JANUARY/FEBRUARY 2017 Vol. 26, No. 1
SEX, POWER & POLLUTION IN OUR NATIONAL PARKS
THE BEST CARS OF THE YEAR
WINTER ADVENTURES WHY BIG GAME HUNTING IS THE NEXT ACTION SPORT
Mazda6 Grand Touring interior with Premium Package shown.
T H E N E W M A ZDA6 Before you lean into a curve, before you command that straightaway, you just know. The Mazda6 offers driver-centric details in harmony with your intuitions. Like a steering wheel shaped for your optimal hand position. And available supple Nappa leather seats that cradle you in comfort. So your drive feels exactly like you knew it would.
D R IV IN G M ATTE R S
VO L U M E 2 6 NUMBER 1
M E N ’ S J O U R NAL + JAN/FE B 2017
The Long Game of Liam Neeson The 64-year-old star of Silence wasn’t always an A-list ass-kicker. But that was part of the plan. BY JOSH EELLS page 50
The New Predators
Taking Down Big Sugar
How a new wave of superﬁt, tech-obsessed, adrenalinecraving athletes are turning hunting into the next action sport. BY RYAN KROGH page 56
That white stuff you sprinkle into your coffee? It might as well be poison, explains Gary Taubes, and it’s made us a nation of addicts. BY DANIEL KUNITZ page 62
Scouting bighorn rams at 11,000 feet in New Mexico’s Sangre de Cristo mountains.
p h o t o g r a p h by PAU L B R I D E
14 A bad year for the National Park Service
Notebook 12 Travel A view of the heavens from a Chilean desert — with no light pollution. 18 Adventure Fifteen ways to embrace winter.
35 Get cold, get stronger.
22 Conservation Saving one of the world’s last wild rivers. 26 Style & Design A modern radio, a sweater that battles sweat, a multitool you’ll actually use. 32 Drinks The ultimate holiday punch.
Health & Fitness 42 Medicine Marijuana-derived products to soothe pain (and more), without a high. 46 Productivity When to exercise, eat, and have sex. 49 Health News Do activity monitors work, the risk in exercising angry, and more updates.
68 Appliances Do you need a smart-home system?
70 Fashion The best places to buy glasses online. 72 Luggage Rugged, stylish bags for any adventure.
Utility boots made to plow through slush and still look smart in the office
74 Fitness Apparel Gym shorts get an upgrade. 75 Guitars High-tech tools to rock out. 76 Camping Winter gear that negates the weather.
30 Fresh and fast: The 2017 Nissan GT-R
The Last Word 78 Gay Talese The nonﬁction legend on handling aging, the secret to getting ahead, and what he learned from Sinatra.
ON THE COVER: Liam Neeson photographed for Men’s Journal by Marc Hom on October 13, 2016, in New York City. Styling by Ise White for Bernstein & Andriulli. Grooming by Niroko for Shanahan Management. Cardigan and T-shirt by Giorgio Armani.
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Jason Fine Thailand’s Tham Khao Luang cave temple, one of 51 sights to put on your itinerary this year.
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What We’re Testing Google Daydream View VR Headset, $79
THE TREADMILL WORKOUT Perform this high-intensity circuit without breaks, focusing on good form.
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Anyone unwilling to plunk down $600 or more to get the full VR experience now has the Daydream View, a handsome device with a smart remote that pairs with our Android phone.
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• Holding heavy dumbbells, do 15 thrusters (squats that ﬁnish with a shoulder press). • Jump back on the treadmill and repeat the quarter-mile run and the thrusters four more times.
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This past fall, BASE jumper Viktor Thorbjörnson, right, received an invite he couldn’t resist: a party at a undisclosed sandbank in the middle of the Paciﬁc. The catch? He had to arrive by parachute. And so he did.
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Letters “There is not one single whale that should be slain by anyone, anywhere, for any reason. To destroy a highly intelligent, socially complex being is unacceptable in 2016.” THE ETHICS OF THE HUNT Saki Knafo’s story [“Waiting on a Whale at the End of the World”] raises the question of whether it’s OK to kill whales in the name of tradition and culture. This has been the argument for continued whaling used not only by the Inuits in Alaska but also by the Japanese, Icelanders, Greenlanders, the Faroese, and the residents of St. Vincent and the Grenadines. But there is not one single whale that should be slain by anyone, anywhere, for any reason. To destroy a highly intelligent, socially complex, self-aware being is unacceptable in 2016. Whales have been slaughtered for centuries, and now we must leave them be to maintain oceanic ecosystems that are being diminished by the greed and
A Mea Culpa to Michigan We identiﬁed the nation’s top brewmasters, beers, and bars in our annual beer
rapaciousness of human beings. The Inuit hunters say they have lived in the Arctic for thousands of years and have the right to kill these magniﬁcent creatures. I disagree. The whales were there many hundreds of thousands of years before any human. When I see Inuits using snowmobiles, motorized boats, GPS, and exploding harpoons, I do not see a traditional culture. What I see is a majestic animal being snuffed out with modern technology for no reason other than pride. The article states that the village of Kivalina has not killed a whale since 1994. This tells me that there is obviously no subsistence need. CAPTAIN PAUL WATSON
A FIGHT FOR EUROPE’S RIVERS Well done on the article about Ulrich Eichelmann [“The Fight for Europe’s Last Wild River,” by Lois Parshley]. Given the hundreds of hydropower projects that are planned in the Balkans, this is a timely contribution to the debate. In many cases even small dams can ruin or irreversibly change an ecosystem. E.U. money is now being used in Western Europe to reinstate free-ﬂowing rivers, while in the Balkans, E.U.-supported companies from these countries are selling technology that will destroy beautiful wildlife habitats. BALAZS HORVATH SENIOR POLICY OFFICER, WATER
FOUNDER, SEA SHEPHERD
AND SOIL , THE EUROPEAN
CONSERVATION SOCIET Y
issue — but with nearly 5,000 breweries in the U.S. churning out 165 million barrels every year, there’s a chance we might have overlooked a few. Luckily, our readers set us straight: I was excited to see the November issue was all about beer. But to my surprise, there wasn’t any mention made of Michigan brews. Why? Anti-Michigan sentiment from the authors? No love for Founders Brewing or Brewery Vivant in Grand Rapids; Bells in Comstock; New Holland, Harmony, or the Mitten? Just
wanted to get to the bottom of this blasphemous oversight. But I do still love the magazine! (P.S. I copied the mayor of Grand Rapids’ email here so you can send her an apology.) JOHN MILLARD
I’ve resided in Denver, Asheville, and Portland, and I consider myself a well-traveled connoisseur of all types of beer. No city has a more vibrant, diverse, and eclectic beer culture than Grand Rapids, Michigan. My feeling is that Grand Rapids and its phenomenal breweries deserve mention in any article relating to beer culture in America. STEVEN GUIGELA AR
My wife and I just ﬁnished touring Michigan’s breweries with friends. We traveled there speciﬁcally to taste great beers, and we spent ﬁve days visiting more than 35 microbreweries, tasting IPAs, stouts, porters, sours, and harvest beers — 171 pours in all. The most excellent microbreweries we visited went from Founders in Grand Rapids to Olde Peninsula in Kalamazoo and White Flame in Hudsonville. Olde Peninsula had a really good one called Peanut Butter Stout Chocula. I know everyone has different tastes, but I wanted to bring Michigan to your attention. KENT GARD
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Window to the Cosmos place on Earth to view the inﬁnite reaches of space than here, 400 miles north of Santiago, in Chile’s Atacama Desert, an uninhabitable expanse where the soil contains so little organic matter that it’s often compared to the surface of Mars. At an elevation of 7,800 feet, this Andean plateau has almost no light pollution or moisture — making its skies some of the darkest and clearest that this planet has to offer. That’s why, beginning in 1962, a coalition of 15 European nations seeking to understand the cosmos built massive stargazing apparatuses here. Today a network of telescopes spans three observatories, collecting data on mysteries such as the behavior of supermassive black holes and the origins of the universe . “You can still see how a distant city can compromise the observation of the sky with light pollution,” says Alberto Ghizzi Panizza, the Italian photographer who captured the Milky Way here, referring to the sliver of golden light reﬂected in the dish of this nowdecommissioned 50-foot-wide radio telescope, which was built in 1987 to probe the molecular clouds of that galaxy. “I’ve photographed the stars from Europe and Africa, but it’s never the same as here,” he says. “It’s one of the driest places in the world, and it’s lifeless — the perfect place to see space.” — S H AW N M c C R E E S H
THERE’S NO BETTER
p h o t o g r a p h by A L B E R T O G H I Z Z I PA N I Z Z A
Parks and Degradation The National Park Service just turned 100. But with widespread mismanagement, sexual harassment, and overcrowding, there’s not much to celebrate by DA N I E L D UA N E Not only had the summer of 2016 seen some of the worst overcrowding on record, but widespread allegations of mismanagement, including a series of high-prof ile sexual harassment scandals, cast serious doubt on the Park Service’s ability to handle the challenges it will face moving forward — from the profound threat of climate change to a new, GOP-controlled government skeptical of federal expenditure for the preservation of public lands. “We call it the ‘centennial hangover,’” says Jeff Ruch, executive director of the environmental watchdog group Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility. “The Park Service spent most of the past
year in self-congratulation mode, without introspection; they have no plan for how to proceed; and the agency is so decentralized that they don’t seem to have any accountability mechanisms.” Case in point is the story of Yosemite superintendent Don Neubacher. A 34-year agency lifer, Neubacher worked his way up from ranger duty at Glacier Bay National Park to superintendent of Point Reyes National Seashore to, in 2010, the top job at Yosemite, one of the service’s most visible and coveted positions. He made some big decisions — including adding the 400-acre Ackerson Meadow to the park and open-
p h o t o g r a p h by S H A N A N OVA K
PROP ST YLING BY MEGUMI EMOTO FOR ANDERSON HOPKINS
H E Y E A R 2 0 1 6 was supposed to be a happy one for the National Park Service. To commemorate its centennial, the agency launched all manner of celebrations: a nationwide Find Your Park campaign to lure tech-obsessed millennials into the great outdoors; elaborate food and music festivals from the Great Smoky Mountains to the Grand Canyon; citizennaturalization ceremonies on park grounds; and high-profile visits by President Obama, who hiked with his family and delivered speeches about environmental conservation. But by year’s end, it was hard to find much to celebrate.
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ing the upper Merced River to kayaks. But Neubacher likely will be remembered for congressional hearings into complaints by dozens of Yosemite employees of a hostile and toxic work environment. “In Yosemite National Park today dozens of people . . . are being bullied, belittled, disenfranchised, and marginalized from their roles as dedicated professionals . . . [and] publicly humiliated by the superintendent,” Kelly Martin, who has served for 10 years as the park’s chief of fire and aviation management, testified in September. Neubacher himself was not accused of harassment, but critics say a brusque management style created an environment in which bad behavior went unpunished. And he was able to act with almost no accountability. For one thing, Neubacher’s wife was a deputy at the NPS Pacif ic West Region headquarters, the office that oversees the region’s parks. And he further consolidated power by refusing to hire a deputy superintendent. It’s hardly limited to Yosemite. Martin also testified about rampant sexual harassment at Grand Canyon National Park, where she had worked earlier in her career, telling the story of a male ranger who repeatedly spied on her as she showered. Although other women reported similar incidents, the ranger was repeatedly promoted. Similar stories emerged, always with perpetrators escaping discipline: A report from the Office of Inspector General detailed 15 years of sexual harassment by Grand Canyon river guides going unpunished, despite the knowledge of supervisors. Other testimony recounted harassment of female employees at Yellow-
“IN YOSEMITE, PEOPLE ARE BEING BULLIED AND HUMILIATED BY THE SUPERINTENDENT.”
stone; reports of harassment and financial mismanagement at Canaveral National Seashore; and a supervisor in Chattahoochee River National Recreation Area with a wellknown groping habit. Superintendents at two of these parks, including Neubacher (and his wife), were either transferred or forced into early retirement this year. But the problem, according to Department of the Interior sources, goes far beyond individual supervisors. Instead, many of the managers at more than 400 national parks, monuments, seashores, historic sites, and recreation areas, insiders say, ascend the ranks less through proven leadership than through political acumen and seniority. They burrow into plum positions in beautiful parks and then bury bad news that might cast an unf lattering light. “It’s like a fishbowl where the superintendent is king,” s a y s r e t i r e d Yo s e m it e ranger Andrea Lankford, author of Ranger Confidential. “The superintendent controls your housing, your job, your retirement, maybe your spouse’s housing and job. Your kids might be in a school in the park, so the superintendent has a lot of power over you.” Large national parks, Lankford points out, are like towns, only surrounded by wilderness and almost
entirely cut off from outside supervision. At Effigy Mounds National Monument, in Iowa, for example, one superintendent personally stole 2,100 archaeological artifacts, including the remains of 41 Native Americans; a successor oversaw an illegal $3.4 million construction project that involved digging trenches and installing wooden boardwalks throughout sensitive burial sites. “I don’t know of a case in 40-odd years where a complaint by a lower-level fieldperson led to significant discipline against a supervisor,” says George Durkee, a retired law-enforcement ranger who spent decades in Sequoia & Kings Canyon National Parks. “It just doesn’t happen.” Perhaps it’s not a major surprise that a recent Best Places to Work survey of 320 government subagencies ranked the NPS at 259th — nearly 100 places behind the Office of Solid Waste and Emergency Response. The Park Service says it is committed to improvement. “We fully recognize that we have an issue with sexual harassment and hostile work environments,” says NPS spokesman Tom Crosson. Already in the works are sexual-harassment training programs, the creation of a new ombudsman to field complaints, and an agency-wide survey aimed at gathering data. “In the long term, looking at things like hiring the right people for the right jobs, we have relocated folks out of their positions,” Crosson says. Still, he says, “holistically, we’ve not looked at very sweeping changes.” The problem is that an antiquated NPS culture stif les creative thinking, so more serious challenges, such as catastrophic overcrowding, aren’t met with innovative solutions. A record 305 million people visited NPS sites in 2015 — more than attended Disney World, NASCAR races, and professional football, hockey, and basketball games combined. Yosemite alone got a record-breaking 4.2 million in 2015, 250,000 more than the year prior; visits to Great Smoky Mountains National Park jumped 6 percent, to 10.7 million. The results were about what you’d predict: three-mile traffic jams outside many park entrances and public toilets going
FROM TOP: COURTESY OF YOSEMITE CONSERVANCY; ADAM DEROSE/CRONKITE NEWS
Kelly Martin testiﬁes about harassment in national parks.
Don Neubacher, former superintendent of Yosemite Park
JIMMY CHIN/NATIONAL GEOGR APHIC CREATIVE
Tourists line up to hike Yosemite’s Half Dome.
through a mile of toilet paper per stall per day. Zion National Park saw as many as 300 people at a time standing in shuttle-bus lines. The National Parks and Recreation Act of 1978 requires the agency to establish socalled visitor carrying capacities for every part of every park, and to pursue reasonable measures to make sure those capacities are not exceeded. But according to Ruch, that has not happened. “We looked at 108 parks and reserves and seashores,” he says. “Only seven had anything resembling a carryingcapacity report.” The failure to protect parks from overuse can’t be blamed entirely on bureaucrats. The National Park Service Organic Act of 1916 tasked the NPS with promoting and regulating parks “to conserve the scenery and the natural and historic objects and the wildlife therein and to provide for the enjoyment of the same in such manner and by such means as will leave them unimpaired for the enjoyment of future generations.” Back in 1916, when only 325,000 people visited the parks, conservation and enjoyment might have seemed complementary goals. Now, however, they put superintendents in the middle of a constant tug-ofwar between environmental groups and politicians supported by concessionaires who profit by maximizing the f low of wallets through park gates. Park managers at Biscayne National Park, for example, spent 15 years fielding 43,000 public comments, 90 percent of which favored the creation of a marine reserve within the park to protect dying reefs, only to have all that work undermined by Florida’s $8 billion recreational saltwater fishing industry and its allies in Tallahassee and Washington, D.C.
Polls show that three out of four Americans believe that national parks benefit the country, and 83 percent look favorably on elected representatives who take strong stands in favor of protecting parks. But Congress has long starved the NPS for funds, and the new GOP-controlled legislature is unlikely to change that. In the meantime, the Park Service has a $12 billion system-wide maintenance backlog that now includes a 16-mile Grand Canyon water pipeline that breaks down up to 30 times a year, potholed roads throughout Yellowstone, and a Great Smoky Mountains so short on workers it can’t even empty the overf lowing trash cans. The nonprofit National Park Foundation advocates raising funds by tapping private donors and corporate sponsorships, an idea anathema to many environmental groups. “The last thing we want is ‘Half Dome brought to you by Coca-Cola,’ ” says Bruce Hamilton, deputy executive director of the Sierra Club. “Also, corporate sponsorship tends to be considered as a substitute for public financial support of national parks, not as augmenting it so we can do more.” Underfunding and political gamesmanship also undermine the ability of the NPS to deal with the biggest challenge of all: the existential threat posed by climate change, which is already damaging some national park ecosystems beyond recognition. The glaciers in Glacier National Park are melting so fast that they most will likely be gone by 2030. The cloud mist over the high-elevation forests of Great Smoky Mountains National Park now has pH levels comparable to lemon juice, threatening f lora and fauna. Warm, short winters create conditions more favorable
for insects like the hemlock woolly adelgid, which has killed 95 percent of the hemlock trees in Shenandoah National Park since 1988. In California, meanwhile, drought and a beetle infestation have killed 66 million trees since 2010, including huge numbers in Yosemite and Sequoia National Forest. And then there is the incoming administration of President-elect Donald Trump. The 2016 Republican Party platform explicitly advocates transferring federal lands to the states; changing the 1906 Antiquities Act to thwart future presidents from designating new national parks or monuments; scaling back Environmental Protection Agency regulations; and withdrawing from international climate-change agreements. And Trump seems to be taking that platform seriously: Early candidates to head his Department of the Interior, which oversees the NPS, reportedly include oil industry executive Forrest Lucas and former Alaska governor Sarah Palin. High on the list of potential EPA heads is Myron Ebell, an official at the Competitive Enterprise Institute and a climate-change skeptic. “Environmental protection is going to take a big hit,” Hamilton says, “and we’re probably reversing course on climate change.” As for the national parks, Hamilton expects that they’ll continue to limp along. “The national parks are so sacrosanct in our culture,” he says. “I’m skeptical that even a Trump administration would make a wholesale attack on them.” Far more concerning are the wilderness areas surrounding the parks, which could become fair game for industry and development. “The biggest risks,” Hamilton says, “are predominantly external.” Q
NOTEBOOK TRAVEL & ADVENTURE
WINTER TRAVEL 2017
Don’t get caught indoors this season. From dogsledding in the mountains above Lake Tahoe to ski touring under the stars, here are the best ways to make the most of the cold. by W I L L C O C K R E L L
ROLL A FATTY IN SUN VALLEY, IDAHO Riding oversize bikes on bluebird days is the new ski-town staple. No winter trend is as hot as fat-tire biking, which essentially is riding a regular bike modiﬁed to accommodate knobby ﬁve-inch-wide tires that roll over snow as if it were fresh-cut grass. It’s like marrying the fun of mountain-biking with the serenity of cross-country skiing. “When I tried it for the ﬁrst time, I loved the ﬂoaty feel,” says Tory Canﬁeld, founder of the Fat Bike Advocacy Group in Sun Valley, Idaho. “Now a lot of people here just never put their bikes away in winter.” The sport is especially popular in the Midwest, which has a surplus of great trails, including two fat-bikespeciﬁc riding parks in Minneapolis and St. Paul, not to mention the 15-mile Marquette Snow Bike Route in Michigan. But mountain towns are where it’s easiest to get pedaling. Park City, Utah, has a stunning stretch of rolling, beginner-friendly hills spread over 700 acres, and Colorado’s Winter Park has a similar network of trails. But no mountain town takes the sport as seriously as
Sun Valley, which has three designated trail systems that have a combined 37-plus miles of groomed snow. “A couple of years ago, there was only one bike shop in town where you could get the gear and info,” says Canﬁeld. “Now all the shops will set you up.” (Rent through Backwoods Mountain Sports; backwoodsmountainsports .com.) For downhill rippers, the beauty of fat-tire biking is that it’s often at its best when the mountain is not — warm and sunny with old snow. “When it’s not a powder day, it’s a great fat-biking day,” says Canﬁeld, “because the snow is a little more packed down or even has a layer of crust. We call it crust cruising.”
