Tuesday, September 27, 2022

Hi There! Looking For a Date?

Hi there! Do you hate yourself? Are you the kind of person who constantly feels that everyone has outdone you and left you in the dust? Here’s a tip. You can easily stop pointing the gun at yourself simply by turning it in another direction. How about going after the person closest to you under the theory that anyone who would like a failure like you must have something wrong with them. “If you can’t be with the one you love, love the one you’re with,” sings Steven Stills. Actually, the lyric can be rephrased. “If you can’t hate yourself, hate the one you’re with.” Or put in a positive light, you have to want what you have. It’s no fun to hit bottom and look around you at a world of shinning lights only to find yourself left in the shadows. All your life it’s been this way and as life winds down , the nightmare is to find it happening all over again. Once you had all of life ahead of you, but now you’ve reached that dead end called "the end" with no time left to dream about rising from the ashes and showing all those who always doubted you (who by this time are probably dead anyway). Take the low road! Enjoy that moment when all the contempt falls away and you can breathe a sigh of relief as you blame someone else for your sorry state of affairs.

read "The First Law of Emotional Thermodynamics: Longing is Directly Proportional to Self-Hatred" by Francis Levy, HuffPost

and listen to "Love the One You're With" by Stephen Stills

Monday, September 26, 2022

Yevtushenko

Yevgeny Yevtushenko

Can you kill two stones with one bird? At the heart of everything is a fart of harkness? Yevtushenko or not to Shenko? Is there a difference between silliness and absurdity. Beckett, Ionesco and Genet were termed the "theater of the absurd." Certainly, Camus’ The Myth of Sisyphus which posits suicide as the only important philosophical question describes a universe that defies meaning. Consider  Sisyphus attempting to roll the stone up the hill. Existentialist philosophers like Sartre now seem more apropos than ever since they pose the notion of comic indifference or the cosmic yawn. If nothing means anything, the whole end of life lies in meaning making. Alberto Moravia wrote The Empty Canvas. The first stroke any artist makes is an attempt to establish a beachhead and claim a piece of barren land. God is literally a father figure, but when you deny his, it or their existence, meaning and necessity recede. You're left with no more than a series of pronouns. Those who believe there's a meaning and purpose in everything are damned to burn in the hell of disillusionment.

read "God Bless Pig Latin America" by Francis Levy, The East Hampton Star

and watch the trailer for Erotomania




Friday, September 23, 2022

Here and There at The New Yorker




Half of The New Yorker’s readership subliminally or not so subliminally dreams of being in the magazine and the other half suffers from the delusion that their names have already appeared in the august periodical’s table of contents. The Secret Life of Walter Mitty could well have been an allegory for the prototypic subscriber. If you remember the story was written by James Thurber who was a famed New Yorker contributor. Sure, the fantasies in Thurber's fable    tend to center around wartime heroics, but the singular imagination of adulation experienced by anyone who submits a story, poem or Shouts & Murmurs piece could easily compete with the Purple Heart. The meaning of the word “submission’ has literally been transformed, at least for a part of the educated populace, by the stature the magazine has as an arbiter of talent. "Submission" is tantamount to approaching the gates of this Inferno. Remember Dante’s famous lines “lasciate all speranza voi ch’entrate?” If there were an ultimate “picker” who called out “saved” or “damned” with each petitioner carrying their old-fashioned SASE, it would be represented by the faces of David Remnick, Tina Brown, Robert Gottlieb, William Shawn, Harold Ross--all legendary New Yorker editors.

read "Ultimate Rejection!" by Francis Levy, The East Hampton Star

and listen to "This Old Heart of Mine"by Rod Steward (with Ronald Isley)

Thursday, September 22, 2022

Freedom, Now!


The 60s were owned by the Left. The military-industrial complex and the war in Vietnam were the targets along with segregation. You marveled at William Buckley’s verbal pyrogenics as he had it out with Gore Vidal on Firing Line, but you didn’t find either Young Americans for Freedom, the Daughters of the American Revolution or the John Birch Society marching in the streets. In fact, the very idea of protest was contrary to the conservative ethos, until the Tea Party came to town. Today, the tables have been turned. It’s the base, the deplorables, the lumpenproletariat or whatever you want to call the mass of white men and women who find themselves dispossessed by modernity, who populate rallies. Naturally the apex of this was January 6, but the rage at injustice expressed at Trump events finds no reciprocal component on the Left. "The deep state" is to today’s Retrumplicans what the military-industrial complex was to SDS, speaking of which the notion of "participatory democracy" argued by student radicals does bear some resemblance to the Oath Keepers and Proud Boys since it was not participatory at all. If you’d ever occupied a college campus in the 60s, you quickly realized it was a relatively small cadre who were running the show. The vociferousness of Trump’s supporters may to some extent explain the pervasiveness of The Big Lie (at least among MAGA Republicans). Where’s the Left? You need a crowd to impress the opposition with the fact that the biggest lie is The Big Lie.

read "Final Solution: Apres Coup" by Francis Levy, HuffPost

and listen to "Subterranean Homesick Blues" by Bob Dylan

Wednesday, September 21, 2022

Babel or Babble?


