Monday, October 31, 2022

Involuntary Memory Wanted

“The past is never dead. It’s not even past.” The oft quoted Faulkner saw is more perplexing than it may seem. The very notion of “pastness” is a chapter out of relativity theory and in particular space time—which may open up a can of worms or wormholes. The classic timeline which usually takes the form of an old-fashioned wood ruler with gradients hardly does justice to the phenomenon that results from the interplay between modern astrophysics and concepts like procedural or episodic memory. Neuroscience and cosmology make for strange bedfellows but lyric pronunciamentos tend to fly in the wind when you’re on the event horizon of a Black Hole. Recently, The Wall Street Journal ran an article about “temporal disintegration” that has occurred as a result of the pandemic. The delineations of so-called time are more evanescent than perhaps classical historians might like. In addition you have the concept of "involuntary memory," propounded by Henri Bergson, which is the substance of A La Recherche Du Temps Perdu. How do you talk about the past when you’re dealing with phenomenon which to quote the outside artist Henry Darger lies In The Realms of the Unreal?

 read "The Origin of Our Species" by Francis Levy, HuffPost

and listen to "You Make Me Feel (Mighty Real)" by Sylvester

Friday, October 28, 2022

Tinder is the Night

One of the problems for writers, contrary to popular misconception, is how easy it is to get published. The internet has leveled the playing field, giving so many candidates their 15 minutes of fame that it’s hard to distinguish oneself from the tsunami of petitioners all vying for attention. One way out of this is to piggyback on an influencer or some service that allows one to separate from the pact. Pornhub is a repertory company which has created instant stars. In 2019 the company produced 136 million hours of content which received 42 billion hits. You have only to drop your pants and perform oral sex and you’ll achieve instant notoriety. Remember
 Fifty Shades of Grey, the self-published book that became a publishing phenomenon? You might ask why people will go to the lengths they do performing all manner of humiliating acts including coprophilia and bestiality in front of millions of viewers. Why? Because of the fear they will be forgotten. What would you rather do? Perform Midsummer Night’s Dream in summer stock or have your dream cum true in a triple penetration scene that goes viral? Once you’ve become "visible" you can go back to writing Long Day’s Journey Into Night, Journey to the End of the Night, Last Exit to Brooklyn or No Exit At All.

read "What Turns You On?" by Francis Levy, HuffPost

and listen to "Sexual Healing" by Marvin Gaye

Thursday, October 27, 2022

Beautiful Dreamer

photo: Australia animal crossing warning (Hossen 27)

Beauty is supposedly truth. "Art is the lie that enables us to realize the truth" is the over-quoted Picasso saw. "That’s all we shall know for truth" is the kind of Yeats quote you find embossed on towels in upscale B&B’s. Yet beauty is another victim of monetization and commodification. No one is free to enjoy unfettered beauty. Because it's been conferred to the sanctum of postcard art, a pressure is placed on perception. What is the real perception of beauty freed from the dictatorship of preconception? Occasionally it resides in the esthetic experience of seeing a quotidian world for the first time. The curtain goes up and voila the show doesn’t go on, rather it opens into "another dimension of not only sight and sound, but mind"--The Twilight Zone. Just as quickly the intelligence services rush in to spare the mind from roadkill, the open wound of a creature whose heart may still be beating. Remember Rudy Vallee crooning "The Beautiful Blonde From Bashful Bend" through his signature megaphone?

read "Money Monster" by Francis Levy, HuffPost

and watch the trailer for Erotomania

Wednesday, October 26, 2022

Blissful Uxory

Have you been to any weddings recently? Young marrieds live in a world of superlatives and hyperbole. None of the ironies that started with The Graduate are in sight. Where is Mike Nichols? Dead in spirit as well as body. Gen X wedding vows are a little like eulogies in the way they flirt with immortality and the pledge of “undying love." Baby Boomers were liberated from such protestations by the generalized skepticism about institutions. Now the world of make believe is predominating. In an odd way youthful couples are dabbling in the ideal the way their grandparents did, as they basked in the post-war optimism of the 50s.  “Til death you do part!” Life insurance companies employ actuaries, but it might be interesting if cold water rather than confetti were sprayed on couples running for the car with the “just married” sign on the fender. Romantic love is a high bar to set and those who have made it for the long haul may take a deep breath hearing the expensive laundry being aired at some bridal showers. Sex is nice and so is considerateness, but what about  hard truths like familiarity breeding contempt, not to mention human desire which often leads to a state of blissful uxoriousness?

