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One hundred years ago, President Woodrow Wilson went before the United States Senate and asked Congress for a declaration of war against the Central Powers. The impetus for this declaration was Wilhelmine Germany’s return to unrestricted submarine warfare in the Atlantic. Wilson, who had a year earlier campaigned on a promise of keeping the United States out of war, now, in April, asked to send American boys to Europe in order to

fight for the things which we have always carried nearest our hearts — for democracy, for the right of those who submit to authority to have a voice in their own governments, for the rights and liberties of small nations, for a universal dominion of right by such a concert of free peoples as shall bring peace and safety to all nations and make the world itself at last free.

More… “Mist, Mountains, and Men”

Benjamin Welton is a freelance writer based in Boston. He is the author of Hands Dabbled in Blood.

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Aspiring writers must navigate the legions of advice from the legends who came before — not a simple task in a world that idolizes both Faulkner and Hemmingway. Read about teachers who advise their students against the use of the word “said,” and graduate programs that reject the use of anything but. (The Wall Street Journal, The Smart Set)

Romanticism, though hard to define, aims to transcend medium, create pure feeling, and remain subject to the whims of chance, sometimes resulting in art that takes the form of blank canvases and bathroom fixtures. Read about unusual copyright claims to John Cage’s romanticist piece “4’33” and Duchamp’s lifelong struggle to find the paradoxical non-medium. (Pigeons and Planes, The Smart Set)

They bite at night and are the scourge of humanity. Read about the math of mutually-assured vampire-human destruction and the existential dilemma of bedbugs. (Atlas Obscura, The Smart Set) •

Maren Larsen is the associate editor of The Smart Set. She is a digital journalism student, college radio DJ, and outdoor enthusiast.

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You’d think even the most eager partygoer would hesitate to accept a dinner invitation from someone known as “Vlad the Impaler” (1431-1476). The Central European warlord got his catchy nickname as a young sadist in his 20s, soon after he assumed the throne of Wallachia, next door to Transylvania: After entertaining 500 boyars (nobles) at a sumptuous feast, he had most of the guests executed with his signature method, driving sharpened wooden stakes through the nether regions and leaving them squirming like insects until they died.

Tony Perrottet’s book, Napoleon’s Privates: 2,500 Years of History Unzipped, is a literary version of a cabinet of curiosities (HarperCollins, 2008; napoleonsprivates.com). He is also the author of Pagan Holiday: On the Trail of Ancient Roman Tourists and The Naked Olympics: The True Story of the Ancient Games.