An Oral History of “An Inconvenient Truth” | Grist

Al Gore got stuck on a scissor lift. Studio execs fell asleep at a screening. And everybody hated the title. The amazing true story of the most improbable — and important — film of our time.

A Decade ago, climate change was a huge problem with a small audience. Unless you were among a handful of brave policymakers, concerned scientists, or loyal Grist readers, it’s fair to say the threat of a rapidly warming world took a back seat toHigh School Musical, MySpace, and whether or not Pluto was a planet (yes, those were all a thing in 2006).

Then, An Inconvenient Truth happened.

Somehow, a film starring a failed presidential candidate and his traveling slideshow triggered a seismic shift in public understanding of climate change. It won Oscars and helped earn Al Gore a share of the Nobel Peace Prize. It injected the issue into policy debates and dinner-table conversations alike.

Did any of this actually “save the world?” OK, you got us. Ten years after the movie’s release, climate change is still a growing threat and a polarizing issue, with record-breaking heat unable to stop skeptics from tossing snowballs on the Senate floor. But we’re also seeing corporate, political, and societal mobilization against the crisis on a scale that would have been hard to imagine 10 years ago, and there’s no question the film played a big part in getting us there.

So how did the movie-makers turn a science-heavy slideshow and unlikely leading man (sorry, Al) into a global force for change? What follows is a behind-the-scenes look at An Inconvenient Truth. As for whether there’s a happy ending, we’re afraid that’s still a bit TBD.

Source: An Oral History of “An Inconvenient Truth” | Grist

Liar: A Memoir : Longreads Blog

Liar: A Memoir“Your memories are already foggy and scrambled at times. And then, they may not even be there anymore.”

This story was funded by Longreads MembersJoin and help support great storytellingRob Roberge | Liar: A Memoir | Crown | February 2016 | 23 minutes (5,688 words)

When Rob Roberge learns that he’s likely to have developed a progressive memory-eroding disease from years of hard living and frequent concussions, he’s terrified at the prospect of losing “every bad and beautiful moment” of his life. So he grasps for snatches of time, desperately documenting each tender, lacerating fragment. Liar is a meditation on the fragile nature of memory, mental illness, addiction, and the act of storytelling. The first chapter is excerpted below.

Source: Liar: A Memoir : Longreads Blog

One Man’s Quest For His Vinyl and His Past


Eric Spitznagel | Old Records Never Die: One Man’s Quest for His Vinyl and His Past | Plume | April 2016 | 8 minutes (2,029 words)

Motivated by a potent mix of seller’s regret and old-dude nostalgia, a journalist sets off in search of the vinyl of his youth. And not just copies of albums he loved—Eric Spitznagel wants the exact records he owned and sold. It’s a premise that musician Jeff Tweedy describes as “not… entirely insane” in his preface to the book. Here’s an excerpt from the first chapter of Old Records Never Die. You decide.

I’m going to back up.

I’m a journalist. An “entertainment” journalist, if you want to get all specific about it.

This wasn’t my choice.

When I was coming out of college, my first intention was to be a playwright. I would move to Chicago and write hilariously profane and poignant plays for the Steppenwolf Theatre Company. I’d be like a modern-day Christopher Durang but without the religious hang­-ups, or an August Strindberg who watched too much porn and too many Woody Allen movies. I stumbled into journalism by accident. The father of my writing partner was a columnist for Playboy, and after meeting several silver-fox editors at social functions, my friend and I were paid way too much money to write funny stories for the magazine about Baywatch and lesbians.

For lack of any other options, I stayed with the money, and within a few decades, I was writing regularly for publications like Vanity Fair, Esquire, and the New York Times Magazine, mostly interviewing celebrities like Tina Fey, Sir Ian McKellen, Willie Nelson, Stephen Colbert, Sarah Silverman, and (as of this writing) approximately 213 other people you’ve probably heard of.

When you talk to famous people for a living, it all starts to blend together after a while. You remember meeting people like Buzz Al­drin and John Cusack and Isabella Rossellini, but you have only a vague recollection of what you discussed with them. But that wasn’t the case with Questlove, the coolest neo-soul drummer in the universe. I can remember everything about our phone conversation. It was an assignment for MTV Hive, a website offshoot of MTV. Quest had a new memoir out, and I was tasked with getting a few ridiculous yarns out of him. For the first twenty minutes or so of our conversation, it was more or less as expected. We talked about the time he roller-skated with Prince, and ran out of a Tracy Morgan toe­-licking party. But then the topic turned to the Sugarhill Gang’s “Rap­per’s Delight.”

