Thursday, June 20, 2024

Coney Island of the Mind

Lawrence Ferlinghetti in l965 (Elsa Dorfman)

Fantasy provides the illusion of both travel and progress. Coney Island of the Mind, the  title of the famous Ferlinghetti poem, says it all. Ferlinghetti's Coney Island takes you on a ride neither the Steeple Chase nor Cyclone can compete with. James Thurber's Walter Mitty is another adventurer who has scaled imaginative peaks that defy the limitations of reality. You might say about Mitty that his feet are planted firmly in the air. You won't find him in Hershey Park or Six Flags. That which doesn't exist "trumps" (a word one is loathe to use) existence itself. Thus there are romantics and vessels in which they're transported on--to the ether of infinite possibility.

and listen to Freda Payne's "Band of Gold"

and listen to Wilson Pickett's "Funky Broadway"

Wednesday, June 19, 2024

To His Coy Mistress



Andrew Marvell

There are all the classic metaphors of rebirth and most famously the phoenix. Frazer's Golden Bough is rife with them. But unless you believe in the afterlife or reincarnation, there's going to come a time when, there's no time left. Have there ever been any death bed novels? If you're an athlete or a politician you're going to have your "last hurrah." Pitchers have a notoriously short half-life. The saddest is the individual who had devoted his life to a solitary device, reaching artifacts from the Titanic in a submersible, for jnstance, only to find there to be faults. "Had we but world enough and time... sings the metaphysical poet Andrew Marvell in his classic "To His Coy Mistress." Alas one may have neither of these two elements, world or time, left. At a certain point in a marathon runners hit a wall. Running on empty is a feat that defies the Gods.

read the review of The Kafka Studies Department in Booklife (PW)

and listen to "I'm Your Puppet" by James and Bobby Purify




Tuesday, June 18, 2024

Radical Chic




photo: MoSchle

Talk about appropriation. There's a huge amount of suffering in the world. Armies are ravaging Uighur and Rohingya populations. Why not borrow their traumas? Affluent members of ruling classes freely plagiarize their narratives of childhood neglect serviced  by a whole industry of trauma specialists who DJ the party with Ecstasy. In defense of the privileged the one thing that a human being can inarguably claim about their unhappiness is the fact that it's their own. Radical chic was the name Tom Wolfe gave when Leonard Bernstein entertained the Black Panthers. Sure guilt can motive charitable actions. Is human suffering in the public domain? Can anybody take  another persons misery and call it their own?


read the review of The Kafka Studies Department in Booklife (PW)

and listen to "Cool Jerk" by Marvin Gaye

Monday, June 17, 2024

Culture and 'Anarchy


Matthew Arnold

The mind is a bit like a supernova, in the course of its natural or precocious disintegration, it throws off a blinding white light. Supernovae, of course, turn into black holes in which all manner of being is sucked into oblivion. In terms of the physiology of death and dying, it's like the way someone wakes up out of the rattle and suddenly shoots forth with questions about where they are and what day it is. In microcosm you may find Matthew Arnold's "Culture and Anarchy" something you studied in Lionel Trilling's course on Matthew Arnold popping up out of the blue with its magnificent dichotomy between the the Hebraic ("strictness of obedience") and the Hellenic (spontaneity of conciousness) comprising the vocabulary of a cherished lost language. If you never heard of The Liberal Imagination then pick up Louis Menand's The Free World: Art and Culture During The Cold War. There you will also read about the frought relationship between Trilling and his brilliant student Allen Ginsberg. What did Ginsberg take from Rimbaud not art but experience for art's sake? You'll also learn that Lionel and his wife the critic Diana found Alfred Kazin of A Walker InThe City fame frumpy while Kazin thought Trilling, the son of a tailor, was striking a pose. You'll also learn that these giants of mid-century culture ultimately liked each other. Menand's book is pleasant time traveling back to a world before the jargonists of deconstruction had yet to be-- when literary criticism meant something and constituted a way of seeing the world.

