85,000 historic films on YouTube


This video from the British Pathé archives says about itself:

Clothing of the Future. Wonderful film showing what the fashion designers of America predict women will be wearing in the year 2000 AD. These predictions were made in 1939 so some 61 years before the Millennium. Not sure they got it right really!

From the Daily Telegraph in Britain:

British Pathé uploads 85,000 historic films to YouTube

Thousands of hours of historical footage showing major events, celebrities and simple day-to-day life from 1896 until 1976 has been uploaded to YouTube

By Matthew Sparkes

1:26PM BST 17 April 2014

British Pathé, the newsreel maker which documented all walks of life on video during the 20th Century, has uploaded its entire collection of moving images to YouTube.

The archive of 3,500 hours of footage was digitised in 2002 thanks in part to a grant from the National Lottery, and is now freely accessible to anyone around the world for free.

The unique collection of video covers major events, famous faces, travel, sport and culture and is a wealth of information on the First and Second World Wars in particular.

Scrolling through the archives reveals everything from the tragic: Emily Davison throwing herself under the King’s horse,

Here, the Daily Telegraph journalist ignores new historical research, saying that suffragette Ms Davison did not intend to commit suicide

the Hindenburg disaster and the Hiroshima bombing, to the downright unusual, such as Southampton University’s 1962 attempt to launch a flying bicycle.

Founded in Paris in 1896, Pathé launched in Britain 14 years later. It single-handedly invented the modern television news format but ceased recording in 1970. After that it was sold several times, at one point to EMI, but launched as an independent archive in 2009. Two years later it opened a YouTube channel and has today announced the final step in digitising and uploading its entire collection to Google’s video sharing platform.

Alastair White, general manager of British Pathé, said: “Our hope is that everyone, everywhere who has a computer will see these films and enjoy them. This archive is a treasure trove unrivalled in historical and cultural significance that should never be forgotten. Uploading the films to YouTube seemed like the best way to make sure of that.

“Whether you’re looking for coverage of the Royal Family, the Titanic, the destruction of the Hindenburg, or quirky stories about British pastimes, it’ll be there on our channel. You can lose yourself for hours.”

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Cosmos, science and media from Carl Sagan to today


This video is called Cosmos: A SpaceTime Odyssey (Part 1).

By Bryan Dyne in the USA:

Cosmos reboot falls short of the mark

14 April 2014

Cosmos: A Spacetime Odyssey (Cosmos) is a remake of the 1980 series Cosmos: A Personal Voyage, hosted by astronomer Carl Sagan. Hosted by Neil deGrasse Tyson, the new series comes after three and a half decades of scientific advances—sequencing of the human genome, discovery of the Higgs boson, quantification of conditions in the first moments of the Big Bang, and detailed spacecraft exploration of parts of the solar system. Yet, beyond some scientific generalities, little of this enormous progress would be apparent from watching the new series.

Alongside Tyson, the new series is being produced by Seth MacFarlane in collaboration with Ann Druyan (Sagan’s widow) and astronomer Steven Soter, both of whom worked on the original Cosmos series. It is being aired on ten 21st Century Fox networks and on the National Geographic Channel and being distributed across 170 countries and in 45 languages—one of the widest television distributions to date. So far, six out of 13 episodes have been aired, with an estimated 27 million viewers in the US.

In itself, the production of this new Cosmos is a welcome development. Almost without exception, US television is dominated by series promoting the police and military, the occult and mystical, and sometimes all of them at the same time. In contrast, Cosmos sets as its task the socially progressive work of portraying the world as it is objectively, examining natural laws before a mass audience, and placing human society within the context of the development of the universe.

This video is called Cosmos: A Personal Voyage – Episode 1 (Carl Sagan).

The original Cosmos derived much of its strength from its seriousness and the internal consistency and fidelity to the scientific method which the show promoted and defended. At times, the new series follows the original in that respect. The second episode features a wonderful sequence showing the development of the eye, as part of its discussion on natural selection. Using a split-screen technique, viewers see ocean life evolve over hundreds of millions of years on the left and a view of what those creatures actually saw on the right, starting with patches of light and dark and slowly getting clearer as each modification of the eye came along. Throughout the segment, Tyson explains that by tracing these developments through the fossil record, we can rule out claims of an “intelligent designer” for the eye. It evolved.

