The Art of Tetman Callis

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

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Coin of the realm

August 14th, 2018 · No Comments

“Look, the sun is a sort of bribe, you know, and so is a heavy thunderstorm or a snowfall. So is a dawn, though not I think a sunset. So is a warm bath or a shower, and a sound sleep. Bribes all, in the conspiracy of everything to continue to exist.” – Renata Adler, Pitch Dark

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And still do

August 13th, 2018 · No Comments

“The ‘Tidewater’—the broad coastal plain along the Atlantic—had spawned one kind of culture. The ‘upcountry’ beyond—the great central plateau or Piedmont and the mountains forming its western border—had engendered a far different one. Tidewater North Carolina was rich. Upcountry was poor. Tidewater was a land of rice and indigo plantations worked by armies of slaves. Upcountry was a warren of small farms, each tillable by ‘a man, a mule, and a nigger,’ provided all three worked from dawn to dusk. In the three lower colonies, the Carolinas and Georgia, the Tidewater planters controlled the legislature, made the laws, fixed the taxes, and dominated the courts.” – Milton Lomask, The First American Revolution

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In the beginning

August 12th, 2018 · No Comments

“The world is everything that is the case. And in the second place because.” – Renata Adler, Pitch Dark

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The ghosts that haunt us still

August 11th, 2018 · No Comments

“Colonial policy had always been to exclude Negroes from militia service, but more often than not a need for soldiers had dictated a contrary practice. Many blacks had fought in the French and Indian War. As the dispute with Parliament neared breaking point, Negroes volunteered for the New England militia. All were accepted. . . . In the late fall of 1775 Southern delegates to Congress were complaining that the Continental Army had become ‘a refuge for runaway slaves.’ They insisted that the blacks already enrolled be dismissed and that future volunteers be turned down. The Congress at first rejected these proposals. Then the delegates reversed themselves to the extent of barring future enlistments. On this matter they would alter their position several times during the war. Meanwhile, in the face of changing official edicts, blacks continued to join both their local militia and the Continental Army.” – Milton Lomask, The First American Revolution

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The driver on the right has the right-of-way

August 10th, 2018 · No Comments

“Drivers of large cars drive extremely badly. So do old men; men wearing hats; men with thick necks and florid faces; hunters; drivers of cars with dented fenders, or with more than one generation in them, or with college stickers on their rearview windows, or with slogans on their bumpers, or with license plates of names or words instead of numbers, or with New Jersey license plates. I have left out matrons, nuns, dyed blondes, old women; their lapses tend to be blunt and unaggressive, like an inability to park or a wrong turn on a one-way street. That is all I know, categorically and without reservation, about drivers. Two other facts I think I know are these. Nobody ever confides a secret to one person only. No one destroys all copies of a document. Also, that it is children, really, perhaps because so much is forbidden to them, who understand from within the nature of crime.” – Renata Adler, Pitch Dark

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And that’s what I know

August 9th, 2018 · No Comments

“All I know about method is that when I am not working I sometimes think I know something, but when I am working, it is quite clear that I know nothing.” – John Cage, “Lecture on Nothing”

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Same as it ever was

August 8th, 2018 · No Comments

“This is the age of crime. I’m sure we all grant that. It’s the age, of course, of other things as well. Of the great chance, for instance, and the loss of faith, of the bureaucrat, and of technology. But from the highest public matters to the smallest private acts, the mugger, the embezzler, the burglar, the perjurer, tax chiseler, killer, gang enforcer, the plumber, party chairman, salesman, curator, car or TV repairman, officials of the union, officials of the corporation, the archbishop, the numbers runner, the delinquent, the police; from the alley to the statehouse, behind the darkened window or the desk; this is the age of crime.” – Renata Adler, Pitch Dark

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Right here, right now

August 7th, 2018 · No Comments

“Everybody has a song which is no song at all: it is a process of singing, and when you sing, you are where you are.” – John Cage, “Lecture on Nothing”

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Finding the value

August 6th, 2018 · No Comments

“What’s new? the biography of the opera star says she used to ask in every phone call, and What else? I’m not sure the biographer understood another thing about the opera star, but I do believe that What’s new. What else. They may be the first questions of the story, of the morning, of consciousness. What’s new. What else. What next. What’s happened here, says the inspector, or the family man looking at the rubble of his house. What’s it to you, says the street tough or the bystander. What’s it worth to you, says the paid informer or the extortionist. What is it now, says the executive or the husband, disturbed by the fifteenth knock at the door, or phone call, or sigh in the small hours of the night. What does it mean, says the cryptographer. What does it all mean, says the student or the philosopher on his barstool. What do I care. What’s the use. What’s the matter. Where’s the action. What kind of fun is that. Let me say that everyone’s story in the end is the old whore’s, or the Ancient Mariner’s: I was not always as you see me now. And the sentient man, the sentient person says in his heart, from time to time, What have I done.” – Renata Adler, Pitch Dark (emphasis in original)

