Saturday, December 26, 2009

Merry Xmas Everyone!

A very Merry (and belated) Xmas to all our readers. Have a wonderful New Year celebration. We will be posting again soon.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Mermaid Books 2 – A Survival Guide for Landlocked Mermaids



Jozef bought this book by artist/writer Margot Datz a few months ago when he placed a large order for mermaid material from Amazon. He gave it to me to see what I thought. I read it and promptly went onto Amazon myself to buy a copy for me, as well as two other copies for Christmas presents which the recipients are going to receive early when we fittingly catch up next week for ... yep, you guessed it ... fish and chips.

This is a book you get for the girls – from one woman to another or from father or mother sending their beloved daughter our into the world. The dust jacket tells us that "The landlocked mermaid is a symbol of the contemporary woman trapped in a paradoxical dilemma of being part worldly and domesticated, part untamable and intuitive."

It really is quite delightful. The paintings are whimsical and fun, and the artistic embellishments such as the spot illustrations to the sumptuous paintings on every page illustrating themes such as: "Dare to be Bare" (authenticity), "Never Lose Sight of the Sea" (trusting our instincts), and "Allure to Be Sure" (celebrating your sexiness) are absolute lovely. This is the kind of book you keep at your bedside and read in your pyjamas over and over again to remind yourself of its gentle life lessons and to also discover elements in the images you may have missed on previous readings. It's also a book that has a strangely calming effect – it made me relaxed and happy to read it and to revisit it.

So mermaids and mermen out there, just CLICK on the image below to order it for yourself or for your loved ones.

And at the end of the day, we mustn't forget the last adage on its pages– "To Thine Own Mermaid Be True".


Saturday, December 5, 2009

Rupert the Bear and the Mermaid Boy

Aussie comics artists/illustrators Frank Kennedy and Marcelo Baez stopped by my place the other day after attending the Australian Society of Authors Xmas party. My friend Zoe Harvey and I made it to the party too but left after ten minutes. This wasn't a commentary on the speeches, the guests, the food or any of the proceedings – it was because we were on an animal rescue mission and had to look after a baby bird we had found in the middle of the main road in Balmain, Sydney.

Anyway, had a great chat with the two guys and somewhere in the conversation, we began to discuss Rupert the Bear. Now for those of you who don't know anything about this literary character, he was the lead in a comic that was first published in 1920. The books were unusual in style – there were four sequential art panels per page but no captions or word balloons. The story was told in a two-line verse under each panel and in prose at the bottom of the page. I found a copy of Rupert, sans cover, in a box of books I found hidden in a cupboard of our home in Cronulla where I was born. I must have been about two years old because we moved soon after. I have no idea who this book originally belonged to but from that moment it was mine. It's sitting on my lap right now and in a few moments I'll return it to the graphic novel section of my library. The title page only says "Rupert" and a statement at the bottom proclaims it to be "A Daily Express Publication". It costs 4 shillings and six pence. I think this must have been the first graphic novel I ever owned.

Anyway, Frank asked me if I had ever seen the story (Rupert and the Popweed) where Rupert meets a merboy and I said no. He then kindly emailed me the piece you see on this blog post, which of course prompted me to do a bit of investigation and see if the title still exists. It does. If you're a mermaid collector like us, you can order it from Amazon (although I think there's only one used copy left). We'll see which of us gets in first! There are lots of other Rupert books out there too so check them out if you have a minute.


Friday, December 4, 2009

Australian Comics Creators Survey Results

The Australian Society of Authors (ASA) Comics/Graphic Novels Portfolio conducted a survey earlier in the year to get a snapshot of the Australian comics community as well as to provide valuable research data for the upcoming Minimum Page Rates Project. The demographic profile was quite interesting. For example, 87% of the respondents working in Australian comics were male; 75% of the respondents lives in capital cities; and 76% of the respondents were between the ages of 20 and 40. If you're interested in reading more, then download a pdf from the Comics/Graphic Novels Portfolio page on the ASA website.

Even More Uncanny Lookalikes




A bit of cheering up is in order. Totally Looks Like is one of our all time favourite websites. We look forward to receiving our daily sampler email. Here's some of the latest for movie lovers, Aussies and architects, expectant mothers, and Muppet fans. You can also rate the similarities and engage in spirited (and often childish) debate about the relative merits of each piece on the website.

PhotoBucket Merchandise, a Passionate Plea and a Warning for Artists!

