A Final Stroll Through My Garden

Posted in My Garden on December 25th, 2011 by MadDog
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I’ve been keeping a low public profile since I left Sedona on a snowy day in early December. After a couple of nights of layover time in Brisbane I arrived in rainy Madang and began to trudge through the seemingly endless list of tasks which will allow me to exit my home town of thirty years. I was planning to take some pictures of the inside of my house before I left, but I watited too long. It is now in a sorry state. I have to avert my eyes from the bare walls, empty shelves and vacant bookcases. It is not the home I once thought. I discovered late in life that home is not a place or a house. The old expression seems trite – home is where the heart is – but it is profoundly true.

My garden is still a cheery place. I’ve enjoyed several quiet walks there, accompanied by my trusty old Canon G10. I sold my G11 and its underwater housing. I was going to sell the G10 and housing also, but I think I’ll keep it. I seriously doubt if I’ll ever dive again, but it’s possible. The G10 will make a great camera for Grace. She wants something that will let her grow. It’s a perfect camera for an enthusiastic amateur. I can’t see much sense in letting it set on a shelf while spending the money on a new G12. For most shots the difference in the images is undetectable.

You won’t be able to tell much about cameras from these shots. They all have been heavily Photoshopped for “artistic” purposes. This hibiscus has been smoothed, despeckled, outlined, enlarged, shrunk, posterized and massaged in other ways until it bears little resemblance to a photograph:

And the spider in this shot has been stretched, sharpened and colorized within an inch of its life:

The colors in this shot are nothing like the original photo, but the grasshopper looks exactly as it does in my head:

I wanted a grasshopper which might take up residence behind the looking glass.

These jasmine flowers smell so sweet as to make the head spin. They affect me much the same as orange blossoms:

I remember driving once through an orange grove with Eunie and getting so light-headed from the intensity of the aroma that I had to ask her to drive.

This night-blooming jasmine has much the same effect on me. After nine in the evening stepping out my front door is a mind-bending experience:

Visceral experiences are common here in the belly of the tropics. Redundant as that might be linguistically, the metaphor holds true. I find the high desert austere in comparison. That is not a measure of value, but an observation upon which I need to reflect so that I may learn to appreciate it and discover its secrets. When I arrived in Madang I was a gawker. I could not appreciate it properly because I had so little knowledge. As I gain knowledge of my new environment I will come to love and appreciate it as much as I ever have loved and appreciated Madang.

Lush . . . the word which comes to mind so often. Bathed in perfume and perspiration – I’m enjoying being wet again – I stand in simple awe of the outrageous palette displayed by humble vegetation:

A little super-virgin olive oil with a dash of balsamic . . . voila! A tasty and festive salad. I wonder what coleus tastes like?

I am having little trouble bidding goodbye to most things in Madang. Friends are the hardest . . . Some things I won’t miss:  melting roads with potholes so deep that you have to turn your lights on, power outages that are timed by Satan himself, phones that work when you don’t need them . . . the list goes on. I’ll live without my boat. I can survive quite happily in the absence of the verdant landscape. Diving gave me decades of fun and learning, but I will find other pleasant pursuits. I think that when I look back over a few years to catalog the things I miss the few pages will be occupied with simple notations of things I thought of as uniquly mine. My smart, pretty dog, Sheba, my lovely house, my orchids in my garden:

The funny thing about this is that you can’t really own any of these things. The way things are going today I sometimes wonder if we can own anything. Maybe some of us are beginning to realize that is it just so much stuff. It’s not the actual stuff that is of value. The value lies in the feelings we get from thinking that we own it and it is ours. It’s my stuff. It’s your stuff.  It’s good stuff . . .

Ah, well, since it’s only the feelings and memories that get the endorphins flowing freely, juicing me up nicely and making me jingle like a pocket full of silver dollars, I’m going to develop a philosophy of Gratification by Means of Virtual Ownership.

I’m going to start with a virtual spin in my new virtual Corvette on the virtually smooth North Coast Road.

See you later . . .

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Post Number 1000 – I Zooify Myself

Posted in Humor, On Tthe Road on May 16th, 2011 by MadDog
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I didn’t get a chance to post this one while I was still in Indianapolis. So as not to be wasteful I’ll get in my WayBack Machine and send it out into the void now. It’s still my moldy observations, wacky thoughts and strange images. However, like Billy Pilgrim in Kurt Vonnegut’s Slaughterhouse Five, it has come un-stuck in time.

