BY MARC VELASQUEZ

[This column highlights the best pieces of journalism in magazines each month, all available free online unless noted. Follow it here.]

I’m embarrassed. It’s been a slow reading month for me. Perhaps you’ve noticed—the title of the column doesn’t exactly match the calendar—I’ve been slacking lately. When I realized that this column was long overdue, I tried to fabricate a suitable excuse. Holiday lethargy? Boston snow has cut off both my internet and mail service? Lingering brain trauma from an old football injury? Well, I couldn’t come up with a good one, and now I have to admit that I just haven’t been reading. That’s some serious Babytown Frolics on my part.

Just look at these articles. In the internet age, two of them are so old, they’re practically Prohibition-era. And the others are about football (maybe that’s it: football; I’ve been so obsessed with football, that I’ve had no time to read. It was the playoffs, and then the [underrated] Kraft Fight Hunger Bowl, and then the national championship game, and then more playoffs, and then the Senior Bowl, and finally the Super Bowl. I clearly had no time to read during all that… Nope, still a lame excuse.)

Oh well. Anyway, here are a few, much-delayed links. I’ll do better next time.


The One Handed Dude Who Looks Like James Franco

You see the latest Franco flick? I didn’t. I did want to, but something got in the way. Probably the same thing that got in the way of my reading time. But I did find time to read Aron Ralston’s article In Outside. You know who he is; he cut off his own hand. The article is about Ralston’s reactions as he’s watching his life turn into a film, and if you don’t have respect for the cat before reading it, I’ll bet good money that you will after.

As a sidenote: check out Franco’s short story, which appeared in Esquire last year. Not great, but if Mr. Franco would like to see his work in the new Chamber Four lit mag, C4, he can send it to submissions@chamberfour.com. (The same goes for everybody else.)


Reid vs. McConnell

I also spent some time this past month watching the State of The Union address. It wasn’t too long, but it did take up an entire evening that I could have spent reading. One thing I took away from the speech—the thing that I will probably remember most—is that I cannot tell Harry Reid and Mitch McConnell apart. Look at this image:

If there was a line down the middle and it was a game of Photohunt, the only difference I’d be able to find is the tie color and the lapel pin. Strange.

I do know, however, that Reid took a thumping during election season (all of last year, really). The only reason he’s still in Congress is that his opponent refused to state her beliefs until until after the election, staying mum when asked about anything from abortion to library budgets. Still, she almost beat him.

(Another side note: I also don’t know what Kim Kardashian looks like. No Lie. I’ve seen her, but her image in my mind is fleeting—gone as soon as I’m no longer looking at her. It’s a strange superpower to have, but one I’m thankful for.)


Football for Nerds

I’m going to try to make up for my lack of articles this month by suggesting a bunch in the next few lines. Ben McGrath wrote a very interesting article about concussions in football, which has become a hot button topic in the past few years. Malcolm Gladwell wrote something similar for the same magazine not long ago. If you’re not familiar with McGrath’s work, it’s worth looking into—especially if you’re a heady sports fan.

Also, this article contains the quote of the month:

Colonel Geoffrey Ling, a neurologist with the Defense Department, had come to the InterContinental to share some of the government’s research with the N.F.L.’s medical brain trust. (Concussions among the men and women returning from Iraq and Afghanistan, one doctor told me, could be “the next Agent Orange.”) “If you look historically, what really hurts our soldiers from blasts is artillery shells, mortar shells,” Ling said. “The combat helmet was designed particularly for mitigation of fragments. It does have some ballistic protection. You could shoot at the thing point blank with a 9-millimetre pistol, and you won’t penetrate it. That’s pretty doggone good. I’m surprised New York City policemen aren’t wearing the doggone thing. But, like, I wouldn’t play football with the thing. It ain’t that good.”

Final sidenote: if you are female and drunk, please avoid using the bathroom when Ben Roethlisberger is in the building. Now that football season is over, Big Ben’s fourth annual Raping Season is in high gear.


From the Archive

Since football is on my mind, I’ll leave you with one of the best articles I’ve ever read. It’s about a man who was supposed to be the greatest quarterback of all time and instead found himself on a downward spiral that included smoking crack in the locker room during halftime. All due respect to Aron Ralston, if they made a movie about this dude’s life, I’d see it on opening day.


[Suggestions? Send them to marcos@chamberfour.com]

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