Category Archives: Highlights

The Left’s New Vampires

For hundreds of years, vampires have been regarded as safe Tory voters, but in 2017, for the first time ever, more voted for Labour than the Conservatives. Why?

Vampires. Rich. Aristocratic. Extremely traditional. Only a generation ago they were the safest of safe voters for the Conservative Party. Now, fewer than one in three admit to Conservative sympathies. I toured the country, speaking to vampires in marginal constituencies, to find out what has changed.

“I remember being hunted in the ’80s during the AIDS crisis,” says Andre Duvillier, who manages an antiques shop in Kensington. “Back then feeding in Crypts was illegal, and the police would come in with night stakes to beat us up. We’d fly out as bats whenever they attacked. I saw a lot of broken wings.”

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AIDS campaigner and vampire Gaspard Duval in 1984. Gaspard died of sun-stroke during  vampirism conversion-therapy four weeks after this photo was taken. Vampirism conversion-therapy is now illegal in all EU member states.

Andre sighs and runs a thin hand through his soft grey hair. The cobwebs around the shelves used to be for effect, but he doesn’t need to add artificial dust to his grandfather clocks these days.

“People don’t want paintings that bleed any more. They don’t want chandeliers that whisper ‘get out’ just as you’re falling asleep. They want iPhones and Nintendo Switches, and they buy them online. I’m two hundred and seven years old, I’m not going to change now.”

Unlike most vampires, Andre voted for Brexit. “The EU has changed. It used to be there to unify humanity under a global superstate. It used to be about power and control. Now it’s just a glorified trade organisation.”

Madeline Le Compte De Sade, a secretary at St Wulfram’s Mausoleum in Stockton South voted Conservative in 2015, but says she won’t next time.

“I thought Cameron were evil, that’s why I voted for him,” she says. “Gay marriage is right there in book of Satan. And Universal Benefit. On face of it, Universal Benefit appears good but actually leads to thousands of premature deaths. Sneaky. I like that.”

She locks eyes, and I cannot look away. Her gaze is bright, almost luminescent.

“I actually find Jeremy Corbyn attractive, in a strange sort of way. There’s something hypnotic about him. Almost as if he’s a vampire himself!”

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“Vampire” is used as an insult among formerly supportive national newspapers including the Daily Mail

Brexit, like Trump, was a shock to many commentators, but several prominent vampires made grim predictions beforehand.

“I remember speaking to Obama in May 2016,” says Juliette Washington, senior political correspondent for the New York Times, an African American, and a vampire. “He said Trump couldn’t possibly happen. I said that he definitely would and I had seen the coming nuclear war in a dream. Obama has always been an optimist.

“You learn some things if you’re not just an African American but a vampire too. You learn that you’re not safe walking the streets during either the day or the night. You learn that you might survive a police shooting, but a brother will still stake you in the heart.”

This fear of being impaled with a stake is a common theme among vampires. There is also much talk of intersectionality.

“A multitude of factors tend to cluster with vampirism,” says Estheban Surnáme, professor of ethnography at the London School of Arcane Sciences. “Vampires have high rates of depression, rage disorders, eating disorders, seasonal affective disorder and suicidal tendencies. Whilst vampirism is associated with extreme social motility and emotional intelligence, vampires suffer from social exclusion to a higher degree than non-vampires. Most vampires are LGBTQ+, and our studies show that even within this community, they are routinely ostracised, and described with words such as ‘terrifying’, ‘predatory’, ‘evil’, and so on.

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A study by the University of Edinburgh found 74% of articles mentioning vampires in 2016 were either “highly misleading” or “totally misleading”

“Despite historically high rates of inherited and earned wealth, vampires report the second highest levels of social isolation of all groups in our study. It is this isolation, believed to be the consequence of increasingly open anti-vampire racism, that has driven vampires’ recent shift from traditionally conservative parties to liberal or socialist parties over the past 20 years.

“A smaller factor is the de-intellectualisation of the right. More than 90% of vampires are university educated. Vampire culture puts a premium on displays of intelligence. Brexit highlighted a change that was already under way.”

Margaux Martinez, who runs a start-up in London’s tech roundabout, agrees. “We deliver blood bags to tired company directors. [‘Blood bags’ is an industry term for graduates who have not yet completed their accountancy qualifications.] They all see it too. The conservative media go on and on about the ‘intellectual elite’. They mean vampires.”

