ELDER MUSIC: Seasons - Winter

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.

* * *

Winter

Well, it's winter here as I write this, and it's damn cold – well, cold for Australia but it could be summer when it's published, or some other season. That's okay, it'll be winter somewhere, but perhaps not for long if global warming continues unchecked.

I'll start with a track from Norma, the Assistant Musicologist's favorite album by BOB DYLAN.

Bob Dylan

The A.M. isn't like the other kiddies. Regular readers with really good memories will know of which album I speak. For everyone else, let me say that it's "New Morning". The song from that one is Winterlude.

♫ Bob Dylan - Winterlude


GORDON LIGHTFOOT makes another welcome appearance in these season columns.

Gordon Lightfoot

As a Canadian, he should know about winter and I won't dwell on that any further as I did so in one of the earlier columns. From quite an early album of Gordie's ("The Way I Feel") we have Song for a Winter's Night.

♫ Gordon Lightfoot - Song for a Winter's Night


Now, an Australian singing about winter: DOUG ASHDOWN. Of course, he had to leave the country to do so.

Doug Ashdown

Doug started out playing guitar in a rock band and later went to Nashville in the seventies to write songs for others. It was there that he wrote this one for himself that became a bit of a hit.

After returning to Oz he made a career as a singer/songwriter/troubadour. Here he is with Winter in America.

♫ Doug Ashdown - Winter In America


The second incarnation of BLOOD, SWEAT & TEARS saw them produce a number of world-wide hits sung by newcomer David Clayton-Thomas.

Blood, Sweat & Tears

The song Sometimes in Winter is from that period - however, it's sung by original member Steve Katz who wrote it. It's a bit of an anomaly on their second album, but a good one, nonetheless.

Blood, Sweat & Tears - Sometimes in Winter


SIMON AND GARFUNKEL's album "Bookends" had some of their finest recorded moments. Unfortunately, it also contained some of their wankiest moments.

Simon and Garfunkel

A Hazy Shade of Winter is far from their best song but it doesn't fit into that second category either. Here it is.

♫ Simon & Garfunkel - A Hazy Shade of Winter


DAVE BRUBECK has managed to get into three of the seasons, summer was the only one he missed (and he could have been in that one too).

Dave Brubeck

From his album "Jazz Impressions of New York" (which contains tunes about all four seasons, and so was very useful to me in this series), he and the quartet play Winter Ballad.

♫ Dave Brubeck - Winter Ballad


DON MCLEAN recorded an album that everyone knows about.

Don McLean

I don't have to tell you which one it was. There were other songs on it, and this is one of them, Winterwood.

♫ Don McLean - Winterwood


The A.M. and I both consider GARLAND JEFFREYS to be one of the under-sung heroes of popular music.

Garland Jeffreys

This isn't one of his best efforts but anything he recorded is well worth a listen. This one seems to anticipate the musical development of the last couple of decades. Sorry about that. Coney Island Winter.

♫ Garland Jeffreys - Coney Island Winter


I first encountered RODNEY CROWELL as guitarist and songwriter in Emmylou Harris's Hot Band.

Rodney Crowell

After going solo, he recorded some excellent albums, worth checking out if you like that sort of thing. He has collaborated with Emmy often over the years – touring together and making a couple of good albums.

From the album "Sex and Gasoline" is the song Forty Winters. Sorry, no Emmy on this one.

♫ Rodney Crowell - Forty Winters


TANITA TIKARAM is one of my musical finds over the last few years. She shows that some young folks are still making real music.

Tanita Tikaram

Okay, not so young any more, but she still is to most of us who are reading this. She should know about winter as she lives in London. Her song is Heart in Winter.

♫ Tanita Tikaram - Heart In Winter


INTERESTING STUFF – 23 July 2016

THE LAST CAROUSEL CRAFTSMEN

Remember carousels? I loved them when I was a kid. I still do. I suppose for today's kids they seem tame compared to the thrill rides at big amusement parks. Too bad. They are beautiful pieces of art.

Carousel Works is the last, they say, hand-made carousel manufacturer in the United States. Take a look:

You can visit the website here.

PAINTED EYES ON COW BUTTS

Don't laugh at the headline – well, go ahead but it is serious too. In Africa, lions eat a lot of the livestock farmers are raising. So an Australian came up with the idea of painting eyes on the butts of cows to scare off the lions. Take a look as he explains:

Read more at Gizmodo. And thank Peter Tibbles, who holds forth in the music column here on Sundays, for finding this story.

RESTRICTIVE VOTER ID LAWS EASED IN TWO STATES

Many states have enacted laws aimed at keeping minorities (and old people) from voting. This week federal judges revoked those laws in two states:

”The ruling by U.S. District Court Judge Lynn Adelman temporarily eases the impact of a 2011 Wisconsin law requiring voters to show photo identification before being allowed to cast a ballot.

"Although most voters in Wisconsin either possess qualifying ID or can easily obtain one, a safety net is needed for those voters who cannot obtain qualifying ID with reasonable effort," Adelman said in his order.”

As regards the Texas law:

”The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit, in a close decision among a special 15-judge panel, also sent the case back to a district court to examine claims by the plaintiffs that the law had a discriminatory purpose.

