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.


Fin


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

Wednesday, September 8, 2021

Dear Ethicist: What to Do About Guilt?



Dear Ethicist: I have written in before about feeling guilty. I know it sounds like I’m guilty about everything, but I have discovered in therapy that I have a lode of guilt that’s seeking to attach itself to some existential event. I know this sounds like I’m intellectualizing, but it’s actually an idea which derives from an understanding of elementary chemistry where elements bond to form compounds like C and O making Carbon Monoxide, which keeps the Carbon Monoxide monitor industry in business. Excuse me if I’m digressing.   Here is my trilemma in a nut shell. Do I cave into my guilt and simply avoid activities that make me feel guilty? Do I confront my guilt head on by doing precisely those things that make me feel guilty like bragging or showing off in the presence of poor pathetic schmucks who have spent their lives feeling envious of the rest of the world? Or do I figure that if I’m following the 10 Commandments everything else is gravy? In other words anything besides killing, coveting, holding the name of God in vain etc.

 

Guilt-Ridden, Manhattan 

 

 

Dear Guilt-Ridden, Is there such a thing as guilt? Probably yes. It's a  cross-cultural phenomenon. For instance, hypothetically there had to be a guilty Nazi. They may not have felt guilty about genocide. Instead these Nazis might have had compunctions about eating too many sweets. Kim Jong-un is another example. Does he feel guilty for murdering his uncle, Jang Song-thank or would his guilt be related to more intimate matters like failing to brush his teeth? As you can see I’m overthinking and will have to get back to you later.



Read "Is Guilt a Time-Bound Emotion?" by Francis Levy, HuffPost

 

 

 



Tuesday, September 7, 2021

Not Me!


Billy Whitelaw's mouth in Not I  (TheoryReader)

Beckett’s Not I is a talking mouth. Billy Whitelaw famously rendered the words flowing out of the disembodied orifice. With the world crumbling at an exponential rate, the salutary effects of such deconstruction may soon be realized. Why is the body necessary when consciousness can be stored and even produced by itinerant artificial intelligences? Who needs a body when you have words gushing forth, as if they’d taken on a life of their own, like an expeditionary force, free to explore in an unencumbered state? The present multi-morbidities are going to force the accommodation to ever changing platforms. Suddenly and without warning the present generation has become the beneficiary of the wanton indifference to danger signals, particularly on the environmental and biological fronts. If human kind begins to find their bodies uninhabitable, there's got to be a change of venue. Why is the torso, head, heart or lungs necessary for speech? Personality is usually considered to be the product of bodily processes, but what if the body can be retired, leaving its constituent parts to fend for themselves?

Read "E.D., The Erectile Dysfunctional" by Francis Levy, HuffPost

Monday, September 6, 2021

Bethlehem Journal: Wind Creek





photograph: Hallie Cohen

Bethlehem is a remnant of America’s industrial past and one of those old American towns that has both a pre and post-industrial life. Its abandoned factories and smokestacks are interspersed with neat stone cottages that emanate from the 18th century when Moravian immigrants founded a college (in 1742). When you travel to Vermont or Massachusetts, you find  deserted red brick hulks which have either been asylums (Wingdale in the Hudson Valley), shoe factories (now housing artisanal cheese shops) and even an occasional museum as in the case of Mass MoCA in North Adams. Bethlehem, Pa. is a particularly charming example of once dreary sweatshops and factories turned into alluring redoubts. Main Street is presided over by the auspicious Hotel Bethlehem built in l922. The brick streets are now lined with bistros;  the old Woolworth's now houses a Spanish restaurant. There's even a casino called Wind Creek, the ultimate in hi tech with its bold red sign hanging over the entrails of an abandoned steel mill. 

Read "Berkshire Journal: Pittsfield" by Francis Levy, TheScreamingPope


Friday, September 3, 2021

Wife or Default Credit Swapping?



Therapists and clerics, whether priests or other confessors are the repository of memory. In one sense they’re a little like financial instruments which when infused with a certain amount of capital, yield interest. And, of course, to extend the financial metaphor, there’s ultimately redemption, in which you get all your investment back and start all over again. In this way dealing with one’s emotions is a little like managing a portfolio. Both have ledgers which account for profit and loss and track actions for which there are consequences. Also, the similarity between a derivative and a mental health professional is that both can be retired. The parting of the ways comes when a confessor dies, taking with them essentially their patient’s life. Bondholders get their cash back, but the same equanimity is not always available to the patient.

