Hollywood screenwriter Budd Schulberg's unlikely collaboration with Nazi propagandist Leni Riefenstahl, who was arrested and asked to provide evidence at Nuremberg against war criminals:
"In subsequent interviews he continued the story: 'I had this warrant for her in my pocket. It was like burning a hole in my pocket … Finally I took the thing out and said, ‘Miss Riefenstahl, I'm sorry, but I have to take you to Nuremberg.' And that's when she screamed, "Puppi, Puppi … he's arresting me."' The little majordomo raced into the room, with Schulberg now realizing he was her husband. 'I tried to reassure her,' Schulberg continued. 'I said, "Look, you're not being put on trial with Goering and von Ribbentrop, but we do need you as a material witness."' He took her outside, where his driver and his vehicle awaited. The trip from Kitzbühel to Nuremberg was roughly 150 miles. 'She didn't say anything on the way ... She was very ticked off—very. And I guess scared.'"
PUBLISHED: March 2, 2013
LENGTH: 27 minutes (6763 words)
How a group of thieves stole $7.4 million from Brink's guards in a warehouse at Miami International Airport, and were caught by FBI investigators:
"Monzon’s plan, naturally, was to lie low. The crew sealed the money in vacuum packs and split up. Monzon stashed some of his money in PVC pipes and buried them under his family’s house in Homestead, a rural area halfway between Miami and the Florida Keys. Some went into the attic. He didn’t hide it all, though: He bought a Suzuki Hayabusa motorcycle worth about $14,000. But the everyday dramas of ordinary life continued. Monzon kept his job at the rental company. Cinnamon kept working as well, as a receptionist at Vista magazine. 'I get up every day at six in the morning to come work like a slave,' she complained months later in a phone conversation tapped by the FBI."
"Boatwright took a different approach. He bought a Rolex and a set of gold caps for his teeth and began days-long drug binges at strip clubs. He dropped thousands of dollars partying with friends. Rumors spread to Monzon that he was doing drugs right out in the street."
PUBLISHED: Feb. 22, 2013
LENGTH: 12 minutes (3185 words)
On Apollo Robbins, a pickpocket legend, who wows even the world's greatest magicians:
"'The coin’s not in my hand—it couldn’t be. You know why? It’s on your left shoulder.'
"Josh grew increasingly befuddled, as Robbins continued to make the coin vanish and reappear—on his shoulder, in his pocket, under his watchband. In the middle of this, Robbins started stealing Josh’s stuff. Josh’s watch seemed to melt off his wrist, and Robbins held it up behind his back for everyone to see. Then he took Josh’s wallet, his sunglasses, and his phone. Robbins dances around his victims, gently guiding them into place, floating in and out of their personal space. By the time they comprehend what has happened, Robbins is waiting with a look that says, 'I understand what you must be feeling.' Robbins’s simplest improvisations have the dreamlike quality of a casual encounter gone subtly awry. He struck up a conversation with a young man, who told him, 'We’re going to Penn and Teller after this.'
"'Oh, then you’ll probably want these,' Robbins said, handing over a pair of tickets that had recently been in the young man’s wallet."
PUBLISHED: Dec. 31, 2012
LENGTH: 33 minutes (8436 words)
[Fiction] A celebrity couple's ill-fated trip to Lagos:
"She put her pen down and thoughtfully chewed the silky inside of her left cheek. She stared hard at the photo on her iPod of those beautiful, strong young African women who had just invented this amazing generator that made electricity out of human urine. She shook her head. It was amazing the things that people did in the face of adversity. She continued shaking her head, trying to comprehend the humanity of humanity.
"'Be careful shaking your head,' said her son Maddox, who was sitting on the other side of the enormous bed, watching 'Homeland' on his iPad. 'A shard of your beauty just hit me in the face.' She barely heard him. She let her eye cast around the room for a moment. All her children were here, Maddox, Zahara, Shiloh, Pax, each with his or her iPad. Maddox was next to her on the bed, Zahara was stretched out along the foot. Pax was on one corner of a pink velvet couch, Shiloh on the other. All four were staring at their iPads. In the bedroom foyer, Knox and Vivienne were making a cat out of wooden blocks."
PUBLISHED: Nov. 17, 2012
LENGTH: 8 minutes (2100 words)
A critical look at the political newspaper and website Politico:
"One classic method of unleashing irresistible Drudge bait on the Internet is to boil another outlet’s story down to a couple salacious-sounding excerpts, or (failing an effective condensing strategy) to simply reinterpret the material to fit a Drudge-friendly narrative. This past May, for example, Vanity Fair published an excerpt from Maraniss’s biography of Barack Obama. (The liberal media vetting blackout continued apace, in other words.) Politico’s Dylan Byers took the excerpt and turned it into a little micro-news story: Obama admitted to Maraniss that certain figures in his first memoir were 'compressions'—i.e., composite characters. Byers completely missed that Obama explicitly said at the outset of his own book that some characters were composites, but Drudge didn’t care. 'Obama Admits Fabricating Girlfriend in Memoir,' went his headline, with a link to Politico instead of Vanity Fair—and another false right-wing meme got its wings."
