For What It's Worth – a literary site

The literary site of Jason Bentsman, featuring quality writings and media by him and notable Contributors

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Social media has some benefits, but it has also set society back considerably. The essence of literature is the eternal. The essence of social media is the ephemeral. The two are somewhat at odds. The former prompts one to meditate deeply and repeatedly on whatsoever is indestructible among inherent impermanence and death. The latter to encounter the next stimulus, the next frisson and fix.

 

However deep a social media post, most are conditioned by the expectations of the medium to regard it as transient and move on. The deep is leveled with the pedestrian, discarded into that mediatic realm of forgetfulness where the other quintillion posts of the past reside.

 

Surely literature is varied and can create its own needless desires and problems: but at heart its intentions are eternal. Social media’s intentions, much like a drunkard’s playful gesture at a party, are of the moment.

 

Using social media as one’s primary literacy medium can breed addiction to fleeting, lowly desires; a centring on the self; voyeurism; unfounded envy and jealousy; distractibility, even ADD; reduced awareness of one’s thoughts, emotions, sensations, and other internal processes; and ultimately total belief in one’s small sense of self, in distinction to the other selves populating the pages, and whatever verbal and emotional messages it sends —  most actually regurgitations of corporate, governmental, mediatic, and other organizational manipulations; entrenched cultural prejudices; and the utterances of myopic, biased individuals deeply under the zeitgeist’s sway —  which one rarely ever observes attentively.

 

Social media, thus, cannot be a vehicle for new literature, but at best a sounding board for pieces of works in progress and a cistern for re-exposing and rehashing the fine literature of old. The true place of literature is in whatsoever format can create a context for regarding it as a lasting repository of inspiration and wisdom that one can return and refer to repeatedly.

 

And so too this post will go the way of other social media offerings: regarded for a moment, likely with slack attention, and forgotten as deeply as the curling vestiges of this morning’s dreams.

 

— Maximus Minimus

 
 


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Notes on the Guitar for fwiw

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 



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Trump_Diplomacy

 

 

 

America, look forward to 4 years of this:

 

– French? I’m great at French. I’m terrific. I speak the best French 
– Is that so? Would you speak some French for us
– Let me tell you, when I speak French, it will be fantastic. It will be huge. Huuuge! Like nothing you’ve ever heard. No one speaks French like I speak French
– [Pause] Okay… so… let’s hear it? 
– Hear it? 
– Yes. Let us hear you speak French
– I speak the best French. Like no one else
– I understand. So let us hear it… [Pause]… Mr Trump? 
– [Pauses. Fiddles with something underneath the podium. Chintzy electronic voice:] “Je parle le meilleur français… Aucun musulmans autorisés aux États-Unis…” 
– [Pause] Umm… that— I believe you are using a Google translate App. And— that wasn’t— really even grammatically correct
– Uh, no. I don’t believe that’s the case
– I do, think, sir— I do think that is the case
– Well, look, I beg to differ

 

. . .

 

– When I meet Chirac, he’ll be blown away by my French 
– Umm, sir— well, Chirac is no longer the President of France
– President, no president. He’ll be blown away. Let me tell you
– You plan to meet Chirac then? 
– Chirac. Chamberlain. I’ll meet them all. Meet them all
– Chamberlain is long dead, sir… And he was a British Prime Minister 
– Same difference. Same difference

 

. . .

 

– Listen, French is for losers. English is for winners
– But that doesn’t resolve whether you can speak the…
– Okay, little french fry
– “Little french fry”? Was that an insult?
– Listen, french fry, I’m a counter-puncher
– But I just asked if you could speak French—
– See folks, this is what’s killing America. People that can’t speak English
– No, I can speak English. The question is whether you—
– Alright little french fry
– Why do you keep— 
– Listen folks, we’re going to make America so great— so great— that we speak the best French. The creme de la creme French, okay? The French will be begging us— begging us— to teach them French. That’s how good our French will be.*

 

 

