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New Year's Eve Eve 2015

If you have been here for previous New Year posts, today's will be repetitive. I don't do New Year' Eve, not in what is supposed to be the traditional way. I have not been out of the house on that evening in – oh, 30, maybe 40 years.


I don't like crowds, drunks, the sentiment, the forced cheer or the damned song. (Is there such a thing as a grinch for New Years?)


All that notwithstanding, I do believe in marking the passage of time and the arrival of a new year is among the better reasons.


My personal ritual is long established now. I cook an evening meal that I don't usually indulge in – something I love that is fattening, unhealthy, expensive or, sometimes, all three - a glass or two of nice wine and a good book I've been eager to read. I am usually asleep long before the fireworks.


This year on the menu are broiled loin lamb chops. In general, I don't eat meat but I make an exception three or four times a year for lamb. Garlicky mashed potatoes with a large mound of roasted broccoli, asparagus and carrot coins will round it out. Oh, and mint sauce, of course.


For two years in a row, my selected New Year's Eve book was by the brilliant British novelist, Kate Atkinson. I've chosen non-fiction this year, and an American, who is no less brilliant than Atkinson, Ta-Nehisi Coates.


I'm a long-time fan from about 2008 when he started writing regularly for The Atlantic online and in the print magazine; he is one of the smartest, most thoughtful people writing today about the black experience (and pretty much anything else).


Betweentheworldandme I have come think of Coates as the successor to and following in the footsteps of great black thinkers - James Baldwin, Ralph Ellison, Lorraine Hasberry, Malcolm X, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., Maya Angelou among others. So much so that when Between the World and Me was published last summer I bought it immediately, started reading and somehow it got set aside.


The book has since won the National Book Award for Non-Fiction and certainly must have figured in Coates' selection for a "genius grant" in 2015 from the John D. and Katehrine T. MacArthur Foundation.


So Between the World and Me is my carefully selected year-end/new year book this time.


And what about you? How will you spend the transition to 2016?


HAPPY NEW YEAR, EVERYONE. I'm looking forward to sharing another wonderful year with the best bunch of readers/collaborators any blogger could have.


A Holiday Pet Feast

You might have noticed that I am mostly taking off these two holiday weeks from anything serious. A kind of vacation to get rested for the new year.

Today's silliness dropped into my inbox at the last minute. You've probably seen it before, dogs at a table having a meal with human hands. But there have never been so many animals at once as this latest episode: 13 dogs and one cat. From Freshpet and the Humane Society of Utah. One last Christmas treat of the season.

That's cute enough for a Christmas animal video but it gets better. The producers and Freshpet have given us a behind-the-scenes, making-of video that is two-and-a-half times as long as the finished product.

What a circus. Take a look.


ELDER MUSIC: Toes Up for the Second Half of 2015

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.

* * *

Oh my goodness, what a year it's been. In the past we usually had two columns on consecutive days. This year there were so many notable musicians who died early on that we had an interim Toes Up half way through the year, so if you think there was someone important missing from this column it'll be there (I hope).

Ronnie Gilbert


RONNIE GILBERT had a long career as a solo artist but at least to we readers of a certain age, she'll always be associated with The Weavers.

This group did more than any other to bring folk music to a world-wide audience. In doing so, they topped the charts and were blacklisted in the U.S. for their political views (but we welcomed them here in Australia and elsewhere).

After The Weavers, she continued singing, both solo and with others, notably with Holly Near. Here, with The Weavers, is Hard, Ain't It Hard. (She was 88)

♫ The Weavers - Hard, Ain't It Hard


JOHN RENBOURN was an influential person in Britain's folk revival in the sixties both as a solo performer and as a member of Pentangle, a group that also included jazz and blues elements.

He made a number of solo albums but his best work was in collaboration with fellow guitarist Bert Jansch. He also loved teaching guitar to anyone who wanted to learn. (70)


OLEG BRYJAK was a bass-baritone from Kazakhstan. He was renowned for his Wagner roles, particularly that of Alberich in the Ring Cycle. He also sang the works of Beethoven, Mozart, Donizetti and Verdi to considerable acclaim. (54)


JIMMY GREENSPOON was the keyboard player for the rock group Three Dog Night. He also played with Jimi Hendrix, Eric Clapton, the Beach Boys and others. (67)


Ornette Coleman

ORNETTE COLEMAN was one of the most innovative jazz musicians ever. He put the cat among the jazz pigeons when he put aside rhythmic and harmonic ideas and created an avant-garde approach to playing, becoming a leader of the free jazz movement.

His influence on jazz playing was enormous and it spilled over into other genres including rock – Jerry Garcia played on several of Ornette's records. He won many awards through the years, including a Pulitzer Prize for his music. Ornette plays Una Muy Bonita. (85)

♫ Ornette Coleman - Una Muy Bonita


LITTLE JIMMY DICKENS was, as his name suggests, quite diminutive. He was a country music performer whose career spanned from before the war to the present day. He also helped establish others including song writers Felice and Boudleaux Bryant and singer Marty Robbins. He continued performing until days before he died. (94)

Fans of British comedy series may remember NICHOLAS SMITH as Mr Rumbold in the comedy Are You Being Served? Besides being a character actor of considerable facility, he was also a musician of note. He was a singer, appearing in Gilbert and Sullivan works and straight opera.

Besides that, he was an accomplished pianist, guitarist and trumpeter and wrote music – he has more than a dozen string quartets to his name and many more works for voice and strings. (81)


KIM FOWLEY was a songwriter, record producer and manager who, early on, was associated with novelty records - Alley-Oop, Nut Rocker, Papa-Oom-Mow-Mow and the like. Later he was instrumental in getting the careers of Van Halen, The Runaways, Joan Jett, The Soft Machine and Traffic off the ground. He also ensured that Jimi Hendrix got a record contract. (75)


KURT MASUR was one of the most respected conductors in the world. He was associated with many of the top orchestras, but famously with the New York Philharmonic to which he brought new vigor after they'd become somewhat slack. He was also largely instrumental in the somewhat peaceful transition of East Germany (where he lived at the time) to a united country. His reputation was such that the protesters listened to his advice to avoid provocation and the government listened when he said they shouldn't shoot or otherwise harm the protesters. (88)

LEW SOLOFF was a jazz trumpeter who reached a wider audience as a member of the group Blood Sweat and Tears. He crossed many genres - he had no time for restrictive categories - and was a session musician for such artists as Barbra Streisand, Frank Sinatra and Lou Reed. He also performed with Gil Evans, Paul Simon and Dizzy Gillespie as well, and he played classical music at the Lincoln Centre. (71)


P.F. Sloan

P.F. SLOAN was a singer-songwriter who had a little success as such in the sixties but whose songs became hits for others. He was associated with Dunhill Records early in his career as a songwriter and also as a musician and singer – it's him singing with Jan Berry on The Little Old Lady from Pasadena, not Dean Torrance.

Besides Jan and Dean, he wrote songs for Herman's Hermits, Johnny Rivers, Ann-Margaret, The Turtles and others. He was also a session musician associated with the Wrecking Crew who performed on Phil Spector's productions, as well as the Beach Boys and many others – his guitar work is featured on several Mamas and Papas' songs.

His biggest chart success was Barry McGuire's cover of his song Eve of Destruction. This is P.F.'s version. (70)

♫ P.F. Sloan - Eve of Destruction


SAMUEL CHARTERS was an American musical historian particularly in blues, folk and jazz. He, along with Alan Lomax and Harry Smith, brought to the general public the extraordinary array of talent in these fields, particularly Robert Johnson and Blind Willie McTell.

He and his wife Ann, another renowned author, were later involved in civil rights and anti-Vietnam war campaigns. (85)


JULIE WILSON performed on Broadway in such musicals as "Kiss Me Kate" but she was best known as a cabaret performer who could perform with equal facility such composers as Kurt Weill, Stephen Sondheim, Jerome Kern, Rodgers and Hart, the Gershwins and Cole Porter. (90)


MICHAEL MASSER was a songwriter who pretty much launched the career of Whitney Houston. He also wrote successful songs for Diana Ross, Roberta Flack, George Benson, Barbra Streisand and Crystal Gayle. He received early encouragement and support from his idol Johnny Mercer. (74)


Jack Ely

JACK ELY didn't write the song Louie Louie (that was Richard Berry) but he took it to the top of the charts singing it in the group The Kingsmen.

His version became so notorious that the F.B.I. took time (and no doubt spent a lot of money) analyzing it in case it was subversive or naughty or something (who can know the thought processes of this organization?) They came to the conclusion that it was incomprehensible.

See if you can do better than the Feds. (71)

♫ The Kingsmen - Louie, Louie


GUNTHER SCHULLER was an American classical composer and musician who worked with many jazz greats, particularly John Lewis, Ornette Coleman, Charles Mingus and Dizzy Gillespie, to produce an interesting hybrid. Fans of both forms of music were too narrow in their appreciation and hated it. He also wrote about music and for children as well. (89)


ERROL BROWN was born in Jamaica and moved to England when he was 12 years old. It was in that country where he first recorded some covers of John Lennon's songs. He gained worldwide fame in the group Hot Chocolate who had several huge hits with disco-styled songs. (71)


Left Banke

MICHAEL BROWN was classically trained but found fame playing keyboards in the sixties rock group the Left Banke (that's him second from the left).

He was also a songwriter and produced their most famous songs Pretty Ballerina and most especially Walk Away Renee about the girl friend of another band member.

He brought classical instruments into the group, particularly the harpsichord and clavinet, generally unheard of in such a group (except occasionally in The Crickets' songs). (65)


GUY CARAWAN was a folk singer who had a bit of a hand in writing the song We Shall Overcome and also helped popularize it. (87)


Mattiwilda Dobbs

MATTIWILDA DOBBS was the third African-American singer to appear at the Metropolitan Opera, New York (after Marian Anderson and Robert McFerrin). She made her debut in “Rigoletto” and later sang many coloratura soprano parts.

Even early on, during her operatic career, she performed recitals. Mattiwilda travelled extensively, pretty much all over Europe and to Australia and countries nearby. She was a champion of civil rights and refused to sing before segregated audiences, so many cities missed her (that was their bad luck).

Mattiwilda sings Caro Nome from Verdi's “Rigoletto.”

♫ Mattiwilda Dobbs - Caro nome


BOBBY IRWIN was a studio and touring drummer particularly associated with Nick Lowe and Van Morrison. He also graced albums by Bryan Ferry, Carlene Carter and Lene Lovich. (62)


Jean Ritchie

JEAN RITCHIE was a giant of the American folk music scene who influenced pretty much everyone who followed in her wake – Bob Dylan, Joni Mitchell, Mimi Fariña, Johnny Cash, Emmylou Harris, Judy Collins and on and on.

