Saturday, 22 November 2014

INTERESTING STUFF – 22 November 2014


Back in the 1950s, there was a chilling and deservedly famous Alfred Hitchcock Presents TV episode about a man, played by Joseph Cotton, so paralyzed in an accident that the coroner believes he is dead. Recently, that really happened to a woman in Poland:

”Officials say Janina Kolkiewicz, 91, was declared dead after an examination by the family doctor. However, mortuary staff were astonished to notice movement in her body bag while it was in storage.

“The police have launched an investigation. Back home, Ms Kolkiewicz warmed up with a bowl of soup and two pancakes.

In response, The Guardian published a story telling us such an occurrence isn't all that uncommon. You can read about that here.


It has been an unusual weather week in the U.S. with some areas getting eight and even nine FEET of snow in only a day or two.

TGB reader Celia sent a video from a year ago about another kind of usual weather event I'd never heard of – an ice tsunami. Take a look at this news report and maybe, if you have a lake shore house, you'll be rethinking that.


As you know from a post here a few days ago, the G20 summit was held last week in Brisbane, Australia. I don't know why, but the 20 heads of state took a break at one point for hugs and cuddles with koala bears. Here's U.S. President Barack Obama.


You an see more koalas with more G20 leaders here.


But don't you believe him. As I've noted here throughout the first season of his new HBO show, Last Week Tonight, he's doing better in-depth reporting that most official news outlets.

Last week, David Carr of The New York Times interviewed Oliver about this:

”So, I asked Mr. Oliver [wrote Carr]: Is he engaging in a kind of new journalism? He muttered an oath, the kind he can say on HBO for comic emphasis, but we don’t say here, adding, 'No!'

“'We are making jokes about the news and sometimes we need to research things deeply to understand them,' [said Oliver[ 'but it’s always in service of a joke. If you make jokes about animals, that does not make you a zoologist. We certainly hold ourselves to a high standard and fact-check everything, but the correct term for what we do is comedy.'”

If you say so, Mr. Oliver. You can read more of the interview here. Last Week Tonight will return to HBO on 8 February 2015.


Unexpectedly – to myself anyway – I have a soft spot for marching bands. There's a movie about one titled Drumline that I can't resist every time it turns up on television. I've seen it or parts of it at least half a dozen times.

This past week, Darlene Costner sent a video of a marching band called Top Secret Drum Corps from Basel, Switzerland. They are spectacular and have won a boatload of competitions. Take a look.

You can read about the Top Secret Drum Corp at Wikipedia.


Senator Bernie Sanders told CNN this week that he thinks we may have reached a “tipping point” where only billionaires will have a say in who gets elected. Take a look at the video; the topic begins at about 1:40 in.


Even Senator Sanders could be wrong about billionaire elections. Here is Bill Maher last week on why voting is crucial.


To continue today's semi-theme of life for ordinary people under the thumb of billionaires, The Los Angeles Times this week announced it was killing all paid vacation and sick days for its staff.

”Starting January 1, staffers will no longer be able to bank vacation — because they won't automatically earn or be entitled to any vacation, sick days or floating holidays.

“To get any time off, a reporter or editor will have to go to a supervisor and make a case 'subject to their professional judgment and to the performance expectations of their supervisor that apply to their job.'

“In one stroke, vacation time and sick days become a management tool to monitor and reward or punish performance...”

You can read the whole sorry story here.


Apparently there is a group of people called Hello Denizen who post videos of teeny tiny things. I'm not entirely sure what it's about.

However, this turned up on my radar so in keeping with the upcoming holiday, here are three hamsters and a chinchilla feasting on what is described as “a proper Thanksgiving dinner, complete with a tiny turkey, mashed potatoes, stuffing and pies.”

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 probably 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.

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Friday, 21 November 2014

The Gift of Freedom in the Third Act of Life

”I’ve learned my lines. The house lights have dimmed and I’ve just walked center stage for the third act of the play I started writing long ago. And within the physical, economic and intellectual framework of being an 'old guy,' the third act is full of opportunity to grow, acting on my own terms, at my own pace.

