Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Power Play Begins Here

You Think I'm Talking Through My Hat?


Photographs copyright: DAVID McMAHON


As regular visitors to this blog would know, I don't just photograph great landscapes or unusual sights. The real challenge, I reckon, lies in photographing everyday objects. These computer cables and power sockets were lying on a reporter's desk this morning and I could not resist taking a few shots. After I had shot three frames, I looked at it from a different angle - and noticed the abandoned keyboard and a summer hat belonging to one of my colleagues, hence the second shot. I also want to point out that I didn't ``set up'' this shot or re-arrange any of the objects. I shoot things as I see them. I even resisted putting a nearby bottle of chilli sauce near the hat, for a bit of extra colour. You know why? Because good journalists never reveal their sauces, er, sources.

I Believe I Can Fry

Pay With Your Phone At McDonald’s

Japan's top mobile phone operator, NTT DoCoMo, plans to offer electronic payment services at McDonald's outlets from July. Many Japanese are using mobiles equipped with an electronic chip that lets them swipe their handsets over special readers to pay for train tickets and snacks at retailers. Reuters reports that operators are also working with financial companies to offer credit cards and other services to retain users. McDonald's Japan will hold a 70 per cent stake in the joint venture, with DoCoMo owning the rest.

Prose And Cons

Swiss Newspaper Published Fake Gucci Ad

Some people will do anything to get in the newspapers. But Forbes.com reports that few have the audacity of a man in Switzerland, who conned one of the country's biggest media companies into publishing a two-page advertisement he created of himself - posing semi-naked beside a bottle of Gucci perfume. The man asked for the $50,000 bill for the colour spread to be sent to Gucci. Claiming to represent the Italian fashion giant, he called up the Swiss weekly Sonntags Zeitung last week to book the expensive colour spread in Sunday's edition. Christoph Zimmer, a spokesman for the paper, told Associated Press, `` We've spoken to Gucci and apologized for the mistake. We're going to try and get the money back from this guy, but we don't rate our chances.’’

FOOTNOTE: Sounds like the nursery rhyme - Gucci, Gucci, candour.

Trivia Pur$uit

The traditional rocket-launch countdown from 10 to one stemmed from a 1929 German movie, `The Girl In The Moon’, in which director Fritz Lang reversed the count - in a deliberate attempt to build up suspense.

Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Things Happen Like Clockwork, Orange

You're Parking Up The Wrong Tree

Photographs copyright: DAVID McMAHON


Any idea what the first photograph depicts? A billboard for Orange County, perhaps? Strips of orange Blu-Tak, maybe? No, it's just part of the facade at a huge multi-storey car park in Melbourne. I drive past it several times a week and it suddenly struck me that it would be great to frame just the orange segment in one shot. The second picture shows you the whole scene, looking up from street level.

Always Say Fleas And Thank You

Hey, Hey, It’s The Monkeys

I didn't know there are 19 states in the US with no laws governing private ownership of monkeys until I read a great story at TimesOnline. The report, by Matthew Bigelow of Medill News Service, focused on Rebekah Ferguson and her husband Jon Madorsky, owners of two-pound, eight-inch (one kg, 20cm) marmoset called Chachi. They bought the monkey four years ago from a private breeder in Texas. ``The breeder,'' says the story, ``offered no clues on the social and behavioural needs of a monkey''. It cost $2500 to buy the monkey, a few hundred dollars to fly to Texas to collect it – and perhaps another $1000 in upkeep. To find a sanctuary willing to take the marmoset, Madorsky had to donate a habitat costing $1000 and agree to support Chachi, in addition to $50-$100 each month for the rest of its life. Madorsky said if he had been properly educated on the real cost of a monkey, he and Ferguson never would have bought Chachi.

Video Hits

Google Works On Syndication Plan

Google is pursuing a content deal with major media companies, This story from The New York Times is a great yarn. Google Inc. is working with Dow Jones & Co. Inc., Conde Nast, Sony BMG Music Entertainment and other large content companies to syndicate their video content on other websites. The videos appear inside Google ad boxes on sites that are relevant to the content of the videos and advertisements run during or after the content. So, who gets the carve-up of the revenue? Google shares the ad revenue with the video provider and with the sites that show the videos, the paper said.

The Bottle Of Britain

Shilpa-Baiter Ain't A Goody-Two-Shoes

`Big Brother’ contestant Jade Goody – not known for her diplomatic skills - has arrived in India. Go figure. All we know so far as that she’s there on a ``private visit’’. Damage control, perhaps? Maybe a PR visit? Naaah, I’m tipping another reason. Call me cynical, but the bottles for her perfume, called Shh, are produced at a factory in western Gujarat. Get my drift here?
When Goody repeatedly insulted Indian actress Shilpa Shetty in the recent `Big Brother’ series, her crass behaviour prompted an unprecedented 40,000 complaints to the UK media regulator. In the wake of the racism row, the Gujarat factory, Pragati Glass, stopped production of the bottles containing Goody’s perfume.
Okay, let’s give Goody the benefit of the doubt. Maybe she isn’t there for a commercial reason. ``I've been made to feel very welcome so yes, it's been very good so far,’’ Goody told BBC.com. But if she does fly to Gujarat to make amends at the factory, she could be a bit glassy-eyed.

FOOTNOTE: No Bollywood auditions, Jane? Naaaah, didn’t think so.

Monday, February 26, 2007

Who Stole Our Thunder?

Not Every Cloud Has A Silver Lining

Photograph copyright: DAVID McMAHON

For the past ten days, the weather experts have said we'll get ``evening thunderstorms'' - but we haven't had a drop of rain. Nix. Zilch. Nada. This shot was taken a couple of evenings ago, as we were driving through Melbourne's eastern suburbs. There was a light drizzle and the streets were wet for all of 500 metres - and then there was nothing. I pulled over and took this shot because it looked like there was a huge storm coming - but it all blew over, again. There were lots of grey-blue tones in the stormy sky, but I had to get in a gum tree and some local colour, so I settled on the ad for VB, or Victoria Bitter. No rain yet. Surely this drought has to break soon. What wouldn't I give for a good, old-fashioned thunderstorm!

FOOTNOTE: What God hath put together, let no man put a-thunder.

How A Mother Rescued Her Own Children

The Real-Life Lebanon Saga Of Melissa Hawach

It's one of the most gripping news stories of the week. A Canadian mother had to fly to Lebanon to ``steal’’ her children back, after several legal twists and challenges. If the experiences of Melissa Hawach were not so real, so harrowing and so heart-wrenching, you would dismiss them as implausible fiction.
Read all about it, in an exclusive story by Sandra Lee, on the website of Australia’s top-selling newspaper, the Herald Sun. It is the second part of a series, following on from the report by Tony Vermeer in the Sunday Herald Sun.
The unresolved legal battle between Melissa and Joseph Hawach for formal custody of their daughters has raged through civil and criminal courts in three countries. She even had to spend 60 days in hiding in Lebanon with her children, before she reached the safety of Canadian soil.

