The Profile: The vanishing family & the catfished terrorist
This edition of The Profile features Samuel L. Jackson, Daily Harvest, and more.
Good morning, friends!
Last week, I published a Profile Dossier featuring author Stephen King. I never thought that in writing a deep-dive on one of the most acclaimed horror writers, I would discover a love story.
When King was 26 years old, he was a high school English teacher. In his free time, he started writing the manuscript for the novel that would become Carrie. At the time, he and his wife Tabitha lived in a doublewide trailer and each had to work additional jobs to make ends meet.
One day, Tabitha discovered the draft pages for what would become Carrie, a story about a high school girl who can control objects with her mind. But he had abandoned the manuscript because he became frustrated that he wasn’t able to write well from a female perspective.
So he crumpled up the pages and threw them in the trash can. When Tabitha was emptying the bin, she saw the papers and started reading.
She told him, “This is pretty good, you ought to keep it going." King remembers: “That was all I needed and she knew it.” Over the next few weeks, she helped him develop Carrie’s voice and inspired him to continue. The final draft was done in nine months only to be rejected by 30 publishers.
And then one day, an editor from Doubleday Publishing offered him a $2,500 advance for Carrie, and the rest is history. To this day, King credits his wife for urging him to keep writing and helping launch his writing career. King said:
“There is a time in the lives of most writers when they are vulnerable, when the vivid dreams and ambitions of childhood seem to pale in the harsh sunlight of what we call the real world. In short, there’s a time when things can go either way. That vulnerable time for me came during 1971 to 1973. If my wife had suggested to me even with love and kindness and gentleness ... that the time had come to put my dreams away and support my family, I would have done that with no complaint.”
It reminded me just how many of us have gone through a ‘vulnerable time’ and how one tiny nudge of encouragement made all the difference. As King said, “That was all I needed and she knew it.”
If you have someone in your life who’s going through such a time, remember that a simple “keep going” can mean the world.
— The vanishing family
— The catfished terrorist
— The legendary actor who mastered his voice
— The male-fertility startups freezing semen [**HIGHLY RECOMMEND**]
— The food startup that got its customers sick
PEOPLE TO KNOW.
The vanishing family: Frontotemporal dementia, or FTD, emerges in the prime of adult life — as young as 40, in some cases — and relentlessly attacks the part of the brain responsible for planning, organizing, expressing language, understanding social cues and exercising judgment. This profile features a family in which its members all have a 50-50 chance of inheriting the genetic mutation and disappearing into dementia in middle age. This is the story of what it’s like to live with those odds. It begs the question: If you were going to lose yourself — in a year, or two, or 10 — would you even want to know? (The New York Times; reply to this email if you can’t access the article)
“How do you keep living when you know that everything that makes you a conscious person could disappear?”
The catfished terrorist: Ethan Melzer had just signed up with the Army. To his loved ones, it looked as if the 20-year-old was finally on a path to a normal life. His baby face and pink cheeks did not tell the story of the years lost to abuse, meth addiction, and violence. In a period he would call a “total blur,” he sold drugs to fund his habit and said he joined a Louisville chapter of the Bloods gang. As he sat in the barracks in Northern Italy, he got sucked into far-right chat rooms. Melzer began plotting to attack his platoon with the strangers in the chat room — only to find out that he was the only conspirator who was real. (New York Magazine)
The legendary actor who mastered his voice: At age 74, Samuel L. Jackson is probably the most bankable movie star of our time. He is a major part of multiple franchises: the Marvel Cinematic Universe, the Star Wars universe, the MonsterVerse, the Shaft-verse, the Kingsman-verse, the Unbreakable-verse, the Tarantino-verse. In this longform interview, Jackson shares how he used the power of his voice to make his acting career legendary. “I can do things to you with my voice. It’s an important tool that I don’t think they teach,” he says.
“I learned how to use my voice. When I want you to feel a certain way, I know to take my voice here. When I want to pull you along with me, I know to talk a little faster to get you to do it.”
COMPANIES TO WATCH.
The male-fertility startups freezing semen: The largest-ever study of sperm counts found that overall counts have declined by 59% and that average concentration has fallen by half, from around 99 million sperm per milliliter to 47 million. This has brought on the rise of male fertility startups like Legacy, which test and freeze users’ sperm. So what’s fact and what’s fiction? This deep-dive does a really good job at explaining the problem and the reality of its severity. (New York Magazine; reply to this email if you can’t access the article)
“Sperm is funny — until it’s not.”
The food startup that got its customers sick: Daily Harvest is a vegan meal startup that had long relied on social media, along with a small army of influencers, to project the brand’s ideal of clean, beautiful living. But the reality was far different. In June 2022, the company recalled a product—little balls of plant protein called French Lentil + Leek Crumbles—that made some people so ill that more than 130 ended up in the hospital, and some 40 of them had to have their gallbladders removed. The incident mushroomed into one of the largest episodes of foodborne illness in 2022. (Bloomberg)
“I’ve never been so sick in my life.”
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