Weird Sea Creatures and Vapid Poetry

Posted in Humor, Under the Sea on July 16th, 2010 by MadDog
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Today, I am using the “Underwater Pictures Ruse” to inflict upon you the earthly equivalent of Vogon Poetry.  This literary genre has an amusing history. First revealed to us Terrans in The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy,  it is said to be the third worst poetry in the Universe. The description from the Guide  goes thus:

“Vogon poetry is the third worst in the Universe. The second worst is that of the Azgoths of Kria. During a recitation by their Poet Master Grunthos the Flatulent, of his poem,  Ode to a Small Lump of Green Putty I Found in My Armpit One Midsummer Morning,  four of his audience members died of internal hemorrhaging, and the president of the Mid-Galactic Arts Nobbling Council survived by gnawing one of his own legs off… The very worst poetry in the universe died along with its creator, Paula Nancy Millstone Jennings of Sussex… in the destruction of the planet Earth.”

A brief example is also given:

“Oh freddled gruntbuggly/thy micturations are to me/As plurdled gabbleblotchits on a lurgid bee.
Groop I implore thee, my foonting turlingdromes. And hooptiously drangle me with crinkly bindlewurdles,
Or I will rend thee in the gobberwarts with my blurglecruncheon, see if I don’t!”

It reminds me of Lewis Carroll’s Jabberwocky,  except that it is infinitely more painful. You need not worry. My humble offering is unlikely to cause you any permanent harm. A faithful reader, Facebook Friend and fellow web journalist Steven Goodheart (yes, that is his real name) has been nagging and nagging for me to publish some of my poetry (Okay, he asked me about it once, “You write poetry?”), so I have a plausible excuse for my coming out.

First, let me prepare you for the shock by lulling you into a peaceful reverie with calming images of marine life:

That’s a nice little fan coral on the catamaran at The Eel Garden near Pig Island.

Here’s another, fancier bit:

I’ve been fiddling with creating a dark background.  Getting the colour right is a bit fussy.

Here’s a little better job with this Divericate Tree Coral (Gendronephthya roxasia):

There. That’s better.

Feeling all nice and calm now? A little sleepy, eh? That’s good. Blank your mind now and prepare for Star Drifters:

If your mind wasn’t blank before, it certainly is now. This presumes that you discovered that you have to click on it to actually read it. Yes, there is writing there. In fact, it is designed just the right size so that you can print it onto one of those t-shirt thingies which use to transfer an image onto cloth using an iron. Don’t burn yourself. For pity’s sake, don’t make a t-shirt from it. People will think you are nuts. I suggest a cotton tea towel which is ready for the trash. After being embossed by Star Drifters,  you can use it to clean up messes in the bathroom.

Now, for your comfort and safety I need to ease you back into the world of what passes for sanity on this planet. I’ll show you a rare and splendid thing.

During over 2,000 dives I have never before seen a juvenile Trumpetfish (Aulostomus chinensis):

Amazing, eh?

See, you never know when to take me seriously. I love that.

Seriously, when I first saw this little one, only about eight centimetres long, I thought it was some newfangled sort of pipefish. Then I noticed the very distinctive mouth:

There is no doubt that this is a juvenile Trumpetfish. What tickles me most is that I am almost positive  that you have never seen one. Of course, you had never read Star Drifters  either. Two shocks in one post. My, my.

I’ll leave you to recover with this peaceful image of a Magnificent Anemone (Heteractis magnifica)  and some cute little Clown Anemonefish (Amphiprion percula):

Yes, those are Nemo’s cousins.

Peace, baby.

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Your Thursday Morning Dog’s Breakfast

Posted in Mixed Nuts on July 15th, 2010 by MadDog
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Sometimes befuddlement settles deep into my cranium and all I can manage is a little walk around the yard and a scrounge through old images to find a scattering of thoughts and images to exercise my chosen writer’s discipline and fill some space. Each day I leave something here and take something away. The beauty of it is what I need please only me. The down-side is that if I find my own efforts unpleasing, I have nothing to show for my efforts but dissatisfaction. So, I muddle through.

