Prothonotary warbler wins mural painting contest


This video is called Prothonotary Warbler Portrait.

From the Cornell Lab of Ornithology in the USA:

The Prothonotary Warbler was voted as the winning warbler to be featured in the Cornell Lab of Ornithology’s centennial mural.

This Thanksgiving, all the world’s Prothonotary Warblers are settling in for a meal of caterpillars and flies in their winter homes in the mangrove forests of Central America and the Caribbean. They’ll return to the swamps and wetlands of eastern North America around April. …

Our featured bird for this year’s Thanksgiving eCard is the Prothonotary Warbler, the winning warbler in more than 32,000 rounds of voting on our website last week. As a result, artist Jane Kim will feature the Prothonotary Warbler in the mural she is painting at the Cornell Lab of Ornithology to celebrate the diversity of birds for the Lab’s centennial in 2015.

Hitler’s concentration camps, new film


This video from Britain says about itself:

Night Will Fall (2014) – André Singer (Trailer) | BFI release

3 September 2014

André Singer’s extraordinary new documentary about the filming of the liberation of the Nazi concentration camps is released on 19 September 2014 at BFI Southbank and cinemas nationwide.

By Paul Mitchell:

Night Will Fall: A powerful depiction of Nazi atrocities

26 November 2014

A British Film Institute release, directed by André Singer, written by Lynette Singer and narrated by Helena Bonham Carter

Night Will Fall is a timely film, given the climate of militarism and the deliberate encouragement of right-wing reaction in the aftermath of the economic crash of 2008. It details the Nazi atrocities that were the product of the crisis of German imperialism out of which Hitler’s regime arose.

The work is a film about a lost film, “German Concentration Camps Factual Survey” (GCCFS), the official British record of the camps, which was shelved unfinished, for political reasons, at the end of the Second World War.

The survey has now been completed, 70 years later, by Imperial War Museum (IWM) experts sifting through some 100 reels of unedited footage shot by specially trained ex-combat soldiers to recreate the sixth and final reel following the instructions laid down by the original production team in 1945.

The GCCFS is a remarkable work that succeeds in depicting the terrible crimes of the Holocaust in a ground-breaking and accurate manner. It begins in April 1945 with British troops approaching Belsen-Bergen concentration camp. The first indications of the horrors that awaited them was the overwhelming smell, which they discovered emanated from heaps of emaciated corpses piled between groups of starving, expressionless survivors.

Cameraman Sgt. Mike Lewis describes how, “We were there for about two weeks filming all these sights. No film I’ve seen since really conveys the feeling of despair and horror that can be done to people who were Europeans of another faith … I thought as time passed by it might leave me, to forget, but it never does leave you”.

Similar feelings were expressed by legendary film director Alfred Hitchcock, who provided advice on shooting the GCCFS, particularly ways to avoid accusations of fakery. In the 1970s, Hitchcock recounted, “At the end of the war, I made a film to show the reality of the concentration camps, you know. Horrible. It was more horrible than any fantasy horror. Then, nobody wanted to see it. It was too unbearable. But it has stayed in my mind all of these years”.

The GCCFS includes footage from July 1944, when Soviet troops advancing from the East made the first contact with the system of camps at Majdanek, where warehouses were discovered littered with boxes of human hair, teeth, children’s’ toys, spectacles and other possessions.

Footage is shown of Auschwitz, which unlike Bergen-Belsen and Majdanek was a slave labour and extermination camp. More than a million people died in the gas chambers, their fates decided within minutes of arrival.

One of the few survivors, Eva Mozes, describes how, “The cattle car doors slid open. Thousands of people poured out of the cattle car. My father and two older sisters disappeared in the crowd. Never, ever did I see them again … A woman came up to my mother, took the little suitcase and asked, ‘Are these two twins?’ My mother said ‘Yes’, and the woman said, ‘Why don’t you say they are twins? It’s a good thing to have twins here”.

Eva and her sister Miriam were amongst the few sets of twins to survive from the 1,500 who underwent cruel medical experimentation at the hands of Dr Josef Mengele.

Smiling children through barbed wire

Amongst the unrelenting horror and despair, there are still signs of humanity. One sequence shows smiling children, glad at being rescued and another reveals how quickly the starving inmates could recover physically once they received food, medicines and attention.

The GCCFS was commissioned in April 1945 by the Supreme Headquarters Allied Expeditionary Force (SHAEF) under the command of US General Dwight D. Eisenhower for use as evidence in war crime trials and the “re-education” of the “vanquished Germans”. It shows local inhabitants being marched into the camps to watch former SS officers burying the dead in mass graves. The smiles and good humour of the onlookers rapidly disappear.

