Friday, 24 March 2017


Washington, D.C., circa 1926. Dog cemetery

10 Fascinating Facts About Ravens

Edgar Allan Poe knew what he was doing when he used the raven instead of some other bird to croak out “nevermore” in his famous poem. The raven has long been associated with death and dark omens, but the real bird is somewhat of a mystery. Unlike its smaller cousin the crow, not a lot has been written about this remarkable bird. Here are 10 fascinating facts about ravens.

 1. Ravens are one of the smartest animals. When it comes to intelligence, these birds rate up there with chimpanzees and dolphins. In one logic test, the raven had to get a hanging piece of food by pulling up a bit of the string, anchoring it with its claw, and repeating until the food was in reach. Many ravens got the food on the first try, some within 30 seconds. In the wild, ravens have pushed rocks on people to keep them from climbing to their nests, stolen fish by pulling a fishermen’s line out of ice holes, and played dead beside a beaver carcass to scare other ravens away from a delicious feast. If a raven knows another raven is watching it hide its food, it will pretend to put the food in one place while really hiding it in another. Since the other ravens are smart too, this only works sometimes.

2. Ravens can imitate human speech. In captivity, ravens can learn to talk better than some parrots. They also mimic other noises, like car engines, toilets flushing, and animal and birdcalls. Ravens have been known to imitate wolves or foxes to attract them to carcasses that the raven isn’t capable of breaking open. When the wolf is done eating, the raven gets the leftovers.

3. Europeans often saw ravens as evil in disguise. Many European cultures took one look at this large black bird with an intense gaze and thought it was evil in the flesh … er, feather. In France, people believed ravens were the souls of wicked priests, while crows were wicked nuns. In Germany, ravens were the incarnation of damned souls or sometimes Satan himself. In Sweden, ravens that croaked at night were thought to be the souls of murdered people who didn’t have proper Christian burials. And in Denmark, people believed that night ravens were exorcized spirits, and you’d better not look up at them in case there was a hole in the bird’s wing, because you might look through the hole and turn into a raven yourself.

4. Ravens have been featured in many myths. Cultures from Tibet to Greece have seen the raven as a messenger for the gods. Celtic goddesses of warfare often took the form of ravens during battles. The Viking god, Odin, had two ravens, Hugin (thought) and Munin (memory), which flew around the world every day and reported back to Odin every night about what they saw. The Chinese said ravens caused bad weather in the forests to warn people that the gods were going to pass by. And some Native American tribes worshipped the raven as a deity in and of itself. Called simply Raven, he is described as a sly trickster who is involved in the creation of the world.

5. Ravens are extremely playful.The Native Americans weren’t far off about the raven’s mischievous nature. They have been observed in Alaska and Canada using snow-covered roofs as slides. In Maine, they have been seen rolling down snowy hills. They often play keep-away with other animals like wolves, otters, and dogs. Ravens even make toys—a rare animal behavior—by using sticks, pinecones, golf balls, or rocks to play with each other or by themselves. And sometimes they just taunt or mock other creatures because it’s funny.

6. Ravens do weird things with ants. They lie in anthills and roll around so the ants swarm on them, or they chew the ants up and rub their guts on their feathers. The scientific name for this is called “anting.” Songbirds, crows, and jays do it too. The behavior is not well understood; theories range from the ants acting as an insecticide and fungicide for the bird to ant secretion soothing a molting bird’s skin to the whole performance being a mild addiction. One thing seems clear, though: anting feels great if you’re a bird.

7. Ravens use “hand” gestures. It turns out that ravens make “very sophisticated nonvocal signals,” according to researchers. In other words, they gesture to communicate. A study in Austria found that ravens point with their beaks to indicate an object to another bird, just as we do with our fingers. They also hold up an object to get another bird’s attention. This is the first time researchers have observed naturally occurring gestures in any animal other than primates.

