Monthly Archives: July 2007

A few good signs

July 30, 2007

On the subject of entertaining signs… what, you weren’t talking about that? Surely it’s always a subject worthy of discussion. Here are some prime candidates to showcase the personality types of people that like signage:

The Bully

Work On Time

The Depressive

Dead End

The Smart Arse

German Shepherd

The Nerd

Call this number

Close up

Talking of truth in advertising

July 30, 2007

With reference to the previous post here on The Word, Debbie in England sent me this yesterday. You have to respect the plain honesty for saying just what they mean:

Turd Busters

If it’s a bit hard to read, let me clarify:

Your number 2 business
Is our number 1 business

Starting with an attempted catchphrase there, bit of comedy.

You make UM
We break UM

Not quite sure why it’s a capital UM, but we get the idea. Next comes my favourite bit:

Who U gonna call

That old Ghost Busters line is never going to get tired, is it? It’s the sort of thing you can just use again and again. Especially when you add extra letters to make sure people really get into it.

Sewage Engineer. Consultant.

Consultant? “Yes, madam, that’s definitely a turd.”

Always in the shit
Only the depth varies.

He’s just an honest working bloke. I’ve got a lot of respect for this guy. In no way does he try to sell his services by polishing a turd. Quite the opposite really.

Engender customer confidence

July 29, 2007

I was with a friend in a Sydney suburb this weekend. I won’t name the suburb – let’s just say it was north of the Bridge. As we were walking along I saw what I first took to be an abandoned, ramshackle house about three days from demolition. Then I saw this sign on the side of the house:


Can you read the sign? It says Tully’s Restorations. Restorations? Look at that house! It’s like going to the dentist only to find he has a mouth full of teeth that look like Stonehenge. Or going to the Doctor and finding yourself across the desk from an obese heavy smoker strapping up his arm for a smack hit. You have to admit that there’s rarely truth in advertising of that quality.

In a totally unrelated piece of news, a couple of people have been asking why the comments here at The Word are moderated. I know that a lot of people get annoyed about that sort of thing, but I’m afraid it’s unavoidable. Have a look at this, to help to illustrate exactly why:


It’s not very clear, but that’s a screenshot of my email Inbox. Every new message there (which goes on beyond the page boundary) is a comment awaiting moderation. That’s in one day. Out of that list, about two comments were actually relevant. The rest were all spam comments, mostly trying to sell Phenterline, Cialis and other such drugs. Plus there’s always a few from these bizarre far left wing blogs trying to incite debate about the state of the US Administration.

So I don’t want all of those going up onto the comments of various, random posts which I would then have to hunt down, so I moderate daily. You’ll have to put up with it. And if you’re one of those that are spamming me with comments about drugs and Bush’s lies, I just have this to say: “Die, you scum bag, spamming bastards!”

There’s really no point in getting annoyed about it, as there’s really nothing that can be done, but I do despair about human nature when I’m bombarded with things like this. If anyone out there has a good way to kill this stuff, let me know.

Satan-worshipping cults

July 24, 2007

The Word Quote of the Week this week goes to Ahmad Reza Radan, Tehran’s police chief.

It seems that police in Tehran are cracking down on women who “dress like models” and men that have “Western-style haircuts and clothing”. All of this is in an effort to “increase security in society” for the Islamic state.

Rather than cracking down on crime, the police seem to think that guarding fashion is the thing that will prevent the slow decay of Iranian society. Apparently women that wear clothing that is too figure hugging or short or have veils that expose hair and men with un-Islamic hairstyles, along with clothes shops and hairdressers are all being targeted.

Have a look at this shot. The woman on the right (with a face like she’s just sucked a lemon) is the police officer. The other woman in this shot was subsequently bundled into a police van where she protested for her freedom.

Fashion Police
(Photo: AFP)

Apparently offenders are initially warned, then taken for “consultation” to correct the error of their ways. “Normally the problem is resolved here,” said police spokesman, Mr Mehdi Ahmadi. “If not, and these cases are often those of reoffenders, the case is sent to the judiciary.”

Anyway, the bizarre and medieval behaviour of the Iranian theocracy aside, let’s get to the comment that’s taking out the coveted and strangely infrequent Quote of the Week award.

The city’s police chief, Ahmad Reza Radan, discussing the reasoning for the fashion crackdown, said:

“Some young people, intentionally or unwittingly, are walking advertisements for Western deviant sexual and Satan-worshipping cults.”

That’s right, Ahmad. We here in the “West” brainwash your young people in a recruitment drive for our Satan worship.

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows

July 23, 2007


On Saturday I went to K-Mart. The Book was sold out. Dymocks next, and they were sold out too. So I went to Borders and there was a queue like it was a music festival with only one portaloo. Sod this, I thought to myself, it’s only a fairly average children’s story! So I went home. The next day, having chastised myself for not queueing for the rest of Saturday, I slunk back to Borders. I was rewarded as there was no queue and plenty of copies left.

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows

So, now I’ve read the most anticipated novel of our time. I’m not going to review it in any detail or give anything away that will spoil it for those of you that haven’t read it yet, but I’d thought I’d share some overall impressions on it.

