Wednesday, February 24, 2021

Pornosophy: Wheel of Fire

"Lear and Cordelia" by Ford Madox Brown (1848-9)

The unexpected cosmopolitan use of language in situations where such locutions are not expected can be both humanizing and liberating. Recently a porn actress demonstrating her talents with a particularly well-endowed partner commented, “this is going to be comical.” Such turns of phrase are not the expected badinage in couplings predicated on dominance and submission. Generally, the script for such productions can be summarized by two words “oh yeah,” repeated ad nauseam from beginning to end. Could the actress have been browsing at volumes like Octave Mannoni’s Prospero and Caliban or Franz Fanon’s The Wretched of the Earth in her local Barnes & Noble before the shooting? Consciousness raising can occur in the most unlikely situations—which is also one definition of revolution. Is it safe to assume Louis the XVI had no idea the sans-culottes would storm the Bastille? Generally pornography is predicated on hyperbole, but here is an example of an exchange in which an organ that bore some resemblance to the trunk of an elephant was presented to an average-sized mouth out of which emanated the kind of speech that might be encountered at a diplomatic reception in place of the usual inanities constituting the soundtrack of a so-called loop. “This is going to be comical,” doesn’t compare to Lear’s “But I am bound upon a wheel of fire that mine own tears do scald of molten lead.” However it does leave hope that flights of eloquence may occur almost anywhere. Remember the famous Groucho Marx quip, "I wouldn't want to belong to a club that would have me as a member?" Membership is the operant word.

Read "The Findings" by Francis Levy, The Evergreen Review

Tuesday, February 23, 2021

Babylon Palm Beach

Behind every popular uprising is an old guard or would be old guard eager to perpetuate its own power. Autocracy produces strange bedfellows. When you look at the MAGA crowds composed of the same dispossessed lumpenproletariat (unemployed and untrained workers and former ex-military) you wonder why they don’t realize they're being used. The fact that Trump’s tax cuts benefited the rich and that he never made good on his promise of a healthcare plan (at one press conference Kayleigh McInerny handed out a thick loose-leaf binder as proof of a health plan that was essentially the Emperor’s New Clothes). If you watched Babylon Berlin, the Netflicks series about Weimar Germany and the years leading up to the rise of Hitler, you noted a demographic tantamount to what is occurring in America today. Old-line conservative oligarchs, vestiges of the Prussian military find themselves in a fatal alliance with mobs of proto-fascists. It’s a dance of death much like that which exists between Trump’s base and the Republican party. Many Republicans have made a Faustian bargain with a nest of angry vipers. The sole purpose of these G.O.P. stalwarts lies in the perpetuation of their power—which they inadvertently relinquish each time they dilute the very values which they stood for in the first place. Actually, the conservative Republicans who would tolerate a Trump monarchy if it could satisfy their ends and their ragtag band of insurrectionists are like oil and water. It’s a delusional alliance that would be sad, were the results not so disconcertingly deadly. Don’t they realize their leader has nothing but contempt for his hordes of followers and that the gates of Mar-a-Lago itself will not open to MAGA?

Read "MAGA and the Coronavirus by Francis Levy, The East Hampton Star

Monday, February 22, 2021


photo of livestock by Daniel Schwen

They say your whole life passes before you at the moment of your death. Actually, it starts before...depending. During a pandemic like the one the world has been enduring, with both confinement and the lack of external stimulation, the conscious mind is prone to wander. At times it can almost be like a dream where all kinds unconscious  associations are mysteriously made due to the disinhibition that occurs when the cognitive faculties lay down arms. In fact, in times of great isolation waking up from sleep may jettison the mentality into worlds where it doesn't usually roam. For instance, if you were a hellion, during the 60s or later disco era in which you spent whole eras of your life bombed, you may be forced to take stock of your life. You may eventually be presented with a bill for your behavior. In other words, years later you may find yourself paying for your excesses. You, of course, don't need to be quarantined to find yourself, drifting into the past. In Ingmar Bergman’s Wild Strawberries, an aging professor relives the lost opportunities of his youth. Distance makes the heart grow stronger; the further away you are from certain memories the more potent, they become. You’re more prone to relive something that happened 20 years ago than yesterday. You’re more likely to relive it when you're forty than when you’re twenty and can’t remember anything at all about what happened when you were 0

Read "Limbo" by Francis Levy, The Evergreen Review


Friday, February 19, 2021

First Amendment, Right?

