Thursday 28 September 2017

I am going to be taking some time off.

From this blog and from G+.

At least a week, hopefully a month.

When I come back I will see if I want to continue with this, or if there is anything left to continue.

If you have an open project with me then I will contact you to let you know if/how that is going to go ahead.

If you game with me online, then obviously that won't be happening. My apologies.

Wednesday 27 September 2017

Fuck All of You

[EDIT - All my Zak posts, both previous to, and after, this one

July 2014

February 2017

September 2017

February 2019 ]

tldr; Paolo Greco is a neurotic bag of soup and Zak Smith is an insane Apergers robot man.

This shit is like a hammer coming down on my head.

Woke up to a G+ thing about Paolo leaving social media. You can read that here.

So far both sides have sent me their version of events, this consisted of exactly the same email string.

Both sides are genuinely upset and mystified as to why this happend to them.

Paolo performs his upset, Zak tersely admits to his.

Just for clarities sake - I have regular suicidal ideation, self-harm ideation, this weird self-assault thing I picked up somewhere, regular mood swings, days lost to what I suppose must be some kind of depression since I often don't have clear memories of exactly what I did and general feelings of self-loathing.

This is not in any way a cry for help, a request for victim status or for goddamn messages of fucking support from the fucking internet. I'm stating this purely becasue during this post I effectively call everyone involved with this situation mentally ill, or at least neurologically weird, and I want it to be clear that I don not place myself morally above anyone I am describing.

I also say this below: "You can publicly claim victim status for being damaged and mentally ill, which you very persistently do, but you can't do that AND expect people to regard you as reasonable, its either/or."

So by my own standards I am hung by my own petard.



Honestly I don't remember shit all about this thread. I am pretty sure that the reason it doesn't exist any more because I deleted it and I deleted it a good long while ago, months at least, as it became irritating to me.

This is my policy in any thread where Zak or anything else is annoying me to the point where I think its going to affect my quality of life which is that, if its my thread, I delete it and dump the whole thing, and if its someone elses thread, I mute it.

So the reason that the 'evidence' doesn't exist isn't because anyone accused of anything deleted or removed it, its because I deleted it.

Because the thread is gone the only thing we have to rely on is the memories of the people involved and whatever sceencaps people took, and yes, they took screencaps, something I nether expected or suspected.

Basically they get into it and Paolo calls Zak a dick.

Zak drops a truth-bomb about how he does things.

When Paolo says "Even when I told them that something they wrote online (and later was deleted) made me feel like they were threatening me and my family, they managed to ignore that threatening people and their families is kind of bad" this is what he is referring to;

Ok so the way I read this was that Zak is pissed with me for not defending him when Paolo called him a dick so he is making a point about how forcefully he would defend me in similar circumstances.

(More on my attitude to this below*.)

The way Zak describes this, (in an email to me) is "(obviously this isn't even directed at paolo, much less his family, and it's a statement of loyalty to my coworkers, not . a threat to anyone)"

And Paolo took this as a theat, or a potential threat to his family & friends.

Its very, very hard for me to read it that way. As stated above, its addressed directly to me and I think its about me.

I'm trying to get into a headspace where someone else would read it from, and I think, if you read it from a very different perspective you could interpret it as;

If someone 
(meaning Paolo)

called you a dick in one of my threads 
(If Paolo Greco questioned your behaviour or insulted you in my digital space)

I would make sure their family remembered my name for ten generations
(If Paolo Greco questions my friends I will attack his family)

And that is as close as I can get to how Paolo might read that, but I have to put work into it and I am genuinely supprised that that is how anyone read it.

The way I read it was; "I, Zak Smith consistantly help and support you, Patrick Stuart and now this person makes vague unsupported claims about my character and you do NOTHING."



People call you a dick because you act like a dick.


Sometimes, when looking at the way you argue online, its difficult to be certain whether you are being deliberately contemptuous, snide, condescending and dismissive, or whether your brain just works a bit differently.

But you have stated publicly and in private to me that you believe your aggressive arguing style is fully morally justified and leads to good outcomes. So I can only hold you fully responsible for that, which I think you would prefer.

I think this is insanely, overwhelmingly and provably wrong. Its most demonstrably wrong when you get into a shit fight with a neurotic like Paolo, someone who lacks the strength to either disconnect or fight back directly.

Regardless of how aware you are of your behaviour, you have a triple digit IQ and it would require someone functionally insane not to see the endlessly repeated pattern of your arguments. The same things keep happening, with the same result.

Clearly at this stage you think those results are good.

Put simply, it is logically impossible for you to look at your own behaviour and say 'I am not an aggressive man'. You are aggressive, you enjoy stressing and intellectually dominating people and you actively try to do this in online conversation.

Logical Tricks

You persistently adopt bold, challenging and widely-encompassing positions in arguments online and then defend your position through invisibly re-defining the original terms of your statement and forcing ever-more-narrow definitions of terms and evidence until it is logically impossible for you to be wrong.

Clearly, you regard this as a natural and morally legitimate form of argument but for a wide variety of people watching this is a bad and flawed way to behave and reads like someone using technical trickery to avoid taking moral responsibility for being wrong and to dodge the possibility of ever having to actually back down on anything.

(I would like to distinguish this from your 'bullet point' style of counter-argument which I belive is often situationally valid, considering that people who hate you will commonly merge together true and half-true claims with general moral feelings and outright lies. I can see no way to respond to this without effectively 'bullet pointing' each individual fact.)

The refusal to admit wrong, back down or to risk suffering even mild status loss is a factor that comes up again and again and again with all the people who are pissed off with you.

Binary Mercilessness 

You think its reasonable, and in fact necessary, to not just un-follow people, but to block them, and not just disagree with them socially but to do what you can to stop them making money. This certainly extends to refusing to work with them in any way. How much further it might extend is unknown.

You would not survive the rules you impose on others.

You were caught lying and pretending to be someone else online.

