Metal Mouths

Eighty percent of of North American teenagers are currently in an orthodontist’s care. Why is America obsessed with perfect teeth?

Author: Dan P. Lee
Published: Jun 9, 2015
Length: 26 minutes (6,720 words)

Who Is Su

When she was 22, Su Meck got into an accident and lost all her memories. At 49, she still learning about the man she married, the family she raised, and who she really is.

Author: Dan P. Lee
Published: Sep 25, 2014
Length: 34 minutes (8,594 words)

Where It Hurts: Steve McQueen on Why ’12 Years a Slave’ Isn’t Just About Slavery

Dan P. Lee on the director and Oscar contender:

I’d seen 12 Years the night before, at the huge cineplex in downtown L.A. My friend sobbed quietly through a good portion of it. At least one black couple left midway. As we walked out of the ­theater, no one seemed to be speaking; breaking the ice, one stranger next to me said, “Well, that was intense,” which made us all laugh anxiously. As we stared at the Figueroa clips, I told McQueen how much I admired the film, and how it made me think about nihilism. He was having none of this. We made our way quickly to the courtyard outside the museum, where a lively conversation ensued.

He stammered and stuttered, organizing his thoughts. “The world is perverse,” he conceded; it is “chaotic.” Still: “Within that, one is always trying to find that calm, that focus. That’s why we have societies. It drives some sort of structure within that sort of environment.” Slavery was not proof of senselessness. It was about “money and power obviously, and within that you get human suffering.” But goodness overwhelms. “The only reason I’m here talking to you,” he said, “is because my family held on to that love, even if it sounds corny.”

Author: Dan P. Lee
Published: Dec 10, 2013
Length: 21 minutes (5,274 words)

‘Chivo’s Favorite Phrase Was “This Is a Disaster”‘

Dan P. Lee profiles director Alfonso Cuarón and the difficult journey making his new film Gravity:

“When Cuarón first dreamed up Gravity, he thought that he’d essentially hacked the Hollywood system: Here was a potentially audience-friendly adventure movie, and as long as they landed an A-list actor, production would fall into place. He and Jonas wrote the screenplay at lightning speed. They attracted immediate interest from studios, and, crucially, Angelina Jolie. They began preparing for a shoot. ‘And then very soon we find out that the film was not going to be achievable with the existing technology,’ Cuarón said.

“So, I wondered, what did he do next?

“He laughed, smiled broadly. ‘Waste four years of my life.'”

Author: Dan P. Lee
Published: Sep 25, 2013
Length: 24 minutes (6,018 words)

Welcome to the Real Space Age

Despite fears that NASA and the United States have given up on space exploration, the focus has simply shifted to private companies like Virgin and SpaceX, which are preparing for commercial space travel:

“This was the International Symposium for Personal and Commerical Spaceflight. It had been co-founded eight years earlier by a New Mexico State professor named Pat Hynes, who had been studying and advocating for the commercial potential of space for twenty years. She has watched the conference grow in size and influence alongside the industry. Now, the facility buzzed with engineers and scientists and entrepreneurs and astronauts. Sponsors included Lockheed Martin and Boeing, a European company touting its ability to ‘launch any payload to any orbit at anytime,’ and another company claiming the authority to sell plots of land on the moon. Hynes, ecstatic, inaugurated the conference by shouting a ‘Let’s rock this house!’ welcome, before introducing Michael Lopez-Alegria, a recently retired space-shuttle astronaut who spoke of his conversion from ‘skeptic with outright disdain for the idea of commercial space” to a “Kool-Aid-pouring believer’ in the private space industry.”

Author: Dan P. Lee
Published: May 20, 2013
Length: 32 minutes (8,219 words)

4:52 on Christmas Morning

One year after a fatal fire in Stamford claims the lives of their children and her parents, a family tries to make sense of what happened:

“He tells me that seeing children can sometimes make him feel better and other times worse. The last photo ever taken of the girls—of the three of them in brightly colored winter coats, lined up with him in front of the Hudson around sunset—was taken right over there. He speaks slowly, sometimes stuttering, not always in complete sentences. He has a diluted British accent, a vestige of his childhood in England. He says he needs caffeine.

“We go to a coffee shop in the neighborhood. He orders a scone, a double cappuccino, and an iced tea. We sit in the sun. In between cigarettes, he chews Nicorette gum. He talks about the girls. He would take them to museums, parks, toy stores, dinner at the local diner, late movies, allowing them to run up in front of the screen to dance as the credits were rolling. He says he was too loose with them. Madonna had called him her fourth child; he says that she was right. He will not say anything else about her. She is struggling and trying to deal in her own way, and he does not want to hurt her.”

Author: Dan P. Lee
Published: Dec 3, 2012
Length: 31 minutes (7,989 words)

‘I Just Want to Feel Everything’: Hiding Out with Fiona Apple, Musical Hermit

A lost weekend, or several weeks, with Fiona Apple:

“A week later, my phone beeped. It was a heavily pixelated video. She was wearing glasses, looking straight at me:

“‘Hi, Dan. It’s Fiona. [She moves the camera to her dog.] This is Janet. [She moves it back.] Um, are you coming out here tomorrow? Um, I, I, I don’t know—I’m baffled at this thing that I just got, this e-mail shit, I don’t know what these people—are they trying to antagonize me so that I do shit like this, so that I start fights with them? I don’t understand why there are pictures of models on a page about me. Who the fuck are they? What? What?’

“The text attached read: ‘And are you western-bound? And hi there! F’

“I had no idea what she was talking about. Two days later, I landed at LAX.”

Author: Dan P. Lee
Published: Jun 17, 2012
Length: 29 minutes (7,287 words)

The Good Seed

In her mind, she told me, there was one overwhelming thought: She wanted—she needed—Nik’s sperm.

Outside the hospital, at the picnic table, she acknowledged how crazy the idea likely sounded. She said they could get an egg donor and a surrogate. No one said anything at first. They stared at her.

She went on. She told them how the last time she’d seen him, a little more than two weeks ago, he’d spoken again of his longing for children; she reminded them that they’d all had similar conversations with him. They’d decided to donate his organs anyway; why not take something from him that would otherwise go to waste? She spoke of making “Nikki’s dream come true.”

Author: Dan P. Lee
Source: GQ
Published: Dec 24, 2011
Length: 25 minutes (6,428 words)

After the Rapture

And so six o’clock dawned on the South Pacific.

And there was nothing.

Reached on his doorstep the following morning, Camping was, he said, “flabbergasted.” He was visibly shaken. “It has been a really tough weekend,” he acknowledged. He said he was “looking for answers.” And so in the hours that followed he pulled the drapes, doing all he could do, which was diving back into the Bible, reading, calculating, praying, reading, calculating, praying.

Author: Dan P. Lee
Published: Oct 16, 2011
Length: 21 minutes (5,481 words)

Paw Paw & Lady Love

Hers is a story that wove itself into American popular culture, chronicled on television and in the tabloids (and even, recently, on a London stage as an acclaimed new opera). And yet until now, much of Anna Nicole Smith’s life has remained hidden, or willfully distorted by those who knew her, so that by the time she died she was less well known than when she first attracted the world’s attention almost twenty years ago.

Author: Dan P. Lee
Published: Jun 6, 2011
Length: 32 minutes (8,036 words)