Previous month:
January 2015
Next month:
March 2015

'INTERESTING STUFF – 28 February 2015


EDITORIAL NOTE

As you know, on Monday through Friday, there is a link at the bottom of each TGB story to that day's story by readers at The Elder Storytelling Place.

Last Monday, I neglected to set up the ESP story to publish automatically and did not discover my error until late in the day so some people did not see Dan Gogerty's Orthorexia, Healthy Food and "Piecing Around". Dan is one of our best contributors so go take a look.


SECOND BEST MARIGOLD HOTEL IS ALMOST HERE

The sequel to the 2011 movie about a bunch of elder Brits who retire to India will arrive in U.S. theaters next Friday 6 March.

There have been a couple of reviews that object to the feel-good nature of the series but for me it is a relief to have some entertainment about elders that is not about loss and/or Alzheimer's disease, as important as they are. Plus, the roster of actors in the two “Marigolds” is spectacular.

Here are a couple trailers for you from this latest "Marigold."


NET NEUTRALITY VICTORY

Back in May when I asked you to contact the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) and others in support of net neutrality, interest was high here. And it was so high when John Oliver on his HBO show Last Week Tonight made a similar appeal, responses broke the agency's system.

Now your concern and involvement has paid off. In a landmark decision on Thursday, the FCC reclassified broadband internet as a public utility.

”The new rules, approved 3 to 2 along party lines, are intended to ensure that no content is blocked and that the Internet is not divided into pay-to-play fast lanes for Internet and media companies that can afford it and slow lanes for everyone else...” reports The New York Times.

“...the F.C.C. also approved an order to pre-empt state laws that limit the build-out of municipal broadband Internet services. The order focuses on laws in two states, North Carolina and Tennessee, but it would create a policy framework for other states. About 21 states, by the F.C.C.’s count, have laws that restrict the activities of community broadband services.

“The state laws unfairly restrict competition to cable and telecommunications broadband providers from municipal initiatives, the F.C.C. said. This order, too, will surely be challenged in court.”

Now, stand up from your laptop or tablet, take a bow and cheer loudly – it's not often anyone wins against billion-dollar corporations like the ones who opposed net neutrality.


JOHN OLIVER ON JUDGES

The majority of judges in the United States are elected. On the surface that sounds fair but as John Oliver pointedly points out (along with the laughs) on his HBO program last Sunday, it is an absurd and dangerous-to-democracy system.


HOW WE WATCH VIDEO NOWADAYS

Most of us who read this blog grew up going to the movies once a week. Today, video of all kinds is everywhere but back then, the theater was the only moving pictures we had.

"Movies were scarce and long and special and deserved our attention. TV was shorter, with commercials, but still live (now or never) and thus special,” explains Seth Godin.

“But video - video is ubiquitous and short and everywhere. You can transfer a movie or a TV show to this new medium, but it will be consumed differently.

"Everyone can publish video now, and in many ways, almost everyone is publishing video now. A video won't work because everyone watches it. It will work because the right people do, for the right reason...

"Everything that's watched has always been watched through the worldview of the watcher. And video (and before that, movies and TV) has driven the culture. That culture-driving ability now belongs to anyone who can make a video that the right people choose to watch."

It is a crucial difference from before, from when we were young, and it is crucial to understanding early 21st century culture that we understand Seth Godin's point. You can read his full blog post here. (Hat tip to Erin Read of Creating Results)


DIE MAIERS COMEDY TRAPEZE ACT

I don't recall where I found this introduction to the video but it probably helps to read it first:

”The duo’s Sabine Maier, dressed in a fussy maid’s outfit with an inextricable small purse, does one of the best deadpan acts since Buster Keaton, and she’s joined by her geeky-looking husband Joachim Mohr to perform the funniest and most surprising trapeze act within memory.”

Enjoy. (Hat tip to Darlene Costner)

The Die Maiers have a website where you can find more videos.


CABLE TV SPEEDS UP SHOWS TO CRAM IN MORE COMMERCIALS

This has been going on for years but I've never seen a graphic demonstration of it before. Joe Flint, writing in the Wall Street Journal says that the TBS network speeds up Seinfeldt 7.5 percent.

In this video comparison, the upper right screen is a feed from a Seinfeld rerun on TBS. The lower-right is a digital recording from Fox Chicago about 10 years ago played back on the same hardware. The speeded up version gains TBS almost two extra minutes for the entire episode.


TYPEWRITER ARTIST

For many years, an extraordinary man with a severe disability has been creating gorgeous works of art using a typewriter. You'll be amazined.


ICE CAR BUMPERS AND PENGUIN SWEATERS

With these photos, Peter Tibbles who writes Sunday's Elder Music column here, sent a twofer this week. First, an icy car bumper. As the website explains, this

”...ghostly car fender apparition that is actually a shell of ice that formed on the front of a parked Jeep.

“The most plausible theory regarding how the shell was formed suggests that the driver separated the sheet of ice from their fender when they warmed up their engine.”

Frozen-ice-grill-jeep-north-carolina-4

Secondly, we have penguins in sweaters. Yes. Really. According to the website, the oldest man in Australia, 109-year-old Alfred Date, knits sweaters for injured penguins.

Oldest-man-australia-knits-penguin-sweaters-1

My favorite is the penguin in the Penguin Books cover sweater but Penguinman is cute too.


CROWS WHO RECIPROCATE A LITTLE GIRL'S GIFTS

Back in 2011, now eight-year-old Gabi Mann began feeding crows in her Seattle, Washington backyard. Soon, the crows were returning the favor.

”Each morning, [Gabi and her mother] fill the backyard birdbath with fresh water and cover bird-feeder platforms with peanuts. Gabi throws handfuls of dog food into the grass. As they work, crows assemble on the telephone lines, calling loudly to them.

“The crows would clear the feeder of peanuts, and leave shiny trinkets on the empty tray; an earring, a hinge, a polished rock. There wasn't a pattern. Gifts showed up sporadically - anything shiny and small enough to fit in a crow's mouth.”

And Gabby treasures every one of them. Take a look:

Crowgifts

Here's a short video of the morning feeding.

It is well known that crows are smarter than your average bird – or even some animals. But wait until you read this part of the story:

”Lisa, Gabi's mom, regularly photographs the crows and charts their behaviour and interactions. Her most amazing gift came just a few weeks ago, when she lost a lens cap in a nearby alley while photographing a bald eagle as it circled over the neighbourhood.

“She didn't even have to look for it. It was sitting on the edge of the birdbath.

“Had the crows returned it? Lisa logged on to her computer and pulled up their bird-cam. There was the crow she suspected. 'You can see it bringing it into the yard. Walks it to the birdbath and actually spends time rinsing this lens cap.'”

There are more photos and more details to the story at the BBC. Hat tip to Cathy Johnson)


Interesting Stuff is a weekly listing of short takes and links to web items that have caught my attention; some related to aging and some not, some useful and others just for fun.

You are all encouraged to submit items for inclusion. Just click “Contact” in the upper left corner of any Time Goes By page to send them. I'm sorry that I won't have time to acknowledge receipt and there is no guarantee of publication. But when I do include them, you will be credited and I will link to your blog IF you include the name of the blog and its URL.


Crabby Old Lady on Cutting the Cable Cord

Four weeks ago, Crabby Old Lady told you about how she reduced her fixed expenses by cutting the cable TV cord after Giant Cable Company (hereinafter referred to as GCC) jacked up the monthly charge by 39 percent.

She didn't cut the cord entirely because GCC is the only broadband internet provider in Crabby's area and due to their impressively convoluted pricing schemes, the broadband service coupled with the most basic of the basic TV services is cheaper than subscribing to broadband alone.

As Crabby knew up front, without the larger GCC package she ditched, she would lose a lot of the channels she watches most frequently, and it took some ingenuity to figure out workarounds and still save enough money to be worth the effort.

She settled on Tivo so that she can record shows to time shift her viewing, kept her Netflix account, adding Hulu Plus and Amazon Prime. Altogether, she is saving $60 a month.

Not bad, but that's not why Crabby has returned to the topic today.

There is no better way to shake up one's beliefs and opinions than to change old habits and for the past four weeks Crabby has been learning new ways to find the programs she had been watching on remote control (if you will) for a long time.

