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.

Saturday, 13 December 2014


Ex-ad man, Clinton Smith, has won over 30 awards for commercials and another 14 for fiction. He has had many books and short stories published, has sold screenplays and had theatre work performed. But his opinion of writers is low. Here's Smith on the obsession of writing.


It's blokey stuff. Fun. Meaty. Engaging. I find most "blockbuster" thrillers slow-moving and dreary, so try to write something fast-paced, quirky, absorbing. The aim, as someone once remarked, is intelligent escapism.


After a lifetime writing TV spots and docos, you learn to visualize.


Although thrillers are plot-driven, I prefer interesting characters. And despite sexual, religious, race and political differences, people are people.


Up to three years. I don't have to knock out one a year. I'm self-funded, long retired, can take the time to do it as well as I can.


It was. I had to find out about systems and survival in Antarctica, Catholic Church hierarchy and doctrine, Pakistan political life, C-130's, nuclear aircraft carriers, airships, weapons systems. Then there were arcane subjects such as electrocutions, poltergeists... It takes enormous checking and the help of many experts. You do your best to keep egg off your face - not to slip up too much.


I'm interested in comparative religion and what interests you comes through.


So is the evening news - which the networks have reduced to the distraction called entertainment. By the way, free to air TV is now struggling - driven by available footage and celebrity obsession.
So coverage there has no relation to levels of importance. As for newspapers - they've become living skeletons, can't afford in-depth reporting and are always a day behind events.
If you want news, listen to the radio. Of course, pick a station that agrees with your bias.
    But back to the world. It's often brutal. Should we ignore that? Note that they've tried to attribute Titus Andronicus to everyone but Shakespeare but there's good evidence he wrote it and academics have to deal with it.'The Fourth Eye' was mostly social commentary. But 'The Game' was a romp - described by the publisher as  'a romance for men'. I agree with him. 'Deep Six' was a techno-thriller that took on the military establishment. The latest, 'Project Thunder', is another male romance set mostly at sea.


Patricia Highsmith said that writing a book is a process that should be interrupted only by sleep. I have a life of minimum distraction. Wife and children gone, pets dead. Freedom. Writing is rewriting and I endlessly rework.


Demanding - a distillation. For instance, a feature won't work unless you stick strictly to the three-act structure. And you have to throw away most of your novel, reinvent, start again. Bit of a wrench but you get over it.


It's a character flaw. Writers are obsessive/compulsive and their excretions are their daydreams. Writing attracts anal retentive, egotistical monsters. Some naive people still believe that writing is not only easy but - God help us - an occupation! They, of course, belong in a home for the bewildered.
    As for collectors of books - bibliomania has long been equated with a perversion of the sex instinct.
    Then we come to that decreasing and threatened category called readers - those who wish to escape, be entertained, to ignore a world deconstructing around them - to be told through calming fiction, such as crime novels where the detective always gets his man, or romances where the guy ends up marrying the girl, that everything will come out right. It's the same lie that the parasites called politicians foist on the public each election.


In the 21st Century, reading for entertainment or escape is a dying occupation. There are far more strident distractions - visual, electronic, chemical. So now endless desperate writers pursue a dwindling number of readers. And, despite all their self-promotion, they are increasingly talking to themselves. That is - to other writers - not readers. It's a self-referential feeding frenzy where all involved fall into the pit.

    Of course, there are kinder ways to put it. Writers write for the intellectual joy of constructing an imagined world that's concrete, meaningful, real. That's valid, too. But the writer, alas, will eventually become the only person to inhabit his fandangled world.


Find something more sensible to do. I started long before the net. And it took me forty years to get a book up. I dumped three in the garbage one sad day. If you can be discouraged, you won't make it. If you can't, you won't either. And if you get published - equivalent to the chance of being struck by lightning - your book sits on a shelf for six weeks, then it's pulped. With eBooks, everyone can publish. But, as some sage once said, most eBooks will now be read by fourteen people. In this post-literate age, writing is becoming an anachronism.


It's in chaos. Obvious enough. The population explosion's made us locusts - stripping, denuding the planet. But we're so self-obsessed, we still see ourselves as apart from nature. The problems we have caused - destruction of biodiversity, pollution, lack of resources - mean that continuing this way is unsustainable. That means we're unsustainable, that we're becoming the only resource.     

    Soon we'll be farmed like cattle. You can see the indications now. Entrenched conglomerates disseminating misinformation to protect their franchises. The subversion of education by business. Drugs and the corporatization of crime. The corruption of professions, institutions, governments.
     We're victims of our own violence, inertia, mental slavery and greed. I'm not making anything up. These are hardly new ideas.


I'm not trying to ignore them. Some forms of corruption are too dangerous to tackle directly and fiction, being at one remove, can lift these into awareness. There are brilliant examples through the years.
    For instance '1984' is with us. The only mistake Orwell made was imagining it would be overt rather than covert. Popular fiction's often predicted the future correctly. And it probably has a better strike-rate than most economists, futurists, historians. It can also have a devastating critical punch. For instance, 'The Good Soldier Schweick'.


Despite all it's faults, that euphemism for self-interest rather laughingly called Democracy has had a grand run. It's still being kept afloat by advances in science and technology - but notice how each new solution spawns a dozen new problems? Progress is a myth. We're moving in circles. Everything eventually becomes its own opposite.


Which century would you like? Christianity spawning the inquisition and the crusades?  The war to end all wars? Communism reverting to hierarchy and decimating the masses?
And, in our time, religions engaged in Jihads and the sodomy of minors? There are examples on all scales. Antibiotics that cause more resistant bugs. Claims exploitation that makes the cost of insurance prohibitive. Cane toads destroying Kakadu.
    But people cling to the notion of progress - because the alternative is despair.
What is forgotten is that civilizations die and ours has been terminal for years.


No. I'm saying direct means don't work. Violence, which is generally ignorance, provokes the equal and opposite reaction. We think we can do something but we're symptoms, not the cause. Real doing is self-change. But that's almost impossible. Real change isn't on the level of general life at all.


We need to transform our values. Nothing less will make any difference. That begins with a new kind of wish and a new direction and refinement of attention. But we're so unbalanced, ignorant, destructive, we've no inkling of our inner potential. We're atomized, in pieces - hearts, bodies, minds disconnected. If we could move toward an inner unity, the inner would transform the outer. And that would be real action. Not reaction but response.


Sunday, 16 November 2014

Australian Short Story Anthology scores another gong

Clint Smith has had many short stories published over the years but his anthology, Songs of a Second World contains some of the most exceptional. Individual stories in this collection have won two VFAW Awards, a Moomba Award, an Alan Marshal Award, four FAW Awards, a Shoalhaven COE Award and a Lane Cove Literary Award. He has also won the inaugural Mary Drake Award and a Bicentennial Literary Award for other short fiction. Making the The Lane Cove shortlist of eight finalists is his most recent accolade. He is pictured here with the Judge of the short story section who called him 'a beautiful writer' although Smith assures us that an uglier looking author would be hard to find. Songs of a Second World is available as an eBook from Buzzword. And the short story from it that he entered, Let Them Be Far, is the substance of this week's post:

A mountain, exuding eucalyptus, dreaming in the sun. A cone of untouched bush, isolated, abrupt. Mount Buninyong, they called it. Dreaming in the sun. Close enough if your bike had gears but far enough from town to be ignored.
    Nothing there. Five houses. Leaning fences gapped by shrubs. A blank-faced shop with loose weatherboards scissored on the side. An overgrown park with a rotted entrance-arch. The stump of a water bubbler. Trees propping lantana spears. Central bench in shin-high grass.
   On the bench, in winter coat, an old woman sitting erect.
   An abandoned park.
   A woman dreaming in the sun.

