“You have to be cut from a special mold to be a collector that’s successful in getting in-person autographs like this.” … Kaplan has been collecting the signatures of world leaders on baseballs since 1996. He was the one who introduced me to the idea of autographing-as-blood-sport. … Kaplan schmoozed Hamid Karzai’s security detail for his autograph and smooth-talked his way into then-president of Nigeria General Olusegun Obasanjo’s hotel room. He even mastered phonetic Russian well enough to convince Gorbachev’s bodyguards the baseball in his hand wasn’t a bomb. … “You either have it, or you don’t,” Kaplan told me. “You have to plan everything three steps ahead. You have to do all your research. You have find out who their defense secretary is, anyone who’s going to be with them. Most importantly, as a collector, you have to be prepared for the unprepared; I never go anywhere without at least a dozen baseballs on me, at all times. “
Every generation produces kid geniuses, but in the early 1900s, the public was obsessed with them ... In the first few decades of the 20th century, child prodigies became national celebrities. Much like the movie stars, industrial titans and heavyweight champs of the day, their exploits were glorified and their opinions quoted in newspapers across the United States. ... While every generation produces its share of precocious children, no era, before or since, seems to have been so obsessed with them. The recent advent of intelligence testing, which allowed psychologists to gauge mental ability with seemingly scientific precision, is one likely reason. ... in 1916, Stanford University psychologist Louis Terman published the Stanford-Binet test, which made the term intelligence quotient, or I.Q., part of the popular vocabulary.
It’s the church of choice for Bieber and Durant. It’s where the cool kids spend Sunday morning after Saturday night at the club. For ye of little faith, it’s hard to make sense out of Hillsong. Is it legit? Is it a hipster cult? And why’s everyone wearing Saint Laurent? ... Hillsong, which began in Australia, has outposts all over the globe, from Kiev to Paris to Buenos Aires. The church landed in New York City in 2010, with a branch at the Manhattan nightclub Irving Plaza, a branch at a theater in Times Square, and a branch in an auditorium at Montclair State University. On any given Sunday, Hillsong NYC salves the souls of 8,000 people, and what souls: Justin Bieber, yes, but also Kendall Jenner and Selena Gomez and Kevin Durant and Bono. “People say we cater to celebrities,” Pastor Carl tells me. “And I say, yes, we do. Celebrities deserve a relationship with God. Celebrities deserve a place to pray.” So do all of God’s children, he says. And so they save seats in a special section for celebrities, but also for people in wheelchairs and single mothers who were running late. But it’s easier for God’s children to find a peaceful home in which to pray than it is for, say, Damon Dash. ... that is an image that will stick with you, let me tell you: Justin Bieber, on his knees in Tyson Chandler’s bathtub, wet and sobbing against Pastor Carl’s chest ... I was witnessing the logical conclusion of an evolutionary convergence between coolness and Christianity that began at the dawn of the millennium, when progressive-minded Christians, terrified of a faithless future, desperately rended their garments and replaced them with skinny jeans and flannel shirts and piercings in the cartilage of their ears, in a very ostentatious effort to be more modern and more relatable. Which is why, today, you can find ironically bespectacled evangelicals in Seattle and graphic designers soliciting tithes with hand-drawn Helvetica flyers in San Diego. You can walk into mega-churches all over the country where the pastor will slap on a pair of leather pants and drop the F-bomb BOOM how do you like me now??