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 all of these as on a Readlist.
The NY Times Magazine this weekend published a fascinating excerpt from Michael Moss's upcoming book Salt Sugar Fat, the work of four years of research into the world of processed food.
The New York Times: Michael Moss - The Extraordinary Science of Addictive Junk Food
He zeroed right in on the Cheetos. "This," Witherly said, "is one of the most marvelously constructed foods on the planet, in terms of pure pleasure." He ticked off a dozen attributes of the Cheetos that make the brain say more. But the one he focused on most was the puff's uncanny ability to melt in the mouth. "It's called vanishing caloric density," Witherly said. "If something melts down quickly, your brain thinks that there's no calories in it... you can just keep eating it forever."
On the Harlem Shake
Sasha Frere-Jones looks at the curious case of the "Harlem Shake," the not-quite-a-dance that thrives through the internet, that also debuted at number one this past week on Billboard's Hot 100 after YouTube streaming data was added to chart's equations. Don't miss our very own Tim Carmody's take from last week.
The New Yorker: Sasha Frere-Jones - Shake what your internet friend gave you
One of the respondents in this very entertaining collection of Harlem residents reacting to the phenomenon delivers an accurate summary of America’s historical tendency to hoover up Harlem culture without permission, but Baauer’s "Harlem Shake" may not be one of those inhalations. What it seems to be is not a dance craze but, rather, an Internet-language craze, a replication based on imitating the syntax of a particular video. With other dance crazes, you could use whatever music you liked and twerk or do the dougie, but you did have to get those dances roughly right to be part of the phenomenon.
On Adalia Rose
Camille Dodero writes about Adalia Rose, a 6-year-old with progeria, in a heart-breaking story of internet fame, sadistic trolling, and online death threats.
Gawker: Camille Dodero - The Princess and the Trolls
That night, the comment tide became so vile that Team Adalia temporarily shut down the page. The next day, Bling showed up as self-identified "friend of the family" in a four-minute video posted to the official YouTube channel, thanking supporters, but more emotively chastising negative commenters. "It's rude, it's disrespectful, and I'll let you know something—her mom is reading every single comment," Johnson said, telling the trolls exactly what they wanted to hear. He implored Adalia's fans to "help us weed out the people who don't need to be on this page," specifically asking, "Do us a favor: go into the thread and defend your point of view and defend Adalia—because this is not a joke at all."
This approach was akin to opening a garden hose on a grease fire.
On online bullying
Emily Bazelon reports on how companies and even groups like Anonymous are fighting online cruelty, specifically highlighting the processes and efforts by teams at Facebook and MIT.
The Atlantic: Emily Bazelon - How to Stop the Bullies
"Sites like Facebook and Formspring aren’t interested in every little incident, but they do care about the pileups," Lieberman told me. "For example, the week before prom, every year, you can see a spike in bullying against LGBT kids. With our tool, you can analyze how that spreads—you can make an epidemiological map. And then the social-network site can target its limited resources. They can also trace the outbreak back to its source."
Chadwick Matlin traces the evolution of the GIF from its time as a "bastion of innocence" to being used by everyone from Calvin Klein and American Apparel to HBO.
The New Republic: Chadwick Matlin - Inside the GIF-Industrial Complex
Frame-grab GIFs are the Web’s cotton candy—light, fluffy, never filling, but leaving the consumer feeling a bit ill if consumed in too large a quantity. Increasingly, media organizations are adopting the frame-grab GIF as a way to cater to the lowest common denominator of reader. Everybody likes moving images, and, as TV recaps have proved, everybody likes reliving things they’ve already watched.
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.