Tuesday, July 31, 2018

Parma Journal: What is a Charterhouse Anyway?

When you enter the Parma train station, you might think of Stendhal before you conjure images of a piping hot veal dish covered with cheese (that has little to do with the cuisine of the city or region) or even the artist Parmigianino (who was born there). The famous novel that’s named after the city and deals with a nobleman named Fabrizio del Dongo, is set in the Napoleonic era. And what the hell is a charterhouse? What you have is another Northern Italian city that bears few signs of nobility. Like a lot of things, a visit to Parma requires an archeological impulse. You have to look for the history underneath the urbanization and industrialization. You had expected that Parma, the next stop on the line after Reggio Emilia would be a tiny little estuary, something out of a nineteenth century novel where veterans from varying campaigns arrived in horse drawn carriages to nurse their wounds within a class structure that created a kind of Internationale for nobles. Instead the station is a bustling affair filled with immigrants from countries that even a worldly fellow like Stendhal wouldn’t have heard about. But it's interesting to think about unleashing the sensibility of Stendhal on this new Northern Italian reality and see how the great French writer would have dealt with the current cast of characters who have taken up residence in Parma and what their discussions about the nature of human life would sound like. In 1877, 38 years after Stendhal wrote his Charterhouse, Pietro Barilla opened a bake shop in Parma that would eventually become a global pasta business.

Monday, July 30, 2018

Venice Journal: San Giorgio Maggiore

"Doorway San Giorgio," drawing by Hallie Cohen
You have to keep waking yourself up, convincing yourself it’s not a   Hollywood movie. You turn into Zattere on the Grand Canal and up the steps of a small bridge, the Ponte agli Incurabili, passing a plaque commemorating "Bodskij Iosif (1940-1996), grande poete rosso, premio Nobel, amo e canto questo luogo." You come to the pink Pensione Calcina with its waterside café. On that facade is written “John Ruskin abito questo casa 1877" and further along, “Andre Suares, scrittore, saggista, critica e uomo di lettere soggiorno in questa casa nel novembre l902." You take the vaporreto at the Zattere stop and get off in front of San Giorgio Maggiore, with its unmistakably Palladian exterior. Walking through the church to see Tintoretto’s “Last Supper," you remark on the diagonal composition and how angled it is in comparison to the da Vinci. You then ascend the elevator to the Campanile, the belltower, perhaps reminded of the famous scene from Hitchcock’s VertigoHere you retrace your steps from the air as you look over San Marco. Then onwards to the Vatican Chapels, the architectural installations by Norman Foster and others. On this spit of land facing the Cipriani hotel, you enter a succession of spiritual spaces in which the massive inundation of crickets outside competes with the chatter in your head.

Friday, July 27, 2018

Venice Journal: The Biennale of Peggy Guggenheim

Peggy Guggenheim  at the Greek Pavilion (Photo Archivo Cameraphoto Epoche)
"1948: The Biennale of Peggy Guggenheim" at the Peggy Guggenheim Collection commemorates the 70th anniversary of the famed Maecenus’ participation in the 24th Venice Biennale. Guggenheim was able to occupy the Greek pavilion due to the civil war in that country and she took the opportunity to introduce 136 works by a generation of artists amongst them Baziotes, Pollock, Rothko and Still whose work had not received exposure outside the States. In Out of This Century Guggenheim commented that seeing her name next to nations whose names graced the pavilions "I felt as though I were a new European country.” It’s an extraordinary exhibition in which you can read a letter to Rodolfo Palluccini, the Secretary General of the Biennale from Roberto Longhi the famed art historian with whom Pasolini once studied. Connections are everywhere to be found and whatever your feelings about Guggenheim, there’s no doubt that she was an impressario of world historical importance. Would the history of art have been different without her? Hard to say, since people like Guggenheim don’t make the work. What she did was to create a home in which many one time outliers suddenly felt desirable. If she’d been on Wall Street, she’d have been called a market maker. In the world of art she was a collector and salonista. She could have been known as simply "the force." 

