Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Departure From The Norm

Just Another Singapore Surprise

Photographs copyright: DAVID McMAHON
These two pictures are posted here for Anu, an old friend and former colleague; our connection goes back almost 25 years. Both these shots were taken on my recent travels, but they do not depict your average, run-of-the-mill horticultural garden.
Nor were they taken in some outdoor, open-air tropical paradise. So, any idea where they could have been shot?
There is a clue in the top left-hand corner of the first frame.
Look at the lighting in that area and you can see that the shot was actually taken indoors.
Okay, I won't keep you in suspense any longer. Both shots were taken at Singapore's Changi Airport. The first shot shows a vivid variety of orchids, in colours and varieties that I didn't even know existed.
The second shot shows a selection of moth orchids (yes, that's correct, moth orchids - and I only know that because the sign said so) set among driftwood and an indoor pond stocked with koi fish of brilliant hues.
The area, located in the departure terminal, was like a magnet to travellers. On our way through Singapore to India and again on the way back, there were several people - locals and tourists alike - who got out their cameras, wandered slowly through the amazing display and took photographs of the amazing sight.
Quite a few people asked me to take photographs of them (with their own cameras) and asked specifically that I should get the brightest colours in the background. Such a simple idea by the people who administer the airport - and such an effective idea, too.

Witch Hitch Is Just A Glitch

Fee For All

Yes, I know some strange things happen at Halloween, but you gotta love this story in the Kansas City Star. A German court has ordered a self-styled witch to refund a disappointed client her hefty fee for a spell that failed to win back the woman's partner. The witch must pay back the $1275 on the grounds she offered a service that was "objectively completely impossible''. After her boyfriend left her in the fall of 2003, the client consulted the witch on a spell that would bring him back. ``The defendant carried out the corresponding ritual over several months, each time under a full moon, but without success,'' a court statement said.

Monday, October 30, 2006

Can Witches Really Spell Halloween?

Another Hit For The Smashing Pump Kings

Photographs copyright: DAVID McMAHON

This timely post is for the benefit of my loyal readers in Canada and the United States. I shot these pictures in Montreal last year, at an open market. It was about a fortnight before Halloween, when I was photographing parts of the country for the Canadian Tourism Commission. It was almost 20 years since I was last in Canada at Halloween - and of course the decorated pumpkins caught my eye immediately.

The second shot is of pumpkin varieties that are better suited to lanterns than to edible purposes. I'm hoping Cecilia from Montreal (who asked about my picture of the Indian chief with the post The World's Slowest Indian, dated 10 October ) might be able to tell me where exactly this market is in Montreal. It is part indoors and part outdoors and I have the name in my notes - somewhere. Over to you, Cecilia ....

Wat's Up, Doc?

Thailand Accommodation? It's Dead Easy

Looking for cheap digs in Thailand? Here's something that's right up your street - and we can guarantee there'll be silence, too! There's special accommodation for visitors to the upcoming international horticultural show in the funeral hall of a Buddhist temple. Three million visitors are expected at the Royal Flora Ratchaphruek 2006 which opens on Wednesday in the northern city of Chiang Mai and lasts until January 31. At least one temple, Wat Jet Yod, will allow guests to sleep in its funeral hall, where religious rites for the dead are held. Just make sure your rite hand knows what the left hand is doing.

Sunday, October 29, 2006

Silence Of The Lamps

No Flaws On This Floor

Photographs copyright: DAVID McMAHON

The colours of India are startlingly vibrant - and they are evident in the simplest form of everyday life. I shot these two frames - using the Pentax K 100 - during the Diwali festivities last week. Not in a Hindu temple. Not in a tourist office window display. They were just outside the front door of a Calcutta household. Apart from the traditional diyas, or wick-lamps, the amazing range of colours and the use of tiny mirrors within the design attracted my attention.

The Queen's English

Song Sung Blue For The Empress

Yesterday I blogged a postscript, Victoria Cross-Connection, to Sandip Madan's perceptive comment about the reign of Queen Victoria. But I just realised I should add a PS to that as well. As you know, Victoria was best remembered for the haughty comment, ``We are not amused''. But it's worth mentioning the circumstances in which that the famous one-liner was delivered. Turns out that the monarch uttered the immortal words when told the name of a tune she admired was (shock, horror) ``Come Where The Beer Is Cheaper''.

