Cross Words

Crossword

CROSSWORD PUZZLES LEAVE SOME PEOPLE BLANK

Some people just don’t understand what people like me get out of doing crossword puzzles. We sit for hours, poring over ambiguous clues, to fill in little boxes, and when we’re done, all we have is a page full of letters.  I mean, we don’t even get a prize for all that work.

As you’ve probably guessed, lots of folks, my darling wife included, do not find crossword puzzles _ _ _ (three letters across, first letter F)  Even though I’ve almost made a C_R_ _R (life’s work, six letters) out of writing and playing with words, trying to do a crossword puzzle is an agonizing chore for many.  Their minds just don’t work that way.

My wife will sit for hours without saying a word, while I do my puzzles.  If I happen to muse aloud, “What’s a four-letter word for a garden tool?” she will quickly reply, “Spatula.”  I say, “No!  I think it’s rake.” and write that down.

If I had simply asked her to name some garden tools, she could have rattled off a whole list, from rake and shovel, to trowel, spade, and ‘Garden Weazel.’  Because I specifically mentioned a four-letter garden tool for a crossword puzzle, she can’t think of a single one.  Her mind just goes BL-N- (empty, five letters)

In fact, the moment I posed that question, she couldn’t think of a garden tool to save her life, even if she were being tortured by the Spanish Inquisition.  The Inquisitor could say, “All right, heretic.  Give me a three-letter word for ‘poem’, starting with O, or I will lock you in the Iron Maiden.”  She’d probably just stand there and say, “I think it’s ‘Owl’, before they ran the sharp spikes into her body.

CROSSWORD PUZZLING

The reason that some folks can’t think of answers to crossword puzzle questions is that, whenever they’re presented with a clue, their mind becomes a big, dark room where they rummage around, trying to find something, anything, to fill in the blank spaces.  They grab onto it, and shout ‘Spatula’ for no apparent reason.

The best they can do with crosswords, is come close.  If the clue is – a beverage: P_ _, they write down PUB, which is actually fairly good, since at least a pub is a place where you can get a beverage.  If the puzzle wants ‘Lennon’s widow’ in three letters, they put down ‘Mrs.’

Crossword clues are just plain confusing to some.  They read the clue: ‘state that borders Mexico’, starting with A, and try to put in ‘Atlantic Ocean.’  Or they look at the clue: ‘High ranking marine,’ with five spaces, and try to fit in ‘humpback whale.’

Obviously, they have to write really small when they do crosswords like that.  The boxes get so crowded that they have to stack letters on top of each other.  On the other hand, sometimes the word they want doesn’t work, because they don’t have enough letters to fill in all the boxes.  The clue will be: ‘balloon filler,’ needing four spaces, and they put in AIRR.

For some, the problem started back in school, with tests that had them fill in the blanks.  They’d get the history question, ‘The Gettysburg Address was delivered by……..’  They would go into that dark room and come out with, the Post Office.  Or, on a Geography quiz, the question would be, ‘The United States capital is in……’, and they put down, ‘total confusion.’

A fellow-student in one class would look at the first question on the test and panic.  Your name……….  He would wave his hand frantically, until the teacher said, “What is it, Myron?” and quickly write Myron down.

I had an uncle who liked to enjoy the company of a crossword puzzle book and a glass of wine after dinner.  After he passed on, I happened to pick up his puzzle book and look in it.  The clue would read: Lone Ranger’s horse, and he would have written GZODKE.  He had fooled us.  He didn’t like crossword puzzles at all!  He just liked the quiet, and a chance to drink.

Wine

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Insanity

Straitjacket

Insanity is hereditary. You get it from your children.

I was doing some research the other day, and stopped off at Bible.org.  Anything scientific, modern or technological is automatically suspect, so I wasn’t surprised when my eye spotted the headline of an article which read, Psychiatrists Have Been Torturing Insane People For 500 Years.

