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ISSUE #7 – March 16th, 2018

This exact week, 26 years ago in 1992, My Cousin Vinnie hit movie theaters and we all learned about positraction, the proper cooking time for southern grits and what a “yout” is. While that may have been the end of the road for Vincent Gambini for you and I, it wasn’t for author Lawrence Kelter, who wrote a sequel book to Vinnie titled Back to Brooklyn last year and has another coming out this May. I stumbled upon this book trying to see if Amazon Prime had Vinnie and I bought it on a whim on Kindle. I’ve been reading it on my phone in short bursts and Kelter nailed the Vinnie/Lisa chemistry. So far, so good.

In another bit of writing nerdery, author Ta-Nehisi Coates, who has been writing the Black Panther comics for Marvel the last two years, is set to take over a second storied character: Captain America. Whether you’re into comics or not, this short essay he wrote for The Atlanticabout his feelings/hesitations/excitement about taking the mantle of such a legendary super hero is cool. We all have these feelings when taking on a giant new challenge and his thoughts on confronting his own fears ring true.

What’s more meatheady than a kettlebell? How about a kettle bell molded to look like an angry, snarling gorilla? Every 3 or 4 months I try to add something awesome to my garage gym and this week I finally took the plunge and bought this primate kettle bell from Onnit. It’s only been a few days, but I love this thing, as you can see from this picture.

This clip of a 10-year-old kid fighting through tears to tell his hockey teammates that he loves them after their last game is like the end of a great sports movie. You can’t look away. Also, shout out to whoever’s little brother is sitting next to him, nonchalantly sucking on a Blow Pop as this kid pours his heart out. Classic little brother move. A nod to @spittinchiclets for the post.

March Madness is here and the first round always makes me think of one person: Harold “The Show” Arceneaux and the 36 points he dropped in round one of the ’99 tournament to lead 14th ranked Weber State to a MASSIVE upset over #3 UNC. I was looking for clips from this game and I found this incredible two minute, amateur highlight video of the win gloriously put to Green Day’s classic Good Riddance, ‘Time of Your Life’ song. Watch it.

Have a great weekend and take the photographs and still-frames in your mind, hang them on a shelf in good health and good time.

ISSUE #6 – March 9th, 2018

Remember the Seinfeld episode where Jerry gets the “ultimate comedian’s revenge” and goes to Toby’s office at Pendant Publishing to heckle her after she heckles him at a show? This incredible find by Bryan Curtis on Twitter is the writer’s version of this, where an author writes basically an ‘Unacknowledgements’ section, calling out the people who were no help writing his book. This guy opens with “I would like to point out the two following unpleasant individuals…” Then politely rips them. It’s tremendous.

Do you know what “tech neck” is? Don’t worry, you already have it. It’s the horrendous, slumped shoulders, hanging-head posture everyone has from being on their phones too much. A friend of mine who writes for The New York Post, Kirsten Fleming, wrote a story on the new generation of Millennial hunchbacks and how they’re coping with real issues of phone-caused neck and back pain. But have no fear, the article offers 5 Easy Stretches you can do during the day to reverse your transformation into Larry King. 

I’m doing this full-body, heavy workout once a week now and it’s grueling and awesome and can be scaled for any strength or exercise level. It’s from my old Muscle & Fitness magazine pal, Doc Jim Stoppani, and it’s a twist on the classic 5×5 workout. He calls it 5×5 +1, and it’s a brutal twist because it throws a 1 rep heavy lift in the middle of the faster sets. This is perfect if you can’t train often or want to make sure at least once a week you hit everything hard. And that concludes our meathead moment.

Want to explode little kid’s minds at a birthday party that serves cupcakes? I did this at a friend’s house recently. Usually, watching kids eat cupcakes is a frosting-smearing, face-wrecking, sugar-coated disaster. Cupcakes are inherently poorly designed, especially for little hands and little mouths. Next time you’re watching kids struggle, tell them that you’re going to teach them to make a cupcake sandwich. How? It’s easy. Simply twist off the bottom of the cupcake and place it on top of the frosting. Done. Now you have two pieces of cake to hold on to. Don’t forget to take a bow as they stare at you in amazement. Trust me.

