Bearman’s extremely cinematic account of how a Hollywood movie producer smuggled Black Panther leader Huey Newton into Cuba, with the help of a few other celebrity radicals.
How a Michigan farmer made and lost millions smuggling rare Pez containers into the US.
A look back at the director’s greatest hits (Beverly Hills Cop, Midnight Run, Scent of a Woman), his misfires (Gigli), and what caused him to disappear from Hollywood.
The media entrepreneur’s vision for the future of content and journalism:
DENTON: The Panopticon—the prison in which everybody is exposed to scrutiny all the time. Do you remember the website Fucked Company? It was big in about 2000, 2001. I was CEO of Moreover Technologies at the time. A saleswoman put in an anonymous report to the site about my having paid for the eye operation of a young male executive I had the hots for. The story, like many stories, was roughly half true. Yes, there was a young male executive. Yes, he did have an eye operation. No, it wasn’t paid for by me. It was paid for by the company’s health insurance according to normal procedure. And no, I didn’t fancy him; I detested him. It’s such a great example of Fucked Company and, by extension, most internet discussion systems. There’s some real truth that gets told that is never of a scale to warrant mainstream media attention, and there’s also no mechanism for fact-checking, no mechanism to actually converge on some real truth. It’s out there. Half of it’s right. Half of it’s wrong. You don’t know which half is which. What if we could develop a system for collaboratively reaching the truth? Sources and subjects and writers and editors and readers and casual armchair experts asking questions and answering them, with follow-ups and rebuttals. What if we could actually have a journalistic process that didn’t require paid journalists and tape recorders and the cost of a traditional journalistic operation? You could actually uncover everything—every abusive executive, every corrupt eye operation.
[NSFW] Tom Braden launched CNN’s political talk show Crossfire and inspired the father figure on the TV show Eight Is Enough. In the 1950s, Braden also launched a CIA mission to use modern art to fight communism:
Braden’s operation was a success. One of the world’s most famous and influential painters, Gerhard Richter, would later attribute his defection from East Germany to his viewing of abstract expressionist art. In 1959, at documenta II, an art show started in 1955 by a West German artist and professor to display modern artwork suppressed by the Nazis, Richter viewed work by artists including Pollock. Afterward Richter realized, “There was something wrong with my whole way of thinking…expression of a totally different and entirely new content.” In a letter to his former art teacher in East Germany, Richter explained why he risked his life: “The reasons are largely due to my career.… When I say cultural ‘climate’ in the West offers me and my artistic endeavors more, that is more compatible with my way of being and my way of working than the East, I am pointing out the main reason behind my decision.”
“Enter the Dragon struck a responsive chord across the globe. Made for a minuscule $850,000, it would gross $90 million worldwide in 1973 and go on to earn an estimated $350 million over the next 40 years, including profits from a recently released two-disc Blu-ray edition. Producer Fred Weintraub likes to joke that the movie was so profitable the studio even had to pay him. Screenwriter Michael Allin recalls, ‘Warner’s lawyer sent me a letter saying, “The picture will be well into profit”—and here’s the phrase I love—”by anybody’s formula.” The picture made so much money they could not sweep it under the rug. The rug had too big a bulge.'”
(NSFW, not single-page) An in-depth profile of rap legend the D.O.C., who penned many of N.W.A.’s and Eazy-E’s early songs and became an on-again, off-again studio partner to Dr. Dre:
“The shine finally started to trickle down. N.W.A’s first national tour opened in Nashville in the spring of 1989, with Doc doing eight minutes a night as an opening act. The crowds dug him. No One Can Do It Better dropped that June; within three months it sold 500,000 copies. By the end of the tour he was doing 30-minute sets. Radio picked up on “It’s Funky Enough,” a Dre production with way more commercial reach than, say, ‘Fuck tha Police.’ Years later, when Rolling Stone asked Chris Rock to make a list of the greatest rap albums of all time, the comedian put No One Can Do It Better at number 11. ‘I was going to school in Brooklyn,” he wrote, “and the only time you could see rap videos was on a weekend show with Ralph McDaniels called Video Music Box. D.O.C.’s video for ‘It’s Funky Enough’ premiered, and D.O.C. had an L.A. Kings hat on. When I came to school on Monday, half the kids in Brooklyn had L.A. Kings hats on. It was official.'”
[Not single-page] The Comedy Central star on his TV character’s clash with reality, the pain of losing his father and brothers at a young age, and his fear of bears:
“PLAYBOY: How did bears become a recurring motif on the show? Was it just to have something to talk about that wasn’t topical?
“COLBERT: For the very first show, we were trying to find something that had a repeatable structure. We had this bit called ‘ThreatDown,’ when he talks about the number one threat to America that week. We were considering another story, something from Florida about a Burmese python that had grown to 13 feet long and swallowed an alligator and the alligator had eaten its way out of the snake. It was a really crazy story with horrible pictures. Then a bear story came up that wasn’t as flashy, but we went with it. Partly because bears are very resonant to me, because I really do have a bit of a bear problem. And it just seemed like a richer fear to us. We always said that anything my character is concerned about qualifies as news. If he says bears are the number one threat to America, then that is the case.
“PLAYBOY: He’s justifying his own anxieties?
“COLBERT: Exactly. ‘I want to make you afraid of the things I’m afraid of.'”
[Site not safe for work] A profile of Nolan Bushnell, the entrepreneur behind Atari and Chuck E. Cheese:
“With Atari on the brink, Bushnell had to dig himself out of his hole fast. He hatched a business philosophy that became his guiding principle: the meta-game. Knowing Atari’s hardware was being copied by competitors, Bushnell began to, as he says, ‘build in booby traps.’ It was the equivalent of printing a recipe with the wrong ingredients. Atari purposely mismarked chips so that when other companies tried to re-create the designs, their machines wouldn’t function. The ploy worked, and Bushnell soon regained market share. ‘The whole success of Atari was really because of creativity,’ he says.”
One person’s mission to get Americans to embrace science again. A profile of Neil deGrasse Tyson, astrophysicist and director of the Rose Center for Earth and Space at the American Museum of Natural History:
“Although he is a card-carrying astrophysicist with a long list of scientific papers in publications like Astrophysical Journal, Tyson has turned himself into a rock-star scientist. He plays to sold-out houses. He appears on the Daily Show with Jon Stewart, on the New York Times bestseller list, on Twitter (@neiltyson, with 242,400 followers as I write this). He is now shooting a remake of Carl Sagan’s classic Cosmos series, which will air on Fox in 2013.
“Tyson spreads himself so wide for two reasons. One is that there’s so much in the sky to talk about. The other reason is down here on earth. For all the spectacular advances American science has made over the past century—not just in astrophysics but in biology, engineering, and other disciplines—the best days of American science may be behind us. And as American science declines, so does America. So here, in the dark, under the stars, Tyson is going to try to save the future, one neck cramp at a time.”