Before the cord cutting, Crabby could easily find recorded shows in the on-screen list GCC provided and she usually knew without checking when new episodes would show up. Now she has had to actually think about which shows are on which services, how to navigate each one and when the programs are likely to be posted.

Oddly (or maybe not so odd), that puts even long-time favorites Crabby has watched for many years into new contexts so that she sees them in a new light which in many cases is not flattering. Here is what she has learned.

With few exceptions, all detective/cop/mystery dramas involve a chase scene – in cars, trucks, on foot, etc. - in every single episode and often, two or three chases per episode.

Not all, but the majority of chases end with gunfire followed by a lot of blood.

Half or more chases also involve explosions (except at the end of the season when the production runs low on money for special effects).

Almost all detective/cop/mystery dramas and 100 percent of medical programs involve closeups of disgusting wounds and/or surgeries.

You know what? Chases are boring. They rot your brain. They never extend the plot. They never give you additional information about the story or the characters. They are dumb, stupid and useless. And the same goes for bloody surgical scenes.

Their only purpose is as filler which is weird because actual storytelling – you know, the part with plot development and character interaction – is down to 40 minutes per hour, the rest given to commercials.

So you would think writers and producers would want to fill those precious show minutes with actual dialogue and explanation.

Crabby's realization of the repetition is new enough that she is still surprised at how a relatively minor change in her TV viewing method given her such a different perspective on today's programming, and that for too long she has been watching imaginatively threadbare shows only because she likes certain actors.

So there have been some changes chez Crabby.

Among the few that remain on her viewing list are The Good Wife, Suits, the venerable, old NCIS and Elementary - no chases or excessively icky blood in that interpretation of Sherlock Holmes.

As Crabby has explained in the past, she likes television. After all, she spent 25 years producing TV shows and she still keeps a professional eye on it.

What she has discovered now is more than disappointing, it makes her angry. The shows spend millions of dollars, they are all slickly done, the production values are there - but they are empty of thought or thoughtfulness.


At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Clifford Rothband: Chasing Rainbows


10 Myths About Ageing

When, in 1995, I began to research what ageing is all about, there were hardly any non-academic books about it (and so it remained until 2005 when the media caught on that the oldest baby boomers were turning 60 and ageing became a hot topic).

Before the subject of ageing took off, one of the least dense, most useful books was written by a Harvard specialist in cognitive ageing, Douglas H. Powell, titled The Nine Myths of Aging. As you would expect, it refutes entrenched ideas and false beliefs that had been (and still are) prevalent about old people.

The most important myth, the one that supports all others is this: All old people are pretty much the same.

As you may have heard, if you've met one old person, you've met one old person. Way too many younger people lump us all together under whichever stereotypes about age they believe in.

But my favorite of Powell's myths is an extra, a tenth one he included: “Aging is a boring subject.” It certainly has not become so for me through these two decades.

Other writers, before and after Powell, have issued their myths of aging and although they don't usually acknowledge the lists that came before their own, they are the same - or close enough. And that is all the more reason to keep repeating them until the world gets it.

Most myths-of-aging lists contain nine or ten items. The latest book, Great Myths of Aging, contains 37. Excessive, thought I, but I like the specificity that shorter lists necessarily skim too quickly. A few of the 37:

3. Older people worry too much about falling
(no they don't)

14. Wisdom comes with age, so older adults are wise
(Not necessarily and not all of them)

29. Older workers are inferior to younger workers
(No they are not)

35. A majority of older adults end up in nursing homes and stay there until they die
(No they don't; by miles they don't)

The authors of the highly readable “New Myths” are Joan T. Erber and Lenore T. Szuchman, both professors emeritus in psychology. This week, they shortened their long list to the more traditional 10 for an article in The Guardian.

They start off with what I call the “eew” myth. “Eew” because there is not a person alive who wants to know anything at all, not a smidgen, about sex and their parents which is probably the biggest reason the majority believe “Older people lose interest in sex.” The writers explain:

”Many surveys prove this to be false. In one study, 74% of women and 72% of men aged between 75 and 85 said that satisfactory sex is essential to maintaining a relationship...

“When we desexualise older couples by calling them cute, this might be disrespectful and can result in harm, such as neglecting to educate older people about sexually transmitted diseases and failing to make privacy possible in nursing homes.”

Here they are on “Old people are stingy:”

”This negative stereotype misses the distinction between stingy and frugal. One of the difficulties older adults face after retirement is deciding how to expend their resources wisely, given the uncertainty about the amount of time those resources must last.

“Many people fear becoming financially dependent on the younger generation. Financial help often flows from the older to the younger generation (such as help with adult children’s and grandchildren’s expenses) until very late old age – hardly a sign of stinginess.”

This one, that I mentioned above, is important because it is too many elders themselves who believe it – but at their peril. “Older people worry too much about falling:”

”In reality, they may not worry enough. Each year, one out of three adults aged 65 and older experiences a fall. Up to 30% of older adults who do fall suffer moderate to severe life-changing injuries (hip fractures or head trauma, for example).

“Yet, a significant number think falling is someone else’s problem and do not recognise the precautions they should take in the home, which is where many falls occur.”

You can read the list of 10 myths at The Guardian. Although I have some quibbles with the book, they are few. It is available at all the usual outlets.


At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Henry Lowenstern: In the Morning...


Not Too Old for Another Surprise

Remember yesterday's post when I quoted some notes from my blog journal? Perhaps you recall reading this one:

”Sometimes I am afraid that there will be no more wonderful surprises, that the future I have left will be no different from today, yesterday and the day before.”

Well, wait till you hear this.

Yesterday morning, I drove half an hour to – well, wait a minute. Let me give you the back story.

In her old age, my mother bought coins. Gold coins, silver coins, old coins, new coins. She wasn't interested in the coins themselves; for her, they were an investment.

Mom was a child of the Great Depression and the coins, she said, were her hedge against the next one. When no one would take paper money anymore, she told me, she could always get a loaf of bread with real gold or silver.

When she died in 1992, I followed her instructions about the coins. She wanted them, especially the gold ones that were the bulk of her loot, to go to her stepson and so they did.

I've forgotten why but when he and I were cleaning out her apartment and sorting what to do with everything, he handed me the silver coins and one gold coin.

I promptly forgot about them.

Now, 23 years later, I found them when I was cleaning out a closet shelf a few weeks ago. There were about two dozen or so silver dollars, some Kennedy half dollars, a few 19th century coins of some kind and one gold Mexican coin approximately the diameter of an American nickel.

For most of this month, the coins sat around on my desk getting in the way. Apparently, Ollie the cat felt the same way; he kept knocking them onto the floor for me to pick up.

Then yesterday morning it struck me (I'm slow sometimes) that the coins might be worth a few dollars. So on a sudden whim, I stuck them in a little velvet bag I have and went off to a coin dealer's shop I recalled driving by.

Walking in, I began to feel kind of silly. What if they were worth only their face value. I hadn't counted but I guessed that would be about $50 plus whatever the gold peso coin was worth. It was almost paper thin so probably not much.

Oh well, I thought. At least they'll be off the desk.

A nice man greeted me at the counter. He consulted some books with price lists as he sorted the coins and kept a running list. In the end, the total sale price came to – wait for it - $885 and change.

Whoa ho! Who knew. I told the man the story about my mother hedging against a depression and that I'd had these coins for more than 20 years and was surprised – pleasantly – at their value.

The prices had increased a lot in the time I had held on to them, the man said (not that I recalled having them all those years). In the early nineties, they would have fetched about $200.

I was surprised again when he counted it out to me in cash money. I guess he saw the surprise on my face and offered to write a check. I decided to keep the paper – well, for as long as took me to drive to the bank.

Okay, $885 isn't like winning the Moneyball lottery, but it ain't chickenfeed either and the little savings account I keep, the one where I accumulate the funds during each year to pay the choke-inducing property tax, is now paid up for the year.

Isn't that a wonderful surprise? I had no idea anything that out of the ordinary would happen yesterday.

Of course, now I can't go around – at least for awhile – complaining about a lack of surprises in my life.


At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Joyce Benedict: Patchwork of Memories – Part 2


Dear Diary: Some Notes on Ageing

There is a handwritten journal I keep although, unlike the kind many others' have, the entries are undated. This latest edition is the third I have filled over 10 years (they are thick with many pages). It is my blog book, my book of ageing.

