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.

The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part I, film review

This video from the USA is called The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 1 Final Trailer.

By Maria Duarte in Britain:

The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part I (12A)

Directed by Francis Lawrence


THE BRUTAL Hunger Games are over and now the revolution against the totalitarian Capitol takes centrestage in this intelligent and thought-provoking third instalment of this franchise.

It’s fascinating to see the reluctant Katniss Everdeen (Jennifer Lawrence) being forced to embrace her destiny of becoming the leader and poster girl of the rebellion — the Mockingjay — in this virtually faithful adaptation of Suzanne Collins’s novel.

It picks up exactly where Catching Fire left off and in the process very cleverly explores the spin, manipulations and propaganda of war. It is compelling to watch how the rebellious Katniss is made camera-ready to star in propaganda videos to rally the rebels in other districts.

The transformation is carried out under the watchful eyes of the mysterious leader of District 13, President Coin (Julianne Moore), along with former Head Gamemaker and now one of the masterminds of the rebellion Plutarch Heavensbee (Philip Seymour Hoffman, in his final role).

They are aided by Katniss’s determination to save Peeta (Josh Hutcherson) who is being tortured and possibly brainwashed by President Snow (Donald Sutherland).

Lawrence is statuesque and awe-inspiring as Katniss as she obliterates her young counterparts on the screen. Her emotional transformation is extraordinary and moving.

Under Francis Lawrence’s skilled direction, this is a much darker and more menacing sequel in which the politics are even more riveting than the games themselves. Unfortunately we will have to wait till next year for what should be a nail-biting conclusion.

Another review is here.

Music, poetry and dance

On 21 November, there was a music, dance and poetry night. First on stage was the soul/funk music of James & Black. This is a music video from their hometown, Austin, Texas in the USA. Contrary to that video, on this night no guitarist, bass player and drummer: just the male keyboard player and the female singer Bella Black, plus DJ Phil Ross.

During their last song, the teenage girls of the local BplusC dance group joined them on stage. They will be in the band’s next music video.

Next on stage was local comedian Ronald Oudman. One of his targets was the idea of ‘positive thinking’ supposedly solving all problems, including cancer. He also said: ‘I don’t believe in reincarnation. In my last life I did; but not any more in this life’.

Next was yours truly; with poems about a damaged umbrella; about love; about a ladybird; about greenbottle flies; and about a bee-eater.

Then came klezmer music, by the local band Di Krenitse (the Source in Yiddish language). They are Karel Das, on violin and vocals; Dorien Hooman on accordion and vocals; Rob Nederhof on soprano clarinet. They used to be five musicians; but Eva van den Berg has moved to the east of the country.

Their final song tonight was the 1930s Yiddish love song Bei Mir Bistu Shein (To me, you are beautiful; the song was later translated into English and sung by the Andrews Sisters and others).

There is also a Dutch language version of this song. However, that version is not a love song, but a sarcastical song about how poor people saw the 1930s economical crisis:

Bei Mir Bistu Shein [in Yiddish original in the Dutch lyrics],
we leven van de steun [we are dependent on unemployment benefits]
we leven van het crisiscomitee [we live on rich people’s charity].

We krijgen erwtenssoep [We get pea soup]
die lijkt op koeiepoep [which tastes like cow shit].
We krijgen roggebrood [We get rye bread]
daar gooi’n we de kat mee dood [good only for killing the cat by throwing it].

We eten vlees uit blik [We eat canned meat]
van een bedorven sik [of a rotting goat carcass] …

Bei Mir Bistu Shein,
we leven van de steun [we are dependent on unemployment benefits]
en de groeten van het crisiscomitee [and best wishes from the rich people’s charity].

This is a video of that Dutch language version, plus other songs (barrel organ and vocals).

After the klezmer music, poems by yours truly again. This time about a window; the Iraq war; winter; the Dutch royal family; and the BP oil disaster.

Then came singer-songwriter Sam van Tienhoven. He accompanied his singing on guitar and harmonica.

After a pause came Japanese dancing by Raiden Yosakoi. Raiden means Thunder and Lightning in Japanese. The dance group members are mainly students of Japanese and Korean at the university.

