Thursday, March 31, 2022

Rome Journal: Via della Paglia

Via della Paglia (photo: Palickap)

The wait at Tonnarello, the popular restaurant in the old section of Trastevere, is 30-40 minutes. The line serpents out of the Via della Paglia into the crowds filling the other cafes and restaurants which populate the area. Tonnarello is popular due to its modest prices and generous portions. Despite the threats of a new Covid surge from the BA.2 strain and the increasingly darkening cloud spreading over Eastern Europe, there's something immortal in the ballet of the hawkers and waiters, filling orders at lightning speed throughout the streets leading in and out of the square. And it’s not only the French and American tourists. The Italians have literally come out of the closet. How do you make sure the margherita for the Americans at table #3 arrives hot? Good humorously fielding a complaint a muscly tattooed waiter touches the top of a pizza with the back of his hand before removing it apologetically. Then like a magician he pulls a piping hot replacement out of nowhere. A fast-moving Italian kitchen is in fact like an opera, call it Focaccia rather than Figaro. The culinary Haj, the El Camino de Santiago of tourism has started up again with the advent of a precocious spring, its soldiers waving their St George’s crosses, as they crusade against the threat to their pleasures.

read "Rome Journal: The Screaming Pope" by Francis Levy, HuffPost

and watch the animation of Erotomania

Wednesday, March 30, 2022


The Chinese might very well take their cue from the Russians and make a land grab for Taiwan.  The United States and even NATO are perceived as weak, having done nothing beyond economic sanctions in Ukraine, after the ignominious Afghanistan withdrawal. But the Chinese are quite simply pragmatic as opposed to millenarian. While Putin dreams of Imperial Russia, mainland China is intact. Yes Xi Jinping fears a Uyghur cessation and has acted exactly like the Russians in response to Chechen and Georgian independence movements However, wholesale destruction followed by the possibility of outlier status of the kind Russia is receiving is not in the playbook for the Chinese. Game theory is often cited in discussions of realpolitik, but which one will be employed, the Trolley Problem or Prisoner’s Dilemma? It’s simply hard to imagine China dismantling Taiwan’s lucrative semiconductor industry to prove its point.

read "Pet Buddha" by Francis Levy, Vol. 1 Brooklyn

and watch the animation of Erotomania

Tuesday, March 29, 2022

Profiles in Courage

Actors usually submit headshots. But, for instance, Kim Kardashian and J. Lo are both known for their behinds, though it’s unlikely they got where they are by sending butt shots to casting directors. You undoubtedly have heard of actors or actresses who made their reputations in porn, but went on to greater things. Jeff Koons' former wife, La Cicciolina, was a porn star who became a prominent politician and eventually member of the Italian Parliament. Porn like an expanding business, constantly needing to expand its boundaries, has now moved from the pretty or handsome face to other appendages such as the proboscis. Yes there are actors who are making their way in the world of asses (and the specialty of face sitting) who may one day play Mary or even James Tyrone in Long Day’s Journey Into Night. Perhaps they'll more fittingly star in sci fi epics with names like Black Hole. Method acting is what porn stars employ and there have been many figures in X-rated films whose talents have been passed over by directors of main stream cinema. Johnny Holmes aka Johnny Wadd famously had a exceptionally large penis. Could that have qualified him for many roles? Holmes was definitely a heavy hitter. What about say the torrid sex life of the author of Profiles in Courage? Holmes would have been a natural for a portrayal of life in Camelot.

