Value of the Mind

REFLECTIONS THE MORNING AFTER THE SUPERBOWL

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The NFL will have to invoke the mercy rule. The New England Patriots have gone to the Superbowl too many times. They’ve turned the vaunted National Football League into something of a joke. Despite all attempts at creating parity in the league, one increasingly creaky team continues to dominate.

They achieved the Lombardi Trophy for winning the Superbowl with a 41 year-old quarterback against three teams each with more talent than them.

HOW DO THEY DO IT?

The New England Patriots’ success illustrates the truth that value in the world, as in an economy, comes from the mind.

For 18 years the Patriots have leveraged some incremental intangible advantage– somehow out-training and out-thinking their adversaries. Not by a lot, but by enough. Over the years that edge has multiplied so that even this year with a team of players literally in some cases off the street, Bill Belichick and Tom Brady, instituters of a slightly better system, have devastated the league– to the extent that critics continue to cry “luck!” or “cheating!” Which illustrates the critics’ lack of understanding.

HOW THE WORLD WORKS

Isn’t it the way of the world that an enterprise gains a slight edge over its competitors, and that edge multiplies itself again and again until the business dominates its field? In some cases becoming a monopoly. This explains the success of Starbucks and McDonald’s. They have a slight intangible edge– are able to in some way out-think and outperform their rivals. A better plan. Better thinking.

The key part of this is the way an edge is leveraged. Which explains the creation of billionaires.

This phenomenon applies to history. It explains, for instance, the rise of the West– how a better economic system combined with a stronger belief system gave Europe an edge which continued to increase, and increase. The phenomenon explains how America became, in less than 200 years after its founding, the greatest civilization the world has ever seen.

THAT America continues to value the individual mind more than do other countries– the key to American success– continues to give it an edge which draws value, in the form of ambitious go-getters, from around the world.

BETTER THINKING APPLIED TO LITERATURE?

Our bet at New Pop Lit is that creating and discovering better literary products, and presenting them in a better way, will give us an edge which will multiply quickly throughout the literary realm– and draw ambitious talent to our modest site.

WE SEE how the wrong way of writing has multiplied itself throughout literature and publishing, via MFA programs and take-no-risks conglomerates– which explains the stagnation of the dominance of mere competence in fiction and poetry circa 2019.

The task is to change that.

New England Patriots at Washington Redskins 08/28/09
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Karl Wenclas, New Pop Lit NEWS

 

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Thinking Beyond the Flat Narrative

ABOUT THREE-DIMENSIONAL THINKING

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(image per uncyclopedia.)

Social media is forcing us to change how we see things. Because of social media, our minds are changing how we perceive and process reality.

PREVIOUS THINKING

The previous way of thinking and perceiving is to take a news story handed us by the Big Screen at face value. Yet what you’re receiving has been heavily edited– often in order to present a rigged, structured viewpoint. It looks at a news item from a single angle. Everything from established news outlets is geared toward narrowing and focusing the story, for greater impact.

QUESTIONING THE NARRATIVE

Social media adds more information– often from unapproved sources like your average citizen. (The essence of democracy.) Unexpected video– or the full video before editing. New, different angles. The truth of a matter is suddenly not as certain as we were originally led to believe.

Many of those trained to think one-dimensionally have trouble handling this. A leftist friend of mine recently tweeted out this statement:

The idea that there are two sides to every story, and that you gotta hear ’em, is probably the most destructive ideological position operating today.

In truth there are more than two sides to every story– but at least two. We should accept two at minimum, because the alternative is totalitarianism.

SEEING THE FULL PICTURE

Modified by CombineZP

The person who wants to be more than a blind follower of this herd or that one, has to think in as broad a fashion as possible– and engage in games or exercises designed to get the mind outside a narrow corridor. Chess runs on rigid rules, but trains the player to think side-to-side as well as straight ahead. More importantly, to be good at chess you have to put yourself in the shoes of your opponent, to see the game board through his eyes, from his viewpoint. Poker trains the player to study the person as well as the cards– to try to understand the minds of a variety of players.

