The Fancy Times

Fine Slop for the Discerning Tastemaker

  • It swung open into the dangerous and underpaid.
    Network layer routing.
    Blank item only. 
    What is so amazing about this?
    Your plainness and your working pressure. 
    Some text about whatever topic you’re paying for.
    No objective available. 
    I am naturally very curious. 
    Hidden cams are the trending annoyance right now.
    Full reference lists are available. 
    Yet the anger is funny. 
    Speed test, please. 
    Let housing lead the continuous spectrum,
    And spectral analysis to come. 
    All too oily. 
    The punishment must be brief.
    An injury every season.
    Congenital and acquired immunity.
    Lolly lolly let me correct myself. 
    It’s a bathroom barn door disaster.
    A squeak in the panhandle. 
    Sculptural filigree hair!
    Fallacy will get out,
    In the arena this year. 
    High shall our purpose be.
    The Goodwill appliance donation. 
    Awesome contraption.
    Add plumbing for both soccer and the daughter and mine. 
    Happy be you!
    Nice granny interracial video.
    Less men remain.
    So we’ll add puree to the milk casein.
    Inexpensive blotting paper. 
    An unconventional way to succeed,
    When you acquired the support for language
    And a vegetable plot. 
    Mine would love watching this year.
    Is parenthood artless?
    Important for cell membrane integrity and safety.
    Dare to not stay shut. 
    Premium braided shielding,
    For a periodic table expert?
    Prentice told the manager to handle bathroom life
    With us.
    On saltatory conduction faster than cotton.
    I married him. 
    I made good food fight. 
    With dissenting opinion. 

  • An eccentric city and the oldest established in the Highlands departement, and one of the oldest in the country. The metropolis fans out from atop the precarious cliffs of Erise that overlook Auview Island. At the height of its autocratic rule Endcliff was renowned for its hanging vertical farms and advancements in philosophical mathematics. The economic conflict that preceded the Good Revolution nearly hollowed the city. Little is left of the innovative energies of old but the cheapest of arts and the population’s bizarre superstitions. 

    The Hanging Farms of Endcliff

    Today’s Endcliff has only a reputation for what has been called its “horrendous cultural impact” and a very distinctive, often abrasive, local accent. The negatives of the city’s cultural exports are due to its niche art movements. Sophistication and aesthetic balance have long been lost in their grimy districts, leaving room for all kind of “experimental” scenes that mostly dabble in degrees of shock and self-righteous hedonism. The city was once known as the capital of the theatre. It is believed the peoples’ unusual accent comes from the influence of stage speech and the number of people once employed or descended of those employed in the theatrical arts. 

    The city’s crime rate is classified as medium for the country, but the highest for the departement. This is particularly concentrated in the Abattoir district where at least two known criminal organizations keep their quarters and frequently battle each other over perceived slights and business competition. There is a lack of will to deal with this. These organizations have become normalized by time and entrenchment in community institutions. The workforce needed for adequate law enforcement is lacking like all civic services in Endcliff due to the city being nearly financially insolvent. The local governing is held by House Cymbelline. Ever aloof, and some would say they set the eccentricity of the city by their own weird ways. In recent years the Directory has suspended several of the house’s rights over incompetency. 

    Growth and development are a rare sight, public services were nearly non-existent until the Good Revolution and the city is overall a greater burden on Directory resources than any other in the Highlands. However the cost of living is low and the employment rate has never had a major drop off. The house maintains minimal public transport in the form of two crossing streetcar lines that, though irregular, work well with the design of the city and face no major criticisms from residents. 

    The streetcar nexus.

    The city is hard to comprehend from any angle. Age and past prestige fostered extreme density with an urban core taking up 70% of the metropolis. There is little room to build and most construction is reparative when it actually happens. The same cobbles that first laid Endcliff’s roads can still be seen in some places through the patches of tar. 

    A large population is still maintained, but year over year these rates have decreased due to declining fertility rates. The cause of rising impotence has not yet been found, but it is uniquely high enough to warrant an ongoing case study funded and organized by the Directory. 

    Read stories from this world here.

  • Contemporary painter and graphic artist.

    Born 1968 in Odessa. Kozhuhar’s subjects depict everyday scenes of city life, sports, and eroticism. His painting have a refreshing lack of pretentiousness. The imagery is evocative, with the harsher edges of expressionism and the fluidity of classical impressionism.

