Category Archives: Economics

I can hardly contain myself!

Well, I couldn’t help it, you know I love puns. I also like recycling and repurposing, and some time ago when I was researching beach huts and garden sheds, I also noticed a proliferation of container houses. It’s an intriguing idea alright. Perhaps some day…

Pinterest, my favourite go-to for visuals (Google for text based articles, Pinteresr for images), generously dished out these gems. Enjoy!

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Art Licensing Caveats – from Joan Beiriger’s Blog

Since some of my Art is licensed with a number of Art Licensing Agents, I subscribe to Joan Beiriger’s blog, to keep up to date with the industry and also to chase up any leads Joan may introduce.

Joan has just written an editorial about what to watch out for when dealing with Art Licensing Agencies. If you are an Artist looking to get your Art licensed, or even if you are already a licensed artist, the following can still be useful information to bear in mind. I have taken the liberty of simply reposting Joan’s entire article here verbatim, for your ease of reading, in case you’re not subscribed to her blog. Joan is an expert on the subject and I’m most certainly not, so the purpose of this post is to simply disseminate Joan’s message to those who may not already know. (Note: Hyperlinks to books and resources mentioned below are clickable on Joan’s blog, but not on this page).

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From Joan Beiriger’s blog:


Art Licensing Editorial: The Truth About Art Licensing Agencies

WARNING! This is not an upbeat article and is depressing because the art licensing industry is like other industries where people sometimes take advantage of others. The purpose of this article is to warn artists that they need to make sure that they are signing a fair contract or at least know the repercussions in signing an unfair one when they agree to have an art licensing agency represent them.

The truth about art licensing agencies is that there are MANY agencies that are honest, professional, have a fair artist/agency agreement (contract)* and work hard to represent their artists. BUT, there are SOME that are unethical, and/or are not professional in dealing with their artists, and/or have unfair contracts, and/or have poor business practices. Sounds alarming, huh? Well, it is! And, that is why an artist needs to do her/his homework before signing with an art licensing agency. Read the following so that you do not make a bad decision and sign a contract that negatively impacts your income and even worse allows an agency to have control of all your art so that you lose your rights to it.

In the fifteen or so years that I have been in the art licensing industry, I have heard many complaints and some horror stories from artists about the agencies that represent them. Unfortunately, those artists with the horror stores were so pleased that an agency wanted to represent them that they did not read the contract closely enough, understand all the terms, or realize that some terms that should be in the contract were missing. The artist’s big mistake was not to acquire information about the agency’s reputation and business practices by asking other artists and not having an attorney that is an expert on art licensing contracts look the contract over before the artist signed it.

* The artist/agency agreement is a contract and is referred to as a contract or artist/agency contract in this article.

Common Artist Complaints about Agents
Most of the complaints I’ve heard about agencies are not as drastic as unethical agencies and unfair clauses in the artist/agency contract but about the lack of communication between the agent and artist, poor business practices, not getting enough or any licensing contracts with manufacturers, and not receiving enough money from the contracts. Some of these complaints were because the artist had unrealistic expectations such as earning a lot of money from each licensee contract. Read below for more information about agency complaints.

• Lack of communication
Lack of communication and not being on the “same wavelength” between persons is a common human foible. It often results in frustration and may be intolerable when working together. Some artists want to be in constant communication with their agent and feel adrift and slighted if the agent does not immediately answer their questions or respond when new art is sent. Other artists realize that agents are busy and will respond as soon as they have time and are not upset when they do not get a quick response. Although, it does not go over very well if the agent does not respond at all. No one like their emails or art to “drop into a black hole” and not know if the agent received it. Note: Some artists find that if they phone the agent they will get a faster response than if they email her/him. Agents may not have the time in their busy day to sit down and write an email but find the time to chat if their artists phone them.

Some artists expect agents to provide art direction, to send them the latest in art trends, and give feedback from the licensee when art is submitted. Or, there are personality clashes where communication between the artist and agent does not work because they are not on the same wavelength. Not all agencies provide art direction and some depends on the artist to keep up with trends. That is why it is important for the artist to talk with the agent before signing with the agency to see if there are any communication problems, if the agency provide the services the artist expects, and how the agent envisions the artists work will be used on products.

Artist Jill Meyer describes the process she went through in selecting an agency in her very informative article “Finding a New Agent.” An important part of Jill’s process in selecting an agency was talking and asking lots of questions of the agent before considering hiring the agency to represent her. Also important was talking to other artists about the agency and having an attorney familiar with art licensing agree that the artist/agent contract was fair.

• Poor Business Practices
SOME agencies do not have the best business practices. They are negligent in submitting art, do not make adequate follow-ups, do not keep track of art already submitted or licensed to manufacturers, and do not respond to emails from licensees or send signed contracts back to them in a timely manner. Any of these will damage the creditability of the agency. The following are some complaints I have heard from other artists and licensees.

