“You don’t have to speak Italian, it’s completely fine. Non ti preoccupare.”
The fact that my boss couldn’t get through the entire reassurance in English should have been a tip off. But it wasn’t. I accepted the job, an offer almost too good to be true: myself and my first-ever Serious Boyfriend would be working in Italy for a now-defunct government program that sent Italian government officials’ children away from them for a few weeks every summer.
A regular summer camp in most of its programming, we would teach English for three hours total each day. In return, we would be housed, fed, paid, and free to roam the Italian national park where the camp was located. “If you’re working, try to keep it professional, you know. No more than three glasses of wine with lunch,” my future boss—a British man named Peter who sounded like he was kind and handsome—had said on the phone. It was really and truly too much.
Kara Stone makes the games she wants to play. A Toronto-based artist, her primary mediums are interactive films and video games; her first game, Medication, Meditation was a Kill Screen Playlist Pick. Her latest, Sext Adventure, was recently chosen to be showcased at Indiecade.
Users playing Sext Adventure will find themselves sexting with an automated bot. The results of your sexting adventure are entirely up to you—the bot’s responses vary wildly. There is no way to predict the outcome of the game. Sext Adventure was designed to give the bot its own consciousness, personality, and sexuality as players progress. The bot can even reject its sexuality altogether, if it so chooses.
I first played Sext Adventure at a Dames Making Games event, where I was working on my own project. Together with Nadine Lessio, who coded the txtr engine Sext Adventure was built on, Kara had been working on her project all weekend, and everyone was excited to try the demo. When we finally got to test it for ourselves, the room went silent as we hunched over our phones, sexting a bot, the only sounds a few nervous giggles.
Kara aimed to make a game that explores issues of technology, gender, and digital intimacy. She’s part of a growing number of female developers, such as anna anthropy, Zoe Quinn, and merritt kopas, amongst others, who are making video games on their own terms. Their games explore depression and illness, gender and sexuality, feminist issues like objectification and harassment.
Often, these games are maligned by mainstream game press and players as “not-games.” I have no use for that bullshit. These are all video games, and all the more important because people don’t want to see them as such.
I had the chance to speak with Kara at Bento Miso earlier this month. We talked about gaming, gender, sex, mental health, and exactly what qualifies as a game.
My family has many unwritten rules. The second most important is: do not open the door if the doorbell rings only once. In our family, if the doorbell only rings once, you were either a salesperson or a canvasser. And salespersons and canvassers are liars and thieves.
My mother came to this conclusion shortly after she first immigrated to Canada; two scam artists pretending to work for the government tried to enter our home. Looking back, this is probably why I couldn’t make it as a (sort of) con artist, selling chocolates on the mean streets of southwestern Ontario.
Over the past few years, an aesthetic we like to call “snackwave” has trickled up from Tumblr dashboards. Now a part of mainstream culture, snackwave is everywhere: it’s printed on American Apparel clothes and seen in Katy Perry music videos. It’s the antithesis to kale-ridden health food culture and the rise of Pinterest-worthy twee cupcake recipes. It’s the wording in your Instagram handle, a playful cheeseburger selfie, Jennifer Lawrence announcing on the red carpet that she’s hungry for a pizza. In snackwave world, everyone is Claudia Kishi, and your junk food drawer is also your blog.
What we’ve written here is merely a guide to understanding the rise of this very Internet 3.0-specific aesthetic. Snackwave is no longer a lowbrow joke bonding tweens across Twitter feeds and Tumblr blogs. It’s being co-opted by corporate Twitter accounts and fashion companies, both of whom are seeking to talk just like their ‘net-savvy young consumers.
Both of us are very much a part of this scene—in fact, we’ve got McDonald’s Sweet ‘n Sour sauce IVs hooked up to our veins right now. We know snackwave inside and out. So grab a bag of Funyuns, a sleeve of Oreos, and get ready to ride the snackwave.
