Saturday, March 31, 2007

Barber Black Sheep

Make A Song And Dance About Opera

Photograph copyright: DAVID McMAHON

As you probably know by now, I train my camera on any unusual sight. This billboard is outside the Arts Centre here in Melbourne and it gives a really contemporary look to the old classic `The Barber of Seville'. The light wasn't too good when I took this shot, but I couldn't resist it. You know what they say - there's many a snip 'twixt the cup and the lip. Even when the barber uses cutting-edge technology.

Aussiejourno's Weekly Blog Awards

Top Blogs For Week Ending 31 March

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. http://toiletpaper56.blogspot.com
2.
http://www.autopartsplace.com/bg/
3. http://www.blogguelph.com
4.
http://www.ramblingtraveler.com/
5.
http://aquarius2626.blogspot.com/
6. http://www.bartraeke.com/
7.
http://chewy-myblog.blogspot.com/
8.
http://querkeyturkey.blogspot.com/
9. http://www.megabluewave.com/blog/
10. http://jenerahealy.blogspot.com
11.
http://shrinkwrappedscream.blogspot.com/
12. http://mur38.blogspot.com/
13.
http://colorado-bob.blogspot.com/
14. http://web.mac.com/allancook/
15. http://invisiblestudio.blogspot.com
16. www.mcglinch.com/blog
17. http://andreajoseph24.blogspot.com/
18. http://thatblueyak.blogspot.com
19.
http://thedanmega.blogspot.com/
20.
http://dancewithsun.blogspot.com/
21. http://www.no-fing-way.blogspot.com/
22.
http://cash4blogging.blogspot.com/
23.
http://daubdujour.blogspot.com/
24. http://unforeseenpaths.blogspot.com/
25. http://www.storybookphotos.blogspot.com
26.
http://www.dressedandpressed.blogspot.com/
27.
http://grumpyandfarting.blogspot.com
28.
http://profbush.blogspot.com
29. http://uncommonnotions.blogspot.com/
30.
http://bobs-diary.blogspot.com/
31.
http://mrjoeblogs.blogspot.com/
32. http://bonniescalhoun.blogspot.com
33.
http://geraldthemajesticgoat.blogspot.com/
34. http://mybitswontbyte.com/
35.
http://scooterguy-doug.blogspot.com/
36. http://adarkershadeofblack.blogspot.com/
37. http://magickriver.blogspot.com
38. www.thechosenonesupports.blogspot.com
39. http://gun-totin-wacko.blogspot.com/
40.
http://allthegoodnameshadgone.blogspot.com

And honourable mentions go to:

http://webolee.blogspot.com
http://aletterneversent.blogspot.com
http://www.thepeoplehistory.com/VisitorsMemories.htm
http://rodentia.blogspot.com/

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 alongisde 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.

Oil's Well That Ends Well

Canvassing Support For Marianne's Canvas

Here's the second attempt at tag-team blogging, a great concept started by my Canadian friend and blogger, Allan Cook. Earlier this week, I posted a light-and-shade photograph of a native Australian bottlebrush at Breaking Through The Paint Barrier and I mentioned what was going to happen next.

I was hoping that expatriate Aussie Marrianne Plumridge, who lives in New England now, would find the time in her busy schedule to paint her version of the photograph and post it on one of her blogs. Marianne has indeed done so and you can see the result at Daub du Jour. Please have a look at the result - and do remember, when you support the tag-team blogging concept by clicking on my link to another site, you are also helping to lift the Internet profile of a relatively new blogger who really needs the exposure. Check out Marianne's impressive body of work and let her know what you think.

H€adlines & D€adlines

Hindu Man-Goddess Is A Blessing In Disguise

Pointing out stories you may have missed. An unemployed London man has found work at last - as an Indian goddess believed to have the power to cure infertility. Indian pilgrims head to a remote temple in Gujarat to be blessed by Steve Cooper, 32, from the south west London suburb of Tooting. Does he miss the big smoke? Apparently not. ``I love being here,'' he said. ``I don't miss anything about Tooting.''
He is regarded as a reincarnation of Bahucharaji, the patron of Indian eunuchs. He has been at the temple in the northern state of Gujarat for three months.Steve calls himself Pamela. But his devotees have dubbed him Prema, Hindi for Divine Love.
He said: ``All my life I just didn't fit. Now I've found my life. I plan to stay for good. I couldn't leave now.''
He decided on his new career after Indian friends told him he looked and moved just like the ancient goddess. Steve said: ``I feel as if I have come home. I was meant to be here. When I first came to the temple, I sat down and smiled. Everything fell into place. After about 20 minutes everyone crowded around and I naturally started blessing people. When I touch people I connect with them.''

News source: Ananova

Today's Weather Forecast

A Chilli Start To The Day

Photograph copyright: DAVID McMAHON


I have to admit, it's fascinating to watch a chilli plant. The chillis start out a light yellow colour and then as they mature, the tip of each chilli turns orange and the colour slowly suffuses right through, before turning shiny red. And this is probably as good a time as any to confess that despite being born and bred in India, I cannot eat food that is too chilli-hot. But wasabi? Hey, that's a different story altogether!

Friday, March 30, 2007

Posh And Pecks

They Were Up The Creek Without A Puddle

Photograph copyright: DAVID McMAHON


It's been months since we've actually had rain puddles, so I spent an interesting minute or two watching these two seagulls. I was standing on a railway platform and noticed half a dozen gulls land about fifteen metres away. Two of them made their way to this puddle and one deliberately immersed himself in it. It's exactly a week since we had the first real rain in months and you can already see the difference, with fresh green grass on lawns and nature strips.

