Ocean wildlife and noise pollution, new film


This video is the trailer of the new film Sonic Sea.

The Cornell Lab of Ornithology in the USA writes about it:

The documentary Sonic Sea recently won two Emmy Awards, for Best Nature Documentary and for Best Music and Sound. The film is about protecting ocean life from noise pollution, featuring research by scientists including Dr. Christopher Clark from the Cornell Lab’s Bioacoustics Research Program.

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Loving Vincent, new film on Van Gogh


This video says about itself:

Loving Vincent – Official Trailer

29 August 2017

LOVING VINCENT is the world’s first fully oil painted feature film. Written & directed by Dorota Kobiela & Hugh Welchman, produced by Poland’s BreakThru Films & UK’s Trademark Films.

The film brings the paintings of Vincent van Gogh to life to tell his remarkable story. Every one of the 65,000 frames of the film is an oil-painting hand-painted by 125 professional oil-painters who travelled from all across the world to the Loving Vincent studios in Poland and Greece to be a part of the production. As remarkable as Vincent’s brilliant paintings, is his passionate and ill-fated life, and mysterious death.

By Joanne Laurier in the USA:

The genuine achievement of Loving Vincent, and its limitations

19 October 2017

Directed by Dorota Kobiela and Hugh Welchman; written by Kobiela, Welchman and Jacek Dehnel

“Art is something which, though produced by human hands, is not wrought by hands alone, but wells up from a deeper source, from man’s soul.”—Vincent van Gogh

Dutch painter Vincent van Gogh (1853-1890) is one of the most beloved artistic figures in history. He revolutionized painting and is admired for his art, his humility, his personality, his compassion. He lived for most of his adult life on very limited means, often among the poor. “The Potato Eaters” (1885), an unsentimental scene of peasants eating by lamplight, was his first significant work.

Van Gogh’s brilliant art work, with its bold, urgent brush strokes, the intense drama of his short life–during which he sold only one work out of the 850 he painted–and his death by suicide have combined to strike a sympathetic chord with millions of people over the years.

Vincent van Gogh, The Potato Eaters

This helps explain the tremendous interest in the new animated film, Loving Vincent, co-directed by Dorota Kobiela and Hugh Welchman, who also co-wrote the script with Jacek Dehnel. The Polish-UK production is a tribute to the great artist and an attempt to bring his life and work to a wide international audience.

Seven years in the making, it is the first fully oil-painted feature film, with 125 painting animators having produced the movie’s 65,000 frames. For over two years, the team of painters worked at studios in Gdansk and Wroclaw in Poland and in Athens to complete the project.

As Loving Vincent’s press material explains, the work “was first shot as a live action film with actors, and then hand-painted over frame-by-frame in oils. The final effect is an interaction of the performance of the actors playing Vincent’s famous portraits, and the performance of the painting animators.” (We will return to the details of this fascinating process below.)

The narrative begins one year after the painter’s tragic death at the age of 37.

Armand Roulin (Douglas Booth), a listless, troubled young man sporting a mustard-yellow jacket, is given a letter by his bearded postman father, Joseph Roulin (Chris O’Dowd), addressed to Theo van Gogh, Vincent’s brother. Armand’s journey to deliver the letter to Theo begins in Paris. His first encounter is with Vincent’s paint supplier Père Tanguy (John Sessions). Tanguy tells Armand that Theo died shortly after his much-loved brother’s demise–the brothers, he says, were “two hearts, one mind.”

Black-and-white flashbacks depict the tumultuous relationship of van Gogh (Robert Gulaczyk) with fellow painter Paul Gauguin (Piotr Pamula)–“They were at each other’s throats”–including the notorious episode in which an enraged Vincent sliced off part of his left ear. We also learn, according to the filmmakers, that for his family, Vincent existed in the shadow of an older brother, a stillborn Vincent (“He struggled to be what his mother wanted him to be”).