  • Carolyn Chute, 1985

    Ghosts bust up my house all the time. They don’t hurt me…but they keep me awake rollin’ them big Blue Hubbards around and smashin’ up glass. They get right under the sheets with me and run around in there under the sheets.

    Set in the impoverished hills of rural Maine in an era that could be any time, Chute’s debut novel is essentially a story of pastoral poverty. There is no heroic character transformation, no one is saved, no one escapes. Harsh living gets even worse. 

    The story follows Earlene Pomerleau, a young girl obsessed with her freakish neighbors. These are of course the big and messy Bean clan that infests the whole hillside. Drunk, violent, grotesque. The women stumble over a brood of clinging babies. The men break each others ribs and pass out under their trucks. Earlene’s father has raised her with the assertion that they are above the Beans, but her obsession pulls her ever closer into the rat’s nest. Where another writer may have used such source material in mockery, the book has takes a somber tone. There are no judgements nor is there any romanticizing. It is simply a story of some lives, written in practical third person omniscient narration. 

    The author seems either of that world or at least grew up in close proximity to it. A former floor scrubber and potato farm worker, but also a former professor of creative writing at the university in Portland and a present-day contributor to the New England Literature Program. Still alive and still in Maine, reportedly living in a house with no phone, computer, or indoor plumbing. She resides with her handsome gun collection and handyman husband who never learned to read. 

  • University governance has a last name.
    Design ‘em strong.
    Best reply ever. 
    See collodion wet plate. 
    Make a declaration match.
    Audacity is getting tough to call.
    Rapid thought and scientific literacy within an organization. 
    Real tough choice for you?
    In the corner, drinking beer. 
    The author, until his resignation becomes effective,
    Upon passage and approval. 
    Worst serial killer on an as needed basis. 
    Surviving residency one stitch at the boss.
    Find finding the success you want. 
    Find finding yourself.
    Bad men are dogs. 
    Thief in the passenger side. 
    A margarita and another added to brass tax anyway.
    And beautiful hair more than helmet hair.
    Are you keeping in shape during your downtime?
    Purple money dishwasher.
    Rally downtown tomorrow. 
    Waterproof document pocket. 
    As simple as keeping on track. 
    Descend from sky!
    Reasonable tuition for free.
    And lift it to the upper class. 
    Add unique and cool.
    Data without context is handy. 
    Try tempting me with thy grace.
    Great food with flavor. 
    Backup utility to amplify the college experience.
    It’s difficult to realize someday that he too was wrong.
    Purgatory is so silly.
    Detachable vertical and horizontal. 
    People today just use oil. 
    No test because of a claim by the system. 
    Tommy should worry about profit. 
    Urine should be landslide territory. 
    Play and enjoy. 
    The subscription will not transfer the blame around. 
    But the video is sure worth watching!
    Playback, playback. 
    It’s gotten this bad. 

  • I came across the term Black Nobility while reading a vintage conspiracy book that liked peppering in ominous names paired with sinister insinuations dastardly geopolitical deeds. There was little explanation of these spooky societies. Coincidentally I was also reading J.M. Roberts’ A History of Europe around the same time and had come across an entry about a near Venetian empire with a quirky political structure. There I found another casual mention of the Black Nobility.

    Generally, the term seems to refer to a specific group that supports the Papacy at any time of crisis and whose members have descended from a specific spread of noble families. The most modern-ish application of the term, besides my weirdo book from the 1960s, was used for the aristocratic families of Rome who sided with the Papacy when the Savoys lead an army into Rome in 1870. The Savoys overthrew the Pope and moved into the Quirinal Palace. 

    This would ultimately be the end of Papal Rule in Rome. By the end of the crisis Rome and all of Italy would come under a secular government. 

    For fifty years after 1870 Pope Pius IX was confined to the Vatican City. He claimed to have been kept a prisoner in the Vatican. The aristocrats who had been ennobled by the Pope or were subjects of the Papal States kept their palaces closed in mourning for the confinement. This is claimed to be the reason for the term Black Nobility in its modern incarnation on sites like Wikipedia and Britannica. 

