Enjoy the best longform journalism. Every Sunday.

Stephen A. Smith Won't Stop Talking by Vinson Cunningham for The New Yorker.


The week's best reads, carefully curated by Don Van Natta Jr. and Jacob Feldman. 



      Brighten Our Sunday!

   SUNDAY — June 24, 2018   

EDITORS’ NOTE: Unfortunately, Erik Malinowski is passing the torch when it comes to curating the always entertaining Sunday Ampersand. We thank him for creating the funny, quirky and popular feature and are glad that he's sticking around as a contributing editor. His departure means we are looking for his successor. If you're interested or have any nominations, please email us!

Don and Jacob

The Trouble With Johnny Depp
By Stephen Rodrick
 (~50 minutes)


This is the rare celebrity profile that excoriates its subject, using a film actor’s preposterous words, behavior and bloviating self-pity to puncture his blinding lack of self-awareness and current predicament, nearly broke, living in the “gilded prison” of a rented mansion in north London. At 55, Johnny Depp is very sad, even morbid, as he discusses his struggles with depression, his complicated relationships with his late mother and ex-wife and the fact there’s practically nothing left of the $650 million he was paid for films that grossed $3.6 billion.

He craves understanding for a wide array of perceived injustices by the long-time money managers and lawyers  he’s suing (and who have counter-sued him), while ticking off oher perceived slights (“It’s insulting to say that I spent $30,000 [per month] on wine,” he says. “Because it was far more.”). But Depp will be pitied for reasons he and his lawyer likely never imagined when they recruited Stephen Rodrick to write this man-in-full, 72-hour marathon Rolling Stone profile. There are more than a few jaw-dropping revelations and cringe-worthy passages, but this one ranks among my favorites:

Depp is evangelical in the uses of narcotics and thinks they could have expedited the capture of Osama bin Laden.

“You get a bunch of fucking planes, big fucking planes that spray shit, and you drop LSD 25,” he says. “You saturate the fucking place. Every single thing will walk out of their cave smiling, happy.”

City of Exiles
By Daniel Duane
 (~30 minutes)


I missed this story when it first appeared a couple weeks back, but for all the obvious, horrific reasons, the profile of one of the only American attorneys working with asylum-seekers and deportees in Tijuana bubbled up again this week. From a masterful, cinematic opening to the powerful kicker, Daniel Duane takes you into Nicole Ramos’ life in a city being flooded with newcomers from both the North and South. You won’t leave the same.
The Blockchain: A Love Story–And a Horror Story
By Gideon Lewis-Kraus
 (~60 minutes)


Arthur and Kathleen Breitman tried to build a “safe place” for cryptocurrency. The key word is “tried.” This is one rock ’em, sock ’em read, described, aptly by Wired’s editors, as “a crypto-tragedy in three acts.”

SidebarThe Reputation-Laundering Firm That Ruined Its Own Reputation
Stephen A. Smith Won’t Stop Talking
By Vinson Cunningham

 (~25 minutes)

If you don’t enjoy anything else in this profile (and there’s a ton more to take away), you’ll appreciate Vinson Cunningham’s successful efforts to capture Stephen A. Smith’s unique inflections and intonations—ways of speaking that have helped make his one of the most famous voices alive. (Full Disclosure: Stephen A. is an ESPN colleague of Don’s.)
Deleting a Species

By Rowan Jacobsen

 (~25 minutes)

In a nondescript MIT office building, with five layers of protection standing between them and the rest of the world, scientists are experimenting with directly changing the course of a wild species’ evolution.
The Dark Side of the Orgasmic Meditation Company
By Ellen Huet
 (~25 minutes)

OneTaste offers “sexuality wellness” to its clients, winning enthusiastic endorsements from Khloe Kardashian and Tim Ferriss. But according to Ellen Huet’s investigation for Bloomberg, some former customers say the 14-year-old company pushed them into five-figure debt and sexual servitude.

