Monthly Archives: November 2007

Reader feedback

November 29, 2007

Every once in a while readers send me emails. Usually they’re things like, “You’re going to burn in Hell!” The more polite ones are like that anyway. However, every once in a while I get a nice email from someone entering more into the whole spirit of things.

A while ago I posted a piece about the Washington Post Neologism Contest. You can read the original post here. Word reader Susan Higgins, from Yarmouth, ME (which is somewhere in America, I presume), sent me this email today:

In keeping in the spirit of the annual Washington Post neologism contest, where you can only change one letter to create a new word or phrase, a few friends of mine and I put together a few words and phrases for the holidays we thought you might enjoy:

Mustletoe: the act of wrenching onesself away from an unwanted kisser under the hanging white berries.

Stocking Stiffers: cheap presents of relatively large size that make Christmas stockings look abundantly full.

Black Holy: The place where the tape and scissors magically disappear into when wrapping Christmas presents.

Jingle Bills: the sound of the credit card companies calling on your telephone after the holidays.

Thanks Susan and friends.

So keep those emails coming, even the damnation assurances from religious fundamentalists; I actually find those ones among the funniest. I’m always happy to share your thoughts and words here, and you can leave comments on any post as well.

Economic models explained

November 25, 2007

Well, this past weekend the people of Australia gave John Howard a very well deserved kick up his lying arse and made it quite clear that we’ve had enough of him. Now the almost saint-like (if the media is to be believed) Kevin Rudd has a chance as our new Prime Minister. If he can lay off the ear wax, that is. Let’s see if he can even vaguely live up to what the populace now expects of him.

Kevin Rudd and his deputy, Julia Gillard. Happy little bunnies.

Now, here at The Word I’m always happy to help people better understand the everyday terminology that surrounds us and, quite often, baffles us. Within the murky world of politics, word abuse is rife and even the general terms can be twisted and misrepresented. With that in mind, and given the general air of political fever here at the moment, I thought it might be a nice time to share this email that was forwarded to me by a very good friend. It takes the complex issue of Political Economics and simplifies the concepts with the use of cows.

Economic Models explained with Cows

SOCIALISM: You have 2 cows, and you give one to your neighbour.

COMMUNISM: You have 2 cows. The State takes both and gives you some milk.

FASCISM: You have 2 cows. The State takes both and sells you some milk.

NAZISM: You have 2 cows. The State takes both and shoots you.

BUREAUCRATISM: You have 2 cows. The State takes both, shoots one, milks the other, then throws the milk away.

TRADITIONAL CAPITALISM: You have two cows. You sell one and buy a bull. Your herd multiplies, and the economy grows. You sell them and retire on the income.

Now for some international variations on corporate economy explained with the use of cows:

AN AMERICAN CORPORATION: You have two cows. You sell one, and force the other to produce the milk of four cows. Later, you hire a consultant to analyse why the cow has dropped dead.

ENRON VENTURE CAPITALISM: You have two cows. You sell three of them to your publicly listed company, using letters of credit opened by your brother-in-law at the bank, then execute a debt/equity swap with an associated general offer so that you get all four cows back, with a tax exemption for five cows. The milk rights of the six cows are transferred via an intermediary to a Cayman Island Company secretly owned by the majority shareholder who sells the rights to all seven cows back to your listed company. The annual report says the company owns eight cows, with an option on one more. Sell one cow to buy a new president of the United States , leaving you with nine cows. No balance sheet provided with the release. The public buys your bull. (Or THE ANDERSEN MODEL: You have two cows. You shred them.)

A FRENCH CORPORATION: You have two cows. You go on strike, organise a riot, and block the roads, because you want three cows.

A JAPANESE CORPORATION: You have two cows. You redesign them so they are one-tenth the size of an ordinary cow and produce twenty times the milk. You then create a clever cow cartoon image called ‘cowkimon’ and market it worldwide.

A CHINESE CORPORATION: You have two cows. You have 300 people milking them. You claim that you have full employment, and high bovine productivity, and arrest the newsman who reported the real situation.

AUSTRALIAN CORPORATION: You have two cows. Business seems pretty good. You close the office and go for a few beers to celebrate.

WELSH CORPORATION: You have two cows. The one on the left looks very attractive.

OK. It’s just getting silly now.

Who’s a good boy then?

November 24, 2007


I like that kind of attitude.

Would you like to buy my sock?

November 18, 2007

It’s not a question you’d expect to hear often, is it? In fact, you could relatively safely assume that it’s a question you’d never hear. Well, maybe not.



