Tag Archives: longreads

13 most read New Yorker articles of the year

Nicholas Thompson posted the 13 most read New Yorker articles of 2013 yesterday…as a slide-show. There's a lot to keep you busy over the next couple days if you're tired of fighting with your parents and just want to curl up on you childhood bed beneath the Backstreet Boys posters and cuddle with a mug of tea and a good tablet. For what it's worth, I think I read 5 of these, started two others, and had the rest open in the tab attic for weeks before banishing them to Didntreadistan. The 13 most read New Yorker blog posts are here.


"A Pickpocket’s Tale," by Adam Green, January 7th.
"The Science of Sex Abuse," by Rachel Aviv, January 14th.
"The Operator," by Michael Specter, February 4th.
"A Mass Shooter’s Tragic Past," by Patrick Radden Keefe, February 11th.
"Requiem for a Dream," by Larissa MacFarquhar, March 11th.
"The Master," by Marc Fisher, April 1st.
"A Word from Our Sponsor," by Jane Mayer. May 27th.
"The Lyme Wars," by Michael Specter, July 1st.
"Slow Ideas," by Atul Gawande, July 29th.
"Trial by Twitter," by Ariel Levy, August 5th.
"Taken," by Sarah Stillman, August 12th.
"The Shadow Commander," by Dexter Filkins, September 30th.
"Now We Are Five," by David Sedaris, October 28th.

All the 30 Rock #longreads

I loved 30 Rock, so I'm sorry to see it go. I had forgotten NBC launched both 30 Rock and Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip at the same time, which definitely couldn't have helped either show. This fact was brought up in almost all the articles below. I really enjoyed reading through these articles.

Wesley Morris on identity politics:

TV became overwhelmingly white, again. Mostly black shows, like 227 and Amen, were largely stressless havens, free of racial and social upheaval. That comfort continued to swell in the 1990s with shows like Living Single, The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air, and Family Matters. (Fox had the blue-collar black family on Roc, but it might have been too real; it lasted only three seasons.) Most of these shows took the wrong lessons from The Cosby Show and its black-college spin-off, A Different World, the two most important shows about black life in the history of television. The former took lavish pride in blackness and the black middle class. The latter offered an absorbing survey of the many ways to be black. But each show could also be watched, respectively, as a universal half-hour about a large, loving family and as a resonant dramedy about the ups and downs of higher education. Not seeing blackness in either show meant the writing was generous enough to permit you to see past it. But that didn't mean it wasn't there. The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air and Family Matters were more insipid shows that nonetheless managed to further normalize a black middle class, while characters like Carlton Banks and Steve Urkel followed the cool nerdiness of A Different World's Dwayne Wayne and further expanded the parameters of who else a black male could be.

But the problems of race and racism were shuttled off to cop procedurals and courtroom dramas or were being fought on nascent daytime talk shows and reality stunts like the alarming first two seasons of The Real World. 30 Rock turned a sharp corner on the depiction of those conversations. It's useful to remember that the show debuted in the fall of 2006, right before the cancellation of Aaron Sorkin's terrible Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip, whose setting was a sketch comedy show that was too proud of all the positions it took to be funny. That show resulted in nearly two dozen episodes of awkward self-misunderstanding. It was like watching a horse try to ride a man.



The Alec Baldwin moments in this Rolling Stone look back are great, but also:

For Fey, the biggest triumph of 30 Rock is its very survival: the unlikely persistence of a show sufficiently unhinged to use blackface on three occasions; to have Jane Krakowski’s monstrously narcissistic Jenna Maroney consummate her self-adoration by marrying her own male impersonator; to have Elizabeth Banks’ Avery Jessup kidnapped by Kim Jong-Il as an unfortunate consequence of NBC’s “Hot Blondes in Weird Places” initiative. “I feel like we made a lot of good episodes of the kind of show that usually gets canceled,” says Fey. “The kind where there’s 20 episodes and ‘only me and my hipster friends know about it.’ That part’s still true. But we made 140 of them!”

What’s really crazy about 30 Rock is its sheer verbal velocity – punch lines go by so fast that even smart people may need to rewind (an industrious blogger calculated that a 2010 episode averaged 9.57 jokes per minute). “It requires you to pay attention in a way that you don’t always want to at the end of a long day,” says Fey, “and I get that. I’m a professional comedy worker, and there would be days when I’m like, ‘I love Arrested Development, but I don’t want to watch it right now.’?



The NY Times on Tina Fey:

“30 Rock” was modeled on “The Mary Tyler Moore Show” in many important ways, except for its heroine. Liz was not a goody-goody perfectionist like Mary Richards, or, by her own admission, Ms. Fey herself. Disciplined, ambitious type-A’s can be comical, as Ms. Moore, and later Candice Bergen, the star of “Murphy Brown,” proved. But Ms. Fey, who was the first female head writer of “Saturday Night Live,” chose as her alter ego a dumpy sad sack who just happened to be the head writer of a late-night sketch comedy show.

She created deliciously absurd characters like the silkily self-possessed network executive Jack Donaghy, played brilliantly by Alec Baldwin, and the insane comedian Tracy Jordan, played by Tracy Morgan, by grafting familiar show-business phenotypes onto those actors’ inner nuttiness. Ms. Fey borrows shamelessly from real life, except when it comes to her own success. It may be that she plays against type because she is uncomfortable with the deadly earnest role of trailblazer. But she is one.



Alan Sepinwall calls 30 Rock "one of the best comedies ever on television, about television."

Where “Studio 60” struggled in part because it kept failing to convince us that its own fake “SNL” was a dazzling work of satire, “30 Rock” very quickly abandoned any pretense that “TGS” was supposed to be good — or interest in “TGS,” period — and (to paraphrase one of Liz Lemon’s favorite works of literature) in so doing, became a more powerful satire than we could have possibly imagined. It was a show about television, but by ceasing to be about a specific television show, it gained license to be about everything.

“30 Rock” could be wince-inducingly precise in its take on racism and white liberal guilt (in one episode, Liz mistakenly assumes Tracy is illiterate; in another, she struggles to break up with a boorish guy because he’s black). Through Jack Donaghy, the show ruthlessly lampooned the excesses of corporate America and our nation’s deeply dysfunctional political system. And through Liz, time and time again, “30 Rock” smartly — and always in a humorous context, so it never felt like a lecture — analyzed the struggles of being a woman in a male-dominated profession, and world. (Even last week, the show was still finding new jokes on the subject: Jack starts listing trailblazing women through history like Amelia Earhart, Joan of Arc and Diane Fossey, then stops to observe, “Boy, women who try to do things sure get killed a lot.”



How 30 Rock lasted 7 seasons from Deadline.

Carlock was referring to the DVR audience not watching the show live and NBC including the data in the overall sample. “If you look at us solely in terms of traditional measurement, no way do we stay on for seven years without something else going on,” he believes. “That overnight number clearly isn’t almighty. If it were, it makes no sense that a show that’s as expensive as we were would stick around as long as we did. We had to be making people some money.” Indeed, some years it seemed 30 Rock and The Office were the only things keeping the lights on at NBCUniversal, given the creative and viewership quagmire in which the network found itself. “We were either the wrecking ball or the repair crew,” Carlock surmises. It’s also noteworthy that the series grew to become a reflection of NBC’s woes in more ways than one, with its spoofing of the real-life NBC merger with Comcast in the fictitious acquisition on 30 Rock of NBC from GE by Kabletown. So not only did the show survive; it did so while chowing down on the network hand that fed it.



The AV Club also notes the Mary Tyler Moore similarity:

So is it the best final season of an American sitcom ever? Not entirely, but the fact that it’s even in the conversation—and after seeing tonight’s excellent finale, I’d easily put it somewhere in the top 10—is a mark of how far Fey and her writing staff have brought the show from its darkest days, back in season four, when it occasionally seemed like the series had lost the plot entirely. What’s been so great about this final season of 30 Rock is that the show has now lasted long enough to pull off something that hasn’t been done in TV in a long time, mostly because TV comedy has been in such dire straits this last decade: It’s deliberately constructing the “end” of a sitcom story, a final season that closes a bunch of storylines fans didn’t even realize they were invested in, pulling back in loose ends from the whole run of the show. And when looking back at the history of that particular TV phenomenon, it’s useful to go all the way back to a show 30 Rock has often been in conversation with: The Mary Tyler Moore Show.



A love letter from Gawker.

