Tuesday, November 30, 2021


“The last person you'll see before you die is you” is the ominous scrawl Billy McBride (Billy Bob Thornton), the alcoholic lawyer at the center of the Amazon Prime series Goliath, discovers on the wall of his hotel room. It’s the third season and the plot centers around water and California--a subject also famously the theme of Chinatown. The epigraph is meant to be intimidating, but it’s curiously spot on. Generally it's held that you see your whole life flashing before you at the moment of death. Actually, when you look at the last gasp, the final exhalation that precedes the death rattle, it seems an unlikely moment for such an ambitious activity. If you’ve ever been around someone who's dying you realize the dying are  selfish and exclusive to the extent they no longer have time for anyone but themselves. Perhaps the crossing of the line is more like one of those chalk drawings of a body found at a crime scene. It's also one case where less isn't more.

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

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

Monday, November 29, 2021

The Hollow

You may be disconcerted by some of the cutesy locutions at the beginning of Greg Jackson’s recent New Yorker story, “The Hollow” (11/29/91). Part of the action takes place in a town called Trevi where a group of college students “opened a lunch counter” they called the Trevi Fountain. The protagonist Jack Francis’ sometime girlfriend is Sophie. He “jokingly” refers to their house as “Sophie’s Choice.” Another character Jonah Valente a one-time college football player with a Van Gogh complex invokes the over used Picasso quote “art is a lie that makes us see the truth.” But here are some others you might not have heard. "When the Gestapo came to Picasso’s studio during the Occupation," Valente relates,"there was a photo of 'Guernica"lying around.They asked him, 'Did you do this?’ and he said, 'No, you did!'" Van Gogh’s last words, “the sadness shall last forever,” are also cited. But there’s a stunning description at the beginning which irradiates the entire story and is an antidote to the "hollowness." It also pertains to both the myopia of the characters and literally to the literal hollow core, an approximately 3'x6' cavity, right out of Poe or Shirley Jackson, at the heart of "Sophie’s choice." Eliot’s “The Hollow Men” (with its famous nod to Conrad's Kurtz), of course, comes to mind. But here is the passage: “A water tower bearing the town’s name and stilted up on arachnid legs, with water stains rusting its gray-blue paint, dwarfed the two-story houses and brick storefronts and shops.” It’s as if the author were saying, if you were doubting me, take this. It’s a stunning image that brings back the horror of great stories like “The Lottery” and Kafka’s “Metamorphosis.”

Read "The End of Genius and the Rise of the Compassionate Artist" by Francis Levy, HuffPost

and listen to "Vincent"by Don McLean


Thursday, November 25, 2021

When the Shoe Fits the Foot

Kango Nil Crocodile Square Tony Lama Boot

In the days before Amazon, you went to a shoe store like McCann’s where they measured your foot and you chose the hush puppy or wing tip of your choice. Brooks Brothers'signature cordovan loafers were a status symbol. There were Bass Weejuns. Pat Boone made white bucks famous. Then came the years dominated by cowboy boot makers like Tony Lama and Lucchese. Shoes fitting feet also begged a greater question of destiny. If a marriage wasn’t working out then metaphorically the shoe wasn’t fitting the foot. Intransigence can lead to irritation while naturally accommodation is what both the vessel and the substance which fills it must allow in order to produce the kind of symbiosis that leads facilitates ambulation. Is an orthopedic shoe a crutch or is it merely dealing with extenuating circumstances—like for instance flat feet, which may end up damaging metatarsals? On the other hand, there are the famous women's "fuck me" shoes that are designed to throw caution to the winds. 