    The families that made up the Black Nobility had settled in Rome to benefit from their connections to the Vatican. All of these families had relatives among the high ranking clergy and some, like the Borgia, had descended from previous Popes. Many of their members held ceremonial positions in the Papal Noble Guard. Notable names include the Colonna, Massimo, Orsini, Pallavicini, Borghese, Odeschalchi and Ludovisi. There were more, but they’re now extinct. 

    Pius’s confinement ended in 1929 with the Lateran Treaty. A truce between the Italian government, signed for by King Victor Emmanuel III and Prime Minister Benito Mussolini. The treaty granted the families of the Black Nobility duel citizenship in Italy and the Vatican City. 

    In 1968 Pope Paul VI changed the Papal Court to the Papal Household and abolished most of the positions held by members of the Black Nobility. In his letter he stated, “Many of the offices entrusted to members of the Papal Household were deprived of their function, continuing to exist as purely honorary positions, without much correspondence to concrete needs of the time.”

    And this is as recent as the mentions of the Black Nobility get. 

    I found an older use of the term, and one that wasn’t irrelevant to the topics of Italy and papal strife. At its earliest, the Black Nobility refers to a set of oligarchical families of pre-Roman times. These early dandies were based in Babylon, Persia, Greece, Tyre and Phoenicia. They were the first to gain dominion of maritime trade and commerce. Over time and a series of political marriages these families condensed and many of them set up shop in the strategically located city-state of Venice. For centuries they fortified their trading rights, and then a time of opportunity came to Venice as Rome the city took its last ragged breaths as the seat of empire.

    Venice nearly became Rome’s successor. The almost empire. It’s detached location, nestled on a cluster of islands in a shallow lagoon, spared Venice the mainland’s troubles. Their civic model was one of a city-state republic, ruled by a doge who was elected by a council of twelve tribunes who representing the twelve communities of Venice. The small empire was cut short in the 12th century by an uneasy Holy Roman Empire in mainland Italy that viewed the Venetian autonomy with suspicion. A small war was had over it and Venice lost. 

    A pillar of the Venetian oligarchical system had been the fondo, or the family fortune. This referred to the continuity of said fortunes by their respective enterprises. The largest fondo was the endowment of the Basilica of St. Mark. Closely tied to the city Treasury, the Basilica absorbed the family fortunes of those who died without heirs. This fondo was administered by the procurers of St. Mark and their position was one of the most powerful in the Venetian system. Around this centralized fondo were grouped the individual fortunes of the great families. 

    When the republic was smashed many of these families migrated to Northern Europe and took their parts of St. Mark’s fondo with them. Their capital was used to open the coinage institutions of the Bank of Amsterdam and the Bank of England. These northern banks prospered until 1255, when Henry III nearly bankrupted them with the English crown’s insolvency. Economic crisis was imminent, and then the Black Plague came, depopulating the continent’s tax base. 

    Under the next king, Edward III, the former Venetians sought to re-coup their losses by offering the king capital in exchange for the spoils of France. The resulting conflict came to be named the Hundred Years War. A further strategy to regain their northern footing was to ingratiate themselves with the oldest aristocratic tool, political marriages. Many of these were concentrated into two particular families, the House of Hohenstaufen and the Weifs. The Weifs, or as they were called in Italy, the Guelphs, were also known as the Neri, Black Guelphs, or Black Nobility. 

    The Hohenstaufen  was a dynasty of unknown origin. They first ruled the Duchy of Swabia from 1079 and then came into the royal rule of the Holy Roman Empire from 1138 to 1254. In their time the empire reached the peak of its territorial expansion. They are now extinct. 

    The Guelphs, also known as the House of Weif, was the older branch of the north Italian House of Este. The House came to rule Bavaria by inheritance. An early death in a childless marriage granted the family rights to Tuscany, Ferrara, Modena, Matua, and Reggio. This inheritance would play a major part in the Vatican’s Investiture Controversy. The Weif’s were brought into direct conflict over their unwillingness to aid the Hohenstafens in the Italian War of the 12th century. A war in which their familial Italian counterparts in Italy were also involved, more on that later. The Weifs were stomped and lost their duchies of Bavaria and Saxony. Left with only Brunswick, they still managed to kidnap England’s king Richard I and demand a huge ransom before the end of the century. Such an allotment that it probably helped maintain their survival in their diminished realm. 