That's Marc Leavitt talking. You know him – he is a regular contributor to The Elder Storytelling Place and he blogs at Marc Leavitt's Blog.

His declaration was contained in an email exchange between us about freedom in old age that began when Marc wrote:

”One aspect of The Third Act that old people underplay, is the gift of freedom from the banal exigencies of daily life.

“When I get up on the morning after a heavy blizzard and look out the window at the pure, clean expanse of snow, trees and bushes heavy with last night’s results, I smile, and take another sip of strong, black coffee, and turn on NPR for background noise while I ponder my plans for the day.”

Yessss. As I've mentioned here in the past, in the near 50 years of my working life, I mostly had fascinating jobs I was eager to get to each day. But the regimentation, the morning schedule to shower, dress, feed the cat, gulp of coffee and get to the subway – well, I always wished for more flexibility and more time to myself.

The funny thing is now that I've got all the flexibility I want, I still maintain a morning routine and it's not all that different except for the subway. The important difference is that it is all my choice these days.

Marc continues by recounting the stuff he doesn't do anymore:

”I haven’t shaved in nearly a decade, and I’m not going outside to shovel out my car and slip and slide my way to a job that someone else is welcome to.

“No need to make nice to that silly pompous bastard down the hall; no need to pretend interest in which team is going to the Super Bowl, or listen to the back-biting remarks that pass for conversation in the office.”

Me too. Nowadays, I'm learning to walk away when whatever it is isn't engaging, amusing or fulfilling anymore. That can be as simple as not finishing a book that doesn't grab me enough or as complex as leaving behind a person who causes more pain than companionship.

That doesn't mean there are no obligations. Only that I can choose them for myself now and, as Marc says, I no longer need to pretend to care when I don't.

I can't speak for you, but I know that until Marc mentioned it, I had not appreciated enough this gift of freedom that arrived unexpectedly with old age.

At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Chlele Gummer: Episode at Michael's

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Thursday, 20 November 2014

Three Generations Under One Roof

When I was kid growing up in Portland, Oregon during the post World War II era, it was not unusual for my friends to have a grandparent or two living with them.

Some of that elder generation were healthy, some needed care and I was accustomed, when I phoned to see if a friend could play, to hear that he or she had to stay home to help “care for gramps.”

In the decades since then, multiple generations in the same living space has become rare. One of the obvious manifestations of this is how tablet manufacturers commonly advertise their wi-fi products by showing how easy it is for grandparents to have video visits with the grandchildren who live hundreds or thousands of miles away.

Now, that may be changing.

According to a story at MarketWatch by Amy Hoak, more aging parents are moving in with their adult children:

”While much has been written about millennial children boomeranging back to live with their parents,” writes Ms. Hoak, “there’s another group of people who have been quietly doubling up: baby boomers and their own aging parents.

“And some expect this particular trend to hold even with an improving economy, as people live longer and require more care at the end of their lives.”

In an example of one family, Hoek explains that leaving their senior community to move in with their children freed up money to pay for live-in caregivers for the elder couple during the week.

The real-estate website Trulia has reported on an increase in the share of seniors living with relatives over the past 20 years.

Some of this, according to Trulia, is driven by the fact

”'...that more seniors today are foreign born, and that the average age of seniors has increased,' said Jed Kolko, Trulia’s chief economist. Today there are more 80-somethings than in the past, he said.

“'This is not a story about the housing bust. The increase of seniors living with relatives is a long-term demographic shift,' he said.

“Six percent of U.S.-born seniors live with relatives, while 25% of foreign-born seniors live with relatives. For those born in countries including India, Vietnam, Haiti and the Philippines, the share of seniors living with relatives is even higher than that, he added.”

Hoek notes that there has also been an recent increase in separate “in-law suites” in homes and my own research has noted a similar uptick in attached and detached “granny flats” to house families' eldest generation, along with changes in local ordinances to allow this kind of renovation and new construction.

One granny flat I have visited in my neck of the woods is free-standing, one- bedroom a few feet from the main house that is about 800 square feet. Before our visit, the owner cautioned me that it is small but that's a relative judgment.

