Sunday, August 14

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The story of Levine’s father and his involvement in the legal battle over the 798 finished paintings Rothko had in his studio when he was discovered there in a pool of blood. The case spawned a feature film, Legal Eagles, and hinged on an unusual question; was Mark Rothko an artistic genius?

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On the closing of New York's Fulton Fish Market.
It smells of truck exhaust and fish guts. Of glistening skipjacks and smoldering cigarettes; fluke, salmon and Joe Tuna's cigar. Of Canada, Florida, and the squid-ink East River. Of funny fish-talk riffs that end with profanities spat onto the mucky pavement, there to mix with coffee spills, beer blessings, and the flowing melt of sea-scented ice. This fragrance of fish and man pinpoints one place in the New York vastness: a small stretch of South Street where peddlers have sung the song of the catch since at least 1831, while all around them, change. They were hawking fish here when an ale house called McSorley's opened up; when a presidential aspirant named Lincoln spoke at Cooper Union; when the building of a bridge to Brooklyn ruined their upriver view.

Saturday, August 13

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How the spirit became a billion-dollar business.

Michael Roper, owner of Chicago’s Hopleaf bar and restaurant, recalls what bartending was like in the early seventies. While Smirnoff was considered top shelf, he remembers lesser varieties such as Nikolai, Arrow, Wolfschmidt, and another brand that was then ubiquitous called Mohawk. “Mohawk was cheap, cheap, cheap,” Roper remembers. “Mohawk had a factory just outside Detroit along the expressway and .  .  . all their products were made there. It’s almost like they turned a switch—whiskey, vodka, gin. And it was all junk.” Still, by 1976, vodka had surpassed bourbon and whiskey as the most popular spirit in America. Roper attributes vodka’s rise partially to women, who started drinking more spirits and ordering them on their own: “Women were not going to like Scotch—that was for cigar-smoking burly men,” he speculates. “And .  .  . it was unladylike to drink Kentucky whiskey. But it was considered somewhat ladylike to have a fancy cocktail with an olive in it.” He also remembers when a salesman first brought Miller Lite into his bar, explaining “it’s for women.” In a similar vein, Roper considers vodka a low-calorie option with “a less challenging flavor.”

Friday, August 12

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A former priest becomes the prime suspect in the 1960 murder of a Texas beauty queen.

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This is a litany to those of us in this field. “What more will the Negro want?” “What will it take to make these demonstrations end?” Well, I would like to reply with another rhetorical question: Why do white people seem to find it so difficult to understand that the Negro is sick and tired of having reluctantly parceled out to him those rights and privileges which all others receive upon birth or entry in America? I never cease to wonder at the amazing presumption of much of white society, assuming that they have the right to bargain with the Negro for his freedom.
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On the life and career of Chris Farley.

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What is it about terminating half a twin pregnancy that seems more controversial than reducing triplets to twins or aborting a single fetus? After all, the math’s the same either way: one fewer fetus. Perhaps it’s because twin reduction (unlike abortion) involves selecting one fetus over another, when either one is equally wanted. Perhaps it’s our culture’s idealized notion of twins as lifelong soul mates, two halves of one whole. Or perhaps it’s because the desire for more choices conflicts with our discomfort about meddling with ever more aspects of reproduction.

Thursday, August 11

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She was the biggest tipper the waiters at some of the country’s most gourmet restaurants had ever seen. She treated casual acquaintances to elaborate vacations. Few saw the tiny bungalow where she lived amongst hundreds of boxes of unopened jewelry, and none knew the source of her wealth. When her multi-decade embezzlement scheme was revealed, the artisans and waitstaff whose lives had been changed by her generosity were left to sort out the pieces and consider their own relationship to her scam.

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Smigel: Louis comes up with, "What if he says, 'I'm the nurturing president,'and I've developed the ability to breastfeed!" And I'm like, "Yeah, that's great! And then let's have him open the shirt and he's got eight nipples and he can breastfeed dogs and cats." Colbert: We had already lost a lot of sponsors. [Starts singing] It's a beautiful root beer day, the folks from Mug Root Beer have agreed to stay. But you better not breastfeed any puppies today, or you sure as hell will be on your way. So be careful you little punk, Dana Carvey! Even I think it's odd I remember all of the lyrics. I am very impressive...remembering reasons why shows I'm on failed.
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As editor-in-chief of Variety, Peter Bart was one of the most powerful people in the entertainment industry. This piece got him suspended.

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On the future of Myanmar.