The Best Stories I Read This Week

This is a highly organized, regulated and rehearsed dance orchestrated by Saban. Everybody from the booth to the field has an assignment and they better not speak out of line.

“I really get mad ― cussin’ mad when guys aren’t supposed to be talking, are talking on the headset,” Saban said on October edition of his weekly radio show. “It wastes time.”

As Movie Studios Founders, One Tries Doing It Their Own Way, by Tad Friend in The New Yorker

One leading agent told me, “I think STX is kidding itself with its business model, trying to disrupt the studios at the end of the studio age. Even if it can develop a franchise, I don’t know how it survives in the long term. The subtext of every conversation I have, nowadays, is the good old days.”

Many things ran through my head, just as millions of others have heard similar news. And one of the first things I wanted to do was find someone I could talk to, someone who had been through all this. I remembered someone who had — Griffey.”

Blowhards, Beware: Megyn Kelly Will Slay You Now, by Evgenia Peretz in Vanity Fair

Kelly almost didn’t get a chance to ask it. The morning of the debate, while doing debate prep, she got violently ill. But, she says, “I would have crawled over a pile of hot coals to make it to that debate. No one was going to be sitting in for me, reading my questions. And I can say with confidence that neither Bret nor Chris wanted to read my questions—for many reasons!” She did the debate with a blanket over her legs and a bucket to throw up in by her side.

Of course, it didn’t always work. Sometimes they’d go through the whole performance and the guy would be too tired to go out; they would offer him drugs for extra energy, but he would be too lame to take them. In the face of such situations, Samantha had come up with the innovation that was making her rich: a special drink spiked with MDMA and ketamine.

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An Unrelenting Thought

The bombings in Boston stay with me. It is not just the obvious tragedy of lives lost and lives maimed. It is not, as a runner, the perversion of a marathon — mass running events were so beautifully cynicism-free.

It is the demise of the Tsarnaev family that stays with me. That tugs at my heart.

The brothers Tsarnaev were the sons of workaday Chechen parents. A first-generation of hope. The bond of father and son feels so much stronger, so much more strongly tethered when it involves cross-Atlantic migration and by the weary paternal desperation of a father for his sons.

I am the son of Russian parents. Hard working, loving parents. There is no larger influence on me than my father, bless him. And so I know why the sadness of the Tsarnaevs does not leave.

When we left Samara, two years after the fall of the USSR, it was surely no easy decision. My father was a businessman and not an unsuccessful one. As he likes to say: had we stayed then further riches would have come. But leaving doesn’t happen for purely financial reasons.

When we arrived in Brooklyn, I do not remember him not working. At a pizza place, as a deliveryman, as anything that can make a little money. I remember riding along with him early one morning as he delivered bread for a bakery. He tells stories of shuttles taken from Bay Ridge to work on Hoboken’s docks for a promise (and a sometimes unfulfilled one) of pay.

It is uplifting and inspiring and, most likely, not unique to immigrants.

Anzor Tsarnaev, the patriarch, fled home with his family because of ethnic discrimination, reports say. He worked in Massachusetts as a mechanic, despite arthritis in his hands.

He had dreams for his sons, I’d imagine. It was said that he was severely disappointed when Tamerlan, the older son, gave up boxing despite success.

He called his younger son an “angel” although his evil work was in plain sight. Parental love can be blinding.

So I have wondered how Anzor felt when the haze of the moment broke. And how his ex-wife felt when her son called in the middle of a firefight to let her know they were under duress, the words holding a childish call for help as the situation overwhelmed him.

This is why I cannot let go. Beyond the grave tragedy, this is a family broken. These are dreams shattered.

When their uncle came on to national television to espouse shame and angst and to distance his name from the bombers, I hoped people would not parody him and spit on his words because of the different worldview and Eastern European accent.

And I thought of my father. Because there is an inherent desire to prove your parents right for taking a chance. And what can be a crushing fear of not disappointing them. And how he had nurtured me to never think in those terms.

There is a drive to reward your parents. To reward their risk. And in that moment I wondered how the father of the brothers Tsarnaev felt. How broken he could be.

Two months ago, as I saw that family fracture in real time, I saw my father watching it all on the television and wondered what he thought. And I hoped that I had made this wager worth taking.

New York City the night Osama bin Laden died

There was, for all intents and purposes, dancing on the streets only a few feet away from the grave site of America’s lost innocence and naivete of the post-Cold War world. The mastermind of an attack that killed 2,752 people had been murdered, the result of a nearly ten-year search for revenge and justice. It may not have been closure, and who knows if it was cathartic, for a nation that has spent the intervening years looking back with revulsion, anger and melancholy. But it was a mission accomplished and now that Osama bin Laden was dead, there was a celebration to be had.

Where, once, the streets had been covered with soot, blood, and tears, a mob now frothed with rapturous patriotism and joy. There were chants of “USA, USA, USA,” the recitation of the pledge of allegiance and American flags waving in a calm wind. Cameras flashed, the ubiquitous modern sign of a time meant to be remembered.

A man climbed the lamp post on the corner of Vesey and Church, spraying an open champagne bottle. He was received by a roaring audience.  Then he was replaced by another and another among an assembly line of people eager to climb up, all waving the flag. On the opposite street corner, someone else did the same. Each to delight below. The police stood back, positioned to leave the moment unfettered.

To be in the middle of that crowd was to sense euphoria. It was the image shown on the news, the next morning’s newspaper pages and how America took in the night.

Bin Laden was gone and New York threw itself a party. It’s not symmetrical– even the death of such a nefarious and wanted criminal can’t equal out the scales of justice– but it was fulfilling for the time being.

Yet, to take a step back, away from the grinning college kids and the jubilant mob and to the outer edges of the scene was to see something else. A sorrow and a pain still not forgotten. It was a consumption of the hour in a different way.

The crowd stood in the shadows of the growing Freedom Tower being built by the red, white and blue colored crane. A fence surrounded the not-yet built building, guarding the construction. Soldiers came to stick roses in its holes in remembrance. As a duo of bagpipers played “Danny Boy” for the filming camera crew, a woman wept nearby, quickly enveloped by a crowd and lost in the fray. Visitors laid flowers below the Ground Zero cross, which stood in the darkness, just outside of the camera’s shine.

It was a solemn dichotomy.

As the night drew on, emotions fluttered. The meaning was still unsure. The masses sang, pronouncing their patriotism one moment, then chanting “Tase him” the next as the police closed in because that lamp post that had been climbed negligently one too many times.

A man walked around carrying an iPad glowing “Obama 1, Osama 0.” A few yards a way a woman walked just the same, carrying a photo frame of her lost son.

The news was surely being digested, but by whom and how?

In his speech hours earlier, President Barack Obama had preached unity. Here, a block from Broadway and under the inescapable memory of the horrors that were, his message was actualized. The face of terror took a bullet to the head and people flocked to memorialize it in their separate ways. Some came to grieve once more and others to let glory ring.

As jubilant chants broke out again, another rose found a resting place in the fence. Ten years ago almost 3,000 people were lost and today many holes remain open.