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Philip Larkin: “The Old Fools”

Even though coming to terms with our eventual demise is the central dilemma of humankind, it surprises me sometimes how many poets write about death and dying and getting old. It is further surprising that not many of them are good at it. But I wouldn't inflict those on you.

HighWindows200Today's selection, by the much-honored English poet, Philip Larkin, is among the finest. In addition, in an age when interest in poetry is next to nil, Larkin, who died 30 years ago when he was 63, is still widely read. Today's poem, The Old Fools, which concerns Larkin's fear of ageing and dying, was first published in 1973 in the collection, High Windows, so Larkin probably wrote it when he was about 50.

The poem first came to my attention in 2008, when Jane Gross published it in her New York Times column and included some excellent commentary from novelist Hilma Wolitzer. An excerpt:

”...as a writer I was struck with admiration and envy by the startling beauty of the poem’s language. I couldn’t (and still can’t) imagine a lovelier or more accurate way to describe existence than 'the million-petaled flower of being here,' said Wolitzer.

“And then later, as my mother and father began to fail in tandem, to lose their faculties, their personalities, and (perhaps worst of all) their autonomy, I saw the harsher truth in calling that final stage of their lives — those 'days of thin continuous dreaming' — a 'hideous inverted childhood.'

“The poet bluntly asks 'Why aren’t they screaming?' It’s not exactly a rhetorical question.”

Here then is The Old Fools for you today. If you would prefer to listen to it instead while following along in the video, scroll down below this text:


What do they think has happened, the old fools,
To make them like this? Do they somehow suppose
It’s more grown-up when your mouth hangs open and drools,
And you keep on pissing yourself, and can’t remember
Who called this morning? Or that, if they only chose,
They could alter things back to when they danced all night,
Or went to their wedding, or sloped arms some September?
Or do they fancy there’s really been no change,
And they’ve always behaved as if they were crippled or tight,
Or sat through days of thin continuous dreaming
Watching light move? If they don’t (and they can’t), it’s strange:
Why aren’t they screaming?

At death, you break up: the bits that were you
Start speeding away from each other for ever
With no one to see. It’s only oblivion, true:
We had it before, but then it was going to end,
And was all the time merging with a unique endeavour
To bring to bloom the million-petaled flower
Of being here. Next time you can’t pretend
There’ll be anything else. And these are the first signs:
Not knowing how, not hearing who, the power
Of choosing gone. Their looks show that they’re for it:
Ash hair, toad hands, prune face dried into lines –
How can they ignore it?

Perhaps being old is having lighted rooms
Inside your head, and people in them, acting.
People you know, yet can’t quite name; each looms
Like a deep loss restored, from known doors turning,
Setting down a lamp, smiling from a stair, extracting
A known book from the shelves; or sometimes only
The rooms themselves, chairs and a fire burning,
The blown bush at the window, or the sun’s
Faint friendliness on the wall some lonely
Rain-ceased midsummer evening. That is where they live:
Not here and now, but where all happened once.
This is why they give

An air of baffled absence, trying to be there
Yet being here. For the rooms grow farther, leaving
Incompetent cold, the constant wear and tear
Of taken breath, and them crouching below
Extinction’s alp, the old fools, never perceiving
How near it is. This must be what keeps them quiet:
The peak that stays in view wherever we go
For them is rising ground. Can they never tell
What is dragging them back, and how it will end? Not at night?
Not when the strangers come? Never, throughout
The whole hideous, inverted childhood? Well,
We shall find out.

According to the YouTube page, Larkin's poem is read by Tom O'Bedlam. That's probably not his real name. Tom O'Bedlam is the title of an anonymous poem written, say experts, at the beginning of the 17th century. Wikipedia notes that

”...in How to Read and Why, literary critic Harold Bloom calls it 'the greatest anonymous lyric in the [English] language.'”

ELDER MUSIC: 1910

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.

* * *

This was an interesting exercise. Could I fill a column with songs from 1910?

Well, that was easy, of course I could. The hard part was, could I fill a column with songs recorded in that year and have it sound acceptable to you? Well, as we have a column I imagine the answer to that question is obvious.

So, here are songs from back then and no one reading this would have heard them when they were first released. I hope you enjoy them; Norma, the Assistant Musicologist rather lacked enthusiasm for the whole idea, particularly after hearing the music.

The recording quality of some is a little problematic but remember these were laid down more than 100 years ago. It surprised me a little how many of these songs are still well known today. Of course, that could be due to my selection process.

GERALDINE FARRAR was an opera singer and movie actress.

Geraldine Farrar

She was good friend with Caruso and had a torrid affair for many years with renowned conductor Arturo Toscanini. Her marriage to film actor Lou Tellegen was torrid, ending in divorce and the suicide of her husband. Looks like the world of film and music hasn't changed in a hundred years.

Geraldine performed in opera until she was 40 and then performed recitals and sang on the radio. Here she is with the old Stephen Foster song, My Old Kentucky Home.

♫ Geraldine Farrar - My Old Kentucky Home


MANUEL ROMAIN was born in Massachusetts or Gibraltar or Spain.

Manuel Romain

Wherever he was born, he grew up in Boston where he initially sang in church but later branched out into the secular world singing on the concert stage. He also lent his hand (and voice) to minstrel shows but we'll just glide over that.

He wrote songs but I must admit I hadn't heard of any of them. Here he sings a song just about all of us would know, I Wonder Who's Kissing Her Now.

♫ Manuel Romain - I Wonder Who's Kissing Her Now


JOHN MCCORMACK's name is still quite well known today.

John McCormack

He was an Irish tenor who sang in opera as well as performing popular songs. He toured Australia (and elsewhere) with Nellie Melba around this time to great acclaim.

I noticed when I looked him up that he died on the day I was born. Alas, his singing talent didn't transfer to me. He sings Annie Laurie.

♫ John McCormack - Annie Laurie


NORA BAYES started her career as a teenager in vaudeville, criss-crossing America.

Nora Bayes

She became friendly with George M. Cohan and during the first great unpleasantness, George insisted that she was the first to record his song, Over There. It became a huge hit for her.

Before that, though, she recorded the rather famous song Has Anybody Here Seen Kelly.

♫ Nora Bayes - Has Anybody Here Seen Kelly


THE PEERLESS QUARTET must have had tickets on themselves, as we say in Australia. It just means they were a bit up themselves to come up with that name.

The Peerless Quartet

They began their career as the Columbia Male Quartet and started out recording on wax cylinders in the 1890s. They went through a couple of name changes and several members before they got to the group we have today (today being 1910, of course).

There were even more changes after this. They perform a song you'll all know, By the Light of the Silvery Moon.

♫ The Peerless Quartet - By the Light of the Silvery Moon


Now for someone who will be familiar to every reader, one of the most famous singers in history, ENRICO CARUSO.

Enrico Caruso

Caruso was the model for every famous (and not so famous) tenor in the twentieth century and beyond. It's impossible from this distance, and given the primitive recording equipment at the time, to judge the quality of his voice. From the evidence of this track I prefer Pavarotti, and more especially, Gedda.

However, Enrico is who we have singing Il Fior Che Avevi A Me Tu Dato (the Flower Song) from Bizet's “Carmen.”

♫ Enrico Caruso - Carmen ~ The Flower


LUCY ISABELLE MARSH was a soprano who made a living making records for the Victor Talking Machine company. Most of these were anonymous, but she also recorded under her own name.

HARRY MACDONOUGH was a Canadian tenor who started out making cylinders very early on. He later also made some records for Victor including duets with Lucy.

Lucy Isabelle Marsh & Harry MacDonough

One of those was the song, Every Little Movement.

♫ Harry Macdonough & Lucy Isabelle Marsh - Every Little Movement


BERT WILLIAMS was one of the biggest stars of vaudeville in his day.

Bert Williams

He was also the biggest selling black artist before the 1920s. He was described by W.C. Fields, with whom he shared a stage several times, as the funniest man he'd ever seen, but also the saddest. Bert performs Play That Barber-Shop Chord.

♫ Bert Williams - Play that barbershop chord


Irving Berlin died in 1989, not all that long ago. He's present in the column as the writer of the next songs. That slightly boggled my mind. The singer of the song is BOB ROBERTS.

Bob Roberts

Irving's song isn't one of his best known; I hadn't heard of it before I found it. It's called Sadie Salome (Go Home).

Bob started out touring in his father's troupe of performers. He's also responsible for The Woodchuck Song. You know, "How much wood would a woodchuck chuck if a woodchuck could chuck wood?" Deep sigh.

♫ Bob Roberts - Sadie Salome (Go Home)

When I first saw the name of this song, I thought it was the song Aba Daba Honeymoon under a different name. I was wrong, but I decided to include it anyway.

