• Celebrate the World Cup with these bloody, sexy true crime soccer stories

    Badlands is a spinoff of the popular rock n' roll true crime podcast Disgraceland, with lurid stories of sex, drugs, and murder in other celebrity cultures. And just in time for the World Cup, the new season takes a look at the seedy underbelly of soccer.

    I had the honor of writing the kickoff episode, focused on Diego Maradona — the Imperialist crusader from Argentina behind the infamous "Hand of God" World Cup win, who lived out his last few decades in increasingly impressive bouts of shame and disappointment. Here's the official episode description:

    Busted for drugs. Busted for prostitution. Busted for shooting an air rifle at reporters. Associated with one of the biggest and oldest organized crime families in Italy. Blood stolen by nurses and treated like a sacred relic. Despite all of this, Diego Maradona somehow still showed up the next day and played a great game of soccer. He even turned a soccer match into a weapon during a centuries-long war between England and Argentina. Diego Maradona was more than one of the greatest of all time – he was also one of the most infamous.

    You can listen to the episode at the usual podcast places: Amazon Music, iHeart, Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, Stitcher, Spotify, etc. The rest of the season features episodes on Paul Gascoigne, Andrés Escobar, Bruno Fernandes de Souza, and the infamous Hillsborough Disaster; new ones drop every Wednesday, or you can listen to the full season on Amazon Music right now. (There are also a few episodes about American Football, if that's more your speed.)

    Diego Maradona: Stolen Blood, Italian Gangsters, and the Hand of God [Thom Dunn / Badlands]

    Badlands, Season 6: Sportsland

    Image: Diego Torres Silvestre / Flickr (CC-BY-SA 2.0)

  • Dolphins have an impressively high tolerance for hot sauce

    In an effort to stop dolphins from pilfering fish out of human nets, some researchers in Greece began experimenting with ways to deter the horny aquatic mammals. After several failed attempts involving noisemakers and camouflage nets, the scientists turned to a tried-and-true classic: pepper spray.

    Or, more specifically, they laced the fishermen's nets with capsaicin. That spicy chemical is frequently used as a deterrent for land-based mammals, as well as some birds and insects. But not the dolphins. From Hakai Magazine:

    The first time dolphins interacted with their hot sauce­–spiked nets, two individuals spent no more than 15 minutes tearing 217 holes in the gear.

    […]

    While it's known that many cetaceans, including bottlenose dolphins, lack four of the five primary tastes—they can only pick up salty—spiciness is registered by a different set of sensory cells through chemesthesis. This process, which signals sensations such as pain and heat, is little studied in the species. Other toothed whales do appear to have the hardware required for capsaicin detection, notes [Aurélie] Célérier, [a neuroscientist at the University of Montpellier in France who specializes in marine mammal communication], but there's a lot left to learn.

    It's possible that the dolphins used their notorious super-smarts to work a way around the capsaicin (maybe they stocked up on cow's milk beforehand?). It's also entirely possible that dolphins simply have, as The Atlantic put it, "elite spice tolerance."

    Or maybe they just really like hot sauce.

    Dolphins Shrug Off Hot Sauce–Spiked Nets [Sarah Keartes / Hakai]

    Dolphins don't mind hot sauce: testing the effect of gill net coating on depredation rates [Maria Garagouni, Georgia Avgerinou, George Minos, Kostas Ganias / arine of Mammal Science Journal]

    Image: Public Domain via Pexels

  • How I became a hologram

    Okay well I guess the short answer to the question there in the headline is "Some PR person emailed me and said 'hey, you wanna try out our new holopresence tech?'" So obviously, I took them up on it. Who doesn't want to be a hologram?

    And so it was that I found myself in the downtown Boston studio-office of ARHT Media, a Toronto-based holopresence company that began in 2014. The basics are pretty simple: a projector, sending an image to a proprietary reflective mesh with lights behind the screen to block out any image bleed (these screens, along with the studio space, are the company's main product). CEO Larry O'Reilly beamed in to chat with me from the central offices — and I have to admit, it was a surprisingly natural-seeming conversation. He was standing on a green screen, but he looked to me like a normal albeit oddly translucent full-sized human being. Once I got over the roughly 0.3-second delay, we were able to communicate in real-time; within about a minute, I'd forgotten I was talking to a hologram, and our conversation immediately felt far more organic than anything I've ever done over Zoom. There was a camera monitor in the lobby space where I was seated, so that O'Reilly could see us back and interact with us; from his vantage point, on that green screen in Toronto, there was a monitor that marked the line of eyesight, so he could appear more naturally as if he was actually interacting directly with me (the Boston green screen studio had a similar setup).

