Thursday, May 31, 2007

The Daily Lama

Faith Gets A Positive Spin

Photographs copyright: DAVID McMAHON


As a keen photographer, I find the combination of metal and soft light irresistible. These two frames were shot in Calcutta/ Kolkata, during a very brief recent trip to India. The Buddhist prayer wheels were on prominent display at Chamba Lama, the well-known store in the New Market. When I asked the manager if I could use my camera inside the store, she graciously agreed without hesitation. In the course of the conversation, it transpired that she and I had finished school in the same year in the same Himalayan town, Darjeeling.



Passing Sentence Game #4

Lucid In The Sky With Diamonds

Can 15 different sentences – written by different bloggers – make a good story? There’s only one way to find out. As we did last week and the week before, I’m going to write the first sentence and I invite you to contribute the next sentence, in sequence. Just leave your sentence as a comment, and I’ll keep adding them here on this blogpost. Now you can see why I call this ``passing sentence''. Here goes the first sentence …

They say airbrushing is great for hiding blemishes and I can now reveal exclusively that I was the fifth Beatle and that I was airbrushed out of the famous Abbey Road album cover.

Time elapsed: 2hr 20mins. Second sentence from Catmoves in the US.

On the other hand I finally wrote the truth: Australia Finds a New Power Source - Beer.

Time elapsed: 30 seconds. Third sentence from Bart in the US.

Not only that, but the infamous "Paul is Dead" back-masking actually was referring to me, Saul Westhead.

Time elapsed: 2 hr 20 mins. Fourth sentence from Chertiozhnik in the UK.

If they'd just left me alone and hadn't airbrushed me out - blemish - I wouldn't be about to do what I'm going to do next (Aside) woo that moved the plot along so much, the set fell over (end aside).

Time elapsed: 11hrs 52mins. Fifth sentence from Terry Fletcher in Portugal:

OK, OK - here's what I intend to do next. I've found one of my mum's old dresses, but I have a problem with her shoe size. So I'll go barefoot and call myself 'Shandy Store' in an oblique reference to that good old Aussie institution - The Pub!

Time elapsed: 14hrs 51 mins. Sixth sentence from Sam in India:

And there I go prancing down the street, without a shoe on my foot, a penny to my name .... and a song on my lips; "Hey you .... the cute one there, watch out I'm coming for you!", I want to say to every young man there; and thus I went dancing all the way.... all the way to.....

Time elapsed: 2hrs 38mins. Seventh sentence from OzLady in Singapore:

"....the top, coz it's a long way to the top if you wanna rock 'n' roll, baby!" I sing as I shake my thang down the street.

Time elapsed: 4hrs 40 mins. Eighth sentence from SB:

Ever played team chess (two on two, alternate players move for each team) you’ll get a similar kick out of it.

Time elepased: 2hrs 11mins. Ninth sentence from Lynne:

I've been airbrushed too - I used to be a Playboy centrefold, which was pretty cool, but my tights kept getting snagged on the staple through my navel but I've had it airbrushed out now, and no problem!

Time elapsed 12hrs 50mins. Tenth sentence from BTBear in the UK:

We had the same problems in Bears For Girls and in the end I saw the wisdom of always keeping your pants nearby; actually, if you look closely on the Abbey Road cover, you'll see me waving mine from behind the lamp-post on the right - or at least, on the earlier editions because on the re-presses they airbrushed me out.

Critique Of `One Small Steppe For Man’

How Elvis And James Brown Faced The Music

This critique of Passing Sentence Game #3 is by Andrea Beattie, well-known reviewer, queen of pop culture and editor of the Citybeat section of mX newspaper. Here is what she said about One Small Steppe For Man.

``What a ride! Only the creative minds of bloggers from across the world could come up with a yarn that has just about everything - time travel, bloodthirsty conquerors, Seinfeld and sex, drugs and rock'n'roll. I loved the musical flavour of this story, particularly Elvis thumbing his nose at James Brown's trademark dance moves; a world away from where the action began in dusty 15th century Mongolia.

Placing the notoriously ruthless and cold-blooded Khan brothers at the epicentre for peace, free love and understanding was also a keystroke of genius. And don't get me started on the Seinfeld reference! Congratulations to all involved. Well done. Bring on the next one!''

Gizmo Machismo :)

Microsoft Proves It's In Fine Touch

Microsoft has unveiled a new kind of computer called Surface. The coffee-table shaped computer responds to touch and bar codes attached to everyday objects. The machines got its public debut at a technology conference in Carlsbad, California. It is essentially a Windows-based PC tucked inside a table base, topped with a 30-inch touchscreen in a clear frame. Five cameras that can sense nearby objects are mounted beneath the screen. Unlike most touchscreens, Surface can respond to more than one touch at a time. Videos of the concept last year showed that people could easily drag and drop objects on the screen with their fingers, even grabbing more than one. It also allows for gestures such as squeezing fingers together to zoom in.

Trivia Pur$uit

Canadian-born Mack Sennett (January 17, 1880 – November 5, 1960) was an innovator of slapstick comedy in film. The producer of `The Keystone Cops’ and other famous films, he began his career playing the hind legs of a horse.

Everything You Want To Know About Sax

(But Were Afraid To Ask)

Photographs copyright: DAVID McMAHON

While I spent a few minutes photographing the jazz quartet Mango Juice in full swing (see post titled Everest Bass Camp) I spotted this saxophone sitting in a corner, in a kitbag. The first photograph you see here (above) is exactly how I saw the sax, because I never move an object to get a better view. Then I took the second shot (below) while standing above the instrument. I was pretty happy with this angle, because makes such an unusual shot. One colleague of mine said it reminded her of a swan, while another - who is also a musician - said he could just imagine the shot on an album cover. Maybe one day ....


Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Caption Hook

Wasn’t He The Pirate In The `Peter Pan’ Story?

Sure, there’ve been times when you’ve looked at a caption in a newspaper or on a website and thought: ``I could do better than that’’. Here’s your chance. If you want some light-hearted fun, go to YesBut’s Images and write your captions for the photographs posted there. The best entries get posted on the site.

