The Weekender: Thanksgiving Weekend edition

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 48th 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

Pterosaurs: Flight in the Age of Dinosaurs, American Museum of Natural History

Since the first official Jurassic World trailer premiered this week, we have dinosaurs on the mind. The American Museum of Natural History is currently showcasing an exhibit on pterosaurs, 150 species of flying reptiles that lived alongside raptors and T-Rexes.

LA Auto Show

This weekend is the final weekend for the LA Auto Show out in Los Angeles, so it's your last chance to see the crazy concept cars the big automakers are dreaming up. We've already seen Honda's fuel cell car and Android Auto. Go see them for yourself.

Read this

The Supreme Court is about to tackle online threats for the first time

On Monday, the Supreme Court will begin to decide a case that could have huge implications for speech on the internet by defining what really constitutes a threat. There are many ways that the court could go, each of which will have big implications for protecting free speech and prosecuting harassment.

How video game remakes do retro right and wrong

Classic video games rarely look as good as you remember, and that's a huge problem for remakes: they have to recreate how the game played in your memory, make it way more beautiful, and do so without changing too much in the process. We spoke part of the team behind the new Halo remake about how they pulled it all off.

The strange world of computer-generated novels

You've probably heard of the phenomenon that is National Novel Writing Month, but now it's time to meet the newest hit: National Novel Generation Month. Since last year, programmers have been spending November trying to write code that can put together a 50,000-word novel for them — and its off a some strange and somewhat-readable start.

What the 'Star Wars: The Force Awakens' trailer tells us about the galaxy's future

There are a lot of interesting details in the first trailer for the The Force Awakens, but one of them is most important: J.J. Abrams is bringing mystery back to the Star Wars universe, and that's a really good sign.

The designers behind the Nike FuelBand are working on old-school watches

If you were to place a bet on the future of wearables, odds are good that your cash would not go toward a line of ordinary wristwatches. Don’t tell that to Astro Studios, though. The prolific San Francisco-based branding and design firm has helped meld a variety of high-tech products ranging from Sol Republic headphones and the Xbox 360 to the awesome-looking (but ultimately unsuccessful) Boxee Box. Now, it’s turning its attention to a line of regular, plain-old watches.

Is Internet Addiction a Real Thing?

The New Yorker
Maria Konnikova delves into the science of behaviorial addiction to better understand whether or not internet addiction really is a widespread problem.

The Internet, after all, is a medium, not an activity in and of itself. If you spend your time gambling online, maybe you have a gambling addiction, not an Internet addiction. If you spend your time shopping online, maybe it’s a shopping addiction. "Some people have posited that the Internet is a vehicle and not a target of disorder," Potenza said. Can you be addicted to a longing for virtual connectivity in the same way that you can be addicted to a longing for a drink?

The Art of Not Dying

Daniel Oberhaus interview Dr. Max More, CEO of Alcor Life Extension Foundation, about how to preserve life after being frozen.

Cryonics is especially hard to convey because it's complicated. You've got to look at the evidence for it and you've got to think about death, which is very uncomfortable to many people. What's worse is that we don't give you a nice, comforting answer. We don't say, like a religion, "Oh, sign up with us and we guarantee we'll bring you back." That's dishonest, we can't guarantee that. It depends on how well preserved you were in the first place and we can't really guarantee the technology that will be developed. There are a lot of uncertainties and we've got a contract that has pages of uncertainties, trying to tell people how it could go wrong, basically. People don't want that. They want to be sure they’re definitely going to make it or to be sure they're not, so they can kind of adjust their thinking to that.

Numbing the Imagination

Jonathan Romney argues for how CGI has diluted the magic in filmmaking and how that magic can be returned.

With digital spectacle now so prevalent, it is less likely to impress. Each year, the studios visibly strain to ignite ever more dazzling CGI firecrackers to attract young target audiences. The commercial imperative is to make it better, more novel, more thrilling – or, failing that, just bigger. Viewers might justifiably feel jaded when exposed to the same sights over and again, with ever more coercive intensity. Writing on the website in May, the US critic Matt Zoller Seitz lamented ‘the enervating sight of huge things crashing into other huge things’. Blockbusters, such as Man of Steel (2013) and Pacific Rim (2013), operate to a formula of permanent apocalypse, routinely, repetitively, staging the massive total destruction of cities and spaceships.

Smile, You're Speaking Emoji

New York Magazine
Adam Sternbergh considers the ubiquity of emoji.

Emoji can somewhat magically function as pictograms and ideograms at the same time. The most straightforward example is the Eggplant emoji. On one level, it looks like an eggplant and can be used to communicate "eggplant." On another level, it looks (kind of) like a penis and can be used to communicate all manner of lascivious intent, especially when combined with a peach. As Jenna Wortham, a New York Times technology reporter, wrote in an essay about emoji for Womanzine’s emoji issue, they "have become an ever-evolving cryptographic language that changes depending on who we are talking to, and when." In short, emoji are a secret code language made up of symbols that everyone already intuitively understands.

The Next Era of Designers Will Use Data as Their Medium

Mark Rolston talks about the future of design and its necessary reliance on raw data.

Design has been focused on the surfaces of computing, rendering pixels on screens. But now data is becoming an articulate medium of design, in its own right. Current design talent isn’t yet cut out for this. We need a new role with new skills: the Data Designer. Their medium is the shape, movement, transformation, and meaning of data. They turn data into information into knowledge. They help deliver a world where interfaces get out of the way and allow people to live more naturally, spending less time with machines and more on life itself.

Listen to this

Frank Ocean - memrise

The sophomore followup to Frank Ocean's 2012 album Channel Orange is already highly anticipated. This week, the R&B crooner teased a track that might appear on the record with "Memrise." The track sounds unfinished, but it's definitely in the same zone as his first effort. Have a listen.

How To Dress Well - You and I Are the Same

This spacey mix smashes together a youthful vlog entry with The Microphones, FKA twigs, and Dej Loaf. That sounds truly bizarre, but the upbeat track makes it work in a truly unexpected, wonderful way. You need to hear this.

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Kingdom Rush Origins - Cross-Platform

The Kingdom Rush series has long been the pinnacle of tower defense games, and the latest installment, Kingdom Rush Origins, is yet another fine entry in the genre. As ever, you get four kinds of towers to choose from, but here you also get new powers, earned from the enemies you've defeated. While you're recovering from family and food, this will help you while away a few hours before Monday rolls around.

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Star Wars Rebels

By now you've already seen the Star Wars: The Force Awakens trailer a thousand times. But if you're not watching Star Wars Rebels, you should start now. It's another excellent look at the years following the fall of the Old Republic, it manages to expand on what made A New Hope great while still being respectful to what came before. You might already be watching all six movies to prepare for next year, but you should definitely make a stop here if you haven't yet.

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