Friday, August 31, 2007

Post Of The Day

I'm opening the envelope - and the award goes to Dot, for her stunning photographic post I Haven't Seen Many Butterflies Like This. Among the other posts that caught my eye today was the polished Excuse Me But Your Issues Are Showing by Victorya; and Sun, Sand and Surf by Phaseout Girl, who is just back from holiday. I'd like to mention two terrific posts in response to the question I posed on the weekend about whether we believe in ghosts. The first is Ghosts by The Kelson Krew; the other is My Grandparents' Ghosts by Laurie.

Lasting Legacy

Counsel For The Defence

Photograph copyright: DAVID McMAHON

This is the Legacy badge I bought today. Since most of my readers are from overseas, I'd like to explain that Legacy is an Australian organisation, founded in 1923, that cares for the widows, children and dependants of defence forces personnel.

This afternoon, in the atrium of our office building, there were two Army officers selling the badges of various denominations and I was proud to pin this to my jumper. Why the jumper and not a suit? Because it's casual Friday, when I swap my suit for jeans and a T-shirt. When I was growing up in India, we called them either pullovers or sweaters, but jumpers is the preferred description here in Melbourne.

His And Hearse

Coffin And Splutterin’ All The Way Home

A Romanian builder who injured his back in Macedonia travelled hundreds of kilometres home ‑ in a coffin. Mitev Jordanov was admitted to hospital before doctors told him he could go home, only if was transported lying absolutely flat on his back. Local ambulances could not help, since they only carry people whose lives are in serious danger. So the builder’s boss borrowed a hearse from an undertaker, put him in the coffin and drove him back to Romania.

FOOTNOTE: Lucky it wasn’t a dead end.

Muster And Commander

Nuthin's Cooler Than A Stubby Cooler

Photographs copyright: DAVID McMAHON

This is one of my favourite pictures from yesterday afternoon (see my post Ute Tube). Why is the shot a favourite? Because it says so much about the casual Australian lifestyle. A bare, brawny left arm casually thrown over the back of a "ute", or utility vehicle. A plaid all-purpose shirt. And the right hand, with honest farming dust under the fingernails, grasping a can ("stubby", we call 'em) in that wonderful Aussie invention, the stubby cooler - designed to keep the beer as cold as possible. And further along the frame, there is a pair of denim-clad legs thrown over the side of the ute. Doesn't get better than that, does it?

And here's the face that goes with the arms in the first shot. The farmers from Deniliquin ("Deni", in true abbreviated Aussie style) were here in Melbourne yesterday to promote the 2007 Deniliquin World Record Ute Muster, where they need more than 6211 utes to break the existing record.

And here (above) is another symbol of Australian culture - the blue singlet. This woman was sitting near a row of utes and I asked her permission to photograph her from behind. She readily agreed and after I showed her the image on the screen of my Pentax K100D, I told her that I'd be posting it on my blog. She laughed when I told her that people would be talking about her back behind her!

Delight Saber

That Cargo Is No Fluke, Skywalker

May the fort be with them. Astronauts on the space shuttle Discovery will have a little something extra in their gear when they blast off in October - Luke Skywalker's original Jedi lightsaber. As part of the 30th anniversary celebration of "Star Wars", NASA has agreed to carry the prop weapon into orbit. The lightsaber was handed over to the space agency by Chewbacca at Oakland Airport, not far from George Lucas' Skywalker Ranch. The lightsaber will be greeted in Houston by a group of stormtroopers, along with R2D2.

FOOTNOTE: Now it's a flightsaber!

Thursday, August 30, 2007

Post Of The Day

Okay, so I'll just stop dreaming that I own a ute (see previous post) and that I have cattle to muster. Instead, I'll get down to business and tell you that the winner today is Brian in Oxford with What would happen if ….. Cue the applause, please, maestro. And the other posts that really stood out today were Old Guy's He’s home again; Jo Beaufoix's Do you believe in ghosts?; Camikaos's The house we didn’t buy and the searing post Untitled by Ramblings from the Outside of Nowhere.

If you'd like to nominate a post, just leave me the url.

Ute Tube

When Bush Comes To Shove

Photographs copyright: DAVID McMAHON

You call 'em pickups, we call 'em utes. In that wonderful Aussie way, we shorten our favourite words, so a "utility vehicle" is a ute. This afternoon, in the heart of Melbourne's CBD, the bush came to town in more ways than one. Ya gotta understand, mate, the ute is an absolute Australian icon.

And when the utes from the bush town of "Deni" (Deniliquin) come down in full-throated convoy to the city, we all stand and applaud. It was the big rev-up to the 2007 Deniliquin World record Ute Muster to be held from 28-29 September. I thought I'd wander down with my camera and spend ten minutes there at lunchtime. Yeah, right. I was there for an hour. Time flies when you're having fun.

The stunning mural on this ute caught my eye because it evoked such a typical Outback scene - a single drover returning home at sundown. It's only just struck me that the mural would have been hand-painted and I should have asked more questions about the artist and whether it depicts a real scene. Up the top of the shot you'll see the "tarp" (tarpaulin) that is always stretched taut to protect the load.

And here is another set of Aussie icons. This is an Akubra hat (above), a true-blue Australian product that is wide-brimmed as protection against the hot sun. Speaking of sun, this was a difficult shot because of the bright early-afternoon sun almost directly overhead. And because I never "set up" a shot, I had to work my way round to get the best angle and combat the shadow. The large tags on the left are cattle tags, while the smaller ones on the right are sheep tags.

Watch this space for more great photographs ....

Full Esteem Ahead

Self-Analysis, In A Roundabout Sort Of Way

Photograph copyright: DAVID McMAHON

In the past few days, the issue of self-analysis and self-worth has come up in a few forums. My take on it is simple. Everyone at some stage analyses a) what sort of person they are and b) what sort of person they want to be.

I'm happy with who I am. Always have been. And I reckon I'm on track to becoming the person I want to be. So it was great to see the issue raised by two very good bloggers, Colleen and Dan.

