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.
Burt Helm writes about the tense relationship between Turntable.fm co-founders Billy Chasen and Seth Goldstein as they try to inject new life into the slumping social music site after its initial success.
Inc.: Burt Helm - Turntable.fm: Where Did Our Love Go?
Typically, each remains on his own coast, running the 14-person company in two mini silos. (Chasen still hadn't met the lawyer who negotiated their label deals; Goldstein recently stopped calling in to the Monday staff meeting after Chasen called it distracting.) In person, they trade gibes like a married couple, and sometimes it's funny. Other times, everybody around just feels uncomfortable.
Russell Brandom ran his genes at genetics lab 23andme, and received not so much a set of distinct, actionable results as a "jumble of conflicting facts."
The Awl: Russell Brandom - Everything I Didn't Learn From Taking A Personal Genome Test
So when sites like 23andme try to lay out all that messy, incomprehensible data for mass consumption, they’ve got quite a problem on their hands. They don’t have any straightforward truths to offer users, just a flood of vague and often frightening ambiguities. But wherever there’s a gap between what they promise and what they can deliver, 23andme fills it with social media.
David Kushner writes about George "Geohot" Hotz, tracing his early days of building video-game consoles from Radio Shack kits to his successful hacks of the first iPhone and PS3.
The New Yorker: David Kushner - Machine Politics
The next morning, Hotz stood in his parents’ kitchen and hit "Record" on a video camera set up to face him. He had unruly curls and wispy chin stubble, and spoke with a Jersey accent. "Hi, everyone, I’m geohot," he said, referring to his online handle, then whisked an iPhone from his pocket. "This is the world’s first unlocked iPhone."
In response to Taylor Clark at Kotaku, Matthew S. Burns digs into why smart games tend to be the exception and finds a dissonance that surfaces when "good stories" are latched onto psychopathic characters (i.e. your average gun-toting hero).
Magical Wasteland: Matthew S. Burns - Dumbness In Games, Or, The Animal As A System
The dissonance of the Uncharted series is a famous example: the experience implies two completely different worlds. One is where Nathan Drake is an affable hero, and the other is where Drake murders hundreds of fellow human beings and feels nothing. Though the developers took care to paint over the seams where they could, even the cleverest narrative design couldn’t change how completely incongruous that really is, on a basic, fundamental level.
With The Avengers just hitting theaters, GQ profiles Joss Whedon and his years of struggle on TV and film despite millions of fans.
GQ: Alex Pappademas - The Geek Shall Inherit the Earth
As a counterexample, Lindelof points out that no one on The Walking Dead ever says the word "zombie" or brings up George Romero's movies. "I almost feel that's more of a stretch from reality than what Joss was doing. The idea of saying 'Let's have that conversation [in the work itself], let's acknowledge and celebrate the fact that we're creating something new out of old stuff,' was incredibly liberating, I think, for filmmakers of our generation."
Following the release of Errol Morris's film version of the classic A Brief History of Time in 1992, Stephen Hawking recalls his reasons for writing for a broader audience.
The Guardian: Stephen Hawking - From the archive, 1 May 1992: Stephen Hawking reviews film of his best selling book
I wrote my book in the hope of telling a large audience about the progress that was being made in understanding the universe. My aim was to have it sold on airport bookstalls. My agent was polite about this, but he clearly didn’t believe it would happen.
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.