Art, Enlightenment, Eudaimonia, Free Spirit, Human Nature, Life, Living, Meaning, Music, Passion, Purpose, Quality of Life, Religion, Satori, Self, Spiritual Alienation, Spirituality, Transformative Experience, Truth, Well Being, Wisdom

The Lyrics of “The River”, by John Andrew Hull (Manchester Orchestra)

EXECUTIVE SUMMARY: Paul offers his personal interpretation of a few of the words to John Andrew Hull’s intimate, spiritual song, “The River”.

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THE CRITICS EXPLODE: “Quite obvious to this astute blog critic, Paul Sunstone’s allegedly ‘personal interpretations’ of ‘The River’ are anything but genuinely personal. Sunstone channels the Devil himself to offer his readers purely demonic views that he then shamelessly fobs off as his own. To his claim ‘The River’ is grounded in a ‘Timeless Truth of Human Nature’, I am forced to retort: Timeless Sunstone!” —  Merriweather Sterling, Blogs of the Day, “The Daily Burtie”, Berwick-Upon-Tweed, England, UK.

Continue reading “The Lyrics of “The River”, by John Andrew Hull (Manchester Orchestra)”

Aesthetics, Art, Artist, Bad Ideas, Dance, Drawings, Emotions, Erotic Dance, Literature, Movies and Film, Music, Paintings, Performance Arts, Photography, Poetry, Sculpture, Self-Pity, Theatre, Visual Arts, Writing

Even Artists are Human. Even Artists.

EXECUTIVE SUMMARY:  Paul’s thoughts on the notion that artists feel things more deeply than other folks.

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THE CRITICS ROAR: “Sunstone’s ‘Artists’ post puts me in mind of 1975 when the Spanish dictator Francisco Franco lingered on his death bed for weeks before having the proper decency to exit the world and take his damnable evil with him.  ‘Artists’ is by most common measures a short blog post, but Sunstone nevertheless manages to make it a long one.  You soon find yourself praying for it to end. Praying hard for it to end.” — Gus “Gunning Gus” Johnson, The Blog Critic’s Column, “Leper’s Gulch Gazette”, Leper’s Gulch, Colorado, USA.

Continue reading “Even Artists are Human. Even Artists.”

Bad Ideas, Cultural Change, Culture, Economics, Economy, Ideas, Late Night Thoughts, Music, Physics, Quality of Life, Science

Late Night Thoughts: Homogeneous Music, Millennials, Something Out of Nothing, and More (October 10, 2018)

(About a 4 minute read)

Have you ever thought pop music increasingly sounds the same?  If so, that might have something to do with the fact that most of it — the majority of chart-topping songs — are written by just two people.

Max Martin, who is Swiss, and Lukasz “Dr. Luke” Gottwald, who is American, account for over half the chart-topping pop songs heard in the world today.  Or so I’ve been hearing (shameless pun intended).

Continue reading “Late Night Thoughts: Homogeneous Music, Millennials, Something Out of Nothing, and More (October 10, 2018)”

Art, Cultural Change, Culture, Dance, Drawings, Human Nature, Literature, Movies and Film, Music, Paintings, Performance Arts, Photography, Poetry, Quality of Life, Sculpture, Society, Theatre, Visual Arts, Writing

Will They Bring With Them the Poets?

SUMMARY: Reflections on the future of humanity.

(About a 7 minute read)

I read a post yesterday on Bojana’s blog that got me thinking about the future of humanity.  That’s a topic that is more or less always in the back of my mind, but which I seldom write about.

I seldom write about it largely because it’s such a complex topic that I’m not sure what can be said about it that might someday more or less pan out as true.  Bojana’s approach to the topic was a pretty sound one — she mulled over her observations of her toddler and his friends as they were playing together.  The future, of course, begins with how we raise our kids.

Continue reading “Will They Bring With Them the Poets?”

Advice, Art, Authenticity, Being True To Yourself, Cultural Traits, Dance, Erotic Dance, Life, Living, Performance Arts, Sex, Sexuality

How to Watch Strippers (And Why You Should Care)

SUMMARY: Common mistakes people make while watching erotic dancers, plus the best way to do it in order to fully appreciate the nature of erotic dance.

(About a 6 minute read)

It seems curious to me that — from my point of view — people first make sex a problem when it need not be a problem, then they condemn sex for the mess they’ve made of it.