1. Poor method in tracking art
– Some agencies do not keep track of the art they submit to licensees and thus submit the same art time and time again. Licensees are looking for new art; not art that they already have seen.

– Some agencies book keeping abilities are not very good and they do not keep track of the art that have already been licensed. Thus, they are at risk in licensing the same art for the same product to different licensees and breaching the terms of the contract granted to the first licensee.

2. Poor response to queries and return of contracts
Some agencies do not reply to licensee emails or return signed contracts in a timely manner. Art directors appreciate quick responses and it shows that the agent is professional which helps in promoting future business. Also, a slow reply to a query can mean missed opportunities to license and promote art.

3. Poor follow-up
– Some agencies do not follow-up frequently when licensees show interest in art and thus they may lose the opportunity to license it.

– Also, some are poor in following up when payment of licensing fees are late or contracts do not arrive when expected.

4. Poor method in submitting art
Some agencies submit their artist’s work to their entire client list in what I call a “shot gun method” in the hopes the licensee will be interested in some of them. Instead they should be submitting only the appropriate art for each manufacturer. Licensees do not appreciate getting a ton of art that is not suitable to be put on their products and will eventually not open emails from agencies that submit art that way.

• Not enough deals or pay enough
Artists may not get licensing contracts because the agency does not have a list of licensees that is suitable for the artists work. Of course, the agency should never have signed the artist for representation if they did not think they could license her/his work. Or, it could be due to the impact on the licensing industry with the change in consumer spending and also the increase in competition of artists vying for licensing deals. The change in consumer spending has drastically changed the way retailers sell products. Retailers now order lesser products from manufacturers and the shelf life is shorter. Thus, licensing revenue per image is less than it was before the recession struck in 2008. Consequently it is not the fault of the agency to now get fewer and not as lucrative licensing deals for their artists.

Artists and art licensing agencies are struggling to get contracts and bring in revenue. In the article “You Are Not Going to Make It in Art Licensing” art licensing agent Jim Marcotte of Two Town Studios wrote, “Art licensing today is an industry in search of a workable model. The scramble is on – agents and artists who used to make their money by licensing art are now finding ways to collect from (mostly newbie) artists in ways that run the gamut from coaching to holding contests. Some agencies are accumulating artists, hoping that more people earning less money can make up for the reduced sku counts and short market runs. Branding agencies are taking on artists and art agencies are promoting brands, and both are consulting for manufacturers who are buying art worldwide and licensing art only when they have to. It’s a wild time in the biz.” Jim’s article is a very “tough pill to swallow” but his aim is not to discourage artists so they quit trying to license their art but to energize them by trying new ways to license it. To get Jim’s perceptive on licensing art in today’s market, read his article.

Note: I recommend that you read Belgium surface designer Ine Beerten’s article “The Big Contest Dilemma” if you are interested in entering a design contest. Ine wrote a really thought-provoking article about contests. She ended her post with “So what do I hope you take away from this post? I hope you think careful when you enter a contest next time, think whether it’s just an easy way for the company to get free artwork and cheap marketing and whether the prizes are truly fair, or if you can really gain something that is actually worth something to you. By entering these bad contests you only help them devaluating your own and other artists’ work!”

Artist/ Agent Contracts
In “16 Art Licensing Agent Agreement Essentials” by licensing consultant J’net Smith, she states that “It’s easy to get excited about the prospect of finally signing with an agent and forget to make sure that the contract is not only fair to both of you, but includes everything you need. . . Don’t accept the first contract you are given without understanding all the obligations and ramifications of each clause. It may be your first and the most important contract you will ever sign.”

Artists may interpret the terminology and meaning of legal terms or poorly written clauses in a contract incorrectly. And, if clauses that should be in the contract are missing such as the date and terms specifying termination, the artist may be obligated that the agency continues to represent her/him forever. That is why it is recommended that an attorney experienced in art licensed legislation look over the contract before the artist signs it. It is less expensive to pay an attorney to make sure the contract is fair to the artist than to pay him/her to try to free the artist from a bad contract even if it is possible.

• Unethical business practices and contract terms
What I deem unethical is when an agency does not pay monies due to artists for licensing their art or taking advantage of artists by having clauses in their artist/agency contract that takes control of the artists work and denies the artist usage of their own work.

Several years ago two artists told me that their agencies were not paying them revenue for their art being licensed. Their agents insisted that the art had not been licensed and yet the artists saw their art on products in stores. In one case, the artist was able to get monies owed by hiring an attorney. In the other case, the artist found out that her copyright was infringed upon and the art was illegally used. It is important that artists be constantly looking for their art on products in stores and on the Internet. And, getting their friends to help. That may be the only way that an artist finds out that their copyright has been infringed upon.

