Website Notice

This is a rather brief notification regarding matters that have come to pass in the last 24 hours.

It has come to my attention that a blogpost I wrote in July 2007 has become the attention of a certain individual who has led a crusade against me in an attempt to deny both my freedom of speech and others who posted comments on the subject.

This has included writing e-mails to a variety of people within the Labour Party (which I must point out here does and has never had any affiliation to this website as it is purely my own so he shouldn’t have) and the domain name registrar for this site.

At no point in this process did he ever contact me directly about his complaint by doing the most obvious thing and clicking the prominent link at the top of this website which says ‘contact’ so that we could discuss the matter further off record if he so wished to do.

Instead he has used a number of proxy methods to bully me into removing a blogpost from my site.

I will further add that I have not removed the content because I accept his complaint, but because I have worked straight for the last 8 months and am currently having my first break away in Germany in which I wish the order of the day to be enjoying family time with my two small children and relaxing, not dealing with threats of legal action that I know would not stand up to any legal scrutiny in a court of law.

I might also add that this matter has caused both myself and my wife considerable distress on a day (yesterday) which as anyone who has ever traveled by plane with two small children can attest to, yesterday was a truly miserable day.

I will be returning to this matter in due course to lay out exactly what went on and to present the facts publicly to an audience who can then, in the true spirit of discourse on the Internet, not resort to behind the scenes attempts to stifle criticism or control others but for now, I have a holiday and family to enjoy spending my downtime with.

In the mean time, this is a thoroughly good read.

Antichrist – Film Review

antichrist-imageAs I’m finally getting away from things, relaxing as I am in a bit of Europe in the flatlands that constitute that stretch of countryside where Germany meets Poland; I’m getting down to a few things that I haven’t been able to in the last few weeks. One of which is a little review of a film I caught just before leaving the rain-swept island of Blighty.

I popped up to the Lighthouse cinema in Wolverhampton to catch the first screening of the Lars Von Trier film; Antichrist.

I’d caught a preview of it a few weeks earlier and thought it looked interesting but I’m not really one for the cinema, although that might be changing. Even with that, I hadn’t specifically intended to go and see the film until I read this rather idiotic film review in the Daily Mail (interesting to note all the highly critical comments have been deleted – do love our wonderful open free press in this country) which was nicely taken apart over at Mailwatch.

Spurred on by the outrage at a film he’d not bothered to watch and making false claims about an institution he clearly hadn’t done any research on I thought it my moral duty to actually go along and see the film for myself because, well I’m an adult and I can quite happily make my own mind up about things without the help of reactionary moralising right-wing journalists who can’t do their job properly.

Now for those who haven’t read a film review by me in the past, here’s the layout. I do the first part which is pretty much what you’d expect in any review. I’m more prone to emphasis on things like cinematography, lighting, sound, music scores than actors performances. We all emphasise different things that we take away from films so just to let you know where my angle usually comes from.

After that there’ll be a nice bit of white space until I talk about other aspects of the film which will include elements of the plot and scenes that contain spoilers. You’ve been warned and there’ll be another warning later on so if you haven’t seen the film and don’t want to know various elements about it then you’ll have the opportunity not to scroll down any further.

The film centres around two main characters played by, Charlotte Gainsbourg and Willem Dafoe who while having sex, their young son accidentally falls to his death from their open apartment window.

Now at this point I’ll add that I didn’t at any point in the film catch the characters calling each other by their name which I could just have forgotten or not noticed but for the sake of this review, we’ll just refer to them as he/she as there are practically no other characters in the film, save for their son and various other representations of other humans here and there.

She appears to take the death of her son very badly, blaming herself and to all intents and purposes suffers a breakdown in which she is hospitalised and put on various medication. He (although it appears not a clinical psychiatrist, probably a psychologist) gets her checked out of the hospital to try and treat her himself.

At first this centres around their apartment but upon learning aspects of her troubles it moves on to a forest retreat/cabin called Eden where he tries to get her to face up to her demons.

