Dutch xenophobic politician Wilders follows porn actress secretly on Twitter


Dutch porn actress Kim Holland

Today Dutch RTL TV has discovered that xenophobic PVV party leader (and only member) Geert Wilders has two Twitter accounts.

On one, his official account, he does not follow anyone else.

However, it turns out Wilders has another, anonymous, secret account as well.

On that account, Wilders follows, eg, porn actress Kim Holland, accounts of ex-PVV politicians who had broken with Wilders after quarrels, and 17 Donald Duck accounts.

Talking about Donalds from the USA: the RTL report does not mention whether Wilders follows Donald Trump; about whom Wilders has said that he admires him much.

Sea eagle wins Dutch film poster award


Sea eagle film poster

This film poster, for the film Holland: Natuur in de delta, showing a white-tailed eagle, one of the characters in the film, has won the award for best Dutch movie poster in 2015.

English suffragette Sylvia Pankhurst


This video is called Suffragette [film] Official Trailer #1 (2015) – Carey Mulligan, Meryl Streep Drama HD.

By Steven Walker from Britain:

The suffragette who has been conveniently ignored

Thursday 7th January 2016

Sylvia Pankhurst recognised early on that discrimination against women was an integral part of the capitalist system. STEVEN WALKER has the story

The film Suffragette, although widely welcomed, has come in for criticism due to its failure to portray black suffragettes.

Indian women demonstrate for women's suffrage in 2011

At its Bafta screening in London last November, the film’s screenwriter Abi Morgan stated that, due to the low levels of non-European immigrants residing in Britain in 1911-13, there were very few suffragettes of colour in Britain and that those few, such as Indian princess Sophia Duleep Singh, were upper-class women who did not move in the working-class circles in which Suffragette is set.

Dr Paula Bartley, a historian focusing on women in history and the suffrage movement and biographer of Emmeline Pankhurst, confirmed that the film’s depiction of race was historically accurate, telling the New Statesman: “Britain [in 1911-13] was a white society in the main, and [its] suffragette movement reflected that.”

Bartley stressed that the British suffragette movement was “very different from the American case or the Australian case or the New Zealand case, because although there were ethnic minorities in Britain at that time, there wasn’t the same scale or the same questions of citizenship as there were in other countries.”

But there is another omission in the film — Sylvia Pankhurst. The daughter of Emmeline was arguably the more radical member of that incredible family, yet she is largely absent from the screenplay.

Sylvia was passionately anti-war and organised a peace campaign in 1916 in the East End of London.

The protesters were violently broken up as the government sought to stoke nationalist fervour. She would later write: “Peace and the popular government of the world to end this capitalist system of ruthless materialism, stood out for me as the two great needs of the hour.”

This more explicitly socialist, internationalist and anti-imperialist perspective would come to define her activity in the next few years.

For example after the brutal crushing of the 1916 Easter Rising in Dublin and the execution of leading Republican officials it was Sylvia who championed the cause of Irish secession from the United Kingdom.

It is often forgotten that the successful Russian revolution of October 1917 began with female textile workers going on strike in St Petersburg. This protest inspired men from other trades to join in and eventually the troops and sailors who mutinied became a decisive factor in Lenin’s success.

Sylvia Pankhurst was one of a few suffragettes who, while campaigning vigorously for women’s rights, also had a wider political view than her older sister Christabel.

She recognised the Russian revolution was a class war and criticised the provisional government established after the February 1917 uprising, which consisted of those whose leader was a prince who wanted to continue fighting in WWI and sought only superficial political change, and the soviets made up of peasants united with the military and urban proletariat who wanted deeper social changes.

She realised there was unfinished business in Russia and that the nascent February revolution should go further and become an anti-war movement.

When the Bolsheviks gained majority control … after the October victory they immediately pulled Russia out of WWI. This caused the other anti-German powers to change from having welcomed the premature February revolution in Russia and the pro-war provisional government, to condemning the Bolsheviks and begin a propaganda campaign demonising them.

