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ELDER MUSIC: Australia's Favorite Baroque Pieces (10 – 1)

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.


As I mentioned in the countdown from 20 to 11, Australia's ABC Classical radio station had a listeners' poll on their favorite Baroque (and earlier) pieces of music. These are the big guns, as selected by the listeners, and my goodness I find it a bit on the popular side (well, I guess that was the point of it after all).

However, as much as I admire Mr Handel, four selections seem a bit much considering Papa Bach only managed one.

Okay, counting down from 10 to 1.

10. THOMAS TALLIS - Spem In Alium

ThomasTallis

Not much is known about Tom's early life. He was probably born in 1505 and lived a long time – through the reigns of Henry VII, Henry VIII, Edward VI, Mary and Elizabeth I. That's not counting Jane and Philip who might also be included by nitpickers.

Elizabeth granted him (and William Byrd) a really nice deal: they had exclusive rights to print any music in any language for 21 years. A nice little earner, that one.

In between, he wrote a lot of music, best known of which is Spem in alium. Here it is.

♫ Tallis - Spem in alium

9. GEORGE FRIDERIC HANDEL - Music for the Royal Fireworks

Hande

After The Messiah, the two best known works would be Music for the Royal Fireworks and Water Music. Not surprisingly, as this column is the result of a popular vote, both are included today.

First off is the Fireworks, the third movement.

♫ Handel - Music for the Royal Fireworks (3)

8. GEORGE HANDEL - Four Coronation Anthems

Handel

George again. There are four Coronation Anthems (the title probably gave that away) including the most famous of the lot, Zadok the Priest. In spite of its being played often, I still like it, even though I'm not into kings or gods.

♫ Handel - Zadok the Priest

7. HENRY PURCELL - Dido and Aeneas

Purcell

Henry is considered the finest English composer ever, a big call as he was only 36 when he died. One theory of his demise is that his wife locked him out in the middle of winter after he returned late from the theatre and he caught a chill (or something worse).

Another theory is that it was tuberculosis that did him in. Before that he wrote vast amounts of music in all the styles of the day and a few he invented for himself.

One of those is the opera “Dido and Aeneas”, one of the very first English operas. From that is Thy hand, Belinda - When I am laid in earth sung today by the incomparable Jessye Norman.

Jessye Norman

♫ Purcell - Thy hand, Belinda ~ When I am laid in earth

6. JOHANN PACHELBEL - Canon and Gigue in D for violins and basso continuo

Pachelbel

This was played a bit when Jo wrote it in 1694 for Johann Christoph Bach's wedding – he was J.S.'s oldest brother – and then put away and forgotten about for a couple of centuries until it was rediscovered in the 20th and has become extremely popular ever since.

I've omitted the Canon and have just included the Gigue.

♫ Pachelbel - Gigue

5. JOHANN SEBASTIAN BACH - St Matthew Passion BWV 244

Bach-JS

I decided to play this all the way through to see which bit I'd select. That'll put paid to the afternoon but there are worse ways to spend the day. (Time passes – a considerable amount of time).

Okay, I've settled on O Mensch, bewein dein Sünde gross.

♫ JS Bach - O Mensch, bewein dein Sünde gross

4. G. HANDEL - Water Music

Handel

Georgie once more. This time in an aquatic mode with the Gavotte from his Water Music Suite.

♫ Handel - Water Music Suite (Gavotte)

3. GREGORIO ALLEGRI - Miserere mei, Deus

Allegri

There is a famous story about the Miserere. All the various popes since the time when Greg wrote the piece refused to allow anyone to perform it other than at the Sistine Chapel. No one was permitted to publish the work or copy it in any way.

This was under pain of excommunication (and probably worse, knowing of some of those popes at the time).

Anyway, one year Leopold Mozart and his 12-year-old son Wolfgang were visiting the city and went along to a performance. Upon returning home, young Wolfie wrote out the entire work from memory. He returned a couple of days later to ensure he got it right – only a couple of very minor corrections were needed, and the work subsequently became widely known.

I suppose this is the first instance of a teenager (or nearly so) illegally downloading music.

The complete Miserere is a bit long for this column, running around 15 minutes, so here is the first half of it (more or less) performed by the Choir of New College, Oxford.

♫ Miserere mei, Deus

2. ANTONIO VIVALDI - The Four Seasons

Vivaldi

These are really just four violin concertos linked by a common theme. They are certainly Tony's most famous work and most often played (over-played, if you ask me).

I'm sure most of you would have at least a passing familiarity with these, so I'll do something different. In spite of these being written for violin and orchestra, I have a transcription for solo guitar. So I thought I'd play that instead.

Here is what would normally be called the Concerto no. 1 in E major, RV 269 (Spring), but in this case is just a guitar playing it. The first movement.

♫ Vivaldi - Concerto no. 1 in E-major, RV 269 (Spring)

1. Mr HANDEL - Messiah

Handel4

Top of the pops is the big man himself with his best known work, The Messiah. Not all of it, but you can catch the lot every Christmas, or at least around my neck of the wood that is so.

The section I've chosen is aptly titled The Sound is Gone Out. Trevor Pinnock conducts The English Concert and Choir.

♫ Handel - The sound is gone out


INTERESTING STUFF – 30 May 2015


LE SERVEUR

I've seen this video before – and laughed out loud – but I can't find that I ever posted it. I can't imagine why not. It a funny reminder of the familiar saying, old age and treachery beats youth and skill every time. Thank jane d for sending it.


BRAIN FACTS

Business Insider says these nine facts will “blow your mind.” Typical media clickbait – no, they won't blow your mind but they ARE interesting although I suspect further research will one day change some of them.

There is more about this at Business Insider:


WHAT JON STEWART HAS BEEN DOING IN SECRET FOR YEARS

Three years ago, Jon Stewart quietly started a program to help train military veterans who are interested in a career in the television business.

”In 2013, American Corporate Partners, a mentoring nonprofit group, asked Mr. Stewart to take a veteran under his wing and help find that person a job in television, which involved making a few calls,” explains reporter, Dave Phlipps.

“'Jon said he wanted to help, but wanted to do more than just drop his name,' said Sid Goodfriend, who runs the program.

“Instead, the staff of The Daily Show developed an intense five-week immersion program to give veterans a crash course in their business, with behind-the-scenes looks at areas including talent booking and editing.”

It's been going on every since without publicity but now that Stewart is preparing to leave his show, he wants others in the business to take up some slack so is

”...urging other shows to develop their own programs to bring more veterans into the industry.

“'This is ready to franchise. Please steal our idea,' Mr. Stewart said in an interview at his Manhattan studio recently. 'It isn’t charity. To be good in this business you have to bring in different voices from different places, and we have this wealth of experience that just wasn’t being tapped.'”

Nicely done, Mr. Stewart. There is more information here.


JOHN OLIVER: PURE SILLINESS

Last Week Tonight was on hiatus last Sunday but John Oliver and his crew did not leave us entirely bereft of the comedian's particular kind of humor.

Take a look at this short video they made for internet only: a bit of insight into what goes on behind the scenes at Last Week Tonight. (For those of you with HBO, the show returns from hiatus tomorrow.)


THE BRIDGES OF PORTLAND, A DRONE'S EYE VIEW

Portland, Oregon has been known for eons as the City of Roses (among its other names is Stumptown) but it is also sometimes called Bridgetown referring to crossings of the Willamette River that divides the city east and west.

Within the city limits, there are eight bridges, each one an entirely different design. Recently, a film company used drones to make a lovely little movie about them. Take a look.


HOW HUMANS POPULATED THE GLOBE

Based on the National Geographic Genographic Project, this animation show how humanity spread out from its beginnings in Africa to eventually fill the whole world.

You can find out more about this project here.


SHOES TO PREVENT FALLS

Every year, more than one-third of people 65 and older take a fall. Among that group, 1.6 million end up in emergency rooms and in fact, falls are the number one cause of fractures, loss of independence and injury deaths in elders.

The National Institute of Health tells us that sensible shoes go a long way to preventing falls. Choose shoes, they say that

have low heels and non-slip soles
fit well -- there should be no marks on your feet when you take off your shoes and socks
completely surround the foot - no backless shoes
support your feet

Here is a graphic about safe shoes:

Shoestopreventfalls370

They aren't all that cute but better safe than fashionable. You can see a larger version of that image here.


COUNTDOWN TO SOCIAL SECURITY'S 80TH ANNIVERSARY

In 77 days, Social Security will celebrate the 80th anniversary of the day, 14 August 1935, that President Franklin D. Roosevelt signed into law the Act that has been keeping elders out of poverty ever since.

The Social Security Administration has launched an anniversary website counting down to celebration day. There you will find histories, trivia quizzes, a timeline of milestones during the acts lifetime and even a collection of public service announcement videos about the program.

This short one with a cat explaining how to sign up for Social Security is fun.

All of the above and more here.


ALASKAN WALRUS LIVE CAM

There used to be a live camera at Round Island in Alaska where thousands of walruses and other mammals congregate every year, but then it lost its funding.

Now, explore.com and several other benefactors have come to the rescue and the cam has been restored.

“'It was just serendipity,' said Charlie Annenberg Weingarten, founder of Explore.org, according to Mediaite. “'I would have done it anyway, but this is really a cherry on top, knowing we were able to assist them in furthering their research, their love of their work and be able share with the people.'”

Here's the live feed. You will find more information and more live animal cams at explore.com.


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.


It's a 90th Birthday Celebration

DarleneFlowers

Yep. That's right. Darlene Costner is 90 years old today and we're celebrating the beginning of her tenth decade.

Can you imagine?! And she's not the only one we will celebrate here this year (the next is a couple of months away) because it is a remarkable thing to get to 90 years on Earth and it cannot go by unsung.

Darlene Costner 87 years oldDarlene is one of my oldest (heh – in at least two ways) internet friends – years and years now. She lives in Tucson and I live in Oregon and neither of us gets out and about much but that doesn't mean I don't love her dearly.

We keep in touch via email about this and that and Darlene keeps us all well supplied with funny, cute, odd, wonderful and interesting items for Saturday's Interesting Stuff. In fact, that would be a much poorer feature of this blog without Darlene's input.

If you follow her comments here, you know she is a fierce political progressive and anyone who thinks we mellow in old age hasn't met Darlene.

But wait, this is a celebration, so first we need a cake. I think this will do.

DarlenesCakeB

Did you know, Darlene, that The New Yorker magazine was born the same year as you, 1925? In celebration earlier this year, the magazine's cover tried out nine different fashion styles on their mascot, Eustace Tilly, taking him from his earliest elegant incarnation into a new 21st century hipster look on a February cover.