William Herschel

In another animated sequence, viewers are introduced to astronomer William Herschel (1738-1822), who observationally described binary stars in apparent orbit about one another, generalizing Newton’s theory of gravity from the movement of bodies within the Solar System to all celestial bodies. This was one of the critical demonstrations that established that natural laws discovered on Earth can be extrapolated to areas of the universe beyond direct human experience.

Another sequence worth noting revolved around the life of Giordano Bruno, who was burned at the stake by the Catholic Church. The Church has always asserted that this was for his heretical theology. Cosmos, on the other hand, explains that the true reason for Bruno’s execution was his ideas about scientific inquiry and how to understand the world. His methods led him to expand on Copernicus’ idea that the Earth revolved around the Sun, to say that the Sun and all the stars were the same, that the stars also had planets and that those planets could have life. To this day, Bruno’s writings are still on the Vatican’s list of forbidden texts.

But beyond a few such exceptions, the show is largely lacking in describing the development of science as a social process, or even in providing concrete examples of momentous discoveries and how they came about. A segment describing the development of Newton’s theory of gravity took as its focus petty personal frictions between Newton, Robert Hooke and Edmund Halley, rather than the vast upheavals of Enlightenment Europe, or the meticulous work of Tycho Brahe and Johannes Kepler in acquiring the observational data which could be unified by Newton into a single theoretical framework.

Albert Einstein is discussed equally ahistorically, but in the opposite way: rather than his inspiration coming from conflicts, he is presented as the isolated genius who arrives at his unifying idea by virtue of his alienation. In reality, Einstein’s work temporarily sealed a rupture in physics which had erupted in the 1860s and which attracted work from many of its best minds. Taking as his point of departure the surprising results of Michelson and Morley in 1887 that the speed of light appeared to be the same to both stationary and moving observers, Einstein worked out the implications of a fixed speed of light using mathematics developed by Riemann, Lorentz, Poincare, and Weyl. That his most productive years occurred in Europe between 1905 and 1917, spanning a World War and two Russian revolutions, should be worthy of notice, but the news Cosmos makes no reference to this background.

Christiaan Huygens by Bernard Vaillant, Museum Hofwijck, Voorburg

In contrast, the original series depicted Christiaan Huygens, one of the foremost astronomers of the 1600s, as a product of his time. While viewers were given a glimpse of his work, such as early (and quite accurate) initial estimates of the distances from Earth to nearby stars, the focus was on the time and place in which he lived. One got a flavor of Huygens’ contemporaries, the character of 17th century Holland, the proliferation of free thought, the science and technology being done, the architecture, i.e. the culture as a whole.

The production also includes segments which are factually incorrect, misleading or empty. Tyson describes the proteins that help DNA to operate as “creatures” rather than molecules, which is what they actually are. His “ship of the imagination” dodges rocks in the asteroid belt per the science-fiction norm. Rather than discussing what is known about how life developed, Tyson blithely states that the origins of life are unknown, as if the decades of research into this topic have produced nothing. And the momentous imagery produced by robotic probes throughout the solar system (Voyager, Cassini, Galileo, numerous Mars missions, etc.) is by and large dispensed with in favor of computer graphics manufactured to order.

Tyson’s career may play a role in these weaknesses. He is not a full-time scientific researcher and has published little, serving mainly as a media popularizer involved in publishing books, TV appearances, the Hayden Planetarium and sitting on science panels for the Bush and Obama administrations. He seems somewhat disconnected from the science he once practiced. However, it is not simply that Tyson the media figure is missing something essential compared to Sagan the working scientist. Rather, there has been a shift in intellectual life over the past 35 years, particularly among the liberal intelligentsia. No longer is Western society, and science along with it, flush with resources and expanding at a high rate. American capitalism is on the decline, and this is felt in the official treatment of science. The new Cosmos had a chance to challenge its audience, seeking to raise popular understanding of science. Instead, Tyson largely appeals to the lowest common denominator.