Her instrument of choice was the dulcimer, not heard much these days but it has a distinctive sound. She was the recipient of a Fulbright scholarship and used that to research songs in various parts of Britain and Ireland which set her (and many others) up for material. (92)


MARTY NAPOLEON was a jazz pianist who was a long-time member of Louis Armstrong's All Stars. He also appeared in groups lead by Chico Marx, Joe Venuti, Charlie Barnet and Gene Krupa. Marty had a prolific recording career with, amongst others, Coleman Hawkins, Red Allen and Charlie Shavers as well as his own groups. (93)


LOUIS JOHNSON was a bass player who added punch to records of artists such as Quincy Jones, Michael Jackson, Aretha Franklin, Earl Klugh, and Grover Washington, Jr. He was also in a band with his brothers called, not too surprisingly, the Johnson Brothers Band. (60)


Jim Ed Brown

JIM ED BROWN was the middle sibling, along with sisters Maxine and Bonnie, in the group The Browns. They were quite a success in the fifties with their smooth country-like sound. They later performed folk music in the same manner.

The three of them were good friends with Elvis before he was famous and used to hang around with him and give him singing tips. Later Jim Ed had a considerable solo career and The Browns would often get back together and perform.

Here is the group, with Jim Ed singing lead, with their biggest hit, The Three Bells. (81)

♫ The Browns - The Three Bells


CHRIS SQUIRE was the bass player and co-founder of the prog-rock group, Yes. He was the one constant in that group whose personnel kept turning over. Not just a bass player, he was the singer and main composer as well. He was considered by his peers as one of the finest bass player in rock & roll. (67)


JAMES HORNER was a film score composer who won an Oscar for Titanic and was nominated many times for other films such as A Beautiful Mind, Braveheart and Avatar. (61)


VAL DOONICAN was an Irish singer and guitarist who specialised in folk style material and was hugely successful on British TV as a presenter and singer. (88)


WILL HOLT wrote a number of musicals that appeared on Broadway, sometimes collaborating with Kurt Weill. As well as that, he was a successful folk singer in a duo with his first wife, Dolly Jonah. He also wrote folk style songs, the most famous of which was Lemon Tree, a huge hit for Peter, Paul and Mary (and others as well). (86)

The GRATEFUL DEAD played their last concert in 2015. Some say they went toes up when Jerry died. (50)


BRUCE ROWLAND was a session drummer who for a time was also a member of the Grease Band who were Joe Cocker's backing band. He was in the group when Joe played at Woodstock and redefined the song, With a Little Help From My Friends. After Joe, Bruce joined the folk-rock group Fairport Convention. (76)


THEODORE BIKEL was a singer, actor, political activist and much more. He played the original role of Captain Von Trapp in the Broadway premiere of The Sound of Music, and was the quintessential Zoltan Karpathy in the film version of My Fair Lady.

He played southern sheriffs, Russian officers, rabbis and pretty much everything else. He helped start the Newport Folk Festival and introduced Bob Dylan to the world, both there and on TV. He championed human rights everywhere and was on the board of Amnesty International. (91)


Jon Vickers

JON VICKERS was a Canadian opera singer, a tenor, who had a huge voice and brought intensity to every role he performed. Most notably, he performed Wagner, Verdi and Britten roles to universal acclaim (except for Benjamin Britten who didn't like his interpretation of Peter Grimes).

He also recorded definitive versions of works by Handel and Schubert. As an example of his voice here he is playing Don José in Bizet's “Carmen” singing the aria La fleur que tu m'avais jetée. (88)

♫ Jon Vickers - La fleur que tu m'avais jetée (Carmen)


I beg your pardon, LYNN ANDERSON never promised you a Rose Garden. This song, written by Joe South, became a massive hit for her. She didn't want to record it, she thought it was a "man's song" but she was prevailed upon and the rest is history.

The song set her up to be a successful country performer. Her personal life wasn't as successful. (67)


DOTTIE DILLARD was a backup singer and a member of the Anita Kerr singers. She appeared on about half the country records made in the fifties and sixties and a substantial proportion of the pop records as well. The group also toured with many famous country musicians, Jim Reeves, Bobby Bare, Chet Atkins and so on. (91)


LUDMILA DVORAKOVA was a Czech soprano who specialised in Wagner roles. Besides these, she liked to perform works by such composers as Smetana, Janacek, Martinu and Dvorak. Ludmila performed in all the great opera houses and with every conductor who twiddled a baton in that field. (92)


JOHNNY MEEKS became the lead guitarist in Gene Vincent's band when the previous one had become too exuberant in his personal life. He also wrote songs for Gene. After that he was a member of the group The Champs. Later he worked with Michael Nesmith and Merle Haggard. (78)


PHIL WOODS was a jazz saxophone player, one of the next generation following, and hugely influenced by, Charlie Parker. In fact one of his earliest gigs was in Dizzy Gillespie's band taking the role Charlie once performed. He also played with Clark Terry, Quincy Jones, Billy Joel, Paul Simon and many others. Later he formed his own group. (83)


Cilla Black

CILLA BLACK started at the Cavern Club which spawned The Beatles. Indeed, they occasionally were her backing band at that venue and later wrote songs for her. She had hits all over the world and later became the youngest female entertainer to host her own TV program in Britain.

She was a natural for the medium and made a career on the box. She also kept singing. Here is one of her big hits, You're My World. (72)

♫ Cilla Black - You're My World


The CHEQUERBOARD LOUNGE in Chicago was started by guitarist Buddy Guy and over the years featured the finest blues musicians, from Muddy Waters and Buddy himself to the Rolling Stones and Eric Clapton. (44)


BEN CAULEY was a trumpeter who famously played in the band the Bar-Kays and he was in the plane that crashed killing Otis Redding and the rest of the band. Ben was the only one who survived.

He later worked as a session musician at Stax Records and toured with Isaac Hayes, Aretha Franklin, the Doobie Brothers and many others. (67)


LADY BO, or Peggy Jones, to her mum and dad, was a pioneering electric guitar player who played on many of Bo Diddley's most famous records. She toured with Bo and her guitar playing inspired many young people in England (and elsewhere) to play the instrument. She later toured with James Brown and Sam & Dave as well. (75)


ROGER SMALLEY was born in Britain and was a classical composer and a leading figure in the avant-garde. Not surprisingly, he was a long term pupil of Karlheinz Stockhausen who pretty much started all that sort of thing.

Besides composing, Roger was a fine pianist who played not only modern compositions but the great Romantic era works as well. He later moved to Australia where he changed his composing style to create considerably more accessible works. (72)


Frankie Ford

FRANKIE FORD had one really big hit called Sea Cruise. It seems that Huey "Piano" Smith had recorded the song with Bobby Marchan singing. However, Bobby left Huey's group as he was planning a solo career. Huey scrubbed the vocals and got Frankie to sing instead.

It became a world wide hit and the song has been covered by hundreds of performers over the years. Later Frankie owned, and performed in, his own club in New Orleans and made occasional records. Here he is with the big hit. (76)

♫ Frankie Ford - Sea Cruise


CYNTHIA ROBINSON was a trumpeter who was a founder member of the group Sly and the Family Stone. She was one of the few in the group who weren't part of the family, although she and Sly had a daughter together. She also worked with George Clinton, Grand Funk Railroad and Prince. (71)


If you wanted a steel guitar on your records, the go-to man was BUDDY EMMONS. He started out on a six string lap steel guitar and it was a natural progression to the pedal steel instrument.

Early on he played with Little Jimmy Dickens, Ernest Tubb and Ray Price. Roger Miller asked him to join his band and he was instrumental in getting Buddy into studio work. Buddy also designed his own instruments and set up a company to sell these with considerable success. (78)


MASABUMI KIKUCHI was a jazz pianist who was born in Tokyo just before the war. He was educated there and caught the ear of Lionel Hampton whilst touring the country. He joined his band and relocated to New York.

Over the years he made his own records and played, or collaborated, with Gil Evans, Miles Davis, Gary Peacock and others. He was a key figure in the avant guard jazz scene. (75)


AL ABRAMS was Motown Records first publicity man. He was instrumental in getting their music heard and appreciated all around the world. It could be said that the Motown legacy is as much Al’s as his lifetime friend Berry Gordy's. (74)


GAIL ZAPPA was Frank's wife as well as his muse and manager. After he died, she took charge of his considerable recorded legacy and ensured that the music was released properly and not exploited as had happened to others. (70)


BILLY SHERRILL was a songwriter and producer who was probably the most influential man in country music for several decades. He was responsible for making Charlie Rich and Tammy Wynette household names. He produced albums by George Jones, Tanya Tucker, Janie Fricke, Lacy J Dalton, Barbara Mandrell and many other performers.

Besides the country musicians, he produced albums for Cliff Richard, Elvis Costello and Ray Charles. (78)


Mark Murphy

MARK MURPHY was an original jazz singer whose improvisational skills made him a cult favorite with jazz fans (including Norma, the Assistant Musicologist). He was from New York but spent a lot of time in London and San Francisco. He was admired by the cream of jazz musicians – Duke Ellington and Ella Fitzgerald at the top of those.

He also brought the works of Jack Kerouac to the jazz canon (before Jack did so himself). He won Downbeat's poll of the best jazz singer many years. From his Kerouac album, this is Be Bop Lives. (83)

♫ Mark Murphy - Be Bop Lives (Boplicity)


BILLY JOE ROYAL, while still in his teens, became friends with songwriters and singers Joe South, Jerry Reed and Ray Stevens. This set him in good stead in later years as they sent songs his way, the most famous of those were Down in the Boondocks and Hush, both written by Joe South. (73)


ANDY WHITE was a session drummer who worked with Burt Bacharach, Anthony Newley, Eddie Cochran, Gene Vincent, Tom Jones, Chuck Berry and others. He also had his own rock group when younger.

However, his main claim to fame is that it was he who played the drums on The Beatles' first three singles – the record producers didn't think Ringo was up to the task. (85)


BRYN MERRICK was the bass player for the punk bank The Damned. At the same time, he played in other bands under assumed names. He died from neck cancer rather than as a result of fast living which is how he spent his life. (56)


Allen Toussaint

ALLEN TOUSSAINT was arguably the most important music person from New Orleans in the last 50 years. He was a record producer, songwriter, pianist, singer and more besides. He wrote so many songs that became famous for others that it would astound you if I listed them all.

