The Art of Tetman Callis

Some of the stories and poems may be inappropriate for persons under 16

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Same as it ever is

May 19th, 2019 · No Comments

“1849, November 10: Texas Judge Spruce M. Baird arrives in Santa Fe and declares Santa Fe part of Texas. The natives ignore him, so after a brief period he returns to Austin and argues that New Mexico is in rebellion.” – Leon Metz, El Paso Chronicles

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The destiny was not so manifest

May 18th, 2019 · No Comments

“1848, March 15: On paper, the Texas Legislature creates Santa Fe County. It includes the Big Bend, Texas Panhandle, West Texas, a third of Oklahoma, most of New Mexico, half of Colorado, and chunks of Wyoming and Kansas. Santa Fe is the county seat.” – Leon Metz, El Paso Chronicles

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That’ll larn ’em

May 17th, 2019 · No Comments

“1841, June 20: The Texas-Santa Fe Expedition leaves Austin for Santa Fe. Historians argue over whether it was a trading force or an armed invasion. Anyway, General Hugh McLeod commanded 300 Texans. Three Texas commissioners tagged along to carry out the political aims of the invading/trading caravan. However, the expedition lost its way and was starving near modern-day Tucumcari, New Mexico, when it surrendered in October to a much smaller Mexican force. A death march then started toward El Paso, Chihuahua. Texans who died along the road had their ears cut off and strung on a piece of rawhide as proof that none had escaped.” – Leon Metz, El Paso Chronicles

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Throwing the book at you

May 16th, 2019 · No Comments

“If you make the slightest move
To do anything of any significance in this world
The world will throw a codified book at you,
Tailored exactly for you, consisting of documentation for
Citations, writs, notices of violations,
Late income tax notices, lien notices,
Car tax notices, property tax notices,
Military draft notices, phone bills, light bills, food bills,
Natural gas bill, propane bill, fuel oil bill, pet bill, lawyer bill,
Doctor bill, pill bill, hospital bill, psychiatrist bill,
Sanitarium bill, psychiatric hospital bill,
And finally your funeral bill, which by the grace
You won’t have to see.”

– Bradley Thomas, “The Codified Book”

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It’s sort of like this

May 15th, 2019 · No Comments

“A hypothetical analogy, based on American history, may help to shed light on the historicity of Exodus. Imagine a book based on the following outline: first, a section on the American Revolution, with some biographical material on a few of the Founding Fathers, focusing mostly on the outbreak of the war and the key battles; second, a description of the Constitutional Convention, including some of the more important speeches and discussions; third, the text of the Constitution itself; and finally, L’Enfant’s original blueprints for the building of the new capital, Washington, D.C., interspersed with accounts of the first few presidents’ inaugural addresses. What would be the underlying message of such a book? We are certainly dealing here with more than a straight journalistic description of the events, more than a legalistic discussion of constitutional law, and more than a technical presentation for architects. Such a book would actually be presenting the ideals of America’s self-image: a nation founded on the willingness to fight for particular rights against Old World tyranny, established under democratic laws based on reason and providing governmental checks and balances, and whose ideals would be embodied in the construction of a brand-new, centrally located capital city that used classically grounded forms of architecture to express grace and reason as the basis for the new society.” – Everett Fox, The Five Books of Moses

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The keystone state

May 14th, 2019 · No Comments

“Trial, by Jury, of facts, where they arise, is one of the greatest securities of the lives, liberties, and estates of the people.” Delaware Const. (1776), Declaration of Rights, Art. 13.

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And a devilish sense of humor

May 13th, 2019 · No Comments

“Whatever else we may think of Her, God has a deft hand for the plot twist.” – Charles P. Pierce, “Trump’s New Lawyer Is Someone I Remember Well”

