Every Monday at eleven-thirty, the lead engineers for the Google car project meet for a status update. The Google car has now driven more than half a million miles without causing an accident, almost twice as far as the average American driver goes before crashing. Of course, the car has always had a human driver to take over in tight spots: the car has trouble in the rain, for instance, when its lasers bounce off shiny surfaces. And yet, for each of its failings, it has a corresponding strength. It never gets drowsy or distracted, never wonders who has the right of way. Unlike its riders, it can see in the dark. Left to its own devices, Sebastian Thrun says, it could go about fifty thousand miles on freeways without a major mistake; within a year, it should be safe for a hundred thousand miles.
Don King was offering me a $20 million settlement in exchange for him getting to promote my fights again. I told Jackie Rowe that before we could talk about working together and settling, I wanted three things of mine that Don still had—a green Rolls-Royce, a painting that the Italian prime minister Silvio Berlusconi had given me that was supposed to be worth a lot, and the thing I was worried the most about: a drawing of me in the middle of a bunch of X-Men that Stan Lee had done.
Don called Jackie and told her that he would fly us down to Florida and put us up so we could work out a settlement. Jackie, her son, my girlfriend Luz, and I got on Don’s private jet and flew down. I packed a big block of coke and a duffel bag with a half-pound of reefer. I was doing my coke and smoking my blunts and listening to my Walkman and I was higher than the plane was when an epiphany hit me.
“This is my motherfucking plane. I paid for this plane. And this motherfucker is acting like he’s doing me a favor sending me down on my own fucking plane. This nigga is playing me.”
The drugs were playing with my head and I was freaking out and getting jealous.
Don picked us up at the private airport in his Rolls and he had Isadore Bolton, who used to be my chauffeur before he stole him from me, driving some of Don’s associates in the lead car. We were driving down to Miami from Fort Lauderdale on the I-95. Don said some innocuous thing, and all that jealousy and rage spilled out of me and I kicked him in his fucking head. Boom! You don’t turn your back on a jealous cokehead.
Don swerved off onto the side median and I started choking him from the backseat. I got out of the car to get into the front seat and kick his ass some more, but Don took off down the median.
Now I was on the side of the fucking highway by myself. Don drove a little bit down the road and then let Jackie and her son and Luz out of the car. They came up to me carrying my bag with the half-pound of reefer. I had the coke stash on me.
“Why did you let him go, Jackie?” I screamed. “Now we’re out here on the fucking highway.”
All of a sudden, Isadore pulled up. He was there to pick us up because he lost our car and when he called Don, Don told him to turn around and get us.
He pulled up alongside me and rolled his window down and told me to get in the car.
“Fuck you, motherfucker,” I screamed.
Isadore got out of his driver’s door and I was right on him. I punched him in the face twice, shattering his left orbital bone. The force of the blows knocked him across the driver’s seat and I reached in and grabbed his leg and bit it. Isadore managed to kick me off him and close his door, so I punched the outer panel of his door and bent the steel. I was about to break his window when he managed to drive away.
His shoes were still on the side of the road and he was driving barefoot.
Then the cops came. They were talking to us and I had the half brick of coke and Luz was holding the duffel bag with the half-pound of weed. These cops were so excited to see me that the motherfuckers didn’t even ask me what we were doing on the side of the highway. They’d have put anybody else’s ass on that grass, and they’d be locked up for life for having all that coke. I’m an extremist. Why couldn’t I just buy an eight ball? No, I had to have a half a brick. The guys who sold it to me said, “Mike, this is sales weight. Police are not going to hear that you’re getting high with a half a brick of blow.” And I had this as my personal stash.
The cops offered to drive us to our destination. Jackie talked Don into giving us some money, and he sent a guy over with a couple hundred grand.
On Schooling Leo Dicaprio in Hoops:
He has other houses. He has one, famously, on Lake Como, in Italy, and he has built another in Cabo. In this, he is not so much of a throwback—after all, Leonardo DiCaprio has a house in Cabo. Indeed, Clooney and DiCaprio once ran into each other in Cabo and struck up a conversation based on their common interest in basketball. They each have ongoing games, and their ongoing games have attained a celebrity of their own. Clooney suggested they might play someday. DiCaprio said sure, but felt compelled to add, “You know, we’re pretty serious.”
