Friday, June 30, 2023

Bleak House

Is there value free jurisprudence? In her blistering dissent, Kentanji Brown Jackson said of the affirmative action decision that it "proceeds (ostrich-like) from the hope that preventing consideration of race will end racism."Justice Sonya Sotomayor compared its delusive exceptionalism to "putting lipstick on a pig." Deconstructionists have argued that language itself is culture bound. What's good where everything is by definition relative? And what's moral? Does equality mean no accommodation is ever made in a contest? Survival of the fittest in absence of context recalls Herbert Spencer's Social Darwinism, the ideology which justified the worst abuses of the Industrial Revolution. What does it actually mean for Justice to be blind? Jarndyce v. Jarndyce was the case that goes on for generations in Dickens' famed novel about the courts. Bleak House is also the legacy of a Trump appointed conservative majority. However, hope springs eternal. Amherst College has now undertaken a policy of what might be called "affirmative detraction" whereby legacies are no longer given preferential treatment.

read "Social Darwinism Redux" by Francis Levy, HuffPost

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

Thursday, June 29, 2023

Are You a Robot?

So you insert the correct User Name and Password but then you’re asked if you’re a robot to which any robot could be trained to answer "no" and after jumping that hurdle you have to say which square has telephone wires, dogs, buses or motorcycles. This scenic part of your journey can easily backfire so Caveat Emptor! The way so many sites deal with those who would like to get on is to reject prospective clientele even when the correct answer is given. It’s a test of perseverance, if nothing else. But the point is you’re not going to get to the site for PSEG unless you’re willing to face rejection. Some sites are even like Studio 54 to the extent that figuratively they have a velvet rope and digital bouncer blocking the entranceway. You may have encountered those who are alternately exuberant or downcast as a result of their luck in getting onto Verizon or Pay Pal. Then there are the desperate ones who refuse to give up and will sell their souls to a dotcom.  

read A-Z Quotes from Francis Levy

and listen to "So Many Men, So Little Time" by Miquel Brown

Wednesday, June 28, 2023

Planet Duane Reade

Chains are selling a world as well as a product. You slow down your engines as you land on CVS, Walgreen’s, Wendy’s or Raymour & Flanigan. Everyone knows that one of life’s sublime pleasures is to quaff down an Impossible Whopper in the parking lot of Burger King while listening to MSNBC’s Lawrence O’Donnell. Some of these stop-offs display the self-sufficiency of planet earth. Others like Dunkin’ Donuts could be sometimes threatening asteroids, floating through the cosmos chaotically without a rhyme or reason for their existence; you cannot survive In a Dunkin’ Donuts biosphere but Duane Reade is another matter to the extent that it comprises a universe filled with possibility. BTW did you know that Duane Reade is not named after a person but two streets in Tribeca? You could live forever in a DR whose aisles offer everything from dinner to Astroglide all served up in the Muzak of the spheres. Houston calling Duane Reade.

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

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

Tuesday, June 27, 2023

On the Principle of Population

 Is the earth becoming like The French Laundry the high-end restaurant in Napa Valley where you can wait a lifetime for a reservation? In France they say "nous somme complets” or "desole" when you ask for a prenotazione (Italian for reservation). In other words is the planet running out of things? In the Hamptons a fragile ecology is threatened by a dearth of farmland. Why kill yourself growing corn when an acre can go for millions? On the other hand there are, in fact, huge swathes of desert and ocean that beg the notion of eternity. Malaysia 370 has not been found. The Mariana Trench, which James Cameron has reached in a submersible, is like Everest upside down. Still population is not decreasing in the undeveloped world where there will always be too many mouths to feed. In tandem with this phenomenon is the fact that the birth rate is declining in highly affluent societies where there's food to spare.

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

and listen to "Lazing on a Sunny Afternoon" by The Kinks 

Monday, June 26, 2023

How to Tell If You're Neurotic?

