Friday, February 29, 2008

Post Of The Day

Today's major prize goes to Kim’s Seattle Daily Photo with the post Hope. Among the other contenders of the day were Nicole P with Haunting Photos; Daryle with This Morning and Last Night; San Merideth with Climbing Into The Past; Classy Chaos with She Nose It All; Katy Did Not with Captain Annoying and the Kindergartener; John with Sky Watch Friday and Quintarantino with Shhhh I Have A Ssssecret. Do pay them a visit and leave them a comment if you have time.

Can-Do Attitude Foils Robbery

Out, Out, Damned Post

Looking for sweet-smelling thugs? A postmistress in England drove away two gun-wielding robbers using a can of air freshener. Margaret Taylor, of Manchester, fought off two men who burst into her post office waving a gun and a knife. She picked up a bottle of Oust - which claims to do “more than just eliminate odours'' - and sprayed the raiders in the face. The fumes proved too much for the balaclava-wearing robbers and they ran for their car.

FOOTNOTE: The baffle of balaclava.

Cream Of The Crop

Segments Are A True Test Of A Picture's Worth

Photograph copyright: DAVID McMAHON

As a rule, I don't crop my photographs because I tend to frame them precisely as I want them. In fact, I think I've only ever posted one cropped photograph on this entire blog. But when I did that, earlier this year, I did get a fair amount of feedback with people asking me about the worth of cropping. Quite simply, if cropping your photograph is going to improve it - then go right ahead.

Cropping a photograph is a very simple process. It simply means that you choose to highlight a certain area of the image, while excluding some of it. It's a very handy electronic tool and the "Crop'' function is part of even the most basic imaging software.

I think the term came from the old darkroom technique, whereby you could use an enlarger to exclude a certain segment of a negative when printing it onto photographic paper. The act of leaving out a portion of the image was referred to as cropping.

There is also a school of thought that says the word derives from the old darkroom guillotines, which were used to trim the edges (or white borders) into symmetrical edges after the prints had been processed in one tank of chemicals, fixed in another tank of chemicals and dried. The photographer or darkroom assistant would then take the prints to the guillotine and meticulously trim each one, or "crop" it.

Cropping an image electronically is a simple enough process where (generally speaking) you click on the Crop icon, then outline the segment of the image that you want to retain and then double-click on it to activate and save the image as a separate entity. This leaves the original image unaltered, but "creates" a secondary shot out of it.

I shot this image (above) in Melbourne in mid-2007, during our Australian winter. I've selected it at random to show you how a solitary shot can produce many different variations, using a variety of crops.


This one (above) turns out to be an interesting skyscape, with a rich variety of colours and lots of cloud shapes being buffeted around by a strong wind.


This second option gives you a segment of sky, retaining the bold colours, while also adding the silhouette of a couple of high-rise office buildings, some trees and the big ferris wheel at Birrarung Marr.


There is is a different mood entirely to this crop (above) because you get some sky, some city skyline and the arch of Princes Bridge, as well as two canoes under the bridge.


But this (above) is my favourite crop. There is a distinctly brooding quality to this image. When you think about light being a crucial ingredient of photography, consider how little light there is here. It's almost like an old sepia print of some ancient moat, guarded by battlements.

So tell me - which is your favourite crop?

Nick Cage

Or Maybe It's An Anti-Nick Cage

A Chinese man has built a cage for his car to stop thieves nicking parts and demanding "ransom money". Mr Zhang, of Jilin city, says his car's computerised engine management system was stolen twice. "Each time I found a note clipped under the wipers, with phone and bank account numbers," he said. He has built the steel cage to enclose his car outside his home.

FOOTNOTE: Steal-belted radials.

Thursday, February 28, 2008

Post Of The Day

Today we have joint winners, so please put your hands together for Kai Blue Creations with This Ego Thing and Crazy Cath with Today I Needed My Mum. Also in the running were Miss Burrows with Choose Your Furniture Wisely; Six Months Of Settled with A Bug’s Life – And Death; Leslie's F Is For Father; RuneE's F Is For Fjord; Thoughts of Laurel with Taking In The Moment; Am'N2Deep with Shhhh I Have A Ssssecret and Slone with Depression Hurts. Do pay them a visit and leave a comment if you have the time.

Thick Skinned Customers

And They Were Really Snappy ,Too

Police and US Marshals in Ohio called for back-up from animal control when they went to the home of a suspected probation violator and found two alligators instead. Deputy US Marshal Joshua Hillard said people in the house told him the suspect wasn't home but invited the officers in. That's when they found the gators. Animal control officers was called, and an expert grabbed the reptiles.

FOOTNOTE: Gator aid.

Ex Ray Vision

An Oscar Legend Was Scene, But Not Heard

Photograph copyright: DAVID McMAHON

Watching the Oscars this week jogged my memory, while I was casting about for a post for this week's edition of ABC Wednesday. This post had to be about an F-word, so I decided on film.