Besides performing on his own and with The Meters, "his band," he collaborated with artists as diverse as the Rolling Stones, Herb Alpert, Elvis Costello, The Band, Robert Palmer, Paul McCartney, Glenn Campbell as well as the cream of New Orleans musicians.

After Katrina, he was one of the first to return as an example to others to do the same. I understated the first sentence – he was one of the most important music persons in the world.

He had a heart attack after a concert, so he was performing right to the end. Here he performs one of his own songs, Working in the Coalmine, that Lee Dorsey took to the top of the charts (several times). (77)

♫ Allen Toussaint - Working In The Coalmine



INTERESTING STUFF – 26 December 2015

101 YEAR OLD WOMAN SEES HERSELF ON TELEVISION

First, the wimp website posted this video of 101-year old Albina Foisy who had asked her son to stop the car so she would play in the snow. It went viral on the internet. Take a look:

The video racked up several hundred thousand views but wait, that wasn't the end of it. Later, a local news program taped Albina watching her video in the snow and the broadcast it.

Thank my friend Jim Stone for the video and Albina for showing us a bit about how to grow old.


BERNIE SANDERS ON HOW THE RULING CLASS WINS

Senator Bernie Sanders has become well known for never straying from his stump speech – hardly anyone can get him to move off a given day's message. Until he said down for an interview with rapper Killer Mike.

Here is Bernie explaining to Mike in just two minutes how the ruling class wins:

It's a smart, thoughtful, engaging interview and you will find many more clips from it here.


GLASS HARP

One last Christmas thing because it's pretty amazing. TGB's musicologist, Peter Tibbles sent this video of the Glass Harp Duo playing “The Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairy” from Tchaikovsky's Nutcracker Suite.

You can find more at their website and the YouTube page.


BLOOM COUNTY RETURNS

This one is from Peter Tibbles too. Are there any Bloom County fans out there? If so, you and I have been out of luck since the cartoon's artist Berkeley Breathed stopped producing it 1989.

But he's back, folks, he's been back since July and lately he has been taking on the Republican presidential hopefuls. Here is a recent one:

BloomCounty

(Click here for larger image)

The cartoon is not in newspapers this time around. You'll find it on Facebook.


RICKY AND DORIS: AN UNCONVENTIONAL FRIENDSHIP

Oh, you are going to love this. Ricky Syers is an off-beat 50 year old street performer who found his calling as a puppeteer after a lifetime of manual labor.

While performing in New York City’s Washington Square Park, he met Doris Diether, an 86 year old community activist. They became friends and he made a marionette that looks just like her. Now she’s joined his act and the two of them can often be seen performing together.

TGB reader Cathy Johnson sent it and I was immediately charmed. Also homesick. That park was MY park for 40 years.

Enjoy.


OLDEST KNOWN FOOTAGE OF NEW YORK CITY

Maybe it's only because I believe New York City is my real, my spiritual home even if I can't live there anymore but this video of the oldest known footage of New York captivates me.

Shot between 1896 and 1905, the video includes a map orienting us to which streets and intersections we are looking at and it is so much more than just the city. It is the people from 100 years ago, how they moved, what they looked like, and maybe we can glean a little of how they lived then.

Thank TGB reader, Christi the Cat Lady.


SINGING IN THE RAIN LIKE YOU'VE NEVER SEEN IT

This is from Darlene Costner who is spending this holiday recovering from a broken backbone. It is from the Festival Cirque de Demain in Paris.


25TH ANNIVERSARY OF FIRST WEBPAGE

On 20 December 1990, the first webpage went live at CERN. Take a look at it:

First-website-cern

I'm kind of amazed that the Web is not older. Only five years later, 1995, I started working with a small group creating the first CBS News website. We thought of ourselves then as pioneers and I guess that wasn't hyperbole – at least, not by much.

One of the creators of the World Wide Web, Tim Berners-Lee, is, according to Engadget,

”...still as tightly involved with web as he ever was, directing the World Wide Web Consortium he helped create. In fact, he's pushing hard to protect the open web against both government censorship and telecoms' attempts to crush net neutrality.

“CERN's role, however, has changed somewhat. While it's still embroiled in networking research (specifically grid computing), it's more often known for smashing particles.”

Nobody knows how many websites there are nowadays but recently, The Atlantic made an educated guess:

"In 1994, for example, there were fewer than 3,000 websites online. By 2014, there were more than 1 billion. That represents a 33 million percent increase in 20 years. That’s nuts!"

THE POLAR BEARS' CHRISTMAS PRESENT

A week ago, the polars bears at the San Diego Zoo got what must have been for them a magnificent early Christmas present. The Polar Bear Plunge

”...was transformed into a winter wonderland early this morning, as nearly 26 tons of glistening white snow blanketed the polar bear exhibit. The three bears—Kalluk, Tatqiq and Chinook—showed their excitement by frolicking in the snow,” reports Zoonooz.

“They rolled around in the fresh powder and wrestled with each other all morning long. Animal care staff also scattered yams, carrots, melons and beef femur bones throughout the exhibit as added enrichment, and watched as the bears pounced and dug for their prizes.”

Thank TGB's assistant musicologist, Norma, for the heads up on this and enjoy. It is a lovely way to end the final Interesting Stuff of 2015.

* * *

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.


Merry Christmas, Everyone - 2015

Here it is Christmas Day again. Every damned year I say to myself, “Huh? Didn't we do this just last week? Of course, only old people say things like that. If you've got any little kids around you know they think it's been about 10 years since last Christmas.

For the past several years, we have celebrated here with Penelope Keith. Today marks the fourth annual appearance and I intend to keep doing this each Christmas until something comes along that delights me more.

Penelope_keithIf you are a TGB newcomer this year who is not British or Australian and may not know who she is, there is a bare bones biography of Keith at Wikipedia. And here is some more information from 2013 when she was made a dame for her charity work in the New Year Honours list that year.

The even shorter version is that she is an acclaimed actor and comedian, primarily in television but on the stage too. You can see excerpts from some sitcoms she has starred in at YouTube.

Bottom line: she is a funny woman. So, here is Ms. Keith's justifiably famous version of The 12 Days of Christmas. No video, just audio, and I promise it is worth every minute.

Happy Christmas, everyone, and enjoy.

Penelope Keith - And Yet Another Partridge in a Pear Tree


Christmas



Ghost Stores for Christmas Eve Eve

Here is an 1842 John Leech illustration of Ebenezer Scrooge and Marley's Ghost from, of course, the classic holiday story by Charles Dickens, A Christmas Carol.

Marleys_ghost_-_a_christmas_carol_1843_680

I stole that image from an article at Paris Review that dropped in my inbox last week. The writer, Colin Fleming, notes that for some people, there is the fuzzy, warm side of the Christmas season:

”But what of the darker elements of Christmas—and what of Christmas for those people who enjoy making merry most years but may have hit upon a bit of a tricky patch? What succor of the season might they find at the proverbial inn?

“Having experienced both sides of Christmas, there is but one constant I am aware of that serves you well both in the merriest of times and in the darkest: the classic English Christmas ghost story.

“You’d think Halloween would be the holiday that elicits the best macabre stories, but you’re going to want to check that opinion and get more on the Snow Miser side of the equation.

“Time was the English loved to scare you out of your mind come December, but in a fun way that resulted in stories well afield of your typical ghost story outing.”

I didn't know Christmas had a tradition of ghost stories beyond the venerable Dickens story, but was delighted to learn that it was once so and that having told me about it, Fleming has resurrected five of those old tales.

First he explains how this genre worked in the 19th and early 20th centuries:

”The first key to a Christmas ghost story is a convivial atmosphere. People in these stories are well fed, they’re often hanging out in groups, you feel like you’re hanging out with them, and you do not wish to leave any more than they do...

“...a game might be proposed, say, a game of telling stories. Then comes the terror. The status quo is infused with a sensation of something being a touch off, chuckles give way to shared, uneasy glances that maybe this isn’t all merrymaking.”

A lovely set up, don't you think? I certainly couldn't resist and Fleming then introduces us to five vintage Christmas ghost stories with which we are likely to be unfamiliar. In my case, he is right and I had grand old time reading them all.

They are in Fleming's order:

Between the Lights, by E. F. Benson (1912)

The Kit-Bag, by Algernon Blackwood (1908)

A Strange Christmas Game, by J. H. Riddell (1863)

Christmas Re-union, by Sir Andrew Caldecott (1912)

Smee, by A. M. Burrage (1931)

You will find Fleming's article, first published in December 2014, at the Paris Review along with his introduction to each story and links to where they can be read online.

Happy Christmas, everyone.


A Good Year for Elder Actors

Not infrequently, I grumble out loud around here about how few roles, especially major roles, there are in film for elder actors. Our generation doesn't get much representation on what in our youth was called the silver screen.

But not so in 2015. As the year-end round-ups of the arts are being published, it is gratifying to see how many of our contemporaries have been not only getting work but in some cases being nominated for awards.

This is a list of some of the biggest names and the movies they have starred in this year. It is in no way meant to be comprehensive, and I arbitrarily chose 65 to be the low-end age cutoff. Maybe you have seen some of these. (A few random trailers included)

45 YEARS
Starring Charlotte Rampling (age 69) and Tom Courtenay (78) as a married couple whose 45th wedding anniversary is complicated when the body of Courtenay's first love is discovered.

Rampling has already won best actress at the European Film Awards and both stars won for best performance at the Berlin Film Festival.


CREED
Sylvester Stallone (69) stars in his seventh outing as Rocky Balboa, this time as trainer to the son of his old rival, Apollo Creed. Stallone has received a Golden Globe nomination as best supporting actor.


DANNY COLLINS
Al Pacino (75) as a washed-up 1970's rock star whose life is changed when he finds a letter sent to him decades earlier by John Lennon and Yoko Ono.

Pacino is nominated for best performance in a musical or comedy Golden Globe. The ceremony takes place on 10 January 2016.


GRANDMA
Lily Tomlin (76) stars as a lesbian poet, Elle, who embarks on a road trip with her 18-year-old granddaughter seeking an abortion. Sam Elliott (71) plays Elle's former boyfriend.


THE HATEFUL EIGHT
Among an all-star cast, Samuel L. Jackson (66) plays a bounty hunter in Civil War era Wyoming in this western directed by Quentin Tarantino.


I'LL SEE YOU IN MY DREAMS
After her dog dies, long-time widow Blythe Danner (72) discovers that life goes on as she reconnects with her daughter and pursues a romance with Bill played by Sam Elliott (72).


THE INTERN
When life gets too boring for retired executive Ben Whitaker played by Robert DeNiro (72), he joins an internship program for seniors where he becomes a father figure to younger employees while developing a romance with the company's massage therapist.


