Our favorite stories of the week, featuring the London Review of Books, New York magazine, Medium, Texas Monthly, and the Morning News.
How Rob Thomas—creator of the beloved TV series Veronica Mars—used Kickstarter to bring his show to the big screen:
On the morning of March 13, 2013, Thomas hit the “Launch Project” button on his laptop screen. He’d also installed the Kickstarter app on his iPhone, with the notifications option turned on. For the next several hours, his phone vibrated continuously, never pausing long enough for him to change the settings on the app—a new backer was joining the project literally every second. About an hour in, Thomas realized what was happening. “I finally felt absolutely like we were going to get to make the movie,” he says. “That’s when I got hit by just a tidal wave of endorphins or adrenaline. I felt woozy.”
They raised $1 million in four hours. By the end of the first day, they had $2.5 million and had set several Kickstarter records, becoming the fastest project to reach $1 million and the fastest project to reach $2 million (eleven hours). In the end, they raised $5,702,153, making Veronica Mars the third-largest Kickstarter ever and the highest-funded film or video project (the previous record was $808,341, for a web TV series).
PUBLISHED: March 1, 2014
LENGTH: 16 minutes (4230 words)
In 1998 a district attorney sent a teenager to prison for murder. Years later, he's questioning the life sentence:
According to the law, Cole continued, it did not matter that Randy had not fired the gun or had not wished Heather dead. In Texas, the “law of parties” erases the distinction between killers and accomplices, finding that a person can be held criminally responsible for the conduct of another if he participated in the crime. By virtue of the fact that Randy had assisted Curtis, he was guilty of capital murder. “He could stand here all day long and tell you that his intent was not to assist in the commission of this crime, and his actions cry out differently,” Cole insisted. “He’s guilty. He must pay the consequences of his choice.”
The jury agreed, and on August 25, 1998, Randy was convicted of capital murder and handed an automatic life sentence. Cole watched as Randy, then nineteen, was led from the courtroom in handcuffs and leg irons. As the DA gathered the papers at his table, he was relieved that the trial was over. Yet he hardly felt triumphant. “It was not a moment of celebration,” Cole told me. “There was no joy or happiness. I had a deep, deep sense that another young life had been senselessly wasted."
PUBLISHED: Feb. 24, 2014
LENGTH: 33 minutes (8410 words)
Whom did Farrah Fawcett really love? A court battle over an expensive Warhol turns on matters of the heart:
It was a Monday morning in mid-December at the Los Angeles County Superior Court, the day of closing arguments in the matter of the Board of Regents of the University of Texas System v. Ryan O’Neal, and the show was just minutes from getting under way. Outside the courtroom, the players milled about. O’Neal was strolling down the courthouse hallway in a navy blazer, an open-collared light-blue shirt, and dark pants. Seventy-two years old and still impossibly youthful, with only a touch of graying hair, he wore gold-rimmed sunglasses and held a plastic water bottle, which he wiggled before him as if he were going for a birdie putt on the eighteenth green at Riviera. “God, I’m nervous,” he said.
PUBLISHED: Feb. 3, 2014
LENGTH: 15 minutes (3902 words)
A church with the features of a cult affects the town of Wells, Texas:
But as the number of church members crept upward, residents of the tiny town started to feel uneasy. The recent arrivals systematically visited other churches to accuse the congregations of spiritual bankruptcy. They roamed the streets listening to the elders’ sermons on headphones, and they were frequently confrontational. A few church members, including Ringnald, moved in across from Gertrude Hearne, an 84-year-old grandmother of ten. Almost every afternoon, as she sat in a tan recliner in her wood-paneled living room, watching Jimmy Swaggart, church members would drop by to read her the Bible or sing hymns. At the sight of the Pentecostal televangelist, they’d flick off her television and declare Swaggart a false prophet. Finally, she’d had enough. “When I asked them to stop, they told me I was going to die, and I said, ‘You are too.’ ”
PUBLISHED: Jan. 27, 2014
LENGTH: 35 minutes (8773 words)
The writer on an illicit affair she had with a teacher at the age of 14:
The real life symbolism would have been all too clear: as Trace Lehrer exited through the front door thirty minutes after he arrived, my mother having called sooner than expected, I stood on the threshold clothed and disappointed and feeling like an idiot. I was unintentionally still as virtuous as I had been at the top of the hour.
