Monday, July 12, 2010

Beware of the Monster . . .

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In the summertime in France, there are a few small circus operations that criss-cross the land, setting up their tents for a few days at a time here and there, putting on their shows under the big top, doing their best to amaze and entertain mainly small children, whose parents probably saw such events as children, and who want to pass on and share those memories with their own offspring.
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I have to admit, I have quite mixed feelings about circuses. I hate to see animals that should by all rights be wild, in cages. Usually in fairly squalid conditions. Tigers should be roaming dark jungles, not pacing a cage. Camels should be out in a desert somewhere, not in northern France tied to a stake in the ground. Zebras should be out on the African plains, worrying perhaps about lions, but not behind bars in a circus.
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On the other hand, were it not for zoos and circuses, many children might never see some of these large animals which are not native to their country. I'm not sure if that small redeeming value can justify such spectacles, but there is not much I could do to change these things, even if I wanted to. Surreptitiously setting the animals free around here would be crueler than letting them continue their caged existence, they would either become roadkill or be hunted down and caught again, or killed if not caught.
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It was the elephant here that caught my eye as I was driving to work the other day, I made a mental note to return with camera in hand . . . (Lydia, if you see this, note the "Lydia" on the trailer here . . .)
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Their camel was calling out, "Step up, step up, come one, come all !!", while showing off his strong set of teeth !
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Lions were roaring . . . silently . . .
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These two were holding a little secret meeting, maybe plotting their escape ?
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There were some amazing beasts to be seen. Would not want to get gored by this fellow . . . Shucks, if they turned him loose in the streets of Pamplona, he could skewer a whole shishkabob of runners on those long horns of his . . .
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All manner of creatures, great and small, were to be found there . . . even a goat.
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Tired of pacing the cage, he toppled over, one paw raised, even in sleep not forgetting the heavy gauge wire of the cage . . .
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But the most surprising sight that afternoon was the zebra, who after tiring of browsing the sparse grass, decided to chomp on a tasty looking green tee shirt that stepped a bit too close. The boy squealed with shock, and the zebra let go. The message on the boy's shirt seemed perfectly appropriate : "Beware of the Monster" !
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44 comments:

Sixpence and a Blue Moon said...

What fantastic photos! Wow, looks like a fun day. :)

Alberto Oliver said...

Super pics Owen. I am definetively against animals in the circus. But heck, this world is becoming a so dangerous place that sometimes i wonder my self as well if animals would be more safe behind the bars. Certainly that zebra is taking a good revenge, and goats, i love goats,,they realy know how to get the control of the situation, they are the only rascals that know how to play some jokes on humans =)=).
Wish you great week my friend!!

Steve said...

I'm never too sure about circuses either... they just feel like extensions of the old victorian freak show...

Nanny Goats In Panties said...

That boy's shirt was perfect. And that goat was cute! Such great pictures, Owen.

Karine A. said...

J'aime particulièrement la photo du chameau rieur, mais je suis sûre que toi, tu auras préféré le tigre zébré ...
Ton fils(?) si tu continues comme cela, finira par aimer les zèbres beaucoup moins que toi.

Jessie said...

Gorgeous photos as ever Owen! I really love circus imagery but I must say I find visiting there tedious and dare I say it...boring? I want to enjoy it but there you are! :o)

lgsquirrel said...

Haha. As usual, you have woven a wonderful tale in words and pictures. Makes me want to run away and join a circus to see new worlds with new wonders ...and to set the animals free before I bail.

mythopolis said...

Wonderful photos, and it brings back some childhood memories. Not far from here is an elephant sanctuary, a retirement place for aging circus elephants. They are free to wander about one hundreds of acres, and enjoy their remaining days.

TechnoBabe said...

I forwarded your post to hubby and a couple other people who have strong beliefs about animals being free and not in cages. Hubby has not gone to a zoo because of his feelings. But he has recently said he would go to the zoo near us because I want to go. I could go by myself but he has decided he would like to go. I like all your pictures. I was seventeen the first time I went to a circus. I think I will do a post about that. The last picture of the zebra and the little boy is so precious, you got a great look on the boy's face.

Deborah said...

The Zavatta circus comes to this part of France, too, and it always makes my heart sink a little bit to see it arrive in town.
I hate to see the animals caged as some of them are, and the whole thing just seems like a relic of the bad old days. You, who often seem to have a bleak view of the world, can at least see the positive aspect of these shows. Great photos as usual, Owen, and good catch with that last one!