    During our chat, O'Reilly explained that the company's largest client base is in the healthcare industry, so that doctors, technicians, and other specialists can share knowledge and experience from across the globe, without sinking all that money and time into travel. Instead of booking a hotel for a weekend-long conference, for instance, one healthcare provider recently booked a few restaurants in cities across the country, and used ARHT's technology to beam in the presenters to each location simultaneously. As an added bonus, those presenters could also use ARHT's software to incorporate 3D graphics and other videos into their presentations, making the whole event feel a little more interactive despite the fact that it's essentially a simulcast video.

    And then, of course, they let me become my own hologram. I didn't really chat with anyone across the world, but it was still kinda fun to see.

    Photos: Thom Dunn

    As far as I understand, it'll cost you around $60K for the projection screen setup with five years of tech support — which, to be fair, is way less than most companies spend on travel and conferences each year. (The company had also smartly worked out their pitch to ensure it mentioned the impact on reducing carbon emissions, which is admittedly a clever marketing angle.) More recently, ARHT has released a new Capsule that's basically a hologram box that you can move with you anywhere. At first glance, it felt sillier to me than the projection screen … but then I realized, it wasn't so far off from hologramming Emperor Palpatine into Vader's chamber either. Apparently someone even used ARHT's tech to beam a bridesmaid into a wedding at the height of the initial COVID outbreak. I suspect we'll be seeing a lot more of this stuff in the near future — and, to my surprise, it's actually cool and effective.

  • "Please Say It!" is a sweet new webcomic about coming out in the 80s

    My friend Tim Fish — co-creator of the frighteningly topical Weimar Republic queer romance Liebestrasse — just launched a new free web comic called Please Say It! Rather than exploring a burgeoning on the backdrop of an inevitably encroaching genocide, Please Say It! focuses on something even more horrifying: high school in the late 1980s.

    Matt is an outgoing but closeted army brat whose family moves from Texas to a small town in New Hampshire. There, he lays eyes on Trevor, another closeted teen who would much rather just keep his head down to survive until he can escape after graduation. Matt doggedly pursues a friendship with the reluctant Trevor, as he also tries to establish himself as a vivacious personality new school — a clear disruption to Trevor's plans of blend-in-and-don't-get-noticed. It's a sweet, simple story of two people who share something an intensely personal bond, but are both too scared to actually say it (hence the title). And of course, things get more complicated — especially when the flamboyant musical theatre star Peter starts flirting with both of them.

    Please Say It! had begun its life as a pitch for an "It Gets Better"-themed anthology, a little over a decade ago. But Tim decided more recently to revisit the characters and story, in light of current events and the increased on the LGBTQ+ community. Here's what he had to say about the genesis of the story (via his Patreon):

    To  prepare for summer school at Oxford, I reviewed a decade worth of  sketchbooks, looking for ideas I still liked but had never developed. I  was prepared for any assignment thrown my way! One of the "fresher"  ideas I has stemmed from disturbing news.

    A number of parental  rights (aka "don't say gay") laws were popping up. I don't fully  understand the rationale, but I do think the motivation is misguided at  best. If you disagree, I will gladly sit down with you and explain my  perspective.

    By the time I got back from Oxford, even more anti-LGBTQ+ stuff had gone down:

    • the Nebraska student newspaper shut down over preferred pronouns
    • the Christian school in Florida asked its LGBTQ+ students to leave
    • the town in Michigan that voted to defund its town library as the library refused to drop three LGBTQ+ themed graphic novels

    Whatever  the motivation, the message to LGBTQ+ youth is clear: you're not  wanted. You're not welcome. At least, I'm sure that is what is felt.