Everest Bass Camp

The Timbre Depends On The Timber

Photograph copyright: DAVID McMAHON


What’s the first question you ask someone who plays a double bass? Eiji Takemoto just grins when I ask him (as you do) how he manages to carry the huge instrument around. He points to a trolley and says he wheels it out on that and sticks it in the ``back of the car’’. So I do some mental maths. The double bass stands taller than me, and I’m about 190 centimetres. Turns out Eiji has a station wagon, which makes sense! I ask him how old the bass is. He reckons the German-made instrument is probably 120 years old. Eiji plays in a quartet called Mango Juice and they can be heard on weekends, from 1pm-4pm at Shine, a cafĂ© bar and lounge at 74-76 Kingsway in Glen Waverley. Watch this space for more pictures.

Star Tech

Adding An Extra Dimension To Your Blog

A few days ago, I was asked by a Singapore-based blogger, OzLady, to have a look at her site and give her some feedback. I’ve decided to post an edited version of my reply – because the advice is relevant to many of the good blogs and bloggers out there.

Can you please tell me how to improve my blog?

I reckon you do it right, on many levels. Your posts are always well edited, they’re lucid and they span an interesting variety of subjects. I’ve gone a long way back, into your older posts – and they’re all consistent and well presented.

I’m a journalist, so I’m not going to make this a whitewash. I’d like to see you take this blog up a notch or two. Introduce some more elements on your pages, because you did a terrific job with the graphic that accompanied the drumming posts. It was concise, clean, colourful – and easy to follow.

Try more often to break up your text with more graphics or photographs. Have camera, will travel. I enjoyed the candid picture that you posted when talking about the child experimenting with the self-timer. Carry the camera with you sometimes (or always, if it’s small enough to fit into a handbag) and use your shots with your posts. You will immediately project an extra, crucial element – and it’s so easy to do. Don’t follow what others do. Use your camera in a way that interests you – that’s what makes a blog unique.

You have an interesting site. Use your camera as an extension of a) your keyboard and b) your thought process. I look forward to the results.

Trivia Pur$uit

Until the invention of the printing press in the 15th century, playing cards were individually hand-painted works of art and could only be afforded by the very wealthy.

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Not The Nine O'Clock Nudes

Must Be The Emperor's New Clothes

Photograph copyright: DAVID McMAHON


No, look again. They're not real nudes. It's just an advertisement on the side of a tram - and I shot this picture about 30 minutes ago. I noticed the tram while I drove through Caulfield and while I was at a traffic intersection I shot three frames through my window. Then I turned off, parked in a side street and sprinted to the tram stop. Luckily I fired off a test frame - because I then realised my memory card was full. I swiftly cleared a few images as the tram drew up beside me. To me, the real touch of humour in this shot is the head of the real-life passenger above the painted body on the side of the tram. I'm so glad I always carry my camera with me.

Catch The Tube

Terry’s Happy To Train You

Want to post a YouTube video clip on your blog? Not sure how to do it? Getting yourself into a tech tangle? Just go to Terry’s Playpen for all the answers. In fact, if you have any tech queries, post them on his site and he’ll solve them for you. Hassle him; he thrives on it!

Lip Sinking

It Never Rains, But It Pours

Photograph copyright: DAVID McMAHON


No, it’s not some futuristic image from inside a wind tunnel. It’s just my view of the lip of the water jug that sits on our dining table. I guess it just reinforces my theory that even everyday objects can be interesting when photographed. And speaking of jugs, I thought I’d test your knowledge on Jughead, the amiable character in the `Archie’ comics. What was Jughead’s real name: a) Fortescue Pymberley Jones III; b) Jefferson Braeside Jones III; c) Abraham Lincolnshire Jones III; d) Forsythe Pendleton "Jughead" Jones III or e) Forester Pinchpenny Jones III. To see the answer, go to the comments section below – I’ve revealed it there, so that no one can peek!

From Mongolia To Woodstock

With Plenty of Pop Culture In Between

Thank you to everyone who participated in the third Passing Sentence game, One Small Steppe For Man. It is now complete and in just 15 sentences has taken us from ancient Mongolia to Woodstock, with plenty of adventures in between. Look out for the critique ….

Called To The Bar

Sobering Experience In Alaska’s Pubs

Up Alaska way, they speak pretty good Strine. They know what a billy is. They know all about jumbucks. The word "billabong" doesn't faze 'em. They can tell you why a swagman is called a swagman. And, most important of all, they'll sing `Waltzing Matilda' as lustily as anyone sporting an Akubra and wearing a Drizabone.

Mind you, it wasn't always that way. Things were pretty quiet when we walked into the Fogcutter (what a great name for an Alaskan pub) late on a May evening. We'd already spent a bit of time familiarising ourselves with the other pub in Haines and things were pretty low-key. The barmaid noticed we were having a little trouble with the local coinage and came round to held us.

"Off the cruise ship?" she asked. Yep, we owned up. But how did she know?

To read the rest of the story, go to The Anglo-Indian Portal as it would be too long to post here.

Trivia Pur$uit

Petrol has no specific freezing point. It freezes at any temperature between minus 117 Celsius and minus 150 Celsius. When it does freeze, it never solidifies totally, but resembles gum or wax.

Monday, May 28, 2007

Taking Steppes

Genghis Khan Meets Elvis Presley At Woodstock

Thank you to all of you who have made the Passing Sentence games so successful - and so much fun. We just need two more sentences in the third Passing Sentence Game One Small Steppe For Man. Then it's up to me to come up with the closing sentence!

His And Hearse

Funeral Director Is A Harley Street Specialist

Harley-Davidson enthusiasts who take the motto "Live to Ride, Ride to Live" to heart now have a proper conveyance to hog heaven. A Long Island funeral home chain has invested $100,000 in a three-wheeled 2006 Road King Classic and carriage-style hearse for bikers who want to go out in style. So far, reaction has been "favourable and positive," according to Michael Moloney of Moloney Family Funeral Homes. The black hearse is a replica of a 19th-century horse-drawn carriage with burgundy and gold curtains.

