Rembrandt, new Internet site

This video says about itself:

The complete life of the painter Rembrandt van Rijn

14 July 2014

A documentary which unlocks Rembrandt to a large public. Trough his documentary we travel for 53 minutes together with Rembrandt in a geographical reconstruction of his life. The documentary shows beautiful pictures of which Rembrandt has drawn his inspiration. A lot of the buildings from Rembrandt`s days still exist. Trough modern digital techniques we change, where possible, the current image into the painting that the artist has made for over 400 years ago or into old pictures of those times.

From the Rembench site in the Netherlands:

A Digital Workbench for Rembrandt Research

RemBench is an integrated online work environment that enables research about the life and works of Rembrandt van Rijn. We brought together four existing databases and disclosed them through one search interface. Our target groups are historians, art historians and other humanities scholars and students.

The four databases that have been integrated by RemBench are:

RemBench is funded as part of the CLARIN-NL programme and was developed by Huygens ING in collaboration with Radboud University Nijmegen and RKD. It is a demo application, intended to serve as an example of the possibilities of digitized historical data. The data reside in their original databases; RemBench provides access to them.

For any questions about RemBench, you can contact Suzan Verberne,

For a short introduction to RemBench see this instructional video.

That video is here (scroll down).

There is also another video, this one:

That video says about itself:

12 June 2014

An example of a user interacting with RemBench, an integrated working environment for Rembrandt research.

US historians against Japanese government whitewashing war crimes

This video says about itself:

Rape of Nanking Part I Atrocities in Asia Nanjing Massacre

Rape of Nanking – Nanjing Massacre. Japanse Atrocities in Asia. Part I of 2. This documentary, by Rhawn Joseph is based on 20 years research and consists entirely of archival photos and film-clips. This film begins with an overview of Japan and China at the beginning of the 20th Century, explains the mind-set of the Japanese and their God, Hirohito, and then continues with the invasion of China, the crimes committed by the Japanese (during the Fall) on the road to Nanjing, Nanjing Massacre, the rape of the Philippines, Unit 731, the Baatan death camps, Japanese denials, and the dropping of the A-bomb on Japan.

This video is the sequel.

By Ben McGrath:

US historians criticize Tokyo’s efforts to whitewash war crimes

16 February 2015

A group of 19 American historians have condemned efforts by Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe to whitewash the historical record following his recent attempts to pressure a McGraw-Hill, a US publishing company, to change textbook passages concerning the Japanese military’s terrible abuse of “comfort women” during the 1930s and 1940s.

In a February 5 statement entitled “Standing with Historians of Japan,” the American academics not only criticized the Japanese government’s attempts to whitewash history but opposed any attempt by other governments to censor the past. As the title also makes clear, the historians lent support to their Japanese colleagues who have worked to investigate the truth regarding “comfort women,” or women who were coerced into “comfort stations” as sex slaves for Japanese soldiers.

Among those who signed the statement were Patrick Manning, a professor at the University of Pittsburgh who is being considered for the chair of the American Historical Association, and Hebert Ziegler, of Hawaii University and one of the authors of McGraw-Hill’s textbook that Abe criticized.

At the end of last year, the Japanese Consulate General in New York met with representatives of McGraw-Hill, to call for its textbook to be amended. The company refused. At the end of January, Abe declared that he was “shocked” by what he had read in the books and called for greater efforts to “correct” such accounts.

The statement by the American academics reads, “As historians, we express our dismay at recent attempts by the Japanese government to suppress statements in history textbooks both in Japan and elsewhere about the euphemistically named ‘comfort women,’ who suffered under a brutal system of sexual exploitation in the service of the Japanese imperial army during World War II. We therefore oppose the efforts of states or special interests to pressure publishers or historians to alter the results of their research for political purposes.”

The historians’ statement also expressed support for Japanese historians like Yoshimi Yoshiaki, a professor at Chuo University in Japan. It continued, “The careful research of historian Yoshimi Yoshiaki in Japanese government archives and the testimonial of survivors throughout Asia have rendered beyond dispute the essential features of a system that amounted to state-sponsored sexual slavery.”

