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ELDER MUSIC: 1914

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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Based on the response I received for the music of 1910, I've decided to do another early year. Again, this is not only music from 1914, but music that was recorded in that year.

I hope you like it – I'm a bit doubtful but I was somewhat overruled on the previous column.

I remember the song Aba Daba Honeymoon from the fifties sung by Debbie Reynolds and Carleton Carpenter. I didn't know at the time that this wasn't the first time this song had made the hit parades.

The song was written by Arthur Fields and Walter Donovan in 1914 and was first recorded by ARTHUR COLLINS and BYRON HARLAN.

Collins & Harlan

They were referred to by fellow recording artist Billy Murray as "The Half Ton Duo" as they were rather challenged in the weight department. That's not obvious in the picture. Anyway, here's their version of the song.

♫ Arthur Collins and Byron Harlan - The Aba Daba Honeymoon


One hundred years on we have forgotten what it was like in the early days of driving. BILLY MURRAY explains it all to us.

Billy Murray

Back then they didn't just jump in the car and tootle over to Auntie Elsie's place. No, most likely there would have been at least one stop on the way, perhaps more. Billy tells it better than I can withHe'd Have To Get Out and Get Under (To Fix Up His Automobile).

♫ Billy Murray - He'd Have To Get Out And Get Under (To Fix Up His Automobile) 1914


ADA JONES recorded with quite a few people over the years, most notably Len Spencer and Billy Murray (who got a gig just above).

Ada Jones

Apparently she only recorded one song with BILLY WATKINS and it's this one, By the Beautiful Sea. You will probably know this song. Sorry, there doesn't seem to be a picture of Billy.

♫ Ada Jones & Billy Watkins - By The Beautiful Sea


GEORGE MACFARLANE was from Canada and began his career performing in Gilbert and Sullivan and musicals in Montreal.

George MacFarlane

He then went to New York and where he was quite a success in musical comedies. He also appeared in films, both musical and in straight roles. Alas, his career was cut short when he was hit by a car and killed.

George performs Can't You Hear Me Calling, Caroline?

♫ George MacFarlane - Can't You Hear Me Calling Caroline


ARTHUR FIELDS started performing young, singing in minstrel shows and vaudeville.

Arthur Fields

He then started writing songs – he's responsible for Aba Daba Honeymoon (up above). He also recorded songs, both his own and those of others. This one is in the latter category; Irving Berlin is responsible for writing Along Came Ruth.

♫ Arthur Fields - Along Came Ruth


HENRY BURR, ALBERT CAMPBELL and WILL OAKLAND join together to give us I'm on My Way to Mandalay.

Henry Burr, Albert Campbell and Will Oakland

Will was a countertenor and sang the high parts, often the female role in songs (several with Billy Murray who seems to have recorded with everyone). Henry was a recording fool; he made more records than just about anyone in history – more than 12,000 are known.

He appeared often with the Peerless Quartet who included Will and Albert among its members at various times. As well as that group, Henry and Albert were a successful duo. The three of them got together for this song.

♫ Henry Burr, Albert Campbell and Will Oakland - I'm on My Way to Mandalay (1914)


NORA BAYES was already a success in vaudeville when she was still in her teens, touring everywhere from California to New York.

Nora Bayes

She was a good friend of George M Cohan and premiered many of his songs. Nora married songwriter Jack Norworth, and again she was the first with his songs.

What we have today wasn't by either of those, however. It's The Good Ship Mary Ann written by Grace Le Boy and Gus Kahn.

♫ Nora Bayes - The Good Ship Mary Ann


THE PEERLESS QUARTET was easily the most successful group in the early days of the 20th century.

The Peerless Quartet

They recorded under several different names but this is the one where they had the most success. They were the first to record many songs that became famous and quite a few are still performed today.

I don't know if this is one of those, While They Were Dancing Around. The song was written by Joseph McCarthy and James Monaco.

♫ Peerless Quartet - While They Were Dancing Around


Besides making records of popular music of the day, CHARLES HARRISON also recorded opera and similar concert songs.

Charles Harrison

He later was a successful performer on Broadway. His record of Peg o' My Heart was number 1 on the charts for a rather amazing 14 weeks. I guess there wasn't quite the competition then than there is today, but it's still a good effort, and you can only beat what was on offer at the time.

♫ Charles Harrison - Peg O' My Heart


ELIZABETH SPENCER and VERNON ARCHIBALD were associated with the Metropolitan Quartet.

Elizabeth Spencer & ArchibalVernon1

Charles Harrison was as well, so they probably knew each other. That's about all I know about Liz and Vern except they made quite a few records together. This is one of those from 1914, In the Valley of the Moon, written by Jeff Branen.

♫ Elizabeth Spencer & Vernon Archibald - In The Valley Of The Moon


INTERESTING STUFF – 30 July 2016

NOTE FROM THE EDITOR: Today's Interesting Stuff is longer than usual and there are no animals this week. But there are several campaign-related videos and a whole lot related to old age.

There was a large amount of good stuff this week that I've had to leave out or you probably would skip the whole thing. So I hope you enjoy the ones I've selected – just pick and choose what most interests you.

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THE PHOTO SAYS IT ALL

What a great week for little girls:

ILetMyDaughter

102-YEAR-OLD DEMOCRATIC DELEGATE

When Jerry Emmitt was born, women had not yet won the vote. Last week, she was the oldest delegate at the Democratic Convention and she cast 51 of Arizona's votes for Hillary Clinton.

You can read more about Ms. Emmitt at CBSnews.com.