Auvers-sur-Oise, near Paris, where Vincent eventually committed suicide, is Armand’s next stop. There, he tracks down all who knew the painter during the last weeks of his life. He begins at the inn near where Vincent fatally shot himself. The innkeeper’s daughter Adeline Ravoux (Eleanor Tomlinson) offers kind recollections of Vincent, while the judgmental and religious Louise Chevalier (Helen McCrory), housekeeper to Dr. Paul Gachet (Jerome Flynn)–the physician who treated Vincent—is convinced that “he was evil.”

Gachet, who was jealous of Vincent’s talent, stole a few of the latter’s masterpieces after his death. (In 1990, the first of two versions of van Gogh’s portrait of Gachet sold for $82.5 million, a record price for a work of art at the time.)

Gachet’s daughter, Marguerite (Saoirse Ronan), is cautious in her testimony about the deceased artist, saying that her father and Vincent were like “chalk and cheese.” Another doctor, Mazery, even suggests that Vincent was murdered (“It [the shot] was too low an angle. He would have had to have shot himself with his outstretched toe”).

In the end, the central concern of this “relatively conventional detective story” (Variety) boils down to whether van Gogh was murdered or committed suicide.

Loving Vincent is hardly the first film on the subject of the famed painter. In addition to Vincente Minnelli’s Lust for Life (1956), Robert Altman’s Vincent & Theo (1990), Maurice Pialat’s Van Gogh (1991) and Andrew Hutton’s Van Gogh: Painted with Words (2010), there are dozens of television and film documentaries about van Gogh’s life in numerous languages. But the Kobiela-Welchman film is certainly unique in its artistic/film approach.

There is something remarkable and encouraging about the internationally coordinated, painstaking process by which the film was made, which involved the efforts of hundreds of artists, technicians and others.

As noted above, this is the first fully oil-painted animated film. The characters are played by actors, who “worked either on sets specially constructed to look like Van Gogh paintings,” the film’s production notes explain, “or against green-screens, with the van Gogh paintings being composited in, along with Computer Generated animation, after the shoot. The live-action shoot took place at Three Mills Studios in London and CETA studio in Wroclaw.”

Prior to and during the live action filming “the Painting Design team spent one year re-imagining Vincent’s painting into the medium of film.” This effort included working out how to show van Gogh’s works, which come in various sizes, within the frame created by the cinema screen. “They also had to work out how to deal with ‘invasions’, where a character painted in one style, comes into another Vincent painting with a different style. They also have to, for the purpose of the story, sometimes change daytime paintings into night-time paintings, or paintings which were done in Autumn or Winter, had to be re-imagined for summer when the journey of the film takes place,” according to the notes.

A group of Character Design Painters specialized in reinterpreting the actors as their van Gogh portrait originals, “so that they would retain their own features and at the same time recognizably take on the look and feeling of their character in painting form. There were 377 paintings painted during the Design Painting process.”

The painting animators, charged with producing the actual frames of the film, worked in Painting Animation Work Studios (PAWS). “PAWS allow the painter to focus as much attention as possible on painting and animating without being concerned about lighting and technology, and allow for consistency across the photographs being taken in 97 PAWS in 3 studios in 2 countries.”

Co-director Dorota Kobiela explains, “Our team of painters were painstakingly painting 65,000 frames of oil painting, spending up to 10 days painting a second of film, moving each brush-stroke frame by frame. That takes a lot of commitment, a lot of respect for his work.” The production notes point out that “the opening shot of the film, descending through Van Gogh’s The Starry Night, contains over 600 paintings and took three painters a combined total of 14 months to paint.”

Kobiela’s collaborator, Hugh Welchman adds, “Those painters who were animating Vincent style, which is about 70 percent of the film, could only use the reference material as a guide. They had to then re-create it in Vincent style based on Vincent’s paintings and also on the Design Paintings that we made with 20 painters over the course of a year, to create the design and the world of Loving Vincent.

“Once they [the animators] have painted their first frame, then they have to move it 12 times a second [i.e., there are 12 frames a second], and each time that means moving every brush stroke, so they are animating the brush-strokes.”

