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The Art of Tetman Callis Posts

Spotsylvania, Virginia, May of 1864

“The most singular and obstinate fighting that I have seen during the war, or ever heard or dreamed of in my life, was the fight last Thursday.  Hancock had charged and driven the enemy from their breastworks, and from their camps, but the enemy rallied and regained all but the first line of works, and in one place they got a portion of that.  The rebels were on one side of the breastwork, and we on the other.  We could touch their guns with ours.  They would load, jump up and fire into us, and we did the same to them.  Almost every shot that was made took effect.  Some of our boys would jump clear up on to the breastworks and fire, then down, reload and fire again, until they were themselves picked off.  If ancient or modern history contains instances of more determined bravery than was shown there, I can hardly conceive in what way it could have been exhibited.  This firing was kept up all day, and till five o’clock next morning, when the enemy retreated.  Gen. Russell remarked that it was a regular bull-dog fight; he never saw anything like it before.  I visited the place the next morning, and though I have seen horrid scenes since this war commenced, I never saw anything half so bad as that.  Our men lay piled one top of another, nearly all shot through the head.  There were many among them that I knew well, five from my own company.  On the rebel side it was worse than on ours.  In some places the men were piled four or five deep, some of whom were still alive.  I turned away from that place, glad to escape from such a terrible, sickening sight.  I have sometimes hoped, that if I must die while I am a soldier, I should prefer to die on the battle-field, but after looking at such a scene, one cannot help turning away and saying, Any death but that.” – Wilbur Fisk, Hard Marching Every Day (eds. E. and R. Rosenblatt)

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Discipline and punishment

“The band discoursed a dirge-like piece of music, when the prisoners [John Tague and George Blowers] were conducted to their coffins, on which they kneeled, and the guard filed around and took position in front of them, scarcely half a dozen yards distant.  A sergeant put a circle around the neck of each, from which was suspended a white object over the breast, as a target for the executioners.  The prisoners were not blindfolded, but looked straight into the muzzles of the guns that shot them to death.  The guard were divided into two platoons, one firing at one prisoner, and the other platoon firing at the other prisoner, but there was no reserve to be ordered up in case of failure.  Blowers had been sick, his head slightly drooped as if oppressed with a terrible sense of the fate he was about to meet.  He had requested that he might see his brother in Co. A, but his brother was not there.  He had no heart to see the execution, and had been excused from coming.  Tague was firm and erect till the last moment, and when the order was given to fire, he fell like a dead weight, his face resting on the ground, and his feet still remaining on the coffin.  Blowers fell at the same time.  He exclaimed, ‘Oh dear me!’ struggled a moment, and was dead.  Immediately our attention was called away by the loud orders of commanding officers, and we marched in columns around the spot where the bodies of the two men were lying just as they fell.  God grant that another such punishment may never be needed in the Potomac Army.” — Wilbur Fisk, Hard Marching Every Day (eds. E. and R. Rosenblatt)

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Hurry up and wait

“The duties of a soldier are very unequally divided in regard to time.  Some days he may have nothing whatever to do but to pass the time as best he can; and then of a sudden he may be called upon to perform all that his physical powers can possibly accomplish, and often his power of endurance yields to exhaustion, and he is obliged to stop ere his task is completed.  These extremes of physical exertion may not accord with the strictest rules of physiology, but they certainly do not conflict with the rules of military life.” – Wilbur Fisk, Hard Marching Every Day (eds. E. and R. Rosenblatt)

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There is a new story posted in the “Previously Published Stories” sidebar, or menu, or whatsit.  It is called “Gnats” and it was first published three months ago in Snow Monkey.

While we’re on the subject, I’ve recently had stories accepted by Fox Chase Review, Noon, and Mayday Magazine.  They should all be appearing over the next eight months or so.


This weekend only! One fully realized self for the price of two! Get yours now!

