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 a Readlist.
Robert Kolker writes about modafinil, the wonder drug rumored to have inspired 2011's Limitless, and its rising use as a "smart drug."
New York: Robert Kolker - The Real Limitless Drug Isn’t Just for Lifehackers Anymore
It is rumored to be the model for the fictional pills in the movie Limitless that allowed Bradley Cooper’s character to use 100 percent of his brain. Timothy Ferriss, author of the best-selling The 4-Hour Work Week, recently dished about its effects with modafinil fan Joe Rogan, the former host of Fear Factor, on Rogan’s popular podcast. Probably its biggest booster is Dave Asprey, founder of the Bulletproof Executive web forum, where he blogged about the drug’s powers (headline: "Why You Are Suffering From a Modafinil Deficiency"). Last summer, ABC News did a segment on Asprey in which he compared taking it to the scene in The Wizard of Oz where everything blossoms from black-and-white to color.
Tevis Thompson considers the devious microtransaction models prompting gamers to give up their hard earned money for upgrades in mobile games.
Grantland: Tevis Thompson - The Endless Shopper: Burning Money in Temple Run 2, Candy Crush Saga, and Little Inferno
As video games move to incorporate micro-transactions more extensively and behave like services instead of stand-alone products, they become more like little economies rather than worlds or stories or simulations or experiences.
On Ain't It Cool News
Hal Espen and Brys Kit profile Ain't It Cool News' Harry Knowles and his efforts to turn the movie site back around.
The Hollywood Reporter: Has Espen, Borys Kit - Ain't It Cool's Harry Knowles: The Cash-Strapped King of the Nerds Plots a Comeback
Their child-rearing philosophy was full media immersion. "I was their experiment," says Knowles. "They unleashed everything on me. I saw porn, all the Universal monster movies, all the Charlie Chan films, all the Sherlock Holmes things, all the Fred and Ginger movies. Film for me became how I related to everything else."
Karina Longworth digs into the fascinating history and production of the Super Mario Bros. movie — Tom Hanks, Danny DeVito both considered the role of Mario. It was the first feature based on a video game, and remains one of Hollywood's most notable attempts (and failures) to cash in on games.
Grantland: Karina Longworth - Hollywood Archaeology: The Super Mario Bros. Movie
The movie's plot — to the extent that any lucid story line is discernible in a film cobbled together from drafts worked on by at least nine writers — conjures an alternate universe in which humans descended not from primates, but from dinosaurs. Reading the breathless coverage given to the film in the Hollywood papers, starting in the rumor stages and continuing through its spectacular belly flop, you can almost see an alternate universe in which this could've been the big hit of summer 1993 instead of that other dino-studded effects spectacular, a world in which the summer blockbuster as we currently know it might have taken a similarly warped path of evolution.
On Apple HQ
Peter Burrows looks at Apple's HQ, its huge cost, and all the details you'd ever want on the building's custom curved glass.
Bloomberg Businessweek: Peter Burrows - Inside Apple's Plans for Its Futuristic, $5 Billion Headquarters
Since 2011, the budget for Apple’s Campus 2 has ballooned from less than $3 billion to nearly $5 billion, according to five people close to the project who were not authorized to speak on the record. If their consensus estimate is accurate, Apple’s expansion would eclipse the $3.9 billion being spent on the new World Trade Center complex in New York, and the new office space would run more than $1,500 per square foot—three times the cost of many top-of-the-line downtown corporate towers.
On brain games
Over at the newly launched Elements site, Gareth Cook reports on new research showing that using brain games to train yourself is ineffective.
The New Yorker: Elements: Gareth Cook - Brain Games are Bogus
Over the last year, however, the idea that working-memory training has broad benefits has crumbled. One group of psychologists, lead by a team at Georgia Tech, set out to replicate the Jaeggi findings, but with more careful controls and seventeen different cognitive-skills tests. Their subjects showed no evidence whatsoever for improvement in intelligence.
Wired's Steven Levy interviewed Mark Zuckerberg following last week's launch of Facebook Home.
Wired: Steven Levy - Mark Zuckerberg on Facebook Home, Money, and the Future of Communication
But sharing can be exhausting. You hear about people taking "Facebook vacations." It’s an interesting phenomenon. We have two ways to turn off Facebook: deactivate and delete. The group who chooses to turn Facebook off permanently is relatively small, but there’s a larger set of people who will deactivate their account for a day or two because they want to focus and study for a test—it’s the equivalent of locking yourself in the library. It’s actually a very popular feature.
And finally, Longform recently reprinted a 1991 Playboy interview with Gene Siskel and Roger Ebert. It's also worth revisiting Chris Jones' 2010 Esquire piece on Ebert's battle with cancer.
Playboy: Lawrence Grobel - Playboy Interview: Gene Siskel and Roger Ebert
When I went to movies as a teenager, we went to see what adults did. Now adults go to the movies to see what teenagers do. People over the age of twenty-one hardly ever make love in the movies anymore. They sit around and tell the kids they shouldn’t be doing it. It’s amazing. And today, the best American directors are not trying to make great movies, they’re trying to make successful movies.
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.