Porcelain eggs and parlour maids and pearl buttons the oil lamps made shine. Croquet on the lawn and tea and jam on silver trays. Silver stirrups hanging from high saddles, hooded carriages. Troika bells. Scrollwork white and gilt. Uncut books and lithographs of saints.

'She sits in that park,' his mother said. 'You say hello. She stares through you. You feel mad. Then guilty, damn it. No way she'll let you help her.'
   His father said, 'Why guilty? She's got to be on a pension. She'll survive.'
   'There was an auction van there last month.'
   'She's leaving?'
   'No sale sign on the fence.'
   'Couldn't sell that place. No one wants it next to that park. House falling down. Worth the land value. That's it.'
   'Keep feeling I should go in. But she'd say there's nothing she wants—like she did when her husband died.'
   'Russians. She's a recluse.'
   'You know her coat? Winter coat with the fur collar? It's in the second-hand store. I'm sure it's hers.'
   He looked up at his parents. 'Is she poor?'
   His mother said, 'No one knows, dear.'
   His father said, 'New Australians,' and pulled a face. 'You know how, if you hurt an animal, it's scared of people all its life? Well she's like that. Scared. God knows what she's been through.'
   'She lets John play in there,' his mother said. 'He's the only soul who's been in that house.'
'To see the parrot.' he said proudly. 'Just one time.'

Sour cream for the herring. Strips of volba to suck. Diamonds and lace. Gold studs. Top-boots, corsets and shawls. Maples, birches, lime trees. Jasmine climbing on the wattle fence. Sochi and Rostov. Rice porridge and the Christmas tree.

He played huntings in her garden. Her garden, his special place. She gave him lemonade. Lemon-sweet that didn't fizz.
   He heard the parrot squawk one day and asked to see it. She took him to a lofty room. Heavy furniture, tall mirrors, damp and dust. The drapes on the curved-topped windows hung from curtain rails thicker than his arm, and had wooden rings as big as quoits. That impressed him a lot. The room's dark grandeur seemed from a time he'd never known, a time nothing to do with the mountain and the street outside.
   The parrot's cage hung from a stand. The bird's talons, with delicate care, enclosed a bar. Its hooked-beak-framed tongue seemed more alive than its button eyes. She crooned, 'Yuri, ya ljuble tebja. Ya ljuble tebja.' She said it was very old. It was bald.
   She let him pour seed into its scoop. Some fell to the floor and studded the velvet-grey dust.
   He'd asked about the parrot since. Last time, she'd said it had died.
   For months he hadn't seen her much. Just sometimes sitting in the park.

Her silver and leather toilet set. Her dog sled. Carrying icons to the school. Her writing table and wash-stand. Her brother in the cadets. Her Russian father's insistence that his wife handle the family funds, a concern to her Estonian mother who thought that was a husband's task.

The cat's meow was a gasp. As it rubbed against his leg, he felt its ribs. Huge eyes, caked fur.  He lifted it. It stank. He took it home.
   His father said, 'It's sick and pregnant. Put it back where you found it. Now!'
   His mother wouldn't let him feed it. 'No. We'll have six kittens next.'
   He took it outside and put it down. It leaned against his legs. He searched in the bin for last night's chicken, found the carcass and thrust it into his shirt. Then he lifted the cat, which smelt the chicken and tried to claw his chest. He hurried to the old woman's home. There was a spot for it under the tubs.
   Through the gate hanging by one hinge, to the house draped in shrubbery and vines. The wide verandahs were imposing still, but sky glared through holes in the curved iron. He trotted around the rotten board-walk to the laundry shed at the back.
   He dropped the cat and opened the pocket-knife he'd swapped for a potato-gun at school.    He cut the last shreds off the carcass which the starving animal gulped.
    He found a box and placed it under the tubs on its side. He found a tin, filled it with water, put it by the box.
   Her back door was shut. Perhaps she was in the park. He looked through the gap in her fence. An empty bench.

Cards, billiards, dancing. The aroma of cigars. Her fat uncles telling stories as they smoked around the spittoon. Dashing reserve guards officers kissing her mother's hand. She, peeping from the conservatory, then tip-toeing back down the hall. The slow tick of the grandfather clock. The howl of wolves in the woods.

Many moments she had lived—hours of moments, years. Her mind was the archive of those years, her flesh their fusion, their epilogue, her heart. Of those years, the stretch of her time. Nine by nine.
   She sat in the park each day because the leaking roof made the house dank. The sagging plaster depressed her. The park matched the ruin of the house.
   She sat, acknowledging no one, resenting neighbours who tried to help, tired of miseries, needs, hopes, failures, deceptions, retreats. She didn't fear the last sacrifice. How could one fear such relief? She prayed,
   'Let others be far from me. Let them be far.'

Next night, he stole into the kitchen and cut two slices from the leg of lamb. In his dressing gown, feet bare, he unlatched the back door, crept outside. The street was alabaster and the mountain herded clouds against the moon.
   The woman's garden was a grotto. The laundry light didn't work but a small rasp-like tongue licked his fingers. Out in the moonlight, he cut the meat into squares. Head and neck jerking, back legs shaking, the cat gulped.
   'Good cat.'
   He wanted to give it more water but there wasn't any in the tap—as if the washer hadn't released. He thought, next time I'll bring milk.
   'Vat are you doing?'
   He jumped.
   She stood by the back door, disembodied head and pale hand.
   'It's a cat. It's starving. Going to have kittens.'
   'Vy you here middle of night?'
   'Cos they won't let me keep it at home. Cos they say I'm not to feed it. So I have to pinch stuff and come when they're asleep. Wus goin' to tell you. Honest.'
   The ghostly head, cheeks triangle dark, didn't move.
   He said, 'It's yours if you like. Now the parrot's dead and all. I can keep it here, can't I?'
   'No one vant a cat.'
   'It's thirsty. But the tap's no good. Nothing comes out.'
   She hobbled forward. She had a kettle. She poured water into the tin. Her wrist shook. Her fingers were bones.
   He said, 'Can you help me feed it, then?'
   'I not help. You do by self.'
   'Well can she stay here, then?'
   'Can stay. But you feed.'
   He pointed to the shed. 'Your globe's bust. I could get one from home and put it in.'
   She said, 'Globe vork.'
   'Switch's bung, then.' He wanted to help but couldn't fix that.
   She shuffled to the back door, went inside. She didn't put on a light, as if she could see in the dark.

Her father's death. Sober voices. Relatives she hardly knew. Hats with crepe. Funeral pancakes. The procession through the market square with the hearse wheels rattling on the cobbles in fifteen degrees of frost. And the long journey to Estonia, where her mother's family had a farm.

She'd paid rates as long as she could. For years, she'd starved to pay. Dangerous to attract attention. Once they knew your business—tshuk! You were taken away to some place, kept in a bed and drugged. And they sold your home. But they'd never get that. She wanted nothing from this country except to be left alone.
   She had managed it so carefully, terrified they might take her away. Now no more money and nothing more to sell. In this land of her foreign husband, his photo yellow, his clothes moth-shreds, his boots white mould. She refused to sell his clothes.