Once In A Blue Moon

Aldrin Memories Create A Media Buzz

Photograph copyright: DAVID McMAHON

This shot was taken a few hours ago, at dusk on Sunday. We were outdoors on a breezy but very mild evening when I noticed that the moon looked as though it was being cradled by the almost-bare branch of this plane tree. It was just right for a quick photograph – the gentle curve of the branch and its few remaining leaves in silhouette, and a two-thirds moon floating in a clear azure sky. I think it was meant to be photographed.

There was another lunar connection for the evening, with Buzz Aldrin being interviewed about Apollo XI on Channel Seven’s Sunday segment `Where Are They Now’. For me, the highlight of the interview was Aldrin pointing to the mission patch on his NASA jacket. As he picked out the detail of the eagle carrying the olive branch, he quoted the words from the famous plaque left behind on the lunar surface - ``We came in peace for all mankind’’.

H€adlines & D€adlines

Give No Quarter, Take No Quarter

Pointing out stories you may have missed.
A Marvel Comics hero is giving George Washington some company on the quarter, and the US Mint is not at all happy about it. To promote the upcoming film "Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer," 20th Century Fox and The Franklin Mint altered 40,000 US quarters to feature the character. The US Mint says it learned of the promotional quarter this week and advised the studio and The Franklin Mint they were breaking the law. It's illegal to turn a coin into an advertising vehicle. Violators can face a fine. The altered coins feature George Washington on the front, as usual, but a colorized version of the Silver Surfer on the back. A Fox spokesman said that neither the studio nor The Franklin Mint intended to violate any laws.

News source: SanDiego.com.

You've Got M@ail

``I have had a quick look at your site. WOW - when my blog grows up it wants to be just like yours.''
Email received from David Swift, Melbourne

Trivia Pur$uit

A fantasia is an accepted piece of music in which the composition follows the fancy, rather than any conventional form, of an improvisional character.

Sunday, May 27, 2007

This View Strikes A Chord

Things Must Be Looking Up

Photograph copyright: MATTHEW McMAHON


This shot was taken by my guitar-playing teenage son. In his own words: ``I was taking some bass-ic pictures of my bass guitar and I thought it would like good if I shot it from an unusual angle. I held the camera underneath the guitar and couldn't look through the viewfinder or at the LED screen, so just hoped the picture tuned out good. And it did.''

Later, when we reviewed the image on the computer, he realised an unusual detail on the frame. Look at the cropped version of the shot below and you'll see the high-gloss surface of the guitar shows a terrific reflection of the miniature fighter aircraft suspended from the ceiling of our rumpus room. The greyish dots are the thumb tacks from which the jets are suspended, by fishing line.

Number Rhumba

A One-In-A-Million Coincidence

So you think you have a story of great coincidences? Forgive me, but it is my very humble assertion that you ain't seen nuthin' yet. When my wife traded in her car for a new model a few years ago, I went with her to the dealership and listened as the sales manager detailed all the electronic gadgetry on the car. He explained that all she needed was to remember a special code if the car's security system was ever disabled. My attention was arrested as soon as he told us the code.

It was my date of birth, in the exact order of day, month and year.

I thought that was strange. Since all the paperwork for the purchase was in my wife's name, how on earth did the sales team have my details? "How did you know my date of birth?'' I asked him, astonished.

But he was even more startled. He explained that since it was an imported car, the codes were set overseas, on the assembly line. It was just a sheer coincidence that the car had been allotted to us. Mathematically, the probability was one in several million, because you don't just compute the chances of the digits falling in precise sequence, you also have to take into account the number of cars made of that particular model.

For more amazing coincidences in my life, check Fate Accompli.

Barrel Chested

Neat Diverson, In A Roundabout Way

Photograph copyright: DAVID McMAHON


We were heading back home down the Hume Highway from Sydney to Melbourne when I pulled into a service station to fill up. That's when I noticed this roundabout, roughly 50 metres away, on the road to Exeter. Not only were the colours striking, they were also a nice reminder to stay on the, er, straight and arrow.

Trivia Pur$uit

Author Ian Fleming, who created the fictional spy James Bond, revealed in the early 1960s that he ``borrowed'' the name of a real-life ornithologist who wrote a book about the birds of the West Indies. Fleming later explained, "It struck me that this name, brief, unromantic and yet very masculine, was just what I needed."

Aussiejourno's Weekly Blog Awards

Top Blogs For Week Ending 26 May

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://uncommonnotions.blogspot.com/
2. http://dancewithsun.blogspot.com/
3.
http://shrinkwrappedscream.blogspot.com/
4. http://bobs-diary.blogspot.com/
5. http://www.ramblingtraveler.com/
6. http://chewy-myblog.blogspot.com/
7. http://www.bartraeke.com/
8.
http://adarkershadeofblack.blogspot.com/
9. http://grumpyandfarting.blogspot.com
10.
http://copperstiletto.blogspot.com/
11.
http://thedanmega.blogspot.com/
12. http://www.mcglinch.com/blog
13.
http://invisiblestudio.blogspot.com
14.
http://jenerahealy.blogspot.com
15.
http://chalkhills-collective.blogspot.com/
16.
http://www.blogguelph.com
17.
http://www.autopartsplace.com/bg/
18.
http://web.mac.com/allancook/
19.
http://andreajoseph24.blogspot.com/
20.
http://scooterguy-doug.blogspot.com/
21.
http://www.ubertramp.com/
22.
http://thatblueyak.blogspot.com
23.
http://profbush.blogspot.com
24. http://4thavenueblues.blogspot.com/
25. http://inthenuthouse.blogspot.com/
26.
http://toiletpaper56.blogspot.com
27.
http://querkeyturkey.blogspot.com
28.
http://daubdujour.blogspot.com/
29. http://unforeseenpaths.blogspot.com/
30.
http://escapingthroughfilm.blogspot.com/
31. http://geraldthemajesticgoat.blogspot.com/
32.
http://magickriver.blogspot.com
33.
http://randomblethers.blogspot.com/
34.
http://chummachumma.blogspot.com/
35. http://karolineswednesdayschild.blogspot.com/
36.
http://memoirsofabrokenman.blogspot.com/
37. http://colorado-bob.blogspot.com/
38. http://yesbut-images.blogspot.com/
39. http://wwwscala.blogspot.com/
40.
http://aquarius2626.blogspot.com/
41.
http://ianqui365.blogspot.com
42.
http://chele76.blogspot.com/
43. http://achessworld.blogspot.com
45. http://moviessansfrontiers.blogspot.com/
46. http://travellinmama.blogspot.com/
47. http://davids-pics.blogspot.com
48.
http://cuculus.blogspot.com
49.
http://pasturemusings.blogspot.com/
Equal 50.
http://www.tcosgarage.blogspot.com/
Equal 50. http://suz50.wordpress.com

