Thursday, December 31, 2015

2015 at the Platypus of Truth

2015 was a year of difficulties. I spent most of November to July ill. There were several surgeries and a cross-town move. All of those were overcome, however, and on the last day of the year we're still alive and kicking. Not surprisingly, this ended up being the year of tomb stones, art therapy and H.P. Lovecraft. I'm not sure what 2016 will bring. As Counting Crows says "it's been one long December, and there's reason to believe maybe next year will be better than the last..." Whatever befalls, we will keep you up to date here at the Platypus of Truth.

Thursday, December 24, 2015

Fiddling With Cthulhu: Creative Platypus

I'm playing with enhancement, filters, and color saturation this morning. I've taken my Blake-Geiger Cthulhu and run it through the basic Windows 10 editing software to give the drawing a more cosmic feel. Now we can imagine the priest of the Elder Gods winging his way through the voids of oblivion whose soul and messenger is the Creeping Chaos, Nyarlathotep.

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Leng and the Shunned House: Creative Platypus

Enjoying my break here with a little art therapy. The picture on the left is based on H.P. Lovecraft's "The Shunned House" and has been color adjusted from the original with basic photo editing software. The second picture is my poor attempt to draw of the Plateau of Leng based on the art from Fantasy Flight's Elder Sign: Omens. Both drawings are Prismacolor colored pencils on black sketch paper.

The King in Yellow Gets a Little Clean-Up: Creative Platypus

My pastel sketch of R.W. Chambers' The King in Yellow gets a little help from some very basic Windows 10 photo editing software. I'll keep fiddling with it and see if I can produce any better results for some of my future creative efforts.

Monday, December 21, 2015

Scary Cthulhu? Blake Meets Geiger: Creative Platypus

So here I am still trying to make Cthulhu scary. I decided to take my own advice and spent some time this morning considering the works of William Blake and H.R. Geiger (not doing that again anytime soon. Buyer beware!). I like the result a little better than my last attempt at the master of R'lyeh. I think there's definitely room for improvement, so I'll keep at it until I'm satisfied one way or another. Time for another sanity check!

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Classroom Hijinx: Whiteboard Platypus

Hrriches buy you hhhwarriors King Hhhrothgar!

Ph33r teh P0ssumz

The Dagron comes in the Night!

Props to you if this one makes any sense at all.

Telemachus' mom has got it going on...

Saturday, December 12, 2015

Poor Cthulhu: Creative Platypus

Poor Cthulhu. How do you inspire the necessary dread when you have an octopus for a head? Conan creator Robert E. Howard called H.P. Lovecraft's Call of Cthulhu one of the great horror stories of the 20th century. It's title character, however, has inspired everything cute and comic from plush toys to Polish political satires. Most depictions of the sleeping elder god come out looking just plain goofy. So here I am trying to to put a little menace back into the master of R'lyeh. Not too great so far... I wanted something a little more William Blake meets H.R. Geiger. Still, I think it's more faithful to the dragon-octopus-man Lovecraft envisioned than the lion's share of what I've found on the net. 

Randolph Carter and Yog Sothoth Take Two: Creative Platypus

This is a return to H.P. Lovecraft's short story "Through the Gate of the Silver Key" done with French pastel pencils I received as an early Christmas present. Here, Carter passes through the Gate of the Silver Key only to find himself enmeshed in webs of Yog Sothoth.

Saturday, December 05, 2015

Dreamscape: Creative Platypus

Concept art from the Ronald Fairfax novel "The Place of the Skull" currently in the editing process:

Ronald took a great gasp like a man drowning and heaved over onto his side.  The element in the space heater glowed.  Forms of tennis shoes and piled books intruded on the faint line of orange light.  Ronald breathed deep again: in then out, in then out.  God help me.  God let me get some sleep.  I have to sleep.  He’d had nightmares for months after what had happened last December.  Now, they only came intermittently.  He’d been afraid, so afraid, that he’d wake up one night screaming and be unable to stop.  He could scream now –scream and scream- and no one would hear.  Ronald swallowed hard.  He wasn’t going to scream.  He didn’t want to.  It was over.  Deliberately turning away from the light, Ronald pulled the covers over his head and shut his eyes.  Think of something pleasant.  Go to sleep.  He tried to think of something funny, Jack making his strange little finger puppet, Jack pretending to be Goonter, Matt laughing fit to burst, rolling on the floor with hands clenched on his belly and mouth spread wide enough to crack his face, Dan explaining to Mr. Manski that he couldn’t do his geography report on Peru because he found Llama pelts erotically stimulating under certain academic circumstances and his parents had flatly refused to pay for the psychotherapy necessary to remove this deeply entrenched neurosis.
He tried to laugh, but found himself unable.  There was mom in the hospital bed, Dad with that odd look on his face that made Ronald feel embarrassed –like he was intruding.  The books were good.  Books didn’t leave you time to think.  Don’t think.  Don’t think.  Just don’t think.  Sleep is here somewhere.  Why did they have to move?  What was California going to be like?  There was a small apartment and palm trees, lots of palm trees, and that Chinese Theater.  Isn’t there supposed to be a walk or something with handprints?  Karen Sullivan was sitting next to him in the theater, but it was someone else.  The hair was all wrong.  Water was streaming down her face and her eyes were grey.  Go away, just go away.  Cut off shorts and tie-dye and sandy blonde hair.  Not there, not there.  Turn left.  I miss you, I miss you so much.  Anatomy and Physiology would be lab tomorrow.  Test?  No test.  New book in English class and the War of 1812 in History?  Current Events write-up due on Thursday –pick an article.