In the article “Hot Words to look out for in contracts” art licensing agent Lance Klass of Porterfield’s Fine Art Licensing discusses the word “assign” and the consequence when used in any art/agency or licensee contract. He wrote “. . . when you see the hot word “assignment”, make certain that you’re not assigning the copyright or all reproduction rights to your artwork as a part of the agreement. If you do, it’s lost to you forever. Other people will control the reproduction rights to your art, and you’ll actually have to ask their permission to reproduce the art that you created.”

Lance relates a couple of horror stories that artists endured by signing bad contracts in his article “How to Avoid the Most Common Mistakes in Licensing Your Art”. In one example, Lance said “. . . This agency, which just happened to be owned and operated by the same people who owned and operated the publishing company, gave itself the exclusive right to publish any or all of the artist’s work for the next five years and to sublicense his art to anyone they wished, whenever they wished”. He stated, “If there’s any one piece of advice I could give an artist about to enter a legal agreement, it is to read every single line in the contract and make sure that you totally understand it. I know that isn’t easy for most people, but don’t get in the water if you don’t want to get wet. If you find that there are sections or sentences that aren’t written clearly, don’t say what you want, take away a bit more of your rights than you feel you want to give, or if any of it seems confusing or contradictory, have the company rewrite it in plain English. . . . But don’t let this stop you from promoting your art for license. Most companies are quite reputable and many contracts are completely understandable by the average human. Just make sure you read every word, and know what it means”.

• Unfair contract terms and business practices
Not all agencies have unfair terms in their art/agency contracts but some do. Terms that seem unfair to artists are usually in the contract because of the way the agent decides to operate the agency. For instance, a clause in the contract may state that the agent will make all decisions in licensing the art. That means that the artist has no say-so in what company manufacturers her/his art, will not have the opportunity to approve or not approve the licensee contract or even see it, and cannot approve the amount of royalties or flat licensing fee that will be paid for the use of the art. That is unfair to the artist. But, the artist may trust the agent to do a good job and is willing to sign the contract because she/he wishes to be represented by the agency. What is NOT acceptable is if the artist is blindsided and not aware that the terminology in the clause gives the agency that right. And, that is the reason why an art licensing attorney should be hired to point out unfair terms in the contract before it is signed. Note: Yes, there are agencies that have that clause in their contract.

Below are more contract terms and business practices (may not be in the contract) that may be construed as unfair to artists.

1. Artists do not get to see licensee contracts
A variation on the above unfair term is that an artist does not see the licensee contract but gets to approve or not approve the contract. The agent sends a form to the artist with the basic terms of the deal so that the artist can sign it for approval. Just like the above term, the artist must trust the agent that she/he makes sure that the clauses in the licensee contract is fair.

2. Agencies continues to receive commission after termination
Most agree that the termination clause is the most important clause in the artist/agency contract. In his article “The Artist – Agent Relationship” art licensing attorney Joshua Kaufman states, “The greatest issue of tension and dispute between artists and their agents surround post-termination issues. . . . The issue of how long an agent is entitled to keep receiving its commission after the contracts terminates, is one that is strongly negotiated. Agents of course, wish to be compensated for not only the full term of their contract but for the term of the licensing agreement and of all extensions and renewals. The artist wants to limit the payment to the agent after their contract expires. Agents believe that they secured the contract, they work long and hard, had to wait for their money and should be entitled to their receipts throughout the term of the contract. ” Note: Most contracts do give the agency the right to continue receiving commissions from the contracts they obtained for the artist until the contract expires and no renewals are requested by the licensee.

3. Agencies continues to represent the artist after termination
Some agencies have clauses in their contract that allows them to continue representing the artist after the termination of the contract. The representation is for an additional several years after termination and is limited to those licensees that the agency obtained contracts for the artist’s work during the term of the contract. There are questions on the legality of this clause according to attorney Joshua Kaufman in his article “The Artist – Agent Relationship”. He states “One finds in many agreements prohibitions against dealings by an artist, post termination, with the agent’s clients. First of all there is a question (which depends on which state law applies) whether those clauses are enforceable and to what extent. . . If the agent’s client list is very large, and there is a blanket restriction against dealing with the agent’s clients, and this precluded the artist from doing business or greatly hampered their ability, many states will disallow the restriction.”

4. Do not allow any interaction between the artist and licensee
There may not be a clause in the artist/agency contract but some agencies do not allow their artists to interact with licensee art directors. All licensee requests for high-resolution art are sent to the agent who forwards it to the art director. And, all requests for editing of the art go through the agent. This is awkward and frustrating to the artist. It is much easier and faster for the artist to make art changes if she/he works directly with the art director.

5. Artists do not get to approve samples
Not all licensing contracts allow the approval of art on the products before they are manufactured. But if it is in the licensee contract, the agent normally approves the samples and not the artist. That restriction may not be in the artist/agency contract but because of licensee time restrictions it is not usually possible for the agent to ship the sample to the artist for approval.