Why is that so?  Why do we think sex is the problem when it’s so obvious to anyone willing to look closely at it that it’s us — our attitude and approach to it — that are the problem?

Continue reading “How to Watch Strippers (And Why You Should Care)”

Abortion, Abuse, Aesthetics, Art, Artist, Authenticity, Bad Ideas, Beauty, Being True To Yourself, Dance, Don, Erotic Dance, Free Spirit, Fun, People, Sex, Sexuality, Sexualization, Wisdom

Elle: Nurse by Day, Stripper by Night

(About a 10 minute read)

The first thing I noticed about Elle was that she seemed mysteriously out of place.  She was sitting alone at a table in Shotgun Willies’, watching a young woman dance on one of the stages, and smoking a cigarette.

Because Elle was fully dressed in street clothes, I wasn’t sure what she was doing there?  Was she an erotic dancer?  Then why the clothes?  But if she wasn’t a dancer, what was she doing in an erotic dance club? I spent no little time wondering about her like that before she rose, crossed over to the other side of the room, and strolled through the dressing room door.

Continue reading “Elle: Nurse by Day, Stripper by Night”

Agape, Altruism, Art, Authenticity, Awe, Beauty, Being True To Yourself, Brotherly Love, Children, Community, Creativity, Dance, Education, Emotions, Enlightenment, Erotic Dance, Erotic Love, Ethics, Extended Family, Fairness, Family, Free Spirit, Freedom, Freedom and Liberty, Friends, Fun, Giving, Happiness, Honesty, Horniness, Human Nature, Humanism, Humanities, Ideas, Love, Lovers, Loyalty, Mature Love, Morality, Mysticism, Nature, New Love, Parental Love, Passion, Peace, People, Philos, Redemption, Romantic Love, Science, Self-determination, Self-Integration, Self-Knowledge, Self-Realization, Sense of Relatedness, Sex, Sexuality, Society, Spirituality, Talents and Skills, Transformative Experience, Unconditional Love, Vacilando, Wisdom

The Importance of Redemption

(About a 5 minute read)

I sometimes get the impression that plenty of us tackle the big ideas in life almost the day we escape our cribs for the first time.

“Gurk! Life is mine to seize! I see it clearly now.  I shall be my own hero. Gerp!” Or, “Poppels! But our capacity to love is what most defines us as moral. Twurks!  What’s this?  Why, it must be what what ma-ma calls, ‘poo’.  And look!  It’s endlessly shape-able!”

Continue reading “The Importance of Redemption”

Abuse, Aesthetics, Art, Artist, Beauty, Culture, Dance, Erotic Dance, Ethics, Morality, Morals, Nudes, Performance Arts, Sexuality, Values

Some Suggestions on How to View Erotic Dancers

A good friend of mine, an engineer who works in management, tells me of the time she went to a strip club with a group of her co-workers, all men except for her.  “I thought I knew these men and that they respected women, Paul.  And I should say that, outside of the club, they do seem to respect women.  But almost from the moment we got in the door, that respect was gone from every last one of them.  I was alarmed and dismayed both at how they treated the dancers and in what words they spoke about them.  To say they treated them as objects would be to understate it.  I realized this was a side to my male co-workers that I had never suspected before.”

Over the years, several of my friends and acquaintances have been people who were either working as erotic dancers or had in the past worked as erotic dancers.  Perhaps a majority of them have told me — or at least hinted to me — of how disrespected they are by most of the men who show up to watch them perform. Several of them have become cynical of men as a consequence.  This is a sad state of affairs.

I think it’s safe to assume that it’s commonplace in America to disrespect erotic dancers, and that there are cultural reasons for that disrespect.  In our culture, not just dancers, but sex workers in general are disrespected, and have been for centuries.  But I do not wish to speculate here on the historical roots of that disrespect.  Nor is my purpose in this blog post to try to convert to a different view those of you who feel justified in disrespecting sex workers, or specifically, dancers.  If you feel righteously justified in disrespecting people, that’s a matter between you and your conscience, and nothing I say is likely to change you.