WHAT IF YOU TOLD A JOKE AND NOBODY GOT IT

At a press conference on Wednesday, Republican nominee Donald Trump invited Russia to hack Hillary Clinton's email. Treason, said some and if not quite that, certainly terrifying to think an American would encourage a foreign cyberattack.

The next day Trump and his surrogates tried to say he was being sarcastic, that it was a joke. Do you think it sounded like a joke?

GRANDPARENTS FOR HILLARY

During the convention last week, young people posted photos of their grandparents – people like you and me who have been waiting for a woman president for a long time.

I'm With Her

Mom

You can see more grandparents for Hillary here and thank TGB reader Momcat Christi for sending the link.

JOHN OLIVER – THE REPUBLICAN CONVENTION

I know, I know, the Democratic Convention in Philadelphia just ended. However, John Oliver's HBO show, Last Week Tonight returned from hiatus last Sunday, a week ago, and then the Republican Convention had just ended.

It may feel like ancient history now but what Oliver brings to his review of the Republican Convention is an important addition to what we need to understand about Donald Trump.

The Emmy Awards will be presented this year on September 18 broadcast on ABC-TV and this week, when the nominees were announced, Last Week Tonight received six nominations including Outstanding Writing for a Variety Series and Outstanding Variety Talk Series. I think they deserve to win both.

ANOTHER JOHN OLIVER VIDEO

That first Oliver video is shorter than most of his righteous rants on HBO's Last Week Tonight and there was another on last Sunday's show about how candidates use anyone's music any way they want without permission.

Take a look at Oliver's solution: a new song, Don't Use Our Songs.

If you don't know all the singers – I didn't – here is a list:

John Mellencamp
Cyndi Lauper
Usher
Michael Bolton
Heart
Dan Reynolds
Sheryl Crow

You can read more about politicians' unauthorized use of music here.

HOW TO DRIVE A FORD MODEL T

It's fun to compare our increasingly digital automobiles with this video about driving a Model T. As the YouTube page explains,

”Starting in 1908, Henry Ford sold his novel Model T cars as the first to be really accessible to the masses. What's more, he marketed them as easy to handle for casual drivers and (gasp!) women since they started with a button rather than a crank. Thing is, those old Model Ts were still pretty complicated to drive.”

OLD AND ALONE IN CHINATOWN

This video was produced by filmmaker Mantai Chow. It is heartbreaking and there are too many old people who are alone with no one to help except one other.

This video is from The Atlantic online which is increasingly producing interesting video work.

THOUSAND-YEAR-OLD OAK TREE

According to the Daily Mail, this oak tree that lives among a large stand of ancient trees at Blenheim Palace, the birthplace of Winston Churchill, is 1,076 years old.

Thousand Year Old Oak

”The latest measurement, made four weeks ago,” explains the Daily Mail “means the oak started growing in AD970, a century before the Norman Conquest. It was more than 500 years old at the Battle of Bosworth and 700 years old when the first Duke of Marlborough began to build Blenheim in 1705...

“Like ageing humans, the ancient oak has got shorter in old age as its crown has ‘retrenched’, or reduced in size. ‘It starts to shrink and loses its outer limbs,’ says Roy Cox. ‘It goes back to its minimal form.’

“Again, like many humans, the tree has grown fatter and more squat, building up extra bulges of timber at its base to support the gangly mass of branches above.

“The rule of thumb for ancient oaks is that they grow for 300 years, mature for another 300 years and then ‘veteranise’, or decay, for another 300. And this king of the forest just keeps on veteranising, without dying.”

The newspaper reports that Blenheim is home to the greatest collection of ancient oak trees in Europe. You can find out a whole lot more here.

OLD-FASHIONED INSULTS WE SHOULD BRING BACK

TGB Reader and poet Tom Delmore sent the link to this wonderful list of 50-plus old-fashioned insults that the webpage says we should bring back. They are from the 19th century but you will recognize a lot of them.

Here are a few I had never heard before:

Cow-Handed
Awkward

Heathen Philosopher
One whose buttocks may be seen through his pocket-hole; this saying arose from the old philosophers, many of whom despised the vanity of dress to such a point as often to fall into the opposite extreme

Rattlecap
An unsteady, volatile person

Rumbumptious
Pompous, haughty

Unlicked Cub
A loutish youth who has never been taught manners; from the tradition that a bear’s cub, when brought into the world, has no shape or symmetry until its mother licks it into form with her tongue; ill-trained, uncouth, and rude.

You can find a lot more at this website.

ACTOR MATT DAMON EXPLAINS JASON BOURNE

Maybe like me you feel hopelessly out of touch in regard to Game of Thrones. There is hardly a site on the internet that doesn't write about it almost every day with gazillions of videos, interviews, rumors, recaps and speculations.

But it is all a mystery to me and likely to remain so. I've never read the books or seen the TV shows.

That happens these days. We can get left way behind current pop culture because there is just so damned much of it.

Yesterday, a new movie, Jason Bourne, opened in theaters. I had to check Dr. Google to find out this is the fifth(!) in the Bourne series - I may have seen one but I can't be sure.

Anyway, it amused me that someone connected with the production thought it might suffer from the same kind of pop culture overload as Game of Thrones and that it would be useful for the actor who plays Bourne to make this one-and-a-half minute video explaining all you need to know to catch up to the latest chapter in the series.

It's a funny video, a terrific promotional idea and Damon carries it off well. Take a look.

MAKING MINI WORLDS IN MINUTE DETAIL

I loved doll houses when I was a kid and I still love doll houses and miniature scenes of all kinds – the more detail, the more magical they are.

This Frenchman, Dan Ohlman, has been making miniature spaces for 25 years and in doing so, as he says at the end of this video, he has “contributed to the world of dreamers.” Take a look.

You'll find many more photos of Ohlman's work here and here.