We both laughed as we recounted the brilliantly weird lyrics. “I said a hip, hop, the hippy to the hippy I To the hip hip hop, you don’t stop….” If you were alive in the early eighties and didn’t identify as a grown-up, you can probably remember where you were when you first heard “Rapper’s Delight.”

Continue reading……


Can Poetry Matter ? Author: Dana Gioia, Published: May 1st 1991

Can Poetry Matter?

California poet laureate Dana Gioia’s classic essay on poetry’s diminishing place in American culture. The essay sparked a firestorm of debate and discussion when it was published in 1991, and it remains just as relevant today, a quarter-century later.

Author: Dana Gioia

Source: The Atlantic

Published: May 1, 1991

Length: 31 minutes (7996 words)

Read full article..

Three Stories on Myth and Superstition

Friday, May 13th is the only “Friday the 13th” in 2016. Enjoy these three stories on myth and superstition.


“Very Superstitious.” (Colin Dickey, Lapham’s Quarterly, Summer, 2012)

At Lapham’s Quarterly, Colin Dickey mines the history of “sympathetic magic” to uncover why superstitions persist to this day. “Even aware of the fallaciousness of such belief, Plato seemed hesitant to ignore it altogether, and the Laws goes on to advise that while white magic is perfectly acceptable, any professional diviner or prophet suspected of “doing mischief by the practice of spells, charms, incantations, or other such sorceries” be put to death, while an amateur practitioner should pay a fine.”


“How Superstition Works.” (Stuart Vyse, The Atlantic, October 22nd, 2013)

At The Atlantic, Stuart Vyse looks at superstition in politics, sports, education, and gambling in a post adapted from his book, Believing in Magic: The Psychology of Superstition. “Some students used more common talismans, such as rabbit’s feet, dice, and coins, as well as teddy bears and other cuddly toys. In this category the Albases reported one particularly unusual case. A young male student would not take an exam unless he had “found” a coin, which he interpreted as a sign of good luck. As a result, he would search for a coin on the day of an exam, often wasting precious study time “scrounging around bus stops” until he was successful—even at the risk of being late to the exam.”


“Lost Leaf ‘Bashin’ Bill Barilko a Canadian Myth.” (Megan O’Toole, The National Post, September 3rd, 2011)

In 1951, Bill Barilko’s game-winning goal won the Toronto Maple Leafs the Stanley Cup. Later that summer, he disappeared — starting a Stanley Cup drought for the Leafs that went on for 11 years — ending only after they discovered Barilko’s body. The Leafs went on to win four of six Stanley cups from 1962 – 1967. The team hasn’t won hockey’s greatest trophy since. Read this intriguing story by Megan O’Toole at The National Post.


Source: Three Stories on Myth and Superstition

Longreads Best of 2015


I realize that technically a Q&A isn’t what we think of as a piece of longform, but this is certainly a long read, and it’s a tremendous one. I would read literally any interview with Noel Gallagher —the guy is so honest and refreshing and hilarious — and this is maybe his longest and most entertaining yet. Anyone who’s done celebrity stories, and I’ve done my share, understands that the biggest frustration and challenge is getting the famous person to say or do something, anything, interesting. That’s incredibly hard in most cases. So many of them aren’t that interesting, beyond their talent at acting/singing/painting/whatever, and those who are are trained to be boring – if you’re boring, you can’t create controversy. The mad science of celebrity PR is maximizing exposure of your client while not allowing said client to have a three-dimensional personality. That’s why so many of these stories are conversations about “the project” over lunch. But Noel – Noel doesn’t give a single fuck. He enjoys talking, and that’s evident from this interview’s opening moments, when Alex Bilmes asks him if he has a hobby. Noel answers: “This is my hobby!” Prompting Alex to ask, “You mean, music?” Noel: “No! This: doing interviews. I fucking love it. I could do this all day long. It’s sick.” Even if you don’t know Noel, or care about Oasis or Britpop or even rock, this is well worth your while. But you should also care about Oasis, because they were great. Thanks mostly to Noel.

Source: Longreads Best of 2015: Arts & Culture (Alex Bilmes, Esquire UK)

Violet : Longreads Blog

Violet : Longreads Blog

Violet was born at 25 weeks and five days—more than three months ahead of her due date. This is a story about becoming parents in the face of uncertainty.

