I Shot the Devil, by Ruth McIver

7 September 2021
I Shot the Devil, by Ruth McIver, book cover

You know what they say about returning to your past, don’t you? Most people think it’s a bad idea. But for Erin Sloane, a crime reporter, the opportunity to write an investigative article about murders committed twenty-years ago, might be the career break she’s looking for. There’s a few problems though.

Erin knew of the two victims, while her father was one of the police officers who originally investigated the crime. Stories of devil worship and satanic killings were rife in the aftermath of the murders, and the case was eventually closed after police laid charges. But was that really the end of the matter?

It seems though Erin doesn’t quite realise how much she’s bitten off, in taking on the story. Dark secrets from the past, including many of hers, stand to be dragged into the light. Such is the premise of I Shot the Devil (published by Hachette Australia, September 2021), by Melbourne based author Ruth McIver.

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Stella Prize 2022

6 September 2021

Along with a swish new website, and identity, the Stella Prize – which recognises the work of women writers in Australia – is open for entries for the 2022 award. For the first time the Prize is accepting works of poetry, in addition to fiction and non-fiction titles. The longlist will be announced on 3 March 2022, the shortlist a few weeks later on 31 March, with the winner being named on 28 April 2022.

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On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous, by Ocean Vuong

6 September 2021
On Earth We're Briefly Gorgeous, by Ocean Vuong, book cover

On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous (published by Penguin Books Australia, 2019), is the debut novel of Vietnamese American writer and poet Ocean Vuong. The story is set around a long letter written by a twenty-something Vietnamese immigrant living in America, nicknamed Little Dog, to his mother, Rose, who is illiterate.

Little Dog’s letter traces his family’s history, prior to his birth, and their relocation to America. He recounts his experiences of being bullied at school, and goes on reveal things his mother did not previously know about him. It is not always a life lived happily though, and domestic violence, racism, and homophobia, are among recurring themes.

Based in part on Vuong’s own life, On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous was named as one of the top ten novels of 2019 by the Washington Post, and was also a finalist in the 2020 PEN/Faulkner Award. The novel is also set to be adapted for the screen, with American filmmaker Bing Liu directing.

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Julia Ciccarone wins Archibald’s people’s choice Award

4 September 2021

Here’s some more oblong media for you. Melbourne based Australian artist Julia Ciccarone has won the people’s choice award in the 2021 Archibald Prize, with her self-portrait, “The Sea Within”.

The Archibald Prize is an annual award celebrating Australian portraiture. Peter Wegner won the main prize with “Portrait of Guy Warren at 100”, while Kathrin Longhurst took out the packing room prize, with her work of musician Kate Ceberano.

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Macadam Stories

4 September 2021

Macadam Stories, a 2015 film by French filmmaker Samuel Benchetrit, tells the story of four people living in a dilapidated apartment block on the verge on an industrial wasteland, each of whom are seeking connection, whether they know it or not.

Sternkowitz (Gustave Kervern) finds himself confined to a wheelchair after some exercise misadventure. He strikes up a friendship with a nurse (Valeria Bruni-Tedeschi) who works nights at the local hospital, after he goes in search of food late one evening.

Charly (Jules Benchetrit), a lonely teenager, befriends Jeanne (Isabelle Huppert), a despairing actor, living across the hall, who’s struggling to find a new role.

Madame Hamida (Tassadit Mandi), meanwhile finds herself hosting John McKenzie (Michael Pitt), an American astronaut who’s capsule inadvertently landed on the roof of the apartment block.

While viruses, lockdowns, and self-isolation, are not a part of this story, all the characters here are cut-off in some way from the outside world. Macadam Stories is a hopeful, warming, film for our times.

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Why don’t booksellers suggest more women authors to men?

3 September 2021

Jane Sullivan writing for the Sydney Morning Heralds, asks why book publishers and sellers seem to predominately promote titles written by men to men. Why not the work of more women?