One of the many ways this has manifested is in the exposition of the scientific method. To the show’s credit, Cosmos explains the relationship between observations and theories that model those observations and make predictions. In the third episode, it shows how the observations of comets over centuries transformed them in common understanding from harbingers of doom to predictable celestial phenomena, based on the work of Halley, Hooke and Newton.

But rather than asserting the growing superiority of science over religion in explaining how the world works, the show muddles the two. There are constant concessions to religious language. The highly accurate predictions of the astronomers are referred to constantly in the program as “prophecies.” In the fourth episode, Tyson similarly refers to the fact that the speed of light is always constant as a “commandment” of the universe, rather than explaining the underlying physics.

Given the advances since 1980, it is long past time for the presentation of what has been learned and the process of how this has been learned to a mass audience. Sadly, the weaknesses of the new Cosmos in this respect overshadow its strengths.

The author also recommends:

Carl Sagan (1934-1996): An appreciation
[13 January 1997]

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Spanish village changing anti-Jewish name?


This video says about itself:

Spain and the Holocaust

29 October 2008

Maureen Tobin Stanley, associate professor of Spanish language, literature, and culture at the University of Minnesota, Duluth, spoke at Vanderbilt University Oct. 23 as part of the Holocaust Lecture Series.

Maureen Tobin Stanley has spent her career examining Spanish voices of resistance, exile and deportation. Though 10,000 to 15,000 Spaniards were imprisoned in Nazi camps with the implicit endorsement of Francisco Franco’s regime, their experience in concentration camps has been largely suppressed. As part of contemporary Spain’s critical, literary, and current legislative drive to recover its democratic past and renounce Franco’s totalitarianism, Stanley’s research seeks to demonstrate the cultural relevance of these frightening realities. Supporting contribution by the Department of Spanish and Portuguese.

From daily Haaretz in Israel:

Spanish village called ‘kill Jews’ mulling name change

Village of Castrillo Matajudios will convene its 60 families to vote on name dating back to Spanish Inquisition.

By JTA | Apr. 12, 2014 | 11:18 PM

A Spanish village is considering removing the phrase “kill Jews” from its name.

The village of Castrillo Matajudios near Leon in northern Spain will convene its 60 resident families at a town hall meeting next week to discuss and vote on the first formal proposal to change the village’s name, the regional daily Diario de Burgos reported Friday.

Mayor Lorenzo Rodriguez, who submitted the proposal, suggested changing the village’s name to Castrillo Mota de Judios, which means “Castrillo Jews’ Hill.” He said this was the village’s original name, but it was changed during the Spanish Inquisition.

In parts of Spain, and especially in the north, locals use the term “killing Jews” (matar Judios) to describe the traditional drinking of lemonade spiked with alcohol at festivals held in city squares at Easter, or drinking in general.

Leon will hold its “matar Judios” fiesta on Good Friday, April 18, where organizers estimate 40,000 gallons of lemonade will be sold.

The name originates from medieval times, when converted Jews would sometimes be publicly executed in show trials at around Easter, Maria Royo, a spokesperson for the Federation of Jewish Communities of Spain told JTA.

“Regrettably, this type of expression exists in Spain in ceremonies and parties,” she said, but added that “the people saying it are mostly unaware of the history. It is a complicated issue that is ingrained in local culture.”

The federation is in contact on this issue with authorities, but given the popularity of the expression, “it is impossible to forbid this language” in that context, she added.

Last month, Ramon Benavides, the president of a local associations of hoteliers, told the news agency EFE: “When ‘killing Jews,’ it’s best to take it slow and keep track of how much you drink to avoid excesses and its consequences the next day.”

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German militarism coming back


This video about Adolf Hitler’s armed forces is called War crimes of the Wehrmacht – Hannes Heer.

By Johannes Stern in Germany:

German government planning major military build-up

11 April 2014

The German government is using the mounting conflict between NATO and Russia to massively rearm the military. This is underscored by an article in the latest edition of the weekly news magazine Der Spiegel.

