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.

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 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 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.