All those involved deserve credit for their sincere efforts. However, the extraordinary technical achievements over which they have presided and their obviously heartfelt admiration for van Gogh do not insure that the filmmakers profoundly grasp the artist’s life and times. There is no reason to be so overwhelmed by the remarkable imagery and Loving Vincent ’s admirable qualities to the point that one shut one’s eyes to the problems.

In the course of the movie, Gachet’s daughter Marguerite asks Armand at one point: “You want to know so much about his death–but what do you know about his life?” This, unfortunately, is a question that can be posed to Loving Vincent as a project.

Vincent van Gogh was relentlessly driven to look at life in the most honest and untiring fashion. He found it physically and psychologically impossible to live and work in any other manner.

His paintings seem to throb with emotion. But van Gogh was not merely an instinctive painter. He was deeply versed in the history of art. Art historian Meyer Schapiro once commented that van Gogh’s “letters contain remarkable illuminations on the problems of painting; one could construct a whole aesthetic from scattered statements in the letters.”

The painter took great interest in literature as well. He makes references in his letters to writers such as Balzac, Dickens, Thackeray, George Eliot, Charlotte Brontë, Zola, Daudet, the Goncourt brothers, Maupassant, Tolstoy, Huysmans and Turgenev.

He had a strongly developed social conscience and paid considerable attention to the social and economic situation (including strikes) in France and elsewhere.

Van Gogh’s subjects included coal miners, peasants, weavers and manual laborers. He also painted women like Sien Hoornik, whom he met in 1882. As the Van Gogh Museum explains, “She became both his model and his lover. Vincent’s friends and family … were shocked, as Sien was a former prostitute. What’s more, she was pregnant and already had a five-year-old daughter. Vincent felt sorry for Sien, though, and was determined to take care of her. They rented a studio in which she, the little girl and the new baby could all live as well.”

Sorrow [Sien Hoornik], Vincent van Gogh

One of his works of the time, in chalk, watercolor, pen and ink, is entitled “The Poor and Money.” It shows a group of poor people who have shown up to watch a national lottery drawing. “Vincent wrote to his brother Theo that he saw this scene on a rainy day in The Hague,” notes the museum. “He was moved by the vain hope of these shabbily dressed ‘poor souls.’”

These are the people and the milieus to which van Gogh was drawn as an artist and a human being. In July 1882, he wrote to Theo: “Even though I’m often in a mess, inside me there’s still a calm, pure harmony and music. In the poorest little house, in the filthiest corner, I see paintings or drawings. And my mind turns in that direction as if with an irresistible urge. As time passes, other things are increasingly excluded, and the more they are the faster my eyes see the picturesque. Art demands persistent work, work in spite of everything, and unceasing observation.”

And in July 14, 1885, he wrote: “That’s to say, living in those cottages day in and day out, being out in the fields just like the peasants–enduring the heat of the sun in the summer, the snow and frost in the winter, not indoors but outside, and not for a walk, but day in and day out like the peasants themselves.”

Linda Nochlin, in an essay, “Van Gogh, Renouard and the Weavers’ Crisis in Lyons” (in The Politics of Vision), notes that van Gogh much admired the work of Paul Renouard, a popular French illustrator at the time, and asked specifically for a work called “Sans Travail” (“Without Work”), depicting weavers in Lyons whose looms were outdated and who faced starvation. The illustration in question was dedicated by Renouard to Cesar de Paepe, a Flemish printer and prominent socialist who founded the Belgian Workers Party in 1885, a participant in the First International of Marx, from 1867 to 1870, and a collaborator in Europe’s first socialist newspaper.

Van Gogh was committed to depicting reality, as beautiful or ugly and harsh as it might be. “The most touching things the great masters have painted,” Vincent once wrote to Theo, “still originate in life and reality itself.”