Big Game Punters

You Too Can Be A Big Oscar Winner

Think you can predict the big winners at today’s 79th Academy Awards? Then play the game by logging on to MSNBC.com. It’s simple. Just opt for the likely winners – and then follow the leaderboard that will be activated as soon as the first winner is announced. As the website explains, ``The objective of the game is to score the most points by picking the winner of each of the 24 categories in this year's Academy Awards. Points are awarded for each winner chosen, with different weighting given to certain categories. All you need to do is create an entry and start picking the nominees - it's that easy!’’ It’s a great idea from MSNBC.com and someone in their publicity department needs a big pay rise.

FOOTNOTE: My only prediction is that the leaderboard will get more hits than Martin Scorsese.

Get A Life (Partner)

Judge Jails Man, Presides Over Marriage

With help from a judge, an Illinois man being sentenced to five years in prison also got a life partner. After sentencing David Kite, 23, for stealing a lawnmower, Judge John Baricevic granted Kite's request to marry girlfriend Victoria Smith in the same courtroom. According to News-Tribune.com, the groom sported an orange jumpsuit, shackles and handcuffs during the five-minute civil ceremony; the bride had on a T-shirt and trackpants. ``If there's any resentment, you'd have to ask the other guy,’’ Baricevic said. ``Judges in all states marry people. Obviously, the situation involved here was not a usual one. It's very unique.’’

Sunday, February 25, 2007

Fools' Paradise

`Mango Fool': The Prince Of Summer Drinks

Photograph copyright: MATTHEW McMAHON


We were cutting up some Queensland mangoes this week, when I suddenly remembered the amazing homemade drink ``mango fool'' that was a summer staple as I grew up in India. I had always wondered why it was called ``fool'' and asked Terry Fletcher, who in turn scouted around and told me: ``The name `fool' may have come from the French verb `fouler', to mash, but no one’s sure.'' So I sent out some emails, asking friends from around the world if they knew why it was called mango fool, and also to tell me their memories of the amazing drink. These are some of their responses ....

``I never questioned why it is called mango fool. I would love to know where/how it got its name. It is delicious. I make my western version of it made with Alphonso’s mango pulp. It is not the same! This summer was a great time to have some after another tiresome and Frustrating morning on the golf course. We had a mango tree in our compound in Karachi. This was the source for our raw material. When the cook ``halalled'' the chickens, he let the blood run at the roots of the mango tree. He said it will give the mangoes a red colour. I have fond memories, as a child, of drinking as much as I could get of this beautiful drink. I have a good idea to take the recipe to one of the major drinks manufactures, and then we can all have mango fool instead of Big M. ''
- Brian Brookes, Melbourne

``I remember our cook making us mango fool from raw mangoes with sugar. It was very cooling on a hot summer day. Cheap and cheerful in those days. I guess it was another AI recipe.''
- Beverley Christopher, Sydney

``Yes David, we did enjoy a tall glass of chilled mango fool during the scorching summer season in Madras. We used "chenk" polly mangoes or ripe baiganpalli mangoes, curd and a generous amount of sugar. These ingredients were blended in an electric mixer and then served with a few icecubes , in tall glasses. The ayah would ask us to "drink up" as it would cool the system. Not sure what the difference between Lassi and mango fool is as they seem to have the same
ingredients. (``Chenk" - Unsure as to the origin of this word - but in South India it meant ....... when the fruit was just starting to ripen.''
- Doreen Jonas, Perth

``Mango fool: a fond memory from my childhood in Rawalpindi. A lovely cooling drink, made from shredded green mango with milk and sugar! Or alternatively, mango mixed with water, salt n pepper and a squeeze of lime! No green mangoes in New Zealand's South Island, so no mango fool, sadly. ''
- Dorothy McMenamin, New Zealand

``Yes, I do remember a glass of cool mango fool on a hot summer afternoon. Mum made it by boiling the greenish mango with sugar and then serving it cool to us with ice as we had no fridge at home. She said that it would help us from not getting the bad effect of the hot air, looh. ''
- Esther Lyons, UK

``I have a mango tree growing in my back yard, David. It's quite ironic because when we used to live in Park Street, we had a huge mangoe tree in our front yard, downstairs. Lloyd got this mango seed sometime and planted it and every other year we get at least 50 mangoes. Have not made mango fool but have certainly made a fool out of myself with the mangos here (how corney is that!). We got a big crop this year. Mangoes in Perth cost about $4 each. Pity I am not the money-making type! Still got a dozen wrapped in newspaper to help them ripen. I LOVE MANGOES. Always have. Hope you get good stories because I am not good at anecdotes!''
- Linda D'Cruz, Perth

``Fond memories came rushing back of mango fool.''
- Avril Ayo, Sydney

``I will be in Kolkata and will check out on this. I have not come across mango fool in Mumbai or any other place. actually, not even in Kolkata. maybe I have known it by some other name. I look forward to reading your blog on this subject.''
- Gopal Srinivasan, Mumbai

``Dad was the only one in the house allowed to make it. I was the one that climbed the trees for the right sized 'unripe' mangoes. They were laid to 'cook' in the hot ash below the fire, hauled out, skinned and 'hand-pulped' to dad's satisfaction. A bit of lemon juice from freshly squeezed lemons and much liberal sprinkling of sugar to get the right taste, and then some ice was added to each glass before drinking. Absolutely loved the stuff. Can't get 'green' mangoes because they don't export them, so that just has to remain a fond memory! Did a quick search and ALL the recipes state 'ripe' mangoes. Looks like dad's recipe was targeted at green mangoes, so that's all I remember!''
- Terry Fletcher, Lisbon

AND HERE'S A RECIPE, COURTESY TERRY FLETCHER

Photograph copyright: DAVID McMAHON

3 ripe mangoes, peeled and chopped
75g/3oz icing sugar
2 tbsp lime juice
1 tbsp orange juice
300ml/10fl.oz. double cream, chilled

1. Place the mango flesh in a food processor together with the sugar, lime juice, and orange juice and blend until smooth.
2. Transfer to a large mixing bowl, cover with clingfilm and chill for 8 hours or overnight.
3. Whip the chilled cream until to the soft peak stage then fold it into the chilled mango mixture.
4. Transfer to individual serving dishes and serve immediately.

No Kazakh Stand

Borat Has No Role As Oscar Presenter

So that's it, then. Borat will not be a presenter at the Oscars. Sacha Baron Cohen will not have any official duties on the podium - because his request to appear as his alter ego, Borat Sagdiyev, was turned down. Cohen, whose global promotion of the hit film was carried out not as himself but in the persona of Borat, was certainly invited to present an award, but things got a bit murky after that. The most coherent explanation comes from cinemablend.com. The site quotes Oscar broadcast producer Laura Ziskon, who told the Los Angeles Times, ``He was asked, but he declined''. Cohen, of course, could still apear on stage - as himself - if his film wins for Best Adapted Screenplay.

