Monday, January 17, 2022

Don't Look Up

Don’t Look Up (Netflix) could have been titled The Big LieIn the Adam McKay film, a comet threatens civilization. But the comet is nothing less  than the denial of reality. In fact supporters cheer the president, Meryl Streep (Janie Orlean), when she exhorts them not to "look up" at the celestial object coming right at them. Substitute global warming, but added to the whole plethora of denials perpetrated by the Trumpocracy, the Covid conspiracy, the Iran nuclear deal, and the destruction of the institution of democracy, you have a raging crowd cheering the downfall of humanity, in both the literal and metaphorical sense of the word. Leonardo DiCaprio (Dr. Randall Mindy) and Jennifer Lawrence (Kate Dibiasky) play the astronomers who make the initial findings. Ultimately they’re arrested for unveiling another truth, the mission to destroy the comet is being foiled for a greater good: the enrichment of the few. Spoiler Alert: the survivors, end up naked in a Garden of Eden somewhere in the multiverse. Just when they’re about to profit from the spoils…boom.There was a famous Twilight Zone, “To Serve Man.” A group of humans also in transit arrive on a new planet. They'd been lured to the world of the Kanamit, the inhabitants of a far away planet, having previously been presented with a book entitled “To Serve Man.” The problem is that it turns out to be a cookbook. Don’t Look Up is the perfect sequel to 2001: A Space OdysseyFrom the first frames when a gigantic telescope is scouring the heavens, the graphics are enormously creative, but the subsequent disquisition is short and sweet. The dialogue and narrative could be the bubbles in a graphic novel or comic strip. The tone is almost dismissive and devoid of gravitas which is a perfect rendering of how the mind actually distances itself from the shock of something terrible happening. Even as one thinks "this couldn’t possibly be happening" (Donald Trump being reelected), it’s happening again with the concomitant feeling of paralysis about being able to do anything to stop it.

Read "The Wormhole Society" by Francis Levy, The East Hampton Star

and listen to "I Will Survive" by Gloria Gaynor

Friday, January 14, 2022

Time Machine

“One way of understanding capitalism, in fact, is as a giant machine for instrumentalizing everything it encounters…in the service of future profit,” remarks Oliver Burkeman in Four Thousand Weeks: Time Management for Mortals. This Burkeman, goes on to explain, is why rich people are so often unhappy. “In focusing so hard on instrumentalizing their time, they end up treating their lives in the present moment as nothing but a vehicle in which to travel toward a future state of happiness.” Kierkegaard’s “Unhappiest Man” in Fear and Trembling lives in “past memory” or “future hope” and is “incapable of living in the present.” Of course, this is one way of describing compulsive photographers who constantly catalogue and collect experiences in lieu of fully experiencing them. The advent of digital photography exacerbated this propensity, due to the facility with which images could proliferate. Digital photographs can infest computer memory—though you don’t need an exterminator. All that's required is to push the “delete” button. Modern technology turns reality into a new kind of processed cheese interposing one degree of separation with its tasty artificial spread. Remember when you poured over the pages of the old family album with their photograph corners? Burkeman quotes John Maynard Keynes thusly, “The ‘purposive’ man is always trying to secure a spurious and delusive immortality for his actions by pushing his interests in them forward into time.” 

Read Francis Levy on "Time Management For Mortals," 

and listen to "Love Machine" by The Miracles

Thursday, January 13, 2022

Fatted Cow Stuff

Is seven years of famine and seven years of feast just apocrypha? Everyone thinks they’re reliving the biblical famine and feast as they look back over the past and continue to live their lives. Does it really always pour when it rains? The answer is plainly no. And what do the feelings of having hit a wall really represent? Is "inanition" a physical or ultimately spiritual condition? You may desire something to replenish you, to fill up the black hole into which your being has been cast. However, emptiness is in the eyes of the beholder. To employ the overused axiom, you can choose to see your glass half full. It’s like clearing one’s desk or mind. You become confronted with a certain nothingness which actually camouflages plenitude just as the profusion of frenetic activity is often a coverup for stagnation. You have undoubtedly been around noisy people (particularly hyperactive children) who employ an inundation of language to cover up the disturbing emotions they’re experiencing.

Read "Feast or Famine" by Francis Levy, HuffPost 

and listen to 'Cold Sweat" by James Brown & Wilson Pickett (talk about feasting)

Wednesday, January 12, 2022

Monkey Time

Major Lance (Okeh Records)

The moment you’re born you begin to die, but the opposite is not true, at least from a scientific point of view. The moment of death is not rebirth unless you’re a believer in either the afterlife or reincarnation which bring up the question of "Monkey Time," a legendary soul song of the 60s, performed by Major Lance who just happened to have been the father of the former mayor of Atlanta, Keisha Lance Bottoms. And there’s “Mickey’s Monkey,” a Smokey Robinson hit. Of course, the monkey is an ancestor of man who famously mocks the vanity of men’s wishes by dancing on a grave. Shelley’s “Ozymandias” spins a similar song, “Look at my Works, ye Mighty, and despair!” Survival of the species occurs by way of natural selection, though as Stephen Jay Gould demonstrated in his theory of “punctuated equilibrium,” evolution proceeding by fits and starts, has a mind of its own. Ancestors (except going back to the musical analogy you realize that Sylvia Robinson of Mickey and Sylvia's “Love is Strange” fame had a second life as the producer of The Sugarhill Gang's “Rapper Delight”) do not make the light flicker at seances, except in horror films about possession, like The Exorcist.