“The New Orleans-based Fifth Circuit, which has a reputation as one of the most conservative federal appeals courts, asked the district court for a short-term fix to be used in Texas in the November general election.”

There are still too many other states with restrictive voting laws but this is good news. You can read more about each decision here and here.

A JOHN OLIVER WEB EXTRA: ENDORSEMENTS

John Oliver's HBO program, Last Week Tonight has been on hiatus but the host makes a point to provide us with our Oliver fix via short Web Extras when there's not show.

This week's was about political endorsements:

Last Week Tonight, returns from hiatus tomorrow, Sunday night.

A STUNNING BOOKSHOP IN BUENOS AIRES

The Bored Panda page explains the history:

”Tucked away in Barrio Norte, Buenos Aires is a beautiful bookshop called El Ateneo Grand Splendid. It is built within the almost 100-year-old Grand Splendid Theater, which opened in 1919.

“The theatre was later converted into a cinema and eventually, in 2000, it was converted into the El Ateneo Grand Splendid bookshop, which currently welcomes over one million visitors each year.”

Here are a couple of photographs.

Buenos-aires-bookstore-theatre-el-ateneo-grand-splendid-1

Buenos-aires-bookstore-theatre-el-ateneo-grand-splendid-2

And here is a shot of the exterior:

Buenos-aires-bookstore-theatre-el-ateneoexterior

More photos at Bored Panda and more information at Wikipedia.

SATIRE: GUN MANUFACTURERS OF AMERICA

Here's another from Peter Tibbles – a video from satirist Deven Green in her Mrs. Betty Bowers, America's Best Christian guise taking on the U.S. gun industry.

If you think it is too soon to post something like this, here is Green's response to that question on the YouTube page, and I agree:

“In deference to you 'too soon' folks, I was going to wait until a day not close to a mass shooting (or the anniversary of one) to release [this video] – until I realized that no such day exists in America anymore."


Comedian Deven Green, an alumna of Second City who holds dual Canadian/U.S. citizenship is well known for her satire. Her website is here.

THE COMMA QUEEN: IS “NONE” SINGULAR OR PLURAL?

The Comma Queen is Mary Norris, a copy editor at The New Yorker magazine.

I have always believed “none” is a singular noun requiring a singular verb but Ms. Norris says time moves on and grammar rules can change. Take a look:

NETWORK NEWS ANCHOR PEOPLE

Let's just call this Peter Tibbles Day at Interesting Stuff. This cartoon is also from him – a more-powerful-than-you-would-think commentary on how unimportant the three broadcast networks' evening news programs are nowadays.

Networkanchors

The cartoonist is Jimmy Johnson. There are more from him at GoComics.

WHO RESCUED WHOM?

Get out your hankies, folks. You will need them in the best possible way. It's an old story that doesn't get old.

* * *

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” at the top 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.


Recovery Time in Old Age

So far in my old age – I am 75 – I have been lucky in my health (I say that with multiple knockings on wood). I have no intrusive afflictions, no conditions, no diseases, nothing that requires medication.

I owe a lot of my good health, I tell myself, to a strong, peasant gene pool and without being zealous, try to eat well, exercise regularly and get enough sleep.

That doesn't mean I haven't slowed down. I don't have the energy reserve now that during most of my earlier life was so easily available that I didn't notice or appreciate it. I wear out more quickly these days and it takes longer to recover when I have overdone.

I mention this today because time was, one good night's sleep refreshed me from any extra strain on my body. No longer.

On Tuesday, I underwent more dental surgery. You've heard this story before but that was my upper jaw, now in excellent working order. This year it is the lower jaw.

The surgery was no small undertaking. It lasted about an hour-and-half involving cutting out an old bridge, inserting a temporary one, mostly cosmetic so there is not a gap in my smile while the two implants that were also inserted on Tuesday take the next four months to fuse with bone after which the new overdenture can be crafted.

I napped most of the rest of the day and slept more soundly than usual that night - for all the good it did me: I didn't feel much different on Wednesday so I took another day off from life. And, except for this post, another one on Thursday so I would be rested enough to enjoy a two-hour Friday morning group meeting I was looking forward to.

The recovery seems lengthy – two-and-a-half days – but too often we (read: I) forget that dental surgery is, after all, surgery and just because I don't have a big bandage or cast to show off, doesn't mean it's not a bodily invasion by foreign objects involving blood and, when the anesthetic wears off, pain.

It took every bit of that recovery time for me to feel right again this week and it's not that I didn't know I would need it. It had take several days during similar surgeries for my upper jaw - I just forgot and therefore was blindsided with the time needed this week to feel restored.

(NOTE: I'm not looking for sympathy with this post. After nearly two years of continuing dental work, it has become more of an annoyance than anything else. I've learned how to manage residual pain and to prepare ahead to have soft foods ready during the healing period. But that doesn't shorten the recovery time.)

A week or two ago, a friend said to me, “No one tells you these things about growing old when you're young.” She was specifically referring to how much longer it takes to do all kinds of things after 50 or 60 or 70, and that it would have been nice to be warned.

I've often said that myself. I've probably written it in these pages too. But I've had plenty of time to think about that this week and I've changed my mind.

