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The best writing of the week, September 8

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Your Sunday reading

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 LinkedIn

Ann Friedman considers the bizarre nature of LinkedIn's connections to the self-help industry and the "American gospel of success."

The Baffler: Ann Friedman - All LinkedIn with Nowhere to Go

In reality, though, the job seeker tends to experience the insular world of LinkedIn connectivity as an irksome ritual of digital badgering. Instead of facing the prospect of interfacing professionally with a nine-figure user base with a renewed spring in their step, harried victims of economic redundancy are more likely to greet their latest LinkedIn updates with a muttered variation of, "Oh shit, I’d better send out some more résumés." At which point, they’ll typically mark the noisome email nudge as "read" and relegate it to the trash folder.

On 'The X-Files'

Brian Phillips takes a look back at 20 years of the X-Files and how Mulder and Scully resonated with a generation.

Grantland: Brian Phillips - In the Dark

The show's cinematography, lush by today's standards and astonishing in 1993, looked shadowed and moody, and because Scully's expression was a striking combination of horror and numbness and bravery and trauma, none of which we had experienced and all of which we wanted to pretend we had experienced, nothing could have seemed more natural than that the show would move along the margins of our secret world.

On pokerbots

Michael Kaplan digs into the world of neural nets and artificial intelligence powering the next generation of poker machines.

The New York Times: Michael Kaplan - The Steely, Headless King of Texas Hold ’Em

When he played passively until a hand’s very last card was dealt and then suddenly made a bet, the program folded rather than match his bet and risk losing more money. "I called in all my employees and told them that there’s a problem," he says. The software seemed to play in an easily exploitable pattern. "Then I played 200 more hands, and he never did anything like that again. That was the point when we nicknamed him Little Bastard."

On 'Gravity'

Variety's latest cover story looks at Alfonso Cuaron's new film 'Gravity' and his use of industrial robots during production.

Variety: David S. Cohen and Dave McNary - Alfonso Cuaron Returns to the Bigscreen After Seven Years With ‘Gravity’

Because it was laborious to get in and out of her rig, Bullock chose to stay inside the light box alone for nine or 10 hours at a time, communicating only through a headset. Though she calls those hours isolating and silent, she adds, "It also gave me the opportunity to dig as deeply as I needed to for whatever was required, in privacy. … To me it felt as though there was nothing but the thoughts in my head to give me company."

On rhythms

Rebecca Solnit writes about the changing nature of communication and attention, and the challenge of being wholly alone.

London Review of Books: Rebecca Solnit - Diary

A year or so ago I watched in horror a promotional video for these glasses that showed how your whole field of vision of the real world could become a screen on which reminder messages spring up. The video portrayed the lifestyle of a hip female Brooklynite whose Google glasses toss Hello Kitty-style pastel data bubbles at her from the moment she gets up. None of the information the glasses thrust into her field of vision is crucial. It’s all optional, based on the assumptions that our lives require lots of management, and that being managerial is our highest goal. Is it?

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.