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    The best writing of the week, April 7

    The best writing of the week, April 7

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    Your Sunday reading

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    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.

    On modafinil

    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.On gaming

    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."On Mario

    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.On Facebook

    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.On movies

    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.

    Today’s Storystream

    Feed refreshed 17 minutes ago Midjourneys

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    Emma Roth17 minutes ago
    Celsius’ CEO is out.

    Alex Mashinsky, the head of the bankrupt crypto lending firm Celsius, announced his resignation today, but not after patting himself on the back for working “tirelessly to help the company.”

    In Mashinsky’s eyes, I guess that means designing “Unbankrupt yourself” t-shirts on Cafepress and then selling them to a user base that just had their funds vaporized.

    At least customers of the embattled Voyager Digital crypto firm are in slightly better shape, as the Sam Bankman-Fried-owned FTX just bought out the company’s assets.


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    Mary Beth Griggs47 minutes ago
    NASA’s SLS rocket is secure as Hurricane Ian barrels towards Florida.

    The rocket — and the Orion spacecraft on top — are now back inside the massive Vehicle Assembly Building. Facing menacing forecasts, NASA decided to roll it away from the launchpad yesterday.


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    Andrew J. HawkinsTwo hours ago
    Harley-Davidson’s electric motorcycle brand is about to go public via SPAC

    LiveWire has completed its merger with a blank-check company and will make its debut on the New York Stock Exchange today. Harley-Davison CEO Jochen Zeitz called it “a proud and exciting milestone for LiveWire towards its ambition to become the most desirable electric motorcycle brand in the world.” Hopefully it also manages to avoid the cash crunch of other EV SPACs, like Canoo, Arrival, Faraday Future, and Lordstown.


    Asian America learns how to hit back

    The desperate, confused, righteous campaign to stop Asian hate

    Esther WangSep 26
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    The Verge
    Andrew WebsterTwo hours ago
    “There’s an endless array of drama going on surrounding Twitch right now.”

    That’s Ryan Morrison, CEO of Evolved Talent Agency, which represents some of the biggest streamers around. And he’s right — as you can read in this investigation from my colleague Ash Parrish, who looked into just what’s going on with Amazon’s livestreaming service.


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    The Verge
    Richard LawlerTwo hours ago
    Green light.

    NASA’s spacecraft crashed, and everyone is very happy about it.

    Otherwise, Mitchell Clark is kicking off the day with a deeper look at Dish Network’s definitely-real 5G wireless service , and Walmart’s metaverse vision in Roblox is not looking good at all.


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    Jess Weatherbed11:49 AM UTC
    Won’t anyone think of the billionaires?

    Forbes reports that rising inflation and falling stock prices have collectively cost members of the Forbes 400 US rich list $500 billion in 2022 with tech tycoons suffering the biggest losses.

    Jeff Bezos (worth $151 billion) lost $50 billion, Google’s Larry Page and Sergey Brin (worth a collective $182b) lost almost $60b, Mark Zuckerberg (worth $57.7b) lost $76.8b, and Twitter co-founder Jack Dorsey (worth $4.5b) lost $10.4b. Former Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer (worth $83b) lost $13.5b while his ex-boss Bill Gates (worth $106b) lost $28b, albeit $20b of that via charity donations.


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    Thomas Ricker6:45 AM UTC
    Check out this delightful DART Easter egg.

    Just Google for “NASA DART.” You’re welcome.


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    Richard Lawler12:00 AM UTC
    A direct strike at 14,000 mph.

    The Double Asteroid Redirection Test (DART) scored a hit on the asteroid Dimorphos, but as Mary Beth Griggs explains, the real science work is just beginning.

    Now planetary scientists will wait to see how the impact changed the asteroid’s orbit, and to download pictures from DART’s LICIACube satellite which had a front-row seat to the crash.


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    The Verge
    We’re about an hour away from a space crash.

    At 7:14PM ET, a NASA spacecraft is going to smash into an asteroid! Coverage of the collision — called the Double Asteroid Redirection Test — is now live.


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    Emma RothSep 26
    There’s a surprise in the sky tonight.

    Jupiter will be about 367 million miles away from Earth this evening. While that may seem like a long way, it’s the closest it’s been to our home planet since 1963.

    During this time, Jupiter will be visible to the naked eye (but binoculars can help). You can check where and when you can get a glimpse of the gas giant from this website.


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    Emma RothSep 26
    Missing classic Mario?

    One fan, who goes by the name Metroid Mike 64 on Twitter, just built a full-on 2D Mario game inside Super Mario Maker 2 complete with 40 levels and eight worlds.

    Looking at the gameplay shared on Twitter is enough to make me want to break out my SNES, or at least buy Super Mario Maker 2 so I can play this epic retro revamp.


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    Russell BrandomSep 26
    The US might still force TikTok into a data security deal with Oracle.

    The New York Times says the White House is still working on TikTok’s Trump-era data security deal, which has been in a weird limbo for nearly two years now. The terms are basically the same: Oracle plays babysitter but the app doesn’t get banned. Maybe it will happen now, though?


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    Richard LawlerSep 26
    Don’t miss this dive into Guillermo del Toro’s stop-motion Pinocchio flick.

    Andrew Webster and Charles Pulliam-Moore covered Netflix’s Tudum reveals (yes, it’s going to keep using that brand name) over the weekend as the streamer showed off things that haven’t been canceled yet.

    Beyond The Way of the Househusband season two news and timing information about two The Witcher projects, you should make time for this incredible behind-the-scenes video showing the process of making Pinocchio.