There were so manybrillianttributes of Kobe Bryant after his death at the age of 41 (and the deaths of his 13 year-old daughter, Gianna, and seven others) in a helicopter crash in Calabasas, California last Sunday morning. We muddled through a marathon week of mourning; the tragedy even managed to sideline the Super Bowl. The bloviating pre-game hype was eclipsed by tearful, heartwarming Kobe remembrances: What he meant, and will always mean, to so many. A wonderful term was coined—#girldad—by my ESPN colleague Elle Duncan. “I know he wasn’t a perfect person,” said Jimmy Kimmel, who wept. So did Shaq, during a remarkable NBA on TNT tribute that felt like a wake, for his “little brother” (Shaq later asked, “What would Kobe do?” and concluded he’d want life to go on and so on Friday night, Shaq hosted his star-studded, tough-ticket Super Bowl party in Miami with all the proceeds going to the Kobe and Vanessa Bryant Family Foundation and the others families of the helicopter crash victims). And my colleague and friend Dan LeBatard delivered a moving tribute.
But this lyrical, profound essay by The Ringer’s Brian Phillips was, for me, the best of the best. This is the one piece to read, and savor, if you read none of the Kobe tributes or if you somehow found time to read them all. Phillips unpeels every layer of Kobe’s complicated legacy, including a 19-year-old woman’s 2003 rape allegation against him in Colorado, making sense of the senseless and finding meaning in the apparently meaningless, including a video clip of Kobe’s on-court injuries. Phillips also turns the simple word “but” into a coda not only for Kobe’s life but for his death that still, a week later, seems unreal.
The Sting By Michael Lista for Toronto Life (~25 minutes)
Michael Lista’s powerful, all-too-real parable of an unsolved murder and the elaborate scheme police used to suss out a confession from a troubled man relentlessly drives home just how f’d up crime and justice can be.
Colin O’Brady describes how his first remarkable solo crossing of the Antarctic landmass, in 2018, under his own power (and with no resupplies) nearly ended. An excerpt from his new memoir, “The Impossible First.”
The New Yorker has a new special series “tallying our problems, reckoning with their implications, and inspecting proposed solutions.” Those in the writing world will want to start with this one. But be prepared. It ain’t pretty.
Who should control a long lost shipwreck and its sunken treasure? The hunters who found it and want to divvy up the bounty with their investors? Or the archaeologists who want to exhume and study the lost relics?
“I’ve been listening to jazz my whole life, or more,” writes Shuja Haider in this outstanding essay. “But I generally do not raise the subject with anyone unless I know they are also into it, as though it was a sexual kink or a fringe religion.”
A subsidiary of antivirus company Avast sells “Every search. Every click. Every buy. On every site.” Its clients have included Home Depot, Google, Microsoft, Pepsi, and McKinsey. But 72 hours after this alarming story was published, Avast announced it would stop the data collection and immediately began winding down the clicks-for-sale operation.
The Broadway production of the classic musical “West Side Story” is less a revival than it is a radical re-imagining. The director has modernized Jerome Robbins’ iconic choreography, cut out songs and introduced cameras as part of the staging. Sasha Weiss takes us behind the scenes where she explores the debate over the show’s changes, even among its actors.
That voice. For decades, the voice of Randy Travis was a smooth pour of warm syrup on a cold morning. With song after song, his gilded baritone rounded the sharp edges of life for millions of people — and ultimately changed the direction of an entire genre of music, producing a slew of platinum records and 16 No. 1 hits along the way. He could take lyrics that might otherwise be corny or trite and make them poetry. During an era when Nashville’s brightest stars thrived making increasingly shallow, increasingly banal tripe, this lean, winsome young man from small-town North Carolina made music that sounded like it may have always existed somewhere in your mind, waiting to be recognized. At concerts, he’d sometimes hum into the microphone, and his voice would send throngs of women — and plenty of men — into fits of ecstatic joy.
We momentarily suspend the usual Sunday classic rules to offer a chapter from a book instead of an article from a periodical. Here, H.L. Mencken, the flawed god of cleverness, beats the linguists at their own game in his exploration on the use and meaning of slang. "Slang originates in an effort, always by ingenious individuals, to make the language more vivid and expressive," he writes. Rereading it sent me on a long Google hunt for the meaning of "the dexter meadow." Turns out, according to Eric Partridge, "dexter" means right or right handed, and dexter meadow means the right side of a baseball field. Batter up!
Classic Read curator Jack Shafer writes about media for Politico.
