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The best writing of the week, October 20

read lead 1020
read lead 1020

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 Snapchat

Gene Maddaus reports on the rocky start behind ephemeral messaging startup Snapchat and its Los Angeles-based co-founders Evan Spiegel and Bobby Murphy.

LA Weekly: Gene Maddaus - Snapchat Went From Frat Boy Dream to Tech World Darling. But Will it Last?

That summer, the three fraternity brothers worked on the project together at Spiegel's father's house. While Spiegel designed the user interface and Murphy did the coding, Brown — the English major — was left in a subordinate role. Among his contributions, according to his lawsuit, was "Ghostface Chillah," the app's ghost logo. As chief marketing officer, Brown also wrote press releases and the terms of service.

At first, the arrangement was friendly.

On Mario

IGN's got a great interactive piece on the history of Mario across decades of arcade machines and consoles.

IGN: Mario.ign.com

Mario took up running in 1985. And swimming, and even a bit of Jack and the Beanstalk vine-climbing too. He became a veritable athlete in comparison to his earlier, stodgier self – and by necessity, because there was a princess to be saved.

Super Mario Bros. exponentially expanded Mario's world, as now his adventures were no longer adequately contained within the confines of a single screen. He had to run to the right to scroll his way into seeing the rest of the landscape in front of him; an act which quickly became a staple of video games as a whole. All of this was in the name of, hopefully, saving the kidnapped princess from the evil Koopa King.

On 'Homestar Runner'

Todd VanDerWerff looks back at the legacy of early web video pioneer Homestar Runner.

Onion AV Club: Todd VanDerWerff - How Homestar Runner changed web series for the better

Much of Homestar Runner’s animation is fairly rudimentary stuff. Arms go up and down. Mouths flap open. Characters stand in place while the background races past them to indicate movement. But all of that belies the program’s true strength: terrifically designed, perfectly written characters. The weirdos that populate Homestar’s world aren’t drawn from animated kids’ shows or even children’s books, but from another great American art form: the newspaper comic strip.

On OM

Nitasha Tiku heads to the OMXperience to get inside the world of orgasmic meditation.

Gawker: Nitasha Tiku - My Life With the Thrill-Clit Cult

Genital stimulation in a professional context seemed transgressive, even for hippie-hedonist San Francisco. Her friend, Joanna Van Vleck—who is now OneTaste's president—met me in June when she was in New York. "We don't OM, like, right in the office," Van Vleck explained. But she said, "If we have employee problems, we're like, let's OM together. Yeah, if two people have a discrepancy, we say: OM together!"

On Harvey Weinstein

Karina Longworth writes about Harvey Weinstein's notorious butchery in the editing room.

Grantland: Karina Longworth - The Legend of Harvey Scissorhands

If there’s one trope that comes up again and again in the field of Weinstein studies, it’s that even people who hate Harvey admit that he has great taste and is generally the world’s greatest at finding ways to get mass audiences and Oscar voters to swallow films that, to one degree or another, defy traditional notions of commerciality. You don’t have to be the worst breed of Hollywood asshole to want to communicate to a lot of people and be recognized for your work, and in many cases, for everything he’s done that’s self-serving or misguided or totally despicable, Harvey Weinstein has given great filmmakers those opportunities on a scale that they probably wouldn’t have had otherwise.

On speed-dating

Maureen O'Conner profiles Sci-Fi Speed Dating owner and organizer Ryan Glitch.

New York: Maureen O'Connor - The Cupid of Nerds: Ryan Glitch’s Comic-Con Speed-Dating Empire

For an 18-year-old dressed as a Pokémon character hitting on an older woman, the kid is surprisingly suave. “This is my third Comic-Con, but it’s the first year I was old enough to do this,” Ash Ketchum says, gesturing to the 82 men and women seated in pairs in a conference room in the basement of the Javits Center. Lamenting the tyranny of football at his high school, he offers to show me his Poké Ball, but a Jedi knight with spiked hair yells, “Time’s up!” Our three-minute speed date is over.

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.