Tag Archives: Grantland

Basketball’s ‘Flopping’ Problem

The Oregon Ducks’ Dillon Brooks is one of the nation’s most talented basketball players, a 6-foot-7 forward who can score on the block and possesses enough quickness and handle to double as a guard within the Ducks’ offense. There is little Brooks can’t do, but when the junior tries to extend his talents to other arenas, the results can be, well, a bit embarrassing.

For instance, during Thursday’s win over Pac-12 opponent Utah, Brooks attempted to draw a charge on freshman guard Sedrick Barefield. It wasn’t pretty:

Flopping, in which a player intentionally falls after little or no contact from an opposing player in an attempt to draw a foul, is a problem in basketball, and there have been some very bad ones in the history of the sport. Duke is routinely lampooned for their ability to throw their bodies on the ground at just the slightest touch, and a Google search of ‘Marcus Smart flops’ yields nearly 500,000 results criticizing the Boston Celtics’ guard’s ‘defense’. Read more…

Who Gets to Be a Genius? A Reading List

Photo: Sue Clark

If you Google “Constance Fenimore Woolson,” the top item is her Wikipedia page. The second is an excerpt of a book about the author Henry James.

I hadn’t heard of Woolson until recently. She’s the subject of a new biography by Anne Boyd Roux, Constance Fenimore Woolson: Portrait of a Lady NovelistTo herald her new biography, a collection of Woolson’s short stories has been published, too.

Until now, Woolson has been an interesting, tragic anecdote in the lives of others. She’s the alleged inspiration for the Lady in Henry James’ The Portrait of a Lady. Never mind that she was an accomplished writer in her own right or a world traveler.

I like calling Woolson “CFW.” It reminds me of David Foster Wallace’s oft-used nickname, and Wallace is one of those names people gesture at emphatically when they toss out the words “literary genius.” I like sneaking Woolson into the lit boys’ club. Read more…

‘Dr. V’ Writer Caleb Hannan Speaks for the First Time About What Went Wrong

“It didn’t need to exist. And that was not something that occurred to me in the process of reporting.”

Out of everyone who read an early draft of “Dr. V’s Magical Putter,” only Caleb Hannan’s wife asked him the most critical question of all: Did this story even need to exist?

Hannan spoke publicly for the first time on Saturday at the Mayborn narrative journalism conference in Texas, in a panel called “Anatomy of an Error,” to dissect what went wrong with his 2014 story for Grantland, which ended with the suicide of a transgender woman. The story led to massive public criticism—as well as an internal investigation at ESPN and a letter of contrition from editor Bill Simmons—about how Hannan and his editors handled the story, and whether the reporting pushed a woman to take her own life. Hannan was joined on the panel by writers Hanna Rosin and Michael J. Mooney, and Boston Magazine editor (and one of Hannan’s early critics) S.I. Rosenbaum.

Speaking in a room filled with hundreds of journalists, Hannan was both extremely self-critical and at times emotional as he went through the chronology of reporting and editing for the piece.

Late in the process of vetting the story, Hannan said he was contacted by one of Grantland’s freelance fact-checkers, who raised concerns about the story—the first time anyone other than his wife had voiced those concerns. “Some of the first words out of her mouth were, ‘There’s a chance this woman is going to hurt herself,’ and I said, ‘I know and I’m scared shitless, and I don’t know what to do,’ and she said, ‘Okay I just want to make sure I said that.’ And that’s a conversation I immediately should have taken to my editor, but I didn’t.”

Why not, he was asked.

“I don’t know.”

Hannan reflected on the ideas that journalists should hold people accountable or seek out the truth at all cost. But it’s not that simple. “At every point in the reporting I could justify myself going forward … ‘I’m doing my job.’ But part of the job was to assess whether it was worth it. And there were two people who saw that. In talking with my wife, in talking with this fact-checker, I said, ‘What happened?’ And they said, ‘You were in denial.’

“There’s this idea that it’s not going to happen to me. There is a momentum to a story that’s hard to stop. … It would have been a blow to my ego to set aside something I knew was going to be talked about. But I should have.”

