Tuesday, March 21, 2023


 Will Rogers (photo: Underwood & Underwood)

“Will” as a verb is an expression of futurity. Also, “to will” something is to wish or desire it. As a noun, “will” is an expression of desire or appetite. Die Welt als Wille und Vorstellung is the title of the Schopenhauer work which deals with reason as a resort in the face of irrational passions. Will also happens to be a proper name. Shakespeare is the most famous Will. The title  of Stephen Greenblatt’s Will and the World plays upon the double entendre between the proper name and the noun. Will is also a name given to male children. You don’t find any females Wills in spite of Wilhelmina. Will Rogers is one of the most famous Wills. Will Rogers was sui generis, but many Wills are really Johns in disguise. Parents who want to belong will name their offspring Will to fit in. The choice of the name can become a self-fulfilling prophecy that takes the form of a blond haired kid from Darien wearing Topsiders and sailing their skiff into the harbor. Babies get stamped with Will, eventually becoming advertisements for chains with names like The Gap.

read "Will and the World Wars" by Francis Levy, TheScreamingPope

and listen to "Earth Angel" by The Penguins

Monday, March 20, 2023

Will and the World Wars

It’s dourly fascinating how a good thing, say the raising of interest rates by the fed to slow inflation, nets both good and bad results. Yes, raising interest rates has curbed inflation, but it’s also caused a run on some banks. The downside of more jobs is the possibility of an overheated economy and again inflation. Whether there was malfeasance involved in the suspicious sale of stock by SVB executives several weeks before the bank’s failure is currently the subject of investigation by the Senate. Or take another example from the international sphere. Glasnost, Perestroika and the taking down of the Berlin Wall were all welcome, but they led to "paranoiastroika"—about a diminishing of Russia's importance on the world stage. By the same token Versailles led to Hitler and Obama to Trump. What about the politicization of the Supreme Court? MAGA Republicanism? Will the judiciary be reshaped? Will a third party elect Liz Cheney president?

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

and listen to "Pain in My Heart" by Otis Redding

Friday, March 17, 2023

Will in the World

There are thousands of examples of interdependence. Most recently the fed raised interest rates to curb inflation. However, this caused the values of bonds, that banks like SVB held, to plummet. The run by panicked depositers followed.The Jewish religion differs from Protestantism to the extent that it deems man to be free; fate is not predetermined as it is say for Calvinists for whom grace itself becomes a barometer of worth. The notion of free will is complicated because it runs in the face of science; determinism diminishes the importance of volition. One God is distant and another has created a world which leaves no stone unturned. Is free will merely an illusion propagated by those who wish to believe there are no consequences for their acts? Countervailingly, is the notion of a universe where everything is part of a plan, a good excuse to avoid taking responsibility? Where does humanity stand, if everything is as it’s supposed to be? Is the notion of conscience, for instance, merely delusory? Or is the end result of all existence a mixture of the earthly and the divine?

read "Shakespeare's Alternate Reality" by Francis Levy, HuffPost

and listen to "Mr. Pitiful" by Otis Redding

Thursday, March 16, 2023

Person to Person

photo: Seattle Municipal Archives

In the days when Bell Telephone operators covered switchboards, there were “person to person” calls.
  “Person to person” from New York to LA was more expensive than a simple long-distance call since you were not simply linking one place with another, but specific people. The switchboard like the old locomotive barreling down wooden track beds constituted the montage of many 30s and 40s movies. Now that cellular phone service has eliminated the idea of people, places or things, the very concept of “person to person” communication is increasingly under attack. Instead of "person to person," you may connect with someone’s digital assistant or bot. In a radical turnabout, it's less likely to find a real person on the other side of any conversation. Intimacy has been the victim of technology. Face to Face was the title of a famous Bergman movie, but the real issue is human connection something which is increasingly being destroyed by expediency. One-on-one conversation in which you talk directly with another person, undermined as it has been by the advent of A.I.,  is increasingly becoming as rarified as cursive writing.

read Francis Levy's review of Fit Nation, The East Hampton Star

and watch the trailer for Erotomania

Wednesday, March 15, 2023

Vidkun Quisling

 Vidkun Quisling at left (1919)

