Tuesday, April 22, 2014

GoPro story by Bill Gifford in Businessweek

A terribly interesting story in a recent Businessweek was "GoPro Goes Big as a Hybrid Media Company/Videocam Maker" by Bill Gifford and it brought to mind past writing on another company that's built a huge business based on the lifestyle around their product, just as much if not more so than around the product itself.

"Red Bull's Billionaire Maniac" was written by Duff McDonald for Businessweek in 2011 and then there was a Teressa Iezzi feature on the company at #29 on the 2012 Most Innovative Companies list by Fast Company Magazine.

Really interesting on both companies and the approach they've taken towards becoming fairly iconic brands.

"Bigger Than the Game" by Dirk Hayhurst

Bigger Than the Game by Dirk Hayhurst was an interesting follow up book to his first two books Out of My League (which I reviewed here) and The Bullpen Gospels about his journey as a professional baseball player.

This most recent book was set during a baseball season Hayhurst lost to injury and in the process had to deal with the mental pain caused by not being able to play.

In terms of his injury rehab program, it was both remarkable and entirely believable reading about how some medical programs would have a seemingly guessing based approach with the "sure, can't hurt" principle to getting better and then other approaches would be highly methodical. What ultimately got Hayhurst better was care at the Andrews Clinic in Birmingham, AL with rehab direction done there by Kevin Wilk under Dr. James Andrews. While many of the stories of his time there are fairly mapcap and entertaining, Hayhurst detailed some pretty remarkable work done on high profile athletes done at the clinic.

Overall, it was an entertaining book on the experiences of a player in the world of professional baseball.

Surfing story by Joe Spring for SB Nation

Really enjoyed reading last week "The Deadliest Wave" by Joe Spring for SB Nation.

It was about the 2013 Billabong Pipe Masters in Memory of Andy Irons competition on Oahu's North Shore as well as the overall season points crown between Kelly Slater and Mick Fanning and brought to mind the fantastic Susan Casey book The Wave that I wrote about back in 2010.

Sunday, April 13, 2014

Great Sports Writing - by Michael Rosenberg, Jane Lee & Jeff Pearlman

Three recent sports stories I particularly liked included a short MLB player profile, a feature on the players from an NCAA men's basketball Final Four 25 years ago and piece about writing a huge sports story 15 years ago.

The one about writing a story was "A Reporter's Tale: The John Rocker Story 15 Years Later" for Bleacher Report by Jeff Pearlman on putting together the story he's perhaps best known for.

The Sports Illustrated feature on the 1989 NCAA Final Four participants was by Michael Rosenberg and title "A memorable title game twenty-five years ago brought joy, heartbreak." Really some fascinating stories about the people involved, including: referee John Cloughtery, coaches P.J. Carlesimo, Mike Krzyzewski and Steve Fisher and players Rumeal Robinson and Ramon Ramos.

The baseball piece was a short one by Jane Lee for MLB.com titled "Thanks to his dad, Gray was built for success" about Oakland A's starting pitcher Sonny Gray and his late father Jesse Gray.

Wednesday, April 09, 2014

"Hatching Twitter" by Nick Bilton

Hatching Twitter by Nick Bilton was about some compelling people that came up with a pretty revolutionary business. Reading the book reminded me of my thoughts about what I wanted to do with blogging when I began in 2008 and just over 20 of my posts since have included Twitter as a label, with many of them linking to writing (the most memorable to me being this by Clay Travis) about Twitter as a platform for disseminating all types of communication.

Bilton in Hatching Twitter writes a highly entertaining book that I found myself at times wondering how accurate it all was, but the people portrayed (with the possible exception of a seemingly batty CEO Coach) and their actions struck me as quite plausible, especially given the presence of power, prestige, money and strongly held beliefs.

