“The Contest”: Peak “Seinfeld”

“The Contest,” a delightfully restrained Seinfeld episode about abstaining from self pleasure, aired fairly early in the show’s run and helped push the show to new stratospheric heights. It was one of the show’s only award winners, and barely made it past the network’s censors on the strength of its brilliant concept, writing, and execution. Larry David admits in this oral history that he expected far stiffer (ahem) opposition and was ready to quit over any attempt at censorship. Click below to read more about an episode still quoted today.

The Oral History of Seinfeld’s ‘The Contest’

Vulture.com, 10.25.17

Donald Trump Wins the Presidency

On the first anniversary of Donald Trump’s cataclysmic election win Esquire talks to members of both campaigns as well as mainstream media members still suffering from PTSD. Early in the day Clinton team members were still confident and Trump was hiding in his penthouse until being enticed by the early returns. Florida was the turning point and after that the nation watched together as its fortunes flipped into the unknown. The drama is obvious, and this well-produced chronological retelling succeeds in bringing back the ebullient/nauseous effects.

The Untold Stories of Election Day 2016

Esquire.com, 11.5.17

 

No More Hinting: Madonna’s “Erotica”

Madonna Ciccone is many things to many people, but the reason she matters is that she’s fearless. After pushing boundaries throughout the 80s she took it to another level with Erotica (1992). The established coy sexuality of female pop stars went out the window and was replaced by wanton sexuality. Co-released with her explicit book, Sex, and arguably the raunchiest record launch party in history, the record ruffled some feathers, to say the least. Billboard gathers the principals on the 25th anniversary to go over how the project came together as well as the aftermath.

Madonna’s ‘Erotica’ Turns 25: An Oral History of the Most Controversial ’90s Pop Album

Billboard.com, 10.20.17

Quarterbacking for the Dallas Cowboys

Dandy Don Meredith, Roger Staubach, Danny White, Troy Aikman, Tony Romo, Dak Prescott. Playing quarterback for the Cowboys is awfully close to playing center field for the New York Yankees, the iconic position for the iconic team. Sports Illustrated goes deep on the most important lineage in the NFL, getting access to all the major players, and supplementing the fantastic anecdotes with their top-of-line images.

From Staubach to Dak: An Oral History of the Cowboys’ Quarterbacks

SI.com, 11.1.17

The March on the Pentagon (1967)

The March on the Pentagon was, at the time, the largest anti-war demonstration in American history. The New York Times put together a typically excellent oral history in remembrance of the 50th anniversary of the rally. The piece, which includes ample anecdotes from military and political representatives who stood in opposition to the protest, breaks the narrative into three parts: the organization and arrival, the march, and the aftermath. Representative images and video clips are also included. It’s truly an important artifact and a treat for anyone who loves oral history.

The March on the Pentagon: An Oral History

NYTimes.com, 10.20.17

“The Dana Carvey Show”: Well, They Hired a Hell of a Staff!

Dana Carvey left Saturday Night Live in 1993 as one of the best-known comedians in America. Besides innumerable memorable characters on SNL, he had starred in Wayne’s World (1992) to prove himself in Hollywood. When he started shopping a variety comedy show he had his pick of networks, finally settling on ABC just before they were bought by Disney. Slotted behind ratings juggernaut Home Improvement it seemed like The Dana Carvey Show was destined for greatness. Not so much. Esoteric, weird humor did not interest the Home Improvement crowd (or Disney) and it would only last eight episodes. However, the show did hire an impressive array of unknown talent that would go on to great things, including performers Steve Carell and Stephen Colbert as well as writers Jon Glaser, Robert Carlock, and Dino Stamatopoulos. This GQ piece is an interesting autopsy of a crushing failure by some of the most talented comedic talent in America.

Teats Out: An Oral History of the Rise and Fall (and Rise) of “The Dana Carvey Show”

GQ.com, 8.8.11

The Beatles Get Turned On to Acid

The Beatles transformation from pop superstars to psychedelic rockers was influential not just in music but in society. What was one prime instigator for this evolution? Acid! George and John were unknowingly dosed by a shady dentist in 1965 and it changed their life. Later that year they dosed again at Zsa Zsa Gabor’s Los Angeles mansion. Ringo and some other celebrities joined them this time and they had an intense trip. This party also included their first exposure to Ravi Shankar and the sitar–an influence that would grow to gigantic proportions in later years. Vice recounts when the Beatles changed forever.

