Faceless Voice

May 4th, 2011

Faceless Voice
Usually I review toys but sometimes I receive some information about other things that sort of strike me fancy and I agree to review them. Such is the case with Faceless Voice, a website that supplies erotica audio as opposed to porn. It seemed an interesting concept and we all know that pornographers are always ahead of the tech curve. The developers game me a sample of the goods so I can provide you with a review.

Let me start by saying a bit about the design. Faceless Voice is easy enough to navigate but it feels a little web 1.0, that it to say, outdated. It lacks the touch of a processional design and, as such, some folks might not feel comfortable spending money there. I’m also a little confused by the distinction between males and females. When you click these links on the splash page, it simply changes the template from light, white and pink (for females) to black and red (for males). I don’t think this really adds anything to the visual appeal of the website.

The main page includes featured bog posts and stories. The featured stories seem to include a free download teaser and new releases. The site is arranged so that each story gets a “cover” image, much like if you were browsing actual porn. Like the website, the design on the covers could use a bit of finessing but this doesn’t detract from usage. As you click around on the covers, you will get a brief description of the stories. To me, this is pretty imperative to aid in your finding the right story. You can also sample each story with an on-screen audio button, another plus.

The developers have provided each story as told by a man–Duane Dale–and a woman–Lucy Blue. I do like this because some people may prefer a different narrator and it helps to mix things up if you frequently listen to the stories. One thing I noticed lacking on the individual story pages was a price listing. This shows on the bottom of every page and there’s an interesting scheme. Individual stories cost $3.99 but the price per story drops as you add more to your cart. So it’s definitely better to buy in bulk and cheaper than most porn anyway. Considering as you get unlimited use out of the stories, I’d say you could do worse.

Although I was offered a free sample, I took a look at the checkout page. I noticed there’s no sort of backing from Verisign. Again, consumers like to see these things so they know that their money and CC information is in safe hands. Perhaps a PayPal option might make some feel safer.

Once you’ve purchased your audio books, you will be able to download them as MP3 format. This enables you to listen to them on your computer, MP3 player or phone. Most everyone knows how to deal with a straight up MP3 file so this is a point in their favor. Most of the files are between 10 and 15 minutes long so download time takes only a little longer than if you were downloading a song.

Faceless Voice doesn’t have the largest selection but it has a few dozen titles right now. The biggest concern you may have is whether or not you will like the stories. Unfortunately, there’s always going to be a percentage of luck when looking for porn or erotic stories or audio books that meet your fancy. I listened to a few and none of them really got the juices flowing. I’m not patient enough to listen to every sample but the biggest issue I noticed was that I simply didn’t think the writing was all the interesting or erotic. Lucy especially has a great story telling voice that is quite sultry but even that can’t save a poor story. Although there is a list of authors, there’s no extra information so I don’t know if these guys are amateurs or professionals or a mix of both. Authors can submit their work for a 20% royalty so I suspect some of the authors are just getting started. It’s pretty cool that you can submit that way, however.

One interesting aspect of the website is your ability to select how hardcore you want your audio books to be with the “good” “bad” and “naughty” girl links beneath the header. I like the idea but I’m not sure it’s done very well. The site’s theme changes depending on which level you’re on but I didn’t notice this at first. I was simply confused by the changes. In addition to this, the “bad” girl setting is kind of an odd olive yellow/green that’s pretty unattractive. Rather than a theme setting, I’d simply like to see some text on the audio book page with a hardcoreness rating. I do like the option, however. It helps steer you toward the ideal story. Some tags or categories based on sexual activities, settings, characters and story elements would also be nice.

Faceless Voice is definitely a unique concept and I think it has a lot of potential. A more commercial layout would probably help with branding and probably attract advertisers, too. It just feels a little “home grown” right now. The content and organization works fairly well as is. Perhaps the company should work on contacting new authors to spread the buzz. It seems like Faceless Voice is pretty new so it will be interesting to see how it develops.

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SexToy.com Video on Demand

April 24th, 2010

I do not watch a lot of porn. Nor do I watch it for long periods of time when I do enjoy it. For this reason, video on demand services seem really appealing. I like the idea of being able to pay by the minute. I decided to give Sextoy.com’s service a shot.

