OK, last question. I’m gonna ask a hard-hitting one. Tumblr. Why no “e”?
We checked the domain name for ‘Tumbler.com’ and it was this mom and pop store for tumbler glasses. We thought it’d be pretty fun one day, when we got enough money, to acquire their whole business. No joke! Actually, that’s a joke.
—VICE’s 2009 interview with Tumblr founder David Karp is newly relevant
How Awful Are Those Free Porno Games on the Internet?
Most of the internet is devoted to games and porn, but the overlap between the two categories—video games that let the player pretend to fuck fictional characters—are often ignored, because ew. But it should come as absolutely no surprise that there are a lot of weird entertainments floating around for those who love gaming and jerkin’ it and are too impatient to do those activities separately.
A lot of these games are very lousy, and I should know—in a never-ending quest to reach the bottom of the internet, I’ve come across several of these depressing artifacts. I want to share my discoveries with the world so you too know that these things are out there. This is by no means a complete consumer’s guide, but I doubt you’d want to read that, anyway.
The VDateGames website hosts 23 different games featuring 26 different digital girls, all the work of one dude with too much time on his hands who calls himself Chaotic. He’s spent countless hours creating strange, sweaty point-and-click adventures—sometimes he makes people pay money for them, sometimes he releases them for free out of the goodness of his heart. His dedication is sort of admirable, in a way.
In the course of the average game on the site, a plasticky, laughably endowed 3D model arrives at your apartment door for a date, and then you navigate around a slideshow of urban imagery, taking your “girl” to a casino, a park, and even a strip club if you’re feeling particularly risqué. (It should be said that all of these locations are ripped directly out of Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion, Grand Theft Auto IV, and Hitman: Blood Money. I recognized them right away, and yes, I know what that says about me.) If you play your cards right, you can get your internet dick wet in a number of obvious sexy-fantasy conclusions. Threesomes! Public blowjobs! You can fuck an alien in one of them!
Problem is, these games are fucking impossible. To earn your gross sex scene you have to get a very precise set of circumstances to line up on your date. You’d have to be a legit psychopath to go through all the permutations and figure it out. Luckily (?) there is a legion of legit psychopaths on the internet who can provide detailed walkthroughs for every cum-soaked ending there is. But without those walkthroughs, you’ll probably spend a lot of your time on VDateGames getting frustrated instead of laid—just like real life. It’s seriously a byzantine process: “If you want to get her naked in the hotel room, you need to have had three drinks, win roulette at the casino, and purchase the camera at the store. What’s that? You bought the candles instead of the camera? Tough shit, horndog!”
I’ll admit that a lot of these models are remarkably well constructed, for what is essentially one man’s project that was likely cooked up in some creepy basement. But does this turn you on? Warning, don’t click on this; it is a GIF of computer-generated sex.
No, it doesn’t, because the VDateGames chicks are MAD DEEP in the uncanny valley. Unless you’re turned on by cyber-human nymphs who crave polygonal cock, these are probably not the games you’re looking for.
The Company Helping Movie Studios Sue You for Illegal Downloading Has Been Using Images Without Permission
As you may already know, Voltage Pictures, the company responsible for the movie The Hurt Locker, (as well as a million movies you’ve never heard of) is currently in court, attempting to get an Ontario-based internet service provider to release the names associated with over 1000 IP addresses that they claim belong to people who illegally downloaded their copyrighted material.
These IP addresses were gathered by an extraordinarily douchey company called Canipre, the only antipiracy enforcement firm currently offering services in Canada.
Canipre, as a company, offers to track down people who are illegally downloading copyrighted material from record companies and film studios. According to their website, they have issued more than 3,500,000 takedown notices, and their work has led to multimillion dollar damages awards, injunctions, seizure of assets, and even incarceration.
But it’s not like Canipre is doing this just to get rich. In a recent interview, Canipre’s managing director Barry Logan explained that it’s about much more than just money—he’s hoping to teach the Canadian public a moral lesson:
”[We want to] change social attitudes toward downloading. Many people know it is illegal but they continue to do it… Our collective goal is not to sue everybody… but to change the sense of entitlement that people have, regarding Internet-based theft of property.”
Here is a screenshot of the front page of the Canipre website as it appeared when I visited it this morning.
The image you see in the background is this self portrait, by Steve Houk.
I contacted Steve and asked if they had sought permission to use the picture. Steve said, “No. In no way have I authorized or licensed this image to anyone in any way.”
So, just to be clear: Canipre has written “they all know it’s wrong and they’re still doing it.” Referring to copyright theft. On top of an image that they are using without the permission of the copyright holder. On their official website.
VICE: What made you decide to hack the Onion this week after spending so much time targeting serious news organizations?