Your defence was that someone else you knew was doing it, and that you let it happen, but you 'take responsibility' - this sounds a lot like your defence for the donjoin, which was that it wasn't you, but you 'take responsibility'.

Well very well, I will treat you as you request and regard you as responsible.

You are responsible for faking the identity of someone you hate online. You are a liar. I will remind you of your own very often repeated advice on lying;

This is a screen cap of either you, or someone intimately connected to you, and proceeding with your knowledge, pretending to be someone else to make them look bad;

If the people around you treated you according to your own law, they would have no option but to ostracise you, block you, refuse to work with you and never support anything you did at a minimum.

If we assume a more active interpretation of your own advice, those same people should actively publicise that they think you are an aggressive and condescending liar and try to persuade others not to work with you or employ you.

You Shame People and Make Them Feel Like Shit

As a cumulative effect of your aggression, your recursive arguing style, your contemptuous rhetoric and your mercilessness, people end arguments with you feeling shamed. You make people feel dirty and abused after fighting with you.

Even if someone is technically beaten in an argument, they feel so demeaned and diminished by the process that, if they are weak, they can't let it go and look for any opportunity for revenge.

The difference here is not between people who are hurt or unhurt by you, but between those who are hurt and let it go, those who are hurt and disconnect, and those who are hurt and paradoxically attracted, obsessed and drawn in. Paolo is of this third type, as are many of your most obsessive opponents.

Sniping & Stalking

The stalking of peoples accounts and feeds is, if not ideal, then at least understandable. If you are being conspired against, and I do believe that there are a number of people entirely willing to bend and ignore the truth in order to hurt you, then seeing what they may be saying about you is perhaps necessary.

Its still creepy as fuck though. David Hill might be a fucking nutter but going through David Hills twitter feed for AGES in order to collect the evidence that he is a fucking nutter only puts you one slim step above him on the sanity scales.

The sniping and crowing is less forgiveable and unecessary and damages you in meaningful ways.

You never let anything go.

Even after a victory or temporary calm, or a pause in hostilites, you consistantly and repeatedly introduce the names and works of your enemies into your own posts, texts and statements in a variety of subtle and not-subtle ways.

You poke, prod, provoke and antagonise, even when things are quiet.

Its possible you do this to deal with your alienation and anger at the way you have been treated and demeaned but it is still pathetic.

Most essentially, it undercuts any possiblity of peace or truce and ultimately makes you unsafe.

Its impossible to state to anyone offended or angry with you;

"If you leave him alone, he will leave you alone." 

You won't. Even if someone steps away, refuses to mention you and confines their criticism to only the most emotionally distant and technical statements, you will still bring them up, ad-nauseam, even years after the initial event.

And again you will not extend the same behaviour to others that you demand for yourself. Your sniping is honourable and decent and dedicated to reminding everyone just how terrible these liars and harassers are. Their sniping and stalking *is* harassment.

Different IRL/In Text

In every single conversation I have had with you via webcam and in person - your behaviour was almost completely different in nature and effect to any of the things described above.

In person, your awareness of the emotional and cognitive states of others is finely grained and your behaviours are often conciliatory.

In person you are rarely, or almost never, directly insulting or contemptuous.

In person you don't engage in long recursive arguments based on fine interpretations of logic.

In person you are usually fine, or at least accepting of someone being wrong, or mistaken and in person I have never seen you try to intellectually dominate and break someone the way you do in text online.

The really visibly powerful difference in your behaviour, both in detail, but especcially when taken cumulatively as a whole, between your online text-based self and youe embodied personal self, is the strongest evidence that there is some kind of brain thing going on here


Even *just* including the qualities you would admit to, because you think they are good, the aggression and the binary mercilesness, those alone would be enough to reasonably call someone a dick.

If we include the recursive arguments, the shaming, the sniping and stalking, then it becomes completely reasonable for someone to say 'Zak Smith is a Dick' - if you take that to a lawyer as a libel case then they wouldn't accept it.



You are a neurotic bag of soup.

You persistently and publicly withdraw from conversations while simultaneously vaguebooking, sniping and wailing about those conversations.

You talked shit about Zak on G+ for years .

You talked shit about Zak on G+ while simultaneously saying that you didn't have a problem with him? Expecting people to hear which part of that statement exactly?

When Zak states, in the thread about Ben Miltons interviews, that "Paolo hates me for obscure reasons". - he is telling the truth, you did call him a dick, and you did vaguebook about him while also withdrawing from contact and refusing to answer questions.

The reasons why you would do that are obvious to anyone familiar with Zaks common behaviours, but the statement is still true.

AND - I don't remember Zak saying shit to you, or about you, until you started vaguebooking about him.

Is there any actual inciting incident in which he actually came after you directly for anything? Because so far as I can see his anger at you is based entirely on you rambling about him being 'toxic' and being a dick for years, but there is no point prior to that where he singles you out in any way.

Is there such a point?

You can publicly claim victim status for being damaged and mentally ill, which you very persistently do, but you can't do that AND expect people to regard you as reasonable, calm and reliable, its either/or.

I think, or guess, that you are possibly actually afraid, but its very hard for me to read that text cap from Zak as a meaningful threat to you.

(It also fully legitimises Zaks stalking tactics because clearly you were screen capping everything while he wasn't, putting him at an obvious disadvantage. If he had been more paranoid at the time then he would be able to reply to your context-less screen-cap with the full conversation.)

In my opinion the screen-cap shown is not intended as a threat against your family and, again, in my opinion, presenting it as such is questionable and somewhat suspicious, especially when Zak has been accused of calling, or arranging to be called, the homes of his opponents.

I still think that didn't happen - the only first hand source for that is David Hill and I think he is an unreliable, stupid and deceptive man.

But if I were Zak, reading your claim, it would seem to me a direct attempt to reawaken those claims with a poor standard of proof.

You've told me privately that you did not think that you were in danger but that you did feel threatened and that you had significant emotional distress.

