The Passion Project to Bring a Rainforest to Iowa

Ted Townsend was a rich heir with a dream: He wanted to build a functioning rainforest in Iowa, complete with apes. He had travelled extensively and was enamored with the way we could learn from apes and the way they learned from us. He had inherited a fortune in sausage money and he was ready to spend generously. Iowa Senator Chuck Grassley pulled some old-school politician shit to get $50M earmarked for the facility that the architect described as “like building Jurassic Park.” To get the federal money, however, they needed to get matching contributions from the private sector. That proved to be an issue as the private sector thought that the idea was awful. Complaints ranged from environmental impact to tax money usage and the project languished until dying out in 2007. In its way it was a beautiful, bold idea, though, and Inverse goes back to give it a good look.

An Oral History of the Indoor Rainforest Iowa Almost Built

Inverse.com, 8.14.15

“Trainspotting” (1996)

The Trainspotting phenomenon started with the Irvine Welsh’s semi-autobiographical novel, part of the 90’s trend of over-the-top gutter punk storytelling. The book was a huge hit in Britain and led to a successful play, then BBC’s edgy Channel 4 agreed to finance fledgling director Danny Boyle’s movie production. Boyle fully realized Welsh’s in-your-face depiction of young, uninhibited heroin addicts, headlined in a star-making role by Ewan McGregor. The film, despite a paltry $3.5M budget, proved just as successful, even in America during its dreadful “family values” years. The Hollywood Reporter gathers the core crew for a look back.

‘Trainspotting’ Oral History: Danny Boyle, Ewan McGregor Reflect on Cult ’90s Brit Hit

HollywoodReporter.com, 2.9.17

 

 

Chicago’s Dance Mania Label Ushers in Ghetto House Music

The Dance Mania label grew organically out of a record store distribution and retail operation, building off local DJs who couldn’t keep up with demand as ghetto house exploded in the late 80s. The old house heads didn’t approve because the new stuff was gloriously obscene, but the kids loved it and would buy any new release just because of the Dance Mania reputation. After ceasing operations in 2001, the label relaunched in 2013 due to ongoing demand and the booming EDM scene. FACT takes a look back at Chicago’s beloved homegrown label.

“No one was doing the type of music we were doing”: An oral history of Dance Mania

FACTmag.com, 3.4.14

The 1971 NFL Draft: The First “Year of the Quarterback”

Some of the best-known NFL drafts are the ones that produce a bunch of star-quality quarterbacks, such as 1983 (Elway, Marino, Kelly) and 2004 (Eli Manning, Rivers, Roethlisberger). However, the original “Year of the Quarterback” was 1971 when QBs went 1-2-3 overall and brought a bushload of backfield talent in the league. Jim Plunkett went first overall to the Patriots, followed by Archie Manning to the Saints, and then Dan Pastorini to the Oilers. Also in the draft were Joe Theismann, Lynn Dickey, and Kenny Anderson. All six would have long, productive careers although Manning and Dickey played for consistently awful teams. Sports Illustrated spoke to all six as well as some front office personnel for a fun look back at the beginning of the age of the quarterback.

Oral history of the 1971 NFL draft: The original Year of the Quarterback

SI.com, 4.21.16

Chris Berman Makes Sports Fun Again

ESPN changed television in the last couple decades of the 20th century. An all-sports network? No way that’ll work! Leading the charge was the affable Chris Berman, who changed sports highlights with his nicknames, sound effects, and infectious enthusiasm. Yes, his act wore thin in later years, but he’s an absolute titan of sports media, and Sports Illustrated sends him off into retirement with a fond look back.

Chris Berman: ‘The Vin Scully of the NFL’

SI.com, 1.10.17

Michael Bay Blows Up Hollywood

Michael Bay does not make artistic films. He is unapologetic about this. He makes entertainment, and he’s done it more successfully than any other director this century. Film snobs decry his reliance on overdone pyrotechnics, and kindergarten dialogue, while his actors moan about his abrasive personality, but he gets it done. Bad Boys, Armageddon, Transformers, his list of hits is impressive. GQ provides a wonderfully entertaining overview of the polarizing Bay.