“Our system has relentlessly denied the role of any human practice that cannot be monetized.  The capitalist apparatus has worked tirelessly to commercialize everything, to reduce every aspect of human life to currency exchange.  In such a context, there is little hope for the survival of the fully realized self.” – Freddie deBoer, “The Resentment Machine”


Pitchin’ the fantod

I gotta get rant-a-rific here for a few.  I just got off the phone with a major American airline which I won’t embarrass by naming outright, but if you like, you could say its name rhymes with benighted.  I was on the phone with them for a fucking hour trying to correct, or verify the correction of, a $75 mistake they made.  And when I say I was on the phone for an hour, that means I was on hold for most of that time, listening to an endless loop of Rhapsody in Blue, except for the two times early on when the menu selections I made failed because those parts of this Dinosaur Corp.’s phone system no longer work, and the few minutes toward the end of this when I finally got to speak to a person (who was actually in the United States, which pleases me, atavistic chauvinist that I sometimes am (an effect of growing older, methinks)).

A fucking hour.  It’s like I was dealing with an obscure bureau in some third-world country, address 1984 Kafka Avenue in Downtown Chaotica.  An hour!  A major airline!  Now, I’m an old but I’m not ancient.  I’m well over a decade away from retirement, should I in fact be able to retire.  I well remember a time when in this country–in this country, boys and girls–that simply never would have happened.  Americans had more pride than to pretend to run a business where people were kept waiting on the phone for an hour.  I like to think we still do, but here I am dancing the Whiskey Tango Foxtrot to a tune I don’t recall having any part in calling, and it’s a whistling past the graveyard for anyone to think it doesn’t matter that major businesses are run that way.  Look around.  See all the crumbling?  Yeah, we sure as shittin’ all do.  Anyone care to dance?

And at the end of it all, the poor soul who tried to help me, bless her heart, couldn’t provide any sort of verification that the problem had actually been solved, even though she said she’s pretty sure it was.  But that’s not acceptable.  It’s not acceptable to run a business like that, or a government like that, or a school like that, where there’s no one on duty, no one who can assist, no one who knows what’s going on, no one to take responsibility, no one who is willing and able to get to the bottom of things, no one to step up and say, We can fix this–we are better than this.  It’s time to clear away the rot.


Further, too

“The difference between constructing a short story and constructing a novel is like the difference between building a rowboat and building a yacht: They both have to float, but one is bigger and grander and meant to carry more people farther.  Just as the yacht is not simply a bigger rowboat, the novel is not a bigger short story; knowledge of one doesn’t necessarily translate into knowledge of the other.” – John Stazinski, “A Novel Approach”

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Let that be a lesson

“Perhaps had men been more grateful and wiser, the Sun-father had smiled and dropped everywhere the treasures we long for, and not hidden them deep in the earth and buried them in the shores of the sea.  And perhaps, moreover, all men would have smiled upon one another and never enlarged their voices nor strengthened their arms in anger toward one another.” – “The Maiden the Sun Made Love to, and Her Boys,” Zuñi Folk Tales, Frank Cushing

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More sugar!

“A color-coded map of American personal indebtedness could be laid on top of the Centers for Disease Control’s color-coded map that illustrates the fantastic rise in rates of obesity across the United States since 1985 without disturbing the general pattern.  The boom in trading activity in individual stock portfolios; the spread of legalized gambling; the rise of drug and alcohol addiction; it is all of a piece.  Everywhere you turn you see Americans sacrifice their long-term interests for a short-term reward.” – Michael Lewis, Boomerang


We export this stuff, too

“It isn’t a problem with government; it’s a problem with the entire society.  It’s what happened on Wall Street in the run-up to the subprime crisis.  It’s a problem of people taking what they can, just because they can, without regard to the larger social consequences.  It’s not just a coincidence that the debts of cities and states spun out of control at the same time as the debts of individual Americans.  Alone in a dark room with a pile of money, Americans knew exactly what they wanted to do, from the top of the society to the bottom.  They’d been conditioned to grab as much as they could, without thinking about the long-term consequences.” – Michael Lewis, Boomerang