Monday, June 30, 2008

Post Of The Day

Today’s winners are Samhlaigh with Amy And Theresa and Suburbia with Pecking Order. The other top contenders were Lin with Do Na Da Go Hv I, U Na Li I; Dan Mega with Sometimes; Angelaboration with Chameleon; Retired And Crazy with What Are You Most Afraid Of?; Kathryn with Child’s Faith; Sandi McBride with Gazebo; Kahshe Cottage with Yellow; Jennifer Harvey with The Prevailing Winds; Nurse Ratched with On The Couch With Darth Vader. Do pay them a visit and leave a comment if you have time.

You can nominate a post too. Just leave a comment here with the URL or link - and tell us the name of the blogger you are nominating. Righty-o, then, it's over to you ....

Verse And Worse

Random Wit, Errant Rhyme. Not A Literary Crime

In the town of Onkaparinga
You'll never have to lift a finger
They've got a bloke whose name is Jeeves
He wears gold epaulettes on his sleeves

Taking Leaf Of My Senses

Looking For Colour Under A Wintry Sky

Photographs copyright: DAVID McMAHON

Even under a grey sky, there is always a photo to be taken. We’ve had a lot of sunshine this week, which is typical of Melbourne winters, but one afternoon the weather was really starting to close in.

So I figured I would walk out and spend just five minutes finding something colourful to photograph against the dull sky. About a minute after I walked outdoors, I saw this beautiful creeper on the side of a walkway at the Victorian Arts Centre. I took the first shot (above) to emphasise the angle and to get the most out of the burgundy foliage against the grey concrete.

Then I took the second shot (below) at a more shallow angle. It’s interesting to note that the chrome handrail is almost blending with the featureless sky above. Just goes to prove, in inclement weather, there is always something to focus your attention (and your camera) on if you look carefully.

Now I’d like you to tell me which of the two shots you prefer. Over to you …

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

The Ape Crusader

You Pay Peanuts, You Get, Er, Monkeys

Town hall staff in a Polish town have put a chimp on the payroll - as a tourism promotions inspector. The 17-year-old ape, called Bobby, is being paid about $140 a month in Radkow to plug a district called Table Mountains which has a cluster of outcrops known locally as Monkey Rock.

FOOTNOTE: Chimp off the old block.

Sunday, June 29, 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: Do you ever procrastinate?
(Okay, so don't postpone this project!)

Verse And Worse

Random Wit, Errant Rhyme. Not A Literary Crime

Avoid the breeze
Dodge the hail
Before each gale

Panda Monium

The Suspense Was Too Much To Bear

Photographs copyright: DAVID McMAHON

Okay, I have to admit I had a smile on my face when I saw this poster on Wednesday morning. I was in the underpass at Flinders Street Station when I noticed it and even though I had my camera bag on my shoulder, I knew it would be futile to try and take the shot immediately.

Why? Because it was peak hour and there were hundreds of commuters hurrying past it. And there was an added degree of difficulty. You see, this was one of the special scrolling posters that are so popular at Melbourne train stations. Each hoarding displays three posters – each of which is on view for just seven seconds before a roller mechanism pulls it swiftly upwards and replaces it with the next one.

I’m game for anything, generally speaking, when it comes to a good photo. But I wasn’t going to stand there and wait for a brief moment of opportunity while city workers surged past. So I kept walking. But the smile grew bigger on my face.

I sort of liked the idea of teeming humanity, just because of the reality of the shot. So I figured it would be best to go back to the same spot at lunchtime, when the rush started again. There’s nothing like a ``complicating factor’’ to introduce a bit of a challenge to a simple photograph.

I had the 70-300mm Sigma lens on the camera – so in order to get the whole poster into my lens, I had to back a few metres away, into an alcove/ walkway. For the first shot (above) I took a clean version of the poster, with no interruption.

For the second version (below) I had to wait a few minutes to get a passer-by frozen slap-bang in the middle of the poster. For this shot, timing was everything. No confusion, just Kung fusion.

And for the last version, I had to wait once again to get just one person into the edge of the frame, with the panda still visible. It made for a very interesting fifteen minutes, all up.

I always tell my kids that if I had to write ad blurbs for movies, I would have called Finding Nemo "A fish called wander". I guess I could write one for Kung Fu Panda as well. Hmmmmm, how about "King Kung"?

Check out the rules at Camera Critters or go to Misty Dawn.

