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Wednesday, April 13, 2016

The Pear of Anguish

The pear of anguish
It would seem that all those medieval torture devices one sees described hither and yon are either a) not medieval, b) not torture devices, or are c) just made up. A discussion can be found HERE:

It's not that the medievals did not use torture, but they were not very imaginative about it. The iron maiden was first described toward the end of the 18th cent.

The pear of anguish is another late fabrication. Supposedly, it was inserted into a bodily orifice and then cranked open. Engineering studies -- let's hear it for engineers! -- showed that the springs were too weak to open up the aforesaid orifices. Fact is, no one knows what the dang thing was for and the Usual Suspects simply imagined that it must have been a torture device because medieval. Speculation is that it was used as a shoe extender, like this more modern torture device:

It might be amusing to select modern devices, suppose that in a few centuries their purpose has been forgotten, and then re-imagine them as torture devices. Such as the double-handed hand burners. Since they have been found in the ruins of many 21st century homes, we assume they were used to discipline children, whose hands were inserted into the slots. Depending on the severity of the infraction, the device could be set to different times.

Then there was the white noise machine which was intended to keep the victim in a state of heightened agitation:



The anguish could be heightened in two ways. The first was to force the victim to punctuate a transcript of the speech, which consists in the words of Canadian David Warren, of "a stream of spontaneous coordinate clauses with loose or missing connectives, and without graded pauses." The second was to place him between two noise machines, so that he would have to listen with both ears.

Or, in a more amicable gathering of the elite:

13 comments:

  1. "However, what has still baffled the 23rd century archeologist is why, at the end of the heating cycle, metal inside makes a slight popping motion. Some scholars think that it gives a sort of painful climax to the punishment, while others think the action was used to easily indicate the end of the discipline. However these notions remain speculations and are controversial.

    An interesting theory however is that the hand burner doubled as a sort of sex device as well, in which the motion can be explained as increasing the pleasure. Using the technology for both needs makes sense, since the most common form of sexual practice of the 21st century was BDSM.

    We of course know the extent of these BDSM sexual practices because one of the only pieces of literature left, and the most common, from the time period is the (probably mythical) author E. L James' epic Fifty Shades of Grey."

    This is fun ;-p

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    1. "Significant finds made at Pound-Laundry reinforce Blabbington's conclusion that the 'Spade' or 'Trump' was intended primarily as a joke."

      Robert Nathan's "The Weans," from which "Pound-Laundry" is taken, is the best example of this kind of fun.

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    2. For those in the dark, "Digging the Weans," discovered the lost civilization of We or "Us," which had been locked in a titanic struggle with those who were even more Us, namely USSR. The Pound Laundry was the capital of the Weans. Its name was a combination of a glyph that had to do with cleaning clothes and a glyph for some unknown unit of weight.

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    3. Oh wow. I think I read "Digging the Weans" -- but if so, it was at such a young age that I missed most of the jokes. I do distinctly remember reading about the antagonism with "USSR/Usser," though.

      However, I think my memories of that are also confused with my early reading of the book _Motel of the Mysteries_ by David Macaulay. Do a Google image search for that book title, and see how future archaeologists will interpret the functions of the toilet seat and toothbrush.

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  2. How would our 23rd century correspondent figure it's a burning machine, electric heaters (and indeed, electricity) having been banned as a disaster for the environment and a direct contributor to global warming?

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    1. I think what happened is humans left environmentally deformed Terra and terraformed Mars. Two century later, they returned to research their lost heritage.

      The 23rd century also apparently believes that the crisscrossing asphalt pavings had a religous purpose. Go figure!

      Christi pax,

      Lucretius

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    2. They of course used solar panels and wind turbines, so electricity is still intelligible to them.

      Plus, there is a group of traditionalists, like the savages of the Brave New World, who still cling to the old ways ;-)

      Christi pax,

      Lucretius

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    3. If they can terraform Mars in two centuries, they can just come back in time and ask. The latter is just as possible as the former.

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    4. You never just ask. The savages would just lie anyway. Academics' guessing is always better than anything hoi polloi tell you.

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    5. Or they'll just nod and smile no matter how stupid your conception of their society is. See "Mead, Margaret."

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  3. What's the more amicable gathering of the elite? It cuts off after the colon...

    (The joke is left as an exercise for the student, being alimentary...)

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  4. Cf. the theory in "Sleeper" that video recordings for Howard Cosell were used for torture.

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  5. I had heard the theory the pear was to force "talkative" women or madmen to keep quiet - and the use came up in 17th Century New England.

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