New story picks from Emily Perper, featuring VQR, The Daily Beast and The New Yorker.
Our picks of the week, featuring The New Yorker, The Daily Beast, Philadelphia Magazine, The New Republic and Politico Magazine, with a guest pick by Casey N. Cep.
Andrew Romano sets out to debunk Malcolm Gladwell's argument in Outliers that the Beatles made their success through the "10,000-hour rule"—in this case, spending thousands of hours of playing in Hamburg:
But this isn’t even the real problem with Gladwell’s theory. The real problem is that while the Beatles’ marathon stints in Hamburg did transform them as a band—they were so vibrant, so tight, and so unrecognizable when they returned from their first campaign that the crowds in Liverpool mistook them for a blistering new German combo—the “complex task” they had now “mastered” was not the same task that would eventually earn them world domination.
Being able to mach schau in a small club was a pivotal part of the Beatles development: it won them a fanatical following in Liverpool, which in turn drove their debut single “Love Me Do” up the charts even when the suits in London refused to promote it, and it was also the reason the Fabs were able record an LP as a thrilling as Please Please Me in a single ten-hour workday. But beyond that, Gladwell is wrong. The Beatles’ “excellence at performing” is not “what it took” for them to become the greatest rock band of all time. In fact, the Beatles were stuck in a rut even after they returned from Hamburg in 1961—and their live expertise was not enough to get them out of it.
PUBLISHED: Nov. 11, 2013
LENGTH: 14 minutes (3502 words)
A group of misguided adventure seekers travel to a war-ravaged village in rebel territory north of Aleppo:
“Most people on their holiday go out partying, but we decided to do something a little different for once,” says Smith. They had “no contacts or anything like that” in southern Turkey or the northern part of Syria controlled by opposition forces. Nonetheless, they flew to Istanbul, hopped on a bus, and made their way to Kilis, a small, dusty town barely on the Turkish side of the Syrian border, the last safe stop on the road to Aleppo.
PUBLISHED: Nov. 9, 2013
LENGTH: 10 minutes (2643 words)
From The Daily Beast's David Sessions, a collection of stories on gun violence and policy in the U.S., featuring The Atlantic, Washington Post, Bloomberg Businessweek and Mother Jones.
Astra Woodcraft was seven when she indoctrinated into the Church of Scientology via an arm of the church known as Sea Org. What she endured, and how she escaped:
"One of my first jobs as an official member of the Sea Org was in the security department, meaning I had to make sure people obeyed church rules and ethics. It seemed that people were always in some kind of trouble—the place felt ruled by fear. You could get in trouble for random things; for instance, someone might question why there were so many loose papers on your desk. Another thing you could get in trouble for: masturbation. Early on in my new job, I had to sit down with a man in his 40s who had admitted to masturbating, and tell him to cut it out. I was 15 years old."
PUBLISHED: July 6, 2012
LENGTH: 10 minutes (2614 words)
Life as a mob boss's girlfriend:
"By the early 1990s, Stanley began to crack under the years of control and psychological domination. She and Bulger were arguing constantly, sometimes violently, at home and in public. Once, at a wedding party, Teresa was approached by Bulger’s partner, Flemmi, who said, 'Teresa, I know you and Jimmy are going through a rough patch, but there’s something you need to understand. That man will never let you go.'
"Stanley felt trapped. She went into a deep depression. She had become financially and emotionally dependent on Bulger; she could see no way out. Then, the 'other woman' entered the picture.
"Stanley was home alone one night when she got a call. An unfamiliar female voice said, 'I think we need to talk.'"
PUBLISHED: June 11, 2012
LENGTH: 17 minutes (4368 words)
Resuscitating a battered newsweekly in 2011 is a tough bit of business. Last year, The Daily Beast and Newsweek lost a combined $30 million. Ad page numbers tell how difficult it is, too: Newsweek’s ad page performance between April to September was down 18 percent, according to the Publishers Information Bureau quarterly report. This is easy to dismiss (what isn’t down these days!) — but Time is up 4 percent for the year, The Economist is flat and Newsweek is competing, year-over-year, against a version of itself that had an ownership change, a lame duck editor and a very uncertain future.
PUBLISHED: Nov. 18, 2011
LENGTH: 8 minutes (2094 words)
The site's internal numbers show that page views for October were up just 6 percent, to 83.6 million, and unique visitors were down 21 percent -- growing pains as the site weans itself from longtime traffic teat MSN.com and develops its own, more clicky readers. Over the same time period, Gawker has more than doubled its audience, and the Huffington Post has a global readership roughly three times as large. Through October, the Daily Beast racked up publicity with long, will-they-or-won't-they talks of a merger with Newsweek. When media people talk about the future of publishing online, in other words, they don't talk about the site with the 12-year-old CMS.
PUBLISHED: Nov. 10, 2010
LENGTH: 9 minutes (2304 words)