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

You are all encouraged to submit items for inclusion. Just click “Contact” 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.


A Meditation on Making New Friends While Old

Judging by the number of online stories about loneliness and feeling alone many, many people are longing for a close friend. A best friend. Most of all, someone to trust.

These articles are usually written by people much younger than you and I who presumably get out and about to a wider variety of places than old people tend to do and meet more people.

But one particular change in employment – working from home – has made finding friends much harder for them than during my career years.

According to a recent study, 45 percent (!) of U.S. employees work from home and that doesn't count freelancers. So finding a friend may be one area of living where youth and age have a lot in common these days.

Or not. Old people are not as likely to hang out in bars and clubs. Old people's oldest friends die at a greater rate. Our energy and stamina trim the number and duration of sports and other physical activities where we might meet others.

And maybe some of you are like me – I am not good at small talk so that when I am in a situation where I can meet others, especially more than one at a time, I am not adept at conversation.

Having friends is important (and I don't mean that perversion of the word, Facebook "friends"), even crucial to our health and wellbeing. Increasing numbers of studies continue to confirm that isolation and loneliness can lead to early death; may be twice as deadly as obesity; and contribute to depression, anxiety and suicide.

We all need friends – even people like me who need a lot of alone time too.

The internet is rife with suggestions for meeting people and making new friends in old age, especially important they say when you no longer work. You know the list:

Volunteer
Join a club that matches your interests
Travel with strangers (Friendly Planet, Road Scholar)
Take classes in whatever interests you
Go to a gym or fitness center regularly
Attend a lecture series
See what's at your local senior center
Get a dog
Join Stitch which is for friends as well as dates
Find interest groups on Meetup

They have been giving us these suggestions forever and there is nothing wrong with any of them. They even work for some people and it really is our own responsibility, each of us, to get off our duffs and figure a way to meet new people who might become friends.

But those hundreds of thousands of articles on Google, all with the same advice, lead one to suspect these traditional ideas are not working well enough for enough people.

At one time or another in the past 10 years since I left my New York City home, I've tried most of the suggestions. I have met people I like, people with whom I share interests, people it's nice to spend time now and then. But none who have become the kind of friend I love and trust without question.

In the six years since I moved to Oregon, I have found one of those but by different means than the usual list.

That person came into my life via email over a mutual concern about which we disagreed. I've long forgotten what the issue was but we decided to have lunch to see if we could sort it out and then we kept having lunch.

It has been about five years now that we have been sharing lunches and dinners and hanging out while exchanging email and phone calls in between. Sometime when I wasn't looking it became everything a friendship should be filled with - kindheartedness, generosity, goodwill and honesty.

It's always been that way with me – I didn't know a person had become a friend until we had already been there for a good while. It is such a delight, then, when the realization hits.

Here is one thing about making new friends that I have never read in all those suggestion lists: it takes time. It takes patience. You can't rush it or will it. It takes doing a variety of things together, talking, exchanging ideas, beliefs, backgrounds. At our age we have a lot of history.

What to do if you don't have a friend, a real friend? I think there is an interim space between an acquaintance and a friend for which there is not a word – at least, not one I know.

These are people to spend time with occasionally or see at events or places you attend regularly, maybe have lunch with now and then. There is pleasure in that. And, sometimes, one may become a friend. Maybe that's the path to becoming friends. But even if not, these are worth our time.

I want to be sure to mention that none of this is to discount friends I love and trust and care about who live far away sometimes because one of us moved away, or it is an internet acquaintanceship that grew into more. I treasure each one of them.

But we also need at least one in-person friend to share whatever it is we need to say aloud, with whom we share secrets and know they will stay that way, someone we can touch and hug when we meet.


Weeping with Joy at Clinton's Nomination

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I sure did surprise myself when that happened yesterday evening. I had written something else for today but then I turned on television, the Democratic convention, and burst into tears – tears of joy - when Secretary Hillary Clinton's nomination became official.

It's not that I didn't know it was going to happen. I didn't forget. In fact, I wrote a post very similar to this one back in June when Clinton topped out the delegate count during the primaries and we knew then she would be the nominee.

But it is a different thing to hear the roll call and the official declaration that she represents the Democratic Party in the 2016 presidential election. This makes it history and we should celebrate again.

There has been so much tsurus during our endless presidential campaign that it has been easy to overlook this amazing event: that one party has nominated a woman – a woman! - for president. In my lifetime.

Now, at last, we have a woman candidate. That's not the only or most important thing about Ms. Clinton. But it is an important milestone.

You and I, people our age, were there at the beginning of the second wave of feminism set off in the 1960s by Betty Friedan, Gloria Steinem and others and by god, things changed. We're not all the way there but what a different, better world women live in today than when I came of age in the late 1950s.

Back then, at the beginning, we met in consciousness raising groups and marched and signed petitions, attended conferences and organized in all kinds of ways. We made this possible, you and me and millions of others who wanted women to have the same rights, privileges and opportunities as men.

Maybe we're not all the way there yet but “we've come a long way, baby” - oh so far - and the nomination of Hillary Clinton is the culmination of what we yearned and worked for.

It is we, the old men and women of the United States, who know, who remember what it was like before. We are the last generation that does - or needs to.

A lot of young women have said that they will not vote for a candidate based on gender. That would be sexist, they say, and they are not wrong.

They are not wrong because ultimately, if great cultural and political movements succeed, the results become ordinary, customary, no longer an issue. And for young women today, that is now the case and that is our generation's achievement.


Presidential Politics for Elders

This Monday begins the Democrats' turn to present, over the next four days, their vision for the future of the United States.