In it is a loose, running list of scribbled ideas for possible future stories along with some age-related quotations I've saved, stray thoughts I want to further consider and, sometimes, just a phrase I like. There are titles of books I intend to read (and sometimes do), movies I want to see and topics for research.

There is much more material about aging stored on my laptop – more organized too. The journal is meant to be personal, random, serendipitous, and although I regularly flip through the pages, I doubt I have used more than five or ten percent of the information on TGB.

Maybe that's because a lot of these jottings would take a great deal of development to turn into blog posts and I am lazy about that. But going through them over the weekend, I wondered what TGB readers might make of some of the thoughts – how you might run with them.

So here are a few, just as they appear on the pages of the journal:

There was so much time in youth. We were so cavalier with it. We believed for so long that goodbyes were not final. It is impossible not to know now that every goodbye might be forever.

Some rules for being old:
Own your age
Be true to yourself
Have a life, not a lifestyle
Know that living, life itself is risky
Accept change
Laugh more
(more to come)

Elders who brag about how healthy and active they are should consider how lucky they are instead. After a certain age, we are all one broken hip or bad diagnosis away from permanent disability. Good for you in your good health but don't hold yourself up as a paragon of virtue over others less fortunate. You could join them tomorrow.

Sometimes I am afraid that there will be no more wonderful surprises, that the future I have left will be no different from today, yesterday and the day before.

”In this country, some people start being miserable about growing old while they are still young.” (Margaret Mead)

A life in old age that is honest and true and real, and that it is normal, not shameful, to be old.


At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Arlene Corwin: And the World Gets Through Its Day


Oliver Sacks' Essential Essay on Dying

On the Op-Ed page of The New York Times last week, renowned neurologist Oliver Sacks announced his impending death from terminal cancer.

True to his nature – or what I know of it from his 12 books and dozens of stories and reports in The New York Review of Books – his essay is eloquent, thoughtful, honest, beautiful, inspiring and for us who will be left behind, deeply sad.

”The cancer occupies a third of my liver,” he explains, “and though its advance may be slowed, this particular sort of cancer cannot be halted.

“It is up to me now to choose how to live out the months that remain to me. I have to live in the richest, deepest, most productive way I can.”

Of course he does. The man I have come to respect and admire and learn from over decades of reading could do no less.

Given what I know of TimeGoesBy readers – well, those of you who comment regularly – I suspect that a large number of you have already read this piece and it is so complete in itself, there is nothing worthy I can add.

But at a blog dedicated to what it is really like to get old, neither can I let this go unmentioned, so a few words of personal response.

In one section, Dr. Sacks reminds me of what I hope for about my own demise in a description that is amazingly close to what I experienced some years ago when an accident convinced me that my death was imminent:

”Over the last few days,” writes Sacks, “I have been able to see my life as from a great altitude, as a sort of landscape, and with a deepening sense of the connection of all its parts. This does not mean I am finished with life.

“On the contrary, I feel intensely alive, and I want and hope in the time that remains to deepen my friendships, to say farewell to those I love, to write more, to travel if I have the strength, to achieve new levels of understanding and insight.”

Although it involves a death sentence delivered, I assume, with an approximate time table, I passionately wish to be granted that time.

My mother was. For the same diagnosis as the good doctor, she was given three or four months during which I cared for her, and what Sacks expects to do with his remaining time is similar to what I watched in my mother:

“I feel a sudden clear focus and perspective. There is no time for anything inessential. I must focus on myself, my work and my friends. I shall no longer look at NewsHour every night. I shall no longer pay any attention to politics or arguments about global warming.

“This is not indifference but detachment — I still care deeply about the Middle East, about global warming, about growing inequality, but these are no longer my business; they belong to the future.”

Exactly - “detached.” I felt that in my own accident and watched it happen both with my mother and with other loved ones as they were dying. In this remarkably brief essay, Dr. Sacks covers a lot of important ground; he is still, as he has all these years, teaching us.

OntheMoveCover150In May this year, his autobiography, titled On the Move, will be published. Here is the dust jacket which is remarked upon thusly at oliversacks.com blog where there is a larger image: “Yes, this is how Oliver Sacks rolled in 1961 (in Greenwich Village on his BMW).”

It pleases me to know this little thing about his younger self.

If you haven't read the essay, please do – it is a keeper to be read and re-read and read again. I also recommend a previous Op-Ed from Sacks in 2013, titled The Joy of Old Age (No Kidding.) It is equally important and Sacks is always a joy to read.


At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Dan Gogerty: Orthorexia, Healthy Food and “Piecing Around"


ELDER MUSIC: The Devil Made Me Do It

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.


Devil

Continuing the devilish theme from two weeks ago - after all, he wrote a lot of good songs - I give you today's music dedicated to him.

"The devil made me do it the first time, the second time I done it on my own." So said Billy Joe Shaver in his song Black Rose. I'll start with that very song, but not Billy Joe's version. I prefer WAYLON JENNINGS singing it.

Waylon Jennings

But then, Waylon was one of the finest song stylists who ever pulled on a black hat and a Fender Telecaster.

♫ Waylon Jennings - Black Rose

I wasn't familiar with WADE RAY until I started searching through my music for songs for this topic. (There's still stuff there I don't know about, I just need the right topic to bring it to light.)

Wade Ray

Wade started out on the vaudeville circuit and later was a fiddle-playing, western swing band leader rather like Bob Wills but Wade was a far better singer.

He became a member of Willie Nelson's touring band when they met at the Grand Ole Opry in the sixties. He died in 1998 at age 85. He performs Let Me Go, Devil, which sounds suspiciously like another song.

♫ Wade Ray - Let Me Go, Devil

MARTY ROBBINS is always welcome in one of my columns. Indeed, I've devoted a whole column to him way back in the mists of blog time.

Marty Robbins

There are a few songs called Devil Woman or something similar. This is the pick of them. But then, I would say that, wouldn't I?

♫ Marty Robbins - Devil Woman

I had quite a few choices for the song Between the Devil and the Deep Blue Sea. After listening to them all I decided on GERRY MULLIGAN.

Gerry Mulligan

This is from his early quartet that included Chet Baker on the trumpet. On this track we also have ANNIE ROSS singing.

Annie Ross

♫ Gerry Mulligan with Annie Ross - Between the Devil and the Deep Blue Sea

KRIS KRISTOFFERSON has a couple of devil songs I could have chosen.

Kris Kristofferson

My selection amounted to little more than tossing a coin. Okay, I didn't actually do that but the choice didn't involve too much soul searching, dedicated listening or the like.

The song I selected is The Silver Tongued Devil and I, from the album of the same name.

♫ Kris Kristofferson - The Silver Tongued Devil and I

Given the topic, the LOUVIN BROTHERS are an automatic inclusion.

Louvin Brothers

They really had a thing about all this sort of thing. The Louvins’ song is called Santa is Real. Oh, hang on, that should be Satan is Real – an easy mistake to make about a couple of mythical characters whose names are so similar.

♫ Louvin Brothers - Satan Is Real

Well, they certainly told me. I really have to avoid being unneighborly or I could be in real trouble.

From the ridiculous to the sublime. Here's MILES DAVIS.

Miles Davis

No messing around, Miles plays Devil May Care from his “Quiet Nights” album.

♫ Miles Davis - Devil May Care

She's a devil in disguise, you can see it in her eyes. You can't say it plainer than that. The ones who are saying it are the FLYING BURRITO BROTHERS.

Flying Burrito Brothers

This was a group who, at the time of recording the next song, had more members of The Byrds in the group than The Byrds did in theirs. There's no devil in the title, but as you have already seen, he turns up in the song. Christine's Tune.

♫ Flying Burrito Brothers - Christine's Tune

Even THE BEATLES got into the act.

The Beatles

This is a very early song of theirs, Devil in Her Heart.

♫ The Beatles - Devil In Her Heart

I ended the first column on this topic with Charlie Daniels' song, The Devil Went Down to Georgia. It's appropriate that I should end this one with an homage to that song.

The homagers (I just made up that word) are the SENSITIVE NEW AGE COWPERSONS.

