Sunday, January 25, 2009

"You Are Considerably Deformed in Person...?"

From “Eyewitness to History” edited by John Carey 1987
- - - - -
Factory Conditions, c. 1815

Evidence of a Female Millhand to the Partliamentary Commissioners

Elizabeth Bentley

What age are you?

Where do you live?
At Leeds.

What time did you begin work at the factory?
When I was six years old.

At whose factory did you work?
Mr Burk’s.

What kind of mill is it?
Flax mill.

What was your business in that mill?
I was a little doffer.

What were your hours of labour in that mill??
From 5 in the morning till 9 at night, when they were thronged.

For how long a time together have you worked that excessive length of time?
For about a year.
What were the usual hours of labour when you were not so thronged?
From six in the morning till 7 at night.

What time was allowed for meals?
Forty minutes at noon.

Had you any time to get your breakfast or drinking?
No, we had to get it as we could.

Do you consider doffing a laborious employment?

Explain what you had to do?
When the frames are full, they have to stop the frames, and take the flyers off, and take the full bobbins off, and carry them to the roller, and then put empty ones on, and set the frames going again.

Does that keep you constantly on your feet?
Yes, there are so many frames and they run so quick.

Your labour is very excessive?
Yes, you have not time for anything.

Suppose you flagged a little, or were late, what would they do?
Strap us.

Are they in the habit of strapping those who are last in doffing?


Girls as well as boys?

Have you ever been strapped?


Is the strap used so as to hurt you excessively?
Yes it is… I have seen the overlooker go to the top end of the room, where the little girls hug the can to the backminders; he has taken a strap, and a whistle in his mouth, and sometimes he has got a chain and chained them, and strapped them all down the room.

What was his reason for that?
He was very angry.

Did you live far from the mill?
Yes, two miles.

Had you a clock?
No, we had not.

Were you generally there on time?
Yes, my mother has been up at 4 o’clock in the morning, and at 2 o’clock in the morning; the colliers used to go to their work at 3 or 4 o’clock, and when she heard them stirring she has got up out of her warm bed, and gone out, and asked them the time; and I have sometimes been at the Hunslet Car at 2 o’clock in the morning, when it was streaming down with rain, and we have had to stay till the mill was opened.

You are considerably deformed in person as a consequence of this labour?
Yes I am.

And what time did it come on?
I was about 13 years old when it began coming, and it has got worse since; it is five years since my mother died, and my mother was never able to get me a good pair of stays to hold me up, and when my mother died I had to do it for myself, and got me a pair.

Were you perfectly straight and healthy before you worked at a mill?
Yes, I was as straight a little girl as ever went up and down town.

Were you straight till you were 13?
Yes, I was.

Did your deformity come upon you with much pain and weariness?
Yes, I cannot express the pain all the time it was coming.

Do you know of anybody that has been similarly injured in their health?
Yes, in their health, but not many deformed as I am.

It is very common to have weak ankles and crooked knees?
Yes, very common indeed.

This is brought on by stopping the spindle?

Where are you now?
In the poorhouse.

State what you think as to the circumstances in which you have been placed
during all this time of labour, and what you have considered about it as to the hardship and cruelty of it.

The witness was too much affected to answer the question.

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Possible Solution

Someone has regularly been ripping off Wal-Mart.

This person has emptied out the big luggage, put an expensive item inside (like an electric cooker), buys the luggage (trusting that no clerk will look inside), then returns it--keeping the expensive item. Excuse for returning the luggage: No smaller pieces inside, as was advertised on the label outside.

As I noted, ALL of the similar large pieces of luggage had no smaller pieces inside.

Friday, January 23, 2009

Mystery part 2

Someone pointed out: If, when I bought that suitcase, the cashier had opened the case--I might have been charged with trying to steal a cooker!

When I returned the luggage today, the young woman asked: was there something wrong with the luggage?
I said: You won't believe what was in there. A General Electric cooker! She was startled.

I went to look for a similar piece of luggage, with the other pieces inside. All 3-4 similar pieces were empty. So I got a credit and bought a piece of luggage at Target. And discovered that Target's prices generally are almost as low as Wal-Mart's!

Tip-Top Restaurant

Saddle River Inn is expensive, but the food is superb. Went there on my birthday. Now my favorite Bergen County restaurant.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Can Anyone Figure This Out?