Last week, the Republicans – well, never mind. The party hardly matters anymore. It is Trump unleashed now, untethered from the political organization to which he nominally belongs.

Have there ever been any more frightening words from a presidential candidate than these: “I am your voice. I alone can fix this.”

Take a moment to let the meaning of that statement sink it.

Now imagine how a president who believes that (Trump wasn't joking when he said it) would put it into practice.

When you can breathe again, let's look at just one of the bigger issues of interest to elders (and more than a few children), Social Security.

If anyone on the stage in Cleveland last week mentioned the program, even in passing, no one noticed. But it has a heavy presence in the Republican Party platform [pdf] that the delegates adopted by acclamation at their convention. From the platform:

"As Republicans, we oppose tax increases and believe in the power of markets to create wealth and to help secure the future of our Social Security system."

If you are missing the point, let me translate: privatize Social Security.

Let's take a look at what the two presidential candidates themselves have said so far about Social Security.

AARP recently asked both the Clinton and Trump campaigns to submit 600-word statements about what they would do to make Social Security sound for future generations.

According to the responses, in general, Secretary Clinton supports expanding Social Security and offers some intriguing details on how she would do so. Mr. Trump's proposal is little more than “to have an economy that is robust and growing.”

You can read their entire answers here.

But in the recent past, Trump has shown no inclination to change Social Security at all, unlike running mate, Governor Mike Pence, who is long on the record endorsing destruction of the program.

Back in 2005, then-Congressman Pence supported then-President George Bush's bid to privatize Social Security and as the National Committee to Preserve Social Security and Medicare (NCPSSM) reported a few days ago,

”Mike Pence was one of Congress’ biggest proponents of privatization. He supports cutting Social Security benefits by raising the retirement age, reducing the COLA, means-testing and turning Medicare into 'CouponCare.'”

In case you think what Pence wants to do with Social Security is not important if a man as narcisstic and full of himself as Trump is president, let me remind you of a remarkable anecdote making the rounds during the Republican convention.

According to The New York Times Magazine which was the first to report it:

”One day this past May, Donald Trump’s eldest son, Donald Trump Jr., reached out to a senior adviser to Gov. John Kasich of Ohio, who left the presidential race just a few weeks before. As a candidate, Kasich declared in March that Trump was 'really not prepared to be president of the United States...'

“But according to the Kasich adviser (who spoke only under the condition that he not be named), Donald Jr. wanted to make him an offer nonetheless: Did he have any interest in being the most powerful vice president in history?

“When Kasich’s adviser asked how this would be the case, Donald Jr. explained that his father’s vice president would be in charge of domestic and foreign policy.

“Then what, the adviser asked, would Trump be in charge of?

“'Making America great again,' was the casual reply.”

Wow. So what if Governor Pence was made the same offer – that he, as vice president, would be in charge of everything a president is Constitutionally responsible for?

Do keep in mind that preserving Social Security is not just for you and me. It is for at least three million children who have a parent who is disabled, retired or who died on the job. It is for your children when they are old enough and for your grandchildren and beyond.

If you believe Secretary Clinton is too much an old-school pol or that her running mate, Senator Tim Kaine, is too boring (even he says he's boring), please reread all the above. For the sake of our country.

You might also take a look at 50 Shockingly Extreme Right-Wing Proposals in the 2016 Republican Party Platform that Alternet has compiled in an easy-to-read format – particularly important if Pence is in charge.

And if that isn't enough for you, go read Michael Moore's five reasons he believes Donald Trump will win.


ELDER MUSIC: Seasons - Winter

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.

* * *

Winter

Well, it's winter here as I write this, and it's damn cold – well, cold for Australia but it could be summer when it's published, or some other season. That's okay, it'll be winter somewhere, but perhaps not for long if global warming continues unchecked.

I'll start with a track from Norma, the Assistant Musicologist's favorite album by BOB DYLAN.

Bob Dylan

The A.M. isn't like the other kiddies. Regular readers with really good memories will know of which album I speak. For everyone else, let me say that it's "New Morning". The song from that one is Winterlude.

♫ Bob Dylan - Winterlude


GORDON LIGHTFOOT makes another welcome appearance in these season columns.

Gordon Lightfoot

As a Canadian, he should know about winter and I won't dwell on that any further as I did so in one of the earlier columns. From quite an early album of Gordie's ("The Way I Feel") we have Song for a Winter's Night.

♫ Gordon Lightfoot - Song for a Winter's Night


Now, an Australian singing about winter: DOUG ASHDOWN. Of course, he had to leave the country to do so.

Doug Ashdown

Doug started out playing guitar in a rock band and later went to Nashville in the seventies to write songs for others. It was there that he wrote this one for himself that became a bit of a hit.

After returning to Oz he made a career as a singer/songwriter/troubadour. Here he is with Winter in America.

♫ Doug Ashdown - Winter In America


The second incarnation of BLOOD, SWEAT & TEARS saw them produce a number of world-wide hits sung by newcomer David Clayton-Thomas.

Blood, Sweat & Tears

The song Sometimes in Winter is from that period - however, it's sung by original member Steve Katz who wrote it. It's a bit of an anomaly on their second album, but a good one, nonetheless.

Blood, Sweat & Tears - Sometimes in Winter


SIMON AND GARFUNKEL's album "Bookends" had some of their finest recorded moments. Unfortunately, it also contained some of their wankiest moments.

Simon and Garfunkel

A Hazy Shade of Winter is far from their best song but it doesn't fit into that second category either. Here it is.

♫ Simon & Garfunkel - A Hazy Shade of Winter


DAVE BRUBECK has managed to get into three of the seasons, summer was the only one he missed (and he could have been in that one too).

