Author Topic: Game Fodder / Story Fodder  (Read 770605 times)


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Re: Game Fodder / Story Fodder
« Reply #855 on: January 20, 2016, 11:20:50 AM »
Scientists Find Hints Of A Giant, Hidden Planet In Our Solar System

Looks like Delta Green has lost containment on an important piece of intel. Somebody forgot to falsify the orbital data for some ice dwarfs...
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Re: Game Fodder / Story Fodder
« Reply #856 on: February 08, 2016, 12:15:57 AM »
So, back in RPPR Episode 95: Historical Histronics, Adam Scott Glancy mentioned the phenomenon of human zoos.  And this week, the CBC will be airing a documentary about a group of Inuit from Labrador who were exhibited in human zoos in Germany and France over a century ago.  In addition, the CBC has put some information about 19th, 20th and 21st century human zoos up on their website:


In the late 1800s, colonial exhibits became popular in the western world — exhibits that not only showcased artifacts but actual people. In the era before cinema, these shows allowed westerners to see the foreigners they’d only heard of, and led to huge audiences clamouring for these tableaux vivants.

Or, as they are now called, “Human Zoos.”

France’s Colonial Jewels

In the late 1800s, France had an agricultural site  (Jardin tropical) devoted to the cultivation of plants from the country’s vast empire, showcasing Madagascar, Indochine, Sudan, Congo, Tunisia and Morocco. In 1907, the garden’s fare became part of the Paris Colonial Exposition, and hosted recreated indigenous villages from the colonies to represent what life was like there. Such recreations might have been innocuous, were it not for the display of live human beings.

Each village was populated with colonial subjects who’d been engaged as performers, yet were little more than exhibits themselves. The performers were given costumes to wear as they performed non-stop for the audience, their costumes only authentic in that they offered little protection from the elements: Terrible living conditions, foreign diseases, and the cold killed dozens of the performers, who were then buried in the gardens.

The grounds of the fair now sit in a state of eerie disrepair, a site of quiet shame for the French.

1904: St. Louis World’s Fair

Human zoos were not merely a product of the old world; North America had its own. The St. Louis World’s Fair in 1904 was an international exhibition in Missouri that, consistent with other world fairs of the time, was an entertaining spectacle, as well as a means of promotion for both products and industry.

The event boasted a variety of displays, including a 260-ft. Ferris wheel, a pavilion made of corn, and a number of scaled “living exhibits,” including recreated Filipino villages, an initiative of the US Government in the Philippines. The fair featured a 47-acre area of more than 1,000 Filipinos from dozens of tribes.

The Igrot Village

One of the most popular exhibits was the Igorot village, an ethnic group perceived as the least civilized of those on display. An audience success; the revenue from this attraction was said to have surpassed that of all the other villages combined. This exhibition featured indigenous people in minimal clothing and who could often be found eating dog as the audience clamoured for a better look.

While the eating of dog was a sensational curiosity for western audience, it was also a misrepresentation. The Igorot did eat dog, but only did for ceremonial reasons. Yet during the seven months of the fair, dogs were fed to the Igorot daily. The tribespeople also performed infrequent sacred rituals, such as crowing a chief, as daily entertainment, to their delight of the parasol-spinning audience.

Once the fair ended, the popularity of the show continued and members of the Igorot group became fixtures in fairs and carnivals in North America and beyond. But not everyone was charmed. After protests by Filipinos, the US government in the Philippines banned the shows in 1914. 

Ota Benga

The St. Louis Fair didn’t just display Filipinos; it also featured an exhibit of Africans, including a Congolese man named Ota Benga. After the St. Louis Fair wrapped up, Benga was taken to New York to become part of an exhibition at the Bronx Zoo. He apparently believed he was being hired to care for the zoo’s elephant.

He was gravely mistaken. Touted as a savage pygmy, Benga quickly became a highlight of the zoo, and was displayed in a monkey house. The card outside the exhibit read:

Age, 23 years. Height, 4 feet 11 inches.
Weight 103 pound. Brought from the Kasai River,
Congo Free State, South Central Africa,
By D. Samuel P Verner.
Exhibited each afternoon during September

His teeth were filed to points, as was customary in his tribe, and the floor of his cage was littered with bones placed there by zookeepers to make him look more threatening. He played the role of the savage and in time was displayed in a cage with apes, a move championed by amateur anthropologist Madison Grant, then secretary of the New York Zoological Society, and future prominent eugenicist.