    There is nothing new or special about Please Say It! It's simply a quiet story to add another positive narrative to the mix.  It's not all sweetness and apple pie, of course, a good story has  conflict! To me, it was important to launch it quickly, and for free. A  story about the past for the right now. Content with a message, for  younger readers who may not have the means to pay. It's not perfect,  just my way of offering some hope and encouragement.

    I hope you stick with the story.

    As of this writing, there are 9 chapters of Please Say It! available to read for free via WebToons, with new ones being added every week; as I understand it, Tim has 26 chapters outlined, though he could extend the story, if there are enough interested readers.

    Please Say It! [Tim Fish / WebToons]

  • Friendly octopus gives a hug to a human scuba diver

    Via Vancouver Sun:

    On Oct. 15, Humphreys and two other locals were with a fifth diver who had never seen an octopus on a dive.

    "So, our goal was to find that person an octopus and we geared up and got in the water. And within three minutes, I found this octopus that was just sitting there, out in the open," said Humphreys.

    Humphreys and her friends tried to give the octopus some space while they snapped photos. She estimated its size at more than three metres, tentacle to tentacle, with a body bigger than a basketball.

    But the octopus had other ideas.

    It started crawling towards Humphreys' friend who had never before seen an octopus, then it greeted Humphreys with its body and tentacles fully engulfing her camera.

    How could HP Lovecraft have been so scared of something so cute and friendly?

    Watch: B.C. diver shakes a leg with giant Pacific octopus in 'mind-blowing' encounter [Nono Shen / Vancouver Sun]

  • Rejoice, for the first ever First-Person Jesus video game is finally available

    Back in December 2019, I wrote about I Am Jesus, a new video game that was at that point still under development, wherein you play as Jesus Christ in a first-person shooter-esque format (although you're presumably shooting miracles and healing instead of gatling guns). From the game's Steam page:

    "I am Jesus Christ" is a realistic simulator game inspired by stories from the New Testament of the Bible. Get into old times and follow the same path of Jesus Christ 2,000 years ago. Game is covering the period from Baptizing of Jesus Christ and to Resurrection. Have you ever wondered to be like Him – one of the most privileged and powerful people in the world?

    Check if you can perform all famous miracles from the Bible like Jesus Christ. It is a simulation game and you can try to save the world as He did. Are you ready to fight with Satan in the desert, exorcising demons and curing sick people? Or calm the storm in the sea?

    Three years later, and the game is actually, finally available to download and play. Or at least there's a free prologue available starting December 1, 2022. And it sounds strangely intriguing, at least according to this Vice review:

    The game begins with the search for John the Baptist. As Jesus, I had to ask my fellow villagers where he was and then make my way to him without starving. That mostly meant picking fruits from the bushes along the way to keep my health bar full.

    My impression of this first level was that it was a bit of a hodgepodge, but the situation quickly escalated. In the next level, I, Jesus, had to fast in the desert while surrounded by angels training me to fight. Quite a bit of a departure from the source material – certainly no turning the other cheek in this one.

    With the press of a button, I could instead gather the energy balls thrown at me by Satan and bounce them back, with a magma-filled crater as a backdrop (a natural feature obviously very common in Palestinian deserts).

    Every now and then, I had to stop and pray to recharge my "Holy Spirit", consumed by the use of my powers. I'm no theology expert, but I don't recall Jesus ever running into the issue of a possible "Holy Spirit depletion", especially since I'm pretty sure the Bible says they're supposed to be inextricably linked together as one God.

    I Am Jesus Christ

    I Played the World's First Jesus Christ Simulator and I Have Questions [Matteo Lupetti / Vice]

  • Moby Dick translated into Gen Z English

    Via Elodie Under Glass on Tumblr:

    Call me Ishmael. Some years ago – it's none of your business how many – being mostly broke, and bored with the land part of the world, I thought I would sail around a little and look at the watery part of the world. I'm probably the most mentally healthy person you know. Whenever I feel my face getting grim; whenever it is a damp, drizzly November in my soul; whenever I find myself accidentally reading the ads in the window of funeral homes, and following funeral processions through traffic; and especially when I'm hangry, and only my extremely strong moral principles stop me from deliberately going out in public and methodically slapping people's earbuds out – then I know it's high time to get to sea, ASAP. This is my substitute for getting in fights. I'm too mentally healthy to kill myself; I quietly and considerately put myself on a ship and sail myself away instead. There is nothing surprising in this. Everyone feels exactly the same way, and if they don't, they're lying.

