite for the rest of her life if she ever wants to have anything “official” completed. Given the chances that she’ll ever receive back any benefits that she’ll pay into the program (under the current setup) are slim, I found the following slogan on the back of the envelope more than a bit ironic:

“FOR THE TIMES THAT COUNT — COUNT ON SOCIAL SECURITY”

This gives me some hope, for at least the federal government is not spending our money hiring advertising firms to develop slogans for their programs…

Christ as Enmity

Popular Christmas sensibilities most often portray the Christ as a helpless baby. This we should not forget, as it reminds us how the almighty God took upon flesh. Jesus was a man — the son of God. If he had not his humanity, Christ could not have satisfied the wrath of God on the cross.

Yet for many, the baby Jesus lying in a manger never grows up. The safe, baby Jesus demands little more than an occasional diaper change, or a rocking to sleep. Lest this Christmas season cause us to forget, let’s remember that Christ served not only as nativity, but as enmity.

I will put enmity between you and the woman,
and between your offspring and her offspring;
he shall bruise your head,
and you shall bruise his heel.
[Genesis 3:15, ESV]

This “helpless” babe became the adversary of all that is evil.

That’s one reason my favorite piece of Christmas music is George Frederick Handel’s Messiah. It not only looks at the nativity, but ends having shown us the King of Kings and Lord of Lords, who shall reign forever and ever.

Merry Christmas, and may the Christ that is babe, enmity and king reign in your hearts.