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INTERESTING STUFF – 30 April 2016

STILL DREAMING

This documentary follows some of the residents of the Lillian Booth Actors Home in New Jersey as two young theatrical directors rehearse them for a performance of A Midsummer Night's Dream.

As we come to know the elders actors, the worlds of their retirement community and of the play's enchanted forest seem more similar than you might have anticipated. Here is the trailer:

In addition to the drama of pulling the comedy together for presentation, Still Dreaming is one of the more honest looks at life with elders who require help, each to varying degrees, to get by day-to-day.

Although the doc was first released in 2014, the DVD has been made available for purchase only recently at all the usual online outlets. You can also watch it online for $4.99 here.

MAGICIAN DELIGHTS BRITAIN'S GOT TALENT JUDGES

It's fun being fooled when it doesn't make you look foolish and I have always preferred the small tricks of magicians to their big-deal extravagant illusions.

Not long ago contestant Richard Jones charmed the Britain's Got Talent judges with my kind of magic.

JOHN OLIVER – PUERTO RICO'S BANKRUPTCY

On 1 May, that's tomorrow, Puerto Rico owes its creditors a payment of $422 million. It is unlikely the U.S. territory can make full payment and Congress has been sitting on its hands.

On last Sunday's HBO program, Last Week Tonight, host John Oliver explains the territory's massive debt crisis better than any newspaper, magazine or TV show I've read/seen with some signature laughs thrown in.

Puerto Rico native Lin-Manuel Miranda, the man who just won the Pulitzer Prize for his smash-hit Broadyway musical, Hamilton, joins Oliver toward the end in a rap calling for debt relief for the island.

WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENTS DINNER TONIGHT

The reporters who cover the White house are holding their annual White House Correspondents Dinner tonight. Comedian Larry Wilmore is hosting for the first time. The dinner is a chance each year for the press – and the president – to give one another a gentle roasting.

Although sometimes, it is not so gentle. Undoubtedly this year, Donald Trump will be a yuuuuge presence as he was in President Barack Obama's speech in 2011. Take a look:

This is Obama's last appearance as president so I doubt he'll pull too many punches. You can watch the program on C-SPAN, CNN or MSNBC beginning at about 9PM eastern time, 6PM Pacific. Check your local listings or just wait for the highlights on YouTube tomorrow.

MENSTRUAL MAN

Now don't squinch up your nose and be put off by that headline. In a world full of dreadful news 24 hours a day, this is a great good news story about a quest of many years by an amazing man.

To start, you need to know that Arunachalam Muruganantham's

”...interest in the state of menstrual hygiene in India began in 1998 when he discovered that his wife was using dirty rags in place of sanitary napkins to save money for food.

“According to the BBC, [reports Utne magazine] nearly 70 percent of all reproductive diseases in India are caused by poor menstrual hygiene.”

It took Muruganantham, a poor and uneducated man, many years, a lot of goat's blood and heaps of ridicule to invent an inexpensive machine that manufactures affordable sanitary pads for women in poor, rural communities. Then someone made a documentary about him titled Menstrual Man. Here is the trailer:

”The machines are typically bought by self-help groups and NGOs. Each one provides jobs for ten rural women, who produce and sell the sanitary pads for self-determined prices,” reports Utne.

Read the Utne story here. See a Ted Talk by Mr. Muruganantham here. Watch the full documentary for $3.99 here. The man is a genuine hero.

AZULEJOS PUZZLE

According to Wikipedia, Azulejo is a form of Spanish and Portuguese painted, tin-glazed, ceramic tilework. Here are some classic examples.

Azulejo

Although this puzzle, sent by Darlene Costner, is titled Azulejos, it uses plain, undecorated tiles which doesn't make it any less – well, puzzling. I can't figure it out, can you?

GRACE AND FRANKIE REDUX

Last year, many of us enjoyed binge watching Grace and Frankie, the original Netflix comedy series about two women coping with an old age quite different from what they had imagined when their husbands announce they are in love with each another.

It stars Jane Fonda, Lily Tomlin, Sam Waterston and Martin Sheen and it is back for season two beginning next Friday, 6 May. Here's the trailer:

INFREQUENT FLYER

Before I discontinued The Elder Storytelling Place, the companion website to TGB, Henry Lowenstern regularly contributed amusing doggerel, often on timely news topics.

As summer approaches now, I have been vaguely considering a trip that would involve an airplane.

Just in time to bring me to my senses, Henry sent a rhyme titled Infrequent Flyer.

Now that airline seats are smaller,
and legroom disappears,
luggage is costing extra,
good meals are yesteryear's,
air travel is becoming a pain
from which I try fervently to abstain.

THE CALIFORNIA TOWN OF THE DEAD

According to the YouTube pae for this video,

”For 75 years, Colma, Calif., has been steadily collecting bodies, and it's constantly getting ‘deader.’ As of 2009, there were 1,500 living residents and 1.5 million marked graves in the city.

“Seventy-three percent of the land belongs to the dead with the rest occupied by people who have a great sense of humor. The town's motto is, 'It's Great To Be Alive In Colma.'”

SIMON'S CAT: CAT LOGIC

Simon's Cat creator has inaugurated a new series about cat behavior and logic. Oh yeah, like anyone can explain that.

This first episode is about why cats always want to be on the other side of the door. The real-life Simon appears briefly in this mini-documentary.

* * *

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

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


Trump's “Woman Card” is Similar to the “Old-Age Card”

Earlier this week, Republican presidential candidate, Donald Trump, snidely attacked the Democratic presidential candidate by saying that Secretary Hillary Clinton has nothing more going for her than the “Woman Card."

Ms. Clinton's response to Trump's ignorance was perfection. Take a listen:

Trump, who has an ingrained need to debase every adversary (or, at least, try), further embarrassed himself the next morning when the Morning Joe show on MSNBC apparently lifted their self-imposed ban on his phone calls to the program.

Sounding as though he'd been out too late the night before, Trump slammed Clinton for the volume of her response to his jibe:

”I haven't quite recovered from her shouting that message...” he said. “I guess I'll have to get used to a lot of that over the next months.”

Of course, this is all standard behavior for the loutish Trump but I often wonder these days if there has ever been a public person who dared to express his mysogyny as openly and repeatedly as Trump.

My friend John Gear forwarded a link to me with Washington Post blogger Alexandra Petri's delicious take on Trump's Woman Card barb. A sample:

”Ah yes, the woman’s card. I have been carrying one of these for years, proudly.

“It is great. It entitles you to a sizable discount on your earnings everywhere you go (average 21 percent, but can be anywhere from 9 percent to 37 percent, depending on what study you’re reading and what edition of the Woman's Card you have.)

“If you shop with the Woman Card at the grocery, you will get to pay 11 percent more for all the same products as men, but now they are pink.”

Petri's a funny woman. Here's some more from her about how the Woman Card works:

”Present the Woman Card to a man you have just met at a party and it is good for one detailed, patronizing explanation of the subject you literally got your PhD in.

“Offer it to someone on the red carpet and, instead of any substantive questions about your work, you will get a barrage of inquiries EXCLUSIVELY about what you are wearing.”

Well, to be fair, men on red carpets get the fashion questions too, but we get the point – and welcome it is.

As I was working my way through Ms. Petri's skewering of Trump, I realized that much the same could be written about an “Age Card.” And then, lo – I discovered she was way ahead of me:

”Hook up the Woman Card to your TV,” wrote Petri, “and you will get a barrage of commercials telling you that you did something wrong with your face and must buy ointment immediately so as not to become a Hideous Crone.

“Also, you are now expected to spend your whole life removing hair from your body, except for the areas of your body where your hair must be long and luxurious. (Do not get these two areas confused!)

“Unlike Man Cards, Woman Cards do not increase in value as they age. In fact, they depreciate. Do not collect Woman Cards. Even in mint condition, they are worthless.”

By god, Petri is on to something. It is hard to recall exactly, but I think I was issued my Old-Age Card about 12 or 14 years ago, just past by 60th birthday.

It comes with the advantages Ms. Petri lists except that when it's plugged into the TV, you are provided with the full range of “ointments” to fix society's litany of icky old-people flaws – you know, constipation, acid reflux, toe fungus, erectile dysfunction, constipation, COPD, overactive bladder, incontinence and vaginal dryness.

In the latest version of the Old-Age Card, you might even get all these remedies in one commercial break.

Among its other merits, the Old-Age Card allows you to be called geezer, coot, biddy, fogey and fossil along with honey, dearie and/or sweetie by all who are too rude to ask your name.

And unlike the Woman's Card, you may have noted that the Old-Age Card is issued to both sexes, doubling the cultural opportunities to malign 35 million people without consequence.

Best of all, it contains an amazing magical property: it makes you invisible to any and all who don't want to be reminded that they too will one day be issued an Old-Age Card.

It's a lot like the Woman Card but even more potent.


So How's Retirement Going for You?

There is a new survey of 1,583 retirees about what makes them happy in their post-employment years. In general, I don't find the the poll useful for several reasons:

All the respondents are long-time customers of a financial services company, TIAA, that commissioned the report

The respondents disporportionately hold advanced education degrees

74 percent have made only “minor or no financial adjustments” in retirement

That certainly does not reflect the real world and most of the 100-plus questions in the survey are about satisfaction with TIAA products – retirement planning and financial packages. That makes a good sales tool for the company but not much interest ordinary folks.

Nevertheless, in reading the survey, I realized that I have never, in 12 years since my last paid employment, given any thought to how life is for me now in comparison to before. Apparently, I just slipped into retirement, kept going and here I am.

At first, I intended to show you a couple of charts from the TIAA survey – one about lifestyle changes and another on activity levels - but for reasons in that list above, it doesn't seem useful and I'm more interested in how you, dear readers, whom I suspect are a better cross-section of elders than the survey respondents, are enjoying your retirement.

Me? I never decided to retire. In fact, I didn't think about it when I was working even into my sixties. I just assumed I would work until I didn't want to anymore, whenever that came about in some indistinct future.

And so it was. Until it wasn't. I was 63 when I was laid off and even giving it a year of intensive searching, I never found another job.

However, during my last year of employment, I was already publishing this blog so I just kept at it. It is what I do now quite similarly to my life when I once produced TV shows and websites, and I am no less engaged with the blog than that other kind of work.

The worst of retirement is that I couldn't afford to remain living in Manhattan where I had been for 40 years. It is the only place I ever felt at home and not being there means that I am not living in the right place, always feeling slightly off-kilter.

