Tag Archives: GQ

The Complicated Politics of Rescue and Recovery

(Marcus Yam/Los Angeles Times via Getty Images)

As traffic fled Houston before Hurricane Harvey, a line of trucks towing small, flat-bottomed boats made their way into the city. The Cajun Navy would save hundreds of lives from flooded neighborhoods, and instead of rejecting their help, the government embraced it, entrusting much of the evacuation to this rag-tag band of individuals, preferring them over the Red Cross, and in some cases, the National Guard.

Miriam Markowitz followed the Cajun Navy for GQ in the days after the hurricane, when it became clear that the resources needed simply weren’t adequate. The Navy itself is small but organized. Begun in the shadow of Hurricane Katrina, it’s helped residents of Louisiana with almost yearly flooding, and travels to nearby states for help during big storms or hurricanes. It’s the kind of help that comes in the moment, and the Navy uses a walkie-talkie app to dispatch boats to specific locations. Even local Louisiana politicians are on board with the independent rescue squad:

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The Top 5 Longreads of the Week

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This week, we’re sharing stories from Luke O’Brien, Jen Gann, Tom Lamont, Norimitsu Onishi, and Sam Knight.

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“This Frenzied, Dirty, Impossible Evacuation”

Grenfell Tower in West London, Rick Findler/PA Wire URN:33838594

Londoner Tom Lamont spent months reporting — talking to residents, grieving family members, firefighters and their families, community members, recovery workers, and more — to produce this GQ piece on the ins, outs, and aftermath of the the Grenfell Tower disaster. As London spends billions to strip the flammable cladding off other buildings around the city, the people involved with Grenfell Towers are still trying to find peace (or maybe absolution) for the decisions they made during the fire.

Firefighters that night led, carried, and dragged residents away from the fire. And they left residents behind to it. They made hundreds of no-win decisions on June 14, about whether to help those in peril in the stairwell or whether to push on past and try to make it to those farther up. The handing over of a firefighter’s breathing equipment to civilians (always a dangerous temptation) is forbidden by the London Fire Brigade—but it happened, I was told, and it was later forgiven, part of a brigade-wide amnesty on those everyday procedures ignored by firefighters in in this frenzied, dirty, impossible evacuation.

Outside, firefighters had to aim water hoses at one of their own trucks, which had been ignited by all the falling cladding. For many of the evacuating residents, the most terrifying parts of their escape took place once they were outside, running through the area directly in front of the building, which had become a no-man’s-land of tumbling metal. Firefighters began making shuttle runs back and forth, ferrying out evacuees under riot shields.

At 2 A.M., 3 A.M., 4 A.M., hours after the first firefighters had arrived, residents were still trapped. Still waving, still shouting: “Fucking help me.” By 5 A.M., hardly any people were visible in Grenfell’s windows. Firefighters on the ground held their heads, and panted, and were dismally honest with one another: “We’re not going to get everybody out.” When, earlier in the night, they saw a man on the 14th floor, hanging from a windowsill, knotted bedsheets trailing beneath him, they screamed at him to get back inside.

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Jeff Goldblum Prefers Pouring Orange Juice in His Cereal

Credit: AP Images on behalf of So TV

In GQ’s fantastic oral history of the sun-kissed life of Jeff Goldblum, arguably Hollywood’s most enigmatic personality as well as its most magnetic actor, we learn many things about the former star of such classics as The Big Chill, Jurassic Park, The Fly, and potentially the upcoming Thor: Ragnarok.

For starters, he has two children, a pair of boys named Charlie Ocean and River Joe. He is uber charming, to the point where it can be disarming. His wedding ceremony was held at the Chateau Marmont and officiated by Goldblum’s therapist. He smells very nice and goes to the gym regularly. And he is fastidious about his diet, and that may just be the biggest takeaway from the article. As he enters his 65th year, Goldblum is careful to contain his dietary desires:

I’ve always experimented with life enhancement through nutrition. My first wife and I would bring our juicer on planes, and we’d do a carrot cleanse for a week, until I’d turn orange and all my poop would be orange—things that I wouldn’t adhere to now. Now I just get a good night’s sleep. I wash my face with soap. I like to work out a little bit. I try to eat right. I’ve stayed clean. I don’t really drink or smoke. I try to keep my perspective wholesome.