The New York Times heralded the exhibit with the headline: “Bushman Shares a Cage with Bronx Park Apes.”  In the body of the article, Benga was identified as “a Bushman, one of a race that scientists do not rate high in the human scale."

And the audience came in droves; often 500 people at a time, even thousands a day at the zenith of the exhibit.

But there was growing concern about this kind of display. Alarms were sounded at the Colored Baptist Ministers’ Conference, and a number of prominent pastors were outspoken about what they viewed as a monstrous disrespect. Rev. James H. Gordon, superintendent of the Howard Colored Orphan Asylum in Brooklyn was one of the most vocal opponents of the exhibit. “Our race, we think, is depressed enough, without exhibiting one of us with the apes,” he wrote. “We think we are worthy of being considered human beings, with souls.”

After leaving the zoo, Benga moved back to Africa, yet feeling he no longer belonged there, soon returned to the US. But he found no comfort in America, either. In 1916, he shot himself in the heart.

Brussels and The End of an Era

Even into the middle of the 20th century, the practice of human zoos continued. In 1958, the World’s Fair in Brussels featured a Congolese Village, and boasted a picture that’s become emblematic of this phenomena: a young African girl in western dress. She’s fed by the outstretched white hand of a patron. A fence stands between them. A throng of visitors watch.

Luckily, by 1958, the exhibition in Brussels seemed like an outlier; interest in human zoos had waned with the advent of motion picture as people were able to sate their appetites for foreign lands via the silver and small screens. And by the time of the fair in Brussels, the notion of a human zoo was largely considered distasteful and had been banned in most countries.

Yet change didn’t happen quickly enough for those of the Congolese village in 1958. A number of the original 297 died during the show and were buried in a mass, unmarked grave.

Human Zoos of the 21st Century

Even today, there are echoes of human zoos. The reclusive Jarawa Tribe live on India's Andaman Island.

A video released in 2012 showed images of a safari trip to this island in the beautiful Bay of Bengal, now a popular tourist attraction. But the safari didn’t just showcase animals — these tourist trips promised to allow visitors to observe the Jarawa tribe in their natural habitat. The video was the proof of something more troublesome, and more exploitative; it showed islanders performing for the tourists on safari.

These indigenous people had only begun to have contact with mainlanders, and their willingness to interact with the outside world was exploited and resulted in what some groups believed were no better than human zoos of yore.

At the entrance of the nature preserve, there was a sign forbidding interaction or “feeding” of the tribespeople, but tourists flooded in by the hundreds daily, with bananas and nuts in hand. While police officers were there to protect the tribe from contact, at least one video revealed a police officer instructing the naked women of the tribe to dance, as food is thrown at them. Reports gathered by The Guardian said that the throwing of food, with the expectation of a performance, was actually routine, not an anomaly.

The government demanded a crackdown on such performances and in 2013, the Indian Supreme Court ordered a complete ban on such safaris. Still, some activist groups claim such activities continue covertly, despite the ban.

Human Zoos as Protest Art

2014: Oslo. In celebration of the 200th anniversary of the country’s constitution, two artists staged a recreation of the Kongolandsbyen (The Congo Village), a popular and prominent exhibition of Norway’s World Fair of 1914 mounted a century before. The original exhibition featured 80 Senegalese in “authentic” environments featuring palm roof cabins and was seen by half the population.

One hundred years later, two artists, Mohamed Ali Fadlabi and Lars Cuzner, recreated the exhibit. Now called the European Attraction Limited, they sought to probe what they deemed Norway’s colonial and racial “amnesia,” and to open up a conversation about the legacy of colonialism. For the recreation, people of all nationalities from around the world were invited to be on display in this post-modern, human zoo.

But the response was not what the artists had hoped for. Many critics said that the exhibit simply affirmed and re-inscribed racist and colonial notions in a world that’s far from “post racial.” Writer Bwesigye bwa Mwesigire asked, “is there any artistic value in the re-enactment of such a dehumanizing spectacle, especially in a world not yet fully healed of racism? Is this an abuse of art??"

In truth, European Attraction Limited did create a conversation about Norway’s colonial history, but it was an angry and fractured one, one that also found the artists on the receiving end of threats from both racists and anti-racists alike.

Though there are echoes of these human zoos around the globe, such shows are widely condemned. Yet as these pavailions and villages lay in ruins, or only existing in faded posters, there are those who argue these shameful episodes from of our history should not be simply effaced or forgotten, but should stand as a testament to a shameful, and often uncomfortable past.

