World War I and poppies today

This video says about itself:

All Quiet on the Western Front – Trailer [1930] [3rd Oscar Best Picture]

This is an English language film (made in America) adapted from a novel by German author Erich Maria Remarque. The film follows a group of German schoolboys, talked into enlisting at the beginning of World War 1 by their jingoistic teacher. The story is told entirely through the experiences of the young German recruits and highlights the tragedy of war through the eyes of individuals.

As the boys witness death and mutilation all around them, any preconceptions about “the enemy” and the “rights and wrongs” of the conflict disappear, leaving them angry and bewildered. This is highlighted in the scene where Paul mortally wounds a French soldier and then weeps bitterly as he fights to save his life while trapped in a shell crater with the body. The film is not about heroism but about drudgery and futility and the gulf between the concept of war and the actuality. Written by Michele Wilkinson.

By Peter Frost in Britain:

Red or white, let poppies be a mark of respect

Friday 30th October 2015

Both kinds of poppy should be about the respect each of us feels for those who paid the greatest price in the futility of war, not for glorifying war and militarism, argues PETER FROST

During WWI 10 million soldiers were killed. As the men — and the brave women who nursed them at the front — slowly returned home from war, many had shell-shock or what we now call post-traumatic stress disorder. They all had stories to tell.

Those who had seen such horrors in the blood and mud of the trenches in Belgium and northern France also would tell a much brighter story of the extraordinary beauty, persistence and profusion of the fragile but defiant flower — the blood-red corn poppy.

Strangely it was returning North American soldiers who first adopted the red poppy as an emblem. The Canadian doctor John McCrae had captured the beauty, symbolism and pathos of the poppy in a poem: “In Flanders fields the poppies blow/Between the crosses, row on row.”

US organisations first arranged for artificial poppies to be made by women in war-torn France. The money raised went to children who had been orphaned by the war.

British soldiers too came back from the grimness of war to find that life wasn’t “fit for heroes” as they had been promised. Just like today, returning heroes found the government off-hand and tardy dealing with their problems.

As so often Rudyard Kipling summed it up in a couple of lines: “If any question why we died/Tell them, because our fathers lied.” Kipling’s lines have taken on a new amazingly contemporary relevance as Tony Blair is forced to tell the truth about his war crimes.

Some of the returning WWI soldiers organised themselves into ex-servicemen’s societies of various political opinions and of varying degrees of militancy. In 1921 many of these organisations united to form the British Legion.

Its noble purpose was to provide support and to fight for the rights of ex-servicemen, especially the disabled and their families.

In fact what actually happened was it became run by the officer class, “the donkeys that had led the lions in the trenches.” They paid themselves good salaries as the charity became one of the richest in Britain.

The Legion bought 1.5 million of those French-made artificial poppies and sold them to the British public, raising over £10,000. Poppy day had been invented.

Soon the British Legion set up its own poppy factory, with disabled ex-servicemen making the poppies and today they produce and sell over 45 million lapel poppies, 120,000 wreaths and one million small wooden remembrance crosses. It also adopted as its slogan: “Honour the dead, care for the living.”

Today David Cameron and his fellow Tories may wear the poppy but claims for benefits for recently serving military personnel are taking longer and longer and becoming harder and harder as a result of their spending cuts.

One in 10 of Britain’s homeless rough sleepers is an ex-soldier.

Not everyone is happy to wear the red poppy. Some see them as glorifying war and militaristic thinking. In many people’s eyes they have become a badge of jingoism and a justification of recent wars.

In some quarters the poppy has become a more blatant political label. In Northern Ireland it became a Protestant loyalist symbol because of its connection with British imperialism.

In 1926 the No More War Movement suggested that the British Legion should be asked to put “No More War” in the centre of the red poppies instead of “Haig Fund.”

Haig was “Butcher Haig” — the British general who had ordered so many of his troops to their death at the Battle of the Somme — one of the worst bloodbaths in British military history.

When it came to “lions led by donkeys,” Haig was certainly our biggest donkey. Two million brave lions died under his orders.

The officer class running the British Legion choose to keep Haig’s name on their poppies until 1994.

In 1933 the first white poppies appeared on Armistice Day, mostly home-made and worn mainly by members of the Co-operative Women’s Guild. Just a year later the Peace Pledge Union was formed and it began widespread distribution of white peace poppies in November each year.

Just as today, it took real courage and real commitment to wear the white peace poppy.

So which will you wear? My wife Ann always wears a red poppy. The flower has a strong personal family connection. She wears it in proud memory of her dad Fred who always wore his red poppy in memory of his own father, another Fred, Ann’s grandfather.

Grandfather Fred died in France in 1917 — he had been in France just days and his body was never found. He left a widow and four children including young Fred then aged just six.

Fred hated war as much as anybody but his red poppy was the only memorial to his dad he ever had. No wonder he wore it with pride and encouraged his young daughter to wear it too.

So wear your poppy, red or white or both with pride. Don’t let anyone hijack the red poppy as a symbol glorifying war and militarism.

Both poppies red and white are about the respect each of us feels for those who paid the greatest price in the futility of war. Sadly young soldiers are still dying.

Einstein and light, new film

This video says about itself:

22 January 2015

Official trailer for the International Year of Light 2015 (IYL2015), by Nickolas Barris.

This trailer kicked off the official United Nations/UNESCO opening ceremony of the IYL2015 in Paris on January 19, 2015.

The concept of this video ‘propagated light from the cosmos activating life on earth’, is based on Barris’ documentary film Einstein’s Light, which is in production and will be released in September 2015.

Walt Disney corporation Star Wars damage to Irish storm petrels

This video from Ireland is called Birds of Skellig Michael.

I myself was privileged to land on Skellig Michael island. I fondly remember its puffins, razorbills and gannets.

