Tag Archives: Esquire

The federal government, back open for business. A brilliant story on the flight home from Dallas on 11/22/63. And a disturbing new high school rape case

yosemite_0

Well Hallelujah and pass the champagne: We have a government back open in these here United States!

Yes, our brief national nightmare is over for now, after two-plus weeks of hundreds of thousands of government workers furloughed, national parks and other major pieces of society closed, and more ridiculous posturing in Congress than any country should ever be subjected to.

Happily and surprisingly, this shutdown ended with a pretty complete surrender by the Republicans, as even the wing-nuts like Ted Cruz and Louis Gomert seem to have realized that they weren’t going to win this one.

Some quickie thoughts on the end of a shutdown that never should have happened:

— I was happy to see that for once, Harry Reid and his fellow Dems didn’t back down, didn’t cave, didn’t move an inch. But as I said to a friend Wednesday night, “where would they have caved to?” Would they have agreed to repeal ObamaCare, to delay it for a few years, to do all kinds of the idiotic measures the House wingnuts were asking for?

— Also, all this talk of the Democrats “winning” is nice, but look at all kinds of discussions we’re having now. The sequester cuts seem permanent, we’re not spending ANY money to replace all the devastating cuts to social services, infrastructure, etc., and it would take an act of God to raise taxes in this country again. The GOP has pushed the debate so far to the right that just the Dems stopping them a little bit seems like a big victory.

— And before we all start celebrating, and I hate to throw cold water on things, but all the deal Wednesday does is delay the real negotiations for a few months. The debt ceiling and the funding of the federal gov’t only goes through mid-January and early February, so we might have to do this all over again this winter.
Now I can’t BELIEVE the GOP Tea Partiers will be stupid enough to try another gov’t shutdown, but no one ever went broke overestimating the Tea Party’s stupidity.

— My buddy Clay seems to think this shutdown, which has greatly damaged the GOP in every poll I’ve seen, is going to have a big effect on the 2014 elections. I’m dubious, though, because 2014 is a long way away and this country has the attention span of a gnat, and because all kinds of delay and obstruction can still happen between now and then.

So, we’ll see. But hey, for today, we’ve got Yosemite National Park (above) open again, so let’s be happy.

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**Whether you like it or not, you’re about to be inundated with news about the the JFK assassination, as we’re a few weeks away from the 50th anniversary. There’ll be TV specials, movies (the new “Parkland” movie, about what happened at the hospital right after the shooting, looks interesting), and a whole ton of newspaper and Internet stories about it.

Obviously we can’t consume all of it, but if you read only one thing, I highly recommend this Chris Jones story from Esquire this month. Through meticulous reporting and dozens of interviews, Jones reconstructed what happened on the flight back from Dallas to Washington on Air Force One, when John F. Kennedy’s casket was on board, along with a grieving Jackie Kennedy, a stunned but suddenly-President Lyndon B. Johnson, and two rival factions of advisers trying to figure out what to do next.

What struck me most about the piece was how composed Jackie Kennedy was, how unsure of everything LBJ seemed, and just the incredible balance everyone else tried to achieve between grief, and acceptance, while the body literally lay a few feet away.

Truly an incredible, and unprecedented moment in American history, and awfully compelling reading.

**Finally today, you may remember the rape trial of a couple of high school football players in Steubenville, Ohio last year, where two boys got a girl drunk and then sexually assaulted her. The case, and trial, divided the town and attained the kind of national attention a city just doesn’t want.

Not surprisingly, another small town is now facing the same specter. Again, the details are disgusting: Teenage boys, 14-year-old girls, a whole lot of alcohol, and sexual assault (this one has the lovely detail of the boys dumping one of the half-naked victims out of the car and leaving her, completely drunk, outside her house in the 22-degree weather.

Maryville, Missouri is where this incident occurred, and Yahoo!’s Dan Wetzel has all the gruesome details, including why the prosecutor there already decided the boys should not stand trial. Here’s an interview as well with the second victim

A brilliant story from the SEAL who killed bin Laden. The happiest dog in the world. And the tragedy of Mindy McCready’s kids.

