Monday, March 30, 2009

Email Hoaxes [UPDATED 2/4/09]

I've blogged before about one of my pet hates – the dreaded mail and Internet scams and hoaxes. Well, a few minutes ago I received an email that's been doing the rounds for at least three years to my knowledge (because I've received it about a dozen times in one form or another) and which also popped up on FaceBook recently – it's the one about the murdering twosome Jon Venables and Robert Thompson, who killed toddler Jamie Bulger in England in 1993. According to the email they've just been released from gaol and are supposedly in the process of being shipped to Australia. You're supposed to sign a petition to keep them off our shores. 

Well I've just discovered a great website called Hoax-Slayer, which nullifies this scenario and many others. Some of the broad subject areas covered include Nigerian scams, celebrity email hoaxes, and virus information.

This website also gives you tips on how to recognise a hoax or scam, as well as how to deal with them. For example, it tells us that these email hoaxes cover a range of subject matter, including:
Supposedly free giveaways in exchange for forwarding emails
Bogus virus alerts
False appeals to help sick children
Pointless petitions that lead nowhere and accomplish nothing
Dire, and completely fictional, warnings about products, companies, government policies or coming events.
So ... don't send any of these tall tales our way. We don't have time for them and they deserve no energy. And by the way, Venables and Thompson were released in 2001 and God knows where they are!

UPDATE: Just today I received an email about a woman in Texas dying from a disease called leptospirosis, which was caused by rat urine on a soda can top. I ran it through Hoax-Slayer, and hey presto, up came an entire page on the subject and yes, you guessed it, it's a hoax that's been in circulation since 2002 with a Belgian variation as well. I LOVE YOU Hoax-Slayer!

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Supanova Melbourne and Brisbane

Jozef will be attending Supanova Melbourne this weekend in his capacity as the Australian Society of Authors (ASA) Comics/Graphic Novels Portfolio holder. I (Julie) will be attending the Brisbane event in the dual role, although Jozef may have an opportunity to accompany me as well. We'll be talking to lots of creators so if you're there and want to chat, we'll probably be in artists' alley most of the time.

Legal Self-Defence for Comics Creators

The Australian Society of Authors (ASA) and Supanova are sponsoring a professional development seminar – "Legal Self-Defence for Comics Creators: Understanding Comics Contracts", which will presented by ASA Director, Dr Jeremy Fisher.

Date: Saturday 4 April 2009
Venue: Supanova Seminar Room (downstairs), Exhibition Building, RNA Showgrounds, Gregory Terrace, Brisbane
Entry fee: There is no charge to attend the seminar. However, attendees must be exhibitors or hold a Saturday Day Pass ($20.00) or a Supafan Weekend Pass ($40). Tickets can be purchased at the door or through Ticketek.

Full information about the seminar will be posted on the News section of our website once this massive thunderbolt and lightning storm we're experiencing passes.

Black Mermaid™ Banner Ads

Lots of our readers have been asking for Black Mermaid™ banner ads recently and we're happy to comply. Here are five that Jozef just designed. We're also posting them all on the Links page of our website. Please feel free to use the artwork if you want to create back links to the Black Mermaid Productions™ website. We're actually curious to see which is your favourite – time for another poll anyone?

Black Mermaid™ Round-Up 2

Apologies for our slackness in posting over the last week. Jozef's been struck down by whooping cough and I've been galavanting up on the Gold Coast in Queensland for five days doing Internet training and having a touch of R & R in the form of breakfast at the Sheraton and a window shopping spree (the only thing I bought was a Boost juice) at Pacific Fair which is located at – wait for it! – Mermaid Waters. Then had an unexpected day trip to Canberra (our fair nation's capital city) where I travelled down with my friend the brilliant and hilarious Sue Hudson, an Aboriginal archaeologist to research some Aboriginal artifacts at the National Museum of Australia. I have not FaceBooked or Twittered for over a week now.

But getting back to Jozef who deserves at least three paragraphs of this blog post to compensate for his suffering – the whooping cough has completely laid him out for over a fortnight and it sounds horrendous. He describes his illness as a deep  cough that continues until he runs out of air. When his lungs try to suck in some oxygen they feel like deflated paperbags. His chest, intercostal and abdominal muscles seize up in pain and when the hack and the whoop in the cough finish, then his throat constricts and he can't open the airway. He then starts to panic because his nose is also blocked and the only air he can manage to gulp into his body via his mouth goes straight into his stomach. Then slowly he relaxes and gets to breathe again but usually it's very wheezy. He then releases one or two huge burps of air from his bloated belly.