They played at a neighborhood court. “You know, I can play,” Clooney says in his living room. “I’m not great, by any means, but I played high school basketball, and I know I can play. I also know that you don’t talk shit unless you can play. And the thing about playing Leo is you have all these guys talking shit. We get there, and there’s this guy, Danny A I think his name is. Danny A is this club kid from New York. And he comes up to me and says, ‘We played once at Chelsea Piers. I kicked your ass.’ I said, ‘I’ve only played at Chelsea Piers once in my life and ran the table. So if we played, you didn’t kick anybody’s ass.’ And so then we’re watching them warm up, and they’re doing this weave around the court, and one of the guys I play with says, ‘You know we’re going to kill these guys, right?’ Because they can’t play at all. We’re all like fifty years old, and we beat them three straight: 11–0, 11–0, 11–0. And the discrepancy between their game and how they talked about their game made me think of how important it is to have someone in your life to tell you what’s what. I’m not sure if Leo has someone like that.”
We were beefing with these guys called the Puma Boys. It was 1976, and I lived in Brownsville, Brooklyn, and these guys were from my neighborhood. At that time I was running with a Rutland Road crew called the Cats, a bunch of Caribbean guys from nearby Crown Heights. We were a burglary team, and some of our gangster friends had an altercation with the Puma Boys, so we were going to the park to back them up. We normally didn’t deal with guns, but these were our friends, so we stole a bunch of shit: some pistols, a .357 Magnum, and a long M1 rifle with a bayonet attached from World War II. You never knew what you’d find when you broke into people’s houses.
So we’re walking through the streets holding our guns, and nobody runs up on us, no cops are around to stop us. We didn’t even have a bag to put the big rifle in, so we just took turns carrying it every few blocks.
“Yo, there he goes!” my friend Haitian Ron said. “The guy with the red Pumas and the red mock neck.”
When we started running, the huge crowd in the park opened up like Moses parting the Red Sea. It was a good thing they did, because, boom, one of my friends opened fire. Everybody scrambled when they heard the gun.
I realized that some of the Puma Boys had taken cover between the parked cars in the street. I had the M1 rifle, and I turned around quickly to see this big guy with his pistol pointed toward me.
“What the fuck are you doing here?” he said to me. It was my older brother, Rodney. “Get the fuck out of here.”
I just kept walking and left the park and went home. I was 10 years old.
read more @NYMAG
The Secrets of Bezos How Amazon became the everything store [bw]
If he hollers let him go Searching for Dave Chappelle 10 years after he left his own show
Making Harry Potter Disappear Daniel Radcliffe’s life after Potter.
Looking for Hemingway Gay Talese’s 1963 article in Esquire about George Plimpton and the founders of the Paris Review.
Miley Cyrus: Confessions of Pop’s Wildest Child [rollingstone]
The Great Marijuana Crash of 2011 It’s remarkable that only two years ago, the whole system almost came crashing down during the most difficult economic event the infant cannabis industry has ever faced: The Great Marijuana Price Crash Of 2011. [businessinsider]
Risk and Romance among NBA Groupies Originally published in the April 1992 issue of Esquire.
Friends without Benefits This year, 81 percent of Internet-using teenagers in America reported that they are active on social-networking sites, more than ever before. Nancy Jo Sales uncovers a world where boys are taught they have the right to expect everything from social submission to outright sex from their female peers. What is this doing to America’s young women? [vanityfair]
“His sound isn’t hip or trendy. The references he makes in conversations can’t be found anywhere on the current American indie-music map. While sitting in Madison Square Park last week, Marshall, who is mumbly and skeletal, with red hair, mentioned rockabilly and jazz fusion as inspirations. His début album, “6 Feet Beneath the Moon,” which was just released, comes three years after he posted his first song on the Internet—“Out Getting Ribs,” initially available on the independent music Web site Bandcamp. Marshall’s music has little in common with that made by most of his peers; he sounds more like people who, for Americans, fell off the radar years ago—the Jam’s Paul Weller, or the Streets’ Mike Skinner, both of whom offer detailed, concrete descriptions of the daily lives of British youths. He has side projects that veer toward hip-hop, but, as King Krule, he performs with an electric guitar, backed by trained jazz musicians (he has no training himself), and sings in an unadorned South London accent, with deadpan affect. He looks as if he could be part of a jam band or a bar band or a songwriting jingle house with little change. It is a striking presentation from a boy who grew up on hip-hop and dance hall. Exactly when nobody expected a raw guitar troubadour, along came a Tom Waits several time zones removed.” - Sasha Frere-Jones, New Yorker
- ON HARD WORK: You can come from all different backgrounds. The real question is, do you have the desire and the willingness and the creativity and the moxie? And that’s all in your head. When people say, “It’s not fair, you had an advantage,” I’m thinking, Well, they had an advantage—they went to better schools, or they came from wealthier families. My father was a bookkeeper. He worked seven days a week until he checked himself into the hospital to die. My mother went the next day to the library, got a book on driving, taught herself to drive on our quiet street, because she said, “I’m gonna have to be the chauffeur from now on.” I know what hard work’s about. I still come back to what my strategy always was and will continue to be: I’m not the smartest guy, but I can outwork you. It’s the one thing that I can control.