The peasant charm of the farmhouse with its thatched roof and beamed walls. Climbing on the old stone fences and collecting mushrooms by the stream. Rice pilaf, fried sturgeon, red beet salad. Selling potatoes and carrots at the fair. Potatoes kept all winter in the cellar. And, in Autumn, when cabbage was plentiful, pickling it in barrels for the winter. Preserving fruit in interminable jars.

No power. Now no water. Some tea remained, four tins of beans, some cheese. Each evening she filled the kettle from the park tap and found twigs for the wood stove.
   She still had the mattress, blankets and her husband's leather wing chair. The chair faced the window in the lounge-room. She opened the window and sat.
   A woman in a patulous chair. Long casements open to the moon. The chair's wings dwarfing her frame, its back casting a long shadow in the dust. She raised her eyes to a sky of indigo painted on glass.

The farm commandeered by Russians. Staying with her aunt in town. Tallin, with its ancient buildings, high towers and narrow streets. Polishing the parquet floor by dancing with old socks over her shoes. To the public sauna each fortnight. Marble seats and decorated tiles. Waiting to use one of the two baths in a queue of the dispossessed.

She sat like this for hours, staring at the moon. Blanched. Still. Everything a mystery. Explanations a card-house in a gale. Death, the antidote to memory. Or would some ghost-life steal that blessing too?

Her feet always cold. Burning furniture for fuel. At the flea-market, bartering for food. Horse-meat. Cucumber pickled in brine. The body of her aunt, lying for days in the bare best room. The beggars outside St Basils, their hopeless faces gaunt. And the young man she'd met at the station. The young man who became her first love.

From a gap in the heavy drapes that hid the shame of the empty rooms she watched, each night, the boy feed the needy cat. Each night he brought it something. Each day paper and bowl were licked bare.
   The boy trusted her with the cat. That, one couldn't betray. Betrayal. Unspeakable. Betrayal of a child?

Her mother sent to prison because she refused to clear the streets of snow. Not knowing who was friend or informer. Her uncle interviewed.
'Your grandfather in Crimea. He had eighty cows. Was this not so?'
'I've never been there. I never knew him.'
'Eighty cows. Don't pretend you don't know.'
 Her uncle on the black list, suddenly gone one night—riding the train for three months between Moscow and Petersburg, to hide.

She ate the last beans in the last can. Soon hunger turned her limbs to weights.
   That night, she watched the boy leave, then went outside.
   She leaned on the shed to recover, felt along it to the laundry door.
   Rabbit pieces in the moonlight, still with meat on the bones. She could have reached down to take them. The boy would never know. The crab in her stomach was already nipping at the food.

Travelling to Moscow in a vandalised carriage full of lice. Sewerage carts. Frost-blackened railings. Lamp-lighters in the morning dark. Horse trams in yellow slush. The smell of borsch and tar. Pie with unsweetened curds. Frozen potatoes thawed in soup.

The cat crouched near its scraps. Moonlight bleached the shed floor. Half-stooped, saliva in her mouth, she saw slug-like moving shapes, fresh-licked, teat-seeking, helpless in the box.
   The cat opened its mouth, hissed, exposing needle teeth, sensing a second hunger and ready to defend. Its blind kittens over-crawled each other, smothering weak ones underneath, craving warmth, milk, air—impelled, condemned to live.

People starving in the streets. Cholera. War. The Famine Fund. Black beetles. No fuel. She eight months' pregnant. Ill. The only medicine, vinegar and water. Ventilators stuffed with rags. Rags, dirt, freezing weather. Huddling together to survive.

She could have eaten the scraps, and let the kittens starve for milk. As her baby had starved. As the old man had starved for her. The old man—starving to keep her child alive.

'Here is food, Elena Ivanovna.' Bone-thin hands unwrap the paper. Brown bread, once sweet-sour earthy, now iron-hard with the cold.
The smiling hole behind the iced beard. 'For you and the little one within.'
Her blurring tears. 'Where did you get this?' She has not eaten for three days.
'I traded with the devil. Bread, little mother. Bread.'
Almost a quarter of a loaf. He presses it into her hands then shuffles out, old man in layers of filthy clothes he is too cold and frail to remove. He lived under the stairs, in a nest of old paper with the rats.

 The animal, a starving mother. Its kittens needed milk. She ignored the gripe in her stomach, straightened and stepped back. The cat ate, watching her. How simple life was in the end. It was not her food. She must starve.

'Here is food, Elena Ivanovna.'
He unwinds the soiled rag. Slivers of meat, miraculously cooked. Floorboards missing on the landing and new ash in the stove explained.
What is it?'
'Meat, that's all. For your baby. Eat it now.'
Again, the blinding tears. And the scraps pressed into her hands.

Perhaps she could eat some grass. She pulled some out and took it inside, cooked it in a pot until it became a sodden mess. She couldn't swallow. She wasn't a cow. Grass. Had she come to this? Better to be strong. Water now—till she died. It wouldn't be long.
   The world was the shadow of something, the flower blind to the seed, the seed blind to its inner pattern, the pattern blind to its life. She passed the spectre in the mirror. The girl once ripe with life was now this?
   In two days, she couldn't feel her feet and her balance was disturbed.
   Now her body was withdrawing movement, even thought. As it devoured itself the thought of food shrivelled with the flesh. She would starve, she thought, as had her child. She would touch her child this way.

Cold, utter, bitter. The baby nudges her dry breast. She stumbles outside with the child into great, wet flakes of snow. She cries for help on the street, falls to her knees in the slush. Flat, stony peasant faces. Sullen soldiers. Endless queues. When she returns to the building, the old man lies dead beneath the stairs. She collapses on the landing. The wailing child is blue.

Through pain she was born. Through pain was taught and grew. Survival was pain. The approach to oblivion was pain. Sometimes she was conscious. Mostly, she slept.
   Cold spread through her body until only one part of her stayed warm. As if no chill could penetrate her womb.
   She warmed herself at that small hearth, no longer feeling her chilblained feet and hands.
   How tentative that warmth was, disturbed by any movement of the spine. Needing refuge, she sat motionless, attending to what she had found. It was like an animal that might, at the slightest thing, take flight.
   She struggled to the park and filled the kettle one last time and placed it beside her mattress on the floor. Painfully, she propped herself against the wall.
   The warm place was now as dear as a child. A dearness of body and tears. An adoration more than flesh. This my body, this my blood. This tenderness melting skin. This foetal universe. She wished to prostrate herself before this melting thing, to submit. Her throat sighed soundless vowels and gold dust sprinkled her limbs. But the joy that enfolded her was cheap compared to this. How can this be, she wondered? It's as if I am loving myself.
   This place, unmoved and moving. All of life resolved, merged in this exquisite nothing, cradled by dispassion without end.
   Pain resolved. Resolved, the loss of her child. Years of misery, fear, resolved at this impartial place.
   She felt she was dying with tenderness. Was this dying then? How could all bitterness be made sweet at this everywhere nowhere point? A delusion? A mere pulsing? Could sensation convey so much? Could sensation be intelligent? She knew in the experience alone.
   Heart, throat, spine, breath, opening to receive, adore.

