Archive for January, 2010

Hope for Saigon

Posted: January 31, 2010 in Misc Thoughts

Arna in 2001, just swaying from side to side to stop the boredom

After reading about Saigon’s plight in Saturday’s Herald Sun I started thinking about the other circus elephants and in particular the elephant I used to see when Ashton’s visited Melbourne and set up their Big Top at the Burnley Oval. My grandparents lived just around the corner in Richmond and it was always exciting as a kid to drive past the big tent and see the elephants while on the way to Nanny and Granddad’s. There were a couple of occasions when my Granddad and Dad took us kids around to have a look at the animals, and I think we may have watched the show once, but other than that the circus left no big impression in me. I marvelled at the elephantsSad Arna in 2001 but never thought that it was cruel that they were asked to perform for the public.

 Having read about Saigon I decided to do some research and came across Arna, an elephant who worked with the Stardust Circus. Arna underwent some horrible neglect from the Stardust Circus which you can read here, here and here. Fortunately she is now living with her friend Gigi, an ex-Ashton’s elephant, at the Western Plains Zoo with their Asian elephant Burma. Since early 2008 both Arna and Gigi, who like Saigon are in their 50s, have made the Western Plains Zoo their home. Why couldn’t Saigon be moved here? Even though the RSPCA say that Saigon is healthy isn’t it against the law for her to be left on her own. According to  the Exhibited Animals Protection Act there must be a compelling reason to exhibit a solitary elephant. Does this law just apply in NSW and not Victoria? The law also states that “Circuses should not attempt to maintain single elephants.” and that elephants “derive stimulation in interacting with other members of their own species”.


I love elephants. I think they are undoubtedly the coolest animals. They are so large and graceful and beautiful that it breaks my heart to think that these noble, intelligent beasts can be mistreated. I was quite dismayed by an article in the Herald Sun on Saturday about the last circus elephant in Australia, 55 year old Saigon, and how she is living with the Perry Bros. Circus, travelling around Australia with them but unable to perform due to her age but unable to fully retire due also to her age and that there is nowhere in Australia for old circus elephants to retire to. It made me think not just about Saigon but also about another two of Melbourne’s famous elephants, Queenie, who was such a popular attraction at Melbourne Zoo in the first half of the 20th Century, and Dokoon’s baby, who was born at Melbourne Zoo just over a week ago. I wonder if life has been that much different for Queenie as it has been for Saigon and how much different it will be for the little elephant.


Queenie was the Melbourne Zoo’s main attraction for forty years from the beginning of the last century. She was captured in India and brought to Australia and from 1905 until 1944 she would give up to 500 rides a day around the zoo to the children who visited her. In 1944 she was put down after she crushed her trainer Wilfred Lawson to death. According to some witnesses Queenie may have retaliated to the mistreatment that she had sustained from Lawson over the years. “My dad believed it was deliberate, because Mr Lawson was pretty rough with her.” says Joyce Hamilton, whose father Adolphus Stanley, had looked after Queenie for a month at the time while her regular keeper, Lawson was on holidays. Mrs. Hamilton told The Age that Lawson hit the elephant with a piece of wood behind the ears when she did not move fast enough and that she believed that Queenie cracked when Lawson returned as her keeper after a month of her father’s care.

Queenie’s story has been wonderfully retold by Corinne Fenton in her brilliant picture book Queenie: One Elephant’s Story.



As was reported in the Herald Sun, Saigon is a 55 year old elephant with Perry Bros. Circus. She is Australia’s last circus elephant after the death of her Mynyak last month. At 55 she is too old to perform with the circus anymore but she travels with the circus because there is nowhere for her to retire to. Perry Bros. spokesperson Lorraine Maynard said that if a zoo took Saigon she would not be able to establish herself with the existing herds and would be killed. While I don’t believe this for a second I do wonder why Melbourne Zoo went to the trouble of importing three much younger female elephants a few years ago and did not volunteer to take in Saigon or Mynyak so they could retire in peace. (It would not have anything to do with the fact that Saigon is too old to breed would it?!)

