Monday, November 28, 2022

Strange World

Don Hall's Strange World may be the first Oedipal environmental animation. The generations and struggles of a nuclear family are equated with the ages of a planet very much like earth. Within the family context Jaeger Clade (the voice of Dennis Quaid) is the explorer always looking for more while his son Searcher (Jake Gyllenhaal) represents the nesting or agrarian impulse. In Candide, Voltaire famously says "we must cultivate our garden." Needless to say the plot is rife with tensions leading to a separation. Add to that, Jaeger's grandson Ethan (Jaboukie Young-White) who turns out to be both mixed race and gay. The fact that Strange World is a classic children's oriented Disney product, featuring creatures with names like Spat, ironically facilitates the poetry. The modus operandi is the saving of Pando, the fuel which is the lifeblood of Avalonia, the world which is the product of this life force. The twist is that the "planet" is dying from the very thing that keeps is supposed to be keeping it alive. Read fossil fuels and insecticides. The movie, reminiscent of Journey to the Center of the Earth envisions its own subterranean continent that looks like a heart (replete with valves), but also functions as the unconscious, ultimately allowing the characters a uniquely inside/out view of their own lives.

read "Died Young" by Francis Levy, The Brooklyn Rail

and watch the trailer for the animation of Erotomania

Friday, November 25, 2022

Turkey a Postmortem

Is your Thanksgiving Day turkey the elephant in the room? Inflation has raised the price of turkey. If you had perchance been in the market for turkey or even reliable old turkey parts like breast thighs and wings before the current season you might have come away empty-handed. The mixture of the pandemic and the demand that is both the cause and symptom of inflation disrupted the supply chain. In Animal Farm the pig, Napoleon famously says, “all animals are equal but some are more equal than others.” Plainly turkeys are getting the short end of the stick. However, what would you rather be desired then dead or alive and totally alone? It’s one of the paradoxes of the market place that those creatures which are source of pleasure are always more in danger of being exploited.And that applies to humans too. If you’re wanted you’ll end up becoming someone’s meal. When you stop being of use, you’ll end up being sent out to pasture.

read "Diasporic Dining: Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous" by Francis Levy, HuffPost

and you probably can't get enough of "Young Americans" by David Bowie

Thursday, November 24, 2022

Black Monday-Friday

wild turkey (Frank Schulenburg)

Amidst the horror of the Club Q killings was the heroic account of Richard Fierro, the Iraq Afghanistan vet who rushed the gunman. It was a tale of heroism shared with another club patron, but what’s also interesting is the demographic. Fierro had come with his wife and daughter to watch a drag show. Fierro has described in interviews how his combat training kicked in. The gunman Anderson Lee Aldrich, 22, was allowed to purchase his AR-15 despite the fact that he'd recently been in a stand-off with police in which he had threatened to use a bomb. In addition, he was born Nicholas Brink and asked a Texas court to change his name when he was 15, due to his father’s criminal past. After kicking Aldrich’s rifle away, he pistol- whipped the assailant with one of his weapons; The problem was the body armor. Fierro had to find “a crease,” which he succeeded in doing. His tale exuded an extraordinary mixture of vengeance and compassion. He choked up when he described to CNN how his family underwent the kind of combat experience (he might have had during one of his 4 tours) and which they shouldn’t have been forced to experience on a night out. Five people died including Fierro’s daughter’s boyfriend, Raymond Green Vance.  Before there was time to experience any gratitude for the bravery which saved so many lives, Americans woke up on the day before Thanksgiving to read about the killing of 6 patrons in Chesapeake by the manager of a Walmart.  

read "Pedestalization" by Francis Levy, HuffPost

and listen to "Young Americans" by David Bowie

Wednesday, November 23, 2022


In the current climate do you frequently wish that this or that demagogue were dead? Why won’t Putin simply topple over, like a bust of Stalin tumbling from its pedestal during Glasnost? Why can’t some spy infiltrate the kitchen at the Kremlin and give him some of his own medicine, ie the Novichok that felled Navalny? Wishing dismemberment, "extreme rendition"(waterboarding) or “termination with extreme prejudice” (the CIA name for assassination) is fast becoming the lingua franca of political discourse. “Off with their heads,” says Captain Hook. Remember the mythology about Lavoisier wagging his tongue after being guillotined? In South Africa and later Tunisia there were Truth and Reconciliation Commissions that set out to deal with the legacy of brutal regimes in  remarkably humane and enlightened ways. However, now dreams of vengeance supplant attempts to look at murder and genocide as a form of psychosis. “Macbeth hath murdered sleep.” The Russians have hired mercenaries, alumnae of the Syrian repression to bolster their flagging armies. Each human rights transgression rachets up the rage. Napalm, agent orange, germ warfare, mustard gas, drones, heat seeking missiles, tactical nuclear weapons--the imagination is more inventive in devising brutal means of annihilation than in conjuring forgiveness. 