Benedict Arnold was a traitor. The Norwegians actually coined a word “quisling” derived from the case of a military officer who turned out to be a Nazi spy. In the wake of Kari Lake’s defeat in the Arizona gubernatorial race, MAGA Republicans expressed their vitriol at election authorities by accusing them of being traitors—who should even be put to death. Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensberger received death threats after he failed to find the ll,780 votes Trump infamously asked him for over the phone. Trump isn’t facing seditious conspiracy charges like the ones Oath Keepers Elmer Rhodes and Kelly Megs were convicted of, though he's the closest thing to a Benedict Arnold Americans have ever witnessed, to the extent that his aim has apparently been the end of democracy—something which is a little worse than being a spy.Trump coined the term “fake news” and claimed the election was “rigged and stolen.” Rigging an election might not be as bad as totally killing democratic institutions but that’s like comparing apples and oranges. It’s a false equivalent. The problem is this. If two people call each other traitors who rig and steal elections with “fake news” which one is actually guilty of the crime?

read "The Final Solution: Was Hitler a New York Liberal At Heart?" HuffPost

and listen to "Land of a 1000 Dances" by Wilson Pickett


Tuesday, March 14, 2023

Congratulations to Trump U Valedictorian Kevin McCarthy!

taken from Ted Cruz 2016 campaign website

Kevin McCarthy is on his way to becoming a three-time loser. He has refused to take the train to Kiev to show his support for Ukraine. He's handed over the January 6 tapes to Tucker Carlson, and will very likely be forced to push against raising the $31.4 trillion debt ceiling, just in time to take the blame for the first ever default on US government debt. You might be kind to attribute McCarthy’s behavior to expediency. Without his alt right stances, he runs the risk of being toppled by MAGA Republican like Paul Gosar, Marjorie Taylor Greene and Lauren Boebert. The doctrine of "principleless leadership" has become a central tenant of Republican policy from the advent of the Trump administration. Paul Ryan and John Boehner, however one might have opposed their positions, were shaped by a different die and one in which principles still ruled above the kind of naked power plays which might have won Newt Gingrich a tenured position at Trump University. Talking of that storied alma mater, graduates of Trump University are filling leadership positions all over the world. Vladimir Putin has repeated his valedictory speech many times, with Xi Jinping not far behind as salutatorian. The ruling junta in Myanmar are Trump University graduates along with Victor Orban of Hungry and Alexander Lukashenko of Belarus. Trump University may be long gone, but McCarthy may end up graduating at the head of his virtual reality class.

read "The Final Solution: The Trumpenproletariat" by Francis Levy, HuffPost

and listen to "Reason to Believe" by Tim Hardin

Monday, March 13, 2023

The Whale

Darren Aronofsky's adaptation of Samuel D. Hunter’s play, The Whale. offers a unique interpretation of Moby Dick. Melville in the guise of Ishmael, offers so many boring chapters about whales to spare us from his own sad story. It’s a theme or leitmotif that runs throughout the movie. The divorced mother Mary (Samantha Morton) of the teenaged Ellie (Sadie Sink) has kept her from her father, Charlie (Brendan Fraser), because she wants to spare her Charlie's story and by proxy hers. Speaking of Ellie, it's not clear if she wants to “help or “hurt. “ She blows the whistle on a traveling evangelist Thomas (Ty Simpkins)  who has run away with the appropriately named New Life Church's money, but the result is not bad. Thomas is told it’s only money and welcomed back into the fold. The movie is about altruism and whether humans really care about one another considering all their selfish desires. “I need to know I have done one right thing with my life,” Charlie cries. That and his need to see his disturbed daughter as a fundamentally great person due to her honesty is selfish too. "Virtue signaling" is the term that's sometimes used to describe this need. So what's the verdict? Do humans care? The Whale is not the only movie about a person who eats themselves to death. There were a whole castle filled with them in La Grande Bouffe (1973) but that movie was a gratuitous existential act and here the perverse stuffing and subsequent obesity directly results from the pain of living. BTW, Obesity can be looked at as a form of padding, a protective defense. The Whale is controversial since it melodramatically pulls at one's heartstrings but so what, if you’re touched by Aronofsky's tortured characters? Brendan Fraser won the Academy Award for best actor for his "outsized" performance.