It was refreshing to see Colleen writing, "I'm pretty secure with myself." Terrific, Colleen, I'm with you. I think you have every reason to feel that way.

And Dan asked, "How would you rate your self-esteem on a scale of one to ten? Of course, you don't have to answer. Mine used to be low, until I recognised that I am who I am and that's what I am. I have my faults like everyone else, but I have honed my strengths into feeling better about the person known as Dan Mega."

That's it, Dan. That's it. That's the key to life. That's the key to fully enjoying life and all that is around you. It's called self-belief. It is such a great blessing that sometimes we don't fully recognise its true worth. Dan, you are an enlightened man - and you deserve to be.

The greatest power lies within us. And there is only one person who can unlock it. We can. Ourselves. No one else can do it for us. That's how we glean the greatest power that life can offer us. And that's how we harness it. Through our acceptance of ourselves.

So why do I spend so much time advising other bloggers about their writing, about their photography, about the layout of their sites? And why, six days a week, do I direct people to great posts on other blogs? Because I believe we all blog not just to have people visiting our sites, but to actually make contact with others.

And because I believe blogging is a vital validation of life. Do you agree with me?

Sole Mates

The Shopper Must Have Been A Real Heel

Ohio Governor Ted Strickland's wife, Frances, told a gathering of Democratic women in Sandusky last week that many Ohioans have no idea what she and Governor Strickland look like - or even know their names. The first lady said her husband was recently mistaken for a sales person when he was shopping for shoes in Macy's. When the Governor informed the other customer that he didn't work in the store, the man told Strickland that he looked like a shoe salesman.

FOOTNOTE: Can't recognise a Governor? What a load of cobblers.

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Post Of The Day

If I didn't have a full-time job in newspaper journalism, and if I didn't have a deadline to meet on delivering my second novel to Penguin, I would be a beach bum who surfed wi-fi in between endless swims. I'd just sit there all day and be a talent scout for great bloggers. Which brings me, in a roundabout way, to today's winner, the admirable Carol Cooper's post Negotiations. And it gives me great pleasure to point you in the direction of On Finally Having Grown A Pair Of Balls as well as Barker On Walking Charlie and the photo post Bath Time.

Sigmund Fried

F Is For Fiat (And For Fright, And For Fried Eggs)

If you must put yourself between a) a car rolling down a hill and b) a cliff, there are two things you must always do. First, check that the car is rolling VERY slowly. Second, make sure the "cliff" is only six or seven feet deep.

Even then, I wouldn't recommend it. Been there, done that, so I know what I'm yarning on about.

Patrick and I have known each other since we were about six years old. We must have been about seventeen years old when the car-and-cliff incident took place. At that stage I still lived in India and every January our families used to drive out to the forests and national parks in neighbouring Bihar. They were exhilarating trips in the bracing cold of an Indian winter, down the historic, centuries-old Grand Trunk Road, leaving the city life far behind.

This was tiger country. One of our havens was Hazaribagh, which literally means ``a thousand tigers''. The air smelled different. The outdoors smelled different. And the food ... yes, the food smelled different. The smell of fried eggs and bacon reminds me of the hearty breakfasts we used to have out in the open, in the forest clearing that fringed the jungle cottages, far from civilisation.

We didn't go to there expecting to be at the Hilton. There was no power, so we used hurricane lamps. There was no heating, so we used log fires. There was no gas, so our parents cooked enough food to feed an army - on portable stoves. You want me to describe holiday heaven - that was it.

One morning, Patrick and I were sitting outside one of our cottages, each of us savouring a plate of fried eggs and rashers of bacon. To this day, I cannot tell you who noticed it first, but we suddenly realised my uncle's car, a Fiat 1100 D, was rolling slowly downhill from where it had been parked.

Fright? Naaaah, there was no time for fright. Believe me, mate, there was no time to think.

Because we had our mouths full of breakfast, it was not possible to discuss our next move. This was where instinct had to take over. We were young. We were fit. We were supremely confident. Maybe too confident.

The adults were not in sight. It was just the two of us who had to react immediately if the car was to be saved. We didn't have the keys, so there was no chance of opening the driver's door and hitting the brakes. Instinctively, we both jumped up, sprinted over to the car and positioned ourselves between the sliding car and the edge.

There was loose gravel on the slope and we dug our heels into it. Not the smartest or the safest thing to do, I know. But it worked. To be honest, though, if the tactic hadn't worked we could have still jumped out of the way. We then yelled at the top of our voices to the adults, who quickly opened the car, started it up and drove it forward to safety.

We still laugh about the way we reacted that day, all those years ago. And we still shake our heads about one other thing - all through that drama, we were still clutching our plates in our hands. And we hadn't dropped anything. You never drop fried eggs. Ever.

This One's A Lose-Lose Situation

Stay Out Of Arm’s Way

Lose a game of chess to a computer, and you could bruise your ego. Lose an arm-wrestling match to a Japanese arcade machine, and you could break your arm. Distributor Atlus Co. said Tuesday it will remove all 150 "Arm Spirit" arm wrestling machines from Japanese arcades after three players broke their arms grappling with the machine. Players advance through 10 levels, battling a virtual French maid, drunken martial arts master and a chihuahua before reaching the final showdown with a professional wrestler. The arcade machine is not distributed overseas.

Wordless Wednesday

Time For Reflection At Port Carling, Muskoka

Canadian autumn, 2005. Photograph copyright: DAVID McMAHON

Sent To Coventry

Tractor Attracter Has The Charm Factor

So you reckon that your traffic woes are bad? Like Deborah Gamble, you can take comfort from this story. Hundreds of frustrated drivers found themselves stuck in long queues as a German man towed a caravan behind his tractor on a 1100 kilometre pilgrimage from his hometown, all the way to Britain. Wolfgang Mueller, 65, drove his restored 1963 Massey Ferguson 35 at an average speed of 20 miles per hour to Coventry, where it was built. Parisians had best beware – Mr Mueller wants to photograph his tractor in front of the Eiffel Tower on his way home to Germany.