Dogsledding: Winter’s classic deep-woods fun. There’s no more memorable cold-weather experience than being pulled by a team of barking, joyous dogs. The problem is that most mushing options are in northern Michigan or Alaska — places that aren’t exactly dream destinations come winter. But Lake Tahoe is, and locals Brian and Deanne Maas keep 60 dogs on their 20-acre ranch, and all of them can run. Five days a week they bring a small team to Squaw Valley for rides. The hourlong tours offer front-row views of the Sierra Nevada towering above, and in good seasons they run private backcountry tours that head into the mountains for the day (tahoedogsledtours.com). On the East Coast, Thunder Mountain Dog Sled Tours, in the surprisingly hip town of Lake Placid, New York, will take you from the middle of town right onto the frozen lake. Riding on big wheels in Sun Valley MEN’S JOURNAL
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PAW THROUGH POWDER
As usual, you saw that coming. There are a lot of things that are easy to see coming, like man buns and homemade kombucha going out of style, but some things are a little harder to detect. Like that pedestrian unexpectedly jaywalking. That’s why Toyota Safety Sense™ P,1 including a Pre-Collision System2 with Pedestrian Detection,3 comes standard on the new 2017 Corolla.
Toyota Safety Sense™ Standard
NOTEBOOK TRAVEL & ADVENTURE
WINTER TRAVEL BACKCOUNTRY FOR BEGINNERS
Go hut to hut in Maine’s North Woods. Tucked in Maine’s northwest corner is one of the newest and best-equipped backcountry lodge systems in the country: Maine Huts & Trails’ four wood-and-stone cabins. Construction on the ﬁrst was started in 2008 and the last was ﬁnished in 2012, and they’re linked by a series of groomed, double-wide trails that allow for every snow activity, from fat biking to cross-country skiing. The huts are spaced in such a way that it’s about ﬁve to six hours between them, so they’re perfect for either a three-mile, 700-foot slog up to Stratton Brook Hut or the 11-mile ﬂat cruise from Poplar to Flagstaff. Even better, you don’t need to enter a lottery for a spot, as at a popular winter-hut destination like Colorado. But these cabins are relatively uncrowded, and your $130-per-night fee gets you three meals a day, a comfy bed, and a roaring ﬁre to greet you upon check-in. mainehuts.org Skinning by moonlight may be the best way to experience a backcountry tour.
Maine Hut & Trails’ four cabins are perfectly spaced for touring.
SKI TOURING UNDER THE STARS
Ski touring is a one-two punch: a shot of endorphins as you skin up the mountain — that’s right, you ski up ﬁrst — followed by a quick hit of adrenaline as you ﬂy down. It’s become so popular that many mountains now have uphill-speciﬁc trails. A few have rental programs for the skis, skins, and bindings needed to power up the slopes, and some resorts even host their own ski-mountaineering (skimo) races, endurance events that combine cross-country and downhill skiing. And now a handful of destinations are introducing the ultimate experience: full-moon tours, on which you hike uphill under the stars and ski down with the moonlight reﬂecting off the snow like a black light. Both Aspen and Crested Butte, Colorado, for instance, host monthly full-moon celebrations, where anyone willing to travel up the mountain under his own steam — whether
by skinning, fat biking, or snowshoeing — can revel at the top with a freshly pulled pint, some hot food, and live music. The event in Aspen takes place at Buttermilk’s Cliffhouse, where you can gather around the “Cowboy Cauldron” for hot chocolate. Crested Butte’s full-moon tour is at its newly opened Umbrella Bar, which has a retractable roof. “It might be a little chilly, but it’s worth the view,” says Keegan Stoorza, a longtime bartender and manager. “You can see at least 10 different peaks from inside.” And the only thing better than reaching the top is skiing down. “To be able to ski a freshly groomed run under the moonlight is pretty cool,” says Stoorza. “You basically have the mountain to yourself.”
LEARN TO ICE CLIMB Ice climbing looks gnarly. But give it a try it and you’ll soon think otherwise. Sam Magro, owner of Montana Alpine Guides, can understand why so many people are intimidated by ice climbing: Ice looks disturbingly fragile. And yet ice climbing is much easier than rock climbing, he insists. “You have the same handhold the entire time — the grip of your ice ax,” he explains. “If you can kick a soccer ball and swing a hammer, you can ice climb.” And once you get the swing of it, quite literally, you’ll move as quickly as Spider-Man up a skyscraper. Whereas most devotees head for Ouray, Colorado, Magro teaches ﬁrst-timers to claw their way to the top of
ice waterfalls in Hyalite Canyon, just 45 minutes outside of Bozeman, Montana. The accessibility and elevation of Hyalite is a rare combo in the Lower 48, making it perfect for beginners who need a day away from Big Sky. On the East Coast, there’s no better place for it than the White Mountains. “It’s a wet, almost Arctic climate in winter,” says Freddie Wilkinson, co-owner of Cathedral Mountain Guides. “If someone wants a two-day immersion, we do day one at a relaxing area. The payoff is day two: a multipitch ice climb.” Think of it as superhero stuff. mtalpine.com; cathedralmountainguides.com
CLOCK WISE FROM TOP: MATT POWER; JASON THOMPSON; CHRIS BENNETT/AUROR A PHOTOS
Skinning up the mountain has never been more popular, and now a handful of resorts makes it easy to experience the best way to do it: full-moon tours.
SEE YOSEMITE IN WINTER Winter is the season to experience true wilderness — and solitude. To visit the national parks only in summer is like leaving a concert before the encore. For a full sense of their grandeur, you need to experience them when the snow falls. And while plenty of parks reveal their charms in winter — like Yellowstone with a half-frozen Old Faithful — Yosemite is a true year-rounder: All but a handful of trails are open for hiking, snowshoeing, and ski touring. There’s even downhill skiing at the tiny lift-served resort. The key is to stay at the Majestic Yosemite Hotel, which has the park’s best digs and hosts a series of dinners that are run by a rotating cast of top chefs from around the country. You haven’t seen the Valley Loop Trail, Bridalveil Fall, or Glacier Point until you’ve seen them surrounded by pow. travelyosemite.com
The Majestic Yosemite Hotel
WINTER GEAR HOW TO STAY WARM — AND COOL
PETER DASILVA / THE NEW YORK TIMES/REDUX PICTURES
What works on the ski lift doesn’t always do the job when huffing and puffing. Guides Freddie Wilkinson and Sam Magro reveal their solutions. Don’t layer to match how your body feels before an activity — you’ll overheat moments after you start. Wilkinson likes to begin a little cold. He says, “If you start off with an extra layer, regulate your pace instead so you never overheat.” Use hats and hoods to help regulate while on the go. “You need at least one item that can be taken off or put on without breaking stride,” says Wilkinson. Never stand around in a sweaty base layer. Even a minute means you’ll lose crucial heat. “I often bring a spare base layer and switch out,” says Magro. “Also, anytime you stop moving, throw on a puffy coat to trap heat.”
NOTEBOOK TRAVEL & ADVENTURE
Saving the Last Wild River A Brazilian conglomerate wants to dam one of the world’s last truly untamed waterways. An unlikely alliance of hardcore paddlers and local villagers aims to stop it. by S AU L E L B E I N
Starting in the Andes, the Marañón River winds more than a thousand miles to the headwaters of the Amazon.
N T H E M I D D L E of the great rapids at Samosierra, in the heart of northern Peru, the Marañón River makes a sudden right turn. More than 500,000 cubic meters of water per second slam into a cliff shaded by half-mile-high canyon walls, throwing up eight-foot waves that break hard over the rubber raft I’m in with three Peruvian guides. Their faces are grim. “When the river is high, hombre, it’s bothered,” Edgar Vicente, our captain, says. “Until it takes someone, it won’t rest.” As fate would have it, the night before, a local fisherman got tangled in his net and drowned. Ever since, the water level has been dropping. The Samosierra is a Class IV now, scary but manageable. “Adelante, chicos, adelante,” Vicente yells, urging us forward, and we pull hard, digging our oars into the waves. A hole opens beside the boat; I swing at empty air and feel myself falling before another wave catches the raft and knocks me back in. “Adelante!” The raft hits the new current around the bend, and we’re through, laughing like madmen. “Look at it, boys,” one guide says, whooping. “The mother to the greatest river in the world!” That night, as
we pass around a bottle of pisco by our driftwood fire, under banana trees growing out of the rich muck of the last flood, I am haunted by the idea that the river is alive, willing to deal out life and death with the same hand. The Marañón runs from the high snows of the Andes down to the jungle, where it forms a main source of the Amazon. For 400 miles, it slithers like a golden serpent — to borrow the name of a 1935 book about the river — through a vast canyon, often a halfmile deep, marked by Class III to Class V rapids and rustic farming villages. Unfortunately for the region’s inhabitants, the Marañón’s narrow passages and high volume are also ideal for hydropower: The huge Brazilian construction company Odebrecht plans to build the Chadin 2 dam, part of a building craze that might result in some 20 dams on the Marañón in the next decade. If the dams are built, they will raise the water level more than 300 feet in places, drowning rapids and river towns alike, breaking the serpent’s back with locks and reservoirs. I am going down the last 200 miles of this route with a group of Peruvian and gringo guides led by Benjamin Webb, a
27-year-old Australian with blond dreads and a bone-dry deadpan. The trip is meant to be a sort of local hearts-and-minds campaign for whitewater rafting. In Peru, there is a long history of grassroots protests and rebellions stopping big-money mining and dam projects. Webb hopes to bring Lima kids and village kids alike down the river, putting badly needed money in the hands of valley organizations fighting the dams. Over our two-and-a-half-week trip, we watch while the landscape changes with meditative slowness from high desert that looks like southern Utah down to what Peruvians call la ceja de la selva, “the eyebrow of the jungle.” Ferns sprout among the cacti, and chattering green parrots appear in the mesquite trees. Above us rise high sandstone walls, their faults twisted almost vertically with the violence of the mountains’ creation, rayed with the lines of hundred-year f loods from cataclysms past. Though locals have run the Marañón on balsa-wood rafts for centuries, the river is new to commercial rafting. In 2012, Rocky Contos, an American kayaker and explorer with a slate of solo first descents of rivers in Mexico,
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Class III to Class V rapids abound.
TRAVEL & ADVENTURE
became the first person in a generation to run it. Since then, Contos has been working to open up commercial rafting along a 406-mile section of river, offering trips of one to five weeks down what he calls the Grand Canyon of the Amazon. “There just aren’t many rivers where you can do an expedition this long,” Contos explains in the market town of Bagua Chica, a few miles from the Marañón, before our trip. There are fewer every day: The Marañón dams are part of a worldwide rush to dam the last great wild rivers. The Yangtze is flooded, and plans are under way to dam the Blue Nile and to continue work on the Mekong as well. Contos ticks off rivers on his fingers. “If the Marañón goes, it would be like flooding the Sistine Chapel,” he says. The canyon is beaua remote canyon, with tiful, but to Contos Ecuador no way to go but forward. that is not what makes Among the river folk it special: It is special who farm the Marañón because it is w ild. 3 Valley, life beside the First, there is no offimoody river has fostered cial authoritative body Brazil 2 a rugged and indepenalong the river. Also, dent culture. We f loat because the river is through what feels like huge and undammed, 1 the old American fronit’s the dominant force PERU MARAÑÓN tier filtered through the on t he la nd s c ap e , RIVER tropics. It is populated and it’s an unpredict1. Lima by people whose famiable one. “When you 2. Put-in at Chagual lies came, one woman run a wild river, you 3. Take-out ex pla i ne d to me, to just don’t know what escape highland estates you’re going to find,” — where “the landlords owned all the land and says Matt Primomo, a guide from Utah who the crops and even your wife if he wanted her.” is helping on this trip. He points downThe ribereños — river people — tend fields stream, toward a blind curve of Class III rapof scrubby green coca and golden cacao ids. “We could come around that bend and under orange and mango trees. They live find a huge landslide blocking the river. And in fear of lake sirens and forest devils, panthen we’d just have to deal with it.” This in ning for gold on the shores of a river capable of swallowing villages without a trace. In many of the Marañón towns, the men have formed peasant militias, called rondas, that keep out dam surveyors by force. “When we catch them, we discipline them physically,” says Alvaro Huaman, a ronda member in the town of Tupen Grande, an oasis of bubbling creeks and fruit trees groaning with passion fruits, bananas, and mangoes. “I want my children to know that I did everything I could to protect this land.” The ronderos are tough men, mostly farmers, on war footing ready to protect their villages against destruction by the dams: In 2013, ronderos from the villages of Tupen and Mendan brought Rocky Contos before a village tribunal. The hearing ended in an alliance: Contos donated money, which went to buy the rondas’ uniforms and trademark Relaxing in leather truncheons, and he negotiated the one of the rights to keep bringing tourists in. This year river’s many the ronderos welcome us royally, offering waterfalls tropical fruit I could not identify, and get
us drunk on moonshine distilled from local cane. I fend off a push to hook me up with a sexy widow whose husband died six months before of tuberculosis. “You are under our protection,” says Oscar Solano, the head of the Mendan ronda. “Nothing will happen to you here.” But he suggests that it’s a bad idea to show up without someone the locals know — like Contos or Webb — lest you be mistaken for a surveyor. Finally, in the middle of June, following 17 days on the water, the Marañón carries us to our take-out at the Pongo de Rentema, where it joins two other rivers and doubles its flow. Below the Pongo, the river’s character changes completely, its lines dissolving into a chaotic mess of whirlpools and culminating in an eddy the size of a football field swirling by the little town of El Muyo. As we surge toward land, trying to dock, the river spins the raft back like a stock car going around a track.
“WHEN THE RIVER IS HIGH, HOMBRE, IT’S BOTHERED. UNTIL IT TAKES SOMEONE, IT WON’T REST.”
We struggle toward shore, f ighting to free ourselves from the river’s grip. The wonder of the wild Marañón, its aliveness and its terrible power, are all of a piece — and all conceal its vulnerability before the plans of civil engineers. If those men have their way, the river will become placid, safe, and dead. That force that carves through the tight canyon walls will be broken to the turning of turbines. As our raft crashes onto the smooth stones below El Muyo’s wooden houses, the river surges on tranquilly behind us — all the while, in faraway capitals, men are plotting its doom. Q
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NEW The Better Sweater Everybody has a favorite sweater: slim, comfortable, and great-looking. But can you snowboard in it without sweating profusely and smelling like a locker room? The Cotopaxi Libre takes the best properties of that perfect layer and adds a mesh panel in the back (for extra breathability), reinforced seams, and naturally anti-stink llama wool. Prepare never to take it off. $140; cotopaxi.com
Tune In to the World
The Helmet You’ll Want to Show Off Apparently more elusive than world peace? A decent-looking bike helmet. This one, called the Thousand, thankfully bucks the trend of minimalist lids that make us all seem like Tour-wannabes. It has a classic, military-inspired shape and comes with a few ingenious features, too: The latch is magnetic, so you’ll never pinch a ﬁnger, and the logo patch pops out to provide a convenient place to hook a U-lock for securing the helmet to your bike. Guess it’s time to tackle climate change. $80; explorethousand.com
The Transforming Gaming System
Thanks to streaming audio on demand, it’s hard to recall the simple pleasure of a DJ holding your attention with unexpected tunes and engaging banter. The handsome and sweet-sounding Come Audio Solo will remind you. Plus, there’s a 21st-century twist: You can tune in radio from all over the globe with this WiFi-connected player (as well as link to Spotify Connect and any other audio source via Bluetooth). Reggae from France? It’s our new favorite preset. $299; comoaudio.com
Most game consoles stay in the living room, but the upcoming Nintendo Switch is a new concept: It can be played at home on the big screen — though if you want to hit the road, the controller snaps in half and attaches to a tablet-shaped unit with a built-in screen. That means you can pick up the same game on your commute — whenever something as boring as work gets in the way of fun. Price TBD; nintendo.com
The BMW-Lover’s Wrist Candy We don’t always love carmaker collaborations, but the Ball & BMW series watch is both reﬁned and understated. In fact, blink and you might miss the tiny BMW logo at 3 o’clock on the Ball Timetrekker. But you won’t overlook the classic dive-watch design (it’s water-resistant to 200 meters) or Ball’s signature tritium-gas tubes, which make the hands and the dial glow in the dark. $2,999; ballwatch.com
The Complete Multitool Most multitools feel like junkdrawer throwaways, but the Gerber Center-Drive Multi-Tool is built like a full-size tool. (The design aligns the hand and the head of the driver to provide more torque.) Plus, it accepts traditional bits for added functionality. $120; gerbergear.com
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NOTEBOOK STYLE & DESIGN
The Work Force The iconic utility boot — with its chunky white tread — is winter’s best slush slayer. by J A S O N C H E N H E R E A R E F E W pieces of footwear as recognizable as the storied Red Wing boot, with its signature light-colored lug sole and tough-as-nails leather upper. The boot was first made in Minnesota for farmers and miners at the beginning of the 20th century — that crepe sole minimized the amount of mud that would stick to the shoe. This style of boot is having a resurgence and not just at work sites. They’re comfortable, built for gnarly weather, and retain just enough DNA from a classic dress shoe to feel at home in the office. Here are our favorite new variations.
1 | RAG & BONE FLEET BOOT ($450) Thanks to a worn-in look right out of the box, suede boots make an ideal casual shoe. Just remember to treat them with a suede protector before exposing them to the elements. 2 | RED WING HERITAGE CLASSIC ROUND ($260) A bit more urban and sophisticated than their reddish-brown counterparts, these are made from oiltreated leather to prevent the appearance of unsightly stains. 3 | THURSDAY BOOT COMPANY DIPLOMAT ($220) These are the dressiest boots here — note the rich burgundy leather and ﬂat, waxed laces (rather than braided nylon) — which make them an option to pair with dress pants.
4 | OAK STREET BOOTMAKERS CAP-TOE TRENCH ($426) Constructed of tough Horween leather from the famed Chicago tannery, the Oak Streets kick up the design quotient with a decoratively brogued cap toe. 5 | EASTLAND BARRON BOOT ($130) A testament to this Maine brand’s expertise, the heavywear areas on these oxblood boots — where the pieces of leather connect right above the heel, for instance — have been triple-stitched for extra reinforcement.
p h o t o g r a p h by S H A N A N OVA K
NOTEBOOK STYLE & DESIGN 1
Wheels of the Year There’s a lot to love on the road. We looked under the hood, on the dash, and even in the cargo bed to ﬁnd the best. Here’s what got our motors running for 2017. by J E S S E W I L L
The Monster With Manners
The Tailgater of the Year
The Earthbound Gulfstream
2017 NISSAN GT-R | $109,990
2017 HONDA RIDGELINE | $29,475
2017 BENTLEY BENTAYGA | $229,100
When the sports car known as Godzilla made its American debut nearly 10 years ago, it was ahead of its time. The 2017 refresh of the high-tech track star turns out to be just as forward-thinking. The tweaks are mild: The GT-R’s 3.8-liter V-6 now makes 565 horsepower and is tuned for better midto high-range acceleration, so highway jaunts into the triple digits are even easier. Trust us, after a run on Texas’ Highway 130 — one of America’s fastest roads — we never found the engine lacking. And the improved cabin is streamlined and more comfortable than ever. After unleashing a subthree-second sprint to 60 miles per hour, you might want to point Godzilla west and keep driving.
Leave it to the Japanese to create the All-American pigskin-party mobile. The 2017 Honda Ridgeline should convert more than a few weekend warriors, thanks to its lockable and watertight in-bed trunk, which has built-in grocery-bag hooks and cargo dividers. But more important for game day, it has an 82-quart cooler complete with embedded drain plug. There’s also a trunk-bed audio system, which turns its bed-liner walls into speakers. (No, the sonics don’t conjure Carnegie Hall, but they’ll still rock the parking lot.) And ﬁnally there’s a 400-watt power inverter, also in the bed, which dispenses enough juice to ﬁre up a giant LCD TV. No tickets to the game? No problem.
Sure, you could take a plane to get to your remote mountainside chateau, but why spend hundreds of hours learning to ﬂy when you can go door-to-door in higher style and just as fast in an SUV that tops out at 187 mph and dispatches dodgy terrain with aplomb. Say what you will about the Bentayga’s price (it is a Bentley), but the company’s ﬁrst SUV is more than a Porsche Cayenne with deeper-pile carpets and softer leather. Its ride quality feels otherworldly: Adaptive air suspension sucks up road imperfections, while active antiroll systems firm its handling. All this while your and your passenger’s backs are attended to by the sixprogram massage seats.