...louciao... said...

It is a testament to your photographic talent and gift of recounting the anecdotal that you are able to take the tawdry and sad and transform it all into something utterly charming.

(you can paraphrase that quote on the back of the dust jacket of your first published book if you like)

the fly in the web said...

Zavatta comes here too...I often wonder if it is a franchise operation...and I hate it.

Stickup Artist said...

I understand your mixed feelings about the circus. On the one hand a nostalgic live entertainment, then on the other hand, anyone with an ounce of sensitivity would feel saddened for the animals. It's enough to be thoughtful and rethink established traditions and there is so much worse animal abuse to fight against if you can put a scale to such things.

That aside your photos are as compelling as always, capturing another unique slice of life depicting another piece of the puzzle of what it is to be human.

Virginia said...

Oh Owen this is a delightful, if a bit sad, post. I've so enjoyed your great photos and you're so right, that last one is perfect. Thanks for taking us to the French circus!
V

James said...

I share your feelings about circus animals. I've heard many stories about animal neglect and even abuse. The boy is lucky that it's only a hungry zebra and not an elephant with a cold. I had the misfortune of standing in front of a sneezing elephant at a circus when I was a boy. I'll spare you the wet icky details. Yuck!
I can laugh about it now though and I love that bottom photo. :)

Clytie said...

I have never been to a circus, and am not sure if I would ever go.

The shot of the boy in the t-shirt is absolutely perfect!

Laurie said...

Nice one, Owen. Some of these animals look really ferocious!
Laurie

ρομπερτ said...

Must be half a decade ago, since last went to a Circus on me own. And yes, it is always like escaping into a childhood world. Thank you for that, please have you all a great Tuesday.

daily athens

Amy said...

I share the same feelings about circuses and zoos. At least in zoos, they can have roomier spaces and hopefully cleaner ones. But it really depends on the zoo.

I'm glad you went back with your camera to bring us the images though. I have this idea that when I am older and retired and quite eccentric, I might have a zoo populated only with animal statues. It would be the least expensive to maintain zoo ever.

Owen said...

Hi Sixpence...(and blue moon)
Always liked the notion of sixpence, for some reason makes me think of Christopher Robin. And also George Orwell's "Keep the Aspidistra Flying", in which a coin known as a "joey", or a thruppence figures...

Anyway, I'm nattering, as usual, thanks very much...

:::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::

Alberto,
Good to see you here... so have goats been playing tricks on you again ??? If you enjoy goat antics, I'd suggest you click on the comment left by "Nanny Goats In Panties" here, there are goats galore over there...

Are animals safer in cages today than in the wild... now that is a scary thought, and you may be partly right. It just makes me so sick to see things like Japan, Iceland, and Norway totally ignoring the ban on whaling, while those great animals hover on the brink of extinction. And tigers and rhinoceri not far from going extinct because ignorant folklore in some places ascribes sexual powers to powder from rhinoceros horn or tiger flesh... and it just goes on and on. There is a song that says, "We will leave this place an empty stone". I wonder if they were right ? Time will tell...
Be well...

Owen said...

Hey Steve,
Hope your trash can issues get resolved.

And yeah, I don't know which is worse, the freak shows with humans on display, or the circus and zoos with non-human animals in cages... Both the result of our amazing arrogance as a race in general...

Owen said...

Hi Margaret NGIP...

I was just getting read to drop by and let you know about this goat photo, which you are welcome to "kid"nap if you care to use it at your place. And I've got a couple of other very recent goat images to share with you soon... am a bit crazy with work these days, but will get there...
:-)

Owen said...

Bonjour Karine !
En fait, j'adore les chameaux en tête à tête, mais celui qui chante la beauté de ses dents est sympa aussi...

Sinon, ce n'est pas mon fils, j'ai deux filles, mais pas de fils; juste un jeune homme qui passait par là avec son papa, et il a eu de la chance que le zèbre n'a attrappé que sa chemise... Sans doute, il va se souvenir de ce zèbre.
:-)

Owen said...

Hi Jessie,
I only went to spend some time outside with the animals, didn't even see the show in the tent, like you, I just can't see participating by actually paying...

The animals were bored too...

Owen said...

Hey LGS, I'm with you, and if all your squirrel gang friends came along, I'll bet they could chew through all the ropes in no time, and if a few of them have diamond tipped teeth, they could chew through the cage bars too...

Owen said...

Hi Mythopolis... the elephant sanctuary sounds like a good place with a good mission... can you tell me more ? Where is it ? Is it in Tennessee perhaps ??? Hohenwald ? The wonders of Google...

