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I’m raising my child gender-neutral, and what I’ve learned is: It’s not enough.

When I prepared to become a parent for the first time in 2005, I was staunchly committed to raising my tiny new human in the most gender-neutral of ways.

We had opted to not learn his biological sex prior to his arrival, and registered for green and yellow baby items, avoiding the stereotypical pink and blue at all costs. We declared that he would have access to all the colors, toys, and activities regardless of where they fell among societal gender norms. 12 years later, that child is an articulate, sensitive man-cub who is on the cusp of navigating gender and sexuality for himself for the first time. (Godspeed, kiddo).

My second child, however, has been different. I raised both my kids gender-neutral, but Nova has embraced that in its full meaning, shunning gendered pronouns and styles in favor of being just, well, Nova.

I’ve done a lot of growing and learning and evolving myself in both my parenting and politics along the way. In the past few years, what I’ve begun to realize is that, in many circumstances, these attempts at gender-neutral parenting may not be quite enough. In fact, I’ve been catapulted from gender-neutral parenting and have landed on a call to action to break down the gender binary altogether.

In the first few years of life, Nova was just Nova.

Gender wasn’t exactly high on my list of concerns when it came to raising them. At 5 years old, my kid already has lived and lost more than many folks do in their lifetimes.

Photo by Ashlee Dean Wells.

From a complicated pregnancy and surviving the death of their identical twin, to arriving 16 weeks premature and weighing only 1 pound, it’s fair to say that Nova has been fighting an uphill battle from the start. They continue to slay every obstacle in their path, but still, as a person living with special needs and permanent disabilities, there is a lot of autonomy they are forced to relinquish on a daily basis. I didn’t want to make gender another choice that Nova didn’t get to make for themselves.

Initially we used she/her pronouns, and I put a dress on them every so often, but their gender still wasn’t a “thing.” We navigated our life and appointments, clothing, toys, and activities in our typical neutral way while defaulting to “girl” here and there. Around their 3rd birthday, however, along with an explosion of language and autonomy, came clear preferences that required more attention. They requested a new haircut that involved the word “bald” and refused to wear a dress “ever again.” Along with an even more androgynous appearance, new conversations and trends in responses from our greater world began to emerge.

Seeing people react to and interact with Nova has taught me a lot about gender in the wider world.

In medical, social, and educational settings, I began to notice how differently people treated Nova when they assumed they were a boy versus when they assumed they were a girl. When Nova was assumed a boy, they were called “strong, brave, smart, funny.” When Nova was assumed a girl, they were called “sweet, delicate, cute, kind.” Different dialogue ensued, different opportunities were presented, there were different responses to behavior, and it was both fascinating and unsettling at the same time.

It wasn’t just adults though. Among children, Nova was often asked by other youth if they were a boy or a girl, to which Nova would (and still will) respond, “I’m a Nova!” or “I’m a human!” When given this response, often, people of any age turn to me or another parent and ask again, “Is Nova a boy or a girl?” To which we default back to Nova.

What surprised me is how frustrated and confused people are by Nova’s desire to be recognized free of gender.

I have watched adult humans grow visibility annoyed and have had multiple people tell me that they simply don’t know how to talk to Nova without first knowing their gender.

Photo by Ashlee Dean Wells.

It has been proven repeatedly that we treat even infants differently based on our assumptions of their gender, but it’s baffling that the gender binary, norms, and expectations have such a stronghold on so many of us that we literally cannot communicate without their constructs.

Why is this?

I don’t have all the answers, and whatever they are, the answers are admittedly controversial and complex. What I do know, however, is that my household is one with a foundation of respect. The arbitrary concepts of gender are still beyond Nova’s grasp, but with so much in their life out of their control, this seems like such an obvious and simple way we can choose to honor who they are. As they grow, develop, and mature, we will continue to respect the ways in which they evolve and identify regardless of who they grow to be.

Over the past few months, there has been a natural progression of language in our home to refer to Nova with the non-binary/neutral pronouns, they/them, because language matters. Because by choosing or using female pronouns for them based on their genitalia and nothing else, we ARE gendering Nova and contributing to the binary ways in which others see and respond to them, even if our goal is to remain gender neutral.

I’ll be the first to admit that I don’t know where we go from here.

However, I do know that Nova has broken down the binary for me in such a simple way that I can’t pull myself back to it. In doing so, I’m not calling for a total elimination of gender, but rather an acknowledgment that neutrality may not be enough if our thinking is still rooted in a patriarchal binary that not everyone fits into.

Society may not yet be post-gender, but our home can easily be.

This story originally appeared in ravishly and is reprinted here with permission.

Read more: http://www.upworthy.com/i-m-raising-my-child-gender-neutral-and-what-i-ve-learned-is-it-s-not-enough

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Gloria Steinem protesting porn site pop-up shop: ‘Pornhub is a hub of violence’

Pornhub has opened up a pop-up shop in New York City, where patrons can buy promotional merchandise and sex toys, or even put on a show for the site’s homepage. Running through Dec. 20, the store might appear to be all fun and games, but feminist Gloria Steinem has called the brick and mortar location a tactic to further promote sexual violence.

Speaking at a Pornhub pop-up shop protest on Friday morning, Steinem and tens of other activists called for New Yorkers to boycott the shop, arguing that Pornhub promotes racism, incest, sexual violence, and rape. Situated next to the shop at 70 Wooster St. in Soho, Steinem called the company a hub of violence and a danger to women.