Thursday, July 26, 2018

Venice Journal: Eye Level or Sea Level?

photograph by Hallie Cohen
Venice like Amsterdam lies below sea level, but what is the effect of such geography on sensibility? Bats for instance inhabit cavernous spaces where they hibernate during daylight. One of the most dramatic sights that visitors to the city of Austin encounter is the massive awakening of bats who live under the Ann W. Richards Bridge and are roused at sunset. Environment is partially responsible for defining the being of the creature. For instance, due to the water levels Venetians have long travelled through their city by way of water taxi, gondola (with the signature striped-shirted oarsmen) or Vaporetto, ferries which are the equivalent of city buses in a town where there major thoroughfares are not made of cobblestone or pavement but water. The Asphalt Jungle would never be the title of a movie about Venice. Imagine if Fifth or Park Avenue were underwater as they someday might be. And can it be assumed that Venetians are accommodative, with compensatory natures, in that they have suffered symptoms similar to the effects many other coastal cities are now experiencing, centuries before anyone had heard of the expression “global warming.” Another word that might be invoked in describing the character of Venetians is “survivor.” Venice demonstrates a rough waterlogged beauty. The buildings have endured the rising tides for centuries; it's someting you see in the weathered faces of the taxi drivers queuing up at  stops along the Grand Canal.  

Wednesday, July 25, 2018

Pornosophy: The Wretched of the Earth

How can misery be such a turn on? You've seen the videos of domination in which either men or women may find themselves on the long end of a leash, being walked around like a dog. A whole branch of porn from the Marquis de Sade on of course is based on the pleasure that derives from pain and a good part of the subtext involves class struggle. The Marquis was an aristocrat and many of his guinea pigs were his maids (in one case he notoriously went to prison for sodomizing a man servant). Sex is is a form of imperialism in that in promotes the idea of a food chain or hierarchy and many of the pleasures that the #Metoo movement is trying to reeducate the public about have to do with the droit du seigneur. A TV series like Mad Men, set in the world of 50’s advertising, creates a perfect template in which to paint the intersection between ambition (social climbing) and desire. The question is, from whence does the orgasm derive? Is it about a man and woman, or two male and female counterparts on an even playing field, or is it essentially a product of economics. Deleuze and Guattari's Anti-Oedipus: Capitialism and Schizophrenia proposes essentially a Marxist theory of sexuality. When you eliminate the power or hegemonic element from sexual relations, you eventually seek to do away with the notion of sex as a form of attack or rape of the disadvantaged by those who hold the reins of power. In so doing the nature of the pleasure principle is epigenetically transformed and the Wretched of the Earth are no longer a centerfold. 

Tuesday, July 24, 2018

The Phenomenology of Commerce: "That's My Robe!"

photo: Elcobbola
You may have seen the commercial in which the couple who uses Liberty Mutual saves all the money. However, there are two iterations. In one, the brother-in-law appears with a bowl of popcorn in hand and the lady of the house who has just declared that "if we had Liberty we could afford a real babysitter" says to the him, “that’s my robe.” In the second, the brother-in-law exits to the right of the screen and she then makes her catty comment about the robe. If you watch CNN where this commercial frequently plays, you'll note that one version has not superseded the other. They still air in tandem and one wonders if someone is playing games with your head. In the first version the brother-in-law has already heard his sister-in-law bad mouthing him. The accusation about the robe is just icing on the cake. The second is more reserved, the brother-in-law hears himself being badmouthed and is spared the comment about the robe. Could guilt be playing a role in this last scenario? The generosity of her brother-in-law has already been thrown out the window. Why add insult to injury? But in the earlier iteration she experiences no such qualms, totally dismissing the brother-in-law’s value and hitting him squarely between the eyes with the notion that she doesn’t like him making himself at home. And what about the kids? How are they? That's the first thing parents ask any babysitter? What's up with this omission?

Monday, July 23, 2018

The Final Solution: Kierkegaard and Trump

Kierkegaard delineated three stages, the aesthetic, the ethical and the religious. The distinction holds true in our current world where discourse is disproportionately devoted to only one level on the great Danish philosopher's totem pole. The Trump phenomenon like an ill-smelling turd has dominated the senses in most enclosed spaces. Liberal-minded people, turned into mini Jobs, throw their hands up in horror. It’s a little like that famous movie The Gods Must Be Crazy where a Coke bottle falls from the sky. There’s no chance for conversations to get anywhere near the esthetic (unless you consider news a form of art), since the average democratic voter is trying to parry the latest assault on his ethical sensibilities. Whether it’s a supreme court nomination, a declaration that both Russia and the United States are to blame for what has gone wrong (a similar locution to what Trump said after Charlottesville where he allotted equal responsibility to both “sides” despite the violence and murder perpetrated by white suprematist protestors, "How Trump's Putin Summit Do-Over Mirrors His Charlottesville Response,HuffPost, 7/17/18)), or the president's war on NATO, not a day passes without some insult to the upholders of the old-fashioned notion of America as an exemplificatio of Enlightenment ideals. One benefit, of course, is that contentious relationships have been given a brief respite. People who might have had bones to pick with each other are united in their hatred and outrage over Trump. The bad news is that there is no chance to catch one’s breath and smell the roses before the president lets out his latest Tweet. 

