Book Review #18

Extraordinary Popular Delusions & the Madness of Crowds

Extraordinary Popular Delusions & The Madness Of Crowds

I am ticked off…. or rather, this book is ticked off the reading list challenge that I don’t follow.

It was originally published before I was born – more than a century before. It was first printed in 1841. The copy that I got on an inter-library loan was reprinted in 1980. It had 3 prefaces – the original, a slightly revised version when the author had it reprinted 30 years later, and yet another from the 1980 re-release.

The 1980 instigator was taking a University Psychology course, when he thought he heard the instructor speaking of an old book about The Madness Of Krauts. He didn’t realize that Germans were called Krauts, that far back. A check of the University library showed him his mistake, but since the copyright had long expired, he felt that he could make a little money by having it reprinted.

This book was a disappointment, yet also a delight to me. Even since the ‘70s, there have been great changes and improvements in psychiatry and psychology, but since I only knew of the 1980 publish date, I hoped to get some fairly up-to-date insights into mob behavior. The 1841 composer rendered none of that. He only provided recountings of historical events which were notable for mass delusion.

These included the likes of the monetary bubble, collapse of the Louisiana Investment scam/scandal, the sad failure of the earliest attempt at a German Crusade, and the ongoing hysteria of the witch hunts. While the historical details were interesting enough, he delivered them all with the long-winded panache of someone reciting a Life Insurance actuarial table.

With the German Crusade, 100,000 young men were said to have started out, but only a handful survived, even to reach Constantinople, because of fighting among themselves, and with the armies of states and countries they marched through and denuded for food and drink.

As usual, the section on the witch hunts provided the worst atrocities. It was both a Church and State viewpoint that, “Because of the seriousness of this offence, none who are accused of this horrid crime shall escape torture to make them confess their sins. It is better that a million shall die, than that one witch shall be allowed to escape.”

Even while trying to do good, the well-intentioned did bad. As the witch-hunt frenzy was ebbing, a minor member of British Nobility tried an experiment. He was unconvinced that torture-induced confessions, and especially the naming of other witches, was valid.

He was acquainted and friends with, two Jesuit priests who acted as judges at the torture trials. To convince them of his viewpoint, he used a woman accused and imprisoned as a witch. They all attended the torture chamber, and he acted as interrogator. He had the woman stretched on the rack, and afflicted with the gamut of horrible tortures. Within a day, she admitted that she was a witch. Skillfully using leading questions, he also had her claim that the two Jesuits were wizards, calling them by name.

As they left the building, leaving the poor woman to her undeserved fate, the senior priest said, “It is well that this was done by a friend, rather than by an enemy.” And so, the witch-hunt frenzy slowly died, but not before thousands of innocent people also suffered and died.

This book is old enough to display some of the some of the English language’s spelling shifts. Words like ‘showed’, and ‘shown’ were printed as shewed, and shewn. While it was not what I thought I was getting, still it was an interesting read.

Fully Insured

The following are actual statements found on insurance forms, where car drivers attempted to summarize the details of an accident in the fewest words possible.  These instances of faulty writing serve to confirm that even incompetent writing may be highly entertaining.

Coming home, I drove into the wrong house and collided with a tree I don’t have.

The other car collided with mine without giving warning of its intentions.

I thought my window was down, but I found out it was up when I put my head through it.

I collided with a stationary truck coming the other way.

A truck backed through my windshield into my wife’s face.

A pedestrian hit me and went under my car.

The guy was all over the road.  I had to swerve a number of times before I hit him.

I pulled away from the side of the road, glanced at my mother-in-law and headed over the embankment.

In my attempt to kill a fly, I drove into a telephone pole.

I had been shopping for plants all day and was on my way home.  As I reached an intersection, a hedge sprang up, obscuring my vision and I did not see the other car.

I had been driving for 40 years when I fell asleep at the wheel and had an accident.

The telephone pole was approaching.  I was attempting to swerve out of its way when it struck the front end.

I was on my way to the doctor with rear end trouble when my universal joint gave way causing me to have an accident.

