Jason Treit
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Naked suspects in bizarre Alberta kidnapping may have sipped trippy tea, relative says


By Chris Purdy - The Canadian Press

Thu., Nov. 9, 2017

LEDUC, ALTA.—The people charged in a bizarre naked kidnapping that ended in a car crash may have unknowingly drank some hallucinogenic tea over breakfast, says a relative.

RCMP have released few details about what happened Monday just before 10 a.m. in the community of Nisku, just south of Edmonton.

Three adults have been charged with kidnapping and resisting arrest. The matter was in court for the first time Thursday.

No one was hurt, but the case has made headlines around the world.

The relative said he wants everyone to know the accused are not bad people. They just had some trippy tea.

“It’s absolutely crazy,” said the man, who cannot be named due to a court publication ban protecting the identity of youths involved in the case.

“It’s a scary thought thinking, ‘Oh, let’s try this tea that we purchased.’ And then all sit down thinking they’re just going to have a nice morning and end up in that circumstance.”

He told The Canadian Press that his two daughters, who are 13 and 15, and his ex-wife were having breakfast with two friends — a man and his wife. The man had recently travelled overseas and brought back some tea from India. The relative did not know the name of the tea.

That kicked off the “whole crazy spell,” he said.

Mounties have said a man, woman and baby were forced against their will from a home in Leduc County into a BMW. Inside the car were five naked people. While the car was being driven, the abducted man, who was in the trunk, managed to escape. The woman and her baby then managed to get away.

The trio were picked up by a passerby, but his work truck was rammed from behind by the car.

When officers arrived, they pulled out the five naked people. The adults, who are 27, 30 and 35, were arrested, but the teens were not charged.

The relative said he laughed about the case when he heard it on the news, then was shocked to learn that his straitlaced daughters were involved.

“I was just like what the heck?”

He visited his youngest girl in hospital, who had been taken with some of the other suspects for treatment.

They don’t remember what happened, the man said.

“Whatever potency that stuff had obviously is making it so it’s just a big blur,” he said, adding blood tests were also taken at the hospital.

“Nothing came back like illicit drugs, so they figure it may have been some type of herbal drug or something.”

He said the three people who were forced from their homes — a man, his daughter and her six-week-old baby — are also family friends and aren’t holding any grudges. They probably opened their door that morning trying to help, he suggested.

He also believes the car rammed the truck because the tea made those inside think the family had been abducted by the truck driver — not the other way around.

“They were under the impression that they were saving that guy and the woman and the little girl.”

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66 days ago
Apparently Florida Man has nothing on Alberta Family.
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66 days ago
I really want to know what was in that tea

Knifepoint Horror: "staircase"

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77 days ago
Something spooky for your ears at whatever hour you stagger home tonight.
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Patreon's recent crackdown on adult content worries sex workers and creators of erotic art

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On October 17th, crowdfunding website Patreon amended the terms of its acceptable use policy as part of a wider program of reform. The new document was now much more proscriptive about what the site's users could and could not use its payments platform for. Beyond tightening provisions around hate speech and illegal content, the site essentially banned sex workers and adult content of a sexual nature. Patreon had always described itself as "not for pornography" but offered a broad latitude for projects that contained erotic content, and the change has caused much upset in the community that produces such material.

Despite Patreon's claims to the contrary, the site has clearly backed pornographers and sex workers in their projects. In 2016, the site very publicly enabled users to receive donations through PayPal subsidiary Braintree after a long battle with the e-commerce provider. It even emailed its adult content creators (a copy is available here), telling them that "as a company we are not happy with [PayPal's] lack of transparency since it impacts the livelihoods of Adult Content creators." Now, sex workers feel betrayed.

In her Open Letter to Patreon, artist Liara Roux describes that sense of betrayal, since Patreon had previously made moves to openly court sex workers. The artist even claims that the site offered tips on how adult content creators could use Patreon to fund movies and create websites to "reliably deliver rewards to our patrons." The letter, at the time of writing, had around 250 signatures from creators who feel that their livelihoods are now under threat.