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And it burns, burns, burns

August 5th, 2018 · No Comments

“Having too many rules leads to a culture of non-compliance that is every bit as lethal as having too few.” – “The tower and the anger,” The Economist, June 24, 2017

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We always sacrifice a virgin

August 4th, 2018 · No Comments

“When I learned about the shrew, the poor unevolved, benighted shrew, which will keep jumping high in the air at a place in its accustomed path where an obstacle, a rock perhaps, once was but no longer is, well, I wondered about all those places where, though the obstacles have long been removed, one persists either in the jump or in taking the long way round. It seemed such an unnecessary jolt or expenditure of time and energy. And yet if you have acquired a profound aversion to just such a place simply because of an obstacle that once was there, or an incapacity to discern that the obstacle no longer exists, or an indifference as to whether it exists or not, or if the habit of pointless jumping, or detour, or even turning back dejected has become for you the path itself, or if you have a superstitious need to treat the spot as though the obstacle remained, or even a belief that the discovery that the obstacle is gone is in itself a punishable offense, if any of these things is true for you, then you are lost. Or probably lost, unless the habitual path, the compulsion, the leap, the turning back, the long detour have for you another value. Individuality, for instance, love, obsession. Or for that matter, art.” – Renata Adler, Pitch Dark

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And can be led in chants

August 3rd, 2018 · No Comments

“The mind of a living public is quickly alarmed and easily tormented. It not only suffers by the stroke, but is frequently fretted by the cure, and ought therefore to be tenderly dealt with, and never ought to be trifled with. It feels first and reasons afterwards.” – Thomas Paine, “The Affair of Silas Deane” (emphases in original)

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We can fix that

August 2nd, 2018 · No Comments

“There exists an order of social problem that appears to be insoluble, but is not. At least not in the terms in which resolution of it is represented as impossible. A problem of that sort has at least some of the following features: it appears immensely complicated, with a resolution of any part of it seeming to bring about the aggravation of another; it has a long history, in the course of which it seems to grow, to accrete difficulties, and to merge and overlap with other problems, so that an attempt to solve the single problem appears hopeless without an assault (for which no sufficient resources can exist) upon them all; perception of the length and nature of that history must be inaccurate, and the terms in which it has been defined must be so imprecise (or so precise, but inapposite) that any formulation of the problem leads inevitably to argument, and great energy is dissipated in argument of that sort. Ideally, in other words, in its historical dimension, such a problem appears to have existed forever; and in its contemporary manifestation to be inextricable from every other problem in the world. Ideally, too, there should have grown up, over time, a number of industries and professions nominally dedicated to the eradication of the problem but actually committed, consciously or unconsciously, but almost inevitably out of self-interest, to the perpetuation of the problem, and of any misconceptions of it, for all time.” – Renata Adler, Pitch Dark

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We’ll always have Paris

August 1st, 2018 · No Comments

“There is nothing which sets the character of a nation in a higher or lower light with others, than the faithfully fulfilling, or perfidiously breaking, of treaties.” – Thomas Paine, “The American Crisis”

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The great balance

July 31st, 2018 · No Comments

“Detectives and prison guards need criminals, social workers require that people should continue to be poor; there are, in short, many workers with a vested interest in the failure of institutions that employ them, and in the insolubility of problems they are paid to solve. The perfect instance occurs in the narcotics laws. A substance, cheap to manufacture, is addictive. It is outlawed. Being outlawed, it becomes rare and expensive. Immediately, and for the first time, it becomes profitable for someone, the seller, to make people addicted to it. The law generates a criminal apparatus which in turn generates a law-enforcement apparatus. With time, their personnel become the same.” – Renata Adler, Pitch Dark

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The stain never washes out

July 30th, 2018 · No Comments

“That which is a disgrace to human nature, throws something of a shade over all the human character, and each individual feels his share of the wound that is given to the whole.” – Thomas Paine, “The American Crisis”

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Get to it

July 29th, 2018 · No Comments

“If the Back Forty has to be hayed, you go hay.” – Roxcy Bolton (quoted in “The naming of winds,” The Economist, June 17, 2017)

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And right now

July 28th, 2018 · No Comments

“You must do the things you think you cannot do.” – Eleanor Roosevelt

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Minuets at the ball of confusion

July 27th, 2018 · No Comments

“The essential storytellers at the drab, frightening, but sometimes heroic, poetic hearth that is the court are, not the lawyers or the judge at all, but the plaintiff, the defendant, and their witnesses. And these, these almost never understand what is being asked of them, what answers are permitted, what is the point of what is being asked. And nobody in this place, least of all that strange audience that is the jury, understands this incomprehension. Just when plaintiff, defendant, or witness thinks he or she has the hang of it, begins to reply, sometimes, triumphantly, sarcastically, in what he or she takes to be the lawyers’ language, there is objection after objection from interrupting lawyers, reprimands from judges.” – Renata Adler, Pitch Dark

