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Archive for the ‘Philosophy’ Category

Mike Siegel has been a regular and faithful reader of this blog for at least five years, and has on numerous occasions assisted me with scientific or other issues.  See, he’s a professional astronomer and a blogger himself, and now he’s a fiction writer as well; last week, he self-published his first novel through Kindle Direct Publishing. The book is entitled The Water Lily Pond after the series of Monet paintings that inspired it.  He synopsizes it thusly: “Many decades in the future, medical science has made aging a thing of the past.  Painter Walter Winston, at age 128, finds himself dying from simply being exhausted from life.  He sets off on a journey to revisit the places he’s lived, trying to rediscover himself, his life and the people who made it worth living.  It’s science fiction, yes.  But it’s not really about science.  It’s about time and old age and regret and art…The two passages below take place after Walter’s wife has died. Having been alone for a long time and wanting to avoid complications, he occasionally hires an escort.  On at least one occasion, a university hosting his lecture hired an escort for him.  The first passage concerns the latter“:

The last time he’d been in a hotel room identical to this one he had not been alone. She was a pretty girl from Ecuador whom the University had arranged for him. He was a hundred years older than her. They had lain in bed after it was done — the school had generously paid for the entire night. He thought of David and Abishag in the Americo painting. They had sent her to warm him.

Her cigarette smoke made lazy curls on the ceiling as she talked to him. She was certainly the smartest girl he’d ever had – she spoke four languages and was earning her degree from UCLA in astronautics. She spoke of a future on the Earth-Moon run.

“Why do you do this, then?” he’d asked, shocked.

She stared at him for a moment then giggled.

“You’re so old-fashioned.”

“I’m so old!”

“It’s endearing. I think the oldest man I’d been with before you was … 90?  95? He wasn’t quite as prudent.”

“You didn’t answer the question.”

She rolled over, her black hair spilling onto the white pillow like a Pollock painting, her hip making a steep curve beneath the sheets like a Reubens. It made him feel a lot younger than 125 to look at her and to touch her.

“I enjoy it. It’s that simple. The money’s great. I certainly wouldn’t do it for free.  But mainly I enjoy it. Not the act, per se. I enjoy the people.  I always get high-class clients.  Like famous artists,” she said, poking him in the belly.

He sank against the pillow, wondering if he was the only person on Earth old enough to see any stigma in her job.

“Do you remember everyone you’ve ever been with?” she asked. “After …”

“After all this time?” He grinned and nodded. “Sometimes it takes a while, but I do. Not that I’ve been with that many.

“It’s not just women I’ve been with that I remember. I can remember women I’ve wanted and never had. I can still remember a girl I passed on the street a century ago. She had the deepest eyes I’d ever seen. A short white skirt and a green blouse. She’s probably been dead half a century; certainly never knew my name or who I was. And yet I think about her. I can still see the fabric of the blouse clinging to her body.”

She leaned over and kissed him.  “You should have painted her.”

“I did.”

This next passage is from a bit later in the book and references the time Walter lived in the worst part of Harlem in the 1980’s as a struggling artist.

He had never hired a professional before Sarah was gone.  Even in his loneliest nights in Harlem, shortly after his marriage with Anna had collapsed, when he could hear the streetwalkers and their clients in the alleys and crack houses of the neighborhood; when he couldn’t walk to and from home without at least a couple of them asking if he wanted a date.  It had never really crossed his mind.

“They didn’t repel me,” he told Sarah once.  “I got to know some of them over time.   Most of them were nice enough and a couple even knew about my art.  I even drew inspiration from them for one or two paintings.”

“They were in the pentaptych,” said Sarah.

“One was.  A woman who doggedly worked a corner near me for almost a decade.  Put her kid through school on it.  But I just wasn’t interested in what they were offering.”

It was Chuck who talked him into it.  Chuck, who knew that the side of the industry Walter had seen in King’s Slate was the bad part of a much larger enterprise.

“You should come with me to Vegas,” he said one night at the lake, three years after Sarah had died.  There had been an awkward discussion over dinner about whether Walter should get “out there” or not. Now he and Chuck were on the dock, in the darkness.