Saturday, October 28, 2006

Devil-May-Clare Attitude

Gee, That's A Familiar Book, Innit?

Photographs copyright: CLARE MULVANY

As you would recall from my recent post Brought To Book, about my experience at the Oxford Book Store in Calcutta, I bumped into Clare Mulvany, who was kind enough to take some photographs for me - as I was otherwise engaged, signing books for the store. I have just returned to Melbourne and am sifting through a few hundred emails and SMSes - as you do, when you've been away for a while.

Clare was true to her word and has just emailed me some of the pictures she shot that evening. The first frame must have been taken at the front counter, while I was signing the books that were later displayed with a prominent ``Signed By The Author'' declaration emblazoned across them. Clare's second picture shows my debut novel, `Vegemite Vindaloo', published by Penguin Books India, at a rather interesting spot.

See where it has been placed on the store's special Top Ten display? Right up the top, at numero uno. All very thrilling for a simple Calcutta-born lad - especially since I used to be taken to this very same bookshop as a special treat during my childhood.

Clare, incidentally, is also writing a book of her own. Like me, she also travels with a camera and you can read her experiences at Exceptional Lives, a very lively blog.

Her email said: ``A pleasure to meet you. And delighted that I had a camera with me at this moment. Glad to be of service!!''

The pleasure is all mine, Clare. Good luck with your book and your blogging.

Victoria Cross-Connection

We Are Not Bemused

Photograph copyright: DAVID McMAHON

My attention to detail ain't what it used to be. In one of the posts during my time in Calcutta, I made mention of ``Queen Victoria (1837-1901)'' but I should have clarified that those were the years of her reign, not of her lifetime. Got home yesterday to find this comment from Sandip Madan, who was three years senior to me at North Point and is as perceptive as he always was.

``Interesting,'' Sandip said, ``Glad to know that Calcutta (Kolkata) has improved over time. Btw, seeing the mention of Queen Victoria (1837-1901) made me want to look her reference up. I thought she had died at a ripe old age (by the standards of her era, that is.) Sure enough, she was born in 1819 and died in 1901. But you were referring to her reign of course, that lasted more than 63 years, from 1837 till 1901. ''

It's a good thing my friends keep me on the path to righteousness, isn't it! I thought it would be the ideal opportunity to mention this here, and also to post the first of several photographs I shot during my time in Calcutta. The statue, of course, is of Queen Victoria, who was not only Queen of England but also the Empress of India. The picture was taken, appropriately enough, at the Victoria Memorial.

Thursday, October 26, 2006

Just Passing Through

Back In Singapore - Just Briefly

Just a short night flight from Calcutta to Singapore and we're at the transit area, waiting for our connection to Melbourne. Are we jet-lagged? Naaah, we're a bit too tired for that! But like they say in the classics, ``onward and upward''. One more flight and we'll be back home, just less than a fortnight since we left. More later .....

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Brought To Book

Oxford, By Degrees

In a small but significant way, life came full circle for me today. At the Oxford Book Depot, on Park Street, we saw copies of my novel, `Vegemite Vindaloo', prominently displayed on the `Top Ten' shelf. Unfortunately, it was one of those rare moments when I did not have my camera with me, so I have no photographic evidence of the special moment.

Special? Why? Let me explain. As a kid, I used to be brought to Oxford as a treat. My mother, who loved reading even more than I do, used to bring me to this very bookstore, to choose so many of the books I read and re-read during my childhood in Calcutta. Now, having lived in Melbourne for 19 years, I find myself back in Calcutta on a very short visit and I stand in the same store, where my own work is accorded a special place. It is a special moment, but a very humbling one.