But first, a sunrise:

My creative writing professor at uni was a hard taskmistress. We had to write 1,000 words every day in a jornal. It didn’t matter what it was about and it wasn’t graded. However we had to turn it in for checking each week and then we got it back to continue on. Most weeks I would review what I had written and a familiar phrase would pop into my mind, “What a dog’s breakfast!”

An unappealing mixture of many things… a hodgepodge… a disorganised mess… but probably still usable (or consumable in the case of food.) From the idea that a dog will eat anything and feeding it a mixture of whatever is on hand. (Unappealing because only the dog finds its breakfast appealing… if you see or smell the dog food in the morning, as you’re feeding the dog, it may well turn your stomach.)

“Those contractors didn’t do very good work and they made a real dog’s breakfast of that job.”

Not that I insinuate that my readers are canine. No. I simply mean that there are good days and bad.

So, off we go into visual pandemonium.

Let’s add a canoe to the sunrise:

This was a very mediocre shot right out of the camera. I had to jazz it up a bit. I decided to make it nearly monochrome and take advantage of the brilliant red-orange tugboats across the harbour to complement the colours of the sunrise.

It looks as if warm colours are going to be the theme today. Here is a nice red hibiscus right outside our front door:

The brown mass to the left is the trunk of one of our Fishtail Palm trees.

Speaking of which, they are fruiting continuously now. In this shot I am standing directly underneath the oldest inflorescence, pointing my G11 straight up. You are looking into the bottom of it from about six metres away:

I am amazed how long it takes for the fruit to ripen. This inflorescence developed in October of 2008. You can find an image of it here.

Over the last three months, fruit has been dropping from this inflorescence. They are bright red to maroon in colour and average about five or six centimetres in diameter:Our haus meri, Juli, tells me that they are “not for humans” but some birds eat them. Of course, I had to try one. They are intensely sweet and fig-like. I tried only a small amount. After a few seconds you get a chili-like burning sensation on the tongue wherever the fruit was in contact. The strong sweetness lingers, but I take the burning as a warning. I decided that I had experimented enough. The seeds are one or two shiny black kernels which are so hard that you have to crack them with a hammer. Inside the thick shell is a nut-like core which is also very sweet.

In the garden this morning I found a spider who was willing to pose for a while. I got one very nice shot of it:

If you click the image to enlarge it you will see a water drop attached to its abdomen.

I felt like saying, “Shake it off, dude.”

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The Party That Grew Like a Magic Sarong

Posted in Mixed Nuts on July 14th, 2010 by MadDog
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Tuesday night wouldn’t ordinarily be our first choice for party time, but recent events conspired to elect a mid-week celebration. We missed having a Birthday Party for Eunie this year, because she was in Fiji beginning the first day of a conference on her birthday and I had not yet arrived there. Also, Roz Savage was back in Madang and Tuesday night would be our last opportunity to have some friends over to bid her farewell.

It started out to be possibly six or eight people. By yesterday afternoon, the number had grown to twenty-two. At our place the basic party plan is “the bigger the better”, so this did not present a problem. We ordered in pizzas from The Madang Lodge Hotel and Restaurant and Di Cassell, the owner/manager surprised us with a chocolate cake with fresh highlands strawberries on top as a birthday treat.

Here are a few of the mob:

Eunie is wearing one of the crazy hats sent to us by our son and daughter-in-law, Hans and Tamara.

Here are some more of the revelers:

Others were scattered here and there.

Di Cassell is in the habit of presenting unusual, if not bizarre gifts. Everybody on the planet except me probably already knows about “The Magic Sarong”:

It comes in a handy tote-bag which, I suppose, one can use to carry the finished product.

Unpacked from its bag it looks for all the world like a huge, heart-shaped piece of grape flavoured candy:

Presumably, they come in different colours.

One simply drops it into some water and waits:

And waits. At first it didn’t look like much was happening. It bubbled a bit and I stood back.