As I approached the intersection, a sign suddenly approached in a place where no stop sign ever appeared before.  I was unable to stop in time to avoid the accident.

To avoid hitting the bumper on the car in front, I struck the pedestrian.

My car was legally parked as it backed into the other vehicle.

An invisible car came out of nowhere, struck my car and vanished.

I told the police that I was not injured, but on removing my hat, found that I had a fractured skull.

I was sure that the old fellow would never make it to the other side of the road when I struck him.

The pedestrian had no idea which direction to run, so I ran over him.

I saw a slow moving, sad faced old gentleman as he bounced off the roof of my car.

The indirect cause of the accident was a little guy in a small car with a big mouth.

I was thrown from my car as it left the road.  I was later found in a ditch by some stray cows.

***

Condom

 

 

 

 

 

Consistent with the Bi-Cultural Policy, the Canadian Government is now considering changing the National Emblem from the Maple Leaf, to the condom.  The reasons are that the condom withstands inflation, slows down production, protects a bunch of pricks, and gives a false sense of security while one is being screwed.   🙄

Coffee And Doughnuts

CB750K

 

 

 

 

 

 

Cordelia’s Mom recently published a post about inadvertently getting pulled over on her way home from work, in the middle of a SWAT takedown.  She escaped with clean underwear and no bullet holes, and asked if anyone else had had something like this happen.  While not quite that exciting, I’ve had a couple of times that I’ve been pulled over when I was completely innocent.  🙄

For about 20 years, I rode a series of motorcycles 8-10 months a year, from when enough ice melted off Canadian roads to make it safe – to when they iced up again the next winter.  This all stopped when I fell off my bike and broke my wallet.  Being on medical leave for 8 months for reconstructive surgery and physiotherapy at 80% of average wages, followed by a 500% increase in the cost of insurance for a car that wasn’t even involved in the accident will do that to you.

I used to ride the bike to work.  Taking the same route a thousand times, I soon had the traffic lights timed.  A full stop at a red light in a car is irksome, but at least you’re comfortably seated.  A full stop on a bike means supporting the machine.  I learned where to speed up a bit, and where to go a bit slower, so that lights turned green just as I arrived.

One night I left the house at 10:20 PM, for the 5-mile, 10-minute cross-town ride.  Four blocks from the plant my road was crossed by another, hanging on the side of a small hill.  The pavement flattened out to cross, then dipped down the hill again.

As I approached, I could see the orange light on the cross-street, but no headlights from any vehicles enticed to run the orange/red.  As I reached the white stop line, the light went green, and I scooted across at 30 mph.  Just over the rise, coming out of the driveway from a doughnut shop, was – a police car.  How cliché.

I slowed slightly, in case he pulled out broadside, but he slammed his brakes on.  I swerved around his protruding nose and continued, keeping an eye on my mirrors – and he turned out.  Three blocks to the main street, and I made a careful, legal right turn – and he followed.  It’s the main drag, not to worry.  A block up the street to the road my plant was on, and another cautious right turn.

The company offered parking for motorcycles on a concrete pad over an underground tank, at the end of the parking lot.  It was under some trees, away from streetlights, and next to an abandoned house.  Most of the plant’s bikers elected to park on the cement apron beside the stairs to the front entrance, where constant traffic offered a little more security.

I eased across the sidewalk and stopped the bike.  Officer Officious was still following. As I rocked the bike up onto its center stand and started peeling off my riding gloves and leather jacket, he swung onto the other side of the road, pulled a U-turn, and stopped facing the wrong way again, beside me.  Do not try this at home kids.  Only legitimate police officers are authorized to violate traffic regulations that we must obey.

I pulled off my bug-stopping riding glasses and undid my helmet strap as he swaggered his way over.  It is entertaining to see the facial expressions when someone’s preconceptions are dashed.  Perhaps he expected some teen/20s rider that he could intimidate, and seemed confused to be confronted with a 50-year-old man, old enough to be his father – but he fired the first (verbal) shot.

“Are you late for work?”
“Yes!”
“I’ll need to see your driver’s licence, ownership, and proof of insurance.”

