HOISTED ON A WHAT? Marilyn Armstrong

Last night I said to Garry “Aha! He is hoisted upon his own petard!” And Nat Helms wrote a piece about Trump hoisted on his own petard. But really, how many of us have the slightest idea what a petard is or was? I didn’t know until … (gasp) … I looked it up.


“What,” I asked Garry, “Is a petard?”

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

BUT THAT CAN’T BE RIGHT, CAN IT? – Marilyn Armstrong

Fandango’s Provocative Question #58

To put it most simply, I always thought that — socio and psychopaths aside — everyone has a conscience. Even after Trump was elected, I thought that Americans weren’t stupid enough to actually follow this moron.

I was wrong.

All the cynicism I decried in my mother has settled on me. Apparently many people don’t have even a shred of conscience. Those that might have a conscience are prepared to ignore it in the name of promulgating their personal agendas. It’s embarrassing. I feel I should apologize for being American, even though I didn’t vote for the guy and never would.

Can we regrow a backbone? Film at eleven.

LOUDER THAN WORDS – Marilyn Armstrong

Fandango’s February Expressions #23

Oh let us speak first of love. When a man says he loves you, that’s nice. When a man shows you he loves you, that matters. Men, after they get over the huge masculine hurdle of saying “I love you” seem to have an even more powerful resistance to displaying love.

What does showing love mean? An unasked-for hug. The kiss that isn’t pre-sex. A bouquet of flowers that wasn’t bought at the gas station … and for which there is no special occasion. Just loving. A gift for no reason. All these speak of love.

In the world of “other things,” the senator who stands up for what he believes no matter how badly it affects his personal political agenda. The military man who goes in after a civilian caught in a cross-fire, even though it won’t win him a medal. The judge who recognizes a youngster with potential who needs help and offers it instead of prison.

Even small things. Holding doors for older people who are having trouble navigating an entryway. Waiting patiently in line even when the elderly woman ahead of you is having trouble making sense of her money and the clerk ho kindly waits for her to finish, even when the line is stopped and people are griping.

There are many actions that display an understanding of right and wrong which no words can show. These actions speak ever so much louder than words.

DISCRETION AND VALOR – Marilyn Armstrong

Fandango’s February Expressions #21

Where oh where have valor and discretion gone? What does this mean? Until you know what you are talking about, shut up.

Valor isn’t doing something stupid and dangerous. It means doing something that may cost you your life to save someone ELSE. It isn’t bungee jumping or tightrope walking between highrise buildings. Discretion isn’t being quiet when you know something important that others need to know — like our recent ‘senators’ who were supposedly judging Trump’s impeachment. That wasn’t discretion. That was spinelessness. Cowards minus one.

“Discretion is the better part of valor” suggests that unless you have the facts, you should keep your mouth shut. It does NOT suggest that refusing to talk when you have knowledge of important (maybe critical) information is a good thing.

Discretion has been nearly eliminated from the national dialogue. Facts are discarded along with civility. No one seems to know the difference between valor and doing dangerous things for fun. It is why when someone actually stands up and does the right thing, we go crazy. These days, we feel it’s remarkable when anyone shows real character and honesty.

That’s the world we have made. I hope we unmake it soon.

CREATORS AND DESTROYERS: WE ARE ONE PACKAGE – Marilyn Armstrong

Fandango’s Provocative Question #57


Are humans better at creating or destroying?


We are good at both and moreover, a lot of our creations turn out to be destructive.


Ten Medieval Inventions that Changed the World:

  • Mechanical Clock. Timekeeping devices have emerged since the ancient world, but it was not until the Middle Ages that the technology was invented that allowed for mechanical clocks to accurately keep track of time.
  • Printing Press.
  • Gunpowder.
  • Water and Wind Mills. (Note: Ancient civilizations all over the world had invented grinding mills for corn and other grains. The big invention, in this case, was attaching the grinder to rushing water to make it work on its own.)
  • Coffee House. (France, Louis XIV)
  • Eyeglasses. 13th-14th centuries. Also telescopes.
  • Public Library. (Another note: How “public” they were depends on your definition of “public.” I’m not sure peasants or even the middle class were “public” at that point.)
  • Flying Buttress.

Although I’m pretty sure the flying buttress never destroyed anything, gunpowder surely did. We didn’t invent it. Marco Polo imported it. The Chinese invented it in the 9th century but didn’t use it for weapons. They preferred fireworks.

Plastic was an amazing invention. It hasn’t worked out well for the world but who knew what incredible slobs humans could be? On the other hand, coffee houses and libraries remain terrific places to hang out.

The clock showed up in the 13th century. Imagine that! A time-keeping device in the 1200s. Wristwatches took a little longer. The 13th century, mostly noted for the Black Plague that swept the world also forced the invention of the central government. Was that a good thing or a bad one? It was good when they created it because everyone was starving (no peasants to plow the fields).

A central government could build giant granaries and dole out grain so that whoever wasn’t dying of plague might not die of starvation instead. It was a way of keeping a few citizens around when the plague finally left. Incidentally, this also created a middle class. Today’s government doesn’t ideal, but it would be difficult to run a modern world without it. Maybe impossible.

The Egyptians and Romans were very big on government as were the Chinese, Macedonians, Greeks, and probably many other cultures about whom we don’t know enough to make a firm statement. It varied in style, but its centrality was undisputed.

Gutenberg printing press

We invent things. We mismanage the things we invent. We invent something else which is supposed to fix what went awry the first time around … and when that goes awry too, we do some more inventing. When we think we are out of inventions, we aren’t. There is always another genius in the wings.

You could say that humans have invented everything that isn’t animal,  mineral, or vegetable.

In the 1400s, we got the first golf balls and women discovered the “golf weekend.” The first piano — called the Spinet — was invented the same year and soon we were all taking piano lessons. In 1411 they invented the trigger to go with the gun. That opened up the world of warfare which we have turned into a video game. By the 1500s, the Japanese had invented artillery. It took a few more centuries to build much bigger explosives, but we done it.

Modern-style oil-painting showed up in 1420 (or thereabouts) though there were many other kinds of painting long before that.

In 1421 in lovely Florence, someone invented hoisting gear. This probably helped get those flying buttresses up where they belonged. In the middle of that exhausting century — around 1455 (no one is exactly sure of the date), Johannes Gutenberg invented the printing press using movable metal type. The printing press was probably a bigger deal than even the cell phone. (NOTE: The Chinese invented movable metal type in the 9th century, but we didn’t learn about it until five centuries later.)

Medieval moldboard plows

The list of inventions is almost endless. We are incredibly inventive. The problem is that we have an ugly habit of turning these inventions into ways to destroy the earth and each other. A lot of people who invented things that went wrong were really sorry about it. Later. When it was a bit late. Like Alfred Nobel who invented dynamite. He was so sorry he also invented major awards. Oh, wait, they’ve been around awhile. Oops, sorry.

The irony is that I don’t think we are intentionally destructive. Of course, this is not counting Trump and his toadies. We think we are protecting something or fighting for god or battling demons and in the course of doing what we think it really a good thing, we destroy so much in our wake.

What are we? Creative? Destructive? We are both, by turns. We create things of great beauty, extraordinary value. Then, we blow them up.


Take a look at a Timeline of historic inventions in Wikipedia. We are creators. We just have no damned discipline.