I’m a sucker for good features about space travel and rockets and visiting the moon and this incredibly awesome National Geographic article talks with astronauts about the experience of seeing their home planet from the cosmos. 555 humans in the history of history have been to outer space and the photos and the space travelers stories are great. Astronaut Samantha Christoforetti put it this way, “You’ve got this planet beneath you, and a lot of what you see, especially during the day, does not necessarily point to humans… On a geologic timescale, it’s almost like we are this flimsy presence…”

Have a great weekend and whatever you do, don’t be a flimsy presence!

ISSUE #5 – March 2nd, 2018

I love pizza and you love pizza and world famous Chef David Chang really loves pizza and on the pilot episode of his new show, Ugly Delicious, he waxes pizza poetic on everything from Brooklyn’s finest pie to the wonders of Mozzarella di Bufala Campana to the nostalgia and tech wizardry of Domino’s, all while traveling the planet talking to culinary legends. There’s even an animated segment about all the ways pizza can be eaten and they showed a technique called “the sleeping bag”, where people roll a slice up from the bottom to the crust and then eat it. Seems like an act of lunacy…but I will most likely be trying it this weekend.

A man exists named David Goggins who went from being an obese, 300-pound restaurant night-shift exterminator living on powdered donuts and chocolate milkshakes…to becoming a Navy SEAL, ultra marathon runner and 24-hour Guinness World Record Pull-Up holder (4,021) in three years.  His interview on the Joe Rogan podcast is nothing short of phenomenal and if you need a heavy dose of inspiration, listen to it right now.

Ryan Holiday is one of my favorite authors and I just ordered his new book, Conspiracy, which follows the true story of Paypal founder Peter Thiel, Hulk Hogan, Gawker, a $140 million verdict, the FBI, the 1st and 4th amendment and the President of the United States. Yes, all of that…and by a tremendous writer tailor-made for the subject matter. Holiday’s last book was on my ‘best of’ list for 2017. You can read about it here.

Most protein bars are wannabe Snickers bars with soy protein mixed in. My inner meathead was recently looking for one that didn’t have more sugar than a Devil Dog and I came across something astonishing… A protein bar made from actual protein. EPIC Chicken Sriracha bars have 15g of protein and zero grams of sugar. To be clear, I don’t like Sriracha, or the pseudo-frenzy around Sriracha, at all – but I like these bars and they’re perfect for an hour after lunch when I’m starving again. Meathead corner over. As you were…

A young writer recently e-mailed me asking about how to get assignments and what to do after you get rejected, and it reminded me of a story about John D. Rockefeller Sr. from Ron Chernow’s biography of him,Titan. When Rockefeller was 16, still a few decades away from being the wealthiest man in the world, he was poor and jobless with zero prospects for work. Chernow writes: “Despite incessant disappointment, he doggedly pursued a position. Each morning, he left his boardinghouse at 8am, clothed in a dark suit and high collar, to make his rounds of appointed firms. This grimly determined trek went on each day – six days a week for six weeks – until late afternoon… Because he approached his job hunt devoid of any doubt or self-pity, he could stare down all discouragement. “I was working every day at my business – the business of looking for work,” Rockefeller said. In the middle of the 7th week, he was hired. I told the young writer he was in the business of becoming a writer and he can’t care how many “no’s” he hears on the way to his big “yes”, just like Rockefeller.

Have a great weekend and hopefully you’re only a few decades away from being the wealthiest person in the world!

ISSUE #4 – February 23rd, 2018

I highly recommend this long form feature on Merv Bodnarchuk, a man fond of Coors Light and Clamato juice who spent half a million dollars on a curling “super team” with one caveat – he had to be on the squad. It is so good I can’t believe the Coen Brothers haven’t turned it into a movie yet. It was written by Guy Lawson (@GuyLawson2) almost twenty years ago and with the Winter Olympics front-and-center, it’s the perfect time to curl up to a good piece of writing on…curling. There’s a 40% chance it winds up as an Amazon Prime series at some point. You read it here first.

