Thursday, October 31, 2013

Business of writing - on Omidyar, Greenwald & new media

There were some fascinating pieces in the past few weeks covering the business of writing, in particular stories on a forthcoming startup news site backed by eBay founder Pierre Omidyar (who I posted about back in 2009) and with noted investigative journalist Glenn Greenwald as a key principal.

The first piece that stood out to me as interesting on the venture was for the New York Times by David Carr. "An Interview With Pierre Omidyar" notes how Omidyar looking at an investment in the $250M range and in his now hometown created Honolulu Civil Beat, a site Carr described as doing "public affairs reporting with an eye toward giving citizens a look into the affairs of government."

Also about the new site was for Nieman Journalism Lab with Adrienne LaFrance writing "What does Pierre Omidyar see in journalism?" It was tremendously interesting stuff from someone who worked at Honolulu Civil Beat alongside Omidyar and whose description of that still ongoing site fairly closely matches that from Carr, with LaFrance saying "Omidyar’s goal for us was simple and neutral: Ask tough questions on behalf of the public to make this community a better place."

In terms of Greenwald as a lead investigative journalist for the new venture, he's known for receiving and reporting on NSA surveillance documents from Edward Snowden and just today, Greenwald did the interesting essay "On Leaving the Guardian" in which he wrote about journalism, it's role and importance.

Only in part about the site backed by Omidyar was an interesting short piece by Hamish McKenzie and Sarah Lacy to the website PandoDaily. "Vox’s new mega-round puts a bow on content’s 'holy shit' moment" covered the abundance of new media sites in recent years and high valuations on many of them. It was fascinating stuff and brought to mind Lacy's 2008 book Once You're Lucky, Twice You're Good (which I reviewed in the first few months of my writing this blog). On this same theme of hot new media companies, I was reminded of the service that to me helps make it possible for them to thrive, Twitter. The best writing I recall on the company and the power of it's links (literally) was by Clay Travis with "2011 belonged to Twitter, so does the future of sports media" for his college football focused sports website Outkick the Coverage.

Sunday, October 20, 2013

Great sports writing - by Flinder Boyd, Lee Jenkins & David Fleming

There's three different pieces of sports feature writing that struck me as outstanding lately, with two of them reminding me of other stories I've posted on.

For SB Nation Longform was "20 Minutes At Rucker Park" by Flinder Boyd on 24-year-old TJ Webster Jr. and his trip to the famed Rucker Park basketball courts in New York City. Webster hoped to play well enough in the pickup games that he might get a shot at playing professionally and Boyd (who was a pro player and now solid writer) traveled by bus from Sacramento with Webster to chronicle his experience. What results is a compelling look at Webster taking his shot at glory (not to get too hyperbolic) and Boyd does a great job of writing the piece in a way that would make a reader care, but not losing his objectivity as could happen in a piece such as this.

It was excellent stuff that reminded me of a previous SB Nation Longform piece by Brandon Sneed, "The Prospect" on Montaous Walton and his attempts to fashion himself as a professional baseball player. The story on Walton was more about his fabrications and that on Webster more about hope, but definite parallels between the two well written stories.

The second recent piece to note here was the Sports Illustrated cover story this week, "Kobe Bryant: Reflections on a cold-blooded career" by Lee Jenkins. Really a terribly interesting feature that made me think of another piece by Jenkins, the 2012 SI Sportsman of the Year story on LeBron James in that both pieces on gifted and driven basketball players, and both written well in a very segmented style (with me posting last year on the structure that Jenkins employed in his story on James).

The third piece of recent excellent sports writing to mention was "The Marathon of Their Lives" by David Fleming for ESPN. About two separate runners in the 2011 Chicago Marathon, Will Caviness and Amber Miller, it was a fascinating piece to me in that early on, I expected it to end with a climactic moment that involved both runners, but instead was a completely different and a more nuanced story that surprised me. It's of course great to read something that you're immediately hooked into from the beginning, but this piece was a different type of great in that it was really memorable to me after reading it.

