On Longevity

Here’s a fun thing to do the day before you turn 40: go to this Social Security website, punch in your birthdate, and see the average number of years someone your age has left. (It’s 42.1 more for me, if you must know. Not quite “mid-life.”)

These landmarks trigger an involuntary plunge into reverie and reflection. It’s times like these I remember that—as is probably the case with most people—I wouldn’t have made it this far without a couple strokes of luck. I remember sitting helpless in a passenger seat as a teenager while a friend hit 75 miles an hour down a hill, went up on two wheels on a curve and into the left side of the road, and brought the car back down with a swerve, missing an oncoming vehicle by mere feet. (more…)

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February 27, 2015 at 9:22 pm Leave a comment

How Many American Schoolkids are Poor? Way Fewer Than the Washington Post Told You.

It was one of those “now, wait a minute” kind of headlines: “Majority of U.S. Public School Students are in Poverty.”

The January 16 Washington Post article by Lyndsey Layton brought needed attention to a remarkable bit of education data: for the first time ever, over half of American public school students are now receiving free or reduced-price lunch.

“The shift to a majority-poor student population,” Layton writes, “means that in public schools, a growing number of children start kindergarten already trailing their more privileged peers and rarely, if ever, catch up. They are less likely to have support at home, are less frequently exposed to enriching activities outside of school, and are more likely to drop out and never attend college.”

The problem is, it’s not true that most American public school children are poor. Free and reduced-price lunch eligibility is a frequently-used proxy for poverty in schools. But it’s not poverty. (more…)

February 9, 2015 at 11:28 pm Leave a comment

GALLERY: Easter Eggs at Kenilworth’s Christmas Train Garden

Merry Christmas!

A Christmas miniature train garden at a suburban mall is the last place I expected to get a mesmerizing dose of social realism. But when my wife and I took our two-year-old to see the trains at The Shops at Kenilworth in Towson, we found (little) people being carried away on stretchers from a car accident and a house fire, a funeral (surreally juxtaposed with a backyard pool scene), someone getting arrested at a Dunkin Donuts while behind him a man slept on a bench with a newspaper for a blanket, and a man with a big backpack standing by the tracks waiting to jump a train. (more…)

December 30, 2014 at 4:15 pm Leave a comment

How Radio Taught Me to Write Short in Print

ImageHere’s how I write a 2,500-word article: I write it to 4,000 words, then cut it back.

Know how I write a 1,500-word article? The same way.

I keep ending up at 4,000, so the shorter the assignment, the more kittens I have to drown. So I was thrilled to see Roy Peter Clark—whose “Fifty Writing Tools” greased my transition from academic researcher to journalistic storyteller 10 years ago—has published a book called How to Write Short. (more…)

May 13, 2014 at 12:14 pm Leave a comment

Resources for “The Lines Between Us”

2If you attended my April 23 talk about “The Lines Between Us” at American University, or if you just want to learn more about the series, here are some resources… (more…)

April 22, 2014 at 1:50 pm Leave a comment

Whose Heart is Baltimore Breaking, Really?

There’s a piece about crime in Baltimore over on Medium that’s gone viral.

It’s understandable why this article has emerged right now. In Federal Hill, robbers recently held up and pistol-whipped employees at a popular tavern. A Baltimore Sun editor was held up on a Canton street by a brick-wielding mugger who fractured the man’s skull and knocked out his teeth. In a home facing Patterson Park, burglars beat and stabbed a woman to death in her home. (She had chased one of the burglars out of her house in the early morning just last summer.)

The author of the Medium piece, Tracey Halvorsen, lives half a block from Patterson Park. She is scared. (more…)

February 7, 2014 at 2:49 pm 189 comments

Leave Black Friday Alone

Credit: flickr/tshein

Credit: flickr/tshein

It’s Thanksgiving, and the Internet is aflame with virtue. I’m not talking about the obligatory litanies of gratitude, written by people who are going to cut me off on the highway later today as I’m driving to my parents’ house.

I’m talking about the people showing off their astounding capacity to not “consume” for one day and the even more sanctimonious people telling me to keep it (“it” being my wallet) in my pants tomorrow. (more…)

November 28, 2013 at 4:02 pm Leave a comment

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NEWS
- A much prettier website with my journalistic highlights is at lawrencelanahan.com.
- Disappearing Ink released its first album, "There Is No Time and Nothing's Been," in December 2014. It's available on iTunes.
- After almost five years at WYPR, I'm back to freelancing. Editors can reach me at llanahan@gmail.com.
- The Art of Social Critique: Painting Mirrors of Social Life includes my chapter "New Possibilities and Old Limitations of Political Art in The Wire."
- You can still buy my 2004 self-titled EP.

ACADEMIC EXPLOITS
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