Monday, February 28, 2022

The Decline and Fall of the Gutenberg Galaxy

It’s hard to imagine that a totally cosmopolitan society turned upside down overnight. Kiev and Kharkiv both have subways that are now filled with inhabitants, deprived of food, water and yes bathrooms. Supply chains are irreparably damaged and the leisure activities of an advanced industrial society from therapy, to yoga and workouts in gyms—not to speak of afternoon trysts are suddenly brought to a halt. Sure Dresden and Hiroshima were destroyed in World War II, but modernity was supposed to have homogenized and purified the nature of the species itself. Identity would replace sectarian and nationalist divisions. Maybe back in the days of Brezhnev, when troops interruped Prague Spring,  but who would have predicted Russia’s stark incursion into a neighbor, particularly one sharing many similarities in language and customs. So much for the illusion that technology creates a brother or sisterhood? And so much for the illusion that brother won’t fire upon brother since many Ukrainians have Russian blood and vice versa. The current war is unprecedented and if nothing else points to the end of Marshall McLuhan’s "global village" or Gutenberg Galaxy. Antediluvian grudges and tribal rivalries, like the ones that stoked the Bosnian War, are what autocrats like Putin exploit in their narcissistic striving for another kind of globalism, i.e. ultimate power. Faust has made his deal with the devil all over again. On the other hand where is Superman when you need him? Wouldn’t it be wonderful if the Man of Steel, suddenly appeared, blocking every advance by Russian troops into the Ukraine and stopping Chinese fighter pilots as they run threatening sorties over Taiwan. As it stands, nobody lifts a finger so why lend a hand? Symbolic gestures are just that, design.

read "Pornosophy: Sexcession" by Francis Levy, HuffPost

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

Friday, February 25, 2022


Hitler Declaring Annexation of Austria

The Afghans famously repelled the Russians and Americans. Before them came the British. Looks like the Russians haven’t learned their lesson. Yes, the terrain of a country makes a difference as does the ideology held by its inhabitants. Most commentators have noted an almost predictable strategy in the Russian advance with air and missile strikes preceding the actual invasion. But what are the Russians going to do once they have arrived and so-called conquered? Will Kiev's population of 2.8 million submit to either a Russian or puppet government? Nationalism which has it own down side in xenophobia and antisemitism is no match for jihad. Still, once the dust settles, the real problems are likely to begin. The current Russian outing exemplifies Clausewitz’s famous “War is a mere continuation of policy by other means.” Putin gave his historical diatribe. Then the tanks rolled over the border. Will he achieve his ultimate goal--which is apparently the reconstitution of the U.S.S.R?

Read "Iraqistan" by Francis Levy, HuffPost

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

Thursday, February 24, 2022

The Clouds

bust of Aristophanes (Alexander Mayatsky)

Face it. One day your Mac Book is going to be closed for the last time and you’ll really be in the Cloud. All your stories, poems and missives will either be wiped off the hard drive if your computer is being given away or crushed in some garbage compactor. Usually, one thinks of a loved one or even therapist as the repository of memory, but in the current age your legacy is inherited by a virtual assistant, an Alexa or Siri. You have been living under the illusion of “infinite storage.” However, with the loss of their creator your collective unconscious will literally be sucked into the black hole of oblivion. Yes everything could live on in cyberspace, but only if your credit card hasn’t been deactivated at the time of you death. Aristophanes wrote a satire of intellectual life, The Clouds. Significantly has vanished along with all the treasured notions you may have entered in your digital journals.  "Look at my work, ye mighty, and despair!" says Shelley in "Ozymandius."