read "The Age of Euphemism" by Francis Levy, HuffPost

and listen to "Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow?" by The Shirelles

Tuesday, October 25, 2022


Point of view of the batter. The pitcher massages the ball then pulls down the brim of his cap. POV batter. The ball is coming right at him. POV passenger standing under a shelter. His bus is coming towards him. He watches as a red Porsche speeds by on the blacktop. It’s a two lane highway whose white median leads to the vanishing point of a perspective. A peloton is speeding up the winding road of a hilltop town in Umbria. The famous Rome stock market scene with Alain Delon in Antonioni’s L' Eclisse (1962) followed by one that recalls Kubrick's The Killing (1956) in which stolen money is wafted away by a gust of wind. A woman is showering in the bathroom of her luxury suite. Her naked body is viewed from behind (as she stares at herself in the mirror) from the point of view of her lover who's propping himself up on a pillow. Full frontal shot as she turns. Quick cut to the same couple walking into the lobby of luxury office tower on Eighth Avenue and 41street opposite The New York Times and Wolfgang’s. Credits roll.

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

and listen to "Modern Love" by David Bowie

Monday, October 24, 2022

The Tractatus of Elizabeth Bowen

Elizabeth Bowen

If you remember Wittgenstein's Tractatus  begins with proposition #1: "The world is all that is the case" and ends with proposition #7, "What we cannot speak about we must pass over in silence." Telling the story of Portia, an orphan who has come to live with her half-brother, Thomas and his wife, Anna, in the tony drawing room world of l930s London, Elizabeth Bowen's The Death of the Heart might be called a Tractatus of emotion. “This lack of gout makes us have to behave with a certain amount of policy” says St. Quentin, a friend of Thomas’s wife Anna, in his parsimonious accounting of ambivalence. But here are some of Bowen's most notable ones: #1 one can suffer a convulsion of one’s entire nature and unless it makes some noise, no one notices #2 it’s not just that we are incurious, we completely lack any sense of each other’s existences, #3 if one didn’t let oneself swallow some few lies, I don’t know how one would carry the past, #4 experience means nothing until it repeats itself. Anna says about Portia, “everything she does to me is unconscious; if it were conscious it would not hurt” and she muses “she knew how foolish a person looking out of a window appears from the outside of a house—as though waiting for something that does not happen as though wanting something from the outside world.” And here is a doozie: "I don't think you ever know what is happening: you are too busy wondering what you can make of it."  For Bowen these pithy bits of observation, that at times take on the quality of puns, become a mode of disquisition, a signature style by which the writer paints her world. 

read "A-Z Quotes" by Francis Levy

and listen to "I Love You a 1000 Times" by The Platters

Friday, October 21, 2022

The Ethicist: What to Do If Your Life Is an Embarrassment?

photo: Tony Alter

Charles from Utica writes: “My life has been one big embarrassment. Recently I attended my 50th high school reunion. I was looking forward to it. I hadn’t seen any of my classmates over the years. I felt like I wanted to show off. No one would have guessed that I would have become a marathon runner, I was married and had five kids. Back in high school, I was a failure in athletics and no girls liked me. My heart was pounding as I walked into the old gym where I'd spent so much time sitting on the bench even in intramural sports. My wife Muriel was two years younger. When I graduated, she was still only in 10th grade. The first thing I did was to go up to one of the cool kids who never gave me the right time of day, but when I introduced myself, he didn’t even remember me. I wasn’t going to change the image he had in his mind since he didn’t have any. When I mentioned that I’d married Claudia, he just grinned. “Claudia_____?” he asked. There was a look of disbelief in his eyes. “Why?” I nervously replied, “What’s wrong?” Later, I saw him talking to another classmate. He didn’t notice I was looking as he laughed, pointing in my direction. Now I was getting angry. I could have interrupted, but I didn’t have the balls. This is exactly what has always happened to me. I miss my opportunity and then walk away thinking of all the things I could have said. What if I had grabbed my old classmate by the collar and asked “what’s so funny?” I'm always afraid people are laughing at me behind my back, but I’ll save that for another time.


