ornament 28 September 2005 ornament

Tammy Faye, Chernobyl, & the Lens of Ruin

Last year, I posted a link to a haunting photo-tour through the now-uninhabited Ukrainian town of Chernobyl. The large, abandoned buildings evoke an unearthly eeriness that underscores the preceding tragedy.

Thermonuclear reactors aren’t the only things that can have catastrophic meltdowns. While it is nowhere near the magnitude of the Chernobyl incident, the meltdown of televangelist Jim Bakker’s PTL empire landed him behind bars and his ministry in shambles. Tammy Faye got away and took her make-up with her. Heritage U.S.A., the theme park which was instrumental in Bakker’s theft from thousands of unwitting loyal supporters, went unfinished.

The anonymous “Illicit Ohio” website has a photo tour from 2004 of the abandoned site of Heritage U.S.A., which in its dilapidated state bears an uncanny resemblance to Chernobyl. Broken glass, immense structures, and overgrown streets have made Heritage U.S.A. just as much of a ghost town as Chernobyl. Through the lens of ruin, we see something that was once considered the pinnacle of success to be in fact just another whitewashed tomb.

That God would grant us eyes to see our own idolatry before we come to ruin should be the prayer of every believer. Left to our own devices, be they heavenly amusement parks or eclectic blogs with foreign verities in the title, we will only meet ruin as our destination. May we not be found without his grace that restores us from ruin.

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ornament 27 September 2005 ornament

Cajun Cookin’

Vols 30, Tigers 27

Wow. From the lowest low to the highest high, the Vols have beaten LSU in Baton Rouge! Due to my lack of cable TV, I had to listen to the game via the internet, but the excitement was still there (unfortunately John Ward wasn’t!).

Question for Coach Fulmer: what does Rick Clausen have to do to win the starting position? Beat Randy Sanders in a hot-dog eating contest? Rick Clausen is the man. Case closed.

The Vol defense gets an A. Toughness all around. Jonathan Hefney’s late-game interception gets my play of the game. The Vol receiving corps, with their countless missed passes, should get an F, but since we won, I’ll let them by with what our public school systems call a “social promotion.”

A breather next week with Ole Miss at home? Let’s hope so. . .

UPDATE: Go read Pat Forde’s article on the game and the resiliency of Rick Clausen. An excerpt:

Down 21-0 in front of 92,000 fans enjoying the loudest, giddiest group therapy session in college football history, Fulmer turned to the quarterback he’d kept treating like a bag of dirty sweat socks. He had no choice.

Read the whole thing.

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ornament 24 September 2005 ornament

Around the ’Sphere

~ Volume XV ~

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For all you extroverts out there, Jason Kottke revives a link to Jonathan Rauch’s hilarious article from The Atlantic in March 2003 entitled, “Caring for Your Introvert.” If you’re an unabashed introvert like me, be sure to share it with all those outgoing people around you.

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Be sure to check out Jason Doty’s new blog, Dr. Bare Minimum. An occasional commenter here at TruePravda, Jason is a student at SBTS and hails from my hometown of Kingsport, TN. His new blog is worth a look.

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My old friend Charles Halton is back to blogging. Charles’ former blog, Marduk’s Terror, had gaps of up to a year between posts. He looks to be updating his new awilum.com more frequently, with lots of interesting insights from the ancient Near East and the Bible. I guess Charles is now a bona fide biblical scholar, as he is now referring to himself as “J.C. Halton.”

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Christian missions are of great interest to me, and Colby Willen’s articulation of a local church vision for doing missions is spot-on in step with my own view. If you’re part of a church that’s interested in reaching out (as all churches should be), you’d be wise to consider some of the points in Colby’s post.

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ornament 22 September 2005 ornament

She Had Him at Hello,
But He Had Too Much To Do

Many proponents of same-sex marriage argue that one of the trends that supports their cause is the current decline of traditional marriage. They argue that marriage isn’t as “traditional” as it once was, given today’s high divorce rate both inside and outside the church. That makes a rather poor case for same-sex marriage, but they do have a point: traditional marriage has become, in many places, a farce.

