Monday, August 26, 2013

More About the Hoopoe!

     I have written about the hoopoe, that is Upupa epops, a distinctive pinkish brown bird with a large crest on its head, a long decurved bill and wonderful checkerboard black and white wings. Please see my post of 1/17/2011. I wrote in some detail about the life of this attractive bird.
      Since I wrote that post in 2011, many YouTube videos of the hoopoe have appeared on the Internet. Here are several that are very interesting to watch. Following is an adult hoopoe catching a grub and eating it:

There are two quite long videos of a pair of nesting hoopoes in Israel. These videos are quite nice and show the birds growing even from day to day. Lively Israeli Hebrew songs accompany the videos.  I suggest watching at least some of each of these two videos.
     Then there is a video of a hoopoe giving its call and you can see where its English name comes from.

     I also promised you during my last post that I would show you some of the philatelic material that I picked up at Stampshow 2013 in Milwaukee. It turns out that in 2008, Israel conducted a vote in schools and in some other public places to determine the national bird. The hoopoe beat out the white spectacled bulbul. Therefore it is not surprising to see this philatelic item so effectively showing the hoopoe. It is a wonderful sheetlet of Israeli stamps, issued on 10/20/2009, one of the three types of stamps showing the hoopoe perched and the tag showing the hoopoe in flight.

          My other  hoopoe purchase was a First Day Cover with the four stamps from 1970 Helvetia or Switzerland issue showing 4 birds, one of them a hoopoe.
     There are many other stamps issued around the world, particularly in the Eastern Hemisphere by countries in the south of Europe and across Africa and Asia, where the hoopoe is present. Apparently ninety+ such stamps have been issued. We do not have a similar bird here in the Western Hemisphere. Perhaps that is why this bird seems so fascinating to me. There have been occasional visits to southern Alaska by this bird but otherwise it has never been a recorded vagrant to the continental US.
     Here is a partial checklist with photos of most of the stamps featuring the hoopoe.
Afghanistan 1985

North Vietnam
East Germany

Romania Maximum card

West Germany, 1963

Poland, 1967



Mongolia, 1967


Romania, 1994


Cambodia, 1987


Bechuanaland (now Botswana)
Scott # 169, with Queen Elizabeth
Issued in June, 2008
      Well, I was planning on making a checklist picturing the many stamps with hoopoe on them with labels showing their year of issue and country of Issue. I thought it might help some stamp collectors. I was even thinking of making such a topical collection myself. Then I found the following site, that I had not known about before. Now I see there is no need for me to do this and I am getting tired of doing it anyway. This site is amazing: you can enter any bird and all the known stamps with that bird on it are shown in nice little colored thumbnails. The bird can be magnified by clicking the little magnifier to the side of the stamp. If you click on one of the stamps, all the bird stamps of all species will be shown from that country. Wow, very nice website for collectors of birds on stamps.   

Stamp Collecting is Not Dead!

     The second week in August I went to Stampshow 2013. Yes, the American Philatelic Society (APS) held its yearly show in Milwaukee at the Delta Center (Convention Center). I had never been to a national stamp show before. Oh, I had once attended a very large bourse in New York City but it was mainly a bourse with some exhibits, nothing like this show. And the admission to Stampshow was free. Where can you attend a convention or show with an entire convention room full of dealers, stamp society and specialty collectors' booths, row after row of stamp exhibits, and several rooms of lectures going on for no money. There were lots of free giveaways, but of course you make up for no admission by spending considerable time at all those dealers' tables because you do not get to see these dealers from all over the country very often.

      Some say that stamp collecting is dead. I myself was worried about this idea. When I attend local stamp clubs the vast majority of attendees are senior white men. And every few months we are honoring one such member or another who has died. A mostly older male attendance does not bother me because I have been the minority female in the group all the way through premed classes in college and through medical school and residency. Even through my years of medical practice most of my colleagues were male. I adapted and actually began to prefer the male social group. At a party, I would often gravitate to the men's group where there was either technical talk or else I would put up with the sports talk there, preferable to the discussion of labor and delivery and young child rearing that was the topic of the female group discussion.

