In 1962 Dutch cinema’s golden child Bert Haanstra visited the zoo of Amsterdam, Artis, during a sun-filled period and filmed the visitors as they were laughing, yawning, scratching themselves, chatting and taking naps. Then he filmed animals doing the same thing and edited the result to contrast the two groups and perhaps to say “we are not that different, you and I”.
The result seems comedic, making fun of the little people that are closer to the animals that they themselves seem to believe. The film itself is not too clear about which position its maker chooses. The editing and some of the videography is clearly done for comedic effect (ostriches’ heads popping up, the walk of the penguin), but the powerful walk of the tiger and the jazz music by Pim Jacobs do not fit the label ‘comedy’.
American broadcaster NPR seems to like the humane explanation the best:
Magically, [the film] makes the cages, the trenches, the walls disappear, and what you get is a real zoo — a mix-it-up porridge of animal life, where all the animals, the mischievous little boys, the oh-so-shy monkey, the proud baboon, the wide-eyed girl and the yawning lady trade moods, glances, worlds — our differences melt into little moments of us being like them, them being like us.
The name Artis was originally the zoo’s nickname. It came from a text written over the gates, “Natura Artis Magistra” (meaning “Nature is the teacher of art”). You can watch the video on the NPR page or by buying the complete works DVD set.
Last May 11 Iago Sparrows flew aboard the MV Plancius on 6 May 2013 from the Cape Verde Islands. In the end, four birds (two male and two female) stayed on board until Hansweert, Zeeland, making them the first known individuals of that species (endemic to the islands off West Africa) to have reached Europe, and therefore writing history.
Once docked in Hansweert on 19 May, the sparrows stayed on board to eat breadcrumbs and hang out with the captain.
All four sparrows were timid and passive, up until the moment I released the male from his confinement on the bridge. The other male then sought the company of the Captain’s sparrow, and the two cocks started a fight. The aggressive display ended in a clear attempt to copulate. One male definitely mounted the other and tried to copulate. The male that was mounted did, however, not assume the classic submissive solicitation posture (crouched, neck drawn in, wings slightly drooped), a posture known from observation of female House Sparrows (Passer domesticus) that solicit copulation.
Please feel free to insert all kinds of good-humoured jokes in the comments.
The female wolf was about one and a half years old and appeared to be in good health, the coalition said in a statement (the statement is in Dutch). It said the body showed no signs of having been transported to the Netherlands post mortem. The body didn’t show any signs of having been frozen and there were no traces of wear on the fur, soles and nails that would indicate captivity, the researchers said.
In addition, possible wolf pellets have been found in a wood on the Noordoost polder, close to where the body was found, they said. [...] The pellets contained traces of deer and fox. Scientists had said earlier the wolf’s last meal appeared to be a beaver. ‘These are all animals found within 50 kilometres of where the wolf and the pellets were found,’ the researchers said.
We found the slowest summer news item of 2013: ‘The town of Uitgeest [North Holland] is ‘limiting’ its communication with citizens’, the Dutch title reads. What gives? The town hall of Uitgeest has cancelled its fax number after an employee discovered that the fax machine had broken down last month. Since many people don’t use faxes anymore and the town can’t be bothered to buy a new fax machine if even possible, faxing time is over in Uitgeest.
Amusingly enough I talked to a reporter from RTV Noord Holland about this and asked him why they thought this was newsworthy. He laughed and told me that the guy who wrote the story lives in Uitgeest. Then I talked to him about some news they broke this summer about a woman (a firefighter no less) making disturbing videos sitting on ponies to crush them. Apparently, she’s back horseback riding after having spent some time in jail. She claimed to have made the films for money during a bad patch.
The Dutch word ‘ponypletter’ (‘pony crusher’) and ‘ponyplet’ (to pony crush’) was coined by my source and could possibly be on the list for a Dutch word award despite its connotation.
The lab-produced meat we told you about earlier this year that made headlines in 2012 is now finally ready to be grilled. Professor Mark Post of Maastricht University is behind this project, which was first reported to cost about 250,000 euro, but has now been beefed up to 290,000.
A selected few will get to taste the test-tube meat made up of 3,000 layers at an event to be held in West London. Originally there was talk of letting English chef Heston Blumenthal, owner of the three-Michelin-starred restaurant The Fat Duck cook it up, which could still be the case.
The entire point of making fake meat is of course to feed more people by slaughtering less animals. Boffins believe that the stem cells from one cow can produce a million times more meat that just killing it and grilling it. Then again, you need to kill some more cows to get the stem cells, but that’s par for the course.