It’s a shoddy sign, quite weathered, but that really is what it says. I had to snap this shot quickly with my phone just as we were all pulling away at a set of lights, so it’s a shame that the image isn’t clearer, but there you go.

I was tempted to honk my horn just to see what would happen. Was it really plausible that he would have pulled over and tried to sell me his sock? The thing that really interested me is that he wasn’t even offering the pair; just a single sock. Perhaps he woke up one morning and thought, “You know, I could get by with just one sock from each pair, and imagine the money I could make off the other ones!”

It’s a whacky, whacky world out there, people.

Blade Runner: The Final Cut

November 12, 2007

I went on Sunday night to the Hayden Orpheum in Cremorne to see Blade Runner: The Final Cut. What a fantastic cinema that is. The perfect venue for such a movie and a HUGE screen. I was lucky enough to be in the audience of the first showing, which turned out to be the first showing of this edition in the Southern Hemisphere and one of the only showings using 4k High Definition technology.

What am I talking about, are some of you wondering? I’m a total Blade Runner fan, so maybe I should back up a bit and allow for the fact that most people aren’t as sad about this as I am.

Blade Runner is director Ridley Scott’s magnum opus. For all the good films that he may have made before and since, this movie stands alone for its atmospheric impact and the depth and intricacy of the story. Essentially it’s a story about life, creation, destruction and how much time we all have here and what we do with it. It’s also the greatest science fiction movie of all time. Naturally, I’m biased, but I’m hoping to drag you along here.

The original movie poster.

The first theatrical release, from 1982, was a film that polarised critics and was fundamentally a flop. The genius was recognised, however, and the film became a cult classic. Quite a few things these days try to get that little badge of honour tacked on, but few really deserve it. Blade Runner really was, and still is, a cult classic.

The original release was deemed too deep for audiences to get. Yes, even back in 1982 Hollywood thought that all movie goers were completely brain dead and, then as now, pandered to the lowest common denominator among potential ticket buyers. Scott’s original cut was reworked, a complete narration voice-over was added by Deckard (the main character played by Harrison Ford) and key elements of the plot were struck out. As the underground success of the film gathered pace, we eventually got the Director’s Cut. This version was infinitely better. Gone was the “help the idiots to understand” voiceover and the film-noir intensity and detail of the story was restored with the reintroduction of key scenes. But it was a rushed effort and Scott himself was not directly involved. A little strange for a Director’s Cut, but there you go.

Now, twenty five years later, the film still has the same impact. It’s still a giant in the genre and a giant among films generally. And still my favourite film of all time. So I was beside myself when I heard that the new Final Cut, Ridley Scott’s own definitive take on the film, was to be in limited cinema release and subsequent DVD release. For all my love of the movie, I’ve never had the chance to see it on the big screen before. And it was awesome. I saw detail in the sets and scenes that I’d never noticed before on smaller screens. Scott’s attention to detail with this film is incredible. And now that we’re closer to the time these events are supposed to take place (the movie is set in November 2019) we can see that Scott’s vision isn’t going to happen quite as he portrayed it. The massive Atari billboards in Scott’s future LA, for example, are a bit weird. But now the film has an alternate future feel about it, but one that is still so very close to our own possible future that it’s quite possible to imagine ourselves there pretty soon.


I was very excited to see what Scott would do with this Final Cut and, in some ways, I’m a little disappointed. He did very little.

For those that know the film in detail, I can tell you of a couple of key things that were changed. He corrects the poor arithmetic when Bryant is telling Deckard how many replicants there are. Now two got fried at the Tyrell corporation. Roy Batty refers to Tyrell as “father” rather than “fucker” in that incredible scene where the two finally come face to face. And the unicorn scene is moved from Deckard’s dream to when Deckard is sitting at the piano, staring into space. That last change is going to generate enormous debate, I’m sure.

Otherwise there are very few changes. A few scenes extended by a second or two here and there, some additional green screen work, expanding the backdrops and so on. Very little fundamental change.

Anyway, the most important thing is that Scott didn’t do a Lucas and take his best ever film and piss all over it, as Lucas did by sullying the memory of the awesome Star Wars (the other greatest sci-fi movie of all time) with the vomit of a movie that is The Phantom Menace. Not to mention what Lucas did to the original Star Wars in the newly released editions. Blade Runner is still the greatest movie of all time.

Now I can’t wait for December to get the DVD version and watch it again, see if I can’t spot a few more changes. Drop a comment or send me an email if you’ve seen it and spotted any changes. I’ve got my limited edition brief case set on order already.