Once there, a whole load of weird and scary stuff happens.

The film is split into (from memory) five parts, a prologue, three chapters and an epilogue.

I’d like to mention specifically the prologue and to a lesser extent the epilogue which are shot completely differently to the rest of the film. Although concentrating on the prologue as I have to admit, I really didn’t understand the epilogue, they are some of the most beautiful pieces of cinematography I have seen in a very long time. They’re simply stunningly well done; slow motion in black & white with some amazing bits of focus work (which presumably are digital special effects given that I understand the film was shot in digital rather than celluloid).

The style changes for the chapter elements of the film, reverting to full colour but here I found one of only a small number of things I disliked about the film. Perhaps it’s just me, but I really don’t do the whole fly-on-the-wall shaky camera thing. I found it offsetting for probably the first 20 minutes of the film which is a shame because after that it settles down into a more regular filming style. I can understand it was used to specifically emphasise elements of the film but I’m just not a fan of it.

When the film moved into the woods stage I was a little apprehensive. I did get the feeling that it was going to go all Blairwitch on me as up to that point it was still doing the shaky camera work. I know a lot of people raved about how the Blairwitch Project was terribly scary but it bored me to tears although as someone who’s lived in a Nordic country with lots of forests, (or technically speaking, one bloody big forest) the first thing you learn is there’s nothing to be scared about in the woods, except possibly bears.

Thankfully it didn’t turn out like that and it settled down to be a nice little artistically done horror film with some scenes that would make you jump a bit or wince if you happen to be a male of the species. Parts to particularly look out for are the talking fox, what I’ll call the ‘realisation scene’ (more on that later) and the stunning bit of the lady walking across the bridge who I’m not sure who it’s supposed to be or represent but did look a bit like Björk.

The musical score to the film is very well down. Relying on classical music, particular reference must go to the score in the prologue and epilogue which is truly beautiful and if anyone knows what it is then please do tell me as I’d like to get it. In other sections of the film it’s there when its needed to be and conspicuous by its absence which adds a grittier and starker edge to the film when other horror films would roll out something to get the senses going.

On the cinematography front, although it’s done in digital, it doesn’t feel like it. Put simply, it’s probably the best bit of digital work I’ve seen with meticulous attention to detail especially with some of the forest sequences.

Over to the acting side, although admittedly it’s rarely the thing in a film I look for most, there’s some really good performances in particular Charlotte Gainsbourg and although I’m not particularly keen on Willem Dafoe he is also very strong.

So what’s all the fuss about?

I guess it’s obligatory to refer to the matter that this film’s stirred up the hairs on the back of the neck of a few critics and general right-wing moralising folk. The general criticism seems to be that it’s sick and has got a lot a scenes of people ‘doing it’ in it.

I’m a pretty liberal kind of guy when it comes to such matters and I’ve never quite understood that while depiction of full frontal female nudity doesn’t seem to be too much of a problem, the slight hint of a bloke with a stiffy gets people up in arms. I’m an adult male, I have two kids, I know what an erect penis looks like and short of a very small section of the entire global human population, so does everyone else.

The actual sex scenes in the film are very brief or fleeting clips and are certainly not erotic or arousing so I really don’t see what all the fuss is about. There are only two scenes in the film that could be considered a bit on the rough side, the female genital mutilation scene which lasts all of 1-2 seconds and the masturbating a penis that ejaculates blood scene of which the former if cut out would have left a slight ‘huh’ feeling in the subsequent scene and the latter I’ll mention a bit about later.

All in all, it’s a bit of a disjointed film that leaves you wondering about it at the end and doesn’t provide specific explanations (especially the epilogue) but I appreciate that as not every film should end all happy and concluded.

A couple of notes (some of which are sartorial):

If you have a problem with bad things happening to small children (like my missus) then this film probably isn’t for you.

The film gets extra special recommendations for inventive use of a grinding wheel in a horror film.

The couple have completely no idea of suitable clothing to go and spend time in the woods, I mean, come on, a full on winter coat in a wet close environment?