read "A-Z Quotes" by Francis Levy

and listen to Joan Baum's NPR review of The Kafka Studies Department


Friday, June 14, 2024

Is There a Conspiracy Against QAnon?



photo: Anthony Crider

Conspiracy Theory
was a movie starring Mel Gibson. Besides  earned paranoia a la "you don't have to be paranoid to believe someone is following you," Gibson's character (Jerry Fletcher) demonstrates his OCD behavior in his obsession with Catcher in the Rye and Holden Caulfield. Pizzagate was a famous conspiracy that either emerged from or cross-pollinated with QAnon--which one does not hear so much about these days. Is there a "planned obsolescence" to conspiracy that makes it conveniently disappear? When you think about it, conspiracies provide a necessary function--akin to God. Would you rather have nothing coming after you? Would you rather face the cosmic indifference of the universe? Or be filled with the sense of purpose that comes from b
eing a fighter for a just cause? What is more maddening, to be pursued or to have no one on your tail?

read "An Incident of Defenestration" by Francis Levy, Evergreen Review

and listen to Joan Baum's NPR review of The Kafka Studies Department by Francis Levy

Thursday, June 13, 2024

Alien

Waiters are also servers, but both words can be double entendres. A waiter is someone who literally stares at the clock waiting for something to happen; a server is an internet platform. Both words are also interactive to the extent that a waiter waits for orders and servers may become the means by which on line orders are effected. It's disconcerting for a waiter when business is slow, as tips provide the large part of their income. If you're an emergency room doctor it doesn't matter whether there are lot of admissions or few, you get the same salary. If a server breaks down, there will be a lot of unhappy customers as well as platforms who will buy be able to reach out to their audience. "I will be your server tonight" is a locution uttered by waiters in high end restaurants which lean towards both PC-ness and #MeTooism. People like to be served promptly; they don't like to wait. "To Serve Man" is the title of a Twilight Zone about an "alienated" cookbook.

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

and listen to "God" by Tori Amos

Wednesday, June 12, 2024

Hegel

"Pack up your troubles in your old kit-bag and smile boy that's the style"

Historical consciousness and connections are like one of those adapters you buy to use electric devices in a foreign country. You're crossing borders as well as time and space. A wide swafh of relationships can resemble the overloaded plugs that may have populated the wall sockets in your grandparents' apartment--and which your parents were always warning you about when you were a kid. Intellectual history itself bears some degree of resemblance to a family tree in which distant cousins have apparently had incestuous relationships. Strange bedfellows is a term used to describe those who find themselves on the same side of the fence as apparent adversaries (as is the case with feminists and fundamentalists when it comes to pornography). Hegel proposed the famous thesis, antithesis, synthesis that became the basis for "dialectical materialism." Would that history could be instantiated in such a clear and blameless way!

Listen to "Tears of the Clown" by Smokey Robinson.

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


Tuesday, June 11, 2024

The 38th Parallel


From the moment of birth your past is like the DMZ at the 38th parallel. Enter purgatory at your own peril. There are those who wouldn't extend the metaphor with the North as hell. The North may be death in life but Hades is a vast battlefield in which death is not infinite but as far as the eye can see. Most people think of the past as a version of the familiar in aged form, but in fact everyone carries a cemetery of ancestors one is seldom prone to think about even in the age of Ancestry. Hades is real and you don't need Charon to cross the Acheron. You may visit it in your sleep.