This story was funded by Longreads MembersJoin and help support great storytellingAdele Oliveira | Longreads | January 2016 | 23 minutes (5,727 words)

I don’t believe in fate, or that life events, both everyday and profound, unfold the way that they’re supposed to. Yet the first six months of my first pregnancy were at once mundane and ordained. I got pregnant quickly. Morning sickness and a sore back arrived right on schedule. Growing up, my mom acquainted me with the details (like gaining 60 pounds) of her two healthy pregnancies and the unmedicated, uncomplicated births that resulted in me and my sister. I’d wanted to be a mother since I was a toddler pretending to breastfeed my dolls, and so I outlined the birth of a healthy child in an indelible mental framework, so unconscious and routine that it felt like destiny.My pregnancy ended abruptly when our daughter Violet was born two years ago in late September, at 25 weeks gestation, about three months ahead of schedule. The day of Violet’s birth feels like a bad dream, partly because I was on a variety of strong drugs. I remember almost all of it with nauseating specificity, but it still doesn’t seem quite real; like it happened to somebody else. The day before my baby was born, I left work early for a last-minute doctor’s appointment. It was the first time a doctor uttered the term “pre-eclampsia” to me; I learned it was an autoimmune response to pregnancy that I’d heard of only once before when eclampsia, the advanced form of the disease, tragically killed Lady Sybil Crawley on the third season of Downton Abbey. In pre-eclampsia, the blood pressure starts to rise, and the only cure is giving birth. Eclampsia can lead to seizure, stroke, and death. The family doctor sent me home with a blood pressure monitor and instructions to call in the morning. When I contacted my OB-GYN the next morning and told him about my appointment with the other doctor, he said, “meet me at the hospital.” My mom drove me; I ate a yogurt in the car.A nurse at the hospital in Santa Fe, my hometown, had me pee in a cup and then injected my upper thigh with steroids to help the baby’s lungs develop in case she had to be delivered early.“Don’t worry, honey,” the nurse said. “I don’t think you’re going to deliver today.”Even then, the thought hadn’t crossed my mind. She hooked me up to a magnesium drip, which made me feel drunk and sleepy and my face swell and redden, and I slept in the ambulance on the way to a hospital in Albuquerque, one of two in the state which has a level III neonatal intensive care unit, or NICU. Once at the hospital, an hour away from home, my husband Roberto by my side and my parents en route, a technician squirted jelly on my not-yet-enormous belly and frowned as she looked at the ultrasound. She called the doctor, who looked at the monitor and told me that blood was flowing backward, the way it wasn’t supposed to, from fetus to placenta.“You’re going to have a c-section,” he told me. “I’ll try my best to do a transverse incision, but I might have to do a classical section, in which case, any future children you have will have to be delivered by c-section, OK?”“Fine.” I said. I took a deep breath and asked him if I was going to die. He smiled, almost laughed, and said I wasn’t. I didn’t ask about the baby.I was amazed by how quickly the doctors and nurses and technicians moved; in the moment, even though adrenaline had me by the throat, I was most struck by their professionalism and skill. I got a spinal tap and did the breathing exercises I’d learned in my childbirth class as my emergency c-section was performed, Roberto in scrubs by my head, the anesthesiologist making me laugh with dark OR humor: “a c-section is like getting your dresser drawers rearranged. Or so I’m told.” Violet was born in the caul (amniotic sac) and immediately after the birth, which took ten minutes, the doctors whisked our baby away to resuscitate and intubate her. They told us that she was alive, but barely, and weighed just over a pound.The first time I saw Violet (who was then unnamed), I was bloated and tired from surgery, and still in shock. We have a picture of the moment. I look terrible, and not just because of the surgery, but because I am looking at a child that’s not ready to be born. I had determined that I would try my best to remain at least a little detached; it did not seem likely that my baby would survive, and I was desperate to protect myself from hurting too much. I didn’t think I could handle the loss. But when I saw my daughter’s tiny red body under saran wrap on a tilted, flat bed, a thousand cords and wires attached to her chest, her eyes not yet open, and a ventilator breathing for her, I was not surprised to find that I loved her right away. I knew I’d never love anyone more, and I knew I’d always miss her if she died.* * *

Source: Violet : Longreads Blog