Joe and the Whale
By Chelsea Murray
 (~35 minutes)

This fascinating piece tells the tragic story of Joe Howlett, a 59-year-old lifelong sailor and fisherman who died trying to rescue an entangled whale. More broadly, the piece explores the challenges—and costs—of trying to conserve the ocean’s most extraordinary animals.

SidebarThe Horses That Changed History [$]
Paisley Park, Prince’s Lonely Palace

By Amanda Petrusich

 (~15 minutes)


Two years after Prince’s death in an elevator at Paisley Park, his opulent estate/studio in Chanhassen, Minnesota, is open to the public but “feels like a husk.” By the way, the V.I.P. tour costs $100 (parking is extra) and takes about an hour and forty minutes.

Sidebar: Take a Look at Him Now: The Many Lives of Phil Collins
What It Means to Be Loved by a Dog
By Margaret Renkl
 (~5 minutes)


Read this. You’ll thank us.
Generation Pickleball: Welcome to Florida’s Political Tomorrowland
By Michael Grunwald
 (~25 minutes)


Politico’s Michael Grunwald visited The Villages outside of Orlando, a retirement community advertised as “Florida’s friendliest hometown,” for a glimpse of the Republicans’ political future, which is unabashedly Trump-friendly.
She Will Not Be Silenced
By Rachel Thompson
 (~15 minutes)

Sixteen of the most harassed women online share why they are not logging off.
How ‘Desus & Mero’ Conquered Late Night
By Jazmine Hughes
 (~20 minutes)


The comedians Desus Nice and the Kid Mero have used “a deadly black perspective” to help them soar in late night TV. In 2019, they’ll move from Vice to a weekly show on Showtime. 
The Last Days of Marc-André Leclerc
By Matt Skenazy 
 (~20 minutes)


The greatest alpinist of his generation was a quiet, unassuming Canadian named Marc-André Leclerc. Four months ago, Leclerc joined climber Ryan Johnson for a first climb outside Juneau. They never came back. A nine-day search produced more questions than answers.

I’ve Got Some Things to Say
By Romelu Lukaku
 (~15 minutes)


The Belgian international football star begins this astonishing, inspirational essay this way: “I remember the exact moment I knew we were broke. I can still picture my mum at the refrigerator and the look on her face.”

Sidebar: Afro-Europe in the World Cup
How Oprah’s Network Finally Found Its Voice

By Jason Parham

 (~20 minutes)


Seven years in, OWN has figured out what it is— ”it seeks to rewire how we understand ourselves.”

SidebarHow Twitter Made The Tech World's Most Unlikely Comeback
Welcome to Blaine, the Town Amazon Prime Built 
By Alexandra Samuel
 (~10 minutes)


E-commerce trends and exchange rates will control the fate of Blaine, Washington, where many Canadians on the other side of the border have their online purchases delivered.
Trying to Kill the Want
By Kristi Coulter
 (~15 minutes)


"I was a grown, multi-degreed, loved, moneyed, professionally powerful woman who did not have the strength to wait one-third of an hour before having a drink."
The Legend of Nintendo
By Felix Gillette
 (~15 minutes)


Never count the 130-year-old Japanese gaming giant down and out.

Sidebar: Inside Atari’s Rise and Fall



     New York Review of Books
The Perils of Pauline (1980)
By Renata Adler
 (~40 minutes)

Critic-novelist Renata Adler left no weapon in her armory untouched in 1980 when she ravaged the life work of
New Yorker film critic Pauline Kael. The brilliance and cruelty of her techniques cannot be described, only quoted. Give a gander:

"Although it is true that Ms. Kael can hardly resist a restatement, or a repetition, or a meaningless amplification ('ditsey little twitches,' 'ruthless no soul monsters'; 'incomprehensible bitch,' 'obnoxious smartass'); although she seems at times to have a form of prose hypochondria, palpating herself all over to see if she has a thought, and publishing every word of the process by which she checks to see whether or not she has one; it is also, equally, true that she can hardly resist any form of hyperbole, superlative, exaggeration ('poisonously mediocre,' 'wickedest baroque sensibility at large in America')."

