Sunday, 24 September 2017

Cthulhu Postcard

It's a while ago now but at one point the excellent Call of Cthulhu themed website Yog-Sothoth (of which I am now a 'patron'), ran a postcard competition.  The idea was to send them a scenario theme or kernel on the back of a suitable postcard.  Here is my (non-winning) entry.
Edinburgh, yesterday
The postcard is of a photo taken over a rather smokey Edinburgh by Alfred G. Buckham, some time in the 1920s (available from the National Galleries of Scotland).  You can see why Edinburgh used to be called "Auld Reekie" (reek being Scots for smoke).  As you can appreciate it is very atmospheric and stimulated some dark thoughts in my mind... which I then jotted down on the back of a postcard.
Now wash your hands.
I drew on various aspects of Edinburgh history and tried to meld them together into something a bit creepy.  Having typed it up on the computer you can see that I printed it out and then aged and stained the paper using thin washes of brown and yellow paint, as though blood-stained fingers had been handling it before the postie got it.
Forth Bridge
Having discovered Alfred G. Buckham, I wondered what else he had photographed.  So here are a few examples.  The first is a a flight of biplanes over the famous Forth Bridge near Edinburgh.  Taken today, there would be two road bridges in that shot as well, the latest one only opening this month.
The next is quite an interesting one showing, as it does, the British airship R100 floating about in the clouds.  This would be just the kind of travel mode the discerning 1920s or 30s Cthulhu investigator might use.
Flying Boat
Finally, there is this one of a flying boat over the sea.  This really has the look of some strange winged horror on its way somewhere, glimpsed perhaps by the crew of a Miskatonic University expeditionary ship forging through treacherous seas to explore the colossal mountain range deep within Antarctica...

Tuesday, 4 July 2017

Wallpaper with Tentacles

As far as I am aware, no-one visits this blog apart from me.  Therefore, it will have come as a surprise to absolutely nobody at all that (as of June 2017) I changed the look of the blog when I decided that it should have more of a RPG slant (plus selected PC games).

As part of that redesign I considered altering the header to include the background picture of the charming investigator used for the Achtung! Cthulhu investigator's guide. However, in the end I decided to rotate various RPG related pictures I like in the header, so the investigor can rest here until it's her turn to be featured again.
In addition, I changed the blog's wallpaper from just boring black to a repeating pattern (see below, if you can).
Any colour you like, as long as it's brown
I quite like the pattern idea that actually looks like antique wallpaper, which is what my wargaming blog uses.  The intention of that, with its pale brown background and Casper David Friedrich header, was to go for more of what I regard as a sort of mid-nineteenth century 'Turgenev' effect (I'll explain it one day).

However, for Eclectic Infinities I thought that something darker and more Mythos oriented would be appropriate.  A couple of googled wallpaper tiles were therefore considered, as follows:
Too squiggly
Too 'arts and crafty'
Too beige-y
Too paisley, though encouragingly protozoan
However, in the end I plumped for the obvious one, a repeating tile of greenish cephalopods, reminiscent of you-know-who.
Too... actually, no, I may be on to something here
Nevertheless, it wasn't exactly what I wanted, so I stuck it in GIMP (which is free, open source and really good).  The first thing to do was to make the tile a bit more like something that had been badly printed, so basically I put it through the standard 'photocopy' filter setting.  This produced a black and white image like an old Xerox copy.

I then altered the colour scale so it was more of a dark brown, which is usually what happens to the pigments in Victorian wallpapers after a century or so of inexorable oxidation (at least the ones I've encountered in Edinburgh tenements); not to mention the slow mouldering away perhaps caused by unspeakable horrors lurking insidiously behind the wainscoting...  Perfect.

Wednesday, 28 June 2017


I've been interested in historical wargaming since the early 1970s (it was the Airfix Commandos that turned me) but later on at school I did become aware of role playing games and specifically Dungeons and Dragons.  I even bought the three core 1st edition AD&D books around 1982 and designed some dungeons.  I still have the books (and the dungeon designs).

My interest in RPGs all lay dormant for a while (and in some cases was actively avoided) until I (re)discovered Call of Cthulhu and Traveller (and a few other things) about 5 years ago.  And so I dusted off my RPG notebook (still plenty of blank pages in it) and it began again.
Part of this journey has been a not entirely failed attempt to get my son interested in RPGs, mainly to wean him off the X-box.  Consequently, when the MMORPG (Massively Multiplayer On-stage Role Playing Game) Show appeared at the Edinburgh Fringe last year, we had to go.

