Search Results for: Los Angeles Magazine

The Top 5 Longreads of the Week

Rapper Drakeo the Ruler on stage in Los Angeles.
SAN BERNARDINO, CALIFORNIA - DECEMBER 12: Drakeo the Ruler performs at 2021 Rolling Loud Los Angeles at NOS Events Center on December 12, 2021 in San Bernardino, California. (Photo by Timothy Norris/WireImage)

Here are five stories that moved us this week, and the reasons why.

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1. Anatomy of a Murder Confession

Maurice Chammah | The Marshall Project and Dallas Morning News | January 18th, 2022 | 6,600 Words

“They put us together…and tell us that we can do whatever we want, as long as we solve cases.” That’s what James Holland, a Texas Ranger and media-dubbed “serial killer whisperer,” once said about the Rangers’ work on unsolved murders. The person he said it to was James Driskill, a suspect in a cold case, and Holland wasn’t kidding: To pin the murder on Driskill, the Rangers used hypnosis, deception, a “hypothetical” confession, and other investigative methods criticized by criminal justice experts and advocates as dramatically increasing the risk of convicting an innocent person. Which is exactly what Driskill, now serving a prison sentence, and his legal team say happened to him. Maurice Chammah’s story about Holland’s questionable techniques, which aren’t isolated to Driskill’s case, is as jaw-dropping as it is expertly crafted. —SD

2. The Assassination of Drakeo the Ruler

Jeff Weiss | Los Angeles Magazine | January 13th, 2022 | 6,842 words

The heyday of hip-hop magazines like XXL and Rap Pages might be behind us, but there’s still a cadre of thoughtful, incisive journalists chronicling the culture in a way that transcends the usual artist profiles and album reviews. One of my favorites of the past few years has been Weiss, who has become an ardent keeper of the L.A. flame, creating compelling portraits of hometown heroes like 03 Greedo — and here his gifts are on full display, though they’re the sour fruit of a tragedy. In December, when Los Angeles rapper Drakeo the Ruler was ambushed backstage at a music festival and fatally stabbed, Weiss was feet away. The two had kindled a relationship over the years, one that had begun under the auspices of journalism but evolved into friendship; now, over the course of nearly 7,000 words, Weiss braids together Drakeo’s all-too-short life with his own journey of grief. Proximal but never predatory, it peels back the myth to reveal a young man who sought to put his sprawling city on his back, even though it meant a collision course with a grisly fate. This isn’t music journalism; it’s human journalism. —PR

3. The Day My Wartime Cat Went Missing

Rasha Elass | New Lines | January 14, 2022 | 6,368 words

In this unexpected essay about living in wartime Syria, Rasha Elass writes about her adventures over the past decade with her two cats, Pumpkin and Gremlin, whom she adopted as kittens in Abu Dhabi. In 2010, before the Arab Spring, Elass goes to Damascus, where she was born, in the hope of connecting more deeply to the place of her birth. Conflict and civil war, however, make this impossible; Elass describes day-to-day life in the capital as both a resident and a journalist: the mortar attacks and the bombs, the hostile checkpoints and the dangers of reporting in rebel-controlled areas. But through it all, Pumpkin and Gremlin are there — watchful witnesses, beloved companions — as cats are. “When the war starts the cats will continue to soften the rough edges of the humans around them, even those who become agitated and brandish Kalashnikovs.” You don’t need to love cats to enjoy this essay, but if you do, you’ll certainly understand the bond Elass has with hers. —CLR

4. I Got Sober in the Pandemic. It Saved My Life.

Danielle Tcholakian | Jezebel | January 19th, 2022 | 2,371

Here at home, we would have a couple beers and probably a glass of wine every evening during that first year of the pandemic. We drank to have something to look forward to. (Well, at least there is a cold amber ale or two — or three — awaiting me at the end of yet another long day.) We drank to avoid the reality of the case and death counts here and elsewhere. We joked about it, a dark humor that helped justify and enable our choice of coping mechanism. But as Danielle Tcholakian recounts in her brave and poignant essay at Jezebel, alcohol became a weighted blanket that suppressed not fear, not self-loathing, nor the world at large, but a necessary perspective shift — one that life with less alcohol, or in Tcholakian’s case abstinence — could bring. Tcholakian’s piece recounts deep, dangerous depression. That’s where our experiences diverge, though the evolution in mindset she describes so well is something I recognize. “Maladaptive behaviors create what I imagine to be rutted little canals in our wiring, like scratched up dive bar tables…But over and over, pushing forward through these feelings that I previously would’ve poured alcohol over got me to a place I couldn’t have understood.” This piece is clear and deeply compelling: While we all experience and respond to the world and its stressors in different ways, we all feel scared and helpless at times. In being so vulnerable, Tcholakian reminds us of the most important thing, so often forgotten while we snuggle with the black dog: we are not alone. —KS

