Main

Bettencourt Archives

Good Art Slaps Us In The Face

I enjoy your magazine immensely and I follow many of your writers every month, especially Mr. Michael Bettencourt. This column is another one of his penetrating and very well-written articles. He is as good an article-writer as I see anywhere including here in London. But I must strongly disagree with him, this time, when he admonishes playwrights to forego character descriptions in their plays. A good drama can be a good piece of literature and a good drama can be as good a reading experience as a good book of fiction. I know that William Shakespeare did not include "character descriptions" in his plays but no one knows for sure if he did and, after all, he wrote his plays for his own actors and he managed them. George Bernard Shaw never shied away from detailed character descriptions which is why his plays remain the wonderful reading experience that they are and are of great assistance to actors who take on his plays. I was born in Asia and educated there and in America and in Europe. I am an avid theatre-goer and I even have some experience working in the theatre myself. I think that European playwrights tend to be writers first and "scripters" second and American playwrights tend to be "scripters" first and maybe writers second. read the column

Anee S. Waterson

What Is/What If

And hope the revolution comes soon, indeed! Bravo Mr. Bettencourt, lead the charge.
Stein
read Michael Bettencourt's article

Raising Consciousness

I like your perspective on the subject. You may enjoy my blog at worldscape.blogspot.com
Ronn Parker

read Michael Bettencourt's article

Jigging and Reeling

Welcome to the world of heritage dancing. Why Irish dance, is this part of your heritage?
Mac
read Michael Bettencourt's article

Jigging and Reeling

As a writer, I have always found that parallel art activity provides a stimulating expansion to my work and offers much comfort and respect to what you call, "muses." I am especially fond of dance and even at my age (which I shall not reveal if only to say that it is advanced), I continue to explore ballet. I hope you will too.
Anee S. Waterson
read Michael Bettencourt's article

Jigging and Reeling

I jig, I reel, I write. We are two of a kind. Don't ask what kind.
Maureen-a colleen
read Michael Bettencourt's article

Jigging and Reeling

Michael Bettancourt's comments on his aches and pains learning to dance the Irish jig and reel, kicked off a wonderful memory for me. A few years ago at Trinity University in Dublin, Ireland, where my partner, Daystar, was the keynote speaker for the 23rd annual American Indian Workshop and Conference, we took a break from the conference to witness Irish dancing; the real thing not the Broadway pizzazz version. When I asked a security guard where we could find Irish dancing at its best, he pointed across the river to a pub. There, he said, we'd experience unadulterated Irish dancing - "come hell or high water". He was right on target. We experienced first class, full-fledged Irish dancing in a pub setting; turned upside down by an exhibition of splendid, young female dancers from the Irish School of Dancing, ranging in age from about 8 years old into their teens. Their unexpected arrival at the pub, along with their guardians and parents, turned the joint around. The transformation was immediate and complete. Beer drinkers slapped down their mugs. Hitting the tables was a signal to shut up and be quiet. Everyone's faces suddenly lifted with pride and joy. Even the rock band on stage sat silent and respectful, their hands on their laps, like choir boys on their best behavior - ready to break into the jig and reel. For they were about to turn their instruments into the great cause of Irish independence, at least that was the way I saw it; and they achieved their goal with inevitable discipline and dignity. Seated as we were, close to the stage, we were in the thick of it, amazed. The cultural dynamic of transcending the site of a beer hall into a highly respectful display of traditional Irish dancing was loaded with inherent drama. The young dancers were the real McCoy. When they arrived dressed in splendid green taffeta, lavish curls spilling and bouncing around their faces with abandon, they brought on the guardian spirits of lo and behold. The girls danced their hearts out, and, as the poet said, captured our hearts in their hands. Their youth, discipline, maturity of purpose, and, above all else, their joy in dancing, captivated the crowd. I asked a neighbor at our table why, in Irish dancing, the girl's hands are held so stiff at their sides, while their feet continuously move with incredible rhythm and bounce. He said that when the British occupied Ireland, they shut down Irish dancing, Bar maids behind the counter learned to keep their hands stiff at their sides, while their feet moved silently to the rhythm of the Irish jig and reel. Now that particular protest sounds like a tall story, but I'm willing to believe it. Here, in the great democracy of shared low down repressed experiences, the diehard representatives of the American government in the 19th and 20th centuries shut down Indian dancing. In their eyes, and with their weapons first hand, these iron hard defenders of cultural dominance thought of Indian dancing as a display of barbarism decisively to be dealt with. Well, the British failed, and so did the fistful of Americans. To everyone's surprise, what resulted from these viciously repressed indigenous dances turned out to be a blessing for all us - without disguise. Moral: If you are willing to dance under the table for a shared sense of humanity, do it with everything you've got. There may be no second chances.
Ned Bobkoff
read Michael
Bettencourt's article

