Monthly Archives: December 2009

2009 keyword searches

December 30, 2009

My friend Michael recently did a post like this and it reminded me that I haven’t done one for a while. It basically boils down to entertaining yourself by looking at the various keyword searches that led people to your blog throughout the year. It’s amazing the things people search for online.

Michael blogged a lot this year about sexual ethics and had numerous very interesting searches ranging from “is it still necrophilia if i’m conscious” to “bisexual family orgy” to “how to do islamic stoning”. I can’t promise you anything quite so broken and disturbing. There is a lot of quite amusing stuff though. So, here we go:

The amount of Avatar related searches I had is simply astounding. That movie has certainly lodged in the peoples’ psyche for the moment. Literally thousands of hits to my site were from various searches like this one due my Avatar 3D review.

I hear ya, buddy. I hear ya.


The bible code has answers for everything, clearly.

This came up a lot in various permutations, due to this post about black magic being used against the president of Indonesia. Allegedly. I was amused that there was an interesting spread of queries along similar lines:

Fight fire with fire.

Can’t leave out the old Hindus.

When it comes to obscurely academic searches, I thought this was pretty specific:

Then there’s the usual lesbian searches that I always get lots of. Don’t ask me why, I don’t think I post about lesbians all that much. Then again, I’ve just said the word twice in this post…

A carpet? Unless we’re talking about the Greeks, when it would be a population. Or perhaps an island. Suggestions?

And, if so, which part?

Sounds like someone is gathering ammunition before opening that closet door.

This came up in the comments of a post a little while ago. I think some people have a bit of a problem with the definition of acronym, though. Especially this person:

Might I suggest “U”? Oh, the irony.

Just as dumb. But happier, at least.

Presumably you mean Star Wars. I thought pretty much everything was inappropriate for Catholics.

These searches almost rivalled the Avatar searches for numbers. It’s all about the post that will not die. It was a harmless little whimsical post a year ago (almost to the day) about fools that dress up and pretend to be superheroes. Turns out they get upset easily and there’s an entire subculture going on and a bunch of people that take it very seriously don’t like being lumped in with the wannabe fools. That post is still getting comments as recently as this week! This search was probably more accurate:

Let’s move on.

What are they and where can I get some!?

Depends on the size of the post box, surely?

Sorry, mate. Can’t help you with that one.

Not so much a search as a statement.

You want dark fantasy stories about people fucking or are you just an angry person?

Stay away from Stephenie Meyer and you should be fine.

I’m not sure I want to know what this person actually meant.

Yeah, fuck ’em. What have they ever done for us?

I’m not touching this one. My wife reads this blog.

You mean like this:

Yes. Yes he is.

I get this one all the time. And it still makes me laugh.

Is there such a thing? How do you measure it?

Hmm. Easier to measure, but I wouldn’t know anything about this.

Yes it is.

And yet you used it to make this point. Ooh…

Maybe step away from Google for a little while? Also, learn to use the word “seriously”.

I don’t think you’ll find any here, but let me know if you do.

A paragraph?

The scrotum is the world of the body? This implies an entire series of bodyparts covered in the World Of The Body. Might be quite interesting. A bit annoying that only scrotum wound up here though.

And finally, there’s this:

You cheap bastard! Buy the book and find out.

Happy new year everyone. I wonder what bizarre searches 2010 will bring.


Ten words you need to stop misspelling

December 29, 2009

There are a few words that are commonly misspelled or simply used incorrectly. I’m quickly becoming a fan The Oatmeal comics and today they’ve got a good list of ten commonly misspelled words, along with that special brand of Oatmeal drawing and comedy. The words they cover are:


Weird not Wierd







A lot not alot*


Find the comic and explanations here.

* Also in this category there should be a discussion of any+, such as anywhere or any more. Or Anymore and any where. There’s no clear line here and some people connect any word with any in it and some are selective. Personally, I’m selective. Your thoughts?


Slice Of Life by Paul Haines – review

December 26, 2009

Slice Of LifeI’ll start by saying that I’m lucky enough to call Paul Haines a friend, so I don’t want any accusations of friendly bias. Think what you like, you cynical bastards.