Besides, ARTHUR COLLINS AND BYRON G. HARLAN recorded that one too, and you'll be able to hear it in 1914 (if I ever get around to that year).

Collins & Harlan

The song from this year is called >On a Monkey Honeymoon.

♫ Collins and Harlan - On A Monkey Honeymoon


Whew, I made it. That was fun (for me, I don't know about you), but I don't think I'll be able to do any earlier years than this one; the recordings are really not worth listening to.


INTERESTING STUFF – 28 November 2015

TECH TATS

There are gazillion ways these days to track our health stats like blood pressure, heart rate, temperature not to mention how many steps we've taken and who knows what else.

A new style of monitor, not yet available, can be “tattooed” right on our skin. Take a look?

I think this is going to provide a lot good uses for elders. You can read more here.


LONGEVITY NATIONAL GEO REMINDER

About 10 days ago, I told you about an interesting National Geographic special hosted and directed by Ron Howard about breakthroughs in longevity. I've seen it and it's fascinating whether you believe these developments will come to be or not.

The documentary will be broadcast tomorrow evening, Sunday, at 9PM on the National Geographic Channel. Check your local listings.


CELINE DION FOR PARIS

It has been two weeks now since the terrorist attacks in Paris killed so many. World leaders continue to meet about how to work together against ISIS and just about all cities in the west are on alert.

Last Sunday at the American Music Awards, Jared Leto spoke for many people and introduced Celine Dion singing Edith Piaf's wonderful Hymne à L'Amour. Here is that performance and thank doctafil for sending it.


JOHN OLIVER ON THE USELESSNESS OF PENNIES

My pennies go in the same jar with all the other loose change. Every few months, I load it up and drag it to the bank where I keep my checking account. They have a machine that counts it up.

That service used to be free, now they charge three percent of the total which for some reason irritates me beyond all reason. I felt a lot better after watching John Oliver's take on pennies in his HBO show Last Week Tonight.

On the same episode, Oliver also presented a terrific essay on presidential candidates' responses to refugees but HBO did not make that video available. Someone else posted it to Youtube. Check here to see if the non-HBO vid is still available.


HOW SMILING CHANGED DURING THE 20TH CENTURY

Some researchers got together and analized 150,000 high school year book photographs through the 20th century.

”They then grouped the portraits by decade and superimposed the images to produce an 'average' face for each period. This process revealed other 'average' features for each period such as hairstyle, clothing, style of glasses...”

But what stands out the most is how smiling (or not) has changed. Take a look:

Faces

“'These days we take for granted that we should smile when our picture is being taken,' say Ginosar and pals.

“And the data backs that up. The team developed an algorithm for determining the degree of lip curvature in the photographs and this showed a clear trend in increasing smile intensity over time.”

There is more interesting information about this study at Technology Review.


MACY'S WOODEN ESCALATORS PRESERVED

During the 40 years I lived in Manhattan, I didn't often shop at Macy's but when I did I was always charmed by the wooden escalators.

In a story at The New York Times this week, I learned that Macy's has been undergoing renovation for four years but they preserved those ancient escalators. It was a popular decision:

“'When I would tell people about the renovation,' Steven Derwoed, the senior vice president for store design and merchandising, said, 'without exception, the first thing they’d say was, “Please tell me you’re keeping the wooden escalators.”’”

Inexplicably, the Times did not include a video of the refurbished escalator but I tracked down an older one at for you.(Is there anything at all that isn't no the internet these days?)


SYRIAN REFUGEES ARRIVE IN CANADA

Unless you've been under a rock for the past two weeks, you cannot have missed the hysteria from Republican presidential candidates about the U.S. taking in Syrian refugees. Here is how they do it in Canada:

Canada expects to resettle about 10,000 refugees before the end of this year along with another 15,000 by the end of February. Although policy is still being developed, Canada may accept only families, not single men unless they are homosexuals fleeing persecution. You can read more about that here.

Additional information here and here.

Among Americans, Canada has a reputation for being boring. I'd take that kind of boring here in the United States. Please. (Another hat tip to Canadian TGB reader, doctafil)


JAMES TAYLOR UPDATES FIRE AND RAIN

It has been 45 years since we first heard James Taylor sing Fire and Rain. Recently on The Late Show with Stephen Colbert, Taylor updated the song to include some of the things he's seen since 1970 and Colbert helps him out.

Take a look and thank reader Marian Methner for reminding me that this is worth including today.


PEOPLE ARE AWESOME

Every month, People are Awesome publishes the best viral videos of amazing tricks, skills and stunts. Here is the November 2015 video:

There is a website where you can submit a video.


SAINSBURY'S 2015 CHRISTMAS ADVERT

Okay, Thanksgiving has come and gone and we, in the United States anyway, are deeply into our relentless holiday season. You might as well just go with it because without leaving the country there is no way to escape.

To get us started here is the traditional annual Christmas advert from the U.K.'s well-known supermarket chain, Sainsbury's.

* * *

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 at the top of any Time Goes By page to send them. I'm sorry that I won't have time to acknowledge receipt and there is no guarantee of publication. But when I do include them, you will be credited and I will link to your blog IF you include the name of the blog and its URL.


Happy Thanksgiving 2015, Everyone

A SHORT NOTE: Before I get to the holiday part of today's story, let me mention that I will soon be posting the annual gift ideas for elders column. If you have a suggestion or more, please forward them to me via the "Contact" link at the top of the page. I will consider them all but no promises that all will be included.

If you have a personal blog you want me to link to with your suggestion, include the name and URL in your message. Deadline is midnight Pacific time on Saturday 28 November.

* * *

In 2013 I vowed that due to my delight at rediscovering Arlo Guthrie's epic Thanksgiving fable, Alice's Restaurant, after the decade or two it lay somewhere in memory limbo, I would make the song the annual holiday anthem of TimeGoesBy.

As I noted that year, I was equally delighted to discover that with a couple of minor lapses, I still knew the entire monologue by heart. I can't say why but it gives me a great deal of pleasure to sing along for the entire 18 minutes, which I took the time to do (with gusto again this year) before readying this post.

Maybe you want to try that too.

It's a fine ol' song, don't you think.

A couple of weeks ago, Peter Tibbles – he of the Sunday Elder Music column here at TGB – emailed an early version of this now venerable tune, recorded live by Guthrie on some unknown date at Gerde's Folk City in Manhattan. It's obviously a work in progress and quite different from the final version - a rare treat to listen in on the development of a classic:

♫ Arlo Guthrie - Alice's Restaurant live at Gerde's Folk City

Just because I can and it's a holiday, I am giving myself a vacation from posting not only tomorrow, Thanksgiving itself, but Friday too. But I'll be back here on Saturday with the latest list of Interesting Stuff.

For everyone who honors me all year long by reading, commenting and/or generally hanging out here,

Cornucopia



Old Obama in Malaysia

Even many old people deny it exists but ageism is a serious problem. In just one manifestation of its impact, age discrimination in the workplace begins as early as age 40 and picks up speed from there.

Often, when workers many years younger than retirement age are laid off, they never work again in their field. They end up in low paying jobs unrelated to their area of expertise and some never find another job at all. Here are the common results of those events:

They lose their homes because they can no longer afford the mortgage.

The kids are on their own to pay for college.

They can no longer afford health coverage.

Stress ends marriages.

Retirement savings are emptied for living expenses.

In what should have been their highest-earning years paying off the mortgage, building up Social Security and other retirement funds, they are instead forced to make much lower contributions (if they can do that at all), dramatically cutting their income for the rest of their lives.

As a result, many who were previously solid members of the middle class are consigned to an old age of poverty that would not have happened if the culture had allowed them to work a normal span of time.

Ageism is the last acceptable prejudice. Even with the common tragedies as detailed above, derogatory references and jokes about old age are easy laugh-getters and exist in all media – movies, television, internet, books, magazines, newspapers along with everyday conversation.

It is so ubiquitous that many people don't even notice the nasty jokes or the knee-jerk denials of age so casually tossed off and when it is pointed out to them, they think it's okay because it's always been that way.

Don't be so sensitive, people say – even old people – when anyone (like me) points out the problem. Just ignore them, they tell me never seeing beyond themselves the harm that is done to all old people by the constant use of derogatory language.

Last Friday during his trip to Asia, President Barack Obama held a town hall meeting with the Young Southeast Asia Leaders Initiative in Malaysia. During the question-and-answer period, a student began thusly: “Since you are ageing toward a very senior life...”

You don't need to be told this caused a lot of laughter in the room. Obama got off a one-liner or two with the kid about his gray hair and mugged for the audience about being insulted. Finally, the young man finished his question:

”What do you want to see from young people like us in the future when you are old?”

