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Sunday, June 4, 2017

Skydiving From The Edge Of Space, by Laura Parker, The Atlantic

A few months later, Eustace was back home in Mountain View when his phone rang. It was Cani. He wanted to know whether Eustace had heard about a guy named Felix Baumgartner, who was after an even bigger challenge: He was trying to beat the high-altitude-skydiving record with a jump from the upper reaches of the stratosphere, more than 100,000 feet in the air. Cani had found a sponsor to launch a competing effort, and wondered whether Eustace could advise him on the type of equipment he’d need.

Eustace was delighted. He was sure Baumgartner was way ahead—he had backing from the energy-drink company Red Bull, which had hired more than three dozen team members with backgrounds in nasa, the Air Force, and the aerospace industry—but he liked Cani, and wanted to see him create some healthy competition. He agreed to help in any way he could. But before Cani’s effort could kick off, his funding fell through.

Eustace considered this news. He led a quiet, comfortable life. He wasn’t after publicity or adrenaline. But this was the engineering challenge of a lifetime. Forget the Gulfstream. He could attempt the stratosphere jump himself, and fund it with his own savings. He thought for a few months and called Cani to ask for his blessing. Cani laughed, amused. Go for it, he said.

Al Franken On Al Franken: From Comic To (Mostly) Serious Legislator, by Christopher Buckley, Washington Post

“Al Franken: Giant of the Senate” is an only-in-America story of how a grandson of Belarussian immigrants grew up in the Midwest, went to Harvard and then on to a brilliant career in comedy, and then decided what the heck, and ran for the Senate and won. Just typing that mini-CV made me tired.

Whatever you make of his politics, Franken tells a great story. He can (for the most part) make the nitty-gritty of politics and legislating good reading. His partisanship is fierce and occasionally strident, but he doesn’t indulge in the smugness and condescension that are often characteristic of the muscular, progressive liberal. Republicans ought to read this book, if only on the principle of Know Thy Enemy. And make no mistake, Republicans: Franken is your enemy. But a mensch.

'Theft By Finding' Is As Mesmerizing As A Spinning Chicken (Trust Us), by Annalisa Quinn, NPR

But David Sedaris' diaries are not especially introspective. They offer a different kind of pleasures: those of the cultural historian, rather than those of the snoop. As he points out in his introduction, you only find out that he's an alcoholic on the day he writes that he's going to quit drinking.

Instead, he describes the world around him. This is an accommodating book, one you can pick up at leisure, to find pleasant entries about the vast and splendid array of human life that can be observed at IHOP, or the vagaries of fruit picking.

From The Creator Of ‘Foyle’s War,’ A Delightful Homage To Agatha Christie, by Charles Finch, Washington Post

In this nested tale, Horowitz seems to be querying his genre’s essential paradox: how often it’s a refuge, comfort reading. “Death,” as Dorothy Sayers once observed, “seems to provide the minds of the Anglo-Saxon race with a greater fund of innocent amusement than any other subject.” The plotting and the solution of Pünd’s half of “Magpie Murders” are far tidier and more satisfying than Susan’s faltering, bloody, ugly investigation. Which do we want, Horowitz wonders, a safe murder or a dangerous one? Only since Agatha Christie has it passed into the stewardship of readers to make precisely that decision.

I Was A Failed Hand Model, by Danielle Sepulveres, Racked

I didn’t even know how I’d ended up here, auditioning to hand-model jewelry that would take me eight lifetimes or a loveless Wall Street marriage to afford. But after spending time working as a body double on TV shows and in some movies, where my hands often ended up being used in close-up shots in lieu of the actual actress’s, I kept hearing the question “Hey, do you hand model?” I mainly wrote it off as a compliment of my diligent nail bed and cuticle maintenance, but then I met a guy who asked the question seriously and sent me along to meet his agent, who very quickly became mine as well. I nervously went to her office and presented my hands, which she examined carefully and smiled at, then gave me the nod. I was in. Until I started actually auditioning, where something always invariably went wrong.

I didn’t even know how I’d ended up here, auditioning to hand-model jewelry that would take me eight lifetimes or a loveless Wall Street marriage to afford.

Fortune Cookies, by Iris Smyles, New Yorker

One day you will put a pen down with your right hand and pick it up with your left hand, and your writing will be illegible.

One day you will go outside and, realizing you forgot your umbrella, go back inside to get it.

One day you will go outside and, realizing you forgot your umbrella, will not go back inside but buy a small one on the street that will break immediately.