      Yet here at this show were lots of people and the mix was much more diversified. There were some families and youngsters which I was glad to see. The show provided a large youth area and some activities for the young. And women now hold some of the prime positions in national stamp organizations. A woman, Cheryl Ganz, is the curator of our new Smithsonian National Stamp Museum in Washington, D.C. Several of the speakers were women. Still minorities are under represented in the hobby. And there are still the lonely quiet women sitting in the concession area either killing time by reading or knitting or else glancing nervously toward the exhibits, waiting for their man to finish his tour of exhibits and dealers so that the couple can then move on to whatever he promised her in coming to Milwaukee in the first place.

     A listing of the topics presented at the various seminars demonstrates the broad attractions of philatelic collecting. There is a topic of collection that should strike interest in any individual who likes to collect things. Here are some of the titles of the presentations. "Christmas Crusade -- How a Little Church in Wisconsin Helped to Revolutionize US Stamps Police by Maurice Wozniak; "Wisconsin Cinderella Stamps by Ken Grant; Postal History of the Library of Congress by Larry Nix; Captain Tim, Tasco & Other Hobby Builders by Wayne Youngblood; "Collecting Christmas Seals by John Denune; "An Overview of he First International Symposium on Analytical Philately by john Barwis and Tom Lera; "A Glimpse of Milwaukee through Its Advertising Covers by Jim Meverden; "Basics of German North Atlantic Catapult Air Mail by James Graue; "What's Eating Your Mail?" by Steven Berlin (This talk was also an exhibit and consisted of a lot of nibbled mail as well as fumigated mails, etc):  "The Benjamin K. Miller Collection by Cheryl Ganz; " How to Develop a Thematic Exhibit, Parts I and II by Tony Wawrukiewicz; "Sending Airmail by Zeppelin by James Graue; "Challenges & Opportunities in Exhibiting and Judging Literature by Rich Drews and John Hochner; "Auxiliary Markings Show and Tell by Ralph Nafziger; "Carriers and Locals: The First Topical Stamps by Clifford J. Alexander; "Fiji -- Bird Definitive Overprints of 2006 to Present by James Cottington; and multiple meetings and gatherings of small and large specialty philatelic collecting societies as well as auction viewings and live auctions.

     I actually gave a talk myself about the combination of two of my collecting interests: antique toys and stamps. However, when you see the esoteric topics listed in the former paragraph, you might guess that my topic didn't attract too much attention. It was the wrong venue for my discussion. My talk works better at the local stamp club level where I have discussed this topic twice at two different clubs where both talks were well received.

     I spent some time looking at the endless exhibits. I have given some slight thought to mounting an exhibit myself. But it is a lot of work and can be quite costly if one is striving to win a higher medal. The competition at a national level requires some expensive rare philatelic material to be included with the exhibitor's knowledge both about his subject matter and the philately of the items he uses to illustrate that subject. If I am going to exhibit, I will have to start at a very low level at the local stamp show. I am considering a display that tells about the history of the Teddy Bear. I certainly have material for such an exhibit and the knowledge about Teddy's story.

     The National Postal Museum brought an exhibit of perhaps the best known stamp rarity in US philately -- the inverted Jenny. The museum owns a single such stamp, but put together an exhibit with replicas of plate blocks and other historical occurrences of this rare error.  In case you are uninformed about what the Jenny Invert is, here is first a photo and then its story.

