It was near to time for torches and pitchforks

“ ‘We are at the end of our rope,’ Hoover remarked to an aide late on the evening of March 3 [1932]. And so it seemed might also be the country. Here and there in the midwestern farm regions, armed groups effectively prevented foreclosure sales. In Iowa, the Farmers’ Holiday Association sporadically blocked shipments of produce to market. In some cities, laid-off utility workers tapped electric lines to restore power to homes that had failed to pay their bills. There were scattered reports of groups invading supermarkets and appropriating supplies of food without paying.” – Alonzo L. Hamby, For the Survival of Democracy

You got what you wanted, now what do you want?

“A controversy exists when the plaintiff wants more, or different, relief than the defendant is willing to provide. If A says that B has caused an injury of $100,000, and B offers $110,000 in recompense, A cannot spurn the offer and sue for $100,000. Once the defendant offers to satisfy the plaintiff’s entire demand, there is no dispute over which to litigate and no controversy to resolve. In other words, you cannot persist in suing after you’ve won.” – Judge Frank A. Easterbrook, Smith v. Greystone Alliance, LLC (internal cites and quotations omitted)

How much for the little girl?

“Thus it happened that Adolf Schiele, then twenty-four, encountered Franz Soukup’s twelve-year-old daughter. According to family legend, it was love at first sight, at least for Adolf, who vowed to make Marie his wife. Whether, as has been said, the Soukups opposed the marriage is debatable; the connection with the prosperous Schiele family was certainly not one to be disdained. However, Marie was scarcely more than a child when in 1879, at the age of seventeen, she married Adolf. Strictly educated in a Viennese convent, she knew nothing of the world and supposedly still played with dolls. On her wedding night, it is said, she fled the nuptial chamber in horror. Adolf Schiele was no such innocent: at about the time of his wedding, he had contracted syphilis. He refused to seek treatment and remained essentially asymptomatic until 1902, when the disease surfaced in its final, mortal stage. For Marie Schiele, the first years of marriage were blackened by the illness. Annually, more or less around the date of her wedding anniversary, she gave birth, and each year, for three years in succession, the infants were stillborn. Finally, on May 28, 1883, she bore a seemingly normal girl, christened Elvira. (All of the Schiele children would be raised in the Catholic faith, their mother’s religion.) In 1886, a second daughter, Melanie, was born. Egon, who came into the world on June 12, 1890, was the first and only son to survive. ‘[H]e is a dear strong child,’ Marie noted in her diary. ‘God preserve him for us. may he grow and flourish!’” – Jane Kallir, Egon Schiele: Life and Work (footnotes omitted)

Wandering naked down Main Street

“Complete privacy does not exist in this world except in a desert, and anyone who is not a hermit must expect and endure the ordinary incidents of the community life of which he is a part. Thus he must expect more or less casual observation of his neighbors as to what he does, and that his comings and goings and his ordinary daily activities, will be described in the press as a matter of casual interest to others. The ordinary reasonable man does not take offense at a report in a newspaper that he has returned from a visit, gone camping in the woods or given a party at his house for his friends. Even minor and moderate annoyance, as for example through public disclosure of the fact that the plaintiff has clumsily fallen downstairs and broken his ankle, is not sufficient to give him cause of action under the rule stated in this Section [652D]. It is only when the publicity given to him is such that a reasonable person would feel justified in feeling seriously aggrieved by it, that the cause of action arises.” – Kenneth S. Abraham and Albert Clark Tate, Jr., compilers, A Concise Restatement of Torts

Hail, Britannia

“An Englishman’s duty is to secure for himself for ever, reasonable clothing, a clean shirt a day, a couple of mutton chops grilled without condiments, two floury potatoes, an apple pie with a piece of Stilton and pulled bread, a pint of Club médoc, a clean room, in the winter a good fire in the grate, a comfortable armchair, a comfortable woman to see that all these were prepared for you, and to keep you warm in bed and to brush your bowler and fold your umbrella in the morning. When you had that secure for life you could do what you liked provided that what you did never endangered that security.” – Ford Madox Ford, The Last Post

Deep and wide

“You know there are three ways to say X thing, but one will say it better than the other two. And in saying it better, it gets you closer to something. When you achieve it fully, you create something that’s transparent—that people can move into and through their own experiences. As a writer, I don’t want people spending time thinking, ‘What does she mean?’ I want, in a way, my text to go away. So that the words on the page become a door to one’s own internal investigation. It’s just a passage. If the work does its job, it just opens.” – Claudia Rankine (interview by Meara Sharma in Guernica)

Open to offers or up for grabs

“English people of good class do not dress for dinner on Sundays. That is a politeness to God because theoretically you attend evening service and you do not go to church in the country in evening dress. As a matter of fact you never go to evening service—but it is complimentary to suggest by your dress that you might be visited by the impulse.” – Ford Madox Ford, The Last Post

But where’s the profit in it?