We're a bit sensitive at the moment about protecting our copyright so you may find several blogposts on this theme in the upcoming weeks.

In general we're okay if people post Black Mermaid Productions™ owned artwork or Jozef's commercial artwork sourced from his DeviantArt gallery to their blogs or websites for promotional purposes, provided they also put up the relevant artist attribution and copyright statement, that is:

Art by Jozef Szekeres
Source: www.blackmermaid.com OR www.blackmermaidproductions.blogspot.com OR
www.elf-fin.deviantart.com
© Black Mermaid Productions, [YEAR OF PUBLICATION] OR
© Jozef Szekeres, [YEAR OF PUBLICATION] .

However, if there is any doubt in your mind about the legalities of using artwork, then we do request you ask permission prior to posting it. You can you can do via this email address: permissions@blackmermaid.com.

We usually say yes to 95% of requests except where they are to use images for merchandising purposes or when it comes to usage of our Black Mermaid™ logo artwork.

Having said that, we've just come across a HUGE copyright problem on the PhotoBucket website.

Before we start, we must mention that our issue is not with PhotoBucket the entity but with the users who post copyright materials onto the website without credit and without permission, especially when there is a merchandising facility attached to each page.

So here's some background for you to put you in the picture so to speak.

Photobucket advertises itself as, "the premier site on the Internet for uploading, sharing, linking and finding photos, videos and graphics."

The ABOUT page also tells us that PhotoBucket has:
  • 25 Million unique site visitors/month in the US, and over 46 Million unique site visitors/month worldwide
  • #1 most popular Photo site in the US
  • #3 most popular Entertainment/Multimedia site in the US
  • #8 most popular Entertainment/Multimedia site in the world
  • #31 in Top 50 Sites in the US
  • #41 top 100 Global Sites*
  • 18th Largest Ad supported site in the US
When users sign up they have to agree with the Terms of Use, which has similar copyright policies to social networking sites such as FaceBook. The PhotoBucket Terms of Use clearly states:
8. Content/Activity Prohibited. You must use the Photobucket Services in a manner consistent with any and all applicable laws and regulations. The following are examples of the kind of Content that is illegal or prohibited to post on or through the Photobucket Services. Photobucket reserves the right to investigate and take appropriate legal action against anyone who, in Photobucket's sole discretion, violates this provision, including without limitation, removing the offending Content from the Photobucket Services and terminating the Membership of such violators. Prohibited Content includes, but is not limited to, Content that, in the sole discretion of Photobucket...
8.8 constitutes or promotes an illegal or unauthorized copy of another person’s copyrighted work...
8.15 violates the privacy rights, publicity rights, defamation rights, copyrights, trademark rights, contract rights or any other rights of any person.
PhotoBucket also reinforces this in another clause:
15. Protecting Copyrights and Other Intellectual Property. Photobucket respects the intellectual property of others, and requires that our users do the same. You may not upload, embed, post, email, transmit or otherwise make available any material that infringes any copyright, patent, trademark, trade secret or other proprietary rights of any person or entity. Photobucket has the right to terminate the Membership of infringers. If you believe your work has been copied and posted on or through the Photobucket Services in a way that constitutes copyright infringement, please follow the procedures set forth in the Photobucket Copyright and IP Policy.
Okay ... in theory this is a benevolent website service that gives users the capability of placing all their photos, images and videos in one place to share with family and friends. However, the problem arises in the fact that there is a merchandising functionality attached to each page, whereby ANY user (family, friend or stranger) can upload these photos and images onto products available from the online photo gifts and print store. These products include greeting cards, shirts, hoodies, mugs, calendars, jigsaw puzzles, computer and mobile/cell phone skins. And here's the rub ... if you are an artist whose artwork has been uploaded without your knowledge and permission by somebody in breach of the Terms of Use, then in theory lots of people could be ordering merchandise with YOUR images and WITHOUT you getting a single cent in royalties.

Jozef stumbled on this site by accident the other day and was appalled to discover that several pieces of his artwork has been uploaded onto various users' private albums. He wrote to PhotoBucket straight away who have guidelines in place for these cases in the form of a Copyright and Intellectual Property Policy. To PhotoBucket's credit, the images were removed within 24 hours and Jozef received an email acknowledgement from the PhotoBucket Copyright Agent.