Lydia said...

How about that...there's a Lydia Circus besides the one that lives inside my head!
I am so glad that you committed to returning with your camera because these are such great shots of a mixture of real and statue animals. If there is a circus left in the U.S. that travels and sets up outside for all to pass by, I am not aware of it. This conjures up the circus lore of childhood for me, before I was aware of the cruelties involved.
Where the t-shirt&zebra shot is a remarkable one in so many ways, that tiger shot is one for the record books...especially poignant this Year of the Tiger, and along with your commentary proved to be a tearjerker for me.

Lydia said...

p.s. Darn! Forgot to tell you that I had a pet goat in high school who looked so much like the goat in your photo. Her name was, I thought quite appropriately, Capricorn. I loved her.

The Sagittarian said...

While I've been working you have been clowning about at the circus? the REAL circus as opposed to work! Wonderful photos here, and looks like a great day out. Love that last shot of the kid....

mythopolis said...

Yes, the sanctuary is in Hohenwald...you are exactly right. It is about 30 miles from where I presently live.

Nevine said...

First of all, thank you for the offer to send me the full photo of Amande... I have sent you an email. No you wouldn't have found my email address on my profile... I don't post it there.

But then, now, these circus animals... with their stripes and spots and lovely colors. I remember I used to love going to the circus, as a little child. It was such a highlight to watch the tigers jumping through rings of fire, and the trapezists doing crazy twisting maneuvers with their bodies and just hanging and swinging from the sky. And that little boy... he doesn't look in the least shocked... rather he has that childish glint of excitement in his eyes.

But the sweet little goat... is most precious of all. I love goats so dearly. They are the sweetest little things! Look at his eyes!!!

I think little ones would enjoy this magical post, Owen. I really think they would! A vicarious visit to the circus, it is!

Nevine

clo said...

Howdy owen..
je n'ai pas eu le courage de traduire le texte ne m'en veux pas..:o)
mais je crois avoir compris que tu as visité un zoo enchanteur...
j'aime les cirques et en même temps mon cœur se serre toujours a la vue de tous ces animaux en captivité..
je préfère le cirque acrobatique ou ce sont seulement des humains qui jouent un rôle...
mais tes photos sont belles et j'ai un faible pour l'énorme matou qui te tend sa grosse patte..il est superbe..
j'espère que tout va bien...
je t'embrasse Owen..:o)

alwaysinthebackrow said...

The tiger with its' paw on the cage wires is wonderful...pondering his containment, perhaps, or plotting his escape? Maybe even revenge for his capture?
Lovely pictures of a place often quite dreary and depressing. The boy in green looks quite yummy to a goat, I assume!

Owen said...

Hi TechnoB, if you get to the zoo, hope we'll get some of your pictures from the trip... Have you ever seen the series of photos that Garry Winogrand shot at a zoo in New York ? If not, they are worth tracking down, a fabulous mix of human and animal animals...

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Hi Deborah, yeah, Zavatta is fairly visible in France, they either multiple caravans or they really get around... So, what's this about a bleak outlook ??? I'm chuckling... me, bleak ? It's like Mad Magazine's Alfred Neumann saying, "What, me worry?" I think the best use of the word "bleak" in history was in the title of Charles Dickens' Bleak House... sets the mood right away. But it should be kept in mind, I almost always have a faint trace of a smile at the corner of my lips even when observing the bleakest subjects imaginable... in keeping with Milan Kundera's The Joke, or David Foster Wallace's Infinite Jest.

If there are any gods out there, they are surely laughing at our bleak blunders as a species, it's probably best to laugh with them, as the rest is tragedy...

Me, bleak ? Perish the thought...
:-)

Owen said...

Louciao,
Note to self, save this comment in order to use it on book jacket in the odd event that this blog should go viral and give rise to a best-selling book someday... Maybe in another month or two, right ? See, that's optimism, the opposite of bleak...
:-)
Thanks though, that's a lovely way to sum things up here... trying to find a little humour and charm in a morass of sad and tawdry...
:-)
And don't be leaping off to any tenuous punning with the word "morass", though we could all do with more ass of the amazing kind that Stickup Artist gave us there... that was truly the most stunning donkey I ever saw...
:-)

Owen said...

Fly in Web, I hear you...