Dave Brubeck

From his album "Jazz Impressions of New York" (which contains tunes about all four seasons, and so was very useful to me in this series), he and the quartet play Winter Ballad.

♫ Dave Brubeck - Winter Ballad


DON MCLEAN recorded an album that everyone knows about.

Don McLean

I don't have to tell you which one it was. There were other songs on it, and this is one of them, Winterwood.

♫ Don McLean - Winterwood


The A.M. and I both consider GARLAND JEFFREYS to be one of the under-sung heroes of popular music.

Garland Jeffreys

This isn't one of his best efforts but anything he recorded is well worth a listen. This one seems to anticipate the musical development of the last couple of decades. Sorry about that. Coney Island Winter.

♫ Garland Jeffreys - Coney Island Winter


I first encountered RODNEY CROWELL as guitarist and songwriter in Emmylou Harris's Hot Band.

Rodney Crowell

After going solo, he recorded some excellent albums, worth checking out if you like that sort of thing. He has collaborated with Emmy often over the years – touring together and making a couple of good albums.

From the album "Sex and Gasoline" is the song Forty Winters. Sorry, no Emmy on this one.

♫ Rodney Crowell - Forty Winters


TANITA TIKARAM is one of my musical finds over the last few years. She shows that some young folks are still making real music.

Tanita Tikaram

Okay, not so young any more, but she still is to most of us who are reading this. She should know about winter as she lives in London. Her song is Heart in Winter.

♫ Tanita Tikaram - Heart In Winter


INTERESTING STUFF – 23 July 2016

THE LAST CAROUSEL CRAFTSMEN

Remember carousels? I loved them when I was a kid. I still do. I suppose for today's kids they seem tame compared to the thrill rides at big amusement parks. Too bad. They are beautiful pieces of art.

Carousel Works is the last, they say, hand-made carousel manufacturer in the United States. Take a look:

You can visit the website here.

PAINTED EYES ON COW BUTTS

Don't laugh at the headline – well, go ahead but it is serious too. In Africa, lions eat a lot of the livestock farmers are raising. So an Australian came up with the idea of painting eyes on the butts of cows to scare off the lions. Take a look as he explains:

Read more at Gizmodo. And thank Peter Tibbles, who holds forth in the music column here on Sundays, for finding this story.

RESTRICTIVE VOTER ID LAWS EASED IN TWO STATES

Many states have enacted laws aimed at keeping minorities (and old people) from voting. This week federal judges revoked those laws in two states:

”The ruling by U.S. District Court Judge Lynn Adelman temporarily eases the impact of a 2011 Wisconsin law requiring voters to show photo identification before being allowed to cast a ballot.

"Although most voters in Wisconsin either possess qualifying ID or can easily obtain one, a safety net is needed for those voters who cannot obtain qualifying ID with reasonable effort," Adelman said in his order.”

As regards the Texas law:

”The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit, in a close decision among a special 15-judge panel, also sent the case back to a district court to examine claims by the plaintiffs that the law had a discriminatory purpose.

“The New Orleans-based Fifth Circuit, which has a reputation as one of the most conservative federal appeals courts, asked the district court for a short-term fix to be used in Texas in the November general election.”

There are still too many other states with restrictive voting laws but this is good news. You can read more about each decision here and here.

A JOHN OLIVER WEB EXTRA: ENDORSEMENTS

John Oliver's HBO program, Last Week Tonight has been on hiatus but the host makes a point to provide us with our Oliver fix via short Web Extras when there's not show.

This week's was about political endorsements:

Last Week Tonight, returns from hiatus tomorrow, Sunday night.

A STUNNING BOOKSHOP IN BUENOS AIRES

The Bored Panda page explains the history:

”Tucked away in Barrio Norte, Buenos Aires is a beautiful bookshop called El Ateneo Grand Splendid. It is built within the almost 100-year-old Grand Splendid Theater, which opened in 1919.

“The theatre was later converted into a cinema and eventually, in 2000, it was converted into the El Ateneo Grand Splendid bookshop, which currently welcomes over one million visitors each year.”

Here are a couple of photographs.

Buenos-aires-bookstore-theatre-el-ateneo-grand-splendid-1

Buenos-aires-bookstore-theatre-el-ateneo-grand-splendid-2

And here is a shot of the exterior:

Buenos-aires-bookstore-theatre-el-ateneoexterior

More photos at Bored Panda and more information at Wikipedia.

SATIRE: GUN MANUFACTURERS OF AMERICA

Here's another from Peter Tibbles – a video from satirist Deven Green in her Mrs. Betty Bowers, America's Best Christian guise taking on the U.S. gun industry.

If you think it is too soon to post something like this, here is Green's response to that question on the YouTube page, and I agree:

“In deference to you 'too soon' folks, I was going to wait until a day not close to a mass shooting (or the anniversary of one) to release [this video] – until I realized that no such day exists in America anymore."


Comedian Deven Green, an alumna of Second City who holds dual Canadian/U.S. citizenship is well known for her satire. Her website is here.

THE COMMA QUEEN: IS “NONE” SINGULAR OR PLURAL?

The Comma Queen is Mary Norris, a copy editor at The New Yorker magazine.

I have always believed “none” is a singular noun requiring a singular verb but Ms. Norris says time moves on and grammar rules can change. Take a look:

NETWORK NEWS ANCHOR PEOPLE

Let's just call this Peter Tibbles Day at Interesting Stuff. This cartoon is also from him – a more-powerful-than-you-would-think commentary on how unimportant the three broadcast networks' evening news programs are nowadays.

Networkanchors

The cartoonist is Jimmy Johnson. There are more from him at GoComics.

WHO RESCUED WHOM?

