This week, we’re sharing stories from Ronan Farrow, Megan Twohey and Jodi Kantor, Vivian Ho, Christopher Goffard, Kaitlyn Greenidge, and Alex Pappademas.
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.
This week, we’re sharing stories from Rachel Kaadzi Ghansah, Ellen Pao, Henry Wismayer, Taylor Harris, and Jeff Maysh.
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.
This week, we’re sharing stories from Caity Weaver, Marisa Meltzer, Jiayang Fan, Taffy Brodesser-Akner, and Jeff Maysh.
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.”
This week we’re sharing stories by Caity Weaver, Matthew Desmond, Chris J. Rice, Kent Russell, and Rafe Bartholomew.
This week we’re sharing stories by Evan Osnos, Ashley C. Ford, Michael Grabell, Chris Heath, and Becca Andrews.
When 71-year-old taxi driver Long Ma answered the phone and agreed to drive Bac Duong and a few friends home, he had no idea he was about to be taken hostage by three escaped inmates. Although one of Ma’s captors was set on killing him, he developed a deep bond with Bac, a fellow Vietnamese immigrant. After almost a week in captivity and thanks to Bac, Ma got away alive and today, visits Bac regularly in prison — the two regard one another as father and son. Paul Kix tells their tale in GQ.
Money had always been tight, which exacerbated the arguments between Ma and his wife. He knew she was losing respect for him and knew that everyone in the family noticed it. Rather than suffer the indignity, Ma moved one day, without explanation, from their home in San Diego. He found a little room in the Garden Grove boarding house and began a solitary existence as a driver—a choice that seemed to have led to this: He was a hostage in a squalid motel room, debating whether an accused killer actually cared for him.
The escapees decided they needed to move north, and on Tuesday morning, they drove 350 tense miles to San Jose, where they found another motel. The journey exhausted Ma. And that night he began snoring so loudly that he woke Duong, lying beside him. But Duong didn’t elbow him awake. Instead, he slowly climbed out of bed, careful not to stir Ma, and curled up on the floor, so Uncle might rest more peacefully.
It happened to John Podesta; it happened to Paul Manafort’s daughter; it’s a type of computer hack called “spearphishing,” a much more sophisticated attack than the clumsy mass-mail attempts to gain your online credentials. Social engineers target you alone by masquerading as someone you know, using your natural proclivity to trust against you. At GQ, Sarah Jeong willingly got spearphished in a bid to understand and share the latest shady tactics of computer baddies.
I got a taste of what might have tricked Andrea Manafort when an e-mail from my friend, Parker, inviting me to look at a Google Doc, landed in my inbox.
It had taken several hours to get to that point, hours during which I had sat back, watching Quintin construct an attack against me. He went through my social-media accounts, rifled through my work information, skimmed through my latest articles. The idea was to slip into my shoes and construct an e-mail that I would click on without thinking. The tried-and-true method is to pretend to be someone the person already knows, using social media to scout out connections to impersonate.
Good social engineers persuade people to give something away without a second thought, because the request is so innocuous—like a friend asking me to look at his or her Google Doc. Spearphishing is just another form of social engineering.
But protecting yourself against social engineering is an ongoing chore, like living through an endless April Fool’s Day. Your paranoia must be constantly pitted against a hacker’s persistence. For now I’m turning on my two-factor and my password manager, and squinting at web addresses—living as though the Internet is out to get me. Every day I stake my digital life on the hope that any would-be hackers will run out of time, money, and attention before I run out of luck. And whether you know it or not, you do, too.