Instead, I am only concerned with offering for consideration some views to anyone who is not of the firm conviction that dancers should be disrespected, and who rather is open to hearing a few ideas about treating them as persons in their own right.  So with that in mind, please allow me to offer these suggestions:

First, don’t take it personally if and when the dancers themselves fail to respect you.  As I hinted above, most of the young women have gotten pretty jaded about men in general very largely as a response to being disrespected by so many of their customers.  That is, they have returned disrespect with disrespect.  And while that is a rather foolish and ineffective way to respond to disrespect, it is also a very human way to respond to it.  So, expect most of the dancers to be at least somewhat contemptuous of you — or at the very least, suspicious — and do not make the mistake of taking it personally.

Although it’s been years since I was last in a club, I used to go with a friend of mine, a sculptor, who taught me to view what the dancers were doing as an art.  I would suggest you too, view the dancers as artists, not only because it makes it easier to see them as persons in their own right, but also because it seems to significantly enhance the experience of watching them.  But if any of that is true, then how do you go about viewing the dancers as artists?

Well, something that’s helped me do that is to, first, recognize that not all of them are very good artists.  I would say that about 12% of the dancers you’ll see — about one in eight — are natural born artists.  They almost certainly have not been schooled in erotic dance, but they are the sort of people who would make an art of nearly anything they were doing — very much including erotic dance.

In addition to that 12%, the vast majority of dancers are artistically average folks, and — at the bottom of the pile — are a percentage of dancers who are poor or quite poor artists.  Now why is this important?

It’s important because, if you look at erotic dance as an art — and the dancers as artists — then it is wise to keep in mind that not all the dancers you’ll see are good artists in order to avoid becoming discouraged.  But what makes one dancer a good artist, and the next seven dancers average or poor artists?

The key to the question is to recognize that, as a rule of thumb, a good dancer will authentically express her sexuality.  An average dancer will tend to be inconsistently authentic at best, and a poor dancer will be consistently inauthentic.   Another way of expressing those differences is to say that a good dancer will not pander to you, an average dancer will pander sometimes, and a poor dancer will always pander.  If you think about it, the very same thing is true with any art or artist: The best express their own vision, most pander a bit, and the worse are always pandering.

These distinctions might sound very vague or very esoteric.  But in practice, it’s fairly easy — given some experience of different dancers — to see which are authentic, a mix of authentic and inauthentic, or downright inauthentic.  That is, in practice, it’s just about as easy to see as it as it is to know when someone is probably telling the truth, partly telling the truth, and downright lying to you.

Now, should you bring any of this art talk up with the dancers themselves?  I myself would be a little hesitant to do so.  I’ve known a few dancers who viewed what they were doing as an art, but they have been by far in the minority.  Even most of the natural born artists who end up dancing for a living don’t think of themselves as artists, or think of what they’re doing as art.  This shouldn’t surprise you:  As Plato once famously said, artists are lousy at explaining themselves and their art.  So I think with most dancers, if you were to start talking to them about the “Art of Stripping”, you’d get blank stares at best.

Then again, just about the most erotic dancer that I ever have known used to enthusiastically gush to me now and then about the occasional customer of hers who’d sit down and knowingly discuss dance as an art form with her.  The key to her heart and mind was that a guy actually knew what he was talking about. So it’s up to you whether you want to bring up the subject with any of the dancers you meet.

Of course, very little of anything I’ve said so far will make much sense to if you happen to be one of those folks who is simply not moved by art.  There’s nothing at all wrong with you, but art just doesn’t grab you at a gut level.  If so, there are still some things you might want to keep in mind when viewing dancers perform for you.

I’ve found it best not to fantasize about having sex with the dancers — no matter how erotically they dance.   That might sound counter-intuitive: After all, why go watch often beautiful women dance half-naked or naked if you don’t want to imagine yourself having sex with them, right?  But in practice, that path leads to frustration, at the very least.  Indeed, one of my friends found it so frustrating that he ended up incapable of enjoying erotic dance at all.  I can contrast his experience with that of other friends who have found erotic dance “liberating” to experience, to say the least.

Most importantly, the key thing you should try to do is to see and treat each dancer as an individual.  In my experience, this is greatly aided by viewing them as artists.  But if viewing them as artists makes no impression on you, then you can still see and treat them as individuals simply by comparing and contrasting how they dance with how others dance.  Seeing the dancers as individuals is, I believe, the first and most important step towards genuinely respecting them as persons.

Art, Conservative, Courage, Cultural Traits, Culture, Ethics, Harry Potter, Liberal, Literature, Loyalty, Meaning, Memes, Morals, Movies and Film, Politics, Progressive, Relationships, Religion, Science, Scientific Method(s), Society, Spirituality, Values, Writing

How Has Harry Potter Shaped Us?

