Tuesday, April 30, 2024


Purgatory is Florida. Or is it hell? Striptease by Carl Hiaasen and Harry Crews's Karate is a Thing of the Spirit  both take place in Florida. Publix is Limbo, the First Circle. Hot August day crossing Acheron, Christmas trinket concession on Military decaying high-rises and pensioners on Collins Avenue, Miami. The stink of spoiled meat left on the counter of retiree who unsuccessfully dashed across the median to get a potato,  solitary stripper on stage at club in back of Palm Beach International airport, shaded by lone Palm. Florida is a holding cell. Prete a porter...or prone. You can't have hell or purgatory without Paradise. Imagine a world without pleasure or temptation! Desire is but the beginning of suffering. You'll know you've achieved Buddha mind, when there's nothing left to relax about.

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

and listen to "Putting the Damage On" by Tori Amos

Monday, April 29, 2024

The Writer As Pastry

photo of profiterole: Tamorian
The writer who proliferates at a level that becomes profligate becomes a pastry--in particular a profiterole, which makes your mouth water when you spot it in a pastry shop window. There have been lots of brazenly profligate writers from Rimbaud, to Henry Miller, Mailer, Roth (taken to task by his former wife Claire Bloom) and V.S. Naipaul whose mistress was disfigured by his beatings. Doris Lessing left her husband and two children to pursue her career. Patricia Highsmith was predatory, sexually. Joyce Carol Oates is a furiously prolific novelist. She also writes mysteries under a pseudonym and also book reviews. However, of prolific writers Stephen King, particularly due to his breadth of vision. The Shining is only surpassed by Hardy's The Mayor of Casterbridge--as an essay on alcoholism. If it were a choice between Joyce Carol Oates and Stephen King, you'd probably ending up picking SK out of the pastry shop window. Too bad Napoleon wasn't a writer.

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

and listen to "Nothing's Too Good For My Baby" by Stevie Wonder

Friday, April 26, 2024

Let's Say You Were Tolstoy?

Tolstoy in l908

Even Shakespeare, Tolstoy and Dostoevsky would likely feel deflated by each other's company in the unlikely event they were at the same party. The only things that can happen when you reach the top of Mount Olympus is to either become one of the gods or fall off. Every kid dreams of growing up to become Zeus though the likely realization, about even their own hero, is that he is only a god amongst gods. Monotheism was created to deal precisely with this "constitutional" problem. God is not bidden to play by any rules since he lords it over all of us and is the ultimate maker. 

read Mark Segal in The East Hampton Star on Hallie Cohen's "Mi Ricordo" and see the show which is in it's last week!

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

Thursday, April 25, 2024


How to absorb the notion that someone is completely out of existence? That you can't add something you forgot to say or  explain. Everyone wants to have the last word. Life is an extended argument, comparable to Dickens' Jaryrdyce v Jaryrdyce in Bleak House, until of course there are no more plaintiffs, defendants or case! "Get off of my case" is an expression that's used by those who don't like to be nagged. They will unfortunately get their wish when either the accuser or respondent is no more. It's, of course, true that there are those who carry on the conversation talking to the dead, still insisting on their wishes. It's indeed very human to court such impossibilities.

read Mark Segal in The East Hampton Star on Hallie Cohen's "Mi Ricordo" and see the show which is in it's last week!

and listen to Wagner's Liebestod played by the Berlin Philharmonic under Daniel Barenboim

Wednesday, April 24, 2024


statue of Hermione. comes to life

Dreams are the royal road to the unconscious. But when you think about it, everything is. Life is a dream is the title of a play by the 17th century playwright Calderon. In The Winter's Tale the statue Hermione comes to life. The unconscious is supposed to be the repository for the clandestine knowledge one might even be hiding from oneself. Yet isn't life itself the last stop on the line. "Everything comes out i
n the laundry" and even the most repressed wish finds itself sewn into the tapestry of existence. It's really just a matter of time. You might also look at dreams as sayings in Chinese fortune cookies. It seems random when a waiter places the dish on the table. Then there's the aleatory movement which determines which one is finally yours.