That bloody oak tree must have a hell of a lot of acorns on it.

A lot has been thrown at this film, the usual criticisms of it being potentially damaging to people that you get when anything mildly controversial pops up (not that in an enlightened world anything in it should be controversial). From a personal perspective I didn’t suddenly go all mentally twisted on emerging from the cinema but moreover felt a great protective emotion towards my children and a desire to double-check safety gates, windows and that my kids have their shoes on the right way round.

Further section below (contains spoilers – you have been warned)

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What you don’t get the impression of when watching the trailers to the film is that it’s a deeply psychological film at heart. Yes, it’s artistic, and definitely can be placed into the horror genre although only really for the last chapter of the film, must of the screenplay revolves around the psychological malaise of the female lead and her husband’s attempt at trying to find out what she is truly scared of most.

As the film progresses there’s a realisation that something’s not quite right about ‘her’. I’ll claim to be a bit of a smart arse here and say that I had my suspicions right after she claimed that the child could open the safety gate. Perhaps it’s being a parent of small kids myself but the first thing that sprung into my mind during the prologue is how the hell could you leave a safety gate unlocked, because it sure as hell looked unlocked to me. In addition to that, it would have to be a thoroughly rubbish safety gate as although my three year old know how to open our safety gate, he can’t because it requires a requisite amount of strength and physical manipulation that he doesn’t have yet.

We do of course learn that she had deliberately left the gate unlocked, presumably the window as well and witnessed her son fall to his death without reacting. She is in the truest form of the horror genre a bit of a psychopathic nutcase.

The ‘realisation scene’ I alluded to before is where this becomes clear, that the book/thesis she was working on at the cabin the year before had fundamentally twisted her mind and the study of the demonisation of women in history (which is the best way I can put it) internalised that belief on herself to the extent that she becomes a sadistic torturer of her son.

Whether the fears and pain that she portrays in parts of the film are real or part of a complicated act I’m not entirely sure but that true psychotic rage that appears towards the end of the film I haven’t witnessed since watching Switchblade Romance a few years back. (which is also a good film BTW, cracking bit of French horror – in the true slasher genre).

As far as horror gore goes, there are two particular scenes, one of which I’ve already mentioned that bring a pretty gruesome addition to any horror film. The first of which being where she (putting it as best as I can) seduces him into sex only to throw a bloody great log at his family jewels. Resulting in him being completely laid out (a scene that no man viewing would not wince at). Whereupon she proceeds to masturbate him till he ejaculates blood.

The second being immediately afterwards where she realises that eventually he will wake up and so needs to disable him somehow.

Most horror films would have found some handy chains, rope or gaffer tape to hand at this point but the film gets very ingenious. She instead finds a grinding wheel. Takes it out of its frame, drills a hole through his leg and bolts it on while helpfully throwing the wrench away. Yes, it’s gruesome but hideously inventive.

He of course does eventually get free and kills her which you kind of get the feeling is what she wanted him to do as she’d had ample opportunity to see he off and wouldn’t have bothered rescuing him.

All in all, it’s a good film. Beautifully done in parts, grittily gruesome in others. Worth seeing if you a generally into horror/psychological films. Possibly not suitable for people with closed minds or those who believe what they read in the Daily Mail.

Stroppy Animals

While I was on paternity leave from the blog a couple of weeks ago a lady called Dolores contacted me. She does graphic design and particularly favours politically stroppy animals, hence the penguin link.

She asked if she could send me some and I was more than happy to take a look. They’re good and deserve to be in the public domain so from time to time I’ll be posting up some of her work and hopefully she’ll be getting her own site in the not too distant future because work like this deserves to be out there.

There is a side note. Most readers will know my position regarding usage of graphical images on this site. As far as I’m normally concerned all images are free to use and distribute although accreditation and a link back is always appreciated and this remains the case unless otherwise stipulated.

In this case these images remain the sole property of Delores and she retains full copyright. Please respect this and if you wish to use these images for any other purpose then I’m more than happy to put you in touch with her so that you can discuss it.