A few feet away from me, a bloke introduces himself. His name is Warren, or Woz to his mates. A Queenslander, he has just completed a Himalayan trek in Sikkim and is about to fly out of Calcutta in a few hours, to Germany. He is looking for a book for his sister. He watches as a store assistant says they have set up an area for me to sign copies of my novel. He immediately buys a copy of the book, has a hearty chuckle at the title, and asks me if I would mind autographing his copy. Not at all, I tell him. I would be absolutely delighted. I sign the book and he, in turn, photographs me doing so.

Another visitor, Claire, who is researching a book of her own, kindly offers to photograph the `Top Ten' rack where `Vegemite Vindaloo' sits so proudly. She takes several pictures, shows me the results on her camera LCD display and promises to email me the shots. So watch this space for a pictorial record of a special evening in my life.

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Frankly, My Dear, I Don't Give A Jam

Everyone's A Back-Seat Deriver

With Diwali (the Hindu festival) and Id (the Muslim celebration after the fasting period of Ramadan) following close on each other's heels, there is a festive atmosphere across the city of Calcutta. This evening I spent a fair amount of time in the central business district and long after the sun had set, we tried negotiating the streets in the vicinity of the Oberoi Grand Hotel and the New Market (properly known as the Sir Stuart Hogg Market).

But the dual festivities across two different faiths mean that the footpaths of the city are simply not wide enough to contain the thousands of gleeful shoppers. There is no pushing, no shoving, no jostling; Calcutta is far too civilised a metropolis for such churlish behaviour. This is a street party like no other. No one is in a hurry. No one needs to be.

Down one street, our progress is impeded by the formidable phalanx of (in no particular order) a rickshaw, a motorbike and a taxi whose driver seems hell-bent on driving with more verve than good judgement. Do we have a problem? No, this is Calcutta, and help is always at hand. Yes, even in a traffic jam.

Suddenly, three people materialise from the throng. One directs the rickshaw puller deftly away from the coagulation of traffic. Another, addressing the taxi driver not as a dolt but as his elder brother, sends him on his way through a gap not much wider than his vehicle itself. The third good citizen, much in the manner of the intrepid mariner, Ferdinand Magellan, charts a course for the motorcyclist, with a laugh rather than an oath. And we are now on our way again, through a street where the hubbub is one of celebration.

The parting of the Red Sea could not have been achieved with more aplomb.

Monday, October 23, 2006

Old Man River

Row, Row, Row, Your Boat

Took a nostalgic trip today, in more ways than one. My friend and former colleague, Mudar Patherya, the head of Trisys Communications, insisted that we take a river trip on a dinghy. I must confess that it was a new experience for me, even though The Strand was such an integral part of my childhood. We walked down the steps of the ghat to the waiting dinghy, which the boatman had manoeuvred close to shore. He navigated the vessel across the huge buoys - another familiar sight from my early years - and I was fortunate enough to get a couple of great shots of fishermen casting their nets, as well as pictures looking in both directions of the Howrah Bridge and the New Howrah Bridge that span the Hooghly in such impressive style. Then the boatman showed great dexterity in bringing his unpowered dinghy back - against the tide, mind you - to our starting point.

Sunday, October 22, 2006

Streets Mart

Nun The Wiser

Park Street, the main thoroughfare in Calcutta, is no longer Park Street. It is now Mother Teresa Sarani, and a statue of the nun who is synonymous with the city's poorest citizens looks over all those who traverse the length and breadth of the street. Today I walked down memory lane, past my old university, St Xavier's College, then past the police station and all the shopfronts that I remember so well from my childhood. It is a strange experience, being a tourist in the city that nurtured me. The old post office now has a new exterior and a new corporate identity - now it is identified by the large sign above the entrance that proclaims ``India Post''. That is not the only change. Flury's, the famous confectioner that gets a mention in my novel, `Vegemite Vindaloo', has been given a makeover and now looks more like a European cafe, while the landmark white boxes with blue lettering have been replaced by pink boxes with silver lettering. Of course, I also had to call in to the Oxford Book Depot, a place that magnetised me as a child. It was fitting that this time I went back to buy a copy of my own novel. Life, it seems, has come full circle.

