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.
Author Jonathan Franzen poked the Twitter beehive by calling it the "ultimate irresponsible medium" at a talk at Tulane University earlier this month, and we've seen countless responses. Sasha Frere-Jones's is one of the best, and also serves as a great introduction to anyone looking to dig deeper.
The New Yorker: Sasha Frere-Jones - Good Things About Twitter
How does a common squirrel like to spend its afternoon? Now you know. What does dubstep sound like? Let Twitter tell you. Every word in the English language, being tweeted one by one? Yes. A reporter’s dog? A faithful user. If that sounds like ephemera and you are drifting towards Franzenian irritation, look to the literary canon that has been ported onto Twitter by fans. All of Shakespeare, line by line; sentences from Donald Westlake alter ego Richard Stark; or quotes from Philip Larkin. The critic asks: Why not read them in the original? The supporter offers: all of these sentences, stripped of context, reveal strengths that are washed over when taken up in the river of narrative.
On the fringe
Freeman Dyson reviews Margaret Wertheim's fascinating new book Physics on the Fringe on the edges of science where "truth and fantasy are not yet disentangled."
The New York Review of Books: Freeman Dyson - Science on the Rampage
Unlike most of the philosophical dreamers, Carter is a capable engineer and does real experiments to test his ideas. He runs a successful business that gives him leisure to pursue his dreams. He is a man of many talents, with one fatal flaw. Carter’s flaw is his unshakable belief in a theory of the universe based on endless hierarchies of circlons
As Google continues to standardize and unify its services, adding deep integration to Google+ along the way whether users want it or not, is it ignoring the values and technologies that made it such a revolutionary company?
Gizmodo: Mat Honan - The case against Google
Imagine you woke up tomorrow and Google was gone. You would still be able to search the Web. You could still send email. You could still use maps, make phone calls, watch videos, network with friends, write blog posts. There would be a period of adjustment, and it would be incredibly inconvenient but you would get by. There are other options.
Jason Fagone tells the story of how Reddit user Prufrock451's comment about US Marines taking on the entire Roman Empire became a huge viral success and got optioned by Hollywood.
Wired: Jason Fagone - How One Response to a Reddit Query Became a Big-Budget Flick
The world beyond Reddit began to take notice. Someone from the website Boing Boing contacted him, offering to repost the story. Wired writer Clive Thompson tweeted about the thread. It had been only a few hours since Erwin microwaved his Hot Pocket. He resisted the urge to stand up in his office in Des Moines and shout that he was famous on the Internet.
While he may prefer to "consume sentences the old-fashioned and nongreen way, on the pulped carcasses of trees that have had their throats slit," Dwight Garner reconsiders ebooks on phones, tablets, and the iPad.
The New York Times: Dwight Garner - The Way We Read Now
It’s time to start thinking, however, about the best literary uses for these devices. Are some reading materials better suited to one platform than another? Does Philip Larkin feel at home on an iPad, and Lorrie Moore on a Kindle? Can I make a Kay Ryan poem my ringtone? Will any gizmo make "The Fountainhead" palatable?
And, starting this week, we're going to start taking a look back at great pieces from the past. To begin, here's William Gibson in Wired back in 1999 on his eBay obsession:
Wired: William Gibson - My Obsession
I am deep into eBay, half-awake, staring at a scan of this huge-ass Zenith diver's watch. And I am, mind you, a practicing ectomorph. I have wrists like pipestems. I am not going to get too much wear out of a watch that's actually wider than my wrist.
Have any favorites that you'd like to see included in next week's edition? Send them along to @thomashouston or share in the comments below.