As a compulsive wordsmith, that caught my attention. A quick check revealed that the word, and occupation, psychiatrist, only came into existence about 125 years ago.  Previous to that, there were men known as psychiators, untrained, unlicensed and uncontrolled.

Driven by self-righteous ego, they were usually interested in power, self-aggrandizement, and enforcing what they viewed as acceptable social norms – shades of The Inquisition. They were often church men, good Christians, and it was they who tortured people who often were not insane, but merely free-thinkers, independents, and weirdoes, marching to a different flautist.

Insanity

As in my post on torture, you could be snatched off the street, or from your home, at any time, for any reason – or none. Might made right.  Cross an undrawn line, and a husky man or two would do worse than sell you into slavery.  Tell your father that you wanted to work at a newspaper, rather than learning how to make gloves; tell your mother you didn’t want the arranged marriage to the fat old farmer; ask your boss for an evening off to go courting, and just see what happened.

Have a look at the list of ‘insanities’, above. Any of these could get you involuntarily committed to an insane asylum, and resisting and insisting that you weren’t insane, was proof that you were.  The list-makers did seem to be fixated on masturbation, in all its variations.  I think they needed more psychological help than the unfortunate wretches they abused.  And I’d like to know how an 1880s nut-house got an Internet address.

Despite the implication that the bad treatment was all the fault of those evil Psychiatrists, these often-self-appointed Guardians of Conformity used many well-known methods to break the will and minds of their charges.  One was wet-sheeting, where they wrapped you tightly in cold, wet linen, and left you on a bed, unable to move, sometimes for days.

Drugs were now commonly available, and widely used. They could be included in what little poor food you got; you could be held by attendants and have it forced down your throat, or directly injected with the new hypodermic syringe.  They included diuretics, which caused you to wet yourself, emetics, which would cause you to vomit, purgatives that roiled your gut, and made you shit yourself, and opiates that suppressed intelligence and will, and blurred reality for you.

On the physical side, beyond the restraining wet-sheeting, one of the favorites was the chair.  You were strapped into a sturdy wooden chair with arms.  Four ropes were attached to the corners, and then those were attached to a single strong rope, suspended from a high ceiling.  Loaded with some of the above drugs, you were then spun round and round – and round, while also swinging back and forth.  Fifty spins in one direction, then forty in the other, then thirty the first way, then twenty, etc, etc!

When the ride came to a stop, you were Inquisitioned. “Admit that you were insane.”  “I was never insane! I am healthy and normal!”  “Wind him up again boys.”  “No, No more! I admit that I was insane.  I am better now and will behave well.”  Caning was common, as well as pitch-black sensory-deprivation solitary confinement.

One facility even built a giant wooden wheel, two feet in thickness, and twelve feet in diameter, its axle sitting on tall posts. An offender was shoved in through a small port, the door latched, and then left for up to 36 hours.  There was no light, no food, no water, and no toilet facilities.  What little air, was redolent with the reek of previous tenants’ leavings.  Like a hamster, you could walk, but that only rained feces and almost-dried vomit on you.

An open mind can always stand a closed one, if it has to – by making room for it in the general picture. But a closed mind can’t stand it near an open one without risking immediate and complete destruction in its own terms.  In a closed mind, there’s no more room.

Gordon R. Dickson, author – Tiger Green – 1965

The 1889 date above just about matches the time when Sigmund Freud, Carl Jung, and others, began humanely treating mental disorders, which most of these poor souls did not have. Sadly, these propaganda pits did not die out.  As late as the 1950s, white women with non-white boyfriends or husbands could be snatched and incarcerated till they ‘learned better.’

At the same time, unwed mothers could be permanently locked away in places like the Magdalene Sisters homes, where their delivered babies were quietly buried in the back yards, and the women were forced into 16 to 18 hours a day physical labor, to pay for their unwanted keep, while those darned Psychiatrists were busy torturing folks. Insanity isn’t all it’s cracked up to be.    😦

Homeward! Bound?

zoes tale

What books I can’t get for free from the Library, I pay half-price for at the book-exchange stall at the St. Jacob’s Farmers’ Market, or reluctantly buy at full retail from the Chapters Bookstore nearby. Also, a few trickle down from the son, Shimoniac.  One of the ways I enticed him to accompany me on the recent Buffalo/Batavia trip, was to guarantee him a visit to both a large bookstore and/or second-hand book exchange.

