British poet Attila the Stockbroker’s 2015 in review


This poetry video says about itself:

The Corbyn Supporters From HellAttila The Stockbroker, 15th Oct 2015 at The Blue Boar Hotel, Maldon, Essex, UK.

By Attila the Stockbroker from Britain:

Thursday 24th December 2015

2015 has been a momentous year for me, personally, poetically and politically.

On September 12, I was just driving out of my adopted 1980s home town of Harlow, having done a storming gig there the night before celebrating the recent publication of my autobiography. The news came through that Jeremy Corbyn had been elected leader of the Labour Party by a landslide. I had to stop the car as I listened to his victory speech. Tears of happiness filled my eyes and I punched the air. But I forgot I was still in the car and I punched the roof.

That is true, funny and it hurt but I didn’t care. It was the culmination of a very happy few weeks for me. I’d recently been given the all-clear after an operation for suspected bladder cancer, was about to become a step-grandad for the first time, and the Seagulls had just soared to the top of the Championship.

Corbyn’s amazing, inspirational victory was the absolute icing on the cake. In fact, it was two layers of icing with a great big bar of chocolate on top of those, a chocolate seagull with a red star made of strawberries on its head perched on that and the whole thing topped off with a load of clotted cream and six pints of Dark Star Six Hop Ale. Magic.

Twelve years before, in my song Guy Fawkes’ Table, written as the Labour government voted to join Bush in his illegal invasion of Iraq, I had despairingly written off new Labour — “Aneurin Bevan, your party is dead” — and declared that: “We need a new radical party, but not the Judean People’s Front/Not another small sect but a movement, with the power to change and confront.”

This music video says about itself:

Punk poet Attila the Stockbroker‘s ‘homage’ to New LabourGuy Fawkes’ Table – live onstage at Belper Queen’s Head, Derbyshire, England, on Thursday, 21st May 2010 with backing vocals from David Rovics.

The article continues:

Against all the odds, sneers, put-downs and scare stories from the national media, many of whose so-called journalists’ tongues are a deep shade of brown from constantly ensuring that the rectal cavities of the likes of Rupert Murdoch are as clean as a Singaporean airport lounge, we got it.

And our “new radical party” is the one it always should have been — the Labour Party.

I did 37 gigs between September and December on my autobiography tour, all over England and Wales, and the vibrant new hope I have encountered everywhere has been a joy to behold.

As we know, local Constituency Labour Parties have had a huge influx of members — including yours truly — and a huge grassroots movement is growing. Even in constituencies like my local one, where literally a dead duck could get elected wearing a Tory rosette, the recruits are flooding in.

Of course, the power of the opposition is daunting, not least because some of it is from within the Labour Party itself. But the sneers and jibes of the Tory press are testament to how frightened the tiny, unrepresentative elite which controls it are that their power could one day be taken away and legislation passed to bring true media democracy to this country.

That day certainly can’t come fast enough for me.

I certainly fully intend to spend 2016 as I have 2015, travelling the country and further afield as Comrade Corbyn’s unofficial — indeed unsolicited — social surrealist Minister of Propaganda. With a few reservations, not to be mentioned here — you can’t agree with someone about EVERYTHING, that’s being sycophantic. I’ll be spreading ideas, drinking beer and having fun. Fun’s important, you know! Beery Clashmas and a Hoppy New Year to you all.

Poetess Tineke Vroman, RIP


Leo and Tineke Vroman

Translated from NOS TV in the Netherlands today:

In her hometown of Fort Worth in the USA at the age of 94 Georgine Sanders has died. She was better known as Tineke Vroman, the muse of the poet Leo Vroman, who died last year.

Tineke Vroman-Sanders was a medical anthropologist and started to write at a later age. She debuted in 1990 under her maiden name with the poetry collection Het onvoltooid bestaan [The unfinished existence]. Her latest publication was the poetry book Een huis om in te slapen (2007). She also wrote a number of books together with her husband, who besides being a poet also was a biologist.

The two became engaged in 1938. Shortly after the German invasion Leo went to England and then to the Dutch East Indies. There he was arrested after the invasion of the Japanese. He was in various Japanese camps and did not see Tineke again until after the war. They married in 1947, had two daughters and were virtually inseparable.

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.

Play about poet Leo Vroman


This video is the trailer of the Dutch theatre play Hoe mooi alles (How beautiful everything).

On 16 December 2015, Hoe mooi alles was in the Leiden theatre in the Netherlands. It is about the life of famous Dutch poet Leo Vroman (April 10, 1915 – February 22, 2014) and Tineke, his wife.

There are two roles in the play: Kees Hulst as Leo Vroman, and Esther Scheldwacht as Tineke.

Hoe mooi alles, book coverThe play is based on the novel, also called Hoe mooi alles, by Mirjam van Hengel, written in close collaboration with Leo and Tineke. The book was supposed to come out on Vroman’s 99th birthday, but he died just before that.

