I published two new stories recently, one being my first piece of music journalism in quite a while, following the pop-rock sister trio HAIM on the road from Denver to Chicago and down to a festival in Atlanta.

In pop music years, the span between Haim’s 2013 debut, Days Are Gone, and their 2017 follow up, Something To Tell You, was nearly a lifetime. At a certain point—namely, as musicians age out of their sprightly 20s and into their queasy 30s, when questions of existential purpose ferment in earnest, a band must consolidate its marketplace position. Either blow up big enough to fill stadiums of $60 fist-pumpers who will later patronize your $40 amphitheater shows for nights of nostalgic singalongs (see: Arcade Fire), or else dig your heels in for a long haul of less lucrative creative reinvention, maybe etching out a single or two. Back in 2013, no one was quite sure where to place Haim on this pop-indie matrix, the band themselves probably included, as evidenced by their nearly three years of constant touring, making as much money as they could off one full record before having to answer the question of who is Haim back in the studio.

 

The other piece was my hunt for a Secret Service Barbecue, which brought me down to Mar-a-lago early in President Trump’s presidency:

The phone rings and a man with a hoarse voice picks up. He’s in Arizona, at a Secret Service field office. I’m in Philadelphia. I ask him if there’s anyone there I can talk to about Secret Service barbecues.

“No clue what you’re talking about,” he says.

I brief him: From what I understand, when a person makes a threat against someone under Secret Service protection, that person is considered a threat. And when a politician of interest comes to town, say a president or a candidate on the campaign trail, if there are enough threatening individuals in the same area, the Secret Service will gather up those individuals in one place, kind of like for safekeeping.

In fact, I explain, what I’ve come to know, or want to know more about, is that the Secret Service hosts barbecues for the threatening individuals. So that when the president is downtown giving a stump speech all those who’ve made threats are on the outskirts, in a park along the promenade, eating hotdogs and watermelon.

“Sorry, what was your name again?” he asks. “Just hold on a minute.”

Great illustration from Sara Lautman

 

 

And finally, my thanks to Longreads for their post earlier this year highlighting my story on content marketing and the future of journalism:

“Many of the freelance writers I know cobble  together their income from a mix of projects:  journalism, copy writing, web production work, and cranking out content widgets. Call that last bit what you will — content marketing, brand journalism, native advertising — skilled writers can make good money in this sector of the word market.

And there’s a fat supporting industry to all that content marketing gold — books, classes, fancy conferences. On Tablet, Sean Cooper attends a content marketing conference to find out how the content industry is selling itself — and selling itself out.”