By the way, this is post number 1,000 for Madang – Ples Bilong Mi.

~~~~~~~~~~~

In my American Adventure mere hours remain of this brief pause in Hoosier territory. I grew up in Indiana, downtown Indianapolis being my formative place. As I sit here, only a few minutes from my birthplace and the haunts of my childhood, I am transfixed by the wonders of circumstance which carried me on the kind of wild ride through life with which few are blessed.

Each pause in my adventure brings its own blessing. In Australia I benefited from sojourns to Gympie, Teewah and Toogoolawah. In these places I was cared for and entertained by people who love me not for what I do, but for who I am. In the USA my first refuge was Honolulu. There I enjoyed a stay with an old friend willing to share the nest. Also in Hawaii were long-time friends and co-workers who have, for over three decades, concerned themselves in many ways with my work. Now, here in the Midwest I have added family to the list of loved ones with whom I am renewing links.

Now I am possibly half-way through this journey. In many ways it is the most important in this season of my life. The shape of my future is being determined in a very compressed period of time as I stumble through the minefield.

That’s quite enough self-pity and introspection for the moment. Let me tell you about the bear attack.

Steve, my host in Brownsburg, and I were on our way to the Indianapolis Zoo via the Rocky Mountains. We took the scenic route. We paused for refreshment in some national park or other – I don’t remember which. As I scanned the horizon for likely camera fodder I saw this bear:

All was well until the bear noticed that I was taking its picture. This bear has a paparazzi issue. It became enraged and attacked me. I was forced to beat it senseless with my trusty Canon G11 camera. Ordinarily I take a picture of whatever creature I have knocked unconscious with my camera, but in this case Steve and I decided to beat a hasty retreat in case we might have been observed violating the right of the bear to consume annoying humans.

Of course all of the above balderdash is pure Walter Mitty daydreaming. There was a bear, but it was in a rather large cage at the zoo. It paced back and forth in a very desultory manner until I got tired of watching it. I felt its boredom. It did seem to look in my direction after a while and suddenly charged down the slope directly at me. As it approached and I felt an incipient flinch coming on it suddenly changed directions and dived into a hole in the fake rocks. Steve reckoned that it had heard its keeper opening the feeding door and was going for another kind of lunch. Along the way it was expending a little energy to give me a cheap thrill. You get your money’s worth when you go to the zoo.

This wart hog is not dead. At least I don’t think it was. I think it was sleeping, but I’m not sure. Can wart hogs hold their breath while sleeping? For how long? I tossed a couple of small pebbles at it, but it seemed not to notice:

Possibly it was waiting for popcorn, the most popular of foods which nobody is supposed to feed the animals, but everyone does.

I have several other shots of different angles of this rhino:

I’m using this one, because it’s really the most interesting. I don’t recall seeing a rhino’s posterior so clearly.

The front of the meerkat enclosure was glass. It was difficult to find a spot that was not smeared with child-residue, but I managed:

Ordinarily I would not give the time of day to a meerkat. I include them in the general classification of animals which I call “Way Too Cute”. This one, however, appeals to me. It’s a little snarly looking. That canine tooth sticking out seems to say, “I could give you such a bite, if I wanted to.”

I throw in this gratuitous orchid image only because they caught my eye in the White River Garden thingie which is next to the zoo:

I think it’s a hybrid. They had maybe a hundred different orchids in bloom in there. I can’t recall seeing that many in one place.

When we got back to Steve and Marta’s house I mowed Steve’s lawn. It was easy and made more slightly tolerable by a watered-down American “lite” beer. Pure swill:

That’s another tall tale. I most certainly did not mow Steve’s lawn or any other lawn since I was in Australia. The lawn mower gizmo was not even running as I sat for this shot. I just wanted to see myself as a typical American suburban home owner. Fantasy time . . .

This is more my speed. I haven’t relaxed this hard for some time:

It’s a shame that Steve was not quick enough to catch me falling out of the hammock.

I’ll wrap this up by telling you about my wild spending spree. I went to Goodwill Industries Store for Poor People to buy some clothes. I’m not really that poor, but I like to pretend that I am. Besides, if I’m cheap about some things it gives me more to blow on things that I genuinely want. I’m not much into fancy clothes, as any fool can see, but I have to put something on, especially in this climate:

 

I bought three perfectly good, if slightly too long pants and a nice pair of shorts for a little over nine dollars.

That’s what I call shopping!

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The Relaxing Art of Faking It

Posted in Photography Tricks on November 10th, 2010 by MadDog
