Tuesday, August 31, 2021

When Posterity Reaps the Reward

Contented people are all alike, but aspirational types, who are by definition always unsatisfied, tend to be aspirational in their own ways. Of this latter category of unhappy folks what about those who have not made it and remain hopeful until the very end (which means they’re doomed to life of almost unremitting suffering)? In the unfortunate event, they do get their Leopard published, they may spend their last days putting the final touches on a masterpiece whose acclaim they will never enjoy. Naturally someone’s going to profit, at least from the legacy of genius. This is not always the way that elusive quality of notoriety is attained, but it did occur in the case of  Count Giuseppe Tomaso di Lampedusa whose great masterpiece, Il Gattopardo encompassing the fall of the Bourbon dynasty and the advent of Garibaldi's Risorgimento only brought him posthumous fame.

Read "The Prophet" by Francis Levy, TheScreamingPope

Monday, August 30, 2021

Dear Ethicist: Reversing the Reverse Midas Touch


Dear Ethicist: 
For many years I suffered from a reverse Midas touch. Anything I came near turned to shit. Now the clouds have parted. I’m a walking De Beers. All I have to do is sachet into a room. Everyone wants to talk to me--ironically like flies to shit. Editors fight over my crumpled balls of paper. The problem is that for many years I was a member of a support group where people got solace from licking their wounds. Now I’m a pariah. No one wants to hear me sharing about my latest success. Am I going to end up alone and solitary having attained these heights? 


Perplexed, Cincinnati, OH



Dear Perplexed: Your problems may be difficult but they’re not insoluble. Since I take it you're now flush with cash, why don’t you participate in one of those therapies like psychoanalysis which go on forever and provide a replacement for the group of sufferers who have heretofore been watching your back.

Read "What is Happiness?" by Francis Levy, HuffPost

Friday, August 27, 2021

Departing the Gutenberg Galaxy

Were you the kind of person who plodded through tomes like Middlemarch and restricted your audio-visual intake to the famous Bergman or Antonioni trilogies (Through a Glass Darkly, Winter Light, The Silence, L’avventura, La notte, L’eclisse) at art houses like Film Forum? Did the pandemic bring about a sea change in your behavior? Stephen J. Gould postulated that evolution proceeds in fits and starts by the process of “punctuated equilibrium.” Culture does not go gently into the night.Viewers who once enjoyed quaffing down their expressos and looking for like-minded sensibilities on line for Lars von Trier at the Sunshine may find themselves running home to watch the next episode of Call My Agent, The Crown or Babylon, Berlin on Netflix. The net effect of the pandemic was to remove congregation from the table, returning catharsis to its previously solitary status on the food chain of esthetic pleasure. If it seemed like only yesterday that you were reading full-page Times ads with those little synopses for The New York Film Festival (the 59th is actually coming up), you may marvel how far away Lincoln Center seems in the age of the deadly Delta variation which can easily turn theater in the round into a super spreader event. And let’s not forget counterespionage thrillers like The Americans and The Bureau which present alternate existences which don’t even exist in a parallel universe.

Read "L'avventura At Film Forum" by Francis Levy, HuffPost

Thursday, August 26, 2021

Afghanistan: The Art of War

Perhaps the exfiltration of the Taliban from Afghanistan is something that the Russians, the Chinese and the West can agree on. ISIS posed a similar threat to civilization itself; if nothing else Russia and the U.S. agreed that ISIS was a threat. Imagine Karzai International Airport where the airlift is taking place as a Trojan Horse. More and more troops arrive to facilitate the evacuation—culminating in the retaking of Kabul itself. Remember the tables will be turned. With the Taliban in power, the Americans are spearheading the resistance.The Taliban use weapons captured from the Russians and Americans. Now these self-same weapons get captured back. The Taliban are guerilla fighters. As a stationary force of occupiers, they turn out to be much more vulnerable. What's the bottom line? Salvaging a cosmopolitan society, where women have rights. What's the cost? $20 billion a year are the most recent figures, which is a pittance in comparison to other military allocations--and, yes, admittedly more lives. John McCain once made sense of such a seemingly unending project by compariing it to The Hundred Years War between England and France (1337-1453). On the other side of the ledger, you have the wholesale murder of anyone resisting the regime and a return to the Middle Ages.

