John Palcewski (forioscribe) wrote,
John Palcewski

Lingua Franca

Several LJ friends both here in Italy and in America have told me privately they still want to know exactly who the fuck Tom Johansmeyer is.

All right. When he's not at his day job as a strategist for a major consulting firm in Manhattan, Tom's at his upper-west side home working on his Ph.D. in finance, or dreaming up ideas for freelance magazine articles. His latest explains how self-employed people can arrange for their business to be automatically sold upon their deaths, rather than allowing their assets to disintegrate.

When Tom starts talking about financial or business matters in emails or on the phone, I always close my eyes, tilt my head to the side, and go ZZZZZZ.

As for his doctoral thesis, he says he's exploring "the use of social controls to prevent Enron-type implosions." His focus is on what he calls an intersection of accounting, strategy, sociology and philosophy. Along the way he's revisiting some of the classics, among them Foucault's Discipline and Punish: The Birth of the Prison, and also Sarte's Being and Nothingness, both in the original French.

Sarte, he observes, is fond of the word "reflect." In French there are two forms of the verb, one dealing with a mirror, and the other with thinking. A most subtle distinction, eh?

Had he not gotten into that, I might well have pulled another ZZZZZZ on him. He set me thinking. In the Telemachus episode of Joyce's Ulysses, Mulligan in his shaving ritual holds up a cracked mirror, one he pinched out of the skivvy's room, and Stephen Dedalus proclaims it is "a symbol of Irish art. The cracked lookinglass of a servant."

Whoa! Joyce is never at a loss for powerful metaphors, eh?

The reflection of a mirror is quite apart from thinking. The former is meant to be a perfect representation of reality, whereas thinking is a matter of reality being shaped by any number of internal or external things, like love, fear, hatred, or, most powerful of all influences, Karl Rove's daily neo-con talking points.

On the phone Tom tells me he’s using his Blackberry, as he sits at a table at De La Concha. Yes, he says, John Catsimitidis had been by earlier that day and had asked how you were doing across the pond in Italy, and so on. Did you know he’s raising some big money for Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign? And that he’s seriously thinking of running for mayor of New York?

No, I didn’t know that. I thought he was a Republican. But God bless him!

Then Tom says he’s mulling over an important freelance article. A long and complicated one.

What’s it about?

Not quite sure at this point, he replies. But it will be something that springs from the reflection of a mirror, which is to say it will be as accurate a representation of reality as I can make it. As opposed to the endless spin and bullshit that is the lingua franca of New York trade book publishing and the Main Stream Media.

He says it might turn out to be a detailed elaboration that revolves around the concepts of TRUTH and JUSTICE. Of necessity, that involves the telling of an entire story, as opposed to just one or two selected parts.

Sounds rather vague and abstract, so I ask him if he could be more specific.

His momentary silence on the phone suggests he has just taken a deep draw on a long Nicaraguan house blend, and now is blowing out a perfect smoke ring.

"At the moment, no," he finally replies. "But be sure to stay tuned."

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