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That bush is not burning

July 26th, 2018 · No Comments

“None see God and live.” – Emily Dickinson

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Injunction junction

July 25th, 2018 · No Comments

“Even if I know to a virtual certainty that someone is about to commit what is, quite technically and literally, an illegal act, even a crime, I cannot normally persuade the courts to let me argue that he should be enjoined from going through with it. ‘A man must act somehow,’ Justice Holmes, quite often though by no means always cruel in his decisions, said; and our system favors leaving people free to act. If they choose to act illegally, they simply face the consequences of having done so. So, in one sense, every law is simply a codified injunction to prevent everyone from doing the illegal thing; while what are called injunctions are more rare, more narrow, more particular: this neighbor shall not build this dam this high lest his neighbor suffer the immediate and irreparable harm of being drowned.” – Renata Adler, Pitch Dark

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Not to mention counter-productive

July 24th, 2018 · No Comments

“Trade flourishes best when it is free, and it is weak policy to attempt to fetter it.” – Thomas Paine, “The American Crisis”

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What’s at stake

July 23rd, 2018 · No Comments

“In the law, as in everything, excellence is rare and often anonymous. And, in the law, as in almost everything, everything is stories. Under the American Constitution, in fact, everything is required to be, at heart, a story. That is the meaning of the phrase ‘cases and controversies,’ which is what, alone, the Constitution empowers the courts to consider. The courts may not, that is, consider abstractions, generalizations, even hypothetical cases; they may not render what are called ‘advisory opinions’ as to the legality of any possible situation or contemplated act. The courts may only consider concrete, instant cases that actually, concretely come before them—and even those cases can be brought only by those who have ‘standing’ to bring them, in other words, by the actual participants, with the most vital and demonstrable interest in the case. I may not bring suit, in short, because I think someone has done some injury to my neighbor. Only my neighbor himself can bring that suit. So what comes before the court is of necessity, and constitutionally obliged to be, a story; and the only ones permitted to bring the story to the courts’ attention, the only storytellers, are the ones to whom the story happened, whom the facts befell.” – Renata Adler, Pitch Dark

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It hasn’t happened

July 22nd, 2018 · No Comments

“There never was a scheme against which objections might not be raised. But this alone is not a sufficient reason for rejection. The only line to judge truly upon, is, to draw out and admit all the objections which can fairly be made, and place against them all the contrary qualities, conveniences and advantages, then by striking a balance you come at the true character of any scheme, principle or position.” – Thomas Paine, “The American Crisis”

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Iraq and Ukraine furnish recent examples

July 21st, 2018 · No Comments

“If there is a sin superior to every other, it is that of wilful and offensive war. Most other sins are circumscribed within narrow limits, that is, the power of one man cannot give them a very great extension, and many kinds of sins have only a mental existence from which no infection arises; but he who is the author of a war, lets loose the whole contagion of hell, and opens a vein that bleeds a nation to death.” – Thomas Paine, “The American Crisis” (emphasis in original)

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One would think

July 20th, 2018 · No Comments

“When we take a survey of mankind, we cannot help cursing the wretch, who, to the unavoidable misfortunes of nature, shall wilfully add the calamities of war. One would think there were evils enough in the world without studying to increase them, and that life is sufficiently short without shaking the sand that measures it.” – Thomas Paine, “The American Crisis”

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Well, most do

July 19th, 2018 · No Comments

“Mankind are not universally agreed in their determination of right and wrong; but there are certain actions which the consent of all nations and individuals hath branded with the unchangeable name of meanness. In the list of human vices we find some of such a refined constitution, they cannot be carried into practice without seducing some virtue to their assistance; but meanness hath neither alliance nor apology. It is generated in the dust and sweepings of other vices, and is of such a hateful figure that all the rest conspire to disown it.” – Thomas Paine, “The American Crisis” (emphases in original)

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Hammer them into shape

July 18th, 2018 · No Comments

“A substantial good drawn from a real evil, is of the same benefit to society, as if drawn from a virtue; and where men have not public spirit to render themselves serviceable, it ought to be the study of government to draw the best use possible from their vices. When the governing passion of any man, or set of men, is once known, the method of managing them is easy; for even misers, whom no public virtue can impress, would become generous, could a heavy tax be laid upon covetousness.” – Thomas Paine, “The American Crisis”

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July 17th, 2018 · No Comments

“Suspicion and persecution are weeds of the same dunghill, and flourish together.” – Thomas Paine, “The American Crisis”

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Best round ’em up

July 16th, 2018 · No Comments

“When one villain is suffered to escape, it encourages another to proceed, either from a hope of escaping likewise, or an apprehension that we dare not punish.” – Thomas Paine, “The American Crisis”

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