Thinking With Tentacles

Mad Penguins & Whale Accents
in the Court of the Octopus King

Research into the natural world has been a reliable way of gauging our walk on this planet, and where we’re probably heading to. But a new approach, devoid of any rancid anthropomorphism, has offered fresh insights into animal intelligence. And the results are remarkable.
Heard the one about whales with a Caribbean accent? Or penguins having sex parties wilder than drunken priests? But no one was ready to witness an octopus opening a jar from inside, or sneaking out at night to feed on crabs nearby, before returning to its tank. Or not.
What these and other animals prove is that cognitive ability is not a human monopoly. In fact, whenever the need to compare them with us is subtracted from the equation, crows, cephalopods, and pigeons, to name a few, can outsmart a thinking bloke often in a radical way.
Evolution has proposed alternatives to some species so far from our own, that they could be almost aliens raised in Pluto for we know. Since we no longer equate physiology with identity, it’d be better get acquainted with mental prowess that owes nothing to rationality.
Not that we even apply it to everything, and yes, to us, there is something wrong with that. But elephants have always cried of sadness, and chickens do side up with individuals in danger. We were just too busy trading their tusk for the ivory, or simply eating them, to pay any attention.

ADÉLIES JUST WANT TO HAVE FUN
Let’s get this out of the way: penguins are not humans, thus morality is not an issue, even if a colony, in the distance, looks like a black-tie cocktail party. And for belting out loud, the Adélies have nothing on the singing lady Adele. But when it comes to parties, theirs do get wild.
During Capt. Scott‘s second, and doomed, trip to Antarctica, between 1910-13, George Murray Levick wrote of widespread necrophilia, males sexually coercing young chicks, before killing them, and shock, having sex with other males. To him, it was ‘depravity,’ and his notes (in Ancient Greek, to harden access to them) went missing.
Till now: they’ve been uncovered and bad ‘science’ journalism have ensued, of course. But the biggest recent news about the Adélie had nothing to do with sex. In February, it was reported that 150,000 penguins died, after being landlocked by the fracture of a giant iceberg.
But it was a hoax, better researched stories have confirmed. Neither sex fiends nor massacred by climate change, yet, penguins are just, once again, being victims of bad reporting. Why we care has nothing to do with humanity either: they just look like us. We’re already changing their history. Time to tell their stories way better, too.

DEEP SONGS & ACCENTED CLICKS
Since at least the 1970s, news about whales is always surprising, even as their numbers keeping receding towards extinction. The size of their brains, rich social lives, their songs, complex and uniquely identified with their pods. And then there’s the loneliest of them all.
The fact that research into these massive but elusive species has reached such a level of sophistication is, in itself, (more)
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Read Also:
* Beneath the Waves
* Eerie Impersonation
* The Saddest Song
Continue reading

We’ve Kept You Posted

Yearly Recall Takes
a Blurry 2015 Picture

It was a year of record refugee waves, with boatloads of heartbreaking stories landing en masse on European shores. Greeting them, equal parts of compassion and vile political pettiness, and a stunned world reacting as it usually does: with violence.
As usual too, there were plenty of staggering deaths – massive, laser-focused, or undiscriminated – due to terrorism, war strikes, stampedes, and in the U.S., racism and too many guns. And, of course, a fair share of encouraging news about climate change, for instance.
This post hardly covers them all, though. For these Colltales stories we’ve picked are more of a counterpoint to what was going on then. Rather than rehashing what was on everyone’s devices in 2015, they run a parallel track of commentary, criticism, and even comic relief.
Just as global temperatures kept rising, our pulse on the year’s events was better reflected on the weekly editorial Newsletter/Curtain Raiser. So we were free to report another kind of news, neither Pollyanna nor downright depressing. You know, the Colltalers preferable way. Enjoy.

ELVIS, CATS & RIO IN WINTER
The terrorist attack that killed nine journalists at the Paris offices of the Charlie Hebdo, on Jan. 7, was arguably the biggest news of the first three months of 2015. But the following day, we featured Elvis Presley‘s 80th birthday. And never looked back.
Stories about crows, unemployment, that old fave Voynich Manuscript, and a quirky take on Valentine Day followed. A personal darling was the 450th anniversary of Rio, our city of birth. Bandit Maria Bonita, cats, caturally, and life after death, online, completed the bunch.

A SPRING OF RACE & TIME
By then, the biggest refugee crisis of our era was already creeping in, but within the U.S., an old scourge was robbing the headlines: racism. Our own second quarter, though, was deep into Continue reading

Hit Parade

Hey, Hello There.
Nice of You to Stop By

Dear readers: Thank you. For some crazy reason, Colltales’ readership hits are kissing the sky today. Since I haven’t done anything to spike the stats, I assume it’s some kind of fluke, some search engine going awry and drawing people to come and visit. So, welcome you all.
Still, if you have any idea, feel free to speak up. I see that our dear people in Turkey are leading the way, so perhaps something in Istanbul or Ankara is driving attention to our humble site. Well, now that you’re all here, make yourselves comfortable and take a good look around.
Let me tell you a little bit about ourselves. We’ve been on for four years, give or take, and our posts, as you can see, cover a wide variety of subjects. So, after scrolling down for a little bit, perhaps you may want to look up favorite themes through our own search engine (middle bottom left).
Our guess is that among, say, five choices of issues you’re interested in, we have at least one post about or related to one of them. That’s because there are over 1,300 hundred articles on this site, including news stories, curiosities, current affairs, and even non fiction.
Try Children, or Space, for instance. Maybe Brazil, or Poverty, Cats, even Religion. There are headlined stories and opinion pieces, as the Curtain Raiser series. Hope you enjoy it. We put a lot of effort on this space, which you probably noticed, is independent and ad free.
Of course, we could never compete with a giant such as the Huffington Post. Or Justin Bieber. Compared to them, over 600 hits in a single day is no big deal. But as we say, if this blog were about people taking the NYC subway F line at 10am, everyday, it’d be a smash hit.
Then again, how would we be writing about the Amazon Rainforest? or the mysteries of space and time? Even the NYC subway F line. To each, its own, then. We hope you make stopping by here a daily habit; there’ll be always something new to be discovered in these pages.
Thanks again for the nice feeling you’ve given us. Specially you, Turkey. It’s almost like having a warm meal in your belly after going hungry for so long. Almost like an early Thanksgiving, without the family fights. Feel free to tell your loved ones about this friend you now have in New York. Hey, we may even hit the 1000 mark today. And leave your comments, so we know you’re there. All the best to everyone. WC

