Embroidered Garden Flowers by Kazuo Aoki

Roost Books (to be published in January 2018). In the twenty-first century, while the traditional embroidery styles sashiko (“little stabs”) and nihon shishu (ornate symbolic stitchery), have continued to enchant and engross stitchers, there has also developed a less-stylised kind of Japanese decorative stitching. This popular kind of embellishment is more varied than the darning-style stitching of sashiko and less painstaking than the fine satin-stitch of nihon shishu. One category of modern Japanese embroidery often features ‘kawaii’ figures in stem and outline stitch – animals, people, household implements – and is popularly used on children’s clothing. Another school focuses on the botanical – landscapes, plants,…

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The Lawyer in the Freezer (Part II)

August 25, 2017 | Posted by Guest Reviewer | AUSTRALIANIA, CRIME, Non-Fiction |

Unley Town Hall, 24 August 2017 We have written previously on this strange case: see our earlier piece here. The Varnished Culture had a representative at this lecture by Tom Mann, re-visiting his book on the Stevenson / Szach case.           There’s not not too much new in Mann’s thesis: the forensic evidence as to time of death is wobbly – the distance travelled by Szach to Coober Pedy overnight is inconsistent with his presence about the time of the killing – the execution-style and surfeit of possible suspects – the dodgy identification evidence – the…

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Uncomfortably Close…the Lawyer in the Freezer


This story is one of the many lurid crime sagas that feature in staid and leafy-green Adelaide. And whilst The Varnished Culture staff all have impeccable alibis, this being Adelaide, we are far-away-so-close to the macabre events of 1979 and beyond. Unfortunately, it is one of several local causes célèbre where the jury’s verdict is in question because they may have been led to rely on tainted evidence – not corrupt evidence; just misleading, or dead-wrong. THE PLAYERS: Derrence Stevenson, specialist criminal lawyer (the victim); David Szach, Stevenson’s teenaged boyfriend; Dr Colin Manock, forensic pathologist, who gave crucial evidence at trial…

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Play All: A Binge-Watcher’s Notebook by Clive James


Play All is James’ reflection on binge-watching box sets (yes, he says ‘box sets’.  Perhaps he eats ‘fry rice’ while watching). He differentiates between a television drama in the “old sense” of a network weekly serial which just happens to have been boxed-up (box up?) such as The Good Wife, and a box set drama in the “new sense”, such as Game of Thrones. He adores both and watches 3, 4, 5 episodes of either in one sitting with his daughter. He sees “the main advantage that a long-form tv show has over a movie” as affording “room to search souls”, and explains the addiction : –“very soon…

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The Hitler Club


(by Gary Gumpl and Richard Kleinig) (2007) It’s not easy being a Kraut. Hitler saw to that. He took more than two thousand years of German contributions to the world – legacies from sources such as Beethoven, Bonhoeffer, Brahms, Charlemagne, Marlene Dietrich, Dürer, Einstein, Friedrich, Goethe, Hesse, Hoffmann, Kant, Kleist, Liebniz, Luther, Mann, Mozart, Schiller, Schubert, and yes, Wagner (especially Wagner) – and sullied them, perhaps for ever.  The ‘don’t mention the war’ running joke in that Fawlty Towers episode is closer to the truth than we care to admit. In modern Germany especially, the shadow cast by Nazism is long. Grotesque irony abounded in the Nazis’ world.  For example, Himmler rattled around in a special train…

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