“It is a hub that, in this moment of consciousness that is engulfing this country now, we must realize is the source of the poison that is in our system,” Steinem said, the New York Daily News reported.

Steinem said that erotica is healthy but that mainstream porn was not healthy erotica, arguing that Pornhub normalizes the degradation of girls and women.

According to Refinery29, Pornhub hopes its first pop-up helps to bring the brand into the mainstream and solidify it as a “normal” lifestyle brand. However, Sonia Ossorio, the National Organization for Women’s New York chapter president, says she wants to make sure it doesn’t become a permanent store, and she called on city leaders to prevent Pornhub pop-ups in the future.

“Pornhub sells the idea of sexual abuse of children, Pornhub sells racist slurs and stereotypes,” Ossorio said, according to CBS New York.

After the protest’s press conference, Steinem and others marched into the store chanting, “Pornhub sells sexual violence,” as the feminist icon asked a store worker why the store was selling handcuffs and how those handcuffs were related to free will, democracy, or independent equality.

In an opinion piece for HuffPost, Taina Bien-Aime, executive director of the Coalition Against Trafficking in Women, argued that a physical store for Pornhub will help groom a new generation of sexual predators, and she wrote that while Pornhub is selling toys and clothing, the company is only concerned with increasing viewership.

“Pornhub isn’t peddling fun sex or erotica. It is masterfully marketing itself in a corporate push to increase viewership on one of the vilest porn sites on the internet,” Bien-Aime wrote. “That Pornhub broadcasts its grotesque fare on the internet is for us to address as a global community. For it to hang a shingle on charming cobblestoned streets to groom the next generation of sexual predators is something New Yorkers must fight.”

H/T New York Daily News

Read more: https://www.dailydot.com/irl/pornhub-pop-up-gloria-steinem/

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102-Year-Old Christmas List From 7-Year-Old Proves How Materialistic Our Kids Are Today

The last time I created a Christmas wish list was around the Polly Pocket and Doodle Bear era, so I’m a little out of the loop in regard to today’s hottest toy commodities…but it’s no secret that today’s children have started to go a little over the top with their requests.

This ridiculously extravagant list from one 7-year-old girl exemplifies that pretty well:

After her dad hilariously annotated her list with ponderings of what something like “a little thing that can turn into anything at any time” could POSSIBLY mean in real-world terms, the lavish list quickly went viral.

Just to give you a little dose of his rant, here ya go:

“What am I, Galactus? Do you understand the catastrophic universal implications of possessing a shape-shifting, time-traveling device?…You cannot be trusted with this at age 7. If such a thing existed and were affordable, I wouldn’t have children… There’s a reason that we have the laws of physics in place. And you expect this thing to be portable as well? You cannot have this.”

But dad wasn’t the only one fired up. Though his annotations were rather comical, it couldn’t help but also stir a feeling of sadness and disappointment in one family who hadn’t forgotten how simple and pure a Christmas list used to be.

A letter by a 7-year-old boy named Homer Mellen had been preserved by the Mellen family for decades, and they decided to share it with Good Morning America in response to the hype surrounding this little girl’s list.

Now, take a step back in time, and read what letters to Santa once-upon-a-1915 looked like:

It reads:

“Dear Santa Claus,

Will you please send me a box of paints, also a nine cent reader, and a school bag to put them in. And if you have any nuts, or candy, or toys to spare, would you kindly send me some. And you will please a seven year old boy.

Homer Mellen”

Wow. What an equally refreshing and scary read. The simplicity and sincerity in his requests stand in stark contrast not only to little miss princess above, but to so many kids in today’s society.

And sadly, it’s not entirely their fault.

Our culture has encouraged them to pursue the American Dream, to believe that anything they want they can attain, and that more & bigger is always better.

So we can’t necessarily be surprised when a 7-year-old girl asks for 1,000 bucks, ALL of the Beanie Babies, every color North Face jacket, and even “a little thing that can turn into anything at anytime.”

The average child’s Christmas wish list now costs around $1,500 to fulfill. And the amount spent on each kid is around $300. So you know what that means?

Disappointment.

In fact, The Telegraph cites the chief executive of the Mother’s Union charity stating, “The majority of parents said that Christmas lists create disappointment for children if they do not receive all the gifts that they have asked for.”

On a day when they should be relishing in gratitude and remembering Jesus’ birth, they are often left sulking over the 80 percent of their list they never got.

“It says so much about the lack of appreciation for those things that truly are a special gift,” Homer’s 79-year-old son, Larry Mellen, told GoodMorningAmerica.com. “We just take it for granted that you’re going to have that stuff at Christmas time, or any other time for that matter.”

What an eye-opening perspective.

Gifts are lovely and can certainly add to the Christmas spirit, but when we find ourselves or our kids getting too caught up in the materialism of it all, let’s all take a moment to reflect back on the day of paints, and nuts, and toys to spare.

Homer, even 101 years later, your humility has taught us well. ♥

Read more: https://faithit.com/101-year-old-christmas-list-7-year-old-materialistic-kids-today/

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GROSS! Matt Lauer Once Told Meredith Vieira To ‘Keep Bending Over’ On Camera Watch The Creepiness

UPDATE 7:56 P.M. EST: TMZ previously reported the woman in the video to be Katie Couric. It has since been clarified to be Meredith Vieira.


