Friday, March 29, 2024


"Passeggiatta" by Hallie Cohen (2023)

The painters of Lascaux saw the writing on the wall, but when were they able to realize the reflection in the pond was them. Similarly,  one may possess mimetic abilities--such as the ability to draw. However, when do these include the inner eye peering out at the painter themselves a la "Las Meninas?" The sensibility of the artist is removed from a Campbell's Soup can until, as with Warhol, the image is proliferated to such an extent that it attains the ubiquitousness and religiosity of a crucifix.

read Mark Segal in The East Hampton Star on Hallie Cohen's "Mi Ricordo"

and listen to "Like a Virgin"by Madonna

Thursday, March 28, 2024


Is the next rank up from gerontocrat, a thanatocrat?
f This may all sound like an episode of that 60s TV show Bewitched. However, weegees, seances and the occult-- it’s still possible to look into the world of non-sentient non-corporeal beings. The Germans have a compound word Vergangsheitbewatagung roughly "the burden of the past"-- which deals with such generationism. In other words your repository of grandfatherly aspiration will in turn be passed down to your grand kids. So don’t fret writers, all those inquiries which begin “I was wondering about the status of my submission “ You questions will outlive you.

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

and listen to "Borderline" by Madonna and The Liebestod"

Wednesday, March 27, 2024

Minutes of the Congress of Associationists

Natura Marta by Giorgio Morandi (1958)

The centennial meeting began with a digression from The Life and Opinions of Tristram Shandy, Gentleman. Wipes in movies belong on  windshields. L. Wittgenstein's proposition #1 from his Tractatus,The world is that which is the case. Cheers from audience bank. Chair uses his gavel to call the meeting to order. Godard appropriated the title of his 1969 film from Rousseau 's Emile or the Joy of learning--Le  Gai Savoir. "Object Relations" is not the title of the famous nude by Corbet. Shuddup! A Clear and Present Danger is not the movie at the Angelika. It's the decision in Schenck v. U.S. Caden Cotard is dying of "life." The actor who played him died because he killed himself. The Objectivists won the ping pong match. Ayn Rand shrugged. OxBridge debating society: "Do Eating and Talking Fulfill the Need to Masticate?"

Listen to Joan Baum's review of The Kafka Studies Department by Francis Levy on NPR

and read Mark Segal on Hallie Cohen's "Mi Ricordo: Roman Watercolors" show in The East Hampton Star

Tuesday, March 26, 2024


Pussy Riot in Austin (photo: Jno. Skinner)

What was formerly the province of intimacy has been politicized. Expressing oneself sexually is tantamount to showing up at a demonstration. Did you bring your cis gender placard to the rally? Art has become political. Remember the storm of controversy about the depiction of Emmett Till by a white artist Dana Schutz or the cancellation of the Philip Guston retrospective due to Klansmen paintings? What's even more bedeviling is the politicizing of the political. There are no more micro positions. Oh for the days of the secret ballot! You're either for or against. Don't try to express an opinion on the Columbia University campus! You'll be detained for simply having one. Did anyone learn anything in the light of the mattress protest in which the accused and the accuser ended up switching places? BTW New York State has "affirmative consent" laws. Don't go to bed with anyone unless you've put your "position" in writing! 

read Mark Segal on Hallie Cohen, The East Hampton Star

and listen to "Papa Don't Preach" by Madonna

Monday, March 25, 2024

I'm Scared of Laird

Who remembers Melvin R. Laird, secretary of defense under Nixon? He coined the term "Vietnamization"--which meant the South Vietnamese should take care of their own dirty laundry. Laird rhymes with "scared" and his name can produce outbursts of doggerel. I'm scared I'm scared. I'm scared of Melvin R. Laird. The sensibiliy of a Laird is more than 360 degrees from that of your average West Side Jewish intellectual of the 60s, even those who'd adopted the neocon sensibilities of William Phlliips of The Partisan Review or famously Norman Podhoretz of Commentary. Remember Woody Allen's famous quip from Annie Hall about Commentary and Dissent merging to form {dysentery} BTW, you might want to ask why Caravaggio hasn't been #MeTooed, when you realize there's no one left to make culture heroes of otherwise minor intellectuals. Podhoretz, if you are still alive to remember, famously tore into Portnoy's Complaint in the pages of Commentary.  Remember Midge Decter? If you nod in the affirmative, you're lying, but back to Laird. While other Hoofers were planning the bombing of a government facility on the campus of the state's top institution of higher learning, proud Wisconsinites like Laird, alumnae of Joseph McCarthy's support team, were caught in snowdrifts of Papers while strutting the halls of the Pentagon. Daniel Ellsworth would turn out to be blameworthy.