Then it began to unfold like some high-speed flower:

It got bigger.

And bigger:

At about this point I was wondering just how big it might get.

Soon, Eunie came to my rescue and extracted the hugely swollen purple garment from the sink:

It was approaching midnight by now, so we hung up the Magic Sarong, said goodnight to Roz and toddled off to bed.

Just another day in Paradise.

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The Snake, The Pussycat and the Rower

Posted in Mixed Nuts on July 13th, 2010 by MadDog
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As you may have gathered from the title, today’s post is a bit of a mash-up of unrelated (or possibly not so  unrelated) items which, no matter how much I chatter on  about them, are not sufficient alone to be of much interest. So, be prepared to have your consciousness expanded in several directions simultaneously.

We’ll start with a phone call from good mate Mike Cassell yesterday morning. Mike started off with, “You’re interested in all those natural things, aren’t you?” (I may be paraphrasing here. Exact wordings no longer stick in my brain.) I answered cautiously, “Hmmmm . . . yeah.” You see, Mike is the guy who has, on a couple of occasions, spotted a big saltwater crocodile a few hundred metres from my house. You want to be careful how you answer his leading questions.

Anyway, Mike was down at the Madang Lodge, which he and his wife, Di, own. He said that there was a big green snake in a bush just outside the coffee shop. I said, of course, “I’ll be right there!”  Sure enough, there it was, a beautiful Green Tree Snake (Morelia viridis)  wrapped around some branches sleeping off a huge meal of at least one large critter, possibly two:

These snakes are so incredibly beautiful that you just have to say, “Wow.”

Here’s a close-up if its head:

The appointed snake attendant, who had been guarding it from molestation kept calling it “She”, but I have no idea of its gender. The snake requires a guard, because many local people will kill any snake which they see without even pausing to think about it. Snakes are almost universally considered to be very, very bad, for a variety of reasons. Nobody seems to know that there are non-poisonous snakes which are not only harmless, but very beneficial. Sadly, I have seen many beautiful, harmless snakes killed here because of simple ignorance and superstition.

Nevertheless, this story will hoepfully have a happy ending. I gently hooked my fingers around the head to give you a better look and and idea of the size of the snake. These are very docile snakes. I’ve handled them on many occasions and none of them have shown the slightest inclination to bite:

This one was so sleepy that it hardly noticed.

So, what does the snake have to do with this pussycat? Absolutely nothing. Meet Dory, The Ocean-Going Cat:

Dory sailed across the entire width of the Pacific Ocean  on a tiny nine metre sailboat with her original companions (cats don’t have “owners”) Kyle and Kathy Harris. At no time did Dory consider this an insane proposition, as did many of K & K’s friends.

What is she doing in my IT Dungeon? Well, what cat’s do best – napping. When her current companion left her in my charge for a few hours we made friends again and she wandered around meowing pitifully for a while, as cats are wont to do. Then she discovered the cat’s delight, an empty, cat-sized box:

So, that takes care of the snake and the pussycat. What about the rower?

I finally found my mis-placed USB cord for my Olympus SP-590UZ super-zoom camera and was able to look at the shots which I got when I motored out to try to find Roz Savage as she rowed through Astraolabe Bay  to Madang. Of the frames, this is the one which I like best:

So, there is  a connection between to of the living beings in this post. Two of them have transited the entire breadth of the Pacific Ocean  in tiny boats.

I think that Dory had the easier passage.

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Bartender, There’s a Crab in My Beer

Posted in Humor on July 12th, 2010 by MadDog
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Despite torrential rain this morning rousing me from sleep by thundering down on our metal roof, by the time I got up and stepped outside about 06:15 things were looking better. It was still a bit gloomy, but the air was nice and clear. Why talk about it? I’ll just show you:

I went back inside to start the day’s work. It didn’ t look as if the sky was going to improve.

Then Eunie called into the bedroom that I’d better check the sky again. She was right. I wouldn’t have wanted to miss this one:

But, hey, gorgeous sunrises are a dime a dozen here. I have to come up with something better if I am to succeed at getting you to waste some of your valuable time wading through today’s screen filler.

