On how we love animals (except when we love how they taste)

While in France, I read the whole of The Square and the Tower, and then embarked upon The Ape that Understood the Universe.

In the latter book, the matter of how humans get all sentimental about animals is mentioned (pp. 59-60):

… Why do so many people take such delight in string at infant members of other species? It’s not as if, say, porcupines enjoy staring at baby chickens. As with porn, our love of these nonhuman animals is probably not an adaptation. More than likely, it’s spillover from psychological mechanisms designed for more human-centered purposes. There’s a certain cluster of traits that people everywhere find irresistibly cute. This includes big round eyes in the center of the face, a small nose, and plump, stubby limbs. Our affection for creatures with these features presumably evolved to motivate us to care for our own infants and toddlers. But the same features are found in many other infant mammals, and even in the adult members of some nonhuman species. As a result, we often feel affectionate and protective toward these individuals as well – not because it’s adaptive, but just because adaptations aren’t perfect. By the way, as you might already have
noticed, the spill over hypothesis doesn’t just explain our fondness for cute animal videos. It also hints at an explanation for a much older and more pervasive phenomenon: our habit of keeping pets.

Motivated I am sure by exactly this sort of fondness for animals myself, I have become more and more intrigued by this general human propensity. Which is why so many of my photos involve non-human creatures of one sort or another.

Here are some of the non-human creatures photos I photoed while in France recently:

Even the photos involving signs urging dog owners to clear up canine crap (photos 12, 14 and 17) are about our positive feelings towards animals, because the offending dogs are pets. And even the two plastic barrier things (photo 16) are “other creatures”, in the sense that we insist on seeing the faces of creatures where there are none, even though these particular non-creatures each have only one eye. Yes, we do love these creatures.

And yet, by way of a corrective, we also do these kinds of things to particularly tasty creatures, in this case to various mammals and to fishes:

Yum.

I have been in France

I have indeed. Been in France. I didn’t tell you, my readers, because I did not wish London’s criminal community to be aware that, if they wished to plunder my home, the last week would have been the week to have been doing it. Silly I know, but I actually have been robbed, or at any rate attempted robbed. He climbed the stairs, knocked on the door, but I was slow to answer and he broke the door down. When I finally gave the guy my attention he fled, but I don’t want anything like that happening again, I can tell you. That is, I can tell you now.

So yes, I have been in France. I took many photos, as you would expect, but here’s a France related photo I took just now, in my very own kitchen, here in my very own London:

I bought this bottle of grapefruit Volvic at Carcassonne Airport this afternoon. I sipped it during the flight home, and finished it here. Delicious. Yet, I have never come across grapefruit Volvic in London. In London, Volvic is mostly a particularly disgusting and pointless sort of fruit flavoured sugar water, but made with fake sugar, which tastes like something concocted in a laboratory by mad scientists hellbent on killing every human now alive with extreme obesity. British Volvic used to do orange, and I still encounter that from time to time. Also delicious. But, grapefruit Volvic, in London, does not happen. I googled “volvic grapefruit”, and Google, which knows I am a English, spontaneously changed the subject entirely to foreign parts. It had nothing English to tell me about this subject.

This is terrible. I hereby protest. (See this posting for why I like to complain about capitalism from time to time, even though capitalism is obviously superior to all known alternatives.)

Electric tree

Last week I dined in Putney with friends. Delightful, even if it did make my coughing worse. And then, almost as delightful was the electric tree I encountered next to the big red building, aka Novaat Victoria Station, having arrived there by bus at about one in the morning.

These photos are only so-so, but I think the tree deserves celebrating nevertheless. I especially like how it looks so different from different angles:

The main reason I’m posting these particular photos, vertical ones, is to make sure I can. My Photoshop(clone) and Windows Photo Viewer between them manage to introduce confusion about whether vertical photos are really vertical, or need rotating. It turns out they need rotating through ninety degrees, and then in Windows they seem like the tree has been laid down on its side. But when I then transfer them into the blog, they come out standing upright.

