BY YOUR OWN PETARD, THOU ART HOISTED – Marilyn Armstrong

Last night I said to Garry “Aha! He is hoisted upon his own petard!”

By which meant he had just become the victim of what he (in this case a movie character) had planned for someone else. Then, I paused, thinking.

“What,” I asked Garry, “Is a petard?”

“I have no idea,” said my husband.  Which is when I realized I’ve been using this expression my whole life and don’t know what it means.

Petard sounds French, but what is it? I grabbed my laptop and typed  “hoist on his … ” into Google. Before I got to petard … up it came. Don’t you just love when that happens?

petards

Voila! Courtesy of Wikipedia, here is the rest of the story.

petard was a bomb used to blow up gates and walls when breaching fortifications. Castles. Walled cities. That sort of thing. The word was originally (duh) French and dates to the sixteenth century.

Typically, a petard was metal (bronze or iron), shaped like a cone or box. Filled with two or three kilos (5 or 6 pounds) of gunpowder and using a slow match for a fuse, the petard was a primitive, powerful and unstable explosive device.

After being filled with gunpowder, it would be attached to a wooden base and fastened to a wall, on or under a gate. The fuse was lit. If all went as planned, the explosion would blow a hole big enough to let assault troops through.

Thus the phrase “hoist on his/her own petard” came to mean “harmed by one’s own plan to harm someone else.” It suggests you could be lifted — hoisted — by your own bomb.

SPEAKING OF HOPE – Marilyn Armstrong

Much as I don’t like answering endless questions, I do like great quotes when I come across them. The problem with most quotes about “hope” is that they are treacly. Sweet and phony.

Hope is not a solution. It’s a key, something to keep you going when all you want to do is crawl into bed and pull the covers over your head. It manifests in various ways.

For me, it’s curiosity. I can’t bear the idea of not knowing what will happen. Many times when the world was a dark and dangerous place, my curiosity kept me moving towards … whatever. Good, bad, or indifferent, I want to know what it is.

Here’s one from Bradley Whitford (he was Josh on West Wing for those who remember the show).

Hope-Bradley Whitford
Thank you, Melanie!
Also, a poke at Rory who I think got this started.

And let me know what the other selections are. I will do them if I can. I do some challenges, but they are always writing challenges or photography.

What I do NOT do are the “oh look, another nomination that wants me to answer a lot of questions I’ve long since answered and then ask 473 people to participate.”

I don’t really know more than two people, you being one of them, who still does these. Trust me, there will come a time when you aren’t interested either. But – if the challenge is a challenge and not a chain letter … and it holds some interest for me, I can be cajoled.

Sometimes twice.

If anyone else feels like jumping in, please feel welcome.

Hope is a good thing to keep in your cupboards, much like canned soup. Just in case you run out of everything else, it’s good to have a casket of hope to fall back on.

TOO CURIOUS TO DIE – Marilyn Armstrong

Weekly Word Prompt: Curiosity


There’s a lot of talk about suicide going around and I know I could never do that. It isn’t because I don’t get depressed or because I have not been through periods when life hardly seemed worth living.


“Curiouser and curiouser!” Cried Alice (she was so much surprised, that for the moment she quite forgot how to speak good English).”

― Lewis Carroll, Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland & Through the Looking-Glass

Photo: Garry Armstrong

It’s just that I have to know what’s going to happen next. I realize this might sound a bit frivolous, but curiosity is a powerful emotion. I always want to know more. I always want to see how things will work out.

So, until I lose the interest in life, or my heart stops, or I get run over by an out-of-control beer truck, I think I’ll hang around.

GOOD AND EVIL – Marilyn Armstrong

I can’t read “Lord of the Rings” these days without thinking about Stephen Colbert and his obsessive passion for these books. They are great books and eventually became rather amazing movies, but still and all … he knows things about these books I’m sure J.R.R. Tolkien forgot.

Nonetheless, in this time of stress and strife, I’m rereading the series for the umpteenth time. I’ve gotten all the way to the third and final volume of  “The Lord of the Rings.”

The book is entirely about good and evil. The great evil that is Sauron. The somewhat lesser evil of his cohorts. The striving evil of Saruman, and the fear of everyone in the battle that they can find the right way and stay woven in the fabric of good.

When evil is everywhere, goodness can get a little complicated.