read "Pornosophy: The Pleasure Principle" by Francis Levy, HuffPost

and listen to "Monkey Time"(1963) by Major Lance

Tuesday, January 11, 2022

Park Avenue

1133 Park Avenue (photo Jim Henderson)

Prewar Park Avenue and Fifth Avenue buildings, with their uniformed doormen and granite facades, have a dynastic quality. Fifth Avenue buildings are particularly auspicious. Jackie Kennedy and Rupert Murdoch both had Fifth Avenue residences. But the Park Avenue coops facing each other over the landscaped islands, (under Metro North tracks) which separate the up and downtown traffic and all converging on the old Helmsley Tower which fronts the Viaduct running around Grand Central to the statue of Cornelius Vanderbilt comprise a legend, using both meanings of the word, myth and something which can be read. 1l33, where J.D. Salinger grew up, was the model for the Glass family residence in Franny and Zooey. Park Avenue is an imperturbable display of wealth, but it's also like a vertical Newport and East Hampton with one mansion (or plantation) piled on the next and each one evidencing its own family tree and storyline (odd Netflix doesn't feature a series entitled, "Park Avenue"). If you wanted to take a punch at capitalism in the form of the leaders of Fortune 500 companies, you’d only have to strafe these fortresses of the ruling class. But there's wealth, social capital, conspicuous ostentation and reserve. 1185 Park Avenue, for instance, distinguishes itself as a kind of gated community, with its grand driveway leading into a rotunda of separate edifices. Then there are buildings like 720 which house the ultra ultra rich and contain elite amenities like squash courts for those who don’t want to bother with the trip down to the exclusive Racquet Club at 370, a bastion of an era when WASPs were the ruling insect.

Read "The Wealth of People" by Francis Levy, HuffPost

and listen to "This Magic Moment" by The Drifters

Monday, January 10, 2022

Secrets and Lies

Most people have secrets, but is it possible to hide anything? You could say for example that no matter how parents try to hide their proclivities, tensions, dissatisfactions and envy, children know everything. The cognizance is not necessarily on the surface, but the child inevitably picks up the truth by osmosis. In this age where it seems that objectivity can bend like gravity in the relativity paradigm literally anything can be propounded as "reality." However there's no mistaking viral intentions which make their way into a system, finally emerging as a full blow disease. Oedipus, of course, is the most famous example. By thinking he could outrun the truth he brought about what might be called the "ur" self-fulfilling prophecy. Why then is it so hard to own up? Why do so many people get caught in a web of lies, futile attempts to rewrite history, with new lies covering up lies. You might also ask why people have what psychoanalysts call "repetition compulsions." You make a mistake and feel so badly about it that you say OK I’m just going to do the same thing one more time.Then I’ll stop. It’s called throwing good money after bad--which is also one definition of addiction. You take one last opioid, one last drink and you’ll stop tomorrow. Tomorrow comes and you do the same thing yet one more time. Insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results.

Read "Dr. Pangloss?" by Francis Levy, HuffPost

and listen to "Ain't Too Proud to Beg"by The Temptations

Friday, January 7, 2022


Moonwalk (Alvaro Marques Hijazo)

“Terraforming “was cited in a recent article about in
 The Times ("NASA’s Retiring Top Scientist Says We Can Terraform Mars and Maybe Venus, Too,” 1/2/22). The term refers to creating a habitable atmosphere for humankind on another planet. Mars in this paradigm might be comparable to the Hudson Yards, a piece of once outlier real estate, now considered worthy of development. After the Second World War, the housing shortage in urban centers like New York City  gave rise to massive new development in the 50s and 60s. The nameless white brick and glass high rises that line First, Second and Third Avenue are exemplars of this development. Will big developers like Tishman soon be putting their imprint on the solar system? You might have sanctimoniously given your yearly $10 bucks to the green movement thinking that any real threat was generations away. Little did you realize that if the ice sheet in Greenland continues to melt, seas could rise as much as three feet by the year 2060—enough to totally eradicate a number of major coastal areas. Even then there will probably be those who gasp in horror at disasters like the recent Kentucky tornadoes or the recent fires near Boulder, Colorado while still resting assured that nothing would block their supply chain. However, the shit is going to hit the fan and you aren’t going to move mountains or civilizations overnight. Just like with packing up apartments, you have to call the movers and get boxes and in this case biospheres—i.e. latter day arks—to transport  billions of people and their belongings and you have to make sure about utilities like Oxygen and Water, before invading Mars.

read "The Wormhole Society" by Francis Levy, The East Hampton Star

and listen to "Wind" by the Jesters (1960)