Sensitive New AgeCowpersons

The Cowpersons come from about as far away from civilisation as it's possible without getting wet. That is, they're from Fremantle which is a suburb of Perth (Western Australia) that likes to pretend that it's not a suburb of Perth.

Their song is Doc Met the Devil.

♫ Sensitive New Age Cowpersons - Doc Met The Devil


INTERESTING STUFF – 21 February 2015


THE LADIES

Two sisters in their 90s live and work together in their New York City apartment which doubles as their dressmaking shop. As explained at Aeon,

"A lifetime ago in their native Hungary, Mimi was a renowned costumer, crafting clothes for operas, circuses and dance performances, though what she always wanted was to be a dancer herself.

“Vali, meanwhile, had a way with men, attracting even the attention of the one Mimi was to marry.”

It is a lovely and fascinating slice of life from a filmmaker named Christina Voros whose website is here. Take a look. (Hat tip to Tom Delmore)


OVERJOYED BY THUNDERSNOW

This will give you a great laugh – maybe even if you live on the east coast and are thoroughly fed up with snow and cold. It's Weather Channel meteorologist Jim Cantore's over-the top, exuberant reaction to the the rare phenomenon of thundersnow in Boston.


POT CAUSES THE MUNCHIES - DUH

Come on, now, admit it. I'm not the only one around this blog who has enjoyed toking up - in my case, going back for half a century. We always knew the munchies are a side effect and now it's official – or, semi-so if mouse research counts:

”A study in mice published on Wednesday found, unexpectedly, that the active ingredients in pot essentially make appetite-curbing regions of the brain reverse functions.

“When that happens, neurons that ordinarily transmit a signal that means, 'you're full, stop eating,' instead give the brain the munchies, neurobiologists reported in the journal Nature.”

I suspect, too, that if we had thought about it, we could have told them this part is true too:

”It does not fool the brain into eating just anything, however. Smoking marijuana rarely leads to a craving for broccoli. Instead, he said, the brain mechanisms create a desire for calorie-dense foods like salty, fatty chips and rich sweets.”

You can read more about the research here.


ANOTHER REASON TO HATE COMCAST

Every year, Comcast turns up in various polls as one of the top most hated corporations in the United States. In December, a University of Michigan survey confirmed that again.

Now there's another reason. Take a look at this short video. (Hat tip to Tom Delmore)


JOHN OLIVER ON BIG TOBACCO

Even when I'm not 18 minutes-worth interested in a Last Week Tonight show topic, I've learned to watch anyway because it is always like a standup act wrapped in the subject. I learn AND I laugh usually, like this time, out loud even when I'm alone.

If you think 18 minutes is too much to sit through, you would be wrong. The last three minutes are pricelessly wonderful but won't have the same impact if you haven't seen the first 15 minutes. Do it.

See? I told you so.

It was announced this week that John Oliver's show has been renewed by HBO for two more seasons, each consisting of 35 episodes, that will take it through 2017.

On one hand that's great news, on the other it means he won't take over hosting The Daily Show as I was hoping for when Jon Stewart leaves later this year.


BIG YEAR FOR ELDERS AT THE OSCARS

The annual Academy Awards will be handed out tomorrow evening (ABC-TV – 7PM eastern, 4PM Pacific time) and old folks are represented in greater numbers than I've seen before. Here is the list of oldest nominees in the major categories:

American Sniper – Director
Clint Eastwood age 84

The Judge – Supporting Actor
Robert Duvall age 84

The Grand Budapest Hotel – Best Picture
F. Murray Abraham age 75
Harvey Keitel age 75
Tom Wilkinson age 67
Bill Murray age 64
Jeff Goldblum age 62

Selma – Best Picture
Jim France age 70

Into the Woods – Lead Actor
Meryl Streep age 65

Whiplash – Supporting Actor
J.K. Simmons age 60

Well done, Hollywood, even if I wish there were more women. Maybe next time.


FRANCE IS BACON

A lot of TGB readers are big language mavens and you're going to love this. It's from four years ago in answer to the question: What word or phrase did you totally misunderstand as a child?

FrancisBacon

Do you have any similar stories?


HOUSE OF CARDS RETURNS

Ready to binge-watch, anyone? As with the previous two years, the entire third season of House of Cards - 10 episodes - will be posted on Netflix next Friday 27 February at 12:01AM.

Ten days ago, 11 February, Netflix accidentally (or on purpose?) posted at least one episode of the third season and yanked it down within minutes. As Mashable reported,

"'Whoops, something went wrong...' read the Netflix error message on screens of Mashable staff who viewed portions of the episodes. 'The video you are trying to play is not available.'"

As a result, apparently, of that leak a video of short “spoilers” was then released on YouTube but don't be fooled. There are no real spoilers in the video - something I would have known immediately if I had noted that it was posted by someone named “House of Cards.”

If there is no story posted here on Monday 2 March, you'll know I was too exhausted from binge watching the entire series over the weekend.


CAT VS. MAILMAN

On the rare occasion in recent years that I've scrolled past America's Funniest Home Videos on the teevee, I've left within seconds because the videos are never funny. (Maybe all the good ones go to YouTube these days.)

But this one – found on YouTube – is different. If you know anything about cats, it's really funny.


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.


In the Tenth Decade of Life

When the renowned essayist – most often about sports, but other topics too – Roger Angell published “This Old Man: Life in the nineties” it became, deservedly, an instant classic.

A couple of weeks ago, Tom Delmore emailed to remind me that it has been exactly a year since Angell's tour of life in the tenth decade first appeared in The New Yorker and although I mentioned it last February in an Interesing Stuff post, it deserves another outing at greater length.

In the media coverage of old, old age, it is centenarians who get all the attention usually focused on the single fatuous question about how they got to such a great age.

Of course, no can answer that question in any useful manner and it's not what anyone else really wants to know about them. Angell, however, does tell us what we want to know, quite eloquently, starting with a list of physical changes:

”I’m ninety-three, and I’m feeling great,” he begins. “Well, pretty great, unless I’ve forgotten to take a couple of Tylenols in the past four or five hours...”

That's for the leftover symptoms of a bout of shingles. The “glitches,” as Angell writes, pile up by the nineties: in his case, arthritis, stents, angioplasties, statins, beta blockers and more:

”My left knee is thicker but shakier than my right. I messed it up playing football, eons ago, but can’t remember what went wrong there more recently.

“I had a date to have the joint replaced by a famous knee man (he’s listed in the Metropolitan Opera program as a major supporter) but changed course at the last moment, opting elsewhere for injections of synthetic frog hair or rooster combs or something, which magically took away the pain.

“I walk around with a cane now when outdoors—'Stop brandishing!' I hear my wife, Carol, admonishing—which gives me a nice little edge when hailing cabs.”

What Angell has done in this essay is touch with astonishing honesty the major topics we all consider mostly, I would guess, in our solitary hours. He acknowledges but doesn't dwell on decline and disaster:

”It shouldn’t surprise me if at this time next week I’m surrounded by family, gathered on short notice—they’re sad and shocked but also a little pissed off to be here—to help decide, after what’s happened, what’s to be done with me now.

“It must be this hovering knowledge, that two-ton safe swaying on a frayed rope just over my head, that makes everyone so glad to see me again.

“'How great you’re looking! Wow, tell me your secret!' they kindly cry when they happen upon me crossing the street or exiting a dinghy or departing an X-ray room, while the little balloon over their heads reads, 'Holy shit—he’s still vertical!'”

By the tenth decade too, he notes, we are surrounded by loss. This is part of one of the loveliest passages:

“'Most of the people my age is dead. You could look it up' was the way Casey Stengel put it. He was seventy-five at the time, and contemporary social scientists might prefer Casey’s line delivered at eighty-five now, for accuracy, but the point remains.

“We geezers carry about a bulging directory of dead husbands or wives, children, parents, lovers, brothers and sisters, dentists and shrinks, office sidekicks, summer neighbors, classmates, and bosses, all once entirely familiar to us and seen as part of the safe landscape of the day. It’s no wonder we’re a bit bent.

“The surprise, for me, is that the accruing weight of these departures doesn’t bury us, and that even the pain of an almost unbearable loss gives way quite quickly to something more distant but still stubbornly gleaming.

I am 20 years younger than Angell and feel this already, if less so at my age. I keep mine close.