Detailed in the book is how Twitter began in 2005 out of a podcasting startup, Odeo, that was founded by Noah Glass and funded by Ev Williams who made his money by starting and then selling Blogger to Google. With $200K in Odeo, Williams became CEO and around this time, Jack Dorsey and Biz Stone joined the company and then the podcasting website idea basically got killed when Apple said they were going to have Podcasting on iTunes, leading to Dorsey’s idea of building something around a “status update” message similar to what was up on AOL instant messaging. Glass came up with the name Twitter for the venture and was completely enthused about the human connections the idea could foster, but then fired from the company by Williams as the lead investor lost confidence in and disagreed with Glass on many things.
Twitter hit big at the 2007 South by Southwest conference in Austin, TX and when roles and leaders were then established, Dorsey was the first CEO with 20% of the company, Williams as the lead investor 70%, Stone and Jason Goldman around 3% each with the remaining 4% split up among other employees. Not long after this, Williams and Dorsey began to have disagreements and Venture Capital investors Fred Wilson and Bijan Sabet came into the picture and sided with Williams on feelings of unhappiness with the CEO.

In 2008, Dorsey was forced out as CEO, but not from the company and he then accepted any and all press requests that came his way and burnished his reputation and perceived role at Twitter at the same time that he began the payment processing company Square. Additionally, Peter Fenton came in as a Twitter investor and would prove a Dorsey ally as the former CEO began to undermine Williams and, along with the aforementioned unbelievable CEO-coach Bill Campbell, force Williams out as CEO with him being replaced in Summer of 2010 by then COO Dick Costello.

There are lots of salacious details throughout the story from Bilton and it makes for entertaining reading that of course portrays some people in a better light than others, but all seems plausible and makes a fascinating read on the people behind a remarkable communication tool.

Esquire essays by Chiarella on helping someone & Jones on doing stand-up

Two different pieces of writing in the latest issue of Esquire stood out as excellent life-lessons type stories as part of the "83 Things You Need to Do Before You Die" section of the issue.

Tom Chiarella wrote "I Don't Have a Life List" and Chris Jones did "Live Your Nightmare," with both being really well-done introspective looks at things they've done.

"Grandma Gatewood's Walk" by Ben Montgomery

Grandma Gatewood's Walk by Ben Montgomery was an interesting tale of one woman's determination and journey as she in 1995 became the first woman to through-hike the entire 2,050 miles of the Appalachian Trail from Georgia to Maine.

The story of Emma Gatewood was a compelling one with her raising 11 children while enduring an abusive husband, leaving him, and then after her children were grown taking off on her own and doing the AT hike at the age of 67. Then two years later, she hiked the trail again, later hiked the general path of the Oregon Trail from Missouri to Oregon and in 1964 did the Appalachian Trail for a third time.

Also interesting was mention of how heavily she was followed by the national media as word of her hike began to spread, and then towards the very end of the book, Montgomery wrote of meeting on the top of Mount Katahdin in Maine through-hikers who cited Gatewood as an inspiration.

The read for me did get to be slow going at times, but I think that was due simply to the less than glamorous subject and the book built up to solid meaning with (among other things) the idea that it's never too late for someone to do what they want to do and turn themselves into something they weren't previously.

I waited until completing the book to read it, but also found interesting Montgomery's piece for Nieman Storyboard on writing the book.

Monday, March 31, 2014

Great writing by Price, Sandomir & Jacobsen

Three pieces of recent great writing I hadn't previously posted on were from Sports Illustrated, the New York Times and Outside Magazine.

For SI was "As Reds' Chapman recovers, dangers of line drives hit close to home" by S.L. Price and reminiscent of the excellent 2009 book Heart of the Game by Price, which I wrote about here.

The Times story was "A Story of Perseverance" by Richard Sandomir on ESPN SportsCenter Anchor Stuart Scott and his battle with cancer and the feature for Outside was "The Gourmet Invasivore's Dilemma" by Rowan Jacobsen on the havoc wreaked by invasive species and one chef's small-scale approach towards the problem.

Esquire writing - new feature by D'Agostino on ADHD & old one by Junod on Mr. Rogers

The latest issue of Esquire had a great feature by Ryan D'Agostino titled "The Drugging of the American Boy" on ADHD. D'Agostino covers the huge increase in it being diagnosed (particularly in boys) and also written about in captivating form is an alternate approach towards treatment as practiced by therapist and author of Transforming the Difficult Child, Howard Glasser.

Also posted to the Esquire website last month was a story I posted on previously, but that hadn't been online at the Esquire site. "Can You Say... Hero?" was by Tom Junod on Mr. Rogers and one of the most memorable magazine pieces I've read.