Last year, in an exchange of comments with Dan, who writes Dan’s Blah Blah Blog, I noticed that he had flagged the classic movie Pather Panchali as one of his all-time favourites. I mentioned to him that I once had the honour of being at a reception with the legendary director Satyajit Ray, who directed that film and many others that are considered landmarks in the history of cinema.

Ray, you might remember, was the man who singlehandedly put India on the world cinematic map and was the recipient of a Lifetime Achievement Oscar.

You see, I was born and educated in Calcutta and Darjeeling. Calcutta was home to Ray (1921-1992) and many a creative genius. Fortunately, I can speak Bengali, so I can pronounce the late director’s name like a true Calcuttan: ``Shottojeet Rye.’’

I was in my late teens when this event took place. But I hasten to add a) that I was not introduced to him and b) this is not a gratuitous exercise in name-dropping.

A couple of my friends had been peripherally involved in Ray’s film Shatranj Ke Khilari (The Chess Players) which starred Sir Richard Attenborough as General Outram.

Because of this extremely tenuous link to the film, we had been invited to a special end-of-shooting reception at the Hotel Hindustan International. I clearly remember Ray’s low-key arrival, later in the evening than everyone else.

He came with family members, not with lackeys, nor with hangers-on. He was instantly recognisable, not just because of his chiselled features and quiet dignity, but by the power of his presence. He was a tall man, with an imposing aura. I'm well over six foot in my socks, but he was at least an inch taller than me.

Height was one thing, but when it came to stature, he left me for dead.

I remember a hush falling over the room. Awe? Probably. Reverence? Perhaps. Or a judicious mixture of both. As a spotty teenager, I did not think it was my place to walk up and shake hands with one of the city’s internationally-lauded giants.

But I wish I had. I so wish I had.

For a laugh at my 2007-series F post, check out Sigmund Fried.

Meanwhile, Back At The Village

This Shouldn't Be All About Me/Meme

Photograph copyright: DAVID McMAHON

This post has been the subject of some self-debate. Why? Because it involves me, in a roundabout sort of way. But because I'm always happy to publicise noteworthy work by other bloggers, I over-ruled my own objections and decided to post this anyway. Pay Village Secrets a visit and check out the new David McMahon Meme. Village Secrets is an expat Aussie, so please say I sent you, say "G'day" and your visit will be appreciated even more.

Yes, the white T-shirt belongs to me. It was bought for yours truly by the beautiful Mrs Authorblog, about a year ago. Guess there is an irreverent sense of humour that touches every member of my clan, huh?

And yes, the T-shirt has three Os in Google. (You noticed that, didn't you?) I don't know why, but I guess it's to avoid being sued for copyright or trademark infringement.

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Post Of The Day

Today's winner is that amazing British bruin, Bob T Bear Esq with Another Mistry Solved. Up there with the best of the day's offerings were Mushy's The Days Of Bonding - Part One; Frazz Mom's Big Brother Is Calling You; Parenting Issues with Call Me Edward Scissorhands; Epijunky's Playing EMT; Andrea's Well Of Spring Water; Valley Girl's Can’t Hardly Wait; Shrinky's Kissed By An Angel; Suldog's The Honeymoon of the Millennium and Viking Conquest with What Not To Say. Do pay them a visit and leave them a comment if you have time.

Surface Paradise

Police Officers Heed Siren Call Of The Sea

Five Welsh police officers face the sack for taking patrol cars for unauthorised day trips to the seaside. The constables, dubbed the Seaside Five by colleagues, allegedly dared each other to see how far from their Gwent base they could get without being caught. They even allegedly took photographs of each other at seaside locations and on fairground rides to prove where they had been.

FOOTNOTE: Sons of beaches.

Open And Shutter Case

A Room With A View (And Then Some)

Singapore, December 2007. Photograph copyright: DAVID McMAHON

Six Figures

Thank You To All My Readers

Just a quick vote of gratitude to all of you who read this blog. On Monday, I clocked up my 100,000th page view - as you can see from this extract from my SiteMeter stats. And last Friday, someone in Darwin became my 60,000th hit. Thank you, all of you. You validate my decision to blog.

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Post Of The Day

The grand championship of the day goes to Don Mills Diva for the post The Revolution Will Be Slow. And, in true Oscar style, the other nominees were Miss Burrows with Be Gentle When Ending A Relationship; John-Michael with Speaking the Unspeakable; Such Simple Pleasures with What Kind of Word Is Hoomalimali?; Holly's Rage Part One; Gawdess with Rising Above; Nicole P with Adventures in Driving and Utsav's Bhutanese Handicrafts. Do pay them a visit and leave them a comment if you have time.

