Showing posts with label Eve Fisher. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Eve Fisher. Show all posts

26 March 2020

Little Plague on the Prairie:
The 1918-19 Diary of Anna Eneboe


Page One of Anna Eneboe's diary, which she kept from 1918 until late 1919:

Miss Anna Eneboe
Pierpont So. Dak.
My day book
Come read my thoughts

Anna Eneboe and her Diary

She was the great aunt of my dear friend Allyson Giles Nagel, who graciously gave me permission to use Anna's writing. The diary is very short, very simple, very spare, written in a small red notebook that's pretty worn after all these years. Anna was 19 years old in 1918, unmarried, and treasurer of the local Independence Red Cross (organized June 13, 1918). Some of the people mentioned in the diary are her older brothers, Henry (called Hank) and Rudolph (called Rud), her two adopted sisters, Lillian (called Lillie) and Agnes, her parents, and her future husband, Bernt Nerland. The family all lived on a farm outside Pierpont, SD, up in Day County, in northwestern South Dakota. Today its population is 135, back then somewhere between 314-400 (the census of 1910 and 1920 respectively). I've guestimated it to be around 380 in 1918.

Now, before we get started reading excerpts from the diary, you need to remember that the Spanish Flu roared through the United States three times. The first was in the spring of 1918. It was fairly mild and it disappeared for the summer. People believed that it was over. And then with the fall, came the flu, and October - when this diary begins - was the deadliest month of all. 195,000 Americans died that month from the Spanish Influenza.

Wikipedia – Link
Victims died within hours or days of developing symptoms, their skin turning blue and their lungs filling with fluid that caused them to suffocate. There was no treatment, no vaccine, no cure. Thanks to WW1 (BTW – the Spanish flu killed more soldiers than died in battle in WW1), there was also a shortage of doctors and nurses back home. And no one, no place was immune. Even President Woodrow Wilson got it in early 1919 while negotiating the Treaty of Versailles in Europe. (Link)

It's hard not to believe that it was the Spanish Flu's return in October, 1918 that got Anna to writing things down. Not that she knew it, but that month was the peak – but not the end – of the pestilence. But she was well aware that men were coming home from the war, some of them sick, some of them dying. That people all around her were sick, dying, but also marrying and giving birth. And that's what she writes about.

1918

Camp Funston Hospital Ward for Soldiers sick with Influenza

Oct. 14th – Hans Oswood seriously ill at Camp Funston of the Fluenza.
Oct. 15th – Alfred Nelson gassed in France in August and has been at the hospital since.
Emil Sanders sick of the Fluenza in Camp Dodge.
School closed in Pierpont Oct. 14th on account of the Flu.
Dr. Murphy sick of the Flu.
Mrs. Eddie Kamestad died in the evening Oct. 14th.
Luther Hofstad wounded severely in France Oct. 14th.
Edwin Ronshaugen died in Camp Funston of the Flu., Oct. 14th.
Kristian Mjolsness was married to Lina Likus Oct. 18th.
Anna Rindahl was married to Mr. Jensen November 3rd.
Mr. and Mrs. Monk Osby are the proud parents of a baby boy, born Oct. 3rd.
Rudolph Baukol lost in action [in pencil].
Magnus Brindenuven died of wounds received in France.
Oscar Nymauen died of the Fluenza in Camp grand.
My Note: "On Oct. 16, 1918, the South Dakota State Board of Health ordered everything closed: Schools, houses of amusement, sporting events, speeches, everything. The order was enforced by police and the Home Guard, a quasi-military force that patrolled cities looking for violations." (Argus Leader)

SD Historical Archives

Mrs. Martin Jacobson died of the Influenza in November at Nigdahl Minn.
The oldest boy of Rev. Danielson died of the Flu at Langford.
Ole Jacobson’s little baby boy died of the Flu Sunday evening 28th of Dec.
Henry was married to Jennie Eggen the 4th of Dec. at New Effington.
Alma Gunderson was married to Dennie Holland in December.
Selma Liknis was married to Synerk Anderson in October.
Josie Oswood was married to Boyd Vikers in August at Camp Lewis, Washington.
Enok Liknis was home in a furlough in Oct.
The soldiers who came home for Xmas is as following –
Earl Hutenburg
Hans Oswood
Gust Johnson
Mat Johnson
Harry Nerheim
Rev. Husley from France [in pencil – Y.M.C.A.]
Adolph Eikaness
Martin Midland - -
Mathilda Hanson was married to Mr. Olson
Howard and Marie spent Xmas with us.
A cablegram from the battlefields of France last week Thursday, conveyed the heartbreaking news of the first sacrifice made by one who spent his childhood days in Farmington, and lived here in the adjoined vicinity on the north, the greater part of his life.

Henry O. Osness in company with his brother Chester departed from Langford April 26, 1918, with the Marshall County soldier boys of that date, who were sent to Camp Funston, Kansas.

WW1 Soldiers Returning Home

A sorrowful group of half-sisters and brothers mourn his loss, also a number of other relatives.
He is survived by his two sister, Misses Josephine and Anna, and by three brothers, Chester, his comrade, and Theodore and Selmer.
Three years ago, Henry enlisted in the navy, but was honorably discharged on account of physical disability. He appeared well and was of a happy, jolly disposition. The selective draft admitted him, and he went to death bravely fighting for his glorious country. “Over the top” was his motto, and t’was there he payed the supreme sacrifice.After only a brief time, they were called “over there” and on July 11th Henry gave his life nobly in this great crisis, which the United States was suddenly thrust into and from which nearly the entire world is so grandly, so nobly extricating itself. Henry was the son of Mr. and Mrs. Christian Osness and was born in Newport township, Marshall Co., June 10, 1889. The family resided in Farmington a number of years, during which the children were left orphans by the death of both parents.

O’er the sea there came a cable message from the battlefields of France.The golden star in their service flag appeals with honor and sadness to Henry’s countless friends here.
Henry is gone, never hereafter to wake nor to weep.
Sleep, soldier, sleep.
Ne’er more the bugle shall call you, call you to fight fierce and long.
Yours is calm rest. We your memory sacred will keep.
Sleep, soldier, sleep.
We gaze at a star turned to golden. That shortly in deep blue did shine. O that in heaven, your soul is in keep.
Sleep, soldier, sleep.
“Chester’s Tale”
Henry was blown to pieces. Half of the body were all that they could find to bury. There’s a little white cross somewhere in France that now marks his grave.