Friday, October 18, 2013

Gravity by Alfonso Cuarón & writing on the movie by Jones & Lee

Gravity by Alfonso Cuarón has been a much talked about and written on movie since it's release and after seeing it a few days ago, it seems all the attention for good reason. It's a remarkable film and two pieces I've since read about it's director and the movie struck me as excellent.

For the Sept 30th issue of New York Magazine, Dan P. Lee wrote "The Camera's Cusp: Alfonso Cuarón Takes Filmmaking to a New Extreme With Gravity" and it's a fascinating 6,000 word feature. Another solid piece of writing, and more on the movie itself, was the fairly short Esquire website post "Gravity Isn't Quite Accurate, and That's Okay" by Chris Jones.

In terms of my own views on the movie, the visuals were stunning in 3D (and perhaps more so in IMAX), but the big thing about the movie for me was the tension and drama. In fact, there was a portion of it where I found the emotional drama perhaps too much with the choice Cuarón made in having Sandra Bullock's character in Dr. Ryan Stone having experienced a particularly horrific moment in her past. Watching things unfold on screen as Stone in pretty much ceaseless peril and combining those with her past, it felt both that the tragic backstory might be excessive and given that backstory, logical that Stone might just say "no más" (guess I couldn't get enough of the accent in Cuarón's name) and stop trying to figure out a way to survive. Related to this, I was watching and thinking there no way NASA would have sent to space anyone in Stone's emotional state.

From that point of skepticism I had, though, I thought her past then well dealt with by Cuarón in the film, and as Jones wrote about, whether something would have actually occurred the way it was portrayed (whether a technical detail about space or selecting of science specialists for the mission) doesn't have to detract from the movie.

The other thing I loved about the piece by Jones was his mention of the attempt to make a movie out of his book Too Far From Home, the subject of the first real blog post I wrote five years ago. Not that my blog writing has been like performing life-saving surgeries, but this book kind of got me started with it.

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Esquire & Time Magazine writing - by Junod, McCracken, Walsh and Scherer

The most recent issue of Esquire and last few issues of Time Magazine had some great feature writing (with the Time site typically requiring a subscription to read online) that can be at least somewhat grouped together under the topics of business and it's impact.

The piece from Esquire's 80th Anniversary October issue was "Google: The Celebrity Profile" by Tom Junod and a look at the company, it's power, and the potential for abuse of that. To that end, Junod included in the story the interesting sections below...

"'Google is a data company that monetizes the collection of data through advertising,' says Rob Norman, the chief digital officer of GroupM, the world's largest buyer of online media. "The scale of data capture is massive, and the ability to match data with the likely intent of an individual is unparalleled." Does Rob Norman trust Google, working with Google, as he does, nearly every day? 'I happen to believe that Google is a nuclear power. One's feeling about nuclear powers depends on one's belief in their ability to use the weapons. In my view, Google is as responsible a nuclear power as you can expect a nuclear power to be.'"

"The most famous thing Google ever said was not to the world; it was to Google. "Don't be evil" — it sounds like a warning or an injunction. But it turned out to be a form of permission, a conflation of innocence with intention. Google didn't want to be evil, so Google wasn't evil. Google wasn't evil, so when Google started doing something that seemed morally dubious, Google wasn't selling out; Google was improving a morally dubious practice by the magic of Google's presence."

Junod also wrote in the piece about Google X and Google X-like efforts within the company around current programs such as Google Glass and not current, but also not out of the question, things like storing of biological data... which may be a great thing or may be troublesome if that data and accompanying power misused. From a bigger picture perspective, Junod wrote of how Google leaders looking for people to trust them to make the right moral decisions is somewhat similar to how our government looks for us to trust them to make the right decisions (which I think in the case of the current Presidential Administration they generally are). I've previously done posts which included stories on the CIA-funded data-mining company Palantir and on the world we live in and while Google, Palantir or the government having power certainly doesn't mean that power getting abused, the potential for abuse is something to keep in mind and written well about by Junod.

