Fifteen dead in wake of Supreme Court prostitution ruling

The Supreme Court of Canada yesterday ruled unconstitutional a cutesy clusterfuck of laws around prostitution that, despite the act itself of exchanging money for sex being legal, make it essentially illegal unless you take your lawyer along. Although they gave Parliament one year to come up with something that makes sense before all bets are off, last night, one underground bawdy house began celebrations early—resulting in tragedy as fifteen people reportedly fucked their brains literally out.

“They said ‘tonight’s on the house'” recalls sole survivor Tim Dickly. “We were just all so happy that the Supreme Court ruled on the side of greater protection and freedom for consenting adults being able to exchange services freely. When I left the party, everyone was… just fine.”

Authorities attended the scene after a 911 call from Dickly—the poor man having woken up to a hellscape of corpses, brains, and $20 bills. He’d turned in early that night, citing “work in the morning,” and retired to the Toronto facility’s “solo room.” He was not prepared for what the morning had in store.

“It looked like their brains had just leaked out of their orifices. The nose, the ears, even leaking around the eye sockets. If there was a hole, there was brain coming out of it. I don’t claim to know how, exactly, it happened but it was all there plain as day. Their brains were outside of their bodies, and there was only one activity going on when I went to bed: fuckin’.”

In a press release, police claim to have ruled out foul play, saying that sometimes, consenting adults doing things that are a little risky just results in bad consequences, but that it was those people’s right to take those risks and there was nothing law enforcement should be doing to prevent them.

A Conservative Member of Parliament who is on some committee vaguely related to this general topic expressed his dissatisfaction with the ruling on his Facebook wall.

“I may be a small-town MP from ‘Berta,” it reads, “but I think I know a thing or two more about prostitution than nine Supreme Court Justices. And by darn I were right. You just got to look at what happened in Toronto.”

The note went on to explain his concern over the unanimous ruling that the government’s approach to punishing the advertising of prostitutes’ services is grossly disproportionate and violates their Charter rights by asserting that every sex trade worker is trapped in the profession and we oughta be doing something to get them out before more people join those who have been described as “The Toronto Fifteen.”

“You all know I’m a small-gubment kinda guy. But you all also know that only applies when we’re not talking about what people can do with their own bodies—especially women. I will not stand for this, and I will hope that my sternly worded note on Facebook will serve to make it clear to voters that while I ultimately won’t contribute to any lasting success at keeping prostitutes out of your communities, I will probably contribute to clogging up the courts for a few more years by helping enact a horsefuck of a law the equivalent of the shrill cry of a mortally wounded weasel as it clings desperately to life for a few more precious seconds even while the darkness closes in around it.”

A scientist explained that the risk of fucking your brains out is normally low when you’re having a legitimate sexual relationship—such as intimate sex with a long term partner or a one night stand with a lady or gentleman met at a local popular drinking establishment. But the proximity of cash to genitals produces a state in the brain that, while even then is normally stable, can sometimes be “thrown outta wack.”

“What happened in Toronto is the bawdy house made the sex free for a night, paying the prostitutes with its own money,” the scientist undeserving of his name in print says. “Your average rate per hour for sex at this place is $75 or… I think, around 12,500 Dogecoins right about now. So they reduced the price to zero while the actual value of the product remained the same, so the johns figured they’d better have cram as much sex during the evening as they could so as to maximize the bargain—much as how people will murder for cheap TVs during Black Friday sales.”

The scientist, who says his work has been published in the Ontario Review of Scientific Academic Science—a prestigious journal with a long history going back to last Tuesday—explained how this economic situation resulted in a conflict between the sides of the brain dealing with currency and sex literally frying and liquifying the brains of the coiting employees and customers. Apparently, he says, the upside of the brain gets signals from the genitals that sex is taking place, while the opposing downside of the brain is trying desperately to ascertain the correct amount of currency it thinks that the pleasure is worth.

Because the upside and downside of the brain are polar opposites—the upside being hedonistic and the downside being miserly—such an extreme clash of feelings can “short circuit” the organ.

