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The Write Way

15 July 2005



You know, there are times when you really have to worry about our species, don't you think? I was savouring my Vegemite on toast and listening to the radio one morning last week, when I was brought to sudden wakefulness by an interview being conducted by the Breakfast Crew (and yes, that does give you some indication about the calibre of both the interview and the interviewee).

The subject, we'll call her Mavis, told us that she was a paranormal investigator. (And if you ask me, there's a contender for our Oxymoron of the Week is ever there was!) Mavis, it turns out, was investigating the powers of ... (wait for it) ... an evil marionette! 

This evil marionette resides in some isolated country town in the Outback, and Mavis and her fellow investigators are in the throes of organising their trip. I'm not sure what they plan to do to the marionette to prove its evil intent once they find it ... stick pins it it perchance? See if it cries? I know ... toss it in the water tank and see if it floats ...

But paranormal investigations into the personality of marionettes aside, what most interested me about this story was when Mavis said that she was looking for a fourth member of her "team." And do you know how she was recruiting this person, boys and girls? She was selling the spot on eBay!

Now is that an enterprising paranormal investigator or what?


Mavis told us that she was auctioning the spot and that "all proceeds from the sale would go to ..." and here my mind filled in "Children's Cancer Research, Save the Whales, Planet Ark ..." and I thought, "What a nice person she is. Fancy setting up something like this to raise money for such a good cause. You have to hand it to some people ... they're willing to make themselves look like dills to help worthy causes like ..." But my pleasant reveries were interrupted when I heard our Mavis say, "Yes, all proceeds will go towards our plane fares."

"Hello?" I thought, "Now there's an opening for a bright lad!" 

And with that I started planning for my eBay auction, and I'd like you, my loyal subscribers, to be the first to be able to take advantage of this wonderful offer because (drum roll, please, Mr Music...) I'm auctioning my leftover piece of toast and Vegemite! 

No really ...You see, after I'd taken a bite and been interrupted by Mavis, I happened to look on my plate and there it was! A perfect replica of an arch ... but not just any old arch. No indeedy not. This was the Arc de Triomphe

So hurry up. You can place bids for the next 7 days, and all proceeds go towards my trip to Paris ... three days in a luxury hotel, tickets to the ballet and a stopover in Hong Kong on the way home. I'm taking a photograph of my piece of toast with me so I can compare it with the Parisian Arc.

Then I'll make duplicates and personally autograph them ... and then I'll have my photo taken alongside the Arc (holding a jar of Vegemite and a piece of toast) and I'll sign these and frame them and auction off numbered prints ... and then I'll write a book about how I discovered the Arc in a piece of toast ... and then I'll make bread rolls in the shape of arches and do them up in dear little baskets with a teensy jar of Veggie to sell to tourists as they hop off the plane and then ...

Woohoo! The sales potential is amazing! That Mavis is not such a silly-billy after all. But evil marionettes ... What on earth is she thinking?

Hmmm ... Something strike you as not quite right about that? (I mean apart from the evil marionettes?) Yes, you're right. When we're referring to the dirt under our nails after a morning in the garden, it's plain old earth, but when it's our lovely old planet, it's Earth.

Speaking of things geological, I was a tad erratic with my sizes last week when discussing the ex-Apostle, did you notice? Perry Gretton did and wrote, "I doubt I'll be the first to point this out but that's more like 140 ft, a metre being just a little over three feet." Oops!

This week's quiz:

Try matching up these terms and meaning ... just to see what your connection is to evil marionettes ...

belomancy, alchemy, mnemonist, bunyip, déjà vu, conjuration, psychokinetic, doppelganger, harpy, mandala

1. vicious winged monster; often depicted as a bird with the head of a woman 

2. a ritual recitation of words or sounds believed to have a magical effect 

3. turning baser metals into gold or silver by chemical means 

4. any of various geometric designs (usually circular) symbolizing the universe; used chiefly in Hinduism and Buddhism as an aid to meditation 

5. imaginary monster inhabiting swamps and lagoons 

6. the experience of thinking that a new situation had occurred before 

7.  a kind of divination anciently practiced by means of marked arrows drawn at random from a bag or quiver, the marks on the arrows drawn being supposed to foreshow the future; the advice tied to the arrow which travels the furthest is thought to be valid 

8. someone able to perform unusual feats of memory 

9. moving an object without apparent use of physical means 

10.a ghostly double of a living person that haunts its living counterpart 

And since we've been thinking about things like this ...

Déjà coup: The feeling my government has been overthrown like this before.

Déjà do: The feeling my hairdresser has given me this cut before.

Déjà fu: The feeling I've been kicked in the head like this before.

Déjà who: The feeling I've known who was on first before.

Déjà ooh: The feeling I've exclaimed at these fireworks before.

DUH-jà-vu : The feeling that the answer was so obvious, that you surely should have known it before. DUH!

Last week's quiz:

Here are some geological-type words ... how's your knowledge of rocks and things earthy?

magma, alluvium, caldera, aquifer, firn, drumlin, talus, moraine, sinkhole, playa

1. circular, often funnel-shaped depression in the ground that forms when soluble rocks dissolve - SINKHOLE

2. firmly packed snow that has survived a summer melting season; has a density of about 0.4 gram per cubic centimetre and ultimately turns into glacial ice - FIRN

3. single, large mass of glacial till that accumulates, typically at the edge of a glacier - MORAINE

4. deposit of sediment left by a stream on the stream's channel or floodplain - ALLUVIUM

5. dry lake basin found in a desert - PLAYA

6. molten (melted) rock that forms naturally within the Earth; may be either a liquid or a fluid mixture of liquid, crystals, and dissolved gases - MAGMA

7. pile of rock fragments lying at the bottom of the cliff or steep slope from which they have broken off - TALUS

8. long, spoon-shaped hill that develops when pressure from an overriding glacier reshapes a moraine; range in height from 5 to 50 metres and in length from 400 to 2000 metres; slope down in the direction of the ice flow - DRUMLIN

9. permeable body of rock that both stores and transports groundwater - AQUIFER

10. vast depression at the top of a volcanic cone, formed when an eruption substantially empties the reservoir of magma beneath the cone's summit. Eventually the summit collapses inward, creating this depression that may be more than 15 kilometres in diameter and more than 1000 metres deep - CALDERA

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A Little Something Extra

If you love books, you can probably think of several occasions when you've been stopped in your tracks by a
unique turn of phrase or a magical description. "How did the author do that?" you wonder. "It's so simple, and yet so

Read the rest of this article by Laura Backes on how to Stop Readers in Their tracks here: 

Word of the week: Marionette (n) a small figure of a person operated from above with strings by a puppeteer

I know you know what a marionette is already, but I thought this one was interesting because of its origin. It comes from the Old French word for musical instrument, "a diminutive of mariole the Virgin Mary, from diminutive of Marie, Mary (influenced by the name Marion), from Late Latin Maria" (

Tautology of the weeka verbal tongue-lashing

And this week's Latin phrase is probably more apt for those of you in the middle of the swimsuit season than for those of us who can still rug up in our winter woollies:

Haec trutina errat. (There's something wrong with this scale.) ... Of course there is ... I believe you ...

Kind regards,


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