When I first logged in, I immediately recognized the software as the same program which powers another VOD site I’ve used. This means I was already familiar with the site but it does make it a bit less.. unique than other sites. It’s similar to my last affiliate program review; I can’t knock a service because they use popular software but it doesn’t help with branding.

I’m going to be honest here and say there are almost too many options. So I’ll highlight a few of the good points for you.

Account Center
When you’re logged in, your account info including remaining minutes and link to your favorites and saved items is displayed on the top left.
Search Options
You can search by title or actor
Recent Additions
The right sidebar shows the most recent additions.
Video Preferences
You can specify your preference for gay or straight films
Language Settings
There are multiple language settings

There are a lot of films already displayed on the front page which gives people who are not so familiar with porn–like me–an idea of what they might like. If i want to see the most popular stars or films (even by category), I can. There are pages which divide the title by category, studio, star and more. There’s even a glossary to explain what terms mean and to direct you to the type of films you’d like best.

And when you click any specific film, you’re given a lot of useful information including stars, run time and description. Many (maybe all) listings have a scene directory with screencaps so you can browse in individual scene, if you’d like. There is a tab with extensive cast information and viewers can choose the quality of their streaming video (Low,Medium, High, Ultra and Mega); although only certain titles are available in all qualities.

But I have a few gripes, too, and most of them are not so easy to list.

My biggest complaint is that there is simply too damned much going on. I don’t know how much this software can be customized but there are so many options that is can really be intimidating. It is to me even though I have used it before. The front page has dozens of links and images and it’s almost to the point of being offensive. I wish there were a streamlined version with less suggestions. This would be much more helpful to me.

The focus is on films which tend to be the type that can be summed up as this “Adjective Body-Part Pt #.” You know, all those series that just seem a little tacky. And those are great for some people but it takes a little more time and patience to find more quality films, IMO. I did find some which might be a little more up the porn snob’s alley. Tristan Taormino films as well as some by Candida Royalle. The more time I spent looking, the easier it was to find some movies that at least looked interesting, to save for later.

The video player itself leaves something to be desired. It’s functional but not intuitive. Video plays in a pop up and there is a flash player which looks something like WMP. Of course, since it’s streaming, it takes some time to load. You can skip ahead but it’ll need time to buffer as well. If you prefer you can actually watch the film in WMP, which might be a better idea. I find the player to be a bit frustrating in Firefox. It’s not fully supported so I can’t click the link to view all the scenes. IE also shows extra options for rating and sizing which Firefox does not. Of course, this is not the fault of FF but of the coders.

But it’s mostly functional. I can pop out the video to full screen; although, even on “Ultra,” very few films are high enough quality for me to do so without being annoyed. The content could use a little TLC. I guess I supposed that I would get not only a clearer picture if I chose a higher quality setting but a larger one, too. Not so. This seems like a no brainer so me but, like I said, I’m not porn aficionado. The options which are not available in Firefox allow the user to zoom but, in my browser of choice, I only have regular and full screen options.

I think that SexToyTV is definitely useful for those who like to watch porn on their computers and don’t mind sacrificing a little quality or having to take time to get to know the site. I typically prefer porn which requires a little less effort. Sometimes the desire to watch porn actually leaves me before I find something suitable. If you plan to try it out, I’d make most of your purchases in bulk. As can be expected, you get a better discount that way ($.09/minute as compared to $.20/minute). It’s maybe not my perfect porn solution, though.

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Black Glove/Elegant Spanking

January 17th, 2010

One of the reviews for Amazon describe Black Glove/Elegant Spanking, a DVD containing two short films by Maria Beatty, as “like an artsy amateur porn video that the 2 girls should have kept private.” And I pretty much agree.