“Or up to Toronto.  Or over to Paris.  Or Bucharest.  Or anywhere.  Any sophisticated city is going to have professionals – talented, beautiful.  Most places, you wouldn’t even be breaking the law anymore.”

Walter shifted uncomfortably in his deck chair.  The water lapped quietly under the dock.

“Look, I know how you were raised.  But at our age … do you really want to date?  Do you want to go through that?  Especially with two grandchildren and another on the way?  What are you going to do if you meet someone?  Move away?  Leave little Lucia all by herself?  This is a way to not be alone but not have complications.”

“I just can’t see myself doing that,” said Walter.  “Paying someone to pretend to be attracted to me?  It’s not like there’s a shortage of art fans or anything, if meaningless sex was what I wanted.”

“But a professional won’t stalk you.  She won’t want to get pregnant.  She won’t tell everyone about it.  And it’s not just sex.  Sometimes it’s not even sex.  I hired a woman in Moscow to basically go to the Bolshoi with me.”

“Can we just let it go?”

Chuck shrugged.  “As you wish.  But men our age have needs.  Yours will get the better of you at some point.  Less risk if it’s a professional than an amateur.”

In the end, Chuck was right.  He had been surprised that it wasn’t the sex itself that made him happy.  It was the touch of skin, the rustle of sheets, the play of light on a naked body.  It was the feeling, however faintly, of being back in those sepia and ash-colored days when he and Sarah or Juliette or Anna or Linda would lie in a warm bed and just enjoy not being alone.

“Intimacy,” said Chuck.  “Companionship.  Remember Abishag.”

It wasn’t often – a few times a year, maybe.  But it was enough to get through the previous four decades.

Mike writes, “I didn’t set out to reference sex work in my novel.  It just seemed like what the character would do, given his arc, and I saw no reason to shy away from it.  Sex work is a part of our world and will continue to be a part of our world long into the future. There’s no point in pretending it doesn’t exist.”  Mike is a great guy, an ally of sex workers and a friend; if you enjoyed these excerpts, you really ought to consider buying his book.  Pretty please?

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Then, I was inspired;
Now, I’m sad and tired.  –  Tim Rice, Jesus Christ Superstar

Life Shattering by Martz90 (2012)This has been a year of dramatic change in my life, and to a slightly lesser extent in this blog, and so I’m sure most of you won’t be surprised when this column breaks the tradition of New Year’s Eve columns that I maintained for five years.  In the past, I would write a thorough synopsis of the year’s events, with copious links to the columns in question; this year, I’m afraid that I have neither the time nor the energy for such an exhaustive reiteration.  Whereas I used to prepare non-news columns weeks in advance, now I’m lucky if I’m two days ahead; most of the time it’s only one, and sometimes I hit “schedule” just hours (and in a few cases, mere minutes) before press time.  The main reason for this is that my life is a lot busier now: rather than living in semi-retirement on a ranch in the country with an estranged husband and a minimum of face-to-face interaction with others beside Grace, I’m now back to work full time in Seattle with a girlfriend recovering from a severe motorcycle accident, and I have to make a specific effort to get the time and privacy I need to write.  That’s why I haven’t managed to get another book out; I’ve only barely managed to keep the blog going, and I can’t recall a time when I was so continually exhausted yet so unable to obtain adequate rest and recuperation.  On top of that I’m almost six years older now than when I started – I’ve gone from not-much-past-forty to nearly-fifty in calendar years, and I couldn’t even estimate how much I’ve aged experientially.  Barely anything about my life is the same now as it was two Decembers past, and even my self has changed to a point that would cause the Maggie of 2010 to reel in shock.  I spend hours every day processing my thoughts, feelings and newly-acquired knowledge, and yet the sheer volume and gravity of the stuff I have to process precludes my getting it all done anytime soon.  But if there’s one thing I know with certainty, it’s this: my commitment to the cause of sex worker rights is greater than it has ever been, and if anything it will only increase in the year to come.