Why clutter up other people's younger years with news that would only be taken as a bummer?

The changes of ageing come to us gradually over decades and even as we might resent them, we accommodate them as needed, as (ahem) time goes by.

And anyway, who would believe us when we say that the day will come when you cannot play tennis all afternoon, prepare a dinner for 10 guests and then go dancing until 2AM without a second thought?

I would not have believed it – or, at least, not taken it seriously - even in my forties. So unless they ask, let them find out in their own time, I think now. Most of us manage the surprises of age without too much fuss, forgetful as I was about them this week.


Not Enough Geriatricians

When I moved to Oregon in 2010, and needed a new physician, I used the internet to track down the geriatricians in my area. About half the listings included a note that the doctor was not taking new patients.

When I telephoned the remaining names on my list, each one told me they were not taking new patients.

So much for finding healthcare that actually relates to my stage of life and needs.

FACT: In 2014, there were 46.2 million people 65 and older in the U.S.

FACT: In 2030, there will be about 71.4 million people in the U.S. 65 and older

FACT: Currently, there are about 7,000 geriatricians in the U.S. - about one for every 6600 people.

As The New York Times reported in January,

”The American Geriatrics Society estimates that to meet the demand, medical schools would have to train at least 6,250 additional geriatricians between now and 2030, or about 450 more a year than the current rate.”

In case you are misinformed – many people are - the Times article also includes a good, short explanation of what a geriatrician is:

”...a physician already certified in internal or family medicine who has completed additional training in the care of older adults. In addition to providing clinical care, geriatricians are skilled in navigating the labyrinth of psychological and social problems that often arise in the aging population.”

Some people, even some physicians, believe that primary care doctors can delivery the same-quality care to elders as geriatricians. Elizabeth Eckstrom, a geriatrician who happens to practice right near me in Portland, Oregon, refutes that:

”If primary care doctors were providing optimal care to older adults, polypharmacy would not be one of the leading killers in that population. Fifty percent of dementia would not be missed in primary care practices. Many patients with delirium would not be missed by physicians in our hospitals.

“Recent evidence about care provided by geriatrics teams shows that hospital length of stay is about one day shorter, costs less, and has fewer complications, including falls, pressure ulcers, and catheter-associated urinary tract infections.”

Dr. Eckstrom also says not every elder needs a geriatrician but has called for additional training of all types of health care providers (except pediatricians).

Many residencies in geriatrics go empty. The biggest reason is that geriatricians are paid much less than other specialists. They can expect an annual income of about half that of other specialties - $200,000 versus $400,000. Their insurance reimbursement is usually less that other physicians because elder care just takes more time than other specialists require.

”Unlike other physicians who might specialize in one organ system or disease, geriatricians must be adept at treating patients who sometimes are managing five to eight chronic conditions, reports U.S. News and World Report.

“...Geriatricians also 'pay special attention' to a person’s cognitive and functional abilities, including walking, eating, dressing and other activities of daily living, McCormick says. 'Geriatricians take a holistic approach. We look at how we can help patients to be as functional as possible and exist in the community in the best way possible,' he says.

American surgeon, Atul Gawande, wrote the best, most eloquent explanation of the complexities of geriatric care I've ever read. It is a long story in the 30 April 2007 issue of The New Yorker magazine titled “The Way We Age Now.”

For the story, Dr. Gawande shadowed a geriatrician through his day seeing patients and recounts in detail the entire examination and the many questions the geriatrician asks one 85-year-old woman who lives on her own. Then -

”In the story of Jean Gavrilles and her geriatrician, there’s a lesson about frailty. Decline remains our fate; death will come. But, until that last backup system inside each of us fails, decline can occur in two ways.

“One is early and precipitately, with an old age of enfeeblement and dependence, sustained primarily by nursing homes and hospitals. The other way is more gradual, preserving, for as long as possible, your ability to control your own life.

“Good medical care can influence which direction a person’s old age will take.

“Most of us in medicine, however, don’t know how to think about decline. We’re good at addressing specific, individual problems: colon cancer, high blood pressure, arthritic knees. Give us a disease, and we can do something about it.

“But give us an elderly woman with colon cancer, high blood pressure, arthritic knees, and various other ailments besides—an elderly woman at risk of losing the life she enjoys—and we are not sure what to do.”

This is what geriatricians are for – to “think about decline” and to preserve, “for as long as possible, your ability to control your own life.”

And bless every one of them for doing so.

Unfortunately, most of us will not have that kind of care and will need to educate ourselves in our own care to work with the kind of physicians we have.

From an article last week in Kaiser Health News:

”[Dr. Todd] Goldberg also teaches at the Charleston division of West Virginia University and runs one of the state’s four geriatric fellowship programs for medical residents. Geriatric fellowships are required for any physician wanting to enter the field.

“For the past three years, no physicians have entered the fellowship program at WVU-Charleston. In fact, no students have enrolled in any of the four geriatric fellowship programs in West Virginia in the past three years.

“'This is not just our local program, or in West Virginia,' said Goldberg. 'This is a national problem.'

“The United States has 130 geriatric fellowship programs, with 383 positions. In 2016, only 192 of them were filled.”