I know. It’s really very sad.



Religions of the world united at last?

November 10, 2007

No. Of course not. That’s a ridiculous concept. By their very nature they’re antagonistic towards each other. But you could be forgiven for thinking they had the capacity to unite by looking at this picture:

The guy in the middle definitely wins for the silliest hat.

The people in this shot have been identified as (left to right) Sheik Abed es-Salem Menasra, deputy mufti of Jerusalem; the Rev. Michel Sabbagh, the Latin patriarch; the Archbishop Torkom Manoogian, the Armenian patriarch; Rabbi Shlomo Amar, the Sephardic chief rabbi; and Rabbi Yona Metzger, the Ashkenazi chief rabbi. The poor fella at the far right was not identified for some reason. Maybe he still needs to get a bit more bigoted or something.

So, why are they all together and looking so happy to be in such close proximity? Don’t forget, each of these people considers all the others to be idolators and infidels of some stripe or another. Well, they have found something to unite about, but it’s nothing for us to get even vaguely hopeful about. Apparently, international gay leaders planned a 10-day WorldPride festival and parade in Jerusalem in August 2005, saying they want to make a statement about tolerance and diversity in the Holy City. I have to admit, I had no idea gay people were so organised. International leaders? Sounds vaguely ominous to me.

But at last, the three “great” religions of the region, Christianity, Judaism and Islam have found something to agree about. They say the event would desecrate the city and convey the erroneous impression that homosexuality is acceptable. Whereas, they seem to have no problem with systemic child abuse and dogmatic mind control.

“They are creating a deep and terrible sorrow that is unbearable,” Shlomo Amar, Israel’s Sephardic chief rabbi, said of the festival. “It hurts all of the religions. We are all against it.” I’m quite impressed. Hurting all the religions at once has to be a worthy goal of any group. And if they have international leaders…

Abdel Aziz Bukhari, a Sufi sheik, added: “We can’t permit anybody to come and make the Holy City dirty. This is very ugly and very nasty to have these people come to Jerusalem.” Sure. Because before this festival was planned, there were no gay people there at all.

Apparently, this rare show of unity was initiated by the Rev. Leo Giovinetti, an evangelical pastor from San Diego, cited as a veteran of the American culture war over homosexuality and a frequent visitor to Israel. A culture war?

Hagai El-Ad, the executive director of Jerusalem Open House, a gay and lesbian group that was the host for the festival, hit the nail on the head with this observation: “That is something new I’ve never witnessed before, such an attempt to globalise bigotry. It’s quite sad and ironic that these religious figures are coming together around such a negative message.”

But let’s give the last word to an American Rabbi, Yehuda Levin, of the Rabbinical Alliance of America. He claims that the festival is “the spiritual rape of the Holy City.” To clarify his point, he claimed, “This is not the homo land, this is the Holy Land.”

(I should point out that this story is two years old, as this was a festival that took place in 2005. But hey, so what? It’s a good story, and religious bigotry is eternal. Interestingly, the parade was marred by violence when an Ultra-Orthodox Jew invaded into the march and stabbed three participants. Way to go, religious tolerance.)

Short story to be published in Harbinger Journal

November 7, 2007

I’ve had another short story accepted for publication. It’s not a paying market this time, but a new journal showcasing emerging Australian writers called Harbinger Journal. They produce a print ready pdf download of each issue and are trying to develop their profile high enough to produce a hard copy anthology each year of the best from each issue.

There is a theme set for each issue and my story, Runaway, will appear in Issue 03, for which the theme was Secrecy. Runaway is a contemporary non-genre piece, which is a bit beyond my normal hunting ground, but it’s always good to exercise those creative muscles. I’m most at home writing Speculative Fiction, so writing something non-genre was an interesting challenge for me. I actually wrote this story some time ago and didn’t really consider getting it published. Then I stumbled across Harbinger Journal with their Secrecy theme and this particular story fits perfectly. So there you go, another publication to add to my CV. Which I will get around to writing up and posting here on my website sometime soon, I promise.

You can learn a bit more about the Harbinger Journal project by clicking here. If you’re a writer, have a go at submitting something and see how you go. Non-paying or paying markets, anywhere that accepts your work through an independent editing process is a publishing credit. If you enjoy quality short fiction, keep an eye on the site and buy a download when it’s produced. I’ll drop another note here to let you all know when the issue is released.

