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.

Sir Keith Park closer up

In an earlier posting here, I mentioned and included a photo of the statue of Sir Keith Park outside the Athenaeum. I like this statue, and I admire its subject. Here is another photo of that same statue, from closer up, that I photoed last October:

I am busy getting ready to give a talk about Modern Architecture this evening, so that’s probably it for today. Ancient Architecture, like that behind the above statue, will also be getting a mention. I am taking a book about Quinlan Terry with me, to wave at the audience, although I may forget to do this.

A decade of photos – one from each year

I originally got together these photos, one for each year of the decade now ending, with Samizdata in mind. But then I did a posting looking back at Christmas Day for there, with lots of photos, and another posting there with lots of photos felt a bit superfluous. So, here they are here.

Left below: February 2010 – Piccadilly Circus.
Right below:January 2011 – Beyond the Thames Barrier.

Left below: July 2012 – A South African gets ready to bowl against England at the Oval.

Right below: September 2013 – London Gateway takes shape.

Left below: March 2014 – Detlev Schlichter speaks about Austrian Economics.
Right below: July 2015 – Sunshine bounces off the Broadgate Tower and lands outside Tate Modern.

Left below: August 2016 – The Oval Pavilion (see above) as seen from the top of the Tate Modern Extension.
Right below: Also at the top of Tate Modern, a photoer photos the Shard through a ball.

Left below: April 2018 – The statue of Sir Keith Park outside the Athaeneum.
Right below: September 2019 – A model of Old London Bridge.

I didn’t spend a huge amount of time picking these photos out from the archives. Aside from trying to pick out photos that I hadn’t blogged before, I just had a rootle around until I found a nice one for each year. But a different day doing the rootling, and there’d have been ten entirely different photos. But I like these ones, and I hope you do too.

A Christmas taxi

Whatever the date when you’re reading this, Happy Christmas. Hope you’re having one. Hope you had one. Whichever applies.

Today (as I blog) I did what I have often done on Christmas Days past. I went for a photo-walk. It will probably delay the moment when I stop wanting to cough, but it was good.

I went down Victoria Street to Parliament Square, and then along the Embankment, the plan being to take the tube back from Embankment to St James’s Park. Trouble was, I had forgotten about the tube being shut, so I had to walk back, and by the time I got home I was exhausted. So, just the one photo, for now.

The one I have picked wasn’t the best photo I photoed, but it was one of the most Christmassy (sp?) photos I photoed:

That this was one of the most Christmassy (sp?) things I saw was because this part of London, unlike the West End, doesn’t seem to go in for ostentatious Christmassy (sp?) lighting effects.

That taxi is about the nearest London is going to get this year to a White Christmas.

There were lots of tourists wandering about doing what I was doing, taking photos, mostly with their mobile phones. But I felt like I was the only local, and that’s a big reason why I like going out photoing on Christmas Day.

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.

Boundary Dragon – Boundary Dragon shadow

I love the City of London Boundary Dragons, and I am pretty sure that the photo below is my favourite City of London Boundary Dragon photo that I have ever photoed:

That is one of the two Dragons on the south end of London Bridge. I photoed this photo on August 12th 2008.

When a strong shadow and weirdness are involved, the Thing itself is usually clear, but the shadow is weird. But in the above photo, the Thing is weird. And the shadow makes everything clear again. Which is an effect that I especially like. And I think we can tell from the framing that I noticed this at the time. This was not a fluke, except in the sense that this effect was there to be noticed and I had the luck to notice it. What I mean is: I did notice it at the time. It didn’t just happen to show up in a photo that I photoed for other reasons, or for no reason.

And what of that building reflected in the window? I rather think that may now have been obliterated, to make way for The Boomerang. Memo to self: go back and do the same photo again, preferably at the same time of day. On August 12th 2020 perhaps? But even without the shadow, a different (or maybe the same) reflection would be worth a go.

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.

I really like this bus filled with architecture

As quite often noted here, I am fond of photoing tourist crap. So it was that, earlier this month, I photoed a whole clutch of photos like this:

Well, I like them. But in among them was a photo that I now think to have a bit more to it. This photo:

What I like about this is that cameras these days don’t just have better eyesight than I do; they have better eyesight than almost everyone. And by zooming in on this bus filled with Big Things, well, it’s a bit like looking through a rather weak microscope. But still one strong enough to show you something you don’t regularly see. You know what it is, but you don’t ever look closely at such a thing.

With things like flowers and insects, we all get to see lots of close-up zoom photos, because they are considered worthy of the close-up zoom treatment. There are competitions if you photo photos like that.

But tourist crap, close-up? You don’t see that very often, do you?

So, I don’t just like this photo, I really like it.

Also, note how Portcullis House made it into the bus, entirely because it is across the road from Big Ben.