This is a suburban area of mostly single family homes. Such a lovely living space in New York these days would rent for $6,000 or more a month.

Whatever the individual arrangements and for whatever reasons, a return to multi-generational homes seems like a win to me. It saves money, the parents and grandparents can help one another as time and need require, the children benefit from the love and devotion of their grandparents.

Certainly, conflicts would arise and need to be managed but with patience and kindness people who love one another should be able to work that out.

Who knows, if this idea catches on, perhaps in 50 years or so, your grandchildren will be telling people that when they were kids, they and plenty of their friends had grandparents lived with them. Just like me when I was growing up.

Do any of you have experience with kind of living yet? If not, do you think it would work for you and your family?

At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Joyce Benedict: The Master's Touch

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Wednesday, 19 November 2014

Old- and New-Fashioned Spelling

From the strong responses to my past posts (well, mostly rants), about the general decline of writing skills, I am assuming today that a lot of TGB readers care about proper spelling, grammar, punctuation, usage, etc.

It seems to me to become more evident every day that such concerns will die out with us, that a growing number of people who make their living with words no longer care and that includes some of the most prestigious publications - for example, The New York Times.

There was a time not so long ago that even simple typos were rarities in newspapers and magazines and hardly ever appeared in books. Of course, we all know that money-saving cutbacks account for many of those typos, misspellings and other language errors now that there are hardly any copy editors left.

The worst part of poor writing for you and me is how it mangles the information. Does that misplaced modifier refer to the subject or the object? It shouldn't be my job as a reader to stop my flow of information gathering to try to work that out but these days, that's how it it goes, apparently without concern on the parts of the writers and publications.

There are more dramatic language mistakes – nay, insults – that are becoming more acceptable. My personal bugaboo has been turning up way too frequently in the past couple of years.

Publicists regularly send me queries regarding books, movies, infographics, etc. along with scientific, medical, political and other kinds of reports that are relevant (well, sometimes) to growing old that they would like me to write about.

The most common problem for me is that the publicist is not familiar enough with the material to cogently explain it in the email message so that my choice is to root around online to see if I can find more information or just hit delete. Usually, it is the latter.

But that irritation has been almost routine for a long time. Now I am getting pitches, often from big-time public relations firms, that include some sentences that look like this:

"wud u b intrstd in intrvuing this writr?”

Text speak is becoming business speak and as my father and Jack Paar were each fond of saying, I kid you not.

Now and then I have been tempted to forward such messages to an officer of the company. But then I remind myself that, offended as I may be, it's not my job to police the language and it would be futile to try.

However, even with all this quacking of mine about lowered standards, I enjoy how the internet - where it's easy now to be on speaking terms, as it were, with website publications from around the world - is changing the English language and I how we relate to it.

As George Bernard Shaw (or Oscar Wilde or Winston Churchill – take your pick, no one knows) once said, “England and America are two countries separated by the same language.”

Here are examples that demonstrate some of the types of differences between English and American spelling (and Australia which most often sides with England) – Brit first, then American:


Spelling differences came to mind when I was preparing yesterday's post quoting Norma, who lives in Australia and used the spelling tyre that in the U.S. would be tire.

(Now here's a question for Norma or other British/Australians reading this: If you are talking about being fatigued instead of a wheel, is it still spelt(!) tyre?)

American punctuation, too, is often different from British/Australian which leaves the period off abbreviated titles so that although there is Mr., Mrs. and Dr. in the U.S., there is Mr, Mrs and Dr in England and Australia.

When Peter Tibbles first started writing the Sunday Elder Music column a few years ago, I had to decide whether to “correct” his Australian spelling and other usage. It was a no brainer: anyone in any country in the world can read this blog so of course, what is correct language use in Australia would remain in his columns.

What I like after 20-odd years of getting most of my information from the internet is that I am no longer surprised by alternate spellings. There was a time when “gaol” intrigued me in British writing.

When I encountered it, I often stopped for a moment to savor such a interesting configuration of letters to mean what I believe “jail” does. Now my eyes skip past it as quickly as if it were my native spelling.

