Buzzword Books - unusual, intriguing, intelligent, perceptive

Here, you'll find musings from our authors and staff. We don't promise daily updates. Just posts worth your time.

Tuesday, 23 August 2016

MEET THE EBOOK AGE CRIME READ - SHORT, SHARP AND VIOLENT

Grab your Kindle and read the new blast—the brief and brutal bad-arse book.


   Unless you're in a nursing home, you haven't got time for War and Peace.
   Life is fast. Public transport slow.
   Calls for a Turkish coffee type hit.
       Short and pure caffeine.
Enter the brutal ebook romp. Stuffed with crime, vengeance, sadistic satisfaction. It covers a minimal timespan. Has characters damaged, deadly. A plot, frightening and full on.
You read facts, mam. Facts. No subtle touches, long descriptions, fancy words.  Just action, brutality and blood.
The good guts. Distilled for quick consumption.
We've recently published two of these. Here's a summary of what you get:


Hoi Polloi is romp that happens in one night, written by Aussie, Samuel Elliott—who's distilled his own experience as a cog in a Sports TV station. Foxtel?
It's the graveyard shift at Premium Sports Australia. The hero, Sam, is coping with his dead-end job when Jerome, a fired employee sneaks back into the building, hell bent on getting his own back on all the patronising shits who've made his life in the place hell.
The two have never been great buddies, but Sam's coerced to go along with Jerome's rampage because he fears Jerome just might have a point. And just might have a gun.
This is a gut-twisting take on what happens when you  badmouth one employee to another. Jerome intends to trash the office but that's just the start. The action, and tension amp up with each event.
This book works because the author knows exactly what it feels like to be shat upon in a heartless corporation with spurious pretentions—in this case, one that grinds out mindless sports programs. 
How do we know this? Because this reviewer's been there too, at the beginning of the TV area. In that dark past, there was equal exploitation. People were so desperate to get into television, they could be hired for peanuts. Be warned. Hopefuls who cling to the fringe of media and 'art' mostly cope with a pretty sick scene.


The next book, Queer Street, is the brainwave of Ray Johnstone, another Australian author who runs a hotel in France. Ray has already written All Fall Down—an accomplished young-adult novel about surviving WW2 in Paris. After we published this, he decided to revamp an earlier book—a total switch. A nasty gang-land crime story deliberately written with minimalist directness for the short read ebook market.
 Two friends meet at a tough school in a sordid city. When a cruel teacher bashes them both senseless, a blood knot is formed, and their revenge is destined to be sweet.
By their late teens they have built a drug empire. But when a rival gang muscles in, someone has to be wasted and this sparks bloody war between the gangs.
As the body count builds, the Police Chief calls in a bounty hunter to rid his city of the problem. His brief is simple: kill both gang leaders.
Ray has pulled out the stops for this one—inspired by Pulp Fiction and Lock Stock and Two Smoking Barrels.
Crooked cops. Merciless villains. Bashings, murder, torture, and something worse... Because there's a wasteland just out of town. And what happens there isn't nice at all.

So if you like your action fast, spare, brutal and telegraphically written—you could do worse than download these two shockers. No you won't find them on Buzzword. We list our pocket blockbusters on Book Booster.
What's that? Our revamped sister site. You'll find them listed under THRILLERS here

Tuesday, 9 August 2016

WATCH YOUR TONGUE



Years ago, when this blog started, we asked Clinton Smith to contribute something about good English expression. He then gave us something he originally wrote for the advertising and marketing weekly, B&T (published in 1985) which he revised for the blog. The other day we came across it again and decided to reissue it. Because the need is great, as there are now fewer workers in the vinyard. ('Fewer', note, not 'less'.).
 
Since the rudiments of English were banished from Australian curricula, even university graduates exhibit their ignorance when they speak.

As for the frantic yobbos in the media, they no longer even understand the difference between singular and plural constructions.

'There's (there is) fifteen people in the waiting room.' This has become the endemic slipshod truncation. Now even news bulletins don't bother with the elision there're (there are). It means that people hear the dreaded 'is' so often that they begin to think it's correct.
'The flooding and destruction is considered to be worse than...'

It IS (singular) They ARE (plural). Is this hard? Apparently so. Because even ABC presenters consistently get it wrong. My nose is cold. My hands and my nose are cold. My dad was going. My aunt and my dad were going.



Then, nominative and objective case: Fred and I (subject) saw (verb) dad (object).