Signund Freud DDS

How to determine if you’re a neurotic? Do the symptoms manifest anecdotally? Do you need a saliva test (salivation is one of the first signs of neurosis).
 To begin with you may want to see a specialist, whose field is neurotic disorders. Many sufferers try psychoanalysis but with all the new DSM classifications, you may want to see someone with a different kind of advanced degree, preferably a DDS. Those who grind their teeth at night will know that childhood conflicts create cavities. Root canals not dreams are to quote Freud “the royal road to the unconscious.” Freud, btw, flirted with dentistry before he became convinced that mental problems often began with the teeth. If you consider the fact that dentists cure one of the most common symptoms of mental pain, toothaches, you begin to realize how important a good dentist can be when it comes to mental health. If you’re feeling a sense of vacuity, you might, for instance, first get x-rayed to see if it's cavities that are causing the problem. After each visit the dental assistant who performs your prophylaxis will give you a little plastic bag with floss, toothpaste and a new toothbrush. Some patients spend years in talk therapy without realizing that the solution to their problems simply lies in dealing with another part of the mouth--the incisors. 

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

and listen to "Hot Pants" by James Brown

Friday, June 23, 2023

Strivers' Row

Strivers' Row is the block of elegantly appointed brownstones along 138th street and 139th Street. The name emanates from the years of the Harlem Renaissance in the early part of the twentieth century which ultimately produced major figures like Ralph Ellison. Every community has, at least, a figurative version of the same architectural signpost. But who are the so-called “strivers.” Even if they were gifted with particular talents, they’d undoubtedly have to step on someone else to rise to the top. Ruthlessness often attends ambition. Ayn’s Robert Roark from her novel The Fountainhead epitomizes Nietzsche’s “ubermensch” or “Superman” who’s characterized by a singleness of purpose.  Not everyone is possessed by this kind of drive. In its most invidious form you have a Trump or even Darth Vader, who, significantly, was once good. Power and wealth go with the territory. Naturally these are things that most people want and few achieve. Are Fifth Avenue and Central Park West, two great thoroughfares that face each other and preside over Central Park the Valhalla of human talent or are they just imposing residences occupied by the rich?

read "Pornosophy: Full Stop At the Intersection of Sexuality and Ambition" by Francis Levy, HuffPost

and listen to "Gotterdammerung by Wagner

Thursday, June 22, 2023

Strung Out

Everything Everywhere All At Once, the sleeper Academy Award Winning film has achieved its success due to the recognizability of its themes. According to the doctrine of eternal return one's form exists in infinite doppelgängers. A monkey sitting in front of a typewriter iterating Hamlet is another expression of the same idea. But that’s intellect. What about emotion and catharsis? The reason why moviegoers liked EEAAO is that they recognized themselves in it. Parenthetically the reason why Jackson Pollock was recognized was not through the machinations of a dealer though that obviously helped. The world is not what it appears to be and in this case foresight is 20/20. In analytic theory the concept of "apres coup" posits the notion that trauma only reveals itself to victims post hoc. The nature of the universe hence may not be Stuart Davis Ashcan School realism but a world underneath--an idea presented eloquently inThe Matrix, one of the most iconic expositions of this theme. The new realism is what used to be deemed surreal or abstract or strung out (a la StringTheory) This world only appears as a glimmer or insinuation until a work of imagination like EEAAO opens one’s eyes to it. 

read The Wormhole Society by Francis Levy, The East Hampton Star

and listen to "Freeway of Love" by Aretha Franklin

Wednesday, June 21, 2023

Wilson Top Secret Golf Shirts

Trump told Fox News's Bret Baier that he couldn’t return the missing documents because they were packed in with his golf shirts and other personal items. And he went on to say he was also busy. He didn't have time. Amongst the missing documents are secret plans for an invasion of Iran. Everyone agrees that this whole matter could have been tidily handled if Trump had simply relinquished the documents to the DOJ. But plainly there was more at issue. Trump is a little like the student who gets an extension on a paper and then fails to hand it in at all. Should he be allowed to graduate on the basis of the fact that he or she came to school (sometimes)? House arrest has been suggested due to the logistical problems of putting Trump in jail. But what about the sentence resembling those given for drunk driving? What about Trump attending a course--in this case, with one of those organizers who help people get their files in order?

read "Trumpty Dumpty's Great Fall" by Francis Levy, The East Hampton Star

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

Tuesday, June 20, 2023

Total Eclipse of the Heart

There are lunar and solar eclipses, the latter of which you should not look into. L’Eclisse (1962) was a good title for the third part of Antonioni’s trilogy which was preceded by La Notte, but eclipse is a pregnant word. One partner in a relationship may eclipse the other (even the silent more withdrawn person may be running the show). If one activity eclipses or gets in the way of another, the penumbra of the recessive object still looms mercurially as a liminal presence. Shadows are the country cousins of eclipses. The words are almost but not quite fungible. The common ground these terms share is the overlaying of one person place or thing over another. If I stand between you and a source of light, the act is likely to produce or create a shadow or Bonnie Tyler's "Total Eclipse of the Heart."