8. Ravens are adaptable. Evolutionarily speaking, the deck is stacked in the raven’s favor. They can live in a variety of habitats, from snow to desert to mountains to forests. They are scavengers with a huge diet that includes fish, meat, seeds, fruit, carrion, and garbage. They are not above tricking animals out of their food—one raven will distract the other animal, for example, and the other will steal its food. They have few predators and live a long time: 17 years in the wild and up to 40 years in captivity.

9. Ravens show empathy for each other. Despite their mischievous nature, ravens seem capable of feeling empathy. When a raven’s friend loses in a fight, they will seem to console the losing bird. They also remember birds they like and will respond in a friendly way to certain birds for at least three years after seeing them. (They also respond negatively to enemies and suspiciously to strange ravens.) Although a flock of ravens is called an “unkindness,” the birds appear to be anything but.

10. Ravens roam around in teenage gangs. Ravens mate for life and live in pairs in a fixed territory. When their children reach adolescence, they leave home and join gangs, like every human mother’s worst nightmare. These flocks of young birds live and eat together until they mate and pair off. Interestingly, living among teenagers seems to be stressful for the raven. Scientists have found higher levels of stress hormones in teenage raven droppings than in the droppings of mated adults. It’s never easy being a teenage rebel.

Photo Credit: Deidre Lantz Source


“Those who don't believe in magic will never find it.” – Roald Dahl
Ellen Borggreve Photography

How Argentina’s Baked Goods Reveal Its Political Past

From “monk’s balls” to “cannons,” these pastries get subversive.
By Elizabeth King
MARCH 23, 2017

Politics and pastry have a long history in Argentina. Here current President (and former Buenos Aires Mayor) Mauricio Macri makes an offering to the press JUAN MABROMATA/AFP/GETTY IMAGES

Argentina has a complex history of social rebellion, political unrest, and enduring leftist movements. As with most political legacies, Argentine socio-politics have had a way of manifesting themselves in institutions and traditions, whether it’s new forms of government, or plazas named for revolutions that become meeting grounds for citizen protests. One might not expect, however, that revolutionary history would be something that people eat throughout the day.

In Buenos Aires there are perhaps more bakeries than any locally made food shop or restaurant, and it’s here one will find not only tasty baked goods and pastries, but a look at the origins of Argentina’s anarchist movement.

Argentina’s first trade unions formed in the 1880s. The bakers’ union was one of the earliest, organized in 1886 under the leadership of Ettore Mattei, who had been exiled from his native Italy and worked with fellow exiled Italian anarchist Errico Malatesta. Malatesta was commissioned to draft the principles of the union, called la Sociedad Cosmopolita de Resistencia y Colocación de Obreros Panaderos (in English: Cosmopolitan Society of Resistance and Placement of Bakery Workers).
Errico Malatesta drafted the union principles of the Cosmopolitan Society of Resistance and Placement of Bakery Workers. DE AGOSTINI PICTURE LIBRARY/GETTY IMAGES

Two years after its founding, the bakers’ union went on strike in Buenos Aires for 10 days, demanding better conditions and higher wages. Workers clashed with the police and not only stood up for their rights, gaining a 30-percent wage increase, but cleverly manufactured a permanent political mark in their craft itself: the bakers decided to give blasphemous and anti-state names to bread goods that are still eaten daily across the nation.

Anyone who has dined in a cafe or shopped at a bakery in Argentina will immediately recognize menu items such as bolas de fraile, suspiros de monja, vigilantes, cañones, and bombas. For those who don’t speak Spanish, the pointed political metaphors the bakers cooked up start to make sense in translation: monk balls, nun’s sighs, vigilantes, cannons, and bombs.Some Bolas de Fraile—monk’s balls. MATIAS CHAVERO/CC BY 2.0

Monk’s balls, a sweet bun often filled with dulce de leche, can be taken literally as jabbing at the church by offering up a friar’s testicle in pastry form. The nun’s sigh, to put a fine a point on it, can be considered a reference to an orgasm. The other goods are targeted toward the state and the police: vigilantes are made in the shape of a police officer’s baton; the cannons are long, hollow, and filled with a sweet filling; bombas are a choux puff pastry.