Live And Let Dry

No Doubt About The Drought

Photograph copyright: DAVID McMAHON

This was taken on the Western Highway, on my way back from Adelaide to Melbourne. I wanted to take a shot that would sum up just how badly the drought has hit the Wimmera region. I've been driving up and down this stretch of highway for 17 years and it's normally lush green. Now it's tinder-dry, as far as the eye can see. I don't have a fisheye lens (and never will) but I wanted to give you a 180-degree view of just how barren the landscape is. As I drove, I got the idea of how to do it, so I pulled over and balanced the frame so that the camera was pointing forward, but also took in the sight from the mirror, giving you a clear view of what was behind me. As you can see, the farmers are doing it tough. Don't be fooled by the clouds - there's no rain there.

Saturday, February 24, 2007

Aussiejourno's Weekly Blog Awards

Top Ten Blogs For Week Ending 24 February

1. http://aquarius2626.blogspot.com/
2. http://www.ramblingtraveler.com/
3. http://chewy-myblog.blogspot.com/
4. http://dancewithsun.blogspot.com/
5. http://steph-lealman.blogspot.com/
6. http://www.bartraeke.com/
7. http://colorado-bob.blogspot.com/
8. http://web.mac.com/allancook/
9. http://www.dearcinema.com/
10. http://travellinmama.blogspot.com/

And an honourable mention goes to http://circlesinthesandbysamadhiwhitehouse.blogspot.com/

Nominate a blog for next week's awards:
It's simple. If you would like your blog (or someone else's) to be considered for next week's awards, please leave the url on this post, in the form of a comment. You can nominate as many blogs as you want. Entries close at midday Greenwich Mean Time each Friday. If you don't have a blog of your own, you can nominate someone else's blog.

The concept:
Aussiejourno's Weekly Blog Awards are meant to encourage bloggers from all round the world. More importantly, the awards give new bloggers the chance to get their blogs 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.

The focus:
I will judge the best blogs - irrespective of whether the blogs have been in existence for only a week or for five years. Newbies will be considered along with well-established blogs. Everyone - and this is of paramount importance - starts on the same footing.

The reason:
I've been mentoring some bloggers for a while and would like to give them another reason to keep blogging. Not every blogger gets ranked by the big services - and this concept will give them special incentive. It is important to know that the work of a blogger whose url has only 10 hits can be ranked alongisde a blogger whose url has 10,000 hits.

The judge:
It's important that you know my background if you're going to submit blog/ blogs to be judged by me. I am a career journalist with almost 30 years' experience in writing, editing, design, newspaper technology and production.
In my early twenties, I edited the national sports magazine `Sportsworld' for the ABP media group, and I also had a stint in 2001 editing the Melbourne daily newspaper `Melbourne Express', a Fairfax publication. I served as managing editor (production) of `The Age' in Melbourne, one of the world's best broadsheets.
In 2002 I was shortlisted for a Walkley Award, the Australian equivalent of a Pulitzer. In 2005 I was shortlisted for a national News Award.
My photographs are published in three countries and my first novel, `Vegemite Vindaloo', was published by Penguin Books India in April 2006 and made the bestseller lists, ranked ahead of Frederick Forsyth and Jeffrey Archer. The novel also made it to No.1 on a list compiled by the Oxford Bookstore.

Cross Purposes

Adelaide's Swimmers Are Well Trained
Photograph copyright: DAVID McMAHON

Of all the beaches I've been to, all round the world, I've never seen one quite this unique - where you have to watch for mini-trains as you cross the street. This is the beachside tourist train (narrow-gauge, of course) that I photographed in the blogpost Everybody's Doin' The Loco Emotion. It was just a nice juxtaposition of images - the level crossing sign, the crooked tree, the white sand, the sea and the brooding grey sky on a hot summer evening. Nice range of colours, too.

Friday, February 23, 2007

Bury The Anger, As Well As The Body

Website Strikes Perfect Note On Anna Nicole

In the saturation coverage of the decision to finally bury Anna Nicole Smith in the Bahamas, one piece of reporting stood out. The wonderful headline ``Hatchet to Be Buried With Anna?’’ was posted on TMZ.com at 4.50pm.
The news report, which appeared, without a byline, but credited to ``TMZ staff’’, struck just the right note after a harrowing fortnight. This is what it said .....
``After shredding each other for the past four days, Howard K. Stern and Larry Birkhead simultaneously announced, without any seeming anger toward each other, that Anna Nicole Smith will be buried in the Bahamas.``The announcement came just a few minutes after Judge Larry Seidlin decided that Dannielynn's court-appointed guardian should mediate the dispute.``The two men, who had sneered and clawed at one another, both directly and through their lawyers during the days of the legal hearing, appeared with Anna's mom Virgie Arthur to make the announcement. They would not address the question of funeral arrangements nor would they discuss the paternity battle. ``Even Birkhead's flame-throwing lawyer, Debra Opri, appealed for calm -- and appeared with her combatant, Stern's lawyer, Krista Barth.''

FOOTNOTE: Well done, TMZ.com for a great job and a refreshing perspective.

Bradman’s Italian Heritage Revealed

``Don’’ Might Have Been ``Don Giovanni’’

Here’s another sporting coup for Italy. The soccer World Cup champions (yes, that penalty in the dying seconds of the game against Australia still rankles) can now claim the world’s greatest cricketer, the late Sir Donald Bradman.
There is a wonderful story in the News Ltd publication The Adelaide Advertiser that says Bradman had Italian blood.
The story explains that his great-grandfather, Emmanuel Danero (aka Neich) was one of the first Italians to migrate to Australia in 1826. The revelation of his Italian ancestry – a fact that even the Don Bradman Museum was unaware of - has been documented in Lina Moffitt's book on the quirky life of Genoa-born Danero.
Moffitt told `The Advertiser' the link was extraordinary, one that was not commonly known and one that showcased the depth of multiculturalism in the nation. ``It will come as a shock to most people, because most would think Bradman came from a long English line, considering he was such a gifted cricketer,’’ she said. ``Cricket is certainly not a sport you associate with Italy.’’

Ohm Is Where The Heart Is

Billion-Dollar Bills - The Atmosphere’s Electric

Everything’s big in Texas. Even the bills. I hope Richard Redden didn’t suffer heart palpitations when he opened his utility bill and found a demand for $24 billion. Yep, that’s right. Billion. Thanks to a printing error, Redden and more than 1300 Weatherford utility customers this week received billion-dollar electric bills marked as late notices. According to MSNBC.com, Irving-based DataProse, which prints customer bills for Weatherford Electric, said the company was embarrassed by the error.
``Obviously, this is not something we are pleased about,’’ said Curtis Nelson, DataProse vice president and general manager. The good news is that corrections are being issued. Weatherford Electric spokeswoman Pam Pearson said customers can expect their correct bills later this month. She said the company's records were correct and showed the right amount.
``I know they raised the rates on kilowatt-hours a little bit,’’ Redden said. ``I guess we shouldn't have run the heater quite so much this month.’’The incongruity of the situation reminded me of the case – earlier this week – of Yahya Wahab, a Malaysian man who received a $218 trillion phone bill and was ordered to pay up within 10 days or face prosecution.