    You think I'm lying? Exhibit A: a city. Go to your local coastal city. Everyone is looking at the water. They drive over from other neighborhoods just to come to the water. They make a day of it. They're not doing anything, they're just staring at the ocean. Why? Is it because they all work office jobs? No! Here come more of them! They cram themselves up to the edge of the water and stare at it. WHAT DO THEY WANT? WHAT ARE THEY LOOKING AT. Perhaps the ships themselves all packed together, each one with several compasses on it, creates some kind of critical mass – all of the small compass-magnets on all the ships in the harbor combining into one really big magnetic field – and the people get sucked into the field and trapped there. That's science.

    Exhibit 2: the countryside with lakes in it. Every path you follow in the countryside brings you to some water, such as a stream. There is magic in it. If you take your standard fool with ADHD dissociating in the middle of a supermarket and put them outside and give them a shove, they'll automatically lead you to water (if there is any nearby) (try it). Another good experiment to try is to get lost in the great American desert in a caravan supplied with a metaphysical professor! Try it in the great American desert at home!

    Yes, as everyone knows, meditation and water are a match made in heaven. Married forever. That's science.

    Keep reading.

    Image: Reeding Lessons / Flickr (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0)

  • Lab-grown blood injected into live human beings for the first time

    Earlier this month, a research team at the UK's National Health Service announced that they had successfully performed a blood transfusion using lab-grown blood, in the first known clinical trial of such a thing.

    Red blood cells that have been grown in a laboratory have now been transfused into another person in a world first clinical trial.

    The manufactured blood cells were grown from stem cells from donors. The red cells were then transfused into volunteers in the RESTORE randomised controlled clinical trial.

    […]

    The trial is studying the lifespan of the lab grown cells compared with infusions of standard red blood cells from the same donor. The lab-grown blood cells are all fresh, so the trial team expect them to perform better than a similar transfusion of standard donated red cells, which contains cells of varying ages.

    Additionally, if manufactured cells last longer in the body, patients who regularly need blood may not need transfusions as often. That would reduce iron overload from frequent blood transfusions, which can lead to serious complications.

    Here's a little more context on the science, courtesy of The Verge:

    The milestone in this trial comes after decades of work trying to figure out how to grow these types of cells in the lab in the first place. The cells used in the trial were grown from stem cells taken from the blood of adult donors. The research team needed 500,000 stem cells to create 50 billion red blood cells, according to the BBC. Of that volume, 15 billion cells were at the right stage of development for transfusion. (For context, healthy adults have about 3 to 5 million red blood cells per cubic millimeter of blood).

    So far, the trial seems to have been a success, and neither of the patients have transformed into Morbius The Living Vampire or demonstrated any other negative side effects.

    First ever clinical trial of laboratory grown red blood cells being transfused into another person [National Health Service]

    In world-first trial, lab-grown blood was just injected into two people [Nicole Wetsman / The Verge]

  • Henry Cavill gets way too serious about Warhammer 40K during an interview

    During a recent promotional interview about the new Enola Holmes 2, someone at Nerdist had the silly idea of asking actor Henry Cavill about Warhammer 40K. You can see the Superman and Sherlock Holmes actor's eyes light up at the opportunity to talk about what is clearly a game that he has spent a lot of time thinking about. He treats the question with great reverence, like it's almost life or death … and then you can watch in real-time as his excitement fades when the interviewer that they don't actually know anything about the game, someone else just told them to ask the question.

    He then adorably tries to find the person who came up with the question, presumably so they can geek out about the game together.

    This is apparently not the first time that Cavill has confessed to his love of the futuristic tabletop war game, either. Clearly he needs to star in or host his own Warhammer series now.

  • Mikey's house from Goonies is up for sale asking $1.65 million

    The Astoria, Oregon house where Brand and Mikey's family lives in the classic film Goonies is now up for sale. Built in 1896 and located within sight of the bay, the 3 bedroom / 2 bathroom Victorian is currently going for $1.65 million.

