Saturday, 31 January 2015
INTERESTING STUFF – 31 January 2015
RONNI HERE: In producing this Saturday list, I aim for a balance with a little something for everyone – sort of an update of an old-timey variety show from our generation's youth.
At first, this week, I thought there was too much cute animal stuff but they are all good and two of them become stale if not used before the Superbowl tomorrow. So, here goes.
AL PACINO ON GROWING OLD
A new film titled, The Humbling, is about a has-been, aging actor taken from a novel by Philip Roth starring Al Pacino who says that although he personally relates to the character in some ways, he's not ready to stop acting.
”At 74, Pacino says that at times he feels his age, reports inquirer.net “'I do feel differently. I don’t quite get up from this table the same way. I may want to but I don’t.'
“'Acting, especially if you’ve done it as long as I have,' he said, 'it becomes such a part of your nature you rarely ever think about quitting or anything like that.'”
Here's the trailer for The Humbling currently in theaters in the U.S.
DEAR KITTEN – SUPERBOWL EDITION
In case you missed it (yeah, right), the Superbowl is tomorrow. Here is an extended commercial from Friskies: the chief house cat explains the TV ritual of the annual game to the newly arrived kitten. (Hat tip to Cathy Johnson)
YOUR REPUBLICAN CONGRESS AT WORK
The Republican chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee this week named the chairs of the subcommittees. Republican Senator John Cornyn of Texas snagged the Subcommittee on the Constitution, Civil Rights and Human Rights.
Except that it's not called that anymore. Somehow, with the announcement of the new subcommittee leaders, the name got changed to the Subcommittee on the Constitution – no more civil and human rights. As Huffington Post reported,
”In his press release, Cornyn never used the phrase 'civil rights' or 'human rights.' Instead, the release said he would be a 'watchdog against unconstitutional overreach and will hold the Obama Administration accountable for its actions.'”
We can look forward in the coming months to watching how more congressional bodies become partisan arms of the Republican Party.
BUSY AS A BEAVER BUILDING A NEW DAM
That's exactly what happens here - nothing spectacular except to the extent that nature is spectacular. A beaver family rebuilding its damaged home.
THE PROBLEM WITH STUPIDITY
I have no trouble wanting to crawl under the desk and never emerge when it is pointed out to me that I have said or done something spectacularly dumb. In fact, I usually realize it even before someone tells me.
So it drives me nuts that people such as climate deniers, anti-vaxxers, too many elected officials such as Louis Gohmert and Steve King and others don't even suspect how dumb they are – so dumb that it's hard to know how they keep breathing.
Here to help me out is John Cleese explaining stupidity in less than one minute – and a fine job he does of it.
DOG HELPS CAT
From TGB reader Alan Goldsmith, here is a lovely, little example of interspecies kindness.
UPDATE 6:30AM PST: My apologies if you can't watch this video. The license states that it's public but now I can't view it. On the other hand, maybe it's fine - this is, unfortunately, not a perfect medium.
IT'S NOT CHOCOLATE ANYMORE
And probably hasn't been for a long time.
Just a week ago, I did something I allow only about once a year: I bought a Hershey's chocolate bar with almonds. (Since I lost 40 pounds, certain things are mostly gone from my life.
I love chocolate. I grew up eating many kinds but Hershey's chocolate bars with almonds were my favorite. Nowadays, I like other chocolate even better but Hershey's has been with me all my life and it all but leaped off the shelf into my basket at the supermarket checkout stand that day.
After dinner, I sat down to savor that old favorite and was mightily disappointed. It wasn't as satisfying, it didn't taste quite right and I wondered if I had finally outgrown Hershey's for more sophisticated types of chocolate. Within a day or two, I read this:
”'Chocolate in Britain has a higher fat content; the first ingredient listed on a British Cadbury’s Dairy Milk (plain milk chocolate) is milk. In an American-made Cadbury’s bar, the first ingredient is sugar...' "The ingredients they're using for American Cadbury candy not only affects the taste, it changes what we call the 'mouth feel.'" writes Susie Madrack at Crooks and Liars. “It feels more like a mouthful of Crisco, and not the pure melting goodness of quality chocolate.”
The reasons for the difference, explains Ms. Madrack, relate to Hershey's and Archer Daniels Midland lobbying the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) “to permit them to change the essential ingredients and substitute chocolate flavoring, yet still label candy 'chocolate.'"
Read the whole sorry story here.
