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.

♦♦♦

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.”

Alienation From Self, Art, Artist, Authenticity, Being True To Yourself, Creativity, Cultural Traits, Culture, Human Nature, Ideas, Invention, Life, Literature, Memes, New Idea, Passion, Poetry, Quality of Life, Self, Self-determination, Self-Flourishing, Spirituality, Writing

A Flock of Sparrows for Majel: Most Poets Are Some Other Poet

A Flock of Sparrows for Majel

(About a 10 minute read)

“Most people are other people. Their thoughts are someone else’s opinions, their lives a mimicry, their passions a quotation.” ― Oscar Wilde

I. Insufferable Snark

Hi, Poet.

Hi, You!

HEY, YOU!

Hey, you enthralled heart,
You passionate devotee of the
Great Gut-Slugging,
Slut-Goddess of Love,
Suffering, Lost Causes, Crushed Dreams,
Forlorn Hopes, Teenage Self-Images,
And Poets!

I BEG YOUR ATTENTION, PLEASE!

Continue reading “A Flock of Sparrows for Majel: Most Poets Are Some Other Poet”

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”

Abuse, Adolescence, Adolescent Sexuality, Alienation, Art, Artist, Attached Love, Attachment, Celibacy, Competence, Erotic Love, Ethics, Free Spirit, Horniness, Human Nature, Lovers, People, Political Issues, Quality of Life, Relationships, Self, Self-Knowledge, Sex, Sexuality, Sexualization, Values, Wisdom

I Dumped Her When She Soaked Me With Buckets of Love

(About a 6 minute read)

Ask nearly anyone to sum up adolescence in a few words and most likely one of those words will be “confusing”.  Whatever else it is, that word is just as focused on a key truth as a teenage boy is focused on his friend’s suddenly perky nipples the very first time he espies them by the light of the werewolf moon.

What is often not mentioned, however, is how frequently adolescent confusions turn all manner of relationships into cruel ropes that jerk their victims back when they try to run from a bad situation.  Even blind or unintended abuse is magnified by the fact kids bond so quickly and firmly to each other.

Continue reading “I Dumped Her When She Soaked Me With Buckets of Love”

Art, Artist, Critiques, From Around the Net, Outstanding Bloggers, People, Poetry

Blog Critique: “Lunarpoet”

(About a 1 minute read)

The Lunarpoet Blog, by Matthias

You cannot help but wish this young man well.  Matthias sees himself as a poet who is, “..searching for the magic sparks in the interspaces, between the cracks of reality”, and it is easy to prove that he is a talented conjurer of that magic.

This is no ordinary poetry blog.  Make no mistake about that.  Matthias has dedicated himself to the lifelong pursuit of pushing his talents and skills with words as far as they can go — and he might just one day be a voyager to the stars.

Most of his poetry is blank verse of moderate length and can be read in about a minute each.  But you might want to spend more time than that, savoring his works.  They are good quality poems even when compared to the great, traditional poets of history.  Someday, he might be up there among them himself.

This is solely a matter of personal taste, but I think Matthais and Jane Basil are the two best poets that I’ve come across in my surfing of up to 20 blogs a day.

The Lunarpoet blog is dedicated to poetry and publishes no other material than that.  Though Matthias’ native language is German, all the poems are in English, and all of them are written in accessible language.

 


FULL DISCLOSURE: This review was part of an arrangement between Matthias and I to review each other’s blogs.  His review of my blog can be found here.

Art, Artist, Conservative, Creativity, Cultural Change, Culture, Emotions, Free Spirit, Happiness, Life, Passion, Quality of Life, Religion, Science, Self-Realization, Spirituality, Values

Are You the Artist of Your Own Life?

(About a 7 minute read)

Before you become unnecessarily more alarmed than is usual for folks to be when reading the posts on Café Philos, this post will not be one of those millions of insufferable pieces that are published daily by people hellbent on telling everyone else what they need to be.  I do not aim to give self-important advice here.

No, almost my only goal here is to entertain those of us who — like me — enjoy thinking, and just about anything that gets us thinking.  My other goal, of course, is to get laid by the heiress to a substantial fortune, preferably from her family’s involvement in running a chain of upscale bordellos known for the naughty creativity of their staff.

A boy can dream.

Continue reading “Are You the Artist of Your Own Life?”

