Punishing what you want

When I started concocting this posting, earlier in the week, I was watching a TV show about dogs behaving badly, called, if I remember it right, “Dogs Behaving Badly”. (Very), it turns out. Things like bribing them with dog-sweets to stop them misbehaving, which turned out to mean you are rewarding them with dog-sweets for misbehaving. Guess what the dogs continued to do. Until the English version of the Dog Whisperer started working his dog-magic.

While watching that, I was rootling through tweets I’ve been saving, to see if any were deserving of the immortality that comes with being mentioned here at BMNB.

These ones seemed good, and they chimed in rather nicely with that dog show I was also one-third-attending to.

Clarissa:

Currently experiencing the usual reward for demonstrating competence at work. …

Graeme:

More work?

Clarissa:

Bingo.

Graeme:

Well I hope you learned from your mistake!

Well, Clarissa is not a dog, so maybe not. Maybe she was rewarded for the more work that she did. But if not …

Hey, what with all this Coronavirus disruption, maybe Clarissa has managed to hang on to her job.

A twenty-first century moment

Central to understanding it is that I still don’t understand it.

Okay, so earlier this evening my phone rang. I picked it up, and said, to some suspiciously silent silence, “Hello”. No answer. “Hello”. No answer. Down goes the phone. Who was that? Oh well.

If this had been the twentieth century, this would have been a “crossed line”. But, I thought, this is not the twentieth century. This is the twenty-first century. Do we still have crossed lines? I rather think not. Oh well.

A bit later, the phone rings again, and it’s GodDaughter 2. I know this because I recognise her voice. (My phone has no idea who’s ringing.) I asked: Did you ring earlier? No.
Well, I said “Hello” and “Hello” to somebody, but heard nothing back. She said, in an “OMG” voice: Oh My God. I was just talking to my Dad, she said. And he said he heard you talking, she said. While we were talking, she said, on some twenty first century computer programme the name of which I (as in: not GD2 – as in: I) forget, but which I (ditto) surmise enables third parties to join in the conversation, so you can have a group chat. In among the talk between GD2 and GD2’s Dad, the phrase “ring Brian” was used, for some reason I didn’t catch and still don’t understand (see above). So, the programme promptly rang Brian, aka me. But I don’t have the programme on my twentieth century telephone, so I could hear nothing. But GD2’s Dad heard me saying “Hello” “Hello”.

Later, GD2’s Dad’s phone rang me again, and I answered, “Hello” “Hello” etc, and a strange young man’s voice came on saying what must have been “Who are you?”, while I was busy saying “Who are you?” GDs’s Dad’s phone had rung GD2’s Dad too, helpfully putting us in touch, given that it had failed last time. GD2’s brother aka GD2’s Dad’s son answered at that end, which make the whole situation really clear, to both of us. Not. Oh well. GD2’s Dad and I had a chat, because we are both polite and could neither of us just say: But I wasn’t trying to talk to you.

This must be what they call Artificial Intelligence.

Please understand (see above about how I don’t actually understand) that the above description is only my guess about what was really happening.

Man carries tired boy

i can’t now remember when photoing other people’s children, even photoing them completely by mistake while photoing something else entirely, became something you couldn’t and wouldn’t ever do. But it must have been some time in the noughts, and definitely well before July 2014, when I photoed this photo:

But I don’t think there’s any harm in showing this photo. No faces are at all visible, let alone recognisable. And of course faces are not the point of this photo, the view of the top of the kid’s head being exactly what makes it work so well.

Red carpet photos

Exactly a week ago, I spent my last day before You Know What erupted all over us, wandering around London, before attending an amazing chamber music concert at the Wigmore Hall.

During these wanderings, I encountered a red carpet, outside the London Palladium, in Argyll Street. Normally when you see a red carpet like this red carpet, you also see stars of stage and screen prancing about on it. But there is also something appealing about just seeing the red carpet, starless. Like this:

As you can see, it took me a while to feel my way to the ideal view of this red carpet, the one that captures its full and complete spiritual essence after which no further photoing was necessary. But if I just showed that final photo, all you would would have seen would have been pure spiritual essence. The mere carpetness of the carpet might not have come across. So I supplied all the other photos I photoed, to provide context.

My camera was more interested in the temporary railings close-up than it was in the signs announcing what the event was to which this red carpet was contributing. But I can tell you that this event was the National Prince’s Trust and TK Maxx & Homesense Awards 2020.