Something was opening on the edges of his mind that had the shape of sleep.  If only he could sleep.  Who squats on the threshold of sleep and guards the gates of ivory and of horn?  A terror seized him and he jerked awake.

Of Other Worlds: Creative Platypus

Today's drawing is inspired by the H.P. Lovecraft short story Hypnos and too many rounds of Fantasy Flight's Elder Sign: Omens. Here, we catch a glimpse of an other world beyond the walls of sleep and human consciousness.

Prismacolor pencils on sketch paper (30 minutes).

The Platypus Seeks Safe Harbor: The Platypus Reads Part CCLXXXIX

From time to time we all find ourselves in need of safe harbor. Life in the world means stormy seas as we sail our little ships from island to island in search of new opportunities. Like Odysseus, we need to find a haven when the wind and waves come without forgetting our ultimate destination, our home. What's required is metis, or cunning; the ability to size up a situation and act wisely in uncertain times. After all, God will not do for us what we must do for ourselves. The cosmos is vast and complex, and even the rescue of one person adrift on a tiny raft has consequences for the whole. While we are nothing without God, we still have our parts to play in not compounding the pains of a broken world by adding our own foolishness to it. Instead, we use metis to move from haven to haven until we find our home making the best use of what God gives us: the bad as well as the good.

So here I am, reading Homer's Odyssey and listening to Haven by Kamelot. It's a little safe space in a world of storm.

Saturday, November 28, 2015

Platypus Overhaul

I'm attempting a slight aesthetic overhaul here at Platypus of Truth. The eclectic content will remain the same, but the blog site is getting a much needed update. Let me know what you think.

In other news, things have gotten a little sluggish here of late following my surgery, but I am back on the mend and hopefully that will mean an increase in meaty content (especially once Christmas Break comes around). I don't have anything specific in the works, but we'll see what I can come up with in the weeks ahead. In the meantime, remember: the Platypus speaks Truth.

Thursday, November 26, 2015

Platypus Festivities

Happy Saint Pompion's Day! Long live the City on a Hill. Qui Transtulit Sustinet.

Saturday, November 21, 2015

Back to the Greeks: The Platypus Reads Part CCLXXXVIII

It's been a long time since I last taught the history and literature of Ancient Greece. I'm used to being a consultant on the subject for other teachers, but this year I finally find myself back in the saddle again. We've just finished a tour through Homer's Iliad and are set to discuss Book III of the Odyssey next week. The method I use to discuss the books is rooted in the master of key concepts/terms; a college level way of teaching the books that my colleague and I adapted for use in high school. Thus, we go hunting in each book of the Iliad for Menos, Arete, Kleos, an Aresteia, an Agon, Kratos, The Best of the Achaeans, a Geras, The Burial of the Dead, Hubris, and discuss the material in light of these concepts. The result has been highly fruitful and the students made much better sense of the Iliad and its world than the last time I taught the book. I've taken up the approach in my own notes, and now my teacher's edition of the Odyssey is pleasantly filled with references to Xenia, Agon of Logoi, Nostos, Metis, Oikos, Compound Your Pains, Fathers and Sons, Mothers and Sons, Divine Protector, Divine Antagonist, and the like. This practice (paired with proper reading of the secondary sources) has dramatically increased my own understanding of the underlying structure of the Odyssey as well as shifting some of my notions of the book's key concerns.

So what does all this add up to? As a teacher at a Classical School, the three stages of Grammar, Logic, and Rhetoric can become a sort of fetish. Grammar becomes a thing for K-6th, Logic for 7th-8th, and Rhetoric for those uppity high-schoolers. This is to woefully misunderstand the Trivium (which was a course of study mainly created for the mastery of the Latin language). Every subject has its Grammar, Logic, and Rhetoric. We don't pass through these as three stages, but wield them as three tools: Ms. Sayers' "Tools of Learning". When my students seek to understand works as remote and complex as the Iliad and Odyssey, it makes no sense to ignore the necessary grammar simply because they're Rhetoric students. In fact, if Ms. Sayers' op-ed is right, then it's a fatal mistake. Instead, students must begin with the basic grammar of these works, look for how these key concepts logically relate to each other through class discussion, and then in discussion, written essays, speeches, and creative compositions, articulate their thoughts and findings as rhetoric.