Get out your hankies, folks. You will need them in the best possible way. It's an old story that doesn't get old.

* * *

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.


Recovery Time in Old Age

So far in my old age – I am 75 – I have been lucky in my health (I say that with multiple knockings on wood). I have no intrusive afflictions, no conditions, no diseases, nothing that requires medication.

I owe a lot of my good health, I tell myself, to a strong, peasant gene pool and without being zealous, try to eat well, exercise regularly and get enough sleep.

That doesn't mean I haven't slowed down. I don't have the energy reserve now that during most of my earlier life was so easily available that I didn't notice or appreciate it. I wear out more quickly these days and it takes longer to recover when I have overdone.

I mention this today because time was, one good night's sleep refreshed me from any extra strain on my body. No longer.

On Tuesday, I underwent more dental surgery. You've heard this story before but that was my upper jaw, now in excellent working order. This year it is the lower jaw.

The surgery was no small undertaking. It lasted about an hour-and-half involving cutting out an old bridge, inserting a temporary one, mostly cosmetic so there is not a gap in my smile while the two implants that were also inserted on Tuesday take the next four months to fuse with bone after which the new overdenture can be crafted.

I napped most of the rest of the day and slept more soundly than usual that night - for all the good it did me: I didn't feel much different on Wednesday so I took another day off from life. And, except for this post, another one on Thursday so I would be rested enough to enjoy a two-hour Friday morning group meeting I was looking forward to.

The recovery seems lengthy – two-and-a-half days – but too often we (read: I) forget that dental surgery is, after all, surgery and just because I don't have a big bandage or cast to show off, doesn't mean it's not a bodily invasion by foreign objects involving blood and, when the anesthetic wears off, pain.

It took every bit of that recovery time for me to feel right again this week and it's not that I didn't know I would need it. It had take several days during similar surgeries for my upper jaw - I just forgot and therefore was blindsided with the time needed this week to feel restored.

(NOTE: I'm not looking for sympathy with this post. After nearly two years of continuing dental work, it has become more of an annoyance than anything else. I've learned how to manage residual pain and to prepare ahead to have soft foods ready during the healing period. But that doesn't shorten the recovery time.)

A week or two ago, a friend said to me, “No one tells you these things about growing old when you're young.” She was specifically referring to how much longer it takes to do all kinds of things after 50 or 60 or 70, and that it would have been nice to be warned.

I've often said that myself. I've probably written it in these pages too. But I've had plenty of time to think about that this week and I've changed my mind.

Why clutter up other people's younger years with news that would only be taken as a bummer?

The changes of ageing come to us gradually over decades and even as we might resent them, we accommodate them as needed, as (ahem) time goes by.

And anyway, who would believe us when we say that the day will come when you cannot play tennis all afternoon, prepare a dinner for 10 guests and then go dancing until 2AM without a second thought?

I would not have believed it – or, at least, not taken it seriously - even in my forties. So unless they ask, let them find out in their own time, I think now. Most of us manage the surprises of age without too much fuss, forgetful as I was about them this week.


Not Enough Geriatricians

When I moved to Oregon in 2010, and needed a new physician, I used the internet to track down the geriatricians in my area. About half the listings included a note that the doctor was not taking new patients.

When I telephoned the remaining names on my list, each one told me they were not taking new patients.

So much for finding healthcare that actually relates to my stage of life and needs.

FACT: In 2014, there were 46.2 million people 65 and older in the U.S.

FACT: In 2030, there will be about 71.4 million people in the U.S. 65 and older

FACT: Currently, there are about 7,000 geriatricians in the U.S. - about one for every 6600 people.

As The New York Times reported in January,

”The American Geriatrics Society estimates that to meet the demand, medical schools would have to train at least 6,250 additional geriatricians between now and 2030, or about 450 more a year than the current rate.”

In case you are misinformed – many people are - the Times article also includes a good, short explanation of what a geriatrician is:

”...a physician already certified in internal or family medicine who has completed additional training in the care of older adults. In addition to providing clinical care, geriatricians are skilled in navigating the labyrinth of psychological and social problems that often arise in the aging population.”

Some people, even some physicians, believe that primary care doctors can delivery the same-quality care to elders as geriatricians. Elizabeth Eckstrom, a geriatrician who happens to practice right near me in Portland, Oregon, refutes that:

”If primary care doctors were providing optimal care to older adults, polypharmacy would not be one of the leading killers in that population. Fifty percent of dementia would not be missed in primary care practices. Many patients with delirium would not be missed by physicians in our hospitals.

“Recent evidence about care provided by geriatrics teams shows that hospital length of stay is about one day shorter, costs less, and has fewer complications, including falls, pressure ulcers, and catheter-associated urinary tract infections.”

Dr. Eckstrom also says not every elder needs a geriatrician but has called for additional training of all types of health care providers (except pediatricians).

Many residencies in geriatrics go empty. The biggest reason is that geriatricians are paid much less than other specialists. They can expect an annual income of about half that of other specialties - $200,000 versus $400,000. Their insurance reimbursement is usually less that other physicians because elder care just takes more time than other specialists require.

”Unlike other physicians who might specialize in one organ system or disease, geriatricians must be adept at treating patients who sometimes are managing five to eight chronic conditions, reports U.S. News and World Report.

“...Geriatricians also 'pay special attention' to a person’s cognitive and functional abilities, including walking, eating, dressing and other activities of daily living, McCormick says. 'Geriatricians take a holistic approach. We look at how we can help patients to be as functional as possible and exist in the community in the best way possible,' he says.

American surgeon, Atul Gawande, wrote the best, most eloquent explanation of the complexities of geriatric care I've ever read. It is a long story in the 30 April 2007 issue of The New Yorker magazine titled “The Way We Age Now.”