Working out what you do and don't believe to be true and stating that would probably be better for everyone.

Your parting statement as a whole blurs together factual elements and unproven or un-demonstrated assumptions in a bath of emotion - its also clearly preformative, if you are leaving, you can just leave, ringing a big fucking bell and giving a speech on your way out is clearly a power play from a position of assumed weakness.

As far as your livelihood being threatened; yes, that is a possibility for anyone who disagrees with Zak and fails his rules. He has stated that ostracising people and effectively damaging their career is reasonable, good and, in fact, necessary. So anyone claiming that they were afraid of their careers being hurt after disagreeing with him may well be telling the truth.



There isn't one.

The personalities in question are too different, value different things, behave and react differently and, under a state of stress, which they will inflict on each other, will retreat to their core behaviours, which are diametrically opposed in important ways.

Everyone is too strange and mentally ill to change their ways now.

I think there will not be any reconciliation, the best possible result is an unsteady truce.

Zak should stop recommending that people should be blocked and banned, and that their careers be destroyed - this is the greatest point of difference between him and everyone else around him - they are not going to do it anyway.

Furthermore - it means that anyone disagreeing with Zak or arguing with him can reasonably - and truly - claim that they were afraid for their career.

Them claiming this can be taken as evidence of harassment by Zak, meaning he intensifies his attempts to get them banned or blocked, thereby reigniting and intensifying the cycle.

This is some rule-by-fear French Revolution shit, and it clearly doesn't work and clearly fucks everything up.

Zak - you can launch eternal war against everyone you think is a liar or monster, but it is a war you will never win. And in terms of morality - regardless of how you may see it, almost no-one else thinks you have a leg to stand on as you have visibly engaged in many of the behaviours you condemn.

And you should stop sniping in your work and your statements against people who have already left you the fuck alone for a long period of time. Again, this will be seen as provocation and harassment and will re-ignite the cycle.

The stalking is unpleasant, but bearable, providing it only ever comes up as a response to a false claim.

Paolo - and anyone else pissed off with or angry at Zak, should AVOID FUCKING VAGEUBOOKING about him. Burn a clear line between; "I don't like this guys personality" and "He systemically harrasses people."

Most importantly, make no VAGUE, GENERAL or INDISTINCT statements about him. If he did a particular thing, then talk about the thing, if you don't like his personality, then talk about the distinct element or behaviour you don't like. If you want to break contact, then break contact.

There is a certain kind of neurotic personality who is intensely vulnerable, bleeds anxiety and harm signals mixed with semi-aggression and is incapable of letting stuff go and walking away. And we see, time and time and time again, this exact kind of person come into contact with Zak, and they do their harm-signal-mixed-with-anxiety-mixed-with-slight-aggression thing, and Zak responds; "What's this? Aggression?" and its like watching someone being fed into a threshing machine every time.

Basically you can go and live with Sage LaTorra in the 'I-think-you-are-crazy-but-I'm-going-to-leave-you-alone' group, or you can flutter around being a fucking fool.

If both sides can find a way within yourselves to leave each other alone, you can have peace. If you don't do this then you get a war that will eat you all. Up to you.

(And you probably won't because, by this stage, you both think you are defending vital moral positions so to back down would be a significant loss of selfhood.)


On a personal note - I am angry and frustrated that this SHIT ate yet another day of my life. I am alienated and disconnected from this community which I have come to regard with a degree of despair and sorrow and contempt.

Fundamentally, if a society wants to die, it wants to die.

Friday 22 September 2017

Unexpected Guest Post - Sean Meaney

This arrived in my inbox from Sean Meany, unprompted, this is the first message that Sean ever sent me.

His Blog Is Here

"First off a text of a blog post I did regarding KIC8462852 for background:

  Planet            Period(days)      Dist(AU)     Temp (Kelvin, Celsius)     Planetary Size 
  Foundry               12                 0.11557             1199K,   925.85C             I                  
  Crematoria             22.5             0.17832               972K,   698.85C            II
  Inferno                    23                0.17573              965K,   691.85C              I                  
  Bonfire                    24.5             0.18599               945K,  671.85C              I
  Ember                      51                0.30322               740K,  466.15C             III                

So with an Albedo of Fresh Bitumin (0.02) it was cooler than Earth-like (0.3) Albedo. Hell is apparently cooler than Earth. The names seemed suitable. There is a larger trend in the data curve that is so slow in its transit of the star that it could mean a massive debris field stretched out from a planetary glob.

It might be nice out on the edge of the system clinging to an asteroid.

Update (5/9/2017): size of exoplanets
You can take the brightness dip and determine planet radius. so three size categories now added. Given the method I use here is visual, you can assume +/- 20% error.

 Category   radius (solars,       kilometres) 
       I           0.1059896221,    73,736.98     
      II           0.1171759361,    81,519.59
     III          0.158,                    109,920.6    
  Jupiter                                     69,570km  

So a bunch of 'bigger than Jupiter' planets orbiting very close to the Star.

Note (7/9/2017): Naturally Occuring Dyson Spheres
With Foundry at 1199K it should be noted that the most likely four elements of Hydrogen, Helium, Oxygen, and Carbon do interesting things at such temperatures. Graphite formation from Supercritical Carbon Dioxide dominates this temperature and pressure in the early system. Once the graphite layer formed it protected what was inside the graphite shell while carbon from external SCD continues to be deposited as oxygen and hydrogen separate off. Its possible for life to exist in the dark of this graphene dyson sphere made from heavier elements. Above that graphite the Oxygen and Hydrogen could form a Solid water or Oxygen lattice with Hydrogen Plasma in the lattice thanks to pressure and gravity.