Link to Playwrights Forum?

Michael Bettencourt great article! It's great when people take a chance and bring your work to life. I'd like to read your Emma Goldman piece or better yet see it. Is there a link to this mysterious risk-taking playwrights forum?
Conan Moats
read Michael Bettencourt's article

Thank you, Michael

Your comments about what it feels like to be an "unknown playwright" hit home. I've been lucky to have three of my plays done here in Denver, Colorado, but two of them are readings, and the group that is working on "new scripts" here is now committed to doing only readings, and it is very unsatisfying to me as the author. I know what it sounds like; I want to see what it LOOKS like! The feedback that one gets from a reading is valuable, but a play is so much more than the sound of a script; it's what motivates the characters to do the role, it's what the real sounds and sights are. I must get together with this group in Tennessee to see if they are remotely interested. Thank you for being on my side of the fence, even if we're often standing in something in this particular field that we're, well, standing in. Thank you.
Gary Webster
read Michael Bettencourt's article

Rage v. Cabbage

I'll take Mr. Bettencourt's anger over Mr. Meiselman's doom. At worst, anger can remain positive and can be worked with, doom is just unforgiving gloom. It is an apparent difference in persepective. Both excellent writers, Bettencourt stands apace and surveys the scene, whilst Meiselman steps into the scene and calls forth. Though he writes prose as if it were poetry, he literally scares the "hell" out of me.

Anee S. Waterson

read Michael Bettencourt's article
read Arthur Meiselman's article

The Midwife's Magic Towel

Brilliant article! Written with a razor-sharp pen! I would add another "deliciously ironic moment": Wouldn't it be a delight to witness a genderless death as well?

Vic Thurman

read Michael Bettencourt's column

Life of the Daily Adequate

Michael, I'm following those daemons too. Thank you for a thought-provoking piece.

Lia Beachy

read Michael Bettencourt's article

Why Conservatives Should Fear the Market

Michael Bettencourt's essay, "Why Conservatives Should Fear the Market," is painfully insightful and true. It points up the dirty little secret of the past 30 years: that so-called "Reagan conservatives," with their devotion to "trickle-down economics," are in fact as fanatically revolutionary as any Leninite. And, as it turns out, their dogma has been just about as beneficial to the common folk as Bolshevism. Our current state of growing poverty, unemployment and community dislocation is, in its own way, a Gulag.

Miles David Moore

read Michael Bettencourt's column

Michael Bettencourt considers a new business model

Michael, I suggest you look at other dying forms for guidance on how to make a living as a playwright. Opera has been dead for over 50 years, so creaters of "new music theater" have been experimenting with new business models - one's that have nothing to do with the traditional roles of composer/librettist submitting work to artistic director/opera company in the hopes of workshop/production. Granted, theater has a longer tradition of devotion to contemporary work, but so many works are, like new music theater, being developed in collectives, now, and I am amazed that you, this late in the game, would still seek that brass ring of "legitimate theater" validation. So, the point is not so much to self-produce, as to collaborate with others, to form a company in which the hat of "playwright" is not so explicitly defined. If you give up that dream and that ego, you may get more chances to play in the theatre, and see your plays become reality.