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

listen to "Rock the Casbah" by The Clash

Friday, March 22, 2024

Car Wash


It's morbid but true that the older people get, the more they require medical care. People are like cars with older models requiring part replacement, ie hips, knees and back vertebrae. Looking at life as a balance sheet, society is investing a good deal of capital in mechanisms that have an increasingly short half life. Anecdotal evidence would suggest that more people over 70 have joint and heart procedures than the rest of the population combined. From an actuarial point to view, aging gerontocrats are a bad bet. Most repairs are quality of life issues in which populations in a certain demographic are made to feel comfortable for rest of the ride aka life. However, the effectiveness of such procedures on a cost basis is questionable.  It's like throwing good money after bad. In societies where the elderly are venerated there's no question about making the necessary repairs. But many materialistically inclined consumers may look skeptically on the notion of replacing parts when enticing trade-ins are ubiquitously available.

Listen to Joan Baum's review of The Kafka Studies Department by Francis Levy on NPR

and listen to "Car Wash"by Rose Royce

Thursday, March 21, 2024

Tim's Vermeer

Van Gogh painted Arles, Manet, the bar at the opera. Mondrian "Broadway Boogie-Woogie." Is that where the title of the famous Johnny C Song, "Boogaloo Down Broadway" comes from? The next time you stay over at the Connaught on a jaunt to England, lie back on your four poster and stare out the window. Before you decide you are waking up, going to sleep or any of the activities in between stop to create your work of art. Painters usually buy their frames after they have finished their work. Framing will be the first thing you want to do. You don't need to go to the Orangerie or if you're in Washington, The National Gallery since a work of art is staring right in front of your eyes, a signature piece that will have the hallmark of your style. No one sees the world the way you do.

Listen to Joan Baum's review of The Kafka Studies Department by Francis Levy on NPR

and read Mark Segal's piece on Hallie Cohen's "Mi Ricordo: Roman Watercolors" show in The East Hampton Star

Wednesday, March 20, 2024

Life Ass

The Equitable Life Assurance Building (1890)

Are you in the life assurance business or do you take an actuarial attitude towards your life in 5 yrs you're blah, in 15 with a "touch of the poet," "my name is might have been no more, too late, farewell." This "Alas, poor Yorick" stuff is touching, earnest and moribund at the same time. On the other hand, there's nothing more disconcerting than those gluttons for life who live forever at the expense and happiness of others. Sometimes it's good to close up shop and declare, to quote the poet, "it's curtains for me." Beckett said it even more eloquently in Endgame. "Nice day" is the observation.                                                  "It almost makes you want to live," is the reply. "The mass of men lead lives of quiet desperation" because of the fact they possess consciousness.

Listen to Joan Baum's review of The Kafka Studies Department by Francis Levy on NPR

and read Mark Segal on Hallie Cohen's "Mi Ricordo: Roman Watercolors" show in The East Hampton Star

Tuesday, March 19, 2024


Without being lugubrious or sententious, it could be argued that this is a messy business, full of potholes and trolls who hide under bridges. You don’t need the human propensity for extrasensory self-implosion to realize the tightrope one walks. Within an increasingly short period of time, you have to negotiate morality and mortality. Why not like the character of Kurosawa’s Ikiru, Mr. Watanabe--hit the town when you know you’re going to die? Remember Jimmy Stewart’s Walpurgisnacht in It’s a Wonderful Life? Even members of the Hemlock Society might be too scared to take the leap into the unknown (which btw is the absolute nothingness of no longer being a  sentient being). Do doctors or lawyers drop their caseloads of suffering clients when they realize time is running out? Do the dying more actively covet their neighbor’s wife and husbands? Do you finally knock his block off? Do you tell the couple talking at the top of their voices in the airline lounge to shut the fuck up? Do you inform them that all their chatter is about drowning out feeling? Wouldn’t it be fun to say “fuck you” to the friendly neighbor who's about to enter the elevator? And what about all those thoughts, all the weird non-printable thoughts about all the things people could do if they didn’t matter and if they didn’t give a shit—such as hosing down your guests the way Lyndon Johnson did his colleagues with his beloved “Jumbo?”