“This was the war of attrition. . . . A mug’s game! A mug’s game as far as killing men was concerned, but not an uninteresting occupation if you considered it as a struggle of various minds spread all over the broad landscape in the sunlight. They did not kill many men and they expended an infinite number of missiles and a vast amount of thought. If you took six million men armed with loaded canes and stockings containing bricks or knives and set them against another six million men similarly armed, at the end of three hours four million on the one side and the entire six million on the other would be dead. So, as far as killing went, it really was a mug’s game. That was what happened if you let yourself get into the hands of the applied scientist. For all these things were the products not of the soldier but of hirsute, bespectacled creatures who peered through magnifying glasses. Or of course, on our side, they would be shaven-cheeked and less abstracted. They were efficient as slaughterers in that they enabled the millions of men to be moved. When you had only knives you could not move very fast. On the other hand, your knife killed at every stroke: you could set a million men firing at each other with rifles from eighteen hundred yards. But few rifles ever registered a hit. So the invention was relatively inefficient. And it dragged things out! And suddenly it had become boring.” – Ford Madox Ford, A Man Could Stand Up— (ellipsis in original)

Nowadays we call them “trust-fund brats”

“Gentlemen don’t earn money. Gentlemen, as a matter of fact, don’t do anything. They exist. Perfuming the air like Madonna lilies. Money comes into them as air through petals and foliage. Thus the world is made better and brighter. And, of course, thus political life can be kept clean!” – Ford Madox Ford, A Man Could Stand Up—

Stiff upper lip, wot?

“To a sensitive officer—and all good officers in this respect are sensitive—the psychology of the men makes itself felt in innumerable ways. He can afford to be blind to the feelings of his officers, for officers have to stand so much at the hands of their seniors before the rules of the service give them a chance to retaliate, that it takes a really bad Colonel to put his own mess in a bad way. As officer you have to jump to your C.O.’s orders, to applaud his sentiments, to smile at his lighter witticisms and to guffaw at those that are more gross. That is the Service. With the Other Ranks it is different. A discreet warrant-officer will discreetly applaud his officer’s eccentricities and good humours, as will a sergeant desirous of promotion; but the rank and file are under no such compulsion. As long as a man comes to attention when spoken to that is all that can be expected of him. He is under no obligation to understand his officer’s witticisms so he can still less be expected to laugh at or to repeat them with gusto. He need not even come very smartly to attention.” – Ford Madox Ford, A Man Could Stand Up— (emphasis in original)

And when you got there, how could you hide?

“The regular and as if mechanical falling of comrades spreads disproportionate dismay in advancing or halted troops. It is no doubt terrible to you to have large numbers of your comrades instantaneously annihilated by the explosion of some huge engine, but huge engines are blind and thus accidental; a slow, regular picking off of the men beside you is evidence that human terribleness that is not blind or accidental is cold-bloodedly and unshakably turning its attention to a spot very near you. It may very shortly turn its attention to yourself. Of course, it is disagreeable when artillery is bracketing across your line: a shell falls a hundred yards in front of you, another a hundred yards behind you; the next will be half-way between, and you are halfway between. The waiting wrings your soul; but it does not induce panic or the desire to run—at any rate to nearly the same extent. Where, in any event, could you run to?” – Ford Madox Ford, A Man Could Stand Up—

Or being Europeans

“The whole of military history, in so far as it concerned allied operations of any sort—from the campaigns of Xerxes and operations during the wars of the Greeks and Romans, to the campaigns of Marlborough and Napoleon and the Prussian operations of 1866 and 1870—pointed to the conclusion that a relatively small force acting homogeneously was, to the nth power again, more effective than vastly superior forces of allies acting only imperfectly in accord or not in accord at all.” – Ford Madox Ford, No More Parades