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There’s been an accidental discharge at my house.  –  Joel Jenkins

Regarding today’s video: I can’t take anyone who can’t laugh at himself seriously, so one of the things I like about libertarians is that they usually tend to be pretty good at laughing at themselves.  The video was provided by Clarkhat, who also contributed “drunk cop”.  The other links are from Mark BennettJesse Walker, and Emma Evans, in that order.

From the Archives

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No Thanks

Were it not for Halloween’s growing popularity as an adult drinking holiday [Christmas displays] might have broken into October by now.  –  “The Most Wonderful Time of the Year

Black Friday memeIt didn’t take long for my prediction to become a reality; last year I saw Christmas displays at a farm supply store two weeks before Halloween, and this year I saw them at Lowe’s around the same time.  Stores that don’t carry Halloween merchandise have now broken the Halloween barrier, and even retailers like Wal-mart are inching past it in parts of the store, with full-on Christmas displays emerging on Halloween afternoon.  Long-time readers know that though I love Christmas, I like seasons to be seasonal; part of what makes Christmas fun is that it’s a special time of year, and something that occupies a quarter of the calendar can hardly be considered “special”.  Did you notice the color of my nails in the photo I posted Tuesday?  Brown.  For autumn, and for the browned foods of Thanksgiving.  They won’t go Christmas red until my next visit to the nail parlor this coming Tuesday.  And they haven’t been black since shortly after Halloween; no matter what the marketers may push, black is not the appropriate color for today or for any other part of the Christmas season.  If you want to go out there and risk death, dismemberment or police brutality for a chance at one of an artificially-small number of low-priced bait-and-switch items hurled down by the millionaire top-management of “big box” stores like scraps tossed off the palace balcony to the starving peasantry, be my guest; I won’t be joining you.  Though I won’t be spending the day out in the country as I have for the past 10 years, I’ll mostly be spending it with friends and I’m not going anywhere near a retail store.  I will, however, be continuing one of my long-standing traditions:  collecting toys to donate to needy children via the Toys for Tots program.  If you live in or near Seattle and would like to help me in this effort, please email me; from now until the 18th I’m also offering a special deal for clients as part of that effort, and if you’d like to take advantage of that you can click here to get in touch with me about it.  Christmas is what we make it:  it can be a time to rush and stress, or a time to relax and enjoy; a time to let marketers lead you around by the nose, or a time to share what you have.  I know how I’m going to celebrate, and as I do every year I invite you to join me.  And if you see any Sallies ringing bells, please give them this with my compliments.Salvation Army donation

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I am a mistress right now.  I love my boyfriend very much, but I am very confused about everything that I have researched about mistresses and wives.  Apparently, I am supposed to be a homewrecker, an evil temptress whose only desire is to take him away from his family.  Nothing could be further from my mind–I even give my boyfriend advice on how to get along with his wife.  The more I look around the net, the more I find sites that tell me how I am going to be disappointed because he will not leave his wife, because he uses me sexually, because I will not have an intimate emotional connection with him.  But I do not want him to leave his wife, and if the affair was ever discovered I would call her and promise her that I would never see him again so that he can be with his family.  I don’t get money from him, either; I don’t really understand how I am supposed to fit into the expectations society has of mistresses.

succubusWhen I was a teenager, I figured that my sexuality made me a weirdo.  I didn’t think sex was some special, magical thing to be shared only with certain consecrated people; nor did I believe it was dirty and polluting and had some special power to destroy my soul.  I was attracted to men and women equally, was willing to try new things, and was polyamorous at a time and place where that term didn’t exist (we called them “open relationships”, and some of my older partners called it “free love”).  The idea of jealousy made no sense at all to me; I didn’t care if my partners had sex with other people and I probably had more three-ways before I was 20 than more conventional girls have had sex partners of any kind.  But society told me that was all abnormal; sex possessed some kind of magical mumbo-jumbo taboo energy which made it different from all other human activity, and if I had “too much” I would be “ruined”, and I should be angry and hostile and hateful and throw my relationship away if I discovered a boyfriend or girlfriend had slept with somebody else.  I didn’t believe any of that crap, but I did believe that believing in it was “normal”; I was therefore a freak.  By the end of my twenties I had a much broader outlook; I felt that everyone was different, and that my way of perceiving sex was no less “normal” than the more common view.  But after 18 years of harlotry, I’ve begun to realize that my initial position was closer to the truth, except for big difference:  I’m not the one with the freakish way of looking at sex; society at large is.  Sex isn’t any more magical or holy or special than any other thing we can do with other people; it doesn’t have any unique power to destroy souls, and it isn’t “ruined” or “polluted” or whatever if one has it with multiple partners, or pays for it, or engages in it for reasons other than “love” or “pleasure”.  Rape is not a fate worse than death, sex society brands as “illicit” is mostly harmful to young people because of the stigma society inflicts rather than because of the activity itself, and extramarital sex has no intrinsic power to “wreck” a home; it’s jealousy and insecurity which do that.  The taboo/magical/possessive paradigm of sexuality is deeply sick and twisted, and has probably caused more evil, sorrow and destruction than any other single cultural construct on earth.