Barry Drogin

read Michael Bettencourt's column

Eeyores Existentially Speaking

You are a bit of an Eeyore with a touch of Heffalump thrown in. Very enjoyable essay. Looking forward to part 2.

Martin

read Michael Bettencourt's column

Existential Eeyore

Now that we possess the complete essay, and now that your revelations illuminate it, I too must conclude that you are indeed an Eeyore and rightfully so. From one "thistle" to another: wonderful essay, wonderfully written.

Anee S. Waterson

read Michael Bettencourt's essay

Copy Rights and Epubs

Luddites unite! All you have to lose is your place in a digitized world!

Laird

read Michael Bettencourt's article

Political Theologies

Mr. Bettencourt, it seems to me that the United States is rushing away from its inherent historical freedoms and grasping at religious answers and social conscious answers as you describe. Moving, as it is, into the rigidities and conservative fear mongering of so many other nations such as Great Britain and the Mid-East it has tried so long to avoid. It is indeed a shame to see.

A.S. Waterson

read Michael Bettencourt's column

Authoritarian Musicals

A couple of points--there was a rise of the kind of musical theatre that you and Barker seem to endorse alongside the rise of the Nazis in Germany in the 1920's and 1930's, a glorious and provocative rise of the form that attracted large audiences along with the marvelous Voksbuhne (People's Theatre) in Berlin. If it hadn't been exterminated by the Nazis, the musical theatre in the post-war U.S. would have been markedly different even for Agnes deMille and her groundbreaking "Oklahoma!"

Your citing of Sondheim--a second-rate composer and second-rate lyricist who egged his way into the vacuum left by the demise of Leonard Bernstein and Jerome Robbins. His success and popularity is a stinging example of what happens when the press adulates and creates an idol, just like Lady Gaga.

Michael Aptrow

read Michael Bettencourt's column

Captain America

A Fever Dream is just that, a dream of fever. In this case it comes from a country founded on the blood of indigenous people, with an economy created on the backs of slaves, and perpetuated by that judeo-christian nightmare called Manifest destiny. We have what we have earned and deserve, don't you thinK?

Michael Aptrow

read Michael Bettencourt's column

Bettencourt reads... and writes

Enjoying Mr. Bettencourt's video and audio broadcasts. I have always enjoyed his column so very much, he is such a perceptive writer. I hope these broadcasts make their way around the internet. They deserve a very wide audience.

Marjorie Paverness

read Michael Bettencourt's column
view the contents page to link to his broadcasts

Theatre Thoughts

Didn't think I could sit still anymore for a listen to an essay amidst the clamor of the internet. But Bettencourt is pithy (not a misspelling) and he reads like a pro. Very enjoyable.

Michael Aptrow

listen to Michael Bettencourt's Theatre Thoughts

Life After 60

Today's 60 is 50, and 50 is 40, and 40 is 30. So not to worry, you have 10 years to figure it out.

Carla de Luria

read Michael Bettencourt's column

Guns

Thank you for a wonderfully argued and utterly reasonable essay on guns in the new issue of Scene4 Magazine. Truly: hear, hear! I had five poems ("Five Easy Irish-Americans") in the April and May issues of Scene4, but I've written extensively on the issue of gunsand gun-control (or the lack thereof.) I was an infantry officer and served four years in the 25th Infantry Division circa the first Gulf War. It's not despite but precisely because of my familiarity with firearms that I think the ease of access to guns in America and our overall "gun culture" is absolute madness. Last September, I had a major essay,"Guns and the American," published in an online magazine called The Rumpus (it was favorably cited soon after by Andrew Sullivan at The Daily Beast.) I send along the link since I thought you might enjoy reading it (and to balance out some of the malicious mail that you'll probably get from the gun-nuts concerning your essay.) I hope you enjoy it.. And thank you for always-interesting essays in Scene4.