Police have determined that the $20 bills were thrown around by one client in particular, who in the throes of celebration declared that he would donate his vast fortune withdrawn from the ATM near the Denny’s earlier that night to all in attendance and began emptying his pockets. This only amplifed the upside/downside clash, convincing the downside that all of a sudden paying for sex was actually earning them money, sending the fucking into absolute total maximum overdrive.

“It’s only going to get worse,” the definitely published scientist cautioned. “Allow these places to operate openly in society, and they’re going to fall into the same consumerist traps everything else does. Sex being free for a night is not going to happen often, but when we’re talking half price sales, two-for-ones, stamp cards where after the tenth transaction you get one freebie—even gift certificates—I can tell you this will happen again.”

Police have urged the public to remain calm during these confusing times of potentially allowing sex workers to work in safer environments, adding that because they were all the fancy new plasticy $20 bills, the currency itself can simply be wiped clean of brain matter and that the public can be assured that the cash will be back in circulation within days without anyone knowing the difference.

The Walking Dead S2E1: Still a whole lot better than the show

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It’s the same, but different—and that’s pretty much what I wanted. Last time you took care of the young girl Clementine as Lee Everett: a former college professor with a bit of a troubled past. This time, you directly control Clem, seeing the game’s world from the drastically different perspective of a familiar character who, if you have a slice of heart in your body, you’ve already come to love.

No parents, no Lee, not even no Duck. And having just escaped a kidnapping and made it through a tearful goodbye. Nobody’s been dealt a good hand in this universe—possibly because the dealer is whatever’s reanimating any human corpse it finds—but Clem’s had it rough.

The story picks up a while after the first season, and shortly skips an additional 18 months. Clem spends some time alone, and ultimately is found by a group of people living in a house in the woods. Assumedly, these will the people with whom we’ll need to figure out and forge alliances with as the season progresses.

Of course, rather than playing the more authoritative Lee, you’re now viewing your new companions through the lens of a child and all the vulnerability that brings with it. The Walking Dead Season One stood out for, if your choices didn’t necessarily prevent any deaths, allowing you, as Lee, to resolve conflicts based upon your words and how you’ve treated characters previously. But that always was helped by him being both physically capable, and having the commanding presence and confidence that can come with being an adult.

Clem doesn’t lack confidence, and is sufficiently capable that it doesn’t feel like this is going to be a damsel-in-distress season—which would suck both because it probably wouldn’t be fun, and it would undermine what you, as Lee, worked toward in the last game. At the same time, it doesn’t overdo it and make her a generic action girl ready to kick guys in the nuts left and right. It’s a good balance.

But of course, she’s still a child, and the interactions with the adults—several of whom openly dislike her—are made more unnerving because you’re not given the chance to be the voice-of-reason conflict resolver. So far anyway. This is only one episode, and you’re only able to interact with the characters in a limited way compared to the first episode of last season—there are no opportunities to wander around a safe spot and talk to people at will while you solve all the problems, and there were no situations where you could have had to pick a side in an argument. But there is plenty of conversation and you’re given many opportunities to be diplomatic, assertive, or unforgiving, without venturing into the unrealistic. It feels like it’s progressing Clem’s character well while keeping her in a realistic place socially. It’s a place of less power, but that will likely result in some great drama down the line.

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You might be a little disappointed that there’s no real payoff here, but then it’s the first installment of an episodic series. We get a sense of what Clem’s been going through, how she’s changed, and at the same time we have a whole new group of strangers whose motives are unclear to try to figure out. There’s a doctor who seems strangely concerned about Clem’s interactions with his daughter. There’s a pregnant lady who is dead set against her being around. You’ve got a young guy who seems quick to anger and not great with a gun clearly embroiled in a personality clash with his uncle. There’s some sort of conflict implied with another group that will doubtless be explored—perhaps involving the people from the inter-season short 400 Days?

Speaking of that, there didn’t seem to be any obvious connection between this episode and the five quick stories we got a few months ago, but there are occasional references to what you did in season one. In my game, for instance, Clem mentioned she had a friend who lost a hand while Luke was making small talk about how scars are cooler than stumps. It doesn’t seem like it’s anything major, but it really couldn’t be anyway. Season One was excellent at making you feel like your choices had major bearing on the storyline—until you looked it up online and found out it was mostly an illusion. Some characters were doomed to die at a particular point regardless of who you tried to help and when. Still, it was a good illusion, and it’s nice that Clem will refer to the version of the story that your Lee drove.