In the interim, both of us went through the site and searched on key words from Elf~Fin and WaveDancers, as well as Jozef's name. We have since discovered approximately 25 more images that have been uploaded illegally and Jozef has written to PhotoBucket again asking for action.

Realistically, PhotoBucket doesn't have the ability to patrol its own website as it contains over 8 Billion images so the onus is on you the artist to do the footwork, or perhaps should we say, the fingerwork because your little hands may get very tired checking out every possible violation of your images on this website. And you will need to do this more than once ...

What is at risk is your ability to create income from your artwork. We understand that there are some readers/fans who love your work and collect your digital images. Many of these people just sign the Terms of Use Agreement without reading it or even understanding what copyright is, let alone the implications of doing what they're doing – that is, denying the artist their rightful income from their work.

What we're objecting to is not the actual act of positioning favourite pieces of artwork together in an online album, but the lack of copyright and artist attribution information and accompanying links to the original source material, as well as the potential loss of income that comes with releasing these images on merchandise where the copyright owner gets no royalty.

Working in the Arts is exceptionally difficult and artists need to be made of strong stuff to survive emotionally, mentally and physically. We do NOT have a regular paycheck coming in. We have to take on part-time jobs which takes us from the thing we love most (our creative projects) in order to pay the rent and put food on our tables. We often deny ourselves little necessities and luxuries just to make it through the week and pay our bills. Every dollar we receive through passive income helps us get our work out to you more quickly. It also helps us do that urgent car repair job which we haven't budgeted for and that could potentially save our life, allows us to see one movie every blue moon, buy a roll of soft toilet paper instead of a one-ply generic brand, or allows us to have lunch at a cafe or restaurant with friends with day jobs who we've been putting off for months because there is no spare cash in our wallet for a $20 meal. To arbitrarily make decisions about our artwork creates great stress for us in more ways than one. PLEASE RESPECT this idea and be careful about HOW you use our creative works.

And by the way, the photo you see accompanying this blog post was one of the ones we found on somebody's PhotoBucket album! We hope it will be removed tomorrow once Jozef's email request has been actioned.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Assumptions Leading to Online Copyright Breach [UPDATED: 4/12/09]

I have to say... I am constantly appalled at the presumptive attitude people have online that posted images on my online gallery are a free-for-all. Below is a recent example, and my response.
-----------------------------------------------
Hello Jozef,
my name is [NAME DELETED] and I am from [CITY/COUNTRY DELETED]. I am an astrologer, and since I have also DevianArt profile, I took your photo for ilustrating my post on my astrology site. I also put your link but what I need is written permission, so that's it... If it's not ok, just tell me.

I know that I should ask first, but sincerly, like a lot of other bloggers neither do I ask permission for a long time, not because I didn't want, but because I thought it is enough if i put a link. But now, l really want to respect copyrights, so I am sending emails to all authors which are linked with photos on my page...
hope to hearing from you,
---------------------------------------
Dear [NAME],

Thanks for contacting me.

Bloggers that post images without permissions, regardless if it is common practice or not are illegally breaking copyrights. Your usage without permissions is also unlawful, and the presumption that permission will be given is exactly that... presumptuous.

I make my artwork as part of my living and therefore usage of my artwork has a cost to it. I can and do post my own images online, but they are used thus only to showcase my work, their posting is not an open invitation for others to use illegally.

Also blog usage is usually to showcase an artists work, giving critical review (and often permission is openly granted for reviews), but you have decided to use my artwork to illustrate your astrology site as the header image. That is definitely not the usage I created this artwork for.

Beyond that inappropriate usage, this artwork of "The Queen of Sheba" is actually NOT my copyright but that of Aristocrat Technologies Australia (an international multimillion dollar poker machine company), and even has on the artwork.. "NOT FOR REPRODUCTION"... that means both online and in print, and that message is meant for persons like yourself. I have had a long legal history with this company to win the rights of usage of this artwork, which has been both financially and personally costly, and ONLY I have the usage rights, those usage rights are NOT transferable to you. So even if I wanted to give you the rights of usage for my artwork, I can NEVER give permissions for anyone else to use this artwork, as I do not have that right. (the rights I have mean only I can can use it).

So, thanks for contacting me. Please REMOVE my artwork immediately from your site header, and if in the future you wish to use my or anyone else's artwork... seek permission FIRST before you use the work illegally as you have done here. Please confirm in an email that you have done this.