The Tower of Babel by Peter Bruegel the Elder

The Tower of Babel is naturally a metaphor for contention. The world is at war since human beings speak different languages. It’s something deconstuctionists underscore with the notion of  "cultural subjectivity," ie the idea that nobody can speak for anybody else or make the kind of synthetic a priori statements, which are the gist of Kant's “categorical imperative.” Esperanto was an attempt to create a universal language—that essentially failed. Who knows exactly why? But one might assume that there was little of the backstory which accounts for indigenous grammatical structures. Ironically Trump’s "Big Lie" develops right out of this kind of thinking that sows doubt about the possibility of communication. How can vote tallies be verified, when competing constituencies fail to share the similar outlook and values? One of the great crises of modern culture both on the left and right is that of language. How is it possible to create bridges between a plethora of wagging tongues?

read "Why Big German Words Like Vergangenbangenheit Carry Weight?" by Francis Levy, HuffPost

and listen to "What a Wonderful World"by Sam Cooke


Tuesday, September 20, 2022

Apocalypse Now and Then

You don’t speak about Apocalypse Now in the same breath as La Dolce Vita. One takes place in the jungles of Vietnam, the other the Via Veneto. The famous scene of Anita Ekberg frolicking in the Trevi fountain is a far cry from Southeast Asia. What the two movies have in common are helicopters. One famously comporting the statue of Jesus over Rome's Aqueduct Park, the other an enormous predatory bird,  a vulture circling the Heart of Darkness (the "Ride of the Valkyries" scene). In fact both movies herald the decline of civilization, holding out the subliminal hope, facetious or not, of a Second Coming and redemption. Colonialism, materialism excess and exploitation make for a toxic cocktail. You might equate the good life with apocalypse or the reverse. Both lead to oblivion.

read "Rome Journal: Aqueduct Park" by Francis Levy, HuffPost

and listen to the "Ride of the Valkyries" from Apocalypse Now


Monday, September 19, 2022

Jean-Luc Godard's Jean-Jacques Rousseau

Here’s an exam question for your grad film students? Compare The Confessions of Jean-Jacques Rousseau to Godard’s Breathless, Contempt and Goodbye to Language. To begin with both Godard who who died at age 91 ("Jean-Luc Godard, 91, Is Dead: Bold Director Shaped French New Wave") by way of assisted suicide and Rousseau  came from wealthy French-Swiss families with Protestant origins. Rousseau, of course, was one of the great figures of the Enlightenment whose notion of the “social contract” influenced Locke and Hobbes, particularly with respect to democracy. Godard  who went through a Maoist period in which he gave up the bourgeois notion of the filmmaker in favor of a collective entity modeled on the Russia's post-revolutionary Dziga-Vertov group out of which the cinema verite Man With a Movie Camera emerged, might be looked at as an anti-humanist. The Belmondo character in Breathless is a small time crook and Jean Seberg, his mole. Michel Piccoli, the playwright trying to produce a version of the Odysseus myth for Fritz Lang in Contempt, is a self-centered failure obsessed with a wife (Bridget Bardot) who no longer loves him. In reality Godard was not so much an anti as disaffected humanist. He was like a person whose romantic hopes are disappointed. Weekend is a murderous idyll, with an almost wistful nostalgia for nature in its depiction of sclerotic highways (aka arteries) clogged with crashed cars?  Godard's Le Gai Savoir ("The Joy of Learning") is, in fact, based on Rousseau's Emile, On Education. Grace is one of the tenets of Protestant theology. There are the saved and the damned. Max Weber famously wrote the the Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism. Is it fair to say that both Rousseau and Godard drew the ethos of their upbringing in the creation of characters whose “work” flirted with redemption?

read "Goodbye to Language" by Francis Levy, HuffPost

and listen to "Sympathy For the Devil" by The Rolling Stones


Friday, September 16, 2022

Journal of the Plague Years

The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse  (Albrecht Durer, 1498)