You may remember that I was going on about the X6 novella anthology from Coeur De Lion earlier this year. There was this post about the book and this post after I’d been to the official launch. Paul had a novella in there called Wives. It is, without a doubt, the best thing I’ve read this year. Buy X6 just for Wives if nothing else. Here’s hoping it gets that Aurealis Award it’s been nominated for.

Anyway, a while ago I picked up Paul’s collection of short stories published through The Mayne Press called Slice Of Life. This, his second collection, comprises seventeen short stories, sixteen reprinted from a wide variety of original publications, and one shiny new one. Well, maybe not shiny. Kinda tarnished, with spots of something horribly unidentifiable on it. But it’s a new one. Another friend once described Paul’s work to me as “stories you can smell.” It’s a good description.

Paul’s stories are visceral, horrible, bile coated things swollen with fear and paranoia. They’re also darkly funny and uncomfortably honest. If you think he’s going to take you somewhere pretty nasty, he probably is. All the stories in here are speculative fiction, but there’s a wide range of styles – fantasy, science fiction, horror, “Paul Haines”. He really should be a genre unto himself. Especially as he casts himself as the protagonist in most stories.

The writing is excellent, the ideas bizarre and profound. Paul is a sick fuck, and I know he wouldn’t mind me saying so. In fact, he’d probably consider it a compliment. The thing that makes Paul’s writing great is that he’s fearless. If he’s following a theme, he’ll follow it to the hideous, bitter end. These are not stories for the faint-hearted or easily offended. They are stories for anyone with a love of powerful, engaging writing. I loved every yarn in this collection, though my favourites would probably be Inducing and A Tale Of The Interferers: Necromancing The Bones. The Slice Of Life stories themselves, a series of tales interconnected, are also excellent. Paul says of the stories: “Explicit, violent, mysogynistic and nasty… stories are heavily cemented in my real life, and I love blurring them into the unreal.”

Other people have said:

“Exhuberant, profane and totally whacked out” – Ellen Datlow

“visceral and thoughtful, unashamedly masculine and unabashedly emotional, and beautifully and meticulously crafted” – Martin Livings

“the anxiety in these stories is palpable. Love the paranoia! Love the self loathing. Love the psychosis” – Aurealis: Australian Fantacy & Science Fiction

Do yourself a favour. Buy this book and see just what is possible with spec fic. You’ll be supporting small press in Australia and you’ll get a great book. On top of that, all proceeds will go to Paul to help him fight cancer. Good on ya, Paul – nice work.

Get the book here. Do it. Now!

EDIT: Here’s Paul’s own website. Check it out.


Irony of the week, from Peter Jensen

December 25, 2009

Ah, this did make me laugh. It’s the belief equivalent of “my dad can beat up your dad”.

From the Sydney Morning Herald:

[Sydney’s Anglican Archbishop Peter Jensen] Speaking to the congregation at St Andrews Cathedral on Christmas morning, he said recent polling showed Australians were religious and still looking for an answer on the purpose of life.

“But many of the answers are superstitious, such as astrology,” he said. “Superstition can never satisfy the longings of the human heart and they cannot mend our brokenness.”

Not superstitions like astrology, anyway. Superstitions like Christianity, on the other hand, are the perfect solution. In something that seems like it was written for comedy, something that surely can’t possibly have been said without a wry smile, he added, “Again, those who seek for truth and insist on the highest standards of truth are to be commended.”

Try reading a different book for a change, Jensen. That would be commendable.

Happy Christmas, everyone! *sigh*


I’m starting a movement

December 23, 2009

And no, before anyone gets smart in the comments, not a bowel movement. More a movement in response to the season (which is a kind of bowel movement in itself). Christians are always bleating on about “Put the Christ back into Christmas!” I’m sick and tired of that.

I’m starting a new movement:

Get your Christmas out of Sol Invictus!

Who’s with me? It makes just as much sense as the Christians harping on.

