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.
Grab the entire list as a Readlist.
On the NSA
The Guardian put together a comprehensive, interactive guide to what we know about the NSA's surveillance programs, with interviews including Thomas Drake, Glenn Greenwald, Ron Wyden, Jeremy Scahill, and more.
The Guardian: Ewen Macaskill and Garbiel Dance - NSA Files: Decoded
Two factors opened the way for the rapid expansion of surveillance over the past decade: the fear of terrorism created by the 9/11 attacks and the digital revolution that led to an explosion in cell phone and internet use.
But along with these technologies came an extension in the NSA’s reach few in the early 1990s could have imagined. Details that in the past might have remained private were suddenly there for the taking.
Vanessa Grigoriadis writes about the cult of the juice cleanse.
New York: Vanessa Grigoriadis - Juice Heads: How the Newest Liquid-Nutrition Cultists Are Mastering Their Intestines
Juice is a treat and replaces the a-nutritious yet equally fetishized cupcake, a reward for tolerating urban difficulty. Juice announces that America is still a bountiful land of plenty despite our abuse of the Earth. Juice announces that you are hip to the trends, part of the scene that includes Gwyneth Paltrow, Salma Hayek, and other toned-and-together Celebrity Juice Fans featured in Star magazine. Juice says you don’t do manual labor: You make money with your fingers in the new economy, nails painted a cheery neon or pastel gel as you text. Juice gets attention on social media, which seems made for such announcements as “Loving my juice cleanse to help me get ready for a very important photo shoot!” And for a certain, uniquely American urban tribe, juice is a sacrament—or at least part of the sacrament.
On technology writing
As Walt Mossberg and David Pogue prepare to leave the Wall Street Journal and New York Times, respectively, Matt Buchanan considers the future of writing about consumer technology.
The New Yorker: Matt Buchanan - Waiting for the next great technology critic
The questions that consumers face, in other words, are less about what to buy than about how to live. It’s not a matter of which social network or search engine or photo-sharing service to use; it’s who you should friend on Facebook, the best way to Google, and whether or not you should use filters on your Instagram photos.
The Times Sunday Book Review asks writers like Margaret Atwood, Tom McCarthy, Marisha Pessl, and more about how technology is connected to writing and storytelling.
The New York Times: Writing Bytes
The argument that the advent of the Internet somehow marks a Telecom Year Zero after which nothing will ever be the same can be made only by ignoring the actual history of literature. Look at Kafka’s obsession with telephones; or the way the phonograph, for Bram Stoker, mirrors the vampire as a machine for bringing the dead to life (or, conversely, storing the living in dead form); or at the obsessive attention Samuel Richardson’s Clarissa is forced to pay to ink and desks and messengers.
On the geography of crime
Geoff Manaugh writes about how the architecture and infrastructure of Los Angeles made it a goldmine for bank robbers in the '80s and '90s.
CABINET: Geoff Manaugh - Forensic Topology
Tad Friend, writing a piece on car chases in Los Angeles for the New Yorker back in 2006, implied that the high-speed chase is, in effect, a proper and even more authentic use of the city’s many freeways than the, by comparison, embarrassingly impotent daily commute—that fleeing, illegally and often at lethal speeds, from the pursuing police while being broadcast live on local television is, well, it’s sort of what the city is for.
For more great longreads, visit our friends at Longreads.
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.