6. Artists are required to pay part of booth and marketing expenses of the agency
Many agencies do not require artists to pay any of the agency expenses. But, if they do required their artists to help with trade show and other agency expenses it should be clearly spelled out in the artist/agent contract according to art licensing consultant J’net Smith in “16 Art Licensing Agent Agreement Essentials”.

Summary
There are many good art licensing agencies. But, do not get blindsided and sign a bad contract. Do your homework and ask agents for recommendations of artists in their agency to talk to and/or look at agency websites for the artists the agencies represent. Select a few artists and find out their contact information from their own website, Facebook or LinkedIn. Either phone or email them to ask questions about the agency. Make sure that you fully understand all the terms in the artist/agency contract. And better yet, hire an attorney that knows the ins-and-outs of art licensing to look over the contract and point out any unfair clauses before you sign it.

For a list of agencies, read “List of Over 50 U.S. Art Licensing Agencies”. But, you need to research the agencies yourself because I am not familiar with all of them or their artist/agency agreements (contracts).

Resources:
The above post mentions quotes from the following articles. I recommend that you read these articles because they contain a lot of important information you should be aware of.

• “Finding a New Agent” by licensed artist Jill Meyer

• “You Are Not Going to Make It in Art Licensing” by art licensing agent Jim Marcotte of Two Town Studios

• “The Big Contest Dilemma” by Belgium surface designer Ine Beerten

• “16 Art Licensing Agent Agreement Essentials” by art licensing consultant J’net Smith

• “Hot Words to look out for in contracts” by art licensing agent Lance Klass of Porterfield’s Fine Art Licensing

• “How to Avoid Mistakes in Licensing Your Art” by art licensing agent Lance Klass of Porterfield’s Fine Art Licensing

• “The Artist – Agent Relationship” by attorney Joshua J. Kaufman

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The Price of Affluenza

My local thrift stores often have book gems that I snap up immediately. One such book was Eckhart Tolle’s “A New Earth”, highly recommended reading.

I love my serendipitous trips to these thrift stores. I like to think of it as the Universe providing knowledge and information for me in a timely manner.

Another book surfaced last week, “Affluenza” by Clive Hamilton and Richard Denniss. I’ve only just begun to delve into this book, and already something has jumped out at me.

Here is an excerpt from the book:

“Nineteenth century economists predicted that the abundance made possible by technological advance and the modern organisation of work would result in the emergence of “post-materialist” humans – people existing on a higher plane, where their cultural, intellectual and spiritual powers are refined. In such a world the importance of economic considerations would naturally diminish. The 1960s and 1970s saw a flood of literature predicting a future in which technological progress would allow for us to work only a few hours a week and our main problem would be how best to enjoy our leisure. Futurists saw a future transformed by the fruits of sustaimed growth – a society in which humankind, freed of the chore of making a living, would devote itself to activities that are truly fulfilling. But, instead of witnessing the end of economics, we live in a time when economics and its concerns are more dominant than ever before. Instead of our growing wealth freeing us of our materialist preoccupations, it seems to have had the opposite effect. People in affluent countries are now even more obsessed with money and material acquisition, and the richer they are the more this seems to be the case”.

This book was written in 2005, even before the iPhone was a twinkle in Steve Jobs’ eye. And yet how relevant and accurate the statement above is today.

It seems to be the case of “The more we have, the more we want”. Today’s generation seems unable to appreciate what they already have, they always want the latest, the most expensive, the best. And they generally put themselves out to get it at all cost. Then they sit back and enjoy their latest toy…Until the next one comes along less than a year later. Then it’s a mad scramble all over again, to get THE latest toy.

When will it stop? In case the above was too lengthy to visualise, here is a simple analogy:

A city starts out as a village, which becomes a town, that grows and grows as it attracts more and more industry and with it, people. Its lanes soon turn into roads. Roads turn into highways. As more and more people drive cars, these highways get congested. So the city council decree that they need to widen the highways, from 4 lanes to 8. They say that will ease the congestion and make driving more pleasant and convenient. And so 4 lane highways become 8 lane superhighways. But what do you think happens next? Yes, now there are even More cars on the road, more people buying cars and driving, and the congestion builds up again.

“Build it, and they will come”…that saying has never been truer when reflected on today’s society. Perhaps the economists of the 19th century were correct in theory, apart for one oversight: that humans are not mature enough to make that ideal scenario a reality. We are still very much like children, squealing with delight at the latest shiny gadget and toy, we simply Have to have it, and because we’ve indulged, we’ve fed the industry that creates such shiny gadgets and toys, so they in turn create more and more for us. Then, when we find our money depleted, we shrug and simply find ways to get more money. To buy more stuff. And so it goes on.