After the dancing, my last poem. Also the longest poem: about Turkish poet Nazim Hikmet.

Then, classical music by the Leids Kamerkoor. At first they sang songs by Brahms. Then, Mendelssohn – Die Nachtigall (The Nightingale); on the video, performed by the university choir of Munich in Germany.

Then, singer-songwriter Sarah Laure.

This music video is called Sarah Laure – Let Me Be Distracted.

Finally, rock ’n roll by Weltmeister.

English anti-World War I resistance on stage

This video says about itself:


A brief promo film of Bent Architect’s research and development project exploring the true story of the Yorkshire Conscientious Objectors of the first world war, at Lawrence Batley Theatre Huddersfield, December, 2013. We are aiming to launch the production in the autumn of 2014 as an alternative commemoration of the centenary.

By Bernadette Horton in Britain:

Theatre review: England, Arise!

Wednesday 19th November 2014

BERNADETTE HORTON highly recommends a powerful dramatisation of working-class resistance to the carnage of WWI

England, Arise!
People’s History Museum, Manchester/Touring
5 stars

FORGET ceramic poppies and sentimentalised dramas about the first world war.

Instead, go and see Bent Architect’s production of England, Arise! about the real lives of political activists Arthur Gardiner (Chris Lindon) and Percy Ellis (James Britton) who opposed the war.

Gardiner (Chris Lindon) and Ellis (James Britton) lived in Huddersfield in the early 1900s and were part of a vibrant socialist movement which gave them hope as young people that life was only going to get better.

They portray a strong friendship between the two men — in performances which occasionally veer almost into music hall routine — which shows how these young men were confident about the future, determined in their anti-war stance and inspired by the Suffrage movement which at that time was in its 60th year of campaigning for women’s right to vote.

The Suffragette campaign is forcefully represented in the character of Lillian Lenton (Stephanie Butler) who shows the eccentricity and tenacity of the real-life activist who was imprisoned and force-fed and turns up in Huddersfield on her escape from the police.

Local women Sis Timmins (Laura Bonnah) and Lavena Saltonstall (Stephanie Butler again) are shown as complex characters who are learning about being independent women as well as supporting their men when they refuse to serve in the war.

Gardiner and Ellis were both sentenced to military prison and brutalised in much the same way as the soldiers who volunteered to go to war.

Crucial to the power of the play is the use by playwright Mick Martin in Jude Wright’s production of Gardiner’s verbatim defence of his opposition to the war when facing a military tribunal.

Isolated and victimised by their military jailers, both men are inspirational in their determination to maintain their principled response to militarism, whether in refusing to call their warders “sir” or facing their fears as they are separated and put into isolation for long periods.

Outside the prison the campaign to support the two conscientious objectors carries on, spearheaded by the women, even though they face violence at meetings and are often seen as outcasts by sections of their community.

Though only 20,000 people refused to take part in WWI, this small number was seen as a major and direct threat by the government.

This play is thus a reminder of the importance of that courageous anti-war stance and the high price that working-class people have always paid in the war games of the ruling classes.

Next performances at the Rochdale Pioneer’s Museum on November 18 and 19, details: www.rochdalepioneersmuseum.org.

Seeing 5,000 bird species in one year?

This is called 30 Amazing Bird Species in 1 Video. It says about itself:

Watch peafowl, birds of paradise and many more interesting birds and see their magnetic nature.

From the Portland Tribune in the USA:

Put a bird on it – or maybe 5,000 of them

Thursday, 13 November 2014 06:00

Written by Jennifer Anderson

Man aiming for species-spotting record part of Wild Arts Fest

Noah Strycker has lived for months at a time in some of the most remote places on Earth — Antarctica, Costa Rica, the Galapagos Islands, the volcano fields of Hawaii, the Amazonian Ecuador, the Australian Outback and the Farallon Islands — doing nothing but studying birds.

He’s seen thousands of species — penguins, finches, fairy-wrens, bowerbirds, mockingbirds, pelicans, albatross, hawks, crows and even the endangered Hawaiian nene.