Patreon's revised document not only excised references to erotic art, however, but also included a number of new provisions related to sex work. These included forbidding the use of Patreon donations to produce pornographic material, maintain an adults-only website or solicit money in exchange for a private webcam session. All of which were apparently endorsed by Patreon previously, and are key mechanisms to enable sex workers to get paid.

An excerpt from Patreon's previous policy that permitted sexual imagery.

Roux told Engadget that Patreon's stance has caused a great deal of nervousness for the sex workers and artists who use the platform. "They can't say they run a platform for niche artists and freedom of expression," Roux said, "and also arbitrarily decide what is and is not 'acceptable' adult content." The artist feels that any trust between the community and Patreon has now broken down as a result of the policy change. "The PayPal thing was huge," said Roux. "It was definitely a big part of them gaining our trust."

The only way that Roux can envisage Patreon becoming a trusted brand again is if the site says that it will welcome adult content and pornography onto its platform, even if that means placing it in a hidden, adults-only section. "It's going to be very hard to believe them," she added. "I've worked with them in the past on revising my portfolio, and they just changed the game again."

The fallout from Patreon's decision may mean that performers lose their entire income stream, since there are so few available options. "There are reasons porn is dominated by big companies," Roux explained. "It's very hard work to start your own site and start using a porn-safe [credit card] processor which is why you usually only see it from big stars." Patreon, she said, "was that niche platform where those just starting out could still find their audience." And there are very few alternatives available to those people who do not have the initial backing to launch such an enterprise.

Patreon's policy was expanded as the result of controversy the site found itself mired in over the summer. In July, Patreon was forced to suspend a number of accounts that it found had violated its content policies. Lauren Southern and the members of Defend Europe had their pages shut down after using pledged cash to attempt to block efforts to save refugees. Not long after, Patreon also withdrew funding to It's Going Down, a hardline left-wing news website.

In response to the backlash, Patreon CEO Jack Conte was prompted to post an explanation to YouTube. Conte explained that Southern and her colleagues "directly obstructed a search and rescue ship in the Mediterranean," a violation of the rules on threatening or harming others. Southern denied her involvement in the project, but Conte used footage Southern herself filmed to back his claim. Similarly, It's Going Down was suspended for doxing -- the practice of publishing an individual's address and phone number online -- and advocating a number of property crimes like "pouring concrete over railway tracks."

"The authority to take away a person's income is a sobering responsibility and it is not something to be done on a whim." —Patreon CEO Jack Conte

"We didn't properly invest in an external communications plan," said Conte, explaining Patreon's alleged lack of transparency. The CEO said that while the decision to take down the accounts was the right thing to do, failure to communicate that properly was not. The company affirmed that it would hire more human moderators in its Trust and Safety team, develop an appeals process and improve policy education. Conte even ends the video with the line "The authority to take away a person's income is a sobering responsibility and it is not something to be done on a whim."

On October 18th, Patreon legal chief Colin Sullivan posted a lengthy essay in which he talked about "taking a clearer stance on some fringe areas of adult content." Sullivan specifically mentioned taboo, illegal topics like incest, bestiality, sexual depiction of minors and aggressive sexual violence. But there is a disconnect between Sullivan and Conte's stance and the revised policy that was made available, because the new policy expressly bans activity that the site has previously had no issue with, as outlined in the penultimate paragraph in the relevant section:

"Lastly, you cannot sell pornographic material or arrange sexual service(s) as a reward for your patrons. You can't use Patreon to raise funds in order to produce pornographic material such as maintaining a website, funding the production of movies, or providing a private webcam session." —Patreon's revised guidelines

But as Motherboard's Lux Alptraum wrote back in 2016, a long-standing problem for creators has been Patreon's equivocation on what pornography actually is. The shorthand for what constitutes pornography in the United States comes from Supreme Court Justice Potter Stewart, in the 1964 case Jacobellis v. Ohio. The justice, when describing what constitutes pornography, famously said, "I know it when I see it."

Motherboard's report even drew attention to Four Chambers, which describes itself as "part art project, part erotica cinemascope" and would certainly constitute pornography in the eyes of plenty of folks. And yet, at the time, the page was apparently considered safe enough to remain. (Alptraum joked that the page "apparently gets a pass because the hard cocks and penetration are arty.")