Sidney Bernstein, who headed the film section at Britain’s Ministry of Information was appointed as producer and assembled a small team including the “best known editor in London”, Stewart McAllister. Richard Crossman, the Assistant Chief of SHAEF’s Psychological Warfare Division, an offshoot of the intelligence organisation, the Special Operations Executive, was employed as scriptwriter. Crossman became a Labour Party MP in 1945, cabinet minister in the Harold Wilson government and editor of the New Statesman.

According to Dr Toby Haggith, Senior Curator at the IWM in charge of the restoration and completion of the GCCFS, the project confronted difficulties from the start. Some British officials wanted to censor the material, while others were opposed to showing it all—concerned about public reaction to the atrocities, especially the close-ups of dead women and children.

Haggith indicates there was “fierce rivalry” between Britain and the US over the direction the film should take. Bernstein wanted his meticulous “systematic record” to be educational and “to improve the world”, but US officials wanted “a hard-hitting film—and they wanted it immediately”.

The US withdrew its support from the GCCFS in July 1945, instead appointing filmmaker Billy Wilder to make a shorter film, Death Mills, from the same material, which was shown in the American sector.

Night Will Fall also discusses other pressures preventing the completion of the GCCFS. Bernstein later revealed, “The military command, our Foreign Office and the US State Department, decided that the Germans were in a state of apathy and had to be stimulated to get the machine of Germany working again. They didn’t want to rub their noses in the atrocities”.

The US and Britain were also embroiled in a controversy over what to do with Jewish refugees. Both governments wanted to prevent or limit the numbers travelling to their countries and Palestine and were concerned about the sympathy the documentary would arouse about their plight.

The development of the Cold War was a major factor. The uncompleted sixth reel intended to show the liberation of the camps in the East by the Soviet army, but their revelations about the atrocities were dismissed by the US and Britain as propaganda.

While Night Will Fall acknowledges that the beginning of the Cold War contributed to the demise of the GCCFS, it downplays the fact that thousands of Nazi war criminals became valuable assets for the US. They helped create the post-war German intelligence agency BND, or became spies, researchers and scientists for US military and intelligence agencies. At least five top associates of Holocaust organiser Adolf Eichmann were employed by the CIA after the war.

Night Will Fall ends with a plea that such terrible things not happen again. However, moral outrage cannot substitute for a historical and materialist understanding of the roots of such barbarity in the crisis of capitalism.

Historical developments meant that German imperialism had to turn to the Nazi movement in order to destroy the powerful German workers’ movement and pursue its project, started in World War I, of an empire in the East (Lebensraum). The stability of the fascist regime required the removal and extermination of the “Jew-Bolsheviks”, who were seen as a threat above all because of their profound connection with the workers ’ movement and Marxism. Moreover, as imperialist rivalry increases, Germany is once again seeking to reassert its geostrategic interests and expand to the East–in Ukraine–through the coup assisted by the fascists in Svoboda and the Right Sector.

The Spanish civil war and British artists


This video is called Pablo Picasso – Guernica (1937).

By Christine Lindey in Britain:

Exhibition Review: Conscience and Conflict: British Artists and the Spanish civil war

Tuesday 25th November 2014

CHRISTINE LINDEY recommends an exhibition of art inspired by the Spanish civil war

THE momentous interwar years between 1918 and 1939 galvanised British artists into political commitment. Inspired by the Bolshevik revolution, and appalled by the rise of fascism and the deprivation caused by the great depression, many turned to the left. Defence of the Spanish republic against the 1936 fascist insurrection united the anti-fascist peace movement.

This exhibition about British artists’ responses to the Spanish civil war highlights wider 1930s political and aesthetic debates. Art historian Roger Fry’s dominant ideology of “art for art’s sake” was contested by calls for politically engaged art by socialist and communist artists.

While working as an illustrator in the USSR in the early 1930s Cliff Rowe was impressed by its cultural policies. On returning home he founded the Artists International in 1933. It called for “the international unity of artists against imperialist war on the Soviet Union, fascism and colonial oppression” and its purpose was to spread this message through posters, banners, illustrations, exhibitions, meetings and lectures.

The following year it was equipped with a politically milder slogan and renamed the Artists International Association (AIA). Its membership grew rapidly and in 1936-9 it became the main focus for artists’ defence of Spain by raising public consciousness and funds.

Some artists argued for direct action and Felicia Browne, Julian Bell and Clive Branson fought in the International Brigade. Only Branson survived.

Felicia Browne, self-portrait

Browne, at the age of 32, was the first British volunteer killed in battle and in her self-portrait she returns our gaze squarely as a woman belligerently defiant of social convention.

