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 the new rich
Expanding on Rebecca Solnit's excellent piece on Silicon Valley and boomtowns earlier this year, Ellen Cushing takes a look at the explosive growth of the obscenely rich in the tech world.
East Bay Express: Ellen Cushing - The Bacon-Wrapped Economy
More young people have more money in a more concentrated place than perhaps ever before. Old money is being replaced by new, but it’s a new kind of new, one that has different values, different habits, and different interests than the previous generation. The very rich have always, to a greater or lesser degree, been guilty of excess, but what’s changed is that the Bay Area’s new wealth doesn’t necessarily have the perspective, the experience, or the commitments of the group it’s replacing.
Simple and effective: pair an architecture critic and a copy of Sim City for a week and see what happens. Justin Davidson and his 15-year-old son uncover the games guiding principles and deeper assumptions towards urban development.
New York: Justin Davidson - My Week As Robert Moses, With Oil Wells
From Lagos to Los Angeles to Mumbai, the physical world is experiencing a great rushing tide of urbanization, which creates huge environmental problems and at the same time concentrates the creativity needed to solve them. In the Sims’ world, though, the masses migrate and settle, then file passively through their lives. SimCity’s engineers have repeated the same mistake made by countless potentates, forgetting that cities are forged both by master builders and the people who hack their grand plans.
Column favorite Paul Ford defends the open source Bitcoin currency.
Businessweek: Paul Ford - Bitcoin May Be the Global Economy's Last Safe Haven
Maybe Bitcoin’s devotees are right, and it’s the currency of the future. Or perhaps it’s a ridiculous joke—a speculative, hilarious enterprise taken to its most insane conclusion. Given that the founder is nowhere to be found, it feels like a hoax, a parody of the global economy. That the technology used to implement it has, so far, shown itself to be impeccable and completely functional, and that it’s actually being exchanged, just makes it a better joke. The truth is, it doesn’t much matter if it’s a joke or not. It works.
On the launch of BioShock Infinite, Tom Bissell interviews series creator Ken Levine on writing great villains, the importance of atmosphere, and... sneakers.
Grantland: Tom Bissell - Does the Sneaker Have to Matter?
I spend a lot of time — a lot of time — watching and rewatching scenes from movies that are particularly meaningful to me. And the best villains, the best scenes of any movie ever, are usually the ones where the villain and hero are in close proximity. The best scenes with the Joker in The Dark Knight are the scenes where the Joker and Batman are locked in a room together. It’s a romance, almost. If you look at Batman and the Joker, if you’re not seeing the Joker’s sort of in love with Batman, you’re missing the point of the scene. There’s danger that underlies everything, but there’s this great dialogue going on at the same time. I’ve always loved villains, but I’ve never liked the mustache twirlers.
On the center
Jeremy Miller hunts down the US's centroid, the country's forever shifting center point as defined by population distribution.
Orion Magazine: Jeremy Miller - The Centroid
Our progress blocked by a high fence, we hop out of the truck and assemble. Before setting out into the woods, I punch the following coordinates into my hand-held GPS unit: 37°31´03˝ N, 92°10´23˝ W. From a manila folder, Doyle produces a satellite image of the area. A small digital thumbtack denoting the center pokes into a stand of trees on the opposite side of a small stream—the only barrier between us and the balance point of the American population.
And finally, McSweeney's has a retrospective of Becky Jones' selfies.
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.