Imagine a time when you can sit in a restaurant or attend a gathering without feeling that you're testing your mettle or in fact taking your life in your hands with a bravado display of  courage in the face of something which is impervious to human will. There was indeed a time when strapping thirty-year old athletes defied the demographics (which mostly showed the majority of Covid fatalities occurring in an older demographic). To be insouciant was like jumping out a window to see if you could fly. If you remember back in the early stages of the pandemic, refrigerated trucks with bodies lined the streets near hospitals and funeral homes couldn’t handle the traffic. When the Delta variant first appeared, before there were any Covid vaccines, in January of 2020, it was the Dark Ages. A crazed rogue president was issuing increasingly wild pronunciamentos amongst them quack cures which included at one point bleach and  hydroxychloroquine. Low paid cashiers in supermarkets and workers in meat processing plants (where there were massive outbreaks) risked their lives, like front line soldiers, to keep the population fed. The symptoms of the bubonic plague which sent Boccaccio’s nobility fleeing Florence and entertaining themselves with the Decameron were far more severe. Creuzfeldt-Jakob, the human form of mad cow (bovine spongiform encephalopathy), something from which wide swathes of the population have been spared, may give some idea of the severity of the Black Plague. Still, the whole earth has been traumatized. With each end of each new outbreak of a variant, one wonders is this finally it? Is this the day the scrim of fear will be lifted? Is the moment when life itself can return to being the greatest threat to life.

read "The Final Solution: Consciousness and Beyond" by Francis Levy, The Screaming Pope

and watch the trailer for Erotomania


Thursday, September 15, 2022

2022 or 1776?


Don Bolduc (photo: US Special Operations Command Africa)

Don Bolduc, a former brigadier general, is the latest Trump endorsed victor in a Republican primary. It’s a disappointment to the establishment Republican governor of New Hampshire, John Sununu, who favored Chris Morse. This latest win follows on the heels of the victories of Trump endorsed candidates like Mehmet Oz in Pennsylvania, JD Vance in Ohio, Kari Lake, the former news anchor, in Arizona and Tudor Dixon in Michigan. Democrats have applauded these wins and even gone so far as to finance Trump candidates, under the theory that the loss of mainstream Republicans will improve the Democratic scorecard. In the case of the New Hampshire race a PAC led by Chuck Schumer raised $3.2 million for Bolduc. This form of negative campaigning has not eluded controversy, but the real issue is the fact that so many Republicans are ready to support MAGA candidates. A vote for someone like Bolduc, who believes that the 2020 election was rigged, is ultimately one more nail in the coffin of democracy itself. In addition, it gives full license to the kind of political violence that occurred on January 6th, where those who stormed the capital looked on themselves as revolutionaries fighting for “the republic” and confreres of those who fought the redcoats in 1776. The question is how strong is the old mainstream represented by figures like Liz Cheney (who endured a major defeat in Wyoming), Adam Kitzinger and prominent spokes- people like George Conway, the sometime CNN commentator and husband of Trump’s former press secretary, Kellyanne Conway? Is the uprising against the Dobbs decision enough to produce the kind of backlash that resulted in the Kansas referendum or will Mar-A-Lago shift enough midstream Republicans back toward the extreme right? The polls notwithstanding, the big question is will mainstream Republicans be disaffected enough to vote for a Democratic slate?

read "The Final Solution: Democrazy" by Francis Levy, HuffPost

and listen to "War" by Edwin Starr

Wednesday, September 14, 2022

Double Espresso or Triple Crown?


The fact that something is important and even life-changing doesn’t mitigate against it being boring. At what point does the pageantry surrounding Queen Elizabeth’s demise begin to numb? What hurts more, inflation or the soporific reporting about it? Inflation is the proof that something can negatively impact you in multiple ways, in this case by being both expensive and boring. Biden is a good person who breathes equanimity, but with the exception of his recent rousing anti-MAGA speech in front of Independence Hall, he can take the place of Ambien if you’re having sleep problems. Steve Bannon quoted Milton’s “Better to reign in hell than serve in heaven” in Errol Morris' American Dharma. And yes bring on Donald Trump, Marjorie Taylor Greene, Ron Johnson, Rudy Giuliani, John Eastman, Jim Jordan, Lauren Boebert and Paul Gosar and you don’t need to set your alarm clock. Ginni Thomas, Clarence Thomas and Sam Alito are like a double espresso. What about the dictators club made up of Putin, Kim Jong-un, Bolsonaro, Orban and Xi Jinping meeting at Mar-A-Lago to divvy up the classified documents? That'd be almost as good as the withdrawal of the US from the Paris Environmental Accords, the squelching of the Iran Nuclear agreements and threatened withdrawal from NATO. Queen Elizabeth reigned for 70 years. She never smiled at weddings or showed her cards. She didn’t really rule, but was a perfect figurehead, unmoving and in many ways totally unchanging like the Sphinx. Her proto-fascistic uncle, the Duke of Windsor, gave up the crown for the love of an American divorcee named Wallis Simpson. Let’s face it this last was the scoop of the century.

