Monday, January 31, 2022

Kiev Spring?

Prague Spring (photo: C.I.A.)

People who don’t play chess do so at their own peril. But if you’re only exposure is The Queens Gambit you still understand that the game confirms to the first part of Newton’s Third Law “For every action there is an equal and opposite reaction.” Players lure each other into making mistakes. Every piece taken runs the risk of resulting in only Pyrrhic victory. Sun Tzu's The Art of War could help parse out Ruy Lopez as it's a primer in realpolitik. Donald Trump may never played the game, same for his one time pal Kim Jong-un, but they both employ the strategy of creating lots of disparate fires their opponents have to put out. Is there a name for that opening or endgame? Clausewitz once said "war is politics by other means." But his teutonic instincts might have dictated the line as the shortest distance between two points. Are Putin and ambassador Lavrov way ahead of Biden and Blinken (whose threats about troops and sanctions will only come to pass in the event of an invasion) with their distractionary tactics? While both sides fence off with displays of bravado the Soviets have literally been manipulating their pawns aka proxies behind the scenes. Remember what happened to the Czechs? First there was Prague Spring under Dubcek. Then came the tanks. Is Putin castling with Belarus?

watch the animation of Erotomania on You Tube

and listen to "Land of a Thousand Dances" by Wilson Pickett

Friday, January 28, 2022

The Interpretation of Sleep

Is it possible to be territorial in one’s sleep? Of course, there's the old bugaboo about people hogging the bed and forcing their partner so near the edge they’re in danger of falling off. But what about the whole realm of relationships that take place when the eyes are rapidly moving (REM)? Even though you’re never more alone than when you’re dreaming, it’s not an exaggeration to say that there are warring parties, things to be fought over and arbitrators who adjudicate these intrapsychic pursuits. The equivalent of Anchluss has occurred during your sleep and organizations like NATO have defended your territories. Balkanized parts of your consciousness vent their irredentist tendencies. Who's to say the armies of your night are simply imaginations? You prove yourself, returning in triumph all within the confines of your nocturnal carapace. And then you awaken to a land grab—whether it’s real or not doesn’t matter since it’s how you feel (as they say). Everyone has their Trojan horse.  No point in recriminating since everything you think you should have thought twice about is a fait accompli. And there you are at midnight, about to make another descent, with no malice aforethought. 

watch the animated version Erotomania!

and listen to "Panic Attack" by Pussy Riot

Thursday, January 27, 2022

Doppler Emotions

extrasolar planet orbting star (photo: Zhatt)

Let’s say you're finally part of that great migration to the planet circling the Kepler star, 1200 light years from earth—the carbon-based one that’s supposedly conducive to human life. Will you still be obsessed with the people who haven’t gotten back to you? At what point in time travel do you start to care less about the things that were once so important? Is there an emotional Doppler effect that lowers the frequency of the signal the further you get from its source? Are rejections less painful, the closer you get to the speed of light? And when one day you arrive, hardly having aged due to the wonders of what relativity does to the bodily clock, you will begin life with a peculiar kind of tabula rasa. Yes, you will know that this and that occurred, but it will have lost its power over you. Time travel reduces existence to value free chronology. Back on earth, you may have found you can’t run away. By avoiding the very fate the oracle foretold, Oedipus' father, Laius, brought about his worst fears. But when you’ve arrived a certain point in the multiverse, say the event horizon of a black hole, you'll find yourself filled with love even for those creatures who never gave you the right time of day.

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

and listen to "I Second That Emotion" by Smokey Robinson and the Miracles

Wednesday, January 26, 2022

Das Boot

With the pandemic spiking again, The CDC has recommended against cruise ships—whose close quarters can make for super spreader events. But what about submarines and submersibles, which allow passengers to stay out of the fray. Remember Das Boot (1981)? There are also those old diving suits with the hard helmets and mesh windows around the eye sockets. Another way to stay out of trouble could be certain kinds of tombs and sarcophagi. If you get buried alive in your own private time capsule, you’re unlikely to contract Covid. If you do, you won’t have to quarantine for fear of infecting other people. Whoever thought that archeology might be an important discipline to bring to bear on the current plague. Someday buried under layers of civilization fossils from Covid will be unearthed. Pompeii may have been buried by Vesuvius but a whole civilization which retreated under both the lands and seas for cover will become one of the great finds--comparable say to Louis and Mary Leakey’s discovery of hominins in the Olduvai gorge. Btw, Spelunking is likely to soon replace tennis as the most popular sport of this time.