US Navy SEALs during desert combat training.

When I get emailed a story from five different people in my life, I know it must be really good.

But for some odd reason, I didn’t get around to reading Esquire’s brilliant new story by Phil Bronstein about the Navy SEAL Team 6 member who killed Osama bin Laden until Monday.

Man, it is intense. And wonderfully reported, with incredible details (I was glad to see, upon reading it, that “Zero Dark Thirty,” got most of the major details correct) and deep background into the entire mission from the point of view of the SEALs.
The story is not just a heroic tale of the brave men who on May 1, 2011 ended the life of one of the worst terrorists the world has ever known.

It’s also a chilling reminder that missions like the one in Abbotabad is what SEALs have been doing for their whole career, and when they get out of the military like The Shooter (as he’s called in the story; for obvious reasons he wanted to remain anonymous), they often have no direction, no idea how to relate to civilians, and in many cases, no health insurance.

Here’s a passage from the story, literally the Shooter’s recollection of the moments before he shot Osama bin Laden. I urge you to read the whole story here. It’s fascinating.

I thought in that first instant how skinny he was, how tall and how short his beard was, all at once. He was wearing one of those white hats, but he had, like, an almost shaved head. Like a crew cut. I remember all that registering. I was amazed how tall he was, taller than all of us, and it didn’t seem like he would be, because all those guys were always smaller than you think.

I’m just looking at him from right here [he moves his hand out from his face about ten inches]. He’s got a gun on a shelf right there, the short AK he’s famous for. And he’s moving forward. I don’t know if she’s got a vest and she’s being pushed to martyr them both. He’s got a gun within reach. He’s a threat. I need to get a head shot so he won’t have a chance to clack himself off [blow himself up].

In that second, I shot him, two times in the forehead. Bap! Bap! The second time as he’s going down. He crumpled onto the floor in front of his bed and I hit him again, Bap! same place. That time I used my EOTech red-dot holo sight. He was dead. Not moving. His tongue was out. I watched him take his last breaths, just a reflex breath.

And I remember as I watched him breathe out the last part of air, I thought: Is this the best thing I’ve ever done, or the worst thing I’ve ever done? This is real and that’s him. Holy shit.

***And now, for a happy little video of a dog, happily playing and with not a care in the world.
Don’t you wish you could be this happy?

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**Finally, I can’t really say I knew much about Mindy McCready, other than that she was a famous country singer who had an affair with Roger Clemens when she was barely 16.

But the news Sunday that McCready had committed suicide at age 37 left me remarkably sad, because McCready did so just a month after her boyfriend, David Wilson, had killed himself as well.

And now there are two children, 6-year-old Zander and 10-month-old Zayne, who have no parents at all. The agony of drug addiction is all over McCready’s life, and clearly her demons were too strong for her to overcome.

I don’t know why some people think suicide is the answer; most of the time it’s the coward’s way out, which McCready and her boyfriend took.

But what I do know is that she was an extremely troubled woman who never was able to get her life together, and because of that, two little boys are left without parents.

Just so, so sad.

 

A great article on why we need to save the post office. A beautiful new Disney animated short. And the robbery foiled by the getaway donkey

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Chances are you don’t think about the U.S. Postal Service very much.
But I do. I think it’s a small miracle that I can drop off a letter here in New York City, put a 45-cent stamp on it, and have a friend in California get it three days later.
I think it’s a small miracle that every single person in the U.S. can get mail, no matter how far from civilization they live. And I think it’s a small miracle that something we take for granted, that’s always there for us, has survived some incredible neglect from the government.