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

and listen to Tim Hardin's version of "Bird on a Wire"

Friday, March 10, 2023

Carlson Serves It Up

photo: Gage Skidmore
Patricia Swanson married Tucker Carlson’s father when the once and a future commentator was 10 years old. Carlson’s mother was the daughter of Carl Swanson and heiress to the wealth generated by Swanson TV dinners—which left an indelible imprint on American children who ate them while watching the tube. Actually, these mass produced packaged foods were part and parcel of a cycle beginning in the Golden Age of TV, which led to the disintegration of the nuclear family. Later, keyboards would betoken the decline of cursive writing, with chat bots heralding the end of the human presence in the turf once known as "interpersonal communications." It’s no wonder that that e mails about January 6 from Carlson are so duplicitous with regard to what happened on the infamous day that democracy itself came under fire. It’s no coincidence that the scion of a TV dinner dynasty would ultimately be producing "false news" about the election being "rigged and stolen." Carlson learned his lessons well. He knows how to serve it up.

read Francis Levy's review of Fit Nation, The East Hampton Star

and watch the trailer for Erotomania

Thursday, March 9, 2023

A Difficult Life

Una Vita Difficile is the title of the novel, Silvio Magnozzi (Alberto Sordi) the feckless protagonist of Dino Risi’s film is writing.  A Difficult Life (1961) is an ironic understatement. Sordi’s character is a maudlin Chaplin clown, buffeted by historical forces which begin with Mussolini’s surrender in l943 and end with the founding of the Italian Republic and the advent of the Communist party. The tone of the movie is sad and at the same time hilarious. In his helplessness, Sordi’s character emanates the tristesse of Giulietta Masina in La Strada (1954). BTW Silvio, unable to sell his book to publishers, heads to Cinecitta where he pleads for the attention of a director who swings away from him on a boom. In Alberto Lattuada's Mafioso (1962), Sordi played a character who was also torn, in that case between the urbane North and the South with its dark criminality. A scene which takes place in the aftermath of the plebiscite, which resulted in the defeat of the monarchy, epitomizes how the movie finds the humor in life and death issues. Neither Silvio, who barely makes a living writing for The Worker nor his wife Elena have eaten for days. However, they inadvertently find themselves at the table of monarchist aristocrats where food and wine flow freely as the votes are being counted. If they declare their allegiance to the Republic they won’t eat, but they pile the food high, at the same time carefully "mincing" their words. The denouement of the movie is redolent of similar ironies. Silvio who seems to be selling out as part of his attempt to win back Elena (Lea Massari) finds himself totally humiliated when his imperious capitalist employer sprays seltzer water into his face. In a final gesture of defiance he throws his boss into a swimming pool. This moment of triumph is truly tragic-comic since, leaving Silvio right back where he started, ie nowhere, it walks a thin line between the two. NB. The choreography of the comedy in one scene where Sordi staggers out of a nightclub onto a highway filled with tourist buses is a cinematic classic. A Difficult Life is completing a run at Film Forum. Don't miss it!

read Francis Levy's review of Fit Nation, The East Hampton Star

and watch the trailer for Erotomania

Wednesday, March 8, 2023

A CV of Obsession

A CV is usually a record of employment. However what if you created a resume of obsession? That’s what Sade’s 120 Days of Sodom is, along with Frank Harris' My Life and Loves. Look at Job whose employment (how odd that his name so neatly describes his destiny) was dealing with adversity. "To thine own self be true" says Polonius to Laertes. Beneath the scrim of propriety, the face that everyone shows the world, lurks a raging unconscious, a world of dream and desire that's the engine driving the train. Freud actually used the passenger’s eye view as a metaphor for free association. So imagine a vade mecum of places you have really been in your heart and mind.

read Francis Levy's review of Fit NationThe East Hampton Star

and listen to "Daddy's Home" by Shep and the Limelites

Tuesday, March 7, 2023


photo of Comet Pizza (Farragutful)