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The writer’s bicameral mind

May 12th, 2019 · No Comments

“To suggest that a creative writer, in a time of conflict, must split his life into two compartments, may seem defeatist or frivolous: yet in practice I do not see what else he can do. To lock yourself up in an ivory tower is impossible and undesirable. To yield subjectively, not merely to a party machine, but even to a group ideology, is to destroy yourself as a writer. We feel this dilemma to be a painful one, because we see the need of engaging in politics while also seeing what a dirty, degrading business it is. And most of us still have a lingering belief that every choice, even every political choice, is between good and evil, and that if a thing is necessary it is also right. We should, I think, get rid of this belief, which belongs to the nursery. In politics one can never do more than decide which of two evils is the lesser, and there are some situations from which one can only escape by acting like a devil or a lunatic. War, for example, may be necessary, but it is certainly not right or sane. Even a General Election is not exactly a pleasant or edifying spectacle. If you have to take part in such things—and I think you do have to, unless you are armoured by old age or stupidity or hypocrisy—then you also have to keep part of yourself inviolate. For most people the problem does not arise in the same form, because their lives are split already. They are truly alive only in their leisure hours, and there is no emotional connection between their work and their political activities. Nor are they generally asked, in the name of political loyalty, to debase themselves as workers. The artist, and especially the writer, is asked just that—in fact, it is the only thing that Politicians ever ask of him. If he refuses, that does not mean that he is condemned to inactivity. One half of him, which in a sense is the whole of him, can act as resolutely, even as violently if need be, as anyone else. But his writings, in so far as they have any value, will always be the product of the saner self that stands aside, records the things that are done and admits their necessity, but refuses to be deceived as to their true nature.” – George Orwell, “Writers and Leviathan”

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And then there you have it

May 11th, 2019 · No Comments

“Group loyalties are necessary, and yet they are poisonous to literature, so long as literature is the product of individuals. As soon as they are allowed to have any influence, even a negative one, on creative writing, the result is not only falsification, but often the actual drying-up of the inventive faculties.” – George Orwell, “Writers and Leviathan”

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Or excising it for good

May 10th, 2019 · No Comments

“A modern literary intellectual lives and writes in constant dread—not, indeed, of public opinion in the wider sense, but of public opinion within his own group. As a rule, luckily, there is more than one group, but also at any given moment there is a dominant orthodoxy, to offend against which needs a thick skin and sometimes means cutting one’s income in half for years on end.” – George Orwell, “Writers and Leviathan”

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A very practical matter

May 9th, 2019 · No Comments

“When you are on a sinking ship. your thoughts will be about sinking ships.” – George Orwell, “Writers and Leviathan”

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Just the facts, man

May 8th, 2019 · No Comments

“Whoever writes about his childhood must beware of exaggeration and self-pity.” – George Orwell, “Such, Such Were the Joys”

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Discipline and punish

May 7th, 2019 · No Comments

“There are families in which the father will say to his child, ‘You’ll get a thick ear if you do that again’, while the mother, her eyes brimming over with tears, will take the child in her arms and murmur lovingly, ‘Now, darling, is it kind to Mummy to do that?’ And who would maintain that the second method is less tyrannous than the first? The distinction that really matters is not between violence and non-violence, but between having and not having the appetite for power. There are people who are convinced of the wickedness both of armies and of police forces, but who are nevertheless much more intolerant and inquisitorial in outlook than the normal person who believes that it is necessary to use violence in certain circumstances. They will not say to somebody else, ‘Do this, that and the other or you will go to prison’, but they will, if they can, get inside his brain and dictate his thoughts for him in the minutest particulars. Creeds like pacifism and anarchism, which seem on the surface to imply a complete renunciation of power, rather encourage this habit of mind. For if you have embraced a creed which appears to be free from the ordinary dirtiness of politics—a creed from which you yourself cannot expect to draw any material advantage—surely that proves that you are in the right? And the more you are in the right, the more natural that everyone else should be bullied into thinking likewise.” – George Orwell, “Lear, Tolstoy, and the Fool” (emphasis in original)

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Life sux an’ then ya die

May 6th, 2019 · No Comments

“Most people get a fair amount of fun out of their lives, but on balance life is suffering, and only the very young or the very foolish imagine otherwise. Ultimately it is the Christian attitude which is self-interested and hedonistic, since the aim is always to get away from the painful struggle of earthly life and find eternal peace in some kind of Heaven or Nirvana. The humanist attitude is that the struggle must continue and that death is the price of life. ‘Men must endure their going hence, even as their coming hither: Ripeness is all’—which is an un-Christian sentiment. Often there is a seeming truce between the humanist and the religious believer, but in fact their attitudes cannot be reconciled: one must choose between this world and the next. And the enormous majority of human beings, if they understood the issue, would choose this world. They do make that choice when they continue working, breeding and dying instead of crippling their faculties in the hope of obtaining a new lease of existence elsewhere.” – George Orwell, “Lear, Tolstoy, and the Fool”

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Mixes of motives

May 5th, 2019 · No Comments

“If you live for others, you must live for others, and not as a roundabout way of getting an advantage for yourself.” – George Orwell, “Lear, Tolstoy, and the Fool” (emphasis in original)