Sylvia campaigned against this propaganda, organising radical groups in the East End of London, was imprisoned several times but helped establish a group who were to declare themselves the first British Communist Party.

This group, inspired by Sylvia and Jewish organisations in the East End of London, fought against Oswald Mosley’s virulent anti-semitism and fascist ideology, laying the foundations for the subsequent election of Phil Piratin as the first Communist Member of Parliament in 1945.

In a detailed analysis of her life, Sylvia Pankhurst: Suffragette, Socialist and Scourge of Empire, the author Katherine Connelly challenges the prevailing narrative about the Pankhurst family and how Sylvia has been eclipsed.

For example, she broke away from the middle-class elitism of the suffragette campaign organised by Emmeline and Christabel, instead charting a course that put working-class women at the forefront of fighting for the right to vote.

Emmelene and Christabel were in fact vociferous supporters of the war, suspended publication of the militant Suffragette and republished it as the patriotic Britannia.

They urged women to join in the war effort with Churchill’s blessing.

Sylvia, in contrast to Churchill’s desire to: “strangle the Bolshevik baby at birth,” was a strong supporter of the October revolution and was inspired by the soviets which placed power in the hands of ordinary people.

In the 1920s she was one of the first people to recognise the danger posed by the rise of fascism in Italy at a time when Churchill was expressing his admiration for Mussolini. She was also perceptive in predicting the colonialism that spread across Africa as an inevitable consequence of European imperialism.

Sylvia Pankhurst, the forgotten suffragette, was an inspiring and courageous leader, who more than anything else recognised that injustices and discrimination against women could not be separated from wider struggles against a capitalist system that is inherently corrupt and seeks to subjugate workers across the world and maintain the power and control of the ruling class.

Beyoncé writing, acting in film about Saartjie Baartman


This 3 January 2016 video from the USA says about itself:

Beyoncé Will Reportedly Star in Her Own Movie, about Saartjie Baartman

From Vulture.com in the USA:

Beyoncé Is Writing and Starring in a Movie About Saartjie Baartman

By Greg Cwik …

Queen Béy, the biggest pop star of the still-young millennium, wants to be taken seriously as an actress. A decade ago (!) she appeared in the third Austin Powers film, Goldmember, in which she was quite fun, but her next film will be considerably more serious: She’s penning a script for a film about Saartjie Baartman (nicknamed the Hottentot Venus), a South African woman and one of two famous Khoikhoi women who were paraded and displayed in 19th-century London freak shows for their big buttocks and elongated labia. There’s no word yet as to when Beyoncé‘s film will shoot or be released, but you can rest assured that it will be a hit. Béy hive, assemble!

UPDATE: This was denied later.

Nicolas Cage’s stolen tyrannosaur skull back to Mongolia


This video from the USA says about itself:

Smuggled dinosaur fossils found by US authorities

11 July 2014

US authorities have found over 18 smuggled dinosaur fossils, including two Tyranosaurus bataar skeletons. They’ve agreed to send them back to Mongolia. Report by Simon Longden.

From Reuters:

Mon Dec 21, 2015 9:52pm EST

Actor Nicolas Cage returns stolen dinosaur skull he bought

NEW YORK | By Joseph Ax

Hollywood actor Nicolas Cage has agreed to turn over a rare stolen dinosaur skull he bought for $276,000 to U.S. authorities so it can be returned to the Mongolian government.

The office of Preet Bharara, the U.S. attorney in Manhattan, filed a civil forfeiture complaint last week to take possession of the Tyrannosaurus bataar skull, which will be repatriated to Mongolia.

The lawsuit did not specifically name Cage as the owner, but Cage’s publicist confirmed that the actor bought the skull in March 2007 from a Beverly Hills gallery, I.M. Chait.

The “National Treasure” actor is not accused of wrongdoing, and authorities said he voluntarily agreed to turn over the skull after learning of the circumstances.

Alex Schack, a publicist for Cage, said in an email that the actor received a certificate of authenticity from the gallery and was first contacted by U.S. authorities in July 2014, when the Department of Homeland Security informed him that the skull might have been stolen.