I couldn’t understand Trace Lehrer’s behavior, or lack thereof; he was explicit in words, but not in actions. We saw each other every day and remained in contact every moment we spent apart. More confusingly, we had replaced first names with pet names in our ceaseless conversations, which had begun to focus on fantasies and plans for our future. “How many kids will we have, baby?” Trace Lehrer had asked me one night before. “Will you come on hunting trips with me and our son?”
PUBLISHED: Dec. 4, 2013
LENGTH: 29 minutes (7376 words)
Domingo Martinez, a 2013 National Book Award finalist, recalls Sunday luncheons with his family in South Texas eating pit-roasted barbacoa:
As soon as I was old enough, which in rural Brownsville was around fourteen, it was my job to get up before anyone else those mornings and drive to the barbacoa place for our ration. I was expected to have the food on the table before the rest of the family woke up. Dad would leave $20 on the dining room table the night before, and I would find my favorite mixtape and then zoom off about seven-thirty or so in my sister’s Volkswagen Rabbit. I looked forward to those Sunday mornings—the simple rush of freedom as I pulled away, that transcendental sense of liberation when you lock into fourth gear and hit 55 on a dirt road, as some ageless punk rock blares from the speakers. It should give you a sense of how malnourished the rest of my life was that this was magical to me, this drive to some nearby colonia where Dad knew someone who was making backyard barbacoa in a burst of free enterprise that may or may not have been legal, churning out tortillas in their garage on a tortilla-making machine (I don’t know what those are called). I took my job very seriously, though I didn’t really understand why. I just wanted to take the car out for a spin.
PUBLISHED: Nov. 24, 2013
LENGTH: 17 minutes (4385 words)
An installation by Playboy riles residents in the small town of Marfa, Texas and has everyone wondering: Is it art or advertising?:
Dick DeGuerin, a subscriber to the Sentinel, was at home in Houston when he read the news. A week later, the lawyer was flying his Cessna back from a spa day with his daughter in Mexico and decided to stop in Marfa for a Jimmie Dale Gilmore concert. The bunny, which had gone up in a matter of days, was all anyone could talk about. Some people got a kick out of it: there was Bob Wright, the white-mustachioed owner of Marfa Realty, who had initially put Playboy in touch with six area landowners, and Ty Mitchell, a rakish cowboy who’d had a part in True Grit and helped persuade the Eppenauers to lease their land. (Though Sheri had twice rejected the lease, when Playboy allegedly tripled its first offering, to $20,000 for twelve months, she sought the permission of her preacher and the school principal before signing.) Some ropers and mechanics expressed excitement, and a few creative types, such as Marfa Film Festival director Robin Lambaria, thought it made a funny contrast to the town’s serious art scene.
PUBLISHED: Oct. 24, 2013
LENGTH: 20 minutes (5238 words)
On Willie Nelson, Waylon Jennings and an oral history of the "outlaw country" movement that coalesced in Austin as a reaction to the polished "countrypolitan gloss" in Nashville, led by RCA executive Chet Atkins:
"Liquor by the drink had finally become legal in Texas, which prompted the folkies to migrate from coffeehouses to bars, turning their music into something you drank to. Songwriters moved to town, like Michael Murphey, a good-looking Dallas kid who’d written for performers such as the Monkees and Kenny Rogers in L.A. He was soon joined by Jerry Jeff Walker, a folkie from New York who’d had a radio hit when the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band covered his song 'Mr. Bojangles.' In March, Willie played a three-day country festival outside town, the Dripping Springs Reunion, that would grow into his Fourth of July Picnics. Then he too moved to Austin and started building an audience that didn’t look like or care about any Nashville ideal. By the time the scene started to wind down, in 1976, Willie and Austin were known worldwide."
PUBLISHED: Oct. 13, 2013
LENGTH: 45 minutes (11438 words)