Tuesday, March 26, 2013

building the primitive arrows

Hang on, this is supposed to be the Realms

There's this thing called values dissonance and it exists in cases where two viewpoints are separated by a significant period of time or in scenarios where a member of one culture is exposed to an idea from and entirely different culture. According to a National Geographic I read many years ago there is or was a phenomenon in a part of Papua New Guinea called a cassowary war. This occurs when two different tribes (or villages or groups or whatever) have a conflict. The conflict is resolved by each side sacrificing as many cassowaries as it can. Because cassowaries are  a unit of currency of primary importance and produce goods of value to the group, the group with the strongest will to makes sacrifices, literally and figuratively, and, to an extent, the group with the greatest wealth, wins by virtue of having slaughtered the largest number of enormous primordial jungle birds.

Now some people may think this is an admirable way of resolving conflict. It's essentially a series of  ritualistic actions that have nothing to do with the conflict save as a referentially exuberant abstract sign. My guess is that the people to whom such a sign holds value see it as an unarguable mandate of the universe. If your tribe doesn't kill enough cassowaries you have inherited the subordinate position with regards to this particular issue and are required as if by some force of nature to defer to the victorious faction.

I just so happen to think that such behaviour is fairly insane and struggle to conceive how such a thing took root. I understand that there is this thing called sacrifice that stands in as a kind of proxy action to assuage an anthropomorphised universe that extracts suffering from individuals in exchange for whatever it may be that individual might want, but I reel with vertigo in contemplation of the conceptual chasms that lie between me and whoever thinks like that.

Sometimes I think I am embedded so deeply in my own constructed reality I can't begin to imagine what's going on in others'. People are embroiled in passionate dialogues with one another and their motivations are so opaque that, to me, they don't pass the Turing test. I am unconvinced that they are alive and real and made of the same universe-in-motion as I am. In part I think it's because I'm such a fucking aspie but I think it's also because I am way out here beyond the left teetering on the edge of genocidal eradicationism from contemplation of the entropy we accept to be the price of our profligacy. It's like Cthulhu is awake and wandering around with his morning cuppa, yawning his tentacled yawn and thinking about how what he's going to do today is going to make the Permian extinction seem fairly minor, and folks are still arguing about whether Wizards are going to support Fourth Edition online. This makes me want to vomit with terror for a number of reasons.

This is what people are like

So, I guess the point is; it's all a big cassowary war, nothing you do is without cost, the machine in which you are embedded will destroy ancient miracles in order to give your biscuit a creamy mouthfeel and I'll never understand you.


The world is a hellish place, and bad writing is destroying the quality of our suffering.”
Tom Waits

Sorry, Tom.

So, Joesky, I haven't forgotten you, though many have. As it happens I became convinced that you were actually the meticulously orthographically inaccurate alter-ego of a Kiwi girl who is a nuclear furnace of creative energy. But as you were always more of a universal constant of the universe than a person whose origins are even conceivable by such a mortal as I am, I shall question nothing but obey your edict.


Rendering fats from slaughtered hogs for greasing heirloom armour is the epitome of the subjugation of the physical and sensual to the machinery of hate*. The mechanisms of mortality and mortification, the rampant doctrines of the imperial church that wrench all the beauty from the world are adopted and upheld by the northern clergy in multifarious forms but infected and shot-through by the undercurrents of savage paganism and ancestor worship, for the dead are the precurors of all things and they hold sway, grandfather-bones and beast-hides and masonry are the forces at work here. Devil-fear and Church-fear and the fear of the wild unconscious that is beyond the palisade of hewn wood and piled stone and inside the living skin. As such it is always the screaming black horses in the snow and the rattle of bones on fell standards and totemic death-cult warriors of the otherworld, always the dissonant chanting of apostate zealots, always the drunken braying hellsongs of blasted renegadoes on purgatorial paths a-stumble. All the crusaders are lost upon the roads of abandoned provinces staggering back from the shining lands or the dread realms of pagan kinglets incinerated in HIS holy name.
Life in the service of death