The Axis powers Germany and Japan were the threat to the liberal world order during the Second World War. Today the threats are Russia and China who have both moved away from periods of "glasnost" in which notions of a free market economy also led to the restoration of individual rights. However, the factors influencing the latest rise in autocracy are far more complex than they were in either the Second World War or its parallel universe iteration in say Philip K Dick's The Man in the High Castle. A paranoia about been engulfed or overwhelmed (in much the same way on a personal level individuals fear being overwhelmed by particularly strong personalities) characterizes the fundamentalism which has now become an important element in international politics. Just as fundamentalist religions fear the weakening of belief structures that facilitate conformity, China and Russia have both edged towards a cult-like concentration of power in single individuals, Vladimir Putin and Xi Jinping. It's Jim Jones on the level of the nation state and something that's more characteristic of religions than left or right wing parties. ISIS and the philosophy of Sayyid Qtub, who supplied the ideology for Al Qaeda are two sides of the same coin. Another way of stating this quandary in terms of America's growing political divide is, why are so many willing to subscribe to QAnon and Pizzagate  at the expense of the constitution and the Bill of Rights?

read Francis Levy's review of Fit NationThe East Hampton Star

and listen to "Rapper's Delight" by The Sugarhill Gang

Monday, March 6, 2023

War and Peace

 Vladimir Mayakovsky (1920)

Former president Medvedev recently said Russia's failure to prevail in Ukraine "potentially poses a threat to the existence of humanity." History negates his premise. After two stunning defeats Germany rose to become one of the wealthiest and influential nations in the world albeit as a democracy rather than autocracy. The human tendency to self-implode was demonstrated in the recent failed uprising in which antediluvian elements, fascists in tandem with a nostalgic aristocrat, attempted a coup. The last time that happened was in an episode of Babylon Berlin! If it ain’t broke don’t fix it. So what about reforming the mythology of the Russian state. Bring back the Trotskyites under which constructivism, Mayakovsky (one of his famous poems about Russian freedom is War and Peace) and Dziga Vertov all thrived. Long live Pussy Riot! Putin's contribution to Russian history is a dying plutocracy in which a few oligarchs knighted by Yeltsin keep the oversized yacht industry afloat. 

read Francis Levy's review of Fit NationThe East Hampton Star

and listen to "Irreplaceable" by Beyonce

Friday, March 3, 2023

Special Military Operation

"Portrait of Peter" by Jean-Marc Nattier

What's astounding is the extent of Russian nationalism. A member of The Times Moscow bureau, interviewed on CNN reported that her interviews with average Russians indicated an overwhelming solidarity with the "special military operation," which is the now infamous euphemism. Further there have been reports (also onCNN) that the Wagner group has been recruiting teenaged boys from Moscow schools who will be prepared to make up for the huge losses that their military has incurred. A fifteen year old high school sophomore would be ripe for service in three years. Obviously Wagner, at least, sees the battle of attrition going on 3 years hence. The Russians are seasoned martyrs for the mother land when you consider that 27 million died during World War II. What accounts for this strong irredentist impulse that has infected even literary figures like Dostoevsky and accounts for the historical racism towards Ukrainians? Peter the Great of course championed Imperial Russia. Then the revolution brought about The USSR. Interestingly nationalism crossed warring ideologies and institutions. The Chinese show a similar inclination when it comes to what they perceive as fractious assertions of identity --for instance by the Uyghurs. If the Versailles Treaty ultimately brought about the Second World War, then Glasnost, Perestroika and Gorbachov might be regarded as hastening the rise of Putin's brand of ultranationalism. The causes are almost self-evident. What's harder to understand is the perseveration in an action, towards a hostile populace, whose victory could only be Pyrrhic, at best.

read Francis Levy's review of Fit NationThe East Hampton Star

and watch the trailer for Erotomania

Thursday, March 2, 2023

Easy Rider

It’s a road movie. Everyone has one in them even when they aren’t going anywhere. At the very least you have a car which has to be moved due to alternate side of the street parking. For American youth the car is the emblematic symbol of freedom. Route 66 was a famous TV show yet modern technology will eventually force the driver to relinquish their hard earned freedom. Self-driving cars or not (Tesla just recalled 365,000 vehicles), Americans will ultimately find themselves on a kind of auto-drive which knows too much for anybody’s own good. Control and independence are ultimately relinquished for the sake of expediency. Easy Rider, a 60s classic is also a harbinger of the future. 