    From the official real estate listing:

    Literally the home you have all been waiting for! Built in 1896, this home comes fully loaded with history, nostalgia and iconic level of fame. After you walk through the front door of this amazing home, you realize the level craftsmanship and character put into this property. Every level of this home has clear views of the bay, the bridge and the city. Each spectacular season will be a welcome change as you get to experience all the Oregon Coast has to offer from the comfort of your own home.

    Property type: Single family home
    Bedrooms: 3
    Bathrooms: 2
    SqFt: 2,336
    Lot SqFt: 3,484
    County: Clatsop
    Year Built: 1896

    Apparently, people still flock to the house for annually to pay tribute to the movie. I feel like anyone looking to spend the kind of money might not welcome that invasion of privacy, but hey, I'll probably never afford a house like this, so what do I know anyway?

    The treasure map in the attic, however, is not included in the listing.

  • "Numb To This" is a harrowing graphic novel memoir about a mass shooting

    Numb To This is the debut graphic novel from writer/illustrator Kindra Neely. Back in 2015, Neely was a student at Umpqua Community College in Oregon — and she was there on campus the day that a gunman killed eight students and one professor and injured eight more.

    The book is more than just a graphic memoir of a horrible tragedy; as she details within the pages of the book, it was also an outlet for journey towards healing from the trauma of that fateful day. But don't take that to mean that Numb To This is some sort of personal diary of self expression. While this may be Neely's first professional foray into graphic novel publishing, her work demonstrates a deft skill as a storyteller. She knows when to let her clean cartooning speak for itself, and when she needs the words to enhance the scene. Editing your own trauma down to an illustrated narrative is a tricky art, but Neely innately understands the dramatic structure outside of herself, pulling you along through its roughly 300 pages. I ended up reading Numb To This in a single sitting; it was genuinely hard to put down.

    That's not because it was an edge-of-seat thriller or anything. There's not even any central mystery or anything else that compels you to learn more. Neely's personal experience during the shooting is depicted, yes, but it's not a gratuitous or horrifying action sequence; it's mostly her and some other people holed up in the library. And that's where Numb To This finds its real strength: in the way it depicts those small, quiet moments that follow the survivors of these horrific events. It's not about an epic recovery after getting shot (Neely endures no such injuries). It's about how you find a way to go on living afterwards.

    Perhaps the most horrifying thing about the story is how familiar and visceral Neely's depression feels in the aftermath of her experience. Even if you've never survived a mass shooting yourself — I certainly haven't! — you can find a way to resonate with the guilt and fear and shame that she internalizes afterward. Now compound your own personal experiences of depression with massive media coverage. Imagine your darkest moments transformed into fodder by locals and social media sock puppets alike — casting accusations and aspersions that twist your trauma into a tool for someone else's social clout. And all the while, you just pull deeper inward, not wanting your loved ones to worry any more than they already did after the harrowing experience you endured.

    Numb To This is fucking powerful. It's the kind of thing that should be taught in schools — not just because of the way it depicts this horrible moment in our history, but also the way it illustrates the healing power of art.

    Here's the official synopsis:

    This searing graphic memoir portrays the impact of gun violence through a fresh lens with urgency, humanity, and a very personal hope.Kindra Neely never expected it to happen to her. No one does. Sure, she'd sometimes been close to gun violence, like when the house down the street from her childhood home in Texas was targeted in a drive-by shooting. But now she lived in Oregon, where she spent her time swimming in rivers with friends or attending classes at the bucolic Umpqua Community College.

    And then, one day, it happend: a mass shooting shattered her college campus. Over the span of a few minutes, on October 1, 2015, eight students and a professor lost their lives. And suddenly, Kindra became a survivor. This empathetic and ultimately hopeful graphic memoir recounts Kindra's journey forward from those few minutes that changed everything. 

    It wasn't easy. Every time Kindra took a step toward peace and wholeness, a new mass shooting devastated her again. Las Vegas. Parkland. She was hopeless at times, feeling as if no one was listening. Not even at the worldwide demonstration March for Our Lives.  But finally, Kindra learned that—for her—the path toward hope wound through art, helping others, and sharing her story.