PUBLISHED: Nov. 5, 2012
LENGTH: 26 minutes (6530 words)
A look at what led up to the passing of Amendment 64 in Colorado, which legalized recreational marijuana use in the state:
"While the medical marijuana industry was evolving, activists continued to push for recreational use of marijuana. In 2005, Mason Tvert's newly founded Safer Alternatives to Recreational Enjoyment pushed — and passed — resolutions at Colorado State University and CU demanding that cannabis penalties be no worse than penalties for alcohol offenses on campus. That same year, SAFER put a measure on the Denver ballot that would decriminalize possession of up to an ounce of marijuana by anyone over the age of twenty. When Denver voters approved the proposal, the Mile High City became the first major city in the country to make such a move — even though it was mostly symbolic and simply reinforced the state's 1975 decriminalization laws.
"Still, it was seen as a win for the cannabis community, and it inspired SAFER to push for a similar statewide measure in 2006 that only received 40 percent of the vote. In 2007, SAFER again focused on Denver, which this time approved making marijuana possession the city's lowest police priority.
"And soon a lot more people would be possessing marijuana — legally."
PUBLISHED: Nov. 1, 2012
LENGTH: 19 minutes (4852 words)
A high-speed train crash in China unravels years of corruption in the building of the world's most expensive public-works project:
"Prime Minister Wen Jiabao had no choice but to visit the crash site and vow to investigate. 'If corruption was found behind this, we must handle it according to law, and we will not be lenient,' he said. 'Only in this way can we be fair to those who have died.' People didn’t forget Wen’s pledge as the first deadline for the investigation came and went, and they continued to demand a fuller accounting. At last, in December, authorities released an unprecedented, detailed report. It acknowledged 'serious design flaws,' a 'neglect of safety management,' and problems in bidding and testing. It also blamed fifty-four people in government and industry, beginning with Great Leap Liu. The Minister’s name became a byword for 'a broken system,' as the muckraking magazine Caixin called the Railway Ministry, a testament to the political reality that, as Caixin put it, 'since absolute power corrupts absolutely, the key to curbing graft is limiting power.' When I spoke to an engineer who worked on the railway’s construction, he told me, 'I can’t pinpoint which step was neglected or what didn’t get enough time, because the whole process was compressed, from beginning to end.' He added, 'There is an expression in Chinese: when you take too great a leap, you can tear your balls.'"
PUBLISHED: Oct. 15, 2012
LENGTH: 32 minutes (8124 words)
A woman reflects on the virtues and limits of online dating:
"I went on a date with a classical composer who invited me to a John Cage concert at Juilliard. After the concert we looked for the bust of Béla Bartók on 57th Street. We couldn’t find it, but he told me how Bartók had died there of leukaemia. I wanted to like this man, who was excellent on paper, but I didn’t. I gave it another go. We went out for a second time to eat ramen in the East Village. I ended the night early. He next invited me to a concert at Columbia and then to dinner at his house. I said yes but I cancelled at the last minute, claiming illness and adding that I thought our dating had run its course. I was in fact sick, but he was angry with me. My cancellation, he wrote, had cost him a ‘ton of time shopping, cleaning and cooking that I didn’t really have to spare in the first place a few days before a deadline …’ He punctuated almost exclusively with Pynchonian ellipses.
"I apologised, then stopped responding. In the months that followed he continued to write, long emails with updates of his life, and I continued not responding until it came to seem as if he was lobbing his sadness into a black hole, where I absorbed it into my own sadness."
PUBLISHED: Oct. 15, 2012
LENGTH: 15 minutes (3812 words)
A sitcom writer recalls a memorable meeting with Al Franken in the spring of 1998:
"After a few moments the telephone rang at the host's station, which sat in the lobby, a few feet outside the dining room entrance, and about 20 feet from where I was sitting. The host answered the call, listened for a moment, then went inside and came back with Franken. The writer with whom Franken had just met, their meeting now concluded, continued through the lobby and left. Franken picked up the phone. Here's what I heard him say:
"'Hi, honey... No, still having meetings. What? CNN? No, why?' He listened for a long moment, and then I saw all the color drain from his face."
PUBLISHED: July 27, 2012
LENGTH: 8 minutes (2091 words)