In this treasure of a ramble through old, old age, Angell touches on many of the events and circumstances we discuss here with some regularity:

”My work—I’m still working, or sort of,” he says. “Reading. The collapsing, grossly insistent world. Stuff I get excited about or depressed about all the time.

“Dailiness—but how can I explain this one? Perhaps with a blog recently posted on Facebook by a woman I know who lives in Australia. 'Good Lord, we’ve run out of nutmeg!' it began. 'How in the world did that ever happen?'

“Dozens of days are like that with me lately.”

Me too. Well, maybe not dozens yet at 73, but more than before in my life.

And the invisibility? He tells us younger oldies to expect more of it:

”Here I am in a conversation with some trusty friends—old friends but actually not all that old: they’re in their sixties—and we’re finishing the wine and in serious converse about global warming in Nyack or Virginia Woolf the cross-dresser.

“There’s a pause, and I chime in with a couple of sentences. The others look at me politely, then resume the talk exactly at the point where they’ve just left it.

“What? Hello? Didn’t I just say something? Have I left the room? Have I experienced what neurologists call a TIA—a transient ischemic attack? I didn’t expect to take over the chat but did await a word or two of response.”

But I am cheating with these excerpts. It is unfair to you and to Roger Angell. His dispatch from the future – should we live as long a he - needs to be read in its entirety, preferably in one sitting.

And then read again. And again. Hardly anyone else is writing about what it is really like to get old as well as Mr. Angell has.

As great good luck has it, this brilliant, thoughtful, wry, nourishing essay is available online here even if you are not a New Yorker subscriber.


At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Fritzy Dean: My Mother Named Me Fritzy


Meditation for Elders

One of the unavoidable consequences of making it beyond age 60 or so is that varieties of diseases, conditions and age-induced injuries become more likely than when we were young.

It is well established – though definitely not a guarantee - that healthy food, regular exercise and enough sleep are our best tools to help keep the disease wolf from the door. But there are additional habits worth considering too.

One of them is meditation and some recent research suggests that daily practice may help alleviate rheumatoid arthritis, sleep difficulties, loneliness and might reduce age-related brain cell loss in our gray matter.

You can read about those studies here and here and here and here and here.

There needs to be more evidence than these small studies before I rank the results up there with, for example, the efficacy of naproxen to relieve post-dental surgery pain. But I have no doubt that at minimum, meditation reduces stress, which leads to better health, and promotes a strong sense of general well being.

I know this because I've been practicing meditation twice a day for most of my adult life. Except when I don't.

And there is my problem. It goes along fine for months, even years and then I get interrupted. It could be getting sick for week or having an appointment at my regular meditation time or a period of busy-ness and especially vacations for some reason.

And once out of routine for more than a couple of days the habit, for me, too easily slips away. I convince myself that I had imagined the advantages and rewards I had been enjoying.

It had been such for a long time until late last fall when I again resumed the practice and just now, in the past three weeks or so I'm feeling my old meditative self again.

Meditation is like that – it is slow to take effect, subtle and it sneaks up on you. You go for weeks with time set aside for it wondering if there really is any reason to be doing to it and then it comes to you one day that you have been feeling a gentle, positive, uplifting difference for some time without quite being consciously aware of the change.

Here is a good little video about the physical benefits of meditation. The findings are likely not as definitive yet as the presentation makes them seem because the studies are small, but they are not wrong.

There is a wide variety of meditation techniques, none better or worse that others – they all work if you stick with it. Most people I have known who take it up report greater relaxation, a sense of peace, better concentration and clarity of mind, a sense of connectedness to a life force and much more.

Nothing bad has ever come from meditation and much good does.

A form of meditation called mindfulness has become popular in the west over the past 20 or 30 years, usually described as a complete attention to the current moment. I can't tell you much beyond that because I stay with the traditional meditation that has worked for me over decades and, anyway, seems itself to produce a lot of living in the moment.

Certainly do not let my reluctance or ignorance of mindfulness practices put you off. All meditation is personal – whatever works for you is fine.

There are so many online sources about meditation, it is hardly possible to choose any for you. The UCLA Mindful Awareness Research Center, one among zillions, is a good starting place for beginners but far from being the only one.

If you google “learn to meditate” or “meditation for seniors” or similar phrases will get you more links than you can possibly ever follow. You will find explanations, histories, instruction, even guided meditations. Much of it is free and no less useful for being so.

In addition, most communities have meditation classes, often free, and growing numbers of senior centers are holding meditation classes.

To be clear, I am not promoting meditation nor do I mean to push it on anyone. For me, it is an intensely private experience I don't feel a need to discuss but because it seems to be of even greater benefit in my old age than when I was younger, perhaps it is something you too can use.


At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Vicki E. Jones: The ROTC Dance


Blogging is Dead, Long Live My Blog

Every year or two, the internet announces that blogging is dead. Most recently this happened when long-time political blogger Andrew Sullivan announced in late January that he was hanging up his keyboard:

“...although it has been the most rewarding experience in my writing career,” he wrote at The Dish, “I’ve now been blogging daily for fifteen years straight (well kinda straight). That’s long enough to do any single job.”

There immediately followed, to mix metaphors, an orgy of blog burials. Here are a couple of them:

”The sudden halt represents both the end of a blogging era – and perhaps its most famous blogger, watching a new, blog-less era pass him by,” wrote Michelle Dean at The Guardian.

Jason Kottke was a year early with his obiturary at Nieman Lab in December 2013:

”All media on the web and in mobile apps has blog DNA in it and will continue to for a long while. Over the past 16 years, the blog format has evolved, had social grafted onto it, and mutated into Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest and those new species have now taken over.”

Judd Legum on Twitter seemed to believe there is no difference between a blog post and a 140-character tweet as he joined the blogs-are-dead bandwagon in January:

”The kind of blogging that @sullydish [Andrew Sullivan] did is not dead. It's basically what we are all doing now on Twitter.”

Ms. Dean again, in The Guardian, confirmed that social media has made a dent in blogging but did not mistake those media for blogs:

”Blogging dropped off dramatically with the advent of Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and their many cousins."

Young folks, those under 30, these people tell us, don't start blogs anymore. They do only social media and that means, apparently, that anything else is, or should be dead.

Ezra Klein at Vox, however, takes exception to the death of blogs meme but explains that the cultural moment on the internet – which includes both blogging as big business and the abundance of social media – is not, for now, conducive to old-style blogging, which is what I do. As he explains:

”Links from other bloggers — the original currency of the blogosphere, and the one that drove its collaborative, conversational nature — just don't deliver the numbers that Facebook does.

“But blogging is a conversation, and conversations don't go viral...Blogging encourages interjections into conversations, and it thrives off of familiarity. Social media encourages content that can travel all on its own.

Klein is more polite than I am: social media value fast and dirty without context or strong connection among participants. Blogs require thought, development, and a connection between blogger and reader.

So old-fashioned or not, TimeGoesBy will remain a long-form blog and oddly enough, given the death sentence from many, readership here has grown by about 15 percent during the past year.

This is what I do, this blog. It has been my job these past ten years to chronicle my observations and what I learn about ageing in America at this time in history. I'm not done with that yet and I am not the only blogger who believes in doing this, whatever the online noise machine says.

I agree with something Onur Kabadayi said about all this blog death stuff in The Guardian a few months ago:

”Blogs haven't disappeared – they have simply morphed into a mature part of the publishing ecosystem.

“The loss of casual bloggers has shaken things out, with more committed and skilled writers sticking it out. Far from killing the blog dream, this has increased the quality of the blogosphere as a whole.

At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Bettijane Eisenpreis: Is My Number Up?


Long and Healthy Lives

Hardly a week goes by without a report or two from medical journals and the popular media that people in Silicon Valley and other places in the U.S. and around the world believe they can “cure” ageing. Most are, of course, expecting to do it before they themselves are old.

These reports have been surfacing for all the 20 years I have been closely studying ageing. The only differences are that the number has recently increased along with the implied promise of imminent success.

Uh hunh.

It's such a waste, these billions of dollars being spent, especially when none of them address where we would put all the people who don't die on an earth already overpopulated by at least half.

How would we house and feed them all? And although I'm not a scientist (neither are all the longevity researchers), I doubt solving ageing would cure the diseases that humankind is subject to, so how would we treat and care for all the non-old, sick 200-year-olds?