Patrick Walsh

* * *

I greatly enjoyed your essay as well, grounded as it is in an experience that I don't have but which is crucial for those who would consider themselves would-be "regulated militia" types and think that they canhandle their guns without being handled by them (or at least handled by their fetishism about them). I also enjoyed (if that's the word) the comments that followed your piece. Many Americans don't seem to understand the purpose of government ingeneral and our government in particular and the crucial role they play ascitizens in making the government "work" (that is, to their advantage and notthe advantage of the rentier classes). Rather than making the trek along the path of the patient slog to build popular movements for socialjustice, many Americans have the apocalyptical mind-set that all will become betterin a blaze of glory. Perhaps it's a hangover from our Puritan ancestors orthe infection of Christian fundamentalism. But it is surely politically lazy. Thanks, again, for your comments.

Michael Bettencourt

* * *

Thank you for reading my essay and for your kind comments. I wrote the first section as a kind of curriculum vitae; I felt it was important toestablish my "credentials" in order to get the ears of people who are on theother side of the issue (or perhaps on the fence.) One thing that I really enjoyed in your article (and which ties in all too well with your spot-on observation about many Americans'"apocalyptical mind-set") is your critique of the people who feel that gun ownership is some kind of emergency measure in case our government turnstyrannical. As one of the commenters on my piece noted, these are the folks who have watched "Red Dawn" one too many times and think that bands of weekend hunters with sporting rifles are going to beat a regular army and its attendant, high-tech firepower/airpower. Your point that agovernment--our government--doesn't need to engage in combat in order to control the populace is the more realistic insight. Of course, the implications ofthat idea mean organizing, educating, and staying lucid in an ongoing fightfor social justice--all concepts that are pretty much anathema to the "gun-nuts" crowd. Thanks again for your essay and for your enjoyable reply. It's encouraging to know that, amidst the din of demagogues and outright crackpots,there are writers and thinkers out there such as yourself making their voicesheard.

Patrick Walsh

read Michael Bettencourt's column

Guns

Guns are fascinating and attractive pieces of machinery. Often from a design point of view they can be beautiful. But in the end, they are one thing and one thing only: machines that are created to kill. Forget about the sporting and target practice business, it is bullshit! Guns are a a man thing, often adopted as a woman thing but still as a man thing. The gun is a phallic extension that when fired, unlike the phallus, cannot be denied. A man has a penis, he wants to fire it at will. Men like to kill. Guns kill.

Michael Aptrow

read Michael Bettencourt's column

Guns

In response to this succinct and fine article, allow me to offer this, in 2 points:

1. Under Florida law, Zimmerman will get back the gun which he used to kill Trayvon Martin. My prayer: May that gun turn to a snake in his hand and climb the arm that holds it. Meanwhile, I mourn for our land that has shamed the word justice. 
 
2. Please follow this link for my deeper and fuller response, as i contemplate the "body politic" which continues to allow guns.  

In sadness,and with what small hope we may have,

Margo Berdeshevsky

read Michael Bettencourt's column

Guns

If guns are just for killing then the only answer is ban all guns everywhere and that includes the military. That would be supremely desirable and impossible. Should we ban fertilizer because it is now easily obtained and used for bombs large and small? The only answer is to to change the paradigm of problem solving, change the way people solve problems to a totally non-violent behavior. Now how do we do that I ask you?

Petter Wellen

read Michael Bettencourt's column

Guns

I don't own a gun. I've never fired a gun. And I agree: their primary purpose is to kill. Yet they have another purpose, which is why I don't think they should be banned: in the hands of everyday citizens they are a deterrent, a protection against bad people and bad governments. Ownership of guns is in fact protected by the United States constitution. However, I do believe, strongly, that all hunting should be banned. Killing animals for food is bad enough. Killing for sport is obscene.