But so what. Shit happens in life. There's nothing to do but deal with it and god knows I try in a hundred little ways.

Since this blog bridged my working and non-working years, it is almost as though I haven't retired – except that I luxuriate in the freedom now to schedule time at my whim and not an employer's.

Aside from TGB, the days are filled with fitness workouts, community activities, friends online and in person, reading, cooking, keeping up with politics and a couple of other areas of interest, a weekly current affairs discussion group, and the boring parts of life – shopping, cleaning, etc.

What I have come to appreciate now is something I had not anticipated – time to be. Time with no purpose. Time be quiet and alone with myself. I recall having that kind of time as small child, lots of it, but it got set aside for the most part in the mid-years and I am pleased to have it back.

Life is more fluid and open-ended these days. Without demands from employers, the only obligations are those I choose to make and although “happy” is not in my personal vocabulary, I am essentially content with life as it has come to be now.

So that's how retirement is going for me. How about you?

ADDENDUM: I finished this before realizing that even though I read the entire TIAA survey which is concerned almost mostly with money, that subject didn't occur to me while I was steeped in writing this.

Certainly money is important in retirement. It takes on greater meaning in old age, I think, because most people are stuck with whatever we've got – it's never going to change much, and far too many elders live in poverty. (We'll talk about that here soon.)

For now, do I wish I had more money? Sure. Are there things I go without for lack of money? Yes, but nothing crucial.

I budget carefully, I put aside money for emergencies and worry that it's not enough. And in a world economy as volatile as the one we live in, I wonder what might go wrong before I die that will leave me in financial dire straits.

And then I remember that there is no point in buying trouble, particularly the kind I cannot control.

With that, we're back to the end again: How's retirement going for you? And if you are not retired yet, what do you expect or anticipate from it when the time comes.

(If you are interested in the TIAA survey, the executive summary is here [pdf], the full report is here [pdf].)


The Century-Old Quilt – Like New

The weather has warmed enough where I live that it was time this weekend to put away the winter bed quilts for something lighter.

As there are a number of color and style choices on my shelves, I can pick and choose depending on – oh, who knows or cares. It's not a decision that matters much.

Except for that quilt.

Usually I ignore it. In fact, I've been shoving it aside each spring for (quick head calculation) 32 years. Wow. I had no idea it's been that long.

My grandmother made that quilt. My father's mother. Dad was 10 years old when he saw her for the last time. I met her once, in 1968, at her home in St. Paul, Minnesota. She died in 1984, which is how the quilt came to be in my possession.

It is not an exaggeration to say that part of my family and/or their behavior, can be described as gothic. But I didn't truly understand that until quite recently.

The dawning of that realization came about when a New York City police officer knocked on my door one day in December 1984, to give me the news that my grandmother had died. As I explained in a 2009 story in these pages,

”A St. Paul attorney, whose telephone number the police officer had given me, told me my name and address had been noted among my grandmother's papers marked, 'in case of emergency.' She had been found in her home, he said, frozen to death.

“It got worse from there.”

If you are curious, that 2009 story in four parts titled, The Terrible, Lonely Death of an Old, Old, Woman, can be found here. Until this past weekend, I had not read it in nearly seven years and it's an amazing yarn, if I do say so myself. And by “yarn,” I do not mean to say it is untrue. It is not.

Nor was it my intention on Saturday to dredge up that event along with the the rest of the family history it recalls. I will deal with that in my way but today's post is about a teeny, tiny part of that yarn, Grandma Hazel's quilt.

While closing up her St. Paul home in 1984,

”In another drawer, I found a never-used, hand-made, patchwork quilt, probably sewn by Grandma Hazel in her teens, as girls born a hundred years ago did for their trousseaux.

“It is a remarkably modern design for its time (Hazel was born in 1892), and I've kept it. Early on, I thought I'd use it on my bed, but cats and antique quilts are not a good mix. So, as in Hazel's home, it sits folded in a drawer.”

Not “probably sewn.” Definitely sewn by Hazel and if we arbitrarily choose to have “teen” in her case mean 15, that quilt is now about 110 years old.

Two days ago, while rummaging around through the bedding, I decided to take a look at Grandma Hazel's quilt. I hadn't done so since at least 2010 when I moved here and that's all it took for the terrible story of the death of an old, old woman to come flooding back.

It's a tough story. Harrowing. Sad. Disagreeable. Embarrassing. Enraging. Wretched. The odd thing is that it seems even worse as I recall it now than it did when it happened and when I last wrote about it.

But it has also brought me one small piece of clarity that I am quite pleased with.

The quilt is lovely and as much like new as if it were finished yesterday. As I spread it out on the bed, here is what else I thought in addition to the memories:

So what if it's 110 years old. Who cares if the cat's claws get caught in it. What difference does it make if you spill ice cream on it while watching old movies in bed. What are you saving it for. You're 75 years old and you don't even like that woman. Use the damned quilt.

And here it is. Sorry fat, old Ollie the cat is in shadow but I'm glad he thinks it's a nifty place to sleep.

GrandmotherBedspreadwithOllie2016_680


ELDER MUSIC: Planes

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.

* * *

Snoopy the Red Baron

Although a few people in this country, like Norma, the Assistant Musicologist and I, know this, it's not generally known outside Oz that the first powered aeroplane flight in Australia was performed by Erik Weisz.

Ho hum, I can hear you say. However, when I mention that Erik's stage name was Harry Houdini that might put an interesting light on the circumstances.

This took place at Diggers Rest, a suburb of Melbourne. Naturally, there are people from Sydney who claim an earlier flight in their city. That rivalry continues to this day.

Australians are among the most travelled people on the planet. We think nothing of hopping a plane to Asia, Europe, the Americas, Africa even. However, suggest to someone in America or Britain that perhaps they might visit us, it’s “Oh no, it’s too far. It takes too long.”

Get a grip, people.

There are many songs about trains. Indeed, I’ve already done a column with a few of them that barely scratched the surface. It’s time for another mode of transport, this time planes.

It’s not as easy as trains. A lot more songs have been written about trains than about planes. I imagine it’s because, as GORDON LIGHTFOOT put it in one of his great songs, “You can’t jump a jet plane like you can a freight train.”

That’s as good a place as any to start the ball rolling. This is Gordie with Early Morning Rain.

Gordon Lightfoot

♫ Gordon Lightfoot - Early Morning Rain


There was quite an interesting album released a couple of years ago called "The Beautiful Old Turn-of-the-Century Songs" where modern artists performed Turn-of-the-Century Songs.

One of those was WILL SEXTON. He had the help of SIMONE STEVENS on his song, Come Josephine in My Flying Machine.

Will Sexton & Simone Stevens

This was a song from 1911, a little past the turn of the century but we won't quibble.

♫ Will Sexton - Come Josephine in My Flying Machine (1911)


THE BYRDS seemed to have been fascinated by flight, not just jets but space ships as well.

The Byrds

Fortunately for us, they sang about these so I can include one of their songs.

Gene Clark was the first of the original group to leave. He said it was he was afraid of flying. McGuinn said that you can’t be a Byrd if you can’t fly. A good line, I hope it’s true.

I wonder about that as after The Byrds called it quits, for a time there was a group called McGuinn, Clark and Hillman, bringing together three of the original group.

I saw them in Melbourne, and that’s a mighty long jet plane ride so maybe Gene got over his fear of flying, or maybe the original story was made up.

The Byrds’ song is Eight Miles High, a song that the wowsers of the sixties said was about drugs but then they said that about a lot of innocent songs (a few of the guilty ones too).

McGuinn said that he wrote it on a plane about flying and if you listen to it it’s a reasonable explanation. Decide for yourself.

♫ The Byrds - Eight Miles High


MERLE HAGGARD employed rather superfluous strings on his song or, more likely, they were foisted on him by the record company. Nonetheless, it's still one of his finest.

Merle Haggard

It is Silver Wings, one of the great country songs.

♫ Merle Haggard - Silver Wings


THE BOXTOPS had a song ostensibly about a letter, indeed it was called The Letter. However, listening to the words you’d think it was about trying to catch a plane. Well, except for the letter bit of the song.

The Box Tops

This song probably epitomizes the frustration of trying to catch a plane these days - even though it was written 50 years ago - better than any of the others that tend to romanticize flying somewhat.

♫ The Box Tops - The Letter


TRUCKSTOP HONEYMOON are husband and wife duo Mike and Katie West.

Truckstop Honeymoon

The reason they called themselves that is that they spent their honeymoon at a truck stop. There's a long and involved story about why that came to pass. They write songs about each other and about their kids. This is one of the latter, Lego Aeroplane.

♫ Truckstop Honeymoon - Lego Aeroplane


The song Outbound Plane was co-written by NANCI GRIFFITH and Tom Russell. They both do fine versions of the song. However, rather than deciding which to use, I noticed that on an album of Tom’s he performs it with Nanci.

Unfortunately, all Nanci seems to do on the track is some oooing and ahhing in the background, so it’s still a toss up. We seem to be overloaded with blokes this week, so Nanci it is.

Nanci Griffith

Tom first heard Nanci when she was playing and singing around a campfire at a festival in Kerrville, Texas and began championing her cause. The story is they wrote this song together sitting at Tom’s kitchen table.

♫ Nanci Griffith - Outbound Plane


When I mentioned this topic to the A.M. she immediately suggested this one.

“Oh, really?” was my reply, looking at her a little sideways.

“You have to include it”, she reposted. So, with her recommendation ringing in my ears, here are THE ROYAL GUARDSMEN with their one and only hit.

The Royal Guardsmen

The group started life as The Posmen, and that’s not a typo, at least not on my behalf. They may have mistyped it on their application for a group-name form, or whatever it is you have to do to create a name.

After the Beatles and other English groups hit it big, they decided to go for something a bit Britisher. This was their second song and the only one to make the charts, Snoopy vs The Red Baron.

♫ The Royal Guardsmen - Snoopy vs The Red Baron


The original CHAD MITCHELL TRIO consisted of Chad Mitchell (naturally), Mike Kobluk and Mike Pugh. After a while, Chad left the group for a solo career but the group retained his name and he was replaced by an unknown writer of songs called John Denver.

The Chad Mitcell Trio

The group performed some of those including one of his best known, Leaving on a Jet Plane. John later recorded the song (a few times) but it first became to my notice with a terrific version by Peter Paul and Mary.