Alternatively, Dad saw me (object).

But now, it's become, 'Me and Fred saw dad.' Soon we'll have: 'Dad saw I.'

It hasn't quite become that silly yet, but it's close.



Hackneyed words come from lazy minds in a groove. The hackneyed words of journalise assault us every day:

'The massive unrest in the country has now escalated.'

What coven of editors insists on this stupid 'unrest'? Have they never heard of violence, brutality, disorder, disruption, agitation? Why persist with this lame weasel word? And their famous 'unrest' inevitably escalates. It never increases, elevates, expands, swells, extends or magnifies.

Unrest is also generally 'massive'. (They love the thump of the double syllable). No longer is anything large, considerable, big, huge, sizeable, gigantic, colossal, vast, enormous or immense. Cliché words destroy language because shades of meaning suffer.

The hapless victims of 'unrest' are inevitably 'hospitalised' Yuck! (It's been thirty years since they just went to hospital.)



Then there's the hideous 'prestigious'. The word prestige originally meant imposture. It does again when 'ious' is tacked on. This non-word is the staple of a real-estate industry that can't extend beyond cheap labels to language. (Influential perhaps, distinguished, distinctive, reputable, impressive?) You see how language dies when an idiot word becomes entrenched? As for real estate agents, their properties inevitably 'boast' an extensive terrace or double car port. Boast? Give it a rest. Features, perhaps? There's nothing creative about  minds that reach for hammers instead of colours, moods and tones.



As for 'proven'. Today, everything is 'proven' - even though the strong, honest and right past participle remains 'proved'. Proven is an archaic Scottish legal term.



Then there is the bastard lingo of business-speak. One example will suffice.

Proactive. What on earth does this adopted American horror mean? Use positive, intentional… anything but this.



And what of officialise? This cant of posturing obfuscators is supposed to make threadbare statements portentous.
In respect of... (concerning, about).
With reference to... (about, regarding).
Within the realms of possibility... (possible).
At this point of time... (now).
Give consideration to... (consider).
Will become a reality... (will happen).
Behaviour pattern... (behaviour).
Bring under control... (control, manage).
As follows... (follows).



Things are as bad with the weather. It used to rain. Now we have a 'rain event', although 'climatic conditions', thank God, seems a stupidity in decline. And, of course, car yards no longer have sales. That's too simple. They now, inevitably, have a SALE EVENT.



By the way, people are whos not that’s. The person that I saw. Wrong! Unless it was a cyborg. The person who, please. Whom, if you're over 80.



The longer construction is generally worse because it replaces emphasis with length. If simplicity was good enough for Shakespeare, it's good enough for you.
So...
Transport. Not 'transportation'. Administer. Not 'administrate'. Leader. Not 'protagonist'. Low cost (if you can't abide cheap). Not 'inexpensive'. Enough. Not 'sufficient'. Begin. Not 'commence' or 'initiate'. Often. Not 'frequently' First. Not 'initial'. Wrong. Not 'incorrect'. End. Not 'conclude'.

Use. Not 'utilize'.
The longer word also implies evasion. The Anglo-Saxon alternative is more emphatic and understandable. Less is more.



Punctuation is another problem.
PTY LTD, not PTY. LTD.
The rule is simple. No period if the last letter of the word is shown. Hence: Dr, Mr, Ms, St, Rd.
And: Ave. Co. Prof. Inc.
Then the possessive. Fred's house. A year's holiday.
But if the noun becomes plural, the apostrophe moves to the end. Five years' holiday. Ten mens' houses.
Alright?
Wrong. It's 'all right'. Alright is all wrong.

As for pronunciation (no, not pronounciation):
It's stAYtus. Not STATus.
It's DAta. Not DARta.
It's KILLometre. Not kilOMeter.
It's CONTroversy. Not conTROversy.
It's MEMo. Not MEEMo.

And why are things never unique any more? But always more, very, totally or rather unique? You can't qualify an absolute. So you can't say absolutely amazing, very exceptional, more special and most ideal. Tweak words expressing finite value and your ignorance shouts. Something is either unique or not.


Speaking of ignorance:
It's adaptation, not 'adaption'.
As for imply and infer...
I can imply something and you can then infer something from that implication. So if I infer something, I do it from another's words, acts or attitude.
This brings to mind the other sure-fire sorter of sheep from goats:
Less and fewer.
The rule of thumb is that less refers to quantity or amount, fewer to individual items or number.
So fewer people now have less money.
And those with less courage have fewer opportunities.
Tell this to the ABC. Many have. But, unfortunately, nothing would change if you emailed them for a year.