BRIGHT OLD THINGS
In 2011 and each year since then, Selfridges department store in England has highlighted young creative talent with their Bright Young Things sales promotion. This year, they have turned the tables:
”Bright Old Things is our celebration of the retirement renaissance. In collaboration with illustrator and director Todd Selby, we introduce 14 inspirational individuals who have created a new vocation for themselves in later life.”
Here's the video about them (Hat tip to TGB reader, Sandra Mosely):
It's a fun collection of old folks doing interesting things. However, I feel obliged to point out that every “celebration” of elders who remake themselves in old age - there are many – honors only those in the arts: painting, music, writing, design, sculpting hedges into elephants, etc.
If you are not talented in those mostly graphical ways, you are no less worthy of attention in old age.
You can read more here about the elders and Selfridges' campaign.
PUPPY/CLYDESDALE SUPERBOWL FRIENDSHIP
For the second year in a row, Budweiser set out to break our hearts and bring a tear. They have succeeded again:
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, 30 January 2015
Elder Adoption of Technology – Or Not
There is no argument about it: the development of technology in our lifetime is nothing less that astounding. Sometimes, I think, we've become so accustomed to it that we forget there is no essential difference between modern digital technology and magic.
Information flits through the air – even into to space and back - in nanoseconds and the toys - the laptops, tablets, phablets, phones, etc. - are not only irresistable in design and function, they are useful (and playful) in a zillion ways.
It is well-known that old people – you and me – need more time than young people to become proficient with these amazing gadgets. Kids do it with such ease that ten years ago, I imagined babies had begun entering the world carrying miniature computer mice in their tiny, little hands; today, I suspect it is teeny smartphones instead.
So much are tech gadgets a young person's game that we old folks are the default target of jokes – of both mean and kindly types – about how backward we are with modern technology.
Take smartphones. Last year, Pew Research published a survey on smartphone ownership. Although 74 percent of people 65 and older owned a mobile phone, only 19 percent of that age group owned a smartphone.
Of the youngest group, 18–29, 83 percent owned a smartphone. 74 percent of the next age group, 30-49, had smartphones and nearly half, 49 percent of the next age group, 50-64, owned one.
Among the hundreds of things smartphones can do, the latest big deal, what will be a life changer, is that they are beginning to take the place of physical money.
Tens of millions of us already pay bills via the ether from our home computers. Soon we will pay for our groceries and everything else with just a wave of our phone in front of a reader at the checkout counter.
I don't like this idea at all because it's too easy to overspend when I can't see how much money remains in my wallet. But I will adapt when I must because there will be no other choice - it is too logical and too convenient not to happen, and probably fairly soon.
Yesterday, a TGB reader emailed wondering if we shouldn't have a discussion about how some elders say they hate the internet, don't use computers or smartphones but benefit from them via their friends.
You know the types: I'm doing just fine without the internet, they say. What do I need a computer for? I don't need to talk on the telephone when I'm not at home.
Said TGB reader had had a recent encounter bailing out a friend who had forgotten to bring crucial information they needed for the day's undertaking. She found it on the internet via her smartphone and was annoyed that her companion refuses to have one.
I am of two minds about adopting technology. Smartphones in particular are pricey items and except for three or four functions, I could get by with a clamshell. But I do treasure those few services I use: driving navigation, a public transportation app that tells me within a few seconds when a bus will arrive and – don't laugh, the flashlight is remarkably handy. I use it a lot.
And for me, too, people without computers can be incredibly annoying as when I had a regular newsletter to get out. Each month, I had to backtime myself to account for them receiving it via postal mail, and do that separate paper mailing with envelopes and stamps and stuff.
What is important to remember, however, is that many old people, retired people, never learned computers at work because their jobs didn't require it or they left the workforce before computers were adopted at their job (smartphones are “just” little computers).
But, many of you will say, how hard could it be to learn. You do just fine without really understanding much of how a computer works. You handle several kinds of programs and/or apps and over time, you've learned what to do when thing screw up.
It is important to remember that you didn't learn that overnight and you may have forgotten what a mystery even the smallest functions were when you first began, and how long it took (often through trial and painful error when you wanted to smash the screen with your fist) to become comfortable with what can still be touchy machines.
Already, there are young adults who have never known life without computers and barely without cell or smartphones, and there is no going back.
So, too, in the not too distant future, all the old people who either fumble around or refuse to engage with new technology entirely, will all be dead and the refusnik problem won't exist anymore.
At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Mickey Rogers: A Bad Day
Thursday, 29 January 2015
Accepting the Difficulties of Growing Old
File this post under Ronni was too weary and/or lazy to write on Wednesday. It happens to all of us, you know.