Read "Ultimate Rejection!" by Francis Levy, The East Hampton Star

and watch the animation of Erotomania

Wednesday, February 23, 2022

Esperanto Towers

The Tower of Babel (Peter Brueghel the Elder)

Esperanto, the universal language, was created by a Polish ophthalmologist L.L. Zamenof in 1887. Needless to say it didn’t catch on. “Esperanto” translates into everyday English as “one who hopes.” Hope springs eternal. Actually, the rise of the internet and technology initially proposed another Tower of Babel. At the very least consumerism would bring together disparate cultures separated by political and religious beliefs. No child of Apple computer could ultimately accept fundamentalism. In fact, the exact opposite occurred. Didn't Osama bin Laden and other followers of Sayyid Qutb’s brand of jihadism use Microsoft Word?  Didn't ISIS operatives employ androids and MacBooks? On the bright side, language is explosive. What keeps people apart is also the means by which they express and project identity. However, would you really like a condo in the Tower of Babel? As Russian troops invade the Ukraine and war looms, the notion of unification, no matter what the costs, particularly with regard to homogenization, begins to sound appealing.

watch the animation of Erotomania

listen to "Love Train" by the O'Jay's

Tuesday, February 22, 2022

The Forward

Abraham Cahan, founding editor of The Forward

The expression “I am looking forward to” should be excised from the language. The future will always take precedence over the present.  It’s the romantic predicament: that which doesn’t exist always trumps the palpable and real. Look back on the itinerary of your life and all the occasions in which future possibility loomed. It’s usually characterized by disappointment. You wait anxiously to see a loved one. They run towards you on the tarmac and as you squeeze them tight, it’s as if life were draining out of them. Possibility is a fish frantically slithering through your hands. The future is the elephant in the room, the present a second fiddler. It’s nice to be reunited with a long lost relative, but the real question is not when but how? Perhaps the present should be preserved in formaldehyde like Einstein’s brain with the future found in the archive of the famed Yiddish newspaper, The Forward.

read "Ultimate Rejection!" by Francis Levy, The East Hampton Star

and listen to "Don't Make Me Over" (1963) by Dionne Warwick

Monday, February 21, 2022

What's a Setback?

Daily News Buildig with setbacks (Hugh Ferris)

What is the difference between a setback and a setback? One's a reversal of fortune and the other, “a plain flat offset in a wall.” Of course, a setback is not a setback if you’re "free soloing." But take them one by one. “Man plans, god laughs” is one way to look at setbacks. They go with the territory—of living that is. Particularly where passion is involved,  everything just slides effortlessly in place or even culminates before you realize it. Anyone who has been given propofol for a colonoscopy knows the feeling of a procedure being finished before it's started. Lovers of old-fashioned Cantonese restaurants may remember that just thinking about the #1, chow mein, egg roll and fried rice, seemed to make it magically appear. Are the current setbacks in NATO’s negotiations with the Russians a fait accompli? A setback on a rock face can be Sisyphean to the extent that it tempts the climber into repelling challenges from which he or she might ultimately need to rappel.

read "Ulimate Rejection!" by Francis Levy, The East Hampton Star

and watch the animation of Erotomania


Friday, February 18, 2022

The Republic of You

Everyone writes their own Republic. Plato outlawed poets. He had a point. “Beauty” may be “truth.” But if you’ve ever known any, you might be hard put to locate the reality principle or the pragmatism averred by philosophers like John Dewey, in their Ars Poetica. Poetry is a  neurological disorder, a compensation for something which is missing. Groucho Marx famously said, “I don't want to belong to any club that would accept me as one of its members." But maybe your ideal world would be one in which clubs themselves were proscribed. Imagine if those stuffy exclusive golf and country clubs were totally outlawed, with the manicured lawns run over by the beggars out of Bunuel’s Viridiana! Fuck even the ones that cater to the enlightened liberal elite, like the Century Association. The biggest mistake that anybody can make is to feel they’re somebody—so said NOBODY. Remember, “I am not Noman, but Odysseus.” Ok, what's it your after? A level playing field? A Nirvana where there’s no privilege? A euphoria of total leveling equanimity? Not!