The central concern of 30 Rock is this: People don't understand each other. That's the basic structure of jokes—person one says something, and person two hears something different—but it's also a philosophical problem. Two people, both speaking English, supplemented by body language, converse, yet their actual meanings remain inaccessible to one another. Over the course of the show, Liz Lemon gradually realizes that almost no one around her comprehends her. There is an irreducible distance between her and everyone else. (Writers may sense this problem more acutely than other people do.)



Vulture collects all the 30 Rock listicles. All of them.

This year’s UW link collections

I did a bunch of posts this year that collected all the long reads about a specific topic I could find and thought you might want to see them again when you have less going on this week.

Some Ian MacKaye links

My favorite eclipse links

Bill Murray links

Tom Gabel comes out as transgender

Super long Tetris read

Appetite for Destruction at 25

Some bands covering Mother by Danzig

2012 election recap

How Michael Jackson's Thriller changed the world

15 Richard Pryor #longreads on his birthday

35 #longreads for the holiday week

It has been a while since I cleaned out the tab attic, so here is basically everything I should have been posting on Unlikely Words over the last… year? I started this post around Thanksgiving and couldn't finish it because, well, there's a lot. I tend to open a tab or send myself an email when I find something I think might be interesting, and sometimes it takes a while for those links to get posted. It'd probably be a good idea to get these out monthly or weekly, but end of the year will have to do for now. There is almost certainly something in here that will interest everyone, so check it out and add your favorites to Instapaper.

AB Inbev, the current maker of Budweiser and several other beer brands is alienating beer fans by cutting costs to such an extent the tastes are changing.

There’s one hitch. AB InBev’s CEO is a skilled financial engineer, but he has had trouble selling beer. The company’s shipments in the U.S. have declined 8 percent to 98 million barrels from 2008 to 2011, according to Beer Marketer’s Insights. Last year, Coors Light surpassed Budweiser to become America’s No.?2 beer. (Bud Light remains No.?1.) Meanwhile, Brito is alienating lovers of AB InBev’s imports by not importing them. And he’s risking the devotion of American beer lovers by fiddling with the Budweiser recipe in the name of cost-cutting.


And here's another look of the consolidation of the beer industry, worse in the UK than it is here.

Since the repeal of Prohibition, such constraints on vertical integration in the liquor business have also been backed by federal law, which, as it’s interpreted by most states, requires that the alcohol industry be organized according to the so-called three-tier system. The idea is that brewers and distillers, the first tier, have to distribute their product through independent wholesalers, the second tier. And wholesalers, in turn, have to sell only to retailers, the third tier, and not directly to the public. By deliberately hindering economies of scale and protecting middlemen in the booze business, America’s system of regulation was designed to be willfully inefficient, thereby making the cost of producing, distributing, and retailing alcohol higher than it would otherwise be and checking the political power of the industry.


An idea in the UK to make cycling proficiency part of the driving test. I like it!

Every driver should have firsthand experience of what it's like to ride a bike in the traffic. Any driver wanting to acquire an HGV licence has to get a normal driving licence first. And people wanting to take a car on the road should have the experience of cycling alongside cars and other vehicles. Drivers need to know how smaller vehicles and their more vulnerable users behave on the road, and the only real way to understand how cyclists act is to have a go at being one. Providing safety training to more cyclists on the streets is obviously desirable, but mandatory cycle training and licensing, often suggested by the more irate and vocal petrolhead crowd, would be a disaster and create a barrier to cycling take-up.


Alex Pareene on why Politico is so bad.

One classic method of unleashing irresistible Drudge bait on the Internet is to boil another outlet’s story down to a couple salacious-sounding excerpts, or (failing an effective condensing strategy) to simply reinterpret the material to fit a Drudge-friendly narrative. This past May, for example, Vanity Fair published an excerpt from Maraniss’s biography of Barack Obama. (The liberal media vetting blackout continued apace, in other words.) Politico’s Dylan Byers took the excerpt and turned it into a little micro-news story: Obama admitted to Maraniss that certain figures in his first memoir were “compressions”—i.e., composite characters. Byers completely missed that Obama explicitly said at the outset of his own book that some characters were composites, but Drudge didn’t care. “Obama Admits Fabricating Girlfriend in Memoir,” went his headline, with a link to Politico instead of Vanity Fair—and another false right-wing meme got its wings.


It was estimated that legalization of marijuana in Oregon, Washington, and Colorado could reduce the Mexican cartels' take from marijuana from $2 billion to $600 million.

As a result, it estimates that Mexico’s traffickers would lose about $1.4 billion of their $2 billion revenues from marijuana. The effect on some groups would be severe: the Sinaloa “cartel” would lose up to half its total income, IMCO reckons. Exports of other drugs, from cocaine to methamphetamine, would become less competitive, as the traffickers’ fixed costs (from torturing rivals to bribing American and Mexican border officials) would remain unchanged, even as marijuana revenues fell.


The man who charged himself with murder.

Tonight, he was more clearheaded and had decided this was going to be his last trip to the precinct. If he didn’t get any answers this time, he would take that as a sign that he should move on and leave the past behind. But there was a chance, he knew, that once he started talking to the police, they might not let him leave. In fact, he might not get to walk the streets of East Harlem again for a very long time.


Philadelphia found that a doubling of cyclists has resulted in reducing cyclist deaths by half because drivers are more used to seeing cyclists on the street.

Since 2002, the number of cyclists on many Center City streets has more than doubled, according to tallies at key intersections, and the percentage of bike commuters has also doubled. In 2002, there were six bicyclists killed in accidents with motor vehicles; last year, there were two such deaths.


The making of The Chronic

SNOOP DOGG: I think The Chronic was perfect, but a lot of songs could have been on it that would have destroyed the vibe. If they didn't come out, Dre did it for a reason. A lot of that shit was spontaneous. But I did [another] song 15 times before I got it right. Had a toothache at the time and couldn't spit it out. He was, "Do it the next time, I don't like how it sounds. Do it again, you had too much energy." I'm like, this motherfucker is a precisionist.

JEFFREY JOLSON-COLBURN: The Chronic was a hit out of the box.?... Snoop had these incredible street creds and such a buzz behind him from the projects.

SNOOP DOGG: The first family member I called when I heard my shit being played was my Pops. Because he'd seen me go to jail for selling dope. I don't think Pops believed in me.?... When The Chronic came out, I was sought out for interviews. I was very shy, and I'd hold my head down and didn't want to look at the camera. I didn't know what to expect. I had to learn how to conduct myself and not explode on every question I didn't like. Just take my time and listen. If I just be me, it'll be all right. ...

The first time I performed songs from The Chronic was with Dre in a small concert in Compton. And man, these motherfuckers were singing every word of the songs. And that made me feel -- damn, my life is right here.



There is now a medical insurance code for drowning death caused by jumping from burning water-skis.

In an attempt to achieve greater specificity for describing diseases and injuries, the authors came up with some curious items. There are probably some other howlers, but so far, the winner is “V9027XA Drowning and submersion due to falling or jumping from burning water-skis, initial encounter.” There are also codes for subsequent encounters and sequela of drowning and submersion due to falling or jumping from burning water-skis.


Profile of a tourbus driver in Spin.

Bus drivers hold a unique place in the pantheon of rock'n'roll. Much like baseball umpires, CIA analysts, and food safety inspectors, tour bus drivers are generally only noticed when they do something egregiously wrong like blow a tire and crash into a bridge or dump the contents of their septic tank into the Chicago River. They are an integral part of the touring life and front-row witnesses to its chaos, but rarely participants in it. As more than one driver pointed out, they are the only people on a tour who literally hold the lives of everyone else in their hands on a daily basis. Yet many artists couldn't tell you their driver's last name.


A look at the trend of rapid construction. Builders can prefabricate parts of the construction so bridges can be put in place in days rather than months.

Nowhere have the various techniques for speeding bridge work been more enthusiastically embraced than in Massachusetts, which replaced 14 bridges on Interstate 93 last year over 10 weekends. But similar techniques are being used around the country, from Mesquite, Nev., to the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco, which is getting 300 feet of new roadway one 25-foot prefabricated section at a time, 78 pieces in all. “We have a bridge that we simply cannot close to traffic,” said Ewa Bauer, chief engineer for the Golden Gate Bridge Highway and Transportation District.