Read "The Art of War" by Francis Levy, HuffPost

Wednesday, August 25, 2021

Afghanistan: The Killing Fields

It’s astonishing how prescient novels like Animal Farm1984Brave New WorldThe Man in the High Castle, and yes Kafka’s The Castle turned out to be. Totalitarianism dominated the history of the 20th century in the forms of Stalinism and Nazism with detours in places like Cambodia and Bosnia, which were the sites of genocides. In the 21st century fundamentalism, the country cousin of totalitarianism has clearly reared its head. Why have the Taliban been able to gain such a foothold in Afghanistan repelling both the Russians and Americans, despite these superpowers' military might? Is it simply the resistance to colonialism or is these upsurges less political than spiritual--a revolt against modernity itself. In a recent photo essay in The New York Times Magazine, "What Will Become of Afghanistan’s post-9/11 Generation?," Kyana Hayeri, points to the pushback against a cosmopolitanism that threatened tradition.Tribalism is a characteristic of Trumpism. So it should not be surprising to find how threatening women’s rights can be in a society which thrived on "religiously" prescribed roles. History has shown that the perception of imminent chaos has fueled both totalitarian and fundamentalist regimes. One awaits the novel about the aftermath of the United States' exfiltration of Kabul.

Read "Paris Journal: Totalitarian Tourism" by Francis Levy, TheScreamingPope

Tuesday, August 24, 2021

The War of the Roses

Some couples fight all day and only come to rest as nocturnal creatures. Their conversations are Greek tragedies in which the disquisition proceeds by way of choral juxtaposition. Whose Afraid of Virginia Woolf? (1966) which starred Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton, who in real life were a warring couple, is a play devoted to the subject of relational conflict. Kathleen Turner and Michael Douglas played another such couple in The War of the Roses (1989).  Why do people fight so much? Does it go back to the sandbox and sibling rivalry? Is it because opposites must pay the price for their attraction? Is it a way of not taking each other for granted, or even bonding? If you’ve got an axe to grind or a bone to pick, you’re not likely to wander too far from your Appomattox. Switch and bait is a wonderful way to keep a loved one on a string and if you’re too lax, you might be giving them just enough rope to strangle the relationship with. There's something comforting about conflict and countervailingly lugubrious about complacency and even calm. Serenity is a dangerous commodity. While the cat’s away the mice will play. Is this why nations often face off against each other or find a certain identity in being polar opposites? Rivalry and competition are methods of self-definition. They may speak French in Montreal, but the Quebequoise is insulted if you mistake them for a Parisian. Arthur Schnitzler’s Traumnovelle which was the basis for Eyes Wide Shut sees life as serieis of transformations in which varying partners go round and round before they find their way.

Read "Radical Acceptance" by Francis Levy, TheScreamingPope

Monday, August 23, 2021

What's the Difference Between a Hemorrhoid and an Asteroid?

Asteroid 2014 J025 (NASA)

What’s the difference between a hemorrhoid and an asteroid? First of all, a “hemorrhoid” is not an easy spell and may look like a meteor. Everyone knows a meteor is something that breaks off from an asteroid. So, asteroids which circle the sun, are the objects that have eminent domain. Asteroids are big shots, but it's probably not an insult to say a meteor is “nothing” since they have so little distinction. Meteors may be "space debris," but you wouldn’t want to run into a one in a dark alley. It’s generally thought that the Ice Age occurred when an asteroid hit the earth. That might be the equivalent of a power punch. When James Cagney was informed his mother died in White Heat, he became an asteroid. You have to be something to bring down a heavy hitter like Mother Earth. Hemorrhoids don’t have orbits. In fact, the only path they’re likely to take is down the lower rectum once a proctologist strangles them with a rubber band. As celestial objects they are red like Mars, but the buck stops there. The half-life of the average hemorrhoid is less than a shooting star.

