Eva Holland has kindly accepted our invitation to guest curate the blog for a spell. I’m excited to brush aside the gangrey cobwebs and see what Eva has been reading. Stay tuned.
Our pal Tim Loh, who left papers in Connecticut for Bloomberg News, graciously passed along three enterprise stories from the outfit better known for its bread-and-butter business coverage. Take a look.
Alex Nussbaum and David Voreacos: Even in the underbelly of North Dakota’s Bakken oilfields, the murder of Doug Carlile stands out, a tale of a Matt Damon look-alike felon, an Indian tribal leader and an accused hit man with a check list that included items like “practice with pistol.”
There’s even a voice from the grave: “If I disappear or wake up with bullets in my back, promise me you will let everyone know that James Henrikson did it.”
Those were the words Doug Carlile spoke to his family about his business partner before a masked gunman cut him down in the kitchen of his Spokane, Washington, house last December. Police say that Carlile’s murder was probably motivated by a series of complex business transactions that “went bad” in North Dakota’s oil fields.
Spurred by breakthroughs in horizontal drilling and hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, North Dakota now produces more than 1 million barrels of crude a day, surpassing OPEC members such as Qatar and Ecuador. The Bakken’s output, along with surges in Texas and elsewhere, has the U.S. poised to overtake Saudi Arabia next year as the world’s biggest source of crude. Where Teddy Roosevelt once hunted bison, drilling rigs and work camps now crowd the horizon.
Along with oil prosperity has come a spasm of crime unlike any before on the prairie. Where farmers once sealed deals with a handshake, authorities now contend with drug gangs, meth labs, violent crimes, prostitution and investor fraud, all with the same aim in mind: making a quick score.
Tom Moroney: Holy moly!
Marc Gill, the big, bald, bearded genie at center stage, yanks a smorgasbord of heavenly treats from the Ronco Ready Grill.
Here comes the lollipop lamb for Dad and sensible salmon for Mom, and now hot dogs and chicken fingers for their curly-haired girl and two boys. Has our hungry crew stopped for a bite at their favorite all-you-can-eat joint? Better than that, this real-life family of five has landed supporting roles in one of the most anticipated infomercials of the fall season.
But wait, there’s more! Out of Gill’s furnace of fun — an oversized silver toaster-thingy –- emerges a rack of potatoes and asparagus. Gill looks into the camera and pauses to recover from what appears to be a bad case of wide-eyed astonishment.
“Are you kidding me!” he booms as he begins serving the hot goodies. “Who wants to be first?”
Ken Wells: “Let’s go shoot Savannah,” Tom Galjour says as we bounce along in his vanilla-colored Dodge Ram pickup. He’s at the wheel. We’re on a sleepy blacktop road meandering through a sprawl of sugarcane deep in bayou country outside of Houma, Louisiana, where Galjour lives.
It’s an adventure riding with Tom. An oxygen machine pings from his cluttered back seat, supplying the clear-plastic cannula looped over his head and fixed to his nostrils. He soon trades it for a nebulizer, giving himself a breathing treatment as he steers one-handed.
In case you’re wondering, Savannah isn’t a person. It’s Galjour’s affectionate name for his gun and, well, not just any gun. It’s a single-shot, bolt-action ArmaLite .50-caliber rifle. It weighs 35 pounds and is almost 5 feet long. Equipped with a scope, it shoots a projectile that breaks the sound barrier.
Skilled military snipers have used .50 calibers to pick off enemy combatants from more than a mile and a half away. It can penetrate 6-inch concrete walls, no problem, and pierce light armor. Galjour is supplying these data points with deadpan glee. He paid $4,000 for Savannah back when he had money and every shell he fires costs three bucks, but so what?
Lori Kurtzman: Paul F. once gave a gas station a five-star review for its hot dogs. He tore into a breakfast restaurant for charging him a quarter for jelly. He wrote of an enjoyable lunch at an Indian buffet, though he noted, “I don’t have the foggiest idea of what I ate.”
He reviewed hospitals and auto repair shops, tailors and bakers. He ate pan-seared foie gras (“If I had it to do over I’d have skipped this one”) and fast-food dollar burgers (“And they weren’t too bad”). He reviewed a lunchtime trip to Kohl’s: “I was looking for underwear believe (it) or not. And they had just what I was looking for and the price was okay.”
Paul F. had opinions. He didn’t keep them to himself.
Lane DeGregory: He got the letter in July, at his mom’s house in Seminole. She never would have believed it.
Not after everything that had happened.
Dakota Rockwell, 20, had applied to the University of South Florida as a long shot, hoping — but never dreaming — he would be accepted.
Then the admissions office emailed. He could start in August, in the business school.
All summer, he sweated cleaning pools, painting condos, hacking vines off fences. He hauled boats at the marina, moved furniture at an auction house, caught ladyfish to sell at the flea market: $1 per pound. Working seven days a week, he saved $700.
He would need more than that just to buy books.
A $5,000 Pell Grant would cover about half of his expenses; a Rotary Club scholarship gave him another $750. But if he was going to take classes full-time, he would have to lose some of his jobs. Then he wouldn’t be able to pay his bills, or earn the extra $5,000 for tuition and fees.
After working so hard, after defying everyone’s expectations, Dakota decided he wouldn’t be able to afford a degree from USF.
