Ah, procrastination! I knew I got into a deadline-driven business for a reason. Deadline pressure is the only antidote to procrastination, so here I am on December 31 organizing my Longreads thoughts.
I had trouble limiting myself to five stories so I did a bunch of sublists just for fun. Probably why this took me so long….
Top 4 Tech Features I Wish I’d Done
Scott Forstall, the Sorcerer’s Apprentice at Apple (BloombergBusinessWeek): The folks at BusinessWeek realized what few others have: Forstall is the Apple executive most like the late Steve Jobs. While everyone else was still fixated on Jobs retrospectives or wondering about CEO Tim Cook’s next move, BBW delivered a surprising profile of the guy responsible for iOS, the Apple software driving its future.
Does Quora Really Have All the Answers? (Wired): Gary Rivlin cooly looks in depth at what was the hottest startup of winter 2011 and delivers an engrossing look at its potential without any of the hyperbole.
Inside Groupon: The Truth About The World’s Most Controversial Company (Business Insider): Hard to believe a company that at its core peddles coupons could be so controversial, and yet, as this gets to in great depth, it most certainly is.
This Is Why Your Tumblr’s Down (Betabeat): A rich exploration into the growing pains of the increasingly popular blog platform in the heat of its server meltdown earlier this year.
Top 3 Oral Histories of 2011
This felt like the year of the oral history. Where once you could only expect one or two l in a given year, seemingly every week brought some bit of cultural detritus being remembered and misremembered by its principals.
The Complete Oral History of Party Down (Details): Watch the series on Netflix Instant (before it’s gone!), then get some nice backstory on the creation and casting of the show.
Blow-Up: An Oral History of Michael Bay, the Most Explosive Director of All Time (GQ): Actually made me appreciate the signature spectacle of Mr. Bay.
The Greatest Paper That Ever Died (Grantland): You knew it was coming given Grantland editor-in-chief’s Bill Simmons’ limited set of obsessions, but extremely well done and didn’t disappoint.
Top 3 Food Longreads of 2011
A Conspiracy of Hogs: The McRib As Arbitrage (The Awl): Provocative deconstruction of the McRib’s cult sandwich status that successfully ropes in a critique of our industrialized food supply.
Danny Meyer Is On a Roll (New York Times Magazine): Features the most bravura set piece opening I read this year, and then steadily evolves into a deft takedown, depicting Meyer’s abandonment of the stay-small philosophy that guided him for 25 years so he can chase the grease-stained lucre that comes with a global high-end burger chain.
Diner for Schmucks (GQ): Longtime food critic Alan Richman lays out a bizarre story of his reviewing experience of the culinary shooting star M. Wells, a haute diner in New York’s Long Island City that was the “it” restaurant for a hot minute and seemingly wilted a bit under the pressure.
Top 3 Guilty Pleasure Longreads of 2011
Meet the Mollys! Social Network Sweeties Tumbl Upward (New York Observer): Sharply observed bit of faux-trend fluff about the rise of a Tumblr-powered cadre of young women writers, three of whom just happen to be named Molly. I’ll take this over the duditor faux-trend piece any day.
Coke, Hookers, Hospital, Repeat (GQ): The great Amy Wallace got scooped a bit by Charlie Sheen’s movable feast earlier this year, but she still offers the definitive portrait of being too famous for too long.
The CrunchFund: Actually, Tim, We Don’t All Have Different Standards (TechCrunch): The long-running (still running, in fact) psychodrama that followed the creation of Mike Arrington’s angel-investment fund and eventually his exit from the tech blog he founded produced a lot of amazing schaudenfreude reads. This early Paul Carr one where he rips his boss’s boss’s boss is my favorite.
Top 5 Comedy Longreads of 2011
I’m a comedy nerd, so I can’t resist throwing this in the mix:
Louis C.K. Walks Us Through Louie’s Second Season (Onion AV Club, Parts One, Two, Three, and Four): I’ll admit that I have complicated feelings about Louis C.K., in particular all the outsized, mostly uncritical praise he gets. But that said, what a joy to read in depth about all the creative choices C.K. made on the road to the year’s most compelling (note, not the funniest, or the best, but most demanding of your attention) TV show.
Travels with Kyle (SplitSider, Parts One, Two, and Three): Kyle Kinane is one the most original voices in standup comedy today, a born storyteller who draws from his colorful life experiences. Isaac Fitzgerald of The Rumpus tags along on a week-long mini-tour of the West with Kinane and files three dispatches from the road, each one a captivating gem of what it’s like to be a performer on the road.
The Schleppers: Stale Gags & Stale Food in Mid-Century Manhattan (WFMU’s Beware of the Blog): Kliph Nesteroff routinely plumbs long-forgotten but fascinating entertainment history for this site. This profile of the heyday of midtown Manhattan’s performer scene is a standout, full of desperate characters hanging out in delis all day scrounging for scraps of every kind, a great picaresque of a bygone New York. Bonus: The young Rodney Dangerfield profile tucked into the narrative.
Jon Stewart and the Burden of History (Esquire): I admire the ballsiness to take on Stewart, who has to be the number-one sacred cow in media, and Tom Junod makes many smart points about the difference between adulation and humor. I do wish the piece weren’t quite so overwritten.
Your Comedy Is So Much Cooler Than Mine (SplitSider): This may not quite qualify as a longread, but I still very much enjoyd Alex Blagg gleefully eviscerating the comedy nerd and his/her holier-than-thou snobbishness.