Let RKS remind you what live music is supposed to be.
One day you're listening to your usual assortment of experimental synth music and whale noises, maybe a little Kero Kero Bonito if it's sunny out.
In a good mood, you decide to branch out, and a song comes on your discover weekly that you don't recognize. You bob your head along to the beat, and wonder who the band is, thinking they must be deliciously obscure. You reach for your phone to save the track, and recoil at the glitter-sprinkled name: Rainbow Kitten Surprise. The name sounds distinctly like the name of your seven-year-old niece's Guitar Hero band, but you find that in reality it refers to a group of hairy men from Boone, North Carolina who play an amalgamation of indie and folk rock. Even worse than their name, they have millions of plays. They're popular and kitschy and unacceptable for someone like you who only shops at organic co-ops in your vintage Doc Martens. You move on to the next song.
A week or so later, you're in a Williamsburg bar that you have to enter through a secret fake refrigerator door, and the bartender plays a song, and, liking it, you ask who the band is. They tell you. It's Rainbow Kitten Surprise. You throw your drink at the bartender and walk out in disgust. But on your way home to your Bushwick loft you hesitantly search the band's name on Spotify. But you think, What if someone sees my Spotify? Should I risk it?
But you do, and soon, with enough exposure, you find yourself willing to ignore the band name in exchange for more of Sam Melo's distinctive, folk-rock voice. You start to recognize the exceptional quality of the bass lines and the burningly poignant, playful lyrics that characterize nearly every song. No, they don't have much edge, in fact, they're often persistently uplifting. You keep your new passion to yourself for awhile, sure that it's just a neurological blip. A music aficionado like yourself would never like a band with such a gimmicky name and earnest vibe. You liked Billie Eilish before she was big, dammit, you read Pitchfork like the Bible, and you proudly tell people at parties that your favorite band is Deerhunter. You once said, "Die Antwoord is too mainstream for me," and meant it. How can you love Rainbow Kitten Surprise?
But soon, your roommate knows the words to "Goodnight Chicago" just from hearing it through your bedroom wall. You semi-seriously consider getting lyrics from "First Class" tattooed somewhere hidden on your body, just for you to see. You begin to mention the band hesitantly to strangers, maybe even a few close friends at the anarchist bookstore you frequent, and find you aren't alone in your devotion. You begin to believe the joyfully meaningless name is the perfect, thoughtless collection of words to describe the genre defying band. Afterall, they don't abide by the structural or sonic rules that govern most of the label-made music that tops modern charts. You start to feel strongly that they're a band in the way so many bands don't feel like bands anymore: you can hear the spontaneity of ideas from rehearsal in every song; every track evolves unexpectedly, and every musician is audible, present, and indispensable, singing loud backup vocals and allowing instruments to compete with and complement the lead vocals.
By Matthew Salacuse
Flash forward, three months. You bought tickets for the "How to: Friend, Love, Freefall" tour and pushed your way through the crowd until you're right up against the stage. You're openly weeping as Ethan Goodpastor leans towards you as he shreds the intro to "Devil Like Me." Your kitten ears are firmly clipped into your hair, your t-shirt proudly displays the band name that you once questioned, but has become a part of your musical identity. You proudly post pic after pic of Sam Melo's energetic, bizarre dance moves on your Instagram story. The concert is a transcendent experience that leaves you full of energy for days to follow. They play their classic hits but they also cover their new album — debatably their best yet — and every band member is visibly enjoying themselves as much as the crowd. When Darrick "Bozzy" Keller joins Sam Melo on vocals and the two lean together, eyes locked, you wonder if this is your peak, if you'll exist forever in this moment, watching lights play through Melo's magnificent beard. Watching them perform, you think of how they exist as an antithesis to bands like Maroon 5, that churn out songs that are overplayed after one spin. Rainbow Kitten Surprise lets songs fall from their fingers in whatever weird and wonderful way they happen to emerge, ultimately reminding their audience what live music is supposed to feel like.
At this point in your obsession, you've even stopped exclusively referring to the band as RKS, instead, you proudly say their full, glorious name. In fact, you shout it at the top of your lungs as Hammerstein Ballroom finally goes dark and the band exits the stage to frantic screams for an encore: Rainbow Kitten Surprise, mother fucker.
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It was an inside job.
TW: This article contains references to sexual assault and abuse.
Let's get one thing straight: Jeffrey Epstein didn't kill himself.
According to official reports helmed by top medical examiner Dr. Barbara Sampson, Epstein hanged himself in his cell—but later medical reports suggested that his injuries resembled those of a homicide more than a suicide. When Epstein died, he had been removed from suicide watch, left alone and not checked on for hours because the two guards assigned to watch him were "sleeping," and, conveniently, the cameras outside his cell "malfunctioned." Recently, a former Navy SEAL went on Fox News and blurted out, "Jeffrey Epstein didn't kill himself."
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Porn videos games and video game themed porn are suddenly on the rise.
One of the biggest things that sets Millenials and Gen Z apart from previous generations is their relationship with technology, a common critique being that video games have replaced real life for many young people, particularly young men.
It's true that many 20-and-30-somethings began playing video games when their brains were still malleable.This was before psychologists began raising concerns about the effect it may have on the brain, concerns that are now backed by a mountain of evidence. Frequent video game playing has been connected to a myriad of issues, including decreased life satisfaction, loneliness, decreased social competence, poorer academic achievement, increased impulsivity, increased aggression, and increased depression and anxiety.
These concerns have only been further highlighted in cultural conversation by the sheer number of people who play video games: 67% of Americans, to be exact, a number that has grown exponentially in recent years. Perhaps even more startling, according to Pew Research Center, 72% of men younger than 30 report playing games often. Scariest of all, Douglas Gentile, a psychologist who's been studying the effect of video games on the brain for decades, estimates that roughly 8.5% percent of young people who play video games in the United States are addicted — not including the number of people who are inevitably underreporting how much time they spend playing.
