ornament 28 December 2009 ornament

2009 in places

Proving the theory that years in which new children are born to my family are those less traveled: a record of all the cities, towns, hamlets, or dots-on-a-map in which I’ve spent at least one night this year:

  • Kingsport, TN
  • Chattanooga, TN
  • Alexandria, VA
  • Fort. AP Hill, VA
  • Richmond, VA
  • Woodbridge, VA
  • Washington, DC

cf. 2005/1999, 2006, 2007, 2008.

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ornament 24 December 2009 ornament

Eat Well This Christmas

My latest post at Evangel:

When pondering the nativity, I’ve heard much made of the fact that the manger is a place of great humility for the King of Kings to be found, and rightly so. I’ve seldom given much thought, however, to what the manger was — a feeding place for animals.

There’s little evidence that there were animals present at Christ’s birth. “The cattle were lowing,” as the song goes, but it it’s difficult to imagine a Jewish setting with high values on both cleanliness and hospitality that would permit a woman to give birth while having to worry about being stepped on by a donkey. The manger was indeed lowly, but this manger was not in use when Mary and Joseph sought a place to lay their child.

There is no stable mentioned in any of the gospel accounts — just the manger. The shepherds are not told to go to a stable, but a manger. They would not find the baby lying at his mother’s breast — the most logical place to find a newborn — but lying in a manger.

Read the whole thing…

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ornament 30 November 2009 ornament

How to Un-Google yourself

Some people spend millions on search engine optimization (SEO), but sometimes disappearing from Google is desired. That’s where Wired‘s guide to Un-Googling yourself comes in: it’s SEO in reverse.

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ornament 19 October 2009 ornament

New evangelical blog at First Things

My friend Joe Carter, web editor for First Things, has begun a new evangelical group blog to which I’ve graciously been invited to participate. Besides being a razor-sharp thinker and writer, Joe has a unique gift for coalescing Christians in the internet “world.” His latest effort, Evangel, a group blog launching today written by a gaggle of evangelicals with whom I’m honored to be in the same company.

It launches today, so head on over. My first post can be found here, but you’ll want to be sure to read all the other takes on the topic of just what “evangelicals” are.

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ornament 30 September 2009 ornament

The Roman Polanski case gets frantic

Much has been written about film director and child rapist Roman Polanski’s arrest in Switzerland. The reaction is a rather bizarre moment of agreement between both cultural conservatives and liberals who, by and large, agree that Polanski’s pending extradition is well-deserved.

More bizarre is the small group of voices who are calling for Polanski’s release. Mostly associated with the film industry, this group of Polanski devotees have even begun a petition to express their outrage — a petition that insists that the future of Franco–American depends upon Los Angeles prosecutors dropping the case:

On September 16th, 2009, Mr. Charles Rivkin, the US Ambassador to France, received French artists and intellectuals at the embassy. He presented to them the new Minister Counselor for Public Affairs at the embassy, Ms Judith Baroody. In perfect French she lauded the Franco-American friendship and recommended the development of cultural relations between our two countries.

If only in the name of this friendship between our two countries, we demand the immediate release of Roman Polanski.

The petition signatories —like Woody Allen, Terry Gilliam, David Lynch, Monica Bellucci, and handful of French crew members — are smart enough, however, to know what possible imprisonment might mean for the now ex-fugitive Polanski:

Roman Polanski is a French citizen, a renown and international artist now facing extradition. This extradition, if it takes place, will be heavy in consequences and will take away his freedom

Apparently, the signatories are now deeply concerned about justice?

As the great philosopher Brad Paisley says, “When you’re a celebrity, it’s adios reality.”

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ornament 19 August 2009 ornament

Washington D.C., where the killing is reasonable

Below is the front page headline of today’s Washington Times:


That’s right: after 100 murders, you can breathe easy when visiting the nation’s capital.

Think 100 is too high, or too low? Nonsense, says D.C. Police Chief Cathy L. Lanier:

“Fewer than 100 homicides is reasonable,” Chief Lanier told The Washington Times. “We’re targeting for under 100, and I think we can do it if we give everything we’ve got.”

