Tuesday, November 28, 2023

Madness and Civilization

Madness and confinement are synonymous. Madness is s form of confinement, in which one lives in a psychotic delusion. Imagine feeling impotent in the face of your worst nightmare. Perhaps that’s what madness is like. If you’ve ever tried to disabuse a paranoid of their ideas you know—R.D. Laing notwithstanding. The next worst thing is Locked-in Syndrome in which the sufferer literally has to depend on the fluttering of an eyelash to make themselves heard. Confinement on the other hand is like being on a bad “trip.” People who drop acid can end up in a loony bin—simply because they can’t buck the current. And panicking is tantamount to being caught in a rip tide. The harder you try to free yourself, the more the knot tightens. 

read Hallie Cohen interview on collaboration

and listen to Hitch Hike by Marvin Gaye

Monday, November 27, 2023


Is your trauma worse than mine? Did I get over it faster? How to judge levels of insult to the human spirit? In terms of resilience, there are concentration camp survivors who went on to lead productive and happy lives while it’s obvious that those who are unscathed often are the ones who end up scathed--precisely because they lack survival skills. Rich people are for the most part the clientele of psychoanalysts. Not to diminish the effectiveness for what Janet Malcolm o
nce termed “the impossible profession,” but it caters to the wealthy demographic that can afford it. However, consider the trauma of the starving Yemeni child with the distended stomach whose mother has been repeatedly raped, compared to the Park Avenue hausfrau whose industrialist father discounted her talents. These kinds of comparisins are often used to belittle the interior sufferings of the privileged whose madeleines may have left a bad taste in their mouths.The one thing you can say about your problems is that they're yours.The time the ice cream scoop fell to the pavement, when you were a child, evinces a pathos which doesn't even register on the scale of universal pain. Yet it was enough to make you bawl.

read the review of Francis Levy's The Kafka Studies Department in Booklife

and watch the trailer for Erotomania, selected for the Nihilist Film Festival, December 15 in Santa Monica

Friday, November 24, 2023

The Waning of the Middle Ages

At a time of violent schisms like the one occurring now, the world of the Scholastics is appealing. Wouldn’t you rather argue over the number of angels on the head of a pin than the January 6 Insurrection?
 Trump supporters’ opinions are set in stone and will not be changed by presenting them with DOJ legal briefs spelling out the former president's involvement a conspiracy to invalidate the election. Besides angels, medieval philosophers took sides in the realism/ nominalism issue--noumena vs. phenomena in Kantian terms. There were, of course, The Crusades and the attendant search for the Holy Grail. The conflicts between Christianity  Judaism and Islam were as rampant as they are today. But there was not the same social media or high tech weaponry that allows smoke signals  to spread like the wildfires that destroyed Lahaina.

Listen to Joan Baum's review of The Kafka Studies Department on WHSU

and watch the trailer for Erotomania--selected for the Nihilist Film Festival, in Santa Monica, December 15


Thursday, November 23, 2023



There’s a scene in Irvine Welsh’s Crime where therapist and patient briefly cross the line. An unauthorized crossing of the  38th parallel marking the separation between North and South Korea is comparable. In both cases there’s no turning back  Once you’ve entered North Korea you’re done, as many unfortunates have discovered too late.Remember the fate of the American student who tried to export a North Korean flag? Consider the transgressive urge that result in any therapeutic situation. Conjure
a highly charged Consummated Oedipal wishes lead to a black hole. Of course traveling to Korea and therapy are not the only places where fatal attraction can devolve. Professors notoriously take advantage of students. On an equal playing field a young Yale lit student might not find her ruffled mentor exciting but just add the transferential halo and you've got a deadly cocktail. But imagine you’re in the Mattrix. The visible world with its illusion of propriety gives way to a derangement des senses. In the underworld patients choose their analyst on the basis of whether they would be good bedfellows and professors in graduate programs select those students who are able to satisfy their sexual desires. One crime in Crime also happens to be the same one that Oedipus commits when he kills his father, Laius and marries his mother, the appropriately named Jocasta (rhymes with canasta).