And honourable mentions go to:

http://terrysplaypen.blogspot.com/
http://mur38.blogspot.com/
http://www.ozlady.com/
http://necronomipod-podcast.blogspot.com/
http://tytka.blogspot.com/
http://beginnerphotos.blogspot.com/
http://www.megabluewave.com/blog/
http://smadanpersonal.blogspot.com/
http://whodatdarepokah.blogspot.com
http://sketchandcolour.blogspot.com
http://cash4blogging.blogspot.com/
http://aletterneversent.blogspot.com/
http://thingsigetakickout.blogspot.com
http://www.fisforfailure.blogspot.com/
http://www.dressedandpressed.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 alongside a blogger whose url has 10,000 hits or more. I would like other would-be writers and bloggers to benefit from the fact that I am a bestselling novelist (`Vegemite Vindaloo', published by Penguin) and career journalist with almost 30 years' experience in writing, editing, design, newspaper technology and production.

Saturday, May 26, 2007

Rocket Mantra

Sound And Delight Show

Photograph copyright: DAVID McMAHON


This shot, showing a streetside fireworks stall in Calcutta, was taken through the window of a moving car. For someone like me, who grew up in India, fireworks always evoke memories of the Hindu festival Diwali, when the nights were etched with spectacular sound-and-light displays. When I was a kid, the fact that I was Christian never dampened my enthusiasm for Diwali. My most vivid memory? The year when I actually caught the biggest prize of all - the scaled-down parachute and plastic figure of a skydiver that floated gracefully down from what we used to call a ``parachute bomb''.

Eye, Eye, Cap'n

Come Face-To-Face With Melbourne

Photograph copyright: DAVID McMAHON


This towering mosaic figure, titled `Ophelia', was named the official face of Melbourne by Tourism Victoria in 1996. The work is by the famous Australian mosaic artist Deborah Halpern, who lives in leafy Warrandyte and whose work has been exhibited at Canada's Buschlen Mowatt Gallery. I'm told that she begins all her mosaic projects with sketches, before creating a figure with steel mesh and spraying it with expanding foam. She then carves the final shape before covering it with a fibro-glass compound. The myriad ceramic tiles are the last step of the process.

H€adlines & D€adlines

Text Messages Create Banana Republic

Pointing out stories you may have missed. A rumour spread by text message has badly hit the price of bananas from China's Hainan island. The messages claim the fruit contains viruses similar to Sars, the severe respiratory illness which has killed hundreds of people worldwide. Producers in Hainan say the resulting price slump is costing them up to $2.5 million a day. China's Agriculture Ministry has dismissed the Sars claim as baseless. Police are investigating its source. "It is utterly a rumour," a Chinese Health Ministry official said. "There has not been a case in the world in which humans have contracted a plant virus, and there is not any scientific evidence." Hainan bananas had already been subject to rumours they caused cancer, after the banana plantations were hit by blight earlier this year.

News source: BBC.

Race To The Finish Line

TV Or Not TV - That Is The Question



Here is my response to a tag from Dan, who wants me to reveal seven little-known facts about myself. Okey-dokey, here goes:

1. I was on national TV last night (see picture above).
2. I was a contestant on the quiz show `Temptation'.
3. The show was on the Packer-owned Nine Network.
4. I won a $900 cutlery set.
5. I turned down the chance to buy $8500 worth of artwork.
6. I was so eager to answer an early question that I blurted out the answer before the host could call my name.
7. My chair had to be winched down so that despite being 6'3'' I looked the same height as the other contestants.

And in response to Dan's tag, the seven bloggers whom I now tag are: Jenera Healy, In the Nut House, Scala, Lissa, Pasture Musings, David's Pics and The Chosen One.

Trivia Pur$uit

The bark of the redwood tree is fireproof. But fires still do take place in redwood forests - with a crucial difference. The blaze takes places inside the hardy trees.

Friday, May 25, 2007

Take A Bough

Mr Leaf Erikson, I Presume?

Photograph copyright: DAVID McMAHON


Yet another perfect late-autumn afternoon in Melbourne. A top temperature of 20 Celsius today - much warmer than normal. I took this shot on Waverley Road, to combine the striking autumn foliage with the crisp blue sky.

Fast Feud Outlet

Lord Of The Fries

McDonald's has launched a petition to get the dictionary definition of a ``McJob'' changed. The Oxford English Dictionary describes a McJob as ``an unstimulating low-paid job with few prospects''. But McDonald's says this definition is now ``out of date and insulting'' and says 90 per cent of employees agree they are given valuable training.

FOOTNOTE: Are they `arch' enemies?

Window Gleaner

Outsider Completes A Clean Sweep

Photograph copyright: DAVID McMAHON

So we’re sitting there at work, right? And we can hear this strange sound, right? And no one knows what it is, right? I reach for my camera – because whatever it is, it’s gotta be worth a photograph. Then we see a wide metal brace, part of a platform, descending into our field of vision. Aha – it’s the window cleaners. So I quickly shoot half a dozen frames while they work. Then I realise I just need to wait until they lather the window – and shoot the skyline and Flinders Street station through their cleaning solution. It’s not every day you get a chance to do that. And my colleagues? Oh, they were very busy. Busy rating the two window cleaners, that is. On a maximum scale of ten, they got a lot of sevens.