She could no longer find her sepulchre, was too listless to keep herself clean. She couldn't attend to the warmth or look after herself any more. She lifted the spout to her lips and tasted copper on her tongue.
   It was days since she'd watched for the boy. But she refused to die messed like this in the rotting house. Sometime during the night, she crawled over the front verandah to the ground.
   With her last strength, she dragged herself to the gapped fence and across the park to the bench. The coarse earth felt as soft, as cold, as numbing, as snow.
   It was dawn when her head hit against the seat. Unseeing, she dragged herself up. It came when you sat straight.
   They found her braced against the seat, stick-thin body beneath the coat.

A mountain, exuding eucalyptus, dreaming in the sun. At its foot, a few houses. A park abandoned, overgrown. A bench in the centre. Trees propping lantana spears. Summer-murmuring of bees. No person, change, time.
   Only and always, the mountain. Dreaming in the sun.

Songs of a Second World is available as an eBook from Buzzword Books for just $3.99.

Wednesday, 8 October 2014



BUZZWORD BLOG: So, Dan, explain in three words what Book Booster does for readers.

DAN: It surprises them.


DAN: With off-the-wall reads of all kinds. Because we don't edit the books on the site unless the authors ask us to. And we're happy to list anything that isn't pornographic or defamatory. So you'll find everything from family histories to political rants. From poetry to gut-turning horror. As well or badly written as it comes.

BUZZWORD BLOG: So you edit nothing?

DAN: We do minimum proof reading on some titles. We try to retain the vestiges of a house style. We're also happy to knock a book into shape if the author requests it for a small charge. We're not quite a charity.

BUZZWORD BLOG: So say I've written a book and all I have is the Word file. And I know nothing about getting a book on the net, how does Book Booster help me?

DAN: Depends on what you want.

BUZZWORD BLOG: Well say I want the full treatment.

DAN: Okay. We create a promotional page on the site with details about you and the book, together with any reviews available. We handle the design - and it appears at a generous size. We also design and produce your cover if you don't have one. We can add a Paypal 'buy now' shopping cart facility if you don't have your own. Or link your book to your email address, web page or even to another publisher. We don't take a royalty on sales because we  act simply as a showcase. The writer gets the full amount of any sales that come in.


DAN: Depending how much help you want it will cost you anything from $10 to $50. The $10 lets you plonk your book on the site. The $50 is full silk department service.

BUZZWORD BLOG: How can you do all that for fifty dollars? Let alone ten!

DAN: We also have to format the books for the major viewing devices apart from designing the website listing for the particular book.

BUZZWORD BLOG: So there's no way you're making money.

DAN: We're losing money. If you work it out, We're probably clearing $5 an hour. Because most of it is coding drudgery - adjusting HTML and CSS.

BUZZWORD BLOG: What's the point?

DAN: Occasionally we strike someone who seriously wants to improve his book. We have excellent editors who are prepared to work for a going rate of $20 an hour. This is ridiculous, too, and we'll have to put our rates up eventually. We also have a small business building websites and website copywriting/SEO. That also costs $20 per hour.

BUZZWORD BLOG: So if an author wanted a website for a particular book, you could do it?

DAN: Yes. In fact, there are links to a couple we've done that you can visit on the site.

BUZZWORD BLOG: Do authors have to sign a book contract?

DAN: No. There are no restrictions at all. They can use the site simply as another billboard on the net, or link it to any other outlet they have. And, of course, the main advantage is, they can do all this even if they have no expertise with coding, constructing websites or formatting. In other words, complete newbies can get their books up - by providing nothing more than a Word file and a small one-off payment.

BUZZWORD BLOG: And do they have to resubscribe each year?

DAN: No. We tried the subscription model but it's a pain. So now there's just a token one off charge.

BUZZWORD BLOG: And they're on the net for ever!

DAN: As far as we're concerned. Or for as long as the site lasts.

BUZZWORD BLOG: Sounds too good to be true.

DAN: It's actually both good and true. Are we mad?



Sunday, 5 October 2014



Before I sat down to type this, I've had two visits from the IT man in the hotel... each time he reached me in 5 minutes, but there are 1000 rooms in hotel. Yesterday, the main connection was down for 7 hours. The photo is in the garden.

The people here keep expanding their tourist attractions. "The new is  old again." The three Australians took a Grade one for 80 minutes last Tuesday. 52 students. They were  little buggers. An ex-primary school principal delivered a three minute tirade at the children telling them  they were little beasts. They understood none of it. Finally they settled down and copied a picture.

 Today J. and I took his son and two 'classmates' to the supermarket. Needless to say, they were the  naughtiest children in a crowded supermarket On the way to the car a 'classmate' licked a car setting off a  car alarm, which mercifully stopped. I don't think they had been to a supermarket often.

National holiday starting October 1  for seven days.

 Weather still balmy (shorts and tee shirt)

Shi Hu Yuan Gardens Weifang

The lotus are flapping
 even though burnt by the sun.

 Surrounded by high-rise
 this oasis in the middle

 of Weifang bristles with
 ancient trees and pagodas.

 Pomegranates droop temptingly
 from many trees.

 Significant rocks rear
 on all sides.

 In the reflective pool
 straddled by ancient bridges

 the goldfish scream
 for attention & food.


 She Hu Yuan Garden

 The goldfish are breast-stroking
 across the pool ruffled by
 a stronger wind.

 a large lady in a grey strack-
 suit spares some of her food
 for the fish.

 The green branches of the willow
 dance to hidden music
 mostly in unison.

 You can find David's 'geographical' poems in Middle Kingdom, his anthology on Buzzword Books

Sunday, 21 September 2014


Over the years, Clint Smith has had many short stories published in leading periodicals. We asked him to collate them for Buzzword. The problem was he wrote stories in two areas - Women's mags and Men's mags. So he's collected stories from both areas and we've now published them separately. Below is his introduction to the collections - and, also, a story from the Men's anthology:

These stories are mostly 'commercial'—written to sell and to entertain. The majority have been published in magazines and anthologies and one even won an award.

As the young Smith wrote stories in two genres—male interest and romance. I've anthologised them in two books. VICIOUS TALES FROM MEN'S MAGAZINES and ROMANTIC STORIES FROM WOMEN'S MAGAZINES.

It was strange to troll through tales I'd written over forty years ago. I had no idea what many of them were, let alone how they ended. The only copies surviving, apart from a few tired photocopies, were in the magazines that ran them—magazines I'd stored way back then in a tin trunk in the shed.

In the trunk, I found most of the mags I'd sold to but not all. So all I have of some stories is a notebook listing titles and publications. The magazines I managed to keep are collectors' items now. For instance, The Women's Weekly was then tabloid sized. Woman's Day was larger, too. And the men's, mags published by an Australian outfit called K.G. Murray, are long defunct. As for Argosy, England's finest short story mag of the time, which had the format of a small paperback, even it died the death, probably a victim of TV.

As I wrote on a typewriter back then, the old Smith had to retype the young one's yarns laboriously from each magazine into the computer. Time doesn't destroy good yarns but it makes references and speech patterns outmoded.

So I edited and updated the tales as I went to help contemporary readers enjoy them. I doubt the young wordsmith would mind, as the old one, now author of several published books, knows far more about writing than he did. Still, it's been interesting to revisit his first successful tries at fiction and has even inspired me to write several more stories to round out the collections, which appear here for the first time.