Flush With Funds

This Story Has A Familiar Ring

After four suspects in an Ohio jewellery store robbery were arrested, police surmised one of the men may have swallowed a missing two-carat diamond ring worth $30,000. The theory soon proved correct, officers said. Sanitary workers were called to the county jail and extricated the ring out of the toilet. The ring, in an 18-karat white gold setting, still had its price tag, according to police. The county sheriff's office photographed the ring and tagged it as evidence. Suffice to say it was properly cleaned and sanitised.

Jumping Jack Flashy

Frog-Jumping Spat Ends In Sparks, Twain

A spat involving the organisers of the Calaveras County Fair in California and its annual Jumping Frog Jubilee has led to plans for duelling frog-hopping contests this year. The Angels Camp Boosters Club, which has judged the jubilee since its inception in 1928, has decided to host its own jumping frog-contest. The event is inspired by `The Celebrated Jumping Frog Of Calaveras County’, Mark Twain's tale of how a gambler secretly fills his opponent's frog with buckshot.

H€adlines & D€adlines

Harry Potter Cover Illustrates A Point

Pointing out stories you may have missed. There is much to enjoy in the latest Harry Potter update by James Adams on the website of Canada’s national paper, `The Globe And Mail’.
There are supposedly dead people, perhaps lots of dead people, in `Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows'. But clues as to who they are and how many are non-existent in the cover illustrations for the seventh and final volume of the phenomenally popular series that were released Wednesday by the novel's Canadian publisher.
As usual, Vancouver-based Raincoast Books is producing two cover images for this Potter, which lands in stores July 21. The first, for the so-called children's edition, is a full-colour extravaganza featuring a decidedly older-looking Potter, bruised and bleeding, desperately plunging through a golden brick archway into a field of treasure accompanied by his sidekicks Ron Weasley and Hermione Granger. The second, for the adult market, is decidedly more subdued - a moody photograph of a medallion or locket emblazoned with what appears to be a highly stylised `S’
Of course, Potter maniacs will be poring over the images for portents as to what's ahead in J.K. Rowling's narrative.
Readers shouldn't try to tease too much significance from either image, both of which are also going to be featured on the British editions. Previous Potter covers have been not so much revelations as exercises in atmospherics. Indeed, as with the earlier books, the U.K. illustrators - Jason Cockcroft, who has two previous Potter kids' covers to his credit, and photographer Michael Wildsmith, who has done all the adult editions - weren't given a copy of the manuscript to read beforehand, just a smattering of suggestions and hints.
Jamie Broadhurst, Raincoast's marketing head, says the cover images contain elements that will make sense only after one has read the entire Deathly Hallows.

News source: TheGlobeAndMail.com.

Trivia Pur$uit

Some photographers in the prim-and-proper era of the 1890s bought deceptive-angle box cameras that made it appear as if they were shooting scenes in front of them. Instead, they were photographing much more interesting subjects 90 degrees to the side!

Thursday, March 29, 2007

On Your Marks, Spitz

Phelps The Greatest Swimmer In History

You know the really strange thing about Michael Phelps? That he made his mark on history at a tennis venue. That's right, a tennis venue. You see, the pool for the 2007 FINA World Championships here in Melbourne is just a temporary, drop-in pool at Rod Laver Arena, better known as Centre Court at the Australian Open. I can safely say, as a former sportswriter and a onetime competitive swimmer, that I've never seen a performance as dominant as Phelps' destruction of his own world record in the 200m butterfly last night. Whether he wins eight gold medals here or not, this man will go down as the greatest swimmer in history. Now that's one big talent pool.

On Golden Pond

Capture The Reflection - Oar Else

Photograph copyright: DAVID McMAHON

I was walking across Princes Bridge this morning as the sun came up over the Yarra. The sky was clear, which meant I got this beautiful, deep reflection of shimmering gold across the surface of the river. But I waited about ninety seconds for the kayakers to enter the frame. I composed this shot very quicky and very deliberately, because I wanted you to see the reflection of the sun first and then to say: ``Oh, yeah, there's something else in the picture.'' Olympic rowers and kayakers are a part of the city's early-morning culture, so this is as typical a Melbourne shot as you'll get. I'm sure you can see why I wanted the kayakers not to dominate the frame, but to be a subtle add-on.

Trolls, Royce

Historic Loser In The Easter Bonnet Contest

Photograph copyright: DAVID McMAHON

It’s not every day you see a Rolls-Royce pulled up at a kerb – and the sight of this one reminded me of an interesting chapter in the car’s history. The famous Spirit of Ecstasy ornament on the bonnet (or ``hood’’, depending on where you live) did not meet with co-founder Henry Royce’s approval. He used to complain that it spoilt the car’s clean lines, with the result that those Rolls-Royces he drove seldom had the trademark mascot in place!

Snowball Effect

Ski-Lodge Drunks Argue Over Cooking Skills

Ever had a drunken argument in a ski lodge? Of course you have. Ever argued about culinary skills? Perhaps not. Ever fought over the issue? No, I didn't think so. But Royal Canadian Mounted Police sources said that several males were a bit short on sobriety in the Canadian ski area of Redcliff, Alberta, when two of them argued about who was a better cook. One left but returned with several friends, who allegedly kicked and punched the second male's door and damaged his vehicle. He will now see what's cooking - in court.