- DIFFERENCE BETWEEN BUSINESS & POLITICS: In business, I would kiss you and then ask for something. In government, they tend to take a swing and then ask for something.
- NEVER CHANGE: I don’t think I’m any different than I was at age 24, when I came to this city. I cooked my own meals. My vacations were up on the roof of 333 East 66th Street—tar beach.
- ON BEING AN EXECUTIVE: What I do is make decisions, hire people, get ’em to work together. I’m not a consultant, I’m not an investor, I’m not a teacher, I’m not an analyst. You have to know what your skill sets are.
- ON THE INTERNET: It’s just another disruptive technology that has come along. You may want to do this story sometime: Try to figure out where the jobs of the future are gonna come from. My barber—it’s not inconceivable at some point you’ll stick your head in a box, and boom, out you come all coiffed. It is a very big problem for society. The knowledge world destroys jobs. I was on a panel with Mark Zuckerberg: “We’re gonna create so many jobs.” Go to Google and you’ll be shocked at the lack of diversity and how few people really are creating all that stuff.
- ON MISSING BEING MAYOR: Yeah, sure. But I never, ever, look back. The day I got fired at Salomon, I think I said, “Fuck them!” on my way out the door.
Prep School Gangsters They cruise the city in chauffeured cars, blasting rap, selling pot to classmates. How some of New York’s richest kids joined forces with some of its poorest.
A Hail Mary for Ryan Leaf They called him a better quarterback than Peyton Manning. Then they called him the NFL’s greatest bust. playboy
An Oral History Of Apple Design: 2001 37-years in the story of this generation’s greatest design tale. fastcompany
By MICHAEL HIRSCHORN, NYT
JUSTIN TIMBERLAKE IS PLAYING the long game. He’s the Kasparov of showbiz. He has survived far longer than most artists, tracing an arc from pop-culture absurd — first appearing on the Mickey Mouse Club at age 11 — to pop-culture sublime, a solo career that has triumphed at a time when entertainment, and celebrity, have become more disposable than ever. “I’m 32,” he says over coffee this summer in downtown Manhattan. “I know that I’m still young, but I’ve been in this business two-thirds of my life and you just learn that some things are accepted the way you hope and some aren’t.”
To a remarkable degree, across multiple disciplines, they have been: his band ’N Sync’s success, at its time, rivaled that of the Beatles; teeny-bopper adulation could’ve been a velvet coffin, as it was for other members of his group and that of the other ’90s phenomenon, the Backstreet Boys. But Timberlake methodically worked his way out of it, rebranding himself as a dapper solo artist, a picker of modest but choice acting roles (most notably as Sean Parker in “The Social Network“) and as a master of this generation’s gift to comedy, the viral short. The digital shorts he created with the music-comedy trio the Lonely Island, and his “Saturday Night Live” skits, centered largely on parodies of oversexed ’90s R&B stars. They also served to gently distance him from his teenage self, less oversexed than, say, the members of Jodeci, but perhaps similarly mockable. He also, smartly, knew when to shut up, going AWOL from music for almost seven years, absent some key collaborations, before returning this spring with a complex, densely produced best-selling album, “The 20/20 Experience.”