Watch now how our president who, at age 54, is eligible for 50-plus discounts and retirement communities, handles that:

There he is, the leader of the free world at his charming best. Obama doesn't get accused of being smooth for nothin' and he's hard to resist.

But he uses his gift, in this case, to perpetuate one of our worst stereotypes (worst because so many refuse to believe it exists at all): that there's nothing good about being old and that it's an insult to be truthful about it. Then he uses the young man's honesty to take some friendly-sounding umbrage.

Friendly-sounding, but making it clear that he doesn't want to be tagged as old.

What chance do old people have to gain any respect if even the president disparages their appearance.

As the video ends abruptly, I don't know if Obama goes on to address the student's serious and important question but I suspect he does – it's in his nature. Whatever he says, however, the only part that was broadcast around the world on television and made any impact was his disdain and disrespect for old age.

The town hall was 90 minutes long and if you are up for it (I was not) you can see the whole thing here.


ELDER MUSIC: Songs within Songs

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.

* * *

Okay, that title is not strictly true. It should be songs that reference other songs. I wondered how many there'd be. More than enough for a column, I'm happy to say. I'm sure you know more of them, probably ones I omitted.

The first of them today is by THE AMAZING RHYTHM ACES.

Amazing Rhythm Aces

The Aces are one of the finest country rock bands, with the great singer and song writer Russell Smith who pretty much got the band together and keeps it going after all these years.

Their song is Amazing Grace Used to Be Her Favorite Song. I probably don't need to tell you which song they reference.

♫ The Amazing Rhythm Aces - Amazing Grace Used to Be Her Favorite Song


HARRY CHAPIN is mostly thought of as a bit of a folk singer. However, his song veers into the heart of rock & roll.

Harry Chapin

It's interesting that he'd do that as his song is set in 1912 and the song he mentions is Nearer My God to Thee. His song is Dance Band on the Titanic.

♫ Harry Chapin - Dance Band on the Titanic


I have used the next one a couple of times before in these columns but it's such a good 'un that I'm happy to use it again. I'm shameless that way.

The singer is RODNEY CROWELL.

Rodney Crowell

The song is I Walk the Line (Revisited). I think it's not too much of a stretch to figure out which song is referenced in that one either. He doesn't just reference it, it's pretty much played all the way through. So, this one really is a song within a song.

♫ Rodney Crowell - I Walk the Line (Revisited)


Another one I've used before is Sweet Soul Music. Indeed, I've written a whole column dedicated to it. The singer is ARTHUR CONLEY.

Arthur Conley

He mentions quite a few songs. I won't list them all, but one of these is Mustang Sally by Wilson Pickett. Any of the others would have been worth an attribution, but I'll let you pick them up.

♫ Arthur Conley - Sweet Soul Music


Right, here is a group of singers who got together in one of their garages and decided to form a band. They called themselves the TRAVELING WILBURYS.

Traveling Wilburys

I'd better tell you their names as they are a bunch of complete nonentities and they need the exposure. There are five of them and their names are Bob Dylan, George Harrison, Tom Petty, Roy Orbison and Jeff Lynne.

These music wannabes sing End of the Line and the song they mention is Purple Haze by Jimi Hendrix.

♫ The Traveling Wilburys - End of the Line


VAN MORRISON has mentioned several songs over the years. I could have pretty much filled the column with them.

Van Morrison

I restricted myself to just one. That one is Cleaning Windows where he mentions Rolling Stone by the great Muddy Waters. He also mentions a bunch of other performers as well.

For those who like a bit of trivia about the artists, before he became a professional musician, one of Van's jobs was cleaning windows.

♫ Van Morrison - Cleaning Windows


The next song contains a reference to one of my favorites. The referencing song is by JOHN FOGERTY.

John Fogerty

His is Centerfield from the album of the same name. The song reference is Chuck Berry's Brown Eyed Handsome Man.

♫ John Fogerty - Centerfield


After appearing in the Wilburys, BOB DYLAN turns up on his own next, in self-referential mode.

Bob Dylan

He wrote and performed this one about his first wife Sara Lownds and he called it Sara. In this one, he sings that he was "stayin' up for days in the Chelsea Hotel writin' Sad-Eyed Lady of the Lowlands for you.”

♫ Bob Dylan - Sara


DIRE STRAITS were another group happy to mention their influences.

Dire Straits

I had a choice of songs from them I could have used but settled on Walk of Life. There are a few songs in this one but I'll just mention Be-Bop-A-Lula by Gene Vincent as it's the first reference. I'll leave it to you to check out the rest.

♫ Dire Straits - Walk of Life


I'll end with the one I thought of first for this column and the singer is JOHNNY RIVERS.

Johnny Rivers

This is probably his best known song, Summer Rain. It refers to Sgt Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band. There are some who suggest that is really the album of the same name but even if it is, the song is on it so I'm happy with that.

♫ Johnny Rivers - Summer Rain



INTERESTING STUFF – 21 November 2015

THE SHAMEFUL XENOPHOBIA OF OUR SMALL-MINDED POLITICIANS

As has become evident in the past few days, the xenophobia, hatred and racism among a large number of our politicians and presidential candidates has moved on from prudence to hysteria. A small, sad example.

”A Syrian refugee family, after waiting for three years in Jordan to be approved to come to the United States, was finally set to land in Indianapolis on Wednesday,” reported The New York Times.

“Instead, after Gov. Mike Pence of Indiana said on Monday that he would no longer accept Syrian refugees in his state, the family of three will be starting their new life in New Haven.”

In a followup to that story, The Times further reported:

”Gov. Dannel P. Malloy of Connecticut on Wednesday personally welcomed a refugee family from Syria who had been diverted from Indianapolis to New Haven.”

In the current political frenzy and fear, Malloy is brave man. More than half the governors in the United States have announced they will, like Pence, refuse Syrian refugees. So much for Emma Lazarus.

Keep in mind that every Paris terrorist carried a European, not Syrian, passport.

Nothing good is happening here: Chris Christie says not even Muslim orphans should be allowed into the U.S. Donald Trump wants all Muslims to carry special identification (heil, HItler). And Ben Carson compared all Muslims to rabid dogs.

This irrational, deeply uninformed hatred won't be going away anytime soon. I don't fear Syrian refugees; I fear for democracy at the hands of these hateful bigots.


A LITTLE BOY REACHES OUT TO A VANDALIZED MOSQUE

Soon after the Paris attacks, a mosque in the small Texas town of Pflugerville near Austin was smeared with feces and pages torn from a Qur'an. A seven-year-old boy shamed every one of our xenophobic politicians:

”Faisal Naeem, who sits on the mosque’s board, told BuzzFeed News he was giving interviews with local media outside the building on Monday when he noticed a little boy and his mom looking on.

“'I just thought they were watching on. This isn’t New York, so when there are a lot of TV cameras, people stop to look,' he said. 'But when I finished, the kid came over and gave me $20.'”

The boy's name is Jack Swanson and here is the report from channel KXAN:


FORGET ME NOT

Yes, it's a commercial for Thai life insurance company but it's lovely and we need stories like this to counter all the other stuff. (Thank you, Darlene Costner.)


WORLD'S FIRST JETPACK

For decades, the movies and, occasionally, television programs have thrilled us with individual jetpacks (I want one, I want one), but they were never real. Until now.

The one is this video is controlled, stable and, they say, sustainable for flight. Take a look:

You can read more at Gajitz.


JOHN OLIVER ON FANTASY SPORTS

Perhaps you noticed on Tuesday here that HBO removed the John Oliver video from viewing on outside websites and sent readers to see it on YouTube. That seems to have been true for his short pieces each week for a long time.

I am so grateful to HBO for making Oliver's feature essays available for viewing outside of YouTube and HBO.com each week and I'm holding my breath that they won't change that policy.

Here, from last Sunday's Last Week Tonight program is Oliver's take on the recent growth of gambling on fantasy sports. If, like me, you are not interested in sports and/or gambling, you might think this is not for you. As always with Oliver, not true.


USING A STICK TO GET UNSTUCK

So simple. So low tech. So effective. I can tell you for sure that it would never occur to me on my own.


AIRLINE TRAVEL OF THE FUTURE

We all know how awful airline travel has become. It's so terrible that it needs to be a matter of life and death these days for me to get on a plane.

Koren Shadmi is a Brooklyn based illustrator and cartoonist. His graphic novels have been published in France, Italy, Spain, Israel and the U.S. Recently, he posted his take on what passenger airline flight will become by 2050. Here are two images to get you started:

MuscleRelaxer1

CubbyHole2

Why do I think airline executives are taking a serious look at this innovation? See the entire story and other illustrations at al Jazeera.


