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Hugely ambitious one-man game creator Eskil Steenberg has made his five years in the making title Love completely free to everyone. No micro-transactions or anything.

"What is Love?" you ask, you unfeeling robot you. Aside from being a many splendored thing, Love is a procedurally-generated open-world MMO with no predetermined quests and an unprecedented degree of environmental interaction. Just watch this video below of Steenberg walking us through the many different ways of ascending a ledge.

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Wondering - by Bruce LaBruce

As promised (or threatened), for my column this week, to follow up on last week’s discussionof the scary potential new school of serial killer, I present an interview with Toronto-based artist Nina Arsenault, who about a decade ago dated Luka Magnotta, the Canadian psycho du jour that many people seem to be fixated on–some in the most disturbingly inappropriate, fanatical way. It should be noted that at this point Magnotta has been accused of one horrifying murder and has entered a plea of not guilty. There is also some conjecture that he may have committed other murders, but it has not been substantiated. This interview is based on speculation about his psychology and motivations if he is indeed guilty of these crimes, which the evidence seems overwhelmingly to indicate.

Nina is a transgendered performance artist whose work posits herself as a kind of living sculpture, having transformed herself, through a variety of surgical procedures, from a biological male into an idealized version of her own ultimate female form. Her one-woman play, The Silicone Diaries, is a riveting, emotionally honest autobiographical monologue about her life and art that documents this transformation. A book about her work, TRANS(per)FORMING Nina Arsenault: An Unreasonable Body of Work, also features some of my photographs of her. (The above photo is from a series we did together—a visceral, expressionistic response to a bad breast job she once had which necessitated the traumatic removal of one of her silicon implants.)

What interests me with regard to Magnotta is the number of parallels between Nina’s productive, creative journey and his destructive, malignant path: the narcissism (Nina is one of the few people I know whose narcissism is entirely justified), the plastic surgery, the sex trade work, the transgendered issues, etc. But where one of them ended up becoming an empathetic, positive artist, the other became a psycho killer (allegedly). What gives?

VICE: Nina, you received over two hundred interview requests to talk about your former relationship with Luka Magnotta, but you turned them all down except for a few. How did journalists find out about it, and why did you decide to speak to the ones you spoke to?
Nina Arsenault: I was asked to comment on him because some journalists found TV footage of Magnotta when he was a contestant in a male modeling contest in Toronto–a reality TV show called Cover Guy on Out TV –and I was one of the judges. It was strange because this reality show happened well after I dated him, and he’d had so much plastic surgery since then that he had to come up and tell me who he was. He’d altered his cheeks, which is something that can radically change your appearance. The journalists at CTV and CBC both asked me to look at the footage right before interviewing me on camera to see if I remembered anything about him, so it was a bit disconcerting because it was only when I watched it that I discovered that this guy in the news had been my ex-lover! After that, I turned down interviews because I wasn’t interested in having low-level, salacious conversations about a human tragedy. I said yes to a few interviews, like Dr. Drew on CNN and the Today Show because they seemed to be reputable, and I was interested in offering a social commentary that was more analytical. I think I have something to offer in this way.

Narcissism obviously played a part in Magnotta’s demented psychology, and it’s a subject that also applies to your work and life. Can you talk a bit about your thoughts on narcissism and how it needn’t necessarily be a psychopathological impulse?
I think it’s important to differentiate between narcissism and Narcissistic Personality Disorder. To my understanding, having NDP means not being able to have empathy for others and to habitually manipulate others for your own gratification. People with this disorder lack an emotional understanding of the feelings of other people, that others have needs and an existence that continues after you leave the room.

Then I think there is a narcissism that is not necessarily pathological, but probably more and more prevalent in society, which is the tendency to understand our own lives and the lives of others based strictly on the value of our visual image. Our lives become like the movies we are watching or the video games that we are playing, having a certain emotional detachment. Cinema, video games, and social networking have taught us that we can imagine ourselves as an avatar of our being, as a (glamorous) moving image. This can be good or bad, depending on how you use it.

You and Magnotta have both altered your appearance through plastic surgery. How do you think this relates to narcissism?
Multiple cosmetic procedures allow you to sculpt a new image of yourself into your very own body. As an artist who uses video images, online media, and plastic surgery,

I wanted to explore this phenomenon.  I’ve used autobiographical material from my life, and I’ve never tried to deny my narcissism. Instead I’ve tried to investigate my tendency to understand myself as an image, wanting to be a pure image, and the impossible desire to have no thoughts or feelings, to be just an object in some sense.  I needed to get into this part of my psychological landscape, not to escape or deny it, and to search again for an authentic self.  Because I am an artist, I do this by expressing it publicly, by making work.

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In a judicial experiment, a small number of homeless Iraq and Afghanistan veterans convicted of criminal offenses were chosen for a new veterans-only court and sentenced to probation at a residential treatment center—with prison terms waiting if they slip up. Michael M. Phillips reports on WSJ.com.