I pulled my licence from the wallet and passed it over.  Most bikes have a small, lockable plastic box beneath the seat with a toolkit.  That’s where many bikers carry their paperwork.  I unlocked mine, dug it out and handed it over.  He retired to sit in the cruiser while I leaned on the bike.

I’d had a minor highway speeding ticket about ten years before, but my record – driving and otherwise – is surprisingly clean.  After his computer forgave my few minor sins, he returned my documents.  I put everything back where it belonged and picked up all my junk and headed for the door.  As I passed him, he took one more swing.

“I guess you have to admit that you were going pretty fast over on the other street.”
“No!”

Canada doesn’t have the Fifth Amendment, but we do have laws which prevent self incrimination.  I wasn’t going ‘pretty fast’.  He was just inattentive, and embarrassed, and possibly pissed because he’d spilled his coffee; but even if I was speeding, I don’t have to admit it.

He’d eaten ten minutes of my time, and got two words from me for his trouble.  I walked into the plant, leaving him to clean up the soggy doughnuts, and wondering why I wasn’t awed by the force of his personality.

Minutia III

Another self-guided tour through my convoluted thought processes and observations.  Please wipe your feet before entering.  You wouldn’t want to be responsible for me having a dirty mind.

Because of the *let-us-help-one-another* Mennonite mindset, this area has been the birthplace of several, large, well-known insurance companies.  In keeping with my mission of being older than everything except the local rocks, I received a renewal notice for my home insurance.  My provider included a note which bragged that they have been in business for 175 years.

I have Googled myself.  Oh, the Ego of it all. (But it felt good.)  The only person with the same name and middle initial who comes up, is a retired US Air Force colonel, who went on to become a motivational speaker.  He’s appeared locally a couple of times, a few years ago, though I didn’t know it.

Recently, I thought of a friend I had for a couple of years during my teens.  While he was a couple of years younger than me, we were both over-average nerdy, and loners, therefore, we hung out and fit together nicely.  Named for his uncle Elmer, his first name was actually Delmer (D’Elmer).  There not being a lot of Delmers in the world, I tried to look him up, and was sadly surprised to find that he had died two years ago.

He was one of the guys who helped me *adopt* the naïve young tourist in my Unreasonable Expectations  post.  He was 50 pounds heavier than skinny me, and the cool kids razzed him about being fat, but most of it was muscle.  He would dive from as high as I would, and sneak into the water like a greased seal, raising less of a splash than anyone else.

Also dead, from that same crew, was an Indian from the res.  While he was a year older than me, these two both died two years ago.  Not as surprising, but still disappointing, was a notice of the recent death of the wife of the couple who owned and ran the beach bowling alley from my Bowling For Summer  post.  She was the one who served us crisp, golden French fries when we were done swimming.  In her thirties when I was a teen, she must have been like my mother, into her nineties when she passed.  Tempus fugit!

John Wayne made a hockey movie….Whaa??  Never east of the Mississippi until 1930, he was the lead in a 1937 sixty-minute flick about the non-existent, New York Panthers, called Idol of the Crowds, two years before his break-out role in Stagecoach.  He valiantly laced up, and could skate fairly well in a straight line, but any *hockey moves* had to come from camera angles.  Usually clean-spoken, he was quoted as saying he spent two days in a hospital, probably with a sprained ankle, because, “I’m from California.  I’ve never been on (expletive) skates before!”

If time is money, does that make ATMs time machines??

I exercised my franchise and voted in the recent Provincial election.  Despite having let them waste $4/5 billion dollars, the mindless, entitled yobs in the big city voted the same rogues’-gallery back into power.  Please, Nanny-State, we’re too stupid and lazy, waste another billion or two – but take care of us.  My grandson was going to have to pay off the already existing debt.  Now I just hope that he never has kids.

Since the road which runs behind my house was the electoral boundary line, on my side were election signs for four or five different parties, while on the other side of the road were the same parties, but with different candidates.  Always interested in the word-value of names, I looked a couple up.

A candidate on my side was named Weiler.  Her name, in German, has the nice meaning of hamlet, or small village.  Her compatriot across the line was Wettlaufer.  I don’t imagine he discusses it much.  It translates to *bookie*, one who bets on races.