The title page of the article sums it up. Defence minister Ursula Von der Leyen stands before a tank smiling, surrounded by German army soldiers armed to the teeth. This is the gruesome smile of German militarism, which is attempting to return to the world stage after two world wars and horrific crimes.

Under the cynical title “Leopards live longer,” a reference to the German tanks of that name, the article provides an insight into the West’s military plans. NATO is to be transformed into an anti-Russian alliance and significantly expand its influence in Eastern Europe. Germany is playing a central role in this. Leading German politicians and military strategists are calling for a massive programme to rearm the army. “The debate cannot be stopped, and the arms industry senses an opportunity for good business,” according to Der Spiegel.

The article first investigates the fundamental policy decisions by the imperialist powers that are once again turning to open confrontation with Russia. Then it describes the consequences for Germany that will arise from this.

“The cooperation firmly established with Russia over the years was officially abandoned last week,” Der Spiegel states. “As a result, Moscow is no longer a partner, but an opponent. This determines the next step, even if it leads back to the past: how does military deterrence, a concept which has not been heard in Western Europe for so long, work in 2014?”

The authors consider tanks and military equipment, and determine that the “deterrence potential” of the German army has been sharply reduced in recent years through its transformation from a “defensive” into an “intervention force.”

“Prior to the fall of the Berlin Wall, deterrence was based on the potential destruction by nuclear weapons of differing ranges, and hundreds of thousands of soldiers with heavy equipment, mainly tanks,” the article notes. At that time, the German army alone “even during peacetime had around 495,000 men in uniform,” in addition to 4,100 Leopard tanks and almost 600 planes.

But since then, the military budget was “cut from 3 percent to 1.2 percent of gross domestic product. The German army has just 185,000 men, is to be cut further and is equipped more for rapid foreign interventions than for territorial defence.” Instead of “tank divisions and field guns at the Fulda Gap,” there are “paratroopers and helicopters for Kosovo, Afghanistan or a crisis country in Africa.”

The message, which is appearing with increasing frequency in the German media, is unmistakable: After years of reducing troop numbers and heavy military equipment, it is now time to rearm!

Der Spiegel cited the head of the Kiel-based Institute for Security Policy, Joachim Krause, who stated, “Defence policy has focused on peace missions under relatively favourable conditions. The current crisis has made it painfully clear that this was perhaps too one-sided and naïve. Therefore the defence ministry has to fundamentally reconsider its purchasing plans.”

Social Democrat (SPD) defence policy spokesman Rainer Arnold struck a similar tone, saying, “We have to consider whether the uncontrolled reduction of our tank fleet within NATO was correct. In Europe, we need to jointly develop drones as quickly as possible. The decision about the ‘Euro-hawk’ drone should also be reconsidered.” This was in reference to a German government-sponsored project to develop drones, which was abandoned last year.

According to Der Spiegel, the defence ministry is already working on the build-up of NATO in Eastern Europe. Defence minister Von der Leyen ordered “top generals to review what further support can be provided through the alliance for the eastern member states.” It appears as though they “will propose joint military exercises with the Polish and Baltic armies,” the countries that are the strongest advocates of an aggressive role for NATO in Eastern Europe. Just last Tuesday, Polish foreign minister Radoslav Sikorski called for the stationing of two NATO brigades (around 10,000 soldiers) in Poland.

Der Spiegel reported on NATO plans that would effectively be a declaration of war against Russia. “Important military sources in NATO are appealing internally for an increased readiness of western land and air combat forces. Currently it would take 180 days for the vast majority to mobilise and be ready to intervene. This timescale is to be reduced. This will have an impact on at least 10,000 German army soldiers. In addition, according to the military sources, tank divisions were to be strengthened and munitions dumps replenished. It would be the comeback of the German ‘leopard’ tank.”

At the same time, Der Spiegel sought to portray German politicians as being forced to act by events rather than driving them. German foreign minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier understood Germany’s policy on Ukraine as “pure diplomacy” and advocated a “course of de-escalation.” The defence minister was opposed to sending heavy military equipment and permanent troops to Eastern Europe. The German government viewed the NATO strategy with “extreme scepticism and would prefer to ignore the issue.”