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

and watch the animation of Erotomania

Monday, March 28, 2022

War and Peace

basement where Romanovs were killed

Tolstoy details the agonizing defeat of Napoleon’s force by the Russians in War and Peace. Then there was the Siege of Leningrad which went on from l941-44 when the Nazis tried to strangle the city much in the way the Russians are doing with Kiev. In likelihood it's Putin who has stepped in shit this time. Russia will likely be reduced politically and economically on the world stage. In general, the world situation is tantamount to the Ice Age. Which Troglodyte is going first? The two great powers vying for hegemony will be China and the United States. So of the major countries you have Australia and India aligned with the West with Chinese proxies like Syria, Iran, Venezuela, Cuba and naturally North Korea lining up with the Xi Jinping. It’s interesting to consider Russia becoming a Third World country and potential economic burden to the Chinese, who by that time might be experiencing a negative balance of trade despite Russia’s rich oil reserve. China, while less blustery and prone to the “cutting off one’s nose to spite one’s face" syndrome, and less nuclear arms heavy could still be a stiff political rival due to the economic weight of its 1.4 billion worker bees. The net is that the present crisis is likely to produce a new world order with Russia like one of the extinct species displayed behind glass in the Museum of Natural History. Remember the pictures documenting the execution of Czar Nicholas II and the last of the Romanovs at Yekaterinburg in 1918?

Read "Pet Buddha" by Francis Levy, Vol. 1 Brooklyn

and listen to "China Girl" by David Bowie

Friday, March 25, 2022

Rome Journal: The Steps

di Garibaldi a Vicolo Del Cedro
The Scala Sancta are a sacred spot in Rome. They may be a stairway to heaven, but you’re not going to employ them nor the 124 steps leading up to Santa Maria in Aracoeli for a workout. Nor are you likely to weave your way through the crowds of tourists on the Spanish Steps. But let’s say you take Viale di Trastevere to Viale Glorioso which dead-ends into one of the more monumental staircases, six levels leading up to Via Dandolo. Take an espresso at the little bar down the street (apparently frequented by the short story writer Jhumpa Lahiri) then you're off with the only interruption being the occasional bottle of Peroni left by marauders the night before. Or let’s say you made it to the Porta San Pancrazio and the grand arch at the top of the Gianicolo (housing the Garibaldi Museum). Descend Via Angelo Masina past the Academia Americano to Via Garibaldi and the Fontanone (made famous by The Great Beauty), past Bramante’s Tempietto di San Pietro in Montorio, to a steep flight of steps leading directly into Vicolo Del Cedro and the warren of bustling street which lead to the Basilica of Santa Maria. Or perhaps you need a little lift up. Scala Giovanni Iacobucci (Architecto e Progettista 1895-1970) will get you there. What you may beginning to realize is that steps or Rome are a form of transportation in and of themselves. Wherever you turn there are another set providing a short cut. Rome has the A, B and C lines of the subway and a labyrinthine set of bus routes, but stairs, the way Romans navigated long before there were other means of public transportation, will keep you fit. Mens sano in corpore sana. Rome is the ground zero of Christianity and it's impossible to visit the Eternal City without working the steps.

read "The Findings" by Francis Levy, The Evergreen Review

and watch the animation of Erotomania

Thursday, March 24, 2022

Prisoner's Dilemma

Have you ever blown your top at someone only to have them come right back at you? Perhaps a car has impatiently worked its way into the crosswalk as the light turns yellow. You give the driver the finger, thinking they will speed away only they pull to the side. You’re in a stand-off and feel nervous. You might even be in good shape, but what do you do? The options are you get hurt or go to the station house. Of course, there's the third alternative you walk away with your tail between your legs, either apologizing or just hoping the offended party will go away. Stand-offs are interesting. Unless you’re ready to threaten or act on a threat, you may often find yourself negotiating this middle ground; it can be embarrassing since after a big show of bravado you're instantaneously silenced. Putin is the schoolyard bully who everyone is afraid to stand up to, but think back. What did you do when someone else was getting picked on by a tough guy? Did you turn your back on the situation, figuring, you were going to be in the same kind of face down, if you played the hero and interfered. It happens every day on the subway, where violence is constantly mounting. Good Samaritans are almost intimidating.They're a hard act to follow. Will you be like the business man from New Jersey who jumped on the tracks with an oncoming train’s lights coming--to save someone who'd fallen? Or will you judge that you're too afraid? When someone you love is drowning, will you dive into turbulent waters, risking your life to save them? Let’s say you tried to stop the bully from intimidating one of your classmates? Wouldn’t he come after you next?