NewYorker90cover

Every party needs some humor - birthdays most especially. American playwright Tennessee Williams, who was a 14 year old in 1925, published this little ditty, titled Kitchen Door Blues in 1946, about a 90-year-old.

Fred Carelli (I have no idea who he is) read the poem on Youtube. (Be patient with the music, the reading begins at :40 seconds in.) Here are the words for you to follow along:

My old lady died of a common cold.
She smoked cigars and was ninety years old.
She was thin as paper with the ribs of a kite,
And she flew out the kitchen door one night.

Now I'm no younger'n the old lady was,
When she lost gravitation, and I smoke cigars.
I feel sort of peaked, an' I look kinda pore,
So for God's sake, lock that kitchen door!

Fred_Carelli_-_Kitchen_Door_Blues

It's also a good idea, at a party, to have some singing. Eddie Cantor had a big hit in your birth year, Darlene, with If You Knew Susie. Now come on, everyone, I think we all know the words...

So big, happy birthday greetings, Darlene. I expect us all to be back here 10 years to the day for your 100th.


The In-Person Internet: Bill Thomas, Kavan Peterson and Me

When I started studying ageing 20 years ago, the popular press was concerned with advising readers how to hide indications of age like wrinkles and sags.

Almost all the more useful information was written by and for academics and little of that could be classified under the subtitle of this blog, “What it's really like to get old.”

Nevertheless I persevered, digging through the impenetrable jargon of the ageing industry professionals, making notes of what mainstream media ignored.

Not long after I started sorting those notes into the beginnngs of this blog, a breakthrough book on ageing appeared, What are Old People For?.

I was thrilled that the author spoke about ageing in a positive sense, that a professional in the field supported my belief that growing old couldn't possibly be as bad as everyone else made it out to be and is, in fact, fascinating, important and fulfilling.

The writer was/is a renowned geriatrician named Bill Thomas, a man who was revolutionizing the nursing home business with new ideas in elder living and caregiving called Green Houses and the Eden Alternative. (You can get an overview of those initiatives and more about Bill at Wikipedia.)

It wasn't long after the publication of What are Old People For? that Bill agreed to a two-part interview with me for TGB (you'll find it here) and for awhile Bill was able to find time to write TGB Geriatrician columns for this blog.

In doing all this and more, I have gotten to know Kavan Peterson who for most of these past ten years has been the producer and editor of Bill's website/blog, Changing Aging, and as things happen on the internet Kavan and Bill have become my friends.

INTERNET FRIENDS
Now I suspect long-time readers of Time Goes By may have had enough of my repeated reminders that the internet is, for elders, a modern miracle – not just for fun, information, knowledge and communication, but health too. As I frequently note:

”When we stop working, we lose the daily camaraderie of the workplace. Old friends and relatives die. Others move away. Over time the capability to get out and about easily may wane so our social lives shrink, often dramatically.”

And as new research studies tell us almost weekly, social isolation can lead to loneliness, depression and early death.

But for current elder generations, the internet arrived just in time to help alleviate that problem. I'm guessing but I don't think I'm far off to say that these days more than half my friends are people I've met on the internet and some of those are as close and dear to me as in-person friends of long standing.

It's a new kind of friendship, this long distance, email, Facebook, Instagram, Skype, texting sort that we have now. The media likes to make fun of how old people are confused about technology and don't know the first thing about it.

Maybe so, maybe they are right about our misunderstanding the nuances and undoubtedly they are right about most of us lagging behind on the latest cool apps.

But particularly given that we are not digital natives as everyone 25 and younger is, an amazing number of old people are using the latest gadgets.

Pew told us last year that among people 65 and older, 77 percent have cellphones and 59 percent use the internet.

Using all these new-fangled tools, it is amazing how deeply friendship can grow and flourish in the ether of cyberspace without us ever having met in person.

MEETING INTERNET FRIENDS IN PERSON
As much as I believe in the genuineness of internet friendship it is, without question, a substitute. I've met 30 or40 cyberfriends in person. Some of those were an enjoyable few hours and sometimes, as happens in “real life,” meeting face to face brought us closer than before, enhancing and strengthening our friendship.

It has been years that Bill and Kavan and I have talked of meeting in person. Last week, we finally had the opportunity.

Bill is currently on his Age of Disruption tour throughout the United States, described on the tour's website as an

”...incredible journey into a new and highly disruptive understanding of age and aging that has the power to inspire positive change for members of the audience and the communities in which they live.”

Last week, the tour arrived in Portland, Oregon, near my home. Bill and Kavan were able to make some time for the three of us to visit together for the first time in all these years.

It was the best moment of my week. Nah, that's not true. It was the highlight of my month. At least that. There's nothing like face-to-face time with special people you have come to care about as much as those you knew first in the flesh.

I hardly ever remember to take my cell phone anywhere with me, let alone a camera so thank god, Kavan had his cell phone and a “real” camera, too, to mark this event I had so looked forward to and on Sunday, Kavan posted this photo of Bill, me and him together to his Facebook page.

Bill Kavan Me20150521_370

It was an occasion I had anticipated many times and it felt like we had always done this together – sitting and talking and letting the conversation wander around. You know, the way it should be with people who are old and comfortable friends.

Isn't it the best, how internet friendships can blossom.


Long Weekend Potpourri

MEMORIAL DAY
That's the title of a poem for today from Marc Leavitt who blogs at Marc Leavitt's Blog.

On this day we praise the fallen, who fought and died in war;
The men who gave their all to guard the freedoms we adore.
Some watch parades that celebrate their sacrifice for peace,
Recalling ancient battles in the wars that never cease;
And others make this solemn day an opportunity
To pass the day relaxing, scorning all solemnity.

No use to scold the shoppers who descend upon the mall;
Or try to shame the picnickers at gatherings great or small;
Or rail against the worker drones who pass the holiday
In sleeping and drinking; to them, it’s just time off with pay.
Brave soldiers, lying in their graves, invisible, alone,
No longer care in any way, they’re merely heaps of bone.

Marc is a regular contributor to the Time Goes By companion blog named The Elder Storytelling Place. Today's potpourri post gives me an opportunity to introduce TGB readers who may not know that for the past eight years (!), hundreds of elders have contributed stories and poems that are published one at a time, Monday through Friday.

Plus, in the archives now are more than 2,000 wonderful stories of love and loss, of living and dying, of reminiscence and observation and inspiration - sad and happy, poignant and funny.

If you haven't done so, give it a try and note, too, there is always a direct link to The Elder Storytelling Place here in the TGB left sidebar. There is some fine poetry and storytelling going on over there.

BILL THOMAS, KAVAN PETERSON AND ME
One day last week, after knowing them both online for nearly a decade, I finally got to meet geriatrician Bill Thomas and his producer/editor Kavan Peterson in person.

It was a splendid event for me and I'll tell you more about it on Wednesday. Meanwhile, on Sunday Kavan posted a photo of the three of us to his Facebook page. You can see it here.

BOOKS, BOOKS, TOO MANY BOOKS
Now that I have released myself from writing essays for this blog Tuesdays and Thursdays, I have time to putter about and think and read in a more leisurely manner that is so much more fun and, even, edifying than rushing through life as I have done too much of for the past 10 years.

New books around here pile up and tend to get scattered so a few days ago, I did a roundup of unread and partially read books. The idea was to put some reading priority to them but oh my. I had no idea it had gotten this far ahead of me.

I made a list of them all to help me sort and I've copied that here more for me, I think, than you. Hey, it's a holiday and because so few readers turn up on three-day weekends, I'm vamping. You are more than welcome to skip past this:

The Basque History of the World – Mark Kurlinsky
The Library at Night – Alberto Manguel
The Age of Dignity – Ai-Jen Poo
In Praise of Ageing – Patricia Edgar
The Long Life – Helen Small
The Ripley Books – Patricia Highsmith
The Accidental Universe – Alan Lightman
Evening's Empire – Craig Koslofsy
The Siege of the Villa Lipp – Eric Ambler
The Care of Time – Eric Ambler
Tiny Beautiful Things – Cheryl Strayed
The Life of Images – Charles Simic
My Life in the Middle Ages – James Atlas
Will the Circle be Unbroken – Studs Terkel
The Elegance of the Hedgehog – Muriel Barbery
Beyond Black – Hilary Mantel
The News Sorority – Sheila Weller
Through the Window – Julian Barnes
Stone Mattress – Margaret Atwood
Fart Proudly – Benjamin Franklin
Grand Central – Sam Roberts
As Luck Would Have It – Derek Jacobi
The Letters of Noel Coward
Solar – Ian McEwan
A Place of Greater Safety – Hilary Mantel
The Middle East - Bernard Lewis
On the Move – Oliver Sacks
Supreme City – Donald Miller

The difficulty, as you no doubt realize, is figuring out where to begin in a list that is even longer when including the 10 or 12 on my Kindle and the too many returned unfinished or, sometimes not even cracked open, to the library because they are due for the next person who has placed a hold on them.

For the record, over the weekend I did read Ursula Le Guin's excellent 2004 collection of essays, The Wave in the Mind.

ONE SPECIFIC BOOK
Now and then I like to let you know about elderbloggers who have written books – specifically, elderbloggers we have come to know and love here at Time Goes By.

You know this author by her comment pseudonym, doctafil, with which she entertains us almost daily. You may have followed that link to her blog, Jive Chalkin'.

BrendaHenryBook150Now, under her real name Brenda Henry, doctafil has written a terrific little book of travel vignettes titled You Lost! Get Off Bus Now!. It's funny, sweet, informative, often fascinating and did I mention funny?

She covers her early years as an English teacher in Bangkok and subsequent travels throughout a lot of the rest of the world while also giving us a native's view of her hometown, Montreal.

I especially liked the chapters about the Afghani women refugees now making their homes in Montreal to whom she taught English while learning their customs and cuisine, as they all became friends.

doctafil is a world-class noticer of the small things that help define places and people we, her readers, have not experienced. Such as the striking sketches of characters in a coffee shop one early morning and others who show up at the food bank where she volunteers weekly.

There are several chapters on Rio and on Santiago, Chile, that will have you booking flights before you finish the book. She's especially good about a five-day cruise off Patagonia on which she managed to get by in six languages she doesn't speak.

It's doctafil's way with the English language that makes her so much fun to read. “Security in Rio is oyster tight,” for example, and describing the Southern drawl of a Georgia woman, “She stretched that word so far I had to run to catch up.”

You Lost! Get Off Bus Now! is available in paperback and Kindle editions at Amazon.


ELDER MUSIC: Australia's Favorite Baroque Pieces (No. 20 – 11)

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.


Recently, Australia's ABC Classical station had a listeners' poll on their favorite Baroque (and earlier) pieces of music. That gives me an easy couple of columns – just take the top 20 and play bits of each for you.