Aerial photograph of Pierpont,
Aerial view of Pierpont, SD.
Pierpont Quasquicentennial - Pierpont SD Facebook page

1919

January

Walter Sletten and Bernt Norland arrived from Camp Dodge Jan. 3.
School opened again January 6th – met Bernt at the Ladies Aid at Synert Sampson January 9thTheodore Roswell died in January
Old Mr. Brookings was buried January 9th.
Born to Mr. and Mrs. Boyd Vikers a baby in January.

Boyd Vikers and Christ Oswood return home from camp.
Charly Paulson has been home on furlough.
Meeting in Falness [Lutheran Church, Langford, SD] Jan. 19 – also to Y P.M. in the evening.
Mr. Knut Syvertson and Mrs. Dahl was married this month.
Was at John Enstad Sunday the 12th in the evening.

21st - has been very lovely weather now for the last days. Today it is foggy.
23rd – Henry Fossum returned home from Camp Lewis. Oscar Brandly also is home from Washington.Olaf Syre returned home from camp.

Lillie’s partner was Clarence, my partner was Emil Erickson – we had a very nice time talking and laughing. Played games and so on. Shook hands with Olaf Syre. Hobart Syre and Joseph Nygaard came home today.23rd – very nice weather, social in Hainess school house tonite. Quite a few there. The sum paid for Baskets $72.74.
28th – had our first trip in the Overland to Pierpoint. Sawsa Brandle’s a baby in January

My Note The Overland was a "runabout", and the Overland Automobile was produced from 1903-1926. Pa's new vehicle was probably Model 83:

Overland automobile
Overland automobile (Wikipedia)
February

My Summation: February was cold, snowy, with more running about in the Overland. Alma Asdland died on the 10th and was buried on the 13th, which means the ground wasn't frozen solid. (Not always true in a South Dakota February.) There were meetings, cleaning, crocheting, and an oyster supper, along with one day when it was warm enough to play croquet, and more days when it was bitter cold with snow.

March, 1919 - the flu returns - the Third Wave

1st – Sat. – Enstad’s – washed the floors and baked was what Hattie did, and I tried to help her along. Snap’d our pictures.
2nd – Sun. – kind of nice today. Rudolph came over after dinner. We made up a poem. In the evening we were discussing different things. Told our fortunes, and had a little lunch. Rudolph stayed over night. (In pencil on the side, Mrs. Ole Enstad died this morning.)
3rd – Mon. – very mild and nice this morning. Rudolph went to Lee’s and then he came back for me. We had a Dakota blizzard going home.
4th – Tue. – Mr. and Mrs. Carl Sampson a boy. Cold, but clear. Have not been doing very much. 5th – Wed. – washing clothes today, nicer weather.
6th – Thurs. – Ironed. Jennie baked cookies, I washed upstairs.
8th – Sat. – Doing the Sat. work in the forenoon and in the afternoon we four girls went to Bakke’s but only Selmer at home. In the evening, Julian and Hattie came over.7th – Fri. – Washed the floors. In the afternoon we went to town. Talked to Chris L. Oswood. Myrtle & Lillie went with us home.

11th – Tue. – Rud sick of the flu. Very nice weather. Not doing very much.
13th – Thurs. – Ironing. Colder. Feeling punk tonight. Uncle and Selmer is here.
14th – Fri. – Sick in bed today of the fluenza.
15th – Sat. – Sunshine again today. Been up this afternoon. Last year today we sure had a nice time this evening but now it is only memorys.
16th – Sun. – Home all day. Have the “flu”.
17th – Mon. – Feel better today.
18th – Tue. – Pa has the flu today – nice weather.
19th – Wed. – Nice weather. We are all feeling fine after the flu. Mrs. Huxley died of the flu.

And then it's done - the Spanish Influenza is over.

Wikipedia - Chitrapa - Own work

On Thursday, May 22nd, Anna and the family went "to Pierpont, had a reception there for the soldiers. First time I seen Chester in uniform. The soldiers were seated on the stage. Had Annie Sparks duet and a quartet. Drawed number on a Red Cross quilt and Chester won it. had ice cream and cake. Only one vacant chair and that was Henry Osness." (Whose death, as you'll remember, Anna recorded in the first part of her diary.)
23rd – Fri. – Lillie and I have been home alone today. The folks been in town. In the evening we went to Pierpoint to take in “The Birth of a Nation”.

A few more months, barely three pages more, and Anna's diary came to an end.
My Note: Anna mentions 14 cases of the flu, 6 of them in October, 3 in November-December, and 5 in March. In the whole diary, 12 people die - 3 in October, 3 in Nov-Dec., and the rest in Jan, March, May, two at least of whom died of the flu. Not a lot, right? But in a community of 380 people, where everyone knows everyone else and has since they were born, that's a lot.
Six cases of flu in October, including the doctor, would have frightened everyone. The whole family coming down with the flu in March would have everyone scared.
And those 12 people dead - they would leave a hole in the community, from the newborn to the soldiers who never came back. Small towns are tight-knit, and memories are long. Weddings and funerals, births and deaths, all get talked about for years, if not generations. The proof is that we know the rest of Anna's story, because it's still being talked about, in Allyson's family, and now here. Anna continued to live on the farm until she was married. She was an older bride: she and Bernt were married in 1931, when she was 32.

Lace or floral wedding dresses
https://vintagedancer.com/vintage/1930s-wedding-history/

But marriage isn't the end of the story, no matter how happy it was. And while I wish her story had a happier ending, it doesn't: Anna died in 1933, in childbirth, at the age of 34. As you can see from the photo of her in the casket, she was buried in her wedding dress, a custom of the time. The baby died as well.




Written On The Back Fly-Leaves of her Diary:

Could we but draw back the curtains that surround each other’s lives, see the naked heart and spirit. Know what spur the action gives. Often we would find it better, purer then we judge we should, we should love each other better. If we only understood.
I’m getting tired of dreaming. Dreaming of you all day. I’m getting tired of sceming [sic]. Hope I shall get you some day.
I envy the dimples that hide and go seek, and play with the roses that bloom on your cheek.
Our eyes have met.
Our lips not yet
But O you kid
I’ll get you yet
Smile, and the world smiles with you.
Weep, and you weep alone.

Anna Eneboe

Stay well, stay safe, stay  HOME.

PS - for Anna's entire diary, go here.

PPS - Other sources for information of the 1918 Spanish Influenza Pandemic in South Dakota include these article:

12 March 2020

Welcome to The Zo


by Eve Fisher

I'm involved in a variety of things at the penitentiary these days.  There's the Alternatives to Violence Project (AVP), that I've been doing for 10 years.  We're doing a training for facilitators (T4F) workshop in April for that, getting more inmates trained as inside facilitators.  AVP is going strong.  Our main problem is that we always need more outside volunteers.  In case you haven't noticed, volunteerism has gone down over the last few years.  Most of the service organizations I know of (Kiwanis, Elks, Lions, etc.) are seeing a dramatic drop in membership.  And the people who are interested in helping aren't that interested in doing a weekend-long workshop inside a prison, even though it's probably the most interesting, educational, entertaining, and safest place you can be.

