Category: Books, Movies, TV & Web

by Amy Tan


As I read The Joy Luck Club, I was reminded of what’s great about books, especially fiction. Here I am, a middle-aged white man living in 2019 America, suddenly immersed in the lives of Chinese women and their Chinese-American daughters, spanning most of the 20th century. It was a bit like snooping in a stranger’s medicine cabinet: Much of what you see there is fascinating; some of it is unfathomable.

Tan is very good at world-building. Open her book to any page and you are immediately absorbed by whatever she’s writing about. Vivid images and memorable metaphors abound. That’s the good news.

Yet if I’m honest … there are eight main characters in the story – four mothers and four daughters – and I often found them indistinguishable. The mothers all suffer hardships and learn valuable life lessons, which they attempt to pass on to their girls. The daughters are all more optimistic but also more foolish. At times I felt I was reading the same story four times over, just with different character names.

But Joy Luck seems relevant to me, some 30 years after its publication, in part because there is so much talk about China today, and it illustrates the gap between the Chinese way of seeing the world, and the American way. The Chinese – at least traditionally – seem to be all about fate and omens and what the West might consider superstition. They see America as a place of much opportunity, but too little wisdom and too much worship at the altar of money.


© 2010-2020 (text only)


A Young Man with High Potential


Is it just me who finds it off-putting when a perfectly good suspense-drama finds it necessary to include a 10-minute sequence of graphic gore? Young Man concerns a social nerd/computer genius (Adam Ild Rohweder) who falls for a sexy girl (Paulina Galazka), then lets things get out of control and winds up running from the law – a cliché plot, for sure, yet suspenseful and well acted. But when Crime and Punishment veers into Blood Feast, it loses me. Release: 2018  Grade: B-



© 2010-2020 (text only)


by David Foster Wallace


Wallace is the author of One of Those Novels I Mean to Read Someday — right after I finish re-reading Moby Dick and War and Peace. That book is called Infinite Jest, and I admit that its mammoth length is the main reason I haven’t yet tackled it.

In the meantime, I checked out Consider the Lobster, a collection of Wallace essays published in 2005. Wallace, who committed suicide in 2008, was a writer of infinite curiosity. He was highly intelligent but had a quality so often missing from the highly intelligent: humility.

Lobster contains Wallace’s observations on everything from a pornography convention in Las Vegas to the impact of September 11, 2001 on Middle Americans to, as the title implies, the boiling of lobsters.

All of it is interesting; all of it is engaging. My only complaint is Wallace’s love of the footnote (and footnotes within footnotes). At times it becomes distracting and tiresome.


© 2010-2020 (text only)


A Simple Favor

Anna Kendrick does A Simple Favor.  Big mistake.  


I was beginning to despair of ever again seeing anything clever and funny, i.e. entertaining, in a Hollywood “comic thriller.” But then I saw A Simple Favor, which has it all: clever script, fast-paced direction, and engaging characters. Anna Kendrick is perfectly cast as a Susie Homemaker with a video blog who gets drawn into a murder investigation when her new “best friend,” a glamorous mystery woman (Blake Lively), goes missing.

At times the plot does get a bit far-fetched. I gave that a pass because of the top-notch cast and a tongue-in-cheek tone that works.  Release: 2018  Grade: A-




Personal Shopper

Pretty much how I felt while watching this film


A Simple Favor is a female-centric movie for everyone. Personal Shopper is, alas, a female-centric movie for diehard fans of Kristen Stewart only.

Stewart plays a celebrity’s assistant in Paris who grieves for her recently deceased twin brother. And grieves. And grieves. The first hour of the movie was intolerable: Kristen mopes, Kristen strips, Kristen engages in endless, pointless text messaging with a mystery man who might be her brother’s ghost. No, thank you. Release: 2017  Grade: D


© 2010-2020 (text only)




June is a short month. That’s my excuse for not finding a movie that interested me enough to warrant a typical two-paragraph review in short.