However, I've decided to use the Mitchell Trio's version as I wasn't as familiar with this one as I am with the others. It's not all that different from John's version.

♫ The Chad Mitchell Trio - Leaving On a Jet Plane


KEVIN JOHNSON is an Australian singer/songwriter who is not widely known to the outside world, but should be.

Kevin Johnson

If anyone knows his name, it's usually through his song, Rock & roll I Gave You the Best Years of My Life. There's a lot more to him than that. For example, The Next Plane to New Mexico.

♫ Kevin Johnson - The Next Plane To New Mexico


I resisted the temptation to include a gratuitous song from Jefferson Airplane just because of their name.

Even The Beatles got into the act. Well, sort of. They have a tune called Flying - however, this is an instrumental apart from a few la la las, so it didn’t make the cut.


INTERESTING STUFF – 23 April 2016

LIVING BONE TO BONE

Remember my blog post last week responding to a letter to the editor in The New York Times about a new age-suit? The letter was written by Ann Burack-Weiss who is also the author of recent book, The Lioness in Winter.

Ann and I have been in email touch and she directed me to a guest post titled, Living Bone to Bone she wrote in February for the Columbia University Press blog.

It is so good, so right, so true that it gave me an terrible case of writerly envy. Which means, obviously, that you need to know about it too. Here is an excerpt:

”The Palliative Care experts solemnly drape the Death with Dignity banner over the coffin that awaits us. Get your affairs in order! Have that family conference! Sign those Advance Directives! We comply and here we sit: all papered up and no place to go. At least not yet.

“We listen to the Wellness advocates. Cheerleaders of Successful Aging, they are filled with statistics and inspiring personal stories. Learn a new language! Start a second or third career! Civic engagement! We’ve been there. We’ve done that. And still do. When we’re feeling up to it.

“What no one talks about is the experience of living in the middle stage, the 'bone on bone' stage that occurs somewhere between jazzercise and hospice care. What I want to see is recognition of what it takes to hold our own without the insulating padding that once buffered us from assaults of the outside world.”

That does not begin to give you an inkling of the depth and breadth of this lovely rumination. Go read the whole guest post. You will be glad you did and you will probably print it out for yourself.

FANTASTIC BEASTS AND WHERE TO FIND THEM

Oh my. I can't wait for November. I so enjoy the Harry Potter stories – books and movies – and now there is an extension of them.

Here is a preview trailer of the new movie. It sure doesn't hurt that it stars the great Eddie Redmayne and is set in 1920's New York. The script is written by Harry Potter creator herself, J.K. Rowling, from her 2001 book.

Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them is the first of a trilogy of films. Find out more here.

HOW TO WASH YOUR HANDS

Don't laugh. It's important. And you've probably been doing it wrong all your life.

TRUE NEW YORKER I AM, I AM

Of course, I am - the internet told me so.

Actually, it's a quiz about New York slang - and I aced it.

TrueNewYorkerImage

They're wrong about me being born there. I am/was a transplant but I knew from age five it was my real home (and it still is). Marian Van Eyk McCain of elderwomanblog sent the quiz. You can take it too at women.com.

JOHN OLIVER – LEAD POISONING

Last Sunday on his HBO program, Last Week Tonight, John Oliver showed his viewers that the mainstream media hasn't begun to tell us the whole story of Flint, Michigan and the extent of the lead problem in all our 50 states.

WORKING MODEL OF THE U.S. GOVERNMENT

After Oliver's evisceration of Congress on lead in the video above, you really do need to see this working model of the U.S. government sent to us by Darlene Costner.

It's complex, makes a lot of noise, is dangerous, needs lots of maintenance and does NOTHING useful.

"PSYCHO" HILLTOP HOUSE NOW A MUSEUM ROOFTOP HOUSE

Everyone here has seen the 1960 horror movie, Psycho, right? Probably more than once. And you undoubtedly remember the infamous Bates House. Here it is with film director, Alfred Hitchcock, on the set.

PsychoHousewithHitchcock

This year, a massive replica of the home...will be on display to transport visitors back to the ominous setting of this classic horror flick,” reports spoiledNYC.

“The piece was created by British artist Cornelia Parker and is constructed from reclaimed wood taken from an actual barn.”

PsychoHouseReplica

The house will be on display on the roof of the Metropolitan Museum of Art in Manhattan until 31 October – Halloween. There is a bit more information at the Met Museum website.

DEATH VALLEY SUPERBLOOM 2016

Death Valley, California, is the lowest, hottest, driest spot in the northern hemisphere getting, on average, less than three inches of rain per year.

Every now and then, however, the Valley gets more rain that usual and thisis one of those years creating what is called a “superbloom” of wildflowers. Here's a video:

IS THE ICEMAKER BROKEN?

A woman couldn't figure out why she never had any ice, then she shot this video. Clever puppies, these:

* * *

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

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


Crabby Old Lady and the Internet of Junk

You've heard of the Internet of Things? Well, forget that.

This once-wonderful means of electronic communication that has become essential to our financial, health, family, civic, educational and social lives has deteriorated into such a deep morass of crap, it can only be called the Internet of Junk.

Crabby Old Lady has sung praises of the internet since she got her first 2400 dialup modem sometime in the mid- or late-1980s.

When the World Wide Web came along a few years later with the first, primitive, graphical browsers and Crabby saw her first webpage, she was hooked.

In 1996, she left behind decades of work in television, signed on as managing editor of cbsnews.com, helping to build one of the first two U.S. news websites ever to exist.

Now, 20 years later, the internet of junk is fraught with scams, viruses, identity theft, malware, data and privacy breaches, spam, stolen bank accounts, spyware, phishing, trojan horses, worms, keylogging, ransomware – shall Crabby go on?

Maybe it should be called the Internet of Scary Junk. But although privacy and security breaches can screw up people's lives for years, that's not what has pushed Crabby Old Lady into rage territory.

What has done that is the day in, day out, page by page, minute by minute onslaught against her eyes, ears and, most crucially, her brain. She is fond of her brain, relies on its proper functioning in old age more than ever and has become convinced that the internet is harming it.

Let Crabby count the ways for you:

Dozens, nay hundreds, of websites Crabby visits interrupt their text with moving gifs – those six- or seven-second repetitive videos going round and round and round - some supposedly "enhancing" the text, others advertising. Often there are even more on the same page flickering in the right column, a constant distraction to eye and mind.

Crabby can barely control her fury when within one or two seconds of arriving on a page, before she's even figured out what to do first, a pop-up covers most of the screen asking her opinion of the website. Let's be clear: this happens before she has even had a chance to glance at the page. Irritating to Crabby but from a business point of view, it's stupid.

Sometimes Crabby tells them what she thinks – in the most colorful language as she can muster.

Equally maddening are pop-ups breaking Crabby's concentration asking her to sign up for a newsletter which is - wait for it - how she got to the site in the first place.

Crabby has come close to putting her fist through the computer screen over this one: she is comfortably settled into reading, maybe three paragraphs in and getting a good feel for the story when suddenly an advertising pop-up covers exactly the paragraph she's reading.

Wait. It gets worse. Every one of the websites that do this - many - are experts at obscuring the X that allows the pop-up to be closed.

By the time Crabby can find the X hidden in a new corner or blending into the background color so it is almost invisible, she has forgotten not only where she was in the story, but even what the damned thing is about.

There was a time, back when Crabby worked on the internet, that it was verboten to assault readers' eyes and ears with autostart video. Now, it's ubiquitous. Every day, additional sites add this aggravation to their growing list of interruptions to one's mental health.

And here is the sneakiest part: sometimes a video, usually unrelated to the story Crabby is reading, buried miles down at the bottom of a page among a blizzard of unrelated images, blasts to life a minute or two into her reading and fries her brain before she can find it.

This is not to say that one or two of these abominations happens now and then. It is dozens, dozens of times every day from the best-known, otherwise most professional websites in existence as well as the shoddy ones. (For many good reasons - see above - Crabby Old Lady doesn't go far afield from generally secure websites so we're not talking sleaze, porn or ripoff webpages.)

The irritation factor is beyond tolerable now. Further, although Crabby is obviously not a neuroscientist or psychiatrist, she doesn't believe she needs to be one to know that constant audio and visual distraction damages the ability to think and reason.

As the The Telegraph reported earlier this year:

"According to scientists, the age of smartphones has left humans with such a short attention span even a goldfish can hold a thought for longer.

"Researchers surveyed 2,000 participants in Canada and studied the brain activity of 112 others using electroencephalograms.

"The results showed the average human attention span has fallen from 12 seconds in 2000, or around the time the mobile revolution began, to eight seconds.

"Goldfish, meanwhile, are believed to have an attention span of nine seconds."

Did you get that? Goldfish for god's sake.

This is not the only study to show vastly reduced attention spans. It cannot be good for humankind and it is certainly not good for Crabby Old Lady's mind.


Stay Healthy and Mentally Sharp: Celebrate Old Age

Year by year over the past two decades, evidence piles up that being on the receiving end of ageist attitudes, beliefs and practices not only leads to poor health, it can shorten lives.

And it's not only others' prejudice that adversely affects health. Just as important is an elder's own attitude toward being old; if it's negative, your health is likely to suffer.

One of the leading researchers in the field of ageism is Dr. Becca Levy of Yale University School of Public Health. In fact, as her online profile notes, Levy is credited with

”...creating a field of study that focuses on how positive and negative age stereotypes, which are assimilated from the culture, can have beneficial and adverse effects, respectively, on the health of older individuals.”

To spare you too many research study quotations, here is a fairly succinct overview of the results of some recent health-related ageism studies pulled together for a story in the Wall Street Journal:

”...dozens of studies from psychologists, medical doctors and neuroscientists have shown that older people with more negative views of aging fare more poorly on health than those with less-pessimistic attitudes.

“Even when study participants have similar health, education levels and socioeconomic status, those with more negative outlooks about aging show greater declines in a variety of areas over time.

“They have shakier handwriting, poorer memories, higher rates of cardiac disease and lower odds of recovering from severe disability, according to studies by Prof. Levy.

“They are less likely to eat a balanced diet, exercise and follow instructions for taking prescription medications as they age. They even die younger - the median difference in survival rates is 7.5 years.”

A new study from Trinity College in Dublin, reported at sciencedaily.com, confirms that negative attitudes toward aging affect cognitive as well as physical health.