It’s not that the visuals aren’t stunning. Both pieces are done in black and white, with more than a subtle nod toward the silent film era (despite being released in 1995). The Elegant Spanking even features “title cards” showing dialoque between Mistress and slave. The filming is well done, if not simple, and it seems done a bit grainy to add personality. The Black Glove is especially heavy with shiny instruments and PVC clothing while garter belts can be seen in both. The image of pearls sliding between pussy lips in The Elegant Spanking is intriguing, if nothing else. Yet, the imagery is very specific, so specific that there can be very little middle ground with Black Glove/Elegant Spanking. Either you will love it or it will not be your thing. And it’s not mine.

I also can’t say that the acts aren’t realistic or intimate. Marie Beatty portrays a submissive in both films, expressing pain and pleasure well despite the fact that we can’t hear her voice or breath. In The Elegant Spanking, she lovingly partakes in watersports. It’s as though someone simply popped a camera into Beatty’s BDSM life and recorded these events. Believable and erotic (it’s hard to call anything with so much BDSM anything else), yes. But rising to any sort of climax (literally or figuratively) or otherwise following any sort of standard film time/plotline, no. We don’t know why anything is happening, just that it is, and it’s over without any real sense of resolution. Both movies are more like extended scenes than stand alone films and they move quite slowly. I’ll dare call it boring.

I would be lying if I said it wasn’t artistic. From imagery style, which I already discussed, to music/sound and the speed of progress, these films are both incredibly creative. Yet, that artistry can be difficult to understand of detract from the movie.

Such is the case with the music (by John Zorn) which generally reminds me of haunted house background music or the scores of 80s horror flicks. It suggests seriousness in a calm way, softly in the background. The over calmness perhaps negates any pique the films themselves have. In The Elegant Spanking, one can only hear the music and not any speaking; although, it’s obvious at several points that Maria Beatty is speaking. They flash title cards to suggest to the reader what she has said but it’s obvious that is not what she said (and I’m no lip reader!). In The Black Glove, we can hear some sounds from the scene itself – although no voices – which I prefer greatly. The sound of buckles and foot steps were appreciated. Yet, toward the second half of this scene, the background music/sound switches to something like burning or crackling. It’s much louder than the previous background music and I find it completely distracting.

And if kink is your thing, these films have plenty. The Elegant Spanking jumps into watersports pretty quickly. There is spanking, of course, as well as shoe/foot fetish. In fact, that plays an important role in both films. Too bad I hate feet. The Black Glove has lots of appropriate PVC; Maria Beatty is hog tied and a cane, a Wartenberg wheel, clamps, a knife and wax all make an appearance. Most of these implements are rubbed or run over Maria Beatty’s lingerie clad body, with focus on her ass and breasts.

Fans of bonus material will be disappointed. The DVD lists a catalog of other Beatty films and one can insert it into their computer to go to the website.. or just Google Bleu Productions. It’ll take less time.

So what I can say it this: While artistic, striking in imagery, BDSM oriented and incredibly intimate, it seems like these films would best be enjoyed by Beatty & Co themselves. The artistic eroticism is interesting and these films would probably lend themselves well to an intellectual discussion (perhaps of D/s dynamics) over tea and crumpets but their limited ability to arouse suggests that this film is simply art, not porn. I appreciate these pieces as works of art and I know that BDSM doesn’t have to include sex but porn probably should. Sometimes there is grey area between porn and art but the black and white films on this DVD suggest that is not a place Maria Beatty productions will ever be and that’s okay. I’m just not the sort of person who can appreciate these films. On the other hand, there were a couple scenes which would lend themselves beautifully to wall art (something which I can better intellectually appreciate). I would much rather have preferred a handful of stills which sum up the feeling of Black Glove/Elegant Spanking than actually view the DVD itself.

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Fallen

December 27th, 2009

Fallen

Fallen
$49 from Amazon

I am a relative porn newbie, I admit it. Most of my porn watching has been done with short clips found for free online and, usually, that covers my needs. I thought I’d get to know porn a bit more with Fallen because the cover really intrigued me. It was well done and this award nominated porn flick has been praised for its unique and expensive approach to pornography. Maybe it’s just my lack of expertise or my particular tastes, but I have no idea what these people are praising and celebrating.

