A big panda (with stars in its eyes) at Victoria Station

Seeing a how this is Friday, and Friday is my day here for cats and other creatures, I don’t want to just leave it at train seats. I have an Other Creature to show to you, that I photoed earlier this evening. This was at Victoria Station, so this is also train related.

The Other Creature was, I am almost certain, a panda:

A few moments after the moment captured above, I actually asked this guy if he’d object to me photoing his panda. I said “bear”, but it didn’t matter. Not him, I said, just the bear. He was fine with this, so I took another photo, of the panda. But the above photo was better, if only because in it, the railway connection is better communicated.

And yes, the panda has stars in its eyes. How about that?

Originally posted at Brian Micklethwait’s Old Blog

Monument dwarfed by Walkie-Talkie

Indeed. I was going through the I Just Like It file, and came across two, independently selected, which make a nice pair.

First, taken in November 2012, the Walkie-Talkie while still under construction, viewed from the top of the Monument:

And second, taken in January 2016, the Monument now just about visible in the scrimmage of smaller London

The Walkie-Talkie looks very big from the top of the Monument.

The Monument looks very small from the top of the Walkie-Talkie.

And while we’re about it, here is another photo that links these two buildings. Taken on that same day in November 2012, back on the ground, with a little sign on the right there, saying “Pudding Lane”.

The Monument remembers those who died in the Great Fire of London of 1666. Pudding Lane, or so I was always told, was where that fire started.

Also, three days after taking that photo of the Monument from above, above, I took this photo of the Monument from below, along with another sign, this time a temporary sign telling me how to get to the Monument:

The way to get to the Monument was not, it would seem, the obvious way to get to the Monument.

Originally posted at Brian Micklethwait’s Old Blog

Cranes and horses

Indeed:

Tilbury, September 2013. That’s what a BMdotcom wildlife photo should be. Creatures, yes, but also cranes.

At around that time, I made a series of trips out to London Gateway, London’s new container port, which is just downstream from Tilbury. Here‘s a recent report of how London Gateway is doing, which also has further news about animals in the area:

The £1.5bn construction saw a staggering 350,000 animals moved off site into new habitats. At one stage DP World’s office building on the site homed tanks of great crested newts before they were moved into newly created ponds.

However, the horses in the above photo were not disturbed, because they were just outside Tilbury. London Gateway is further down river. It was only several hours later that day that I set eyes on those cranes, from a great distance. Despite the gloomy weather, it was a great day. The photos bring it all back.

Originally posted at Brian Micklethwait’s Old Blog

The face of a seagull

I’m not much of a wildlife photoer, if only because others are so very enthusiastic about it. Nature beautiful. (Hu)Man-made world ugly. Those are the cliches, and bollocks to them. I prefer to celebrate, with my photoing, the human-made world, often by noticing how “natural” (that is non-centrally-dictated) that human-made world so often is, especially in a complicated place like London.

But I do keep trying to photo non-human creatures in case I get lucky, and about once every other blue moon, I do get a non-human photo that strikes me as worth showing here.

So, for instance, earlier this year I was photoing Big Things with a seagull in front of them, mostly to illustrate how recognisable these Big Things are, despite being out of focus. Recognisable to me anyway. Thus:

On the left, a seagull lined up with the Spraycan. On the right, the same seagull lined up with the Millbank Tower. But then, when I lined the seagull up in front of Big Ben, I got this, which strikes me as, you know, quite good:

Click on that to get my original photo, with blurry Big Ben behind being clearly recognisable. But here is a case where the photo I photoed of the actual creature seemed more interesting than the Big Thing. Because this seagull happened to be pointing its face straight at me, I got a view of a seagull face that I for one don’t regularly see. The beak, because pointing straight at me, is taken out of the picture, and the head that remains looks more like that of some kind of fluffy baby seal or some such thing. But with bird legs. Scroll up so that you only see the head, and it hardly looks seagullish at all.

