Brian Micklethwait's Blog
In which I continue to seek part time employment as the ruler of the world.Home
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Most recent entries
- Mr Ed has some metaphorical fun
- A picture of a book about pictures
- To Tottenham (8): Zooming in on some Big Things
- Playing golf versus following cricket
- Quota bicycles
- Another Capital Golf car
- Battersea Power Station then and now and soon
- Timing shits instead of forcing them
- Lincoln Paine shifts the emphasis from land to water (with a very big book)
- Classic cars in Lower Marsh
- Stabat Mater at St Stephen’s Gloucester Road
- A selfie being taken a decade ago
- Gloucester Road with evening sun
- Lea River footbridge
- “Yeah, no …”
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6000 Miles from Civilisation
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Category archive: Cats and kittens
I believe you can tell quite a lot about a place by the behaviour towards passing strangers of its cats. If the cats are frightened, it means that they have had bad experiences with people. If the cats are friendly, it means that people have been nice to them. And people who are nice to cats are more likely to be nice to each other. That’s what I think.
Bow Roundabout doesn’t seem like an especially nice sort of spot, but this cat that I encountered, on a boat, moored on the River Lea, just before the River Lea went under that roundabout was very nice indeed:
My first sight of the cat was when I saw this lady photoing it, which of course I photoed. But even before the lady was finishing her photo-session, the cat had noticed me, and soon it walked confidently towards me to say hello. We exchanged salutations. I offered my hand towards the cat’s head. The cat shoved its head against my hand. All very companionable. When we had exchanged all our greetings, the cat washed itself. Fair enough. You never know what you might catch from a strange human.
All of which is strong anecdotal confirmation of this latest bit of cat news, which says that cats really like people.
When I met this cat, there was no yowling or searching in my bag for food, which anyway contained no food. But that didn’t cause the cat to lose interest. It was being sociable, not scrounging.
So, nice place. Maybe not the A11 or the A118 or the A12m but definitely the bit beside the river that goes under all them.
More Friday cat content at Samizdata, linking to a video of two cats summoning food by pressing bells. I agree that the cat on the left ought to be pressing its own bell.
Before we entered the Royal Opera House to endure and eventually to enjoy Die Meistersinger my friend and I wandered around Covent Garden, and chanced upon a shop selling artfully decorated skateboards, in other words looking like this:
As soon as I was inside this shop I asked if I could take some photos, and they said: snap away. So I did. I took the above photo first, which gives an idea of what it was that got my attention. And then I took a lot more, of which the following were the least worst:
I know. Lots of reflections in the shiny surfaces of the skateboards. But, you get the pictures.
A cat is involved (1.3 in the above clutch). A rather rude cat, but a cat. At first, I thought I ought to hurry the posting up and have this ready for last Friday. Then I thought, no, wait until next Friday. And then I thought to hell with that, I’ve nearly done it, I will post it when it’s done.
These artistically enhanced boards have all the relaxed and unpretentious exuberance of graffiti, of the sort I most regularly observe in Leake Street under Waterloo Station. You don’t have to read some idiot art-speak essay to find out what the hell this or that skateboard is “about”, even though it is sometimes obscure. “SHAKEJUNT”. “HAND IN GLOVE”. “FIVE BORE”. “FLIP”. You probably have to be a skateboarder to get what words like those mean. Which probably explains why I like the giant TV remote the best. That I definitely understand.
However, a magic ingredient that separates these skateboards from graffiti is that the skateboards come with added property rights. Once you’ve painted your own particular skateboard, that’s how it stays painted. Which means you can really go to town on it, make it really great, confident that some other artist won’t paint over what you’ve just done.
There is also the fact that a skateboard, unlike graffiti, can be moved hither and thither, which means it can be bought and sold. This means that politically sane people will gravitate towards decorating skateboards and political ignorami will prefer graffiti, property rights and civilisation being things that go hand in hand, as do attacking property rights and barbarism. Sadly, this does not necessarily mean that the skateboard art will be better, because mad artists are often better than sane artists. Plus, you can now add the magic of digital photography to graffiti, thereby preserving it. But as art objects, these skateboards will, unlike graffiti, be profitable and permanent.
Here’s the final photo I took, complete with the guy who said I could take all the other photos, despite knowing I wasn’t in the market for a decorated skateboard, but was merely interested in an art gallery-ish way:
I asked this guy for a card or something, so I could put a link to the place here, as I have done, see above. He didn’t have anything on paper. But then he thought: have a bag:
And that’s how I knew what the shop was called and where to find its website.