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Post Of The Day

Simon's post Rocking Chair takes the limelight today. It's a terrific piece of writing about a piece of furniture that often holds many special memories for all of us. Also, I'd like to bring My Secret Origin to your attention (thanks for the nomination, Suldog). And two other posts that stuck in my consciousness today are I Get That Sinking Feeling and Mum, Where Did You Say We Are Going.

If you'd like to nominate a post, just leave me the url.

Once In A Red Moon

The Lunar Eclipse, Through Cloud Cover

Photographs copyright: DAVID McMAHON

A disappointing night, because my view of the eclipse here in Melbourne was almost totally obscured by cloud. But here are some shots anyway. The reddish hue is striking, even though the sharpness of the image was ruined by the low cloud that persisted right through ....

Green Thumbs Of The World, Unite

You Have Nothing To Lose But Your Weeds

A very big thank you to Ruth, for taking the trouble to reward me with this memento. And I really do appreciate the effort you took in rendering the award in blue, rather than the original pink. I must say I don't have a problem with pink - until quite recently I used to own a great sports jumper (bought years ago in London when I was ``cool'') that was pink with grey piping. But thanks for the blue award, Ruth. I really do enjoy my garden - and most of the pleasure comes from the fact that the kids have always helped me with my projects, be they planting, pruning or even weeding.

Apocalypse How

Like Cat Stevens Sang, It’s A Moon Shadow

Tonight at 7.52pm Melbourne time, Australians will get to see the first total lunar eclipse since July 2000. The moon, we’ve been told, will turn blood red in the Earth's shadow. I’ll be out there with my camera (and maybe even Pope Terry will follow suit at the Bendigo Vatican!) to bring you pictures of the event. I’ll just keep my fingers crossed the sky stays cloud-free. It'll be a great way to show you a rare right that European, Canadian and American bloggers will see hours later.

Ghost Of A Chance

The Case Of The Disappearing Traction Engine

Photographs copyright: DAVID McMAHON

I was brought up with the strongest Christian beliefs so, no, I don't believe in ghosts. But I've had some strange experiences that have no real logical explanation. Just before our son turned two, we were on holiday in India, spending a week in a huge, rambling house - and I mean huge. On our first night there, I was told that the place was haunted - but I was reassured that the "presence" was not malevolent in any way.

Did I see a ghost while I was there? No. But try and explain this to me ...

My son, a big fan of Thomas the Tank Engine, had brought some of the toy engines with him, all the way from Melbourne. One afternoon, I was with him in the huge room that had been set aside as his play room. There were only three people in the house - my daughter, my son and me. The servants had left the house after serving lunch and clearing the dining room. No one else in the house, right? No one.

Just the three of us, and we were all in the same room. My son was playing with Trevor, a traction engine. He pushed it a long way across the smooth, cool marble floor and I watched it very closely. If one of the engines had gone missing, there was no chance of replacing it until we got home. The engine went all the way to the door, stopping right under the curtain that divided the room and the long corridor. He played for several more minutes and then asked me to retrieve Trevor.

I was talking to him while I walked over. Bent down. I was at the curtain. I knew exactly where Trevor was. Put my hand down. No Trevor. Felt around. No Trevor. Lifted the curtain. No sign of Trevor. The traction engine was nowhere to be seen. Not in the corridor. Not under the curtain. Not in the play room.

No one had walked into the house. No one had walked out of the play room. No one had walked into the play room.

You try breaking the news to a not-yet-two-year-old that one of his favourite engines is missing. I did it in a kind, caring manner. He just smiled, as if he knew exactly where it was. He walked out of the play room, down the corridor and asked me to open the heavy door to another bedroom. I did so, because the door was far too heavy for him to open.

He walked straight into the room without hesitation. Went to the double bed. And put out his little hand to retrieve Trevor from on top of the bed.

Remember, there was no one else in the house. You try explaining that to me ...

Click Here: Pentax K100D, Shutter speed 1/90, F8, ISO speed 400.

He’s Such A Ham

Aye, But He’s Bringing Home The Bacon

Spanish gourmets are drooling over the world's costliest ham, coming soon at $2100 per leg, or a cruel $160 per pound. It's a price believed to make it the most expensive ham in the world. Don't grab your wallet just yet. And forget about asking for just a slice. The 2006 Alba Quercus Reserve, masterminded by Manuel Maldonado, won't be available until late 2008, and you must buy the whole ham or nothing at all.

Monday, August 27, 2007

Post Of The Day

Each weekday I draw your attention to the most memorable photo essays or blog posts I've seen during the day. My favourite today is Anna's And if I don't want to leave yet. But because I have an appreciation for photo essays, I also have to mention Ruth's colourful Blog birthday wishes and Corrie's pictorial selection Back to life with some souvenirs. And this post by Craver VII has been around a couple of days, but I think Chalk talk is intriguing.

If you'd like to nominate a post, leave me a comment with the url.

Project Is Ancient History Now

His Life’s Work Is Done (But Far From Complete)

If you were given 40 years to finish a history project, would that be enough? Apparently not. An English historian has retired after spending his entire career writing a book for his local council. But he was far from finished. Robert Dunning, 69, began his definitive history of Somerset in 1967. But the work, which covers every historical aspect of the county, is so detailed that he didn't even reach the halfway mark and is handing over the project to assistants. Only nine out of 22 planned volumes have been completed.

FOOTNOTE: Never mind the area, wot about the volume?

Donald, Dusk

Red Sky At Night - Photographer's Delight

Photograph copyright: DAVID McMAHON

This was taken last night, as we were treated to a brief burst of colour in the sky. Saturday and Sunday were much warmer days than usual, and of course the balmy weather means the roses have started putting out vigorous shoots. Still, we never put away our winter clothes in Melbourne, so it could still be cold and rainy during the week. The weather here is a lottery, because it's so unstable - but it's sheer joy for a photographer.

Uncle Tom's Cabin Cruiser

You Could Say It's A Stern Appraisal

Photograph copyright: DAVID McMAHON

Melburnians love their boats. And with spring just a few days away, things are going to start getting busy again at the St Kilda Marina. Soon, we'll all be sittin' on the dock of the bay.