“You get to this point, which I’ve done in the last five or six years, where you become less worried about success and failure,” he says, speaking of “20/20,” which is filled with eight-minute rave-ups and signature Timbaland trance-outs. He may be only in his early 30s, but he has taken on the philosophical aspect of someone a generation older. “I’m sure there’s some self-help cheese-ball book about the gray area,” he says, “but I’ve been having this conversation with my friends who are all about the same age and I’m saying, ‘Y’know, life doesn’t happen in black and white.’ The gray area is where you become an adult … the medium temperature, the gray area, the place between black and white. That’s the place where life happens.”
Others spend years in obscurity, carving off pounds of credibility for meager dollops of fame. Timberlake was more or less born famous, disposably so, and then fought his way to something more real and lasting. And he has done it over a two-decade span that has been marked by rapid-fire cultural churn, building up and tearing down artists at a manic pace. You jump on the party bus only to see it crash in a ditch moments later. Timberlake’s secret has been to remain detached from these hyper-accelerated comings and goings of fad, trend, in, out. “If you can answer the question of why you’re doing it, it’s the right thing to do,” he says in Mr. Miyagi mode, describing his decision to put out his first album since “FutureSex/LoveSounds” in 2006, a gap in content production that would have spelled doom to a lesser talent. “To answer the question ‘Why?’ for the first time in my career, is: because I wanted to.”
This year, among other things he wants to do, is put out the second part of “The 20/20 Experience,” which he describes intriguingly as the “hotter, older evil twin sister” of “20/20,” and then, even more intriguingly: “If you could imagine you’re 16 and she’s everything you thought. She’s Marilyn Monroe and then you meet her older sister; everything that’s dark and wrong about her at that age is why you become infatuated with her.” Hot, older “20/20″ will be supported by a major arena tour this fall.
This, after he headlined a sold-out stadium tour this summer with Jay Z, an intermittently awkward and thrilling pairing of two very different showbiz traditions, or at least two people who learned very different things watching Frank Sinatra. Jay Z took Sinatra’s suit-and-tie phlegmatic self-confidence, merged it with hip-hop’s swagger and created a model for the 40-plus black artist/businessman that is unprecedented in the genre. Timberlake took from the crowd-pleasing Sinatra, bringing back the idea of the “performer”: the all-singing, all-dancing entertainer, whose craft didn’t interfere with showing the fans a good time. Along the way, thanks in part to the growing amount of time spent collaborating with Jay Z, he has modeled a new kind of postracial, postmacho white male.
Timberlake appears in two movies this year. In the first, “Runner Runner,” he plays a Princeton student and online poker player who believes he was swindled out of his tuition money and goes after the site’s shady owner, played by Ben Affleck. In December, he has a memorable cameo as Jim Berkey in the Coen brothers’ “Inside Llewyn Davis,” a dry comedy very loosely based on Dave Van Ronk’s life and the Greenwich Village folk scene of the ’60s. I say loosely because Van Ronk’s life, as captured in the book, “The Mayor of MacDougal Street: A Memoir,” is a rollicking tale about New York folk at the literal moment before Bob Dylan and the ’60s were about to turn this whole little jewel box of bohemia into Pompeii. The movie, by contrast, lingers like a persistent melancholy.
When the Coens called, Timberlake had actually just watched Martin Scorsese’s documentary “No Direction Home: Bob Dylan,” and when they asked if he had heard of the now largely forgotten Van Ronk, who played a kind of Salieri to Dylan’s Mozart, they were surprised to hear he had. Dylan, Timberlake says, “jacked a little of Van Ronk’s thing and made it his own.”
Berkey is the husband and singing partner of Carey Mulligan’s Jean Berkey, who (improbably) cuckolds Timberlake’s character with the husky, E.Q.-challenged Davis, played by the relative newcomer Oscar Isaac. Timberlake’s role is a small one, but his Berkey is a significant foil to Davis, who is the most talented musician in the story, but has no ability to connect with audiences.
Timberlake’s Berkey, unencumbered by neuroses about authenticity and craft and gazing ingenuously at the world around him, looks destined for mainstream success. It is a sly Coen brothers joke: one can see them clearly identifying with the hirsute, curmudgeonly Davis, fighting Talmudic battles with shadows; Timberlake’s Berkey just floats through the whole scene. “Talent doesn’t always equal success,” Timberlake says, drawing a universal connection. “A case can be made a lot for that.”