We sat down with a Patreon spokesperson who declined to be named for the purposes of this interview. That person reiterated that "any kind of porn has never been allowed on Patreon." So why has the site, for so long, been silently (and sometimes vocally) accepting of accounts related to sex work? The spokesperson explained that Patreon's Trust and Safety team does not go "scraping the site" looking for accounts to suspend, and relies upon user-based referrals.

"The TL;DR is that if what you were doing before was okay, then probably what you're continuing to do is okay. And if what you're doing is in too much of a gray area, then we'll be reaching out." —Patreon spokesperson

Instead, the company has doubled its Trust and Safety team and has provided the email address guidelines@patreon.com for creators concerned that they now violate the rules. "Let me be clear," said Patreon's spokesperson. "We're not kicking off a bunch of creators en masse. Instead, we're telling creators that there are things about their pages that need to be updated." The spokesperson added that any creator who really is "concerned about how it's going to affect their page and career, just reach out to us. It's an open invitation."

Engadget presented Patreon's representative with pages* that, while adult in nature, violate only the new terms of service. One adult performer uses her account to create "sexy content for her fans." In addition, one of the reward tiers offered "personalized sexy pictures" and "access to a secret Instagram account." Higher-tier members were offered a "10 minute live webcam session, through Skype, once per month."

Interestingly, even though this account appears to violate both the conditions for pornography and using webcam sessions as an incentive, the spokesperson didn't feel like that the account would likely be deleted. That stance cannot be taken as a blanket statement that providers have nothing to fear, but also that the definitions are fuzzy. Because Patreon doesn't appear to have a strict definition of what constitutes pornography, it may be that the accounts affected are an order of magnitude smaller than it would appear.

The spokesperson also tried to reassure creators by saying that "the TL;DR is that if what you were doing before was okay, then probably what you're continuing to do is okay. And if what you're doing is in too much of a gray area, then we'll be reaching out." As before, the spokesperson added, if users are worried, they can contact the company at the aforementioned email address to receive "personalized guidance" about "what you need to do to make sure your page can stay up."

Despite Patreon's reassurances, the content creators now find themselves concerned that their livelihood could be stopped at any point. Girl on the Net is the pseudonym for a British sex blogger who uses Patreon to fund a project creating "audio erotica." The effort, which began as a way of enabling people with visual impairments to enjoy sexual content, has been running for less than six months. In that time, "the money I made from it meant that I could dedicate time to making a different, more accessible kind of erotic art," the blogger said. She added that she was "using Patreon exactly the way it was intended: to fund art for people who were interested in that kind of art."

The future of the audio erotica project now rests on whether Patreon judges it to be porn or erotica. Girl on the Net explained that, while this was a side project for her, "some of my colleagues have used Patreon to build a large platform or make a full-time living, and made Patreon a significant chunk of cash in the process." The blogger posed the question "We have to wonder how many platforms have to censor sex before we say enough is enough. How much of it has to disappear before you start to notice?"

There is a prolonged history of direct and indirect violence carried out toward the sex work community. As Liara Roux explains, "the people who are going to have the most trouble working with them will be the most vulnerable." She believes that Patreon's decision threatens "vulnerable people," including those who are "queer, trans and people of color," who are often the ones most in need of the resources to build their own platforms to produce content.

In the UK, a law banning the practice of "kerb crawling" -- driving a car slowly along the road for the purposes of solicitation -- has had disastrous consequences. A 2002 report by The Guardian found that sex workers in the city of Sheffield previously operated in a well-lit, non-residential street with CCTV cameras. But a crackdown on prostitution forced the sex workers to move to a poorly lit industrial estate with no security cameras. There was a commensurate spike in violent attacks and murder.

There is a similar program of antagonism against sex work in the online space. Financial institutions like PayPal, JPMorgan Chase, Visa, Mastercard and Square have all sought to eradicate commerce undertaken by sex workers. Our 2015 report on the issue found that the process of redlining -- a banking practice used to block service to black and Latino people, which was outlawed in 1968 -- is alive and well online.