There’s an old adage that goes, “in the country of the blind, the one-eyed man is king,” but that’s total bullshit; as H.G. Wells illustrated in his story “The Country of the Blind“, the real response of a nation of blind people to someone trying to describe the concept of sight would be to conclude he was an imbecile.  Were the hypothetical one-eyed man to peruse the (Braille-like) records of this blind nation, he might discover other cases of “sick”, “crazy” and perhaps even “dangerous” individuals who had claimed to possess this imaginary power called “sight”; he might even find analyses of why these people should give up their delusions of a fifth sense, and how they’d never be happy or fit into society until they stopped claiming to see, or possibly even descriptions of how such troublemakers had been sentenced to have their eyes plucked out to rid them of this twisted delusion of “sight”.  What I’m getting at is this:  there’s absolutely nothing wrong with you or your way of looking at your relationship, but since you live in the Country of the Blind, don’t be surprised if the great majority can’t understand your gift of sight.  And because they can’t, they will all try to convince you that you’re the one who’s wrong and sick.

(Have a question of your own?  Please consult this page to see if I’ve answered it in a previous column, and if not just click here to ask me via email.)

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Diary #281

The Great UnknownIt’s been over a month since a careless driver wrecked into my car, and the slow wheels of his corporate insurance company have finally almost finished grinding; once the car was in the shop the damage was discovered to be far more extensive than it outwardly appeared, so the company decided to total it.  Luckily, I got a good deal on it, so I should actually be able to replace it with something at least as good; I’m looking at something today, and even if that doesn’t work out the insurance company is covering the rental until Friday.  So I reckon it’s all going to work out, but I’m still very annoyed at the whole affair; I didn’t think I was emotionally attached to the Hyundai, but I guess I was.  It was bought for me by my readers, carried me across the country several times, then dependably took me back to Idaho to tend to Jae and bring her home after her accident.  It served me well, never once stranded me and got excellent fuel mileage; this new car is going to have to go a long way to beat it.  Ah, well, all things must pass.

Today also marks the anniversary of a very memorable dinner party with Jae, Mistress Matisse and Savannah Sly; how much my world has changed since then!  If you had asked me two years ago, I would have predicted that my life would change only slowly and predictably in the future, but the gods delight in proving me wrong; I suppose the only way to stop that is to stop making predictions.  And maybe that’s for the best.

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Diary #280

Sunday was the one-year anniversary of the day I arrived in Seattle by train on the visit that was to change my entire life.  I thought it was just going to be an ordinary, albeit extra-nice, tour stop; I had no idea that I would bond so deeply with my friends here, nor that I would develop such deep feelings for Jae so quickly.  By the time I left I knew I would return for at least a visit; within a few weeks I had decided to relocate.  And before 90 days had passed since my departure, I was back.  But that was no mere change of residence, oh no; those who have followed this diary feature over the past year know what a long, strange trip it’s been.  Where will it take me next?  I have absolutely no idea, and I’ve given up on trying to predict; I can barely even keep on schedule with this blog.  But I’m going to keep on working, and keep on writing, and keep on fighting the good fight, and keep on expanding my horizons, and chronicling the whole thing right here.  And maybe one day, I’ll even figure out what it all means.

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