read "Ultimate Rejection!" by Francis Levy, The East Hampton Star

and watch the animation of Erotomania

Thursday, February 17, 2022

Washington Square

Filial loyalty is one of the major themes of Henry James’s Washington Square. Catherine Sloper’s devotion is bought at the price of her self-conception. How many times have you found yourself seduced by the protection of an authority figure who doesn’t have your best interests at heart? Perhaps a competitive sibling or friend has bidden you to set your sights lower than they might have been under the guise of protecting you from unrealistic wishes? James’s character meets a tragic end to the extent that her gesture of independence is a failure. “From her point view,” remarks the author, “the great facts of her career were that Morris Townsend had triftled with her affection and then her father had broken its spring.” In a more modern version of the tale, you might depart from your secure position in the boring family business to pursue your dream of being a great artist, only to meet with failure—as most people do who try to turn avocations into vocations. But is all lost? What if you're left to scrap out a living in your artist’s garret, barely making ends meet with adjunct teaching gigs? It may sound romantic in a l950ish kind of way, but would you have been better off with the split level in Rye and the membership in the country club, forever regretting have risked the disapprobation of your family by taking a risk?

read "What is Goodness? Or the Gift of Charoset" by Francis Levy, HuffPost

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

Wednesday, February 16, 2022

Glasnost? Perestroika?

Remember "Glasnost" and "Perestroika?" Why has the irredentist impulse, the desire to repatriate the Ukrainians become Vladimir Putin's goal? Why the nostalgia for the U.S.S.R and the earlier dream of Imperial Russia trumpeted by Peter the Great? Why the crack down on the Uighurs under Xi Jinping? The answer may lie in the old saw that you don’t have to be paranoid to think someone’s following you? Autocracies thrive under a juggernaut of aspiration, but also fear (of losing the things they have and not getting what they want). They're businesses which need to expand to survive. "Conquer" rather than "divide and conquer" is the idea. Thus, you have the 1000 years of Rome and the Ottoman Empire. The democratic impulse is as much anathema to autocrats as unions to  robber barons. Of course, the cultish devotion of tyranny belies the entropic impulse which is the downfall of all grand designs. At diminutive as Putin is (and significantly both Stalin and Hitler were also “short people”), he's swaggering like a drunk. What does he care if the world is thrown into a massive depression or even if he’s credited with reigniting the Cold War? Putin’s 270 foot yacht replete with a helipad and pool that transforms into a dance floor was spotted pulling out of German waters as war clouds loomed on the horizon. 

watch the animation of Erotomania

and listen to "Short People" by Randy Newman

Tuesday, February 15, 2022

Parallel Mothers

Pedro Almodovar’s Parallel Mothers plays upon the concept of “separated at birth.” Instead of Plautus’s Twin Menaechmi or Shakespeare’s Comedy of Errors, the plot concerns two babies switched in the maternity ward where their mothers Janis (Penelope Cruz), a photographer and Ana (Milena Smit), a teenager who waitresses, share a room and become friends. Janis walks away with Cecily who's Ana’s baby and Ana with Anita who’s Janis’s child. Ana loses the baby she thinks is hers to crib death as Janis continues to care for Cecily. It’s the forensic archeologist Arturo (Israel Elejaide) the father of Anita who realizes Cecily is not theirs. It’s a tragedy in the making which earns a resolution right out of the pages of the convention it enjoys. But it's the theme of identification that's originally brought Arturo and Janis together. The two are seeking to unearth the remains of loyalists killed during the Franco era. The bodies have disappeared like those of Argentina’s "desaparecidos." The epigragh for Parallel Mothers comes from the Uruguayan  journalist Eduardo Galeano, “Human history refuses to shut its mouth.” The problem is that the tale of the mismatched babies fundamentally lacks the gravitas to function as a metaphor for the film's dark discovery. Is Roman Comedy genocidal? The  message of Parallel Mothers which is collective and political is trivialized by the almost farcical  machinations that undergird the plot. 

read "Ultimate Rejection!" by Francis Levy, The East Hampton Star

and watch the animation of Erotomania

Monday, February 14, 2022

The Righteous Brothers

The Righteous Brothers

Unless you’re a true lost soul, you have an idea how you would like your world to be. A common complaint that some have is the dearth of kindness in their lives. People, in general, are thoughtless if you partake of this line of thinking or maybe this just pertains to you, in which case perhaps you've stumbled into the wrong chink in time. But how to rectify such a state of affairs? Do you tell those around you who are the source of the insult they're wrong and you're right? It’s a little like what goes on between nations and why diplomacy is preferable to war. Neither individuals nor collectivities like to be attacked, so criticism is likely to provoke a defensive reaction. Injustice collectors often walk away empty-handed. So what action to take if you're hurting? Is it pollyannaish to think that being kindly  guarantees a quid pro quo--particularly if someone doesn’t even realize they have offended you. If you're so unhappy you can secede from your "union." You can give up the little happiness you occasionally have and tell your significant other (s) what you think of them before saying goodbye for good. "You've lost that lovin' feeling. Now it's gone, gone, gone..." sing the Righteous Brothers.