”...frail participants with negative attitudes towards aging had worse cognition compared to participants who were not frail. However, frail participants with positive attitudes towards aging had the same level of cognitive ability as their non-frail peers.

You will find the full study at Science Direct behind a paid firewall.

Ageism results from the many widely believed myths about growing old that no matter how frequently and authoritatively they are refuted, apparently defy correction. A handful of those persistent myths are:

The majority of old people have no interest in, nor capacity for, sexual relations

The majority of old people are unable to adapt to change

Depression is more frequent among the elderly than among younger people

Old people tend to be pretty much alike

Older workers usually cannot work as effectively as younger workers

None of those statements were true when gerontologist Erdman B. Palmore, professor emeritus of medical sociology at Duke University, published his Facts on Aging Quiz in 1998 - and they are still false today.

Nevertheless, the last one is under attack (again) with a new study my friend John Gear, an attorney in Salem, Oregon, alerted me to.

Using the results from one year of an Australian study of about 6500 people aged from 40 to 70-plus, researchers at the Melbourne Institute have concluded that people 40 and older get stupid after working 25 hours.

Okay, I'll admit that “stupid” is my word but that's what they appear to be saying:

”...in order for people over the age of 40 to perform their best, work weeks need to be three days with a maximum of 25 hours,” reports Daily Sabah.

“This is necessary to ensure productivity and enhance performance, the study said. “It was revealed that people who work three days performed much better than those working for more days.”

You can believe that or not but there is some additional information to consider than none of several news reports I read bothered to mention.

The data was taken from a longitudinal study, the annual Household, Income and Labour Dynamics (HILDA) Survey, that has been ongoing in Australia since 2001 but tested for workplace cognitive capability only one of those years.

Disturbing enough to rely on such limited information. But the implication that bothers me is the subtle suggestion that it is only middle aged and older workers who suffer this cognitive failure after 25 hours – a conclusion that is impossible to make since no one younger than 40 was tested.

(The full study, titled Use It Too Much and Lose It? The Effect of Working Hours on Cognitive Ability, can be found here [pdf].)

This follows a worrisome trend I've been been noticing for the past few years: that academics, political figures, governments, corporations and others grab onto isolated statistics or factoids, often as tenuous as this one, to propose ageist alterations to programs and institutions that benefit elders.

Think cutting Social Security, raising the Social Security retirement age, changing Medicare and Medicaid to a voucher programs, instituting an upper cut-off age for drivers licenses, in addition to others as subtlely ageist as this study from Australia.

And that's just off the top of my head. I am kicking myself that over the years I've been noticing the accumulation of these proposals, I've not kept a file. I'll start now (and you can help by sending me any you come across).

Meanwhile, don't take questionable research too seriously and make use of the important work Professor Levy and her cohorts do: Stay Healthy and Mentally Sharp: Celebrate Old Age.


Interesting Ageing Stuff

For many years, I have posted a Saturday listing of Interesting Stuff - internet items that piqued my interest that I think you too might like.

Although the topic of this blog is ageing and what it's really like to get old, that's not required for Interesting Stuff. Sometimes I include one or two pieces related to age, but only if they can be explained in a paragraph or short lead-in to a video.

Longer and more complex stories related to ageing are better suited to weekday posts when there is room for more detail but now I see that there is a third category I have neglected: items too long for Saturday, too short for an entire blog post.

So expect to see Interesting Ageing Stuff here now and then. Today is the inaugural edition.

DOLLARS FOR DOCS

Although doctors have long denied it, there is now evidence that physicians who are paid by pharmaceutical and medical device companies for promotional talks, research and consulting prescribe more brand-name medications than those who do not.

”Doctors who got money from drug and device makers - even just a meal - prescribed a higher percentage of brand-name drugs overall than doctors who didn’t, our analysis showed,” reports ProPublica.

“Indeed, doctors who received industry payments were two to three times as likely to prescribe brand-name drugs at exceptionally high rates as others in their specialty.”

For nearly a decade, non-profit Propublica has been turning out investigative journalism in the public interest and in 2010, became the first online news source to win a Pulitzer Prize.

(FYI: The 2016 Pulitzer Prizes are being announced today. You can watch live at the Pulitzer Prize website at 3PM Eastern time, 12N Pacific time.)

As ProPublica explains, pharmaceutical and medical device companies are now required by law to release details of their payments to a variety of doctors and U.S. teaching hospitals. ProPublica is never anything but scrupulously fair in their reporting:

”ProPublica’s analysis doesn’t prove industry payments sway doctors to prescribe particular drugs, or even a particular company’s drugs. Rather, it shows that payments are associated with an approach to prescribing that, writ large, benefits drug companies’ bottom line...

“Among internists who received no payments, for example, the average brand-name prescribing rate was about 20 percent, compared to about 30 percent for those who received more than $5,000.”

According to the data, the company that paid out the most to physicians is Genentech, Inc.: $388,000,000. The physician who has received the largest total payments is Sujata Narayan, a family medicine specialist in California: $43,900,000.

You can see if or how much your own physician has received at ProPublica's Dollars for Docs page. You can read the entire story here.

THE EFFECT OF EXERCISE ON BONE STRENGTH

When I got serious about devising a daily exercise routine a few years ago, I made a point to include a fair amount of strength training to help maintain bone density and to prevent falls.

It turns out that I, along with many internet health websites, exercise experts, professional medical societies and more, are wrong. Osteoporosis researchers have known that for ten years, reports Gina Kolata in The New York Times:

”The answer came a little more than a decade ago when scientists did rigorous studies, asking if weight bearing exercise increased bone density in adults.

“Those studies failed to find anything more than a minuscule exercise effect — on the order of 1 percent or less, which is too small to be clinically significant...

“[Other] Studies have found that older people who did weight bearing exercise decreased their risk of fractures. But this seems to be more likely explained by the fact that exercise leads to stronger muscles that in turn made falling less likely.

Further, osteoporosis drugs like Fosamex slow the rate of bone loss but do not build bone. All that is the bad news. Here's the good news:

”There is a glimmer of hope for those who have put their faith in exercise. Perhaps, osteoporosis researchers say, even though bones do not get stronger with exercise, exercise might make bones healthier in terms of a mysterious property called bone quality.

“No one knows exactly what it is but it may help explain why some people with bones that look strong get fractures while others with bones that look fragile do not. Maybe those microscopic changes in bone make a crucial difference, but it is too soon to say.”

Even so, on the strong muscle theory, I won't be slacking off on my strength training. You can read the entire story here.

50+ VOTERS, THE 2016 ELECTION AND SOCIAL SECURITY

AARP hired Hart Research Associates and GS Strategy Group who surveyed 1659 registered voters – with an emphasis on blacks and Latinos - in February and March this year about Social Security and other issues.

Here are some of the Social Security responses:

More than eight in ten (82%), including 85% of African Americans and 83% of Hispanics, say that having a plan for Social Security is a basic threshold for presidential leadership.

More than nine in ten (95%) voters ages 50+, including 96% of African Americans and 97% of Hispanics, say that it is important that presidential candidates lay out their plans to update Social Security for future generations.

Seven in ten voters ages 50+ say that it would be “very helpful” in their vote decision to learn about a presidential candidate’s plans for Social Security, including 82% of African Americans and 72% of Hispanics.

You can read more about the survey at AARP, the short version, here. You will find the entire survey results here [pdf].

Let me know if you think an occasional Interesting Ageing Stuff post is useful or interesting to you.

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Interesting Ageing Stuff is an occasional listing of items I like that are too long for Saturday's Interesting Stuff and not quite important enough for a full blog post.

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


ELDER MUSIC: Blues Brothers

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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BluesBrothers2

This column will feature the music that the Blues Brothers and their band, along with guest artists, played in the film. However, it's not music taken from the film soundtrack, it's the original versions of those songs.

For those who haven't seen the film, it's along the lines of "Let's get the band together and put on a show". Pretty much the same as those old Mickey Rooney, Judy Garland films of a generation earlier, although those featured fewer car crashes.

The music will be in the order (approximately) that they appeared in the film, so first up is the song She Caught the Katy. That one first came to my attention thanks to TAJ MAHAL, who wrote the song.

Taj Mahal

Taj isn't a straight blues musician who likes to incorporate Caribbean, African and other elements into his music. Here is his take on his song.

♫ Taj Mahal - She Caught the Katy and Left Me a Mule to Ride


The theme for the TV series Peter Gunn was written by Henry Mancini who recorded it for the program. Later, Jay Livingston and Ray Evans put words to it but we're going with the instrumental version, as that was what they played in the film.

Their version leaned more towards DUANE EDDY than Henry, so I'm going with that.

Duane Eddy

Duane's was the biggest seller of all the versions released (and there have been quite a few). It was back when Duane could do no wrong – anything he released became a hit. He's probably the biggest selling instrumentalist in rock & roll history.

♫ Duane Eddy - Peter Gunn


THE SPENCER DAVIS GROUP was blessed in having a fine vocalist and keyboard player in Steve Winwood.

Spencer Davis Group

The song Gimme Some Lovin' was written by Spencer, Steve and Steve's brother Muff (also a member of the group).

[UPDATE 2:15PM Pacific time: The first version of this song would not play. New one is uploaded.]

♫ Spencer Davis Group - Gimme Some Lovin'


JOHN LEE HOOKER was shown in the film performing the song Boom Boom as a busker on the street.

John Lee Hooker

John Lee wrote and recorded the song originally and I see no reason to go past that one.

♫ John Lee Hooker - Boom Boom


In the film, the band needed some instruments, so they went along to Ray's Music Exchange to get them. Ray, of course, is RAY CHARLES.

Blues Brothers & Ray

Like John Lee, Ray was the originator of the song he sang, Shake Your Tailfeather, and this is the way he recorded it originally.

♫ Ray Charles - Shake your Tailfeather


I don't remember this next song in the film but Wiki assures me that it's there so who am I to argue? I really must watch the film again soon. I know the song from the version by SOLOMON BURKE.

Solomon Burke

Solomon is always welcome in any column of mine and here he is with Everybody Needs Somebody to Love. It certainly sounds like something they'd perform.

♫ Solomon Burke - Everybody Needs Somebody to Love


For some reason, the crew happened to venture into church. As far as I can tell, there was no reason for this except to feature James Brown as the Reverend Cleophus James putting on quite a turn with the song The Old Landmark.