read Joan Baum's NPR review of The Kafka Studies Department

and listen to "Boogaloo Down Broadway" by Johnny C



Monday, June 10, 2024

Moonarching

Jean-Michel Claret
Gaslighting is what Trump does when he's accusing the Democrats of killing democracy. But what's "moonarching?" BTW if you're ever asked about your signs, tell them "my moon is in windshield." The most common example of "moonarching" occurs when someone looks up and says "look at that moon." There is, of course, the famous Moondance Diner. The Chinese recently sent a rocket to the far side of the moon. Sullen individuals are often described as "mooning about." "Fly Me To the Moon" is a Frank Sinatra song but what is one to do when one gets there, exclaim like Neil Armstrong, "that's one small step for a man, one giant leap for mankind?" Lunar eclipses are more frequent and less dramatic than the recent solar eclipse which caused traffic jams in the Northeast. The Moon and Sixpence is the title of a novel by Somerset Maugham. "There's a Moon Out Tonight" is a classic 50s top 40s song. The Capris sang it. "Let's go strolling. There's a girl in my heart," are the next lines. People who look up towards the moon are those who might be found reading Alfred Bester's The Stars My Destination."

Listen to "There's a Moon Out Tonight" by the Capris

and listen to Francis Levy's playlist for The Kafka Studies Department on Largehearted Boy


Friday, June 7, 2024

Tristan and Isolde


Ludwig and Malvina Schnorr von Carolsfeld as Tristan and Isolde

For a moment when the dragon is no longer breathing down your throat you experience a sigh of relief. Desire lies at the heart of all suffering, Buddhists say and there are people who elevate the level of discomfort and pain they're willing to experience, if only to increase the after effect. Maintaining the feeling of gratitude that comes from getting your breath back is another matter. Compulsive ultra marathoners seek this kind of ultimate relief. Where does happiness stand on the graduated cylinder of pleasure? Is there a line at which relief shifts to exhilaration? And is there a form of happiness that doesn't require a cold bath? Satori or nirvana salves consciousness from turbulence but are not states that would serve the thrill seeker. The German for "passion" is "leidenschaft." "Leiden" is sadness. Wagner's great lovers Tristan and Isolde sing their famous "Lisbestod." Is the flame of happiness a super nova, a dying star that explodes magisterially before turning into a black hole?

listen to Joan Baum's NPR review of The Kafka Studies Department

and listen to "A Wonderful One" by Marvin Gaye

Thursday, June 6, 2024

Dostoevsky

People frequently regret the past and the choices they've made or failed to make. There's the famous Wayne Gretzky line, "you miss 100% of the shots you don't take." And there's Mike Tyson's "everyone has a plan until they get punched on the mouth." You don't have to believe in God or the notions that everything  is as it's supposed to be or it would be different to accept a deterministic universe. Free will is an illusion if one considers heredity, environment, DNA. In fact even so-called aleatory or chance phenomena follow built-in laws. You may be playing roulette or even Russian roulette but what time of day it is and where you are in space/time are some of the forces already at work. The Gambler is the title of a Dostoevsky novel and Dostoevsky himself was a gambler but is one ever gambling? The great Russian writer experienced a mock execution. After such a hair-raising experience anyone would be forced to concede to fate. There's actually no second guessing or turning back, no life that would have been. The only life you can have is the one you're living.

listen to "Do the Funky Chicken" by Rufus Thomas

read the review of The Kafka Studies Department in Booklife (PW)

Wednesday, June 5, 2024

Baby Love



drawing by Leonardo da Vinci

There is gestation and birth. Freud talked about the Oceanic Feeling or connection between infant and mother. Isn't this what everyone is nostalgic for? The infant entering the world is a jilted lover who will forever have a chip on their shoulder. One other thing about intra-uterine life is that it's the perfect solitude. You're alone while being all one.

listen to "Baby Love" by The Supremes

and read the Kirkus Review of The Kafka Studies Department 

Tuesday, June 4, 2024

Lost Souls

The true lost souls are those who don't realize it. One who proclaims a state of unknowingness has attained a greater degree of awareness than one thinks they have it down pat. Success by the standards of a particular industry or epistemology can be disconcerting since it creates the delusion of wisdom; there will be many leaders of industry, politics and the arts who go to their graves thinking they are sitting on top of the world or carrying it on their shoulders like that Atlas in Rockefeller Center. Aptitude and facility constitute a demonology. Those possessing these traits--those guilty of the sins of insouciance, self/confidence verging on hubris and most importantly self-satisfaction should sit at the foot of Purgatory where pride, along with envy and greed, come a cropper. The last shall be first and all the those who feel their lostness by virtue of incompetence or failure will be fast tracked, on the backs of saints, to heaven.