So that's what I've been learning this semester. Class dismissed.

Saturday, November 14, 2015

A Little More Lovecraft: Platypus Nostalgia

My wife and I have been enjoying our $10 copy of "Elder Sign: Omens" over the past few weeks. I have to say, I wasn't sure at first how well a table top game would port to the PC. I mean, who really wants to play risk on their computer? I'm glad we gave it a whirl though. "Elder Sign: Omens" is another triumph for Fantasy Flight games. It's much cheaper than the boxed game and is disproportionately creepy for what you'd think could be supported by the game mechanic. We've also found it to have great re-play value and a number of extra investigators and Ancient Ones that can be unlocked by completing investigations. Each game lasts between thirty minutes and an hour, so it's also much easier than breaking out a table top behemoth like Eldritch Horror. If you're into Lovecraft and computer games, this is a great one to pick up.

Saturday, November 07, 2015

The Silver Key: Creative Platypus

Michaels was having a terrific sale so I broke down and bought some Prismacolors. Sketching around to get the feel of them produced this second take on H.P. Lovecraft's "The Silver Key". My first attempt was in pastels which seem to work better on this particular paper. The colors are lovely, however, and I found the pencils very easy to work with. I look forward to trying them out again when I have more time.

Saturday, October 24, 2015

The Red Bull (Cont.): Creative Platypus

Taking another shot at the Red Bull from "The Last Unicorn" with my toned paper this time. The figure of the Red Bull is one of the most fascinating symbols in the book. What is its range of meanings? Is it the disenchanting force of greed? of reason? of secularism? It seems as though the Bull is Fire and the Unicorn is Water, but what does that mean? As with all fairy tales, we don't need to know for the tale to speak to us. As Tennyson said of the Three Queens in his "Idylls of the King": "They are Faith, Hope, and Charity, but they are also more than that". If the Bull is a true mythic symbol, then it means more that any one meaning we could reduce it to.

Monday, October 12, 2015

Lady Amalthea Vs. Mabruk (Cont.): Creative Platypus

Here I am putting my brown paper to its proper use. This is a sketch for what will hopefully become a pastel drawing on black paper of the Lady Amalthea and the wizard Mabruk from Peter Beagle's The Last Unicorn.

Lady Amalthea Vs. Mabruk: Creative Platypus

Sketches for a pastel composition of Lady Amalthea confronting the wizard Mabruk in Peter S. Beagle's The Last Unicorn.

Saturday, October 10, 2015

The Red Bull: Creative Platypus

Reading "The Last Unicorn" with the Mrs. This is my first attempt at one of the iconic moments in the book where the Unicorn first encounters the Red Bull of King Haggard. It's a colored pencil sketch that will hopefully serve as a preliminary to a later pastel drawing. Art work has been difficult for the past few months, so I'm glad to finally be well enough to get anything out.

Sunday, September 20, 2015

The Seven Heavens of Summer Reading 2015: The Platypus Reads Part CCLXXXVII

For years now, I've handed out awards to the top seven books of my summer reading. These awards are called "The Seven Heavens of Summer Reading" in honor of Michael Ward's groundbreaking dissertation Planet Narnia which attempts to prove that C.S. Lewis structured the The Chronicles of Narnia around the Seven Heavens of the Medieval cosmology (not actually that weird when you remember that Lewis attempted to do just that with the space trilogy, was a medievalist, and had a taste for private jokes). For the awards, I match each reading with the attributes of a corresponding planet.

Luna: The award for the Planet of Madness goes to that-book-which-must-not-be-read, The King in Yellow, by R.W. Chambers. This creepy work of decadent literature forms a bridge between Gothic writers like Poe and 20th Century Horror writers like H.P. Lovecraft. The work has just that combination of sophistication, refinement of sentiment, and gnawing pessimism that only exists in fin-de-siecle work.

Mercury: In the matter of Words and Voyages, one summer reading stands supreme: Moby Dick by Herman Melville. The man tosses words up and down like an expert juggler, making all their facets shimmer and sparkle and against the sun and then plunge down into darkness like the vast leviathans that are the chief subject of the work.

Venus: The award for the Planet of Life goes to a wonderful little book on a much under-studied aspect of Tolkien's mythology: The Plants of Middle Earth by Dinah Hazell. For sheer beauty and goodness, this work is worth the read; and most especially if you have a turn for herb-lore.

