Tuesday, May 19th, 2015


The Ingenious Human Trick

The younger folks out there might not remember this, but David Letterman once did the impossible. He made comedy on TV funny. He reinvented the talk show and created a new paradigm where the key measure of your worth was not celebrity status or corporate rank, but rather how funny and entertaining you could be; all while pushing the ridiculously limiting envelope on what was considered appropriate. As each of them would tell you, he paved the way for the best of the current line-up of late night hosts, and cleared the path for the kind of viral comedy now shared across the rising medium which has largely left him behind. And, of course, there are all those lists we like to share (like the one you're reading right now). His first guest was Bill Murray, who returns tonight. Grantland's Daniel Kellison shares some entertaining anecdotes from his Letterman years.

+ From Velcro suits to top ten lists, here's the most important thing that happened each year of Letterman's career.

+ 23 things that David Letterman invented.

+ WaPo's Hank Stuever: David Letterman taught us to ward off celebrity stupidity. But stupidity won. (True, but it was a hell of run.)


Battering Ramadi

"'This is how we get our weapons. The Iraqi officials beg the Americans for weapons, and then they leave them here for us' ... Depressing, isn't it?" The always excellent Dexter Filkins on the troubling gains made by ISIS and the real problem in Iraq.

+ The Daily Beast: My Son Died for Ramadi. Now ISIS Has It.


This Won’t Be Over Easy

You may have heard that Sofia Vergara's ex-fiance is suing her for custody; not of their child, but of their two fertilized embryos. While that case is unusual, it also points to a larger trend. A lot of couples have no idea what to do with their embryos in limbo.


Hog Wild

When we heard that we'd be seeing the scene of a biker gang shootout, most of us probably assumed that the footage would be in black and white. But the Texas shootout was in living color and broad daylight. And, as the LA Times reports, "By the time it was over, the parking lot at the Twin Peaks restaurant was strewn with shell casings, puddles of blood, bullet-riddled cars and abandoned motorcycles. Nine people were dead, 18 injured and more than 170 arrested on suspicion of engaging in organized crime."

+ FiveThirtyEight: How big a problem are outlaw motorcycle gangs?

+ Slate: A former informant describes the violent and sartorially complicated world of biker gangs.

+ And from Vox: Media coverage of gang violence sure looks different when the perpetrators are white.


A Life Wish

As the extreme sports world mourns the death of famed climber Dean Potter (who died while base-jumping in Yosemite), many wonder why these folks take such risks. Here's Temple University psychologist Frank Farley: "They don't have a death wish; they have a life wish. They don't want to die and they don't expect to die."


Ewoking the Walk

It "was a film that literally couldn't be made; the technology required to bring the movie's universe to visual life simply didn't exist." So George Lucas did what any enterprising young director who was destined to change the movie business would do. He invented a company to invent the technology. Wired's Alex French and Howie Kahn take you inside the magic factory with the untold story of ILM.


The Canvas

"Get up and fight, sucker!" Those were the words spoken by Muhammad Ali as he stood over Sonny Liston in a moment frozen in time by an epic Neil Leifer photo. The NYT's Harvey Araton looks back at the scene, and the years the host town has faced since the night the Ali-Liston fight came to Lewiston.


Selfie Driving Cars

Texting while driving was just the beginning. According to a recent survey, "motorists have expanded their behind-the-wheel activities beyond texting to include using Facebook, Snapchat and Twitter, taking selfies and even shooting videos." One assumes many of them also took the survey while driving. (We can't afford to wait for self-driving cars. We need self-texting phones.)


I’d Like to Teach the World to Upswing

The series finale of Mad Men drew about 3.3 million viewers on Sunday night. (So there were approximately 1.4 thinkpieces per viewer.)

+ "My take is that, the next day, he wakes up in this beautiful place, and has this serene moment of understanding, and realizes who he is. And who he is, is an advertising man." Damn. Jon Hamm is both alarmingly attractive and dead-on when it comes to understanding Don Draper.


Bottom of the News

At Cannes this year, women have been refused entry to red carpet screenings because they weren't wearing heels. In the words of the great John McEnroe: "You Cannesn't Be Serious."

+ Did someone just uncover a botany book with a portrait of Shakespeare in his prime?

+ So, it was raining spiders in Australia.

+ Today's younger crowd gets bored and distracted while sucking on a Tic Tac. Luckily, they're coming out with Tic Tacs that change flavor as they dissolve.

+ It's Uber for putting gas in your car, including this quote from the company's founder: "Cutting that 15 minutes out of my life every 10 days is a lot of value."