President Obama’s First Term

On the eve of Obama’s second inauguration the New York Times put together what they called a “romantic” retrospective of his tumultuous first term. Inheriting an economy in free fall, and two expensive never-ending wars, put the brakes on the transformative agenda that got Obama elected. He did get Obamacare passed, and there were other successes as well, but the end of his first four-year run was necessarily consumed with avoiding the ignominy of being a one-term president.

Obama’s First Term: A Romantic Oral History

NYTimes.com, 1.16.23

“Nightmare on Elm Street”: Horror Comes Alive

Wes Craven’s Nightmare on Elm Street helped spawn the horror movie subgenre with its trademark mix of creaky suspense and effects-driven gore. Major studios balked at the film, which featured deadbeat parents, disaffected teens, and the soon-to-be-iconic Freddy Krueger. New Line Cinema signed on and would ride the success to newfound relevancy. The production was notoriously problematic, but that just makes the stories more interesting! Vulture revisits the madness.

Freddy Lives: An Oral History of A Nightmare on Elm Street

Vulture.com, 10.20.14

“Happy Endings”: Smart Comedy Finishes Last

Happy Endings was another of those quick-witted, fast-paced ensemble comedies that was criminally under-promoted and cut loose after three seasons, only for it to continue to live on as a cult and streaming favorite. The cast of 30-somethings had the instant chemistry that casting directors dream of, and seemingly all of them are still in regular touch years after the show. Casey Wilson also married series creator David Caspe, so they probably see each other regularly. Complex takes a fond look back at the series.

The Oral History of ‘Happy Endings’

Complex.com, 4.5.16

Allen Iverson: Questions and Answers

There are millions of 5’11” guys who think they can play in the NBA. There is one Allen Iverson, a “little” man who had an iconic career first with the Georgetown Hoyas, then with the Philadelphia 76ers. Known for playing with a street attitude, he backed it up by playing as hard as anyone on the court, despite nearly always being the smallest player. Iverson made news off the court as well, including with his groundbreaking 10-year, $60M Reebok shoe contract, the largest such guarantee to that point. Nice Kicks goes all out in an 11-chapter oral history that recaps Iverson’s career and successful partnership with Reebok.

The Rise Of Allen Iverson And Reebok Basketball // An Oral History

NiceKicks.com, 6.7.17

The 1990 USMNT Gets to Their First World Cup in 40 Years

FIFA awarded the 1994 World Cup to the United States, one of the catalysts to growth in the support in this country. One problem: When this decision was made the USMNT had not made the World Cup since 1950. The host country gets an automatic bid, but for national pride the team wanted to make the 1990 Cup and end the drought. Coach Bob Gansler chose to go with college stars over indoor soccer veterans for fitness reasons, but it meant he would have a very young team. Their journey through qualifying was difficult and intense, resulting in a must-win game versus Trinidad and Tobago. They pulled out a dramatic 1-0 victory and started making plans for the World Cup in Italy. The team was handed a tough draw, facing three quality European teams, and lost all three. However, there was a moral victory in a hard-fought 1-0 loss to Italy in Rome, a game the Italians expected to win by double digits. The experience was truly the beginning of a new age in American soccer (they’ve been to every World Cup since) and The Guardian takes a multi-faceted look back at the scrappy group of college kids that made it happen.

An oral history of USA at Italia ’90: the World Cup that changed US soccer

TheGuardian.com, 6.10.15

 

Chris Rock’s Lil Penny: 90’s Advertising Titan

Penny Hardaway’s career was cut drastically short by knee problems, but for a short run in the mid-90’s he was huge, starring with Shaq on some good Orlando Magic teams, playing on the Dream Team, and making some all-NBA teams. Nike capitalized on his notoriety with the Air Pennys and a corresponding ad campaign starring a sassy puppet alter-ego, Lil Penny. Chris Rock got the gig to voice the puppet and ran with it, bringing attitude and humor in improvised lines that made the campaign one of the most successful ever for Nike. Complex looks back at the 90’s classic.

The Oral History of Lil Penny

Complex.com, 10.28.16

 

Atlanta’s MJQ: Underground Heaven

The MJQ nightclub was founded in 1994 by George Chang, a 6’4″ Swedish-Chinese party monster. He quickly cultivated hip cache with an eclectic mix of music, including lounge music, dub, jungle, acid jazz, retro-soul and trip-hop. Three years later he upgraded to a larger venue and became a cornerstone of Atlanta nightlife that is still going strong today. Creative Loafing provides an expansive two-part oral history of the club, providing fascinating anecdotes how the club actively evolved with the times in order to stay in business.

Late-night magic at MJQ: An oral history, Part I

CreativeLoafing.com, 6.16.11

Late-night magic at MJQ: An oral history, Part II

CreativeLoafing.com, 6.23.11

 

 

A Baby Delivered on a Sled During A Philly Snowstorm

Shirley Kim Bonnani’s first child took 20 hours of labor before being born. When she woke up to contractions on a frigid January night in the middle of a snowstorm, she thought she had time before her second arrived. She did not. After a shower she was unable to make it to the car in their hilly neighborhood, so her husband plopped her on a sled he had presciently bought the day before. They didn’t make it before the baby decided it was coming out hell or highwater. The mother’s labor screams woke neighbors who came out to help, meeting the Bonnanis for the first time in the process. The father delivered the baby with no instruction, then broke the umbilical cord with his hands before wrapping the baby in a blanket and sprinting inside. The neighbors followed with the mom still on the sled. Esquire revisits the remarkable story.