Congratulations to Phidizz, Alisa Ali, Alan Davies, Charleigh Morritt, Heathfield Community School, Kayanne Bond, Vicki Frost, and Akeme Cox, for being awarded, respectively, the HSBC UK Breakthrough Award, the Watches of Switzerland Group Young Ambassador of the Year award, the Ascential Educational Achiever of the Year award, the Delta Airlines Rising Star Award, the Dell Technologies Community Impact Award, the Homesense Young Achiever of the Year award, the Natwest Enterprise Award, and the Global Aga Khan Foundation Prince’s Trust Award.

Corona Time

Yes: “Corona Time”. I just heard this phrase, from the all-the-rage-just-now Icelandic classical pianist Víkingur Ólafsson. He was being interviewed on Radio 3’s Music Matters, and talking about how he’ll be juggling his work during the next few months, in the face of the tornado of cancellations that he and others like him now face. Far fewer public performances and lots more time spent studying and practising, and recording.

A lot of people are about to have a lot of Corona Time in the next few months.

Some people are going to be more deranged than others. Basically, the more sociable you are, and the less solitary and virtual in the way you live, the worse it will be. I especially like this Babylon Bee title:

Nation’s Nerds Wake Up In Utopia Where Everyone Stays Inside, Sports Are Canceled, Social Interaction Forbidden

Nerds have always had lots of Corona Time.

LATER: More Corona Time advice. I have in mind to write, like he says.

Steve Stewart-Williams on how looking at other animals helps us understand why the Nurture Only view can’t be right to explain human sexual differences

The Nurture Only view being, in this case, the claim that all the differences in behaviour and attitude – with regard to such things as casual sex, attaching importance to physical sexual allure, and so on – between human males and human females are all caused by societal pressure.

Says SS-W (on page 90 of The Ape That Understood The Universe):

Arguably, though, the most persuasive argument against the Nurture Only view is that sex differences in sexual inclinations and choosiness can be found in many individuals who have no gender norms, no socialization, and little in the way of culture: that rather sizeable group, so often overlooked by psychologists, known as other animals. The differences aren’t found in all other species, but they are found in many, including most birds, mammals, and reptiles. And when we find the differences in other animals, evolution is the only reasonable explanation. Why should humans be different? It’s logically possible, of course, that the differences are products of evolution in squirrels, turkeys, and frogs, but of learning and culture in Homo sapiens. But it hardly seems likely. In other species, the differences appear when the ceiling number of offspring for males is higher than that for females. Humans meet this condition, and our species presumably evolved from earlier species that displayed the normal sex differences. As such, what the Nurture Only theory asks us to believe is that, in our lineage and ours alone, natural selection eliminated the normal sex differences, despite the fact that the selection pressure that initially created them was still operative. Why would it do that? It’s particularly perplexing given that, when we look around the world, we still find the sex differences that selection supposedly eliminated. Thus, the Nurture Only theory asks us to believe not only that selection eliminated the differences for reasons unknown, but that learning and culture then coincidentally reproduced exactly the same differences in every culture on record. This is not a compelling thesis. Cultural forces clearly influence people’s willingness to engage in casual sex, and to some extent their desire to do so as well. But the idea that culture creates these sex differences out of nothing not only clashes with the available evidence, it clashes with everything we know about how evolution works.

This comes in the middle of the chapter entitled “The SeXX/XY Animal”. Right at the beginning of this chapter, just below the subheading “An Academic Culture War”, appears this academic wisecrack:

“Everyone knows that men and women are different … except social scientists.”

Which doesn’t mean that everyone who knows that men and women are different also knows exactly what those differences consist of. And don’t consist of.

The “Other creatures” category at this blog usually means other creatures besides cats and kittens. But for this posting “Other creatures” means other creatures besides the particular creatures that are humans.

The transgender rights row in sport is coming rapidly to the boil

Mick Hartley quotes from a piece behind the Times paywall, about a male-who-identifies-as-female cricketer, who is doing very well for him(her)self, in (hitherto) women’s cricket:

There is a new star in the Kent women’s cricket team – its first transgender player is opening after one season.

Maxine Blythin, who is more than 6ft tall and under England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB) rules can self-identify as a woman, has a batting average of 124 this season and has hit four centuries already. …

Fair Play for Women has said the policy is unfair, especially at a time when the game is improving opportunities for female players. A £20m semi-professional competition for women starts next year.

“Letting males who self-ID as women play in women’s competitions is demonstrably unfair,” the campaign group tweeted last week. “The ECB knows males have a performance advantage over females. This is [why] it lets women use lighter & smaller cricket balls & why boundaries are set closer.”

The ECB is very proud that it has created an “inclusive environment for all participants”. Says Hartley:

Well, all participants apart from the women, who have to compete against a biologically male athlete. But who cares about them?