Gizmo Machismo :)

Denmark Replaces US As Tech Leader

It’s not often Denmark topples the US, but the European nation is ranked first in a worldwide study measuring the most effective use of technology. Sweden, Singapore and Finland were ranked second, third and fourth respectively while the US slipped from first spot to seventh place in the Global Information Technology Report 2006-2007, published by the World Economic Forum. Economic experts said Denmark, which finished third in the survey last year, had made continuous progress since 2003 and benefited from the country's excellent regulatory environment.Switzerland rose four places from ninth to fifth places this year, followed by the Netherlands, the US, Iceland, Britain, and Norway completing the top 10 rankings.

Manga Doodle

Shakespeare, Bible Are Turning Japanese

A growing craze in Britain for manga, a Japanese style of comic packed with big-eyed, wild-haired characters, has inspired publishers to produce manga versions of William Shakespeare plays and even a manga bible. British artists are also trying their hand at recreating Japan's traditional brand of comic art, while demand for English-language copies of Japanese manga stories like `Fruits Basket’ and `Astro Boy’ is rocketing. The interest in manga - already popular in the United States, France and Germany - is encouraging more people to learn about Japan. The word manga, which literally means `whimsical picture’, is often linked back to 19th-century Japanese woodblock artist Katsushika Hokusai, who used it to describe his work.

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Pistil Whipped

The Last Of The Purple Starbursts

Photograph copyright: DAVID McMAHON


The agapanthus is synonymous with summer in Melbourne. They are majestic plants and you see them in starbursts of white or purple, their massive heads held on slender stalks as high as a man's waist. At the base of each plant is a rich cluster of verdant green and they are so hardy that you can literally dig one up, cut it in half and each will continue to grow and thrive. But most of the blooms are gone now. I saw this one a few days ago, with the last tattered remnants in the dappled sunlight - and I had to get the camera out immediately.

H€adlines & D€adlines

Que Sierra Sierra? No, Not This Time

Pointing out stories you may have missed. Prominent blogger Kathy Sierra has called on fellow bloggers to combat online abuse. It follows a series of death threats which she says have forced her to suspend her blog and cancel a public appearance at the ETech conference in San Diego on Monday.

Sierra described on her blog, Creating Passionate Users, how she had faced a campaign of threats, including a post that featured a picture of her next to a noose. The police are investigating, but one core issue is how women bloggers are treated online.

Sierra began receiving death threats four weeks ago. Since going public on the issue, she has been overwhelmed by the support she has received. ``I agonised about making this post but I hoped it would start a dialogue," she told BBC.com. ``I never thought it would become so big or be this positive.''

She believes the fact that she is a woman is partly responsible for what she says is a campaign against her. ``I am afraid to leave my yard, I will never feel the same. I will never be the same," she said on her blog.

News source: BBC.com.

EDITORIAL DECLARATION: This blog strongly condemns any form of violence or cyber threats.

Morning Has Broken

Cloudy Day Starts In A Riot Of Colour

Photograph copyright: DAVID McMAHON


It's a slightly cooler day today, about 25 Celsius, with some rain forecast. And though it's grey and overcast and humid, here's proof that the day started as if someone had mixed the most vibrant colours and daubed them over the sky. The spire is the Arts Centre, which served as a terrific silhouette to offset the shades in the sky.

Trivia Pur$uit

The late Frank Sinatra once said to reporters: ``If I had as many love affairs as you have given me credit for, I would now be speaking to you from a jar in the Harvard Medical School''.

Scent Packing

Calgary Stamp Of Disapproval, Over Perfume

A Calgary bus driver found the scent of a woman to be anything but irresistible. For the second time in four days, Natalie Kuhn was ordered off a city bus because of her perfume, Very Irresistible, by Givenchy. Kuhn said the bus driver actually pulled over and opened all the windows. She then got into a verbal confrontation with the driver and a short time later, a Transit employee arrived to take her to her destination. Calgary Transit spokesman Tony McCallum says the city is investigating the two incidents.

T Wrecks

$1.5m Ferrari Ends Up As Scrap

The next time US comedian Eddie Griffin asks to borrow your car, just say no. Griffin has wrecked a rare $1.5m Ferrari belonging to Daniel Sadek, the producer of his new film, `Redline’. He escaped unscathed after smashing the car into a concrete barrier just outside Los Angeles - while practising for a charity race to promote the film. And it ain't like Sadek can just walk into a showroom and buy another one immediately - only 400 Ferrari Enzos were produced, between 2002 and 2004.

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Breaking Through The Paint Barrier

Brushing Up On Australian Artistry

Photograph copyright: DAVID McMAHON

Remember how my Canadian friend Allan Cook recently came up with the concept of tag-team blogging? He suggested that he and I post simultaneously on our respective blogs and that I would pose a question on my blog and include a link so that readers could go to his blog for the answer. To see how we did this, just go to Deck Cheney and follow the link.

Now I'm borrowing Allan's great concept and extending it to a regular visitor to this site. Marianne Plumridge is an expatriate Aussie who is based in New England, US. She has a couple of sites, but you can see some of her wonderful art, updated regularly, at Daub du Jour.

Marianne mentioned to me a couple of days ago that she was missing the Australian weather, so I took this shot for her. It shows the incredible green tones of the native bottlebrush, still thriving and healthy despite the fierce drought. There you go, Marianne. It'd be great if you would consider painting this and putting it on your site.

They're Batting In The Belfry

Ganguly's Square Cut (With A Difference)

Some Indian fan with a biting sense of humour and a working knowledge of Adobe Photoshop has sent out an email that is doing the rounds. For the benefit of my American and European readers, I'll just explain that India bombed out early - and unexpectedly - in the Cricket World Cup, and a billion fans are not happy. The email shows a series of images showing what the cricketers should consider as their next career moves.