I notice that J.S. Bach is over-represented in today's list and under-represented in the top 10 you'll have here next week - which is not the way I voted.

Also, where is Telemann, I ask? As an exercise in democracy I shall play them as selected, today counting down from 20 to 11 (as we used to do back in the day with pop music).

20. CLAUDIO MONTEVERDI - Vespers of the Blessed Virgin

Monteverdi

Monteverdi was as radical a composer in his time as Beethoven in his or Phillip Glass today. People would wander the streets muttering, "What's old Claude going to come up with today?"

He's generally considered to have invented opera and he took the madrigal form, previously just a little bitty thing, and made it his own.

The Vespers of the Blessed Virgin, running at more than an hour and a half, was the most ambitious religious work before J.S. Bach turned his quill to such matters. It's also sometimes called the Vespers of 1610, as that's when it was published.

Whatever it's called, here is the Dixit Dominus, or Psalm 109, from that work.

♫ Monteverdi - Psalm 109 (Dixit Dominus)

19. ARCANGELO CORELLI - 12 Concerti Grossi, Op 6

Corelli

There are a lot of tall tales, legends, myths and other such things that have been spread around about Corelli but not much in the way of truth. In today's political climate that would probably be seen as a plus.

He may have been a prodigy (but we don't know) and he may have been chased out of Paris by an envious Jean-Baptiste Lully (when he was only 19) but that story was promulgated by Jean-Jacques Rousseau somewhat later, so who knows.

We do know that he wrote a bunch of trio sonatas, concerti grossi, regular sonatas and probably a lot of other stuff as well. This is the first movement of his Concerto Grosso no. 12 Op. 6 in F.

♫ Corelli - Concerto Grosso n.12 Op.6 in F (1)

18. JOHANN SEBASTIAN BACH - Mass in B Minor BWV 232

Bach

Jo's religious works, this mass (and the others he wrote), have been overshadowed by the great St Matthew's Passion (and to a lesser extent the St John's Passion).

Masses really aren't my cup of tea but it's on the list so here is the Christe eleison from that work.

♫ JS Bach - Christe eleison

17. J.S. BACH - Cantata: Herz und Mund und That und Leben, BWV 147

Bach-JS

If you're like me, you'd have read the title of this cantata and it would have gone right over your head, particularly if you don't read German (as I don't). However, lend an ear to it and you might go "Ah ha.” I certainly did, at least for the part of it I've chosen, which includes (in English) Jesu, joy of man’s desiring.

The title of the movement on the CD is actually Jesu bleibet meine Freude.

♫ JS Bach - Jesu bleibet meine Freude

16. J.S. BACH - Brandenburg Concerto No 3 BWV 1048

Bach-JS

The six Brandenburg Concertos were a present to Christian Ludwig, Margrave of Brandenburg-Schwed, who was some sort of minor royal and liked a bit of a tune. They were sent with an excruciatingly obsequious note (well, Jo probably wanted him to sponsor him or some such).

Anyway, we thank Chris for inspiring some of the finest works in the baroque canon. Here is the first movement of number 3.

♫ JS Bach - Brandenburg Concerto No 3 (1)

15. GIOVANNI PERGOLESI - Stabat Mater

Pergolesi

Gio was one of the most important composers of the early baroque period. Indeed, J.S. Bach was so taken with his works, he pinched one of his tunes for a cantata and he wasn't the only composer who "arranged" his music as part of their own.

He was also a master of opera buffa (that's comic opera) and there was very heated debate in Paris between his faction and those who preferred their opera to be a bit more serious (led by Lully and Rameau).

Gio wrote religious music as well and it's one of those compositions we're interested in today – the Stabat Mater, in particular the second movement called Cujus animam gementem. That's Núria Rial singing.

Nuria Rial

♫ Pergolesi - Cujus animam gementem

14. J.S. BACH - Suite for Solo Cello No. 1 BWV 1007

Bach-JS

Some say that the cello suites were actually written by Jo's second wife Anna Magdalena. They claim that they are stylistically different from the rest of his work. Also, there's a manuscript in her hand of these.

They also claim she wrote a couple of his other works. People love a good conspiracy theory. The one point I'd make is that someone wrote them (I don't really care who) and they are beautiful.

This is the third movement of the suite number 1, called Courante.

♫ JS Bach - Cello Suite No 1 BWV 1007 (3)

13. ANTONIO VIVALDI - Gloria RV 589

Vivaldi4

Tony makes an appearance. He's in next week as well with a composition you will already have guessed. Today is the Gloria.

This was a little unusual for him because, although he was a priest, he wrote few religious works (well, few is a relative term as he was responsible for hundreds, maybe thousands of compositions).

Here is Gloria in excelsis Deo from the Gloria.

Vivaldi - Gloria in excelsis Deo

12. J.S. BACH - Goldberg Variations BWV 988

Bach-JS

There are about 30 or so of these written for keyboards, clavier originally (which is somewhat akin to a harpsichord) but are often performed on a piano these days. I'll confess that I prefer them played on a piano. How they came about is thus:

It seems that the Russian ambassador to Saxony, Count Kaiserling, was visiting Leipzig and he brought along his friend Johann Goldberg who was a bit of a whiz on the harpsichord and the organ.

Alas, the count came down with some illness and asked Goldberg to play for him in the next room to ease the pain or whatever. This went of for a few days, and Goldberg was running out of material.

J.S. heard about this – he had been contacted earlier by the entourage, and out of sympathy for his fellow musician wrote a bunch of works for him to play. Naturally, they became known as the Goldberg Variations.

He gave them to him but as it turned out, this good deed reaped its own reward. After he recovered, the count gave J.S. a gold goblet filled with 100 gold pieces.

I have decided not to play the clavier, harpsichord or piano version of this work because I have a rather interesting transcription for a string trio. That's what you're getting. This is the first variation.

♫ JS Bach - Goldberg Variations (Variation 1)

11. J.S. BACH - Concerto for 2 Violins in D minor, BWV 1043

Bach-JS

Now we're talking. This should have been in the Top Ten somewhere near the top. It's one of the finest concertos of the baroque period. Here is the third movement.

♫ JS Bach - Concerto for Two Violins (3)

The top 10 will appear next week.


INTERESTING STUFF – 23 May 2015


ROCKING OUT IN THE KITCHEN

The song is Ice Ice Baby from Vanilla Ice. That's all we know but she sure inspired me to get out of this desk chair and join her.


KIDS WHO OUTSMARTED THEIR TEACHERS

Buzzfeed does a lot – a lot – of stupid listicles not worth anyone's time but everyone wins occasionally and this one had me going back to re-read and laugh again for a whole day. Here is a sampling:

FunnyKids1

FunnyKids2

FunnyKids3

These aren't even the funniest - I chose the ones that fit best on the TGB page size. There are a lot more of them to laugh over at Buzzfeed.


JOHN OLIVER ON THE CHICKEN INDUSTRY

Hardly anyone doesn't eat chicken and that's only one reason this is an important and also – as always with John Oliver – a very funny report.

Oliver is taking a week off from his HBO show, Last Week Tonight. He'll be back on 31 May.


TRUCK CONVOY TO SAVE CALIFORNIA FISH

Thirty million salmon are ready for their trip downstream to the sea but due to the drought and development in California, riverbeds are too shallow for them to survive the trip. So-o-o-o-o

”For the first time, all five big government hatcheries in California's Central Valley for fall-run Chinook California salmon — a species of concern under the federal Endangered Species Act — are going to truck their young, release-ready salmon down to the Bay, rather than release them into rivers to make the trip themselves.”

It's important work but too late for some:

”Near the town of Lagunitas, in Northern California's Marin County, watershed biologist Preston Brown stood ankle-high in a coastal tributary, searching for endangered California coastal Coho salmon and other, native fish.

“Decades ago, so many coho salmon filled the water that the noise of their jumping kept people in nearby houses up at night. On this day, Brown and his team find none.”

There is enough bad news like this of all kinds of species that it can make you weep. Read more about the salmon lift here.


RAW INGREDIENTS CUBED

TGB's Sunday music columnist Peter Tibbles sent this amazing, strange and wonderful project. Take a look at this:

Farfoodscubedlarge

Maybe you guessed but in case not, that is a group raw foods of all kinds cut into 2.5 cm (1 inch) cubes by artists Lernet & Sanders. From a report at Medium:

”Salmon, pomegranate, grapefruit, cabbage, lime and yellow squash jump out at me, here, looking simultaneously fresh and appetizing while also presenting a sort of 'food-mystery-puzzle' to solve.”

Here are a couple of close up images from the cubed food array:

Rawfoodcubedclosup1

Rawfoodscubedcloseup2

I'll be looking at my raw ingredients much differenly from now on. You can see many more and much larger gorgeous images at Medium along with additional explanation.


BLUES LEGEND B.B. KING AT THE WHITE HOUSE LAST YEAR

It was a sad day last week to hear that undisputed king of the blues, B.B. King, died at age 89. For most of us at this blog, there was never a time he was not a part of our lives and we should mark his passing.

This video is from B.B.'s appearance at the White House last year. With him are Buddy Guy, Jeff Beck, Mick Jagger and many others and they even got President Barack Obama to join them singing Sweet Home Chicago.


A SINGLE LIFE

TGB reader Tom Delmore caught this short animated film at the New Yorker website this week. Clever, witty and beautifully executed, A Single Life was nominated for an Academy Award this year and it is just right for people our age.

You can read more about the film here.


GOOGLE'S AUTONOMOUS CAR SAFETY RECORD

Google tells us that their fleet of 20-plus self-driving cars have now been tested over 1.7 million miles.

”Over the 6 years since we started the project, we’ve been involved in 11 minor accidents (light damage, no injuries) during those 1.7 million miles of autonomous and manual driving with our safety drivers behind the wheel, and not once was the self-driving car the cause of the accident.”

During these tests, Google has learned a lot about the driving habits of Americans including this:

”Lots of people aren’t paying attention to the road. In any given daylight moment in America, there are 660,000 people behind the wheel who are checking their devices instead of watching the road.

“Our safety drivers routinely see people weaving in and out of their lanes; we’ve spotted people reading books, and even one playing a trumpet.

“A self-driving car has people beat on this dimension of road safety. With 360 degree visibility and 100% attention out in all directions at all times; our newest sensors can keep track of other vehicles, cyclists, and pedestrians out to a distance of nearly two football fields.”

I hope I live long enough for one of these. Meanwhile, there is much more to the astonishly details safety report and you can read it here.


SEA LION, SEEKING AN EASY MEAL, WINS

It took place, YouTube tells us, near Cabo St. Lucas where the sea lion was determined to get a free meal from the boat.


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.


Are You an Elder Orphan?

I am. And it's not a comfortable thing to be.