read "The Dance of Reality" by Francis Levy, HuffPost

and listen to "Total Eclipse of the Heart" by Bonnie Tyler

Monday, June 19, 2023

Close to Vermeer

There are some quirky iterations in Suzanne Raes's Close to Vermeer which deals with the Rijkmuseums amassing of 28 paintings for their recent show. Vermeer is called “the Sphinx of Delft” due to the fact that he left no evidence or context for his work. "Rich people do a great thing, they die" is another, said with respect to major works which might have been closeted and are now placed on the market again. But the central drama of the film, if you could call it that, revolves around the authenticity of the "Girl With a Flute," one of three Vermeers at the National Gallery of Art. The crux of the questioning goes back to the mysterious void in which Vermeer seems to exist. The curatorial staff of the National Gallery decides that Vermeer, in fact, was de facto part of a community. The minute eccentricities in the application of paint reflect the fact that it's the work of another artist. Perhaps Vermeer ran a studio filled with acolytes. "Girl With a Flute is leant as 'not Vermeer,' Pieter Roelofs, the co-curator of the show tells Amsterdam's Het Parool, "but we will hang it as a real Vermeer." In this regard Close to Vermeer is a bit like a coroner's report with the results creating a minor scandal that makes the pages of The Guardian and The New York Times. BTW the final autopsy could be said to be filed by Jonathan Janson, a painter and Vermeer expert, in concert with Gregor J.M. Weber, the Rijksmuseum's Head of Fine and Decorative Arts--neither a slouch when it comes to the Dutch master's work.

read "The Real Thing" by Francis Levy, HuffPost

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

Friday, June 16, 2023

White Heat

The Trump camp reports raising $7 million since the handing down of the indictments. It almost sounds like a scam. Commit a crime and get rich quick—"legally." Is there any reason to compare Trump to Croesus? Caligula? Certainly all realpolitik,  containment, domino theory etc. from Machiavelli, through Clausewitz, Kissinger and John Bolton is based on gamesmanship. "Only the Strong Survive" sings Jerry Butler. There's no real comparison to Lyndon johnson. Johnson fashioned a morality. Look at the Voting Rights Act of 1965, a small part of which was unexpectedly restored in the recent Supreme Court decision. Johnson's immorality lay in the means by which he achieved his goals. In Trump's case, both the means and ends support what might be called the hegemony of the strong over the weak and dispossessed is apparently the modus operandi. What's extraordinary and what appeals to the base is the naked expression of will. Trump is a power of example to those who will stop at nothing, even if it means breaking the law, to get what they want.

read "The Art of War" by Francis Levy, HuffPost

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

Thursday, June 15, 2023

What is a Kar?

What to do when the advertisements for a good cause drive you nuts? 1-800-Kars For Kids is guaranteed to create a headache over the eye. Getting beaten with a truncheon is better than having to endure this commercial. Even Windows By Anderson or those esoteric roof gutter promos are better.  However it’s a double whammy since how can you feel bad about being irritated by something that’s supposed to be good? "1-800 Kars for kids. K...a...r...s cars for kids." Btw none of the kids with their miserable little rock band are going to make it as musicians, though if they're actors, they’re surely likely to make a killing on the residuals. 1-800-Kars For Kids Kars Cars For Kids. Remember the horror of seeing only "All work and no play make Jack a dull boy" repeated again and again in The Shining. Stop already! Enough! Can someone call the FCC hotline? Can someone at least inform the charity that car isn’t spelled with a “k?”

read "What is Philanthropy?" by Francis Levy, HuffPost

and listen to "Car Wash" by Rose Royce

Wednesday, June 14, 2023

Glasnost in Bedminster?

Joe McCarthy and Roy Cohn at Army-McCarthy Hearings

Joe Biden’s dream of bipartisanship is going up in flames. Has the Special Counsel and Trump’s indictment exacerbated matters? Probably not. This is the old Hatfield and McCoys where the feuding as with Bosnian Serbs and Muslims has gone on long before anyone can remember. Ditto that between Protestants and Catholics in Northern Ireland. When you hear Trump calling his opponents Communists, you're eerily reminded of McCarthy. McCarthy took on the army, Trump the DOJ. Will Trump’s attacks onThe Justice Department be like McCarthy’s on the army —which were his undoing? To add to the haunting similarities, Trump is looking for his Roy Cohn. Way back when maybe he thought another Cohen, Michael, would be his first spear carrier. International politics is divided, with China and Russia on one side and the US and NATO on the other. Glasnost is a forgotten word as the war in Ukraine rages on. If the US is on the verge of an “uncivil war,” it’s in good company unfortunately-with the rest of the world. 