Following a determination by investigators that the skull in fact had been taken illegally from Mongolia, Cage agreed to hand it over, Schack said.

Cage outbid fellow movie star Leonardo DiCaprio for the skull, according to prior news reports.

The I.M. Chait gallery had previously purchased and sold an illegally smuggled dinosaur skeleton from convicted paleontologist Eric Prokopi, whom Bharara called a “one-man black market in prehistoric fossils.”

The Chait gallery has not been accused of wrongdoing. A representative did not return a request for comment on Monday.

It was unclear whether the Nicolas Cage skull was specifically connected to Prokopi, who pleaded guilty in December 2012 to smuggling a Tyrannosaurus bataar skeleton out of Mongolia‘s Gobi desert and was later sentenced to three months in prison.

As part of his guilty plea, Prokopi helped prosecutors recover at least 17 other fossils.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Martin Bell, who prosecuted Prokopi, was also the lead government lawyer in the Cage case, according to court records.

The Tyrannosaurus bataar, like its more famous relative Tyrannosaurus rex, was a carnivore that lived approximately 70 million years ago. Its remains have been discovered only in Mongolia, which criminalized the export of dinosaur fossils in 1924.

Since 2012, Bharara’s office has recovered more than a dozen Mongolian fossils, including three full Tyrannosaurus bataar skeletons.

“Each of these fossils represents a culturally and scientifically important artifact looted from its rightful owner,” Bharara said last week.

(Reporting by Joseph Ax; Editing by Andrew Hay and Leslie Adler)

Shakespeare’s Macbeth as new film


This June 2015 video is called MACBETH – OFFICIAL TEASER TRAILER.

By George Marlowe and David Walsh in the USA:

Bloody instructions … return to plague the instructor”

A new film version of Shakespeare’s Macbeth

19 December 2015

Australian director Justin Kurzel, a relative filmmaking newcomer, has brought to the screen a new version of William Shakespeare’s Macbeth. The production, starring Michael Fassbender as Macbeth and Marion Cotillard as Lady Macbeth, is engrossing and disturbing, if uneven.

Kurzel’s version eliminates certain sequences, rearranges others (a few, questionably) and makes much of the Scottish countryside and weather, but remains faithful to the contours of Shakespeare’s drama.

The story takes place at a time of upheaval and civil war in Scotland, with rival nobles and their supporters, along with foreign powers such as England and Norway, fighting for the upper hand. (The historical Macbeth reigned for 17 years as “King of the Scots” in the mid-11th century.) Macbeth is kin to the king, Duncan (David Thewlis), but, along with his wife, aspires to much more.

After Macbeth and a fellow noble, Banquo (Paddy Considine), lead their troops––including child soldiers––to victory against a rebel army backed by Norway, Duncan plans to reward Macbeth with the title of Thane [one of the king’s barons] of Cawdor. Macbeth and Banquo encounter the famed “weird sisters,” played here like poor, outcast women, who predict Macbeth’s rise, even to the kingship, but the eventual crowning of Banquo’s heirs.

Macbeth is spurred on by desire and ambition, but vacillates as he thinks to himself, “Stars hide your fires; Let not light see my black and deep desires.” He writes to Lady Macbeth and tells her of his present success and future prospects. She is concerned, however, that he is “too full o’th’ milk of human kindness” to be sufficiently ruthless. Cotillard chillingly prays in front of a church altar: “Come, you spirits / That tend on mortal thoughts, unsex me here / And fill me from the crown to the toe top-full / Of direst cruelty. Make thick my blood / Stop up th’ access and passage to remorse.”

When Macbeth vacillates (“I dare do all that may become a man”), in the face of assassinating the king, Lady Macbeth convinces him, through a combination of taunts. allurements and bravado (“We fail? But screw your courage to the sticking-place, and we’ll not fail.”) Assisted by his wife, Macbeth murders the king in the middle of the night and places the blame on Duncan’s guards. The dead king’s son, Malcolm (Jack Reynor), flees Scotland and Macbeth ascends to the throne.