Read "Rome Journal: The Russians Are Coming" by Francis Levy, TheScreamingPope

and listen to "Police State" by Pussy Riot

Wednesday, March 23, 2022

Roman Holiday (1953)

Rome has become a refuge from the trauma of the pandemic years and from the looming threat of war in Europe. For an American stepping off the plane at Fiumicino, The Eternal City is a little like a spa. In this case the treatment offered being antiquity. With the threat of upcoming midterm elections in which Republicans are likely to gain control of the house, co-morbidity is no longer the right word to describe the constant deluge of adverse events. First it was Trump and the coronavirus. Now it’s war and the refugee crisis. In Rome sirens perpetually wail, with an unmistakable Roman cast to their Doppler effect, screeching followed by birds tweeting. Remember “pack up your troubles?"  The mantra here might include a walk through Hadrian’s tomb or the Caracalla Baths, as a way of taking a breather from the woes of a world on fire. Is it perspective? Is it the realization that ruins   become a source of beauty? In The Decameron Boccaccio’s Fiorentines endure the plague by telling stories to each other as a source of solace. Now the past is offered as a salvo, and a reminder that civilization will survive.

read Love Expands and quotes by Francis Levy

and watch the animation of Erotomania

Tuesday, March 22, 2022

Ukraine: Who Will Cover the Loss?

Zaporozhye reactor (photo: Ralf1969)

Imagine war. Besides the death and destruction, there’s the breakdown of civil society. Where do you go to get a license or registration for your plates? Kiev has 24 universities. What are the professors to do with no banks to direct deposit their pay checks? Which brings us to the question of insurance. What's the meaning of life insurance in a war zone? What insurance company is going to cover the loss? Insurance companies offer umbrellas policies and flood insurance, but what happens when the insurance company, the bank that holds its premiums and the stock market in which these are invested are all bombed to smithereens? Where does liability fit in? What is the meaning of a tort when both sides in a battle are routinely performing them? Do Russian insurance companies cover soldiers for the damage done by their artillery fire? Who will cover your reactor (or person) when they threaten a meltdown?

read "From the Jan. 6 Archive" by Francis Levy, The East Hampton Star

and listen to "Sympathy For the Devil" by The Rolling Stones

Monday, March 21, 2022

Rome Journal: Villa di Massenzio

 Maxentius' Villa (photograph: Hallie Cohen)
The emperor Maxentius--the ruins of whose villa, including a mausoleum and circus, is still a popular tourist destination-- ascended to power in 306 AD. By that time the notion of succession as a birthright had been abolished. Maxentius was appointed Caesar by the Praetorian guard and the people of Rome. Concepts of power generated in this period still inform notions of governance today. Maxentius took the throne during a period when tetrarchy or the sharing of power between four different parties, had become established. The notion of bicameral legislature may derive from this political "division of labor." Maxentius profited from rising in a world where the will of the people produced an early form of electoral politics. Ironically the very freedoms, anticipating democracy, responsible to Maxentius rise, brought about his downfall. In 312, he unsuccessfully challenged the forces of Constantine near the Milvian Bridge outside Rome and subsequently drowned in the Tiber. 

Read "From the January 6. Archive" by Francis Levy, The East Hampton Star

and watch the animation of Erotomania

Friday, March 18, 2022

Rome Journal: Caravaggio e Artemisia: la sfida di Giuditta

"Judith Beheading Holofernes" by Caravaggio (1598-99 or 1602)

