Category Archives: Feature Articles

How Would Your Friends Review You? (via Success)

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Success — It is one of the truths of human nature that we ask for honesty from our friends, family and loved ones, so long as that honesty is unfailingly positive and contains no bad news whatsoever.

We crave attention and revel in approval, seeking it by means both conscious and sneaky. We ask directly (“Is this what you were looking for?”) and solicit passively (“I’m not very good at this, so I hope it’s close to what you’re looking for”). We ask leading questions (“Does this shirt make my stomach look fat?”) and frame our statements to solicit responses (“Ugh, this shirt makes my stomach look fat”). We lightly bait those whose approval we crave (“I’m only buying this shirt if it doesn’t make my stomach look fat”). Be honest, we say, when what we really mean is just tell me I’m OK.

When we’re asked to furnish those honest assessments of a loved one, spouse, colleague, barista, barber or bartender, we make a full stop, our brains flinging themselves through a maze of psychological pulls and snap decisions. Should I be honest with this person? Can I be honest? Will they take my honesty too hard? Will they be hurt?

Feedback, in short, sucks. When it’s bad, we ignore it, push it away or spend hours listing the reasons why it’s illegitimate, biased or unfair. When it’s good, we wrap ourselves tightly in a blanket of it, assured that our self-opinions have been safely validated. It’s a hopelessly tricky thing. So when SUCCESS asked me to submit to a 360-degree feedback review of myself via friends, family and colleagues, I’m pretty sure I said yes without thinking it all the way through.

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A Few Contributions to ‘S is for Southern’ from Garden and Gun

Thrilled have contributed to the gorgeous S is for Southern: A Guide to the South, from Absinthe to Zydeco, from the great people at Garden and Gun. I wrote about Savannah, R.E.M., James Brown, indigo snakes, nicknames, Carl Perkins and others, just not boiled peanuts, because let’s be honest those are very gross.

Buy the book here.

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And Then There Was the Afternoon In Which I Fell Out of the Sky in a Fighter Jet (via The Loop / Golf Digest)

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The Loop / Golf Digest — Mark “Crunchy” Burgess is not the thick, beefy, Iceman-type of fighter pilot who spends his time promoting his upper-body definition and flight hours. He’s methodical and quiet — often pinpoint — in his words, manners and speech. The kind of guy to sit, arms folded, listening to a debate or a monologue or a branch-superiority battle unfold until finding the perfect moment to jump in and dismantle everything and everyone around him with precision, and physics, and the assured, unforced calm that comes with craft mastery. Crunchy has nearly 4,000 flying hours to his name. Upon my arrival at the NAS Oceana Air Base for a test flight in mid-September, my count was precisely 4,000 less.

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Crunchy — no one calls him anything else, and I didn’t even know how to pronounce his last name until 20 minutes before I left — is a retired Navy lieutenant commander and the lead pilot with the Warrior Flight Team, an all-volunteer charity organization that raises funds for wounded vets partly by taking hopelessly green writers up in flights that they inexplicably call “VIP rides.” (On a master jet base populated by active-duty servicemen and women, my VIP status is basically rock bottom.) My flight was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to spin space, to actually no-shit-for-real-aileron-roll-a-jet, to fly a fighter for about 30 exhilarating seconds. For these men and women, this was a pretty routine Friday.

The full and slightly vomitous story over at The Loop / Golf Digest.

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Now Is a Very Good Time to Stop Sleeping With Your Significant Other (via GQ)

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GQ (Sept. 2017) — I like my wife very much, and I operate under the assumption that she likes me, but our past few months have been made immeasurably better by the manner in which, come nightfall, she and I have nothing to do with each other.

We hadn’t always slept apart. For years I would lie awake beside my wife and seethe at her perpetual pillow-shuffling, the icy light of her Words with Friends game, and, most significantly, her alarm clock, which announced itself every morning at 5:45 A.M. and was followed by her hammering the snooze button with such vigor that I began to suspect it wasn’t a snooze button at all but a switch that summoned waffles and back rubs from some other, better husband. She, meanwhile, suffered through a partner—i.e., me—who apparently snores like an elephant giving birth inside a Dumpster.

Our nightly war fueled a mutual resentment that welled up like water in a dam. Then, one morning, everything burst. “Don’t take this the wrong way,” she said, staring into the first of her multiple coffees, “but I can’t sleep with you.”

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The Furry, Fluffy and Sort of French World of College Mascots (via NCAA Champion)

(NCAA Champion Magazine)

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NCAA Champion — To explore the history of the college sports mascot, to genuinely investigate how we’ve evolved into a culture that can rally tens of thousands of stadium-goers with live buffaloes, flaming spears and dancing anthropomorphic ducks, we must start at the very beginning and reach back to … uh, early 1880s France, apparently.

That’s when the French debuted an opera named “La Mascotte,” a title that translates loosely into “lucky charm.” Mostly obscure now, “La Mascotte” concerns a poor Italian farmer whose crops refuse to grow until he’s visited by a mysterious and lovely stranger named Bettina. His crops thrive, his luck turns, and his life shines. By the 1900s, the term had jumped the Atlantic and become known as a talisman that brought good fortune; by the 1970s, it had come to mean a grown man in a chicken suit. But the centurylong history of the mascot can be described in one very 2017 term: branding. “A mascot is the personification of a school’s brand,” says Michael Lewis, a marketing professor at Emory. “They work because they give something for the community to rally around, something for everyone to have in common. Everyone at the University of Florida knows about the Gators. Everyone at Texas A&M knows the collie. It’s a social point for the university and the community.”

Here’s what mascots mean in 2017. 

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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)

two chicks and a hammer good bones hgtv

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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)

gq-reaper-chip-cemetery-mcfadden

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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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