The Shadow: We are well aware of the satirical nature of the Onion, but this does not detract from the fact that the basis of their “humor” was rooted in the narrative promoted by most major corporate media. What convinced us to make our move was an article titled “The Onion Website Joins the U.S. Anti-Syria Club” by Shamus Cooke that details how the Onion can be a more effective wartime propaganda tool than even “serious” and seemingly credible media. The irresponsible promotion of chemical weapons claims and attribution of all the mayhem in Syria on the one side attempting to keep order is very much an assumption of their focus on Syria. This is why the majority of informed people do not find such articles funny.
Why did you accuse the Onion of taking “Zionist money” in exchange for defaming Syria?
We have various tactics when we penetrate a media outlet. For the Onion, we decided to loosely follow their style. We do not seriously suggest any kind of money transfer from unnamed “Zionist” sources, we realize it is more likely that the Onion follows the corporate line as a matter of ideology. During the Second World War, both the Germans and the Americans used satire to attack one another. The Onion serves the same sort of wartime role that the Disney anti-German short films did back then.
What do you think about the Onion’s response?
Many readers found it in poor taste. One Twitter user responded with a simple “yikes.” This reaction was exactly what we were hoping for, as the writer placed all their anger in it, dropping the mask of the real situation in Syria. The rebels were depicted in the exact same manner as reality, so it cannot really be classified as satire except with one difference—the Syrian army will win and we don’t have a “base” that can be attacked.
—We spoke to an alleged member of the Syrian Electronic Army about hacking The Onion’s Twitter. Full interview
It Was Probably the Internet, Not Chechnya, That Radicalized the Boston Bombers
The Tsarnaev brothers are the first Chechens to have been implicated in alleged jihadist attacks on US soil. But the more we learn about Dzhokar and Tamerlan, the blurrier their motives become. Why would these two seemingly well-integrated young men indiscriminately kill citizens of the country that welcomed them with open arms? What has America done to Chechnya? And is the horror we witnessed in Boston the beginning of a frightening new trend—an amalgamation of foreign and domestic terrorism into a bouillabaisse of confused and largely undefined hate?
While we’ll still be searching for more information about the Tsarnaev brothers and what motivated them for months—if not years—to come, their roots in Chechnya and the history of that country are a good place to start.
In the early 19th century, Chechnya resisted Russian attempts to occupy their small mountainous motherland, nearly 1,000 miles south of Moscow. The fight intensified when the region was assimilated into the Soviet Union. To quell rebellion in the 1940s, Stalin forcibly relocated the entire Chechen population to remote areas of Central Asia, repopulating the mountains with ethnic Russians. Some 200,000 people, one-third of the Chechen population, lost their lives to this process, called Operation Lentil.
A family takes an afternoon walk amid the rubble and burned-out apartment blocks destroyed during the fighting between Russian forces and Chechen rebels.
While Islam remains a central part of Chechen identity, religion didn’t play a major role in the nationalist struggle until recently. In the mid-90s, following the collapse of the Soviet Union, Chechens again attempted to wrestle their independence from Moscow. Volunteer fighters, preachers, and NGOs espousing Wahhabism (an Arab Gulf version of ultraconservative Islam) flocked to the region to fight against Russia and instill Chechens with their radical views. A Chechen administrator explained at the time, “They [the Wahhabis] went to the market, and they paid with dollars. There was no power here; there was disorder everywhere, and their influence was very strong. The poor Chechen people were already suffering so much, and our young guys simply couldn’t think. They were ready to accept any ideas.”
How Much Does the Church of Scientology Spend on Advertising?
The Church of Scientology has, for a long time, been putting a lot of money into advertising, most recently with the super expensive-looking Super Bowl ad embedded above and their disastrous attempt at running sponsored content in The Atlantic.
But if you’re one of the five people in the world who doesn’t use Adblock, you might have noticed that they sometimes pop up as the sponsored result when you google things.
So how much are they paying to do this?
I’ll do my best to explain this as quickly as possible, because it’s pretty boring. Here’s how cost-per-click advertising works on Google: a company sets a maximum bid that they’re willing to pay for an internet user to click on one of their ads. These bids are associated with keywords that internet users type when searching. Based on the ad’s relevance to searched keywords and the maximum amount that the advertiser is willing to pay per click, Google determines where to place those ads.
For example, if a dessert company wanted their ads displayed any time a user searches for “ice cream cakes,” it would cost, at the time of writing this article, about $0.60 per click in English-speaking countries.
To figure out how much Scientology pays, I tried to advertise for Scientology myself. I set my maximum bid at one dollar per click and selected multiple keywords involving Scientology. All of my bids were rejected, meaning that the person who is currently paying to advertise on those terms is paying more than a dollar per click.
In order to advertise on the first page of Google’s search results for Scientology-related searches, I would have to shell out a minimum of three dollars per click for “creed of the Church of Scientology.”
Internet Psychonauts Try All the Drugs You Don’t Want to Do
If you’re looking for a new hobby and get a kick out of taking newly-synthesized designer drugs before anyone else in the world, why not become a psychonaut? Sign up, and you’ll be able to get high on drugs that aren’t even regulated yet. Which sounds kind of dumb and very dangerous, but at least won’t land you in jail, because you’re doing it in the name of “research.”