On this aspect of van Gogh’s life and on his social and aesthetic concerns, the film is weak. If Loving Vincent encourages people to investigate the painter’s life and work, that is all to the good. But they will have to go beyond what the filmmakers themselves see and understand about this artistic genius.

An interview with a Loving Vincent painter-animator: here.

EuroBirdwatch 2017 results


This video from Moldova is about EuroBirdwatch 2017 there. Featuring bluethroat, black-tailed godwit and others.

From BirdLife:

9 Oct 2017

(Bird)Life through a Lens: EuroBirdwatch 2017

By Christopher Sands

Bird lovers, young and old, across Europe took out their binoculars for the bird-watching highlight of the year – BirdLife’s annual EuroBirdwatch! Over the weekend of 30th September – 1st October, nearly 22,000 people attended 934 different events across 41 countries. And now the results are in!

BirdLife’s ‘EuroBirdwatch 2017’ (30th September – 1st October) hosted almost 22,000 people across 41 countries. In over 934 different events, the magnificence of the autumn migration was in full flight as over 4 million migratory birds were observed making their way south to their wintering places.

A different BirdLife partner takes on the coordinating and data collection role each year to provide us with this amazing snapshot of the weekend. This year SOS/Birdlife Slovakia assembled the aggregate figures and notable moments, which are available in their entirety at www.eurobirdwatch.eu.

A glimpse of some of the excitement includes over 1.2 million birds observed in Finland, among them a Desert Wheatear, 3 Red-flanked Bluetails, and 2 each, Olive-backed Pipits, Dusky Warblers, and Common Firecrests.

Hungary had the most participants with nearly 4,000 enthusiasts showing up and spotting, among other spectacular travelers, a Yellow-browed warbler, Lesser White-fronted goose, Saker falcon, Peregrine falcon, Black stork, Golden plover, Osprey, and Cattle egret.

As mentioned above, with the rare Desert Wheatear in Finland, other highlights included many other rare species, including: a Buff-breasted sandpiper in Sweden; Yellow-browed Warbler in Luxemburg, the Netherlands, Hungary, Latvia and Czechia; Red-throated Pipits in Belarus, Switzerland and Lithuania; White-headed Duck in Uzbekistan; Dusky warbler in Italy; Eleonora’s falcon in Bulgaria; Pallid Harrier in Cyprus and Malta; and the amazing Cory’s Shearwaters migration in Gibraltar.

A tip of the feather to SOS/BirdLife Slovakia for their superb work in collating and organizing the results, and to all of the organizers and participants across the 41 European countries celebrating the natural miracle of migration and wishing all birds travelling south a safe flyway.

British establishment child abuse cover-ups


This video from Britain is called Jimmy Savile and Tony Blair.

By Peter Frost in Britain:

The right royal cover-up continues

Thursday 19th October 2019

Edward Heath, Cyril Smith and an ex-archbishop of Canterbury are just a few of those exposed as part of the great abuse cover-up. PETER FROST worries the full the truth will never come to light

HARDLY a day can go by without another revelation about another Establishment figure being a child abuser or worse.

The latest story reveals that MI5 knew the country’s chief prosecutor had covered up a sex abuse inquiry into Cyril Smith but did nothing because it was not its job to expose paedophiles.

The files released by the intelligence agency show it was aware that the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) had lied to a newspaper over its decision not to prosecute Smith. But MI5 decided not to make the information public because its duty was to “defend the realm” rather than to expose a prominent politician accused of being a paedophile.

Another similar case has seen ex-Tory prime minister Edward Heath named by Wiltshire police who tell us — far too late of course — that Heath would have been questioned over sex abuse claims, if he was alive, when they came to light.

Of course a glimpse at the internet will demonstrate that Heath has been under suspicion for abusing young men and worse for years — accusations that have always been swept aside by the Establishment.

Yet another inquiry into abuse by Church of England Bishop Peter Ball has revealed just what a corrupt and hypocritical bunch the religious arm of the British Establishment really is.