read Mark Segal in The East Hampton Star on Hallie Cohen's "Mi Ricordo" and see the show which is in it's last week!

and listen to "Cool Jerk" by the Capitols

Tuesday, April 23, 2024

The Crack-Up

You know the novels and films about people who lose everything. There were numerous defenestrations after the crash of 29. Alumnae of money make appearances in the novels of Fitzgerald, O'Hara and the now forgotten John Marquand. The Crack-Up Is the title of Fitzgerald's controversial volume of essays. And the one in which he famously wrote, "there are no second acts in American lives." Does fortune then mask the reality that your "run," good or bad, will be cut short by mortality. Pleasure is the radioactive fallout following a major blast. And it's also a black hole. You stand at the event horizon and implode like a super nova. Imagine a biopic about Courbet gingerly walking the line between eros and art. Narcissus drowned in his own image. And what are the viewers to do--as they gaze, mesmerized and disarmed, by the wantonly splayed legs of the artist's model in "L' Origine du monde?"

read the review of The Kafka Studies Department in Booklife

and watch the trailer for animation of Erotomania

Monday, April 22, 2024

The Go-Between

The past actually is a closed book. It's tantamount to Yom Kippur where the Book of Life is sealed, on a yearly basis. It's not that one can't remember specifics. Rather the feeling is similar to examining an antiquity --say the Ming Dynasty princess on the porcelain base of an old lamp you've grown up with. Remember the case of the Florida man who fell into a sinkhole while he was lying in bed? You may be caught unawares by the pasf. Bergson called it "involuntary memory" lest one "forget" the Proustian "madeleine." Bergman's Wild Strawberries is  a journey. Supposedly the professor is being honored. In fact, he's swept back into another sometimes unwelcome world of recollection--that's both hauntingly vivid and reeking of impossibility--filled, as it is, with chances missed snd turns not taken. Which past do you prefer-- the chronological timeline or the  sometimes haunting nightmare in which one struggles to remain afloat? FromThe Go-Between: "the past is a foreign country."

read Mark Segal on Hallie Cohen's "Mi Ricordo"

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

Friday, April 19, 2024

Eat or Be Eaten

You hear much more talk about people choking than eating each other. It used to be a quid pro quo and part of the food chain: eat or be eaten. In this sense The Kama Sutra is a mixture of Roto Rooter and Micheline both the tire and food guide. Way back when "gay" meant "happy," choking was what you had to watch out for when there were bones. Every time you ate say cod, you're wife (who is now probably on the way to becoming a man) would say, "honey, watch out for the bones" just as you were about to dig in. Now when my "wife" who remember now is almost a man (and qualified for a bar mitzvah at that) says "eat me" when I ask "what's for dinna, meat loaf?" I reply "sure I'll go down on you." If you are one of those people who likes meat loaf, but still gets off on asphyxiation (a la the recent front page Op Times piece, "The Troubling Trend in Teenage Sex"), you're going to have to sacrifice certain pleasures.Make no bones about it. 

listen to "Lick It Before You Stick It" by Denise LaSalle

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

Thursday, April 18, 2024

A Wooden Ruler

photo: Alexei Nicolsky

Rulers are figures of historical importance who perpetuate dynasties. For instance Czar Nicholas II presided over the death of the Romanovs--who today are remembered for Faberge eggs. Frederick the Second a benevolent despot fared better. When one talks about a royal's rule, one is referring to a measure of time. Thus you have the rule of ruler or a rulers length rule divided up into ever smaller demarcations. After all the much maligned plastic or wooden ruler was designed precisely for the purpose of noting the small points between one end to the other if the ruler in much the way a clock marks time. Even a broken clock is right twice a day goes the old saw. It would have been really cool if Henry Eighth had possessed a ruler. Maybe it would have enabled him to moderate his appetites. A ruler might have helped Shakespeare's fey Richard II to enjoy his garden. Think of     famed pre-Raphaelite Millais's "Death of Ophelia." 
One could judge the equanimity of a ruler by their ability to  use a ruler to measure the fine points.Tempus fugit.