All those unnecessary words

November 7, 2007

At what point do extra words become unnecessary? As a writer, I’m always looking to make my prose more full and interesting. I’m always looking for a way to make the writing as exciting as the story. After all, why simply say “It was an overcast day and looked like it might rain” when you could say “The sky was heavy with pregnant, leaden clouds, pressing down, reaching for the ground with the promise of torrential downpours”? Other than sounding like a wanker, of course, which is always a problem when you try too hard with something like this.

Very often, extra words are simply the same things said twice. Sometimes it can work, in that rounding out of prose way, but sometimes it’s just poor writing. A writer on one of the forums I frequent, by the name of David, came up with this list called:

Wasted Words

(Or: how I learned to stop padding out my writing and start saying what I really meant.)

As if by magic, I shall reduce each of these clichéd phrases to a single word without losing any of the meaning!

“Plummet down to Earth” = “Plummet”

Plummet means falling down. Nothing plummets in any direction other than down.

“New innovation” = “Innovation”

If it’s an innovation, it’s new by definition.

“Surrounded on all sides” = “Surrounded”

How can you be surrounded on anything less than all sides?

“Red in colour”

Er… you mean, it’s “red”?

“Razed to the ground” = “Razed”

The definition of “razed” includes “to the ground”.

“Exactly the same” = “The same”

Unless you really think your audience will think you mean “inexactly the same”… no? thought not…

“Close proximity” = “Close”

“Proximity” means “close”. You’re saying “close close”. Duh!

“Free gift” = “Gift”

When is a gift anything other than free?

“In the field of biology” = “In biology”

Biology is already a field. (Ditto for all other fields of study.)

“Collaborate together” = “Collaborate”

Because when have you ever known anybody collaborate separately?

“Temporary reprieve” = “Reprieve”

A reprieve is automatically temporary. Otherwise it’s not a reprieve, it’s a pardon (or equivalent).

“Consensus of opinion” = “Consensus”

Just look up the definition of “consensus”, ok?

“Personal opinion” = “Opinion”

Unless you can prove to me that an opinion can be impersonal

“Round in shape” = “Round”

See “red in colour”, above.

“Future plans” = “Plans”

I’ll let you off if you’re doing a time travel story, otherwise I challenge you to write something in which your plans are not in the future.

“Close scrutiny” = “Scrutiny”

Distant scrutiny is not scrutiny, it’s just a hopeful sort of squint.

“Minute detail” = “Detail”

Because, well, you know…

“Shorter in length” = “Shorter”

Because you can’t be shorter in anything else. (No, don’t even try the “shorter in time” argument, I’ll just throw Einstein at you.)

“Prior experience” = “Experience”

Once more I will grant dispensations for a time travel story, otherwise there’s no such thing as future experience.

“Combine together” = “Combine”
“Exact replica” = “Replica”
“Revert back” = “Revert”

I really shouldn’t need to explain these by now!

“Patently obvious” = “Obvious”

Because what the heck does “patently” mean???

So, sure, David is being a bit pedantic. A bit of artistic licence can let a few things like that slide here and there. But think hard about it when you’re writing, as a lot of things like those in David’s list will just make you sound like an amateur. And when you’re reading, if you notice a lot of things like those examples in David’s list, perhaps you should stop reading Dan Brown and get into some seriously good authors.

Quality graffiti

November 4, 2007

A lot of people consider it simple vandalism, but, as far as I’m concerned, there’s definitely a place for quality graffiti. And such a thing does exist. Dickheads that go around with a big texta or spray can and just tag anything in sight are vandals; I don’t think anyone would argue with that. But if you’re a good artist and you can take the time to share a good image, then more power to you.

Things like this make the world a better place, for example.


Graffiti is also the domain of insightful social commentary. Where would we be today without some of the toilet wall wisdom that has been passed down through the generations? I’m sure everyone has learned something from a toilet wall during their lifetime, even if it’s only that Megan likes it rough or that Harry is a homo. Not everything is intellectually stimulating, obviously, but you put up with all the dross in order to find the quality. You have to dig through a lot of earth and rock to find a diamond, but no one would consider giving up diamonds altogether, to dangerously overstretch a metaphor.

So, here on The Word, where all things word related fascinate us to an unhealthy degree, graffiti is our free to air drug. I recently came across a few diamonds in the field. From the bizarre:


to the very honest:


From the truly surreal, yet strangely accurate:


to the surreal and droll:


Then there’s the homage to things that really should die, but simply refuse to go away:


And finally, the simple and eternal. My personal favourite thus far:


You can’t touch this.


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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