If there is a problem for the removal, I will be happy to forward your permission request (after your already established illegal usage) to the lawyers at Aristocrat, whom I can say will be decidedly less polite then myself about the illegal usage of their copyright owned artwork.

Thank you.

Best,
Jozef Szekeres

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Elf~Fin Leaks & Peeks 12



And here's some more (my, how Jozef is spoiling you!). That's Kraygon and Hyfus in these panels.

Elf~Fin Leaks & Peeks 11

New snapshots for everyone! Characters from left to right – Kraygon and Hyfus (background); Pekti, Ponji, Lyban and Fillayne (foreground).

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Stanley Award Winners!

Jozef and I attended the Australian Cartoonists' Association Conference, as well as the 25th annual Stanley Awards dinner during the weekend of 13-14 November 2009. We had presented a 30-minute talk two years ago at the Wollongong conference, but this was our first time attending as delegates.

We had a fabulous time. The cartoonist contingent was warm, funny and exceptionally clever. We even got dressed up for dinner – Jozef in a black jacket, a nice snazzy crushed white shirt and black patent and gold Dolce and Gabbana sneakers (no jeans or hoodie in sight). I wored black satin pants with a crushed black blouse with pink and blue embellishments and my new black suede 1950s-style pumps, which were surprisingly comfortable despite the heel height. Dinner consisted of mixed canapés – Vietnamese rice paper rolls, salmon gravlax, panko bread-crumbed chicken drummettes and Japanese gyozas (all served with their individual sauces). The main was a choice of beef or pumpkin risotto, and the dessert was a berry meringue tart. The table centrepieces had Ferrero Rocher and Lindor Balls secreted away inside them, but I have an uncanny knack of sniffing out hidden chocolate so we found them even before dinner had commenced. Needless to say we got a huge sugar shot on the night.

The company was terrific and our raucous laughs could be heard every few minutes. The actual dinner was held at one of the rooms in the Darling Harbour Convention Centre, which had a wonderful view of the harbour and a Sydney-scape full of night lights.

But the most important part was the actual Awards themselves and we were lucky to have been seated at the table with freelance political cartoonist, Adelaide-based Peter Broelman who picked up two official awards on the night – Cartoonist of the Year and Editorial/Political Cartoonist of the Year. Broelman acknowledged the global financial crisis, the swine flu outbreak, and the asylum seekers in his speech.

Other Stanley Award winners include – Gary Clark (comic strip Swamp), Matt Golding (single gag cartoons), Anton Emdin (illustrations), David Follett (media graphic artist) and John Spooner (caricatures).


During the actual conference, Jozef and I sat near a cultured elderly man with a white mop of hair. We offered up our seats to who we thought was his wife, but she declined. Later on we found out that this gentleman was no other than Mr Squiggle creator and former Bulletin cartoonist 88-year old Norman Hetherington, who was awarded the Jim Russell Award for outstanding contribution to Australian cartooning. Mr Hetherington was met with a standing ovation during his speech.


We also had an opportunity to have a chat with MAD Magazine caricaturist Tom Richmond. I told him a story of my travels through the USA during the late 70s when I was a kid. My family had gone on an overseas trip for six months and we had finished our US leg in New York City. I was buying gifts for all my school class mates and I bought up ten MAD books for the boys. Needless to say, my love affair with MAD began at that moment – I loved the books so much I kept them and indeed still have them. There's nothing like the film parodies or Spy vs Spy to keep you laughing. When Jozef and I had the good fortune to be given a tour of the DC offices after the 2007 New York ComicCon, the bit I loved seeing the most and which brought back the nicest memories was the MAD offices.


During the Stanley Award presentation, our FaceBook friend and now real-life friend Jules Faber announced the first inductees into the Hall of Fame. These honourees were Ginger Meggs creator, Jim Bancks, Stan Cross, Will Dyson, Percy Leason, Norman Lindsay and Pulitzer Prize winning Australian political cartoonist Pat Oliphant.


It was a fabulous night and we thank Jules Faber for helping make it happen.


For more information about the Australian Cartoonists' Association check out their website.


Comic Strip Superstar Winner Announced


Amazon.com has announced the inaugural Comic Strip Superstar Grand Prize winner – Dana Simpson, creator of the delightful Girl. Dana's prizes include a publishing contract with Andrews McMeel Publishing, a development contract with Universal Uclick and syndication on Gocomics.com. Congratulations!


Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Old Turtle Out; New Turtle In!


We've deleted one our initial first-run Undersea Black Mermaid™ (Turtle) design on the Black Mermaid™ CafePress shop and introduced a new one and added new products to the entire Undersea range. Hope you're feelin' it! Sometimes we'll let you know what our plans are and sometimes we won't so it's important to order quickly if you're a collector. Jozef's started his throw pillow collection and my mum's collecting the tile coasters. We've also talked to another buyer who's starting to acquire the large framed print series. If you're wanting turtles then CLICK here for Black Mermaid™ turtle goods galore.

Good Elf~Fin News Blog Post

The wonderful Colleen Doran has devoted an entire post on her A Distant Soil blog to our upcoming Elf~Fin series and added some very kind words indeed. Thanks, Colleen – we really appreciate your support and that of our readers who have been standing by for a long time to see this series come to fruition.

The Real Deal Little Mermaid Shiloh Dies

Shiloh Pepin, the 10-year old girl born with the condition known as Sirenomelia, otherwise known as 'mermaid syndrome' died recently on the 23 October 2009. According to Wikipedia, this is a "very rare congenital deformity in which the legs are fused together, giving them the appearance of a mermaid's tail". The condition is usually fatal within a few days of birth because of bladder and kidney complications. Despite having only one partially working kidney, no genitals or lower colon, Shiloh died from contracting pneumonia. Shiloh came into the media and public spotlight after an Oprah appearance. Unlike a handful of other children with this condition who survived surgery, she was not able to have an operation to separate her legs because blood vessels criss-crossing through her lower half would have been severed. We defy anyone not to shed a salty tear in veneration of this brave and wonderful little girl.




Saturday, November 7, 2009

The Cake of Our Lady Virgin Mary



This is a story not of a chain-letter but a chain-cake.

A few weeks ago I took a call from a family friend who asked me whether my mother was ready to accept her dough. I told her I had no idea what she was talking about.
She then started dramatically exclaiming "The dough, the dough ... I have to drop off the dough to her today!"
I then asked her, "Do you mean 'doe' as in deer, or 'dough' as in bread?"
She replied, "Dough as in cake," and then she explained the backstory and put it all into context for me and finally I understood where she was coming from.
I told her, "Janet, my mum's not here right now but I'll take the dough on her behalf and follow through on the process."
About an hour later I met her at the front gate where she dropped off a takeaway container full of cake dough and a sheet of instructions.

Now, I know you're asking – "What's with this dough?"
So let me explain ...

The cake dough forms the basis of The Cake of Our Lady Virgin Mary (also known as Pope Pius Bread).
The story is told that an Italian woman who was suffering all her life from illness that she could not even do her house chores. One day her daughter asked her to bake a cake. She refused more than once because she was unable to do it. The daughter moaned so much that the mother felt she needed to bake the cake. She asked the aid of the Virgin Mary.

As soon as she started to prepare the cake, the Virgin Mary appeared and she herself prepared the cake for the woman. The woman was astonished with what was happening and the Virgin Mary told her, "You yourself will eat from that bread and the whole world as well". She asked her to keep 1/4 of the dough and to add in it the ingredients of the recipe to make a whole cake and distribute the other 3/4 to 3 other faithful people, on one condition, that they will follow through the same procedure to this miraculous dough.

Unto this day, no one has refused to bake this cake yet, because it brings blessings and prosperity to all families that have received it and prepared it accordingly. It has been said that this bread travelled from the Vatican to the Americans, to Australia and Africa – this in itself is a miracle because:

a) Even though it is kept out of the fridge it never moulded.
b) Its odour and form gives one idea that it has yeast even thought it doesn't.
The instruction sheet that came with the dough then provides information on how to tend to the dough, a recipe to follow, and a schedule for when to pass the dough onto fellow bakers.

I'm not religious and I'm not Catholic but I grew up watching lots of religious movies such as the Song of Bernadette on Saturday and Sunday afternoons and I have a respect for most religious faiths provided people are accepting and don't foist their beliefs on others or believe theirs is the only way. I ended up having a number of different emotional reactions to being presented with this dough. I wanted to honour my mother's friend's commitment to the process and to her faith and belief in it, my inner sceptic suggested I check out the internet to see how much of this was really a hoax, but the storyteller in me who likes all the little miracles in life wanted to participate in the ritual that makes up this cake and the passing forward of good tidings.