Sol: The Heaven of Scholars traditionally goes to an Inkling or to a book about the Inklings, and this year is no exception. The Fellowship: The Literary Lives of the Inklings by Philip and Carol Zaleski is sure to become a landmark in all future studies of that wondrous band of Oxford intellectuals.

Mars: The Planet of Battles is usually an easy pick, but numerous summer readings this year featured war and ruin. In the end, I decided to go with The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past by manga master Shotaro Ishinomori for the sheer pleasure it brought me through my operation. My mom looked at my little book pile, Salem Possessed and A Link to the Past, and declared that nothing had changed since I was last in the hospital at the age of 16. Mom also says that I was born at age 40, so hopefully that's ok...

Jupiter: The Planet of Kings belongs this year to a man who might have been emperor. This year's Jupiter Award goes to Mao by master historian Jonathan D. Spence.

Saturn: The award for the Planet of Catastrophes goes to a book that describes one that almost went unnoticed: Pox Americana by Elizabeth A. Fenn. Fenn demonstrates with flair that all those seemingly isolated incidents of smallpox across North America from 1775-1782 were actually part of a vast epidemic that claimed the lives of hundreds of thousands of people.

So there you have it folks: 2015's Summer Reading Awards. I didn't think I'd be able to get to them the way things were going, but I'm happy to see at the end of the summer that there was still a sufficient pile to chose from. Here's hoping next summer's pile will be much increased!

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

A Twist of the Stomach: The Platypus Marches On

My poor little blog has fallen silent for the past few weeks due to a sudden turn of events. All this summer we've been trouble shooting aspects of my perennial stomach problems. I had some minor work done in July along with numerous evaluations. The surprise came in late August when we found out that my herniated stomach had lurched up to a whopping 1/3 of its total size between my lungs. The nature of the hernia had also changed putting it in danger of strangling itself or my esophagus. Not only that, but the hernia had also seriously displaced my other internal organs. So, last Thursday, a wonderful team of doctors lathroscopically dragged my stomach back down, patched my diaphragm, sewed the top of my stomach into a knot to prevent reflux, and carefully placed my other internal organs back in order. The process went "textbook" and took 2 and 1/4 hours. Right now, I'm in the middle of my recovery period and it will still be about a month before I return to a completely normal diet. I'm tired and in pain, but I am deeply grateful to God, the surgical team, my wonderful wife, my Mom who flew out for yet another stay in the hospital with her son, my Dad (who provided a last meal complete with alligator), my grandmother who floated us some help with food bills, my siblings and relations who have called numerous times, and my community who have showered us in love, prayers, and Texan cookery. Anyhow, as soon as I'm a little more fit I'll be back at blogging with an update on how summer reading went. Until then, the Platypus will have to do most of the Truth-speaking around here.

Saturday, August 29, 2015

A Link To Comics: Platypus Nostalgia/The Platypus Reads Part CCLXXXVI

The Legend of Zelda had a formative influence on me as a child, as it did so many children in my generation. My first encounter with the franchise was the original Nintendo game with its simple, yet wonderfully evocative 8-bit graphics. The second title frankly baffled me at that age, but when the third title, A Link to the Past, came out I was primed and ready to go. My first exposure to the game must have been at a friend's sleep-over birthday party. Watching Link run out into the rainy night in the wee hours of the morning captured my imagination and has held it captive ever since.

That said, it was a while before I got my own Super Nintendo and a chance to actually play the game. What I had to tide me over through that time was the comic series based on the game by Shotaro Ishinomori. It ran in episodes for twelve months in Nintendo Power Magazine. The somber ending was a little ahead of where I was at at the time (childhood illness left me rather sensitive), but I enjoyed it so much that I went out and bought a copy of the whole as soon as it became available.

Now, over the years, that copy and all my weighty collection of Nintendo Power Magazines were lost. I don't think I looked at it for almost twenty years. Well, here I am sick again (various stomach issues this time) and Viz comics released in May a new edition of the comic.

Returning to a childhood treasure is always a bit nerve-wracking. Some things simply don't hold up -they were never meant to. It may be a verdict on how well our childhood was spent if we consider how many of the things we dedicated our young lives to could interest us or win our appreciation at any level as adults. I was glad then to see that Shotaro Ishinomori's The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past still holds up. In fact, I feel in a better place to appreciate it for what it is (simple, enchanting, light entertainment) than I was as a child. Shotaro Ishinomori preserves the feel of the game while adapting it into a story that works in the comic book medium. He is able to mix drama and light-heartedness in just the right proportions for this sort of story. The opening layouts for each chapter are suitably dramatic, and quite beautiful, and Shotaro deftly handles the short space allotted to each chapter without making the parts feel too condensed or the whole feel incoherent. The presentation of Ganon is perhaps a little weak (though his back story given by the enchanted tree is haunting) but that is an artifact of the game, The artist wisely makes up for this by choosing to center the story around Link learning that being a hero means not working alone, not taking all the credit, and not getting the girl. The Japanese wisdom is definitely appreciated at my age.  All in all, the book was eminently worth the eleven or so dollars I paid for it and held up under three readings in quick succession. Here's looking forward to it holding up under many more.