Marnie Osburn

read Michael Bettencourt's column

Affirmative Action

As much as I understand the wherefore of Affirmative Action, Mr. Bettencourt's analysis and portrayal of his own experience are well taken. Correct me if I am wrong, I believe that the United States is the only nation that is concerned with educational diversity and has historically engaged in action to implement it.

A.S. Waterson

read Michael Bettencourt's column

Theatre Thoughts

I love Michael Bettencourt's Theatre Thoughts. He speaks so beautifully and his voice reminds me of a brother or a father reading to someone late at night. Though his short stories and comments are entertaining they are also thoughtful and informative and his experiences are valuable to hear about on many levels. I want to ask about the earlier records that were published. Are they still available in an archive somewhere?

Maria Stipensi

listen to Michael Bettencourt's Theatre Thoughts

re: Theatre Thoughts

You can always find the rest of the published Theatre Thoughts recordings by going to the Scene4 Archives at: www.archives.scene4.com or, go to Michael Bettencourt's web site at: http://www.m-bettencourt.com/podcast.html

The Editors

What Is An Economy For?

"The Borg of Capitalism", a perfect phrase. It's one of the best labels I've seen concerning our global economic plague of buying and selling run riot. It says it all. Time to revisit Star Trek and ask Picard how to finally defeat it.

Estelle Kaplan

read Michael Bettencourt's column

Bettencourt and Thomas

Try as I may and try as I might, I can't get over the feeling that both Mr. Bettencourt and Mr. Thomas are 'sweet' cynics. Cynics after their years in the theater and sweet to be in Scene4. It's a refreshing encore but only when you're in the mood.

Stanley Bergas

read Michael Bettencourt's column
read Nathan Thomas' column

Arts&Gender

This is a great issue (April 2014), an unusual 360 degree perspective of how far we've come and how little we've accomplished. I was especially taken with Michael Bettencourt's "Magic Towel" article. It's instructive and enlightening and should be twittered relentlessly. It's a tale for our times.

Rachel Tyler Dormath

read Michael Bettencourt's article

Gender?

I for one believe that gender is misapplied to human beings based on physical differences and is a persistent promotion of racism. In this fine issue of Scene4 (April 2014), (Michael) Bettencourt and (Arthur) Meiselman both shine their lights brightly on this ugly distortion that has plagued the entire history of life. There is only one gender - human.

Petra Dischban

read Michael Bettencourt's article
read Arthur Meiselman's article

Neuroself or is it Selfneurosis?

As the writer (Michael Bettencourt) says: "...giving thanks for finding a way to win the losing battle against my demons". That's the ticket isn't it? His poignant and initimately self-perceptive look at himself is an often blocked way for all of us to look at ourselves. Thanks for opening the window and letting us see with our eyes open.

Sasha Lauren

read Michael Bettencourt's column

Peace in our time...

Peace can't come about in a society of conflicting class interests.  War began with class rule and will end with the establishment of a classless society by the people. Until that time arrives, a time when the people themselves choose to establish common ownership of the land and the collective product of their labour, administered in free association, war will be a constant amongst the members of the human race.

Mike Ballard

read Michael Bettencourt's column

War and Peace

William James aside, I would point you to the late, lamented Christopher Hitchens, a liberal often radical left-winger, a great warrior for "peace in our time", who supported the Iraq invasion and war. He cajoled and warned that the fundamentalist Islamic jihad is unlike any other terror in history in that it has no political goals, only the destruction of all modern civilization and the return to the time of the 7th century caliphate. He argued that regardless of the concocted premise under which the Cheney-Rumsfeld cabal promoted the Iraq war it was a necessity (perhaps too late) to stem the inevitability of the mindless Islamist radicals acquiring nuclear weapons. As he said (and so did Harry Truman and others), anyone who is willing to destroy himself as he destroys you is a threat beyond the evolution of history.
And he was right!

Louis Laird

read Michael Bettencourt's column

How Now Copyright?