The Sunday Roast

Meet Debbie, The Safest Gamble Of All Time

This week's interview is with Deborah Gamble,
who writes the blog Uncommon Notions.

The first of the standard questions. Why do you blog?

I blog for many reasons. Recording funny anecdotes, and preserving childhood memories are two top reasons I will be found in front of a computer screen until the wee hours of the morning writing and rewriting my latest bit of prose.

What's the story behind your blog name?

In my search for a blog name that offered a subtle rhyme and was also an available standalone url (without the suffix .blogspot) I chose Uncommon Notions. In hindsight it has too many n's and is far too low in the alphabet.

What is the best thing about being a blogger?

Meeting so many wonderful blog friends has added an unexpected measure of joy to my blogging hobby. It is amazing how someone in San Francisco stumbled on my blog and suggested her parents read it. They were regular readers for some time before they realized they were my sister's next-door neighbors! Blogland is beautiful terrain!

What key advice would you give to a newbie blogger?

My advice to a new blogger is to read a variety of blogs, leave meaningful comments, and enjoy the abundance of new-found blog friends.

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

While its significance may be questionable, certainly the most anticipated blogpost I ever read was when one of my sisters was waiting for a summary from her blind date on their lunch meeting. We checked the blogger's url several times a day before being abundantly surprised with not a single but actually a three-part blog post at I Am Happy Today.

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

It could be argued that the first blogpost Got Milk? Nope? How 'Bout Laundry? I ever wrote was the most significant. I did not entirely foresee its impact as it hurled me into a new hobby. I felt strongest about writing Why Did God Make This Place?.

Today's Sunday Roast with Deborah Gamble is the 22nd in a weekly series of interviews with bloggers from around the world.

Life And Death Situation

Sounds Like A Case Of Dead Reckoning

That's some undertaking! Ukrainian undertakers say they have built the world's first death-themed restaurant - in a coffin that is 22 metres (65 feet) long. The huge casket is decorated with dozens of wreaths and normal-sized coffins. Thirty cubic metres of pine have been used for the construction of the restaurant, called Eternity.

FOOTNOTE: Coffin fit.

Saturday, June 28, 2008

Verse And Worse

Random Wit, Errant Rhyme. Not A Literary Crime

Beside the gum trees, in the heat
Where the track and creek do meet
You’ll find the pub, a small tin shack
Where you can drink with Thirsty Jack

All Things Bright And Beautiful

All Features Great And Small

Photographs copyright: DAVID McMAHON

A couple of days after I bought my 300mm lens, I was walking through Southbank at dawn. It was about three months ago and so we were still in mid-autumn and the days were still quite warm, whereas we’re deep into winter now.

I thought I’d wait and see what the dawn was like, but I was disappointed because there was some low cloud and there were no stunning colours to capture. But the cloud cleared to a thin band across the horizon and as the sun rose into a clear sky, I realised that the real shot was not the sun itself, but its reflection on this office block across the river.

I’m estimating the building was about four hundred metres (yep, almost half a kilometre) away from where I was standing, so the 300mm lens was just perfect for what I was trying to achieve. The tight vertical frame (above) was an interesting composition, but I quickly realised that a vertical frame would capture the majestic sight with a bit more perspective.

I guess this experience reinforced my opinion that even when you think there is nothing for you to photograph, there is always something, if you look all around. Nature never disappoints us.

Gran Master

The Beat Goes On

Italian soldiers are being beaten up daily by a tiny, 77-year-old Japanese grandmother – on the orders of their superior officers. Martial arts expert Keiko Wakabayshi tells them: "The physique doesn't matter." Senior officers hope the experience of being humiliated will toughen up their soldiers.

FOOTNOTE: Corporals’ punishment.

Friday, June 27, 2008

Arch Weigh

It's All About Looking At The Big Picture

Photograph copyright: DAVID McMAHON

For a bloke who’s fairly observant, there are some things that completely escape my attention. I can multi-task, but sometimes – just sometimes - my powers of speech desert me while my brain nimbly juggles several equations.

Take Wednesday evening, for example. I was marshalling about six different thought processes on a very busy, very gusty, very cold, sub-Arctic evening when I announced to the beautiful Mrs Authorblog and the Authorbloglets that I was going to put the pork steaks in the washing machine and that I had already put the swimming gear and wet towels on the barbecue.

They trust me. No, really, they trust me.

All Mrs Authorblog did was to raise one eyebrow. And yes, I assured her the swimming gear HAD been correctly programmed in the washing machine. And yes, the pork steaks DID get sensationally cooked on the barbecue, even if the wind chill on the summit on Everest was considerably less cruel than it was in wintry Melbourne.

