Saturday, March 12, 2011

Saturday, March 12, 2011

FINALLY, WE GET TO THE CASINO: We have been living in its shadow for more than a month. Today, I finally made it to the Marina Bay Sands Casino.
I walked over to the three-towered casino/hotel/shopping center (right) with Chris Donahue (nephew) and Stephen Herron (son). On the way into the casino, we walked by a gold-tinted performance artists perched on a stationary bicycle (with a flat front tire (right). We needed passports to get in. For some reason, I was allowed to waltz right past the officials at the door. They wanted to take a closer look at Chris and Stephen. I guess that was the "high-roller" treatment. Almost immediately I revealed my true nature. I went to a display rack and picked up one of the casino's handy "gaming guide" brochures. This was for "Three Card Poker." Note to self: If you MUST get a brochure to learn how to play a card game, don't wait until you are INSIDE THE CASINO to begin the learning process. I decided to fold 'em before even playing one hand. Heck, I don't even know what an "envy bonus" is.
Anyway, we got there about 11 a.m. and promptly had lunch. After a lot of walking around, we finally found a table for blackjack (amid the many for baccarat, three-card stud, Singapore hold 'em and pontoon). Stephen plopped himself down at the only blackjack table we could find (among many in the well-lit, wide-open area. After about ten hands, Stephen had turned his $50 into $100. He sensibly quit.

SINGAPORE AFTER DARK: In the evening, Stephen, Chris, Abby Donahue, Sandy and I headed to the Night Safari in north central Singapore. We had supper at the zoo and then watched a very nice "Creatures of the Night" show. Above, some of the cast members display a reticulated python they plucked from a box under one of the benches in the auditorium. (There's a clearer picture of the emcee, Mark, at right.) One of the stunning features of that after-dark show and the tram ride that followed was that a large number of people in attendance KEPT USING THEIR FLASH CAMERAS despite repeated pleas from employees of the zoo to NOT do so. One person actually stood up to get a close look at a barn owl as it perched on a trainer's hand or shoulder, pushed his shutter and BLASTED the poor critter with his flash. How dim can you be? They should have thrown him out or stopped the show immediately. Later, on a tram ride, some nut pointed his camera at a mellow KING OF THE JUNGLE and plastered him with a bolt of light. Might that prompt a lion to leap?????
Full disclosures: Sandy took the above picture WITHOUT a flash. I took the one of the emcee WITH a flash, but BEFORE he announced the prohibition. For the record, some people think flash photography is overrated. Tonight's zoo crew is pictured below--the shot being taken WITH a flash by a zoo employee FAR AWAY from the creatures of the night.

Friday, March 11, 2011

Wednesday to Friday, March 9-11, 2011 (Brisbane, Melbourne, Canberra)

IF IT'S WEDNESDAY, THIS MUST BE BRISBANE: We began a three cities in three days stretch on Wednesday, when we flew to the warmer north today, landing in Brisbane. It's still reeling a bit from the massive flooding that struck this area of Queensland in January. The "mangrove boardwalk" remains (above) which allows strollers to wander out among those trees that thrive at waters edge and have their own desalination process inside. This allows them to flourish on the seaside and in tidal rivers, such as the Brisbane River.
The walk in the riverside botanic park is peppered with signs to allow step-counters to keep track of their exertions. Shockingly, obesity is a problem in Australia.
We took a neat trip along the river on a taxi-like "City Cat" boat. The outfit was able to keep its fleet downstream and lost no boats during the flooding. It did, however, lose some of its landing jetties. For much of the trip, Sandy and I were the only ones on the boat. Normally, one of the crew said, the boat would be about 75% full.

THURSDAY IN MELBOURNE: On the middle-day day trip, we flew to Melbourne, where Sandy made a presentation to the local CFA group. I hustled to the sobering Shrine of Remembrance on the south side of the river. The Flinders Street Station caught my eye. The photo doesn't quite capture the distinct yellow shade of the building.
In the afternoon, we caught up with Eileen Turpin, who's a junior at Boston College and studying this semester at the University of Melbourne. She's a neighbor in Winchester and has been a longtime babysitter for our nephew Levi. She's doing great, Tom and Susan.