read Francis Levy's review of Fit Nation, The East Hampton Star

and listen to 'Baby-You Can Drive My Car' by The Beatles

Wednesday, March 1, 2023

The Misanthrope

Self-hatred is an emotion that's totally foreign to certain kinds of individuals. You may recognize the personality type who's never stymied and never assumes the burden or responsibility for hardly anything. On the off chance that they do admit wrong doing they show little remorse or need to castigate themselves. A self-flagellator might take some lessons from insouciant individuals, but he or she will never feel absolved. Just the reverse in fact. Such personalities tend to blame themselves for even those events they have little or nothing to do with. Self-hatred in turn produces its own form of punishment and persistent premonitions of failure are rarely assuaged by so-called success. Depression is sometimes defined as anger turned against the self, but it’s only one of the products of this negative narcissism. Subliminally self-defeating and maladaptive behavior of this sort characterizes Moliere’s greatest invention, Alceste, a character who succeeds in vilifying himself and others at the same time.

read "Sarcasm" by Francis Levy, HuffPost

and listen to "Tell It Like It Is" by Bonnie Raitt, Aaron Neville and Greg Allman  

Tuesday, February 28, 2023

Mind/Body WPA

The pathways that you follow in your life are the equivalent of veins and arteries, the axons and dendrites of the neuron communicating between synapses. You might call "the road less traveled," the exoskeleton. The trail of existence is seeded by DNA. Memory is an ether between the body and its peregrinations The public works project is human existence, a seemingly random act of will, filled with ulterior motive. 

read "The Church of Shit: All Welcome" by Francis Levy, HuffPost

and listen to "YMCA" by The Village People

Monday, February 27, 2023

An Odyssey

Soldiers rarely come home from battle to find the world the way it was when they left. The most famous example is Odysseus who’s unrecognized when he returns home except by his dog Argos. William Wyler's The Best Years of Our Lives describes the return of three soldiers from the Second World War. Many people who’ve gone through the past three years of the pandemic have been disappointed when they expected to pick up where they left off. It’s a different world, on the most simplistic level, because time has passed and they’ve aged--in some cases experiencing a diminution of their faculties, manifest when they finally emerge from one degree or another of isolation. Intrapsychically, those who may have previously been intrepid might have been chastened not only by the virus, but also the turbulence of MAGA Republicans and the threat to democracy. In terms of the exterior world, there were businesses that didn't make it and others that came into being. Main Street no longer looks quite like it once was.

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

and listen to "Night Fever" by The Beegees

Friday, February 24, 2023

True Crime

Why the avid attention to the Alex Murdaugh case—which appears to get more press than either the subpoenas of the January 6 special prosecutor or the findings of the special grand jury called by district attorney Fani Willis in Fulton County? TRUE CRIME is the rubric under which the case would be classified and it’s almost refreshing to have a tale that delivers nothing other than pure evil. Even so this is not Leopold and Loeb. Its motives are not ulterior. CNN preempted regular programming to televise the defendants tear-filled testimony filled with details of life in the Murdaugh kennel--when a dog grabbed a chicken by the neck. The crime as described is horrific but on a scale of one to ten doesn't compete with genocide at the Topps supermarket in Buffalo. Murdaugh was a well-to-do gentleman farmer and personal injury lawyer who was accused of embezzeling his own law firm. He's not a particularly appealing individual but one doesn’t find oneself rooting for or against him. Murder is naturally unjust but the case is so much a product of its milieu that it illuminates literally nothing then the shadowy life of a once powerful southern aristocrat on the verge of losing everything.

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

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

Thursday, February 23, 2023

Ode to Repression

Disinhibition is the stuff of snake oil salesmen. Repressive desublimation was Herbert Marcuse’s response to "turn on tune in drop out." The Frankfurt School philosopher’s idea was that hedonism created a false euphoria that took the pressure off and covered up the healthy instinct for change.  It's easy to be reactive and spontaneous and more challenging to ruminate. Taking action can be like a hot potato, but these kinds of impulsive behaviors often lack impulse control. You may have been freed from indecision only to be set loose on a path based upon a faulty perception of a reality. Repression is what many patients enter into therapy to escape. On the other hand, it has its place on the food chain of consciousness. It allows the dust of delusion to settle in such a way that the sharp lines of reality supplant the ephemeral maelstrom of emotion.

read "Make Love and War" by Francis Levy, HuffPost

and listen to "Stubborn Kind of Fellow" by Marvin Gaye

Wednesday, February 22, 2023

The Ethicist: What To Do When Someone Who Has Never Paid Any Attention To You Dies?