Matt Lauer really liked his coworkers. Especially when they were bending over.

Now that the TV host has officially gotten the boot at NBC over sexual misconduct allegations, decades’ worth of stories have been coming out highlighting his alleged true creepy nature.

And if word of mouth isn’t enough, we now have video evidence!

Video: Natalie Morales Is ‘Just In Shock’ Over Lauer’s Firing!

On Wednesday, TMZ released a clip from October 2006 showing Matt eyeing Meredith Vieira while the cameras were still rolling during a commercial break.

As Meredith leaned over to pick up papers on the table in front of him, you can hear Matt say:

“Pretty sweater. Keep bending over like that. It’s a nice view.”

Gross. Does he kiss Al Roker with that mouth?

Weirdly enough, the inappropriate comment found its way to the public even though Today had gone to commercial at the time. In at least one city, the local affiliate stayed on NBC’s in-studio feed, resulting in Matt’s very own Access Hollywood style tape. At least he didn’t tell Meredith where he wanted to grab her…

Related: Donald Trump Reacts To Matt’s Firing

See for yourself (below):

Sexually charged comments weren’t all his cohosts had to put up with — back in 2012, Katie Couric told Andy Cohen that Matt pinched her ass a lot.

[Image via NBC.]

Read more: http://perezhilton.com/2017-11-29-matt-lauer-katie-couric-sexual-harassment-nice-view-on-camera

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New Human Trafficking Operation Targets Adoptive Families in the U.S.

If the consumerism of the holiday season tells us anything, it’s that for everything, there is a market.

There’s a market for children’s toys, a market for kitchenware a market for outdoor enthusiasts and a market for video gamers, just to name a few.

These days, as unconventional as it may sound, there’s a greater market than ever before for orphaned children in third-world countries. And with more than one million U.S. families trying to adopt each year, it’s a market that human traffickers have taken notice of.

As someone who feels like God placed international adoption on my heart from a young age, it’s easy to understand why so many Americans, and people all over the globe in developed countries, would open their families and lives to children in need. Adoption isn’t just giving the child a better life, it’s giving a family a better life.

At least, that was the experience for Adam and Jessica Davis, an Ohio couple who adopted 5-year-old Namata from Uganda in 2015.

The family paid $15,000 to European Adoption Consultants (EAC). The agency, which is based in Strongsville, Ohio, has arranged thousands of adoptions and matched the family with a 5-year-old girl, who they called Mata.

The Davises were told that Mata had been abandoned by her mom after the father passed away. She had been placed in an orphanage called God’s Mercy Children’s Home, and the Davises were able to fly to Uganda and meet her. In September 2015, they brought her home to Ohio.

But what most would see as a new life for Mata and the Davises quickly turned into an adoptive parent’s worst nightmare.

As Mata became more fluent in English, she began telling Jessica about her life back home in Uganda. She talked about her mother in ways that made everything the Davises had seen on paper sound like a lie.

That’s because it was.

It turns out Mata and her mother had unknowingly become victims of a new form of human trafficking, in which parents in third-world countries are told their child will be temporarily sent away for a better education with the promise of a later return.

What those parents don’t know is that they’re voluntarily putting their child in the hands of traffickers—con artists who are making a hefty paycheck off of the abduction, then adoption of a Ugandan “orphan.”

Mata’s stories led the Davises to question their adoption agency, as well as their own involvement with what they now believed to be human trafficking.

All too often when we hear the term “human trafficking,” we automatically associate it with sexual violence. But that’s not always the case.

Mata was never sold for sex, but she was exploited. Someone financially benefitted from her being abducted and relocated against her will, and the will of her mother.

Through research and the help of Reunite Uganda, Jessica was able to track down Mata’s mother. The organization arranged a Skype call between the two, and Mata pressed for answers. Why did her mother give her away?

“My mom was tricked,” she says after the call. “My mom was tricked.”

Jessica and Adam now faced an impossible decision.

Do they keep their daughter, who they’ve legally adopted and been granted parental guardianship to, or do they send her back to her biological mother?

“If our child had been taken from us, we would want them back,” Adam says.

The couple agreed that they would return Mata to her mother.

The Davises filed to have the adoption vacated, and one year after being brought home to the United States, Mata and her adoptive parents made their way back to Uganda, to reunite her with her mother.

Since Mata’s story, along with at least three others, has been brought to the attention of the United States as well as Ugandan government, God’s Mercy Children’s Home has been shut down, and the EAC is under FBI investigation.

Of course, the actions of few should not lead to the inaction of many. There are legitimate orphanages in third-world countries who work with legitimate adoption agencies here in the states.

The best advice: Do your research. There were no warning signs that the Davises had chosen to work with an agency who did bad business on one end or another. But there are ways to ensure your adoption agency and the processing of your adoption is ethical.

The U.S. Department of State’s website offers a comprehensive list of accredited agencies, including the more than 75 countries affiliated with Hague Adoption Convention—an international agreement enacted to safeguard intercountry adoptions.