One more problem in our world for which there seems to be no solution.


The Deadly World We Live in Now

As I set about writing today's post yesterday morning, pulling together notes and links on a health-related story, the teevee news droning in the background interrupted itself with the announcement of shootings in Baton Rouge.

It took me a couple of minutes to work out that this was not related to the killing of Alton Sterling in that Louisiana city two weeks ago. It was new violence, new deaths.

This on top of the attempted coup in Turkey that had consumed the news for the previous two days killing 265 people, following on the 84 dead in Nice three days earlier.

And so on.

Another day, another terror attack.

Another day, another mass killing.

Another day, dozens more dead.

It's all so ordinary now, isn't it. Even expected. And that is deeply unsettling.

But we are only halfway through the month of July and the number of attacks – domestic and terror – is stupefying.

July 1, Baghdad: 6 dead
July 1 Dhaka: 29 dead
July 3 Baghdad: 309 dead
July 5 Baton Rouge: 1 (Alton Sterling)
July 6 Minnesota: 1 (Philando Castile)
July 7 Michigan: 3 dead
July 7 Dallas: 5 dead (police officers)
July 14 Nice: 84 dead
July 17 near Orlando: 2 dead
July 17 Baton Rouge: 3 dead (police officers)

Coming on the heels of horror in Orlando in June, those are only the shootings and terror attacks that have been most widely reported. You can see an up-to-date, full list of U.S. killings at the Gun Violence Archive.

Among them are at least 29 police officers shot dead so far in 2016, according to USA Today. The Washington Post reports 522 people shot dead by police so far in 2016.

Have I missed any? Oh god. So many that it numbs the mind. The awful part that prompted this blog post is that I can't remember the names of the places without a cheat sheet anymore, let alone the people - BECAUSE THERE ARE SO MANY.

Not to pile on, but Wikipedia keeps a running list of worldwide terrorist attacks – this one is the list for July.

A side note about that last link: I take issue with the classification of two listings because yesterday's shootings of three police officers in Baton Rouge do not appear to be terror-related. And I do not believe the truck attack in Nice last week was ISIS-inspired as most media have reported based only on the killer's Arabic name. At least one watchdog group agrees with me.

But those mistaken classifications are piffle. It hardly matters in the greater sense of a world that is going mad, and I don't know how to understand it.

The media and our leaders react to the individual events with platitudes never acknowledging the increasing frequency of multiple deaths one after another or that something has come unhinged in our world.

No one is doing anything useful. Moments of silence and prayer are not working.

It worries and frightens me that three and four and five occurrences (!) of terror attacks and multiple gun deaths in any given week will soon be the new normal – which can and will happen if it goes on at this pace much longer.

How do we change this? Who will do it?


ELDER MUSIC: Seasons - Autumn

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.

* * *

Autumn

That's one of my pics, taken in Daylesford (Victoria, Australia).

There must be something about autumn that brings out the jazz in musicians; much of the music today is in that style.

When I searched my collection of music for autumn I found a hell of a lot. However, on closer inspection, it seems that most of those were just different versions of two songs. They were Autumn Leaves and the first one today, Autumn in New York.

I started through all the versions of it and there were some nice takes on the song but when I came to BILLIE HOLIDAY I didn't bother going any further.

Billie Holiday

You probably know by now, if you're a regular reader, that if Billie is in the mix she is pretty much an automatic selection. So it is today.

♫ Billie Holiday - Autumn In New York


THE KINKS weren't like the other English kiddies of their time who were all trying to be American blues or soul performers.

Kinks

No, the Kinks celebrated their Englishness even more so than The Beatles did and that set them apart from the others. They liked to sing songs of the small charms of their immediate surroundings. Not for them the big picture and for that they produced minor masterpieces.

I don't know if this belongs in that category, but it's fun. Autumn Almanac.

♫ Kinks - Autumn Almanac


As I mentioned, I have dozens of versions of Autumn Leaves and I employed Norma, the Assistant Musicologist, to help me in deciding which one we needed. There were some that should have been included, but we had them performing other songs today, so they were out.

It came down to ÉDITH PIAF who had the most interesting version.

Edith Piaf

Édith, of course, mostly sang in French but not exclusively. Here's her take on Autumn Leaves with quite a bit of vibrato.

♫ Edith Piaf - Autumn Leaves


Both CHET BAKER and BILL EVANS were considered for the previous track but I already had them down for this one.

Chet Baker & ;Bill Evans

Here they play together, fortunately for me as I don't have to choose one or the other. The tune they play is called 'Tis Autumn.

♫ Chet Baker & Bill Evans - 'Tis Autumn


If there's any chance of getting BILLY ECKSTINE in a column, The A.M. will put up her hand and go, "Yes, yes, yes.”

Billy Eckstine

I haven't actually mentioned his appearance to her, so her hand raising is implied. Billy's song in today's category is Early Autumn.

♫ Billy Eckstine - Early Autumn


Not content with playing both the trumpet and the flugelhorn, ART FARMER commissioned an instrument he called the flumpet, a combination of the previous two (which aren't all that different really).

Art Farmer

Art played with pretty much every great jazz (and a few blues) performers in the forties and fifties. He was very popular in Europe and settled in Vienna for many years before returning to New York.

