Monday, 02 March 2015
Stirring Up Daily Life
It is not clear that “binge watching” began when Netflix released all 13 episodes of the first season of House of Cards on the same day two years ago but it is, certainly, when it became a popular pastime.
And why not. When everyone admits to being a couch potato (but only for certain shows with a high “cool” quotient), there is no shame. Plus, it's fun to be decadently indulgent when there's no consequence; we're not talking about 13 hours of TV every day, right? Just once or twice a year.
Whether that's so or not, perhaps you recall, when I reminded you last week of the imminent release of the third season ofHouse of Cards, I said there might not be a post today because I would be too tired from binge-watching the series to write something.
Didn't happen. Not going to happen.
On Friday evening, I fell asleep partway into episode 2, woke an hour later, tried to watch it again from the top and didn't quite make it to the end. Episode 1 had dragged but I have always been willing to give old favorites some slack. This time, that was too painful.
Frank Underwood has become banal, small-time, petty. He lacks the cunning I thought he had and should be a requirement for a man who murders his way into the most powerful political office on Earth.
But he doesn't come close.
The entire production (well, 1.8 or so episodes, anyway) is colorless, lifeless, utterly ordinary, lacking the malevolent glee necessary for this kind of political parody. Even the color palette is an underlit grayish beige.
It is such a letdown, don't you think, when an old favorite doesn't live up to expectations. It's happened to me sometimes upon re-reading a beloved book after many years, and especially re-watching an old TV show I once enjoyed.
What's hard to know in these instances is whether my taste has improved over the years or if I misjudged the show (or book or TV show) the first time around.
Or, maybe I've changed in some fundamental way that prevents the connection a story requires for a reader/watcher to become absorbed.
You would not be off base to think of today's post as a follow-up to last Friday's that was about how my forced change in viewing habits led to a new, more negative view of favorite shows. I am not sorry to leave behind the cop/drama/doctor shows that are mostly rote chase and/or gory blood scenes but I am disappointed to lose House of Cards.
But it's not all bad.
One of the knocks on elders that we are stuck in our ways and don't like change. To the extent that is true, I have argued – and still do – that trial and error over many years have provided each of us with our best individual choices and since they serve us well, there is no point to redoing them.
Isn't that one of the things great age is good for? We have found solutions for issues great and small that are then put to bed so we can move on to different ones that want attention?
Now, in a period of less than a month, I have come to question the ways I have watched television for a long time and somehow that led to re-assessing the books I choose – that's changed too.
Those two apparently small things mean my personal schedule – when I work on the blog, when I read or turn on the TV or exercise or go out or cook, etc. – that I hardly gave thought to for, possibly, years is in a jumble. And that changes even more items in my daily life.
So I've been surprising myself with hardly any predicable routine lately. (This bothers Ollie the cat a lot.)
It has been my experience that even small, out of the ordinary events engender more of them that together give a new spark to living; I have had several episodes of such clusters of change throughout my life but it has been so long since the last one that I'm pretty sure I had come to believe they don't happen to old people.
I was wrong.
At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Chuck Nyren: Have You Ever Fainted? All About Mine
Sunday, 01 March 2015
ELDER MUSIC: 1971
This Sunday Elder Music column was launched in December of 2008. By May of the following year, one commenter, Peter Tibbles, had added so much knowledge and value to my poor attempts at musical presentations that I asked him to take over the column. He's been here each week ever since delighting us with his astonishing grasp of just about everything musical, his humor and sense of fun. You can read Peter's bio here and find links to all his columns here.
What happened in 1971?
- Julian Assange was born
- The pocket calculator was invented
- The Ed Sullivan Show ended its run
- Five Easy Pieces was released
- Greenpeace was founded
- Louis Armstrong died
- Harold and Maude was released
- Hawthorn were premiers
Question: How many times does BILL WITHERS sing "I know" in that first lot of I knowing in the song. Ain't No Sunshine?*
Apparently those "I Knows" were just fillers for a verse that Bill hadn't written yet but the musicians who backed him liked them and suggested it remain as it was. The musicians being three quarters of Booker T and the MGs. Booker T arranged and conducted the strings.
ELTON JOHN was just starting to make a name for himself in 1971.