I prefer the STAPLE SINGERS to James, and they performed it earlier.

Staple Singers

Mavis Staples sings lead on this one (as she did on most of their songs).

♫ Staple Singers - The Old Landmark


One of the band members was working in a diner run by his wife played by ARETHA FRANKLIN.

Blues Brothers & Aretha

Aretha's character is none too happy about his going off like that and she tells him to Think about it. It makes no difference as he goes anyway, but we get a good song out of it.

♫ Aretha Franklin - Think


Blues Brothers

Now we get to the "chicken wire" part of the film that always brings a smile to my face. I won't spoil it for those who haven't seen the film.

Wondering what to play for this particular audience, they came up with the theme from Rawhide. The person who sang that in the TV series was FRANKIE LAINE.

Frankie Laine

♫ Frankie Laine - Rawhide


We're still in "chicken wire" mode and if Norma, the Assistant Musicologist, knew I was including this next song she would disown me (or something even more drastic), so I'm not going to tell. Let's keep it our little secret from her.

Of course, she knows it was in the film, or maybe she's put it out of her mind. If not, she probably thinks I'll omit it. Silly sausage, she should know me better than that.

You can all probably guess what's next (that is if you've seen the film). Yes, it's TAMMY WYNETTE.

Tammy Wynette

This is her best known song, Stand By Your Man.

♫ Tammy Wynette - Stand By Your Man


We've finally got to stage the concert and the master of ceremonies was CAB CALLOWAY.

Cab Calloway

Cab also got to perform his best known song, Minnie the Moocher.

♫ Cab Calloway - Minnie The Moocher


As the film was set in (and around) Chicago, Sweet Home Chicago was an obvious choice for them to perform. It was originally laid down on shellac by ROBERT JOHNSON.

Robert Johnson

In spite of his rather meagre recorded output, Robert is probably the most influential blues performer ever.

♫ Robert Johnson - Sweet Home Chicago


Thanks to all those cars that were destroyed, but that really was due to the incompetence of the other characters' driving, I don't know why our heroes were blamed for that (okay, yes I do), the whole band landed in the hoosegow.

They put on a final concert in prison and naturally performed Jailhouse Rock. This was originally done by ELVIS in the film of the same name.

Elvis Presley

♫ Elvis Presley - Jailhouse Rock


INTERESTING STUFF – 16 April 2016

CUSTOMERS FIRST IN RETIREMENT INVESTING

The Department of Labor last week announced new regulations requiring financial retirement advisors and brokers who handle individual retirement and 401(k) accounts to act in the best interests of their clients.

You would think that would go without saying even if not codified in regulations but apparently not. As The New York Times explained:

”...brokers are generally required only to recommend 'suitable' investments, which means, for example, that they can push a more expensive mutual fund that pays a higher commission when an otherwise identical, cheaper fund would have been an equal or better alternative.”

It isn't all good news as only certain retirement accounts are affected not to mention that some expect the new regulations to be challenged in court. Let's say, then, that it's a start.

You can read more here and here.

HOUSEHOLD HACKS WITH BINDER CLIPS

For as long as I can remember I've been a binder clip fan. My three major uses are to keep opened berry and vegetables packages closed in the freezer, keep toothpaste tubes from unfolding (#12 in video) and to hold peripherals cables together behind my computer.

But it's obvious from this video that my imagination for binder clip use is pitifully underdeveloped:

PSYCHEDELIC WASP NESTS

Mattia Menchetti, a biology student at the University of Florence realized that by giving a captive colony of European paper wasps different colored paper, the insects would build their own kaleidoscopic houses.

Wow. Look at what the wasps did with that colored paper:

Colorful-paper-wasp-nests-rainbow-mattia-mechetti-4

As the BoredPanda page explains,

”While this experiment was deliberate, unintentional human interference with the insect world has also produced some equally surprising results.

“In 2012 for example, beekeepers in France were amazed to discover that their bees had created green and blue honey. The reason? The unsuspecting insects were using sugar collected from the shells of M&Ms at a nearby waste-processing plant.”

You can see more of the psychedelic wasp nests at BoredPanda.

AN ESCAPE STORY YOU'D ALMOST DIE TO HAVE VIDEO OF

Inky the octopus lived at the National Aquarium of New Zealand, a favorite with the entire country. Until, that is, Inky pulled a Houdini one night by escaping through a small hole in the top of his tank. The New York Times reports:

”Octopus tracks suggest he then scampered eight feet across the floor and slid down a 164-foot-long drainpipe that dropped him into Hawke’s Bay, on the east coast of North Island, according to reports in New Zealand’s news media...

“The aquarium’s manager, Rob Yarrall, told Radio New Zealand that employees had searched the aquarium’s pipes after discovering Inky’s trail, to no avail.

“The escape happened several months ago, but it only recently came to light. 'He managed to make his way to one of the drain holes that go back to the ocean, and off he went, Mr. Yarrall said. 'Didn’t even leave us a message.'”

Hurray for Inky, I say. Here's a photo of him before he escaped:

14octopus_web1-master675-v4

GENERIC PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE

Most candidates for public office do everything, say anything at all to appeal to the largest number of voters possible, making them as bland as Wonderbread.

Of course, with such candidates as Donald Trump, Ted Cruz and Bernie Sanders this year, that age-old strategy doesn't apply but that doesn't make this video any less ironic and funny.

JOHN OLIVER ON THE RAUNCHY ALABAMA SEX SCANDAL

Usually in this space, I post the most recent video essay from John Oliver's HBO program, Last Week Tonight. But I already did that a couple of days ago (you can see it here).

So today, let's get the John Oliver slant on the amazing, expanding scandal at the top echelons of Alabama government in his short essay from last Sunday.

KILLER OF KITTY GENOVESE DIES IN PRISON

Young people may not know her name but it is embedded in the mind of our generation because Kitty Genovese, who was raped and murdered in New York City in 1964, became an enduring symbol of urban apathy.

Although she screamed and screamed and screamed and people heard her, lights went on in the neighborhood but not one called the police.

Her killer, Winston Moseley, died a couple of weeks ago at age 81 in the Dannemora, New York prison. Here is an interview with Ms. Genovese's roommate:

You can read more here.

SECRETS BEHIND FAMILIAR CANDY TREATS

Did you know?

”The Tootsie Roll was a heat-safe chocolate that held up well all year round. Among the many candies appearing in the rations of World War II soldiers, it was so durable and dependable, soldiers used 'Tootsie Roll' as another name for bullets.”

Tootsiemilkduds

Milk Duds were created in Chicago in the 1920s but the company was having trouble coming up with a good marketing name:

”...how do you give zing to a candy you intended to be a perfectly round chocolate-covered caramel ball that sagged and dented? It wasn’t a ball. It was a dud. And that’s when someone in the company came up with a great idea.

“'Let’s call it 'Milk Chocolate Duds! Too long? OK, then just Milk Duds!' It’s too bad that person’s identity has been lost in the annals of history. It was the first and only time, as far as I know, that a candy was named for its liability.”

You can read about the beginnings of more of our childhood candies at Salon where the story is excerpted from the new book, Sweet as Sin By Susan Benjamin.

ONE OF THE SWEETEST ANIMAL VIDEOS

That's what Cathy Johnson wrote in her email with the link to this video. The YouTube page explains:

”Following winters in Africa, storks have been returning to their summer residences in Croatia every spring since ancient times. They weave their nests in close proximity to rivers, swamps and lakes, whose natural wealth guarantee the survival of their offspring.

“However, there are also many hunters in these locals. 18 years ago, a bullet found its way to the wing of a stork just before its first departure for Africa. The wounded bird was saved from sure death by a fisherman who took the bird home with him.”

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

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


The Imperative to Live and to Die

Stardust

Somewhere among the tiniest twists of our DNA, we are programmed to fear death, to avoid it at all costs and to live. To Live!

To live is, borrowing from Star Trek, the prime directive.

In addition to the practicality and pleasures of our five senses, each is designed to alert us to danger when there is a threat to our own life and, often, others' lives too.

In many cases, it is sub-verbal. We touch something too hot, our hand pulls back on its own. A kid runs in front of the car, we slam on the brakes – no thought necessary.

So fundamental is the human (and other animal) imperative to live that young people, against all evidence, believe they are immortal. I once felt that way and undoubtedly you did too.

Now I know better.

One of the ways that old age is dramatically different from youth and the middle years, and which society does not generally acknowledge, is the courage it requires to be old.

When dying becomes up close and personal, each old person, mostly in quiet times when we are alone, must bravely stand up to all that DNA self-preservation juice and make peace with, in time, letting go of life.

We must do that while keeping the prime directive - living our best possible old age. As Anatole Broyard wrote in The New York Times in 1990:

”If we face the reality, at 63 or 70, 75, 80, or 90, that we will indeed, sooner or later, die, then the only big question is how are we going to live the years we have left, however many or few they may be?

“What adventures can we now set out on to make sure we'll be alive when we die?”

I love that part: “...make sure we'll be alive when we die.” Lin Yutang said something similar in his book, The Importance of Living back in 1937:

”If man were to live this life like a poem he would be able to look upon the sunset of life as his happiest period, and instead of trying to postpone the much feared old age, be able to look forward to it, and gradually build up to it as the best and happiest period of his existence.”

I've been collecting quotations on old age and dying for 20 years and I could copy out dozens of inspiring thoughts for us all day. But I want to get back to the idea of courage.

As en-courage-ing as all the quotations of these wise people are, what many leave out is the loss, the pain - and the fear, too - that accompanies our journey in the final years.

Surveys repeatedly show that the most common regret of old people is not what they have done in their lives but what they have left undone – from travel to not telling someone how much they were loved. We live with those sorrows, especially the ones where we have failed others.

For some, there is physical pain that is often chronic and untreatable. Elders are mostly stoic about it, rarely mentioning how difficult it makes their lives.

The cumulative loss of loved ones and the different sorts of holes that creates in our lives. When my mother died, I remember feeling bereft that no one living now had known me when I was a child. I still haven't worked out, 25 years later, why that leaves an empty spot and still does.

And then, the fear of approaching death when we can no longer pretend it is far away. Like I said, it takes a lot of courage to get through old age and I am surprised how little this is noticed – by others maybe understandably but by elders themselves particularly.

Over these years of thinking about the meaning of old age, I have come to believe that it is part of our job in these last years to cultivate acceptance of the ending of our days and to weave the work of accomplishing that into the structure of our daily lives.