FOOTNOTE: Enrol in anchor management classes.

Sunday, August 26, 2007

The Meaning Of Daffodil Day

So Much More Than A Floral Tribute

Photograph copyright: DAVID McMAHON

Friday was Daffodil Day here in Australia. As a family, we too have been touched by the condition and recently lost a much-loved relative. This, the last weekend of the Australian winter, was the official fund-raiser for the Cancer Council, so I thought I should go out and find a daffofil that was not affected by last week's frosts. I was delighted to find this two-tone specimen and shot it, just to remind us all that blogging - or any form of creativity or means of human contact - is really a very deep affirmation of life.

Click here: Pentax K100D, Shutter speed 1/500, F9.5, ISO speed 200.

Weekend Wandering

Not A Scare In The World

Here's some weekend fun for us to share. Every weekend, I'm going to ask you one simple question. Answer the question on your own blog, any time until Friday. Please link to this blog (or to this post) just so I can follow the progress of the notion. And the question is:

Do you believe in ghosts?

Number Cruncher

Hand It To Me On A Plate

Photographs copyright: DAVID McMAHON

Sometimes my attention is caught by the smallest of details. Like this number plate (above) for instance. I wonder if these were the owner's initials or if he/she really was a Very Important Person. And just as I was uploading the picture, I remembered one that I shot back in 1999, with a little Instamatic. I shot it not just because of the colours of the Alaskan plate, but because of the raindrops on the chrome and the words ``850 lbs torque load maximum''.

Saturday, August 25, 2007

Aussiejourno's Weekly Blog Awards

Top Blogs For Week Ending 25 August

Aussiejourno's Weekly Blog Awards are meant to encourage bloggers from all round the world and they give new bloggers the chance to get their work noticed in an increasingly popular forum, alongside the world's most-visited blogs. There is no monetary reward, no live TV coverage, no red carpet interview, but the exposure comes with international bragging rights. If you would like your blog (or someone else's) to be considered for next week's awards, please leave the url here, in the comment section. You can nominate as many blogs as you want. Entries close at midday Greenwich Mean Time each Friday.

1. Bob T Bear, Joint 1. Deborah Gamble, 3. Rambling Traveller,
4. Chewy, 5. Mushy, 6. Victorya,
7. Phaseout Girl, 8. Grumpy'n'Farting, 9. Bart,
10. Dan Mega, 11. Carol Cooper, 12. Cherished 79,
13. Jenera Healy, 14. Hammer, 15. Blue Yak,
16. Kissing The Dogwood, 17. Creek Journal, 18. Yes But Images,
19. FHB, 20. McGlinch, 21. Querkey Turkey,
22. Ianqui, 23. Pasture Musings, 24. Brian in Oxford,
25. Cariboo Ponderer, 26. Random Blethers, 27. Oz Lady,
28. Woman Wandering, 29. Ruth's Blog, 30. Ak-Man,
31. Goddess, 32. Craver vii, 33. Diesel,
34. Invisible Studio, 35. Luke Dockery, 36. Lotus Reads,
37. Les Becker, 38. Mrs Nesbitt, 39. My Name Is Girl,
40. Mur 38, 41. Country Girl City Living, 42. It's The Little Things.
43. Scooter Guy, 44. Photoxification, 45. I Gotta B,
46. Pope Terry, 47. Merisi, 48. Karoline,
49. Nobody's Friend, Joint 50. Kitchen Fire, Joint 50. Cuckoo.

WILDCARDS: Brookville Daily Photo, Danielle's Musings, Dan's Blah Blah Blog, Plumpie Mousie, Skinny Little Blonde, The Hippie Parade, Broken Man, Blog Guelph, Chumma Chumma, Bellur.

And honourable mentions go to:

Confused Sam, Shashikiran. Suz.50, Laurent, Gerald the Goat, Lady T, Bruno's Blusterings, Allan Cook, Aquarius2626, David's Pics, Unforeseen Paths, Prof Bush, Copper Stiletto, Terry's Playpen, Kalyan's Dreams, Near Post, Colorado Bob, Chalkhills Collective, Chess World, Lensational, Ubertramp, I'm On My Weigh Down, Daub du Jour, Chele 76, Movies Sans Frontiers, Sandip Madan, Who Dat Dare Pokah, Sketch and Colour, Love's Ragpicker, Coffee Conversation, Peace With Guns, Ms Creek, Roc Rebel Granny, Travellin' Mama, Magick River, Praveen Who Writes, Auto Parts, Savannah.

In conclusion, I would just like to say I've been mentoring several bloggers for a while and it is important to know that the work of a blogger whose url has only 10 hits can be ranked alongside a blogger whose url has 10,000 hits or more. I would like other would-be writers and bloggers to benefit from the fact that I am a bestselling novelist (`Vegemite Vindaloo', published by Penguin) and career journalist with almost 30 years' experience in writing, editing, design, newspaper technology and production.

Blank Check

The Answer Is Revealed: My Middle Name Is ....

Photograph copyright: DAVID McMAHON

Yesterday I posted Malcolm In The Muddle in response to a tag, and asked you, my readers, to guess my middle name. Thank you for all the great responses, some of them absolutely hilarious. I'd be hard-pressed to choose a favourite, but the irrepressible Chewy gave it her best shot, using a very ingenious method (through a blog other than my own) to try and elicit an answer, while she fessed up: ``Actually my first thought was that you didn't have a middle name. BUT, I didn't think you'd play that game. You got me! And I Googled your name all over the net! Ha-ha!''

And the answer is: I do not have a middle name!

Which kinda reminds me of a story I read when I was a kid. There was a bloke who had no name, just initials. He was R. B. Jones. He used to get exasperated by people who asked what his "real name" was. So one year, he submitted a tax declaration and signed it "R. (only) B. (only) Jones". Sure, he got a tax refund. But it was made it to Ronly Bonly Jones.