So, a little information about the historic (and in some cases, not-so-historic) practice of human zoos for your CoC games.
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Twisting H

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Re: Game Fodder / Story Fodder
« Reply #857 on: February 14, 2016, 05:14:57 PM »
Pure Delta Green fodder

The CIA has a secret art collection they won't show to you.

This video is mainline DG.  The outbreak, the explanation and the after action report are perfect.

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Re: Game Fodder / Story Fodder
« Reply #858 on: February 18, 2016, 06:07:04 AM »
Unspeakable, but real

Scores of dismembered bodies found in Colombian jails

Remains of at least 100 dismembered prisoners and visitors have been found in drain pipes at a jail in Colombia's capital that houses drug traffickers, Marxist rebels and paramilitaries, investigators said on Wednesday.

Body parts were found at La Modelo jail in Bogota, one of the Andean nation's biggest penitentiaries, as well as in jails in the cities of Popayan, Bucaramanga and Barranquilla, said Caterina Heyck, an investigator at the attorney general's office.

"The number of victims is unknown, but we know it's over 100 and could be considerably higher," she told reporters in Bogota. "Remains of prisoners, visitors and others were thrown in the drainage system."

Colombian jails are among the most overcrowded and violent in Latin America and accommodate leftist guerrillas alongside their right-wing paramilitary enemies.

(Reporting by Nelson Bocanegra; Writing by Helen Murphy; Editing by Leslie Adler)

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Re: Game Fodder / Story Fodder
« Reply #859 on: February 19, 2016, 11:43:47 PM »
Delta Green ideas.

From Nature:

What sparked the Cambrian explosion?

An evolutionary burst 540 million years ago filled the seas with an astonishing diversity of animals. The trigger behind that revolution is finally coming into focus.

Douglas Fox

A series of dark, craggy pinnacles rises 80 metres above the grassy plains of Namibia. The peaks call to mind something ancient — the burial mounds of past civilizations or the tips of vast pyramids buried by the ages.

The stone formations are indeed monuments of a faded empire, but not from anything hewn by human hands. They are pinnacle reefs, built by cyanobacteria on the shallow sea floor 543 million years ago, during a time known as the Ediacaran period. The ancient world occupied by these reefs was truly alien.
The oceans held so little oxygen that modern fish would quickly founder and die there. A gooey mat of microbes covered the sea floor at the time, and on that blanket lived a variety of enigmatic animals whose bodies resembled thin, quilted pillows.  Most were stationary, but a few meandered blindly over the slime, grazing on the microbes. Animal life at this point was simple, and there were no predators. But an evolutionary storm would soon upend this quiet world.

This reads straight out of the Mythos. 

I think these images are of the pinnacle reefs in Namibia. Haven't verified.

Here's a useful related excerpt from The Color of Dust (Laurel Halbany) in the DG fiction book Extraordinary Renditions.

"Go to hell," she snapped.

Rob turned his dead eyes to her. "Way ahead of you," he said. "Anyway, I didn't mean the Pacific. I meant the old sea. You didn't know? Kid, half the country [America] used to be one big ocean. It's dried up now, but you know how it is. Not everything that dies is really dead. Especially if it's from the sea."

Within several million years, this simple ecosystem would disappear, and give way to a world ruled by highly mobile animals that sported modern anatomical features. The Cambrian explosion, as it is called, produced arthropods with legs and compound eyes, worms with feathery gills and swift predators that could crush prey in tooth-rimmed jaws. Biologists have argued for decades over what ignited this evolutionary burst. Some think that a steep rise in oxygen sparked the change, whereas others say that it sprang from the development of some key evolutionary innovation, such as vision. The precise cause has remained elusive, in part because so little is known about the physical and chemical environment at that time.

If we are going by the "Shoggoths were the antecedent for life on Earth" Mythos canon you could place Shoggoth influence on animal development as the X factor that is responsible for the generation of predators and rapid differentiation of body plans we see in the Cambrian explosion. 

One could also place Shoggoth progenitor influence eons earlier in the RNA world when nucleic acids started to polymerize and double membranes began to co function with primitive long chain nucleic acids.

Anyway, if the Shoggoths are a reason for the Cambrian explosion, then one could assume there are proto-Shoggoth remnants or fossils laying dormant in the Nambian pinnacle reefs. Other locations (below) where the pre-Cambrian is being investigated include China and Siberia.  Areas rife with Mythos links. 

But over the past several years, discoveries have begun to yield some tantalizing clues about the end of the Ediacaran. Evidence gathered from the Namibian reefs and other sites suggests that earlier theories were overly simplistic — that the Cambrian explosion actually emerged out of a complex interplay between small environmental changes that triggered major evolutionary developments.