Friday, July 20, 2018

Death and Montaigne

Michel de Montaigne
The subject of “Death and Montaigne” ignited a spirited exchange in the letters column of the June 22 TLS. Citing Montaigne’s essay, “Of Exercise or Practice,” Graham Swift, London SW18 remarks, “This essay almost succeeds in refuting the irrefutable premiss that though we can practice many things, death is not one of them.” The best thing about death is that it has often inspired writers (“Death, be not proud”) to great flights of oratory and this generous locution is a little like the famous 360 degree head turning scene in The ExorcistJoseph Ting, School of Public Health and Social Work, Queensland University of Technology, Victoria Park Road, Kelvin Grove, Brisbane offers, “Kafka’s ‘The meaning of life is that it stops’ remains scant consolation when life is robbed unexpectedly or prematurely.” Still the quote from the famous Czech writer is strangely consoling in its affirmation of finitude of a godless universe. Aren’t exorbitant expectations often to blame where the spiritual life is concerned? Paul Slack, Linacre College, Oxford begins his brief note with the ominous “I dare say this is no time for me to be making enemies…” Can we assume that Mr. Slack is another gray panther on the lamb? One can only say how British! Jolly good, govna!

Thursday, July 19, 2018

The Rise and Fall of a Small Film Company

You may find Jean-Luc Godard’s The Rise and Fall of a Small Film Company (1986)currently in revival at Anthology Film Archives, bullshit or brilliant. It’s actually a little of both. It’s filmmaking as a piece of performance art, maybe the kind you’d find in a Richard Foreman work at The Saint Mark’s Poetry project. Gaspard Bazin (Jean-Pierre Leaud of The 400 Blows fame) starts off the film shooting screen tests and ends up joining the line of hopefuls who receive 20 francs a shot for their time. Jean Almereyda (Jean-Pierre Mocky), the producer is a fugitive from the New Wave come upon hard times who ends up like Jean-Paul Belmondo in Breathless.The whole film replete with Almeredya’s alienated wife Eurydice (Marie Valera) has the feeling of microscopic outtakes from Contempt left on the cutting room floor. A great part of the action is simply the line of actors reading sentence fragments into a camera positioned in front of a poster of L’avventura. One of the female actresses iterates “he’s the only man I ever loved, he’s dead.” She’s asked to repeat it and then the camera holds her wide open mouth freeze-framed in a shot that recalls the Odessa steps sequence of Eisenstein’s Potemkin. La Grand Illusion is the headline of one of the sections of the film and a book about Jerry Lewis, a favorite of French cineastes, lies in a pile on a desk. It would be cant to say that The Rise and Fall of a Small Film Company deconstructs the process of filmmaking, though it does tip its hat ambivalently to the demise of celluloid and the concomitant advent of the video in which it’s shot (it was originally a made-for-TV movie). But the film takes too many creative liberties to qualify as an essay in filmmaking, narrative or anything else. It’s more like a dance and in the end Godard himself makes an appearance as the guest diva. There's a side to Godard which wants to blow everything to smithereens including art, cognition and certainly the social order. If you find yourself shaking your head, you may be responding to the fact that this time his anarchist impulses may have created an esthetics of gibberish.

