Famous silent film rediscovery


This video is a clip from an old British film. It is called Betty Balfour sings us a song.

Translated from NOS TV in the Netherlands:

Film museum discovers masterpiece

Wednesday, 2 April 2014, 18:07

A top discovery at the Eye Cinema Museum in Amsterdam. In six old cans a copy of a lost film turned out to be from 1923: Love, Life and Laughter by director George Pearson, as the British Film Institute (BFI) announced. The film is on the 75 Most Wanted, a list of films which the BFI does not have in their archives.

The cans were already since November 2012 at Eye in the closet. A journalist from Hattem then gifted them to the museum. He saved the film from the old local cinema Theatre De Vries, because that would be demolished. Which film was in the cans, the journalist did not know. He hoped for images from before World War II and brought them to Eye.

Betty Balfour

Only eighteen months later the staff of Eye had time to watch the contents of the cans. They found the masterpiece of the famous filmmaker Pearson, a silent film that was considered lost by the Britons. Only one other movie by this film maker has been preserved. In Love, Life and Laughter, among others people can see the famous actress Betty Balfour. Balfour was the most successful British actress in the 1920s.

The BFI curator speaks of a very important discovery. “The audience looked at Life , Love and Laughter as one of the most beautiful creations of British cinema. It is fantastic to be able to see now if it really is.”

A video about this rediscovery is here.

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Rare plants in Amsterdam


This Dutch video is about wildlife in Amsterdam city.

In 2013, volunteers have counted plants, growing on walls near the canals of Amsterdam in the Netherlands.

They found ten rare protected species: brittle bladderfern, yellow corydalis, green spleenwort, pellitory of the wall, wallflower, rustyback, maidenhair spleenwort, fern-grass, hart’s-tongue fern and black spleenwort.

Especially for maidenhair spleenwort, things go well. There are now 8,000 plants, twice as many as the 2007 number.

In 2013, the royal fern grew again in Amsterdam, after an absence of 26 years.

A map of where the plants grow is here.

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National garden bird count


This video is about a young ring-necked parakeet in the Vondelpark in Amsterdam, begging for food from its parent.

This weekend is national garden bird count in the Netherlands.

People count for half an hour which birds they see from the windows of their homes.

As for me, I saw today one ring-necked parakeet, one magpie, one jackdaw, and one carrion crow.

Not so many birds. Because birds do not need to come close to houses because of mild winter weather?

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Dutch palace Soestdijk and seventeenth century monarchist-republican conflicts


Cornelis de Graeff, his wife Catharina Hooft and their sons Pieter and Jacob de Graeff, at Soestdijk, between 1656 and 1660

Today, to the Amsterdam Museum. It had changed a lot since I was there was there for its exhibition on the history of sugar.

One point today was about seventeenth century Amsterdam mayors and other rich people starting country estates. Some were near Haarlem city; some along the Vecht river. And some in the Utrecht hills region. Like the De Graeff family, with their Soestdijk estate.

Wikipedia writes, about Amsterdam councillor Jacob de Graeff:

During the summers the family spent a lot of their time at the Palace Soestdijk, and he and his brother played with the young William III of Orange – who later became King of England, Scotland and Ireland and stadtholder of the United Provinces of the Netherlands – at the lake and woods at Soestdijk. … In 1674 Jacob sold the hunting lodge and its surrounding fields, now the Soestdijk Palace, for only 18,755 guilder to William III.

Wikipedia does not say why Jacob De Graeff sold the later Dutch royal palace Soestdijk to Prince William III for so little money. The Amsterdam museum says this was a forced sale. In 1672, there had been a coup d’état by the monarchist supporters of William III. A monarchist gang, probably organised by William III, had murdered the two most prominent leaders of the Dutch bourgeois republican party, Johan and Cornelis de Witt, in a horribly cruel way.

1672, The Hague: mutilated dead bodies of the De Witt brothers

Somewhat like during the British Restoration, when republicans were tortured to death.

William III forced the De Graeff family, relatives and fellow republicans of the De Witt brothers, out of the Amsterdam local government, and forced them to sell Soestdijk.