Hi Charles: I wouldn’t worry about it. There are lots of Claudias. He could easily have been thinking of someone else and that someone could even have been in 10th grade the year you were graduating. But let’s take the worst possible scenario in which he had gone out with your wife or knew someone who had? And to be euphemistic let’s say he thinks even worse of her than he does about someone like you who he didn’t give any thought to at all. I have an exercise I use that you might experiment with—think the worst. Imagine what's going through his head. Poor bastard, I never knew him, but I would pity anyone who ended up with her. Marathon, psssst!

read "An Incident of Defenestration" by Francis Levy, Vol. 1 Brooklyn

and listen to "Piece of My Heart" by Erma Franklin

Thursday, October 20, 2022


Lockheed RQ-170 (Sentinel)

Droning is the sound bees make. One also talks about people droning on. Of course, the noun is the far more nefarious form of the word. Drones are the avatars of that modern day computer game known as war. An operator at some far away outpost spots the target whether it’s an Al-Qaeda big wig like Ayman al-Zawahiri (who was recently terminated with extreme prejudice by a drone in Kabul) or a city like Kiev, where the terror derives from the ability of the drone to feint. You don’t know where it will finally hit. The one thing that drones and computer games have in common is that they’re a value free, no contact sport (at least as far as the players are concerned). Missiles carrying nuclear warheads also are operated remotely, but they’re impact is less shielded from the operator since unleashing Armageddon anywhere is like standing on the Event Horizon of a Black Hole. The game itself is threatened. Drones of course can theoretically strike at the opponent’s drone factory. Drones are disconcerting. They resemble sophisticated toys and share a similar innocence, but how does one compare to another? How does the  Lockheed Martin RQ-170 Sentinel stack up against the Shahed-136, the drone Iran has given to the Russians. And what, ultimately, can drones accomplish that armies can’t? The answer must be left to the generals. 

"What Do Khalil Gibran and Karl von Clausewitz Have in Common?" by Francis Levy, HuffPost

and watch the trailer for Erotomania

Wednesday, October 19, 2022

The Fairness Doctrine

"Benefits Supervisor Sleeping" by Lucien Freud

It is admirable when you can admit the brilliance of a locution uttered by someone you hate who also happens to hold you in low esteem. This is one of the highest callings of the human spirit. Say, for instance, you hated Polonius but admitted “neither a borrower nor a lender be” is a cool way of saying it. It’s liberating to be able to appreciate people not for who they are but for what they do, what they produce or what comes out of their mouth. Patricia Highsmith was not a very likeable tortured person nor probably was Sylvia Plath or her one-time husband Ted Hughes, but they were all enormously talented. You wouldn’t have wanted to come into V.S. Naipaul’s path, especially if you were a woman or for that matter John Cheever, until he stopped drinking and wrote Falconer. Life isn’t fair and great trust and earnestness does not always produce beauty despite what Keats averred. Lucien Freud was a rat by all accounts, but it takes a Rat Man to produce the rolls of exquisite fat on models like Leigh Bowery and Sue Tilley. Some people find this tantamount to exploiting the bearded woman at the carnival, but in the hands of a brilliant sociopath, the equation "beauty doesn’t necessarily lead to truth begins to make sense." It is a like the search for a unified theory. Is it a matter of poetic justice or science? 