Valentine’s Daze

Steal The Money, Then Steal Her Heart

A romantic thief who fell in love with the woman cashier at an Italian post office he robbed was caught after he went back to ask her for a date. The robber forced Lucia Marcelo to hand over the money at gunpoint at the post office in Genoa. But the next day he bought a large bunch of flowers with some of the money and returned to ask her for a date. Instead, she activated a silent alarm to the police station - and he was arrested minutes later.

FOOTNOTE: Beau tie.

Shelter Skelter

Raindrops Keep Fallin' On Me, Ed

Photograph copyright: DAVID McMAHON

Any idea what this picture shows? It's an abandoned umbrella, leaning against a brick wall. There's flecks of rust on the metal; there's grime on the fabric; there's dents on the chrome ring. And, more importantly, there's not a chance that it'll protect us from any kind of rain. When this caught my eye, I really liked the way the fabric had fallen, with two folds of yellow and two folds of white looking as though they had been artistically draped.

Yes, we had rain this weekend and already there is fresh green grass sprouting across Melbourne's lawns and nature strips. It's been a long, hot, dry summer with water restrictions in the severe drought. But it was great to see grey clouds and to hear the sound of rain. Maybe we'll have a wet March. Here's hoping.

Feeling Peckish

Sounds Like A Swan Song To Me

A six-year-old Cornish girl wrote to the Queen after being bitten by a swan - and received a written apology. Elishia Stevenson wrote to the Queen, who owns all swans under an ancient royal charter, after the bird nipped her finger in a local park. And her lady-in-waiting replied: "The Queen thought it kind of you to write and was sorry to hear about the swan."

FOOTNOTE: If the Queen phoned, it woulda been a cygnet ring.

Monday, February 25, 2008

Post Of The Day

We have joint winners today: Curly's Corner with Wonderful Story and Casdok with Our Children Teach Us. The other contenders were Crystal Jigsaw's A Day At The Beach; Mother of this lot's Food Glorious Food; Corey's N is for Naughty or Nice; Shrinky's When the proverbial hits the fan; Seamus with Midnight Moonlight Tour; Gone Back South with To My Most Timeless Friend; Rosie's She Said What?; Michal's Soapbox Time; Old Man Lincoln with Remembering Corn Cobs and Ornery’s Wife with Sunday Inspiration. Do pay them a visit and leave a comment if you can.

Bite Me

Red-Letter Day For Edible Ferrari

A life-size chocolate model of a Ferrari Formula One car has been unveiled in Italy. Confectioners spent more than a year making the car out of 4,405 pounds (2000 kilograms) of Belgian chocolate. It has now been delivered to Sorrento, near Naples, where it will be the centrepiece of a Ferrari owners’ club party. Luigi Liberti, president of the Scuderia Ferrari Club Napoli, said: "It will go on display until the weekend and then will be smashed up with hammers and handed out to party guests." To see a picture of the chocolate Ferrari, which is based on an F2008, and has a red edible coating, go to Ananova.

FOOTNOTE: Pits top.

Chain Reaction

We're Just Cogs In The Wheel

Photograph copyright: DAVID McMAHON

Mrs Authorblog and our children are quite accustomed to me stopping and photographing odd objects and sights. This gear sprocket on a seemingly forgotten cycle is not your normal choice of a photographic subject - but to me it was a compelling sight.

Interestingly, many bloggers leave comments along the lines of "we really enjoy the fact that you photograph everyday objects and turn them into interesting images". I thank all of you who have have said that. Yes, I do truly believe that the most mundane thing can be presented as a compelling photograph.

There's beauty everywhere. Most times, though, we just walk past it.

(The Odd Shots concept came from Katney. Say "G'day" to her.)

Going The Whole Hog

They're Singing For Our Supper

Familiar tune, but you didn't recognise the words? Dozens of British pig farmers gathered in London on Thursday, aiming for an Internet hit with their song "Stand by your Ham". The song reworks Tammy Wynette's "Stand by Your Man". The farmers had little or no singing experience but they are relying on affection for traditional British pork products from pies to sausages. The track will be available for download from

FOOTNOTE: Central Pork.

Sunday, February 24, 2008

The Sunday Roast #4

It's Time To Go All Misty-Eyed

This week's interview is with Misty Dawn,
who writes the blog My Dogs Keep me Sane.

The first of the standard weekly questions: Why do you blog?

When I first created my blog and started writing on it, the purpose was to help me adjust to a 750 mile move to a new state, which also moved me 750 miles away from my family and friends. Now, however, as I continue to blog, there are many new reasons. Some of those reasons are: to share my photography and writing and give myself a way to expand on my abilities and talents; to have an outlet for expressing feelings, emotions, and ideas; and, of course, to continue to interact with and build upon the friendships I have developed through blogging.

What's the story behind your blog name?

Well, My Dogs Keep Me Sane - that pretty much explains itself. I love all dogs and wish I could someday run a dog rescue. The three Border Collies that now own me are the lights of my life. They provide me with unconditional love and devotion. My dogs give me something to focus on when other things in life get too hectic or stressful.