Some scientists now think that a small, perhaps temporary, increase in oxygen suddenly crossed an ecological threshold, enabling the emergence of predators. The rise of carnivory would have set off an evolutionary arms race that led to the burst of complex body types and behaviours that fill the oceans today. “This is the most significant event in Earth evolution,” says Guy Narbonne, a palaeobiologist at Queen's University in Kingston, Canada. “The advent of pervasive carnivory, made possible by oxygenation, is likely to have been a major trigger.”

Easy to blame Shoggoths for the initiation of carnivorous behavior.

Energy to burn
In the modern world, it's easy to forget that complex animals are relative newcomers to Earth. Since life first emerged more than 3 billion years ago, single-celled organisms have dominated the planet for most of its history. Thriving in environments that lacked oxygen, they relied on compounds such as carbon dioxide, sulfur-containing molecules or iron minerals that act as oxidizing agents to break down food. Much of Earth's microbial biosphere still survives on these anaerobic pathways.

Animals, however, depend on oxygen — a much richer way to make a living. The process of metabolizing food in the presence of oxygen releases much more energy than most anaerobic pathways. Animals rely on this potent, controlled combustion to drive such energy-hungry innovations as muscles, nervous systems and the tools of defense and carnivory — mineralized shells, exoskeletons and teeth.

Given the importance of oxygen for animals, researchers suspected that a sudden increase in the gas to near-modern levels in the ocean could have spurred the Cambrian explosion. To test that idea, they have studied ancient ocean sediments laid down during the Ediacaran and Cambrian periods, which together ran from about 635 million to 485 million years ago.

In Namibia, China and other spots around the world, researchers have collected rocks that were once ancient seabeds, and analysed the amounts of iron, molybdenum and other metals in them. The metals' solubility depends strongly on the amount of oxygen present, so the amount and type of those metals in ancient sedimentary rocks reflect how much oxygen was in the water long ago, when the sediments formed.

These proxies seemed to indicate that oxygen concentrations in the oceans rose in several steps, approaching today's sea-surface concentrations at the start of the Cambrian, around 541 million years ago — just before more-modern animals suddenly appeared and diversified. This supported the idea of oxygen as a key trigger for the evolutionary explosion.

But last year, a major study1 of ancient sea-floor sediments challenged that view. Erik Sperling, a palaeontologist at Stanford University in California, compiled a database of 4,700 iron measurements taken from rocks around the world, spanning the Ediacaran and Cambrian periods. He and his colleagues did not find a statistically significant increase in the proportion of oxic to anoxic water at the boundary between the Ediacaran and the Cambrian.

Modern mirrors

Sperling has looked for insights into Ediacaran oceans by studying oxygen-depleted regions in modern seas around the globe. He suggests that biologists have conventionally taken the wrong approach to thinking about how oxygen shaped animal evolution. By pooling and analysing previously published data with some of his own, he found that tiny worms survive in areas of the sea floor where oxygen levels are incredibly low — less than 0.5% of average global sea-surface concentrations. Food webs in these oxygen-poor environments are simple, and the animals feed directly on microbes. In places where sea-floor oxygen levels are a bit higher — about 0.5–3% of concentrations at the sea surface — animals are more abundant but their food webs remain limited: the animals still feed on microbes rather than on each other. But around somewhere between 3% and 10% oxygen levels, predators emerge and start to consume other animals4.

The implications of this finding for evolution are profound, Sperling says.The modest oxygen rise that he thinks may have occurred just before the Cambrian would have been enough to trigger a big change. “If oxygen levels were 3% and they rose past that 10% threshold, that would have had a huge influence on early animal evolution,” he says. “There's just so much in animal ecology, lifestyle and body size that seems to change so dramatically through those levels.”

The gradual emergence of predators, driven by a small rise in oxygen, would have meant trouble for Ediacaran animals that lacked obvious defences. “You're looking at soft-bodied, mostly immobile forms that probably lived their lives by absorbing nutrients through their skin,” says Narbonne.

Here's a thought. At this point in the timeline the hypothesis is that there are vast fields of "peaceful" multicellular life that feed off of microbes.  Then this population of predators forms.

If we examine this dichotomy from the Catholic Mythos viewpoint, I can't help but draw parallels between a "good" and "evil" force and a war in Heaven.  In this case the predators (Satan?) won.

Shall we speculate that the ancient non-predator life had intelligence and prayed to some Great One of their own? Did Nyarty in one of his myriad masks tempt an ancient multi-cellular progenitor with the power of becoming a carnivore?  Was some peaceful race extinguished beneath the anoxic seas as a dark god laughed?