She became a posthumous communist hero as commemorative exhibitions and publications of her uncompromisingly decisive drawings of Spanish militiamen and women raised money for Spain.

Other artists argued that creating propaganda was more useful and several rejected easel painting in favour of public arts as more effective tools of socio-political change.

The exhibition includes the AIA’s modernist banner for the British battalion of the International Brigade created by James Lucas, Phyllis Ladyman and Betty Rea, James Boswell’s illustrations for Left Review and Felicity Ashbee’s posters. The latter’s emotive portrayals of desperate war victims combine accessible figurative drawing with expressionist exaggeration such as enlarged pleading eyes and skeletal hands. The London County Council provided 22 large hoardings which AIA artists painted in public, so raising media and public awareness for Aid for Spain as they worked.

Other artists conveyed their beliefs through traditional means. Henry Rayner’s powerful print There is No Shelter chillingly reveals the mercilessness of aerial bombing. Of the several figures huddling for safety under a giant umbrella, the one holding it up turns out to be death personified as a skeleton.

Branson’s socialist-realist paintings stemmed from his communist desire to reach a wide audience. His Demonstration in Battersea (1939) celebrates collective action as demonstrators set off with communist and republican flags and banners amid the working-class district’s terrace housing, gasworks and factories.

Some British surrealists also opposed fascism and contributed imaginative masks and costumes to the 1938 May Day procession. Finding and exhibiting two of these props is a real scoop. Yet the meanings of most of their works — such as Stanley Hayter’s — are so elliptical or ambiguous that it is not clear that they refer to Spain, nor indeed even to antimilitarism.

The enervated forms and distorted figures in his Paysage Anthropophage (1937) could equally refer to personal or psychological anguish or to conflicts between unspecified humans or animals. In the 1930, when academic art still dominated, their adherence to abstracted or imaginary motifs were largely incompressible to most people.

Picasso also used modernist distortions in his Guernica canvas of 1937 but the motifs, such as the distraught woman running while carrying her dead child, and the bull as symbol of Spain make the painting’s meaning clear. It toured Britain with related works to raise funds for Spanish Relief in 1938, when it made a massive impression on British artists.

That exhibition’s catalogue is on show, along with Picasso’s Crying Woman and his satirical print The Dream of Franco alongside British works influenced by Guernica, such as FE McWilliam’s Spanish Head, with its anguished gaping mouth and carnivorous teeth.

Also displayed is the recent recreating of Guernica as a large banner in Pallant House. It was stitched by a collective including political refugees, anti-fascists and the Palestine Solidarity Campaign to express the continuing need to protest against war and political oppression.

Together with its catalogue, this informative and well-researched exhibition of art, documentation and rare memorabilia makes a valuable contribution to knowledge about 1930s British politically aware art.

It rather overemphasises surrealists and modernists but it refrains from taking the all-too-common patronising attitude to artists with communist and socialist convictions.

It will hopefully galvanise a new generation to create politically committed art.

Conscience and Conflict: British Artists and the Spanish civil war runs at Pallant House Gallery, Chichester, until February 2015. Free. Details: www.pallant.org.uk

Polish transphobes attack Winnie the Pooh


This video from the USA says about itself:

21 nov. 2014

Winnie the Pooh has been banned from a Polish playground because of his “dubious sexuality” and “inappropriate” dress.

The much-loved animated bear was suggested at a local council meeting to decide which famous character should become the face of the play area in the small town of Tuszyn.

But the idea soon sparked outrage among more conservative members, with one councillor even denouncing poor Pooh as a “hermaphrodite”.

After the attack by the extreme Right in Poland on the Teletubbies … and after another Polish homophobe attacked an elephant

From daily The Morning Star in Britain today:

Party Pooh-pers attack Winnie

Poland: Small-town officials have opposed naming a playground after Winnie the Pooh due to the bear’s apparently unclear gender and immodest clothing.

The matter was debated in a closed-door meeting in the central Polish town of Tuszyn, but didn’t get much media attention until recent days when voice recordings of the meeting were leaked to local media.

Officials complained that Pooh was immodestly dressed and lacked a clear gender. One called the bear a “hermaphrodite.”

I have news for these transphobes. Most bears, both toy bears like Winnie and living brown bears, are lots more ‘immodestly dressed’ than Winnie the Pooh.

Wildlife film, Afsluitdijk, the Netherlands


This video is a documentary film about wildlife near the Afsluitdijk in the Netherlands.

This week, the Dutch government to make fish migration there easier.

This 21 November 2014 video is about the Afsluitdijk fish migration.