Artist, Humor, Poetry

Our Days Were Light as Mouse Farts

(About a 3 minute read)

She was raised up in a family of New World craftsmen
Whose trade of hand-rolling paper towels taught her
Early in life the importance of conscientious precision
And attention to such details as making certain
The rolls were tight but the perforations untorn.
She had shown such a fine sense of duty even as a child
That she’d still been young when the family
Entrusted her with ensuring the towel labels
Ran parallel to each roll’s edges. But a fire
Struck their shop, and within a single winter’s night,
All was lost. Too poor to recover from their tragedy,
The entire family was thrown to the streets
Where they soon shattered into individuals,
Each one homeless and alone.

I met her on the corner of Lincoln and Booth,
An unfortunate intersection if ever there was one,
But somehow suited to her frame of mind and misfortune.
She was dressed in the garb of an organ grinder’s monkey,
For she was street-wise to the fact cops
Never look too close at such innocuous sights.
And since cops are the natural enemies of homeless vagrants,
She wished to be as invisible to them as possible.

As I chatted her up, I felt as if her distressed soul
Was pouring into me from her blue-grey eyes.
I begged her tell me what remaining ghosts of dreams
For herself she still harbored somewhere
Beneath her ridiculous red vest. She was reluctant at first
But under my persistent making faces
She gradually bared her heart and confessed
She wished to become a cosmic dancer with two feet
That walked in beauty on the earth and a spirit that touched the stars.

She refused to believe me at first when I told her
I wanted to help make it all happen if only she would consent
To bear me cross-eyed children, for I have always desired
To be seen by someone as twice the man I really am.
At last she agreed it was a sensible plan, and we married
That very day. Soon, our hearts entwined and kindled,
Our love came roaring to life with a passion uncommon
To folks who are not the artists of their own lives.

At nights she would come to me dressed only in olive oil
Bearing rubber sheets and her free-spirited attitude to life.
We were like teens on prom night inseparable
Because our braces had become generously entangled;
Where she went my heart went too, and the converse as well.
The days passed as lightly as mouse farts, for nothing could burden
Or trouble the towering flames of our hearts.

In the end of course,
We grew old, but we stayed ever young to each other
By refusing the deadly sin of believing we owned one another,
And thus we were never tempted to take for granted each other,
Or see ourselves as anything less than we were on the day that we met.

Adolescence, Adolescent Sexuality, Alienation From Self, Art, Artist, Authenticity, Being True To Yourself, Coffee Shop Folks, Coffee Shop Stories, Ethics, Free Spirit, Happiness, Life, Love, Meaning, Morality, Morals, Neil, People, Quality of Life, Relationships, Religion, Sarah, Self, Sexuality, Spirituality, Values, Wisdom

Neil and the Soul of an Artist

(About a 5 minute read)

Neil was raised in a tiny settlement in the San Luis Valley by artists.  The San Luis — over a mile above sea level, and the largest alpine valley in the world — is Colorado’s poorest region.

Because it’s so poor, the cost of living is moderate, and maybe it’s the cost of living that attracts the artists.  More than 500 working artists make their homes in the Valley.

Yet, because artists are quirky people, it might be more than the cost of living that attracts so many of them to the San Luis.  It could be the miles of open space, for instance.  Or the huge elk herd, the bald eagles and the sandhill cranes.  Or perhaps even the stars — for at night, the sky above the San Luis explodes with the music of light.

Neil’s parents were not religious people but they sent their son to church each Sunday.  When he was 13 or 14, he rebelled.  He told his parents he hated church, didn’t believe a word of anything he heard there, and was a confirmed agnostic.  “Good”, said his mother and father, “You’ve learned everything a church can teach you about life: Nothing.  We could have told you that ourselves about churches, but we wanted you to figure it out.  You can stop going now.”

When Neil turned old enough for high school, his parents decided he needed a better school than the one in the settlement.  So they packed Neil off to live with his grandmother in Colorado Springs and to attend Palmer High.  There, in his first art class, he met Sarah and Beth.  The three shared an intense interest in art and quickly became best friends.

It was Sarah who introduced me to Neil.  Sarah was regular at the Coffee Shop, and the two of us now and then shared each other’s company.  At 16, she was poised, sophisticated, and self-confident.  She liked to flirt with older men, even though she knew, as she put it, that she “couldn’t let it go anywhere”, and she once told me how much I disappointed her because I wouldn’t flirt.  I felt like a killjoy, and wrote a poem about her to make amends.