Thursday, February 22, 2007

Everybody's Doin' The Loco Emotion

Train Drivers Just Love To Express Themselves

Photograph copyright: DAVID McMAHON
The light was right, the view was unusual - and there was no time to waste, because the historic narrow-gauge engine was just pulling out of the station. I took this shot in Adelaide, South Australia and it was a toss-up to determine whether I was puffing more than the vintage engine! This mini steam engine runs up and down the beachfront, with level crossings marking entry points to the beautiful stretch of beach that runs past Semaphore and Port Adelaide. It was late evening and I was right down the pier at Port Adelaide when I heard the train pulling in. I had to sprint down the pier and across the white, soft sand to get to the station just before the train pulled out - in reverse, back towards Semaphore. It was actually moving away and I only had time to shoot four or five frames. This was the last of them and the one I was happiest with.
FOOTNOTE: Just another steamy episode.

Fate Accompli

Too Many Coincidences To Be A Coincidence

I've had many amazing coincidences in my life, but this one took the cake.
Just before I left Calcutta to come and live here in Melbourne, the receptionist in our newspaper office rang me and said there was a young man at the front desk. He was applying for a job as a journalist and wanted to know if anyone could read through his application before he submitted it.
No worries, I said to the receptionist, send him up and I'll look through his paperwork. He was on our floor in a few minutes and I took the pleasant young man into the magazine area.I chatted with him for a few minutes and then I began looking through his application.
``Is that really where you live?'' I asked him. Yes, he said.
It was the house where I was born and lived for the first 12 years of my life. Even the telephone number was still the same.
Quite a coincidence? Absolutely. But factor this into the equation - this took place in a city with a population of 17 million people. Go figure.
And it happens to me all the time. At an overseas wedding, thousands of miles away from the city where I grew up, a woman came up to me and asked: ``You're Michael McMahon, aren't you?'' No, but I was Michael's younger brother. And the last time she saw me, I was about six years old. Go figure.
Another time, during the years when I travelled the world as a sportswriter, I had just finished work during a Test match at Lord's. I walked down to St John's Wood, the closest Tube station and on a crowded platform, a bloke my age came rushing up to me, greeting me with an exuberant``Lester, how are you?''
I told him I was not Lester, but I knew exactly who he was mistaking me for - a childhood friend of mine with whom I had many amusing instances of mistaken identity. The bloke on the platform and I got talking and in a few minutes we realised we had played cricket against each other as schoolboys in Darjeeling, I in the colours of North Point and he in the Mount Hermon squad. Go figure.
Some years ago, when my son was at kindergarten here in Melbourne, he had a friend called Nathaniel. But like all four-year-olds, neither of them knew the other's surname. On the last day of kindergarten for the year, one of the speech-makers thanked a woman called Indrani Guinan. My ears pricked up. Later I approached the woman and asked her if by any chance she knew the brothers Roger and Michael Guinan, from Sri Lanka.
She certainly did. She was married to Michael Guinan.
Michael and I were classmates in Darjeeling, India, ten thousand kilometres away. They, of course, were Nathaniel's parents. My classmate and I had lived within a few streets of each other for years, without knowing it. And, against all odds, our sons were classmates a generation later. Go figure.
Want to read some more of my experiences? Go to Kismet, Kate at Terry Fletcher's excellentAnglo-Indian Portal. See if you can explain (or work out the mathematical odds of the occurrence) how my birth date came up in the most unexpected manner.
Like I said, go figure.

Graze Anatomy

Swiss Cows Get The Wrong Grass

Switzerland's Agriculture Ministry has told farmers to stop feeding cows cannabis. Recent advertisements promoted feeding hemp to farm animals even after a March 2005 law banning its use. Officials warned that farmers who dope their cows will be prosecuted, according to Ananova. Farmers believe THC, the active ingredient in cheap and easy-to-grow cannabis, leads to great milk yield.
But officials in the Agriculture Ministry said THC can get into the milk and create a health risk. They also said that there was a risk that Swiss cheese products could be contaminated.

FOOTNOTE: Herd it on the grapevine.

A Fridge Too Far

Who’s Broken In And Refurbished My Flat?

There’s a gem of a story on Ananova today. A Frankfurt man returned from a weekend away to find his flat had been broken into - and refurbished. Gunther Hagler, 45, called the police after arriving home to find his flat in Frankfurt had been renovated.
He was completely mystified - understandably so. Even his fridge had been replaced, the walls given a fresh coat of paint, windows cleaned and new furniture installed.
Yet nothing had been stolen and even the food from the old fridge had been placed in the new one. Police solved the mystery when they called the landlord to find if anyone else had a key, and discovered he had ordered a complete renovation of the flat next door - but handed over the wrong key.

Judge Slammed Over 9/11 Remarks

Treasurer Says Australians Are ``Aggrieved’’

Australian High Court judge Michael Kirby, who told a court the United States was "obsessed" with the September 11 attacks, has been sharply criticised by Federal Treasurer Peter Costello.
Kirby – a proven maverick - shocked not only his courtroom but the entire nation when he said, ``The Americans, with all respects, have become obsessed with September 11," during a High Court appeal against the control order imposed on Melbourne man Jack Thomas, the first person convicted under Australia's new anti-terror laws.
But the number two man in the Howard Government responded strongly to the ill-advised comments. Kirby’s comment provoked sharp reaction from Costello, who told Melbourne radio station 3AW that the entire country was ``aggrieved’’ by the judge’s words. ``If you are going to work, minding your own business in New York working peacefully in a tower, and you are killed by a terrorist, then I think you deserve every sympathy,’’ Costello said on air.
Ten Australians died in the September 11 attacks, which killed more than 2900 people.
This morning, the online edition of The Herald Sun the biggest-selling daily newspaper in the country , carried the headline ``Terror victims hit back at judge.’’
The opening paragraph of the report by Mark Dunn, Ben Packham and Stefanie Balogh says, ``The families of victims killed in the World Trade Centre attacks have slammed a High Court judge over his comment that the US is obsessed with September 11.’’
The website of the national daily The Australian has the headline `` Kirby lacks sympathy on 9/11, says Costello’’.
The first paragraph of the report, by Mark Dodd, says, ``The victims of the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks in New York and Washington deserve "every sympathy" and it is wrong to make light of the catastrophic event, Peter Costello says.’’