read "Ultimate Rejection!" by Francis Levy, The East Hampton Star

and listen to "You've Lost That Lovin' Feelin'" by The Righteous Brothers

Friday, February 11, 2022


Animation of 2020XL5 (Phoenix 7777)

There are real estate agents who sell island paradises. Apparently JZ bought one of the Florida Keys for Beyonce’s 29thbirthday. Peter Nygard, the billionaire party animal got into a bitter dispute with his laidback neighbor Louis Bacon, who made his money in hedge funds on the exclusive Bahamanian island they both inhabit ( "How a Neighbors' Feud in Paradise Launched an International Rape Case,NYT, 2/22/20).

The Caymans is famous for being a tax haven popular with money launderers, but what does it take to turn your private island into a sovereign state which can issue passports? Which brings us to the subject of asteroids. Are they the islands of tomorrow? Certainly, there are celestial objects that are more than space debris and less than full-blown moons or planets. 2020 XL5 is the name of an asteroid which might one day become the weekend home for wealthy space travelers ("Astronomers Find a New Trojan Asteroid Sharing Earth’s Orbit,"NYT, 2/2/22). The recent find has followed the same trajectory as earth for about 200 years and will only be a hiking companion for another 4000. So settling on 2020XL5 is tantamount to a long term lease. Still the asteroid threatens to become the St Bart’s of the skies. Can you imagine the ancestors of Jeff Bezos, Elon Musk and Virgin Galactic owner Richard Branson sunbathing on the likes of 2020EL5?

watch the animation of Erotomania on You Tube

and listen to "25 Miles From Home" by Edwin Starr

Thursday, February 10, 2022


The event horizon of a black hole is the point beyond which nothing can escape. There are Event Horizon Telescopes, (EHTs) which actually explore these points in space. In mathematics an imaginary number is something which can be postulated and written down, but which has no actual existence say like the square root of -1. There are certain cosmological concepts that are not in the realm of understanding or even imagination. Remember Henry Darger's In the Realms of the Unreal? Christopher Nolan’s Interstellar (2014) tried to conceive of a space ship nearing the event horizon of a black hole, Gargantua, but what’s inside? There are one-celled creatures like the xenophyophores that inhabit the Mariana Trench 36,201 feet underwater, a depth greater than Mt. Everest turned upside down. The amount of water pressure at such a depth and the consequent biology of organisms that survive in these waters also defies belief. Does the inside of the Large Hadron Collider which reproduces the conditions in which the first particle of matter, the Boson, were formed provide any insight into the world beyond worlds? Consider the conceptual leap necessary to imagine a craft which could cross an event horizon and explore Messier 87 the galaxy in the constellation Virgo which has its own enormous black hole. 

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

and watch the animation of Erotomania on You Tube

Wednesday, February 9, 2022

Dressed For Success

Say you’re one of those people who’s never going to dress for success, undress for success or in fact be “a success.” If you grew up way back when in one of those lost decades you may remember hearing your mother on the phone usually talking about how successful someone else’s kid was, with the implication that her flock were not made of that kind of stuff. It didn’t really matter what you were successful at. Klara Hitler undoubtedly bragged about Adolf and some other jealous mother undoubtedly found herself gossiping about how the youthful dictator was going to take over the country some day. Success/failure are the top and bottom of the graduated cylinder of existence.What about being successful at congestive heart failure? But what could be worse than a life of mediocrity? Would you rather your novel was a major failure (misunderstood by a world which was not ready for your sensibility) than a modest success, employing commonly used tropes that don’t shake the boat? Catullus wrote dirty poems, but he surely had loads of contemporaries who wrote harmless odes. Would you want to be remembered for being elected to two non-consecutive terms, as Grover Cleveland was, in the event you turned out to be presidential material? Getting back to Hitler. He had quite a run. You would have to call Hitler “very successful” in a crowded and competitive playing field of tyrants.