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Even the Argentinian word for baked goods that are eaten at breakfast, or for late afternoon snacks, has a labor-related meaning. The word is facturas, which, in nearly every other context, means “bill” or “invoice.” The particular, revolutionary names for facturas have remained to this day, and so certainly has an activated working class.Assortment of Facturas, Spanish for ‘invoices.’ MUSHII

The perseverance of these names can perhaps be explained by the significant political turmoil that dominated Argentina throughout the late 19th century.

The political climate at the time was a dangerous one for radical anti-state leftists, and even moreso for indigenous populations. In 1879, General Julio Argentino Roca led a genocidal military campaign in Patagonia against indigenous Argentines, “physically obliterating” them from the region, according to A. Dinerstein’s America: Organising Hope.

Roca became president of Argentina in 1880, and despite his bloody rise to power, Argentina’s economy grew substantially in the early 1880s as Buenos Aires became a major manufacturing and exportation hub. This was the same time that the country received an influx of Spanish and Italian immigrants, who brought anarchism with them.The baker’s union was one of the first organized in Argentina, as early as 1886. CHIVILCOY MUNICIPAL LITERARY ARCHIVE/PUBLIC DOMAIN

In 1886, when the bakers’ union was formed, Roca’s predecessor, Miguel Juárez Celman, was in year two of his presidency (to which he was fraudulently elected), and Buenos Aires saw an explosion of union activity regarding pay and working conditions. A new party formed to take Celman out of office.

Following the bakers’ strike in Buenos Aires, other unions and anti-government political parties quickly organized and took action. Rail and steelworkers went on strike in Rosario, Argentina, the same year. The anti-government Youth Civic Union formed in 1889, and rebranded as the Civic Union in 1890, revolted against Celman in the Revolution of the Park. Celman was forced to resign.

In 1901, the largely anarchist Argentine Regional Workers’ Federation (FORA) was founded, bringing together 35 unions (the group underwent many divisions and changes throughout the early first decades of the 20th century, but still exists in some form today). The anarchist dockworkers union successfully fought for a nine-hour work day in 1902. Between 1889 and 1910, Global Connections states that anarchists organized six general strikes. The original articles of association written by Malatesta for the bakers’ union served as a model for many of these subsequently formed unions.

The unionization of Argentina’s working class was a struggle in the truest sense of the word, and the radical christening of the facturas can be read as incisive, clever, and celebratory simultaneously. The bakers’ union and strikes came at a critical moment of economic growth and political tyranny, the likes of which the nation has experienced in various fashions ever since. While the complicated political landscape continues to shift, the facturas remain.

Collecting Vintage Postcards

Postcards (sometimes spelled out in two words as "post cards") became popular at the turn of the 20th century, especially for sending short messages to friends and relatives. They were collected right from the start, and are still sought after today by collectors of pop culture, photography, advertising, wartime memorabilia, local history, and many other categories.
Postcards were an international craze, published all over the world. The Detroit Publishing Co. and Teich & Co. were two of the major publishers in the U.S, and sometimes individuals printed their own postcards as well.
There are many types of collectible vintage postcards. Hold-to-light postcards were made with tissue paper surrounded by two pieces of regular paper, so light would shine through. Fold-out postcards, popular in the 1950s, had multiple postcards attached in a long strip. Real photograph postcards (RPPCs) are photographs with a postcard backing.
Novelty postcards were made using wood, aluminum, copper, and cork. Silk postcards - often embroidered over a printed image - were wrapped around cardboard and sent in see-through glassine paper envelopes; they were especially popular during World War I. In the 1930s and 1940s, postcards were printed on brightly colored paper designed to look like linen.
Discover a world of vintage postcards SHOP FOR POSTCARDS
Most vintage postcard collectors focus on themes, like Christmas, Halloween, portraits of movie stars, European royalty and U.S. presidents, wartime imagery, and photos of natural disasters. Not to mention cards featuring colorful pictures by famous artists like Alphonse MuchaHarrison FisherEllen Clapsaddle, and Frances Brundage.
With vintage postcards, subject matter, condition, and rarity, plus general desirability and demand, determine value.
This article appears courtesy of

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