Saturday, August 15, 2015

Trying to be Carson: Creative Platypus

I spent an hour last night and about fifteen minutes this morning on my first endeavor to clean and polish our modest collection of family silver. Somewhere in the afterlife my Irish ancestors are very disappointed...

Thursday, August 13, 2015

The Dead and Beautiful Rest (Cont.): Platypus Travels Part LXXII

Poor Josiah Shelton has proved a bit of a puzzle for me in recent days. The only note I can find on him exists in The Families of James Shelton of McMinn County, Tennessee and his Father Roderick Shelton Buncombe County, North Carolina and their Antecedents by Arthur Paul Shelton. Arthur Paul Shelton lists Josiah Shelton as the son of Samuel Shelton and Abigail Nichols Shelton and says that he was rumored to be a Revolutionary War veteran (interesting because the Sheltons of Ripton were Loyalists who refused to take up arms for either side). It gives his deathdate as 19 March 1777, cause of death as Smallpox, and says that he was buried in Southford (which now seems to be a part of Southbury and very close to Josiah's place of residence in Ripton which is now called Shelton). The stone in the picture, however, resides at Long Hill Burial Ground in Shelton CT. The stone itself makes no bones about the fact that it is a grave marker and not a memorial tablet: here lies the body.

Not only the location of his body, but the date of his death is also interesting. The colonial army saw action in nearby Danbury Connecticut in April of 1777. According to Elizabeth A. Fenn's Pox Americana, the American troops in action near Danbury were exposed to Variola and infect the towns of Southington and Middletown in central Connecticut. All of this happened a month after Josiah's death. If his deathdate on the stone was in April or May, I would have assumed that he contracted the disease in the action around Danbury and died in Southington which ended up being confused with Southford (about 20 miles away by road). There is more tantalizing information on the other side of March. Fenn also notes that in February of 1777 Governor Trumbull set up a system of inspection and quarantine for troops returning from the failed attack on Quebec where Smallpox had ravaged the army (Benedict Arnold of New Haven Connecticut was one of the commanders of the ill fated attack and he was accompanied by members of the Welles and Nichols family that had branches in Josiah Shelton's hometown of Ripton). It takes about a month to die from Variola, so the question is: was Josiah Shelton one of Benedict Arnold's troops who died under quarantine at an unspecified location or did he contract the disease in camp from returning soldiers who escaped inspection and quarantine? The saddest part of the story is that Connecticut troops began to be inoculated en mass in the summer months of 1777. Fenn quotes Revolutionary War veteran Joseph Plumb Martin that he was inoculated along with four hundred Connecticut troops, all of who survived the process. Had Josiah remained uninfected for another month or two he could have been immunized courtesy of Uncle Sam.

Alas, How easily things go wrong!
A sigh too much, or a kiss too long.
And there follows a mist and a weeping rain,
And life is never the same again.
-George MacDonald, Phantastes

Sunday, August 09, 2015

The Dead and Beautiful Rest (Cont.): Platypus Travels Part LXXI

Our little stories are all part of larger stories.

This is the grave of Josiah Shelton. He died in 1777 of the Smallpox. The flag by his grave indicates that he was a military veteran. Smallpox decimated the Continental Army on several occasions. These incidents were part of a massive outbreak that racked the North American continent from 1775 until 1782 killing over 100,000 people including Josiah Shelton of Ripton (now Shelton) Connecticut.

I came across Josiah's grave last summer while I was looking up other members of the Shelton family. This summer, I picked up the book Pox Americana by Elizabeth A. Fenn about the massive Variola outbreak at the end of the 18th century. As I was reading, the odd note "died of the smallpox" on Josiah's grave came back to mind. A quick look back at the photo confirmed that he died in 1777, during the early years of the epidemic. Given that smallpox was killing so many in the army, the odd note on his grave about his cause of death now makes sense. His parents, Samuel and Abigail, had no idea of the continent sweeping force of this particular Variola outbreak; they only knew that a terrible disease had taken their son away. If they had know the larger pattern, would it have made a difference.

Where can Wisdom be found, and what is the place of Understanding? ... Death says "I have heard tell of it"

-The Book of Job

Saturday, July 25, 2015

New England Platypus

There were awesome sweeps of vivid valley where great cliffs rose, New England's virgin granite shewing grey and austere through the verdure that scaled the crests. There were gorges where untamed streams leaped, bearing down toward the river the unimagined secrets of a thousand pathless peaks. Branching away now and then were narrow, half-concealed roads that bored their way through solid, luxuriant masses of forest among whose primal trees whole armies of elemental spirits might well lurk.


