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The Weekender: on comets, cancer, and 'Castlevania'

Everything to do, see, and read this weekend

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Good morning, and welcome back to the Weekender. Our weekend journey is just now starting, so thank you for choosing us for your travels. As you may recall, this was the 42nd week of the year 2014 on the planet known colloquially as Earth, otherwise known as Terra in other inhabited star systems. It was not a quiet week, as you might imagine. Below you'll find your itinerary, carefully crafted for your pleasure; stories from the week passed and recommendations for the days ahead. Now. Please sit back and relax as we take you on a journey through time and space. You might hear a slight buzzing in your ears as we get started.

Do this

Comet Siding Spring, Mars

Sunday will be an historic day for astronomers everywhere. The Comet Siding Spring, first observed in 2013, will fly in and out of Mars' orbit that afternoon — and thanks to an array of spacecraft orbiting the Red Planet, we get a chance to see it happen. The comet will fly within 87,000 miles of the Martian surface, which is closer than the Moon is to Earth so you can imagine how incredible it might look from there. It'll all take place at about 2:28pm ET, and the Slooh telescopes will broadcast the show starting at 2:15pm.


Arts of War, Peabody Museum

The Peabody Museum of Archaeology and Ethnology in Boston is opening a new exhibit focusing on war weaponry this weekend. Arts of War: Artistry in Weapons Across Cultures asks why instruments of war — swords, shields, spears, etc. — are often beautiful and elaborately decorated, especially as compared to tools used in peacetime. You definitely want to check this out.

Sword art

Read this

Meet Chelsea Manning's official portrait artist

Since Chelsea Manning began identifying as a woman, there's only been one photo of her out there: a grainy, black-and-white selfie that was never meant for the public. US law prevents a new photo from being taken, so a support group began working with artists to put together an official portrait to take its place.

Why a messaging app meant for festivals became massively popular during Hong Kong protests

How do you communicate if the internet has been shut down or is heavily censored? Fearing just that, protestors in Hong Kong are turning to FireChat, an app that's let thousands there talk to each other without a connection to the web.

I survived a flight with the Red Bull Air Race

The Red Bull Air Race is the place to be if you want to see some incredibly skilled pilots performing wild maneuvers. The races finally returned this year after a three-year break, and we swung by their stop in Vegas to catch a ride.

Lab-made blood cells hunt cancer, leading to remissions

Using a treatment that reprograms a patient's own cells to fight cancer, researchers have been able to keep 19 out of 30 leukemia patients in remission. And pharmaceuticals are taking note: several big ones are now working on their own technology to replicate this type of technique.

The SIM card is about to die

What's the most interesting tech that Apple unveiled this week? Its new iPads are a good answer, but the real answer may just be the Apple SIM: a special SIM card that lets you switch between carriers with the tap of a button, which could just mean the end of the SIM as we know it.

The Future of the Culture Wars Is Here, and It's Gamergate

Kyle Wagner gives a defining analysis of GamerGate and how it, in all its ugliness, represents the future of culture clashes in America.

There is a reason why, in all the Gamergate rhetoric, you hear the echoes of every other social war staged in the last 30 years: overly politically correct, social-justice warriors, the media elite, gamers are not a monolith. There is also a reason why so much of the rhetoric amounts to a vigorous argument that Being a gamer doesn't mean you're sexist, racist, and stupid—a claim no one is making. Co-opting the language and posture of grievance is how members of a privileged class express their belief that the way they live shouldn't have to change, that their opponents are hypocrites and perhaps even the real oppressors. This is how you get St. Louisans sincerely explaining that Ferguson protestors are the real racists, and how you end up with an organized group of precisely the same video game enthusiasts to whom an entire industry is catering honestly believing that they're an oppressed minority. From this kind of ideological fortification, you can stage absolutely whatever campaigns you deem necessary.

The Real Amazons

The New Yorker
Joshua Rothman digs into the lives and history of Amazons — and not the ones made famous by popular culture.

For a long time, Mayor said, "Most people argued that the Amazons on Greek vases were purely symbolic—that they represented, for example, young women who weren’t yet married." The interpretation has been challenged by "a wealth of archaeological discoveries that show that there were women who behaved like Amazons—who wore the same clothes, who used weapons, who rode horses, and who lived at the same time as the ancient Greeks." It’s now possible to know, in a concrete way, what Amazon life was like.

Amazon woman

Maybe Better If You Don't Read This Story on Public WiFi

Maurits Martijn spends time with a hacker who can casually collect the most sensitive of your information while sitting next to you in a cafe.

Wouter removes his laptop from his backpack, puts the black device on the table, and hides it under a menu. A waitress passes by and we ask for two coffees and the password for the WiFi network. Meanwhile, Wouter switches on his laptop and device, launches some programs, and soon the screen starts to fill with green text lines. It gradually becomes clear that Wouter’s device is connecting to the laptops, smartphones, and tablets of cafe visitors.

World Processor

The Baffler
Jason Silverman considers the plight of the 21st-century office drone, gadget in hand but still trapped in a life of drudgery.

Utopian reveries spill forth almost daily from the oracles of progress, forecasting a transformation of Information Age labor into irrepressible acts of impassioned fun. But we know all too well the painful truth about today’s ordinary work routines: they have become more, not less, routinized, soul-killing, and laden with drudgery. The contrast between the glum reality of cubicle labor and the captivating rhetoric of Internet liberation, which once seemed daft and risible, doesn’t anymore; now it’s only galling.

William Gibson has no idea how the future will see us

Claire L. Evans talks to author William Gibson about the future and his new book The Peripheral.

If there were somehow a way for me to get one body of knowledge from the future—one volume of the great shelf of knowledge of a couple of hundred years from now—I would want to get a history. I would want to get a history book. I would want to know what they think of us. From that, I would be able to infer anything else that I might want to know about the future. The one constant, it seems to me, in looking at how we look at the past, how we have looked at the past before, is that we never see the inhabitants of the past as they saw themselves.

Listen to this

Diplo - Everyday

This track is considerably more chill than the rest of Diplo's oeuvre, and that's completely okay. Tagged with the instructions "rap on this," it sounds like the DJ is waiting for the right act to flow over this dreamy little piece. Maybe that's you.

DJ Quik - The Midnight Life

By the time you hear the banjo on the album's second track, you know you're in for something very weird but very good. DJ Quik's The Midnight Life doesn't play by the West Coast Rap playbook, instead veering off in weird, untried direction while still throwing things back to G-Funk's '90s heyday. With tracks like "Trapped on the Tracks" and "Pet Semetery," you'll be nodding your head all weekend to this.

Play this

Castlevania: Symphony of the Night, Xbox 360

With Halloween right around the corner, this classic could be your new obsession for the season. Symphony of the Night is a Metroidvania-style epic where you play as the enigmatic dhampir Alucard in his quest to bring down the dark lord Dracula. It's deep, complex, offers tons of replay value for the completists, and holds up incredibly after 17 years. IF you've never played this game, you really need to. It's well worth the $10.

Symphony of the Night

Watch this

Dear White People

Justin Simien's Dear White People debuted in theaters this week, and it's probably the single most important film about life in "post-racial" America to see release. Following the lives of a handful of students at the Ivy League stand-in Winchester University, the film deftly explores the meaning of being black as it intersects with class, gender, and sexuality without ever being heavy-handed or over-the-top. It successfully manages to be both funny and poignant, and will leave you even a little unsettled by the end. Really, it's just good. Dear Verge reader: you need to see this film. It's an absolute must.