This sequence of events which happened multiple times per day, wiped him out completely. He kept to his bed and slept a lot to escape the onslaught but the cough just woke him up. The other thing he did was lay supine on the sofa watching DVDs for the entire day, and deliberately didn't move from one position to another in case he brought on another paroxysm of coughing. He ended up watching the entire six seasons of Six Feet Under, which perhaps would not have been my television series of choice. Being ill puts you in a suggestible state and your better option is feel-good comedy – laughing hastens the healing process. As it was, Six Feet Under caused him to become a little paranoid and extremely cautious about what he was doing. When he watched an opening sequence where a woman living by herself choked to death on a morsel of food only to have her puffy decomposing  body found two weeks later, he began to wonder whether life would imitate art. (Note to Jozef – it's not going to happen – your family, friends and I are in daily telephone contact with you so it would have taken us 24-48 hours at the most to find your dead body if you had keeled over.) Black comedy, folks, in case you took me as being an unsympathetic example of humanity there for a minute.

But in all seriousness he did have one close call when he was standing in the shower and had a coughing fit. He couldn't get a breath and grabbed hold of the bar in the bathtub because he started to see stars and felt like he was going to faint. It would have been quite easy to crack his skull on the edge of the bathtub. He ended up sitting down until his breathing returned to some semblence on normal.

The good news is that by tomorrow Jozef will no longer be medically deemed to be infectious, which works out well because he will be circulating around Supanova Melbourne in his capacity as ASA Comics/Graphic Novels Portfolio Holder.

For obvious reasons, all work on Elf~Fin has stopped for this time period but Jozef did produce some gorgeous banner ads for us and for some of our readers who have requested them for their websites in order to create backlinks to our website or blog. We'll upload them for you in another of today's blogposts.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Mermaid Treasures 14

Some of you may have already spotted the Pre-Raphaelite painting of John William Waterhouse's A Mermaid in the background of my FaceBook and Black Mermaid Productions™ website pic. Well I have a good quality, expensively framed print hanging on the wall opposite my bed. Beside it are two other Waterhouses – the second one is Hylas and the Nymphs and the third one has no mermaids in it so I won't cover it in this "Mermaid Treasures" blog post. I want to cover that wall in paintings from that era so it looks like I'm in the middle of an art gallery. I never tire of looking them. I also have another smaller mermaid print rendered in a similar style but Jozef borrowed it about six months ago and I haven't seen it since. Hint! Hint! I want it back so I can frame it and mount it on the wall. When I do I'll show you all a pic and tell you who the artist is. In the meantime, you can buy prints of the above from the J W Waterhouse website.

Monday, March 16, 2009

Black Mermaid™ Round-Up 1

Jozef and I've been blogging erratically over the last couple of weeks and we haven't been altogether present on FaceBook or Twitter either. Jozef's been coughing and spluttering with some sort of bacterial infection that he's just attacked with an almighty big dose of antibiotics so he's running a bit behind on the Elf~Fin Hyfus with dolphins and sharks cover. We've previously discussed getting a webcam onto his drawing desk for some live streaming but our schedules are so heavy and we're so tired that the thought of actually going out to source the equipment and figuring out how it all works is just too overwhelming for us at the moment. We've come up with another option instead – Jozef will be taking digital pics of his painting in progress and we'll be uploading those pics to the blog, to our Elf~Fin FaceBook page and to our website. Hope that's an acceptable alternative for you all. 

Jozef's also recently finished a commission for the Sydney Gay & Lesbian Mardi Gras – you can check out his sexy Nations United Ball on his Deviant Art page. He's also painting a promotional avant-garde postcard pic featuring a turtle, a typewriter and flying mermaids for the Australian Society of Authors (ASA). 