I own an elegant, little easel frame. It is quite small – about two-and-a-half by three inches or so – and quite simple: a stand, a fairly thick piece of glass and a little metal clip to hold it together.
For the past year I have been using it to display quotations – one at a time - that inspire me about this stage of life most of us at this blog are moving through. The frame sits in one the cubbies directly above my desk (where I seem to spend most of my time) so that I can see the quotation and ponder it when I look up from whatever I'm doing.
It can't be any old quotation. It must be something that bears consideration over time, something that needs more than the gulp of one swift read to absorb and make my own.
With every reading, the current quotation becomes more an inspiration to keep on keeping on.
Until the time comes to stop.
Undoubtedly that is too hard to see. Here is a easier read:
”In spite of illness, inspite even of the archenemy sorrow, one can remain alive long past the usual date of disintegration if one is unafraid of change, insatiable in intellectual curiosity, interested in big things, and happy in small ways.”
It is from Edith Wharton's autobiography, A Backward Glance, published in 1934, three years before she died at age 75 – not much more than a year older that I am now.
Thanks to Project Gutenberg of Australia, you can read the book online here.
At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Marc Leavitt: On Late Romance
Wednesday, 28 January 2015
Social Life in Old Age
It has become a tenet of old age that without plenty of friends and family, and an active social life, we are doomed to die before our time.
In fact, one study, as reported in The Guardian last year, went so far as to state that loneliness is twice as unhealthy for old people as obesity:
“Compared with the average person in the study, those who reported being lonely had a 14% greater risk of dying. The figure means that loneliness has around twice the impact on an early death as obesity.”
Now, one research project does not a verdict make; such studies are an indication to be further confirmed but they are still worth a tentative consideration until proven or not and in this case, the study results confirm what aging experts have always said – loneliness is bad for elders' physical and mental health.
Now there is a new study that appears to refute last year's report. From The Independent:
The researchers, from McGill University in Canada, examined the widely held assumption that social contact – or the lack of it – is linked to mortality.
They analysed almost 100 studies (involving 400,000 people from 17 countries, including the UK) of “social contact frequency” – defined as the frequency of social interactions with others...
“Our findings show a minimal effect of social contact frequency on mortality and call into question interventions and clinical advice that simply seek to increase one’s social contact frequency,” said Dr Eran Shor, who led the study.
Shor notes that he and his colleagues are not suggesting the lack of a vibrant social life is a good thing but that any connection to early death for lack of is it “misplaced.”
Because research studies rarely compare apples and apples, let us be clear that there is a big difference between liking to have a lot of time alone and loneliness. Nevertheless, this new study of studies does call into question the certainty of many aging experts about the negative health results of being alone.
These ideas for and against the importance of loneliness in old age are tangentially related to our discussion last week about growing old without a partner or romantic interest.
The majority commenters said living alone was mostly good and quite a few thought that the effort required to possibly find a late-life romantic partner is greater than they want to make.
It was an excellent conversation and today, since you guys are my (unscientific) research group on all things aging, let's see what we think about the need – or not – of a busy social life.
At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Harry Lowenstern: Future Shock
Tuesday, 27 January 2015
New Clues for the Internet and You
In 1999, four middle-ish-aged guys who were stars in the development of the still-emergent internet wrote a book about how the internet, an amazing global “conversation” platform whereby individuals could share information at blinding speeds that gave them, us – we the people - a kind of power never before available was being misunderstood and misused mostly to sell stuff.
Christopher Locke, Doc Searls, Rick Levine and Dave Weinberger were pissed off enough to write book. It was/is 95 theses called The Cluetrain Manifesto and it exploded on the scene in controversy.
I recall everybody in the internet world I knew online and off, talking about it. “Cluetrain” was a big topic at the websites where I worked – coworkers arguing, debating, agreeing and disagreeing. There was a lot of lively conversation for a long time.
These four guys were warning us that corporations were turning the internet into a one humongous shopping mall that could throttle the freedom it was bringing to the masses.
Of course, I hoped that wouldn't happen and now that I'm thinking about it again, I'm rather pleased that this blog, which doesn't sell anything except ideas about growing old, may be a pretty good example of the best of what the web can be.
Anyway. Back to the story.
Were these men, in a country as capitalist as the U.S. being idealistic? You bet. To give you a feel for it, here is a handful of those original 95 theses:
• Markets consist of human beings, not demographic sectors.
• Companies need to come down from their Ivory Towers and talk to the people with whom they hope to create relationships.
• Human communities are based on discourse—on human speech about human concerns.
• We are immune to advertising. Just forget it.
• If you want us to talk to you, tell us something. Make it something interesting for a change.