Caravaggio and Pasolini were the bad boys of Italian art. Despite their genius both lived on the edge and courted the underbelly of society. Caravaggio was rumored to have been killed in an act of revenge, though syphilis may also have been the cause; Pasolini fell victim to a street hustler. One can’t help but note that Roberto Longhi, the art history professor Pasolini studied with at Bologna, was responsible for the discovery of the lost masterpiece “Judith Beheading Holofernes” which is the subject of "Caravaggio e Artemisia: la Sfida di Guiditta" (“The Challenge of Judith") at the Barberini. The enormous impact Caravaggio had is demonstrated in the current display of paintings by contemporaries who approached the same subject matter. However, it was Artemisia Gentileschi whose "Judith" most profoundly resonated her predecessor’s spirit. Artemisia was raped by her teacher Agostino Tassi and the violent encounter and ensuing trial undoubtedly allowed her to be particularly conversant with the brutality of Caravaggio’s imagery. The provenance of the painting which had been commissioned by Ottavio Costa, a banker and patron of the arts in the Medici mold, is also examined. The way different artists deal with similar themes and the question of what makes for greatness in a painting is central to the current exhibit. In one instance paintings of “Judith and Her Maidservant” by Artemisia and her father Orazio stand side by side, emphasizing if nothing else, the sensibility that father and daughter shared.

read "From the Jan. 6 Archive" by Francis Levy, The East Hampton Star

and watch the animation of Erotomania.

Thursday, March 17, 2022

The Gerrymandering of Ukraine

The Pale of Settlement in l905 (Thomas Gun)

The Pale of Settlement referd to lands in which Jews were allowed to reside. Emanating from Czarist times, it included Belarus, Lithuania, Moldavia, much of Ukraine, East Central Poland and a bit of Latvia and Western Russia. It's interesting how the current crisis recapitulates some of the former political demarcations, particularly with regard to the disposition of the Crimea, the Donetsk and Luhansk regions and the City of Sevastopol. Germany was divided into East and West in the aftermath of World War II with the so-called Communist Bloc comprising a zone of repression on both an economic and political basis. East Germany still has inherited some of its Cold War identity to the extent that it’s looked at as less vibrant economically than its former counterpart, despite unification. What will the new demarcations, deriving from the current conflict, represent? Ukraine would like to join the EU and ultimately NATO (which is a not a negotiable point for the Russians), but Europe is more a magnetizing force than Russia whose troubled economic state will be exacerbated by sanctions leveled against it during the crisis. Any new geographic divisions will obviously have enormous cultural and economic consequences when considering the New World Order which could emerge. 
Gerrymandering is one of the ways by which Republicans and Democrats seek hegemony on a district level in the United States. Republicans are particularly proficient at it. No one is speaking about what will happen if Trump is reelected and uses his party's old gerrymandering techniques to carve up the spoils.

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

and listen to "Borderline" by Madonna

Wednesday, March 16, 2022

Rome Journal: The Good Life?

In Boccaccio’s Decameron (1350), a group of Fiorentines take refuge outside Florence during the plague, passing the time by telling each other stories, literally “tales out of school”—many of a bawdy nature. Having survived the worst of the pandemic, Romans have now recaptured some of their famously carefree spirit and insouciance, but looking for a respite from fear a visitor may be disappointed to find anomalies of a sometimes disconcerting kind. While vaccination cards are no longer required in New York, they're still de regueur at both tourist sites and restaurants in Rome. Italy was hit very hard by the pandemic. The collective trauma, together with the shadow of war and a looming refugee crisis, has challenged La Dolce Vita (1960). Invulnerability and imperturbability may have characterized Fellini's commedia dell’arte. However, the Fontanone (the great fountain which sits majestically half way up the Gianicolo, overlooking Rome) still looks a bit forlorn in comparison to its heyday in The Great Beauty (2013) Mamma Roma (1962), Anna Magnani's over-the-top embodiment of Rome as an aging whore, is  uncharacteristically careful and held back. Just when you think you’ve stepped into a time warp, a lone ranger shows up, with her mouth rather than eyes hidden by a mask.

