Category Archives: Feature Articles

The Last Waltz of the Mighty Wurlitzer (via Indianapolis Monthly)

Illustration / Christoph Hitz

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Indianapolis Monthly — Over the years, Indianapolis has been home to any number of pizza parlors. But only one had the power to rattle your plates.

If you’re of a certain age, the Paramount Music Palace very likely hosted one of your birthday parties, field trips, grandparent visits, post-football game feasts, tour-bus stops, giant family dinners, or honeymoons. (Seriously, honeymoons. We didn’t believe it at first, either.) For more than a decade, it was the family-friendly belle of the east side, accessibly opulent, affectionately schmaltzy, reasonably priced, filled with kids, and tinged with gold. And though the Paramount had live musicians every night, there was one true star of the show: a massive 1931 Mighty Wurlitzer theater pipe organ that would appear each evening by rising from the floor, rotating with regal splendor. If you were of a certain age back then, there was nothing better in the world.

At the height of the Paramount’s glory days, the Mighty Wurlitzer was simply one of the biggest instruments in the country, and it looked and played the part. “You could feel the bass in the building and in your body,” says Michael Fellenzer, current president of the Central Indiana Chapter of ATOS. “And for me, there was a complexity that was fascinating. One person is making this sound like an orchestra? How?”

That word—how?—was the draw of the place, the question that enraptured kids and grandparents, drawing them back, letting them wonder. How can one machine make that sound? How does one person play it? How do you get something that big in here, anyway? And now, 20 years later, those who loved it way back when might wonder: Where did it go?

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Latest for GQ: How to Lose Weight By Not Putting Food in Your Body

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GQ — Of all the fad diets to come down the pike, the one we never saw coming was the simplest: Just don’t eat food. The idea of intermittent fasting (i.e., regimented periods of eating and not eating) has gone mainstream. Fans say it works by training your body to burn its fat reserves. It’s also said to decrease the risk of cancer, diabetes, and cardiovascular disease. And, of course, caloric abstinence is the most cost-effective diet in history. The main downside is the grueling first two weeks, when you’ll probably quit.

How to not eat food, over at GQ. 

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The All-Ages Genius of Rockabye Baby (via the Washington Post)

I ain’t sorry.

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Washington Post — Pro tip for aspiring PR executives: If you’re ever announcing a Beyoncé-themed baby product, try to do so just days before she Instagrams her pregnancy.

Such was the most recent stroke of good news in the potent, enduring tale of the Rockabye Baby series, which for 11 years and 78 albums has tried to alleviate one of the worst parts of being a parent — the music — with lullabied instrumental covers of songs from, you know, real bands. The Beyoncé version is the latest in a list that includes Prince, the Beatles, Springsteen, the Pixies, David Bowie, Eminem, the Cure, Guns N’ Roses, Rush, Kanye West, Radiohead, Adele, Cyndi Lauper, Tool and Iron Maiden. (If you think you had a weird day at work, imagine trying to coax “The Number of the Beast” out of a harp and glockenspiel.)

A look inside the world of the planet’s dominant Kanye West lullaby-making machine.

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HGTV’s Two Chicks and a Hammer Nail Down a Second Season of ‘Good Bones’ (via Indianapolis Monthly)

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Indianapolis Monthly — There are a lot of ways to destroy a chimney—and most of them are satisfying—but Mina Hawk (née Starsiak) says you’re really only supposed to stick with one. “A brick at a time,” says Mina, over coffee/La Croix at Calvin Fletcher’s coffee shop in Fletcher Place. “We allllll went to college. We allllll understand gravity.”

But during a recent day of shooting the second season of Good Bones, the HGTV home-renovation show she headlines with her mother, Karen E Laine, Mina suddenly found herself dealing with a second, considerably more dramatic method. “Spoiler alert,” says Mina, sounding as if she’s still trying to convince herself she saw this. “Tad just pushes it over.”

Tad is Mina’s college-aged little brother and the guy in charge of the Good Bonesdemolition crew. Tad’s gift is for breaking things. But here, Tad has made what Mina clearly regards as a questionable decision. “Tad is on the roof, sees the chimney wobbling, and pushes it over. It goes straight through the roof. Huuuuuge hole,” says Mina, sounding either scolding or impressed; I can’t actually tell which. For her part, Karen is more delighted. “We were all like, ‘That was really cool! But shit!’”

This is more or less a standard afternoon on the set of Good Bones, currently shooting a second season that premieres in May. Good Bones differs from many home-renovation shows in two key departments: 1. Significant increase in angry falling towers of brick, and 2. Mina and Karen handle nearly everything themselves.

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Tastes Like Burning: The Never-Ending Quest to Breed and Consume the World’s Hottest Pepper (via GQ)

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GQ — Late last year, the former guitarist for Guns N’ Roses propped up his camera phone, pressed the record button, produced a cherry-red coffin-shaped box and put its contents directly in his mouth.

The box contained a tortilla chip—one single chip—made from the dust of the Carolina Reaper, the hottest pepper on Earth, designed solely to obliterate the senses.  In the video, the guitarist, Ron “Bumblefoot” Thal, places the shard of fire on his tongue as his wife of 27 years, Jen, does the same. Incredibly, Jen smiles. Bumblefoot, meanwhile, looks like somebody hit self-destruct on his face.