In case the phrase is new to you:

An elder orphan is an old person who is single, lives alone, has no children or family member or friend who can act on his or her behalf in handling health, legal and financial issues.

An elder orphan has no one, or is uncertain of who, to list on that “next of kin” line in forms, no one deisgnated to carry out end-of-life wishes, and see to the funeral and burial.

Some of the media reported on this growing phenomenon following the presentation last weekend of findings on the situation at the meeting of the American Geriatrics Society:

”Dr. Maria Torroella Carney, who is chief of geriatric and palliative medicine at North Shore-LIJ Health System...estimates that nearly a quarter of all elderly Americans could be orphans...

“The outlook for the future is not any brighter,” continues the news story at CNN. “Based on 2012 U.S. Census data, about one third of Americans age 45 to 63 are single, and in a position to become orphans as they age.”

Further, a University of Michigan report referenced in U.S. News estimates that 22 percent of people 65 and older in the United States are elder orphans now or at risk of becoming so.

British Columbia's Seniors Advocate, Isobel Mackenzie, told news1130 that elders in that province of Canada depend on partners or children but like the U.S., that is changing.

“People who are single, people who don’t have children do need to think about how they are going to plan for their future and the aging process. It’s not going to be as clear who make decisions for them, who is their substitute decision maker, who gets their power of attorney who can be their representative.”

Dr. Carney began looking into the problem of elder orphans after she noticed that Super Storm Sandy left many old people who lived near the shore homeless, she told Bankrate, and she believes that single elders should not postpone making decisions:

”If you think you are going to be aging alone, Carney says now - while you still have the financial, mental and physical tools - is the time to figure out a plan. It could be a cooperative living situation, a shared household, a Golden-Girls' style commune or a formal assisted living facility...

"'It isn't a socioeconomic or intelligence issue. It isn't about race or ethnicity. It is the inability to reach out and make connections. That can happen to anybody at any time,' Carney says.”

She's right about that, and I think about it all the time. Hardly a day goes by that I don't.

I have no family. No husband. No children. I have friends I know I could trust but they all live 3,000 miles away. Not ideal but it might work; I just don't put my mind to it.

What else gets in my way (this is an excuse, not a reason) is that I think it's a good idea that advocate(s) be younger than I am – my most trusted friends are my age.

It embarrasses and pains me to admit all this publicly but perhaps it will impress on you (and me) the importance of designating a personal advocate because:

If I get hit by a truck and am hospitalized, there is no one for the physicians to consult.

If I have a stroke and can't communicate, there is no one who is authorized to speak for me.

I do not have a health care proxy. I do not have a durable power of attorney.

The only thing I have is a newly acquired emergency refrigerator card that lists my primary care physician but that “next of kin” or emergency contact line is empty.

So don't go by my lead. Listen instead to my New York friend, Wendl Kornfeld, who is married but has no children.

Wendl was on to this problem long before Dr. Carney's important advocacy. For the past year or so, Wendl has been conducting Group conversations for elders she calls “the unfamilied” - people like me.

As her notes state:

”The Group urges people without family to be their own strongest advocate and to support that by creating community as their family.”

Wendl, like Dr. Carney, says the time to do this is “RIGHT NOW” and, of course, they are both exactly right.

Stop worrying about which forms should be in place and just get them done – such forms as a will, durable power of attorney, health care proxy, a household handbook, medical history form, wallet card and that refrigerator card – filled in, for god's sake, not empty like mine.

Here's another terrific Wendl idea: “...the '2AM Team,' a couple of people you can call in the middle of the night if necessary. And offer to be on their 2AM team.”

This post doesn't begin to cover it all. For now this is meant to be an ALERT to get us started because, as I often say, if it's happening to me it's happening to millions of others.

Plus, with Dr. Carney's new report, many more - ageing professionals and people like you and me - will be paying attention and willing to help one another.

Let's not allow any of us to become or remain elder orphans.


Planning a Routine Doctor Visit

For me, the less medicine I am subjected to, the happier I am so in the arena of healthcare, I rely on two principles from the non-medical world:

  1. If it ain't broke, don't fix it.

  2. The hammer and nail rule (if you're a hammer, everything looks like a nail) applies equally to physicians: If your job is to heal people, everyone looks sick.

Now before we go one ssentence further today, let's be absolutely clear: the above is NOT a recommendation for anyone else. Period. Full stop. It's just a jumping off point to help explain how I came to write this blog post.

Okay? Moving along.

It's still two or three weeks until my “annual” wellness visit (“annual” in quotation marks because it's going on two years since the last one). It's a routine visit – I have no complaints - but I want my time with the doctor (which isn't much these days) to count. So I'm already preparing.

This is the kind of checklist I've used for many years and it has served me well particularly, I think, because with so little contact there is no reason the doctor should remember me. But it's a good idea even if you see a doctor more frequently, so you don't forget anything you want to know.

LIST OF MEDICATIONS
This time there are only two but one is a supplement the doctor said I need last time I saw him. So I want to be sure the test is ordered to check current levels.

Some people, particularly those who take a variety of prescription drugs, just drop all the bottles, into a bag to take to the appointment. Be sure to include over-the-counter supplements, pain killers, etc. and dosages.

MEDICAL CARE SINCE LAST VISIT
Another list, this one of health care the primary physician doesn't know about but should probably be in your main record. In my case, cataract surgery, the results of some short-term physical therapy, annual flu shot, pneumonia shot, and my ongoing dental work that includes bone grafts.

If care from other medical professionals is ongoing, include their names, locations and contact information.

MEDICAL/HEALTH QUESTIONS AND CONCERNS
Yes, another list. This one is of changes in how my body is working (it could be my mind, too, if/when I think that is in question) or symptoms that I want to ask about.

There are three or four items I'll ask about during this appointment. There is nothing that worries me but I want to confirm that and ask what's going on.

Such symptoms as dizziness, falling, hearing, incontinence problems, weight changes up or down, insomnia and chest pain among others become more common in old age. Don't ever be reticent about discussing anything of concern with your doctor.

If you have researched the web about any issues you have, bring printouts of what you think is applicable or about which you have questions but use your head. Don't give him/her a sheaf of pages – only what is minimally necessary.

UPDATED CONTACT INFORMATION
If any of your contacts have changed, that's another list to bring. Emergency contacts, health care surrogate, medical insurance changes if any, pharmacy name and telephone and, of course, copies of any DNR (do not resuscitate) and other emergency and end-of-life instructions.

As luck would have it, when I was mostly done with writing this, an email arrived from the National Institute on Aging titled Talking With Your Doctor: A Guide for Older People.

It covers most of what is listed above and one other thing I left out that is important: family and friends.

Many years ago, when she was in her 30s or so, a friend was diagnosed with breast cancer. She is a reporter and of course, went into research mode to see what treatment was recommended for her kind of cancer, what outcomes were expected and what were the variables, among other information.

But she realized, too, how rattled she was so she brought a close friend, another reporter, with her to every appointment and discussion with experts about her case so that she would be certain to have all the notes she would need to make her treatment decision.

I've always been impressed that she thought to do that, especially back when doctors were still perceived to sit on the left hand of god.

It's much more common today to be involved in our own treatment and you can bring a friend or family member with you, even on a routine visit if you need or want to.

The section about talking with your doctor at The National Institute on Aging is very good and there are prepared checklists for doctor visits that you can print out. You'll find it all here.


How to Celebrate Older Americans Month

May is Older Americans Month. It is also Jewish American Heritage Month, Asian Pacific American Heritage Month, Mental Health Awareness Month, National Physical Fitness and Sports Month, and National Foster Care Month but this is a blog about growing old.

In case you were wondering, Older Americans Month was proclaimed in 1963 by President John F. Kennedy and that led to the Older Americans Act (OOA) of 1965.

Through that Act, federal agencies, primarily the Administration on Aging, provide services and programs that help local communities promote the well-being of elders, particularly those that help elders live independently in their homes and communities.

So this time of year there are a lot of lunches and other activities to honor old people and I think we should take a day here at TGB to celebrate ourselves too.

We should do that for one day because during all the other 364, the universal doctrine that getting old is the the worst thing that can happen to anyone is what prevails.

If you spend any time at all with any kind of media (in the U.S., certainly), you are relentlessly blasted with anti-aging messages in so many forms that it takes entire books to explain them all. (I know; I own at least three of them.)

The perversion of language is among the worst. The word “young,” for example, is used as a synonym for healthy making the word “old” a synonym for sick. It happens hundreds of times a day in knee-jerk ways in movies, TV shows, books, magazines, newspapers, advertisements, conversation and more.

And it's not just a metaphor. To believe that the definition of old is sick is to cause real illness in yourself and lead to early death. Just accepting the negative stereotypes does that, as a growing body of evidence-based science is showing.

In January this year, CNN explained the results from one of the earliest of these research studies:

”In 2001, researchers from Yale and Harvard University looked at 660 participants between the ages of 50 and 80 who participated in a community-based survey, the Ohio Longitudinal Study of Aging and Retirement.

“They measured how self-perception of aging impacted survival over the course of 22.6 years. They found that participants who held a more positive attitude about their own aging - such as continuing to feel useful and happy - lived, on average, 7.5 years longer.

“In fact, they found that perception of aging influenced longevity even more than blood pressure, cholesterol, body mass index, or a person's tendency to exercise.

And a new study about old age and loneliness, published just last week in England, is the latest in a growing collection of similar results in various aspects of ageing:

”Brunel University London found that expectations and stereotypes of a lonely old age are predictors of actual loneliness. In a sample of 'not lonely' people over the age of 50 years old, a third expected to be lonely and a quarter agreed that old age is a time of loneliness.

“Those with negative stereotypes were twice as likely to report being lonely eight years later and those with low expectations were almost three times more likely to feel this way...

“This is especially significant given the willingness of younger people to accept the stereotype of old age as a time of insecurity, poor health and loneliness - a notion that has persisted in research findings since the 1950s.

“The new research could also shed light on the higher rates of loneliness in England compared with Europe where expectations and stereotypes about old age are quite different.”

Another study has shown that feelings of loneliness increase the risk of premature death by 14 percent.

Note that it is the old person's perception of old age that makes the difference. If you expect to be lonely, to be sick, to be unhappy, to die before your time you are more likely to experience that kind of old age – there is truth to self-fulfilling prophecy.

But you can change that. The way to celebrate Older Americans Month is to check your perspective. Are you harboring stereotypes and anti-aging beliefs about yourself or other old people?

Don't feel bad if you do – they've been brainwashing us about how awful old age is since the cradle. Just take some time to adjust remaining negative attitudes. You'll be healthier and happier for doing so.


ELDER MUSIC: The Voice is the Thing

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.