See Francis Levy playlist forThe Kafka Studies DepartmentLargehearted Boy

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


Monday, June 3, 2024

The Night Watch


The ocean is anxiety producing because of rip tides just as sex is anxiety producing for those who are concerned about performance. The Coney Island Cyclone should advertise adrenaline. Skydiving attracts those seeking Adrenalin highs though Adrenalin ironically is the substance that causes impotence. In fact a treatment for a priapism is a shot of adrenaline. Cheap thrills contrast to the kind of enduring pleasure that may derive from a memory of "The Night Watch" or even Courbet's "The Origin of the World" which walks a fine line between stimulation and the kind of illumination, resulting from supernovae that produce an explosive burst of light before they explode and die.

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

and listen to "Can I Get a Witness" by Marvin Gaye


Friday, May 31, 2024

Holinshed's Chronicles


There's an iconic scene in an early Bergman film in which two boys sitting in the back seat of a car get into an argument over the existence of God. Ignited by Trump's felony conviction two adults will now get into a shouting match not in the backseat of a car but rather across two sides of a barricade separating demonstrators in front of the Supreme Court through whose auspices the Republicans are vowing to appeal the recent conviction. Considering the composition of the current court one can be sure there will be a watershed ruling against regicide which will one day in the past find its way into the Chronicles of Holinshed. Trump has yet to be stopped. Will he succeed in turning back the hands of time?

See Francis Levy playlist forThe Kafka Studies DepartmentLargehearted Boy

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

The Feudal Self


defensive moat around Caerloverack Castle Scotland

Do you experience primeval behaviors in yourself and others? In nature you have an ancestors to man such as the famed fossil Lucy who thrived 3.2 million years ago. In the self, there is an essential being a product of DNA, morphology and environment that appears much like a boson or fundamental element of matter, as a watershed in the lifecycle of creatures. It may evidence itself before or after the advent of consciousness. You either know it or fail to recognize it in yourself. Let's say you were a hyperactive kid who couldn't control their impulses. Intelligence itself need not be a factor. However you may have been the kind of child who immediately raised their hand when the teacher asked for the answer to a question. If you were not called on, and it's likely you would not be since human beings are animals who can smell a so-called needy or overly desirous individual a mile away, you would call out and then find yourself counting tiles in the wall outside the classroom after you'd been kicked out. You would have suffered the humiliation of having other teachers or students who might be walking the halls to go to the bathroom seeing you marked like Heather Prynne. In fact, an overly anxious individual can easily walk away from childhood with what is known as a "Hester Prynne Complex," which in itself becomes a self fulfilling prophecy. Not everyone demonstrates this kind of pathology but it's an example of something profound that can follow an undiagnosed or diagnosed individual's early life. The primordial self however need not be a handicap. Naturally there are those whose most elemental projections are that they're loved and desired. These kinds of people walk around with an a self-confidence and insouciant indifference that is libelous and downright obnoxious.