The stories in these collections aren’t the only Smith stories to appear. His more serious or 'literary' stories are in the anthology, TALES OF A COUNTRY TOWN. (As most stories in TALES have won literary awards, perhaps the 'literary' tag can stand.) TALES is also published by Buzzword Books.

Now, perhaps you'd like to read one of the latest yarns from the Men's series. This is an extra one I wrote specifically for the series. And - warning - it could seem a little weird to some:

He lifted the photocopier's lid and inserted the blank sheet of A4.
   He pressed COPY.
   A mechanical belch.
   A copy settled in the tray.
He aligned the sheets and slid them into the blue plastic folder—carefully, precisely, so that their edges met the inner seam.
   In a pitiless, pointless world, it was essential to be precise. Only intentional acts soothed the disaster blithely termed 'life'.
   Two secretaries walked behind him chatting.
   'Almost broke my ankle. Crippled for a week.'
   'Can't wear 'em. Tall enough. Hey, get thunder-thighs. Check her hair?'
   He entered the office kitchen, placed the folder on the bench and reached for the ripped plastic tube that enclosed nested Styrofoam cups. He freed a cup and held it under the spigot of the urn. As boiling water filled it, warmth spread against his palm. He didn't want water. He wanted the activity.
   Carefully, precisely, he poured the water into the sink—into the centre of the outlet—trying not to splash the sides. He lifted the folder precisely and walked back to his desk. The whole point was to split the attention. It needed precision and awareness of the breathing.
   The office was open-plan with partitions too low for seclusion. In the next work-station a man peered over the shoulder of a second.
   'Should be B-C socio-economic. Listed the wrong demographic.'
   'Dickheads. If brains were taxed, they'd get a rebate.'
   Beyond a glass partition, he saw the flickering wall-screen in the foyer. The sports feed had switched to a newsbreak. They cut from a talking head to a cityscape showing cars crashed into buildings. He could just make out the super: NEUTRON BOMB DESTROYS NEW YORK.
   He clicked to the website of The Herald. They had it up. Chicago, New York, Washington nuked. Also London, Paris, Berlin. A joint attack from China and The Middle East. America had intercepted ICBMs aimed at San Francisco and LA. Their retaliation had flattened cities in China and Iran.
   The undercurrent of talk in the office changed to shouts and screams. People panicked, rushed for lifts. For a moment, he forgot the breathing.
   It wouldn't do. He needed to try, to practise, again.
   He walked back to the kitchen as frantic employees dodged past him. He took another Styrofoam cup and held it under the cold water tap. As he sipped the water he felt it chill his throat and gullet. He also noted his posture and the stresses in his body. It was better this time. This time, he was more aware.
   When he turned, the office was empty except for two men shouting into phones. Ringing their families? Trying to offload stocks?
   He lobbed the used cup precisely at the bin. It cleared the lip. A satisfying thing. And mindfulness of breathing was there, too.
   He returned to his desk, more himself, lifted his briefcase and walked to the stairs.

The trains still ran but there were only three people on his platform. He found that surprising. Was everyone sheltering in basements?
   He got off at his usual stop and walked the two blocks to his apartment. The roads were jammed with cars trying to leave the city. Drivers fought as their wives protested.  Horns blared and kids screamed.
   The lift in his apartment block still worked. He pressed the number for his floor. His door had been kicked open. The broken lock dangled from the jamb.
   He entered his ransacked sitting room. His father's antique mantel clock lay smashed on the floor with other treasures. He walked into the bedroom. Drawers from the built-in and scattered clothes lay on the carpet.
   He felt under the bed for the hammer he kept there as a weapon—kept with the handle in line with the skirting. His hand found it precisely.
   He checked the other rooms. Whoever had done this had left.
   Angry voices from the lower landing. A frightened yell. It sounded like Dougie—the pensioner in the unit below.
   He walked down the flight of stairs, not hurrying, aware of each step—of the sensation of his feet on each stair. Aware of each breath.
   Dougie's door was half-open.
   He pushed it wide.
   Dougie was face-down in the hall. Blood from his head had reached the skirting.
   In the sitting room he saw a man—broad backed, crouched, shoving something in a sack.
   Dougie had a cockatoo. The cockatoo shrieked from its cage.
   He stepped over the body. The bird's racket drowned all noise. He walked straight up behind the man, and hit him precisely on the crown of his head.
   The hammer went through his skull like a spoon cracking an egg.
   Breath sighed from the man. He toppled, the tool jammed in his brain. He lay staring up, loutish face distorted by shock.
   He watched the man die. Watched his eyes and twitching legs still. He watched—aware of his breathing, of the anxious bird pacing its perch, of the bedlam from the street. He felt he had everything he needed in that moment.
   Then he took the cage out on the balcony and opened its wire door.
   The bird hopped out, levering its beak against the wire, did a rolling walk along the railing and flew off.
   The wind had increased. A sooty cloud half-covered the sky.
   He walked back upstairs.

He sat in his recliner, cradling the smashed clock in his lap.
   He stared at the wall.
   Aware of the wall and the breathing.

Copyright © 2014 Clinton Smith.

Both eBooks are just $1.99 from Buzzword Books.

Sunday, 3 August 2014


Gina Stoner, author of Talks With Al and the soon to come Glimpsing the Real - Insights from the World of Being, peers behind what we take as reality in this dispatch from the noumenal featuring insights from James Lovelock, Stephen Harding, Trismegistus, Kant and Gurdjieff.

I can promise you now - there will never be peace in the Middle East.


For the same reason that your heart cannot become your liver.

Political events have been analyzed from almost all perspectives - historical, geographical, agricultural, religious, nationalistic, the availability of resources and so on. But the anatomical view of world events remains virtually unknown.

To examine this perspective requires three broad assumptions.

One. That the planet is a living being.

You may be aware of James Lovelock's Gaia Hypothesis. This describes the planet as a self-regulating entity. It asserts that living and non-living parts of the earth form a single self-regulating system that adjusts surface temperature, atmosphere, ocean salinity and so on to preserve optimal conditions for life. Steven Harding in Animate Earth broadens this view. He says that the whole earth system does the regulating. This provides the perspective of earth as a living being.

Two. That we cannot see reality objectively.

Kant said that we are unable to directly experience reality or the so-called noumenon - and can only experience the phenomenal - or what is conveyed by our senses.

And our senses, compared to insects and other life forms, are limited. Many creatures experience light and sound spectra, scents, approaching seasonal variations and other phenomena in a way we never can.  To summarize Kant - we cannot know what we cannot observe.

For instance, our planet appears to us like a sphere - although its real appearance could be unknown to us as our perception is limited to three dimensions and there may be several more. (Perhaps why we still cannot see or detect 90% of the universe's matter and energy.)

Three. That the universe is an organism.

Imagine, for a moment, that everything affects everything else. Not illogical.

Now imagine that the galaxy affects the sun, that the sun affects the earth, that the earth affects the moon. Taken broadly, most people could agree with that. So let's examine this hierarchy in more detail.

Let's assume that the sun is a self-cognizant being. Some early civilizations were sun-worshippers and the Egyptians asserted that, compared to the earth, the sun was divine. Now let's assume that the moon is the child of the earth, perhaps an embryo waiting to be born. And that the galaxy is another being - infinitely vaster than the sun.