In a column like this, JENNIFER WARNES is certain to be included and who better to start the ball rolling.

Jennifer Warnes

I think it was the song I Know a Heartache When I See One that first brought her to my consciousness back in the seventies. Since then I've sought out everything she's recorded with some measure of success.

Here's that song.

♫ Jennifer Warnes - I Know A Heartache When I See One

JESSYE NORMAN can sing in any style you can imagine and make it sound better than anyone else.

Jessye Norman

I really don't need to say anything besides that Jessye is one of the two best singers on the planet (Cecelia Bartoli is the other). Here she is in a rather unexpected style singing what sounds like an art song, Between Yesterday and Tomorrow.

♫ Jessye Norman - Between Yesterday And Tomorrow

I discovered TANITA TIKARAM's music a few years ago.

Tanita Tikaram

Tanita is multi-culturalism personified. She lives in Britain these days, having been born in Germany to an Indian-Fijian father and a Malaysian mother. She writes and sings really good songs. Here she is with This Story in Me.

♫ Tanita Tikaram - This Story In Me

AUDREY MORRIS calls herself a lounge singer, not a genre of music I usually listen to or like really.

Audrey Morris

I think Audrey has her tongue firmly in her cheek; she is a fine jazz singer and pianist (she was classically trained). She's still active, singing around the traps, particularly in Chicago, where I assume she lives.

She tackles the old standard, Guess Who I Saw Today.

♫ Audrey Morris - Guess Who I Saw Today

JANIVA MAGNESS sings the blues. She sings with heart and soul because she's led the life in her songs.

Janiva Magness

I won't go into the details because it sounds like tabloid journalism but my goodness, can she sing. Today's song is I Won't Cry.

♫ Janiva Magness - I Won't Cry

LINDA WRIGHT is a fine jazz singer from Louisiana.

Linda Wright

She recently released an album of jazz standards and I'm afraid that is the sum total of my knowledge of her. From that album comes Satin Doll.

♫ Linda Wright - Satin Doll

When she was a kid, MISSY ANDERSEN was inspired by the music of Gladys Knight, Aretha Franklin, James Brown, The Staples Singers and Teddy Pendergrass.

Missy Andersen

While still a teenager, she opened for Cissy Houston and was later a member of the Juke Joint Jezebelles who performed blues, gospel and soul music. These days, as a solo performer, she describes her musical approach as soul dipped in blues.

See what you think as she performs No Regrets, a different song from the more famous one Tom Rush wrote.

♫ Missy Andersen - No Regrets

If BONNIE RAITT were a man she'd be held up as a rock god, guitar hero.

Bonnie Raitt

Instead she's quite respected and "my goodness, can't she play the guitar quite well. That's unexpected.”

Here she performs Randy Newman's song Guilty which (and I'm going to fall into my own trap here) Joe Cocker did so well.

♫ Bonnie Raitt - Guilty

SARAH JANE MORRIS sings in pretty much every style that's worth singing – jazz, rock, R&B, pop and art songs. She also writes songs.

Sarah Jane Morris

Early in her career she was lead singer for an Afro-Caribbean-Latin band but they didn't receive much airplay due to their left-wing politics. She later joined a brass band that performed the works of Bertolt Brecht, Kurt Weill and similar composers. From that she went into theatrical performances of similar (or the same) composers.

For those with a literary bent, she is a cousin of the writer Armistead Maupin. Here's a bit of Afro-Caribbean music with Wild Flowers.

♫ Sarah Jane Morris - Wild Flowers

Finally, there's someone worthy to receive the baton passed on by Patsy Cline. TAMI NEILSON is not a household name in my household or many others, I suspect, outside of New Zealand whence she hails (by way of Canada).

Tami Neilson

When I stumbled on her album "Dynamite!" and played it, the proverbial (and probably the real) jaw dropped as I listened to her amazing voice. Do yourself a favor and seek it out if you like quality country singing.

From that album here is Cry Over You. Tami's definitely channelling Patsy.

When I played this song for Norma, The Assistant Musicologist, she said it sounded like an Ian Tyson song. I'm surprised I missed that as it was so obvious when she pointed it out.

♫ Tami Neilson - Cry Over You

I can't help myself. I was so impressed with Tami I decided to throw in an extra track of her singing a duet with BEN WOOLLEY called Whiskey and Kisses.

Think of Willie singing with Emmylou. The A.M. thought this one sounded as if Ian Tyson had written it too.

♫ Tami Neilson - Whiskey and Kisses


INTERESTING STUFF – 16 May 2015


GRANDPA AND ME AND A HELICOPTER TO HEAVEN

Reader Tom Delmore sent this video of the touching relationship between an old man at the end of his life and his grandson. Simple and beautiful. (In Swedish with subtitles.)


OH, GOD, I WILL MISS JON STEWART SO MUCH

Last Monday, The Daily Show took on those Texas lunatics – including way too many elected officials – who believe a U.S military training exercise in their state this summer is a cover for instituting martial law.

Remember last week when the story about a crazy deer crossing lady was headlined, “They walk among us and they vote?” Just apply that to these people and enjoy Jon Stewart skewering them. Be sure to stick around for the last line.


DAVID LETTERMAN'S EXIT INTERVIEW

Jon Stewart is not the only legend leaving late night television soon. After 33 years, David Letterman is bowing out. The notoriously interview-shy Late Night host talked to Rolling Stone.

Here's something you probably didn't know:

”Three days a week, Letterman wakes up in his downtown Manhattan loft at 6 a.m., drives to his offices at 53rd and Broadway and immediately goes back to bed.

“He used to commute at a more normal hour, but at some point he decided he hated traffic so much that he'd rather sleep in segments than spend an extra 15 minutes in rush hour. Now he gets to his 12th-floor suite around 6:30, sleeps for three more hours, then gets up to start his day, 'refreshed and ready to go.'"

It's a long interview about the show, about quitting after 33 years, about his young son and what he'll do with himself now.

In reality, Letterman is a better interviewer than interviewee. But his retirement marks the passing of an era and should be noted - particularly, if like me, you've produced a zillion TV interviews in your life.

You can read the whole thing at Rolling Stone. Letterman's last show will be broadcast on this Wednesday 20 May. Stephen Colbert takes over that time slot on CBS-TV on Tuesday 8 September.


INSIDE THE COCKPIT WITH A BLUE ANGELS PILOT

I'm not too keen on the accompanying music within this video but it is fantastic to see how the Blue Angels work from the inside.

If you like that, there are more Blue Angels videos at YouTube – just search “blue angels”


THE CARE PACKAGE

That's the name of a new series on the PBS Newshour website from editorial cartoonist, Jack Ohman.

“When editorial cartoonist Jack Ohman sat down to illustrate his father’s final years,” writes someone unnamed at the website, “he did not want to sugar-coat his own experiences providing four years of long term care. Otherwise, the story would not have been worth telling, he explained...

“It was difficult, but he said he acted with a sense of duty.

“'He took care of me, and we had our issues, but I felt he was owed a dignified life, and I wanted to help him,' Ohman said.”

Here are two of the panels from Part 1.

CarePackage1

CarePakcage3

You can see all of Part 1 here where you can also sign up to be notified as Parts 2-4 are published over the next several months. (Hat tip to Tom Delmore)


MICHELLE OBAMA'S TUSKEGEE COMMENCEMENT SPEECH

Last week, First Lady Michelle Obama gave a powerful, even soaring commencement speech at Tuskegee University in Alabama. I would wager no other first lady has been this outspoken and strong. Predictably, the right wing punditry was outraged.

Never mind about that. Just watch this amazing woman tell it like it is to the 2015 graduating class.


REPUBLICANS CUT AMTRAK FUNDNG AFTER DEADLY CRASH

Really. They did that. The Republican majority on the House Appropriations Committee.

In fewer than 24 hours after the terrible train derailment in Pennsylvania took eight lives this week, they snatched more than a quarter of a billion dollars from Amtrak. You can read about it here and here.

And you can check to see if your House representative was on that list here.


JOHN OLIVER ON PAID FAMILY LEAVE

John Oliver keeps telling people who ask that he is not a journalist, not an investigative reporter. Maybe he thinks so because he tells such funny jokes while exposing malfeasance, corruption, fraud, crime, exploitation, misrepresentation along with plain old stupidity.

And he does it thoroughly, competently and even when it's not headline news.

This week Oliver took on paid family leave and you will be shocked at the position the U.S. holds in the world on this subject.


POLAR BEAR MAMA AND HER CUBS

From Darlene Costner. I am charmed by polar bear video while simultaneously being frightened and sad for them as the polar ice continues to melt.


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.


Things I Do Differently Now That I'm Old

Some people – well, many people – see old age as nothing more than decline and that's not entirely false. Our bodies slow down, we become more susceptible to the “diseases of age” and we soon learn we are invisible to younger generations.

What they don't know yet is that there are compensations. According to some research, old age is the happiest time our lives. We also stop worrying about wrinkes and sags, we don't care as much what other people think of us and due to certain changes in our brains, we actually become a bit more wise.

Even so, there are changes that come, usually by personal choice, that are directly related to growing old. Here are some of the things I now do differently at age 74:

I don't drive on highways and I don't drive after sunset. The latter is lifelong – I couldn't see well at night even when I was a kid. But highways now make me tense so I take the long way around and usually it's a lot more interesting.

I renew memberships and magazine subscriptions for only one year. Yes, it's a few dollars more expensive than two or three years but why spend the money when I might not live that long. If you subscribe to as many as I do, the savings is substantial and I can use it elsewhere.

I haven't bought a dozen eggs in years. It's not about cholesterol and anyway, the “experts” are saying recently that we can eat eggs again. But I live alone, use them mostly hard-boiled in salads now and then and even with only half a box, some go bad before I get to them.

I don't finish any book (or movie) that bores me. How is it that for most of my life I felt obligated to read to the bitter end just because I had begun? I'm over that now.

It still breaks my heart but I don't wear high-heeled shoes anymore. There was a time when I couldn't stop buying them. I had more than a hundred pairs and worried that when I died, they'd compare me to Imelda Marcos.

Then one day they hurt my feet enough to make me cry and I couldn't recall if they had always hurt that much and I'd finally had enough, or if they just started hurting that day.

(Speaking of shoes, earlier this week Senior Planet included my shoe fetish in a story about Flaunting Age. I particularly like the idea of pimping out hearing aids.)

I stopped eating red meat a decade ago because it began causing stomach aches and the upside is that it is much easier to keep my weight in check. Once or twice a year I crave a really good hamburger and I figure eating one that infrequently won't hurt me (or the environment) much.

I no longer pay attention to dressing fashionably – only what fits well and is appropriate to the occasion. And no more cleavage, not that I ever had much.