When will we grow up? “Poor” countries don’t suffer as much from Affluenza as “Developed” countries. They literally can’t afford to be. They’re more concerned with putting food on the table for their families, staving off starvation, staying alive when wars break out. Affluenza is a disease of the haves, the wannabe-haves and the desperate have-nots.

Perhaps it’s time to step off the treadmill.
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They Have Eyes But Do Not See

…or rather, they choose to see only what is in front of them. I’m talking about Materialism in this sorry old World of ours.

Nevermind the Apple vs Samsung or iOS vs Android debate. Today I went into the city to buy some of my favourite coffee. (Cubania by Nespresso, limited edition while stocks last only). Yes, I do like my coffee, but it’s my only worldly vice, apart from wanting to buy every oracle/tarot/lenormand card deck there is ahem!!

So up to Perth CBD on the train I go. I’m walking along Hay Street towards Elizabeth’s Secondhand Bookshop (where they have a nice little New Age/Spiritual section), and I notice some men in high-visibility vests conducting crowd-control. For yeah, there was indeed a crowd on the street. Ahhh yes, the penny dropped. Today was the day Australians got to see and/or buy the new iPhone 6 and 6 Plus. Hurray for them!

imageThe front of the queue on the road. These are people who are buying the new iPhone.

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imageInside the Apple Store. A multitude of people gawking at the new iPhone models. But, if you decided you just Have to get one today, haha Mister, join the queue, literally!

imageThis is the iPhone 6 actually, not 6 Plus. Only a man could call something 5.5 inches a “6 Plus”!

imageSuckers Customers buying the iPhone 6.

imageThe iPhone 6 Plus. Well done, Apple for finally catching up with the competition!

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imageSome people had actually camped outside overnight. So sad. I was also embarrassed to see that 95% of the desperados queuing up were Orientals. It looked like the entire Asian population of Western Australia had descended on the Apple Store today.

Materialism gone mad. On the one hand, we have all these people wanting the latest gadget in their hands. They don’t know why, it’s not something necessary to their lives, they certainly don’t Need it. But they Want it. Because they believe that it will bring them happiness. Hello? Things can Never bring you happiness. $1000 for a badic iPhone 6? That can feed a family of 4 for an entire month!

On the other hand, and in the next street, actually, I befriended Shane, a homeless man, and bought him a chicken and mushroom flaky pastry, orange juice and a bottle of water. I had a pastry and a cappuccino. We sat on the bench and talked. We talked about Life, what was important and what wasn’t. We spoke about Shane’s personal circumstances. I encouraged him to get himself together once the City Council had found him a home (he’s 4th on the waiting list). I showed him photos of the queue outside the Apple Store, and we laughed ourselves silly at the thought of psychologists labelling Shane crazy, when out there in the very next street were possibly over 2000 lunatics queuing up for an expensive toy!

Shane was pretty clued up about things, for example, he’d read and heard that cannabis oil cured cancer. So we talked about the efforts of some groups to decriminalise cannabis. I showed him Rick Simpson’s video on how to make cannabis oil.

I also showed Shane a couple of Tarot/Oracle card Apps on my Samsung Galaxy S4. His cards came out really positive – 2 of Cups, 7 of Pentacles and 10 of Cups. I told him those were the cards he’d chosen, and he now needed to put himself in the path to make it happen. I said he shouldn’t think of himself as down and out, because Up was the only way he could go from here. I gave him a big hug before I left.

I know who I’d rather have as a friend in this world. Not any one of those people in the queue, that’s for sure! They have eyes but they do not see.

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Quit Liking It! Say Something Instead.

LikeButton

There’s a new thing surfaced on Facebook just now, about how to improve your Facebook experience, by simply NOT hitting the “Like” button. Strange as that may sound, and somewhat illogical, it IS true and it actually works. The premise is that if you DON’T click on the “Like” button, but instead leave comments on posts that interest you, Facebook’s algorithms will actually stop sending you all those annoying links to “Like” this business or that organisation, that celebrity, that political party, that new diet etc. Your feed will instead become more human, with more people entering into actual conversations than never before. All those friends that you’ve  lost into the FB ether may resurface when your feed isn’t top-heavy with news, business, videos etc that your previous clicking on “Like” generated. Try it!

Read these 2 articles about this strategy. The first one by Medium is about NOT clicking on Facebook’s “Like” button and the consequences. The second is by Wired where the writer did the total opposite and clicked “Like” on absolutely everything in their feed.

https://medium.com/@schmutzie/i-quit-liking-things-on-facebook-for-two-weeks-heres-how-it-changed-my-view-of-humanity-29b5102abace

http://www.wired.com/2014/08/i-liked-everything-i-saw-on-facebook-for-two-days-heres-what-it-did-to-me/

So, okay, I’ve only just started this experiment, and right now I’ve no idea how long I’m going to stick to it, or whether it’ll be a lifelong practice.  Even though I actually only started 5 days ago, already I’m seeing a change in my Facebook feed, and I’m feeling way better about myself as a person, as I feel I’ve learnt a great lesson. And that is why I feel prompted to blog about it right away NOW!