In case you haven’t heard, the U.S. Post Office is basically broke. Due to a variety of factors, we are only a few months away from having the post office go bankrupt. I think it’s amazing how little respect the post office gets, from average citizens to politicians.
I got more and more angry reading this wonderful story by Jesse Lichtenstein in this month’s Esquire magazine. He goes behind the scenes to explain how crippling “future” health care benefit costs to employees has wounded the agency, as well as having its hands tied on raising rates and other decisions.

He also does a terrific job showing us, literally, how mail gets from one side of the country to another. I learned an awful lot in this article, but mostly it reaffirmed how cool of a thing it is that we have a post office that does so much, with so little cost from us.

Read this story and I promise you’ll come away with a new appreciation for the man or woman bringing you your electric bill (and your Victoria’s Secret catalog) every day.

The animation people at Disney and Pixar never fail to amaze me. Check out this new technique they’re using, combining hand-drawn animation and computer-generated images. This is a beautiful six-minute short that I thought was just perfect.

getawaydonkey

**You know, you plan a robbery and you think you’ve got everything covered. You give each member of the theft crew a job, you make sure the employees of the store are taken care of, and you keep everyone away from the alarm.

But what you don’t plan on is always what gets you. And these three burglars in Columbia just didn’t count on their getaway donkey foiling the caper.

Yes that’s right, their mode of escape was a getaway donkey. Seems the ass (sorry, too easy) started braying really loudly while his human companions loaded their loot onto the donkey, and his incredible noise alerted police to what was going on. The robbers had to flee the scene, leaving their food and donkey behind.

And the donkey, who delightfully was stolen 12 hours before the robbery by clearly the Moe, Larry and Curly of Central America, was then held in a police station.

Obviously, the police thought he might crack under pressure. As an incentive, they showed him a DVD of “Shrek” and fed him lots and lots of grass (OK, I made that last part up. But the rest of it was real).

A great story written by a dockworker. South Dakota really doesn’t want to let you get an abortion. And Seinfeld’s cool new website

Great writing can be found anywhere. Not only in the New Yorker, or the Washington Post, or in books.
And there are so many great writers among us, who just don’t have a wide audience.
And I get so much joy out of reading something great by someone I’ve never heard of.
Take John Hyduk. He occasionally does some work for Cleveland magazine, but his regular job is on a loading dock, working the night shift and making sure the soda count is right for the bottling distributorship he works for.
He writes simply, in layman’s terms, but shows us a side of life we hardly ever get to see from a first-person perspective.
Start reading this story he wrote for Esquire. I bet it’s unlike anything you’ve read in a long time.

Vodpod videos no longer available.
**Rachel Maddow, who does excellent work, had this eye-opening piece on the incredible restrictions placed on women who want to get abortions in South Dakota.
It’s disgusting that lawmakers are allowed to get away with what is, according to the U.S. Supreme Court, a LEGAL medical procedure.
Just awful.

**Finally, the great Jerry Seinfeld, who I’m proud to say I saw live in concert at Westbury Music Fair on Long Island in the 80s, LONG before he was famous, has created a new website.

It’s filled with all his old bits from every show he’s ever been on. He parcels them out three a time, every day, and it’s fabulous.
Even if I’ve heard almost all of the jokes already. Check it out here.

Honesty in writing. The boy who fell out of the sky. And is Tiger Woods back? Maybe.

Two great stories to get you going on a Monday…

I have written here, a few times, how much I admire Chris Jones as a writer, and now as a blogger.

One thing that I admire about the blog is his honesty. Last week Jones, who writes primarily for Esquire, wrote a post about being upset and disappointed that he didn’t get nominated for a National Magazine Award (the magazine writer’s equivalent of a Pulitzer, basically) for a brilliant story he wrote about Roger Ebert.
We writers all care about awards, and we all want to be acknowledged and recognized for our work. Any writer who says they don’t care is fibbing, I think. I’ve been very fortunate to win a bunch of writing awards in my career, and each one has meant a lot to me.
Anyway, Jones wrote this strong blog post about being disappointed, and he took some heat for it in certain corners of the Internet, which I didn’t get. Basically he was being accused of whining and only caring about the work for the award’s sake, which is 100 percent NOT what he was saying.
Anyway, Jones followed up with an even better post, which says so much about what I feel as a writer.
He’s honest in his blog, painfully so sometimes, and even though I think I’m pretty honest here, I wish I had the courage to be as totally free and open as he is.