It’s always disconcerting to encounter people who recuse themselves from eye contact. There are those whose indifference is set in stone. You might shrug your shoulders and say so what? But their total lack of validation is a rebuke. The odd thing is how steadfastly these naysayers can weave themselves into your imagination. Like the figure of death in the famous episode of The Twilight Zone, they're always planted in your rearview mirror. Years pass and the goal to which you've devoted your life still eludes you. The mini-deity of unfulfilled wishes has become your idol. Meanwhile, driven to finally make the cut, you work, work experiencing small victories, until one day having achieved an undeniably estimable success, you pick up the daily paper to find the object of your desire has died, taking their inattention with them to the grave. What should I do?

Adam P, Cincinatti 

You're not going to turn the dead around, but look at your glass half full. There is one less person in the world who doesn't give a damn about you.

read "The Ethicist: What to Do If Your Life Is an Embarrassment?" by Francis Levy, TheScreamingPope

and listen to "Cool Jerk" by The Capitols

Tuesday, February 21, 2023


By undertaking the previously unannounced visit to Kiev, Biden has made an aggressive move on the chess board--endangering a powerful piece. In this case, not a castle, knight or queen but himself. The trip was strategically as well as symbolically important sending a message of unwavering commitment that even Republican stalwarts like Lindsay Graham applauded. The general view is that the Russians are losing and left using their only asset, manpower. Untrained draftees are summarily thrown in a human wave against the Ukrainian positions, in the hope that the Wagner group will be able to exploit a moment of weakness. Thusfar this hasn't worked.  However stalemate rather than victory still appears to be the only way to characterize this battle of attrition. When a chess player realizes there's no way out they tip their king. If the war were a game, what would be the equivalent gesture? With the Chinese on the verge of ramping up support for their ally, there doesn’t appear to be any prospect that Putin will resign, but what will be the boundaries of the stalemate?

read "Donald Trump Plays Chess With Death" by Francis Levy, HuffPost

and listen to "War" by Edwin Starr

Monday, February 20, 2023


Buzz Aldrin on Moon

Marathon racers talk about “the wall.” But it’s an experience that’s not confined to running. Everyone has their wall. Aspiration can be deceptive. Workaholics don’t like to accept the idea of limits. Many athletes involved in extreme sports seek to get close to the feeling where they can’t go on—which creates its own high. Of course, there is no such thing as limitless behavior or aspiration. Faust sold his soul for ultimate knowledge, but was the wager worth it? When Roger Bannister ran a 4-minute mile he set a record, which has since been broken numerous times. Hicham El Guerrouj currently holds the men’s title at 3:43.13. Advances in training and diet are constantly being made, but it’s unlikely that any human being will ever run a 3-minute mile (unless of course humans become a race of cheetahs). Great champions perform physical feats. The talent may run from javelin throwing to eating hotdogs (the record is currently held by Joey Chestnut who ate 63 Nathan’s hotdogs and l0 buns in l0 minutes). But everyone has their personal best, which looks like a an reverse parabola on a graph. It’s up, up, up and then all downhill after a certain point. Even if you’re not a champ, you have to learn to live with decline just as you once exulted in the triumph of attainment.

read "Diasporic Dining: Did Mao Order In Chinese?" by Francis Levy, HuffPost

and listen to "You Make My Dreams Come True" by Hall&Oates

Friday, February 17, 2023

Annals of AI: What Happens When Your Gifted Self-Driving Car is Disturbed?

Tesla has recalled over 363,000 cars with 'Full Self-Driving" or FSD technology. The problem apparently relates to 3 areas: cars in a turn lane which go straight through an intersection, cars which go through a yellow light and cars which don’t pay attention to stop signs. Until those cars get back to the shop, both caveat and pedestrian emptor. You know the old saw about it being "more dangerous to cross the street" when people try to warn you ofF taking a hit of ecstasy. Well now you may think twice since with all those Teslas on the loose, crossing the street has become a little like Pamplona where the bulls are coming right at you. One wonders about this FSD technology which depends on AI. What if a very intelligent car turns out to be like one of those gifted people who are disturbed? Or a precocious kid who asks to drive even before they're ready? Don't let your car run the show, no matter how independent you've taught them to be.