Due to the internet, I suspect we will all become accustomed to differing spellings and other usages, and that English-speaking countries' language idiosyncrasies will gradually meld together. I've already begun to adopt a few British/Australian ways of language.

Awhile back, a reader (obviously American) took me to task for using the spelling “ageing” instead of “aging.” It was purposeful on my part that day. I have never liked “aging” - it looks to me like it has something to do with agriculture. The British “ageing" seems the better choice.

British spelling often keeps the final “e” when adding “ing” to words that American spelling does not. But the more I see that “e,” in British/Australian writing, the more it makes sense to me. So I've been using “ageing” lately – at least when I remember to do so.

Of course, it's perfectly all right for me to be creative with spelling that is correct in a couple of other well-known countries of the world. It's just not okay for young PR people to use text speak in business communications. Right?

(Wikipedia has a well-done article on the differences between U.S. and British/Australian spelling.)

At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Antonia Albany: Love in Paris

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Tuesday, 18 November 2014

Let's Take a Break From Ageing Stuff Today

This post has nothing to do with getting old, nothing at all. I need a day or two off from all that so here's some entertainment for you relevant to world affairs.

Don't you dare yawn. Please. You're gonna love this. You're even likely to laugh.

As you know, President Barack Obama has just returned from a week of high-level meetings in Asia culminating over the weekend in the annual gathering of the Group of 20, also known as just G20, (the organization of 19 industrial and emerging-market countries plus the European Union) held this year in Brisbane, Australia.

A couple of days ago, I received a chatty email from my Aussie friend, Norma – you know her (if you've been reading here for a while) as the assistant musicologist who contributes to Peter Tibbles' Sunday Elder Music column. You might also recall that not long ago Norma and Peter visited me here in the U.S. (and cooked up some wonderful meals for us).

Norma agreed to let me post part of her email about the local news leading up to the G20 summit. She tells it in the typically dry style of Aussie humor. As you read this, you might want to keep in mind the recent spree of Secret Service security lapses at America's own White House.

”Special security laws include bans around the venues on surfboards (??), whips & cattle-prods (fair enough, but do Brisbanites normally carry cattle-prods?), reptiles (don't take your crocs or tiger snakes out for their walks), tin cans, glass bottles, eggs (I wondered about taking groceries home from the supermarket, but it's OK if you're taking the eggs home to make an omelette – I hadn't thought of freezing them to use as projectiles until the police chief explained the rules).

“One of the $million bombproof limos, designed to withstand AK-47 fire and with nail-proof tyres, turned out not to be proof against rear-ending by a truck. Oops! A write-off!

“Not much discussion about Obama having 2 military helicopters flying over the city though. They did do a trial run landing at a rugby field near the venues.

“Brisbane is in a severe drought so the rugby field was bone-dry, and the dust thrown up by the chopper brought traffic to a standstill on the adjacent freeway. That's what I call a dry-run.”

Norma's recital of official silliness concluded by noting that in a much more sensible approach to security, German Chancellor Angela Merkel “took her bodyguards out for a pub-crawl to meet some locals and look for some German beer.”

All this reminded Norma of what she calls one of Australia's finest comedy moments and – oh boy, there is no way I could disagree. What you might want to know before you watch:

  • It was produced by and for The Chasers War on Everything, a satirical television show that was broadcast in Australia for three years until 2009
  • The show was controversial and some of the members were arrested now and then
  • This stunt took place in and around the APEC summit in Sydney in 2007, when George W. Bush was U.S. president and Osama bin Laden was still alive

According to Wikipedia, where you can read more about The Chasers War on Everything, two Chasers members, Chas Licciardello and Julian Morrow, were arrested with nine of their crew members on 6 September 2007 for – well, doing what you just watched in the video.

Due to the incompetence of the police, all charges were dropped the following year. Wikipedia has an extensive and exhaustive article about the stunt and its aftermath.

In today's messy, frightening world, we could use a lot more of this kind of humor. Thank you, Norma.