On the same topic of Google and huge initiatives at the company was a Time Magazine cover story written by Harry McCracken"Google vs. Death" is about a new company it's launching that's in the vein of current Google X "moonshots" Glass, Makani Power (which puts wind turbines on wings), Project Loon (which beams wireless internet access from large helium balloons) and self-driving automobiles. Calico as a new Google initiative differs in that it's separate from Google X, but as McCracken writes, Calico "will focus on health and aging in particular," very reminiscent of how Junod wrote of Google potentially getting into the field of biological data.

The second Time Magazine story to note here is on a different topic entirely with "The Challenges of America's Energy Revolution" by Bryan Walsh. I've posted a number of times on pieces by Walsh and he often does great work often on the subjects of energy and/or the environment. From this latest piece was the following...

"The same innovations that have resurrected oil and gas production in the U.S. have extended the age of fossil fuels, making it that much more difficult to break free of them. A number of independent studies have suggested that the world has to stop emitting carbon dioxide by midcentury to avoid dangerous climate change. We're not likely to get there if we keep inventing ways to extract and then burn the hydrocarbons still in the ground. 

The last Time Magazine piece to mention here was the excellent  "Michael Bloomberg Wants To Be Mayor of the World" by Michael Scherer. It's tremendously interesting stuff that details, among other initiatives, Bloomberg's work to reduce smoking rates. Also from the piece by Scherer is how this philanthropy by Bloomberg within the context of private benefactors and and their impact...

"Over the past 30 years, the world has been transformed by globalization and technology, and from that tumult has emerged a new class of billionaires who profited from the change, innovators, business leaders and heirs. In the prime of their lives, many have turned their attention to remaking the world, often through policy and politics. It's a return to the era of great benefactors like the Rockefellers, Mellons and Carnegies. It's their world. You just vote in it. The examples are so many, they crowd together. Facebook's Mark Zuckerberg gives $100 million to rewrite the rules for Newark public schools, spends millions more on political television ads and then travels to Congress to demand immigration reform. The casino magnate Sheldon Adelson bets $100 million to elect Republican candidates who mostly lose in 2012, and then publicly vows to do it again. Without financiers George Soros and Peter Lewis, marijuana legalization would not have proceeded so far in so many states. Without the generosity of conservative industrialists David and Charles Koch, the groups now organizing to defund Obamacare would be a shadow of themselves. Without billionaires like Bloomberg, Bill Gates, Eli Broad and Jim Walton, the revolution now taking place in K-12 education--charter schools, standardized tests, Common Core, merit pay, the end of tenure--would be years behind schedule."

Businessweek writing - by Vance on Ramona Pierson & Stone on Jeff Bezos

Businessweek recently had two great pieces by writers who I consistently find excellent work from, Ashlee Vance and Brad Stone.

"Declara Co-Founder Ramona Pierson's Comeback Odyssey" was written by Vance and is one of those stories that makes me want to read another 10-80 thousand words about the subject. As Vance wrote, Pierson out of college was in the U.S. Marines (who paid for her final years at U.C. Berkeley) and "worked with algorithms to help calculate the position of Russia’s nuclear silos and guide F-18 fighter missions" until she in 1984 was hit by a drunk driver and spent 18 months in a coma. About this cataclysmic injury (and related to me wanting to know more), Vance wrote "Passersby saved her life. One massaged her heart to keep it beating; another used pens to open her windpipe and vent her collapsed lung so she could breathe. The crude handiwork kept Pierson alive long enough to get her to a hospital."

Next in the story Vance wrote of Pierson's rehabilitation, including the equally fascinating time she spent in a senior citizens center with the residents helping her get better (and the anecdote very much having a Curious Case of Benjamin Button vibe to me). Still seeming to be in line with the Benjamin Button theme, or perhaps that Tom Hanks movie in which he sees the world and does amazing things, Vance wrote of how Pierson became an accomplished blind blind rock climber, cross-country skier, and cyclist. Additionally, she after leaving the senior citizens center enrolled in a community college, studied psychology and received a master’s degree in education and then PhD in neuroscience.