It’s more of the same, naturally, and all the loose ends that you might need tying up do get tied up. It’s dark, as all the books have been getting progressively darker, and the casualty count is high. Given where the story was headed, there needed to be a lot of fallen warriors along the way for the story to keep its integrity. There’s also a slight increase in the use of language too, so parents may want to be advised about that. Ron has taken to saying “effing”, for example. Quite tame really, but maybe not when you need to explain what it means to a ten year old. Especially when you need to tell them not to repeat it at school. “But, Sir, this effing homework was hard!” There was also one incident of “bastard” which parents may choose to edit for younger readers.

I found the pace of the book to be rather strange, with long drags in the middle that really seemed like nothing more than killing time. However, events did occur during these times that became integral. Then the end of the book was frenetic and almost rushed, slamming to a close very quickly (except the enormous pile of cheese that is the epilogue). It really seemed like the book was written under enormous pressure to get it good and to get it finished as soon as possible. It seems to suffer a little bit because of that.

There are no questions at the end concerning where allegiances lie and heroes are proven to be human after all. Everyone that appeared along the way seems to get a mention, some of them rather shoe-horned cameos, but no one misses out. New heroes are made and most questions are answered.

I do have a number of issues with it that I won’t air here for fear of spoiling it for you, but on the whole it is a satisfying read. After ten years, seven books, thousands of pages and untold speculation, I’m glad it’s over. No one can deny that it’s been one of the most phenomenal literary events of recent years, so in some ways it’s nice to have been a part of it. Read the book while it’s all still fresh and you can tell your grandchildren when they read it, “I was there, you know!”

Or, in my case, “I was there, but couldn’t be arsed to queue for an hour. So I was there again the next day.”

Addendum to my previous post

July 20, 2007

By night I’m a mild mannered author. By day I’m a Personal Trainer and Martial Artist. Today I was talking with some PT clients about this whole Harry Potter phenomenon. They went to see the movie the same night that I did and we started chatting about it. They haven’t read any of the books, so their entire Harry Potter experience is through the films. The film to them was really quite opaque and they were confused about a number of things. So, while I maintain that it’s not a bad movie, I think it’s only a good movie as a supplement to the books. In the previous post I said that the movie was worth a look if you’re a fan. I should qualify that and say it’s worth a look if you’re a fan of the books.

Now will everyone please stop going on about Harry Potter! (The final book is released today. Please make it the last one.)

Egad, another Harry Potter post

July 20, 2007

Well, I went and saw The Order of the Phoenix today. It’s been getting a lot of press about not measuring up to the previous movies. I’m not so sure that this is a fair position to take. The director has changed and it’s the shortest movie made from the longest book, so it was always going to be a challenge. However, I think they did a good job of telling as much of the story as they needed to.

Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix

As is always the case with movies made from novels, it felt a bit rushed. Lots of important bits and pieces were wedged into the film while enormous chunks of the book were left out. Then again, I think the book was overly long. As usual, I won’t go so far as to write an actual review of the film. There’s plenty of those posted across the net already. It is worth a look if you’re a fan

But I came away with one big question and it’s still bugging me. Never mind all the speculation as to whether Severus Snape is a good guy or a bad guy, nor the nail-biting anticipation of whether or not Harry will die at the end of book seven. I have a bigger question.

Remember the Quidditch match injuries and the marvellous ministrations of the Hogwarts nurse (her name escapes me)? Remember the incredible things they can do at St Mungo’s hospital? These wizards and witches are all pretty handy at mending a broken magic user.

Why, therefore, does Harry Potter still need to wear glasses?

Speculation gone awry

July 17, 2007

One of the biggest dangers in writing speculative fiction, especially science fiction, is speculating poorly. For example, according to Space 1999, there should have been a fully functioning moonbase in operation eight years ago. Of course, with a well told yarn most readers are very forgiving towards writers. That’s a good thing, because writing speculatively is fraught with opportunities to make goon of yourself. These days, writing poorly is rarely forgiven. The avid reader of sci-fi is well aware of how far a light year really is and understands the basic physics of flight, gravity and so on.

But there is an upside in that many stories told in years past were riddled with awful interpretations of what might come to pass and bursting with atrocious liberties taken with physics, but they were classics of their time. We can still enjoy these good tales while chucking quietly at the ridiculous premises on which the tale was built.

I recently came across this article on the net that has some great examples. It’s well worth a read. Sci Fi Writers Have No Sense of Scale – enjoy.

The answer really is 42

July 11, 2007

As if we needed any further proof that Douglas Adams was a bloody genius. If you haven’t read his fantastic Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy series, turn off your computer this instant, get down the bookshop and start reading. For the humans among you, you’ll remember that the mighty supercomputer Deep Thought pondered for 7.5 million years to come up with the answer to Life, the Universe and Everything. His answer was 42. This prompted Arthur Dent and friends to go off in search of the real question to which this was the answer, as that was rather beyond Deep Thought at the time.

Douglas Adams
Douglas Adams – bloody genius

Well, in one of those truth is far stranger than fiction moments, the universe is providing the question for us after all. For some time now scientists have been trying to estimate the weight of the universe. It seems like one of those cunning ploys to get indefinite funding from some mug, but there’s actually good reason for the research. Knowing the weight of the galaxy, the amount of matter it contains, is key to solving important astronomical problems.