That farce is nowhere more evident in the phenomenon we know as “the celebrity wedding.” Celebrities, you see, are only allowed to marry other celebrities. This is just a fact of life. Montagues don’t marry Capulets, and celebrities don’t mix blood with the common folk.

For a prime example of the celebrity wedding farce, consider country singer Kenny Chesney’s short-lived marriage to Renée Zellweger. After a private-yet-front-page Carribean wedding (which incidentally coincided with the opening of Chesney’s world tour), the couple is now seeking an anullment after only six months. Zellweger listed the reason for the separation as “fraud.” Chesney, it seems, had too much going on to tend to his wife:

“I hit everything so hard this year. I had the biggest tour I’ve ever done, I had a record to finish that was real important to me, and, of course, I had something new in my personal life and I was trying to do that too. It really ended up being too much. I’m tired right now, but by next year, I’ll be excited to get back to it. And it’ll be about the music again, not about the sideshow.”

Well, at least he’s keeping the important stuff in perspective…

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But He Had Too Much To Do

ornament 21 September 2005 ornament

The Bible, Without All the Carbs

Every other year, I like to do a “read the Bible in a year plan” like the M’Cheyne system, which takes about 15 minutes a day. Sound like too much time? Not to worry — now there’s the 100-Minute Bible, a text that can be completely read in 100 minutes:

Publishers [of] the 100-Minute Press say the book has been written for those who want to know more about Christianity but who do not have the time to read the original in full.

The perfect gift for the death-row inmate with only two hours left to live, I suppose. I guess it’s too early to properly lampoon this venture — after all, it could be nothing more than long gospel tract. It would, however, seem that anyone who wants to know more about Christianity would want to read more than just the Cliff’s notes — those are for the people who do not want to know more.

I am curious as to which parts will be redacted, as it “claims to neatly summarise every teaching from the Creation to the Revelation.” I’ll say. If the whole Bible takes 15 minutes per day for a year , that comes to 5,475 minutes — roughly 91 hours. One hundred minutes would barely get a person through Genesis!

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ornament 19 September 2005 ornament

On the Rising and Falling of Cities

Around 40 years ago, John Kennedy Toole wrote his Pulitzer Prize winning work, A Confederacy of Dunces — a novel about the misadventures of his New Orleanian character Ignatius Reilly. In the opening scene, Reilly is unduly harassed by a police officer and retorts:

“Is it the part of the police department to harass me when this city is a flagrant vice capital of the civilized world?” Ignatius bellowed over the crowd in front of the store. “This city is famous for its gamblers, prostitutes, exhibitionists, anti-Christs, alcoholics, sodomites, drug addicts, fetishists, onanists, pornographers, frauds, jades, litterbugs, and lesbians, all of whom are only too well protected by graft. . .”

If that was the situation in the early 1960s, what are we to say of pre-diaspora New Orleans today? Upon first hearing of Jesus, a soon-to-be disciple asked, “Can anything good come out of Nazareth?” How much more so New Orleans?

The fact is, although New Orleans is a city singular both in its aura and its corruption, it is not a singular city. From Babylon to Pompeii, the cities of the world have seen their fair share of rising and falling. It seems that more often than not — if they last long enough — cities fall at the hands of men long before they befall natural disaster.

I hope New Orleans will indeed be rebuilt. I hope that the leaders involved in building will take the opportunity to make it better than it was before, while retaining its singularity of place. Writes the Weekly Standard’s Matt Labash:

. . . as a fellow New Orleans enthusiast I know says, “It’s one of the last places that feels like a place.” New Orleans had Voodoo doctors, and stride-piano professors, and Mardi Gras Kings and Queens. The rest of us have Home Depot and Applebees.

Heterogeneous places are few and far between in America these days. This sense of uniqueness will not come from government — corrupt or not. It will emerge from its people, whom Scripture tells us are made in the image of a God who created the very earth out of nothing.

However New Orleans is rebuilt, we must remember that it will yet again be temporary. Now matter how high and strong the levees are built, New Orleans — like every other city built by man — will not endure. This temporal nature should cause us, like Abraham, to be “looking forward to the city that has foundations, whose designer and builder is God.”