See Francis Levy playlist forThe Kafka Studies Department, Largehearted Boy

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



Thursday, May 30, 2024

History

The Roman Empire declined and fell and Edward Gibbon lived to write about it. And of course Thucydides and Herodotus predicted competing albeit more contemporary accounts of the Peloponnesus. History is a peculiar subject as Louis Menand points out quoting Walter Benjamin inThe Free World "no fact that is a cause is for that very reason historical. It became historical posthumously." Simple chronology doesn't say  enough. Hegel is, of course, famous for his dialectic out of which the Marxian notion of "dialectical materialism" emanated. Stephan Daedalus famously says, "History is a nightmare from which I am trying to awake"--something which pertains to the current world in which autocracy threatens even so-called democracies." Menand also points out that German and Austria from whence Nazism emanated were also the seats of the Bauhaus, Kant, Goethe and a list of cultural figures and movements too numerous to list. And what about "income inequality" which Thomas Picketty underscores in Capital? The vision of many works of sci fi and fantasy is feudal with powerful forces leveling great power over the kind of drones that can't be flown. The Judaic Christian origin myths still hold sway while the Greek gods no longer intervene as they look down on mortals from Mount Olympus.

listen to "Slip Away" by Clarence Carter

and read "Why Big German Words like Vergangenbangenheit Carry Weight" by Francis Levy, Huff Post


Wednesday, May 29, 2024

Nathaniel West




There was a period when Facebook was still a novelty. People used it to confide. There was the excitement of a new form of community whose name was "planned obsolescence." Still it was almost as if FB users were talking to themselves and saying things they wouldn't have told anybody. It was something like the way writers feel.They know their submissions are being read by sows but continue flushing them into cyberspace anyway. You'd hear anything from an irritating iteration of one's tennis score to an admission from a wife saying something she never had told her husband before: that she had never loved him and wanted a divorce. Yes at a certain time before Meta changed its algorithms to totally accommodate advertising and Russian and Chinese election interference, it was something between Nathaniel West's Miss Lonelyhearts and the town dump.

read "The Findings" by Francis Levy, Evergreen Review

and listen to "Dance Crazes of the 60s"



Tuesday, May 28, 2024

The Soul of the Foot

You're the kind of person whose wound(s) are always smarting. What is the source of the pain? It's as if your foot doesn't fit the shoe of reality. Now let's say things are reversed. You are now the shoe that someone would like to put their foot into. The foot obviously doesn't fit. It's painful to both the vessel into which it's being inserted ( you ) and the foot which exists in a state of umheimlichkeit or estrangement. It's rare that a foot fits the shoe which is why "spiritual orthopedics" is a one-sided affair. But even though you have spent your life trying to fill other peoples' shoes, you now can be sympathic when it's your turn to play hard to get. As painful as it always is to be refused, it's always good to give people a taste of their own medicine.

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

and listen to "Soul Man" by Sam&Dave

Monday, May 27, 2024

Hit Man


Ultimately the most unreal thing about Hit Man, the new Richard Linklater movie, is that it’s based on the real life story of Gary Johnson, a philosophy professor whose proclivities and abilities led him to becoming a useful member of the New Orleans police department. Gary (played by Glenn Powell who also co-authored the script with Linklater ) teaches psychology and philosophy. The bowls for his two cats are Ego and Id and he lectures on Freud and Jung as well as Nietzsche. Ervin Goffman’s The Presentation of the Self in Everyday Life isn’t mentioned in the movie, but role playing is the subject, an idea that fueled Pirandello’s Six Characters in Search of an Author, though that great dramatic work isn’t mentioned either. Hit Man is a wonderfully concise title which, in itself, tells the whole story. Hit men are gangsters in the employ of organized crime, but also prime roles for a slew of “character actors’ who have impersonated them. “What if your self is a construction?” is one of the questions posed. Gary is the professor, but Ron is his doppelganger. "As if" personalities populate the scenario, but it's when the personality and the “as if  “personality” collide that the drama breaks forth in this ultimately cerebral movie. Here evolutionary and esthetic theory compete. Is justice poetic or aboriginal? The movie’s denouement cleverly addresses both, along with the extent to which man’s animal desires rule the roost.

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

and listen to Leonard Bernstein discussing Janis Ian's  "Society's Child."