Yoshiaki is a professor of modern history and author of the book, “Comfort Women,” first published in Japanese in 1995 and then in English in 2002. Yoshiaki began researching the sexual enslavement of comfort women in 1992 when victims were first beginning to come forward. He made extensive use of documents from the 1930s, found in the Ministry of Defense’s library (then known as the Defense Agency). This type of information is invaluable as many papers were destroyed in Japan during the closing days of World War II, including many that were evidence of war crimes.

While Yoshiaki made use of these documents to show the military’s role in setting up the brothels, he also stated in 2007 in the New York Times, “There are things that are never written in official documents. That they [comfort women] were forcibly recruited—that’s the kind of thing that would have never been written in the first place.”

The number of women forced into military-run “comfort stations” is estimated to have been approximately 200,000, with many of them coming from Korea, China, the Philippines, and other Asian countries occupied by Japan. Girls, often in their teens, endured horrendous conditions in the Japanese military brothels. Many committed suicide.

While some women were directly forced into sexual slavery, others were duped and then held against their will. In Korea, for example, the Japanese military relied on Korean middlemen to round up girls, often with phony promises of good jobs in factories or other work. These girls often came from poor families.

Right-wing Japanese nationalists often claim that the “comfort women” were already prostitutes and willingly worked at the comfort stations. While there is some evidence that this might be true in the early stages, as Japan’s imperialist war drive expanded, the practices of coercing and intimidating young women into becoming “comfort women” increased.

“The Japanese military itself newly built this system, took the initiative to create this system, maintained it and expanded it, and violated human rights as a result,” Yoshiaki said in 2007 comments to the New York Times. “That’s a critical difference [from prostitution].”

Abe’s attempt to revise the historical record on “comfort women” is just one aspect of a broader agenda. The government has also set aside more than a half billion dollars for a diplomatic and propaganda offensive to “restore Japan’s honor.” It recently announced the establishment of “Japan Houses” around the world to promote the country’s image and to whitewash past war crimes.

The first “Japan Houses” will be set up in London, Los Angeles, and Sao Paulo by the end of 2016, but the plan does not end there. “We are half-satisfied. By mobilizing all means, we must strengthen Japan’s information strategy…so that in a real sense, we can have (others) properly understand what is good about Japan,” said Yoshiaki Harada, a lawmaker with Abe’s ruling Liberal Democratic Party (LDP).

Japan also recently provided $5 million to Columbia University for a Japan studies position. It was the first time Tokyo has made such a grant in more than four decades. “There is a fear that Japan is losing out in an information war with South Korea and China and that we must catch up,” said Kan Kimura of Kobe University.

This concerted ideological campaign is part of the Abe government’s remilitarization of Japan and preparation for war. It is aimed at whipping up patriotic sentiment at home to dragoon a new generation of youth to go off to war, while blunting criticism abroad not only of past crimes, but the Japanese government’s current military build-up.

All of this has been encouraged by the United States as part of its “pivot to Asia,” designed to undermine China economically and militarily encircle it. While it is fully supportive of the “pivot,” the Abe government is also seeking to remilitarize to prosecute the economic and strategic interests of Japanese imperialism, even if they conflict with those of the US.

Australian-British airship suffragette Muriel Matters

Muriel Matters

By Peter Frost in Britain:

The Suffragette in the airship

Monday 16th February 2015

PETER FROST introduces us to an amazing but little known hero of the battle for votes for women

DURING the struggle to win votes for women in Britain in the first couple of decades of the 20th century, Suffragettes became masters of the art of gaining media attention with elaborate and imaginative actions.

One of the most audacious examples of this was an airship flown over London on this day in 1909 by Muriel Matters. Matters was a master in imaginative publicity for her cause.

She was born in Australia, coming to Britain in 1905, aged 28. She was a professional pianist, elocutionist and actress before coming to England, where she also became a talented journalist.

Matters became involved with the Suffragette movement and was a leading member of the Women’s Freedom League (WFL), a split from the better known Women’s Social and Political Union (WSPU).

The WFL had been established in 1907 when Matters and some other leading members of the WSPU began to question the leadership of Emmeline and Christabel Pankhurst.

The Pankhursts became unpopular with some Suffragettes by making decisions without consulting members and they challenged those who did not accept their leadership to leave the WSPU and to form an organisation of their own.