I went to Wal-Mart today & bought some luggage. The kind that has a variety of small pieces inside a great big piece.

At home, I opened the luggage.

Inside: a General Electric appliance--some sort of a cooker.

My question: Why did someone do this?

As an adolescent joke?

Poem from Tom B

by funny markets
and nasty bosses,
you have upheld your pen and balance,
with verb, verve and vitality at 73,
the capacity of hope, and
the audacity of change
back from a dollar,
the Boroson also rises
to Hackensack
from Barack

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

A Letter from Marilyn Horne

I had written to her asking two questions:

Although she wrote in her autobiography that she admired two singers, she also wrote that their techniques were defective. What did she mean?

Also, could she come to Bergen Community College & appear before a class on famous singers?

Answer No. 1: "They were both, Supervia and Ferrier, extraordinary artists. That is what made them so special. Great powers of expression, but as I said, they had faulty technique, which means that they basically never solved their vocal problems (technically). It really didn't matter because they were able to compensate, each in a special way."

Answer No. 2: Sorry, but too busy.

And she appended a handwritten PS: "Greetings to all in the class!"

A most gracious lady.

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Monday, January 19, 2009

Birthday Party

I had a cake made for my birthday, and told the very young man at the bakery that I wanted written on it:


He seemed puzzled. Then he asked: Is Methuselah a boy's name or a girl's name?

I guess he wanted to know whether the writing should be in pink or blue.

Successful party. Because of snow & other reasons, a number of guests canceled--7 in all.

But we had he LeMays (2), the Woodses (4), Sally, Kathy, Katherine, the hosts (2), Miriam, Bette, Charlie, Duffy, Marylou, Annie and Jim--18 in all. That was just the right number! 25 would have been too many.

What do you need to have a successful party? Talkative, outgoing people. Good food and drink and lots of it.

Suzanne wrote me a dandy poem:

Once upon a market dreary
While my stocks sat weak and weary
Came a rapping, rapping at my chamber door

Ah distinctly I remember
All my profits turned to embers
My 401K now lost and gone for sure

Came a voice said, “nevermore.”

Wait, what is this voice that’s calling
Could it be my dear friend Warren?
Tapping, tapping at my chamber door?

Deep into that darkness peering
Long I stood there, wondering, fearing
Til he emerged with CDs galore

Verdi, Mozart and Puccini
To me it all sounds like linguini
But to his students his popularity has soared

No more reading the market’s ills
Now he talks of Tosca and Seville
And all the singers he adores.

An opera teacher evermore!

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Driving Tip

Driving yesterday, I was happily listening to Marilyn Horne sing operatic arias on a CD. Powerful voice.

As I drove through a green light into an intersection, I saw an ambulance ready to enter the intersection--with its lights flashing and its siren on. I dimly heard the siren. I'm glad the ambulance driver had cautiously stopped! She and I exchanged glances--mine was, I'm sure, a look of fear.

Listening to a cellphone while driving is dangerous. So, I've just learned, is listening to loud (even if beautiful) music.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Unpleasant People

I'm still angry that Jim Flachsenaar, the new editor of the Daily Record, killed my financial column a little over a year ago--because he was jealous of my prominent role at the paper. One of those people always putting his own interest ahead of anything else.

He was the disciple of Glen Ritt, who had been his boss at another newspaper.

Other people I still harbor grudges against: Jennifer Borg at the Bergen Record, a really mean person. Her father, Malcolm, a not very smart person.

Jim Hendricks, former editor at Medical Economics. Paul, a co-worker, once warned me: Don't make him any crazier than he is. Always threatened by talented people. And Jack Ryan, a dim-witted puppet of Hendricks'.

Oh, and Joe Nocera, a columnist at the NYTimes. He and I once appeared on a panel together. He didn't come off well. But Editor & Publisher ran a story about the meeting --and Nocera dominated it! I figure that he himself wrote the story for Editor & Publisher. People always intent on looking out for No. 1 sometimes are successful.

Startling Coincidence

Yesterday, I was reading an old issue of Medical Economics magazine, where I once worked.

I came upon the name Allyn Baum, who had co-edited that particular special issue.

Bad memory. I was editing a real estate issue, and suggested that he do a story about a physician who had a stream actually running through his house. When I asked Baum how the story was coming, he said it didn't pan out--there was no story.

A few months later... he published the story! He just wanted to hog credit for a good story!