Your Song was the first of Elton's to hit the charts (but far from the last). It was also one of the first he wrote with Bernie Taupin, some years earlier before they were even performing.
It was supposed to be the B-side but as often happens, it became more important than the one on the other side.
KEVIN JOHNSON wrote and recorded the song, Rock and Roll I Gave You All the Best Years of my Life.
He said that that song bought him a home on Sydney's north shore and a BMW. I imagine it's still supplying him with goodies as people are still recording it.
I'm not using that song though; here is another from the same album which was also a hit here in Oz, Bonnie Please Don't Go.
These "Years" columns have a whole bunch of firsts – people or bands I haven't featured previously. Here's another, AL GREEN.
Tired of Being Alone was Al's breakthrough song. Before this one, he was recording in the mold of some of his heroes, Jackie Wilson, Wilson Pickett, James Brown and Sam Cooke. With this, he found his own voice and hasn't looked back.
We've already had one rain song from CREEDENCE CLEARWATER REVIVAL last year and here's another.
Around this time Creedence was touring with Booker T and the Mgs, John Fogerty was so impressed by the sound of Booker T's Hammond organ he decided to have it in a song (or several).
This is the first where he employed the instrument - Have You Ever Seen the Rain.
Now listen. Here is DADDY COOL.
Daddy Cool were at their peak around this time. Indeed, there wasn't an Australian band that could come close. There were probably few from anywhere who could match their live performance. The song Eagle Rock has been voted the second best Australian song ever. Second Best? Hunh.
Speaking of cool, THE CARPENTERS were never cool.
Given that though, Karen sure could sing. They chose songs well too, and even wrote a few. Their song today is Rainy Days and Mondays written by Paul Williams.
Looking at the songs for this year, I was struck by their quality. What a great year for music. Here's an adornment to the list by ROD STEWART.
The record company didn't want Maggie May to be on the album but they'd run out of songs or time to record any more so they grudgingly included it. Then they released it as a B-side of a single figuring no one would want to turn it over and play it.
That, of course, is exactly what happened and it's gone on to become an icon of the period.
ISAAC HAYES agreed to write the theme for the film Shaft on the condition that he got to play the lead role.
Well, Isaac kept his side of the bargain but the producers of the film didn't. Isaac didn't even get an audition but he not only wrote this song; he wrote the complete sound track which was released as a double album.
It won all sorts of awards and sold really well, so I guess Isaac got a revenge of sorts.
Riders on the Storm was the last hit for THE DOORS.
It was also the very last song that Jim Morrison recorded. What a way to go out. The tune arose as The Doors were just jamming in the studio, initially to the old song, Ghost Riders in the Sky. This is what came of all that.
Music from 1972 will appear in two weeks' time.
* I was somewhat surprised to count 26 times. I didn't think there were that many.
Saturday, 28 February 2015
'INTERESTING STUFF – 28 February 2015
As you know, on Monday through Friday, there is a link at the bottom of each TGB story to that day's story by readers at The Elder Storytelling Place.
Last Monday, I neglected to set up the ESP story to publish automatically and did not discover my error until late in the day so some people did not see Dan Gogerty's Orthorexia, Healthy Food and "Piecing Around". Dan is one of our best contributors so go take a look.
SECOND BEST MARIGOLD HOTEL IS ALMOST HERE
The sequel to the 2011 movie about a bunch of elder Brits who retire to India will arrive in U.S. theaters next Friday 6 March.
There have been a couple of reviews that object to the feel-good nature of the series but for me it is a relief to have some entertainment about elders that is not about loss and/or Alzheimer's disease, as important as they are. Plus, the roster of actors in the two “Marigolds” is spectacular.
Here are a couple trailers for you from this latest "Marigold."
NET NEUTRALITY VICTORY
Back in May when I asked you to contact the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) and others in support of net neutrality, interest was high here. And it was so high when John Oliver on his HBO show Last Week Tonight made a similar appeal, responses broke the agency's system.
Now your concern and involvement has paid off. In a landmark decision on Thursday, the FCC reclassified broadband internet as a public utility.
”The new rules, approved 3 to 2 along party lines, are intended to ensure that no content is blocked and that the Internet is not divided into pay-to-play fast lanes for Internet and media companies that can afford it and slow lanes for everyone else...” reports The New York Times.