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

and watch the animation of Erotomania

Tuesday, October 18, 2022

Fail Safe

At the end of Dr Strangelove Slim Pickens as Major Kong famously straddles the H bomb as the bay doors open. He rides his WMD like a bronco, waving his cowboy hat and crying “ahhooahooo.” The film ends with the mushroom cloud exploding to the tune of “we’ll meet again.” The subtitle should be chanted like the 23 Psalm, “Or How I Stopped Worrying and Love the Bomb.” Now threats of Armageddon are being bantered about like bids in bridge. No Trump, anyone? The Kubrick film appeared in the wake of the Cuban Missile Crisis. Brinkmanship was a foreign relation policy on both sides of the Iron Curtain. The US and Russia stood each other down like street toughs. Since the Cold War, the possibility of mutual annihilation resulted in a zero sum equation. Everyone would have to play with their howitzers and drones. War became literally a computer game in which an angry, but value-free technology took on the burden of actual combat. Now the oblivion is again on the back burner. The unspoken gentleman’s agreement about nuclear parity is not being honored by at least one side of the table. Terms like “the domino theory” and “spheres of influence” were an important part of the choreography of a world order that was too big to fail. Now there seem to be no understandings, no buffers. Another l964 movie, Sidney Lumet's Fail Safe, more accurately describes the present predicament.  Remember “ban the bomb” rallies in the 60s. Now, nuclear arms themselves are no longer a deterrent. 

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

and listen to "Cool Jerk" by the Capitols


Monday, October 17, 2022

Bringing in the Bacon

Kevin Bacon (photo: Gage Skidmore)

If you’re having trouble figuring out why there are so many election deniers, maybe this will help. Democracy is not working for the Retrumplicans you see cheering wildly at MAGA rallies. It’s not "bringing home the bacon" for them. It’s nice to talk about the greater good, the Bill of Rights (which protects the one against the will of the many), but it’s just words, philosophy that the elites learned in the core curriculum studied at posh institutions. BTW in actuality the fact that so many Republicans in the Senate and House are allowed to support the insupportable is a proof on some level that democracy works. Your run-of-the-mill Republican official who simply wants to get reelected is not going to be concerned with either his or her legacy or how their deeds will go down in history. The concern about posterity is just one more “road less traveled” for Trump's "base." Also, it's almost cozy to believe in conspiracies or a "deep state" and much easier than facing the fact you've made your own bed and must now sleep in it. Trump is a walking paradox to the extent that he offers nothing and in fact pilfers from his following by not paying attention to the “one-time only” provision that accompanies most donation forms. He’s the classic robber baron who makes money on the backs of his low paid labor force. Why do they love him? Precisely because he says anything he wants, throwing out one lie or another willy-nilly which is not the credo of elitists like Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer. 

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

and listen to "Make America Great Again" by Pussy Riot

Friday, October 14, 2022


College admissions departments, especially at Ivy League schools, refer to legacy candidates ie those whose parent(s) attended the school. Everyone leaves a legacy whether it’s the fact they attended Harvard, made a name for themselves at Roto Rooter, or actually didn’t get into Harvard or achieve any of the ambitious goals they’d set for themselves. This last category of human being is generally bitter. Rather than adjusting, they feel they've been dealt a bad hand. They may criticize the admissions office for only choosing those applicants whose essays underscored their interest in the collective good over individual excellence, this latter being the thrust of their admissions essay.Those few souls who believe in a divine order may utter a sickening platitude like “everything is as its supposed to be or it would be different.” Does that help someone who’s the victim of a head on collision with another car—or reality for that matter?  Broken people leave the detritus of failure in their wakes. Even if you already have a BA, can you apply to get one from another institution? At the age of 80, when you finally finish an interminable analysis, can you reapply to Harvard? Can you go to the bottom of the ladder at DDB Worldwide if you never made it beyond being a middle manager at Ogilvy & Mather, and try all over again? What if there's a conspiracy against you? What if you’re hexed and nothing you do matters? Should you keep trying or simply give up, accepting the fact the cards are stacked against you. 