By the way, the third photo is the tree reflected in a nearby shop window.

Different animals getting along with each other

My computer is misbehaving, added to which I have been busy doing other things. So just a couple of tweets for today, both concerning one of the things the internet really likes, namely: different brands of animals being nice to each other.

A monkey caresses some puppies. Although, a cynical commenter thinks maybe he’s just checking out how much meat they have on them. Fair to say, though, that the monkey looks like he’s doing just what humans, who mostly don’t have in mind to eat puppies, do with puppies.

A human and a dog play a game. The one where you have to remove a wooden piece from a tower, without knocking over the tower. The dog is very good at it. There seems no limit to what dogs will do to keep our attention and gain our approval.

Churchill War Rooms gallery

One of the nice things about people coming to stay is that you often find yourself visiting touristy but interesting things that you’d never quite get around to seeing on your own. Later, maybe, but not today. It’ll always be there won’t it?

Touristy things like: the Churchill War Rooms. In February of last year, nearly two years ago now, GodDaughter2’s Dad was in town, and that’s one of the places we went.

And I took the odd photo or two. Well, more like 350, of which here are 84:

A big spread of photos like that would have been an impossibly tedious operation to stick up at Brian Micklethwait’s Previous Blog, and an equally tedious business for you to be scrutinising. But now, here they all are, and you can do the usual, clicking through as quickly or as slowly as you like. Enjoy. Especially if you rarely or never visit London, and have no plans to see this place for real.

There’s a million things I could say about it. One of the more striking of the photos above is photo 33, which shows how thick the concrete was protecting everything, from all but the most direct of direct hits, that passage that you see having been drilled through afterwards, when they were turning these working spaces into a place people could visit and circulate around.

Other talking points? Well, lots of signs and souvenirs, often signs made into souvenirs, for sale in the inevitable gift shop. And also: signs that are not Original but Modern. Signs with lots of words. Which is appropriate, given how important Churchill knew words (see photo 80) to be.

Most of the human figures that you see are not real; they’re sculpted. And “Other creatures” is in the category list because, inevitably, there are bulldogs.

I did all the bard work for this posting before I got ill, and I’m still not fully recovered. So, please continue to wish me well.

How London is moving downstream

What do you suppose this is?:

Okay, no silly games, this is Disneyland London. They have in mind to construct this during the next few years, out east, on the south bank, on that bit of land that sticks upwards into the beginnings of the Estuary (“Swanscombe Peninsula”), just this side of Tilbury.

The details don’t interest me. I’m pretty sure I’ll never go, not to the finished object. I don’t know when or even if they’ll build this.

What does interest me is that this huge project, even if it never gets beyond being thought about and puffed in the media, illustrates how the centre of gravity of London is moving inexorably downstream. The other Thing as big as this in that part of London is London Gateway, the big container port now being built on the north side of the Estuary, a long walk beyond Tilbury.

Colourfully painted croissant

Today I met up with a friend, in even more central London. She had what looked like Soylent Green, in a glass. I had coffee in a similar glass, and a croissant. The croissant made me grateful, but not so much for how it tasted, more for how it looked. Which was why I photoed it before I ate it:

What I want to know is: Did they paint the pink raspberry-flavoured paint on the croissant pastry before it was rolled up into a croissant, or afterwards? I’m going with: before. But, when it comes to colourfully painted croissants, what do I know? This is the first time I ever met one.

The City – 5 years ago

Horrid weekend, having a cold that I’d postponed on Friday because I had a meeting to host. Sleep shot to hell. Tidying up to be done. So, quota photo time, or so I thought. Inevitably, it got out of hand:

All of that was exactly five years ago, to the day. Having assembled them all, I couldn’t then postpone shoving them up.

There was a Lego Gherkin next to the regular Gherkin. They still thought, or were pretending to think, that they were building the Helter Skelter, which they have now turned into something else, even bigger and a lot duller. Otherwise, it all looked much as it does now.