Star Tech

Brevity Is Part Of A Blogger’s Brief

In my newspaper column (it’s called Blog Cabin) in the News Limited publication `mX’, published in Sydney, Brisbane and Melbourne, I recently answered a question from David Swift, but the Q&A could be of interest to the wider blogging community.

Could you please give me some feedback on the basics of my blog - design, content and writing style? I would like to get more traffic, as well as reader comments.

You just got yourself the job of PR manager for (retired independent Senator from Tasmania) Brian Harradine - he's probably rapt with the reference to him as ``Brain'' Harradine.

Your template is neat, easy to navigate and lends itself to quick reading. The content could do with a little proof-reading, because writing is obviously your strong point. Not every blogger is a Spelling Bee champion, but a little polish will bring rewards.

You deal with a great variety of subjects, but try including some pictures, graphics or design elements with each post. This will make a great difference to your overall look.

The best blogs are not just well-written, they are well presented. Yours just needs a little attention to pictorial detail. You've done well with the sidebars on breaking news, recent comments, Chuck Norris facts and your choice of quips. If brevity is a blogger's friend, humour is a blogger's trump card.

You've made an impressive start, and the more readers you get, the more comments you will receive. Reply to each comment, as this builds a rapport with your readers. And send Brian Harradine Christmas cards every year.

Trivia Pur$uit

Timber that was cut and planed was hard to come by in the New World, and since the pilgrims didn’t intend to return to Europe, they dismantled the `Mayflower’ and used its lumber to build a barn.

Thursday, May 24, 2007

Warm Memorial

Sunny Afternoon Is Just A Breeze

Photograph copyright: DAVID McMAHON

It was such a spectacular afternoon today that I took my camera downstairs at lunchtime. There was a strong breeze, but the temperature was actually quite balmy, a lot warmer than it has been all week. I shot a few frames by the river and some more at Southbank, but this shot gives you an idea of the essence of the precinct. Tall gum trees, clear blue sky - and wavery reflection on the side of an office building.

Brollywood Hero

Maybe It’s Mary Poppins’ Calling Card

Photograph copyright: DAVID McMAHON


With all the rain we’ve had in Melbourne, this is one of the more common sights at work. This umbrella was drying nearby and I had to capture the sight from an unusual angle. By the way, I think the metal tip of an umbrella is called a ferrule.

Passing Sentence Game #3

One Small Steppe For Man

Can 15 different sentences – written by different bloggers – make a good story? There’s only one way to find out. As we did last week and the week before, I’m going to write the first sentence and I invite you to contribute the next sentence, in sequence. Just leave your sentence as a comment, and I’ll keep adding them here on this blogpost. Now you can see why I call this ``passing sentence''. Here goes the first sentence …

Okay, so the second-hand Time Travel Machine only cost me fifty quid at a flea market in Tooting Broadway, but it worked fine and here I am in 15th century Mongolia – one small steppe for man, one giant sleep for mankind.

Time elapsed: 1 hr 42 mins. Second sentence from Scala in Portugal:

Mongolia seems to be very dirty and savage compared to my home town, but certainly the air is pretty good.

Time elapsed: 19 mins. Third sentence from Shrink Wrapped Scream in the Isle of Man:

I've run into a very nice chappie though, Attila the Hun; he and his pals are most insistent upon showing me around (well, a tad pushy about it, truth be told), so, all things considered, it looks like I've landed on my feet here, eh?

Time elapsed: 37 mins. Fourth sentence from Nobody’s Friend in the UK:

Just as I realised that I didn't speak Mongolian, and that "Heartbreak Hotel" was playing somewhere in the background, Atilla put his knife to my throat: "You know how it works, get us out of here!"

Time elapsed: 8 mins. Fifth sentence from Dance With the Sun in Canada:

I frantically looked around for help and seeing none, I promptly fainted, my last thought was "I don't remember who sang Heartbreak Hotel!"

Time elapsed: 26 mins. Sixth sentence from Terry’s Playpen in Portugal:

The ghosts of the Khan brothers, Genghis and Kublai, stood off to one side observing the fiasco; it was their best buddy Elvis, from somewhere in the future, who was belting out 'Heartbreak Hotel', but they still didn't find it as kool as their own camel-skin orchestras, so they each decided to light up a cheroot, squat on their haunches, and plan a takeover themselves - wouldn't it be a whizz to flip back to the 12th or 13th century and do that blood-letting all over again?


Time elapsed: 5 hrs 38 mins, Seventh sentence from OzLady in Singapore:

Suddenly, with a whir, the time machine stirred, sprung into the air, and with a dazzling light display it transported the Khan brothers, Elvis and myself - we were suddenly engulfed in screaming fans at a James Brown concert in 1983.

Time elapsed: 13 hrs 4 mins. Eighth sentence from Bartraeke in the US:

Brown was in the middle of his "Help me, no wait, throw off the robe/cape" schtick when we got there, which greatly vexed Elvis, who huffed, "What an amateur, man, I like the music, but what a ham, man," and it was then I realised it was most definitely the young non-jump-suited Elvis who had tagged along for the ride.

Time elapsed: 2 hrs 2 mins. Ninth sentence from Bob’s Diary in the UK:

Meanwhile, the Khan brothers were having a great time. They took to Brown like a wasp to a picnic. Strutting their stuff, and it getting so hot in there, they stripped right down to their pants and sang "Wa-heyyyyyy!" in Elvis's face.

Time elapsed: 29hrs 8 mins. Tenth sentence from Pijush in Greece:

The screaming of the Khans woke me up; it was really a nightmare, but I am not in my bed, I can’t see things around, where am I?

Time elapsed: 1hr 58 mins. Eleventh sentence from Sam in India:

This infuriates Elvis and he decides to take another time travel epsiode which takes us all right to the very heart of Woodstock ... the loud music causes the Khans to spin around and search for its source, while me and Elvis groove to the music!!

Time elapsed: 5hrs 4 mins. Twelfth sentence from Chewy in the US:

Woodstock, (drugs, music, rain, mud) all the pants come flying off in a crazy hippie dance flower power peace & love craze.