My ears aren’t good enough to tell if Art is playing the trumpet, flugelhorn or flumpet on Autumn Nocturne,

♫ Art Farmer - Autumn Nocturne


JOHNNY HARTMAN made a terrific album a long time ago with JOHN COLTRANE.

John Coltrane & Johnny Hartman

This is one I had in my collection way back when it was on vinyl, and it's one I still play (not on vinyl anymore). It's a pity that that was all they did together (on record anyway), but at least we have that one.

From it we have Johnny singing and John playing Autumn Serenade.

♫ John Coltrane & Johnny Hartman - Autumn Serenade


VAN MORRISON shows in Autumn Song that he would have made quite a decent jazz singer.

Van Morrison

There's background: in his great early album "Astral Weeks" he was backed by a jazz group rather than a rock band. Besides that, he's had a long-term musical relationship with Georgie Fame who is an excellent jazz singer himself, so I shouldn't really be surprised. See (or hear) what you think.

♫ Van Morrison - Autumn Song


For a complete change of pace from all the other songs today I give you GIT.

Git

Git were a short-lived all female band from Melbourne who were country-ish, folk-ish, rock-ish. Hard to pin them down really. Git were Trish Anderson, Philomena Carroll, Sarah Carroll and Suzannah Espie.

Sarah sings lead on Autumn Love. April, of course, is autumn in this neck of the woods.

♫ Git - Autumn Love


Getting back to the predominantly jazz theme today, I'll end with one of the most popular exponents of the art, Dave Brubeck, well the DAVE BRUBECK QUARTET to be precise.

Dave Brubeck

Their contribution is Autumn in Washington Square from the album "Jazz Impressions of New York.”

♫ Dave Brubeck - Autumn in Washington Square


INTERESTING STUFF – 16 July 2016

SECRETARY CLINTON COMMITS TO EXPANDING SOCIAL SECURITY

At their appearance together last Tuesday (which this week feels like a month ago) as Senator Bernie Sanders endorsed Secretary Hillary Clinton for president, she adopted Sanders's position on Social Security. Here's the short video tape:

A worthy goal for elders and for younger people who depend on Social Security too.

Far less encouraging news is Donald Trump's choice for his running mate, Indiana Governor Mike Pence. He has a shameful record on Social Security and Medicare. From the National Committee to Preserve Social Security and Medicare (NCPSSM):

”During his decade-plus tenure in the U.S. Congress, Mike Pence consistently voted in favor of legislative efforts to cut benefits in Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid...Few members of Congress have an anti-seniors voting record as consistently strong as Mike Pence.

“Mike Pence was one of Congress’ biggest proponents of privatization. He supports cutting Social Security benefits by raising the retirement age, reducing the COLA, means-testing and turning Medicare into 'CouponCare.' As he told CNN, ‘I’m an all of the above guy.'”

Read more at the NCPSSM.

ELDERS TALK ABOUT SEX

I am fast becoming a fan of Dr. James Hamblin, a young physician and senior editor at The Atlantic who produces a video series for the magazine titled “If Our Bodies Could Talk.”

In this one, he asked some old people at a senior center in Manhattan about sex.

Actually, in this case, the accompanying story at The Atlantic is more interesting than the video. You should go read it – who else could know as much about sex as old people...

BOSTON DYNAMICS' LATEST ROBOT

Of course, I don't know about you, but I find the use of a lethal robot by the Dallas Police Department to be a terrifying precedent. But I also have an ongoing interest in robots who might (will?) become helpful companions to people.

In the past, I have featured the development of robots by Boston Dynamics and this is their latest, the Spot Mini. Take a look at the amazing things it can do:

Each new video from Boston Dynamcs shows dramatic advances in their robots' capabilities. Read more at Gajitz and at the Boston Dynamics website.

A JOHN OLIVER WEB EXTRA: FAN MAIL

John Oliver's HBO show, Last Week Tonight does not return from hiatus unti 24 July but as he often does during these absences, he has provided a short video to hold us over.

This one is about his fan mail.

THIS JUST IN REGARDING JOHN STEWART

I had finished writing today's post on Friday morning when an email advised that John Stewart will be joining The Late Show with Stephen Colbert for the two weeks of the political conventions.

And wait till you read the rest of the lineup according to Esquire:

While it's still unclear what Stewart's contribution to the show will be, Colbert's live convention coverage will also include Elizabeth Warren, Anthony Weiner, Jeff Daniels, Allison Janney, Keegan-Michael Key, and John Oliver.”

Can't wait. I'll be glued to Colbert's coverage.

TURNING DESERTS GREEN

Water or, rather, the lack thereof is an increasing global problem and if not a disaster yet, may well become so before long, turning once fertile land into deserts.

So this was some small amount of good news. First the background:

”...many once-fertile lands are turning into desert, and a significant amount of agricultural land is lost every year. What’s more, when governments and nonprofit organizations try to bring back grasslands, forests, and other ecosystems destroyed by agriculture and other human uses, they are often disappointed: Restoration can take decades. It sometimes fails altogether.

