Tuesday, March 21, 2023


 Will Rogers (photo: Underwood & Underwood)

“Will” as a verb is an expression of futurity. Also, “to will” something is to wish or desire it. As a noun, “will” is an expression of desire or appetite. Die Welt als Wille und Vorstellung is the title of the Schopenhauer work which deals with reason as a resort in the face of irrational passions. Will also happens to be a proper name. Shakespeare is the most famous Will. The title  of Stephen Greenblatt’s Will and the World plays upon the double entendre between the proper name and the noun. Will is also a name given to male children. You don’t find any females Wills in spite of Wilhelmina. Will Rogers is one of the most famous Wills. Will Rogers was sui generis, but many Wills are really Johns in disguise. Parents who want to belong will name their offspring Will to fit in. The choice of the name can become a self-fulfilling prophecy that takes the form of a blond haired kid from Darien wearing Topsiders and sailing their skiff into the harbor. Babies get stamped with Will, eventually becoming advertisements for chains with names like The Gap.

read "Will and the World Wars" by Francis Levy, TheScreamingPope

and listen to "Earth Angel" by The Penguins

Monday, March 20, 2023

Will and the World Wars

It’s dourly fascinating how a good thing, say the raising of interest rates by the fed to slow inflation, nets both good and bad results. Yes, raising interest rates has curbed inflation, but it’s also caused a run on some banks. The downside of more jobs is the possibility of an overheated economy and again inflation. Whether there was malfeasance involved in the suspicious sale of stock by SVB executives several weeks before the bank’s failure is currently the subject of investigation by the Senate. Or take another example from the international sphere. Glasnost, Perestroika and the taking down of the Berlin Wall were all welcome, but they led to "paranoiastroika"—about a diminishing of Russia's importance on the world stage. By the same token Versailles led to Hitler and Obama to Trump. What about the politicization of the Supreme Court? MAGA Republicanism? Will the judiciary be reshaped? Will a third party elect Liz Cheney president?

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

and listen to "Pain in My Heart" by Otis Redding

Friday, March 17, 2023

Will in the World

There are thousands of examples of interdependence. Most recently the fed raised interest rates to curb inflation. However, this caused the values of bonds, that banks like SVB held, to plummet. The run by panicked depositers followed.The Jewish religion differs from Protestantism to the extent that it deems man to be free; fate is not predetermined as it is say for Calvinists for whom grace itself becomes a barometer of worth. The notion of free will is complicated because it runs in the face of science; determinism diminishes the importance of volition. One God is distant and another has created a world which leaves no stone unturned. Is free will merely an illusion propagated by those who wish to believe there are no consequences for their acts? Countervailingly, is the notion of a universe where everything is part of a plan, a good excuse to avoid taking responsibility? Where does humanity stand, if everything is as it’s supposed to be? Is the notion of conscience, for instance, merely delusory? Or is the end result of all existence a mixture of the earthly and the divine?

read "Shakespeare's Alternate Reality" by Francis Levy, HuffPost

and listen to "Mr. Pitiful" by Otis Redding

Thursday, March 16, 2023

Person to Person

photo: Seattle Municipal Archives

In the days when Bell Telephone operators covered switchboards, there were “person to person” calls.
  “Person to person” from New York to LA was more expensive than a simple long-distance call since you were not simply linking one place with another, but specific people. The switchboard like the old locomotive barreling down wooden track beds constituted the montage of many 30s and 40s movies. Now that cellular phone service has eliminated the idea of people, places or things, the very concept of “person to person” communication is increasingly under attack. Instead of "person to person," you may connect with someone’s digital assistant or bot. In a radical turnabout, it's less likely to find a real person on the other side of any conversation. Intimacy has been the victim of technology. Face to Face was the title of a famous Bergman movie, but the real issue is human connection something which is increasingly being destroyed by expediency. One-on-one conversation in which you talk directly with another person, undermined as it has been by the advent of A.I.,  is increasingly becoming as rarified as cursive writing.

read Francis Levy's review of Fit Nation, The East Hampton Star

and watch the trailer for Erotomania

Wednesday, March 15, 2023

Vidkun Quisling

 Vidkun Quisling at left (1919)