FOOTNOTE: Michael Kirby’s words do not reflect the sentiment of everyday Australians.

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

The Great Barrier Roof

A Tourist Attraction? Yup, We'll Drink To That

Photographs copyright: DAVID McMAHON


Relax – it’s not really the scene of a plane crash. The downed ``aircraft’’ and the rickety pub can be seen at Albury-Wodonga, on the border of New South Wales and Victoria. The Ettamogah Pub is based on a fictional pub in a famous Outback cartoon series. It all started with a bloke called Ken Maynard, an Australian police officer who began contributing cartoons in 1958 to a magazine called `The Australasian Post’. His fictional ``Ettamogah Pub’’ - and its strong-jawed outback drinkers in their blue singlets and shorts - became so famous that someone had the great idea of reconstructing the pub in real life. Interestingly, the project posed a special problem for the architects because there were no straight lines in Maynard’s rendering! However, as you can see, the wonky pub is structurally sound. It is a huge tourist attraction – despite the sign outside that proclaims with laconic humour, ``Free Beer Tomorrow’’. The ute (that's Aussie-speak for a ``utility'' vehicle) parked on the roof is a wonderful touch, faithful to Maynard's series. And if you look closely at the first picture, you'll see the sign says ``Keep Right'' even though the arrow points left!

Donald Trump Puts His Hair On The Line

Now That’s A Concept To Wrestle With

And so the next big wrestling match is between Vince McMahon and Donald Trump. Right? Well, not quite. Trump and McMahon will indeed go head-to-head against each other in the ``Battle of the Billionaires’’ at Wrestlemania 23 on April 1 in Detroit - but they won’t actually be trading headlocks and half-Nelsons.
Each man will pick a wrestler to represent him in the ring. If McMahon’s man loses, the WWE stalwart will shave his head and (wait for it) if Trump’s wrestler loses, The Donald will have the razor taken to his scalp immediately. I missed the original story posted on The Detroit News, but I couldn’t help wondering if the date - April Fools’ Day - had any significance.
Not so, says RecordOnline.com. The website quotes WWE spokesman Gary Davis, who confirmed it was not a joke. ``If Trump loses, he shaves his head,'' Davis said.

FOOTNOTE: Trump v McMahon. What's their head-to-head record?

Trivia Pur$uit

The sight of two superliners, Queen Mary II and Queen Elizabeth II, caused traffic chaos in Sydney yesterday. The Queen Mary II, the world's biggest passenger cruise liner, had to dock at the naval base because she is too high to sail under the Sydney Harbour Bridge and too long to dock at Circular Quay.

And the answer to the question about the first German-born man to win the Wimbledon men's singles title? It was John McEnroe, who was born in Wiesbaden, Germany, in 1959.

Crocodile Hunter In The Picture Again

Greer's Latest Swipe At Irwin’s Portrait

I honestly don't think expatriate Australian Germaine Greer is doing herself too many favours with her constant sniping at the late Steve Irwin. Youd would all recall that when he died, she whipped up a storm over her newspaper column that said, among other things, ``The animal world has finally taken its revenge on Irwin''. Over the past week, there's been an interesting postscript. Her portrait was taken down at the National Portrait Gallery in Canberra - and replaced with one of Irwin. At first it seemed she was going to be civil about the switch, as she praised the gallery for hanging Irwin's portrait. Then, inexplicably, she said that Irwin ``made many Australians cringe’’. And today she's front-page news in the mass-circulation Melbourne newspaper the Herald Sun. Seems she thinks the portrait of the Crocodile Hunter is not ``altogether manly''. I'm all for freedom of expression, but I would have thought a person of Greer's intellect would know when to back off.

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Cage Is No Faint Nicolas

Melbourne Celebrates With `Ghost Rider'
This bridge features prominently in the hit movie `Ghost Rider'.

Photographs copyright: DAVID McMAHON

There is a special reason for Melburnians to be proud that the Nicolas Cage film `Ghost Rider' has taken first place at the US box office. The Sony film - with Cage as a motorcycle stunt driver moonlighting as a collector of evil souls for the devil - took in $44.5 million on its opening weekend. It was slightly more than double the return for Disney's `Bridge to Terabithia', which took in $22.1 million. The impressive stats for `Ghost Rider' were a new record for the President's Day weekend.
So why are the good citizens of Melbourne rejoicing vicariously? Because much of the movie was filmed here, that's why. The high-octane action flick, based on the Ghost Rider Marvel comics, was filmed at several locations in and around Melbourne and more than 500 Victorians worked on the movie. The most expensive film ever shot in Melbourne, it transforms a genteel city into the home of a ``flaming-skulled, chain-wielding merchant of vengeance''.
This shot of the title character zooming over the bridge (left) is one of the more memorable images in the film, so I thought I'd take some shots to give you a feel for the place.
The bridge in the signature stunt sequence is actually the graceful, arched footbridge that connects Southbank to Banana Alley, just across the Yarra River.
Despite the hot weather blanketing Melbourne at the moment, the area that features so prominently in the action sequences was rather foggy this morning, so I went down there with my camera as the city came to life.
I took the first of the two pictures (at the top of this blogpost) to give you an idea of the size of the bridge and just how daunting the task was.
As you can see, it would have been a long way to fall if things went wrong. And just to give you a different view of the bridge, I shot the second frame, the aerial view, from the HWT building next door. Look closely at the frame and you'll see a silver-and-blue train pulling into Flinders Street station - which in turn will give you an idea of perspective and size.
Melburnians will be watching the film sequences very carefully - to pick out familiar, everyday locations. Almost 80 per cent of `Ghost Rider' was filmed at prominent city locations during a six-month shoot in the first half of 2005. Some sequences were filmed at the Docklands film studios on the waterfront.
The supervising location manager, Russell Boyd, said city landmarks like Telstra Dome, Southbank, the Showgrounds, Carlton's Melbourne General Cemetery, the University of Melbourne and Treasury Gardens were some of the locations used in the film. ``They really wanted it to be a fairly nondescript town in Texas, although that's never explicitly mentioned,'' Boyd said.
Writer and director Mark Steven Johnson hit the nail on the head when he said, in a written statement, that Melbourne is a city of many moods and many faces. ``Every neighbourhood's different. Cobblestone streets, like in the Village in New York. And then suddenly there's cable cars and you're in San Francisco. You're in Chicago and there's the river and the bridge.''
The bridge, in fact, featured prominently during an intensive three-day shoot at Southbank, when film bosses made a special request of the skyscrapers on either side of the river. All office towers complied with a special request to leave their lights blazing during shooting. And the shooting itself was a real buzz for the good citizens of this city.
I remember driving into the area just before dawn one morning and seeing helicopters and police cars - before I realised all was well and that it was simply a scene being shot for the movie. Despite the hour (and the weather) there were still onlookers watching, ready to tell of the day they saw a Hollywood action movie being. So, as actors dangled from ropes and the stuntmen performed spectaular feats, the cameras rolled, transforming our city into a celluloid wonderland.
Like they say, there ain't nuthin' bigger than Texas. Except Melbourne, maybe!