I love when inadvertent typos completely change the meaning of signs or titles and this one for the Peter Rabbit movie is fantastic and hilarious. It was spotted by the always-clever author Steve Rushin and he tops it off with the perfect comment.

There are two kinds of TV watchers in the world… Those who think The Wire is the greatest show of all time…and those poor unfortunate souls who haven’t seen it yet. If you’re in the first group,  one of my favorite writers, JP Abrams, has a new book out this week, All the Pieces Matter: The Inside Story of The Wire. It is a dream come true for Wire fans. I loved Abrams’ first book, Boys Among Men about LeBron, Kobe, Dwight Howard and Kevin Garnett’s entry into the NBA so I’m psyched for this one. Just got it yesterday. You can also check out www.jonathanabramsbooks.comfor more info.

My brother recommended the Netflix documentary Icarus to me and it is one of the more insane docs you’ll ever see.
It begins with an amateur cyclist trying to replicate Lance Armstrong’s doping regimen and evolves into an inside look at the greatest Olympic sports scandal in world history with former KGB agents, secret rooms in doping labs, people “disappearing”, death threats and international statements by Vladimir Putin denying absolutely everything, including a statement that the needles inserted into Ivan Drago’s shoulders in Rocky IV were just B-vitamin shots. You should definitely watch it (and I added the part about Drago…even Putin wouldn’t go that far).

I just finished the awesome book, Sting Like A Bee: Muhammad Ali vs. the United States of America, 1966-1971 by the great Leigh Montville. The book is fascinating and contains some of the best anecdotes about Ali’s fights and opponents that I’ve ever read, including this one, involving Ernie Terrell complaining about the font of his name on fight promotion posters: Terrell demonstrated early in the promotion [of the fight] that he wanted respect. Upset that the billing on posters for the fight had his name listed in a smaller typeface than Ali’s name, he said that he would pull out of the fight if this was not changed in 48 hours. “In some cases my name looks like the fine print on an insurance policy,” Terrell said. “In other cases, the letters on my name are no bigger than the cheapest price for a ticket. I have an 89-year-old grandmother and she knows better than to do something like that.” The posters were changed.

ISSUE #3 – February 16th, 2018

Abraham Lincoln’s birthday was this week and I’ve been fascinated with this photo of the items he had in his pockets when he was assassinated courtesy of Michael Beschloss (@beschlossDC). Two pairs of glasses, a pocket knife and all kinds of other regular stuff from 153 years ago. He was carrying the $5 bill around for ID, obviously. (That’s a joke. The first $5 note had Alexander Hamilton on it. Lincoln didn’t make it onto the bill until 1914).

Do you know where the largest casino in the world is? Any guesses? Well, I had the pleasure of playing blackjack and craps there this past weekend and if you guessed it’s in the town of Thackerville, Oklahoma you’d be correct.. It’s called the Winstar and it’s bigger than any casino in Vegas, Atlantic City, Europe or anywhere else with 600,000 square feet of gaming. Who knew? They have a saying regarding going to other casinos after the Winstar: Once you go Thackerville, you never go back-erville. (No, they don’t but if they want to use it they can have it for free.)

My former co-author and 3x NBA Slam Dunk Contest Champion, Nate Robinson appeared on one of my favorite podcasts, the FatPacks, this week to talk about the contest this upcoming Saturday night. He also discussed what it was like being Mr. Basketball and Mr. Football as a senior in high school in the state of Washington, what it felt like to throw down over Dwight Howard, block Yao Ming, and of course, inside info on the NBA Dunk Contest. Also, here’s video of 5’7″ Nate blocking 7’2″ Yao.