An Oral History of the Baby Delivered on a Sled

Esquire.com, 1.24.14

Hurricane Katrina: The Governmental Response

Government Executive revisits various local, regional and national agencies response to the much-feared and ultimately catastrophic direct hit by a major hurricane on New Orleans and the surrounding low-lying Gulf Coast. Many of these agencies had participated in a large-scale simulation of this potential event just the year before (known as Hurricane Pam). The results were not encouraging and as Katrina strengthened in the Gulf of Mexico at the end of August, 2005, the same issues started to arise (lack of coordination, communication, leadership) and the outcome was as bad as feared, only this time the 2,000+ lives lost were real. The response was not universally bad, however, as numerous individuals and units responded heroically in the face of disaster, saving countless lives in the process.

Katrina 10: An Oral History

GovExec.com, 8.19.15

 

Funny or Die: Sketch Comedy for the Masses

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

Wired.com, 4.2.17

Freaknik: Black Woodstock

Although Freaknik started as a barbecue amongst Atlanta’s black colleges, by the early 90s it had the rep of the ultimate off-the-hook party. Anything goes. Every year it got bigger, ultimately taking over the city with gridlock and insanity. It was unsustainable and Atlanta’s attempts to rein in the madness failed, ultimately causing the party to end. Complex takes a fond look back.

The Oral History of Freaknik

Complex.com, 4.12.13

Austin Helps Invent the Breakfast Taco

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

TexasMonthly.com, 7.30.13

L.A.’s Paisley Underground Music Scene

L.A.’s  punk explosion of 1977/78 faded quickly and one of the scenes to take its place was the Paisley Underground, a group of psychedelia-influenced bands in the same social circle. Originally referring to the triumvirate of the Bangles, Dream Syndicate, and Rain Parade, the term grew to encompass a wider range of bands, including ones outside L.A. Characterized by rough, droning guitars with sunshine vocals, the sound found a sizable audience in the early 80s.

The Paisley Underground: Los Angeles’s 1980s psychedelic explosion

TheGuardian.com, 5.16.13

“O.J.: Made in America”: Eight-Plus Hours In One Sitting and It Works!?!?

On December 8, 2008 O.J. Simpson was sentenced to 33 years in prison and America hoped they’d never hear about him again. Enough, right? However, in 2016 two massive reappraisals of the O.J. saga appeared and surprisingly found both critical and popular success. The first was Ryan Murphy’s dramatic adaptation American Crime Story: The People v. O.J. Simpson and the second was ESPN’s O.J.: Made in America. The latter used a unique contextual approach that covered all of O.J.’s life, but also told the story through the lens of L.A.’s history of race relations, as well as America’s. The eight-hour epic was released on a variety of platforms, including in theaters (!), and shocked an American audience who thought they knew everything there was to know about this story. Wired digs into the two-year production process behind the successful documentary.

The Epic Story of O.J.: Made in America’s Creation

Wired.com, 1.9.17

Ms. Pac Man Becomes the Most Popular Arcade Game of All Time

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

FastCompany.com, 2.3.17

The One and Only James Brown

If there was one thing that people agreed upon regarding James Brown it was that he could bring it. Night after night the “Hardest Working Man In Show Business” would bring the funk and show his audience a good time. Off the stage things get more complicated with contentious professional relationships and a rocky personal life. Unsurprisingly, Creative Loafing‘s oral history has lots of juice.

James Brown: Soul Brother No. 1 (1933-2006)

CreativeLoafing.com, 1.10.07

Coverage of the Kennedy Assassination

The Columbia Journalism Review provides a gripping chronological account by reporters on the scene of President Kennedy’s assassination on November 22, 1963. There was the expected confusion and communication difficulties, but on the whole they got things about as factually correct as we do in the internet age. Their dedication to substantiated truth amidst a national tragedy is an honor to the profession.

The Assassination: The Reporters’ Story

archives.cjr.org, Winter 1964

“Mr. Show”: 90’s Incubator of 21st-Century Comedic Giants

Mr. Show never had a big audience and the creators never gave much of a shit about that. HBO gave Bob Odenkirk and David Cross a platform to do stuff that wouldn’t fly on networks, or even at mainstream comedy clubs, including a slacker messiah sketch that would help launch Jack Black’s career. Many other talents worked on camera and off: 30 Rock‘s Scott Adsit, 24‘s Mary Lynn Rajskub, Sarah Silverman, Patton Oswalt, and Tom Kenny (voice of SpongeBob SquarePants). Spin takes a look back at a uncompromising comedic incubator.

Mr. Show: The Oral History

Spin.com, 3.13.11

Soundgarden’s “Superunkown”

Soundgarden formed in 1984 and Superunknown was their fourth studio release. They knew what they were doing and they knew they were ready to go big. Superunkown would deliver with such 90’s rock classics as “Black Hole Sun,” “Spoonman,” and “Fell on Black Days.” Spin collects anecdotes about the volatile creation and effect of this grunge masterpiece.

Get Yourself Control: The Oral History of Soundgarden’s ‘Superunknown’

Spin.com, 6.5.14