Does the potential Great One weep over it's fallen worshipers? Does it wish revenge upon those descended from a diversified body plan?

Studies of those ancient Namibian reefs suggest that animals were indeed starting to fall prey to predators by the end of the Ediacaran. When palaeobiologist Rachel Wood from the University of Edinburgh, UK, examined the rock formations, she found spots where a primitive animal called Cloudina had taken over parts of the microbial reef. Rather than spreading out over the ocean floor, these cone-shaped creatures lived in crowded colonies, which hid their vulnerable body parts from predators — an ecological dynamic that occurs in modern reefs5.

Cloudina were among the earliest animals known to have grown hard, mineralized exoskeletons. But they were not alone. Two other types of animal in those reefs also had mineralized parts, which suggests that multiple, unrelated groups evolved skeletal shells around the same time. “Skeletons are quite costly to produce,” says Wood. “It's very difficult to come up with a reason other than defence for why an animal should bother to create a skeleton for itself.” Wood thinks that the skeletons provided protection against newly evolved predators. Some Cloudina fossils from that period even have holes in their sides, which scientists interpret as the marks of attackers that bore into the creatures' shells6.

Palaeontologists have found other hints that animals had begun to eat each other by the late Ediacaran. In Namibia, Australia and Newfoundland in Canada, some sea-floor sediments have preserved an unusual type of tunnel made by an unknown, wormlike creature7. Called Treptichnus burrows, these warrens branch again and again, as if a predator just below the microbial mat had systematically probed for prey animals on top. The Treptichnus burrows resemble those of modern priapulid, or 'penis', worms — voracious predators that hunt in a remarkably similar way on modern sea floors8.

The rise of predation at this time put large, sedentary Ediacaran animals at a big disadvantage. “Sitting around doing nothing becomes a liability,” says Narbonne.

The world in 3D
The moment of transition from the Ediacaran to the Cambrian world is recorded in a series of stone outcrops rounded by ancient glaciers on the south edge of Newfoundland. Below that boundary are impressions left by quilted Ediacaran animals, the last such fossils recorded on Earth. And just 1.2 metres above them, the grey siltstone holds trails of scratch marks, thought to have been made by animals with exoskeletons, walking on jointed legs — the earliest evidence of arthropods in Earth's history.

No one knows how much time passed in that intervening rock — maybe as little as a few centuries or millennia, says Narbonne. But during that short span, the soft-bodied, stationary Ediacaran fauna suddenly disappeared, driven to extinction by predators, he suggests.

Narbonne has closely studied the few fauna that survived this transition, and his findings suggest that some of them had acquired new, more complex types of behaviour. The best clues come from traces left by peaceful, wormlike animals that grazed on the microbial mat. Early trails from about 555 million years ago meander and criss-cross haphazardly, indicating a poorly developed nervous system that was unable to sense or react to other grazers nearby — let alone predators. But at the end of the Ediacaran and into the early Cambrian, the trails become more sophisticated: creatures carved tighter turns and ploughed closely spaced, parallel lines through the sediments. In some cases, a curvy feeding trail abruptly transitions into a straight line, which Narbonne interprets as potential evidence of the grazer evading a predator9.

This change in grazing style may have contributed to the fragmentation of the microbial mat, which began early in the Cambrian. And the transformation of the sea floor, says Narbonne, “may have been the most profound change in the history of life on Earth”10, 11. The mat had previously covered the seabed like a coating of plastic wrap, leaving the underlying sediments largely anoxic and off limits to animals. Because animals could not burrow deeply in the Ediacaran, he says, “the mat meant that life was two-dimensional”. When grazing capabilities improved, animals penetrated the mat and made the sediments habitable for the first time, which opened up a 3D world.

Great way to inject a little science in your game is to have an artifact out of place in deep Ediacaran sediments.  The current hypothesis is Life couldn't burrow into that strata so what intelligent agent left it there?

Tracks from the early Cambrian show that animals started to burrow several centimetres into the sediments beneath the mat, which provided access to previously untapped nutrients — as well as a refuge from predators. It's also possible that animals went in the opposite direction. Sperling says that the need to avoid predators (and pursue prey) may have driven animals into the water column above the seabed, where enhanced oxygen levels enabled them to expend energy through swimming.

