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The best writing of the week, February 17

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 Dan Harmon

Alex Pappademas spends some time with Community creator Dan Harmon and explores the weird pseudo-standup world of Harmontown that he's been focused on since being fired from the show last year.

Grantland: Alex Pappedamas - God Needs a Hobby

Every character represented a facet of his personality; every episode was packed with callbacks and homages and fractalized sub-references aimed at people who, like him, had been warped and saved by pop culture at an early age. And he wanted us to know he was doing this. He didn't just want the attention that came from blogging, tweeting, Reddit-ing, and annotating every episode for the A.V. Club — he seemed to need it, for reasons deeper than ego or vanity. He wanted to be out there in direct communication with the small but passionate group of people who liked his TV show because he wanted to connect.

On the hoodie

Using Mark Zuckerberg's awkward on-stage D8 interview in 2010 as a starting point, Tim Maly explores the cultural history of the hoodie from the 1930s to the networked age.

Quiet Babylon: Tim Maly - Mark Zuckerberg's Hoodie

The first hoodies, they say, were manufactured by Champion Products in the 1930s. They were designed for athletes and labourers. It was the result of a technological advancement; Champion had developed ways to sew thicker underwear material. Before that, they’d mostly made knitwear. The first hoodies were sold to cold-storage warehouse workers and tree surgeons working in the hinterlands. Then they were sold to school athletes, sitting on the sidelines in inclement weather.

On strangers

Adrian Chen remembers the internet of just a few years ago that wasn't as obsessed with real identities and how Facebook's view favors friends over strangers.

The New Inquiry: Adrian Chen - Don’t Be a Stranger

When someone asks me how I know someone and I say "the Internet," there is often a subtle pause, as if I had revealed we’d met through a benign but vaguely kinky hobby, like glassblowing class, maybe. The first generation of digital natives are coming of age, but two strangers meeting online is still suspicious (with the exception of dating sites, whose bare utility has blunted most stigma). What’s more, online venues that encourage strangers to form lasting friendships are dying out. Forums and emailing are being replaced by Facebook, which was built on the premise that people would rather carefully populate their online life with just a handful of "real" friends and shut out all the trolls, stalkers, and scammers. Now that distrust of online strangers is embedded in the code of our most popular social network, it is becoming increasingly unlikely for people to interact with anyone online they don’t already know.

On 'Dead Space 3'

Tom Bissell reviews the latest entry in the Dead Space series, and explains why he always plays video games on "Hard."

Grantland: Tom Bissell - Dead Space 3: Are Necromorphs Thetans?

You plot out a defensive strategy, figure out which corner you'll retreat to in a pinch, anticipate which weapon you'll use on which enemy, say a prayer to the god of Necromorphancy, grab your goddamned fuel cell (or whatever), and furrow your brow as the incoming monsters roar with glee. When they come, there are always too many monsters. Not too too many, not overwhelmingly too many, but objectively too many, like four or five too many.

On online dating

Reviewing new books on online dating by Dan Slater and Amy Webb, Ann Friedman talks about virtual love's winners and losers, and schemers and gamers.

New Republic: Ann Friedman - Cupid's Cursor

Like most promises of the digital era, online dating hasn’t exploded all of the old norms so much as reinforced many and twisted the rest. Perhaps the paradoxical exclusivity of online dating is at the heart of why we’re still so ambivalent about collectively embracing it. In theory, online dating opens infinite doors; in practice, it works by limiting potential mates with the type of discriminating filters most of us would be far too bashful or polite to apply in real life.

On 'Pulp Fiction'

Mark Seal's fantastic oral history of Pulp Fiction tells the story of Tarantino's breakout film, how the Weinsteins competed with Forrest Gump, and the infamous adrenaline shot scene.

Vanity Fair: Mark Seal - Cinema Tarantino: The Making of Pulp Fiction

Tarantino cast Tim Roth and Amanda Plummer, who were friends, as Pumpkin and Honey Bunny, a pair of restaurant robbers. "Their size, their look, their energy, everything about them made me want to use them together," Tarantino has said. He told another friend, Eric Stoltz, "There are two parts you can do, and they both wear bathrobes." Stoltz chose the role of Lance, a heroin dealer. Tarantino played the other part himself.

On 'Monopoly'

Finally, the 'Monopoly' iron says goodbye.

McSweeney's: Kate Hahn - A FAREWELL SPEECH FROM THE MONOPOLY IRON.

At my less heated, I have pressed flowers between two sheets of wax paper. Keepsakes. Memories. Standard Oil. AT&T. That’s all I will be now. A faded bloom from a lost summer, the blazing hot season of American ambition and domination.

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.

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