read Hallie Cohen's interview on collaboration

and see the invite for her show, Mi Ricordo: Roman Watercolors, on exhibit until April 27

Monday, March 18, 2024

Forte dei Marmi

Forte dei Marmi

"A cat has nine lives" is almost as trite as the eponymous play--Eliot notwithstanding (btw one is flummoxed in understanding the appeal of such a piece of trash). Still "Cat Person" became one of those short stories that epitomizes a sensibility, earning a $1million advance for its author, Kristen Roupenian.            Not literally #MeToo but humans have at least 5 if not more. Remember Jaques "Seven Ages of Man" speech which ends "sans teeth sans eyes, sans taste, sans everything?" Piaget, Erickson all delineated stages of development that are tantamount to lives. "Live a today don't think a tomorrow" said a teenaged Swiss boy named Philippo to his alcoholic American alter ego aka Mr Lowenbrau in of those ineffably timeless stages of life that took place one afternoon in the half empty square of the seaside town of Forte deli Marmi--sixty years ago.

see the invite for Hallie Cohen's show, Mi Ricordo: Roman Watercolors, on exhibit until April 27

and listen to "Secretary" by Betty Wright

Friday, March 15, 2024

Safety Last!

Time. H.G. Wells wrote The Time Machine and Steven Hawking A Brief History of Time--famous for its inscrutability. Lately there has been a controversy, Standard v Daylight. Zeno paradox, with the tortoise triumphing over Achilles raises questions about the perception of both distance ad time. "Slow and steady wins the race" is the old adage. Mad Men the series set in the early 60s advertising world, earns its title because everyone is in a rush. "Stop the world, I want to get off" is another one. Do you have time? Everybody has all the time in the world--albeit on a finite basis. Remember Harold Lloyd hanging from the clock hand in Safety Last! (1923)?     

Listen to Joan Baum's review of The Kafka Studies Department by Francis Levy on NPR

and read Mark Segal's review of Hallie Cohen's "Mi Ricordo: Roman Watercolors" show in The East Hampton Star

Thursday, March 14, 2024


The knight  (Max von Sydow) playing chess with death (Gunnar Bjornstrand) is one of the most iconic scenes in the history of cinema. The "Odessa Steps" sequence from Potemkin, replete with the nurse's silent scream, is another. You know when an icon has become a cultural meme when it begins to be parodied, as Woody Allen did in his famous New Yorker piece "Death Knocks." Is there a modern day Odysseus who returns home once again, only to be recognized by his dog Argos? Everyman today navigates the medieval world of an inquisition (QAnon) within a plague (the pandemic). Remember the movie Seven, with its garish retribution? Are Vladimir Putin, Kim Jong-un and yes Donald Trump, today's Terminators?

Listen to Joan Baum's review of The Kafka Studies Department by Francis Levy on NPR

and read Mark Segal's review of Hallie Cohen's "Mi Ricordo: Roman Watercolors" show in The East Hampton Star

Wednesday, March 13, 2024

Rebel Without a Cause

There's the  old saw that every American boy wants to be president and after that a policeman or fireman. If they're lucky they won't win the swing states, but in reality most boys and girls want to be James Dean right down to becoming super novas before they cross the event horizon to the black hole of obscurity and oblivion. "Girls just want to have fun" sang Cindy Lauper and boys like to plow the field (s). Who wouldn't want to be Keith Richards (whose autobiography was brilliantly titled Lifeor Mick Jagger. Yes even at the age of 75 with 29 years of psychoanalysis, 31 years of karate and 37 years of Recovery you're still thrilled by the guy who has wild sex with in the backseat of his car--at the eternal drive-in of the mind.