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Washed in the blood

May 4th, 2019 · No Comments

“The illusion of having been reborn may allow one’s native vices to flourish more freely than ever, though perhaps in subtler forms.” – George Orwell, “Lear, Tolstoy, and the Fool”

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Pretty much all of life

May 3rd, 2019 · No Comments

“It is doubtful whether the sense of tragedy is compatible with belief in God: at any rate, it is not compatible with disbelief in human dignity and with the kind of ‘moral demand’ which feels cheated when virtue fails to triumph. A tragic situation exists precisely when virtue does not triumph but when it is still felt that man is nobler than the forces which destroy him.” – George Orwell, “Lear, Tolstoy, and the Fool” (emphasis in original)

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The glass can shatter, though

May 2nd, 2019 · No Comments

“All writers are vain, selfish, and lazy, and at the very bottom of their motives there lies a mystery. Writing a book is a horrible, exhausting struggle, like a long bout of some painful illness. One would never undertake such a thing if one were not driven on by some demon whom one can neither resist nor understand. For all one knows that demon is simply the same instinct that makes a baby squall for attention. And yet it is also true that one can write nothing readable unless one constantly struggles to efface one’s own personality. Good prose is like a windowpane.” – George Orwell, “Why I Write”

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And, why not

May 1st, 2019 · No Comments

“I do not think one can assess a writer’s motives without knowing something of his early development. His subject matter will be determined by the age he lives in—at least this is true in tumultuous, revolutionary ages like our own—but before he ever begins to write he will have acquired an emotional attitude from which he will never completely escape. It is his job, no doubt, to discipline his temperament and avoid getting stuck at some immature stage, in some perverse mood; but if he escapes from his early influences altogether, he will have killed his impulse to write. Putting aside the need to earn a living, I think there are four great motives for writing, at any rate for writing prose. They exist in different degrees in every writer, and in any one writer the proportions will vary from time to time, according to the atmosphere in which he is living. They are: (i) Sheer egoism. Desire to seem clever, to be talked about, to be remembered after death, to get your own back on the grown-ups who snubbed you in childhood, etc., etc. It is humbug to pretend this is not a motive, and a strong one. Writers share this characteristic with scientists, artists, politicians, lawyers, soldiers, successful businessmen—in short, with the whole top crust of humanity. The great mass of human beings are not acutely selfish. After the age of about thirty they almost abandon the sense of being individuals at all—and live chiefly for others, or are simply smothered under drudgery. But there is also the minority of gifted, willful people who are determined to live their own lives to the end, and writers belong in this class. Serious writers, I should say, are on the whole more vain and self-centered than journalists, though less interested in money. (ii) Aesthetic enthusiasm. Perception of beauty in the external world, or, on the other hand, in words and their right arrangement. Pleasure in the impact of one sound on another, in the firmness of good prose or the rhythm of a good story. Desire to share an experience which one feels is valuable and ought not to be missed. The aesthetic motive is very feeble in a lot of writers, but even a pamphleteer or writer of textbooks will have pet words and phrases which appeal to him for non-utilitarian reasons; or he may feel strongly about typography, width of margins, etc. Above the level of a railway guide, no book is quite free from aesthetic considerations. (iii) Historical impulse. Desire to see things as they are, to find out true facts and store them up for the use of posterity. (iv) Political purpose.—Using the word ‘political’ in the widest possible sense. Desire to push the world in a certain direction, to alter other peoples’ idea of the kind of society that they should strive after. Once again, no book is genuinely free from political bias. The opinion that art should have nothing to do with politics is itself a political attitude.” – George Orwell, “Why I Write”

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Ghosts in a machine, aging

April 30th, 2019 · No Comments

“Certain themes cannot be celebrated in words, and tyranny is one of them. No one ever wrote a good book in praise of the Inquisition. Poetry might survive in a totalitarian age, and certain arts or half-arts, such as architecture, might even find tyranny beneficial, but the prose writer would have no choice between silence or death. Prose literature as we know it is the product of rationalism, of the Protestant centuries, of the autonomous individual. And the destruction of intellectual liberty cripples the journalist, the sociological writer, the historian, the novelist, the critic, and the poet, in that order. In the future it is possible that a new kind of literature, not involving individual feeling or truthful observation, may arise, but no such thing is at present imaginable. It seems much likelier that if the liberal culture that we have lived in since the Renaissance comes to an end, the literary art will perish with it.” – George Orwell, “The Prevention of Literature”