Misty's Words - was originally started to share my creative writing - hence the name, Misty's Words. However, I have found that I am most happy sharing my photography the most, but I do still post some of my writing and ideas there.

What is the best thing about being a blogger?

Definitely the relationships you develop. I have made so many friendships throughout the world, which I hold very close to my heart. These friendships are made without the initial judgments which sometimes cloud face-to-face interactions and meetings.

What key advice would you give to a newbie blogger?

Don't get discouraged. You are not going to start a blog and instantly have readers and comments. You must visit other blogs and make comments before people will even know your blog exists. Also, build networks - visit other blogs, join networking sites, get your name out there ... as they say in Field of Dreams: "If you build it, they will come".

What is the most significant blog post you've ever read?

Oh wow, there is no way I could narrow it down to one significant blog post I have read. Each post I read has some kind of significance, whether it be that person needed advice or support or simply just someone to talk to; maybe it's a post I'm reading because I'm trying to learn how to do something; possibly it's a post I have read that made me laugh out loud when I was having a horrible day... I just simply cannot give any one post that title of the most significant I have ever read, because they are all significant to me.

What is the most significant blog post you've ever written?

Well, I've written some posts for the purpose of making my blog friends laugh, some for the purpose of sharing my grandparents' story, and some because I needed support. I guess the most significant to me were the two I wrote about my grandparents, because they were the most significant people in my life.

Ironically, each of these posts were paid posts, but they still remain the most significant posts to me (So there Google! Paid posts can be very well-thought-out and important!). My post about my grandparents on My Dogs Keep Me Sane is It's Long But Please Read This. My post about my grandparents on Misty's Words is For One You Love. I have other posts, funny posts or photography posts which people would enjoy more. However, those are the two posts which were most significant to me.

Today's Sunday Roast with Misty Dawn is the fourth in a weekly series of interviews with bloggers from around the world.

Flying Saucy

Alien Spotters Just Want Their Space

Authorities in Perm, a remote Russian region at the centre of dozens of reports of UFO sightings, have started work on a $6 million centre to attract alien spotters. Many believe Perm is regularly visited by aliens and officials want to build an observatory for people to scan the skies for UFOs, in addition to a special trail along sites of supposed UFO sightings, as well as displays and even equipment like infra-red cameras that can be rented by UFO spotters to catch aliens on film. A lawyer is even planning to open an office there to give advice on compensation to people who have been the victim of alien abduction.

FOOTNOTE: Space crafty.

Saturday, February 23, 2008

Sergeant, You've Earned Those Stripes

Sir, I Think I've Been Framed

Photographs copyright: DAVID McMAHON

Some weeks ago I was in a studio, checking on some details, when these frame samples caught my eye. I asked the manager's permission to take some shots and he agreed readily. The variety of colours was really striking and the image that immediately popped into my mind was that of a sergeant's chevrons.

Then I went from horizontal to vertical (above) to capture a different mood and a fresh perspective. This time I didn't see chevrons so much as arrow-heads. As you can see, just a slight change of approach can make a big difference.

Now take a close look at the photograph above and the photograph below. You'll see that they even work as optical illusions. Look carefully and you'll see that the sides of each frame look as though they are "bulging" outwards. The bulge seems more pronounced on the shot below - probably because it's taken from closer and is therefore a tighter image.

Then I moved a few inches to the right, and this time I zoomed in a little closer to use the contrast beteen the range of dark wood and the varieties of light wood. Now the challenge was to capture the light faithfully as it played across the different colours and surfaces, producing a dull glow on some of them and a harsh sheen on a couple of the others.

See what I mean about the sheen (above). Honestly, how often do you get the chance to work with light that is falling across so many different surfaces, so distinct in texture, reflection and absorption? In this shot the frame corners actually reminded me of angular boomerangs.

Then I moved further along the wall, because I could see the hardest challenge would be to shoot a close-up, with these medium-timber wooden frames on the left and the gold frames on the right. It's an interesting result, because every single surface has produced a different reflection of the light inside the studio.

But this is where composition becomes crucial. The angular aspect, the irregularity of the arrangement and the sharp 45-degree angles of the cut corners draw attention away from the fact that the light is of different qualities across the image.

Don't be intimidated by light. Don't back away from a challenge. Think your way around a problem and you'll always come up with a solution. Even if you have to look for frame and fortune.

Check out the Authorblog quiz at Question Time.

Friday, February 22, 2008

Post Of The Day

Today's big prize goes to that wonderful Canadian blogger Vic Grace, for Heads Or Tails. Among the other posts that caught my attention were Jeff B's I Like Mine Toasted; Kathryn's Losing My Marbles; Such Simple Pleasures with How I Came To The Realisation I’m No Longer Young; Sandy Carlson's Inspiration; Dot's Wings; Lynn's Sash Windows; Barn Goddess with Imposter II; Charles Gramlich with Titles Revisited and for some visual comic relief, I had to include Meeyauw's My Lunar Eclipse Picture. Do pay them a visit and leave a comment if you have time.

