We Should Have Stayed in That Cave

[[very mild spoilers season 1 and season 4]]

After much procrastination I finally am watching Game of Thrones. I tried watching the first episode way back when. I thought it was stupid and boring. Too many plot lines, too many characters, the costumes silly. I couldn’t keep anyone straight. So many dark haired men in leather armor! So many women in bad wigs and sumptuous gowns! Borrring.

Then my husband announced we have a temporarily free subscription to HBO, and with it HBO GO via roku. HBO! They have a lot of good documentaries! And indeed I watched a few, including one about a veterans’ suicide prevention helpline. Did you know a US military veteran or active serviceman kills himself at the rate of roughly one man per hour, every day? That’s more fatalities than the recent wars put together. Anyway it was very well done, very sad, but too short. I hate short documentaries. They always make me feel cheated.

But there is no dearth of Game of Thrones. Since I never watched it before I theoretically had six seasons to plow through. It was so stupid last time you watched it (I said to myself)! But maybe you would like it this time around (I also said to myself). After much inner deliberation I pressed PLAY.

I still thought that first episode was stupid, however, Tyrion (the amazing Peter Dinklage) snagged me in his dialogue with Jon Snow. All dwarves are bastards in their father’s eyes. Such nuance, gravitas and wry humor in one man! Peter Dinklage, as they say in The Station Agent, is THE MAN! So I kept watching.

I still thought it was silly, perverted, way too violent. Could you please spare me yet another chopped off head? SO much sex. Gay sex, hooker sex, sadist sex, incest sex, underaged sex, interracial sex, rape after rape. I’m no feminist but I shudder to think how women would fare if George RR Martin ruled the world.

Yet… somewhere mid season one I was hooked. It wasn’t just about Dinklage anymore. I was asking my son (a rabid GOT fan) questions. How did Tyrion meet Ser Bronn? Why exactly did Daenyrus kill the black guy? I was in tears over the kidnapped baby dragons, and further along wept as Jon Snow cradled a dying Ygritte in his arms. We should have stayed in that cave Jon Snow

So would I recommend this series to my gentle readers? Uh, not sure. It ain’t exactly family programming, though apparently every family on the planet has watched it. It is a brilliant story, or rather a series of brilliant stories within other brilliant stories, the characters are beautifully villainous and multifaceted, but somehow I’m left with the same feeling as having eaten a sicky sweet, overly rich slice of cake when the credits roll. Gird yer stomachs men, and forward march!

Pole Dancing is a Sport

I didn’t know either.  Apparently it’s taken very seriously in China.

Okay, I think I get it.  There’s the “pole” and the women are wrapping their legs and contorting around it. It’s like porn meet Cirque du Soleil.  What I really want to know is if those poles are sanitized after each routine, or maybe they’re coated with special germ resistant resins.

Skinny Women vs. Viagra

kissing stomach

In a groundbreaking discovery, researchers at the University of West Scotland have concluded that men are less likely to experience erectile issues when engaging with a woman with a thin waist.  699 Czech men were subjected to the International Index of Erectile Function questionnaire, and, not surprisingly, younger, fitter men, with younger, fitter partners had the most sex.

However, a slimmer waist in the female partner was associated with more frequent sex, and improved male satisfaction, even in older, less fit men with older (thin) partners.  This “waist effect” might have two causes, according to the lead researcher of the study: thinner women might have higher libidos and thus might be more enthusiastic bedroom compatriots, or, men might find svelte women arousing, and as a result are not hampered by performance issues.

Back in my message board addiction days, I once spied on a men-only message board where the members prated on about the sexiest body type in a woman.  Many posted pictures of their perfect 10, and I was surprised by how chunky some of these coveted women were.  Many had the Kardashian-type body of ample bosom, meaty hips, and yes, a proportionally smaller, but not necessarily thin, waist.  So I’ve always assumed it was that ratio thing at work, where men want a particular hip-to-waist ratio (I believe the magic number is 70%).