Plus, there is the question of who would get the cure for ageing – if there were one? I'm pretty sure it would be priced for the one-percenters and not thee or me.

A much better question for ageing research is this: how can we live the years we are allotted now with as little disease and incapacity as possible? That's what the smarter ones among us want.

The answers are easy, few and you know them well: eat healthy food in moderate amounts, keep your mind and body active.

In the United States, it is remarkably difficult to achieve this and it gets worse every year. Currently, two-thirds of the population is overweight or obese leading to unprecedented incidences of type II diabetes, hypertension, cardiovascular disease and disability.

So why have I walked you through all this today? Because I was reminded a few days ago of an island in Greece I had read about a while back that is very different from our world, a place where people customarily live to age 100 and beyond with few health problems.

The island is Ikaria and it has been heavily studied because, unlike many other places that claim extended longevity for its people, the ages of the inhabitants can be documented. But instead of reading studies, it is much more interesting to watch this video:

I'm sure you noticed that in addition to all the other aspects of life, they smile and laugh a lot on Ikaria. You can read more about these people in this Guardian story.

The Blue Zones mentioned in the video are the five small areas of the world, including Ikaria, where the people outlive Americans and western Europeans by a decade or so. Dan Beuttner, who led the correspondent in the video on the tour of Ikaria, wrote a book by that title and there is a website promoting the principles of live in the Blue Zones.


At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Marc Leavitt: A Visit From a One-Percenter


On Aging by Maya Angelou

In between naps last week during the several days' recovery following my dental surgery, I read.

Not any of the several books I am currently working through – I didn't think I would have much recall, given the effects of the Vicodin. I was looking for something mildly engrossing that would match my raggedy, drugged attention span and wouldn't tax my brain.

It was a good strategy that left me with several interesting ideas to play with as I drifted off to sleep again.

One was a poem from Maya Angelou that I don't remember reading before. It supports my crabby response to all those magazine ads and websites about life everlasting in fancy retirement communities, illustrated with the same stock photo of a movie-star bland couple strolling hand-in-hand on a tropical beach.

This fantasy is part of the growing phenomenon of “successful ageing,” “positive ageing,” or “active ageing” promoting the charade that getting old is nothing more difficult that deciding whether to play golf today without the merest hint that it is more likely to involve losses that, even when not catastrophic, are real and implacable and inescapable.

Maya Angelou knows that and knows, too, that we can endure it without fairy tales.

ON AGING

When you see me sitting quietly,
Like a sack left on the shelf,
Don’t think I need your chattering.
I’m listening to myself.
Hold! Stop! Don’t pity me!
Hold! Stop your sympathy!
Understanding if you got it,
Otherwise I’ll do without it!
When my bones are stiff and aching,
And my feet won’t climb the stair,
I will only ask one favor:
Don’t bring me no rocking chair.
When you see me walking, stumbling,
Don’t study and get it wrong.
‘Cause tired don’t mean lazy
And every goodbye ain’t gone.
I’m the same person I was back then,
A little less hair, a little less chin,
A lot less lungs and much less wind.
But ain’t I lucky I can still breathe in.

The poem is from Maya Angelou's book, And I Still Rise, published in 2011, when she was 83. Ms. Angelou died last year.

Maya-angelou


At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Trudi Kappel: Rose avec Beaucoup de Rubans et de Dentelles


ELDER MUSIC: 1970 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 1970?

  • Ani DeFranco was born
  • The West Gate Bridge collapsed killing 35 workers
  • The silly tie break rule was introduced in tennis
  • Five Easy Pieces was released
  • Carlton were premiers

There seem to be a couple of versions of where the line "If you can't be with the one you love, love the one you're with" came from. One suggestion is that it was Billy Preston, another mentions Doris Troy. For all I know there could be others as well.

Whomever he got it from STEPHEN STILLS turned the line into a pretty good song.

Stephen Stills

Steve recorded his first solo album this year while Crosby, Stills and Nash were in a bit of an hiatus. That album produced the song Love the One You're With.

♫ Stephen Stills - Love The One You're With

B.B. KING was starting to make an impact on rock audiences with people like Michael Bloomfield and Eric Clapton mentioning him as an inspiration for their guitar playing.

B.B. King

The Thrill Is Gone was written by Roy Hawkins in 1951. B.B. played Roy's version on his radio program at the time and has recorded the song several times.

This is the only one that had strings added. It became his biggest hit, not that he's had many. Legends don't need them.

♫ B.B. King - The Thrill Is Gone

THE MIXTURES were an Australian band in the style of Mungo Jerry.

The Mixtures

Perhaps that should be the other way around as they started in the mid-sixties considerably before the Mungos did. Nevertheless, they recorded a cover version of the Mungos' song, In the Summertime, which sold really well here in Oz, I believe (I was in San Francisco at the time so I have no direct knowledge).

Later, The Mixtures wrote and recorded a song in the same vein called The Pushbike Song. To complete the circle, Mungo Jerry recorded a cover version of that song. Here are The Mixtures with the original.

♫ The Mixtures - Pushbike Song

CREEDENCE CLEARWATER REVIVAL had several songs about rain, a couple of which will be featured in these columns.

Creedence Clearwater Revival

John Fogerty wrote Who'll Stop the Rain after Creedence appeared at Woodstock. They were from California so they weren't used to all that rain that fell at the festival.

John insists that's what the song is about but notorious interpreters of musical lyrics claim all sorts of things about it. I'll stick to what John says, although there's obviously a bit more to the song than that.

♫ Creedence Clearwater Revival - Who'll Stop the Rain

While we're on the rain theme, BROOK BENTON was one of several artists who covered Tony Joe White's song, Rainy Night in Georgia.

Brook Benton

All the versions I've heard are worth a listen. Brook's is the one that got most airplay and is probably the pick of them (except for Tony Joe's, of course).

♫ Brook Benton - Rainy Night in Georgia

Barrett Strong and Norman Whitfield wrote War for The Temptations and it appeared on one of their albums. Motown received many requests for the song to be released as a single so Norman rerecorded it with EDWIN STARR because Berry Gordy thought that, unlike The Temps, he didn't have a big fan base to offend with what Berry regarded as a controversial song.

Edwin Starr

Edwin's version is more intense than that of the Temps and it became his biggest selling record and one of the foremost protest songs of the year.

♫ Edwin Starr - War

JONI MITCHELL's third album, "Ladies of the Canyon" gave us several classic Joni songs.

Joni Mitchell

Joni said she wrote the song Big Yellow Taxi in Hawaii, specifically when she was on Oahu. She said she opened the window of the hotel and saw paradise in the distant mountains but looked down and there was a parking lot that seemed to stretch for miles.

♫ Joni Mitchell - Big Yellow Taxi

Holland, Dozier, Holland wrote the song Band of Gold under a pseudonym as they were in legal dispute with Motown records at the time. The first recording of it was by FREDA PAYNE.

Freda Payne

Freda didn't want to record it at first as she thought it was more suited to a teenager or young woman to sing. After much persuasion she gave in and it shot up the charts.

♫ Freda Payne - Band Of Gold

Black Magic Woman is so associated with SANTANA that we tend to forget that it was written by Peter Green, the rather troubled founder of Fleetwood Mac.

Santana

I'll play the single version because the one from the album does tend to go on a bit. That, of course, is Carlos Santana playing guitar and the singer is Gregg Rolie, the keyboard player.

♫ Santana - Black Magic Woman

Speaking of long songs, I'm going to finish with one by WILSON PICKETT.

Wilson Pickett

On this track he moves away from his usual soul music and ventures into funk giving James Brown more than a run for his money. Actually, I prefer Wilson to James so that's okay with me.

The song is Get Me Back On Time, Engine Number Nine.

♫ Wilson Pickett - Get Me Back On Time, Engine Number Nine

You can find more music from 1970 here and here. 1971 will appear in two weeks' time.