The hard life of an NFL longshot

Six weeks later, his sculptured frame blurring in the gridiron-warble of a Georgia June sun, Pat was standing on the Atlanta Falcons’ practice field in Flowery Branch, learning the consequences of living his dream. Midway through the Falcons’ six weeks of spring-training sessions — each N.F.L. team’s yearly padless orientation ritual — Pat had just got what all first-year players in the N.F.L. most crave: a play, a “rep.” Reps for a rookie are but a few precious crumbs left after the daily scrums of the first and second teams — the “Ones” and “Twos.” It’s one of the crueller realities of the N.F.L.’s strictly enforced hierarchy, a classic Catch-22: what you most need in order to make a team as a rookie, especially an undrafted one, are opportunities to show what you can do. You have little chance of getting those, however, precisely because you’re a rookie. There are so few chances, in fact, that when a rep does come your way, the tendency is to get a bit greedy, to overplay.


Each presidential election is called the most technological of all time, and the CTO of the winning campaign is called the best political CTO, here's a look at Harper Reed and Obama's tech team.

And of course, the team's only real goal was to elect the President. "We have to elect the President. We don't need to sell our software to Oracle," Reed told his team. But the secondary impact of their success or failure would be to prove that campaigns could effectively hire and deploy top-level programming talent. If they failed, it would be evidence that this stuff might be best left to outside political technology consultants, by whom the arena had long been handled. If Reed's team succeeded, engineers might become as enshrined in the mechanics of campaigns as social-media teams already are.


Sugar is really bad for you, but the sugar lobby is good at hiding that.

On a brisk spring Tuesday in 1976, a pair of executives from the Sugar Association stepped up to the podium of a Chicago ballroom to accept the Oscar of the public relations world, the Silver Anvil award for excellence in "the forging of public opinion." The trade group had recently pulled off one of the greatest turnarounds in PR history. For nearly a decade, the sugar industry had been buffeted by crisis after crisis as the media and the public soured on sugar and scientists began to view it as a likely cause of obesity, diabetes, and heart disease. Industry ads claiming that eating sugar helped you lose weight had been called out by the Federal Trade Commission, and the Food and Drug Administration had launched a review of whether sugar was even safe to eat. Consumption had declined 12 percent in just two years, and producers could see where that trend might lead. As John "JW" Tatem Jr. and Jack O'Connell Jr., the Sugar Association's president and director of public relations, posed that day with their trophies, their smiles only hinted at the coup they'd just pulled off.


A Paris Review treatise on the art of bullet-pointing an essay.

The numbered essay is a formal reflection of the cultural moment that it takes as its subject. The western world is confusing, confused, random, atomized, unsourced, diverse, unequal, ironic, relative, scary, disconnected, tedious, and full of Michael Bay-style fast cuts. Our writers have an obligation to discard forms that lack the capacity to explain it.


The Vietnam Veterans Memorial in DC attracts all manner of private mementos left by visitors in remembrance of people they know on the wall.

The wall is about stories. The little ones are told in the letters and objects left behind—eccentric items that speak of matters so intimate they may be indecipherable except to two people—one living, one dead. Bullet casings soldered into a circle. Five cans of fruit salad. A teddy bear, loved threadbare. A harmonica. An ace of spades. A handful of gravel. A model carousel. A toothbrush. Graduation tassels. They’re all pieces of a larger story still under revision, about the meaning of an unpopular war conducted in a small country among three superpowers with competing geopolitical ideologies—a proxy war with inchoate objectives that killed a lot of people and sent others home in varying states of disrepair.

That story is complicated.

But it’s one the National Park Service relentlessly pursues. Bernie’s candles are gathered up by park rangers and put into big blue boxes. The boxes are hand-trucked and golf-carted to a temporary storage room near the Washington Monument, where they await transport to the Museum Resource Center, or MRCE, pronounced “mercy,” a gleaming modern facility in Maryland that houses 40 historic collections from National Park Service sites around the region. The candles get 30 days or more of isolation and are checked for organic matter—flowers, potpourri, marijuana, unsealed food, tobacco, anything that might carry mold. That stuff is “deaccessioned”—thrown out to protect the rest of the collection.


A profile of Richard Simmons.

At 64, he is a bit stooped. His kinetic hair, as familiar as Don King's, is not as full as it once was. His face is no longer youthfully cherubic. But his arms are wiry strong, and his energy level is switched to ON. He personally greets everyone in the room and breaks into song: a rousing chorus of "Matchmaker, Matchmaker, Make me a Match!" is followed by "Hello Muddah, Hello, Fadduh."


The truce on drugs

Marijuana has remained mostly illegal, even as many Americans have come to consider it harmless and normal, and so it now occupies a uniquely ambiguous place in American law and life. There are a few places in the United States that have been known for decades for marijuana—far-northern California, Kentucky—where people are comfortable with sedition, and willing to live outside of the law. But during the last decade, as growing and selling marijuana began to edge out of the shadows, these places have become the sites of this country’s first experiments with tacit decriminalization. And so the business has shifted, too. “We have to face facts,” says a veteran California grower named Anna Hamilton. “We are in a commodity business.”


And with that truce, there is some hope the number of killings will start to fall in Mexico.

The explosion of killing in Juárez is only the most extreme example of an appalling national trend. Five years ago Mexico was one of Latin America’s gentlest countries, with a murder rate of nine per 100,000 people, not much higher than in the southern United States. But since then the numbers have more than doubled (see chart 4), in tandem with an increase in robbery, extortion and kidnapping. Sadistic killings have been beamed around the world over the internet.

Many parts of Mexico, including its gigantic capital, are relatively peaceful, so the country’s overall murder rate is still no higher than Brazil’s and much lower than much of Central America’s. Yucatán, the quietest state, is statistically as safe as Finland. But very few places are unscathed by the trend: nearly all states saw more killings last year than five years earlier. Polls show that insecurity is Mexicans’ biggest worry.


The NFL's secret drug problem.

Still, all in all, this is a good day for Lucas, who, when he retired in 2003 after being waived by the Baltimore Ravens, hurt wherever you could hurt and still draw breath. There's relief in the offing – once the surgeons go in and saw down the bones that pierce his discs. More, he's still loved by his wife and three daughters, who've flourished since he weaned himself off narcotics in 2011, shucking the 800-pill-a-month prescription-drug habit that had turned him into a red-eyed monster. And while, yes, he's lost his dream house, his NFL savings, and the small air-conditioning business he built after football, the great, improbable fact is he's still here to tell his story. For that, he can thank Smith, who took his last-chance call when he was in danger of becoming the next ex-NFL player to kill himself.


Inside the US military's tests on soldiers.

Today, Ketchum is eighty-one years old, and the facility where he worked, Edgewood Arsenal, is a crumbling assemblage of buildings attached to a military proving ground on the Chesapeake Bay. The arsenal’s records are boxed and dusting over in the National Archives. Military doctors who helped conduct the experiments have long since moved on, or passed away, and the soldiers who served as their test subjects—in all, nearly five thousand of them—are scattered throughout the country, if they are still alive. Within the Army, and in the world of medical research, the secret clinical trials are a faint memory. But for some of the surviving test subjects, and for the doctors who tested them, what happened at Edgewood remains deeply unresolved. Were the human experiments there a Dachau-like horror, or were they sound and necessary science? As veterans of the tests have come forward, their unanswered questions have slowly gathered into a kind of historical undertow, and Ketchum, more than anyone else, has been caught in its pull. In 2006, he self-published a memoir, “Chemical Warfare: Secrets Almost Forgotten,” which defended the research. Next year, a class-action lawsuit brought against the federal government by former test subjects will go to trial, and Ketchum is expected to be the star witness.


We're living the dream, we just don't realize it by Steven Johnson.

Over the past two decades, what have the U.S. trends been for the following important measures of social health: high school dropout rates, college enrollment, juvenile crime, drunken driving, traffic deaths, infant mortality, life expectancy, per capita gasoline consumption, workplace injuries, air pollution, divorce, male-female wage equality, charitable giving, voter turnout, per capita GDP and teen pregnancy?

The answer for all of them is the same: The trend is positive. Almost all those varied metrics of social wellness have improved by more than 20% over the past two decades. And that's not counting the myriad small wonders of modern medicine that have improved our quality of life as well as our longevity: the anti-depressants and insulin pumps and quadruple bypasses.



The board game Monopoly has anti-monopolist roots.

The game’s true origins, however, go unmentioned in the official literature. Three decades before Darrow’s patent, in 1903, a Maryland actress named Lizzie Magie created a proto-Monopoly as a tool for teaching the philosophy of Henry George, a nineteenth-century writer who had popularized the notion that no single person could claim to “own” land. In his book Progress and Poverty (1879), George called private land ownership an “erroneous and destructive principle” and argued that land should be held in common, with members of society acting collectively as “the general landlord.”


On building the Sub Pop brand.