Read "An Incident of Defenestration" by Francis Levy, Vol. 1 Brooklyn




Thursday, September 2, 2021

An Open and Shut Case



Have you ever slammed a cabinet door after bumping your head? The door is not to blame, but you want to punish it. When someone head butts you it’s one thing but an inanimate object lacks intention. The only one you’re hurting is yourself, to the extent you may end up having to pay a carpenter to fix the door. Five out of six persons who get in your way are oblivious to you and sometimes themselves too. In this regard, they share the property of doors. That is the connotation of the word “knucklehead.” Caveat emptor, there are people who intentionally bump into you. Pickpockets make it seem like they're innocently colliding as you or they come through the subway turnstile. However, they’re using the opportunity to rifle through your pockets. It’s only after you’ve walked a few blocks and reach for your wallet, that you realize you’ve been had. "Doored" is  an expression that’s used by bikers who get sent flying. Though the act might not be intentional, from a legal point of view, the driver is liable.

Read "A-Z Quotes" by Francis Levy

Wednesday, September 1, 2021

Infinity Train


It looks like mankind is going to be taking off for other planets a little earlier than expected. Nature has wreaked its vengeance at an unexpectedly speedy rate. If you felt badly about future generations bearing the brunt of the death of the ozone layer, while at the same time saying something dismissive like “they’ll figure it out,” then you may find yourself brought up short. Production is likely to be stepped up on those little biospheres that were going to transport generations to the planets circling a Kepler star (approximately 1200 light years from earth). There will be an almost biblical feeling to the departure of mankind from earth something in between Moses making the waters part as he lead the Jews from slavery to the promised land and Noah—except just taking two cows, two chickens and so forth will not be enough to generate the necessary DNA. Imagine New York's forest of office towers reduced to squats with those refusing to make the journey a little like recalcitrant anti- vaxers refusing the cure. These refuseniks will be left an almost feudal civilization ruled by warlords who live with prophetic texts generated by QAnon shamans. A second coming will be on the horizon for those who remain behind while the crew of modernity sets sail, with the stars their destination.

Read "Is Consciousness Immortal?" by Francis Levy, HuffPost

Tuesday, August 31, 2021

When Posterity Reaps the Reward




Contented people are all alike, but aspirational types, who are by definition always unsatisfied, tend to be aspirational in their own ways. Of this latter category of unhappy folks what about those who have not made it and remain hopeful until the very end (which means they’re doomed to life of almost unremitting suffering)? In the unfortunate event, they do get their Leopard published, they may spend their last days putting the final touches on a masterpiece whose acclaim they will never enjoy. Naturally someone’s going to profit, at least from the legacy of genius. This is not always the way that elusive quality of notoriety is attained, but it did occur in the case of  Count Giuseppe Tomaso di Lampedusa whose great masterpiece, Il Gattopardo encompassing the fall of the Bourbon dynasty and the advent of Garibaldi's Risorgimento only brought him posthumous fame.


Read "The Prophet" by Francis Levy, TheScreamingPope

Monday, August 30, 2021

Dear Ethicist: Reversing the Reverse Midas Touch

 


Dear Ethicist: 
For many years I suffered from a reverse Midas touch. Anything I came near turned to shit. Now the clouds have parted. I’m a walking De Beers. All I have to do is sachet into a room. Everyone wants to talk to me--ironically like flies to shit. Editors fight over my crumpled balls of paper. The problem is that for many years I was a member of a support group where people got solace from licking their wounds. Now I’m a pariah. No one wants to hear me sharing about my latest success. Am I going to end up alone and solitary having attained these heights? 

 

Perplexed, Cincinnati, OH

 

 

Dear Perplexed: Your problems may be difficult but they’re not insoluble. Since I take it you're now flush with cash, why don’t you participate in one of those therapies like psychoanalysis which go on forever and provide a replacement for the group of sufferers who have heretofore been watching your back.