The three-dimensional thinker is ahead of the curve. Within several years, those who aren’t seeing the world three-dimensionally will be far behind.

Examining a variety of views and opinions simultaneously isn’t comfortable or easy. For indoctrinated ideologues especially, confrontation with contrary viewpoints is especially painful. It goes against their schooling; against every part of the way they’ve been trained and educated.

Standard education practices teach students in a linear way. The student progresses in stages, from one level to another, as if in a corridor– using texts which proceed in a linear fashion. Everything is geared to reinforce the impression that the universe works in a linear, one-dimensional mode. But it doesn’t. The environment we emerge into is far more complex than we’d like to believe. Linear thinking is a shorthand way of understanding the world– but only that. Extremely limited and ridiculously incomplete.

THE CHOICES

The creation of smartphones and the rise of social media have given us a bombardment of information. There are three ways for ourselves and our brains to handle that.

A.)  Our personalities and our brains break down in the face of it. We go insane.

B.)  A totalitarian state or giant monopoly drastically restricts the flow of information the public receives. Unapproved participants to be kicked out; shut down; disallowed.

C.)  Our minds adjust. We learn to adapt, to process information faster. Which means, for one thing, faster reading. Not quite speed reading, but close. (The direction our Attention-Deficit society has been going in anyway.) Which will have many consequences for the literary art.

I’ll discuss those consequences, and the effect of three-dimensional thinking on the arts in general, in a future essay.
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-Karl Wenclas for New Pop Lit NEWS

 

Decline of a Corporation?

ANATOMY OF A NEWS STORY

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THE LATEST GENERAL MOTORS FIASCO

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SIX WEEKS DOING NOTHING

News in the social media age evolves swiftly. Too fast for the moribund PR bureaucrats at the General Motors auto company, apparently.

THE LATEST PR fiasco is news breaking nationally about virulent racism at a Toledo parts factory, covered in a story at CNN– a cable network with international reach.

TURNS OUT the story first broke on November 29, in an article written by Jamie L. LaReau at the Detroit Free Press.

According to the CNN story, response to the lawsuit and the initial accusations has been tepid at best.

I FIRST HEARD of the matter on my twitter feed yesterday. I checked both @GM and the twitter account of their CEO, @mtbarra. Hundreds of disgruntled customers were posting on their twitter feeds. Their response? Nothing.

The story had gone viral nationally, with articles at Slate, New York Post, and other places. Locally, with the NAIAS Detroit Auto Show taking place– positive press the order of the day– there was hardly a murmur. A couple perfunctory article eventually appeared. A recycling of the November 29 article by the Detroit Free Press. A short piece at the Detroit News. (I was traveling about, keeping tabs on my twitter feed on my phone.)

From General Motors, not a peep. Not a tweet.

This from a company which has received a mountain of bad publicity over its abrupt closure of several area factories during the holiday season– one the Poletown plant, about which many questions remain. Such as: HOW MUCH were the massive tax breaks General Motors received to build the thing?

The Poletown plant was built upon the bulldozed remains of a historic Polish-American Detroit neighborhood. (Disclosure: I was born in a hospital in that neighborhood.) An example, one could perhaps say, of ethnic cleansing.

MEANWHILE

Meanwhile, today, Friday, this evening, new congresswoman Rashida Tlaib and DSA people are to lead a protest downtown Detroit at the Detroit Auto Show, protesting the recent plant closures, among other things.

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They may as well add to their actions a protest about GM’s inaction, its inertia, its lethargy. Just saying.
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-Karl Wenclas for NEW POP LIT News

Year-End Wrap-Up 2018

CONCLUSIONS OR DELUSIONS?

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(Painting c/o wikipedia commons, “outsider art.”)

2018 was a challenging year, as we injected ourselves, on several occasions, wisely or unwisely, into debates in defense of free expression and of truth.

A score of posts at this blog were devoted to our investigation of the Junot Diaz Controversy. See one of our reports here.

