Huw Le Lytle answers all your questions in his column of wit and wisdom, For the Asking!
Huw’s for the asking!
BY Huw Le Lytle
In today’s questions …
Snug and Snow, Mirrors and Minds,
Small Screens and Fashion Scenes
Q: Dear Huw, any tips for keeping warm in the cold weather? Do dogs recognise their reflections when looking in the mirror? What is your favourite TV show at the moment?
– Mimi, Warwickshire, UK
A: Dear Mimi, cold weather can be tricky but it is also one of the most magical times of the year. As you know, dear Leo had a full wardrobe of onesies that he used to wear during the cold weather. And in fact, as soon as he got cold, he would complain until he had one on. He couldn’t sleep through the night without putting his cozy onesie on first. I have a modest wardrobe of onesies too, which I plan to utilise when things get chilly.
The mirror question is such an interesting one. Mirrors have a long history of discussion in fables and philosophy and science. There is a famous fable from Aesop about a dog who was carrying a piece of meat. The dog was walking along and he crossed a river. When he crossed the river he saw his reflection in the water. The dog in the fable thought that the reflection was another dog and that the other dog had a bigger piece of meat. So the dog dropped the meat to grab the larger piece of meat from the “other” dog. But the result was that he just fell in the water and ended up with no meat at all. But really, I think this fable is more about “the grass is always greener” than an indictment on the intellect of dogs. But the reason mirrors are so interesting is that mirrors are evidence that we are self-aware. Mirrors are all about how we see ourselves. Seems obvious, but what I mean is that self-recognition is actually one of the most important signs that we have a mind! There are always lots of anecdotes about dogs looking at themselves in mirrors and then barking at themselves or running behind the mirror to look for the second dog. And while that is funny, it is not the whole story. I can honestly say none of us has done that, although Jeff did look a bit bemused once at Howard’s preoccupation with himself in the bathroom mirror. But, just look at our Howard. If he sees another actual dog, he is very anxious to meet them and lets us all know. His social skills are improving though! But seriously though, when it comes to the mirror, he just stands quietly and admires himself. In front of the hallway mirror, that he passes several times a day, he often pauses just to admire his splendour. He doesn’t look behind it (unless Poly Styrene is behind it, ha ha). And if he is in a shop and sees a mirror, again he stands quietly and gazes, or looks at Human through the mirror. Apart from his obvious vanity, Howard is a good example of what science is starting to show. For instance, there are studies that show that dogs can use a mirror as a tool to locate hidden food. And this is very significant when it comes to our learning and communication. First, we are using tools, and secondly, we are differentiating between reflections and reality! So yes, I would say that dogs can indeed recognise themselves in mirrors. Lots of people may not agree, but I have the latest science on my side on this one! That, or Howard is just some sort of genius.
My favourite TV show is a big question, because I love TV. I watch a lot of movies. Often when we are all working in the Lookout Library, I will have a movie on in the background. I stress these aren’t necessarily award winning. More often than not I have the romance channel on, as I don’t like it if people start yelling at each other in more dramatic stories. As for TV, we all rather like Family Guy, mainly because it stars a dog and references a lot of John Hughes films.
Q: Dear Huw, I can’t afford expensive clothes. Are you able to dress well on a budget?
– Skint, Cardiff, UK
A: Dear Skint, this is a good question as of course I am known as a local Boulevardier, admired for my sartorial elegance and my promenades up and down the high street in my best threads during the colder months. But this doesn’t mean I have to spend all my ribbies money on outfits. The most important thing when it comes to fashion is the interpretation of the trends. I draw my inspiration here from the Marchande de Modes of 18th Century Parisian couture. In those days, the elegant couldn’t replace their whole wardrobe every two minutes, there just wasn’t the technology to make things that quickly. And so the secret was to accessorise. You can change your style with a carefully chosen piece of whimsical adornment and achieve a whole new look instantly. So think about updating your look with some ties, maybe a jaunty hat, or perhaps even a big bow. Sometimes even just a new collar gives me a whole new outlook on things.
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