In terms of her Pierson's work efforts, Vance covered in the piece how she served as CTO of Seattle public schools and developed database software around the students and their learning. Still utilized today, this software led Pierson to forming and then selling the educational company SynapticMash prior to starting last year in Palo Alto, CA her current company, Declara. Geared towards both education and businesses, Vance notes how Declara "a type of social network that links everyone in a company or an organization. With the help of algorithms developed by Pierson and others, Declara’s system learns how people interact, what types of questions they’re looking to answer, and who can best answer them."

It's a fascinating and well-written tale from Vance about someone who has been through more than almost all of us and doing tremendously interesting work.

Another great recent Businessweek piece to note here was by Brad Stone with "The Secrets of Bezos: How Amazon Became the Everything Store," excerpted from his just published book The Everything Store: Jeff Bezos and the Age of Amazon. There's a lot of interesting material throughout the excerpt (and without having read it yet, I imagine the book as well), but what really struck me from the perspective of Stone as a reporter was his mention of finding Ted Jorgensen, the biological father of Bezos, and who agreed with the request of Bezos's mother Jacklyn to allow three year-old Jeff's adoption by her new husband Miguel Bezos. Stone writes of how Jorgensen also agreed to not have contact with the family, but the section below from the book excerpt still remarkable...

"I found Ted Jorgensen, Jeff Bezos's biological father, behind the counter of his bike shop in late 2012. I’d considered a number of ways he might react to my unannounced appearance but gave a very low probability to the likelihood of what actually happened: He had no idea what I was talking about. Jorgensen said he didn’t know who Jeff Bezos was and was baffled by my suggestion that he was the father of this famous CEO. I mentioned Jacklyn Gise and Jeffrey, the son they had during their brief teenage marriage. The old man’s face flushed with recognition. “Is he still alive?” he asked, not yet fully comprehending. “Your son is one of the most successful men on the planet,” I told him. I showed him some Internet photographs on my smartphone, and for the first time in 45 years, Jorgensen saw his biological son. His eyes filled with sorrow and disbelief."

Again, there's quite a few other interesting stories about Bezos, how he built Amazon and his style, but this particular portion was just remarkable.

Saturday, October 12, 2013

"What I Talk About When I Talk About Running" by Haruki Murakami

What I Talk About When I Talk About Running was an interesting memoir about running and writing from novelist Haruki Murakami.

The book struck me as having some of the elements of Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life by Anne Lamott and Born To Run: A Hidden Tribe, Superathletes, and the Greatest Race the World Has Never Seen by Christopher McDougall and Murakami in the Afterword wrote of his intent...

"I see this book as a kind of memoir. Not something as grand as a personal history, but calling it an essay collection is a bit forced. Through the act of writing I wanted to sort out what kind of life I've led, both as a novelist and as an ordinary person. I so think I can write something substantial."

Murakami's book is a sort if reminiscence on being a writer and a runner, and how the two pursuits enable each other, with him first becoming a runner as a way to keep fit while being a writer. He also describes how his work put into running had parallels with work put into writing.

About running, he wrote of how pain is inherent, but suffering is optional and the benefits to getting the body to do something it didn't know it could do. In terms of schedule, he noted running roughly 6 days a week and not taking too off in a row. Related to this, he makes the point that it's been good for him that he's had to run to stay thin, as people who don't gain weight easily don't have as much impetus to get in shape overall. Murakami also mentioned the social benefit of running for him being a shared experience with those who he runs with in races or simply sees frequently on the trail.

About writing, Murakami covered that when he was young, he had the idea that he wanted to write a novel and finished the book one year between spring and fall, sent it in to a literary magazine's new writers contest and then forgot about it. The next spring he received a call saying he made the contest short list and his book won and was published in the summer. At this time he was managing a bar and continued to do so while writing and publishing his second novel. He then sold the business to write full-time with the idea that if it didn't work out after two years, he could always go back to running a bar again, but published his third novel A Wild Sheep Chase and continued his career as a full-time writer.