FRIDAY IN CANBERRA: During our last day in Australia, we flew to Canberra, the capital city. This provided an opportunity to visit the spectacular Australian War Memorial. Much of the space is devoted to those who gave their lives. There are MANY. The photo above shows how people have tucked small poppies by the names of those who died during World War I.
I've been doing a lot of research on the U.S. soldiers who were blinded in battle during the Great War. I couldn't take my eyes off a small collection of fragments from various high-explosive shells. This is the type of whirling metal (right) that smashed into the faces of many of the men who were blinded.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Tuesday, March 8, 2011 (Sydney)

A VISIT TO SIDNEY IS A WALK IN THE PARK: Sandy and I have tromped and traipsed a bit in Sidney. One of the great strolls is, of course at the waterfront near the Sidney Opera House. (I'm resisting the urge so I can be among the few, the proud--the ones who do NOT include a picture of the SOH in a blog dealing the Sidney.) One of my favorite places was the expansive Hyde Park (above). We couldn't get into the Royal Botanic Gardens because the gates closed at 6:30, but that 's the place with one of the great signs in all Parkdom (right): "Please Walk on the Grass...."

THE ZOO REVISITED: One of the great sights at the zoo on Sunday was an I'm-Gonna-Stick-My-Tongue-Out-At-You-And-I-Dare-You-to-Do-Anything-About-It Tiger (safely behind glass).
One of the great corrections I've read in the New York Times, linked to an article published Aug. 27, 2008, "For a New Political Age, a Self-Made Man":
Correction: September 3, 2008
A picture caption on Thursday with the continuation of an article about Senator Barack Obama’s life and career referred incorrectly to a stick from his grandmother’s village in Kenya that he displays in his office. It is a leopard-beating stick, not a tiger-beating stick. (There are, of course, no tigers in Africa.)
I have italicized the last line for emphasis. The "of course" really nails it down, attitudewise.

Monday, March 7, 2011 (Sydney)

WHAT'S IN A NAME? The last name of Herron is not all that rare, but it still prompts a double take--from me, anyway. One of the many ferries plying the waters of Sydney's great harbor is called the "Lady Herron." We spotted it (above) while on our way to the zoo on Sunday. The ferry is named after the wife of Leslie Herron.
The name popped up again when we opened a drawer in our hotel room. It is supposed to provide "effective relief from pain" and is produced under the copyrighted name of HERRON (right). Usually my family and I tend to CAUSE headaches and other pains. Here the name is linked to attempts to MINIMIZE pain. I like that. The company's Web site explains the name in a timeline, beginning with the year 1980:
Euan and Kaye Murdoch start "HERRON Laboratories" from a garage in Salisbury, Brisbane, manufacturing and selling 'Anti-D", a heart-worm product for pets. The name "HERRON" was taken from their home address, Brisbane."
A heart-worm product for pets?????

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Sunday, March 6, 2011 (in Sydney)

A ZOO(M) WITH A VIEW: Sandy and I caught a ferry to cross Sydney's expansive harbor to go to the remarkable Taronga Zoo, which snuggles itself among the folds on the northern side of the bay. The long-distance and close-up views at the zoo were fantastic. The giraffe (above) merely had to swing his/her head to enjoy a full panorama of the harbor. The koala (right) was less interested in any kind of view or activity. We particularly enjoyed the Sky Safari, a cable car ride that whisks you from the ferry dock to to top of the hill (below), cruising above some of the animals, such as elephants and chimpanzees. Somehow we successfully made our "exit through the gift shop" without buying anything. One of life's little victories.

BY, ER, BUY THE BOOK: From my own perch in Singapore/Sydney, I was delighted to see that the memoir Pitch Uncertain by Maisie Houghton, received
a very positive review in March 24 issue of The New York Review of Books. Maisie's book was just published by us [TidePool Press]. The review, by Walter Kaiser, includes this comment:
Her account of her parents is compassionate but unflinching in its candor, and her analysis of their characters is sharp with insight, sometimes sorrowful, sometimes impatient, sometimes accepting. They come alive on the page, as she attempts to understand the world into which she was born, so as not to be imprisoned by its customs and its cultural assumptions but to understand who she is. That knowledge is the hard-won triumph of her book.
This review is a nice follow-up to pre-publication reviews in Publishers Weekly and Vogue. We're working on a couple of manuscripts for summer and fall publication. And I am continuing to do my research and writing on my World War I-related book that's tentatively entitled The Blinks: The Blind Soldiers of the A.E.F. and the Woman Who Brought Them Home.