Adoption.com suggests asking lots and lots of questions—and not being afraid to ask even more. According to their website, every agency should be willing to share contract information, proof of a valid license, their scheduling fee and estimated adoption expenses, information about their in-country relationships with social services, private orphanages and facilitators, as well as their overall mission concerning the well-being of both children and birth parents they represent.

There are thousands of children in the world who desperately need a loving forever home. The market for orphans in third-world countries has a direct line back to the United States with over one million families trying to adopt each year. That means we don’t stop from fear of scam, but we press on, knowing how to be smart in our pursuit of adopting a child through a legitimate and reputable agency.

Read more: https://faithit.com/new-human-trafficking-operation-targets-adoptive-families-in-the-u-s/

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The Best Cyber Monday Gaming Deals We’ve Found So Far

We’ve already published our favorite Cyber Monday deals for 2017, but we’re making some topic-specific guides to help you navigate the immense number of deals going on over the extended Thanksgiving weekend. There are a lot of excellent gaming deals going on, and we’ve gathered some of the best right here, all available online in the spirit of Cyber Monday.

(Be sure to check out our Cyber Monday deals guide for a lot more sales.)

Handpicked WIRED Cyber Monday Guides:

Gaming Service Deals

1 Year of PlayStation Plus – $40 ($20 off)

Buy on Amazon

If you own a PS4, you need PS Plus to play online. It also gives you access to a few free games each month. This is an easy way to save a few bucks on a service that's basically required.

1 Year of Xbox Live Gold- $50 ($10 off)

Buy on Amazon

If you have an Xbox, Xbox Live Gold is a no-brainer. Not only does it get you online multiplayer access, it also nabs you a few Games with Gold each month you can play for absolutely free. So this is basically just $10 off what you already have to pay for.

Gaming Hardware Deals

SanDisk MicroSD Cards (For Switch) on Deep Discount (40% off)

Buy 64GB MicroSD for $15 ($10 off) on Amazon

Buy 128GB MicroSD for $30 ($20 off) on Amazon

A big MicroSD card is a must-have for any Nintendo Switch owner. We recommend at least 64GB, but the more the merrier. These prices are excellent, so load up!

Logitech Prodigy Gaming Headset – $35 ($35 off)

Buy on Amazon

This is a quality wired gaming headset that will work with PC, PS4, Xbox One, Switch, and other sources. We haven't tested it, but it has strong reviews around the web. At $35, it's a great deal.

Xbox One S Console Bundle – $190 ($60 off)

Buy on Microsoft Store (extra game included), B&H Photo, $229 on Amazon, Jet

A number of retailers will offer the Xbox One S for $190 throughout Cyber Weekend. This is a very low price, and unless you have a 4K TV with HDR, there’s no reason to get a One X over a One S this holiday. The Microsoft Store has the best deal of the bunch. It includes a free game and one month Game Pass.

PlayStation 4 Pro 1 TB – $350 ($50 off)

Buy on Walmart, Amazon

Walmart has the PS4 Pro at the lowest price we've seen this season. $50 might not seem like a big discount, but this powerful console rarely dips below its $400 price, so every little bit helps.

Turtle Beach Ear Force Xbox One Wired Gaming Headset – $40 ($20 off)

Buy on Amazon

This Turtle Beach headset will connect right to your Xbox One controller. Like all Turtle Beach headsets, the sound is clear and the headset doesn't get in your way.

Blackout Yeti USB Microphone and Assassin's Creed Origins Bundle – $92 ($48 off)

Buy on Amazon

An amazing value on this bundle. The game is almost free.

Razer Mano'war Gaming Headset – $119 ($50 off)

Buy on Razer

Razer's award-winning wireless gaming headset for the PC is at a discount. PC/Mac/PS4 only. Sorry Xbox fans.

Razer Kraken Gaming Headset – $80 ($20 off)

Buy on Razer

Need a PC-compatible USB headset? One of Razer's best is $20 off right now.

New Nintendo 3DS XL – $179 ($20 off)

Buy on Walmart

If you can't afford a Nintendo Switch, the Nintendo 3DS has a back catalog of awesome games that can't be beat, and all for pennies on the dollar. Save $20 on the latest 3DS console. If you don't care about 3D (and you don't need to), you can save another $30 with the new 2DS XL, which we highly recommend.

Oculus Rift with Touch Controllers Bundle – $350 ($50 off)

Buy on Amazon

The Rift keeps getting cheaper, and that's a great thing for anyone who wants to try out VR. If you're thinking of buying into high-end VR this year on your PC, the Rift likely won't get cheaper.

PS4 and Xbox One Controllers – $40 ($20 off)

Buy PS4 Controllers on Amazon, Best Buy (Crystal Red), Walmart (Crystal Blue)

Buy Xbox One Controllers on Amazon, Microsoft Store

PS4 controllers seem like they run out of juice every day or two, and they always cost at least $60 to replace. If you’re in need, most Sony DualShock controller colors will be $40 all week, and Microsoft is discounting many versions of its Xbox One controller to match. Best Buy and Walmart have some new exclusive DualShock colors, as well.

PlayStation VR Headset with Skyrim VR – $350 ($100 off)

Buy Skyrim VR Bundle on GameStop, Target, Best Buy

Sony’s PlayStation VR headset (read WIRED’s review) works with any PS4, and it’s finally coming down in price. This bundle comes with a special version of Skyrim, two motion controllers, the headset, and camera. B&H Photo has a similar PSVR bundle with PlayStation Worlds, if the Skyrim VR version sells out.