Read "Cloaca" by Francis Levy, The Screaming Pope

Friday, August 20, 2021

Dear Ethicist: The Etiquette of Leaving a Dying Planet

Biosphere 2, photograph: Dr. Starbuck, Flickr

Dear Ethicist: It’s obvious things have gone from bad to worse. The temperature hit 124 in Sicily and snails were cooked alive. Kabul just fell and coronavirus cases are surging despite the vaccine. It’s like the Middle Ages, the plague has brought about conspiracy theories like QAnon and ensuing witch hunts (of which January 6th was an extreme example). I have developed a biosphere, a world of my own, which is self-sustaining. It will enable future generations of my blood lines to reach Kepler stars and their carbon-based planets, which are conducive to life. The only problem is, how can I go off and leave everyone else on earth to clean up the mess? Should I feel guilty for fleeing the coop to seek a better life, when there are so many suffering people left behind? They really have perfected these biospheres. You have everything including Netflix.There are just enough people around to get into a little mischief, but not enough to facilitate a war. And talk about air pollution.That’s just the point. There isn’t any because there are no factories or cars. Most biospheres are just like Fire Island where everyone travels around on bikes and your friendly mailman knows you by your first name. I’m tired of having to worry about Trump and his base and whether I’m going to drown in Germany or die of thirst in California. 


Noah A.



Dear Noah, You may want to ask yourself whether your're really  going to hurt anyone else by freeing yourself from a dying planet. Throughout the ages, there have always been those who have the foresight to get out of Dodge before the volcano or tsunami and those who are stupid enough to stay behind. If you have an easy way to travel to other planets, it’s a no brainer. Just take advantage of your good fortune.



Dear Ethicist: I get your drift.  


Noah A.

Read "Dear Ethicist: Unsung Genius" by Francis Levy, TheScreamingPope

Thursday, August 19, 2021

Not The Philadephia Story

CNN’s Clarissa Ward often reports from hotspots. You may have seen her knocking on the door of a KGB agent who purportedly poisoned Alexei Navalny. She also put herself in harm’s way when she was covering Syria for Sixty Minutes. Now the intrepid journalist’s byline is Kabul—and The Late Show With Stephen Colbert where she recently made a guest appearance—electronically of course. She’s a Yale graduate who lives in London with her two children, married to a fund manager who she met at a dinner party in Moscow. Talk about jet setting or puddle jumping. Ward who’s blond always seems to be dressed for the occasion. For her current assignment she performs her interviews in a Burka.  “When in Rome…” Another fetching blond CNN correspondent, Michele Kosinski got into trouble for claiming she was on the scene in a flood when she was actually paddling a canoe in a few inches of water, but the only controversy Ward has provoked occurred when she was accused of “parachute journalism” in Myanmar. After all, the difference between her and her subjects is that at the end of her tour of duty she gets to go home, which is the one thing that refugees in Afghanistan can't do. On camera ot not, one has to give her credit for contendiing with angry and frustrated crowds who often seem to be closing in on her threateningly as she attempts she attempts to conduct interviews on the streets of Kabul and particularly outside the airport.  CNN and CBS are nice credentials anywhere, but they're no protection against an angry mob as was evidenced by CBS's Lara Logan who was sexually assaulted in Cairo's Tahrir Square back in 2011. Obviously Ward's producers enjoy putting a delicate looking creature in such dangerous places. After all news is entertainment and Ward’s plainly beome the Amelia Earhart of journalism.

Read "The Seven Ages of One Man," by Francis Levy, The East Hampton Star


Wednesday, August 18, 2021

The World of Tautology

Many people live in a world of tautology. There's something comforting about repeating the obvious—though others may take offense at the constant need for validation. You must have met the kind of person who needs to repeat the time of a rendezvous so many times, you no longer want to meet them at all. It’s obvious those who perseverate in this way are afraid the rug will be pulled out from under them. They will find themselves standing on a corner under the arc of the Hopper streetlight waiting in vain for their Hickey. Most people who need to repeat the yellow jacket is yellow suffer from a phobia about being stung. The only problem with analytic a priori statements of this kind is that they don’t admit of metaphysics. It’s very hard to bespeak the obvious and explore Pascal’s Wager at the same time. You’re not going to discuss Derek Parfit’s Reasons and Persons at a small talk convention. Vergangenheitsbewaltigung, the German compound word meaning “the burden of the past” is not on the tip of the tongue of the obsessive compulsive who calls so many times to confirm his dinner reservation that he or she eventually experiences the very thing they were afraid of—being bumped or worse simply forgotten. Still Gertrude Stein's “A rose is a rose is a rose” can actually be enlightening, depending on where you are in life.