As a key conduit between the traditional banking providers and the internet, PayPal has a big say in how e-commerce is conducted online. Its acceptable use policy prohibits the purchase of items that it considers to be "obscene," such as sex toys and other adult paraphernalia. In addition, users cannot use the service to buy "sexually oriented materials or services." That's why Patreon's victory enabling payments from the platform was such a big deal back in 2016.

Adam Grayson, CFO of the hardcore porn company Evil Angel, feels that there is a disproportionate amount of discrimination against the industry. "I would be more surprised if Patreon didn't take this stance," he told Engadget. "The financial industry always, almost without fail, discriminates against sex industries, legal or not. The time and energy our company puts into securing our basic banking needs is mind-blowing. And we're a pretty boring taxpaying employer which just happens to sell pornography."

On October 25th, Patreon published a response to Liara Roux's Open Letter, written by CEO Jack Conte. The CEO says that it "broke" his "heart" that the creators who signed the letter "expressed fear for their pages." Conte then reiterated that the site's position has not changed beyond a firmer restriction on the aforementioned illegal content. Conte again justified the action, saying that Patreon has always restricted pornography on its platform and added that the policy would soon include restrictions on "real people engaging in sexual acts, such as masturbation or sexual intercourse on camera."

"The financial industry always, almost without fail, discriminates against sex industries, legal or not." —Evil Angel CFO Adam Grayson

There does seem to be some dissonance between Patreon's stance, which is to restrict adult content, and the statements it is making. It claims to support creators and to not want to block accounts, but at the same time, it seems impossible that any sex worker or erotic artist can remain on the platform with the current policy framework.

The affected users remain unconvinced and posted a rebuttal to Conte's letter shortly after his note was published. The group believes that Conte's email has, if anything, made the situation worse than it already was. "We are sorry to hear that the way his company has handled our community 'bugs' him, but it's hard for us to have empathy for those in power while we are fighting simply to be heard, create and survive." Later, the group charged that "Patreon is saying that they believe sex workers unable to change or censor their work to fit new requirements should lose their income and that legal expressions of sexual creativity do not have a home on their platform."

"This email exemplifies the mentality of Patreon and other tech companies that their image, perhaps to investors or banking partners, is more important than the wellbeing of the legal content creators who rely on Patreon as a source of income and one of the only "safe" spaces for us."

*Engadget received assurance that pages discussed in the conversation would not be flagged to the Trust and Safety team, and we will not publish those specific addresses in this report.

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79 days ago
Hard to find much comfort in their Orwellian "of course you can keep making money in ways that have never been allowed on our platform" language. Whereas their recent turn against politically extreme creators seems piecemeal and reactive, this seems sweeping and preemptive. The best case for these creators is Patreon wants to keep financial censors off their trails with a policy of secret permissiveness, with otherwise legal porn and webcam sessions still safely accessible behind paywalls, NSFW tags, and plausibly deniable reward descriptions. That's a recipe for arbitrariness, though. It opens up a new attack vector against already vulnerable sex workers: literal readings of the Patreon ToS.

It's cases like these that get me thinking about the tradeoffs between today's ecosystem, where all it takes is the most risk averse link in a long chain of intermediaries to cut off the flow of money and ideas, and censorship-resistant alternatives that might make it harder to enforce laws.
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Diogenes of Sinope, the Publicly-Defecating Philosopher

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Described by Plato as “a Socrates gone mad”, Diogenes of Sinope is considered one of the most controversial figures in the history of philosophy.

Diogenes of Sinope was an ancient Greek philosopher who, at different points, allegedly lived in a wine barrel (some accounts describe it as a tub), urinated on guests at a banquet, defecated in the theatre, and was one of the few people who openly mocked Alexander the Great and stayed alive.

Although some believed him to be absolutely crazy, Diogenes was also one of the most respected and loved philosophers of the 4th century BCE, and one of the most famous founders of the ancient Greek school of philosophy known as Cynicism.

A lot of speculation surround the life of this controversial philosopher, since he left behind no first-hand accounts of his own life, or if he did, they’ve since been lost. And his larger than life persona probably produced many legends and tales. Nevertheless he is considered a very influential figure in philosophy.