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

and listen to "(I'm a) Roadrunner" by Junior Walker & The AllStars



Tuesday, September 13, 2022

Citizen Tate



Everyone knows Tate’s which are so ubiquitous they’ve become a synonym for “cookie”--in the way "dinner" has become “chicken” in many households. Tate’s cookies are a business phenomenon and there’s undoubtedly a backstory. But forget Southampton where their signature chocolate chip was created by Kathleen King (or a buy out by Oreo) and imagine a Tate’s Citizen Kane replete with their Rosebud which would be a childhood cookie experience on a snowy sled ride. Better yet imagine the founder of the unassuming cookie dynasty as William Randolph Hearst inhabiting a San Simeon built on vast pastry empire. Most people have a love hate relationship with the familiar green bag. You know you want a cookie but you're tired of Tate’s since you’ve had so many. On the other hand how could anyone compete with a chain that produces the Platonic ideal form of what a chocolate chip cookie should be--crunchy around the edges without ever seeming to grow stale?

read "Diasporic Dining: The Running Footman" by Francis Levy, HuffPost

and listen to "Sweets For My Sweet" by The Searchers




Monday, September 12, 2022

Isle of the Dead


"Isle of the Dead" by Arnold Bocklin

Whether your crossing the Styx or passing through the pearly gates you’ll undoubtedly feel like that first day of kindergarten when your eyes welled up and all’s you wanted to do was go home. There’s nothing more humiliating than involuntarily crying out “mommy” in public. It’s as humiliating as laying a smelly fart and trying desperately to make it look like it’s emanating from someone else. But whether you’re entering the afterlife or suffering from afflatus you’ll likely find yourself in good company. Spoiler Alert. Death is the same as life only everything is immaterial. You spend forever looking at the menu but never get around to ordering. The nice part is that everyone’s in the same boat. No you will never hear back about so and so or such and such. Death is the great leveler; there are no royal families. There are no winners or losers and you’re never far from another lost soul who's going through the same thing as you.


read "Mortal Coil Stuff" by Francis Levy, HuffPost

and listen to "I Don't Want to Cry" by Chuck Jackson



Friday, September 9, 2022

Popeyes

Despite the volatility of the world, you assume everything will remain the same. You stay away from Walmart’s on Black Friday or Popeyes when they’re about to unleash some new fast-food product (there was at least one fatality from a shoot out when the fried chicken sandwich was introduced). During a scene of Wild Strawberries, the professor (Victor Sjostrom) has a dream in which he enters a deserted street. The shops are boarded up and the clocks have no hands. It’s  reminiscent of the famous Twilight Zone, “Time Enough At Last” where the harried librarian, played by Burgess Meredith, finally gets what he wants--a world devoid of people where he can read without being interrupted. If you live in the Northeast this is the case. Terror is reserved for sleep when the mind lets its guard down. How to reconcile that with the fact that record breaking monsoons have displaced 30 million Pakistanis, the forests in California (including the Redwoods) are threatened and a whole generation of Ukrainians have been uprooted and displaced by a war for which no end is in sight? Melting glaciers in the Arctic and elsewhere will result in a dramatic rise in the sea level everywhere. During the beginning of the pandemic, Midtown Manhattan became a ghost town. Business still hasn’t completely recovered. Another Bergman movie The Seventh Seal, depicts a knight (Max von Sydow) returning from the Crusades in the middle of the Plague. His only companion is Death (Bengt Ekerot) with whom he plays his famous chess game. Preconception creates a complacency. Even at the Event Horizon of the Black Hole, there's always the delusion of exemption, the same one that most humans maintain until the day they die.

read "Diasporic Dining: Fast Food Inc" by Francis Levy, HuffPost

and listen to "A Hundred Pounds of Clay" by Gene McDaniels

Thursday, September 8, 2022

Noise


Have you ever had the experience of a friend, acquaintance or even relative who comes into a room and spouts off, without ever either asking for your opinion on what they are saying or for that matter how you are? These are the kinds of people “who take the air out of the room.” But what's interesting is that to create a vacuum you have to emit the diarrhetic effusion of words known as logorrhea. It's an extreme form of prolepsis in which the question is answered before it’s even asked. You shouldn’t feel offended since those who suffer from this paraphilia can’t even hear themselves think—which, one would suppose, is precisely the point. Noise blocks out ambient sound and by the end of the evening, those industrious enough to keep talking have essentially found a way of insulating  themselves from the world. On the most basic level, very competitive people hog the floor since they don’t want to have to face off against their rivals. It’s easier to live in your own dreamworld than have to deal with all those whose talents and credits might exceed your own. Or let’s say you feel in danger of being rejected by either a potential employer or lover, what better way to avoid getting bad news than to control the feed?

