The Pirate

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.

Weekend At Kermie's: The Muppets' Strange Life After Death

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.

Magicland

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

The Celebrity Rehab of Dr. Drew

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.

A Requiem for Glenn Beck

  1. Is Glenn Beck the Most Annoying Man on TV?Benjamin Wallace | GQ | Sep 2007

  2. Mad Man: Is Glenn Beck Bad for America?David Von Drehle | Time | Sep 2009

  3. The Making of Glenn BeckAlexander Zaitchik | Salon | Sep 2009

  4. Unheavenly Host: Fox’s Latest BlowhardNancy Franklin | New Yorker | Nov 2009

  5. Glenn Beck, Inc.Lacey Rose | Forbes | Apr 2010

  6. Being Glenn BeckMark Leibovich | NYT Magazine | Nov 2009

  7. The Beck of RevelationMark Lilla | NY Review of Books | Dec 2010

The Misfit

On David Milch; Yale fraternity brother of George W. Bush, literature professor, longtime junkie, creator of NYPD Blue, Deadwood (which was in production when this profile was written), and the forthcoming racetrack-set HBO series Luck.