Anyway, here’s hoping that this season of manufactured madness doesn’t drive you all completely mental and I hope all readers of The Word have as happy a time as they can. May you all be safe and well and enjoy a happy, healthy and productive 2010.

See you on the flip side.


Avatar 3D – review

December 21, 2009

I’ll discuss the general plot in this review but I’ll give you a warning before there are any real spoilers.

Avatar teaserI was very dubious about this film. I really wanted it to be a great movie, but it could so easily have just been a tacky display of special effects without any substance. I try to keep faith in James Cameron, the writer/director. After all, he’s given us Terminator and Terminator 2, Aliens, True Lies and Strange Days. He’s also given us Titanic. It’s not a spotless track record.

In truth, this movie lies somewhere between eye shatteringly, brain stunningly awesome and Meh, it’s all right. It actually has aspects of both. The basic story is this: It’s some time in the future and Jake Sully, a paraplegic Jarhead war veteran, is shipped to the planet Pandora, which is inhabited by the Na’vi. Jake’s brother was trained to interact with the Na’vi, but was killed. Jake, as his twin, has the necessary genome to take over his brother’s role. That role is to lie in a box, remotely operating an artificially grown Na’vi body or Avatar. Of course, the humans are actually there for a rare and valuable resouce and moral dichotomies ensue. The rare resource itself nearly made me get up and walk out right away. It’s called, wait for it…


Fucking really?! I was appalled at that. It’s worse than Adamantium in the X-Men movies that my wife can’t hear as anything but Adam Ant Ium. Unobtanium. Man, that’s really, really bad.

Avatar JakeAlso, there’s something kinda weird about the whole Avatar concept itself. The planet has a toxic atmosphere for humans and the Na’vi are about twelve feet tall and the planet is all hostile and so on. So I suppose that’s why they’ve gone to these ridiculously complex lengths to interact with the natives. It does sort of work, but I couldn’t help thinking that it was a bit like white people going into Africa with boot polish on their faces saying, “We’sa here to um-help you, bongo bongo.” That aspect of it all was a bit uncomfortable for me.

The Na’vi are a race absolutely in tune with their green and vibrant planet. The humans are a bunch of yahoos desperate for this rock and want the Na’vi to move so they can mine the best of it. The Na’vi want nothing from people, so the people decide to muscle in and take it. Jake manages to get deeper into Na’vi culture than anyone ever has before, he learns about how they’re just lovely folk and falls in love with one of them. Naturally, even though he said he would report back to the army with intel, he ends up siding with the scientists and trying to save the Na’vi from the marauding humans. There are heavy and obvious overtones of looking after your mother planet, the humans not understanding the Na’vi’s deep bond with all of nature and so on.

So you can see that we’re following a story by numbers here and this is where it’s hard to call this movie good or bad. On the one hand it is visually fan-fucking-tastic. The world building, the scenic backdrops, the native life, the whole vibe of the planet Pandora is absolutely beautiful. The use of 3D is clever, without trying to shock the audience all the time. There’s very little stuff-flying-at-your-face-to-make-you-gasp 3D and a lot of just normal, well shot cinema that just happens to be in 3D. The 3D does have some flaws. In fast action sequences the focus is sometimes lost, for example. Also, everything seems to have a slight sheen over it and you are fundamentally watching a movie with your sunglasses on. Taking the glasses off, the film, while blurry because of the 3D effects, is actually brighter and more vibrant. You’d think they could crank the brightness up a bit for 3D to account for the fact that everyone is wearing shades. Small gripe though. The futuristic nature of the human’s vehicles and computers and stuff like that is well thought out and interesting to look at too. There’s no doubt that as pure cinema this film is a stunning achievement.

It would have been really nice if the story had been as powerful and mould-breaking as the technical extravagances. But, even though the story is predictable potentially to the point of boredom, it’s very well done. It’s painting by numbers but they stay very neatly within the lines. There’s nothing here, nothing at all, that will surprise you. You can see the major plot points coming like one of those massive hammerheaded bull things smashing through the forest (you’ll know ’em when you see ’em) but that somehow doesn’t spoil it. Although it’s cliche, it’s well-scripted cliche. There’s enough going on that it doesn’t seem like a kid’s film and by the time it all starts coming to a head there are very few punches pulled and that helps to lend it credibility.