At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Marc Leavitt: Over the Hill

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Monday, 17 November 2014

Elders' Companion Pets

When I say I wish I could have stayed in bed, you know the kind of day I'm talking about – we all wind up there now and then. It happened to me last Thursday.

First thing, 5AM, Ollie the cat was obviously sick and in pain. Because his symptoms were not much different from what happened to one of my cats 40 years ago, I guessed it was a blocked urethra and eventually the veterinarian confirmed that amateur diagnosis.

But it was six hours until the appointment with her during which time, Ollie suffered, occasionally making the most amazing hooting sound that I assume means, “Damn, that hurts.”

Almost simultaneously, something went wrong with my left eye. There was an array of shimmering sparklies in front of it and because this was similar to a (minor) retinal problem I experience last year, I called the eye doctor. An appointment was arranged for a couple of hours following Ollie's vet appointment.

It was necessary for Ollie to spend the night at the veterinary clinic so I left him in their good hands and drove to the eye doctor.

(Did I mention this was the worst weather day of the season so far? The temperature hovered around freezing all day with sleet raining down thousands of tiny, little pieces of ice onto my windshield as I drove the slick streets to these errands?)

The shimmeries had disappeared by the time I saw the eye doctor. He made a thorough check and said all was fine so there was nothing to do but shrug. He told me that although there are other causes, it can be brought on by stress but such a manifestation doesn't usually happen to people my age.

Hmmph. The veterinarian had said to me, this rarely happens to cats as old as Ollie.

I don't know if there is any significance to those two statements coming back to back on the same day.

It was strange and a lonely to be in the house without Ollie. It may never have happened before; I might be wrong but I don't recall an overnight vet visit before.

I walked into the kitchen to give him dinner before I remembered he wasn't home. He wasn't there to pester me as usual about going to bed on his schedule and I woke a couple of times during the night wishing for his warm, heavy body leaning against my legs or back.

In the morning, I had to wake up on my own instead of that furry, little paw poking my cheek or forehead. I might have been relieved to sleep in past 5AM but I wasn't. I missed Ollie.

For some elders, their companion pets are the closest friends they have and Ollie is right up there with some of the humans I hold dear. Many different studies confirm that pet ownership contributes to healthier lives for elders. Among the advantages:

  • Pet owners suffer less long-term depression and greater levels of overall happiness than those without pets.
  • Pets are natural stress reducers, leading to decreased blood pressure, less muscle tension and a lower resting heart rate.
  • Persons 65 and older had 30 percent fewer doctor visits than those without pets.
  • Those who have suffered a heart attack or other major illness tend to recover quicker than those without pets.
  • Petting or cuddling with a pet has been found to be soothing and calming. Touch is essential for physical and emotional health.

(I wonder if the pets get similar benefits?)

Pets and old people are a natural and in recent years I have particularly advocated old pets for old people because elder cats and dogs are unlikely to be adopted otherwise. Should I outlive Ollie, I will look into that.

But Ollie's misfortune has revealed a strong impediment to elder pet ownership. When I retrieved him from the vet on Friday, I was presented with an $700 treatment bill (excuse me for a moment while I try to catch my breath again), down $300 from the original estimate.

I don't have that kind of money lying around and paying off the plastic will pretty well demolish my holidays. But at least I can handle it in the longer term. I know elders for whom paying off such an amount would be out of the question and this kind of pet expense is something that had not occurred to me when I've endorsed and promoted the advantages of pets for old people.

So I'll be more careful in the future about the possible expenses involved when I'm shooting off my mouth about what might be good for elders.

Meanwhile, Ollie is home, there is no more hooting and he is doing fine except for his annoyance – make that full-blown, claws-cocked rage – at the three-times-a-day pill regimen that will go on for the rest of the week.

Still, I'm glad he is on the mend and I'm also happy to be done with – to paraphrase Queen Elizabeth II – my diem horribilem last Thursday.

At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Carl Hansen: He Did Not Look Like a King

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Sunday, 16 November 2014

ELDER MUSIC: 1964 Again

Tibbles1SM100x130This 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 1964?