Six Stories About the Swimming Pool

I don’t know where you live, but where I live, it’s 97 degrees on a Friday in June. After a brutal winter, I try to remember this is what I longed for. My commute home liquidates. Drips slide down my spine, disappearing into the waist of my government-approved pencil skirt. Yesterday, I couldn’t take it: I wore shorts. I’m yearning for my grandparents’ swimming pool; its strange shape and dense vegetation are different from the community pools I frequented as a child. Theirs is utterly private, difficult to maintain, and very, very cold. Ready to grab your towel? Take a dip in these six stories about swimming pools.

1. “Who Gets to Go to the Pool?” (Brit Bennett, New York Times, June 2015)

Oasis or battleground? Swimming pools have long been sites of racial tension in the United States–this month, a police officer pulled a gun on a black, unarmed, bikini-clad young woman after she was attacked (physically and verbally) by white poolgoers.

2. “Woman Overboard: How Swimming in a Rooftop Pool Saved Me From Addiction.” (Susan Shapiro, The Observer, July 2014)

Susan Shapiro traded unhealthy habits for a new obsession: swimming laps atop her apartment building. Her fondness for exercise accidentally landed her in physical therapy, where she learned the importance of pacing herself.

3. “Size.” (Leanne Shapton, The Paris Review, July 2012)

Two summers ago, I read and loved Swimming Studies, Leanne Shapton’s memoir of her life in pools. Beautiful meditations on training for the Olympic trials as a teen and descriptions of swimming pools all over the world accompany photos of bathing suits and miniature paintings. What better to read poolside? Here, the Paris Review excerpts Shapton’s book.

4. “The Wet Stuff: Jeff Henry, Verrückt, and the Men Who Built the Great American Water Park.” (Bryan Curtis, Grantland, September 2014)

A water park is a swimming pool on steroids, right? Grantland introduces you to Jeff Henry, the Steve Jobs of water parks. (Henry’s latest ride is called “Verrückt”–that’s “insane,” in German. It’s over 17 stories tall; it’s the tallest water slide in the world.)

5. “The Purest Form of Play.” (Miranda Ward, Vela, April 2013)

This award-winning essay is a favorite of Vela editor Sarah Menkedick: “[It’s] one of those pieces I return to when I start to feel cynical and burnt out.” Maybe the summer heat is getting to you, too. Maybe someone pooped in your metaphorical (or literal) pool. Ward’s essay moved and encouraged me, too. It’s about perseverance and acceptance, in or out of the pool.

6. “Too Fat to Swim.” (Ragini Nag Rao, Rookie, October 2014)

I was 18 the first time I swam. I took a step into a sectioned-off part of Calcutta’s biggest lake, and I was scared. Ragini dreamed of performing daring athletic feats and reveled in basketball and cricket. But her size, self-consciousness and the taunts of her family held her back from embracing her true self. After years of struggling with an eating disorder, she shakes off the haters and plunges into the depths of self-love.

Why the Porn Industry Can’t Beat the Pirates

Photo by Pixabay

Keeping porn from getting ripped and posted is impossible. After having free pornography clips easily accessible for years, nobody expects that customers will ever buy DVDs in the numbers they once did. The porn industry’s sales figures are disputed; estimates range from a few billion to as high as $14 billion, a widely cited figure from a 1998 Forrester Research report that Forbes easily dismantled. But no one disputes that the percentage of revenues from DVDs has shrunk dramatically, and that piracy on the Internet shot up after the early 2000s. Takedown Piracy, which Glass founded in 2009, focuses on containing the damage.

Glass, who is dressed like an accountant, talks about the 2007 adult film financial crisis in terms of the broader recession. “It was really kind of a perfect storm of events there,” he tells me. “There was always piracy in general. But at least for adult, it went from being something in the back-shadowy corners of the Internet, or something that required a certain level of technical knowledge to acquire … [to] ‘push the little triangle button and the movie plays.’” With the accessibility came the assumption that porn should be accessible — that it wasn’t worth paying for. “People might have a certain guilt about pirating Guardians of the Galaxy or whatever, but porn — ‘ah, that’s porn,’” Glass says. “It’s considered ‘less than.’ And porn doesn’t have the revenue channels that a Guardians of the Galaxy might have. We’re not doing theatrical release. There’s not really merchandise.” Other barriers to marketing and fighting piracy are particular to porn. PayPal won’t do porn transactions, and Apple doesn’t allow any porn apps. Lawmakers are unlikely to support pornographers, and it’s difficult to legislate against piracy because many of the major tube sites are located outside the U.S.

Molly Lambert writing in Grantland about the Adult Video News awards.