THE LADY IN THE VAN
This is the true story of Mary Shepherd, played by Maggie Smith (80) who, for 14 years, lived in a broken-down van she parked in the London driveway of playwright Alan Bennett (who wrote this screenplay).

Smith had already played Shepherd in the stage play (also by Bennett) and in the BBC Radio 4 production. She has been nominated for a Golden Globe award for best performance in a musical or comedy.


MR. HOLMES
Ian McKellen (76) plays an ageing Sherlock Holmes who, as his mind deteriorates, struggles to recall his last case. This story was adapted from Mitch Cullen's novel, A Slight Trick of the Mind which I thoroughly enjoyed.


STAR WARS: THE FORCE AWAKENS
I'm pretty sure I don't need to tell you about this seventh outing of the Star Wars saga that opened this past weekend. Harrison Ford (73) reprises his role as Han Solo.


WOMAN IN GOLD
Helen Mirren (70) plays an ageing Jewish woman, Maria Altmann who, having fled Vienna decades earlier, attempts to reclaim family possessions that were seized by the Nazis. Mirren also starred in the biography film, Trumbo, this year as the gossip columnist Hedda Hopper.


YOUTH
This film features Michael Caine (82) as a retired orchestra conductor vacationing in the Swiss Alps with his best friend, played by Harvey Keitel (76) along with Jane Fonda (77) as they contemplate the struggle of age and youth, life and death and much that goes with those eternal questions.

It has already won Best Picture at The European Film Awards where Caine won for Best Actor and Paolo Sorrentino (not an elder) won Best Director. Jane Fonda has been nominated for a best actress Golden Globe award for the film.


GRACE AND FRANKIE
This is an extra, the television series that ran on Netflix this year starring Jane Fonda (77) and Lily Tomlin (76) as two sort-of friends whose lives are turned upside down when their law partner husbands announce they are in love with each other and intend to divorce their wives.

The husbands are played by Sam Waterston (75) and Martin Sheen (75).

Tomlin won an Emmy for best actress and is nominated in that category for Satellite and Golden Globe awards. Production for season two has wrapped; it will be broadcast in 2016 and Netflix has already announced there will be a season three.

Are there any of these you particularly liked or are looking forward to?


ELDER MUSIC: Christmas 2015

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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ChristmasOz20

Well, here it is again (deep sigh). Christmas. Bah humbug is too mild a phrase for what I'm thinking so I'd better stop and get on with the tasteful music I have in mind.

In the spirit of the season, this is LOUDON WAINWRIGHT III who really does get into the Christmas spirit with his song.

Loudon Wainwright III

It's a cheerful little ditty called I'll Be Killing You This Christmas. I thought I'd throw that one in just to make your Christmas complete. It certainly did mine.

♫ Loudon Wainwright III - I'll Be Killing You This Christmas


In contrast, ROOSEVELT SYKES certainly doesn't want to off his baby, as Loudon seems intent on doing.

Roosevelt Sykes

Roosevelt was a blues pianist and he always thought that his music was for chasing away the blues and his records and live playing certainly did that. I'm sure he was chasing away the blues with Let Me Hang Your Stockings in Your Christmas Tree.

♫ Roosevelt Sykes - Let Me Hang Your Stockings In Your Christmas Tree


Now a tune that we in Australia would naturally call Summer Wonderland:

...Later on we'll perspire
As the temperature gets higher
We're living in a summer wonderland

ChristmasOz

However, for some reason best known to CHET BAKER, he calls it Winter Wonderland. I've heard others call it that as well. I shake my head.

Chet Baker

♫ Chet Baker - Winter Wonderland


Soul singer and songwriter MACK RICE started his career in a group called The Falcons.

Mack Rice

Also in that band were another couple of handy performers: Eddie Floyd and Wilson Pickett. Mack's songs have been covered by pretty much every soul and blues performer around (particularly Wilson).

Mack suggests that Santa Claus Wants Some Lovin'. Well, it looks as if Shemekia (down below) is willing to give him some.

♫ Mack Rice - Santa Claus Wants Some Lovin'


JULIA LEE specialised in singing "the songs my mother taught me not to sing.”

Julia Lee

See if you think that her song Christmas Spirit fits into that category.

♫ Julia Lee - Christmas Spirit


CHIP TAYLOR is a songwriter of some repute – he wrote Angel of the Morning and Wild Thing.

Chip Taylor & Carrie Rodriguez

Besides that ,he is the brother of the actor Jon Voight (and thus Angelina Jolie's uncle). On this track, as on several of his recent albums, Chip has the help of CARRIE RODRIGUEZ. The song is Merry F'n Christmas. I can't imagine what he means by that.

♫ Chip Taylor - Merry F'n Christmas


ChristmasOz

KANSAS CITY KITTY was a name used by several women recording in the early thirties. No one knows exactly who sang on any particular record under that name. A few are thought to be possibilities – Victoria Spivey, her sister Addie Spivey and Mozelle Alderson are generally considered the front runners.

Whoever it is, she's a real blues singer because she "woke up Christmas morning." The song is Christmas Morning Blues.

♫ Kansas City Kitty - Christmas Morning Blues


A song that will date us, those who can remember when this seemed like a good idea, is I Want Eddie Fisher for Christmas and the singer BETTY JOHNSON.

Betty Johnson

The song has been used over the years referencing various other singers, but Betty's was the first and the best. Okay "best" is an interesting word for what we have here today. Make up your own mind on that.

♫ Betty Johnson - I Want Eddie Fisher for Christmas (1954)


SHEMEKIA COPELAND wants the big man to hang around for a while and with all that loot in his sack, who can blame her?

Shemekia Copeland

Shemekia is the daughter of the great bluesman Johnny Copeland - however, she doesn't need nepotism; she's a terrific performer in her own right. Here's Shemekia with Stay A Little Longer, Santa.

♫ Shemekia Copeland - Stay A Little Longer, Santa


For your moment of Christmas couth we have CRISTOFORO CARESANA.

Cristoforo Caresana

Cris had been pretty much written out of music history until he was rediscovered only a couple of decades ago. He lived back in the 17th century, was born in Venice and the family moved to Naples when he was a teenager (we think, his birth year is a bit uncertain).

It was there he developed his music skills, singing and playing the organ initially and then turning to composition. This is Coronati viatori from "L'Adoratione de' Maggi."

♫ Caresana - L'Adoratione de' Maggi - Coronati viatori


ChristmasOz


INTERESTING STUFF – 19 December 2015

REGIFTING – A WEB EXCLUSIVE FROM JOHN OLIVER

John Oliver and his HBO program, Last Week Tonight, are off the air until February. But he didn't forget us at Christmas time.

This is a web exclusive of Oliver's take on how to properly regift.


CANADIAN PRIME MINISTER TRUDEAU WELCOMES SYRIAN REFUGEES

After 12 of 13 Republicans each tried hard – and pretty well succeeded - during their Tuesday debate to prove how mean they would be as president to desperate people fleeing their wartorn country, look what happened in Canada (hat tip to doctafil):

You can read more at The New York Times.


MOCKING ISIS WITH RUBBER DUCKIES

While U.S. presidential candidates talk about carpet bombing most of the Middle East, a bunch of people on social media tried another approach:

“'How about castrating the image of Isis by replacing the faces on ALL the propaganda photos with bath ducks?' a 4Chan user wrote on Shit4chanSays (/s4s/) board.

“Reddit users picked up on the meme when it was posted on the r/4chan subreddit, which collects content from 4chan. 'This had me quacking up,' posted one Reddit user. Another asked: 'Would you rather fight 1,000 duck-sized Isis members, or one Isis-sized duck?'

“Since then, hundreds of images have been posted online showing fighters from the terror group with duck heads.”

Here is one from Twitter:

ISISducks

Several more examples:

ISISducks1

You can read more and see other ISIS/duck images here.


INTERVIEW WITH 82-YEAR-OLD MICHAEL CAINE

Actor Michael Caine has been making the media rounds to promote the new film, Youth, in which he stars with Harvey Keitel.

Of course, at his age, questions about growing old were bound to come up when a reporter interviewed him in New York recently. Here are some excerpts:

On Retirement:

“What am I going to do? Sit around and watch soaps on television all day? That’s why I never retired. I retire mentally every time. I regard myself retired now. I don’t have another script to do, so I’m retired.

“I always had this phrase that I said many times to reporters: 'You don’t retire in movies. Movies retire you.' [AP: Yet they’re not.] That’s the point. I retire and they say, 'Oh, no you’re not.'”

On Playing Older Parts:

“I had had great success in movies. I had done 61, 62. And I got a script and I sent it back to the producer with a note saying I didn’t want to do it; the part was too small.

“And he sent it back with a note saying, ‘I didn’t want you to read the lover. I wanted you to read the father.’ That’s when, as I like to say, you stop getting the girl, but you get the part.”

On One Similarity to his Youth Character:

“There’s a scene at the doctor’s where I go to see the results of my exam and he says to me, ‘What’s it like feeling old?’ And what struck me is the line I said to him, which is: ‘I don’t understand how I got here.’ Six years ago, I was 35. How the hell have I gotten to be 82?”

It's a good interview. You can read the full piece at The Daily Progress. And here is a trailer from the movie:


INTERVIEW WITH 59-YEAR-OLD ACTOR CARRIE FISHER

Carrie Fisher is flogging a movie too, a really big deal, blockbuster one, Star Wars Episode VII: The Force Awakens in which she plays General Leia.

She appears in the trailer for barely a second so here is a still of her from the movie looking pretty much like the age she is in real life, 59. Not that she is happy about it:

General-leia2

“I look melted and I look my age,” she told the Mirror. “Unfortunately, I don’t want to look my age. I would do everything but have serious surgery for it and look like a weird fish with gills.”

Fisher goes on to say that her weight has yo-yo-ed and she has been “dogged by an emphasis on looks throughout her career.”

“Appearances are treated like, you know, something; an accomplishment. Look, your parents had sex and they were both good-looking. Great for you.

“She laughs: 'Mine were good-looking and they had sex, and then it ended.' And despite being one of the biggest female icons of our time, she’s still insecure about her looks.

“'My physical self and I are not friends. We’re not speaking and I’m ignoring especially my arms lately,' she says. 'I’ve never liked my appearance.'”

It is undoubtedly tougher on female actors – Hollywood ageism is well known and mostly for women. But making peace with our old age is hard, I think, for all of us until we get to the point where we can recognize the cultural brainwashing and not waste the rest of our lives being miserable. Still, it can take awhile to get there.