This also includes refraining from drinking milk, which Kevin Kline, who starred alongside Goldblum in 1983’s The Big Chill, revealed is off limits:

Jeff and I found a condo that had two separate wings. I remember him being so into health and pouring orange juice over his cornflakes. “What the hell are you doing?” “Oh, milk’s bad for you.” And then I tried it. It’s not bad!

With all due respect, Kevin, that cannot taste good. For starters, I don’t like cereal, which reminds me of something that belongs in an institutionalized setting (and beside that point, cereal never really fills you up). It is the most boring of all breakfast options—don’t even get me started on those who eat cereal for dinner—but if I was forced to eat cereal, I’d certainly have it with milk. Infusing an already cardboard-y substance with the sickly sweet flavor of orange juice seems perverse.

So while I learned much about the life and times about the personal treasure that is Jeff Goldblum, it pains me that something as gross as orange juice on cereal will now become normalized. Why Jeff, why?

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The Top 5 Longreads of the Week

This week, we’re sharing stories from Ronan Farrow, Megan Twohey and Jodi Kantor, Vivian Ho, Christopher Goffard, Kaitlyn Greenidge, and Alex Pappademas.

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Twenty Years Later, The Dude Still Abides

Jeff Bridges, left, and John Goodman during a Q and A at a cast reunion celebrating "The Big Lebowski" Limited Edition Blu-ray release. (Diane Bondareff/AP Images for Universal Studios Home Entertainment)

You may remember Jeff Bridges for his portrayal of über-underachiever Jeffrey “The Dude” Lebowski in The Big Lebowski, a 1998 cult classic which has spawned infinite imitators and even a religion called, unsurprisingly, “Dudism.” If you know Bridges only as The Dude, you may be surprised to learn of an expansive career before and after his immortalization (in an over-sized knit sweater, of course) in The Big Lebowski. In this profile at GQ, Caity Weaver reminds us that Bridges has been “nominated for an Academy Award at 67, but also at 22, and five times in between.”

Bridges knows he’ll probably be remembered best for padding around grungy ’90s Los Angeles in a cozy sweater that hugged him like the fur of a hibernating bear, but prior to that his career followed a serpentine path—from boy wonder (The Last Picture Show), to brilliant engineer who accidentally becomes a video game (Tron), to alien heartthrob (Starman), to disgraced radio shock jock palling around with schizophrenic Robin Williams (The Fisher King)—yet somehow he always seemed headed in the right direction. Then, at some point post-Lebowski, Bridges evolved into the Marlon Brando of grizzled American West prospector types. His last three Academy Award nominations—for 2009’s Crazy Heart (he won best actor), 2010’s True Grit, and last year’s Hell or High Water—have all saluted his portrayal of rugged backcountry men. This fall, he’ll star in Only the Brave, a wildfire drama inspired by real events, as the retired chief of an Arizona fire department, and you’d better believe he wears a cowboy hat.

Lucky, then, that after half a century of making movies, Jeff Bridges doesn’t seem exhausted. If anything, he seems extremely well rested. Once he’s completed his errands for the day—talking to me, taking a field trip to a nearby artist community, checking out a socially conscious grab-and-go restaurant that he hazily half-invites me to, though he has no idea when he will be there—Bridges can return to his lawn and dance slowly through the labyrinth he himself sheared into the grass. Getting lost seems relaxing for him. Maybe we should all do it.

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The Top 5 Longreads of the Week

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This week, we’re sharing stories from Rachel Kaadzi Ghansah, Ellen Pao, Henry Wismayer, Taylor Harris, and Jeff Maysh.

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Who’s Trying to Monopolize Mary Jane?