I love omelettes and I love making omelettes and I came across this write-up of a 10-egg omelette masterpiece called The Maserati.  The article is from dinedelish.com and it’s worth a few seconds to check out the near dozen-egg beast that must weigh about 4 pounds. I occasionally make 5-egg omelettes and they’d look like, well, Nate Robinson standing next to Yao Ming (Ming being the Maserati in this analogy).

Once a month or so I like to try the Navy SEAL fitness requirements test as a single workout. I’m not a SEAL and don’t think I could have been, but trying to perform the test is an interesting baseline for where I am compared to some of the best athletes in our military. There are minimum requirements, but those don’t guarantee entry to the SEALS because competition is so tight. Minimum is the following, performed back-to-back: 500-yard swim in 12.5 minutes, 50 push-ups in 2 minutes, 50-curl ups in 2 minutes, 10 pull-ups in two minutes and a 1.5 mile run in 10.5 minutes.

That’s more than doable. The ‘Optimum Standards’ are not: 500 yard swim in 8.5 minutes, 100 push ups in 2 minutes, 100 curl ups in 2 minutes, 20 pull ups in 2 minutes, 1.5 mile run in 8:50…all done back-to-back. Got it? Good. Go for it!

ISSUE #2 – February 9th, 2018

While I’ve always considered myself a matcha man, I took this online tea quiz and it turns out I should be consuming a tea called Iron Goddess of Mercy – Ti Kuan Yin – and I’ve been questioning my masculinity ever since. Not really, but well, yeah…  I’ve been on the tea train for a long time and I’ve mostly stuck with loose leaf green tea, Sencha and sometimes white tea. This quiz on Art of Tea’s website (takes one minute) asks you all kinds of questions about your lifestyle, when you drink tea and why and then spits out the kind of tea that fits your lifestyle best. Evidently, I’m in dire need of the Iron Goddess of Mercy. I’ll let you know how it tastes in a future issue of FF5.

The brilliant director who made O.J.: Made in America is going to do a biopic of Roberto Clemente as his next project and it’s about time someone tackled this. I’ve always been fascinated with the baseball legend/humanitarian/philanthropist/leader that Clemente was and I can’t recommend David Maraniss’ (@davidmaraniss) incredible biography of him enough. You can get it on Amazon here. And for a glimpse of his athletic greatness, check out this absolutely insane throw from right field to third base. Maybe the strongest arm in the history of baseball.

I’m not gonna lie here… This article called A Kingdom from Dust by Mark Arax is a mountain of words (I read it in three parts). But it is a mountain of words worth climbing. If you’ve ever wondered where your POM Wonderful purple pomegranate juice or your mini-orange Cuties or your Wonderful almonds or pistachios or dozens of other wildly popular family-friendly grocery items come from and who grows them, packages them and invents the marketing campaigns behind the brands, then this article is for you (Hint: It’s ONE GUY). If you’ve ever driven up through the interior of California and wondered how there was seemingly hundreds of miles of desert filled with endless green vegetation during a water shortage, this feature is for you. If you simply love tremendous writing and research and storytelling, this is also for you. California Sunday Magazine dedicated almost their whole issue to this piece and it was worth it.

Good Will Hunting is one of my all-time favorite movies andthis episode of The Rewatchables podcast does a deep dive on everything from Will’s lifelong beef with Carmine Scarpaglia to what Skylar might say when Will shows up in California in his beat-up car after the movie ends to whether in the famous bar scene debate with Clark (ponytail guy) Ben Affleck and Cole Hauser would have cold-cocked ponytail in the face before a discussion about Gordon Wood could even take place. The attention to detail in this podcast is great and if you’ve watched this movie or parts of it more than twice you will love it. And if you don’t listen to the podcast, it’s not your fault. It’s not your fault. It’s not your fault… Actually, it is, but you get the joke.