Now to suggestions for Deep Carbon Observatory 2:

So consider if you will a naturally occuring graphite sphere close to the Sun. That which is within the sphere has cooled providing an environment where deep pressure life might spawn in darkness beneath a shell of carbon. But the pressure drops off as the contents of the sphere cool and contract. Shell fragments are hurled out into the solar system because of collisions in the early system, and due to imperfections in the shell there is a small pocket sphere or bubble where the trapped elements cool and life might evolve in the dyson sphere. Life that might have no eyes, but might sense your electromagnetic brain waves like a telepath. That shell fragment drops to earth becoming a part of the planet. Someone looking for diamonds might find the graphite layer possibly coated in an Oxygen Opal (solid oxygen crystals) and come under its sway. Evil air elementals mining Solid Oxygen beneath the earth.

Sean Robert Meaney"

Wednesday 20 September 2017



STR 12, DEX 13, WIL 15, 12 hp

·        A fat Pig in a silver mask and a gentleman’s gear;
o   top hat, frock coat and cravat.
·        The mask is of a Maiden.
o   The maidens face is slightly cracked and so is Doctor Hog.

[Doctor Hog exists to threaten the characters but also to inform them, via his words and actions, about why they are here and what they should do.]

His Insane Ranting


His Brain-Apes

Big Black Gorillas with Thompson Guns and Bowler Hats tied on with twine.

STR 16, DEX 7, WIL 6, 8 hp

They follow Doctor Hogs instructions, but, when separated from him, are quite stupid.

Thompson Guns


Very Close
Blasts through non-modern armour.
Takes a turn to force the gun on-target. Characters can leap back into cover.
Very Far
Takes a turn to force the gun on-target. Characters can leap back into cover.

Brain Grenades

Iron Grenades in the shapes of human brains. When they explode they produce strange mental effects;


·        The Brain-Apes prefer to pick people up & THROW them into other people – d4 damage to each.
·        They can also SMASH for d6 damage.
·        Or pick someone up and USE THEM AS A CLUB for d6 damage.

Their Terrible Brains

·        Underneath their hats their skulls are cracked open from inside.
·        A horrid fungus is growing in their brain.
·        Silver ants are running all over the Fungus.
·        The ants themselves are infected with the Fungus.
·        If a Gorilla dies or its head is smashed, silver cordyceps ants boil from its mouth, nose, eyes and ears.
·        If the Fungus is seriously damaged, the Ape goes insane and becomes uncontrollable by anyone.

His Strange Weapons

This ray-gun produces random effects which persist for d4 turns.
Ghost Ray – Target immaterial. WIL test to affect the world
Jellification Ray – Target jellified. STR test to move most things.
Shrink Ray – Target 80% smaller.
Gravity Ray – Gravity reversed for the target.

Brain Grenades
Hogs grenades work like those of his Apes.

Fungal Clavichord
·        Hogs masterwork. A hideous, archaically-mechanical combination of clavichord, Babbage engine, brass syringe-typewriter, silver ant hive, cordyceps fungal reactor and Theremin.
·        Hog uses the strange music of the Clavichord to control his Brain-Apes.
·        It can send out strands and ropes of silver Cordyceps Ants like tentacles.
·        He will protect this above even his own life.

·        It’s not clear who is actually in charge, Hog, or the Machine..

Friday 15 September 2017

Feeding Cities in the Veins of the Earth

People have been asking me about how Cities might exist in the Veins of the Earth, and the answer is that really they couldn't, but we probably want them anyway so here are a few ideas about how to feed an urban population underground..

Roll some dice or add as you prefer. I'd say throw together about three of these and you'll have something interesting. Probably one from the quasi-natural list and two from the others.


1-4. A river from the surface world carries both life and resources, possibly forming a swamp or archipelago of valuable nitrate-rich mud.

5-7. Natural, managed or artificial vulcanism creates both heat - feeding black fungus, and low light, aiding the same.

8. Stone-eating bacteria or Archea common here, farmed over cycles of millennia with herds of nomadic sonic pigs and cave crickets guided through the volume of the cities agriculture.

9. Black radiation-eating fungi like the mass inside the Chernobyl reactor, feeding off a natural source of radiation.

10. A huge and regular migration of flying beasts like Lamenters, Bats, Mega-Moths or some other creature that lives largely on the surface but passes this point at regular intervals.

11. Either undersea cities with aquaculture based around oceanic vents, or floating or coastal cities that trade with the same.

12. City maintains a 'Kite' nation somewhere on the surface. A polity which exists purely in order to service the cities agricultural needs by dropping down food directly, sending it by river or by more magical or abtruse methods. A common method is a culture hidden in high valleys or inaccessible mountaintops, almost impossible to reach from the outside world and live in either terror and/or worship of their underground rulers.


Usually based around a large, open central area with agriculture of some kind taking place on every surface, floor, walls and roof. Golems or slave spider-castes farming the upside-down area above the city. The False Sun held in suspensions of mighty chain in the centre.

1-3. A 'Ghost Sun' made from the dead souls of deceased citizens. Pale light and you can see the individual souls trapped inside. All citizens must give their soul to the Ghost Sun on death.

4-5. Imprisoned being - chained light elemental, fire elemental, angel or devil. Held in spiderworks of eternal iron.

6. Mechanical Sun - rare, often using hyper-dimensional mechanics. Gnonmen Capital has a Futurist Clockwork Uranium Sun fed by rare heavy metals.


1. Stable portal to Hell - city sub-contracts from Hell, receives a portion of dammed souls as payment, on which it feasts.

2. Portal to positive 'Wild' dimension. Cities in the Veins are usually regarded as parasitical in these realities and usually some kind of Crusade or Jihad is launched to close the portal.

3. Gateway to Xor - same problem. Veins cities not popular there.

4. City has a stable and large portal to a dimension of fire or light and uses the permanent energy from this to farm wherever the light shines.


1. Un-dead rulers, golem workers, small living class.

2. Either by revolt, disappearance of original creators or by design, city is a golem-built and golem ruled near-automata with living people surviving in it almost by happenstance.