I tried, but there is such a sea of mediocrity out there in Streaming Land that … sigh. I can barely muster the enthusiasm to write a sentence or two about the films I did watch, much less an entire paragraph. To wit:


The Wolf’s Call (2019) – France tries to do a Tom Cruise action flick without Tom Cruise or much action. Not a great idea, France.  Grade: C


The Isle (2019) – Plenty of atmosphere in this period piece about ghostly possession. Howling winds, candlelit cabins, and gorgeous outdoor scenery – but nothing remotely scary.  Grade: C-


Murder Mystery (2019) – Adam Sandler and Jennifer Aniston mingle with the beautiful people and try to find a killer. Sadly, Sandler and Aniston are no Nick and Nora Charles.  Grade: D


© 2010-2020 (text only)


What are these ladies looking at?



One peculiar byproduct of the Internet/cell phone age: The flasher who films women who are filming him as he flashes them.  Follow that?

There is an anonymous flasher, apparently in Spain or some nearby country, who is a master at his “craft.” He boards a bus or subway train, clad in loose shorts with no underwear, and then sits spread-legged on a bench. Eventually, some comely girl or a group of them will sit across from him on a facing bench. Concealed somewhere on his person – evidently near his crotch – is a small video camera.

We all know how observant females are, particularly when it comes to others’ dress (or lack thereof), so it’s not surprising that in no time at all these bench-seated ladies notice our friend the flasher and the fact that his willie is on display. (In most of the videos, the guy furnishes a glimpse of his exposed noodle before panning back to whichever woman happens to be sitting across from him.)

Very soon after spotting his (rather small) appendage, the ladies invariably – probably 90 percent of them do this – train their phone-cameras on his penis to capture a souvenir. It’s all very bizarre.

We asked Rip van Dinkle to comment on this phenomenon via the screen captures below. Rip certainly knows what it’s like to have his penis laughed at (and filmed) by women who are strangers to him – hundreds of thousands of them, in fact. Possibly millions, thanks to numerous Web sites. That’s Rip serving wine to three sexy babes in the picture below.



We’ve also published the videos. Most of them come from the same source, an exhibitionist who goes by the name “pierced dick flasher,” or something like that. We call him the “Flasher King” (FK). 

Most of the videos — but not all of them — have sound.




Says Rip: “Notice how the women all seem to feel entitled to trophy photos of the guy’s private parts? You just know these women would be outraged if some dude captured an upskirt and then shared the picture with his buddies.

“Also, as guys we are admonished never, ever to send unsolicited dick pics. It’s OK, though, for girls to take unsolicited dick pics. Can you say ‘double standard’? It’s all about power and control, baby.” 


See the ugly bare knee at far left? It belongs to our hero, the Flasher King. His camera is concealed somewhere very near to his (exposed) crotch, and is trained on the lassies seated across from him. Girl on the left has just noticed FK’s dick and is sharing her discovery with the girl to her left.

The girl in the middle has a none-too-subtle peek.

Now all three of them are in the know. They seem to be looking directly into the camera, which makes me admire how FK has cleverly concealed it. It must be quite small — the camera, that is, although FK, as you can see below, is also quite small.

Hmmm … now that the girls have this information, what will they do with it?

Chick on the right is first to come up with the brilliant idea: film it with her phone’s camera, of course.

Such fun!

Girl in the middle: “Hey, I have a camera, too!”

The cutie on the left is delighted that her discovery has led to this.

Girl on the left: “Hey, I want a souvenir too.”

“There’s his little weenie.”

The giggling is over. Capturing this guy’s cock has become serious business.

Everyone gets a trophy!

The girl in the middle is quite pleased with her work.

Let’s compare notes.

These will be such fun to share! Not with their boyfriends, of course, but with other girlfriends.

OK, now that we’ve documented the evidence, let’s have another look at him.

Brunette on the left has a look at FK’s face. Evidently he’s quite good at hiding what he’s really up to. Is he pretending to sleep? Or is he watching his concealed camera’s work on his own cell phone? Either way, it’s a successful strategy.

Near the end of his videos, FK likes to either a) capture another angle of the girls, or b) capture a close-up view of their butts and/or legs.


The video:




The cute girl below is a nice example of an interesting phenomenon: When the ladies are in groups, their reaction to FK and his package is generally (in this order) shock/surprise, shared glee at the discovery, and then the serious business of filmed documentation.

On the other hand, when alone, like the girl below, stage two (glee) is either missing or disguised. In fact, this cutie seems downright horny.

The initial discovery.

Try as she might, she simply cannot stop looking.

We see this technique a lot: scratch your head or pretend to study your arm/hand, all the while sneaking more peeks.