read "Why Big German Words like Vergangenbangenheit Carry Weight?" by Francis Levy, HuffPost

and listen to "Play That Funky Music" by Wild Cherry


Wednesday, September 7, 2022

Cacophonies





The 9/2 edition of the
 TLS contains a review of Cacophonies: The Excremental Canon of French Literature. “French literature is full of shit. So begins, and concludes Annabel L. Kim’s exuberant, if at times nauseating study.” The reviewer, Russell Williams, revels in the author’s preoccupation perhaps wondering to himself why in the competitive world of publishing, this book was chosen from the “slush” pile. “Cacophony” is a form of dissonance, but “cacophony” is a neologism created to advance the author’s argument that “the time is ripe for a faecal awakening.” Sub faeces aeternitatis!  The tome under review deals with literature but if it were to comprise art it would have to include the neo-conceptualist Wim Delvoye’s internationally exhibited “Cloaca”—a work that actually produces shit. Excretion is a democratizing process. No one is immune. Imagine say the Queen Mother taking a dump. This may be one of the messages of Pasolini’s infamous Salo, where beautiful naked inmates dine on their tormentors’ piles. You might say that “ashes to ashes” is the last stage in a life process that includes the ingestion and digestion of organic matter. No meditation on bodily processes can be complete without mention of Courbet’s “The Evolution of the World,” whose subject is depicted with her legs wantonly spread. A post-modernist sequel would undoubtedly have shown the fluids which flowed out of the orifices so graphically displayed. “Kim’s readings are creative, bold and surprising,” Williams remarks.“They reek, but…they open up a field of literary waste studies that poses pressing ecological questions." Cacaphonies may be a waste, but should be required reading for even the shittiest course.

read "Dr. Pangloss" by Francis Levy, HuffPost

and watch the trailer for Erotomania

Tuesday, September 6, 2022

Translating Myself?


In a review of Jhumpa Lahiri’s Translating Myself and Others (TLS, 8/12/22), Polly Barton singles out an essay on the Marxist thinker Antonio Gramsci’s Letters From Prison. “She notes that the Italian word traduzione refers not solely to the movement of texts between tongues; it also carries a secondary, bureaucratic meaning, the physical transfer of detained individuals. From this she discovers that the phrase “traduzione ordinaria” (“ordinary translation”), which regularly occurs in Gramsci’s letters, also refers to a specific kind of forced movement.” Lahiri, whose stories appear in The New Yorker, moved to Italy where she learned to write in Italian and translate her own work into English. Her Dove mi trovo became Whereabouts. Beckett, of course, wrote En attendant Godot before translating it into English as Waiting for Godot. Fin de partie became Endgame. Lahiri’s alterego also appears in her stories about life in Rome, where in reality she’s a familiar figure on the Janiculum. You can read Swan’s Way in the versions by F. Scott Moncrieff or Lydia Davis The Brothers Karamazov in the early twentieth century version by Constance Garnett or in the recent translation by Richard Pevear and Larissa Volokhonsky. Stated simply language is rich, full of innuendo and highly personal to every culture. Amour and Amore are not as fungible as the words might suggest. It isn’t always a grammatical designation that even begins to define a sensibility.

read "God Bless Pig Latin America" by Francis Levy, The East Hampton Star

and listen to "La-La (Means I Love You)" by The Delfonics








Monday, September 5, 2022

Combat in the Erogeneous Zone


Combat in the Erogeneous Zone is the title of Ingrid Bengis' l972 broadsheet about the war between the sexes. The final section on "Love," citing the Yalta conference in the context of detent, was prophetic to the extent that the famous meeting between Churchill, Roosevelt and Stalin was a prelude to the Cold War--which is about where relations of the sexes have returned after years of quashed hopes for a peace. The recent death of Mikhail Gorbachev is a reminder of another set of hopes embodied in the terms Glasnost and Perestroika. But is there a direct line between Glasnost and the present war in the Ukraine? Vladimir Putin was once mayor of St. Petersberg and ironically Peter the Great’s dream of Imperial Russia was reawakened in the mind a young former KGB officer by the dissolution of the U.S.S.R. History is circular as Vico pointed out. Simply stated, what goes around comes around--sometimes to disastrous effect as in the current Ukraine conflict. The God That Failed is the title the Arthur Koestler’s memoir. Raymond Aron called Marxism The Opium of the Intellectuals. Irredentism refers to the desire of formerly balkanized states to reconstitute and the Grand Inquisitor aka ISIS fell on the heels of Arab Spring.