I bumped into this quote last night. I was tucked in for the night and I hoped I would remember it in the morning. I didn’t exactly recall it, but luckily for me “Lord of the Rings” is such a well-quoted book, I found it quickly on ye olde Internet.


Eomer said, ‘How is a man to judge what to do in such times?’ As he has ever judged,’ said Aragorn. ‘Good and evil have not changed since yesteryear, nor are they one thing among Elves and another among Men. It is a man’s part to discern them, as much in the Golden Wood as in his own house.


In the great fabric of life of which we are merely threads, good and evil are also a part of us. We are born with a genetic understanding of both. It is in our DNA. When we see evil and allow ourselves to become part of it — when we live in evil times, excuse and forgive evil — we become part of it.

A bad man and his bad adherents don’t have “a good side.” Lying about it changes nothing except maybe us.


When you read this book, you will sooner or later end up talking like this. You can’t help it. If you are really into it, you might just do it in Elvish or worse, Orcish.

And in the darkness bind them …

WHAT I DIDN’T DO – Marilyn Armstrong

I don’t regret the things I didn’t do, but I do wonder how the world would have turned had I done them.

There was the offer to join a group I think maybe I should have joined. I failed to fight an unfair judgment.

There were battles I didn’t fight and the roads I chose not to walk. The art I wanted and didn’t buy because of money when that money would mean nothing now. The friend who I couldn’t help at that moment. Could she wait a week or two until I got the baby settled? She couldn’t, didn’t, and I’ll never know if I might have made the difference.

Another friend pointed out that I had once said Anna was the kind of person who never seemed fully engaged in life. He was not surprised she jumped. I was surprised. To this day, more than 50-years later, I remain surprised.

The time when a later-to-be-famous spiritual leader invited me to join him and I (7-months pregnant) didn’t see that as a direction in which I could go. Not right then and there. I said no.

I also didn’t change schools and go to Boston but stayed in New York. What about the men to whom I said no, didn’t date, didn’t marry. Or for that matter, the men to whom I said yes to whom I probably should have said no.

That I didn’t go to Israel when I was 18 and instead, waited until I was 30.

Choices. So many. Often jumbled together into a short period of time, usually when I felt unable to make major changes. Was that a sign? Or was I merely over-cautious?

Life is choices, isn’t it?

When you say yes to one thing, you are inherently saying no to another. There’s no single “other” path to follow. We have an infinite number of paths on which we could walk. Each path will take you somewhere different and maybe that would have been a good place to be. Or possibly not.

Who knows whether the choices I made were the correct or only choice? Maybe any choice would have been right? Maybe I’d have ended in the same place regardless of which path I picked.

Do we end up where we need to be? Is this where I am supposed to be?

I know where I am is good and am content to be here. Overall, I think I’ve been remarkably lucky.

A LOT MORE PAIN TO COME – Marilyn Armstrong

From: ELECTION OF DONALD TRUMP by Steven Brill

“Donald Trump’s victory and this current political crisis were decades in the making. This moment is a reflection of serious institutional and structural problems in American society. How do you make sense of it all?

During the 1960s I was part of a generation that benefited from the expansion of American meritocracy. I was one of the first group of students to be admitted to Yale when it was opened up to Jews, admissions was made need-blind, people started getting financial aid and Yale transformed from being just the old boys’ network to something a bit more meritocratic and open. The beneficiaries of that in the 1970s, 1980s and 1990’s would become the  lawyers who created and engineered corporate takeovers and ways to fight unions in the South, as well as how to lobby so that regulations would not be passed. That generation also became the bankers who created casino capitalism.”


This was the piece on Alternet I would have liked to reblog. Instead, I thought I’d give the story and a link so you can read the original yourself. It’s long and worth the effort.

The closing lines got me. They dug right into my soul and reminded me why I find myself so troubled by today’s world. It isn’t ONLY that Trump won the election.


What are you worried about in this moment regarding the United States? And what are you happy or more positive about?

Well, if you see the people who are really in the trenches fighting back to improve society you’ll be optimistic. But the truth is we’re going to go through a lot more pain before we start to turn things around.”


I have understood for a long time that this thing we are living through didn’t start with the most recent presidential election in the U.S. We are seeing similar patterns in any number of European countries, including Great Britain, France, Holland and many more. For that matter, we see similar patterns in Muslim and Hindu nations. Hate is big.