You might argue that booksellers and publishers are only reflecting what the research consistently tells us: while women are prepared to read books by both men and women, far fewer men are prepared to read books by women. Margaret Atwood, for example, is one of the world’s bestselling writers, but only 19 per cent of her readers are men.

If you’re looking for a few suggestions though, I can recommend The Lying Life of Adults, by Elena Ferrante, The Weekend, by Charlotte Wood, How Much of These Hills is Gold, by C Pam Zhang, Picnic at Mount Disappointment, by Melissa Bruce, and The Paper House, by Anna Spargo-Ryan.

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Robbie Arnott wins 2021 Age Book of the Year

3 September 2021

Tasmanian writer Robbie Arnott has won the re-booted Age Book of the Year with his 2020 novel The Rain Herron. Congratulations.

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Deirdre Sullivan Beeman, surrealist figurative artist

30 March 2017

Deirdre Sullivan-Beeman is a surrealist figurative artist, based in Los Angeles. This work is titled Orphic Egg Girl, a wood panel painted with oil and egg tempera.

Tempera is a painting medium, often consisting of, yes, egg yoke. As a painting medium, egg tempera is long lasting, very long lasting. Artworks painted with egg tempera in the first century survive to this day. You learn something new every day. And who knows, people may still looking upon Orphic Egg Girl two thousand years from now.

Originally published Thursday 30 March 2017.

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Lena Macka Lyon France based illustrator and tattoo designer

21 March 2017

Lena Macka is an illustrator and designer of minimal tattoos, who is based in the French city of Lyon. She seems to work mainly in black and white, and shades of grey, but look through her illustrations, and you will see some colour works.

Originally published Tuesday 21 March 2017.

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I doubt that our lives are merely the sums of our possessions

12 December 2013

This piece I read on Kottke last week had me wondering about the way we… measure someone’s achievements, success, or net worth, upon their death. In October US comedian and author David Sedaris wrote about the suicide of his youngest sister, Tiffany, earlier this year. Judging from her will, Tiffany appeared to have become estranged, to some degree, from her family, but it was Sedaris’ reference to his late sister’s possessions, or lack thereof, that caught my eye:

Compared with most forty-nine-year-olds, or even most forty-nine-month-olds, Tiffany didn’t have much. She did leave a will, though. In it, she decreed that we, her family, could not have her body or attend her memorial service. “So put that in your pipe and smoke it,” our mother would have said. A few days after getting the news, my sister Amy drove to Somerville with a friend and collected two boxes of things from Tiffany’s room: family photographs, many of which had been ripped into pieces, comment cards from a neighborhood grocery store, notebooks, receipts.

In response, Michael Knoblach, a friend of Tiffany’s, chastised Sedaris in an article he wrote for the Wicked Local Somerville. Among other points, Knoblach wished to make clear that Tiffany’s estate amounted to more than just two boxes of belongings:

I found David Sedaris’ article, “Now we are five,” in the Oct. 28 New Yorker to be obviously self-serving, often grossly inaccurate, almost completely unresearched and, at times, outright callous. Some of her family had been more than decent, loving and kind to her. “Two lousy boxes” is not Tiffany’s legacy. After her sister left with that meager lot, her house was still full of treasures. More than two vanloads of possession were pulled from there and other locations by friends.

Tiffany may have been troubled, but it is clear her life had value far beyond her possessions, regardless of their quantity.

Originally published Thursday 12 December 2013

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When galaxies collide, coming to the night sky in four billion years

4 June 2012

Several billion years hence our galaxy, the Milky Way, will collide with galactic neighbour Andromeda, and form a new entity some are calling Milkomeda. This NASA image depicts key steps in the process, and if nothing else will transform the night sky into a visual spectacle.

Not that anyone will probably be around to think about it anyway, but the night sky will have far less appeal once the merger is complete. The bright white haze (in the last frame) that will eventually take the place of the Milky Way (first frame) looks a little bland to me.

Via NASA Science.

Originally published Monday 4 June 2012.