Bearing Up Remarkably Well

It Takes One To Tango

A British entrepreneur is selling what is believed to be the world's most expensive book - for £3 million. Roger Shashoua is offering a diamond-encrusted edition of his new book `Dancing With The Bear'. He says Russian tycoons are the target readers for the made-to-order book which features more than 600 flawless diamonds. But I figure he was inspired by Deborah Gamble's Love Is Bearing All or by Bob T Bear's The Dance Of The Bear. What do you reckon?

Maintain Your Focus

The Most Important F-Word Is Fun

Photograph copyright: DAVID McMAHON

A few hours ago a US blogger, Jenera Healy, got in touch with me, saying she felt her photography was not making progress. I immediately emailed her back. I told her to take a close look at her most recent work and compare it with her photographs from six months ago and to gauge how much progress she's made.

I guess my advice to all budding photographers is simple. If you look twice at something - photograph it. If it's caught your attention, chances are it'll catch our attention as well. If you are a beginner and you are frustrated by working in harsh daytime light, then take some pictures early in the morning and late in the evening, when the light is much softer.

Use your surroundings and look all around you, because sometimes the best angle is not necessarily the one you are instinctively drawn to. And most of all, have fun with your camera. Don't be shackled to tradition. Don't be afraid to experiment.

Have a look at the photograph I've posted here and you'll see what I mean. My first frame showed only the glow on this building. Then I walked backwards for about three metres, found this slender bare branch - and it gave the shot an added dimension.

Friday, August 24, 2007

Post Of The Day

It's getting tougher to pick an outright winner, with so many great contenders, but the evocative post First Day of the Trip by It's The Little Things is a stark reminder of how things go wrong in a chain reaction and how one stranger can make all the difference. And there are many moods in Fat Hairy Bastard's I'm so Proud of my Mom. Then there's B's heartfelt tribute, HBO, and Deborah Gamble's ``steamy'' revelation The Seventies Were Hot. I'd also like to mention Christmas in August by 'Twas Brillig.
If you'd like to nominate a post, leave me a comment with the url.

I Christen You Spiderpig (Or Maybe Not)

Facebook Promise Was A Hoax

A man who promised to name his second child Spiderpig if enough people joined his Facebook group has admitted it was a hoax. Oli Young set up the group - called "If 100,000 people join, my wife will let me name my second child Spiderpig" - on the social networking site. Members soon rocketed to well above the required number and Mr Young, from Adelaide, was under pressure to deliver. But the web developer posted a message on the group's page informing people the idea was just a practical joke.

Malcolm In The Muddle

What's In A Name?

Photograph copyright: DAVID McMAHON

I've been tagged by BC-based Vic Grace, who in turn was tagged by Wisconsin-based Anna, so I have to reveal my middle name. But because blogging by nature is an interactive medium, I'll throw the question open to all of you - can YOU guess my middle name? Leave me a comment with your guess and I'll eventually reveal the answer.

About ten years ago, when I worked for The Sunday Age newspaper, there were two tickets up for grabs to a really good concert. The tickets were promised to the person who could reveal the most middle names of the staff. It was great to watch the contest unfold. Eventually there were only two journalists - yours truly and one other writer - whose middle names had not been revealed.

The winner, a good friend of mine, used an innovative method. She rang the human resources department and uncovered the fact that the other bloke's middle name was Fleetwood. Then, chuckling at her own creativity, she rang my wife and asked what my middle name was.

But YOU can't ring my wife this time around - so hazard a guess in the comments section ...

Colour Coded

Could Be The Cavey Crockett Factor

Find yourself drawn to the colour pink? Relax, it could be in our genes. A recent study has revealed that most women (and I quote) ``can't help loving pink''. Scientists at Newcastle University have found it's an evolutionary throwback to caveman days. Professor Anya Hurlbert, who led the study, said: "It might date back to hunter-gatherer days, when women were the primary gatherers. They would have benefited from an ability to home in on ripe, reddish fruits. Culture may exploit and compound this natural preference."

Sounds pretty good, doesn't it? But then I looked closer at the data - and found that they only tested 220 people. But tell me, is there something in the study? Are men and women drawn towards pink?

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Post Of The Day

It was a tough call separating the top two today, but I reckon the seductive prose of Suldog's Paperboy Part Two wins in a photo finish. However, the latest update in Mushy's continuing chronicle, Permanent Party at Keesler, is a great read on any level, be it entertainment or social commentary. I'd also like to draw your attention to Mur's The Box Part 2, which is a follow-up to his previous post. And for a quirky point of view, do take a look at Singleton's Black and Blue.
If you'd like to nominate a post, leave me a comment with the url.

Rear Window

Professor Plum, In The Yard, With A Camera

Photograph copyright: DAVID McMAHON

This was taken about ninety minutes ago. Yes, it's early Thursday morning here in Melbourne, so this is a dawn shot. I was in the kitchen, saw the range of colour in the sky - and reached for the camera immediately. That's a plum tree in silhouette, in case you were wondering. But I missed the best shot - a flock of birds flew straight past me as I was swinging the camera up. So this, I guess, is the second-best shot I could have got. Missed it by that much!

Click here: Pentax K100D, Shutter speed 1/90, F8, ISO speed 400.

Is This A Blueberry Farm?

Mate, Your Questions Are Driving Us Up The Wall

Photograph copyright: DAVID McMAHON

Sometimes it's the combination of two common objects that prompts me to pick up my camera. Ain't nuthin' special about a tree with bare branches, most of the time. Ain't nuthin' special about a blue wall, most of the time. But when you drive past a tree with bare branches that's in front of a blue wall - you pull over immediately. And you shoot the scene through your window before you drive on. This shot, out of my archives, was taken on a very cloudy morning, about two months ago.

Click here: Pentax K100D, Shutter speed 1/90, F6.7, ISO speed 200.

Potato Appealer

Spuds? Yup, They're All Eyes

Officials in Belica, a Croatian town, have started work on a new park dedicated to the humble potato. It will include potato plant flower beds, a potato-themed play park for children with swings and slides shaped like potatoes. The potato was nominated by the powerful local farmers' union. The unusual monument in the centre of the village dwarfs the nearby monuments to the heroes of World War I, World War II and the War of Independence in Croatia.

