Friday, September 17, 2021

How to Clear the Mind

photo: Alejandro Linares Garcia

To stop thinking requires discipline. It might seem like sweets, sex or any of the items that are associated with pleasure. However, it’s grueling work and proof that the forces of dysphoria and euphoria are in a knock down drag out war—that isn’t mitigated by a  countervailing entropy. You’ve heard the plaintive whine of those longing for a so-called good time, particularly in these parlous times when the world is either drowning or burning up. If only they could place themselves under the palm in some Caribbean resort with gentle waves lapping up on the shore. What’s found on the cutting room floor of this particular travel ad, is the moment where the nagging old crone screams “where are you Charles, I’ve been looking all over for you” as the beautiful topless girl wipes herself off, picking up her copy of Der Stern, as she lays down on her settee sipping the daiquiri with the little umbrella that has just been served to her by one of the unctuously angry local natives who has a copy of Franz Fanon’s The Wretched of the Earth in their back pocket. At this very moment you realize you’ve picked up what are turning out to be painful second-degree burns. So much for “Club Hedonism!” Emptying the mind is similar to emptying the bowels. You don’t relax before a colonoscopy. You have to prep and get knocked out with Propofol. In order to be cleared of thoughts, the mind has to be dosed with a (verbal) diarrhetic before the skull is struck with the equivalent of a spiritual 2x4.

Read "It's Not a Rehearsal" by Francis Levy, HuffPost

Thursday, September 16, 2021

This Market Needs an Adjustment

Dickens' Miss Havisham (Harry Furniss)

They say the market needs an adjustment when stock prices are inflated, Bravo if you just need to be tweaked or condolences if it’s l929 and you’re thinking of jumping out of the window. Usually, the solution is slightly more benign and you accept the fact that there are more profitable ways to spend your time. You don’t need to exhaust yourself, to pound ever more loudly on a door that’s not going to open. It would be funny if you had the wrong address all along, wouldn’t it? There are different types of fetishes or paraphilias. Some people are only attracted to those they can’t have. This is usually an affliction of adolescence, but remember Miss Havisham, the jilted lover, living in cobwebs, who never gets out of her wedding gown? What if Miss Havisham got a gun and joined a terrorist group that went after cads? It’s not only perseveration, but the very desire that creates the rage. The Miss Havishams of the world are always going for the wrong guy. That’s what makes Sammy run. Tragically it’s distorted perception that creates the dysphoria (Moliere's Misanthrope, Alceste, suffers from this malady). Tell that to someone who's out to politicize their unruly desires. 

Read "Happy Days" by Francis Levy, TheScreamingPope

Wednesday, September 15, 2021

Annals of Gerontology: Last Words

 Father Time With Baby New Year

Time doesn’t heal wounds. A “philosophical attitude” might seem to be the product of advanced years. In fact, you’ll likely be experiencing the same emotions the day you die as the day before and the day before that. The person who never paid attention to you, no matter what you did, will always be a thorn. The one on the other hand who demanded enormous amounts of attention and got it and who exhibited a gluttonous desire to live will continue to tempt you in the most invidious ways. When will you take the plunge? In one fell swoop you could tell them what you think, but you know you’re going to die without having the guts to hit the “reply” button on the computer-generated rejection slip. In your last moments on earth everything that has always bugged you will eat you alive. You will close your eyes and your heart will remain filled with contempt until its final beat. Alfred Jarry famously asked for a toothpick. What will your last words be?

Read Francis Levy's review of Obit., HuffPost

Tuesday, September 14, 2021

Please Complete This Survey About Your Recent Visit

German engineer surveying during WWI

Please complete this survey about your recent visit to Medical Associates. It will take 3 hours maximum and your answers will be electronically proctored to prevent cheating. Please note that the answers to this survey will not be read by anyone and will not have any effect on the care we provide.


Name (optional)


Sex: (please reply “non binary)


Please add further comments about the first two questions here:


The egg from which my DNA derives was in vitro fertilized. I was born on a social conferencing media. "Make it CRISPR" were what my father said when I was handed to him over Zoom. I am still not sure about my pronouns.



What time was your original appointment. Start with 12AM and enter a number up to ll:59PM. Draw a picture of a clock with three hands, one for hours and minutes and one which is supposed to swing faster for seconds. Be sure to make sure the second turns sixty times faster than the minute hand.


