Tim Murphy

Tim Murphy


Tim Murphy is a reporter in MoJo's DC bureau. Last summer he logged 22,000 miles while blogging about his cross-country road trip for Mother Jones. His writing has been featured in Slate and the Washington Monthly. Email him with tips and insights at tmurphy [at] motherjones [dot] com.

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The Creation Museum's Original Spin

| Fri Jul. 16, 2010 7:57 PM EDT

Onwards: Impeccable attention to detail and potshots at public school are just two of the wonders you'll find at the Creation Museum (Photo: Tim Murphy).Onwards: Impeccable attention to detail and potshots at public schools are just two of the wonders you'll find at the Creation Museum (Photo: Tim Murphy).Petersburg, Kentucky—If you can look past the robotic dinosaurs, talking mannequins, and multimedia shock therapy, the Creation Museum outside Cincinnati is actually a pretty normal place. Well, not normal, maybe, but hardly unique: From Cooperstown to Independence Hall, the American landscape is cluttered with too-good-to-fact-check founding fables.*

What's most jarring about the museum isn't that it teaches an alternative scientific reality (which is totally fine); it's the fact that the museum actually goes ahead and physically creates that reality. Every square inch of the museum is part of a conscious push toward legitimacy, and it's a process that begins even before you see the dinosaurs. Assuming you can make it through the fog, you're guided to the parking lot by a big white-and-brown sign, which closely resembles the ubiquitous directions to birthplaces of dead presidents and seven-state scenic overlooks.

Once you're there, you'll begin to see park rangers—or at least they look like park rangers: The security guards inside and outside the museum are decked from head to toe in the khaki-and-olive-green uniform of a National Park Service tour guide, right on down to the Smokey hats. There's even an official-looking "Entering Grand Canyon National Park" sign at the entrance to the main exhibit (which details how the Grand Canyon could have been created in three days or less). For all appearances, it looks like any other stop on your average family vacation."The World's Not Safe Anymore": Quiet exhibits about biblical geology are followed by rooms like this, which assault . In one room, parents can watch a pregnant girl discuss getting an abortion with a friend , as a narrator reads statistics about declining church enrollment among youn"The World's Not Safe Anymore": Quiet exhibits about biblical geology are followed by rooms like this. In one room, parents watch a pregnant teen discuss getting an abortion with a friend, as a narrator reads statistics about declining church enrollment among young people.

The attention to detail is awesome: Exhibits explain exactly what kind of nails Noah would have used to make his ark watertight (wooden pegs work best, because they expand with moisture); what kinds of supplies he would have brought with him on his boat trip (cloves of garlic, butternut squash, bundles of kindling, to name just a few); and how, if taking care of a puppy can be a full-time job, Noah and his wife ever managed to take care of all those animals (not entirely clear, actually, but they suggest he was very type A). And so on and so on.

As far as Sunday school field trips go, this would have to rank among the coolest, and that's before you even get to the dinosaurs, which roar and screech and flip their claws like extras from a 1950s b-list horror flick.

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The View From My Windshield: All That Glitters

| Fri Jul. 16, 2010 1:13 PM EDT

Is it still there?: Fort Knox, Kentucky--This is not the location of the United States Bullion Depository, home to most of the nation's gold supply.  When we stopped by the Fort Knox visitors center and asked to see the gold, we were told that couldn't be arranged. InsteadIs it still there?: Fort Knox, Kentucky—We've heard rumors that the gold at the United States Bullion Depository has been hollowed out and replaced with bricks of tungsten, so we stopped by to check for ourselves. No dice. We were told to turn off our cameras and get back on the highway, which mushrooms with the kind of sprawl that's supported standing armies for millenia: dozens of car dealerships, pawn shops, furniture outlets, payday lenders, fast food joints, and, sure enough, shops that give you cash for gold.

The Wit and Rhetoric of a Small-Town Preacher

| Thu Jul. 15, 2010 6:01 PM EDT

Farm Fresh: Our stated goal of living off the land has been more or less dead on arrival. But we did pick up this delicious peach outside Bedford, Kentucky (Photo: Tim Murphy).Farm Fresh: Our stated goal of living off the land has been more or less dead on arrival. But we did pick up this delicious peach outside Bedford, Kentucky (Photo: Tim Murphy).Glasgow, Kentucky—There isn't much going on in Glasgow between the hours of 12 in the morning and 12 the next morning. You might come in for lunch from some lesser part of Barren County ("The #1 county to live in in rural America") or you might have some official business at the county seat, but the town's economic pulse has, for the most part, followed small town America's late 20th-century migration from Main Street to the commercial sprawl outside town, near the junction of four major state highways. When we arrive, the Democratic Party Headquarters is closed, indefinitely by the looks of it. The "Pawn Again" shop is closed. The Highland Games, Inc. office is closed, and doesn't really have much reason to re-open for a few months at least, since the Highland Games come but once a year. Everything is closed for the night—save for the front steps of the Courthouse on the main square, where a man called "Pastor Ricky" is overseeing a Wednesday night revival meeting.

It's a small crowd, maybe 30 people, of all ages but with an emphasis on the older vintages. I can't stick around to see Pastor Ricky, but since I'm fascinated by the rhetorical stylings of country evangelists, and since this is really the main event on a Wednesday night in Glasgow, Kentucky, I'll just give you a quick sketch of his understudy, a man whom Pastor Ricky introduces as "the best preacher this side of Glasgow."

A Sense of Where We Are: Lost, Probably

| Wed Jul. 14, 2010 11:48 AM EDT

View Westward Expansion in a larger map

Louisville, Kentucky—With yesterday's detour into Ohio! and Indiana, our total number of states has climbed to 12. Included within that is a former independent republic that kind of sort of wants to become a sovereign nation again (Vermont), a giant chunk of space that could be its own state (upstate New York), a state that used to be part of another state (West Virginia), a state that was almost a state but for the all-consuming 18th century real estate market ("Franklin" in East Tennessee), and a state that nearly sold itself to the king of Spain in exchange for a few noble titles and access to the Mississippi River (Kentucky). A little bit of everything, in other words.

My host in Lexington made a funny face when I told her I was in Kentucky "to see the sinkholes," but it's really no joke—they're everywhere in Kentucky, where water and limestone have teamed up to produce a bevy of preposterous geological activity. Case in point: We're headed south to Mammoth Cave today, which, if our navigational talents hold up, will probably be the last place we're ever seen alive. I'm told the WiFi signal is a little spotty that close to the Earth's core, but watch this space for the full report on our trip to the Creation Museum and the last resting place of America's worst-dressed head of state.

A Special Message From Popcorn Sutton

| Wed Jul. 14, 2010 10:46 AM EDT

Update, 1/29/2013: The photo has been removed at the request of the photographer. Read Tim Murphy's full piece on Popcorn Sutton here.

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