Read "What is Happiness?" by Francis Levy, HuffPost

Friday, August 27, 2021

Departing the Gutenberg Galaxy



Were you the kind of person who plodded through tomes like Middlemarch and restricted your audio-visual intake to the famous Bergman or Antonioni trilogies (Through a Glass Darkly, Winter Light, The Silence, L’avventura, La notte, L’eclisse) at art houses like Film Forum? Did the pandemic bring about a sea change in your behavior? Stephen J. Gould postulated that evolution proceeds in fits and starts by the process of “punctuated equilibrium.” Culture does not go gently into the night.Viewers who once enjoyed quaffing down their expressos and looking for like-minded sensibilities on line for Lars von Trier at the Sunshine may find themselves running home to watch the next episode of Call My Agent, The Crown or Babylon, Berlin on Netflix. The net effect of the pandemic was to remove congregation from the table, returning catharsis to its previously solitary status on the food chain of esthetic pleasure. If it seemed like only yesterday that you were reading full-page Times ads with those little synopses for The New York Film Festival (the 59th is actually coming up), you may marvel how far away Lincoln Center seems in the age of the deadly Delta variation which can easily turn theater in the round into a super spreader event. And let’s not forget counterespionage thrillers like The Americans and The Bureau which present alternate existences which don’t even exist in a parallel universe.

Read "L'avventura At Film Forum" by Francis Levy, HuffPost




Thursday, August 26, 2021

Afghanistan: The Art of War

Perhaps the exfiltration of the Taliban from Afghanistan is something that the Russians, the Chinese and the West can agree on. ISIS posed a similar threat to civilization itself; if nothing else Russia and the U.S. agreed that ISIS was a threat. Imagine Karzai International Airport where the airlift is taking place as a Trojan Horse. More and more troops arrive to facilitate the evacuation—culminating in the retaking of Kabul itself. Remember the tables will be turned. With the Taliban in power, the Americans are spearheading the resistance.The Taliban use weapons captured from the Russians and Americans. Now these self-same weapons get captured back. The Taliban are guerilla fighters. As a stationary force of occupiers, they turn out to be much more vulnerable. What's the bottom line? Salvaging a cosmopolitan society, where women have rights. What's the cost? $20 billion a year are the most recent figures, which is a pittance in comparison to other military allocations--and, yes, admittedly more lives. John McCain once made sense of such a seemingly unending project by compariing it to The Hundred Years War between England and France (1337-1453). On the other side of the ledger, you have the wholesale murder of anyone resisting the regime and a return to the Middle Ages.

Read "The Art of War" by Francis Levy, HuffPost



Wednesday, August 25, 2021

Afghanistan: The Killing Fields


It’s astonishing how prescient novels like Animal Farm1984Brave New WorldThe Man in the High Castle, and yes Kafka’s The Castle turned out to be. Totalitarianism dominated the history of the 20th century in the forms of Stalinism and Nazism with detours in places like Cambodia and Bosnia, which were the sites of genocides. In the 21st century fundamentalism, the country cousin of totalitarianism has clearly reared its head. Why have the Taliban been able to gain such a foothold in Afghanistan repelling both the Russians and Americans, despite these superpowers' military might? Is it simply the resistance to colonialism or is these upsurges less political than spiritual--a revolt against modernity itself. In a recent photo essay in The New York Times Magazine, "What Will Become of Afghanistan’s post-9/11 Generation?," Kyana Hayeri, points to the pushback against a cosmopolitanism that threatened tradition.Tribalism is a characteristic of Trumpism. So it should not be surprising to find how threatening women’s rights can be in a society which thrived on "religiously" prescribed roles. History has shown that the perception of imminent chaos has fueled both totalitarian and fundamentalist regimes. One awaits the novel about the aftermath of the United States' exfiltration of Kabul.

