The Art of Tetman Callis

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

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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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And others would have been just another con-man

April 19th, 2019 · No Comments

“It is difficult to think of any politician who has lived to be eighty and still been regarded as a success. What we call a ‘great’ statesman normally means one who dies before his policy has had time to take effect. If Cromwell had lived a few years longer he would probably have fallen from power, in which case we should now regard him as a failure. If Pétain had died in 1930, France would have venerated him as a hero and patriot. Napoleon remarked once that if only a cannon-ball had happened to hit him when he was riding into Moscow, he would have gone down to history as the greatest man who ever lived.” – George Orwell, “James Burnham and the Managerial Revolution”

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In many respects, the same as the others

April 18th, 2019 · No Comments

“ ‘Natural’ death, almost by definition, means something slow, smelly and painful.” – George Orwell, “How the Poor Die”

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The remainders

April 17th, 2019 · No Comments

“Until one has some kind of professional relationship with books one does not discover how bad the majority of them are.” – George Orwell, “Confessions of a Book Reviewer”

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Penance for your sins

April 16th, 2019 · No Comments

“The planting of a tree, especially one of the long-living hardwood trees, is a gift which you can make to posterity at almost no cost and with almost no trouble, and if the tree takes root it will far outlive the visible effect of any of your other actions, good or evil.” – George Orwell, “A Good Word for the Vicar of Bray”

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Fire up your fighter jet

April 15th, 2019 · No Comments

“The great age of democracy and of national self-determination was the age of the musket and the rifle. After the invention of the flintlock, and before the invention of the percussion cap, the musket was a fairly efficient weapon, and at the same time so simple that it could be produced almost anywhere. Its combination of qualities made possible the success of the American and French revolutions, and made a popular insurrection a more serious business than it could be in our own day. After the musket came the breech-loading rifle. This was a comparatively complex thing, but it could still be produced in scores of countries, and it was cheap, easily smuggled and economical of ammunition. Even the most backward nation could always get hold of rifles from one source or another, so that Boers, Bulgars, Abyssinians, Moroccans—even Tibetans—could put up a fight for their independence, sometimes with success. But thereafter every development in military technique has favoured the State as against the individual, and the industrialised country as against the backward one. There are fewer and fewer foci of power.” – George Orwell, “You and the Atomic Bomb”

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Which, most often, they turn against themselves

April 14th, 2019 · No Comments

“It is a commonplace that the history of civilisation is largely the history of weapons. In particular, the connection between the discovery of gunpowder and the overthrow of feudalism by the bourgeoisie has been pointed out over and over again. And though I have no doubt exceptions can be brought forward, I think the following rule would be found generally true: that ages in which the dominant weapon is expensive or difficult to make will tend to be ages of despotism, whereas when the dominant weapon is cheap and simple, the common people have a chance. Thus, for example, tanks, battleships and bombing planes are inherently tyrannical weapons, while rifles, muskets, long-bows and hand-grenades are inherently democratic weapons. A complex weapon makes the strong stronger, while a simple weapon—so long as there is no answer to it—gives claws to the weak.” – George Orwell, “You and the Atomic Bomb”

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Bidness is bidness

April 13th, 2019 · No Comments

“Chiefly in England and the United States, games were built up into a heavily-financed activity, capable of attracting vast crowds and rousing savage passions, and the infection spread from country to country. It is the most violently combative sports, football and boxing, that have spread the widest. There cannot be much doubt that the whole thing is bound up with the rise of nationalism—that is, with the lunatic modern habit of identifying oneself with large power units and seeing everything in terms of competitive prestige. Also, organised games are more likely to flourish in urban communities where the average human being lives a sedentary or at least a confined life, and does not get much opportunity for creative labour. In a rustic community a boy or young man works off a good deal of his surplus energy by walking, swimming, snowballing, climbing trees, riding horses, and by various sports involving cruelty to animals, such as fishing, cock-fighting and ferreting for rats. In a big town one must indulge in group activities if one wants an outlet for one’s physical strength or for one’s sadistic impulses.” – George Orwell, “The Sporting Spirit”

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Same as with elections

April 12th, 2019 · No Comments

“Serious sport has nothing to do with fair play. It is bound up with hatred, jealousy, boastfulness, disregard of all rules and sadistic pleasure in witnessing violence: in other words it is war minus the shooting.” – George Orwell, “The Sporting Spirit”