An Oral History of Michael Bay, the Most Explosive Director of All Time

GQ.com, 6.27.11

The American Soap Opera

The soap opera is notorious for its outlandish story lines but hidden beside the demon babies and fake deaths were some plot points that advanced what was “proper” to show on television, including the first TV abortion, rape, and depiction of HIV. But, of course, any good oral history of soap operas is going to get the dirt on the craziest scene a participant ever saw, and metal_floss does not disappoint in that regard!

Sex & Death in the Afternoon: An Oral History of the American Soap Opera

mentalfloss.com, 8.25.11

The Lakers-Kings Classic 2002 Conference Championship Series

In 2002 the Lakers were coming off back-to-back titles but were starting to show cracks. Salary cap issues drained the team of depth, Shaq got fat, and Kobe’s Alpha Dog routine got harder to manage. Meanwhile, the Sacramento Kings had won the Pacific Division with 61 wins with a fun, creative team led by Chris Webber, Mike Bibby, and Peja Stojakovic. The result was an unforgettable seven-game Conference Finals series between the two teams, finished off by classic “Big-Shot Rob” Horry jumpshot. Grantland does a typically awesome job of recapturing the moment.

All the Kings’ Men

Grantland.com, 5.7.14

The Wildly Successful “Comedy Bang! Bang!” Podcast

The “Comedy Bang! Bang!” podcast found its niche when it stopped talking about comedy and started performing comedy. It’s basically live improv with a rotating cast of guest stars and their recurring characters. In honor of the podcast’s 500th episode The Daily Beast put together a wide-ranging oral history containing input from many of the show’s regular contributors, including Nick Kroll and Jason Mantzoukas.

An Oral History of the Funniest Podcast Ever

TheDailyBeast.com, 7.24.17

The Detroit Riots of 1967

159 race riots erupted across America in 1967 with the worst happening in Newark and Detroit. The Detroit riots, sparked by a police raid of an after-hours welcome-home party for a Vietnam vet, led to 40 deaths and two-thousand-plus injuries, hundreds of properties going up in smoke, as well as the National Guard being called in to restore order. There were many root causes of the Detroit riots, including systemic racism and the steady decline of economic opportunities that drew many blacks to the city in the first place. The Metro Times, Detroit’s counterculture weekly, provides an evocative evaluation of the riot and what led to it. There are numerous high-quality images. The account is not balanced, however, focused entirely on the remembrances of black and white radicals of the time.

A radical’s oral history of Detroit in 1967

MetroTimes.com, 7.19.17

 

Bob Marley Gets Shot at Tuff Gong

Although reggae is now associated with blissed-out stoners it began as liberation music for the Jamaican oppressed. Bob Marley railed against the social and political elite that he associated with racism and greed. He planned a non-political “national unity” concert on the eve of 1976 national elections, but the ruling party, which he supported, framed it in their favor. Marley had also recently started dating a white girl and his opponents decided to send him a message. While recording a version of his famous song “Who Shot the Sheriff?” two carloads of gunman pulled into the Tuff Gong compound and raided the mansion, filling it with bullet holes and wounding Marley and his manager, Don Taylor. Rolling Stone provides an interesting excerpt recounting the shooting from an upcoming book about Marley.

The Night Bob Marley Got Shot

RollingStone.com, 7.7.17

The Week That Was: Scaramucci, The Skinny Repeal, and Trump Being Trump

The madcap mayhem that is the Trump White House outdid itself in the last week of July, 2017. Brash Wall Street bad boy Anthony Scaramucci had just been named White House Communications Director and immediately made his consistently beleaguered predecessor Sean Spicer look immaculately competent in retrospect. Scaramucci’s profane arrogance and unrepentant unprofessionalism would get him fired before his official start date. Meanwhile, Congress desperately tried to pass SOMETHING about Obamacare, even voting to proceed on a bill of which few senators knew the details. On the eve of the true vote Republican leadership admitted they didn’t like the bill but wanted it passed anyway. They would fix it later. LOL. “Crusty” John McCain dramatically put an end to that madness. Trump went Trump, attacking his own attorney general and banning transexuals from military service via Twitter. He also gave a wildly inappropriate speech at the Boy Scouts Jamboree. Lastly, North Korea proved they could nuke the entire continental United States. All this in one week. The Washington Post recaps the week with an appropriate amount of bewilderment at the times in which we live.

‘The moment when it really started to feel insane’: An oral history of the Scaramucci era

WashingtonPost.com, 8.1.17