The New Fleet of Rugged Wagons
BUTTON OF THE YEAR: 2017 FORD FOCUS RS’S DRIFT MODE Judged on specs alone, the RS (from $35,900) is proof that highrevving fun hasn’t been wiped out just yet: The hatchback’s 2.3liter turbocharged four sends 350 horsepower to four wheels as it howls and pops its way (manual transmission only) to 60 miles per hour in 4.6 seconds. But push its Drive Mode button a few times and you’ll access Drift Mode, which loosens the steering, softens brake dampening, and sends more torque to the outside rear wheel to enable smoky power slides — a high-tech feature that pumps up the driving pleasure.
The crossover will surely rule roads for years to come, but the all-wheel-drive wagon is having a late-stage renaissance. The 2017 Volkswagen Golf Alltrack (from $26,950), is an all-wheeldrive Sportwagen that’s more than suited for navigating dirt drives from Topanga to Brattleboro. Despite its added ride height (clearance is 6.9 inches), it handles with the taut dynamics of the underlying Golf. Fans of Nordic cool will drool over the Volvo V90 (price TBD), which brings the S90 sedan’s brawny, laid-back poise, faultless interior, and best-in-class autonomous driving tech to a body style superbly suited for hauling kids and cargo. And the 2017 Audi Allroad (from $44,000), a mildly lifted wagon variant of the A4 sedan, is the ﬁrst model from the German brand to feature Quattro with Ultra, a revised all-wheel-drive system that can push all of the power from its 252-hp inline-4 to the front or rear within milliseconds. It also has an interior that ups the luxury and storage space (58 cubic feet), and it comes with a panoramic roof.
The Less-Is-More Sports Car
2017 718 PORSCHE CAYMAN S | $66,300 The new 350-horsepower Cayman has a 2.5-liter turbocharged ﬂat-4 cylinder engine instead of a traditional ﬂat-6. Purists, put down your pitchforks: You’re right, the four doesn’t sound as sweet. But its thumping, nearly flat torque curve brings brutally fast fun to twisty roads, and there’s more power on tap at every point in the rev range.
The Luxe Surf Wagon
THE CONCERT HALL IN YOUR GARAGE: 2017 CADILLAC CT6’S BOSE PANARAY SYSTEM
Caddy’s big sedan is a knockout on the road, though you don’t even have to take it off the driveway to be stunned by it. The optional Bose Panaray sound system ($3,700; the CT6 starts at $53,495) took a half decade to design — nearly as long as the car did. The Panaray includes 34 speakers, some of them tiny units embedded in the headrests, to produce the most live-concert-like sound system we’ve ever heard in an automobile.
The Proud Man-Van
2017 JAGUAR F-PACE | $41,985
2017 CHRYSLER PACIFICA | $28,595
British brand Jaguar finally built its first sportutility, the F-Pace, and the thing is a kick in the trousers: soulful and lithe, gratifying to look at. Even crossover haters are rightly submitting to its charms. One thoughtful option that proves the F-Pace wasn’t intended just for prowling the burbs: Its Activity Key ($400), a waterproof wristband similar in proﬁle to a ﬁtness tracker, has an embedded RFID chip that unlocks the vehicle when you place it near the Jaguar logo on the tailgate. So you can surf (or bike or run) without the bulk of a key fob on your person or the worry that someone will ﬁnd it in your secret stash spot (the right rear-wheel well).
The strapping new Paciﬁca is the ﬁrst minivan to induce actual lust. Its active noise cancellation and laminated acoustic glass can make Times Square sound as still as West Yellowstone, Montana, while 10-inch touchscreens render rear-seat passengers silent so you can remain lost in dad thoughts. Best of all, second and third rows disappear completely, creating a cavernous, cargo-van-like rear with more than 140 cubic feet of storage — enough space to haul the latest punishment-on-a-pallet IKEA has dreamed up. Or it can fit a blow-up mattress, should you and the signiﬁcant other decide to drop off the kids at Grandma’s and head out on the road, maybe for good.
FOOD &DRINK Punch Drunk Three holiday recipes to kick off the season right. by S T. J O H N F R I Z E L L
p h o t o g r a p h by N I G E L C OX
FOOD ST YLING BY JAMIE KIMM; PROP ST YLING BY TIZIANA AGNELLO; SAUCEPAN COURTESY OF MAUVIEL 1830
O M E W I N T E R , no tradition is as sacred as getting toasted on holiday punch. Yuletide hosts have been soothing their guests’ seasonal anxiety with big bowls of hot booze for as long as alcohol has existed. Northern Europeans have always been especially good at this. In the orchards of England, winter meant drafts of wassail, a mulled, rustic broth of hard cider or ale. In the snows of Scandinavia, it was glogg, warm red wine spiked with spices, citrus, and brandy. Farther south, in ballrooms and palaces across France, rum and cognac were mingled with sparkling wine in various concentrations and levels of potency. The comforting f lavors — apples and cinnamon, oranges and cloves — are better at lightening up a room than any of those fancy full-spectrum bulbs for the seasonal blues. Today the beauty of a well-made punch is that once the party starts, the mess and effort are minimal. And because punches are mixed in advance, you can greet your guests with a warm cup as soon as they doff those winter parkas. They’ll immediately warm to your get-together, and you can go back to getting toasted by the fire.
GRENADIER’S PUNCH This recipe was inspired by the f lavor of grenades, French for pomegranates. ½ cup sugar ¼ cup chopped fresh rosemary 1½ cups pomegranate juice (like POM) ¾ cup fresh lime juice 1 cup dark rum (like Bacardi Ocho) ½ cup brandy 1 oz absinthe 2 bottles cava or prosecco 1. Make rosemary syrup: Combine sugar, rosemary, and ½ cup water in a saucepan. Heat, stirring until sugar is dissolved. Cool and strain. 2. Combine syrup, pomegranate and lime juices, rum, brandy, and absinthe in a large container and chill. 3. To serve, pour half the mixture into a punch bowl, add one bottle of cava, and stir. Add a ring of ice and garnish with lime slices and pomegranate seeds. Repeat step 3 to replenish.
WASSAIL PUNCH The mix of apples and ale is classically English and delicious. 3 12-oz bottles English-style ale (like Bass) 24 oz apple cider 4 oz honey 1 four- to ﬁve-inch piece of ginger, peeled and sliced 4 cinnamon sticks 10 cloves pinch of salt 1 lemon, thinly sliced 1 cup applejack 16 dashes Angostura bitters Combine ale, cider, honey, ginger, cinnamon, cloves, and salt in a saucepan. Simmer 15 minutes, remove from heat, and cool. Strain, add lemon, and cool overnight. Before serving, add spiced ale, applejack, and bitters to a slow cooker or saucepan and heat.
GLOGG My own special recipe, this one is beautifully rich without being too bitter or too sweet. Guard it with your life. 1 pear, peeled and quartered 1 apple, peeled and quartered 1 orange, quartered ¾ cup sugar ⅓ cup slivered almonds 1 cinnamon stick 4 cardamom pods, lightly crushed 4 cloves 4 cups red wine (about 1½ 750-ml bottles) ½ cup brandy or cognac Combine all ingredients except brandy in a saucepan. Simmer 15 minutes, remove from heat, and strain. When cool, add brandy. Reheat to serve. Garnish with orange peel.
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Health & Fitness MARIJUANA’S OTHER MAGIC INGREDIENT + BODY LAB + HOW TO TIME YOUR LIFE + DR. BOB + HEALTH NEWS
Regular exposure to cold can improve circulation and boost metabolism to help keep you lean.
The Cold Cure
We’re used to living in constant comfort — ideal temperatures, optimal clothing, minimal effort. For the sake of our health, it’s time to make ourselves a little uncomfortable. B y S C O T T CA R N E Y A T F I R S T I T I S O N L Y a dark purple absence of stars in a pinpricked sky. Soon dawn sets the glacier ablaze like a beacon. Kilimanjaro. Africa’s tallest mountain rises up out of the sun-drenched savanna to a place high above the clouds. There, at nearly 20,000 feet, winds top 50 miles an hour and scour what is likely the only indigenous ice on the continent. It’s the f irst time our group of amateur climbers has seen it this close, and I can’t decide whether I’m excited or terrified.
Upwards of 35,000 tourists attempt to summit the mountain each year. Usually they spend time adjusting to altitude and then embark on a f ive- or six-day climb, wearing the most advanced mountaineering apparel — waterproof down jackets, insulated trekking pants. Our goal is to reach the peak in 30 hours, with no acclimation to the altitude, on almost no food, on little sleep, and without any cold-weather gear. I’m wearing boots, swim trunks, a wool cap, and a backpack containing emergency gear and water. My chest is bare to the frigid air.
One of our Tanzanian guides watches me warily from beneath his full thermal getup until, finally, he can’t hold his silence anymore. “Please put something on,” he says. He’s not the only one who thinks I’m crazy. Yesterday a U.S. Army scientist calculated that, given our pace, three-quarters of our group of 29 would come down with debilitating altitude sickness. What the researchers and our guide don’t realize is that the deprivations caused by cold, thin air are the point. I’ve been conditioning my body to environmental stresses for six months, dunking myself in ice water and learning a breathing technique that has given me an almost spooky control over my autonomic body functions. I suck in 30 breaths of cool air and focus on the blazing orange rock in front of me. There’s no point in checking the temperature. It’s well below freezing, and I’m already burning up.
I D O N ’ T L I K E T O S U F F E R . Nor do I particularly want to be cold, wet, or hungry. If I had a spirit animal, it would probably be a jellyfish floating in an ocean of perpetual comfort. That’s not just me; it’s most of us. The body craves homeostasis, the effortless state in which the environment meets our every physical need and the body can rest. So we jack up the heat on cold winter days, ratchet down the air-conditioning in the summer, and don sunglasses when it’s a little too bright outside. But it hasn’t always been that way. Humans have had the same anatomical makeup for nearly 200,000 years. Which means your office mate who sits on a rolling chair beneath fluorescent lights all day has pretty much the same basic body as the prehistoric caveman who made spear points out of f lint to hunt antelope. To get from then to now, we faced countless challenges as we f led predators, froze in snowstorms, sought shelter from rain, hunted and gathered our food, and continued to breathe despite suffocating heat. Variation and stress were the norm; comfort, the exception. To survive, we had to be strong. Our modern-day struggles pale in comparison to the daily threats of death or deprivation that our forebears faced. But succeeding over the natural world hasn’t made our bodies stronger. Compare your pasty-skinned office mate to one of our prehistoric ancestors, and
“WE’RE OVERLIT, OVERFED, AND OVERSTIMULATED, AND IN TERMS OF HOW LONG WE’VE BEEN ON EARTH, THAT’S ALL NEW.”
bets are good that the modern-day man is fatter, lazier, and in worse health. And it’s not just him. The last century saw an explosion of “diseases of excess” in the developed world, or what happens when you have too much food and your lifestyle is sedentary. Obesity, diabetes, chronic pain, arthritis, and hypertension are all at record highs. We’ve even seen a resurgence of gout. Millions suffer from autoimmune diseases — arthritis, lupus, Crohn’s — in which the body literally attacks itself. It is almost as if our bodies have so little to struggle against that our stored energy instead wreaks havoc on our insides. There is a consensus among many scientists and athletes that humans were not built for constant homeostasis. In the past, comfort was almost indistinguishable from safety. Now it’s something we take for granted. Human biology needs stress — and not the sort that damages muscle, gets us eaten by a bear, or degrades our physiques, but the environmental and physical fluctuations that invigorate our nervous system.
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THE PROBLEM INACTIVE BROWN FAT We’re born with 5 percent of our body mass in brown fat, or brown adipose tissue (BAT). It’s located in the neck, torso, and under the clavicle. As babies, we’re unable to shiver to stay warm, so BAT does the job for us; it pulls white fat from storage to burn for heat. As we grow older, however, we use other strategies to warm up — the thermostat, more clothes — and BAT becomes inactive.
THE SOLUTION COLD EXPOSURE There’s no more effective way to activate BAT than exposure to cold. That doesn’t have to be extreme cold, either. Even setting your thermostat to the low 60s can trigger BAT, because you’ll feel the need to shiver. Fighting that urge — a mental exercise that gets easier with practice — forces your body to ﬁnd another way to generate heat. That’s when it turns to BAT.
THE PAYOFF A METABOLIC BOOST Regularly expose yourself to the cold, and your activated BAT will fry white fat. What’s more, it will also begin to burn the energy from the food you eat for fuel. (That means the doughnut you just ate won’t get stored in your body; instead, it can be incinerated via your brown fat.) This process can boost metabolism anywhere from 25 to 80 percent, studies indicate, and help you get — or stay — lean.
Our muscles, organs, nerves, fat tissue, and hormones respond and adapt to changes or threats from the outside world. And almost no environmental extreme induces as many changes in human physiology as the cold. Take a plunge into cold water and not only will you trigger a number of processes to warm up the body, but those adjustments will help regulate blood sugar, exercise the circulatory system, and heighten mental awareness. The problem is nobody wants to do that. The bulk of us don’t see environmental stress in the same light as we do, say, jogging. But we should. Because stepping outside on a frigid day in only a T-shirt creates a cascade of physiological responses that deliver benefits similar to a workout. To explain why, you need to look at the human circulatory system, a complex network of arteries and veins that carry blood and oxygen to and from every tissue. In a single day, roughly four to seven liters of blood travel thousands of miles. This blood superhighway is more than just a series of tubes; it’s an active and responsive system. Tiny muscles line the arteries and veins and help push the blood through the body, which is critical for circulation and regulating blood pressure. The second you step out and have a brush with near-arctic winds, these tiny muscles flex. Exercising that system is important: Cardiovascular diseases contribute to 31 percent of the world’s mortality. A main way to trigger those circulatory muscles is to actually go outside to feel the cold. But living in a perpetually climate-controlled environment — in our homes, cars, and offices, or simply by being bundled up outdoors — means that those muscles are never challenged by the elements. Even a fit body with chiseled abs might be hiding weak circulatory muscles. Experiencing cold can also spur your body to activate brown adipose tissue (BAT), also known as brown fat. The primary purpose of BAT is to pull ordinary white fat from storage and burn it to keep you warm. So as counterintuitive as it may sound, the more active brown fat you have, the higher the capacity you have to stay lean. Everyone is born with about 5 percent of his body mass as brown fat. But thanks in part to years of artificial heating, many of us in the developed world have almost no active BAT left by the time we reach adulthood. The good news is that placing yourself in even moderately cold temperatures, such as set-
ting a thermostat to the 50s or low 60s for a few weeks, can activate your brown fat. It’s a lesson that hasn’t been lost on Ray Cronise, a former NASA scientist. He spent 15 years conducting experiments at the Marshall Space Flight Center that assessed how the body changed in extreme conditions, but his career took a turn when he decided to create a way to shed weight that wasn’t focused on counting calories. Cronise prescribed himself daily hourlong walks in sub60-degree temperatures, along with regular exercise. In six weeks he dropped almost 30 pounds. During the process, he developed a deeper theory on health. “We’re overlit, overfed, and overstimulated, and in terms of how long we’ve been on Earth, that’s all new,” he says. We’re living in an “eternal summer” and missing out on what Cronise calls “metabolic winter,” a time when the body adjusts to discomfort and scarcity between times of plenty. As he wrote in a 2014 paper published in Metabolic Syndrome and Related Disorders, “Our 7-millionyear evolutionary path was dominated by two
From left: The author, Wim Hof, and fellow climber Dennis Bernaerts at 18,652 feet.
HE PROMISED THAT HE COULD TEACH SOMEONE TO SURVIVE IN ARCTIC ENVIRONMENTS WITH ALMOST NO GEAR.
seasonal challenges — calorie scarcity and mild cold stress. . . . We solved them both.” The inevitable result of losing seasonal variation, he says, is obesity and chronic disease. As proof he points not only to the population of his home state of Alabama, which ranks second in obesity levels in the U.S., but also to the fact that even our pets are fat. “There’s a connection,” he says. The key to fixing the problem, according to Cronise, is to bring cold back into our lives. Doing so can add just enough mild stress to reinvigorate our evolutionary programming, improve our circulation, and kick our metabolism into high gear. of a little environmental suffering. Back in July 2012, I was at a personal low point while living in Long Beach, California. I had been sitting in a desk chair in front of my computer for almost eight hours straight. Palm trees gently swayed outside my window. Despite my relatively comfortable perch, my legs throbbed from underuse and my back ached. I told myself that since I was now approaching my mid-thirties, it was perfectly normal for my stomach to sag over my belt. I figured a moderate amount of exercise and an occa-
COURTESY SCOTT CARNE Y
I C A N VO U C H F O R T H E B E N E F I T S
sional dip into the organic aisle of my grocery store should suffice to maintain a level of decorum. That was when the internet coughed up a picture of a nearly naked man sitting on a glacier somewhere north of the Arctic Circle. His name was Wim Hof, a Dutch adventurer and biohacker who proved he could raise and lower his body temperature at will and inf luence his immune system with the power of his mind. He ran a training camp in the snowy wilderness of Poland, where people from around the world converged to study his secrets. He promised that he could teach someone to survive in arctic environments with almost no gear. He said he had invented a breathing method that allowed any one to tap into his own biology to strengthen endurance and to put certain autonomic processes — like constricting blood vessels and producing body heat — under conscious control. What’s more, it took only a few days to learn. It all seemed crazy to me. I was sure Hof was a charlatan, so I booked a ticket to Poland to test his “method.” At his training center in Przesieka, Hof introduced me to the basics of body hacking. First he taught a breathing routine that alternated between controlled hyperventilation
and breath holds with empty lungs. Cycling between these helps expel CO2 and fully saturate the blood with oxygen. With a little practice, the routine allowed me to hold my breath for three minutes at a stretch. The point of the exercise, Hof said, is to reprogram the way the nervous system responds to the stress of not breathing. Will yourself to hold on a little bit past the point at which you’d normally gasp for air and you gain a measure of conscious control over a function that’s normally automatic. Hof explained this breathing process would help you to withstand environmental stressors, too, helping you to stay warm — even get hot — in very low temperatures. Which brought us to the second half of the method, which is brutally simple: Get used to being cold, and suppress the urge to shiver. Shivering is an autonomic method the body uses to warm up. Hof taught us that simply relaxing and taking calm breaths would help quell our shivering and force our bodies to switch from using muscle movement for heat to burning fat. Every morning I woke up and made my way down from the second f loor of Hof ’s dilapidated training center to a makeshift meditation room full of rumpled sleeping bags and well-worn yoga mats for the morning breathing routine. For almost an hour, the five of us on the retreat alternated between rapid breathing cycles with facecontorting breath holds. At the end of the session, we tested how the method changed our ability to do pushups. Even after one hour of training I could bang out 50 reps on a single breath, whereas just a week earlier
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H O W T O E M B R A C E T HE C O L D The author shares his daily routine, made up of the exercises he learned from biohacker Wim Hof.
SHOCK THE SYSTEM First step: Exercise the circulatory system and activate brown fat. To do it, go stand in snow barefoot. Or turn the shower cold and stand under the water for a minute. Whatever the source, the goal is to give your system a little shock, then suppress your natural response to shiver. (How? Take a deep breath, and relax. You’re ﬁne. You’re not dying today.) Doing so sends a signal to your body to ﬁnd another way to warm up; this activates brown fat and boosts metabolism. DIAL IN BREATH To alter the way your body responds to
external stress — say, standing in the snow barefoot — you need to train it to metabolize oxygen more efficiently. Power breathing is the way to do it. Begin by taking 30 fast breaths. Inhale for one second, and let the exhale ﬂow out slowly and naturally. (You may start to feel dizzy or cold or experience tingling in your hands and feet: This is normal.) After the 30 breaths, ﬁnish with an exhale and time yourself to see how long it takes before you need to gasp for air. Hold on as long as you can, clenching the muscles in your chest, arms, and legs. When you can’t stand it anymore, take
in a half breath and hold it for 15 seconds. Exhale, then start over. Repeat this power-breathing process three times, increasing the length of the ﬁnal hold each time. SUPERCHARGE A WORKOUT Power breathing can temporarily increase the amount of oxygen your body has to use, allowing you to push harder during any short, intense exercise, like outdoor sprints. Here’s how you can put it to use: After three rounds of power breathing and retention, do one ﬁnal set, this time with 40 breaths. The extra 10 breaths should be at an even faster pace. After
the ﬁnal exhale, immediately do pushups while holding your breath. Do as many as you can. The breathing prep will superoxygenate your blood, making these pushups feel easier than any you’ve ever done. The technique works for more than notching high reps of pushups, too. Try it before any high-intensity workout. PUT IT ALL TOGETHER My daily routine mixes elements of all these practices. First thing after I wake up, I do three rounds of power breathing, followed by a breath hold. I time myself and try to add a minute to each breath
hold until I hit three minutes. Then I do a fourth round of breathing followed by 50 empty-lung pushups. I’ll follow that with a headstand for 30 seconds, to allow blood to better circulate to my brain. Then I shower, starting with warm water and ﬁnishing with at least a minute of an icy spray. Afterward I feel refreshed and pumped full of endorphins. I also do some kind of outdoor cardio — no matter the temperature — three times a week. The plan never feels timeconsuming, and it’s also pretty much all I did to prepare to hike Kilimanjaro. —S.C.