Unless it is extremely important and someone else is paying, I have decided to top using airplanes. They are expensive, unpleasant, uncomfortable and an overall miserable experience.

And finally, I have given up pursuing happiness. I don't even read the ubiquitous “research” studies about happiness anymore because no one – not the researchers nor the respondents – know what they mean by the word. I'm doing fine, enjoying my old age so far and that's good enough for me.

Now it's your turn. What do you do differently now that you attribute to growing older?


Growing Old with Unrealized Ambitions

It has been awhile since we've had a reader-suggested conversation which makes it high time, I think, to do so.

Today's comes from Anne Brew who tells me in an email that although she spent her career as a primary school teacher, she always liked loud engine noises and her undercover ambition was to

”...be on the deck of an aircraft carrier, guiding the jets in with what looks like two table tennis bats.

“Since Great Britain no longer has an aircraft carrier I suppose I would have to use an American one. And I suppose I would have to enlist to be trusted with that job.”

I get that. Similarly, though less exotic, I have spent years enjoying those lively dancing traffic directors in busy intersections when I see them. You know the ones – usually in European cities, sometimes standing on a box who make traffic control look like a fun to do.

I've always thought I would be good at that. And there is the obvious frisson of danger – not too much, just enough to keep you on your toes (so to speak) – that a driver might skim past just a little too close.

That possible career choice along with dozens of others have briefly engaged my mind as alternatives to where I spent my work life though none were anything I longed for or regret not doing.

One big unrealized ambition, actually a daydream, is not career- or job-related. It's about wealth.

There is plenty of good one can do for others with unlimited wealth and I like to think that I would do that. How many homes does anyone really need or cars or expensive gadgets and doodads.

That doesn't mean, however, that people of great means should not indulge personal whims; only that they should also share their good fortune. But that's for another time. Today, we're daydreaming.

If I had unlimited wealth, I would buy me my own large airplane, an Airbus 380, and outfit it as a splendid traveling hotel with living room, eight or 10 guest suites, entertainment areas, a world-class kitchen and chef.

For style, think updated, greatly enlarged private railroad car from the 19th century with luxurious fabrics on well-made furniture, fine wood trim and pretty little wall lamps.

There would also need to be an excellent gym because the reason for the big, roomy airliner with all possible comforts available in flight is to gather up certain friends, the ones who are adventurous about great good food, and travel the world eating the best there is in their places of origin in season accompanied by the finest wines or whatever local libations are the recommended accompaniments.

From Parisian haute cuisine to the biscuits and red-eye gravy in Nashvville. From a tajine in Marrakesh to lobster in Maine. Fresh gnocci in Rome, sushi in Tokyo and so on.

The gym, then, to keep our bodies from turning into Jabba the Hut.

You can probably tell that in odd moments, I've daydreamed this for decades, redecorating the plane as my tastes have changed, adding phones, movies, large screens and recently, wi-fi along with a mental list of restaurants as I read reviews from storied restaurants great and small from around the world.

I suspect that if this ever became reality, I would quickly tire of being always on the move but that does not detract from the enjoyment I get from thinking about it and that's all I really need from the idea – it's fun to imagine.

Anne Brew concluded her note to me with this:

“It suddenly occurred to me that as a 66-year-old woman living in the U.K. and not being a member of the armed forces, it's now certain I will never do this and it's come as a bit of a shock.

“Do you or your readers have secret ambitions that will now never be realised and how does that make them feel?”

Now it's your turn, readers. Following Anne's lead, what are your secret dreams – career or personal. Did any of you accomplish them? Was there disappointment when you realized you've reached an age when it won't happen? How have you, if necessary, dealt with letting go?


The Longevity Gap

On last Friday's post about the fading of our five senses as we age, S.C. Jones responded to my mention of the dental bone grafts and implants I am undergoing:

”As for teeth, and bone—one of the debilitating and dreadful losses. There is no way I could afford the fix you are undergoing, Ronni.”

Before I get to the topic at hand, let me explain that I too can't really afford it which is why I had to choose an overdenture rather than a full set of implants. (I'll explain overdenture when the time comes in my dental odyssey.)

It took me many days of angst to consider having the work done because the only way I can pay for it is to raid my end-of-life fund. In actuality, it depletes that fund by a third. This is money set aside to use if I become totally disabled and need full time care.

So using this money for the overdenture implants was a serious decision (there are no windfalls in my future from rich aunts or uncles) but there was a likelihood too that depending on how long I live, it could cost a great deal more over time to keep my mouth in reasonably good shape.

The dentist has assured me that barring unexpected events, this work should last 30 years which gets me to age 104. Hey, you never can tell.

After I began the procedures, an acquaintance asked what happens if I don't live so long or if I die soon after the work is finished – won't I be sorry to have spent all that money for naught?

Well, the only answer to that question is, Huh? - although I trust I was more polite than that. I strongly suspect there are no regrets after death nor do I believe money is necessary following that event.

So it's teeth and S.C. Jones who brought to today's consideration of longevity, a closer look than the usual actuarial tables telling us how wonderful it is that we now live so much longer than our parents and grandparents.

Because of those statistics, the 2016 presidential candidates – mostly Republican – are already lining up to declare that Social Security benefits must be cut. (It won't be long before they pounce on Medicare too.)

With old people living so much longer, the candidates say, we can't afford to pay the promised benefits. As you might expect, the temptation here is to show you a whole lot of numbers and charts. Instead, let us look at who is living longer and then decide why Republicans want to cut Social Security.

As Ezra Klein reported last month at Vox:

”According to the Social Security Administration, retirees who made above-average incomes in their working years live six years longer than they did in the 1970s. Retirees in the bottom half of the income distribution live only 1.3 years longer.”

This “longevity gap” began receiving widespread coverage in the media most recently during the unrest in Baltimore:

”...a hypothetical case of two babies born on the same day this year in Baltimore. One is born in Roland Park, a wealthy neighborhood in the north of the city. The other is born just three miles away in Downtown/Seton Hill, one of the city's poorest neighborhoods.

“The Roland Park baby will most likely live to the age of 84, well above the U.S. average of 79. The Seton Hill baby, on the other hand, can expect to die 19 years earlier at the age of 65.

“That's 14 years below the U.S. average. The average child born this year in Seton Hill will be dead before she can even begin to collect Social Security.

“The only thing more astonishing than this 19-year gap in life expectancy is the short distance you have to travel in Baltimore to get from one extreme to another.”

I know I said no charts but here is just one that expresses the sharp class difference and how it has grown.

Gray shows longevity of the bottom half of income distribution; red show the upper income distribution half. 1972 on the left; 2001 on the right. A larger, more readable chart here.

LongevityIncomesmall

As this implies, there is also in the U.S. a racial and educational longevity gap - and it is getting worse - as Business Insider reported last year at some length:

”In 2009, the average life expectancy of black men and women in the United States was just 75. That's roughly the same as the average life expectancy of white men and women in 1979 — 30 years earlier. The average life expectancy of black men in 2009 was just 71 (compared to 76 for white men).

“...The researchers found that white men with 16 or more years of schooling can expect to live an average of 14 years longer than black men with fewer than 12 years of education.(For white and black women with the same educational differences, that gap was 10 years.)”

The longevity gap has widened in concert with the increase in income and wealth inequalty and it is the Republican candidates and their billionaire backers who are demanding that the people who need Social Security most learn to live with a lot less.

Michael A. Fletcher reported for the Washington Post in 2013:

”Now, as the cost of providing old-age benefits has emerged as the key driver of the nation’s long-term budget deficit, there is increasing pressure to again raise the retirement age — this time for both Medicare and Social Security.

“But given the widening differences in life expectancy for people on opposite ends of the income scale, 'that would mean a benefit cut that falls heaviest on people who generally are most reliant on Social Security for their retirement income.

“'It is totally class-based,' said Eric Kingson, a Syracuse University professor and co-chair of Social Security Works, a coalition opposed to reducing old-age benefits.”

As has been reported in these pages for many years and throughout the media, there is a variety of fair ways to find enough money to maintain Social Security indefinitely. Why hasn't that happened in Congress, do you think?

The longevity gap has been growing over many years and it has become abundantly clear that Republicans are willing to arrange the economics of the United States so that rich people automatically live longer, much longer, than everyone else.

Think for a moment about how grotesque that is.

Then don't forget that there is an election next year. It's the only weapon we have against the class warfare being perpetrated by the billionaire class and their Republican handmaidens.


ELDER MUSIC: Not Rhymin', Simon

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.


I thought of writing this column under the heading of "What's the Link?" and going straight into the songs and leaving you in tenterhooks until the end. I gave that up as I thought it was a bit wanky.

I tried it out on Norma, the Assistant Musicologist, and found that it really didn't work. Besides, I had written most of it already and I'd have to go back and change things, and being a lazy sod, I decided not to do that.

So, you know what these songs have in common. They don't rhyme. It's not something you come across very often. I know I was surprised by some of these, but listening carefully to them I found that it was so.

Okay, sharpen up your ears and have a listen.

I'll start with TRACY CHAPMAN.

Tracy Chapman

Fast Car is easily her best known song. I remember way back when I first heard it I went out and bought the CD pretty much immediately I was so impressed.

I still am. It's a terrific song (and it doesn't rhyme).

♫ Tracy Chapman - Fast Car

It's not just the trendy modern(ish) songwriters either. John Blackburn and Karl Suessdorf did the same thing back in 1944. They made it even more difficult for themselves as each verse is a haiku (or so I'm led to believe).

The song I'm talking about is Moonlight in Vermont. Margaret Whiting recorded it first and Billie Holiday recorded it best. However, I've featured Billie in the columns about American states so I'll go with another version.

This time it's JOHNNY HARTMAN.

Johnny Hartman

There are few better voices in jazz than Johnny's so I'll just get out of the way and let you listen to him.

♫ Johnny Hartman - Moonlight In Vermont

There were several versions of FLEETWOOD MAC; here is the most famous one.

Fleetwood Mac

The one that sold squillions of records and filled countless tabloids with their antics over the years. They also made some good music along the way, including Dreams.

♫ Fleetwood Mac - Dreams

The song Rivers of Babylon was on the great soundtrack album for the film "The Harder They Come.” The album mostly featured songs by Jimmy Cliff, who starred in it, but also included some other performers like Desmond Dekker, The Maytals and THE MELODIANS.

The Melodians

It's that last group we're interested in and they sang the song mentioned. Others have covered it over the years but none has equalled their version.

♫ The Melodians - Rivers of Babylon

Here's one from out of our comfort zone, something from years later than most of the music I usually bother with. The group in this case has the inspired name of CAMPER VAN BEETHOVEN.

Camper Van Beethoven

Nothing to do with the composer with the same surname. I think the only reason I've included it (besides fitting the criterion) is the name of the song. It brings a smile to my face – Take the Skinheads Bowling.

