food history

3 GREAT STORIES: Starring pop songs, pizza, & football

Every week, I shine the spotlight on some of the best storytelling in the business and offer my comments. “3 Great Stories of the Week” will post every Monday at 8 AM.

Hit charade (October 2015, The Atlantic): How much do you want to know about how a chef prepares your meal? What about how a litany of behind-the-scenes employees prepare your favorite songs?

The answers to the latter come from this absorbing article, written by Nathaniel Rich for The Atlantic (with a major hat-tip to author John Seabrook, whose book The Song Machine supplies much of Rich’s material). With no concern for spoiling or party-pooping, Rich dives into the factories that produce, with seeming cold-hearted machinery, an increasing number of the hits that grace the Billboard charts.

Much of this story’s success derives from its thoroughness; Rich, through Seabrook, dives into the subject with great detail. It shows in paragraphs like this, including some wit from a writer basically saying Santa Claus isn’t real:

Pop hitmakers frequently flirt with plagiarism, with good reason: Audiences embrace familiar sounds. Sameness sells. Dr. Luke in particular has been accused repeatedly of copyright infringement. His defense: “You don’t get sued for being similar. It needs to be the same thing.” (Dr. Luke does get sued for being similar, and quite often; he has also countersued for defamation.) Complicating the question of originality is the fact that only melodies, not beats, can be copyrighted. This means a producer can sell one beat to multiple artists.


3 GREAT STORIES: Starring frivolity, whimsy, and nostalgia

Every week, I will shine the spotlight on some of the best storytelling in the business and offer my comments. “3 Great Stories of the Week” will post every Monday at 8 AM.

I’m back.

After two weeks of vacation and four fillinthegap blog posts, I return with fresh Telling The Story content, starting with three great stories from this past week.

And in the spirit of vacation, I have chosen stories on the opposite side of serious.

Perhaps I am speaking too broadly. After all, the stories in question deal with millions of dollars, ancient traditions, and behind-the-scenes heartache. But mostly, these are not front-page matters. They are in-depth looks at lighter fare.

How Bobby Bonilla landed the luckiest baseball contract ever (7/1/13, Celebrity Net Worth): This is one of those stories that actually ran a full month ago — but that I saw last week for the first time.

Bobby Bonilla is a former Major League Baseball star who these days, despite having long ago ended his career, receives a million-dollar check every July from the New York Mets. Sports aficionados know all about the famous contract, but few people know about how it came to be.

Enter Brian Warner of Celebrity Net Worth.

Warner details the behind-the-scenes details of Bonilla’s deal, including the unlikely role of notorious Ponzi schemer Bernie Madoff. This is not the best-written article you will ever see, but it is informative and thorough. Sometimes, for matters like this, “informative” and “thorough” are what make the difference.