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A touch here and a sprig there

April 11th, 2019 · No Comments

“When the shriveled skin of the ordinary is stuffed out with meaning it satisfies the senses amazingly.” – Virginia Woolf, Orlando

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Impoverished all

April 10th, 2019 · No Comments

“Within the island of his own nature, no man has enough resources.” – Samuel Johnson, “Skia” (trans. John Wain)

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Shout, shout, let it all out

April 9th, 2019 · No Comments

“I try not to talk about being a woman because I don’t want to be defined that way. I try not to talk about religion or politics because I am at odds with the people where I live. I try not to talk about my opinions, because who cares. I try not to talk at all, but sometimes I find myself saying just anything.” – Kathryn Nuernberger, “Float, Cleave”

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Stop, children, what’s that sound

April 8th, 2019 · No Comments

“Indifference to objective truth is encouraged by the sealing-off of one part of the world from another, which makes it harder and harder to discover what is actually happening. There can often be a genuine doubt about the most enormous events. . . . Probably the truth is discoverable, but the facts will be so dishonestly set forth in almost any newspaper that the ordinary reader can be forgiven either for swallowing lies or failing to form an opinion. The general uncertainty as to what is really happening makes it easier to cling to lunatic beliefs. Since nothing is ever quite proved or disproved, the most unmistakable fact can be impudently denied. Moreover, although endlessly brooding on power, victory, defeat, revenge, the nationalist is often somewhat uninterested in what happens in the real world. What he wants is to feel that his own unit is getting the better of some other unit, and he can more easily do this by scoring off an adversary than by examining the facts to see whether they support him. All nationalist controversy is at the debating-society level. It is always entirely inconclusive, since each contestant invariably believes himself to have won the victory. Some nationalists are not far from schizophrenia, living quite happily amid dreams of power and conquest which have no connection with the physical world.” – George Orwell, “Notes on Nationalism”

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The great zero-sum game

April 7th, 2019 · No Comments

“A nationalist is one who thinks solely, or mainly, in terms of competitive prestige. He may be a positive or a negative nationalist—that is, he may use his mental energy either in boosting or in denigrating—but at any rate his thoughts always turn on victories, defeats, triumphs and humiliations. He sees history, especially contemporary history, as the endless rise and decline of great power units, and every event that happens seems to him a demonstration that his own side is on the upgrade and some hated rival is on the downgrade. But finally, it is important not to confuse nationalism with mere worship of success. The nationalist does not go on the principle of simply ganging up with the strongest side. On the contrary, having picked his side, he persuades himself that it is the strongest, and is able to stick to his belief even when the facts are overwhelmingly against him. Nationalism is power-hunger tempered by self-deception. Every nationalist is capable of the most flagrant dishonesty, but he is also—since he is conscious of serving something bigger than himself—unshakably certain of being in the right.” – George Orwell, “Notes on Nationalism”

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Not enough air in this room

April 6th, 2019 · No Comments

“The intellect, divine as it is, and all worshipful, has a habit of lodging in the most seedy of carcasses, and often, alas, acts the cannibal among the other faculties so that often, where the Mind is biggest, the Heart, the Senses, Magnanimity, Charity, Tolerance, Kindliness, and the rest of them scarcely have room to breathe.” – Virginia Woolf, Orlando

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It can’t be avoided

April 5th, 2019 · No Comments

“The first thing that we demand of a wall is that it shall stand up. If it stands up, it is a good wall, and the question of what purpose it serves is separable from that. And yet even the best wall in the world deserves to be pulled down if it surrounds a concentration camp. In the same way it should be possible to say, ‘This is a good book or a good picture, and it ought to be burned by the public hangman.’ Unless one can say that, at least in imagination, one is shirking the implications of the fact that an artist is also a citizen and a human being.” – George Orwell, “Benefit of Clergy: Some Notes on Salvador Dalí”

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Not even impeachable

April 4th, 2019 · No Comments

“In an age like our own, when the artist is an altogether exceptional person, he must be allowed a certain amount of irresponsibility, just as a pregnant woman is. Still, no one would say that a pregnant woman should be allowed to commit murder, nor would anyone make such a claim for the artist, however gifted. If Shakespeare returned to the earth to-morrow, and if it were found that his favourite recreation was raping little girls in railway carriages, we should not tell him to go ahead with it on the ground that he might write another King Lear. And, after all, the worst crimes are not always the punishable ones.” – George Orwell, “Benefit of Clergy: Some Notes on Salvador Dalí”