  • Tracy Chapman was born
  • The Olympic Games were held in Tokyo
  • The Rolling Stones released their first album
  • The Mavis Bramston Show premiered
  • BASIC programming language was released. It became a lot less basic over the years.
  • Dr Strangelove was released
  • Melbourne were premiers

There's a terrific quote (well, I think it is, others will probably disagree) from a book called Rock of Ages – History of Rock & Roll that says:

"[In 1964] whenever You've Lost That Lovin' Feelin' came on the radio, it reduced, for its three minute span, The Supremes to little girls and The Beatles to fey pretenders.”

Couldn't put it better myself. Here are THE RIGHTEOUS BROTHERS with that song.

Righteous Brothers

♫ The Righteous Brothers - You've Lost That Lovin' Feelin'

A couple of Brazilian composers, Antonio Carlos Jobim and Vinicius de Moraes, used to sit on an obscure stretch of beach in Rio de Janeiro and watch the girls go by. One was Helô Pinheiro, who'd walk by in her bikini pretty much every day. They wrote a song about her called The Girl From Ipanema.

Due to the success of the song, it is not an obscure stretch of beach any more. Many people have recorded the song, but the fist and best was by STAN GETZ and ASTRUD GILBERTO.

Stan Getz and Astrid Gilberto

♫ Stan Getz and Astrud Gilberto - The Girl From Ipanema

Baby I Need Your Loving was THE FOUR TOPS first, but far from last, hit.

Four Tops

It was written by the distinguished Motown writing team of Holland, Dozier, Holland. They wrote this especially for the Tops after they saw them perform in a club in Detroit.

♫ The Four Tops - Baby I Need Your Loving

CHUCK BERRY was still making great music in 1964; he wasn't resting on his laurels (not yet, anyway).

Chuck Berry

The song is No Particular Place to Go. Keen-eared listeners will recognize the tune – Chuck recycled School Days for this one. It wasn't the only time he plagiarized himself.

♫ Chuck Berry - No Particular Place to Go

Walk on By was one of a bunch of songs that Burt Bacharach and Hal David wrote for DIONNE WARWICK.

Dionne Warwick

There was some kind of chemistry between the songwriters and the singer. Pretty much every song they wrote for her became a hit. Not just a hit but a fine piece of music as well.

♫ Dionne Warwick - Walk on By

The British invasion of the world's music was in full swing by 1964. One of those, not just along for the ride, but serious talents in their own right is THE KINKS.


They started out as a sort of proto-punk band and evolved into a serious contender with several of the finest songs of the sixties. This is one of the early ones, You Really Got Me.

♫ The Kinks - You Really Got Me

Another British group, but one you would never call punk is HERMAN'S HERMITS.

Hermans Hermits

The song I'm Into Something Good was recorded when singer Peter Noone was just 16. It's a Gerry Goffin and Carole King song first recorded by Earl-Jean (or Ethel McCrea to her folks), who had been the lead singer for The Cookies.

The Herms' producer heard it and thought it'd work for the group. He was right.

♫ Herman's Hermits - I'm Into Something Good

TERRY STAFFORD is yet another who sounds suspiciously like Elvis.

Terry Stafford

Not just his voice, but the song, Suspicion, was written for The King by Doc Pomus and Mort Shuman. Terry got a hold of it a couple of years later and took it up the charts – Elvis's version was only on an album.

♫ Terry Stafford - Suspicion

My Guy was the last record MARY WELLS recorded at Motown records. She left for a better deal elsewhere. The move didn't quite turn out as she hoped as she didn't repeat her Motown success.

Mary Wells

Smokey Robinson wrote the song and produced the record. He later wrote My Girl, sort of an answer song that was big for The Temptations. The song hit number 1 everywhere and was Mary's shining moment.

♫ Mary Wells - My Guy

You have to expect a bit of trash in these columns and who better to supply it than THE TRASHMEN.


Their claim to fame is a little ditty called Surfin' Bird. Rather surprisingly they released half a dozen albums. I haven't heard any of them so I can't tell you what they're like. In the mean time, the bird is the word.

♫ The Trashmen - Surfin' Bird

You can find more music from 1964 here. 1965 will appear in two weeks' time.

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