So why haven't I reproduced the images here? Because I do not know the source of the images, or whether they are copyright.

But let me paint a word picture for you. One team member is shown as a cycle-bound coconut vendor, another as a monkey-dance man. Rahul Dravid is depicted as a sadhu, or holy man. Sachin Tendulkar is shown as a roadside snack vendor. Ajit Agarkar makes an appearance as a beachside fish vendor. And former captain Sourav Ganguly turns up as a barber. I reckon that's gotta be a fringe benefit!

The Roaring Forties

Better Than Theatre, And They're Great Props

Photographs copyright: DAVID McMAHON


During the Air Show, I was standing maybe fifty metres away when I saw the pilot climb into the cockpit of this Grumman Avenger. Realising that I could position myself to capture a classic vintage sight, I sprinted over to shoot what I knew would follow in a few moments.
There was the classic cough-splutter-cough-splutter-roar routine as the engine fired and the propeller jerked stiffly before moving in a blur. And I had my picture. The first frame has not been digitally enhanced in any way - the grey/sepia tones are simply caused by the billowing fumes that emanate from the exhaust stacks.
Several onlookers turned away or covered their mouths and noses as the smoke wafted over them. Me? I just breathed deeply, and gratefully. It was like inhaling incense at St Peter's in Rome.
Then, as the Avenger pilot taxied out a few minutes later, I realised I had another really rare photograph. Off his port wing was a World War II-vintage P-51 Mustang. The sun was over my right shoulder and I got three frames as the harsh light glinted off the Avenger's wings.
Interesting light conditions, too, because the afternoon sunlight was strong, yet the sky in the frame was moody and sullen grey. You know the really strange thing about the second picture? If you didn't know it was shot this week, it could well have been an authentic scene from any Allied airfield in the Forties.

H€adlines & D€adlines

Independence Daze Worth Almost $500,000

Pointing out stories you may have missed. Amazing thought it may seem, a rare 1823 copy of the Declaration of Independence sold at auction for $477,650 by a man who found it last year in a Nashville thrift store for $2.48. Six bidders competed for the document, most by phone or on the internet, when bidding opened at $125,000. The identity of the winner was not disclosed. Michael Sparks found his bargain last March while browsing at Music City Thrift Shop. When he asked the price on a yellowed, rolled-up document, the clerk marked it at $2.48 plus tax. The document turned out to be an "official copy" of the Declaration of Independence - one of 200 commissioned by John Quincy Adams in 1820 when he was secretary of state and printed by William Stone in 1823.

News source: IndyStar.com

Welsh Plug

Domain Name Not The Prints Of Wales

A website devoted to part of a Welsh village features in a list of the longest internet addresses in Europe.
A Birmingham man registered the 63-character address named after Llanfairpwllgwyngyllgogerychwyrndrobwllllantysiliogogogoch in Anglesey.
www.llanfairpwllgwyngyllgogerychwyrndrobwllllantysiliogogogochuchaf.eu - actually refers to the upper part of the Welsh-speaking village. It is the maximum number of characters allowed and is recognised as the longest valid internet name in the world.
Keith Wood registered the domain name with EURid, the group managing the new European .eu domain. He also registered an alternative to its full name - www.llanfair.wales.com - to spare internet users the hassle of using the village's full title. Eryl Roberts, who maintains the village website, said: ``We registered the village as a domain name to prove a point that home pages don't have to be short and they don't have to be made up names either.’’
Six other people last year registered the longest possible internet addresses possible. One German user registered thisisthelongesteuropeandomainnameallovertheworldandnowitismine.eu
EURid said almost 2.5 million .eu addresses were registered last year after its launch in April.

News source: Ananova.

Trivia Pur$uit

The term ``maverick'' is thought to have been derived from the name of Texas rancher Sam Maverick, who refused to brand his calves. It was given a new lease of life with the release of the film `Top Gun'. Yes, we all remember if was the call sign of the character played by Tom Cruise - but do you recall the name of the character he played? Just for the record, it was Pete Mitchell.

Mumm’s The Word

Mood Is Very Bubbly In Britain

It's more fizz bucks than bucks fizz in the United Kingdom, where drinking habits seem to be changing, according to the results of a survey. Yorkshire, the county famous for its bitter ales, has now become the champagne capital of Britain, with its good citizens now spending an average $200 a year on posh fizz like Mumm - more than any other region. White wine is most popular in the northwest of Britain, while cider has begun to lose its appeal. A survey of annual spending on home alcohol found the average weekly expenditure is $25.

Monday, March 26, 2007

Lord Of The Fliers

Can I Jump In the Back For A While?

Photograph copyright: DAVID McMAHON


This is one of three US Navy Super Hornets off the USS Kitty Hawk. They were sitting on the ground at the Air Show and I was trying to work the best camera angles from the perimeter of the cordoned-off area. I was directly behind this aircraft when I noticed the chopper making a stately approach in the background. Because of its leisurely approach, I was able to take the best angle available and I was lucky that I wasn't shooting straight into the late-afternoon sun. If I had been, it would have negated the brilliant colours of this shot.

Clock Off

Daylight Shaving Time, For Sure

Photograph copyright: DAVID McMAHON


Five months of daylight saving ended at 2am on Sunday, with the clocks going back by an hour. But this morning, when I got into the city I noticed that the main clock tower at Flinder Street station still had summer time displayed. It was a busy morning and I couldn't spare the time to head down to the river to get a shot of the clock. But at lunch time I wandered downstairs and composed this shot deliberately, to get the clock `framed' by the autumn leaves on a tree. It was only when I uploaded the image here that I noticed the clock had been corrected to show the right time. Ah well, it's still a good shot, so here it is anyway!