Friday, October 20, 2006

Tipping The Light Fantastic

Calcutta Exudes The Diwali Spirit

It's been three years since I was here for Diwali, the festival of lights. Funny how things change when you're away. For the past 24 hours, people have been busy decorating shopfronts, apartment buildings and homes with strings of coloured lights. It seems the age of the graceful ``diyas'', or simple earthen lamps - about the size of a child's palm - has long gone. Today's newspapers lament the passing of the era, while pointing out that the rising price of wax has also contributed to the change. This evening, more apartment buildings than I can ever remember are decked out in elaborate necklaces of twinkling lights in every hue. The atmosphere - quite literally - is electric.

Thursday, October 19, 2006

Have You Lost Your Marble?

Then Go Look For It At The Victoria Memorial

While the Taj Mahal is universally recognised as one of the most stunning buildings in the world, I must point out that the Victoria Memorial, that archetypal symbol of Calcutta, is probably just as impressive. For those with a historical bent, I need not point out that Queen Victoria (1837-1901, if I remember correctly) was of course Empress of India. The Victoria Memorial, built from stunning white marble, is a must-visit, must-see, must-photograph sight.

The cabbies and the bus conductors have always referred to it as the ``Toria Moria'' and when I was growing up here in Calcutta, we simply referred to it as the ``VM''. I got some great shots yesterday - including four frames shot from the fast lane of the Park Circus flyover. I'm not sure if it was a brave effort or simply foolhardy, but it just gave me a unique perspective of the building. It's been photographed by millions of people, but I honestly think I was one of the first to shoot its distinctive, high central dome, topped by the graceful bronze angel, from a vantage point that was roughly the same height.

The city is cleaner, greener and more beautiful than when I last visited three years ago. Between Chowringhee and the Victoria Memorial is a new swathe of parkland. Elliot Park and Citizens' Park are beautifully landscaped, with shrubs and trees. It is a park vista that would not be out of place in a city like Paris. It is heart-warming to see that Calcuttans have been fired by fresh pride in their great city.

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

The One-Elle Lama

This Is Going From Verse To Worse

I actually meant to add this to my blog before I flew out of Melbourne. Those of you who saw the post `Of The Peepul, By The Peepul, For The Peepul', featuring the three great photographs of the Shwedagon Temple by Nirmal Ghosh, would know exactly the thought process that led me to add this afterthought. Nirmal's picture of the two monks reminded me of the great rhyme by Ogden Nash. Which rhyme? This rhyme ... ``The one-l lama, he's a priest.The two-l llama, he's a beast. And I will bet a silk pajama, There isn't any three-l lllama.'' Of course, if Ogden Nash were Aussie, he would surely have written a second verse, about Elle Macpherson, beginning: ``The One-Elle Lama ....''
Postscript: I once read somewhere that Nash - who loved a pun or two - also wrote a footnote to this poem. In typical whimsical style, he wrote something along the lines of: ``The author's attention has been called to a type of conflagration known as a three-alarmer.''

Monday, October 16, 2006

Too Many Crooks Spoil The Broth

Santa Ain't The Only One Who Gets The Sack

Okay, so what's the one word you can't call your boss? According to a great yarn in all the Indian papers today, you can no longer call your boss a ``chor'', which loosely translates to crook. That word is the final frontier. So you can call your boss lazy. You can call your boss unimaginative. You can call your boss a dummy. But crook? Uh-huh. That's a short cut to a pink slip and instant dismissal. But I reckon there's got to be a get-out clause somewhere. Either that, or we'll be lining up for the sack race.

Sunday, October 15, 2006

Calcutta - My City Of Joy

Back Where It All Began

After two flights (on Friday the 13th, no less) and one quick connection in Singapore, here I am in Calcutta, the city where life began for me. Mid-October is an interesting period in this amazing city, because the Pujas are over and the nights are starting to draw to a close much quicker than before. The weather is still very warm, in the mid-30s range, and believe me when I say it is humid and muggy. But the cooler nights are not far off, as this great, ancient metropolis - in part, the scene for my first novel, `Vegemite Vindaloo' - becomes enveloped in the slow embrace of winter. The sight of Ambassador taxis (based on the 1950s Morris Oxford) are a comforting familiarity from my own fortunate childhood, yet they seem a strange anachronism in a city that is riding the subcontinental econonomic boom. I am, of course, armed with my camera, and I intend to capture images that showcase the city's beauty. Grime, crowds, poverty? Yes, of course they exist, and co-exist, here. But there is so much to see that is heart-warming and inspiring. Watch this space.