Blood bag

“Blood bags” got their name in 1952 when Alessandro LaCroix, then Chief Secretary to the Treasury, noticed the rosy complexion of graduate hires, and compared them with the pale, deathly faces of the senior civil service. 

I ask Carolina about Brexit. “Vampires are extremely socially liberal. It’s hard for such an international community as ours to understand these arguments about national sovereignty. We regard all humans as equally edible.”

Later, I receive an email from Madeline Le Compte De Sade. She’s having a tasting party with her vampire friends at Gilling Castle. They’re drinking wines, sherries and ‘some special secret nectar of other sorts’.

I ask if she plans to kill me and drink my blood.

“You got me :P,” she writes. My stomach becomes heavy and I can feel myself frowning. I like to think of myself as a good progressive, but I still turn down a traditional vampiric ritual meal.

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How to Avoid Endless Online Discussions

As a man who writes a lot online, I am something of an expert in avoiding endless online discussions or arguments. Here are some words of wisdom. You’re welcome.

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“Engard!” “Actually it’s ‘engarde'” “THEN WE FIGHT! ON GUARD!”

  1. Engage. Always engage. If they write something, write something back!
  2. Mock the other person’s character. The scurrelous twunt.
  3. Distract the other person by bringing up unrelated issues.
  4. If the other person brings up an unrelated issue, follow them into arguing about that.
  5. Exaggerate the other person’s claims.
  6. Smash your keyboard with your fists. Show that keyboard who is boss!
  7. Hyperventilate. This gets the blood rushing to your brain and makes you super smart.
  8. Argue against the claims you want the other person to have made, not the ones they actually made.
  9. Google nothing. Research is weakness.

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    This is your enemy. Avoid it at all costs.

  10. Concede nothing. Conceding is weakness.
  11. Avoid relevant visual imagery or data. Discussions should be as abstract and metaphysical as possible.
  12. Assume that your alternate believes the same things as others who appear superficially similar to them.
  13. Ask nothing. Questions are weakness.
  14. Use long and unusual words. Not like me here. This language is stupid and makes me look like a scurrelous twunt. Better.
  15. Deny everything the other person claims as a matter of course.

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    Talk to the hand, ‘cos the face ain’t listenin’ to an [insert assumed ideological leaning here]

  16. Make the discussion about your character and their character. The issues are secondary. They’re a bad person and must be made to recognise this fact. Once you have shown them they are a terrible person they will bow to your wisdom and accept everything you say.
  17. Never compromise. Compromise is weakness.
  18. Instead of having one or two strong justifications supporting a conclusion, make hundreds, even thousands, of superficial or nonsensical claims. When it comes to online discussions, more is less.

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    A good argument is a like a Team Fortress 2 scattergun blast. Each claim (or pellet) is weak, but together, many weak pellets can take out a Heavy, assuming the Heavy has already been hit by a Sniper shot and set on fire.

  19. Take your first or least charitable interpretation of the other person’s argument and run with it.
  20. If they change their argument, keep attacking the original argument. Or better yet, keep attacking them as a person (see 14).
  21. Make jokes that are unfunny and miss the point.
  22. Provoke your opponent. They’ll appreciate your cleverness almost immediately.
  23. The object of a discussion is not greater understanding, or even entertainment. It is victory.
  24. In defeat, malice. In victory, revenge.

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    Here’s a picture of Batman.

Hands as Green as Sprouts

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Hands as green as sprouts sprinkled salt into the frothing broth. Fire sweltered below the cast-iron cauldron. Flames danced above dripping candles, as Estragon’s shadows leapt about the stony tower. He hummed a delighted tune with his raspy voice.

Footsteps echoed cold and deep towards him from the stairs below.

“Yak’s blood, in the soup, dum dum dum,” Estragon sang, “and an egg to make it gloop, dum dum dum…”

The footsteps resounded, loud and deep. louder, louder, louder until the door opened. Jasper stood, small, red and rat-like, his arms full of wood. Estragon smiled at him.

“Into the firepit please my boy! Into the fire! Oh what a dire pit Jaspar, where we shall fly!”

“Bad scansion. Not rhyme.” Jaspar responded.

Estragon wrinkled his nose. He looked at Jaspar’s rough purple horns and opened his mouth as if to say something. Then Estragon drank a large dollop of the cauldron-froth instead. Jaspar frowned at him.

“What doing tonight?” Jaspar enquired.

“The same thing we do every night Jaspar, create low-level human upset! What fun! What joy! To be the agents of mild maleficence!”