I hope this posting doesn’t do any harm to this enterprise, for example by diminishing its street credibility. Do things still have street credibility? Or, to put it in more recent parlance, is street credibility still a thing?
A few days back, probably because it has long been aware of my fascination with cat fascination, the Great Machine in the Sky presented me with this advertisement:
Click on it to get to what was being advertised.
What it is, of course, is a system for a machine to become aware of other machines in its vicinity and thereby to communicate with these other machines, and this system is the work of CAT. But the idea that a machine might somehow learn to realise if there is a cat in its vicinity, and would then, if there is, feel compelled to alert other machines to this menace, is rather clearly suggested.
If you do click on the above piece of horizontality, you will be greeted by the following claim:
WHEN MACHINES TALK, EVERYONE’S SAFER.
In a week’s time, there will be a Brian’s Last Friday meeting at which the speaker, Chris Cooper, will be contesting this claim.
Adams is being “shadow banned” by Twitter, as he notes in this posting:
As many others have documented, Twitter throttles back the tweets of people who hold political views they don’t like.
What “throttles back” means is that you can still read it, but nobody else can. I think.
To outwit this shadow banning, Scott Adams has devised a cunning plan involving kittens, which I absolutely do not understand the details of, but which he mentions several times during the above-linked-to video ramble. (It’s a good ramble, but a ramble.) Whenever he writes about things that Twitter’s censorship committee disapproves of him writing about (Trump and the climate debate being the two big ones at present), he tweets instead that he has done a piece about kittens. This will alert his followers to a posting that Twitter wants crushed. In order to shadow ban this, Twitter would have to shadow ban all kittens which would break the internet, and all humans also because they would be laughing so much. Or something. I don’t see why Twitter can’t just shadow ban Scott Adams whenever he mentions kittens, along with whenever he mentions Trump or mentions the climate debate. But what do I know?
New word: outweet.
I always knew, when I started Friday-blogging about cats and kittens here, that this topic would become highly significant from time to time, on account (for instance) of politicians being jealous of all the attention that cats and kittens were getting. (Prediction: at some point during the next thousand years or so, climate permitting, a cat or kitten will be elected President of the United States.)
But this particular Scott Adams kitten-tweeting circumstance I did not see coming.
Friday is my day for cats and other creatures, but it is also David Thompson’s day for more substsantial collections of all this weird and wonderful on the internet, and one ephemeron (ephemeros? ephemerum?) in his collection today is this:
Brutalist colouring book. Because concrete needs colour.
I followed that link.
Brutalism lovers, sharpen your cold grey and warm grey pencils and add some colour to some great concrete constructions. First edition of 500 hundred copies. Each copy is numbered.
Ooh. First edition. Numbered copies. Very arty. Sign of the times? I want it to be.
I have long thought that the brutalities of brutalism could use a bit of softening, and actually, a lot of softening. With colour. Bring it on.
Someone who agreed with me, from way back was, actually, would you believe?: Le Corbusier. He was into bright colours to soften the brutalities of his brutalism, from the getgo.
(See also: these colourful kittens. No softening needed there, but it was done anyway.)
Photoed by me, earlier this evening, in Leicester Square:
Somebody gave me a leaflet, about this, while I was photoing. Maybe this was what the demo was about. Maybe not.
Alice Robb writes about the strange relationship between humans and cats:
When a stray cat wandered onto the tracks of a midtown 7 train last month, the MTA halted the entire subway line until the animal was out of harm’s way. At the same time, the U.S. government euthanizes millions of stray cats each year. They’re a disaster for the environment: One conservancy organization has called cats the “ecological axis of evil.” ...
There was no single, obvious reason for cats to have been domesticated, says Robb, like meat, or milk, or fur. They are famously unbiddable. And they can be very nasty to us. So, how did it happen?
As I talked to scientists, it dawned on me that we weren’t necessarily the ones who were driving this relationship. House cats sidled up to our first settlements 10,000 years ago, because of big changes we started making to the environment. All of these animals crept into our settlement and were eating our trash - animals like badgers and foxes, in addition to small wildcats. They got into this new niche and exploited it.
So how did they trick us into feeding them and taking care of them?