Listen to Joan Baum's review of The Kafka Studies Department by Francis Levy on NPR

and listen to Beechnut 4-5789 by The Marvelettes

Tuesday, March 12, 2024

The Information Highway

Samuel Johnson by Joshua Reynolds (1772)

Bandwidth and wheelhouse are increasingly popular words. Both register capacity. The preponderance of such iterations is a reflection of the nature of the information aka data universe in which we live. You're register a kind of barometric pressure. Credit card companies social media even avatars in alternate play universes like Second Life have to be attended to. Have you ever gotten telephone messages from somone who is dead and whose dial back number is out of service? Sorry it is not a sign of anything. In fact, nothing is a sign and there are no wise old prophets telling you which way to turn at the crossroads. In other words today's human
 is wired into networks it takes a lifetime to escape. It's a far cry from Boswell's Life of Johnson

Listen to "The Tears of a Clown" by Smokey Robinson

and see the invite for Hallie Cohen's show, Mi Ricordo: Roman Watercolors

Monday, March 11, 2024

On the Nature of Things

The deduction at the end of one of those globall treatise on human behavior like Lucretius' De rerum natura is that the micro and macro worlds mirror each other. There is one exception: the quantum world of subatomic particles and even in this realm, you conveniently discover the notion of quantum entanglement. Interestingly president Biden and his "predecessor" (the word Biden used 13 times to describeTrump his State of the Union) perfectly illustrate the above principle since their selves are both individualized personae and symbols of a greater whole. Trump is not a real politician. He practices sandbox politics which he learned as a little boy. There haven't been too many studies of his pre-oedipal behavior but one can assume he was a bully who immediately accused some other kid of doing it first, On a macro level Biden has been accused of using his State of the Union to barnstorm. Talk about sandboxes, his "predecessor" tried to steal the president's pail and shovel. However, being a nice guy, he only spoke up when it was almost too late.

read the review of Francis Levy's The Kafka Studies Department  Booklife

and listen to "Mr. Pitiful" by Otis Redding

Friday, March 8, 2024

Tarkovsky's Nostalghia

Andrei Tarkovsky's Nostalghia (1983), currently in revival at Film Forum, starts with a Russian couple pulling into a town in Italy. Her partner, a poet, tells her to speak Italian.  It's a town where there are baths and a Felliniesque fog. This section is named "Limbo" the first circle of Dante's hell. Many of the supernumeraries are submerged in water. Piero della Francesca's "Madonna del Parto" is caught by the camera.There are also black and white scenes which are plainly memories of the poet's childhood in this place. "I'm tired of your beautiful things" he says as his partner dashes off into a landscape filled with rivulets of water at the beginning. Later she says, " I can't remember you, if you don't exist." There are groups of unidentified characters poised on a staircase. The scene recalls  Last Year at Marienbad. There is also a crazed man who has locked his family up for 7 years. He's a violent Christ figure who sets himself on fire when his imprecations about the unreality of the present are ignored.

read "Menus-Plaisirs Les Trois Gros" by Francis Levy, TheScreaming Pope

and listen to "Tell it Like It is" by Bonnie Raitt, Aaron Neville and Gregg Allmann

Thursday, March 7, 2024

The Big Reveal

The novelty of nudity is dissipated by familiarity. What’s extraordinary about marriage is the way it murders intimacy. People dress, undress and go to the bathroom in front of each other, while managing to extinguish the thrill of revelation. Roommates are rarely as casual as married couples who live in the state of coddled infants who are wiped and diapered and fed with only the one-sided communication of mother or caregiver to child. You might say that married couples create a womb in which they recreate an oceanic feeling of connection that's at the same time pre-conscious. Wake up lest familiarity also breed contempt! The perpetuation of the infantile state of innocence in mature couples is a form of regression—that can only lead to rebellion. Men and women seek the thrill of individuation and differentiation that’s often eradicated by the security of the marital bond. A relationship can be like a work of art that suddenly opens up the world, returning the feeling of strangeness and beauty to the most quotidian aspect of the persona whether it’s a secondary sex characteristic or merely gesture--or, in fact, death. 