Otherwise, he was a demanding, temperamental, unpleasant person.

So I looked him up on Google a few minutes ago.

He died yesterday, Jan. 10, 2009.

Tuesday, January 06, 2009


From Jussi by Anna-Lisa Bjoerling and Andrew Farkas

As a child, Jussi Bjoerling missed a chance to hear Caruso sing in Pagliacci. He and his brother went to a cowboy movie instead.

Dorothy Caruso, Enrico’s widow, once said that Bjoerling was the only tenor fit to wear her late husband’s crown. Said Bjoerling upon learning this: “The greatest moment of my life.”

Caruso, a baritonal tenor, on rare occasions sang bass—when the scheduled basses could not continue.
When the soprano Karin Rydqvist-Altheim had a bone in her throat, Bjoerling took over—finished her aria and sang her part until intermission. (P. 124, Jussi.)

On Grace Moore:

“……she was known for her steamy love affairs with practically every tenor with whom she sang. She didn’t care the least whether they were married, nor did the tenors; this appetite for men made her known in music circles as ‘Crazy Moore.’"
But it was clear that Grace wasn’t interested in Jussi and she and Jussi’s wife became good friends.

Grace didn’t specialize exclusively in tenors. (Like Lawrence Tibbett, a famous womanizer, and George Thill.) Once Jussi’s wife and some other singers were talking in the lounge of the Met’s touring train, and Crazy Moore said, “Oh, Latin lovers are the best—“ At that very moment Ezio Pinza, who was equally renowned for his sexual escapades, stuck his head through the door….Without losing a beat, Grace continued in the same breath, “—except for that one! He just goes zip, zip, zip, and leaves you in the cold!”
“I’ve never seen someone beat a hastier retreat than Pinza. We’d heard that some time before Ezio had moved in with Grace, but after just one week she called off the arrangement and threw him out. Apparently Pinza didn’t live up to his reputation or Grace’s expectations.” (P. 164)

Sunday, January 04, 2009


The Jew-haters: They're the people protesting against Israel's attack on Gaza.

If ever a nation had supremely good cause to attack another nation, it is Israel now attacking Gaza. Accidentally killing civilians? Wasn't Hamas trying to kill civilians with its thousands of deadly rockets? And Israel isn't trying to injure civilians!

Blaming Israel for attacking Gaza is like blaming a patient for trying to eradicate his disease. The disease deserves no sympathy, no sympathy at all.

The Jew-haters. They'e the same people who are holocaust deniers. The same people who believe Jews make matzoh with the blood of non-Jewish children.

If you ever encounter people blaming Israel for attacking Gaza, know them for what they are:

loathsome anti-Semites.

Gloria Jean

There she was, in the WC Fields' film, Never Give a Sucker an Even Break.

A rival of Deanna Durbin.

Cute as a button. Good strong voice. Good actress, too! About maybe 15 years old.

What a shock to read that she is now living in Hawaii, and 82 years old.

Never amounted to much in the movies, perhaps because Deanna Durban was threatened by her.

But the little girl in Never Give a Sucker will always be enchanting.

Thursday, January 01, 2009

Obnoxious Students

Students in my music class…

Some take the course just to show off their knowledge. They are eager to announce that they saw Larry Tibbett at the Met, or that they recognize the name of Galli-Curci.

A few criticize me: When I said I had never heard Rosa Raisa, an elderly woman spat at me, you should be ashamed of yourself!

A retired know-it-all doctor talks while the music is playing. And I heard him say, about me, loud enough for me to hear, that I choose the most familiar and obvious music to play. Bastard.

Some people are DESPERATE to show off their knowledge.

I was at an opera…and I heard a woman near me say loudly, Oh, the famous aria is coming now!

Another time, a woman nearby began singing to the music—just to prove that she recognized it! (I much preferred the singing of the woman on stage.)

But hell, it doesn’t take much to become knowledgeable about opera. If you were really smart, you’d talk about superstring theory—and if you hadn’t wasted so much time learning about opera, you might have written some informative books or become a champion tennis player.

OK, OK, I know that some of you are driven to show off your knowledge, but please, try to curtail your impulses. Don’t talk while the music is playing. Don’t shout out trivial information. And don’t boast that your grandmother heard Caruso sing.

I suggest that whenever anyone says something just to show how knowledgeable he or she is, we give that person a round of sarcastic applause.