Astrophysicist Ken Freeman is particularly interested in the nature of so-called dark matter. Unlike the “ordinary matter” of stars and planets, scientists don’t really know anything about the nature of the invisible material that, along with “dark energy”, they estimate makes up 96 per cent of the universe.

Serious questions abound with regard to dark matter. What is it? How is it distributed across the universe? Does it really even exist? That last question is particularly relevant.

“That’s worth knowing,” said Professor Freeman, an astrophysicist with Mt Stromlo Observatory and the Australian National University’s Research School of Astronomy and Astrophysics in Canberra. Let’s give Prof Freeman this week’s Understatement of the Week trophy.

Along with colleagues in Australia, Europe, the US and Britain, Freeman decided to “weigh” a galaxy. How’s that for a lofty goal? This is the description as reported in the The Daily Telegraph:

While it’s possible to estimate the mass of the entire universe, accurately measuring galaxies, particularly distant ones, is another matter.

The problem is there’s no good way to quantify all the dark matter in such galaxies, thus making it difficult to total all the matter, dark and ordinary.

So Professor Freeman and his colleagues chose the Milky Way.

“Because we’re inside our galaxy, we can get a more reliable measure of the dark matter content than we can for galaxies outside,” he said.

To do so, the group first estimated the “escape velocity” of the galaxy – the speed stars passing near the sun needed to attain in order to escape its gravitational pull.

It did so using the line-of-sight, or radial, velocity of stars crossing the central rotating disc of the galaxy.

The data was collected by the 1.2m Schmidt Telescope of the Anglo-Australian Observatory at Siding Spring, NSW.

The escape velocity, calculated at between 544km/sec and 608km/sec, allowed the team to calculate the Milky Way’s mass and weight, as well as the amount of dark matter: 94 per cent.

And the net result of all this? Where’s the connection to Adams’s magical number of 42? Well, it’s slightly tenuous actually, but why let the truth get in the way of a good story. It turns out that our galaxy weighs three times 10 to the power of 42kg. Or a number written as 3 followed by 42 zeroes. Ooh, spooky!

Whatever, Douglas Adams was still a genius. Vale, Douglas.

Do you really want to save Harry?

July 10, 2007

Yes, it’s all about Harry Potter this month. That annoyingly efficient, and extremely marketable, boy wizard is causing all kinds of stirs. The latest movie is just about to open here and the latest, and supposedly last, book is due out on the 21st.

But is it the end? J K Rowling has already said that she wants to produce an encyclopedia listing all the characters, places, spells and so on as the ultimate Harry Potter source book. No doubt she’ll have fun working on vignettes of history for that. There’s also a Harry Potter theme park opening up (in America, naturally) and there are still a couple more movies required to catch up with the books. Not to mention all the associated merchandising. It’s not like Rowling’s cash flow is going to look critical any time soon. Or ever, really, but that’s beside the point.

In an interview with the BBC recently, Rowling said, “Never say never.” Her spokeman added enormous clarity with, “As she said on Friday night in her BBC interview, ‘never say never’. It’s not saying that she definitely is [going to write another title] and it’s not saying that she definitely isn’t. I cannot comment further.” Beauty. Thanks for clearing that up.

But do we want any more? Rowling has maintained all along that the seventh book will be the last. The best stories are those that do end and leave us wanting more, rather than giving us so much that we become bored and wander off to look out the window. Just about everything really good has subsequently been spoiled by its sequels. The number of sequels that are better than the originals could be counted on one hand. The original series of seven books, matching Harry’s seven years of High School, was the plan all along. Cranking out a few more now would be bad, in my opinion.

Rowling said of the series ending, “I always knew that Harry’s story would end with the seventh book, but saying goodbye has been just as hard as I always knew it would be.

“I can hardly believe that I’ve finally written the ending I’ve been planning for so many years. I’ve never felt such a mixture of extreme emotions in my life, never dreamed I could feel simultaneously heartbroken and euphoric.”

And that would be a good place to leave it. If she really wants a challenge, she should write a non-Harry Potter book and see if she can pull that off. Would there be a fan backlash? Has Rowling forever tethered herself to Potter? Can she only write other stories if she keeps writing Potter stories too? There is some speculation that Harry will die at the end of the seventh book. Will she then write further Potter-related books without Harry himself? The Adventures of Hermione & Ron?

It will be interesting to find out.

Meanwhile, if you are really keen to save Harry, you can join in with a petition set up by Waterstones Bookshop in the UK. It’s asking for more Harry Potter books no matter what happens at the end of The Deathly Hallows. Of course, if speculation that Harry dies at the end of book seven is true, then any future books will be rather boring:

A worm burrowed into Harry’s eye socket. He did nothing about it, as he was dead.

Not really the high tension adventure we’ve come to expect from Rowling. Anyway, if you want to sign the petition, click here –

Maybe we should start a petition to NOT save Harry and let the series end without flogging it into literary porridge over the next few years.


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. Zetetic.

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