“...the F.C.C. also approved an order to pre-empt state laws that limit the build-out of municipal broadband Internet services. The order focuses on laws in two states, North Carolina and Tennessee, but it would create a policy framework for other states. About 21 states, by the F.C.C.’s count, have laws that restrict the activities of community broadband services.
“The state laws unfairly restrict competition to cable and telecommunications broadband providers from municipal initiatives, the F.C.C. said. This order, too, will surely be challenged in court.”
Now, stand up from your laptop or tablet, take a bow and cheer loudly – it's not often anyone wins against billion-dollar corporations like the ones who opposed net neutrality.
JOHN OLIVER ON JUDGES
The majority of judges in the United States are elected. On the surface that sounds fair but as John Oliver pointedly points out (along with the laughs) on his HBO program last Sunday, it is an absurd and dangerous-to-democracy system.
HOW WE WATCH VIDEO NOWADAYS
Most of us who read this blog grew up going to the movies once a week. Today, video of all kinds is everywhere but back then, the theater was the only moving pictures we had.
"Movies were scarce and long and special and deserved our attention. TV was shorter, with commercials, but still live (now or never) and thus special,” explains Seth Godin.
“But video - video is ubiquitous and short and everywhere. You can transfer a movie or a TV show to this new medium, but it will be consumed differently.
"Everyone can publish video now, and in many ways, almost everyone is publishing video now. A video won't work because everyone watches it. It will work because the right people do, for the right reason...
"Everything that's watched has always been watched through the worldview of the watcher. And video (and before that, movies and TV) has driven the culture. That culture-driving ability now belongs to anyone who can make a video that the right people choose to watch."
It is a crucial difference from before, from when we were young, and it is crucial to understanding early 21st century culture that we understand Seth Godin's point. You can read his full blog post here. (Hat tip to Erin Read of Creating Results)
DIE MAIERS COMEDY TRAPEZE ACT
I don't recall where I found this introduction to the video but it probably helps to read it first:
”The duo’s Sabine Maier, dressed in a fussy maid’s outfit with an inextricable small purse, does one of the best deadpan acts since Buster Keaton, and she’s joined by her geeky-looking husband Joachim Mohr to perform the funniest and most surprising trapeze act within memory.”
Enjoy. (Hat tip to Darlene Costner)
The Die Maiers have a website where you can find more videos.
CABLE TV SPEEDS UP SHOWS TO CRAM IN MORE COMMERCIALS
This has been going on for years but I've never seen a graphic demonstration of it before. Joe Flint, writing in the Wall Street Journal says that the TBS network speeds up Seinfeldt 7.5 percent.
In this video comparison, the upper right screen is a feed from a Seinfeld rerun on TBS. The lower-right is a digital recording from Fox Chicago about 10 years ago played back on the same hardware. The speeded up version gains TBS almost two extra minutes for the entire episode.
For many years, an extraordinary man with a severe disability has been creating gorgeous works of art using a typewriter. You'll be amazined.
ICE CAR BUMPERS AND PENGUIN SWEATERS
With these photos, Peter Tibbles who writes Sunday's Elder Music column here, sent a twofer this week. First, an icy car bumper. As the website explains, this
”...ghostly car fender apparition that is actually a shell of ice that formed on the front of a parked Jeep.
“The most plausible theory regarding how the shell was formed suggests that the driver separated the sheet of ice from their fender when they warmed up their engine.”
Secondly, we have penguins in sweaters. Yes. Really. According to the website, the oldest man in Australia, 109-year-old Alfred Date, knits sweaters for injured penguins.
My favorite is the penguin in the Penguin Books cover sweater but Penguinman is cute too.
CROWS WHO RECIPROCATE A LITTLE GIRL'S GIFTS
Back in 2011, now eight-year-old Gabi Mann began feeding crows in her Seattle, Washington backyard. Soon, the crows were returning the favor.
”Each morning, [Gabi and her mother] fill the backyard birdbath with fresh water and cover bird-feeder platforms with peanuts. Gabi throws handfuls of dog food into the grass. As they work, crows assemble on the telephone lines, calling loudly to them.