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

and listen to "Stop In the Name of Love" by The Supremes

Thursday, February 16, 2023

A Blind Study of Covid

coronavirus (Alexey Solovodnikov)

Forget blind studies, were you blind to think you would be exempt? What if the NIH embarked on a major examination of Covid involving one person, you! You've been hearing about Covid for years, but you suffered from narcissistic grandiosity.Then lo and behold, you’re coughing all night. When your temperature climbs to almost 102, you go over to Urgent Care, where you're expeditiously tested for flu and Covid. When the doctor comes in and asks how you are, you say, "fluish" He says "that’s funny  because you have Covid" and quickly writes you a prescription for Paxlovid. Does all this sound like an episode of Black Mirror? You debate whether to take the drug. You've heard of mild cases, but that's plainly not what the data is showing. Everyone is calling but you’re too sick to talk. You discuss woulda coulda shoulda with your immediate family members which consist also of one person, your wife. She asks, where you thought you got it? You don’t remember, but return to the room where you're quarantining, waiting for the next meal which will be placed in front of your door. You congratulate yourself on becoming a statistic.

read "Dr. Kildare On Covid-19" by Francis Levy, TheScreamingPope.com

and listen "Every Little Bit Hurts" by Brenda Holloway

Wednesday, February 15, 2023

A Stop at Willoughby

James Daly in "A Stop at Willoughby"

In this day and age a great Shakespearean hero like say Othello is more likely to die of life itself rather than battle. You may look at Biden that way. He came from practically last in the field to winning the nomination, only to have his election questioned. “Rigged and stolen” was the meme he had to live with even as an insurrection was crushed on the eve of his moving into The White House. Lucky Biden didn’t suffer from being an “as if” personality. People with a fragile sense of self would shudder at being in a predicament where they spent their first term facing the constant threat of decertification. The State of the Union was an unexpected triumph especially in the way Biden successfully handled the fur-collared Marjorie Taylor Greene who booed him in the background. Lo Biden turns out to be one of the most successful presidents in modern history—from a legislative point of view. He jousted with his opponents but was never felled. Next Stop Willoughby.

read "The Final Solution: Democracy" by Francis Levy, HuffPost

and listen to "Shotgun" by Junior Walker & The Allstars

Tuesday, February 14, 2023


"The Last Judgement" by Far Angelico

If you have trouble imagining hell, remember the refrigerated trucks with bodies. The sufferers often died alone in sealed off wards, without the solace of family or friends Donald Trump, the Antichrist played the role of Dostoevsky’s Grand Inquisitor as mobs cried “lock her up” and the medieval caravans of Proud Boys and Oath Keepers drunkenly careened towards January 6th. Finally, the inconceivable became conceivable. Weren't the constant iterations of "fake news" and "the election was rigged and stolen" another hell in and, of themselves? The rug was pulled out from under willy illy. No one has really created a pro forma to deal with the end of the world, though artists like Hieronymous Bosch and Brueghel tried to do it justice? 

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

and listen to "Slip Away" by Clarence Carter

Monday, February 13, 2023

Mea Culpa

San Franciso Peep Show (photo: Nick Grifton)

What the confessional and the psychoanalytic couch have in common is that the patient or penitent does not see the doctor or priest who's the repository of their memories and thoughts. In its early years psychoanalysis went to great pains to separate itself from religious and spiritual activities. As Freud’s treatment sought to establish itself it participated in what Max Weber would call “disenchantment”—in which transcendence deferred to scientism. In Freud and Man’s Soul, Bruno Bettelheim described the profession making landfall in the United States and immediately attempting to rid the German of its spiritual connotations. The word “parapraxis” is one of the examples Bettelheim used to demonstrate how clinical terms replaced their more poetic German antecedents. Still a famous analyst Robert Coles would write The Spiritual Life of Children. Peep shows were enormously prevalent in Times Square during the 70s and 80s, when New York was a wide-open city. The basic choreography of the peep show involves a token being inserted and a blind going up revealing a woman, usually attired in lingerie. The customer and model pickup up phones on which they talk to each other. Afterwards, an attendant mops up the floor of the booth with disinfectant. As farfetched as it may seem, the peep show, the confessional and the psychoanalytic couch all have something in common. In each an solitary soul is disburdening themselves of sins, memories or in the case of the peep show, semen. 