I read, with interest, Arthur Meiselman's piece on copyright. My response to the writer, since I am cited by him as a spur to his article is this:

I am not against copyright, that is, not against having some form of protection for created work, for the "property" of the creator.  I would just dial back the protections to the original terms of the Copyright Act of 1790, which gave a creator 14 years of protection, with an additional term of 14 years if he or she was alive at the time of the renewal.  (The original law only protected books, maps, and charts; other items, like music and paintings, were added later.)

I also don't have a problem with copyrights being treated as commodities and passed along/sold to other parties, as long as the time limits don't reset during the exchange: If my father in his will passes along to me the copyright to his wildly successful book, and thus its profits, in the 27th year of its copyright (renewed after 14 years), I get the profits for one more year only, and that's it.  Then the book goes into the public domain.  (Whatever publishing rights companies have do not trump the copyright term limit -- once the property passed into the public domain, they no longer have exclusive access to it.)

I would also support a provision that doesn't make copyright automatic once a work is created.  Copyrights would have to registered, with a small fee to do this, in order to start the clock ticking on the first 14 years.  If a copyright is not registered, then that work does not have copyright protection and is automatically added to the public domain.  (We'd have to work out some window during which a creator can register so that the created work has a provisional or contingent protection, a "pre-copyright" protection, in case they're on walkabout in Australia when the inspiration comes.)  This would also allow people to forego copyright if they didn't want it (today known as "copyleft") without having to go through the hoops of the Creative Commons licensing procedures (but this would also mean that the creator would have no say in how the work gets used in the public domain).

The logistics of this are too complicated for this limited space, but they are mostly legalistic in nature once the umbrella concept of a time-limit for a registered copyright is established (e.g., can someone "own" something in the public domain, such as a Picasso painting hanging in the Metropolitan Museum, or "The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn" in its new Japanese manga version?).  This doesn't make them easy but it does make them doable and possible.

My desire is to get as much material, actual and virtual, into the public domain as possible as quickly as possible without too much interference from the dead hand of the past or the greed of corporations and creators -- as the original act said, in order "to encourage learning."  Twenty-eight years seems enough time for a creator to make his or her money.  My desire is to cut back all the kudzu that has smothered copyright to the point where, now, anything after 1923 is out of bounds, with absurd restrictions like a book not going into the public domain until 70 years after the death of its author.  To me, that's racketeering.

Of course I will not win this argument -- there is too much money at stake.  But it's an argument that still needs to be made.

Michael Bettencourt


I agree with most of Michael Bettencourt's arguments. But the implication of his strong desire toward "public domain" is what concerns me. I don't care about the financial provisos of copyright: protect the creator and the creator's heirs, all for a reasonable time, and then the hell with it... let the bucks be made by the buck-makers. What I do care about is the content, the creation as the creator conceived it. Within most current copyright protection, while the creator is alive, his/her permission is required to change one comma, one note, one choreographic movement, one anything. Once the creator has been de-created, my admonition is that the permission is no longer available. Nothing should be changed. If a creation is to be adapted, write a new version based on the original, but do not, do not use the original words or notes or strokes. If you want to do "Rome&Juliet" Mr. Luhrman (after you find actors who can speak English), write your own. I cite George Bernard Shaw who sent a sheriff with a cease&desist court order at the Broadway opening of one of his plays: do it the way he wrote it or don't do it. If you want to do a Balanchine ballet, do it as he conceived it, or choreograph your own. The argument against my argument is: hey, that's not the way show business works. My answer: Tough shite! Shaw understood the business of show better than almost anyone alive today. Of course, he's dead and his creations? Unprotected.

As I calm down here, I'm fully aware that it is the Internet which has unleashed an irrevocable shattering of copyright protection. The "mashup" is the worse thing that has happened to artistic creation since the invention of television and free agency in baseball. And, as Rebecca Solnit noted in Harper's: The Internet will also "create elaborate justifications for never paying artists or writers." She also notes: "...2014 has turned out quite a bit like [Orwell's] 1984."