"What Do You Do When You're Caught in a Cultural Rip Tide?" by Francis Levy, HuffPost

"(I'm a) Roadrunner" by Junior Walker & The All Stars

Thursday, October 13, 2022

The. Death of the Heart

“No drawing from life just fails; it establishes something more; it admits the unadmitted. All Mrs. Heccomb had brought to her loving task besides pastels, had been feeling. She was, to put it politely, a negative artist.” The passage from Elizabeth Bowen’s The Death of the Heart might be description of the novelist’s task which is to change one’s perception of the world. “Any face, house, landscape seen in a picture, however bad, remains subtly but strongly modified in so-called real life and the worse the picture the stronger this is.” Certainly Bowen, an Irish-English artist, with a Jamesian flare for capturing drawing room society, was not casting aspersions on her own talent so much as accounting for both the difficulty of the project and its effect on the reader’s consequent perceptions. One can never be sure of an artist’s relationship to the characters they create. However, The Death of the Heart is at its core a Bildungsroman, about a highly sensitive young woman whose innocence and hurt, provide the canvas on which a complex sensibility (possibly that of the author herself?) is painted.

read "A Taxonomy of The Goldfinch" by Francis Levy, HuffPost

and listen to "Time is on My Side" by The Rolling Stones

Wednesday, October 12, 2022

Fists in the Pocket

Marco Bellocchio’s Fists in the Pocket (1965), is a polymorphously perverse essay on violence. It anticipates the culture wars of '68 and the Red Brigades, but is ultimately more primal. The theme is domestic terrorism (and not the kind of self-imploding political acts perpetrated by MAGA Republicans today) to the extent that the violence is leveled totally at family members. Alessandro (Lou Castel), the lead character, has been compared to Raskolnikov (like Dostoevsky, Alessandro suffers from epilepsy). However, he’s a nihilist and anarchist who also brings to mind Turgenev’s Bazarov to the extent that his acts are both literal and symbolic. Fists in the Pocket was Bellocchio’s first film. It was made when he was only 26 and breathes the oedipal contempt for bourgeois society which will titrate into a more sophisticated "politics" in later films like Devil in the Flesh. One of the most interesting leitmotifs of the film is the lightness of touch with which the most unthinkable acts are undertaken. Alessandro unleashes his hatred in a subtle almost muted manner. He gently leads his blind mother (Liliana Gerace) to the edge of a cliff, and effortlessly drowns his retarded brother, Leone (Pier Luigi Troglio) in a bathtub. Alessandro’s hatred is mitigated by a hauntingly psychopathic form of control. He places a pillow over his sister Guilia’s (Paola Pitagora) head, but then relents and ends up in a frenzy of contortions on the floor by her bed. The film is available from Criterion and includes interviews with both the director, his lead actor, Lou Castel, and Bernardo Bertolucci, an early admirer of the movie.

read "Crime and Punishment at 150" by Francis Levy, HuffPost

and watch the trailer for Erotomania

Tuesday, October 11, 2022

The Void

There are lots of reports by those from the world of the dead. If you believe the mind can bend a spoon, you’re likely to study these paranormal events in a purely preemptive way. What are the accommodations or the parking? But more importantly, is there a final accounting in which evil is punished? Was Dante's description of the Ninth Circle on the mark? Of course, the true mystery lies in the finality of death, in the fact there's no reincarnation or any beyond. Human consciousness is snuffed out in the same way you step on an ant or swat a fly. This is the bitter pill that’s hard to swallow. Imagining death is wish fulfillment. Nothingness and oblivion are impossible to conceive. One’s last moment on earth is unlikely to render any feeling, more or less a fall into hell or ascent into paradise. This final crossing is, in fact, not in the ken of human knowledge (despite all the myths which have attempted to visualize it) and therein lies the mystery of the last moment between life and death. Enter the Void is the title of the Gaspar Noé film based on The Tibetan Book of the Dead.

read "Entering the Void" by Francis Levy, HuffPost

and listen to "Everywhere" by Fleetwood Mac

Monday, October 10, 2022

Ordinary People?