Read "Paris Journal: Totalitarian Tourism" by Francis Levy, TheScreamingPope


Tuesday, August 24, 2021

The War of the Roses


Some couples fight all day and only come to rest as nocturnal creatures. Their conversations are Greek tragedies in which the disquisition proceeds by way of choral juxtaposition. Whose Afraid of Virginia Woolf? (1966) which starred Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton, who in real life were a warring couple, is a play devoted to the subject of relational conflict. Kathleen Turner and Michael Douglas played another such couple in The War of the Roses (1989).  Why do people fight so much? Does it go back to the sandbox and sibling rivalry? Is it because opposites must pay the price for their attraction? Is it a way of not taking each other for granted, or even bonding? If you’ve got an axe to grind or a bone to pick, you’re not likely to wander too far from your Appomattox. Switch and bait is a wonderful way to keep a loved one on a string and if you’re too lax, you might be giving them just enough rope to strangle the relationship with. There's something comforting about conflict and countervailingly lugubrious about complacency and even calm. Serenity is a dangerous commodity. While the cat’s away the mice will play. Is this why nations often face off against each other or find a certain identity in being polar opposites? Rivalry and competition are methods of self-definition. They may speak French in Montreal, but the Quebequoise is insulted if you mistake them for a Parisian. Arthur Schnitzler’s Traumnovelle which was the basis for Eyes Wide Shut sees life as serieis of transformations in which varying partners go round and round before they find their way.

Read "Radical Acceptance" by Francis Levy, TheScreamingPope


Monday, August 23, 2021

What's the Difference Between a Hemorrhoid and an Asteroid?


Asteroid 2014 J025 (NASA)

What’s the difference between a hemorrhoid and an asteroid? First of all, a “hemorrhoid” is not an easy spell and may look like a meteor. Everyone knows a meteor is something that breaks off from an asteroid. So, asteroids which circle the sun, are the objects that have eminent domain. Asteroids are big shots, but it's probably not an insult to say a meteor is “nothing” since they have so little distinction. Meteors may be "space debris," but you wouldn’t want to run into a one in a dark alley. It’s generally thought that the Ice Age occurred when an asteroid hit the earth. That might be the equivalent of a power punch. When James Cagney was informed his mother died in White Heat, he became an asteroid. You have to be something to bring down a heavy hitter like Mother Earth. Hemorrhoids don’t have orbits. In fact, the only path they’re likely to take is down the lower rectum once a proctologist strangles them with a rubber band. As celestial objects they are red like Mars, but the buck stops there. The half-life of the average hemorrhoid is less than a shooting star.


Read "Cloaca" by Francis Levy, The Screaming Pope


Friday, August 20, 2021

Dear Ethicist: The Etiquette of Leaving a Dying Planet


Biosphere 2, photograph: Dr. Starbuck, Flickr

Dear Ethicist: It’s obvious things have gone from bad to worse. The temperature hit 124 in Sicily and snails were cooked alive. Kabul just fell and coronavirus cases are surging despite the vaccine. It’s like the Middle Ages, the plague has brought about conspiracy theories like QAnon and ensuing witch hunts (of which January 6th was an extreme example). I have developed a biosphere, a world of my own, which is self-sustaining. It will enable future generations of my blood lines to reach Kepler stars and their carbon-based planets, which are conducive to life. The only problem is, how can I go off and leave everyone else on earth to clean up the mess? Should I feel guilty for fleeing the coop to seek a better life, when there are so many suffering people left behind? They really have perfected these biospheres. You have everything including Netflix.There are just enough people around to get into a little mischief, but not enough to facilitate a war. And talk about air pollution.That’s just the point. There isn’t any because there are no factories or cars. Most biospheres are just like Fire Island where everyone travels around on bikes and your friendly mailman knows you by your first name. I’m tired of having to worry about Trump and his base and whether I’m going to drown in Germany or die of thirst in California. 

 

Noah A.

 

 

Dear Noah, You may want to ask yourself whether your're really  going to hurt anyone else by freeing yourself from a dying planet. Throughout the ages, there have always been those who have the foresight to get out of Dodge before the volcano or tsunami and those who are stupid enough to stay behind. If you have an easy way to travel to other planets, it’s a no brainer. Just take advantage of your good fortune.

 

 

Dear Ethicist: I get your drift.  

 

Noah A.