I was going to add a photo of a squirrel to this posting. I even checked that I was spelling squirrel right. But this squirrel photo, which I took about two minutes before taking the above seagull photos, although quite nice, had no architecture in the background. It was just a squirrel, in a tree.

Originally posted at Brian Micklethwait’s Old Blog

Stop your dog pulling on his leash – make your dog pull you

In my recent rootlings about in This is why I’m broke I came across two dog related devices that seemed rather impressive, in the usual punitive and exploitative (respectively) ways that dog related devices so often are.

First, there was this rather sneaky Tug Preventing Dog Trainer:

Train your dog to stop pulling on the leash when you walk with this tug preventing dog trainer. Every time old Sparky pulls on the leash, this clever device will emit a harmless ultrasonic tone that only he can hear, encouraging him to stop pulling and tugging.

Encouraging. That’s one way of putting it I suppose.

But this does confirm that dogs respond to instantaneous punishments for defying your will. They respond in particular by not doing whatever it is, and in general by regarding you as their dog superior. Once subjugated, their deepest pleasure is in serving you.

Serving you, for instance, by supplying power for your Dog Powered Scooter:

Harness your dog’s endless energy to travel around with the dog powered scooter. This revolutionary form of transportation safely allows you and your canine to move in the same direction – giving you and your dog a fun outlet to get some healthy exercise.

Well, dogs seem always to hanker after more exercise than most of their human masters ever seem to desire. This contraption solves that problem very nicely.

Originally posted at Brian Micklethwait’s Old Blog

Quota hippo

Remember that hippo I photoed before giving it to Cleaning Lady’s Partner. Course you do. And remember how I only posted one photo of the hippo in question, because I was in a rush. Well I’m in another rush, following a long day doing various other things, and here is another hippo photo:

I like the contrast. Usually things like this hippo are either looked at separately, or else viewed alongside other similar creatures. But having this hippo announcing his ownership of a clutch of my household equipment looks good, I think.

Originally posted at Brian Micklethwait’s Old Blog

Mick Hartley on Hadid’s new Antwerp Port House

Yes, favorite blogger-of-mine Mick Hartley has been checking out, and photoing, the now finished Havenhuis, and has this to say about it:

I noted earlier – before I’d seen it in situ – that “it looks like it’s just plonked imperiously on top of the original building, with no attempt at a sympathetic conversation between the two”. Having now had the chance to look around and check it out for myself, I think that’s still a fair summary.

There follow several excellent photos of the building, of the sort that amateurs like Mick Hartley (and I) have a habit of doing better than the hired gun Real Photographers, because we tell the truth about how the new Thing in question looks, and in particular about how it looks alongside the surroundings it has inserted itself into. Real Photographers know that their job is to lie about such things, to glamorise rather than to describe accurately. Their job is to force you to like the Thing. Amateurs like me and like Mick Hartley take photos that enable you to hate the new Thing even more eloquently, if that’s already your inclination.

And of all the photos Hartley shows, this one most perfectly illustrates that “disrespect” that he writes of. “Conversation”? Fornication, more like, inflicted by one of those annoyingly oversexed dogs:

I still like this Thing, though. I mean, time was when any disrespect felt by the architect towards that older building would have resulted in the old building being demolished. Which is worse? Disrespect? Or oblivion? Perhaps the latter would have been more dignified. Execution has a certain grandeur, when compared to a further lifetime of potential ridicule. But I still prefer what happened.

Originally posted at Brian Micklethwait’s Old Blog

Hippos

One of the depressing things about the Internet is that excellent places, because not quite excellent enough, or because for a few months they don’t feel quite excellent enough, fall off your radar. Well, maybe not yours, but mine.

So it has been, for me, from a time way back when to about the day before yesterday, with the excellent and constantly updated site which relentlessly explains that This Is Why I’m Broke, this being a succession of things. Rather expensive and somewhat esoteric things, of the sort which someone, maybe you, is going to like a lot.

Things like this:

I have recently acquired a new Cleaning Lady, and her partner happens to like hippos a lot. This is just the kind of thing that he would love. And for a mere £82, 555 it could be his.