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

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

Tuesday, June 13, 2023

Episodic or Procedural?

Epistemology refers to the means and methods by which knowledge is acquired. The definition doesn’t specify whether this refers to street smarts or emotional intelligence or the kind of knowledge that’s acquired from books. Classically ruffled professors are idiot savants like Rath (Emil Jennings) who's famously cuckolded by Lola Lola (Marlene Dietrich). It’s the cads who get the girls though Jonas Salk did marry Francoise Gilot in the rebound from Picasso (btw she was the only one of the harem who left first). Lest one dismiss cortical goings on, attention must be paid to deontologists and especially phenomenologists who paved the way for psychoanalysis. Bruno Bettelheim's Freud and Man’s Soul inadvertently deals with this very conundrum as it explores how English translators of Freud tried to demystify language that was meant to have a spiritual as well as scientific meaning. Freud was for all intents and purposes a pastor as well as doctor. The cure he  provided was a mixture of reason and faith—to use Thomas Aquinas's famous dichotomy.

read "Why Big German Words Like Vergangenbangenheit Carry Weight" by Francis Levy, HuffPost

and listen to "Every Little Bit Hurts" by Brenda Holloway

Monday, June 12, 2023

False Equivalence Fest

Trump on CNN Town Hall

Trump’s base undoubtedly employ the David and Goliath paradigm. It’s a wonderful example of false equivalence which has become the Omicron variant of hyperbolic distortion. It’s an equal opportunity employer to which particularly the right is vulnerable. For instance in Stone v. Graham (1980), the Supreme Court argued against the mandatory display of the Ten Commandments in classrooms, under the First Amendment. Everyone knows that the first amendment has historically always been titrated. Yes everyone has the right to speak but that right doesn’t include crying fire in a crowded theater or practicing one or another religion in classrooms. Ditto the Second Amendment and the right to bear arms--which doesn't comprise AK-47s which have been created for battlefield use or tactical nuclear weapons or Marjorie Taylor Greene literally using her arms to stalk David Hogg on the Capitol steps. This kind of argument, which constantly turns the tables on a presumptive piece of law, is insidious since like Covid it keeps producing new variants, all having the illusion of a kind of structural, albeit often immoral integrity. The experience of hearing Trump at the CNN town hall was a false equivalence festival replete with all the fanfare of the cheering crowd.

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

and listen to "Groove Me: by King Floyd

Friday, June 9, 2023

Fortune and Men's Eyes

The Fortune Society is devoted to helping individuals who have been incarcerated. The name derives from a Shakespeare sonnet that begins "When, in disgrace with fortune and men's eyes, I beweep..." Fortune and Mens Eyes (1971) was also a play and later movie about homosexuality amongst inmates in a prison which btw influenced the creation of the society. But what is fortune? Soothsayers read your fortune or fate and you can also earn a fortune, a use of the word which connotes the idea that fortune will be good, at least in material terms. Caveat emptor! Anyone who has made a fortune will attest that one fortune is never enough. The fortunate are those whose good fortune transcends any bounty that fortune might provide. 

read "What is Philanthropy?" by Francis Levy, HuffPost

and listen to "Everybody is a Star" by Sly and the Family Stone

Thursday, June 8, 2023

Secrets and Lies

Everybody maintains a secret they will take with them to the grave--that they are the exception who will live forever. And no matter how modest their talents or achievements, they all maintain the grandiose wish they will attain greatness even if there are only a few seconds left in which to perform the deed. Don’t believe anyone who tells you they have come to terms with their mortality unless they are suicidal and require medication. In The Myth of Sisyphus Camus says the only philosophical question that matters is suicide. It’s a nice iteration that hits you right between the eyes. Does that mean deontologists, utilitarians and phenomenologists have been wasting their time? Would suicide in fact be a word that Husserl bracketed the way fact checkers find untruths in political speech? Watch a water bug, ant or fly scampering away as you seek to kill it and you’ll understand that the only philosophical question that matters is life!