So I was a little surprised to see that a woman simply having a thin waist could do the job of viagra, since after all, a woman could in theory be obese, yet still maintain a waist to hip ratio of 70%.  Of course, this could be a chicken-egg situation where the men with the best sexual performance are, for whatever reason, attracting women with thin waists.  Or perhaps the men with the thin women are wealthier; as has already been established, women have more orgasms with wealthy men, than with poor slobs.

The Landscapes of Egon Schiele

Four Trees 1917

Egon Schiele (1890-1918– he succumbed to the Spanish Flu) is perhaps best known for his beautiful, if extremely creepy, erotic paintings and portraits, like this nude of a young girl (eek!).

Black-Haired-Nude-Girl-Standing-Egon-Schiele-1910
Black-Haired Nude Girl, Standing, 1910

Schiele’s portraiture tends to be both lyrical and grotesque; in this picture he paints his own arms and hands in place of the girl’s, or perhaps he is invisibly embracing her from behind while she remains armless.

Less well known are Schiele’s landscapes and panoramas, which in my view are even more beautiful and powerful than his portraiture.  His stylized, geometric approach is simultaneously jarring and soothing, abstract and exacting. The landscapes can roughly be divided into two categories: houses and trees, with a few maritime paintings, and there are also some still lifes of flowers.  He seems especially attracted to rippling water, painting the currents in a stylized manner that seems to jump off the canvas to the viewer.

Harbor of Trieste 1907
Harbor of Trieste, 1907

Mountain Torrent 1918
Mountain Torrent, 1918

The Mill 1916
The Mill, 1916

Trees Mirrored in a Pond 1907
Trees Mirrored in a Pond, 1907

Then on to the trees.  What to say of Schiele’s trees?  They stand like living entities in stark contrast on the canvas, looming ghosts staring down on humanity in judgement. There is more personality in Schiele’s trees, than exists in most people.

A Tree in Late Autumn 1911
A Tree in Late Autumn, 1911

Autumn Trees 1911
Autumn Trees, 1911

Little Tree (Chestnut Tree at Lake Constance) 1912
Little Tree (Chestnut Tree at Lake Constance) 1912

Four Trees 1917
Four Trees, 1917

Schiele’s paintings of buildings often look whimsical and child-like, as if they were composed of building blocks. He apparently had an affinity for clotheslines.

House on a River (Old House I) 1915
House on a River (Old House I) 1915

Single Houses 1915
Single Houses, 1915

House With Drying Laundry 1917
House With Drying Laundry, 1917

Sawmill 1913
Sawmill, 1913

Last but not least are his still lifes of flowers.  I don’t know if the sunflower paintings are a nod to Van Gogh, but again Schiele infuses nature with life and mania.

Sunflowers 1911
Sunflowers, 1911

I don’t know about you, but I’d much rather own a Schiele than a Van Gogh.  And in one of Schiele’s few cheery paintings, we find an army of bright flowers ready for battle.

Field of Flowers
Field of Flowers, 1910

So the next time you encounter one of Schiele’s x-rated paintings, call to mind these artfully understated landscapes, and know that his mind wasn’t always in the gutter.

Hefty Escorts Net $4 Million

A strange story out of Japan.  Police busted a prostitution ring that specialized in large ladies, one weighing in at 330 pounds.  The madame found a niche opportunity when, during her employ as an escort, she noticed a preference for larger girls.  The business brought in $4,000,000 over three years and 30 women.  I guess that’s not a huge sum when broken down by year and woman– it means each prostitute was earning about $44,000 a year.  Assuming some money was handed over to the madame, that’s not much money in exchange for entertaining demanding male customers.

