Inside the breakup of Activision Blizzard and its star game developers, Vincent Zampella and Jason West, who created the multi-billion-dollar franchise "Call of Duty":
"During an hour-long interview in the summer of 2011, [CEO Robert] Kotick, sporting a sweater vest over a white T-shirt, waxed nostalgic about his past and emphasized that he’d negotiated in good faith. But he refused to respond to West and Zampella’s most explosive allegation: that Activision began trying to fire them only months after the 2008 contract had been signed. Court filings reveal that in an e-mail exchange between two executives charged with overseeing West and Zampella in January 2009, one warned that the risks of firing the pair would be great. 'Is everyone ready for the big, negative PR story this is going to turn into if we kick them out?' he asked. 'Freaking me out a little.'"
"The apparent effort to find a pretext to replace West and Zampella became known within Activision’s top ranks as 'Project Icebreaker'—the code name seemingly straight out of a video-game villain’s playbook. It was undertaken in part by a former I.T. director, Thomas Fenady, who in a deposition claimed he was ordered by Activision’s former chief legal officer, George Rose, to 'dig up dirt on Jason and Vince.'"
PUBLISHED: June 12, 2013
LENGTH: 19 minutes (4807 words)
An in-depth interview with Kanye West:
"I used to have tracks that sounded like Timbaland; I had tracks that sounded like [DJ Premier]. But Jay-Z was an amazing communicator that made the soul sound extremely popular. And because I could make the soul sound in my sleep, it finally gave me a platform to put the message that my parents put inside of me and that Dead Prez helped to get out of me and Mos Def and [Talib] Kweli, they helped to get out of me: I was able to put it, sloppily rap it, on top of the platform that Jay-Z had created for me.
"Before, when I wanted to rap, my raps sounded like a bit like Cam’ron; they sounded a bit like Mase; they sounded a bit like Jay-Z or whoever. And it wasn’t until I hung out with Dead Prez and understood how to make, you know, raps with a message sound cool that I was able to just write 'All Falls Down' in 15 minutes."
PUBLISHED: June 11, 2013
LENGTH: 18 minutes (4681 words)
How "revenge edits" and the case of a Wikipedia editor named "Qworty" raise questions about how much we should trust the site:
"In the wee hours of the morning of January 27, 2013, a Wikipedia editor named 'Qworty' made a series of 14 separate edits to the Wikipedia page for the late writer Barry Hannah, a well-regarded Southern writer with a taste for the Gothic and absurd.
"Qworty cut paragraphs that included quotes from Hannah’s work. He removed 20 links to interviews, obituaries and reminiscences concerning Hannah. He cut out a list of literary prizes Hannah had won.
"Two edits stand out. Qworty excised the phrase 'and was regarded as a good mentor' from a sentence that started: 'Hannah taught creative writing for 28 years at the University of Mississippi, where he was director of its M.F.A. program …' And he changed the cause of Hannah’s death from 'natural causes' to 'alcoholism.'"
PUBLISHED: May 18, 2013
LENGTH: 20 minutes (5224 words)
A brief history of the rock legend's style and fashions:
"Bowie’s image was as carefully contrived for album covers as for the actual musical performances: Sukita Masayoshi’s black-and-white photograph of Bowie posing like a mannequin doll on the cover of 'Heroes' (1977), or Bowie stretched out on a blue velvet sofa like a Pre-Raphaelite pinup in a long satin dress designed by Mr. Fish for The Man Who Sold the World (1971), or Guy Peellaert’s lurid drawing of Bowie as a 1920s carnival freak for Diamond Dogs (1974).
"All these images were created by Bowie himself, in collaboration with other artists. He drew his inspiration from anything that happened to catch his fancy: Christopher Isherwood’s Berlin of the 1930s, Hollywood divas of the 1940s, Kabuki theater, William Burroughs, English mummers, Jean Cocteau, Andy Warhol, French chansons, Buñuel’s surrealism, and Stanley Kubrick’s movies, especially A Clockwork Orange, whose mixture of high culture, science fiction, and lurking menace suited Bowie to the ground. Artists and filmmakers have often created interesting results by refining popular culture into high art. Bowie did the opposite: he would, as he once explained in an interview, plunder high art and take it down to the street; that was his brand of rock-and-roll theater."