Sarah, Beth, and Neil spent hours together each day.  They seemed more mature than many kids their age.  For one thing, both Neil and Sarah held themselves much like adults, and all three of them would look you right in the eye when listening or speaking to you.  For another thing, there were seldom conflicts between them, and the three friends were remarkably free from adolescent dramas.

Back in those days, I heard enough adolescent dramas to fill a social calendar.  I had somehow stumbled into the role of confident for many of the kids who hung out at the Coffee Shop.  Sometimes, up to a half-dozen kids a day would confess their woes to me — pretty much one kid after the other.  Yet, I understood their need to talk and never rejected them.

Most of their stories were about sex and relationships, and some of the stories were painful to hear, because there were kids who kept repeating the same mistakes over and over again.  Yet, even the kids who didn’t repeat their mistakes — kids like Sarah, for instance — still seemed determined to make an allotted number of foolish mistakes, for how else do people learn?  I quickly discovered the role of confident was often more depressing than rewarding.

Through-out high school, Sarah, Beth and Neil remained as best friends, but when it was time for college, they parted ways.  Each went to a different university, and while Sarah and Beth stayed in contact with each other, Neil dropped out of the group.

I recall Neil was 22 and back from college when I ran across him one evening at the Coffee Shop.  We chatted for a while and I suggested we go to a restaurant for something to eat.

We ordered beer with our food, and were soon rambling along from one topic to the next.  A few beers into the evening, Neil decided to tell me how he lost his virginity.  “Was it Sarah?”, I asked.  I knew she’d been sexually active from the age of 16, and given their close friendship, it seemed logical to suspect her of having been his first partner.

“Not at all”, Neil said, “I wasn’t ready for sex back then, and I knew it.”

“I’m curious how you knew that about yourself.”

“I don’t make really important decisions up here”, he said, pointing to his forehead, “Instead, I go with what my soul tells me.”  He looked at me quizzically.  “Do you believe we have a soul, Paul?”

I didn’t want to sidetrack us into metaphysics, so I said, “I believe I can understand what you’re getting at.  Do you mean something like your sense of yourself…of who you are…of what’s right for you?”

“Yes!  That’s close!  I knew I wasn’t ready for sex because the opportunities never felt right to me.  None of them passed the soul test.  I didn’t want my first time to feel wrong in any way.”

“Was it ever hard waiting?”

“Sometimes.  Everyone else was having sex, and I wanted to have sex.  I was always horny.  It’s not like I wasn’t.”

“So what happened?” At that point, I wanted him to cut to the chase.

“Last year, I finally met the person I knew was right for me.  We met in a bar, but we weren’t drunk, and everything just clicked.  I knew she was the one.”

“Did you have sex that night?”

“No.  I called her on Thursday, a few days later, and we got together that Saturday.  I wasn’t in a hurry.  I knew it was going to happen.  I took her to dinner, and we went to her place afterwards.  That’s when I lost my virginity.  And I was right to wait. I was vindicated.  It was beautiful, Paul.  It felt perfect and it was beautiful.”

“Was it her first time too?”

“Oh no!  She was 26 last year — an older woman, and experienced.”

“Are you two still together?”

“No”, he said, “We never got together as a couple.  That wasn’t something she wanted or I wanted, and we understood that about each other from the start.  We’re friends now, but we’ve only had sex that one time.”

“I’m very proud,” he went on, “that I waited until everything felt right…until I knew it was right.”

“Not many people do that, Neil.”, I remarked, “Did your parents raise you to consult your soul?”  I had a strong suspicion at this point that Neil’s parents, both artists, raised him to pay careful attention to his “soul”.  It seemed like something artists would do naturally — perhaps even do necessarily.

“Very much so.”, Neil said, and he went on about that for a while.  But I wasn’t really following him at that point.

I’d begun to feel the beer and my mind was wandering back to the days when Neil was in high school and I was something of the neighborhood confident for a third of the kids at the Coffee Shop.  Neil had made the decision that was right for him and come out shining.  All in all, his story was one of the best I’d heard then or now, and I felt grateful to him for sharing it with me.


This post was originally published July 7, 2008, and was last updated April 23, 2017 for clarity.

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, Artist, Coffee Shop Stories, Paintings, People, Talents and Skills, Visual Arts

Jess the Artist

Today, I happened to walk into the Coffee Shop at the same time as an artist was hanging her work for display.  It wasn’t long before she and I were in a fast and free conversation about her art.  That’s to say, something clicked and we found ourselves giving voice to each other’s ideas.  A curious introduction, so quickly eye to eye.