And they mansplain

“She was by that time tired of men, or she imagined that she was; for she was not prepared to be certain, considering the muckers she saw women coming all round her over the most unpresentable individuals. Men, at any rate, never fulfilled expectations. They might, upon acquaintance, turn out more entertaining than they appeared; but almost always taking up with a man was like reading a book you had read when you had forgotten that you had read it. You had not been for ten minutes in any sort of intimacy with any man before you said: ‘But I’ve read all this before. . . .’ You knew the opening, you were already bored by the middle, and, especially, you knew the end. . . .” – Ford Madox Ford, No More Parades (ellipses in original)

“Disabled,” Wilfred Owen

He sat in a wheeled chair, waiting for dark,
And shivered in his ghastly suit of grey,
Legless, sewn short at elbow.  Through the park
Voices of boys rang saddening like a hymn,
Voices of play and pleasure after day,
Till gathering sleep had mothered them from him.

About this time Town used to swing so gay
When glow-lamps budded in the light-blue trees
And girls glanced lovelier as the air grew dim,
—In the old times, before he threw away his knees.
Now he will never feel again how slim
Girls’ waists are, or how warm their subtle hands,
All of them touch him like some queer disease.

There was an artist silly for his face,
For it was younger than his youth, last year.
Now he is old; his back will never brace;
He’s lost his colour very far from here,
Poured it down shell-holes till the veins ran dry,
And half his lifetime lapsed in the hot race,
And leap of purple spurted from his thigh.
One time he liked a bloodsmear down his leg,
After the matches carried shoulder-high.
It was after football, when he’d drunk a peg,
He thought he’d better join.  He wonders why . . .
Someone had said he’d look a god in kilts.

That’s why; and maybe, too, to please his Meg,
Aye, that was it, to please the giddy jilts,
He asked to join.  He didn’t have to beg;
Smiling they wrote his lie; aged nineteen years.
Germans he scarcely thought of; and no fears
Of Fear came yet.  He thought of jewelled hilts
For daggers in plaid socks; of smart salutes;
And care of arms; and leave; and pay arrears;
Esprit de corps; and hints for young recruits.
And soon, he was drafted out with drums and cheers.

Some cheered him home, but not as crowds cheer Goal.
Only a solemn man who brought him fruits
Thanked him; and then inquired about his soul.
Now, he will spend a few sick years in Institutes,
And do what things the rules consider wise,
And take whatever pity they may dole.
To-night he noticed how the women’s eyes
Passed from him to the strong men that were whole.
How cold and late it is!  Why don’t they come
And put him into bed?  Why don’t they come?

– Wilfred Owen, “Disabled”

“Wild with all Regrets,” Wilfred Owen

To Siegfried Sassoon

My arms have mutinied against me—brutes!
My fingers fidget like ten idle brats,
My back’s been stiff for hours, damned hours.
Death never gives his squad a Stand-at-ease.
I can’t read.  There:  it’s no use.  Take your book.
A short life and a merry one, my buck!
We said we’d hate to grow dead old.  But now,
Not to live old seems awful:  not to renew
My boyhood with my boys, and teach ’em hitting,
Shooting and hunting,—all the arts of hurting!
—Well, that’s what I learnt.  That, and making money.
Your fifty years in store seem none too many;
But I’ve five minutes.  God!  For just two years
To help myself to this good air of yours!
One Spring!  Is one too hard to spare?  Too long?
Spring air would find its own way to my lung,
And grow me legs as quick as lilac-shoots.

Yes, there’s the orderly.  He’ll change the sheets
When I’m lugged out, oh, couldn’t I do that?
Here in this coffin of a bed, I’ve thought
I’d like to kneel and sweep his floors for ever,—
And ask no nights off when the bustle’s over,
For I’d enjoy the dirt; who’s prejudiced
Against a grimed hand when his own’s quite dust,—
Less live than specks that in the sun-shafts turn?
Dear dust,—in rooms, on roads, on faces’ tan!
I’d love to be a sweep’s boy, black as Town;
Yes, or a muckman.  Must I be his load?
A flea would do.  If one chap wasn’t bloody,
Or went stone-cold, I’d find another body.