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Soon, pot will be legal in Canada. And as more and more states welcome Mary Jane with open arms, the U.S. government will eventually follow hoot, er, suit. As a crop, pot is worth “over $40 billion, which makes it the second-most-valuable crop in the U.S. after corn.”

Who stands to profit most from legalized pot? Not the gov, but BioTech Industries. At GQ, Amanda Chicago Lewis attempts to find the people behind the secret, faceless company vying for strict, blanket utility patents on pot that would allow them a monopoly — the ability to sue anyone who attempts to grow and sell pot without first buying BI-licensed seeds. Talk about harshing our collective mellow, man.

According to Holmes, a secretive company called BioTech Institute LLC had begun registering patents on the cannabis plant. Three have already been granted, and several more are in the pipeline, both in the U.S. and internationally. And these are not narrow patents on individual strains like Sour Diesel. These are utility patents, the strongest intellectual-property protection available for crops. Utility patents are so strict that almost everyone who comes in contact with the plant could be hit with a licensing fee: growers and shops, of course, but also anyone looking to breed new varieties or conduct research. Even after someone pays a royalty, they can’t use the seeds produced by the plants they grow. They can only buy more patented seeds.

“Utility patents are big. Scary,” Holmes said. “All of cannabis could be locked up. They could sue people for growing in their own backyards.”

Pot is an industry worth over $40 billion, which makes it the second-most-valuable crop in the U.S. after corn. And even though weed is still federally forbidden, it sounded like whoever was behind BioTech Institute had spent the past several years surreptitiously maneuvering to grab every marijuana farmer, vendor, and scientist in the country by the balls, so that once the drug became legal, all they’d have to do to collect payment is squeeze.

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The Top 5 Longreads of the Week

Image courtesy of Mattel

This week, we’re sharing stories from Caity Weaver, Marisa Meltzer, Jiayang Fan, Taffy Brodesser-Akner, and Jeff Maysh.

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How Do You Name a Not-Quite-Fat Ken Doll?

Image courtesy of Mattel

The new lineup of Ken Dolls — seeking to represent a more multicultural, physically diverse populace (read: client base) — landed earlier this week to much fanfare. Some of the reactions were laudatory; some were less so (who can resist a man-bun joke, after all?). Caity Weaver, writing at GQ, got to follow the creative process leading to the new dolls’ release. Through her eyes, we learn how even an attempt to “celebrate diversity” often requires so much semantic and design acrobatics that it’s not very clear who the celebration is for, and who might still be excluded from it. Case in point: the tortured internal discussions at Mattel around what to call the “heavier” version of Barbie’s companion — after they’d already decided not to make him fat (“You don’t want to go too much,” as Ray Cavalluzzi, a Mattel sculptor, put it).

“With Barbie [it was] clear what was offensive with the curvier doll versus what wasn’t,” says Michelle Chidoni, a polished, deftly amiable executive from the global brand communications department. We are sitting in a capacious conference room surrounded by Barbies in fashions so cutting-edge that to describe them would be illegal. But I will reveal to the reader that a great multitude of the outfits are both fabulous and fun. “People [in focus groups] didn’t want to be called ‘plus-size.’ ‘Curvy’ was the clear winner. [But] where ‘curvy’ in the female world of fashion has become something that’s desirable and sexy and positive, the men’s fashion world has not gone there yet.”

Mattel’s constant aim when describing body types is to unearth a marketing term with “a neutral-to-positive association.” They don’t always find it on the first try. Or second. Or third. Initially, in their attempt to recapture the proud spirit of “curvy” for a male doll, the Barbie team borrowed a word from the boys’ clothing industry: “husky.” Focus-group reactions were disastrous.

“‘Husky’ just turned off every guy we talked to,” says Chidoni, shaking her head. “A lot were really traumatized by that—as a child, shopping in a husky section.” “Athletic” was rejected on the notion that athletes can have vastly different body types. “Brawny” didn’t fare much better. And so: “broad.”

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