So yeah, it’s a pedestrian story but an incredible spectacle and worth seeing on the big screen, especially in 3D. After the next picture there are SPOILERS and what I really thought of some parts of it. There are some problems I had that I can’t discuss without spoilers. Read on if you’re interested or go and watch the movie and then come back and see if you agree with me.

You must learn the ways of the forest. Feel the Force, Luke…

I mean, draw the bow, Jake.

Seriously, Unobtanium. FUCKING UNOBTANIUM?! I’m still offended by that name. It’s almost like Cameron said, “What does it matter? Call it anything. We just want mad blue dudes diving around in a glowing forest anyway.” Which is a shame. Unobtanium, for fuck’s sake… all right, let it go, Al. Let it go.

There are other problems with this flick. The whole Avatar concept I’ve mentioned up above and that is a bit weird, but we’ll just accept that because it’s the foundation of the entire movie.

The other major problem I had was this. Jake and the scientists, with one rogue chopper pilot, decide that what the company is doing is just plain wrong and they take a stand against it. Would no other people there stand against it too? Why would just one tiny handful of people decide genocide was wrong while the rest of the humans there go along with it? We’ve reached out to the stars, but we’re still that dumb? And that then leads on to another problem. Against all odds (naturally) Jake and the Na’vi stop the humans from destroying the Soul Tree, and round up all the remaining people and ship them back off to Earth. So you’ve just handed the US Marine Corps (which appears to have taken over as the entire Earth army) a massive spanking. These tall blue hippies with their bows and arrows have sent the Marines packing. So those Marines get back to Earth and tell everyone what happened. You can imagine what happens next. Avatar 2 would be a very short film – Earth arrives with multiple battlecruisers, hundreds of thousands of foot soldiers, massed gunships and tears through the Na’vi population like a teenage boy through his prom date’s knickers.

Or are we supposed to believe that the humans “learned a lesson” and will leave the Na’vi alone from now on?


Also, the biggest deposit of Unob… you know, I just can’t bloody say it. I’m going to call it Plot Device Stone. So, the biggest deposit of Plot Device Stone is right under the big old Home Tree. Or was it under the Soul Tree? Whatever, basically, it’s exactly where the Na’vi are. But there’s an entire planet out there – what’s the rush? Why couldn’t the company mine all over the place where there weren’t any indigenous populations and let the Avatar program spend months or years more interacting with the Na’vi. They might have learned more, might have negotiated mining rights or whatever. If nothing else the slaughter would have been delayed by a fair chunk of time. More realistic than it was presented in the film anyway.

Still, that sequence where they blow the shit out of the Home Tree was pretty damned impressive.

Lastly, something that simply did my head in. What the fuck was it with Sigourney Weaver/Grace’s nose?! All the Avatars were essentially Na’vi people that resembled their human operators. Except Grace. She was an Avatar with Sigourney Weaver’s face. That was just bloody freaky, especially a Na’vi with a human nose. Imagine how much that would have freaked out the Na’vi when she first showed up, especially as she was one of the first. She walks in and the entire population screams, “What happened to your face?!”

There are other small plot issues that I have. The usual convenient story events, the blatant set ups (like him flying the big orange dragon thing) and so on, but we can ignore those. It is a shame that such an incredible looking film had such a predictable story, but there you go. It wasn’t all bad and I have to be honest – I sat in the cinema and lapped up every second of it. (Except Plot Device Stone and Grace Face – they were both just wrong.)


The contradictions of belief in Australia

December 19, 2009

An interesting article in the Sydney Morning Herald caught my attention today. One thousand Australians were polled by Nielsen on the subject of faith. You can read the whole article from the link above, but a few things made me shake my head.

Firstly, it’s worth remembering that 85% of statistics are made up on the spot. Including that one right there. You can pretty much bend any figures to suit your point of view. Another key point is that 1,000 people is a very tiny fraction of Australia’s 22 million head population. A really good poll would have tried for at least 220,000 people to get a decent cross-section of the country. These polls are always based on very small numbers though. Take a different 1,000 Australians and I bet the answers would vary greatly.