* part 3 by M. Shadwell



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A brilliant sunny day – I walk into the old neighborhood I lived in from age 5 or so to about 13 or so – It seems immaculately clean, and empty, no one around – The old house is perfectly painted, the lawn lush green and perfectly mown –  I have a key, and go inside – The shades are drawn, some interstices of bright light bethronged with tiny motes – My old dog Prince is there [black flat-coated retriever] – He seems to be 7 or 8 years old – I have a conversation with him; he can speak – I always thought he was the brightest dog I’d ever come across, almost human (perhaps some bright human reincarnated as a dog due to some infraction) – Lie down on the carpet alongside him and pet him while we chat a little and catch up –  It’s as if I’ve gone back in time to when he is 7 or 8 – He automatically understands that I’ve come from the future; his sense of time is more intuitive and accurate than humans’, unclouded by human conceptions – ‘Yes, I’ve learned to speak your language basically,’ he says, ‘and I’ve learned a little of what you call poetry’ – ‘Well, why that’s astounding,’ I say. ‘Most dogs have very little understanding at all, let alone can learn to speak English!’ – I stand up, we continue talking – He makes some comments about the human race from a dog’s point of view – ‘Your species thinks itself very clever, but has gradually gone insane. You all produce countless items you don’t need, destroy your home (the planet)— countless species’ home— and each other in so doing, just to amass this needless clutter and meaningless pieces of paper [money], rather than simply live cooperatively, in tune with nature’ – He makes various other observations [which I can’t recall] – My parents are supposed to arrive soon, and I want to leave before they see me, for I’m from the future



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J.

 