Arthur Meiselman

Michael Bettencourt's earlier column: "Dear Mr. Beckett"

Arthur Meiselman's current column: "On Copyright And Cats"

How Now Copyright? - A Response To A Response

Response to Arthur's Response

Citing the "mashup" as "the worst thing that has happened to artistic creation since the invention of television and free agency in baseball" is to forget that the "mashup" is how any art gets made.  No inventor creates something in the way that Athena burst forth from the head of Zeus when Hephaestus cracked open his skull, that is, something without antecedent, without an origin story, without some debt to (dare I say it?) to the "public domain."

This is precisely the point Nina Paley made in stripping her wonderful work, Sita Sings The Blues, of all copyright restrictions: "From the shared culture it came, and back into the shared culture it goes."

For me, the more things there are to mash up into new forms, the better off everyone will be, not just in the arts but in all aspects of intellectual study -- "mashup" is just a synonym for "the free market of ideas," and the public domain, where everybody has a library card to borrow the materials, is where this market can play out the trading that results in new ideas, new practices, new directions.

This fertility -- its power to nourish and propel -- is why we can't follow my colleague's advice and do only "archival performances" (my term, not his) of past work.  Shaw had every right to issue his cease-and-desist then, but I don't think anyone can make a defensible aesthetic argument that his work is well-served by issuing one now on his behalf, and there's certainly no legal basis for it either.

Perhaps Shakespeare is more to the point here, since competing versions of some of his plays defy citing any one manuscript as definitive, Arthur's "the original words."  (Kenneth Branagh, for his film version of Hamlet, simply mashed together every version he could find into one script, which is why the film runs for four hours with an intermission.)  There is no ur-Shakespeare text, and certainly no ur-Shakespeare performance (we have no settled picture of what happened on an Elizabethan stage), and thus no ur-Shakespeare to which we must always remain faithful.  

And even if such a thing did exist, doing R&J in 2014, even following every jot and tittle, will not be the same as a production done in 1614: we can mimic the practice but we can't access the spirit and mind-set of that time.  We are different people living in a different world, and our R&J will be an automatic betrayal of the original.

Rebecca Solnit's point about "the Internet" is a good one in terms of its effects on artists' livelihoods.  However, it's not "the Internet's" fault but the way people use and abuse this vast infrastructure for sharing information -- a subject too large to parse here but one which touches upon the ethic of the public domain and a regulated commons.

But it certainly has thrown into disarray old notions of ownership and control and property and contract, which, to me, is a very good thing since many of these notions were restrictive, exploitative, and rent-seeking, and needed to be challenged.  Going back to a situation where "the permission [to change things] is no longer available" is to go back to the very practices that "the Internet" has up-ended.

The "mashup" is how stuff gets made.  The source material for the mashup is both the universe of all created artifacts and the cultural "air" we all breathe as citizens of some collective.  Given the capitalistic way we have chosen to arrange our current collective, it makes sense to define creation as "property" and afford it some of its protections.

The debate is over the extent and power of those protections, and my contention is to give them a statute of limitations that balances inventors' abilities to make some money off their efforts and the public domain's need for new stuff to mash up.  I believe this is a fair trade, given how the public domain seeds everything of value created by anyone who lives in its midst.

Michael Bettencourt

The man with the hammer

Michael Bettencourt hits the nail squarely on the head. Because the entire damned internet has become an entire pool of "clickbait." It's a disgusting use of the dumbing down of information for the sake of, well, dumbing down. Also, I would suggest that since we are coded entities as he suggests, we need to start offering up our dna to the highest bidders in one great catalog like shoes and dresses. That would be like selling our souls, right?

Everett Bradesly

Michael Bettencourt's column: "Viral"

Naked Clothing

I hope the PC police won't be jumping all over Michael Bettencourt for his man-in-the-street view of how terrible some people dress and especially how terrible some ladies dress. With some mild tongue-in-cheek and hitting the marks where the marks should be hit, Mr. Bettencourt is an astute observer and a fine essayist to boot.