Just as Murakami had a schedule for running he also had a schedule for writing, which while he still ran the bar involved writing late at night and then when writing full-time had him going to sleep early and then waking up early to write when he could be most productive. Murakami notes in the book his view of becoming a great novelist requiring talent, focus and endurance... with the first of these being something that can't necessarily be taught, but the second and third both things that can definitely be developed, and make up at least to an extent for any shortcoming in natural talent (with late-blooming writers often people whose focus and endurance paid off for them). Related to this idea of putting in work (just as being a runner requires), he describes the process of writing a novel as being a kind of manual labor.

I haven't previously seen any of Murakami's novels, but would say this really a solid book for anyone interested in either writing or running.

Tuesday, October 08, 2013

Great sports storytelling - writing by Posnanski, Price, Wickersham and Phillips & videos on Devon Walker and Steve Gleason with Pearl Jam

Great storytelling can often come in many different sizes and flavors, with a few stories to note here covering multiple types of sports writing and two excellent video segments.

The two most recent pieces of sports writing to mention were both for ESPN properties with one a feature from the Oct 14 issue of ESPN The Magazine and one posted to Grantland on Oct 3. For Grantland was "The Dad-Rock Prometheus" by Brian Phillips and in it he provided a fascinating take take on Peyton Manning and how his particular brand of excellence of the old school exacting craft variety rather than youthful throw caution to the winds approach. Particularly cool from the piece was the section by Phillips below...

"I keep thinking about old astronauts. I mean the early-space-program guys, the 1960s-Apollo-program guys, the all-American nerds with rectangular haircuts. What a supremely weird group of normal people. You can get a quick sense of that from Apollo 13 if you've seen it, all those home-life scenes set in the America of cookie-cutter ranch houses and Radio Flyer wagons and Jell-O salads. Those guys were practicing weightlessness by day and then going home to drink a beer and mow the lawn and probably watch Archie Manning play football on TV. You think of transcendence in that era as coming strictly through the counterculture, but this was a group of straight-up Eisenhower-legacy Air Force vets literally working to leave the Earth. And their imaginations were on fire with it, as how could they not be, but day to day it was mostly a matter of technical detail — getting the math right, testing every last ball bearing in the engine. They were engineers, not poets, at least right up to the moment when they actually found themselves in space."

The ESPN The Magazine story I found really solid recently was by Seth Wickersham with "The Hail Mary in Santa Clara" on the San Francisco 49ers new stadium, its driving force in owner Jed York and his family history through former team owner (and York's beloved uncle) Eddie DeBartolo. It's one of those great stories that becomes great in part by being much more than expected with a fascinating narrative coming out of a piece on stadium building by someone who might be overlooked with York born into a position of power.

Two additional great pieces of sports writing to note here were "The Heart of Los Angeles" by Joe Posnanski and "U.S. Open victory the pinnacle of Nadal's unbelievable comeback year" by S.L. Price. Posnanski's piece was a beautifully written 4,000+ word essay (originally done for his SI blog) on on Dodgers announcer Vin Scully and Price provided for Sports Illustrated a great recap of Rafael Nadal's championship match.

The videos to note here also fall under the category of great storytelling on sports with ESPN segments on Steve Gleason with Pearl Jam and on Devon Walker. The 36-year-old Gleason played with the New Orleans Saints and now afflicted with ALS and Walker is the Tulane athlete paralyzed during a football game last season and whom previously I've posted on and linked to writing about. It was really excellent and inspiring work in both stories.

Writing on kids & parenting - by Greenfeld, Paul, Ripley & Stafford

A couple of interesting pieces lately on the subject of kids and parenting included essays from The Atlantic and The Huffington Post as well as a New York Times book review.

The longer of the two essays was by Karl Taro Greenfeld for the October issue of The Atlantic. "My Daughter’s Homework Is Killing Me" had some fascinating stuff about the amount of work being done outside of school by his 8th grade daughter in a selective New York City public school.

The New York Times book review was on a similar subject with Annie Murphy Paul writing "Likely to Succeed" about Amanda Ripley’s The Smartest Kids in the World: And How They Got That Way. I've previously read solid work from both writers and am interested in reading the Ripley book.