It struck me then as it still does that if you remove the business references, all 95 theses are pretty good lessons for humans to live by.
So here we are 16 years later and two of the original authors, Doc Searls and David Weinberger, now both in their seventh decade of life, have looked around the internet and again, they are not pleased.
In addition to the corporations, they tell us, there are new dangers that can take away our web.
”It has been sixteen years since our previous communication,” they write.
“In that time the People of the Internet — you and me and all our friends of friends of friends, unto the last Kevin Bacon — have made the Internet an awesome place, filled with wonders and portents...
“Now two more hordes threaten all that we have built for one another.
“The Marauders understand the Internet all too well. They view it as theirs to plunder, extracting our data and money from it, thinking that we are the fools.
“But most dangerous of all is the third horde: Us.”
Searls and Weinberger go on to remind us that mass media is the least of the Web's powers and we should not lean back and consume only the junk food of entertainment while the Marauders steal our valuables:
”An organ-by-organ body snatch of the Internet is already well underway,” they warn. ”Make no mistake: with a stroke of a pen, a covert handshake, or by allowing memes to drown out the cries of the afflicted we can lose the Internet we love.
“We come to you from the years of the Web's beginning. We have grown old together on the Internet. Time is short.”
All that is from the introduction to an update of The Cluetrain Manifesto titled New Clues wherein Searls and Weinberger give us 121 New Clues.
Here are clues 28 through 32:
• 28. The Web is an impossibly large, semi-persistent realm of items discoverable in their dense inter-connections.
• 29. That sounds familiar. Oh, yeah, that's what the world is.
• 30. Unlike the real world, every thing and every connection on the Web was created by some one of us expressing an interest and an assumption about how those small pieces go together.
• 31. Every link by a person with something to say is an act of generosity and selflessness, bidding our readers leave our page to see how the world looks to someone else.
• 32. The Web remakes the world in our collective, emergent image.
In the ten years I worked at websites I was, in addition to my "regular" job, the privacy officer, although no one took my concerns seriously. Hardly anyone cared about privacy then (pre-2005) and not enough do now. Here, from New Clues, is the entire section on “Privacy in an age of spies” – the Marauders of which the men spoke in the introduction above:
• 84. Ok, government, you win. You've got our data. Now, what can we do to make sure you use it against Them and not against Us? In fact, can you tell the difference?
• 85. If we want our government to back off, the deal has to be that if — when — the next attack comes, we can't complain that they should have surveilled us harder.
• 86. A trade isn't fair trade if we don't know what we're giving up. Do you hear that, Security for Privacy trade-off?
• 87. With a probability approaching absolute certainty, we are going to be sorry we didn't do more to keep data out of the hands of our governments and corporate overlords.
I have written so much longer than I usually do because what Doc Searls and David Weinberger have created with New Clues call to action is critical to our future.
I cannot imagine life without the internet.
I cannot imagine being old without the internet.
I cannot imagine being without the friends I would never have known without the internet.
It would be so much harder to learn anything, to learn anything at all, without the internet as it is supposed to be, as it should be, as Searls and Weinberger are reminding us it can be.
Please go read all of New Clues for yourself. You will be enlightened and, I hope, inspired to post it or send it around widely. It is an open source document you are free to share and re-use without permission.
At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Clifford Rothband: Material Things
Monday, 26 January 2015
Old People's Sense of Time or
[EDITORIAL NOTE: As far as I know, the following has no basis in fact and may or may not be related to age (although I believe it is). It is no more than my observation of a personal quirk over – ahem, SOME period of time, the amount of which I cannot be certain.
For most of my life, when I used the word “recent” or “recently,” the target point in time was at least within hailing distance. I meant a few weeks at most or, depending on context, it might have been an entire year but unlikely to be more than that.
Nowadays there is no telling what I mean. A couple of weeks ago, in a telephone conversation with an old friend, I mentioned a restaurant where we'd had dinner on one of my “recent” trips to New York.
“Recent?” she said. “Ronni, that was in 2008.”
I did a quick calculation and came up with seven years. It didn't feel like that long ago or, at least, not what I think seven years should feel like.
Something similar happened just this Saturday. I ran across a reference to the animated film, Monsters, Inc., and was surprised to notice it was released in 2001. I know I saw it when it was first in theaters and if you had asked me when that was, I would have said, oh about 2008, maybe 2010.
I can give you dozens of such instances but the point is that some (unknown) while ago, my perception of time became more flexible than it had been in my past and maybe more than others experience.