watch the animation of Erotomania on You Tube

and listen to "Sex Machine" by James Brown

Tuesday, February 8, 2022

Jasper Johns: Mind/Mirror

"Painted Bronze" (1960, photo: Francis Levy)

Dostoevsky’s 1846 novella The Double: A Saint Petersberg Poem deals with the feckless Yakov Petrovich Golyadkin, a minor bureaucrat, perhaps inspired by the ill-fated Akaky Akakievich of The Overcoat. One night wandering in St. Petersberg the dejected Golyadkin meets a version of himself who's everything he's not—ie quite the man about town. Borges’s The Other is based on The Double only the central character is the author himself. Which brings us to the subject of Jasper Johns and his two Ballantine Ale cans, aka "Painted Bronze" (1960). The inspiration for the sculpture comes from Willem de Kooning’s snarky remark that Leo Castelli, Johns’ dealer, was so adept, he could sell two beer cans. The remark became the inspiration for the work--which quickly sold. Doubling is reflected in the very title of the Johns exhibit, "Mind/Mirror," at the Whitney through February 13th (talking about doubling the other half is displayed at the Philadelphia Museum of Art). The works on display are both philosophical and haunted. For instance, in "Two Maps" (1965), the mirror effect takes the form of stacking, one canvas on top of the other, producing a dissolution between the original and the doppelganger. It’s one of the problems identical twins face, at least at some point in their lives. Where does one begin and the other end? Johns is interested in everyday objects: flags, maps, targets, alphabets, numbers--"things the mind already knows," he once said. But the proliferation and serialization catches one up short since, ultimately, they’re not exactly alike as with say Warhol’s Campbell’s Soup cans. The images are a monkey on the artist's back, talking to each other, in a dialogue that never ends. Ironically this is exactly what seemed to have happened vis a vis the sometimes disconsonant dialectic that developed between the curators behind two exhibits that bore the same name ("Seeing Double With Jasper Johns,NYT, 9/13/21) By the way next time you're looking for information on the show Google "Whitney Johns." 

Read "Ultimate Rejection" by Francis Levy, The East Hampton Star

and listen "Funky Broadway" by Wilson Pickett

Monday, February 7, 2022

Licorice Pizza

It is often said that a therapist should remain one step ahead of his or her patients. Paul Thomas Anderson's Licorice Pizza is 10 steps ahead of its audience. The film is hard to assimilate. Phenomenologically you don’t know how to categorize what’s happening. Unlike the directors previous work it doesn’t present Art with an “A,” opting instead for the feeling of Leave it to Beaver which has a very slight cameo appearance. One hint that there’s more in store than meets the eye are the subtitles. You don’t usually find these in English language films unless there’s an ethnic patois. Here it quickly becomes apparent the subtitles, with their stage directions, are the script which then poses a question the director never really answers. Within the confines of the fiction, are the flesh and blood characters real or merely wayward pieces of imagination? “Are these lines?” one character asks,”is it real?” The film is set in the San Fernando Valley during the 70s. It's a far cry from the milieu which provided the backdrop for films like The Master and Phantom Thread. The disquisition is unassuming and dully familiar at first. You begin to get the coordinates from the soundtrack which features 60s soul tunes like Clarence Carter’s “Slip Away.” The main character Gary Valentine (Cooper Hoffman) is a sometime child actor and precocious entrepreneur who, in consonance with the era, gets into the waterbed business. There are some outlandish scenes where Jon Peters (Bradley Cooper), Barbara Streisand’s hairdresser husband, who's prone to fits of violence, orders a bed from Gary. Gary's outfit, Fat Bernie’s Waterbed, soon becomes Fat Bernie’s Pinball Machines. Gary has fallen for Alana Kane (Alana Haim) a photographer's assistant who's ten years older. She will at first not admit him as a romantic interest due to the age gap. However, you're constantly waking up after being hit by a 2x4. Alana gets drunk and falls for an actor with the last name Holden, Jack not William. She falls off a motorcycle just as a looming crowd comes at her in a scene out of Night of the Living Dead. Numerous takes like this seem to be in search of an author, though they're quickly swept up by the director’s esthetic which presents reality as scenes from a script filmed on a meta basis by the director--but not by the characters in the film who are making their own film minus the equipment. There are signposts, for instance  the restaurant owner who has a succession of Japanese wives who he's incapable of communicating with since he doesn't speak their language--instead talking to them in English with a parodic Japanese accent. Gradually one learns the movie’s grammar. The denouement occurs when many of these strange, often mysterious events start to make sense. It all creeps up on you. By the end Anderson's pimple-faced boy and almost plain seeming diva have become idealized romantic leads whose very appearance recalibrate one's notion of what glamorous movie stars (which, in fact, Alana Haim and Cooper Hoffman now are) look like.