As far as the mechanics and graphics go, this is near identical. Nothing was that bad last season for what it is—ultimately, a point-and-click with heavy narrative. There are a few changes, though. When you can do multiple things with an object (look at, search) you’ll get different icons surrounding it to cilck, rather than mousing over and hitting a number. That’s nice. Though with dialogue choices, the option to hit a number to select your choice is gone, which can be a little annoying, particularly if you’re using a laptop track pad. There were some moments in the first season where I would hold my fingers over the keys for the whole conversation, sit back, and make split decisions. The options are nice and big and by all means easy to click, but hovering over one sentence and then moving the cursor to another and clicking it just feels a bit cumbersome, and makes me worry I might scroll too far and miss.

But, seriously, minor quibble and the only one I really had while playing, and would probably only bug a few people.

If the season can take this setup and deliver four more episodes of great characters, intrigue, manipulation, exploration and Tough Choices (even if they just feel like they matter), while avoiding the ruts that the show’s plot has gotten mired in periodically, then we’ll have a ride as special and gut-wrenching as the first season. There’s just enough famiiar here, with Clementine and the walker-infested world, and more than enough new, with both the radically altered perspective of a child, the situation she finds herself in, and the new people she has to deal with. It’s exactly how to start a sequel series.

And the spoilers are below.

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Not even the protagonist of Season One had plot armour, so all bets are naturally off here. You really do get a sense that anything can happen, right from the opening sequence. Most of us suspected that Clem meets Christa and Omid at the very end of Season One, and it looks like we were right. Omid’s joking about baby names as the three approach some washrooms, and I was definitely lulled into a false sense of “aw neat, time to settle in for at least an episode of Fun Guy Omid,” only to be brutally reminded that this game is happy to toss out characters as he was murdered with Clem’s own gun.

Though I did feel a little cheated. Clem’s in a washroom alone, first, and you’d think that nobody in this world sends anybody into an uncleared building alone, especially not a child. Second, this is the apocalypse, and I think we’d all be past going into separate washrooms to protect our modesty anyhow. Third, the woman who ultimately kills Omid gets the jump on Clementine after you’re forced to take her looking for a dropped water bottle—leaving the gun on the sink in clear sight. I know I wasn’t the only person who clicked on that weapon to try to pick it up before leaving it. I was actually expecting a walker to stumble through that door, but regardless, I saw “bad thing gonna happen” coming plain as a hill in Saskatchewan.

Still, losing Omid so fast after months of ‘knowing’ he and Christa would be the ones to find Clem hurt so good.

The next shock was, of course, Sam the dog. You meet him shortly after waking up separated from Christa, with little hope of finding her. Sam trots up to you, and you have a little adventure searching an abandoned campsite together. You can throw a frisbee, and he catches and returns it to you. His barking alerts you to a restrained walker, and you kill it while he whimpers around.

God damn, you’re going to have a girl and her dog journey here. In a post-apocalyptic zombie-infested world where Clem’s lost everyone she cared about, she finds a dog who lost everyone it cared about, and by golly they’re going to bond.

Only that dog turns fast as soon as you offer it some food, putting an end to that assumption. This little glimmer of hope is snuffed out with such callousness you can almost hear the writers laughing at you for being so trusting. This actually works to put you especially on guard once you meet the cabin group, not all of whom are happy to see you. I mean, if you can’t even trust a friendly dog, what hope do you have of these strangers meaning you well?

The third standout moment had to be the suture scene. Left locked in a shed with an open dog bite wound by Clem’s new friends, to see whether she could make it through the night before they assume it’s not a walker bite, she steals some improvised medical supplies, and stitches up her own arm. It’s graphic, looks and sounds ridiculously painful, but shows Clementine’s determination to look after herself in the face of the adults essentially leaving her to die so effectively.