Scoop Purchase

NY Dairy Turns Ice Cream Into Wine

A central New York dairy is raising eyebrows with its latest creation - wine-flavoured ice cream. After about two years of product development, Mercer's Ice Cream has created three different wine flavours. There's Ala Port Wine, Peachy White Zinfandel and Red Raspberry Chardonnay. Officials at the small, locally-owned Oneida County dairy say the new flavours are finally being scooped up by restaurants in New York City. But if you want to taste the new confection, better bring along your ID. The ice creams each have an alcohol content of five percent and won't be served to minors.

Trivia Pur$uit

After the Popeye cartoon strip was launched in 1931, spinach sales in the United States rose by 33 per cent. However, there is no data available about the sale of olive oil!

H€adlines & D€adlines

$10 Bets A Basket Case For The NBA

Pointing out stories you might have missed. Gilbert Arenas has been admonished by the NBA for making $10 bets with fans during the Washington Wizards’ loss at Portland last week. “We spoke to Gilbert and explained the issue to him,” NBA spokesman John Acunto said. “And he assured us he wouldn’t do anything like this again.”
Arenas made the bets as he bantered with fans throughout the Wizards’ 100-98 loss. He was booed during pregame introductions and whenever he touched the ball because he had promised to score 50 points against the Trail Blazers.
After the game, Arenas said he bet a fan $10 that he would make the game-winning basket. He missed badly - throwing up a shot that fell short of the rim - and finished with only 19 points. “I owe somebody 10 bucks,” Arenas said. “I bet a fan if I had a chance I would make the last shot.”
Arenas later elaborated on his nba.com blog, saying that he made $10 bets with two fans during the game and had obtained their e-mail addresses so that he could pay them off. The NBA since has removed the references to the bets from the blog.

News source: MSNBC.com

Sunday, March 25, 2007

Sting Of The Hornet

Did We Bring The Right Screwdriver?


Pictures copyright: DAVID McMAHON

Okay, so I've just walked through the door after the Air Show at Avalon, on the outskirts of Melbourne. These two shots are of the F/A-18 Hornet, and I just tried taking them from an unusual angle, rather than side-on. In the first frame, I've focused on the tip of the nose cone, with the open canopy in soft focus. And in the second frame, I've reversed it, with the canopy in sharp focus and the nose in soft focus. Does it work for you?

H€adlines & D€adlines

Taiwan Puts Butterflies In The Fast Lane

Pointing out stories you might have missed. Authorities in Taiwan are to close one lane of a major highway to protect more than a million butterflies, which cross the road on their seasonal migration. The purple milkweed butterfly, which winters in the south of the island, negotiates 600 metres of motorway to reach its breeding ground in the north.
Many of the 11,500 butterflies that attempt the journey each hour do not reach safety, experts say. Protective nets and ultra-violet lights will also be used to aid the insects. Taiwanese officials conceded that the decision to close one lane of the road would cause some traffic congestion, but said it was a price worth paying.

News source: BBC.com

Storm Clout

We're Delighted To Hear The Sound Of Rain

Photograph copyright: DAVID McMAHON


We've actually had rain - finally. There was a heavy shower on Friday night, bringing a cool change after the tropical heat of 35 Celsius. In the past 24 hours, we've had a few showers as well and the temperature has dropped to a more pleasant 21 Celsius. The skyscape has alternated rapidly between grey stormclouds and scattered, patchy cloud cover, while at the moment we have a clear blue sky. This shot was taken late on Friday evening, with the sun concealed behind a cloud as its rays emanated in a beautiful pattern.

Trivi@ Pur$uit

About fifteen years ago, when the late Barry White (the gravel-voiced singer whose music earned a new generation of fans through the hit TV series `Ally McBeal') was touring Australia, he gave Doug Aiton a wonderful quote in an interview for `The Sunday Age'. The singer said his voice used to be as squeaky as Michael Jackson's, then when he hit puberty it altered overnight. It was so dramatic that his father used to take him to all the neighbours and tell him to talk so everyone could marvel at the change.

Aussiejourno's Weekly Blog Awards

Top Blogs For Week Ending 24 March

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. http://toiletpaper56.blogspot.com
2.
http://chewy-myblog.blogspot.com/
3. http://aquarius2626.blogspot.com/
4. http://www.autopartsplace.com/bg/
5. http://www.ramblingtraveler.com/
6.
http://jenerahealy.blogspot.com
7. http://copperstiletto.blogspot.com/
8.
http://mur38.blogspot.com/
9. http://querkeyturkey.blogspot.com/
10. http://www.bartraeke.com/
11.
http://colorado-bob.blogspot.com/
12. http://www.megabluewave.com/blog/
13. http://www.blogguelph.com
14.
http://web.mac.com/allancook/
15. http://travellinmama.blogspot.com/
16. www.mcglinch.com/blog
17. http://shadeswithinyoullc.blogspot.com
18. http://thatblueyak.blogspot.com
19.
http://invisiblestudio.blogspot.com
20. http://www.storybookphotos.blogspot.com
21.
http://www.no-fing-way.blogspot.com/
22.
http://thedanmega.blogspot.com/
23. http://bobs-diary.blogspot.com/
24.
http://cash4blogging.blogspot.com/
25.
http://shrinkwrappedscream.blogspot.com/
26.
http://circlesinthesandbysamadhiwhitehouse.blogspot.com/
27. http://grumpyandfarting.blogspot.com
28.
http://dancewithsun.blogspot.com/
29. http://tytka.blogspot.com/
30.
http://ldpundit.blogspot.com/
31.
http://andreajoseph24.blogspot.com/
32. http://profbush.blogspot.com
33.
http://geraldthemajesticgoat.blogspot.com/
34. http://mybitswontbyte.com/
35.
http://www.dressedandpressed.blogspot.com/
36.
http://scooterguy-doug.blogspot.com/
37. http://shrinkwrappedscream.blogspot.com/
38. http://unforeseenpaths.blogspot.com/
39. http://adarkershadeofblack.blogspot.com/
40. http://magickriver.blogspot.com