Cipha Sounds and Peter Rosenberg have been doing their rap podcast for a long, long time, but a couple months ago they re-booted with a multi-part series on Jay-Z. It’s a bit of a mix of conversation and oral history, sprinkled with interviews with Jay and others who came up with him. It can be a bit rocky at times (for instance, the first episode doesn’t really get going until about 7mins in) but it’s full of fascinating information about Brooklyn, rap, and more. And every fifteen minutes Peter and Cipha break into an argument about whether Jay is the greatest of all time, and I can’t get enough of that argument.
Jody Avirgan is a podcast host and producer, most recently with 30 for 30 Podcasts and FiveThirtyEight. You can find his work and newsletter at jodyavirgan.com.
As the deadly coronovirus headed into a global health emergency, Getty Images photographer Kevin Frayer documented desperate air travelers wearing plastic jugs, fruit peels and even sanitary napkins over their faces in an attempt to protect themselves on Jan. 30 at Beijing Capital International Airport. After seeing photo after photo of crowds wearing face masks, Frayer’s curious image of a girl in a makeshift shield stands out. Using a shallow depth of field, Frayer isolates the girl to focus our attention, prompting the question, “What is going on here?” Based in Asia, Frayer has distinguished himself as one today’s most talented photojournalists. His images of the mass exodus of Rohingya refugees from Myanmar in 2017 are stunning testimony to his skill at covering the human condition as we flee persecution, conflict and disease.
Patrick Farrell, the curator of The Sunday Still, is the 2009 Pulitzer Prize-winner for Breaking News Photography for The Miami Herald, where he worked from 1987 to 2019. He is currently a Lecturer in the Department of Journalism and Media Management at the University of Miami School of Communication.
I'm talking with some Hollywood types because it looks, at long last, that a story I wrote will be made into a movie. I'll share more details when the deal is finalized but the point is: I was on a conference call this week, and the studio guys and I started to talk movies. One of them mentioned Hell or High Water, which I missed when it came out in 2016. It's amazing, a modern take on West Texas that is more character study than shootin' up the ole saloon, though there's plenty of violence too. Taylor Sheridan wrote the script and he said in this Hollywood Reporter round table that he looks for "absurdly simple" plots which allow him to blow life into the interpersonal relationships among characters. Esquiredid a great job of explaining how Sheridan moved from journeyman actor to the bard of the modern Western. Hell of High Water sucks you in because it's not just about the two brothers who rob banks but why they do it. Like Parasite, this is a story of class warfare. The dialogue of the final scene still gives me chills.
Paul Kix is a best-selling author, an editor, and the host of the podcast, Now That's a Great Story, where novelists, journalists, screenwriters and songwriters talk about their favorite work, the one that reveals their artistic worldview. For insights from writers that go beyond what's covered in the podcast, like the entry above, please sign up for Paul's newsletter.
Anthologies are always a mixed bag, and comic book anthologies are no exception. It’s hard to look at a collection’s product info and know it’ll be worth your time. Well, the exception proves the rule, and NOISEMAKERS: 25 Women Who Raised Their Voices and Changed the World, the debut release from Kazoo, fits the bill. The book celebrates the lives of inspiring female figures throughout history - including Mary Shelley, who’s spotlighted in a story by acclaimed writer/artist Emil Ferris (My Favorite Thing Is Monsters). Couched as a conversation between the long-gone author and Ferris, the short is presented in the style Ferris has gained attention for, creating a memorable and intense piece of graphic storytelling. It’s not clear from the story or the promotional copy accompanying the book what other creators have contributed to the collection, but based on Ferris’s story alone, it should be worth your time.
Alex Segura is an acclaimed author, a comic book writer written various comic books, including The Archies, Archie Meets Ramones, and Archie Meets KISS. He is also the co-creator and co-writer of the Lethal Lit podcast from iHeart Radio, which was named one of the Five Best Podcasts of 2018 by The New York Times. By day, Alex is Co-President of Archie Comics. You can find him at www.alexsegura.com.
Founder, Editor: Don Van Natta Jr. Producer, Editor: Jacob Feldman Producer, Junior Editor: Étienne Lajoie Senior Recycling Editor: Jack Shafer Senior Photo Editor: Patrick Farrell Senior Music Editor: Kelly Dearmore Senior Podcast Editor: Jody Avirgan Senior Editor of Esoterica: Ryan M. Rodenberg Senior Originals Editor: Peter Bailey-Wells Sunday Comics Editor: Alex Segura
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Contributor in memoriam: Lyra McKee 1990-2019
Header Image: Hanna Melin
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