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ornament 18 September 2005 ornament

Gator-Bit

Vols 7, Gators 16

Ouch. After three consecutive victories, I’d almost forgotten what it was like to lose to Florida. Ouch. Ouch. Ouch. Perhaps I shouldn’t have been so quick to release 30% of my hatred for the Gators…

To say that the Tennessee offense was unimpressive would be a gross understatement. Between our receivers’ inability to catch, and our punter’s inability to pass punt, Randy Sanders’ offense gave an already tough Florida defense all it needed to win. The only shining spot was the consistently tough play of the Vol defense, without which the score would have been much worse.

Yes, we’re behind Vanderbilt in the SEC East. V-A-N-D-E-R-B-I-L-T. Enough said. Next week, it’s LSU at LSU, where a downtrodden Louisiana will be looking for a hero. I hope coach Fulmer will be looking for an offense. . .

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ornament 16 September 2005 ornament

Gator Rhymes with Traitor

The Tennessee Volunteers have a LEAKy faucet. In the tradition of Benedict Arnold, Aldrich Ames, and Robert Hanssen, former Tennessee quarterback C.J. Leak — brother to Florida quarterback Chris Leak — has apparently turned traitor Gator. According to a touching, heartwarming, fuzzy-wuzzy USA Today story about the Leak brothers, C.J. is now “stuffing envelopes” for the Gators’ coaching staff:

Since an opponent’s schemes are catalogued in great detail on video and since wristbands full of plays run up most quarterbacks’ arms, stealing signs isn’t the cat-and-mouse game of years past. Still, Meyer says C.J. has helped the Gators coaching staff with information about the Vols personnel, though he laughs when asked if he hired C.J. to be a spy. Meyer offered C.J. a part-time clerical job when he learned this spring of his desire to become a coach. “He’s a go-fer, does everything, to making coffee to stuffing recruiting envelopes to showing a kid around campus. He’s more involved in recruiting than anything else,” Meyer says.

Makin’ copies, eh? No wonder C.J. was relegated to the sidelines during his Tennessee tenure — he was a closet Gator.

Have I mentioned that I hate the Gators?

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Not What They Were Looking For

Following President Bush’s address to the nation from New Orleans last night, ABC News had reporter Dean Reynolds stationed in a parking lot with several Hurricane Katrina evacuees. The setup was obvious — Reynolds expected the evacuees to be frustrated with Bush, and this was the time for them to vent. This was obvious even from the first question:

“I’d like to get the reaction of Connie London who spent several horrible hours at the Superdome. You heard the President say repeatedly that you are not alone, that the country stands beside you. Do you believe him?”

Reynolds didn’t get the answer he was looking for — from any of the respondents. He got responses like this:

Reynolds: “Did you harbor any anger toward the President because of the slow federal response?”

London: “No, none whatsoever, because I feel like our city and our state government should have been there before the federal government was called in. They should have been on their jobs.”

Go read the entire transcript and watch the video now at Newsbusters. Dean Reynolds looked like he had been struck out been struck out looking by Nolan Ryan.

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ornament 14 September 2005 ornament

Tech Notes: Google Is All Over the Map

Google just launched its Blog Search, which comes at an opportune time. Technorati has been slow–as–Moses in the last couple of months and is more or less useless at present. Icerocket isn’t much better. I hope Technorati improves, but it will be hard to compete with Google’s massive hardware advantage.

The Google Maps API has resulted in some interesting iterations. With one application, you can see where you would come out if you dug a hole straight down through the earth. While that may come in handy some day, there are even more practical applications being built, such as this site which displays census data like income, race, age, etc., for a 1-5 mile radius in any area of the USA. [hat tip: Joe Carter]

Speaking of software giants, if you’re tired of looking at the same Windows XP interface, you can download the Royale theme from Microsoft to add the Windows XP Media Edition style to your desktop. It’s a fresher look if you’re tired of starting at the same theme all the time, and it’s free.

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