When I did do an internet search I found very little – just a true Catholic believer who was disappointed and proclaimed the cake to be a hoax because hers went mouldy. All I can say is – she probably didn't follow the instructions because ours turned out brilliantly with nary a mould cell or spore in sight.

From an entirely practical point of view of somebody who LOVES cooking, I remembered a similarity in the preparation of this dough to sourdough starter. My parents had visited Alaska a couple of years ago and had returned with a present for me – a copy of Alaskan Sourdough Cooking: Recipes from the Last Frontier, which came with a starter powder pack (which I haven't used yet as it will be the devil for me – I LOVE sourdough and if I maintain the dough in perpetuity I will be eating it every day and grow the size of a house!)

Just as an aside, the history of sourdough is actually quite interesting – here is a quote from the book:
Pioneer Alaskans, because of their exposure to extreme conditions, did not have ready access to such grain leavening products as fresh eggs, yeast and milk. Since they were constantly traveling or spending long periods of time isolated from civilization, prospectors and settlers had to produce these agents from dried goods and from the yeast naturally present in their environment. In Alaska, sourdough was the only continous supply of leavening that could be easily transported and stored...
The introduction then tells us how they transported the starter from camp to camp, how it was used as a bridal dowry, how they would make it and maintain it and then provides instructions such as what temperature it must be, what utensils to use and what not to use and so on that parallel the instructions in the Virgin Mary Cake. However, the sourdough starter recipes of today that are contained in the book, do contain yeast (and milk or water plus flour). The difference I think is in the use of yoghurt and sugar in the Virgin Mary recipe plus eggs on the very last day to turn it into cake batter. I'm not a food chemist so I don't understand the chemical reactions that take place with the combination of certain ingredients, but I suspect the sugar and yoghurt culture is an important part of the process.

Anyway, I marked up all the instructions with the dates and followed everything to the letter. What was interesting was just how serious I took the process and just how much of my heart went into tending to this cake dough and letting it reach maturity within our kitchen. I also organised for three other people to be the recipients of a quarter each of this dough – one was a Australian woman my age who born into an Italian family and who was raised a devout Catholic, the second one was a primary school teacher and close family friend, and the third was business owner who worked in a teaching capacity with children of all ages.

Everything went swimmingly until the final day – I asked my mother to bake the cake because I had to go out. I had scored the dough into four pieces and delivered two of them to their appropriate people. The third one was being picked up so I left it in the bowl until such time as she popped in. Well, my mother didn't separate the two pieces and added all the remaining ingredients into the dough. I walked in, saw what had happened and freaked out (the superstitious part of me surfaced). In the end it was too late so we had to add another batch of eggs, sugar and yoghurt to the mixture and put it in the oven. (By the way, if you ever received this cake, make sure you bake it at around ten degrees less than what the recipe says and check the oven about ten to 15 minutes before it is meant to come out. Even at double the recipe, our cake was ready well ahead of time. Result – subtle, moist, tasty and very morish.)

I rang up the woman the quarter was supposed to go to and explained what had happened. I then said that we would keep half of our cake and give the other half to her. However, for some reason the first mistake set off another chain of mishaps. We got stuck into the our part of the cake and put the second half away – but then we got some unexpected visitors and my Dad served the second half up to them. Upon discovering what had happened, I quickly saved one slice, put it on a plate and covered it in foil and placed it on a high shelf in a cupboard where we rarely ventured. When I went to get it the next day to deliver to our friend, it was gone. It turned out my father had found it and thought we had set it aside for him and had promptly eaten it. (I live on a farm and the extended family is coming and going all the time!) My mother and I just burst out laughing when we heard. Somebody else said that the person "was never meant to get the cake" but we remedied that later on and made sure 1/4 of the dough from one of the other people returned back to our friend.

So what did I get out of this? Actually ... quite a lot. Though the cake turned out to be quite tasty, it wasn't the important element in the scenario. The most important part was the actual process and the commitment we all had to looking after this dough. I say "we" because the experience was shared by others down the chain ... it brought out a warm feeling in us all, this cake reconnected and bonded many of us with our family and friends, it became a talking point between male and female of all ages and backgrounds, it excited children and it perhaps brought us back into the realms of our imagination to a simpler time when we understood what it would be like to sit around the hearth and shares our heart and our stories. Catholic or not, religious or not, this cake has restored my faith in the magic in all of us.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Elf~Fin Leaks & Peeks 10



Tee hee! Characters for you to know and love – Hyfus, Fillayne and Kraygon.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Scarygirl Art



We've been absolutely enthralled with Scarygirl art (see previous post) and obtained permission from publisher Allen & Unwin to bring you a couple of pages. Here they are – gorgeous! The writer/artist is Nathan Jurevicius and our guess is that he's going to be around for a very long time.