For the story, Dr. Gawande shadowed a geriatrician through his day seeing patients and recounts in detail the entire examination and the many questions the geriatrician asks one 85-year-old woman who lives on her own. Then -

”In the story of Jean Gavrilles and her geriatrician, there’s a lesson about frailty. Decline remains our fate; death will come. But, until that last backup system inside each of us fails, decline can occur in two ways.

“One is early and precipitately, with an old age of enfeeblement and dependence, sustained primarily by nursing homes and hospitals. The other way is more gradual, preserving, for as long as possible, your ability to control your own life.

“Good medical care can influence which direction a person’s old age will take.

“Most of us in medicine, however, don’t know how to think about decline. We’re good at addressing specific, individual problems: colon cancer, high blood pressure, arthritic knees. Give us a disease, and we can do something about it.

“But give us an elderly woman with colon cancer, high blood pressure, arthritic knees, and various other ailments besides—an elderly woman at risk of losing the life she enjoys—and we are not sure what to do.”

This is what geriatricians are for – to “think about decline” and to preserve, “for as long as possible, your ability to control your own life.”

And bless every one of them for doing so.

Unfortunately, most of us will not have that kind of care and will need to educate ourselves in our own care to work with the kind of physicians we have.

From an article last week in Kaiser Health News:

”[Dr. Todd] Goldberg also teaches at the Charleston division of West Virginia University and runs one of the state’s four geriatric fellowship programs for medical residents. Geriatric fellowships are required for any physician wanting to enter the field.

“For the past three years, no physicians have entered the fellowship program at WVU-Charleston. In fact, no students have enrolled in any of the four geriatric fellowship programs in West Virginia in the past three years.

“'This is not just our local program, or in West Virginia,' said Goldberg. 'This is a national problem.'

“The United States has 130 geriatric fellowship programs, with 383 positions. In 2016, only 192 of them were filled.”

One more problem in our world for which there seems to be no solution.


The Deadly World We Live in Now

As I set about writing today's post yesterday morning, pulling together notes and links on a health-related story, the teevee news droning in the background interrupted itself with the announcement of shootings in Baton Rouge.

It took me a couple of minutes to work out that this was not related to the killing of Alton Sterling in that Louisiana city two weeks ago. It was new violence, new deaths.

This on top of the attempted coup in Turkey that had consumed the news for the previous two days killing 265 people, following on the 84 dead in Nice three days earlier.

And so on.

Another day, another terror attack.

Another day, another mass killing.

Another day, dozens more dead.

It's all so ordinary now, isn't it. Even expected. And that is deeply unsettling.

But we are only halfway through the month of July and the number of attacks – domestic and terror – is stupefying.

July 1, Baghdad: 6 dead
July 1 Dhaka: 29 dead
July 3 Baghdad: 309 dead
July 5 Baton Rouge: 1 (Alton Sterling)
July 6 Minnesota: 1 (Philando Castile)
July 7 Michigan: 3 dead
July 7 Dallas: 5 dead (police officers)
July 14 Nice: 84 dead
July 17 near Orlando: 2 dead
July 17 Baton Rouge: 3 dead (police officers)

Coming on the heels of horror in Orlando in June, those are only the shootings and terror attacks that have been most widely reported. You can see an up-to-date, full list of U.S. killings at the Gun Violence Archive.

Among them are at least 29 police officers shot dead so far in 2016, according to USA Today. The Washington Post reports 522 people shot dead by police so far in 2016.

Have I missed any? Oh god. So many that it numbs the mind. The awful part that prompted this blog post is that I can't remember the names of the places without a cheat sheet anymore, let alone the people - BECAUSE THERE ARE SO MANY.

Not to pile on, but Wikipedia keeps a running list of worldwide terrorist attacks – this one is the list for July.

A side note about that last link: I take issue with the classification of two listings because yesterday's shootings of three police officers in Baton Rouge do not appear to be terror-related. And I do not believe the truck attack in Nice last week was ISIS-inspired as most media have reported based only on the killer's Arabic name. At least one watchdog group agrees with me.

But those mistaken classifications are piffle. It hardly matters in the greater sense of a world that is going mad, and I don't know how to understand it.

The media and our leaders react to the individual events with platitudes never acknowledging the increasing frequency of multiple deaths one after another or that something has come unhinged in our world.

No one is doing anything useful. Moments of silence and prayer are not working.

It worries and frightens me that three and four and five occurrences (!) of terror attacks and multiple gun deaths in any given week will soon be the new normal – which can and will happen if it goes on at this pace much longer.

How do we change this? Who will do it?


ELDER MUSIC: Seasons - Autumn

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.

* * *

Autumn

That's one of my pics, taken in Daylesford (Victoria, Australia).

There must be something about autumn that brings out the jazz in musicians; much of the music today is in that style.

When I searched my collection of music for autumn I found a hell of a lot. However, on closer inspection, it seems that most of those were just different versions of two songs. They were Autumn Leaves and the first one today, Autumn in New York.

I started through all the versions of it and there were some nice takes on the song but when I came to BILLIE HOLIDAY I didn't bother going any further.

Billie Holiday

You probably know by now, if you're a regular reader, that if Billie is in the mix she is pretty much an automatic selection. So it is today.

♫ Billie Holiday - Autumn In New York


THE KINKS weren't like the other English kiddies of their time who were all trying to be American blues or soul performers.

Kinks

No, the Kinks celebrated their Englishness even more so than The Beatles did and that set them apart from the others. They liked to sing songs of the small charms of their immediate surroundings. Not for them the big picture and for that they produced minor masterpieces.