On the other hand Saigon was born in captivity and has been with Perry Bros. for 50 years. The circus is the only family she has ever known and it would not be right to take her away from the people whom she lives with and loves. It does not seem that she is being abused or forced to do anything against her will, and she is not malnourished.

Dokoon’s Baby

Just on a couple of weeks ago Melbourne Zoo welcomed a new resident when Dokoon the elephant gave birth to a baby girl. Unlike Queenie and Saigon Dokoon’s bundle of joy won’t have to endure a lifetime of work, or will she? We have seen that the Melbourne Zoo elephants perform mini shows every day as well as other unnatural things like painting. Sure their shows are not the big extravaganzas that Saigon used to perform and the elephants no longer have to carry snot nosed brats around the zoo on their backs, but they do not do these things in the wild either. In the wild elephants spend all their time roaming the jungles and rainforests looking for food, not trying to become the next Picasso. Melbourne Zoo’s elephant enclosure is very small, especially when compared to the vast areas of the elephant’s natural habitat. I often wonder if the elephant enclosure is big enough for five (now six) elephants.

As for animal cruelty, mum Dokoon has allegedly experienced that first hand in her time at Melbourne Zoo. According to various news agencies, a couple of years ago there were allegations that a trainer, Pat Flora, had stabbed Dokoon a dozen times because he feared being injured as she was backing into him. Flora was present conforting Dokoon as she gave birth, as was Dr. Helen McCracken who was also painted in a very unflattering light in the above article from The Age  that I linked to, thanks to some of the remarks that she made. For those of you who are too lazy to click on The Age link that I have provided former zoo strategic planner David Hancocks said “There are essentially two ways to treat an elephant — by dominating and controlling it, which creates stress and potential danger, or by only positive reinforcement and the creation of an environment of mutual trust… Pat Flora is definitely a staunch advocate of the former method.” I wonder how different this really is the way that Mr. Lawson allegedly had treated Queenie all those years ago?!

Of course this is the dilemma that I face. I want to visit the little one when she goes on display in the next couple of weeks but I am opposed to the idea of zoos altogether. They do play an important role in helping to breed endangered animals (although Asian elephants are not endangered, despite what Melbourne Zoo tells us), but I don’t want the only place these animals can be viewed to be in a zoo. I also think that elephants especially should have enough room to roam around in and I don’t think that their cramped quarters at Melbourne Zoo is near enough.

Exciting Comics.

Posted: January 26, 2010 in Comic Books

I think this is taking things to the extreme.exciting

Heroic Comics. Pandas Are Deadly.

Posted: January 26, 2010 in Comic Books

I haven’t done a comics related post for months, so I thought I would do one now. This pic has been stuck on my hard drive for ages and I thought that it would be appropriate for this blog. heroicI don’t know how ferocious pandas are as they all look so cuddly to me. I think in real life they are too lazy to actually attack someone like this unless the person actually went out of their way to annoy the shit out of the panda. I’m sure the Chinese government would be happy with the American tourist shooting their national treasure. Then again we all know that Americans love their guns and will shoot the crap out of anything, so I’m not surprised.

The Debate Rages On

Posted: January 26, 2010 in Melbourne
Tags: ,


This Australia Day we ventured to the King’s Domain to have a look at the festivities there. Firstly we went into have a look inside Government House, and then we walked around the gardens looking at the classic cars on display.

I was really surprised at how many American and British cars were on display. There were heaps of big yank tanks such as 50s and 60s Plymouths, Fords, Chryslers and especially Buicks. There were also MGs, Austins, Wolsleys, Singers and other British cars. There were very few Aussie cars which really surprised me. The American Buicks outnumbered the Holdens by 2:1 while there were fewer Falcons than Mustangs. A Rolls Royce

chrysler airflow
There were some European marques in attendance but there were nowhere near the numbers as of the British and American cars. There were some Alfa Romeos there, celebrating the Milanese marques’ 100th birthday. There weren’t that many Alfas though. Perhaps these are the only examples of Alfas that have not rusted.
alfa 1


racing cra

alfa 2



The Alfa Romeo TZ.



There was also a Mercedes 300 SL gullwing, one of the most beautiful cars ever built.


three point star


Here’s a Porsche 356.


Some speedway cars.