read "The Findings" by Francis Levy, Evergreen Review

and watch the animation of Erotomania

Tuesday, March 15, 2022

Rome Journal: The Russians Are Coming

In October l922, the Fascist party began its March from Naples to Rome. The culmination was the passing of power to Mussolini. Rome is experiencing a precocious spring at a time that’s usually cold and wet. Now in the aftermath of the pandemic, life is assuming a surface normalcy. One can't help but thinking of a post pandemic version of Prague Spring in which lowering infection rates have led to freedom. Life in Odessa and Kyiv was experiencing a countervailing resumption of everyday life--before the invasion. News reports showed bustling streets and cafes. The l996 comedy The Russians Are Coming, the Russians Are Coming used the grounding of an enemy submarine off a New England island and subsequent amphibious landing as the substance of a joke. If Russian tourists had been a presence in Trastevere since the advent of Glasnost, the unmistakable Cyrillic sounds normally heard in the crowds of visitors are a notable absence in this "post- Covid Risorgimento.” Nowhere is the dystonic nature of modern life more evident than in a historical mecca like Rome. Here the one time pillaging of the. City in 410 AD by Alaric and the Visigoths literally is part of the charm, but will the devastation wrought by invaders in Ukraine ever be turned into such a sublime beauty?

read "The Final Solution: Collective Trauma" by Francis Levy, HuffPost

and listen to "Pussy Riot Founder to Russian Protestors, 'use your voice while you still can,'" MSNBC

Monday, March 14, 2022

Rome Journal: 1939

map: Jaro.p

There are comparisons between Europe in l939 and the present. Then it was the Sudetenland that was threatened. Now it’s Ukraine--which has not been an easy power grab. Hitler and Putin are both equal opportunity employers unburdened by higher ideals in their search for power. The bombing of the Zaporizhzhia reactor, the largest in Europe, augurs a strategy of unleashing radiation as a weapon, as the Russians have done on a smaller scale through the use of radioactive poisons on defectors (polonium-210 induced radiation syndrome was what killed former FSB and KGB agent Alexander Litvinenko in 2006). Now once again the threat of a World War hangs over Europe.When you enter a country like Italy, still reeling from the deadly effects of a pandemic that’s killed millions, you begin to experience the ruins of the past in another light. Alaric, the Visigoth plundered Rome in 410. Are the ruins which have always been a source of amazement and delight to bands of tourists a harbinger of the future?

Read "States of Mind" by Francis Levy, TheScreamingPope

and listen to "I'm Gonna Make You Love Me," by Diana Ross & the Supremes and The Temptations 

Friday, March 11, 2022

The Automat

Lisa Hurwitz’s The Automat, currently playing at Film Forumis an oral history of a venerable institution that once fed l0% of Philadelphia’s population. It does for the evolution of cuisine what Studs Terkel did for labor in Working. Horn and Hardart was fast service but not fast food. You may remember the Art Deco palaces with their dolphin spigots and chrome knobs and yes the magical windows behind which the primal scene gave birth to a hot dog nestled in a bake bean casserole. The restaurant chain had a storied following which included the notoriously thrifty Jack Benny who once threw an opening night with famous stars of the stage and screen arriving in tuxedos and gowns. Some of the movie’s cast of characters Colin Powell, Carl Reiner and Ruth Bader Ginsberg have passed on like the institution they memorialize in the film, but Mel Brooks holds court along with Elliot Gould and Howard Schultz of Starbucks fame (who keeps a picture of the automat in his office) creating a kind of meta-documentary in which the watering hole of their youths become the jumping off point for new routines. Brooks, for instance, laments not possessing the talent of the cashier of his childhood who could reach into her stash and pull out 20 nickels without having to look or count. The movie even has its own automat historian who wrote his PhD on the subject. He opines on the provenance of an institution which provided tasty but modest priced food (one of the reasons for the decline of Horn and Hardart was the demise of the 5 cent cup of coffee) until, in l991, the curtain went down on the last one, located at the corner of 42nd and Third.