The second big way Sub Pop developed its brand was by making good on promises--even while dealing with massive cash flow problems. More than once, distributors they’d hired to would sell Sub Pop’s stock to shops, pocket the wholesale bucks then go out of business owing the label as much as $40,000. (Meanwhile, the bands would be asking for their money to make rent or just survive--usually they got it.)

That’s why the Singles Club was such an important innovation. When Sony’s chief Ienner asked how Sub Pop did it, "We said, counterintuitively, we limit the pressings of our records for the Singles Club," Pavitt says. "And because they’re limited, people know they’re unique and that they’ll most likely not be able to get these records unless they pay us up front. But also because they trust the brand."


I'm not a Deadhead, but I know and have known a bunch my whole life, and Nick Paumgarten's look at the Grateful Dead's recording culture will be interesting to Deadheads and non-Deadheads alike. This was interesting to me because it's something I guess I know more about than the regular reader, but I never noticed it hadn't gotten the long form magazine profile yet. Or recently. Anyway.

The Grateful Dead occupy a curious spot in the canon. Their music has turned out to be extremely resilient, considering that they were primarily a live act and effectively ceased to exist seventeen years ago, when Garcia died, and that for many of the years prior to that (how many is just about the most debated question in Deadland) they were a weak incarnation of themselves. They made a lot of studio albums, but few memorable ones, and had just one Top Forty hit in thirty years, and not for lack of trying. Yet it’s probably safe to say that the Dead have more recorded music in circulation than any performing group in history. (History, admittedly, is short. If there’d been such a thing as a Nakamichi 700 tape deck in eighteenth-century Leipzig, people might be trading bootlegs of Bach performing his own fugues: “St. Thomas’s Church, 5/8/39, Johann rips on the ‘Little’—epic!”) From their establishment, in 1965, to the death of Garcia, in 1995, they played 2,318 concerts, and more than two thousand of those are available in some form or another.


Big, long look at the Zapruder film. Exhaustive, really.

Other footage from the scene turns up here and there, becomes fodder for documentaries (like this new one disproving the “second shooter” theory). But Zapruder’s film is still the canonical ur text of John F. Kennedy’s assassination, the most complete and most chilling visual record. In many ways, it prefigured all sorts of American pastimes, from widespread paranoia about government to a loss of faith in photographic truth and the news media, from the acceptance of graphic violence to newer concerns about copyright. The author Don DeLillo once said that the little film “could probably fuel college courses in a dozen subjects from history to physics.” Without the 486 frames of Kodachrome II 8mm safety film, our understanding of JFK’s assassination would likely be an even greater carnival of conspiracy theories than it already is. Well, maybe.


Vanity Fair expose of Tom Cruise and Scientology.

Both men had humble beginnings. Cruise, who is 50, came from a broken family and was on his own by the age of 18. He joined Scientology in 1986, when he was 24, and he credits its study methods with helping him overcome dyslexia. He has gone on to make more than 30 films and reign as one of Hollywood’s top stars for nearly three decades. His films over the years have grossed almost $7 billion worldwide, and his last one, Mission: Impossible—Ghost Protocol, brought in $700 million on its own. This year he was listed by Forbes as Hollywood’s highest-paid actor, with earnings of $75 million.


The NYTimes Vows column turns 20.

Young people are so beautifully ambitious about marriage these days. I recently interviewed a couple for a Vows column who said they wanted to spend their lives finding each other’s “inner voices.” Marriage may have changed, but love has not. It still makes people say crazy things. And it’s still a glue that no one has control of.


Hidden markings on a map may shed light on the lost colony.

Theories abound about what happened to the so-called Lost Colony, ranging from sober scholarship to science fiction. Some historians believe that the colonists might have been absorbed into American Indian tribes. Other explanations point to darker fates, like disease, an attack by Spaniards or violence at the hands of Indians. The wild-eyed fringe hints at cannibalism and even alien abduction.

The shroud of mystery may finally be lifting. The British Museum’s re-examination of a 16th-century coastal map using 21st-century imaging techniques has revealed hidden markings that show an inland fort where the colonists could have resettled after abandoning the coast.


What happened to football's next great stat?

Total QBR (or more accurately, QBR, since the 'total' is a marketing prefix) was fighting an uphill battle from the start. Jon Gruden, former-coach-turned-ESPN-shouter, welcomed it into the world by cautioning, “I’m worried about it because it sounds like a lot of stuff and it’s another quarterback statistical rating formula.” And this was Gruden, a quarterback-obsessive who, in our high-volume/low-wattage national football converation, qualifies as an intellectual. The rest of the football discourse—all limp n' loud machismo and soft-focus Tebow slashfic and sentimental pomp—is backwards and anti-thought enough to make Tony Siragusa look like Slavoj Zizek. This was the environment in which QBR was expected to grow.


There's a movie studio called The Asylum which basically makes its money making low-budget ripoffs of big Hollywood movies.

It's surprising that The Asylum doesn't provoke more lawsuits like the Battleship case. In 2008, Fox threatened to sue over The Day the Earth Stopped, for similarities to the studio's release The Day the Earth Stood Still. But since then, the California-based company has mostly avoided legal trouble while aggressively carving out a risky niche: The Asylum is the foremost home of the "mockbuster." It's a term that the company's founders happily throw around: When a big Hollywood blockbuster production is announced, there's a better than good chance that The Asylum will rush their own version of the same story, more or less, into production, tweaking the plot and the title just enough to avoid a lawsuit. With awareness high for the title, consumers stumble onto their product and, for one reason or another, spend their money on The Asylum's productions. That moviemaking formula has yet to produce a classic, but it's given us some titles that rival the greatest porn parodies: Transmorphers. Snakes on a Train. The Da Vinci Treasure.


Most sharing of internet ephemera is not shared on Facebook or Twitter, but on what Alexis Madrigal calls Dark Social.

This means that this vast trove of social traffic is essentially invisible to most analytics programs. I call it DARK SOCIAL. It shows up variously in programs as "direct" or "typed/bookmarked" traffic, which implies to many site owners that you actually have a bookmark or typed in www.theatlantic.com into your browser. But that's not actually what's happening a lot of the time. Most of the time, someone Gchatted someone a link, or it came in on a big email distribution list, or your dad sent it to you.


NY Times Magazine look at the businesses that deal in viatical settlements (for the dying) and life settlements (for the not dying). Life insurance policies can be sold as assets, and businesses will pay you for them based on how long they think you will live.

Selling your life and selling a house have more in common than you’d think. The seller puts a listing on the market. Prospective buyers do research and get inspections; there are offers and counteroffers until the seller accepts a bid. The seller doesn’t literally peddle his own life, of course, but his life-insurance policy. The distinction is in many ways moot, however, as the sales value is inextricably linked to a cold-eyed estimation of how much longer the seller has to live. In the case of Robles’s policy, a life-settlement company in Georgia, Habersham Funding, expressed interest. Escobar shipped off six boxes’ worth of Robles’s medical records, thousands of pages in all, to Habersham. The firm, in turn, analyzed the records and also had them scrutinized by an external company specializing in life-expectancy analysis. Fiedler’s recollection is that the reports confirmed the grim prognosis and that Robles had less than two years left to live.


NFL lineman are heavy and that makes it hard for them to live a long time.

The results left Tucker and Vogel with a mixed bag – showing that players had higher blood pressure then average men of the same age but were not as likely to face issues dealing with cholesterol, glucose and diabetes.

While recent research conducted by Dr. Sherry Baron of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention shows that mortality rates from cardiovascular disease is lower among former players overall, mortality rates among defensive linemen like Jenkins are still worse than those of other players, including linemen who play on the offensive side of the ball. But that research, Tucker warns, does not involve players who compete in what he calls the "Super-Sized" era, when the population of players weighing more than 300 pounds is at an all-time high.


Fascinating story of a guy using Google Maps to find his hometown in India after 24 years.

Separated from his older brother at a train station, five-year-old Saroo Munshi Khan found himself lost in the slums of Calcutta. Nearly 20 years later, living in Australia, he began a painstaking search for his birth home, using ingenuity, hazy memories, and Google Earth.




(Via… Um. A lot of these probably came from the #longreads email, which is great, others were just from general browsing.)

15 Richard Pryor #longreads on his birthday

Today is Richard Pryor's birthday and finding profiles/articles/interviews on him is surprisingly difficult, though there are a ton of videos. Here are the best of what I found.

The definitive Richard Pryor #longread is this 1999 profile by Hilton Als in the New Yorker. This is just a great article.