Question Time

Try and answer these questions without referring to the internet - and then leave me a comment with your answers. Yes, you can use the help of a work colleague or a family member.

  • How many in a baker’s dozen?
  • Who created the "Dennis the Menace" comic strip?
  • Which US astronaut was a senator from 1974 to 1999?
  • On which fictional street is "Desperate Housewives" set?
  • In which country was Oscar winner Russell Crowe born?
I'll post the answers later, along with the names of a) those who answered the most questions correctly and b) the person who provides the wittiest wrong answer.

Dark Vader

Yes, There's Beauty In A Moody Sky

Photographs copyright: DAVID McMAHON

One of the challenges of outdoor photography is that you have to use the existing conditions as they are. You can't change anything. You can't control anything. You can't modify anything as you would in a studio. You can't alter the light. You can't get a landscape to move. You shoot objects as they are. That's part of the joy of photography. You work the angles, you use the light, you choose your viewpoint. And yes, even when there's thick cloud cover, you can find a shot or two.

The first shot (above) in this sequence was taken from Princes Bridge here in Melbourne, looking out over the giant ferris wheel, the Melbourne Cricket Ground and the Yarra River. It was taken about seven months ago, on a bracing, cold winter morning. I took it at 1/15 sec, F4, ISO 800 and at a focal length of 125mm.

Then I took this second shot (above) with the same settings but with the focal length at 78mm. I'm sure you'll agree that even though it's the same scene, the entire ambience is different because I shifted from horizontal to vertical. I composed this shot to make the most of the sky, and to use the single shaft of golden light reflected across the river.

Finally, I shot this third frame (above) to get the whole scene in, with the focal length at only 18mm. I often get asked if I shoot in a set ratio, say, 10 frames for every one frame that I retain. No, I only shoot the frames I need. On this occasion, I shot only three frames and these are the three that I've posted here.

All Present And Correct

The challenge that I posed on the post Question Time was to answer five general knowledge questions without the help of the internet.

Just to recap: The winner of the first series of American Idol was Kelly Clarkson; the creator of Mr Bean is Rowan Atkinson; there are four US Presidents on Mount Rushmore; Batman lives in Gotham City; and the poem The Charge of The Light Brigade was written about the Crimean War.

Six people got a perfect score: Sandi McBride, Akelamalu, Brian in Oxford, Leslie, Kimberly and Ibeati. This also means that Sandi, Akelamalu, Brian and Leslie have perfect scores in both quizzes I've posted so far.

The wittiest answers came from Bradley who said the poem was written about "the Civil War led by General Electric"; and from Lime who said: "In which war did The Charge of the Light Brigade occur? One that was apparently very dark"; as well as Siddharth Khandelwal, who (very dangerously for a newlywed) said he didn't know who won American Idol but that his wife would know the answer and "she will be able to tell you all the participants in alphabetical order."

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Post Of The Day

Want a laugh? Then go straight to today's winner, Lime Mountain's Tender, Tasty, Juicy Breasts. The other contenders were Josie's E Is For English Bay; Weeder’s Digest with E Is For Euphorbia (What’s That?!) ; Mama Geek's Little People Big World; Golightly's Um, Houston, We Have A Problem; Confessions of a Coalminer’s Granddaughter with Spotted Dick; Dot's Anvil; Jenera Healy with Before I Head Out; Life According to Lizzy's I Can't Help Myself and The Egel Nest with Dear Brad The Stay-At-Home Dad. Do pay them a visit and leave them a comment if you have time.

It’s A Plot

Grave Doubts, But People Are Dying To Get In

Officials in an Italian town are selling lottery tickets - for places in the local cemetery. Marano, near Naples, has run out of room at the town's cemetery and had to create a new "emergency" graveyard containing 48 plots. Authorities feared people would try to bribe officials to get plots and decided to stage the lottery instead.

FOOTNOTE: Stiff luck.

E Is For Elephant

The Day A Toddler Made A Trunk Call

Photograph copyright: DAVID McMAHON

She was about three years old at the time. Maybe four years old, tops. The apple of her grandfather's eye, she was a fearless, fesity girl with limpid brown eyes. The eyes would take on a sparkle when she was near an animal, any animal.

She loved the cow. She loved the calf. She wanted to adopt every dog she saw. She enjoyed nothing better than getting her ayah, or carer, to take a crafty diversion on their daily walk so that she could spend time with a donkey in the vicinity. So when - surprise, surprise - an elephant handler turned up with (yes, you guessed it) a full-grown elephant, she thought all her Christmases had come at once.

An elephant? In the city? Look, this was India, a wonderful country where anything was possible. The little girl practically ran away from her ayah's grasp when the elephant hove into sight.The animal's handler spotted her and recognised her spirit. He asked her if she wanted to come for a ride.