She has nice legs.

“Is anyone else seeing this? Or do I have the view to myself?”

“Whew — this is making me hot.”

“If I slide back and down a bit, I can get a better view.”

“His cock is pierced.”

This caption was evidently inserted by FK himself. If he was indeed erect, it might explain the lustful look in the girl’s eyes.


The video:





The girl on the left below has an interesting reaction. At first, she resembles an archaeologist observing an intriguing find. But look at the girl on the right — is she completely oblivious, or is she busy filming?

I think she’s busy filming. The giveaway is her smirk a few screen captures below.

Girl on the left doesn’t seem worried about getting caught staring. Makes me think FK is doing his sleeping and/or phone-screen-study routine.

“Ooohhh … I have a camera too!”

As sexual kinks go, this one seems pretty clearly a win win win. The girls get what they want, FK gets what he wants, and we get to see the whole thing.

Girl on the right seems unimpressed. Probably because she’s been busy capturing the same view.

Girl on the left is quite pleased with herself, seems to be thinking: “Look at that stupid guy; he has no idea I just filmed his little pecker!”

Now that she has him on film, time to study his manhood a bit more.

Isn’t this fun?

Wait … she’s not making the “small penis” sign, is she?

“Hmmm … wonder what that little thing would feel like.”


The video:





Girl on the right has a secret to share.

Once again, looking straight into the camera. How does he conceal it?

Girl on the left has suddenly gotten happy.

“I see London, I see France, he ain’t got no underpants.”

The hand/arm/scratching routine begins.

To my mind, this hand/arm business makes your peeking more conspicuous, not less.

Enjoying the view.

Sure, nothing obvious about what you’re doing.


The video:





The brunette on the right below is very into this situation. What would she think, one wonders, if some creepy dude was following her around taking upskirts?

Telling her friend. Friend’s initial disbelief.

“You’re right … I can see it.”

Camera time!

Wonder if it has a zoom lens. Somewhere out there, there exists footage of FK’s face. There must be, with this many girls filming him.


We can both do this, swap videos later.

Girl on the right wants to see FK’s face.

Brunette on the right, satisfied that FK is clueless, studies his junk.

Ladies at leisure.

“That’s a good one.”

Girl on right gets up to get another angle. FK takes the opportunity to nearly nab an upskirt.

Not sure if she’s hoping to get another view of his package or of his face.

Hands to the face, the sneaky photographer.

Pretty brazen here. Makes me think his eyes might be closed.

Looks like she got what she wanted.


The video:





Here’s another sociological experiment. It’s all fun and games when there are two girls, but as soon as the girl on the left is alone, capturing FK’s cock becomes serious business. *

“Is that what I think it is?”

Girl on the right is clueless.

Dark-haired girl simply must share this information.

Girl on right has to leave. FK has to film her butt.

Alone now. Time to get serious.

“Ahh yes, there it is.”

“Oh, I got him good!”


The video:


* My bad. Upon re-viewing the video, the brunette is not left alone. Her friend stands up to pose for a (ruse?) photo – apparently providing cover for a surreptitious shot of FK.




Something about these long-haired brunettes. It’s almost as if they have prepared for and expected this moment their entire lives, and are more than ready to document the event once it finally happens.

Girl on left is first to make the discovery.

Girl on the right frightens me. Scary looking.

Camera in the purse …

Seems like she might have done this before.

Girl on left has another look.

Scary girl on right shows she is capable of smiling.

Good shot!

FK nails some legs.


The video:





OK, this is not FK’s work. It’s some other dude, and it might be staged. I’m not convinced that the two girls in the background would react this way to a man who is so brazenly stroking his cock just a few feet away. Then again, perhaps some girls would. You be the judge.

Girl on the left does not appear to be filming him; her camera’s at the wrong angle.

Blondie on the right is a cutie, but is she really a stranger to the flasher?

Filming him now.

I don’t know. Her facial expressions seem genuine.

Girl on left appears to capture some footage on her way out.

We’ve edited the ending of the video below because it’s gross. Let’s just say he has a happy ending.


The video:





The girl at far left interests me. Although she could be filming FK in the screen capture above, mostly she seems much less intrigued by the flasher than are the other girls.

Open-mouthed lass learns about the wayward penis from girl in white.

Girl in white gets busy filming.