Friday, October 13, 2006

Singapore Slingshot

Which Is Hotter, Melbourne Or Singapore?

Well, believe me, the winner today is Melbourne. We've had a really hot spell of weather, but typically of Melbourne, we were using the heating on Tuesday, then the air conditioners for the next two days. For someone like me, who grew up in India, the north winds of my childhood used to hearld the onset of winter. But a Melbourne north wind is something else altogether. It is hot - H O T. And judging by the temperature in Singapore this afternoon (a mild 31 degrees Celsius when we stepped out of the airport) it's about six degrees cooler than it was in Melbourne yesterday. Hmmmm, six degrees of separation, literally.

One Summer Doth Not A Swallow Make

Greetings, Sergeant Pepper

Never heard of Richard LeFevre? He's hot stuff- literally. The 62-year-old retired accountant from Nevada swallowed 247 peppers in eight minutes to win the Jalapeno-Eating World Championships at the
State Fair of Texas. LeFevre, who has also won the fair's World Corny Dog Eating Contest three times, said his winning strategy was to mix three or four peppers in his mouth with a swig of milk before swallowing. His victory earned him $2000.

Testing Their Metal

Must Be The Season For Clockwork Oranges

Photograph copyright: DAVID McMAHON

There is something so wholesome about the setup at fruit markets. The produce is wonderful - and no one gives a hoot if the equipment is a bit out of date. I deliberately focused on the simple metal contraption in the foreground, leaving the array of beautiful oranges in soft focus.

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Jonathan Livingston Sees Gull

It's A Wing-Wing Situation

Photograph copyright: DAVID McMAHON
This picture was taken recently at Southbank, Melbourne. I was actually photographing a ferry on the Yarra River when I noticed a dozen or so seagulls on this railing near the water's edge. Since I was shooting with the Pentax K100 and I had the 18-125 lens, I walked to within about three metres of the gulls and then zoomed in. I shot one or two frames and then this gull swivelled and decided to give his wings a bit of a stretch. It's an interesting shot, because the perspective of the frame actually shows just how impressive a wingspan really is.

Far From The Madan Crowd

Familiar Byline in the New York Post

It's another example of immaculate Darjeeling bloodlines. Rubina Madan, a US student, was accompanying the police in the Harlem area of NewYork last Friday as part of her graduate journalism assignment. An article co-written with her classmate caught the attention of The New York Post. Rubina's father Sandip is one of the many brilliant North Pointers who have won great professional respect in the States. Sandip and Anita's gene pool is obviously not short on brilliance.

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

The World's Slowest Indian? Moi?

Looking For New Horizons

Photograph copyright: DAVID McMAHON

This photograph is for the benefit of the many Canadian visitors who've read this blog in the past week. I took this shot in Montreal last September, while I spent 10 days photographing that amazing country for the Canadian Tourism Commission. I spotted this lifesize figure in the doorway of a shop, as I walked to the waterfront. The light was fading in the late evening, but I took this with my Canon EOS 3000 and I think the shot still turned out all right, even though it was dusk.

In Gourd We Trust

Da Do Ron Ron

You want big pumpkins for Halloween? You'd better have a yarn with Rhode Island farmer Ron Wallace. According to The International Herald Tribune, he may have set the record for the world's largest pumpkin. His entry weghed in at 676 kilograms, or 1500 pounds, at the annual southern New England championship. His stellar achievement comes despite heavy rainfall that stunted pumpkin growth in the region. Ron says it is all due to ``a lot'' of hard work from April to October.