listen to "Do the Funky Chicken" by Rufus Thomas

and read Mark Segal on Hallie Cohen's "Mi Ricordo"

Wednesday, April 17, 2024

Broadway Boogie Woogie

"Broadlway Boogie Woogie" by Piet Mondian (1942)

Fly by night theories of perception are a dime a dozen . Everyone has their paternoster. You may be afraid to utter what's on your mind as your proclivity to hope invalidates the potential equanimity of your world view. Is Mondrian's "Broadway Boogie Woogie" some 
reality covered over by a scrim of what analyst's call "screen memory?" How do you judge if what you're seeing is what you're seeing? Must solipsism be discountenanced as a form of infidelity--the discovered phone messages that reveal, the indiscretions the loved one has committed behind one's back? Reality is what appears before the mind's eye, but what happens when that all encompassing subject, the compassionate Buddha mind, is drunk?

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

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

Tuesday, April 16, 2024

A Nous La Liberte

Proliferation is not a pastry. That's profiterole. Birth rates are declining in industrialized countries. Still new cars are rolling off the GM and Ford assembly lines. How to differentiate one shiny new 4x4 from another after you've accounted for the standard red, white and black models? Is individuation a matter of luck? One if the most potent symbols of anonymity and indifference might have been the prospect of retrieving a stolen bicycle in post war Rome--dramatically portrayed in De Sica's Bicycle Thieves (1947). Everything easily fits the bill and there's always someone who's going to find themselves at the wrong end of the stick. That's what makes for haves and have nots. The Industrial Revolution was the water shed. Malthusian prognostications notwithstanding, division of labor and economy of scale were the igniter of this "fusion" reaction. Production bred an exploding population of consumers one inexorably egging the other on to modernity--and also oblivion.

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

and listen to "The Lakes" by Taylor Swift

Monday, April 15, 2024

The Delta Alliance

Carolyn Drake for The New York Times
"Another sophomore confided that she enjoyed being choked by her boyfriend..." "Why We Need to Talk About Teen Sex" was the cover story of yesterday "Sunday Opinion" section of The Times. This on the day that Iran launched its armada of drones and missiles against Israel. Can we say that concerns about trends in teenaged sex, notwithstanding, The Times was plainly caught with its pants down. Never has a story in that section elicited such a prominent graphic. Wouldn't a blowup of a Shahed-149 have been more apropos? But perhaps there's a subliminal tie-in between asphyxiation and the Middle East? What unites the Israel/Iran conflict and the mores of affluent American college students is The Death Instinct--an enigmatic institution that causes great misery but sometimes mysteriously leads to life in the form of things like Marshall plans for rebuilding. What if for example, an Israeli counterattack brought about regime change in Iran? Imagine the radical shift on the world stage if one of Russia's major proxies now became a member of The Delta Alliance.

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

and listen to "Born Under a Bad Sign" by Albert King.

Friday, April 12, 2024

Social Darwinism

Herbert Spencer was the proponent of Social Darwinism. The crux is that it's a dog eat dog world. Fine points like Stephen J Gould's "punctuated equilibrium" are not part of this "doctrinal evolution" in which eugenics, for instance, would ultimately be distilled out, at the price of science. The conflicts in Ukraine and the Middle East and the imminent beer hall putsch of the MAGA GOP are the petrie dish. Jerry Butler famously sang "Only the Strong Survive." Imagine King Kong with no social safety net and no entitlements against a background of Inquisition and plague a la The Seventh Seal. A real Hobbesian Leviathan, if there ever was one.

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

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

Thursday, April 11, 2024

Dentisty Terminable and Interminable

From an actuarial point of view, dentistry is a profession that provides a steady return on investment. There's a constant stream of sufferers with everything from toothaches to root canals which have become infected requiring apicoectomies. Then there are more advanced forms of remediation, those tantamount to taking a case to an appeals court in legal terms. Freud famously wrote "Analysis Terminable and Interminable" (1937). For some patients dental bills will continue to arrive even after their demise. "Dental calculus" is calcified dental plaque, but it also refers to the calculations that incurred by the estates of patients whose cure has outlived them. When you first sat down in a dentist's office with those piles of old People magazines around the reproduction farmhouse vistas, you probably didn't realize that the cavity being filled was not just the one in your mouth.