3. There is an offal-god or something like it that dumps food, of some kind, onto the city as a direct trade for worship. Some gods might literally dump shit onto a city - the nitrates are vast wealth underground & low-status surface gods can be of major importance.

4. Food-Malmukes. Caste of slave Clerics raised without eyes, sometimes without tongues or even fingers. Brought up in total ignorance of everything except the one thing they are meant to believe. Ignorant, lobotomised mass-produced holy fools. Cast Food and Water spells en-masse. Like parasites on the love of a merciful God.

5. Slave mages created like slave clerics, though more difficult to manage as some intellectual capacity is required - they cast 'Create Light' and Summon creatures regularly, to be eaten.

6. Magical miniaturisation means populace can raise mice and fleas then shrink selves to feast. Fleas the size of turkeys, Mice like Mastadons.

7. Elemental citizens basically create energy just by living there. Like a resort feeding off a high-status 'Tourist' class.

8. Mining a Gigacreature - giant being like an Arch-Angel, Titan, God or Kaiju. Population digs into them for food and resources. (Think of a hibernating Godzilla with people crawling into its brain to make a lobotomy-mine, keeping it alive and asleep while they eat it from within. Urban population as 'killer bacteria'.)

9. City feeding off an Elder God or equivalent - like suckling at Shub-Niggurath, eating Dagons eggs, licking Chthulu's teats.

10. City farms within pocket dimensions created by paintings. Pastoral artists abducted from surface world but cities population strips everything and leaves their paintings ravaged wastelands, plus they gradually lose their memories of the surface world and succumb to mad despair, losing the ability to paint anything fertile or real.


1. Ourouboros city engaged in 'Paradox' farming,  feed off their own past, sending forces back along their own loop to take resources and slaves. They must keep growing more powerful so they can defeat their own past but the cultural and physical destruction of their own history forms unstable paradoxes and cripples them in many ways. They live in fear as they never know when their own future will arrive to consume them.

2. 'Looper' city sends forces into their own distant future to do the same. They practice forced cultural decline, creating their own 'Dark Age' so their future selves are not strong enough to defeat their current-selves. Result is more stable and predictable as fewer paradoxes result, but the cities future raiding-point and its current-self are continually creeping closer and closer to each other until inevitable moment of mutual annihilation.

3. City translocates/projects/is disguised as another city above ground - but that city is an illusion or simulation, either psychic projection, literal physical construction or something else. All resources consumed by fake city are actually dropped down giant secret elevators to real city. Method favoured by Dero.

4. City 'fishes' for armies, knights, ships, pilgrimages or crusades on the surface - magic forests, 'missing' kingdoms, disappearing isles, crusades to nowhere, fake colony conspiracies.  Large numbers of people disappear and are fed to the city either by being dropped directly down or via magic. Another Dero favourite as their mind control machines allow them to create powerful giga-conspiracies on the surface.


1. City feeds on literalised psychic emanations from above - depends on angst and trouble of surface cultures and works to ensure continuity of supply.

2. City feeds on literalised psychic emanations from below - likely eating the dreams of a mad god or chthulu-esque entity. Reliable supply but drives everyone even more insane than usual.

3. City feeds on own literalised psychic emanations. Own culture tuned for maximum sensation & experience to ensure continuity of supply but they must feel or starve and jadedness-famine is an inevitable consequence of high-intensity feeling.

4. City farms in dreams - or forces others to do so - usually children as they have the most fertile dreams and are easy to terrify and control. Generations of surface children secretly made slaves in their own unconscious until they fear to sleep.

5. City has found a way to feed off orgones - depends on beauty and extroversion of the population but things inevitably get dark if jadedness sinks in.

6. City simply steals food from peoples dreams. If you dream of having a feast, suddenly someone with negative-image black skin or some hideous dwarf/gnome things are there eating your food and won't let you have any.

7. City is inwardly ontologically shattered like a schizophrenics dream. Golems and child slaves sent into its fractured core to scavenge food appearing from 'nowhere' i.e. dropped or created by people who don't exist.

8. City preys on dying hierarchies of failing faiths, hunts asuras, angels, devas, devils and demons as if they were hot girls in a horror movie. Drags back the corpses and feasts. Sky-Father ends up alone in valhalla, boarding up the doors in fear.

Wednesday 13 September 2017

A Bunch Of Fucking Idiots - Barbara Tuchmans' 'A Distant Mirror'

Barbara Tuchman, being old and strange enough to get away with it, chose to write the biography of a half-century, and everything in it, and accomplished it.

It is like a soap-opera/documentary - we have a cast of characters, and all of their passions and personalities, and the camera is flung in a moment wherever Tuchman finds interesting, into a meeting hall, a banquet, onto a battlefield, or the planning sessions for the battle, into the Popes hat and the Cardinals Councils and then back out. Lists and details drip from it like fat from a roast hog.

It is a very big hog. It has got everywhere and Tuchman is going to feed us all of it.

So there is the high-status soap-opera with Kings and councillors and insanely rich people trying to dick each other over.

There is the hero's story, as we follow Enguerrand de Coucy through the 14th century, a man who does so much in his life that the list feels like the events of a long-lived comic-book superhero, with 70 years worth of continuity crammed into thirty years of active adult life.

An adventure every week, nearly.

A man who is mainly a hero by virtue of not being an insanely stupid flaky deluded murderous narcissist.

Although he is murderous, and a bit of a narcissist, but hes not insanely stupid or flaky and in forteenth century Europe that puts him in about the top 5% of dudes with swords.

He dies at the end and the reason he dies is because a giant army of Saracens is coming over the hill, and he's already managed to spring a trap on their scouts, which is the only useful thing that any of these nobles will do against this particular giant army of Saracens, and one particular guy grabs the Big Pole and (and this is a guy who already hates de Coucy because de Coucy is a functioning non-idiot), and the guy says (to paraphrase) "Let's go! We're knights! We have to be at the front!"