Which I shan’t manage now.  Unless it’s yours.
I shall stay in you, friend, for some few hours.
You’ll feel my heavy spirit chill your chest,
And climb your throat on sobs, until it’s chased
On sighs, and wiped from off your lips by wind.

I think on your rich breathing, brother, I’ll be weaned
To do without what blood remained me from my wound.

– Wilfred Owen, “Wild with all Regrets”

“Exposure,” by Wilfred Owen

I

Our brains ache, in the merciless iced east winds that knife us . . .
Wearied we keep awake because the night is silent . . .
Low drooping flares confuse our memory of the salient . . .
Worried by silence, sentries whisper, curious, nervous,
But nothing happens.

Watching, we hear the mad gusts tugging on the wire.
Like twitching agonies of men among its brambles.
Northward incessantly, the flickering gunnery rumbles,
Far off, like a dull rumour of some other war.
What are we doing here?

The poignant misery of dawn begins to grow . . .
We only know war lasts, rain soaks, and clouds sag stormy.
Dawn massing in the east her melancholy army
Attacks once more in ranks on shivering ranks of gray,
But nothing happens.

Sudden successive flights of bullets streak the silence.
Less deadly than the air that shudders black with snow,
With sidelong flowing flakes that flock, pause and renew,
We watch them wandering up and down the wind’s nonchalance,
But nothing happens.

II

Pale flakes with lingering stealth come feeling for our faces—
We cringe in holes, back on forgotten dreams, and stare, snow-dazed,
Deep into grassier ditches.  So we drowse, sun-dozed,
Littered with blossoms trickling where the blackbird fusses.
Is it that we are dying?

Slowly our ghosts drag home:  glimpsing the sunk fires glozed
With crusted dark-red jewels; crickets jingle there;
For hours the innocent mice rejoice:  the house is theirs;
Shutters and doors all closed:  on us the doors are closed—
We turn back to our dying.

Since we believe not otherwise can kind fires burn;
Nor ever suns smile true on child, or field, or fruit.
For God’s invincible spring our love is made afraid;
Therefore, not loath, we lie out here; therefore were born,
For love of God seems dying.

To-night, His frost will fasten on this mud and us,
Shrivelling many hands and puckering foreheads crisp.
The burying-party, picks and shovels in their shaking grasp,
Pause over half-known faces.  All their eyes are ice,
But nothing happens.

– Wilfred Owen, “Exposure”

“Dulce et Decorum est,” by Wilfred Owen

Bent double, like old beggars under sacks,
Knock-kneed, coughing like hags, we cursed through sludge,
Till on the haunting flares we turned our backs,
And towards our distant rest began to trudge.
Men marched asleep.  Many had lost their boots,
But limped on, blood-shod.  All went lame, all blind;
Drunk with fatigue; deaf even to the hoots
Of gas-shells dropping softly behind.

Gas!  GAS!  Quick, boys!—An ecstasy of fumbling
Fitting the clumsy helmets just in time,
But someone still was yelling out and stumbling
And flound’ring like a man in fire or lime.—
Dim through the misty panes and thick green light,
As under a green sea, I saw him drowning.

In all my dreams before my helpless sight
He plunges at me, guttering, choking, drowning.

If in some smothering dreams, you too could pace
Behind the wagon that we flung him in,
And watch the white eyes writhing in his face,
His hanging face, like a devil’s sick of sin,
If you could hear, at every jolt, the blood
Come gargling from the froth-corrupted lungs
Bitter as the cud
Of vile, incurable sores on innocent tongues,—
My friend, you would not tell with such high zest
To children ardent for some desperate glory,
The old Lie:  Dulce et decorum est
Pro patria mori.

– Wilfred Owen, “Dulce et Decorum est”

“Parable of the Old Men and the Young,” Wilfred Owen

So Abram rose, and clave the wood, and went,
And took the fire with him, and a knife.
And as they sojourned both of them together,
Isaac the first-born spake and said, My Father,
Behold the preparations, fire and iron,
But where the lamb for this burnt-offering?
Then Abram bound the youth with belts and straps,
And builded parapets and trenches there,
And stretchéd forth the knife to slay his son.
When lo! an angel called him out of heaven,
Saying, Lay not thy hand upon the lad,
Neither do anything to him.  Behold,
A ram caught in a thicket by its horns;
Offer the Ram of Pride instead of him.
But the old man would not so, but slew his son. . . .