Allan and I are also supervising the Lifer's Group, for the third fiscal year, and the achievements are beginning to really show.  There's Toastmasters, which the Lifer's Group hosted for almost 2 years, and now is a full-fledged group of its own at the pen.  There's the suicide watches, which the Lifer's Group has taken on (with, of course, permission and approval from prison mental health and prison administration).  We just hosted our 2nd Talent Show, and it was great.  Music, jokes, poetry, and a production of yours truly's "The Scottish Play", a five-minute rendering of Macbeth, complete with cheerleading weird women.  (Great laughter and applause.)  We have a few other on-going projects, and a lot of ideas.

Over the years, I've gotten sort of used to prison ways, and idiosyncrasies, because working with the inmates is worth it.  But I can go home.  Every night, I get to go home.  What about those who don't?  What is life really like for them?  Well, I'm presenting for your information and (?) entertainment, a series of videos (each runs about 5 minutes) called "Welcome to The Zo" presented on the website The Marshall Project.







And for the last episode, "Retaliation", see here:

Life in prison.  

Meanwhile, let's talk - for a brief moment - about disease.  The coronavirus may never reach the South Dakota prison system, but colds and influenza go around swiftly and frequently and it often seems that everybody in the unit catches it.  They isolate prisoners - with their cellie (whether the cellie has it or not at the time) - in their cells, which is a 6 x 8 space with a window that does not have a view or access to fresh air but does have a toilet right in the front, at the door.  Toilet paper (which must also serve as tissues) is rationed.  Hand sanitizer is considered contraband (alcohol content).  There's a lot of bleach, and a lot of cleaning, but I've seen an awful lot of prisoners hacking and sneezing while cleaning.  See this article in the Marshall Project for more info:  (Marshall Project)

As I said, at least I get to go home.  And I always keep hand sanitizer in my car.  

Meanwhile, South Dakota - as of today - has 5 coronavirus cases, and 1 death.  As Daniel Defoe would say, not a high weekly bill of mortality, but has turned our eyes to the potentialities.  









27 February 2020

How to Lose a Country, or The Atlas Game


by Eve Fisher

Sometimes it takes a while to catch on to what you're seeing.  I am a map freak.  I love them.  I have a few treasured old atlases, including one from 1918, which came with a pamphlet about the League of Nations tucked away in it.  I also have a world map shower curtain, with all the countries, their capitals, and the occasional other city or natural wonder on it.  It was made in China, so there are a lot of other Chinese cities and of course the Great Wall.  Take a look at it.  Of course there is no Tibet on it - God only knows when that got taken off of Chinese maps, and you won't find it on regular atlases as an independent nation anymore, either.  Sorry, Dalai Lama - China has absorbed it and has no intention of ever reversing the process.

But - something else is missing.



Two countries, Kyrgystan and Tajikistan:

https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/User:Cacahuate
Apparently, they've been absorbed into China, too - they no longer exist, according to this Chinese world map.  Now, you might say, "Hey, it's a shower curtain.  They couldn't include everything."  No.  They've pretty much got everything else, including every country in Africa, even the tiniest ones.  So... makes me wonder, does China have plans?

Let's face facts:  maps are generally the heralds, and always the finales of war, whether waged through words or weapons.  Countries come and go all the time.  They are conquered, absorbed, enlarged, reduced, and sometimes break apart all on their own.   Remember Czechoslovakia?  Yugoslavia?

Location of Poland
OCHA - Locator map of Poland.
In Europe, the most notorious example of this is Poland, which was partitioned up between Russia, Austria and Prussia in 1772.  For the next 123 years, Poland and Lithuania pretty much ceased to exist as sovereign nations.  In 1898, a map of Europe was published in Poland that had no Poland on it.  (See Here)  Finally, in 1918, Poland returned as a country!.  In 1939, it was occupied by Germany, which divided it up with the Soviet Union.  The Soviet Union set up a People's Republic of Poland, under the U.S.S.R., from 1945-1989.  Poland, as a sovereign nation, returned in 1989, and is still here.  So far.

Notice its neighbors.  Putin has been indicating that Ukraine, Belarus, and Lithuania all still belong within the Russian embrace.  The map may change again...

And sometimes countries "just get left off" of maps.  New Zealand has a running quarrel with a number of atlases, which keep leaving them off.  Apparently many mapmakers (including one of New Zealand's own) don't find it that important, which is sad, considering that it's Middle Earth.  (Atlas Obscura)  

Map of the United States with Michigan highlighted
(Wikipedia Link)
In 1989, the latest Rand McNally atlas left out South Dakota, North Dakota, and Oklahoma. ″It was an editorial decision,″ said Con Erickson, a public relations representative in Rand McNally’s Skokie, Ill., office.  Oh, well...

We managed to find South Dakota without them when we moved here in 1990.  (AP)  And all three states got back in the next year.  I think.  Maybe I should go check.

We should probably also check for the Upper Peninsula, which also seems to get lost on atlases.  Oh, it may be there in the big USA map up front (see above), but is there always a detailed map of the UP?  Apparently not.  (NPR)  Which might lead some people to think that you just can't get there from here.  Wherever you are.  Especially if you're in South Dakota or Oklahoma.  

Maps change.  Atlases change.  The world changes.  

Here's the history of Europe showing the borders and populations of each country in Europe, for every year since 400 BC:


Here's one for the Middle East from the dawn of time until the current day:


Here's the history of Africa:



And Asia:



And the shortest one of all, North America:




"All diplomacy is a continuation of war by other means."
- Zhou Enlai

And, apparently, cartography as well.






13 February 2020

Revoked


by Eve Fisher

Woollcott in 1939 photographed by Carl Van Vechten
Alexander Woollcott
One of the reasons I dig around in old books - especially old miscellanies - is that you can find the most amazing things.  Take Alexander Woollcott (1887-1943):  critic & commentator for The New Yorker, radio personality, occasional actor, and constant pain in the ass.  (He was the inspiration for Sheridan Whiteside in The Man Who Came to Dinner.)  He was also obsessed with murders, past and contemporary, and he spoke and wrote about many with that acidulous wit that has been equalled only by Dorothy Parker (whom he once described as "so odd a blend of Little Nell and Lady Macbeth").  

So I was rereading Woollcott's While Rome Burns, and - thinking of us, dear SleuthSayers and fans! - headed straight for the section "It May be Human Gore".  I struck the motherlode.  The following - from the chapter "By The Rude Bridge" - is one of my favorite murders of all time.  