We also came out publicly in opposition to the depublishing of poets in response to pressure by what I called “Poetry Cops.” One of our reports on that matter is here. In this post we asked the question, “Is American literature becoming a censorship horror show?” As of this writing it remains an open question.
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AMID the noise, we found time to present some of the best fiction and poetry found anywhere, from present and future literary luminaries and of all kinds and styles. Examine them and their work at our Features line-up here.
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OUR own highlight at this blog and in our lives in 2018 was this trip back up to northern Michigan’s Hemingway country, this time for distinctly personal reasons.
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What’s in store for New Pop Lit for 2019?

More new fiction and poetry,

BUT ALSO–

We’ll attempt to reinvent the short story. That’s all.
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-Karl Wenclas, New Pop Lit News

Blackballing 2018

A FICTIONAL EXAMINATION OF DEPLATFORMING AKA CENSORSHIP

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WE BELIEVE that fiction is a valid way of addressing current issues. “Fiction” can illuminate truths escaping other forms of investigation and argument.

The trick, of course, with writings that are in any way political, is making them credible. Putting balance into them so they’re not simply polemics. Not merely an unbalanced screed. Toward that end I focused as much on the failings of the lead character as on the issue he deals with. That much-dissed concept of objectivity comes into play.

The short story is “Safe Zones,” posted at one of my several personal blogs. (When deplatforming of myself occurs, eliminating all my forums and writings will be no easy task!)

***One of the things I wanted to convey in the story is how we’ve completely lost control of our own lives. That everything we do today requires a technological platform of some kind– without them, it’s difficult to live; to survive.***

Feedback to the ideas expressed, and to the writing itself, is welcomed.

-Karl Wenclas, New Pop Lit NEWS

Plagiarism Debate 2018

CONFLICTING VIEWS ON PLAGIARISM

250px-George_Gordon_Byron,_6th_Baron_Byron_by_Richard_Westall_(2)(Portrait of Lord Byron by Richard Westall.)

THE DEBATE over plagiarism which kicked off with the Ailey O’Toole revelations rages on. The latest: fledgling poet Claudia Cortese having aspects and wordings of her work apparently borrowed by poet Lisa Low in the journal Quarterly West.

EXPRESSED by different sides have been opposing viewpoints regarding questions of fair use, intellectual property, and the like.

At one pole, the online literary site Soft Cartel:

(Anything goes? The individual lost in the mob?)

AT the other pole might be members of the Poetry Cops, who’ve taken it upon themselves to eliminate writings and blackball other writers and journals to the fullest extent possible. A sample opinion:

Note the apologizing and “enduring punishment” part of the tweet– hallmarks of the would-be totalitarian.

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Where do we at New Pop Lit stand? I have a track record for speaking out publicly against plagiarism, dating back to 2005. I took a great deal of heat at the time from powerful literary personages for doing so. I leave it now to others to discuss the legal/philosophical aspects of the matter.

THE QUESTION I want to ask here is: Why does someone plagiarize?

The answer back in 2005, for the essayist involved, was pure laziness. The individual was writing long essays for a variety of high-profile magazines, making good money in doing so, and from lethargy, or ineptness, took as many shortcuts as possible.

What about today’s poetry borrowings?

The only excuse for doing it at all– having another poet’s work in front of you as you construct your own– is apprenticeship. Learning the craft. Even in that instance, one would expect the apprentice poet to A.) Use one of the acknowledged best at the game as model; a T.S. Eliot or Sylvia Plath.  B.) Never, never submit those practice poems to a literary journal for publication.

Which is where intent comes into consideration. The only reason to copy an unknown poet’s work, who moreover writes in the current fashion, is in an effort to be published.

These thoughts merely my own viewpoint. . . .

p.s. Lord Byron was involved in a plagiarism scandal over a novel fragment which may or may not have been plagiarized by another writer.
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-Karl Wenclas, New Pop Lit NEWS

The Short Story Process

REINVENTING AN ART?

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In 2019 we plan to change things up a bit. Our commitment to excellence and artistic change will increase. The poem and short story both have become generic. Needed are drastic new ideas to improve them. Possibly, to blow up both forms and start over.