Before Richard Pryor, there were only three aspects of black maleness to be found on TV or in the movies: the suave, pimp-style blandness of Billy Dee Williams; the big-dicked, quiet machismo of the football hero Jim Brown; and the cable-knit homilies of Bill Cosby. Pryor was the first image we’d ever had of black male fear. Not the kind of Stepin Fetchit noggin-bumpin’-into-walls fear that turned Buckwheat white when he saw a ghost in the “Our Gang” comedies popular in the twenties, thirties, and forties—a character that Eddie Murphy resuscitated in a presumably ironic way in the eighties on “Saturday Night Live.” Pryor was filled with dread and panic—an existential fear, based on real things, like racism and lost love. (In a skit on “In Living Color,” the actor Damon Wayans played Pryor sitting in his kitchen and looking terrified, while a voiceover said, “Richard Pryor—afraid of absolutely everything.”)

“Hi. I’m Richard Pryor.” Pause. “Hope I’m funny.” That was how he introduced himself to audiences for years, but he never sounded entirely convinced that he cared about being funny. Instead, Pryor embodied the voice of injured humanity. A satirist of his own experience, he revealed what could be considered family secrets—secrets about his past, and about blacks in general, and about his relationship to the black and white worlds he did and did not belong to. In the black community, correctness, political or otherwise, remains part of the mortar that holds lives together. Pryor’s comedy was a high-wire act: how to stay funny to a black audience while satirizing the moral strictures that make black American life like no other.



1977 interview with Pryor.

"I’m not for integration and I’m not against it. What I am for is justice for everyone, just like it says in the Constitution. If you ask me about women’s lib, I say I don’t even know what that is. I say what about people’s lib? I’m for human lib, the liberation of all people, not just black people or female people or gay people. I also say that if there isn’t a response to what’s been happening to the people out there, there’s going to be a great explosion one of these days, and this will not be one of the nicest places to live.



Here's a transcript of the classic "Interview" sketch from SNL with Chevy Chase.

Interviewer: [ quickly wraps the interview up ] Okay, Mr. Wilson, I think you're qualified for this job. How about a starting salary of $5,000?
Mr. Wilson: Your momma!
Interviewer: [ fumbling ] Uh.. $7,500 a year?
Mr. Wilson: Your grandmomma!
Interviewer: [ desperate ] $15,000, Mr. Wilson. You'll be the highest paid janitor in America. Just, don't.. don't hurt me, please..
Mr. Wilson: Okay.
Interviewer: [ relieved ] Okay.
Mr. Wilson: You want me to start now?
Interviewer: Oh, no, no.. that's alright. I'll clean all this up. Take a couple of weeks off, you look tired.



Margaret Cho on Pryor in 2003.

I saw your movies, the first one “Live at the Sunset Strip,” changed my life, my destiny. It was the first time I realized who I was, and what I would be. I never really knew what I wanted to be when I grew up because I never saw anyone that made me want to grow up, and then there was you. You were telling your tales, making motherfuckers helpless with laughter in the aisles. Black people, white people, everyone, right at the time when we all had a hard time sitting together, we came to see you, because you were beyond race, you disarmed us, we couldn’t hang on to our guns because we were trying not to pee from laughing.



Pryor on Fresh Air.

1993 Entertainment Weekly interview.

I think about dying. I've come to realize we all die alone in one way or another. You can have a roomful of people when it's your time to walk into the light, but you can bet your ass not one person will offer to go with ya. Sure, I have friends, plenty of friends, and they all come around wantin' to borrow money. I've always been generous with my friends and family, with money, but selfish with the important stuff like love. I don't know nothin' about that — do any of us?



Roger Ebert's Richard Pryor obituary from 2005.

Although the obituaries will make much of his nearly fatal accident and his long battle with multiple sclerosis, the most significant entry may be this one: In 1998, he won the first Mark Twain Prize for humor from the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts. He said in his acceptance speech he had been able to use humor as Mark Twain did, "to lessen people's hatred."

When you look again at his three great performance films, you realize that was exactly what he did: It was when he was live in front of an audience that the full range of his gifts was seen most clearly. Drugs muddled some of the early stages of his career, and his disease finally silenced him, but in the early 1980s, after he was clean and sober and before he fell ill, there was a flowering of genius. In 2004, Comedy Central placed him first on its list of the greatest stand-up comedians of all time.



Conversation with the NY Times in 1993.

Comedians remember Pryor.

"The N-word and Richard Pryor."

People Magazine 1980: "Richard Pryor's Tragic Accident Spotlights a Dangerous Drug Craze: Freebasing"

NPR obit for Pryor.

NYTimes obit.

Interview with Paul Mooney, one of Pryor's writers.

The story of your first meeting, before you became friends, is hilarious.
I was living in a cheap apartment on Sunset Boulevard in Hollywood. A bunch of people would come and stay there with us, because nobody had any money, and we let them all sleep on the floor and in the bathtub or wherever. I was having a party, and a friend of my sister’s, who was dancing at the Whiskey a Go-Go, had dated Richard and brought him to the apartment. This was during that whole era of [1969 comedy] Bob and Carol and Ted and Alice when everybody was sleeping with everybody. So Richard came in and said, “Let’s all get into bed and have an orgy.” And I threw him out.



Richard Pryor asked questions by comics.

10 #longreads for Thanksgiving weekend

I was putting together a post of #longreads that had been sitting in tabs and email for a long time (some as long as a year), but it's taking way longer than I thought. I figured you could use some Instapaper grist for the holiday weekend, so here are 10. I'll post the rest some other time.

Vice sent a blind reporter to review the biggest rattlesnake roundup in the world. This is /was a fantastic article.

My feet were sweating. It wasn’t the idea of getting bit that freaked me out. Not entirely. Truth is, I’m mortally afraid of snakes, of everything snaky. The way they move, the way they sound, their shape. I won’t even begin to deconstruct the threat of a tongue that behaves so erratically. Never in my life have I touched one—not even the tiny garter snakes on our lawn when I was a kid, and that was way before blindness. They’d send me screaming.

I know what you’re thinking. Why put myself through something that runs contrary to every cue from my nervous system? It’s a legitimate question, and one I asked myself at the airport, on the plane, and in the car. The only answer I can offer, and I say it with conviction, is this: The best experiences don’t invite you.



The password can no longer protect you.

The common weakness in these hacks is the password. It’s an artifact from a time when our computers were not hyper-connected. Today, nothing you do, no precaution you take, no long or random string of characters can stop a truly dedicated and devious individual from cracking your account. The age of the password has come to an end; we just haven’t realized it yet.



Patriots tight-end, Rob Gronkowski, profiled in Sports Illustrated. Gronkowski, by the way, broke his arm blocking on the final extra point attempt in Sunday's blowout and will be out 4-6 weeks.

Gronkowski's specialty is the improbable play. Of the many he made during the 2011 season, one is particularly representative. It was Week 14, and the Patriots were leading the Redskins 7--3 in the first quarter. Tom Brady dropped back from his own 40 and whipped a 10-yard pass to Gronkowski, who dove to snag it and, realizing he had not been touched by Redskins defensive back DeJon Gomes, rolled over, leaped to his feet and burst upfield toward the sideline. Moments later, Gomes caught him from behind, locking his arms around Gronkowski's waist and digging his heels into the turf as if playing tug-of-war. Meanwhile, Redskins safety Reed Doughty grabbed Gronkowski from the front and wrestled him out-of-bounds. Or so it appeared to everyone, including Washington cornerback DeAngelo Hall, who arrived on the scene, stopped and began walking away from the play. Only, somehow Gronkowski managed to 1) not step out of bounds, balancing both his weight and that of his tacklers on one of his size-16 cleats; 2) drop Gomes with a single volcanic knee thrust; and 3) shed Doughty with a hip swivel. Thus, when Hall turned his head a moment later, he saw Gronkowski galloping down the sideline toward the distant end zone. Cue Redskins defensive back Josh Wilson, who sprinted across the field to cut off Gronkowski and, wisely deciding against attempting a straight tackle, kamikazied into the big man's churning legs. The tactic worked, and an off-balance Gronkowski toppled forward. But instead of thudding to the turf, he began a wild extended stagger, gaining another 13 yards before finally going down at the 11-yard line. Talking to reporters after the game, a stunned Wilson compared Gronkowski to a "human gargoyle."



Neil Young is not afraid of failure.

His longtime manager and friend Elliot Roberts describes Young as “always willing to roll the dice and lose” and says: “He has no problem with failure as long as he is doing work he is happy with. Whether it ends up as a win or loss on a consumer level is not as much of an interest to him as one might think.”



A profile from Smithsonian Magazine about the Black Cyclone, Major Taylor. Also, check out Chris Piascik's Major Taylor series.