read "Pornosophy: Nudity" by Francis Levy, HuffPost

and watch the trailer for Erotomania

 

 

 

 

Friday, September 2, 2022

Wild In the Streets





Lindsay Graham and Trump have taken the stance that they're doing the Justice Department and by proxy the American people a favor by alerting them to the possible violence that would ensure if the former president were brought to trial. They’re not going to be responsible for the behavior of Trump’s restless but devoted base. It sounds a like The Godfather
 “I’ll make him an offer he can’t refuse.” What’s so interesting is the act of dissociation--a feckless attempt to mollify or evade intent. What was Lindsay Graham thinking? Oh it’s fine if they have a show trial. It’s a free country. Let Merrick Garland do whatever he wants within the boundaries of the law? The fact is, there's no other reason that one sounds alarms, in the way that's being done, than to throttle. In fact, there may be occasional incidents like the one at the FBI office in Cincinnati, but it’s highly unlikely that there're going to be massive riots in the streets or even another January 6th. However dangerous, the Proud Boys and the Oath Keepers are the lunatic fringe and not as organized or effective as Organized Crime.

read "Homeland II by Francis Levy, HuffPost

and listen to "Dancing in the Streets" by Martha and the Vandellas

Thursday, September 1, 2022

Mine



super pit Gold Mine, Kalgoorlie, Australia

Have you ever encountered people who liberally sprinkle their remarks with “my.”  Instead of saying they would like steak, they say I’d like “my steak.” The use of the possessive is significant since it describes a low-level narcissism in which the world is literally “my oyster.” Tyrants tend to be pathologically possessive. Hitler  undoubtedly regarded the Sudetenland as “his,” his mines as  "mine." It's disconcerting to be with someone whose narrowcasting can have such nefarious consequences. As you encounter such individuals, you feel like you’re on the verge of being annexed. You only exist as a colony of their imagination--thus the conundrum of coming into the orbit of someone suffering from severe or chronic narcissism. You may delude yourself into thinking your interactions are normal when in fact you're on the event horizon of a black hole. Anyone with a shaky sense of self-worth should be warned to stay away from the kind of charismatic personality who will sweep them up like an iron filing. The attraction to such characters is an impulse that needs to be mined.

Read "Is There a Cure for Narcissistic Alexithymia?" by Francis Levy, HuffPost

and watch the trailer for Erotomania


Wednesday, August 31, 2022

Being There


How could this have happened to me? It's a complaint that's often registered when you find themselves entering those later "stages of man" that Jaques talks about in As You Like It. All of a sudden, you're almost at the foot length of a 12-inch ruler when you might have been at something closer to the half way mark yesterday, or so it seems. At a certain point it’s going to seem overly optimistic or quixotic to sign a five year lease, or fork out for that car or piece of furniture you finally can afford, not to mention friendship and love. Does it make sense to get married for a year or two at most, thereby leaving the other person emotionally bereft—unless, of course, you’ve fallen for a gold digger who’s looking to get set up the rest of their life. Have you ever come to one of those yellow “dead end” signs with the black lettering? You don’t think twice about them, until you begin to consider what the words really mean. Dead End are two nouns in apposition. Does a roundabout exhibit the reality of a real “dead end?” You may have heard someone describing a job that’s going nowhere, with no possibilities for advancement as a “dead end job.” The fact is whether your driving or just living, the end tends to come faster than you expected. The Long Island Expressway or LIE ends at exit 73, but it’s hard to believe for those who have never gone as far as Riverhead. When you’re just taking the LIE to exit 49S or N, the Huntington exits, you feel the LIE will go on forever.

read "Mortal Coil Stuff" by Francis Levy, HuffPost

and listen to "Security" by Otis Redding

Tuesday, August 30, 2022

Is Democracy An Esoteric Concept?