Read "The Wormhole Society" by Francis Levy, The East Hampton Star

and listen to "Yellow Submarine" by The Beatles

Tuesday, January 25, 2022

Your Most Shameful Act

What is the most shameful thing you can think of? Lying to someone you care about? Breaking your diet? Eating ice cream, cake, potato chips, that dark Lilac chocolate? Still looking at dirty pictures like an adolescent, though you're almost dead? Worse? Pretending you're a boy? Pretending you're a girl? That biblical crime against yourself which begins with an O and is the result of rereading the same passage in The Story of O? Those people who have been fucked over may not want to read any further, but…reading texts that are not your own? Donate to Liz Cheney’s re-election campaign because she did the right thing though she's otherwise opposed to everything you believe in? Should admiring someone’s integrity be a source of shame when there are people who will argue that someone like Liz Cheney should not be rewarded for doing the right thing (for instance should you be rewarded for not cheating on your loved one or simply punished for doing so?????)? What is the most shameful activity in your arsenal of shameful activities? Everyone has something they won’t reveal to anyone, even the best friend from elementary school to whom they've told everything. OK as an example, it might be something very small like walking out of the supermarket without paying for something. You should have gone back and returned the loaf of Wonder Bread which was not toted up on your receipt, but you’re already almost home and you’re tired. What are you going to do? Return with the half-eaten loaf the following day? Have it scanned and pay the chump change to appease your conscience? Or are you going to conclude that the only one who cares is you and that, in fact, you're going to make a fool out of yourself in addition to being an annoyance just to keep your side of the street clean?

Read "Shame" by Francis Levy, HuffPost

and listen to "Girl, (Why You Wanna Make Me Blue)" by The Temptations


Monday, January 24, 2022

Drive My Car

One way to look at Ryusuke Hamaguchi's Drive My Car, currently playing at Film Forum, is to take the title at face value. The film is literally one drive after another with each winding road and freeway telling a tale of its own—something that's both brilliantly reticulated and at times unendiing and ultimately exasperating. You keep thinking this is a great and dramatic place for an ending. Then the film goes on and on. Maybe that's the point it's trying to get across i.e. that it's factitious to represent the sea with its endless waves in under two hours. Narrative is the subject which is not surprising since the Drive My Car is based on story by Huruki Murakami, for whom storytelling itself is always a key point. The winding goes on also in the turning of the cassette tape, the recording device by which Kafuku (Hidetoshi Nishijima), the director, intones lines from the production of Uncle Vanya that's the materiele out of which the director's film (and ostensibly Murakami's story) is created. Chekhov is as much an influence on Hameguchi as Strindberg was for Bergman.There are a number of equations in the film. One has to do with sex and creativity, another between directing and driving. Kafuku's wife, Oto (Reiku Kirishima), is a sex addict. Her addiction is fueled by the disinhibition it creates. She’s also traumatized by death of a 4 year old daughter who would have been 23--something that contributes to her compulsions. As she makes love to her husband she narrates the fictive tale of another illicit lover who becomes a murderer. In the real life of the film there are two other murders, one committed by the lover of Oto, Takatsuki (Masaki Okada), an actor who suffers from a problem with his impulses and appetites (like Oto he also can't control himself) and the other by the director’s driver Masaki (Toko Miura) who has let her mother die in a landslide. Kafuku also blames himself for the death of Oto, who he’d caught in flagrante. Angry at the betrayal, he arrives home too late to revive her, after she's suffered a cerebral hemorrhage. Of course Uncle Vanya is the vessel in which all the pain lives--and is mollified. And Drive My Car bears some comparison with  Andre Gregory’s Vanya on 42nd Street in which extemporization and improvisation are employed. In Kafuku's production, "the Method" is stridently eschewed with the director demanding that his cast intone lines without emotion at one rehearsal. Vanya not only infuses every moment of the actor's lives but is itself seen from many angles including the audience's point of view and the television monitor set in a rehearsal studio. In addition, even though it’s a Japanese theater company, significantly based in Hiroshima, the varying players converse with each other in English, Japanese, Mandarin and Korean sign language—this last providing its own singular and stunning form of "Noh" theater. Do you have to be a good driver to direct and in fact create or is it simply a matter of authenticity, the thing both the film and the play within the film seem to hold up as an elusive ideal.