As for the Subjunctive, it's a mood almost extinct. (What is he talking about here?) Well, as one rule of thumb, if the sentence refers to the hypothetical, use 'were'.
'If I were (not was) brave enough, I'd try sky-diving.'
'If I were you, I'd hit him.'

Then there are misquotes and mistaken words. For instance:
'At one foul swoop.' It's fell - meaning fierce, terrible.
'Abdicate responsibility. Abrogate please - meaning cancel, repeal.
'In the lap of the gods.' To be over-pedantic in this list of pet peeves, Homer actually said 'on the knees of.'


Why bother with all this?
Because, although the English language is adaptive, it still needs care.
So next time you reach for the slipshod construction or threadbare phrase, consider how you could say it in another, simpler way. If we bothered to do this, language would flower.
And, yes, it's worth the attempt.
Because each effort to be a little more intentional about what we say makes a difference.
Help free speech!

You'll find Clint's books on Buzzword.

Saturday, 16 July 2016

LIVING IN THE FIFTH DIMENSION - an interview with John Alexandra.

John Alexandra, author of The Wisdom of Being, answers questions for Buzzword Books:

Buzzword: E. M. Forster famously described fictional characters as either 'flat' or 'round'. Or, we could say, two dimensional or three dimensional. For instance, Dickens wrote flat characters or caricatures - creations founded on a single characteristic. In the realm of self-awareness and self development, we have heard you mention the need to live in four dimensions, not just three. Does Forster's insight have relevance here?

J.A.: Not really. Besides, time is generally considered the fourth dimension. And there are higher dimensions. In the psychological realm, talk of dimensions is relative only. To provide a more useful analogy, we live in a world or mode that is linear or horizontal. And vertical living is also possible but rarely discovered and certainly not generally accessible. From this aspect, we already live in the fourth dimension—that is, time. But verticality requires the timeless.

Buzzword: So verticality is the fifth dimension?

J.A.: As good a definition as any. You have the symbol of the cross - the two lines intersecting. The place to be in oneself is where the lines intersect.

Buzzword: Interesting. So what's the door to this fifth dimension?

J.A.: That's almost impossible to understand without extensive preparation. Which is why things so easily go wrong when people approach this question. At the moment we are affected by things around us and the reactions occurring in us. We are like machines, driven by every event and problem. Like snails, we withdraw when prodded, or, like crabs, attack when threatened. Fight and flight, honed over thousands of years into fear and desire by a now highly sophisticated ego which is, at base, a self-defence mechanism. Everything is self defence, including the less obvious forms such as shyness, humility, self degradation and charity - that is, helping others so that one can feel better, special or superior and so on. The ego is a wily beast. And if, by accident, we come to see this process a little—this identification with everything within and outside us—it disgusts us. The one thing we can't bear is to see ourselves objectively. Yet that is precisely what is needed to reach the threshold of the door you describe.

Buzzword: So what hope do we have?

J.A.: Hope is another trap - another reaction or compensation shutting us off. Objectively we have no hope in this direction at all. In fact, things are arranged so that the vast bulk of humanity is blind to the possibility of fifth-dimensional living. If it were more accessible, a whole lot of necessary processes that humanity exists for would be negated. Some say this would be fatal for the earth.

Buzzword: We
now seem to be discussing Cosmology. Are you saying the earth is a living being?

J.A.: Yes. And the thin film of life on earth acts as a kind of nerve ending for it.
Cosmic formations live and die as we do—but of course on a vastly greater time-scale. We see the earth as a globe. But seen from higher dimensions, this view will be wrong. It is like looking at a minute segment of a vast spiral and taking it as the whole. It completely ignores movement, the differing aspects of time and much else. For instance, looking in the other direction, the life of an electron is minute compared to ours. And, on a vastly larger scale, the frantic ant may experience more in a second, by its particular speed of perception, than we do in an hour. 'As above, so below' relates to scale and different perceptions of time. Everything is one—but aspects of that one. Our perception is too limited to see things as they really are. Can an atom in your big toe have an overall view of your body or its purpose?

Buzzword: I think we're getting off the subject a bit. We were discussing the door to the fifth dimension.

J.A.: Yes.

Buzzword: And you said that the first thing is to see that we are nothing but reactions?