Let's just start off by saying that in September, 1929, Myrtle Adkins Bennett, Kansas City housewife, shot her husband, John G. Bennett, to death over a hand of contract bridge.  Where's the mystery, you ask?  Well, read on:  


*********************
(From While Rome Burns.)

"The Bennett killing, which occurred on the night of September 29, 1929, was usually spoken of, with approximate accuracy, as the Bridge-Table Murder. The victim was a personable and prosperous young salesman whose mission, as representative of the house of Hudnut, was to add to the fragrance of life in the Middle West. He had been married eleven years before to a Miss Myrtle Adkins, originally from Arkansas, who first saw his photograph at the home of a friend, announced at once that she intended to marry him, and then, perhaps with this purpose still in mind, recognized and accosted him a year later when she happened to encounter him on a train. That was during the war when the good points of our perfume salesman’s physique were enhanced by an officer’s uniform. They were married in Memphis during the considerable agitation of November 11, 1918. The marriage was a happy one. At least, Senator Jim Reed, who represented Mrs. Bennett in the trying but inevitable legal formalities which ensued upon her bereavement, announced in court—between sobs—that they had always been more like sweethearts than man and wife.

Bridge declarer.jpg"On Mr. Bennett’s last Sunday on earth, these wedded sweethearts spent the day playing a foursome at golf with their friends, Charles and Mayme Hofman... After dark and after an ice-box supper at the Bennetts’, the men folk professed themselves too weary to dress for the movies, so the four settled down to a more slatternly evening of contract bridge. They played family against family at a tenth of a cent a side. With a pretty laugh, Mayme Hofman on the witness stand referred to such a game as playing for “fun stakes,” though whether this was a repulsive little phrase of her own or one prevalent in the now devitalized society of a once rugged community, I do not know.

"They played for some hours. At first the luck went against the Hofmans and the married sweethearts were as merry as grigs. Later the tide turned and the cross-table talk of the Bennetts became tinged with constructive criticism. Finally, just before midnight, the fatal hand was dealt by Bennett himself and he opened the bidding with one spade. Hofman hazarded two diamonds. Mrs. Bennett leaped to four spades. Discreet silence from Mrs. Hofman. Stunned silence from Bennett. Hofman doubled. That ended the bidding and the play began.

https://commons.wikimedia.org/
wiki/User:Newwhist
"Mrs. Bennett put down her hand. At her trial it was the policy of the defense, for strategic reasons, to minimize the part the bridge game had played in the ensuing drama, but the jury could not be confused on this point and three of the jurors went so far as to learn bridge in the long leisure of the jury room. Nor could the mind of that stern realist, Mayme Hofman, be befogged. When summoned as a witness by Senator Reed, she knew she was really coming to the defense of Mrs. Bennett as a bridge player.

“Myrtle put down a good hand,” she said staunchly, “it was a perfectly beautiful hand.”

"In any event, while she was dummy, Mrs. Bennett retired to the kitchen to prepare breakfast for her lord and master, who would be leaving at the crack of dawn for St. Joe. She came back to find he had been set two and to be greeted with the almost automatic charge that she had overbid. Thereupon she ventured to opine that he was, in her phrase, “a bum bridge player.” His reply to that was a slap in the face, followed by several more of the same—whether three or four more, witnesses were uncertain. Then while he stormed about proclaiming his intention to leave for St. Joe at once and while Mr. Hofman prudently devoted the interval to totting up the score, Mrs. Bennett retired to the davenport to weep on the sympathetic bosom of Mayme Hofman...:

“No one but a cur would strike a woman in the presence of friends.”

"I have not as yet been able to learn whether the game was ever settled, but when Mr. Hofman had completed his work as accountant, he ventured to reproach the host for unseemly behavior, to which comment Bennett replied by a strong suggestion that it was time for the guests to go home. Mrs. Hofman—one can imagine her bridling a good deal and saying that she considered the source—had got into her wraps and Mr. Hofman was tidying up in the bathroom, when he saw his hostess advancing through the den, revolver in hand.
Image result for james thurber cartoons new yorker
James Thurber, The New Yorker
via Pinterest (Link)
“My God, Myrtle,” he cried. “What are you going to do?”

"He soon learned.

"There were four shots, with a brief interval after the second. The first went through the hastily closed bathroom door. The second was embedded in the lintel. The next two were embedded in Mr. Bennett, the fourth and fatal shot hitting him in the back.

"The next day the story went round the world. In its first reverberations, I noticed, with interest, that after her visit to the mortuary chapel Mrs. Bennett objected plaintively to her husband’s being buried without a pocket-handkerchief showing in his coat. To interested visitors, she would make cryptic remarks such as “Nobody knows but me and my God why I did it,” thus leaving open to pleasant speculation the probable nature of her defense.

[Seventeen months passed, and finally Woollcott asked a Kansas City friend what happened to the case?]

“Oh!” the good doctor replied, “she was acquitted. It seems it was just an unfortunate accident.”

Natty couple in 1929
Wikipedia Source
"It seems the dutiful Mrs. Bennett had merely gone for the revolver because her husband wanted to take it with him to St. Joe; that in stumbling over a misplaced chair in the den she fired the first two shots unintentionally and that her husband (pardonably misreading her kind intentions) had sought to disarm her. In the ensuing Apache dance of their struggle for the gun, it had gone off and wounded him fatally.


"The defense was materially aided by the exclusion on technical grounds of crucial testimony which would have tended to indicate that at the time Mrs. Bennett had told a rather different story. It was also helped no little by the defendant herself who, in the course of the trial, is estimated to have shed more tears than Jane Cowl did in the entire season of Common Clay. Even the Senator was occasionally unmanned, breaking into sobs several times in the presence of the jury. “I just can’t help it,” he replied, when the calloused prosecutor urged him to bear up.

"The Reed construction of the fatal night’s events proved subsequently important to Mrs. Bennett, in whose favor her husband had once taken out a policy to cover the contingency of his death through accident. Some months after the acquittal a dazed insurance company paid her thirty thousand dollars.


"Footnote: Protesting as I do against the short-weight reporting in the Notable British Trials series, it would ill become me to hoard for my private pleasure certain postscripts to the Bennett case which have recently drifted my way. It looked for a time as if we all might be vouchsafed the luxury of reading Myrtle’s autobiography, but this great work has been indefinitely postponed. I understand she could not come to terms with the local journalist who was to do the actual writing. That ink-stained wretch demanded half the royalties. Mrs. Bennett felt this division would be inequitable, since, as she pointed out, she herself had done all the work.
"Then it seems she has not allowed her bridge to grow rusty, even though she occasionally encounters an explicable difficulty in finding a partner. Recently she took on one unacquainted with her history. Having made an impulsive bid, he put his hand down with some diffidence. “Partner,” he said, “I’m afraid you’ll want to shoot me for this.” Mrs. Bennett, says my informant, had the good taste to faint."
************

Back to my musings:

For the more curious among us: What bridge hand could be that bad? See Snopes' reconstruction HERE.

