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."