Friday, May 24, 2024

The Frankfurt School


Hannah Arendt's birthplace in Linden (Bernd Schwabe)

Maps provide the directions to particular villages and towns along a road. Psychogeography is another way of measuring connectivity and finding one's way. Just as a city is created to provides
 optimal conditions for survival in terms of sustenance and commerce, intellectual history has its centers which  tender to spiritual and emotional conditions. For instance you have the Weimar Republic and the Frankfurt School, the Geneva accords, The Black Mountain School and Silicon Valley. Camp David is named after Dwight D. Eisenhower's grandson. There is Greenwich Mean Time. Bretts'on Woods, a ski resort in New Hampshire, is synomous, with the monetary system, Telluride with film. Yalta, where Chekov's "The Lady With a Dog," takes place, was also where Stalin, Churchill and Roosevelt convened after the Second World War. You can even map the connection between thinkers. Being and Time, the famous Heidegger tome gave birth to Sartre's Being and Nothingness. Where would Bishop Berkeley "esse est percipi," "to be is to be perceived" be without Descartes "cogito ergo sum?"

listen to Joan Baum's NPR review of The Kafka Studies Department

and listen to "(I'm a) Roadrunner" by Junior Walker and the All-Stars

Thursday, May 23, 2024

Mini-Me





When you look at it most reflection is projection as is most perception. Most people are traveling on Spaceship-Moi-Meme. This particular state of affairs has been underscored by the phenomenon of gaslighting in politics. Remember the Freedom Marchers in the South. In that climate a segregationist could claim his freedom was being taken away. Ironically it's close to deconstruction which claims truth cannot exceed its cultural referents. Does everyone see the same red in Matisse's "Red Studio?" Or the blue that Yves Kleun bathed his human paint brushes in? If you fight fire with fire you'll  answer "not to be " to Hamlet. Camus famously said the only real philosophical question was suicide. An affirmation of suicide may sound like an oxymoron, but what difference does anything make, if interiority ends up being the only reality one can know? Esse est percipi, "to be us to be perceived," but who is doing the watching?

read the review of The Kafka Studies Department in Booklife

and listen to "Cool Jerk" by The Capitols

Wednesday, May 22, 2024

The Mask


Janus (photo: Marie-Lan Nguyen)

The death mask can't be repealed. You either look like yourself or, as is usually the case, an ancestor who is not you. After a family member dies there are often reports of strange doings with chimes tinkering or lights flashing on and off, even if there is no storm. But these kinds of paranormal events are superseded by the transformation that takes place when "Conatus," Spinoza's life force, is removed and the lights go out forever. When a cadaver is embalmed, you may attend a viewing that can go on for days. You can study photographs of luminaries lying in state, but they're actors whose faces are covered in blush. Makeup hides the final expression they will take with them to the grave. Their final "look" has the deceased individual staring death "literally" in the eye.

read the Kirkus review of The Kafka Studies Department

and listen to "You'll Never Walk Alone" by Patti Labelle and The Bluebelles

Tuesday, May 21, 2024

The Cyclone


The Coney Island Cyclone (Leonard J. Francisci)

Have you ever awakened from a deep sleep and not known where you are? If it's really deep you may have felt "derangement des sens" to quote Rimbaud and not know who you are. It's the kind if thing that may have happened to you after a mid-winter afternoon nap. The sun set early so when you awakened your whole house or apartment was bathed in darkness when you came to. All the usual recognizable objects-- your coordinates--had been removed so you were like the plane in that old Twilight Zone which wandered into the past when its navigational system was on the fritz. This kind of momentary amnesia would be delightful if it weren't so frightening. Imagine being given a hallucinogen which provided a temporary passport from the self itself. Then, of course, like the Cyclone at Coney Island, the terrifying but oh so thrilling ride would come to an end and you'd appreciate returning to your solitude, on solid ground.

read the review of The Kafka Studies Department in Booklife

and listen to "Walk on By" by Dionne Warwick

Monday, May 20, 2024

The Enigma of Art

 

"Made in Heaven" (Jeff Koons and La Ciciolina)