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As part of my plan to get more sleep, I’m forcing myself to stay up until at least 23:30 each night. The other part of the plan is not  to lounge in bed watching the same movie on HBO for the twentieth time. I realised that I had failed the second part of the plan this evening when I caught myself staring mesmerised near the end of Dr. Strangelove  at about the point where Slim Pikins was mounting the hydrogen bomb with his cowboy hat on. There is nothing at all wrong with Dr. Strangelove.  It’s an excellent flick. However, it might be considered excessive to have viewed it as many times as I have. I have most of the dialogue memorised.

So, here it is at 23:07 already and I’m just getting around to writing. I did, however manage the time this evening, since I cooked yesterday evening (boiled cabbage, steamed pumpkin, broccoli, pasta with tomato and mushroom sauce) to download some new free Photoshop filters.  When I cook, I cook frantically – several dishes at a time. I had the entire stove going yesterday. It was as hot as the hubs of Hades in the kitchen.

So, I’m celebrating a little free time this evening by engaging in my most relaxing hobby – Fake Art. Some reasons why I find it relaxing are that nobody is telling me how to do it and I have absolutely no constraints. I’m pleasing only myself and, contrary to popular opinion, I’m quite easy to please.

So, let’s get on with it.

Oh, before I forget . . . Stupid Mistake #987 (I start counting all over again on each January 1st). I didn’t think of survivors benefit’s.  Well, I sort of thought of it, but not effectively. When I noticed that Eunie’s Social Security money was no longer showing up in the bank account along with mine I reckoned that I just wouldn’t be getting any. Then a friend (a Canadian,  for pity’s sake!) said to me yesterday that she thought that I should be getting survivor’s benefits and maybe I would have to apply. Apply? APPLY?? Why didn’t I think of that? I don’t think that I’m a danger to others, but I’m certainly a danger to myself.

So, I got on the web site for the SSA and discovered that it may be true. I may not be as impoverished as I thought. Not quite. Wish me luck as I try to figure out how to apply without appearing at the nearest SSA office, as that seems to be the only way to go.

Now, let’s get on with it.

Here is That Flower which I can never remember the name of:

There is a big vine full of them right outside my front door alongside the Night Blooming Jasmine, which I can’t smell any more (interesting story there if you can find it on MPBM). The filter I used is a nice outliner. I’m going  to try it for cartooning.

Here are some of my orchids harassed by the Bad Dream filter:

I still can’t decide if I like the effect or not.

Regulars here will recognise my favourite orange lily:

This filter is a pretty good posteriser. Posterisation is simply the reduction of the number of colours in an image. This one I do like.

I can’t remember the name of the filter which I used for this image. I call the resulting image Coleus on Acid:

It is dramatic enough.

And this is one of my many, many Bird of Paradise plants:

This one has been chewing magic mushrooms since late last night. Its consciousness has now fully expanded.

A yellow flower with dew drops. How prosaic. The filter also is likewise subtle, but insistent:

This one may be my favourite. I can’t decide.

No, I could  decide, but I’m not making any more decisions today.

It’s 23:35 and I’m going to try to go to sleep.

Wish me luck with that, eh?

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The Wonderful Distraction – Fake Art

Posted in Mixed Nuts, Photography Tricks on October 9th, 2010 by MadDog
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There are so many things which I’d like to say. However, now I am falling just short of  finding the words to articulate these things. I never really believed that some thoughts were inexpressible. I’m learning much about life lately. It seems a bit late for a grammar school education about Getting Along in Life. Today’s lesson is about being tongue-tied, mute, unable to find the expressions, analogies and idioms to translate the thoughts spinning in my head into English. I’m writing this on Friday, the eighth of October. If you’ve been following, you will recognise that day as being singularly significant. Not to put too fine a point on it, one month ago my wife went to claim her reward.

Yes, today is a bit of a hard day. I arose early and called in to the office after 08:00 to beg a day off. I have music and pictures to prepare for the memorial service tomorrow. Our office staff have been infinitely understanding and supportive. Lorraine Collins, a dear friend who lived in Madang for some time has flown in from Cairns to come to the service and stay a few days in the company of old friends. She came over to have lunch with me. Afterward, we watched a movie. I was glad for the company and the distraction.

It’s a good thing that I did have company today. I would otherwise buried myself in work and not have had the chance to sit with a friend and quietly talk about what is happening to all of us. It is  a shared experience. I can’t imagine that it would be more intimate if I were were with my blood family. So, speaking of things left to do today, I’ll get on with tomorrow’s post. Yes, I’m writing this on Friday. I’ll schedule the post to go out tomorrow. I do not know what tomorrow will bring to me.