The emerging evidence about oxygen thresholds and ecology could also shed light on another major evolutionary question: when did animals originate? The first undisputed fossils of animals appear only 580 million years ago, but genetic evidence indicates that basic animal groups originated as far back as 700 million to 800 million years ago. According to Lyons, the solution may be that oxygen levels rose to perhaps 2% or 3% of modern levels around 800 million years ago. These concentrations could have sustained small, simple animals, just as they do today in the ocean's oxygen-poor zones. But animals with large bodies could not have evolved until oxygen levels climbed higher in the Ediacaran.

Understanding how oxygen influenced the appearance of complex animals will require scientists to tease more-subtle clues out of the rocks. “We've been challenging people working on fossils to tie their fossils more closely to our oxygen proxies,” says Lyons. It will mean deciphering what oxygen levels were in different ancient environments, and connecting those values with the kinds of traits exhibited by the animal fossils found in the same locations.

This past autumn, Woods visited Siberia with that goal in mind. She collected fossils of Cloudina and another skeletonized animal, Suvorovella, from the waning days of the Ediacaran. Those sites gave her the chance to gather fossils from many different depths in the ancient ocean, from the more oxygen-rich surface waters to deeper zones. Wood plans to look for patterns in where animals were growing tougher skeletons, whether they were under attack by predators and whether any of this had a clear link with oxygen levels, she says. “Only then can you pick out the story.”

Nature 530, 268–270 (18 February 2016) doi:10.1038/530268a
« Last Edit: February 20, 2016, 12:32:47 AM by Twisting H »


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Re: Game Fodder / Story Fodder
« Reply #860 on: February 20, 2016, 11:21:13 PM »
Sweet ideas, Twisting H. We'll put the ARCHINT boys on it right away.
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Re: Game Fodder / Story Fodder
« Reply #861 on: February 21, 2016, 10:28:28 AM »

For those of us blessedly ignorant of the terribleness of US Education system. Good fodder for No Soul Left Behind.

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Re: Game Fodder / Story Fodder
« Reply #863 on: February 27, 2016, 01:59:17 AM »
I should have made everyone watch that before I ran tribes of tokyo


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Re: Game Fodder / Story Fodder
« Reply #864 on: February 29, 2016, 04:25:12 AM »
I'm dropping this here mostly because the gang talked about going Conspira Sea one time, and partly because the flavors of crazy might inspire someone.
« Last Edit: February 29, 2016, 06:11:55 PM by clockworkjoe »


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Re: Game Fodder / Story Fodder
« Reply #865 on: March 01, 2016, 01:42:22 AM »
Planning an eclipse phase game based on the natural extension of breaking robots by dividing by zero:

If you can prove, mathematically, that reality doesn't exist, you could theoretically break TITANs--But if any humans know the full equation, they get broken too. General idea is that one researcher on a virus that proves this wrote half the equation, while OZMA finished it--when he finds it, he wants to test it to see if it works. Since he doesn't know the full equation, he can objectively know in a Schrodinger-type way whether or not reality exists.

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Re: Game Fodder / Story Fodder
« Reply #866 on: March 08, 2016, 10:37:19 PM »
I should have made everyone watch that before I ran tribes of tokyo


Twisting H

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Re: Game Fodder / Story Fodder
« Reply #867 on: March 08, 2016, 10:46:34 PM »

Did you know when smugglers try to transport stolen antiques from Syria/Iraq/anywhere else they often cut a mural into pieces for easy transport?

Did you know that some of these cut murals depict protective seals and entities?  ;D

Everything is fine. What could go wrong?

From the Delta Green Files.

Museum of Lost Objects: The Genie of Nimrud

Three thousand years ago, a genie graced the walls of an Assyrian palace. Then, probably about 20 years ago, it disappeared, only to re-emerge in London. Since 2002 it's been languishing in police vaults at Scotland Yard, because of difficulties determining the legal owner.

The genie is a powerfully built man, with wings sprouting from his back. About 2m high, it is carved in relief on a stone panel, holding a pine cone, and facing a pattern that represents the tree of life. The genie symbolised both protection and fertility - its role was to safeguard and replenish the ancient kingdom of Assyria.

It was a design particularly popular with the Assyrian king, Ashurnasirpal II, who came to the throne in 883 BC, and made Nimrud his new capital.

"Ashurnasirpal and his artists were really the first to decorate many of the rooms in the public spaces within the palace," says archaeologist Augusta McMahon, lecturer at the University of Cambridge.

"One of the key symbols that appeared over and over was this genie or protective spirit. Because in the minds of the ancient Assyrians it's an enormously powerful motif, it can't hurt to have a further fertility symbol somewhere in the room."