Having read Adler, you'll never read Kael again without flinching.

Jack Shafer writes about media for Politico.


No new pod this week. Here are encore links to a handful of our favorite episodes that you may have missed -- Sy Hersh, Wright Thompson & Seth Wickersham, Amy Chozick, Taffy Brodesser-Akner.


The Trouble With Johnny Depp

Johnny Depp isn’t here yet. Still, his presence is all around the 10,500-square foot rented mansion at 16 Bishopswood Road in London’s Highgate neighborhood.

He is here in the busy hands of Russell, his personal chef working up the Peking duck. He is here in the stogie-sized joint left by the sink in the guest bathroom. He is here in the never-ending reservoir of wine that is poured into goblets. And he is here in a half-done painting upstairs that features a burning black house, a child Johnny and an angry woman who resembles his mother, Betty Sue.

And then he is actually here. He is in the living room, crooning his entrance: “Oh, my darling, oh, my darling, my darling Clementine. You are lost and gone forever, my darling Clementine.”


Stephen A. Smith Won’t Stop Talking

“Blood clots and all of that stuff. That’s how that develops—always sitting, never stand, never walk, never run.”

—Stephen A. Smith


The Death of a Once Great City [$]
By Kevin Baker


A Company Built on a Bluff
By Reeves Wiedeman

Brain in a Bucket
By Jessica Pishko


By Adam Bernstein

 (~10 minutes)

Charles Krauthammer, the Pulitzer Prize-winning columnist and intellectual political opinionist, died last week at the age of 68.

Prejudice & Pride: Fire at the UpStairs Lounge
By ABC News
 (~30 minutes)


Before the Pulse shooting, this was the deadliest act against LGBTQ in the US. 45 years ago in New Orleans, 32 people died when a gay bar in the French Quarter was set on fire. Released for streaming from ABC News' investigative team, this doc deftly examines the experience of tragedy in a marginalized community. 

The Long View is curated by Justine Gubar, Vice President, News Narratives at Fusion and the author of Fanaticus: Mischief and Madness in the Modern Sports Fan. Reach out to Justine at if you have a suggestion for next week's long view.


By A.O. Scott

 (~10 minutes)

Acclaimed director Paul Schrader discusses his brilliant new film First Reformed.

By Jenelle Riley

 (~5 minutes)

How cellist Yo-Yo Ma led documentary filmmaker Morgan Neville to making a critically-acclaimed film about Mr. Roger’s radical but timeless ideas about the power of kindness.

10 Strangest Unexplained Phenomena In Our Solar System

By Ada Navarro Ulriksen

 (~5 minutes)

A let’s-make-science-accessible top 10 list, from why storms on Jupiter resembles beehives to the possibility that a ninth planet might be lurking at the edge of our solar system.

"A Strange Bolt of Lightning"

By Robert Mays

 (~50 minutes)

A revealing oral history of punk band Gaslight Anthem’s move from its native New Jersey to LA, where it recorded its masterpiece album, “The ’59 Sound.”


A Hero Off the Pitch: In Russia on World Cup assignment, Los Angeles-based Reuters photographer Lucy Nicholson found a “dramatic diversion” outside her hotel when a thunderstorm flooded the medieval city of Nizhny Novgorod in western Russia. While fans cheered their favorite teams, a dapper gentleman in a shirt and tie rescued two women from their stranded cars. The sun eventually returned, the flood waters subsided and the soccer-watching continued along the banks of the Volga River, but not before Nicholson demonstrated the multitasking skills of a sports and news photographer.
Sunday Still revisited: Lots of buzz – and a controversial Time magazine cover illustration – prompted by last week’s powerful photograph by Getty photographer John Moore of a young girl in a pink shirt crying while her mother was searched by a Border Patrol agent. The mother and child were later reported to be kept together while being detained. Whether that was a result of the noise surrounding the viral image or not, there is no questioning the photograph’s role in the sudden policy reversal that followed. The impact of the still image endures. 