He hung the acceptance letter on his wall.
And emailed the financial aid office, sharing his story, explaining why he couldn’t enroll.
Sports Illustrated is republishing it’s 60 best stories. This one, from Rick Bragg, is the most recent:
They say college football is religion in the Deep South, but it’s not. Only religion is religion. Anyone who has seen an old man rise from his baptism, his soul all on fire, knows as much, though it is easy to see how people might get confused. But if football was a faith anywhere, it would be here on the Black Warrior River in Tuscaloosa, Ala. And now has come a great revival.
Tease: “I’ve always said, if you’re going to write a good story, find yourself a person with a crease or two in his face.”
Michael Mooney: Looking at herself in the tall, wide bridal-shop mirror, Amanda Barbour couldn’t help but smile. This was what she’d dreamed of. The big, bright satin dress. The flowers. The beautiful church wedding. She was 36, and for years, she’d imagined herself marrying a pastor and helping people with her story of redemption. Now it was all so close.
The ceremony was just three weeks away, and this was her last chance to make any significant alterations. She admired her dress, running her hands across the embroidery, the pearls, the beaded florets. She practiced walking, then sitting, with the long lacy train. As the seamstress marked small changes and explained how to fasten the bustle, Amanda’s face beamed.
She was excited for her dad to see the dress. She imagined walking down the aisle with him. She pictured the father-daughter dance they’d share. She’d always felt so close to him. Even when the rest of the world seemed so hard, he could make her feel like a princess.
Standing there in that dress shop in Deep Ellum, she felt lucky to have been given a second chance, a resurrection of sorts. She thought about the long, strange journey that had brought her to this point. She was finally content. And she wanted her father to be proud.
From Jeff Pearlman’s interview with Peter Carry, former executive editor of SI:
I don’t mean to sound like the guy who bemoaned the demise of the buggy whip by decrying the advent of the automobile. The electronic means of communication we have are marvels, but we must find some way to bend their use to thoughtful and significant journalism that might be a bit slower in arriving before our eyes but will so much better nourish our brains. It’s essential to our world, our country and ourselves that we have well-informed citizens. This is a human problem, not a technical problem. I couldn’t care less if SI exists as an entity on paper 10 years from now, but I care immensely that the spirit of the magazine as you and I knew it lives on in whatever form SI and other publications with high standards might appear then. I’ll add here that I’m delighted that the current editors of the magazine have rededicated considerable space to the sort of long-form pieces that made SI’s reputation.
This lede is a mouthful. Thoughts?
Robert D. McFadden: Joan Rivers, the raspy loudmouth who pounced on America’s obsessions with flab, face-lifts, body hair and other blemishes of neurotic life, including her own, in five decades of caustic comedy that propelled her from nightclubs to television to international stardom, died on Thursday in Manhattan. She was 81.
Deanna Pan: You’ve probably seen her before. Captured in grainy 16mm Kodachrome color film, she walks upstream along a sandbar on the opposite edge of a creek. It’s an easy gait, brisk yet casual. Her knees are bent; her elongated arms swing freely at her sides. In a moment suspended in time, she glances back. Large eyes. Flat nose. Well-muscled back, buttocks and thighs. A large pair of conspicuous breasts dangle from her chest like sandbags.
She’s big — 7 feet and 3 inches tall, some say, and 700 or more pounds. She’s also almost entirely covered in dark brown hair.
To skeptics, she’s just a hoax, an imposter in an ape suit. But to any Bigfoot investigator worth his salt, she’s “Patty.”
This iconic footage, known as the Patterson-Gimlin film, is widely considered the gold standard by which every other piece of Bigfoot evidence is weighed. Cryptozoologist Loren Coleman, who runs the International Cryptozoology Museum in Portland, Maine, likens the footage to the Zapruder film of John F. Kennedy’s assassination. It’s the best and and most controversial proof there is that large and elusive apelike hominoids roam the North American backwoods, and have been since antiquity. For Bigfoot believers, the comparison couldn’t be more apt.
No one appreciates this more than Bob Gimlin, an 82-year-old horse handler from Yakima, Washington — the surviving half of the film’s namesake. When we meet at a diner in Union Gap, he says he’s got “a little gift” for me out in his truck. After rummaging through his black Escalade pickup, he hands me a batteries-not-included “Sasqwatch” that he personally autographed the night before.
“That’s a signed Bob Gimlin case right there!” he says, smiling.
Registration just opened for a new journalism conference at the Graduate School of Journalism, University of California, Berkeley.:
With keynote addresses by essayist Adam Gopnik and New York Times Magazine editor Jake Silverstein, this all-day event promises to be an extended, bracing conversation about the state of literary nonfiction. Under the direction of Constance Hale, the conference gathers an audience of talented, veteran journalists, who will hear thoughts and advice from master writers, editors, and agents on the tradition and the edges of literary journalism. We will not just explore how to research and write great stories, but also where to publish them, and how to collaborate with agents and editors.
In addition to the keynotes, there will be panels, lectures, and practical workshops. (And, on Sunday, November 9, we will offer “master classes” for an additional modest fee.) Sessions will ask big questions but will also concentrate on specific techniques. Platforms discussed will range from microblogs to books; genres looked at will range from spot news to memoir.