Read "Andre Gregory: Before and After Dinner" by Francis Levy, HuffPost

and listen to "The Book of Love"by The Monotones

Friday, January 21, 2022

My Analysis and Middlemarch

“We are all humiliated by the sudden discovery of a fact which has existed very comfortably and perhaps been staring at us in private while we have been making up our own world entirely without it.” George Eliot’s Middlemarch is filled with wonderful aphorisms. Reading it is like being in analysis. In fact, the above locution could be a definition of psychoanalysis one of whose aims is to make the unconscious conscious. Of course, Middlemarch is a novel which requires a good amount of agency on the part of the reader and revelation, if and when it occurs, may hit one like a ton of bricks. Many patients in analysis are caught unawares with the very process of what they're supposed to be going through passing them by, since they're likely dozing off on the couch. How cozy to be dreaming and having the doctor, with whom you're having the father or mother transference, there to comfort you when you awaken. The New Yorker’s Rebecca Mead wrote My Life in Middlemarch and the novel is nothing if not a Baedeker of emotion itself. Here is Eliot on the intellectual Casaubon, the author of Key to All Mythologies, a book that, as has been pointed out, bears some resemblance to Sir James Frazer’s The Golden Bough. “For my part, I am very sorry for him. It is an uneasy lot at best to be what we call highly taught and not to enjoy: to be present at this great spectacle of life and never to be liberated from a small, hungry, shivering self—never to be fully possessed by the glory we behold, never to have our consciousness rapturously transformed into the vividness of a thought, the ardor of a passion, the energy of an action, but always to be scholarly and uninspired, ambitious and timid, scrupulous and dimsighted.”

Read "The Real Thing" by Francis Levy, HuffPost

and listen to "Think" by Aretha Franklin

Thursday, January 20, 2022

Challenging the Limits of Free Speech in the Therapeutic Encounter

photo: Nick Gripton

And now comes the question, what are the limits of free speech in psychoanalytically oriented psychotherapy? What is the equivalent of “crying fire in a crowded theater” when it comes to the couch? If a person pays a therapist, does that mean they can say whatever they want? Can a patient treat a therapist like a writer whose submissions are tantamount to excretion? Can you come into the office and tell your doctor that you want to make him your  bitch. Chaturbate? Paying a lawyer’s hourly fee doesn’t mean that you can talk dirty to her, but psychoanalysis deals with the realm of the imagination. It’s opposite to the kind of behavior modification that goes on in cognitive therapy. After all free association is self-explanatory? If you want to treat the couch as your crib and begin to scream and cry for your parents to come that’s your prerogative. Back in the old days Times Square was filled with peep show boothes that were very much like confessionals. It’s surprising that with all the instant therapy being trumpeted by online services, no one has come up with the idea of a kind of walk-in therapy in which a psychiatrist sits on a stool behind a pane of glass and picks up the phone when you put in your tokens. Imagine a patient telling their practitioner to pull down their pants. Is such a revealing demand something a psychoanalyst would want to suppress? What then is the protocol? Should the therapist end the session or merely ask the patient what they were thinking? Better yet if they’re having a countertransference, should they accede to the demand, drop their pants and see if that produces mental health?

Read "Pornosophy: The Pleasure Principle" by Francis Levy, HuffPost

and listen to "It's Your Thing" by The Isley Brothers

Wednesday, January 19, 2022

Meet the Beatles!

You go to places like the Yucatan to visit the sites of Mayan civilization or to Rome or Petra for the layers of archeology. But excavation can proceed on a less glamorous, more quotidian basis down the block at the site of the old Lyric or Aphrodite diner or even in your own backyard, where the footprint was once the foundation for another house—or civilization. The Leakeys famously discovered early ancestors of man inTanzania's Olduvai Gorge and “Lucy,” an example of Australopithecus afarensis dating from Pliocene era 3.2 million years ago was unearthed in Ethiopia. Best Buy on Union Square is located where S. Klein once stood. Remember Orbach’s and Korvette’s on 47th and Fifth and Sam Goody where you may have purchased “The Freewheelin’ Bob Dylan,” “Meet the Beatles!,” or “The Rolling Stones.” There are certain structures which will outlive you like the Metropolitan Museum of Art  (an iconic piece of architecture that’s the centerpiece of Donna Tartt’s The Goldfinch), Central Park, The Arch de Triomphe and the Eiffel Tower, The Gateway Arch in St Louis and Berlin Alexanderplatz (the title of the Doblin novel and Fassbinder film). Only time can eradicate a place.