1. Erastus Cronesmite, elongated petitioning half-saint grown huge of deepest ardent longing for transcendence. All bones and ropy sinew he is and tonsured gaunt head. His very glance is piercing profundity as awakens a whirling vastness in the breast and a starveling hunger for solitude and unyielding devotion. The mighty staff he bears is shod and banded with bronze to righteously correct those who seek not the light with sufficient zeal.
2. The Lang Man of Osterwick: twenty foot tall enormously bearded bestial thunderstorm of a man. Characterised by a constant deafening roar of furious ranting and gurning and gnashing as strikes fear into bravest hearts. Kicks men sky-high like a football or grabs them by the feet and dashes their brains out. Throws trees and bowls great stones.
3. Codricke the Tarnie Wight: Known as a Fishy Bastard , on a stony shoreline of lake in the mountains he squats among altars of stones and fishbones, singing with a rich and croaky voice in the muddy haze of dawn, playing a song of drowning on a harp of bone and braided sinew. A Priapic toadfish idol of bronze in his house in the silty deep of the tarn allows 3+ level MU to magic jar 1/day. 9 ft tall and clad in fishskin, wields huge bone harpoon.
4. Old Mabba: Sits in hollow hill of ruin knitting bone and flesh and glands into Gristlebairns like wretched gnawing children come groping in the night to eat your skin. She muttering maintains a soliloquy gleefully decrying the woes of mankind and cursing all sunshine and life . She seeks to consume beauty.
5. The Baronet of Clunderfrith: To whom the world is a splendid masquerade of horrors. Grins and strides like an allegorical epitome of plunderous lusty hate. Attired as a Doublesoldier ten feet tall and brimful of darkly vehemence and flourishing of preposterous great-sword gleaming like moonlight.
6. Marrow the Ragman: always watches from afar, wrecks peaceful sleep so nobody can heal. Sullen gaze and cloud of drifting dust motes drags the mind into realms so utterly forlorn that oblivion beckons abominably enticing. Eleven feet tall.
7. Skewbald Jack: Man-high gamboling prankster of gaily tinctured muscle and bone and tattered motley, grotesquely festive and ludicrously deadly. He chuckles as he dances and hops and plays jauntily vehement upon a hurdy-gurdy. Riled, he leaps upon men and tears them asunder, laughing at the secret colours of their entrails.
Can't be bothered with crunch right now but I'm not sure it's necessary here.
Two things; 1.What an interesting choice for the pose of the horse and 2. Haven't dragons been crammed into a tiny little conceptual space of late? This guy is like someone's duodenum grown fanged and furious

* I read once about a Roman legion passing through a district where they commandeered and slaughtered all the pigs belonging to the locals to render for fat to suppress rust on the armour of the 5000+ legionnaires,leaving the locals hungry and impoverished and the pigs dead. Armies are monsters. It doesn't matter what side they are on.



  1. Cool ogres. :) On the rant, I would say the key to understanding a viewpoint that seems crazy (that is, assuming you want to) is to figure out what's the utterly human and relatable motivation that underlies it. One can easily say, of course, "I would want to understand them" and that's fine, except that it forever closes the door on meaningful dialog that might reach a conclusion other that continuing to squabble.

  2. My understanding of the underlying motivation is essentially (perhaps outmodedly) memetic, that ideas take root in the fertile soil of people's minds and thrive in that habitat and within the cultural context in which that mind is embedded. Ideas seek to find some means of promulgating themselves and to expand their habitat and resources by the old "selective retention of randomly mutating replicators" machinery that seems to drive the world-in-motion. I understand that, to the people prosecuting them, cassowary wars make much more sense than the OSR, that everyone's particular motivations are complicatedly entangled with the world they know. To an extent I share that world. I am just very prone to keen emotional awareness of dissonance in values.

    But I yearn for a more uncompromisingly dynamic and enriching playpen to mess around in. The art that gets me is that which caters to the inherited proclivities native to the animal in whose skin I am walking around and there is a bit of this primeval stuff in the OSR that I can get excited about. I guess I am just looking for something to improve the quality of my suffering.

    Thanks for the thoughtful comment :)

  3. I would say it's a bit more complicated than the memetic model would suggest (even if we except that). Personality (at least at its foundation) is likely genetic and there are there are interesting studies that suggest things like some people experience more of a feeling of biologic disgust (like we all might experience with a bad smell) when exposed to moral ideas than others. It makes it harder to reason with people when deep parts of their brain are having a visceral neurologic reaction.

    None of that obviates your understandable yearnings, of course. Just interesting from the prospective of "why is that guy being that way?" :)

  4. I have encountered the connection between morality and disgust and it s very interesting to me. There is an industry that exploits that to sell people cleaning products to wash away all the guilt that they feel by purging their home of potential pathogens. I seem to recall accounts of studies suggesting that washing your hands Pontius Pilate style makes difficult moral decisions easier:)

    Which leads me to suspect that all morality might be aesthetic.

    I recognise the distinction between the inherited basic structure of people's minds and the culturally generated ideas that occupy them. I think of people's brains as different habitats where different populations of "co-adapted meme complexes" compete for resources. Everyone's walking around with different environmental conditions in their heads but there are some very fecund ideas out there that will find a niche in almost everyone's brain.

    I like this model because it allows for an interesting analysis of the variety of cultural artefacts in terms of -what the hell kind of inherited Pleistocene proclivity is this thing exploiting for its survival and replication?