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

"Bird on a Wire" by the Neville Brothers

Wednesday, April 10, 2024

The Double

Is there a duplicity inherent in all human behavior? Does everyone possess or produce a doppleganger or shadow that is and is not the self to which they're wed? Dostoevsky famously wrote "The Double," a story that was later appropriated by Borges. The crux is that a titular counselor, Golyadkin, encounters himself on the streets of St. Petersburg. They start out as friends but then become rivals and bitter enemies since Golyadkin II is able to handle himself in the very social situations where his "other" fails. Is Dostoevsky merely prosecuting a clever conceit or is this story a jeremiad?            You have undoubtedly heard about wolves in sheeps' clothing of the family type guys who were so good at it that they decided to plant their seed elsewhere. Who to believe? Appearances can be deceptive. The dog who barks doesn't bite, but do dogs that bite succeed precisely because they don't bark?

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

and listen to "The Tears of the Clown" by Smokey Robinson

Tuesday, April 9, 2024

The Catcher in the Noslagie de la Boue

You only find tarts who pick up their skirts for a few bucks in Catcher In the Rye. And by the way the elevator man in Holden's hotel, responsible for his guests assignations, is really an old-fashioned "starter" since he gets things going, not only in the elevator bank but also bedrooms. Today with the kind of money Holden had in his pocket, he'd probably hole up in a Courtyard Marriott where automation makes for a far less colorful story. Ostensibly with internet porn most boarding school kids are more advanced than Salinger's famed alter ego. Still, the fact is, the great amount of information they possess is vicarious. They 're more precocious in data than reality. A John alone in a hotel room with the kind of sassy streetwalker an author might have described in 1951 is a thing of the past.

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

and listen to "You'll Never Walk Alone" by Patti LaBelle and the Bluebells.

Monday, April 8, 2024

Don't Be Eclipsed!


Would you rather be in the museum looking at a solitary Hopper figure standing under the penumbra of a street lamp, or watching the eclipse? Apparently Air B&B is getting record breaking fees for rooms on the best viewing points. Have Buffalo and Plattsburg suddenly become vacation destinations for you or would you be satisfied to watch Eclisse (1962), the third of the Antonioni trilogy that included L'avventura (1960) and La Notte (1961). Big Deal on Madonna Street (1958), don't you have better things to do? How much money are you going to make watching the eclipse? Will it be enough to pay for the eye surgery that's required unless you're lucky enough to snag a pair of viewing glasses--which shouldn't be confused with the 3-D ones handed out in theaters for Wim Wenders' Anselm. You don't want to be eclipsed by the way and watching one can, in a fraction of the population, cause an adverse reaction in which viewers compulsively play second fiddle.

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

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

Friday, April 5, 2024

La Cage Aux Folles

Closeting is a vestige of a different age. These days, all pronouns and appellations of all inclinations walk around unselfconsciously in most venues. Many people are still doubtlessly afraid of their desires. Several recent memoirs like one by a pseudonymous author entitled The Incest Diary are difficult to read. But let's get back to garden variety paraphilia. What guy hasn't gone through a stage when he hasn't wanted to try on lingerie? Sure your typical all American Joe will be too busy watching baseball. However if you're not interested in watching sports on TV, it's likely you've imagined the delicious humiliation of being discovered in flagrante? Why not create one night a week when everyone in the house let's loose? Strap-ons, leather chaps with no bottoms welcomed. One caveat. Shame is an aphrodisiac. If you're too liberal and no one feels they're transgressing, you're losing part of the fun. Even if you suspected your hubby was a sissy, its important to display the requisite amount of surprise and even outrage in the face of naughtiness.