Yet one of the first sports superstars emerged from this curious and sordid world. Marshall W. Taylor was just a teenager when he turned professional and began winning races on the world stage, and President Theodore Roosevelt became one of his greatest admirers. But it was not Taylor’s youth that cycling fans first noticed when he edged his wheels to the starting line. Nicknamed “the Black Cyclone,” he would burst to fame as the world champion of his sport almost a decade before the African-American heavyweight Jack Johnson won his world title. And as with Johnson, Taylor’s crossing of the color line was not without complication, especially in the United States, where he often had no choice but to ride ahead of his white competitors to avoid being pulled or jostled from his bicycle at high speeds.



A baseball writer tells how the GOP lost Muslim voters, including himself.

It would be easy to say everything changed on 9/11 – because everything did change on 9/11. But 9/11 was a chance for America to show off the better angels of its nature, and as a nation, by and large, we did. A week after the World Trade Center came crashing down, President Bush spoke before both houses of Congress in one of the defining moments of his presidency. He did not disappoint, and while he outlined the need to attack Al-Qaeda and the Taliban in Afghanistan, he was scrupulous not to point the finger at Muslims in general. “The terrorists practice a fringe form of Islamic extremism that has been rejected by Muslim scholars and the vast majority of Muslim clerics, a fringe movement that perverts the peaceful teachings of Islam,” he said. And later, “I also want to speak tonight directly to Muslims throughout the world. We respect your faith. It's practiced freely by many millions of Americans, and by millions more in countries that America counts as friends. Its teachings are good and peaceful, and those who commit evil in the name of Allah blaspheme the name of Allah. The terrorists are traitors to their own faith, trying, in effect, to hijack Islam itself.”

In the chaos and hysteria that accompanied the immediate aftermath of 9/11, President Bush’s speech was deeply reassuring to American Muslims that whatever the fallout of the attacks would be on our community, the federal government was on our side.

But words were not followed with actions. Quite the contrary; a month later, when the PATRIOT Act was signed into law, Muslims were taken aback by the far-reaching implications. Citizens could have their phones or computers tapped with neither their knowledge nor any recourse. Muslims in Indiana found themselves on the No-Fly List because they had the misfortune of sharing the same name with a terrorist suspect in India - and there was essentially no way to clear their name from the list. Thousands of Muslims, many of whom had lived and worked in America for decades, were arrested on flimsy immigration violations and deported back to their countries of birth.



Profile of the NYPD squad charged with keeping from trying to jump off bridges and buildings.

The Emergency Service Unit is among the most coveted assignments in the Police Department. Officers must have five years of patrol experience before they are eligible for the unit. They must pass an oral interview, a physical agility test and a swim test. Officers who are selected then go through at least six months of training. Rescuing would-be jumpers is only part of their portfolio: They also learn how to properly suppress a fire, extricate an accident victim from a crushed car, rescue people in swift waters and anchor and tie ropes for bridge and building rescues.



Last year's NY Mag look at gay athletes from Will Leitch.

As usual, at the center of the story was TNT analyst Charles Barkley, the iconoclast chatterbox. When asked about the fines, Barkley went off. “I’d rather have a gay guy who can play than a straight guy who can’t play,” he told the Washington Post. “Any professional athlete who gets on TV or radio and says he never played with a gay guy is a stone-freakin’ idiot. I would even say the same thing in college. Every college player, every pro player in any sport has probably played with a gay person … I’ve been a big proponent of gay marriage for a long time, because as a black person, I can’t be in for any form of discrimination at all.” It was a cannon shot: It was one thing for Vogue intern Sean Avery to come out in favor of gay marriage. It was quite another for Charles Barkley, an NBA icon, to do so.



China's cities are amazing, but unlivable.

Even today, most Chinese cities feel like they were cobbled together from a Soviet-era engineering textbook. China's fabled post-Mao liberal reforms meant that the country's cities grew wealthier, but not that much more distinct from each other. Beijing has changed almost beyond recognition since Deng Xiaoping took power in 1978, but to see what Beijing looked like in the past, visit a less developed part of China: Malls in Xian, a regional hub in central China famous for its row upon row of grimacing terracotta warriors, look like the shabby pink structures that used to dot western Beijing. Yes, China's cities are booming, but there's a depressing sameness to what you find in even the newest of new boomtowns. Consider the checklist of "hot" new urban features itemized in a 2007 article in the Communist Party mouthpiece the People's Daily, including obligatory new "development zones" (sprawling corporate parks set up to attract foreign direct investment), public squares, "villa" developments for the nouveau riche, large overlapping highways, and, of course, a new golf course or two for the bosses. The cookie-cutter approach is such that even someone like Zhou Deci, former director of the Chinese Academy of Urban Planning and Design, told the paper he has difficulty telling Chinese cities apart.



Interview with David Mamet from the Paris Review.

INTERVIEWER So to you a character is . . .

MAMET It’s action, as Aristotle said. That’s all that it is—exactly what the person does. It’s not what they “think,” because we don’t know what they think. It’s not what they say. It’s what they do, what they’re physically trying to accomplish on the stage. Which is exactly the same way we understand a person’s character in life—not by what they say, but by what they do. Say someone came up to you and said, I’m glad to be your neighbor because I’m a very honest man. That’s my character. I’m honest, I like to do things, I’m forthright, I like to be clear about everything, I like to be concise. Well, you really don’t know anything about that guy’s character. Or the person is onstage, and the playwright has him or her make those same claims in several subtle or not-so-subtle ways, the audience will say, Oh yes, I understand their character now; now I understand that they are a character. But in fact you don’t understand anything. You just understand that they’re jabbering to try to convince you of something.



Via Stellar, Twitter, and the always great #longreads Friday email, among other sources long since forgotten.

Appetite for Destruction at 25

A couple weeks go, Guns n' Roses' Appetite for Destruction celebrated its 25th birthday. I saw a bunch of articles worth sharing about the album and band. Who doesn't love Appetite for Destruction?

5 years ago, Rolling Stone had a long write up on the making of Appetite.

Released on July 21st, 1987, Appetite for Destruction went on to sell well over 15 million copies in this country alone, becoming one of the best-selling debuts ever. The album looked both forward and backward: The punky rawness of its sound and the pained artistry of its lyrics made it a bridge between commercial Eighties hard rock and the alternative music of the next decade. But Appetite was also among the last classic rock records to be mastered with vinyl in mind, to be edited with a razor blade applied to two-inch tape, to be mixed by five people frantically pushing faders at a non-automated mixing board "We used classic instruments and classic amps," says the album's producer and engineer, Mike Clink, "Our approach was reminiscent of stuff that was done in the Sixties and early Seventies." Adds assistant mixing engineer Deyglio, who earned a credit as "Victor 'the fuckin' engineer'" on the album: "It could almost be seen as the last of one of those types of records, from Layla to Abbey Road on down. It could be seen as the last great rock record made totally by hand."



Drew Magary remembered his first time listening...

They sorted tapes according to chart position, and I remember being overjoyed whenever a tape I had purchased moved up on the rack. When Hysteria went to No. 1, I nearly lost my shit. They also had a section for new albums, and it was July 1987 when I went to the store and saw Appetite in the display case for the first time. I had never heard of Guns N' Roses. I had never read anything about them or listened to any of their songs. All I had to judge them was that cover, with the five skulls laid out on a cross, each skull sporting it own distinct haircut. Skeletons are cooler when they have a full head of hair.



…And then asked some folks for their experiences, too.

Here's why Appetite is awesome. Everything else I listen to from the eighties is so fucking dated that it might as well come with a picture of Joe Piscopo eating out a woman with a super hairy bush while driving Magnum's Ferrari. Shit from that era is so laughable, hipsters wear it because of how ironic it is. NOBODY listens to Appetite ironically because it still kicks the shit out of almost everything today.



Billboard.com takes a look back at Appetite.

"Appetite for Destruction" introduced a band that anyone who loved rock'n'roll could agree on. The metal heads loved the aggression, the glam fans fawned over their looks, the punks aligned with their rebellion, and the purists savored their blues-based riffs. It also contributed iconic images to the lexicon (Rose's head bandana, guitarist Slash's top hat) and uncompromising, powerful songs that remain incredibly fresh. Nothing quite like "Appetite" has come along in the 25 years since it arrived. And that, folks, is why we're stuck with Axl Rose for the rest of our lives.



Spin celebrates Appetite at 25 with the worst covers.