Getting the planet to change their eating habits while incessantly pushing junk food made of barely fit for human consumption pink slime is an epic fail. Using guilt, shame or other negative emotions to reach a positive outcome is the recipe for epic fails, and if I hear another bunch of moralistic ecological crazies come up with eating worms and insects outside of the context of peoples in the world who traditionally do such things, I might think violent thoughts. Therefore, it seems logical but not ideal to make fake meat to mirror what so many people eat in this day and age and that’s unfortunately meat-related junk food.
The company responsible for the Dutch rails, ProRail has got the green light to try and do something about the rabbit overpopulation at Amsterdam Sloterdijk station. Some of the rails resting on hills are slowly sinking due to the amount of rabbit holes dug by busy bunnies. The goal is to chase the rabbits out of their holes with ferrets and funny smelling products then plug the holes up.
I travel to Sloterdijk station several times a week by bus, and the sight of the cute brown and black little bunnies always cheers me up. I used to say to myself, if I saw three bunnies, it would bring good luck. Now I see at least 10-12 each time, which means it has to be a rabbit plague by now or I am the luckiest person in the world.
Back in 1999, I worked at a company near Sloterdijk station and could see the odd bunny hoping along a bike path, but I have seen the difference and the rabbits have clearly taken over the station area. I pointed out the rabbits once to a friend who said, “but that’s food!’, as in yes, we could hunt them and open up a wild game restaurant and feed lots of people.
I don’t think these gentle tactics are going to work, as rabbits are solid breeders. They really are cute, though, and I would say close to becoming an urban attraction.
A team of evolutionary biologists led by Leo Beukeboom is “well on the way to pinpointing [the gene that determines the male gender] in houseflies.”
According to the press release, the biologists are considering to use this knowledge for “developing ecofriendly methods of controlling this pestilential insect. The partner university in Göttingen, Germany has already bred sterile male specimens of the harmful Mediterranean fruit fly. Breeding sterile male houseflies may constitute an effective method for controlling these pathogenic insects in the future.”
Or, as the writer of the press release puts it in big, bold type, “evolutionary genetic research makes fly swatters superfluous”.
Maybe I don’t understand what they are saying and maybe they’re not saying it right, but it seems to me that disrupting an ecosystem is the exact opposite of ‘ecofriendly’. A fly swatter kills just the flies you can reach, and after half an hour of chasing flies through the house you might just consider doing a better cleaning job next time, but spraying pesticides or even eradicating an entire species (it is not clear to me what exactly the University of Groningen wants) seems to be a lot more invasive.
Dutch documentary filmmaker Henk Meeuwsen is looking for an assistant sound recordist (sign up through the link) to capture the sound of horse farts in the Oostvaardersplassen nature reserve, lodged in between the cities of Almere and Lelystad, Flevoland and home to the biggest herd of wild horses in all of Europe. You can see the horses and deers from the train when you travel from Amsterdam to Zwolle going North and it is indeed a beautiful sight.
Meeuwsen has managed to record horse farts, but unfortunately there has been either too much noise from passing trains and planes or from other nature sounds to be used in his latest nature film, due out this September. This job sounds like a fun challenge if ever there was one.
Much like the scary warnings on cigarette packs, this short film by Dutch director Louis van Zwol made for Mercy for Animals, an American non-profit animal rights organisation that promotes vegetarianism, probably won’t dissuade anyone from eating meat.
However, the idea of your junk food (they could have used a proper steak, no?) telling you their war stories is far fetched, but well made. In this case, a Dutch frikandel that apparently speaks British English and looks like they smoke two packs a day just doesn’t want to be eaten. To me it’s junk food nobody should eat anyways, not a decent cut of meat whose worthiness could be argued by an Argentinian. It would be like using fries to make a point, instead of a healthy salad.
I’ve recently started to eat less meat for sports reasons and the best way to get me to continue to do that is to give me nice recipes, restaurant tips and a tomato plant for my balcony this summer, not silly films aimed at waspy male students that can’t be bothered to feed themselves properly before going out binge drinking.
I challenge any filmmaker of these kinds of films to make a film without using gross and graphic pictures as a shock tactic. Would you dissuade girls from getting pregnant by using graphic footage of childbirth? I doubt it.
After owning a Ferrari, a Rolex and other gangster shizzle, the new thing to own if you’re an Eastern European gangster according to Dutch telly is an alpaca.
Stolen in the Netherlands and surely elsewhere by gangs of Eastern European criminals, alpacas go for anywhere between 200 and 20,000 euro. The caretaker of the alpacas in this Dutch video watches the nocturnal theft from his homes, afraid of being shot by armed gangs. “We just want them back,” says the elderly lady in the video who misses the animals.
Criminals or whatever, I do take offense to Dutch journalists use of the word ‘Oostblok’ (East Block) because in addition to it being a thing of the past, it stigmatises Eastern Europeans, many of which are EU citizens.