Nicola Shulman offers up some doozies in her TLS review of two collections of obits, Lives Less Ordinary and Eccentric Lives, the latter culled from The Daily Telegraph. “Confronted with the information that the software engineer John McAfee (1945-2021) pledged to ‘eat his own dick on national television’ if Bitcoin didn’t hit $500,000 by 2020, the eye jumps to the bottom of the page. Here it says ‘he killed himself on June 23, 2021, but furnishes no details." English obituaries appear to be opinioned, with their mandate being not only to memorialize but also to evaluate the lives of the deceased.  The Times obituary of Stephen Joyce, the grandson of James, pulls no punches. Shulman quotes the barbs at length. “No publisher, author, producer, curator or politician who dared to invoke the name of James Joyce was safe from his grandson’s strictures.” Apparently Joyce Jr. once told a Canadian professor, “You should consider a new career as a garbage collector in New York City, because you’ll never quote a Joyce text again.” Shulman's review of these two tomes or tombs is a riot. Death be not proud? “He always resisted the urge to self-deprecate (George Pinto, Merchant Banker)…De’Ath’s life was one largely devoid of contrition.” “He is survived by his fourth wife Emily, and two sons.” “Barely you think,” comments the reviewer about Nosher Morgan “succumbing in the aftermath of 'a massive bender' to celebrate being sacked from his own security company.” The locutions that Shulman singles out are the epitome of a kind of British arcaneness and eccentricity for which the TLS provides the ultimate post mortem.

read "Obit." by Francis Levy, HuffPost

and watch the trailer for Erotomania

Friday, October 7, 2022

God is Dog

Savaronola by Fra Bartolomeo

Religion is much criticized because it purports to judge. Most religions present a catechism to which the individual either conforms or rebels. The anarchist or nihilist who claims he or she believes in nothing derives an exhilaration, even a feeling of transcendence that  in their rebellion against established sets of mores to which the righteous individual accedes. These latter individuals become exemplars or powers of example whose high standards of morality set the tempo of an age. In the most extreme form the man of God is a Savonarola, a destructive martinet whose belief becomes a cudgel. Dostoevsky’s Grand Inquisitor attempts to bring Christ to justice. The Enlightenment was like water to the Wicked Witch. Reason belied mysticism. By the l9th century, scientism was producing what Max Weber termed “disenchantment.” How to reconcile the crimes of self-appointed guardians of ethics with a human desire for transcendence?  The notion that nothing is unknowable is as procrustean as that of subservience to an irrational force or higher power. By definition, idea of God is not in the ken of man. It can neither be asserted nor denied.

read "An Incident of Defenestration" by Francis Levy, Vol. 1 Brooklyn

and watch the animation of Erotomania

Thursday, October 6, 2022

Diasporic Dining: Were Cantonese Restaurants Wiped By a Meteor?

Jade Mountain (photo: Maisa_NYC)

If you had grown up in the 50s or 60s you would undoubtedly have enjoyed establishments like the iconic China Bowl at 152-4 West 44th Street, where writers like John Cheever, on his way to or from The New Yorker at 25 West 43rd, ordered the number #1, Chow Mein, fried rice, egg roll and choice of wonton or egg drop soup, with their martinis. That was during the days when hot and sour soup like coronavirus had yet to hit these shores. Speaking of which you never think the tsunami is going to hit, even when you see the wave building. Some people were even laughing in the face of Ian and holding hurricane parties in places like Tampa—which shall we say, got rained out. But getting back to the subject of the past and oblivion. Hong Fat in Chinatown is gone, but you can still walk downstairs to the basement occupied for the past half century by Hop Kee, 21 Mott. And then on the upscale side there was Richard Mei’s King Dragon on 73rd and Third where the white jacketed waiters pulled silver covers off your steaming plate of spare ribs. Or there was Jade Mountain on Second Avenue where one letter of the neon sign was always burned out--and oldies courtesy of WCBS FM piped out of the kitchen. The earth was hit by a meteor and the ice age wiped out the Neanderthals. The same thing has happened to the Golden Age of Chinese American Cantonese cuisine which was worth the MSG headache. No pain no gain. Now in fact, old style Chinese or in fact all Chinese is going the way of the once ubiquitous Jewish deli. Wonton soup appears as a footnote in the wasteland of so called fusion cuisine--unless you're able to enter the wormhole leading to Albert’s Mandarin Gourmet in Huntington, an oasis of nostalgia. The University of Texas which has been known to buy the letters of famous American writers should consider starting a collection of defunct Chinese restaurant menus.

read "Diasporic Dining: Combination Plate" by Francis Levy, HuffPost

and listen to "Little China Girl" by David Bowie

Wednesday, October 5, 2022

Are Polymaths and Polyglots Polymorphously Perverse?