It does take work. You can't just decide one day that you are are comfortable with dying and be done with it. Particularly when, for me, I have never felt as closely connected to life and living, so attached to the shifts in light and weather and the changing seasons of our world as I do now.

Without any effort on our part, death will find us when it is time. But I want more. I seek to stop running from death and to make peace with it as the proper outcome of life.

My greatest encouragement and comfort in that so far is astrophysicist Neil DeGrasse Tyson's “We are all stardust” speech:

“The atoms of our bodies are traceable to stars that manufactured them in their cores and exploded these enriched ingredients across our galaxy, billions of years ago," he said.

“For this reason, we are biologically connected to every other living thing in the world. We are chemically connected to all molecules on Earth. And we are atomically connected to all atoms in the universe. We are not figuratively, but literally stardust.

I'm not there yet but that knowledge gets me a whole lot closer to understanding death as the good and proper outcome of life.

Stardust


Crabby Old Lady, Credit Scores and a John Oliver Treat

Two or three weeks ago, Crabby Old Lady received the bill for renewal of her homeowners coverage. It was up 7.4 percent - too high but not enough to cause heartburn.

However, the accompanying premium for Crabby's auto insurance, due on the same day, shoved her about three miles past horrified: 30 percent greater than six months ago. Huh? No accidents, no other kind of damage or claim. What could be the reason?

When Crabby inquired by telephone at the office of her insurance agent, she got, instead of conversation, an emailed report informing her that a drop in her credit score had caused the increase.

Now before we go a single step further here, let Crabby tell you that she regularly checks her credit score. It is and has been for many years a handful of points below perfect. Now and then it goes up a couple of points or down a couple of points but literally no more than that.

There is a reason Crabby Old Lady has, in difficult times, gone without to pay her bills on time. Into anyone's life some rain will fall. You can count on it. Sometimes it is expensive rain and a superb credit score – particularly if, like Crabby, you have no relatives to fall back on – will get you through the storm. It has saved Crabby's butt more than once over the years.

In a second call to the agent, the only information Crabby could elicit is that the computer made the determination and therefore nothing can change it. (All hail HAL.)

Here are the (so-called) black marks that reduced Crabby's insurance score as assessed by one of the three standard bureaus:

Average Balance on Open Auto Accounts: Not Available; Best possible is $8501-$11,000. (So if you paid cash for your car or even paid the loan regularly, you get marked down if the balance is outside arbitrary parameters?)

Number of Credit Card Accounts on File: 9-23; Best Possible is 4-8. (False. According to the credit report itself, which Crabby downloaded, she has 10 credit cards on file, eight of them closed long ago.)

% of Credit Card Limit Used: 0%-1%: Best Possible is 2%-10%. (Huh? Who makes these rules and based on what? Crabby's use is, as stated, about 1% per month. That's a credit crime?)

Ratio of Open Credit Card Accounts to Total Open Accounts: 61%; Best Possible is 16%-34%. (False. Crabby has two open credit accounts – cards.)

Not a single one of these “reasons” makes the least bit of sense. It's all horsefeathers. Worse, no one at the insurance agent's office had anything to say to Crabby beyond, “it's what the computer said.”

A thirty percent increase is bad enough for anyone but for old people who live on fixed incomes, it can be a disaster. Crabby isn't saying the insurance companies are picking on elders necessarily, but still.

Okay. Enough. Crabby Old Lady is just whinging now and because you have been patient enough to get this far, here is your John Oliver treat several days early.

In a remarkable case of serendipity, last Sunday on Oliver's HBO program, Last Week Tonight, the main essay - as smart and funny as always - was about Credit Reports.

Apparently, you can't fight the credit bureaus but Crabby Old Lady won in the end. Her friend Ken Pyburn sent her to his insurance agent and lo, the new premiums for home and auto coverage identical to last year saved Crabby more than $300 a year. She'll take it and be happy.

Does any of this sound familiar to you?


Old Age Suit Update: I Stand Corrected

Every now and then you run across something so obvious and so true that there is nothing to do but slap your forehead and immediately rearrange your beliefs on the subject. Let me explain.

As I told you in a January post, I first encountered what many people call “old age suits” ten years ago and I got up my first close and personal encounter with one in 2011, at the Ford Motor Company in Dearborn, Michigan:

Age Suit

The idea of them, of course, is to give young people, particularly those who design homes, automobiles, all kinds of appliances and even cities themselves a sense of how old bodies work differently from their own and, therefore, help them create a world which is easier for old people to navigate.

The point of that January post was to show you the newest, most up-to-date age suit that had been presented the prior week at the 2016 Consumer Electronics Show.

That suit, officially dubbed the R70i, was created by a former Disney imagineer named Bran Ferren for Genworth Financial (which sells long-term care insurance). You can see Ferren's video of the age suit at the Consumer Electronics show at that link above. Scroll down to the bottom of the story.

For all these ten years since I first heard of age suits, I have believed they are an excellent innovation to help remake a world that can accommodate the increasing millions of old people who will need all the help they can get in coming years.

And I still think so but now with some important reservations.

A week ago, The New York Times published a story about the Genworth Financial R70i written by a youngish reporter, Andy Newman, who begins his story,

”What could it possibly be like to be old? The stooped shuffle, the halting speech, the dimming senses.”

He answers his own question a scant two sentences later after donning the age suit: “It is not very pleasant.”

Mr. Newman walks his readers through the debilities the suit mimics: macular degeneration, tinnitus along with muffled and distorted hearing, aphasia and with the 40-pound weight of the suit, creaky joints and weakened muscles. After Newman has spent some time on a treadmill, Ferrin tells him,

“'So far you’ve walked about a half block and your heart is beating at 130 beats a minute,' he said.

“There are,” Newman continues, “entire realms of wretchedness attendant upon owning and operating an 85-year-old body that the Genworth Aging Experience exhibit does not even touch upon.

“Comprehensive sagging, internal and external. Pain in places you did not know could hurt. Difficulty urinating. Difficulty not urinating. Watching your friends die off. Watching yourself become irrelevant, an object of pity or puzzlement if acknowledged at all.”

Sounds awful, doesn't it. Much more awful than most people I know would indicate, even those in their 80s and 90s. There is a reason for that, a brilliantly obvious one I found in a letter to the editor. It is short so here it is in its entirety:

”When I began as a gerontological social worker 47 years ago, simulation exercises were all the rage. We were given glasses with lenses smeared in Vaseline, cotton balls to stuff in our ears, weights to tie on our ankles.

“Thus adorned, we were led through our paces: brushing our teeth, making beds, washing dishes and dusting the furniture. This, we were told, is what it feels like to be old.

“Now that I have become one of 'them,' I could not disagree more. It is rare that an old person will have every disability or that those she does have will be of equal intensity. There is an ebb and flow to physical functioning in late life just as there is in earlier years.

“And we are more than the sum of our bodily woes; we are individuals who meet the challenges of old age in individual ways. We do not live to take care of ourselves and our habitats; we do these things in order to do other things that give our lives meaning.”

Yes! And thank you to the letter writer, Ann Burack-Weiss of New York, who is the author of The Lioness in Winter: Writing an Old Woman's Life, a book that has been sitting in (one of) my “to read” piles since it was published last fall and which I have now moved to the top.

Lately I have come to believe (and you will undoubtedly be hearing more about in these pages) that both serious research and general discussion of old people's lives should not be undertaken without the presence of at least one old person as an adviser.

What younger people cannot know and no age suit can tell them is exactly what Ms. Burack-Weiss expresses in her last paragraph, worth repeating here:

“And we are more than the sum of our bodily woes; we are individuals who meet the challenges of old age in individual ways. We do not live to take care of ourselves and our habitats; we do these things in order to do other things that give our lives meaning.”

It is that kind of knowledge that, to me, make it imperative for old people to become consultants in the creation of an age-friendly world

I still believe there is an important place for old age suits but not as a stand-alone aid. Old age, as is true of just about anything worth knowing about, is more complicated than a robotic simulation of physical decline.


ELDER MUSIC: 1929

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.

* * *

The most appropriate way to start a column on 1929 is with the song Nobody Knows You When You're Down and Out. After all, this was probably the theme tune for that year. There is no one better to perform this song than the great BESSIE SMITH.

Bessie Smith

Many people recorded the song at the time and over subsequent years, but upon hearing Bessie's version, I stopped looking.

♫ Bessie Smith - Nobody Knows You When You're Down and Out


I'm sure pretty much everyone reading this would associate Singin' in the Rain with Gene Kelly and the classic film of the same name. However, the song wasn't written for the film, it's much older than that.

Although it might have been recorded earlier, its first established version was in this year, 1929, initially by Doris Travis in "The Hollywood Music Box Revue.” CLIFF EDWARDS also recorded it this year.

Cliff Edwards

Cliff was occasionally known as Ukulele Ike, as he played that instrument. I don't know where the Ike comes from.

He performed the song in a film called Hollywood Revue of 1929 which I think is different from the previous revue. Anyway, here's Cliff (or Ike) with the song.

♫ Cliff Edwards (Ukulele Ike) - Singin' In The Rain


LOUIS ARMSTRONG makes another of his regular visits to my column this year.

Louis Armstrong

St. James Infirmary has been recorded many times but it was Louis' version that was the first to become a big seller. It's considered by some to be a descendant of several songs that go back centuries. Having heard some mentioned in this context, I think they sound quite different from this one but that's musicologists for you.

♫ Louis Armstrong - St. James Infirmary


RUTH ETTING was billed as yet another of "America's Sweethearts.”

Ruth Etting

However, her life was anything but sweet. I'll omit the sordid details (only because they are far too long to relate in a brief piece like this, but Wikipedia has a very interesting account and I recommend it for anyone who likes a bit of scandal).

In the meantime, I'll have her singing Exactly Like You.

♫ Ruth Etting - Exactly Like You


In 1929, MAURICE CHEVALIER recorded what came to be his signature song from then on, Louise.

Maurice Chevalier

Early on he developed a love of acting and was involved in that as well as singing. Douglas Fairbanks urged him to go to Hollywood and Maurice did that just as talkies began.

He quickly became The Frenchman in films whenever one was called for. Here he is with his signature.

♫ Maurice Chevalier - Louise


BEN SELVIN recorded many, many songs - more than just about anyone at the time.