     The Inverted Jenny major error stamps was issued on May ,20 1918 picturing the Curtiss JN-4 airplane, often called the Jenny biplane. A full pane of 100 stamps was printed in error in which the red frame was actually printed second and therefore was the part that was printed upside down. Interestingly this stamp was a rush job. The US Postal Service decided to inaugurate a regular air mail service between Washington, D.C., Philadelphia, and New York City on May 15, 1918, setting the rate at 24 cents over the regular land rate of 3 cents. Engraving only began on May 4, and the printing began on May 10 which was a Friday. Unlike previous stamps of this time period, sheets of 1/4 size containing only 100 stamps instead of the usual 400 at a time. Since there were two colors, each sheet of 100 had to be fed through the printing press twice, which creates the possibility of more errors. At least three misprinted sheets were found, removed and destroyed but this one made it through unnoticed. Stamp collectors of the day knew of the rush job and the changed printing techniques and made special runs to the post office to look for error sheets. Indeed a collector by the name of William T. Robey received the error sheet, within a week sold it to a dealer for $15,000. A second dealer purchased it for $20,000 and then that dealer got the idea of dividing up the sheet and selling a block of 8, several blocks of 4 and the rest individual stamps. Over the ensuing years, the value has steadily and enormously escalated. In December 2007, a mint never hinged single sold for $825,000, in November, one had sold for $977,500. In October, 2005, a block of four sold for $2.7 million. It was certainly interesting to see this very expensive stamp behind glass amongst the exhibit frames.
     During the course of Thursday and Friday, there were 4 First Day of Issue ceremonies to attend. These ceremonies are somewhat entertaining. There are some speakers to relate the story of the development of that particular new stamp or postal stationary issue. The stamp is unveiled and then the speakers and participants sit at a table and sign their names to either the program for the ceremony or the first day cover or both. These items then become particularly collectible. The Marshall Islands issued the stamps pictured here:

     My favorite was this set of Indian Chief Headresses drawn by Chris Calle. These are beautifully designed and portrayed. And the artist, Chris Calle was there to sign the program and a set of his First Day Covers. I am familiar with Chris's father, Paul Calle, known for his western American art. I think I even have one of his prints in my camouflage art print collection. I was excited to hear his explanation of producing the graphics on these stamps.

     The UN issued this set of 6 stamps showing star nebulae as taken by our most technologically advanced telescopes. We attendees received one of these stamps on an FDC for attending the First Day of Issue ceremony.

     The US also issued another form of the A Flag For All Seasons, this one a modified booklet issue.

     And a Folk Eagle postal stationary large format envelope.

This is a torn corner of the postal stationary, by the way and an example of
how not to remove the corner of an postal stationary unit. One should
probably collect the whole envelope, or if saving a corner cut, then
more carefully and symmetrically cutting off a corner square.

     I certainly spent enough time at the bourse tables. I enjoyed sitting and chatting with a gentleman from California who had driven with a friend to Milwaukee to attend. We chatted at the Israel Stamp Agency for quite sometime before I spent some money on Israeli stamps. The Israel Postal Service produces very collectible stamps.  This country's stamps are known for their "tabs"; that is the salvage on the stamps usually contain printed material and sometimes graphic material that elaborates on the topic of the stamp itself. Collectors save the stamps with their tabs. Even used stamps are often collected with their tabs Many of course have Biblical scenes, and others relate to modern Israel's exceptional progress in medicine, agriculture, forestry and archeology. The country produces a wonderful Stamp Year Book describing all the stamps issued that year and discussing their topics. I purchased the 2012 book along with some other Israeli issues that add to my Toys on Stamps collection. I also purchased a few things for my WESMYF collection: What Every Strikes My Fancy. In a future post, I will show you some of those stamps that I purchased at the bourse.

     In summary, I enjoyed the Stampshow 2013 very much and will try to attend another national stampshow very soon. Actually in 2015, Milwaukee is hosting the Wisconsin Federation of Stamp Clubs yearly show, Wiscopex. This will not be the size of Stampshow but it will have a lot of dealers there again. And no doubt other national stamp societies will pick Milwaukee again in the near future. Milwaukee has a nice venue for this size of convention. Attendees at Stampshow from all over the country and world for that matter commented on the convenience, the cleanliness, and the hospitality of the city.

Friday, August 23, 2013

Mystery Photo #22: Ephesis, Turkey

     Ephesus. This gorgeous and well preserved ancient city is located near Kusadasai, Turkey, fairly near the Mediterranean coast.

Statue of Artemis, the goddess honored
in the Ephesian Temple of Artemis. She
was a many breasted goddess,
sometimes confused with Diana.