In this scenario, the galaxy can never know our sun because it is infinitesimal - a mere cell in its body. But, perhaps our sun, moon and planets are aware of each other as the difference in scale between them is small enough to permit some interaction.

And this brings us to biology.

If you can accept such outlandish ideas, let's take it further.

Consider the great statement of Trismegistus: As above, so below. This postulates that the macrocosm is reflected in the microcosm. If we can tentatively admit such a correspondence, it gives us a remarkable tool for examining all that exists. If a person is a miniature universe, then, despite Kant and his reservations, we have a means of examining a greater being by examining ourselves.  A pity that the admirable Kant did not append this insight. As Gurdjieff once remarked, all he lacked was a sense of scale.

Can we assume, then, that parts of the planet perform particular functions - as do our liver, heart, intestines, and lungs?

Where then, is the liver of the planet? And where are the lungs?

World disruption. Or growth, digestion and elimination?

If you stay with this argument, things become intriguing. We know instinctively, despite our nods to political correctness, that nations have national characteristics.

The intrinsic essence of a person, or nation, varies. Let's call it 'being'. The being of a German is slightly different to that of an Englishman. The being of an Indian is slightly different to the being of a Spaniard. The being of an Arab is different to the being of an Eskimo. You may say very different. The point is, they differ. Just as the Amazon differs from the Namib Desert or the Bering Sea.

Now why do these differences appear on particular parts of the earth? And why do certain parts of the earth remain empty of people, or teeming with people, or peaceful, or conflicted? And why are certain areas cold, warm, tropical, arid and why do they stay that way over thousands of years?

Interplanetary influences

Perhaps the moon, sun and other planets require certain emanations or exchanges from the earth. We know we require heat from the sun and the stabilizing gravity of the moon. We see the effect the moon has on tides and perhaps on the growth of plants. But these may be just the most obvious indications.

Perhaps great nature or the sun - not just this planet - requires that the Middle East remains in turmoil, that Germany remains an industrial giant, that India, Bangladesh, China and Indonesia remain burdened with most of the world's population. That eruptions and earthquakes take place at specific areas at certain times. If this view is right, then Middle East disruption is inevitable - and as necessary as acid in your stomach.

The human automaton.

If you can accept this view, then we are the symptom, not the cause. We are blind functions of this vast process and instigate nothing at all. Nature prompts our unconscious reactions and group psychology does the rest.  Despite our preposterous hubris, we are as significant as ants.

There is much more to be said about the interaction between planets and suns. For instance the astrological view, labelled superstition by science, that alignments between stars far away affect what goes on here. But that is a further exploration that exceeds the scope of this survey.

My aim is simply to indicate that wars appear and cease when the planet or the solar system needs them. And that the same is true for famine, genocide, pandemics, the rise and fall of civilizations and 'dark ages'.

So will the world ever be an Eden? How could it be?  My liver does not aspire to be my pancreas. And, as both perfectly fulfill their functions despite me, why should I object?

As for anatomical map of the world - it remains unexplored.

You can view Gina's current book Talks With Al, by clicking the link.

Monday, 2 June 2014

"Compulsive contactless sociability." Wilhelm Reich versus social media.

John Alexandra, author of Journey Beyond 'God' applies the insights of Reich to our increasingly antisocial media and fragmented lives.

'Compulsive contactless sociability.' It’s the phrase that life energy researcher, Wilhelm Reich, used to describe mundane relations between people—the evasive deluge of meaningless words that we routinely accept as human contact. Interesting that he coined the phrase in the age of typewriters and telegrams.

Since childhood, we have been conditioned to disguise our intentions with half-truths. Now, the internet age has amplified that fake sociability, and the ego's frazzled determination to strut its imagined significance has spawned a global avalanche of drivel.

Are Facebook, Twitter, UTube and the Blogosphere benign?

Clearly not. Tech companies make a buck by data-mining your mindset—by exploiting your hubris and lack of restraint. And the more you descend into the quagmire, the more vulnerable you become. Sadder and wiser? No. Just sadder and more stressed with the benefits of anonymity trampled in the rush. It will revert, of course. You can see the beginning of this now.

Show me a person's friends and I'll tell you what he is.

If you use Facebook with maximum security settings to exchange your family photos—fine. But if you expect acclaim, commercial benefit, fame, you are likely to be disappointed. Facebook is mostly used as a selling platform for the self. You wish your ridiculously burnished self to be believed and admired. You want 'friends'—numbers on a server less familiar to you than statistics. You expect them to appreciate and extol your self-serving self-description. But this hardly ever happens. Because your 'friends' are mere click-backs who want you to do the same for them. So a billion egos shout in a vacuum.

Behind this churning is fear. The fear, of never being recognised, of being left behind, ignored, of not 'making it' and a thousand other dreads. Ultimately, the fear of death. Not actual death but the death of your precious personality. The thing you prop up on every possible occasion. The thing you layer with make-up and stare at in mirrors. The fiction you have been conditioned to call you.

'Tell me, sir,' said Krishnamurti to one egotistical enquirer, 'Can you be content just to be nothing?'

We can't. The prospect appals us. To be attentive to our lives requires inner effort and we prefer the security of our inertia.

Wednesday, 7 May 2014


Humorist Martin Jensen, author of How to Keep Fit Without Exercise and How to Get What You Want has a genius for efficient living. We asked him to drop a few of his latest pearls for the blog. Here is the result:

All of us clean our teeth. Some use a simple toothbrush. Others use a spinning brush attached to a battery that is probably made by that excellent manufacturer, Braun.

So far so good. But there is a glitch.

Each time you clean your teeth, the mixture of water and toothpaste somehow escapes your mouth and dribbles down the toothbrush and your hand until it ends down your wrist, wetting your sleeve. You have endured this all your life. How much longer will you put up with it?

The solution is simple and profound.

Apply the toothpaste to the brush. Wet the  brush a little if you wish. Then place it in your mouth, retire to the bedroom and lie supine on the bed. (That means face-up. Prone, incidentally, means face down.)

Lie face-up on the bed and clean your teeth.

You will notice that the toothbrush now projects almost vertically from your mouth. Any drips stay in your mouth. After thus luxuriously cleaning your teeth, close your mouth, with the toothbrush still in it, return to the bathroom and spit out.

That's all there is to it. Why haven't you thought of it before? I'll let you into a secret. Even I only thought of it recently and, because of my great love of humanity, am sharing it with you now.

What? You want another revelation?


So you are still using Windows 7. A handsome looking program. But whatever happened to the COPY TO FOLDER command, so useful in XP and suddenly gone? Let alone the useful FILE command.

No, dear apprentice geek, you don't need to drag and drop and lose half your files in the process. Both commands are still there. But hidden. Aren't these Microsoft programmers cute?

Do this:

Open your MY DOCUMENTS window.
Up will come a permanent menu featuring the familiar and reassuring FILE, EDIT, VIEW, TOOLS, HELP.

Click on EDIT
Up will come MOVE and or COPY TO FOLDER.

Use it.

Yes, I know you can't thank me enough.

How to Keep Fit Without Exercise and How to Get What You Want are now available on Buzzword for a trifling 99 cents each.

Sunday, 27 April 2014

Bikes in China

Itinerant bard and cyclist, David Farnsworth, is back in China, a country he loves, sampling the food, sights and riding the bikes. Some jottings from his diary follow, plus a couple of recent poems.

