When is theft, theft? And what to do about it?

The Internet is a wonderful thing. I have friends and contacts all over the world courtesy of the Net. But it also has the downside of becoming another avenue for illegal, unethical and immoral behaviours among other things.

I recently learned of the website www.general-ebooks.com which provides links to all sorts of things including links to sources for eBooks, openly advertising as ‘FREE ebooks’. After exploring further, I can confirm there are plenty of legitimate links to paid sources for the work of a great many authors. But it is also providing links to sources for what are nothing more than stolen works. If someone obtains a copy of an author’s work and is making copies of that work available free to all and sundry, that is denying the author their lawful and ethical right to compensation for their intellectual property from initial ‘sales’.

General-ebooks.com is an expanding network, relying on others to keep supplying links. The sheer volume of links to particular websites that appear to house all manner of illegal copies of material is a source of concern.

When I alerted a particular writers peak body about this latest organised theft of people’s work, I was far from impressed to have one of their staff dismiss me by advising rather patronisingly that these websites are now ‘a dime a dozen’ and encouraged me to consider this the equivalent of a used book shop.

Wrong.

I am not a newb suddenly upset to learn that bad things can happen on the Internet. I explored this site and found an alarming mixture of legitimate and unlawful links. I found links to work of bestsellers and lesser known authors being provided free via a particular website. And so far, General-ebooks has not responded to my alerts and direct contact about these unlawful activities.

I can only encourage all authors out there to go to this link and run a search on both their name and the titles of their works to see if they are being legitimately provided or not. And then start periodically running searches via Google or other search providers to see where else your work may be appearing. And spread the word.

Over to you folks – what do you think about the subject? Should we just ignore it or consider it a means of indirect advertising?

and more DAAS stuff

Now I ommOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAitted to mention in my previous post that at Wednesday’s show I was not in a very good way. The moment the show was over I sprinted to have my panic attack elsewhere. So I went back to the second and final show. I got there nice and early to buy my merchandise – a vintage poster and a DVD of a show in the US. Then I calmly waited. I drank coffee and ginger beer in the Gods Cafe next to the theatre while doing some longhand writing on a novel that doesn’t want to end and generally hung around like a bad smell. Big shout out to the Comedy Festival crew who took pity on me as I was clearly some sort of special person (speshull!) and put me at the head of the line for autographs. And then the lovely young lady (who persisted in having her id badge back-the-front so I couldn’t see her name and was too awestruck by everything to think to ask) kindly pointed the camera in the right direction for me.

So I now have a vintage poster autographed by three comedy icons – Legends, people, LEGENDS! And Paul McD, on discovering I haOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAd been waiting so long, kindly grabbed a pink pen and did some colouring in, just to personalise it that much more.

It was really great to see all three of them out there, happily chatting to one and all, clowning around and being all-round great blokes, especially after putting on bloody great shows.

Major kudos to the Canberra Comedy Festival crew for making this happen.

By the way – is it just me or do I really look like the oldest there?

PS more Festival reports to come

Doug Anthony All Stars at 2014 Canberra Comedy Festival – fan-bloody-tastic!

I had intended to write this post last night after arriving home but frankly I was too wired up purely from the experience I had just gone through.

More to do with location than anything else, during the hey day of Doug Anthony All Stars, I never made it to a live performance. Sad but true. That made this chance to finally be at a DAAS gig that much more important to me. The trio did a reunion show last year to mark the release of their television show, DAAS Kapital, finally making it to DVD. The Canberra Comedy Festival did a great job in talking the boys into bringing that same show back to Canberra for the 2014 festival. Unfortunately Richard Fidler was not available due to his ABC radio commitments. But we had a real treat to make up for Richard’s absence – Paul Livingston, better known to many as Flacco, picked up a guitar to make up numbers.

We’re all a lot older now than we were in the glory days of DAAS. Tim Ferguson was in a wheelchair as a result of his now well-known case of multiple sclerosis, but as Tim says, he didn’t just want one sclerosis, he wanted them all! Livingston was more subdued than you might expect from Flacco, but it was Tim and Paul’s show, not Flacco’s. And to be fair, he has been struggling with a pretty crook back and is on heavy duty painkillers. But Livingston still had his own contributions to the show, including the tale of how Flacco came to be, only metres away from the theatre we were in.