Philosopher Baruch de Spinoza’s birthday today


This video, in English with Portuguese subtitles, says about itself:

Spinoza – The Apostle of Reason (Espinosa – O Apóstolo Da Razão)

An excellent and quite accurate film on Spinoza. The scenes showing Spinoza reading/writing letters is very accurate. They picked two of the funniest of his letters, especially the one on the existence of male apparitions and ghosts. Those writing to Spinoza were Albert Burgh and Hugo Boxel. I highly recommend that people read Spinoza’s letters. There is some excellent philosophy in his correspondence, and lots of laughs.

By David B. Green in Israel:

This Day in Jewish History / Europe’s first secular Jew is born

Philosopher Baruch de Spinoza was banned by the Jewish community of Amsterdam for his allegedly heretical views on God and religion.

Nov. 24, 2013 | 5:06 AM

November 24, 1632, is the day that philosopher Baruch de Spinoza was born, in the Jewish quarter of Amsterdam. The son of a family that originated in Spain before the Inquisition, and eventually settled in Holland, Spinoza was banned by the Jewish community of Amsterdam for his original and allegedly heretical views on God and religion. Although he never recanted his beliefs, he also did not convert to Christianity, and continued developing his philosophy, producing a number of works that are studied to this day. As such, he has been called Europe’s first secular – or modern – Jew.

Baruch de Spinoza (after his excommunication, he Latinized his name to Benedict de Spinoza) was the second son of Miguel, a Portuguese-born merchant, and his second wife, Hanna Debora de Espinoza, conversos who re-embraced their Judaism on their immigration to Amsterdam.

Baruch received a traditional Jewish education, but his formal studies ended when he was 17 and joined his father’s import business. It is apparently the beginning of Spinoza’s dealings with the world outside Amsterdam’s insular Jewish community that opened him up to free-thinking Christians like Frances Van den Enden, a former Jesuit who saw his own writings proscribed by the Church. Van den Enden taught Spinoza not only Latin, but also apparently exposed him to the rational thought of Descartes and to the concept of democracy.

In 1654, Miguel de Spinoza died, and Baruch began to run the family business, together with his brother Gabriel. Later, encountering debts he could not repay, he turned to the civil authorities (rather than Jewish ones) in Amsterdam to be recognized as an orphan, so as to be freed of responsibility to his father’s creditors. At the same time, he began lowering his annual contributions to the city’s Jewish community, eventually ending them altogether. These events closely corresponded to a lawsuit with his sister, Rebekah, who disputed his inheritance. Baruch won the suit, but later relinquished the family holdings to her, turned over the business to Gabriel, and took up the profession of optics. Around the same time, Spinoza was shaken by a knife attack, by someone who was apparently outraged by his public expressions of unorthodox views.

On July 27, 1656, the Jewish community of Amsterdam – its parnassim, or secular leaders, not its rabbis — issued its herem (ban) on Spinoza, whom it accused of “abominable heresies” and “monstrous acts,” and cursed “by day and … by night… when he lies down and… when he rises up.” It also forbade any other member of the community from having any contact with him.

Oddly, the writ of herem does not in any way specify Spinoza’s heresies or monstrous acts. Despite its harshness, there is evidence that Spinoza was given an opportunity to redeem himself before it was issued, but he refused the demand that he keep his thoughts to himself. Although there is no evidence that the municipal authorities had pressed the Jewish leadership to deal with Spinoza, it is clear that the Jews were a tolerated minority (they had only recently been permitted to settle in Holland) who were expected to remain true to their faith and keep contact with Christians to a minimum. Spinoza was consorting with non-Jews and discussing matters of theology openly with them.

After being banned, Spinoza left Amsterdam, and no longer lived the life of an observant Jew. Yet, he also did not adopt another religion. Although he moved several times, he spent the last years of his life in The Hague, where he pursued the profession of lens-making and devoted the rest of his time to thinking and writing. He died on February 20, 1677, probably from an illness connected to the glass dust he inhaled from his lens-grinding.

