Great story in Airman Magazine about the “Boneyard” – an Air Force base in Arizona that looks like a plane graveyard, but actually gives old aircraft new life:
The planes range from older ones, like the F-86 and B-52 Stratofortress, to newer ones, like the C-5 Galaxy. Though retired from active duty, each aircraft still performs a vital mission.
“Parts,” said Bill Amparano, an aircraft mechanic with the 309th AMARG. “These planes offer parts to the fleet. If a unit can’t find a replacement part for one of their aircraft, they’ll send us a request and we’ll take the part off one of our planes and send it to them.”
In other words, the AMARG is like a giant “pick-and-pull” for the Air Force, offering hard-to-find parts to units around the world. And, while it’s said the Boneyard is where planes go to die, it’s the opposite that’s true.
“They don’t come here to die, they’re just taking a break,” Amparano said.
Last month, The New Yorker had a fascinating profile of a man named Apollo Robbins, who may be the world’s best pickpocket:
In magic circles, Robbins is regarded as a kind of legend, though he largely remains, as the magician Paul Harris told me, “the best-kept secret in town.” His talent, however, has started gaining notice further afield. Recently, psychiatrists, neuroscientists, and the military have studied his methods for what they reveal about the nature of human attention. Teller, a good friend of Robbins’s, believes that widespread recognition is only a matter of time. “The popularity of crime as a sort of romantic thing in America is profoundly significant, and Apollo is tapping into that,” he told me. “If you think about it, magic itself has many of the hallmarks of criminal activity: You lie, you cheat, you try not to get caught—but it’s on a stage, it has a proscenium around it. When Apollo walks onstage, there’s a sense that he might have one foot outside the proscenium. He takes a low crime and turns it into an art form.”
The story really stuck with me, and this video on The New Yorker‘s blog brought it up to the forefront of my thoughts again. It’s amazing to watch Apollo at work, and just a little bit scary that we offer up so many little opportunities to be duped in the course of a conversation.
Alastair Humphreys is an author, motivational speaker, and adventurer. In 2011, he made a resolution (actually, it was more of a manifesto) to spend a year seeking out “microadventures.” These were all adventures that he could find in his own backyard, without completely abandoning his life and becoming an adventuresome vagabond.
“I started to think that it was possible to have an adventure anywhere,” he told National Geographic when they recognized him as an Adventurer of the Year 2012. ” That it was really just a state of mind, committing to get off your backside. If that were true, I figured you could do this anywhere.” He continued:
I decided to do the most provocatively mundane adventure that I could think of—the M25, the highway that goes around London. It’s filled with traffic. Everybody hates the road. I walked a lap of the M25. I set off in January. It was cold. It was snowy. It was physically challenging. I saw new places. I saw some beautiful places, which I hadn’t expected to find at all. I met interesting people. That week ticked all of the boxes that my four-year bike trip around the world ticked. I came back buzzing. It was quite stupid and silly, but it had been a genuine adventure.
I’m lucky enough to be able to live and work in Portland, Maine, a small city on the southern Maine coast. It is still, however, the largest city in Maine, and a whole lot larger than the small rural town I grew up in. The city honestly seemed quite daunting and metropolitan to me when I arrived (what with its trash pick-up, public transportation and ferry terminal). Small as it is, Portland still isn’t the country, and it’s good to have a reminder that adventure is just a few miles away.
Simon Rich reads from “Center of the Universe,” which
will appear in his new book The Last Girlfriend on Earth
I racked up a lot of my early writing clips in college writing humor pieces for websites like Yankee Pot Roast, Points in Case and CollegeHumor. I just recently started actively writing humor again, so I was delighted when I received an issue of The New Yorker last month that featured a story from Simon Rich titled “I Love Girl.” Back then, when I was writing and pitching humor pieces daily, I picked up Rich’s first book Ant Farm at the college bookstore. It’s a book I still flip through regularly, along with Jon Stewart’s Naked Pictures of Famous People, Steve Martin’s Pure Drivel and McSweeney’s Created in Darkness by Troubled Americans, whenever I need inspiration or just a good laugh. There seems to be a trend among comedians towards publishing more memoirs and confessionals, but I’m still a fan of the short humor collection above all else.
“I Love Girl” is the story of a caveman who is in love with a girl:
I have been working on Girl’s path for many years, picking up the black rocks and carrying them away. I never throw her rocks off the cliff like normal rocks. Instead, I put them in a pile next to my cave. I like to look at the pile, because it reminds me of how I am helping Girl. My mother, who I live with, says the pile “has to go.” (I worry that she will move the pile, but it is unlikely. After all, she is an elderly thirty-two-year-old woman.)
Somebody sent an article from Fast Company’s co.create blog around the copy department last week, and I saw that one of their writers, Joe Berkowitz, had recently conducted an interview with Rich. He offers some great insight into his process and how he jumps between different genres and forms (Rich has written for Pixar and SNL). I found this tidbit about generating ideas particularly inspiring:
I find in general that if I don’t have any ideas on what to write about, I just research whatever at the moment I’m extremely interested in. I read a lot of nonfiction on subjects I’m interested in, and that usually knocks something loose. A few months ago, I was stuck and I wasn’t really sure which of my projects to work on, and I was kind of bored with some of the stuff I was doing, so I just spent a few days reading books about monkeys and sign language and teaching them how to talk. Nothing came of it really, but by the time I was finished reading about monkeys, I was ready to jump back into my novel. Reading a lot of nonfiction helps. Wikipedia is also a big help. There’s always something interesting on Wikipedia–the random article button is great. When I was writing Free Range Chickens, I had just discovered Wikipedia and one of the ways I came up with ideas was to just keep refreshing, and keep clicking the random article until a premise occurred to me.
For the 15th anniversary of the release of Good Will Hunting, Janelle Nanos has compiled an oral history detailing just how the movie got made. Some great stories from everyone involved, including a lot of things that you don’t expect to hear in interviews with A-List Celebrities:
Damon: At that point Castle Rock was having us do these rewrites and we were going in circles.
Affleck: We were so frustrated that Castle Rock wasn’t reading the script, so we felt like we had to develop this test. We started writing in screen direction like, “Sean talks to Will and unloads his conscience.” And then: “Will takes a moment and then gives Sean a soulful look and leans in and starts blowing him.”
Damon: They weren’t reading the script closely anymore. It was literally probably a full paragraph about what these two characters were doing to each other.
Affleck: We would turn that in, and they wouldn’t ever mention all those scenes where Sean and Will were jerking each other off.