Many years ago (I do know that it was decades ago because of a roll top desk I gave away to S in 1985 or '86), I taped to said desk a fortune cookie I'd received that resonated: “Time is nature's way of making sure everything doesn't happen at once.”
I like playing with that idea and in my more whimsical moments I have always sort of, kinda, maybe believed it. Yes, I realize that such a belief involves some philosophical acrobatics on the question of free will, but just go with me on this, okay?
That fortune cookie slip of paper left my home with the desk, but the “wisdom” has remained with me and it now feels related to the new-ish plasticity of my sense of time.
I'm capable lately (whatever that word means to me these days), of being shocked at how long ago 1990, for example, was. It “feels” like that year was relatively “recently” but it is actually, now, a quarter of a century ago.
And when you put it that way, I feel something like Rip Van Winkle must have. How could that much time have gone by since a year that contained some events I remember quite vividly?
So far, this time slippage works only in the direction I have described – that I am surprised at how many years have passed, not how few. I have yet to say, “That was only last year? I thought it was ten years ago.”
In the greater scheme of things this doesn't matter. I keep a calendar, as I always have, so I do show up on time although I occasionally wonder at how much more time than I realized there has been between visits or phone calls, even emails, with friends. But it doesn't impede my life.
Having zero information on which to base my thinking, I suspect this fluidity of time is related to growing old. Who knows? Maybe it is harder for the brain to parse time after X number of years of living.
There are those who will say it's just another way to look at the phenomenon of time seeming to move faster as we age. I certainly experience that but these little events feel different to me, a little more cosmic – more in line with that fortune cookie I saved for years.
At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Peter Tibbles: Why I'm Watching the Australian Open
Sunday, 25 January 2015
ELDER MUSIC: The Impressions, Etc.
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.
The Impressions were usually thought of as a trio but at times the number in the group has gone as high as five or more. The trio version consisted of Curtis Mayfield, Sam Gooden and Fred Cash.
The group started out when old friends Curtis and Jerry Butler formed a DooWop group called The Roosters with Sam and Richard Brooks and his brother Arthur. When they got a record deal they changed their name to Jerry Butler and the Impressions thus, to my mind, signaling that Jerry wasn't really in it for the long haul.
And so it proved although, to be fair, the name was the record company's idea.
While still with the group, Jerry sang lead on Your Precious Love, a song he wrote. As mentioned, it was released under the name JERRY BUTLER & THE IMPRESSIONS in 1958.
Some have suggested that this was the first soul record. Not too far off the mark.
When Jerry left to become a solo artist, Curtis toured with him as guitarist and songwriter. He (Curtis) was lured back to The Impressions where he took over the reins as lead singer. He was also the guitarist, main songwriter and arranger as well.
He had a distinctive high tenor voice that complemented the deeper voices of Sam and Fred. Here they are, just as THE IMPRESSIONS with I'm the One Who Loves You.
Okay, if you're even vaguely familiar with The Impressions, here's the song you've been waiting for.
Their best known, and their best song by far, and one of the classic songs of our era, People Get Ready. Curtis sang lead and played guitar with Fred and Sam contributing beautifully to the mix. Even this grumpy old non-believer is inspired by this song.
One of JERRY BUTLER's early hits as a solo performer was
Jerry wrote the song with Curtis and Calvin Carter, and Curtis sang harmony The song has been covered a number of times but no version is a patch on the original.
I've Been Loving You Too Long was written by Otis Redding and Jerry Butler.
Otis had the first version and (unarguably) the best. Jerry recorded it as well and his version is nearly, almost, just about as good as Otis's and coming from me, that's a huge call.
The famed songwriting team of Kenny Gamble and Leon Huff along with Jerry Butler wrote the song, Hey, Western Union Man.
This is a song that's been covered by a number of people and is one of the standard songs in any aspiring soul band's repertoire. Jerry does it best though.
Just after leaving The Impressions, CURTIS MAYFIELD recorded the album “Superfly,” a soundtrack for the film of that name.
It was very successful and extremely influential. It also prompted Curtis to create several more soundtrack albums. None was as good or as influential as the first one. Here is Superfly from the album and film of the same name.
We're A Winner was one of a succession of singles Curtis Mayfield wrote for The Impressions.
Here he performs that song.
In 1990, Curtis was paralyzed from the neck down when stage lights fell on him at a concert where he was performing. From then on he was unable to play guitar but he could still write songs. He could sing too, with some difficulty, and even recorded an album.
He eventually had to have his leg amputated and died in 1999 of various complications brought on by the accident.
A couple more songs with the Curtis, Sam and Fred version of The Impressions. First is I Need Your Love.
Next, The Impressions with Love's A Comin'.