Whitman College, the gem of a small private liberal arts school in Walla Walla, Washington, has long been a mainstay of the Colleges That Change Lives lineup, along with schools like Antioch, Cornell and Marlboro. Whitman is an excellent, beautiful, and fairly safe college that students are lucky to attend. If you are applying there now, it just might be the right fit for you.
The school is also now in the middle of a search for a new president. At the same time, the college is being strangled by a long-serving, insular and controlling board of trustees, a weak and poorly rated president who inspired a faculty revolt, and an intentionally toothless board of overseers, mostly alumni. The school has turned its back on needs-blind admissions and on any reasonable commitment to diversity. Because of this, the school has gotten its comeuppance in a New York Times analysis of private schools that places the college absolutely dead last in terms of economic diversity.
This ranking was no accident. This was Whitman’s goal. An analysis of the school’s common data set from 2001 to 2013 shows how they did it.
You can see two things here. In blue is the number of incoming freshmen that applied for need-based financial aid and were also judged to be in need each year. Back in the previous decade, the school was attempting to join the club of colleges that practiced “need-blind” admissions. In 2010, the school moved to describe itself as “need-sensitive.” The number of students who required financial aid was, on the whole, steadily growing. In 2011 and 2012, the school admitted fewer students who needed financial aid to attend college—and increased aid to students without need.
In red is the number of those students who had their need met at 100 percent. (The other students had their need met partially—often substantially.) In 2007, 81 percent of students with financial need had their need fully met. In 2013, only 53 percent did.
Have you ever heard of “the pit of despair?” It’s the device noted psychologist/monkey sadist Harry Harlow invented; he put baby rhesus macaques in said pit of despair as an attempt to manufacture clinical depression. They were dark, isolated chambers, and after a few days inside, the monkeys stopped moving. Monkeys removed from the pit of despair after one month were deeply disturbed and anti-social.
Ever since learning about the pit of despair, that’s what I’ve called the worst of my depression. I am basically an immobile baby monkey alone in the dark. Simple, forward progress, like going outside or calling my mother, seems impossible. Instead, I spend my time in the pit thinking of new solutions to my inertia, sadness, and disdain for hygiene. To wit:
People drop things on the Internet and run all the time. So we have to ask. In this edition, New York Times technology writer Farhad Manjoo tells us more about what happens when you have a hi-tech electronic garbage can that keeps breaking.
Almost everything in my house is automatic/electronic in some way. But after three infrared-enabled automatic kitchen trash cans I’m done.
— Farhad Manjoo (@fmanjoo) August 25, 2014
Farhad! So what happened here?
I use machines for everything. I’m that kind of guy. I cook sous vide, I’ve got a Japanese bidet toilet with heated seats, my soap dispenser is automatic, and my plants are watered on a very precise timer. So when I have some garbage to throw away, you can bet I’m not going to bother with jamming on a pedal to open up some dirty, germ-laden trash vessel, like the way they used to do in medieval times. Nope, no manual labor for me, no sir. When I get home after a long day of typing words, my hands laden with trash, I want a machine to react to my very proximate presence, to open up like Ali Baba’s cave, a gaping, infrared-enabled maw just begging for my trash.
INT. OFFICE — DAY
In the gleaming, unblemished offices of an internet media company, located in a revitalized industrial district now home to seed-funded start-ups, dozens of young people sit in front of computers. The computers seem angry; the office looks like the inside of a soda can. A calendar reads “August 15.”
DEREK sits in front of one of these computers. He’s wearing a collared shirt and jeans. He tried to wear a denim jacket once, but he felt like a cowboy, in a bad way.
Derek is talking to GWYN, who he would like to sleep with, but also respects, as a person.
DEREK: It’s horrible. GWYN: Yeah. DEREK: It’s all so horrible. GWYN: Yeah. DEREK: The Internet is like a garbage can. GWYN: I guess so. DEREK: I feel like I’m always putting garbage in a garbage can. GWYN: I’m going to go get Sun Chips. DEREK: Can you grab me a seltzer? GWYN: Sure.
Gwyn leaves. Derek turns to face his computer. TweetDeck blinks back at him.