**Speaking of great writing, Tommy Tomlinson is a legend in newspaper circles, but he’s a guy who I don’t think most of the general public is aware of. He writes for the Charlotte Observer, and this weekend he wrote this fascinating tale of Delvonte Tisdale, a seemingly-normal teenager who one night went to the airport and climbed inside the wheel well of a US Airways flight right before it took off.
And of course, died at some point during the flight when he fell from the plane. This is a story that seems to make no sense, but Tomlinson does a superb job in trying to find answers to a very strange and sad tale.

I urge you to read it today.

**Finally, a few words about Tiger. I loathe the “sport” of golf, but usually watch one day of the sport every year, the final Sunday of The Masters, just because it’s the Wimbledon of their sport. But I missed it Sunday and caught some highlights Sunday night. Tiger Woods had a hell of a day, shooting a 67 and leading the tournament for a little while.
Every time Tiger does this at a major, people start wondering if he’s “back.” And when the hell he’s going to start winning again.
Maybe it’ll be now. Or maybe, as some are saying, he will never be “Tiger Woods” again. Maybe the whole women scandal has taken something from him, and he won’t ever be able to get it back. He also continues to act like a spoiled brat on the course, so all this talk of “change” from him didn’t seem to stick.
As much as I loathe the guy, it’s fascinating to see him struggle, after being SO good for so long.

Another insane week in the NFL. David Silver on “Housewives?” And a great story about the 11 lost on Deepwater Horizon

I truly think the lifespan of men who gamble money on NFL games goes down every year.
Seriously.
Every season, this stuff gets less predictable, and more insane. I bet on the NFL through fantasy football, but that’s quite a bit different: I can rely on my big stars every week, even if their teams aren’t that good (eh, check that. Thanks for those four INT’s Sunday, Drew Brees, star QB of my fantasy team this year).
Sunday, the following happened:
— Cleveland, the second-worst team in the league, beat the Super Bowl champion Saints.
— The Buffalo Bills, who are awful and winless, nearly beat the Baltimore Ravens, falling 37-34 in OT.
— The Oakland Raiders, who go entire months without scoring 50 points, scored fifty-freaking-nine on Sunday to beat Denver. Fifty-nine points!
— The referees again screwed up and cost a team a game, as the Miami Dolphins recovered a fumble in their own end zone at the end of their loss to Pittsburgh, only to have the refs change the call and give the ball back to the Steelers. Who of course then kicked the game-winning field goal. I’d be more outraged, but it was the Dolphins, so I’m happy they lost.
All I can say is, I’m so glad the Jets didn’t play Sunday. Who the hell knows what would’ve happened to them.

**OK, I gave up watching “Desperate Housewives” after last season, because it just got so ridiculous.
But I caught a promo the other day for Sunday’s episode, and holy crap, David Silver from “Beverly Hills 90210” is dating Bree? That’s just so wrong. What would Donna Martin say about all this?

**Tom Junod is another of the handful of writers who I love so much, I’ll read anything they write, even if I know I don’t care about the subject matter.
Several years ago he wrote one of the greatest magazine articles I’ve ever read, about bullying and his experiences as a bully (check it out here).
Last month in Esquire Junod wrote a beautiful story about the 11 men who died in the Deepwater Horizon oil spill in the Gulf. We heard so much over the past months about the environmental costs, and the financial costs, of the spill.
But these 11 guys, it’s like they were forgotten. Nobody seemed to talk about them. Junod did an amazing job learning about their lives, their jobs, and their families.
Check out his fascinating story here if you want to read some fantastic reporting and writing.