Monday, October 09, 2006

Of The Peepul, By The Peepul, For The Peepul

The Daily Lama

All photographs copyright: NIRMAL GHOSH

These arresting pictures were sent to me by my childhood friend Nirmal Ghosh, the Bangkok correspondent of The Straits Times group of newspapers. Nirmal is a conservationist, author, photographer and film-maker; his short film about Indian elephants,`Living With Giants', recently won two international awards. You can see some of his stellar photographic work at NirmalGhosh.com. The three photographs published above were taken on his recent trip to Yangon, Myanmar.

This is the story behind the photos, in his own words ....

``I went to Shwedagon fairly early one morning in the first week of September, when some monks were on the pagoda itself, uprooting the peepul (ficus religiosa) tree saplings that had taken root on it. It struck me as almost absurd that trees could take root on something that looks so sublime. But it was the monsoon, and it is the fecund tropics. Look what happened to the stone temples of Angkor.

``In the morning, fat clouds piled high into a blinding blue sky. I went back just before sunset and walked around and around Shwedagon, clockwise, barefoot as all visitors and pilgrims must be. The sky was clear now, the light more gentle.

``The place seemed to become more magical by the minute as the sun went down and the angle and intensity of the light changed – and the moon rose. At times it seems almost other-worldly. At Shwedagon every place you turn, every corner, seems enchanted. ''

Divide And Conker

Nut The Nine O'Clock News

They breathed a sigh of relief yesterday, at the 42nd World Conker Championships in Ashton, Northamptonshire. Back in September, the theory was that a lack of rain meant contestants would have to ``fight'' each other with (their words, not mine) smaller, softer nuts. But all was well as 310 contestants lined up. Organisers had harvested and laced 2000 nuts for the championships, where it is simply unthinkable to rock up with one's own conker.
Just for the record, Sandie Gardner, 36, was crowned women's world champion, while the men's title went to Chris Jones, 48. The event took place on a green behind a pub - which is (if you think about it laterally) a great location.
The championships began in 1965 after a group of Ashtonians held a conker contest because the weather was too bad to go fishing.

Cultural observation: Conkers is a traditional sport played in September and October when nuts from the horse chestnut tree ripen. The game, popular with schoolchildren, is played by two people who string a lace through the centre of the nut and take it in turns to strike each other's conker with it. The winner is declared when the opponent's nut shatters.

Sunday, October 08, 2006

A Homer Way From Home

When The Going Gets Duff, The Duff Get Going

Homergraph (sorry, photograph) copyright: DAVID McMAHON
Will the real Homer Simpson please stand up? Or, if that's too much trouble, will the real Homer Simpson please call for a can of Duff beer? Okay, so I couldn't resist taking this photograph of racks of Homer Simpson stuffed toys. How much did they cost? I honestly can't remember - but it wasn't a lot of D'Oh.

Weigh To Go

On The Scale Of Things

Photograph copyright: DAVID McMAHON
I spotted this unusual weighing scale in a fruit-and-vegetable stall at Coburg Market yesterday and asked the owner's permission to photograph it. The face of the scale had the words, ``Not for trade use, courtesy scale only'' emblazoned across it. Yes, it was just an everyday sight, but I deliberately chose an angle where I could get the bagged lemons suspended to the side, as well as the two rows of fluorescent lighting to the right. Even the reflection across the glass face of the scale was an added attracton, rather than a hindrance.

Saturday, October 07, 2006

We're On A Role

Hooray For Hollywood's Mister Nice Guy

A funny thing happened, shortly after I posted Om Is Where The Art Is, about Om Puri playing the role of the late General Zia in the movie Charlie Wilson's War, which imdb says is ``a drama based on a Texas congressman Charlie Wilson's covert dealings in Afghanistan, where his efforts to assist rebels in their war with the Soviets have some unforeseen and long-reaching effects.''

I emailed a friend of mine (I won't tell you his name for the moment) to see if he knew about Puri's involvement in the film, which also stars Tom Hanks and Julia Roberts. In a few hours, I had this reply waiting for me in my email inbox.

It was a simple, brief message for a man who has never thumped his chest about his considerable achievements. ``Dare I add,'' said the email, ``I am also in the movie, playing Avi Perlman...''

So, like any good journalist, I demanded details. ``Tell me more, tell me more,'' I replied, noting that I sounded like one of the chorus members in Grease.

