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By Christopher Schonberger

It’s hard enough to keep up with the 24-hour news cycle these days, let alone the preponderance of long features that you start out reading energetically but then turn the page to find there are 10 more pages. Now’s the time to get to the end, though—Friday afternoon is the perfect opportunity to pretend your “tying up loose ends for the weekend” while getting deep into an article that will not only be interesting, but also provide you with ‘nuff conversation ammunition for Saturday night. Here are my top five features from the past couple weeks. Hopefully at least one is up your alley.

1) “Everybody Sucks: Gawker and the rage of the underclass,” by Vanessa Grigoriadis – This New York Magazine exposé takes a look at the psychology of Gawker offices, explores the site’s influence on the blogosphere, and wonders whether we’ve truly hit a cultural nadir. [Extra: In a sharp blog post of his own, Nick Denton—the man behind the Gawker empire—offers his response].

2) “A Paler Shade of White,” by Sasha Frere-Jones – New Yorker music critic Sasha Frere-Jones suggests that indie rock has lost its soul by basically becoming too white. [Extra: Responses from The Village Voice and Slate].

3) “What the F@#!: Why We Curse,” by Steven Pinker – In an intriguing (and at times pretty amusing) piece for The New Republic, Pinker discusses the psychology, neuroscience, and cultural significance of our swearing patterns. It’s f@#ing brilliant!

4) “Stealing Life,” by Margaret Talbot – For those who haven’t seen it, HBO’s The Wire is one of the most critically acclaimed TV series in recent years. This New Yorker profile delves into the mind of David Simon, the genius behind the show’s gritty portrayal of Baltimore.

5) “The Search for the Cure: A quest for the superlative American Ham,” by David S. Shields – If you like culinary history and food writing, this is a cracking read. It covers the origins of the modern ham, curing techniques, and even an amazing poem about the preeminence of Maryland ham. [via Common-Place.org]

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