J.A.: An essential first step. And it needs to be completely seen and constantly remembered. Which is almost impossible without external help.

Buzzword: And when we see it, what then?

J.A.: You go too fast. You're ready to skip over a lifetime of self-study and inner effort.

Buzzword: What inner effort.

J.A.: There are many formulations for that.

Buzzword: Such as?

J.A.: Psychological death. Suchness. Purposelessness. Self-remembering. Mindfulness. The Silence. Emptiness. Nirvana. Hara no aru hito. The Void. Every authentic tradition has its particular terminology. But no words convey the sense. It is very easy to take words for experience and for the wrong experience. Such as self-satisfaction. Hence the various New Age delusions and the morass of spurious Gurus with their gullible, anxious, defensive disciples.

Buzzword: So the door isn't easy to find?

J.A.: The right door is hard to find. Because there are many imitation doors—most opening onto bogs, cliffs, self-delusion and bankruptcy hearings.

Buzzword: So what hope does the average person have?

J.A.: None. Because he's not looking for a door. The right door is for those desperately looking. The lukewarm never find it.

Buzzword: Does this relate to the old yogi saying: "When the disciple is ready, the Guru appears?"

J.A.: Yes. That's a true statement, no matter how improbable it seems. 


Buzzword: So what is the nature of the authentic disciple's desperation?

J.A.: The authentic disciple is someone who knows life well and finds it not enough. He asks, "Is this all there is?" and "Why am I here? What is my purpose here?" And sometimes, "Why is there anything? What's this all about?" He has a burning question to do with himself and life. Although he doesn't know it, in his core he is already what he seeks, so feels the possibility of something else—a truer way of living. He has an intimation of Being. He is seeking his true self.

Buzzword: And finds the door?

J.A.: He has the possibility of finding the door. He may be killed in a war or car accident. And possibility is not yet practice. Such a seeker has direction but not yet a method.

Buzzword: And the method is?

J.A.: That's a lifetime's study and emerges only slowly. It begins simply, expands and deepens. In a sense, you can start anywhere with something practical and true. Like the spokes of the wheel, all paths lead to the hub. But the hub has to be empty. Otherwise the wheel wouldn't turn.

Buzzword: All very mystical. Not much to hang your hat on there. Can you describe a simple starting point?

J.A.: Very well. Remain apart. Or as one Sage said, 'Accept everything but be very careful not to become attached to anything whatever.'

Buzzword: That's impossible.

J.A.: You can't approach the supernal by doing what is possible because it doesn't create enough energy. It requires energy of a particular intensity.

Buzzword: So it comes down to intensity?

J.A.: A particular type of intensity. You may have seen the ancient symbol of Janus—the god with two heads. He is looking in two directions at once. Like all objective symbols, it has an inner meaning. Janus is looking at himself as well as outward—looking in two directions simultaneously. This is what's needed. And it's a lifetime study that never becomes automatic. Because real effort
never becomes easy. It has to be voluntary and repeated.  Easier methods such as the famous religious obedience are too slow and uninformed. They half-work but miss the mark.

Buzzword: Is there a simple formulation for all this?

J.A.: There is, but it doesn't help much without a guide.

Buzzword: You said,
'Remain apart.' Can you expand on that?

J.A.: Can you remain apart from your thoughts? Your physical tensions? Your conditioning? Your emotions? Resentments? Opinions? Relationships? Problems? Likes? Dislikes? Hopes? Fears? Every reaction you have?

Buzzword: Of course not. You've have to be dead.

J.A.: Exactly. Psychological death.

Buzzword: But wouldn't that be selfish and totally unbearable for everyone who cared for you?

J.A.: Yes. So you would have to act yourself on the surface to avoid the external criticism - while remaining apart inside.

Buzzword: Which sounds not only impossible but totally egotistical.

J.A.: Egotistical in the right way. And no one says you have to do it. A voluntary discipline is voluntary. And, yes, it is impossible until you learn to be thoroughly dead. And that can take a lifetime.

Buzzword: So, right at the end of your life, you learn how to live?

J.A.: Yes. Because human metamorphosis is inner, not outer. Consider the butterfly. It spends up to seven years underground as a grub, emerges as a chrysalis and for the last three weeks, is able to fly and fulfil its function. Just three weeks after years!

Buzzword: So how do I remain apart?