I took the wife and daughter to a plant nursery recently.  Patiently wandering around, waiting, (yeah, right) I ran into the Bidens.  They are small, pretty flowers with two little rabbit-ears on top.  The person/people who discovered and named them felt these little protrusions looked like teeth.  Biden = bi-den = two-toothed.  So Joe Biden is related to plants, although I suspect he was adopted.  He’s not as good-looking, and nowhere near as smart.

There’s a small hotel in the neighboring city.  It began as the manor house of the local brewing family.  It has a strip bar in it, which….I might have gone into – once – just to ask for directions.  It has become the House of God on Sundays. Some time between last call Saturday night, and two-for-one lap dances Sunday evening, a team of volunteers cover the nudie posters, and $4-a-beer signs, and turn the bar into a church.

For a few hours on Sunday afternoons, the gentlemen’s club becomes a Holy place, a social place, and a place where people in need can find safety, and trust, and food.  They may also find God, but that’s not the main goal. This is a place of Christ-like support and acceptance for strippers and druggies and drunks who, too often, find themselves excluded and unwanted in mainstream churches.  Good on ya all!

Walking past the coin-counting machine at the grocery store recently, I spotted and grabbed four discontinued pennies from the overflow tray.  When I got them home, I found that three of them were 25 Ore coins from Denmark.  I have several Danish coins, but not that denomination, so I added the newest, cleanest one to my collection.

Lest We Forget

 

poppy-flower-red-remembrence-day-artificialREMEMBER

 

Remember that today is Remembrance Day, or Veterans’ Day in the US, if Canada is too boring to remember.  Remember to wear a poppy, if it’s available to you.  I’ve remembered to wear mine for about three weeks.  Remember that this day is not about the wars that have been fought, but the peace that has been achieved.

Remember the Alamo.  Remember the Maine.  Remember that much of the world, especially here in North America, lives safely, stably, happily, and prosperously.  Remember that, all it takes for evil to triumph, is for good men to do nothing.  Remember the members of the Armed Forces, present and past, who have refused to do nothing, and have put themselves in harm’s way, to ensure that we live as we do.

Remember to thank a Service-Person today (and every day).  Remember to shake his or her hand.  Remember to give a hug, if it’s appropriate and welcomed.  Remember to face the flag, and stand quietly and respectfully at 11:00 AM.  Remember that they volunteered to put themselves in harm’s way, so that we wouldn’t be.  It’s the least you can do.

Remember the sacrifices that others have made, that we might have what we do.  Remember those who have lost lives and limbs, and mental and emotional well-being, careers, education and even families, for us and ours.

Remember that a man wearing a helmet and defending our country, is worth more than a man wearing a helmet and defending a football – and should be paid accordingly, but sadly, is not.

Remember that the Canadian Thanksgiving is just past, and the American Thanksgiving is just around the corner.  Remember to take all the things you’re thankful for and understand that those in uniform ensure that we have most of them.

Remember that the Armed Forces are like insurance.  You don’t want to use it, but it’s very nice to have when you must.  If only the American Congress could remember to play nice with others and remember to pay this vital and respected group.

Remember….sshhh, it’s almost 11:00 AM.  Remember what I told you, and stand quietly, respectfully, at attention, for two minutes.  I will.  I’ll be watching, and I’ll be back in a couple of days.

veterans

Let Me Think About That

I recently took my daughter, and one of her friends, to a Free Thinkers luncheon.  One of the male attendees had on a tee-shirt imprinted, “You never see a bunch of atheists stoning a gay to death.”  The president of the local association came fifteen miles down from the town which is the center of the area Mennonite community.  He brought with him a thirty-ish Mennonite female, dressed in a floor-length, shapeless, dull-patterned cotton dress and veil-fabric, hair-modesty, yarmulke-like snood.