WORST AMERICAN CHARITIES

It is coming up on that time of year when many of us make annual donations to the charities and projects we like to support. It is also the time of year when we are assaulted daily with requests for donations and not a few are scams.

The Tampa Bay Times has done a lot of hard work to help us sort out the good good charities from the bad with their database of America's Worst Charities.

”America's worst charities look nothing like Habitat for Humanity, Boys and Girls Clubs or thousands of other charities, large and small, that are dedicated to helping the sick and needy,” the paper reports.

“The Times/CIR list of worst charities, meanwhile, is littered with organizations that exhibit red flags for fraud, waste and mismanagement.

“Thirty-nine have been disciplined by state regulators, some as many as seven times.

“Eight of the charities have been banned in one state. One was shut down by regulators but reopened under a new name.

“The nation's worst charities are large and small. Some are one-person outfits operating from run-down apartments. Others claim hundreds of employees and a half-dozen locations around the country. One lists a UPS mail box as its headquarters address.

“Several play off the names of well-known organizations, confusing donors.”

And that's just for starters. This report is an exhaustive and important piece of work. You can find the overview here and the list of terrible charities is here. And you can scroll down herefor a good set of rules to follow before deciding to donate.


OY AND YO

Recently, a new sculpture was installed on the Brooklyn side of the East River in New York. If you see it from that side, it says Oy. From the Manhattan side, it's Yo. I love it.

Here's a news story about the sculpture and the artist.

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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 at the top of any Time Goes By page to send them. I'm sorry that I won't have time to acknowledge receipt and there is no guarantee of publication. But when I do include them, you will be credited and I will link to your blog IF you include the name of the blog and its URL.


An Old Woman's “Runner's High”

Well, not exactly but it's just as good as far as I'm concerned. Let me explain.

About three years ago, I set out to lose the 40 pounds I had allowed myself to gain after I retired in 2004.

That extra weight was affecting my ability to function in even the most ordinary ways. For example, I could not vacuum the house in one go without a rest part way through nor carry all the groceries up the walk from the car. Even taking the trash to the bins was an effort that left me breathing hard.

Losing the weight, I determined, involved not just a better diet – healthy while taking in fewer calories than I expended. It would also require regular exercise too because overall fitness to get me through the rest of my life in as good shape as possible was the larger goal.

I am no good at team sports. I don't like them, I have no interest and as you can imagine from that, I was always the last to be chosen for required high school gym teams. It didn't matter to me even then; it's not something I ever cared about.

But I was and am good at calisthenics, ballet exercises, gymnastics, tai chi and I am familiar with the principles of fitness.

So with the help of Dr. Google, I put together a routine that involves strength work, cardio, flexibility and balance/core exercises. Because I can't afford the prices gyms charge these days, it had to be a routine I could do at home with nothing much more than a resistance band, hand weights and my body itself.

Along with the weight loss, this has done wonders for me, for my body and how I live. I hardly notice vacuuming, I climb stairs with nary a huff or puff and I can carry many pounds of groceries from the car in one go.

Without John Oliver-level profanity, however, I cannot express how much I dislike doing these exercises four days a week.

I have maintained the schedule by regularly reordering the routine, changing out or rearranging the individual exercises, finding new ones and increasing reps or weights as necessary to keep it difficult enough and vaguely interesting for 45 minutes.

In three years, I haven't wavered because once having achieved the weight loss and the increased fitness became manifest daily in my stamina and well-being, I am afraid to lose it.(A little fear in this case isn't bad.) Now, however, a new reason to keep going has emerged.

As I explained above, I have next to no interest in physical activity beyond getting from point A to point B. (Too bad – all this would be much easier if I did.) But I have long been curious about the phenomenon of “runner's high.” Web MD reports that some runners experience a euphoria,

"'...a feeling of being invincible, a reduced state of discomfort or pain, and even a loss in sense of time while running,' says Jesse Pittsley, PhD, president of the American Society for Exercise Physiologists.”

That's something I would like to know about but since it was not/is not in my nature to take up running, it remained a mystery to me.

Then, about six weeks ago, after my usual morning workout and seemingly for no reason, I felt sensationally good. Maybe not “invincible” but amazingly energized both physically and mentally. My mood was high and all seemed extra-well with my world.

Nice, but I didn't much think about it until I realized it was happening after every workout.

I asked a 77-year-old friend who does a much heavier workout than mine, at a gym three days a week, about it. He couldn't say if it is related to runner's high but suggested I tell other elders in the “aging well” program I was then attending. It might give them inspiration to begin or continue an exercise program, he said.

Another friend who regularly ran long distances when he was younger said whatever I am feeling is definitely not runner's high. But I know that it is also definitely something good.

So although I won't experience runner's high, this will have to do and for me, it is a wonderful thing I look forward to.

Now, on those mornings when I say to myself, “Oh, you can skip the workout; who would know” (which is every workout day), I remember the “high” and get on with the routine.

Why this would happen suddenly after three years of regular workouts without it is as much a mystery to me as runner's high itself. But I'll take it. In addition to healthy behavior that keeps my body strong and flexible, I now have this bonus, feel-good outcome that some people take drugs - legal and not - to achieve. But I get it without effort even if I dislike the exercise sessions as much as I always have.

I'm telling you all this because the aging well program is finished and I agree with my friend that I should share this experience with someone. Today, you're it.

Does anyone here have any first hand experience with this phenomenon?


Is a Breakthrough in Longevity at Hand?

At least as early as Herodotus's era in the 5th century BCE, there have been tales of a fountain of youth. If only we could find it.

Now there is a group of scientists who are convinced they are tantalizingly close to doing so or, at least, slowing down aging enough that mankind would have many more years of healthy life than we have now.

...we have a really solid science,” says one of those researchers, “which...is uncovering mechanisms which modulate aging. We know it is possible, at least in mice, and so that means it should be possible in humans if we put our minds to it...

“Enough advances have been made in aging science to lead us to believe it is plausible, it's possible, it's been done for other species and there's every reason to believe it can be done for us.”

The National Geographic Channel is currently broadcasting a six-part documentary series titled “Breakthroughs,” each one of the six individual episodes exploring remarkable scientific discoveries. There is one on brain science, another about water, along with energy, pandemics, cyborg technology and – smack, dab in my public bailiwick of interest – longevity.

The quotation above is from that episode, The Age of Aging, which is directed and narrated by a person National Geo identifies as a “Hollywood visionary” - in this case, actor/director Ron Howard. Here he is describing his longevity documentary:

The program shows us half a dozen or so research projects that mostly share the goal of making us less sick at the end of life. One of the scientists, S. Jay Olshansky, labels their discoveries “a public health revolution.” He says there is now proof that the aging process can be modified so that humans can have a longer and healthier old age.

One of the projects has been studying certain centenarians who apparently carry a gene mutation that allows them to age more slowly than the rest of us in spite of some poor health habits. Here is a clip about that from the show:

Other researchers are working on designing medications that can disrupt the effects of aging.

For the past hundred years or so, we have been relatively successful in treating such diseases as influenza, tuberculosis and a few others. Science has not been as successful with the “big” diseases – cancer, heart attack, stroke, dementia, etc. But if instead, as Olshansky explains, aging itself can be slowed, all those diseases can be delayed simultaneously.

The idea is to create drugs that interrupt the aging processes and they have shown this to be possible in mice. Now the scientists are ready for human trials and the only barrier to that is the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) which traditionally has not seen aging as something that can be addressed with drugs.

To try to get the FDA on board to approve the trials they want, the researchers have enlisted the help of Senator Claire McCaskill who heads the Senate Committee on Aging and she has become an enthusiastic supporter, easily seeing the economic advantages to individuals, to the nation and to the government.

It is understandable how giddy the researchers are shown to be. In the history of the world, this is the closest anyone has gotten to a fountain of youth and if they are on the right track, the results will truly be revolutionary.

However, as breathtaking as the possibility is, there is nary a mention in the entire hour of the problems that became apparent to me immediately – issues at least as important as the discoveries themselves.

Who will get these drugs? Who will decide who gets them? What will the criteria be? What will they cost? And the biggest question of all?

There are already more people than planet Earth can sustain and nothing is being done to curb further growth.

It is one thing to bestow on humanity the miracle of a predictably healthy old age and I welcome it. But it is quite another to further increase the population of Earth by extending healthy life spans (of everyone? for how else could it be decided?) beyond current limits. This is anything but a trivial consideration and no one, not a single person in this documentary, mentions it.

Even if the "population bomb" it would create were not terrifying enough, I haven't even gotten to the difficulty we discussed here last week about the widespread ageist contradiction of shoving people out of the workforce before their time while simultaneously delaying retirement benefits.