This is utter nonsense. In reality, the plans of NATO to rearm express the new direction in German foreign policy, which is supported by all parliamentary parties. At the beginning of February, defence minister Von der Leyen, Steinmeier and President Joachim Gauck announced the end of military restraint at the Munich security conference. The German bourgeoisie now views the crisis in Ukraine, which it provoked, and the NATO offensive against Russia as an opportunity to turn to German imperialism’s traditional sphere in the east and rearm.

However, the drive to war within the ruling class is meeting broad opposition. The latest poll by public broadcaster ARD illustrated that a policy of increased security in Eastern Europe was opposed by the majority of the German population. Only four in ten spoke out in favour of strengthened air surveillance in Eastern Europe, while 53 percent opposed it. “German army involvement in related measures would be very unpopular here,” according to the poll. “Only one in three (35 percent) believed German engagement was correct, while 61 percent rejected this.”

The pollsters did not dare to ask about the sending of NATO troops to Eastern Europe, the reintroduction of conscription or the massive rearming of the German military. All of these plans are currently being discussed by the ruling elite, but are even more decisively opposed by the population.

Plans to deploy the army domestically in the future must be seen in this context. On Monday it was announced that the interior ministry would soon be seeking to change article 35 of the constitution, in order to make it easier to shoot down “terror planes.” In conditions of immediate danger, the defence minister is to give the order alone for the intervention of the air force, Spiegel Online reported.

The timing of this attempt makes clear that the German government is not concerned with a struggle against terrorism, but the use of the army domestically, which is strictly limited by the constitution. Should these limits be overcome in one instance, the military could once again be used to suppress social opposition.

In recent months and weeks the government has not once given a concrete warning of a terror attack. But they have initiated an aggressive course in foreign policy that is opposed by the vast majority of the population. The massive military build-up must be seen as doubly threatening. In order to return to an imperialist foreign policy on a global scale, Germany’s bourgeoisie is prepared to brutally suppress all domestic political and social opposition.

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British ballet about World War I


This video from England says about itself:

Lest We Forget: Trailer

24 March 2014

Witness English National Ballet like you’ve never seen them before at the Barbican Theatre in a programme marking the centenary of the First World War.

Lest We Forget includes three new commissions by Akram Khan [Dust], Russell Maliphant [Second Breath] and Liam Scarlett [No Man's Land]. George Wiliamson’s Firebird completes the programme.

By Peter Lindley in Britain:

Dance: Remarkable WWI requiem

Wednesday 9th April 2014

Lest We Forget — Barbican Centre, London EC2

5/5

On the face of it a dance programme commemorating the onset of the first world war might seem a lightweight proposition.

But Lest We Forget is both a vision of the hell of those distant battlefields and a comment on the war’s destructive impact on society.

The English National Ballet production, a quartet of contemporary ballet and dance works from the ENB’s Liam Scarlett and guest choreographers, is something of a triumph.

There is grace and superb technique in Alina Cojocaru and Fabian Reimair’s performances in Scarlett’s ghostly No Man’s Land, about the loss and longing of men and women separated by war.

Equally compelling are Ksenia Ovsyanick and Junor Souza, who give a mesmerising display of power and characterisation in George Williamson’s brilliant depiction of a decadent society in pursuit of beauty in the Firebird.

But in stark contrast to the lyrical impulses of Scarlett and Williamson it is the shocking tableaux of falling soldiers in Russell Maliphant’s Second Breath that provide the programme with its most sensitive act of remembrance for lives sacrificed.

Akram Khan, dancing in Dust (pictured) and pushing physicality to the very limits, makes an equally striking impression.

In a duet with ENB’s artistic director Tamara Rojo, Khan’s persona appear to be at the mercy of invisible forces in a desolate yet ferocious struggle to survive.

The sombre mood deepens as the themes of love lost and beauty destroyed are explored.

And, as the evening progresses, the sense of impending hell on earth becomes almost palpable.

Runs until April 12. Box office: (020) 7638-8891.

Birdsong is a a powerful representation of life and death on the Western Front during WWI, says SUSAN DARLINGTON: here.

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