EDITORS’ NOTE: Happy Sunday! Before we get going with this week's list, please say hello to Kelly Dearmore, The Dallas Morning News’ music critic, who will curate a new regular feature for us called The Sunday Long Player. (The Sunday Soundtrack, a song selected by one of us or a guest editor, will now serve as the sidebar to Kelly’s musical musings.)
Born and raised in Texas, Kelly has loved music since he first heard Waylon Jennings sing the Dukes of Hazzard theme song on television as a sheltered young lad growing up in Lone Star, Texas (yes, that’s the tiny East Texas town’s real name). He thinks the Rolling Stones are more country than most of what is called country music these days and he unapologetically, and without irony, views Avril Lavigne’s “Under My Skin” as a proper modern masterpiece. Welcome, Kelly!
Secondly, if you are involved in art, design, and/or media, and are interested in curating our popular Sunday Cover, please send us an email!
Otto Warmbier, the American college student who was sent home brain-damaged from North Korea, was hailed by President Trump as the catalyst of the summit with Kim Jong-Un. Warmbier’s return home swiftly came and went on America’s rage-rinse-repeat news cycle, but Doug Bock Clark invested six months of reporting to find out what had really happened to him.
“What made an American college student go to Pyongyang?” Clark writes. “What kind of nightmare did he endure while in captivity? How did his brain damage occur? And how did his eventual death help push America closer toward war with North Korea and then, in a surprising reversal, help lead to Trump’s peace summit with Kim Jong-Un? The story I uncovered was stranger and sadder than anyone had known. In fact, I discovered that the manner of Otto’s injury was not as black-and-white as people were encouraged to believe. But before he became a rallying cry in the administration’s campaign against North Korea, he was just a kid.”
This is one for the journalism textbooks. Months after winning the Polk award for her reporting on Roy Moore, Stephanie McCrummen returned to Alabama to tell the story of a small-town pastor, his evangelical congregation, and the way they talk about Donald J. Trump. The quotes will likely shock you, but the most amazing thing about this story is how McCrummen infuses suspense into a report from a seemingly quiet little place.
Kansas City’s Schlitterbahn Waterpark is home of the infamous Verruct, the world’s tallest water slide. A 10-year-old boy named Caleb Schwab was decapitated on that ride two years ago, leading to the ride’s owner and designer being charged with second-degree murder. Skip Hollandsworth’s meticulously reported piece will likely stun you.
A D.E.A. confidential source traps narcotics and weapons traffickers by effectively playing roles, from the cartel boss to a drug ring money manager. By effortlessly slipping into every new role, Spyros Enotiades has become the most prolific and successful confidential informant over the last 30 years, his supervisors say—the Meryl Streep of the undercover government informant racket. “He’s got huge balls,” a recently retired D.E.A. supervisor marvels about Enotiades. “He can command a room.”
For a jaw-dropping glimpse of the ever-widening gap between the haves and the have-nots, you just need to peek inside the Financial Times’ gilded, over-the-top luxury magazine. How to Spend It is published 34 times a year, runs 80 to 100 pages, with about half devoted to slick ads for the most sought after luxury brands in the world, as well as artwork and property. “To read How to Spend It, depending on your income level and attitude to extravagance, is to enter a world that is seductive or ridiculous, escapist or intimidating, a voyeuristic thrill or utterly enraging—and possibly all at the same time.”
In my prior life as a New York Times correspondent, I once interviewed Theresa May at the Home Office in London. During our 30 minutes together, she listened politely to my questions, murmured a few barely responsive responses and then briskly ushered me out of her office.
Now Prime Minister, May is struggling to navigate Brexit, while battling President Trump, Europe and emboldened factions inside her own party. At a critically important moment for the UK, as its economy, in just two years, went from the fastest-growing major economy in the world to the slowest, May’s cautious reticence is seen, increasingly, as a liability. Practically no one in the UK wants to trade places with her. “She sits, you talk. She sits. She looks at you, and then you leave,” a former Cabinet colleague tells Sam Knight.
To mourn the closure of the last three Blockbuster video stores in Alaska, Justin Heckert explains how these outposts managed to survive and why their customers still rented videos and returned them through the store’s drop-off slots long after the parent company ceased operations.
We could have guessed that producing those must-see movie trailers is an art form all its own. But we didn’t know that the trailer-making is a cutthroat competition among supremely talented filmmakers who all scramble to get the studios to bite on that one perfect vision of their movies. An irresistible look inside of The Process.
Joel: "Now, I do have an idea for a farewell tour."
Marchese: "What is it?"
Joel: "The stage is a living-room set: couch, TV, coffee table, food. And there’s bulletproof glass between me and the audience. Then I come out and lay down on the couch. I grab the remote and start watching TV. The crowd after a couple minutes goes, 'Fuck this,' and starts throwing shit at the glass."
Marchese: "And that’s the whole concert?"
Joel: "Yeah. I’ll have created a bond between me and the audience where I know they will never pay another nickel to see me again."