Everything is relative. Cordelia’s Mom informed me that the large second-hand bookstore I found online in Buffalo, was just outside the University, and dealt with buying and reselling text-books. The Galleria Mall she led us to, listed ‘Bookstores – 3’ online, if you consider Hallmark Cards a bookstore.

A second was a Christian bookstore, more interested in selling Bibles, rosaries and Holy Water pendants than Sci-Fi or Romance. The last was a New Age-y thing with books on Yoga, weight loss, DIY, and Chicken Soup for the Confused Psyche.  We spent a couple of hours people-watching, and then headed to Batavia, where I assured him there was a Barnes and Noble store.

After our Sunday photographic downtown tour, we allowed Ethel, the GPS, to lead us three miles out of town to 1 College Road. This turned out to be the main administration building of the Genesee State College.  The store might have been run by Barnes and Noble, but it was identified simply as ‘Campus Bookstore’, slightly bigger than a Volkswagen van, full of more textbooks, and closed on Sunday.

“Never fear!” I said.  “I know where there’s a giant Barnes and Noble in Buffalo, as big as the huge Chapters we recently visited in Toronto’s Eaton’s Center.”  (Grump, grump, grump muttered the son.  I’ll bet.)

The next day, after checking out, we headed back to Buffalo. Since ‘I knew where I was going,’ the son hadn’t turned Ethel back on.  There was a post with two curved arrows to the right as we approached Niagara Falls Boulevard.  I drove over it, expecting to take the far ramp down, to go south.  There is no far ramp.

The following is for CM, and any others familiar with Buffalo, to tell her how lost I was, and where.  The rest of you can skip it and just read “Lost, lost, lost, blah, blah, blah.”

A mile and a quarter down I-90, to Colvin – north a mile and a quarter till I encountered a main cross-street, Ellicott Creek Rd. – a mile and a quarter back to Niagara Falls Blvd. and there was The Grapevine, our restaurant of two days ago – south a mile and a quarter, till I was back where I should have been. Moses wandered in the wilderness for 40 years.  I only went 5 useless miles out of my way.

I found the Barnes and Noble, and parked in a handicap spot right in front, because my arthritic hip was bothering me – and then hobbled a 100 yards around the corner to where they put the entrance. The son spent a glorious hour and a half, picking up almost as much ink as if he’d got a tattoo, while I lazed in an easy chair in front of their indoor gas campfire.  Finally sated, but without actually purchasing one book, we headed home.

Back up the Boulevard we went, toward I-90. Again, there were two arrows, one curved, and one L-shaped.  I didn’t want to get caught as I had coming in.  The son was desperately trying to find the GPS.  Just as I decided to merge right, the son yelled, “Take the ramp!”  I did – and off we went in the wrong direction – again.  More ‘Lost, lost, blah, blah.’

The last exit back dumped right into the University of Buffalo. After navigating parking lots and ring road, we finally won free to a surface street.  The son said, “We’re on Maple Road.”  Well, Maple Rd. Is where the Red Roof is that we should have stayed at. “I know where we are.  We’re lost, but we’re making good time.”

Continuing onward, the son said, “We must be getting near civilization. There’s a Taco Bell.  At least we won’t starve to death.”  (As if!)  Ethel the GPS had finally recovered her satellites, and her voice, but I beat her to it.  “Turn right on Sheridan Drive.” I know! I followed the turbo-charged soccer-momobile here last year.  This takes us back to CM’s place.

Soon, we’re back to the Boulevard, and heading for I-90. Another wasted 5 miles.  Moses’ ass, and mine, are getting tired.  Finally facing toward Canada, we head home.  Near Grand Island, the highway runs across the top of a dam.  Suddenly, the light goes on.  This is the entrance to the fabled Erie Canal.