And de Coucy, or someone with him, says; "Well, the Emperor, the guy we are  technically working for, says we shouldn't go, and he's an Emperor, and we are just nobles. And he's also the only person with any real experience of fighting these particular Saracens. And he thinks this is just the skirmishers with their main guys behind it, and we should send forward our infantry to dick them around, then we, being mono-focused assault-based heavy cavalry, we should go after their main guys." (I'm paraphrasing again.) "And honestly, that seems to make sense in a lot of ways. So probably we should do that?"

And this unrelenting fucking tool who has done nothing useful, either in life, or in this particular war, says; "No! They are trying to rob us of our honour! We are the flower of French Chivalry. WE HAVE TO BE IN THE FRONT."

And Enguerrand de Coucy, a man who has fought in a lot, a LOT, of actual real wars, with a wide variety of foes and has used and seen used, and had used against him, a wide variety of highly clever, sneaky, actually-useful military and political tactics, a guy who, for almost the whole of his life has been the biggest, strongest, best-looking, richest, physically bravest and, crucially, sanest and most reasonable man in the room, and who is now in his mid fifties, looks at this stupid fucking tool and says;

"Yeah. Ok. Knights. Lets do this."

And they all die. And the ones that don't, should have. And Christendom is doomed but luckily the Sultan has a  medical problem, plus Marlowes Tamburlane just got invented so he needs to go home and it turns out that the Flower of French Chivalry, even while doing something insanely and self-destructively stupid and losing badly, can still take out enough guys to make logistics and issue, so looks like Christendom isn't doomed after all.

(And de Coucy doesn't die on the battlefield, he dies in an Ottoman prison some time later.)

And that, before I've even go through the introduction, is the book in a nutshell. The smartest man in the room gets himself skullfucked because that is what a Knight does.


And we have the tru-life zombie-apocalypse story of the Black Death, which murders Europe by a third and leaves ruins and overgrown roads all over the continent. And which sets the scene and, even after its main appearance is perhaps the primary villain of the book, looming over everything.

And it doesn't really have Zombies. People just die. Turns out that is bad enough.

And then we have Chivalry. If this were a marvel movie, the Black Death would be the big awful CGI cosmic villain who only turns up at the start to set up the plot and Chivalry would be the one you thought might be a hero but ends up performing a face/heel turn and is the main baddy in the third act.

Presumably Tuchman knew Chivalry was the bad guy all along and just let us work it out in our own time, but maybe she worked it out too, while writing the book, and left that working out, or its shadow, in there for us to find.

If there is any book to make you want to instantly raise the red flag and kill every noble you see, its this one, and the only thing that might give you pause is that when people in the book do actually raise the red flag and do kill every noble they see, things don't really improve.


- Youth and Chivalry

"Prowess was not mere talk, for the function of physical violence required real stamina. To fight on horseback or foot wearing 55 pounds of plate armour, to crash in collision with an opponent at full gallop while holding horizontal an eight-foot lance half the length of an average telephone pole, to give and receive blows with sword or battle-axe that could cleave a skull or slice off a limb at a stroke, to spend half of life in the saddle through all weathers and for days at a time, was not a weaklings work. Hardship and fear were part of it. "Knights who are at the wars .... are forever swallowing their fear," wrote the companion and biographer of Don Pero Nino, the "Unconquered Knight" of the late 14th century. "They expose themselves to  every peril; they give up their bodies to the adventure of life in death. Mouldy bread or biscuit, meat cooked or uncooked; today enough to eat and tomorrow nothing, little or no wine, water from a pond or a butt, bad quarters, the shelter of a tent or branches, a bad bed, poor sleep with their armour still on their backs, burdened with iron, the enemy an arrow-shot off. 'Ware! Who goes there? To arms! To arms!' With the first drowsiness, an alarm; at dawn, the trumpet. 'To horse! To horse! Muster! Muster!' As lookouts, as sentinels, keeping watch by day and by night, fighting without cover, as foragers, as scouts, guard after guard, duty after duty. 'Here they come! Here! There are so many  - No, not as many as that - This way - that - Come this side - Press them there - News! News! They come back hurt, they have prisoners - no, they bring none back. Let us go! Let us go! Give no ground! On! Such is their calling."


Turns out you can fuck two countries with one war.

First you get all your main belligerent scumbags, hop over the channel and threaten someone to fight.

Then, no-one comes out from behind their city walls because they don't think they can win, so you decide to make them come out.

So you ride around the countryside fucking things up. And by that I mean burning, killing, stealing, probably raping, though thats rarely directly mentioned, and generally ruining stuff.

Bu they still won't come out and, in addition, its now winter and you have ruined everything, so you are starving to death.

So is everyone else, but they live here. You can just leave.

So you go home.

And you need to pay for all the murdering you did, not morally, just financially, so the King says; "Don't worry, we'll raise taxes on the peasants. To pay for all the peasant-killing you did."

And thats the 100-years war. Ordinary people either being murdered, robbed and raped by Knights, or being taxed to death to pay for Knights.

And this is that war fought intelligently, on the French side at least, by the only competent King they had, who eaked out a strategic win with clever delaying tactics.

"Why does he have to do that?" You might ask. "Doesn't he have the Flower of French Chivalry? Doesn't he have  extremely well-resourced mono-focused shock-assault heavy cavalry who do nothing but train and wank themselves off about doing exactly this sort of thing? And doesn't he have more of them than the English_"

Yes he does have that but, unfortunately, there is a crucial flaw with that.

Because the Flower of French Chivalry are functionally fucking retarded.

And I am not joking. They lose multiple major combats in almost identical ways, then they luck into a non-retarded king, who forces them to act near-sensibly for a generation, and they win. Then the king dies, his son is mad half the time. The uncles are fuckwits and the whole culture goes right back to doing exactly the same thing.


- The Papal Schism

"... Anti-papism now pervaded Florentine politics in a wild swing of the perpetual feud of Guelf and Ghibelline. Described in exasperation by a later French Governer of Genoa, this ancient roil kept Italians at each other's throats out of inherited, witless animosity.