He figures he’s observed about 2,500 species of birds on six continents, a fifth of the world’s bird species.

And he’s just getting started.

The 28-year-old Oregonian is a professional “birder at large,” a photographer, public speaker and author of two books about birding and his travels.

In January he’ll embark on an epic quest to see 5,000 species of birds by the end of the calendar year. The current, official record is 4,341, set by a British couple in 2008.

Strycker expects he’ll have no trouble crushing the record, with a plan to visit about 35 countries on all seven continents on a continuous around-the-world birding trip.

“The idea is to connect with local birders in each place to highlight stories of bird conservation and to see a ton of birds,” he says. “Nobody has even come close to 5,000 in a year before, but nobody has really tried.”

Strycker, who keeps an updated blog with bird photos from each place he’s traveled (noahstrycker.com), says he’ll keep a daily blog of his big birding year on the National Audubon Society’s main Web page (audubon.org).

After the big year, he has a book deal with Houghton Mifflin to write about the adventure.

In the meantime, Strycker will be one of the local bird-centric artists whose work will be showcased next week at the Audubon Society of Portland’s 34th annual Wild Arts Festival, a creative celebration of all things feathered.

The 70 artists and 35 authors will gather in the light-filled space at the Montgomery Park building in Northwest Portland to share their like-minded passion for birds.

All feature nature or wildlife as a subject, use natural materials as a medium, and use their art to promote environmental sustainability.

As in past years, there will be novelists, photographers, poets, children’s authors, nonfiction writers and visual art of all kinds.

The annual 6×6 Wild Art Project is a compilation of bird-themed paintings done by 200 artists on a 6-inch square canvas. The project’s theme this year is “yard birds.”

Each canvas will be available for sale.

Strycker will be promoting his second and latest book, “The Thing With Feathers,” published in March, detailing the secret lives of birds and their connection to humanity.

His first book, “Among Penguins,” 2011, documents his time living with 300,000 penguins in Antarctica at the age of 24.

Wandering the hills

One of the most famous authors at the Wild Arts Festival, meanwhile, will be Ursula Le Guin, the 85-year-old science fiction novelist who lives in Portland.

Le Guin this week will be receiving a National Book Association award considered one of literature’s most prestigious honors.

She’s being honored with a Medal for Distinguished Contribution to American Letters, which recognizes individuals who have made an exceptional impact on the country’s literary heritage.

Raised in Napa Valley in the 1930s and ‘40s, Le Guin says she was especially influenced by her summers of solitude and silence, “a teenager wandering the hills on my own, no company, ‘nothing to do,’ were very important to me. I think I started making my soul then.”

Her stories — set in imaginary “subworlds” — grew out of her experiences, Le Guin says.

For example her first trip to the Eastern Oregon desert led to “The Tombs of Atuan.”

She checks her science facts, but “most of my research is into the geography of my own imagination,” she says. Le Guin says she started writing when she was 5 years old and never stopped.

‘Study ourselves’

For Strycker, he started watching birds at age 10 and never stopped. He recalls when his fifth-grade teacher suction-cupped a bird feeder on their classroom window.

“The other kids in my class thought birds were pretty dumb,” Strycker says. But he was hooked. “You never know where that spark will come from,” he says.

He’s been able to make a full-time living of his pursuits, funding most of his traveling through the National Science Foundation and other agencies.

In Antarctica, he worked as a seasonal guide on an expedition cruise ship. He now earns an income through his writing, speaking, expeditions and other bird-related projects.

In addition to his literary work — as associate editor of Birding magazine and contributor to about a dozen different bird-related publications — he is a five-time marathoner and completed the entire Pacific Crest Trail from Mexico to Canada in four months in 2011.

There’s a reason, Stycker and other artists say, that they are driven to put a bird on it.

“I think that, by studying birds, we also study ourselves,” says Strycker, who lives in Creswell, just outside of Eugene. “Directly, there are many parallels between bird and human behavior (perhaps more than we like to admit). More than that, for me, birds are an entry point to the outdoors and all kinds of adventures. They take us to places we’d never go otherwise.”