And what fun it was.  Basically the host (Paul Flannery) asked for three audience volunteers to participate in what was an hilariously half-improvised show.  Such inventions as deciding that the bunch of baddies in the tavern they had to relieve of their tickets to the ambassador's ball, were actually stoats disguised as weasels, and that when the host threw a 20 on his massive luminous die (no really) that the audience all had to get up and change seats, made it fun; and my son certainly enjoyed it.
Anyway, I was delighted to discover that the show is on at the Fringe again this year (3rd to 27th August 2017, except the 14th), at the same venue, and heck it's free.  And so, slotting in between obscure student productions of Pirandello, Ionesco and Arthur Smith, we'll definately be going, possibly twice (like we did last year).

Thursday, 22 June 2017

Bullet Bouncing

When I originally set up this blog (in 2011) it was to muse on all of the things that I was interested in that didn't fall under the remit of wargaming.  That covers a lot of ground as there all kinds of things I do, or would like to be doing, or used to do, or should be doing, or have some vague memory of doing, that I could write about.

However, what I have found over the years with blogging is that having a narrow(ish) focus for a blog usually works best (hence my separate wargaming blog), both as the blogger and for readers, who generally come to a blog with certain expectations and don't want to see random posts about electronic music, French nineteenth century poets, guitars, science fiction, travels in Central Asia, Scottish politics or non-historical wargaming (horrors!).

Consequently, I've decided to 'relaunch' this blog (like anyone would notice) but use it to report (slightly) more specifically on my desultory activities with regard to role palying games, board games and computer games.  Mainly, because, apart from historical wargaming (and Scottish politics), they are the other things that are keeping me distracted at work and home as I slide into my twilight years.

Nevertheless!  Onwards and upwards, and for no particular reason at all other than it is slightly amusing (and I like the old fashioned classic DC artwork) here's Wonder Woman to get us going.

Thursday, 25 September 2014

Achtung! Cthulhu #1

I've not much time for role playing games and I think in the last 35 years I've been involved in two AD&D adventures and one Call of Cthulhu game.  Achtung! Cthulhu, however, has piqued my interest, as it combines WW2, Cthulhu (of course) and some excellent graphics.  Plus the female on the cover of the Investigator's Guide reminds me of someone...
More pictures in a later post (probably).  Truely inspiring in terms of graphical technique and the whole 1930s/1940s pulp type adventure setting for Cthulhu.  Even the fonts are interesting. (I should point out that at that the time of writing I don't own the game, so I've no idea how it plays, although as with most RPGs it depends more on the players than on the rules).

Oh and by the way, I know it's over 18 months since I last posted here but now that the Scottish Referendum is over (at least until the next one comes along) I've got time on my hands.

Wednesday, 27 February 2013

Mr Scruff

This blog is about things I like.  That's it.  I don't claim to have any (well, many) remarkable insights or anything interesting to say, I just want to write about the ...stuff... that I like.  And here is something.  It's music - but unlike the mainly acoustic or electronic music that I dabble in this is more sample based (more posts and theories on that later my friends!).  And it's Mr Scruff who is a tea drinker, cartoonist and samplist-er (whatever it's called).
I came acoss this fellow because he was at one time one of the featured producers in the Computer Music magazine (CM158, December 2008) and on a whim I visited his website, which you should have a look at.  I would particularly like to recommend the following tracks which you can find on the above link and also on his soundcloud page (although they're all interesting):

  • Baisies
  • Jus Jus
  • It's Dancing Time
  • Shanty Town
  • Fish
  • Get a Move On
There's quite a few examples of what I understand is referred to as Nu-Jazz as well as samples of Brian Cant, Raymond Baxter, John Noakes and Captain Pugwash, to name but the few I recognised.  It's funky, and to quote my good friend Professor Roberts (now in San Diego), there's no point if it ain't funky.

Check it, as they say.