 Read "Diasporic Dining: Fast Food Inc." by Francis Levy, HuffPost

and watch the animation of Erotomania

Thursday, March 10, 2022

Back in the U.S.S.R.


The White Album (1968)

“Every action has an equal and opposite reaction” reads Newton’s Third Law. In the sphere of realpolitik that's not always the case. Hope springs eternal. Does love triumph as a result of hate? Is there a silver lining for instance to genocide? History proves otherwise. Genocides often breed further forms of repression and destruction as revenge is meted out. Putin didn’t spring out of a vacuum and Hitler’s Beer Hall Putsch wouldn’t have existed without the Versailles Treaty. Has the current Ukraine crisis resulted in the first signs of bipartisanship in Congress? Will the brutality of the war actually expedite Ukraine’s admission into NATO?  The Ukraine has, in any case, applied for admission to the E.U. But how will Europe be reconfigured in the wake of Putin’s failed attempt at recreating the U.S.S.R? Unless there’s nuclear Armageddon there’s no chance NATO will ever allow him to annex for instance Latvia, Lithuania, Estonia, Czechoslovakia or Poland—all formerly members of the old Eastern bloc of Soviet countries. Remember The Beatles' “Back in the U.S.S.R.” and the controversy it generated?

Read "The Russian Ambassador" by Francis Levy, HuffPost

and listen to "Back in the U.S.S.R." by The Beatles

Wednesday, March 9, 2022

Buffet of Anachronisms

It’s hard to believe that mankind has descended back into the Middle Ages in such a short period of time. From McLuhan’s "Global Village," human society has become a "buffet of anachronisms." Plagues kill millions despite advances in medicine. Nuclear war which, after the Fail Safe, On the Beach generation, had already become the subject of satire in Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb, is now again joining the arsenal of threat. Add to these the presence of tyrants from Putin to Lukashenko, Kim Jong-un, Bolsanaro and Xi Jinping. They would be the stuff of parody, were they not a threat to life. Can it be said that Trump has outdone that great tyrant of dramatic literature, Ubu Roi? One must give pause when politicos upstage the ghoulish creations of absurdist farce. Could Alfred Jarry have dreamt up Paul Gosar or Marjorie Taylor Greene? Reality has turned into a mixture of Bergman’s Seventh Seal where the Knight partakes in his famous chess game with death and Mad Max which portrays the feudal legacy of a bombed out landscape. Will Art, the angry clown of a slasher movie like Terrifier, become the model for the realpoliticians and statesmen of the 21th Century?

Read "The Final Solution: Was Adolf Hitler a New York Liberal at Heart?" HuffPost

and listen to "Punk Prayer,'Virgin Mary Put Putin Away'" by Pussy Riot

Tuesday, March 8, 2022

The Once and a Future President

Extreme altruism is the one thing that has emerged from Russia’s defenseless and genocidal war on The Ukraine. Is it patronizing to say that those who have seen their homes and cities destroyed have been given a gift? For instance, the average well-to-do professional inhabiting a city like New York sits around anxiously fearing not getting the things he or she wants or losing those they have. N95s were at one point fungible, but the lingua franca can be anything from frequency of sexual intercourse with a partner to the perpetual restless search for validation and aggregation of social capital. Ukrainians are witnessing the human spirit at its highest octane level (shall we say directly proportionate to the per barrel rise in oil prices). In the presence of real virtue, "virtue signaling" becomes a laughable phenomenon. It’s a horrific thing to watch a group of residents blocking the army’s advance towards a nuclear reactor or a lone villager fearlessly standing in front of a tank. However, as you argue over the next Netflix series to watch, Volodymyr Zelensky once the star of a TV comedy called “Servant of the People,” and now #1 on Russia’s Most Wanted list, rises to new heights of nobility and heroism.