Ben Selvin

Ben played the violin so that's probably him in the top middle. He introduced to the world the cream of musicians from later years, including Benny Goodman, the Dorsey Brothers, Jack Teagarden, Red Nichols, and Bunny Berigan.

This is Ben with his orchestra (I don't know if any of the aforementioned are present) with My Sin. It's probably Smith Ballew on vocal refrain, but no one really knows.

♫ Ben Selvin & His Orchestra - My Sin


Am I Blue? was written this year by Harry Akst and Grant Clarke and the first recording of it was by ETHEL WATERS.

Ethel Waters

She showcased the song in the film On With the Show. Since then it's been recorded by a plethora of musicians ranging across the full gamut of styles, but Ethel did it first.

♫ Ethel Waters - Am I Blue


If anyone could lay a claim to have invented jazz, KING OLIVER would have to be at the front of the queue.

King Oliver

He was also one of the first to write jazz tunes, many of which are still played today. Unfortunately, by 1929 he wasn't playing trumpet very much due to a gum disease, so he employed others to do that.

He was still writing and arranging, however. One hit from this year by King Oliver's Creole Jazz Band is New Orleans Shout.

♫ King Oliver's Creole Jazz Band - New Orleans Shout


I think a certain long-haired performer from the sixties listened very carefully to NICK LUCAS (and his Troubadours) performing the song Tip-Toe Thru the Tulips with Me.

Nick Lucas

Norma, the Assistant Musicologist asked if you had to have a very high voice in order to sing it. Probably.

Nick introduced the song to the world in the talkie (and "singie" too, I guess) Gold Diggers of Broadway and it sat on the top of the charts for 10 weeks this year.

♫ Nick Lucas Troubadours - Tip-Toe Thru The Tulips With Me


FATS WALLER wrote the song Ain't Misbehavin' along with Harry Brooks and Andy Razaf.

Fats Waller

Fats recorded the song in our year (as well as subsequently). He wasn't the only one who has had a go at it. Here's Fats with the original version.

Fats Waller - Ain't Misbehavin'



INTERESTING STUFF – 9 April 2016

WHAT MILLENNIALS THINK OLD PEOPLE ARE LIKE

From AARP, here's an experiment with millennials and elders.


IT'S NOT JUST US OLD FOLKS WHO FALL DOWN

Over most of the history of this blog, I have posted a story about preventing falls at least once a year, sometimes twice. That's because one-third of people 65 and older fall every year. Many do not survive their broken bones.

Now comes a study telling us we elders are far from alone:

”'...in this four-month study, more than half of the college students fell during daily activities,' said Shirley Rietdyk, a professor of health and kinesiology, who only looked at young adults in this study.

"'The fall rate may be lower for older adults because they are more cautious due to the higher risk of serious, even fatal, injuries from falls. These findings also highlight that walking on two legs is a challenging task that is mechanically unstable, even for young, healthy adults.'"

Maybe we would be better off now if mankind had stayed on all fours. You can read more here.


SETH MEYERS ON THE WISCONSIN PRIMARY

No one can dispute that John Oliver (see below) is brilliant and that he manages to be so week after week after week with hardly a glitch.

Recently, however I have discovered another comedian who is doing some excellent political take-downs on his daily NBC show, Late Night with Seth Meyers.

It's not that I hadn't heard of Meyers before; I just hadn't paid attention. Now I know that he is putting his regular feature, “A Closer Look,” to excellent use.

There are plenty of laughs but like Oliver, the topic is a serious one. In this case, voter ID laws. Take a look.

Meyers' show is now on my VCR recording schedule.


FAMOUS TABLE TOP DANCE FROM 1955

From the 1955 film, The Seven Little Foys, comes this excellent dance with Jimmy Cagney, playing George M. Cohan, and Bob Hope as Eddie Foy.

This kind of movie production number has been out of fashion for decades but what fun to watch these two old pros from an earlier era.


ON THE NATURE OF TIME

A friend emailed this joke:

A tortoise walks into a sheriff's office and shouts, "I've just been attacked by three snails."

The sheriff says, "Tell me what happened."

The tortoise shakes his head in confusion. "I don't know, it all happened so fast."

Such silly fun but sometimes these days I know how the tortoise feels.


JOHN OLIVER CONGRESSIONAL FUNDRAISING

Congressman Steve Israel of New York is retiring after 16 years because he cannot face even one more call begging for money. John Oliver shows us on his HBO program, Last Week Tonight, why Israel made that choice.


JOHN OLIVER NUCLEAR SECURITY AND TRUMP

For all good (and bad) comedians, Donald Trump is irresistible fodder and Oliver did not even try to ignore the candidate last week while commenting on the Nuclear Security Summit in Washington.


MADAGASCAR VANILLA SHORTAGE

Yup. That's right. According to the Guardian, the price of my favorite ice cream flavor is about to skyrocket:

”The price of Madagascan vanilla surged by nearly 150% last year after the island, the dominant producer, experienced a poor harvest. Now food industry executives are reporting a fresh rise in prices as supply tightens.

“Vanilla is the second most expensive spice in the world, after saffron, a result of its long and labour-intensive cultivation.”

These days, I don't allow myself to eat ice cream as much as when I was younger, but this is till catastrophic food news for me.

”...the pain will be felt most acutely by ice-cream makers, as it is the most expensive ingredient in the production process and some will be forced to pass on the increased cost to consumers.”

Yes, exactly what I'm afraid of. The Onion chimed in which some pithy “reader responses”:

“I have this six-year-old bottle of extract in my cupboard, if that helps things.” - Don Buckley, Systems Analyst

“Edy’s can gouge me all they want for that real slow-churned stuff.” Chet Baisell, Unemployed

“We should be able to get through this. There’s no vanilla in pizza.” Eva Landiss, Element Namer

EARLY ONSET ALZHEIMER'S

King5 News in Seattle won a 2013 local Emmy for this affecting documentary. Alive and Thankful, about a man diagnosed with early onset Alzheimer's. Hat tip to Chuck Nyren of Advertising to Baby Boomers.

Three of Lon Cole's poetry books have now been published. You can find out about them here.


TOKYO'S NEW HEDGEHOG CAFE

Japan has a history of being in the forefront of animal cafes, cats being the most obvious kind that have been copies the world over. This is their latest:

Cute little buggers, aren't they. You can read more at the Guardian.

* * *

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.


On Becoming 75

[BIRTHDAY NOTE: Thank you all so much for the many kind greetings you left in the comments yesterday. You made my birthday extra special and I appreciate every one of you. You too, Peter Tibbles, for that excellent musical party.]

* * *

It is not an easily ignored birthday, 75. At least not for me, having been thinking about “what it's really like to grow old” nearly every day for more than 20 years.

Seventy-five is one of those round number, big-deal birthdays notable especially in that it is three-quarters of century. That's saying something, having navigated that many years.

There's no foolin' around anymore. I'm old. No argument. No wiggle room. No forgetting that my mother died in her 75th year, when she was about nine months older than I am today.

A lot of people die at my age and it's not much of a surprise when they do. Even so, I am willing to bet that a lot of them felt as I do today – healthy, focused, curious, engaged - with no reason to think they would be dead tomorrow.

But always a certain number are. They get hit by a car, succumb to a terrible diagnosis or just quietly die in their sleep for no good reason except they're old.

Caught between being fascinated observing my body and my mind as they gradually accumulate the changes of old age and ignoring it all, I play a game with myself: Be careful, I say. If I think too much about what can go wrong, that will bring it on. It might not happen if I ignore the idea, but I can't pretend I never think about because while I'm pretending I am thinking about it and...

Well, you see how it goes. The human mind is a wonder to behold in the way it/we can confuse, obfuscate and bemuse ourselves.

I read somewhere that the body starts to seriously fall apart after age 75. However healthy anyone was before that birthday, it will change for the worse from that point forward.

First one thing, then another and another. It won't be so easy, they say, from 75 on. Maybe so but I think I will wait to cross those bridges when I get to them.

Nevertheless, such a remarkable birthday as 75 requires some reflection and perhaps an adjustment in how one lives, don't you think. It feels like a good time to make some changes in how I spend my time, to choose more carefully, more wisely, maybe, than I have in the past.

Doing so would definitely be something new for me.

Although not in much detail, I do recall deliberately deciding, one day in my early twenties, that because I had no idea what to do with my life, I would just follow along where the wind blew me and see what happened.

And mostly that's what I've done these 50-odd years since then with a few important exceptions of opting out rather than opting in.

No children because I knew raising them would take more effort than I was interested in devoting to it. Parents always tell me the time and sacrifice was worth it. I don't believe that is so for everyone and I made the right decision for me (and for those unborn kids, too, I'm pretty sure).

When I left my husband, it was to save my soul. I didn't know who I was any longer and I believe that if I had stayed, I would have disappeared, turned into something smaller and more invisible than I already felt.

As you can see, basically I have good self-preservation instincts but that's not particularly useful in deciding how to live a good or wise or just life which seems to concern me on this birthday.

My home holds an extensive library on the subject of ageing, quite a lot of which are individual takes in varying degrees of wisdom on growing old.

From antiquity there are Epicurus, Plato, Aristotle, Epictetus, Marcus Aurelius, more recently Montaigne and others. Then there are my contemporaries and near contemporaries – Simone de Beauvoir, Donald Murray, Helen Nearing, Penelope Lively, Ram Dass, Virginia Ironside, Judith Viorst, Helen Small, Wilhelm Schmid, Carolyn Heilbrun, even Dr. Seuss and others I wish I could invite to dinner.

What most of them have done in regard to the topic is pay attention to the details of their personal journey into this “other country” of old age then make educated guesses on how those observations might apply to the universal condition of humankind.

I've been waiting a long time but finally, I think, I may be old enough for this course of action.

Similarly to the negative choices of not having children and ending my marriage, I backed into writing about ageing and making it my work for the past 20 years.

Before beginning this open-ended study, my career allowed me to be a generalist – report on cancer one day, a movie star the next, fashion, cooking, finance, politics, disasters, book authors and hundreds more. I loved it.

Nothing in my background would have led me to believe I would stick with one subject, still fascinated with how much there is to know about it, for 20 years.

But here I am, ready I believe to take a page from the books of those philosophers, thinkers and writers who have taught me so much and trust my own experience as I try to clarify and untangle in these pages “what it's really like to get old.”

