Wednesday, May 25, 2022

The Rise and Fall of the Noman Empire

Nome (photo: Sir Mildred Pierce)

Edward Gibbon’s The Rise and Fall of the Noman Empire has become a classic. The famous historian dealt with Noman architecture and ruins along with emperors and consuls who maintained the rule of law throughout the far flung colonies. There fisherman who were Noman gladiators met in frozen colosseums where they struggled to subdue their catch through holes in the ice. It's been said that Ernest Hemingway got the idea for The Old Man and the Sea when he and other writers left Paris for Nome--where they truly became "The Lost Generation." Those were the days when Nome was a frosty habitat even in the summer months and you had to wear a coat in the Caracalla Baths which were housed in Igloos. That's where the expression "when in Nome, do like the Nomans," derives from. It was in Nome that the comic play, A Funny Thing Happened On the Way to the Forum, was conceived. It was also where Zero Mostel earned his famous nickname, (he was born "Knut," but it never got above zero in Nome).

read "The Promiscuous and the Protean" by Francis Levy, The East Hampton Star

and listen to "A Funny Thing Happened on theWay to the Forum" with Zero Mostel

Tuesday, May 24, 2022

Should I Get Rapid Tested Before Having a Quickie?

Rapid Antigen Tests (photo: Boldle)

Dear Ethicist: I'm a swinger. My question is this: with the recent spike in infections should I wear a mask when having sex with a stranger or someone not in my pod. The CDC is recommending mask wearing indoors. Does that apply to sex clubs? I realize this is a “loaded” question due to the fact that most foreplay is accomplished by employing the oral cavity on the nether regions of the partner's body. I'm also cisgender and have begun to realize my late-night excursions might infect my binary partner (who chooses to be called "they"), particularly if I’m an asymptomatic carrier. Someone at the sex club on 29th suggested I get a rapid (antigen test) at the Urgent Care on 23rd. At the very least I could always take an at home test whenever I decide to hookup. However, what if I meet someone in a bathroom? There’s instant attraction. Carpe diem is what I always say when it comes to flings. At the same time, I don’t want to let my family, friends and potential partners down. What do you recommend? Are social distancing and promiscuity oxymorons?

read "The Promiscuous and the Protean" by Francis Levy, The East Hampton Star

and listen to "Beachwood 4-5789" by the Marvelettes

Monday, May 23, 2022

Mouths Wide Shut

Eyes Wide Shut is the perfect pandemic movie—since it’s such a creature of fantasy. Dreams can become both vivid and tangled in a period of isolation and social-distancing. But the real title of the sequel could be Mouths Wide Shut since everyone has something to say, particularly if they’re talking to themselves, while being forced to wear a mask. Imagine the famous scene with Tom Cruise in the sex club, only in this case you’d see everyone’s eyes, but not their lips which would have to be covered due to CDC recommendations. The silver lining of the coronavirus has actually been the fact that people shut up. It’s tiring to speak with a mask on and infuriating when you’re on the phone wearing your mask and your significant other is constantly barking “I can’t hear a thing you’re saying” to which you’re forced to remind them, “the mask mandate is again in effect,” with your counterpart countering “I still can’t hear you.” The sex club scene is going to be hard to shoot with the typical N or KN95, since the mouth is an orifice that often comes into play in orgies. On the other hand the human body is resilient and quick to compensate for the loss of one function or another. Anecdotally there have been reports of greater frequency of purely genital sex since January, 2020 when the disease first hit these shores.

Read "Sperm Count: Speaking of Erections" by Francis Levy, HuffPost

and listen to "Sex Machine" by James Brown

Friday, May 20, 2022

The Duke

Is a charm dead, considering all that’s wrong with the world? Roger Mitchell’s The Duke starring Helen Mirren (Dorothy Bunton) and James Broadbent (Kempton Bunton) proves that delight can exist. It need not even be condescending, trivial or absurdly unreal. The "real" life story of the ransoming of Goya’s "Portrait of the Duke of Wellington” is well-known, but it’s the enchanting and humorous moments of human kindness couched at times in laugh-out-loud humor that sets the movie apart. Certain scenes standout. Amongst them the trial in which the jury convicts the hero for shall we say a lesser offense. Then there’s the one where Bunton is literally stranded out at sea. It’s a wonderful monologue about realizing the universe is  a beneficent place. Is it? The altruist in question is also a playwright who has written about the untimely death of a beloved daughter in a biking accident. Though uneducated, he cites Chekhov’s Three Sisters. You wish he’ll have some luck and that his suffering will not be for nothing, but as in Chekhov, it's not—at least in terms of the publication he seeks. Bunton does, however, become famous and yes the subject of a movie--albeit made long after his death.