Chick on far left is told the big news, seems only mildly interested.

She gets up to leave and FK nails an upskirt. Are those black granny panties?

Serious peeking.


The video:





They just planned to go shopping. Did not expect this.

Gotta love those cell phone cameras.


The video:





Brunette second from left is first to spot the penis. Girl at far left maintains her composure until she can no longer maintain her composure.

The peeking-beneath-my-arm tactic.

Girl at far right has apparently never seen a grown man’s penis. Or a pierced one.

Blonde at far left can no longer contain it.

FK captures the brunette’s ass.


The video:





Reserved Asian girl. Will she betray her true feelings?


Still filming.

I see a smirk!

The satisfied look of a job accomplished.


The video (at about 2:40):





This is the second video on this page that I feel might be staged. Everything is too perfect. Again, this is not an FK video.

Supposedly, this girl eventually spots the guy’s camera. She then gets pissed off. Maybe so. Maybe not.

Very high quality capture … if it is for real.

Scrunch face.

Girl on the right seems oblivious.

The look of triumph.

Actually, since there are two girls in this video, it’s a bit less likely to be staged.

This is where she allegedly spots his camera.


The video:





FK has found another extremely attractive girl. She has found his penis.

Must film it.

Another near-upskirt when she leaves.


The video:





This chick was about to fall asleep when she looked between FK’s legs.

She’s awake now.

Anyone else seeing this?

Must examine his dick … small.

Check out his face.

Second look.


The video (see video above for “Reserved Asian Girl,” at about 3:45)







Geez, wonder how many hours FK spent on the train or subway or whatever. He certainly filmed lots of ladies. And lots of ladies certainly filmed him. Not these two, however.




Soccer moms spot something to brighten their day.




Thinks she’s pretty sneaky. Thinks she’ll film his cock.


The video (see video above for “extremely attractive” girl, at about :40)




The girl on the right enjoys the show. Not sure if the feminist on the left agrees.

Feminist on left: “Typical stupid male. Doesn’t even realize his sex organs are on display.”




Don’t have a clue what she’s thinking. But she has mastered “the stare.”


The video (see video above for “extremely attractive” girl, at about 3 minutes)




Female on the left looks angry about something. But FK’s prick cheers her up. Maybe. Hard to tell.

Chick on the right gets the perfect angle. Does her camera have a zoom?

They have a job to do.

Girl on right admires her work.




She is alone, so this will be all business.




She looks like a Women’s Studies professor. Perhaps she is. Doing research for class.




If she’d turn just a bit, FK could film her junk while she films his.


The video:





If she just leans forward a bit, can get a better view …




Over the years, we’ve all heard a lot about the “male gaze.” We’ve also been told that men, in general, are more visually oriented than are women.

But watching these subway videos makes me wonder. What you see in this post is an awful lot of “gazing” – and photographing – for a gender that’s supposedly not into looking at naked men.



The video:





Last but by no means least, two girls on a bus. This guy, like FK, provides a quick glimpse of his junk so that we know what the girls are looking at.


Nothing to see yet. Just a boring bus ride.

They’ve seen it.

Camera time.

Would they smile like that if he was hung like a horse? Or would they be awestruck? We’ll never know.

Blonde decides to hide behind her cup while she films. Very clever.

Mission accomplished. One more look as they get off the bus.


The face of a girl who is looking at your cock.


The video:





The Face of a Girl Who Is Examining Your Cock When She Thinks You Aren’t Looking






And finally, just in case you have neither the time nor the inclination to watch all of the videos above, someone has created a nifty little compilation video. Here it is:




© 2010-2020 (text only)


by Bill Bryson


Bryson is a genial fellow, and very few writers do gentle humor better than he does, but this short biography (barely 200 pages) is really just an intro to The Bard.

What’s notable isn’t what we learn about Shakespeare, but how little we learn about Shakespeare. There simply isn’t much in the historical record, and what there is, is often incomplete or vague. Not Bryson’s fault, of course. He obviously loves Shakespeare and that feeling is contagious.

Even so, this is less a book about the great writer and more a picture of what life was like in England 400 years ago.  My advice: If you’re really into Shakespeare, find a more substantial book. And if you’re really into Bryson, he has better (and longer) works out there.