This is a long newspaper story that covers a great deal of Fisher's life. I suspect they've done this to explain who she is to young fans of the latest Star Wars movie who weren't born yet when she became an icon playing Princess Leia.

You can read the full report here.


WOODEN SHAVED CHRISTMAS TREES

This is the last Interesting Stuff before the Christmas holiday so let's indulge in a couple of seasonal videos. I was amazed at this one showing a Christmas craft from Germany:

Everything on the YouTube page is in German and the only other place I found to send you if you want ot know more is this German-language website and here is a translator.


10 CHRISTMAS SEASON HACKS

Not all of these ideas are winners but several are clever and useful. See what you think.


BENEDICT CUMBERBATCH IN A NEW SHERLOCK

First there is his name; it is just so much fun to say Ben-e-dict Cum-ber-batch. It flows off the tongue so nicely.

Then there is his Sherlock Holmes portrayal that has been broadcast in the U.S. on PBS since 2010.

The next series of Sherlock episodes doesn't even start shooting until spring 2016 but the producers have taken pity on fans like me with an interim special titled The Abominable Bride.

Unlike the regular series that takes place in modern times, somehow Holmes and Watson and the rest of the regulars have been transported back to 1890's London:

There are two more trailers you can see here and here.

The program will be broadcast on PBS' Masterpiece Mystery on 1 January 2016 with a repeat on 10 January. You can read more here.


BOOGIE WOOGIE

This video, recorded way back in 2006, came from my friend Jim Stone. It is so infectious that if you're not grinning through the whole thing, just have someone call the undertaker.

* * *

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.


Can Ageist Beliefs Increase Your Risk for Alzheimer's?

That is the conclusion of associate professor Becca Levy and her fellow researchers at the Yale School of Public Health in New Haven, Connecticut:

"What we found is that negative perceptions on aging are definitely significantly related to [Alzheimer's] disease indicators," said Levy of her most recent research project, reported at Health Day.

Levy has been studying the effects of ageist beliefs and behavior on the health and wellbeing of elders for at least as long as the 12 years I've been writing this blog. I reported here on a related study of Levy's in 2013.

“There is a name for this kind of demeaning speech,” I wrote then. “It's called 'elderspeak' and being the target of it can shorten an old person's life by up to 7.5 years according to the estimable Yale University associate professor of psychology, Becca Levy, because it reinforces a person's negative perception of their age:

“In a long-term study of 660 people over age 50 in a small Ohio town, published in 2002,” reported The New York Times, “Dr. Levy and her fellow researchers found that those who had positive perceptions of aging lived an average of 7.5 years longer, a bigger increase than that associated with exercising and not smoking.

”The findings held up even when the researchers controlled for differences in the participants’ health conditions.” [emphasis added]

Elderspeak, of course, refers to baby talk and such language as “dearie,” “young lady,” “honey,” “sweetie,” and other cutesy names that are so loathsome when directed at old people.

Levy's latest research further reinforces and expands the damaging outcomes resulting from negative beliefs about growing old. Health Day explained how this new study was conducted:

”The research team first focused on more than 50 men and women who were dementia-free when they enrolled in the large, multi-decade Baltimore Longitudinal Study of Aging. That project, launched by the U.S. National Institute on Aging in 1958, is the longest running American study on aging.

“Years later, all participants underwent annual brain-imaging scans (MRIs) for up to 10 years, with an average of seven scans per person. The goal was to pinpoint any changes in the size of the hippocampus region of the brain, an area known to play a critical role in memory regulation.

“Scan results were then paired against the views each participant had offered about a quarter-century earlier to 16 age stereotypes, such as 'old people are absent-minded.'”

Health.com provided more details. After the study participants died, they report,

”The autopsy examiners looked for two well-known markers for Alzheimer’s disease: protein clusters known as amyloid plaques, and twisted protein strands known as tangles.

“Plaque and tangle presence was then correlated with the attitudes on aging the deceased participants had expressed nearly three decades before.

“Again, those who held more-negative views on aging early on were found to have a significantly greater presence of plaques and tangles.”

The results appear close to definitive. The Telegraph explained the study's conclusions:

”Put simply, people who have been conditioned by society to think they will become physically and mentally decrepit in older age, probably will...

“In contrast, upbeat, optimistic and active individuals who refuse to conform to ageist stereotypes, are likely to stay mentally alert for longer.

“The researchers say it could explain why westernised countries like the UK have such a high rate of dementia compared with India, where the elderly are venerated.

"'We believe it is the stress generated by the negative beliefs about aging that individuals sometimes internalise from society that can result in pathological brain changes," said lead author Dr Becca Levy.”

What is encouraging is that the negative beliefs about ageing can be changed and if positive beliefs can be adopted and reinforced. The “adverse impact is not inevitable,” Levy told Science Daily.

Whenever I write about the damaging outcomes of negative attitudes, beliefs and behavior toward elders and old age in general, there is a predictable number of comments from people who say that it's not important what other people say or think. The “sticks and stones” excuse I call it.

But it's simply not true as this latest study shows. What the general public and the culture at large believe affects our own feelings about ourselves and, more importantly, public policy - that is, how governments make decisions about elders (or any group being denigrated), how tax money is spent, who is allowed to work, even what kind of health care people is and is not administered.

Ageism is what fuels the billion-dollar cosmetic surgery and bogus anti-aging industries too. Nobody spends money on those procedures ad products who doesn't believe that growing old is the worst thing that can happen to them. Are they also raising their risk of Alzheimer's?


LAGNIAPPE: Drug Company CEO Shkreli Arrested on Fraud Charges

Today's note is a perfect use of the little feature recently introduced here at TGB. Lagniappe is for short items that are extra special or time-worthy enough to post on Tuesday or Thursday, days on which I usually do not publish.

* * *

Before I had poured my first cup of coffee this morning, a news alert popped onto the computer screen:

Shkreli, CEO Reviled for Drug Price Gouging, Arrested on Securities Fraud Charges

Martin-Shkreli

How delicious and how perfectly timed given yesterday's post about him. Here is the lead paragraph from Bloomberg:

”A boyish drug company entrepreneur, who rocketed to infamy by jacking up the price of a life-saving pill from $13.50 to $750, was arrested at his Manhattan home early Thursday morning on securities fraud related to a firm he founded...

“The federal case against him has nothing to do with pharmaceutical costs, however. Prosecutors charged him with illegally taking stock from Retrophin Inc., a biotechnology firm he started in 2011, and using it pay off debts from unrelated business dealings. He was later ousted from the company, where he’d been chief executive officer, and sued by its board.”

Yes, yes. We all know he is innocent until proven guilty but somehow I have no difficulty believing these charges filled with such phrases as payoff agreements, fake consulting agreements, unauthorized appropriations, fraudulently reclassifying, insolvent, and more.

”The company alleged in a complaint filed in Manhattan federal court that, through a disastrous trade with Merrill Lynch in 2011, Shkreli cost MSMB more than $7 million, leaving it virtually bankrupt.

And all that barely scratches the surface of the story which you can read in its delicious entirety at Bloomberg. I am sure that like me, you will appreciate this little kicker from reporters Christie Smythe and Keri Geiger:

“'Some of these companies seem to act more like hedge funds than traditional pharmaceutical companies,' said Senator Susan Collins, a Maine Republican who ran the recent hearing.

“George Scangos, CEO of biotechnology giant Biogen Inc., went further, saying in an interview, 'Turing is to a research-based company like a loan shark is to a legitimate bank.'”

The arrest couldn't happen to a more worthy guy. Not that I would indulge in anything like schadenfreude, you understand.



Being Priced Out of Drug Treatment?

People 65 and older comprise about 13 percent of the U.S. population but account for 34 percent of all prescription medicine use and 30 percent of all over-the-counter (OTC) drug use.

Because the size of our age group increases by the day and Medicare pays for the largest percentage of those drugs, keeping the prices under some sort of reasonable control is serious business for the economic well-being of individual elders and the government.

Last week, the Senate Committee on Aging, chaired by Susan Collins, Republican of Maine, held its first public hearing on the topic: Sudden Price Spikes in Off-Patent Drugs: Perspectives from the Front Lines, it was called.

A member of the Committee, Senator Elizabeth Warren, Democrat of Massachusetts, was among those questioning the experts invited to testify:

Did you catch that part about the price of one drug going overnight from the overall cost of $300 million to $4.5 billion?

Perhaps you recall that event. In a surprise move back in September, Martin Shkreli, the 32-year-old CEO of Turing Pharmaceuticals, jacked up the price of Daraprim from $13.50 per tablet to $750 per tablet.

Daraprim, used to treat certain parasitic infections and AIDS, is a 62-year-old, off-patent, life-saving drug Turing had acquired in August from another pharmaceutical producer. With the unexpected and unspeakably high price increase, Shkreli was being called “the most hated man in America.”

Last week, in an interview, he not only defended this 5,000 percent increase, he said he should have raised the price even higher than he did.

Keep in mind as you watch Mr. Shkreli in this short video clip, that people will die from not being able to afford this drug – if some have not already:

Last Friday, The New York Times reported that having bought controlling interest in another small biotechnology firm named KaloBios, Shkreli announced a coming price hike for a drug that treats Chagas disease:

”Mr. Shkreli said on a conference call with KaloBios investors last week that...the price would be similar to that of hepatitis C drugs, which cost $60,000 to nearly $100,000 for a course of treatment. In Latin America, benznidazole costs $50 to $100 for the typical two-month course of treatment.

“Benznidazole has never been approved for sale in the United States but is provided free to patients by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on an experimental basis.

“KaloBios’s price would be 'pretty devastating,' said Dr. Meymandi of U.C.L.A. 'The people with Chagas for the most part are poor' and many lack insurance, she said.

“It is estimated that 300,000 people in the United States have Chagas disease, virtually all of them immigrants from Latin America who were infected before they came.”

This story gets more complicated because of the announced intention of Shkreli to apply for a voucher from the federal government for another drug that would then get to market months earlier than otherwise, creating greater profit. If you really care about the intricacies of that move, you can read more here.

But it comes down to the same result: gigantic prices for life-saving drugs that patients – and federal health programs – cannot possibly afford, if not so in the short term, certainly in the long run.

Here is what further bothers me a great deal: in the same way that Donald Trump's presidential campaign of resentment, racism and xenophobia has pushed other candidates' rhetoric nearly off the far right edge of the charts, aren't Shkreli's astronomical price hikes likely to lead other pharmas to the same sorts of increases?

We live in that kind of outrageous atmosphere these day, and there isn't anything I know of to stop drug price increases of any amount. As Shkreli points out, in our capitalist system, a CEO's first obligation to share holders is to maximize profit.