Read "A Taxonomy of the Goldfinch" by Francis Levy, HuffPost

and listen to "I Want to Hold Your Hand" by The Beatles

Tuesday, January 18, 2022

Field Research

Bronislaw Malinowski was a famous Polish anthropologist. He wrote seminal works on ethnography and field research. His signature tome was Argonauts of The Western Pacific (1922). He had three daughters Jozefa (b. 1920), Wanda (b. 1922) and Helena (b.1925). Wanda became a model who worked for the Ford Agency under the name of Wanda Delafield. Eventually she left the world of fashion to marry an Italian Vincent (Nicky) Montemora. They would have three children before their divorce. Wanda had met the publisher Hiram Haydn who introduced her to a young writer named William Styron. Years later one of her daughters would work for William and Rose Styron. That daughter had grown up in Westport Connecticut, off Exit 17 of the New England Thruway over whose exit a large neon "Arrow" pointed to a restaurant of the same name. In the summer of l963, Wanda's daughter met a young man, the son of a Manhattan couple who had rented a house in the neighborhood in which Wanda lived, near Campo Beach, facing the Long Island Sound. Coincidentally Wanda's house was opposite the one rented by the brother of William Kapell, the famous pianist who died in a plane crash en route from an Australian tour, on October 29, 1953. Wanda's daughter was swarthy skinned, mysterious and deeply nebulous; at l7 she already drove her mother’s red Valiant station wagon. Even though the young man was two years younger, he got his courage up and the two went out on a date, seeing the L-Shaped Room (1962) with Leslie Caron, which was playing at The Fine Arts, the local art house cinema with its diminutive curved marquee. The film was part of the wave of realistic British cinema which included Look Back in Anger and The Loneliness of the Long Distance Runner. The young man, a romantic to the core, with a fascination for rescuing wayward creatures, had found his mark, in the troubled child of divorce. He was smitten. But his feelings of love weren't reciprocated. He spent the rest of the summer pining hopelessly after the young woman who he occasionally spotted cruising up and down the road from the beach to the village, in the company of the "fast crowd" from which he was excluded. By the following summer The Beach Boys' "Don't Worry Baby" hit the charts, providing the melancholy soundtrack for his ill-fated romance.

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

and listen to "Don't Worry Baby" by The Beach Boys

Monday, January 17, 2022

Don't Look Up

Don’t Look Up (Netflix) could have been titled The Big LieIn the Adam McKay film, a comet threatens civilization. But the comet is nothing less  than the denial of reality. In fact supporters cheer the president, Meryl Streep (Janie Orlean), when she exhorts them not to "look up" at the celestial object coming right at them. Substitute global warming, but added to the whole plethora of denials perpetrated by the Trumpocracy, the Covid conspiracy, the Iran nuclear deal, and the destruction of the institution of democracy, you have a raging crowd cheering the downfall of humanity, in both the literal and metaphorical sense of the word. Leonardo DiCaprio (Dr. Randall Mindy) and Jennifer Lawrence (Kate Dibiasky) play the astronomers who make the initial findings. Ultimately they’re arrested for unveiling another truth, the mission to destroy the comet is being foiled for a greater good: the enrichment of the few. Spoiler Alert: the survivors, end up naked in a Garden of Eden somewhere in the multiverse. Just when they’re about to profit from the spoils…boom.There was a famous Twilight Zone, “To Serve Man.” A group of humans also in transit arrive on a new planet. They'd been lured to the world of the Kanamit, the inhabitants of a far away planet, having previously been presented with a book entitled “To Serve Man.” The problem is that it turns out to be a cookbook. Don’t Look Up is the perfect sequel to 2001: A Space OdysseyFrom the first frames when a gigantic telescope is scouring the heavens, the graphics are enormously creative, but the subsequent disquisition is short and sweet. The dialogue and narrative could be the bubbles in a graphic novel or comic strip. The tone is almost dismissive and devoid of gravitas which is a perfect rendering of how the mind actually distances itself from the shock of something terrible happening. Even as one thinks "this couldn’t possibly be happening" (Donald Trump being reelected), it’s happening again with the concomitant feeling of paralysis about being able to do anything to stop it.