As you might imagine, prolonged breath holding and cold exposure has inherent risks. Consult a physician before beginning, and practice while seated or lying down, away from water, and not while driving; increase intensity gradually. The method should challenge you, not end you.
I could barely manage 20 pushups while breathing the whole time. I think it was that moment when I realized my body was changing, and I went from being a skeptic to giving the method a chance. As I began to trust Hof’s teachings, I found that my body was capable of mind-boggling things. On the first day, I could stand barefoot in the snow for only five minutes before excruciating pain forced me to retreat inside. But after breathing with Hof on the second day, I managed to will myself through 20. On the third day, 45 minutes in the snow wasn’t a problem. Then Hof took us to an icy waterfall behind his house, where we meditated on the banks until the snow melted around us. We sat in the near-freezing water for minutes at a stretch, and then in a final feat to put Hof’s method to the test, we spent eight hours walking up a nearby ski hill wearing nothing but shorts and hiking boots. The combination of intense trekking and Hof ’s breathing technique left me sweating despite subzero winds. And though I hadn’t gone on the trip with the intention of losing weight, at the end of the seven days, I had shed seven pounds of fat. four years later, I find myself shirtless and marching up Kili-
T H E P O L A N D T R I P I S W H Y,
manjaro. I wanted a new frontier to prove, at I realize I’m fading, and it creates an immeleast to myself, how far human resilience can diate effect. I take 30 rapid breaths, and the really go. I’m with Hof and a handful of other world brightens as easily as if I were taking off intrepid climbers, and during the course of sunglasses. My steps are lighter, and I have the the last day we have busted past every estabenergy to continue. lished protocol for safe and slow ascents. Hof’s We reach Gilman’s Point, roughly 700 feet method, I discover, does not make a person below the true summit. It’s about 5 degrees, completely immune to the elements. We but I would later calculate that the magnifypause for a few moments in one gusty exposed ing effect of the wind on skin brought the real area, and it’s difficult to generate the heat I temperature down to –24. That’s enough to need to fight the cold. So I drop my backpack cause frostbite in a half hour of exposure. I’ve and pull out a thin merino-wool been shirtless for the bulk of the shirt to provide my skin with a journey, caving into covering little protection. It’s a temporary my skin with the merino only as measure to handle the cold while I neared the lip of the volcano. I focus on battling the altitude. We check our watches, subA s we c ont i nue up, t he tract away our departure time, rhythm of the march sometimes and find that we’ve more than lulls me out of my conscious beaten our 30-hour goal — we’ve breathing. My mind starts to crushed it. It has been 28 hours wander, and I take in only as and 6 minutes since we left the much air as my brain might park entrance. To the best of our see fit, and I forget to use Hof’s knowledge, it is the fastest-ever technique to lead and control my unacclimated ascent to Gilman’s breath. That’s when the high altiPoint by amateur climbers. tude creeps in. The world dims GET MORE COLD I breathe in the success in This excerpt was created imperceptibly, and every footstep from Scott Carney’s Kilimanjaro’s thinnest air. I take seems to fall just a little heavier. I What Doesn’t Kill Us, 30 breaths and I’m hot. So I take start the breathing method when available January 4. off my shirt to enjoy the cold. Q
Marijuana’s Other Magic Ingredient Products made with an active ingredient of pot called CBD are being hyped as a pain reliever and natural relaxant. Do they work? B y J O E L WA R N E R
p h o t o g r a p h by S H A N A N OVA K
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F O R D E C A D E S the only part of pot that mattered was tetrahydrocannabinol, a.k.a. THC — the chemical component that gets you high. But weed users are now turning their attention to another ingredient: cannabidiol, or CBD. It doesn’t get you stoned, but it may help you feel better. Think of CBD as what puts the “medical” in medical marijuana. Unlike THC, which is responsible for cannabis’ euphoric effects by triggering the body’s cannabinoid receptors, CBD acts on other cell receptors that cue a variety of therapeutic benefits. Low-THC, CBD-rich strains of marijuana, for example, have been shown to reduce seizures in people with epilepsy. Advocates also argue that CBDrich cannabis can help NFL players with brain injuries, veterans struggling with PTSD, and opioid addicts going through withdrawal. Pharmaceutical companies are even developing CBD-based medicines for epilepsy disorders, osteoarthritis, and general pain relief. Now CBD-rich products can be found in health food stores and at online retailers: pills
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Health &Fitness to prevent insomnia, lotions to ease muscle aches, creams to clear up acne — and priced from $10 for stress-relieving chocolates to $100 oils for fighting pain. Many of these products are made from hemp, a low-THC cannabis variety that can be legally grown in 26 states. According to the Hemp Industries Association, sales of hemp-derived CBD products hit $65 million in 2015 and are projected to reach $450 million by 2020. The science, however, is still playing catch-up. Initial studies suggest that CBD can work as a painkiller, help ease anxiety and insomnia, and protect and strengthen neurons in the brain. But while cannabidiol may clearly help those with epilepsy, its benefits for healthy people are less clear, and larger, more comprehensive studies are still needed — tough to do in the current political climate. Not only is marijuana federally prohibited, but the sole facility permitted to grow cannabis for research, the University of Mississippi, only recently began producing high-CBD strains. “When you think about studies on cannabinoids, maybe 5 percent have been on CBD,” says Marcel BonnMiller, executive director of the Institute for Research on Cannabinoids. But products with CBD already have strong advocates, including former Denver
“ONCE I’D BEEN TAKING THE OIL REGULARLY, I DIDN’T FEEL THOSE PAINS ANYMORE.”
Broncos quarterback Jake Plummer. Last year the 42-year-old started taking a cannabidiol oil daily (a few dropperfuls under his tongue) because his old Bronco teammate Nate Jackson told him the stuff worked to address chronic pain. “I had a lot of inf lammation in my joints from injuries playing ball — achy shoulders, knees, and lower back,” Plummer says. “Once I’d been taking the oil regularly, I noticed I didn’t feel those pains anymore. Even my wife, who gets migraines occasionally and would have to sit in a dark room alone, took the tincture and 10 minutes later was out cooking dinner.” Plummer says he uses Charlotte’s Web Everyday Plus hemp oil (the company now sponsors his podcast), which advertises 28 milligrams of cannabinoids per serving and is made in an FDA-approved production
facility. That’s worth noting. Thanks to marijuana’s legal limbo, there are no industrywide standards for CBD products, and FDA investigations have found that many of them contain far less of the substance than advertised. Consumer advocates also worry about uncontrolled production, since hemp has a tendency to absorb heavy metals from the soil, and extracting CBD can involve harsh chemicals if not properly processed. That’s why Jill Lamoureux, an industry consultant and the chair of the Americans for Safe Access’s Patient Focused Certification program, recommends sticking with CBD items sold at state-licensed dispensaries — because laws require them to come from cannabis that is thoroughly tested. If you don’t have access to such stores, do your research when buying products online or at health food stores: Call the company or manufacturer to ask where its hemp was grown and if it was tested and meets specifications. Finally, while the science may still be coming in on CBD’s benefits, Bonn-Miller points out that the compound is harmless and nonaddictive. Just like chamomile tea or arnica cream, it’s another tool to try for mild aches and pains. “Even if it doesn’t help much,” he says, “it’s probably not going to hurt.” Q
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Health th &Fitness ess BODY LAB
DAV ID RE AV Y
How to Target Tight Spots A T I G H T M U S C L E is a weak muscle. Until you loosen the fibers, the tissue can’t get stronger, and it’s also easier to injure. This issue is simple to address, and doing so doesn’t require special gear; in fact, you can use the same equipment you’re likely working out with already. A kettlebell, for example, can easily relieve knots in the calves, legs, and hips. This also means you can release tense spots as you exercise, instead of ignoring problems. To properly release tight fibers, you need to apply pressure while you move the muscle through its full range of motion. (This often means bending and straightening an arm or leg.) Try it with these tools and exercises:
KETTLEBELL An awkward shape makes this weight ideal for releasing hard-to-target leg muscles. 1. For calves Stand a kettlebell up on the ﬂoor and place calf on handle, pressing down steadily into the bell while pointing and ﬂexing foot. 2. For hip ﬂexors Get into a side plank, the bell lying on its side just under your hip; lower your weight onto the bell, then bend and straighten your bottom leg’s knee to work the hip ﬂexor. 3. For inner thighs Sitting on the ﬂoor, press the bell’s handle into the inner thigh, bending and straightening the leg. BARBELL Use a weighted bar in a squat rack to untangle knots in the upper body. 1. For traps Standing perpendicular to the barbell, duck under and press the area between shoulder and neck up into the bar without
lifting it. Apply continuous pressure while you move your head from side to side. 2. For biceps Position arms under barbell, pressing biceps up into bar; bend and straighten arms (as if you were doing a biceps curl). 3. For triceps Place the backs of arms on top of the bar and press down as you again bend and straighten arms. MEDICINE BALL There’s no better tool to help stretch and release the often too-tight muscles in the pecs. 1. For chest Sit with a ball directly behind you and lean back to let mid- and upper back melt over ball; fan arms above head, then out to sides. Chicago-based physical therapist David Reavy works with NFL and NBA players and everyday guys.
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EARLY MORNING: Think creatively. Creative thinking and grogginess go hand in hand, says creativity researcher Mareike Wieth. Why? You’re not as able to focus or ﬁlter distractions when you’re sleepy; your mind wanders. As a result, says Wieth, “You’re better able to think outside the box.” Breus adds that because the brain moves new information from short-term to long-term memory during the ﬁnal hour of sleep, the moment you wake up is also one of the best times to brainstorm ideas; any new information you’ve learned is more readily available. His advice: Leave a voice recorder on your nightstand and use it as soon as you wake up, so thoughts don’t slip away. BEFORE BREAKFAST: Sex. A recent study of 18- to 51-year-olds found that most people have sex between 11 PM and 1 AM . That’s the worst possible time, even if you haven’t had a few cocktails. Late at night, levels of sleep-inducing melatonin rise and testosterone is at its lowest. But while you sleep, testosterone levels start to climb, possibly to repair and build muscle for the coming day. When you wake up, testosterone levels are at their peak. Physiologically, this is when sex is your best bet. That’s not always possible, Breus acknowledges. “But,” he says, “I’d love for everyone to make a point of having Saturday-morning sex.” MIDDAY: Eat. After 3 PM , the body grows more insulinresistant, notes Wright. This can mean that instead of converting sugar to energy, it’s stored as fat. Eating big meals earlier as often as you can is helpful for a waistline, too. One study of 420 dieters found that those who ate their largest meal before 3 PM lost 25 percent more weight than people who ate heaviest at dinner.
Like Clockwork Want to be leaner, smarter, better in bed? It’s all in the timing. By LISA M A RSH A LL
T H E B E S T T I M E TO E AT :
When you’re hungry. Exercise: W hen you can. Have sex: Um . . . whenever possible? For most of us, life’s practicalities determine when we do what. But for certain daily events, there may be an ideal time. “‘When’ is the ultimate life hack,” says sleep psychologist Michael Breus, author of The Power of When. “Knowing when allows you to perform the ‘what’ and ‘how’ to your maximum potential.” According to mounting research, those optimal times are dictated by circadian rhythm — the body’s 24-hour timekeeper,
which regulates not only sleep but also body temperature, hormone levels, blood flow, and gut bacteria. This system has ebbs and flows, meaning that certain tasks done at certain hours will yield better results — for example, exercising when blood flow is high and stress hormones are low. What’s more, aligning daily activities to their prime times can boost long-term health, says Kenneth Wright, director of the University of Colorado Sleep and Chronobiology Lab. “The more we can live in sync with this biological cycle,” he says, “the better we feel.” Take a look at the column at right to see what that means for your day.
BETWEEN 4 PM AND 7 PM: Work out. Almost all of us exercise better during this window, when body temperature is higher, joints are supple, blood ﬂow is enhanced, and the hormone cortisol (known to break down muscle tissue) is waning. That doesn’t mean you should drop morning workouts; behaviorally speaking, there is value to exercising before the demands of the day unfold. But when you have a choice, try to work out later in the day. BEFORE BED: Take your meds. If you have a prescription for a drug labeled TAKE ONE DAILY, chances are your doctor has advised you to take it before you fall asleep. Physiologically speaking, there’s good reason. Cholesterol drugs like simvastatin, for example, work better before bed because that’s when the liver also starts breaking down cholesterol, and the drugs can work in tandem with the body. Blood pressure pills may have maximum impact at night because some people with hypertension don’t experience a natural dip in blood pressure when they sleep. There’s even reason to take over-the-counter drugs that can cause stomach upset, like aspirin, right before bed: The side effect goes unnoticed when you’re asleep.
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Ask Dr. Bob
Our in-house doc answers your questions about health, ﬁtness, and living adventurously. say, and the food contains many other nutrients that help the body process the calcium more efficiently. INJURY PREVENTION
My knees ache when hiking downhill. Any way to prevent this? I feel your pain. On my f irst Himalayan climb, in 1977, I found that the way up was the easy part! That’s because when you hike downhill, each knee absorbs a force seven to eight times your body weight (more if you’re carrying gear). If your knees aren’t tracking properly — which often happens due to muscle imbalances in the leg, hips, and glutes — it can cause acute pain. To prevent this, try a three-pronged attack: First, use trekking poles or a walking stick. Bracing with poles is proven to take a substantial amount of the compressive forces off the knees. Also, try to zigzag downhill instead of following a trail that plunges straight down. The switchbacks may take longer, but they are far easier on the knees. Finally, you need to strengthen your lower body. In the month before a big hike, I’ll do weighted squats and dead lifts to build my quads and hamstrings, and side leg raises and box step-ups to build the sides of the glutes, which help keep the knees aligned.
My weight is creeping up — I know it’s because I snack at work. Any advice? Quit your job? No, really, there’s more at play here than you may realize. When the brain is working hard, it eats up sugar for fuel; this prompts the body to cue hunger. That’s when you snack. Now researchers at the University of Alabama at Birmingham have discovered a way to break the loop: a little movement. Two test groups completed a mentally draining task; then one group rested, and the other did a 15-minute interval workout (jogging two minutes, then recovering one minute, ﬁve times). Afterward, the joggers consumed far fewer calories than the slackers. That’s because exercise releases sugar into the bloodstream, which can quell hunger pangs. Can’t get to the gym during work? Get the sugar release by doing intervals of speed walking outside instead.
calcium supplements increased plaque buildup in the arteries and damaged the heart. The problem: Excess calcium from supplements isn’t completely secreted in urine; instead, it accumulates in the body’s soft tissues, like the arteries. Eating calcium-rich foods — leafy greens and dairy — on the other hand, strengthens the heart muscle and helps keep arteries clear. That because it’s almost impossible to get too much calcium from a whole food, experts MEN’S JOURNAL
I’ve been thinking of doing the Whole30 diet for the month of January to help me clean up my eating habits. Do you endorse it? Not entirely. The Whole30 promises to boost your health, clear your head, and help you lose weight via a monthlong clean-eating program. I can get behind part of the popular plan: avoiding all sugar, alcohol, and chemical additives for 30 days. But I’m not a fan of another aspect of the diet — skipping grains and legumes. Cutting these healthy carbs and sources of fiber reduces your gut’s bacterial diversity, which is bad for your general health. And as an athlete who trains daily, I’ve found that too few carbs just leaves me fatigued. What’s more, the Whole30 is a do-or-die protocol. Eat, say, breaded chicken, and you have to start all over. That makes it extremely difficult and frustrating. For a diet reset you’ll actually stick with, simply eliminate as much sugar, processed foods, and booze as you can. No need to be fanatical!
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I take a daily calcium supplement, but lately I’ve heard it can do more harm than good. True? Yes. First off, the body can absorb only so much calcium, and most of us can get all the calcium we need by eating a healthy diet. But more important, too much calcium can be dangerous. In a new Johns Hopkins University study, researchers looked at 2,700 people over 10 years and found that taking
b y M E L A I NA J U N T T I
The risk of exercising while angry
The month’s most important discoveries, updates, and advice.
Tracker Trouble? If you’re wondering whether to buy an activity tracker to help meet your New Year’s fitness goals, a new JAMA Cardiology report may give you pause. Researchers found that popular wrist-worn devices (including those from Apple and Fitbit) were far from accurate in tracking heart rate; some accuracy-level percentages even dipped into the low 80s. Big problem, right? Not really, says lead researcher Dr. Marc Gillinov. “The only people for whom that may not cut it,” Gillinov says, “are cardiac patients who need to stay within a certain heart rate and elite athletes who must have exact accuracy for training.” And while previous reports have shown that trackers aren’t always helpful for dieters looking to lose weight, Gillinov points out that the devices are useful to data-hungry exercisers who are motivated by stats they wouldn’t otherwise have — distance, speed, calorie burn. “Like a lot of people, I automatically assume the latest Apple gadget will be perfect,” he says. “But imperfect is a far cry from worthless.”
COURTESY OF FITBIT
A common prostate cancer treatment doubles dementia risk Men who undergo androgen deprivation therapy (ADT) for prostate cancer — a treatment roughly half of men with the disease opt for — may be twice as likely to develop dementia compared with those who receive other treatments, according to a new study in JAMA Oncology. What’s going on? ADT works by blocking the production of testosterone, which stymies the growth of cancer cells, says lead study author Dr. Kevin Nead. “One hypothesis is that when testosterone levels are lowered through ADT, the hormone loses its ability to do protective maintenance on the brain.” Given the lifesaving potential of ADT, Nead says the treatment shouldn’t be wholly abandoned. “Just as with any treatment, these potential side effects should be part of the risk-versusbeneﬁts discussions doctors have with men,” he says.
When you’re upset, hitting the gym hard can seem like a healthy way to blow off steam. But according to a new Circulation study, exercising vigorously when you’re angry can triple heart attack risk — even if you think your heart is healthy. “Heavy physical exertion and anger have similar effects on the body; they change heart rate, blood pressure, and the way blood vessels behave,” explains lead researcher Andrew Smyth. Combined, these effects can hinder blood ﬂow to the heart, he says. “If this happens in blood vessels that are already showing signs of disease, such as narrowing or plaque formation, it can lead to a heart attack.” Smyth says the message isn’t to avoid exercise, which protects the heart. Just don’t push your body when you feel like tearing someone’s head off.
Doctors commonly prescribe the F I C T I O N wrong antibiotic. FACT Of the 44 million patients prescribed an antibiotic for sore throats and sinus and middle-ear infections each year, almost half are given a broad-spectrum drug (like a Z-Pak) when they should be prescribed a more targeted antibiotic (such as amoxicillin or penicillin), according to a new Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report. Though often effective, broad-spectrum antibiotics unnecessarily increase the likelihood of your body being resistant to medications in the future, says co-author Dr. David Hyun. Narrow-spectrum antibiotics, on the other hand, are designed to attack a speciﬁc number of pathogens and are also highly effective. Hyun’s advice: If you have a bacterial infection and must take an antibiotic, ask your doctor to prescribe a targeted Rx. FACT OR
the longgame ofliam neeson
Whether he’s taking down Albanian thugs or big-city mayors, the soulful Irishman picks his ﬁghts (and his roles) with care. At 64, he still knows how to throw a punch. BY JOSH EELLS
PHOTOGRAPHS BY MARC HOM
early oneautumn liamevening neeson strolls into a restaurant near Central Park, two blocks from his apartment, with one hand in his pocket and the other clutching a green Stanley travel mug.
Neeson understands the value of playing the long game. It’s a little hard to remember now that he’s entrenched on the A-list, but for most of his career he was a solid leadJosh Eells is a Men’s Journal contributing editor.