From left to right, Brandin Smith, Juan Carlos Cabrera, Chris Stavran and Prince Watson hung out in the courtyard of the Veterans Village of San Diego. The four men are among a small number of homeless Iraq and Afghanistan veterans convicted of criminal offenses who were chosen for a judicial experiment. (Eros Hoagland for The Wall Street Journal)


After being convicted by a trial court, the men were given probation and sent to a new veterans-only court, which ordered them to undergo treatment at the residential center—with prison terms waiting if they slip up. Here, Carlos Laguna, left, with fellow Iraq combat vets Messrs. Watson and Stavran. (Eros Hoagland for The Wall Street Journal)


‘It’s kind of inherent in our nature to look out for one another,’ says Mr. Cabrera, a former Army tank gunner. Here, Mr. Cabrera drove Mr. Watson to a psychological evaluation at the Veterans Affairs hospital in San Diego. (Eros Hoagland for The Wall Street Journal)


Mr. Watson, a genial 29-year-old from New York City, has battled post-traumatic stress disorder, anger and drug use since his Iraq tour in 2003-4. Sometimes his anxiety grows so acute that he pulls out his own eyelashes. Here, he waited for a psychological evaluation at the VA. (Eros Hoagland for The Wall Street Journal)


It was a domestic-violence offense that landed Mr. Watson in veterans’ court. At first, the judge let him live on his own. But the police caught him driving without a license—and with a concealed knife. Here, Mr. Watson visited with a care dog outside of the VA medical center. (Eros Hoagland for The Wall Street Journal)


‘The only guys I trust are these guys,’ Mr. Watson says of the other vets who went through veterans court. Here, he thanked Mr. Cabrera for driving him to his VA appointment. (Eros Hoagland for The Wall Street Journal)


Frank Puga, here carrying Mr. Cabrera, served four combat tours and is the informal leader of the informal squad at Veterans Village. He was convicted of drunk-driving after he crashed his pickup into another vehicle. ‘The combat vets are like my family,’ he says. (Eros Hoagland for The Wall Street Journal)


Iraq war veteran John Sheffield, a former Navy firefighter, works folding laundry at Veterans Village. He stepped between fellow vet Mr. Stavran and a staff member during a scuffle. ‘I had to stop him or he’d be banned from here for life,’ he says. (Eros Hoagland for The Wall Street Journal)


Mr. Watson, left, and Mr. Smith talked in the smoking yard of Veterans Village of San Diego after a therapy session. (Eros Hoagland for The Wall Street Journal)


Mr. Smith, left, 25, a former Marine sergeant who was wounded in Iraq in 2006, is a joker among the vets. But his moods are volatile. The judge ordered him into treatment after he slammed his wife against a nightstand. Here, he participated in a group therapy session. (Eros Hoagland for The Wall Street Journal)


When an older Iraq vet disappeared from the homeless shelter earlier this month, Messrs. Puga and Smith, pictured here, hit the streets looking for him. ‘If I went out, I’d want them to look for me,’ Mr. Smith says. (Eros Hoagland for The Wall Street Journal)


Early last year, Superior Court Judge Roger Krauel teamed up with prosecutors and public defenders to create a court aimed at allowing post-Sept. 11 vets with virtually clean records before they enlisted to complete substance-abuse, anger-management, PTSD and other treatment instead of doing time for crimes committed during or after their military service. Here, Mr. Watson in his room at Veterans Village (Eros Hoagland for The Wall Street Journal)


On a frustrating day in the courtroom, Mr. Watson turned away from the judge and bolted for the door. His fellow vets, who were in the audience, rose from their seats to block the aisle. The judge saw it as evidence that the vets had one another’s backs. (Eros Hoagland for The Wall Street Journal)


After the hearing, Messrs. Cabrera, Smith and Puga hugged Mr. Watson and urged him to request a spot at Veterans Village. Mr. Watson called his lawyer and social worker and asked them to make that happen. Here, Mr. Puga lifted weights at the Veterans Village gym. (Eros Hoagland for The Wall Street Journal)

Weeks after his hearing, Mr. Watson thanked the others for their intervention in court
Weeks after his hearing, Mr. Watson thanked the others for their intervention in court: ‘I probably never said it to you guys, but it meant a lot to me. I was thinking bad.’ Here, Mr. Watson mopped up at Veterans Village. (Eros Hoagland for The Wall Street Journal)


Mr. Watson listened to advice from an older veteran about making the most of his treatment program. (Eros Hoagland for The Wall Street Journal)

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People around the world once again expressed their affection for one another in many ways with balloons, cards, flowers, chocolates, gifts, and kisses to name just a few. The National Retail Federation said Americans alone will spend some $17.6 billion on the day that traces its origins to Roman rituals and the legend of Saint Valentine from the Catholic Church. -- Lloyd Young (34 photos total)
A man is silhouetted as he fills heart shaped balloons with helium while waiting for customers on Valentine's Day in Islamabad. (Faisal Mahmood/Reuters)

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Today is Valentine's Day, a day set aside for expressions of love and affection. The traditional western holiday has spread to many countries around the globe, despite some efforts by religious and cultural groups to fight its adoption. Valentine's Day spending in the U.S. this year is expected to reach nearly $15 billion -- $2 billion of it on flowers alone. Ninety percent of the flowers Americans will give to their sweethearts are imported, and nearly all of those imports originate in Colombia and Ecuador. Included in today's posting is an 18-photo series depicting the voyage of the roses from South American farm to florists worldwide. [37 photos]

A couple kisses during a flashmob organized by a local television station on the eve of Valentine's Day in the Russian city of Stavropol, on February 13, 2012. (Reuters/Eduard Korniyenko)

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September's Spotify playlist is here! Just like last time, if you're already subscribed to our monthly playlists you don't need to do anything at all - it will automatically update itself from August to September. If not then:


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Track Listing

Another Horizon - Nite Jewel
Apple Walk - Ducktails
Bang Bang Bang - Mark Ronson & The Business Intl
Endless Summer - Still Corners
Hey Boy - Magic Kids
Narrow With The Hall - Women
Photoshop Handsome - Everything Everything
Quick And To The Pointless - Queens Of The Stoneage
Soft Skin - Cosmetics
Stand Fast - Sunglasses
Tower - Zola Jesus
Under The Bridges - Niki & The Dove
Voice - Pue Ecstasy
Young At Love And Life - Dominant Legs


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