The Roulettes performed some acrobatics for the crowd.
Roulettes 1
roulettes 2

roulettes 3

At the Myer Music Bowl there was an Indian concert on. Unfortunately we didn’t see any Bollywood dancing, but instead there was a music group performing.
There were also some colourful Indian rangolis.



rangoli 2

shiva 1

shiva 2

Guess Who I Saw?

Posted: January 21, 2010 in Melbourne

And I’m a Republican too!

Australia has taken a lot of curry from India over the issue of racism lately. It seems that not a day goes by without hearing in the news of an Indian student living in Melbourne being bashed and beaten. Just a couple of weeks ago Nitin Garg was murdered while just last week an Indian taxi driver in Ballarat was beaten and called an Indian c_nt. Some people still deny that there is a racism problem towards Indians in Melbourne, but I have become convinced that there is something not quite right going on and that a solution to this problem needs to be found. Unfortunately most Aussies will put their heads in the sand or even worse, just play childish games by pointing out the well known problems that exist in India. That is what the Herald Sun’s Alan Howe did just this week.

Now listen here India

* Alan Howe
* From: Herald Sun
* January 17, 2010 8:41PM
INDIANS are a riot. Indeed, there are about 60,000 riots reported in India each year.

It boasts it is the world’s largest democracy, but that “democracy” is very much a work in progress, and the progress is slow.

Much of the country still has well-populated pockets of feudal brutality, deadly caste war, and murderous religious conflict.

Leave your question or comment for Alan below
His live blog begins at 1pm

Indians still carry out so-called honour killings, an unpleasant business in which concerned male family members, worried about the class, religion, background, or maybe just the look of a girl’s fiance or husband, brutally kill one or both for bringing shame upon them. Apparently no irony is intended.
Along with the popular takeaway chicken tikka masala, honour killings are a notable Indian export.

Just last month a young secretary and mother was found dying in a London street, bashed and with her right hand missing. Her husband and his mate have been charged with her murder.

It’s reported she’d wanted a divorce. I can’t think why.

Geeta Aulakh’s family is from Punjab, India’s most socially and economically advanced state, but life there can be barbaric. It was also home to Nitin Garg, the young graduate murdered here recently.

Were it not such a tragic and serious matter, you could almost have found amusing Indian politicians, and that country’s sub-standard media, lecturing Victoria on our “racist” attitudes.

Among Indian politicians calling for more action to prevent “racist” attacks was External Affairs Minister S.M. Krishna, who threatened: “This heinous crime on humanity, this is an uncivilised attack on innocent Indians. It will certainly have some bearing on the bilateral ties between our two countries.”

Another minister rudely dismissed our police chief with an impertinent insult.

He inherited a Victoria Police that has been unnecessarily secretive and defensive for years, ever since Neil Comrie had the top job.
So it was like a breath of fresh air when he loudly went in to bat for his officers, and you and me, telling his Indian critics “there are over 33,000 murders in India every year; 8000 of those are actually brides being killed because the dowry’s not sufficient”.

Like more than a few Australian men, some Indian chaps are hopeless in the kitchen, but they are also more careless; their stoves so often blow up, killing their wives. It is called stove killing or bride burning. What really happens is that the grumpy husband douses his inadequate wife in kerosene and sets her alight, blaming his jerry-built cooker.

I don’t suppose they’re all guilty; I’m sure you’ve been in a few houses yourself when the stove’s blown up.

I’ve had my moments with the missus, but I’ve never looked to the Hotpoint for an answer.

According to the United Nations, more people are murdered in India than in any other country. The figures should shame the Indian Government and its police, but they’d rather demand, as Mr Krishna did when Mr Garg was murdered, that Australia “speedily” catch the killer.

I have some advice for Mr Krishna. In 2007, the last complete year for which figures on Indian murders are available — but you’ll appreciate there’s a lot of adding up to do — 32,318 murders were reported. The conviction rate was 35.5 per cent.

India’s Minister for Police should get on his bike — or bullock cart — and “speedily” chase down those 20,845 scoundrels who escaped conviction.

Punjab’s police chief is P.S. Gill and, like Overland, he is newly appointed. He has his work cut out for him.