Do you think it’s possible that the Harry Potter books and movies have shaped the world views of a generation or two?  If so, how have they shaped those world views?  But if not, why not?

I’m especially interested in four aspects of the question:

  • Ethics and Morals: Has the Harry Potter series formed or changed people’s ethics and morals?  Has it propagated British values? Has it placed more weight on loyalty and courage than on intelligence?
  • Science and Reason: What, if anything, has the Harry Potter series shaped or changed about people’s attitudes towards science, logic, and empirical evidence?  Has it undermined their significance?  Will the world see more or fewer scientists because of the series?
  • Religion and Spirituality:  Has the series shaped or changed anything about people’s religiosity or spirituality?  If so, what?
  • Politics: What, if anything, has the series shaped or changed about the Left/Right, Progressive/Conservative political conflict?  Has it moved anyone Left or Right on the spectrum?

I confess that I have not been paying attention to the series.  That’s not because I’m opposed to it, but because I lazy when it comes to reading fiction.  But a question on Doug’s blog got me very interested in the influence of Harry Potter on our society.  I would much appreciate your help understanding that influence.

Buddhism, Coffee Shop Folks, Coffee Shop Stories, Late Night Thoughts, Mental and Emotional Health, Paula, People, Performance Arts, Poetry, Religion, Writing, Zen

Late Night Thoughts (February 27, 2011)

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ATTORNEY:  Doctor, how many of your autopsies have you performed on dead people?
WITNESS:     All of them…  The live ones put up too much of a fight.

Disorder in the Court

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In the West, we are taught that we can change ourselves by an act of will.  If only we will hard enough, long enough, we will bring about the desired change in ourselves.  But is that true?

In America, at least, there is a billion dollar self-help industry that seems largely based on the premise we can, unlike Sisyphus, someday roll the stone of change all the way to the top of the mountain without it slipping away from us — without our constant, eternal backsliding.  For isn’t that what willing ourselves to change most often, most frequently, results in? In backsliding?  In two weeks of willful effort followed by the stone slipping from us to roll back down the mountain?

There are exceptions.  There are times willing ourselves to change really does result in permanent change.  But in my experience, it is usually a petty change that can be brought about that way.

Is there some way, besides willing, of bringing about change in ourselves?

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From a  conversation at The Coffee Shop:

VINCE:  “Thank the Lord I’m a Buddhist!”

PAUL:  “What do you look for in Buddhism?”

VINCE:  “I’m into Zen.  Some people don’t think that’s Buddhism, but I’m into koans.  You know, ‘What’s the sound of one hand clapping?'”

PAUL:  “Yeah, I’ve heard….”

VINCE:  “They’re short.  That’s what I like about them.  Some religions are too long.  You don’t get much out of those religions because they’re too long.”

PAUL:  “Too long?  I’m not following….”

VINCE:  “You fall asleep.  I’m devout.  Every night, I study the koans.  I get a six pack.  Lie in my crib.  Read koans.  I used to be a Christian and read the Bible, but I’d fall asleep or I’d get wasted in the middle of a verse — it’s too long.”

PAUL: “So….”

VINCE:  (Impatiently) “So you can’t expect to be enlightened if you fall asleep in the middle of the verses, man.”

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Paula called from Utah one night.  She wanted to visit the Springs for a couple weeks and could she stay on my couch?

A few days later, she showed up with one piece of luggage and a dozen plastic sunflowers.  The sunflowers, she said, were something she always lived with.  Then she distributed them around the room her couch was in.

She was easy to get along with.  She laughed at my jokes, complained about nothing in life, and we traded off chores:  One night, she cooked Buffalo wings and I washed the dishes; the next night, I cooked a casserole and she washed the dishes.   It went on  like that.

We talked a lot.  She told me of one summer when her older brother urgently fetched her into the yard of their father’s house to show her how thunder will roll from the mountain where the Ute woman died.  Another evening, she asked me to read to her from my book about whales.  And, on three or four evenings, we invited mutual friends over to party with us.

For two weeks, she slept on my couch and told me she’d feel better if I kissed her goodnight.  It struck me that she kissed so softly.   She liked waking up to classical music on the radio.

