Back around 1994, I was asked to speak to residents of a local upscale Retirement Community on Current Events. The woman who asked me, the activities director at the Retirement Community, knew that I loved “keeping up,” and felt that I might help her residents stay connected with the larger world.
Now, 16 years later, I am still presenting “Current Events” at such communities. My opening line at all of these places, at every session, is “I’m Randy Mayeux, and I’m here to talk about whatever is in the news.” (By the way, after all these years, the most unforgettable moment was a session I led discussing the Oklahoma City Bombing just minutes after I heard the news…).
It has expanded from one place to many, and it also expanded into other types of presentations, such as book reviews, and general presentations on multiple topics. (My arrangement at all of these places is that when I have a “business engagement,” I will reschedule for the Current Events).
A couple of years ago, at Chambrel at Club Hill in Garland, Jan Jordan, the “Director of Lifestyle Programs,” (the job title has changed a time or two, but I’ve worked with Jan for nearly the entire 16 years), asked me if I would lead a reading group. It was actually prompted by a request from a well-read, thoughtful woman who longed for a gathering that took the conversations a little deeper. (Sadly, the woman who started this has suffered a stroke, and is no longer at the community).
After a little experimentation, I finally decided on this course: I copy an essay, magazine article, or speech, and we discuss this at our twice monthly gatherings. We have worked through many of the speeches in Lend Me Your Ears edited by William Safire, numerous essays by Malcolm Gladwell and a host of others, and misc. other readings.
This past week we discussed the first third of the famous essay by Peter Drucker, The Age of Social Transformation published in The Atlantic in November, 1994. It is a masterpiece. Let me say that again — I am discussing Drucker’s famous essay with a group of retired people. And it is a wonderful discussion!
The people that I speak to and read with in these retirement communities are remarkable folks. They are intelligent, and absolutely want to keep learning. If you have ever wondered if “lifelong learning” is possible, you should visit with these folks.
Yes, it helps to make the font as big as possible for the copies. One woman puts these copies in her “reading machine,” that blows up the text to size really huge. But the thoughts and comments that they share are just terrific, and their life experiences are so diverse and rich. In this particular group, we have a woman from Germany, a woman whose parents came from Norway, and people who have lived all across the United States.
And the reading that I do to lead this group has helped me discover some real gems.
By the way, when we finish Drucker’s essay, we are next reading Frank Sinatra Has a Cold by Gay Talese.
Life-long learning. Really! It is possible, and actually goes on in these retirement communities, and, I suspect, in other places all over the globe.
Here is the article, up to the list of the top seven. The article lists many others, by decade. Admittedly it is, as all lists, subjective. Kevin Kelly posted it on his CoolTools blog. I have not read all of these seven, and they are definitely going into my “to read” stack.
The Best Magazine Articles Ever
The following are suggestions for the best magazine articles (in English) ever. Stars denote how many times a correspondent has suggested it. Submitter comments are in italics.
This is a work in progress. It is an on-going list of suggestions collectively made by readers of this post. At this point the list has not been vetted or selected by me. In fact, other than the original five items I suggested, all of the articles mentioned here have been recommended by someone other than me. (Although I used to edit Wired magazine none of the articles from Wired were suggested by me or anyone who worked at Wired. I also did not suggest my own pieces.)
This list is incomplete though it is getting quite long. You may notice that your favorite author or piece is missing. This is easy to fix. Simply recommend your favorite magazine articles to me via email: . Or if your favorite article is already listed, use the same form to recommend it in order to elevate it to the “top”. At some point in a few weeks I’ll close the nominations.
The Top Seven Articles Based on the number of times an article is recommended
****** David Foster Wallace, “Federer As Religious Experience.” The New York Times, Play Magazine, August 20, 2006.
***** David Foster Wallace, “Consider the Lobster.” Gourmet Magazine, Aug 2004.
***** Neal Stephenson, “Mother Earth, Mother Board: Wiring the Planet.” Wired, December 1996. On laying trans-oceanic fiber optic cable.
****** Gay Talese, “Frank Sinatra Has a Cold.” Esquire, April 1966.
**** Ron Rosenbaum, “Secrets of the Little Blue Box.” Esquire, October 1971. The first and best account of telephone hackers, more amazing than you might believe.
**** Jon Krakauer, “Death of an Innocent: How Christopher McCandless Lost His Way in the Wilds.” Outside Magazine, January 1993. Article that became Into the Wild.
**** Edward Jay Epstein, “Have You Ever Tried to Sell a Diamond?” Atlantic Magazine, February 1982. Diamonds, De Beers, monopoly & marketing.
Andrew Sullivan recommended this article, As We May Think by Vannevar Bush from the July 1945 issue of the Atlantic, and included this quote:
Consider a future device for individual use, which is a sort of mechanized private file and library. It needs a name, and, to coin one at random, “memex” will do. A memex is a device in which an individual stores all his books, records, and communications, and which is mechanized so that it may be consulted with exceeding speed and flexibility. It is an enlarged intimate supplement to his memory.
And I would include the original articles (both led to books) The Long Tail by Chris Anderson and Bowling Alone by Robert Putnam. And, of course, I would remind our readers that we link to the Malcom Gladwell and Atul Gawande archives, which you can find always on the right side of our blog.
And I would also recommend the David Halberstam article from the July, 1969 Harper’s, The Very Expensive Education of McGeorge Bundy.