Yesterday attended a private school for the mentally impaired. The treatment of mental illness in China is, I think, fairly recent - and went to a primary school where the children mobbed me. I'd forgotten how much fun Chinese children could be. I showed them a hairy arm. The Chinese do not have hair on their arms!

Rode the bike 5 k. into CBD to access a flexiteller. The local ones will not accept my card. (They require 6 digits. Mine has four.)  The joys of travel. The keypads have a metal screen over them (for privacy) but in my case, I can't see the digits.  I managed. So much traffic... motor scooters and bicycles.  Very hairy. Still I'm a tough old bird.

People are so kind to me with banquets and restaurant meals. Large clamp down on corruption here. Maybe even bigger than in NSW! 

Prawns seem to be off the menu. There is a glut of abalone (twice the size of a 50 c coin, which are selling for 50 c. Of course, in Ballarat, you can't buy abalone.

Strangely, I noticed that in the cornucopia, which is supermarkets here, they don't have avocados.

 Of course I can do anything. Catch 68 bus. Someone gives me a seat.  90  minute journey for less than a dollar. oh yes. 

The public bicycles. Racks of 50 or so about every 400  meters. (Blue, pink, red green pastel blue) $40.00 deposit and show a local identity card to get a key card. 

Free access. Ride free. Return bike before 60 minutes expires. Friend estimates there are 50,000 bicycles in this city

For each hour over, 20 cents charge. .  so popular now. They had just been introduced on my last trip here  and seemed to not take off. Now they are everywhere. Number of bicycles on the streets has doubled.

Men in a truck pick and drop bikes where needed, and take broken bikes away for repair. People who  probably haven't ridden bicycles for 20 years are taking up the challenge, albeit hesitantly.

The business  executive with satchel, riding 'no hands'.

At Wedding Reception

I’m overwhelmed by the pipe
smoke. Watson has ordered
me a Vegetarian Salad.
Is he mad? The patrons
are out of control. They are
looking at a small screen
watching a ball pass from
one end of a field to another.
Some of the patrons are in
their cups – half their
luck! I can’t wait to
get home and indulge in
a drug of real seriousness.

At Xia Shan ReservoirXia

(Shan means Big Hill? ‘Xia’ is pronounced ‘shea’?)

At Xia Shan Reservoir the birds
are having a lovely time. Cherry
blossoms are fading and falling
covering the trimmed bushes.
How like flowering azaleas they look!

A light wind whipping the chill
from the waters. small children call.
All is order. Nothing is out of place.
Most people wear red for luck.
Volunteers pluck imaginary rubbish
with elongated tongs. Everybody
is happy, especially the happiness bird.

Peter Verkhovensky is Busy

It’s recess time at the Primary School.
The children improvise their games in the wide corridor. Most involve physical contact with a favoured other.

Here in the fish restaurant, the three
youngsters in the foursome indulge
in a cigarette. There’s so much smoke
I may as well be smoking myself.

At the autistic school severely disabled students roar like wild animals from neighbouring rooms. When viewed up close, they’re quite docile.

In the pursuit of happiness, money
changes hands everywhere, In an
earlier restaurant, a waitress chases
a fly with a fly-swat.

Chenlong Hotel  Weifang  24/ 04/ 14

A couple of 'fun' poems inspired by things seen on the bike ride to Anqiou:.

Three truck-loads of pigs, all heading
in the same direction. Obviously a
conference in some convention centre.
From the first big truck, I heard a
honk, not sure whether from the truck or the pigs.
No smell. Obviously, all have been shampooed for the occasion and no – there’s no way they can avoid putting their snouts in the trough over the coming week.

30th April, 2014-05-04

Chenlong Hotel, Weifang.

Two men and a goat on a motorized tricycle all wearing sun-hats.
The goat was not driving.
Obviously off on a picnic, the
goat grinning from horn to horn.
A picnic umbrella, an esky
and some old clothes ...
as a special treat
got the goat to eat.

30th April, 2014

Chenlong International Hotel, Weifang

Farnsworth's travel poem anthology Middle Kingdom is on Buzzword - $3.95.

Monday, 21 April 2014


(*See end note on who/whom.) We asked Gina Stoner to expound a little more on her philosophy. Gina is the author of the profoundly simple and ostensibly 'young adult' novel, TALKS WITH AL, now available on Buzzword.

You are in some terrible gulag. You are nineteen. With you is a supreme artist who has not yet filled his potential. And you know his potential because you are aware of the possible future and have an adult mind. Your companion - depending on your personal passion for art - is the young Bach, Mozart, Rembrandt or Van Gogh.

And the guards at this gulag are determined to shoot one of you. They will either shoot you and spare the other. Or shoot the other and spare you. It's your choice.

The firing squad is there and waiting on your decision.

What will you do? Will you die so that The Art of The Fugue, The Magic Flute or Starry Night will not be lost to the world? Or will you destroy your companion and live?

Now forget this question for a moment and read on.


A fundamental concept of self-transformation is the notion of two worlds.

All of us are obliged to live in physical surroundings. We know the taste, weight, resistance of things and the need to struggle against the entropy that will eventually destroy us. We are threatened forms—soft creatures in a hard world. And we know the outcome of our brief time here. Suffering, decay and death.

So we defend ourselves at all costs—and this makes us reactive. Not that instinctive reactions are foolish. (We need to pull our hands away from a flame or step back from a cliff.) But psychological reactions plague us and destroy whatever latent possibilities we possess.

This inner world of personal psychology includes our emotions, thoughts, and physical tensions. It includes our greed, envy, stupidity, dreams, opinions, regrets, ambitions, fixations, ignorance and all our self-defending strategies. This vastly over-elaborated territory is a morass of inter-reactions. Our thoughts drive our emotions. Our emotions drive our thoughts. And our body suffers from tension which, in turn, reduces its immunity to disease.

So we have an inner world and an outer—neither under our control. Because where is the 'our' in this? 'We' exist as automatonsa—functions of physical and psychological drives.


But, as we prefer not to see ourselves as functions, we develop a touchy ego. This hoary self-defence, common to humanity for thousands of years, has become both blessing and curse. It's a cumbersome shell for those wishing to shield themselves and a barrier for those intent on self-enquiry.

The aim of religions everywhere is to reconcile the opposites - to 'justify the ways of God to man'. In this beautiful, callous universe, we exist as an aberration—unsure of our role, importance and function like cosmic orphans without a map. Religions claim to fill this gap. Unfortunately, their dogmas have degraded into forms so antiquated, illogical and self-serving that they increasingly appeal to credulous self-calmers and fanatics.

The problem for people intent on self-transformation is that both processes are automatic. If even our most prized emotions and thoughts are reactive, what is there left to call ourselves?

Tuesday, 15 April 2014


South East Asia travel writer and academic, Pam Scott, muses on a life change and the trials of being a quirky Aquarian and lunar Monkey. Take it away, Pam:

I was born on the 22nd January. Now, if I’d come into the world just hours earlier, I’d have been a steadfast, sensible Capricorn instead of a quirky Aquarian who marches to the beat of a different drum according to Western astrologers.

On the other hand, according to the Chinese lunar calendar, had I been born just hours later, I’d have been a Rooster pecking at the ground in the chicken coop instead of a mischievous Monkey swinging up in the trees. How about that? Two cusps, east and west.

