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.

Possible interruptions of service

For the next week or so I will enthusiastically be doing something else, which means that there may be interruptions to blogging here. The something-each-day rule may be set aside. It may not be. But, it may be. Since I have been sticking up something here every day since I can’t remember when, I thought it necessary to say, just in case my regular readers start suspecting that I have died and am being devoured by my cats. This will not be the case, not least because I have no cats. I will be alive, but otherwise occupied.

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.

If ever a sign needed a vocative comma …

That’s what Newcastle language teacher Mike Metcalf tweeted about the sign in this photo:

Quite right. Are we Satan’s Brainwashed Cattle? And must we wake up? Or are we supposed to wake up a flock herd of Satan’s Brainwashed Cattle, in the event that we encounter such a thing? Either way, I would have thought that it would surely be better for Satan’s Brainwashed Cattle to remain slumbering.

I don’t know where this photo was photoed.

Bird and bird shadow

Charlie Waite hits the photographic spot for me hits the photographic spot for me:

(Again.)

Verticals. Horizontals. Excellent shadow. Symmetry. Beautiful blue and grey and white colours.

A commenter comments:

Any thoughts on cropping out the bird in flight altogether.

Question mark. Well, there’s nothing to stop you doing that if you’d like to. I tried it. Yes, quite nice.

I did a Charlie Waite twitter search. Reommended. Not the same as his mere twitter home.

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.