We all know the feeling. You're sleepless in the sad hours of the night or stumbling around early on a hazy weekend morning in need of something to read, and that pile of unread books just isn't cutting it. Why not take a break from the fire hose of Twitter and RSS and check out our weekly roundup of essential writing from around the web about technology, culture, media, and the future? Sure, it's one more thing you can feel guilty about sitting in your Instapaper queue, but it's better than pulling in vain on your Twitter list again.
On Jurassic Park
Spielberg's dino-DNA-masterpiece is nearly 20 years old, and its recent release on Blu-ray prompted Bryan Curtis to explore the weird history and megafans of the original film and the sequels.
Grantland: Bryan Curtis - The Cult of Jurassic Park
The T. rex is a series of small gestures. Watch her pupil constrict, a touch Spielberg borrowed from E.T.Watch her breath fog up the windows. What she's doing — and what the raptors will do later in Jurassic Park — is giving a performance. My god, Dr. Grant, she's acting! And "she" doesn't just consist of Dennis Muren's brilliant computer effects.
On supply chains
As innovative as Apple has been in the hardware and software space, its operational prowess since Jobs returned in 1997 has been unparalleled. BusinessWeek explores Apple's global efficiencies in the best thing you'll read this week on supply chains. For additional reading on China's status as the world's manufacturing center, read James Fallow's China Makes, The World Takes from the July/August 2007 The Atlantic.
BusinessWeek: Adam Satariano and Peter Burrows - Apple's Supply-Chain Secret? Hoard Lasers
Similarly, when iPod sales took off in 2001, Apple realized it could pack so many of the diminutive music players on planes that it became economical to ship them directly from Chinese factories to consumers’ doors. When an HP staffer bought one and received it a few days later, tracking its progress around the world through Apple’s website, "It was an ‘Oh s—’ moment," recalls Fawkes.
Hamilton Morris's wild visit to Haiti in search of zombie powder mixes scientific inquiry, Wes Craven, NASA's plans to zombify humans while traveling to Mars, and Haitian Vodou. It's subscription-only, but well worth picking up at the newsstand, and don't miss the pharmacology of zombies.
Harper's Magazine: Hamilton Morris - I Walked with a Zombie [subscription]
"NASA thought they could zombify an astronaut, put him into the ship, and after a certain time give the astronaut a counter-potion to allow him to conduct his work on Mars and then re-zombify him for the trip back. I don’t believe any American knows how to make a zombie well enough to allow an astronaut to reach Mars, but with more time and more genuine research the project will be finished.'
On video on demand
Oddly, Melancholia and Tower Heist prove to be a great launchpad for diving into the oddity of home cinema and on demand movies being available in your living room before hitting the theater.
The New Yorker: Anthony Lane - Home Movies
Universal actually backed down in the scrap over "Tower Heist" and cancelled the VOD release, but, like other studios, it will surely return to the fray. And the outcome? Showmen like James Cameron, I suspect, will continue to haul us off our couches for the grand, marquee events, but smaller fare may be streamed to us direct, and new films whittled down into just another channel on TV.
On time travel
The always wonderful Jim Behrle offers some advice for time travelers: head straight for the future first — the past is a terrible place — and make sure you leave a note.
The Awl: Jim Behrle - The Dos And Don'ts Of Time Travel
The Future is Your Friend. Think of it as a great big safe house for time travelers filled with strangers who may not be thrilled to help you, but probably will point you in the right direction. After all, time traveling is no big deal there. You remember how cool you felt when you suffered under the illusion that you were the only one you knew who had the new iPhone?
On a hacked Gmail account
Imagine losing access to your Gmail account, only to open it back up and find everything is gone. Years of chat logs. Hundreds of images from friends and family that you should've backed up. All your correspondence, wiped away. In this month's The Atlantic, Fallows takes the horrifying event of his wife's hacked Gmail account to explore Google's approach to security.
The Atlantic: James Fallows - Hacked!
How could big tech companies offer cloud services to hundreds of millions of people without better guarding their data against catastrophic loss? On Google’s side, one explanation involved complexities of the law. My wife and I might think that Google had a "duty" to be able to find her messages after some hacker had erased them. But according to Google’s legal department, its higher and more stringent duty is to ensure that messages are erased, if whoever is in charge of an account wants them gone.
On the Courier
We touched on it earlier this week, but CNET's exclusive on the birth of the "creative" Courier tablet and its eventual death is a must read glimpse into Microsoft's internal culture at the end of the decade.
CNET: Jay Greene - The inside story of how Microsoft killed its Courier tablet
"This is where Bill had an allergic reaction," said one Courier worker who talked with an attendee of the meeting. As is his style in product reviews, Gates pressed Allard, challenging the logic of the approach.
Have any favorites that you'd like to see included in next week's edition? Send them along to @thomashouston.