Benedict Arnold was a traitor. The Norwegians actually coined a word “quisling” derived from the case of a military officer who turned out to be a Nazi spy. In the wake of Kari Lake’s defeat in the Arizona gubernatorial race, MAGA Republicans expressed their vitriol at election authorities by accusing them of being traitors—who should even be put to death. Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensberger received death threats after he failed to find the ll,780 votes Trump infamously asked him for over the phone. Trump isn’t facing seditious conspiracy charges like the ones Oath Keepers Elmer Rhodes and Kelly Megs were convicted of, though he's the closest thing to a Benedict Arnold Americans have ever witnessed, to the extent that his aim has apparently been the end of democracy—something which is a little worse than being a spy.Trump coined the term “fake news” and claimed the election was “rigged and stolen.” Rigging an election might not be as bad as totally killing democratic institutions but that’s like comparing apples and oranges. It’s a false equivalent. The problem is this. If two people call each other traitors who rig and steal elections with “fake news” which one is actually guilty of the crime?

read "The Final Solution: Was Hitler a New York Liberal At Heart?" HuffPost

and listen to "Land of a 1000 Dances" by Wilson Pickett


Tuesday, March 14, 2023

Congratulations to Trump U Valedictorian Kevin McCarthy!

taken from Ted Cruz 2016 campaign website

Kevin McCarthy is on his way to becoming a three-time loser. He has refused to take the train to Kiev to show his support for Ukraine. He's handed over the January 6 tapes to Tucker Carlson, and will very likely be forced to push against raising the $31.4 trillion debt ceiling, just in time to take the blame for the first ever default on US government debt. You might be kind to attribute McCarthy’s behavior to expediency. Without his alt right stances, he runs the risk of being toppled by MAGA Republican like Paul Gosar, Marjorie Taylor Greene and Lauren Boebert. The doctrine of "principleless leadership" has become a central tenant of Republican policy from the advent of the Trump administration. Paul Ryan and John Boehner, however one might have opposed their positions, were shaped by a different die and one in which principles still ruled above the kind of naked power plays which might have won Newt Gingrich a tenured position at Trump University. Talking of that storied alma mater, graduates of Trump University are filling leadership positions all over the world. Vladimir Putin has repeated his valedictory speech many times, with Xi Jinping not far behind as salutatorian. The ruling junta in Myanmar are Trump University graduates along with Victor Orban of Hungry and Alexander Lukashenko of Belarus. Trump University may be long gone, but McCarthy may end up graduating at the head of his virtual reality class.

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

and listen to "Reason to Believe" by Tim Hardin

Monday, March 13, 2023

The Whale

Darren Aronofsky's adaptation of Samuel D. Hunter’s play, The Whale. offers a unique interpretation of Moby Dick. Melville in the guise of Ishmael, offers so many boring chapters about whales to spare us from his own sad story. It’s a theme or leitmotif that runs throughout the movie. The divorced mother Mary (Samantha Morton) of the teenaged Ellie (Sadie Sink) has kept her from her father, Charlie (Brendan Fraser), because she wants to spare her Charlie's story and by proxy hers. Speaking of Ellie, it's not clear if she wants to “help or “hurt. “ She blows the whistle on a traveling evangelist Thomas (Ty Simpkins)  who has run away with the appropriately named New Life Church's money, but the result is not bad. Thomas is told it’s only money and welcomed back into the fold. The movie is about altruism and whether humans really care about one another considering all their selfish desires. “I need to know I have done one right thing with my life,” Charlie cries. That and his need to see his disturbed daughter as a fundamentally great person due to her honesty is selfish too. "Virtue signaling" is the term that's sometimes used to describe this need. So what's the verdict? Do humans care? The Whale is not the only movie about a person who eats themselves to death. There were a whole castle filled with them in La Grande Bouffe (1973) but that movie was a gratuitous existential act and here the perverse stuffing and subsequent obesity directly results from the pain of living. BTW, Obesity can be looked at as a form of padding, a protective defense. The Whale is controversial since it melodramatically pulls at one's heartstrings but so what, if you’re touched by Aronofsky's tortured characters? Brendan Fraser won the Academy Award for best actor for his "outsized" performance.

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

and listen to Tim Hardin's version of "Bird on a Wire"