“But…”

“But what Jaspar? You don’t feel a certain heaviness of heart do you? You don’t wince when you see a young primary-school teacher stub her toe on a table leg? You don’t want to apologise to the bearded bus driver who had a sudden fearful thought about falling off a bridge, and forgot to open the doors at the stop? You don’t-”

“Valentine’s” Jaspar frowned, carefully placing logs under the cauldron. Estragon squinted at him.

“What’s that supposed to mean? Hmmmmmmm?”

Estragon’s face seemed to be leaping and pouncing in the living light. Jaspar’s eyebrow ridges raised. (He had no eyebrows, a consequence of the two demon’s pyromaniac activities.)

“Nothing” Jaspar frowned. “Not mean nothing.”

Jaspar walked out of the door, and his footsteps echoed, loud and deep, then soft and deep, then very quiet, and then they were gone. All the while Estragon sang and mixed and pressed and chopped and sprinkled, the broth evolving with every new ingredient. As he the mixture changed, he scooped it out with various dusty bottles and jars. Eventually, with a near-empty cauldron and a whole rack of filled glass containers, Estragon stopped singing.

“What is wrong with Estragon?” He asked.

He prodded the light blue paste remaining in the cauldron with a spindly finger.

“What is the matter with Jaspar?” he pondered.

He stopped stirring and looked out of one of the holes in the tower at the sky. Dark. Blue. Speckled with white stars. Quiet Gods. Estragon took a ladder from behind one of the bookshelves and positioned it under a mirror high up upon the wall. He gathered up his bottles and began to climb.

“What is wrong with Estragon? Estragon did nothing wrong… Estragon did all things right… Estragon makes human fright… Estragon makes night delight. Estragon with magic hands, does each and all that mischief… demands…”

At the mirror, Estragon looked into his own green face, his yellow eyes, shadowy so high above the fires below. He thought of Jaspar, red and whiskery, horned and clawed, with those little useless bat wings behind. Then Jaspar was in front of him, within the mirror. At least, his back and his little useless bat wings were. Surrounded by the long oak tables and floating grey waiters of the dining room. Estragon whispered, like a saw coated with wool.

“Come on Jaspar.”

“No.”

“Come on Jaspar.”

“No.”

“Come on Jaspar.”

“No.”

“Rats! What is the matter with you Jaspar my boy? You used to be such fun!”

“Valentine’s”

“Oh Jaspar Jaspar JASPAR. You must not be so sen-ti-mental. You’re soft and round like the humans, you know Jaspar. Not a bit of humour in you. Boring and simple. You-”

“No.”

“I CAN’T DEAL WITH THIS JASPAR. Of all the servants in all the worlds in the great expansive universe, why oh why must I be burdened with YOU?”

Estragon paused.

He listened.

Something strange was happening with Jaspar’s breathing.

For a moment, the castle was nothing for Estragon. The world was nothing. There was only darkness. A confusion. And slow and heavy breathing from Jaspar. What is the matter with Jaspar, Estragon thought. What is the matter with Jaspar?

“What is the matter with Jatter?” he whispered.

Jaspar turned. His face was damp with demon snot. He wiped his black eyes. He flinched.

“Ow. Sharp hand.” Jaspar said.

Estragon laughed. It was not a pointed laugh though. It had no blade. It was expansive and warm and welcoming. Jaspar smiled.

“Valentine’s?” Jaspar asked.

“Oh I see,” Estragon replied, half his mouth curling up in a grin, “you want to celebrate Valentine’s?”

“No. Valentine’s upset!”

Estragon grinned once more.

“Very well Jaspar” he said, “Your wish is my command.”

He began to climb down the ladder. Jaspar followed him through the mirror to the base of the cauldron in the tower. Estragon scooped out a great smouldering heap of kindling and ash with his hands. He held it into the air and began making wild and intricate gestures. The tallest stones in the tower began to melt into white space.

“We’re going to prolong some exhausting relationships tonight Jaspar. We’re going to encourage some short-term decisions.”

The walls drifted away.

“Make people bad match.”

“Yes Jaspar. Make people bad match.”

And with that, they were gone.

HUMUNGO Games – Where We’re At

Hi everyone! Mungo here. Just a quick update to let you know the state of play for HUMUNGO Games at the moment.

Marketforce!

marketforce-intro

I am more proud of the title screen than I deserve to be.

This satirical business RPG is free to download and available here. Described by a television producer who works with Anthony Horrowitz as “Genuinely hilarious. A great game.” Play it and be delighted.