In Mrs. Dalloway, Virginia Woolf wrote:

”The compensation of growing old is that the passions remain as strong as ever, but one has gained – at last! - the power which adds the supreme flavour to existence – the power of taking hold of experience, of turning it round, slowly in the light.”

ELDER MUSIC: The 7th of April 2016

This is Peter Tibbles. I'm usually lurking over there on Sunday but now and again I pop up my head on other days and take over the column, so here I am again.

This is because Ronni turns 75 today and that's a significant number, three quarters of a century. Naturally I've baked a cake for the occasion.

Cake

So, because my usual gig is music, that's what I'll be doing today. The musicians featured all share Ronni's birthday and she's in pretty good company as you'll see. Besides those, I'll mention a few others who share her day as well.

Ronni Bennett

That, of course, is Ronni pretending to be Norma, the Assistant Musicologist.

I'll start with the very best today, and that is BILLIE HOLIDAY.

Billie Holiday

Trying to select just one song was a real challenge. There were many possibilities and several strong contenders. It came down to me saying to myself, "Oh just pick one.” This is it. God Bless the Child.

♫ Billie Holiday - God Bless the Child


Also birthday boys today are a couple of actors Jackie Chan and Russell Crowe.

JOHN OATES was the dark haired one in Hall and Oates.

John Oates

He was the one who played the guitar. Daryl mostly sang lead but John sang quite often although probably not on this one, Rich Girl.

♫ Hall & Oates - Rich Girl


Another actor, James Garner.

For a complete change of pace here is RAVI SHANKAR.

Ravi Shankar

He recorded several albums with the great violinist Yehudi Menuhin who doesn't share the birthday. The track they play together is just called Sitar and Violin Duet.

♫ Yehudi Menuhin & Ravi Shankar - Sitar & Violin Duet


Francis Ford Coppola has a birthday today.
JANIS IAN had a hit single when she was still a teenager.

Janis Ian

The song, Society's Child caused her to be banned by the usual suspects and other crackpots. She released a well received album called "Between the Lines" that contained the single At Seventeen.

♫ Janis Ian - At Seventeen.


Happy birthday Jerry Brown and Wayne Rogers.

BOBBY BARE had a huge hit in the late fifties and no one knew about it.

Bobby Bare

That's because it was released under the name of Bill Parsons who was a friend of Bobby's. That was because Bobby was called up for military service and couldn't tour to support the record so Bill lent his name to the record and toured in his place.

People soon knew something was wrong as Bill wasn't the singer that Bobby was. That song was a bit of a send-up of Elvis called All American Boy.

♫ Bobby Bare - All American Boy


A bit of quality now, William Wordsworth.

CAL SMITH had a lot of songs on the country music charts and several number ones.

Cal Smith

However, he really wasn't a cross-over artist apart from the song Country Bumpkin, which we won't be playing today. What we have is Honky Tonks and You.

♫ Cal Smith - Honky Tonks And You


A couple who were involved in politics in vastly different ways, Allen Dulles and Daniel Ellsberg.

FREDDIE HUBBARD was classically trained but at the same time he was doing that he was playing jazz with the locals around town (that being Indianapolis).

Freddie Hubbard

The jazz won out in the end. He played with all the greats during his life and listening to him, I can detect more than a hint of Miles Davis in his style.

Freddie plays Up Jumped Spring with some serious fluting going on by James Spaulding.

♫ Freddie Hubbard - Up Jumped Spring


The last of these extras, two who reported on politics in different ways, Walter Winchell and David Frost.

I'll end with PERCY FAITH.

Percy Faith

He's far from my favorite but someone must like him as he sold many records, particularly in the fifties, which is when this was a hit. Everybody Loves Saturday Night.

♫ Percy Faith - Everybody Loves Saturday Night


Uh oh, we should have blown out the candles sooner.

Cake


Senior Centers

Senior centers have a bad rap and they should not. Although there may still be too many that offer little more than bingo night once or twice a week and not much else, most are working hard to upgrade and update for the latest elder generations.

(You know those boomers – they don't want to be part of what “old people” do.)

Snark or not, boomers really should get over themselves. Some won't go to senior centers because they don't like that name – it makes them sound old, you know.

Although I often lobby against the word senior myself, a name is a shallow reason to give for not participating and when people start using euphemisms that are just too politically correct to take seriously, the only thing you can do is groan and move on. It is almost always a committee that causes such language effrontery.

The senior center in my town is called – ahem, the Adult Community Center, usually shortened to ACC.

LOACC

This is one of the better centers in the U.S. On any given day, the variety of fitness and well-being classes from aerobics to Zumba along with yoga, tai chi, strength training, meditation and more are filled to capacity.

There is a small gym with four machines, hand weights and balance balls. In a room nearby, there is a masseuse available one day a week that members can book in advance.

There are also a large number of gaming groups who meet almost daily – bridge, Scrabble, mah jongg, among them. There is a knitting group and a quilting group who donate the results of their work to local charities.

All activities are either free with an inexpensive membership or low cost.

Each Wednesday afternoon, I attend a two-hour current affairs discussion group at the center that is organized by a group affiliated with a local college. Membership is just $30 a year and if I were inclined or had more time, there are additional groups within relatively easy driving distance I could attend almost every day of the week at no additional cost.

The center also has a professional kitchen with a chef who oversees the town's Meals on Wheels preparation - nutritious food delivered by ACC volunteers to more than a hundred elders who cannot cook for themselves. The kitchen staff also serves lunch at the center three days a week for a fee of just $4 per person.

In my rounds for volunteer work, I've had some unspeakably awful institutional meals at senior centers but never at the ACC. They get a good amount of their fresh vegetables from a nearby community garden, the food is prepared from scratch, nothing frozen and reheated, and the chef is excellent.

In additional, there are reasonably priced day trips to restaurants, theaters, local historical sites, museums, etc., and there is a “solo” dinner club for singles, among many other choices.

As varied as the social choices are, the services are crucial to the well-being and health of elders in the community. Without the center, these services would not be available or certainly not all in one place where they are easy to find, easy to use and mostly free. There are so many that I will list just a sampling:

Blood pressure monitoring
Flu shots
Foot care clinics
Legal assistance
Tax assistance
Medicare/Medicaid help
Rides to doctor appointments
Rides for grocery shopping
Medical equipment loans
Caregiver respite groups
Widow support groups

When I needed rides to and from the medical center for my two cataract surgeries a couple of years ago, I used the ACC ride service and it went off without a hitch.

In fact, the driver told me that she had taken time to do a dry run the day before to check the traffic so I wouldn't be late, and the service was free. (I made a substantial donation to the Center.)

According to the National Council on Aging (NCOA), there are about 11,400 senior centers in the United States that serve more than a million elders every day.

The NCOA also runs the National Senior Center Accreditation Program that recognizes centers that meet nine national standards of operation. The ACC is one of about 250 centers who have achieved these standards.

The reason I'm telling you all this today is that I want some information from you. Three or four years ago, I wrote a post here titled Are You a Senior Center Snob? admitting to having been one myself. So did some of you.

At first, senior centers are like the word “retirement.” In the beginning I choked on it but with repetition as I wrote about it here, I got over my aversion. That happens similarly with senior centers when you've spent some time checking out what's there.

Maybe it is a gradual transition; maybe it comes in two or three steps. First accept that you are old, move on to tentative outreach to some elder activities and pretty soon, you've made an interesting friend or two and forget you once thought senior centers were boring.

A well-funded senior center like the ACC that also attracts a good number of volunteers (usually elders themselves) offers a wide variety of social activities and community services, something to interest most everybody in the ones that are as good mine.

Now, here's what I would like to know from you:

Do you regularly spend time at a senior center? If so, what activities and services do you like or use? What additional or different activities, services, events and programs would you like to have?

If you don't use a senior center, what would prompt you to do so? What kind of activities, services, events and programs would entice you to try it?

And one more thing. If you are reading this in another country, are there equivalent organizations where you live? Tell us about them.


How Our Convictions Changes as We Age

Recently, I've been thinking about how interests, beliefs and convictions change as we grow older. By growing older, I do not mean that milestone of crossing the invisible line between midlife and old age. I mean how we change during the period of old age itself, between the time we accept that reality about ourselves and whenever death arrives.

For most of us, there are a lot of years in that time, even two or three or more decades. And although the culture, government, even the medical community, frequently lump all old people into the same category, they are mistaken to do so.

There are large variations in our health, our capabilities, education, financial status and while I am not discounting how much those markers affect how we function in the world, today I am more interested in how our attitudes may have changed and continue to change.

Most people do not expect to believe the same things at 50 they did at 20. One hopes experience, reflection and learning refine one's points of view and sensibilities over time.

Even if the (incorrect) stereotype is that old people are all stuck in their ways, there is no reason the process of growth should not be lifelong. For example:

I'm surprised at how much happier I am than during my youth and middle years. I don't mean giddy or silly or even that I necessarily laugh more. Contentedness is probably a better word.

This might be related to the fact that I'm getting better at knowing the difference between what I can change and what I can't, and even when I fail at that, I don't get angry as I once did.

Having said that, however, another surprise is how my emotions have otherwise intensified. Climate change is a good example. I no longer allow myself to read past the headlines. That's enough for me to get the point.

Whatever else the article reports, I know it will only be worse for mankind and other living things than it was before and if I allow myself to pay closer attention, I fear I will never stop weeping.

It's obvious world leaders will not make the hard decisions about the only really important thing that matters anymore and so I do believe planet Earth is doomed.

I would love to be proved wrong about that but I don't believe I am and my heart breaks every day. Sometimes I cry.

Time is a weird one. I have never worked out a way to understand this: as my years on earth grow demonstrably shorter, I am willing to put “it” - whatever it is at the moment – off until tomorrow or next week or next month when something else intrudes.

That was never so when I was 20 or 30 or 40 but it is a great relief to be done with the “can't waits.” It saves a lot a disappointment.

One more: I make decisions more easily and quickly. Hardly any difficulties nowadays with wondering what if this happens or that. The greater difficulty, once a decision is made, is getting the project done but at least I decide a path forward for myself with a lot less fuss than when I was young.

Maybe I have finally learned – as I said for years but never took to heart – that aside from putting a gun to my head, there aren't many decisions that are irrevocable.

There are more instances of such kinds of change but that gives you a pretty good idea of what I'm talking about and now it's your turn. What beliefs or attitudes or behaviors have changed in your life as you have gotten older, maybe because you've gotten older.