Arguing that the Proud Boys have a right to express themselves or that Parler is a site that should be sanctioned and carried by Amazon is like saying that Al Capone had the right to perpetrate the St. Valentine’s Day Massacre. Which brings up the question of the Second Amendment. Does having the right to bear arms include semi-automatic weapons? Within the context of the Insurrection of the capital, there's the question of the time between Trump’s inflammatory utterances and the attack of what had essentially become a lynch mob (who’d actually come equipped with a gallows). But let’s look at some other examples of free speech. What about Clarence Thomas talking about “Long Dong Silver” to Anita Hill? In theory you could say that’s not different than what Hugh Hefner and Larry Flynt did in their magazines. However, the difference was that neither of these pornographers had a captive audience who they were able to coerce by virtue of seniority. Back when they were being published, you went to the newsstand and bought your
 Hustler or Playboy and you might even have hidden it in a brown paper bag. For many years the publication of Mein Kampf was forbidden by the state of Bavaria, which was the copyright holder. Free expression was an issue in the Charlottesville riots. Why didn’t Virginians have the right to display Confederate monuments? Well, let’s say you were a Holocaust survivor, what would you think about a bust of Hitler being displayed outside your synagogue? Gets complicated. Remember the ACLU's defense of neo-Nazis parading through Skokie? Does freedom of speech include threatening to execute a political opponent, as Marjorie Taylor Greene has done? Were the Mob’s rights violated when they were silenced by The Untouchables?

Read "White Meat, Breasts" by Francis Levy, The Evergreen Review

Thursday, February 18, 2021

It's a Wonderful Life

If you watched the CNN sponsored town hall with Joe Biden in Milwaukee, you might have been reminded of Jimmy Stewart in It’s a Wonderful Life. Particularly the Walpurgisnacht sequence when before Stewart is about to jump to his death, where the angel Clarence Odbody demonstrates what the world would have been like without him. Well, we saw what the world was like only 4 weeks ago. And it’s the difference between day and some unending night where people like Steve Bannon run around quoting Milton's, “better to reign in Hell than serve in Heaven” and act like the devil. Will Biden ever steal Trump’s thunder? Certainly, he walks softly and authoritatively. He told a mother who was unsuccessful in finding a vaccine for her son who suffered from a high-risk medical condition to stick around afterwards. He’d try to help. He also assured the eight year old child of one of his interlocutors that there was nothing to worry about since most little kids don’t get Covid. Actually Biden bears more comparison to the angel than to Jimmy Stewart since he seems so good and pure and lacking in literally any of the self-regard of his predecessor.  During the town hall, he apologized more than once for talking too much. Such humility is refreshing. “
For four years, all that’s been in the news is Trump,” Biden said. “For the next four years, I wanna make sure the news is the American people.”  As they say you had to be there, but if you were you would have believed  it.

Read "Trumpty Dumpty's Great Fall" by Francis Levy, The East Hampton Star


Wednesday, February 17, 2021

Will Donald Trump Eat the Impossible Whopper?

You know the phrase, “you are what you eat.” With Donald Trump’s famous love of fast or junk food and Diet Coke, is it possible to conclude that he’s junk? On an anecdotal basis, his behavior as a president might be deemed fit for a dumpster. He creates a violent insurrection claiming an election is false and rigged and then claims he’s the victim of one of the greatest witch hunts on history. Actually, his public liking of the Big Mac and the fish fillet may be giving McDonald’s a bad name. Could it be that his diet is responsible for all his aggressive behavior? What would Trump be like if he suddenly started to eat brown rice, tofu and coconut milk? What if he started  to go for barbecued seitan skewers and kale burgers. Interestingly, it’s been reported that Hitler became a vegetarian during the war. Stalin liked cabbage soup and Mussolini loved garlic. There’s no evidence that moving away from fast food would result in a modification of his opinions say about the environment. But let’s hypothesize that one of his advisors introduces the former president to the Impossible Whopper at Burger King. Anyone who has ever tasted one of these meat substitutes knows they're really delicious. They’re much better than Big Macs. Perhaps the Impossible Burger would live up to its name and make the former president change his ways? 

Read "Lamb Stewed" by Francis Levy, Dispatches from the Poetry Wars

Tuesday, February 16, 2021

Be My Web Valentine


It feels like getting back some semblance of "normalcy" will be like Star Trek. You pull into Dodge and it's become a ghost town. Does anyone think that midtown Manhattan's forest of skyscrapers will suddenly be filled with worker bees--when a good deal of the work force has been operating on line with greater efficiency and productivity, due in part to the less time wasted on the commute. Is this the end of classical Freudian analysis? Will patients be reluctant to return to the couch, when they can Zoom with their doctors, who simply disable the video function to insure analytic neutrality? Of  course, socialization will have to occur someday. Neither love nor work can take place indefinitely in a chat room, though the legacy of the pandemic may well be a number of test tube babies which are the product of "cyber" marriages Will some lovers find that it's more exotic to express sweet nothings by way of teleconferencing media? The physical greeting card business has undoubtedly already been diminished by Jacquie Lawson. Will there be a certain romance in not formally meeting your significant other--under the theory that what doesn't exist always has an advantage over the real human being warts and all? Imagine sharing a virtual reality ski vacation without having to worry about broken legs (something which is undoubtedly already in the repertoire of certain "virtual reality" travel agencies). If 70-80% of Americans get vaccinated and herd immunity is achieved by the summer or fall, a kind of reverse Exodus is likely to occur, only what the Chosen, who have survived the pandemic, will return to may be Aldous Huxley's Brave New World with a touch of A  Clockwork Orange thrown in for spice.

Read "As I Lay Down" by Francis Levy, Noise