Monthly Archives: June 2006

Word absurd #2

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June 23, 2006

Those world champion religious fundamentalists are at it again. Texan Leo Canales jr is spearheading a movement to change the commonly accepted English-language greeting of ‘Hello’.

You see, Leo is concerned that every time we greet someone we utter that most heinous of words – hell. Oh, the humanity! So Leo has suggested that we replace this Satan-worshipping word with a new universal greeting. In some of the worst word abuse I’ve seen in a long time, Leo is doing all he can to promote his own suggested new greeting of ‘Heaveno’. No, seriously, he really does think we should all say that. If you have trouble believing me, just check out the website heaveno.com.

leo Word absurd #2Leo Canales jr (pic from heaveno.com)

Leo believes many of society’s ills can be blamed on the unconscious use of the word “hell”. He says, “We promote a negative attitude every time we greet someone. Maybe it affects the way we behave to each other.” (from heaveno.com.)

Maybe Leo should consider that not everyone believes in hell. And not everyone that does believe in hell considers it a problem that those four letters, in that order, appearing as part of another word, are the cause of many of societies ills. I would suggest that plain stupidity is the cause of most of the ills of society, no matter how you greet people.

If Leo has that much of an issue with ‘hello’, why try to force his own beliefs on everyone with such a ridiculous new word? A word that he says promotes “a more harmonious, intelligent and positive new universal greeting… A symbol of Peace, friendship and Welcome!” He claims not to be “promoting Christianity or any religion” however, he also says, “If our NATION’S PLEDGE OF ALLEGIANCE would read, “One Nation Under Satan!”, then maybe “HellO” would deserve some measure of merit. But the fact is, that our Nation’s Pledge reads very clearly, “One Nation Under God!” (from an email to Rod C Stryker, reproduced on apatheticagnostic.com.)

So, obviously no intention to promote “Christianity or any religion” there.

But even considering the fact that some people might consider saying ‘hello’ to be a problem, why invent a new word? Just don’t say ‘hello’. There are plenty of alternatives including good day, greetings, salutations or hi. (Although perhaps Leo might consider using the word ‘hi’ as a greeting dangerous as it promotes illicit drug use.)

But we should be careful. If the heaveno campaign starts to generate any great following, it might not be long before we’re ordering oysters on the half sheaven, people living in Shelley, Western Australia will have to change all their street signs and anyone called Michelle will become the object of considerable ridicule.

First Dredlox and now Lulu

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June 21, 2006

If anyone is interested in reading even more about me and RealmShift (as if you could get enough!) there’s another interview at Lulu.com, where RealmShift is produced. It was an interview I did a few weeks ago and now they’ve posted it on their blog and in their monthly newsletter.

Check it out here.

Dredlox interview

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June 19, 2006

I was recently interviewed about all things RealmShift over at Dredlox.com, a Community News site with a focus on its family of members. If you’re interested to read the interview, click here.

Check out the Dredlox site anyway, and sign up if you like what you see. As site Admin Dredlox says, “I encourage people to use my site tools to promote your stuff, keep links in your signature, add to the links list, start topics about things you think need attention.”

Strong words

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June 19, 2006

I’m normally all flippant about… well, everything really. However, I read something in the paper this morning that struck me as being one of those absolutely simple, yet utterly relevant quotes.

Words can be very powerful things – it says so in the sidebar to the right and that guy should know. The person in question was speaking in relation to Australia’s Prime Minister John Howard visiting China next week. Christians are supporting an appeal from Falun Gong members for Howard to raise the issue of China’s human rights abuses, especially alleged human organ harvesting, during his visit. Obviously it’s a sticky topic and Howard is a real creep for ignoring the things he thinks might be too “political” to discuss. On the subject, Francis Milne, a former chairwoman of NSW Uniting Care, said something that resounds for Australia, but should be considered by every first world nation and citizen, replacing Australia with their own country.

“Our greatest fear is that Australia’s trade interests will overwhelm its compassion.”

The word of god?

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June 13, 2006

Have you ever noticed those signs out the front of churches that try to lure people in with witty phrases? They annoy the hell out of me. They come in one of only two styles: the really bad pun or the holy superiority complex. This comes down, I suppose, to the basic fact that church leaders are not often known for their expertise in stand up, yet they are known for having a serious superiority complex. Of course, there are plenty of decent folk out there leading churches, but they are few and far between and don’t seem to be the ones writing these signs.

churchsign1 The word of god?

I plan to draw attention to some of the worst offenders here on The Word as often as I find them. They do seem to be very prevalent around Sydney. If you find a good one, send me a pic and I’ll put it on here. It’s word abuse of the worst kind really, so I’m not above mocking it.

churchsignfound The word of god?

The funniest joke in the world

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June 12, 2006

It’s official. The funniest joke in the world was written by Spike Milligan. As if a poll was needed to establish that.

milligan s The funniest joke in the world
Spike Milligan.