#FreeMeek was called out by everyone from Joel Embiid to Colin Kaepernick. Now Philly rap icon Meek Mill is free and tells Rembert Browne, “I really feel like I’m caught up in the middle of a movie. And everybody’s watching it.”
“The first thing I always notice, after the mild cottonmouth that serves as the universal announcement of a chemical taking effect on the body, is that I’m not alone,” Shuja Haider writes. “I don’t mean that I start to feel a more intimate bond with the people nearby—there’s usually no one around. I mean that I feel as though others are there who are not there. Sometimes they speak to me, but mostly they speak to each other.”
Destined for that permanent engagement in the hereafter sooner rather than later, the New York Daily News shall forever be remembered via this Henry Allen piece from 1991, which captures the tabloid's newsroom in all its paste pot, cigarette smoke, and telephone-ringing glory.
One of my favorite things about this newsletter is when Don starts a blurb by saying “my good friend so-and-so has written…” I don’t have as many brilliant friends as Don, but one of my brilliant friends, the comedian Maeve Higgins, has a new podcast. Maeve is Irish, and as you’ll hear in the brilliant cold open, she somehow found herself sitting next to her former president hosting an ambitious new show. It’s “a radically different look” at climate change by focusing on the women at the front lines. It’s important work but, also, it’s super fun, because of Maeve.
Jody Avirgan is the host of FiveThirtyEight's politics podcast and is heading up the new "30 for 30" podcast documentary series from ESPN.
No new podcast this week, but in case you missed it last week, Brett Michael Dykes, aka “The Cajun Boy,” had a fun conversation with Don about the wondrous John Kennedy Toole novel “A Confederacy of Dunces,” and other writerly inspirations (including rescue dogs).
This story will likely leave you angry, very angry. The Intercept found two whistleblowers who share how their health suffered because of dangerous conditions inside the slaughterhouse where they worked.
Perspective is everything. So is composition, light, lack of light and framing. Photographer Jordan Mansfield, shooting for Getty Images, had it all in his image of U.S. pole vaulter Scott Houston at the Muller Anniversary Games in London Stadium on July 21. The shadow of the cloud-bound athlete framed by the stadium’s upper rim captures beauty and action in one shot. Mansfield’s bio on his website reveals training as a fashion photographer at the London College of Fashion, which may explain his aesthetic eye. Some photographers are great at documenting what takes place in front of everybody. Some see things that others do not. Mansfield belongs in that second category, and the world is a more fascinating place as a result.
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.
On July 6, Clemson University political science professor Steven V. Miller released a timely new academic working paper titled "Economic Anxiety or Racial Resentment? An Evaluation of Attitudes Toward Immigration in the U.S. from 1992 to 2016." From the abstract of the yet-to-be-published paper: "My analyses are unequivocal that racial resentment is reliably the largest and most precise predictor of attitudes toward immigration."
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.
TIM TORKILDSON'S SUNDAYLIMERICK
From The Wall Street Journal:
"The two letters cited goals for Wells Fargo product sales that led employees to push customers into products that generated more fees or to move client assets between different products or investing platforms to generate more revenue—and bigger bonuses for employees."
From Tim: Of course not all bankers are sharks,
and some of them sing with the larks.
But I'd rather trust
my precious gold dust with anyone else, like Karl Marx.
Tim Torkildson is a retired circus clown who fiddles with rhyme. All his verses can be found at Tim's Clown Alley.
Last week marked the seventh anniversary of the death of iconic British singer-songwriter Amy Winehouse. Her recorded output isn't exactly overflowing, but instead of going straight to the album responsible for her rocket ride to fame, 2006's mega-selling Back to Black, featuring the Motown-flavored signature hit "Rehab," there's another album worthy of the moment. The 2007 collection Back to Black: B-Sides, isn't a proper Winehouse record, per se, yet it offers a daring, intimate glimpse into the magnetic pull she possessed.
Not that I suggest skipping to the end, but the acoustic demo version of "Love is a Losing Game" is sparse, raw, and so wholly powerful it would be the artistic high-water mark for almost any other neo-soul singer. The other tracks certainly offer a window into her frozen-in-time greatness, but the jazz-inflected, crawling pace of that specific tune generates a dual sensation of awe and sadness for a voice that will be forever 27.
Kelly Dearmore is the Music Critic for the Dallas Morning News. Yes, he's heard your son's demo tape, and he thinks it's fantastic.
Larry David, the crack investigative reporter, has figured out the real reason General John F. Kelly, the White House chief of staff, grimaced before breakfast in Brussels two weeks ago. It has something to do with dashed hopes when you were counting on pancakes with real maple syrup.
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 Music Editor: Kelly Dearmore 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, Nick Aster, Alex Belth, Sara J. Benincasa, Sara Blask, Greg Bishop, Taffy Brodesser-Akner, Maria Bustillos, 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, Seth Wickersham and Karen Wickre.
Header Image: Andrea Ventura
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