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Pieces on writing - by Michael Kruse, Bethany McLean & on Tom Bodett

It's been a while since I last posted on pieces about writing and I was fascinated by three that I came across recently.

For his personal blog, Tampa Bay Times writer Michael Kruse wrote "How I did the Bounty story," which had fascinating stuff in it about the year-long process of researching and writing (really about the dogged researching) of a lengthy story and I saw on Twitter a few writers noting as great wisdom the final two sentences...

"No matter the story, no matter your process, no matter the timetable — somewhere in the middle, you won’t be able to see the end. Can’t stop. Keep going."

"But the most important thing I learned doing Bounty — the most important thing I learned in 2013 — is that you can’t try to make something happen. All you can do is try to make something."

The shorter pieces to note here were one on fact-checking by Bethany McLean for LinkedIn and an interview with Tom Bodett for Alaska Magazine. The Bodett interview stood out as interesting to me with him having lived for quite a while in Homer, AK (where my parents have a house) and in that it showed how sometimes unexpected opportunities can develop.

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

ESPN The Magazine writing by Jones and Olney

Two great recent stories from ESPN were "A Long Journey to Spring" by Chris Jones on Kansas City Royals coach Mike Jirschele and "Creative Control" on Los Angeles Dodgers pitcher Clayton Kershaw by Buster Olney.

The piece on Kershaw details his meticulous preparation leading up to starts and profiles well (Olney is just an excellent writer) someone that seems to be a really good guy. On Jirschele, Jones provides a more profound story on someone who has endured enormous family tragedy with three brothers dying from muscular dystrophy and this season has his first big-league job after 36 years in the minors. Really a sad and at the same time heartwarming story told well by Jones.

Monday, March 24, 2014

"Showtime" by Jeff Pearlman

Showtime by Jeff Pearlman was on the Los Angeles Lakers team of the 1980s and would be a great read for a Lakers fan, and was still an interesting one for myself as not a huge basketball fan.

Some of the things in the book that stood out as fascinating included what Magic Johnson was like coming in as a breath of fresh air rookie, the details of his ridiculously great performance at center that year to win the 1980 NBA Championship and his womanizing.

Also particularly interesting in the book (and covered in an excerpt for Sports Illustrated) was info on how Pat Riley became head coach, with first Jack McKinney in charge, him suffering a devastating head injury and Paul Westhead taking over, and then Westhead following up initial success with becoming an overbearing force on his team, much like Riley would later do on both counts. In this regard, Pearlman tells a fascinating story throughout the book of how people would change with success and fame.

Again, I went into Showtime as someone who loves sports, but not particularly basketball and while for me as a reader I could have done without some of the details of particular games or series, I can definitely see how the book called for it and really enjoyed the read.

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Michael Paterniti writing - on burrneshas in Albania & a jumbo jet crash at sea

Michael Paterniti is a non-fiction writer I've posted on a number of times and recently I've seen two additional features from him, with the latest an interesting piece and one from 2000 a brilliantly done one that made me wonder what it was like to write when just reading it was heart-wrenching.

The March issue of GQ Magazine had "The Mountains Where Women Live as Men" on a small and dwindling group of people in the Albanian Alps and originally published in the July issue of Esquire Magazine was "The Long Fall of One-Eleven Heavy" on Swiss Air flight 111 that crashed into the Atlantic, killing all 229 passengers. Just amazing writing in this Esquire piece that's popped back up again with the disappearance of Malaysia Airlines Flight 370.

Writing by and on Matthew Power

Recently while on assignment in Africa, non-fiction writer Matthew Power died and his passing brought about some profound remembrances as well as mentions of his work.

Two pieces on his memory were "Relentless Generosity" by Abe Streep for Outside Magazine and "Remembering Journalist Matthew Power" by Kara Bloomgarden-Smoke for New York Observer.

Really well-done and thoughtful pieces both and while I've only read a few of Power's works, stories of his from a number of publications have recently been highlighted, including his archive of articles for Harper's Magazine (with "Mississippi Drift" being the Harper's piece I saw the most mentions of by readers of Power).