– Wilfred Owen, “Parable of the Old Men and the Young”

“Mental Cases,” Wilfred Owen

Who are these?  Why sit they here in twilight?
Wherefore rock they, purgatorial shadows,
Drooping tongues from jaws that slob their relish,
Baring teeth that leer like skulls’ tongues wicked?
Stroke on stroke of pain,—but what slow panic,
Gouged these chasms round their fretted sockets?
Ever from their hair and through their hand palms
Misery swelters.  Surely we have perished
Sleeping, and walk hell; but who these hellish?

—These are men whose minds the Dead have ravished.
Memory fingers in their hair of murders,
Multitudinous murders they once witnessed.
Wading sloughs of flesh these helpless wander,
Treading blood from lungs that had loved laughter.
Always they must see these things and hear them,
Batter of guns and shatter of flying muscles,
Carnage incomparable and human squander
Rucked too thick for these men’s extrication.

Therefore still their eyeballs shrink tormented
Back into their brains, because on their sense
Sunlight seems a bloodsmear; night comes blood-black;
Dawn breaks open like a wound that bleeds afresh
—Thus their heads wear this hilarious, hideous,
Awful falseness of set-smiling corpses.
—Thus their hands are plucking at each other;
Picking at the rope-knouts of their scourging;
Snatching after us who smote them, brother,
Pawing us who dealt them war and madness.

– Wilfred Owen, “Mental Cases”

He could hide, but he couldn’t run

“After 9/11 in New York, a horrific but specific injury was deliberately levered into an apocalyptic panic. In the annals of courage and utter cowardice, none are more vivid than the contrasting pictures of Churchill on the rooftop of 10 Downing Street, coolly watching the Blitz, and Dick Cheney cowering in a bunker to make his fear contagious. “ – Adam Gopnik, “A Point of View: Four Types of Anxiety and How to Cure Them”

We play the lottery to benefit the fund

“There was a period in my life when I was spending time among great sleight-of-hand men, card magicians, in Las Vegas, and one of them slipped me a guide to card cheating that had been privately printed by a professional card cheat. (Card magic and card cheating are Siamese twins, and no great card magician has not flirted with fiddling his neighbours).

It was a sour piece of work, but it taught me something vital. Since a card cheat can only cheat effectively on his own deal, unless he has the cards marked (hard to do) the rest of the time he has to just play smart, and this means fully internalising, as instant reflexes, all the statistical probabilities of card playing. I recall the cheater’s insistent formula about these odds, almost his precise words, with indecent clarity: If the odds on whatever it might be—say, drawing to an inside straight—are 10-to-one, you’ll see it this week; if it’s 100-to-one, you won’t see it this week, but you will see it this year. If it’s 1000-to-one you won’t see it this year, but you will probably see it once. Anything more than that—10,000-to-one, 100,000-to-one—you’re never going to see at the card table. It’s just never going to happen. Yeah, but it will happen, to someone you say! Someone draws an inside straight. Yeah, he said, but you won’t.” – Adam Gopnik, “A Point of View: Four Types of Anxiety and How to Cure Them”

We are all amateurs here

“If every day and all day long you chatter at high pitch and with the logic an lucidity of the Frenchman; if you shout in self-assertion, with your hat on your stomach, bowing from a stiff spine and by implication threaten all day long to shoot your interlocutor, like the Prussian; if you are as lachrymally emotional as the Italian, or as drily and epigrammatically imbecile over unessentials as the American, you will have a noisy, troublesome, and thoughtless society without any of the surface calm that should distinguish the atmosphere of men when they are together. You will never have deep arm-chairs in which to sit for hours in clubs thinking of nothing at all—or of the off-theory in bowling. On the other hand, in the face of death — except at sea, by fire, railway accident or accidental drowning in rivers; in the face of madness, passion, dishonour or—and particularly—prolonged mental strain, you will have all the disadvantage of the beginner at any game and may come off very badly indeed. Fortunately death, love, public dishonour and the like are rare occurrences in the life of the average man, so that the great advantage would seem to have lain with English society; at any rate before the later months of the year 1914.” – Ford Madox Ford, Some Do Not…