J.A.: You're here - sitting here, thinking, leaning forward, tense.  Now, physically, know it from within. Don't think about it. Know it through sensation. Know, for instance that you're frowning now - and breathing - and your foot is tapping. Can you manage it?
Buzzword: A little. Just for a moment, when you mentioned it.J.A.: And now? Were you aware that your hand made this gesture just then.Buzzword: Well, no, to be honest. I was thinking about what I'd say next. And that took me entirely. I guess I was back in my thoughts, my head.J.A.: So, the challenge is right there. How to exist behind one's manifestations? In other words, how to do the impossible?Buzzword: That's my question to you.J.A.: Well, this is a long way off, but since you ask… You have to discover something in yourself more important than your little ego. Then listen to it as often as you can. Every moment when you don't is, objectively, wasted. Lost! And yet, paradoxically, the only time you have is now. Now includes both vertical and horizontal. Or could. If you're tuned. And it brings the ability to live two lives at once - to live in both eternity and time, rather than just exist. You're looking puzzled.Buzzword: I am.J.A.: You see how hard it is to hear real things?



You can find John Alexandra's book The Wisdom of Being here.
 

Friday, 17 June 2016

SPINACH PLUS LEMON EQUALS HEAVEN

Our know-everything man, Martin Jensen, adds another revelation to our blog:


I've told you many wonderful things before and thank you for your appreciation. But it occurred to me lately that you may never have come across this marvel.

Spinach is a wonderful vegetable and there are many who appreciate it in spinach quiche or rolls, for instance - particularly vegetarians. But how is it that the world still does not know that lemon juice on spinach transforms this iron-rich treat to ambrosia?


I once mentioned this fact to an up-market waiter in a major city hotel. His eyes widened with recognition and he affirmed my statement with great verve. But when I tell others, do they respond?  No! Hardly anyone seems to know that lemon juice on spinach transforms a wonderful health food into the equivalent of food for the gods.

Yes, this is a personal crusade. I am telling the world. If you don't know, try it yourself. All you need is half a lemon and some spinach.

Spinach with lemon juice, people. Read, mark and inwardly digest! 

 

Martin Jensen is the author of How to Get What You Want and How to Get Fit Without Exercise. Now available on buzzwordbooks.com

Monday, 16 May 2016

Poems from China

Yes, our resident travelling poet, David Farnsworth, has been at it again. Here are poems fresh in from The Middle Kingdom, where, incidentally, exotic food has given him a bad case of the trots but has not blunted his dancing pen. (We've included one of his more outlandish publicity shots.)

 


At the Pullman


Back at the Chenlong International Hotel
I look through a heavily dusted window
to see construction workers, on a nearby
apartment block, moving across the
forecourt, their shadows extended by the
late afternoon sun.
I am reminded of the workers in Eisenstein’s
‘Battleship Potemkin”.

At the Pullman we all relax, Two Jackys,
Leo, Krzysztof, Andrzej and me. We are
settling in to a buffet. Such a variety of
food! Has anything been overlooked,
I wonder?

We are in French Week (Flags – red, white &
blue in stripes .)
We are in Polish territory (Flags
red-white in stripes.)

Andrzej’s son is a script-writer
so naturally the conversation turned
to film. So many memorable lines.
From “Pulp Fiction”.’Did you notice a sign
put in front of my house that said
 “Dead Nigger Storage”?’ ‘No, I didn’t’
‘You know why you didn’t see that sign?’
‘Why?’ ‘’cause it ain’t there.’
and from “Casablanca” – ‘Round up
the usual suspects!’ The Police Chief;
but a sentiment widely applied in
committees and Royal commissions.
I mentioned Andrzej Wadja, one of
Poland’s foremost  film directors, “Kanal”
& “Ashes and Diamonds”. And no, I have not
seen either.

Yugoslavia was mentioned and Andrzej
had been there in 1990, at the start of
the Balkans War. I was there in 1995
at the climax and we mentioned the
film “Underground” by Emir Kusturica;
optional title “Once Upon a Time There
was One Country”. It was a time when
brother fought brother and neighbour
fought neighbour, which I guess has
been the case in Europe for centuries.

Pablo Picasso was mentioned and we
reminded each other how when his
painting, “Guernica” returned to Madrid
the airport was cordoned off. What a
powerful and political statement it is.

On ABC Classic FM this week the
featured composer is Frederick Chopin.
I was assured he died from pneumonia
while living in poor circumstances in Paris.