The Oral History of the First Two Times the Beatles Took Acid

Vice.com, 12.4.16

 

“Friends”: The Right Setting with the Right Actors and the Right Director at the Right Time

As David Schwimmer notes in an engrossing Vanity Fair oral history of Friends, finding one actor who is perfect for a role is a true victory. Finding six actors who are perfect fits, and then they all turn out to have perfect chemistry, is divine intervention. And that’s Friends. Conceived by young playwrights turned TV producers Marta Kaufmann and David Crane, their pitch hit the sweet spot that NBC (and everyone else) was looking to fill: a close-knit group of young, attractive adults trying to make it together in the big city. The stories about casting, finding success, handling success, and the inevitable end–everyone involved gives honest, heartfelt answers while adding fascinating anecdotes. A great read (and there’s a fun slideshow too).

With Friends Like These

VanityFair.com, 4.26.12

“Raw Data”: The New Standard in Virtual-Reality Gaming

Virtual Reality has been the apple in the eye of tech enthusiasts for decades, but it’s only in the last few years that consumers have had access to VR headsets that begin to deliver on the immense promise. The first-gen Rift and Hive headsets (among others) will likely be looked back on the way we look at the first iPhone or iPod now. A starting point. USC’s Mixed Reality Lab has become the nation’s hotbed of VR innovation. Palmer Luckey (founder of Oculus) got his start there. And now comes Survios, a startup founded by three graduates of the Lab. Survios is making waves with Raw Data, an immersive zombie apocalypse game that many are calling the new standard in VR gameplay. Movement, graphics, and actions are synced better than ever before, and people are noticing. In September it became the first VR game to gross $1M in a month. Last week it won Game of the Year at the AMD VR Game awards. And it only finished its production releases this week. Rolling Stone catches the wave.

‘Raw Data’: An Oral History

RollingStone.com, 10.18.17

“Jackass”: Charming Idiocy

Jackass grew out of the skate-flick genre of the 90s, where the goal was to do gnarly tricks that your friends would dig. The Jackass crew took that aesthetic and applied it to any stunt that was both daring and funny. They exploded as a MTV show, and once the lawyers clamped down, had a successful movie trilogy. There is no shortage of copycats, but the originals excelled due to their self-deprecation and easy camaraderie. Although their legacy has been clouded through drug and alcohol abuse, the Jackass crew long ago cemented their legacy as lovable idiots.

An Oral History of ‘Jackass: The Movie’

Vice.com, 10.3.17

Cassini: Uncovering the Secrets of Saturn

Saturn is one of the great celestial bodies for obvious reasons, but the Voyager probe had shown us that its moons were quite the charming bunch. As Bonnie Buratti, a JPL scientist, put it: “There was Titan, which looked kind of like an Earth in deep freeze. Enceladus looked like it was covered in snow. And there was Iapetus, a moon with one half as dark as tar and the other half basically as bright as snow.” Thus, a follow-up mission was needed, and it would be Cassini, the last of the giant space probes. It would prove to be one humanity’s great achievements, as it surpassed every goal and hope to deliver science that will take decades to fully decipher. Its accomplishments are legion, but here’s a sampling. It dropped the Huygens probe onto Titan, the first time a human probe landed on a non-Moon moon. Huygens discovered the Titan is remarkably Earth-like, with rain, rivers, lakes and seas, as well as prebiotic chemicals. Cassini found active ice plumes on Enceladus. It discovered that Saturn’s iconic rings are dynamic and can model planet formation. The list goes on. In honor of its final plunge into Saturn’s atmosphere, the Los Angeles Times provides a poignant oral history of how the spacecraft came to be using interviews with some very proud scientists and engineers.

‘OK. Let’s do it!’ An oral history of how NASA’s Cassini mission to Saturn came to be

LATimes.com, 9.12.17

MTV’s “TRL”: “The Frosted Tips Era”

Total Request Live, better known as TRL, will always be remembered as a product of its time, a kind of pop music zenith before filesharing and streaming would help reshape the industry. Britney and Christina, N’Sync and the Backstreet Boys, all broadcast live from Times Square in front of thousands of screaming teenagers. Carson Fucking Daly. In honor of MTV’s reboot, Billboard takes a look back at a modern pop-culture institution, and one that its principals show a remarkable amount of perspective in evaluating.

An Oral History of ‘TRL’: Trump’s Demands, Mariah’s Meltdown and Anthrax Scares

Billboard.com, 9.28.17

The Trump Presidency

Our 45th President’s administration has been many things, but most of all it’s been chaotic. A week doesn’t go by without some major story, and sometimes a day doesn’t go by. Trump has already fired a laundry list of his appointees and the survivors all have wounds. This environment has led to an unprecedented number of leaks from within his team as they try to manage the unmanageable. The Republic thought it would be a hoot to collect a healthy sample of these anonymous leaks and present them as an oral history of a national embarrassment.