Anyway, here are my thoughts on it:

1. It makes me pause and think before I comment. I may be using the 👍 button quite a bit to start with. I have found myself skipping posts that are of no concern to me, instead of simply clicking the “Like” button to acknowledge it because it may have come from a friend. So, my friends who are reading this, apologies if I no longer “like” your comments, posts or images, but rest assured you will instead find a comment from me. 👍 See, I’ve started already! 😄

2. I get more selective about what interests me. The real things that matter get my attention more than updates on who’s cooking or eating what, selfies, who’s on holiday where, online shopping deals, cute kittens (hard one, that). Hopefully, my feed will be more about the things that really matter to the world – like decriminalising cannabis, for one (this will sound strange coming from someone who’s only experience with cannabis was a puff on a joint at a party in Spain 10 years ago. But I have been following Rick Simpson and fellow advocates of the miracle cancer-beating properties of cannabis oil, and I have lost friends and family to cancer in the past and very recently, so the subject is close to my heart).

3. If everyone does this, we’ll be getting many more notifications than before, as more people engage in actual conversation instead of the passive virtual nod which is the “Like” button. As a society, we seem to have somewhat lost the art of conversation. By not clicking on the “Like” button and by saying something instead, we encourage further discussion and communication between friends, which is what Facebook should be about. It’s time to regain control of the true value of Facebook.

4. Funnily enough, with my actively telling Facebook what I “don’t want to see again” re: pages and businesses, it seems to have freed up space in my Wall feed for previously disappeared friends to reappear. So far, around 6 people who quietly vanished from my feed have returned…and without my searching for them to “like” their photos or make comments on their posts yo keep in the loop. Maybe it’s just a coincidence, I can’t be certain.

So, to those of you who have read this, I would kindly ask that you not simply click “Like” on WordPress either, but instead say something about this post. If it moves you to comment, do it. Otherwise, simply share it with your circles in another way. The same goes for every post that you read and like. Quit Liking It! Say something instead. And watch the world unfold before your very eyes. I’m waiting. :-)

 

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You’ve come a long way, baby!

Some ads from the 1950s and even earlier: (as seen on Pinterest)

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And who uses these appliances?

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That’s right! The lady of the house! Look at that beatific smile on her face as she irons, washes, hangs out the clothes, sews, scrubs and mops! Doesn’t she look like she’s enjoying every last second of it?

(Cue sound of DJ scratching record)

Luckily, you’ve come a long way, baby. Here are some household appliances, gadgets and innovations the modern house already has, should have, or will have in the very near future: (images also taken from Pinterest)

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All to make your life much easier…after you’ve just returned home from a long day at work and find that you’re still expected to cook, clean and tidy up after the kids and the husband.

Luckily, there are always willing slaves to help you out…The following images are from a witty little book called “Porn for Women” ;).

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Like I said, you’ve come a long way, baby!

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Mobile Juice Packs

By this I mean external battery packs for mobile phones. Nothing to do with health drinks LOL.

My old iPhone 4 used to guzzle its battery power. It still does, only now that’s my kid’s problem and not mine anymore. I’m sure you all have your horror stories to tell about your own mobile devices.

I switched from Apple iOS to Android in 2012, and I haven’t looked back since. I am perfectly happy and satisfied with my Samsung Galaxy S4. I have no intention of upgrading to the S5, as it just doesn’t offer enough advancement and new features to qualify in my mind as a real upgrade. I’ll wait instead for the S6 next year.

Besides, with the iPhone 3 I really felt the lag in technology when the iPhone 4 came out. But with Samsung my S4 was simply able to keep up with any new operating system updates.

The problem with smartphones is that the smarter they are, the more battery power they consume. My S4 is not as bad as my iPhone 4 was, but it’s slightly worrying that I can leave my house in the morning with a 100% charge and not use the mobile for anything other than checking some emails and surfing the internet whilst on the bus/train…and by 3pm the battery indicator is already on less than 50%.

Here’s where “juice packs” come in. I must’ve been one of the earliest users of these external battery packs. My first was an Energiser in 2011, which boasted a measly 1000mAh. (mAh stands for “miliAmpere hour” – basically, the higher the number, the faster your device gets charged up. I’ll spare you the science). The Energiser was okay for emergency charging, though not for much else.

My S4 has a removable Li-ion battery (hear me roar! :D), so it was a no brainer to buy a couple of spare batteries to keep in my bag, for occasions where there might be heavy or continuous use of my phone. This worked well, but for the slight hassle of having to later charge up 2 batteries.

