Nora Ephron's son Jacob on his mother's last days, and the play she was working on that helped her understand her own sickness and impending death:
"In the play my mother wrote, there’s a scene toward the end, in which McAlary, sick with cancer, goes to the Poconos to visit his friend Jim Dwyer, then a columnist at The Daily News. It’s a glorious summer day, and McAlary’s 12-year-old son, Ryan, wants to do a flip off the diving board, but he gets scared and can’t do it. So McAlary takes off his shirt, walks to the edge of the diving board and says to him: 'When you do these things, you can’t be nervous. If you think about what can go wrong, if you think about the belly flop, that’s what’ll happen.'
"And then McAlary does the flip himself and makes a perfect landing.
"It’s a metaphor, obviously, for his view about life. And I’ve come to think it might as well have been about my mother. The point is that you don’t let fear invade your psyche. Because then you might as well be dead."
PUBLISHED: March 6, 2013
LENGTH: 22 minutes (5681 words)
From The Daily Beast's David Sessions, a collection of stories on gun violence and policy in the U.S., featuring The Atlantic, Washington Post, Bloomberg Businessweek and Mother Jones.
Sam Mullet, an Amish sect leader from Bergholz, Ohio, was convicted of hate crimes for his role in an odd string of beard-cutting attacks last year, and was accused of sexually preying on women and tormenting men in his community. What led up to the attacks?
"According to Mullet, the violent beard-clipping spree against outsiders began with an incident at a large Amish-run machine sale in Geauga County, Ohio. One of Mullet’s nephews, who lived at Bergholz and was part of the community, was mocked by his own parents — Mullet’s sister and brother-in-law, both defectors from Bergholz — for being, essentially, a beardless sissy.
"'If God was with you, your beard would not have been cut,' the father, Martin Miller, told his son, Allen Miller. 'If God is with me, my beard will not be cut.'
"'You said a mouthful,' Allen said. 'And if that ever happens, you know it’s true.'
"Mullet recalled hearing about the heated exchange when the Miller kids returned home that night. 'We talked about it,' he said.
"Perhaps the father’s boast was too enticing — within a matter of weeks, Allen and several of his siblings and their spouses went to the home of Martin and Barbara Miller and cut his beard and her hair. 'God is not with you! God is not with you!' Allen shouted at his parents after the attack."
PUBLISHED: Dec. 3, 2012
LENGTH: 24 minutes (6189 words)
On the 1962-1963 printers strike in New York City that effectively shut down the seven biggest newspapers in the city, killed four of them, and made names for writers like Gay Talese, Tom Wolfe and Nora Ephron:
"A city without The New York Times inspired rage and scorn, ambivalence and relief. A 'Talk of the Town' item in The New Yorker lamented a weekend without the 'fragrant, steamy deep-dish apple pie of the Sunday Times.' James Reston—pillar of the Establishment, Washington bureau chief and columnist for the Times, and intimate of the Sulzberger family, to whom he directed a controversial entreaty to use non-union shops—was allowed to read his column on New York’s Channel 4 in early January 1963: 'Striking the Times is like striking an old lady and deprives the community of all kinds of essential information. If some beautiful girl gets married this week, the television may let us see her gliding radiantly from the church. But what about all those ugly girls who get married every Sunday in the Times?'
"A city without newspapers was a city in which civic activity was impeded, as two out-of-work Times reporters hired by the Columbia Journalism Review soon documented. Without the daily papers, the Health Department’s campaign against venereal disease was 'seriously impaired.' So was the fight against slumlords: 'There’s a distinct difference,' the city’s building commissioner said, 'between a $500 fine and a $500 fine plus a story in the Times.' The New York chapter of the Congress on Racial Equality discovered that, without newspaper attention, its boycott of the Sealtest Milk Company was considerably undermined. The newspaper strike, the C.J.R. study concluded, had 'deprived the public of its watchdog."
PUBLISHED: Nov. 30, 2012
LENGTH: 22 minutes (5728 words)
Thirty years after seven people in Chicago died after taking cyanide-laced Tylenol, investigators, law enforcement officers, health and public officials, and friends and family members recount how it all unfolded. The perpetrator was never found, and the case was recently reopened:
The [Janus] family was all at Adam’s house, planning the funeral and mourning together. Adam’s younger brother, Stanley [Janus], had some chronic back pain. And he asked his wife—they had been married just a little while, and her name was also Theresa—to get him some Tylenol. And she came out and gave him two Tylenol, and then she took two Tylenol. And then he went down. And then she went down.