Read "Dear Ethicist: Unsung Genius" by Francis Levy, TheScreamingPope

Thursday, August 19, 2021

Not The Philadephia Story



CNN’s Clarissa Ward often reports from hotspots. You may have seen her knocking on the door of a KGB agent who purportedly poisoned Alexei Navalny. She also put herself in harm’s way when she was covering Syria for Sixty Minutes. Now the intrepid journalist’s byline is Kabul—and The Late Show With Stephen Colbert where she recently made a guest appearance—electronically of course. She’s a Yale graduate who lives in London with her two children, married to a fund manager who she met at a dinner party in Moscow. Talk about jet setting or puddle jumping. Ward who’s blond always seems to be dressed for the occasion. For her current assignment she performs her interviews in a Burka.  “When in Rome…” Another fetching blond CNN correspondent, Michele Kosinski got into trouble for claiming she was on the scene in a flood when she was actually paddling a canoe in a few inches of water, but the only controversy Ward has provoked occurred when she was accused of “parachute journalism” in Myanmar. After all, the difference between her and her subjects is that at the end of her tour of duty she gets to go home, which is the one thing that refugees in Afghanistan can't do. On camera ot not, one has to give her credit for contendiing with angry and frustrated crowds who often seem to be closing in on her threateningly as she attempts she attempts to conduct interviews on the streets of Kabul and particularly outside the airport.  CNN and CBS are nice credentials anywhere, but they're no protection against an angry mob as was evidenced by CBS's Lara Logan who was sexually assaulted in Cairo's Tahrir Square back in 2011. Obviously Ward's producers enjoy putting a delicate looking creature in such dangerous places. After all news is entertainment and Ward’s plainly beome the Amelia Earhart of journalism.


Read "The Seven Ages of One Man," by Francis Levy, The East Hampton Star

 

Wednesday, August 18, 2021

The World of Tautology

Many people live in a world of tautology. There's something comforting about repeating the obvious—though others may take offense at the constant need for validation. You must have met the kind of person who needs to repeat the time of a rendezvous so many times, you no longer want to meet them at all. It’s obvious those who perseverate in this way are afraid the rug will be pulled out from under them. They will find themselves standing on a corner under the arc of the Hopper streetlight waiting in vain for their Hickey. Most people who need to repeat the yellow jacket is yellow suffer from a phobia about being stung. The only problem with analytic a priori statements of this kind is that they don’t admit of metaphysics. It’s very hard to bespeak the obvious and explore Pascal’s Wager at the same time. You’re not going to discuss Derek Parfit’s Reasons and Persons at a small talk convention. Vergangenheitsbewaltigung, the German compound word meaning “the burden of the past” is not on the tip of the tongue of the obsessive compulsive who calls so many times to confirm his dinner reservation that he or she eventually experiences the very thing they were afraid of—being bumped or worse simply forgotten. Still Gertrude Stein's “A rose is a rose is a rose” can actually be enlightening, depending on where you are in life.

Read "Why Compound German Words like Vergangenbangenheit Carry Weight" by Francis Levy, HuffPost

Tuesday, August 17, 2021

Apocalypse Now!




The current apocalypse of climate change ("How Do We React to the Climate Tragedy,"by David Kirkpatrick, Techonomy, 8/13/21) is actually not unusual . Remember the earth was, in all probability, hit by an asteroid which brought about the Ice Age. The Pithecanthropus wandering lazily across the veldt, devouring every creature in its path had the carpet pulled out from under it or the wool placed over its eyes, as it were. Stephen J. Gould postulated the theory of “punctuated equilibrium.” In this view evolution was not a neat, gradual process, but proceeded in fits and starts. Intellectual history mirrors this kind of erratic process. Sensibility is not something that’s made in stone. Romantic love is a labile concept as is the very notion of happiness or even consciousness. Thomas Nagel famously wrote an essay, "What’s It Like to Be a Bat?" which broadens the nature of sensation and perception, extending it into the world of creatures who supposedly have no idea of their own existence. The pandemic has been one of the great historical catastrophes, in the category of the watersheds delineated in Jared Diamond’s Collapse: How Societies Choose to Fail or Succeed. It has drastically changed the ways in which people congregate and ultimately seek pleasure and joy. It's just a footnote, but theatrical rollouts of films which were once global events are now multivalent. Scarlett Johansson recently sued Disney over Black Widow, claiming she lost millions in potential profits on the film's release. Instead of going out to the movies on Saturday night, film viewers everywhere are finding it easier and more enjoyable to stay at home and watch Netflix. Would that this phenomenon turned out to be the most significant result of the multi-morbidities which have afflicted this fragile planet!