Protective genies came in all sorts of shapes and sizes. The photograph above is very similar but not identical to the one now in the hands of British police. Others had the bodies of men but the heads of ferocious-looking birds and a feathered hairstyle, still others were a combination of man and fish.

[TwistingH -- Isn't Dagon depicted as a combination of man and fish in Phoenician mythology?]

Our particular genie had copious amounts of curly hair and a long beard. "The really big crazy-looking hair and the massive beard were part of making him really stand out," says McMahon, who also draws attention to the "little fringed outfit that shows off these incredibly muscular legs".

[TwistingH--Take note DG agents. Genies did not skip leg day]

The impact of all the genies side by side in the palace would have been to convey the strength and virility of the Assyrian empire.

Across the belly of the genie was a smattering of cuneiform in the now extinct language, Akkadian. The text is what's known as Ashurnasirpal's "standard inscription". It lays out in minute detail his many kingly accomplishments - from treading on the necks of foes to being "king of the universe" - and was carved on many of the reliefs and sculptures that filled the halls of his palace at Nimrud.

"It's my favourite ancient archaeological site," says Mark Altaweel, an Iraqi-American archaeologist whose ancestors come from Mosul - not far from Nimrud.

"You did see the reliefs in place, you can see the rooms. Even the ancient floors were sort of wobbly, and in some ways that gave it the ancient feel. You got a sense of what a palace was like when you walked in there."

Sometimes, however, even protective spirits need protecting. At some point since Nimrud's excavation, this genie relief was moved into a storage room from where it disappeared. It's believed to have been taken in the 1990s during the chaos of the first Gulf war, but no-one knows for sure.

The genie's whereabouts were completely unknown for about 10 years. Eventually in 2002, just before the second Gulf war, it turned up in London - one of the world's largest antiquities markets.

Scotland Yard's Art and Antiques Unit went to collect the genie, but it's unclear who legally owns it, so for the last 14 years it has been locked up in a secure storage unit belonging to London's Metropolitan Police.

"The problem is that the burden of proof on objects, when they are looted, is on the authorities to show that it really was removed illegally," says Altaweel.

This can be a challenge.

Find out more

*The Museum of Lost Objects traces the stories of 10 antiquities or ancient sites that have been destroyed or looted in Iraq and Syria

*Listen to the episode about the Genie of Nimrud on Radio 4 from 12:00 GMT on Wednesday 9 March or get the Museum of Lost Objects podcast

*Also in this series: The Tell of Qarqur, The Winged Bull of Nineveh, The Temple of Bel, The Lion of al-Lat, Aleppo's minaret and Mar Elian's monastery.

Looters sometimes lie about an object's country of origin, and move it through a variety of transit points. It may change hands many times and some of the sellers may insist on remaining anonymous.

"So the genie is basically in a kind of limbo state," says Altaweel.

Even though it appears to be part of a documented collection that was in Nimrud for 3,000 years, at present it seems unlikely to ever return to Iraq.

At some point in its journey, the genie was badly damaged. His head, wings, and upper body are still visible, but gone are his legs and much of Ashurnasirpal's cuneiform inscription. These may have been hacked away when the genie was first taken, or disposed of en route to London - it's not clear. But it is still highly valuable.

"We hear that just the head was going for £3.5m (almost $5m) in 2003 prices," says Altaweel.

"So imagine the value it would get today, and there are people who are willing to pay those prices. There has always been an interest in Nimrud."

Altaweel was in Nimrud just weeks after the US invasion of Iraq in 2003 and saw for himself fresh signs of looting.

"The site guard told me there was a gunfight that happened, with some bullets hitting the reliefs," he says. Some of the panels depicting genies and other figures had been cut out - the head would be missing, with the body and legs still in place.

The awful irony is that the looting of the genie now at Scotland Yard may have saved it from complete destruction. After seizing Mosul in 2014, the so-called Islamic State group began destroying sites in and around the city - including, the following year, Nimrud.

This has prompted debates about the thorny issue of repatriation. Some have argued that it might have been better if more of the Middle East's archaeological riches had been taken from the region during the era of European imperialism. To them, the iconoclasm of the would-be caliphate seemed to justify, in retrospect, the cavalier way in which Western archaeologists and collectors relieved the Middle East of its cultural heritage in the 19th and early 20th Centuries.

And yet for many people outside the West, it remains a source of grievance that so much of their past sits in the halls and basements of museums in Paris and Berlin, London and New York. Westerners can more easily enjoy the cultural history of Iraq than Iraqis themselves.