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The party system

April 29th, 2019 · No Comments

“A society becomes totalitarian when its structure becomes flagrantly artificial: that is, when its ruling class has lost its function but succeeds in clinging to power by force or fraud. Such a society, no matter how long it persists, can never afford to become either tolerant or intellectually stable. It can never permit either the truthful recording of facts or the emotional sincerity that literary creation demands. But to be corrupted by totalitarianism one does not have to live in a totalitarian country. The mere prevalence of certain ideas can spread a kind of poison that makes one subject after another impossible for literary purposes. Wherever there is an enforced orthodoxy—or even two orthodoxies, as often happens—good writing stops.” – George Orwell, “The Prevention of Literature”

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Better get used to it

April 28th, 2019 · No Comments

“To write in plain, vigorous language one has to think fearlessly, and if one thinks fearlessly one cannot be politically orthodox.” – George Orwell, “The Prevention of Literature”

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White House jobs await

April 27th, 2019 · No Comments

“Above a quite low level, literature is an attempt to influence the viewpoint of one’s contemporaries by recording experience. And so far as freedom of expression is concerned, there is not much difference between a mere journalist and the most “unpolitical” imaginative writer. The journalist is unfree, and is conscious of unfreedom, when he is forced to write lies or suppress what seems to him important news; the imaginative writer is unfree when he has to falsify his subjective feelings, which from his point of view are facts. He may distort and caricature reality in order to make his meaning clearer, but he cannot misrepresent the scenery of his own mind; he cannot say with any conviction that he likes what he dislikes, or believes what he disbelieves. If he is forced to do so, the only result is that his creative faculties will dry up. Nor can he solve the problem by keeping away from controversial topics. There is no such thing as a genuinely non-political literature, and least of all in an age like our own, when fears, hatreds, and loyalties of a directly political kind are near to the surface of everyone’s consciousness. Even a single taboo can have an all-round crippling effect upon the mind, because there is always the danger that any thought which is freely followed up may lead to the forbidden thought. It follows that the atmosphere of totalitarianism is deadly to any kind of prose writer, though a poet, at any rate a lyric poet, might possibly find it breathable. And in any totalitarian society that survives for more than a couple of generations, it is probable that prose literature, of the kind that has existed during the past four hundred years, must actually come to an end.” – George Orwell, “The Prevention of Literature”

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Well that’s just your opinion

April 26th, 2019 · No Comments

“From the totalitarian point of view history is something to be created rather than learned. A totalitarian state is in effect a theocracy, and its ruling caste, in order to keep its position, has to be thought of as infallible. But since, in practice, no one is infallible, it is frequently necessary to rearrange past events in order to show that this or that mistake was not made, or that this or that imaginary triumph actually happened. Then again, every major change in policy demands a corresponding change of doctrine and a revelation of prominent historical figures. This kind of thing happens everywhere, but is clearly likelier to lead to outright falsification in societies where only one opinion is permissible at any given moment. Totalitarianism demands, in fact, the continuous alteration of the past, and in the long run probably demands a disbelief in the very existence of objective truth.” – George Orwell, “The Prevention of Literature”

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A round of sado-maso on the house, barkeep

April 25th, 2019 · No Comments

“Part of our minds—in any normal person it is the dominant part—believes that man is a noble animal and life is worth living: but there is also a sort of inner self which at least intermittently stands aghast at the horror of existence. In the queerest way, pleasure and disgust are linked together. The human body is beautiful: it is also repulsive and ridiculous, a fact which can be verified at any swimming pool. The sexual organs are objects of desire and also of loathing, so much so that in many languages, if not in all languages, their names are used as words of abuse. Meat is delicious, but a butcher’s shop makes one feel sick: and indeed all our food springs ultimately from dung and dead bodies, the two things which of all others seem to us the most horrible. A child, when it is past the infantile stage but still looking at the world with fresh eyes, is moved by horror almost as often as by wonder—horror of snot and spittle, of the dogs’ excrement on the pavement, the dying toad full of maggots, the sweaty smell of grown-ups, the hideousness of old men, with their bald heads and bulbous noses.” – George Orwell, “Politics vs. Literature: An Examination of Gulliver’s Travels

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But Wendy is always the lovely one