Read "Why Compound German Words like Vergangenbangenheit Carry Weight" by Francis Levy, HuffPost

Tuesday, August 17, 2021

Apocalypse Now!

The current apocalypse of climate change ("How Do We React to the Climate Tragedy,"by David Kirkpatrick, Techonomy, 8/13/21) is actually not unusual . Remember the earth was, in all probability, hit by an asteroid which brought about the Ice Age. The Pithecanthropus wandering lazily across the veldt, devouring every creature in its path had the carpet pulled out from under it or the wool placed over its eyes, as it were. Stephen J. Gould postulated the theory of “punctuated equilibrium.” In this view evolution was not a neat, gradual process, but proceeded in fits and starts. Intellectual history mirrors this kind of erratic process. Sensibility is not something that’s made in stone. Romantic love is a labile concept as is the very notion of happiness or even consciousness. Thomas Nagel famously wrote an essay, "What’s It Like to Be a Bat?" which broadens the nature of sensation and perception, extending it into the world of creatures who supposedly have no idea of their own existence. The pandemic has been one of the great historical catastrophes, in the category of the watersheds delineated in Jared Diamond’s Collapse: How Societies Choose to Fail or Succeed. It has drastically changed the ways in which people congregate and ultimately seek pleasure and joy. It's just a footnote, but theatrical rollouts of films which were once global events are now multivalent. Scarlett Johansson recently sued Disney over Black Widow, claiming she lost millions in potential profits on the film's release. Instead of going out to the movies on Saturday night, film viewers everywhere are finding it easier and more enjoyable to stay at home and watch Netflix. Would that this phenomenon turned out to be the most significant result of the multi-morbidities which have afflicted this fragile planet!

Read "What is Goodness? Or a Gift of Charoset" by Francis Levy, HuffPost


Monday, August 16, 2021

Pornosophy: Cock+Tail

photograph: Ralf Roletschek

Cocktail is a word that is often taken for granted. When someone says “let’s meet for cocktails,” they don’t think twice about the connotations. They immediately default to the widely held notion that a cocktail is a drink. Preconception is actually malice of forethought in this case. But think about it. “Cocktail” is a compound of “cock” and “tail.” Could anything be more obvious? When you talk about cocktails you're referring to the feeling of well-being they produce. Is this the result of a meeting between a cock and tail? Tail linguistically refers to buttocks. Cocktails are what you might have at a “tea dance,” but it may simply refer to that outmoded and old-fashioned form of sex involving the penis and vagina that's widely considered an example of planned obsolescence. In certain places, like Cherry Grove on Fire Island, standard missionary sex between a male and female is not only an anachronism but a violation of social norms which is expressly forbidden. “Cocktail” turns out to be a Rabelaisian word. It wears its heart on its sleeve. The next time you’re invited for cocktails you may want to pay attention to the subliminal message. These kinds of potions often lead to more than a meeting of the minds.