And so, “The Process.” We’ll start with the short story. I’ll be posting at one of my personal blogs several short stories I wrote in the 1990’s. Apprentice work, but a foundation for where I plan, personally, with my writing, to go. The first of these to go up is titled “The Revolutionaries.” A story with a connection to recently-deceased George H.W. Bush, so it’s appearance will be timely.

Before this I may post one of the new stories I’m working on, tentatively named “Safe Zones.” Again: timely.

Co-editor Kathleen M. Crane is also back writing, working on a rough draft of a new story– one which will carry forward her own ideas on clarity and conciseness in the short story art.

I’ll be discussing the process more in future posts. We have an end point– through radical artistic change, badly-needed renewal of the entire literary art.

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Stay tuned.

-Karl Wenclas for New Pop Lit NEWS

 

Poetic Justice?

ONE REACTION TO THE AILEY O’TOOLE PLAGIARISM ISSUE

Ailey-OToole(Photo from The Rumpus.)

THE BIG NEWS in the U.S. literary world over the weekend was the accusation of plagiarism against young poet Ailey O’Toole. The past couple years O’Toole was incessantly networking a host of interconnected literary journals, becoming known within that well-protected, well-screened community as one of the art’s rising young stars– culminating in this interview at The Rumpus. Much drama there expressed. A troubled individual, no doubt.

NOW it’s discovered, by those who published and promoted her, that O’Toole was plagiarizing not just one writer, but a lot of them.

ANOTHER discovery has been less acknowledged– that Ailey O’Toole was an enthusiastic member of the so-called Poetry Cops. She worked hard at having fellow poet Rachel Custer removed as a reader at a lit journal called Barren Magazine— and blacklisted throughout the poetry world. (In this day and age, many literary journals actively support the idea of an ongoing blacklist of journals and writers.)

IS it poetic justice then for Ms. O’Toole to end up in effect banned herself?

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Is there a lesson in this?

IT MIGHT BE that more important than a writer’s perceived political stance is the quality of character. That when a poet is spending half her time trying to get other poets fired or blackballed– dissing and diming them out; instead of focusing on the art– it might be a sign of a lack of that long-forgotten quality.
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-Karl Wenclas for New Pop Lit NEWS

Pushcart 2018!

NEW POP LIT’S 2018 NOMINATIONS

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And the nominations are. . . .

Every year we vow not to do Pushcart Prize nominations and every year we send them in anyway– usually right at the deadline.

After all, in 2018, despite our ups and downs, we featured a lot of talented writers. The difficulty is choosing among them.

This year we’ve nominated five short stories and one poem. A stylistically diverse mix of the offbeat and the traditional.

FICTION (in order of publication date):

“The First Time” by Anne Leigh Parrish.

“The Hunting Cabin” by Brian Eckert.

“Up On the Mountain” by Jack Somers.

“On the Rails, Off the Rails” by Elias Keller.

“Yelp in Reverse” by Wred Fright.

POETRY:

On Midsummer’s Night” by C.A. Shoultz.
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We thank all writers who allow us to present their writing.

(We thank Pushcart Press for their tremendous work!)

Neo-Beats Out of Control!

style

(Classic style.)

At least, they’ve taken over the New Pop Lit site. New Beat writing in all its various iterations.

First, a review of an anthology of Beat-style in-the-larger-sense fiction and poetry.

Second, a current poetry feature of lakebeatgrunge poems from beat56.

AND, a home page Intro to all of this.

HELP!!!

(Our self-appointed task is to cover what’s happening in the lit world. What’s happening at the moment might be right here.)

A NOTE ON STYLE

One thing the cultural period of the late 1950’s and early 60’s had was style. The Beats were the obverse to the established “Mad Men” look. (Think Frank Sinatra’s Rat Pack, pictured.)

rat pack

As such, the Beats were relentlessly satirized by established pillars of culture. Thoroughly mocked– in venues ranging from television shows such as Dobie Gillis and The Beverly Hillbillies, to movies such as Funny Face starring Audrey Hepburn. The point is that poets and writers mattered. The Beats suffered the slings and arrows of the culturally challenged but they also created exciting fun art.

Audrey Hepburn funny face 50s black polo neck beatnikdancing white socks

(Audrey Hepburn.)