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

and listen to "Band of Gold" by Freda Payne

Wednesday, June 7, 2023

Stenosis or Kenosis?

Stenosis, a condition affecting the spine, is something you want to avoid but kenosis, an emptying akin to Buddhism’s “self-forgetting” is a state to which many spiritually inclined people aspire to. “Desire “ Buddhists say, “is the beginning of suffering. In meditation one filters out thought. All fine and good but what about all the acts which require agency? Well stop and listen. You have undoubtedly obsessed over the things you want. Has this changed anything?The people around you are going to do what they please. Absent the willful desire to direct traffic, there’s just you. YOU can change you. It’s the one thing you have control over and, by definition, it's an antidote to the pain of wishing to be someone else.

read "On What Matters" by Francis Levy, TheScreamingPope

and listen to "Deserie"  by The Charts

Tuesday, June 6, 2023

Groundhog Day

At a certain point the earth will turn without your input and without your perception of it. The notion that nothing would be there unless it were perceived, is known as solipsism. It's the basis of a famousTwilight Zone, "Shadow Play," (5/5/61) where a condemned man played by Dennis Weaver prays for a reprieve on the basis that the world will disappear without him. It’s a theme iterated by Beckett in his only cinematic work,Film, starring Buster Keaton whose opening epigraph is Bishop Berkeley’s famous esse est percipi, "to be is to be perceived." BTW doesn’t radical subjectivism have something in common with religious Apocalypticism? Same result different cause. But let’s get back to you. Everyone freely accepts their fate while also holding to the notion that since the world cannot exist without them they will have to live forever. Spoiler Alert! The famous Twilight Zone ends with a twist that's like Groundhog Day in which Bill Murray wakes to find the same events playing over and over again like a broken record.

read "Notfilm" by Francis Levy, HuffPost

and listen to "What Becomes of the Brokenhearted" by Jimmy Ruffin

Monday, June 5, 2023

The Odds Against YOU!

Improbability turns out to be be in the realm of possibility. For example take yourself. Out of all swimming sperms cells and eggs, you come into being, though the odds against you. The male ejaculates between 2-5ml and in each ml is approximately 100 million sperm. If someone had bet on you in Las Vegas, they would have walked away with a bundle. It's a real "long shot" in both senses of the word. Of course, it’s a conundrum to the extent it’s hard to put your chips down on an imaginary number which may or may not exist, conception itself defining the cut-off. The earth is another anomaly. After the Big Bang 13.2 million years ago, Bosons, the most elementary particles of matter, accompanied the expansion of the universe aided and abetted by the force of Dark Energy. What were the chances that life as we know it would come into existence? What are the odds it will be found on planets surrounding Kepler stars (where carbon has been detected), 1200 light years from earth?

read "Francis Levy's Divine Comedy," Exquisite Corpse

and listen to "Hitchhike" by Marvin Gaye

Friday, June 2, 2023

A Manichean Conspiracy

The right and the left became allies in the attempt to quash the debt ceiling compromise? They have also become strange bedfellows when it comes to the issue of expression and in particular pornography where feminists have joined forces with fundamentalists. Of course the pendulum can swing both ways conservative women in Kansas where part of a coalition that voted for abortion rights —with the issue going back to property rights--the body being the piece of real estate in question. But is there a hope that Margery Taylor Greene and AOC will become friends and take CrossFit classes together? After all they both use three names. Anything is possible. Remember Darth Vader was once good. Shake Hands With the Devil (1959)

read "Towards a Radical Center" by Francis Levy, TheScreamingPope

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

Thursday, June 1, 2023

Mustard or Sauerkraut?

Mustard or sauerkraut sounds like Martin Buber’s Ich und Du. I and Thou. But human beings are always inadvertently finding themselves in a world of ethical decisions. Camus said that suicide was the only philosophical question that mattered. What if someone pointed a gun at you asking “to be or not to be?” The case of the hot dog is unique because you can have your cake and eat it too. Usually you have to shit or get off the pot—i.e. decide. Those who think there's a meaning and order to the universe will say that literally everything is a fait accompli. Man plans god laughs. If you have children you know. It’s hard to imagine a world without them though in reality from a scientific point of view chance played a big role in their conception, considering all the eggs and sperm cells on the roulette wheel of human existence. Les jeux sont faits intones the cosmic croupier. 

read "Neither Progress Nor Perfection" by Francis Levy, HuffPost

and listen to "Dance With Me" by Peter Brown and Betty Wright