Read "Pornosophy: Sexcession" by Francis Levy, HuffPost


Friday, August 13, 2021

Judgement Day

Let’s say the worst possible thing you could have imagined takes place. Of course, what’s horrible to you might seem relatively minor to someone. In all likelihood there are many others who are worse off than whatever it is that's the source of your disappointment. To begin with you possess a hope for something better which is definitely an improvement on having been given one of those medical verdicts no one wants to hear. Still, you're probably winded. You may even want to give up. Following that you may feel you deserve some kind of reward for all your suffering. Possibly the latest rejection is an excuse to tie one on and in so doing rail at the heavens. But what if the realization is that you’ve come to a dead end? You’re never going fulfill your dream of becoming a famous tenor. Years of practice may have resulted in nothing since you realize that where talent and genius are concerned there is no justice. You indeed find yourself standing at the edge of precipice, but you don’t have the courage to jump. You’re just going to fall back into the misery and self-hatred in which you’ve always lived, unless something else happens. No deus ex machina. Rather a personal realization. It’s going to be different for everyone, though the one thing that moments like these all have in common will be an almost comforting awareness, acceptance and even love of the very imperfections that make you who you are.

Read "God Redux" by Francis Levy, HuffPost

Thursday, August 12, 2021

What State Are You In?

image: Astrokey44

Does the state of mind qualify as a nation state—the entity that came into being as a result of The Peace of Westphalia in 1648? Individuals, when you come to think of it, have a lot in common with collectivities. In fact, “the collective unconscious” is a term that's frequently used to describe the Weltanschauung of a society. Commonly held beliefs play a strong role in the creation of sensibility. In addition, people like countries have boundaries. The ego is the Maginot line of the self. An individual has a leader accounted for by the executive functions of the brain housed in the cerebral cortex. The heart and lungs constitute infrastructure and respond to fiats of the ANS or autonomic nervous system. A democratic country will often have a bicameral legislature like that of the United States congress, a judiciary and a president or premier who is actually defined by their cerebral cortex. All of these are accountable to the varying part of the brain. The emotional life of most people is mediated by the amygdala and prefrontal cortex. The limbic area at the top of the lower brain stem accounts for instinct. Most people are citizens of their own mentality and residents of their exoskeleton. You may possess a green card or resident visa or become a full citizen of your own private little world—in which case the only document you’ll require is that amalgam of biological and physical identity known as the birth certificate.

Read "What is it Like to Be a Fly?" by Francis Levy, HuffPost

Wednesday, August 11, 2021

Cezanne Drawing at MoMA

"Study of a Head and Hands" by Cezanne (photograph: Hallie Cohen)

Apples might be expected populate the "Cezanne Drawing" show at MoMA. Nature morte is one of the methods. However, as the artist's friend Joachim Gasquet commented about these still lifes,
  “objects never cease to be alive." The current exhibit is a monumental undertaking that extends from the drawings which employ the "study sheets" in which an apple could be juxtaposed with a nude and as the curators point out “light and shadow,” “absence and presence,” “superimposition,” “reversal, "flatness and dimensionality,” “the observed and imagined” are all employed--to paintings themselves. One of the theories the show puts forth is that paintings also functioned like the "study sheets" with varying counterposed subjects existing under the final composition. Many of these drawings like "Bathers" (c.1885) anticipate his famous paintings. What makes Cezanne such an ur-modernist is the ideology of estheticism. Perception is the subject. Compare Cezanne’s "Bathers" (1898-1905) with those in the famous Eakins, “The Swimming Hole,” (1884-5) which is so content heavy. The message here is the process of seeing. Cezanne conceived “the eye for the vision of nature and the brain for the logic of organized sensations.” He also remarked that “Time and contemplation gradually modify our vision and at last we reach understanding.” 

Read "Another Intentional Fallacy" by Francis Levy, HuffPost


Tuesday, August 10, 2021

The New Mutants

A virus will not mutate, unless you allow it to replicate. This principle of virology has been repeatedly iterated by Anthony Fauci in his promotion of the coronavirus vaccine. The same may be said about humans. If they don’t replicate, they're unlikely to produce angry mutants which are resistant to the vaccine of Enlightenment values. Hobbes’ Leviathan is, in fact, like being Moderna(ized) to the extent that it proposes an analysis of human behavior that's out to protect against the virus of self-interest. From a Malthusian point of view replication produces scarcity, but not only of goods like food but clearsightedness and concern for others. The anarchic world of  Mad Max is the equivalent of Delta, a viral strain that's exponentially more contagious, deadly and immune to treatment. The rate of population growth in the United States is actually falling, but the fact is there are more and more people being produced who live on subsistence diets, with minimal educational resources and opportunities while a tiny fraction of the population hoards all the wealth. Under these conditions you're going to produce a new even more dangerous cocktail that's likely to destroy that increasingly rarefied commodity known as humanity.

