Spies Like Us: Homing Pigeons

So I'm trying something new this week: a theme! Every day this week I'll be writing about something that has to do with spying, spies, Harriet the Spy, etc. Today, we'll be looking at homing pigeons.

The grey birds have played an important part in intelligence work since the beginnings of espionage. While carrying vital secrets, the birds can soar high over enemy lines. In Roman times, Caesar used them to send messages during his campaigns. Ever since, spies have valued the pigeon's speed and its ability to return home in almost any weather. When we think of homing pigeons, we, of course, think of WWI when more than 500,000 birds carried messages back and forth. Reconnaissance pigeons even carried tiny cameras in the sky to take pics of enemy fortifications.

In WWII, spies used pigeons to guide bombers to the launch sites of the German V1 "flying bombs." Meanwhile, soldiers on the front line were ordered to shoot any bird even before they saw the whites of their eyes. Pigeons could carry only light loads, so the messages had to be really small or else reduced to a microdot, which would later be enlarged.

No one really understands completely how the birds are able to make their way back "home." Most researchers believe that they have an inner compass mechanism that relies on the sun. It's also thought that the birds can detect the Earth's magnetic field. Whatever the reason, the homing pigeon is probably (hopefully) a thing of the past. My favorite story about these spies is the one about a specific bird named Cher Ami, who was awarded the French Croix de guerre for his heroic service in delivering 12 important messages during WWI, despite having been very badly injured. Now that's what I call giving "flipping the enemy the bird!"

war

Isaac Hempstead Wright Explains Bran Stark's Intense Staring in Game of Thrones

Helen Sloan, HBO
Helen Sloan, HBO

There's always been something off with Brandon Stark's empty stare that we see so often in Game of Thrones. This week, actor Isaac Hempstead Wright explained exactly how he pulls it off.

The 20-year-old went on Jimmy Kimmel Live! and shared a few of his experiences from working on the show, including accidentally dropping a spoiler in his math class and the interesting sex ed talk he was forced to have with his mom given his tender age when he began filming the show.

He also talked about his "intense stare"—and his preparation for the role may not be as deep as you think.

"I'm kind of getting good at this sort of intense stare," the star began. "But it's actually aided by the fact that I'm completely blind when I'm on set. I don't have my glasses, and I don't have contact lenses."

"How thick are the glasses?" Kimmel asks him, to which Hempstead Wright replies, "They're not that thick, but I need them to see."

He recalled another time when his vision problems aided his character. In season 7, while filming a scene with Sophie Turner (a.k.a. Sansa Stark), he recalled Turner making a comment along the lines of "Isaac, your stare is like—you're staring into my soul!" to which the actor replied "I can't see you!"

Actors—they're just like us.

Richard Madden Shared a Hilarious Throwback Photo With Game of Thrones Co-Stars Kit Harington and Alfie Allen

Charley Gallay, Getty Images for Netflix
Charley Gallay, Getty Images for Netflix

Richard Madden may not have held the title of King in the North for long on Game of Thrones, but his memories of his time on the series—and the lasting friendships he forged—live on. Madden, who played Robb Stark, was famously killed off in season 3’s penultimate episode, “The Rains of Castamere” (a.k.a. The Red Wedding episode). But he has continued to champion the series, and his former colleagues, in the years since his premature demise. People spotted his latest tribute to his Game of Thrones days: a #TBT Instagram post that serves as a stark (no pun intended) reminder of just how long we’ve all been watching the epic HBO series.

The image features Madden with co-stars Kit Harington and Alfie Allen—each of whom is almost recognizable—after taking a ride on the Wheel of Belfast following their first read-through of Game of Thrones’s pilot episode. Which means that Madden’s caption that the photo is about 10 years old is pretty spot-on; the original pilot episode filmed in Northern Ireland in 2009, which would make all three of the actors about 22 years old at the time.

The show's actors have remained tight even after Madden’s brutal on-screen murder. In June 2018, Madden was a guest at Harington and fellow Game of Thrones co-star Rose Leslie’s wedding. Just a few months later, the 32-year-old actor—who won a Golden Globe earlier this year for his Netflix series The Bodyguard—was there to support his on-screen little sister Maisie Williams when she made her stage debut in I and You at London’s Hampstead Theatre. Which means that Madden might know more than any of us do in terms of how Game of Thrones will end, and could have been on to something when he predicted that ultimately, "[I]t’s just going to be three dragons flying around and everyone else is dead.” Hey, it could happen!

[h/t People]

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