The final choice you make, between helping the bitten Pete who seemed to actually give a shit about Clem or the unharmed but relatively inept Nick who almost shot her earlier, though did make a point to apologise, was the only time you really had to make a hard choice, and it felt a little overdue. But it’s there, and is evidence that Clem will be handed even more difficult cards as we go forward.

The writers of the first season were great at introducing something you grow to like and then tearing it away, or putting you into a position where you had to make the best of two bad choices. That is how you get emotionally invested in interactive fiction like this. Being forced to choose one character over another and seeing them both react to it builds a sort of bond that gets stronger over time. But you build that bond knowing that it can be snatched away, which makes those eventual deaths more meaningful. Sure, a character you’ve grown to not like can die and you might not care much. But for every character you dislike, there’s one you’ve built that bond with.

This installment is about meeting people and starting to feel out who is trustworthy and who isn’t. Who you’re going to try to keep happy, and who you’re going to watch for treachery. You’ll get a feel for these things by the end of it, and that feel bodes well for the rest of the season.

Almost all of world’s headlines now content-free—and you won’t believe who’s to blame

Used to be that a headline succinctly described the content of a story without ambiguity, laments Ronnie Goodword of Goodword’s Blog: one of the now-few remaining publications offering readers clarity rather than holding a word-shaped carrot just out of their reach.

But while he continues churning out local commentary pieces that tell you exactly what you’re getting, such as “Gary’s Seafood serves the worst cod in town” and “What City Council really oughta do is spend less money,” an important milestone was reached last week. Internet linguists are now certain that a full 95 per cent of all headlines on the internet were published completely without substance last month—up a full ten per cent from October’s previous record high.

“It’s all about getting people to click,” says Snaz Snowden, a social media guru who legally changed his surname in June to capitalize on Edward Snowden’s celebrity, and his first name at the same time because it alliterates and has a ‘z’ in it.

“That’s the only way you’re gonna make money in the biz these days—people just don’t have the time to inform themselves unless you coax them in with a long, slow tease.”

This idea has always been around, he says. Newspapers walking on the sensationalist side have always had such tools as the single word slam, where huge capital letters suggest an emotion—”TRAGIC” for example—but that won’t work so well on Twitter.

But what translates better is the question. Occasionally, when wanting to explore or create a hot issue without particularly taking a side, a newspaper would just make the headline a question, such as with “Did Obama secretly replace his daughter’s dead goldfish?”

“See with that,” Snowden says, “the answer’s ‘probably not’ if you actually read the article. But saying so upfront would deny the reader all the whimsical speculation and informationally bankrupt musings that they could have enjoyed for a good five… maybe even six minutes. Me? I don’t wanna live in that world.”

The question has become common online—in fact, it’s now present in around half of all headlines. But things don’t stop here.

“The biggest lesson we’ve all learned from social media,” Snowden gushed, “is people don’t like specifics. They like things to be vague. Think about it. If I tell you I got this story, ‘Kirsten Dunst wins Oscar,’ and you don’t care about the Oscars and/or Kirsten Dunst, why would you click it?

“But if I write, ‘How this one actress overcame the odds and won big’ well, now you’re curious.”

The idea is that rather than just tell people what happened and risk having those who don’t care not click the link, losing valuable advertisement impressions, you create a general situation that would interest most people and give just enough information to manipulate them into clicking through. They don’t know if it’s an actress they like or not until they land on the page, and they don’t know what was won either.

What they do know, however, is that they like some actresses, and they almost certainly like winning despite the odds, and so rather than risk passing the article by and not being privy to information that they might find useful or entertaining, they would rather spend the few seconds to click it at the minor risk of having wasted those seconds.

But that brief time while the page is open? Valuable advertising impressions. Even better, says Snowden, the best way to do it is hide the actual information past a few paragraphs of fluff to get the reader on the page longer and scrolling down more often. There are more ads at the bottom, after all.

“The days where we can just trust that people will seek out relevant news and then read the whole article all on their own in order to stay well-informed as a well-functioning democracy requires are long gone, my friend” says Snowden.