"The Enigma of Arrival" was a wonderful piece by VS Naipaul that ran in The New Yorker decades ago charting the writer's path from Trinidad to Oxford. It's always "enigmatic" to discover the divergence between mellifluous and sensitive prose with reality of the creator. It's not trite to invoke The Picture of Dorian Gray. Naipaul was a legendary sadist who actually disfigured one of his mistresses while cheating on his long suffering wife. Art in general doesn't square with its market place. Jeff Koons who is unfairly dismissed has actually devoted his life to the subject of commodification. He pulls no punches. What you see is what you get. Oscar Wilde famously said. "It is only shallow people who do not judge by appearances." An enigma is a wonderful way to describe the Bildungsroman that can be written about all the world's Tonio Krogers. My Architect director Nathaniel Kahn's film about the art market,The Price of Everything, says it all in describing the reality behind the veneer of humanism. Every would-be writer or artist falls hard when they arrive on the scene strutting their feathers only to be chastened by their forbears (now gatekeepers) who have become hardened by the very world they once sought to enter.

read the review of The Kafka Studies Department in Booklife

and listen to "Cool Jerk" by The Capitols

Friday, May 17, 2024

Eichmann


Eichmann (1961)

Hannah Arendt of course coined the term "banality of evil." Is Trump an Eichmann? In Errol Morris' American Dharma Steve Bannon invokes Milton's "Better to reign in Hell than serve in Heav'n." Then there's Star Wars. Does Darth Vader equal Trump? One is hard put to see Trump as a man in a glass cage who's a product of some bureaucracy of death. You undoubtedly hate Trump and have dreamt of blowing him up with one of the tactical nuclear weapons Putin likes to threaten Ukraine with. But the implacable tyrant with all his similarly dressed minions brings back the Elizabethan theater which painted many outsized tyrants. Fanny Willis is on the back burner and both the documents and January 6th case will probably be delayed respectively by a Trump appointed judge and Trump leaning Supreme Court. Imagine Trump saying he was just taking orders--as Eichmann did. No way! Trump gets an A for evil.

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

and listen to Joan Baum's NPR review of The Kafka Studies Department

Thursday, May 16, 2024

Joseph Welch

Joseph Welch being questioned by Joseph McCarthy

Joseph Welch, the lawyer for the Army, finally brought down Joseph McCarthy. Et tu, Brut? Trump famously claimed he could walk down Fifth Avenue and shoot somebody. Maybe Fifth Avenue in Moscow (yes there is a Moscow, Idaho!). You keep waiting for the ultimate act of hubris that will be the water that makes this wicked witch melt. What would Trump be called in the world of Oz? He acts like The Wizard with all his puffery, but he's really The Tin, or, to invoke Eliot, Hollow Man. Trump and Biden have agreed to two debates. The first is scheduled for June 27 on CNN. The second will be hosted on ABC. 80 million viewers watched Chris Wallace preside back in 2020. No "Access Hollywood" style tape or episode in a Bergdorf dressing room will do the trick. Putin has been threatening tactical nuclear weapons.Trump is so popular he probably could get away with using one against the liberal news media, the DOJ, Jack Smith and Judge Juan Marchan's daughter. He's so popular he could easily employ his Goebbels, Steve Bannon, to wage a propaganda war against anyone who talked back to him. He could put reporters like Jim Acosta in concentration camps (linens courtesy My Pillow's Mike Lindell). Trump is so popular he could build huge ovens in which he could cook the Democratic party's goose, but someday he has got to slip. It might be only over a banana peel, but he's going to fall hard, right on his red MAGA capped head.

