Wasps on Amsterdam balcony, video


This video from the Netherlands says about itself (translated):

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Vincent Bouman on his balcony in Amsterdam-South has four birch bird houses. One of them is now the home of a wasp family.

Rare hemlock water dropwort in Amsterdam


This video from Britain is called Hemlock Water Dropwort, Oenanthe crocata.

Translated from the Dutch FLORON botanists:

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Hemlock water dropwort, a rare plant in western and southern Europe, is found mainly in coastal areas. Until the end of the last century, this species was only known in the Netherlands from a spot in the dunes of Voorne, where it was discovered in 1975. This place was for several decades the most northeastern known habitat in Europe.

After 2000 along the coast and inland some new areas of this species were discovered. It has recently become clear that Amsterdam, with over a hundred plants, is the largest stronghold of this species in the Netherlands.

Dutch seventeenth century painting acquired by Amsterdam museum


Meindert Hobbema, Forest landscape with merry group of people in a wagon

A Dutch art collector gave a painting by Dutch artist Meindert Hobbema (1638-1709) to the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam.

It is ‘Forest landscape with merry group of people in a wagon’.

The museum is very happy about this.

See also here.

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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.