Wednesday, August 3

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On Friday Night Lights as book, film, and TV show.

Monday, August 1

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Less than half a decade after The Hills brought them massive celebrity, Heidi Montag and Spencer Pratt are broke and his living in his parent’s vacation house. Their onscreen relationship was mostly fake, but the reality, as their current situation attests, was far worse:

By the end of 2009 (and the show’s fifth season), their lives seemed insane. Instead of riding bikes, Spencer was holding guns. Heidi’s plastic surgeries gave her a distorted quality, but she vowed to have more. Spencer grew a thick beard, became obsessed with crystals, and was eventually told to leave the series. There were daily updates on gossip sites about them “living in squalor,” publicly feuding with their families, and attacking The Hills producers (or claiming The Hills producers attacked them). By the time they announced they were (fake) splitting, followed by Spencer threatening to release various sex tapes, and Heidi (fake) filing for divorce, it seemed like they had ventured into, at best,Joaquin Phoenix-like, life-as-performance-art notoriety and, at worst, truly bleakStar 80 territory that could end with one or both of them dead.

Sunday, July 31

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A look at the dating site's new algorithm.
Codenamed “Synapse”, the Match algorithm uses a variety of factors to suggest possible mates. While taking into account a user’s stated ­preferences, such as desired age range, hair colour and body type, it also learns from their actions on the site. So, if a woman says she doesn’t want to date anyone older than 26, but often looks at ­profiles of thirty-somethings, Match will know she is in fact open to meeting older men. Synapse also uses “triangulation”. That is, the algorithm looks at the behaviour of similar users and factors in that ­information, too.

Saturday, July 30

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An oral history.

Tom Freston: We knew we needed a real signature piece that would look different from everything else on TV. We also knew that we had no money. So we went to NASA and got the man-on-the-moon footage, which is public domain. We put our logo on the flag and some music under it. We thought that was sort of a rock ’n’ roll attitude: “Let’s take man’s greatest moment technologically, and rip it off.”

Monday, July 25

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On Rupert Murdoch and the tabloid culture he created in the U.K.

Thursday, July 21

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Tucker Carlson: The bow-tie is gone, but the moxie remains.

Wednesday, July 20

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A profile of Rupert Murdoch from 1995, as he fought monopoly charges in the U.S. and U.K. and prepared to expand his empire into China.

Murdoch is a pirate; he will cunningly circumvent rules, and sometimes principles, to get his way, as his recent adventures in China demonstrate.

Tuesday, July 19

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A profile of Rupert Murdoch, written before his empire began to crumble.

Thursday, July 14

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To this day, no one (outside of the movie's own crew) knows how the Muppets rode bicycles in The Great Muppet Caper, the classic Henson movie from 1981. In that scene, Kermit stands up on one frog-leg on the seat of his bicycle to impress Miss Piggy, and then the whole gang joins them on their bikes, doing circles and figure eights, singing “Couldn’t We Ride?” It's a wonderful piece of filmmaking, and still a complete delight to watch because the effect relied on the ingenuity and bravado of the puppeteers and crew, not CGI wizardry. Contrast the joy and ebullience of this scene to the elegant chiaroscuro slickness of the post-Henson Muppet Christmas Carol in which we see old fogies Statler and Waldorf, as the Marley brothers, floating in mid air. No viewer is impressed; no one really thinks about it at all. And that's because when a then 29-year-old Brian Henson directed that film, he threw the rules out the window. Statler and Waldorf “float” because Goelz and Nelson, the men working the old guys, were standing behind them during filming and then were removed in post production. It’s an elegant fix—a cutting of the Gordian knot—but it is a complete break with an aesthetic 35 years in the making.

Saturday, July 9

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Because of what happened in Georgia, Ms. Grace has said over and over, she knows firsthand how the system favors hardened criminals over victims. It is the foundation of her judicial philosophy, her motivation in life, her casus belli. And much of it isn’t true.

Wednesday, July 6

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On the oeuvre of Glenn Beck:

"The undisputed high point of Beck’s tenure in Baltimore was an elaborate prank built around a nonexistent theme park. The idea was to run a promotional campaign for the fictional grand opening of the world’s first air-conditioned underground amusement park, called Magicland. According to Beck and Gray, it was being completed just outside Baltimore. During the build-up, the two created an intricate and convincing radio world of theme-park jingles and promotions, which were rolled out in a slow buildup to the nonexistent park’s grand opening… On the day Magicland was supposed to throw open its air-conditioned doors, Beck and Gray took calls from enraged listeners who tried to find the park and failed. Among the disappointed and enraged was a woman who had canceled a no-refund cruise to attend the event." — from Alexander Zaitchik’s Common Nonsense: Glenn Beck and the Triumph of Ignorance

Tuesday, June 21

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Dr. Drew has turned addiction television into a mini-empire, offering treatment and cameras to celebrities who have fallen far enough to take the bait.  His motivations, he insists, are pure:

Whether the doctor purposefully cultivates his celebrity stature for noble means or wittingly invites it because he himself likes being in the spotlight, he is operating on the assumption that his empathetic brand of TV will breed empathy instead of the more likely outcome, that it will just breed more TV.