Let’s break it down further.  Assuming each session cost $200 (I’ve heard hookers charge about the same as mid-tier attorneys) that’s 220 clients per year, or about 4 per week for each escort, and 120 a week for the service as a whole. There are roughly 13,000,000 people in tokyo.  Halving that for males (I’m not going to worry about age), somewhere around .002% of men, each week, were willing to pay for sex with overweight women.

What’s interesting, though, is the madame’s statement that heavier women were preferred in the mainstream prostitute industry. I once watched a documentary about Japanese prostitution, which oddly enough was about male prostitutes. The main clients for these male prostitutes were female prostitutes, some of whom grew so addicted to the services provided by the gigolos, that they were trapped in their own prostitution jobs to feed their addiction.  But I don’t remember seeing a single fat prostitute in that documentary, or even a single prostitute who wasn’t stick-thin.  So maybe these .0002% of guys just wanted something to grab onto.

Whore’s Glory

I’ve been reluctant to review this documentary because it is fairly raunchy (though you don’t discover this until 3/4 of the way through), and, I skipped quickly through the last 1/4, in part because it was raunchy, and in part because I was tired. Also playback on my laptop sucked so I may have missed critical information and details (for example, I have no clue why this is called “Whore’s Glory” as opposed to “Prostitutes Around the World”). Normally I watch something nicely streamed via Roku on the TV before I consider it officially watched.  But, I am afraid to rewatch this docu because I don’t want it showing up in the family “recently watched” list (again).

Austrian documentarian Michael Glawogger follows prostitutes from three parts of the world: Thailand, Bangladesh, and Mexico. He is cautious to show very little skin, or action as it were, during the first two sections. We often see clients led to bedrooms only to have the door close on the camera. I thought this was a very clever technique as it kept the shock value at a minimum, and the viewer’s experience remains primarily cerebral and sympathetic.

The Thai prostitutes sit patiently in a glass room where they are ogled by potential clients. While waiting, they chit chat, fix their hair, and complain about family life. Once selected, their number is called via a microphone and they exit the fishbowl (shown here).

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Occasionally the client haggles over price at the cash register, and off they go into the elevator together.

The Bangladesh prostitutes live in squalor and have what appear to be quasi-boyfriend-girlfriend relationships with their clients. One girl is shown chewing her “boyfriend” out on a cell phone because he hasn’t visited her recently. The women (the prostitutes and madams) hurl insults, browbeat, and degrade each other at every opportunity. If I ever were a prostitute I definitely wouldn’t want it to be in Bangladesh. As far as I could tell, they didn’t even have indoor plumbing, just open sewers where dirty water mixed with condoms is poured. Interestingly, the only act of violence shown in the film takes place here in Bangladesh, and it is committed by one woman against another.

Then we arrive in Mexico. Wow. A running theme throughout the film is 1) haggling over price and 2) if the price includes “everything.” “Everything,” as far as I could tell, means something very different for each part of the world. In fact the Bangladesh prostitutes made a point of refusing to “use their mouths.” But it was pretty clear that in Mexico, everything really does mean everything.

The Mexican prostitutes live in one room apartments, and when they are available for business  stand seductively in their doorway as potential clients cruise around in pickup trucks. The cameras start showing more at this point, including graphic nudity and sex acts. There is also a fascinating snippet of a Santa Muerte healing ceremony being performed on one of the prostitutes; apparently Santa Muerte is the patron saint of social outcasts and criminals.

All in all it was an excellent documentary. I’m not sure if the decision not to show graphic nudity until the end was intentional, or if the Mexican prostitutes were more willing to be filmed nude and performing sex acts, but it creates a satisfying arc to the film– though I feel it could have remained strong without the x-rated scenes.

I was surprised by how fastidious all the prostitutes were about condoms. We never really got to that point with the Thai prostitutes, but the ladies in Bangladesh and Mexico were scrupulous about using them with their clients.