Jaguar

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It starts as all thrillers should. With politicians swearing at one another in traffic.

“Wonderfully dramatic and I loved the format. Just the right amount of silliness too.” – Laurence Cook, Theatre and Television Director.

Go for it now on any device. The less you know in advance, the better.

Evil Badguy Fantasy RPG

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Your favourite RPG, with added sass.

Retired general meets fishmonster. All the love, revenge, tragedy, terror and humour of a AAA game with none of the production values. Don’t just take my word for it. Zoli Billics, one of the testing managers for The Witcher 3: Blood and Wine, who has played through the game, says “This game is awesome! I can’t wait for the full release!”

Currently in the ironing-out-the-last-bugs stage, EFB is will be released later this year, date TBC. With an original soundtrack by music magician Odinn Hilmarsson. (Seriously give his music a listen it’s fantastic.)

The Black Crown

What’s this hair-raising sensation? Why do I feel nervous and excited and warm at the same time? Is this a mysterious new project?

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Final game may look different to these three question marks.

Key words:

  • Interactive fiction
  • Alternate history
  • World-shaping choices
  • Real consequences
  • Assassination
  • War
  • Sex
  • Colonialism
  • The British Establishment

Watch this space.

Trump is a Centrist and Everybody is Wrong

“I have never considered myself right, left or center. On some issues, such as law enforcement, I do sound like a Birchite: and on others, more like Fidel Castro after two quarts of Appleton’s rum.” – these are the words of Truman Capote, the great novelist, spoken in 1968. The Birchites were an advocacy group that argued the civil rights movement was a communist movement. Was Capote mad? No. Was he unusual? To an extent, but not nearly so unusual as he may seem to political pundits.

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Truman Capote looked a bit like British actor Toby Jones

The views of a typical member of the public, like the views of Truman Capote, are a long way from those of a typical UK MP. Polling shows that most Labour voters want less immigration than current levels and an overwhelming majority want tougher restrictions on immigration. Most Liberal Democrat and Labour voters support an oath of integration for immigrants, and most Lib Dem and Labour voters think prisoners should not have the vote. 72% of Labour voters support changing rules so NHS treatment is only available for people who have lived in Britain for at least a year.

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Even the reds oppose immigration.

At the same time, 85% of Conservative voters and 81% of UKIP voters think mental illness is as serious as physical illness. 64% of Conservative voters support a ban on colourful cigarette packaging, and more Conservative voters support a mansion tax on houses worth more than £2 million than oppose one. A third of Conservative voters would prefer to live in an economy with a more even distribution of wealth, even if that meant there was less wealth to go around.

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Artist’s impression.

What’s going on? Why are Labour voters so right wing and Conservative voters so left wing? Well, what you’re seeing is the dislocation between the spread of political opinion in the country and the spread of political opinion in parliament.

The swing voters who decide most elections are not half way between Ed Milliband and David Cameron. Typical swing voters hate immigration and love the NHS. They think the EU is undemocratic and they want top banker CEOs to be in jail. There are differences between voters of different parties – mainly on the economy (which voters care a lot about), and foreign intervention (which voters care comparatively little about). The broad progressive vs conservative division you see in the news and parliament is not particularly helpful as a tool for understanding the public.

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Caption competition.

This leads to three conclusions.

1. If you don’t look at polls or focus groups you don’t know what the public thinks

If you have regular exposure to me you are probably highly educated, socially liberal and/or young and the people you hang out with are probably highly educated socially liberal and/or young. We tend to connect with people who are similar ages, sexes, professions etc. One thing that has changed in the past 20 years or so is it is much easier to connect and form groups with like-minded people. As a result, you have plenty of people you can talk to about Dungeons and Dragons or skydiving or indie computer games (or whatever floats your boat), which is great. But you also tend to connect with people who have similar interests and similar beliefs.

This can be resolved to an extent by looking at polling data, to an extent by considering what the opposite viewpoint might be when reading an article, to an extent by actively reading and listening to people you disagree with, and to an extent by having conversations with members of the public from a totally different demographic than your in-group. It cannot be resolved completely. Neither I nor you, nor Theresa May, nor Stephen Hawking will have a hugely accurate understanding of what the public is thinking. Accept and ingest this.