The same sort of thing happened when I shot these photos a few days ago. Let me just ask you this question – do you, like me, think through your lens when you have a camera in your hands? Is your thought process governed by what you see through your viewfinder? If you answered yes to both of the above, then you’ll empathise with what I’m about to tell you.

I was walking down Elizabeth Street when I noticed these graceful arches on the side of a building across the street. I liked the weather-beaten effect on the building’s façade, and the intricate work on the horizontal columns. So I shot the first frame (above) in a tight composition governed by the shape of the arches.

Then I thought it would be nicer to get another point of reference into the shot. Without putting the camera down, this is what I did next. I kept looking through the viewfinder. I had the camera in my right hand, comfortably gripping the stock of the Pentax. At the same time, I used my left hand to manipulate the focal length of the 18-125 lens. It’s kinda standard practice for me.

As I opened up the frame slightly, working the lens anti-clockwise, I saw a yellow-and-orange signboard below. Yup. The colours were the perfect foil for the grey exterior of the building, as you’ll see from the shot below.

``Bookstore,’’ I thought to myself as I hit the shutter. It was only a split-second later that the light came on in my brain and I realised what kind of bookstore it was.

Visit Mama Geek and Cecily, creators of Photo Story Friday.

Post Of The Day

Today’s winners are Quinttarantino with Homage To A Shipyard and Suldog with Dorothy. The other top contenders were Jim with Volcanic Sunrise; Sandpiper with Blaze of Glory; Kimberly with Bloggomorphosis; Old Man Lincoln with Lily; Jo Beaufoix with I Have No Idea; Fishing Guy with Florida Sunset; Hilary with Butterfly Wings; Jennifer Harvey with Where’s My Walker?; Joy Is My Goal with Are You Tired? and Holly with How I Became A Software Engineer In Wales. Do pay them a visit and leave a comment if you have time.

You can nominate a post too. Just leave a comment here with the URL or link - and tell us the name of the blogger you are nominating. Righty-o, then, it's over to you ....

Verse And Worse

Random Wit, Errant Rhyme. Not A Literary Crime

Take a gander at the panda, er
Has he been a bad philanderer?
Has he been fighting for a prize?
With not just one, but two black eyes

Homage To Heavenly Bodies

Yes, I Really Am A Morning Person

Photographs copyright: DAVID McMAHON

It's not every day that you get an opportunity like this, with the waning moon on your right and the dawning sun on your left. I shot these frames last week. My attention was first caught by the moon, sitting regally above a scattered band of cloud in the west.

It was a really interesting sky and the effect is double the value when you look at the surface of the river, with the gentle variations of blue mingling with the dark shadows under the bridge. Looking beyond the office buildings, some in shadow and some bathed in light, you can even see the construction work in the Docklands area.

This second shot (below) was taken a few seconds later. Looking to the other side of the bridge, the rising sun was reflected in the windows of the Victorian Arts Centre, rendering it as a golden fireball and casting some warmth across the winter morning.

There are plane trees planted all along Southbank and it's been a few weeks since they dropped their huge maple-like leaves. Less than two minutes after I shot the frame of the moon, I was able to use the bare branches of this plane tree to emphasise the beautiful hues of the sky. I angled the shot really carefully, to get about five trees into the shot, all of them looking like a row of stark, silent sentinels.

I was about to walk away when I figured I could go right up close to the nearest tree and use not just its branches but also utilise its trunk as well to provide an interesting - but not overwhelming - effect across the shot.

For other participants in Dot’s concept, go to Sky Watch Friday.

Building Sight

Cor, Gertrude, Cop A Load Of That

A college in the UK has banned its female students from wolf-whistling at builders. Girls at West Kent College have been advised that whistling constitutes harassment and is unacceptable. Officials sent an email to all pupils warning that the behaviour was "totally unacceptable", and saying any students caught harassing contractors would face disciplinary action.

FOOTNOTE: Whistle stop tour.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Post Of The Day

Today’s joint winners are A Mask To Hide Behind with Fear and Maggie May with The Story Of The Roly-Poly Poo. The other contenders were Mama & Me From PDX with W Is For Wonderful; Travelling, But Not In Love with London, Ontario; Nessa with Sunrise; Dot with Spider Web; Seamus with Two Words And Then Two More and Then …; Geneva Daily Photo with W Is For Wheel; Daryle with Waffle Iron; Dancing With Daisy with What Is Going On In My Yard When I’m Not Looking?; Organic Mom with Tumor Update; Grit’s Day with 21st June 2008 and Uncle Joe with High School Reunion. Do pay them a visit and leave a comment if you have time.