PUBLISHED: May 7, 2013
LENGTH: 15 minutes (3932 words)
This week's Member Pick comes from Antonia Crane
, the Los Angeles-based writer whose work for The Rumpus
has been featured on Longreads in the past. We're excited to feature "Yellow," a story about her relationship with her mother, about stripping, and about loss. The piece will be published in Black Clock #17
, due out this summer, and it's adapted from her forthcoming book Spent
. Thanks to Antonia and Black Clock for letting us share this story with our members.
Support Longreads—and get more stories like this—by becoming a member for just $3 per month.
PUBLISHED: April 18, 2013
LENGTH: 11 minutes (2959 words)
Why do some people react so negatively to the idea of "extreme morality"? An interview with The New Yorker's Larissa MacFarquhar, whose latest book project examines the selfless acts of others:
"If the suspicion is hypocrisy, I think we underestimate the sort of people I’m writing about—it’s entirely possible to live an extremely ethical life without being hypocritical. But besides that, I think people overvalue certain kinds of sins. For instance, many people have said to me, when they hear who I’m writing about, ‘Well, don’t they just act morally to make themselves feel better? Don’t they get all self-righteous and overly proud of themselves?’ I think that pride and self-righteousness are far less important than most people seem to think they are. I think that if you’re doing something that’s hard to do and good to do, and that makes you feel proud, I just don’t see why that’s so terrible. One kidney donor told me that his donation made him feel better about himself—that it was one really good thing he’d done in his life, which he had otherwise made a pretty complete mess of. Some psychologists think you shouldn't donate in order to feel better about yourself, but it strikes me as an excellent reason!"
PUBLISHED: April 18, 2013
LENGTH: 13 minutes (3357 words)
The dead body of 55-year-old Greg Fleniken is found in a hotel room, and with no clear motive, detectives are left trying to answer the all-important question: Why?
"There are not that many murders in Beaumont. Greg’s was one of 10 that year, which was about average. Most are not mysterious. Detective work was usually a matter of doing the obvious—interviewing the drunk boyfriend with gunpowder on his hands, or finding the neighborhood drug dealer who was owed money. A case like this was a once-in-a-career event. If you enjoy working a stubborn whodunit, which Apple does, then this one was an exciting challenge. But the problem with the hard cases is that they are indeed hard. Over the next weeks and months Apple chased down every angle he could imagine to explain the death of Greg Fleniken. But about six months into it, he was stuck."
PUBLISHED: April 11, 2013
LENGTH: 32 minutes (8189 words)
The author on writing nonfiction and fiction, and the current state of criticism:
"BLVR: There has been a lot of talk recently about the rules of criticism. When is it too mean? When is it too nice? The internet makes it so that you’re very much aware of the human you’re writing about—you don’t want to see them in pain. It’s good for the critic’s psychology, but maybe not so great for criticism.
"RA: Well, it used to be one way a young writer made it in New York. He would attack, in a small obscure publication, someone very strong, highly regarded, whom a few people may already have hated. Then the young writer might gain a small following. When he looked for a job, an assignment, and an editor asked, 'What have you published?' he could reply, 'Well, this piece.' The editor might say, 'Oh, yeah, that was met with a lot of consternation.' And a portfolio began. This isn’t the way it goes now. More like a race to join the herd of received ideas and agreement."
PUBLISHED: April 10, 2013
LENGTH: 12 minutes (3161 words)
In the summer of 2012, a homeless man named William Greer Jr. was bludgeoned to death in a park in Austin, Texas. Greer's case remains unsolved, and his daughter is determined to find answers:
"In the weeks that followed her dad's death, Tangie drove to Austin three times: once to speak to police, once to speak to reporters, and once to commemorate what would have been Greer's 50th birthday on July 29. On one of those visits, Tangie went to the spot where her father lost his life. She spoke to a transient named Chris who sleeps nearby and asked him if he had seen anything the night of the murder. She knew detectives had already questioned him—and eliminated him from their investigation—but maybe he had forgotten to tell them something that could prove crucial. 'I was playing detective in a way,' Tangie told me.
"Chris told her he didn't remember her dad, but that he did recall another transient sleeping at the same spot before Greer's murder, and afterward. He gave her a description of the man, and Tangie relayed the information to detectives. But she says they told her Chris wasn't reliable. 'If you interviewed him eight times, you'll get eight different answers,' a detective said."
PUBLISHED: April 2, 2013
LENGTH: 12 minutes (3209 words)