Read "Arbeit Macht Frei" by Francis Levy, HuffPost

and listen to "Blue Suede Shoes" (1956) by Elvis Presley

Grey Gardens As Metaphor

Disposable income results in the proliferation of objects. Among other things Miss Havisham, the jilted bride, living in cobwebs in Great Expectations, is a metaphor for inundation. She can’t let anything, including her grief, go. Grey Gardens (1975), the famous Maysles Brother film about the Beale sisters, is a metaphor for the clutter of post-industrial affluence. You may be one of those gifted individuals who’s capable of disposing of their sometimes ill-gotten gains or perhaps you’re a collector living in a huge warehouse devoted to the things you love or better yet someone who simply can’t throw anything away. Here is Gogol on one of his characters from Dead Souls, an aged landowner and widower named Plyushkin who's a hoarder: "Solitary life gave ample nourishment to his avarice which, as is known, has a wolf's appetite and grows more insatiable, the more it devours." Not to make light of poverty or wish it on anyone, but the only good thing that can be said about deprivation is that it’s a safeguard against superfluity. Denizens of primitive agricultural societies in which materialism is no more than the struggle to survive don’t have to worry about waste and clutter. 

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


and listen to "Beauty is Only Skin Deep" by The Temptations

Wednesday, November 24, 2021

Should Throwing the Baby Out With the Bathwater Be Taken With a Grain of Salt?

By current standards Freud is politically incorrect. But can the notion that children are sexual creatures with fantasy lives be taken with a grain of salt? Luckily the Standard Edition of Freud’s writings translated by James Strachey’s runs to 24 volumes. The thought police will have their work cut out for them particularly with regard to winnowing out Freud’s repudiation of “the seduction theory.” If there were an elevator filled with politically incorrect authors would there be room for Mark Twain and Nabokov along with more obvious contemporary provocateurs like Michel Houllebecq whose Charlie Hebdo cover story, appearing in conjunction with the publication of Submission resulted in a shooting in which 12 staff members died. Ray Bradbury was of course prescient in Fahrenheit 451 which became the basis for the Truffaut movie. But what to do? Artists and writers are walking on glass and censorship, once as distant as McCarthyism, is now like climate change--increasing exponentially. Words may provoke behavior, but are they acts? Can a word be a weapon? January 6 proved that language can be like the open carry policy that was one of the issues in the Kyle Rittenhouse trial. However, let’s not throw the baby out with the bathwater. Is the Hershey Highway the royal road to the unconscious?

Read "Was Hamlet Suffering From False Memory Syndrome" by Francis Levy, HuffPost

and listen to "Dr. Freud"by Pete Seeger

Tuesday, November 23, 2021

What If the Scientists Looking for Signs of Life in the Multiverse Come Home Empty-handed?

Spaceship Earth (Epcot)

What if among the trillions of stars and galaxies, there’s no sign of life and no habitat conducive to Homo sapiens? One of the great singularities or exceptions could very well be the advent of life itself. And if so, will the species have to change the notion of its perpetuation similar to the way it constantly modifies its conception of God? What if the repository of consciousness, that particular offshoot and evolution peculiar to humankind, is forced to flee its usual hunting grounds? What if it can no longer be encapsulated in a corporeal essence? In the event the earth dies and there turns out to be no Kepler Star around which an appropriate planet swirls, what is to stop civilization from finding a home in virtual reality? Imagine a latter day Noah’s Ark, something between an internment camp and biosphere in which movement is constricted. What if at some point in the journey, bodies and even brains begin to be jettisoned out the hatch. All that remains is pure mind now seeking refuge in cyberspace. There will be stragglers but one by one the earth’s creatures will discard their bodies merging into a world that's remarkably similar to the life they once left with the yoga classes, therapy and afternoon trysts. (The) Mind is an impressionable thing. Envision the vast menu that could be offered to attend to the appetites of humankind.

Read "Worming My Way Back to You Babe" by Francis Levy, HuffPost

and listen to "Working My Way Back to You" (1966) by The Four Seasons

Monday, November 22, 2021


Disappointment is an equal opportunity employer. It can come courtesy of a text or e mail. Before the advent of the internet, it arrived in the form of letters from colleges or potential employers or those notorious SASEs (self-addressed stamped envelopes) in which writers manuscripts were returned. Lovers usually called to send their regrets, but rejection was the bottom line. “I want to end the relationship” is a line that might have taken the wind out of you. Perhaps it was October. It had gotten dark early.The black rotary phone stood like a beast or model for a mausoleum. You were awakened from the late afternoon nap you took on Fridays after work by the ringing of the old-fashioned landline. It was the call you were always dreading and which should have come as no surprise. The come down had been on the backburner. You may have hoped beyond hope, but the question was only when. Years later you might find yourself thinking how lucky you were not to get saddled with a troubled person or relationship. However, contentious your marriage might be, it’s a lot better than being hooked up with someone who was, it turns out, continually cheating on you. On the work front, you may have thanked the lord you didn’t get that dead end job. Isn’t "don’t quit before the miracle" what’s usually instructed? On the other hand you don’t want to get used to having the door shut in your face. It’s only a sign of a pathological compulsion to look for what you want in all the wrong places.