Then there is the issue of the year of my birth – 1945.  Technically I’m not a Baby Boomer since World War II was still in progress in January 1945. But I can usually sneak into that group. Again, I’m on the cusp.

It was much the same with the Swinging Sixties and the early Feminist Movement.  Those revolutions came along just a fraction too late to make a difference at the critical time and so I found myself married and heading for a life modelled on my mother’s era before I had a chance to absorb the new role models and follow a different path. Luckily, after a decade of marriage, no-fault divorce reforms came along, giving me another chance for a new way of being.

Although more women were studying at university in the early 1960s, it was still unusual.  I was the first female in my large extended family to attend university and I remember hearing my mother volleying comments such as, ‘Why would you want to educate a girl? She’ll just go off and get married!’  

However, the courses women studied in those days tended to cluster in the ‘caring’ professions traditionally allocated to women. I was encouraged to study pharmacy when I showed an interest in science – ‘A nice place for a girl to work,’ opined the neighbours –‘all those cosmetics and perfumes!’ 

When I floated the idea that I might like to study veterinary science the horrified response was swift and firm: ‘What if you had to look after a sick horse,’ the neighbours asked.  ‘Did they think I’d have to lift a horse onto an operating table,’ I laughed with my friends. But it sowed enough doubt to send me back to the prescriptions and perfumes.

Despite this false start with my career, a decade later I was ready to take advantage of the Whitlam Government education reforms. For once I wasn’t too late or too early and I managed to fit in three degrees between 1975 and 1986 while being a sole parent to my two sons at the same time. Thanks Gough, you changed my life! 

I became an academic at Wollongong University for a number of years which then led to an opportunity to live in Vietnam at the moment in history when that country was on the cusp of its amazing economic takeoff and social change. Living in Hanoi and HoChiMinh City for more than a decade meant I had a front row seat to witness the remarkable changes that were taking place.

Now I’m retired.  But as I head into older, old age, I’m working hard to stay fit and healthy. You see, I think I’m on another cusp and I want to hang on until all those ‘real’ Baby Boomers charge into their 60s and 70s and make the next revolution that will allow us the opportunities to enjoy the old age we want - more flexible accommodation and care options, medical advances, more life choices, greater visibility and attention.

Yes, this old Monkey still hears a different drum beat off in the distance and wants to join that parade.

©Pam Scott 2014

Several of Pam's fine travel books are available in the Buzzword Travel Section.

Wednesday, 2 April 2014


The most viewed post on this site was Ben Smith's introduction to the 1950s. We may post it again one day as it's now dropped off the list. So we urged Ben to write another post, this time concentrating on his experience of the first years of television in Australia when he worked at ABN Channel 2, Gore Hill, Sydney. He's obliged and here it is. (Ben Smith, by the way, is the author of the hilariously bitter sweet memoir No Time for the Smiths, now available from Buzzword.)

It's been a long journey. And most of you are too young to remember the beginning.
For me, it began in 1958 when I scored a job as a studio hand at ABN Channel 2, Gore Hill.

TV, in this country, was black and white and around two years old. We had ponderous equipment and transmitted shows live.

Yes, we had videotape, but only just. It was so old-fangled that its two-inch wide strip couldn't be edited successfully. (We'll, you could cut it on the diagonal with a knife.) It was so bizarre, even then, that I've kept one dub - still have it here on the bookcase in the study. It should be
in the Powerhouse Museum. The format was then called 'broadcast quality'.

And yes, we had telecine. But the cost of film restricted us to a ten minute insert for every one hour program. So we used it mostly for location shots.

 For instance, opening and closing credits were printed on a long strip of thin green cardboard and loaded into a machine with two rollers that scrolled it in front of the camera. While the opening scene appeared on Camera One, and Camera Two was cued for shot two, Camera Three was locked off on the titles which were then supered over the Camera One image.

Imagine. No way to rely on tape. No editing. No VCRs. No CGI. Nothing in the can. Just ominous real-time calls from the control room. 'Ready on Two. Take Two. Ready on One. Take One.'

And if you, Mr Cameraman, tangled your cable or botched your transition and weren't in position for your next shot, (written on a cue card clipped to the pedestal-based behemoth in front of you) then God help you - and the production!

A TV studio was expensive, but the ABC, of course, had the best equipment for the time. Two sixty by forty foot studios with lighting grids, elevated control rooms. An extensive props department. A contingent of carpenters and painters to make sets - which, by the way were coloured. (But those colours were chosen to transmit properly in black and white.)

It also had a presentation suite for small cooking programs and the news. The cream on the cakes was shaving cream. It was more stable under hot lights.

Oh, and there were a couple of enormous Steinways - mounted on Y shaped metal frames with castors at each end. Each time you moved one into a studio, a man had to come in and re-tune them.

At Channel 2, we had children's programs, women's programs, tilts at science, current affairs. And a whole range of BBC programs as back-up. Remember Z Cars? You do? Then happy 80th birthday.

There was Six O'clock Rock featuring the energetic Johnny O'Keefe. He was always hoarse because he yelled his voice to bits. It was considered a daring program for its time.

There was the Lorrae Desmond Show starring that always excellent and then youthful trouper and her dapper wingman, Colin Croft.

There was the inimitable puppet program, Mr Squiggle, with the delightful Pat Lovell as Miss Pat. 

The Children's program had an art section hosted by a young and serious Jeff Smart.

There was also Gaslight Music Hall. I vaguely remember the proscenium arch with the  studio audience seated in front - at small tables, I think - watching a tired list of faded tragics.

And there was the irascible Professor Julius Sumner Miller who asked 'Why is it so?' as he created vacuums in milk bottles so that peeled hard boiled eggs sitting on top of them were sucked irretrievably in and down.
Talking of tired acts, there was also Cafe Continental - a cabaret show that sometimes featured circus refugees. You never knew who or what the producers would drag in.

One act I remember with sheer joy. It involved a short, powerful, cheery man with a wooden peg-leg who dressed as a pirate. Aided by his somewhat larger, underdressed and besotted female assistant, he placed a three-pronged candlestick on a restaurant table and did a one-arm handstand on top of it - supported only by two fingers and the thumb of one hand.  That was his entire act. And memorable it was. 

Wednesday, 26 March 2014


Red face is more like it!

Well, just how stupid can we be? Although we are basically an eBook publisher, we went to great trouble to upload hundreds of used books on our site. Yes, actual pre-loved books. (Buzzword used books, by the way, can only be purchased if you live in Australia. Too much fiddling with postage otherwise.) Anyway, vastly proud of ourselves, we waited for  orders to flow in.

And did they?

Not a sausage. Not a single sale. Until someone was sharp enough to try the links. None worked. Our Paypal shopping cart requires swathes of code. And yes, the code was there - but someone had forgotten to include the first line of it on each entry.

So nothing worked! Week after week!

Should we plaster egg on our faces and tell you this? Of course. 

Anyway, all fixed now. And if we have inconvenienced anyone, we grovel and apologise.

For the record, Buzzword has four Used Book sections. 

Biographies and auto-biogs of authors. 


Esoteric and Hermetic texts. 

And, just for the hell of it, a Lucky Dip section. 

All pretty pointless. But then, what isn't? 

Has it occurred to you that life is a mirage? Then the Esoteric section is for you.