PlayStation VR Headset with Gran Turismo Sport – $299 ($100 off)

Buy on Amazon

Even though this bundle includes fewer accessories, it's still an affordable way to get into a new PSVR headset. Includes PSVR, the PS4 Camera, and Gran Turismo.

PlayStation VR Headset (by itself) – $200 ($100 off)

Buy on GameStop

If you don't need the games, but still want the headset, it is on sale as well. You can purchase games digitally through Sony's PlayStation Store.

Nintendo Switch Travel Case – $10 ($20 off)

Buy on Amazon

If you own a Nintendo Switch, you should get a case for it. It's screen will scratch if you're not careful. This travel case is perfect for packing in your luggage.

Nintendo Switch Joy-Con Comfort Grip – $10 ($5 off)

Buy on Amazon

If you need a second grip for your Joy-Cons, seize the moment! Highly recommended if you buy extra Joy-Cons.

Nintendo Switch Joy-Con Charging Dock – $19 ($11 off)

Buy on Amazon

This charging dock works for up to four Joy-Cons at a time, which really means you can own as many as six and still get them charged regularly.

Video Game Deals

Wolfenstein 2: The New Colossus – $25 ($25 off)

Buy on Amazon, GameStop

The critically acclaimed, brand new Wolfeinstein game is half off today on Xbox, PS4, and only $30 on PC.

Tekken 7 for PS4 – $25 ($25 off)

Buy on Newegg

The newest edition of the long-running fighting series is finally down to a price worth checking out.

Overwatch (Game of the Year Edition) for PC – $30 ($30 off)

Buy on Amazon

The digital version of Overwatch is on sale for PC (only). Overwatch is one of the few multiplayer games that’s held interest for a year and a half now, and shows no signs of losing its community yet. With more maps and more characters, it’s better than ever.

Middle-Earth: Shadow of War – $25 ($35 off)

Buy on Amazon, GameStop

Physical copies of Shadow of War are on sale. The game has a complex nemesis system and brings you into Peter Jackson's vision of the Lord of the Rings universe well.

South Park: The Fractured But Whole – $44 ($15 off)

Buy on Amazon, $50 on Walmart

Like The Stick of Truth, the latest South Park game is a well-made old-school RPG, and looks exactly like an episode of the TV show. It’s difficulty settings will also surprise you. The game is on sale for PS4, Xbox One, and PC.

Mario + Rabbids Kingdom Battle for Nintendo Switch – $51 ($9 off)

Buy on Amazon

You wouldn't think that a game filled with Ubisoft's annoying Rabbids would be fun, but you'd be wrong. This is a fun and utterly absurd Mario crossover collaboration that is worth picking up.

Madden 18 for Xbox One – $36 ($24 off)

Buy on Amazon

This year's new Madden game is already half-off in download form. The PS4 version has sold out.

Civilization VI – $30 ($30 off)

Buy for Mac on Amazon

Buy for Windows on Amazon

Sid Meier's Civilization is one of the defining gaming series since the dawn of the PC gaming era, and it's better than ever. This installment is the newest and got near universal praise upon its release.

Destiny 2 – $50 ($10 off)

Buy on Walmart

Destiny 2 improves on a lot of the issues players had with the first Destiny and at $30, it’s very affordable for a relatively new game. Developer Bungie continues to fill the game with new content on a regular basis, as well.

Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild Explorer’s Edition – $60

Buy on Amazon, Best Buy, Target

Breath of the Wild is a serious candidate for Game of the Year, and one of the best reasons to buy a Nintendo Switch (which Amazon is working to restock as quickly as possible). This special version comes with a special two-sided map of Hyrule and an Explorer’s Guide with extra lore and fun info about the game.

Fallout 4 (Game of the Year Edition) – $30 ($20 off)

Buy on Amazon

Fallout 4 has been going strong for a few years now. If you haven't played it yet, now is a great time.

Doom for PS4 – $20 ($10 off)

Buy on Amazon, Best Buy

Doom is scary and twisted, but also a very fun single player game with some solid multiplayer components. At $20, it’s hard to pass up.

Toys That Gamers Will Love

No, they're not video games, but you'll love them anyway!

Acton Blink S – $419 ($280 off)

Buy on Acton Global

Fast enough to go 15 mph and with integrated lights, the Blink S is the perfect toy for when you have to disconnect from the virtual world for a few minutes. Or, you know, commute to work. It functions as a normal longboard when the battery runs out.

LittleBits Star Wars Droid Creator Kit – $79 ($20 off)

Buy on Walmart, Amazon

We will keep picking and picking this toy to prove that it's one of the best and most enjoyable way to indulge both a bot-building hobby and a Star Wars fixation.

Lego Star Wars sets (10-50% off)

Buy on Amazon

If you've never built the Millenium Falcon, now's your chance. You're never too old for Legos.

Pixel Pals Light-Up Gaming Figurines – $10 ($5 off)

Buy on Amazon

Pixel Pals are fun pixelated versions of many iconic video game characters, including Mario, Luigi, Sonic the Hedgehog, Master Chief, and more. They light up and are a great desk item. Some of the models are on sale.