... there was a strangely calming element of cosmic beauty in the hypnotic landscape through which we climbed and plunged fantastically, Time had lost itself in the labyrinths behind, and around us stretched only the flowering waves of faery and the recaptured lovliness of vanished centuries--the hoary groves, the untainted pastures edged with gay autumnal blossoms, and at vast intervals the small brown farmsteads nestling amidst huge trees beneath vertical precipices of fragrant brier and meadow-grass. Even the sunlight assumed a supernal glamour, as if some special atmosphere or exhalation mantled the whole region. I had seen nothing like it before save in magic vistas that sometimes form the backgrounds of Italian primitives. Sodoma and Leonardo conceived such expanses, but only at a distance, and through the vaultings of Renaissance arcades. We were now burrowing bodily through the midst of the picture, and I seemed to find in its necromancy a thing I had innately known or inherited, and for which I had always been vainly searching.

-H.P. Lovecraft, The Whisperer in Darkness

Friday, July 24, 2015

New England Platypus

At evening Iranon sang, and while he sang an old man prayed and a blind man said he saw a nimbus over the singer's head. Bust most of the men of Teloth yawned, and some laughed and some went away to sleep; for Iranon told them nothing useful, singing only his memories, his dreams, and his hopes.

"I remember the twilight, the moon, and soft songs, and the window where I was rocked to sleep. And through the window was the street where the golden lights came, and where the shadows danced on houses of marble. I remember the square of moonlight on the floor, that was not like any other light, and visions that danced in the moonbeams when my mother sang to me. And too, I remember the sun of morning bright above the many-coloured hills in summer, and the sweetness of flowers borne on the south wind that made the trees sing.


"Long have I missed thee, Aira, for I was but young when we went into exile, but my father was thy king and I shall come again to thee, for so it is decreed of fate. All through the seven lands have I sought thee, and some day I shall reign over thy groves and gardens, thy streets and palaces, and sing to men who shall know whereof I sing, and laugh not nor turn away. For I am Iranon, who was a Prince in Aira."

-H.P. Lovecraft, The Quest of Iranon
Qui Transtulit Sustinet

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

The Fellowship: The Platypus Reads Part CCLXXXV

The Fellowship: The Literary Lives of the Inklings is the first major comprehensive study of the influential group of Oxford writers since Humphrey Carpenter's The Inklings. This is above all a book whose time has come. Since Carpenter's initial study, a veritable floodwater has passed under the academic bridge. Philip and Carol Zaleski do a fine job of organizing and synthesizing this vast body of literature into an appropriately hefty (644 pages with the notes) portrait of the group that not only covers the Big Four (Tolkien, Lewis, Barfield, Williams), but also the second tier and allied-periphery (Warnie, Coghill, Dyson, Havard, Wain, Dundas-Grant, Cecil, Christopher Tolkien, Hardie, Sister Penelope, Ruth Pitter, Eddison, Sayers, and Eliot). The Zaleski's are at their best when they are weaving the complex stories of these authors' individual biographies and group interactions into a coherent narrative. They do have a bad habit of repeatedly snipping(making sharp, undefended judgements) at anything and everything in the authors' extensive corpuses that they don't like. While a persistent irritant, it is the only fault I can find in an otherwise triumphant work of scholarship. The Fellowship: The Literary Lives of the Inklings has every chance of becoming a standard text on the group in the years to come.

Friday, July 10, 2015

The Sages Seal Gannon (Reprise) Touch-Up: Creative Platypus

I've patched up The Sages Seal Gannon, or "Nocturne in Blue and White No3".  The sages in the middle and on the right of the top row have both been shifted right.  The right middle sage has been brought into alignment with his fellow.  These changes have improved the overall blocking of the picture and (to my surprise) the changes were relatively easy to make with a workable eraser and stippling the new colors over the old.  I probably should have adjusted the middle and right sages on the bottom row, but I chickened out.

Thursday, July 09, 2015

The Platypus and the Eldritch Horror (Cont.)

I did some thinking after my original analysis of Fantasy Flight's cooperative board game Eldritch Horror. One of the draws of the game seems to be its way of mirroring life. The investigators are presented with a set of unknown challenges that may or may not be solvable in the time allowed. These challenges are revealed one at a time as the game progresses and are of differing complexities and difficulties. Each round, the investigators create a plan for solving the current challenge and attempt to put it into effect. This would be hard enough except that at the end of every round a card is drawn that vastly complicates the situation. These are the Mythos Cards. Mythos cards come in three varieties and three level of difficulty. Each mythos card creates a variety of helps or challenges according to its type as well as adding a new element to the plot. The investigators may be down on their luck and suddenly find themselves presented with a host of clues plus a little aid from the Silver Twilight Lodge. Alternatively, the investigators may have finished a grueling round of battle only to find that the Ancient Ones have revived their defeated foes. And that's how life works. In the end, there is very little that we can actually control. Most of what we can control is in the way we react to outside events. What do we do when our plans are laid asunder? How do we deal with sudden windfalls? These are the choices that make or break us as we set out in an uncertain world.