Timberlake, it has been said, has gone far on likability, which is also a way of mildly patronizing him. He is his generation’s dapper master of ceremonies, turning up as a reliable good time on everything from “Saturday Night Live,” to “Jimmy Fallon,” to the MTV Video Music Awards and, of course, the Super Bowl. But what has let him bridge over multiple iterations and now three generations of fans has been a certain kind of generationally specific decorum: gracious, polite, patient, deferential. He may have you naked by the end of this song, but he will do so using Antioch rules. This quality was much mocked in the wake of his apologies for that “wardrobe malfunction” at the Super Bowl in 2004, wherein he had Janet Jackson’s right breast naked at the end of their joint performance. An apology? How … polite.
And even as his lyrics are strewn with references to twerking and booties, he seems unable to express current pop culture’s quasi-porny sexuality with anything approaching conviction. Timberlake’s “dirty” video for “Tunnel Vision,” which showcased him almost moping about an empty studio intercut with images of naked dancing women, was notably less “hot” than the exuberantly “dirty” video released a few months earlier by Robin Thicke, who has positioned himself as a kind of Timberlake 2.0 cyborg. Timberlake, who like Thicke is married, looks miserable and isn’t even shot in the same space as his naked dancing girls. Timberlake doesn’t do R-rated well.
By inclination and design, Timberlake is positioned apart from the prevailing trends in music, fashion, sensibility. None of these interest him particularly, and his refusal to engage with the ephemera of a particular pop culture moment may in fact be his secret. This moment, and indeed, many of the previous moments, have been driven by technological change. “A lot of people in our biz want to write songs that people want to hear and make movies that people want to see,” he says, “but if the medium is changing at such a rapid pace, the question is, How do you do that?” His answer is to look sideways at iconoclastic artists he admires — like Josh Homme of Queens of the Stone Age, Dave Grohl, Trent Reznor or Kanye West — and backward at artists who were able to transcend their moment and create something that mattered years later. Like who? His name-checks would make a boomer’s heart skip a beat: Janis Joplin, Aretha Franklin, Dylan, Bobby Womack and his fave, Donny Hathaway. “The 20/20 Experience” is aural Spielberg: entirely original yet drenched in five decades of dense pop music history.
Technology, he says, has jammed so much newness into the culture that culture has not figured out how to respond yet. As a result, “There’s not as much substance” in music. Speaking to the nadir — the end of the last decade — he says, “All the soul of it was removed. It was made for whatever the trending medium was… . You had two or three different female artists who were doing literally the same song, just different song titles. They are saying the same thing with the same melody, with the same B.P.M.”
This is not to say that Timberlake is some kind of purveyor of nostalgic pap à la Michael Bublé. The 2013 J. T. experience may lack the industrial thwap of dub-step, now scrambling your innards in every car commercial, but that’s because, as he says with uncharacteristic edge, “Tim [Timbaland, his producing partner] and I were doing that seven years ago. Someone put some cocaine on top of that, and it turned into what it turned into.” And it’s true. Have you listened to “FutureSex/LoveSounds” recently? It sounds even better now than it did then, hit after hit laid into a skittering, luscious flow that is pure sex — pure, parent-approved, consensual sex, that is.
Which brings us back to his role in “Inside Llewyn Davis” and the Village folk era. Timberlake reveres Dylan, but he also understands Dylan as largely a construction, an artistic projection. “I always bring up Robert Zimmerman. ‘Do you know who Robert Zimmerman is?’ They say, ‘Who’s that?’ Look it up.” Van Ronk, in his memoir, describes the Dylan persona as a kind of freestyle riff on who he thought Woody Guthrie really was. Van Ronk’s memoir describes Dylan as so cosmically full of it that he himself probably had no idea what was true and what wasn’t.
Timberlake takes a different moral from the story of Van Ronk and Dylan. He sees the Dylan persona as “methodical,” and that constructedness, he says, is the very essence of how an artist connects with his audience. It’s called performing, and performing is a noble calling, a kind of greater realness. The authenticity is in the ability to make the connection. “I try to talk to people about how much acting goes into music,” he says. “How much of a character goes into what you put on stage. You ever sit down with Jay? He’s not the guy he is on stage. I’m not the guy I am on stage. I am a performer. It’s an elevated idea.”