What interested me more than these mere technicalities though was the nature of some of the questions. Simply put, this poll largely identified Australia as a nation with a Christian past and a fundamentally Christian culture. Well, no shit. About half the population calls itself Christian. Of course, around 6 percent call themselves Jedi. You can call yourself whatever you like, it doesn’t make it true.

Some of the questions and answers really made clear the underlying bollocks of all this. Matters of belief are very personal, largely a person’s own method of grappling with their miniscule position in the great big universe. Take the fact that 56 per cent believe in Heaven, but only 38 per cent believe in Hell. That’s a bit convenient, no? You can’t have one without the other. And while 38 per cent believe in Hell, only 37 percent believe in the devil. Who does that 1 per cent think is running things down there?

Then there are questions like: Do you believe in witches? That’s not a matter of belief. Show me someone that follows Wicca and I’ll show you a witch. No belief necessary, they’re demonstrably present. They’re usually really annoying too, going on about the Goddesses and completely misinterpreting the tenets of their ‘faith’, but they exist. A better question would have been: Do you believe in magic. But then you’d have to define magic. Like the question: Do you believe in miracles? Broad definition applicable there too.

Then there was the question: Do you believe in UFOs? What, Unidentified Flying Objects? Every time you see something in the sky that you can’t identify, that’s a UFO. Presumably the question meant: Do you believe in aliens? We’ll have to take it that most people interpreted it that way. 34 per cent said Yes, incidentally. More than the 22 per cent that believe in witches. Even though you can go and shake hands with a witch, but you’d be hard pressed to actually find an alien.

Of course, you also need to check in with the atheists. 30 per cent agreed with the statement: There is – or seems to be – no god. Apparently the number of atheists is rising while the number of faithful is falling, but it’s a slow transition. We seem to poll very similar numbers to the UK, far behind the more skeptical and secular Scandinavians, while being way ahead of the US. 92 per cent of Americans believe in the existence of god or a universal spirit. Interestingly, and contradictory once again, out of the 30 per cent of Australians that believe there is no god (or doesn’t “seem to be”), ten percent still said they believe in heaven, hell, angels, witches and the devil. What the fuck? Also among those there is a fair amount of faith in astrology, UFOs and ESP. As the article concludes, “a third of the nation’s atheists, agnostics and doubters have turned their back on God, but not on magic.” I don’t find that entirely strange. It’s just entirely human.

Also interesting is that just 42 per cent believe in evolution. You can’t believe in a scientific theory. You either accept it as correct, partly correct or incorrect. Then there’s the whole grey area of how much of a part some god or other may or may not have played in the process of evolution.

Just further proof that you can’t distill these things down with extremely limited polls of extremely limited numbers. Here are the main results from the poll:

BELIEF IN A GOD: 68 per cent


BELIEF IN HEAVEN: 56 per cent

BELIEF IN HELL: 38 per cent

BELIEF IN THE DEVIL: 37 per cent

BELIEF IN ANGELS: 51 per cent

BELIEF IN WITCHES: 22 per cent

BELIEF IN UFOs: 34 per cent







EVOLUTION: 42 per cent

THERE IS – OR SEEMS TO BE – NO GOD: 30 per cent

Use the link at the top to read the whole article. It’s quite fascinating, even though it’s a load of shit.


Pretentious spam arsehole of the week

December 19, 2009

I got this spam comment today:

Well, the article is actually the best on this precious topic. I fit in with your conclusions and will thirstily look forward to your future updates. Saying thanks will not just be enough, for the great lucidity in your writing. I will at once grab your rss feed to stay privy of any updates. Genuine work and much success in your business endeavors!

Can you guess what post it was on? It was this one, where I reposted the list of Aurealis Award finalists.

Seriously, what a fuckwit.