Benjamin Franklin (portrait by David Franklin)

Is there a connection between polymathism and polymorphous perversity? Are polyglots polyamorous? You’ll never accuse a polymath or polyglot of narrowcasting, but when one knows a great deal about many things, there's always the danger of spreading oneself thin. Polyamory is the country cousin of polymorphous perversity. If you're polymorphously perverse you're a hop skip and a jump from polyamory, if you aren’t already there. There probably aren’t too many polymaths who aren’t polyglots too, though not every person who speaks more than one tongue can be said to have a wide range of knowledge. Languages, which are a world unto themselves, create their own meanings, but a polyglot is not necessarily going to have read Beckett’s essay on Proust or the famous essay about the nature of consciousness, “What’s It Like to Be a Bat?” by the philosopher Thomas Nagel. Nagel is a polymath, but not a dilletante which is what happens to many polymaths who spread themselves thin. Benjamin Franklin, one of the most prominent polymaths in American history, was famously polyamorous as were George Simenon, the mystery writer and Wilt Chamberlain, the legendary basketball player, who claimed to have slept with over 1000 women.

read "Pornosophy: Is F*cking Losing Its Meaning?" by Francis Levy, HuffPost

and listen to "Don't Make Promises" by Tim Hardin

Tuesday, October 4, 2022

Radical Homeostasis

Marvin Miller and Inger Stevens as a switchboard operator  in The Millionaire (1956)

There are golden boys and girls and those who seem to be burdened with a reverse Midas touch, whereby everything they come near turns to shit. However, "the mass of men," yes "live lives of quiet desperation." Those richly gifted with talents seem to become exponentially richer while those of modest abilities only have  diminishment to look forward to. There are certain unlucky souls who will never need to be right-sized, but the majority fall into a slot, a form of self-conception they become comfortable with since it’s all they know. You may have heard of prisoners who've spent many years behind bars and essentially fear losing the constraints of the penitentiary. At a certain point you might have hated your circumstances, finding your life humdrum and certainly not what you dreamt of. Then there is the turning point where an adult form of “stranger anxiety” takes over and even the prospect of satisfying a dream starts to become a threat to homeostasis. The wallpaper of your quagmire starts to exude a rustic simplicity as does the sameness of your internal décor. It’s like the person who wins the Mega Millions jackpot and all of a sudden finds themselves estranged from their old neighbors and friends and not too happy about it. There was a fifties TV series, The Millionaire, where the amanuensis of a wealthy eccentric by the name of John Beresford Tipton gifted strangers with a check for $1,000,000 (about $12,000,000 in today’s dollars).The results, not always of a positive nature, are what made for the drama. “There are more tears shed over answered prayers than unanswered prayers,” said Saint Teresa. As they intone in the recovery movement, “you have to want what you have.” You've heard of radical forgiveness and radical acceptance. Try radical homeostasis on for size.

 read "Is Your Self-Invention a Success?" by Francis Levy, HuffPost

and listen to "How Can We Hang On To a Dream" by Tim Hardin

Monday, October 3, 2022


may be disconcerting to find yourself forced into a childlike relation to reality in the form of an authority figure, even in the last furlough that last age of man a la Jaques famous dissertation in As You Like It. You thought you were beyond having to knock on the door of some 25-year-old assistant to the big muckamuck, the latest Wizard creating thunderous sound effects and shooting up smoke behind a scrim. Your prognostications about crossing the finish line of success fall into the gutter in the face of some intake nurse in a emergency room. Literally all illusions of control fall to shreds when you're humbled by the demands of the gastrointestinal or urologic systems which are the great levelers. Basic needs reduce just about everyone to the role of petitioner. Perhaps the expectation that you have arrived and are somehow beyond being put in such a position is the source of the disappointment. “All I’m asking for is a little respect when you get home” sings Aretha Franklin. But maybe that’s too much to ask from those who hold the power to give or take entree or love. 

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

and listen to "Respect"by Aretha Franklin