Papa When James Brown died on Christmas Day 2006, he left behind a fortune worth tens, maybe hundreds, of millions of dollars. The problem is, he also left behind fourteen children, sixteen grandchildren, eight mothers of his children, several mistresses, thirty lawyers, a former manager, an aging dancer, a longtime valet, and a sister who’s really not a sister but calls herself the Godsister of Soul anyway. All of whom want a piece of his legacy. [GQ]
Kubrick 1999 Vanity Fair tribute written by long-time friend and writer of Full Metal Jacket Michael Herr. [vanity fair]
The Evil Genius How the sickest mind in Comics, became its biggest star. [new republic]
The Sports Cable Bubble The Sports Cable Bubble will pop. It has to. Just do the math. Fifty-seven million cable and satellite subscribers who don’t care about Dwight Howard’s decision or Yasiel Puig as the baseball reincarnation of Bo Jackson currently pay at least $100 per person into television sports kitty, each and every year. Someday they won’t have to.” [sports on earth]
Will Foursquare CEO Dennis Crowley finally get it right? 10 years, 4 billion check-ins, plus 35 million users and partnerships with brands such as American Express, and Foursquare can’t seem to fulfill its promise. [fast company]
- When 772 Pitches Isn’t Enough Measuring the rise of 16-year old Japanese pitcher Tomohiro Anraku, Japan’s best young prospect since Yu Darvish. [ESPN]
- Monica Takes Manhattan NY Mag’s 2001 profile of Monica Lewinsky.
- The Rise and Fall of a Super Freak Rick James’ 2003 interview at Folsom Prison.
- Blaming Reddit for Smearing How bad information purported on Reddit during the Boston Bombings led to a smear campaign of confusion and heartbreak. [NYT]
What if CP3 came to the Lakers? A look back at all the dominos that would have fallen league wide or would have stayed in place had Chris Paul become a Laker 2 years ago. [the whistle]
You Listen to This Man Everyday Rick Rubin got Black Sabbath to return to its roots. He crashed Kanye’s new album in 15 days. From Def Jam to Adele, the hit-maker gets intimate about his last 30 years—and how he’s about to make history." [daily beast]
Jimmy Wales is not an Internet Billionaire The founder of Wikipedia has a brand-new life in London with Kate Garvey, his third wife, whom he often describes as “the most connected woman in London.” [NYT]
Silent War Washington and Tehran are ramping up their cyber-arsenals, built on a black-market digital arms bazaar, enmeshing such high-tech giants as Microsoft, Google, and Apple. With the help of highly placed government and private-sector sources, Michael Joseph Gross describes the outbreak of the conflict, its escalation, and its startling paradox: that America’s bid to stop nuclear proliferation may have unleashed a greater threat. [vanity fair]
Brad’s War The behind-the-scenes battles, the rewrites and reshoots, and the stakes involved in World War Z, Brad Pitt’s first attempt to build himself an action franchise. [Vanity Fair]
The Freeway Out of prison and on the move, the legendary crack dealer is seeking his fortune yet again. A journalist picks up the trail of the man who has captivated and confounded him for decades [LATimes]
Street Life is All I Know Filthy and violent it may be, but life is still precious for the world’s street children. [AEON]
On Self Respect Revisiting Joan Didion’s 1961 piece in Vogue.
Mormons and Film Schools How B.Y.U. churns out Hollywood creatives [NYT]
I DROP MEGATON BOMBS Thirteen years later, Liquid Swords continues to age well and is a stellar case of quality ’90s hip-hop. GZA talks to Wax Poetics about the making of a heralded classic.
THE AL GORE GOLDEN YEARS The almost president has become the ultimate Davos Man, a moral entrepreneur and richer than Mitt Romney. [NY MAG]
PIGSKIN AND PINYIN? Can the NFL plant its flag in China? [Grantland]
STARTED FROM THE BOTTOM It was a tiny town of farmers, a village where everyone knew everyone and nearly all struggled to make ends meet. But then, a few days before Christmas, they won the largest lottery in the history of Spain. [GQ]
INVENTING BOWIE Bowie’s art is about style, high and low, and style is a serious business for a museum of art and design. [NY Books]