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Fade to grey: as we get older we stop dreaming in technicolour

12 July 2011

We tend to stop dreaming in colour as we age, according to a study which surveyed a group of people in 1993, and then again in 2009.

In both surveys, approximately 80% of subjects younger than 30 years of age experienced color in their dreams, but the percentage decreased with age and fell to approximately 20% by the age of 60. The frequency of dreaming in color increased from 1993 to 2009 only for respondents in their 20s, 30s, and 40s. We speculate that color TV may play a role in the generational difference observed.

Originally published Tuesday 12 July 2011.

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A short history of the letter J the alphabets last member

14 April 2011

While sitting in the tenth place in the English alphabet, the letter J, which split off from the letter I, was actually the last addition to the writing system.

“J” is a bit of a late bloomer; after all, it was the last letter added to the alphabet. It is no coincidence that i and j stand side by side — they actually started out as the same character. The letter j began as a swash, a typographical embellishment for the already existing i. With the introduction of lowercase letters to the Roman numeric system, j was commonly used to denote the conclusion of a series of one’s – as in “xiij” for the number 13.

Originally published Thursday 14 April 2011.

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A certain type of screw head in time saves almost 29

15 December 2010
types of screw heads

The more common, well-known, Flat and Phillips screw heads are just two of some 28 varieties of screw drive type… you may therefore need to expand the range of screwdrivers you own in case you encounter any of the not so common sorts. Image via Apartment Therapy.

Originally published Wednesday 15 December 2010.

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Illustration by Eric Slager, the muppets go minimal

6 December 2010

Since I can’t get enough of minimal design and illustration… graphic designer Eric Slager’s Minimalist Muppets illustration series.

No Cookie Monster then?

(Thanks Jessica)

Originally published Monday 6 December 2010.

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The ghost stations of East Berlin by video train

6 December 2010

After the German cities of West Berlin and East Berlin were completely partitioned following the construction of the Berlin Wall in 1961, accessing one side of the city from the other — was at first — pretty much out of the question for all but a small number of people.

One group unaffected — to a degree — by the separation of the city were West Berlin train commuters who used a small number of underground services whose lines crossed into parts of East Berlin, as they travelled from one area of West Berlin to another.

While trains still ran through East Berlin, they did not stop at stations on the eastern side of the border. Many of these stations closed during the period the city was divided by the wall were dubbed “ghost stations”, and were usually heavily guarded by East German troops.

The YouTube video, above, contains footage filmed from the driver’s compartments of West Berlin trains as they passed through a couple of East Berlin’s ghost stations.

Update: unfortunately the original YouTube video has been taken down as a result of a copyright claim.

Originally published Monday 6 December 2010.

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An online revenue model for independent content producers

12 April 2010

Independent online publishers, content producers, and bloggers, who are looking for a way to earn an income, or make money online, could do worse than take a few cues from Daring Fireball, the website of John Gruber, who lives and breathes all things Apple.

Daring Fireball serves over two million page views, and generates an estimated revenue of US$15-20,000 each month, making Gruber’s methods well worth scrutinising. Let’s find out how we, as independent content producers, can do likewise.

Become a member of a private advertising network

Daring Fireball is part of The Deck, a private ad network created by Jim Coudal. Collectively, member websites have a very large audience made up mainly of creative, web and design professionals.

Members, who are admitted by invitation only, are required to display an image 120 by 90 pixels in size, and cannot carry any other forms of advertising on their website.

When you consider that 26 advertisers pay US$7900 per month, to advertise across 43 member sites though, the return, even allowing for The Deck’s cut, is going be very worthwhile.

Sell weekly sponsorship slots on your RSS feed

Gruber estimates that in excess of 150,000 readers (though the actual number is probably far higher) subscribe to Daring Fireball’s RSS feed, and this level of interest has allowed him to offer exclusive weekly sponsorship at US$3,500 a slot.

Do the maths there, that’s an income of US14,000 every four weeks, not bad at all for a one person operation.