Best Byes

Sendoffs, Farewells
& the Far Side of 2013

In many quarters of the globe, the departing year had its fair share of kooky dishes, strange brews and no small amounts of heart burn. Just like the number that hitched the millennium over 300 days ago. Much of it is forgettable, but some are worth revisiting.
In no particular order, and little if any sense, we’ve collected some of these gems for your consideration. You may come out nurturing the feeling that somehow you’ve missed a lot, but not to worry: just enjoy it like it’s your second and very last chance.
A mechanic’s invention to help safely suck babies into this world. A presidential party favor that the host, a former spymaster himself, graced his powerful guests. From brew to brick, to bricks made of blood, beer has certainly had a grip over the year.
From Bowie in space to cats on a subway track, 2013 was also a year of tearful animal goodbyes, and the two leading the bunch out of this world were unquestionably a special breed: a polar bear with a severe case of neurosis and a pig, with a weakness for booze.
But what on Earth, you may ask, have these far out events to do with anything or even each other? All we can invoke in defense of stringing together such insane chain of recollections is that each and every one of them was a rare gift, squeezed among the terrible headlines inflicted on us throughout the year.
After all, we’re sure that you’re being bombarded everywhere by that kind of recollection, and how we’ve reached yet another notch downwards, for all we’ve done to the planet and to each other, and for the lot we didn’t even consider doing to redeem ourselves.
End-of-the-year lists have this way of making us all feel so guilty and miserable that if one checks one, all the others get checked as well. Thus, as we struggle to find ways to wrap up the proceedings, we also humbly aim at bringing some vain comfort to our sore readers who’ve been through a lot.
So has The Remains, a band with a heartbreaking story that reunited last June after a 47-year hiatus. In 1966, they went into a 14-city tour, opening for a quartet from England. But while The Beatles’ last live performances are the stuff of legend, they wound up in Gowanus, Brooklyn, recollecting. Life’s definitely not fair.
Talking about the 1960s, another legend that will fold coming Dec. 31, is the Volkswagen bus, icon of summers of yore, and if we’re calling it Continue reading

Field of Dreams

Wanna Be an Oneironaut?
Now, There’s an App for That

The art of lucid dreaming resembles the booming business of death: more people are doing both than ever before. But while there’s hardly ever news coming from the Big Sleep, specially from those who went into it and despite faith arguments to the contrary, dreams are very much alive and vital and, chances are, you’ll have some new ones to talk about in just a few hours.
The other week we told you about a machine that, ideally, one day may be able to record and play back thoughts. It’s only logical to expect the same happening to those intriguing adventures most humans and animals find in the arms of Morpheus. Now, that the field of lucid dreaming no longer belongs exclusively to shamans and visionaries, you guessed it, there’s an app for that too.
Since ancient times, narratives describing mystical revelations have been recorded and transmitted through generations. Many of these fantastical tales are at the root of religions, faiths and cults, having been dreamed on by their founders. They have served as shared apprenticeship tools for conversion and initiation.
As ritualistic dogmas upon which would lay the foundations of a sect or group of ‘chosen ones,’ dreams have also always offered glimpses into deep recesses of our species’ psyche, as revealed mysteries endowing both individuals and the community at large of special powers and Continue reading

On the Brink

Meet an Amur Leopard,
the World’s Rarest Cat

There may be only fewer than 50 individuals of this beautiful feline left in the wild. It shouldn’t be so, since they sit at the top of the food chain. Guess who’s been mercilessly hunting them for centuries?
Now the World Wildlife Fund has set an area covering 650,000 acres in Russia for the Land of the Leopard National Park, a last-ditch effort to prevent these magnificent creatures from extinction.
That’s why we dedicate this Caturday to the Amur, the rarest among the rarest. Click on the picture to watch the video. There are also many other ways you can help, including adopting one of them.

Combat Pets

Soldier Dogs With Same
Traumas as U.S. Troops

We breed them. We treat them as equals, as gods or slaves. We love and we fear them. And we’ve been eating them for ages.
Since we’ve been around, we’ve done with animals as we damn well pleased. Including being killed in our wars, often instead of us.
Elephants, horses and dogs. Dolphins, sea lions and pigeons. Primates and pigs. Even cats and bats have died in wars or in weapon labs.
Now, like the canary in the mine, dogs are sounding the alarm. Some of those deployed in combat are suffering Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.
DAMAGED HOUNDS
It’s a disturbing, if predictable, consequence of their loyalty to the military. And more so than with the troops, these warriors may have been psychologically hurt for life.
Counseling therapy, of course, won’t work with them. In fact, in many cases, treatment is a guess work, at best, and to expect a full Continue reading