Saturday, July 04, 2015

Happy Fourth of July

239 years and still free
Qui Transtulit Sustinet

Friday, July 03, 2015

Pencils, Paper, and Power Metal: Creative Platypus

I've been working through a Heavy Metal music appreciation course set up by one of my former students on and off for about a year now.  I'm moved through the stuff I remember from the 80s and 90s and into the Brave New World (thank you Iron Maiden) of the 21st Century.  This past month has featured Trans-Siberian Orchestra and Kamelot and I thought the "Angel of Afterlife"(a nod to Phantom anyone?) from the album cover would be a great subject for my new pad of black paper.  Trying to conceptualize everything in terms of negative space still throws me for a loop, but I think I'm beginning to get the hang of it (in a high school art student sort of way).  My wife adds that this looks like Karen Sullivan (a character from an unpublished novel).  I can imagine a shade like this emerging from the stacks of the old library after hours.

What Happened to the Platypus' Summer 2015 Reading?

A typical summer here at the Platypus of Truth features literary reviews or live blogs of series such as Terry Brooks' Shannara or my projected plan to work through Garth Nix's Abhorsen series.  This year, while some books are being read (Moby Dick and The Fellowship: The Literary Lives of the Inklings) most of my time is being sucked away by a change of apartment complex and a slew of medical tests trouble shooting my perennial stomach problems.  In the meantime, pencils and pastels have become a favorite distraction and hence their proliferation on this site.  We'll see if enough reading gets done to still post the "Seven Heavens of Summer Reading" awards at the end of August, but that may not happen.  In any case, literary criticism will resume as soon as possible and the trip through Nix has not been forgotten.  Until then, whatever's going on with me, the Platypus speaks Truth.

Monday, June 29, 2015

The Sages Seal Gannon (Reprise): Creative Platypus

This is a second try at a scene from Hyrulian lore: the Sages seal Gannon within the Sacred Realm.  The first try can be found here.  For this second try at the scene, I used a thicker stock paper in charcoal black.  Trying to invert my concept of the scene to make black the background color was a little mind-bending (I only have two years of high school art class under my belt and years of amateurish stumbling).  It's not a great success, but I do feel that I learned a thing or two about working with a black background.  In the future, I hope I won't be as fuddled as to forget to block the picture before sallying forth with the pastels.

Saturday, June 27, 2015

A Pot of Ilexes: Creative Platypus

Michael's was having a sale so I broke down and bought some coal black paper to begin experimenting with.  This picture of a pot of Ilexes (they were thoughtful a get-well present from our pastor's wife who is starting a floral business) provided a trial subject and I sketched it out with a basic set of Cray-Pas. 

Sunday, June 21, 2015

The Sages Seal Gannon: Creative Platypus

The wise men seal the evil thief Gannondorf within the Sacred Land thus preventing his evil from spreading to Hyrule.  This particular image is inspired by some of the pastel-like art from The Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds.

Thursday, June 18, 2015

The Platypus and the Eldritch Horror

The odd adventures of Randolph Carter that began this month haven't only been inspired by choice readings of H.P. Lovecraft.  They have also been inspired by several play-throughs this year of Fantasy Flight's C'thulhu Mythos board game Eldritch Horror.  Eldritch Horror is a multi-player game that pits players in their roles as investigators against one of the Ancient Ones of the Lovecraftian Mythos.  Investigators scour the globe looking for clues, obtaining items, defeating monsters, and solving the mysteries needed to banish the Ancient One from the world.  Unlike your typical board game, Eldritch Horror is cooperative -something that my non-competitive wife and I find quite a relief.  The rules of the game and the narrative turn of the various cards that dictate game events and investigator abilities lend themselves strongly to corporate story-telling.  In this way Eldritch Horror serves as a nicely simplified version of Fantasy Flight's other Mythos inspired game Arkham Horror and the old Call of C'thulhu role-playing game.  Simplification doesn't mean simple, however, and the run time with two to four players can be around three hours.  Much of this time is spent considering the board and planning the next turn in group strategy sessions which often sound like they're right out of a D&D campaign.  All-ini-all, it's a fun game and with two expansions already out and another on the way, it's one that will provide novelty and pleasure for years to come.

Sunday, June 14, 2015

Fun With Pastels and Solvent: Creative Platypus

This goldfish was created using pastels dipped in solvent or drawing on paper treated with solvent.