Seventy leading members left to form the WFL. Like the WSPU, the WFL was a militant organisation that was willing the break the law.

Members of the WFL however were generally non-violent and disagreed with the WSPU campaign of vandalism and arson against private and commercial property. Despite this over 100 WFL members were still sent to prison.

The WFL soon had over 4,000 members and it had its own newspaper, The Vote.

Matters was in charge of another publicity first — a horse-drawn recruiting caravan that toured the country.

Most WFL members were pacifists and during World War I they refused to become involved in the British army’s recruitment drive or to call off the votes for women campaign while the war was on.

WFL members supported the Women’s Peace Crusade for a negotiated peace.

Matters first came to prominence by chaining herself to a grille in the Ladies’ Gallery of the House of Commons.

While the authorities sent for a blacksmith to cut her free she made a speech. It was almost certainly the first speech ever made by a woman in the House of Commons.

When she learned that King Edward VII was to lead a public procession to officially open Parliament on February 16 1909 she knew this was an occasion not to be missed.

What was needed was something that would seize the headlines for the female emancipation.

Matters was not only a Suffragette, she was also a great socialist and counted among her circle of left-wing friends people such as Sylvia Pankhurst, George Bernard Shaw and the Russian anarchist Peter Kropotkin.

Another socialist friend and a keen supporter of the Suffragette cause was Henry Spencer. It was not, however, Spencer’s politics that caught her attention. It was his most unusual hobby.

Spencer had built his own airship and flew the 80-foot hydrogen-filled dirigible from a small field near the Welsh Harp Lake in Hendon, north of London.

The lake is still there, beside the North Circular road, and the flying field became Hendon aerodrome and is now the RAF Museum.

Matters explained her plan to the bold aeronaut. They would load his airship, suitably painted with suffrage slogans, with a hundredweight of pamphlets and rain them down over the king’s procession.

Muriel Matters' airship

I’ll let Matters take up the story as she did in a 1939 interview with the BBC.

“That morning I went to Hendon and met Mr Henry Spencer who had his airship all ready near the Welsh Harp.

“It was quite a little airship, 88 feet long, and written in large letters on the gas bag were three words: Votes for women.

“Below this was suspended an extremely fragile rigging carrying the engine and a basket, like those used for balloons.

“We loaded up about a hundredweight of leaflets, then I climbed into the basket. Mr Spencer joined me and we rose into the air.”

The airship, despite the weight of two people and all that propaganda, climbed to an altitude of 3,500 feet before levelling off.

“It was very cold,” Matters said, “but I got some exercise throwing the leaflets overboard.”

She went on to describe how Spencer would climb out of the basket and clamber like a spider across the framework to make adjustments to the engine.

“Suddenly I realised that if he fell off, I hadn’t the first idea how to manoeuvre the airship.” she said.

“Not that I was terribly bothered about that. I was too busy making a trail of leaflets across London.”

With the airship emblazoned with “Votes for Women” on one side and “Women’s Freedom League” on the other she scattered 56lb of handbills onto the streets and houses below.

Edith How-Martyn and Elsie Craig, two leading members of the Women’s Freedom League, followed the airship in a car.

Unfortunately, the elements conspired against the Suffragette cause. The airship’s feeble motor was not enough to overcome the strong winds that blew it off course.

The airship never made it to the Palace of Westminster but drifted across London, passing over Wormwood Scrubs, Kensington, Tooting and eventually crash-landing — after a trip lasting an hour-and-a-half — in the upper branches of a tree in Coulsdon, Surrey.

Despite failing to fly over the king and his procession, Matters considered the aerial adventure a great success.

“The flight achieved all we wanted,” she said. “It got our movement a great deal of publicity, as you can imagine. In those days, the sight of an airship was enough to make people run for miles.”

Certainly the unique flight made headlines all across Britain and the world.

After her aerial adventure, Matters continued with her political life as an active Suffragette lecturing all over the world. She was an active campaigner against the first world war and stood as the Labour Party candidate for Hastings in the general election of 1924.

She went on to study in Barcelona under Maria Montessori, the radical Italian educationalist, returning to work at Sylvia Pankhurst’s school in Bow, east London.

