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>The key point being that it instantiates a closure that references itself.
>How would I do this in C? (C is interesting because it can avoid the whole
>pack/unpack the arguments step.) Closures take values on the stack, but at
>the point when I'm creating the closure it doesn't exist as a value to put
>on the stack.

Use an upvalue instead, with value nil when the closure is created
and set it to the correct Lua value after the closure is created with