Source:
https://www.rosewoodhotels.com/en/the-carlyle-new-york/gallery
As for Myrtle's later years, and there were 61 of them, she died in Miami, Florida, in January, 1992 at the age of 96. "After World War II and throughout the 1950s, she worked as executive head of housekeeping at the elegant Hotel Carlyle in New York City, living alone there in an apartment. At the Carlyle, she developed friendships with the rich and famous, including the actors Mary Pickford and Henry Ford II." Later, she traveled the world, working for a hotel chain, and left an estate - valued at more than $1 million - to family members of the late John Bennett. (Wikipedia)

Final Note: According to Woollcott, "It was Harpo Marx who, on hearing the doctor’s hasty but spirited résumé of the case, suggested that I make use of it for one of my little articles. He even professed to have thought of a title for it. Skeptically I inquired what this might be and he answered “Vulnerable.”"

But personally, I prefer the title "Revoked."

 


30 January 2020

Your Guide to Not Getting Murdered...


First of all, a big shout out to Janet Rudolph and her posting of one of the funniest - and truest - reads I've seen in a while:  "Your Guide to Not Getting Murdered in a Quaint English Village" by Maureen Johnson.  (Read the whole HERE)  Read it now, and then come back and  I'll continue on with some more handy tips.

When it comes to English Villages, I bow to her amazing expertise and only add one extra warning:  Don't be a spy.

Half of episodes of the 1960s TV show The Avengers were Mrs. Peel and John Steed tracking down dead / missing spies or each other in quaint English villages.  (The Town of No Return, Small Game for Big Hunters, The Living Dead, etc.)

My personal favorite was Epic (Season 5, Episode 11), where a bunch of has-been retired silent film stars kidnap Emma to make "The Death of Emma Peel" which was, from the scenes we see being filmed, a mish-mash of everything from Mourning Becomes Electra to The Perils of Pauline.  Absolutely hilarious.




When it comes to American small towns, the immediately obvious murder victims are:

The man/woman everyone hates.  And there is always at least one.

The town gossip.  These come in two types:  mean and relatively harmless.  In real life, the mean ones almost never get killed (mainly because they're very scary) while the harmless ones sometimes do when they get hold of the right information at the wrong time and pass it on to the wrong person.

The unknown ex-_________ of someone important who comes to town and pretends they're just passing through.  Next thing you know, they're dead.  If you're someone's ex, don't visit their small town unannounced.

The person on the phone who is just about to give valuable information about who / what / where / why.  (This was more fun back in the days when they got coshed on the head at a public phone booth, but cycling at the gym while on the smartphone works, too.)

There are no impoverished aristocrats.  However, there is always at least one Pioneer Family who by now has run to seed and drugs.  (See Neil Inveig, found shot to death in the opening of my own Public Immunity, who was Laskin's drug dealer among the upper crust.  There's still considerable argument in Laskin about who actually killed him, and it crops up every once in a while.)  Anyway, this feckless person is usually the catalyst, and occasionally the victim, of murder.

The pregnant girlfriend of the man everyone hates, the feckless Pioneer descendant, the sleazy politician / sheriff / officer.  This ties right into the basic American trope of:  if a woman wants to stay alive, she must not have sex with anyone outside of marriage, but even within marriage, don't marry the hero!  See my February column, Why There Always Has to Be a Virgin.

Don't be any of these.

As far as dangerous places in American small towns, there are some significant differences from English villages:

If you're in the High Plains and / or the West, "quaint" is not the term to use for many small towns.  Windswept, yes.  Desolate, even.  But not quaint.

The Last Picture Show (1971)
Shot of "Anarene, TX" main street  from The Last Picture Show, IMDB


Also, no American bar is as sacred in the same way as the English pub.  Murders happen.

On the other hand, not many people get murdered in American churches (gunned down by a mass shooter is another story), perhaps because that steeple is an obvious target for God's wrath in the form of a bolt of lightning, and most everyone truly believes in God's wrath.  After all, they've lived through floods, fires, tornadoes, (hurricanes on the coasts) massive thunderstorms, earthquakes, hail at harvest time, droughts, etc.  Most farmers and ranchers expect wrath to be unleashed at various intervals, so it's best not to anticipate it by downright blasphemy.

People are not nearly as fetishistic about trains in America as in Britain.  Oh, they have their fans, and most people enjoy a nostalgic ride on one, but the truth is when it comes to trains, Sheldon Cooper is far more British than American.

I think some of the reason is that Americans prefer individual transportation.  Fast cars.  Pick up trucks.  Small planes are popular.  Also ATVs, jetskis, motorcycles, snowmobiles, and anything else that can make a significant amount of noise and cover a lot of ground fast.

There are no marble busts in American small towns.  There are (more or less) bronze statues.

The varieties of death available to the average American increases dramatically as you head into the hinterlands.  Farms often have passels of hogs (which will eat anything), and other large animals that could be used to stomp someone to death, not to mention lots of heavy equipment.  Even in town, there are sheds stuffed to the gills with the odd stuff that could be used for nefarious purposes, from post-hole diggers to sledgehammers.  One of the reasons that English villages are quaint is that they apparently never need of any of these things.  Gardening shears seem to be as much as they ever use, at least on TV.

But the main difference, of course, between America and England is lots and lots and lots of guns.

'Nuff said.

16 January 2020

Fearless Predictions for 2020


All right, all right, I'm late to the party, but what the hey.  I got distracted, which is at least better than lured.

Last weekend I spent at an AVP workshop at the penitentiary - one of our best, actually, which may or may not have been because the temperature outside was 10 degrees for the high, which meant that in the chapel (where we were assigned) it hovered around 55-60 degrees.  I've read before that it was the Ice Ages that made us humans cooperative, compassionate, and creative - so maybe the weather did the same for us.

Then, when the weekend was over, we came back home to a house that was at 55-60 degrees.  The furnace had died.  We got it repaired on Monday, and then went promptly out to hock our valuables to buy a new one, which will be installed before the next Ice Age. Which looks like it's going to be tonight.  So, before the woolly mammoths come over the rise,

Fearless predictions for 2020!