These are only a few of the important questions for what is a potentially world-changing event. The Age of Aging will be broadcast on the National Geographic Channel on Sunday, 29 November at 9PM eastern, 8PM central time. It is definitely worth your time.

Hat tip to Chuck Nyren who blogs these days at Huffington Post


LAGNIAPPE: John Oliver's Epic Paris Rant

Lagniappe seems much too much a lightweight designation for today's post but I never imagined when it was invented here a month or so ago that it would be required for such a painful circumstance.

So let's just call this today, a TGB Extra. (For newcomers, I don't usually post a story on Tuesdays and Thursdays unless it seems exceptionally important. This falls into that category.)

My first thought when I learned the extent of the unspeakable attack on Paris last Friday is that it is their 9/11, and others in the media have since concurred. You can parse that comparison 16 ways from Sunday if you wish but it's close enough.

For the past few days I have fiddled around trying to work out a way to give us at this little blog our own forum to talk about this tragedy.

My thought was that a generation of people who have lived the larger portion of their lives without knowing terrorism might have different kinds of things to say than younger people who have never lived without the threat of it. It took John Oliver to resolve my dithering.

At the start of his Last Week Tonight program on HBO Sunday, he launched into an epic rant about the Paris attack.

Oliver perfectly mirrors my own outrage and sorrow but I'm pretty sure you'll find Oliver's profanity-laced tirade more acceptable from him than you would have from me and anyway, he is much funnier (yes, funny even in this) than I am.

There is a lot to be said, in the face of such horror as Paris, for just venting one's rage until it dissipates before moving on to something more productive.


Passing the Cultural Torch to the Next Generations: Sex

When I was in my early twenties in 1964, living in San Francisco, a woman named Carol Doda made worldwide headlines for dancing at the Condor Club in the North Beach area of the city with her breasts exposed.

She was the first woman to do that. There was a lot of tsk, tsking among the then-older and more conservative set but Doda kept dancing half naked and the topless craze was here to stay.

Three years earlier, comedian Lenny Bruce, who often performed at the Jazz Workshop, located on Broadway near Carol Doda's club, was arrested there for using the word “cocksucker.”

I can publish that word on this blog nowadays but that wasn't always so.

Case in point: Actually, I lived in Marin County and commuted by bus to work in the city. The morning after Bruce's arrest on obscenity charges, the story was front page news in The San Francisco Chronicle.

In the modesty of the times, the paper referred only to “a 10-letter word” for which he was arrested and I have been amused ever since to recall watching as one bus rider after another silently counted to 10 on his or her fingers to work out what Bruce had said. Of course, I was among the finger counters.

I recalled these two incidents last week when I read that Carol Doda died recently at age 78, reminding me how much American attitudes toward sex itself and representations thereof have changed in half a century.

When Doda first took off the top half of her costume, I was still wearing a girdle that together with a industrial-strength bra left everything to the imagination. “Nice” girls were not supposed to jiggle anywhere in those days.

Nice girls didn't have sex either until we were married. That is, we didn't admit to it except in whispers with our closest girl friends although “the pill” was about to change that.

In movies, sex was still only hinted at behind closed doors and on television, the bedroom set of such programs as Father Knows Best was always dressed with twin beds. No hinting about where those kids came from allowed.

And it goes without saying that even in San Francisco back then, homosexuality was the love that dare not speak its name, not out loud.

It's been different for a long time. Gays and lesbians can marry now and the few who still object are as much outliers as those who think they can repeal Obamacare.

Hookup culture is firmly established, at least among the young. Sexting is an accepted thing even, sometimes, with kids as young as 13 or 14. People of all ages email naked selfies to one another. And sex scenes in movies and certain television channels are only this much short of what we used to call pornography.

With the usual disclaimer for not harming anyone, I believe people should do whatever they want sexually. I really don't care although I will admit to sometimes being unsettled at what goes on publicly.

But people grow up now with much more relaxed sexual attitudes and beliefs than what prevailed in my youth. It's not my world anymore and generally, I think what has changed is a good idea compared to the widespread secrecy and ignorance in my generation back in the “olden days.”


ELDER MUSIC: The Johnny Mercer Songbook

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.

* * *

Johnny Mercer was best known for writing the lyrics to songs but he composed tunes as well. Besides that, he sang quite well. He was also one of the three founders of Capitol Records.

After writing mostly stand-alone songs, in the fifties he began producing the words for songs in musicals – Seven Brides for Seven Brothers and Li'l Abner are the ones I found most notable.

There were also songs for films. He wrote the words to Moon River and Days of Wine and Roses (others as well, of course). I mention these as they're not in the column today. There were too many good songs to include everything.

Unusually for a white composer of his era, he listened carefully to black music of the time, jazz and blues. He brought elements of those styles into many of his songs.

That is evident in the first song today, Blues in the Night. Many people have tackled the song. I've decided to feature JESSE BELVIN.

Jesse Belvin

Jesse was a proto-soul singer who died far too young, probably murdered by members of the Klan or their supporters. No investigation was ever held. Besides singing soul-styled music, Jesse could perform jazz with the best of them.

♫ Jesse Belvin - Blues In The Night


Australian readers, and probably some others, will remember FRANK IFIELD's big hit, I Remember You.

Frank Ifield

As a youth, Frank used to practise singing by serenading the cows on his family's property in New South Wales. Then he went to Sydney and made it big on TV and records. Next to England where he made it bigger still. That's where he recorded this song.

♫ Frank Ifield - I Remember You


Capitol Records, mentioned above, was often called the house that Nat built. Nat, both as a solo artist, and as the NAT KING COLE TRIO had so many hits he pretty much kept the company afloat in its early days.

Nat King Cole Trio

To complete the circle, as it were, here's the trio ably assisted by Johnny Mercer himself with Save the Bones for Henry Jones.

♫ Nat King Cole Trio - Save The Bones For Henry Jones


Fools Rush In (Where Angels Fear to Tread) was written around about 1940 and a number of people recorded it. I'm too young to remember those, and the first time it impinged on my brain was when BROOK BENTON took it to somewhere near the top of the charts 20 years later.

Brook Benton

That's the one I'm using in spite of all those other fine versions.

♫ Brook Benton - Fools Rush In (Where Angels Fear To Tread)


I used the MILLS BROTHERS so often in the "years" columns that I've pretty much run out of things to say about them.

Mills Brothers

So I won't say anything. Most of you would be familiar with them anyway. I'll just play one of their most famous songs, Glow Worm.

♫ Mills Brothers - Glow Worm


That Old Black Magic has been performed by many people but the one I remember as the first I heard, and is thus imprinted on my brain, is by LOUIS PRIMA AND KEELY SMITH.

Louis Prima & Keely Smith

Louis and Keely performed together in the fifties and were married for a time until Louis' womanising became too blatant and they were divorced. Keely later performed with Frank Sinatra and as a solo artist.

♫ Louis Prima & Keely Smith - That Old Black Magic


Speaking of Frank Sinatra, he is most associated with the song One for My Baby (and One More for the Road) but his version is so well known I thought I'd do another instead.

Of course, when I noticed that BILLIE HOLIDAY was on the list I think I was justified in my choice.

Billie Holiday

Billie's version really gives Frank's a run for its money, something I can't imagine anyone else doing.

♫ Billie Holiday - One for My Baby (and One More for the Road)


In contrast to my thought process on the previous song, I've gone for the obvious. If you decide to include the song I Wanna Be Around, there's only one person that's in contention.

Everyone who knows this song will know of whom I speak; for the others it is TONY BENNETT.

Tony Bennett

Nothing more needs to be said.

♫ Tony Bennett - I Wanna Be Around


There was a time when the most famous Clooney in show business was ROSEMARY CLOONEY.

Rosemary Clooney

She was of course, the current famous one's aunt. Rosemary could perform pop and jazz with equal facility. Here she leans more towards jazz with Something's Got to Give.

♫ Rosemary Clooney - Something's Got To Give


I'll finish with the man himself, JOHNNY MERCER.

Johnny Mercer

Satin Doll is most associated with Duke Ellington and Billy Strayhorn who, of course, wrote the tune. Johnny put words to it.

He worked with many composers over his lifetime from Jerome Kern at the beginning to Henry Mancini at the end, with Duke and Billy in the middle. Johnny performs Satin Doll.

♫ Johnny Mercer - Satin Doll



INTERESTING STUFF – 14 November 2015

MUSIC STUDENTS LIVING IN CLEVELAND RETIREMENT HOME

I'm pretty sure I've published a story about this place before but this is a new video and such a good idea is worth repeating: young music students living with old people and using their talent to entertain the elder residents.