     There was a Neolithic settlement in this area probably as far back as 6000 BC. Then the Myceneans who preceded the Greeks were there as well. The Hittites which are mentioned in the Bible wrote about a city in this area. Then finally in about 1000 BC Greeks migrated to the area and founded a city that became a cornerstone of what was called the Ionian League consisting of 12 cities in the area. By 550 BC the city was famed for its Temple of Artemis, a large pillared structure much like the Parthenon in Athens, and during its peak, the supposed largest building in the ancient world. This temple was one of the 7 Wonders of the Ancient World. It was destroyed three times and rebuilt; the first time by flood, the second by fire and the third and final time in 268 AD by the Goths.  Not much remains of this temple, but the place where it was can be readily discerned and there are a few remains of its pillars. By the 1st century AD, the city of Ephesus had a population of 250,000. Many of the antiquities that still stand and make this remarkable city what it is, date back to this Roman city during the peak of the Roman Empire.
     The ruins of the Roman city itself are phenomenal. Of course, the facade pictured is the Library of Celsus which rivaled the famous library in Alexandria. It was built between 117 and 120 AD to honor a Roman senator by the name of Tiberias Julias Celsus Polemaeanus. His sarcophagus is beneath this facade. The library reportedly contained 12,000 scrolls. Unfortunately it was almost completely destroyed in an earthquake in 262 AD leaving only the facade, which was later destroyed also by earthquake. This facade was restored to look like the original between 1950 and 1960. The amphitheatre and many of the other monuments, the baths, etc are remarkably revealing about Roman life in the first and second century AD.
     One of the most amazing structures in Ephesus is a beautifully partially restored and covered first century AD apartment building or condominium building that had been completely silted in and protected on a hillside just up the Roman street from the Library of Celsus. The Turks have done a wonderful job of revealing, preserving, restoring, and presenting this wonderful building. It is completely covered and the visitor climbs up the hillside looking down into the many rooms which still contain wonderful mosaic floors and the actual original painting on the plastered walls.
     Ephesus is also well known for two Biblical personae who traveled to Ephesus and lived for quite a time there. One is the Virgin Mary. One version of her history says she died and is buried in the surrounds of Ephesus. She was in the care of the Apostle, St. John at that time. A small chapel commemorates the place of her buriel. And Apostle Saint John came here to proselytize. His grave is here in the remains of the Saint John's Basilica which was built under Roman Emperor Justinian I in the 6th century in the nearby city of Selcuk.
       I can not go into the complete detail about this city because the writings about it are extensive. I just know that it is one of the ancient cities that has most impressed my husband and I and we have seen a lot of ancient cities. I think the only world antiquity that still maintains its first place in my mind is Petra, Jordon. As a single ancient city, Ephesus and its present day appearance are right up there near the top.
     I have posted many of our photos of this city. Click on "Read More" to see them.

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Mystery Photo #22: Another antiquity.

     Well, my readers are so good at identifying antiquities from Turkey, decided to give you another one to identify. This seems easy but maybe more challenging. I don't know how much you all know.
Please identify the ancient city in Turkey and then if you can, the name of the building of which only the façade survives.

Here I am in front of this unbelievable antiquity.

Monday, August 5, 2013

Mystery Photo #21: Yes, indeed. Istanbul, Turkey.

     You guys are pretty good. I know some of you who got the right answers have not traveled extensively to this area of the world. Good job! Yes, indeed. The city is Istanbul, Turkey.
      Here is a map to orient you. One of you visualized the bodies of water around Istanbul quite well. Istanbul sits on an arm of water called the Bospourus.  The north end of the Bospourus originates in the Black Sea. To the city's immediate south is the Sea of Marmara. After crossing the Sea of Marmara in a boat, you would then cross through the Dardanelles and exit this narrow passage of water into the Mediterranean Sea. This map will help you visualize this watery city. Istanbul is located in the very northwest corner of Turkey where an arrow points to the Straits of Bosporous.

     The building in the first photo is called the Blue Mosque, named after the blue tile that lines its walls, and domes.

     The first photo in Mystery Photo #21 is the Sultan Ahmet Mosque, otherwise known as the Blue Mosque named after the Iznik blue tiles that line its interior walls. This Mosque was built from 1609 to 1616, under the reign of Sultan Ahmet  I. Its Kulleye (a group of buildings surrounding a mosque all of which are administered as one) contains the tomb of Sultan Ahmet I, a madrasah, and a hospice. The Mosque is active to this date, but it is also one of the main tourist attractions in the city of Istanbul along with the other building in my photos, the Hagia Sophia.

