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 Silicon Valley
Paul Goldberg surveys how Facebook, Google, and Apple's massive new starchitect-designed headquarters are changing the Valley and the cities around it.
Vanity Fair: Paul Goldberger - The Shape of Things to Come
Would the Pyramids, say, have made a good office building? A symbol, yes, but a building, no. And Apple’s spaceship, which is expected to hold 12,000 workers, is just as inflexible. You can’t make it bigger, certainly, if you need to expand. And you can’t really argue that the building will encourage collaboration, since, with its circumference of nearly a mile, even workers on the same floor can be as much as half a mile apart. Because the purity of the shape was valued above all else, the large auditorium that Apple wanted was placed underground in a separate structure—a mini-spaceship beside the mother ship.
On Tower One
Justin Davidson visits the World Trade Center, looking back on a decade of construction, power struggles, and grief.
New York: Justin Davidson - A Visit to the Top of the World Trade Center
A year later, Tower One had evolved into an immense festive skeleton arrayed in multicolored lights like some kind of mutant lawn ornament. On stormy days, the wind roared through the open floors, producing an unearthly shriek that could be heard for blocks. The building was still raw, hopeful, and wild.
On 'The Walking Dead'
Following a massive binge-watch, Emily Nussbaum reviews The Walking Dead.
The New Yorker: Emily Nussbaum - Utter Rot
AMC’s zombie show, “The Walking Dead,” on the other hand, has been grinding on for forty-three hours, something I can attest to, because I watched every episode in less than two weeks. Binge-watching has become a popular way to enjoy television, but with a show as flawed as “The Walking Dead” it’s a dangerous drug, all spike-and-crash, as gorgeous surges of critical hope are blown apart and revealed as wishful thinking. In this way, it’s not all that different from an actual zombie apocalypse.
On David Agus
Amy Wallace profiles doctor and author David Agus and his fight against cancer.
Wired: Amy Wallace - Steve Jobs’ Doctor Wants to Help Us All Live Longer
For his part, Agus isn’t really trying to defy anyone. To him it’s all part of a single plan. That’s because Agus isn’t just trying to build a career, make a pile of money, or get famous; he’s trying to beat cancer. And he knows that even as he searches for breakthrough treatments and refines state-of-the-art clinical care, these accomplishments alone will not achieve this goal. Agus believes we can conquer this devastating disease only if individuals take ownership of their health. They can’t do that if they don’t know how. So he has taken it upon himself to educate them, one rule at a time.
As part of Nieman Jounralism Lab's fantastic ongoing journalism series, Jason Kottke considers the future of the blog.
Nieman Journalism Lab: Jason Kottke - The blog is dead, long live the blog
Instead of blogging, people are posting to Tumblr, tweeting, pinning things to their board, posting to Reddit, Snapchatting, updating Facebook statuses, Instagramming, and publishing on Medium. In 1997, wired teens created online diaries, and in 2004 the blog was king. Today, teens are about as likely to start a blog (over Instagramming or Snapchatting) as they are to buy a music CD. Blogs are for 40-somethings with kids.
Alexis Madrigal reports on the bizarre half-human, half-computer systems used by some telemarketing companies.
The Atlantic: Alexis Madrigal - Almost Human: The Surreal, Cyborg Future of Telemarketing
Such conversations happen millions of times a year, but they are not what they appear. Because while a human is picking up the phone, and a human is dialing the phone, this is not, strictly speaking, a conversation between two humans.
Instead, a call-center worker in Utah or the Philippines is pressing buttons on a computer, playing through a marketing pitch without actually speaking. Some people who market these services sometimes call this "voice conversion" technology. Another company says it's "agent-assisted automation technology.”
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.