Wednesday, July 18, 2018

The Banality of Himmler

Himmler’s daughter recently died ("Gudrun Burwitz, Ever-Loyal Daughter of Himmler, Is Dead at 88,NYT7/6/18). And her story epitomizes Hannah Arendt’s “banality of evil.” Firstly, she made the Times obit page, which is a distinction in and of itself. There was undoubtedly someone whose relative wasn’t so lucky and who said to themselves “I guess you have to be Himmler’s daughter.” Secondly, she remained loyal to her father throughout her life, refusing to believe that he was a monster which is a reminder that in spite of the haunting box cars, train, whistles, ovens and smoke stacks, life apparently went on with some degree of normalcy (at least for those in high positions) during the Third Reich. You did your job and received rewards, promotions and reprimands (in Himmler’s case he incurred the Fuhrer’s disfavor in the end for advocating surrender). You had your marriages and children. Himmler’s produced Gudrun, a nice Teutonic name. Gutrune was Siegfried's wife in Wagner's Ring. According to The Times piece, Himmler called her “Puppi,” and she called him “Pappi.”  Puppi and Pappi could be a graphic novel say like Maus. A killing machine is a way of life and there are weddings and birthdays and children like the hapless Gudrun who had trouble getting a job due to her resume. Gudrun herself apparently found love, in the form of a right wing journalist named Wulf, which just goes to show there’s someone for everyone. Is there a dating site that caters to the offspring of war criminals?

Tuesday, July 17, 2018

Three Identical Strangers

Tim Wardle'sThree Identical Strangers is about an unethical experiment. Identical triplets born on July 12, 1961, put up for adoption, were farmed to families who had no knowledge of the existence of siblings. Whether the experiment was testing theories of nature versus nurture, parenting, or perhaps even the heritability of mental illness are all subjects that are dealt with in the film. However the underlying paradox is that the Jewish agency which was involved in placing the children and underwriting the experiment was following in the footsteps of Nazis like Joseph Mengele who also performed similarly inhumane studies on twins. Were those involved as impervious to human life as the Nazis? Obviously not, but the harmful effect on the subjects the movie describes was great. Infants who were summarily separated from each other experienced life-long problems and there’s a particularly tragic circumstance that the film underscores that may have resulted directly from the experiment's methodology. Apparently, there was quite a method to the madness with children being placed in varying socio-economic milieus to test environmental versus genetic factors. The movie is a docudrama which uses real life footage and subjects, but it begins in a carnivalesque atmosphere. Two of the brothers Bobby and Eddie discover each other by accident and tabloid coverage of the meeting leads to a reunion with the third. The threesome appear on TV and even have an appearance with Madonna in Desperately Seeking SusanAt first genetics seems to be the winner. All three like the same kind of girls, smoke Marlboros and wrestle. Their mannerisms and movements, including the way they hold their hands, are unmistakably alike. They become regulars on New York’s nightclub circuit during the early 80’s and even start a restaurant. It’s a little like the bearded lady in the circus. The bizarreness is entertaining until it becomes apparent that there's a price to be paid. And the similarities recede when the relationship among the three unravels.The whole study in question is still wrapped in mystery. Originally the data had been sealed until 2066, though two of the living brothers have been successful in petitioning for disclosure. But how many twins or triplets, who may been subjects, are still out in the world with no knowledge of their others?

Monday, July 16, 2018

The Final Solution: Trump High

Donald Trump is the prototypic schmuck who gets all the good-looking girls. You always said to yourself, "what do they see in him?" If you were casting a horror film about this incredibly blustery dumbbell from high school who comes back to torment a community, you’d want Trump in the role. He’s right out of central casting with the hairdo and to underscore the point you might put him in the kind of white patent leather loafers and double knit suits that were popular in the late 70’s. But he couldn’t have been a character out of Saturday Night Fever. He’s no son of Brooklyn and he moves like a dinosaur. Could you imagine him on the dance floor? But listen to him talking about his friend Angela (that’s Angela Merkel the Chancellor of Germany) and look at Theresa May smiling benignly at him after he’s dissed her in the pages of The Sun. You remember those kind of kids who could get away with anything while when you threw a wad of wet toilet paper over a stall, you hit the principal and got suspended. Angela, Theresa it’s all like high school and Trump is the bully in the schoolyard. You remember those guys, don’t you? They weren’t smart and were too uncoordinated to be good at sports, but everyone was afraid of them. Then there was a period in your life, call it the Obama presidency, when the world seemed to right itself and the nice guys got all the good looking girls, but now we’re back at the prom. Melania is a nice kid and you feel sorry that she’s stuck with a schlump and cheat, but she’s never going to go for a nice guy like you.

