Angels in America is the iconic dramatization of the American AIDS crisis. It was written and performed by committed members of a theater community that had been decimated by the epidemic. The play first appeared in San Francisco in 1991 after a tumultuous pre-production phase that included the decision to split the seven hours of material into two plays. It would win the Pulitzer Prize and dominate the Tony Awards for two years running. Its star-studded 2003 HBO adaptation won ten Emmys, including awards for Al Pacino, Meryl Streep, Mary-Louise Parker, and director Mike Nichols. Slate produced one of the best oral histories of 2016 to mark the 25th anniversary of one of the most important American productions of all time.
Angels in America: The Complete Oral History
Viagra (sildenafil citrate) began life as a Pfizer trial for high blood pressure and chest pain. It showed no promise and was one financial quarter away from the garbage bin when a trial debrief of some Welsh miners revealed an odd side effect: more boners. After scratching together enough money for an impotence study, the drug began its legendary ascent (ahem). Approved by the FDA in 1998 it was an instant sensation, to a degree that Pfizer never remotely considered. It would go on to make $32.6B during its 20-year exclusive license. Bloomberg talks to some corporate and industry insiders about the transforming power of a little blue pill.
The Little Blue Pill: An Oral History of Viagra
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
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
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
Telltale Games is a beloved game development studio known for story-driven splatfests. They’re best known for The Walking Dead gaming series and Tales From the Borderlands was viewed as a bit of a odd departure into comedic fare. However, the five-part series proved to be a great success in the mid-2010’s and brought a new brand of fan to the studio. Campo Santo does a fascinating deep dive into the creative development process for the series, and Telltale’s employees, to their credit, are refreshingly honest. It’s honestly an interesting view into a successful (and stressed) creative team, regardless of whether you care about the video game product that came out the other side.
Tales from the Borderlands: The Oral History
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
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
In 1971 American media was still dominated by white males, even properties marketed to women. Female journalists were pigeonholed into writing about food, fashion, and marriage. That changed when Gloria Steinhem and a collection of New York feminist journalists founded Ms. magazine. They were concerned whether there was a market for a glossy monthly magazine–the first issue sold out in eight days. Proposed articles showed that they were finally writing the stories they wanted to write: “A Secretary is an Office Wife,” “Someone Should Have Liberated Pat Nixon,” and “The Politics of Sex.” The magazine would help launch an entire media market, but its own fortunes waned as the century drew to a close, worn down by infighting, cultural change, and competition. Today, it is still published as a quarterly, and has a solid online presence. Its articles can be found in women’s studies syllabi across the country. New York Magazine, which helped with the initial launch of Ms. takes a multi-faceted look back at an American cultural institution.
How Do You Spell Ms.
TED Talks, a boon to cheap HR departments everywhere, started off as an insular West Coast conference for wealthy tech-sector employees. Their talks, which focus on Technology, Education, and Design (TED), sometimes verged into proselytizing, but entertaining proselytizing. The conference honchos decided to put the videos online, hoping for 10,000 total views. The talks, which could not be longer than 18 minutes, proved to be catnip for the internet, gaining 10,000 views the first day and rising exponentially. Three weeks later the CEO decided TED was now a media platform, and the Silicon Valley Self-Help Movement was born. Wired takes a quick look back at the transformation.
The Oral History of TED, a Club for the Rich That Became a Global Phenomenon
Few video games make the jump to pop-culture fame, but Halo is definitely one of them (when Liz Lemon references you, you know you made it). For many years Halo was THE sci-fi shooter and the star of the show was Master Chief, a grunt in power armor who the player often controlled on murderous rampages through enemy ranks. The player’s trusty AI, Cortana, has been named one of the best female and supporting characters in video game history. And all of this video game history started as a side-project to Bungie’s Myst. Waypoint pulls out all the stops for a glorious three-part oral history of the Halo phenomenon.
The Complete, Untold History of Halo
Nobu made its name by serving distinctive seafood with stylish presentation. The original restaurant, called Matsuhisa, was in strip mall. That was also the last strip mall location, as the global sensation now operates entire hotels in addition to the namesake restaurants, known for attracting the glitterati like partner Robert De Niro. Founder Nobu Matsuhisa says his philosophy is that “food is like fashion,” and he is forever trying to synthesize local traditions with his iconic sushi recipes in stylish and memorable ways.