As Kurzel’s film unfolds, the logic and consequences of Macbeth’s initial murderous act oblige him to commit one crime after another to protect his rule, including the murder of women and children (“Things bad begun make strong themselves by ill. … [T]hey say, blood will have blood”). Lady Macbeth meanwhile falls away, in bitterness and remorse (“Nought’s had, all’s spent, Where our desire is got without content”).

The action proceeds with harrowing intensity. Macbeth’s tyranny and megalomania rally his enemies and, ultimately, a large army––including English forces––forms against him. His mental state disintegrates to the point of madness, self-destruction and acute nihilism. After his wife’s death, possibly by suicide, life becomes for Macbeth, in the famed soliloquy, “a tale told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing.”

The acting of the two leads, Fassbender and Cotillard, in particular is very affecting and moving. The entire cast seems deeply sincere and committed. Certain scenes––of battle, the death of children and the psychological breakdown of Macbeth and Lady Macbeth––are powerfully presented.

Cotillard’s hallucinatory turn as Lady Macbeth attempting to wash the imaginary blood off her hands is riveting (“Out, damned spot! … All the perfumes of Arabia will not sweeten this little hand. … What’s done cannot be undone”). She represents Lady Macbeth’s tragic fate with an unusual degree of sympathy. When Fassbender half-smilingly proclaims, “O, full of scorpions is my mind, dear wife,” it is sinister and unnerving. The scene of Banquo’s ghost appearing at Macbeth’s banquet also stands out.

The moody cinematography and desolate-beautiful Scottish landscape add an eerie quality and match the overall tone of the performances. There are striking images and inspired moments in this Macbeth that linger in one’s mind with a dreamlike force. There is much that is commendable here––although there are significant problems too, which we will discuss below.

Literary historians suggest that Macbeth was written in 1606 or so. There appear to be references in the play to the Gunpowder Plot (a conspiracy by a group of English Catholics to blow up Parliament and murder King James I of England and VI of Scotland) of 1605.

The play is the shortest of Shakespeare’s tragedies, only a little more than half as long as Hamlet. It is a frightening work, as every critic (and audience member) has attested to. In the early 19th century, British commentator William Hazlitt observed that Macbeth is “driven along by the violence of his fate like a vessel drifting before a storm.” He is “hurried on with daring impatience to verify” the predictions of the witches, “and with impious and bloody hand to tear aside the veil which hides the uncertainty of the future.”

In more recent times, A.C. Bradley noted that “Darkness … broods over this tragedy.” It is difficult, Bradley wrote, “to be sure of [Macbeth’s] customary demeanour, for in the play we see him either in what appears to be an exceptional relation to his wife, or else in the throes of remorse and desperation.” Harold Goddard described the play as a “Descent into hell.” For G. Wilson Knight, “Fear is predominant. Everyone is afraid. … The impact of the play is analogous to nightmare. … The central act of the play is a hideous murder of sleep.” Polish-born critic Jan Kott, in the postwar period, observed: “Everyone in the play is steeped in blood: victims as well as murderers. The whole world is stained with blood.” American critic Harold Bloom described Macbeth as “a great killing machine” and “the bloodiest of all Shakespearean tyrant-villains.”

The play is frightening, not only because of the events, but because of the insight we obtain into Macbeth’s bloody and restless imagination. Among the perpetrators of crime or murder in Shakespeare, including Richard III, Iago, even Brutus and others, Macbeth is unique in his ability to envision his misdeeds and their possible consequences and to constantly anticipate and later relive them. They are always present with him and with us. Much of the drama takes place in his evolving consciousness (which may, in fact, contain the ghosts and spirits). A villain by any objective standard, Macbeth is endowed with perhaps the most unrelenting, corrosive conscience in world literature.

Shakespeare, with his customary thoroughness and psychological insight, took on the problem of political ambition, usurpation and tyranny. The play was written at a time of considerable instability and insecurity: the last years of the reign of Elizabeth I and the first years of James I’s rule. Conspiracies abounded, and repression was severe and cruel. However, it is worth bearing in mind that Macbeth is a historical play, set nearly five centuries before its writing. Shakespeare may well have had in mind aspects of contemporary life, the behavior of rival factions in his own time, but if his play had been perceived as a direct commentary on England’s ruling circles, he would have been clapped in jail.