Friday, October 30, 2009

Stunning Scarygirl

Jozef and I went to a signing last night at Kinokuniya in the city for Nathan Jurevicius's delicious looking wordless graphic novel Scarygirl. What's interesting about this creative property is that it circumvented the usual publishing process by coming out as a line of designer toys, an online comic and a game prior to being released as a book. Published by Allen & Unwin , the story is about a young girl with an identity problem – abandoned on a remote beach in the middle of the night by a malevolent looking machine, she has no idea who she is or where she came from.

The artwork is absolutely sumptuous. The production values on the actual book are gorgeous as well – even the inside of the dust cover is emblazoned with rich artwork. This is an absolute delight and Nathan is to be congratulated. There are several more books on the agenda so collectors – start collecting. It's targeted at 14 to 18 year olds but quite frankly bridges all ages. We're predicting it will win major prizes. The RRP is AUS$35.00 and it's worth every cent. It comes sealed in plastic so wear your white gloves when you open it at home. Whip out your credit card and put this book in your shopping basket at Allen & Unwin or order it from your bookstore or comics store. I'm reading (or should I say viewing) mine tonight.

Halloween Black Mermaid™ – TWO DAYS LEFT!





We've always wanted to say this and maybe here's our chance – we are the fine (and only) purveyors of Black Mermaid goods and collectibles. Here are some of our personal favourites in the product line up – cushions, ceramic travel mugs and tote bags. There's only a couple of days left to buy them – the Halloween Moon design will be taken off-range on 31 October (11.59 US Pacific time). Hurry! CLICK HERE to go to our CafePress Shop.

Halloween Black Mermaid™ Friends


Kathy from Wisconsin, USA, sent us this pic of herself wearing one of the Halloween Moon t-shirts (this is the fitted-t). We love the look – suits your hair and the shirt you're wearing underneath, K, and we appreciate your patronage to our CafePress Shop.

Flavour Escapes–A Nutty Tale About Nutty Goodness





A couple of weeks ago I received my November issue of Delicious magazine (the one with the coconut and banana pancakes on the front cover) which I've been subscribing to since it was first launched about six or seven years ago – brilliant recipes I must add and dare I state the obvious, delicious as well. Anyway, being the advertisers' dream that I am, I spotted an advert for a new product range which I promptly acted on. There were two things that intrigued me about the products in question – the packaging and the flavours – and possessing the innate culinary curiosity that I have, I trotted out on my next shopping expedition and bought a pack of each from Woollies.

The products I'm talking about are called Flavour Escapes brought out by the Melbourne-based The Gourmet Nut Company. The four flavours on offer are – Thai Sweet Chilli (cashew and peanut blend), Canadian Maple (cashews), Indian Chai (almonds) and Japanese Wasabi (honey peanuts). I also loved the foil packaging in lovely friendly colours (I wear lots of black but I do love and respond to bright colours and my office decor is colour-saturated). I must also mention that I tend not to buy or eat much snack food (dark chocolate being the exception), and the nuts I do consume regularly tend to be of the raw variety – almonds and cashews – which I combine into breakfast dishes such as bircher muesli or yoghurt and berry parfaits.

Anyhoo, got the Flavour Escape nut combos home and tested the first flavour that night with the rest of my family. Well ... before you knew it the entire 175gm pack was gone, promptly followed by a second one. The next night we broke out the remaining two packs which we also promptly consumed. They were excellent! They landed an unrestrained flavour punch that absolutely backed up the inherent advertising promise. If I were to have done a blind test on each of the varieties I would have been able to identify them all distinctly by taste (something I wasn't really able to do with the latest Smiths crisps "Vote for Me" campaign where nothing much differentiated the four flavours tastewise for me).