Ah, Brett Favre, Jets fans love you all over again. And Newt, examined

Brett Favre, I never knew how to quit you.
Thankfully, you keep reminding me why I’m glad I did.
Maybe it’s the way “Monday Night Football” announcers slobbered all over you, praising you more than the media praised Obama in ’08. (Seriously, Gruden and Jaworski, does every sentence out of your mouth have to be paying homage to the guy? It was nauseating.)
Maybe it’s the fact that you played so awful for the first 2 1/2 quarters Monday night, only to scare the living you know what out of me and other Jets fans with your second-half rally.
In the end, though, I was a happy man Monday night. The Jets won, they’re 4-1, and who cares if they almost blew that game.
Some quick thoughts from a very happy blogger:
**LaDainian Tomlinson continues to amaze. Man that guy is good when he’s in space. What a tremendous pickup.
**I, and many other Jets fans I’m sure, had visions of Herm Edwards with that awful clock management in the first and second halves by the Jets. Seriously, this stuff is not that hard.
** Mark Sanchez had a poor game. Look, it happens. But that game should NOT have been close. The Jets dominated for the first three quarters, and couldn’t put Minnesota away.
** Percy Harvin is scary fast.
** Jason Taylor, you’re still a Dolphin and a jerk to me. But I’m starting to appreciate you since you seem to be rushing the passer so well.

**Seriously ESPN, enough Favre-love. The guy is a legend, one of the greatest to play the game. But right now he’s a 41-year-old with tendinitis who just isn’t that good.

**So there are a lot of dumb things in Esquire magazine, the clothes they tell me I “must” own are ridiculously overpriced, and it’s a pretty sexist publication sometimes, too.
But the reason I keep subscribing year after year is the writing. There is some tremendous, tremendous journalism in Esquire every month. In the last issue I truly was fascinated by this profile of Newt Gingrich by John H. Richardson.
Gingrich is truly a character, and by examining the future Republican presidential candidate through the mind of his ex-wife, you really get an interesting portrait of Gingrich.
And what a sad, insecure little man he truly is.

Why 2010 is the best time in history to be lonely. And Ebert’s incredible new voice

Hear me out on this one.

So while I was talking to Pearlman the other day, we got to discussing chatroulette.com, that bizarre new site where, with a webcam and a computer, you can have hundreds, nay, thousands of encounters with random strangers, all with in a few hours.

And this thought suddenly occurred to me: There is no better time in the history of the world to be a lonely person than right now. Think about this: Let’s say you’re sitting at home, bored, with no friends or family around, no significant other, and feeling extremely depressed.

Think about how many ways you can now experience human companionship. Skype. Chatroulette.com. Internet chat rooms. Message boards. Email. Instant messaging.

I could go on and on, but you’ve got things to do today once you’re done reading this blog post.

There are literally dozens of ways a lonely person can experience human contact, or feel a little less strange, or isolated. Technology has basically ensured that you are never truly alone; there is always someone, somewhere, who shares your interests, your beliefs, or just wants to be a little less lonesome themselves.

When I was a high school kid or recent college graduate (I don’t ever recall being lonely in college; that was four years of bliss), I didn’t have any of these options. I’d read, or play my video games, but I’d stay depressed when I got in one of those “no one loves me, I’ll always be alone” moods we all go through at one time or another.

But now? The entire world is at your fingertips.

It’s a great time to be alive.  And the best time ever to feel the pangs of loneliness.

**I’ve been writing a lot about Roger Ebert lately, partly because I find him so inspiring. Here’s a man who can no longer eat, drink or talk, but is still writing brilliantly and living courageously.

If you read that Esquire article I linked above, you may remember that there was a company in Scotland called Cereproc working on a computerized voice that would sound almost identical to Ebert’s former voice, and that soon the legendary film critic would be able to type words and have them come out sounding like his old self.

Tuesday on Oprah, the new voice was unveiled. Pretty damn amazing, if you ask me. Fast forward to :35 on this clip to hear the new, computerized Ebert.

What a world we live in.