read "Sperm Count: Talk Dirty to Me" by Francis Levy, HuffPost

and watch the trailer for Erotomania

Friday, February 10, 2023


"God Blessing the Seventh Day" (William Blake)

Despite the preponderance of discussions about the meaning or existence of God, few seem to entertain the notion of a God that has little time for man. Agnostics discountenance God on the basis of empirical evidence, most of it relating to God’s failure to intervene in genocides like the Holocaust. God is tantamount to wish fulfillment or not. What if there were a transcendent being, a force which has no particular connection to worldly or even galactic contingency? Maybe God is something whose purpose it's almost impossible to ascertain. The mystery of God is not in their existence, but their place in the great chain of being. What if God and Nature have nothing to do with each other and God answered like some doctors in the increasingly specialized field of medicine that say thoracic problems are not their area of expertise. Further, if God is a specialist what is their functions? Conatus was the term employed by Spinoza for life force. Such pantheistic notions of a paranormal or transcendental force might, in fact, reside in the oblique issue of first causes. If there's a God who created man then God arrived way before Man. It's unlikely they were going to subscribe to the notion that the newcomer is the most important person in the room.

read " Is God a Dog?" by Francis Levy, The Screaming Pope

and listen to "Up on the Roof,"by The Drifters

Thursday, February 9, 2023

Is God a Dog?

                               photo: Cwazi

All roads lead to Rome—or Jerusalem. Is God a veterinary problem? If dog is god backwards, those who believe there's a meaning and purpose to the universe will aver the smordnilap is no coincidence. The only question is: what breed? Are “they” a sad-faced cocker, a vicious pit bull, a shelty, a collie like Lassie or a German shepherd who sniffs for caches of drugs at the airport? The notion of God as celestial operator fielding requests is quaint—and very human, but it’s more likely that god is a barking dog. Remember the dog who barks doesn't bite? Imagine getting bitten by one of those breeds of god and then insisting to the recalcitrant owner that their god has to get a rabies test. It all comes down to this: Is God a beneficent force who has created the heavens and the earth and man, or is God in the dog house—which is to say that all of life as we know it came into being approximately 13.8 billion years ago, as a result of a Big Bang that no dog could have created. If you were singing its praises, as worshippers often do in houses of prayer, would it make sense to cry out Elvis's famous words, "You Ain't Nothin' But a Hound Dog...?"

read "God Redux" by Francis Levy, HuffPost

and listen to 'Barbara"(1960) by The Temptations

Wednesday, February 8, 2023

Rome Journal: An Antiquity a Day

It would be interesting to do a plebiscite on what percentage of the population of Rome has visited the Colosseum. If you’re a Manhattanite, you in all likelihood have never visited the Statue of Liberty or the Museums on Governors and Ellis Island. Going to see the famed birthday cake monument in honor of Victor Emmanuelle II in the Piazza Venezia is a little like going to Times Square on New Year’s Eve. No New Yorker, well almost no New Yorker, does it—it’s mostly a destination for visitors, as are monuments like the Pantheon and the Baths of Caracalla. On the other hand both Times Square and the Colosseum have undoubtedly had an impact on New Yorkers and Romans alike. Times Square is a retired Id, to the extent that it once was bawdy (and now has been transformed into a New Jersey mall). Roman ruins are like the unconscious itself (it’s no coincidence that Freud looked at psychoanalysis as archeology). What would you rather possess the Id of a Times Square peep show, or the vestiges of a once great civilization which has endured in another iteration—even after the fall of its Empire? How do you like them apples? Imagine taking the Number 75 bus (which goes right past the Colosseum) every day to work rather than the MTA Fifth Avenue bus, which passes the Empire State. Both are grand endeavors, but come on, which do you think provides the bromide of the ages? BTW do you still need psychoanalysis when you face the ancient world on the bus every day? The answer is probably yes.

read "Rome Journal: Ruins" by Francis Levy, HuffPost

and watch the animation of Erotomania