Read "The First Law of Emotional Thermodynamics: Longing is Directly Proportional to Self-Hatred" by Francis Levy, HuffPost

and listen to "Ain't Too Proud to Beg" (1966) by The Temptations

Friday, November 19, 2021

Euclid Unbound

Geometric shapes are philosophies.A circle suggests a view of the world and a way of being. Take Vico’s circularity for instance. What goes around comes around. History repeats itself a la Santayana. Sententious people are described as being hyperbolic. Stiffs are squares unless they’re corpses who have relinquished their corporeal essence. What's the sensibility of the parabola? Equanimity or just a blip or blimp separating thoughts.There are paragons of virtue. Triangulation is Oedipal. If you’re involved in a threesome you’re undoubtedly acting out your part in a childhood fantasy. And yes a line is the shortest distance between two points. And this about the humble point from Benjamin Labatut's When We Cease to Understand the World. Commenting on the great mathematician Alexander Grothendieck, the author remarks: "Space was his lifelong obsession. One of his greatest strokes of genius was expanding the notion of the point. Beneath his gaze, the humble dot was no longer a dimensionless position; it swelled with a complex inner structure. Where others had seen a simple locus without depth, size or breadth, Grothendieck saw an entire universe. No one had proposed something so bold since Euclid."

Read "Timebound" by Francis Levy, TheScreamingPope.com

and listen to "You've Got Me Going in Circles" (1969) by The Friends of Distinction

Thursday, November 18, 2021

Vox Populi

Fidel Castro in Sierra Maestra (1956)

Politicians have constituencies. Followers are who elect them. Without the vox populi you have no ascension. Yes there are particularly charismatic individuals like Hitler, Churchill, Stalin, FDR, Huey Long, JFK, Fidel Castro, Mao Zedong and most recently Kim Jong-un. It may hard to believe that someone this vile who reputedly executed his uncle, Jang-song thaek with an anti-aircraft gun has his crew, but just take a look at crowds greeting the parade of missiles in Pyongyang. How do Hegel's "world-historical individuals" attain standing? Hitler is often talked about as a product of the Versailles treaty which created the kind of hardship that’s a breeding ground. However, deprivation=autocracy +1 is too simple an equation. The appeal of a Trump to a new generation of lumpenproletariat transcends simple economic and even racial formulas. If nothing else social media charts the existence of a collective unconscious—in this case one riddled with medieval conspiracy theories like Qanon. In order to understand the ascendency of Trump and the iron fist with which he holds the Republican party, you have to delve into the irrational. The implicit questions in the title of Steven Pinker’s
 Rationality: What It Is, Why It Seems Scarce, Why It Matters are significant. Why do the have nots support someone who has successfully despoiled the system for his own benefit? Why wouldn’t they want to tar and feather a latter day robber baron, who notoriously abuses labor and refuses to pay those who work for him? Not because of what he’s done, but rather as a result of the promise of a Second Coming, of a transcendent spirit capable of performing magic. Why believe in science which tells you to get vaccinated and wear a mask, when the promise of the unknown beckons?

