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.

A selection of 2019 newspaper headlines

I find that newspaper headlines, photoed in such places as shops from which I purchase other goods but not newspapers, can make pleasingly evocative souvenirs, as time goes by. Things that loomed large once upon a time, but which are now forgotten, can instead be remembered. Ah yes, that! Whatever happened to that ruckus? Good lord, him. Good grief, her.

So, here is a gallery of such photos, celebrating the amazing diversity of dramas that London’s various newspapers splashed all over themselves during 2019:

January 17, February 14, March 14, March 29, April 21;
May 28, June 28, July 29, August 9, August 21;
August 21, August 27, August 27, September 13, October 2;
October 2, October 2, November 12, December 6, December 13.

Just kidding. Variety, not.

Most pundits seem to agree that this argument has now been won and lost, following the recent General Election result (also noted in the final photo above). I’ll believe that when I see it. I now expect that there will be plenty of Leaving still to be done, after January the whenever it now is. Much depends, I think, on whether any substantial number of Remainers decide to become Rejoiners; or whether, to use a favourite phrase of such persons when they were winning this argument, the Remainers, aside from an insignificant rump, will now “move on”.

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.

I We It – January 2004

All this coughing I’ve been doing lately, and the consequent not sleeping properly, is keeping me confined to my quarters, which means that photo-ops have been few.

So, I’ve done more than my usual amount of rootling around in the archives. In which archives, this evening, I found these photos:

I remember being quite impressed by these artworks, when I first came across them, in (as we can see) Gloucester Road tube. Kudos to me for taking a photo of the poster that told me now, this evening, who did these Things and what he called them, as well as just lots of photos of the Things themselves. There’s even a clear date on the poster, which corroborates the date Windows Photo Viewer offers, as the date when these photos were “first modified”.

I do not recall being as impressed by any other artwork in a tube station since then. Maybe this was the first art I ever properly saw (properly because for the first time I was looking for stuff to photo (with my recently acquired Canon A70 (had I had a better camera the photos would have been a lot prettier))) in a tube station, and maybe that’s why it made quite an impression on me.

I say “quite” because even these Things were not really that great. Quite striking. Quite impressive. And more so than just about all Art in the Tube that I have encountered since then, which has mostly been very disappointing. Well, quite disappointing.

LATER (FRIDAY MORNING): The above done in some haste. I now, with some difficulty, found my way to this, which says more concerning the above images. Summary: Corporate capitalism is scary because it is totalitarian. (He’s quoting adverts for various capitalist goods and services.)

Suspicion: he thinks we should all believe in what would actually, I think, turn into actual totalitarianism. He has a quite big point. Corporate capitalism is becoming rather totalitarian. But he is wrong on the even bigger point. No wonder I only quite liked it. It is a quite expert attack on my opinions, and he’d surely agree about that, if about little else of a political sort, if we ever talked it through.

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.

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.

No smoking Sherlock

There’s not been a photo photoed by me here for a while, but here’s one I photoed last night, in a tube train.

I was trying to get a photo of the Baker Street version of the Underground logo featuring poppies, as seen in photo number 6 here.

Instead I got something rather more entertaining, in the form of a No Smoking sign (in focus) on top of a regular Baker Street sign (a bit blurry), alongside Sherlock Holmes himself. Smoking.

Bad Sherlock.

Arthur Colley’s diary goes missing

Photoed by me this afternoon in Warwick Way:

November 4th was quite a while back, so maybe it’s all been sorted by now. Hope so. But if not, sounds like he needs the help of somebody younger, with social media expertise. I googled “Arthur Colley lost diary” and got lots about another Arthur who lost a diary, but nothing involving any Arthur Colley.

Photoers in October 2014

The majority of them being men.

Do you think that my only real interest in photoing photoers is that it is an excuse to photo ladies adopting pretty poses? That’s definitely part of it. As I’ve said several times before, someone should do a ballet based on digital photoers. But me not allowing recognisable faces makes it look more of a bodily obsession than it really is. Basically, I think the entire phenomenon of mass digital photography is a fascinating moment in social and communicational history, and one that has made a lot of people, me definitely included, very happy. And photoing happy, absorbed people is fun.

Which means that photoing men is fun too:

I think there are more men featured in this photo-clutch partly because the weather, that day in October, was rather cold. When it gets colder, women’s clothing gets less interesting and men’s clothing gets more interesting, converging on a single style based on keeping out the cold and not caring about style so much. In plain English: men tend to put on interesting coats and jackets and, above all (in both senses) hats; women tend towards covering up both themselves and their best outfits. (With women’s outfits, less is often more!)

Also, in photo 8, there’s a monkey wearing only shorts.