Bright (Pink) Idea

Arkansas Wants Pink Plates For Drink-Drivers

Drink-drivers in Arkansas could be easily identified if state authorities have their way. They might be forced to fit bright pink licence plates to their vehicles to warn other motorists of their conviction. Lawmakers want the distinctive plates to carry the special letters DWI, an acronym for Driving While under the Influence.
According to The Malvern Daily Record, the proposal, by Rep. Pam Adcock, would require anyone convicted three or more times of driving while intoxicated to display the pink plates.
``The DWI licence plate shall be a bright pink color that is easily distinguishable from other license plates issued in the state,'' the bill says. The bill affects drivers who also are required to have ignition interlock devices installed in their vehicles. There is an additional proposal to have drink-drivers' vehicles fitted with ignition interlock devices which would prevent the car starting if they detect alcohol on a motorist's breath.
Allow me to give you my perspective on this debate. I live in an Australian state - Victoria - that places a special emphasis on reducing the road toll. We are accustomed to seeing floral tributes placed on roadsides and fastened to light poles, to mark the spot where a fatal accident has taken place. Interestingly, police and local authorities do not force people to remove the flowers, in the hope that they will help create a growing awareness of road safety. In the past few months, drivers here have started to see other tangible signs - bumper stickers that say: ``Touched by the road toll’’.
Let’s stand up and be counted on this issue. I think the Arkansas proposal has merits, especially because the plates would not be used for one-time offenders, but would only be used for repeat offenders with three or more convictions. Yes, I understand this is a deeply divisive matter, balancing privacy issues with the crucial need to protect us all - including the drink-drivers, whose lives are just as valuable as everyone else.
But I’m giving Rep Pam Adcock my support. The bottom line is that the plan is all about saving lives.

FOOTNOTE: Please post a comment to say what you think of Rep. Pam Adcock's proposal.

Turtle Recall

Chinese Doctors Perform Unusual Caesarean

Doctors at a Chinese hospital have performed a caesarean section - on a turtle. Keepers at Chengdu City Zoo sent the turtle, called Dabao, to hospital for an X-ray which showed an amazing 14 eggs. The turtle hid inside its shell so the anaesthetist had to wait patiently and then act quickly when she popped her head out. It took more than two hours for the doctors to open the shell with an implement normally used to open human skulls. They removed all 14 eggs and then resealed the shell with epoxy resin. The eggs have been buried in sand to await hatching.

FOOTNOTE: Maybe they should have called Teri Hatcher instead.

Winning Streak Is No Flight Of Fancy

US Pilot Wins Back-To-Back Jackpots

A Minnesota airline pilot won back-to-back $25,000 lottery jackpots. According to Post-Tribune.com, Raymond Snouffer junior had the winning Northstar Cash numbers on Saturday, with 11-14-23-26-31. On Sunday , he stuck with 11 and switched to 3-7-19-28 - and won again. Minnesota Lottery officials said the odds of winning once were about 170,000 to 1 but the odds of winning on consecutive days were ``virtually incalculable''.

Monday, February 19, 2007

You Must Be Elm Macpherson

Where Are We? In The Everglades?

Photograph copyright: DAVID McMAHON

Makes you look twice, doesn't it? It reminds me of one of those jet boats in the Everglades. Actually, this is a Melbourne landmark. I took this shot on the weekend, when it seemed the mercury couldn't climb any higher. This is a really unusual angle and if you're trying to work out what it depicts, I'll give you a little help. This is the unique whalebone structure of Rod Laver Arena, which is the official name for Centre Court at Melbourne Park, home of the Australian Open tennis tournament. Most pictures are taken from 90 degrees either side of where I was standing - which is why this view looks unfamiliar. The trees, in case you're wondering, are not Australian native trees. They're the famous English elms planted by the Yarra bank by the early settlers, who pined for the familiar greenery of England. Just for the record, I shot this from the opposite bank of the river, using my Pentax K100D and utilising the 18-125 lens for a nice, tight frame.

You've Got M@il

``I bought the last copy of your novel, `Vegemite Vindaloo' at the Oxford bookshop in Calcutta and read it when I was back in Goa. What a book! I can understand how it was rated above Jeffrey Archer. I couldn't put it down. You deal with a highly contentious subject so well. How about a sequel? Keep up the good work!

Email received from Roger Smith, Goa, India

Bid Me Baby, One More Time

Britney Hair Gets $25 Million Bid On eBay

Have you ever paid $25 million bucks for a lock? No? Here’s your chance. If you have a lazy $25 million sitting around, you can indeed buy a lock - of Britney Spears’ hair. Bidding on eBay started at $12.98 (yes, that’s right, just a tad under thirteen bucks!) and rapidly escalated, topping the eight-figure mark in just a few hours.
According to CBS4.com, several people have posted items on eBay, claiming to have the actual hair that was shaved off of Britney Spears’ head Friday night (US time) at Esther Tognozzi's salon in Los Angeles. One seller, who goes by the name of “Cornorstore” on eBay claims to not only have locks of genuine Spears hair, but also a Red Bull energy can she was drinking from, as well as a lighter.
The seller claims all the items are authentic and are “offering it for sale here at what we feel is a realistic price. This is a piece of history that can not be duplicated.” Another item up for sale on eBay is the alleged clippers that were used the shave Britney’s head. Unfortunately for the owner who put the clippers up for sale, it has only fetched a bid of $20.00, plus $9.00 for shipping and handling.
It reminded me of the furore over another international celebrity three years ago, when Neil Armstrong was outraged at the actions of his regular barber, Marx Sizemore, of Lebanon, Ohio. I remembered that Sizemore had sold some of Arnstrong’s locks - without the knowledge or indeed the permission of NASA’s most famous son - for $3000. I sort of remembered that Armstrong had taken legal action, but I had to do some research to check the facts.
According to Wikipedia, Armstrong threatened to sue Marx Sizemore. He had swept up some of Armstrong’s hair clippings and sold them to celebrity hair collector, John Reznikoff. Armstrong was furious but Sizemore was unable to get the hair back from Reznikoff.
There is an interesting background to this episode, because Armstrong decided in 1994 to refuse any requests for autographs. The same year, he sued Hallmark Cards after the company used his name and a recording of "one small step" quote in a Christmas ornament without seeking his permission. The lawsuit was settled out of court and it was reported that Amrstrong immediately donated the undisclosed sum of to Purdue University.
In this light, I decided to confirm the details of the Armstrong-Sizemore saga and found a report, dated 1 June, 2005, by Dan Majors in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. The article quoted Sizemore saying, ``I didn't deny it or anything. I told him I did it.’’ Sizemore said Armstrong, who is known to cherish his privacy, asked him to try to retrieve the hair, but the buyer did not want to give it back. ``I called Neil back and told him that,’’ Sizemore said. ``Then I got this letter from his lawyer.’’
But the one line that really caught my eye was a gem of a comment from Majors. He wrote: ``Sizemore, for his part, cuts hair; he doesn't split them.’’