She nodded so hard her head almost fell off at its hinges. Meanwhile, her ayah was aghast. An elephant ride? NEVER. No negotiation. Not going to happen.

But I said she was a feisty little girl, remember? She was in awe of no one; she was afraid of nothing. She was determined to get on the elephant. The ayah fled idoors to report this unseemly ambition to the little girl's mother. After all, who in their right minds would send a three-year-old off with a strange man and an elephant?

The three-year-old waited, cannily, until the ayah had disappeared from sight. Then she accepted the offer of the ride and elephant, handler, and delighted tot began to lumber down busy Diamond Harbour Road.

Bear in mind the ayah didn't know the little girl, an incandescent smile on her face, was aboard the pachyderm. She told the child's mother what was unfolding and the child's mother, shocked beyond belief, told the ayah that the child was to be strictly forbidden from getting aboard the elephant.

The child's grandfather just chuckled because that was exactly the adventurous spirit he recognised in the child and loved her for it. He went and got his camera and took a historic photograph of the big beast in the distance. The little girl had been playing dress-ups and she was clad in a miniature orange sari - the splash of orange aboard the elephant was unmistakable.

The servants gathered in awe. The family members alternated between spluttering with laughter at the little girl's audacity and shaking their heads at her, well, her audacity. The grandfather, a lateral thinker, pointed out that no kidnapping could possibly be intended - after all, where would the handler hide an elephant?

I spoke to the little girl this week. She is now a chemical engineer and she laughed at the recollections of that memorable day. She says she felt no fear. She says she felt no misgivings about her decision to get on the elephant. She even remembers the handler stopping to give the elephant some water. But she does not have the photograph of the bold deed. I think it might be with her father now, a tremendous souvenir of The Day The Elephant Came.

You see, the little girl is one of my beloved nieces. Her grandfather was my father. And it doesn't surprise me that she has some strong recollections of the day. Us McMahons, we all have memories like an elephant.

Photograph copyright: DAVID McMAHON

Wii The People

Virtual Boxing Is A Big Hit

Women's Institute members in the UK are to battle it out at sports including boxing - in a national Nintendo Wii championship. The games console has proved a hit with WI ladies in Cornwall. Now the Cornwall Sports Partnership is planning to hold a contest for women from all over the UK in the autumn. Sheila Rapson, 75, said: "I'd never even played tennis before but discovered I had a good backhand.’’

FOOTNOTE: From upper cut to upper cult.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Post Of The Day

Today's grand champion is Katy Did Not with the post Certain of my Disassociated Parts. Among the other posts that grabbed my attention were Laurel's Lovely Beginnings; Lisa Milton's It May Take More Than 40 Days, Or 4; Jules Stones with I'm Back; Lynn's Zzzzzzzzzzzzzz; Imac's Oops Butterfingers; Holly's How to Kill the Conversation at a Leaving Do; Country Cottage Chic with Back in Blogland; Days Missed on a Hammock with Art Gallery; Camikaos with Click and Classy Chaos with I Need A Chill Pill. Do pay them a visit and leave a comment if you have time.

Go Forth

A Bridge Too Fair

An end is finally in sight to the famously "never-ending" British job of painting the Forth Rail Bridge. It's said that as soon as workmen finish painting the massive 19th century bridge they have to begin all over again. But a new long-lasting paint is being used that should last for 25 years, and could have a lifespan of up to 40 years.

FOOTNOTE: See your doctor if paint persists.

Slide Advantage

You're Now Entering The Red Zone

Playground, Birrarung Marr, Melbourne. Copyright: DAVID McMAHON

Prime Number

He’s Got A Lot On His Plate

A license plate with nothing but the number "1" on it went for a record $13.5 million at a charity auction in the United Arab Emirates on the weekend. Saeed Khouri said: “I bought it because it's the best number. I bought it because I want to be the best in the world." The record sale surpassed the $6.8 million that was paid for an Emirati licence plate at an earlier auction with the number "5" on it.

FOOTNOTE: Number one on the hit parade.

Check out the Authorblog quiz at Question Time.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Post Of The Day

Today's gold trophy goes to Cicero Sings with the post Sitting Out. The other posts that caught my attention were Just Joni with Beautiful Day; Bubba’s Sis with Cell Phone Soap Opera; Kimberly's Ups and Downs; Kathryn with Big Mama; Katney's Kaboodle with Not Your Ordinary Wrecking Yard; Fat Hairy Bastard with Had a Great Weekend; Mushy with Another Day I Almost Died; Gawdess with Caged Heart and Kimmy with Party Like a Rock Star. Do visit them and leave a comment if you can.

Question Time

Try and answer these questions without referring to the internet - and then leave me a comment with your answers. Yes, you can use the help of a work colleague or a family member.