You can nominate a post too. Just leave a comment here with the URL or link - and tell us the name of the blogger you are nominating. Righty-o, then, it's over to you ....

Verse And Worse

Random Wit, Errant Rhyme. Not A Literary Crime

Ship ahoy,
Captain Foy,
Check the fog
For an old sea dog

Ripple Effect

Here's My Watertight Argument

Photograph copyright: DAVID McMAHON

The way light plays across any object – be it a landscape or a living thing – always endows it with a certain uniqueness. Because a scene is lit in a certain way at midday today does not mean it will be lit in exactly the same way at midday tomorrow. That, to me, is one of the great joys of photography.

When I was about twelve years old, I had an old Box Brownie in a leather case. Late one evening, I once saw a full moon playing across the surface of a pond, so I picked up the camera and shot the scene.

Weeks later, when I had finally finished the twelve-exposure roll and my Dad had it developed for me, I was completely downcast. As I studied the little black-and white prints, I could not understand how my splendid shot of the moon and its own reflection was nothing but lots of inky blackness, a little white dot for the moon and a pencil-thin spear of light across the bottom of the picture instead of the wonderful shimmering reflection I had seen.

Looking back on it now, I guess that single experience, that single shot, is the sole reason I enjoy using my camera in very low-light conditions. Balancing the constant equation of shutter speed, aperture and focal length can still be a testing experience – but hell, it’s great fun. And on a digital SLR, it’s a huge advantage to be able to review your image instantly and re-shoot it if you’re not satisfied.

I’ve photographed this scene across the Yarra, looking towards Princes Bridge, several times. I’ve shot it in pre-dawn blackness to capture reflections, I’ve shot it under clear blue skies, I’ve shot it under grey, moody skies. A river is a wonderful thing to photograph, because it mirrors light, it mirrors conditions and it mirrors everything around and above it.

I was walking across the pedestrian footbridge last week when I noticed the way the early-morning sunlight – just as the moonlight caught my attention all those years ago – was dancing across the water like some lean, incandescent lightsabre. Naturally, I had to stop and get my camera out. I had a 70-300mm lens with me, but I shot it with the versatile 18-125mm lens instead.

Why did I shoot it vertically instead of horizontally? It all depends on what you’re trying to highlight in the shot – and in this case I was able to capture the shimmer in the middle of the frame, with just one span of the three-span bridge and the giant ferris wheel in the background.

So don’t be afraid to use your camera in any weather. You just never know what sort of light you’ll be blessed with.

Hell’s Bells

The Thieves Were On Their Metal

Police in Hungary are looking for thieves who made off with a 300-kilogram (660-pound) stone copper bell from the top of a church tower. Local priest Father Peter Bottyan only realised it had gone when he went to ring it one morning. Police said: "It would have taken a crane and dozens of men to get that down."

FOOTNOTE: Bats in the bell free.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Post Of The Day

Today’s joint winners are Kathryn with Melancholy Me and Quilldancer with From My Sermon. The other top contenders were Dishing With Debbie with Zame Zing, No?; Travelling But Not In Love with Threat De La Musique; Tiffany Norris with A Sense of Place; Max-e with Jacaranda; Kate Isis with Why Do Great Ideas Occur In Crappy Weather?; Katney's Kaboodle with Odd Shot Monday; EsNorway with Wood; John with W Is For … and Ellen B with Weather Vanes. Do pay them a visit and leave a comment if you have time.

You can nominate a post too. Just leave a comment here with the URL or link - and tell us the name of the blogger you are nominating. Righty-o, then, it's over to you ....

Verse And Worse

Random Wit, Errant Rhyme. Not A Literary Crime

Here comes Mikey
Finders keepers
Where's his psyche?

It's A Date, Mate

Looking For Palm Pilots?

Photograph copyright: DAVID McMAHON

Wii The People

I Guess I'm Game For Anything

Photograph copyright: DAVID McMAHON

Can you identify what I’ve photographed? If you have kids, chances are you might recognise this object. If not, there is a giveaway clue in the post title - but I’m sure you’ll still be scratching your head as you examine the unique pattern on the left-hand side of the object in the frame above.