Mount Kosciusko was mentioned
but I missed the Polish connection.
Yes. it’s just over 2,000 meters.
And yes. I have walked over it.
Tadeusz Kosciusko was the Supreme
Commander of the Polish National
Armed Forces and fought in the
American Civil Revolutionary War
for the Continental Army He is remembered
with town names from Alaska to Mississippi.
How did he achieve so much?

Mount Kosciusko should be bracing for
its first snow-fall just about now –
the summer white snow daisies
withered and brown.

I inquired about Jews in Lodz
today and Andrzej told how he
had returned to Lodz & he and his
cousin, from Israel, had found the graves
of both their parents and had a rabbi
say prayers for them. Before
World War II there had been 235,000
Jews in Lodz; or 35% of the population.
Lodz was considered the “Promised Land”
for thousands of Jewish families
escaping pogroms in Moscow.
74,000 Jews from Lodz were sent to the
gas chambers. Today there are only
300 Jews in Lodz. As they say “All
the time (we) try to prove ... that we are still here
and we cultivate our traditions.”

Meanwhile, here in Melbourne, Jewish schools
are the only ones to have armed-guards
on the schools’ perimeters, protecting students.

Chenlong International Hotel, Weifang    30/4  - 3/5   2016
Poet’s Notes
(i)  In this longish poem I tried to recreate some of the excitement
with a tiny bit of research.( I’m not big on research.)
I love those conversations which bounce around, not following
and set order; where people say what they think. First-hand
accounts from the frontiers of the world, are so important.
(ii)  Many thanks to Krzysztof who tireless and happily
translated from Polish to English and back again for 150 minutes!
How many people do you know who are fluent in Polish,
Mandarin and English?
(iii) Perhaps check out “The Man from Snowy River” by
A.B.(Banjo) Patterson set in the Mt Kosciusko area.






Mt Macedon, Recollected, Early Spring.

A couple of maidens and I were
sussing out a walk from the
Tea Rooms Car Park and the Camel’s Hump.

I have mostly unpleasant memories
of camels. There was Cable Beach where
our camel was not well

It stumbled when walking through a
dry creek bed. My partner was not small.
I was behind her. “I can’t see a thing!”

Then there was a camel tethered
half-way up a hill in Northern China
hoping some of the 50,000 visitors

would accept an invitation to have
their photograph taken while on its back.
But I prevaricate.

The air was chill. Snow flurries
covered my furry hat, clung to my
 beard, while frozen snow drifts crunched.

The path was wet. The local leeches
 hadn’t seen this much blood on the move
since the last kangaroo.

One small leech latched on but found
my blood too alcoholic. Why would you
risk cirrhosis on a such a small liver?

It dropped off the pace. I found
a drunkard further on, attached to my
ankle, horribly bloated.

Always carry salt on bush walks.
“So stretcht out huge in length the
Arch-fiend lay.”

I demolished her between two rocks
My life’s blood flowed out of her.
It twitched.

Scarcely knowing tother leg from twitch
I made it to the Hump. How pleasant
the view! How sweet the water in rock cavities!.


Zarby’s

What a great restaurant. The Jimmy
Woodsers occupy a tall bar stool,
the bar-flies cluster at the bar.

Mine Host keeps the wretches happy.
“It’s his playground!” he tells me. The
waitresses are all care, polishing

the water glasses until they shine. Then the
plastic-covered menus get the treatment.
This is a seriously good bistro/bar.

Where else can you get an incredible
pasta dish and seriously good wine
for $15.00?


The Main Street, Woodend.

We’re in an environmentally friendly town.
Hessian bags are de rigeur. Shops offer
gifts from your worst nightmare.

Aficionados buy metal parrots and
old wares that their great-grand
mothers may have discarded years ago.

The junk goes into the car, it goes
onto the roof, At Home they have
serious problems deciding where it all should go.




Click this link to read David's book of travel poems.


Saturday, 7 May 2016

EYE IN THE SKY - AN EXCEPTIONAL FILM

A rave from Buzzword Books author, Clinton Smith about what must be a crash-hot film.

There are many fine films but few work on all levels. For instance 24 HOURS with Charlotte Rampling is a searing insight into emotional betrayal but moves so slowly that the less perceptive become bored with it.

Most films in fact lose momentum about three quarters of the way through. There seems to be a screen Sargasso where the start of the implicit third act structure becomes predictable.

For a film to grab, it needs to work on many levels - progression, engagement, commercial interest, production values, authenticity are some. Few can sustain all these aspects but some do.