I took a couple of hours of otherwise wasted time last night to do something other than attempting to sleep. It seemed mindless, but more emotionally useful to look through images from past posts and turn them into fake art. Sometimes it is better to do something completely useless. It gives one the feeling of wasting time usefully. And so, since I can’t transfer my feelings to the computer screen, I’ll give you fake art instead.

Here is Honey the aged mare from Honey, Beast and Other New Friends:

Honey and I got along well. This may have been because, in horse years, she is my age. We understood each other. Most of these images will require you to click to enlarge to see the effect of the Photoshop filters which I used to create the fake art images. This one had a light treatment with Poster Edges, just enough to punch up the edges a little and give it some texture.

I finished all of my chatter at the beginning, so I’ll simply show you the rest of the images with my brief comments about how I made them.

This is a shot of a diver’s bubbles with a glass block effect applied:

It is more interesting if you enlarge it.

When we were in Fiji earlier this year I got this image of Bougainvillia overhanging the hotel pool. It’s a delicious mix of colours made all the more yummy but the Watercolour filter:

Reducing the number of colour values in the image by increasing the posterisation effect in the filter creates some interesting patterns in the water.

Still in Fiji, here is an image from The Nadi Temple – A Feast for the Eyes:

This is a more severe flogging of the image with the Poster Edges filter. It is very posterised, using only a few colours from the millions available. The edges are extremely accentuated. This gives a nice poster effect.

Here are some orchids from my garden. I wanted a mild distortion effect, in this case the Watercolour filter, and I also wanted to bring the flowers dramatically forward in the image:

The Watercolour filter worked a treat. Bringing the flowers forward proved to be far simpler than I had thought it would be. All I had to do was reduce the saturation of the green tones in the background, reducing them to near monochrome. This piece turned out better than I though it would.

This Phyllidia ocellata  nudibranch makes a perfect subject for a cut out. The black background makes the absurd colours of this outlandish critter pop:

Nice design for a black t-shirt, eh? A touch of the Poster Edges filter gave the nudi an interesting texture.

Finally, I’ll toss in another nice piece by Lindsay Smith. Take note that I do not include Lindsay’s work in the fake art category. Lindsay actually sketches. Oh, that I had such talent:

Lindsay sketched this lovely lady over a background of my image of an oil slick on the water in front of my house. I enjoy seeing such imaginative uses of my photographs.

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The Spider and the Fly

Posted in Mixed Nuts on July 17th, 2010 by MadDog
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This morning’s sunrise was unmanageable with the tiny sensor and the somewhat limited dynamic range of my modest Canon G11. I have nothing but praise for this camera, considering that I am a relatively poor person. We just bought our first new car in nearly twelve years. I’d like to purchase a camera which would cost, with lenses, nearly a third of the price of our new Nissan Navara. That would be patently insane. Therefore, I squeeze the lemon. I do not, in any way, resent being relatively impoverished. I certainly live as a rich man here in Paradise, so why should I complain? I can’t afford an expensive car. Where would I drive it? I don’t own a Rolex. I don’t own any  watch. Why would I need one? In Paradise, things happen when they happen. I am rich beyond my wildest dreams of three or four decades past. It’s a richness that money can’t buy.

Anyway, the contrast ratio between the sun and the clouds was greater than any camera can handle. Only the human eye can deal with these conditions. I began to wonder if I might use that to my advantage. What if I could turn day into night?

Well, it’s not totally convincing, but the general effect is pleasing.

When I turned around and saw the morning sun lighting up our house and the garden all I could think was, “Wow. Gotta have that shot!”:

Too bad about that ugly TV satellite dish spoiling the shot. It’s tacky. I should Photoshop it out. What’s amusing about this shot is that you can see my shadow. I’m like the ghost appearing in the hall of the mansion. I held my trusty G11 up as high as I could to get just the right angle. The other shadow is one of our coconut trees.

Down at the water’s edge I could not resist yet another shot of one of my favourite plants commonly called the Sensitive Plant or the Tickle-Me Plant (Mimosa pudica):

Its flowers remind me a cheer-leader’s pom-poms and the leaves fold up magically if you touch them.

Half a lifetime ago, I never dreamed that I would live the rest of my life in a place where I would have orchids growing in my yard:

Life can be full of surprises. Let it flow, baby, let it flow.

Even the now familiar orange lilies were decked out in their sparkly caps of morning dew:

I will never tire of shooting water drops. There’s a purity of imagery there which is difficult to top. Less is more.

Today is about images. I suppose that you’ve guessed that already. I enjoy letting the images speak, because images can speak more eloquently than words, at least my words. I was hunting for my wonderful green spiders who frequent the yellow flowers forever blooming in our garden. They have been curiously absent recently. Today I found one laying in wait for a meal:

