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.”

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”

Alienation, Art, Artist, Authenticity, Authoritarianism, Dance, Emotions, Guest Authors, Life, Literature, Movies and Film, Music, Oppression, Performance Arts, Photography, Poetry, Political and Social Alienation, Political Issues, Politics, Quality of Life, Sculpture, Serafia Alho, Society, Talents and Skills, Theatre, Visual Arts, Writing

Creativity and the Artist

a-guest-post-by-serafia-alhoNote to Readers from Paul Sunstone: 

Serafia Alho is an amazing Finnish author and blogger who I have for some time wished would do a guest post for Café Philos.  Today, she has made my wish come true.  I am excited to post here a piece she’s written exclusively for this blog, and which explores in moving, almost poetic prose both the creative process as experienced by an artist, and the challenge to that creativity posed by the darkening clouds of our times. Please welcome her!

What does it mean to create?

To create is to experience pain: it’s a deep discontent with the world in its current state. To the artist, the only way to relieve that pain is to put everything aside and to focus all their skill and energy on mending it, either succeeding in their task or continuing to try until the magnitude of the task kills them. This is why many artists drink.

To them, every day is another wrestling match against the giant known as imperfection, and they’re constantly troubled by their inability to realize their vision — tormented by the feeling of muteness that comes with seeing something, but being unable to translate it to any other living being. Sometimes what they’re trying to achieve presents itself to them like a mirage in the middle of a desert — possibly attainable, but so intangible that only the foolhardy set out to seek it. Yet they do, because they have no other choice than to do so.

Art is fueled by emotion, and a member of the audience can catch a glimpse of that, however fleetingly, when being faced by an artwork. It is what we look forward to in art, and though the receiver only rarely gets to experience the full force of what the artist had to endure for the work to get completed, we always wait for it and when it happens, we call it Great Art and celebrate it long after the artist is already dead — often consequentially marring it in the process of doing so. True art does not rely on historians or tour guides to explain itself to us: it imposes itself on you, grabs hold of you, and speaks for itself. That ability to bypass our defenses is exactly where some of the struggle of the artist stems from. How can a single human expel all that emotion? What sort of exorcism is required to drive the artist’s passion into a form that fittingly represents the thing itself, in a similar fashion an idol represents the divine manifestation of a being — not becoming the spirit, but being of the spirit, inextricably linked yet completely separate?

Some artists are born with the genius of being able to capture the essence of a thing simply by looking at it. However, most artists are forced to spend years training their hands, their eyes, their mind to bend to the task of shaping the unwilling materials they work with: partly reality itself, partly the human psyche, partly their chosen mediums like clay and paper. One single brush stroke holds within a thousand hours; one book carries a lifetime. The craft allows no cutting corners: there is no deity handing down ready-made artworks, and the effortlessness we associate with inspiration is nothing but a lie, designed to cloak the ugly mundanity of the time the artist spent unskilled, unnoticed, and mocked. We prefer to see the divinity, and take joy in perceiving the artist as something of a mystic: not quite human — and somehow not quite deserving of being one.

We think of art as cheap, perhaps because emotion is a renewable resource, and so are artists. We’ve become so desensitized to the thought of creation as an act of destruction that we think nothing of it when an artist breaks. Neither does the act of creation have any inherent value to us — only a completed artwork has meaning. The artist him- or herself naturally never thinks like this, nor would it be possible for him or her to. They know that most of the emotion, the underlying value of experiencing art, the emotion that elevates great art to true art, is burned up in the very kiln that makes the artist. The audience only ever sees what comes out from the oven, and they have no interest in the shards and pieces making up the bulk of what’s needed to create single artwork.

What then is an artist to do when their source of creative fuel is suddenly overtaken by an even greater emotion, one that chokes or even cripples them with such a force that even creation itself suddenly loses all its meaning? It does happen — it has happened — it’s currently happening all over the world when millions of people have had to face the looming sense of doom that is the US presidential election.

Best-selling authors have had to ask their publishers to move their deadlines. Projects are stalled, professional creators drink themselves to sleep. All their motivations suddenly in ashes, the small insignificancies in life they’ve set out to express suddenly uprooted by the very real, and very visible, wrongs going on right under all our noses. To some, it’s felt like the destruction of the world as they’ve known it.

Art grows best at the edges of life, not in the rocky ugliness of unbending realism, and so it’s no wonder so many creators are grinding to a standstill. The conventional advice given to artists in times of hardship is to integrate it into their creation: to ingest it, stem and all, and to keep creating whatever happens. In that sense, artists are the shamans of the modern day: they take upon themselves the poison that others are unable or unwilling to face, and through doing so they bring order out of chaos, good out of evil, and share it with the world.

But it’s a risky business, being a shaman. Although they alone are said to have the skills to travel to the Underworld, not all of them come back from there. It is a terrifying feeling when your work suddenly loses its meaning, especially if that work is only half complete. The feeling of importance is not a voluntary act, and it leaves us artists with only one of two options: to toss out the artwork out completely, or to change, to drink the poison despite knowing some of us are never coming back. Time and again the birth of new art movements have been in parallel with the turning points of history, and maybe this time will later be remembered as the starting point of a yet to be explored form of human expression, one that better reflects the sense of alarming immediacy now coursing through our social media.

Pain will always flow with and from creation. May some day, when time has passed, only the beauty be remembered.

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.