Sunday, April 15

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The Penge Mystery: the murder of Harriet Staunton

On a Victorian-era murder case, and the novel it inspired.

Saturday, April 14

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L.A. Weirdos

On singer-songwriters Harry Nilsson, Randy Newman and Van Dyke Parks.

I get the sense that the labels' attitude toward these guys wasn't altogether different from a parent's attitude toward gifted children: Get them through the system, but make sure to give them a clean little corner to doodle in and pat them on the head when they show you what they've done, whether you understand it or not.

Friday, April 13

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How My Aunt Marge Ended Up in the Deep Freeze...

The real-life events that inspired the new Richard Linklater dark comedy Bernie:

It’s a story about people believing what they want to believe, even when there’s evidence to the contrary. It’s a story about people not being what they seem. And it’s a story, as the movie poster says, “so unbelievable it must be true.” Which it is. I know this because the widow in the freezer was, in real life, my Aunt Marge, Mrs. Marjorie Nugent, my mother’s sister and, depending on whom you ask, the meanest woman in East Texas. She was 81 when she was murdered, and Bernie Tiede, her constant companion and rumored paramour, was 38. He’ll be eligible for parole in 2027, when he’ll be 69.

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Guns N' Roses: Outta Control

On the road with the band:

Axl Rose is carrying on like an Apache. He stormed into his home state for a concert and compared the fans there to prisoners at Auschwitz. He showed up two hours late for a New York show and launched into a tirade against his record company and various other institutions, including this magazine. He steamrolled into St. Louis, and before he left town, a riot had broken out. During an encore in Salt Lake City, he got ticked off because the Mormons weren't rocking and said, "I'll get out of here before I put anybody else to sleep." Then he did.

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"Jerry Maguire Aspires to Be You"

In 1999, “original superagent” Leigh Steinberg represented 86 NFL athletes. His life today:

At age 63, Steinberg -- for years hailed as the real-life Maguire -- now finds himself a bankrupt, recovering alcoholic, plotting a comeback from the bottom. And before 10 p.m. tonight, as mandated by the California Bar Association, he must show that his urine is clean.

Thursday, April 12

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The Big Book

A profile of Robert Caro, who’s been working on a biography on Lyndon Johnson for nearly 40 years.

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American Mozart

A profile of Kanye West.

Wednesday, April 11

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Leonard Cohen Unplugged

A profile from his days living as a mountain monk in Southern California.

Tuesday, April 10

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KFC's Big Game of Chicken

How KFC brought fried chicken to China and Africa as U.S. sales slumped.

Sunday, April 8

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Ring My Bell

A history of the cell phone ringtone.

Many recent hip-hop songs make terrific ringtones because they already sound like ringtones. The polyphonic and master-tone versions of “Goodies,” by Ciara, for example, are nearly identical. Ringtones, it turns out, are inherently pop: musical expression distilled to one urgent, representative hook. As ringtones become part of our environment, they could push pop music toward new levels of concision, repetition, and catchiness.

Saturday, April 7

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Art for Everybody

On the empire built by “Painter of Light” Thomas Kinkade.

Tuesday, April 3

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All We Read Is Freaks

Teaching Emily Dickinson at Santa Fe Community College in Gainesville, Florida.