    The Weifs fortified their territory around Brunswick and by 1705 they formalized their lands into the Kingdom of Hanover. This would become the ruling house of Britain one day when the Act of Settlement in 1701 placed the granddaughter of James I in the line of succession rather than suffer a Catholic crown. This granddaughter was the wife of the Duke of Hanover, House of Weif. 

    Meanwhile, in the moody Mediterranean…

    Shown above: the flag of the Ghibellines and flag of the Guelphs.

    In Italy, the Weifs are latinized as the Guelphs. The Hohenstaufens become the Ghibellines from the name of their castle, Wibellingen, which they used as a rallying cry in battle. So the Ghibellines are team empire, the Guelphs are team pope. The Guelphs came from wealthy mercantile families whose cities tended to be in places where the emperor posed a territorial threat. The Ghibellines drew their wealth from agriculture and their cities were in places that were threatened by the expansion of the Papal States. 

    The two families and their associated factions would fight over territories, perceived threats, and the disagreements of church and empire for-seemingly-ever. A pause in the conflict came in 1289 when the Tuscan Guelphs prevailed over the Ghibellines and regained control of the city-state. Almost immediately after this, the Guelphs began in-fighting. The split was defined as the Black Guelphs and the White Guelphs. The Blacks supported the Papacy while the White opposed it. And so the song kept playing. The family overthrew each other for the rule of the same old city for a couple generations. When they grew bored, the arbitrary conflict with the Ghibellines kicked back up and brought new massacres and conspiracies. By 1334, Pope Benedict XII threatened to excommunicate anyone who used the name Guelph or Ghibelline politically. 

    That’s the synopsis of the Black Nobility. A fun name, a violent and Shakespearean past, and for those who really squint between the lines, a murky cabal of ambiguously powerful entities that twiddle with the common folks lives to this day. 

  • American illustrator, born June of 1956.

    Matingly got into art in childhood with matte painting, a discipline that was once used in film-making to create the illusion of environment. These were done using paints or pastels on large sheets of glass. 

    After dropping out of art school he took a job at Disney Studios. His notable works there include The Black Hole, Tron, The Watcher in the Woods, and I, Robot. He was eventually contracted by Ballantine Books and would go on to make over two thousand cover illustrations in the course of his career. 

    Later in life he took a teaching position at the School of Visual Arts and an adjunct professor position at the Pratt Institute. At both of these schools he teaches digital matte painting and compositing. 

  • The seated estate of Endcliff, the oldest metropolis in the Highland zone.

    The Cymbellines have historically been known as an eccentric and reclusive family. They have nonetheless been at the center of scandal and wild speculation. For several centuries, the odds of a Cymbelline reaching old age was nearly fifty-fifty. The house was plagued by precarious stairwells, sudden and incurable disease, outright poisoning, and more than a couple of gruesome murders. 

    Rendering of the now collapsed grand hall.

    The family’s wealth is old, and few of its generative industries remain today. They continue to hold the rail lines and the attached labor schools. They also retain a theater circuit, though the number of their venues has shrunk down to only those located in the Highland cities. The prestige of these institutions had faded considerably and today they are known for the nauseating spectacles put on by nameless experimental directors. 

    Interior of the Endcliff Play House

    The House’s leadership has recently been held in a state of suspension due to the ongoing investigation of the former patriarch’s demise. Mortimer dropped dead while descending the front stair of his estate. The family and their few staff members had little information to give. When interviewed they stated that he’d had no enemies and only a small but trusted circle of friends. They said he had never complained of his health or had need of a doctor, but that cigars and liquor were a common part of his daily diet. The investigation was nearly shelved until the confession of a young drudge who had been in the garden when Mortimer fell. She claimed to have been close enough to hear him say, “She’s done it,” just before the life went out of him. The maid could not be found again after the initial interview. 

    Cassandra Cymbelline, daughter of Mortimer and Cora

    The statement brought renewed interest to the women of the house, Mortimer’s widow in particular. Cora has been unhelpful and at times hostile toward the investigation efforts. An interview with the couple’s eldest, their daughter Cassandra informed the Directory of the distance in their relationship. When asked if there had been any disagreements or tension between her parents, the girl informed the interviewers that her parents hardly spoke to each other, and that she herself hadn’t seen them together in at least four years. 

