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 'Adventure Time'
With the sixth season of Adventure Time approaching, Maria Bustillos profiles the show's creators and digs into its origins, future, and long-lasting appeal. Don't miss Emily Nussbaum's column on the show, either.
The Awl: Maria Bustillos - It's Adventure Time
Unlikely as it is that Roland Barthes could have imagined anything remotely like it, his essay "The Death of the Author" exactly prefigured the sense of collaboration informing Adventure Time, which is in every sense "a tissue of quotations drawn from the innumerable centres of culture" and "a multi-dimensional space in which a variety of writings, none of them original, blend and clash." It is delightful to find that the basic tenets of twentieth-century French literary theory are the opposite of boring when harnessed in the service of a cartoon about a boy and his magical dog in a fantastical post-apocalyptic Earth.
Burkhard Bilger writes about the deep underground world of extreme cavers.
The New Yorker: Burkhard Bilger - In deep
Caves are like living organisms, James Tabor wrote in "Blind Descent," a book on Bill Stone’s earlier expeditions. They have bloodstreams and respiratory systems, infections and infestations. They take in organic matter and digest it, flushing it slowly through their systems. Chevé feels more alive than most. Its tunnels lie along an uneasy fault line in the Sierra de Juárez mountains and seethe with more than seven feet of rain a year. On his first trip to Mexico, in 2001, Gala nearly died of histoplasmosis, a fungal infection acquired from the bat guano that lined the upper reaches of a nearby cave.
Mat Honan reports on the burgeoning, Silicon Valley-fueled weed business in Colorado.
Wired: Mat Honan - High Tech
For the science and technology set, it’s a classic opportunity to disrupt an industry historically run by hippies and gangsters. And the entire tech-industrial complex is getting in on the action: investors, entrepreneurs, biotechnologists, scientists, industrial designers, electrical engineers, data analysts, software developers. Industry types with experience at Apple and Juniper and Silicon Valley Bank and Zynga and all manner of other companies are flocking to cannabis with the hopes of creating a breakout product for a burgeoning legitimate industry.
Oliver Sacks considers intelligence and consciousness on the lower ends of the animal kingdom.
The New York Review of Books: Oliver Sacks - The Mental Life of Plants and Worms, Among Others
Darwin noted in The Voyage of the Beagle how an octopus in a tidal pool seemed to interact with him, by turns watchful, curious, and even playful. Octopuses can be domesticated to some extent, and their keepers often empathize with them, feeling some sense of mental and emotional proximity. Whether one can use the "C" word—consciousness—in regard to cephalopods can be argued all ways. But if one allows that a dog may have consciousness of an individual and significant sort, one has to allow it for an octopus, too.
Dorinda Elliott profiles web giant Tencent and its billionaire CEO Ma "Pony" Huateng as the company begins expanding beyond China.
Fast Company: Dorinda Elliott - Tencent: the secretive, Chinese tech giant that can rival Facebook and Amazon
I'm here for a "tour" of the company, but am only allowed entrance to a museum-like exhibit of Tencent products. The experience feels like a throwback to the tightly controlled Communist Party--sponsored trips reporters went on back in the 1980s, before the country really started opening up to the outside world. An attractive, young, fluent English speaker shuffles me from one screen to another. The three other public relations officers with me offer no analysis of the firm, saying they will get back to me on any questions I have. I ask about the management style of the somewhat mysterious CEO, Pony Ma, and there is an awkward pause. Then the guide brightly tells me: "It's very equal here. We all call him Pony!"
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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.