Before she left, she told me in a wondering voice, how over the past dozen days,  she had witnessed three of the Twelve Apostles, reincarnated on earth for the Second Coming, pass through my home as my guests, and that she was wondering just who I was.

I asked her then in my gentlest voice whether she knew she might be ill.  And she replied she always thought it might be a possibility, and that back in Utah, she saw a therapist — an old Indian woman who was both a therapist and a spiritual teacher, too.

“Are you taking any medication”, I asked.   She replied she didn’t believe meds could be effective in her case, given what she might have, but she was taking some vitamins at the direction of her therapist.

A day or two later, she moved on, but not without leaving me her dozen sunflowers for some reason that she never explained.

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People sometimes seem to be living out roles written by hands long ago and far away from them now.

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“The other day, I was looking at a George Washington quarter.  I could tell that George’s most famous words must have been, ‘In God we trust’.  And that made me right proud of him for a moment, but then I noticed he didn’t seem to be wearing any clothes.  So I gotta ask: What kind of man trusts in God so much he doesn’t wear any clothes?  I’m not entirely sure now Old George was getting all his coffee beans ground.  Know what I mean?”

— Overheard in a bar

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Some time ago, I went to a poetry reading.  About 20 participants showed up.  Unfortunately, it became apparent most of the poets were unprepared to read or recite their poems.   Some of the poems were rather good, too.  And I don’t think laziness entirely explains why so many poets were unprepared.

It seems most of us do not think of poetry as a performing art.  A written art, perhaps.  But not something we compose — like we might compose a bit of music — to be performed.   And perhaps that explains why so few poets showed up that night having first practiced reciting their poetry.

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It is in the night that our thoughts can become our hunters by pursuing us.

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Conservative, Elections, Erotic Dance, Ideologies, Politicians and Scoundrels, Politics

Speaking of G-Strings…

I just remembered the issue of G-strings more or less came up during a local election a few years ago.  One of the town’s news organizations polled the candidates for city council on the various issues of the day.  And for unknown reasons, their poll included a question or two about what candidates planned to do to further regulate the town’s erotic dance clubs.

Now, this town does not normally have a wide range of political representation.  There is almost no real left here, except if you want to call one lonely, moderate Democrat a real leftist.  How he gets elected is quite beyond my poor power to fathom.

On the other hand, the right wing extends all the way to the extreme right…and then maybe a bit beyond that to include folks who would — in all probability — find a way to privatize the town’s moonlight on the grounds that free moonlight is godless socialism.  So, you might expect to find a bit — not too much, but a bit — of disagreement among the candidates on the issue of further regulating the erotic dance clubs.  That is, you might at least expect there to be a moderate right wing candidate in favor of further regulation; an extreme right wing candidate in favor of complete deregulation; and, of course, an even more extreme right wing candidate in favor of requiring patrons to hand-over permission slips signed by their church pastors before being admitted to the clubs.

But that’s not how the candidates responded to the poll.  One and all, from the lonely, moderate Democrat right through the “deregulate everything” crowd and on to the “privatize the moonlight” folks, the candidates agreed that erotic dance clubs in this town must be further regulated.

In my more than 15 years in this town, it is the only issue I can recall that has united all factions in the local politics.

When I read that poll, and saw how mightily the scoundrels were united, I knew that regardless of who got elected that year, the city council was going to be hellbent on further regulating the erotic dance clubs.  So, I prepared for the worse.

I got busy mourning the lacy past and emotionally preparing myself for a future in which the local dancing girls would be required by draconian ordinance to avoid coming within 30 feet of a patron, while wearing high-collar flannel night gowns and bank vault quality steel g-strings.  I imagined the dancers staring out from their stage at a room full of distant men with binoculars.  I thought of the Gregorian chants I’d soon enough hear blasting from the club speakers, and of the exciting ways my favorite dancers would find to — not dance their sexuality — but to dance their solidarity with the State’s fence posts.

Then, not a damn thing happened.

No one on the new council bothered to write up and introduce even a single ordinance further regulating the dance clubs.  The issue wasn’t even mentioned in the meetings.  And no reporters followed up on the candidate’s campaign promises.  It had become a non-issue.

The only issue in recent history to unite the whole slate of candidates, was now the only issue in recent history to unite the whole body of the council.  The only difference was all the candidates had been for it, while all the council members were against it.

I could only marvel at how winning an election could change a person.