Lilyhammer

“Lilyhammer” is a ridiculous but enjoyable show, produced by netflix.  It stars the gruff, slightly hunchbacked Steve Van Zandt as a NYC mobster who just can’t stop his mobster ways once relocated to Norway by the FBI.  Some of the Norwegian casts are fabulously dorky, quirky, and endearing, and the show is rife with dramedy-moments in the vein of Doc Martin.  However, this show is not safe for kids as it is peppered with R-bordering-on-X moments, including when Van Zandt describes to his girlfriend’s grade school son the great pleasure of performing certain acts on the female anatomy.

The Great Service

Back in my message board addiction days, I used to frequent a political message board where, one day, an Intolerant Conservative came along demanding to know what gay people have contributed to society other than the spread of AIDS and HIV.

I think it’s pretty obvious what gay people have contributed to society.

1) Lesbian porn.  Where would the world be without lesbian porn? Think of all the frustrated gentleman finding comfort in the glow of lesbian porn. In the documentary “Whore’s Glory,” a young Bangladeshian says were it not for prostitutes, men would be having sex with dogs. So I will leave it to your imaginations the great service lesbian porn brings to humanity.

2) Gay porn. While I don’t watch it myself, I have known more than one woman who confesses a secret enjoyment of the genre.

3) Pro-marriage beliefs. Gay people are pro-marriage, so much so that they have lobbied states the country over to pass laws recognizing gay marriage. Perhaps gay advocacy groups could organize bands of married gays to lecture in elementary schools on the importance of being married VS just living together. These same groups could target neighborhoods with high rates of single mother households, going door to door spreading the gospel of marriage, and its importance to social stability.

4) Kevin Spacey. If it takes a million more gay men to get one Kevin Spacey, God should get to work posthaste.

House of Cards 2

I finished watching all 13 episodes, though for the last 6 episodes I skipped over parts, as I’ll be watching them later with my husband, who is many episodes behind me (unlike me, he has a real job and can’t waste an entire day glued to netflix).  As stated before, Kevin Spacey is heaven-sent, inspired as the ever-scheming senator who wants to “eat the whale, one bite at a time.”

A few episodes were not as good as the rest; the episode where Senator Underwood visits his alma mater was a bit of a snoozer, and the plot line of Mrs. Underwood’s dangerous liaison nearly put me to sleep.  Are we seriously supposed to believe she’d choose some non-heterosexual-looking artist guy, over her devil-incarnate, Machiavellian husband, who could probably skewer artsy guy to the floor with half his brain tied behind his back?

A few moments, most of them sexual, were over the top and gratuitous.  In fact, I think the series could have toned down the sex scenes altogether and still have been as good, if not stronger.  As they say, less is more.

I found myself surprisingly emotional while watching it.  The Zoe character really struck a painful chord with me– she is a clone of the young women who surrounded me in college, obsessed with career and self betterment, relentlessly driven, and ever casual about sex.  Watching Senator Underwood quite literally screw and discard her at whim was painful to see, even though she seemingly emerges from it unscathed.

No offense to Mr. Spacey but I really didn’t enjoy watching him slobber all over her.  And I tend to like older guys.  There have long been rumors in hollywood that he’s gay, so perhaps that’s why I felt no real sexual chemistry between him and his much, much younger lover.

But he does ooze a sexuality of sorts, a magnetism, but it is not one of the flesh; it’s purely intellectual, cerebral in his ruthless plotting that is punctuated with an occasional, delicious spark of panic, when his machinations do not unfold as designed.

And let’s admit it, Spacey is not the best looking guy in the world, but he is beautiful on screen and eminently watchable.

house_of_cards2

A Stone’s Throw

When I decided to start a blog I swore to myself that I would not: 1) post zillions of pictures of my kids; 2) discuss politics other than tangentially; 3) let my ramblings go worse than PG-13.  However I feel obligated to mention that, while I didn’t know it, I just discovered I have been living a stone’s throw away from one of the largest adult video/ products distributors in the NY metro area.

Who knew what evil lurked in the hearts of men?