I don't have the financial knowledge (or even math skills) to know how to figure out if higher profits are generated by a few expensive purchases or many low priced purchases but it's not hard to figure out that, as noted above, on Shkreli's scheme people without the means to pay will die.

Is this how we want healthcare to be in the United States? We already have a whole bunch of politicians who want to kill Medicaid and Obamacare and/or turn Medicare into a voucher system elders wouldn't be able to afford.

Recall in the Elizabeth Warren video above, both men who testified said there are ways government can help keep drug prices in line with what people can afford, and they offered a few ideas. The point of the hearings is to identify the best ways and find a way to apply them. It cheers me that the relentless Senator Warren is on this Committee.

There will be more hearings on this topic at the Senate Committee on Aging. You can follow the progress at the Committee's website starting with the first three press announcements here, here and here.

There are links to pertinent materials, letters and transcripts on those pages.


Darlene Costner, Mending Well at Home

If you read the comments here regularly, you know Darlene Costner. She usually has something smart or pithy or funny to say and more readers leave such comments as, “What Darlene said,” than they do anyone else.

Darlene also supplies a lot of the items for Saturday's Interesting Stuff column so you've seen her name there quite frequently.

I had already started to wonder why I hadn't heard from Darlene in awhile when an email arrived yesterday. On Saturday, 5 December, she wrote, she had fallen in her home and five days later, she was

”...transported by ambulance (my private limo) to the ER when I was in excruciating pain on Friday morning at 1:30 am and was admitted to the hospital for observation.”

It turns out she had broken a vertebra but after thorough examinations, doctors allowed her to go home to recover, avoiding rehab, as long as there was someone to help 24 hours a day. Darlene continued:

”Mark (her son) will be here tomorrow so Gail (her daughter who lives with Darlene) can go to work. I am wearing a brace and I now have sympathy for knights in shining armor.”

It is difficult for Darlene to type at the computer right now so I've been emailing with Gail who explained further on the fall Darlene took:

”We were having friends over for dinner on Saturday night when Mom's inner hostess kicked in. Without thinking of using her walker for balance, she grabbed two trays and started toward the living room. She lost her balance and fell straight back.

“She's so tough that she acted like nothing was wrong throughout the dinner party, wouldn't hear of going to urgent care on Sunday and proceeded to walk around for the next five days as if all was normal.

“Finally in the early morning hours of Friday, she woke to find the pain was so severe she couldn't move at all. A few paramedics, a stretcher and an ambulance ride later, we heard the ER doctor telling us that she had fractured her T12 vertebra and there was significant swelling.

“They checked her into the hospital for observation and an evaluation by the physical therapist. Fortunately she could get out of bed by herself and walk with the help of a walker and his recommendation was for home care.”

Let me remind you that we celebrated Darlene's 90th birthday here earlier this year. As Gail, says, she is one tough woman and this isn't the first time she has been astonishly brave through a broken bone. Five or six years ago she fell at home, broke her hip and spent 10 or 12 hours lying on the floor before she could crawl to the phone to call for help.

Darlene recovered well and with her usual sense of humor. I have no doubt the same fortitude will get Darlene through this recovery with her usual aplomb.

It must be at least ten years now that I've known Darlene through the magic of the internet. She is one of a handful of my closest blog friends and I'm sorry we have never met in person. Getting old changes things like that but I treasure our friendship and I know others of you also do.

For all the usual good reasons, I won't post Darlene's email address so you can leave messages, jokes, good cheer or whatever else you are inclined to say in the comments below.

Here is a photo of Darlene with Jan Adams of Can It Happen Here? blog when Jan visited Darlene two or three years ago.

Jan Adams and Darlene Costner


Dreading Dementia

More than once or twice I have complained here about how the media seems to work overtime scaring the pants off old people about Alzheimer's disease. There is more reporting about it than any other of the diseases of age.

So today's is hardly a new topic but circumstances change. Or, perhaps, it is one's perception that does the changing. One way or another, the thought of dementia feels different to me lately.

Here is a list of things that happened to me during a single day last week. Actually, it's a list of only the ones I remember. I'm sure you will appreciate the irony of that caveat in a moment.

  1. As I grabbed the broom from the laundry room where the cat's litter box also lives, I made a mental note to clean the litter box when I returned the broom. A couple of hours later, when I was again in the laundry room to drop some towels in the washer, it hit me that I had failed to do that when I returned the broom. Didn't even cross my mind.

  2. Leaving the house to go shopping, I took a stamped envelope with me to drop in the outgoing mailbox on my way to the car so it would go out that day. On my way home from the store, I saw the envelope on the passenger seat. I had apparently strolled right past the mailbox without stopping – even with the envelope in my hand.

  3. As I walked through the door of the supermarket I thought, “Oh, I should also pick up the local weekly.” I clearly remember saying that to myself. The next day I realized I had not bought the newspaper.

  4. I forgot to put detergent in a laundry load. Never did that before in my life (that I, ahem, recall).

  5. That Thursday evening, the fifth night of Hannukah, there seemed to be too many candles remaining in the box. A quick count showed that yes, I had missed one night of lighting them. I look forward to this eight-day ritual every year, it's one of my favorite annual things, I eagerly polish the menorah in the lead-up and I cannot work out how I forgot one night.

Thursday was not an isolated bad memory day. I could make such a list - and longer - on most days.

The reason I'm thinking so much about this is that although I've been forgetting similar such small things that require a functional short-term memory on a daily basis for a long while, they seem to be increasing recently.

I don't know that for a fact but it feels that way and for the first time, I'm worried or perhaps the more honest description is that I am frightened, scared.

When I first realize I've again forgotten something nowadays, I can't shrug it off. Instead, it's hard to breathe for a moment or two. Or, sometimes, my brain freezes – nothing there but pure fear bouncing around. I've never felt that way about aspects of being old before.

You and I, dear readers, have made many jokes in these pages about the kinds of memory mistakes that matter and those that don't. “If you can't find your keys,” we say in our laymans' certitude, “you're okay; if you don't know what they're for, you're in trouble.”

We invoke senior moments as another way of finding humor in our ageing selves but they contain, too, a bit of a chill, a sense of whistling past the graveyard.

I can't prove it but it feels like I lose a thought, on average, about once an hour throughout a day and that some of those intentions disappear within a single second.

It's one thing to half-joke, as I did in a recent blog post, about finding the “sweet spot” about the moment, with a diagnosis of dementia, to commit suicide before one's mind is too far gone to accomplish it.

It is quite another thing to wonder sincerely if the need for that act is becoming reality.

Part of me keeps saying, oh, you're just imagining this increase. Even when you were young, you found yourself in rooms wondering why you'd gone there. And then I think it's time for an appointment with a neurologist. Undergo some tests.

When I allow that thought, I'm paralyzed again, not quite rational for a few moments as I desperately reach for a distraction. As they have always said, ignorance is bliss and that seems to be where I am stuck for now.

Because who wants to know for sure this particular dreadful diagnosis.

Maybe I'm fine. Maybe I'm a victim of too much Alzheimer's talk in the media. Maybe I should not have attended that screening a few days ago where I saw Still Alice for the second time. Maybe I am imagining that my memory has gotten worse. Maybe I feel guilty for being remarkably healthy at my age when others are not.

Maybe these thoughts will fade away soon and I'll muddle along as I always have for lot more years. Maybe I'll forget I even wrote this blog post. (I don't even know if that's a joke.)

I'm not writing this because I want your advice or suggestions. I don't need medical references; I've done mountains of research. I am well informed on this subject and it is not out of the question that is what has got me into this uncomfortable spot.

What I hope in doing this today, I think, is that it might be useful to express what I'm feeling so some other old people who sometimes find themselves in a similar place know others of us are there too.

We are all presented with frightening things as we grow old – some rational, some not. But we generally don't talk about them out loud, not in a real sense of how it actually feels when we are alone in the dark with these thoughts.

Writing this brought to mind a delightful quotation from the recent book, Let's Be Less Stupid: An Attempt to Maintain My Mental Faculties by Patricia Marx, a long-time writer for The New Yorker and Saturday Night Live:

"Indeed, sometimes, when I look for my glasses while wearing my glasses, I think, 'My, my, it's going to be a very smooth transition to dementia.'”

ELDER MUSIC: Variations on Take Five and Moanin'

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've done several columns devoted to a single song and there are more in the pipeline. I started this one and, although I had enough for a complete column, half of them were too similar to be of interest.

I kept the other half and introduced another tune that had half a column's worth of interesting versions as well. This second one was at the suggestion of Norma, the Assistant Musicologist.

The first tune I thought of is the great jazz classic written by Paul Desmond. It's the largest selling jazz single in history, and most of you will know Take Five.

My favorite version of the tune, apart from the original, was recorded by bluesman JIMMY JOHNSON.

Jimmy Johnson

This is on a pretty good album of his called "Johnson's Whacks" (ho ho). Jimmy didn't release his first album until he was 50; he worked as a welder before that.

He was inspired to become a professional musician after his younger brother Syl had a successful career as a soul singer. Jimmy and Syl have made a couple of records together. Take Five is all Jimmy though.

♫ Jimmy Johnson - Take Five


Somewhere along the way, the tune gained some words - as far as I know also written by Paul Desmond. I'm sure someone will correct me if this is not so. The first vocal version I remember is by CARMEN MCRAE.

Carmen McRae

Carmen recorded the song with the Dave Brubeck Quartet – well, who could perform it better. Here they all are.

♫ Carmen McRae - Take Five


I expected GEORGE BENSON to produce a tasteful guitar offering of our tune.

George Benson

He does that, accompanied by a drummer for about half the record then a full band charges in and takes over. I could have done without that but the first half is pretty nice.

♫ George Benson - Take Five


AL JARREAU has an interesting scat (as I call it) or vocalese (as the A.M. calls it) version of the song.

Al Jarreau

Besides singing the standard jazz repertoire, Al also performs songs written by soul singers like Bill Withers and Al Green. However, today we're interested in Take Five. The song has become a staple of his live performances and here he is from one of those.

♫ Al Jarreau - Take Five


The tune started out as some solo drumming by Joe Morello and Dave suggested to Paul that he come up with a tune to go with it. With a little help from Dave, Paul did just that and produced the tune in the unusual time signature of 5/4 (thus the title).

It was included of the best selling album "Time Out" where all the tunes were in unusual, and different, time signatures. Here's the original and the best by the DAVE BRUBECK QUARTET.

Dave Brubeck

Paul specified in his will that proceeds from the tune, which are considerable, would go to the Red Cross.