Without further ado, I have to admit this one is my favourite. I don’t normally go down with profanity on this site but in this case I’ll make the exception because it is truly funny.

pramatic-penguin-wearing-scarf-to-keep-warm

Blog shutting down for a bit (probably)

That personal thing I mentioned.

Regular readers and friends will know that the Penguin household is expecting the pitter patter of little flippers in the near future. The second instance of this in our case and an arrival date being the hideously inconvenient date (for someone actively involved in politics) of May 1st (being polling day for this year’s local elections).

Pretty much everything was sorted, people who I know would be looking for my campaigning help had been informed that Mrs Penguin would kill me if I went out knocking doors on the day she was due to go into labour so that along with going to any counts had all been canceled.

Then last Thursday we went for what should have been our last scan and no going into details, there are a few problems. These have meant that some time in the very near future Mrs Penguin will have to spend some time in hospital along with the new arrival, I’ll have to take care of Little Penguin on my own for a week or two, or maybe longer alongside doing all the stuff that pays the bills and making daily visits to the hospital.

There’s a lot I’d like to write about, in particular how things are going with this whole Phorm thing but if anything, the last week has focused my mind on what’s truly important in life and much as I love it, this blog comes much lower in the order of priorities than other things right now.

I’m not off for good but if I don’t post anything after tonight for a month or so then you’ll know why.

Tata for now.

Note:

I’m actually going to post something tonight to try and clear up a few things I meant to do if I get the time, if not, well, see you all sometime in the future.

Randy lot them Black Country folk (contains profanity)

Possibly a better description might be desperate but just for some light amusement I was having a little wander through the stats to see how people are arriving at the site from particular search terms on Google and two from the last couple of hours stood out.

First up is:

“fuck partys in dudley”

Which thankfully I’m down at 11th place on Google, safely on the second page and:

“women in willenhall wanting to fuck someone at any age”

which is probably more alarming that I’m first on a Google search for such an eloquent use of wording.

The mind boggles sometimes.

Am I missing something?

At the risk of being labeled a miserable old sod, especially being critical of something where children are involved but I’m a bit perplexed by this little competition being run by the Express and Star, well known local purveyor of quality journalism.

It starts like this. It’s the 50 year anniversary of the creation of arguably the most enduring children’s toy; Lego. Something to be celebrated in my humble opinion having given endless hours of playtime to both myself and now my own son.

The good old Express and Star is running a competition to win some Lego and encouraging people to send in pictures of their ‘creations’. Note the word creation in there and also in the same article ‘unique’.

Now move on over to the actual pictures sent in but a quick look through any catalogue or the online Lego Shop will reveal that six out of the twelve pictures of ‘unique’ ‘creations’ are in fact, off the shelf sets that anyone could knock up.

It’s hard to be critical when kids are involved and indeed the other six pictures contain some really good original and ‘unique’ Lego models, personally I like the first one most in terms of creativity but that’s just my humble opinion.

I do hope the old Express and Star does a bit of homework before they award the prize. Could be a tad embarrassing awarding it to someone who’s built a straight out of the box with instructions model.

Coming out of hibernation

Blog’s been quiet for a few weeks. The culmination of being abroad with limited broadband access and suffering from a truly awful cough and cold that just wouldn’t shift hasn’t exactly put me in the right frame of mood for writing but barring lots of other increasing commitments, hopefully I can get some regular posting back up and running.

Regular readers will notice that the blog structure changed a bit before Christmas and the ‘recent comments’ section is still a bit screwy, as in the links to individual posts don’t work. There’s a bit of PHP scripting that needs sorting out which I’ll try to get round to when I have half an hour free.

New year’s are a good time for changes and fresh beginnings but pretty much this blog will carry on much as it has always done apart from one thing. I have a distinct desire to do more techie related posting. Partly impartial reviews of systems, software and hardware, but also as is evident the way in which technology affects and interrelates with both personal and public life.

Happy new year everyone.