And honourable mentions go to:

http://webolee.blogspot.com
http://www.thepeoplehistory.com/VisitorsMemories.htm
http://rodentia.blogspot.com/
http://moviessansfrontiers.blogspot.com/

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 alongisde 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.

Saturday, March 24, 2007

Indian Summary

A Tram's-Eye View Of A Stunning Country

Photograph copyright: DAVID McMAHON


Looks like an advertising billboard, doesn't it? Well, yes and no. Yes, it's an advertisemement. But it's actually painted across the side of a Melbourne tram. You know the feeling? You can see a great shot, you've got the camera with you - and you're in completely the wrong position and you've got literally a couple of seconds to shoot it.

There I was, stuck at a traffic light on the intersection of Dandenong Road and Chapel Street in the Melbourne suburb of Prahran. And I could see this tram coming from the opposite direction, with a stunning rendition of the great series of `Incredible !ndia' television ads. If you haven't seen the ads, they contain some amazing cinematography and of course the ad campaign substitutes the capital I in India with an exclamation mark instead.

(If you worked on the ad campaign, or know someone who did, please let me know by leaving a comment here.)

I was in the middle lane, with two vehicles between me and the tram and a schoolboy at the tram stop. Time only for one shot but strangely enough the colours across the frame somehow bleneded well, with the burgundy of both vehicles and the brick on the wall across the street.
I firmly believe in the `integrity' of an image, and I choose not to crop or enhance any photograph I take. But as an experiment, I cropped this frame to exclude most of the two vehicles and I still reckon the original frame is the stronger image.

Let me know what you think. And watch this space for a series of shots from a recent trip to India, the country where I was born and educated and where I began my career in journalism.

Wheels Fall Off The Chuck Wagon

Reality Check For Indian Cricket

A short while after posting the item below, India were beaten by Sri Lanka in the cricket World Cup. If the 1983 world champions are to survive, they need Bermuda to beat Bangladesh. I'm tipping there'll be a TV audience of a billion people watching Bermuda in action. But if they (as expected) lose to Bangladesh, can I please be the first person to write the headline `Bermuda Short'?

Prince Charles And Indian Cricket

World Cup Link To A Chucker, Er, Chuck

I do enjoy historical links, so this email from two friends, Anil Madan and C. K. Sharma, caught my attention immediately. In essence, it refers to major events in 1981, when a) Prince Charles was married; b) Liverpool FC won the European Championship; c) Australia lost the Ashes and d) the Pope died. Two years later, India, the rank underdogs, defeated the reigning World Cup champions, the West Indies, in a group match - and then defended a paltry 183 in the final to beat them again (by 43 runs) and take the title, against all odds.
The email goes on to refer to 2005, when a) Prince Charles got married; Liverpool FC won the European Championship; c) Australia lost the Ashes and d) the Pope died.
But if India is going to win the World Cup, it needs to find a huge form reversal after losing to Bangladesh. Still, this is cricket, and stranger things have happened ...

Friday, March 23, 2007

Omission Control

Houston, We Have A Straggler

Photograph copyright: DAVID McMAHON

This was just such an unusual image that I had to capture it. The abandoned figure of the NASA astronaut was just one of the many scenes I shot during the big clear-up after Moomba, the week-long Melbourne festival that welcomes autumn. There was something forlorn about this figure, propped against a portable generator before being loaded onto a truck. I grew up in the Apollo era, when astronauts represented courage and the essence of adventure. It's always struck me as highly appropriate that Andy, the child ``hero'' of the movie `Toy Story' had two favourite toys, Woody and Buzz. A cowboy. And an astronaut. There could be no better embodiment of the American pioneering spirit.

Warm And Fuzzy

No, Make That TOO Warm and TOO Fuzzy

Photograph copyright: DAVID McMAHON

This is the fourth week of autumn, but the weather is still scorching, as if summer still has a magnetic grip on us. This time of year is normally marked by milder weather, but we've had no respite from the heat. It's 35 Celsius today, with a hot northerly blowing. The funny thing is, when I lived in India, a northerly was a cool breeze, but here it's got distinct desert qualities. In case you haven't guessed by now, I'm not a fan (pun unintentional) of hot weather.

Trivia Pur$uit

In ancient Rome, it was quite common for citizens to pay their taxes in honey. Obviously, it would have given them quite a buzz, while the tax collectors would have been working in a hive of activity.

Gizmo Machismo :)

Microsoft Says Its Networks Are Safe

Microsoft has denied reports that its Xbox Live or Bungie.net online gaming services were hacked and assured users both the networks were safe. According to Simon Jones at NewsLocale.org, the company issued a statement saying, "Microsoft would like to reassure all of its 6 million Xbox LIVE members that despite some recent reports and speculation, the company has looked into the situation and found no evidence of any compromise of the security of Bungie.net or our LIVE network."
Earlier this month, Microsoft revealed that more than six million users had signed up for Xbox Live since its launch in 2002, with over 70 per cent of the users taking advantage of Xbox Live Marketplace to download their games.
Microsoft did admit that there were attempts from attackers to hack into personal accounts but they were unsuccessful.