Have you ever considered that hermit crabs might find homes in places other than seashells whose former occupants have deceased? As it tuns out, this is not an uncommon thing. Witness this rather large specimen living in a broken beer bottle:

Trevor Hattersley gave me these shots. He didn’ t mention who took them or where they were taken. I suspect that the shots come from Blueblood. Trev is on holiday somewhere, so I can’t check with him. He seems to be perpetually on holiday. I wonder how he works that.

Here’s a nice close-up shot of the crab in its beery home:

Hermit crabs will use anything which fits them and is not too heavy for a home until they can find something more suitable. In front of my house I saw one dragging around a short length of discarded white plastic plumbing pipe.

I decided to have a poke around on Google Images to see what other shots I could find. This one is cheating. The crab is actually living in a shell and just using the bottle as his veranda:

Birds will often pick up hermit crabs in their shells and fly off with them. Presumably they pull them out and eat them when they find a spot to land. This guy is taking no chances.

This one is The Real Deal, no faking here:

The shot came from Treehugger.com. However, it appears that the photographer was an eleven-year-old Finnish boy.

Monday morning – Ugh! Gotta get to work.

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Dubious Art

Posted in Photography Tricks on July 11th, 2010 by MadDog
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Having been simultaneously inspired, challenged and somewhat chagrined by my post a couple of day ago on the sublimely eccentric and sophisticatedly earthy art of Lindsay Smith, I decided to blow away an entire morning when I should have been doing something else, namely making some money, creating. If that sentence is not complex and grammatically dimwitted enough for you, then hang around for a while and I will probably come up with something even more opaque.

Every shot in this post is a radical modification of an image which has been sitting among tens of thousands for years, some for decades. Every one except this one: For some inexplicable reason, as I wandered aimlessly around in our front yard this morning, I became mesmerised by the left headlamp of our new Nissan Navara. It is our first new car in nearly twelve years, so we are still somewhat excited about it. It’s the cheap kind with wind-up windows and no electronic gee-gaws such as central locking. You don’t want that kind of stuff here. If it breaks, it stays broke.

When I got the image up in Photoshop, I began to see its possibilities. How bizarre could I possibly make an ordinary automobile headlamp appear? I began to think of the way it might be portrayed in some stylised automotive catalogue. What I wanted was how it might look on acid or some similarly perception distorting substance. Because it has now become art, I have titled it Headlamp of our new Nissan Navara.  I am such a wordsmith.

This one is derived from an old shot and is titled Woman in Canoe on Astrolabe Bay:

Again, with the clever titles. It get worse. Hang around. Some of these you may need to click to enlarge to get the full impact of my efforts to bamboozle you.

Yeah, now this one is a oldie. I entered this one in an art show a long time ago and actually sold a one-off original print for K200. I think that it was the first image that I ever mane any money from:

It’s title is Sunset Watercolour II.  Catchy, eh?

Back in the days of burning rubber, a fine mist of vapourised castor oil in the air, hot tarmac and icy Chablis we called the driver’s compartment of a sports car The Cockpit. It was so very, very English. Here is the arted-up cockpit of our 1973 Triumph Spitfire 1500 which sits immaculately restored and carefully wrapped in a garage in Indianapolis, Indiana waiting for someone to make me a reasonable offer for a car which is rapidly approaching the priceless category. Would you like to buy it?

I mean the car, not the picture, which is titled Spitfire Cockpit.  I wonder how many disappointing Google hits I’ll get on this one.

The dashboard or fascia, as we called it back then, is Brazilian Rosewood, handcrafted over a period of several days by none other than me. Hah, you thought all I can do is take pictures and spew drivel, eh? I got the shot on our first digital camera, a one-point-something megapixel Minolta of some kind. I’m sure that it’s moudlering away in a drawer somewhere.

These are our orange lilies, which will be familiar, if not boring, to regular readers. They are decked out here for a night at the disco:

That’s the Photoshop Poster Edges filter, if you’re interested. It’s one of my favourites. The title is Edgy Orange Lilies.  Better?