Side note – “the polls are always wrong” will not save the left

A lot has been said about the inaccuracy of polls. I may go into this more later, but the short response is that the polls are inaccurate, but they tend to be inaccurate in a fairly predictable way – the public is between 1 and 7 points further to the right than the polls present, usually about the 3-3.5% mark. This is what I have observed in the UK, and at a glance this seems to hold up in the US. (Please correct me if I am wrong here). The polls (especially with the caveat that they have a left-wing bias) are almost always a hell of a lot more accurate than the alternative. The EU referendum polling showed a narrow remain lead in the end, and what happened was a narrow leave win. They showed a narrow Conservative lead, leading to a possible minority administration in the 2015 election, and what happened was a narrow Conservative majority. If you take into account their left-wing bias, they could actually be used to guess the outcome nearly spot on.

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2. Trump is closer to the centre than you think

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Once you get a partial understanding of what the public believe, and what the public think is important, you begin to have a better understanding of how someone like Donald Trump can win over former Obama voters. You begin to understand why “Let’s give our NHS the £350 million the EU takes every week” was a winning message across the spectrum in the referendum on EU membership. Trump is often characterised by the left as a far-right figure, way outside of conventional political opinion. Perhaps he is – in Westminster, or on your Facebook news feed. But much of his platform fits with the broad sweep of American public opinion. Americans oppose both immigration and free trade. They want lower taxes and they want economic recovery for the working class. Americans want to Make America Great Again. On one of the biggest issues of his campaign – trade – Trump is and was to the left of the mainstream Republican establishment.

The centre of public opinion in the US and the UK (and possibly across the globe) is not half way between progressivism and conservatism. It is more accurately described as nationalist. It puts citizens and long-term residents first. It makes foreign policy about national interest. It’s tough on crime, and tough on terrorism. It says immigration should be low and controlled. But it’s also sceptical of globalisation, and supports effective public services (and sometimes the taxes that pay for them).

3. Everybody is Wrong

As an exercise, I want you to do a few things:

  1. Guess what the public thinks on some issue. One you haven’t seen polling data for before. Maybe an approval rating. Or voting intention. Write down what you think they think before you look it up. Then look it up. Do this a few times and be strict with yourself about not looking up the issue before. If you’re stuck for things to look up in the UK, read a few articles about a political party in another country and then make a guess on them.
  2. Guess what the odds are on something. Odds on betting sites are based on what people put their money on so they (to an extent) reflect public opinion. Write down your guess and check it against the odds.
  3. Actually make a bet or a prediction that can be falsified. Write this down somewhere. Give it a time scale. Make a note in your diary to check back against this afterwards.

If you do this regularly, you will soon find that there is only an extremely narrow range in which you have any reliable knowledge, if at all.

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Repeat this to yourself. Everybody is wrong.

People you disagree with?

Everybody is wrong.

People you agree with?

Everybody is wrong.

Your favourite idols?

Everybody is wrong.

Me?

Everybody is wrong.

You?

Everybody is wrong.

I have highlighted a tiny area (public political opinions) in which I believe I am less wrong than most. But on almost everything I don’t have active expertise in or verifiable data, I will be wrong. And I will probably be quite confident that I’m right, because I’ve read about it and seen it on the news and talked to Facebook friends about it. Let’s repeat that again.

Everybody is wrong.

Everybody is wrong.

Everybody is wrong.

If you want to play a computer game that I believe to be amazing based on what my Facebook friends have said, then check out Marketforce!

Munganism – The Philosophy of Mungo

screen-shot-2017-01-11-at-16-19-37Here are a few of my beliefs. Yes, I realise this is a narcissistic thing to do, but you guys keep feeding me with likes and love hearts.

  1. Nobody has any idea of what might happen tomorrow, or a year from now. Most of our conversations are after-the-fact explanations.
  2. These include mine.
  3. Clever people are often wrong in worse ways than stupid people because they are more confident.
  4. This includes me.
  5. Reason is generally used not to discover profound and meaningful truths but to explain and rationalise what our emotions have decided.
  6. This includes mine.
  7. No matter what one believes about human rationality, one is almost always less clued up than one thinks.
  8. Human beings are naturally prejudiced. Not being prejudiced is a learned process.
  9. The right generally understand the left better than the left understand the right.
  10. Often our beliefs about whether someone is making a good argument are significantly influenced by how much we like them.
  11. Our memories are incredibly unreliable.
  12. Believing any of the above does not resolve any of the above.
  13. There is no God.
  14. It is perfectly possible to believe all these things and be happy most of the time.
  15. Yes, I said I was clever above, well done, you win the prize.
  16. I can give explanations and justifications for any of this if you need me to.
  17. If you want a deeper understanding of Munganism, check out my free-to-download game, Marketforce!