Granted, Fallen is presented grandly. It comes in a larger than average case that is only slightly smaller than your average sheet of printer paper. The inside flaps give some insight to the bonus discs (there are 4 discs including the feature title) and a regular DVd case holding these discs sits inside. Both cases feature an image of Jessica Drake – the lead actress – with wings and arms spread in a scant white dress. It’s not exactly family friendly but it’s on par with some movie covers and you could potentially get away with it sitting with the rest of your movie collection – as long as you toss the larger which is pretty ostentatious.

Fallen is a Wicked Productions film which revolves around the plot of Angel, an angel who was banished to Earth after her charge met an untimely death. Angel thus loses herself in sex and, at the end, tries to redeem itself. And it works, sort of. I know many appreciate the acting in this film and there are a lot of non-sex scenes which makes it seem like they’re aiming for the couples and womens’ porn market but the acting is really not all that great. Maybe it’s good when you consider it’s a porn star and Brad Armstrong does manage to play a generally likable guy in the second half of the movie but Jessica Drake falls flat and talks with a strangely breathless monotonous voice as she narrates the movie.

And that would be okay if all the sex scenes themselves were not so incredibly uninspired. Most of the scenes involve PIV sex with anus fingering. That seems to be the running theme. Sure, there’s position swaps, some lesbian sex and a MFM trio but they all seem hash ups of what we’ve seen before. There were only two scenes which really caught my eye – the first scene between Jessica Drake and Brad Armstrong where he puts a little more thought into performing oral on her to a wonderful jazzy background and a scene where Angel is watching another woman in a sex booth (which either turns to sex between the two or perhaps Angel just imagines it). But the novelty soon faded after more than a few minutes of the same thing happening in each scene. Maybe I have a short attention span but they seemed to drone on forever.

As did the entire movie which runs almost 3 hours. I really wanted to watch it in one sitting and I know a lot of people don’t do that. I just couldn’t. It took 3 or so sittings and, by the end, I was fast forwarding through it just to see how it ends. The ending actually reminds me a bit of Hancock in theme and revolves completely around the plot but I fast grew tired of the plot and poor acting, if you couldn’t already tell.

I am also unsatisfied by the pitiful excuse they call oral sex and manual stimulation on a female. It seemed like it was all just thrown in to look good for the camera but it was always sloppy and short, two things I cannot stand in my own sex life. I found it hard to believe any of the countless stars were having any fun and the ridiculously fake moans only convinced me more. It’s hard to believe anyone actually enjoyed making this movie. It’s all so contrived. Luckily, there is an option to turn off the moans and only have music play and I must say, the music is chosen rather well. Still, it’s kind of odd not to hear any moaning.

As long as I’m talking about music, I had quite the difficult time hearing Jessica Drake’s breath voice over the background music which is the main reason I lost track of the plot. The sound techs need to do a better job, next time.

The box talks about the unique style of Brad Armstrong, who also directed Fallen and it may be a step above most porn but it’s also distracting at times. In the scene with Jessica and Brad which I initially liked, I grew frustrated with all the fading to black and many scenes are washed out from natural light which may be on purpose but I feel that using professional lighting would have really been the better move. On the subject of style, I originally liked Angel’s costume on the cover but soon came to realize that most of her outfits look straight off the Hot Topic website. Uninspired, again.

You won’t find many actresses who stray from the typical blond and big breasted stereotype, either. Jessica Drake certainly fits it to a T as do most of the countless other porn stars. I don’t know many porn stars from face alone but they all blended together and there were so many actors/actresses simply in for one sex scene that they never stuck a chord with me.

I have to say that there is quite a lot of bonus material including a digital copy of the movie, deleted scenes and the ability to choose from multiple endings. You can control Angel’s destiny which I find really cool but I was so wiped from having to watch almost 3 hours of uninspired sex and acting that I honestly could not force myself to watch more. However, if you like Fallen I bet you would enjoy these features immensely.

So, is Fallen really all that and a bag of chips? Maybe if you like your porn typical-but-with-a-bit-of-plot. Maybe if you have a thing for Jessica Drake or Brad Armstrong. Maybe if you want something a little different but still inside the box. Maybe if you like to flip from scene to scene without watching the whole thing. Maybe if you’re not me. Pirates is much more my kind of big budget porn.

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