Time elapsed: 2 days. Thirteenth sentence from Sam in India:

And so began a night of pure ecstasy as the music seeped into the heart and ripped apart the cloak of indifference, gifted by the supreme materialistic existence of the common man, to carry everyone into the realms of a world known only to the people who lose their heart to music.

Time elapsed: 6hr 58mins. Fourteenth sentence from Papoosue in Scotland.

Singing ensued and they danced around the fire - 'Let's all get drunk and go naked, Let's all get drunk and go naked, Let's all get drunk and go naaaaaked, and lie in a great big piiiile!'

And here's the last sentence:

By the time we got to Woodstock, we were half a million strong, so Attila and Genghis went looking for electric Kool-Aid while James Brown and Elvis usurped the Time Machine as their private sound stage, leaving the young Crosby and Stills to gnash their teeth as Spencer Tunick arrived to photograph all of our bare butts; and just as Attila and Genghis returned with a ``borrowed’’ tractor pulling a 2000-gallon vat of Kool-Aid, we saw Seinfeld, George, Kramer and Elaine stroll past, saying: ``Nice outing; not that there’s anything wrong with vat’’.

Gizmo Machismo :)

Virus Enthusiasm Is Simply, Er, Infectious

Computer specialist Didier Stevens put up a simple text advertisement on the Internet offering downloads of a computer virus for people who did not have any. Surprisingly, he found as many as 409 people clicking on the ad saying "Is your PC virus-free? Get it infected here!" during a six-month advertising campaign on Google's Adword, said the IT security expert. "Some of them must have clicked on it by mistake. Some must have been curious or stupid," said Mikko Hypponen, head of research at data security firm F-Secure.There was no virus involved, it was an experiment aiming to show these kinds of advertising systems can be used for malicious intent, Stevens said.

Critique Of Passing Sentence Game #2

Harried Houdini: Superhero As An Ex-Cape Artist

This critique of the Passing Sentence Game #2, which you can read at These Booths Are Made For Walking , is by Nirmal Ghosh, the Thailand-based foreign correspopndent, author, photographer and award-winning film-maker. And I’d like to thank the popular blogger McGlinch for the accompanying doodle. Here’s Nirmal’s review ….

The most interesting part in this exercise is the element of unpredictability, which tests each subsequent writer's inventiveness. It brings out the child in many ways, I would say. And the challenge is not only to be inventive and pose a quirky challenge to the next writer, but to keep some semblance of the story line alive as lifeline, so to speak.

It seems to work here, though the story line of course is a bit basic (have to keep it that way in the first experiment, otherwise with more complex stories one would need the moderator to step in at some point maybe, to nudge it back to some kind of sense, so one of course one can't expect War and Peace on the first round!).

It is exhilarating to read, because the imagery comes in an unpredictable rush. It is impossible to say whether some of the sentences were the product of deliberation, or of spontaneous creativity. The very fact that one knows they were written by different people at different times in different parts of the world is exciting. Also, the sentences are well matched. Congratulations to the writers on achieving this apparent seamlessness.

Try an experiment: edit out the credits and read the whole thing in one shot and see how it comes off.

I can think of some variations in the formula. Try rhyme for instance. Or nonsense prose? Keeping a story line alive and kicking for any length of time would be a challenge, and you can make it as easy or difficult as you like. Another question : how long can this be sustained until a reader loses interest/track? 25 sentences? 50? 100? 1000? Whew, exhausting.. just think of the prospect of a collectively written novel perhaps? The mind boggles.

On the whole, great stuff, and a great start. Most importantly, it makes one smile :) and that's good enough for me!

Trivia Pur$uit

The longest strike in history is thought to be that of apprentice barbers in Copenhagen, Denmark. It began in 1938 and was finally called off on 4 January 1961.

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Goldilocks And The Free Bears

Here, It's All Play And No Work

Photograph copyright: DAVID McMAHON

Took this shot in Camberwell less than an hour ago. It's a street I don't normally drive down - and as soon as I saw the name of this children's indoor play zone, I thought of fellow blogger BT Bear Esq. So I did the right thing, pulled out of the traffic, got my camera out and shot two frames. You gotta do what you gotta do ....

A Friend In Knead

Leave A Massage On My Answering Machine

This is for Stacy, who wanted links for some of my travel writing. I’ve got a few of these yarns, and as you can see, I’ve had a bit of fun documenting my time in the rest of the world. This is about the first time I had a massage, in Bali, Indonesia ….

Other people’s nudity, I don't have a problem with, but this is ridiculous. This bloke reminds me of the scene in `The Full Monty’ when the would-be male stripper nicknamed Horse drops his daks. Robert Carlyle's jaw drops and, when he has regained his composure, he announces in a quavering voice, "Gentlemen, the lunch box has landed".

I'm a bit nervous about having my first massage and this guy, obviously a member of the Chippendales, is not making it any easier for me. Then I remember the all-important line on the booking form that said "Please keep your underwear or your bathing costume on".
I am so relieved. Inadequate, nonetheless, but relieved.

To read the rest of the story, go to The Anglo-Indian Portal as it would be too long to post here. Do let me know what you think.

H€adlines & D€adlines

Oh Dear, It’s Top Gear And Ginger Beer

Pointing out stories you may have missed.
Jeremy Clarkson has been rapped for calling a car ``gay''. The British TV presenter said the Daihatsu Copen was ``a bit gay'' and ``a bit ginger beer'' - rhyming slang for ``queer''. Media regulator Ofcom said ``gay'' was not necessarily offensive, but citing the Oxford English Dictionary definition of the word as ``foolish, stupid and occasionally inappropriate, disapproved of and lame''. But Ofcom added: ``In this edition of , the use of a rhyming phrase made clear he intended to give a particular meaning to use of the word gay ... clearly linking the reference to homosexual people.’’

News source: Gay.Com.

FOOTNOTE: According to a report by Adrian Hearn at AutoTrader.co.UK Jeremy Clarkson should be the new British Prime Minister with Richard Hammond, James May and The Stig in the cabinet. So say more than 70,000 fans who’ve joined the ‘Jeremy Clarkson should be Prime Minister’ forum on Facebook.