Many Republicans and especially Trump’s dedicated base don’t have time for democracy. "The Big Lie" has actually thrown doubt on the voting process itself. The mixture of skepticism and despair on the part of the disenfranchised and dispossessed create a potent cocktail that’s employed in such a way that any election can be challenged. In a democracy irrational passions are tamed by reason--something which requires discipline. The Republican party has become a cult where doubt is promiscuously applied to undermine both rationality and empirical truth. It’s like Philosophy 101 where you learn about solipsism and the possibility that the world doesn’t exist.The fact is  democracy is a rather sophisticated proposition dependent on rather subtle and fragile assumptions. Many essential tenets of democracy like, for example, inalienable rights, are counterintuitive. It’s the opposite of majority rules, relying as it doesn’t on the notion of the one versus the many. Due process is another element of democratic thought that can be difficult to understand when a demagogic leader is revving up what’s ultimately a lynch mob. There’s always the urge to make an exception. Yes, it’s wrong to dispense with the law, but what’s the harm in twisting the facts just this one time? Doesn’t the end justify the means? Trump inspires a loyalty that abrogates many cherished assumptions of a free society. One of the first steps in overturning the rights of the electorate is to allow state legislatures to overrule the will of the people—under the theory that a governing body knows more than those who supposedly elected it. Freedom and liberty may seem like fungible concepts, but freedom as Oliver Wendell Holmes pointed out in Schenck v. US doesn’t include the right to cry “fire” in a crowded theater. 

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

and watch the trailer for Erotomania


Monday, August 29, 2022

Hyperbole


Hyperbole is deafening. It’s a WMD that eradicates anything and everything in its path. Firstly it’s a figure of speech that drowns out the sibilant hum of the hive. It’s raison d’etre is the assertion of singularity. Whole lives fall victim to this juggernaut of inflation aka noise. Equanimity is not one of the characteristics of political discourse but the proliferation of warring grandiose assertions is a product of hyperbole. It’s like an arms race which ultimately results in the destruction of the world.Trump is probably the greatest hyperbolist of all time. A product  of the lethal cocktail of reality TV and real estate sales, he uses hyperbole as a blindfold with which to perpetrate free-form assertion.

read "God Bless Pig Latin America" by Francis Levy, The East Hampton Star

and listen to "It's Your Thing" by The Isley Brothers





Friday, August 26, 2022

Your Own Personal Default Mode

Has your life become a walking default mode? You have a MacBook, tell yourself you can’t buy another bag of Tate’s chocolate chip cookies, but can’t justify reverting back to Chips Ahoy or Famous Amos. You drive a Subaru (the car of choice for Bernie Sanders supporters), don’t understand people who message on Facebook, insist on the actual book and not the e version. You hate Florida period and refuse to ever go there again (now that the last relative who retired there is no more).You long for the old-style Cantonese food that has MSG and trumpet Burger King’s Impossible Whopper, because of its oxymoronic name and because you like to see the expression on varying health nuts' faces. You’re desperately looking for a series now that you’ve finished Borgen, period, end of sentence, Q.E.D. You refuse to be around the kind of people whose insecurity is manifest in a need to talk hyperbolically about the decisions they have made. You only “socialize” with those who're in a protracted state of mourning, people who look like they’ve received bad news (which they usually have) or even death threats, over whose faces there exists a perpetual pall. You like the going rather than the getting there, but in general have no interest in places, which are all basically all the same.

read "Groundhog Day" by Francis Levy, HuffPost

and listen to "It's the Same Old Song" by The Four Tops

Thursday, August 25, 2022

Bovarysme

Gustave Flaubert

You may long after someone who’s unattainable, but they’re undoubtedly longing for someone or something else they can’t have. It’s Bovarysme and as Flaubert himself said, “Madame Bovary, c’est moi.” Waiting for the phone call or e mail that never comes is a tremendously self-centered, in fact, narcissistic activity. It also usually involves some kind of Mephistophelian wager. If I get my poem published or better yet win the love of my Beatrice, I will never ask for anything again. Very few people add the addenda, in the event of the successful execution of the contract with the devil, I will devote myself entirely to other people’s needs and desires. Of course, the very way out of the dilemma of unfulfilled desire is to change the game. Instead of taking, you simply give. Spiritualism is like going the right way on a one-way street. When you go against traffic, you run the risk of having a head-on. NB: Waiting for the impossible is horrible even when it suddenly becomes a possibility since the value of prayers are diluted the moment they're answered. 

read "Paris Journal VII: Madame Ovary" by Francis Levy, TheScreamingPope

and listen to "Stubborn Kind of Fellow" by Marvin Gaye

Wednesday, August 24, 2022

Diasporic Dining: The Decline of Hen

 

The Hen That Laid the Golden Eggs by Gaston Velle (1905)
 
“Split the lark--and you’ll find the Music” The Emily Dickinson lines are not part of a recipe. But you may remember not so long a ago when you’d split a couple of hens and throw them on the grill, complemented by say yellow rice. Now you’re more likely to invite the self-same guest—not someone who earned another arcane, but expensive dish like Chateaubriand—for thighs, of chicken that is since a hen’s would be nothing to write home about. But “Where Have all the Flowers Gone?” to invoke Pete Seeger. Go to your local supermarket and ask for the hen section. A store clerk may point you towards the “poultry” counter simply because a hen is a kind of chicken. During the pandemic the supply chain has been disrupted in many areas. Most recently baby formula was hard to come by. Could it be that all the hens are busy laying eggs?


read "Diasporic Dining: The Running Footman" by Francis Levy, HuffPost

and listen to "Do the Funky Chicken" by Rufus Thomas


Tuesday, August 23, 2022

When is a Fallacy Pathetic?