I paid a dollar toll to get onto the island, and another to take the bridge over the gorge. I pulled up to the Canadian Customs booth – and that’s when the trouble started.

I misjudged my approach, and when I went to hand out our passports, I couldn’t reach by two feet. The young Border Guard could have stepped out of his booth, but instead insisted, “Get out of the car!”, which I was happy to do, because I needed to ease my right hip again.  Immediately, I was ordered to, “Get back in your car!”  “Okay, as soon as I can move.”

What the son saw, but I didn’t, was the Free Safety behind the adjacent booth suddenly head toward us with his hand on his Glock. Once the car door was closed, things calmed down – a bit.  Now the Inquisition started.

Why’d you go to the States?
To visit some friends, and do a bit of shopping.
How long were you gone?
(He’s got it on the computer screen in front of him.)  Two days.
Where are you from?
Kitchener.
How much are you bringing back?
For both of us, about $75 US, no alcohol, no tobacco.
Then what did you buy?
Some clothes, some food.
Where do your friends live?
In Tonawanda.
Where did you stay?
Out in Batavia.  It was the nearest place that wasn’t full of football fans.
Do you have a receipt?
Why yes officer, right here beside me.
So you two brothers just went over for a visit?
We are not brothers.  We are father and son.
Have you ever had any trouble getting into the States?
No, officer.
Are you known by any other names?
(Other than Stupid, or Asshole??)  No sir.

He looked across the car at the son and asked for a drivers’ licence, for proof of address, which we passed out, and he examined thoroughly. We just sat there, grinning like the rubes we are.  I asked, “Which name set you off?”  “I can’t tell you that.” But it was the son’s licence he asked for.  Like the TSA No-Fly list, it’s probable that someone with the same name is wanted for something.  We may have this problem in any future trips, but now we are warned.

Now he can step out of the booth, to return all the documents.  No “Thank you, have a nice day sir.” Just, “Okay, away you go.”  Surly enough to be an American.  Did Tim Horton’s refuse to serve you?  Well, we’re back in the Land of the Bland and the Home of the Subservient.

The Torture Of Faith

(Not too) recently, I read of Boko Haram, or ISIS, torturing 23 young children to death. I don’t know what menace six-year-olds can be, to bullies armed with AK-47s. If you feel the kids must die, at least do it quickly and cleanly. Afford them the dignity that you lack.

On the same day, a television station reran the movie, The DaVinci Code, in which a character slams down a copy of Malleus Maleficarum (Witches’ Hammer), a handbook The Inquisition used, to torture and burn thousands of innocents, most of them women.

Malleus Maleficarum

I had to read this thing, so I contacted my library. They didn’t have a copy, but obtained one for me on inter-library loan, from Toronto. The book was originally written in 1647, and I got a 40 year old paperback version, identical to the one in the movie, if more used and worn. It was composed about the same time as the King James Bible, full of ‘thee and thou’. It was a struggle to get through it in the 3-week loan period, but I managed.

The subtitle should have been, “How To Inflict Excruciating Pain For Fun And Profit.” The Church seized all property of those found guilty. Some Inquisitors skimmed a bit off for themselves, while others merely benefited through the enrichment of their organization.

I opened it up and started reading. Immediately, the lies, hypocrisy, mistaken assumptions and unprovable claims began. On page 1, clear as crystal, it said, “Magic exists. It was created by God in the beginning with all else, but He does not wish mankind to use it. Anyone who practices magic, allies with Satan.”

On page 3, just as clearly, it said, “Magic does not exist. It is merely apparent, only believed to exist by the faithful.” On page 5, the yo-yo now claimed that, “Magic does exist, but its effects are ephemeral and transient. If ignored, soon all will return to God’s intended state.”

I don’t know who the book was intended to convince, the writer, the commoners, from whom unfortunate victims were plucked, The Church/Pope, or the secular Royalty. Presumption of innocence just didn’t exist. “Hang ‘the witch’ by her thumbs for a day.” She’s already been convicted, but the ritual must be observed, so that ‘legal’ confiscation can proceed.