To this day, philosophers are still trying to categorize Spinoza’s teachings, to determine, for example, whether he was an atheist, or a theist or a pantheist.

Clearly, he denied the existence of a God who directly involved in history; his God was impersonal, perhaps co-equal with nature. The human soul, apparently, was not immortal. The Scriptures were written by humans, not God or his agent Moses. Since most of Spinoza’s works were published posthumously, there were likely more personal reasons behind his ostracism.

Almost immediately after he died, his writings were shipped to Amsterdam and published. And almost as quickly, they were banned throughout the Netherlands.

Berget Lewis radio concert live


This video is the official video of Berget Lewis‘ new single, Aviator.

On Saturday 2 November, there was a live national radio show in Hilversum, the Netherlands. Three music acts performed there. They all had new albums out recently. About the two others later; Berget Lewis sang first.

Berget Lewis was born in Amsterdam, from parents from Suriname.

Her parents were Pentecostal church members. As Berget told in the radio interview between the 2 November songs, they forbade her to sing anything which was not religious gospel music. While her brother’s non-religious music was allowed.

Berget Lewis, radio concert Hilversum, 2 November 2013

Berget’s band were her, relatively low, vocals; two guitars, keyboards, drums; no bass guitar. Sometimes, the music seemed to be somewhere between Tina Turner and Guns ‘n Roses.

They played three songs. The audience applauded enthusiastically.

Indonesians discuss 1945-1949 colonial war and its aftermath


Meeting of Indonesians in Amsterdam, 11 October 2013, Batara Hutagalung with glasses

As this blog wrote before, on 9 October 2013 there was a meeting in the Dutch parliament building in The Hague. It was between two MPs and a delegation of pro-human rights Indonesians, arrived for the occasion from Indonesia or living in the Netherlands. The subject was war crimes by Dutch troops during the colonial war in Indonesia, 1945-1949; and how to resolve this bloody issue on a basis of reconciliation with dignity and truth.

As not all Indonesians in the Netherlands interested in this had been able to attend that The Hague meeting, two days later, on 11 October, there was a meeting for them in Amsterdam. The ages of those present varied from twenties to over eighty. All photos with this blog post were made with a mobile phone.

Human rights activist Batara Hutagalung said that, after travelling from Indonesia, he had not just met the members of parliament, but also a widow of a Dutch soldier who had refused to fight Indonesians (see also the book here).

This soldier, born in 1927, in 1947 had refused to go to the war in Indonesia. He had to hide from military police until 1951. He had died in 2001.

Book about Surabaya 1945

Batara Hutagalung mentioned that in 1989 he had written a book about the British military attack on Surabaya city in Indonesia in 1945. That attack caused 20,000 victims, of whom 90% were civilians. 150,000 refugees had to flee from Surabaya. The book was not centered on the fighting between British forces and Indonesian soldiers defending Surabaya, but on the question Why this attack?

In England, the Dutch government had agreed with Clement Attlee’s British government that British forces would help the Dutch government to re-establish colonial rule in Indonesia. For that aim, there were two Australian divisions in eastern Indonesia, and three British Indian divisions landed on Java.

The United States government was more ambivalent than the British one about re-establishing Dutch rule in Indonesia. The US government then aimed to take over from the British empire as biggest world power, and too much power for the British’s junior partners in The Hague might undermine that.

Indonesia had proclaimed its independence in August 1945 according to the 1933 Montevideo convention. United States President Woodrow Wilson and many others had proclaimed the right of nations to self-determination. This was included in the Atlantic Charter of Roosevelt and Churchill in 1941. In 1942, Dutch Queen Wilhelmina in a speech about Asian colonial issues had said she agreed with the Atlantic Charter. For the first time ever, she had used the word “Indonesia” instead of “Dutch East Indies”.