read the review of The Kafka Studies Department in Booklife

and listen to "It's the Same Old Song" by The Four Tops


Wednesday, May 15, 2024

Gluttony



Have you ever met someone with an almost gluttonous desire to live? Someone who steamrolls and is not afraid of who is getting runover along the way? Malignity is not the right word since it is not as if there were some sort of ad hoc attack at work. Parsimony and unadultered selfishness might explain the motive along with a kind of aggressive hoarding and entitlement. The Beale sisters in Albert and David Maysles Grey Gardens (1975)  are looked at as curiosities, as are the aristocrats in La Grand Bouffe (1970) and the figure who is force fed, like a goose who's liver will some day be fois gras, in David Fincher's Seven (1995). However, these are not exceptions. You may have read the articles about the aging parents whose medical and living expenses bankrupt their children. Appetite is an equal opportunity employer and those who are hungry will devour with the biblical force of Jonah's whale.

read the review of The Kafka Studies Department in Booklife

and listen to "Shake Me, Wake Me When It's Over" by the Four Tops


Tuesday, May 14, 2024

Malebolge

illustration of Dante's 18th Canto by Stradanus

Virgil lead Dante but now of course he's dead so you have to look for someone else if you need a cicerone. But what are the rules pertaining to the afterlife? Can travelers earn rewards points and move from say the eighth circle Malebolge or even the ninth, Treachery to the first Limbo. That, of course, would be a stretch. Also what about predestination? Do the precepts io The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism pertain in hell? Perhaps that's, in fact, what makes the Inferno different from Pugatory or Paradise. Once you cross the Acheron you ain't going anywhere. Remember The Friends of Distinction, "You Got Me Going in Circles/ Round and Around I go." Supposedly the song was about love, but the truth was it was hell. Google Maps comes into play. If you have the right app, it'll save your life.

read the review of The Kafka Studies Department in Booklife

and listen to "You've Got Me Going in Circles" by The Friends of Distinction

Monday, May 13, 2024

Coup de chance




Ever try the slots in Las Vegas. Everyone thinks they’re getting close and that’s the scam. Woody Allen’s
 Coup de chance is a face-off between those who accept the odds and are still willing to play and those who believe that reality should be taken by the scuff of its neck. Only one in 14 million sperm reach the fallopian tube. So life itself is a coup de chance or “stroke of luck.” In Allen’s 50th film, an unhappy marriage between Fanny a woman, who works for an auction house (Lou de Laage) and Jean (Melvil Poupaud) an investment banker, whose mandate is to make the wealthy wealthier, sets the scene. Add to this a chance encounter on a Paris street and a forest--one doing and the other undoing “fate.” If you’re looking for New Yorkers or the familiar types that create the identification and comfort of an Annie Hall or Deconstructing Harry, they’re nowhere to be found here. In Coup de chance the director demonstrates his mastery of story, plot and suspense. The movie's linearity can make the characters paper thin. This is George Simenon territory However, despite the notion of fate the film is predicated on, Coup de chance, ironically, has an inexorable quality. Everything is the way it's supposed to be or it would be different goes the old saw. 

read the review of The Kafka Studies Department by Francis Levy on Booklife

and listen to "Missing You" by John Waite


Friday, May 10, 2024

No User Name or Password?


Imagine being in some far off space/time coordinate, so quantumly entangled, that you lose your galactic user name and password. At first every thing is hunky dory. You enter your old password then a new one that you're asked to confirm. Back on earth that was simple, but now you're being rejected as you travel towards the Big Dipper. If only these services had someone you could speak to. The problem is, the area code is hard to find when you're traveling around some Kepler star 1200 light years from earth and these hotlines keep you waiting for eternity. Our team is very eager to answer your call. Please stay on the line, a representative will be with you  shortly. What does shortly mean?  Depends whether your traveling slower or faster than the speed of light. As you know time goes slower the faster you travel. In fact if you go fast enough you'll find yourself back in a time where there will be no use for a user name and the natives don't even know how to create fire. Is that what you want? Obviously you'd better find that old user name otherwise you'll end up in shit creek.

and listen to "Please Don't Fuck Me In the Ass Tonight" by Karen McCoy