H€adlines & D€adlines

Credit Scarred

Pointing out stories you might have missed. A hapless German thief snapped his credit card in two while prying open a lock, inadvertently leaving behind his name and account details for police. ``He tried to copy what he'd seen them do on television, but the flat-owner woke up and the criminal ran away,'' a police spokesman said today. ``The victim called up and read us the details off the card. ``When we got round to the burglar's house, the other half was sitting on his kitchen table.'' The 29-year-old burglar was trying to open the door to his neighbour's flat in Moenchengladbach in western Germany, police said.
News source: Metro.co.uk

Thursday, March 22, 2007

How Do You Hide A Skyscraper?

Easy. Just Wait For A Decent Fog To Roll In

Photographs copyright: DAVID McMAHON


The fog this morning began to lift very gradually as the sun rose and the temperature climbed rapidly. I suddenly noticed the strong sunlight reflected off the Commonwealth Bank building, in the form of an extremely rare series of sharp diagonal rays. It was only as I shot the first frame that I realised the fog had enveloped one of the city skyscrapers. Exactly five minutes later the skyscraper had started to emerge as the fog burnt off, so I shot the second frame. As you know, I never shoot with filters, nor do I digitally enhance my photographs in any way. And if you think the quality of the images is not too shabby, let me give you the most pertinent piece of information. They were not taken in the open air, but through the plate glass window of an office building on the opposite side of the Yarra River!

Grief Is The Word

My Two Bobs' Worth On The Woolmer Case


The cricketer was murdered in the middle of a match. No, we're not talking about Pakistan coach Bob Woolmer, whose death in Kingston, Jamaica, after one of the most stunning upsets in international cricket history has not  not yet  been classified as a murder investigation.
No, the case I'm talking about was fictional  and it involved the murder of an Australian bowler during a Test match at Lord's. That was the plot of the crime novel `Testkill', written (well, co-written if truth be told) by the late Lord Ted Dexter, the England captain who later served as chairman of selectors.
The novel was published in 1976, around the time that cricket writers found themselves cast for the first time in the unfamiliar role of investigative reporters, uncovering news of the formation of WSC.
On three more occasions in the past 30 years, specialist cricket writers found themselves playing front-page sleuths. First there were the rebel tours of apartheid-era South Africa in the early '80s. Next came the Hansie Cronje match-fixing/ bookie sandal. Finally, as every cricket writer worth his salt is in the West Indies for the World Cup, editors are clamouring for the latest-breaking news in the Woolmer case.
You know the really eerie part? Woolmer was involved in all four of those episodes. He played WSC, he toured South Africa with the rebels, and he was coach of South Africa during the match-fixing police investigations.
But even as news breaks that poison was found in Woolmer's room, it's interesting to note how some sections of the media have jumped the gun. Late yesterday, one overseas website ran a headline saying Woolmer had definitely been poisoned. At that stage, neither police nor cricket authorities had confirmed this or even discussed it in public  and a couple of hours later the website downgraded the headline instead of issuing a `We were wrong'.
But during the 1999 World Cup, the poison pens were out for Woolmer, whose quest was always to merge cricket coaching and technology. He controversially went along with Hansie Cronje's use of an earpiece during a match against India  only to have the ``innovation'' banned.
Woolmer, a professional to the core, would have been as devastated as any of the Pakistan players after the shattering loss to Ireland in last week's World Cup upset. I'm guessing there would have been big money, safe money, on the 1992 world champions to cruise through that encounter.
Is there a connection? Only the police investigation and the toxicology report will tell.
Woolmer is not the first former England cricketer to die suddenly in the West Indies. During England's controversial, politically charged 1980-81 tour of the Caribbean, assistant coach Ken Barrington died in his room.
Barrington, however, died of a heart attack. No one's saying Woolmer was short on ticker.


This is my column from today's edition of mX daily newspaper, a News Ltd publication in Melbourne, Sydney and Brisbane.

Kermit, The Fog

Early-Morning Blanket Over Melbourne

Photographs copyright: DAVID McMAHON


It's pretty unusual to have fog at this time of year, especially when the weather is still much warmer than normal (31 Celsius today). The first frame was shot on Springvale Road at 5am, the second at Southbank, just before 8am. I just liked the tendrils of fog around the unusually-shaped building, which was across the river from where I stood. Just left of centre in that shot is not a smudge on the lens, it's a bird! In a few hours from now, I'll post a couple more shots that show just how easily the fog can conceal a skyscraper. Watch this space!

Sittin’ On The Dock Of The eBay

UK Road Gets A Piece Of The Auction

A village road has been named Britain's busiest eBay street. A higher percentage of residents of Luscombe Way in Rackheath, Norfolk, trade online than any other. Residents of about 32 of the 48 homes buy and sell on the online auction site, jointly racking up 2000 transactions in a year. Items traded include cars, portable buildings, baby clothes and bike leathers. Second busiest was Kinlet Road, Wigan, with Camford Close, Hants, third.

Trivia Pur$uit

Igor Stravinsky, the versatile conductor and composer who was considered one of the most original creative musicians of the 20th century, once said: ``Too many pieces of music finish too long after the end''.

