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

Tuesday, February 7, 2023

Can ABC Pull the Rug From Under?

 Engraving of great Lisbon Earthquake of 1755

Seeing the news footage of the earthquake coming out of Turkey is strangely reminiscent of the recent Russian bombings in Ukraine. The difference is one was caused by a 120-mile fault creating a magnitude 7.8 level event followed by a series of equally if not more devastating aftershocks and the other is manmade. In one the earth opened up literally pulling the rug out from under cities and the other is the continued result of carpet bombing. ABC Carpet could figuratively service the devastation. The Lisbon earthquake was one of the most powerful of all time (though Pompeii famously caught its population in flagrante) and is the basis of Voltaire’s
 Candide, throwing cold water on Dr. Pangloss’s rechanneling of Leibnitz with the indelible “all’s the best in the best of all possible worlds.” The difference between Ukraine and Turkey/Northern Syria is that the destruction by the Russians has literally given Ukraine the sense of purpose that the Turks and Syrians may lack. Hate is a cause, but one can’t hate nature whose wrath lacks agency--unless one believes in God.

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

and listen to "War" by Edwin Starr

Monday, February 6, 2023

Close Encounter?

Chinese spy balloon

Can something be both brazen and clandestine? The Chinese claim the balloon set loose in US airspace was of a merely meteorological nature. But the question is, what does the temperature in Billings (near where the US stores nuclear war heads) have to do with China? Anyway, it points to the fact that there are constantly new forms of intelligence, in both meanings of the word, IQ and secret information. There was, in fact, something Confucian about the balloon since it’s course was so egregious and its presence so benign at the same time. Balloons conjure Jules Verne’s Around the World in Eighty Days. With the advent of quantum computing, recondite information stored in highly restricted areas of cyberspace will likely become obsolete. Everyone will eventually know everything about everybody. Could the large nebulous object drifting across the US have been part of some mind game the Chinese were playing whose end result was simply off the grid? Could the Chinese have been borrowing the the trope of the extraterrestrial being settling down in the middle of Middletown USA. ET and Close Encounters both presented robotic creatures with a heart. It’s unlikely China’s balloon was a gesture of peace, coming as it did in the aftermath of Lloyd Austin's appearance in the Philippines. It was frightening not because it was going to overhear something or see something it shouldn't, but precisely because it’s purpose was so enigmatic.

read "What If Former Presidents Hung Onto the Nuclear Briefcase?" by Francis Levy, TheScreamingPope

and listen to "China Girlby David Bowie

Friday, February 3, 2023

Rome Journal: Passeggiata

Passeggiata by Hallie Cohen (60"x144")
The famous Christ figure hanging from the helicopter in the opening scene of La Dolce Vita is on a collision course with the materialism and vacuity of post-war Rome. However, it was not so much the Via Veneto or even a tourist site like the Trevi fountain, where Anita Ekberg takes her famous bath. It's the history of fascism and, in particular, the Holocaust on which Fellini’s time machine had set its sights. Pius XII had notably remained silent as the Jews were rounded up in l943. If you travel to the now bohemian neighborhood of Pigneto, you’ll come across the devouring Pasolini Eye painted by Mauro Palotta or “Maupal.” This looking glass with its massive animal eyebrow reigns like an esthetic security camera surveilling for inauthenticity and moral corruption. Today the Jewish Ghetto, bounded by the Portico of Octavia on one side, is a tourist attraction. It’s hard to believe that these bustling streets were once a scene of terror for which the ancient ruins of the past, and the nobles and Gods they memorialized, provided little protection.

read "Rome Journal: A Glass of Water" by Francis Levy, HuffPost

and listen to Nino Rota's soundtrack for La Dolce Vita

Thursday, February 2, 2023

Rome Journal: Caged Beast

caged ruins, Piazza Argentina (FLevy)

The ruins of Rome are caged animals. You look at them from afar protected by fences and gates. In the Central Park Zoo the animals are caged to protect the visitors. In the case of Roman ruins, this decontextualizing of the past creates more than one degree of separation. Traveling through Rome it’s often difficult to absorb the corralled images one's seeing. There are exceptions. For instance, the Pantheon is right in your face, as it would have been to anyone approaching it from a side street in the ancient world. Tourists walk freely in an out to view the Oculus. The site, in comparison to some other historic Roman venues, is a living monument to the past. Rome is a time warp, a portal into the ancient world. The challenge lies in letting go of the tethers that chain both the mind and the beast.

read "Rome Journal: The Fall of Rome" by Francis Levy, HuffPost

and listen to "Take a Little Piece of My Heart" by Erma Franklin

Wednesday, February 1, 2023

Rome Journal: Divorce Italian Style

It is not Spring, but on a January day in Rome it feels like it. Do the Milanese in the north go to Rome like Snowbirds to Boca? It’s the kind of day that particularly delicious on the Viale Glorioso, the cul de sac whose magnificence derives from its majestic staircase, composed of five landings. A group of high school kids on a class trip is chaperoned by an elegant 40ish teacher who one imagines lives a double life, perhaps as an actress in Divorce Italian Style Redux. The whole contingent is crowded around the one narrow café. Stragglers can be found in the bespoke sneaker shop next door. On the Glorioso stairs a young blond with a fit bit puts an onlooker to shame as she scampers up and down the steps, effortlessly and without a touch of breathlessness. The students and the climber all soon disappear. All that remains are the varying couriers on motorcycles and vans, including a UPS driver in his brown uniform, ringing intercoms and engaging in a back and forth with the apartment dwellers who occupy the worn midcentury dwellings whose balconies overflow with plants.

read "Rome Journal: An Oasis For Depressives" by Francis Levy, HuffPost

and listen to "Cry Baby" by Garnet Mimms and The Enchanters