Stereogum looks back:

A group full of hard-partying Sunset Strip veterans who’d all done time on the L.A. pop-metal scene, led by an Indiana transplant that still thought of himself as some sort of off-the-bus hick delinquent and compensated accordingly. And that band happened to have both the ridiculous chops that the pop-metal scene required and a sort of alchemical, otherworldly chemistry that few other bands in history have ever displayed — one of the things that makes their quick dissolution so tragic. And that hick happened to have this sensitive sandpaper wail that sounded sensitive when it was trying to sound tough, and vice versa. That’s a deep and rare combination, and somehow it doesn’t come close to explaining how an album like this could happen.



Wikipedia, always helpful.

Rolling Stone has Appetite as the 27th best album of the 80s, and #62 all time, but there's not a proper review anywhere. (THERE AREN'T ENOUGH STARS IN THE WORLD.)

Axl's mugshot from when he was 18. This is a cool post.

Axl rose mugshot

Axl's 1989 Playboy interview.

Here's the real long Axl Rose GQ profile from 6 years ago that I've likely posted before.

Then he was there. And apologies to the nice woman, but people do not go that nuts when Bon Jovi appears. People were: Going. Nuts. He is not a tall man—I doubt even the heels of his boots (red leather) put him at over five feet ten. He walked toward us with stalking, cartoonish pugnaciousness. I feel like all anybody talks about with Axl anymore is his strange new appearance, but it is hard to get past the unusual impression he makes. To me he looks like he's wearing an Axl Rose mask. He looks like a man I saw eating by himself at a truck stop in Monteagle, Tennessee, at two o'clock in the morning about twelve years ago. He looks increasingly like the albino reggae legend Yellowman. His mane evokes a gathering of strawberry red intricately braided hempen fibers, the sharply twisted ends of which have been punched, individually, a half inch into his scalp. His chest hair is the color of a new penny. With the wasp-man sunglasses and the braids and the goatee, he reminds one of the monster in Predator, or of that monster's wife on its home planet. When he first came onto the scene, he often looked, in photographs, like a beautiful, slender, redheaded 20-year-old girl. I hope the magazine will run a picture of him from about 1988 so the foregoing will seem a slightly less creepy observation and the fundamental spade-called-spade exactitude of it will be laid bare. But if not, I stand by it. Now he has thickened through the middle—muscly thickness, not the lard-ass thickness of some years back. He grabs his package tightly, and his package is huge. Only reporting. Now he plants his feet apart. "You know where you are?" he asks, and we bellow that we do, we do know, but he tells us anyway. "You're in the jungle, baby," he says, and then he tells us that we are going to die.



When Guns opened for the Rolling Stones in LA in 1989.

First press mention of Guns n' Roses I could find, July 1986 in the LA Times.

Four days after the five members of Guns & Roses got together in Silver Lake and decided to form a band, they left on a West Coast tour. On the way to Seattle, their car broke down in Fresno and the musicians spilled out onto the road with their gear and hitchhiked for the next 40 hours.

When they arrived in the Northwest, they found out the rest of the tour had been canceled and they were only getting $50 for the show, not the $250 they were promised. They played their set on borrowed gear and then turned around and hitched back to Los Angeles, broke and tired.



Here are 178 Guns n' Roses articles copied (or in some cases transcribed?) onto a fan site. So much in here. Tons of magazine features and interviews.

And just for kicks, Chuck Klosterman reviewing Chinese Democracy.

Alec Baldwin articles

NewImage Pic via Hamptons Magazine.

I noticed two long Alec Baldwin profiles pop up in the last month so I figured I'd put them in a post. Then I figured I'd try to find all the Alec Baldwin profiles, interviews, and longreads I could. Here are those two new stories, in Vanity Fair and Men's Journal, along with all the others I found. I couldn't find the full text of his Playboy interview, and I was surprised not to find any profiles in Esquire or GQ. If you find them or anything I missed, let me know.

Baldwin on the cover of the August, 2012 Vanity Fair.

As a college junior, Baldwin lost an election for student-association president. He learned, he now says, “when you draw the posters, draw more neatly.” As his political passion waned, his dramatic passion waxed: all those years of hamming it up at home began to exert a pull. Manhattan may have been a place that cost money, but as a teenager Baldwin had made it into town often enough to become acquainted with the theater. He vividly recalls a performance from his first Broadway show—John Cullum singing in the musical Shenandoah: “I’ll never forget watching a man onstage do that, a man move like that, and then the whole audience—I looked to the right of me, I looked to the left of me, the light in people’s faces … ” He was accepted into the drama program at New York University, and, on the long car ride from Washington to New York, Baldwin asked his father, who “wasn’t a chatty guy,” if the decision to transfer had been the right one. The answer was a question: “Do you have the things it takes to be a good actor?,” which the elder Baldwin went on to define as, above all, intelligence, ultimately declaring that he thought his son did indeed have what it took.



Baldwin in the July, 2012 Men's Journal:

Though these days Alec Baldwin is probably best known as a television comedian, he remains a movie guy at heart. In his home screening room, there is a no-phone rule. You watch the movie straight through, without interruption, and the world goes away. As a young actor, like all of his peers, he wanted to be Brando, "in the back seat of that car with Rod Steiger" (he's referring to the famous "I coulda been a contender" scene from On the Waterfront) or Pacino, whose career he obsessively studied, watching classics like Serpico and even misfires like Bobby Deerfield dozens and dozens of times. Now, though, looking back, Baldwin wishes he'd been more like William Holden – Baldwin says Bill Holden – who might not have reached the outer bounds of acting virtuosity, but who had perfect pitch when it came to both dramas and comedies, and was such a charming leading man, in classics like Sunset Boulevard, Stalag 17, Network, The Wild Bunch, and Sabrina, that to Baldwin's mind he certainly "reached the outer bounds of movie stardom."


Here are the other long reads I found.
October, 1989. Interview Magazine.
April, 1998. Slate.
March, 2004. The Guardian.
April, 2006. Elle.
March, 2008. The Advocate.
June, 2008. The Guardian.
September, 2008. The New Yorker.
March, 2009. Departures.
November, 2009. Elle.
December, 2009. New York Times.
December, 2009. Men's Journal.
March, 2010. Vanity Fair.
June, 2012. Fresh Air.
July, 2012. New York Times.
July, 2012. New York Times (VOWS!!!).

And the transcripts from 3 cool interviews on Baldwin's podcast, Here's the Thing. Chris Rock, Lorne Michaels, David Letterman.

Quick tab attic clean up

Clearing up a few tabs before things get completely out of control again, here are a few quality longreads from the last couple weeks.

Desperately Seeking Mitt:

Thanks to his campaign's all but unprecedented restrictive vigilance in the media-access department, trying to penetrate the veneer of the Romney brand is like trying to split a billiard ball with a butter knife. Getting anywhere close to him will require you to suffer repeated, soul-depleting exposures to his campaign anthem, Kid Rock's "Born Free." You will also endure an uncountable number of citizens reciting this sentence verbatim: "I like his business background, and I think he's got the best chance of beating Obama." You will hear people applauding with dire fervor for huge transnational oil-bearing tubes, for voter-identification laws, for Mitt Romney's plan to defund PBS: "Big Bird is gonna have to get used to cornflakes." In lieu of actual access, you will be reduced to spending many stageside hours formulating new descriptions of the governor's hair and speculating on which side he dresses to. (The evidence suggests it's the left.) You will come to sort of adore Ann Romney and to believe her when she says that when Mitt wondered aloud whether he was the right man for the job, she asked her husband, "Can you save America?"



A story about the difficulty of finding missing kids if they're autistic.

Because of his autism, Robert probably didn’t know that he was lost. If he heard people coming through the woods, he might well have taken cover from them, thinking it was a game of hide-and-seek. Or he might not have wanted to be found by a stranger, even one calling out his name. This made efforts to locate him extremely difficult, and it’s how Robert managed to elude what would soon become one of the largest search-and-rescue operations in Virginia history.



Awesome first person account of dealing with the Secret Service after an art project. "When Art, Apple and the Secret Service Collide: ‘People Staring at Computers’"

That’s like “Do you know why I pulled you over?” I had to think for a moment before responding. On one hand, I’ve always heard that the last thing you want to do is give out information. That you shouldn’t answer questions unless you have to. On the other hand, I can’t stand the idea of any relationship based on a lack of communication. And I have a naive hope that if I tell them everything they’ll understand the project better. They’ll see that I did nothing “wrong,” I’m just dealing with some kind of uncomfortable topics.