Mar-a-Lago

There are times when fallacies are actually pathetic. You, of course, remember the pathetic fallacy in which nature mirrors the inner state of the narrator or dreamer in a work of literature. However, sometimes the history of sensibility allows language to return to its original and basic meaning and intention. For instance, marriage can revert the locution “sleeping together” to its literal meaning. Synecdoche is a figure of speech in which the part stands for the whole, for instance The White House for the presidency. Of course with the former president demonstrating boundary problems deriving from narcissistic grandiosity, the equation between these two terms is challenged. Trump suffers from a mental disorder in which the everything is his. Is there a figure of speech for Mar-a-Lago representing The White House? How pathetic is that fallacy?

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

and listen to "Straight Outta Vagina" by Pussy Riot


Monday, August 22, 2022

Inflationary Recession or Dark Energy

Raising interest rates will slow inflation—as it puts less money in people’s hands. But inflation itself is ultimately deflationary. When prices go up consumers spend less. That’s why an inflation can easily segue into recession or what is known as an “inflationary recession.” The same kind of overlapping occurs between liberalism and libertarianism as far as political ideology is concerned. Libertarians don’t like regulation, but many also adhere to conservative positions on abortion. They argue for the second amendment as it relates to guns but don’t afford women the same freedoms when it comes to their bodies. Inflation is market-orientated libertarianism. There are consequences to having money to spend. Guns result in mass shootings like Columbine, Sandy Hook and Parkland. Roe v. Wade was liberal as well as libertarian. It aligned individual rights with a progressive political outlook. Ideally these countervailing notions could exemplify the notion of checks and balances, occurring  between the executive, judicial and congressional branches of government. But the current environment is characterized by the kind of dark energy that's expanding the universe to the point where objects are too far from each other to emit light.

read "The Final Solution: The Death of Liberalism" by Francis Levy, HuffPost

and listen to "Piece of My Heart"by Erma Franklin



Friday, August 19, 2022

Diasporic Dining: The Impossible Whopper

Lawrence O'Donnell (photo: Er-nay)

Usually, you need to go to a prescribed place, a particular restaurant to order a dish that you like, but The Impossible Whopper is everywhere. All you have to do is pull into a Burger King. The phenomenon is like the advent of the cell phone. Land lines were just that. If you called that Rhinelander 4 exchange you were dialing up a place. Cell phones make it very easy for errant spouses to cheat since they have a quantum alibi. You're no longer your coordinates. But let’s deconstruct the nomenclature. “Impossible” and “Whopper” are oxymorons.  “Impossible” is closer to “failure” and “Whopper” to “homerun.” People who go for Impossible Whoppers are generally dreamers who are prone to throw a Hail Mary. Anecdotally, The Impossible Whopper is the food of choice for listeners to Lawrence O’Donnell’s l0 PM show on MSNBC, which they enjoy as they quaff down their meal in a local Burger King parking lot. Great solace is the emotion that’s produced by the combination of the pickle on the popular plant-based substitute and the mixture of certainty and moral authority in O’Donnell’s voice. LO is a walking Kantian categorical imperative spewing out synthetic a priori knowledge that’s as delicious as it’s unverifiable. Wittgenstein's 7th proposition from the Tractatus reads: Whereof one cannot speak, thereof one must be silent. Lawrence O’Donnell is not the silent type which may be why his show is called "The Last Word." He's not usually brought up in the same sentence as Wittgenstein. However scientists are continually unearthing new properties of space and time such as the fact that Dark Energy is responsible for the expansion of the universe. When you come down to it, just the fact that you can listen to Lawrence O’Donnell at any place in the 50 states, in an identical eating establishment in which you're able to procure exactly the same food, is a triumph of modernity, a mixture of string theory, quantum mechanics, black holes and wormholes all rolled into one and O'Donnell's apercus are genuine whoppers.

read "Diasporic Dining: Fast Food Inc." by Francis Levy, HuffPost

listen to "The Humpty Dance" by Digital Underground