For instance, THE LIVES OF OTHERS, AS IT IS IN HEAVEN. Earlier examples? MARATHON MAN. STRAW DOGS. A recent example? THE KING'S SPEECH. These are perfectly constructed and realized. They tick all boxes.

Which brings us to EYE IN THE SKY. This extraordinary effort is, in fact, a psychological drama based on the age-old philosophical dilemma of the means justifying the end. Namely, if you had to kill someone you know and care for to save six others, would you do it?

In this case, an entire government and military establishment intent on killing insurgents is brought to its knees by one small girl in Kenya who is busy selling bread for her mother in the street.

This brilliant set-up results in ever increasing tension through a series of impeccably realized and meticulously juxtaposed scenes that mine the misgivings of everyone involved. The cast, production values, writing, execution are faultless. And the end effect is shattering. Yet all is achieved without sacrificing entertainment value.

Perhaps there are political implications to the story. To my mind, these are subsidiary. The theme is the philosophic dilemma and this is masterly cinematic drama.

Saturday, 19 March 2016

THE INCREDIBLE SHRINKING JOURNALIST, OR DEATH OF THE MEDIA



 Buzzword's commissioning editor, D. S. Mills, gives one man's view on why old media and journos are stuffed. And what to do about it!


Is the so called 'digital revolution' the root cause of print media running at a loss, of the slow death of magazine titles, of free-to-air TV gasping for survival? 

As with most explanations, that's too simple. The underlying reason, as I see it, is ignored. In fact I see no evidence anywhere that it is being acknowledged. All right this is one man's view. But a voice in the wilderness has weight. (Really? How can that be?) Before I explain, let's look at the current carnage:


 

Death of the Journalist


In Australia, Fairfax Media (The Age, Sydney Morning Herald, Canberra Times, Financial Review and so on) is set to fire another 120 journos. So the newsrooms are on strike. Not that it will do them much good.
News Limited staff here (The Australian, The Telegraph) are already running on a shoestring. And, across the spectrum, newspapers are losing money - becoming increasingly less informative and more strident. As for News Limited, what can Rupert be thinking? Well Rupert (not a bad bloke and a sentimental Piscean) loves his mastheads and likes influence as well as pelf. So he is relying on subscription TV and Movie interests to hold the fort in this long, painful game of wait and see.




Where is the bottom of the market?


Will sales eventually stabilize? Surely there has to be a break-even point somewhere? Interestingly, the pain is also on-line. Digital versions of mastheads rarely do well and advertising revenue for both is down the tube.  (Certainly, the river-of-gold classifieds that supported the dailies for years have migrated to the web.) 
 

So let's assume the ad spend has migrated to the net. It's certainly declining on free TV with its dreary unreality shows. Then, again, the problem is dispersion. The reward for running ads on websites is dropping fast. As for pay per click. Forget it.  So digital sites, and not just news sites, are also trying to predict the bottom. (See Growing digital access = reduced revenue below.)




Amateur hour


Meanwhile, everyone with a computer has been sold the myth that s/he can now be a star. The bloggesphere is awash with would be journos - and half-baked news websites proliferate.  As W. S. Gilbert wrote: 'When everybody's somebody, then no one's anybody.'
The result? Even more dispersion, disruption, confusion of the market for news. Not to mention the proliferation of disguised propaganda outlets stemming from right wing religious groups.
Or conglomerates presenting warped scientific 'findings' in their own self-interest. Or promoting feel-good schemes to cloak their agendas.
I won't mention the often carefully disguised political sites. We live in the age of misinformation which, increasingly, is displacing fact.




Growing digital access = decreased revenue

What is not often stated is that this utterly uncontrolled proliferation of sites means an increasingly small share of the pie. Why?
Assume that the pie (the possible consumer spend of everyone) is X. The pie is then a fixed size - X. In fact the pie is shrinking because the effects of the GFC are still working through and may do so for another ten years.  Every country in the world is strapped and swimming in debt. So people are fearful - paying off their mortgages and sitting on their cash. But, back to the illustration.
Let's say the size of the pie, the maximum consumer spend world wide,  is now X.  Assume there are only ten commercial websites on the web. X by 10 means everyone gets one tenth of X. But X by a billion of two and increasing…? The answer's plain. Less for all.