  • Who won the first American Idol title?
  • Which British comedian plays the role of Mr Bean?
  • How many US Presidents are carved into Mount Rushmore?
  • Which comic-book hero lives in Gotham City?
  • In which war did the Charge of the Light Brigade occur?
I'll post the answers later this week, along with the names of a) those who answered the most questions correctly and b) the person who provides the wittiest wrong answer.

Five O'Clock Shadow

Light And Shade Under A Tropical Sky

Photograph copyright: DAVID McMAHON

This was a strange moment, but I'm so glad I followed my instincts. I had spent most of the day in Singapore shooting different aspects of the city under a sullen tropical sky. Twice the heavens opened and twice I had to take shelter, away from the streets, to protect my precious camera. Late in the evening I made my way to the area known as Little India and as I walked through an arcade, the sun scythed dramatically through the clouds for a few brief moments.

The rich shadows on this mustard-coloured wall intrigued me. It was as if the scene had taken on a personality of its own and was inviting me to capture the rich mix of dappled and strong horizontal shadows. I don't know who the person was, leaning languidly against a wall. But he was a perfect counterpoint for the bright paintwork on the mailbox that was at arm's length away from him.

I was still separated from him by an entire street-width. Would I wait? Would I start shooting? The sun ebbed, as if it were teasing me. The man and the mailbox were practically the same height, a perfect counterpoint to each other. There was always the danger that he would change position or walk away - and the shot would be lost forever.

The sun returned and I swung the camera up quickly to shoot three frames before the clouds obliterated the sun entirely. But there was a busy street in front of me. A taxi appeared in one frame, a car in another. This one had just what I wanted. Just lucky.

Screen Grab

His Life Is Like A Movie

An Italian man who disappeared with $70,000 and his mistress was found after he was spotted as an extra in a movie scene. Detectives employed by his wife could not track down the man, a 45-year-old shop owner. Then, a friend watching the popular movie "Natale in Crociera" (Christmas on a Cruise) saw him and his mistress in the background of a scene. The movie was shot in the Dominican Republic and his wife has now traced him and launched legal proceedings demanding return of the money.

FOOTNOTE: Extra, extra, read all about him.

Monday, February 18, 2008

Mars Is His Mission

Naked Cowboy Wants Sweet Revenge

New York's Naked Cowboy is suing Mars (the confectionery giant, not te planet) for millions of dollars for "stealing" his image. Robert Burck is unhappy that a blue M&M was dressed in his skimpy trademark outfit for a video billboard advertisement. The ad, which shows the animated sweet in a white hat, boots, guitar and underwear, attracts customers to M&M's Times Square store. It is virtually identical to the outfit worn by the Naked Cowboy each day in Times Square, where he has become a tourist attraction. The candy-coated chocolate electronic alter ego has since disappeared from two video billboards.

FOOTNOTE: He's been spurred on.

Ebony And Ivory (And Crimson As Well)

It Looks A Trifle Off-Key, Maestro

Photograph copyright: DAVID McMAHON

I'm always game for a photography challenge, so I'd like to bring Katney's Kaboodle to your attention. Her new theme is "Odd Shots on Monday" and since it's already Monday morning here in Australia, here's my first Odd Shot. I took this in a restaurant about six months ago, while the members of a jazz quartet were taking a break.

I was actually shooting a double bass that was more than a century old when I noticed that three of the keys on this keyboard looked crimson. Don't worry, it's not a radical new musical movement. No had anyone daubed the keys with trifle. Their black surface was simply reflecting some overhead lighting. There was no note of discord. It was just a trifling matter.

All Present And Correct

The challenge that I posed on the post Question Time was to answer five general knowledge questions without the help of the internet. Judging by the number of readers who turned in perfect scores, you're all ready for Mensa.

Just to recap: The person who lives at No. 10 Downing Street is Gordon Brown, the British Prime Minister; Wyle E. Coyote's enemy is The Road Runner; the last two US Presidents to share he same surname are indeed the Bushes; 2000 hours on a 24-hour clock is 8pm; the person who lit the flame at the Atlanta Olympics was Muhammad Ali.

All these people answered correctly: Kimmy, KatyDidNot, Katney's Kaboodle, Sandi McBride, Vic Grace, Jeni, Skittles, photographer and honorary blogger Siddharth Khandelwal, Lee, Brian in Oxford, Sandy Kessler, Daryle, Kai, Leslie, House of Lime, Terry Fletcher, Suldog and Akelamalu.

The wittiest answers came from Sharon, KatyDidNot, House of Lime and Imac.

Thank you to all those who took part. There will be another fun quiz in the next 24 hours.

Sunday, February 17, 2008

Weekend Wandering

Please answer today's question on your own blog, any time until next weekend. Just link to this blog (or to this post) so I can follow the progress of the discussion. The question is:

Who REALLY rules the TV remote control in your house?

The Sunday Roast #3

Ramblings Of A Hawk-Eyed Blogger

This week's interview is with Stacy,
who writes the blog Rambling Traveler.