"What is the Antidote to or Antonym for Schadenfreude" by Francis Levy, HuffPost

Monday, August 9, 2021

The Silent Treatment

"Oedipus at Colonus"by Fulchran-Jean Harriet

Plays like Sophocles’ Oedipus at ColonusKing Lear and Hamlet deal with aftermath of tragedy. “The rest is silence” are Hamlet’s parting words. Job is a representation of how one continues to live in the face of every imaginable adversity. Oedipus is blinded. Lear is the left wandering in the company of the Fool. The question of perseverance itself becomes the issue. Why live when everything is taken away? Some people continue for their children, if they have them, for fear that suicide and other desperate behaviors become a form of psychic baggage that future generations will be burdened with. Repression is a form of preservation. Traumatic memories can be even more invidious, it they escape the purview of consciousness. They rot the roots like fungal diseases which destroy trees. Very few individuals emerge from life unscathed. In fact birth itself is one of  the most painful life passages that humans endure. You might look at the hubris (pride)and hamartia (flaw) of classical Greek tragedy as the equivalent of a multiple car pileup. The aftermath is a state of shock which preserves the victims while scarring them for the rest of their lives.

Read "Headbutt" by Francis Levy, HuffPost

Friday, August 6, 2021

To Have and Have Not

For some people it takes years to learn that you're not going to get that call. Others, and one would suspect this is a minority, learn this early on in life and instinctively know when it’s time to let go of an impossibility. Put as a spiritual axiom: when you're waiting for something it will, in all likelihood, never occur. Love comes into your life not because it's farfetched but rather when it’s in the realm of possibility. The same thing applies to jobs and other achievements that one might aspire towards. Most happenstance tends to come about when you're not waiting for it.  Generally the kind of romantics who value what doesn’t exist more than what's placed before them live in a state of pain because of their unattainable desires. Even a worse problem comes when these dreamers get lucky and roll snake eyes. They’re faced with the futility of the wager on which their existence is predicated--since they're likely to reject what they've won. But how does one extract oneself from exhausting situations which are both addictive and unpromising? How does one learn to want what one has? 

Read "Pornosophy: Was Madame Bovary a Nymphomaniac?" by Francis Levy, HuffPost

Thursday, August 5, 2021

Pornosophy: Shame

"Thou shalt not" is the famous mantra of the Ten Commandments. Amongst these are "taking the name of the Lord thy God in vain" and "coveting thy neighbor’s wife." In modern life, heathens and sinners have no monopoly over the use of the word "godammit"and as for coveting it’s something covered under the rubric of "expression" by most therapists. Reading the menu and not ordering is what's usually recommended but there are all kinds of pardons that can be purchased. After all allowing the imagination free reign is regarded a blessing by most members of democratic societies. So where does shame figure in? Secular society exacts retribution for transgressions like murder, treason and theft. Disgrace is usually part of the punishment. In The Sorrow and the Pity, Marcel Ophuls records how women who had used their wiles to ingratiate themselves with the enemy faced public humiliation—by being paraded in public with shorn heads. Shame can also function on an intrapsychic level. Rightly or wrongly the fear of shame is what often prevents people from taking actions that challenge public mores. You don’t have to be a Jeffrey Epstein to be afraid of being discovered in the midst of some sort of scandal that breaks the bounds of propriety. When homosexuality was illegal and considered a vice, many men and women prevented themselves from fulfilling their desires for fear of being exposed or outed. Gay Pride is obviously the reverse of shame, but everyone has their little larceny, their fetish or their dark wish that, at the very least, runs against the way they wish to present themselves to the world. There's even something delicious and tantalizing in the notion there are still forbidden pleasures, as long as they don’t hurt anyone else.

Read "Sperm Count:What Turns You On?" by Francis Levy, HuffPost

Wednesday, August 4, 2021

What's a Verbal Fender Bender?