Read "The Final Solution: Two Dark Horses" by Francis Levy, HuffPost

and listen to "Walking on Broken Glass"(1992) by Annie Lennox

Wednesday, November 17, 2021

Doggy Style

Erma Franklin sang a memorable “Piece of My Heart” at “The Soup Kitchen” in l992 and then there was Janis Joplin’s iconic rendition and Faith Hill did her version. Didn’t I make you feel Like you were the only man? But there's a history of sensibility. In the 12th century passion was reserved for god, who was “the only man” and the equivalent of Joplin or Franklin was a chorus of eunuchs intoning a Gregorian Chant. “Piece of My Heart” to a current generation of 20 somethings might be as stiff and uncool as Frank Sinatra to 60s  suburban white kids who found their liberation from bourgeois values in soul which included the gospel of Mahalia Jackson and the Staples Singers. Which bring us to the timeless "Juicy"by Notorious B.I.G (1992) or better "Who am I (What’s My Name?)," (Snoop Doggy Dog). The video, when it comes to the subject of dogs, is a major threat to Bunuel and Dali’s Un Chien Andalou (1929). Time flies and it’s almost impossible to grasp that Sylvia Robinson the producer of "Rapper’s Delight" (1979) was the Sylvia of Mickey and Sylvia’s “Love is Strange” (1956), however profoundly universal the lyric might be—whether you’re talking of God or man.

Read "God Redux" by Francis Levy, HuffPost

and listen to Erma Franklin singing "Piece of My Heart" (1992)

Tuesday, November 16, 2021

What Kind of Marriages Do Americans Have?

Are The Americans (either on TV or in reality) schizophrenic? Or is our polarized society like one of those marriages where no one caves into the other’s desires--for fear of being dominated in such a way as to lose their autonomy? The radical centrists, those die-hard middle-of-the-roaders willing to cross the aisle at all costs are actually the most threatened because of their willingness to relinquish control. You’ve perhaps encountered this kind of quandary in a domestic or business situation. You drop your defenses in order to make peace only to find that your “adversary” claiming you're giving up control of something which was never yours. It’s very easy to feel put upon when your offering of the olive branch isn’t even acknowledged. Though 10 Republicans finally voted to support the Infrastructure Bill, the real negotiation took place between moderates in the Democratic Party and progressives, afraid they'd be screwed on the social safety net legislation. But here's another way to look at it.  Maybe division is the Shavian "life force." That's what makes horse races is the expression. Remember Hegelian dialectics? Perhaps what's going on in the country is more understandable on a cellular level, where organisms grow through mitosis and meiosis. On the subject of cellular life, here is The New Yorker's Nick Paumgarten ("What a Feeling," ll/8/21): "It is not inconceivable that the rest of the body (brain, hands, heart, lungs, digestive tract) is merely an elaborate and sometimes clumsy apparatus for the nourishment of the mitochrondria--that it is the mitochondria, and not Homo sapiens, who rule and foul the earth."

Read "White Meat, Breasts" by Francis Levy, Evergreen Review

and listen to "I'm Doing Fine Now Without You Baby," by New York City (1973)

Monday, November 15, 2021

Is Shakespeare's Shrew Bipolar?

The Taming of the Shrew is an illustration of how ideological alarm bells can create myopia. To a modern audience Petruchio’s taming of Katherina is simply an insult to women. He's the Skinnerian cat   employing "operant conditioning" to create a system of rewards and punishments. Unfortunately, this interpretation disregards the symbolic subtext of the play. Katherina is an unstable element, the fissile U-235, that will implode and explode the same time. Rather than being a free spirit, she's a bipolar personality prone to fits of mania and depression. She isn’t so much an exemplar of a liberated woman, as a human being bereft of any role. When she finally does her husband's bidding, she becomes a force of order and a power of example to the other wives. On one level Kate’s character seems to be submitting, but if you look at the denouement of The Taming of the Shrew in the context of A Midsummer Night’s Dream, the play’s more about order and chaos then patriarchy per se. The provocativeness of the play’s superficial content is belied by the complexity of the intention. Is "Kiss me, Kate," the call of a colonizing chauvinist male or merely a wiley lover?