One of the difficulties with much of the commentary, and Kurzel’s film itself, is the lack of historical perspective. Macbeth’s world, often with references to Hitler and Stalin, is gloomily proclaimed to be identical with ours. Bloom, who freely cites Nietzsche in his essay, goes so far as to assert that “Shakespeare rather dreadfully sees to it that we are Macbeth, our identification with him is involuntary but inescapable.” This is one of those, “Speak for yourself!” moments.

Kott writes that “There is only one theme in Macbeth: murder. History has been reduced to its simplest form, to one image and one division: those who kill and those who are killed.” Macbeth’s supposed recognition that “a man is he who kills, and only he,” the Polish critic terms the “Auschwitz experience.”

Kurzel’s Macbeth, of course, does not go so far or presume so much. However, the occasionally jittery and often close-in camera work, especially during the battle scenes, which suggests video footage, somehow draws in the spectator and implicates him or her. We are meant to see this as “our world,” in some fashion. So too Kurzel’s ending, with Banquo’s son practicing with a sword and running into the murk, suggests too easily that the “cycle of violence” will continue.

However, neither 11th-century Scotland nor Shakespeare’s era of royal absolutism is our world. Things have changed and historically progressed in many ways. Of course, we have bloodiness today, but it is not feudal or even pre-feudal bloodiness. Class society still exists, but there are great differences. Whether they are conscious of it or not, the filmmakers’ ahistorical and somewhat bleak approach has the effect of resigning the viewer to his or her supposedly unalterable fate (“You see, things have always been like this––and always will be”).

Associated with that, there is simply too much bloodiness. We get the point after two or three throat-slashings and such, which in the play largely occur offstage.

The artistic method is somewhat simplistic as well: to suggest the brutality of the period, Macbeth has to look and feel just as “brutal.” One is disinclined to agree with that. The bloodiness is too close, too immediate to provide any intellectual-aesthetic distance. The brutality at times seems to overcharge the performance with the suggestion, again, that everyone is implicated in the monstrousness.

There are other issues. The filmmakers make too much of an effort, too self-consciously, at times to impress with a visual splash. Also, occasionally, the overemphasis on the authentic Scottish accents tends to obscure the play’s incredible language. The direction of the actors, in the interest presumably of realism, sometimes reduces them almost to a whisper and mumble in a number of scenes. Certainly, avoiding heavy-handedness or pompous declaiming is a legitimate goal, but the lines still need to be heard and understood.

The tone is somewhat “one-note” throughout. This Macbeth is missing some of the emotional-intellectual texture of the play and some of its earthier, healthier figures.

These are real issues, and we raise them, not to pick points, but because Kurzel’s film as a whole is such a serious effort. The performances and the dramatic tension leave a distinct imprint. Even if it stumbles somewhat over its historical appreciation of Shakespeare’s drama, this Macbeth, at its best, conveys a genuine sense of the corruption and barbarism of our own times.

New film on songbirds


This video from the USA says about itself:

THE MESSENGER DOCUMENTARY OFFICIAL TRAILER

24 April 2015

The Messenger is a visually thrilling ode to the beauty and importance of the imperiled songbird, and what it means to all of us on both a global and human level if we lose them.

From the Cornell Lab of Ornithology in the USA:

7 Ways to Lend a Helping Hand to Birds: A List Inspired by The Messenger

The Messenger is a fascinating and beautiful documentary about the problems that migratory songbirds face (read our review). The movie gives center stage to the scientists working to help bird populations—but the rest of us have an equally vital role to play. So what can regular folks like us do? Lots. We’ve teamed up with the filmmakers to bring you this short list of ways to make a difference.

It’s A Good Month for Documentaries: There’s Poached, about obsession among illegal egg collectors; and Racing Extinction, which challenges us to reverse the accelerating pace of ecological decline. (Click titles to read our reviews.)