The first of the standard weekly questions: Why do you blog?

I actually wrote a post on the reasons I blog, but I've found my reasons are changing. I started Rambling Traveler to share my travel stories and write about travel in general, and while that is still one of my reasons, I find myself continuing it more because of the things I'm learning, and the people I've met.

What's the story behind your blog name?

When I was thinking about starting my blog, I listed several travel-related words, and travel and ramble kept catching my eye. My brother was helping me choose a name, and between the two of us, Rambling Traveler was created. I loved it, because the definition of Ramble included wandering for pleasure. I used that to create my tag line ... a journey without a definite route, taken merely for pleasure. The Rambling could mean traveling or my writing, as I sometimes veer off the topic of travel. It also tied in to my desire to slow down, while traveling and at home, and taking time to enjoy life.

What is the best thing about being a blogger?

The best thing about blogging is when readers like what you write and let you know by leaving comments or by using social bookmarks like StumbleUpon or The idea that something you wrote can help or affect someone else is incredible. That community of readers is also a great support when you aren't feeling creative or motivated. (The second best thing is the incredible high you get when you have a good idea, and the writing expresses exactly what you want it to.)

What key advice would you give to a newbie blogger?

Decide what your main goal is for writing your blog and write with that goal in mind. It's also important to be yourself, because that comes through in your writing. Your "voice" should be who you are, not who you are trying to be. Some of the best advice I've read is from blogs on blogging, including ProBlogger and Daily Blog Tips.

What is the most significant blog post you've ever read?

The most significant blog post I've ever read. Yikes, that is a tough one. There have been posts that made me laugh until my face hurt, posts on blogging that gave me great advice, and some wonderful travel stories that inspired me, but the post that keeps coming to my mind is Deborah Gamble's Don't Run Away With the Cows... That is one of my favorite all-time reads, and I really hope she does put it in a book someday.

What is the most significant blog post you've ever written?

The most significant blog post that I've written. Another tough one. According to my readers, that would be Wall Murals of Quebec City. For me, though, it would be Respectful Travel.

Today's Sunday Roast with Stacy is the third in a weekly series of interviews with bloggers from around the world.

Twenty Thousand Leaks Under The Sea

Shall We Pool Our Resources?

Photograph copyright: DAVID McMAHON

Fortunately I had my camera with me as this vehicle pulled out of a parking spot yesterday. The name of the business caught my eye, but so did the great caricature of the "inspecta". There was no time to compose a frame or choose settings on the camera, so I just had to hit the shutter as the driver pulled away from the kerb.

The best business name I've ever seen was a couple of years ago, on the side of a grand old converted hearse. The huge windows of the hearse were draped with splendid curtains, advertising the curtain-making skills of the business. And the name painted on the side? "It's Curtains For You".

If I went into business, I'd probably become a plumber. Not because I have any plumbing skills at all, but because I could call my business "The Damp Busters".

So tell me, what's the best business name you've seen? Or, if you could choose a wacky business name, what would it be?

Saturday, February 16, 2008

Pressure Tactics

Putting On Airs And Graces

Photographs copyright: DAVID McMAHON

These shots were taken this week, at one of our local service stations. We all pay for petrol. We all pay for oil. We all pay for everything else, but not for the air we put in our tyres. That's still free, so I thought this photograph was perfect for this week's Photo Hunt theme.

The theme reminds me of a great story about a very close friend of mine. About seven years ago, he asked me about the wording of an advertisement for new cars on offer at a major dealership. "Free air", the ad proclaimed in bold letters.

"Yes," I answered, "that's fairly normal."

But he was still puzzled. "Why make a big deal about free air in the tyres?"

That's when I looked left and right to see if anyone else was listening in. Very quietly, I told him that "free air" didn't refer to properly inflated tyres. It meant there was no additional cost if a buyer chose an air-conditioned car instead of a non air-conditioned car!

But if we really think about it, there is no shortage of free products. Blogging is free. Email accounts are free. Local newspapers are free. In come countries, local phone calls are free.

And what of the other treasures of everyday life? They're all free, and where would we be without them? Friendship. Love. Advice. Prayer. Faith. Courage. Laughter. Fellowship. Reliance. Help. Support. Loyalty. Trustworthiness. Honour. Respect. They were the cornerstone of the upbringing that my brothers and I received from our parents, and they are the watchwords we have passed on, in turn, to our own children.

And if you want free roses, just drop into our home and you can help yourself to as many as you want. These roses are called Chicago Peace. They are huge blooms, larger than the palm of my hand and they have a wonderful, subtle fragrance. It's also interesting to see the colours they span. Have a look at this shot of a bud that just started opening in my garden ....

Now have a look at the same flower a couple of days later (below). I took this shot indoors and you can see that the bloom, in a vase, has taken on much more pastel shades. I guess that brings me to the conclusion of this post. Allow me to point out another thing of great beauty that we often take for granted - Mother Nature.