A new study comes from E. R. Jasper Wubs, an ecologist at the Netherlands Institute of Ecology who spread soil from healthy heathland – hills dominated by heather – or from grassland, to stripped ground, added seeds from 30 plant species and waited six years.

”Plots with heathland soil were covered with heather and gorse, whereas plots with grasslands soil were overflowing with a variety of grasses. The added soil made the existing land richer...”

Here is the before and after photo:

DesertGreening

Everyone involved is encouraged by the success and tests continue on reclaiming “dead” lands:

“This approach could yield new ecosystems in a matter of years, not decades, Wubs says. 'Natural succession takes much, much longer.'”

More details at Science.

FIREFLY EXPERIENCE

Amazingly, when I lived in Manhattan, my small backyard produced a large supply of fireflies at certain times of the year that came out at dusk, just the right time of day to see them at their most magical.

This week, a gorgeous video of fireflies by a photographer, Radim Schreider, came to my attention. He explains:

”In this short movie, I tried to capture my feelings and experiences with fireflies in the woods near my house in Fairfield, Iowa. I wanted to document not only their beauty and magical glow, but also behavior in their natural environment.

“I have chosen not to do any digital manipulation to the video itself, so the footage came straight from the camera.”

He recommends that we watch this video at night, full screen with all the lights off:

Radim Schreider is an award-winning nature photographer. You can see more of his work at his website.

HOW THE DUTCH BUILT A TUNNEL IN ONE WEEKEND

In an extraordinary feat of engineering and hard work, this 70-meter tunnel was built in The Netherlands over one weekend, people working day and night AND in the rain.

Here's the time-lapse video that Darlene Costner forwarded.

GOOD NEWS ON MEDICAL MARIJUANA AND ON DISEASES OF AGEING

According to a new study from the University of Georgia, the use of medical marijuana in states where it is available is reducing the cost of the Medicare Part D prescription drug program:

”The savings, due to lower prescription drug use, were estimated to be $165.2 million in 2013, a year when 17 states and the District of Columbia had implemented medical marijuana laws. The results suggest that if all states had implemented medical marijuana the overall savings to Medicare would have been around $468 million...

“The researchers will explore these consequences further in their next study...which will look at medical marijuana's effects on Medicaid, a joint federal and state program that helps with medical costs and typically serves an older population.”

You can read more at Medical News Today.

In another medical development that affects elders, it appears that the traditional diseases of age are in decline. Take a look at the graph for colon cancer, the rate of which has fallen by nearly 50 percent since the 1980s:

ReductioninDiseasesOfAgeing

Scientists say there are a number possible reasons for the reduction in cases of cancer, heart disease, stroke, etc. but they can't be certain yet which ones contribute to the health gains, and consider it to be, for now, a mystery:

”...it looks as if people in the United States and some other wealthy countries are, unexpectedly, starting to beat back the diseases of aging. The leading killers are still the leading killers...but they are occurring later in life, and people in general are living longer in good health.”

Read more about this good news at The New York Times.

TAKE ONE LONELY PUPPY, ONE LONELY KITTEN AND...

This short video from the Jo Linn Pet House, forwarded here from TGB reader Ali, may be the cutest thing you'll see all week.

* * *

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” at the top 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.


Old Age: What's Not to Enjoy?

That headline is what legendary television producer Norman Lear says about ageing. He will be 94 on the 27th of this month, one of the top examples we have right now for fighting entrenched ageism for two reasons:

  1. He is as productive as he was when All in the Family et al dominated prime-time television.

  2. He has been on the receiving end of Hollywood ageism for at least the past several years.

Given his many successes in the genre, no one can deny that Norman Lear is the master of sitcoms. Five years ago, he began shopping a script for a new one titled, Guess Who Died? set in a retirement community and he has gotten nowhere with it.

“I heard from everybody," he told an an audience at the Austin Film Festival last fall. "They laughed, thought it was funny, but didn’t have a problem saying, ‘It’s just not our demographic.'”

Further on that topic at the Festival:

“As I got upwards in my 80s and into my 90s, the networks behaved like one Betty White covered a whole demographic. I love Betty White, but she is not the entire demographic. They are in retirement villages across the country.”

For those who believe ageism is unimportant, that it can be dismissed as a few derogatory words or jokes that are not worth paying attention to, consider this: the only difference between Normal Lear trying to find work and any other 60- or 70- or 80- or 90-year-old in the same situation is that Lear happens to be famous. It is so ubiquitous even a man who was one of the biggest money makers in Hollywood is ignored.

Although still without a contract for the show, Lear decided to hold a casting session for Guess Who Died? anyway. Film producers Heidi Ewing and Rachel Grady were there to make a short video of it for The New York Times. As one of them wrote:

”...we were mesmerized by the parade of actors that came through the door to audition. Mostly septo- or octogenarians, none of them exhibited the nerves or the vanity we’ve come to expect from hopeful thespians. Instead they read their lines with a humor and emotional nuance that was deeply felt and wonderfully lived-in.

“Suddenly, there in that casting room, I saw my grandmother again, then my favorite uncle and my chatty neighbor down the hall — all real people who walk among us, have so much to offer and are ready for their close up. All we need to do is look.”