Take a look – this report gives a lot more detail than those I've seen in the past:

You can read more here about the arrangement and thank doctafil for letting us know.


BEN CARSON'S CAREER CHANGE

In this 2003 speech, Republican presidential candidate Ben Carson explains that he started out as an adult neurosurgeon but changed his specialty to children because – well, see what you think.


EYE DROPS TO REVERSE CATARACTS?

Many of us at Time Goes By have undergone cataract surgery. It is generally easy and I think it is a modern miracle. Now there may be an even easier treatment. Two recent studies

”...showed that an injection followed by eye drops containing lanosterol reversed clouding in the lenses of dogs after treating them for just six weeks...

“Until these two new studies came along, no one even thought that restoring the transparency of the lens was an alternative. These papers change that perspective and open a completely new therapeutic strategy to treat cataracts in the future.”

This breakthrough is doubly important due to a shortage of ophthalmic surgeons. You can read more about the discovery here along with other uses that are being investigated.


JOHN OLIVER ON PRISON RE-ENTRY

I should know better by now. Every week I think, “Oh, come on, Oliver, don't bore me with this.” And every week he fascinates me, teaches me, enlightens me.

This man who insists he is a comedian is doing important work. If I were a different sort of believer, I'd say he's doing god's work.


LARGEST PROOF OF CLIMATE CHANGE EVER RECORDED

This is called an arctic calving event. It's not about newborn cows, it's about ice in bigger chunks than you have ever seen, as big as whole cities, breaking loose into the ocean.

Read more about this astonishing event here and thank the Sunday assistant musicologist, Norma Gates, for sending it.


COLBERT PUTS THE CHRISTMAS IN STARBUCKS

Unless you've been under a (yule)log this past week, you've been hearing, like me, way too much outrage from Christian Americans about how un-Christmas-y Starbuck's seasonal coffee cup is.

FOR GOD'S SAKE, FOLKS, IT'S A PAPER CUP. THERE ARE ACTUAL IMPORTANT THINGS IN OUR LIVES TO GET RILED UP ABOUT. (Sorry for yelling, readers. The many varieties we have of home-grown crazies are beginning to get the better of me.)

It's bad enough that before we've finished eating the Halloween candy and haven't had time yet to plan Thanksgiving, we are already into the patented, annual war-on-Christmas-quarrel.

But Stephen Colbert, host of The Late Show on CBS (what would we do without him and John Oliver?) – came to my rescue this week, taking on the Starbucks Christmas cup lunacy. And we know about it here because TGB reader Gertrude Kappel emailed me. That you, Gertrude.


BLAMING HIS AGE FOR A FORMER PRESIDENT'S CRITICISM

There was a three-day hullabaloo this week (a minor big deal; hullabaloos usually last only two days) about some quotes from 91-year-old President George H.W. Bush in the new biography about him by John Meacham.

”Mr. Cheney, [the elder Bush] said, was 'very hard-line' and too eager to 'use force to get our way'; Mr. Rumsfeld was an 'arrogant fellow' full of 'swagger.' He used the same phrase, 'iron-ass,' to describe both men,” reports The New York Times.

That drew what The Times characterized as a “biting retort” from Cheney:

“'Bush 41 is getting up in years and misjudges Bush 43, who I found made his own decisions,' Mr. Rumsfeld said in a statement.”

When they can't think of anything smart to say, they always, always, always go for the age disparagement, don't they. Bush 41 looks to me to have all his faculties in recent appearances.

Whatever, as they say these days. And Mr. Meacham got a whole lot of extra attention for his new book.


”ALICE THROUGH THE LOOKING GLASS”

If you loved Tim Burton's Alice in Wonderland with Johnny Depp as a fantastical Mad Hatter as much as I did, the sequel is coming.

Here is the first trailer for Alice Through the Looking Glass again with Depp as the Hatter and most of the rest of the original cast.

I'll be first in line when it's released in May 2016. I don't see many movies in theaters these days but this is too beautiful to miss on a big screen.


NEWEST CAT CAFE IN NEW YORK CITY

A new cat cafe named Koneko has opened, this one on Clinton Street in New York City.

Such cafes have been popular in Japan for a number of years and there are about a dozen in other U.S. cities. What is different about Koneko is that all the cats are available for adoption.

Here is the owner talking about his new establishment.

There is more information at The New York Times.

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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 at the top of any Time Goes By page to send them. I'm sorry that I won't have time to acknowledge receipt and there is no guarantee of publication. But when I do include them, you will be credited and I will link to your blog IF you include the name of the blog and its URL.


The Right to Die

At age 74, I am healthy, happy enough and curious about what each new day might bring. I am also grateful that I live in one of five U.S. states that allows physician-assisted suicide.

It's not something I dwell on and I certainly was not thinking about Oregon's Death with Dignity Act when I moved here five years ago. But it comforts me at this time of life to know it is there if it comes to pass that I want it.

When we get old, we are more likely than in younger years to be diagnosed with terrible diseases – sometimes treatable, other times not so much. I like knowing that if I become terminally ill and if my life, in that circumstance, becomes too painful or otherwise unbearable, I will not be required by law to suffer.

In no way am I eager to reach that impasse. I like life and hope I'm here for a good while longer. But any old person who doesn't understand that getting through old age unscathed by a serious health issue or two or more is fooling herself.

In all the five U.S. states and the other countries that allow doctor-assisted death, applicants must clear a high bar before being granted the right to die. And although I would rather see the choice available everywhere, that is generally a good thing at least for awhile as we debate the issue publicly and politically.

Even though I am mostly content and satisfied, I have periods of despair and melancholy. (Don't most people?) I consider them normal but who knows if at some future juncture I might, during a dark day or two, think to end it all.

It is then that I appreciate the barriers to the permission to end my life as much as I am glad for the choice.

Regarding a diagnosis of Alzheimer's or other dementia when there is usually a remaining period of lucidity before you lose yourself, I have a running joke with a friend. Or maybe it isn't a joke; we laugh about it but maybe we are deadly serious: since we both like living, we repeatedly ask ourselves if we will be able, in the case of dementia, to gauge the “sweet spot” between still functioning enough to arrange for physician-assisted suicide and being too far gone to be allowed to make the choice.

Oy. A tough one. What else is there to do about such a potential future except laugh.

These thoughts have been rolling around in my head over the past couple of days since I viewed a short, 21-minute documentary from The Economist titled 24 and Ready to Die.

A shocking statement due to the young woman's age compounded by the fact that she is not terminally ill.

She lives in Belgium where doctor-assisted death is legal. She tells us that she can recall at age three not wanting to be here anymore and says she has suffered debilitating depression pretty much ever since during which...

Never mind. Just watch. I didn't know even that much about Emily when I looked at the video and there is no accompanying print story with explanations. Even though she is much younger than most of us are, she gave me a lot to think about as “death with dignity” and “right to die” legislation is expanding enough that it is no longer an anomaly.

Comments are disabled where the video is available on the YouTube page and on the page at The Economist so I am looking forward to reading what you, TGB readers, have to say.


Two Irrational Beliefs About Old People

Every day alarms are raised about the the burdens old people place on society. The growing “silver tsunami” will make life awful for everyone else we are told.

From government to employment to media and more, the conventional wisdom is that "the elderly" are all in poor health, dependent on others and if that's not so yet for any given individual, it soon will be.

Sick old people will swamp the economy, they say. We can't afford Social Security so we must privatize it. There won't be enough caregivers to go around. The sick old people will suck up all the money with nothing left for anyone else. So they shouldn't retire.

There are many important things to know about those generalities. Today - a couple of them.

ELDER HEALTH
It is true that more old people have health problems than younger people but that does not translate into disability or helplessness nearly as much or as often as many, even most, believe.

One respected study of tens of thousands of participants age 51 and older published in 2013 found that “For a surprisingly large segment of the older population, chronological age is not a relevant marker for understanding, measuring, or experiencing healthy aging.” More specifically,

”The researchers found that among individuals ages 85 and older, 28 percent had excellent or very good self-reported health and 56 percent reported no health-based limitations in work or housework.”

Further, even among the oldest age group, “nearly one-third have not been diagnosed with any of these five major chronic diseases:”

“The proportion of the population with no clinical diagnosis of any of the five major chronic diseases ranges from 75% of the 51–54-year-old population to 32% of the 85+ group.”

Those statistics do not mean that two-thirds of the 85+ group are incapacitated. Most are living on their own managing their diseases. Many other do well with, for example, a cleaning person once a week or Meals on Wheels deliveries or visits from a home health aide or a neighbor, friend or relative who helps.