watch the animation of Erotomania on You Tube

and listen to "Slip Away" by Clarence Carter

Friday, February 4, 2022

Purgatorio aka Social Distance

Purgatorio Canto II (Gustive Dore)

During the middle of the pandemic, everything went on hold. Zoom meetings prevailed everywhere—as they still do to some extent. It was truly a no man’s land and the perfect purgatory for the person who enjoys traveling more than getting there. Conversations with old friends and relatives were less fraught with the pressure of actual instantiation, less framed by being a means to an end. Though you thought you should have missed someone, you may have discovered you could do without the obligatory and often logistically difficult meetings involving long car trips and even plane flights (say to see retirees in Florida). Now with the “endemic,” you’re forced to choose between Dante’s Paradiso or Inferno. If you felt deprived then being reunited is a time of celebration, but it can also be hell, when you realize how little anyone has changed. The return to normalcy will not be all bells and whistles. Social distancing certainly performs a function when you’re trying to avoid infection, but it has other benefits. You may have wanted to socially distance from certain people long before you ever heard of Covid-19. Now you’ve lost the excuse. It may seem awkward to tell someone that you prefer talking to them over a social conferencing medium like Zoom than actually having to spend time together. However that may be the disconcerting truth.

read "Ultimate Rejection!" by Francis Levy, The East Hampton Star

and watch the animation of Erotomania on You Tube

Thursday, February 3, 2022

"What's the Deal, Hummingbird?"

"Anagnorisis" is the term for recognition in Greek Tragedy. It's what happens when Oedipus discovers he's murdered his father and married his mother. It's also a feeling you may experience reading Arthur Krystal's story, "What's the Deal, Hummingbird?" in The New Yorker (1/24/22). "What's the Deal" takes the form of an autobiographical rant, rather than a piece of fiction. Of course, unless the author provides a "reveal," there's no way to know. The feeling is that Krystal is talking to your life. You instantaneously fall for him and want to know him, as if he has a magic power to know your inmost soul. There are plenty of signposts which validate the impression, lots of evidence. He's 73 and you're 73 if you're a baby boomer of that age. He had slept with his wife either l900 or 3000 times in their nineteen years of marriage (plus the 4 months preceding) or maybe it was 5422. Have you ever indulged in statistics like this? Oliver Burkeham's 4000 Weeks: Time Management for Mortals partakes of this kind of erotic actuaryalism. Life is 38, 368,800 minutes for the author as he writes. Krystal disposes of the 60s with the citation of 2001: A Space Odyssey H follows by describing"Bumping into a friend, who told him she had slept with two men that day, and it so aroused him that he asked if he could be the third." "He remembered dropping acid on Martha's Vineyard and asking everyone who Martha was." "He remembered being face to bosom with Jackie Onassis as he was going up the stairs at the Metropolitan Opera and she was coming down." "He remembered the first time he removed a girl's bra only to be reminded of a character in 'Catch-22' who claimed that life is all downhill after that." He remembers "riding a motor scooter in Ibiza in '71 or '72" and picking "up a short, pretty American girl" with whom he had "painful slapstick, sex." His former wife tells him "You need to get Netflix...two weeks after New York went into lockdown." She says "Watch, 'Call My Agent,' "It'll cheer you up." This last is almost like a dagger, stabbing you in the heart. Uncanny since along with the Jackie Onassis vignette, it's almost exactly what happened to you. However, say you have never dropped acid on Martha's Vineyard or been to Ibiza, the author makes you feel it's about you anyway. In some alternate universe, you've been there. You find yourself reading and rereading the piece to remember the things that have happened or the things that have something to do with you even if you haven't directly experienced them. Do you remember the first time you read Uncle Vanya, the star of Hamaguchi's Drive My Car and felt that Chekhov stole your ideas? Oh yeah, Krystal went to The University of Wisconsin and Columbia. He became a critic and so did you. Is Krystal your doppelgänger,  your double a la Dostoevsky and Borges? Has Krystal stolen your life?