So, last Xmas I bought a Plox external battery charger. It cost $90. It worked alright for a couple of months, then I noticed the dreaded “loose connection” problem. I used to have this problem with iPhone chargers, where they would work for a while, then start giving you “charging with this accessory may not be supported on this device” messages. My Plox itself wasn’t charging up like it should. Or maybe its 4 blue LED indicator lights weren’t working. Maybe it was both…whatever the case, the Plox gave up the ghost in April, just 4 months after I’d purchased it.

I was lucky enough to get the Plox replaced with an identical one, as I’d thankfully kept the receipt. Sadly, Plox No.2 only lasted til the beginning of June, then it too went kaput. I went back to the store I’d bought it from, with the intention of substituting it with a different brand juice pack. But they didn’t stock any other brand.

So, instead, I got a full refund. I haven’t linked any mentions of the Plox to the company’s website in this post, as I can’t recommend it to anyone. The design is poorly executed and it doesn’t help when the micro-USB cable has to be twisted awkwardly in order to charge my S4; this weakens the cable whenever the charger is used. To have had the unit fail me for the same reason, not once but twice in 6 months, is unforgiveable.

I did some research on mobile juice packs, looked at dozens of models on eBay, weighed up the pros and cons of each one, then made up my own list of prerequisites. In the end, it was an unbranded Chinese juice pack that won the contest.

My new juice pack can be charged up via a wall socket, but also via solar power (that was the deciding factor for me). The mAh rating is a very respectable high 10,000. Granted, the solar panels would only get charged at 1000 mAh, but hey, if I was ever caught out in a zombie apocalypse in the wilderness with no electrical supply for recharging devices, I’d have the last mobile phone standing, with this baby. The unit weighs in at over 300g so it’s not a lightweight, but most of the weight is due to the solar panels and the rechargeable battery within the casing. It has 2 USB ports and a handy LED torch on one end. There’s also a loop for a clip on the other, in case you need to hook the unit up somewhere.

I’m very happy with my Mandarin, as I call it. It’s Chinese and it has orange trimming…geddit? ;-)

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And if you’d like to know the eBay seller, it’s ly-solar. Items come from China, not Sydney, Australia. Postage worldwide is free, and this seller has impeccable after-sales customer care. I was kept up to date with package tracking, and the seller emailed me a number of times to reassure me that the item was in transit. Highly recommended.

http://pages.ebay.com/link/?nav=item.view&id=191137152191&alt=web

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Tell that to the Bumblebee

“It’ll never work,” said my friend Sheila. “It’ll get confiscated by Customs. You’ll never receive them, you’ve just wasted your money”.

Sheila was referring to my recent eBay purchase of 10 packets of Peony seeds from China (20 seeds in each packet). She was convinced my seeds would never get past the scrutiny of Australian Customs & Excise.

But, you’ve got to hand it to the Chinese. They are clever. They are cunning. They are enterprising. And they’ve been in this business long enough to know the loopholes.

It can’t be done? Tell that to the bumblebee, whose wings are so stubby they’d never support its rotund body. But it flies, does it not?

I received my package 2 days ago. It was packed really unassumingly, and the description on the jiffy envelope made me smile secretly to myself, and at the same time send a prayer of thanks to the gods above for the ingenuity of the Chinese.

Here’s how my Peony seeds got into Australia from China:

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Of course, when one feels the contents of the packet from the outside, it DOES feel amazingly like round beads. Similar enough to fool anyone, even an X-ray machine.

In Western Australia, it’s apparently too warm for Peonies to bloom. Seeds take 3-5 years to grow into a flowering bush, and then you’ll need a real contrast between hot and cold for the plant to flower. WA has mild winters, so it might never get cold enough for Peony plants to bloom. They might grow into bushes alright, but getting them to flower will be the real challenge.

I’m going to try anyway. Wish me luck!

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These Gemstones Rock!

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They’re actually layers of car paint. Yes, really. They’re called Fordite, or Detroit Agate, and they’re created from many layers of car paint drippings that have undergone the process of baking many times over.

I came across them while browsing Flipboard the other day. I used to play with layering different colours of polymer clay together, and rolling the resulting slab through a pasta machine, before forming the clay into ornaments or jewellery. The colours of Fordite remind me of my polymer clay experiments.

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Aren’t they gorgeous? And rare, too, as their supply is finite and demand is fast outstripping supply. If you love unusual “gemstones” and jewellery, get your hands on some of these babies pronto, before they are gone forever. They just don’t make things the way they used to, anymore. These days, technological advances in the field of car spraypainting i.e electrostatic spraypainting = little to no loss of paint = no more formation of Fordite/Detroit Agate.