This might be a good time to reveal the name of the person who was exchanging emails with me. Hollywood knows him as Erick Avari and he was a few years senior to me at school. In all my years of communicating with him, he has never been the sort of bloke to boast about his track record in films. Only when I ask for details does he - very modestly - reveal them.

So, because I was twisting his arm, he replied with customary graciousness.

``I play Avi Perlman, an Israeli businessman who is trying to get money from the US via Charlie Wilson (Tom Hanks) a congressman from Texas, to build a defence industry in Israel. His disappointment in not getting it is understated. I have worked with several Indian actors in the past (I played the central role in Dancing in Twilight and Kal Penn played my son) and am currently playing Sendhil Ramamurthy's father on the hit TV show ``Heroes''. Am juggling three projects at the moment so I'm a little pressed for time but will write more when I get back toward the end of the month.''

As I know from checking Erick's site regularly, `Dancing in Twilight' is directed by Rob Roe, with the writing credits going to Rishi Vij. Also featuring in the film are Sheethal Sheth and Artee Kumar.

Who's Yo Daddy, Er, Caddy?

It's The Fin Edge Of The Wedge

All photographs copyright: DAVID MCMAHON
This unusual sight caught my eye this afternoon. There, in a shopping centre car park in Coburg (that's in Melbourne's northern suburbs) was a big, black Cadillac with fins that protruded well beyond the rear sections of all the other sedans. The comparison in size made an interesting sight, as you can see. I took a couple of pictures and then the owner rocked up, so we got talking and I asked if he could give me a few seconds to photograph the rear of the car. Sportingly, he agreed and I took this next frame .....

You could tell it wasn't Aussie. Even if you were not a revhead, the sheer size of the vehicle drew attention and turned heads. I was a bit worried that I was going to be run over while I knelt in the car park and took this frame. Then the owner and I shook hands before I pointed out the incongruous position of the car, in relation to a nearby advertising hoarding that you can actually see in the first picture .....

The hoarding features Ronn Moss, from The Bold And The Beautiful, from a popular television ad. The slogan for the ad campaign - featuring Moss as a wannabe Australian cattle drover in Akubra and Drizabone and revelling in an almost-Aussie accent - is ``You can tell when it's not all Aussie.'' Very apt for the unusual sight in the car park.

I guess you could say the sight of the Caddy was really a case of a ``left-hand deriver''.

Thursday, October 05, 2006

Om Is Where The Art Is

A Great Role, In General Terms

Impeccably-credentialled Indian actor Om Puri will be appearing in yet another Hollywood movie, this time alongside Tom Hanks and Julia Roberts. Puri will be playing the role of Pakistan's former military ruler, General Zia-ul-Haq, in `Charlie Wilson's War', about the CIA's role in arming Mujahideen rebels in Afghanistan.
Hanks plays the title role in the film, under the banner of Universal Pictures. According to agency reports, the film, based on a book of the same name, revolves around how Wilson, a charismatic, wheeler-dealer Texas Congressman, teams up with a rogue CIA agent to manipulate U.S. Congress, the CIA and a host of foreign governments in a covert operation.
``The film discusses the entire political scenario of the time,'' Puri, 56, told Reuters. ``I appear as a well-settled Pakistani president who strikes a deal with the Americans that money and arms to the Afghans must flow through his country.''
Julia Roberts plays Wilson's aide in the movie, to be released next year and which will be shot in Morocco.
Puri also appeared alongside Pauline Collins and Patrick Swayze in City of Joy.

Corque's Crew Effect

Balloony Tunes: That's All, Folks!

Photograph copyright: DAVID McMAHON

I thought this photograph would be the perfect way to illustrate how even the rugby heartland of Canberra can succumb to the ``other'' code, Aussie Rules. We were in the nation's capital last Saturday, in a cafe called Corque, on Franklin Street in Manuka - when I noticed one of the staff members putting up balloons in the blue-and-gold colours of the West Coast Eagles and the red-and-white of the Sydney Swans. Intrigued, I asked the cafe's charming owners, Pat and Julie, for permission to photograph the sight and they readily agreed. I confess that I forgot to ask them which side they would support in the Grand Final that afternoon. But the result - a historic one-point victory to the Eagles - would surely have won new converts to the Australian Football League in the Australian Capital Territory.