Read "What is Goodness? Or a Gift of Charoset" by Francis Levy, HuffPost

 

Monday, August 16, 2021

Pornosophy: Cock+Tail

photograph: Ralf Roletschek

Cocktail is a word that is often taken for granted. When someone says “let’s meet for cocktails,” they don’t think twice about the connotations. They immediately default to the widely held notion that a cocktail is a drink. Preconception is actually malice of forethought in this case. But think about it. “Cocktail” is a compound of “cock” and “tail.” Could anything be more obvious? When you talk about cocktails you're referring to the feeling of well-being they produce. Is this the result of a meeting between a cock and tail? Tail linguistically refers to buttocks. Cocktails are what you might have at a “tea dance,” but it may simply refer to that outmoded and old-fashioned form of sex involving the penis and vagina that's widely considered an example of planned obsolescence. In certain places, like Cherry Grove on Fire Island, standard missionary sex between a male and female is not only an anachronism but a violation of social norms which is expressly forbidden. “Cocktail” turns out to be a Rabelaisian word. It wears its heart on its sleeve. The next time you’re invited for cocktails you may want to pay attention to the subliminal message. These kinds of potions often lead to more than a meeting of the minds.

Read "Pornosophy: Sexcession" by Francis Levy, HuffPost

 

Friday, August 13, 2021

Judgement Day

Let’s say the worst possible thing you could have imagined takes place. Of course, what’s horrible to you might seem relatively minor to someone. In all likelihood there are many others who are worse off than whatever it is that's the source of your disappointment. To begin with you possess a hope for something better which is definitely an improvement on having been given one of those medical verdicts no one wants to hear. Still, you're probably winded. You may even want to give up. Following that you may feel you deserve some kind of reward for all your suffering. Possibly the latest rejection is an excuse to tie one on and in so doing rail at the heavens. But what if the realization is that you’ve come to a dead end? You’re never going fulfill your dream of becoming a famous tenor. Years of practice may have resulted in nothing since you realize that where talent and genius are concerned there is no justice. You indeed find yourself standing at the edge of precipice, but you don’t have the courage to jump. You’re just going to fall back into the misery and self-hatred in which you’ve always lived, unless something else happens. No deus ex machina. Rather a personal realization. It’s going to be different for everyone, though the one thing that moments like these all have in common will be an almost comforting awareness, acceptance and even love of the very imperfections that make you who you are.

Read "God Redux" by Francis Levy, HuffPost

Thursday, August 12, 2021

What State Are You In?


image: Astrokey44

Does the state of mind qualify as a nation state—the entity that came into being as a result of The Peace of Westphalia in 1648? Individuals, when you come to think of it, have a lot in common with collectivities. In fact, “the collective unconscious” is a term that's frequently used to describe the Weltanschauung of a society. Commonly held beliefs play a strong role in the creation of sensibility. In addition, people like countries have boundaries. The ego is the Maginot line of the self. An individual has a leader accounted for by the executive functions of the brain housed in the cerebral cortex. The heart and lungs constitute infrastructure and respond to fiats of the ANS or autonomic nervous system. A democratic country will often have a bicameral legislature like that of the United States congress, a judiciary and a president or premier who is actually defined by their cerebral cortex. All of these are accountable to the varying part of the brain. The emotional life of most people is mediated by the amygdala and prefrontal cortex. The limbic area at the top of the lower brain stem accounts for instinct. Most people are citizens of their own mentality and residents of their exoskeleton. You may possess a green card or resident visa or become a full citizen of your own private little world—in which case the only document you’ll require is that amalgam of biological and physical identity known as the birth certificate.