Six Of The Best

They Get My Vote Every Time

Maybe it was nostalgia, maybe it was just my attention to detail (I’m a journalist, remember!) but a few hours ago I went back to the very first instalment of Aussiejourno’s Weekly Blog Awards. It was back on 24 February and the list then comprised only the Top Ten, as opposed to the Top 50 now. It is my very great pleasure to congratulate six bloggers who have featured on the Awards roll of honour every single week since their inception.

They are Rambling Traveler who started at No.2; The Back of my Headboard who started at No.3; Dance With the Sun who started at No.4; Bartraeke who started at No.6; Colorado Bob who started at No.7 and Allan Cook who started at No.8.

If you'd like to nominate a blog for the Weekly Awards, just leave the url here as a comment.

Trivia Pur$uit

When Gerald Ford was President of the United States, his staff received so many letters from people asking for ``autographs'' from his dog Patsy that a rubber stamp was actually made of its pawprint.

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Mirror Image

You Can Read This sdrawkcaB, Can't You?

Photograph copyright: DAVID McMAHON


No, I haven't laterally flipped this image. And, no, I haven't flipped my lid either. Have you ever wondered why the words 'Fire' or 'Ambulance' are reversed on the front of emergency vehicles? Because when those vehicles are behind you in traffic, you can see the words displayed correctly on your rear-view mirror. This shot of a Country Fire Authority tanker was taken here in Melbourne. And no, the crew members weren't taking a smoke break.

Unreal Estate

No Moat? And Ya Call This Shack A Castle?

Your home can be your castle - if you've got a lazy $15 million. The Searles Castle is for sale in Great Barrington, Massachusetts and has towered over the end of Main Street for 120 years. It was commissioned by the widow of a railroad tycoon, who married its designer, Edward Searles. Over the years, it's been a private school and a storage facility. If you’re interested, $15 million gets you seven turrets and a dungeon, but no moat.

Scull And Crossbones

Don’t Pull Out The Hot Cross Bung

Photograph copyright: DAVID McMAHON


Want to see Olympic medallists in training? Then your best chance is to rise before dawn and stand in the cold and the dark beside the Yarra, the river on which Melbourne was founded. Among the school and university-level crews that scythe silently through the inky water are also the elite sportsmen and women who bring back medals of every colour from international sports meets. This shot was taken just before dawn, using the 18-125 lens on my Pentax K100D, because this quad sculls crew was across the river, near the north bank. It was taken without a tripod, as the crew sped past. I must have done something right, because the frame stands up well, even at A4 size.

A Book Review I Didn’t Expect

My Humble Thanks To Des Tellis

A couple of days ago, I received an interesting email from Des Tellis, who lives in Christie Downs in South Australia. He had tried contacting me earlier but had had no success until he got my contact details from a relative. Des’s email was warm and supportive of my first novel, Vegemite Vindaloo', published by Penguin – and he kindly attached a newsletter review that he had written of the book. This is an excerpt ….

``David McMahon tells a story that has a wonderfully authentic ring. With a touch of James A. Michener, tracking the confluence of different migrant peoples in many epic novels, McMahon takes us along a mini confluence of disparate people. A very true-to-life novel, it doesn’t shy away from the prejudices we all knew in India, and even practised, and it captures the sentiments and insecurities of a migrant community through all the ups and downs of the transition process.

And, if I have read Book Notes on the Internet correctly, `Vegemite Vindaloo’ has been on several bestseller lists and was No.3 on the Calcutta Statesman’s best seller list in November last year, just behind Booker Prize winner Kiran Desai and John Grisham, at No.1 and 2, and ahead of Frederick Forsyth and Jeffrey Archer at No. 4 and 5. How is that for a debut novel!

It has humour, poignant moments and uplifting sequences where decency and inherent goodness win through. It is the type of book I have waited half a lifetime to read.’’

Trivia Pur$uit

In 1996, the Society for the Portuguese Language set up a commission to halve the influx of English words. Among those listed as particularly offensive were ``franchising'', ``mall'' and ``shopping centre''.

Monday, May 21, 2007

Rank Organisation

Once Again, My Thanks To You All

I just happened to notice that my blog has actually made it into the top 100,000 as rated by Technorati. It's currently at 95,420 and I can tell you I'm pretty pleased about that. I'd also like to thank Biz Stone, the blogger and author who first drew attention to my work, hailing me as ``the post title pun master''. Thank you, Biz. I've never forgotten.

Divide And Conker

Time To Look Sharp, Cobber

Photograph copyright: DAVID McMAHON


Okay, so it’s not really a conker – and I thought I’d point it out before anyone in Great Britain does so (like Carol Cooper, for instance!) But it does look rather lethal, like it could be some sort of ancient weapon. Pity there wasn’t another one in the frame – or else we would have had a prickly pair!

Odour Cologne

Deborah Turned Down The Role Of Cow Belle

Ever heard of cow magnets? No? Well, neither had I, until I read this memorable post on Deborah Gamble’s blog Uncommon Notions. It is recommended reading – even if you know what a cow magnet is. Her hilarious story will mooove you, one way or the other.

Check Out This NASCAR Wedding

Bouquet? Check. Invitations? Check.

North Carolina woman Sharon Hughes won't be having a white wedding - more like a black-and-white checked wedding. She and her husband-to-be are bigtime NASCAR fans and didn't want to miss the Coca-Cola 600 Memorial Day weekend in Concord. So she and Nolan Bailey will be married at a campground at the Lowe's Motor Speedway the day before the big race. Invitations to the May 26 wedding included checked flag designs and the couple's favourite drivers. Hughes will also have a black-and-white checked ribbon attached to her bouquet.

Trivia Pur$uit

The world's first pizzeria was the Antica Pizzeria Port Alba in Naples. It opened in 1830 and is still serving pizzas today. However, Europe's first pizza convention, Pizzatec, was held in January 1977 - not on Italian soil, but in Berlin.

Sunday, May 20, 2007

Night Vision

Don't Have A Tripod? Take The Shot Anyway ...