Diogenes was born in Sinope (a city on modern-day Turkey). His father used to work with minting money, and Diogenes joined his father later on and began working with him. But they found themselves later on in a dispute with the law, after Diogenes (or his father, or both of them) began defacing money.

While some historians believe the motivations were purely political, others think the act may have been the result of an incident involving the Oracle of Delphi. Either way, Diogenes then fled Sinope, and headed to Athens.

In Athens, Diogenes took up somewhat of an unconventional way of life, and made it his mission to metaphorically deface the coinage of custom and convention, which he maintained, were simply lies used to hide the true nature of the individual.

Diogenes allegedly met Antisthenes in Athens who at first refused him as a student but, eventually, was worn down by his persistence and accepted him. Like Antisthenes, Diogenes believed in self-control, the importance of personal excellence in one’s behavior (in Greek, arete, usually translated as `virtue’), and the rejection of all which was considered unnecessary in life such as personal possessions and social status.

Diogenes started living in a barrel (some describe it as a jar, others as a wine cask or tub) at the Temple of Cybele. He got rid of his belongings, and maintained a diet of just onions. One day he saw a child cupping his hands to drink water, after that he threw away his own cup, remarking something along the lines of “A child has beaten me in plainness of living.”

The philosophy of Diogenes was more than justvan ascetic movement, he didn’t just renounce possessions; he preached obscenity, broke taboos, viciously attacked customs, and was relentlessly rude. For he considered, honesty to be a key value, and he saw Athenian customs and manners as a form of lie.

Many accounts depict him walking the streets with a lantern and shining it into the faces of passersby, apparently looking for an “honest man” or a “human being”.

Diogenes considered any act considered natural and acceptable in private (like urination and defecation), should also be considered natural and normal in public. he famously ate in the market place, something considered a taboo in that time, and when asked about this act he replied, “I did, for it was in the market-place that I was hungry.”

Diogenes could be considered in the terms of our day as a huge troll, a philosopher who used wit and mockery to challenge tradition, and prominent figures of his time. In one instance, after Plato had given Socrates’ definition of man as a “featherless biped” and was very much praised for that definition. Diogenes plucked a chicken and brought it into Plato’s Academy, and said, “Behold! I’ve brought you a man.” After that incident, “with broad flat nails” was added to Plato’s definition.

On another occasion, a group of wealthy Athenians at a banquet began throwing bones at Diogenes, insulting him and calling him a dog. Diogenes then responded to this by lifting his leg and urinating on the banqueters.

Diogenes was often associated with dogs. He believed that human beings had much to learn from studying the simplicity of dogs, which, unlike human beings, had not ‘complicated every simple gift of the gods’. The terms ‘cynic’ and ‘cynical’ derive from the Greek kynikos, which is the adjective of kyon or ‘dog’.

Diogenes’ trolling and witty mockery weren’t just targeted at fellow philosophers and public figures. In which we remember one of the most discussed anecdotes in philosophical history, the meeting of Diogenes and Alexander the Great.

Word of Diogenes’ wisdom and peculiar ways reached the greatest military leader at that time, Alexander the Great. As a child, Alexander was tutored by Aristotle, and when he became a grown man he was learned man. But wisdom is addictive, and Diogenes intrigued the young commander.

Philosophers, and public figures used to come out to see their king and to offer him praise, gifts, and compliments. But Diogenes preferred to stay in his barrel, far away from this life. So Alexander decided to visit the great philosopher himself.

On that day, Diogenes was laying in the sun, enjoying the sunlight, when he heard movements of a large crowd, and trumpets signaling the arrival of a great man. Diogenes looked up, and saw Alexander with a number of his guards. He raised himself up a little when he saw so many people coming towards him, and fixed his eyes upon Alexander. Alexander greeted Diogenes, and praised his wisdom, then asked him if he wanted anything, in which Diogenes responded, “Yes, stand a little out of my sun”.

Alexander was shocked, but then laughed and said, “But truly, if I were not Alexander, I would like to be Diogenes.”