Read "What is it Like to Be a Fly?" by Francis Levy, HuffPost

Wednesday, August 11, 2021

Cezanne Drawing at MoMA

"Study of a Head and Hands" by Cezanne (photograph: Hallie Cohen)

Apples might be expected populate the "Cezanne Drawing" show at MoMA. Nature morte is one of the methods. However, as the artist's friend Joachim Gasquet commented about these still lifes,
  “objects never cease to be alive." The current exhibit is a monumental undertaking that extends from the drawings which employ the "study sheets" in which an apple could be juxtaposed with a nude and as the curators point out “light and shadow,” “absence and presence,” “superimposition,” “reversal, "flatness and dimensionality,” “the observed and imagined” are all employed--to paintings themselves. One of the theories the show puts forth is that paintings also functioned like the "study sheets" with varying counterposed subjects existing under the final composition. Many of these drawings like "Bathers" (c.1885) anticipate his famous paintings. What makes Cezanne such an ur-modernist is the ideology of estheticism. Perception is the subject. Compare Cezanne’s "Bathers" (1898-1905) with those in the famous Eakins, “The Swimming Hole,” (1884-5) which is so content heavy. The message here is the process of seeing. Cezanne conceived “the eye for the vision of nature and the brain for the logic of organized sensations.” He also remarked that “Time and contemplation gradually modify our vision and at last we reach understanding.” 

Read "Another Intentional Fallacy" by Francis Levy, HuffPost

 

Tuesday, August 10, 2021

The New Mutants

A virus will not mutate, unless you allow it to replicate. This principle of virology has been repeatedly iterated by Anthony Fauci in his promotion of the coronavirus vaccine. The same may be said about humans. If they don’t replicate, they're unlikely to produce angry mutants which are resistant to the vaccine of Enlightenment values. Hobbes’ Leviathan is, in fact, like being Moderna(ized) to the extent that it proposes an analysis of human behavior that's out to protect against the virus of self-interest. From a Malthusian point of view replication produces scarcity, but not only of goods like food but clearsightedness and concern for others. The anarchic world of  Mad Max is the equivalent of Delta, a viral strain that's exponentially more contagious, deadly and immune to treatment. The rate of population growth in the United States is actually falling, but the fact is there are more and more people being produced who live on subsistence diets, with minimal educational resources and opportunities while a tiny fraction of the population hoards all the wealth. Under these conditions you're going to produce a new even more dangerous cocktail that's likely to destroy that increasingly rarefied commodity known as humanity.


"What is the Antidote to or Antonym for Schadenfreude" by Francis Levy, HuffPost



Monday, August 9, 2021

The Silent Treatment

"Oedipus at Colonus"by Fulchran-Jean Harriet

Plays like Sophocles’ Oedipus at ColonusKing Lear and Hamlet deal with aftermath of tragedy. “The rest is silence” are Hamlet’s parting words. Job is a representation of how one continues to live in the face of every imaginable adversity. Oedipus is blinded. Lear is the left wandering in the company of the Fool. The question of perseverance itself becomes the issue. Why live when everything is taken away? Some people continue for their children, if they have them, for fear that suicide and other desperate behaviors become a form of psychic baggage that future generations will be burdened with. Repression is a form of preservation. Traumatic memories can be even more invidious, it they escape the purview of consciousness. They rot the roots like fungal diseases which destroy trees. Very few individuals emerge from life unscathed. In fact birth itself is one of  the most painful life passages that humans endure. You might look at the hubris (pride)and hamartia (flaw) of classical Greek tragedy as the equivalent of a multiple car pileup. The aftermath is a state of shock which preserves the victims while scarring them for the rest of their lives.

Read "Headbutt" by Francis Levy, HuffPost

Friday, August 6, 2021

To Have and Have Not



For some people it takes years to learn that you're not going to get that call. Others, and one would suspect this is a minority, learn this early on in life and instinctively know when it’s time to let go of an impossibility. Put as a spiritual axiom: when you're waiting for something it will, in all likelihood, never occur. Love comes into your life not because it's farfetched but rather when it’s in the realm of possibility. The same thing applies to jobs and other achievements that one might aspire towards. Most happenstance tends to come about when you're not waiting for it.  Generally the kind of romantics who value what doesn’t exist more than what's placed before them live in a state of pain because of their unattainable desires. Even a worse problem comes when these dreamers get lucky and roll snake eyes. They’re faced with the futility of the wager on which their existence is predicated--since they're likely to reject what they've won. But how does one extract oneself from exhausting situations which are both addictive and unpromising? How does one learn to want what one has? 

Read "Pornosophy: Was Madame Bovary a Nymphomaniac?" by Francis Levy, HuffPost