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Not to mention disgraces

April 3rd, 2019 · No Comments

“Autobiography is only to be trusted when it reveals something disgraceful. A man who gives a good account of himself is probably lying, since any life when viewed from the inside is simply a series of defeats.” – George Orwell, “Benefit of Clergy: Some Notes on Salvador Dalí”

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Go figure

April 2nd, 2019 · No Comments

“Marx’s ultimate motives may well have been envy and spite, but this does not prove that his conclusions were false.” – George Orwell, “Arthur Koestler”

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The worst rash you’ve ever had

April 1st, 2019 · No Comments

“If it is rash to walk into a lion’s den unarmed, rash to navigate the Atlantic in a rowing boat, rash to stand on one foot on the top of St. Paul’s, it is still more rash to go home alone with a poet. A poet is Atlantic and lion in one. While one drowns us the other gnaws us. If we survive the teeth, we succumb to the waves. A man who can destroy illusions is both beast and flood. Illusions are to the soul what atmosphere is to the earth. Roll up that tender air and the plant dies, the colour fades. The earth we walk on is a parched cinder. It is marl we tread and fiery cobbles scorch our feet. By the truth we are undone. Life is a dream. ‘Tis waking that kills us. He who robs us of our dreams robs us of our life—(and so on for six pages if you will, but the style is tedious and may as well be dropped.)” – Virginia Woolf, Orlando

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An acquired taste

March 31st, 2019 · No Comments

“It is no use pretending that in an age like our own, ‘good’ poetry can have any genuine popularity. It is, and must be, the cult of a very few people, the least tolerated of the arts. Perhaps that statement needs a certain amount of qualification. True poetry can sometimes be acceptable to the mass of the people when it disguises itself as something else. One can see an example of this in the folk-poetry that England still possesses, certain nursery rhymes and mnemonic rhymes, for instance, and the songs that soldiers make up, including the words that go to some of the bugle-calls. But in general ours is a civilization in which the very word ‘poetry’ evokes a hostile snigger or, at best, the sort of frozen disgust that most people feel when they hear the word ‘God’. If you are good at playing the concertina you could probably go into the nearest public bar and get yourself an appreciative audience within five minutes. But what would be the attitude of that same audience if you suggested reading them Shakespeare’s sonnets, for instance?” – George Orwell, “Rudyard Kipling”

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Would you like another cup of tea, dear

March 30th, 2019 · No Comments

“No passion is stronger in the breast of man than the desire to make others believe as he believes. Nothing so cuts at the root of his happiness and fills him with rage as the sense that another rates low what he prizes high.” – Virginia Woolf, Orlando

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Cosmo commies

March 29th, 2019 · No Comments

“All left-wing parties in the highly industrialized countries are at bottom a sham, because they make it their business to fight against something which they do not really wish to destroy. They have internationalist aims, and at the same time they struggle to keep up a standard of life with which those aims are incompatible.” – George Orwell, “Rudyard Kipling”

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Men with men with guns

March 28th, 2019 · No Comments

“No one, in our time, believes in any sanction greater than military power; no one believes that it is possible to overcome force except by greater force. There is no ‘Law’, there is only power. I am not saying that that is a true belief, merely that it is the belief which all modern men do actually hold. Those who pretend otherwise are either intellectual cowards, or power-worshippers under a thin disguise, or have simply not caught up with the age they are living in.” – George Orwell, “Rudyard Kipling”

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Who you gonna call

March 27th, 2019 · No Comments

“In the long run—it is important to remember that it is only in the long run—the working class remains the most reliable enemy of Fascism, simply because the working-class stands to gain most by a decent reconstruction of society. Unlike other classes or categories, it can’t be permanently bribed. To say this is not to idealize the working class.” – George Orwell, “Looking Back on the Spanish War”

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Hold your nose and pass the ammunition

March 26th, 2019 · No Comments

“One of the essential experiences of war is never being able to escape from disgusting smells of human origin.” – George Orwell, “Looking Back on the Spanish War”

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They’re not like us

March 25th, 2019 · No Comments

“Dark came and I asked him what the trees do at night.
‘The sick ones cry,’ he said.
‘And the well?’
‘The well cry for the sick.’ “

– Michael Hurley, “Saint Francis’ Last Day”

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