A number of other high profile bloggers have attempted to monetise their RSS feeds, many of whom incidentally are members of “The Deck”, though very few have emulated Daring Fireball’s success.

A recent discussion with Jason Kottke on The Pipeline, Dan Benjamin’s online radio show, both conceded that Gruber is one the few people to make RSS feed sponsorship work.

Sell merchandise and website memberships

Daring Fireball offers readers the chance to become members for a cost of US$19 annually.

While membership isn’t worth much in itself though, aside from gaining access to a separate RSS feed which apparently includes a few extra items not published to the main feed, it is really a way for supporters of the site to make a contribution should they wish to.

T-shirts are also sold, they are usually made available once a year, and with a purchase comes an automatic one year membership.

The income from t-shirt sales and memberships, while handy, would be far less than that generated by “The Deck” membership and RSS sponsorships though.

Leverage your online profile to earn income offline

Someone with the high profile of John Gruber could probably do well on the speaking and appearance circuit, so there are definitely opportunities in that regard.

Don’t charge your readers a cent to access your website

Despite publishing one of the most highly regarded news and information resources of all things Apple and Mac, Daring Fireball does not charge the casual reader anything to visit the site.

Sure, the super-motivated can take out a US$19 annual membership, or buy a t-shirt, but there is no compulsion whatsoever to do so.

I want a piece of the action, what do I do next?

Who wouldn’t want to be an independent online content producer earning in the region of $20,000 a month? I’d happily settle for a quarter of that amount.

Without telling you how to go about it, I can say that there are two important things you need to do, and that both require inordinate amounts of time and effort.

One is always to work on boosting your profile (marketing and promotion), the other is producing quality, useful, content.

While nowhere near the traffic levels of Daring Fireball, it’s my thought that an independent online publisher could make a reasonable, self supporting, income from around 30,000 unique visitors a day.

At least it’s a nice round number to aim for.

Originally published Monday 12 April 2010.

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Colliding galaxies, an insight into Milkomeda’s formation?

12 July 2009

Eventually our galaxy will collide (or, if you prefer, merge) with the Andromeda galaxy forming a new body some are already calling Milkomeda.

But this photo of four galaxies colliding — by the way — at speeds of up to two million miles (or 3.2 million kilometres) an hour, may be indication of what to expect when Milkomeda does form.

Originally published Sunday 12 July 2009

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The chances of colliding with a star are a million to one

18 February 2009

My recent mentions of the eventual merger/collision of the Milky Way and Andromeda galaxies, giving rise to “Milkomeda”, has prompted some reader questions about the likelihood of a star from Andromeda colliding with the Sun, during the “merger”.

One thing to remember is the collision is billions of years away, should it even happen, but the chances of stars from either galaxy colliding are extremely remote given the astronomical distances between them:

As with all such collisions, it is unlikely that objects such as stars contained within each galaxy will actually collide, as galaxies are in fact very diffuse – the nearest star to the Sun is in fact almost thirty million solar diameters away from the Earth. (If the sun were scaled to the size of an American quarter, 24.26 mm (0.955 in), the next closest quarter/star would be 700 km (475 miles) away.)

Originally published Wednesday 18 February 2009.

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Lost in space, the final days of the Solar system

11 February 2009

We already know it is likely our galaxy, the Milky Way, will merge (a subtle way of saying collide actually) with our, for now, distant neighbour Andromeda, forming an entity called “Milkomeda”.

It is also possible however that our Solar system will see out its days completely alone somewhere in the cosmos, if it is somehow ejected from the Milky Way during the Andromeda “merger”…

The future is never certain, though, and alternative endings can be written. There is a slim chance that the whole solar system, sun and all, might be thrown out of Milkomeda intact. Out in the emptiness of intergalactic space, the planets would be safe from marauders. There they could continue to circle our darkening star until their energy is eventually sapped and they spiral inwards. One by one as they hit the black-dwarf sun, a few final flares will rage against the dying of the light.

Originally published Wednesday 11 February 2009.

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