The play is set at shortly before Vroman died at 98 years of age. The couple reminisces, especially about 1938-1947: the time between when they met and became engaged, and when they finally married. Tineke was of partly Dutch, partly Indonesian ancestry, and had recently come to the Netherlands to study at the same Utrecht university as Leo. 1938-1947 was the time of the second world war.

Before that war, Vroman, being Jewish, sometimes experienced anti-Semitism. After the war, in New York City, a doctor advised Vroman to have an operation to make his nose look smaller: ‘With such a Jewish nose, no employer will give you a job’.

On 10 May 1940, nazi Germany invaded the Netherlands. The Vroman family suffered terribly from the fascists’ persecution. Leo fled the Netherlands on 14 May. Against all odds, he managed to reach England on a sailing boat. Tineke decided not to join Leo on that journey, for a complex of reasons, including expecting then it might be even more dangerous than the nazi occupation.

Soon, Leo Vroman decided to leave England for Indonesia, where he could finish his biology studies. Then, imperial Japan invaded Indonesia. That meant three years of Japanese prison camps for Vroman. Often, he came close to dying. Thinking about Tineke kept him alive. Along with small things, like a little mudskipper fish.

After the defeat of Japan, the Dutch government demanded that Leo Vroman should fight in another war: colonial war to stop Indonesian independence.

However, Vroman refused that. He wrote a famous pro-peace poem (also quoted in the play). He went to New York City. Eventually, he became a famous biologist in the USA.

In 1947, Tineke also came to New York City. It was illegal for her to go to the USA to marry. So, officially she came as a student. When she saw Leo after landing, she admonished him not to welcome her too enthusiastically, as authorities might see them.

One theme in the play is mutual feelings of guilt of the couple. Tineke felt guilty about not having joined Leo in fleeing the Netherlands in May 1940. Leo felt guilty about being away from Tineke for so long, and not returning to her immediately in 1945.

Nevertheless, this is a play about two people loving each other for many decades.

A review of the play is here.

Dutch author Judith Herzberg protests against king’s Argentine dictatorship links


Ms Judith Herzberg accepts the P.C. Hooft literature prize in 1997

This photo shows Dutch author Ms Judith Herzberg, when she accepted the P.C. Hooft literature prize for her poetry in 1997.

Ms Herzberg is from a Jewish family, and went into hiding from the nazi occupiers of the Netherlands as a child. Her parents were deported to Bergen-Belsen concentration camp, but survived; contrary to Anne Frank and her sister Margot.

Translated from NOS TV in the Netherlands:

Judith Herzberg resigns at Resistance Museum in protest against king

Today, 08:08

Poet and playwright Judith Herzberg has resigned from the recommending committee of the Resistance Museum in Amsterdam. Her reason is the opening by King [Willem-Alexander] of the exhibition about political prisoners [in Dachau concentration camp] No numbers but names in April this year.

According to Herzberg, the museum should have asked someone else, because Willem-Alexander‘s father-in-law, Jorge Zorreguieta, is accused to have been involved in the disappearance of political prisoners in Argentina at the time of the Videla [military] regime. Herzberg resigned for that reason in August as a member of the committee of recommendation.

“I do not understand how he had the nerve to open this exhibition in the Resistance Museum,” Herzberg wrote in a letter that came into the hands of NRC Handelsblad daily. “He thought it was “an honour”? Didn’t he realize that this was an insult, especially in the Resistance Museum, to those who lost their lives? Doesn’t he see any parallel with the criminal regime in Argentina, when between 10 000 and 30 000 ‘numbers’ were made to disappear? And why did you ask especially him to open this exhibition? And talk with young people on that occasion? What should young people learn from that?”

Not in the Netherlands

Herzberg was at the time of the opening not in the Netherlands. That King Willem-Alexander had opened the exhibition, she heard later. After some thought, she decided that she did not want to be any longer on the recommendation committee, she says to the NOS.

Herzberg asked the chairman of the Resistance Museum, Hans Blom, to send the letter to the 24 other members of the committee of recommendation. Of these, three or four people responded, Blom told the newspaper. One person agreed with Herzberg. That was professor emeritus and former Director of Human Rights at the UN, Theo van Boven.

Over 70-year-old actresses in new play


This video is a trailer about the new Dutch comedy Vrouwen van Later by Thomas Verbogt.

On 27 November 2015 there was the première of this play in the theatre in Leiden.

There are four roles in this play; all women.

One of the four is the role of Merel, a student in her twenties doing research on media in the Netherlands in the 1970s. Lusanne Arts (still at theatre school) plays this role.

The three other roles are for over seventy-year-old well-known actresses: Ingeborg Elzevier as the student’s grandmother; and Trudy Labij as the sister of the widow of a famous 1970s TV entertainment personality.

The role of the widow was originally for Nelly Frijda. Health problems caused her to be replaced by Gerrie van der Klei. Ms Van der Klei is known not only for acting, but for singing as well. She sang in New York City with Duke Ellington.

This comedy has a serious undertone about people getting older.