The weekend brought much-needed rain across Melbourne and the state of Victoria. Saturday, in particular, saw dreary skies, a leaden dawn and a formless sunset. Midway through the afternoon, the sun suddenly made a brief appearance the rough thick cloud.

At the time, I was in the rumpus room and I noticed that the shallow winter sun was casting a beautiful shadow, etching the pattern of the lace curtain across the Wii that the Authorbloglets use. I quickly reached for my camera and the sun, almost on cue, retreated behind the bank of cloud and the shadow disappeared.

For the next half-hour, it was like a game of cat and mouse. The same situation was repeated about six times, while I tried to capture the clearest possible representation of the shadow across the surface of the Wii.

Just for the record, I am a fairly decent but not spectacular player on the old Nintendo 64. I am not great on a PlayStation. But when it comes to the Wii, I am simply woeful. As a reasonable tennis player in my time, I have a wicked kick serve, a whipping backhand, a decisive forehand and I belt the ball as hard as I can. But any time you want an easy victory, challenge me to a game of tennis on the Wii. I’m like a very powerful vacuum cleaner. I suck.

But the photography exercise that afternoon (while the Authorbloglets giggled at my antics as the sun’s rays ebbed and flowed) gave me the perfect platform for a W post. Forget Winter. Forget Weekend. Go for Wii - and here are the pictures to go with it, to boot.

There is a very funny Wii-related story I’d like to share. Some months ago a very good friend of mine who has four children said her youngest daughter had a very sore elbow. Her mother explained, grinning, that it was probably a bad case of the classic injury, the get-out-of-doing-my-homework complaint. She said it tongue-in-cheek, but we could both see that the little girl was in a fair degree of discomfort.

I could see no bruising, no broken skin, no external evidence of any injury. The little girl then volunteered the information that she had been in severe pain since the previous evening. I got her point. As a father of three, I could see that she was telling me the injury pre-dated the homework.

The next day, I bumped into them again. The little girl had her customary bright smile back on her face. I asked her mother if the homework had been completed. Yes, was the answer. But there was an intriguing postscript.

They went to their family doctor. He inspected the arm and asked about the nature of the pain. He rubbed his chin. Then he asked the little girl what she had done that week.

"Lots of homework," was the defensive reply.

But he asked the child what she had done every evening before he made a careful diagnosis. There was not a doubt in his mind that the child had a really bad case of tennis elbow.

"So," I asked the mother, "she’ll be missing a few weeks of tennis lessons, then?"

The mother was genuinely puzzled. Then she explained the child didn’t play tennis.

But she had sustained the injury by playing three solid hours of Wii tennis against her older brother.

For the home of ABC Wednesday, go to Mrs Nesbitt's Place.

Butt Of The Joke

Would You Want Toilet Humour At A Wedding?

Onlookers have been gaping at six stunning wedding dresses displayed at Ripley's Believe It or Not! in New York's Times Square. The fashionable white frocks were fashioned entirely of toilet paper. Six dresses were displayed and the top prize went to Katrina Chalifoux’s sheath dress with a raised flower pattern from moulded toilet paper.

FOOTNOTE: Over throne.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Post Of The Day

Today’s joint winners are Fat Hairy Bastard with Family Drama and Ornery’s Wife with What Do You Fear. The other contenders were Woman In A Window with Dastardly Evilness; San Merideth with A Brief But Very Large Life; Down River Drivel with Of Worries, Fears And Tears; Hilary with First Rose; Maggie May with Fears In Abundance; Rhea with My Mission To Reach The Kitchen; Willow Manor with My Handsome Young Visitor and Kimmy with Our Summer Adventure Begins. Do pay them a visit and leave a comment if you have time.

You can nominate a post too. Just leave a comment here with the URL or link - and tell us the name of the blogger you are nominating. Righty-o, then, it's over to you ....

Verse And Worse

Random Wit, Errant Rhyme. Not A Literary Crime

Expect no leeway
On the freeway
It’s every driver for himself
Unless you have a magic elf

Trash Talk

Don’t Rubbish My Claim

Photographs copyright: DAVID McMAHON

Some weeks ago, Maggie May made the very public statement that she believed I could probably produce an artistic shot of a simple bowl of peas. Crazy Cath echoed her words and so I simply had to rise to the challenge.

When I posted the results at The Nobel Peas Prize, Texan blogger Rhea threw down the next gauntlet. She figured I should be able to capture a decent shot of trash. Yep. Trash. Now, as you know, there’s trash and there’s Trash. And Rhea wanted an artistic shot. Strewth! High degree of difficulty there.