Here is an old shot of the fabulous Australian harmonicist and singer Harper at a performance years ago at The Slippery Noodle in Indianapolis, Indiana:

The title is, a little obviously, Harper.  I got the shot from a stairway above the back room venue in the area of the building which used to be a brothel. It is the oldest continuously operating tavern in the State of Indiana and now operates one of the best blues clubs it has ever been my pleasure to patronise. I always hit it a couple of times whenever I’m in Indy.  The cover charge is cheap. The food and drink is also blue-collar priced and surprisingly delicious. The amazing thing about the place is that it has three venues for bands in the same building. If you don’t like one, you can pick up and move to another. The only problem is that it is sometimes packed. It used to be a mob hangout. There are several spots where there are bullet holes in the walls.

Just to show you how civilised and cultured I am, here is a plate of fruit at a vineyard near Vienna. It’s been given the artsy treatment also:It is delightfully and playfully titled Vienna Vineyard Fruit.  I sincerely hope to get back to Vienna someday. It’s one of my favourite cities. Summertime is splendid. I don’t even want to think about winter there. It would be as bad as Indianapolis, from whence I escaped. The shot above has been “posterised” a bit to give it a more painterly look. Posterisation is simply a fancy term for reducing the available colours in an image.

If none of that is quirky enough for you, then I shall deliver the coup de grâce.

This is my left bicep, at the healthy diameter which it once was at the time I was getting my Dancing Dolphins  tattoo, which you see here partially completed:

I decided . . . no, I fell upon the idea of doing it in monochrome . . . okay, duochrome.

Okay, that’s enough nonsense for one day. I’m getting dizzy.

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Wearing the Captain’s Hat

Posted in Under the Sea on July 10th, 2010 by MadDog
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Today being Dive Day, I have the usual display of rather boring underwater creatures. I haven’t gotten through all of the shots from today yet. I see some more interesting ones coming up. However, not all of the photographic action was underwater. Ush was back aboard Rich Jones and Pascal Michon’s Sanguma.  Someone passed her the Captain’s Hat and she perched on the stern rail with her now famous shiny red sunglasses. What can one do but take a picture?

Ush is working through her PADI Open Water Course, which means that she will soon be joining us under the sea as well as on top.

Well, I’m playing catch-up today, so the chatter will be minimal. I don’t know what kind of sponge this is, but it is rather pretty, as sponges go:

I’ve been playing with flash intensities for a while. Today I’m showing a few shots where I’m trying to balance flash with natural light. It’s not a big problem when you are near the surface. However, the deeper you go the greater the difference becomes between the spectrum of the light at your depth and the spectrum of the flash, which mimics the sun at the surface. This can create some very difficult colour correction problems. The shot above turned out very natural, according to my colour memory.

This shot of a Feather Star (Comanthina schlegeli)  in the strong current which we had at The Eel Garden near Pig Island  was taken under a ledge, so the flash predominates the lighting causing an unnaturally warm tone which I generally dislike, because it is not the way it appeared to my eyes:

The current does lend a nice sweeping motion to the shot.

Here I caught a Reticulated Dascyllus (Dascyllus reticulatus)  with a couple of Hawkfish in a single coral colony. A lucky shot:

I think that they are Pixy Hawkfish, but I’m too lazy right now to verify that. Who cares anyway? This shot displays a much better balance of flash and natural light.

I’m pretty sure that this is a very young Solitary coral of the species Fungia fungites:

It was only about six or seven centimetres in diameter. The little polyps were vibrating fiercely in the current. I had to take about twenty exposures to get one in which they were not motion blurred. This shot was taken with no flash at all.

This is one of my favourite Sea Squirts (Phallusia julinea):

I just thought about how geeky that sounds. It’s like hearing a grown man, indeed a mature  man, saying “This is my favourite model airplane.” or “This is my favourite miniature toy car.”

Hey, it’s just a hobby.

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