♫ Dave Brubeck - Take Five


Now to the tune suggested by the A.M., Moanin', written by Bobby Timmons (the tune) and Jon Hendricks (the words).

Speaking of Jon Hendricks, first up we have LAMBERT, HENDRICKS & ROSS.

Lambert, Hendricks and Ross

The tune had been around for a while before Jon added words and recorded it with the others. It became a hit and made the already quite popular tune even more so.

♫ Lambert, Hendricks and Ross - Moanin'


I was unfamiliar with ART FARMER's take on Moanin' before I started searching my collection.

Art Farmer

I had a pleasant surprise when I played it. There's some big band sounding brass, arranged by Benny Golson, some Miles-sounding trumpet playing by Art and Bobby Timmons, who wrote the tune of course, having a guest spot playing piano.

♫ Art Farmer - Moanin'


As with the previous tune, we have a blues take on it. This time by BUDDY GUY.

Buddy Guy

Given the words, it's well suited to the blues, however Buddy doesn't sing on this, just plays his guitar. The A.M. says that's just fine as he's one of the best blues guitarists around.

♫ Buddy Guy - Moanin'


GREGORY PORTER was part of a record called "Great Voices of Harlem."

Gregory Porter

The band is Paul Zauner’s Blue Brass and there are some fine soloists evident in the song – Paul on trombone, some nice trumpet by Barney Girlinger and Martin Reiter playing piano. This really is a fine version, and does it swing.

♫ Gregory Porter etc - Moanin


Going back to the first appearance of the tune on record which was by ART BLAKEY'S JAZZ MESSENGERS.

Art Blakey

As mentioned above, the tune was written by Bobby Timmons, the pianist in the Messengers who was noodling around a bit with the opening bars when Benny Golson who played tenor sax encouraged him to add a bridge to complete the tune.

This version goes here, there and everywhere and stretches out for nine and a half minutes before it returns to where it started.

♫ Art Blakey & the Jazz Messengers - Moanin'



INTERESTING STUFF – 12 December 2015

HARRISON FORD'S ADVICE TO DONALD TRUMP

As NBC News reported, last week Donald Trump mentioned the 1997 film, Air Force One in an interview with The New York Times:

“My favorite was Harrison Ford on the plane,” Trump said. “I love Harrison Ford — and not just because he rents my properties. He stood up for America.”

In Australia this week to promote his latest Star Wars movie, Ford was asked about Trump's reference to him. Here's his answer:


MATT TAIBBI ON TRUMP

One more Trump item because this one is so good. Rolling Stone contributor Matt Taibbi wrote this week that as much as some news people are having second thoughts about having promoted Donald Trump so effectively, there is no going back now.

”The time to start worrying about the consequences of our editorial decision was before we raised a generation of people who get all their information from television...

“Trump does have something very much in common with everybody else. He watches TV. That's his primary experience with reality, and just like most of his voters, he doesn't realize that it's a distorted picture.

“If you got all your information from TV and movies, you'd have some pretty dumb ideas. You'd be convinced blowing stuff up works, because it always does in our movies. You'd have no empathy for the poor, because there are no poor people in American movies and TV...

“Politically, you'd have no ability to grasp nuance or complexity, since there is none in the mainstream political discussion.”

There IS “nuance and complexity” in the rest of Taibbi's essay and it makes a lot of sense to me. You can read the entire essay at Rolling Stone.


LEONARDO DA VINCI AT JAPAN ROBOT EXHIBITION

Here is a short follow-on from our discussion yesterday of eldercare robots. This report is from the biennial robot exhibition in Tokyo that took place during the first week of December.

You can find photos here of a dozen or more different kinds of robots from the exhibition.


THE BEST CARD TRICK EVER

Well, maybe not but close enough for me this week. The magician is Dave Cremin and this was recorded in 2011:


BEHIND THE SCENES WITH PROFESSIONAL WILDLIFE PHOTOGRAPHERS

Just as I always suspected, the best wildlife photographs are the ones they don't show us. Here are three examples:

Nature-photographersMEERCAT

Nature-photographersLEOPARD

Nature-photographersBEARS

Thank Sunday's Elder Music producer, Peter Tibbles for this. There are a slew more spectacular, funny or fascinating photos of this series at Bored Panda.


EAGLES OF DEATH METAL RETURN TO PARIS

The American band Eagles of Death Metal were playing at the Bataclan nightclub last month when 89 people were murdered there by ISIS jihadists. Among the victims were the band's merchandising manager Nick Alexander and three employees of their record label.

Last Monday another American Band, U2, was performing in Paris:

”Rock fans in Paris saw the emotional return of the Eagles of Death Metal on Monday night, when they joined U2 on stage in a show of unity and support after the terror attacks in the city last month, [reported the Guardian].

“'They were robbed of their stage three weeks ago and we would like to offer them ours tonight,' U2 frontman Bono said as he welcomed them on.”

Here is a short news report of the event. (The longer speech by Bono I wanted to show you has been removed.)


EDEKA CHRISTMAS COMMERCIAL

Last Saturday the British Sainsbury's Christmas advert was featured here. This week we have the annual holiday commercial from a German supermarket chain, Edeka. Therre has been a lot of controversy about it. Take a look:

Some say it is emotional blackmail. The Today Show on NBC spent an entire segment on it. Co-host Savannah Guthrie said, “That is the worst thing I’ve ever, ever seen...Oh, it’s morbid."

You can read more about the strong responses here. What do you think?


REPUBLICAN IT'S A WONDERFUL LIFE

There cannot be many among us who are not familiar with the Christmas classic starring Jimmy Stewart, It's a Wonderful Life. Knowing the movie nearly by heart makes this such a delicious piece of work. Thank my friend Jim Stone for it and enjoy:


RUSSIAN ORTHODOX PRIESTS' CAT CALENDAR

A bunch (well, 12) of bearded Russian Orthodox priests have posed with their kitties for a glossy 2016 calendar. It was

”...put together by an Orthodox news website [of] 12 smiling priests in dark robes relaxing with their cats — sitting side-by-side on the sofa, or having the pet sprawled on their chest or draped round their shoulders.

“It is the first calendar to depict priests in such a style, according to one of the creators, Ksenia Luchenko, a journalist at the Pravmir website who came up with the idea...

“Religious-themed calendars usually just depict holy icons. The calendar is not officially endorsed by the Russian Orthodox Church.”

Here is one example - Russian Orthodox priest Sergei Kruglov and his cat Shurik for the months of August.

PriestwithCatAugust

You can see more of the photographs here and here.

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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.


Robot Caregivers and Old People

If you live long enough, one of these robots may be in your future.

This year for Christmas, Hasbro is selling what they call an animatronic cat for elders who cannot have a living pet.

It responds to touch, movement, sound, and it purrs:

The cat is essentially a toy (more information here) but you ain't seen nothin' yet. Dozens of care and companion robots with various purposes and capabilities are being developed.

Mabu provides support for people with such chronic diseases as diabetes arthritis, cancer and heart disease. Take a look:

Here is a second Mabu video, showing how it (she? he?) works in everyday situations:

Mabu, produced by Catalia Health, is available now but only through healthcare providers on whom the price is dependent, according to the website.

Then there is Jibo. Not quite the health-centric robot of Mabu but it probably has some of the same kind of capabilities.

Jibo is still in development but during the Indiegogo fund raising campaign earlier this year, the price to preorder was $749. You can find out more here.

According to a New York Times report, drones are in the future of elder home healthcare too:

“The University of Illinois roboticist, [Naira Hovakimyan], recently received a $1.5 million grant from the National Science Foundation to explore the idea of designing small autonomous drones to perform simple household chores, like retrieving a bottle of medicine from another room.

“Dr. Hovakimyan acknowledged that the idea might seem off-putting to many, but she believes that drones not only will be safe, but will become an everyday fixture in elder care within a decade or two. 'I’m convinced that within 20 years drones will be today’s cellphones,' she said.”

I haven't worked out for myself the advantage of a flying robot over an earthbound one in the home and I can easily imagine a string of difficulties. (Closed door, anyone?) Somehow, though, I think I would be more comfortable with a straightforward machine such as a drone than a plastic facsimile of a human (or animal), but who knows.

So convinced are health, technology, futurist, investor and other specialists of the need and desire of elders (and their adult children, I suspect) for robot caregivers that dozens are in various stages of development and deployment throughout the world.

Pepper, described as a social robot for the home and Geripal, a companion for elders at home and in assisted living are two of the better known at this time.

In large numbers, elders want to grow old in the homes where they have lived for many years. Most surveys come in at 89 and 90 percent and have done so for many years.

Further, as the baby boom generation ages into elderhood – turning 65 at the rate of about 10,000 a day since 2011 – concern is widely raised that, even though ageing at home is less expensive than assisted living and nursing homes, there will not be enough caregivers to help old people do that. Hence, robots.

For many years, my go-to person for sane and thoughtful input on elders and technology has been Laurie Orlov who has been producing the Aging in Place Technology Watch website since 2008.

Last week, she wrote about how eldercare robotics is nowhere near ready for prime time for some important reasons beyond the technology itself:

”The news media love stories about caregiver robot possibilities. But of course, they don't like to write about the reality.

“Who keeps Paro the seal clean enough for the elderly to pass from hands to dirty hands? Who makes sure that robotic devices are properly charged and operational? Or has someone invented another task for the overworked humans working in senior housing?

“And as for the home-bound elderly, is this better than a Skype call from a professional or family caregiver? Someone who guides a camera around the home setting and determines that an emergency is about to or has happened?

“Is it really necessary (or true) that everyone who could help provide care to older adults will have opted out or disappeared by 2050...In the meantime, there is at least one reason why the home care industry (the one that sends real people to the home) is booming. Paro, Pepper, Jibo, GeriJoy – all together, they just can’t get the job done.”

You can read more here.

In 2012, Frank Langella starred in Robot and Frank, a movie about a retired jewel thief whose son, worried that Frank's cognitive abilities are fading, gives him a state-of-the-art caregiver robot.

Obviously, this robot is way, way, way ahead of what is possible now. Frank begins as I would in the circumstance, despising the robot. By the end of the movie (spoiler alert), robot had become Frank's good friend and buddy.

There is much to consider in the idea that a collection of electronic nuts and bolts and circuit boards can become a companion as beloved as a human. More about that in a future post.


A Departure from Elder Issues

The entire purpose of this blog, as the subtitle above says, is to discuss what it is really like to get old. If, in the dozen or so years of the existence of Time Goes By, I have written about something else I don't recall.

In keeping with that, today's post was supposed to be about the coming probability of robot caregivers for elders. Then something happened.