The show was fan-bloody-tastic. It was songs, reminiscences, talking about all sorts of things, some interaction with the audience and Major Fun. You could easily see how much the boys enjoyed being back in their roles and working together. Scheduled for an hour, the full show ran closer to two.

As I left, I was on a high from experiencing it all. I was also a tad sad, knowing I am unlikely to ever see them like this again. Older, although perhaps not necessarily wiser, I probably got more out of things. DAAS inspire me while placing me in awe at the same time.

Well done, Tim Ferguson, Paul McDermott, Paul Livingston and Canberra Comedy Festival. You made a lot more than just my night.

Thank you!

Writing Protocols for Producing Indigenous Australian Writing

Here in Australia, we do not have a brilliant history in our relations with Indigenous Australians and reconciliation is an ongoing process. One thing that was achieved was the Australia Council for the Arts adopting a set of formal protocols for producing Indigenous Australian Writing.

The Canberra Speculative Fiction Guild, of which I am a member, has just announced its next anthology which shall have a theme of “The Never Never Land”, looking for Australian stories, whatever that may mean to the author or stories inspired by The Never Never Land ie Australia.

Ancient mythology and culture are prime picking grounds for inspiring stories of the fantastic. While aspects of Indigenous Australian culture are more than just mythology, there is a temptation to explore them for story inspiration. I would not be surprised if there shall be authors intending to submit to the new CSFG anthology who want to go down this route of exploring indigenous themes.

I am sure that there will be many Australians who are like I was not that long ago, innocently seeing Aboriginal cultural artefacts like the Dreaming as being like things such as ancient Greek mythology – only acknowledging its existence and its role in a historical context. But as I have learned, things like the Greek mythology are an anthropological artefact, to be read, studied, and enjoyed as things of the past, whereas the equivalent Aboriginal culture is in many respects is still a living thing, part of an ongoing culture. Consequently there is a right of protection to what could be considered the Intellectual Property of these people. And that is where the Protocols for Producing Indigenous Australian Writing come into play.

I strongly encourage anyone thinking of exploring that no doubt fertile field to have a read of the protocols. The full documentation can be found on the website of the Australia Council for the Arts.

In short, there are nine specific protocols for consideration and implementation in any relevant work:

1. Respect

2. Indigenous control

3. Communication, consultation and consent

4. Interpretation, integrity and authenticity

5. Secrecy and confidentiality

6. Attribution and copyright

7. Proper returns and royalties

8. Continuing cultures

9. Recognition and protection.

The AustCo document details what these all mean, issues to consider and provides case studies in their application.

To quote one my Mum’s students from Kyabram Primary School, ‘do yourself a favour’ (old farts like me will probably get the gag) and go and have a read of this relevant and important documentation. It’s worth your time, especially if considering exploration of indigenous themes in Australian writing.

REVIEW: Carry A Big Stick by Tim Ferguson

TFCarry A Big Stick

Tim Ferguson

2013

Hachette

ISBN 9780733629358

*This review first published at Boomerang Books

I am from the generation that laughed at and were shocked by Doug Anthony All Stars on the ABC television program, The Big Gig. They became such a part of the Australian landscape.

Jump forward to 2010 and I leapt at the chance to do a narrative comedy workshop with Tim Ferguson, the ‘tall, pretty one’ of the DAAS trio. He wasn’t what I expected. Perhaps I had foolishly been expecting him to be his DAAS persona in real life? The workshop was brilliant stuff. But it was obvious that something was physically up with Tim. It was later that year that the came out on national television, telling the world that he had Multiple Sclerosis. I thought “good on you, mate, take that bastard bull by the horns.”

Ferguson’s autobiography came out not long ago and I just grabbed myself a copy. It is great stuff. We get to see how the Tim Ferguson that we think we know, came to be. Then there’s the wonderful chance encounter that lead to DAAS. We get to see just how incredibly wild DAAS could really be. It is almost a case of ‘name a place and they’ve played there, metaphorically pissing on the audience.’

On some things, Ferguson doesn’t pull his punches. With others he treads much more carefully, with integrity.

Just as DAAS were a huge part of his life, so too has the continuing development of MS. He denies being brave, instead treating MS as an obstacle rather than something to be feared.

I read the entire book in one afternoon. It is that engaging. It was made all the more poignant for me by episodes of ‘oh I remember that’ or ‘wow, I didn’t know that.’