This is strange!  The more intense a religious sect is, the less likely they allow any thinking, much less free thinking.  Mennonites are strict.  There are many sub-sects, some much stricter than others.  She explained that she had developed free thinking on her own, but kept her opinions to herself, so that she could continue to associate with her friends and family.  Like the Catholic Church’s *excommunication*, where the faithful were not allowed to speak or deal with a heretic, the Mennonite faith has *shunning*.  She had heard of the Free Thinkers, and found that the local teacher was a leader, and convinced him to bring her to the freedom of a meeting.  I don’t know how she explains not being at church with her clan.

Like every other religion, there are divisions, and sub-divisions, and sub-sub….until there are tiny little groups, all convinced that they, and only they, are correct.  There are Old Order Mennonites, who use horses and buggies.  They will not allow zippers, or even buttons on their clothing.  It is all tied closed.  They refused to put the glass-crystal, triangular, slow-vehicle signs on their dark buggies, because they eschew any adornment.  It took several late-night, coming-home-from-prayer-meeting collisions before the government convinced them that they were not *adornment*, but legally required safety devices to keep them and cars and drivers safe.

New-Order followers buy black or dark cars and trucks, but painted any chrome black, until the government again convinced them that this was another visibility/safety feature.  New New-Order buy colored cars, but still wear black hats over zippered and buttoned clothing.  I worked with a young new-new-new….whose worship group was about fifteen people, meeting in some guy’s warehouse, because they couldn’t build, or even rent a meeting-house.

It’s like a child’s game of How Much Can I Get Away With?  Many of these people are businessmen, building and selling furniture, equipment, farm produce, etc.  They shun the secular world, but are forced to interact with it for commerce.  They have preachers who tell them that they cannot be connected to the fallen.  (That’s you and I.)  Yet they must buy and sell goods, arrange shipments, check specs, etc.

When I worked at the steel warehouse there were three farmers who also ran a fabricating shop.  Two of the farms were side by side on one concession road, and the third butted against the common border over on the next road.  They built a little weather-proof box, and paid Bell Telephone to install a phone where the three farms met.  Any one of them could give the horses a rest and make a call, but the phone wasn’t in any of their houses, so it was allowed.  If you had to call back with information, you were given a specific time to call.  One would be waiting by the phone at exactly 10:00 AM.  If you missed your call, you missed an order.  I wonder how they tell time.  Are watches prohibited?

The mullahs can’t keep up with technology.  Cell-phones don’t “connect” them to the secular world, so half the Mennonites have them.  Similarly Wi-Fi computer connections from outdoor posts or the nearest urban hot-spot are not specifically banned so Mennonite boys can get porn just like the rest of us.

I recently took the wife fifteen miles out to a Mennonite butcher in a village.  As we drove into town, the wife spotted some plants near the edge of the road, with a for-sale sign.  We stopped on the way home.  The wife was interested, but wanted to ask some questions, and wondered if we should knock on the door or if someone would come out.  The answer to both was, no.  I spotted an Honor Box.

They put various items out at the side of the road with prices marked, and it’s up to the honor of the customer to leave money.  Some even leave money out in the open.  You can make your own change if necessary.  This one was a large, heavy (?) aluminum box with a slot in the top to insert cash.  It would be possible to walk away with the entire box, but probably not un-noticed in the village full of nosy neighbors.

Farmers on the highway put out corn, potatoes, apples etc. and an honor box.  Farms where you have to drive in to the house have signs saying, “No Sunday sales”, but the honor boxes can sit out seven days a week.  If you wish to stop and remove some produce and voluntarily leave some cash, that’s your business, but if they’re not sitting there accepting filthy lucre, they’re not Doing Business, so it’s moral.

The wife worked for an insurance company for ten years.  I find that Scotsmen and Jews have nothing on Mennonites for being cheap.  They want everything that’s in the contract, whether they qualify or not, and then they want some free candy off your desk for giving you the business.  The young lad I worked with must have asked at least six times in disbelief, if I was sure I wanted to give my excess foreign coins to his immigrant wife for her collection, at no charge.

I think it’s silly to worry about violating, not God’s rules, but some narrow-visioned man’s rules.  They think they can remain religious hermits, and still be business-men in today’s society.  I think the mental and moral gymnastics are silly and amusing.  They think up new ways to circumvent the lifestyle they claim to revere.  Look out!  Here comes the future!