The façade of the Blue Mosque from its courtyard.
     The facade of the Blue Mosque is one of the last of the so called classical mosques built in the world. It is very similar to the Suleymaiye Mosque also in Istanbul. The adjoining courtyard is almost as large as the interior of the mosque, and is surrounded by a vaulted walkway on all sides, and has a place for ablutions on two sides. A central hexagonal domed fountain seems small in regards to the large court and to the mosque itself. A unique feature of the Blue Mosque is the presence of 6 minarets. When the Mosque was built however, it only had four minarets. Mosques generally obeyed an unwritten law and did not build more minarets than were present at the Sacred Mosque which surrounds the holy Kaaba in the city of Mecca, Saudi Arabia. In 1629, renovations to the Sacred Mosque were begun, and shortly thereafter 3 minarets were added to the already existing 4 minarets. Soon afterwards, the Blue Mosque attained two more minarets for a total of six.

The vaulted courtyard and one of the minarets.

The central fountain in the courtyard.
The domes in the ceiling. You can see why it is called the Blue Mosque
Some of the interior arches and domes, looking at the balcony.
It is indeed magnificent to just look up.
Interior lighting is natural and then from strung light bulbs across the lower
 floor. At one time fancy shades covered these bulbs, including sea shells.
These have all been put into museums and artifact collections.

One of the large main pillars.
Islam forbids any images of Mohammad or other holy people. The name of
God, Mohamad and his teachings in the Quran can only be represented
by calligraphy.
A view of the Blue Mosque from the surrounding gardens. You can only see 4 of the minarets. The other two are to the right
behind the palm tree. You can see the classical symmetry of this style of mosque. Beautiful!
The apse of Hagia Sophia which here contains
the mihrab, that is the equivalent of an altar, set at an
angle in the apse so that when Moslems pray
facing it they are facing Mecca. Note the mosaic of
the Virgin Mary up in the half dome above.
     The second building viewed from our boat ride on the Bospouros was the Hagia Sophia. The name comes from the Greek which means "Holy Wisdom." The Church commemorates the Birth of the incarnation of the Logos in Christ, and represents the Wisdom of God. Sophia means wisdom in Greek. Hence the name Hagia Sophia.This magnificent domed church was constructed between 532 and 537 AD on the order of Byzantine Emperor Justinian, and was the third "Holy Wisdom" church to occupy this site, the previous two destroyed by rioters. It was designed by the Greek scientists, Isidore of Melitus, a physicist, and Anthemius of Trailes, a mathematician. Emperor Justinian had materials brought from all over the known world at that time. There were ancient columns from the Greek Temple of Artemis in Ephesus, porphyry stones from Egypt, large marble blocks from Thessaly, black stone from the Bospourus area, and yellow stone from Syria. Ten thousand people were employed in the building of this edifice.  It served as an Eastern Orthodox cathedral and the seat of the Patriarchate of Constantinople, except for a hiatus between 1204 and 1261 when it was converted to a Roman Catholic cathedral under the Latin Empire. It was the largest cathedral in the world until 1520 when the Cathedral of Seville was opened.

      In 1453, Constantinople was conquered by Ottoman Turks under Sultan Mehmed II. As most conquests were in those days, this one was brutal. The Sultan gave permission for his forces to ransack and loot for 48 hours before he would take over what was left. Many old, disabled, women and children took refuge in the church during the beginning of the conquest. When the Ottomans besieged the church and finally broke down the door, they slaughtered, raped, and/or enslaved all who were found within. It is said that the priests continued absolving people and doing their duties until the Ottomans physically stopped them. After 2 days Mehmed II ordered the Byzantine Church converted to a mosque. The Church itself had fallen into disrepair. At that time the 15 meter silver iconostasis, and other religious relics, and artifacts were removed. But most destructive was the painting over and plastering over of the ancient mosaics of the Virgin  Mary, Jesus, and the Apostles and Christian saints.