On Monday evening, Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump called for a total ban of all Muslims from entering the United States.

Setting aside the unconstitutionality of such an act, do I need to spell out the last time a government carried out persecution against members of a particular religion? And how that turned out?

You undoubtedly know this already but here are the bare bones of Trump's ban-all-Muslims speech Monday in South Carolina. Note the response from the crowd of his supporters:

When I saw that video Monday evening, my mind raced as I tried to make sense of an American – any American, even Donald Trump – saying this and what the many ramifications might be. Not the implementation of it; that's too farfetched (or is it?). But the blow to Americans' belief system, values and the republic itself.

We - our country, I thought - have reached a turning point, a moment in time that will be looked back upon as the exact point when something terrible happened to the collective soul of the United States.

I expected at least a sharp intake of breath from the reporters as I clicked around the dial. But it wasn't until two or three huors later that the smart and much-honored chief foreign correspondent for NBC News, Richard Engel - who knows a thing or two about how the United States is perceived around the world - stopped by The Rachel Maddow Show on MSNBC to explain the enormity of what had just happened.

Here is a video. (Apologies for the extraordinarily lengthy lead-in commercial - blame MSNBC.)

With the exception of the founder of the neo-Nazi website Daily Stormer, conservative Red State blogger, Erick Erickson who praised Trump's call for a ban as politically brilliant and Senator Ted Cruz's shamefully weak response, public people of all political stripes the world over spent Tuesday condemning Trump.

The Philadelphia Daily News front page was the first I could find to be explicit about what Trump's ban really is:

Philadelphia daily news donald trump

Trump himself, as repellent as he is in so many ways, isn't the problem (or so I am still telling myself). What has come to alarm me are the results of such surveys as the one published yesterday by Public Policy Polling (PPP) and taken before Trump's call to shut down entry of Muslims into the U.S.

Among Trump's North Carolina supporters:

67% of his voters support a national database of Muslims in the United States, to only 14% opposed to it.

62% believe his claims that thousands of Arabs cheered in New Jersey when the World Trade Center collapsed, to only 15% who don't believe that.

51% want to see the Mosques in the country shut down, to only 16% against that.

And only 24% of Trump supporters in the state even think Islam should be legal at all in the United States, to 44% who think it shouldn't be.

(There are more responses on other questions about the 2016 presidential contest, conducted from December 5 through 7, at the PPP website.)

The PPP is not an isolated poll; it only confirms many others with similar numbers. And the more hateful Trump's anti-Muslim rhetoric becomes, the more his support grows, the stronger it becomes.

Since last summer when Trump joined the presidential campaign, “they” - all of the “expert” theys – have been repeating that his popularity will fade, that he is a sideshow, that he will never gain the Republican nomination.

Is anyone still certain of that?

This isn't funny anymore. What no one in the media will say is that Trump is unAmerican, that he apparently does not understand or believe in the basic tenets on which the United States was founded, and that he is a bigot whipping up hate and hysteria among the yahoos. This cannot end well.


Age-Related Loss of Smell and Taste

Considering what serious things can and do go wrong with people in old age, I don't want to make a big deal of this but it's been more than a decade that my senses of taste and smell have been close to non-existent.

The Mayo Clinic website tells us that “Some loss of taste and smell is natural with aging, especially after age 60.” Yep. That's certainly true for me.

Age-related loss of these two senses cannot be reversed, according to the Mayo Clinic. Other contributing factors include

Nasal and sinus problems, such as allergies, sinusitis or nasal polyps
Certain medications, including beta blockers and angiotensin-converting enzyme
Dental problems
Cigarette smoking
Head or facial injury
Alzheimer's disease
Parkinson's disease

I always suspected that my years of cigarette smoking contributed to my loss and now I know. Here is a short crash course that includes some other causes of smell and taste loss:

As the video skims over too quickly, loss of smell can be dangerous. We might miss noticing a gas leak, smoke from a house fire, spoiled food, etc. which gives extra support to the need for emission detectors and smoke alarms as we grow older, plus paying careful attention to use-by dates on food.

Recently, there has been a spate of news stories about how loss of smell may be a sign of a more serious disorder.

What they are talking about is Parkinson's and Alzheimer's and we are cautioned to take notice of any change in smell or taste. WebMD advises:

”If you experience a loss of smell that you can't attribute to a cold or allergy or which doesn't get better after a week or two, tell your doctor.”

Since smell and taste have been mostly absent from my life for so long without undue indications of serious health problems, I'm not burdening my physician or myself with an extra visit. You should make up your own mind about that.

Without relating to Alzheimer's or Parkinson's, another study, reported recently in the Washington Post, suggests that an impaired sense of smell “might” be an indicator of cognitive decline. I'm ignoring that one too because unless you, dear readers, are not telling me something, my mind is still in relatively good working order.

The website of the University of Connecticut Taste and Smell Clinic (who knew there is such a thing) explains the associated behavior of our taste and smell senses:

”While taste and smell are two separate chemical senses, both contribute to the experience of flavor...Flavor is a combination of smell, taste, spiciness, temperature, and texture.

“Most of the flavor of food comes from smell, so when you are unable to smell you have lost much of your ability to experience flavor.”

No one needed to tell me that. In addition, as poor as my ability to taste and smell had become over so many years, they all but disappeared entirely five years ago when I was presented with a full denture. What none of the articles I read about this kind of loss have noted is how much of taste, not to mention texture, of food, is handled by the upper palate of the mouth.

All the above is why there is always a bottle of Sriracha Sauce in my cupboard and why I bit the bullet to pay way more money than I reasonably can afford for teeth implants so that I can get rid of the full upper palate denture. (Coming soon.)

That University of Connecticut page has some additional suggestions I can attest to that will help improve flavor when taste and smell have faded:

Add more texture or crunchiness to your food
Increase the heat temperature and/or spiciness
Add color or variety to your meals to make them more visually enjoyable.

Of course, none of that helps my inability to smell flowers unless I stick my nose deeply into the blossom. Even then, the fragrance is weak. For many years each spring, I bought large bundles of lilacs to enjoy their magnificent aroma in my home for a week or so in the spring. There is no point now and I miss that private, little ritual in which I indulged myself for so long.

One thing these experts do not address about smell – not that I found, anyway – is that it does not decline uniformly. On the one hand, cleaning the cat's litter box each day is easy – it's hardly stinky to me at all nowadays.

On the other, I apparently have retained in full force the cell or sensory node or whatever it is for cantaloupe. I can smell that cut fruit from one end of the house to the other and emanating from the kitchen trash until I walk it out to the garbage cans.


ELDER MUSIC: Willy DeVille

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.

* * *

Willy DeVille

In spite of his music suggesting a New Orleans origin, Willy DeVille was born as William Borsey in Stamford, Connecticut. He said he was “A little of this and a little of that; a real street dog,” having Basque, Irish and Pequot among his ancestors.

He eventually relocated to New Orleans for a time where he found a musical home.

Willy DeVille

Willy’s most famous band before he went solo was Mink DeVille. Willy formed this band in San Francisco from the remnants of other groups. They used to play in leather bars on Folsom Street for a while as Billy de Sade and the Marquis.

They changed their name to Mink DeVille and hightailed it to New York where they took up residency at CBGBs, a club that featured punk bands. I’ve always been a bit wary of this categorization. Okay, The Ramones would fit in but I don’t see Blondie as a punk band. Neither was Mink DeVille as far as I’m concerned.

They were the most interesting group who came out of the club and were the house band there for several years. Later Willy had a somewhat successful solo career but he had more of a cult following than general popularity.

Unfortunately Willy died in 2009 just a few days short of turning 59, thus he didn’t even rate as a real elder musician. He died from pancreatic cancer.

Willy DeVille

Willy was taken with the R&B sound of the fifties, particularly groups like The Drifters. He would later write songs with Doc Pomus who wrote a lot of the songs from the time.

An example of this style is the early MINK DEVILLE track, Just To Walk That Little Girl Home.

♫ Just to Walk That Little Girl Home


Two hits brought Willy some public recognition with Mink DeVille, particularly in Europe.

Willy DeVille

The first of these is Spanish Stroll, where they seem to be channeling the Velvet Underground, if the Velvets performed in Spanish.

♫ Spanish Stroll


Willy DeVille

The second hit was Cadillac Walk.

♫ Cadillac Walk


Willy DeVille

Apart from Willy, the members of Mink DeVille kept turning over. Eventually he just recorded under his own name.

As I mentioned earlier, his style seemed to suggest he'd be happy in New Orleans and so it proved. With soulful singing with Latin rhythms mixed with New Orleans R&B style, he was one of a kind.

He recorded several albums in the city. For the first of them, "Victory Mixture," he recruited the artists who put the city's R&B style of music on the map. Such musicians as Earl King, Dr John, Eddie Bo and Allen Toussaint. Here they all are with Every Dog Has Its Day.

♫ Every Dog Has Its Day


Willy DeVille

This next song is the most blatant paean to drugs, heroin in particular, I think I've heard in a popular song except maybe Lou Reed's song about the drug.

It was written by Champion Jack Dupree and you can hear Jack's version in Elder Music 1941 but Willy took it several steps further on. He knew a thing or two about what he was singing. The song is Junker's Blues.

♫ Junker's Blues


Willy DeVille

For a complete contrast to the previous song, we have another from one of his New Orleans' sessions. This one is Who Shot the La-La.

♫ Who Shot the La-La


From the final album as Mink Deville ("Sportin' Life") we get the song Something Beautiful Dying. Willy wrote several songs (including this one) with legendary songwriter Doc Pomus, who had become a good friend by this stage.

The album was recorded at the famed Muscle Shoals studio and Willy used the great session musicians attached to that studio rather than his band. That probably contributed to the demise of the band.

♫ Something Beautiful Dying


Back to nearly the beginning, from the second album from Mink DeVille, we have I Broke That Promise.

Willy DeVille

This was the last album that featured the original members of the band. It was only their second album so the turn-over was considerable.

♫ I Broke That Promise


A rather unexpected singer turns up next to perform a duet with Willy, and she is BRENDA LEE.

Brenda Lee

Okay, when she recorded the song, Brenda was a bit older than she appears in that photo. I just threw that one in because I can. The song is You’ll Never Know, from his fine album, "Loup Garou.”

♫ You'll Never Know


Willy DeVille

From the album “Horse of a Different Color,” here’s his version of Across the Borderline. I think a column could be done using all the great versions of this song; when I’ve run out of other things to do maybe.

The song was written by John Hiatt, Ry Cooder and Jim Dickinson.

♫ Across the Borderline