Yesterday I was walking past Flinders Street Station when I noticed that someone had put this "wheelie bin" (that’s what we call garbage bins here in Australia) on the footpath. Now here’s an interesting distinction. Bins with green lids are for garbage, while bins with blue lids are for recycling.

Yes, there's garbage in this bin, but up the top you can also clearly see cardboard cartons, hence by definition they are recyclable items. But because they were in a green bin, they'd be collected as garbage. So Rhea, here’s your shot. Garbage by definition and by category. Nice neat edges and a variety of angles, too.

And just so you know the shot is distinctly Melbourne in flavour, take a look at the yellow object in the background, on the right of the frame. It's clearly visible in the shot below, where I've used a wider frame.

That is a typical Melbourne landmark. They are concrete barriers erected at tram stops, painted bright yellow for visibility and shaped like the trademark Nike swoosh.

When I was uploading those images onto my blog, my son pointed out an extra feature that I hadn't noticed. No, really, I hadn't noticed! He told me that the edge of one of the cartons (which shows up clearly as darker brown than the rest) looks like the silhouette of a duck.

So it’s over to you now – just let me know of you think I passed the ``trash test’’.

Just don’t tell me I’m a trash test dummy.

Air Forced One

Maybe It Was The Venus Flying Trap

A police helicopter in Wales pursued a UFO after almost colliding with it over a military base near Cardiff. The pilot was forced to bank sharply to avoid being hit by the mystery aircraft and the crew, who described the UFO as "flying saucer-shaped", gave chase as far as the north Devon coast before they ran low on fuel.

FOOTNOTE: Flying sorcerer.

Monday, June 23, 2008

Post Of The Day

Today's winners are Mrs Nesbitt with Family Fortunes - Dream On and Celebration of Life with I Had A Dream. The other top contenders were Kimberly with Won't You Be My Neighbour?; Carolyn with A Rose Is A Rose Is A Rose; Super Hot Mama's House with You Know You're Potty Training When ...; Pat An Arkansas Stamper with Ruckus On My Roof; Camikaos with Lack Of Photographic Evidence; Beachy's Cape Cod Cupboard with Dreams Really Do Come True; The Lehners In France with Porn Star Moi?; Colleen with Half A Dozen Roses; In The Gutter with Face Your Fate - Or Fete If You’re In England and Crazy Cath with Camera Critters #11. Do pay them a visit and leave a comment if you have time.

You can nominate a post too. Just leave a comment here with the URL or link - and tell us the name of the blogger you are nominating. Righty-o, then, it's over to you ....

Verse And Worse

Random Wit, Errant Rhyme. Not A Literary Crime

I went to school with a bloke called Kenny
He'd simply freeze when he was panickin'
You can visit him now at J. C. Penney
They've hired him as a real-life mannekin

Bell Hop

I Must Have Got My Wires Crossed

Photograph copyright: DAVID McMAHON

This shot was taken in Calcutta in mid-October 2006. I was there during the string of Hindu religious festivals known as the Pujas, the time of year when the entire city wears a festive air.

The Puja season in Calcutta, as it is in any Indian city, is a time to look up. There are lights festooned across streets, there are lights draped across buildings, there are lights at every pandal, the Indian word for a temporary structure that is a place of devotion and celebration.

There are sounds, too, that identify the time as being typical of the season. There are the sounds of amplified music on every street corner, there are the sounds of fireworks as well. Calcutta is transformed not just by the spirit of worship, but by the spirit of festive commerce as well.

I shot this frame near a pandal, because of one simple factor. In the years when I was growing up in India, I never saw bells used as a decorative motif. These huge gold-orange bells were made of fabric, embedded with glittering mini-mirrors and fringed with tassles. I enjoyed framing this shot, especially because of the dark wood of the ancient tree, as well as the beautiful green of the leaves.

There was one other factor on my mind. I guess bells are more a Christian symbol, especially with their Christmas connotations. When I shot this, I was aware of the overhead wires, and I worked the frame so that the wires would cross the frame diagonally, in a way that they would not threaten the bells as the central point of focus.

But if you study the frame closely, you have to look really hard to see the wires. The beautiful colour tones of the bells, the tree trunk and the leafy canopy make such an interesting splash that they overshadowed the potential dilution caused by the wires.