If you can decipher the words, you'll notice that one of the lines is "There's not a line that goes here that rhymes with anything.” Obviously the song was meant for inclusion.

♫ Camper Van Beethoven - Take The Skinheads Bowling

SHERYL CROW gets her long awaited first appearance in one of my columns today.

Sheryl Crow

She's not the only first timer – at least it shows that I'm not just recycling the usual suspects.

In Sheryl's song, the chorus sort of rhymes a bit but the verses don't so that's good enough for inclusion. The song is All I Wanna Do.

♫ Sheryl Crow - All I Wanna Do

This is also R.E.M.'s first visit to this column.

R.E.M.

Head honcho for the group Michael Stipe said that their name was chosen at random from a dictionary (it means rapid eye movement, of course). The song goes way back to when Michael still had hair. It's Losing My Religion.

♫ R.E.M. - Losing My Religion

Even one of the greatest soul records fits today's criterion. I'll just say PERCY SLEDGE and most of you will know of which I speak.

Percy Sledge

For the rest of you, I'm talking about When a Man Loves a Woman.

♫ Percy Sledge - When A Man Loves A Woman

If I mention the Velvet Underground, some of you might groan or roll your eyes. A few others will go "Yeah!" Of course, there are those will say "Who?" or "What?"

So, I'm going to say VELVET UNDERGROUND and see what happens.

Velvet Underground

Hmm, nothing much happened – no earthquakes, no volcanoes erupting, at least not where I live. The song of theirs I've chosen is not like most of their others. It's not loud, it's not atonal, it's not monotonous.

In fact it's quite melodic, not something usually associated with the Velvets. The song is Stephanie Says.

♫ Velvet Underground - Stephanie Says

Paul Simon is the undisputed champion of writing great songs that don't rhyme. Far and away his best song (America) fits that category. However, I've used that one in a couple of columns already so I'll go with a different one.

This is probably his second best known song and if I hadn't listened to it carefully I may not have realized it fit the category. However, it does. Here are SIMON AND GARFUNKEL with Bridge over Troubled Water.

Simon and Garfunkel

♫ Simon and Garfunkel - Bridge over Troubled Water


INTERESTING STUFF – 9 May 2015


GRACE AND FRANKIE

Four of our most venerable actors – Jane Fonda (77), Lily Tomlin (75), Martin Sheen (74) and Sam Waterston (74) - are starring in a new Netflix series, Grace and Frankie.

As with the Kevin Spacey show, House of Cards, Netflix released the entire first season all at once - yesterday. Here's how the network explains the show:

”Jane Fonda and Lily Tomlin co-star as two [70-something] women forced to reinvent their lives...

“Elegant, proper Grace and freewheeling, eccentric Frankie aren't friends, even though their husbands Robert and Sol have been law partners for decades.

"But when Robert and Sol announce that they're leaving their wives for each other, the two women start to bond in ways they never expected.”

I haven't watched any of it yet but this trailer is good enough thatat that I've put it on my to-do list. See what you think:


JOHN OLIVER ON STANDARDIZED TESTNG

I'm pretty sure I have mentioned that John Oliver and his crew at Last Week Tonight on HBO are so good at their mini-documentaries, I'm fascinated even by topics I don't think I care much about.

This is one of them and I was riveted; I also enjoyed the laughs, of course.


JANE BRODY ON AGEING MEMORIES

Jane Brody has been reporting on health and medical issues at The New York Times for 50 years and she has earned the respect of all as a trusted source.

This week she reported on memory issues in old age and athough there isn't much in her article that we have not already covered here, it's nice to have our information confirmed and extended a bit.

”Nor are those who do less well cognitively suffering from a brain disease,” writes Brody. 'Just as you wouldn’t say that a marathon runner who slows down in his 80s has a motor disease, age-related cognitive decline isn’t necessarily pathological,' said Molly V. Wagster, chief of neurosciences at the National Institute on Aging. 'We may just be slower to retrieve information, and slower to learn new things.

“Besides, Dr. Wagster told me, 'the older brain retains plasticity; it’s capable of making adaptive changes. Certain regions of the brain operate in slightly different ways that may actually be better than at young ages.'

“Some of the changes, like depth of comprehension and wisdom gleaned through experience, are improvements that can compensate for less positive age-related, she said.”

Brody, who is my age, reports twice a month in the Well section of The Times, often on subjects related to ageing.


KATMANDU BEFORE THE EARTHQUAKE

Along with the horrific death count, the photos and video of the destruction caused by the earthquake in Nepal are heartbreaking. Few us ever travel there but this short, little video from The New York Times gives a small peek at what has been lost in Katmandu.


BARON THE GERMAN SHEPHERD'S TRICK

Back in the mists of time before the internet, before YouTube and a gazillion animal videos, I had a cat I trained to use the toilet.

No litter box, no daily cleanup. Just a framed note on the bathroom wall for visitors to always leave the seat down and the lid up.

At work one day, I had professional reason to talk with a producer of a TV show titled, Those Amazing Animals. When we finished our business disussion, I told her she should book my cat on the show, that he used the toilet.

Imagine how deflated I was when she said, “Oh, Ronni, that's nothing. We already featured a cat that uses the toilet and that one flushes.”

Cats using toilets are not uncommon. But a dog??? Take a look at Baron the German Shepherd.


SCARE THE PANTS OFF YOU MEDICAL BILLING

Elizabeth Rosenthal reports in The New York Times that a recent study, “found that up to 90 percent of hospital bills contain errors.”

That's not a typo. 90 percent.

And it is unlikely that you will ever know if that is so with your bill. Ms. Rosenthal continues:

”For a simple needle biopsy that would require 24 hours of observation afterward...The hospital bill ended up being around $15,000, for which Ms. Meuel owed $665.46. There were also bills from the radiologist ($1,263) and pathologist ($3,799.25) for which she owed smaller amounts.

The explanation of benefits from Blue Shield listed a few line items that had been paid to the hospital labeled 'hospital,' 'miscellaneous or 'labs.' All further explanation appeared in CPT codes. Only the explanation of payouts to the pathologist was given in words...

"The itemized bill the hospital sent at her request offered minimal elucidation, containing items like: '1. 25030731 HC RT OXYGEN DAILY CHARGE — $2,132.25.'; '2. 0305 30516895 LAB HCT-CHRG ONLY — $104.81'; '3. 35033106 HC CT GUIDED NEEDLE PLCMNT ASP BlOP — $1,828.50.'"

This is not a one-time problem. It is almost universal among all hospitals and nobody, not anyone in government cares enough to require that consumers know what they are paying for.

The rest of the story is here.


LAST OF THE ORIGINAL SESAME STREET PUPPETEERS

I was a bit too old to grow up with Sesame Street, but even as an adult I came to love the puppets as much as anyone else. In fact, I once interviewed Big Bird for a television show I worked on.

TGB reader and poet Tom Delmore sent along the news that Caroll Spinney, the last of the original Sesame Street puppeteers, continues to work as Big Bird and Oscar Grouch, as he has done since 1969. And now, there is a documentary about him. Here is one of the official trailers for the film:


AND WHAT'S WRONG WITH THAT?

Members of certain political factions in the United States get all weird and indignant at the word socialist, as they predictably did when Senator Bernie Sanders, a self described Democratic Socialist, announced that he is seeking the Democratic nomination for president.

Here's Bernie explaining what Democratic Socialism is. “And what's wrong with that?”


19 BADASS CATS

That's what the YouTube page says and I wouldn't dream of changing it. Neither will you after watching this video:


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.


Elders' Fading Five Senses

On Wednesday's post about striving, a commenter named Jack used a terrific phrase I'd never run into before – at least not in relation to dental ills. He wrote that he is “in the process of outliving his teeth.”

TASTE
Me too. I know a lot about that. I am six months or so into a two-year process of implants that involves growing new bone in three or four locations, which takes several months each, before the metal posts can be drilled in place.

Meanwhile, I am wearing (and have done for the past five years) a full upper denture. It's bad enough that we naturally lose taste buds as we get older but a denture, covering the upper palate, further diminishes the ability to taste food because there are receptors for taste on the soft palate.

I compensate to a degree by using a lot of flavoring - pepper, onion, garlic, herbs, spices, etc. - reminding myself when cooking for guests to tamp it down so they aren't overwhelmed.

That's about the best anyone can do – it's just old age.

Counting only our five senses, there are serious, debilitating diseases that might afflict us in these late years. Jack's comment, however, put me more in mind of the less fearful but annoying ways our bodies can plague us as we grow old, especially as they pile up one after another.

None of what follows, like teeth above, is life-threatening. They are just irritating, caused mostly by parts wearing out.

SMELL
Smell, of course, works in concert with taste for enjoyment of food. My smeller hasn't worked for more than a decade due as much, I suppose, to those years I smoked cigarettes as to old age.

It was once an important part of cooking for me; I could tell if I'd used enough onion and garlic, for example, by the intensity of the aroma during sauteeing.

Nowadays, I smell almost nothing. Except, weirdly, cantaloupe. I can tell it's in the vicinity from at least 50 feet. Any other aroma needs to be extreme for me to notice which makes it a good thing, I guess, that there is no gas in my home.

TOUCH AND FEEL
Does it seem that as your parents aged, they dropped things more frequently? Do you remember your grandmother dropping a lot of stuff? Is it happening to you these days?

You're not imagining any of that. All kinds of conditions including ubiquitous arthritis that afflicts so many elders can cause butterfingers.

So far, I haven't noticed that things slip out of my hands more frequently and as far as I can tell, the skin on my body is no less sensitive now than in my younger years. Well, unless you count my fingertips that have become as smooth as a baby's cheek.

Did you know that fingerprints wear off as we age? It's true. Some old people (me, for example) cannot be fingerprinted. You can read about that here.

And have you noticed that it's harder to turn pages of books and magazines? I recall seeing old people, when I was a kid, lick a finger before turning a page and now I know why. Our skin becomes drier as we age and combined with no fingerprints, page turning can be an exercise in frustration.

(Just a reminder that, as I often mention on this blog, people age at dramatically different rates. That isn't only in general; it also applies to such individual details as our senses. There is no specific age at which these things go wrong – or even that they will for everyone.)

VISION
Isn't vision fun. We're still young when our arms seem to grow too short to hold the book far enough away to read. That usually happens around 40 so I guess we can say that at least we have some practice for the additional annoyances that will inevitably pile up.

Even in our lifetimes, cataracts once meant blindness. Now they are an easy fix; a literal few minutes (seven, my surgeon told me) to replace the lens and we're good to go. To me, cataract surgery is as much a modern miracle as growing new bone for dental implants and I do not take either for granted.