5. The Undoing of Joss Whedon

Lila Shapiro | Vulture | January 17th, 2022 | 8,989 words

The ’90s were a different era — a time before Netflix binging — when a whole agonizing week passed between each episode of your favorite show. Buffy the Vampire Slayer aired on Fridays at 7 p.m., and I was either ready on the sofa or scrambling to record it on VHS tape. I loved it! To me, Buffy was a symbol of “girl power” (a beloved ’90s phrase), a young blonde woman finally playing the hero rather than the victim. Lila Shapiro, however, writes that the show can be interpreted differently: “the titillating tale of a woman in leather pants who is brutalized by monsters.” Disconcerting for me to consider, but in line with the recent revelations about Joss Whedon, Buffy‘s creator.

Shapiro has carried out extraordinary research for this article, interviewing Whedon’s former colleagues and lovers, as well as Whedon himself. Once a god to his fans, public revelations from his ex-wife and former cast detailing affairs with young actresses and casual cruelty have led to his fall. People are conflicted about whether he was merely difficult or crossed the line into abuse, and Shapiro finds no clear answers. Whedon is keen to deflect blame, claiming that, with regard to affairs with cast members, “He felt he ‘had’ to sleep with them, that he was ‘powerless’ to resist.” An uncomfortable and frustrating read — which may tarnish some childhood memories — but a brilliant exploration into the ruin of Whedon’s reputation. —CW

The Top 5 Longreads of the Week

Slime Mould (Getty Images)

This week, we’re sharing stories from Matt Hamilton and Garrett Therolf, Lacy M. Johnson, Devin Kelly, Max Bell, and Rainesford Stauffer.

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1. How the State of California Failed Noah Cuatro

Matt Hamilton, Garrett Therolf | Los Angeles Times | August 19, 2021 | 5,000 words

“Before a 4-year-old boy’s killing, authorities wavered on rescuing him.”

2. What Slime Knows

Lacy M. Johnson | Orion Magazine | August 24, 2021 | 3,411

“There is no hierarchy in the web of life.”

3. From a Window

Devin Kelly | wildness | August 15, 2020 | 2,089 words

“Tonight, a dog holds a piece of cardboard in its mouth for an entire block. I don’t know what it finds in such a small, almost useless thing, but then again, I horde so much of what is small and useless, even to me, even to a dog. In most moments, there is something beautiful about trying, even if it’s impossible.”

4. The Bizarre and Tragic Ride of J Sw!ft

Max Bell | theLAnd Magazine | August 26, 2021 | 5,938 words

“What follows is the far more complicated story of how our country’s complex, disturbingly callous, and ever-shifting yet forever intractable immigration policies created years of hell and potentially permanent exile for one of hip-hop’s greatest producers.”

5. Her Name Is Not Honey Boo Boo

Rainesford Stauffer | Teen Vogue | August 25, 2021 | 2,300 words

She grew up on reality TV. Now she’d like you to call her Alana.

The Anxiety of Influencers

Longreads Pick
Published: Jun 9, 2021
Length: 33 minutes (8,366 words)

The Top 5 Longreads of the Week

Charleston County Sheriff's Office via Getty Images

This week, we’re sharing stories from Rachel Kaadzi Ghansah, Ellen Pao, Henry Wismayer, Taylor Harris, and Jeff Maysh.

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Down and Out in Rancho Santa Margarita

When a reporter asked bank robber Willie Sutton why he robbed banks, the line he uttered became such a popular way of stating the obvious that it became known as Sutton’s Law: “Because that’s where the money is.” In 2015, 70-year old retired California detective Randy Adair landed in prison after robbing his fifth bank, confounding his friends and old coworkers. Why would a respected lawman with a pension and family commit crimes? In Los Angeles Magazine, journalist Jeff Maysh asks that same question and finds out how things went wrong for Adair.