ThinkGeek has a Lot of Sales For Cyber Monday

Buy on ThinkGeek

Want a Super Mario Star for your Christmas tree? An R2-D2 screwdriver? A set of Christmas lights that look like potion bottles? ThinkGeek keeps adding interesting and crazy items every day, right through Cyber Monday.

Cyber Monday Ads for 2017:

We’ve sifted through the mess of deals, but if you want to look for yourself, here are some links. Many of these ads may not be live until day-of.

Deal Graveyard

Nintendo Switch Extra Joy-Cons – $68 ($12 off)

Buy on Amazon

If you like to play multiplayer games, it never hurts to have a few extra Joy-Cons around. You can get 2 extra (one for each side of your Switch) for a bit less right now.

Nintendo Switch Console – $300 (Hard to find)

Buy on Amazon, GameStop

It's not on discount, but if you hope to get a Nintendo Switch in time for Christmas or another holiday, we highly recommend you order it now. Amazon is currently out of stock, but is still accepting orders and Nintendo is ramping up availability over the holidays.

FIFA 18 – $30 ($30 off)

Buy on Amazon

Prefer football to American football? FIFA 18 is also half-off right now.

Risk: Halo Legendary Edition Board Game – $36 ($14 off)

Buy on Amazon

Risk can decimate friendships and tear families apart, but we still love it. This edition has a 60-inch, super long map of the Halo ring and separate 2-player maps with a smaller version of the ring. It also boasts "faster gameplay," but no game of Risk is ever too fast.

Sphero BB-8 App-Enabled Droid – $130 ($20 off)

Buy on Jet

A loyal little droid for the Star Wars fan in your life to send on missions, or simply to clutch while watching the Force awaken.

When you buy something using the retail links in our stories, we earn a small affiliate commission. Read more about how this works.

Read more: https://www.wired.com/story/black-friday-cyber-monday-video-game-deals/

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Lofelt raises $5.4M to develop next-gen haptic tech for gaming, AR, VR, automobile, and more

Lofelt, a Berlin-based startup that is developing ‘next-generation’ haptic technology for use in a range of products — including gaming, AR, VR, automobile, consumer electronics, toys, medical, and entertainment — has raised $5.4 million in Series A funding. Leading the round is Wolfman.One, with participation from Q Venture Partners, Coparion, and previous backer Horizons Ventures.

Lofelt describes its mission as wanting to “create a natural connection between people and their digital devices” via improved haptic feedback tech, and argues that until now the technology hasn’t benefited from the same pace of innovation seen in screen and audio technologies. To address this, the company has created a hardware and software platform designed to let companies add haptic features to their products and which takes the tech’s utility beyond gaming or mobile phones.

It is also the startup behind the rather left-field Basslet, a watch-styled “subwoofer” that vibrates to create a sub bass-like sensation for an improved audio experience when coupled with headphones. That proved an interesting use of Lofelt’s tech but as a standalone product our very own Brian Heater came away unconvinced.

“Whilst conventional actuator companies like ALPS, Precision Microdrives, AAC Technologies only produce hardware, Lofelt is the only company delivering the complete hardware, software and user-experience solution, ready for mass-production,” a spokesperson for the startup tells me.

“Lofelt’s technology offers three distinct advantages compared to other solutions: Our actuators are completely silent, the audio-driven concept drives our actuators over a wide frequency band, producing ultra-realistic haptic feedback, [and our] software is designed in conjunction with our hardware, resulting in optimum power, control and efficiency”.

As a result, Lofelt’s haptic solution for gaming & VR can be integrated without the need for additional developer support. “It delivers rich and realistic haptics with all games, movies and music out of the box,” says the company.

Meanwhile, Lofelt says it will use the additional financing to invest in expanding its Berlin-based engineering team to accelerate development of new user experiences and technologies. It isn’t disclosing which companies are using its tech, except to say that the startup is in talks with some of the leaders in the gaming, VR/AR, mobile, music and automotive industries. In addition, the company is developing an academic program, which already has participation from four unnamed major Universities.

Adds Daniel Büttner, co-founder and CEO of Lofelt, in a statement: “In the near future, Lofelt’s technology will allow the use of high-definition touch feedback to deliver truly natural sensory interactions between people and their devices. We don’t see this as being limited to just smartphones and gaming, but instead will become prevalent across nearly all industries. We are on a mission to prove that haptics complete the audio-visual experience and our investment will be the vehicle for making this vision a reality”.

Read more: https://techcrunch.com/2017/11/13/lofelt/

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I watched 1,000 hours of YouTube Kids content and this is what happened

The multicolored slurry of user generated content that for years has been successfully netting millions of kids’ eyeballs on YouTube by remixing popular cartoon characters to crudely act out keyword search scenarios leered into wider public view this week, after writer James Bridle penned a scathing Medium post arguing the content represents “a kind of violence inherent in the combination of digital systems and capitalist incentives”.

What do you get if you endlessly recombine Spiderman and the Joker with Elsa from Frozen and lashings of product placement for junk food brands like McDonalds?

A lot of views on YouTube, clearly. And thus a very modern form of children’s ‘entertainment’ that can clearly only exist on a vast, quality-uncontrolled, essentially unregulated, algorithmically incentivized advertising platform with a very low barrier to entry for content creators, which judges the resulting UGC purely on whether it can lift itself out of the infinite supply of visual soup by getting views — and do so by being expert at pandering to populist childish cravings, the keyword search criteria that best express them and the algorithms that automatically rank the content.