watch the animation of Erotomania on You Tube

and listen to "Tell It Like It Is"by Bonnie Raitt, Gregg Allman and Aaron Neville (it doesn't get better than this)

Wednesday, February 2, 2022

Surrealism Beyond Borders

"L'enigme de Isidore Ducasse" by Man Ray

Here are some factoids from "Surrealism Beyond Borders"which just concluded a run at the Met. Man Ray's "L'enigme de Isidore Ducasse" ("The Enigma of Isidore Ducasse,"1920) is a surrealist homage to Ducasse aka the Count de Lautreamont famous for describing beauty "as the chance encounter of a sewing machine and an umbrella on an operating table." Could Man Ray's covered sewing machine have been a Duchampian "objet trouve?" Antonin Artaud, famous for the Theatre of Cruelty, was the director of the Bureau de recherché surrealist founded on October 11, 1924. Artaud called it an "agency of communication," a parodic form of nomenclature, typical of the surrealist esthetic, and not meant to be confused with the phone company. The writerly expression of "Automatism,"  which sought to free"mysterious moments" from the "superposition" of rationality" in order to unearth "what lies behind reality" found expression in Aleppo, Syria no less. This legacy of Andre Breton's "Surrealist Manifesto" is not something one expects in a locale noted for the tyrannical Al-assad dynasty. However, the writer Urkhan Muyassar gave expression to it in a form of writing, called "suryai" in l947. "Traum" ("Sueno," 1933)  a film about a dreamer by the Argentine filmmaker Horacio Coppola greets you on entry. Shades of Un Chien Andalou (1929)? Is it a stretch to refer to of inclusive effort of the recent exhibit as "the Socialist International of Surrealism?"

watch the animation of Erotomania on You Tube

and listen to the best version of "Piece of My Heart,ever by Erma Franklin

Tuesday, February 1, 2022

Durer's Journeys

Self-Portrait at 28 by Albrecht Durer

In his review of "Durer's Journeys: Travels of a Renaissance Artist,"now on exhibit at The National Gallery, Gabriel Josipovici quotes the German art historian Erwin Panofsky on the artist’s self-portrait of his sickly body at 32: “The convalescent painter looks at his emaciated body and still haggard face with the same mixture of fatigue, apprehension and dispassionate curiosity with which a farmer might take stock of his crops after a bad storm.” There are two salient elements that inform the artist’s work, at least as rendered in this description. The first is illness and decay and the second is something akin to analytic neutrality. At least according to Panofsky’s description, Durer treats himself with an almost miraculous level of detachment. Famously psychoanalysts are taught not to give the patient what they want, even in those central life passages, when the need for sympathy is so great. The artist here puts himself on the couch offering none of the answers he himself might have desired. How reminiscent this is of the “impersonal” view of poetry proposed by T.S. Eliot in his famous essay, “Tradition and the Individual Talent.” It's the rare artist or civilian who can take stock of themselves. It's almost impossible to see one's image in the mirror. In fact it’s almost axiomatic that human beings are blinded by the apparition of themselves.

watch the animation of Erotomania on You Tube

and listen to 'I Never Loved a Man (the Way I Loved You)" by Aretha Franklin