“If a Dark Witch do evil by Black Magic, find a White Witch to reverse the spell – then quickly burn them both to death.” “Have the Witch’s friends to tell her that if she confesses her sins, you will be merciful. If this does not avail, tell the Witch yourself that you will be merciful – holding in mind that you will be merciful unto The Church and the King, from whom you hold obedience and loyalty.” No lie was too big, or too devious.

The Catholic Church even had the temerity to declare, “No-one convicted of heresy by The Inquisition, was later found to be innocent.” largely because any friend or relative who protested, was subjected to the same torture and execution.

“Ask the witch why she does not cry for her sins. Watch carefully to see that she does not use spittle to wet her cheeks.” She did not cry for her sins, because she committed none, and modern science knows that a body under stress cannot cry.

You might think that a person in agony might choose quick death to end the prolonged torment, but even here, The Inquisition cheated. If you confessed, you had to swear to God that your confession was true. Anyone lying to God was sent to Hell, so Inquisitors were granted more time to play their sick games. An innocent person was believed protected from pain by faith in God. That worked so well in everyday life.

For anyone who wants to play the No True Scotsman game, and claim that these were not ‘real Christians’ or ‘Good Catholics’ – during the worst of the Inquisition, a Bishop went from city to city, marking down the ingenious ways the locals had of inflicting pain. The book was copied and sent back to the various areas, so that others could benefit. When this was done, the Bishop traveled to Rome, and the Pope blessed both him and his vile book.

A Scottish sea captain delivered a cargo to Madrid. While he was on the streets, looking for another cargo, he was snatched and imprisoned. He was held for three days without food or water. He was flogged, and stretched on the rack. Joints and bones in his hands and feet were broken. He was seared with red-hot irons, and cut with knives. Pieces of skin and flesh were torn off his body, and finally he was subjected to the medieval equivalent of water-boarding.

When he managed to survive all these indignities, he was thrown, naked and broken, back out onto the street. No questions were asked. No accusations were made. No confession was extracted. These Dominican Servants of God merely wanted the practice.

A king of Sweden wished to marry a particular lady, but the court advisors were against his choice. Perhaps they felt her virtue was questionable, or maybe they knew that she would undermine their influence with the king. They claimed that she was a witch, who had ensorcelled his mind, and demanded that she be ‘Put To The Question.’ (Tortured)

This was usually enough to make someone back off, but she and the King persisted. The test was to grasp a red-hot iron bar in both hands, and walk three measured paces. It was reported that she took the three paces, stopped, took another three paces, and demanded, “Is there more you would have me do?”

Cynical me sees gold changing hands, the castle torturer being told that he might become a customer of his replacement, and the recording priest reminded that he could suffer a fatal accident. Or maybe they both just loved the king and his lady, and hated the devious courtiers. The lady became Queen Gertrude, and almost everyone lived happily ever after.

A hundred years later, Swedes were so taken by the story of the virtuous maid, protected from pain and evil by God, that it was declared a miracle, and she became Saint Gertrude. Oy! 😳

#486

Stuff You Should Know

 

Vegetarian is an ancient tribal name for the village idiot, who can’t hunt, fish, or start a fire.

The crap that gullible people believe, coupled with thought processes that make a plate of spaghetti look neat and well organized, have led to some of the strangest, often dangerous, shit.  In the Middle Ages, the cognoscenti, the intelligent, educated (?) men noticed that ferns never produced seeds….and yet, ferns grew, and multiplied.  Therefore….Careful!  Don’t hurt yourself on this….fern seeds were invisible.  If you could find and gather enough of these seeds that couldn’t be seen, and ate them, you would become invisible too.  Can you say Dark Ages, or Inquisition??!  Or Westboro, or just Duh!