Plenty will, when women’s sports teams stop having just a sprinkling of such persons in among all the biological women, and are instead dominated by male-identifying-as-female players. Note Hartley’s singular “a” in front of “biologically male athlete”. That singular is going to turn plural very soon, unless this foolishness is ended now. It will end, quite soon. But not before there has been a big fight that, as of now, the mostly-men in charge of sport are reluctant to have.

This would appear to be the relevant page of the Fair Play For Women website.

At the top, it says:

During the summer of 2018 the government launched a public consultation about changes to the Gender Recognition Act 2004. Powerful transgender interest groups lobbied hard for full deregulation of the legal transition process, demanding a move to a simplified approach known as Sex Self-ID, that would allow any man to change his birth certificate on demand to say he was born female.

There is nothing remotely “simplified” about Sex Self-ID. When biological men feel female, it cannot not get complicated.

Food photos as prayers of gratitude

This from the American Spectator seems to me to be saying something rather true:

It is easy to be cynical. We might dismiss these photos as brazen self-promotion or a symptom of millennial self-absorption. Headlines like “Instagram Food Is a Sad, Sparkly Lie” and “Instagramming Millennials Are Burying the World in Food Waste” capture the standard sentiment. Slurs such as “foodgasm” and “food porn” often taint these photos with the suggestion of lechery. Perhaps, though, a more sincere explanation is possible. As odd as it sounds, I do not see pornography in these images. I find prayer.

I believe these pictures are a new incarnation of an ancient instinct: the ritual of tableside grace. Derived from the Latin gratia for “thanks,” grace is a specific type of prayer given before or after a meal to express gratitude and to invoke a blessing. It is an exercise in devoting reverential attention to life’s bounty, and through this enriched attention, achieving an expanded sense of belonging. “It becomes believers not to take food … before interposing a prayer,” Tertullian wrote in the third century, “for the refreshments and nourishments of the spirit are to be held prior to those of the flesh, and things heavenly prior to things earthly.” Grace is more than gratitude — it is gratitude ascendant, aimed above the earthly appetite toward a higher vocation. The Catholic Catechism defines prayer as “the raising of one’s mind and heart to God.” Thus grace gives our gratitude wings that lift the mind from the necessities of the flesh toward the nourishments of the spirit. For many people, photographing their entrées fills the same social role as grace: a ritual of aspirational attention that elevates bodily sustenance into spiritual refreshment through the simple power of a genuine “thank you.”

I often find myself describing my fellow digital photoers as “worshippers”. They see something which seems to them meaningful and express that feeling by photoing whatever it is. I do this myself of course, constantly.

On the other hand, this piece also helped me to understand the widespread annoyance at the way food photoing is such a big part of social-media-ing. Saying grace is fine. But it’s a shared moment for those present (God included, if you think He’s the one to be thanking), and then you get stuck in. Do you record this expression of gratitude and then expect your friends to listen to it? No.

But on the other hand, two of the things that twenty-first-centurions now have to learn are: not to pay attention to everything that your friends put out there; and: not to expect your friends to pay attention to everything that you put out there. If a friend posts lots of food photos and you think it’s too much, just pay less attention.

Also, this:

More about this wondrous concoction here.

And while I’m on the subject of food photoing, take (or not (it’s entirely up to you (if we are friends, our friendship will not be affected))) another look at what I think is one of my best-yet food photos, here.

Misbehaving opera stars

Two interesting recent postings by Norman Lebrecht.

First, Anna Nebtrenko has been bunking off from Bayreuth in order to go to a family wedding. Both she and her also-bunking-off husband were simultaneously “ill”, but then put themselves all over social media, being not at all ill, in Azerbaijan.

Lebrecht is not impressed:

Today’s breed of opera managers does not contain many heroes but at some point – and it will not take long – one manager will stand up and say to Netrebko, as Rudolf Bing did to Maria Callas: get out of my house.

For Callas, it was all downhill from that point on.

For Netrebko and Eyvazov, it’s just a matter of time.

I did not know that about Callas and Bing. Blog and learn.

Second, another operatic superstar, Placido Domingo, has been accused of sexual harassment. No force involved, but definitely harassment. Persistent sexual pressure and not taking no for an answer: bad. If the suggestion is that saying yes may result in career advancement, that’s bad too. If the further suggestion is that saying no may result in career retardation, that’s very bad. Domingo is definitely being accused of the first two.

Accused. The comments at Lebrecht alternate between wanting justice for the harassed, and those wanting justice for those accused of harassment, perhaps wrongly.

I favour both. As does Jeannie Suk Gersen.