Five years ago an academic from the University of Hertfordshire in England, Richard Wiseman, conducted an online survey. Three hundred thousand people from around the world took part and voted for the best joke. Last week, Wiseman announced that the joke was almost certainly the work of Spike Milligan. It’s always very difficult, if not impossible, to track the origins of a joke. However, Milligan wrote all the Goon Show scripts and there subsequently exists a record of this joke’s emergence and its author. It has changed over time, though, contemporising since it first appeared in the fifties.

The joke that was voted the funniest in Wiseman’s survey goes like this:

Two hunters are out in the New Jersey woods when one suddenly collapses. He doesn’t appear to be breathing and his eyes are glazed. His friend whips out his phone and calls the emergency number. “My friend is dead, what can I do?” he asks.

The operator says, “Calm down, I can help. First, let’s make sure he’s dead.”

There’s a moment’s pause, then a shot is heard. The hunter comes back on the line. “OK, now what?”

Hunters in New Jersey woods (there’s nothing that isn’t Americanised in the end) and mobile phones are rather more contemporary than you would hear in a Goon Show episode, naturally. The Milligan version of the gag was performed by Michael Bentine and Peter Sellers.

Bentine: I just came in and found him lying on the carpet there.

Sellers: Oh, is he dead?

Bentine: I think so.

Sellers: Hadn’t you better make sure?

Bentine: All right. Just a minute.

Sound of two gun shots.

Bentine: He’s dead.

Naturally, the original version is, in my mind, better than the modern version. Then again, I’m a Goon Show fanatic so I’m sure I’m biased. And it might not really be the absolute funniest joke in the world, but it is a good one. Even though three hundred thousand people decided it was the funniest, they no doubt only had a limited range of jokes to choose from. It’s entirely possible that the joke that really is the funniest in the existence wasn’t included in the survey.

Still, I don’t mind. To have Spike Milligan as the author of the world’s funniest joke, until proven otherwise, is just fine by me.

So what is it exactly?

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June 10, 2006

RealmShift is classified as a dark fantasy novel. It’s also a thriller and an action adventure story, but primarily, by genre, it’s dark fantasy. Subsequently I often get asked, What is dark fantasy exactly? It’s actually a very difficult thing to define accurately. I recently stumbled across the blog of fantasy and horror writer Sarah Monette where they were having a discussion about this very subject as it had come up during a panel at Wiscon. I ended up posting my thoughts on that blog and thought I might reproduce those thoughts here. Maybe I’m just trying to prevent people asking me difficult questions.

The truth is that any kind of genre definition can be hazy, but that’s especially true of the whole speculative fiction genre. Where do you draw the line between fantasy and science fiction, for example? Star Wars is a prime candidate for that issue as it carries strong elements of both. It deals with ideas of magic (The Force), religion (Jedi Knights) and is also very much a science fiction movie with laser guns, space battles and clear cut heroes and villains. Generally people ignore the fantasy nature of it and concentrate on the science fiction. Arguably, it’s the fantasy elements of Star Wars that are the most important and engaging. But that’s another discussion altogether.

Some people consider dark fantasy to be horror, which I strongly disagree with. In the blog discussion I mentioned above, someone defined horror as being something designed to scare, and they draw a good definition. If something is fantasical or paranormal and deals with the darker side of life, darker emotions and psychological stresses, but doesn’t have, as it’s primary intention, the desire to scare readers, then it isn’t horror but would certainly seem to be dark fantasy.

RealmShift is contemporary, set in the world we know and in our own time, but with many elements of magic, gods, demons and various other paranormal creatures and situations, and it is often quite unpleasant in its characters and the things they do. If I were to call it fantasy, people would think first of swords and sorcery, which it isn’t. If I were to call it horror, people would expect a scary story, which it (on the whole) isn’t. So perhaps dark fantasy is more a description of what something is not, rather than what it is!

Another person in the discussion on Sarah’s site mentioned Ursula Le Guin’s Earthsea stories as dark fantasy and that’s certainly valid. I would call that dark fantasy as it deals with the darkness inside people and the black that follows the character of Ged. I would also call Neil Gaiman’s work dark fantasy, even though that is far removed from something like Earthsea. Interestingly, the fact that Gaiman’s novel American Gods won three major awards, one recognised as primarily a horror award, one recognised as a sci-fi award and one recognised as a fantasy award, goes some way to demonstrating how hard a time people had categorising that novel. I think dark fantasy is the perfect category for it. I read American Gods after people started drawing comparisons between it and RealmShift. I’d only previously read his Sandman comics (which, incidentally, I would also classify as dark fantasy).

I think a lot of Stephen King’s and Dean Koontz’s books would also be better classified as dark fantasy rather than horror, but they are both authors that certainly blur the lines between those two genres.

The movie Dark City would be another good example of dark fantasy. It’s certainly fantastical, it’s often scary, but it’s not a horror film. The movie The Prophecy would fit in there too.

So, to me, a work is dark fantasy if it deals with any elements of fantasy and/or the paranormal in a way that studies the dark and frightening side of our nature, psychology and the weird, sublime and uncanny. If it doesn’t shy away from the gore and horror of its own darkness, yet doesn’t primarily aim to spook. If it has heroes that are not knights in shining armour, but people that sometimes have to do unsavoury things. If it has villains that aren’t necessarily all bad as well as villains that really are all bad!