Mr Batara Hutagalung continued that the British government should accept responsibility for the war crimes of the attack on Surabaya. The Australian government should accept responsibility as well. In eastern Indonesia, there were two Australian divisions under General Sir Leslie James Morshead; some of their soldiers had killed civilians. His own Australian soldiers, Batara Hutagalung said, did not like General Morsehead. They called him Ming the Merciless, after the villain in Flash Gordon comics. In July 1945, Morsehead’s forces handed over eastern Indonesia to Dutch colonial rule.

Many people don’t know how the British and Australian governments had prepared the ground for Dutch military aggression in Indonesia. Eg, Harry van Bommel, Dutch Socialist Party member of parliament who had worked on Indonesia for a long time, said at the 9 October The Hague meeting that so far he had not known about the Australian role.

What will happen now, to study this history and to get correct lessons from it? In south Sulawesi, there were many war crimes by Dutch soldiers. The vice governor of this province has promised that at the end of October, there will be a seminar at a university there; about the British and Australian roles in preparing the ground for later Dutch war crimes there, like by Captain Westerling. Professor Anthony Reid has discussed this in his works.

On 8 December 1947, peace negotiations started between the Dutch government and the Indonesian republic, on the US warship Renville. However, one day later came the Rawagedeh massacre, during which Dutch troops killed 431 West Javan villagers. In 1969, the Dutch government published the so-called Excessennota, claiming only twenty people had been killed in Rawagedeh.

In 1948, the Dutch government signed the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Very shortly afterwards, however, that same government started the second military “police” action in Indonesia, violating many human rights. Including violations of the 1899 The Hague Convention.

Batara Hutagalung said that the figures of the Dutch government’s 1969 Excessennota had proved to be too low in various instances. So, these figures should be multiplied. If you do that, then one can estimate that Dutch soldiers killed 1,5 million Indonesians, mainly civilians, in 1945-1949.

In 1986, the United Nations declared that there is no statute of limitations for war crimes. Not for German nazi war crimes in the Netherlands and elsewhere. Also not for war crimes in Indonesia.

The Dutch government should recognize the 1945 Indonesian declaration of independence. They have done so de facto, but not yet de jure. An argument against this might be that the same country can be recognized only once, not twice. The Dutch government, however, has recognized various countries more than once. Like Estonia after World War I and in the nineteen nineties; Serbia before World War I and again in the twenty-first century.

Meeting in Amsterdam, on 11 October 2013

Someone in the audience said that the government of Indonesia is not doing enough for recognition of the 1945 Indonesian declaration of independence. The others agreed.

The main lesson for the future is that things like this should not happen again.

To help with this, there are plans for a seminar in the Netherlands. There were plans for this already in 2005. However, for years, there was no money. Recently, that problem seems to have been solved. There seems to be light at the end of the financial tunnel.

Member of Parliament Angelien Eijsink had said in The Hague that especially young people should be invited to the seminar. University students; but trade school pupils as well. And journalism school students, someone in the audience remarked.

This seminar, Batara Hutagalung said, is second track diplomacy. People to people diplomacy, which can help to cause reconciliation with dignity, closing this bloody chapter.

We will meet again.

Amsterdam zoo gets art, stuffed birds


Omnibus before the entrance of Artis, by N.M. Wijdoogen

This painting is by Dutch artist Nicolaas Martinus Wijdoogen. According to Wikipedia, it is not known exactly when he was born (1824?; or 1814?), or when he died (1898?). We do know that he had an exhibition in Amsterdam in 1848. He is said to have worked in Amsterdam until about 1852.

So, he probably painted this horsebus near the entrance of Artis zoo about 1850. The zoo had been founded rather recently then, in 1838.

Artis entrance today

This is how the Artis entrance looks today. Many things have changed, but some things still look rather similar. The horsebuses from when Wijdoogen lived are gone, of course.

Wijdoogen’s painting was recently loaned to Artis. It is exhibited in the aquarium.

Also other recently acquired art is there. Including work by Henri Verstijnen (1882-1940). He liked to paint birds and fish in Artis. Verstijnen’s granddaughter recently gave 155 of his works to the zoo.

Henri Verstijnen, Helmeted guineafowl

Other recently acquired art is by Peter Vos.

Artis acquired a stuffed birds collection as well.