For a long time, it was probably just an accident. But there are reasons that cats made the transition, but we don’t have badgers or foxes as pets today. One reason is that cats have a set of physical features that, for completely accidental reasons, remind us of human babies. Cats have big round eyes located right in the middle of their faces, because they’re ambush predators and need good binocular vision. They have little noses, because they don’t hunt by smell. They have round faces because they have short, powerful jaws. This set of features, which is actually just an expression of the way the cat hunts, looks to us like our infants. That gave them a leg up on the competition, and made them an intriguing and charming presence, rather than a straight-up nuisance, like a raccoon.
I always assumed that cats were made welcome by our ancestors because they killed rats and mice, which gobbled up our crops. But, says Robb, cats often can’t be bothered to kill rats, because of all the garbage humans emit.
There’s plenty of garbage for everybody. Cats and rats have been photographed sharing piles of trash. Why would these animals fight and risk their lives, when they could just comfortably graze together?
As for the suppose health benefits of keeping a cat, these, says Robb, are highly dubious.
It all adds up to a pretty good summary of the cat/person relationship.
I’ve already shown a very similar picture of this building …:
… at this blog, in this posting. The above photo is only very slightly different, in that it includes the Spraycan on the right, but excludes the Walkie-Talkie. Also, I was able to compose it because I was on the platform of Battersea Park station, rather than in a train and just taking a chance.
I show another shot of this thing, because, well, I just like it. There’s something about the way it gets lighter at the top, and how photos of this thing end up looking like they’ve been faked up by an architect’s office before the thing has even been built. Photos of it don’t look real. They look like Photoshop.
When I started doing this posting, I had it in mind for tomorrow (which is a busy day), having already done a rather perfunctory posting about a cat, Friday being my day for cat-blogging. But it turns out that this blue building is also all about cats and other creatures. I tried googling it for that earlier posting, without success. But I just gave that another go, this time typing “"blue new building Battersea” or some such word combo into the great computer in the sky, and this time it worked. This blue building is the recently opened Battersea Dogs (and now also Cats) Home Veterinary Clinic & Centre of Excellence.
Blog and learn.
The human eye comes with a brain attached, a brain which continuously works out what is actually there, as opposed to how things merely look. But the camera is stupid. It sees everything but understands nothing. It does not cut out what doesn’t matter.
So, when a camera takes a picture like this ...:
… it shows the sign, but it also shows all the stupid lighting effects that are messing with the sign.
It also shows weird lighting effects above and beyond the sign, which perhaps you hadn’t noticed, until I told you to look for them. Your brain may have cut that out, because it doesn’t have anything to do with the sign and you were concentrating on the sign.
But now do what I did next, when I realised what was really going on here. Having acquired the photography habit, I have become visually stupid, which means that I now see more, almost like a camera does.
Feast your eyes on this:
I am not sure if the above photo was the best I took of this effect, or the below photo. So I post both:
This was, I think, the single most remarkable thing I saw on my walk from Battersea Park station back to my home, last Wednesday afternoon.
From the above photos, you may be able to deduce what is causing this, but I’ll save you the bother of working it out. Here is the next photo I took:
And here is another photo which makes everything even clearer, that I got from the internet:
It’s the curvature of the surface off which the sunlight is bouncing that does it. That separates the blobs of light from each window into distinct columns, creating a parthenonic magnificence that would, with a flat wall of windows, have been just a big jumble. That would have been pretty good, but what we actually see is something else again. And yet, when I was photoing this, I was the only one paying attention to this amazing light show. Everyone else just walked past it, like it wasn’t there. This was because, thanks to their brains, it actually wasn’t there.
The internet ought to be able to correct such failures to notice. But the strange thing is, if you google the Battersea Dogs and Cats Home, all you get is a lot of stuff about dogs and cats. No mention at all of this amazing special effect. The modern world has its priorities badly skewed.
I have photoed similar lighting effects before, such as the one reported in this posting. But that one is put completely in the shade by this one.
Categories below include Transport. That’s because all this drama was to be seen on a manky old railway viaduct. Which I actually think made it look better. (All everyone else saw was a manky old railway viaduct.)
Leake Street, October 19th. Probably still there, as of right now, but quite possibly already painted over.
I do not know why the cat is saying: “4”. Some sort of golfing reference?
The internet is fighting back against … cats!
Cats are colonizers: this is what they do. They have colonized the internet just as they have colonized so many other habitats, always with the help of humans. This is the lesson of Cat Wars: The Devastating Consequences of a Cuddly Killer, a new book by conservation scientist Peter P. Marra and travel writer Chris Santella. From remote islands in the Pacific to the marshes of Galveston Bay, Cat Wars traces the various ways in which felines have infiltrated new landscapes, inevitably sowing death and devastation wherever they go.