I N M A N Y WAY S Neeson was born to play a priest. Tall, austere; slightly stooped yet unflaggingly upright; those searching eyes, that troubled soul. He’s done it half a dozen times already: in 1985’s Lamb (Brother Michael); 2005’s Breakfast on Pluto (Father Liam); 2002’s Gangs of New York (Priest Vallon, who wasn’t an actual priest but wore the collar and wielded a crucifix in battle); even an episode of The Simpsons, on which his Father Sean taught Bart the way of the Lord. Neeson was born William John but called Liam (short for William) after the local
priest. He grew up in Ballymena, Northern Ireland, the only son of Barney and Kitty Neeson, a school custodian and a school cook. His mother walked two miles to work each way and brought leftovers home to their council house; his father, according to Neeson’s sister, “never said five words when two words would do.” Neeson learned the Mass in Latin as an altar boy: In nomine Patris, Dominus vobiscum, the whole deal. Church is where he first felt the magic of performance, the ceremony and theatricality of it — the robes, the candles, the liturgy; costumes, lighting, a script. His parish priest, Father Darragh, taught him to box when he was nine; a scrappy jabber with a strong left, Neeson eventually became the Ulster Province boys champion in three different weight divi-
Neeson with wife Natasha Richardson in London, October 2008
sions. But secretly he was afraid of getting hurt and, moreover, of hurting someone else. So when a blow to the head during a fight left him concussed, the 16-year-old hung up his gloves — but not before winning the fight. It wasn’t easy being Catholic in Northern Ireland in the 1950s and ’60s. “You grew up cautious, let’s put it that way,” he says. “Our town was essentially Protestant, but there were a few Catholics on our street. The Protestants all had marches and bands and stuff. I didn’t quite understand what it was about — ‘Remember 1690? When Catholic King James was defeated by Protestant William of Orange?’ Who gives a fuck?” As he got older, the situation got grimmer. “The Troubles started in ’69 and then really kicked in from ’70 to ’71,” he says. “Drive-by shootings, bombs. I was at university for one abortive year, and we were so fucking naive. You’d be in a bar, drinking a glass of cider, and suddenly soldiers would come in
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Neeson carries this mug everywhere: movie sets, red-carpet premieres, New York Rangers games, even the occasional interview. “It’s a specif ic kind of English black tea,” he says when I ask what’s inside. “Decaf. It’s the only thing I drink.” He’s not kidding: When the waitress comes over to take his order, Neeson reaches into his pocket and pulls out a Ziploc full of tea bags, which he unzips and hands to her. “Could you make me a fresh one of these, please?” Then he hooks a finger into the mug, fishes out the old tea bag, and drops it in his water glass with a plunk. “Thanks, love.” Neeson folds himself into the leather booth as comfortably as is possible for a 6-foot-4 Irishman with shoulders like an armoire. He’s feeling a little out of sorts today: He has just f inished shooting two movies back-to-back — one in Atlanta, the other in London — and he is in New York for the first time in five and a half months. “It’s nice to be home,” he says. “But I’m feeling a bit like a three-legged stool.” (Which, technically, would be the most stable stool, but you get his drift.) He brings up one of the movies he’s here to promote — Silence, a historical epic directed by Martin Scorsese — and asks me how long it’s currently running. I tell him the version I saw was just over two and a half hours. Neeson shrugs. “For Martin, I guess that’s quite short.” Silence is a passion project of Scorsese’s, one he’s been trying to make for more than 25 years. It’s based on a 1966 novel by Shusaku Endo about Jesuit missionaries — Neeson plays one named Ferreira — in 1640s Japan, where Christians are being systematically persecuted by the Buddhist dictatorship. The f ilm has been through multiple writers and actors, but Scorsese stuck with it, and it’s finally hitting theaters this month.
ing man, though rarely much more. He was already 41, with 17 years’ worth of film roles behind him, when he was nominated for an Oscar for Schindler’s List, a role he’d reportedly beaten out Kevin Costner and Harrison Ford to get — but even that failed to give him Ford’s or Costner’s movie-star career. Neeson spent the next two decades turning in great performances in as many hits as misses (Batman Begins on the one hand, The Haunting on the other), until his late-period pivot toward ass-kicking made him one of Hollywood’s most bankable stars. “Liam’s ambition wasn’t to do all the classics at the Royal Shakespeare Company,” his old friend Richard Graham once said. “He wanted big parts in big movies.” Now, in the fifth decade of his career, he has his pick of them. Neeson keeps his coat on for our entire time together, either as a sort of armor or in case he decides to make a quick getaway. He’s agreed to talk for 90 minutes, which I tell him isn’t long for an in-depth cover story. “Well it’s about 88 minutes more than I want to be here,” Neeson says. “So.” That this rejoinder — delivered in his peaty growl — does not incite an immediate pants-shitting is due mostly to the fact that, intimidating though he may be, there’s an obvious gentleness to Neeson, a vulnerability and tenderness that’s plain on his handsome, timeworn face. Before he went around punching Albanians for a living, Neeson was usually cast in more introspective roles — professors, sculptors, and other sensitive types — wounded romantics who, like him, tended toward brooding and self-doubt. Women, naturally, went crazy for him: the lumberjack’s body with the poet’s heart. “It’s not about looks, although he’s a terrificlooking guy,” his late wife, the actress Natasha Richardson, once said. “It comes from somewhere deeper than that. You feel that he’s been through a history.” These days everyone knows that he has. Neeson is a widower, having lost Richardson seven years ago, following a skiing accident. Since then he has raised their two sons alone. Now the younger son is away at college and Neeson is home by himself. He still has his property in upstate New York, a big 1890s farmhouse he bought before he and Richardson were married. “He likes being there on his own, with his pool and his gym,” Graham says. “He’s always been very happy with his own company.”
the subject of Richardson. It must be gutwrenching to have to revisit the worst moment of your life again and again, every time an interviewer needs a new quote. But this was just an open-ended question, I insist. It wasn’t leading toward anything. “OK,” he says, sounding unconvinced. “It wasn’t.” Anyway, as far as his waning faith goes: “I think it was gradual.”
Neeson helps host the New York City Council on a tour of carriagehorse stables.
This is the biggest star going, and he walks through Central Park and stops to talk to carriage guys? Only a true gentleman would do that.” and say, ‘Everybody out — there’s a bomb scare.’ We’d order more drinks to take across the street, then the soldiers would go off and we’d filter back into the bar. Fucking stupid.” Neeson reconnected with his Catholic roots in 1985 when he filmed a movie called The Mission, starring Robert De Niro and Jeremy Irons. The three of them played Catholic missionaries in 18th-century South America. They had a priest with them on set in the jungle, and every Sunday he’d “say a simple little Mass, break a piece of bread, and read the Gospel for the week,” Neeson says. “We’d discuss the passage and what it meant in today’s world. It was very intimate and very cathartic in a lot of ways.” A devilish grin: “Then you’d go home, have a few glasses of Guinness, and get laid. The delights of the flesh.” Neeson’s part in The Mission was small but instrumental to his career. De Niro, whom he befriended, introduced him to an American casting director. When she needed an IRA operative for an episode of Miami Vice, she thought of Neeson. That got him a work visa and a foothold in the States. He’s still grateful. “A lovely, lovely man,” Neeson says of De Niro. “He’s a man of few words — I like that. He’s the sort of guy who says, ‘I’ll call you Thursday at 3 o’clock’ — and if he can’t call, he’ll call you Wednesday to say he can’t. When he makes a commitment, he sticks to it. That’s rare these days.” It was Neeson’s longtime interest in the Jesuits that prompted him to take the role of Father Ferreira in Silence. We first meet Ferreira in the film’s opening scene: He’s
dirty, bearded, his raiments caked in mud — a thoroughly broken man. He’s forced to watch as Japanese Christians are crucified and tortured. Neeson was eager for the chance to reunite with Scorsese, after the very brief experience working with him on Gangs of New York. “Martin demands real focus,” Neeson says admiringly. “If there was a grip working a hundred meters away and Martin heard a piece of scaffolding fall — which doesn’t even make a noise! — he would stop, turn to the first AD, and say, ‘I’ve asked for silence. Why have you not got it?’ Terrific.” (Unlike just about anyone with even a tenuous connection to the legendary director, Neeson calls Scorsese by his full given name. “I just feel I haven’t earned the right to call him Marty.” he says. “Everybody’s always like, ‘Marty this, Marty that.’ You don’t know him. I don’t know him.” ) Scorsese says that Neeson was one of the key elements to finally getting Silence made. “I needed someone with real gravity to play Ferreira,” he says. “You have to feel the character’s pain.”
Now Neeson doesn’t consider himself much of a Catholic. “I admire people with true faith,” he says. “Like my mother, who’s 90 and gets annoyed if she can’t walk to Mass Sunday morning. ‘Mom, you’re 90! It’s OK! God will forgive you.’ ” These days he isn’t even sure if he believes in a God. I ask if there was a specific incident that precipitated his doubt, and his face darkens. “So this is probably leading toward the death of my wife?” Neeson is understandably war y on JAN/FEB 2017
W H E N H E ’ S I N T O W N and the weather is good, Neeson loves to walk around Central Park. “Power walk,” he says. “Get a good sweat going.” He even has a walking buddy — “a real-estate lady” he met on his walks. “You see the same people, you nod, you say hello,” Neeson explains. “Six months later, you’re saying, ‘How’s your kid?’ It’s nice,” he says. “We text each other: You free tomorrow? The usual spot? We do the whole loop — usually six miles, sometimes eight. Fifteen minutes a mile. It’s good.” Three years ago, Central Park was the unlikely battleground for one of the most heated fights of Neeson’s public life. The topic? Horses. During his 2013 election campaign, New York City mayor Bill de Blasio vowed to enact a ban on horse-drawn carriages in Central Park. (The measure was billed as an animal-rights issue, though questions have been raised about the role political donors and real-estate interests played in the proposed ban, and Mayor de Blasio’s actions were later investigated.) The horse ban was supported by famous animal advocates like Miley Cyrus and Alec Baldwin. Neeson, who grew up caring for horses on his aunt’s farm in County Armagh, waded in to defend the drivers. “I’m in the park every day,” he explains. “I see these guys; I know these guys. There were so many celebrities supporting [the ban], I was like, ‘These guys need a celebrity or two.’ ” “He really put himself in the line of fire,” says Stephen Malone, a second-generation carriage driver and spokesman for the horse-and-carriage industry. “It was a complete game-changer. He hosted a stable visit for the city council on a Sunday afternoon, and if he wasn’t there, we might have gotten one or two [members]. We ended up with about 20. They got to take their selfies with Liam Neeson, but they also got to meet the children of the drivers and to see how the stable hands care for the horses. It completely swayed public opinion. That was the moment we knew we were gonna be OK.” Colm McKeever, an Irish-born carriage driver and longtime friend of Neeson’s, says, “There’s a framed picture of him in every stable. It’s the Pope and then Liam Neeson.” McKeever says Neeson’s support of the drivers wasn’t due to their friendship: “We’ve been fast friends for a number of years, but that has nothing to do with Liam’s convictions. He stands up for what he believes in. It’s as simple as that.” The proposal was eventually defeated, and now Neeson is a hero to the 300-odd
drivers, who often stop him to say thanks. “It’s almost like he’s part of the tour,” jokes McKeever. “ ‘There’s the carousel — and that’s Liam Neeson.’ ” Malone adds: “Liam Neeson is the biggest Hollywood star going right now, and he walks through Central Park and stops to talk to carriage guys. Only a true gentleman would do that.” It’s a working-man’s solidarity that’s apparently characteristically Neeson. “If you speak to film crews, they all love him,” says Richard Graham. “He’s got friends from crews he still corresponds with — and I’m not talking about higher-ups, just ordinary blokes. It sounds like I’m blowing smoke up his ass, but he truly is an honorable guy.” Ellen Freund was the prop master on two Neeson films, Leap of Faith and Nell — the latter when Neeson and Richardson were still dating. “They had a lovely house with a chef,” Freund recalls, “and every weekend they would invite six members of the crew and cook this fantastic dinner, with beautiful wines. It it was just the most lovely treat. It wasn’t just the upper echelons, either — a grip or an electrician, it didn’t matter.” It was Freund who introduced Neeson to his favorite outdoor pastime: fly-fishing. They were shooting Nell on a lake and needed something for Neeson to do in his downtime; Freund had just come off A River Runs Through It, so she showed Neeson how to cast. He was hooked. “He just loved it,” she says. “Once we gave him the rod and set him up out there, he wouldn’t come off the lake. Every time you looked for him, he was down there practicing.” “When he said he’d discovered f ly-fishing,” says Graham, “my first thought was, ‘My God, that is the perfect hobby for you.’ It’s peaceful. It’s in nature. There’s a lot of skill. And the time goes by like you wouldn’t believe. So I think that’s kind of therapeutic. You’ve got nothing in your mind, other than trying to catch the fish.” Neeson cites the kind of pastoral tranquillity that will be familiar to anyone who’s heard an angler wax lyrical about the sport. “Eight times out of 10, I won’t catch anything,” he says. “The thrill for me is being on a river with my pouch and rod, and I know there’s a fish over there, or at least I think there is, so I’ll do five or six casts. That fly’s not working, take it off, put on another one, try again. Before you know it, three hours will have gone past.” It’s the opposite of relaxing. “You’re trying to outwit a fish that’s been around since the Triassic with a piece of yarn or your own hair, he says. “You’re working all the time — but it’s a different kind of work.” Neeson and Graham have fished together all over the world: Patagonia, arctic Quebec, the Tomhannock Reservoir in upstate New York. “New Zealand, that’s the mecca,” Neeson says. “Big trout. Stunning. Some of these rivers, we’d take little choppers in, and
you’re six feet over the rocks and you jump out. You’re thirsty, so you put your head in the river and drink, and it’s pure.” Neeson seems energized by the memory. “Fuck. I haven’t done a big trip in a long time,” he says. “I’m thinking of going to Brazil, up the Amazon. Heard they have big peacock bass. That’d be a trip.” He would also like to get back down to the Bahamas for bonefish. “The phantom of the shallows,” he says. “Silvery color. They turn a certain way and disappear. Hence ‘phantoms.’ But you need a guide, that’s the only trouble.” He’d rather go alone? “Yeah,” he says. (Says Graham: “We can be fishing side by side, 50 feet apart, and not say a word to each other for hours.”) I ask Neeson if he’s learned anything from f ly-f ishing that he’s been able to apply to his career or to the rest of his life. “Patience, I think,” he says. “Just taking your
through his grief. The stories are designed to divine meaning from a meaningless world — a world where, as the Monster says at one point, “Farmers’ daughters die for no reason.” It’s a movie, in other words, about death, loss, mourning, and the ways we help one another cope. And this, I warn Neeson, is when I’m leading toward the death of his wife. Neeson met Richardson when he was a 40-year-old bachelor who’d already dated Julia Roberts, Helen Mirren, and Brooke Shields. In 1993 Richardson and Neeson co-starred in a play on Broadway, Eugene O’Neill’s Anna Christie, and then, before long, were a couple. Two years later they were married in the garden of their farmhouse, and the boys soon followed. Then, in 2009, Richardson was skiing near Montreal when she fell and hit her head. Everything seemed f ine at f irst: “Oh, darling — I’ve
You’re only as happy as your unhappiest child. And the kids are happier than I — so that’s a blessing.” time. I remember in the early days, if I was casting and I missed, I’d be very quick to cast again. But trout stay where they are — they like the food to come to them. The fish isn’t going anywhere. Take your time.” movie is A Monster Calls, a live-action tearjerker in which a CGI tree (the titular Monster) visits a boy whose mother is dying. Neeson plays the tree, a yew — “the most important of all the healing trees.” He’s ancient and massive, twice the size of a house, with gnarled roots, spiky branches, and a voice like a bottomless coal pit. The first time he shows up, he kicks down the boy’s house. It’s kind of terrifying. Still, you know the Monster is good, because he’s played by Liam Neeson. It’s not surprising that Neeson makes a great tree, given that a noted Broadway critic once literally compared him to a sequoia. (He actually called him a “towering sequoia of sex.” It was a compliment.) He spent two weeks filming motion-capture in a special room with cameras surrounding him on every side. “What do they call it? Not the space. The volume,” he says with a little laugh. “Computer nerds.” The end product looks something like a woodsy Transformer — which, weirdly, makes sense, given that Transformers director Michael Bay has said that Neeson’s regal bearing was his inspiration for Optimus Prime. (“Really?” says Neeson. “That’s news to me.”) A Monster Calls is structured on a series of visits from the Monster, in which he tells fairy tales to the boy to help him work
NEESON’S OTHER NEW
taken a tumble in the snow” is what she told Neeson on the phone that night. But unbeknownst to the doctors, her brain was slowly bleeding. She fell into a coma and died the next day. Since Richardson’s passing, Neeson’s grief has colored several of his onscreen characters, a number of which are dealing with some kind of tragic familial backstory. The similarity in A Monster Calls is awful and impossible to ignore: a beautiful young mother struck down before her time. And Neeson’s own sons were just 13 and 12 when Richardson died, about the same age as the boy in the movie. Did he think about that at all when preparing for the film? “Yeah, I don’t want to go into that,” Neeson says politely but f irmly. “It’s not fair to them. I’d rather not talk about my boys, other than that they’re doing well, college, all that stuff.” By all appearances, the boys are thriving. Micheál, now 21, is an aspiring actor who appeared with Neeson in an LG Super Bowl commercial last year. And Daniel, 20, is a sophomore theater and digital-media production major. “There’s a saying,” says Neeson. “ ‘You’re only as happy as your unhappiest child.’ And the kids are happier than I — so that’s a blessing.” for a while when Neeson realizes his tea has gone cold. He f lags down the waitress. “Sorry, love,” he says. “Could you ask the kitchen for some boiling water when you have a second?” “Boiling-hot water,” she says, nodding. “No problem.”
W E ’ V E B E E N TA L K I N G
SET DESIGN BY ROB STR AUSS STUDIO. NEESON WEARS A CARDIGAN , T-SHIRT, AND JEANS BY GIORGIO ARMANI. SHOES BY COLE HA AN . WATCH BY GREUBEL FORSE Y.
Neeson stops her. “But not hot,” he says. “If you could make it boil. Tell them it’s for me,” he adds. “Tell them I will come for them. I will find them. . . .” Upon recognizing his famous Taken monologue, the waitress cracks ups. “Absolutely,” she says, skipping off. After she’s gone, I tease Neeson for shamelessly trotting out his shtick. He laughs: “Pathetic, isn’t it?” When Neeson made the first Taken movie in 2009, he had low expectations. “Straight to video is what I thought,” he says. No one is more amused than he that eight years later — after The Grey (Taken with wolves), Non-Stop (Taken on a plane), Run All Night (Taken at night), and, of course, Taken 2 and 3 — he’s still getting offered this kind of role. He’s even reached the point of self-parody, turning in comically self-aware, Neesonesque cameos in a commercial for the role-playing game Clash of Clans (as venge-
ful gamer AngryNeeson52) and on Inside Amy Schumer, as a scarily intense funeralhome director whose motto is “I don’t bury cowards.” But in a way, Neeson is just fulf illing an opportunity he first had more than two decades ago, when he was being courted to become the new James Bond in the mid’90s. “I was being considered,” Neeson says. “I’m sure they were considering a bunch of other guys, too.” He says he would have loved to be 007, but Richardson said she wouldn’t marry him if he was. I ask why, and he smiles like it’s the most obvious thing in the world. “Women. Foreign countries. Halle Berry. It’s understandable.” Also, Schindler’s List had just come out. “She was like, ‘You’re going to ruin your career,’” Neeson says. “But it’s no big deal. It’s nice to be inquired after.” Neeson sometimes feels a little embarJAN/FEB 2017
rassed that he’s Social Security–eligible and still pretend-fighting for a living. “Maybe another year,” he says of his action-star shelf life. “The audiences let you know — you can sense them going, ‘Oh, come on.’ But by the way,” he hastens to add, “I’ve never felt fitter in my life.” Neeson doesn’t box anymore. (“I’ll train — the bags and stuff. But I don’t spar. There’s always someone coming up to you like, ‘Hey, you’re that actor Lyle Nelson right?’ They want a chance to hurt you a little. ‘Guess who I beat up today? He’s a pussy.’ ”) But he proudly points out that he does all his own movie fights. I read him a quote from Steven Seagal — “Look at Liam Neeson. He can’t fight. He’s a great dramatic actor, a great guy. . . . Is he a great fighter? A great warrior? No” — and Neeson seems amused. “I don’t know how to answer that,” he says, smiling. “Am I an action guy? Not really. But I do know how to fight. So fuck him.” One thing Neeson absolutely won’t do anymore is ride a motorcycle — ever since a horrifying crash in 2000 nearly killed him. “I’ve read a couple of scripts where the character’s on a motorbike, and I’m like, ‘Is this important to the script?’ ‘Yeah, it is.’ ‘OK, I’m not in.’ ” I tell him about a recent spill I took on a bike, and he turns serious. “You have to watch yourself,” Neeson tells me. “Get it out of your system. Make a pact with your wife. And don’t cheat on it.” Neeson has few vices left these days. He quit the Marlboro Lights years ago and gave up drinking a while back — first the Guinness, then the pinot noir — after he found himself partaking too much in the wake of Richardson’s death. He tries to keep busy lest he wallow. “I need to work,” he says. “I’m a working-class Irishman. I’m fucking lucky: A stranger gets in touch with my agent and says, ‘Could you send Liam Neeson a script?’ I’m still flattered by that. So I’ll keep doing it till the knees give up. It beats hiding in a basement in eastern Aleppo.” (As Richardson once put it: “I think he probably, on some level — although he wouldn’t say it — wakes up every morning thinking, ‘Isn’t it great I’m not driving a forklift?’ ”) Now that he’s back in New York, Neeson looks forward to lying low for a while. “Just recharge the batteries,” he says. “I don’t want to see the inside of an airplane.” He’ll take in some Broadway shows, catch up on all the programs on his Apple TV: Fargo, Ray Donovan, Breaking Bad. He’s also got a big stack of books he wants to tackle — two Ian McEwan novels and a box of classics he recently received as a gift, which included War and Peace and The Grapes of Wrath. And then, of course, there are those walks in the park. It all sounds nice, I say. But I’m not sure it’s enough to fill up a day. Neeson smiles. “You’d be surprised.” MJ
1. Kuiu founder Jason Hairston scans the ridgeline for a big ram. 2. The hunters on their way to the top of 13,113-foot Old Mike Peak. 3. The prey: a Rocky Mountain bighorn sheep.