Saturday, 29 December 2012

Art by Mary Maclean

When I was at Glasgow University (1982-1986) I had friends from a number of other institutions, including the Glasgow School of Art.  This was through a set of roundabout connections because I was a member of the Edinburgh Youth Orhcestra (EYO) (plus the National Windband of Scotland (NWoS), the Lothian Schools Orchestra (LSO), the Edinburgh Secondary Schools Orchestra (ESSO) and the Caritas Orchestra (I was busy in those days)) and therefore met a lot of people from other schools in Edinburgh who have turned up periodically thoughout my life since.

Of these, the pupils from the Rudolf Steiner school were often the most interesting and many of them ended up as music and art students in Glasgow when I was there. One of these was a 'cello player (Moria?) and her elder sister, Mary Maclean, who was studing fine arts (mainly painting I think) at the Glasgow School of Art, whom I first met at a party we held at our flat at 42 Bentinck Street.
I didn't drink much in those days (I think it was 1984) and was a sensible sort of chap (overall) and I remember being invited round to the flat they shared in Oban Drive in the West End for innocent past-times such as drinking tea, baking cakes, playing charades and generally having silly conversations.

I suppose I had lived in a relatively narrow, circumscribed and studious world until then (and for quite a while thereafter) and it was interesting to be introduced to things that I didn't really know anything about such as art, old Edith Piaf LPs, tinned lychees and the revelation that the Macleans' mother had allegedly been in the Hitler Youth before emigrating to Scotland.

Oban Drive is just round the corner from Fergus Drive where my good friend Kenny lived for a while thereafter (hello Kenny!) and I remember that they used to get letters from a friend in Morningside addressed to "Oh-ban-the-bomb Drive".

Anyway, I liked Mary's art and as she was a final year student by then she was selling some of her pictures and I gladly paid £40 for one of them.  It doesn't have a title, that I am aware of, but it is a large canvas (130 x 170cm) depicting two people sitting in a cafe in Amsterdam and is based on the pastel sketch above, which she let me have as a bonus.
It hangs proudly on the wall of my sitting room and although it is not the most beautiful painting in Scotland (or possibly even the most finished) it sits well against the warm yellow walls and brown furniture (chosen in a way to compliment the painting, not the other way around, as is often the case, these days) and looks interesting, often stimulates conversation, and is in fact the only painting I own - at the time I had thought to buy other pictures from Mary but I was worried what my mother would say about the reclining nude I was considering.

It's funny, I was writing this blog piece and found myself wondering where Mary had got to since I last saw her c.1984.  And, just this very minute, by the power of the internet, I have found her here.

Wednesday, 26 December 2012

A Little More Harmony

Here are a couple more Harmony images I produced just by doodling about.  Not sure where the ideas cames from... I think I might have been watching some Looney Tunes with James.
They're easy and fun to do and has helped generate a few ideas that can be further developed in MyPaint or GIMP.  Here's another one.
See these architects?  They think they're the only ones that can do this!

Thursday, 6 December 2012

Nostalgia isn't what it used to be

I was looking through some old photos and thought I should digitise them (well, try photographing them using a digital camera).  Purely for self-indugent reasons I've posted some of them mainly to remind the world (well the internet) what I looked like with hair (compare and contrast with my profile photo); so here are a few choice images (apologies for the quality, I may re-do them).
This is me in the lab in the Zoology Department at Glasgow University c1986.  You can see my excellent dress sense shining through.  That's Andy Harvey, my flatmate at the time, in the background.
Here I am on a beach in Norfolk probably in 1987 at the end of the first year of my PhD in Cambridge (Pembroke College).  I think I had been paddling.
I think this one was taken in about 1989 late in my third year.  I'm standing in Downing College trying to look intellectual.  You can see the stress of writing up written all over my face.

Wednesday, 2 May 2012

Goodbye Cruel World!

My son's primary school held an art show last week and as parents we were invited to view the work of our offspring and then perhaps pay for some (or all) of their works of art on display.  Being thrifty I was thinking "well, we'll get them back at the end of term anyway".... but that wasn't in the spirit of the thing.  Anyway, here's an example of what my son did (he's nine):
In preparation for the art show the children apparently enjoyed lessons on Dali, Munch, Monet and in this case Lichtenstein (I think).  My son chose to make this interesting image of a ninja leaping away from an explosion, which he initially entitled "Goodbye Cruel World", but then told me that he thought that "I Hate My Job!" might be better.

Personally, I thought that "I love my job!" would have been the best thing to call it, as what could be better than having an occupation dressing up like Lee van Cleef and blowing stuff up.