© 2010-2020 (text only)


The Perfection


Some movies seem to revel in insulting the audience’s intelligence. Moviegoers enjoy twists, so The Perfection doles out twist after twist – never mind that each one is more nonsensical than the last. Audiences also like sexy movie stars, so The Perfection includes a gratuitous lesbian sex scene between stars Allison Williams and Logan Browning. Last but not least, modern movie fans apparently can’t get enough gore and so – you guessed it – this movie has it in spades. Are we happy yet?

Williams and Browning play star cellists who encounter a terrifying virus while on a trip to Shanghai—or so it seems.  So far, so good; the movie looked great and there was genuine tension. But then the far-fetched twists began, so that by the end of the story The Perfection was anything but.  Release: 2019  Grade: D+


Logan Browning’s ass is the only thing approaching “perfection”


© 2010-2020 (text only)


We get a lot of review requests along with links to private “screeners.” Mostly, these are low-budget movies so dreadful that they don’t even appear on Netflix or Amazon Prime – yet.  They have titles like Luciferina and The Haunting of Mia Moss and, in this case, Blood Paradise.

Often the movies are unfinished: The soundtrack might not match the video, the credits have yet to be added, that sort of thing. But occasionally these films have a certain rustic charm; the spirit of Ed Wood living on.


Blood Paradise



Imagine you’re a Swedish actress. Your director-husband looks like a Greek god, and you resemble a younger version of Melania Trump (you are both former models). But you don’t have a lot of cash at your disposal. What do you do for work?

If you’re statuesque beauty Andrea Winter, you make a low-budget horror-comedy on the family farm in north Sweden. And you recruit your non-actor parents and brother to play pivotal roles. Oh, and you produce, co-write, score, edit and star in it.

We’re going to do something a bit unusual here. We’re going to write not one, but two reviews; one of Blood Paradise itself, and one of the film’s main attraction: Andrea Winter Wahlgren.


The Movie



Novelist Robin Richards has writer’s block and decides that a change of scenery might be the fix she needs. So she moves into a farmhouse in rural Sweden. There is just one problem: The locals are a peculiar lot. Very peculiar, including a poker-faced farmer (Winter’s real-life father) who makes mysterious trips into a nearby outbuilding; her “biggest fan,” an odd-looking fellow who sidelines as a Peeping Tom; and a gruff neighbor who enjoys playing with guns (Winter’s real-life brother).

When Robin’s boyfriend (Patrick von Barkenberg) shows up on the farm, things take a nasty turn.

The premise of Blood Paradise isn’t bad. At first, I was reminded of Kathleen Turner in Romancing the Stone: a female novelist moves to the country and fish-out-of-water hijinks ensue. But the comedy part of Blood Paradise is, unfortunately, dropped pretty quickly, and the horror that remains is fairly pedestrian stuff.

You’ve seen this story before. The phones don’t work. The locals are more odd than ominous.

But the farmstead is attractive, and so is …


The Farmer’s Daughter



By now, it’s become something of a cliché: A European actor will do extensive nudity, American audiences will be (a bit) shocked by said nudity, and the actor will state that, where she (usually a she) comes from, nudity is commonplace and “natural.”

Why is something considered so natural in parts of Europe thought of as more sexual — and naughty — across the pond? Is it a hangover from the prudish Puritans? Or are the Europeans bullshitting us?

In the YouTube clip below, Andrea answers a fan’s question about the nudity in Blood Paradise:



Either way, it’s not your everyday movie in which a fetching daughter scampers about in the buff in scenes with her real-life male relatives.

The Grouch did the following e-mail interview with Winter:



The Grouch:  Thanks for doing this interview. At the beginning of Blood Paradise, I wasn’t quite sure what to expect – would it be mostly comedy, mostly horror, or a mix of the two? I thought the story might be influenced by, say, Romancing the Stone, in which an attractive novelist with writer’s block travels to some far-flung location and winds up in a wild, comedic adventure. But by the end of your movie, it was quite clearly more in line with movies like Psycho or The Texas Chainsaw Massacre. What was your intent in making this movie?

Andrea Winter:  Our intent was to make a movie that was both fun and scary but in an artistic way. I see a lot of new independent horror films that have a lot of comedy and they’re really scary, but I don’t see many that are artistic. I didn’t just want to make another horror film just to make one. I consider myself as much of an artist as a filmmaker and it was important to me that our movie was as beautiful as it was scary. I also consider myself a vintage horror snob and we were very inspired by old horror films. Maybe that’s why our film turned out the way it did.