Speaking of the ASA, we're now confirmed admin officers on the ASA FaceBook page, and have started the Comics/Graphic Novels Portfolio discussion/thread. There'll be lots of new stuff going up there next week like information on the "Legal Self Defence for Comics Creators: Understanding Comics Contracts" seminar sessions the ASA will be running at the Brisbane, Sydney and Perth Supanova. We're sorry that Melbourne misses out this year but the Supanova dates coincide with the ASA's AGM so all its speakers will be tied up in Sydney. We're also going to be releasing a survey soon to get a profile of Aussie comics creators, which will also help us set the Freelance Rates Sheet. You can join the FB group even if you're not a member of the ASA or indeed come from overseas. What is relevant is your dedication to comics and the preservation of creator rights.

I'm flying off to the Gold Coast this weekend to do some training about an Internet passive income marketing scheme that will go unnamed because I've decided not to implement it simply because it is too time-consuming for me. It's supposed to be something you can do part-time but not if you're like me who is juggling a heavy load – looking after farms and feral cats and tax returns for both BMP and myself and a TO DO List that's several pages (or at least multiple long Mac stickies) long. However, there are some gold nuggets of information about Internet marketing that I'm keen to learn, and the seminar (as well as the flight) is free for me. I'll be in Brisbane two weeks later for Supanova as well – courtesy of the ASA.

I've recently been working on culling activities that don't support us further along the path of completing our comics work. I've been chatting about the advantages and disadvantages of multi-tasking to Colleen Doran – we both seem to be experiencing the same phenomenon – we're losing momentum because we're splitting our focus. She sent me a great quote from a book she's reading by psychologist Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi who writes that "Interruptions, multi-tasking and the anxiety that comes from trying to juggle multiple commitments – these are in danger of eroding the focused concentration that is vital for your creativity." I couldn't agree more. I'm going to have to ask her what the title of the book is.

We're thinking of dumping Twitter for these reasons alone but then I read a funny or mushy piece and I get this warm gooey feeling inside and I just melt and then I think what's the harm ... but I'll be stoic and attempt to implement the 50 minute work hour schedule with 10 minutes on the end to email, FB and Tweet. If this plan works then I'll keep Twitter intact; if it doesn't then I'll cancel. Jozef hasn't even started twittering yet despite having set up his account several weeks ago – I wonder what he'll make of it? I have my own and I also look after the Black Mermaid one. 

I caught up with my friend Sherif the other day after following him to his place on the beautiful but treacherous Galston Road through the outskirts of Sydney  – its about 15km long and it takes you through a gorge surrounded by rain forest but is defined by its horrible hair-pin curves for a greater part of the way. I drove 5 to 10km/ph in some spots. I must say I'm proud of the admirable driving job I did and quite grateful and happy that my 17 year old Ford Laser responded so well to my driving commands. The reason I'm telling you this is because Sherif and I had the same discussion on multi-tasking – he's a real estate entrepreneur and particularly street smart. When he focused on what was important to him, things happened! 

He took me to dinner on Friday at Manly and we had a close encounter with celebrity – while eating excellent hamburgers (with beetroot and pineapple which is the Aussie variation on the classic American burger!) and a pile of deliciously crunchy chips, who should walk nearby but the two trainers –Shannon and Michelle – from the Australian Biggest Loser. I've spoken to many women about this show and they've all invariably said the same thing – they love watching it but they'll do so with chocolate or an ice cream in their hand. 

Well that was my little ramble ... back to serious stuff in the next couple of day. Got to love you and leave you now.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Watchmen Watched

Mainstream media has really picked up on the Watchmen phenomenon and amongst all the movie hype has given Alan Moore's and Dave Gibbons' graphic novel its place in the limelight and in history. Hope they make a veritable fortune in royalties! Time magazine's Richard Corliss and Lev Grossman devoted three entire pages to it. Check out the Time photo gallery here – all pics (including the one on this blog post) by Clay Enos. As far as I'm concerned there's no finer reason for seeing the film than hunky Jeffrey Dean Morgan who plays the Comedian. 

At the other end of the spectrum you have ultra-conservative ranters and ravers who just don't get it. Read Colleen Doran's dissection of an idiotic blog post in her piece "Conservative Blogger has Meltdown Over Watchmen" and then check out the original source material but focus on the commentary as fans rally around the Moore-meister, take the blog writer to task and expose her as a buffoon.