Read "The Wormhole Society" by Francis Levy, The East Hampton Star

and listen to "I Will Survive" by Gloria Gaynor

Friday, January 14, 2022

Time Machine

“One way of understanding capitalism, in fact, is as a giant machine for instrumentalizing everything it encounters…in the service of future profit,” remarks Oliver Burkeman in Four Thousand Weeks: Time Management for Mortals. This Burkeman, goes on to explain, is why rich people are so often unhappy. “In focusing so hard on instrumentalizing their time, they end up treating their lives in the present moment as nothing but a vehicle in which to travel toward a future state of happiness.” Kierkegaard’s “Unhappiest Man” in Fear and Trembling lives in “past memory” or “future hope” and is “incapable of living in the present.” Of course, this is one way of describing compulsive photographers who constantly catalogue and collect experiences in lieu of fully experiencing them. The advent of digital photography exacerbated this propensity, due to the facility with which images could proliferate. Digital photographs can infest computer memory—though you don’t need an exterminator. All that's required is to push the “delete” button. Modern technology turns reality into a new kind of processed cheese interposing one degree of separation with its tasty artificial spread. Remember when you poured over the pages of the old family album with their photograph corners? Burkeman quotes John Maynard Keynes thusly, “The ‘purposive’ man is always trying to secure a spurious and delusive immortality for his actions by pushing his interests in them forward into time.” 

Read Francis Levy on "Time Management For Mortals," 

and listen to "Love Machine" by The Miracles

Thursday, January 13, 2022

Fatted Cow Stuff

Is seven years of famine and seven years of feast just apocrypha? Everyone thinks they’re reliving the biblical famine and feast as they look back over the past and continue to live their lives. Does it really always pour when it rains? The answer is plainly no. And what do the feelings of having hit a wall really represent? Is "inanition" a physical or ultimately spiritual condition? You may desire something to replenish you, to fill up the black hole into which your being has been cast. However, emptiness is in the eyes of the beholder. To employ the overused axiom, you can choose to see your glass half full. It’s like clearing one’s desk or mind. You become confronted with a certain nothingness which actually camouflages plenitude just as the profusion of frenetic activity is often a coverup for stagnation. You have undoubtedly been around noisy people (particularly hyperactive children) who employ an inundation of language to cover up the disturbing emotions they’re experiencing.

Read "Feast or Famine" by Francis Levy, HuffPost 

and listen to 'Cold Sweat" by James Brown & Wilson Pickett (talk about feasting)

Wednesday, January 12, 2022

Monkey Time

Major Lance (Okeh Records)

The moment you’re born you begin to die, but the opposite is not true, at least from a scientific point of view. The moment of death is not rebirth unless you’re a believer in either the afterlife or reincarnation which bring up the question of "Monkey Time," a legendary soul song of the 60s, performed by Major Lance who just happened to have been the father of the former mayor of Atlanta, Keisha Lance Bottoms. And there’s “Mickey’s Monkey,” a Smokey Robinson hit. Of course, the monkey is an ancestor of man who famously mocks the vanity of men’s wishes by dancing on a grave. Shelley’s “Ozymandias” spins a similar song, “Look at my Works, ye Mighty, and despair!” Survival of the species occurs by way of natural selection, though as Stephen Jay Gould demonstrated in his theory of “punctuated equilibrium,” evolution proceeding by fits and starts, has a mind of its own. Ancestors (except going back to the musical analogy you realize that Sylvia Robinson of Mickey and Sylvia's “Love is Strange” fame had a second life as the producer of The Sugarhill Gang's “Rapper Delight”) do not make the light flicker at seances, except in horror films about possession, like The Exorcist.

read "Pornosophy: The Pleasure Principle" by Francis Levy, HuffPost

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

Tuesday, January 11, 2022

Park Avenue

1133 Park Avenue (photo Jim Henderson)

Prewar Park Avenue and Fifth Avenue buildings, with their uniformed doormen and granite facades, have a dynastic quality. Fifth Avenue buildings are particularly auspicious. Jackie Kennedy and Rupert Murdoch both had Fifth Avenue residences. But the Park Avenue coops facing each other over the landscaped islands, (under Metro North tracks) which separate the up and downtown traffic and all converging on the old Helmsley Tower which fronts the Viaduct running around Grand Central to the statue of Cornelius Vanderbilt comprise a legend, using both meanings of the word, myth and something which can be read. 1l33, where J.D. Salinger grew up, was the model for the Glass family residence in Franny and Zooey. Park Avenue is an imperturbable display of wealth, but it's also like a vertical Newport and East Hampton with one mansion (or plantation) piled on the next and each one evidencing its own family tree and storyline (odd Netflix doesn't feature a series entitled, "Park Avenue"). If you wanted to take a punch at capitalism in the form of the leaders of Fortune 500 companies, you’d only have to strafe these fortresses of the ruling class. But there's wealth, social capital, conspicuous ostentation and reserve. 1185 Park Avenue, for instance, distinguishes itself as a kind of gated community, with its grand driveway leading into a rotunda of separate edifices. Then there are buildings like 720 which house the ultra ultra rich and contain elite amenities like squash courts for those who don’t want to bother with the trip down to the exclusive Racquet Club at 370, a bastion of an era when WASPs were the ruling insect.