Lieutenant with the Arlington Heights Fire Department [to the Daily Herald]
When I arrived at the house, there were cars and people everywhere. All eight of my men were working, four on one man and four on a woman. Everything that would happen to the man happened to the woman a few minutes later.
As I was putting on my blue blazer to leave, around 5:30, a nurse told me that they were bringing the Janus family back. And I said, 'Well, it’s probably the parents,' because they were feeble and they might have been very upset. And the nurse said, 'No, it’s his brother.' I had been talking to this six-foot healthy guy. And I said, 'Well, what happened? Did he faint?' And she said, 'They are doing CPR—and they are working on his wife too.' That’s when I took my blazer off."
PUBLISHED: Sept. 24, 2012
LENGTH: 21 minutes (5348 words)
A writer-comedian reviews his successes and failures, realizing there's not much difference between the two:
"You might be thinking to yourself, 'How do you know the fear never goes away?' It could just be me. It could just be pessimism, or cynicism. The realization hit me like a ton of bricks a few years back after witnessing an eye opening conversation in the green room of the UCB Theater. I saw two very accomplished comedians talking in one of the side rooms. One of these people was a cast member on SNL. The other was a correspondent for The Daily Show. (Luckily being at UCB there are multiple people who have passed through that have gone on to those illustrious jobs and I can use those specific examples without outing anyone. Please don’t ask who they were. It’s not important.) Person one said something along the lines of 'I’m just not sure what I’m going to do.' Person two said, 'Yeah, things have been so fucking dry lately. I’m really, really worried.' The conversation proceeded from there and sounded like the exact type of conversation I was having with my own friends who were in the trenches performing all around NYC with me. (To give you the context of where I was at, this was around 2008 or 2009, before the Comedy Central show, before my book, when I really was just a guy who was known on stages throughout NYC but could not catch a break for the life of me and was kind of becoming sadly infamous for it.)
"These were two people who both had careers I would kill for. Being on SNL! Being on The Daily Show! I think for any of us whose dream it is to do comedy, those would be two crown jewel jobs. Those would be two jobs that most of us would think feel like a life-altering accomplishment. Getting those gigs would feel like grabbing on to the brass ring we’ve been chasing. Those are the types of gigs that you imagine lead to the validation, wealth, and fame that we chase so hard. You have to imagine that’s true, right? Those jobs? You will feel like you did it. You made it. Your life can have a movie ending where the sun rises and the credits roll and the hard times are over, you’ve done it. You’ve won.
"But I eavesdropped on those two individuals, and realized – the fear is inside us. It’s part of why we do what we do."
PUBLISHED: Aug. 9, 2012
LENGTH: 25 minutes (6411 words)
Astra Woodcraft was seven when she indoctrinated into the Church of Scientology via an arm of the church known as Sea Org. What she endured, and how she escaped:
"One of my first jobs as an official member of the Sea Org was in the security department, meaning I had to make sure people obeyed church rules and ethics. It seemed that people were always in some kind of trouble—the place felt ruled by fear. You could get in trouble for random things; for instance, someone might question why there were so many loose papers on your desk. Another thing you could get in trouble for: masturbation. Early on in my new job, I had to sit down with a man in his 40s who had admitted to masturbating, and tell him to cut it out. I was 15 years old."
PUBLISHED: July 6, 2012
LENGTH: 10 minutes (2614 words)
Life as a mob boss's girlfriend:
"By the early 1990s, Stanley began to crack under the years of control and psychological domination. She and Bulger were arguing constantly, sometimes violently, at home and in public. Once, at a wedding party, Teresa was approached by Bulger’s partner, Flemmi, who said, 'Teresa, I know you and Jimmy are going through a rough patch, but there’s something you need to understand. That man will never let you go.'
"Stanley felt trapped. She went into a deep depression. She had become financially and emotionally dependent on Bulger; she could see no way out. Then, the 'other woman' entered the picture.
"Stanley was home alone one night when she got a call. An unfamiliar female voice said, 'I think we need to talk.'"
PUBLISHED: June 11, 2012
LENGTH: 17 minutes (4368 words)