April 24th, 2019 · No Comments

“If one is capable of intellectual detachment, one can perceive merit in a writer whom one deeply disagrees with, but enjoyment is a different matter. Supposing that there is such a thing as good or bad art, then the goodness or badness must reside in the work of art itself—not independently of the observer, indeed, but independently of the mood of the observer. In one sense, therefore, it cannot be true that a poem is good on Monday and bad on Tuesday. But if one judges the poem by the appreciation it arouses, then it can certainly be true, because appreciation, or enjoyment, is a subjective condition which cannot be commanded. For a great deal of his waking life, even the most cultivated person has no aesthetic feelings whatever, and the power to have aesthetic feelings is very easily destroyed. When you are frightened, or hungry, or are suffering from toothache or sea-sickness, King Lear is no better from your point of view than Peter Pan. You may know in an intellectual sense that it is better, but that is simply a fact which you remember: you will not feel the merit of King Lear until you are normal again. And aesthetic judgement can be upset just as disastrously—more disastrously, because the cause is less readily recognized—by political or moral disagreement. If a book angers, wounds or alarms you, then you will not enjoy it, whatever its merits may be. If it seems to you a really pernicious book, likely to influence other people in some undesirable way, then you will probably construct an aesthetic theory to show that it has no merits.” – George Orwell, “Politics vs. Literature: An Examination of Gulliver’s Travels” (emphases in original)

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The thing, to the thing

April 23rd, 2019 · No Comments

“What is above all needed is to let the meaning choose the word, and not the other way about. In prose, the worst thing one can do with words is to surrender them. When you think of a concrete object, you think wordlessly, and then, if you want to describe the thing you have been visualizing, you probably hunt about till you find the exact words that seem to fit it. When you think of something abstract you are more inclined to use words from the start, and unless you make a conscious effort to prevent it, the existing dialect will come rushing in and do the job for you, at the expense of blurring or even changing your meaning. Probably it is better to put off using words as long as possible and get one’s meaning as clear as one can through pictures or sensations. Afterwards one can choose—not simply accept—the phrases that will best cover the meaning, and then switch round and decide what impressions one’s words are likely to make on another person. This last effort of the mind cuts out all stale or mixed images, all prefabricated phrases, needless repetitions, and humbug and vagueness generally. But one can often be in doubt about the effect of a word or a phrase, and one needs rules that one can rely on when instinct fails. I think the following rules will cover most cases: (i) Never use a metaphor, simile or other figure of speech which you are used to seeing in print. (ii) Never use a long word where a short one will do. (iii) If it is possible to cut a word out, always cut it out. (iv) Never use the passive where you can use the active. (v) Never use a foreign phrase, a scientific word or a jargon word if you can think of an everyday English equivalent. (vi) Break any of these rules sooner than say anything barbarous.” – George Orwell, “Politics and the English Language” (emphasis in original)

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Not unlike

April 22nd, 2019 · No Comments

“One can cure oneself of the not ‘un-’ formation by memorizing this sentence: A not unblack dog was chasing a not unsmall rabbit across a not ungreen field.” – George Orwell, “Politics and the English Language” (emphasis in original)

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The seventh question is why bother in the first place

April 21st, 2019 · No Comments

“A scrupulous writer, in every sentence that he writes, will ask himself at least four questions, thus: What am I trying to say? What words will express it? What image or idiom will make it clearer? Is this image fresh enough to have an effect? And he will probably ask himself two more: Could I put it more shortly? Have I said anything that is avoidably ugly? But you are not obliged to go to all this trouble. You can shirk it by simply throwing your mind open and letting the ready-made phrases come crowding in. They will construct your sentences for you—even think your thoughts for you, to a certain extent—and at need they will perform the important service of partially concealing your meaning even from yourself. It is at this point that the special connection between politics and the debasement of language becomes clear.” – George Orwell, “Politics and the English Language”

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Who’ll stand the next round

April 20th, 2019 · No Comments

“Much of what goes by the name of pleasure is simply an effort to destroy consciousness. If one started by asking, what is man? what are his needs? how can he best express himself? one would discover that merely having the power to avoid work and live one’s life from birth to death in electric light and to the tune of tinned music is not a reason for doing so. Man needs warmth, society, leisure, comfort and security: he also needs solitude, creative work and the sense of wonder. If he recognised this he could use the products of science and industrialism eclectically, applying always the same test: does this make me more human or less human? He would then learn that the highest happiness does not lie in relaxing, resting, playing poker, drinking and making love simultaneously. And the instinctive horror which all sensitive people feel at the progressive mechanisation of life would be seen not to be a mere sentimental archaism, but to be fully justified. For man only stays human by preserving large patches of simplicity in his life, while the tendency of many modern inventions—in particular the film, the radio and the aeroplane—is to weaken his consciousness, dull his curiosity, and, in general, drive him nearer to the animals.” – George Orwell, “Pleasure Spots”

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