    Numb To This [Kindra Neely]

    She survived a mass shooting — then created a graphic novel to help others [Alejandra Marquez Janse, Juana Summers, and Matt Ozug / NPR]

  • Tumblr users have created an elaborate mythology around a fake Scorsese film

    No sooner than it exists than TV Tropes already summarizes it:

    Goncharov is a 1973 mafia film written by Matteo JWHJ 0715 directed by Martin Scorsese, and starring Al Pacino, Robert De Niro, Gene Hackman, Harvey Keitel and Cybill Shepard. It follows the story of Goncharov, a former discotheque owner who comes to Naples after the fall of the Soviet Union, and begins to work his bloody way up through the ranks of organized crime, and in the process becoming entangled with the life of Andrey, a banker, and a mysterious woman named Katya.

    In reality, Goncharov doesn't exist, and is in fact an internet meme based on an OCR misreading of the film Gomorrah, resulting in a pair of shoes advertising a non-existent film. This didn't stop the film from trending at #1 on Tumblr only a few days after the poster was created, with Martin Scorsese trending at #2. On top of this, the film quickly gained a Letterboxd and (removed) TMDB page, as well as getting its own tag on Archive of Our Own, and having the 'main theme' from the film uploaded to both Tumblr and Spotify.

    Go ahead and explore the Goncharov tag on Tumblr. It's elaborate! Someone composed a pitch-perfect musical theme:

    There are GIF sets of shots from the non-existent movie:

    VHS cover art:

    There's even a fake 90s video game based on the non-existent movie, along with authentic fake Goncharov merchandise!

    It's nice to know there's still some good out there on the interwebs.

  • Watch what happens when you shoot a lithium-ion battery with a nail gun

    The folks at iFixit put together this video about battery safety that looks frighteningly similar to the home experiments my friends and I used to do in high school. But they do with better safety precautions and more deliberate intentions than "hey what if we fucked with this." And wow, this is a good reminder of just how dangerous a battery can be (when mishandled, anyway).

  • Watch the trailer for "5-25-77," a romance film about seeing STAR WARS

    5-25-77 is a new coming-of-age film from writer-director Patrick Read Johnson, set on the backdrop of the world premiere of the first Star Wars movie. Here's the IMDB premise:

    Alienated, hopeful-filmmaker Pat Johnson's epic story growing up in rural Illinois, falling in love, and becoming the first fan of the movie that changed everything.

    The film is apparently pseudo-autobiographical — Johnson, who is clearly a filmmaker, did see the movie on its opening night, and has developing this movie in some form or another for over twenty years.

    It looks saccharine but sweet nonetheless. The movie is out now on VOD/digital platforms.

  • Large-scale efforts have begun to capture Twitter history before its gone

    From MIT Technology Review:

    Almost from the time the first tweet was posted in 2006, Twitter has played an important role in world events. The platform has been used to record everything from the Arab Spring to the ongoing war in Ukraine. It's also captured our public conversations for years. 

    But experts are worried that if Elon Musk tanks the company, these rich seams of media and conversation could be lost forever. Given his admission to employees in a November 10 call that Twitter could face bankruptcy, it's a real and present risk.

    The overall piece is worth a read, as it reflects on the serious ways that this social media platform has really served as an historical conduit for the last 15 years. For all its faults, Twitter has enabled some pretty incredible social change!

    Fortunately, some savvy archival efforts are already underway. Maybe not the Arab Spring, or things of that import. But one savvy Tweeter, Nathan Allebach, has already created an editable GoogleDoc to catalog the site's history of memes, including social trends that emerged in emoji use and ASCII artwork.

    Even just scrolling the 105-page (so far) of meme history is like a fascinating stroll down the memory lane of post-postmodern dadaism. Truly, what a time to be alive.

    Emoji, ASCII, and Text Meme Templates Archive

  • What it's like to buy a real-life goblin on the Internet

    Over at The Fence, editor-at-large Fergus Butler-Gallie chronicled his efforts to buy his girlfriend a real-life goblin as a birthday present. And it is quite the journey:

    Perhaps appropriately for this task, I took to the metaverse. Zuckerberg and Clegg came up trumps and a quick Facebook search for goblin sellers yielded results. Now, I would normally suggest, from bitter experience, that most gifts – especially ones for your significant other – are not best bought on Facebook Marketplace. But then most gifts aren't goblins. The vendor page of 'business-minded and flamboyant' Sekuru Kafura was my first port of call. Not my words, the words of the Zimbabwe Sunday Mail. He claims to make a very healthy living indeed out of his traditional healing job and, crucially, his Facebook page bears the bio: 'I can help you with goblins'

    I sent him a WhatsApp and the reply was almost instantaneous: perfect customer service. I told him I was interested in buying a goblin. He informed me it was a living thing and that there were certain 'rules' attached.