"The rough-and-tumble world of giving and grabbing on Craigslist"

The Craiglist posting had read “FREE PARROT FOOD.” When I responded to say that I was interested in meeting, interested in discovering why someone would give away parrot food to strangers over the Internet, the e-mail reply—concerning a house fire and a dead macaw—was four paragraphs long. “His is an epic tale,” Reyna Abram wrote in the high style of Gilgamesh. “I was burned trying to save him, however I could not get him out before he perished.” That was five years ago in Montecito. Since then, Abram had wandered the country, toting a sack of parrot feed wherever she went, settling eventually on a forgotten block that cracks and buckles along the rim of South L.A. It was here that my car sat, outside a shuttered office complex whose signage read NORMA DESMOND PRODUCTIONS, one shard in a smashup of buildings as discarded and unused as the aged star in Billy Wilder’s Sunset Boulevard. A trilevel Extra Storage structure was the only new edifice on the block. For the past 18 months Abram had lived in storage, working seven days a week as manager, sleeping on the property, knowing only her clients. In the aftermath of the fire and the death of her pet, she had seemingly placed her own life in storage. Now, Abram said, she wanted out. She longed to unburden herself of her parrot feed, of her story, of the anchorage of her past. I would take my time before crossing the street to our scheduled meeting. How was it that I’d landed of all places on this block? Abram’s tale, a heartsick footnote to the month I’d just spent monitoring the Craigslist free page, was as genuine as they come. Getting here, on the other hand, had been plain nuts.



Where pianos go to die.

The value of used pianos, especially uprights, has plummeted in recent years. So instead of selling them to a neighbor, donating them to a church or just passing them along to a relative, owners are far more likely to discard them, technicians, movers and dealers say. Piano movers are making regular runs to the dump, becoming adept at dismantling instruments, selling parts to artists, even burning them for firewood.



Tips to master the art of day drinking.

Use the buddy system.
Oysters with rosé? BBQ with a pilsner? Whatever you’re drinking make sure it’s paired up with something to eat. You’ll prolong the endeavor and enjoy it a hell of a lot more along the way.



Alternative currency.

So the hippie apostle of no one in particular read up on the history of gold ownership and wrote his gospel on its potential to rescue us from a coming depression. The 21-page report, titled simply “To Know Value—An Economic Research Paper,” studied the devaluation of the dollar over the last century along with gold’s relative steadiness. Simplified charts were thrown in for good measure. And here’s the strangest part: It made a decent argument. NotHaus began selling copies of the paper for $3 to his friends in the neighborhood. “People thought, ‘Bernard has lost it!’” he says with a frenzy in his eyes that suggests he might have. “I didn’t even point out that private ownership of gold was illegal at the time!” That decades-old prohibition, intended to reserve the metal for federal purposes, would change shortly thereafter, in December 1974. And after reading NotHaus’s paper, several of his wealthy Hawaiian friends decided they wanted some gold of their own.



The fight between Procter & Gamble and Unilever for market share of the developing world.

Both firms started this decade by setting themselves ambitious goals. P&G's was to add 1 billion new customers by 2015, a 25% increase. Unilever's was to double its revenues by 2020, at the same time as halving its negative impact on the environment, under its “sustainable living plan”. Both firms made clear that growth in emerging markets would be crucial to achieving those goals. They promised to invest heavily in distributing and marketing their established products in developing countries and in creating new ones tailored to the tastes and pockets of poorer consumers at the “bottom of the pyramid”—where, according to the late C.K. Prahalad, a management guru, a fortune lies.



The fight for Guadalajara.

Calderón has pursued a “kingpin strategy,” like the “deck of cards” that the United States used in post-Saddam Iraq. In 2009, Mexican authorities listed the thirty-seven drug capos they most wanted. They have so far caught or killed twenty-two, and some cartels seem to have withered after losing their leaders. But organized crime controls more resources today, and sows more terror, than ever. The most common fallout from the kingpin strategy has been the fragmentation of narco-trafficking into smaller, warring, ultraviolent factions. This cops-and-robbers version of the drug war cannot, in any case, be taken at face value. The idea of a unified state that is furiously pursuing bad guys is pure pantalla. The low-grade civil war in Mexico takes place on the ground, among factions with shifting loyalties, in cities and villages with tangled histories. The “government” has innumerable faces—it has more than two thousand police agencies, for a start—and its corruption controls are too weak to counter the power of narco billions. Every local commander, every official, and every community must work out an accommodation with organized crime.



Ex-president and CEO of McDonald's wants to open up hundreds of sustainable fast food restaurants:

I had come to the artisanally fed vale of Facebook and Tesla to sample the first fruits of Lyfe Kitchen, a soon-to-be-chain of restaurants that might just shift the calculus of American cuisine. At Lyfe Kitchen (the name is an acronym for Love Your Food Everyday), all the cookies shall be dairy-free, all the beef from grass-fed, humanely raised cows. At Lyfe Kitchen there shall be no butter, no cream, no white sugar, no white flour, no high-fructose corn syrup, no GMOs, no trans fats, no additives, and no need for alarm: There will still be plenty of burgers, not to mention manifold kegs of organic beer and carafes of biodynamic wine. None of this would seem surprising if we were talking about one or 10 or even 20 outposts nationwide. But Lyfe’s ambition is to open hundreds of restaurants around the country, in the span of just five years.



A look at two seminal hip op albums that came out in 1989.

Paul’s Boutique and De La Soul’s 3 Feet High And Rising took advantage of the brief window when technology and artistry pushed sampling to new levels of sophistication, and the folks who owned the publishing rights to the songs and sounds being sampled didn’t yet realize the immense power they possessed, or understand the windfall that could be gleaned from licensing samples to major artists. The two albums stand as apogees of sampling in part because they played by different rules than everyone who came after them, yet were beneficiaries of technology that didn’t really exist before them.



Louis C.K. interview from the AV Club.

AVC: How can you not be in a perpetual state of complete exhaustion?
LCK: You know what? That’s the central question of my life—how to manage all of that. There’s a woman I see who’s not my therapist, but she’s like an old friend who’s a therapist in profession. She lets me talk to her like a therapist once in a while, and she does a great thing. Whenever I have a big dilemma, like this is a big problem in my life, she always says, “Wow, you’re going to have to figure that out.” [Laughs.] That’s all she says. And so I had to figure it out. I had to put some time and effort into figuring out how to manage energy and time and brain effort and all that stuff. I’ve got a bunch of different things I do. I learned that sharks sleep parts of their brain, like rolling blackouts; they can’t fall asleep because they can’t stop moving or they’ll suffocate. So they sleep sections of their brain at a time. So I do kind of a version of that, where I shut down brain centers. I literally tell myself, “Don’t logistically problem-solve for the next three hours, but you can talk to folks. Driving my kid home from school—don’t think about all the professional things you have to do.”

What I read while away

A couple weeks ago, I got back from 8 days in Japan and it was awesome. I'll be recapping the trip at some point, hopefully soon, but in the meantime here are the articles I cleared out of my Instapaper queue. Still woefully underwater there. Some of this will be blogged in other posts, but I like lists. Things to check out are starred.

The Vanishing
notes on "i give up"
In Somerville, Painted Burro is raucous, fun, ready to party
*The Most Amazing Bowling Story Ever
*The Measured Man
Baseball in Japan
Follow the Dark Money
Apple Wants to Protect Your Identity ... by Cloning You
*Tokyo
Saviormetrics
Apple’s Retail Army, Long on Loyalty but Short on Pay
This Just In
You Can’t Handle the Truth About Aaron Sorkin
*Wrestlemaniac
The Dream Will Never Die: An Oral History of the Dream Team
In the Ruins of a Blue and White Empire
Terrell Owens's Darkest Days
The Comeback That Wasn’t
The Top Man at ‘Mad Men’ Isn’t Mad Anymore
Hot restaurant trends of 2012
Aziz Ansari
The Scam Wall Street Learned From the Mafia
*The last tower: The decline and fall of public housing
Funny Women
The Chameleon
Toxic Fog
An Interview with Paul Ford and Gina Trapani
Mad Men: Memories, doppelgängers & phantoms
Cocaine Incorporated
The very white poetry of Mad Men
Summer People
Mad Men's Aaron Staton on Ken Cosgrove and the Season Closer
Eater Young Guns Final 50: Tim Maslow
Mad Men’s Vincent Kartheiser on Pete’s Smug Face, His Punchability, and That Receding Hairline
On the notion of blogging as a career
Brad Pitt's Zombie Nightmare: Inside the Troubled 'World War Z' Production
The New Yorker’s Ryan Lizza: Twitter, Gaffe Obsession Creating ‘Crisis For Political Journalism’