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

He Mayor May Not Be For Real

Clown's Quest Sounds Like A Joke, DiMaggio

Yep, we know there are many clowns in politics. But this time, a real clown is running for mayor of Alameda, California. Kenneth Kahn, 41, is a professional joker known as Kenny the Clown, but Insidebayarea.com quotes his mother as saying the quest is ``quixotic''. Even Kahn himself reckons he's a long shot. Er, by the way, his sister Sylvia, a teacher, won't be voting for him, because she says his candidacy is a ``mockery of our system.'' If he does get elected though, I can just see the headline: ``A Funny Thing Happened On The Way To City Hall''.

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

What's The Matter, Horn?

Peak-Hour Traffic? No Worries Here, Mate

Photograph copyright: AIJAZ QAIDAR
This picture was emailed to me about an hour ago by a school friend, Aijaz Qaidar, one of many talented blokes to graduate from North Point, Darjeeling. When he was in Melbourne three months ago, I told him he should be producing travel documentaries, but he just laughed. Here is his dramatic shot of the Matterhorn. In his own words: ``It was a mad dash to Montreux and Zermatt where I took a cable car up to the base of the famed Matterhorn. I hiked up a thousand feet from the cable-car drop off point to blend in to the fresh Swiss mountain air and the clouds that were beginning to shroud the base of the majestic mountain.'' Majestic mountain, indeed. And a majestic photograph too.

Rock Start

New Moniker For Bill Clinton's Hometown

Tossing aside its old ``City of Roses'' slogan, Little Rock, the capital of Arkansas, has unveiled its new tag. Mayor Jim Dailey revealed the new moniker, which is simply ``The Rock''. In his words, ``The Rock kind of portrays something pretty solid. There is something substantive about it.'' He says there is no danger that it might perhaps be confused with the former Alcatraz prison, or even the wrestler-turned-actor. I was intrigued by how Little Rock got its name, and discovered that it was named after a geographical landmark discovered by the French explorer Bernard de la Harpe while he was mapping the Arkansas River, back in 1722. Alas, the so-called little rock from Harpe's era is even smaller now - after part of it was subjected to dynamite during the construction of a bridge.

Monday, October 02, 2006

The Tension's About Detention

Late Lamented Parents

According to the New York Post, a Manhattan public school is handing out punishment for students who arrive late. But the kids don't have to serve detention; the parents do! If they drop their children off late to the Manhattan School For Children, they are obliged to collect late slips from the school office. Then, they troop off to the auditorium to serve 20 minutes' detention. Hmmm, school punctuality? Now that rings a bell - literally.

Return Of The Millennium Bug

Turning Over A New Leaf

Photographs copyright: DAVID McMAHON

No, there's no need to panic about the millennium bug - and no need to call in the computer boffins, either.

I was photographing this orchid in the morning sun, when I noticed the tiny shadow under the leaf in the right-hand corner of the first picture. At first I thought it was dust, then I looked closer and realised the ``shadow'' was moving.

It was actually the shadow cast by a bug that was climbing across the leaf's translucent surface. So of course, instead of waiting for the bug to appear, I just went around the orchid and photographed it as it ventured to the edge of the bloom, waving its miniature antenna.

So you want to know how big the bug was? Roughly as long as the lead point of a sharp pencil, and perhaps not quite as thick. I decided not to iron out this bug.

Sunday, October 01, 2006

Just For Kicks

Point Taken

Just a quick follow-up from my previous post. The AFL Grand Final between the West Coast Eagles and the Sydney Swans ended in a one-point victory for the Eagles yesterday. It was an amazing game and one of the most gripping Grand Finals ever played.

When you think about it, there's not much to separate these two teams. As I said a couple of days ago, this year's contest was a replay of last year's Grand Final. Last year, Sydney won by the slender margin of four points and this weekend just a solitary point separated the winners from the runners-up.