Now do this.


Please add any further comments:


“Excuse me. Hello, anyone there? I just realized that I won’t have time to finish this survey as I have yoga and then therapy. Shit! There never is any way to get heard. It’s like trying to interrupt Siri in the middle of one of her sentences.”


Was your doctor helpful in treating your problem. Please answer from 0  to 10 and don’t use fractions. We are not interested in hearing that your doctor was one sixteenth helpful. If they were one sixteenth helpful, please count that as 0. Anything over one half is one.


Read "Datafication Redux I" by Francis Levy, HuffPost


Monday, September 13, 2021

When We Dead Awaken

 character sketches When We Dead Awaken
Have you ever felt like Plato’s cave dweller who only sees shadows  on the wall? Imagine waking up one day and coming to the realization that you’ve got it all wrong. Your Reichian Orgone Box has been filled with Muzak. Most people are like a goose that’s being turned into fois gras; they’re force fed their lives, though unlike the goose, they don’t feel anything. It’s just the way the world is. Talk to lifers. Torture can become reality. You’ve heard of inmates who're loathe to return to civilian life for fear of the unknown. Can you imagine not wanting to give up a life that others might regard as torture? As far flung as the notion may sound, it’s a metaphor for the meanspirited existence many abused people (which is to say a good portion of humanity) lives. You're either the victim of the so-called pleasures of affluence or the victim of scarcity (which yes is worse). What both have in common is the delusion that either will go on forever. When We Dead Awaken is the title of the famous Ibsen play. 

Read "The Right to Life (Last Chapter)" by Francis Levy, HuffPost

Friday, September 10, 2021

Ubu enchaine

set design for Jarry's Ubu enchaine by Max Ernst 1937 (Artists Rights Society)

Most people die the way they’re born—like everyone else. Generally, unless you’re born at home with a doula or midwife, you emerge in a hospital where you’re first presented to your mother, who's happy and thrilled, unless she’s not. It’s hard to make generalizations but you’re likely to die in one of three places: in a hospital room, in your bed (if you die in your sleep) or on the way down from the Brooklyn or George Washington Bridge (if you jump). There will be a memorial. You might insist on being different, but unless you’re Little Richard, you’re going to have one of those pathetic services populated by a small crowd of people who would rather be anywhere else. Sorry, nothing you’ll be able to do about it. No way to control anyone once you're gone. Someone is likely to make a speech which will capture your particularity by being funny on a somber occasion. An anecdote about your eccentric behavior will undoubtedly be provided before the 10 or 12 attendees, who can’t avoid the delusion they will never die, finally repair to either therapy, yoga or their daily afternoon infidelity.

Read Evan Harris's review of Francis Levy's Tombstone: Not a Western, The East Hampton Star

Thursday, September 9, 2021

Annals of Publishing: The Last New Yorker

Everything comes to an end. Rome, for example. Imagine the last edition of
 The New Yorker--which has got to happen. Sally Rooney's story, "Abnormal People," will deal with sad-masochistic sex among writers in an assisted living facility. There will be a long investigative piece by Ronan Farrow on how Mike Pompeo closed down the New York Public Library. Ezra Klein will offer his thoughts on "The Last Days of The New Yorker. Several pieces from the archive will celebrate the best of The New Yorker. Elizabeth Kolbert's piece about the extinction of the human species will be exhumed along with Jill Lepore’s "The New Babylonian Captivity" documenting the moving of The White House from Washington to a maxium security prison in an an undisclosed location. Bill McKibben on “The Sinking of Florida” and Adam Gopnik's “The Fate of Culture Without The New Yorker" will round out this section. "In Brief" reviews a previously unpublished Joyce Carol Oates novel about a tormented young woman growing up in Schenectady. The "Comment" will be a nostalgic reminiscence about The New Yorker from the regional director of the Internal Revenue Service. "The Talk of the Town" will include an interview with Frances Steloff, who ran the Gotham Book Mart before she died in 1989. "Shouts & Murmurs" will be a parody of the section entitled "What's So Funny?"

Read review of Mary South's You Will Never Be Forgotten by Francis Levy, TheScreamingPope