For Sactown, I wrote the first–and as far as I know, the only–full-access profile of Lester Holt since his permanent installation as the anchor of NBC Nightly News. From Sacramento to Rockefeller Center, this one’s got the goods–NBC News boss Deborah Turness, media insider Brian Stelter, a whole lotta Holts, new details on the handoff to Holt from Brian Williams, and, in one of my favorite exchanges, some real talk from Andrea Mitchell:
Russ Solomon, the founder of Tower Records and the most influential Sacramentan of the 20th century, turned 90 this year. He’d probably be the most influential Sacramentan ever were it not for Hardin Bigelow, the first elected mayor, whose levees saved the fledgling city from flooding in March 1850 and who, a month later, rebuilt the riverfront after a devastating fire. In October of the same year, Bigelow was rewarded for his efforts with a cholera epidemic that eventually killed him.
Anyway! Solomon’s life and work is chronicled in the documentary All Things Must Pass, actor (and fellow Sacramento native) Colin Hanks’ feature directing debut that opened theatrically this fall.
It’s a breezy, affecting film, about which I spoke with Solomon, Hanks and other Tower aficionados for a deep-dive feature at Sactown:
Is Anne Gust Brown the most powerful woman in California? Probably! Here’s my deep dive at Sactown, starring Anne and the governor himself:
The Golden 1 Center (aka THE ARENA) is going to radically change the look, feel, substance and future of downtown Sacramento, and likely the region as a whole. For starters, the city’s purchase of a Jeff Koons sculpture as the centerpiece of the arena plaza has raised eyebrows across the art world, while raising both hackles and acclaim around Sacramento. What’s behind the controversy? What’s at stake? What’s next? Join me at Sactown to go behind the scenes of an unprecedented pubic-art renaissance.
I’m back at Medium with a story about Fetch, the venerable Upper East Side bar that closed permanently this week. For years, Fetch was practically a second home for me and many regulars, and the thought that it’s not there anymore is just… weird. Anyway, the piece, "Last Call," is mostly about what it means—and what it costs—to be a bar regular. RIP, Fetch!
I’ve been fiddling with the new blogging/"storytelling" platform over at Medium.com, which is really terrific. I published my first piece over there last week: "Pigeons: A Love Story," a memoir-y kinda thing marriage, divorce, and the stubborn pigeon family I got to know as neighbors in New York City. I hope you’ll check it out when you have a few minutes; I’m really proud of it.
Hopefully it’s the first of several there as I pull some more ideas together–stay tuned!
This Friday, Jan. 17, is the 25th anniversary of the Cleveland Elementary School shooting in Stockton, Calif.–the first mass shooting and killing of schoolkids in American history. The massacre’s legacy can be seen not only in countless other incidents of gun violence in schools since 1989, but also in the national laws and debates that ensued from the event. And while the tragedy is largely forgotten today, its impact and influence cannot be understated: From the rise of Wayne LaPierre to the echoes of Newtown, modern American gun culture began on the schoolyard in Stockton. I investigated the shooting and its aftermath for Sactown Magazine’s Dec./Jan. issue. It’s a looonnng read, but I’m really proud of this work and deeply grateful to everyone who took the time to speak with me about their experiences 25 years ago. I hope you’ll check it out.
I am terribly late posting this, but hey: It was a total thrill contributing to the Slate Book Review this summer, when I had the opportunity to write about consumer-finance guru Clark Howard’s new book, Living For the Long Haul. Hint: It’s really good!
Howard, the syndicated radio and TV host, has spent the last 25 years dispensing money advice and consumer counsel to his growing legion of followers. His is a one-stop shop of investment tips, bargain deals, rip-off alerts, and seemingly endless hacks for maximizing every dollar you make. I’ve listened to his radio show off and on for a few years now, and from the start, I admired his emphases on accountability and frugality. I liked to think of him as a demigod sent to save the middle class from its buy-now-pay-later self, just as long as they could A) get used to the nasal lilt of his voice and B) suck it up enough to put his insights to work for them. He was Moses parting the Red-Ink Sea. […] If you didn’t already know Howard’s brand or his previous best-seller, Living Large in Lean Times, you’d be forgiven for thinking this was some kind of Leskoesque late-night-infomercial foolishness, not the work of the most reasonable man in media.
I had a lot of fun with this, and Nate Powell’s illustration is awesome, too. Check out the rest here…
A year ago tomorrow, 12 people were killed and dozens more wounded when a man opened fire on a theater full of late-night moviegoers in Aurora, Colorado. A month after the massacre, I traveled to Aurora to report on the aftermath. The primary focus of the trip was to better understand how and why Americans live with the omnipresence of violence in our daily lives. Today, I wrote for The Awl about what I found. The answer in Aurora, if there is one, might be embedded in 150 years of history, crystallized by Harper’s Weekly contributor Theodore R. Davis’s 1867 observation about the frontier Indian tribes: "It is, to be sure, a hard thing to say, but there is safety in extermination alone."