The essay from The Huffington Post was "6 Words You Should Say Today" by Rachel Macy Stafford about a simple thing parents can do in talking with their kids and it seemed a powerful and spot on recommendation.

Thursday, October 03, 2013

My writing - past & not past

While I often do posts with a tag of writing, and in those link to pieces others have done about the putting together of great writing, it seemed high time to ruminate a bit on my own writing as the last time I did so, via a post with a tag of blogging, was in December 2012.

Looking back on that aforementioned post titled "Reading and Writing,"  much of what I wrote then about the point of and approach to writing the blog still holds true with my (A) reading things of interest, (B) attempting to describe those pieces well and make connections between them, (C) creating both a repository of great writing and body of work with my thoughts on the pieces and (D) wanting to both appreciate the time I've spent on the effort and have it serve as a jumping off point to a next step in writing.

Two additional things that come to mind around writing include first how I love the ability narrative non-fiction has to translate to the masses information that would often be just too complex to follow if not written into a story. Two great features that came to mind as examples of this were "Has Carl June Found a Key to Fighting Cancer?" by Jason Fagone and "The Plutonium Gang: CH2M Hill Dismantles the Hanford Nuclear Site" by Steve Featherstone. Just very cool to me this concept of narrative writing enabling the passing along of information and work that may be highly technical and/or brilliant.

The second thing that occurs to me around writing, in this case more around my own, is it seems I'm doing something within a blog post similar to what would be done in writing a story. The idea for me is to find interesting information, look for more details about it and connections between different sources and then attempt to coherently write about the subject. The scale certainly different with me writing a several hundred word post about a few connected stories I've read as opposed to a 6,000+ word feature story for national publication that someone else might be doing, but the comparison seems to hold true.

If the stuff written about above is about what I've done with my own writing, below is focused on what to do going forward and having previously self-published two books with content from the blog; I'll almost certainly go ahead and compile and publish a third with more recent posts done. Beyond that (and as I mentioned above), I like to view my past writing as a jumping off point of sorts with two different (and not mutually exclusive) paths, with both diverging a touch from the additionally possible idea of researching and writing narrative non-fiction pieces on spec.

One thing I consider for future writing centers directly around my blog work already done. I think there’s something to be culled from past blog posts with writing from them as source material, similar to how I've created blog posts from writing by others, and note above as being somewhat similar to writing a piece from scratch. The end result may be fiction writing based on non-fiction, perhaps a fictional autobiography or perhaps something else, but either way it's sort of an everything counts approach to past and future writing.

The second thought that comes to mind around future writing stems from how I enjoy writing quite a bit, but also have a huge interest in writing within a larger picture. The process of putting together great writing and also having it be within a viable business is fascinating to me and perhaps something to explore and pursue. In terms of mechanics around how this more editor or business-centric path could be pursued, I've made a few good connections with established writers and there's also ways to increase education, with things to potentially explore including Coursera, Southern New Hampshire University's online offerings, MITOpenCourseWare, the edX venture founded by MIT and Harvard, Entrepreneurial Journalism offerings like the one from City University of New York, or the Nieman Foundation Visiting Fellowship.

When I think about a career path related to the things I'm interested in around writing, two ideas I've come across in the past come to mind. The first is the concept of jobs to be done, as written about by noted author and Harvard Business School professor Clayton Christensen in How Will You Measure Your Life? (which I reviewed here). The second idea is from an anecdote I heard about someone successful in their career and whose path to that had him (A) figuring out an area that someone could both make money in and become an expert in and then (B) doing that.

Maybe it's not really an accurate comparison, but I think about my interest in writing as sort of coming from the opposite side of that. I know an area I'm interested in and want to figure out a career within it. It seems a bit daunting, but at the same time, I can't be the only person with this interest and who's coming at it mid-career, and perhaps that fact also creates opportunity.