Why The Phantom Menace was awful

December 19, 2009

I picked this up from S F Signal and enjoyed every minute of it. Essentially it’s a review of Star Wars: The Phantom Menace. We all know that the prequel movies took the original Star Wars trilogy, one of the best things ever committed to film, and shat repeatedly all over them, forever tarnishing something wonderful. But why exactly were those prequels so bad? Well, Lucas pissed all over his legacy by relying on CGI and completely nonsensical plots as a vehicle for selling merchandise and computer games, along with trying to further his own interest in symbiosis, among many other travesties. But fundamentally the prequels were really, really bad storytelling. All the other stuff is awful, but the story just made no sense at all.

This series of seven ten minute videos is a review that completely deconstructs The Phantom Menace and does a great job of explaining just how bad the storytelling is. The review is also very funnily and creepily done. It’s worth 70 minutes of your time.

The masters of double standards strike again

December 16, 2009

Those faithful believers in the best selling epic fantasy of all time, the Bible, are at it again. At what, you ask? Promoting amazing levels of hypocrisy and double standards, that’s what. According to today’s Sydney Morning Herald, the Catholic Church has been accused of derailing the second and third movie of Philip Pullman’s His Dark Materials trilogy.

The novels are fundamentally about the struggles of young Lyra against an institution called The Magisterium. The Magisterium is clearly based on the institution of the church, most closely the Catholic church. And so what? Allegory, analogy and appropriation are basic tools of storytelling.

The first film in the series, The Golden Compass, already had the role of The Magisterium toned down to appease religious thinskins, which is irritating enough in itself. According to actor Sam Elliot, who plays aeronaut Lee Scoresby in the film, the campaign by Bill Donohoe of the Catholic League for Religious and Civil Rights, has successfully scared New Line Cinema away from making the remaining films. Donohoe reckons the films would prompt kids to buy Pullman’s novels which he describes as “atheism for kids”. No, don’t let the children buy novels! He also said, “The reason I protested was the deceitful attempt to introduce Christian children to atheism in a backdoor fashion at Christmas time.” He seems to assume that all children are Christian by default or something.

Seriously, what a tool. He would be the first to campaign for the inclusion of prayers in school assemblies. He would be the first to insist that Christianity is an integral part of the school curriculum. He would be happy to see movies like The Lion, The Witch & The Wardrobe, with their “deceitful attempt to introduce normal children to Christianity” (to appropriate his own quote) released at Christmas. He also complains that each volume in the trilogy becomes increasingly anti-Catholic. In fact, each volume becomes increasingly anti-Magisterium. The fact that the Magisterium is based on the church doesn’t matter. It’s a story. People will take from the story whatever allegory they see and that’s the prerogative of the storytellers and the people that go to see the films. Let them decide what they think. Is the church really so fragile?

Once again, the religious cry foul at something that might make people think. Critical thinking is, after all, the greatest enemy of organised religion of any kind. So what if the films espouse an idea of atheism? Does free speech only apply when you’re talking about Christianity, Mr Donohoe?

The thing that pisses me off the most, however, is not that people like Donohoe strut around with their attitude of self-importance and sense of Christian entitlement. After all, Donohoe is entitled to think and say whatever he likes. What grinds me is that New Line would cave in to this kind of bollocks and scurry away from the movies, whimpering with their tail between their legs.

After Donohoe’s campaign against the first movie, a campaign designed to affect box office takings, The Golden Compass took a “modest” US$85 million in the United States. What the fuck is modest about eighty five million? Besides that, the movie made US$360 million worldwide. For a movie that might take even US$100 million to make, that’s a pretty solid return.

Author of the books, Philip Pullman, says that the chances of the trilogy being completed in film are fading. Warner Bros, which absorbed New Line last year, have not been in contact with him. And according to the Herald, New Line declined to comment.

I read the trilogy long before the movies were touted and I really enjoyed it. It’s a great series of books. Let’s give a big fuck you to Bill Donohoe and New Line and buy the trilogy for all the young people we know this Christmas. The books are always better than the films anyway and we’ll get young people reading more, thinking more and enjoying a good story. It’s a far more coherent and engaging fantasy than the Bible anyway.

dark materials



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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