After spending years in Athens, Diogenes ended up in Corinth. According to a story which seems to have originated with Menippus of Gadara, he was captured by pirates during a voyage to Aegina and sold to a wealthy Corinthian named Xeniades. When asked if he had any skills, Diogenes replied, “That of governing men.” Xeniades liked Diogenes’ response and made him the tutor for his sons, and eventually Diogenes became like a member of the family.

Diogenes lived the rest of his days in Corinth, where he continued to live a life of poverty and simplicity. Although most of the accounts of him living in a barrel appear to be in Athens, there are some accounts of him living in a jar near the Craneum gymnasium in Corinth.

Just like his entire life, Diogenes’ death is also riddled with mystery and a matter of debate. He is alleged variously to have become ill from eating raw octopus, holding his breath until he died, or to have suffered an infected dog bite, but it is more likely that he died of old age.

Although Diogenes had requested his remains be thrown to wild beasts, his friends and admirers insisted he should receive a proper burial. A marble pillar and a statue of a dog above his grave.

We could learn a lot from this great peculiar philosopher, especially in a time and society filled with complexities and hardships.

I’m a 100 percent reader-funded writer so if you enjoyed this, and want to support me so I can continue to do what I do, please consider helping me out by sharing it around, following me on Twitter, and becoming a patron on Patreon.

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107 days ago
It's hard to respect modern trolls when they don't live in wine barrels or carry around plucked chickens to drive home a point or tell world leaders to get out of their sunlight.
107 days ago
Alexander was no dummy.
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Liisa, 26

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“Today my clothing was inspired by my stairway with light orange and light green walls. Actually this color mixture reminds me of puke. I am an active user of colors and I don't feel myself cozy in black. My forever sources of inspiration: monochromatism, retrofuturism, sex and fairytales.”

25 July 2017, Mannerheimintie

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121 days ago
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When Pixels Collide

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Last weekend, a fascinating act in the history of humanity played out on Reddit.

For April Fool's Day, Reddit launched a little experiment. It gave its users, who are all anonymous, a blank canvas called Place.

The rules were simple. Each user could choose one pixel from 16 colors to place anywhere on the canvas. They could place as many pixels of as many colors as they wanted, but they had to wait a few minutes between placing each one.

Over the following 72 hours, what emerged was nothing short of miraculous. A collaborative artwork that shocked even its inventors.

From a single blank canvas, a couple simple rules and no plan, came this:

Each pixel you see was placed by hand. Each icon, each flag, each meme created painstakingly by millions of people who had nothing in common except an Internet connection. Somehow, someway, what happened in Reddit over those 72 hours was the birth of Art.

How did this happen?

While I followed Place closely, I cannot do justice to the story behind it in the few words here. There were countless dramas -- countless ideas, and fights, and battles, and wars -- that I don't even know about. They happened in small forums and private Discord chats, with too much happening at once, all the time, to keep track of everything. And, of course, I had to sleep.

But at its core, the story of Place is an eternal story, about the three forces that humanity needs to make art, creation, and technology possible.

The Creators

First came the Creators. They were the artists to whom the blank canvas was an irresistible opportunity.

When Place was launched, with no warning, the first users started placing pixels willy-nilly, just to see what they could do. Within minutes, the first sketches appeared on Place. Crude and immature, they resembled cavemen paintings, the work of artists just stretching their wings.

Even from that humble beginning, the Creators quickly saw that the pixels held power, and lots of potential. But working alone, they could only place one pixel every 5 or 10 minutes. Making anything more meaningful would take forever -- if someone didn't mess up their work as they were doing it. To make something bigger, they would have to work together.

That's when someone hit on the brilliant notion of a gridmap. They took a simple idea -- a drawing overlaid on a grid, that showed where each of the pixels should go -- and combined it with an image that resonated with the adolescent humor of Redditors. They proposed drawing Dickbutt.

The Placetions (denizens of r/place) quickly got to work. It didn't take long -- Dickbutt materialized within minutes in the lower left part of the canvas. The Place had its first collaborative Art.

But Creators didn't stop there. They added more appendages to the creature, they added colors, and then they attempted to metamorphize their creation into Dickbutterfly. Behind its silliness was the hint of a creative tsunami about to come.