But while looters have plundered Iraqi museums and still threaten historical sites, the looted objects do not always end up being smuggled abroad.

Mark Altaweel was at the museum in Sulaymaniyah in Iraqi Kurdistan five years ago, when he got chatting to an American Kurdish man. Only after the man had left did Altaweel realise that a transaction had just taken place.

The visitor had offered to sell a series of cuneiform tablets and other objects and the museum at the time had a no-questions-asked policy, so it bought them.

"At first glance you think that's a horrible policy," says Altaweel. "But it did actually prevent them from leaving Iraq proper."

The visitor's haul included something amazing - a chapter of the Gilgamesh epic, the original blockbuster adventure, with monster battles, the search for immortality, divine kings, and even a whole section on how the wrathful gods flooded the Earth (a scenario that would appear again in the later biblical tale of Noah). Gilgamesh is humanity's earliest story. It marks that moment when gods and humans stepped out of the murky unknown and into the sharp relief of narrative.

"As soon as they saw that there's a text that talks about the Gilgamesh story, their immediate reaction was to buy this thing," says Altaweel. "They understood that this was extremely rare."

One of the key scenes in the Gilgamesh epic is the momentous encounter between the hero Gilgamesh and the monster Humbaba, described as a hideous ogre - his "roar is a flood, his mouth is death and his breath is fire!"

This beast of the wild can generally be found roaming the beautiful Cedar Forest. His primary aim is to terrify men and it's up to the brave, demi-god Gilgamesh and his sidekick Enkidu to vanquish Humbaba and rid the forest of his ugly tyranny. But what's remarkable about the Gilgamesh tablet recovered at the Sulaymaniyah museum is that it shows Humbaba in a different light.

"Where Ḫumbaba came and went there was a track, the paths were in good order and the way was well trodden," the tablet reads.

"Through all the forest a bird began to sing: A wood pigeon was moaning, a turtle dove calling in answer. Monkey mothers sing aloud, a youngster monkey shrieks: like a band of musicians and drummers daily they bash out a rhythm in the presence of Ḫumbaba."

In this version of the story, Humbaba is beloved of the gods and a kind of king in the palace of the forest. Monkeys are his heralds, birds his courtiers, and his entire throne room breathes with the heady aroma of cedar resin.

Gilgamesh and Enkidu, meanwhile, are aggressors, ecological thieves. They come to Humbaba's forest to take its timber back to their treeless homeland in Mesopotamia. In this newly discovered tablet of the epic, we find - remarkably - a sense that the heroes of the tale were in the wrong.

"Enkidu opened his mouth to speak, saying to Gilgamesh: 'My friend, we have reduced the forest to a wasteland. In your might you slew the guardian, what was this wrath of yours that you went trampling the forest?'"

This sense of remorse is particularly strong in the Sulaymaniyah tablet, but traces of it also exist in other versions of the Gilgamesh epic. In so many other ancient tales, the Anglo-Saxon Beowulf for example, we find a black-and-white world, a clear binary of good and evil. In

Gilgamesh there is plenty of grey. The hero is faced with the moral consequences of his actions. There is so much destruction in the achievement of his greatness.

Intentionally and unintentionally, modern-day combatants in Iraq and Syria are destroying precious records of antiquity, and more objects like the genie and cuneiform tablets will inevitably slip on to the black market. So, it's worth celebrating the rare recoveries of these artefacts.

"It's a good and bad thing. It's bad that it was looted, it's bad that it had to be purchased. But it's good because at least it stays in the country of Iraq," says Altaweel.

"It's one of these things where Western scholars actually have to come to Iraq to see this and study this tablet. So it's good that at least something of significance stays in the country. Iraqis need to see these things too, ultimately these countries need stability, and stability equals economy, equals tourism, equals the objects being back there."

War makes exiles out of people and cultural artefacts alike. It is a small victory, but a victory nonetheless, when an antiquity like the tablet of Gilgamesh can endure and remain in Iraq.

Ashurnasirpal's genie, however, seems destined to stay far from its old home. Once it guarded the palace of its king. Now it is guarded by
British police, in an obscure basement in a foreign country.

The Museum of Lost Objects traces the stories of 10 antiquities or ancient sites that have been destroyed or looted in Iraq and Syria.

« Last Edit: March 08, 2016, 10:48:25 PM by Twisting H »


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Re: Game Fodder / Story Fodder
« Reply #869 on: April 30, 2016, 12:08:00 PM »
Here's an oldie but a goodie, I think, for a Delta Green seed.

I bet $12 billion would pay for a lot of shoggoth feed.