Nobu’s Matsuhisa Turns 30: An Oral History of the Sushi Restaurant Where Tom Cruise Couldn’t Get In
Funny or Die started as a small operation built on the name recognition of Will Ferrell. When the site launched with “The Landlord” as one of its debut videos, its success was assured (it now has over 91M views). The site has had its ups and downs, but a steady diet of celeb-fronted videos has kept the site visible, including Paris Hilton’s memorable “campaign ad” response to a bitchy John McCain commercial. It’s no-frills, low-budget aesthetic has nurtured comedic talents like Billy Eichner and Derek Waters (of Drunk History fame). Wired takes a look back at the site’s first 10 years.
Funny or Die at 10: An Oral History
Austin, Texas has been home to a vibrant Mexican community for over 100 years. Popular Mexican restaurants that still exist today started being established in the 40s and 50s, but it is the breakfast taco of the 80s that has seen the widest influence, now being sold by national fast food chains. Called “a mini home-cooked meal in a tortilla,” by one restaurateur, the phenomenon remains a cherished tradition in Austin today. Texas Monthly provides the history in an excerpt from Austin Breakfast Tacos.
The Most Important Taco of the Day
It was a pattern that would repeat itself throughout the computer age, but the guys behind Ms. Pac Man were among the first: They were too financially successful to finish their degrees at M.I.T., dropping out to work full time. They started with enhancement packages that arcade owners could be to make their games more difficult, first with Missile Command, and then with Asteroids. They started to pull in serious cash and incorporated as General Computer Corporation in Massachusetts. They made their big move with an improved version of video game phenomenon Pac Man, signing an agreement with Midway to market their “mod” as a true sequel, another groundbreaking moment that would be repeated many times in software development. The development of Ms. Pac Man incorporated proto-game theory and the result, a more varied and stimulating experience than its predecessor, changed the course of game development forever.
The MIT Dropouts Who Created Ms. Pac-Man: A 35th-Anniversary Oral History
Rei Kawakubo, the subject of this year’s Met Ball, has always been one of the most innovative and iconoclastic designers in the world, but her “Not Making Clothes” collection stands out for being truly esoteric. This collection was truly art as clothing, including a tire supported by chains. The collection came at a time when Kawakubo was feeling trapped and confined by her craft and the result was one of the most memorable fashion collections of recent years. In honor of the Met exhibit in her honor, the New York Times collects anecdotes from colleagues and attendees.
Remembering One of Rei Kawakubo’s Most Boundary-Breaking Shows
Chef Tom Colicchio’s Manhattan restaurant Craft prioritized the sourcing of top-notch ingredients over culinary trickery and in the process created not only a long-lasting NYC favorite, but also an industry trend. That ethos can also be seen in the restaurant’s decor, with the “signature bare wooden tables, artful placemats and dangling Edison bulbs,” features that also found their way into restaurants across the nation. The Daily Beast celebrates the eatery’s 15-year anniversary with a look back.
The Oral History of Tom Colicchio’s Craft
Toronto’s Caribana Festival has had its share of twists and turns since being founded in 1967 in honor of Canada’s centenary. It became a celebrated annual event on Canada’s long Civic Holiday weekend, eventually bringing an estimated $438M into the region each year. Its more recent history is a bit more murky as the route changed from the downtown University Avenue to Lakeshore Boulevard in 1991, the original founders were pushed out in 2006 due to perceived mismanagement, and an admittance fee was introduced for the first time in 2013. Noisey chronicles the storied past of the festival, the uncertain present, and gets ideas on how it could reclaim its former glory.
The Love or the Money: An Oral History of Toronto’s Caribana
World of Warcraft was a not just a gaming phenomenon, but a pop-culture one, bringing thousands of thousands into the MMO gaming world. One particularly data-focused guild, the Elitist Jerks (a splinter group from the notorious Goon Squad), pioneered “theorycrafting,” an attempt to get “under the hood” of WoW and, by understanding the mathematical underpinnings, become better at the game. Their successful investigations brought frustrated gamers to their site in droves, and also led to job opportunities in gaming. The guild leader (Ion Hazzikostas) even became WoW‘s game director. Waypoint gathers the crew to discuss the rise and fall of one of gaming’s most interesting guilds.
An Oral History of Azeroth’s Most Influential Guild