    I don't want to spoil the entire experience, but reading this piece was so surreal that I was actually couldn't tell if it was meant to be a work of fiction or satire, or if it was indeed a true story.

    So I googled Butler-Gallie's goblin guru, Sekuru Kafera — who is indeed a real person living with 12 wives, 100 children, and, yes, a goblin-selling business. (Okay so technically they're tikoloshes, which Wikipedia informs me are dwarf-like water sprites from Zulu/Xhosa mythology, though apparently "goblin" is largely accepted as an informal name.) Kafera is also a traditionalist healer, whom the Sunday Mail describes as a "habitually well-dressed teetotaller."

    I have a lot of questions, but I feel like the more I ask, the more uncomfortable it's going to get for everyone. But hey, if you've got a couple thousand USD to spare on a new goblin, you know where to look.

    Goblin Mode [Fergus Butler-Gallie / The Fence]

    Image: Achim Raschka / Wikimedia Commons (CC-BY-SA-3.0)

  • It's Oregon Trail, but you have dysentery all the time and it doesn't kill you

    Like many red-blooded Americans, I spent countless hours of my youth on the fabled Oregon Trail, killing my family as I tried to caulk to river, and/or shitting myself to death.

    But what if dysentery didn't kill you? What if it just … gave you constant diarrhea, making your journey along the Oregon Trail even more tedious and frustrating because you have to keep pulling over to poop, or else stinking up your wagon with shit-stained underwear?

    That's the premise of You Have Not Died of Dysentery, a new free online game from programmers Steven Nass and Ivy Hu (who previously created Dr. Mario with modern health insurance) along with Peter Henningsen. You Have Not Died of Dysentery is a faithful recreation of the classic Oregon Trail computer game. Except you shit yourself a lot. Fortunately, without dying! Plus, you brought plenty of reading material along for those increasingly frequent bathroom trips, and you can buy some more along the way, in case you get bored. (The game contains the text from actual articles written in the 1800s, so you can educate yourself while you poop.) You might need to buy some extra paints and stock up on toilet paper instead of bullets, too.

    Either way, you're gonna be taking a lot of bathroom breaks.

    You Have Not Died of Dysentery (Steven Nass and Ivy Hu with Peter Henningsen)

  • Professional Dungeon Masters in NYC are also dealing with a labor shortage

    It's a common lament from many a Centrist American on a Fox News diet these days: "No one wants to narrate an epic fantasy journey into the heart of dungeon to find gold and adventure anymore!"

    Or, as HellGate NYC explains:

    D&D can be overwhelming to any new player; this is especially true for a DM, who needs to know all the rules, adjudicate them, create or manage the story, plan logistics for their group, and cater the experience to what each player wants. The amount of effort involved makes it inaccessible for new players and difficult for experienced ones to sustain long-term.

    All of which has conspired to make it harder to find people to actually run the spiking number of campaigns. "I think a lot of DMs just want to sit back and let other people run a game," one Dungeon Master on hiatus from running campaigns told me. "There's a DM shortage in the tabletop community like there's a top shortage in the LGBTQ community."

    The shortage has made it difficult for many players to find games, especially ones that are high quality and in-person. On websites like Lex and Reddit, posts of players in the city looking for DMs outnumber the opposite significantly, with the latter consistently getting more traction.

    Perhaps the issue might be the labor conditions down at the dwarven tavern, where there are frequent fights breaking out all over the place? Alas, too many Dungeon Masters are gig workers, with no protections from goblin attacks, let alone from the stress and emotional fallout of trying to wrangle your friend group for a game and watching your buddy's heartbreak as they roll a 1 to block the wizard's energy blast.

    It's Not Just You: NYC Has a Serious Dungeon Master Shortage [Henry Solotaroff-Webber / HellGate NYC]

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