read Hallie Cohen interview on collaboration

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

Wednesday, November 22, 2023

Invitation To a Banquet

Dwight Garner brilliantly introduced his review of Invitation to a Banquet: The Story of Chinese Food with the following quote from Jan Morris the famed travel writer: “A really good cookbook is intellectually more adventurous than the Kama Sutra.” Slam dunk for Morris in writing it and Garner in having exhumed the words for posterity. Cookbooks are not usually looked at as reservoirs of intellectual greatness (with exception say of the one created by Alice B. Toklas), but for  Garner, a confessed gourmand, Fuchsia Dunlop’s book was obviously a Grecian Urn. And it’s not hard to see why. Here are a few lines from a passage Garner quotes: “Years of juggling the West and China have made me a seasoned diplomat, a cultural relativist…that’s why, perhaps, people like me do it: to shatter our monolithic points of view and see things through the prismatic eye of an insect, from many angles.” Escoffier meets Proust. That's food writing under the aspect of eternity.

read the review of Francis Levy's The Kafka Studies Department in Booklife

and see the trailer for the animation of Erotomania, to be screened December 15th at the Nihilist Film Festival in Santa Monica

Tuesday, November 21, 2023

The Lonely Crowd

Are u someone who chronically marches to the beat of a different drummer (it's called in the DSM "Marching to the Feet of a Different Drummer Syndrome")? Have you, in fact, made a profession out of it to the extent that you experience a sinking feeling in even the most harmless of marches, say a march in support of poetry? Is it something like Orpheus turning his head? You watch your soul falling into the nothingness of assembly. Yes humans are social animals but does that mean they require these self-congratulatory rituals in which u preach to the choir? There have always been marches. There was the famed NRA Day parade which brought workers of all persuasions together during the depression. There were all the marches on Washington against racism and then the war in Vietnam. Now that the divisions are even more pronounced and outcry more angry, there’s an urgency to these expressions of discontent that’s also mixed with implacability. No MAGA Republican will be persuaded by facts. No judicial proceeding will offer proof of malfeasance. Yet what if everyone were like u! What if everyone refused to protest? Remember that Twilight Zone where Shelley Berman played the malcontent who gets his wish that the whole world be like him ("The Mind and the Matter," #63, 5/12/61)? Think about it?

read the review of Francis Levy's The Kafka Studies Department on Booklife

and listen to "Love Trainby the O'Jays

Monday, November 20, 2023

The Future

The Crystal Ball by John William Waterhouse (1902)

Protracted combat for which there seems no end (in Ukraine and the Mideast) is not a new phenomenon. There was the Hundred Years’ War between England and France and the Thirty Years War which culminated in the Treaty of Westphalia (1648) wherein the modern nation state was born. Wars are bitter divorces which remake alliances and, to extend the metaphor, also create strange bedfellows. Who knows what the complexion of the world will be? Is it a game of musical chairs in which random parties simply grab the first prospect they encounter, like a couple on the rebound? Or does history ever evolve in a way that makes sense? Hegel proposed a dialectic in which Communism is actually born from the womb of the capitalist state. Similarly free market capitalism became the force which eradicated feudalism with its inherited fiefdoms and rights. Today meritocracy is the new elixir. During Arab Spring it was thought technocracy would create an equanimity as people identified with each other because of their Apples. The brand name would supplant arcane tribal and ethnic identifications. Of course this was wrong. Undoubtedly ISIS militants enjoyed the Apples they pilfered, without bothering to see themselves in the dead. Would that there were a crystal ball? Unfortunately, the future is one of the mysteries that science has yet to solve. Nikki Haley?

read the review of Francis Levy's The Kafka Studies Department in Booklife

and listen to this rendition of "Something is Wrong With My Baby" (1967) by Sam and Dave