'For with no other quarrel of land or seigneury, they have only to say, "You are Guelf and I am Ghibelline; we must hate each other," and for this reason only and knowing no other, they kill and wound each other every day like dogs, the sons like the fathers, and so year by year the malice continues and there is no justice to remedy it ... And from this come the despots of this country, elected by the voice of the people, without reason or right of law. For as soon as one party prevails over the other and is the stronger, then those who see themselves on top cry "Long live son-and-so!" and "Death to so-and-so" and they elect one of their number and kill their adversary if he does not flee. And when the other party regains the advantage, they do the same and in the fury of the people, from which God protect us, all is torn to pieces.'


To one chronicler it seemed "as if these times are under the rule of a planet which produces strife and quarrelling." In an Augustinian monastery near Siena, he recorded, "the monks murdered their Prior with a knife," and in a neighbouring abbey, after intramural fighting, "six brethren were turned out." Because of the quarrelling among the Carthusians, the General of the order came and moved them all to other houses. "It was no better among kinsfolk by blood .... The whole world was fighting. In Siena there was no one who kept his word, the people disagreed with their leaders and agreed with no one, and truly the whole world was a valley of shadows."


Part-way through the century, the Catholic Church, already insanely bloated with corruption and materialism, decides, like some kind of holy bacteria, to divide.

The two churches can no longer get on with each other. Now we get two Popes. One of these Popes is certainly the AntiPope, which sounds cool as shit, but no-one can decide which Pope that is.

One Pope is certainly effectively insane, but that does not restrain his supporters. The other Pope is corrupt and French.

So now, in Europe, the people who have survived the plague, and who have survived the war, and who have been taxed for the war, also have dual competing churches to worry about. And sometimes even parallel Bishops running parallel services in the same places, and no fucking idea which one is the AntiPope and which is the real Pope.

Numerous Cardinals on both sides have ideas about fixing this, unfortunately, almost exactly as soon as someone is elected Pope, they realise that, actually, they are the real Pope, and the other one is the AntiPope, which means that all the plans they had to fix this shit when they were a Cardinal are actually going to have to wait because the most important thing right now is to DESTROY THE ANITPOPE.

And this goes on, and it does not end in the century of the book.

Various religious reformers spring up and their ideas, at least to start with, are stuff like; "Maybe the priests should be able to read?" and "Can the Bishop maybe not be a 12 year old kid?"

These reformers are actively supressed by all existing authorities as a threat to decency and public order.

Then people start to have some reaaaaalll craaaazy ideas like; "Maybe the Pope isn't like a real thing? I mean, there are two of them and they are both terrible. Maybe its just a guy in a hat?"

And as to where that lead we can now see.


- The Fiction Cracks

"Unhappily, Coucy figures also in a more spirited lament on the subject of baldness, in which Deschamps pleads for the return of head-coverings at court to spare the feelings of the bald, among whom he names himself and twelve great lords, including the Sire de Coucy. That baldness should be the only specific detail of his physical appearance to reach posterity is a sad trick of history, even if he was in good company. The Count de St. Pol, the Sire de Hangest, Guillaume de Bordes, bearer of the Oriflamme at Bourbourg, and other great knights and distinguished servitors of the late King were among the "skin-heads". Less fortunate were the cheveux-rebourses- that is, those with little hair who carried combs and mirrors to keep their few strands combed over the bald spot. What is puzzling is that uncovered heads, a sign of shame, could have at any time become a fad - unless they were adopted as a kind of anti-chic by the dandies of the time in their craving, complained of by the preacher John Bromyard, "to devise some new piece of foppery to make men gaze at them in wonderment anew."


A thing here being, not just Knighthood, and the fact that the entirety of the ruling class subscribes to an insane Chivalric cult which, not only do most of them not really follow, but, even when they do follow it, it doesn't work, but also the relentless, stupidly destructive and maintained even in the face of destruction lunatic luxury of the ruling class.

That is; the zombie apocalypse happens, just without zombies, so now everything looks like Detroit,  World War One happens, except this time it lasts 100 years and mainly kills civilians, the Papal Schism happens, which isn't really like anything from the modern world, but is bad, and the Mexican Cartels happen, because the soldiers from the omni-war and the ruined peasants and the plague survivors end up living in the wrecked hinterlands and preying on whatever and whomever they can. And the ruling classes best idea to deal with this is; 'hey, hire those guys'. So the cartels are now the police force.

And in the suburbs of Paris you can literally be eaten by wolves in the night.

And on top of that, the ruling class are living like Kardashians.


- The Gilded Shroud

"At such evenings grand seigneurs liked to preserve the old custom of lighting rooms by means of torches held by servants, instead of wall sconces, because it satisfied a sense of grandeur. They built their "follies," of which the most elaborate were the mechanical practical jokes devised by Count Robert of Artois at the chateau of Hesdin. Statues in his garden squirted water on visitors when they walked past or squawked words at them like parrots; a trapdoor dropped the passerby onto a feather-bed below; a room, on the opening of the door, produced rain or snow or thunder; conduits under certain pressures "wet the ladies from below." When the chateau passed into the possession of Philip of Burgundy, the devices were kept in working order by a resident artist."


"Thirty double courses of meat and fish alternated with presentation of of gifts after each course. under the direction of the brides brother, Gian Galeazzo the younger, now seventeen and father of a two-year-old daughter, the gifts were distributed among Lionel's party according to rank. They consisted of costly coats of mail. plumed and crested helmets, armour for horses, surcoats embroidered with gems, greyhounds in velvet collars, falcons wearing silver bells, enamelled bottles of the choicest wine, purple and golden cloth and cloaks trimmed with ermine and pearls, 76 horses including six beautiful little palfreys caparisoned in green velvet with crimson tassels, six great war-horses in crimson velvet with golden rosettes, and two others of extra quality named Lion and Abbott; also six fierce strong alunts or war-dogs, sometimes used with cauldrons of flaming pitch strapped to their backs, and twelve splendid fat oxen.

