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The Weekender: on starfish, mind games, and 'The Shining'

What to do, see, and read this weekend

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 47th 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

Mejiro Teien Garden, Tokyo

The temperature is dropping, so hold onto the last moments of Autumn by visiting this garden if you can. Located in northern Tokyo, this park lights up on dark evenings, showing off the trees' dying leaves in spectacular color.

Mejiro Teien

Eyeworks Festival of Experimental Animation, Brooklyn

The Eyeworks Festival is all about celebrating unique and unusual approaches to animation. 30 short films will be shown this Sunday, all of which show off some departure from traditional techniques, like, say, using paper cutouts instead of drawings. Don't miss this.

Read this

How to live for a month in virtual reality

Next year, artist Mark Farid plans to spend 28 straight days living someone else's life through virtual reality. It's an ambitious, strange, and potentially dangerous project meant to learn more about identity. We caught up with Farid to discuss how he expects it to go.

In search of the starfish killer: the quest to save the original keystone species

Something mysterious has been killing starfish all along the West Coast, but scientists may finally have figured out what's going on. The trouble is, identifying the starfish's mysterious killer doesn't mean there's going to be a way to stop it.

Why modern music owes a big debt to Japanese video games

It may be a long time since you've listened to them, but the high-pitched bleeps and bloops that made up early video game music have had a huge impact on what we're listening to today. The documentary Diggin’ in the Carts investigates, and we spoke to some of the music fans behind it.

How iPads are making airports less terrible

What if the next airport terminal you visited had restaurants that could automatically recommend food based on what you like and businesses that would deliver purchases to wherever you happen to be sitting? One company is already starting to make this a reality, and it's thanks to a lot of automation and thousands of iPads.

Why goats are the future of gaming

Goat Simulator is the breakout video game hit of the year, and its developer still isn't done messing around. This week, it released Goat MMO Simulator, a bizarre, parody add-on that isn't even an MMO. We spoke with the game's designer about making the cult hit's first expansion.

Good Game

The New Yorker
Ben McGrath profiles Sasha Hostyn, otherwise known as Scarlett, the most accomplished woman playing StarCraft II in the world.

As we continued speaking, it became clear that she credited StarCraft with bringing out her inner extrovert. The teen years were difficult, and included bouts of depression and periods of time that, as she once put it, “I’d rather not remember.” At the start of her pro career, she was terrified at the prospect of standing on a stage, in front of thousands of people. It was a mediated public life, to be sure: in a booth, wearing headphones, enveloped in white noise, eyes transfixed on a screen. But everyone—face to face, at least—had been nothing but warm. “Nowadays, most of my friends are from StarCraft,” she said. “Having to go to all the events, meeting all the fans, talking to a bunch of people—it really opened me up, and it motivated me to become more social, to work on my life. Like, I started exercising now, versus not at all, a few years ago.”


The Secret Life of Passwords

The New York Times
Ian Urbina examines the connections and emotional importance we invest in our passwords.

Yes, I understand why passwords are universally despised: the strains they put on our memory, the endless demand to update them, their sheer number. I hate them, too. But there is more to passwords than their annoyance. In our authorship of them, in the fact that we construct them so that we (and only we) will remember them, they take on secret lives. Many of our passwords are suffused with pathos, mischief, sometimes even poetry. Often they have rich back stories. A motivational mantra, a swipe at the boss, a hidden shrine to a lost love, an inside joke with ourselves, a defining emotional scar — these keepsake passwords, as I came to call them, are like tchotchkes of our inner lives. They derive from anything: Scripture, horoscopes, nicknames, lyrics, book passages. Like a tattoo on a private part of the body, they tend to be intimate, compact and expressive.

The Man Who Made Tetris

Jagger Gravning profiles Alexey Pajitnov, the creator of one of the most enduring games of all time.

Tetris was formally released in June 1984 by the Academy of Sciences, after initially spreading among academics and the computer literate by way of copied floppy disks. As a tile-fitting puzzler, Tetris captivated these members of intelligentsia. After all, here was a game constructed of pristine shapes taken straight from Platonic idealism.

The game was later discovered at the 1988 Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas by Bullet-Proof Software founder H​enk Rogers, who, to make a complicated story brief, ​spread the gospel of the ​tetrominos to a world ripe for fresh addiction. Bullet-Proof released the game in America in 1989. It's estimated the franchise has gone on to sell over 70 million physical copies, plus an estimated 100 million mobile downloads of the game worldwide.

Death Wears Bunny Slippers

Mother Jones
Josh Harkinson hangs out with the workers who, beyond any good sense, guard our missile arsenal.

Indeed, on my first night in town, over beer and bison burgers, Aaron had introduced me to "Brent," another recently former missileer who looks more like a surfer now that his military crew cut is all grown out. Brent lost faith in his leaders early on, he told me, when he saw the way they tolerated, if not encouraged, a culture of cheating. He'd resisted the impulse, he said, and his imperfect test scores disqualified him for promotions. But the worst part of the gig, the guys agreed, might be the stultifying tedium of being stuck in a tiny room all day and night waiting for an order you knew would never come. "Any TV marathon you can stumble upon is good," Brent said. "Even if it's something you hate. It's just that ability to zone out and lose time."

Mind Game

Chris Suellentrop delves into a new game by designer Marc ten Bosch, Miegakure, which tries to depict a fourth dimension in space.

If Miegakure can live up to ten Bosch's ambitions, it will be more than just another brainy diversion—it will be the realization of a century-long intellectual quest. Miegakure does not visualize 4-D space or analogize it to something more familiar. Rather, the game attempts to evoke the experience of an actual, explorable world that includes one additional spatial dimension.

“There certainly isn't a fourth dimension in the way there is in the game,” ten Bosch says. We can't rotate objects so that they appear out of nowhere in the real world or disappear in front of our eyes. But he wants the game to give people the intuition that a fourth spatial dimension might exist. The easiest way to wrap our minds around such a slippery concept, he thinks, is to reach out and touch it.


Play this

Super Smash Bros. for Wii U

Super Smash Bros. for 3DS is an excellent release without question, but playing it on a portable device isn't giving the game a whole lot of room to breathe. Playing it on the Wii U is playing it the right way. In fact, it's more insane than it's ever been, allowing for up to 8 players on the same screen. If you have that many controllers, the next thing you need to do is invite everyone you know over and start playing. It's that simple.

Smash Bros. Wii U Square

Watch this

The Shining

Stanley Kubrick's The Shining happens to be one of the most celebrated horror films ever made. It's also the subject of fascination because Stephen King himself thought it was a failure. Regardless of how if you think Kubrick's cerebral skepticism or Jack Nicholson capture King's vision, this is a classic. Lock the doors, wrap yourself up in a warm blanket, and watch this tonight.