I occasionally wonder about that — about how some people you meet feel like an old friend in moments, and how some others never seem to be more than acquaintances even after knowing them for years?

Then, again, maybe it’s not so strange for an artist to be easy to talk with.  After all, she’s already hung her work — which is her attempt to communicate — on a public wall.  You can’t get much more inviting than that, can you?

Jess is a young artist, and of course her work is still developmental, but I think she has promise.  Her paintings are original, they make an impact, and so maybe she even has great promise.  But it’s so hard to judge with a young artist because you never know whether over the years they will pursue their strengths, and thus develop their promise; or instead whether they will try to merely compensate for their weaknesses, and thus almost certainly be damned to mediocrity. 

Now, if I had to guess, I would guess this artist is going end up playing to her strengths.  What I saw today is that her technique hasn’t yet caught up with her vision, so there’s still a noticeable awkwardness to her art.  On the other hand, each of her paintings seemed a bright burst of originality shining through that awkwardness.   And, all in all, it’s that originality that is most her.   

Too bad I will probably lose track of her.  I think it would be very interesting to see what she does next.

Aesthetics, Art, Artist, Ethics, Goals, Meaning, Professionals, Purpose, Quotes, Values

Art As A Self Discipline

“If art is about self, the widely accepted corollary is that making art is about self-expression. And it is – but that is not necessarily all it is. What gets lost in that interpretation is an older sense that art is something you do out in the world, or something you do about the world, or even something you do for the world. The need to make art may not stem solely from the need to express who you are, but from a need to complete a relationship with something outside yourself. As a maker of art you are custodian of issues larger than self.”

David Bayles and Ted Orland, Art and Fear

Aesthetics, Art, Artist, Late Night Thoughts, Love, People, Photography, Portraits, TJ

A Journey to Hell and Back with a Camera

It seems to me photography is a deceptively difficult art to excel in.

Yet, it looks so simple to begin with; and besides, who hasn’t gotten lucky with photography by producing at some time a few good photos?  I have not yet heard of anyone who created a genuinely good oil painting on their first try, but I know of several people who produced a genuinely good photo on their first try.  Perhaps we should be thankful there are accessible arts like photography, since there seems to be a bit of the artist in each of us.

Yet, last night I myself was anything but thankful for the art of photography.  In fact, I was very much in danger of being arrested by the Colorado Domestic Violence Protection Agency for the verbal abuse of an inoffensive art.  Which is to say, I was attempting to take a really, really good photo while utterly and completely lacking the necessary skills to do so.

The inspiration for my attempt at photography was innocent enough.  That morning, TJ had casually said to me, “You know, I don’t really have a good photo of you.”

Of course, TJ’s wishes command my heart, whether I want them to or not.  So, all day long my heart moped as if it had witnessed a grave injustice done to her.   By nightfall, there was nothing that could be done to restore peace to my heart but create a photo of myself for TJ.

The thing I have learned about the arts is I have an affinity for some of them and lack an affinity for others of them.  I strongly suspect most of us are that way.  Some of us seem born to feel a paintbrush work a canvas, while for others of us it’s to feel a song pass our lips, or to play a guitar, or to dance.  Yet, in my own case, it is most certainly not to wield any device as complicated and intimidating as a camera.  After last night, if I still owned a gun, I would not still own a functioning camera.

I hope you will not be too distraught to discover that I took well over 60 or 80 photos of myself last night before I somehow managed to get even just one image that rose to the sublime aesthetic qualities of a standard police mug shot.  My index finger grew a hard callous from hitting the delete button, and a Navy recruiter somehow overheard my choice of swear words and dropped by to leave me with his business card.  To put that last bit in context, I don’t usually swear for fear I will sound too much like one of today’s twelve year olds.

How do photographers like Robin, Stevo, Loren, and Marka manage to do it?  Both my older brother and my friend Don are talented photographers, but not I.   So I suppose I can console myself that,  no matter how much talent and skill I myself lack, there are indeed people out there who can do wonders with the medium.  Somehow that makes me feel a little better.

Of course, what makes me feel even better than that was TJ’s reaction to my photo today.  Although she did not deny that my strenuous effort at self-portraiture bore an uncanny resemblance to high school yearbook art, she chose to be exceedingly gracious and thanked me twice over for my opus.  At last, my heart feels at peace.