INTERESTING STUFF – 14 February 2015


HAPPY VALENTINE'S DAY EVERYONE

I completely missed Valentines Day until I had finished writing today's Interesting Stuff but I caught myself. So here is a holiday ditty - well-suited to such a blog as this - from Henry Lowenstern who contributes a lot of amusing rhymes to The Elder Storytelling Place:

I'm looking for a Valentine
​who'll overlook all faults of mine​,
and love me as I am 
or does not give a damn
​that I am in decline.​


A BAD WEEK FOR MEDIA

Yesterday I wrote an entire blog post about three important media stars departing, each in his own way, from our landscape this past week.

No sooner had it been published here Friday morning than I discovered a report of the untimely death on Thursday evening of 58-year-old New York Times media columnist, David Carr.

I had been relying on him for news of the media world for years and finally, just a month ago, created a news alert for his name so that I could stop hunting around for his stories.

You can read about both his professional work and his compelling personal story here.

One of the hard things about growing old is losing the cultural touchstones of our generation, the people who helped define our era who are, inevitably, replaced by others of younger generations with whom our connection is necessarily more tenuous, and the sensibility of the world around us becomes increasingly less familiar.

87 YEAR OLD SENATE AIDE

In yesterday's post, I mentioned I was pleased that the late CBS News correspondent Bob Simon was still working at age 73. So few of us get the chance.

However, here is at least one other: 87-year old Barbara O'Malley who has been working as a U.S. Senate aide since 1987.

BarbaraOMalleyCreditMelissaGoldenWSJ

O'Malley is on the staff of Senator Barbara Mikulski (D-MD) and known to pretty much everyone on Capitol Hill:

”Mrs. O’Malley has greeted, trained, baked for and even scolded some of the hundreds of lawmakers and constituents who pass by her desk,” reports the Wall Street Journal.

“'She’s so funny—and she’s tough,' said retired Sen. Jay Rockefeller (D., W.Va.) who visited Mrs. O’Malley every day he was in Washington. 'When she thinks the conversation has gone on too long, she goes, 'Go to your office and do some work,’ he said.”

The median age of Senate staffers is 29, notes the paper, and O'Malley is thought to be the longest serving receptionist in Congress:

“'It’s incredibly unusual because that is a starter position,' said Ivan Adler, a principal at the McCormick Group who specializes in recruiting congressional staffers to downtown lobbying shops. “Most people stay in there until they find the next step up and she’s never worried about that.

“She has trained generations of staffers, estimated at somewhere between 50 and 75 aides who are now dispersed among the hallways of Capitol Hill and offices of downtown Washington.”

ANY HARRY BOSCH FANS HERE?

If you like detective stories or police procedurals and have not discovered him, Harry Bosch is a Los Angeles Police detective in the 17 books by Michael Connelly.

In rearranging my television habits since cutting the cable cord, I discovered a new series last week, an original from Amazon Instant Video, titled Bosch. Here's the trailer. That's Titus Welliver starring as Bosch:

I've read most of the books over a long period of time and although Welliver is a little less physically scruffy than I have pictured Bosch, I like him. I'll be tuning in for the full season as it unfolds on Amazon.

You can read more about the series here.


ROCKS IN RICE

When I reported on an odious dental procedure (before the one this week), doctafil, who blogs at Jive Chalkin', emailed to tell me this true story:

“I broke a big upper tooth a couple years ago and was freaking out about it. Lost some pounds in the process, because it took a few days to see my dentist and it hurt to eat.

“My dentist managed to repair the tooth, but it wasn't easy. The next step, he said, would be an implant. So far, the tooth is fine.

“I took my dentist bill to the restaurant where I broke the tooth. My husband came with me. He was sure the manager wouldn't believe me. The place was packed.

“Cashier asked if he could help me. I told him I bit into a rock in their rice, showed him the dentist bill and asked for the manager. He leaned over and told me he had warned the new owners that they were cutting corners.

“Cashier took my dentist bill into the back room. Minutes later the cashier came out and handed me an envelope. I opened it. It was a full refund of my dental bill. 'We apologize and hope to serve you again.'

“Beware of rocks in rice.”

Wow, doctafil, nicely done. Congratulations to you and the restaurant manager.


KIDS REACT TO TYPEWRITERS

I found this on Senior Planet a few weeks ago. The headline is all you need to know. Enjoy.


PRESIDENT OBAMA SELFIES

And more foolishness. On Tuesday Buzzfeed, notorious for lightweight quizzes and listicles, interviewed President Barack Obama. They covered many serious issues and then this emerged:

How did Buzzfeed get the president to agree to all this silliness? I'm sure you noticed the commercial for Obamacare signup in middle. Enrollment ends tomorrow, Sunday.


GORGEOUS GLIDING

Darlene Costner sent this beautiful video of paragliding made by Jean-Baptist Chandelier. Well, the first few seconds are gorgeous and I suspect the rest of it is too but I can't guarantee a gorilla won't pop up in the middle. Personal problem with heights so I stopped watching.


EVENT TO ADOPT OLD PETS

Last Sunday, an event called Oldies Only Senior Pet Adoption Drive, was held in Singapore. In connection with that, a survey was taken to see how people feel about adopting aging animals.

”Out of the 109 families interviewed,” reports Asiaone, “only a mere 2 per cent were open to adopting pets above the age of six.”

Apparently age biases apply not just to humans but to cats and dogs. My Olliecat will be 11 years old this year and I'm hoping he will be with me for as many more. If I am still alive and healthy when he does leave this realm, I will adopt an old pet. How about you?


CUTE, ADORABLE, STRANGE, WONDERFUL ANIMAL FRIENDSHIPS

Many of them. Dozens of still photos.


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.


Dental Week Departures

Dear god. I take a couple of days off and a large chunk of my personal media landscape decamps from the scene.

BRIAN WILLIAMS

NBC Nightly News anchor Brian Williams was suspended without pay for six months for inflating his participation while covering a war or two and other stories. Some pundits are predicting that the layoff is preliminary to his being fired.

I'm so old I remember a certain well-known media personality having done something similar 40-odd years ago – pretending he was in more danger while in a war zone than he actually was.

It was a short-lived controversy back then, didn't much affect his career (he is still around) and the internet has been whitewashed of the incident. I can't find it anywhere.

Surveys tell us that it is only us old folks who watch any of the evening network news broadcasts these days and although I don't have a lot of interest in the “penalty” NBC executives will impose on Williams for lying (that's what is), it does seem overkill compared to other public figures.

I wish the news powers that be (at every kind and type of news outlet) were as fervent when reporting the same transgression from elected officials and corporate executives as they are with a guy who, after all, just reads the news off a TelePrompTer most of the time.

BOB SIMON

Bob Simon was one of the best damned reporters of the past 50 years, doing his excellent work at 60 Minutes for the past 20 years. He was killed in an auto accident in New York City Wednesday evening at age 73.

In no manner can I say he was a friend, but I knew him slightly in the mid-1990s when he helped me with a couple of stories when I was managing editor at the then-brand new cbsnews.com website, and we also had lunch together in the cafeteria a couple of times.

He and I were the same age, born within a month of one another, and in addition to respecting him as a fine reporter, I was happy lately to know that he was among the few allowed to work past the usual sell-by date the world imposes on the majority of “older” workers.

JON STEWART ANNOUNCES RETIREMENT FROM THE DAILY SHOW

The first two are sad. This one was – still is - a gut-punch. It is astonishing how personally Stewart's announcement hit me (Vicodin for my dental surgery recovery may have contributed).

It's not your loss, I thought as the shocked and regretful reponses poured in from pundits, Congressional politicians (Republicans too), media figures, comedians and especially young people who are devoted to him.

It is not your loss, I thought. It is not the country's loss. It is MY loss. Mine more than it could possibly be for any of you, and I am bereft.

Silly, of course, but that is how it felt at first and now, a couple of days later I realize better than during all the years I have been a regular viewer how much I depend on Jon Stewart to confirm my own reactions to events (as he so frequently does) and to illuminate the political and journalistic predicaments in which we find ourselves.

Jon Stewart's contribution to truth is beyond calculation. He may have called it “fake news” but it was not. It was real news as no one else, not another single person reports it.

I was speechless when I watched the announcement. Of course, he made it funny because – well, he can't help himself. He's that good.

As he says in the announcement, Stewart's contract runs until September and maybe he will remain at his Daily Show desk until the end of year. I will be hanging on his every show until then and I already miss him for the 2016 presidential election.

The smartest media commentators among us have always known that Stewart is doing journalism, brilliant journalism, on his show but more than a few others have bristled at the comparison.

