Thursday, April 18, 2024

A Wooden Ruler

photo: Alexei Nicolsky

Rulers are figures of historical importance who perpetuate dynasties. For instance Czar Nicholas II presided over the death of the Romanovs--who today are remembered for Faberge eggs. Frederick the Second a benevolent despot fared better. When one talks about a royal's rule, one is referring to a measure of time. Thus you have the rule of ruler or a rulers length rule divided up into ever smaller demarcations. After all the much maligned plastic or wooden ruler was designed precisely for the purpose of noting the small points between one end to the other if the ruler in much the way a clock marks time. Even a broken clock is right twice a day goes the old saw. It would have been really cool if Henry Eighth had possessed a ruler. Maybe it would have enabled him to moderate his appetites. A ruler might have helped Shakespeare's fey Richard II to enjoy his garden. Think of     famed pre-Raphaelite Millais's "Death of Ophelia." 
One could judge the equanimity of a ruler by their ability to  use a ruler to measure the fine points.Tempus fugit.

listen to "Do the Funky Chicken" by Rufus Thomas

and read Mark Segal on Hallie Cohen's "Mi Ricordo"

Wednesday, April 17, 2024

Broadway Boogie Woogie

"Broadlway Boogie Woogie" by Piet Mondian (1942)

Fly by night theories of perception are a dime a dozen . Everyone has their paternoster. You may be afraid to utter what's on your mind as your proclivity to hope invalidates the potential equanimity of your world view. Is Mondrian's "Broadway Boogie Woogie" some 
reality covered over by a scrim of what analyst's call "screen memory?" How do you judge if what you're seeing is what you're seeing? Must solipsism be discountenanced as a form of infidelity--the discovered phone messages that reveal, the indiscretions the loved one has committed behind one's back? Reality is what appears before the mind's eye, but what happens when that all encompassing subject, the compassionate Buddha mind, is drunk?

read Mark Segal in The East Hampton Star on Hallie Cohen's "Mi Ricordo"

and listen to Joan Baum's NPR review of The Kafka Studies Department

Tuesday, April 16, 2024

A Nous La Liberte

Proliferation is not a pastry. That's profiterole. Birth rates are declining in industrialized countries. Still new cars are rolling off the GM and Ford assembly lines. How to differentiate one shiny new 4x4 from another after you've accounted for the standard red, white and black models? Is individuation a matter of luck? One if the most potent symbols of anonymity and indifference might have been the prospect of retrieving a stolen bicycle in post war Rome--dramatically portrayed in De Sica's Bicycle Thieves (1947). Everything easily fits the bill and there's always someone who's going to find themselves at the wrong end of the stick. That's what makes for haves and have nots. The Industrial Revolution was the water shed. Malthusian prognostications notwithstanding, division of labor and economy of scale were the igniter of this "fusion" reaction. Production bred an exploding population of consumers one inexorably egging the other on to modernity--and also oblivion.

listen to Joan Baum's NPR review of The Kafka Studies Department

and listen to "The Lakes" by Taylor Swift

Monday, April 15, 2024

The Delta Alliance

Carolyn Drake for The New York Times
"Another sophomore confided that she enjoyed being choked by her boyfriend..." "Why We Need to Talk About Teen Sex" was the cover story of yesterday "Sunday Opinion" section of The Times. This on the day that Iran launched its armada of drones and missiles against Israel. Can we say that concerns about trends in teenaged sex, notwithstanding, The Times was plainly caught with its pants down. Never has a story in that section elicited such a prominent graphic. Wouldn't a blowup of a Shahed-149 have been more apropos? But perhaps there's a subliminal tie-in between asphyxiation and the Middle East? What unites the Israel/Iran conflict and the mores of affluent American college students is The Death Instinct--an enigmatic institution that causes great misery but sometimes mysteriously leads to life in the form of things like Marshall plans for rebuilding. What if for example, an Israeli counterattack brought about regime change in Iran? Imagine the radical shift on the world stage if one of Russia's major proxies now became a member of The Delta Alliance.

read Mark Segal in The East Hampton Star on Hallie Cohen's "Mi Ricordo"

and listen to "Born Under a Bad Sign" by Albert King.

Friday, April 12, 2024

Social Darwinism

Herbert Spencer was the proponent of Social Darwinism. The crux is that it's a dog eat dog world. Fine points like Stephen J Gould's "punctuated equilibrium" are not part of this "doctrinal evolution" in which eugenics, for instance, would ultimately be distilled out, at the price of science. The conflicts in Ukraine and the Middle East and the imminent beer hall putsch of the MAGA GOP are the petrie dish. Jerry Butler famously sang "Only the Strong Survive." Imagine King Kong with no social safety net and no entitlements against a background of Inquisition and plague a la The Seventh Seal. A real Hobbesian Leviathan, if there ever was one.

and listen to "Only the Strong Survive"  by Jerry Butler

and read Mark Segal in The East Hampton Star on Hallie Cohen's "Mi Ricordo"

Thursday, April 11, 2024

Dentisty Terminable and Interminable

From an actuarial point of view, dentistry is a profession that provides a steady return on investment. There's a constant stream of sufferers with everything from toothaches to root canals which have become infected requiring apicoectomies. Then there are more advanced forms of remediation, those tantamount to taking a case to an appeals court in legal terms. Freud famously wrote "Analysis Terminable and Interminable" (1937). For some patients dental bills will continue to arrive even after their demise. "Dental calculus" is calcified dental plaque, but it also refers to the calculations that incurred by the estates of patients whose cure has outlived them. When you first sat down in a dentist's office with those piles of old People magazines around the reproduction farmhouse vistas, you probably didn't realize that the cavity being filled was not just the one in your mouth.

read Mark Segal in The East Hampton Star on Hallie Cohen's "Mi Ricordo"

"Bird on a Wire" by the Neville Brothers

Wednesday, April 10, 2024

The Double

Is there a duplicity inherent in all human behavior? Does everyone possess or produce a doppleganger or shadow that is and is not the self to which they're wed? Dostoevsky famously wrote "The Double," a story that was later appropriated by Borges. The crux is that a titular counselor, Golyadkin, encounters himself on the streets of St. Petersburg. They start out as friends but then become rivals and bitter enemies since Golyadkin II is able to handle himself in the very social situations where his "other" fails. Is Dostoevsky merely prosecuting a clever conceit or is this story a jeremiad?            You have undoubtedly heard about wolves in sheeps' clothing of the family type guys who were so good at it that they decided to plant their seed elsewhere. Who to believe? Appearances can be deceptive. The dog who barks doesn't bite, but do dogs that bite succeed precisely because they don't bark?

read Mark Segal in The East Hampton Star on Hallie Cohen's "Mi Ricordo"

and listen to "The Tears of the Clown" by Smokey Robinson