But it didn't happen all at once. Creators started to get a little drunk on their power. Across the canvas from Dickbutt, a small Charmander came to life. But once the Pokemon character was brought to life, it started growing a large male member where once had been a leg. Then came two more.

This was not by design. Some Creators frantically tried to remove the offending additions, putting out calls to "purify" the art, but others kept the additions going.

Suddenly, it looked like Place would be a short-lived experiment that took the path of least surprise. Left to their own devices, Creators threatened to turn the Place into a phallic fantasy. Of course.

The problem was less one of immaturity, and more of the fundamental complexity of the creative process. What the Creators were starting to face was something that would become the defining theme of Place: too much freedom leads to chaos. Creativity needs constraint as much as it needs freedom.

When anyone could put any pixel anywhere, how does it not lead immediately to mayhem?

The Protectors

Another set of users emerged, who would soon address this very problem.

But like the primitive Creators, they weren't yet self-aware of their purpose on the great white canvas. Instead, they began by simplifying the experiment into a single goal: world conquest.

They formed Factions around colors, that they used to take over the Place with. The Blue Corner was among the first, and by far the largest. It began in the bottom right corner and spread like a plague. Its followers self-identified with the color, claiming that its manifest destiny was to take over Place. Pixel by pixel, they started turning it into reality, in a mad land grab over the wide open space.

The Blue Corner wasn't alone. Another group started a Red Corner on the other side of the canvas. Their users claimed a leftist political leaning. Yet another started the Green Lattice, which went for a polka-dot design with interspersing green pixels and white. They championed their superior efficiency, since they only had to color half as many pixels as the other Factions.

It wasn't long before the Factions ran head-on into the Creators. Charmander was among the first battle sites. As the Blue Corner began to overwrite the Pokemon with blue pixels, the Creators turned from their internecine phallic wars to the bigger threat now on their doorstep.

They fought back, replacing each blue pixel with their own. But the numbers were against them. With its single-minded focus on expansion, the Blue Corner commanded a much larger army than the Creators could muster. So they did the only thing they could do. They pled for their lives.

Somehow, it struck a chord. It ignited a debate within the Blue Corner. What was their role in relation to Art? A member asked: "As our tide inevitably covers the world from edge to edge, should we show mercy to other art we come across?"

This was a question each Faction faced in turn. With all the power given to them by their expansionary zeal, what were they to do about the art that stood in their path?

They all decided to save it. One by one, each of the Factions began flowing around the artwork, rather than through them.

Rebel against Bluegoisie all you want, but let's make one thing clear: THESE THREE ARE OFF ABSOLUTELY OFF LIMITS. THEY ARE NOT TO BE HARMED. from place

This was a turning point. The mindless Factions had turned into beneficent Protectors.

Still No Happy Ending

Finally at peace with the ravenous color horde, the Creators turned back to their creations. They started making them more complex, adding one element after another.

They started using 3-pixel fonts to write text. A Star Wars prequel meme that had been sputtering along took a more defined shape, becoming one of the most prominent pieces of art in Place.

Others formed Creator collectives around common projects. Organizing in smaller subreddits that they created just for this purpose, they planned strategies and shared templates.

One of the most successful was a group that added a Windows 95-esque taskbar along the bottom, replete with Start button in the corner.

Another were a block of hearts. They started with only a few, mimicking hearts of life in old bitmap video games, like Zelda, before their collective took off with the idea. By the end they stretched across half the canvas, in a dazzling array of flags and designs.

And of course, there was Van Gogh.

But not all was well. The Protectors who they had once welcomed with relief had become tyrants dictating fashion. They decided what could and couldn't be made. It wasn't long before Creators started chafing under their rule.

Meanwhile, with the issue of artwork resolved, the Factions had turned their sights on each other, forcing followers to choose sides in epic battles. They had little time to pay attention to the pathetic pleas of Creators who wanted approval for ideas of new art.

The fights between the Protectors got nasty. A Twitch live-streamer exhorted his followers to attack the Blue Corner with Purple. There were battle plans. There were appeals to emotion. There were even false-flag attacks, where the followers of one color placed pixels of the opposing side inside their own, just so they could cry foul and attack in return.