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

Steppin' Wolf

Chances With Wolves

A Chinese zoo is creating a singing wolf troupe. Luo Yong, a keeper at Chongqing Wild Zoo, said he discovered the wolves' singing ability by accident – while playing his guitar and singing the song 'I Am A Wolf From The North'. He says all 30 wolves at the zoo can sing along to a rhythm.

FOOTNOTE: Next, the wolf whistle.

Sunday, June 22, 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: What are you most afraid of?

Verse And Worse

Random Wit, Errant Rhyme. Not A Literary Crime

We all share international guilt
For the blight of logging
But we'll back right to the hilt
A Pulitzer Prize for blogging

Roar Talent

In For A Penny, In For A Pounce

Photograph copyright: DAVID McMAHON

It’s great to use your peripheral vision as regularly as possible. I was in the lunch area at work on Friday morning, getting some milk out of the fridge, when I noticed this cup that had been left on the microwave. I assumed that its owner had left it there for a minute and would be back.

I wanted to photograph the cup, but I didn’t want to walk away to get my camera, only to return if the cup had been taken away by its owner.

Let me put it this way, I work for a large company – and the cup could have belonged to anyone. So I waited. And I waited. After about five minutes, I reckoned the best course of action would be to scribble a note saying: ''Could I please photograph your teacup, simply because I enjoy shooting unusual objects and sights.''

Then I began to think laterally. By the time I got a piece of paper and wrote the note and slipped it under the teacup, I could have dashed to my desk and picked up my camera instead. So off I sprinted. I returned and photographed the cup exactly where it was, even though the light was not the best.

And at the end of the working day, the cup was still sitting on top of the microwave. Did I say ''teacup''? Sorry, I meant to say ''tea cub''.

Check out the rules at Camera Critters or go to Misty Dawn.

The Sunday Roast

Welcome To The Wall Of Fame

This week's interview is with Les Becker,
who writes the blog Where The Walls Are Soft.

The first of the standard questions. Why do you blog?

When I first started blogging, it was to bring attention to a little "No Money/No Experience/No-Hope-In-Hell" production company I was involved in. My thoughts quickly scattered to the wind and I ended up blogging about everything BUT the business - which folded. Surprise...
I blog now, I think, for the social aspect. I've built incredible relationships with people from all over the globe in the last three years. Being somewhat of a hermit sort of fits with the whole blog-thing, too.

What's the story behind your blog name?

ROTFL! "Where the Walls are Soft" was chosen, again, because of that business. People thought I was crazy to want to do such a thing. In hindsight, I guess they were right. Now, the name reflects that my blog is my own little "safe" space - an asylum of sorts, I suppose.

What is the best thing about being a blogger?

Again, I'd have to say it's the social aspect that I enjoy the most. If not for the bloggers I've become so attached to, I would never have made some serious plans to actually get out into the world and see other places. My travel plans will start in my own province, scatter down into the United States (MOST states, actually), and eventually, I want to travel to the UK and Australia to meet some very special people. I will blog it all, of course!

What key advice would you give to a newbie blogger?

"ORIGINAL CONTENT." A lot of new bloggers tend to just regurgitate the same stuff that's already all over the Internet. I like to "clip" interesting bits from Youtube, entertainment and news sites, and other blogs, too ... but when every post is a steady copy and paste, along with a string of links - well, I can get that pretty much anywhere.

"Write what you know" works for me. I want to read about the blogger, not what the blogger saw on TV.

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

I thought this might be a hard question to answer when I first read it. Turns out, it's not, at all. It's not exactly a "post", though that struck a chord with me - my very best girl, a blogger called Cardio Girl wrote this in her comments after a particularly personal/difficult entry .... "I often wonder if my writing speaks to anyone, other than myself. Part of me wants to be this eloquent writer who just nails it. And another part of me wants to be the approachable, affable Everyman who resonates with everyone. I know there has to be a middle ground. I just have to keep looking for it."

She wrote what I've always felt, but never would have been able to put into words. For the record, I think she "nails it" every single time.

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

Now, this one IS difficult! Hmmmmm. The most significant blog post to ME would have to be my entry for October 22nd, 2007, called Great Aunt Emma. It cemented my friendship with Cardiogirl, for one thing, and it became the inspiration for (sigh...*) yet another novel.

Today's Sunday Roast with Les Becker is the 21st in a weekly series of interviews with bloggers from around the world.