Read "King Kong Theory" by Francis Levy, TheScreamingPope.com

and listen to "Woman, Woman" (1968) by Gary Puckett and the Union Gap

Friday, November 12, 2021

Compare and Contrast Bicycle Thieves With The Overcoat, The Trial, Waiting For Godot, Dead Souls and The Nose

Remember Gogol’s “The Overcoat’ (1842)? A civil servant, Akaky Akakievich, spends his last cent on the item of the title, only to have it stolen almost immediately. He knocks on doors with no luck and then dies. Gogol was involved in the notion of loss. “The Nose” (1836), which was made into an opera by William Kentridge, centers around an assessor, Major Kovalyov, who discovers his olfactory appendage has disappeared into a loaf of bread. Of course the apotheosis of this idea is Dead Souls (1842), where Gogol’s hero Chichikov comes up with a plan by which he can profit from someone else’s loss. In the canon of neorealism, De Sica’s Bicycle Thieves (1948) is an indelible depiction of the poverty of post-war Rome. However, is the plot in which the snatching of a bike in an instant has an enormous impact on a father and son, two forlorn characters who helplessly seek to find one missing possession amidst a plethora of similar objects which propagate exponentially like a devouring creature, taken from the original Gogol story? Both the Russian writer and the Italian director create a vision of powerless human beings facing an impregnable bureaucracy also similar to that depicted by Kafka in The Trial (1915). Beckett’s Waiting for Godot (1949) is titled En Attendant Godot, “while waiting for Godot” in French. The real subject is the cosmic indifference of the universe, a.k.a the cosmic yawn in which the odds are against puny man whose prayers are rarely if ever heard.

Read "Separated at Birth: Keith Richards and Samuel Beckett" by Francis Levy, HuffPost

and listen to "Brown Sugar" by The Rolling Stones

Thursday, November 11, 2021

Trump's Legal Gymastics and Quantum Mechanics

CMS Detector for LHC (photo: Tighe!)

What happened to all the cases? Let’s start with Fulton Country’s against Trump for attempting to meddle in the election? A special grand jury may soon be convened, but what took so long? What about the highly published case waged by Cy Vance which was supposed to get off the ground after Trump left office and the rape defamation lawsuit leveled by E. Jean Carroll? Looks like Trump is suing his niece, Mary Trump, faster than her initial lawsuit against him can get off the ground? Are the strongarm techniques continuing even with the strongman out of office? Is there a legal rabbit hole or better yet black hole which sucks up the hundreds perhaps thousands of lawsuits against the former president. Newton's third law states "For every action, there is an an equal and opposite reaction." It's also the Trump legal strategy of countersuing. Actually, if you notice Trump operates in a quantum universe where a particle can be two places at the same time.  Doesn’t that remind you of the former president’s treatment of facts—in which equal and opposite answers to the same question emanate from the same mouth? Fake news, indeed. A legal case comes to light like the Boson in the Large Hadron Collider, only to disappear before it can be reported in print or on the air. Many commentators averred that Trump would be so busy defending suits he wouldn’t have the time or money to run for reelection in 2024. Looks like they’re wrong.

Read "The Final Solution: Quantum Politics" by Francis Levy, TheScreamingPope.com

and listen to "Cry Baby" by Janis Joplin

Wednesday, November 10, 2021

Dear Ethicist: The Dating Game

Dear Ethicist: I have spent more time trying to make a date with some old friends of ours than we will eventually end up spending together if the stars finally get into conjunction and voila we find ourselves facing them over dinner with nothing left to say since we’re so drained and exhausted from the dating game and are beginning to hate them almost as much as we hate ourselves. I realize that’s a mouthful (speaking of dinner) and that further these are small problems compared to all the dying people. But the one thing I have always said about my problems is they’re mine. We’re busy New Yorkers with yoga, therapy schedules and late afternoon trysts that all have to be scheduled in. You may or may not go way back with someone, but at a certain point you may throw your hands up and ask “is it worth all the trouble.” BTW, let’s not forget the phone tag that precedes the dating game.


Scheduling Problems

Brooklyn, NY

Dear Scheduling Problems: Have you ever heard the expression, "belly button gazing." It’s synonymous with self-involvement. Your belly button must be so gazed upon that it has the equivalent of an interpersonal sunburn.