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

and listen to "Borderline"by Madonna

Thursday, April 4, 2024

Portrait of the Anti-Semite

Gaza hasn't produced anti-semitism. The Protocols of the Elders of Zion was not written by a Hamas cell. The notion that the war has created a sea change in attitudes towards Jews is delusional. Jews have always, to one extent or another, had to deal with anti-semitism. Were the programs in the Pale of Settlement payback for settlers attempts to annex Cossack territory? Anti-semitism pre-existed Gaza and, if history is prescient, will sorrowfully continue when and if there's a detente between Israelis and Palestinians. That's the nature of the world. Many other minorities face a similar condition of being the Other and of being discriminated against for being different. Jean-Paul Sartre wrote Portrait of the Antisemite. The Jewish philosopher Martin Buber wrote Ich und Du. However, neither of these works provide an etiology. Before there was any Israel, you had Emile Zola's famous defense of the Jewish officer Alfred Dreyfus, J'Accuse. Was there a reason why there were Marranos. Did Jews do something to provoke the outlawing of their religion in Spain? Did Jews do something to bring about their own annihilation in the Holocaust?  In 1782 the Habsburg emperor Joseph II issued the "Edict of Tolerance." What happened?

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

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

Wednesday, April 3, 2024

Rat Men

The killings of the World Central Kitchen staffers epitomize an intelligence failure that goes right back to the initial October 7 attack. Talk about shooting themselves in the foot, these kinds of crossed wires led to the shooting of three escaped Israeli IDF hostages by their own side. Friendly Fire is the title of the C.D.B. Bryan title about the same phenomena during the Vietnam War. But there's something incredibly weird and wrong about this whole episode of Israeli history from the very start. How could one of the world’s most advanced intelligence services have missed what was occurring often in full daylight within walking distance of its own border? Conspiracy theories are frivolous while civilian death counts are rising, but what seems to be missing in the fray of “emotional warfare” is a real head count, ie one in which someone is using something more effective than the biblical eye for an eye. You can’t destroy an ideology, but you can suffocate and strangle it with wisdom. What if the IDF had never invaded? What if they had dug in on all their borders? What if Israel had even let food and water into Gaza? Tactically where are the vermin (ie Hamas fighters) going to go? Will they tunnel under the border walls? Sure they will continue to proliferate, but in all likelihood they will simply grow fatter and more populous within their own limits? And what would that mean? Perhaps they’d grow hungry enough to consume each other.

read Mark Segal on Hallie Cohen, The East Hampton Star

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

Tuesday, April 2, 2024

Truth and Reconciliation

Will there ever be a Truth and Reconciliation Commission for Israel and Gaza? Will a charismatic Nelson Mandela arise from the ashes? Will a Marshall Plan rebuild the devastation? Is there ever too much bloodshed fur forgiveness? Look at Hiroshima or Dresden. Vergangensheitsbewaltigung is German for "the burden of the past." Will the Serbs and Bosnians, the Tutsis and Hutus and for that matter the Hindus and Muslims of Indian and Pakistan ever achieve anything beyond detente?  A one-state solution is what's fair, but can parity be achieved? Or will the tinderbox explode. Israel has never been more isolated. Yet the mood in the traumatized country is more militant than ever and remember Israel has 90 nuclear bombs. Any religious state is like those Buddhists monks who set themselves on fire. It's a license for apocalypse.

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

Monday, April 1, 2024



The Headless Horseman is of course an image perpetrated by Washington Irving, but headlessness or headiness is the stuff of dreams. "Off with their heads," says the Red Queen in Alice in Wonderland. "Head counts" are a mundane matter and there's the expression he or she is running around "like a chicken with its head cut off." If you attend the old Essex Street market on the Lower East Side, you will literally see chickens running around with their heads cut off--which brings to mind the famous now discredited anecdote about Lavoisier shaking his tongue at his executioner after being guillotined. They "lost their heads" is another expression which is actually quite telling (along with "giving head"). The meaning refers to someone getting "mad as a hatter," but it's actually quite odd. Who or what would a person be mad at, if they had lost the executive functions of the brain?

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