This time the high-ranking Establishment figure who conspired to cover up sexual abuse and other wrongdoing was non-other than the ex-archbishop of Canterbury George Carey.

An independent report found that senior Church figures colluded over a 20-year period with Ball, who sexually abused boys and men.

This is just one arm of a veritable octopus of Establishment cover-ups that touches clergy, government, police, intelligence services — right up to the very peak of British society, including several ex-prime ministers and even one heir to the throne.

When Ball was first accused of gross indecency against a 17-year-old boy in 1992, a string of senior Establishment figures — including Carey, other top clergy, Cabinet ministers, a High Court judge, public school headmasters and magistrates — came forward in his support, lobbying the police and Crown Prosecution Service.

Ball’s lawyers also told the police they had a letter of support from a high-ranking member of the royal family. It wasn’t hard to guess which royal they wanted to think they were talking about. When he was arrested Ball was Bishop of Gloucester, which covers Prince Charles’s Highgrove Estate. Ball described Prince Charles as a loyal friend.

Even after his disgrace Ball was offered, and accepted, a home in a cottage on the Prince’s Duchy of Cornwall estate. He continued to enjoy close relations with Charles, even reading the homily at Charles’ father-in-law’s funeral in 2006.

All that high-level lobbying meant Ball escaped prosecution for the offence. He received only a police caution.

The bishop continued visiting public schools until 2007. A fresh investigation was opened in 2012, which led finally to his conviction for multiple and serious sexual abuse.

One of Ball’s victims, Neil Todd, attempted suicide three times before killing himself in 2012. In the recent church report Ball was portrayed as the victim, whereas the church offered little compassion for the vulnerable and young Todd, being “most interested in protecting itself.”

This is an echo of a much earlier report from Baroness Butler-Sloss, who in an earlier review of abuse by Church of England clergy admitted she was more interested in protecting the reputation of the church than anything else.

Theresa May, both as home secretary and today as Prime Minister, has staunchly refused to include abuse accusations about the Kincora children’s home in Northern Ireland.

Why is Kincora so important? Because there is abundant evidence that MI5, MI6 and other British intelligence agencies know that many high-ranking British Establishment figures were personally involved in the abuse. These included Lord Mountbatten — great uncle and mentor of Prince Charles.

It was Mountbatten who introduced the notorious Jimmy Savile into the royal family and paedophile Savile too became a regular Buckingham Palace guest and a mentor, adviser and fixer to Prince Charles.

Savile was never prosecuted but he certainly raped, molested and abused over a thousand children, many of them helpless patients in hospitals to which Tory minister Edwina Currie had given him uncontrolled access.

May’s refusal to include the Kincora boys’ home in the general inquiry is certainly because it would expose the connection between paedophiles, MI6, MI5 and the royals.

Prince Charles often described Jimmy Savile as one of his best friends. He wanted Savile to be Prince Harry’s godfather — wiser counsel stopped that but the two men shared holidays and much else.

Royal patronage and the Establishment cover-up that came with it certainly shielded Savile. He was never prosecuted and when he died the BBC broadcasted sycophantic tributes. Only later was the ghastly truth revealed.

These Establishment cover-ups go back a long way. Many years ago respectful press barons keen to get honours would keep royal and political scandals from the public view.

By the 1960s and ’70s it was more difficult keeping these things under wraps. Some say the new wave of mass cover-ups started with a dossier compiled in the 1980s by the late Conservative MP Geoffrey Dickens and which he passed to the then-home secretary Leon Brittan.

Dickens, who died in 1995, told his family that he had details in the dossier that would blow the lid off the lives of powerful and famous child abusers.

In 1981, Dickens named the former British High Commissioner to Canada, Sir Peter Hayman, as a paedophile in the House of Commons. Parliamentary privilege meant he could not be sued for slander.

In October 1978, Hayman left a package of paedophilia-related material on a London bus. The police traced the package to him and then found his diaries describing sexual acts with children. Hayman was never charged.