    Cora Cymbelline, Mortimer’s widow, with her sister-in-law Thessia.

    The investigation has not succeeded in finding clear evidence of any wrongdoing on Cora’s part, though it has kept her from assuming the regency of the house while her son waits for his inheritance. The issue has been doubly strained by perennial crises over the same son’s union contract. 

    You can read more about this world here.

  • The earliest known French epic poem, a literary form properly known as chanson de geste. The date of its origins is assumed to be somewhere between 1040 and 1115. The Song of Roland chronicles the story of a Frankish military leader in the Battle of Roncevaux Pass, a real event that occurred in 778. 

    Infamous Carolingian king Charlemagne has taken his army to fight the Saracens in Spain. There they have fought for the last seven years with only Sargossa left to contend with. Upon arrival to the city Charlemagne is offered a peace agreement by king Marsilion. The weary army accepts and starts to head home. All is soured when fear drives a Frankish messenger to betray his countrymen. The bloody fallout comes down on the rear guard, lead by the king’s nephew, Roland. 

    My copy is several decades older than me. A Penguin Classic paperback printed in Great Britain in 1957. I once underlined my favorite lines in it, which I somewhat regret now. But on one dark and boring day I decided to feed my old favorites into an A.I. art generator, shown below. 

    Marsilion holds it, the king who hates God’s name,
    Mahound he serves, and to Apollyon prays;
    He’ll not escape the ruin that awaits. 

    Laisse 1

    With lifted hands to God the Emperor sues;
    Then bows his head and so begins to brood. 

    Laisse 9

    Quoth Blancandin: Roland’s a villain fell, 
    Presuming thus all folk on earth to quell,
    And every land under his yoke compel!

    Laisse 30

    Black wind and storm and tempest on them fell;
    They were all drowned; they’ll ne’er be seen again.

    Laisse 54

    High are the hills, the valleys dark and deep,
    Grisly the rocks, and wondrous grim the steeps. 

    Laisse 66

    Barbarian born, the magic art he knows.
    Like a brave man thus valiantly he spoke:
    No coward I, no, not for all God’s gold!

    Laisse 71

    The Paynim falls flat down with all his weight.
    Then Satan comes and hales his soul away.

    Laisse 96

    Then Roland said: Here are we doomed to die;
    Full well I know we cannot long survive. 
    Fail not, for shame, right dear to sell your lives.
    Lift up, my lords, your burnished blades and fight!

    Laisse 143

    He’s had their bodies opened before his eyes,
    Had their hearts wrapped in silken tissue fine,
    And placed within an urn of marble white.

    Laisse 213

    “God!” says the King, “how weary is my life!”
    He weeps, he plucks his flowing beard and white.

    Laisse 291

    All images were created at Nightcafe.

  • Make silly a part-time lover. 
    Executed by firing squad.
    The plain and understandable answer. 
    I’ll return home from work after you drink enough water. 
    Saving the world is a happier choice than you think. 
    His logic is formed by the random people on the board. 
    Disable target attribute of an airship shed. 
    Discover global news intelligence.
    Really gay, as well. 
    Recycling does nothing for me.
    Why stack overflow family?
    Not got kids?
    Great poetry activity. 
    White shirt and sick tape now.
    Friday fun times are here.
    The spider is hack. 
    Thy kingly doom and gloom. 
    Hair as craft. 
    The quilted pattern really serves as an ambassador,
    For the side entrance to go anywhere. 
    Funny looking log. 
    Knife and fork. 
    Silver horizontal hardware. 
    Cleopatra was made too. 
    Front to back. 
    The bastard outbid me.
    That’s the attitude at the town tonight. 
    You republican whore. 
    Anyone can sell a house.
    Epic photo of the price though. 
    Everything and then your angel can fly.
    That’s crazy talk. 
    See the ad today. 
    The brown vest. 
    The jealousy is due tomorrow. 
    Left side view.
    Was gravity broken on a raster shading?
    Test management’s traceability model,
    To associate a player cocking a gun dealer directory. 
     Avocado oil and butter!
    Stay clear of stuff here.
    Way too involved for me. 
    Factory direct price. 
    Pic coming soon.
    Want news and exclusive of none.
    Total redistribution of our code,
    Of a report grouped by division,
    And division are under investigation.
    Trouble linking up?

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