FOOTNOTE: Banners and mash.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Post Of The Day

When was the last time you saw humour while following a vehicle whose driver wasn't quite sure what he/she was doing? Can't remember? No worries, just go to Dawn's short, sharp post Chevy Chase and laugh with her as she explains her predicament. And Ms Creek has shared a remarkable piece of artwork, by her father-in-law, on a post called Dick's Latest Pastel.
If you'd like to nominate a post, leave me a comment with the url.

Everest: Perfect For Summit Meetings

Not One But Two Mountaineering Stories For You

Did I ever tell you about the time I was sixteen years old and in the company of the most famous Everest mountaineers in the world? No kidding, mate. You name them, they were the climbers beside me. Shoulder to shoulder.

The weather was great. Crisp blue sky. It was mid-morning. We would have been at about 25,000 feet. Maybe even a tad higher. No goggles. We weren't roped together. We weren't even using oxygen.

Now fast forward to 1986, when Tenzing Norgay died. There was only one publication anywhere in the world that flew a photographer and feature writer to cover the funeral of one of the most famous men of the twentieth century, the humble sherpa who accompanied Sir Edmund Hillary to the summit of Everest.

That publication was a weekly magazine, produced in Calcutta, called `Sportsworld’.

The photographer was Nikhil Bhattacharya, electronic gizmo-loving, chain-smoking veteran not just of many significant sporting contests around the world, but a man who had covered the Bangladesh war as well.

The rookie feature writer – now better known as a nominated MLA (Member of the Legislative Assembly) than his ability as a wordsmith – was a bloke called Barry O’Brien, a gifted stage actor who as a schoolboy narrowly missed out on the title role in the film `Kim’.

The journalist who assigned Bhattacharya and O’Brien to the task was a young fella too, not even born when Sir Edmund Hillary and the sherpa made history, climbing Mount Everest in 1953.

But he was worried. In a rapid series of early-morning phone calls, assigning both colleagues to the tiny Himalayan town of Darjeeling, he had serious misgivings. Not about the story, for he knew the pictures and the story would be of the highest quality. No, he had misgivings for other reasons.

A proud alumnus of St Joseph’s College in Darjeeling, he knew and loved the mountain town like a second home. But at the time – 1986 – the place most people simply called ``Darj’’ was engulfed in the turmoil that surrounded the separatist Gorkhaland quest. Was he justified in sending two colleagues into a place racked with political turmoil, where he could not guarantee their safety? He discussed the issue with both of them. They were both adamant that they would not be at risk.

So he went with his instincts and ordered them to go ahead. It was just too good a news story to miss.

There was no email back then. No mobile phones. Landlines were unreliable. But the rookie reporter and the veteran photographer arrived in Darjeeling, covered the funeral and returned safely to Kolkata. Their coverage was both exceptional and exclusive.

More than 20 years later, maybe someone should dig out that feature article and that box of Kodak transparencies and make the treasure trove available globally, on the Net.

And just in case you're wondering; yes, I was the editor who assigned Nikhil Bhattacharya and Barry O'Brien to cover the funeral of Tenzing Norgay. I was 29 years old at the time.

And yes, I really was at 25,000 feet with the most famous Everest climbers of all time. But we weren't on Everest. We were on an Indian Airlines flight from Calcutta to Bagdogra. I was on my way to Darjeeling for a ten-day holiday; the mountaineers were on their way to the Himalayan Mountaineering Institute in Darjeeling, to commemorate the twentieth anniversary of the conquering of Everest, the world's highest peak.

We weren't using goggles. We weren't roped together. And we weren't even using oxygen. It's the only time in my life I can truthfully say the hard men of Everest were passengers in every sense of the word.

Written for Mrs Nesbitt's ABC Wednesday.

The Sun's In Sink

This Is For Ruth's Wordless Wednesday

Photograph copyright: DAVID McMAHON

Yellow Fever

Maybe I Could Have Done Butter With This One

Photograph copyright: DAVID McMAHON

This shot of a clump of daffodils was taken two weeks ago. I was not entirely happy with the result, because my point of focus was the central bloom alone, while trying to highlight the bulbous parts of the other blooms on the right. Last weekend I thought I'd try repeating the shot from a different perspective, but the daffodils were already starting to look a bit tacky after the heavy frosts. Still, the bright yellow is a nice reminder that spring is only ten days away.

Looking at the high-res version of the shot, I noticed inconspicuous little white spikes, like miniature fangs, on the extremities of the blooms. Maybe one of you keen gardeners out there like Ruth or Mike would be able to explain this curiosity to me. Wish I'd noticed it earlier, so I could have shot the flowers to get the white spikes in clear focus.

And yes, while the rest of the world enjoys summer, there is a heavy frost outside as I write this here in Melbourne, where it's just after seven o'clock on Wednesday morning.

FOOTNOTE: That's cold comfort for some gardeners.

It's Mine. No, It's Mine

Tanks For Nothing, Say Swiss Frisbee Players

Two Swiss students on holiday played frisbee with an object they found on a beach - unaware it was a live land mine. Lukas Aider, 20, and Christoph Kurz, 19, were swimming in the Danube in Budapest when they found the mine and began their potentially lethal game. An alert lifeguard stopped them and immediately called the police. A bomb squad then arrived to identify the object, which turned out to be an old Soviet anti-tank mine, weighing six kilograms.

FOOTNOTE: They got the flight of their lives.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Post Of The Day

Today's result is a two-way tie. I just couldn't split these two posts. Introducing Annie, whose memorable post Secret is a great way of proving that brevity really is the soul of wit. And of course the eminently readable Skinny Little Blonde, whose post Seashells and Mermaids Growing Up has extremely wide appeal. I would also like to recommend, on the basis of a nomination from Austria-based Merisi, a long but interesting post called Amazing India, a mellow read by a confirmed traveller.
If you'd like to nominate a post, leave me a comment with the url.