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Ah, Stickup Artist,
There you are, I was just going on about your wonderful mule again. (I have to stop calling it an Ass, which is Lynne's fault ! :-)

And yeah, I think I see what you're saying, in general, the human race treats all other species of fauna on this planet in a horrendous manner. Caging them for circuses is only the tiny tip of the iceberg, or should I say bloodberg... I don't know where our arrogance is going to lead us... and I'm not sure I want to find out... the more pieces of the puzzle I see, the less I like

And a song comes to mind, The Falling Dark, by Bruce Cockburn :

and the lights lie tumbled out like gems
the moon is nothing but a toothless grin
floating out on the evening wind
the smell of sweat and lube oil pervades the night
and the rush of life in flight at the speed of light

a million footsteps whispering
a guitar sounds -- some voices sing
smoke on the breeze -- eyes that sting
far in the east a yellow cloud bank climbs
stretching away to be part of tomorrow's time.

earthbound while everything expands
so many grains of sand
slipping from hand to hand
catching the light and falling into dark
the world fades out like an overheard remark
in the falling dark.

light pours from a million radiant lives
off of kids and dogs and the hard-shelled husbands and wives
all that glory shining around and we're all caught taking a dive
and all the beasts of the hills around shout, "such a waste!
don't you know that from the first to the last we're all one in the gift of Grace!"

Which you could hear here if you were so inclined :

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lYAFzVTLIQs

Owen said...

Hi Virginia,
You are so very welcome... amazing what one stumbles on when one gets out to ramble around a bit...

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James ! That sneezing elephant sounds like anyone's worst nightmare. Not sure I want to imagine the quantity and force involved of expelled matter...
:-)

When I was little I had a goat pee on me through a fence... if that's any consolation...

Owen said...

Hi Clytie,
I guess if one's never been to the circus as a kid, one would have less of a possible internal conflict of opinion. When I was little we were taken to a Ringling Brothers circus, which I guess left an impression, but today I just hate to see the animals in cages... And good to see one at least getting a little revenge... even if no harm was done.
:-)

Owen said...

Laurie, totally ferocious !

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Hi Robert... I guess a bit of an escape every ten years or so can't hurt... many thanks... Tuesday came and went in a blur of work, as did Wednesday...

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Hey Amy,
The San Diego Zoo had some good big spaces it seems to me, but it's still a zoo. I like your idea of a sculpture zoo... I would just hope that some of the real anmimals would still remain in the wild, and the sculptures would not be the last images of extinct species...
Love your last couple of posts !

Owen said...

Hi Lydia,
Hope you have some pictures still of Capricorn ? I'd forgotten this was the year of the tiger... if only all tigers were free in the wild, and not being hunted... Many many thanks, I glad this brought back some memory and stirred some emotions... alot of food for thought here... Be well...

Owen said...

Nathalie,
An excellent bit of advice I think for anyone... don't wear green when going near the zebra pen, and definitely do not dress up as a broccoli !
:-)

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Dear Sister Saj,
You know me by know, always out goofing off if I can get away with it... a thousand thank you's...

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Nevine,
Amande is in the virtual mail, even if in fact she's right here beside me. So you too have childhood memories of the circus... it was the highwire acts, the trapeze, the jugglers and unicyclists, and the clowns that really left memories, but the animals were a big part of it too. Trained dogs even... childhood memories.

And a goat lover too ? Do take a look at Margaret's Nanny Goats In Panties site if you have minute, there are lots of goats there... it's in my sidebar...

Hope it's not too hot in Texas...

Owen said...

Howdy Clo !
Je pensais à toi ce matin pendant qu'un déluge nous tombait dessus du ciel, et j'ai eu quelques flaques d'eau à la cave à nettoyer, mais rien à voir avec Draguignan... j'ose esperer que les choses vont un peu mieux là-bas, mais j'imagine cela va être long à revenir. Tu as raison, le texte se plaignait des animaux dans des cages, j'ai horreur de voir cela, la captivité est immonde, et je me sens assez dépourvu de moyens de compréhension, et encore moins, d'actions... donc je fais simplement un petit reportage.
Merci Clo, et bon courages, et une flotte de bisoux à toi et les tiens...
:-)

Owen said...

Hi Always in Back,
I imagine the tiger is dreaming of forests and tasty little mammals to catch for supper... but perhaps revenge too. I was raised on a diet which included the Jungle Books, so a soft spot for tigers is only natural I guess. And yeah, perhaps not a good idea to wear green around goats and zebras...
:-)

Virginia said...

Dear Owen,
Your ramblings prove much more fruitful than mine ever could. :)
V