This is effectively — if not yet literally — media programming by SEO-optimized robots.

And, as Marshall McLuhan wrote in 1964, the medium is the message.

… because it is the medium that shapes and controls the scale and form of human association and action. The content or uses of such media are as diverse as they are ineffectual in shaping the form of human association. Indeed, it is only too typical that the “content” of any medium blinds us to the character of the medium. It is only today that industries have become aware of the various kinds of business in which they are engaged. When IBM discovered that it was not in the business of making office equipment or business machines, but that it was in the business of processing information, then it began to navigate with clear vision.

Insofar as kids are concerned, the message being generated via YouTube’s medium is frequently nonsensical; a mindless and lurid slurry of endlessly repurposed permutations of pilfered branded content, played out against an eerie blend of childish tunes, giddily repeating nursery rhymes, and crude cartoon sound effects.

It’s a literal pantomime of the stuff kids might think to search for. And it speaks volumes about the dysfunctional incentives that define the medium.

After the latest outcry about disturbing UGC intentionally targeting kids on YouTube, Google has said it will implement new policies to age-restrict this type of content to try to prevent it ending up in the YouTube Kids app, though a prior policy forbidding “inappropriate use of family characters” clearly hasn’t stemmed the low-brow flow of pop-culture soup.

The maniacal laughter that appears to be the signature trope of this ‘genre’ at least seems appropriate.

McLuhan’s point was that content is intrinsically shaped by the medium through which we obtain it. And that it’s mediums themselves which have the power to enact structural change by reconfiguring how humans act and associate en masse.

The mindless cartoon noise mesmerizing kids on YouTube might be the best visual example of that argument yet. Even if McLuhan thought analyzing content itself would merely distract from appropriate critical analysis of mediums.

All you have to do is imagine the unseen other half of these transactions: Aka all those unmoving toddlers staring into screens as they consume hours and hours of junk soup.

The thriving existence of such awful stuff, devised with the sole intent of generating high volumes of ad revenue by being structured so as to be likely to be surfaced via search and recommendation algorithms, is also a perfect example of how the content humans can be most easily persuaded to consume (aka clickbait) and the stuff that might be most intellectually profitable for them to consume are two very different things.

Algorithmically organized mega platforms like YouTube may host quality content but are expert at incentivizing the creation and consumption of clickbait — thanks to ad-targeting business models that are fed by recommendation systems which monitor user inputs and actions to identify the most clickable and thus most addictive stuff to keep feeding them.

(This is not just a problem with kid-targeting content, of course. On the same dysfunctional theme, see also how quickly disinformation spreads between adults on Facebook, another ad-funded, algorithmically organized mega platform whose priorities for content are that it be viral as often as possible.)

Where kids are concerned, the structure of the YouTube medium demonstrably rewards pandering to the most calorific of visual cravings. (Another hugely popular kids’ content format regularly racking up millions and millions of views on YouTube are toy unboxing videos, for example.) Thereby edging out other, more thoughtful content — given viewing time is finite.

Sure, not all the content that’s fishing for children’s eyeballs on YouTube is so cynically constructed as to simply consist of keyword search soup. Or purely involve visuals of toys they might crave and pester their parents to buy.

Some of this stuff, while hardly original or sophisticated, can at least involve plot and narrative elements (albeit frequently involving gross-out/toilet humor — so it’s also the sort of stuff you might prefer your kids didn’t spend hours watching).

And sure there have been moral panics in the past about kids watching hours and hours of TV. There are in fact very often moral panics associated with new technologies.

Which is to be expected as mediums/media are capable of reconfiguring societies at scale. Yet also often do so without adequate attention being paid to the underlying technology that’s causing structural change.

Here at least the problems of the content have been linked to the incentive-structures of the distributing platform — even if wider questions are getting less scrutiny; like what it means for society to be collectively captivated by a free and limitless supply of visual mass media whose content is shaped by algorithms intent only on maximizing economic returns?

Perhaps the penny is starting to drop in the political realm at least.

While kids’ TV content could (and can) be plenty mediocre, you’d be hard pressed to find so many examples of programming as literally mindless as the stuff being produced at scale for kids to consume on YouTube — because the YouTube medium incentivizes content factories to produce click fodder to both drive ad revenue and edge out other content by successfully capturing the attention of the platform’s recommendation algorithms to stand a chance of getting views in the first place.

This dismal content is also a great illustration of the digital axiom that if it’s free you’re the product. (Or rather, in this case, your kid’s eyeballs are — raising questions over whether lots of time spent by kids viewing clickbait might not be to the detriment of their intellectual and social development; even if you don’t agree with Bridle’s more pointed assertion that some of this content is so bad as to be being intentionally designed to traumatize children and so, once again looping in the medium, that it represents a systematic form of child abuse.)

The worst examples of the regurgitated pop culture slurry that exists on YouTube can’t claim to have even a basically coherent narrative. Many videos are just a series of repetitious graphical scenarios designed to combine the culled characters in a mindless set of keyword searchable actions and reactions. Fight scenes. Driving scenes. Junk food transaction scenes. And so it goes mindlessly on.