Read "Sperm Count: Should You Give Your Child Viagra?" by Francis Levy, HuffPost


 and listen to "Monkey Time" by Major Lance (1963)

Tuesday, November 9, 2021

Dear Ethicist: What To Do When a Eulogy is Being Given By a Fucking Asshole Who Never Gave You the Right Time of Day

Dear Ethicist: I feel the obligation to attend a memorial service but the person giving the eulogy is someone who’s never given me the right time of day. What should I do? Its no fun being snubbed at a funeral. The only problem is, I’ll risk getting the cold shoulder from my dead friend’s wife--who's somewhere betweeen mildly attentive and disinterested. My failure to show up could tilt the scale in the wrong direction and seal my fate in so far as my social capital is concerned. I’m now leaning towards not attending. Let the chips fall where they may. I know everything is relative. There must be people who think the eulogist is smart and at least empathetic, but let me invoke Kant's categorical imperative and say that this guy is categorically a fucking asshole. As you can see I’ve worked through my feelings. Still I’d be interested in hearing your thoughts. If I don't take your advice in this situation, they're likely to come in handy in the event I attend any memorials presided over by people who don't like me, in the future. 

Madison Wi

Dear Angry:

I believe there is an 800 number for people with your problem.

Read "Is Guilt a Time-Bound Emotion?" by Francis Levy, HuffPost

and listen to "Love Train" by the O'Jays

Monday, November 8, 2021

Being John Malkovich?

Being and Nothingness is Sartre’s famous existentialist tome. Then there’s Heidegger’s Being and Time, Sein und Zeit. But what's the difference between nothingness and time? For instance, say you were able to go back before the Big Bang, the prequel to "being," over 13.8 billion years ago, when there weren’t even bosons. What if you went back in time and crashed that rusted yellow “dead end” sign, journeying to the universe before matter, would you find degrees of nothingness that were tantamount to time, but not quite the same thing? To use anachronistic Greenwich Mean terminology, does 10 minutes before the Big Bang represent a bigger piece of the void, a greater degree of lessness or emptiness than one solitary minute or second? Imaginary numbers are a branch of mathematics and, by definition, much cosmology and particularly the quantum universe exists in In the Realms of the Unreal to quote the title of the novel by the outsider artist Henry Darger. So while no time machine traversing through wormholes is likely to take a traveler to the “Minor Verse,” before there were Gods inhabiting Mount Olympus, it’s still possible to possess the kind of synthetic a priori knowledge that makes it possible to accurately conclude that the sum of 2=2 is 4.

Read "Something Out of Nothing, Nothing Out of Something" by Francis Levy, HuffPost

and listen to "I (Who Have Nothing)" by Ben E. King (1963)

Friday, November 5, 2021


Most people conceive of a timeline, albeit of a Borgesian sort, a ruler with infinite gradations. Naturally this presupposes a continuum. After all a straight line is the shortest distance between two points, but there are all kinds of limitations, the foremost being consciousness which presupposes faith in the notion of a before and after. Does the afterlife which flirts with eternity in terms of either salvation or damnation play by the same rules? The very notion of forward progression is disingenuous in the face of the divine which is by definition unknowable. The classic conception of linear time may turn out to be a little like Newtonian physics when contrasted to quanta in terms of accounting for exigencies which defy visual observation. What kind of time do bosons exist in? What's time at the event horizon of a black hole or in the plasma of some unknown cosmic ether or soup? Time may turn out to be provincial, the watersheds of life like the faded signposts on a country road. "What time is it" is not an easy question to ask when you've departed from the Euclidian coordinates of here and now.

Read "The Final Solution: Trump's Tweets and Black Holes," by Francis Levy, HuffPost

and listen to Gene Chandler singing "Duke of Earl"

Thursday, November 4, 2021



Are you one of those people who walks around with earbuds plugged into your android which is set to Spotify? Do you talk with Alex and Siri more than you do with your husband or wife? It’s a far cry from those vinyl days when you listened to “Don’t Be Cruel” and “Ain’t That a Shame” on 78s and you possessed a "victrola" which only played 45s on its totem like spindle or found yourself looking for the adaptor which allowed you to hear a 45 on your brand new turntable with the attached Bang and Olufsen speakers. What goes around comes around, however. People who watch the latest installment of Broadchurch on Netflix are partaking in a similar experience to audiences who waited eagerly for the coming week’s episode of Thackeray’s Vanity Fair in Punch. If a defibrillator can be implanted in someone’s chest, why not see a neurohedonist who will settle you into a virtual reality like Second Life where “dreams become realities.” “In Dreams Begin Responsibilities,” by the way, is the title of a l935 Delmore Schwartz short story in which the protagonist dreams his parents' future playing out on a movie screen. Has the medium replaced the message?