There's also plenty of evidence that video games can be a positive thing for brain development. According to Psychology Today, playing video games can help children develop "perception, attention, memory, and decision-making," as well as "logical, literary, executive, and even social skills."
But regardless of what side of the evidence you choose to believe, there's a new factor to consider in the conversation about video games' psychological effects: their relationship to porn. Most notably, according to a study by Laura Stockdale and Sarah M.Coyneif, playing an excessive amount of video games greatly raises your chances of becoming addicted to porn, and, likely, vice versa. This is because both sources of stimulus, primarily visual and aural, affect the same pleasure center in the brain, specifically the ventral striatum which helps elicit the good feelings you get when you do something good, can be done in the same environment (alone, in a technologically connected room), and are both sources of immediate satisfaction and escapism.
Prominent Stanford University psychologist, Phillip Zimbardo, conducted an in-depth study into 20,000 young men's relationships with video games and pornography. He said of the experiment: "Our focus is on young men who play video games to excess, and do it in social isolation - they are alone in their room. Now, with freely available pornography, which is unique in history, they are combining playing video games, and as a break, watching on average, two hours of pornography a week." He goes on to say, "It begins to change brain function. It begins to change the reward centre of the brain and produces a kind of excitement and addiction. Young men -- who play video games and use porn the most -- are being digitally rewired in a totally new way that demands constant stimulation. And those delicate, developing brains are being catered to by video games and porn-on-demand, with a click of the mouse, in endless variety."
As these commingled addictions develop, they soon (similarly to drug addictions) require greater and greater degrees of stimulation to get that same chemical release. But since these two addictions seem to affect similar demographics and often coincide with one another disproportionately, there's something that sets them apart from other forms of addiction. According to Zimbardo, porn and video game addictions are "arousal addictions," which differ from drug and gambling addictions in that the attraction is in "the novelty, the variety or the surprise factor of the content." So while drug addicts need increasing amounts of a substance to get high, they still crave the same substance over and over, while arousal addicts need an increasing intensity and variety of stimuli, as well as more and more.
This leads to a desire for increasingly intense stimuli, leading addicts to more violent and bizarre video games and porn in pursuit of novelty. Fascinatingly, and perhaps disturbingly, while these addictions are interwoven, they used to require separate stimuli to satiate — but even that's changing. In an inevitable progression, the two addictions have begun to seamlessly merge in the form of pornographic video games and video game-themed porn, allowing an addict to satiate both needs simultaneously, setting off a veritable fireworks display of dopamine responses — at least until the viewer becomes desensitized. For example, Fortnite-inspired porn is apparently so widely consumed that "Fortnite" was one of the top 20 most-searched terms on Pornhub in 2018, and in 2016, when Overwatch rose to popularity, searches for Overwatch porn jumped by 817% in a matter of months.
Perhaps even more distressing is the advent of porn video games, where players take an active role in the plot of the explicit content they're viewing, perfectly intermingling the already connected addictions. While some of these games show consensual sexual intercourse, many do not. For example, RapeLay, produced in Japan, is a game where a player plays as a disembodied penis to simulate rape of a woman and her child daughters over and over again. There was a massive outcry against the game when it was released, ultimately causing Amazon to stop selling it — but not before millions and millions of people purchased the game.
As an article on the topic in Men's Health points out, this trend of combining two similar and symbiotic addictions is understandable as video games already often feature hyper-sexualized characters, porn is being watched more and more on video game consoles, and animated porn allows for a level of fantasy live-action porn can't reach. If your brain is lighting up in a similar way when you play video games and when you watch porn, of course you'll begin associating the two. Throw in the feeling of power that comes with having control over the results of the stimuli, as a player does in porn video games, and you have a perfect chemical spider web, one that ensnares young men in an endless and isolating cycle of escape.
There are legitimate physical issues that can result from addictions of this kind. There's evidence that it can lead to debilitating sexual dysfunction in young men, called porn-induced erectile dysfunction (PIED), a term coined by Dr. Abraham Morgentaler, an associate clinical professor of urology at Harvard Medical School — an affliction that can get worse as a video game addiction feeds off a porn addiction in a vicious cycle of dopamine release. Many doctors are reporting that more young men than ever before are coming to them with ED, and they think the cause is, at least in part, because of this rise in virtual escapism in young men. "I have absolutely seen a pretty drastic increase in ED rates among young men, especially in the last two, three years," says sex therapist Vanessa Marin. "My average client base is starting to get younger and younger."
Even more troublingly, Zimbardo concludes that the effects go even deeper, and that this toxic combination creates a "generation of risk-averse guys who are unable (and unwilling) to navigate the complexities and risks inherent to real-life relationships, school and employment." Of course, this estimation doesn't take into account countless other factors at play in the lives of young men, not to mention the risk that comes with shaming people for sexual exploration. As Dr. Marin goes on to say, "We're not having any conversations about what are healthy ways to engage in porn. So no one has a general sense of what's healthy and unhealthy when it comes to porn. And of course it's not black and white either, but I do see a lot of younger men engaging in porn in ways that aren't healthy, in ways that make it more difficult for them to connect with partners and make it more difficult to engage in their own healthy sexuality."
Perhaps the same can be said of video games, that are treated dismissively by parents, as a quirk of young men that should be, for the most part, discouraged until outgrown. Perhaps, the culturally polarized narrative surrounding video games and porn is part of the problem, and the conversation we need to be having is how young men can indulge in video games and explore their sexuality, without the shame that can often foster addiction — and without letting it consume their lives.
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