Rolling the world back from this horror show will not be a matter of one or two elections. It is going to require a serious rethinking by many of us — including me — of what we want our world to be. Of who we, as human beings, need to be.

Right now, humankind is standing in front of a distorted fun house mirror. In it, we see evil. We see people without conscience targeting everyone. Whether they are bankers, politicians, hackers, or that nasty bastard down the street … they share a complete absence of concern for those who have less and need help.

These are not people who “help.” They are the destroyers, whether they are rich or poor. They have no moral center.

There are a lot of them. Many more than we imagined might exist in our world. Some of them are “friends” or “family.” Forgiving them because they are familiar to us is how most people deal with them, but it’s not an answer. It merely perpetuates the ugliness.

It says: “Your racism is okay because you are my uncle, cousin, or old friend from school. I will forgive you because you are part of my pack.”

But their racism is NOT okay, even if it is your twin sibling. It’s not okay under any circumstances. It is wrong, absolutely and completely. Sometimes, wrong is wrong. That’s the beginning and end of it. It isn’t okay because “Oh, well, he doesn’t really mean it.”

Yes, he means it. He always meant it. When it was politically incorrect, he shut up about it but now, it’s okay. After all, when the President says it, it must be alright. But you still think he’s okay, right? Family and all that.

You give him support and continue to support him or her. And you are as wrong as he or she is.


“Trump won every single category of white voters. It wasn’t some cartoon caricature of the “white working class” that the mainstream  media likes to paint about the rubes out there in the hinterlands. That narrative about white “economic anxiety” is easier to report on and write about than it is to dig into the real systemic and structural problems in American society.”


No matter how we want to play with the statistics — after all, Hillary Clinton won the general vote, right? — that statement should scare the wits out of you. It stands white America as one group facing the rest of America with the potential of being the biggest, ugliest, deadliest race war ever to hit this planet. It not only stands white Americans against all other Americans. It stands our white American politics against the rest of the world, most of which is not white.

Most of the world is Asian or brown or black or some mixture of these. Most of the world is not white. Our political descent from white Europeans has skewed us to think that somehow we are better, stronger, fitter than “those other people.”

That might have been true — at least in terms of resources — 75 years ago. It most certainly is NOT true now.

If nip comes to tuck, the result is likely to be a world in which none of us can live. Not here, or there, or anywhere. And science fiction notwithstanding, there’s no other world waiting for our survivors. This is it. We screw it up, it stays screwed up for us. Forever.


Note: I’m not saying that everyone is evil or racist or in any way bad. But there are an awful lot more of them than I imagined this world could support. I don’t know why I didn’t realize it. With all the wars — civil and uncivil — obviously there is a lot of room for bad people. But I’ve lived in a world where my friends are good people. My family are good people. I have not lived with hatred and racism. I know of it and had some skirmishes, but the number of really bad people out there is way outside anything I imagined possible.

THE BALM OF WOE – Marilyn Armstrong

 There’s no making up for a lifetime of too little sleep.

A while ago, I asked Garry if he thought I would ever catch up on the years of very little or no sleep.

He said “no” and I think the same goes for him. We lived for many decades on short hours and long days. I still don’t sleep well.

There’s no way to make up for a lifetime of lost sleep. Some morning’s are better than others, but in the end, there’s always tiredness, the wistful feeling a couple more hours of sleep would have been so nice.

Have you ever met a dog with insomnia?

In answer to this morning’s question, I think the last time I woke up feeling refreshed and ready to dive into life was before my son was born — more than 49 years ago …

Come Sleep, O Sleep …

Sir Philip Sidney

Come, Sleep! O Sleep, the certain knot of peace,
The baiting-place of wit, the balm of woe,
The poor man’s wealth, the prisoner’s release,
Th’ indifferent judge between the high and low;
With shield of proof shield me from out the press
Of those fierce darts Despair at me doth throw!
O make in me those civil wars to cease!—
I will good tribute pay if thou do so.
Take thou of me smooth pillows, sweetest bed,
A chamber deaf of noise and blind of light,
A rosy garland, and a weary head;
And if these things, as being thine in right,
Move not thy heavy grace, thou shalt in me,
Livelier than elsewhere, Stella’s image see.


NOTE: If you read this sonnet aloud, “press” in Elizabethan English was pronounced “preese” to rhyme with release. At least, that’s what they told me in college.