Now you take a look and particularly note Norman Lear's commentary at the end:

Let's not allow that important, short speech at the end float off into the ether. Here it is in writing:

“Aren't you expected to grow? Learn more about yourself? About the world? You are when you're young. Why would you be less expected to grow when you're 80?

“The culture dictates how you behave and maybe the elderly buy into it the way they grow old. My role here now is to say, 'Wait a minute. That's not all there is. There's a good time to be had at this age.'”

Which is exactly what I've been trying to say here for the past 12 years.

Lordy, would I like to see that Guess Who Died? sitcom. Remember how sharp and relevant All in the Family, The Jeffersons, Maude and the rest of Lear's shows were? Imagine if he were allowed to bring that talent and expertise to a show starring old people.

The Mses Ewing and Grady have also produced a full-length documentary titled, Norman Lear: Just Another Version of You. Here is the official trailer:

The documentary has not been widely distributed but may be playing in a few theaters around the U.S. now. In October, you can watch it on the American Masters program on PBS and it will be available on Netflix beginning in November.

Even in his frustration with ageism in general and in getting Guess Who Died? produced, Norman Lear brings a joy to his old age. Everyone should.


What to Expect From the Free Medicare Wellness Visit

The Affordable Care Act (ACA), or Obamacare, includes several benefits for Medicare beneficiaries including a Welcome to Medicare Wellness Visit.

This is not a substitute for a more extensive physicial exam but a way for your physician to ask some questions about your health and work with you to develop or update a plan to prevent disease.

I was reminded of this recently when my internet friend, Chuck Nyren, published a report at his Huffington Post blog (where he describes himself as “Writer, Gadfly, Troublemaker”) about his first wellness visit.

It was a good reminder to me to tell you about it but on second thought, why reinvent the wheel, I thought. Besides, Chuck is a funnier guy than I am and he gave me permission to reprint his story titled Welcome to Your Welcome to Medicare Visit. Here's Chuck.

* * *

I didn’t ask if it was mandatory when this lady called, I just said, “Yeah, yeah, I’ll do it.” A free exam of some sort because you’re now sixty-five was what she wanted me to schedule. I did.

She said it wouldn’t be with my doctor but with a health care professional. I was only half listening. “And the best part is you can spend a whole hour with her! Not like with your Provider where you’re only allowed fifteen minutes.”

My egoism got the better of me. A whole hour talking about me, and if I’m not talking about me the other person is talking about me. That sounded great.

On my way to the appointment I tried to think of things to talk about. My arthritic knees had been overly achy lately but for the last few days had been fine. Other than that, I felt pretty good. It was weird going to the doctor when there was nothing wrong with you.

A nurse called my name. I was weighed, had pounded up a bit over the winter. I’ll lose it. Blood pressure was high a tad, lungs and heart sounded good. She shook out an octopus array of wires and I had a quick EKG. Heart = Fine. The nurse left and I spent a few minutes yanking off the stickies from crannies on my torso I never knew existed.

Marlene knocked and entered. “Welcome to your Welcome To Medicare Wellness Exam!”

“Thanks!” I said. I was chipper. She was chipper. We were chipper.

“Over the weekend I spent some time looking over your medical history,” she said.

“So that’s why my ears were burning!”

She readied herself to type. “Is there something wrong with your ears?”

“Ummm, no. A little wax, maybe.”

She typed something.

After documenting the faux affliction, we got to the real ones. I’d had some issues over the last few years, mostly one-offs like an episode of gout, shingles, a fainting spell (documented here on Huffington Post), some panic attacks years ago that still ambush me every so often.

The rest were namby-pamby boring stuff — none worthy of even a mention in a TV medical drama. A kidney stone fifteen years ago, psoriasis on and off. With every affliction mentioned, she typed and typed.

“It says you have cancer in your family.”

“Yes. Here and there.”

“Any family history of heart problems?”

“No.”

“Diabetes?”

“A brother and a grandmother. You probably see there that I took a bunch of blood tests a few months ago and everything was normal except my triglycerides were a bit high.”

We went through my medications. “Do you still take Cialis?”

“...Sure, when needed. Although I don’t really need it. If I take it it’s only a nick off the pill to counteract the very small, daily dose of Zoloft. If a hotsy-totsy night is planned, it just makes things a lot easier for, you know...everyone involved.”

She typed something.

There was talk about my thyroid. This was the first I’d heard of it. (A blood test was ordered, the next day it came back in the normal range.)

We said our goodbyes and I was out the door with a few pages of hard-copy in my hand. I imagined it read, You’re fine, go home.

I don’t remember exactly where I was when I actually looked at the first page — either outside the car and about to open the door or already in the driver’s seat. It’s all a blur now. Manually highlighted in blinding yellow was this list:

You Were Seen Today For
History of Adenomatous Polyp of Colon
Spondylosis Lumbosacral Region, unspecified spinal osteoarthritis complication
BMI 32.0-32.9, adult
Thyroid Mass of Unclear Etiology
Diverticulosis
Pre-Diabetes
Hypertriglyceridemia
Anxiety Disorder
Insomnia
ED (erectile dysfunction)
Essential Hypertension
Gout
Cerumen Impaction
Syncope
Risk for falls
History of Nephrolithiasis

I have no memory of driving home. I’m surprised I made it home at all because I’m obviously dying.