I have a framed poster of Teddy Roosevelt with this famous ‘Man in the Arena” speech on the wall in my gym that I bought from one of my favorite blogs, ArtofManliness.com. I don’t read it every day or every week even, but I definitely read it more than once a month. I’m considering my next book/project right now and as a writer, there’s nothing more daunting than staring at the blank page of the first outline of a new project idea…because you know that once you commit, there are thousands of more pages that will need to be filled, edited, thrown away, rewritten and refined. Anyway, I read this quote again this week and it motivated me to get moving. Maybe it’ll do the same for you:

“It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by sweat and dust and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs; who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error or shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in the worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory or defeat.”      – Teddy Roosevelt

ISSUE #1 – February 2nd, 2018

This is the best feature I read all week:   Can You Say…Hero? is a sprawling profile of Mr. Rogers written by Tom Junod for Esquire that was originally published in 1998. You may have seen this week that Tom Hanks is going to star in a movie about Mr. Rogers. Perfect, right? America’s favorite neighbor played by America’s favorite actor. Well, this is the article that inspired the movie and it is, plainly put, absolutely brilliant. It’s a profile writing clinic on a fascinating subject that I can’t recommend enough. From Mr. Rogers getting ready for his daily swim to his sleeping habits to his apartment in New York City, this feature zeroes in on what made Mr. Rogers a very special human. Read it.

This was my favorite thing I watched on Netflix: Born Strong is a documentary about four contenders competing to become the Strongest Man on Earth at the Arnold Classic. It stars lifting legends Zydrunas, Eddie Hall, American Brian Shaw and Hafthor, AKA, The Mountain from Game of Thrones, all 6’9”, 400 pounds of him. You don’t have to be a fitness nut or power lifter to get sucked into this doc, which features a healthy dose of Arnold Schwarzenegger geeking out about the athletes, the physiques and the feats of strength. There are a few slow spots you could probably skip, but watching how much time these goliaths spend eating (all the time) training (all the time) and thinking about winning (all the time), is incredible. Even if you just watch the main section about The Mountain in Iceland, it’s worth it.

A runner-up Netflix favorite this week is this exchange from The Office,Season 1, Episode 1, which I decided to re-watch:

Michael Scott brings the camera to Pam’s receptionist desk.

Michael Scott: Everyone, this is Pam. If you think she’s cute now you should have seen her a couple years ago. Reawrrrrrrrr….

Pam (priceless stare into the camera): What???

Perfect moment in a near-perfect pilot. Highly recommend rewatching it.

These are my two favorite things I bought this week for a grand total of $4.17: Cinder blocks. Why? Why not? Actually, I got them for my garage gym so I could remove the lowest part of my deadlift (placing the bar on top), which I’ve been reading is where the greatest chance for injury and overuse is… I’ve read literature on both sides of this and I’m going with feel on this one. I’m not exactly trying to be an inside linebacker for the Patriots anymore so if I can get 90% of the benefits of the deadlift while removing some injury risk that’s fine. SIDE NOTE: There’s no better feeling than rolling up to a register at Home Depot with a cinder block in each hand and nothing else. Pretty sure every other dude in the Depot was jealous of that move. Also, I did a little cinder research and each block weighs about 30-35 pounds, so they’re good for some unbalanced farmer carries and curls too. OK, this meathead moment is over.

I never heard of this popular bottled mineral water until this week so I tried it and I hate mineral water but it’s actually good. It’s called Topo Chico. I came across this article about a guy who drinks five a day and decided I’d try it next time I saw it. As it turns out, I have no idea how I’ve been missing it. Topo Chico is literally everywhere, especially in Texas. It’s one of those things I never noticed because I don’t care about it, but now I see it’s in every restaurant, supermarket and store. Not saying I’m gonna drink 5 a day, but it’s refreshing and worth a shot. Had one with dinner this week and went down smooth.

Best late-night snack sandwich I made this week: Double-decker peanut butter, banana and honey sandwich on whole wheat. On nights I write late I often find myself absolutely starving at about 10pm. This is my “Code Red, I’m crazy hungry and if I don’t eat this I’m driving to McDonald’s in two minutes” sandwich and it always hits the spot with a glass of ice cold milk. The key is to not put the banana slices on the peanut butter, but to put the honey on the peanut butter and the banana slices on their own level. Enjoy!