Cult gear company Kuiu is outfitting a new wave of superfit, adrenaline-craving, tech-savvy athletes who are transforming hunting into the next extreme sport. And critics are taking aim. BY RYAN KROGH PHOTOGRAPHS BY PAUL BRIDE
in New Mexico’s Sangre de Cristo Mountains, and Jason Hairston is getting pummeled. The light is fading, and he’s hiking up a ridgeline at 11,000 feet, higher than he’s ever been. A cold front is passing through, and wind gusts are reaching in excess of 60 miles per hour. Every few steps another blast hits, knocking him sideways. Hairston’s companions, Brendan Burns and Willie Hettinger, aren’t faring much better, stumbling around in front of him like a couple of drunks. The wind is howling with such force that it’s almost comical, so Hairston, who’s on the mountain hunting sheep, breaks out his iPhone to record an Instagram post, looking like one of those hackneyed meteorologists reporting from the middle of a hurricane. “We saw a group of rams on the far mountain, and now we’re heading up to check out another area,” he shouts into his phone. “We’re just getting hammered by the wind.” Hairston, the 45-year-old founder of the hunting-gear company Kuiu, is after his first Rocky Mountain bighorn sheep, a surefooted ungulate that lives primarily above tree line, often in locations so steep and rocky that they’re impossible to negotiate on two feet. “It’s the pinnacle of big-game hunting,” Hairston says. “You have to go farther and harder for them than for any other species.” Among a segment of hardcore big-game hunters, no brand is as revered as Kuiu. The company’s high-performance fabrics — bonded f leece and waterproof breathable synthetics — are pulled directly from the mountaineering world, and its distinct Tetris-like camo pattern looks more like standard-issue SEAL gear than the fake shrubbery so common at Walmart. Today Kuiu camo is as much a status symbol in hook-andbullet culture as Louis Vuitton’s monogram is among the Hamptons set. And it has as many celebrity boosters: UFC commentator Joe Rogan is a fan. Metallica’s James Hetfield owns a guitar emblazoned with Kuiu camo, and Kid Rock has a piano wrapped in it. On Instagram, Hairston has some 21,000 followers who track his far-flung hunts and gear updates and tag their own posts with #kuiunation. Detractors, of which Hairston
IT’S JUST BEFORE DUSK
Ryan Krogh is a senior editor at Men’s Journal.
2 has a few, occasionally use the comments section to rail against his trophy shots and what they see as hunting for the 1 Percent. But it’s hard to say how much Kuiunation or Hairston’s critics will get from this impromptu weather report: With the thin air, he inhales heavily between sentences, and his voice is almost entirely drowned out by the wind’s roar. After stashing his phone in his pocket, he wipes snot from his nose. “Ain’t sheep hunting great!” he says. The three hunters spend the next hour scouting and see a group of promising rams, but with darkness creeping over the eastern plains, we call it quits for the night and head back to camp. The next morning, conditions are far more favorable, so we load up our backpacks and set off in the violet predawn looking for a sheep to shoot. When it comes to f inding big rams, Burns and Hettinger are two of the best in the business. Burns works for Kuiu as its lead product tester and resident hunting guide. Hettinger’s main gig is as a personal hunting guide for rich clientele; he’s here MEN’S JOURNAL
because he knows these mountains better than just about anyone. Once outside of camp, it takes Burns and Hettinger less than 10 minutes to spot the same group of rams two ridgelines over, a straight-line distance of maybe a mile. Hairston has a rare management tag from the Taos Pueblo, a 120,000-acre tribal homeland in northern New Mexico, which requires him to shoot an old ram, eight to 11 years old, that probably won’t survive another winter or two, its molars ground down so far that it’ll eventually starve. Based on its horns, the largest in the group looks like a shooter, but to get within range we have to hike up and over a 13,000-foot peak, then down and around the back side of the ridge where the sheep were first seen. Doing so takes most of the morning, stopping and starting to catch our breath and continually watch the movement of the rams. Now, as the three hunters prepare to clamber to the edge of a slight rock outcropping to take a closer look, Hairston unlatches a custom-made .300 WSM rifle from the side of his backpack and loads a 200-grain bullet
1. Hairston taking aim. 2. Filling up in town before heading to the mountains for three days. 3. Packing out his ram.
“It’s the pinnacle of big-game hunting. You have to go farther and harder for them than for any other species.” into the chamber. “It feels good to finally get some lead in the pipe,” he says. But in the four hours we’ve been on the move, the sheep have wandered into the upper reaches of a grove of pine trees, behind a slight knoll. No shot. The three reassess. They settle on crawling to the edge of the knoll, knowing that Hairston will be within 150 yards of the animals, a strategy that could easily spook them. “We can roll right over the top,” Hettinger says, “but we won’t have much time to decide whether to shoot.” “If we push them,” says Burns, “we won’t see them again — not on this trip.” Both turn to Hairston to make the call. “That’s fine,” he says with grin. “We’re professionals. This is what we do for a living.” YO U ’ L L B E F O R G I V E N if your idea of hunting is paunchy old dudes rumbling down back roads in beat-up pickup trucks. Plenty of sportsmen still shoot whitetails out of tree stands or wait on the edge of sloughs for a flock of mallards to decoy in. But these days, hunting has been embraced by a new breed of devotees: athletic, tech-savvy, ethically minded professionals who like to play yearround in the mountains. They’re often the same mountain bikers and runners on the trails outside Moab or Bozeman in summer. But come fall, they trade Lycra for camo and pick up a rifle or bow, many for the first time. Tim Ferriss, the 4-Hour Work Week guru,
is a recent convert to hunting. So is actor Chris Pratt. Even Facebook king Mark Zuckerberg has boasted about killing the meat he eats. Much of hunting’s newfound appeal is because the payoff is a year’s supply of organic, antibiotic-free backstraps — the new ethical eating. But it’s also a way for mountain lovers to get deep into the outdoors, tempting people who have no desire to sit in a duck blind. “It’s a totally different way of interacting with these wild places,” says Kenton Carruth, co-founder of the performance-hunting apparel company First Lite. “I know plenty of pro mountain guides who are in the woods every day and they’ve never seen a wolf, but that’s because hikers or climbers are always walking around. They’re never silent, still, taking in every sound and smell. As a hunter, I’ve seen a wolf quite a few times.” For adventure athletes, hunting is a challenge that’s every bit as difficult as finishing an ultramarathon — stalking animals for miles on end, packing out hundreds of pounds of meat, navigating through the backcountry in snowstorms. It also offers the rush that comes with having to make consequential decisions in the mountains, just like in climbing. “The athletic world is very physical but pretty sterile,” says Mark Paulsen, a former strength and conditioning coach who has worked with NFL players. “Whether you’re on a football field or on a basketball court, it’s a known event. Whereas you go into the 9
woods, you have no idea what you might be heading into. For people who love the mountains, that’s the beauty of it.” Paulsen now owns Wilderness Athlete, which creates nutritional products like meal-replacement powders for these new so-called backpack hunters. Twenty years ago he was training athletes at the University of New Mexico when a friend took him bow-hunting for elk, hiking six miles into the mountains with 70 pounds of gear. The weight and altitude nearly killed him. “I wanted to throw up, lie down, crawl under a tree,” he says. “I thought, ‘This the most athletic thing I’ve ever done in my life.’” On the last day of the hunt, a bull elk bugled so close that Paulsen could feel it in his rib cage. He felled the bull with an arrow from 15 yards. “It was the single most exhilarating experience of my life,” he says. If backpack hunting can be said to have a celebrity, Hairston is it. Much of that has to do with his seemingly endless series of big hunts, which he regularly posts about on Instagram, much to the dismay of antihunters and even some in the hunting world. In the last six months alone, he has bagged a trophy room full of animals. In July, he shot a 3x4 blacktail buck in northern California. In August, he flew to the Yukon’s far north and killed a 10-year-old Dall sheep with perfectly symmetrical 42-inch horns. In September, on private land just north of Bozeman, Montana, while hunting with his 3
eight-year-old son, Cash, and his 72-year-old father, he brought down a monster bull elk with a compound bow. “It’s in our DNA,” says Hairston. “It’s two million years of genetics. Whenever I hear criticism online I just respond to them: ‘Before you knock it, get out and do it.’” register less as living creatures than as props in a prehistoric diorama in a natural history museum. Their tousled, purplish coats gleam in the sun, and the growth rings on their horns are demarcated by clear, dark lines. With a good spotting scope, you can age a sheep by counting the rings at a distance of a few hundred yards or more. Few people are better at this, or enjoy it as much, as Hettinger and Burns. Hairston met Burns at a trade show a decade ago. At the time, Burns had become something of a phenom in the hunting world by besting Montana’s archery record for a nontypical elk. He’d tracked the animal for three days before sneaking within 12 yards and shooting it with an arrow. The horns alone weighed 54 pounds. He was just 22 at the time. Burns has racked up an impressive series of kills — two of which landed him on the Boone and Crockett Club’s record list, essentially the Billboard music charts for hunters. But these days his knowledge of and obsession with sheep has earned him the nom de guerre Sheep3PO. “The only way to get him to shut up about sheep,” Hairston says, “is to turn him off.” Burns and Hairston hunt together multiple times a year, taking pride in going farther afield than nearly anyone. Lately that’s meant to Canada’s far north for 10-day expeditions with a local guide — a prerequisite when buying a sheep tag up there. “The guides are often excited, because they’ve never been able to take clients to some of these places,” says Hairston. “They’re too difficult to access, but with us they know we can go.” On their Yukon hunt this year, they flew to a remote airstrip near the Arctic Circle, crossed a river via boat, and then hiked three days into the mountains before UP CLOSE , BIGHORN R AMS
the one.” The rams are grouped together tightly, and they clearly sense that something is amiss. At first they dart one way, then another. Finally, they disappear into the trees. Hairston never pulls the trigger. “Fuck,” says Burns. “Fuck.” Hairston slowly gets up and looks back with a pained smile. “I never had a shot,” he says as way of explanation. Now the animals are gone, maybe for good. “Come on,” Burns says. “Let’s get ahead of them.” So we take off side-hilling it across the mountain, doing our best to catch up to an animal that can run uphill faster than most NFL cornerbacks can on AstroTurf. Hairston views the sport as the ultimate proving ground. It’s part of the reason he is so fond of the idea of backpack hunting, which may be the sport’s purest, most self-reliant expression. Before setting out, he often fills out spreadsheets with each piece of gear and its corresponding weight listed in ounces. “You’ve got to,” he says. “Every once adds up over a 10-day period to thousands of extra calories burned.” He budgets two pounds of food per day, divvied up by day in Ziploc bags. He also trains year-round, spending 10 to 15 hours per week in the gym or hiking with sandbags in his backpacks. For mountaineers, none of this is new, but in the hunting world there are only a handful of people who prep the way he does. Hairston has been hunting in one form or another since he was a kid growing up in Southern California. Like his father, Hairston took up football in high school and then college, playing linebacker. He was good enough that the San Francisco 49ers signed him as an undrafted free agent in 1995. He stayed with the team for a season without playing a down, then retired a year later after suffering an injury to his C5 and C6 vertebrae during a mini-camp with another team. His career as an NFL player was over before it even began. “I couldn’t really watch football for a few years,” he says. “I was angry about what it had done to me.”
LIKE MANY HUNTERS,
ing gear and ice axes,” he says. The apparel options for each of those sports, he noticed, was far superior to anything he had for hunting. Hairston had a similar epiphany when realized he was shopping for his gear more in REI than Bass Pro Shops. So in 2005 Hairston and Hart decided to make high-performance synthetic gear specifically for hunters. They named it Sitka, after a town in Alaska. They designed a new camo pattern, made some sample jackets and pants, and then convinced mail-order catalog Schnee’s to take a chance on the line. Sitka was a hit from the get-go, finding a home with sportsman looking for an upgrade from the subpar cotton offerings. By 2008, Sitka topped $4 million in sales and its products were on store shelves across the country, including Bass Pro Shops and Cabela’s. In 2009, W.L. Gore & Associates, the $3 billion behemoth behind Gore-Tex, acquired Sitka for an undisclosed sum. Today it’s one of the largest brands in the performance-hunting space. The deal was worth millions, but the partnership between Hairston and Hart unraveled. Hairston never wanted to sell, he says, and his misgivings became apparent during a meeting about the acquisition. Execs wanted to expand Sitka’s footprint, making new camo patterns for whitetail and duck hunters. In Hairston’s view, this was unthinkable. “You lose the core appeal,” he says. Increasingly frustrated, Hairston left Sitka (Hart says he was simply not offered a job after the sale) and immediately got to work on Kuiu. With Kuiu, which he named after a game-rich Alaskan island — perhaps not coincidentally located across an icy strait from Sitka — Hairston decided to sell online, directly to consumers; that way, he’d be able to control everything and avoid retail markup. He worked with an engineer to create a carbon fiber backpack frame that was lighter and more ergonomic than anything on the market — and that could comfortably carry 120 pounds of fresh meat. He teamed up with the Japanese company Toray, a competitor to Gore-Tex,
“I wanted to throw up, lie down, crawl under a tree. I thought ‘This is the most athletic thing I’ve ever done.’” they were even in sheep territory. This New Mexico hunt is a far cry from those expeditions, but it’s a better bet for scoring an old bighorn. As we crawl to the edge of the knoll for a closer look at the group of f ive rams that moved off downhill, it becomes clear the oldest one is perfect. He has a massive body, probably 300 pounds, with thick horns that end in f lat stubs, the product of years of bashing heads with rivals during the rut. He’s nine, maybe 10 years old based on his growth rings. Hairston drops his backpack and lies flat on his belly, propping the rifle up on his bag to take aim. “The one on the left,” Burns says. “He’s 9
Hairston then sold commercial real estate, flipped a few franchises, and became increasingly focused on hunting. Around that time he was often out with Jonathan Hart, a friend from college. On their first backcountry hunt together, in Idaho’s White Cloud Mountains, the weather f luctuated wildly — cold and snowing one day, sunny and 80 degrees the next — and their gear was soaked nearly the entire time. Both knew there had to be something better. Hart thought about the gear he used for other outdoor activities. “In my garage I’d have shotguns and rif les and bows and arrows, but I also had kayaks and climb1
to develop a line of apparel. During the 18 months it took to produce everything, Hairston blogged obsessively about the process, building anticipation and earning trust among a dedicated contingent of hunters. Kuiu launched in 2011 and was an immediate success. It now sells everything from $300 rain jackets to backpacks, game bags, and tents. Sales are approaching $50 million, at least according to Hairston, and the company is expanding its offerings beyond hunting. The Navy SEALs, he says, have reached out to develop a line of tactical gear (to be released to Kuiu customers in 2017), and even Disney hired Kuiu to create a backpack
frame for its costumed performers. Hairston has plans for the company’s first brick-andmortar store in 2018, and a traveling pop-up store will be hitting the road this summer. With Kuiu’s success, Hairston has fielded a number of offers to buy the company, but says he’d rather be good than big: “I made that mistake with Gore. I won’t make clothes for women, and I won’t make clothes for fat guys, because then the skinny guys won’t look good in them. I want Kuiu to be an aspirational brand.” the shot on t he big ram, Hairston, Burns, and Hettinger get into position atop another rock outcropping, just up-valley from where the rams disappeared. The vantage point offers a clear sight line into the bowl below. But the sheep never show up. The hunters are silent, pondering the next move — if there is one. Earlier in the morning, Burns had checked his phone and noticed a photo about an acquaintance’s recent, unsuccessful hunt. The post basically said the experience of hunting in the mountains was reward enough. “That’s great and all,” Burns said, “but I’d rather get something. You either win or 4 you lose.” Hairston does not like to lose. In the business world his competitiveness has earned him a fair amount of f lak, including criticism by competitors for misleading claims about the performance of his products. But much of the concern centers around conservation. Whereas most of the new hunters packing rif les into the backcountry are doing so on public land, with tags won in public lotteries, many of Hairston’s hunts are through private landowners or outfitters. To some this resembles the pay-to-play hunting model so common in Europe, where it’s a rich man’s sport. Walter Palmer, the dentist who shot Cecil the lion, placed a big order from Kuiu before he jetted off to Zimbabwe. And Eric Trump and Donald Jr., who have been photographed at length with their kills, are Kuiu customers and friends of Hairston’s. Kuiu donates a fair amount of money to conservation organizations like the Wild Sheep Foundation and Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation, which have been a boon for those species. But a central tenet of organizations like these and many state wildlife agencies is protecting species with funds raised by auctioning off premium hunting tags, some that sell for upwards of $100,000. It’s an effective strategy in some areas, but it’s also controversial because it’s hard to know just how much money is going to conservation. It can also come at the expense of public-draw hunters.
COURTESY OF JASON HAIRSTON
A F T E R PA S S I N G O N
“We start to get into trouble,” says Land Tawney, director of the nonprof it Backcountry Hunters & Anglers, “when more and more tags are allocated in the name of raising money, and then we turn into a system where only the rich and elite have the opportunity to get those tags.” Plus, selling high-dollar licenses tacitly feeds a trophy-hunting mentality that continues to f lag the sport — warranted or not — as hunters go after animals simply because they’ll score well on a record list.
the trees. This time, the big ram shows itself clean, broadside to Hairston. He shoots. The report, like a door slam, quickly dissipates in the wind. From below the ridge, the sound of snapping branches rings out — the ram stumbling at full gait into a tree. Then it’s just wind. Burns reaches over and fist pumps Hairston. “You got him,” he says. “You got him.” Burns grabs his spotting scope and runs downhill toward where the ram disappeared. Within seconds he lets out a highpitched yip. “Yeaaooo! He’s right down here.” By the time Hairston arrives, Burns and Hettinger are already Hairston’s marveling at the ram’s thick, almost wife, Kirstyn, violet cape. “That is as an awesome with Cash and Coco of a cape as you will find on a bighorn,” says Burns. “Look at the mass on that thing!” “Awesome,” Hairston says. “That is awesome.” After admiring the ram for a solid 15 minutes, the hunters drag him under a few big trees for photos. Burns breaks out a bottle of Super Glue to affix the ram’s mouth shut, so it doesn’t hang lose. Then we spend the next hour shooting photos: Hairston alone with his kill; Hairston, Burns, and Hettinger with the ram; a close-up of the animal’s horns. After they’re sure there are enough good pics, Burns and Hettinger break out knives no bigger than X-Actos and carefully start removing the hide, everything from the hoofs to the head, to preserve for the taxidermist. Hairston wants a full-body mount to display in Kuiu’s off ices. As his partners cape the animal “When the pursuit of an animal as a staand cut off each quarter, Hairston quickly tus symbol becomes more important than debones the meat, making it lighter for the the experience surrounding it,” says author pack out. Still, the meat, horns, and cape and TV host Steven Rinella, a respected figweigh a combined 150 pounds or so, and it ure in the outdoors world, “you enter into takes three and a half hours to get it the mile very troubling terrain.” or two back to camp. Hairston has turned Kuiu into a cult Once there we all unpack our bags into favorite by transforming his camo apparel our tents, then regroup around a f ire. into a hardcore-lifestyle brand, much like Soon everyone is emailing about the day’s CrossFit, and making himself the face of the events. Hairston texts with Joe Rogan company. That plays well when you’re sellabout an upcoming elk hunt. Eventually, ing products and prepping for big trips, but we call it a night. Hairston heads off to his it can come off as self-aggrandizing once an Kuiu tent, tucking the sheep’s cape and animal is on the ground. head into the vestibule so a bear doesn’t Jonathan Hart, Hairston’s former busiget it in the night. It’s a strange sight, but ness partner, sums him up this way: “It’s it’s hard to blame him: even sticking out of like in Seinfeld, the J. Peterman catalog that the top of his pack, the ram still looks regal. Elaine works for. It’s all about him. Jason is Earlier in the day, shortly after shooting about Jason.” the sheep and walking down to where it lay, Hairston did something almost all hunters A F T E R L O S I N G T H E R A M S in the trees, do. He set his gun and backpack down and Hairston and Burns discuss their options. crouched beside the animal, with his hand By now, the animals may be long gone. The on its shoulder, clearly in awe. And then a wind is blowing, circling around the mounsilence came over him. Everyone stopped tain, and we start moving back to where we and let him have the moment. last saw the rams. Hettinger sets off to track Finally, Burns weighed in. “That thing is where they went. Then suddenly, there they just the perfect sheep,” he said. are, just a hundred yards downhill. Hairston After a few more seconds of silence, taking and Burns take up nearly the exact same in the animal before him, Hairston looked positions they had an hour earlier, while up and agreed. “It’s good to be a winner.” MJ Hettinger creeps closer to spook them out of JAN/FEB 2017
GARY TAUBES HAS UNCOVERED THE BAD SCIENCE AND CORRUPT INDUSTRY THAT ENABLED OUR ADDICTION TO A SUBSTANCE HE BELIEVES IS NOT JUST FATTENING BUT TOXIC. DESSERT, ANYONE?