“If you like pain, you’re gonna like this,” he says, through breaths that grow increasingly panting. “It’s still burning. I’m feeling kind of sweaty.” He grimaces, forces some smiles, the fire inching back up his throat. A few minutes in, he absently brushes his right eye, which, because his immune system works, immediately swells shut. “I no longer have use of my eye,” he says, half-laughing through tears and mucus. Jen, next to him, continues to seem totally fine. A guy who spent eight years with Axl Rose as his boss is getting slaughtered by a tortilla chip while his wife is like, eh, whatever.

This episode goes on for six minutes. Bumblefoot excuses himself to flush his eye with water—which obviously doesn’t work—until the fire finally dies down enough for the couple to record an outro. “Paqui chips,” he says, sweating and one-eyed, “Thank you very much for destroying my life for the next half-hour.”

The full story at GQ.com.

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How We Briefly Sort Of Totally Lost Our Son on the London Underground (via the Washington Post)

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On Parenting at the Washington Post — One day, during my retirement, if there is still Social Security or whatever, I plan to write a collection of short stories called “Places I Have Lost My Son.” I lost him once in a state park, where, during a verdant and filthy family hike, he ambled ahead 10, then 20, then 500 yards, past a vigorous series of intersections and switchbacks. (We found him at the ranger station, making plans for what to do with his months-long iPhone ban.) I lost him once from his own bedroom when, at age 4, he let himself outside at 1:30 a.m. in a half-sleeping dream state, in search of the Polar Express. (We found him 20 minutes later a quarter-mile down the road, where he’d been discovered by two teenagers named Kevin and Brendan who were most assuredly not Tom Hanks.)

I’ve had to find him in zoos and museums, malls and airports, when something catches his imagination and instinct compels him to follow it. In my son’s brain, imagination is not some zingy, lively Peter Pan-type. It’s a 500-pound sumo wrestler who lumbers in and shoves aside all of the functions used for mindfulness and consciousness and “remembering to look behind him to see WHERE HIS DAD IS.” It’s both delightful, as there is no greater gift than childhood creativity, and god-awful terrifying, as there are few worse feelings than having to ask the nice security guards whether they have seen a 12-year-old in a blue hoodie. Twice.

Which brings me to how we totally lost him on the London subway.

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I Wore the Same Outfit for Two Weeks to Achieve Zen Calm (via Success)

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Success — To learn about the curious malady known as “decision fatigue,” I was given a very simple assignment: Wear the same outfit and automate as many daily decisions as possible for two weeks and write about whether it gave me more mental clarity. That was it. Easy breezy. I jumped right in.

On Day 1, I picked out a crisp white shirt, got dressed, opened the front door and promptly spilled coffee all over myself. The first lesson of automating your wardrobe: Select dark fabrics.

By “automating your wardrobe,” I mean following the fashion examples of Mark Zuckerberg, Steve Jobs and others whose jobs demand a daily deluge of global-scale decision-making. The idea is simple: To preserve brain space for the big calls, cut back on the less significant ones, because the collective weight of your choices, layered over and over each other, creates what psychologists call decision fatigue. Officially, that’s the “deteriorating quality of decisions made by an individual after a long session of decision-making,” says Jonathan Levav, Ph.D., associate professor at Stanford University. Colloquially it means reaching 4 p.m. and no longer giving a damn about the logjam of problems in your inbox.

The full story at Success.

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How to Buy a Mattress Now That We Live in the Future (via GQ)

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GQ — Mattress shopping is the worst shopping, unless you enjoy driving to the nearest low-rent strip mall and lying down fully clothed in the company of commission-starved salesmen. So when I needed a new mattress recently to replace my 12-year-old Sealy Posturepedic Plush Pillowtop (which I purchased from Dr. Seuss, apparently), I was delighted to find that the whole game has changed, thanks to online retailers.

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How I Learned to Talk to Strangers by Driving for Uber (via Success)

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Success — After sliding the on switch in my Uber app, I putter around the Indianapolis outskirts for about 10 minutes before receiving my first bat signal from a guy standing in front of a deeply suburban-looking office complex. He got right into my front seat, which I heard was an Uber party foul, but I didn’t want my first stranger interaction to open with me jerking my thumb and saying, “Backseat, buddy.”

A friendly, chatty Turkish immigrant, he’s headed back downtown after a job interview. He came to America years ago for an internship and simply stuck around. The Midwest, he says, was open and welcoming, but troublingly sedentary. He worried that our reliance on cars and endless fast-food options would make him look like a lot of the people he’s seen here. Random Fact No. 1: In Turkey, McDonald’s is considered something of a semi-expensive luxury meal.

I don’t usually care for small talk with a barista or Uber driver. So naturally I at first resisted the idea when SUCCESS asked me to drive for Uber to study the chance encounters that often come with participating in the YouEconomy—the massive entrepreneurial movement encapsulating the gig, sharing, freelance, on-demand and moonlighting economies that is already changing the life and work of one in three American adults.

The full story at Success.

Success Podcast: The Uber Episode

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How I Destroyed a Bruce Springsteen-Related Guinness World Record in 60 Seconds Flat (via Success Magazine)

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Success — Jumping right into the book of Guinness World Records with the mission of finding one to break is daunting. You’re not simply trying to decide how to order your eggs or which project to launch, you’re trying to be remembered for something incredible—something that will etch your name into a metaphorical mountain that will endure time, memory and erosion. Have you ever sat down and said, “All right, at what thing should I become the best in the world?” It’s scary. Big ambition can be. So I went with the only thing I knew I was really good at.

The full story at Success magazine.

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