If you pay too much attention to what is written and said about old people, it's easy to believe that all of them are incapable of caring for themselves. But you would be wrong.

ELDER EMPLOYMENT
It is true that people are living much longer than our parents' and grandparents' generations, that we are healthier than the general population believes we are, and that many elders want or need to work longer than traditional retirement age of 65 or 66.

But not many are allowed to. It's called ageism and it's illegal. But employers have all kinds of excuses the law allows them to get away with to fire or not hire people 50 and older.

Alongside the belief that all old people are disabled, is the growing one that elders should be required to work longer than age 65. Yes, I know that's a contradiction, but there it is in the media every day if you pay attention.

I've been reading these opposing points of views for at least a decade and here's what I think about that: No one gets to demand that people work past Social Security retirement age unless they remove the barriers that exist to keep old workers unemployed. Job seekers who are 50 and older must be allowed to find work as easily as they did when they were 25, 35, and 45.

And not just as Walmart greeters. People who insist old people work must allow them to have the kinds of jobs they are good at, that they are experienced in, that inspire them and allow them to be productive. Just as they have all their lives. Just as young people are allowed to expect.

Of course, this applies also to the any elder who wants or needs to work past traditional retirement age (although we also cannot penalize elders who are not capable of working any longer either but that's for another day).

I understand that the United States – and the world – is experiencing a confusing period when traditional jobs are disappearing, the “gig economy” is obviously not working and no one has an answer.

But as people and governments muddle through, people cannot be treated differently in the workplace based solely on age.

And you cannot, in the same breath, insist old people are all disabled, a drag on the economy and then require them to work past retirement age. That is irrational and gets us nowhere.


Senator Elizabeth Warren's Social Security Legislation

As you know, there is no cost-of-living-adjustment (COLA) for Social Security recipients in 2016.

It is only the third time in 40 years that this has happened and when you recall that 47% of unmarried recipients and 22% of married recipients rely on the program for 90% or more of their income, you quickly see how devastating this is.

And that doesn't make it less terrible by including the 53% of men and 74% of women who rely on Social Security for half or more of their income.

In response last Thursday, Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) introduced the Support the Seniors and Veterans Emergency Benefits Act (SAVE) that would create a one-time bump in the benefit that is equivalent to a 3.9% of the average payment.

Why 3.9 percent? you rightly may ask. I have an answer for you. Or, rather, Senator Warren does. Here she is explaining that last Friday to MSNBC host Chris Hayes:

The one-time payment 3.9% would amount to about $581.

If you're anything like me, you can make better sense of information if you can see it. Here is a simple explanation of that loophole from The Herald in Everett, Washington:

”Buried in the federal tax code is a provision that enables corporations to fully deduct components of executive compensation that are 'performance-based.'

“So corporations can pay their executives tens of millions of dollars, and at the same time write off those costs from their taxable income — with billions in lost tax revenue in the process.

“Closing this loophole would generate would generate about $51 billion a year. That's $10 billion more than needed to pay for the one-time $580 emergency benefit for all Social Security recipients.”

As the National Committee to Protect Social Security and Medicare (NCPSSM) notes:

”A $581 increase could cover almost three months of groceries for seniors or a year's worth of out-of-pocket costs on critical prescription drugs for the average Medicare beneficiary. The bill would lift more than 1 million Americans out of poverty.”

So far, 17 of her fellow senators are co-sponsors of Warren's SAFE bill: Ed Markey, Barbara Mikulski, Patty Murray, Chuck Schumer, Bill Nelson, Debbie Stabenow, Bernie Sanders, Sherrod Brown, Bob Casey, Sheldon Whitehouse, Jeff Merkley, Kirsten Gillibrand, Al Franken, Dick Blumenthal, Chris Murphy, Mazie Hirono, and Tammy Baldwin.

As Senator Warren explained in the video above, this legislation has a reasonable chance of passing because Republicans dislike the loophole for corporate salaries as much as Democrats do.

There is a fact sheet on the SAFE bill here [pdf]

The full text of the SAFE bill is here. [pdf]

And HERE IS THE IMPORTANT PART: At the end of the video, Senator Warren asked us support her bill by signing the petition. You can DO THAT HERE. And pass on the link to others.

Unless you want to, you are not required to make a donation on the page that loads after you sign the petition.


ELDER MUSIC: 1980

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.

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I've said quite a few times (such that you must be getting sick of my saying it) that I pretty much stopped listening to new music after about 1975. This year though brought me up short (as it were); there were some really interesting tracks – some of which are covers of earlier songs, maybe that's the reason – enough so I might have to rethink my original premise.

Okay, there were a whole bunch of shockers too, a couple of which I might have included, depending on how you view these things.

ABBA were close to the end of their hugely successful run by 1980. Their personal relationships were falling apart as well.

ABBA

In spite of that, they came up with what I think is their finest song. It's more down in tone than most of their songs, rather world weary, sounding as if they knew things were drawing to a close. The Winner Takes It All.

♫ ABBA - The Winner Takes It All


The first of our covers is the song More Than I Can Say, written by Jerry Allison and Sonny Curtis who were both members of The Crickets.

They recorded it not long after Buddy Holly died. The first version I recall is by Bobby Vee. The one from this year is by LEO SAYER.

Leo Sayer

Leo really liked Australia as he toured often and eventually settled here. Not just that, he became a citizen of this wide, brown land.

♫ Leo Sayer - More than I can say


You really can't get much better than the NITTY GRITTY DIRT BAND and Linda Ronstadt.

The Nitty Gritty Dirt Band

This is close to a music buff's dream. All it needs is Emmylou and I'd be quivering on the floor. Okay, time out to gather myself and announce An American Dream, written by two other favorites of mine, Guy Clark and Rodney Crowell.

♫ Nitty Gritty Dirt Band - An American Dream


THE PRETENDERS were probably the most interesting new group for the year.

Pretenders

Alas, that original exciting lineup only lasted for a single album as two of the four died of drug overdoses before their next record. Fortunately for the music world, their main woman Chrissie Hynde keeps on keeping on.

From that excellent debut album, here is Brass in Pocket.

♫ Pretenders - Brass in Pocket


I didn't think anyone could do a better version of Crying than Roy Orbison, and I was right. However, DON MCLEAN made a pretty good fist of it.

Don McLean

Don was sensible in not trying just to copy Roy; he turned it into a Don McLean song. Well, nearly.

♫ Don McLean - Crying


Norma, the Assistant Musicologist is a big fan of QUEEN.

Queen

The group had been around for a while but were really flying high around this year and there were a couple of their songs I could have chosen. I didn't consult the A.M. on which one to include, I just made an executive decision for Crazy Little Thing Called Love.

♫ Queen - Crazy Little Thing Called Love


I don't know why BLONDIE were lumped into the punk category; they were much too musical for that. Probably because they played CBGBs quite a lot, that's the only reason I can think of.

Blondie

The song The Tide Is High isn't one of their own, it was originally a reggae song by The Paragons. Blondie did a fine job on it, probably better than the original.

♫ Blondie - The Tide is High


I said there could be some shockers today and here's one. This is without doubt the worst song of the year. I give you RUPERT HOLMES with Escape (The Pina Colada Song).

Rupert Holmes

I don't want to say anything else about it, just let you listen to it if you want to.

♫ Rupert Holmes - Escape (Pina Colada Song)


AIR SUPPLY have never had any respect, particularly not in their home country.

Air Supply

This Australian group consisting of Graham Russell and Russell Hitchcock (plus assorted hangers-on) sold a whole swag of records over the years. Perhaps that was the reason for the jealousy. Or maybe because they weren't punk or rock & roll or something. I don't know.

Lost in Love was one of their big hits.

♫ Air Supply - Lost In Love


Stolen Car is from BRUCE SPRINGSTEEN's album "The River" and what a fine album that one is.

Bruce Springsteen

It's a rather brooding sort of a song – Bruce is good at those. He's good at just about any sort of song really. This is a good way to end the year but don't go out and steal a car no matter how good Bruce is.

♫ Bruce Springsteen - Stolen Car



INTERESTING STUFF – 7 November 2015

THERAPY DOGS WORK FOR HUGS

Therapy dogs have been around for a long time now but that doesn't mean we shouldn't take a look now and then at how wonderful they are for people.

Just for the record, cats do this kind of work too although probably less reliably, particularly in numbers. They tend to be more standoffish than dogs.


RICHARD FEYNMAN ON BEAUTY

Richard Feynman, who died in 1988 at the age of 69, was a theoretical physicist, something of a Neil DeGrasse Tyson of his time. He could make science understandable to laymen and he wrote a lot of excellent essays on a wide variety of topics. I own several of his books.