Dispersion and the declining ad spend


Back to advertising spend. Newspapers have one foot in the news business but magazines are in the advertising business. Most of their revenue comes from ads. According to the bean-counters, the editorial is simply there to fill in the spaces between the ads. Subscriptions/price of purchase helps to defray the cost of production and distribution. But the main game is ads. And there are now far fewer for print.

So the spend is being frittered away on-line in an increasingly piecemeal (the digital agencies would say 'targeted') manner.

And how does this affect the consumer (once termed a 'customer'). It makes him/her mad! Because the dismal welter of small ads and infuriating pop-ups far more irritating and unwanted than any full page ad in The Age. Some spend angry hours fiddling with CC Cleaner, Spybot, Uninstall, Local Temp delete and browser reconfigurations to block this crudware.

Certainly the full page ad in the press has fewer readers. But intrusive on-line ads are self-defeating because, in the second they have to present themselves before click-off, the viewer's response is fury. And if you can't click them off - apoplexy!

What is left? Viral advertorial sallies on U-Tube? Whoop-te-doo! It's not a good time to be the Creative Director of your mainstream agency. And, I suspect, the overall ad spend is still tanking. So that is the state of play. But not the end of the story…





The real reason media is cactus


 Let's take newspapers as an example. They are faced with declining readership. Why?
Because people who read newspapers are getting news from other sources? Some are.
Because the news is hours or a day old before you read it? Yes.

Because you can get the gist faster on the web or radio? Yes.
Because young people don't read newspapers? Getting warmer.

Older folks read newspapers, or did before they got their smart phones. But older folks die. And young readers? Well, to start with, they don't read. Well not in that traditional way. They are the eternally distracted. They scan. Facebook. The twittersphere. (Twitter loses money, by the way.) Mindless games. And they and their so called friends are flat out telling each other what they had for breakfast. As for THE NEWS - they don't give a stuff. If Jackie O doesn't chuckle about it, then, as far as they know, it's not important. The 'Look at Me' generation is concerned with its self image, not the world.

Journos have had it because their consumer base is almost gone. The post-literate generation doesn't give a flying fart about who's mining coal near Sydney's dams and flooding disused shafts with water. (Yes, it's been happening for years. A boiler worker I know who worked there told me the whole story.)




So what should a crusading journalist do?


Try to join the ABC? But that's already short staffed and pinching most of its ideas, like you've been doing, old mate, from TIME and the BBC.  Start an on-line mag? Heartbreak down the track. Write a book? You see what's happening to publishers, bookshops? Get a life. Post-literates don't read print. They tweet with the twits.
I suggest a nice cash business like a fish shop. Except there seem to be enough. (No, not a restaurant. They wink out like fairy-lights.) And who wants to run a fish shop anyway?

So does this mean the end of responsible reporting and the snafu of civilization?

Yes and yes. Have you ever heard of a civilization that didn't decline? The barbarians are at the gates and have been for some time. Everything has its lifespan.  The net is not the problem. It's simply a facilitator - speeds things up, that's all.
Civilizations grow old and sicken just like us. When too many things go wrong with us - organ failure or invasive cancer - we die.

WE are the problem. The LCD of people is declining. And when that gets to a certain level - when the scientists, intellectuals, artists, philosophers and responsible journalists, are no longer listened to or lose their integrity - collapse is certain. Things overbalance. And a civilization is toast.




"Christ, I'm a journo. So what can I do?"


Your best. As long as they let you. "Whatever thy hand findeth to do, do it with all thy might. For there is no work, nor device, nor knowledge, nor wisdom in the grave wither thou goest." Ecclesiastes.

Do your best. Now.

Be assured that the collective psyche - the mob or committee or parliament - is always dumber than the individual. The aim is to become an individual. Only the individual can repair things. We can't do anything collectively. That just breeds more corruption, tyranny, compliance. But individually, we can. See if you can nurture a flame. Even the littlest. With somebody. Now.




The block of jelly.


If Buddha and other individuals were right - everything is one.  Unity in diversity. (Know how a Buddhist orders a hot dog in Manhattan? "One with everything.")

So if everything is also one thing, then everything I do affects everything!

Imagine a huge block of jelly. Now imagine that you - yes tiny, insignificant you - poke the jelly down there way at the bottom. Goodness! Look! The whole vast jelly block shakes. Even way up there at the top. Not as much as it shook down where you are at the bottom. But a bit.
One thing is certain, even if you don't believe it yet.
No good initiative is lost.

Never!
Ever!
Somewhere, it has an effect!

So, go on along the road. Do your best. And do it now.