His first was on the afternoon of March 24, 1969, when a silent alarm inside the United California Bank in Mid City signaled a robbery in progress. Exiting the bank with the cash and a loaded revolver when Adair and company arrived, the thief turned and ran back into the building. They found him in a second-floor restroom, where Robert Lee White surrendered. He’d eventually confess to being the Wilshire Bandit, who’d hit nine banks in the area, and to being the Blue Blazer Bandit of Fort Worth, Texas. Adair’s career was in full swing.

As the arrests mounted, the detective earned praise from superiors for his “initiative, his alertness, and his imagination.” He felt proud to wear the badge and enjoyed the perks: Half-price chili burgers at Tommy’s on Beverly and free smokes at Sam’s Corner Liquor Store on 6th left him with enough cash to play the ponies and buy bottles of Jim Beam.

If there’s a point when Randy Adair began edging toward the day that he, too, would begin robbing banks, it’s probably here. The gambling and booze would figure prominently in his life, as would the health problems that he traces back to a January night in 1971. That’s when Adair, cruising through Westlake in an unmarked car, spotted smoke billowing from a fire in the  basement of a rundown apartment building. With no sign of the fire department, Adair dashed into the building. “The place started really filling up with smoke bad,” he said. “They had paint and loads of cables covered in grease and oil. Highly toxic fumes.” He could barely see or breathe as he began to carry residents—some too drunk or disabled to move—over his shoulders to safety.

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Dear New Owners: City Magazines Were Already Great

As the president sucks up the oxygen from the media atmosphere, it’s easy to forget how important local journalism is right now. The regional press—the holy trinity of newspapers, alt-weeklies, and city magazines—is where we can find true stories of friends and neighbors impacted by immigration raids, fights over funding public education, and the frontline of relaxed environmental standards that will impact the water we drink and the air we breathe. We need to support their work. Read more…

The Top 5 Longreads of the Week

This week, we’re sharing stories from Amy Wallace, Katherine Laidlaw, Lisa Miller, Porochista Khakpour, and Lauren Schwartzberg.

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The Surgeon Who Helped Revolutionize Hand Transplants

Dr. Kodi Azari. Azari performed a hand transplant on Emily Fennell, 26, after she lost her hand in a traffic accident. (AP Photo/Reed Saxon)

Dr. Kodi Azari has traveled the U.S. as a lead surgeon in five hand transplants. Hand transplant recipients have usually lost their hands before surgery, but Azari laid the groundwork for a new kind of procedure:

The doctor had some hypotheses he wanted to test, provided he could find a patient with the ideal requirements: excellent health, enormous self-discipline, a positive attitude, and—rarest of all—a limb that needed to be replaced but had not yet been amputated.

Azari knew he was hoping for a long shot. Most hand transplant candidates have been injured in accidents or in battle, when a catastrophic event forces an emergency amputation. These procedures are aimed at minimizing suffering and are usually carried out to facilitate future prosthetic use. Generally that means the arm is severed closer to the elbow than the wrist, and the nerves and tendons are trimmed back and tucked inward to lessen discomfort. That creates challenges, however, if a transplant is attempted later. All those tucked-in nerves and tendons tend to merge over time into a jumble of tissues that is difficult to connect to a new hand with precision.

Wouldn’t it be great, Azari thought, if a transplant recipient’s arm could be amputated in a way that prepped it specifically to receive a new limb? How much more quickly would a patient recover if each tendon, nerve, artery, and vein were left in place and marked—labeled, like so many colored speaker wires, to be hooked up to a matching apparatus? How much more functionality would the patient gain, and how rapidly would he or she gain it? Azari believed this fantasy patient would awaken post-op, look at the new hand, and be able to move the fingers right away.

Azari found the ideal patient in Jonathan Koch, a television executive who experienced full-blown septic shock and needed several limbs amputated. Amy Wallace tells his story in Los Angeles Magazine.

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The Hollywood Exec and the Hand Transplant That Changed His Life

Longreads Pick

In her final feature for Los Angeles Magazine, Amy Wallace tells the incredible story of Jonathan Koch, “one of Hollywood’s great closers,” who lost several limbs and nearly his life to septic shock before receiving a revolutionary hand transplant.

Published: Mar 20, 2017
Length: 36 minutes (9,000 words)