In 1983, Dickens claimed there was a paedophile network involving big, big names — people in positions of power, influence and responsibility and threatened to name them too in the Commons.

In 1984 Dickens met with and gave his child abuse dossier to the home secretary, Brittan. Much later it would be revealed that Brittan too was himself an abuser.

Dickens received many threats for naming important and powerful paedophiles — threatening calls were followed by burglaries at his London home.

In 2013 Labour MP Tom Watson asked the Home Office for Dickens’s dossier. They told him it had been referred to the police at the time but had not been retained.

The matter was raised again in July 2014 by then Labour MP Simon Danczuk. Former director of public prosecutions Lord Macdonald said the circumstances in which the dossier had gone missing were alarming and recommended an inquiry.

Lord Brittan confirmed that he received what he described as a substantial bundle of papers from Dickens in 1983, when he was home secretary, and that he handed them all over to the relevant officials for further investigation.

A Home Office review said that information it received between 1979 and 1999 had been passed on to the relevant authorities.

Lord Brittan suggested his information had been passed to the police, but Scotland Yard told the Guardian it has no record of any investigation into the allegations.

According to the Telegraph, Mark Sedwill, then permanent secretary to the Home Office, admitted that it had lost, destroyed or simply not been able to find at least 114 potentially relevant files.

This has led to accusations of a high-level cover-up from some unexpected quarters. Senior Tory MP and former children’s minister Tim Loughton is one who has accused the Home Office of trying to hide the facts.

Lord Tebbitt has told BBC’s Andrew Marr he believes there had been a cover-up because at the time people instinctively tried to protect the system. “I think at the time most people would have thought that the Establishment, the system, was to be protected, and if a few things had gone wrong here and there it was more important to protect the system than to delve too far into it.”

May, who was home secretary for seven years, must take much of the responsibility for the most recent stages of the great cover-up.

She was finally persuaded in July 2014 to hold a review into many historic child abuse allegations. The independent inquiry into child sexual abuse finally tried to start work on July 9 2015.

May first appointed Baroness Butler-Sloss to chair the review despite the fact that she was the sister of Sir Michael Havers, who had as Tory attorney general suppressed the reporting of abuse claims in the 1980s. Butler-Sloss stood down as chair of the inquiry just a few days into the job.

The next chair was Fiona Woolf, who quickly resigned when it was discovered she was great friends with Lord Brittan and his wife.

It took some time to find the next chair. She was Justice Lowell Goddard, a New Zealand high court judge. When she resigned after less than 18 months she was replaced by Professor Alexis Jay. The inquiry was given new terms of reference but few believe it will ever produce any meaningful report.

In July 2015, previously lost Whitehall files were discovered. In one, dated November 1986, the then head of MI5, Sir Antony Duff, accepted a denial by an MP that he was a child-abuser, but noted that “the risk of political embarrassment to the government is rather greater than the security danger.”

The missing dossier has been linked with stalled investigations into the Elm Guest House child abuse scandal. Hayman was just one of hundreds of high-ranking visitors to this brothel near Barnes Bridge.

Prime minister Edward Heath, Liberal MP Cyril Smith, the Queen’s art historian Anthony Blunt, several other Conservative politicians, Buckingham Palace staff and a Labour MP were others on the long list of those accused of visiting.

In January 2015, an academic researcher found a file of allegations against unnatural sexual proclivities by high-ranking people. The document had gone to the prime minister Margaret Thatcher in the early 1980s. It was a classified report on Hayman’s original case but it was the handwritten notes by Thatcher that were most interesting — she was insisting that Hayman was not to be named.

She had written a “line to take” note saying: “Say authorities have carried out an investigation. Nothing to suggest that security prejudiced.”

The internet is full of everything from careful evidence-based case-studies to wild conspiracy theories. So how do we find the real truth?

Sadly we don’t because millions of pounds and thousands of work hours have produced enough smoke and mirrors to make sure that rare and dangerous commodity, the truth, will remain well hidden for many years to come. And that is just how those in the highest positions of power like it.