In a general sense, psychonauts seem to fall into two camps. One party say they test the chemicals in order to document the drugs’ effects and assess whether it’s safe for others to use. The other (more self-aggrandizing) party claim that being a psychonaut is about exploring the frontiers of the mind.
Examples of some designer drugs are 25I-NBOMe, JWH-018 or Dimethocaine. While they can be fun, they’re a lot more dangerous than what they’re replacing—LSD, weed, and coke, respectively. The LSD substitute, 25I-NBOMe, is measured in micrograms, making dosages impossible to measure with the naked eye, which led to five deaths linked to 25I-NBOMe last year because of careless dosing.
Despite the risks, plenty of responsible (relatively speaking) drug users on Erowid claim that the new research chemicals they’re testing are fun, just so long as you don’t go nuts and start abusing them. I got in contact with a few psychonauts through Erowid and asked them why they’ve chosen to guinea pig themselves for anyone out there who might want to buy a bag of strange powder off the internet.
Some more, slightly less evil-looking JWH-018 powder. (Photo via)
VICE: Hi Hammilton. What makes you want to try all these new, untested chemicals?
Hammilton: I like the idea that the compounds I’m trying are completely new—that no human has tried them yet. Dimethocaine isn’t even a good drug, really… it’s decent at best. But I’ve always felt like it was kind of my baby, just because it was my original work, obtaining it and testing it, then posting about it online, which caused it to be sold by just about all research chemical vendors today. Although, usually they sell lidocaine with added caffeine as dimethocaine.
That’s all your doing?
Yeah. But I feel somewhat responsible that I didn’t look into the less toxic derivatives back then and post about them instead. Because now, instead of the likely less toxic dimethocaine-para-desamino analogue being sold, it’s the potentially more dangerous compound that’s out there. I recently learned that the desamino analogue is less active as a stimulant, though, so maybe it’s irrelevant.
Whatever you say. Have you had any bad experiences testing these drugs out?
I’ve had terrible experiences with synthetic cannabinoids. Before it was known that JWH-018 was the compound being sold in spice—and before spice became popular—I obtained some JWH-018 to compare to spice and smoked it. I wasn’t really sure what a dose should have been back then, but it was too much. It causes anxiety and a mild overdose brought on a full-fledged panic attack.
The Conspiracy Theory Community Are Dangerous Enemies to Make
It was a clear day in New York when the poster-boy of British conspiracy theory made a shocking announcement. Times Square buzzed behind Charlie Veitch as he stood there, training a camera on himself and declared something so unthinkable, so upsetting, insulting, ignorant and evil, that it changed his life. To paraphrase, he said: I don’t believe the American government blew up the World Trade Center. He uploaded the video to his YouTube account and then everything went bananas. You see, the conspiracy world, of which Charlie was a central part, doesn’t like it when you question their accepted truths. Charlie’s revelation cut deep. Their champion was about to become their most hated pariah.
Conspiracy theories really depress me. Hours after the bombs went off in Boston, Buzzfeed were able to publish a post called “6 Mind-Blowingly Ridiculous Conspiracy Theories Surrounding the Boston Bombing.” Conspiracies are where the libertarian and the hippie meet, and today not a single event of note can pass without being fed through the paranoid grinder of the fantasists. But their stupidity is not the most miserable thing about them. No, the most depressing thing about them is the rate at which they’ve been taking over for the last decade.
In 2012, the philanthropic Leverhulme Trust, most notable for funding dreary desk-based research, offered a grant for academic investigation into conspiracies. “Conspiracy theories,” their announcement read, “have received remarkably little examination. Though they prompt almost obsessive attention in the public imagination, they have been largely ignored by academic research.” It’s true, encouraged by the internet, fuelled by the global economic crises, championed by popular culture (Dan Brown and The Matrix, specifically), the last ten years have seen a conspiracy boom. Perhaps, while extreme Islam has gained more press, and smug atheism is more sensible, it’s possible to argue that conspiracy theory has become the first dominant philosophy of the internet age. No-doubt, the Leverhulme Trust—with its connections to the multinational corporation Unilever—and its grant, inspired far more paranoia than academic insight.
Earlier this year Public Policy Polling conducted a survey about the public’s trust in some of the more established and outré conspiracy theories. The results are infuriating enough to drive rationalists up a tower with a rifle and start shooting. Apparently, 13 percent of respondents suspect that Barack Obama is the Antichrist, while 37 percent of Americans think that global warming is a hoax, and 28 percent of dickheads believe in a sinister global New World Order conspiracy. I’m told it’s supposed to be consoling that only four percent believed in David Icke’s lizard men, but the way I see it: FOUR PERCENT OF PEOPLE WITH A VOTE BELIEVE IN LIZARD MEN.