From BirdLife:

The dark side of ‘Star Wars’

By Niall Hatch, Mon, 12/10/2015 – 06:00

Picture a nearly-uninhabited rocky island. Greenery grows where the uneven ground flattens out. The sound of the waves crashing on the rocks is punctuated only by the bird calls of thousands of European Storm-petrel, Atlantic Puffin, Black-legged Kittiwake, Manx Shearwater… and the “zzznnn” of lightsabers.

The place in question is Skellig Michael, an island that lies 13km off the coast of southwest Ireland that is owned by the State. This UNESCO World Heritage Site was once home to a 6th century Christian monastery made up of stone “beehive huts” for hermit monks, and now houses breeding colonies of some of Europe’s most iconic seabirds.

The most recent seabird population figures available for Skellig Michael, taken from the Seabird 2000 survey conducted more than 15 years ago, estimated the presence then of 9,994 breeding pairs of European Storm-petrel (10% of the national population) and 738 breeding pairs of Manx Shearwater.

It’s understandable why a lonely island is an attractive habitat for seabirds: For centuries, European Storm-petrel have been nesting in gaps between the huts’ stones and in adjacent stone walls, and the Manx Shearwater and European Storm-petrel colonies on the island are amongst the largest in the world.

They probably were not counting on the monastery’s ruins catching the eye of Walt Disney Pictures and Lucasfilm, who saw them as an ideal retreat for Luke Skywalker, the protagonist of the Star Wars films.

On 8 September, Irish heritage minister Heather Humphreys (responsible for the Irish Film Board and Ireland’s National Parks and Wildlife Service) granted permission for up to 180 Star Wars cast and crew members to travel to the island to shoot the new film: Episode VIII. Within hours of the announcement, they arrived on the island with masses of filming equipment, and production there lasted almost two weeks.

The mid-September filming date meant that many seabirds, including Skellig Michael’s famous breeding Puffins, Kittiwakes, Guillemots and Razorbills had already finished nesting and had departed the island with their chicks.

However, thousands of storm-petrel and shearwater chicks would still have been in their nesting burrows at the time of the shoot (they don’t fledge until late September or October). Their parents spend the daylight hours out at sea, only returning to feed the chicks once darkness has fallen, thus going unnoticed by visitors.

Despite the Irish government’s conciliatory measure of appointing an ecologist to monitor the shoot, BirdWatch Ireland (BirdLife in Ireland) and other Irish NGOs contest that the approval to film was given without proper public and expert consultation and without valid scientific evidence as to the potential effects on nesting seabirds. Permission was even granted for night-time helicopter filming on and around the island, at times when parent birds would have been returning from sea to feed their waiting chicks.

“The lack of transparency in this case is particularly galling,” said Dr Stephen Newton, senior seabird conservation officer with BirdWatch Ireland. “It simply isn’t acceptable that decisions that may adversely affect one of Europe’s most important seabird colonies have been made in such a secretive way, without consultation or discussion… especially given the fact that the other island in the group, Little Skellig, is a BirdWatch Ireland reserve and that both islands are jointly designated as an IBA for breeding seabirds.”

Even if we assume the best – that no chicks or birds were affected – the risk of the accidental introduction of invasive alien predators such as the Brown Rat (Rattus norvegicus) and the American Mink (Neovison vison) during the transportation of filming equipment does not seem to have been factored in.

This was not the first visit to the island by the Star Wars crew. Despite fierce objections from BirdWatch Ireland and other Irish NGOs, and concerns from UNESCO, filming took place there in July 2014 (for Star Wars: Episode VII – The Force Awakens) for two weeks during the seabird breeding season. Long-term effects on the island’s breeding bird populations remain unknown, but there are disturbing reports that during filming, several hundred Black-legged Kittiwake chicks were blown by a helicopter from their cliff-ledge nests into the sea, where they drowned.

The State’s failure to carry out comprehensive surveys at this and other seabird nesting sites since 2000, despite being obliged to do so by law, severely hampers any assessment of the true impact of the Star Wars filming activity. It may now never be possible to judge the long-term effects on the island’s vulnerable seabird populations.

Wildlife and weather in India, film

This video from India says about itself:

Wildlife Documentary – When The Peacocks Sing: A Prequel to the Monsoons | Pocket Films

18 October 2014

This beautifully shot documentary captures the magical transformation of the dry state of Rajasthan into a lush, beautiful region when the monsoon sets in.

The organisers of the Wildlife Film Festival in Rotterdam, the Netherlands, write about this film:

In the semi-arid state of Rajasthan in North West India, the receding summer gives way to the pre-monsoons (a brief period with intermittent rains) making it one of the best spectacles of transformation. Set amidst dry landscapes and ancient monuments, the film showcases how the heat affects the inhabitants of the region – both human and wild animals, and behaviour patterns of each species in this period of scarcity.

Then the Monsoons finally descend, transforming everything around it – playing their part in the cyclic rotation of seasons that has been going on since time immemorial.

Wildlife in Dutch Groningen park, film

This video is the trailer of the nature documentary film about the Noorderplantsoen park in the city of Groningen in the Netherlands.

The organisers of the Wildlife Film Festival in Rotterdam write about it:

The Noorderplantsoen represents the green heart of Groningen, The Netherlands. This unique park, styled like an English landscape garden, offers citizens ease and joy and is a home to many animals. Most visitors are unaware of how nature takes its course right at their doorstep. Animals that have adapted thrive in our cities, allowing a peek in their life history for those who are observant.

To the animals the urban environment is just as wild as any other, confronted with all its coherent ordeals. This film is about the survival of the common moorhen, the coot and other inhabitants of the park, showing quite some unexpected turns. During WFFR Hilco Jansma has another film that will be screened: the short A Leap of Frog.