Between House, Senate, gubernatorial, and presidential races, the 2020 elections will surpass the $1.6 billion on advertising, polling, etc., spent in 2016.  This leads me to predict:
  1. The media will make out like a bandit.
  2. Someone will figure out that $1.6 billion is the GDP of a number of smaller countries, and make memes about that.
  3. Someone will figure out that $1.6 billion could be better used elsewhere.
  4. Nothing will change.  
Whether or not violence increases in our cities, nation, or worldwide, most people will believe that we live in an incredibly dangerous age, mostly because the media talisman is "if it bleeds it leads" and that's what we see.  This despite the fact that, in 1340s, the homicide rate was around 110 per 100,000, whereas today, in the US, it's 5 per 100,000.  And there were a lot fewer people around in the 1340s (and about to get fewer in 1347, thanks to the Black Death).

Woolly mammoths will be cloned, and will become the hot new pet of 2025.  (The last woolly mammoths were on St. Paul Island, Alaska, and were pgymies - they stood 5'6" - and I want one!)

President Trump will continue to tweet at the same rate most of us breathe.

There will be new record fires in California, and new record flooding all along the US Atlantic and Gulf coasts.  Climate change will continue to be considered a radical theory of why such things are happening by some.

Sloths will become the hot 2020 Christmas toy / doll / sling purse / baby carrier.

© The Far Side cartoon Imbeciles of the World Unite
© The Far Side
The anti-vaxxers will continue to spread complete bulls***. My "favorite" is this meme: "Let's bring back chicken-pox playdates to stave off shingles!"

Uh, shingles is a reactivation of the chicken-pox virus. No chicken-pox, no shingles… But by all means, make sure to give your children a virus that could very well cause them chronic pain, neuropathy, and even blindness, if not in childhood then as an adult.

To continue raging/ragging on the above, old teachers cannot stop fighting against deliberate ignorance, and the amount of time I spend trying to combat it is a major reason why I will never write enough fiction to satisfy my inner taskmaster.

Most people will go for popcorn, bathroom break, or a quick nap through the following Oscar categories:  make-up, costumes, sound, and short-film (animated and live action). Some will start streaming something on Netflix until the next "big" award.

The winners of the Super Bowl LIV (2020) will be PepsiCo, Coca-Cola, General Mills, Kellogg's, Mars, Anheuser-Busch, MillerCoors, and the Pabst Brewing Company.  Yes, and a team will actually win the game.

Axe throwing will remain a popular activity at many bars here in the Upper Midwest, because the winters are long, and nothing could possibly go wrong,

Xi Jinping will remain President for Life of China.  Vladimir Putin will make himself President for Life of Russia.  (Russian government resigns)  Major pissing contest follows.

Antonio Banderas will indeed get sexier with age.

Brexit will happen.  Almost no one, including Brexiters, will like it.
UK location in the EU 2016.svg
Brexit/Celtexit map
(Wikipedia)
Future quote: "It isn't what I expected it to be. I thought everything would be cheaper, we'd have more freedom, and all those foreigners would be gone."
Speaking of Brexit, even money that:
  • Scotland will vote for independence.
  • Northern Ireland will vote to join the Republic of Ireland. 
  • Scotland will join Northern Ireland and Wales in a Celtexit from Great Britain.  
    • Normandy and Brittany will consider joining them.  The beginning of the Great Celtexit from Europe will begin.  Catalonia will try to join, but will be told to cabrear.  
American troops will remain in the Middle East, mostly wherever Saudi Arabia wants them.

Anthony Trollope will become the hot new Victorian author in print, Kindle/Nook, movies, and television.  (And with 70 novels / short stories, there's a lot to mine.)  Speaking of Trollope, join the rest of us fanatics at https://trollope.groups.io/g/main.

Fake news and deepfakes will receive their own category at the Grammys, Emmys, Tonys, and Oscars.  No one will ever know who truly wins.

Ford v. Ferrari will not win Best Picture Award.

02 January 2020

Words to Live By


by Eve Fisher

I don't believe in New Year's resolutions, because I can think of no finer way to make sure you disappoint yourselves and others than to announce how this year you are going to make yourself perfect.  "No, really, this time it's going to work!"  Yeah, and I am going to take up brain surgery as a hobby.  Besides, I saw the Peloton commercial, and I agree - it was horrible.

But I do believe in sharing the wisdom of the ages so that we can all mull things over together.  These quotes come from a variety of authors, articles, etc., and I hope you enjoy them.


Gibson promoting the French release of Spook Country in Paris, March 17, 2008
William Gibson,
Wikipedia Link
"In writing “The Peripheral,” [William Gibson had] been able to bring himself to believe in the reality of an ongoing slow-motion apocalypse called “the jackpot.” A character describes the jackpot as “multi-causal”—“more a climate than an event.” The world eases into it gradually, as all the bad things we worry about—rising oceans, crop failures, drug-resistant diseases, resource wars, and so on—happen, here and there, to varying degrees, over the better part of the twenty-first century, adding up to “androgenic, systemic, multiplex, seriously bad shit” that eventually kills eighty per cent of the human race. It’s a Gibsonian apocalypse: the end of the world is already here; it’s just not very evenly distributed."
NOTE:  Sounds right on the money to me.  The only thing I'd add to it is the one-word sentence, "Yet." - (Link)
"Accept in your mind that anything which can happen, can happen to you."
- Pythagoras

"Everything I've ever said will be credited to Dorothy Parker."
- George S. Kaufman, as quoted in George S. Kaufman and His Friends (1974) by Scott Meredith

"Unhappiness can be classified under five main heads — no more, I assure you. Once you know the cause of a malady, the remedy should not be impossible."
- Mr. Parker Pyne, "Parker Pyne Investigates"

"A desire to have all the fun is nine-tenths of the law of chivalry."
- Lord Peter Wimsey, "Gaudy Night"

"If there is anything that a study of history tells us, it's that things can get worse, and also that when people thought they were in the end times, they weren't."
- Neil Gaiman

Holmes (in deerstalker hat) talking to Watson (in a bowler hat) in a railway compartment“It is my belief, Watson, founded upon my experience, that the lowest and vilest alleys in London do not present a more dreadful record of sin than does the smiling and beautiful country-side."
- Sherlock Holmes, "The Adventure of the Copper Beeches"

"Oh, my friend, consider. 'Very nice people.' That has been, before now, a motive for muder."
- Hercule Poirot, "Mrs. McGinty's Dead"

“The writer should never be ashamed of staring. There is nothing that does not require his attention.”
― Flannery O'Connor

"You've heard of animals chewing off a leg to escape a trap? There's an animal kind of trick. A human would remain in the trap, endure the pain, feigning death that he might kill the trapper and remove a threat to his kind."
- Reverend Mother Gaius Helen Mohiam, "Dune"