This past fall, Gary Taubes took his wife and two sons on a trip to a wildlife preserve in Sonoma County, California, the kind of place where guests learn firsthand about the species of the Serengeti. They slept in tents and spent the day among giraffes, zebras, antelope, and the like. One morning, Taubes and his boys awoke early. “It was 50 degrees out — freezing by our standards,” he recalls. “I took the kids to breakfast, and” — his face takes on a pained expression — “how can I not give them hot chocolate?” For most parents, indulging the kids with some cocoa would pose no dilemma. But Taubes, one of America’s leading and most strident nutrition writers, is no ordinary father. His new book, The Case Against Sugar, seems destined to strike fear into the hearts of children everywhere. Taubes’ argument is simple: Sugar is likely poison, and it’s what is making our country fat. And not just fat but sick. So don’t eat it. Ever. A little much? Perhaps. But the kids did get the cocoa — on this one special occasion. For Taubes, the cocoa conundrum is an occupational hazard for someone who
Sweet on You IN THE CASE AGAINST SUGAR, GARY TAUBES LAYS OUT HOW AN INDUSTRY GOT US HOOKED ON THE WHITE STUFF.
and had seen his brash, combative videos on YouTube — densely reasoned, contrarian lectures about everything from the physiology of how insulin works in the blood to why we should eat meat and avoid carbs (which the body converts into sugar). His videos get hundreds of thousands of views and provoke both cheers and hisses in the blogosphere. I am surprised to f ind him quiet and soft-spoken. He pulls out a package of Nicorette gum and pops a piece in his mouth. “Do you smoke?” I ask. Not for more than 15 years. “Nicotine is a great drug for writing,” Taubes says. “I keep thinking once life calms down, I’ll quit.” His most vexing addiction, however, is the stuff he’s spent five years researching. “Sugar is like heroin to me,” he says. “I’m never satisfied with a sweet. I could eat until I get sick.” He tries to eat no sugar at all, including honey and agave syrup, and limits fruit. But he insists, “I’m not a zealot.” The family
As a reaction to wartime sugar rationing, the Sugar Research Foundation forms as an industry lobbyist organization.
The organization, now named the Sugar Association, distributes $3 million in research grants to study the healthfulness of sugar.
Coke and Pepsi introduce their ﬁrst diet sodas, Tab and Patio. The sugar industry responds with a campaign to ban artiﬁcial sweeteners.
PREVIOUS SPREAD: FOOD ST YLING BY ALEX A HYMAN . PROP ST YLING BY DARIUS MILNE. THIS PAGE: CLOCK WISE FROM TOP: COURTESY OF GARY TAUBES; COURTESY OF BEERCANS .COM; MORGAN COLLECTION/GETT Y IMAGES
In the 1980s, Taubes describes his current mission trained for New York as “the nutritional equivalent of City’s Golden Gloves stealing Christmas.” But Taubes, amateur boxing 60, has never been one to shy championship. He was knocked out cold away from extreme positions. in his second bout. His last two books, 2007’s Good Calories, Bad Calories and 2010’s Why We Get Fat, launched a nationwide movement to shun bread and embrace butter. Both argued that it’s not how many calories we consume, but where they come from, and that eating fat doesn’t actually make us so. These were bold statements at the time, and they had a big impact. “I can’t think of another journalist who has had quite as profound an influence on the conversation about nutrition,” says Michael Pollan, author of The Omnivore’s Dilemma and In Defense of Food. Thanks to Taubes’ pro-fat pronouncements, Pollan says, “millions of Americans changed the way they eat. Doughnut, bread, and pasta sales plummeted, and we saw a change in the food conversation, the effects of which are still being felt today.” Now, w ith The Ca se Against Sugar, Taubes launches his toughest crusade yet: to prove that we’ve been bamboozled into thinking that cookies and soda are simply “empty” calories and not uniquely toxic ones. That’s the result, he argues, of a long history of deception from the sugar industry and its support of shoddy science. The audacity of those arguments makes Taubes an anomaly among nutrition writers, says John Horgan, director of the Censugary drinks from workplace cafeterias. ter for Science Writings at Stevens Institute In August 2016, three class-action lawsuits of Technology. “He isn’t content just to do were filed against General Mills, Kellogg’s, public relations for scientists,” Horgan says, and Post, alleging that the companies falsely meaning he doesn’t rewrap scientists’ findclaimed their cereals are healthy when, in ings with the simple, shiny packaging of fact, they’re loaded with sugar. journalism. Instead, he digs deep into the Anyone else would be encouraged, but research, and if he finds it lacking, he attacks ever the brawler, Taubes points out f laws: it. “He’ll come right out and say if he thinks Even these new anti-sugar crusaders, he someone is an idiot,” Horgan says. says, are motivated by a naive, and ultimately With his new book, Taubes will likely dangerous, “less is better” view of sugar. To have his largest platform, and an audience Taubes, the answer to our obesity crisis isn’t poised to listen. By now, nearly everyone more expensive soda and less sweetened cerebelieves that Americans eat too much sugar. als. It’s to stop poisoning ourselves altogether. Most experts agree that it’s a major contributor to our nation’s grim health: More than a third of adults are obese, and one in 11 has L I K E T H E C O N T R O L R O O M on a battleship, diabetes. This understanding has spurred Taubes’ office perches atop the Craftsmancampaigns for soda taxes nationwide — five style house he shares with his wife, the measures were approved by voters in Novemwriter Sloane Tanen, and their sons. His ber — and moves by big companies to ban off ice is a small, book-f illed space with views of the surrounding Oakland hills. He guides me to a low seat near his desk. Daniel Kunitz is a writer based I knew of Taubes’ aggressive reputation in New York City and the author of Lift.
“Sugar is like heroin to me,” Taubes says. “I’m never satisﬁed with a sweet. I could eat until I get sick.” pantry — stocked by his wife, not incidentally — has an assortment of what he calls “crap snack health-food bars and juice boxes that Sloane says we have for kids who come over, because they expect it.” When Taubes wants a treat, he nibbles on 100 percent chocolate. Because who wouldn’t prefer a bar of compressed bitter paste to Godiva? “The type I buy isn’t that bad,” he assures me, and then immediately recounts a story of a taxi driver he once gave some to who had to pull over to spit it out. While telling me this, he replaces his now well-chomped Nicorette with a new one. He will continue chain-chewing throughout the day. Sugar and nicotine, he points out, are connected in more ways than we may think. The Case Against Sugar documents that in the early 1900s, tobacco companies began adding sugar to their products, which allowed people to inhale the smoke deeply, making cigarettes more palatable as well as more addictive and deadlier. While Taubes has been writing and talking about sugar in one form or another since the early 2000s, with this book he wants to do something he says no one yet has: reveal the bad science that has enabled the sugar industry to mislead the public. By rooting through archives and obscure textbooks, he has uncovered, he says, evidence that sugar is not just the harmless, empty calories we indulge in, but that it may well be toxic, dangerous even in small amounts. It’s a possibility that might make you hesitate handing your kids a mug of hot cocoa, too. To get — and stay — lean and healthy, the conventional nutritional wisdom is simple: Eat less and exercise more. That’s what the sugar industry would have us believe, too. (Coca-Cola, for example, now offers smallersize cans to help consumers drink less soda — or just buy more cans of soda.) That’s false, according to Taubes, and the reasoning is part of an industry-driven campaign that goes back to the 1950s. It was then that Ancel Keys, a prominent physiologist at the University of Minnesota, first stated that fat
— not sugar — causes the high cholesterol levels that lead to heart disease. What few people knew, however, is that Keys’ research was funded by the sugar industry. Taubes details how this pattern of influence ramped up in the 1960s and ’70s, as the industry funneled money to scientists and public health officials to combat the notion that sugar was a unique cause of obesity and chronic illness. One of those recipients was Fred Stare, whose work as the founder and chairman of the Department of Nutrition at the Harvard School of Public Health was supported financially for decades by sugar purveyors like General Foods. The most public defender of sugar, Stare repeatedly asserted, even as late as 1985, that it is not “remotely true that modern sugar consumption contributes to poor health.” The industry’s campaign scored a coup in 1976, when the FDA classified sugar as “generally recognized as safe” and thus not subject to federal regulations. In 1980, the U.S. government released its dietary guidelines, drafted by a team led by Mark Hegsted, who spent his entire career working under Fred Stare at Harvard. Taubes writes that those guidelines assured us: “Contrary to widespread opinion, too much sugar does not seem to cause diabetes.” The PR work paid off in other ways, too. Americans now consume 130 pounds of sugar a year, twice the amount we did in 1980. And while the industry told us to embrace sugar, dietary experts preached the gospel of low fat. Both groups assume all calories are created equal, whether they come from apples or apple pie. Such logic implies that a calorie of sugar is no more or less capable of causing obesity and diabetes than a calorie from any type of food. Taubes presents a wholly different role for what sugar does in the body. “A calorie of sugar and one of meat or broccoli all have vastly different effects on the hormones and enzymes that control or regulate the storage of fat in fat cells,” he says. But unlike pork or veggies, sugar has a uniquely negative
effect: It causes the liver to accumulate fat and, at the same time, prompts the body to pump out insulin. Over time, Taubes insists, these elevated insulin levels lead to weight gain, obesity, and Type 2 diabetes and other chronic diseases. Which is to say, we don’t blimp out or get sick because we eat too much and fail to exercise. It happens because we eat sugar. At this point you may be wondering why we haven’t put this whole debate to bed with broad, well-conducted research. The problem is that studies about nutrition are notoriously difficult to orchestrate. Most research has been observational: Scientists ask a group of people what they ate over a period of time and then try to tease out associations between their food intake and any diseases they contract. Obviously this approach is problematic. Even if subjects report their eating habits accurately (though they almost never do), it’s difficult to know which foods initiate a given problem. If an association is found between hamburgers and heart disease, how would anyone know whether the problem is in the burgers or the buns? The best-run studies require confining subjects to a metabolic ward in a hospital for weeks, where researchers can control all the food they take in and measure all the energy they expend. It’s incredibly expensive and nearly impossible to find someone willing to fund it. Billionaire philanthropists John and Laura Arnold are among the few who are. After hearing Taubes on a 2011 podcast discuss the kinds of obesity experiments he’d like to see done, John Arnold, a former hedge-fund manager in Houston, reached out. It led to an Arnold Foundation grant of $35.5 million — money bestowed to Taubes to establish a foundation that would find answers to some of nutrition’s toughest questions. In 2012, Taubes paired up with Peter Attia, a Stanford and Johns Hopkins trained physician and star in his field, and launched the nonprofit Nutrition Science Institute (NuSI). Taubes and Attia wanted NuSI to be a beacon, an institution with the experts, resources, and clearance to do the precise experimental science no one else had been willing to. “I thought there needed to be specif ic studies done to resolve what causes obesity and diabetes once and for all,” Taubes says. “I wanted to put the issue to rest, have it recognized by people who could influence the medical establishment.”
British physiologist John Yudkin releases studies proving that sugar elevates triglyceride levels, which can raise heart disease risks.
Senator George McGovern calls a Senate subcommittee hearing on sugar’s connection to diabetes and heart disease.
The Sugar Association hires a PR ﬁrm. The tagline for its ad campaign: “Sugar. It isn’t just good ﬂavor; it’s good food.”
With sugar-lobbysupported nutritionists on its advisory board, a USDA report claims that “too much sugar does not cause diabetes.”
Citing 20 years of studies, Surgeon General C. Everett Koop says that dietary fat leads to heart disease and obesity.
TAUBES SAYS HE HAS ALWAYS had issues with authority, beginning with his father, who was a photoelectric engineer and entrepreneur who helped invent the Xerox copying process. Growing up in Rochester, New York, Gary also lived in the shadow of his elder brother, Clifford. “He excelled at everything,” says Taubes. “It was either give up or be supercompetitive.” When Clifford went to Harvard for physics, Gary followed suit. But after receiving a C minus in a quantum physics class, he switched to engineering. (Clifford went on to be a celebrated professor of mathematical physics at his alma mater.) It was then that Taubes read All the President’s Men, which tells the story of the Watergate scandal, and he realized he could make a living kicking against authority. He became an investi-
exercise is good for the body and soul; it’s just no way to lose weight. Yet he does look the part of a gym rat. His face is lean, his frame muscular. But if anything, Taubes says, avoiding sugar and carbs has allowed him to keep trim. His lunch order at a local burger joint: A one-pound slab of ground beef (no bun) heaped with bacon and smothered in guacamole — the only concession to the color green on the plate. W H E N I V I S I T E D TA U B E S in October, a number of houses on his street had yard signs in support of Oakland’s Sugar Sweetened Beverage Tax. These are positive signs for the success of The Case — a good thing, because its author could use a win. It’s been a tough year for Gary Taubes. In December 2015, his partner Peter
As late as 1985, Harvard nutritionist Fred Stare asserted that it is not “remotely true that modern sugar consumption contributes to poor health.” gative journalist, focusing on bad science. Nutrition was a natural fit. No other arena offers more complex or thornier issues to tackle or is so dear to the public’s heart. Calling out the idiots here meant Taubes could inf luence what people put in their mouths every day. While at Harvard, Taubes channeled his competitive fervor into sports. He played football and in the off-season he boxed. By 1987, when he moved to Venice Beach, California, Taubes worked out constantly, climbing the steps in Santa Monica canyon, roller-blading to Malibu and back, or running a five-mile loop. At the time he believed the cardio would allow him to eat whatever and how much he wanted. But despite all that calorie-burning, he began putting on pounds. It wasn’t until 2000, when he adopted the low-carb recommendations of cardiologist Robert Atkins, that Taubes succeed in controlling his weight. That experience colored his thinking about the roles of diet and exercise in obesity. Exercise, he now believes, plays no role in staying lean. Taubes doesn’t dispute that
Attia abruptly left NuSI. (In a podcast a few months later, Attia disclosed that he’s no longer interested in talking about nutrition.) Taubes calls it an amicable divorce, but he also says the Arnolds had invested in his ideas and Attia’s competence, and after Attia left, things began to fall apart. In January 2016, Kevin Hall, a National Institutes of Health scientist who was the lead investigator on the first NuSI study, recused himself from involvement with the foundation. He and Taubes had clashed on how to set up the pilot study — research that was supposed to address whether carbs were the primary driver of obesity — and when the results came out last summer, the two men couldn’t agree on the interpretation of the findings or the quality of the study. NuSI, which was founded to bring clarity to the wildly complicated f ield of nutrition, ended up mired in the basic processes of scientific research. By late summer, the Arnolds had cut their funding. Taubes considers the episode “a learning experience in how easy it is for experiments to go wrong. Peter and I
were like the Hardy Boys of not-for-profit research.” NuSI remains af loat, though barely. Taubes and two other employees continue on as volunteers, and he says the foundation still has unfinished studies awaiting results. He will also continue to solicit funding from wealthy investors, but the main hurdle he faces hasn’t been lowered: Spending his career attacking the leading scientists in a field has made working with them rather difficult. But in light of recent sugar-tax initiatives in Berkeley and San Francisco — both of which passed — Taubes seems to be at the front in the charge against sugar. During our interview, his desk was littered with literature from those trying to tax sugary beverages in cities across the country, along with articles on lawsuits being brought against cereal makers. Taubes hopes The Case will provide more ammo for these fights. Still, he notes with some exasperation that such efforts continue to speak the language of Big Sugar: If we all just drank less soda and ate less cereal, the rates of obesity, diabetes, and heart disease would drop. Wrong. Taubes points to the public health initiative of putting calorie counts on menus. “That doesn’t lead to any significant decrease in weight or consumption,” he says, “because they’re identifying the wrong problem.” This is key to Taubes’ outlook on sugar. While you may eat desserts and drink sodas only occasionally and add just a sprinkle of sugar to your daily coffee — while maintaining a normal weight — he will tell you that you don’t know what even that amount of sugar does to your body. As he puts it in The Case: “How much is too much becomes a personal decision, just as we all decide what level of alcohol, caffeine, or cigarettes we’ll ingest.” In an ideal world, Taubes says, his book would lead people to force the FDA to investigate whether sugar is safe, as the agency proclaimed in 1976. That, he admits, is improbable, given the inf luence Big Sugar wields. Not that it will stop him from waging the war. “Once you’ve said publicly that the conventional thinking is wrong on something so profound as obesity and diabetes, you either move on to something else or you decide the injustice is such that you have to keep doing this work,” he says. “And if you have to keep doing it, then you have to take the shit that comes with it.” Just don’t sugarcoat it. MJ
The World Health Organization (WHO) advises that only 10 percent of calories should come from added sugar. Big Sugar threatens to cut WHO’s funding.
Global Energy Balance Network is established. Funded by Coca-Cola, it claims that lack of exercise, not diet, causes obesity.
WHO advises widespread taxes on sweetened drinks. Its president recommends consuming no sugar at all. COMPILED BY KEITH BEARDEN
1992 The USDA’s Food Pyramid nearly eliminates fats and stresses sugary grains. Packaged low-fat foods often replace fat with twice the sugar.
ON NEWSSTANDS NOW
G E A R L A B
You can tell your thermostat, lights, blinds, and locks what to do without taking a step — and with little to no setup.
The Walls Have Ears Want to have a chat with your house? Tech’s big three — Google, Apple, and Amazon — have voicecontrolled smart-home command centers. We tested them to see if they’re worth talking to. by ERIK SOFGE
i l l u s t r a t i o n by H A R RY C A M P B E L L
G E A R L A B
Google Home WHO IT’S FOR Those
1 interested in a basic smart home, especially if they use Google Chromecast to stream to a TV. THE SETUP Simple. Like the other systems here, you join WiFi and then use an app to connect the command center to separately sold devices. A TYPICAL DAY If Google Home is in earshot (“OK, Google” gets its attention), the device can process a wide range of smart-home commands, such as changing the temperature on a Nest Learning Thermostat ($249; nest.com) and
Apple HomeKit WHO IT’S FOR Apple loyalists,
2 who are already accustomed to ordering Siri around and don’t need a stand-alone speaker. THE SETUP Unlike Google Home and Amazon Echo, Homekit is not a device but an app that runs on your iOS device. It automatically ﬁnds compatible devices in the area. A TYPICAL DAY Before even crawling out of bed, you can tell Siri — via your iPhone, iPad, or Apple Watch — to open Lutron’s motorized Serena Shades (from
Amazon Echo WHO IT’S FOR Smart-home
3 enthusiasts not attached to
Apple or Google services. The Echo — along with its smaller version, the Dot (pictured) — is the best established of the three platforms and has the largest number of compatible devices and partners. THE SETUP Similar to the others, though the Echo’s app requires a few additional steps to identify compatible products. A TYPICAL DAY Echo’s “Alexa” responds to the usual smart-home voice commands, such as adjusting
WHO WILL OWN YOUR HOME? Tech companies want to move in. Should you open the door?