My original impression of Tim Ferguson after spending an intensive workshop with him was ‘this is a good bloke with a lot to share that’s worth listening to.’ This autobiography has merely reinforced that view.Monkey

With the ‘holiday season’ fast approaching, go and grab a copy to spend some quality time with Comrade Tim. Then aspiring comedy writers should head off an grab a copy of his The Cheeky Monkey as well.

BOOK REVIEW: Here’s the Story by Maureen McCormick

Here’s the Story; Surviving Marcia Brady and Finding My True Voice

Maureen McCormick

HarperCollins

2008

I recall once seeing actor Michael Douglas being publicly interviewed before a Q&A session with the audience. And one of the questions was ‘do you still believe greed is good.’ With a patient smile, Douglas politely explained that he had just been acting a part (Gordon Gekko in Wall Street).

So it is that we all too easily associate an actor or other public figure with the role we associate with them. For actors that can mean typecasting problems among other things. With the seemingly endless rerunning of The Brady Bunch, to many people Maureen McCormick is the perpetually teenaged Marcia Brady despite us all knowing that this was an actor playing a role, not a biography. Instead this book is the biography, giving us the greater view of reality.

Perhaps not surprising, like plenty of ‘child stars’ before her, post-Brady Bunch McCormick had problems. Plenty of them. She ended up with a bad cocaine addiction (is there such a thing as a good cocaine addiction? Probably not). Even some of her fellow addicts nicknamed her Vacuum for her ability to snort up a lot more coke than the rest of them. And then there were the pills. Similarly it was not surprising to read of a less-than functional family, despite her obvious love for her mother. Quite possibly to the distress of an entire generation of young males, McCormick, after getting the drug problem sorted, settled down and eventually married. And, in what seems surprising for the entertainment industry, this was long-term. I suspect without that steadying influence, Maureen McCormick would have eventually ended up just another has-been OD.

This could have easily been a real warts and all muck-raker of a book. While McCormick freely admits to the extent of her drug problem and other personal demons, she avoids getting right down there in the gutter despite a possible temptation to do so.

Like any good bio, there are highs and amusement along with the misery memoir aspects. I laughed out loud at the reminiscing of a cast member who preferred to walk around the change room naked and farting a lot. Similarly there was the well-known scene where a carelessly thrown football hits Marcia in the face, the swollen nose make a disaster of plans for a high school dance. Oh, the drama! But to shoot that particular shot we’ve all seen so often with football making contact with the McCormick schnozzle, was only realised after all the cast and most of the crew took turns at throwing the foam pretend football at her. Again. And again. And again. And again. Gotta be able to see the funny side of that.

For me, the most rewarding thing was seeing how McCormick managed to reach that point where she has finally been able to put Marcia Brady where she belongs – an important part of her past but definitely in her past and even more definitely not the person, Maureen McCormick.

An interesting and at times heart-warming read.

REVIEW: The War of the Worlds – Orson Welles adaptation

Back when I was age 10 in Grade Five at Kangaroo Flat Primary School, there was a small bookshelf outside our classroom. And on those shelves I found a copy of The War of the Worlds by H. G. Wells. What inquisitive (precocious?), book-mad boy could resist the lure of a title like that? As far as I can recall this was the my first science fiction book I read.  And I have read it many times since.

I was also intrigued to learn of the Orson Welles Americanised adaptation of The War of the Worlds into a radio drama, broadcast in 1938. The reality of the style taken by Welles etc was such that it produced a wave of panic with a growing number people believing there really was an invasion by the Martians. But I had never come across a copy of that Welles dramatisation of Wells.

Until now.

the_war_of_the_worlds-300x300I recently came across this redoing of the Welles version, featuring Leornard Nimoy in the lead along with assistance from Brent Spiner, and Gates McFadden – talk about Trekkie Heaven – courtesy of L.A. Theatre Works.

I loved it! And it is easier to understand just now the Welles version caused that panic, given the presentation of a significant portion of it as ‘news flashes’.

Equally intriguing was listening to a Q&A session with Nimoy, recorded immediately after presentation of the show on stage. And no, it wasn’t just facile junk about what it was like to wear his pointy ears.

I do not always have the patience to listen to audio books but this was a real performance. With my earphones firmly plugged in as I wandered around town, I found myself so caught up in it I wandered way off track of where I was supposed to be. Not a huge sacrifice in the circumstances.

Highly recommended!