Monday, March 9, 2009

Colleen Doran Going Digital

Just read a great interview between wonderful US comic book artist and writer Colleen Doran who's been working fulltime in the industry for over 20 years and Newsarama contributor Michael C Lorah where Colleen talks about her decision to put her entire A Distant Soil series catalogue online. She's posting one page a day of this sexy action-packed space opera onto her blog and winning over a new audience in the process. Read her thoughts about revising past creative work, her take on mainstream publishing vs self and independent publishing, and her thoughts on the economics in the industry. And for goodness sake, become dedicated followers of her must read blog  – we are! Colleen's exceedingly generous about sharing her insights and she champions comics creators from all walks of life, provided they take their craft seriously. Check out the Newsarama interview here. We'll leave you with this quote from the interview: 
There are so many creators who simply don't know how to take care of themselves. Proactive, talented people get my attention and my support. I can't help people who are perpetual victims, who continually sign bad agreements, who simply won't face the fact that their behaviour or their work is the problem, or they engage in self sabotage with constant drama. If I decide you are one of those, you're gone. If I decide you have chops, I will go to the mat for you.

Friday, March 6, 2009

The Case For and Against Twittering [UPDATED 11/03/09]

A few weeks ago we signed up for Twitter – individually, as well as for Black Mermaid Productions™. We've had mixed feelings about it, as we're both dedicated FaceBook users and were unsure about the technology and its usefulness. However, in marketing and social networking circles Twitter is considered the big "In" thing and there are some people who are naturals – adepts in fact – at using it. In the comics community we recommend you follow Ben Templesmith, Heidi MacDonald and Dwight L MacPherson whose respective tweets are quite engaging, entertaining, eccentric at times, and exceptionally personable and open. 

If you're not sure whether Twitter's a thing for you (and we must add that these mini "haiku" like 140 character tweets are sort of like writing a piece of comic character dialogue or a thought balloon except that the character is you) then read no further than the following articles: Why You Should Be on Twitter and Twitter in Plain English

The case against Twitter is highlighted in the mainstream press in Time magazine would you believe. Check out Lev Grossman's article "Desperately Trying to Quit Twitter".

No Mermaids, No Comics, No BMP

Why did we post this? It's just too adorable not to.

Thursday, March 5, 2009

50 YouTube Video Tips, Sifting Out the Delusional, and the Case for Children's Print Storybooks

We're planning to bring out some video clips in the near future and, as we've just discovered from Chris Pirillo's  FABULOUS article,"50 YouTube (and Online Video) Tips and Tricks":
YouTube is now 25% of the Internet's search traffic, and if you're not doing something on youTube, you're ... crazy. 
Also here's a great article by Bon Alimagno, Harris Comics Director-Publishing & Editorial, on the Newsarama blog that will help artists who want to pitch their portfolios to publishers. "Ignition: Portfolio 101" advises us to draw the most exciting millisecond, get the conversations and talking heads scenes right, that less is more, and to kill your idol. 

And the case for the continuance of print children's fiction is made in a Science Daily article "Storybooks on Paper Better for Children Than Reading Fiction on Computer Screen, According to Expert".
Swedish researchers believe we understand more and better when reading on paper than when we read the same text on a screen. We avoid navigating and the small things we don't think about, but which subconsciously takes attention away from the reading. Also texts on a screen are often not adapted to the screen format. The most important difference is when the text becomes digital. Then it loses its physical dimension, which is special to the book, and the reader loses his feeling of totality.
We're all for digital content but there is nothing finer than holding and flicking the pages of a physical book to enhance our reading experience.

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Human Mermaid Tail

We clipped an article called "Tail of a New Zealand Mermaid" from The Sun Herald (16 September 2007) two years ago, which went straight into the Black Mermaid scrapbook. The articled talked about a woman named Nadya Vessey – a double amputee – who had approached special effects company Weta Workshop of Lord of the Rings and King Kong fame about the possibility of making her a prosthetic mermaid's tail. Well, Weta has now delivered. In last weekend's edition (1 March 2009), The Sun Herald ran a followup story to say the tail has been completed.
The prosthetic tail allows Ms Vessey to propel herself through the water with an undulating movement. She has delighted in putting it through its paces in swimming pools as well as in Auckland Harbour.
To read more, check out "A Tail Like No Other: The Making of a Mermaid". The photo is by David White/Snapper Media.