Read "An Altruistic Terrorist" by Francis Levy, HuffPost

and watch the animation of Erotomania


Monday, March 7, 2022

Kitty Genovese and The Ukraine

site of Kitty Genovese murder (Union Turnpike)

The Russian destruction of the Ukraine brings back the Kitty Genovese case from l964, in which a Kew Gardens woman was stabbed to death while everyone watched and no one came to her help. The logic for non-intervention both makes sense and doesn’t. Sure the minute the no fly zone is protected, NATO forces will find themselves up against Russian MIGs. But isn’t that precisely what’s bound to happen anyway if Putin seeks his ultimate goal, the reconstitution of the USSR or Imperial Russia? NATO forces may be waiting at the Estonian, Latvian or Lithuanian borders, but what will be the result? Either war is avoided and the country run over or you have war. Putin seems to be an advocate of the famed Clausewitz saying about war being the continuation of politics by other means (leaving out, of course, the politics part). He has also said that sanctions are a declaration of war. Trauma is usually associated with victims of an assault (like the Ukrainians). But it was  traumatic for Kitty Genovese's neighbors, burdened with helplessness, subsequent guilt and feelings of responsibility for her death. The images Ukrainians screaming as they flee their bombed-out houses, of burning nuclear plants and hospitals under siege and of cluster and vacuum bombs (which literally suck the air out of lungs) are indelible and make one feel that perhaps the ante has to be upped in some way—perhaps through secret weaponized guerilla units (a foreign legion?) or selective cruise missile bombings (to counter those of the Russians). Remember Intermediate Range Ballistic Missile? What about "modified deployments?" Maybe the old adage about the best offense being a strong defense has to be taken even more seriously. Who's to tell who is Ukrainian military or not, if everyone is wearing the same uniform?

Read "The Final Solution: Democrazy" by Francis Levy, HuffPost

and listen to "War"by Edwin Starr

Friday, March 4, 2022

They is Watching

"struggle session" during Cultural Revolution

"One Graceless Tweet Doesn’t Warrant Cancellation," runs the title of linguist John McWhorter’s recent column (NYT, 3/1/22). What did Jeffrey Lieberman Executive Director of the NY State Psychiatric Institute, and Psychiatrist in Chief at New York- Presbyterian/Columbia University Irving Institute say to find himself expelled from these exalted positions? Here is the quote about the South Sudanesse model, Nyakim Gatwech which was the source of the trouble: “Whether a work of art or a freak of nature she’s a beautiful sight to behold.” The shunning which occurs by Zoom these days is reminiscent of The Scarlet Letter, but the public excoriation actually also brings to mind the excesses of The Cultural Revolution in China where members of the so-called elite (like Xi Jinping’s father who was once a prominent member of the party) were marched off to the countryside for hard work and reeducation. Many of those targeted were publicly humiliated and forced to wear signs around their necks. Pol Pot’s Khmer Rouge similarly routed the urban intelligentsia, with their punishment ending in The Killing Fields. One thing the recent Cultural Revolution has in common with those of the past is the lack of redress. Says McWhorter about the current climate: "There's something amiss if we're now at the point that someone's career is to be permanently tarnished and perhaps ended based on a passing error, which started as a misguided attempt at praise and which has been profusely apologized for." The absence of due process, including the right to defend oneself is what’s absent from almost all of the current proceedings—or cancellations as they’re euphemistically called. Remember Big Brother? “They is Watching.”

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

and see the animation of Erotomania

Thursday, March 3, 2022


Stalin, Churchill and Roosevelt at Yalta (February l945)

The degree of destruction neighbors wreak on each other is one of the great contrarieties of human nature, the seeming need to destroy as well as create. "You shall not covet..." responds to a condition. But what’s also astonishing is the capacity for détente, reconciliation and reinvention. Two of America’s closest allies are Germany and Japan who constituted the Axis. Italy is so identified with culture and love that one forgets it's still a bastion of fascism. Admiration for Mussolini and fascist architecture remains. It’s hard to know in the case of Berlusconi and Trump who's the clone of whom when it comes to the mixture of defiance and grandiosity that fuels their populist base. After Gorbachev, in the period of Glasnost and Perestroika, it seemed that America and Russia might one day become allies brokering peace in their respective spheres of influence. Today they’re figuring out how to hack each other’s grids. After massive destruction and death of the kind that’s being witnessed in Kyiv and Kharkiv, it’s hard to envision the turnaround that was characteristic of the Marshall Plan--in which the US rebuilt Germany into one of the most affluent and progressive societies of the world. 