Two words signified the promise of cataclysmic violence that reinforced Davis’s perception—his very consciousness—of America as an idea. "Extermination alone," the resolution necessary to uphold the idea. "Extermination alone," such a "hard thing to say" that nevertheless will be said as some rational outgrowth of experience. The irony is even more inseparable: "Extermination alone," so as to peaceably subdue the Great Plains. "Extermination alone," so as to hurry the territories into the more respectable, civilized, white-man’s dystopia plaguing the postwar East.
Read the rest at The Awl.
At last, The Fresh Wars is finally up and at ’em at Slate:
"I think it’s meaningless, almost, now," says Mark Crumpacker, the chief marketing officer with Chipotle. "You could claim that something very heavily processed was fresh, I guess. I don’t think there are any rules around ‘fresh.’ You can just say it with impunity. And I think lots of people do."
So maybe "Is it fresh?" isn’t the question we should be asking ourselves as we lose the tortilla, slice up freshness, and muddle through the trenches of fast-food trends. Instead, amid the varying strategies, we have a much more basic and far more crucial determination to make: What does fresh even mean?
And the rest. This is a wild one! I hope you’ll check it out.
Today at the Classical, I’m privileged — and not just a little saddened — to chart the fall and rise and fall and imminent disappearance of my beloved Sacramento Kings:
The Kings’ futility runs much deeper than the usual peaks and troughs associated with the NBA, because the Kings’ near-win over the Lakers was the closest Sacramento ever got to reconciling the city’s imagined self with its real identity. Instead, we developed a perspective on winning from losing, made all the worse by having no other pro sports team to balance the anguish. Long-suffering Boston Red Sox fans had two Celtics dynasties; White Sox and Cubs fans had the Bulls, if they wanted them. Outsiders like to recall the Kings’ upswing as a heady, bittersweet marvel of civic renaissance, but believe me: There is nothing bittersweet about Sacramento and its Kings. It is all bitter.
And the rest…
I’ve mostly been staying out of the awards-season muck, but I couldn’t help this one. From the fine folks at Slate:
Oscar bait is an art form, a state of mind, a business model. Its yield includes some of recent American cinema’s most resonant triumphs (Titanic, the Lord of the Rings trilogy, The Social Network) and some of its most wretched garbage (Nine, The Lovely Bones, the last decade of Halle Berry’s career). Oscar bait is the only reason that grown-ups have anything at all to watch in a movie theater anymore, with four months of awards season compensating for the other eight months of craven superhero franchises, anemic romantic comedies, and whatever Adam Sandler wipes off his shoe. For all the media hand-wringing about television usurping film’s grip on our culture’s imagination, no one complains about Breaking Bad losing an Emmy to Homeland the way they still yelp on and on about Crash thwarting Brokeback Mountain for a Best Picture Oscar.
And the rest…
In my new piece at Slate, meet the competitive lockpicker behind one of Kickstarter’s most troubled projects:
"They worked beautifully," Towne recalls today. "I had people walking up to me holding a pick in their hand saying, ‘I haven’t been able to really understand what happened in a lock until I used this pick. And then, after about half an hour of this, people started walking up and saying, ‘Ah, this one snapped.'"
The first few snapped picks didn’t bother Towne. They were delicate. It happens. "But then," he says, "pick after pick after pick after pick kept coming back snapping."
And then everything snapped.
And the rest…
The election’s almost here, which means it’s time for a wave of political filmmakers and producers to cash in. My latest from Bloomberg Businessweek:
“When you look at box office returns,” says Andrew Marcus, director of Hating Breitbart, “especially for films that have political content, I think there is a huge audience that feels underserved. 2016 really shows that. The market is so tuned-in right now.”
And the rest…
Here’s something new via the fine folks at The Awl:
The fact remains that these are postmodern exercises in American image worship, handmade and preserved the same way for 50 years by skilled workers under the auspices of a league for which every snap, every pass, every hit, every fumble wields sumptuous visual portent. And from the fetishized brutality of "NFL: Moment of Impact" right down to the ageless satire of "Football Follies" — Sudden Death Sabol’s reminder of the flaws rife within his beloved game’s glossy veneer — these workers uphold an equally ageless duty to make a viewer feel football. This is not broadcasting. This is filmmaking. This is art.
And the rest…