Read "The Wealth of People" by Francis Levy, HuffPost

and listen to "This Magic Moment" by The Drifters

Monday, January 10, 2022

Secrets and Lies

Most people have secrets, but is it possible to hide anything? You could say for example that no matter how parents try to hide their proclivities, tensions, dissatisfactions and envy, children know everything. The cognizance is not necessarily on the surface, but the child inevitably picks up the truth by osmosis. In this age where it seems that objectivity can bend like gravity in the relativity paradigm literally anything can be propounded as "reality." However there's no mistaking viral intentions which make their way into a system, finally emerging as a full blow disease. Oedipus, of course, is the most famous example. By thinking he could outrun the truth he brought about what might be called the "ur" self-fulfilling prophecy. Why then is it so hard to own up? Why do so many people get caught in a web of lies, futile attempts to rewrite history, with new lies covering up lies. You might also ask why people have what psychoanalysts call "repetition compulsions." You make a mistake and feel so badly about it that you say OK I’m just going to do the same thing one more time.Then I’ll stop. It’s called throwing good money after bad--which is also one definition of addiction. You take one last opioid, one last drink and you’ll stop tomorrow. Tomorrow comes and you do the same thing yet one more time. Insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results.

Read "Dr. Pangloss?" by Francis Levy, HuffPost

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

Friday, January 7, 2022


Moonwalk (Alvaro Marques Hijazo)

“Terraforming “was cited in a recent article about in
 The Times ("NASA’s Retiring Top Scientist Says We Can Terraform Mars and Maybe Venus, Too,” 1/2/22). The term refers to creating a habitable atmosphere for humankind on another planet. Mars in this paradigm might be comparable to the Hudson Yards, a piece of once outlier real estate, now considered worthy of development. After the Second World War, the housing shortage in urban centers like New York City  gave rise to massive new development in the 50s and 60s. The nameless white brick and glass high rises that line First, Second and Third Avenue are exemplars of this development. Will big developers like Tishman soon be putting their imprint on the solar system? You might have sanctimoniously given your yearly $10 bucks to the green movement thinking that any real threat was generations away. Little did you realize that if the ice sheet in Greenland continues to melt, seas could rise as much as three feet by the year 2060—enough to totally eradicate a number of major coastal areas. Even then there will probably be those who gasp in horror at disasters like the recent Kentucky tornadoes or the recent fires near Boulder, Colorado while still resting assured that nothing would block their supply chain. However, the shit is going to hit the fan and you aren’t going to move mountains or civilizations overnight. Just like with packing up apartments, you have to call the movers and get boxes and in this case biospheres—i.e. latter day arks—to transport  billions of people and their belongings and you have to make sure about utilities like Oxygen and Water, before invading Mars.

read "The Wormhole Society" by Francis Levy, The East Hampton Star

and listen to "Wind" by the Jesters (1960)


Thursday, January 6, 2022

The Profit

Remember Kahlil Gibran’s The Prophet, the book of spiritual sayings that was so popular in the 60s? What about a comparable volume for the year 2022 called The Profit? You may be reminded of the would- be cultivated individual who pronounces Goethe, girth—as in waist size. Have you read Girth’s Sufferings of Young Worther? C.P. Snow famously wrote an essay, The Two Cultures on the separation between science and humanities.  The revised version might be about the widening gap between reading and literacy. "Disenchantment" was a term Max Weber used to describe how scientism removed a spiritual element from discourse. Today it’s massive materialism, whose fangs are exponentially poisoned by the data banks of social networks drowning out memory. Civilization is becoming a faint echo buried like Pompei by the eruption of the current Vesuvius.