It is definitely a very hard thing to pin down with a single definition, but it is far and away the best definition for many things that don’t quite fit within the generally accepted genres of fantasy or horror.

And I certainly don’t claim to be the final authority. I’m certainly open to any other comments people might have on the subject.

666 is out by 50?

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June 6, 2006

You all know how much I hate the current Hollywood trend of remaking classics because they’re a guaranteed money-spinner. Especially when they remake them really badly, which they usually do. Well, there’s been a lot of press about the release of the new Omen today, particularly as it’s being released on 06/06/06. Or more accurately, the 6/6/06, which isn’t quite so cool. Still, why let correct get in the way of cool?

The best thing about it all is that 666 is not necessarily the number of the beast anyway, with many suggesting it’s more likely 616. Mistranslations and people refusing to give up on something once they’ve got their teeth into it means things are unlikely to change, however.

There’s a very enlightening article you can read about the whole number controversy in Phenomena Magazine. The article in question can be found by clicking here.

Interesting stuff.

Your future, Pan-satanism

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June 6, 2006

I get an awful lot of spam. Most comes via my “day job” website (www.abactive.com), which is set up with contact details. Such is the nature of having a business advertise on the web. I tend to get spam from plenty of other places too. I try not to get too upset about it. After all, that’s like getting angry when it rains. There’s nothing that can be done about it, so wasting strong emotion on it is futile. Hopefully, one day, spam filters will become more efficient and we’ll slowly get less spam. But it’s like advertising and we all know we’ll never see the back of that. It’s the idiots that respond, of course, that are really to blame. Apparently most spam emails get around a 0.1 per cent hit rate (sometimes much higher). It might not sound like much, but if 0.1 per cent of people that receive a spam email click the link contained and buy something, when these spammers send out emails in multiple-millions, you don’t need to be a genius to figure out the maths.

Anyway, sometimes I’m genuinely entertained by these evil little cyber-ads. One day I’ll tell you all about the hilarious emails I get from India and Pakistan trying to sell me the world’s greatest boxing supplies. But, for now, I couldn’t resist the urge to share with you some of the most truly surreal spam poetry I’ve ever received.

One of the entertaining things about spam is often the name of the sender. They tend to be things like Phineas T Integrate or Clemetine R Sycophant. Those aren’t made up – I got both of those today. Then the subject lines are usually quite boring, usually something along the lines of \ /iagra For her pleasure and such.

Today, however, I got an absolute cracker of a subject line. Your future, Pan-satanism.

Now, while I’d never be foolish enough to buy anything from a spammer, I sometimes open them up out of a weird sense of curiosity. This one had to be opened. And inside, surprise, surprise, was a spiel entreating me to buy their brand of Cialis soft tabs which would enable me to bring “unimaginable pleasure to her!” No thanks, I manage just fine without.

However, for some completely inexplicable reason, below the cunningly disguised link in the html section of this email was a large poem. I say poem, simply because I can think of no other way to describe it. I imagine it’s another of the spammers efforts to evade spam filters. It is really quite a bizarre and surreal collection of words. It’s more like a word association game in an asylum for the criminally insane than a poem, to be honest. So don’t simply write off all the spam you receive. Obviously, never buy anything from them, never open anything with attachments or click on any links in them, but a quick read can often reveal the strangest little word gems. This one is an absolute corker. I’ll reproduce today’s acid-induced poem for you. See if you can get to the end!

Your future, Pan-satanism

noble-natured ocean lane Middle westerner observation kite peanut tube
neuron doctrine palm play night-singing nankeen lily parcel checker
parsley-flavored moon-gathered palisade crown Neo-sanskritic

mince pie nose ape nut-gathering olive shell Mohave apache outlet plate offset lithography
New hampshirite moko-moko open-armed
never-ending para-ski New englandish now-lost mud-colored now-dead mortification root mucus body ox daisy oscillation number Pan-syrian paper cutter Neo-lamarckist
mouse bloodwort monad deme Non-riemannian multiple-threaded patina green
night emerald paradise flycatcher night-haunted mezzanine story

paper blockade mouse bloodwort night palsy Owl nebula Naphthylamine black d motion block narrow-laced novel-writing Neo-sumerian pansy-violet ocean liner ocean trade Oneonta sandstone
nephelite-tephrite oyster fungus musk ambrette Neo-sogdian orchella weed
onion smut navel point passage penny night-overtaken

mountain foxtail night crow onion red nankeen bird one-septate mild-spirited old-style
pall-mall ore charger mouse-color
ounce metal Non-european middle body Papua mace parcel-mad mezzamine floor Panhandle state paving stone

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The website of author Alan Baxter

Alan Baxter, Author

Author of horror, dark fantasy & sci-fi. Kung Fu instructor. Personal Trainer. Motorcyclist. Dog lover. Gamer. Heavy metal fan. Britstralian. Misanthrope. Learn more about me and my work by clicking About Alan just below the header.

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