Saturday, June 13, 2015

The King in Yellow Take 2: Creative Platypus

So I tried updating my original oil pastel sketch of The King in Yellow by using some solvent to soften the colors and help with the blending.
Below is the original for comparison.  See what you think.

Thursday, June 11, 2015

Unknown Kadath: Creative Platypus

*There's a little spoiler here for those who haven't read H.P. Lovecraft's The Dream Quest of Unkown Kadath, so reader beware!

The Dream Quest of Unknown Kadath is the first non-cosmic horror piece I read by H.P. Lovecraft. It's probably my favorite work by the Great H.P. I've tried to find pictures of the titular city but, alas, all the ones I can find online ignore Lovecraft's ending assertion that the city is based on Carter's Arkham.  This means that the architecture of the city is a Fantasia of New England styles.  The city Lovecraft had most in mind was probably his own native Providence.  To that end, my quick sketch of Unkown Kadath is based on various bits and pieces of New England architecture from Boston, Hartford, and Providence.  To put a word in for my own state, I still think that there's something other-worldly about the Connecticut State House's East Lake style as it rises up over Bushnell Park. 

Fun with Regular Old Pencils: Creative Platypus

Concept sketch for a Charles Williams-esque novel in the editing process.  A doodle of Garth Nix's Clariel seems to be peeking through...

Link to an Interesting Article on Calvin and Hobbes

An interesting article on "Calvin and Hobbes" and being a lonely child:

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

The Dead and Beautiful Rest (Cont.): Platypus Travels Part LXX

Captain Beach(1726-1817) and his wife Charity (d. 1809) were two of the first citizens of Shelton (Ripton or Huntington at the time) to have their portraits painted.  The originals are kept in the vault of the Wadsworth Atheneum in Hartford.  Unlike the Loyalist Shelton family, Captain Beach took up arms against the British Government and saw action under General David Wooster in New York and presumably at Danbury and Ridgefield where Wooster was killed.  His epitaph reads:
Unvail thy bosom, faithful tomb,
Take this new treasure to thy trust
And give these sacred relics room
To seek a slumber in the dust.

Charity formed a famous trio of friends with the mistress of the famous Shelton “Salt-Box House”, Mary Shelton, and the artistic and highly intelligent Hepzibah Hawley.  Recording family reminiscences, Jane de Forest Shelton tells us that Charity, true to her name, took the newly-wedded Mary under her wing and helped make a place for the Stratford girl among the isolated farms of rural Ripton.  The friends, so close in life, are separated in death with Charity buried by Saint Paul’s Episcopal Church in Huntington, Hepzibah at the old Center Cemetery in Monroe and Mary with her husband in Long Hill Burial Ground.

Tuesday, June 09, 2015

The Dead and Beautiful Rest (Cont.): Platypus Travels Part LXIX

The Freemasons are well represented in most nineteenth century cemeteries and Shelton is no exception.  One reason for this is that the Free Masons used to guarantee their members burial and a tombstone.  In some cases this produced markers of unusual magnificence.  This particular example features a host of symbols including the Sun, Moon, All-Seeing Eye, and the Ark of the Covenant.  The symbol to the left of the arch and beneath the Sun is one I don’t know how to read.  The dead try to tell us things in their tombstones, but often the secret is lost on those of a later generation.  All seek to say “I lived, I mattered”.  This stone caught my eye with its strangeness.  How many others in the cemetery did I pass over without a thought?

As for my name and my father’s name, why do you ask?  As the generations of leaves on the trees, so are the generations of the sons of men.

Monday, June 08, 2015

The Journey of Randolph Carter (Part X): Creative Platypus

Those who go traveling in strange lands must pay for their adventures in strange coin.  The discerning traveler knows where to look for the places of exchange.

Friday, June 05, 2015

Enter the King In Yellow: Creative Platypus

R.W. Chambers' much appropriated creation is the subject of today's one hour pastel sketch.  I should actually say "mixed media," since there's a good deal of colored pencil and china marker with an unsightly corner fixed in paint.

Wednesday, June 03, 2015

The Journey of Randolph Carter (Part IX): Creative Platypus

Travel in strange lands is always dangerous, but even unforeseen evils can be countered by the traveler who is prepared.  On the rotting parquet floor of a ruined hall in a ruined castle, a circle of salt and a few choice crystals bear mute witness to one such pilgrim. 

Tuesday, June 02, 2015

The Journey of Randolph Carter (Part VIII): Creative Platypus

 Shadows play across the walls of a partially ruined castle.  Is this the eldrich place that Carter sought?  If so, what do these strange figures bode?
'Lo, 'tis a gala night all in the lonesome later years...
An unexpected guest?
Sir, you must unmask...