But floaters? Do you know about floaters? Those little, black, stringy, worm-like things that move around inside your eyes? They afflict only one of mine but what makes them so terribly irritating is that their movement lags a nano-second or two behind the speed of eye movement. Out of sync, then, they are impossible to ignore.

Floaters are particularly noticeable against a white background, a book or computer screen for example, and outside on a sunny day. Like lost smell, we're just stuck with these nasty little buggers. No cure.

HEARING
As with the need for reading glasses, we are still fairly young when it begins to become difficult to hear close-up conversations in noisy rooms. I've been known to turn around and walk out when I enter a new restaurant and huge noise assaults me.

There are enough restaurants in the world that it's not a bother to skip some and my larger annoyance nowadays is tinnitus – what is referred to as ringing in the ear or, in my case, more like perpetually standing under a roaring waterfall.

Fortunately, it doesn't impede hearing other things. I don't need to turn up music, radio or television – other sound apparently moves through the rushing noise without volume loss.

Although I can ignore it when I'm listening to other sounds, tinnitus is never not there. Sometimes late at night and early in the mornings when the world is mostly quiet, I yearn to hear silence as I once could. In my life, that won't ever happen again.

So: tinnitus, floaters, bum smeller, defective taste, bad teeth. In the greater scheme of things nothing here is crucial and in several cases – teeth, cataracts - we are lucky to live in times when they are correctable.

Beyond the annoyances, however, is the inescapable reminder of each new affliction, as it appears, that our bodies are wearing out, our lives are winding down. But we know that already and most of the time (if you don't count #$%^&* floaters) I can accept the changes with a wry laugh.

We become, I tell myself, like rattletrap, old cars or, as Roseanne Roseannadanna used to say, “It's always something” and it's best for our well-being that we find some acceptance.

[NOTICE: This is not nor is it intended to be a blog post about whatever medical issues may attend these afflictions. Instead, it is an acknowledgement of one, commonly shared aspect of old age.

As always, advice about treatment, drugs, remedies, therapies or medical ministrations of any kind are not allowed in the comments. If they appear, they will be deleted.
]


What We Are When the Striving Ends

Western culture is uniquely concentrated on striving. It is the whole of our lives.

Even in the womb, the fetus is barraged with Mozart. Toddlers must learn to walk and talk and eat without drooling, to run and jump and not put square pegs in round holes.

In school, there is reading and writing and 'rithmatic, history, science, government and a heap of after-school activities college admissions officers require of successful applicants.

From there it is the pursuit of career success: money, fame or – ideally – both as the ultimate prize. Workers are programmed by media, experts, coaches and bosses to strive, compete, perform, accomplish and achieve.

There is no time to think. If you're not busy 24/7 in pursuit of winning and, these days, crushing your competition too, you are ipso facto, losing.

There is always, whatever you have accumulated in the mid-years of life, a better job, more money, a bigger car, a more impressive home and a better school for your kids to strive for. Gotta keep moving forward.

Never a moment to think about anything else, about the value of what we are pursuing. It's just busy, busy, busy. Do, do, do.

Then after 40-odd years of working and striving, the busy-ness comes to a halt. We move into retirement and wonder what to DO. Even the word “retire” assumes work is the center of life and without it, the question automatically follows, what is my value now?

But wait. Before we can consider that important, universal question, there's more to do. Even in ageing, we are pressured to do it “successfully.”

By that, the mid-life adults still running the world, require that we must behave like younger people, like them. Seventy is the new 40 and they like us best when we hike and bike and run marathons, start businesses, learn a language or two, volunteer six days a week and never, ever admit to being tired.

Dr. Bill Thomas, in his landmark 2004 book, What Are Old People For?, speaks to this phenomenon:

”Anywhere adults are gathered together, you can hear the 'Adulthood Forever' anthem being played if you listen for it. It starts slowly, modestly: 'My mother is eighty-seven, but she's still as sharp as a tack; she lives by herself in Phoenix.'

“Such an unassuming claim is sure to be followed up with something more substantial: 'Well, my grandmother – she's ninety, but you would never know it; she manages her own stock portfolio and is finishing her master's degree in French literature.'

“Then comes the coup de grace. A man, silent until now, speaks up: 'My great uncle is ninety-six years old and he's just got back from climbing K2. He spends his winters in Florida because he likes to barefoot water-ski, in the nude.'”

Lots of old people are complicit in this adult game of one-upmanship in derring-do until we die. But it doesn't have to be that way and I don't believe it should be.

Dr. Thomas tells us that we don't need to buy into the cultural imperative to pretend to be young.

”The first sign that a person is preparing to grow out of adulthood is the dawning awareness of how heavy a toll is taken by the things he or she 'has to do'.”

Four years later, in The Gift of Years published in 2008, Joan Chittister took up a similar theme:

”This is the time of coming home to the self. I find myself stripped of all the accessories of life now. I am face-to-face with myself. And the fear is that there isn't one.

“I have spent my life being somebody important, and now there is nothing left but me...

“What am I when I'm nothing else? What's the left over of me when everything else goes: the positions, the power, the status, the job, the goal, the role, the impact – and all the relationships built up and woven around those things?

“...Of course I am all the experiences I have ever had, on one level. But on another level, I am only what people see when they look at me now.”

Because it has been shown to me so many times (and I firmly believe) that if it happens to me, it happens to millions of others, sometimes what I'm going through is what you get in the these electronic pages.

That is what this post today is about. I've been busy, busy, busy all my life. I didn't even stop when I was forced out of the workplace ten years ago; I already had this blog and I just kept going.

Now, three weeks into cutting my writing days from six to four per week, I have for the first time, run into myself and I have time now to seriously think about these and other questions that are part of what old age is meant to be.


Bernie Sanders: Elders' Best Political Candidate

Actually, he is the people's candidate (as opposed to the corporate candidate all the rest are) but he is the only one who speaks directly and repeatedly to the well being of old people.

Plus, at 73, he is one of us, born the same year I was, 1941. (With Senator Bernie Sanders now in the race, maybe opponents will leave Hillary Clinton alone about her age.)

Given the earthquake in Nepal, ongoing Baltimore events, the Kentucky Derby, a new royal baby and something about a big-deal boxing match (have I missed anything?) last week, most of the mainstream media was too distracted to notice Senator Bernie Sanders' announcement on Thursday that he is seeking the Democratic nomination for president of the United States.

He is running as a Democrat for practical reasons of fund-raising rules but he is an Independent in Congress who caucuses with the Democrats and he describes himself as a democratic socialist.

Now don't go getting all in a snit over that word “socialist” because if you a receive a Social Security benefit (or are expecting to) and use Medicare (or expect to) you are participating in socialism.

One of my favorite reporters, Matt Taibbi, interviewed Sanders at great length some years ago and admits, having spent 10 years living and working in Russia, that he had such a negative experience with socialism he “didn't even like to say the word out loud.”

But, as he explained last week in Rolling Stone,

”...Bernie Sanders is not Bukharin or Trotsky. His concept of 'Democratic Socialism' as I've come to understand it over the years is that an elected government should occasionally step in and offer an objection or two toward our progress to undisguised oligarchy.

“Or, as in the case of not giving tax breaks to companies who move factories overseas, our government should at least not finance the disappearance of the middle class.”

Here's Bernie shortly after his announcement:

He doesn't look or sound like a senator let alone president, does he? Rumpled, serious, wonky, lacking quotable zinger lines, he's the antithesis of the polished, poll-tested, rehearsed candidates we've long been trained to expect.

In fact, I saw a pundit-type on television this weekend say that the first thing he would do if he were running Bernie Sanders' campaign is take him to Super Cuts. I doubt Sanders will bother. As Taibbi further explained:

“...Sanders genuinely, sincerely, does not care about optics. He is the rarest of Washington animals, a completely honest person. If he's motivated by anything other than a desire to use his influence to protect people who can't protect themselves, I've never seen it.

“Bernie Sanders is the kind of person who goes to bed at night thinking about how to increase the heating-oil aid program for the poor.

Robert Borosage, president of the Institute for America's Future, concurred last week in his Huffington Post blog:

“Sanders is not easy, not blow dried and not scripted. But in a populist moment, he is the real deal - a full throated, unabashed, independent, uncorrupted, straight-talking populist. And that is a big deal...

“He campaigns for expanding, not cutting back basic security programs for America. He would lift the cap on Social Security payroll taxes to expand benefits to address the looming retirement crisis.

“He would move to a national health care plan - Medicare for all - that takes on the insurance and drug lobbies and makes health care a right.”

Further, environmentalist Bill McKibben who lives in Sanders' home state, Vermont, tells us in Huffiington Post that the senator

“...isn't really running against Hillary Clinton. He's running against the Koch Brothers, and all that they represent: taken together they're the richest man on earth.

“They've made their money in oil and gas (they're the largest leaseholders in the Alberta tar sands, on the far end of the Keystone Pipeline). They spend their money to break unions, to shut out solar power, to further concentrate America's wealth.

“They'll spend at least $900 million on the next election, and my guess is that if Bernie Sanders catches fire they'll spend far more than that - because he knows he's got their number.

"They know, in their heart of hearts, that there's two of them and hundreds of millions of us, and that's got to be a little scary.”

I can only hope.

As Andrew Prokop at Vox explains, Sanders isn't entirely out of the professional political mainstream which could make him more palatable to center-leaning Democrats who think he is too much a lefty:

”...while Sanders wants a single-payer health care system, a carbon tax, and much more government spending on infrastructure and benefits, he isn't an uber-liberal on everything.

“On social issues like abortion, gun rights, and gay rights, he is squarely within the mainstream of the Democratic Party — not to its left. And while he's suspicious of foreign wars, he voices sympathy with Israel's security concerns and warns of the dangers of ISIS.”

Vox has a good summary of Senator Sanders' views here.

Do I expect Bernie Sanders to be our next president. No. I don't even expect him to be the next Democratic nominee. But he WILL change the conversation which will change some minds and that is crucial to the future of elder (and other important) issues.

Maybe more than we think. There is this about his fundraising from The New York Times:

”The three Republican senators who are running for president — Ted Cruz, Rand Paul and Marco Rubio — all boasted about raising $1 million in their first 24 hours as candidates. But they have nothing on Bernie Sanders.

“The independent senator from Vermont, who announced Thursday that he is running as a Democrat, said Friday that he had raised $1.5 million online in less than a full day as a candidate. The support came from 35,000 donors who contributed an average of $43.”

In the manner of Senator Elizabeth Warren, the least Bernie Sanders' will do with his campaign is force all the other candidates address his issues and I suspect it's going to be great fun to watch.

If you would like to donate to Senator Bernie Sanders' campaign, you can do that here.

You will find the official list of his positions on issues here.