The meats and fish all gilded (with a paste of powdered egg yolk, saffron, and flour sometimes mixed with real gold leaf) paired suckling pigs with crabs, hares with pike, a whole calf with trout, quails and partridges with more trout, ducks and herons with carp, beef and capons with sturgeon, veal and capons with carp in lemon sauce, beef pies and cheese with eel pies, meat aspic with fish aspic, meat galantines with lamprey, and among the remaining courses, roasted kid, venison, peacocks with cabbage, French beans and pickled ox-tongue, junkets and cheese, cherries and other fruit."


Lists of insanity like the one above, are not rare in 'Distant Mirror', they arrive first like bells tinkling through the text, and then like sad strings, and ultimately like a brutal, unending, relentless drumbeat of ruthless luxurious insane stupidity. They are as overwhelming in the text as their original presence was intended to be in reality. It is one of the main things some people tend to dislike about the book, this relentless and consuming piling up of detail. But the detail, whether of horror, luxury, madness or violence, and its overwhelming and almost deadening nature, is part of the intended effect I think.

The luxuries are attended to in times of plenty, because they can be (almost) afforded, but in times of scarcity or of moral or military failure, they are attended to withe even more feverish intensity. They are symbols of status and power and status and power are the only things nobles have. So, when things are going well, your noble will tax you to pay for his insane diamond cortege, but, when things have gone totally to shit, your noble will tax you even more, for even more insane luxuries, because they cannot be seen not to have them.

After the battle of Nicopolis, which ends the book and is Tuchmans final knife in the face of chivalry. This is the manner in which the few surviving noble fuckwits were retrieved;


- Hung Be the Heavens with Black

"Repayment of debts amounting to 100,000 ducats which they had incurred for living and travelling expenses since their release, together with the cost of the journey home in appropriate splendour, required nearly again as much as the ransom. The Duke and Duchess of Burgundy did not wish their son to travel through Europe and make his appearance in France looking like a fugitive. The Duke scraped every resource, to the point of reducing the pay and pensions of Burgundian  officials, to supply his son with a magnificent retinue and provide gifts for all concerned. Dino Rapondi came to Venice with an order on the Dukes treasury for 1500,000 francs and spent the winter arranging transfers of funds, of which repayment to the merchants of the Archipelago came last. Three years later the Seigneur of Mitylene was still owed the entire sum he had loaned, and a three-cornered transaction among Burgundy, Sigsmund, and the Republic of Venice was not settled for another twenty-seven years. These difficulties did not inhibit the Dukes style of living. In 1300 he bought from Dino Rapondi two illuminated books for 6,500 francs, in the next year, two more for 9,000 and 7,500 apiece."


So I pass through curiosity, amusement, sadness, rage, and then despair, and I am left with the same question I think Tuchman either began with, or developed while writing the book. Why do we do stupid things?

European society simply didn't work very well during the period of this book. Like always, there are some nerds on the sidelines saying stuff that will one day turn out to be prophetic, and, like always, the great mass of people, both rich and poor, are massively more intent on the driving power of their daily lives.

Is it fear? Is it the pain of the loss of the plague narrowing the mind? Is it a terrible failure of imagination? (I haven't read The Guns of August but after this I am not surprised that Tuchman covered a subject which seems in many ways similar, the massive failure of another great top-heavy society consumed by another great and deranged male warrior cult).

The very poor and the very rich both seem to be consumed by ideas and in great need of them. The poor because they cannot lift their heads from the ground and need an idea to keep them upright, the rich because they are essentially pointless and disconnected from reality. They can't do work. They don't want to stop being rich. What else is there?

Status and an idea. Live for the idea, die for the idea.

It unquestionably true that almost no-one in the nobility ever acted like the idealised version of a Knight in their stories but its also unquestionably true that they were all willing to die in order to retain their belief that that is what they were.

And even if they were too dumb to realise they were going to lose, de Coucy wasn't, and he probably knew what was going to happen, and did it anyway, and I think that is Tuchmans point.


- Nicopolis

"Knighthoods zealot, Boucicaut at age twelve , had served as the Duc de Bourbon's page in the Normandy campaign, at sixteen was knighted at Roosebeke, at 24 held the lists at St. Ingelbert for thirty days, the most admired exploit of his generation. Two years later, in 1391, he was created Marshal. Unable to endure repose, he had gone twice to fight with the Teutonic Knights in Prussia and, afterwards, to the East to ransom D'Eu in Cairo and visit Jerusalem. In honour of an episode in Tunisia when the Saracens were supposedly stopped from attack by the descent from Heaven of two beauteous women in white bearing a banner with a scarlet cross, he created an Order of the White Lady with the stated purpose of providing defenders of the gentle sex whenever needed. He was the epitome, not the norm, of chivalry, and could well have expressed (although the words are those of Jean de Beuil, a knight of the next century) what it was that inspired his kind in an age of personal combat:

'How seductive is war! When you know your quarrel to be just and your blood ready for combat, tears come to your eyes. The heart feels a sweet loyalty and pity to see one's friend expose his body in order to do and accomplish the command of his Creator. Alongside him, one prepares to live or die. From that comes a delectable sense which no one who has not experienced it will ever know how to explain. Do you think that a man who has experienced that can fear death? Never, for he is so comforted, so enraptured that he knows now where he is and truly fears nothing.'"


The longer I think about it and the more I hold it in my head, the more apt the title 'A Distant Mirror' becomes. When absorbed in any particular detail or element then nothing could feel more alien or other than the time described and my own. But my time springs directly from the time described, and the engines of humanity haven't changed. All those needs and structures are still inside us, it is simply that the plague, the wars, the faith and its shattering, the hierarchy and its madness, throw that skeleton of humanity into sharp relief, like those digital maps where the hills are extra tall and the valleys extra deep.