FOOTNOTE: If you really must bid for Britney Spears' locks on eBay, you'll have to decide on a bald-park figure.

Trivia Pur$uit

And now, just for something a little bit different! Instead of giving you snippets of trivia as I normally do, I want to make this segment a bit more interactive. So, this time I’m going to ask you a question instead. Here goes, folks. Who was the first German-born player to win the Wimbledon men’s singles title? Leave your answers in the comments section and I’ll give extra points for witty responses.

Get On The Lecter Tour

Lithuanian Firm Offers Hannibal Encounter

If you want to meet Hannibal ``The Cannibal'' Lecter, a Lithuanian tour firm can help. In `Hannibal Rising’ , the newly-released film based on the novel by Thomas Harris, the childhood of the fictional man-eating serial killer is set in the Baltic state. In the film, a prequel to `Silence of the Lambs’, Lecter is born into a noble Lithuanian family. He sees his sister killed and eaten by militiamen during World War II, a trauma that later turns him to murder and cannibalism. Aurimus Jukna, director of the tour company Saules Kelias, says $130 will get you a trip around the capital, Vilnius, as well as a ``Hannibal feast'' and a meeting with ``Lecter''.

FOOTNOTE #1: No finger food will be served.

FOOTNOTE #2: Leave a comment on whether you think `Hannibal Rising' will be as popular as `Silence of the Lambs'.

Sunday, February 18, 2007

Not Quite The Sydney Arbor Bidge

Do You Recognise This Branch Office?

Photograph copyright: DAVID McMAHON

Hey, it's been so hot this weekend that even the greenery is scorched. Just about the only plants that are flourishing in this drought are the bougainvilleas that are so spectacular at this time of the year. This shot shows the leaves of a plane tree, a stark contrast against the flawless blue sky. These trees form a beautiful avenue on Dandenong Road, the eight-lane carriageway that carries traffic to and from the south-eastern suburbs of Melbourne. My question is this. The leaves are so similar to maple leaves that I'm just wondering if the plane trees are somehow an offshoot of the maple. Is there an arborist out there who can answer the question? Or maybe one of my readers in the United States or Canada can tell me .....

Charlize Angels

Oscar Winner To Play Anna Nicole On Screen

Even as the first reliable internet reports emerge that Charlize Theron is the hot favourite to play the role of Anna Nicole Smith, there is yet another a poignant note to the whole saga. Despite the acquired attributes of power, money and influence in a short, controversial and often bizarre life, Anna Nicole still hasn't won the right to be buried.
More than a week after her death, I reckon the best perspective on the legal wrangling was presented by RensselaRepublican.com, which cut straight to the chase. It reported: ``A judge tried to broker an agreement among the three people fighting over Anna Nicole Smith's remains on how and when to embalm the former Playboy Playmate's body. Even if they settle that, as expected, lengthy legal fights loomed over where she will be buried and who will get custody of her infant daughter.''
Circuit Judge Larry Seidlin brought a note of refreshing humanity to the acrimonious legal circus. ``I want every loose end tied up," he said. ``I want peace and tranquility, not only for the dead, but also for the living who want to visit her grave," he said. But that peace seemed so elusive. The proceedings even had to shift out of Seidlin's chambers and into a courtroom to accommodate the horde of media and attorneys.
On Thursday, Seidlin ordered that additional DNA be taken from Smith's body, saying he wanted to make sure her body wouldn't have to be exhumed. ``When we bury her, I want it to be forever,'' Seidlin said.
It was a gentle reminder that there is a tug-of-war over where Anna Nicole is to be buried. Her longtime companion, Howard K. Stern, claims he is executor of her will and wants her buried next to her son in the Bahamas. But her estranged mother, Vergie Arthur, wants her buried in Smith's home state of Texas. And photographer Larry Birkhead hopes DNA taken from Anna Nicole's body will help prove he fathered the former centerfold's five-month-old daughter, Dannielynn, who could inherit millions.
According to CNN a decision about releasing the body for burial isn't likely until next week. Meanwhile, a court-appointed administrator, Shane Kelley, was to interview the parties and recommend to the judge who should receive Anna Nicole's remains. Seidlin also appointed a guardian, Miami attorney Richard Milstein, to protect Dannielynn's interests.
And YahooNews reported that the body of the former Playmate was embalmed on Saturday at the Broward County Medical Examiner's office, Florida.
The most credible report about Theron (pictured, right) bringing the life of Anna Nicole Smith to the screen came from TimesOnline, where James Bone wrote: ``Actress Charlize Theron has emerged as the most likely to portray the late Anna Nicole Smith when Hollywood decides to make a movie about her chaotic life.''
His story continued: ``You couldn't make up a life story like Anna's and studios are already falling over themselves to tell it,'' a source in Hollywood told the Daily Star of London. ``Several actresses fancy playing Anna in what'll be a huge hit, but Charlize is favorite to get the role.''
The South African actress won an Oscar in 2004 for her portrayal of a serial killer in `Monster'. And, as everyone expected, the race to make a film of Anna Nicole's life began concurrently as Judge Seidlin gave the go-ahead for Smith’s famous body to be embalmed for a possible open-casket funeral. There was one last weird touch, as the unseemly legal battle continued. Anna Nicole's lawyer revealed that she had already ordered her funeral dress.
I just wonder if that will set off another legal challenge, over what label and what style she will be buried in.
HAVE YOUR SAY: Isn't it ironic that Anna Nicole Smith, whose life was marked by legal battles, should still be the subject of a prolonged court tussle, even in death? Leave a comment here.

A Burden In The Hand

Is Worth Two In The Push

Photograph copyright: DAVID McMAHON

Any idea what this photograph depicts? Familiar sight? Here's a clue - look at the words in the picture. Can't quite place it? All right then, here's the answer. It's just an unusual perspective of the handles of airport baggage trolleys.