Patrick Farrell, the curator of The Sunday Still, is the 2009 Pulitzer Prize-winner for Breaking News Photography for The Miami Herald, where he has worked since 1987. He is currently a Distinguished Executive-in-Residence in Emerson College’s Department of Journalism.

Cover story: Addicted to Hate
By Wes Enzinna


"People sometimes make their admirable deeds and accomplishments hard to spot, such as by giving anonymously or avoiding bragging."  That is the first sentence of the abstract to a thought-provoking new academic paper in the journal Nature Human Behaviour.  Think about the last time you saw a large donor list hanging on the wall of a new building.  There are almost always a handful of entries for "Anonymous."  Why do people donate anonymously?  Three researchers—Moshe Hoffman, Christian Hilbe, and Martin Nowak—explore the answer in what they describe as a "signal-burying game."   

A link to the academic article can be found here

Ryan works as a professor at Florida State University, where he teaches research methods and sports law.  He writes a lot of academic articles and some mainstream pieces too



From The Telegraph:
"Social media is so addictive for children that the Government should classify it as 'social harm' and make it carry health warnings." 

From Tim:
I’ve lost all my children, alas;
Pied pipers have come through the glass
Of computer screens
For my artless teens
And kidnapped their reason en masse.

Tim Torkildson is a retired circus clown who fiddles with rhyme. All his verses can be found at Tim's Clown Alley.

Nope, No Secret Washington Cabal Meets in Room H-107 [$]

By Janet Hook and Natalie Andrews

 (~5 minutes)

A peek inside Washington’s super-secret, super-exclusive Chowder and Marching Club, founded in 1949 by Richard Nixon and Gerald Ford. Featuring a few non-denial denials.


Yakety Yak
By The Coasters

Read Later

Founder, Curator: Don Van Natta Jr.
Producer, Curator: Jacob Feldman
Producer, Curator: Étienne Lajoie
Senior Recycling Editor: Jack Shafer
Senior Long View Editor: Justine Gubar
Senior Photo Editor: Patrick Farrell
Senior Limerick Editor: Tim Torkildson
Senior Podcast Editor: Jody Avirgan
Senior Editor of Esoterica: Ryan M. Rodenberg

Digital Team: Nation Hahn, Nickolaus Hines, Megan McDonell, Alexa Steinberg
Podcast Team: Peter Bailey-Wells, Cary Barbor, Julian McKenzie, Jonathan Yales
Campus Editor: Peter Warren

Contributing Editors: Bruce Arthur, Shaun Assael, Alex Belth, Sara J. Benincasa, Sara Blask, Greg Bishop, Taffy Brodesser-Akner, Chris Cillizza, Anna Katherine Clemmons, Rich Cohen, Pam Colloff, Maureen Dowd, Charles Duhigg, Brett Michael Dykes, Geoff Edgers, Lea Goldman, Michael N. Graff, Maggie Haberman, Reyhan Harmanci, Virginia Heffernan, Matthew Hiltzik, Jena Janovy, Bomani Jones, Chris Jones, Peter Kafka, Paul Kix, Mina Kimes, Peter King, Michael Kruse, Tom Lamont, Chris Lehmann, Will Leitch, Glynnis MacNicol, Drew Magary, Erik Malinowski, Jonathan Martin, Betsy Fischer Martin, Ana Menendez, Kevin Merida, Heidi N. Moore, Eric Neel, Joe Nocera, Ashley R. Parker, Anne Helen Petersen, Jo Piazza, Joe Posnanski, S.L. Price, Jennifer Romolini, Julia Rubin, Albert Samaha, Bruce Schoenfeld, Michael Schur, Joe Sexton, Jacqui Shine, Rachel Sklar, Dan Shanoff, Ben Smith, Matt Sullivan, Wright Thompson, Pablo Torre, Kevin Van Valkenburg, John A. Walsh, and Seth Wickersham

Header Image: Eric Helgas 

You can read more about our staff, and contact us (we'd love to hear from you!) on our website: Help pick next week's selections by tweeting us your favorite stories with #SundayLR.

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