Have you ever engaged in a “verbal fender bender?” Road rage hits   when you least expect it. Afterwards like with a fender bender you might find yourself wishing you'd chosen another route, both physically and metaphysically. If you give the finger to someone who's honking and they pull up and stop short which is one of the ways of wreaking vehicular vengeance, you’re liable to end up in a real accident. It’s not a pleasant thought to realize you’re the one who’s going to pay the price (by going through the windshield) because you've lost it. A verbal fender bender is ultimately more explosive than one of those little collisions that accidentally occur when you back up, precisely because there are no parameters. While a real fender bender stops at the bumper, there are no limits when you start to have it out with someone and worlds of pain are called up. At about 60 miles per hour many people experience homicidal feelings the moment a car swerves out of the blind spot on the right to weave across the highway. Your inner lynch mob is likely to be excited. Torches light up as you hit the pedal in pursuit, possibly creating equally “bad feelings” among other motorists who have to get out of your way. Little did you realize when you awakened in the morning, what fate had in store for you later that day.

Read "All the Rage" by Francis Levy, HuffPost

Tuesday, August 3, 2021

King Kong Theory

Virginie Despentes'
 Baise-Moi (Rape Me) is a l993 novel that the writer herself later made into a highly explicit and controversial movie. Having a film fall victim to censorship in Singapore may not be saying much but when it’s taken out of circulation in France,which it was--that says something. Despentes, a former prostitute is also the author of King Kong Theory, a collection of essays which deals with both her brand of feminism and her life. She comments thusly about her own career as a sex worker: "Prostitution was a crucial step in my reconstruction after I was raped. A compensation-settlement in thousand-franc installments for what had been brutally taken from me. What I could sell of myself to each client was a part of me that had remained intact." In America, Laura Kipnis is the spokesman for a brand of feminism that evinces similar unflinching candor to the extent it eschews the adjudication of the human imagination. Here's Kipnis, the author of Unwanted Advances: Sexual Paranoia Comes to Campus, on legislating instinct: “There’s a built-in weirdness to possessing a sexuality, whatever your gender. It reminds us that we’re animals; it’s bendable into perverse configurations, which is maybe what we also like about it. We’re afflicted with bizarre, amoral dreams on a nightly basis. Our fantasy lives don’t always comport with our ideas about who we should be,” “Kick Against the Pricks,” The New York Review of Books, 12/21/17).  Camille Paglia Sexual Personae: Art and Decadence From Nefertiti to Emily Dickinson was one of the first “feminist” authors to resist the “Eunuch ideology” perpetrated by the current generation of thought police. In 2018 Catherine Deneuve was one of 99 prominent French women who famously signed a manifesto against the “witch hunting” and "puritanism" of the #MeToo movement. But even when you go back to the l933 film classic, it’s hard to figure out what the famed cinematic beast was actually doing. Was Mr. Kong hugging or crushing Fay Wray?

Read Francis Levy's "22 Minutes of Nine and a Half Weeks," The Screaming Pope



Monday, August 2, 2021

The "As If" Lives of Americans

The power of The Americans, the FX series, is that it plays off a sense of unreality that many people feel. It’s the idea of the false self. "Just tell me one thing?" asks an FBI secretary who's being seduced by a KGB agent. "Is this real?" The story is based on cells of "deep cover" Russian agents which actually were discovered by the FBI. In the series, the plants, the Jennings, fall into a “real” relationship characterized by possessiveness and jealousy—thereby endangering a mission where the mother land was supposed to come first. To make matters more complicated the two leads Keri Russell and Matthew Rhys actually fell in love during the course of production and eventually married. So imagine this scenario. Keri and Matthew are now successful stars. However, one day they begin to realize that they're simply the creations of Joe Weisberg, a former CIA operative, who developed the show for television. The Americans could very well be an episode of The Twilight Zone. In a way it must have been easier for the real KGB agents since there was only one degree of separation from the lie on which their lives were based. 

Read "Can An 'As If' Peronality Act 'As If'?" by Francis Levy, HuffPost