Inspiring sports stories - Verducci on Mariano Rivera, Hohler on Bobby Orr & Jones on Michael Weiner

There's three pieces of sports writing I've come across recently that stood out to me as excellent and on inspiring subjects.

From the September 23 Sports Illustrated was "Exit Sandman: Baseball bids adieu to Mariano Rivera" by Tom Verducci. It was done as an oral history on the Yankees closer and was simply interesting to me up until the end when it became incredibly poignant. Verducci included a fairly lengthy story about Rivera meeting with the family of Luke Bresette, a 10-year-old killed in March by a falling airport display board and the article closed with a quote from Luke's father, Ryan Bresette...

"This is something I haven't told too many people. When Mariano came over to me, I stuck out my hand to shake his hand, and he gave me a hug, pulled me close and whispered in my ear, "You're a stronger and braver man than I ever could be."

The second feature to note here was by Bob Hohler for the September 29 Boston Globe with "At 65, Bobby Orr is focused on doing good — quietly." Orr's humility, with him one of the greatest hockey players ever, was remarkable to me and the video that accompanies the piece definitely worth watching.

The last inspiring sports story to note here was by Chris Jones for the Oct 13 issue of ESPN The Magazine. "Labor of love:Terminal cancer hasn't kept Michael Weiner from his dream job" details the executive director of the Major League Baseball Players Association and how he spends his remaining time. It's a short and emotional story and it feels like every word from Jones just spot on.

Tuesday, October 01, 2013

GQ & Esquire pieces - by Aikins, Dean, Jones & Jacobs

In recent months there were a few stories from Esquire and GQ that struck me as excellent, with the pieces seeming to link together in sets with one from each magazine a long account of a huge world event and one from each a smaller piece carrying ideas to consider.

In terms of historical accounts written about well were "Enemy Inside the Wire: The Untold Story of the Battle of Bastion" by Mattieu Aikins for the September GQ and then "The Flight From Dallas" by Chris Jones for the October edition of Esquire.

The Aikins feature was about a 2012 Taliban attack on US airbase Camp Bastion in Afghanistan and Jones wrote about what took place on Air Force One in 1963 with John F. Kennedy's body returning to Washington and Lyndon Johnson sworn in as the new President. Both pieces had incredible detail and to this point, an accompanying piece posted to the Esquire website was "How to Report a Story (When Most of Your Sources Are Dead" on the research done and writing decisions made by Jones.

The other two pieces to note here were respectively about the subjects of luck and Transcendental Meditation.

For the October issue of Esquire, A.J. Jacobs wrote the short essay "Fame: That Bastard." and about five successful and famous men featured, he wrote that they all "immensely talented and hardworking" and "also the beneficiaries of hundreds of random events." Jacobs later added the interesting bit below...

"I realize it's not a hugely uplifting message. It doesn't jibe with our Ayn Randian dreams and American work ethic. But this more realistic worldview has its advantages, I find. It helps with forgiving yourself your failures. It allows you more compassion for those who didn't get the breaks. It cuts down on celebrity worship and boosts humility."

The other piece to note here was by Josh Dean for the September GQ and Jacobs' essay in that both related to the concept of success. "The Totally Stressed-Out Man's Guide to Meditation" featured a lot of interesting content about Transcendental Meditation including mention of the people who practice it and the benefit that it can provide. From the piece by Dean was below...

"The most tangible result of practicing TM is the way it reduces stress. If the only thing it did was cause you to sit quietly with your eyes closed, this would reduce stress in your life, providing a forced break from the furious fire hose of data and stimulation blasting you on a second-by-second basis. But TM's effect appears to be far more powerful than that. Some psychologists have taken to calling stress the "Black Plague of the twenty-first century," because it is a runaway condition with no obvious cure. Stress causes inflammation, weakens the immune system, and is a risk factor for all kinds of serious health problems, from heart disease to depression. TM has, over many studies, helped cut stress and lower blood pressure. It has been shown to ease depression, curb violent impulses, and lessen symptoms of ADD and ADHD. It has even, as the TM adherent Dr. Mehmet Oz pointed out, been found to reduce skin lesions in some patients."