For more information about Fordite/Detroit Agate, please check out these websites:

http://www.boredpanda.com/car-paint-deposits-fordite-detroit-agate/

http://www.fordite.com/History.html

http://www.amusingplanet.com/2014/05/fordite-jewel-made-from-layers-of-old.html?m=1

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3D Printing

Welcome to the world of 3D Printing. It was only a matter of time before this became part and parcel of everyday life. A while ago, I blogged that one day in the not-so-distant future we would be able to create the clothes we wear at the touch of a button. Okay, maybe that day isn’t quite here yet, it might take a while for 3D printing to become as common as having a fridge in your home, but it is certainly on the horizon and definitely in our lifetime.

My 11-year-old came home from a school trip to Sci-Tech, all excited because he’d bought a 3D printed spaceship keyring. I didn’t understand why he was so excited about a tiny, plastic-looking object, until a couple of weeks ago when we went to Fremantle for the Street Arts Festival over the long Easter Weekend. While there, we stumbled across MANY 6160, and had the privilege to speak to Leo Rolph, owner of OWNED.

The Kid was enamoured of a little 3D printed fully-poseable mannequin, that was balancing a number of chairs on his arms and one leg. Leo explained that the chairs came in a box of 20 and were a game of dexterity, the aim being to stack them up as high as possible without any falling down. The mannequin came separately. We bought both. (Back home, the Kid promptly set to with the stacking, and managed to get his mannequin to carry all 23 chairs.  Yes, 23, because we weren’t sure if the box contained all 20 or if some had been misplaced, so Leo generously gave us 3 more chairs as spares). The 3rd photo shows a sculpture just by Leo’s OWNED stall, of stacked chairs funnily enough – this was what inspired Leo to create his stacked chair game set.

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Leo also kindly showed us his pride and joy, his 3D printer with which he creates his beautiful sculptural art pieces. This was my first time witnessing a 3D printer working in real life. WOW is all I can say.  Here are some of the 3D products you can find at OWNED.

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So, how easy is it to create something 3D printed? Now, if you’re thinking “piece of cake!” you’re halfway correct.  It’s a bit like icing a cake, as Leo explained. Only, instead of icing, the material is a polymer plastic that melts as it passes through the printer’s pen, and then solidifies again upon contact with the air. The pen builds up the object layer by layer. We watched Leo’s 3D printer print out the box and lid for the stacking chairs game, it took about 20 minutes. Pretty nifty!

I found Leo’s Facebook profile at https://www.facebook.com/leo.rolph

Excerpt taken from Leo’s FB page, where he’d shared a post about himself from the Facebook page of MANY 6160:

Meet the MANY 6160 people!

On this happy Friday we’d like to introduce Fremantle local, Leo from the dynamic retail space Owned . Open in MANY since February, Leo has a range of very cool handmade jewellery and acccesories, screen printed t-shirts and quirky gifts.

Leo originally studied fine arts then went on to become a fully fledged graphic designer, spending 5 years specializing in 3D and mulitimedia work, mostly in the mining industry.

Leo had a break from work to look after his gorgeous daughter Ruby, who suffers from cerebral palsy (you can see her story on her FB page Ruby Rocks the ‘beep out of Therapy). During this extra time at home he was inspired to learn something new, teaching himself how to make jewellery from YouTube tutorials. Mastering the basics of soldering and metalwork, Leo then purchased a 3D printer, which he began experimenting with different techniques, including printing, moulding and casting jewellery and objects. Leo said he was always inspired by the relationship between art and science, which can be seen in his sharp designs and methods. Soon his creative outlet led to selling his work on Etsy and the next natural step was to gain a retail space.

He heard about MANY from Facebook and decided to take a punt, as it was an affordable option for him to open his first store. Leo aimed to make and sell quality goods that were unusual and hard to find. With refreshing pieces, such as anatomical hearts, scarab beetles, complex shapes and various skulls he has done just that with his jewellery range alone.

Visit Leo in store at MANY to see his amazing range, and check out his 3D printer in action!

3D printing was in the news again recently, as an update on a very ambitious Kickstarter project, the Lix pen. http://lixpen.com

The Lix pen project generated so much interest that it reached its target for pledges only days after the Kickstarter project was launched. The Lix team are now well on their way to bringing a portable, handheld 3D printer to the masses, and making household 3D printing a reality. Watch the video link above, and be amazed. I showed the video to The Kid, and he wants one for his next birthday.  I can imagine the many applications this little powerhouse of a pen would have, from jewellery to toys to sculptures and wearable art, etc. Sure the refill cartridges may be expensive now, but I say give it time, and as technology improves prices will go down, and one day we shall all have a Lix pen in our greedy little hands homes.

Check out this website for affordable, and not so affordable 3D printers. http://3dprintersuperstore.com.au/collections/frontpage  There is a 3D pen available for just AU$139.  So, if you’re hands are itching and you can’t wait, head on there and have a look at it and at the larger, desktop models.

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