See the invite for Hallie Cohen's show, Mi Ricordo: Roman Watercolors, February 29-May 1

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

Wednesday, March 6, 2024

The Eye of the Beholder

It always seems unfair when people.are liked for their looks. Remember the velvet ropes of the 80s club scene. You're not being admitted to any inner chambers due to the humanity of your tortured soul. Erving Goffman once wrote The Presentation of Self in Everyday Life. Then there was the famous Twilight Zone, "The Eye of the Beholder." But sometimes the inner and outer worlds are conjoined. The beautiful woman who's loved for her looks repays society for her gift by becoming generous and particularly attentive to those who don't have her advantages. Which brings us to the election. Biden's appearance of being a doddering old man is belied by his productivity. He has been one of the most successful presidents in modern history. Truth or Dare? But he's now on the verge of doing something that could be as perilous as Ruth Bader Ginsberg. Notorious RBG is another book. Everyone praised her tenacity and yes her longevity. But that's the hard thing about being a gerontocrat. You may not know when to let go. Sure it's great that you can ride a bike at 80. You also run a greater risk of taking a fall.

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

and listen to "(I'm a) Roadrunner"by Jr. Walker and the Allstars

Tuesday, March 5, 2024

The Male Gaze

L'Origine du monde by Courbet (1866)

The wanton pose of Courbet's model in "The Origine du monde" provokes leering as well as lust. It superannuates discussions over the male gaze. Is it the model herself--whose identity has long been a subject of speculation--or the painting that's the siren luring Odysseus? The feeling Courbet created is too loud to be sublime but it's nevertheless disconcerting and disturbing both in a good way. Sexuality of an overpowering sort (one that, say, makes a viewer want to have sex with a painting) is usually not associated with estheticism. The viewer is left with a feeling of stimulation that's the opposite of repose. It's akin to Scottie in Vertigo who has actually fallen for someone who doesn't exist, for an apparition. Have you ever had a dream of yearning for a creature who's nothing more than an invention of your imagination? When you wake up and attempt to chase it, there's no clue, no footprint.  It's almost demonic since it crosses the line into desire--a desire which can be embodied but ultimately never satiated. 

and see the invite for Hallie Cohen's show, Mi Ricordo: Roman Watercolors, opening on February 29

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

Monday, March 4, 2024

Is Loving Someone's Mind a Paraphilia?

Is loving someone for their mind a paraphilia? The feminist art historian Linda Nochlin once defined fetishism as synecdoche. Kim Kardashian's ass is an urban legend and Jennifer Lopez's would make a great bride. The mind is recused from these discussions because it's not a bra--which is too bad, since it's a mind that confers on breasts so much imagined power.The shape of this secondary sex characteristic with its aureole and nipple so dear to the creation of volition itself is endowed in the imagination with supernal value. Of course a breast is only fatty tissue with alveoli which facilitate lactation, the livelihood of the baby and the source of its desire to suck. But returning to mind, what makes it such a turn on? Is it words? Or is it images and ideas? After all you can't have dirty thoughts without a brain in which to breed them!!!

Listen to "The Tears of a Clown" by Smokey Robinson

and see the invite for Hallie Cohen's show, Mi Ricordo: Roman Watercolors, opening on February 29

Friday, March 1, 2024

Query Tracker

In words please describe the nature of your project? You may also add a brief bio. 

My project is titled Your Cis Gender Thanksgiving . It's the companion volume to the LBGTQ Guide to Meatloaf and Souffets toTransition For. My overarching idea is to conceive the world as one vast soup kitchen. Below also find a chapter of Fuck Me a fictional work about an author who uses Queery Tracker instead of Grind. Fuck Me poses the question confronting most writers: Who cares since we're all going to die? Fuck Me is aimed at all the writers who never heard the words "quality control."

***While we're here would you like to get together to discuss my writing while I still have openings in my schedule?

What is the length of your manuscript in words? How long will it take the average reader to finish?

1,030, 264 which is roughly 1863pp. If you take it to the beach you're going to get sunburned.

What is your website?

What is your Twitter handle?


Query Reply:

Thank you for querying me with Cis Gender Thanksgiving. I'm sorry that I haven't sparked to it in the way I'd need to in order to request more. I'm grateful for the opportunity to consider your work and wish you the best in your search for representation.

Reply to Query Reply:

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

and see the invite for Hallie Cohen's show, Mi Ricordo: Roman Watercolors, opening on February 29