Perhaps the most famous case of genocide-by-cat is that of the remote Stephens Island in New Zealand. Before the end of the 19th century, it was home to a unique species: the Stephens Island wren. One of only a few species of flightless songbirds, the wren ran low to the ground, looking more like a mouse than a bird. After a lighthouse was built on the island in 1894, a small human settlement was established; and with humans, invariably, come pets. At some point a pregnant cat, brought over from the mainland, escaped and roamed wild. The island’s wrens, unused to facing such a skillful predator, were no match for the feral cats that spread throughout the island. Within a year, the Stephens Island wren was extinct. It would take another 30 years to eradicate the feral cats.
This is not an isolated incident. Cats have contributed to species decline and habitat reduction in dozens of other cases. Because they’re so cute and beloved, we have little conception of — and little incentive to find out — how much damage cats are doing to our environment. When researcher Scott Loss tallied up the number of animals killed by North American housecats in a single year, the results were absolutely staggering: between 6.3 and 22.3 billion mammals, between 1.3 and 4 billion birds, between 95 and 299 million amphibians, and between 258 and 822 million reptiles.
Most books that get multiple reviews on Amazon get around four stars out of five, on average, because most of the reviews are from admirers and there are just a few from detractors. This book gets a star average of one and a bit.
How do you know if a cat is happy? Answer, mostly: from the sounds it makes and from its bodily movements. It purrs. It shoves its face against your legs, or your face. These are the strongest signs.
A still photo of a happy cat, or any kind of realistic picture, is not likely to communicate feline happiness nearly so definitely. And that is particularly true if you are only allowed a picture of the cat’s face. It’s eyes may be nearly shut, but that could just be because it’s resting, rather than especially happy. And anyway, good pictures of faces, the sort that really get our attention, have eyes which are wide open.
I’m guessing that this may have been the thinking behind the above, to me, rather unsettling image. There are no eyes-wide-open eye-catching photos of happy cats, so they slapped a smile on a cat in a drawing.
But, as I often say of rather peculiar things that I show photos of here: it got my attention. Click on the above for a bit of context. I took the photo in the Earls Court area, rather than Notting Hill, and it was of a bike.
There is, of course, that Cheshire Cat, but that’s rather unsettling also.
Friday is my day for cats and other creatures. The other creatures have already been alluded to. Now for the cats.
Last Sunday I visited GodDaughter 1’s parents and my friends, Gus and Mrs Gus. Gus, Mrs Gus and I visited their allotment, to collect our supper and to do some watering. Well, they collected our supper and did watering. I took photos. Like these two. On the left, Gus, and on the right some flowers? What sort of flowers? Yellow flowers.
And, I photoed cats.
The first cat I photoed lived in a house with a fence bordering on the allotments, through which it observed me, and then came closer, to investigate,while always being ready to retreat if I made any sudden moves:
That final picture is of the cat after he had gone back home, photoed with maximum zoom. But, he was still staring warily at me, just in case I did anything dangerous.
And the other cat I photoed was a handsome black and white cat, like the one my family had when I was a kid. He is apparently a regular visitor to the allotments, which is one of his favourite toilets, so I was told.
This time there was no fence to hide behind, so my zoom was in constant use.
Yesterday I was out in the depths of the countryside, and I snapped a bird. Birds are not good at moving their beaks out from behind greenery, just because you tell them to, but even so, I quite liked this snap in particular:
And I think it works even better in close up, thereby making its eyes more clearly visible:
I have absolutely no idea what brand of bird that is, and I certainly don’t know its science name. Anyone?
So, where was this particular depth of the countryside? Well, actually, it was up on my roof:
That being the entrance to the roof from the staircase that I share with my big pile of neighbours. The countryside is that green bit behind it. I have to be careful to keep that door open, because if it swings shut, I’m trapped up there.
So, I wasn’t in the depths of the countryside yesterday. But the light was magnificent up there on my urban roof, early in the morning, and then in the late afternoon. Although I promise nothing, I hope to prove this with more snaps, Real Soon Now.
And see also this Samizdata posting by Perry de Havilland, about the cats of Istambul.
[N]ever have I seen a city with more cats.
Perry visits Turkey. Military coup follows immediately. Coincidence? Well actually, yes.