Last year, the city marked 100 homicides before the end of July, but police in the District and several other major U.S. cities are seeing declining or steady homicide totals this year.

As it turns out, murder is quite out of fashion this year across the land:

Los Angeles has recorded a 14 percent decrease in homicides from 234 last year to 201 this year. New York is at 281 killings, a 14 percent decline from 326 last year. Chicago has an 11 percent reduction at 258 homicides, down from last year’s 290. Philadelphia’s homicide total has declined by 10 percent, from 204 to 189. Baltimore is at 140 homicides – the same as this time last year.

But the decline of 25.4 percent in the District – which approached 500 killings in 1991 at the height of the crack-cocaine epidemic that spawned gunbattles between rival gangs of drug dealers – is larger than the reductions in those cities.

Good to see we’re getting down to more reasonable numbers.

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ornament 15 July 2009 ornament

[Link] Life ain’t easy for a boy named Sue

Life ain’t easy for a boy named Sue: Looks like Johnny Cash was right — a new study shows that boys with unpopular, uncommon or feminine names have a greater likelihood of ending up in prison.

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ornament 30 June 2009 ornament

[Link] Gladwell vs. Godin: A ‘Free’ free-for-all

Malcolm Gladwell thinks Chris Anderson’s Free might not be worth its price. Seth Godin disagrees.

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ornament 25 June 2009 ornament

Family destruction as spectacle

“Happy families are all alike; every unhappy family is unhappy in its own way.” — Leo Tolstoy, Anna Karenina, p. 1

In the past two weeks, America has seen no fewer than three highly public announcements of family failure. Last week, it was Senator John Ensign’s admission of an extra-marital affair. Earlier this week, the media circus that is Jon & Kate Gosselin announced their divorce in cliff-hanger fashion on their TLC reality show. And if one thought it couldn’t get any more bizarre, enter Wednesday’s weird, rambling press conference by South Carolina Governor Mark Sanford, who revealed that his Appalachian Trail hiking trip had taken a South American detour into unfaithful territory.

What to make of all this? Well, Tolstoy was correct in one sense — the Ensign, Gosselin, and Sanford families’ situations are each filled with their own complexities. However, the way in which each went public has a lot to say about the current state of our national sensibilities.

Of the three announcements, Senator Ensign’s was handled most deftly. It was brief, to the point, and details were kept to a minimum. By no means should he be given kudos. This was a preemptive strike to control the message. Classic, by-the-book PR tactics.

Message: “I screwed up, but I told you about it before the media could, so the public should still trust me.”

The Gosselin divorce announcement probably deserves its own essay-length treatment, but to do so would in some ways be playing into its own grand media plan. Rather than give up the show in which everyone gives stuff to their family, they’ll press on (how could they evict the children from the set?). No, the Gosselins, who deplore everyone peering into their business (those evil paparazzi!), keep — as their business — everyone peering into their business. You can find out all about their divorce on their show — every Monday at 9pm EST on TLC, and, by the way, you should also buy some Crooked Houses® and any other of the many fine products the Gosselin family gets for free.

Message: “We’re doing all this so our kids can see the videos and remember, as our family’s brains can only process events that happen on TV. Even if the marriage can’t, the show must go on.”

Finally, Gov. Sanford. Presidential hopeful, conservative stalwart in public if not so much in private. The staggering detail he gave at the presser, along with the fact that he accepted questions from the media shows that he is a fool in love (lust?) who threw caution to the Argentine wind long ago. Sanford knows that publicly, he is a dead man walking, and he doesn’t care.

Message: “I’m just gonna throw it all out there. Even if you don’t ask about it, I’ll tell you. My political career is toast, my wife kicked me out, so if I can make you all understand that it’s all about ‘that spark’ one gets with a dear, dear friend — maybe y’all won’t hate me so much.”

Spectacle like the above only fuels the fire of cynicism at the ebb and flow of our national conversation. Whence humility?

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ornament 23 June 2009 ornament

[Link] 10 Best Prison Breaks

10 Best Prison Breaks: I assure you, I assisted in none of these…

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