“People don’t like thinking. They don’t like making decisions about whether to read things, so what we do is basically put them in a position where their fear of missing out on something outweighs their lethargy. We turn what could have been a known unknown into an unknown unknown. People don’t give a shit about not knowing most things, but it kills them to know that there’s something that they don’t know but that they might want to know, that they could know if they want to know, just by clicking a link.

“People like me, we got them by the balls.”

Then there’s the challenge headline. These come in several forms. They’ll often lay out a general situation, such as “The most important tip for weight loss” and then finish with “that you won’t believe.” Sometimes the challenge will be upfront, as in “You won’t be able to resist watching this video of adorable hamsters meeting an otter.” The idea is that the reader will feel as if their capacity to believe and/or resist is in question, and thus their instinct is to prove the challenger wrong.

“Oh but I got even more tricks,” Snowden boasts. “Check this out: ‘This senior accomplishes the impossible (while wearing the most outrageous outfit).’ Did you see that? Parentheses, bitch! You got the headline proper, then just when you think you’re done and you have everything you need, with a rherotical light slap on the ass, I slip you a little something extra on the side. Everyone loves getting a little something extra. Now you owe me one, see? You gotta click.”

“It’s getting hard to keep up with stuff like this,” says Goodword. “Me, I respect my readers, I don’t think I should have to make them feel like I’m suggesting they ain’t good at something in order to get them to read my opinion on the state of the town’s potholes.”

But Goodword’s quaint, old-fashioned approach to headlines suffered a massive blow this week. While he published the investigative piece “Potholes worse than ever in Greenville,” in which he compared the average volume of potholes in his town to previous years, finding 2013 to have the largest on record by at least a factor of three, Snazwatch published “This town’s potholes are so big you’ll swear on your actual momma’s grave they’re photoshopped.” Snazwatch commanded a fatal lead over Goodword’s blog.

“I wish I could at least say Snazwatch brought meaningful international attention to the abhorrent state of Greenville’s roads resulting in change, but it hasn’t. Folks looking at the photos they took from my blog got a few minutes of gawking, and then they were no doubt off to see the next viral sensation like the witless crowds at a freakshow hop from the two-headed mummy to the bearded dwarf lady you won’t believe can benchpress this tig—aw heck, now I’m doing it.”

It was one thing, Goodword sighs, when it was just tasteless gossip blogs and sites dedicated to listicles of cats pulling this hooey, but the spread to legitimate news sites breaking stories of worldwide significance is just too much for his curious, outdated, old-timey sensibilities.

“Is this how we engage with current events now? The only way you can rouse somebody to sufficient interest in, say, the NSA leaks, being ‘How this one asshole caused a digital worldwide sensation you can’t afford to miss?’ Come on, that doesn’t even say anything!”

The spread has been unstoppable, with reputable news organizations publishing such headlines as “Is this the last time this president will get away with murder?” “This hot, famous celebrity slept with who?!” and “You don’t even want to know how she explains this one” with not even the merest hint of shame or shadow of a reluctant acknowledgement of how far we’re sinking.

But the numbers don’t lie. Experts have mapped the relationship between Facebook shares and retweets, and the amount of content in a headline, and have found a negative correlation. They went onto find a more fundamental relationship between the level of stupidity in a headline and its shares. More stupid was associated with less content but more shares, clicks, retweets, hits, impressions, dollars. With the death of print occuring every year, and with it each time the old, more financially sustainable relationship between the news and advertising, this arms race of vapidity shows no sign of slowing down.

Eventually, experts predict, somebody will happen upon the never-observed, but theoretically postulated “Absolute Stupid.” This is conjectured to be the point beyond which no further removal of meaningful information is physically possible. The revenue potential is said to approach infinity as one comes close to this elusive “zero point stupidity energy,” incentivizing every Chief Headline Officer in the biz to whip their teams of market research search engine optimization social media synergy analysts into overtime as part of the global convergence toward this one, true, golden piece of shit.

When it is found, the near-instantaneous result will be an unprecedented simulatenous share of the link by every social media account on the planet, sucking us squarely past the event horizon of stupid to a place from which no intelligent thought may ever escape.

But Snaz Snowden will be there, raking in the cash.

 

 

Oh, and who’s to blame for this? Well you’re on the internet, dummy. It’s Hitler again.