Does the fly sense danger? I think not. The spider is designed to be covert. Its posture mimics the shape of the flower.

Even as the spider slowly moved its legs to conform more closely to the contours of the flower, the fly approached:

And then the fly flew. Was the spider disappointed? I doubt that a spider thinks much about disappointment. It’s a waiting game. Patience is the key. The occasional meal will suffice. Would that we had such patience.

Yes, the spider waits and my attention is focused upon it. My concern is the perfect image. The spider is takes no note of me. Even as I hold the stem of the flower to adjust the angle, the spider is unconcerned:

My concentration prevented me from noticing, until I had this shot on the screen, the other  spider, which had completely escaped my attention.

How much we miss when we concentrate on one thing!

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Sunshine and Orchids

Posted in Mixed Nuts on May 11th, 2010 by MadDog
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Today I shall begin with the beginning and end with the end and skip all of the boring stuff in the middle. I’m talking about my work day, of course. I usually awake between 05:00 and 05:30 and try to get the computer turned on and start working before Eunie rises at 06:00 for her breakfast and an hour of reading. I have to keep running to the front door if there is anything interesting developing in the sky to catch the ten minute window for a decent sunrise.

This morning the sky looked chaotic. I was hoping it was not a portent of the day to come:I had a little hurry-up in the house to catch up with Eunie, who was eager to get into town for her aquarobics on a sunny morning.

I did have to pause in the front yard for this image of Kar Kar Island  sticking its dangerous head up over the horizon. I hope this baby never blows:Nothing untoward happened on the way to town, no drunks staggering out in front of the car, nobody throwing rocks at our new Nissan Navara (more to come on that later).

I had to turn off on Coronation Drive for a quick shot over Astrolabe Bay  including Coconut Point:It seems that the sky was out to impress me. It was doing a fairly good job.

Just before the Coastwatchers Monument, I got another blast of beauty:Okay, now I was set for the day. Time to focus on work for a while.

Now I skip over the boring part.

Since Eunie is helping out at the Madang Lodge and Restaurant for a while, we needed to stop there for a while on the way home. I always take advantage of this time to browse on the orchids. They are delicious:

The ones above remind me of the mating displays of some of the birds of paradise. They spread their wings and vibrate their tails. Hey, that just gave me an idea for a new dance craze. “Yeah, baby! Do da Bird o’ Paradise! Spread yo’ wings an’ vibrate yo’ tail!” Never mind. It’s nearly noon. My blood sugar is getting low. I feel dizzy.

This one is called, “Come on, Baby. Let’s do the Twist”:No, that won’t work. Somebody already took that one, Chubby Checker, to be exact.

This is the kind that we would buy for the girls when I was in high-school if we wanted to encourage them to feel generous after the dance:Which was always!  Dweebs and nerds bought wrist corsages for their dates, because they were too shy to pin one on the bosom.

I preferred the full-pinning ceremony.

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Orchids, Orchids, Orchids

Posted in Mixed Nuts on December 24th, 2009 by MadDog
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Here in Paradise, we have so many species of orchids that it’s ridiculous. Orchids are everywhere. You can’t swing a dead cat without damaging a priceless orchid plant. I found some good orchid information on an Australian site, OrchidsOnline.com.  We have our own PNG orchid site at Papua New Guinea Orchid News.

I was waiting yesterday afternoon for Eunie to do some work at Madang Lodge, so I pulled out my trusty Canon G9 and started stalking orchids. Not a bad haul for fifteen minutes of killing time.

Don’t look at me as if you think that I know what I’m talking about. I have no intention of wading through the sites listing orchid species to discover the proper names of these beauties. Let’s just call them orchids and leave it at that:I call that one a purple orchid.

And, this one is a furry orchid:

I don’t know; is that fur or fuzz? It’s hard to tell. It’s not short enough to be fuzz and not long enough to be fur. Maybe it is furz.

Here is the business end of the same orchid:

And, here is your basic ‘going to the prom’ orchid. When I was a teenager, I used to spend exorbitant sums of money buying these things to pin on the modest bosoms of girlfriends when embarking on special dates. They were good investments:Purple seems to be a very popular colour for orchids:However, sometimes you get a weird surprise:
What is that  supposed to be, anyway?

It’s the day before Christmas and you haven’t had your Christmas Tree Worm yet. So, here it is:Yes, that is a particularly spiky looking Spirobranchus giganteus.

Tomorrow is Christmas Day. I don’t have a clue what we are going to be doing yet. We will probably go up to Blueblood for a swim and a BBQ. Eunie and I wish all of you (getting to be quite a crowd now – about 1,500 per day) a very happy holiday season.

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