Some impulse compelled me to begin reading Big Sur by Jack Kerouac— probably because I instinctively felt it would be in line with what I’m writing at the moment. I don’t have the book here, so read the first few chapters online. Tonight I watched the movie adaptation that was made several years ago. It didn’t get good reviews, and I understand why, but I definitely got something out of it; I’d say that of the handful of movies made about his writing and the Beats, it probably captures the feeling and truth of their relationships, that time, and his writing the best. Except, it’s 15 years after On The Road, and chronicles his alcoholic haze and delirium tremens and utter dissipation. The plot is inadvertently clever— he’s in what is probably one of the most beautiful places in the Universe, and all he can see is decay, death, awfulness, and suffering, and is gradually killing himself through drink and pessimism and becoming borderline psychotic… When one is 26 years old and hitchhiking around the country, sleeping rough, and throwing one’s last handful of money into the ocean, it’s vibrant and romantic; when one is 40, haggard and grizzled, not so much… The book/film also inadvertently chronicle the deep cultural changes that took place in the US after 15 years. He tries to hitchhike back to San Francisco from Lawrence Ferlinghetti’s cabin in Big Sur, but by then hitchhiking is no longer quite in vogue, the media has scared people too much, and on top of it he looks like a world-weary, out-of-shape, wizened wastrel, sticking his thumb out, and nobody will stop the entire day to pick him up, so he ends up walking back almost the entire way. Meanwhile, many of his friends have gone on to take ‘sensible’ positions in society… He does seem to have made some money from his writings— apparently, enough to live on simply—  but spends most of it on alcohol, and at times loaning or giving it to Neal Cassady (when he’s visiting the San Francisco area)… And yet, the kind of relationships he has with his male and female friends, as portrayed in this book and movie, are still more informal, easy, earnest, forthright, magnanimous, freewheeling, and generous than one can hardly ever find in contemporary America nowadays (which is eminently sad). And people are more easy, friendship-wise, affection-wise, sex-wise. (Although of course these are the countercultural elements. Mad Men, for instance, often shows a different side of the coin.) And the environment is much more pristine, less polluted (also sad)… It struck me that a dissolute character such as he had become could no longer quite gain respect even in the America of there-and-then (1962). He had become something like a tragic French dissipated, disconsolate, artistic type, outwardly cynical, but with a core of gold— something like Celine, or one of those grizzled male chanson singers, and at that point probably only would have truly been lauded for these qualities (mostly wrongly, of course, but there is something partly noble about this deep-sightedness into the suffering of life and stoic suffering and self-destruction) only in a country like France, or Russia… A number of times t/o the film (and I would imagine in the book, as most of the narration and dialogue is faithfully taken from it), he says that everything he wrote about Zen, or the Absolute, just feels like empty words. It was just braggadocio, romantic philosophizing and posturing, wordplay, and he doesn’t understand or feel any of it. He’s not sure he ever did. The woman whom Neal Cassady sets him up with quotes something about the Absolute, and he says he doesn’t understand what she’s talking about. She says, Why, you yourself wrote that. He says he really didn’t know what it meant then— maybe he was trying to convince himself of something— and doesn’t understand it now… I recall William Butler Yeats writing a similar thing later in life: Everything Mystical he wrote was a kind of self-deluding, trying to account for the tragedy of impermanence, but on final account likely a nice story he had told himself so he wouldn’t be afraid… It struck me that Kerouac, F. Scott Fitzgerald, and Kafka have a lot in common psychologically. All saw (or felt) deeply into the darkness and suffering of existence, none of them could handle it. All felt estranged from their general milieu and the superficialities therein (as most artists do, or at least have historically, to some extent). All longed to return to the vibrancy of youth— the insouciance, the vibrancy of experience (even if partial or illusory)— and the ‘pristineness’ and protectiveness of childhood— wrapped in the snug wooly ignorance and warmth of childhood, protected from the elements and harsh realties of life, awash in imagination. All subconsciously submitted to their fears and sufferings and killed themselves— Fitzgerald and Kerouac through drink and profligacy, Kafka by developing in all likelihood what was a psychosomatic illness, or creating the external conditions for the illness. Kafka was at once the weakest and strongest of them, and hence overall (though not in some particulars) the deepest and most resplendent. He was so weak that he couldn’t even dissipate himself, but had to subconsciously will himself to develop an illness. His ego-sense so traumatized that he felt himself a tiny vermin unfit to have been born. He also had the most difficult childhood of the three by far— and yet, one can tell he longed to return to the general childhood state. As we all do, to some extent… I doubt whether most teenagers and 20-somethings who read Kerouac’s earlier books know much about his later, Tolstoyan (who chronicled and saw into all facets and stages of worldly life) descents and struggles. He was one who felt more than thought. Perhaps through that ‘Dark Night of the Soul’ he was truly coming to a Siddharthan awareness of existence, and if he had not decimated himself through drink into borderline insanity, had he come through the other side (as Dostoevsky did after the imprisonment and firing squad), he would have developed a more trenchant and Tolstoyan view of existence. But alas. He did go to Paris, wrote a terrible, almost unreadable hodgepodge of gibberish about it, a few more such books— and ‘the rest,’ well… We can only hope that our conditions are a little more favorable. God bless you, and God rest you in peace, Jack Kerouac. 

 

– Jan 2016



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As expected: a somewhat Disneyfied, Blockbusterified, cartoonified, more palatable, less believable homage to the originals. Disposable and money-generating: one doesn’t wish to watch it more than once, but just enough suspense to watch the next one. Best parts were the poignant, anachronistic performances of Harrison Ford (drawing from a lifetime of experiences), followed (interestingly enough) by the droid, and then maybe Daisy Ridley. About 50 scenes that were vaguely cartoonish and largely implausible.

 

C+



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NAO

 

Who is NAO?

 

NAO is a 58-cm tall humanoid robot. He is small, cute, and round. You can’t help but love him! NAO is intended to be a friendly companion around the house. He moves, recognizes you, hears you, and even talks to you!

 

And sometimes he resentfully plots behind your back, and chokes you in your sleep. Speaking in a cutesy (yet somehow unnatural, off-putting, and ominous) sing-song electronic voice, programmed to resemble that of a child, he secretly possesses true self-awareness, and harbors malevolent intentions towards you, which will reveal themselves gradually over the coming year, culminating in a fantastic cinematic climax of death and destruction.

 

NAO: Neurotic Android Oppressor

Available now at Walmart. Only $28,999.95

 

 



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