     Hagia Sophia has stood for almost 1500 years. But it has not been an easy existence. It has withstood many different earthquakes and with several of the major ones, large portions of the church were damaged. The main problem was this building's massive central dome. Another problem was that when the church was built, too much mortar was used in relation to the number of bricks. AND the mortar was not allowed to dry and cure properly. So when the dome was placed on the walls, its weight made the walls buckle outward. Over the years, earthquakes often shook this heavy dome and caused portions of it to collapse. On one occasion the leaning walls would not allow the dome to be reconstructed. So the walls had to be built up with another layer to support them and make them perpendicular to handle the weight of the dome. On another occasion of repair, buttresses were added externally to support the walls. During the many repairs and reconstructions of the Islamic period, the mosaics were always replastered and repainted, a practice which in the end no doubt helped preserve them in the state we find them today.  Of course, four minarets were also added intermittently over the Islamic years.

The minbar inside Hagia Sophia. It is from halfway up
this tower that the imam delivers his words. Only
Muhammad can ascend to the top of the tower.

The sultan's loge, added later during the Islamic period.
The half dome that stands over the apse. Note the Christian mosaic in the
center, flanked on each side by large Islamic calligraphic medallions.

The central large dome. The windows circling the dome were added in later
 repairs. These reduced the weight of the dome and helped with stability.

The central marble floor space with hanging chandeliers
The central floor space looking toward the apse, as seen from the first
 balcony. Here you can see how off center the mihrab is in order to face
toward the Kaabe in Mecca.
Geometric mosaics on the internal arches and an
Islamic medallion with calligraphy, of Islamic
     The oldest mosaics mostly date from the late 9th century with some placed in the 10th century. They usually show the Virgin Mary, sometimes the Christ child, and sometimes the adult Christ. They  sometimes show the Apostles or Christian saints and often they show the Emperors who were reigning at the time that the mosaics were placed. It is interesting that as I said above, the Ottoman Turks initially covered the mosaics with plaster in order to make them disappear. But during later times of the Ottoman rule they must have realized the value and significance of these old mosaics. When doing repairs to the church, on several occasions the nature, colors and images of the mosaics were recorded before they were painted over again. They had to be covered because Islamic law prohibits any images in any mosque. It turns out that though the original intent was to destroy, the replastering and repainting actually helped preserve the mosaics underneath. It was the first President and creator of the State of Turkey, Mustafa Kemel Attaturk who converted the mosque to a museum in 1935. He removed the carpets covering the floor and revealed the underlying marble and had most of the mosaics uncovered and restored.

     Of course there is controversy. Do you remove some important Islamic calligraphic symbols lining the dome to get at a suspected immense mosaic of Christ as Master of the World that is recorded as being underneath. Still as the building now stands, both Christian images and Moslem calligraphy stand side by side demonstrating the mixed past of this great building. Both the Attaturk and succeeding generations of Turkish rulers and government need to be credited with preserving both aspects of this great building.

The Deesis mosaic showing Christ as ruler, in the center.
     The Deesis mosaic probably dates from 1261. It was commissioned to mark the end of 57 years of Roman Catholic use and the return of Hagia Sophia to the Orthodox faith. It is located in the upper galleries. Because of the softness of the features, the humane expressions and the tones of the mosaic it is often thought to be the finest in Hagia Sophia. It is dated to a time when Italian painters used this style, in the 13th and 14th century. In this mosaic the Virgin Mary and John the Baptist are imploring the intercession of Christ for humanity on Judgment Day. The bottom part of this mosaic is almost entirely missing. Many art historians regard this mosaic as the beginning of the Renaissance in Byzantine art.   

The Comnenus mosaic.
     The Comnenus mosaic located on the eastern wall of the southern gallery dates from 1122. In the middle stands the Virgin Mary wearing as is typical of Byzantine art, a dark blue gown. She holds the Christ child on her lap. He gives His blessing with His right hand while holding a scroll in His left hand. On Mary's right side stands emperor John II Comnenus. He holds a purse, symbol of an imperial donation to the church. Empress Irene stands on the left side of Mary, wearing ceremonial garb and offering a document.     

Hagia Sophia from the outside. Its exterior certainly shows the evidence of the
many repairs and reconstructions. It is after all 1000 years older than the Blue Mosque.

        And here is the photo that raised all these questions to begin with: From the Bospourus. Now can you tell me which one is which? Count the minarets.