Sunday, March 09, 2014

Book excerpt from Ron Suskind

A couple of days ago in the New York Times Magazine was a great book excerpt from political writer Ron Suskind"Reaching My Autistic Son Through Disney" was taken from Life, Animated: A Story of Sidekicks, Heroes, and Autism and really powerful reading. It's embedded in the Times excerpt, but there's also a great 4-minute long video with Suskind and his now adult son Owen.

Great sports writing - by Pearlman, Kennedy and Tomlinson

Three excellent pieces of sports writing I've seen recently included two book excerpts in Sports Illustrated and a feature for the ESPN website.

From the Mar 3 issue of SI was "The Birth of Showtime" by Jeff Pearlman. It was taken from his book Showtime: Magic, Kareem, Riley, and the Los Angeles Lakers Dynasty of the 1980s and fascinating reading about the events that led to Pat Riley becoming head coach.

The second SI published except was written by Kostya Kennedy with "A quarter century later, there are no easy answers to the Pete Problem." Out of the book Pete Rose: An American Dilemma, it paints a vivid portrait of Rose and covers the question of whether he should be in the Baseball Hall of Fame when his misdeed of gambling on his team considered against against the actions of steroid users.

The final piece to note here was by Tommy Tomlinson for ESPN with "Precious Memories."  About former North Carolina men's basketball coaching legend Dean Smith, it's powerful reading on the toll that Dementia takes on people and their loved ones.

Wednesday, March 05, 2014

"Young Money" by Kevin Roose

Young Money by Kevin Roose was an interesting and very fast read about junior investment bankers working on Wall Street. The book chronicled under assumed names the early in career lives of eight different people and, while the approach seemed to diminish the amount of narrative throughout, there were fascinating stories told of these workers at heavyweight financial firms like Goldman Sachs and J.P. Morgan.

The jobs embarked on were difficult to get with the top Wall Street firms recruiting top-level students from elite colleges and most of the positions two-year programs that people work as analysts and those wanting to stay in banking either getting hired as an associate at that firm or take what's viewed as the ideal next step in investment banking with a job at a leading hedge fund or private equity firm. Roose details in the book how these positions are also pitched and viewed by many as a sort of way-station stop, with many people spending the two years in investment banking and then making a decision to either remain in the field or leave, with now more than ever there being opportunities to take the experience and move into technology start-ups.

In terms of the two-year investment banking analyst roles, Roose notes how annual salaries out of college typically around $70K, with a bonus of anywhere from $20-70K on top of that. He also covers how as a junior analyst, you're on call for whatever associates or executives want you to do for oftentimes 100 hour work weeks with the deliverable typically large Excel spreadsheet (incredibly to me as it seems there would be a better tool to use) models about company valuations and what might happen if a particular mergers or acquisition were to occur through that particular investment bank.

It's an interesting book and one thing I found noteworthy was the categorization of investment banking and finance as falling under the category of work not necessarily creating anything. Not that everyone in a position to get a fulfilling job where they create, but it's an interesting thing to think about. Related to this, I found compelling in the book mention of 2012 Yale graduate and writer Marina Keegan and an essay she wrote for the campus news magazine about working in investment banking, with her then adapting the essay into "The Science and Strategy of College Recruiting" for the New York Times website. Roose at the end of the epilogue dedicates his book to the memory of Keegan, who died in a car accident a week after graduating Yale and had her essay "The Opposite of Loneliness" for the Yale Daily News distributed at commencement.

Writing I liked - with pieces by Moallem, Schur and Hampikian

Three excellent pieces of non-sports writing from the past few weeks which I haven't posted on yet included pieces from Grantland and the New York Times.

For Grantland, Michael Schur wrote "A Particular Kind of Genius: Remembering Harold Ramis" on the Hollywood actor, writer and director and there were two Times pieces I found of note including a Jon Moallem written feature "A Journey to the Center of the World" on Jacques-AndrĂ© Istel and the strange town of Felicity, Arizona he built near Yuma.

The other piece of really good writing from the Times was the op-ed column "When may I shoot a student?" by Greg Hampikian on the state of Idaho considering a bill that would allow guns on college and university campuses.