Read "The Final Solution: Why Putin Voted For Trump" by Francis Levy, HuffPost

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

Wednesday, March 2, 2022

The Worst Person in the World

When you emerge from the third film of Joachim Trier’s Oslo TrilogyThe Worst Person in the World, everyone filing out seems like someone you know—which isn’t very hard these days since there are still so few people in theaters. The Worst Person in the World sounds a little like The Man Without Qualities. In this case, the title refers the main character Julie (Renate Reinsve) who allows herself (sometimes selfishly) to unreservedly feel and act on those feelings. And the feeling that you and your new found soul mates share, upon exiting, is that the director is telling your story, even when it’s not really your story. It’s the cozy empathy of The Three Sisters in which Chekhov makes you feel that you could have written the play (a kind of appropriation that must create some degree of discomfort in great artists who have this talent). The characters talk about erectile dysfunction, morning wood and use the term "mansplain." “I think sex is best when the dick isn’t that hard” says the 30 something Julie who has written an essay “Oral Sex in the Age of #MeToo” which asks the question “can you be a feminist and still enjoy being mouthfucked?’ Her boyfriend the graphic novelist Aksel (Anders Danielsen Lie) calls it “intellectual Viagra.” Ambushed by a pair of PCers on a talk show, he futilely tries to explain “the comic book version of me might call you a whore but I don’t think that.” All the signposts of the present are there, the culture wars, the sex wars (“I don’t like everything to happen on your terms,” Julie tells Aksel who wants to keep up with the Joneses by having a baby). Julie vents her own dissatisfaction to boyfriend #2, Elvind, when she says “you don’t mind serving coffee until you’re 50, but I want more.” Their first moment of intimacy btw is not sex, but going to the bathroom in front of each other. Been there, done that? In fairytales, the prince supplies the magic slipper. In Trier’s version of modernist dysphoria, the shoe and the foot are always out of sync. The film is filled with clever devices. The story is told in twelve chapters and also intermittently applies third person narrative. There's a disconcerting psychedelic fantasy sequence and another one in which the lead moves through a landscape of freeze-framed figures. “I don’t want to be a memory for you,” Aksel cries, in the film's fraught finale. “I don’t want to be a voice in your head. I don’t want to live through my art.” Baby boomers may recall Jill Clayburgh’s in Paul Mazursky’s An Unmarried Woman when they encounter Reinsve’s iconic performance.

Read "The Final Solution: Love Story" by Francis Levy,  TheScreamingPope

and watch the animation of Erotomania

Tuesday, March 1, 2022

Vladimir Putin or How I Stopped Worrying and Loved the Bomb?

Remember Slim Pickens’ famous lines: “Well boys this is it. Nuclear combat toe to toe with the Ruskies.” Maybe Dr. Strangelove should be renamed Vladimir Putin or How I Stopped Worrying and Loved the Bomb. Kubrick couldn’t have dreamed up this particular medicine man. The emotionless exterior suggests Hannah Arendt’s famous locution about Eichmann, “the banality of evil.” Previously Putin was regarded as the consummate realpolitician, but are appearances deceiving.? Has he actually gone off the deep end? Is he capable of pushing the button? “We’ll meet again don’t know where don’t know when” were the lyrics that accompanied the mushroom cloud in the l963 satire. One thing is true. The unbelievable is coming closer to reality. Who would have thought that a thug, with the hairdo of a used car salesman, worshipped by the founder of My Pillow, would destroy democracy?

Read "Putin Towers" by Francis Levy, HuffPost

and watch the animation of Erotomania