Idle thoughts sitting by the pool in the hot sun

11.09, Thursday 9 Jun 2022

It turns out that chickens use their eyes quite differently. (I’ve been skimming paper abstracts.)

The left eye distinguishes between strangers and friends – and more generally is a novelty detector.

The right eye categorises and figures out what action to take.

(So a chicken looking only with its right eye is poor at telling novelty.)

Chickens, having eyes on the sides of their heads, look with only one eye at a time.

If I wasn’t sitting here baking in the heat I would be thinking about the general lesson here – that these two ways of seeing make up the totality of how to see the world. One a process that looks for metaphors and stereotypes; the second a novelty switch. Organisations and bureaucracies need these two ways of seeing. Machines and software too.

Anyway. The avian brain. Did dinosaurs specialise their eyes too?

Here’s the abstract.

Vallortigara, G., & Andrew, R. J. (1994). Differential involvement of right and left hemisphere in individual recognition in the domestic chick. Behavioural processes, 33(1-2), 41–57.

I knew a guy who knew a guy who played Sunday league football. Like, still amateur but a step up from a regular kick around with your mates.

In the team was an older guy who had once upon a time played professionally in the as-was Second Division, the third league from the top. (The English football league system is a pyramid of 140 leagues connected by promotion/relegation rules. It should be in that UNESCO list of the intangible cultural heritage of humanity.)

He ran rings around the rest of them. Like, astoundingly good. Nobody had a chance.

He said that someone from the league above would run rings around him, and a player from the league above that, the Premier League, the top one, was yet another class again.

ANYWAY: I have a cousin who acts and performs. She teaches singing now.

Years ago, at the start of her career, she was taking a Christmas show round old folks homes. At a family get-together she showed us one of her costumes – it was a turkey. Not like a full body mascot-style turkey, but a kind of hood and outline of the rest of it.

And so she walked into the kitchen in this cheap-ass turkey outfit, and my goodness, I have never seen a person be a turkey so much.

I believed it utterly. It was a spell!

I couldn’t put my finger on what it was. Changes in movement and stance are so powerful. If I had worn the costume I would have looked like a dude in a turkey costume. But in the hands of my cousin, it was a human-sized turkey in the room. I know that a human-sized turkey isn’t a thing that exists – and yet! Belief is a social construction, and here she is deftly restitching the social space time fabric around her, in real-time.

And I thought, if that’s my cousin, then what is it like when you encounter someone who is the best of the best when they are in character? Like, a legendary actor of the stage. They must suck you into their whole fictive universe, just with a glance, falling through the event horizon of reality distortion just being present in the same room.

Maybe some kinds of talent are exponential.

My stupid theory is that there are pi space dimensions.

This is based on nothing except that the number 3 isn’t special but pi drops out of relationships between physical things all over the place.

I don’t even know what a fractional dimension would mean!

In my head, having 3.14-etc space dimensions is indistinguishable from having 3, in everyday life and in most of physics.

But the extra fraction leads to the universe slip-sliding over itself, at the edges. It says there is some spooky connection between the very big and the very small, perhaps, it’s where self-similarity sneaks in. Maybe it looks like morphic resonance. Maybe it means that dancing can change the weather. It’s how we’ll be able to fly faster than light one day. A bit of give, a bit of play.

The resort here in Sicily has an amphitheatre which, in the U.K., would be making a statement, but here is simply a round space for performance with seating terraced up all around, open to the sky. It’s so conventional. Functional.

Anyway the staff put on a performance of Beauty and the Beast for the under 11s.

It was wonderful. Modern dance, some acrobatics, some juggling.

Also kinda scrappy – they’ve only been working together 2 weeks. Scrappy compared to Hollywood! Miles better than what I could do.

The play was made to work with whatever skills they had. A collage to tell the story in a series of scenes put together in whatever way works.

We loved it! So wonderful. Their enthusiasm and talent, our enjoyment.

Like I said, more than I could do. We were wowed by the lifts and the leaps. Yet we felt like peers somehow?

Like: here we are, some of us watching and laughing and clapping and gasping, and some of us performing in the middle, all part of the same thing, all together.

Moon overhead.

I felt so in touch with what people have been doing for thousands of years.

In open theatres just like this, in communities and towns, people bringing their talent and bringing their appreciation to weave stories and be together.

The other week we went to watch folk music in a small bar in Camden. Maybe 30 people there? It was a performer we saw on a live stream during the pandemic, which is how this bar kept its performances going. Many of the people there were friends of the people singing and playing at the front.

I had a similar feeling there – generation upon generation, thousands of years, I felt so in touch. In the moment and in eternity.

This modern form of “audience” or “user base” or “electorate” or “customers”… it’s so weird. The separation between the people and the people at the front. We should feel like that, on another day, we could be on stage and they in the stalls. Perhaps it’s a blip, this hard division.

I wonder how much of what we see as waves of fashion, or epochs of technology, or trends, is driven simply by the urge, felt by every generation, to reach for a world without division between stage and seating – where we are makers and consumers both at once, taking turns according to ability and interest – to re-create the amphitheatre.

The sun is hot.

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