Read "The Internet of Everything and Buddha Mind" by Francis Levy, HuffPost

and listen to "Signed, Sealed, Delivered I'm Yours" by Stevie Wonder

Wednesday, November 3, 2021

Democracy in America

Everyone asks the same question, why can’t the Democrats demonstrate the same unity of purpose as their Retrumplican adversaries whose platform as Mitch McConnell has stated is simply to stop Democrats in their tracks even when it comes to approving a debt ceiling. President Biden’s popularity has fallen to new lows as he fails to unit moderates like Joe Manchin and Krysten Sinema with the progressive side of the party led by Bernie Sanders in the Senate. But can’t the divisiveness of Democrats be looked at as a good thing. While most Republican legislators have been successfully pressured by the autocracy of Trumpism. Democrats live up to the root meaning of their name in “demos” or populace. A true democracy functions by constant give and take which occurs through the kind of negotiation that seeks to provide representation for the majority of Democratic voters. The long drawn out agon in which Joe Manchin continually holds his ground exemplifies “inalienable rights” in action, with the  constitution designed to protect the rights of any minority—a concept that appears to be totally inimical to the new populist right which now dominates the Republican party. It's said that the one trillion infrastructure and now 1.75 trillion social spending bills before congress are both litmus tests for the Biden presidency. In actuality the are a test for democratic ideals themselves. There's animated discussion on one side of the aisle while the other marches in goose step. The stakes have never been greater.

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

and listen to "Papa's Got a Brand New Bag" (1965) by James Brown

Tuesday, November 2, 2021

72 Year Olds of the World Unite!

Mao Zedong

Is it fair to compare an individual to a nation state, where strength lies in numbers and productivity is a result of collective action? Still, while today's generation of baby boomers enters the last state of their lives Israel declared its independence and evolved from being an agrarian society to a major economic force in the Middle East. Of course, 72 year olds, whose lives paralleled the advent of Communist China have a real problem in comparing themselves to a country of 1.5 billion inhabitants which has survived a Cultural Revolution in which the urban intelligentsia was exiled to the provinces in a program of re-education that’s a far cry from spending your junior year in Paris. Alaska and Hawaii both became states in l959 which may give those in their early 60s a run for their money. What’s the motto? Don’t to measure yourself against a state or country—even when they’re in your age group. You’re always going to come up short. 

Read "Lamb Stewed" by Francis Levy, Dispatches from the Poetry Wars

and listen to "Rock Around the Clock" (1955) by Bill Haley and His Comets

Monday, November 1, 2021

Annals of Gut Punching

photo: Francis Levy

An assailant is likely to drop you with a well-placed kidney punch. The net effect is to find yourself on the floor gasping for air. You may recall the feeling when you were rough-housing as a kid and were totally winded by a blow from some kid in the schoolyard. Words can produce a similar result if they’re well-chosen and perfectly aimed say at your funny bone. It's like a red light or railroad crossing gate. The brain is hit with an electrical storm which makes it difficult to think. Actually, you may be stopped in your tracks in a perfectly pedestrian conversation. You’ve undoubtedly found yourself talking to someone who just casually mentions they’re going to leave their partner, go to San Francisco to “trip” under the Golden Gate, join a terrorist organization or drink bleach to protect themselves from Covid. Come again. Did you hear what you thought you heard--that someone you thought you knew now supports The Big Lie? You gulp and try to get your bearings. Your first impulse may be to run away and solve the whole problem by removing the offending Retrumplican from your life. Then you relax and think about it. You calm down and find some solace in the knowledge that you don’t ever have to see them again.

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

and listen Brenda Holloway's "Every Little Bit Hurts"