That was a week ago, and I’m still miraculously hanging on. I’m afraid to move, to breathe. If I do either, it’s done cautiously. Any wrong move might kick in one of my conditions, and I’ll kick.

I walk into the doctor’s office with bad knees. I walk out with a Death Sentence.

My new take on medical visits: Fifteen minutes is much too long. Who knows what could happen during such an excruciating amount of time. From now on I want my appointments to be no more than thirty seconds, maybe less. They’d go something like this:

Doctor walks in. “What’s wrong?”

“Sore throat.”

“Open and say “Aahhh.”

“Aahhh.”

“I’ll write up a prescription and you can pick it up at the front desk. ‘Bye.”

“Later.”

The less I know, the healthier I’ll feel.

* * *

Ronni here again. I'm pretty well in sync with Chuck about how to deal with doctor's visits but there is a serious point to this too – that you should take advantage of these free wellness visits.

Anyone with Medicare Part B is eligible. It is free to almost everyone as long as your physician accepts assignment, and the Part B deductible does not apply although if the doctor orders tests not approved for the visit, you may owe a co-pay.

The Welcome to Medicare Visit can be done anytime during the first 12 months after you've joined the program. You do not need to have done the Welcome Visit to take advantage of the annual wellness visit.

There is more information about both visits – which are not the same thing as more extensive physical examinations – at medicare.gov.

UPDATE: A reminder for all medical/health posts. In the comments you may not recommend any specific kind healthcare, treatment, physician, medication, etc. or link to any website related to those areas or to any commercial product.


What is Old People's Voice and Why Does It Happen?

A few days ago, TGB reader and my good friend Wendl left a comment wondering about her recent vocal changes:

”...weaker, cracky, hoarse, reedy, phlegmy, etc. I think my vocal cords actually started changing when I retired and stopped talking all day. Use 'em or lose 'em?”

We all know what Wendl is talking about – I call it old people's voice - and she has done a good job of describing it in almost the same words as the medical professionals do. They call it presbyphonia which just means “changes associated with the ageing voice.”

I spent way too much time online looking for an audio example for us and found mostly actors doing impressions of old people's voices so that will have to do.

Here is a pretty good one titled: Older Woman: Voice Acting. There are three variations. The closest to what we're discussing today is the first and it ends at :45 seconds. You can skip the rest of the video.

Geriatric otolaryngology is the study of the ear, nose, mouth, throat, larynx and pretty much anything else from the neck and above as it relates, in this case, to old people.

Otolaryngologists used to be called “ear, nose and throat doctors: or ENT for short.

The Australian website entwellbeing is remarkably consistent with Wendl's description of this condition of the voice,

”...the inability to produce adequate sound using the vocal mechanism. People with presbyphonia may experience:

Occasional or frequent breaks in their voice
A breathy vocal quality
Laryngeal tension
Sudden interruptions in the normal flow of speech – stoppages in phonation
Reduced pitch and loudness

NBC News explains the underlying causes:

”When we age, our vocal chords weaken and become drier...Weakened and dry vocal chords become stringy, which prevent normal vibration, causing higher pitched voices that sound thin.

“And the transformations in the respiratory system and chest mean we have less power behind our voices. Even the joints in our vocal chords can become arthritic, contributing to problems.”

There are good descriptions of the five ways our voices change at the verywell website. Here's their take on how pitch changes:

”According to Clark Rosen, professor of otolaryngology at the University of Pittsburgh and director of the University's Voice Center, a woman's pitch typically drops over time, whereas a man's pitch actually rises slightly with age.

"'We don't know exactly why this occurs,' says Rosen. 'Like other vocal shifts, changes in pitch may also be due to atrophy of the muscles in the vocal folds, and in women it may be thanks in part to hormonal changes leading up to and past menopause. We do know there's quite a consistent pitch change by gender.'"

You will find equally clear explanations for the other four changes at verywell.com.

Although benign vocal changes are common as we age, Rosen says they can occasionally be a warning:

”If you're hoarse for more than two weeks - especially without a trigger like a cold or flu or if you are a long-time smoker - seek out the advice of your doctor since you may be at risk of a more serious problem like vocal cord nodules or even laryngeal cancer.”

Disease aside, there are treatments for “old people's voice.” Otolaryngologist and Director of the Johns Hopkins Voice Center Lee Akst says that “Good vocal hygiene, such as staying well-hydrated and not yelling or screaming is a must,” and speech therapy can be effective:

”Akst notes that most patients improve with voice therapy alone. While they may not sound like they did when they were 40, voice therapy helps promote a stronger voice.

“For those still struggling to be heard, a procedure called vocal cord augmentation involves injecting a synthetic filler into the deepest muscle layer of the vocal folds. This more invasive therapy can last from just a few months, to a permanent change in the case of a surgical implant.

"'It's an uncomfortable procedure, with a risk of side effects like bleeding,' says Akst. 'It works best in conjunction with voice therapy, and if you were to choose only one course of treatment, you'd do better with just voice therapy.'”

Or, unless people really cannot hear you, you could just live with it. I know quite a few people with presbyphonia and have no trouble understanding them.