“The crows would clear the feeder of peanuts, and leave shiny trinkets on the empty tray; an earring, a hinge, a polished rock. There wasn't a pattern. Gifts showed up sporadically - anything shiny and small enough to fit in a crow's mouth.”
And Gabby treasures every one of them. Take a look:
Here's a short video of the morning feeding.
It is well known that crows are smarter than your average bird – or even some animals. But wait until you read this part of the story:
”Lisa, Gabi's mom, regularly photographs the crows and charts their behaviour and interactions. Her most amazing gift came just a few weeks ago, when she lost a lens cap in a nearby alley while photographing a bald eagle as it circled over the neighbourhood.
“She didn't even have to look for it. It was sitting on the edge of the birdbath.
“Had the crows returned it? Lisa logged on to her computer and pulled up their bird-cam. There was the crow she suspected. 'You can see it bringing it into the yard. Walks it to the birdbath and actually spends time rinsing this lens cap.'”
There are more photos and more details to the story at the BBC. Hat tip to Cathy Johnson)
Interesting Stuff is a weekly listing of short takes and links to web items that have caught my attention; some related to aging and some not, some useful and others just for fun.
You are all encouraged to submit items for inclusion. Just click “Contact” in the upper left corner of any Time Goes By page to send them. I'm sorry that I won't have time to acknowledge receipt and there is no guarantee of publication. But when I do include them, you will be credited and I will link to your blog IF you include the name of the blog and its URL.
Friday, 27 February 2015
Crabby Old Lady on Cutting the Cable Cord
Four weeks ago, Crabby Old Lady told you about how she reduced her fixed expenses by cutting the cable TV cord after Giant Cable Company (hereinafter referred to as GCC) jacked up the monthly charge by 39 percent.
She didn't cut the cord entirely because GCC is the only broadband internet provider in Crabby's area and due to their impressively convoluted pricing schemes, the broadband service coupled with the most basic of the basic TV services is cheaper than subscribing to broadband alone.
As Crabby knew up front, without the larger GCC package she ditched, she would lose a lot of the channels she watches most frequently, and it took some ingenuity to figure out workarounds and still save enough money to be worth the effort.
She settled on Tivo so that she can record shows to time shift her viewing, kept her Netflix account, adding Hulu Plus and Amazon Prime. Altogether, she is saving $60 a month.
Not bad, but that's not why Crabby has returned to the topic today.
There is no better way to shake up one's beliefs and opinions than to change old habits and for the past four weeks Crabby has been learning new ways to find the programs she had been watching on remote control (if you will) for a long time.
Before the cord cutting, Crabby could easily find recorded shows in the on-screen list GCC provided and she usually knew without checking when new episodes would show up. Now she has had to actually think about which shows are on which services, how to navigate each one and when the programs are likely to be posted.
Oddly (or maybe not so odd), that puts even long-time favorites Crabby has watched for many years into new contexts so that she sees them in a new light which in many cases is not flattering. Here is what she has learned.
• With few exceptions, all detective/cop/mystery dramas involve a chase scene – in cars, trucks, on foot, etc. - in every single episode and often, two or three chases per episode.
• Not all, but the majority of chases end with gunfire followed by a lot of blood.
• Half or more chases also involve explosions (except at the end of the season when the production runs low on money for special effects).
• Almost all detective/cop/mystery dramas and 100 percent of medical programs involve closeups of disgusting wounds and/or surgeries.
You know what? Chases are boring. They rot your brain. They never extend the plot. They never give you additional information about the story or the characters. They are dumb, stupid and useless. And the same goes for bloody surgical scenes.
Their only purpose is as filler which is weird because actual storytelling – you know, the part with plot development and character interaction – is down to 40 minutes per hour, the rest given to commercials.
So you would think writers and producers would want to fill those precious show minutes with actual dialogue and explanation.
Crabby's realization of the repetition is new enough that she is still surprised at how a relatively minor change in her TV viewing method given her such a different perspective on today's programming, and that for too long she has been watching imaginatively threadbare shows only because she likes certain actors.
So there have been some changes chez Crabby.
Among the few that remain on her viewing list are The Good Wife, Suits, the venerable, old NCIS and Elementary - no chases or excessively icky blood in that interpretation of Sherlock Holmes.