"Like a bird on the wire
Like a drunk in a midnight choir
I have tried in my way to be free"
- Leonard Cohen
NOTE:  Kris Kristofferson once said that he wanted those lines of Leonard Cohen's to be his epitaph.  (Link)
"Explanations exist; they have existed for all time; there is always a well-known solution to every human problem — neat, plausible, and wrong."
- H. L. Mencken, "The Divine Afflatus" in New York Evening Mail (16 November 1917)

"Hollywood is wonderful. Anyone who doesn't like it is either crazy or sober."
- Raymond Chandler

"She keeps trying and you’ve got to be careful or you’ll find yourself believing her, not because she seems to be telling the truth, but simply because you’re tired of disbelieving her."
- Nick Charles, "The Thin Man"

Rex Stout
"I think the detective story is by far the best upholder of the democratic doctrine in literature. I mean, there couldn't have been detective stories until there were democracies, because the very foundation of the detective story is the thesis that if you're guilty you'll get it in the neck and if you're innocent you can't possibly be harmed. No matter who you are."
- Rex Stout, "Invitation to Learning"

"If you cannot or will not imagine the results of your actions, there's no way you can act morally or responsibly. Little kids can't do it; babies are morally monsters—completely greedy. Their imagination has to be trained into foresight and empathy."
- Ursula Le Guin, "The Magician Interview in The Guardian."


"All the things I really like to do are either illegal, immoral, or fattening."
- Alexander Woollcott

"Capitalism is the exploitation of man by man. Yes? Well socialism is exactly the reverse."
-Czech joke, quoted in "Funeral in Berlin" by Len Deighton

“There is nothing perhaps so generally consoling to a man as a well-established grievance; a feeling of having been injured, on which his mind can brood from hour to hour, allowing him to plead his own cause in his own court, within his own heart, — and always to plead it successfully.”
- Anthony Trollope, "Orley Farm"

"Beauty may stop the sun and the sea, but dreams are the language of time."
- Eve Fisher

"All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given to us. There are other forces at work in this world, Frodo, besides the will of evil. Bilbo was meant to find the Ring. In which case, you were also meant to have it. And that is an encouraging thought."
- Gandalf, "The Fellowship of the Ring"

19 December 2019

Angelic Voices


by Eve Fisher

'Tis the week before Christmas, and the rituals have begun:

Image result for vintage ceramic christmas treeWe put up our Christmas tree.  (Forty years ago, it was real; twenty years ago, it was artificial; the last five years it's been vintage ceramic!) 

We watch our favorite Christmas movies:  We're No Angels (the original 1955 version); The Man Who Came to Dinner; Reborn; Scrooge (1951, Alistair Sim); The Muppet Christmas Carol (I'm a sentimentalist at heart); The Bishop's Wife (1947, Loretta Young & Cary Grant); National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation; Blackadder's Christmas Carol; and all the Christmas Specials from Last of the Summer Wine.

We go driving around at night and look at Christmas lights.  Falls Park does a great light show; downtown's pretty; and there are all these old houses over by McKennan Park and elsewhere that have wonderful decorations.

Winter Wonderland at Falls Park
Sioux Falls - Falls Park's "Winter Wonderland"

And we go to various musical concerts.  Some years, Handel's Messiah, or Christmas at the Cathedral, or any of a variety of musical Christmas offerings.  This year we went to hear the Singing Boys of Sioux Falls at East Side Lutheran Church.  I hadn't heard of them before, and while I knew that there were men's choirs in Sioux Falls, I hadn't known there was a boys' choir.  So we went, and it was wonderful - beautiful music, beautiful voices, beautiful church.

Now boys' choirs developed in the Middle Ages, when women were barred from participating in any sort of performing arts in mixed company in churches, and they had to get sopranos from somewhere.
NOTE:  Later, of course, women would also be barred from participating in theaters, which leads to the crazy plots in Shakespeare, et al, in which a man playing a woman in disguise as a man courts another man playing a woman, who sometimes pulls a double switcheroo, and basically good luck keeping up with who's playing what when.  It makes our current touchiness about gender roles look pretty strange.
Anyway, it wasn't until the mid-1800s that women were allowed to join church choirs, which is why boys' choirs remained strong well past the Victorian Age. Cathedrals had cathedral schools for young boy singers, where a good voice could get you an education and perhaps even a career where you weren't plowing fields or living on the streets with Fagin.

And there were plenty of boys to choose from. This was because (1) people had a lot more children before birth control and (2) children didn't hit puberty until their mid to late teens because most of them were malnourished. Poverty was a huge factor. Most people were poor. Very poor.

We tend to forget how prevalent poverty was, is, and how it was one of the major subjects of most Christmas stories. Until now. Probably the last Christmas special on TV that centered on the poor - with any sort of accuracy - was the precursor to The Waltons, 1971's The Homecoming:  A Christmas Story.

But almost all Victorian Christmas stories were about the poor.  That or ghost stories (see my blog post https://www.sleuthsayers.org/2015/12/ghoulies-and-ghosties.html) .  Part of the reason why Dickens' A Christmas Carol became such a runaway bestseller is that it combined the two.


Christmas (12 days of it, thank you) with ghosts, and the poor, and sometimes they died! As in Hans Christian Andersen's The Little Match Girl - because no Victorian ever shied away from death, even the death of children. Especially the death of children. Think Little Nell, Tiny Tim (until Scrooge's repentance), Beth March, Smike, as well as a host of lesser known victims of the Victorians' love of a good cry, especially at Christmas. And well past Victorian times. There's O Henry's The Gift of the Magi.  There's Mary Mapes Dodge's Hans Brinker, or the Silver SkatesLittle Women opens with this famous sequence:
"Christmas won't be Christmas without any presents," grumbled Jo, lying on the rug.
"It's so dreadful to be poor!" sighed Meg, looking down at her old dress.
"I don't think it's fair for some girls to have plenty of pretty things, and other girls nothing at all," added little Amy, with an injured sniff.
"We've got father and mother and each other," said Beth contentedly, from her corner.
The four young faces on which the firelight shone brightened at the cheerful words, but darkened again as Jo said sadly,—  "We haven't got father, and shall not have him for a long time." She didn't say "perhaps never," but each silently added it, thinking of father far away, where the fighting was.
Nobody spoke for a minute; then Meg said in an altered tone,—
"You know the reason mother proposed not having any presents this Christmas was because it is going to be a hard winter for every one; and she thinks we ought not to spend money for pleasure, when our men are suffering so in the army. We can't do much, but we can make our little sacrifices, and ought to do it gladly. But I am afraid I don't;" and Meg shook her head, as she thought regretfully of all the pretty things she wanted.
And then Marmee shows up and the girls go off to get the real Christmas spirit by helping the Hummels, German immigrants who are desperately poor, crammed 6 in one room, with a dead father and a very sick mother.