Shock Tactics

The Atmosphere Is Electric

A British mother-of-two opened her electricity bill - to find a demand for the $180 million. Alison Turner was stunned when she opened the bill - the equivalent of leaving lights on for 1,900 years. "It's lucky they didn't send it to a pensioner, they might have keeled over."

FOOTNOTE: Volt from the blue.

Saturday, June 21, 2008

Verse And Worse

Random Wit, Errant Rhyme. Not A Literary Crime

Down the track in Huntingdale
They tethered nothing in the gale
The cattle found themselves airborne
But floated gently to our lawn

Water Diviner

We'll Drink To That

Photographs copyright: DAVID McMAHON

We are all water diviners, in one way or another. We seek it, we need it, we depend on it. When we camp, we seek some form of running water to sustain us. When our ancestors built villages that grew into modern cities, they did so on the banks of mighty rivers.

I live in a country where drought has prevailed for many years. I have seen hundreds of great pictures that illustrate the cruel grip of Australia’s drought. I have read many news reports that evocatively captured the trauma of a dry red land. But then I read the story of a toddler on a New South Wales farming property.

At the time the story appeared in print, he was coming up to his second birthday – and he had never seen rain.

I learnt very early in life to appreciate the value of water. When I was about eight or nine years old, I had my tonsils removed and I can vividly remember coming to in a hospital bed. My throat was severely constricted and I asked for a sip of water.

The doctor nixed my request because he was scared I would throw up. I endured the grip of choking thirst for as long as I could, but I remember asking again and again, through the fog of anaesthetic and discomfort, for a sip of water to slake my burning thirst.

I did not cry. Much later that afternoon, I was given the medical thumbs-up. I could have a sip of water, but no more than a sip. I am a father of three now, but I have often told my children the story of how I raised my head and treasured the feel of the white china feeding cup (as they were called then) against my lips.

Eyes half-closed, I can still remember how I sought the spout and how, swallowing carefully because of the operation, I savoured each drop that passed down my sandpaper-like throat.

Now I live in a land famous for its wine and beer, but I still drink water. Some years ago, I drank nothing but water – or Adam’s ale, as it is known – all the way from Melbourne to Vancouver, flying business class on Cathay Pacific. With each meal the flight attendant, wearing a broad smile, tried to get me to agree to a glass of fine Australian riesling or chardonnay, but each time I grinned back and asked for a refill of my water glass.

About ten days later, with a particularly spirited (in every sense of the word) group of journalists, I was the only sober one each night, ensuring that they all got back to the cruise ship during a memorable trip to the Alaskan ports. My colleagues all made sure I had a full glass of ice water, and told everyone how I had christened the drink an ``Alaskan cocktail’’.

On the last night, a wonderful American couple asked me to join them for a drink. ``I’m a cheap date,’’ I said, ``I only drink water.’’

They sat there, gobsmacked. ``You’ve led the singing in every Alaskan pub, every night of the cruise – and you were SOBER?’’

Yup. That’s what these Alaskan cocktails do to me.

What A Friend We Have In Cheeses

No Wonder The Cheddar Is Divine

Bosses at a school for dairy farmers say a chart-topping monks' chant has turned their cheese into a prize winner. The 'Chant - Music of Paradise' album - which reached the top 10 in Britain - is played over and over again to two-and-a-half tonne cheese as it matures in cellars at the school in Graz-Altgrottenhof, Austria. Since serenading their product with the monks' chants, the school has won a string of prizes for its Grottenhofer Auslese cheese.

FOOTNOTE: Hey, hey, we’re the monk ease.

Friday, June 20, 2008

Caption Hook

Don’t Get Left Behind - All Right?

Photograph copyright: DAVID McMAHON

Never heard of a hook turn? No worries – I hadn’t heard of 'em either, until I first came to Melbourne as a visitor, back in my days as a globetrotting sportswriter. Because trams operate in this beautiful city, some intersections in the central business district are designated with hook turn signs, to keep traffic moving smoothly.

Let me explain. We drive on the left of the road (you knew that, didn’t you?) but at these intersections you have to make right turns from the left lane. Er, no, I’m not kidding you.

To get the definitive method of performing this splendid manoeuvre, check out Hook Turns and next time you’re in Melbourne, give me a hoy so I can show you exactly how it’s done.

I shot this image this afternoon. Why? Because the sign was crooked and I thought it would make an unusual shot, along with an explanation of one of Melbourne’s quirky road rules.

We go left to go right. Which makes perfect sense, in a laconic Australian sort of way.

Visit Mama Geek and Cecily, creators of Photo Story Friday.