Saturday, February 17, 2007

Stripe Tease

US Air Force Demotes Playboy-Pose Sergeant

The most ironic fact about the whole Michelle Manhart episode is that the former US Air Force sergeant who posed for `Playboy' might have got away with it if some of the shots had not depicted her in USAF uniform, holding weapons and wearing dog tags.
Manhart, a 30-year-old mother of two, was not discharged from the Air Force but she was removed from active duty and demoted. The decision, in effect, reduced her to Air National Guard status, a move which according to BBC, prompted her resignation, she says. The resignation, it seems, is still pending.
Just to refresh your memory, she appeared in this month's edition of `Playboy' in a range of poses, some in uniform and striking a military pose, others while nude. Manhart was a member of the Iowa Air National Guard before going on extended active duty with the USAF. News of her `Playboy' assignment was leaked long before the magazine's release and in January, she was suspended from duties while an official investigation into the incident was carried out.
At the time the USAF released a cautiously-worded but firm statement saying that her actions did not ``meet the high standards we expect of our airmen''.
As an employee of the USAF - and by definition of the US Government as well - Manhart faced an uphill battle to retain her rank. Had she got away with censure, it would have opened the floodgates for similar situations.
Let me present you with a theoretical situation. If you were the CEO of a company and one of your employees posed for `Playboy' while wearing company uniform and holding company equipment, how would you react?
Or let me put it this way. If Michelle Manhart applied to your company for a job, would you hire her?
Either way, I just hope Manhart - whose name has now figured in every major media bulletin around the world - has assured her own future. I'm tippping that Hollywood could come knocking on her door for the film rights. And if she has a good agent, she might even land the role of playing herself on the big screen.
If you have an opinion on the subject, leave me a comment on this post.

Friday, February 16, 2007

Tall Story

Test Your Eyes With This Picture

Photograph copyright: DAVID McMAHON

Here's a simple challenge. Which is the tallest of the three buildings in this photograph that I shot at Southbank, Melbourne? While you're looking at the picture, I'll just give you a little background to the shot. We've had scorching weather here this week, and the mercury will hover around 38 Celsius for the weekend, so you could basically fry an egg on the pavement. I wanted to post a shot that showed the sun against the Melbourne skyline and then I looked up and thought this would be perfect, because it's an unusual perspective and you can see the sun's rays as well.
On the right is the Langham Hotel (formerly the Sheraton). On the left is the IBM building. And in the centre is the Eureka Towers apartment building. Are you looking carefully?
And the answer is (drum roll, please, maestro) Eureka Towers, the one in the middle. It is 300m tall and if I'm not mistaken it is the world’s tallest apartment building. The slim-line, sculptural tower has the tag ``vertical city''. It has 92 storeys and 554 apartments, while the Skydeck on Level 88 is said to be the highest public vantage point in the Southern Hemisphere.

FOOTNOTE: So, which building did you pick? Leave me a comment with your answer!

Writing In Cards With Poise

The World's Most Expensive Valentine's Card

Britain's Royal Mail has revealed images of what is thought to be the world's most expensive Valentine's card. Dating back to 1790, the intricately designed card filled with heartfelt poetic messages would fetch up to $10,000 if auctioned today. It is currently housed at the British Postal Museum and Archive - and authorities have no plans to sell the card. If you’re curious, there’s a great image of the card at Ananova. As you’ll see on that site, the card is a handmade puzzle which unfolds to reveal poetic messages - a far cry from the short notes written in today's Valentine's cards.
On the outside of the card, the inscription reads: ``My dear the Heart which you behold, Will break when you the same unfold, Even so my heart with lovesick pain, Sure wounded is and breaks in twain." Not the work of Byron or Keats, but, hey, what a great idea.
There was also an interesting comment from a spokesman for Royal Mail. He said, ``This year Royal Mail delivered over 12 million Valentine's cards but probably none as romantic as the verse written inside here.’’

Thursday, February 15, 2007

Beyonce Knows

The Sports Illustrated Swim Shoot Issue

This year's Sports Illustrated swimsuit issue has a music theme (as you probably know by now, the cover proclaims boldly `The Music Issue') so we're just trying to work out who played second fiddle.
Among the many landmark venues for the several shoots, the Cleveland Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum played host to Russian Anne Vyalitsyna, who posed with Jon Bon Jovi's motorcycle and other Rock Hall items.
According to MyFoxCleveland.com, the magazine portrayed the museum with respect, said Todd Mesek, Rock Hall spokesman. "We felt it would've been an omission if we weren't included," he said.
Also in the issue, models are featured at Elvis Presley's Graceland mansion in Memphis, and posing with Kanye West, Aerosmith, Kenny Chesney, Gnarls Barkley and Panic! At the Disco.
And guess who's featured on the cover? If you haven't worked that out by now, it's the former star of Destiny's Child, singer/actress Beyonce.
For the photo shoot, she posed on a Florida beach in a yellow-and-pink bikini by House of Dereon, the fashion label she started with her mother, Tina Knowles.
We should applaud Beyonce because - if I'm not mistaken - she is the first person who is neither a model nor an accomplished athlete to grace the cover of the swimwear issue. That's a great achievement for her and a wonderful decision by the editorial board of the magazine. This is the 21st century, after all.
FOOTNOTE: Music theme? It must have ended on a high note.

Bringing Home The Beacon

Ten-Month Newspaper Theft Makes Headlines

Police in far northeast Ohio say a newspaper delivery man routinely stole a rival publication from mailboxes for 10 months. According to OhioNewsNow.com, subscribers began reporting the disappearing newspapers in March. The man, 60, delivers The (Cleveland) Plain Dealer and was seen taking The (Ashtabula) Star-Beacon from delivery tubes in Conneaut on January 24th. Subscribers began reporting the disappearing newspapers in March. The man once used to deliver the Star-Beacon - the paper he is alleged to have been stealing. You can draw your own conclusions.

Return To Ascender

Device Could Turn Us Into Social Climbers

Want to climb the walls? You could be doing it just like Batman, thanks to a 23-year-old MIT grad student. According to mlive.com, Nate Ball has won a Lemelson-MIT Student Prize for his invention, the Powered Rope Ascender. The wall climber can propel a person up a building at about a storey a second.
Using high-density, lithium-ion batteries, the device, including its harness, weighs 20 pounds (that's about nine kilograms, for those of us who think metric) and can propel a person up an anchored rope at 10 feet (roughly three metres) per second, Ball said. It also can be used to climb down.
The device wraps rope in much the same way that a ship raises or lowers its anchor, using a capstan and tightly wound rope. Specially configured rollers and a spindle continuously pull rope through the device. A tighter grip is produced each time the rope is wrapped around a cylinder and more weight is applied to the line.
Ball says he'll invest his $30,000 prize money in a company to produce his invention.

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Bear Necessity

Heart-Warming Idea For Valentine's Day

Photographs copyright: DAVID McMAHON


You couldn't help but notice the prominent hand-lettered sign as you drove up the hill today. ``Valentine's Teddies,'' it proclaimed boldly. It was hard work. This gentleman, who happily agreed to let me take these pictures, was sitting outdoors on a scorching Melbourne afternoon, even though he pointed out he was sitting in the shade of the giant United fuel sign. I just hope he was sold out by the end of the day. It's almost 10.30 pm here in Australia, but it's not yet midday in Europe and early morning in the US. Have a great day, everyone - and remember that it was King Henry VIII of all people who first declared 14 February a public holiday more than 450 years ago.