Matters, the Suffragette in the airship, died in 1969 aged 92.

You can hear Muriel Matters telling her own story in her 1939 BBC radio interview.

Snowdrops, wars and poetry in Britain

This video says about itself:

EARLY SPRING snowdrop flower time lapse. Sir David Attenborough‘s opinion

6 June 2013

This is a clip from “RHYTHMS OF NATURE IN THE BARYCZ VALLEY” movie.

This film tells the story about nature in the Barycz River valley and enormous Milicz ponds. This area is located in the south-western part of Poland (in the middle of Europe). I and my wife made it for 2 years.

Sir David Attenborough, a world-famous BBC nature documentary film maker, after watching the film “Rhythms of Nature in the Barycz Valley” wrote:

“I have viewed Rhythms of Nature with great pleasure.

A lovely place, beautifully filmed”

By Peter Frost in Britain:

Flower respite from the slaughter

Friday 13th February 2015

Snowdrops will soon be announcing the arrival of spring but the story of their origin bears witness to a not too distant tragic past, says PETER FROST

In October of 1854, in the rolling meadows of Crimea, 600 brave British soldiers were ordered to their death by ignorant and arrogant aristocratic officers. Those officers, just like Cameron and his mostly Eton-educated Cabinet believed they were born to rule.

Tennyson summed up the destiny of the common man in his famous poem: “Theirs not to reason why,/Theirs but to do and die:/Into the valley of Death/Rode the six hundred.”

This was the notorious Charge of the Light Brigade. The following Christmas and New Year were miserable times in the British army camps of the Crimea.

Memories of the horrendous defeat and the harsh winter weather of snow and gales contrived to make this a sad posting for British soldiers missing their loved ones at home.

Then at the end of January, in a curious parallel of the flush of blood red poppies that painted the fields of Flanders in another foreign war the hills of Crimea bought forth a huge beautiful display of tiny snow white flowers.

They covered the countryside so thickly that they could have easily been confused as a fall of fresh snow. British soldiers were amazed to see the battlefields covered in little, frail snowdrops.

The flowers were, in fact the Crimean snowdrop (Galanthus plicatus).

Many of the British soldiers took the tiny bulbs home with them, some even slipped the bulbs — little bigger than a grain of wheat — into letters to their wives and sweethearts at home.

Today snowdrops, both the Crimean species and our own native and slightly larger Common snowdrop (Galanthus nivalis) are a familiar and very welcome part of our mid-winter countryside.

For me the delicate nodding white flowers — brave little things — piercing the frozen earth are early heralds of the arrival of spring and the end of winter.

Did you know that there are over 2,000 different types of snowdrop, or Galanthus, growing wild in our countryside and in our gardens?

There are even snowdrop clubs and snowdrop societies and the rarest and exotic varieties change hands for hundreds of pounds for a single bulb.

The heritage of those Crimean snowdrops lives on today. You find them planted on the graves of soldiers of the Crimean war.

Huge naturalised swathes of the tiny flowers are found in areas with rich military history and traditions.

So if you can, try to get out to see the snowdrops. There are locations all over Britain which offer spectacular displays of the flower and there is sure to be one within easy reach of where you live.

As you marvel at these living snowdrifts pause to remember another group of British working men sent to die in a pointless foreign war in the hills above the famous valley of death.

The British Establishment has never had much respect for its old soldiers. It doesn’t today.

Forty years after Tennyson’s famous poem, Rudyard Kipling wrote The Last of the Light Brigade.

It commemorated the last 20 survivors of the charge of the Light Brigade who visited an 80-year-old Tennyson to lobby him for not writing a sequel about the way in which England was treating its old soldiers.

Kipling felt strongly on the subject and returned to it again in his poem to draw attention to the poverty in which the real survivors were living, in the same way that he evoked The Absent Minded Beggar.

“When you’ve shouted ‘Rule Britannia,’ when you’ve sung ‘God save the Queen,’/When you’ve finished killing Kruger with your mouth,/Will you kindly drop a shilling in my little tambourine/For a gentleman in khaki ordered South?”

Recently I walked through one of London’s royal parks to see the snowdrops. By the gate I came across a homeless ex-soldier. He was begging. And you thought we were supposed to learn from history.