Once upon a time, (Wasn’t this week!) people had respect for themselves and others, and various institutions.  Perhaps society was a bit too restrictive, and change was an improvement, but the pendulum swung too far the other way.  I blame the hippie generation.  With the best of intentions, they tore society down, but failed to put up anything in its place, and society needs structure.

If it feels good, do it.  Like my young senator, they weren’t doing anything that their parents hadn’t done, but, you damned young fools, that’s what doors are for.  I believe this was the beginning of the downfall of the education system, no penalties, no failures, no need to work.  Spell it as it sounds.

Back then, only criminals committed criminal acts, and if caught, went to jail for them.  One did not break into neighbors’ houses, or steal or vandalize their cars.  One did not steal from neighbor-owned businesses….but, the wheel has turned, and society has changed.

Cities have grown larger, and more impersonal.  Companies are not owned by us, so there are more and more among us who are willing and anxious to steal from and damage them.  Then, if they get caught they blame parents who didn’t raise them well, and teachers who didn’t understand them, and claim they are the victims of some plot.  They’re not criminals!  Give them a GPS anklet and six months of house arrest.

Businesses have had to modify their buildings to reduce loss and shrinkage, two words that mean being stolen from by outsiders, and being stolen from by employees.  Many stores are now laid out so that you can’t get back out the door you came in.

On a trip to South Carolina, the wife and I shopped for groceries at a Piggly-Wiggly store, simply because we’d heard Jeff Foxworthy make fun of them on his comedy albums.  We found out that the entrance doors had no motion sensor on the inside.  As we approached them from the outside, they slid open for us, and a young man lugging a hockey bag zipped out past us, with the head cashier and store manager in hot pursuit through the exit doors.

He’d been spotted on the closed-circuit, dropping meat into the bag.  They were going to approach him, when he used us to facilitate his getaway.  They chased him into the parking lot, but he got into a car and got away.  We got the manager as a bag-boy as we checked out, and I asked what happened.  They had good video shots of him from several cameras, and they got his license number.  The manager said the state troopers would probably be waiting for him by the time he got home.

The same kind of thing happened out near Benzeknees, but the pursuers were too impetuous.  When the thief drove off, he struck and killed a clerk.

Many Canadian stores, including my cheap newspaper favorite, are installing double-bar systems.  As you enter, pushing on the outer bar allows you to open the inner bar.  They’re almost impossible to reach over the inner bar from inside the store, to get the outer bar to release it, and allow egress.

Recently, as the wife and I entered to pick up (and pay for) a few items, we were met by a pair of shoplifting Nuns.  Actually, they had used the pharmacy, which is located at the entrance end of the building.  Since they had nothing else to purchase, they wanted to exit at the nearest door.  We had to explain to them that they would have to go to the other end and show their paid-for packages to a cashier, to sidle out past shoppers checking out.  Neither of them was toting a hockey bag.

Sixteen Amish in eastern Ohio were convicted of hate crimes.  The leader of a strict, break-away sect apparently was miffed that other Amish did not follow him.  Declaring that some of the non-followers were not pious enough, he ordered his sons, and some of their friends, to break into homes in the middle of the night.  Men were pulled from bed, and their beards were cut off.  The two to three-foot long hair of women was lopped off, sometimes down to the scalp.

The suspects argued that the Amish are bound by different rules, guided by their religion, and that the government had no place getting involved in what amounted to a family or church dispute.  It’s the, “My religion is better than your laws.” all over again.  Other Amish testified that the religious teachings and methods of punishment of the firebrand ideologue deviated from standard Amish traditions.

The season of festivals/drive the daughter places, is upon me.  Last Saturday I took her to her BarterWorks meet.  This Saturday will be the Cherry Park Festival.  The wife was busy tonight, pouring beeswax candles for her.  Sunday is a 50 mile drive to visit the crazy cat lady.  Next Saturday will be an Anti-Violence Festival in the big Victoria Park, and Sunday we will visit our friends at the Free Thinkers meeting.  Since the son is doing a week of day shift at work, perhaps he might wish to join us.  I’ll keep you updated, whether you want to be or not.