No Free Launch

I'm Ya Skipper, Don't Call Me Mate

Photographs copyright: DAVID McMAHON

As you can see, I've been delving into my archives. These shots were taken in mid-September last year, on a warm, blustery day at the St Kilda Marina here in Melbourne. I had just got my hands on this Pentax and it was a great way to get used to my first digital SLR. I just want to point out to my friend Bob T Bear that the warning in the picture below says ``No bare feet'', and not ``No bear feet''.

FOOTNOTE: The hulls are alive, with the sound of music.

Click here: Pentax K100D, Shutter speed 1/250, F11, ISO speed 200.

Forest Gum

Was It A Wrigley's Product?

A five-thousand-year-old piece of chewing gum has been discovered by an English archaeology student. Sarah Pickin, 23, from Derby University, found the lump of birch bark tar on a dig in western Finland. Neolithic people used the material as an antiseptic to treat gum infections, as well as a glue for repairing pots. Ms Pickin's tutor, Professor Trevor Brown, said: "It's particularly significant because well defined tooth imprints were found on the gum. Birch bark tar contains phenols, which are antiseptic compounds."

FOOTNOTE: Neolithic Man's ``bark'' was worse than his bite.

Nice Stone Wall, Jackson

Look In On Us Any Time

Photograph copyright: DAVID McMAHON

This is for Annie of Little Rock Daily Photo, whose work always brings a smile to my face. Her recent post Afternoon Pleasure reminded me of a couple of shots in my own portfolio because she took that particular shot through a rusty metal grate. Yes, I like shooting through impromptu frames as well, as you can see by the shot above, taken with a Canon EOS 3000. I was in Quebec City at the time, walking through the Lower Town. Through this centuries-old historic brickwork, I saw a nook that offered great shopping. The mortar and the metal spike are in soft focus, while I've concentrated on the interior, where you can see some garments on display and some hanging baskets of petunias.

Wrestle With This Concept

Relax, They'll Do You No Arm

My American buddy Bart recently did an interview where one of the questions was: ``Do you think you could defeat David McMahon in a spirited game of thumb wars?''

Funny thing is, that question took me right back to The Yukon, on a travel-writing trip I made in 1999. There I was in the Gateway Lounge at Haines Junction on the Alaska Highway, when I was introduced to a unique type of wrestling ....

A bloke called Rich walked over to where we sat. He's about the size of a barn door. And I'm talking B I G barn. He admires my MCG (Melbourne Cricket Ground) cap, asking me to toss it across the table to him. You don't mess with a bloke that size, so I just pass it over. He holds it admiringly, touching the gold letters on it and tracing the embroidered outline of the famous sporting venue.

"I collect caps," he announces. Somehow I find the courage to tell him that he'll have to wait until I get home and mail him one. He thinks about this for a moment, then decides he can trust me. He passes it back and says enthusiastically, "You do that and I'll send you a really good Yukon cap." To set the seal on our undying friendship, he offers to introduce me to squaw wrestling.

Excuse me? Squaw wrestling? I have this mental picture of being forced to fight him for a woman and I look for a dark corner of the Lounge. But Rich pulls one of his mates into the spotlight.

"Here, we'll show you what squaw wrestling is all about." He and his mate lie flat on their backs, their heads pointing in opposite directions. On the count of three, they both raise their right legs as each contestant tries to pin the other down. No contest. Rich has his mate pinned in a couple of seconds. His mate is a woman called Deb. We get the distinct impression she is very disappointed with her form.

It is my turn. The hopes and fears of our great nation rest on my shoulders. We line up and I formulate the perfect plan I'll go for his hamstring. One, two, three. I swing up and even before I can swivel, Rich has me pinned. Time elapsed: about half a second. Deb looks a bit happier now.

Determined to advance Australia's reputation, I offer to take on Rich at arm wrestling. We sit down opposite each other and I put my right arm on the table." Ah, my right hand is a bit busted. We'll do it left-handed if that's OK with you," he says.

It's OK with me. This is a far better contest and at one stage it looks as though Australia is about to make a big comeback before Canada makes it 2-0. Much later in the day, I surmise that I have probably been had. The next time I see Rich, I'll ask him if he's left-handed.

Monday, August 20, 2007

Post Of The Day

Here's a blogger who has many gifts - Karoline Wednesday's Child is always a pleasure to read, and her post Less Than Whole has really struck a chord. I'd also like to introduce another lively blogger, a beginner called Country Girl City Living, whose post From East To West And Everywhere In Between gives us a grandstand view of her current holiday in Ireland.

If you'd like to nominate a post, leave me a comment with the url.

Irritable Vowel Syndrome

All Right, So There’s A Consonant As Well

Beware the printer’s devil. Embarrassing misprints crop up when you least expect them. Fellow blogger Mur38, who writes A Clockwork Blancmange, told me recently that he has a family connection with the RAF’s famous 617 Squadron, The Dam Busters. His grandfather was an aircraft electrician on the squadron and Mur actually has a framed squadron photograph handed down through the family.

While I marvelled at the story, I was reminded of something I read years ago. At a post-World War II reunion dinner, members of the elite unit and their guests were ushered into the main dining area – where the specially-printed menus proclaimed `The Damn Busters’.

And then there was the famous incident involved England spin bowler Ashley Giles, who retired from Test cricket at just 34. Merchandise produced for his testimonial dinner was unveiled with great pomp and ceremony. Unfortunately, instead of saying "Ashley Giles, King of Spin" it said "Ashley Giles, King of Spain".

Apple, Max?

It's A Theatre, So Please Don't Make A Scene

Photograph copyright: DAVID McMAHON

This is the IMAX theatre in Montreal. I shot this in late 2005, while I was on a photographic assignment for the Canadian Tourism Commission. As you know, I enjoy an unusual angle and this view worked well for me. The splashes of colour were just sufficient to make the shot work, and I particularly wanted the street light in the shot, with the beautiful reflection along the metal surface of the light pole. A good friend of mine, whose name is Max, has this shot saved to the background of the PC at work - for obvious reasons!

FOOTNOTE: Now that's deja view.

Click here: Pentax Optio, Shutter speed 1/60, F2.6, ISO speed 200.