The war for smart-home supremacy is in full swing — and it looks like the slew of new devices may be a herd of Trojan horses. Amazon and Google have created low-cost “speakers” that aren’t threatening to pad their respective bottom lines too much. Turns out, a $50 device like the Echo Dot seems less of a proﬁt driver and more useful as a tool to get you to pay for the company’s streaming services (Amazon Music Unlimited and Amazon Prime). Google Home can draw
turning on Philips Hue White Ambiance lights ($130 with bridge; meethue.com). On its own, Home can rattle off headlines, weather forecasts, and answers to basic yet burning questions (“Is pot legal in Aruba?”) from the internet. Its speech recognition is on a par with all the devices here, but Home can also control video playback through the Google Chromecast media streamer or music pumped through speakers connected to the Chromecast Audio dongle ($35 each; store.google.com). BEST FEATURE The Home’s built-in speaker sounds terriﬁc in small spaces. store.google.com $129
$400 with bridge; serenashades .com) or turn on a Hunter Signal ceiling fan ($350; hunterfan.com). We’re fond of leaving the house without keys and asking Siri to close the August Smart Lock ($229; august.com). In fact, after a brief setup, we could lock up and shut off the lights just by telling Siri, “I’m heading out.” BEST FEATURE As lazy as it sounds, it’s very cool to sit on the couch and ask Siri, “Who’s at the door?” — the August Doorbell Cam ($199; august.com) then shows a video image on your phone of whoever’s visiting. apple.com
the thermostat and the lights, even working with the iDevices Socket ($60; idevicesinc.com) to control standard bulbs. But the Echo really shines when paired with a Logitech Harmony Elite remote ($350; logitech.com). After a brief bit of setup, we said, “Alexa, time for Netﬂix,” which made the lights dim, the TV turn on, and the streaming service open. Meanwhile, Amazon continues to pull in partners, including Sonos. BEST FEATURE The puck-size Dot doesn’t have great sound, but it can be placed out of view. amazon.com From $49
consumers even further into its ecosystem with an always-listening bridge to Google Play Music, as well as your Google Calendar, directions through Google Maps, and more. Without a device to sell, it appears that Apple is offering an iOS feature designed to keep iPhone users from defecting to Android. Whatever the ulterior motive, users beneﬁt: A pretty low ﬁnancial commitment means you can mess around with the new tech. For now, talk really is cheap.
G E A R L A B 2
Online Vision Quest Fast shipping, low prices, and free returns are the new normal. So where should you shop?
by JESSE WILL
BEST FOR LENS SWAPPING
BEST FOR MODERN STYLE
BEST FOR SELECTION
BEST FOR VALUE
BEST FOR VINTAGE LOOKS
1 I Frameri
2 I Steven Alan Optical
3 I Warby Parker
4 I Go-Optic
5 I Classic Specs
This New York–based outﬁt popularized online shopping for affordable, fashion-forward glasses in 2010. Though Warby is known for chunky acetate frames, there’s a bigger metal selection here than you’ll ﬁnd at the other online retailers — including titanium and multi-material frames. Shipment is surprisingly quick: Most orders are delivered in ﬁve to seven business days. Frames, such as the Streeter (pictured), start at $95. warbyparker.com
Looking for a bargain? Search here for a frame you’ve already tried on at a retailer, from labels like Persol, Ray-Ban, and Alain Mikli. Or browse thousands of options — you’ll wade through some wonky frames, but eventually you’ll hit on a cool choice like these Capri Optics Versailles Palace 131s ($106 with prescription). There’s no virtual try-on, but if your glasses don’t work out, returns are accepted within 30 days. go-optic.com
Classic Specs got its start at ﬂea markets in Brooklyn in 2010 with a slew of fashionable acetate models, and offers a free ﬁve-frame home-trial kit à la Warby Parker. The key difference? Most of the frames in Classic’s lineup, like the Bedford in Brandy Tortoise ($95), are based on a speciﬁc vintage look. The result is a new pair of glasses that is by deﬁnition timeless. Shop here if you want to give your look a throwback nod. classic specs.com
Hunt for glasses here if you rely on eyewear to shift your personal style on the regular: The Cincinnatibased retailer sells 70 handsome frames for men grouped into “collections,” which allow you to interchange all frames in the same family with one pair of $50 prescription lenses. The glasses (like the Roebling, above, from the medium-size Tidal collection) are hand-built in Italy and cost $139 in acetate and $169 in acetate and metal. frameri.com
The lifestyle retailer’s foray into eyewear features a tight selection (currently 25 frames, designed in New York City) that has a clean, modern look without veering toward full-Kanye futurism. Shopping the site by face shape (square, round, or oval) helps avoid a costly mistake, and most frames are $195, which includes prescription lenses. Some, like the Seigel model shown here, are $205. stevenalan optical.com
p h o t o g r a p h by S H A N A N OVA K
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G E A R L A B
This PVC duffel can easily hold a tent, a backpack, climbing equipment — in fact, all the gear shown on this page.
How to Bag a Big Adventure If your travels take you off the beaten path and beyond run-of-the-mill sightseeing, you’ll need luggage that can handle the abuse — and swallow all your gear. By BERNE BROUDY
BEST FOR BASE-CAMP STORAGE
1 I Ortlieb Duffel RS 85-140 L The padlock-ready waterproof zips on Ortlieb’s 140-liter duffel protect your gear from ﬂash storms and prying ﬁngers. Sturdy polyurethane wheels help you roll your load over rugged terrain to camp. On longer trips you’ll appreciate the multiple lash points, which fasten this beast to the roof of a jeep or the back of a pack mule. $315; ortliebusa.com
p h o t o g r a p h by S H A N A N OVA K
BEST FOR BRIEF EXCURSIONS
2 I Flowfold Stormproof Duffel At 40 liters, the Stormproof Duffel provides plenty of storage for a serious weekend kit yet keeps everything compact enough for an overhead bin. We found the end pocket ideal for stashing tickets and snacks en route, and once we arrived, the stiff sailcloth and waterproof zips held up well during a scramble over sharp volcanic rock to a secret swimming hole. $98; flowfold.com
BEST FOR ROAD TRIPS
3 I Tepui Expedition Series Gear Container 4
The boxy design allows Tepui’s 120-liter gear locker to stack efficiently on a roof rack; internal dividers organize your wardrobe or camp kitchen; and dirt and spills wipe away easily from the resin-coated poly-canvas body. Meanwhile, the rugged wheels smoothly ferried our heavy load to campsites. $190; tepuitents.com
BEST FOR ROLLING OR CARRYING
4 I Osprey Meridian Convertible 75L If you hit a rough trail when rolling this bag, simply unzip the back pocket to convert it into a backpack. The Meridian features the most comfortable shoulder harness we’ve ever used with a conversion pack, and the removable day bag was perfectly sized for short hikes in the Chilean Atacama. $380; ospreypacks.com
BEST FOR ORGANIZED TRAVEL
5 I Dakine Split Roller 5
To ensure neatly partitioned packing, Dakine put four zippered mesh compartments inside its heavy-duty recycled-polyester split roller. On a recent trip from Vermont to Qatar and on to Kathmandu, we felt totally orderly despite traveling with a mess of cycling and aprèstrek equipment. The bag comes in two sizes: 85 and 110 liters. $200, $210; dakine.com
BEST FOR PORTABLE POWER
6 I Lander Timp 25 Plus 7800
PROP ST YLING BY PETER TR AN FOR ART DEPARTMENT
mAh Charger Any backpack can carry a power bank, but what makes this Lander exceptional (aside from its water-resistant ripstop nylon) is the dedicated pocket that keeps the power handy just inside the main hull. And with 7,800 mAh of capacity, you’ll have enough juice to charge a GoPro ﬁve times. $199; lander.com
BEST FOR BACKUP STORAGE
7 I Eagle Creek Cargo Hauler Duffel Sometimes you come home with more stuff than you left with. The Cargo Hauler is great backup: When collapsed, it ﬁts in the side pocket of a suitcase. We packed one for an excursion to Greenland, giving us a hearty duffel on location and extra storage for the trip home. It comes in four sizes, but even the XL model (120 liters) weighs less than three pounds. $89–$119; eaglecreek.com
G E A R L A B 1
Gym Class Heroes An average pair no longer cuts it — so these athletic shorts are pumped up with tech and features.
by JESSE WILL
To ﬁght stink, rinse shorts in the shower or use a detergent like Win Blue that removes body oil from synthetics.
1 I Tough Enough Getting brutal with the barbell? Nix your shredded sweats for the Lululemon License to Train Short. Its abrasion-resistant panels look new even after months of intense, high-friction training. Even better, the straightforward styling doesn’t scream workout. lululemon.com $78
2 I Junk Drawers When you’re torching the treadmill, chaﬁng is your archenemy. Avoid it with the SAXX Kinetic Run Short, a micromesh brief with a compartment for your man parts. And the stretchwoven outer has a zippered pocket so you won’t lose your loose change. saxxunderwear.com $75
3 I Light & Cool We doubted the worthiness of the wispy Adidas Outdoor Terrex Agravic Shorts — made from a waterproof, breathable fabric, they’re just 2.3 ounces — but our test proved this pair to be an ideal match for dead lifts, upside-down rows, and the like, both indoors and out. adidasoutdoor.com $79
4 I A Phone’s Friend ST YLING BY MEGUMI EMOTO FOR ANDERSON HOPKINS
Whether you’re logging reps or scanning Spotify for motivating beats, the smartphone is a weight-room essential. The Kippo Workout Shorts are the only ones here with a vertically oriented dedicated phone pocket that keeps your handset at your hip, out of the way of the weights. kipposhorts.com $59
5 I Funk Fighters Skipped the laundry? No problem. The RYU 2N1 Short uses a bacteriostatic carbon mesh to fend off odors in the liner. Its laser-cut venting and extra stretch mean the outer layer is just as smart. ryu.com $65
p h o t o g r a p h by S H A N A N OVA K
G E A R L A B
Tools of Rock
Attention rock gods and wannabes: New gear allows you to customize sounds like never before. It’s time to channel your inner Hendrix. by CLINT CARTER
1 I Custom Fender
2 I SoundShifting Amp
3 I Band in a Box
Your guitar should look as good as it sounds. So earlier this year, Fender, the company with 65 years of experience in making solid-body electrics, launched the online Mod Shop. Consumers can personalize six- and four-string instruments by handpicking colors, tuning keys, fret-board wood, and more. From $1,650; fendermodshop.com
The Line 6 Ampliﬁ (available in 30-, 75-, or 150-watt sizes) is a chameleon of an ampliﬁer. Using an app, you can program it to mimic any of 78 classic cabinets, and then dial in reverb, chorus, and other effects. You can even pull up familiar settings — like the distortion in Led Zeppelin’s “Whole Lotta Love.” From $330; line6.com
This is no ordinary guitar looper. After you lay down some riffs, use the Digitech Trio+ Band Creator to add a backing band — both drums and bass — which you can customize to ﬁt your playing style. We used it to record songs by layering simple guitar licks over three-chord melodies, and the results were surprisingly tasty. $299; digitech.com
4 I A Cure for Bad Memory
5 I Psychedelic Tool Kit
Never forget another original riff: The pedalactivated TC Electronic WireTap Riff Recorder saves eight hours of your best (and worst) work and sends it to an app for easy playback and reference. Use your recorded jams to jog your memory for later songwriting sessions or to create original loops for GarageBand. $100; tcelectronic.com
Is it 4:20 yet? The Electro-Harmonix Mel9 Tape Replay Machine re-creates the moody analog effects of vintage Mellotron keyboards (which the Beatles notably used on “Strawberry Fields Forever”). The humble stomp-box turns your six-string into a cello, ﬂute, choir, or ﬁve other lush orchestral effects. $295; ehx.com
6 I Mini Recording Studio
Your phone’s microphone makes you sound ﬂat and washed out. The Focusrite iTrack Pocket (for iPhone only) lets you plug in your guitar (it takes a standard instrument cable) and record your voice on a front-panel microphone. When you’re done, master the track with the included app. $70; itrack .focusrite.com
PROP ST YLING BY PETER TR AN FOR ART DEPARTMENT
4 p h o t o g r a p h by S H A N A N OVA K
G E A R L A B
Forget layering as much ﬂeece on your body as possible. High-tech materials and innovative designs make winter camping not only doable but even pleasant. BEST FOR VALUE by CLINT CARTER
Slumberjack In-Season 2 First-time snow campers will appreciate a heavy, warm polyester tent with a sub-$300 price tag. They’ll also appreciate its spacious ﬂoor plan: 37 square feet of ground coverage. The tent is rated to ﬁt two sleeping bags, but we found that if you store your gear outside, under a vestibule, it could handle three. And packing in shoulder-to-shoulder will help keep you just that much warmer. slumberjack.com $270 BEST FOR GROUP ADVENTURES
BEST FOR HIKING IN
MSR Access 2
The North Face Bastion 4
With its newest tent, MSR replaced traditional aluminum poles with ones built from a stiff aerospace-grade composite that’s 80 percent less likely to bend. As a result, the structure can withstand wintery gusts despite its simple geometry. We set it up in about three minutes (no instructions required), and at just over 3.5 pounds, it packs up easily for a long snowshoe hike in. msrgear.com $600
At 13 pounds, this isn’t a tent for overnight hikes. But if you plan to set up a base camp and spend a few days, you won’t ﬁnd a better shelter. The ripstopnylon ﬂy is twice as strong as on previous models, and the waterresistant windows — typically a weak point in winter tents — can withstand –60 degrees. thenorthface.com $849
The preference is usually a spacious tent, but smaller spaces will warm up faster at night, thanks to body heat.
BEST FOR CAR CAMPING
Tepui Kukenam Sky with Weatherhood Tepui’s rooftop shelter saves the discomfort of the cold ground and provides a stable 56- by 96-inch area to spend the night when campsites are closed for the season. The waterproof ripstop polyester is heavy enough to endure most cold fronts, but the optional Weatherhood ($225, not shown) will survive a blizzard. tepuitents.com $1,425
TIPS TO F IG H T T H E FREEZE Even with the right gear, a little know-how goes a long way. These cold-weather experts offer tips toward surviving a winter camping adventure.
SHED LAYERS “You actually want to be comfortably cool,” says David Jonas, a wilderness guide in Alaska. “Sweat will dampen clothing and reduce its insulating value.” Start your hike wearing plenty of layers, and remove them as needed. “Then when you stop, pull your jacket on immediately.”
LET THE STEAM OUT “You don’t realize how much moisture you put off until you go winter camping,” says Sean Ferrier, associate program director at the Boy Scouts of America. Your tent is going to become covered in frost if you allow breath to turn into condensation. Make sure to open all the vents in your tent.
SLEEP WITH YOUR BOOTS There’s nothing worse than trying to pull stiff, frozen leather onto your feet in the morning. Pack your dry boots, or their liners, inside your bag. “I like to sleep with the liners under my armpits,” says Ferrier. “Anything you don’t want to freeze needs to stay close to your body.”
WARM UP YOUR BAG Want the next best thing to heat in your tent? About half an hour before you go to bed, use your camp stove to boil a pot of water, and pour it into a Nalgene bottle. Then shove that into the foot of your bag, as far down as you can get it. “When you get in, it will be nice and toasty,” says Ferrier.
THE BAGS BEST FOR CAMPSITE LOUNGING
BEST FOR WET CONDITIONS
Sierra Designs Zissou Plus 0
A zipper runs the length of one side and along the bottom, making the Sueño the most versatile option here. Open the 15-degree bag all the way to form a blanket, or crack open just the foot bed so you can wear it around a cold campsite like a down-ﬁlled toga. We liked the well-placed internal pockets. One by the chest lets us keep our cell phone close, while a pocket in the hood let us stuff in clothing to form a pillow. cotopaxi.com $350
Down provides maximum insulation for minimal weight, but it begins releasing heat the moment it gets wet. Sierra Designs coated its plumage with a thin water-repelling polymer that resists moisture and, in case it does get wet, dries 33 percent faster than untreated down. Ideal for early or late season camping, when the snow is turning to slush. sierradesigns.com $270
BEST FOR LIGHT HIKING
BEST FOR CHANGING WEATHER
BEST FOR VALUE
NEMO Sonic 0
Mountain Hardwear Bozeman Torch 0
If you’re willing to sleep in the puffy jacket you hiked in, then you can cut considerable weight from your pack with the Hybrid. It’s insulated like a 10-degree bag, while the top is nothing more than water-repellent ripstop nylon that goes over a jacket. Wearing just a T-shirt, we found it comfortable in fall, too. It weighs just over a pound. patagonia.com $299
This bag became an instant classic thanks to its adjustability. If you’re too warm, you can open a set of vents running the length of the midsection to cool things off by as much as 20 degrees, or unzip them just halfway for less cool air. This worked well during a January trip to the Adirondacks when a bagplus-jacket combo got too hot. nemoequipment .com $500
Instead of down, the Torch has a combination of stiff and soft synthetic ﬁbers — a marriage that provides both structure and supreme warmth. The result is a bag that outperforms its price tag and weighs in at a reasonable three pounds, 14 ounces. Nice perk: The microﬂeece-lined stuff sack makes a perfect pillow case. mountain hardwear.com $139
The Last Word reporting, or having a fair-minded spirit — they’re single-minded and out to get what they want. There is no seeing the story from the other side. They say as an excuse: “I don’t have the time.” Well, make the time, goddammit.
What did you learn about work from your father? I’m the only son of a very prideful tailor. He didn’t make a lot of money, but boy, he took pride in the suits he made. He once told me, “Son, when you look for a job, never ask what it pays.” Instead, he said, master the job, because if you become really good at what you do, the money will come. Conventional wisdom will tell you differently: Hustle, get an agent, ask for a lot, and settle for less. I never did that. And although I wasn’t a tailor, I wrote like one. I cared about every stitch and every button, and I wanted my work to hold up, fit well, and to last. Good work is never easily done. I believed my father, and you know something, he was absolutely right.
Gay Talese The author and man-about-town on handling defeat, writing like a tailor, and facing each and every day with a dry martini. What’s the best advice you ever got? It came from baseball. I was 12 years old, growing up in New Jersey in 1944, and the New York Yankees had spring training in Atlantic City. Instead of hanging around other kids my age, I had access to professional athletes, and I’d overhear them talk after striking out. There was one guy, Johnny Lindell, who played outfield. He was very nice to me. I asked him how he keeps his spirits up, and he said, “You have to stick with it, kid. You just have to stick with it.”
How should a man handle aging? Here’s what works for me: I go out every goddamn night of the week. Every night. And I order a martini every goddamn night of the week. I never turned down opportunities to see new things or meet new people. Why do you think people have such a strong distrust of the media today? Journalism has lost its particular status because the journalists have become content with just being the first or the fastest. They’re no longer concerned with quality writing and
What’s one of your biggest regrets? I’m trying to think of one, but I can’t. There’s not a story I wrote that I wish I hadn’t. There’s not a way I treated a person where I wish I would have treated that person differently. I’ve had people I’ve loathed, and I let them know. I’ve had people I’ve loved, and I let them know, too. This is not to say that my life has been one of endless pleasantness and cordiality. But I’ve never regretted letting someone know how I feel. —INTERVIEW BY ALEX VADUKUL
Gay Talese is the author of 14 books. A new collection of his selected writings, High Notes, will be out on January 17.
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MA X VADUKUL /AUGUST IMAGE
What have you learned about losing? My defeats started early: I couldn’t get a date, I was unpopular in high school. But I’m doing the same thing at 84 that I was at 14, which is aspiring to do better than I did yesterday. When I did that famous Esquire piece on Sinatra [“Frank Sinatra Has a Cold”] in 1966,
his valet told me that he sometimes hears Frank trying to get a date on a Saturday night and failing. I said, “You’re kidding. Frank Sinatra can’t get a date?” I’ve learned that we’re all doomed to fail sometimes, but you’ve got to have faith in yourself.
How should a man deal with competition? You don’t deal with it. You deal with your own self. I wrote as well as I could, and as long as I met my own standards, I didn’t concern myself with anything else. And I’ve gotten bad reviews all my life. But so did Ernest Hemingway. So did F. Scott Fitzgerald. So did Philip Roth — and I think he’s the best writer of my generation. You can only do the best you can do, and as long as you’re doing that, there’s no reason you have to feel that you’ve failed.
The other guy.
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