H€adlines & D€adlines

Pop Star(bucks) Role For Sir Paul McCartney

Pointing out stories you may have missed. We'll drink to this idea – with our coffee cups. Sir Paul McCartney has been named as the first signing to the music label of coffee house chain Starbucks. The company announced plans last week to sign established and new acts to Hear Music, which has previously released albums of licensed songs.
Its biggest success to date has been the Grammy-winning `Genius Loves Company’ album of Ray Charles duets. Sir Paul is now in the fifth decade of a successful music career, which began with The Beatles in the 1960s. It is expected that his new album will be in the shops in early June.
Glen Barros, president of Concord Music Group, which will partner Hear Music, said recording artists should be attracted by the idea of a built-in audience in Starbucks, particularly at a time when digital downloading has created "a stressful time for the music industry".

News source: BBC.

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Vertical Rainbow

It's All Downhill From Here, Mate

Photograph copyright: DAVID McMAHON

This was a shot that just had to be taken. Those bright colours, those wavy patterns. The slender shadow on the left. Any idea what the shot depicts? It's actually a multi-lane mammoth slide, called the Euroslide. I'd guess it's about 30 metres high and its contours would give anyone an adrenalin rush. This was the tightest frame I could get, incorporating all the numbers, all the colours and as much depth as I could manage.

Woolmer's Death `Suspicious'

Police Promise Full Investigation

Mark Shields (pictured below) has probably never faced the full glare of the international media as he did when announcing that the death of Bob Woolmer, Pakistan's cricket coach, was being treated as ``suspicious''.
``Having met with the pathologist, other medical personnel and investigators,'' he said, ``there is now sufficient information to continue a full investigation into the circumstances surrounding the death of Mr Woolmer, which we are now treating as suspicious.''
It is 26 years since former England Test cricketer Ken Barrington died during a Test series in the West Indies. But that's where the similarity ends. Barrington, the assistant manager of the touring England side, died of a heart attack.
While the world speculates on the cause of Woolmer's death, some television channels are already reporting that when he was found unconscious, he had marks on his neck. He never regained consciousness and was taken to a local hospital, where he was pronounced dead.
CNN has just reported that experts were being called in to run additional tests on tissue samples, according to information from Sergeant Bevan Brown of the Jamaican police.
Pakistan Cricket Board spokesman Pervez Mir said, ``The pathologist findings were inconclusive, and he is awaiting results of toxicology and histology from the government national laboratory and the government forensic laboratory.''

Petal Pusher

How Does Your Garden Groan?

Photograph copyright: MELANIE McMAHON

In Victoria, we're being promised some more rain this week, which is welcome news across the drought-stricken countryside. My garden, normally ablaze with colour, looks like as dry as an Outback farmer's boots. If I didn't know better, I'd have thought someone took a blowtorch to my azaleas, but the hardy roses are still thriving in the dry conditions. This one is a Chicago Peace variety. The shot was taken just after the drizzle yesterday, which left this bloom with tiny pearls of moisture - the first in weeks.

Gizmo Machismo :)

Did I Just Erase That Hard Drive?

It's the sort of disaster you can only conjure up in your worst nightmare. In Juneau, Alaska, things are back to normal now at the Department of Revenue, but we've just been told that a computer technician accidentally wiped out a hard drive last year. No just any old hard drive, mind you. It contained much of the relevant information on a $50 billion dollar account. While reformatting the disk drive during a routine maintenance check, the technician mistakenly reformatted the backup drive as well, dumping all the data. The lost data  all 300 cardboard boxes of it - had to be rapidly re-scanned into the system.

H€adlines & D€adlines

Poles Say Drunken Scots Are Too Flashy

Pointing out stories you may have missed. Calls are growing in Poland for a ban on 'men in skirts' because drunken Scottish flashers have been upsetting locals. Poland has become a major destination for UK tourists, some of whom are thought to be mainly attracted by the cheap beer. Authorities in major towns like Warsaw and Krakow say the drunken Scots have added an extra dimension. In the city of Wroclaw, officials are exploring a kilt ban after being horrified by groups of drunk Scottish men who lifted their kilts to strangers. Local police, who have born the brunt of the complaints, say a kilt ban would not be possible, but have promised to crack down on the partying Scots and make sure they keep their kilts down at all times.
News source: Ananova.

Spa Quality Was Watered Down

Hubble, Bubble, Toil And Trouble

The Saratoga Spa State Park in upstate New York is in hot water after the New York Post revealed the bubbly mineral baths have incorporated ordinary heated tap water since the 1930s. Raymond Watkin, a former Saratoga Springs mayor, says the state is committing fraud. A state parks spokeswoman says the operator of the baths, Xanterra Parks and Resorts, will now notify customers the water is actually a mix.

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Show Me The Monet

Looks Like Someone Painted Our Sky Today

Photograph copyright: DAVID McMAHON

This shot was taken about ten minutes ago. The vagaries of Melbourne's unpredictable weather mean that you never know what sort of sunset you're going to get. It was a grey autumn day today (yes, it is autumn here) with drizzle patches and very little breeze. But look at the sunset we were treated to, with more colours than an Impressionist's palate.

Beyond A Shadow Of Doubt

No, It's Not Really Swede Revenge

Photograph copyright: DAVID McMAHON


It might look like some patriotic Swedish gesture, but it's just a wall in South Melbourne. The blue-and-yellow pattern caught my eye about ten days ago. As I pulled over and got out of the car to take this photograph, I noticed the contrast of the shadow across the striking blue of the wall. It also struck me as being unusual that the shadow was so strongly diagonal. The strong colours, the effect of the shadow, and the pattern of the checked netting across the wall just drew me straight in. Just a simple sight, but I reckon it made a photograph with a difference.