As Crabby has explained in the past, she likes television. After all, she spent 25 years producing TV shows and she still keeps a professional eye on it.
What she has discovered now is more than disappointing, it makes her angry. The shows spend millions of dollars, they are all slickly done, the production values are there - but they are empty of thought or thoughtfulness.
At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Clifford Rothband: Chasing Rainbows
Thursday, 26 February 2015
10 Myths About Ageing
When, in 1995, I began to research what ageing is all about, there were hardly any non-academic books about it (and so it remained until 2005 when the media caught on that the oldest baby boomers were turning 60 and ageing became a hot topic).
Before the subject of ageing took off, one of the least dense, most useful books was written by a Harvard specialist in cognitive ageing, Douglas H. Powell, titled The Nine Myths of Aging. As you would expect, it refutes entrenched ideas and false beliefs that had been (and still are) prevalent about old people.
The most important myth, the one that supports all others is this: All old people are pretty much the same.
As you may have heard, if you've met one old person, you've met one old person. Way too many younger people lump us all together under whichever stereotypes about age they believe in.
But my favorite of Powell's myths is an extra, a tenth one he included: “Aging is a boring subject.” It certainly has not become so for me through these two decades.
Other writers, before and after Powell, have issued their myths of aging and although they don't usually acknowledge the lists that came before their own, they are the same - or close enough. And that is all the more reason to keep repeating them until the world gets it.
Most myths-of-aging lists contain nine or ten items. The latest book, Great Myths of Aging, contains 37. Excessive, thought I, but I like the specificity that shorter lists necessarily skim too quickly. A few of the 37:
3. Older people worry too much about falling
(no they don't)
14. Wisdom comes with age, so older adults are wise
(Not necessarily and not all of them)
29. Older workers are inferior to younger workers
(No they are not)
35. A majority of older adults end up in nursing homes and stay there until they die
(No they don't; by miles they don't)
The authors of the highly readable “New Myths” are Joan T. Erber and Lenore T. Szuchman, both professors emeritus in psychology. This week, they shortened their long list to the more traditional 10 for an article in The Guardian.
They start off with what I call the “eew” myth. “Eew” because there is not a person alive who wants to know anything at all, not a smidgen, about sex and their parents which is probably the biggest reason the majority believe “Older people lose interest in sex.” The writers explain:
”Many surveys prove this to be false. In one study, 74% of women and 72% of men aged between 75 and 85 said that satisfactory sex is essential to maintaining a relationship...
“When we desexualise older couples by calling them cute, this might be disrespectful and can result in harm, such as neglecting to educate older people about sexually transmitted diseases and failing to make privacy possible in nursing homes.”
Here they are on “Old people are stingy:”
”This negative stereotype misses the distinction between stingy and frugal. One of the difficulties older adults face after retirement is deciding how to expend their resources wisely, given the uncertainty about the amount of time those resources must last.
“Many people fear becoming financially dependent on the younger generation. Financial help often flows from the older to the younger generation (such as help with adult children’s and grandchildren’s expenses) until very late old age – hardly a sign of stinginess.”
This one, that I mentioned above, is important because it is too many elders themselves who believe it – but at their peril. “Older people worry too much about falling:”
”In reality, they may not worry enough. Each year, one out of three adults aged 65 and older experiences a fall. Up to 30% of older adults who do fall suffer moderate to severe life-changing injuries (hip fractures or head trauma, for example).
“Yet, a significant number think falling is someone else’s problem and do not recognise the precautions they should take in the home, which is where many falls occur.”
You can read the list of 10 myths at The Guardian. Although I have some quibbles with the book, they are few. It is available at all the usual outlets.
At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Henry Lowenstern: In the Morning...
Wednesday, 25 February 2015
Not Too Old for Another Surprise
Remember yesterday's post when I quoted some notes from my blog journal? Perhaps you recall reading this one:
”Sometimes I am afraid that there will be no more wonderful surprises, that the future I have left will be no different from today, yesterday and the day before.”
Well, wait till you hear this.
Yesterday morning, I drove half an hour to – well, wait a minute. Let me give you the back story.
In her old age, my mother bought coins. Gold coins, silver coins, old coins, new coins. She wasn't interested in the coins themselves; for her, they were an investment.