Friday, July 13, 2018

Obsession: Nudes by Klimt, Schiele, and Picasso from the Scofield Thayer Collection

Scofield Thayer was the publisher of The Dial, the famed literary magazine from the 20’s that featured such luminaries as Thomas Mann, Virginia Wolf and T.S. Eliot. He also came to Europe to be psychoanalyzed. “Obsession: Nudes by Klimt, Schiele, and Picasso from the Scofield Thayer Collection” is the title of the exhibition at The Met Breuer. Is it possible to jump to the conclusion that analysis afforded a degree of disinhibition that resulted in Thayer’s “obsession” with the female body? And whose obsession is the show ultimately referring to, Thayer’s, those of the artists he collected, or both? The works that comprise "Obsession" particularly in the case of Klimt and Schiele are not merely women in a state of undress. They’re wanton, languorous figures who are frequently portrayed with their legs spread and masturbating. The project of portraying female sexuality and creating a harem of models who are willing to go the route, as they did for Klimt and Schiele, might go unappreciated in an age that’s so sensitized to erotic politics. Of course, these are no more a Hustler photo shoot than Courbet's notorious "The Origin of the World" (though they're more provocative). Schiele’s “Die Traumbescaute” or “Observed in a Dream (1911) plays on what might be termed sexual hyperbole. And it derives from the flow and lability of the watercolor that's employed. The models pudenda is swollen and she’s depicted pushing her ample pubic bush to the side in order to display the bright orange of her vagina. The same orange appears on her nipples. A similar juxtaposition between the brazen content of the image and formal technique occurs in Klimt’s “Water Serpents II (Women Friends)," l904-7, in which masturbation and lesbianism are countermanded by a rigorously decorative element. "Reclining Nude with Outstretched Left Arm," (1903-4) is one of 50 prelimary sketches for this work that's displayed. Speaking of Freud, the unapologetic sexuality and the uncompromising portrait of the body with all its imperfections recall the much later work of Lucien Freud, the grandson of the eminence grise who haunts this whole show. But what’s going on, institutionally, as least? Having an exhibtion like this is a little like Trump meeting with Kim Jong-un and thereby giving credibility to the DPRK. On the one hand the current zeitgeist mitigates against the exploitation of women by male artists and on the other “Obsession” gives it free rein. Artists who explore the limits of eroticism are always walking a fine line no matter what the age and actually Schiele appeared before a judge who sentenced him to 24 days and also incinerated one of his drawings. The Met has come down on the side artistic expression in the case of Balthus whose work was the subject of protest by those who demanded that disclaimers be posted alongside the artist’s work. But there’s definitely a double standard with painters of another era receiving exemptions due the distance in time. It’s a little like Pompeii, which was once off limits to women and where now all comers are admitted.Thayer employed  some of the most well-known dealers of the day, amongst them Paul Rosenberg in Paris and Alfred Fleuchtheim in Berlin, and ended up acquiring over 600 works including “Erotic Scene” (1903) from Picasso’s Blue Period which is also represented here and which depicts the artist’s own sexual initiation. By the way Thayer paid 60,000 Kroner or $60 dollars for “Observed in a Dream” which would be $741 today. Not a bad investment. Sotheby’s sold a Schiele called “Houses with Colorful Laundry” for over $40 million back in 2011. 

Thursday, July 12, 2018


Life is probably longer than it feels, despite the panic you may feel about time running out. One way of determining this is by looking at the behavior of those who are much older and still continue to navigate the finitude of their existences as if the varying twists and turns of fate still make a difference. In As You Like It, Jaques makes his famed “All the World’s a Stage” in which he concludes by talking about the dissolution of the body and the senses. “Last scene of all, That ends this strange eventful history, is second childishness and mere oblivion, Sans teeth, sans eyes, sans taste, sans everything.” Stages are, of course, a common way of representing human existence. You have Philippe Aries's Centuries of Childhood and Jean Piaget's four stages of cognitive development. Freud talked about the anal and oral stages. How We Die:Reflections on Life’s Final Chapter was Sherwin Nuland’s meditation on the stages of death. Zeno’s paradox in which the tortoise beats Achilles was a product of stoic thinking, but it demonstrates how distance is relative. Instead of seeing life as a procrustean juggernaut that speeds along despite your protestations you can divide and conquer. If you constantly half the remainder, for example, you will come to an increasingly smaller figure and you'll never reach the end.


Wednesday, July 11, 2018

Who is Jesse James Decker?