Matt Ford, taking an early shot this week at marking Stewart's position in the pantheon of great television, sets the record straight on that in The Atlantic this week:

”The idea that what Jon Stewart and his team did was journalism always rankled some journalists, but that’s exactly what it was. At its most fundamental level, the purpose of journalism in a democracy is to build a more informed citizenry.

“For many Americans, especially younger ones, Stewart fulfilled that task. And it seems to be a duty his successors are eager to take up: As he began his new season last week, John Oliver expanded the Last Week Tonight staff not by adding more comedy writers, but by hiring investigative journalists.”

Do any of you recall Oliver's three-month stint as substitute host of The Daily Show while Stewart shot his feature film, Rosewater? I was riveted. In his own way, he was equal to Stewart - as his current HBO program proves every week.

We have seven or eight or nine or so more months of The Daily Show with Jon Stewart and I will savor every episode.

But America should not be, does not deserve to be, without a daily dose of what's really going on in our world, of mocking what needs mocking, and if I could have my way, John Oliver's HBO outing will turn out to be an interlude while waiting for his rightful place as distinguished successor to Jon Stewart.

UPDATE 5:45AM: I just read an excellent piece about the importance of Jon Stewart to America by Timothy Egan on the Op-Ed page of The New York Times.


At The Elder Storytelling Place today is – nothing. No story. It is on hiatus for two weeks. Please read more here.


Ongoing Recovery From Dental Implants

Thank you all for your kind words yesterday. One thing: I'm as dentist-phobic as all the rest of you but it's not like I had a choice. Well, except for walking around toothless which I didn't see as an option.

RBsmallAfterimplants2015-02-12 05.06.08Want to see something funny? I took this selfie early this morning, the second day since the dental implants were put in place, and I can't see that the swelling is down any more than it was yesterday.

Those jowls are amazing, especially on my right side, and you have no idea how hard I had to work at it to produce even that small smile. So much for what ice packs can do.

I spent most of yesterday napping - so tired - but I'm much better this morning and thought you'd enjoy a laugh at my giant jowls. And yes, I'm staying home until my face looks normal again.


At The Elder Storytelling Place today is – nothing. No story. It is on hiatus for two weeks. Please read more here.


Oops – Out of Commission Today

Sorry there is no post today. I neglected to work ahead this time and, more particularly, I miscalculated how tired I would feel after two-hours of dental surgery yesterday morning for a bunch of implants. I'll be back tomorrow or, certainly, on Friday.

To be clear, I am fine. The surgery went well, no problems or glitches. This is just normal mental fuzz from heavy post-op painkillers combined with more fatigue than I had expected.

I tend to think I'm Superman in these circumstances or maybe that I'm still the kid I used to be. Not so, not so.

See you back here soon.


At The Elder Storytelling Place today is – nothing. No story. It is on hiatus for two weeks. Please read more here.


John Oliver Takes on Big Pharma

As I was sipping my first cup of coffee yesterday – Monday - morning, a regularly scheduled email update from The Center for Aging and Work at Boston College dropped into my mailbox.

It contained the Fact of the Week retrieved from the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) website:

”7 in 10 Adults Aged 45+ Report Having at Least One Chronic Health Condition; 4 in 10 Have Two or More,” read the headline.

This information comes from a recent analysis of National Health Survey data. Here is the headline data (for the year 2013) in percentages :

28.3% had one condition
42.1% had multiple (two or more) conditions

Wow! We are one sick nation. To repeat the headline, that is a total of 70.4 percent of the U.S. population, or 221,270,000 people.

Here's the chart. (Bigger, more readable one here)

Chronicconditions2013

And it is not hangnails or bunions we're talking about. Survey participants chose their one or more conditions from this list of 10 chronic (and serious) ones:

hypertension
coronary heart disease
stroke
diabetes
cancer
arthritis
hepatitis
chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD)
weak or failing kidneys during the past 12 months
asthma - current

Do you believe those numbers? I'm struggling with them so I set the email aside to look into it further at another time.

As I poured my second cup of coffee, I recalled that John Oliver's program Last Week Tonight began its second season Sunday on HBO. I don't subscribe to the premium channel so I clicked over to YouTube.

It became the second Wow! of the morning – an investigative piece that, serendipitously, dovetails with the chronic conditions statistics but goes far beyond: a massive takedown of corrupt practices by big pharma also involving the doctors who succumb to the big bucks the giant pharmaceutical companies hand out to them.

There really is no one on television, certainly not in the news business, doing reporting and/or advocacy as thorough and trustworthy as John Oliver and his team.

It's not that I – and, probably, many of you – don't already know at least the gist of what he tells us in the report. But he adds new facts, revealing proof and a good mix of his patented kind of humor to bring home the serious, important point. (I am so jealous of the research the show does.)

Here is a taste of just two facts from the video: 4 billion (with a B) prescriptions are written in the United States each year for a total expenditure of $1,000 per person.

Oliver and co. are not afraid to take as much time as necessary to do the job. This segment is longer even that most on 60 Minutes – 17 minutes and there isn't much else right now that deserves your attention:

That new physician search website Oliver mentions at the end, Open Payments Data from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS), can be found here. And here is the home page with explanations about how to use it.

If TGB readers are anything like the general U.S. population, according to the chronic conditions survey, 70 percent of us have at least one chronic condition which inevitably means prescription drugs.

Plug in your doctors' names and let us know what you find. If it isn't all that flattering of your physician(s) you are, of course, welcome to omit names, cities, etc.

My one doctor comes up clean.


At The Elder Storytelling Place today is – nothing. No story. It is on hiatus for two weeks. Please read more here.


Elder Care and Robots

We see the news stories every day – that there will not be enough caregivers to go around for the increasing millions of elders living into old, old age who need some help.

Varieties of solutions are being tried from the more traditional – continuing care communities, nursing homes, etc. - to Golden Girls-style communal private homes, co-housing, naturally occuring retirement communities (NORCs), and the Villages movement, among others.

With growing frequency, another, more futuristic, solution is being suggested: robots are turning up in the news about caregiving whether in hospitals, retirement communities and private homes.

They are not advanced enough yet to be even as useful as some service animals are for disabled people and so far, surveillance seems to be the biggest part of their capabilities:

”Some robots are already lending a mechanical hand,” reports MIT Technology Review. “As part of an E.U.-funded research project, senior citizens in Italy, Spain, and Sweden have had their homes equipped with sensors to track their activity and health.

“Mobile telepresence robots—a wheeled videoconferencing system that can be piloted remotely—let relatives and doctors check in with them.

The same article also tell us that

“Some nursing homes in Japan, Europe, and the U.S. give lonely residents a robotic seal called Paro as a companion. It responds to petting by cooing and purring and will cry if dropped or ignored.”

Personally, what I've seen of Paro only annoys me but I'm willing to accept that others might find it comforting. (You will find many videos of Paro here.)

When, several years ago, I first learned of the coming possibility (make that, probability) of robots to help care for elders in their homes, I was repulsed.

I like technology as much as any of us who flit around the internet, use smartphones and drive cars with computers. But a metal or plastic humanoid robot – especially when referred to as a companion?

Nope. Way too horror-movie creepy for me.

They tell us that familiarity breeds contempt and that may be so in some instances. But it is my experience in life that just as frequently familiarity leads to understanding, care, affection – even love.

And so, as I have read more about the development of care robots through the past few years, my abhorrence has been transformed into welcome – especially after I saw this movie a couple of years ago.

Robot & Frank is a comedy caper movie set in the near future where an aging, retired jewel thief, played by Frank Langella, lives alone in the woods until his son brings him a caregiver robot.

Like me, Frank hates the robot at first and he resists until he realizes the robot can help him revive his jewel heist days. And by the end of the movie, Frank says of robot, “He's my friend.” Take a look at a trailer:

There is no doubt in my mind that there will eventually be robots as sophisticated as Frank's – just not in my lifetime and I'm sorry about that. I think I would learn like one and if it allowed me to remain in my home as growing old made some activities difficult? In a heartbeat.

How would you feel about having a robot helper if it were as advanced as the one in the movie?


At The Elder Storytelling Place today is – nothing. No story. It is on hiatus for two weeks. Please read more here.