Besides the actual story of the birth of Jesus, i.e., the Incarnation (which most Victorian authors considered too sacred to write directly about), this was what Christmas used to be all about - helping the poor.  But any more it seems that modern Christmas movies are either comedies (increasingly raunchy) or the neverending Hallmark offerings, which specialize in Christmas Princess and other glittery tales of beautiful young women meeting the perfect hunky guy in the perfect snow-covered site - well, I think this video sums it up best:




But back to boys' choirs.  Most of the old 1940s/1950s movies (The Bishop's Wife, Going My Way, and The Bells of St. Mary's) showcased the Mitchell Singing Boys, led by Robert Mitchell from 1934-2000.  (Mr. Mitchell himself lived from 1912-2009!).  The example below is from The Bishop's Wife.



Today, boys' choirs are up against increasing affluence.  Frankly, boys today get a lot more to eat, so the boys go through puberty earlier and earlier.  This means that the general age of boys' choirs have decreased.  And a 10 year old can't be expected to have the same musical ability, understanding, and musical ability as a 15 year old.  The result is that modern boys' choirs have greater turnover, and are often singing much less complicated music than they used to.

Meanwhile, let's listen to the Vienna's Boys' Choir from 1957, with (according to YouTube) boy soloist Michael Paddy Quilligan.  And have a very Merry Christmas, with or without ghosts!







05 December 2019

The Nutcracker


by Eve Fisher

Thanksgiving week was a humdinger up here in South Dakota.  It snowed every day.  Along with the occasional freezing rain and ice.  Plus there were the usual hazards associated with Thanksgiving.  I, for one, stay away from all Black Friday events, because I hate crowds, malls, and crazed people in search of something that's so much of a super-bargain that they are willing to risk trampling and maiming to get it.  And the idea that now stores are open Thursday afternoon, so that people go out immediately after Thanksgiving Dinner, belching turkey, stuffing, and pumpkin pie, to find their bliss only makes me lock all the doors and pray that the Monsters don't come down Maple Street.

Instead, on Black Friday I went to The Nutcracker.  Now, I know the music by heart, because I took ballet lessons as a child, where I was told, mercifully early, that I would never have the "line" for ballet.  ("Line" is code for "thin.")

I also worked as an administrator for a couple of ballet companies on the East Coast, and, as everyone knows, The Nutcracker is THE fundraiser, so the rehearsals, with music, start in September.  The administrative office is never far from the rehearsal studio(s).  By first night, the opening bars of "The Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairy" were enough to make us all break out in hives.  But enough time has passed so that I have recovered, and can now go see my godchild's children - one of them was a purple butterfly - without having to take Benadryl.  I had a lovely time, and really enjoyed the music for the first time in years.

Now some SleuthSayers have been talking a lot about music lately, so I thought I'd add to the theme.  All children grow up on their parents' music, and my parents' music was big band, country (specifically, my mother loved Hank Williams, Sr., and original bluegrass, which she passed on to me), and crooners of the 1940s and 50s.  I liked it all.  But by the 1960s, there was a lot of other interesting music out there that my parents couldn't stand - specifically rock n' roll.  Being a snotty teenager, that's all I wanted to hear.  Except...

There were two truly great moments in music when I was a child, and they were totally out of the blue.  One was when my mother and I were making a bed, with the radio on, and what came on was (I later found out) Dave Brubeck's Take Five.  I stopped tucking sheets, stood up, listened, and breathlessly asked, "What's that?"  "That's jazz," she replied.  "We don't like it."  Well, I did.  But I stored it away future years, when I could buy and play anything I wanted, because I'd just heard something like a whole new way of life.  And I loved it.



But even more overpowering was what I heard in ballet class, and I never spoke of it to either of my parents.  There I was, in my little black leotard and ballet shoes, while the teacher lined up the needle on the record player.  And what followed was a tremendous wall of sound, that came from behind and above and literally took my breath away with its absolute power.  I had never been so moved by any piece of music in my life, and I couldn't figure out if I was afraid, ready to cry, or overjoyed.  It was Tchaikovsky's Swan Theme from Swan Lake.


BTW, Tchaikovsky is to the romantic period what Puccini is to opera.  Masters of emotional manipulation through music, who will make you cry whether you want to or not.  (If you don't believe me, listen to Maria Callas singing Un bel di vedremo from Madame Butterfly)
NOTE:  I've been racking my brains to think of similar master manipulators of emotion in writing, other than poetry, and so far what I've come up with is Beth's death scene in Little Women and Old Yeller.  
Meanwhile, I love watching good ballet.
The women dancing as if putting all your weight on your big toe and then whirling, leaping, and landing on it is the easiest thing in the world.  No, it's not.  It hurts.  And it requires considerable strapping sometimes.  I've known dancers who broke a bone in their foot, or sprained an ankle, strapped it up tight, and danced anyway.  Ballet dancers are more like football players, stripped down to minimum weight.  Same grit, determination, and apparent obliviousness to pain.  At the moment.

And the men who do grand jetes across the stage and look like it's the most normal thing in the world to hang in space.  Watch Sergei Polunin:


Looks easy-peasy doesn't it?  Well, I've helped backstage with costumes, etc., and I can tell you that to dance like that means that, as soon as they're backstage, they are on their knees trying to breathe.  But moments later, they're back on their feet, pretending like they don't need oxygen.

Meanwhile, I'm still trying to figure out how The Nutcracker became a holiday tradition.  Fine, it's set at a Christmas party, but there's no Santa, just a fairly creepy magician (Drosselmeyer) roaming the house at will.  And what young girl would choose a nutcracker as her favorite toy / present?  Especially one old enough to also dream of a charming prince?  BTW, where does Drosselmeyer get his literal living dolls from?  And what's with all the mice?  Is this where C. S. Lewis got the idea for Reepicheep?  But of course it makes no more sense than, say, The Magic Flute.  Opera, ballet, if you're looking for plots that make sense, stick with mysteries.

But The Nutcracker is and will be a perennial, because it allows every dance troupe / school the chance to include everyone, from the littlest 3 year old to the season subscribers.  (Yes, a lot of those older party guests are season subscribers, who get - as a perk - the chance to stand around in the background, sometimes with real champagne, and attend the cast party later.)  Anyway, this means big money in the till, because every relative is coming to watch Betsy as a chocolate cupcake and Ralphie as a mouse.  And more power to them.  In these United States, the arts need every penny they can get.

Meanwhile, here's The Nutcracker Sugar Plum Fairy pas de deux.  Enjoy.