According to India’s National Crime Records Bureau, Mr Gill has to deal with perhaps 800 murders a year, and as many kidnappings and abductions among a population only somewhat greater than Australia’s.

His officers are kept busy, sometimes on matters that less commonly clutter the diaries of their Australian counterparts: for instance, about 1000 unidentified bodies turn up each year in Punjab. Bodies, not missing people.

Since Mr Garg was killed, many Indians — not just those indolent thugs burning effigies of Kevin Rudd — have turned on Australia and Australians and lazily and reactively branded us as racist.

The head of the Right-wing Hindu Shiv Sena party, Bal Thackeray, said he would bar Australian cricketers from playing locally. “We will not allow kangaroo cricketers to play in Mumbai … Our boys are being stabbed, burnt and shot at in that country,” he said.

I am unaware any of “his boys” have been “burnt”, but maybe he’s confusing himself with local cases.

There were also calls for a trade embargo, a predictable call to suspend the recruitment of students by Australian universities and, hurtfully, “Bollywood superstar” Amitabh Bachchan’s rejection of an honorary degree from a Brisbane university.

Who? I looked him up on the internet, and just last week he won a local best-actor award. Receiving it, he said: “It feels strange to win a best-actor award. I mean, what exactly am I doing here?”

I have no idea, mate, but keep talking.

Nitin Garg’s death is a tragedy. For him, his family in Punjab, his friends, and for our community.

We don’t know yet who killed him. It probably was an opportunistic robbery gone wrong, but he may have been killed by someone out to harm an Indian. He may have even been killed by an Indian. They have form, home and away.

So let’s solve the crime and get the facts. Let’s not jump to any conclusions.

Well, maybe one: Australia is a safer and more tolerant country than India will ever be.

I am sure there are better ways of proving that Australia is not a racist country than by writing the most racist diatribe possible. We like to see Australia as being the best country in the world and as such we should not give a damn about what is happening in India but instead of trying to fix our own problems first. Howe just proves his ignorance with crap like this and instead of helping ease the tensions between India and Australia he is just fanning the flames even further. Howe just has a stupid habit of trying to prove that white people are superior to everyone else and it is just embarrassing and extremely racist. I am sick of horribly patronising articles like this and wonder how exactly Howe got his job.

What is wrong with you?

Posted: January 19, 2010 in Melbourne, Misc Thoughts

I really have to question the intelligence of today’s young people. While I once swore that I would never become an old, judgemental fart decrying youth as being stupid, I feel that I no longer have a choice because I cannot understand why anyone would get into a car and drive at 70 kms over the speed limit, especially someone who has just lost five friends in a car accident because they were excessively speeding. Perhaps it shows the lack of intelligence of Gen’ Yers when there have been two friends of the five dead men who have been caught speeding in the 48 hours since the horrific accident. Are they so stupid that they don’t even learn when it’s their own mates who have died?

To be honest I am getting sick of hearing about the brainless antics of 18-30 year old men. It seems not a day goes by when I hear of these morons hitting the roads while drunk or driving at incredibly stupid speeds. It seems to have become something that has become increasingly more frequent as stories like this now make the news every day. Perhaps it is because Gen’ Y’s have grown up without any discipline or consequences for their actions that they takes such excessively dumb risks? Maybe it is because they receive praise for every little thing that they do that they have such over-confidence in their own abilities? I suppose for that reason it is their parents, Gen’ X’ers, who should take the blame for turning out a generation of idiots.


Posted: January 18, 2010 in Melbourne, Misc Thoughts

Just what is happening on Melbourne’s roads. There doesn’t seem to be a day that goes by without hearing of some horrific accident, someone being caught driving drunk/drug affected or excessively speeding. Yesterday five teenagers were killed in Mill Park when their car hit trees while travelling at 140 kmph. Another young man was caught driving at 70 kms over the speed limit. While teenagers have always taken dumb risks when they get behind the wheel I think that it is getting to epidemic proportions. And it’s not just teenagers, but 20 and 30 somethings as well.

I don’t know whether I have only just started taking notice of this type of thing but surely things have gotten worse in the last 12 months or so.