Bevly Meerasch

Michael Bettencourt's column: "To Clothe Their Nakedness"

The More Things Change...

re: Michael Bettencourt's column: "To Clothe Their Nakedness"

More than a decade since I've been on the subway and yet the scene you paint is very familiar... my responses back then were less measured, alternating with trying not to see but knowing I needed to pay attention. A native New Yorker, most of what passes as okay today is comparatively discomfiting, as with the death of my parent's generation, so went the last mass semblance of decent presentation. It bugs me to see the street boy fashion you describe, replicated by these upstate country kids who don't even have sidewalks to walk on. Thanks for the laugh!

Regina Howe

Off To Work

Socialistic democracy hasn't been espoused for a long time in American politics and Michael Bettencourt's take on the sickness of capitalism and the rise of Dr. Bernie Sanders is a telling tale. As Billie in A Year of Living Dangerously so repeatedly and poignantly pleaded: "What shall we do?"

Michael Aptrow

Michael Bettencourt's column: "It's Off To Work I Go"

Passing Stones, Passing Thoughts

With his usual clarity and style, Mr. Bettencourt draws me in for good conversation and some precipitate thought. This sentence: "But the body is the only thing that matters - without it, nothing else happens, and without it in good form, nothing good will happen." is a tattoo for the mind. Thank you for that.

Maurice Blanc

Michael Bettencourt's column: Passing Stones, Passing Thoughts

Inbox Zero

Though both disturbing and thought-provoking, Mr. Bettencourt masterfully leads to a vexing question in his column this month (Scene4 June 2016): "What exactly does recollection do for us?" The answers to that question would fill an inbox to bursting.

Nelda Mandel-Rizick

Michael Bettencourt's column: "Inbox Zero"

Watson Heston

Thanks for the clue to Heston. He sure would fit in right now and probably get pilloried by Trump and his gang and probably enjoy it. Good luck with your project!

Mia Bremstern

Michael Bettencourt's column: Watson Heston

Why I Love My Wife

This is a rare thing. A love letter to a wife of 16 years. Beautifully written and beautifully felt. The truth is in the adoration.
Marisa Perotti

Touching, revealing but not saccharin in any way. Mr. Bettencourt writes so privately in so public a way in a revelation to those who go crazy struggling with relationships.
Peter Genot

Mr. Bettencourt has the uncommon skill to turn an essay into poetry, an ode to be read often down through the years.
Oriana Salzez


Michael Bettencourt's column: Why I love My Wife

Prognosticating

Michael Bettencourt stands on his wind-swept mountain and proclaims: "The Trump voters bought themselves a pig in a poke, just as the silent majority bought one with Nixon and the "morning in America"-hopers bought one with Reagan and the evangelicals bought one with Bush II. They will soon find out the value of what they have purchased - the 2018 elections will tell that tale." It's a good prophecy and a good bet. But I think he's over-optimistic. After all, it took eight years for the faithful to realize that Obama, the cool, Harvard man, was not an agent of change, was politically naive, and turned out to be a pig in a poke in a poke of pigs. We've got another housing collapse coming and some bad military adventures coming. Mr. Bettencourt needs to focus his steely eye on eight years from now when the U.S. will face its worst depression ever and will drag down the rest of the globalized world with it. It's the story of our history, America, the home of the binge.

Jay Salkind

Michael Bettencourt's column: What Is It That They Think They're Rebelling Against?

About Bettencourt

This page contains an archive of all entries posted to RECENT LETTERS in the Bettencourt category. They are listed from oldest to newest.

Alenier is the previous category.

Feldman is the next category.

Many more can be found on the main index page or by looking through the archives.

To SEND a LETTER to the EDITOR — Click Here
or
Send an email to letters@scene4.com