The Comfortable, Comic Genius of ‘Broad City’

Broad City returns tonight, much to the glee of critics and fans alike. At Grantland, Rachel Syme spent time with the comic geniuses behind the show, Abbi Jacobson and Ilana Glazer:

Some people just naturally fall into shtick, and these two can ping-pong forever. It’s chemical, sui generis, and extremely lucky; if you believe in magical forces, then you might call it fated.

“Look, sometimes it is still hard,” sighed Glazer. “Some people are scared of us, and some think we are dumb little girls. But the way we combat that is just being ourselves in meetings. And having a partner makes that so easy, because when all else fails, I’ll just talk across the table at Abbi like we are chilling by ourselves.”

“Honestly, we regularly forget that other people are in these meetings with us,” Jacobson said.” We are so used to just talking to each other. We do it all day long, all night long. I’m on Skype with Ilana when I go to bed and then again when I wake up. It’s not like we never have disagreements, but we also just really like talking to each other the most.”

“And it freaks people out!” said Glazer. “There is so much power in being able to look comfortable in a conference room, and I’m not sure dudes in suits are used to seeing women do that.”

You can see how Glazer and Jacobson would intimidate anyone in a room with them: They talk so quickly that they seem to share a stream of consciousness. They talk like all BFFs in the era of instant messaging, sending verbal links back and forth about things they saw or read, saving little bits and pieces for later. They traffic in pop-culture references and Internet slang; they are each other’s favorite IRL Twitter feed. Ultimately, snippets of these conversations will end up in the show. They are doing work even when they are not working, building on their banter, winding in and out of silly voices and secret handshakes. Their chemistry is electric, but also familiar. Anyone with a best friend would recognize it.

“I don’t think that the representation of women has caught up with the real,” said Glazer. “Every girl I know shits and talks about it, and fucks and talks about it. And people are like, these women are filthy! And I’m like, not compared to my friends. The show may be a cartoon version of us, but the cartoon sometimes gets closer to reality than anything.”

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The Top 5 Longreads of the Week

Below, our favorite stories of the week. Kindle users, you can also get them as a Readlist.

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The Mysteries of Phil Hartman’s Creative Genius

Part of the reason Hartman remains fuzzy in our memories was his own doing. When he joined SNL’s cast in 1986, it was customary for a newcomer to declare he would be the next John Belushi. Hartman had a different ambition. He told the Los Angeles Times he wanted to be the next Dan Aykroyd.

But another part is the unusual nature of Hartman’s talent. Hartman was so good at playing smarmy, air-quoting, golden-voiced sharpies — “20 percent droid,” said the writer Robert Smigel — that it’s difficult to catalogue all the comic notes he left behind in the universe.

You know when Stephen Colbert jogs across the stage and gives the audience a significant look? Or when Ron Burgundy exclaims, “By the beard of Zeus!”? These aren’t quotations, or even conscious homages. But make no mistake. What you’re observing is Hartmanism — the art of being unctuous.

Bryan Curtis, in Grantland, on Saturday Night Live’s “glue,” the late Phil Hartman.

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Hartman’s original SNL audition:

Cop Movies, Race, and Ferguson

Nonetheless, whenever I see masked and helmeted police in photographs and movies or on the street going after protesters, I wonder, as I did during a battle royal between peasants and cops in the summer’s class-war sleeper Snowpiercer: “Who are these hidden people?” It crosses my mind anytime I see a helmet swing a nightstick at a skull. The movies, especially dystopic science fiction, have gotten really good at siccing human drones on human beings or just showcasing warfare as stacks and stacks of computer-generated menace. Ferguson demonstrates how good life has gotten at turning into science fiction. That collapse of the real and the morally unreal took place in last summer’s Fruitvale Station, which dramatized the 2009 shooting of 22-year-old Oscar Grant on an Oakland train platform. It opened the weekend before the president made his remarks about Trayvon Martin and race, and bears a subdued kernel of resemblance to the events happening now in Ferguson.

— Grantland’s Wesley Morris, on the depiction of race and police officers in movies contrasted against recent events in Ferguson. Morris won the 2012 Pulitzer Prize for criticism for his work at the Boston Globe.

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The Top 5 Longreads of the Week

Below, our favorite stories of the week. Kindle users, you can also get them as a Readlist.

Sign up to receive this list free every Friday in your inbox.

* * *

Read more…