“Always clowning around, these frolicsome pets swim, stunt and play games with each other. Because they are so full of tricks, you’ll never tire of watching them”.


Harold von Braunhut was a great inventor, but an even greater copywriter. Who could resist his hypnotic sales pitch?

The stories in Richie Rich comics were good, but we were more fascinated by the advertisements for von Braunhut’s products that featured on the back cover of each issue after 1962. Personal hovercrafts, whoppee cushions, daisy guns, electric hand buzzers, and especially Xray specs and Sea Monkeys. We knew why the lucky guy with the Xray specs was looking at that woman. Of course, they couldn’t really work – or could they? After all, they were from New York, so who knows. Being from such a distant and exotic location, they were completely unobtainable for us in Australia.


The only things we could buy in the Australian comic books (Donald Duck and the Phantom) were 2nd hand stamps from the Seven Sea Stamp Company in Dubbo, which appears to be still in operation.

Eventually Sea Monkeys did become available in Australia. Unfortunately, reality didn’t stand up to epectations. They didn’t look like the mermaid creatures shown as ‘caricatures’ in the ad. Is that them, or is it just dust on top of the water? Is that frolicking , or just brownian motion?

Perhaps it is lucky we had to be satisfied with stamps, rather than be subjected to the full catalogue of von Braunhut’s imagination. He certainly became very wealthy on the back of his salesmanship.

It appears that there was also a darker side to Harold von Braunhut, as outlined in an article this week in The Awl, The Shocking True Tale of the Mad Genius Who Invented Sea Monkeys.

Do you remember any ads from your comic book reading days?

What I Learnt On 30th June in other years

30th June 2012 That's in QueenslandThat’s in Queensland
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Eat Less, Walk More, Don’t Smoke, Drink Less.

General Practitioners spend a lot of time giving excellent advice.

It doesn’t make our job as GPs any easier when the RTA place these large flashing signs on every road into Alstonville.



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According to that famous philosopher, Barbie, “Maths is Hard – Let’s Go Shopping”

For the last few years I have been a confirmed Zazz man. Each day at midnight, Zazz offers one things for sale. It stays on sale for 24hours unless sold out beforehand. You get only one chance.

Zazz mainly offers electronic thingys – where else could you buy coffee warmers that plug into your USB port, or iPhone microscopes, or remote control micro-helicopters, or Roomba robotic vacuums. Over the years we’ve also got Bean Bags, Space Invades Wall Decals, mini light sabers and walkie-talkies. The descriptions of the items are generally the best copy you’ll read all day.

More recently, I’ve been tempted by Catch of the Day, which offers one main catch and a number of little catches. Catch of the Day has a more diverse range of goods which are more mainstream than zazz. The Catches on offer change at midday each day.

Scoopon is a ‘group buying’ subsidiary of Catch of the Day, and offers a special voucher to use at a local service. It may be a heavily discounted meal at a local restaurant, or accommodation, or a massage, or a car wash.

Group buying is relatively new in Australia. It is based on the phenomenally successful American site A bargain is offered for a limited time – but a minimum number of buyers must sign up before the deal is on. In practice, it seems the minimum number is always met. The deals you are offered vary according to the city in which you are located. For some random reason, Groupon thinks I am in St James, Newfoundland. Shakespeare by the Sea in Newfoundland, anyone? I guess at least it gives me more choices than it would if it knew I was in Alstonville.

A syndicate including James Packer scooped up large shares in Catch of the Day and Scoopon last month. Rumours are that there stake valued the company at $200 million. That’s no small fish.

Both Scoopon and Catch of the Day have apps that make it easy to keep up with the latest deal.

My mother in law’s house is a shrine to all things Aldi. Aldi also have an app, which features their weekly specials (which start on Thursdays). I’m into paellas at the moment, and this Thursday they have a cast iron paella pan for $29. Bet I beat you there on Thursday morning.

If you can’t get enough of buying cheap stuff that you don’t really need, you might like to check out, which aggregates all the Australian daily, weekly, group buying and catalogue offers. Somehow I feel it takes away some of the thrill of the hunt, really.

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You think you’ve got problems? Life in the first world is full of trouble too, you know. Just ask rapper ‘funnyz’.

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June 21st marks the the Winter Solstice. The tilt of the earth leans us as far from the sun as we go, and the days are as short as they get.

The passing of the Solsitice means it must be Lismore Lantern Parade time. Last night was the 18th year it has been celebrated.


This was the first parade that I can remember when it wasn’t both raining and freezing. The warmer night meant that about 15.000 people lined the streets of Lismore to cheer the 1000 ‘paraders’, and then gathered by the river for the spectacular ‘Fiery Finale’.  

The theme this year was ‘The Great Garden’, being a rough translation of the gaelic ‘Lios Mohr’, or Lismore, and was a celebration of the natural world and the town’s gaelic roots.

The parade is very Lismore. The participants in the parade represent the diverse nature of this region, with 100 community participants representing ‘The Australian Breast Feeding Association’, ‘The Organic Farmers Market’, ‘The Tropical Fruits’, ‘The 1st Lismore Scouts’, ‘The Channon Public School’ , ‘Australian Seabird Rescue’, and the ‘Don’t Frack with us’ group opposed to coal mining, among many others.

Congratulations to all involved. It was a magnificent celebration of community.


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