Grouch:  I watched an interview with you and the film’s director, which was quite illuminating. What was it like working with family members? Did they inhibit your work in any way? Also, what was their (family members) reaction to the finished product?

Winter:  It was truly fantastic working with my family members. They were so professional and sometimes I actually forgot they were my family members. I’ve always wanted to put them in a movie. They’re all such natural born actors. Our dinner parties are quite interesting. It’s incredible. I believe (and hope) they are proud of the movie. Of course I don’t think they have much of a choice but to tell me that they like it, since we’re family.

Grouch:  It seems to be inherent to movies like this – in the horror genre – that sex or nudity is part of the formula. But it’s unusual, I think, for the lead actress doing the nude scenes, in this case you, to also be the producer, co-writer, co-editor, music, etc. Was it difficult being “the boss” and then taking your clothes off in front of cast and crew?

Winter:  I made fun of it a lot. I mean, it probably sounds like a nightmare, trying to run a production naked, right? But it wasn’t that weird, believe it or not. In Sweden nudity is quite normal and the director and the cinematographer are both German. I see completely naked people sunbathing in the parks in Berlin like it’s no big deal all the time. In Germany men and women go to the sauna in the gyms together, completely naked. It’s the north European way I guess.

Grouch:  What has been the general reaction to your movie? Also, what’s next for you?

Winter:  From what I’ve read and heard I feel like people either love or hate our movie. I guess some people don’t get it. I understand and respect that. We made this movie exactly how we wanted to make it. It’s not supposed to be taken that seriously, we want people to laugh and have a good time. Every time someone tells me that they like the film, or when I hear audiences laugh at certain parts of the film it’s all worth it.

Me and the director, Patrick von Barkenberg, are developing two new projects right now. One is a TV-show that we have been working on for a very long time. We are hoping to make it in the UK, but we’ll see what the response is. The other one is an independent movie that we are planning on filming in Northern Italy if everything works out. I’m very excited about both of them.


At this point, the reader has probably made up his or her mind about whether or not to watch Blood Paradise. Possibly, you are like our contributor Rip van Dinkle and are most intrigued by Andrea’s nude scenes. She was kind enough to drop a “hello” to Rip in the comments section of his “Playboy Interview”:



In turn, we asked Rip to write captions for the sexy screen captures below. Rip, we should add, is not exactly politically correct.




Rip: “This is the first nude scene. Like all of us, Andrea enjoys some quiet time in the tub. Unlike most of us, she’s worth watching.”



Rip: “The dude above is Andrea’s real-life partner. You might be looking at him sniffing her foot, but I’m looking at some pussy hair. Then again, I’m a dirty old man.”



Rip: “The guy above is Andrea’s real-life brother, watching his sister scamper naked in a field. I wonder if he got a boner. I’m sorry, but if that was my sister, I would still get a boner. I wonder if she wondered if he got a boner.”



Rip: “Andrea told an interviewer that the scene above was shot at dusk, and that mosquitoes were biting her everywhere. Apparently, even the bugs wanted a piece of ass.”



Rip: “Gee, I wonder what the guy above is peeking at. Could it be Andrea’s perfect butt cheeks?”



We end with this intriguing YouTube clip from the same appearance referenced above, in which von Barkenberg hints that the DVD (tentatively scheduled for release in July) might be even more revealing than the theatrical cut:



© 2010-2020 (text only)



The Meg


Popcorn movies like The Meg, in which a giant shark terrorizes people at an ocean research facility, used to be a lot more fun. Those older movies were also silly, of course, but they had a sort of careless charm. I’m thinking of flicks like Deep Blue Sea. These days, popcorn movies seem weighed down by conscientiousness. Does The Meg have a diverse cast? Check. Does it have Chinese stars to please the all-important Asian market? Check. Are there pricey special effects? You got it.

Sadly, last on the filmmaking checklist is any sense of originality or creativity. Instead, we get borrowed bits and pieces of superior movies, like Jaws and The Abyss and yes, even Deep Blue Sea. The good news? If your brain needs a rest, you needn’t bother following The Meg’s plot, because you’ve seen it all before. Release: 2018 Grade: C-


© 2010-2020 (text only)