Read "What Do Kahlil Gibran and Carl von Clausewitz Have in Common?' by Francis Levy, HuffPost

and listen to "Hundred Pounds of Clay"by Gene McDaniels

Wednesday, January 5, 2022

Breaking or Broken News?

Walter Cronkite (Library of Congress)

The news has deteriorated so badly with the Biden presidency that the number of drivers falling asleep at the wheel has reached epidemic proportions. How many times can you hear an alert for “Breaking News” only to find that Joe Manchin doesn’t want to Build Back Better. Yes, it’s sad that Gabby Petito and Brian Laundrie went missing, but what about all the native American women whose cases have never been solved? Oh for the Halycon days of the Trump presidency when each Tweet was a NoDoz. Unacceptable fiats were unleashed before opponents had a chance to respond. You may have been incredulous about the withdrawal from the Paris Climate Accord or the Iran Nuclear Treaty, but you were still catching your breath when he mockingly intoned “Covid, Covid, Covid." Remember Kellyanne Conway (and her beleaguered anti-Trump  husband, George) and her successor Kayleigh McEnany one of whose last great acts was to produce a enormous loose-leaf of Trump’s proposed medical plan that essentially contained nothing? Now that's "breaking" if not “broken” news! There were so many memorable and newsworthy stories running through the Trump presidency. Remember bleach? Remember ending the restrictions on mercury, oil and natural gas development and the exploitation of park lands? And let’s not forget STOP THE STEAL, one of the hottest headlines of 2020? Talk about bubble bursting, throwing cold water or speeding up pulse rate—those were stories that brought up bile.

read "The Real Thing" by Francis Levy, HuffPost

and listen to "Love's in Need of Love Today" by Stevie Wonder and George Michael

Tuesday, January 4, 2022

Club Omicron

Hedonism II nude beach (photo: Johann Vanbeek)

Having trouble planning your big winter event? Here’s a piece of advice. Compile a list of all people you know who are asymptomatic and got infected at super spreader events over the holidays. Yes cruises are not advised, but let Carnival live up to its name with a cruise to nowhere for Omicron alumni only and dance under the stars. You’ve already got what you dreaded. It’s time to celebrate! The famed Club Hedonism in Jamaica could change its name to Omicronumission. Their pandemic "you can read the menu but not order" policy would change to "no holds barred only." After three years of having to endure the indignities of social distancing, Omicronumission offers the kind of free love you aren’t going to pay for (beyond the price of your “package”). It’s all inclusive airfare room board and unlimited sex. Thomas de Quincey’s Confessions of an English Opium-Eater and Coleridge’s Kubla Khan are the Baedeker for this pipe dream come to life. Come on down if you’ve tested positive. The weather’s great.

Read "Pornosophy: The Problem With Hedonism" by Francis Levy, HuffPost

and listen to "Got to Give It Up" by Marvin Gaye

Monday, January 3, 2022

Black and White Thinking

Anna Shechtman

Lautreamont famously described surrealism "as beautiful as the chance meeting, on a dissecting table, of a sewing machine and an umbrella.” Anna Shechtman’s counterpointing of anorexia and crossword puzzles in a recent New Yorker article (“Black and White Thinking,” 12/27/21) introduces an equally unlikely apposition. Shechtman who was assistant to Will Shortz, the Crossword puzzle editor of The Times publishes her second puzzle in the paper while she's in rehab in Paradise, ha ha (a town in Utah). “The puzzle’s theme was,” she writes, “‘It’s all Greek to me,’ and its answers included  words with Greek letters nested inside them. My inspiration came from the discovery that Freud’s ‘oral phase' contained the Greek letter ‘alpha’; that answer was the puzzle’s 1-Down.” Is the subliminal argument that the creation and/or solution of crossword puzzles involves the kind of primary process thinking and unconscious resolution that occurs in dreams?  Daniel Kahneman you may remember wrote Thinking Fast and Slow and Stephen Pinker recently published Rationality: What it is, Why it Seems Scarce, Why it Matters. Shechtman’s meditations on anorexia obviously lie within the realm of the irrational, but for those who are interested in solutions to either crossword puzzles or pathologies, both reason and the kind of memory consolidation that occurs between the hippocampus and the pre-frontal cortex will come into play. Every once in a while The New Yorker publishes a seminal essay. Bruno Bettleheim’s Freud and Man’s Soul was one, as was V.S. Naipaul's "The Enigma of Arrival." “Black and White Thinking” is the most recent example of a story that turns one’s head around.

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