read "The Promiscuous and the Protean" by Francis Levy, The East Hampton Star

and listen to "Duke of Earl"by Gene Chandler

Thursday, May 19, 2022

Warped Minds Think Alike


Einstein’s theory of relativity states that gravity warps space and time. But what factors can bend a mind? The curvature of time and space might be looked at as a perversion of Euclidian ideas, such as the notion of the shortest distance between two points being a straight line. But what goes on inside the brain? Are paraphilias created by magnetism, from sexual energies detoured by inhibition. Black holes of course tempt oblivion. Step over an event horizon and you descend Eurydice-like into an underworld devoid of light. The Large Hadron Collider creates a force field which gives birth to bosons. Have you ever imagined what it's like in an LHC? Quantum particles can be in two places at the same time. Wouldn't anyone who proposed such an idea at the time of Democritus--who first postulated the existence of the atom, or Lucretius, who wrote De rerum natura, On the Nature of Things, one of the first attempts at a unified theory, albeit in poetic form--like Copernicus or Galileo, be accused of heresy?

read "Pornosophy: Addicted to Love," HuffPost

listen to "Addicted to Love" by Robert Palmer

Wednesday, May 18, 2022

The Asov Battalion

Asov Battalion logo

As the World Turns was of course the name of a famous soap opera, but it also describes the circulatory nature of history out outlined in particular by Vico. There's the famed Santayana quote with its implication of endemic repetition compulsion, the neural substrate of futurity. The United States was roughly in the equivalent place of Russia back in l975, trying and failing to save face as soldiers died. Now the US has become the knight in shining armor and the Ukraine, a bombed out Camelot. Where and when will the Ukrainian brand of nationalism become branded? The Asov battalion were the holdouts in Mariupol, but they're known to be right wing nationalists;  extremism is effective because of the bonds it creates. Look at the Taliban, ISIS and other terrorist organizations. Look at Arab Spring and where it led. Is Libya better off now that Gaddafi has been rooted out? One of his sons, Said al-Islam, is now running for president. Fernando Marcos’s son, Bongbong, is taking over from Duterte in the Philippines. Certain elements of the periodic table are particularly unstable and prone to bond with others. The same is true of political movements that are infused by charisma. Eventually the sect becomes a church, as Max Weber pointed out. Those who are willing to die for a cause eventually become the problem.

read "The Square" by Francis Levy, HuffPost

and listen to "Many Rivers to Cross" by Jimmy Cliff

Tuesday, May 17, 2022

Love in the Time of Contagion

There are certain buzz words of any particular time. "Bipolarity" is so widely applied that it's become meaningless. "Narcissism" runs a close second with the dilution of the word's meaning being one of the most prevalent symptoms of the malady. "Self-involved" is another candidate for the Meaninglessness Hall of Fame. In
 Love in the Time of Contagion: A Diagnosis Laura Kipnis aptly compares the N word to herpes, since by definition narcissists point the finger at each other. It’s the pot calling the kettle black. A sub-category of self-involved people similarly criticizes each other for self-involvement. In a time when social distancing has replaced 6 degrees of separation, there's naturally the danger of drowning in one’s own image—depending on what degree of solitude one's forced to bear. Who else to be involved with than yours truly if the rest of the world has their metaphoric “gone fishing” signs prominently displayed. In prehistoric times, "narcissism" was a useful word. Psychoanalysts talked about “narcissistic grandiosity” to explain outlier behaviors that eschewed consequence and presumed and unearned invulnerability. Dilution is a problem accompanying many terms used to describe mental states. If you grew up in the 50s and 60s when lobotomies were still performed, you heard about friends of your parents who’d had "nervous breakdowns." These unfortunates whose fate was whispered about in hush tones were epitomized by the Olivia De Havilland character in Snake Pit (1948). They ended up being committed to notorious asylums like The Hudson Valley Psychiatric Institution or Wingdale—whose old red brick buildings now house crafts galleries.  The DSM-5 is the most recent edition of The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders. Jargonistas, who are narcissistically invested in their professional identities (and perhaps analytic neutrality) use it like Escoffier when hosting  terminology parties.

read "Zeno's Conscience" by Francis Levy, HuffPost

and listen to "Love On a Two Way Street" by The Moments