An Oral History of the Trump Administration

NewRepublic.com, 10.2.17

The Strokes: Textbook Rock Band Implosion

The Strokes exploded on the scene with This Is It (2001), one of the shining examples of the garage rock resurgence. The band, full of charismatic personalities, did not handle success well and soon fell prey to the stereotypical band killers (ego, drugs). Their follow-ups, derided as both too similar and too divergent, did not do nearly as well commercially and the band was left chasing what it had thrown away. Vulture provides a beautifully illustrated, and brutally honest, retrospective of a band that could have been.

The Last Moment of the Last Great Rock Band

Vulture.com, 5.15.17

The National’s “Boxer” (2007)

The National took the long view and it has paid off for them. Incubating in the same Brooklyn scene as The Strokes, Yeah Yeah Yeahs, and Interpol, the band watched all three explode to international popularity while they nurtured a more modest fan base with a decidedly less intense sound. With their third studio album, Alligator (2005), something started to click. On endless tours their audiences started to grow organically and expectations grew for the their next album. Boxer would have a difficult birth, however, as the band exited the record studio after months of effort with a half-finished album. Their diligent work and experimentation would pay off, though, as the album would catapult the band to newfound fame.

Everything counts a little more than we think: An oral history of The National’s Boxer

AVClub.com, 9.7.17

Raw Comedy: “Curb Your Enthusiasm”

On the eve of Curb Your Enthusiasm‘s return The Hollywood Reporter provides some choice excerpts of an oral history podcast about the show. The unique sitcom’s unabashedly honest approach makes for an interesting dynamic amongst the cast. Shrinking violets need not apply. The quotes chosen for the piece are almost universally funny and are absolutely worth your time.

‘Curb Your Enthusiasm,’ The Early Years: Crazy Auditions and the Art of the Cringe

HollywoodReporter.com, 9.8.17

Lumascape: Making Order Out of Chaos

Terence Kawaja introduced Lumascape, a one-page graphical representation of the online advertising industry, in 2010. At that time things were nutso. Google’s AdWords was taking over the world, and the industry was growing, evolving, and consolidating all at the same time. His industry landscape became a sensation in that it helped provide definition to the players and their roles. Plus, he used their logos, which made everyone happy. Digiday takes a look back at one of the most famous PowerPoint slides of all time.

‘I just wanted to organize this mess’: An oral history of the Lumascape

Digiday.com, 9.12.17

NASA’s Golden Boy: Cassini Readies for the Plunge

On the eve of Cassini’s plunge into Saturn’s atmosphere the Los Angeles Times gathers the spacecraft’s human progenitors and stewards for a look back at one of the most successful missions in history. It was a mission that survived two budget crises (although it lost project scope and functionality each time) as well as environmental protests concerning the safety of its plutonium fuel, but once it left Earth the spacecraft has seen smooth sailing. Its mission has been extended twice as it has found ocean worlds and moons suitable for life, all while extending our knowledge of the iconic ringed gas giant by orders of magnitude. The nicely illustrated piece is a worthy look back.

‘OK. Let’s do it!’ An oral history of how NASA’s Cassini mission to Saturn came to be

LATimes.com, 9.12.17

George Brett and The Pine Tar Game

It’s one of the most replayed video clips in MLB history: George Brett charging out of the dugout like he wanted to kill someone. He had just had a home run nullified because of excessive pine tar and he was displeased. The league office would eventually overturn the call, saying that it was technically correct but stupid. The remainder of the game would be replayed and it became a Kansas City win instead of a loss. No one remembers that part. Nowadays it’s just good for storytellin’, and Sports Illustrated does a good job of getting everyone’s best lines.

An oral history of the Pine Tar Game

SI.com, 7.24.13

Menswear Was Late to the Blogging Party, But It’s Made Quite the Entrance

Women’s fashion made great use of the internet for the early days for obvious reasons–pictures and video of high fashion were perfect of the internet, and blogging/message boards easily found an eager audience. Menswear, however, was neglected in the boom years. For many connoisseurs that changed when Style.com added a men’s section in 2008. Since then, it’s been gangbusters. Early blogs like TheSartorialist.com and PutThisOn.com exploded in popularity and were soon followed by hundreds of imitators. Brands took notice and launched their own male-oriented content streams and now business is booming. GQ.com traces the meteoric rise.

Reblog This: The Oral History of Menswear Blogging

GQ.com, 12.13.11