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

and listen to "What's Going On" by Marvin Gaye

Tuesday, November 22, 2022


Temporary Elgin Room at British Museum by Archibald Archer (1819)

Who owns what is a sticky question. It comes up in reference to intellectual property, in specific, art. Rothko sells a painting for $2000 in his lifetime and the proceeds of a later sale amounting to millions totally elude the creator or his heirs. Imagine if Shakespeare's estate had renewed their copyrights? This gets even more complicated in the case of indigenous work. Will the English finally return the Elgin Marbles to Greece? Talk about decolonization, will the Vatican deacquisition its Anima Mundi Ethnological Museum, a collection of indigenous art? Ultimately no one owns anything. Those who think they're buying a “co-op” are delusional. They're really long-term renters since someone else will own it some day—by definition. Politics+property=war. The equation defines modernity, with civil wars in Yemen and Bosnia deriving not only from culture but provenance. Who was there first? You might have to go back to the Big Bang and before that an ether or vacuum, to answer that question.

read "Pet Buddha" by Francis Levy, Vol. 1 Brooklyn

and listen to China Girl" by David Bowie

Monday, November 21, 2022

Athens or Rome?

Will the Old or New Testament prevail when the Republicans take over the house? Will the ethos or culture of capital hill be an eye for an eye or turn the other cheek? In "Culture and Anarchy," Mathew Arnold differentiated between the Hellenic and Hebraic, "spontaneity of consciousness" versus "strictness of conscience." Athens and Rome the seats of the pagan or classical versus Christian culture will also infuse the debate. But in chess terms are the current tight margins of victory a recipe for endgame or stalemate? Of course, the Babylonian captivity in which the papacy was moved to Avignon, the age of Augustus and then Constantine all come into play. Not to mention the Napoleonic Code in which you’re guilty until proven innocent. The pressure cooker doesn’t just explode overnight. “History is a nightmare from which I’m trying to awake” say Stephen Daedalus. Though it sometimes seems like the End of History a la Francis Fukuyama or Ideology (Daniel Bell), even the most cohesive of social contracts is comprised of competing agendas. One can only hope that a divisive society in which opposing sides adhere to Manicheans vision of good and evil like the one that exists in the United States today will at least be tempered by the synthesis of Hegelian dialectic.

 read "Lincoln" by Francis Levy, HuffPost

and listen to "Changes" by David Bowie

Friday, November 18, 2022

The Lost Age of Hype

Sam Cohn
Are you familiar with the personality type who’s always running for office? They live in a world hyperbole in which everything is a superlative. You never really know truth from afflatus. During the age of Leiber and Stoller, the Brill Building on Broadway was loaded with “producers” who would pipe forth. Even Phil Spector, who later was convicted of murder, might have exhibited this kind of bravado at the start, but how to separate the wheat from the chaff. One of the selling points of a commercial product, particularly a creative one, is that it’s the best and that behind its humble creator is a million dollar deal. Back in the 70s when Howard Cosell regularly sported his toupee on Sixth Avenue, everything was show biz. The CBS Building at 51 west 52nd Street, still known as Black Rock today, was full of sirens both from passing police cars and fire engines and also the kind Odysseus faced. There was something comforting about the age of hype where everything was ICM or CAA and a legendary agent named Sam Cohn purportedly chewed up contracts. Then you felt free to refer to Mario Puzo as your "dear friend" even if you only met him once at book release party on the Upper West Side. Now artists and inventors live in an age of “disenchantment” to use the word Max Weber coined for the triumph of the material over the transcendent. TV shows are the product of focus groups and movies are dreamt up by committees who envisage the marketing campaign before they even have a finished piece of work .

read "The Cosmists" by Francis Levy, HuffPost

and listen to "If I Could Build My Whole World Around You" by Marvin Gaye and Tammi Terrell