I also had the experience of my taste buds being able to differentiate the sweet from the spice – in fact there was an inherit complexity in the way the ingredients melded with each other. The ingredients constituted 73% nuts, some sugar, spices and honey. And for the disciplined health conscious person who can constrain themselves to a recommended 25gm serving, a serving contains 553 kJ (127 Cal), 5.2gm (protein), 7.1gm (fat), 10.5gm (carbohydrate) and 91.3mg (salt) which is pretty good compared to many of the other nut mixtures I've seen.

I rarely have this enthusiastic reaction to new foods and am pretty tough in my rating system, but I was so impressed I rang the company the next day to let them know how fantastic the nuts were. If I were an American multimillionaire and all cashed up I would have bought the company! (In-joke – anybody born post 1980s who didn't watch Remmington shaver commercials on Australian television won't get it.) Had a great chat with Kerrie, the Quality Assurance Manager, who seemed to be delighted with the call. We discussed our respective favourite flavours (in order mine were – sweet chilli, maple syrup, chai and wasabi), and a whole bunch of other stuff.

So having said that ... if you're Australian go and check them out (that means you too Marcelo Baez, you snack-lovin' comics art genius you who lured me temporarily into M&Ms territory on your last visit!) I'm now looking forward to tasting the Lemon Myrtle flavoured variety in another Gourmet Nut Company range. The Flavour Escapes website hasn't been launched yet but keep checking www.flavourescapes.com.au to find out more or just trust me and go straight out and buy them. Jozef – I'm sharing the next pack with you!

Clarity from Decluttering



The last couple of months I've been decluttering my home and office. It sounds like an awful long time but I've accumulated an awful lot of junk from the last few years. I still had boxes of paperwork from the time I shared a house with Jozef and ex-Black Mermaid Productions business partner Bruce – and I had moved out 13 years ago! That's ridiculous! Anyway, I've been sorting, filing, archiving, cleaning, donating and chucking. I'm about 65% there but have such a heavy work schedule at the moment that I need to keep doing it one box or basket at a time until such time that it's all finished.

About a month ago I bought a shelving storage unit for my office. It was reasonably priced at $228.00 from OfficeWorks and it took about three hours to put together (thanks, Paps!). All my filing trays are now off the floor and organised according to colour – Black Mermaid (black trays) and my own work (pink trays). All the receipts, computer cords, business cards, paper (recycled for drafts and new paper for final copies) and all my beloved ornaments and toys have a place now including the I Dream of Jeannie cookie jar with a miniature Jeannie inside which my sister and I gave to our grandmother (Babushka) for Xmas many years ago. After my Babushka died the cookie jar returned to me. It has great sentimental value.

The act of decluttering has had psychological benefits as well. I've felt a huge energy shift inside me. The only way I can describe it is prior to decluttering I felt like much of my energy was leaking out of me like water leaking out of holes in a dam wall. Once I started cleaning, some of those holes miraculously plugged themselves up and I was suddenly able to access that energy again to complete many of my other jobs. The result – clarity, peace of mind, productivity, and enormous focus accompanied by a lightness of spirit.

In the past I tended to gravitate towards two extremes – being either ultra obsessively organised or exceptionally messy – although strangely enough all the interiors of my cupboards and desks were always clean and tidy. When I was really busy and stressed I would just throw things onto piles on the floor after I have finished using them rather than return these objects to their proper homes (I think I was reverting to 5-year-old behaviour!). Now what's happening is that I am conscientiously putting things back into their allocated place. The receipts I need to sort, record and file are put in a manilla folder in one of the trays. The bills go into another tray until such time during each week that I work on finances. I'm putting books back in their rightful spots and my story notebooks, diary/day planner and seminar notes all have their place.

Jack Canfield and Janet Switzer who co-wrote The Success Principles: How to Get from Where You Are to Where You Want to Be, which I consider to be the definitive self-motivational book about orienting and creating the present/future you want for yourself, talk about "Cleaning Up Your Messes and Your Incompletes" in Chapter 28. They advocate getting into "Completion Consciousness" because failing to do so robs you of valuable attention units. Furthermore, the book discussions the four D's of completion – Do it, Delegate it, Delay it, or Dump it! It basically all comes down to this – "If there's anything new that you want in your life, you've got to make room for it" – psychologically and physically.

I've felt huge shifts inside me since I started and am determined now to get to the end. If I'm experiencing lightness at this point of time when I'm only two-thirds there, imagine what I'll feel like when I finish this job and hold my arms out to embrace and receive the good things that are coming into my life – the publication of Elf~Fin being one of them.