But the biggest problem of all was one of the only hard rules of Place -- it couldn't grow. With the Factions engaged in a massive battle among themselves, the Creators started realizing there wasn't space to make new Art.

Country flags had started emerging pretty much from the beginning. But as they grew and grew, they started bumping into each other.

Out in the unclaimed territory of the middle of the canvas, with no Protector to mediate between them, Germany and France engaged in an epic battle that sent shockwaves through Place.

Suddenly, a world that had been saved from its primitive beginnings looked like it would succumb to war. There were frantic attempts at diplomacy between all sides. Leaders form the Protectors and the Creators and met each other in chat rooms, but mostly they just pointed fingers at each other.

What Place needed was a villain that everyone could agree upon.

The Destroyers

Enter the Void.

They started on 4chan, Reddit's mangled, red-headed step-brother. It wasn't long before the pranksters on the Internet's most notorious imageboard took notice of what was happening on Reddit. It was too good an opportunity for them to pass up. And so they turned to the color closest to their heart -- black. They became the Void.

Like a tear spreading slowly across the canvas, black pixels started emerging near the center of Place.

At first, other Factions tried to form an alliance with them, foolishly assuming that diplomacy would work. But they failed, because the Void was different.

The Void was no Protector. Unlike the Factions, it professed no loyalty to Art. Followers of the Void championed its destructive egalitarianism, chanting only that "the Void will consume." They took no sides. They only wanted to paint the world black.

This was exactly the kick in the ass that Place needed. While Creators had been busy fighting each other, and Protectors still measured themselves by the extent of canvas they controlled, a new threat -- a real threat -- had emerged under their nose.

Against the face of extinction, they banded together to fight the Void and save their Art.

But the Void was not easy to vanquish, because the Place needed it. It needed destruction so that new Art, better Art, would emerge from the ashes. Without the Void, there was no force to clean up the old Art.

I used to hate the Void but watching the time-lapses I see they're a vital part of the r/place ecosystem. Like a forest fire making way for new life. from place

And so, by design or not, the Void gave birth to some of the largest Art in the Place.

Take, for example, the part of the canvas right in the center. Almost since the very beginning, it had been one of the most contested areas on the map. Time and again, Creators had tried to claim the territory for their own. First with icons. Then with a coordinated attempt at a prism.

But the Void ate them all. Art after art succumbed to its ravenous appetite for chaos.

And yet, this was exactly what Place needed. By destroying art, the Void forced Placetions to come up with something better. They knew they could overcome the sourge. They just needed an idea good enough, with enough momentum and enough followers, to beat the black monster.

That idea was the American flag.

In the last day of Place, a most unlikely coalition came together to beat back the Void, once and for all.

They were people who otherwise tear each other apart every day -- Trump supporters and Trump resisters, Democrats and Republicans, Americans and Europeans. And here they were coming together to build something together, on a little corner of the Internet, proving in an age when such cooperation seems impossible, that they still can.

The Ancients Were Right

Reddit's experiment ended soon after. There are so many more stories hidden deep in the dozens of subreddits and chat rooms that cropped up around Place. For every piece of artwork I mentioned, there are hundreds more on the final canvas. Perhaps the most amazing thing is that on an anonymous, no-holds-barred space on the Internet, there were no hate or racist symbols at all on the final canvas.

It is a beautiful circle of art, life and death. And it isn't the first time in our history that we've seen it.

Many millenia before Place, when humanity itself was still in its infancy (the real one, not the one on Reddit), Hindu philosophers theorized that the Heavens were made of three competing, but necessary, deities that they called the Trimurti. They were Brahma the Creator, Vishnu the Protector, and Shiva the Destroyer.

Without any single one of them, the Universe would not work. For there to be light, there needed to be dark. For there to be life, there needed to be death. For there to be creation and art, there needed to be destruction.

Over the last few days, their vision proved prescient. In the most uncanny way, Reddit proved that human creation requires all three.

The Final Canvas

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124 days ago
Missed r/place when it happened. Kept noticing offhand references to it in the months afterward. Obsessed now.
124 days ago
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