Mom was a child of the Great Depression and the coins, she said, were her hedge against the next one. When no one would take paper money anymore, she told me, she could always get a loaf of bread with real gold or silver.
When she died in 1992, I followed her instructions about the coins. She wanted them, especially the gold ones that were the bulk of her loot, to go to her stepson and so they did.
I've forgotten why but when he and I were cleaning out her apartment and sorting what to do with everything, he handed me the silver coins and one gold coin.
I promptly forgot about them.
Now, 23 years later, I found them when I was cleaning out a closet shelf a few weeks ago. There were about two dozen or so silver dollars, some Kennedy half dollars, a few 19th century coins of some kind and one gold Mexican coin approximately the diameter of an American nickel.
For most of this month, the coins sat around on my desk getting in the way. Apparently, Ollie the cat felt the same way; he kept knocking them onto the floor for me to pick up.
Then yesterday morning it struck me (I'm slow sometimes) that the coins might be worth a few dollars. So on a sudden whim, I stuck them in a little velvet bag I have and went off to a coin dealer's shop I recalled driving by.
Walking in, I began to feel kind of silly. What if they were worth only their face value. I hadn't counted but I guessed that would be about $50 plus whatever the gold peso coin was worth. It was almost paper thin so probably not much.
Oh well, I thought. At least they'll be off the desk.
A nice man greeted me at the counter. He consulted some books with price lists as he sorted the coins and kept a running list. In the end, the total sale price came to – wait for it - $885 and change.
Whoa ho! Who knew. I told the man the story about my mother hedging against a depression and that I'd had these coins for more than 20 years and was surprised – pleasantly – at their value.
The prices had increased a lot in the time I had held on to them, the man said (not that I recalled having them all those years). In the early nineties, they would have fetched about $200.
I was surprised again when he counted it out to me in cash money. I guess he saw the surprise on my face and offered to write a check. I decided to keep the paper – well, for as long as took me to drive to the bank.
Okay, $885 isn't like winning the Moneyball lottery, but it ain't chickenfeed either and the little savings account I keep, the one where I accumulate the funds during each year to pay the choke-inducing property tax, is now paid up for the year.
Isn't that a wonderful surprise? I had no idea anything that out of the ordinary would happen yesterday.
Of course, now I can't go around – at least for awhile – complaining about a lack of surprises in my life.
At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Joyce Benedict: Patchwork of Memories – Part 2
Tuesday, 24 February 2015
Dear Diary: Some Notes on Ageing
There is a handwritten journal I keep although, unlike the kind many others' have, the entries are undated. This latest edition is the third I have filled over 10 years (they are thick with many pages). It is my blog book, my book of ageing.
In it is a loose, running list of scribbled ideas for possible future stories along with some age-related quotations I've saved, stray thoughts I want to further consider and, sometimes, just a phrase I like. There are titles of books I intend to read (and sometimes do), movies I want to see and topics for research.
There is much more material about aging stored on my laptop – more organized too. The journal is meant to be personal, random, serendipitous, and although I regularly flip through the pages, I doubt I have used more than five or ten percent of the information on TGB.
Maybe that's because a lot of these jottings would take a great deal of development to turn into blog posts and I am lazy about that. But going through them over the weekend, I wondered what TGB readers might make of some of the thoughts – how you might run with them.
So here are a few, just as they appear on the pages of the journal:
There was so much time in youth. We were so cavalier with it. We believed for so long that goodbyes were not final. It is impossible not to know now that every goodbye might be forever.
Some rules for being old:
Own your age
Be true to yourself
Have a life, not a lifestyle
Know that living, life itself is risky
(more to come)
Elders who brag about how healthy and active they are should consider how lucky they are instead. After a certain age, we are all one broken hip or bad diagnosis away from permanent disability. Good for you in your good health but don't hold yourself up as a paragon of virtue over others less fortunate. You could join them tomorrow.
Sometimes I am afraid that there will be no more wonderful surprises, that the future I have left will be no different from today, yesterday and the day before.
”In this country, some people start being miserable about growing old while they are still young.” (Margaret Mead)
A life in old age that is honest and true and real, and that it is normal, not shameful, to be old.
At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Arlene Corwin: And the World Gets Through Its Day