Who is Jesse James Decker and is The South Beach Diet a state of mind? One thing is sure, these will never be questions that Fareed Zakaria asks at the end of GPS. The answer to the first question can easily be found on Wikipedia. Jesse James Decker is a country singer who is married to NFL wide receiver Eric Decker. You have to deconstruct the ad for the South Beach Diet that has been appearing on CNN to answer the second question. First of all Jesse James Decker is a name that's laden with meaning. Jesse James was a famous outlaw. So you have a girl with a boy’s name that itself comes with some baggage. The choice is on the other hand belied by the innocent all American type bikini clad cheerleader who appears on your screen. Is there a subliminal appeal to transgender outlaws who don’t look anything like her? After all no manufacturer wants to limit the appeal of their product. Even if a model looks like she's climbing out of the pool at Mar-a-Lago, the program she’s championing has to attract hermaphroditic creatures with dyed black hair and piercings who stagger out of after hours clubs in Alphabet City at five in the morning. And so the answer to the second question is a definite yes.

Tuesday, July 10, 2018

Taghkanic Journal II

The Mount from the Walled Garden (photo by David Dashiell)
Stockbridge boasts Austen Riggs a mental health facility with a storied history. The famous psychoanalyst, Erik Erikson practiced there and James Taylor referenced it in his song, "Knocking 'Round the Zoo."  Of course only minutes away is Lenox which boasts one of the most beloved classical concert venues in the country and Tina Packer's Shakespeare & Company. Summer camps preponderate in this idyllic part of Massachusetts (with its many lakes) which is also the site of Edith Wharton's residence, The Mount and let's not forget Arrowhead in Pittsfield, where Melville lived. After you drop your kids off at Camp Taconic in Hinsdale, you can repair to Tanglewood. One recent night the program included a magical Boston Pops rendition of Leonard Bernstein's On the Town, performed under the stars. 

Monday, July 9, 2018

Taghkanic Journal I

O's Eatery in Chatham (photo: Francis Levy)
Geography often seems gratuitous, but it’s curiously indicative of sensibility. For instance, you journey up the Taconic parkway which is the anglicization of a Native American word, Taghkanic, which means "forest wilderness," through Putnam, Dutchess and Columbia Counties. You pass by quirky sounding roads that lead to sleepy little towns like Ancram and Clinton Corners. Some of these are mere watering holes with a general store and there's O’s Eatery right before Chatham. For Plato reality was the shadows on the wall of a cave, but this is one diner that comes as close as you’re going to get to an ideal form with its oracular waitresses, who look like they have seen it all, and homecooked specials like cornflake crusted chicken. Journeying north for a half an hour it’s as if you’ve made a sea shift. You’re in Stockbridge, which is the site of the grand old Red Lion Inn, the gateway to the culture of  Lenox and Tanglewood and onwards to MASS MoCa in North Adams and The Clark in Williamstown. By contrast if you travel up Route 17, a wilderness once dotted with borscht belt icons like the Corcord and Kutschers, you find the Catskills and towns with Greco-Roman names like Ithaca, Utica and Syracuse. New York's arteries reach out as far north as Vermont and west as Pennsylvania. But one thing is certain, all roads don’t lead to Rome.

Friday, July 6, 2018

The God Palindrome

You might have looked God right smack in the face without even knowing it. In fact, the sallow-faced clueless looking fellow who might turn out to be God possibly wasn’t aware of the fact himself. You’ve always thought of God as someone wise who has a plan.  Might was right. But what if God is one of those value free chaps. You've seen them hanging out at the corner, with the Daily Racing  Form stuck in their back pockets. God might be a little like death, the stalker with the fedora who appears in the rearview mirror of a Twilight Zone called “The Hitchhiker” or perhaps God is like Hickey in The Iceman Cometh or surely the absence that haunts the Beckett masterpiece that dismissively adds an “ot” to create an iconic soubriquet. “Lookin' for love in all the wrong places” sings Johnny Lee, but why can’t the divine manifest itself anywhere? Was Harry Lime inadvertently seeking God in the sewers of Vienna? Carol Reed was a great director, but probably not God. Yet let’s say that God can be anyone and certainly not the person or thing we would expect him, her or it to be. You know how you felt when that really good looking girl went for a guy who you thought was a schmuck. Well you might say God, are you kidding? Him? Remember when all is said and done, God is nothing more than a palindrome. Dog spelled backwards. However, let’s go one step further. If God is not what you think he or she or it is and in fact doesn’t even know it’s God, then why can’t you be the son of God, Christ, or Moses who God appointed to free the Jews from slavery and lead them to the promised land?