Some even self-badge as “educational” content — because in the middle of a 30 minute video, say, they might display the word “red” next to a red-colored McDonald’s Big Mac or a Chupa Chups lollipop; and then the word “blue” next to a blue-colored Big Mac or a Chupa Chups lollipop; and then the word “yellow”… and so on ad nauseam.

If there’s truly even a mote of educational value there it must be weighed against the obvious negative of repetitious product placement simultaneously and directly promoting junk food to kids.

Of course this stuff can’t hold a candle to original kids’ comics and cartoon series — say, a classic like Hanna-Barbera’s Wacky Races — which generations of children past consumed in place of freebie content on YouTube because, well, ad-funded, self-sorting, free-to-access digital technology platforms didn’t exist then.

Parents may have hated on that content too at the time — criticizing cartoons as frivolous and time-wasting. But at least such series were entertaining children with well developed, original characters engaged in comic subplots sitting within coherent, creative overarching narratives. Kids were learning about proper story structure, at very least.

We can’t predict what wider impact a medium that incentivizes factory line production of mindless visual slurry for kids’ consumption might have on children’s development and on society as a whole. But it’s hard to imagine anything positive coming from something so intentionally base and bottom-feeding being systematically thrust in front of kids’ eyeballs.

And given the content truly has such an empty message to impart it seems logical to read that as a warning about the incentive structures of the underlying medium, as Bridle does.

In truth, I did not watch 1,000 hours of YouTube Kids’ content. Ten minutes of this awful stuff was more than enough to give me nightmares.

Read more: https://techcrunch.com/2017/11/12/i-watched-1000-hours-of-youtube-kids-content-and-this-is-what-happened/

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4 TechCrunch writers bought the iPhone X. Here are our thoughts

Happy iPhone X day! A few of us over here at TechCrunch received our new toys today and wanted to share some initial thoughts with y’all.

Leggo.

First up, Megan Rose Dickey, the lunatic who at one point told co-workers she felt like she was on drugs during her initial iPhone X exploration:

I could barely sleep last night because I knew that at some point today, my iPhone X would arrive. After getting showered and dressed, I went on over to my parents’ place, where I was set to receive the shipment.

FedEx arrived around 11am PT this morning and I promptly lost my shit. The first thing I did, obviously, was try out the animoji. Here’s one I sent to my colleague Darrell Etherington.

The animoji are great, but now I want anibitmoji, ya know? Anyway, the Face ID works like magic and I love it.

Next up, Sarah Buhr, who did not feel she was on drugs but was definitely grinning from ear-to-ear when the UPS guy arrived today:

My previous phone was an iPhone 6 with a hairline crack on the screen I never bothered to fix so the X was a much needed upgrade. It’s also a beautiful piece of machinery. I’m still setting it up this afternoon but so far Face ID seems to work very well. It even recognizes me with glasses on or off.

The camera lives up to the hype, too. Hi-res, high-quality. I took a pic of my living room against the window and the light and color still balanced well. Nice touch!

One thing I would like to skip is the need to swipe up after the phone IDs your face. The swiping takes some getting used to and there’s a lot of swiping with this phone. Why not just ID my face and let me in?

And Darrell Etherington, who reserved the phone for pick-up in-store first thing Friday morning so he could check out the launch-day hype in person:

This iPhone replaces the iPhone 8 Plus I had been using (which is now on its way to a new home with my dad). It’s already a huge step-up from the Plus line for me just because of the size, since it’s a lot smaller without sacrificing much screen real estate.

I, too, love the Animoji – I’ve been using them like you’d use voice messages on WhatsApp or WeChat, since they’re incredibly easy to record and I feel like if I’m asking about dinner plans it’s just better coming from a pig or a panda.


I’m also surprised at how quickly I adapted to Face ID, which I never thought would even approach Touch ID in terms of convenience. I now already find myself assuming it’s going to work on the 8 Plus and my iPad Pro, and taking a minute to remember to use my thumb or finger instead.

Fitz Tepper depended on the hospitality of his hotel and a backup order to make absolutely sure he was ready and armed with iPhone X on day one of availability:

I’m pretty weird about needing to get Apple devices the morning they come out. Old-timers will remember my first-ever post on TC was when I camped out at the only store in the U.S. to have the Apple Watch on launch day.

SO, when I found out I’d be in Chicago for a conference on the big day, I had to prepare accordingly. I stayed up until 3am on preorder day and somehow managed to get one sent to my hotel, and another one to my house. The idea was that my flight back home was at 4pm, and there was no way I’d be thwarted by a late UPS delivery. Worst case I’d just have the hotel ship me the second one to return or give to a family member.

Anyways, I’m just now getting it up and running — and my only initial thoughts are regarding the size and screen. It’s so small! Coming from many years of using iPhone pluses, it’s weird typing on a smaller keyboard. Of course the trade-off is that the device itself feels great, and fits perfectly in your hand.

One other weird thing that’s going to take getting used to — no home button. I have 10 years of home button muscle memory, and that’s definitely not going to be fixed overnight.

We’re by no means trying to sell you on the iPhone X. It’s super expensive and a lot of us will be paying it off for quite some time. But if you like the latest and greatest technology, this is it. Check out TC’s official iPhone X review here.

Read more: https://techcrunch.com/2017/11/03/4-techcrunch-writers-bought-the-iphone-x-here-are-our-thoughts/