TGB reader, Tom Delmore, sent this video of Feynman reading from his collection of short works titled The Pleasure of Finding Things Out. This one, on beauty, is particularly pertinent in this time when so many of our political leaders refuse to accept the validity of science.

About halfway through this five-minute reading, Feynman says,

”I can live with doubt and uncertainty and not knowing. I think it is much more interesting to live not knowing than have answers which might be wrong.”

Give it a listen. You won't be sorry.


HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES TO WORK JUST 110 DAYS IN 2016

Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy this week released next year's work schedule for the U.S. House of Representatives.

The so-called “people's house” will be in session for just 110 days. In fact, there are no work days at all in August and October:

Oct2016SchduleHouse

This year, the House of Representatives total number of work days is 133. In 2014, it was 112 days. The average annual work schedule for most employed people is 261 days.

Read more here.


JOHN OLIVER EXPLAINS HIMSELF TO CBS THIS MORNING

TGB reader Ali made sure I got to see this interview with John Oliver on the CBS This Morning program.

It's a good segment and as he does ad nauseum, Oliver insists yet again that he is not a journalist. Yeah, right.

Did you notice his excellent reason for not inviting Donald Trump on his HBO show, Last Week Tonight? Of course, Mr. Trump took to Twitter to try to refute Oliver but it didn't work:

TrumOliver

It's hard to believe Trump especially when he apparently does not know that Oliver doesn't interview people as the other later night show hosts do. You can read more here.


TECHBOOMERS AND STITCH

If you retired from the workplace before the internet really got going, it can be hard to keep up with online technology. My young friend, Marcie Rogo, reminded me this week about the TechBoomers website.

There, you can follow step-by-step tutorials on how use a large number and wide variety of popular websites. Several things at Hulu have been driving me nuts for a long time; now I understand how to use them thanks to TechBoomers and Marcie's reminder of it.

Marcie is co-founder and head of customer success at Stitch, a website designed to help elders connect with one another. Companionship is the main idea, finding like-minded people with whom to enjoy mutual interests.

Maybe you could also find a nice person for a relationship. That is not out of the question but Stitch is first a companionship, not dating, service.

Some of you may recall I tried out some online dating sites early this year to disastrous results. I did not include Stitch because it was not yet available where I live. However, I've known Marcie for several years, her integrity cannot be questioned and I know she is running a tight ship with this service.

Let's let her tell you about it:

Stitch is still growing. There are, so far, 50 communities but the top five largest are the San Francisco Bay area, Los Angeles, the New York Tri-State area, Chicago and Sydney, Australia. Take a look around Stitch to learn more.


SOMETHING FOR YOUR NIGHTMARES

According to this video, these are the biggest bugs found on Earth. I'm awfully glad I don't live in a tropical place but these gigantic insects are still amazing to see from the safe distance of a video.


MEDICARE TO COVER END OF LIFE PLANNING

At last, beginning on 1 January 2016, U.S. Medicare will pay physicians for end-of-life counseling sessions with patients. You'll recall that this idea is what set former vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin off on her “death panel” binge.

Of course there was no such thing and this time around there is hardly a peep against the provision.

”Medicare decided not to limit how often such counseling could take place, Conway said, in part because of feedback from doctors and the public that people may need repeat counseling as their health needs change.

"'If you made a choice and you become more ill, you might want to have the discussion again,' Conway explained. 'For some patients, it may need to occur multiple times in a year if they're quite ill and their circumstances may change. For other patients, they may not need this service at all in a year.'"

More more details are here and here.


LET'S TALK STRINE

Peter Tibbles, the TGB Sunday music columnist, sent this video about how Aussies butcher the English language. (Butcher is my word choice, not Peter's nor the video partipants'.)

Now, if you're ever inclined to visit Peter in Oz, you'll be up to date on Australian slang and abbreviations. Feel free to laugh – the Aussies won't mind.


MUSIC FOR CATS

David Teie, who is a soloist with the U.S. National Symphony, has teamed with some scientists to develop music that your cat will like.

”...cats’ hearing develops differently and 'we mindlessly turn on music for them,' said Charles Snowdon, an emeritus professor of psychology at the University of Wisconsin-Madison who worked with Mr. Teie on the project. With its special instruments and tonal mixing, Music for Cats aims to bridge that sensory gap," he told The New York Times.

Here's the video from the Kickstarter page with more explanation and bits of the music Teie has composed:

You can find out more at the Music For Cats website where there is more cat music and if you are so inclined, there is still time to help fund the project at Teie's Kickstarter page.

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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 at the top of any Time Goes By page to send them. I'm sorry that I won't have time to acknowledge receipt and there is no guarantee of publication. But when I do include them, you will be credited and I will link to your blog IF you include the name of the blog and its URL.



Do People Grow More Conservative as They Age?

Conventional wisdom has long answered this question in the affirmative and my unscientific observation after doing this blog for about a dozen years agrees. So do such people as Winston Churchill or Victor Hugo to whom this quotation has been attributed (among others):


”Any man who is under 30, and is not a liberal, has no heart; and any man who is over 30, and is not a conservative, has no brains.

Even if you disagree with that sentiment, voting statistics from many years mostly support the actuality of it, including exit polls from the 2012 U.S. presidential election:


2012 VOTES BY AGE GROUP
Age Group % of Electorate % Voted for Obama
18-29 19% 60%
65+ 16% 44%


The same age phenomenon is true going back several decades in British elections as reported in a story at The Conversation website by Oxford University Professor of Politics, James Tilley:


”Older people are always more likely to support the Conservatives,” he writes. “For example, when I voted for the first time in the 1997 election, only 23% of people my age (20) voted Conservative. In contrast, 42% of people my grandmother’s age (80) supported the Conservatives.”

Tilley posits that it might be that people vote Conservative as they get older because it is a biological imperative or that one's generation is what makes the difference:


”This could be because the ageing process makes people more conservative (with a small c), or because older people have different lifestyles, and therefore different priorities when voting.

“...Older generations of voters, who were brought up in different circumstances to younger voters, could vote differently as a result.”

Last year, The New York Times reported on a voting study involving hundreds of thousands of American respondents that seems to support a generational explanation:


”...whites born in 1941...came of age under Eisenhower, who was popular throughout his presidency. By the time Eisenhower left office in 1961, people born in the early 1940s had accumulated pro-Republican sentiment that would last their entire lifetimes.

“In contrast, people born a decade later – baby boomers – were too young to be influenced much by the Eisenhower years. Childhoods and formative years under Kennedy, Johnson and Nixon left them relatively pro-Democratic.”

So, the study concluded, it is no longer true in the U.S. that “Republican vote share increases linearly with age.”


“Instead, young voters and some baby boomers lean Democratic, with a complicated curve in between.”
But, but, but – the same article also states that the study model

”...assumes generations of voters choose their team, Democrats or Republicans, based on their cumulative life experience — a running tally of events.”
Huh? Didn't they just say that childhood influences last a lifetime?


Leaaving that contradiction aside, it turns out that the longitudinal study of more than 50 years that Oxford Professor Tilley looked into found different voting patterns in Britain than the Times's study is reporting:


“...Conservatives probably shouldn’t be too worried about their support base thinning out and being replaced by younger, less conservative generations.

”If history repeats itself, then as people get older they will turn to the Conservatives. Our evidence suggests that this is probably not due to 'social ageing' (getting married, having children or an increasing income), but rather to the direct psychological processes of ageing that tend to make people more resistant to change.”

Well, Tilley doesn't offer any evidence that a lean toward conservatism is automatic with age and I would like to think his conclusion is not so, but the social and political atmospheres of our two countries so often mesh.


After many years of tracking elders' political leanings, listening to too many old Republicans say idiot things like, “Keep your government hands off my Medicare” and watching them vote in droves against their own best interests, I have trouble believing elders will change conventional wisdom in 2016 U.S. election.


And you?



LAGNIAPPE: John Oliver and the Tuesday Elections

Most Saturdays, I post the latest John Oliver Last Week Tonight video essay in the weekly Interesting Stuff column.


Because his program airs on HBO on Sunday nights, my followup is necessarily seven days late and in some cases, like this one when he is discussing an event only two days hence, the subject can suffer from the time lag – as this one would if I waited.


This is exactly the kind of situation the Lagniappe column was invented for.


So in today's Lagniappe, here is Oliver's essay from last Sunday. It is about the elections held around the United States two days ago and here is what you should keep in mind as you watch the video:


The trucker Robert Gray lost his bid to become governor of Mississippi.


Republican Matt Bevin was elected governor of Kentucky.


Dick Black was elected to the state senate of Virginia.


God help the United States of America if this is a harbinger of the national election that will be held exactly one year from next Sunday.