Thursday, July 5, 2018

The Boarder

I.B. Singer (photograph by Yousuf Karsh)
The I.B. Singer story, “The Boarder,”which appeared in the May 7th edition of The New Yorker (after being discovered amidst the writer's unpublished works) is a Socratic dialogue between a believer and cynic who on the basis of his experience of the camps, holds to the notion that there’s no good in the world. At one point Reb Berich Zhichliner, who himself has lost everything, tells Morris Melnik, the boarder who rents a room from him in Williamsburg, “Sin is like froth. When you pour beer into a glass, you imagine that it’s full, but two-thirds of it is froth. When the froth dissolves, only a third of the glass is left. The same thing is true of transgressions. They burst like bubbles.” Naturally there’s no winning such arguments, but what’s interesting is the nature of the discussion which has been going on ever since man invented the notion of God. In fact it might be said that God didn’t create man but man created God if only as a way to get a one up in such debates—men or women who take the Zhichliner’s position that is. Melnik’s view is that of the materialist who offers constant anecdotal evidence which demonstrates that man is simply an animal whose position on the food chain determines his destiny. Melnik of course is not devoid of belief in a higher being. The only difference is that his resembles the Antichrist depicted in Dostoevsky’s famed “Grand Inquisitor” poem from The Brothers Karamazov.“To whom are you praying?” Melnik asks his landlord. “To the God who made Hitler and gave him the strength to kill six million Jews? Or perhaps to the God who created Stalin and let him liquidate another ten million victims? Really Reb Berish, you’re not going to bribe the Lord of the Universe with a pair of phylacteries. He’s a first-class son of a bitch and a terrible 

Wednesday, July 4, 2018

The Final Solution: The Ice Age

Dinosaurs became extinct as a result of the Ice Age. As might be expected there were a number of other species and creatures who fell victim to the scourge which scientists believe may have been the result of a meteor hitting the earth. Now that the polls are indicating that Trump could possibly be re-elected, humanity seems again to be on the precipice. Either some act of God which may take the form of Stormy Daniels and Michael Goldman (but not the Mueller Investigation) will end his rule or he will go on his merry way, in the company of other tyrants like Kim Jong-un and Vladimir Putin—who all join hands at that ultimate cyber watering hole, known as “The Summit.” International affairs has moved from the romance novel paradigm to Jurassic Park.These larger than life creatures produced by genetic mutations of reality TV will hopefully gobble each other up before they murder everyone else. With the Russians meddling in the elections of literally the whole world and for instance possibly engineering Brexit to further weaken the EU ("Russian bid to influence Brexit vote detailed in new US Senate report," The Guardian, 1/10/18), the only possibility for an end to it all would come in the form of an errant comet, like the one that the Japanese space mission is trying to reach ("Japan's Hyabasa2 Spacecraft Creeps Up on the Ryugu Asteroid,NYT, 6/25/18). The only problem is that like with the previous Ice Age, the Dinosaurs are likely to take everyone else with them when they go.

Tuesday, July 3, 2018

Not So Incredibles 2

The villains of Incredibles 2 boast names like Screenslaver and Underminer“Super heroes make us weak,” says Evelyn Deavor (Catherine Keener) the eminence grise behind Screenslavers. There has been some controversy about the latest entry in the animation saga due to the fact that the flashing lights can cause seizures in those who suffer from photosensitive epilepsy and now the initial credit sequence sports a disclaimer. But it’s not hard to get with the bad guys when you think about it. From the psychoanalytic point of view the superhero is the paterfamilias and it’s not all that unhealthy to break away from the idea of there's an ultimate power and authority that repose in some larger than life being. That’s called growing up and one could easily offer the interpretation that the dark forces that are seeking to outlaw superheroes are those of maturation, reality and finally death. What happens to superheroes like the family in Incredibles 2? There’s a new baby in the house who's just beginning to feel his oats. But do mama and papa eventually die or do super heroes by definition possess the gift of eternal life? And what about Disney, Comcast, 21st Century Fox and all the big corporate giants who are trying to gobble each other up like Dinosaur era creatures? Are they the super heroes of the corporate world.?