It wouldn’t suit me. Quite aside from the thermo-nuclear expense, when I purchase seating I need it to seat the maximum number of people in comfort that it can, in the space that it occupies. This is for my meetings, of which there was another this evening. This hippo sofa is altogether too much hippo and not nearly enough sofa, for my purposes.

And I’m guessing that even Cleaning Lady’s Partner would hesitate at the price, and be told by Cleaning Lady that it would occupy too much space. They being a couple who think that emptiness is a desirable quality in living space. (I like emptiness, but like even more having somewhere to put all my books and CDs and home-recorded DVDs.)

I must have been quite a blow for Cleaning Lady’s Partner when (a) he first set eyes on the above hippo sofa (he will definitely have set eyes on it, because his hippo radar is state-of-the-art) but then (b) having, reluctantly, to decide that, hugely appealing though it obviously is, he could not, in all conscience, purchase it.

But the good news is that I recently encountered, in a local charity shop, and immediately did purchase, the hippo shown below:

You couldn’t sit on this hippo, and frankly, it looks considerably less like a hippo than the hippo sofa does, despite its sofa. But it is a lot smaller and it was a lot less expensive than the hippo sofa.

Following the meeting, Cleaning Lady seems to have departed with the hippo, or I hope she did because I cannot now find it. Hope Partner likes it.

I love digital photoing. For many reasons, only one of which is that when you give someone an amusing present, you can photo it before handing it over, and carry on enjoying it in a convenient, digital form. I took many more photos of the hippo than just that one, but I am now in a hurry to finish this, so one photo will have to do.

Originally posted at Brian Micklethwait’s Old Blog

Jordan Peterson on why zebras look the way they do

Today, I was thinking, what with it being Friday: What can I put here about cats or other creatures that would be of interest? But instead of looking for something along those lines, I was listening to a video conversation between Jordan Peterson and Camille Paglia, about the sorry state of the humanities departments of American universities. I can’t remember why or how, but I was. And twenty four and a half minutes into this, I listened in astonishment as Peterson suddenly started talking, fascinatingly, about zebras.

Why do zebras look the way they do, so very black and and so very white, and so very stripey?

This has long puzzled me. The arch enemy of the zebra is the lion, and the lions are impeccably camouflaged. Their coats are the same colour as the veldt, or whatever it is that the zebras roam about on and that the lions hunt the zebras on, and so the zebras don’t see the lions coming. But the zebras, with their garish black and white plumage, are nothing at all like the colour of the land they live on. What gives? Why the lurid and fantastically visible stripes?

Today I learned the answer to this question.

The answer is: When lions hunt zebras, they do this by deciding on just the one zebra that they are going to hunt, and they concentrate entirely on that one zebra. Eventually, the chosen zebra is exhausted, and the lions catch it and kill it.

And how do zebras respond, evolutionarily speaking? Answer: By becoming extremely hard to distinguish from each other. Their very stripey stripes do exactly this. The result of that is that although the lions try to hunt just the one zebra, thereby exhausting it and killing it, they instead keep getting confused about exactly which zebra is the one they are trying to hunt. And the result of that is that instead of hunting one zebra to its death, they hunt half a dozen zebras, not to any of their deaths, and go home without their dinner.

Some scientists who were studying zebra plumage did what turned out to be a rather cruel experiment which proved this. They squirted some colour onto one of the zebras in a zebra herd. The lions, confident now that they would not be confused about which zebra they were hunting, proceeded to hunt that one marked zebra to its inevitable death. Without such marking out, they couldn’t tell which zebra was which. With such marking, hunting success followed, every time. Every time, they chose the marked and hence easily distinguishable zebra.

I did not know this.

Peterson’s point was that American humanities professors are like this. They all have totally crazy, yet totally similar, opinions. That way, their enemies can’t fixate on one of them and destroy him. Or something. In this version of the zebra stripes story, Peterson is saying that people in general are like zebras. But I really didn’t care about that. It was the zebras and their stripes that interested me.

I love the internet.

Originally posted at Brian Micklethwait’s Old Blog