Award Ceremony

Thank You, Denise

My humble thanks to Denise of Mrs Nesbitt's Place for this Awesome Guy Blogger award and for the touching nomination: "A guy who really thinks of others. Sometimes I think people get too inward thinking with their blogs. I love the fact we are all part of a community. I was touched to receive David's Post of the Day award last week, so post this with pride David!" Thanks, Denise, I'm home with the flu today, so it's certainly been a nice pick-me-up.

FOOTNOTE: Gong but not forgotten!

In The Red Zone

Too Much Information? Not In This Case

Photograph copyright: DAVID McMAHON

This unusual sight caught my eye recently at the Australian Centre For the Moving Image, at Federation Square here in Melbourne. But I was up the top of the escalator, moving down, when I saw it. Luckily I had the camera on my shoulder, so I quickly switched it on, set it to automatic, composed the shot and just had time to shoot one frame. If the angle is not quite right (or NQR, as we call it here in Australia) just blame it on the face that I had to shoot it on a moving escalator while surrounded by other people. It wasn't just the colour of the sign that intrigued me; it was also the texture of the reinforced plastic, the corrugation on its surface and the reflection down the bottom.

Click here: Pentax K100D, Shutter speed 1/30, F5.6, ISO speed 800, no flash.

Sunday, August 19, 2007

Weekend Wandering

Dump And Dumper

Here's some weekend fun for us to share. Every weekend, starting today, I'm going to ask you one simple question. Answer the question on your own blog, any time until Friday. Please link to this blog (or to this post) just so I can follow the progress of the notion. And the question is:

What would you like to say to the girlfriend or boyfriend who first dumped you?

Taking Notes

That Compulsive Easting Just Gets My Goat

You think you're having a bad day? A German farmer lost 10,000 Euros ($13,500) when it was eaten by Steffi, his goat. Martin Radlberger, 34, from Rosenheim in Germany left the notes on the kitchen table when he went to answer the phone. But when he returned he Steffi just finishing off the last crisp new note of the money he wanted to use to buy a tractor. Radlberger immediately called a vet, who performed an emergency operation on the animal. "Now I have almost all my money back, and Steffi has had a hard lesson" the farmer says, adding that the vet had kept three of the soggy 100 Euro notes to pay for the surgery.

FOOTNOTE: The cash musta been a tractor attracter.

Hungry For Power

No Silver Meddle For Me

Photograph copyright: DAVID McMAHON

I shot this at work a couple of weeks ago, in the kitchen area. I never move objects to set up shots, but someone had shifted this grill so that it was positioned right under the power socket. The reflection was just perfect, so all I had to do was get my camera to capture the moment.
FOOTNOTE: Who says I'm always switched on?

Saturday, August 18, 2007

Aussiejourno's Weekly Blog Awards

Top Blogs For Week Ending 18 August

Aussiejourno's Weekly Blog Awards are meant to encourage bloggers from all round the world and they give new bloggers the chance to get their work noticed in an increasingly popular forum, alongside the world's most-visited blogs. There is no monetary reward, no live TV coverage, no red carpet interview, but the exposure comes with international bragging rights. If you would like your blog (or someone else's) to be considered for next week's awards, please leave the url here, in the comment section. You can nominate as many blogs as you want. Entries close at midday Greenwich Mean Time each Friday.

1. Bob T Bear, 2. Deborah Gamble, 3. Carol Cooper,
4. Chewy, 5. Bartraeke, 6. Rambling Traveller,
7. Mushy, 8. Grumpy'n'Farting, 9. Victorya,
10. Dan Mega, 11. Cherished 79, 12. Jenera Healy,
13. Blue Yak, 14. Blog Guelph, 15. Hammer,
16. Phaseout Girl, 17. Ak-Man, 18. Yes But Images,
19. McGlinch, 20. Querkey Turkey, 21. Ianqui,
22. Random Blethers, 23. Pasture Musings, 24. Creek Journal,
25. Brian in Oxford, 26. FHB, 27. Oz Lady,
28. Woman Wandering, 29. Invisible Studio, 30. Ruth's Blog,
31. Cariboo Ponderer, 32. Goddess, 33. Craver vii,
34. Diesel, 35. Luke Dockery, 36. Lotus Reads,
37 Les Becker, 38. Mrs Nesbitt, 39. My Name Is Girl,
40. Mur 38, 41. Chumma Chumma, 42. Scooter Guy,
43. It's The Little Things. 44. Bellur, 45. Pope Terry,
46. Broken Man, 47. Merisi, 48. Cuckoo,
49. Nobody's Friend, 50. Kitchen Fire, Joint 50. Karoline.

WILDCARDS: I Gotta B, Danielle's Musings, Photoxification, Dan's Blah Blah Blog, Plumpie Mousie, Skinny Little Blonde, The Hippie Parade.

And honourable mentions go to:

Confused Sam, Shashikiran. Suz.50, Laurent, Gerald the Goat, Lady T, Bruno's Blusterings, Allan Cook, Aquarius2626, David's Pics, Unforeseen Paths, Prof Bush, Copper Stiletto, Terry's Playpen, Kalyan's Dreams, Near Post, Colorado Bob, Chalkhills Collective, Chess World, Lensational, Ubertramp, I'm On My Weigh Down, Daub du Jour, Chele 76, Movies Sans Frontiers, Sandip Madan, Who Dat Dare Pokah, Sketch and Colour, Love's Ragpicker, Coffee Conversation, Peace With Guns, Ms Creek, Roc Rebel Granny, Travellin' Mama, Magick River, Praveen Who Writes, Auto Parts, Savannah.

In conclusion, I would just like to say I've been mentoring several bloggers for a while and it is important to know that the work of a blogger whose url has only 10 hits can be ranked alongside a blogger whose url has 10,000 hits or more. I would like other would-be writers and bloggers to benefit from the fact that I am a bestselling novelist (`Vegemite Vindaloo', published by Penguin) and career journalist with almost 30 years' experience in writing, editing, design, newspaper technology and production.