Photograph copyright: DAVID McMAHON


Yes, a tripod is a great accessory to have, but you can still experiment if you don't have one, or if you've forgotten to bring it along with you. With floodlights and neon lighting on every street corner, there are great picture opportunities everywhere. This was taken in total darkness, and shows part of the wonderful Arts Centre here in Melbourne. Strong colours always attract me, as you can tell. So even in inky blackness, if you don't have a tripod, you still have a leg to stand on!

Aussiejourno's Weekly Blog Awards

Top Blogs For Week Ending 19 May

I'm sorry this is later than normal, but it's been a busy 24 hours. Also, it's been a tough week to judge - as you can see by the fact that we have our first tie.

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.

Joint #1. http://shrinkwrappedscream.blogspot.com/
Joint #1. http://uncommonnotions.blogspot.com/
3. http://dancewithsun.blogspot.com/
4.
http://bobs-diary.blogspot.com/
5. http://www.ramblingtraveler.com/
6. http://chewy-myblog.blogspot.com/
7. http://www.bartraeke.com/
8.
http://adarkershadeofblack.blogspot.com/
9. http://www.blogguelph.com
10.
http://web.mac.com/allancook/
11.
http://thedanmega.blogspot.com/
12. http://grumpyandfarting.blogspot.com
13.
http://www.mcglinch.com/blog
14.
http://copperstiletto.blogspot.com/
15.
http://invisiblestudio.blogspot.com
16.
http://chalkhills-collective.blogspot.com/
17.
http://www.autopartsplace.com/bg/
18.
http://jenerahealy.blogspot.com
19.
http://andreajoseph24.blogspot.com/
20. http://scooterguy-doug.blogspot.com/
21.
http://toiletpaper56.blogspot.com
22. http://www.ubertramp.com/
23.
http://profbush.blogspot.com
24. http://4thavenueblues.blogspot.com/
25. http://inthenuthouse.blogspot.com/
26.
http://thatblueyak.blogspot.com
27. http://daubdujour.blogspot.com/
28. http://querkeyturkey.blogspot.com
29. http://unforeseenpaths.blogspot.com/
30.
http://escapingthroughfilm.blogspot.com/
31. http://magickriver.blogspot.com
32.
http://geraldthemajesticgoat.blogspot.com/
33. http://www.dressedandpressed.blogspot.com/
34.
http://chummachumma.blogspot.com/
35. http://colorado-bob.blogspot.com/
36. http://memoirsofabrokenman.blogspot.com/
37. http://randomblethers.blogspot.com/
38.
http://chele76.blogspot.com/
39. http://karolineswednesdayschild.blogspot.com/
40. http://wwwscala.blogspot.com/
41.
http://moviessansfrontiers.blogspot.com/
42. http://yesbut-images.blogspot.com/
43. http://achessworld.blogspot.com
45. http://ianqui365.blogspot.com
46.
http://travellinmama.blogspot.com/
47. http://mur38.blogspot.com/
48. http://cuculus.blogspot.com
49.
http://pasturemusings.blogspot.com/
50.
http://davids-pics.blogspot.com

And honourable mentions go to:

http://aquarius2626.blogspot.com/
http://www.tcosgarage.blogspot.com/
http://www.ozlady.com/
http://necronomipod-podcast.blogspot.com/
http://tytka.blogspot.com/
http://beginnerphotos.blogspot.com/
http://www.megabluewave.com/blog/
http://smadanpersonal.blogspot.com/
http://whodatdarepokah.blogspot.com
http://sketchandcolour.blogspot.com
http://aquarius2626.blogspot.com/
http://cash4blogging.blogspot.com/
http://aletterneversent.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 alongside a blogger whose url has 10,000 hits or more. I would like other would-be writers and bloggers to benefit from the fact that I am a bestselling novelist (`Vegemite Vindaloo', published by Penguin) and career journalist with almost 30 years' experience in writing, editing, design, newspaper technology and production.

Picture Perfect

It's All About Maintaining An Image

Here's a post that'll be relevant to bloggers who post images of any description. Terry Fletcher, aka Fletch, has some really useful information that he's posted on his site Terry's Playpen, or you can go directly to his post at Cracked It. And no, you don't need to be a nerd to follow his tutorial.

So, Who Rose To The Challenge?

How I Went To The Wall For This Shot

Photograph copyright: DAVID McMAHON



How best to depict the fickle nature of the weather in this fair city? Three days ago we were in T-shirts and shorts, now we're gearing up for snow in the Victorian Alps. So I thought I'd give you an image that captured it perfectly. This was taken in our garden - in the foreground is a rose, a hardy synbol of summer; while in the background is a plane tree, with the russet hues of late autumn. Not an easy picture to take, because the rose is up against a wall, so I had to manoevure myself fairly awkwardly - but hey, I'm ready to suffer for my art! Incidentally, the plane tree is one of the few that has not shed most of its leaves.

Saturday, May 19, 2007

Staple Diet

They're Ready To Pin You Down

Photograph copyright: DAVID McMAHON


I'm testing a Pentax K10D digital SLR at the moment, so I'm giving it a real workout, capturing a variety of images of as many light conditions as possible. This image just shows three staplers of different brands and styles - and it looks like they're going to eat you for lunch!

Trivia Pur$uit

The word ``deadline'' in journalism is not quite as harsh as its origin. The word came from prison camps, and referred to a demarcated line which prisoners were not permitted to cross - on pain of death.

H€adlines & D€adlines

Relationship Reaches Breaking Pint

Pointing out stories you may have missed. One last pint cost a Cumbrian man his fiancee and all of his worldly possessions. Jason Wilson, 24, wanted to stay out for a final pint but fiancee, Emma Thomason, wanted to go home. Enraged, she put everything he owned, from clothes to CDs, in his £10,000 van and drove it into the harbour near their home in Whitehaven. The couple, who have two children together, have now called off their August wedding. They had bought the wedding rings, Ms Thomason's dress and just 24 hours before the row had booked a £2,000 honeymoon to the Caribbean. The van was left in 12 feet of water. Finally, it was hauled back up the slipway using winches, which had to be attached by a professional diver.

News source: Ananova.