I don't know if this belongs in that category, but it's fun. Autumn Almanac.

♫ Kinks - Autumn Almanac


As I mentioned, I have dozens of versions of Autumn Leaves and I employed Norma, the Assistant Musicologist, to help me in deciding which one we needed. There were some that should have been included, but we had them performing other songs today, so they were out.

It came down to ÉDITH PIAF who had the most interesting version.

Edith Piaf

Édith, of course, mostly sang in French but not exclusively. Here's her take on Autumn Leaves with quite a bit of vibrato.

♫ Edith Piaf - Autumn Leaves


Both CHET BAKER and BILL EVANS were considered for the previous track but I already had them down for this one.

Chet Baker & ;Bill Evans

Here they play together, fortunately for me as I don't have to choose one or the other. The tune they play is called 'Tis Autumn.

♫ Chet Baker & Bill Evans - 'Tis Autumn


If there's any chance of getting BILLY ECKSTINE in a column, The A.M. will put up her hand and go, "Yes, yes, yes.”

Billy Eckstine

I haven't actually mentioned his appearance to her, so her hand raising is implied. Billy's song in today's category is Early Autumn.

♫ Billy Eckstine - Early Autumn


Not content with playing both the trumpet and the flugelhorn, ART FARMER commissioned an instrument he called the flumpet, a combination of the previous two (which aren't all that different really).

Art Farmer

Art played with pretty much every great jazz (and a few blues) performers in the forties and fifties. He was very popular in Europe and settled in Vienna for many years before returning to New York.

My ears aren’t good enough to tell if Art is playing the trumpet, flugelhorn or flumpet on Autumn Nocturne,

♫ Art Farmer - Autumn Nocturne


JOHNNY HARTMAN made a terrific album a long time ago with JOHN COLTRANE.

John Coltrane & Johnny Hartman

This is one I had in my collection way back when it was on vinyl, and it's one I still play (not on vinyl anymore). It's a pity that that was all they did together (on record anyway), but at least we have that one.

From it we have Johnny singing and John playing Autumn Serenade.

♫ John Coltrane & Johnny Hartman - Autumn Serenade


VAN MORRISON shows in Autumn Song that he would have made quite a decent jazz singer.

Van Morrison

There's background: in his great early album "Astral Weeks" he was backed by a jazz group rather than a rock band. Besides that, he's had a long-term musical relationship with Georgie Fame who is an excellent jazz singer himself, so I shouldn't really be surprised. See (or hear) what you think.

♫ Van Morrison - Autumn Song


For a complete change of pace from all the other songs today I give you GIT.

Git

Git were a short-lived all female band from Melbourne who were country-ish, folk-ish, rock-ish. Hard to pin them down really. Git were Trish Anderson, Philomena Carroll, Sarah Carroll and Suzannah Espie.

Sarah sings lead on Autumn Love. April, of course, is autumn in this neck of the woods.

♫ Git - Autumn Love


Getting back to the predominantly jazz theme today, I'll end with one of the most popular exponents of the art, Dave Brubeck, well the DAVE BRUBECK QUARTET to be precise.

Dave Brubeck

Their contribution is Autumn in Washington Square from the album "Jazz Impressions of New York.”

♫ Dave Brubeck - Autumn in Washington Square


INTERESTING STUFF – 16 July 2016

SECRETARY CLINTON COMMITS TO EXPANDING SOCIAL SECURITY

At their appearance together last Tuesday (which this week feels like a month ago) as Senator Bernie Sanders endorsed Secretary Hillary Clinton for president, she adopted Sanders's position on Social Security. Here's the short video tape:

A worthy goal for elders and for younger people who depend on Social Security too.

Far less encouraging news is Donald Trump's choice for his running mate, Indiana Governor Mike Pence. He has a shameful record on Social Security and Medicare. From the National Committee to Preserve Social Security and Medicare (NCPSSM):

”During his decade-plus tenure in the U.S. Congress, Mike Pence consistently voted in favor of legislative efforts to cut benefits in Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid...Few members of Congress have an anti-seniors voting record as consistently strong as Mike Pence.

“Mike Pence was one of Congress’ biggest proponents of privatization. He supports cutting Social Security benefits by raising the retirement age, reducing the COLA, means-testing and turning Medicare into 'CouponCare.' As he told CNN, ‘I’m an all of the above guy.'”

Read more at the NCPSSM.

ELDERS TALK ABOUT SEX

I am fast becoming a fan of Dr. James Hamblin, a young physician and senior editor at The Atlantic who produces a video series for the magazine titled “If Our Bodies Could Talk.”

In this one, he asked some old people at a senior center in Manhattan about sex.

Actually, in this case, the accompanying story at The Atlantic is more interesting than the video. You should go read it – who else could know as much about sex as old people...

BOSTON DYNAMICS' LATEST ROBOT

Of course, I don't know about you, but I find the use of a lethal robot by the Dallas Police Department to be a terrifying precedent. But I also have an ongoing interest in robots who might (will?) become helpful companions to people.

In the past, I have featured the development of robots by Boston Dynamics and this is their latest, the Spot Mini. Take a look at the amazing things it can do:

Each new video from Boston Dynamcs shows dramatic advances in their robots' capabilities. Read more at Gajitz and at the Boston Dynamics website.

A JOHN OLIVER WEB EXTRA: FAN MAIL

John Oliver's HBO show, Last Week Tonight does not return from hiatus unti 24 July but as he often does during these absences, he has provided a short video to hold us over.

This one is about his fan mail.

THIS JUST IN REGARDING JOHN STEWART

I had finished writing today's post on Friday morning when an email advised that John Stewart will be joining The Late Show with Stephen Colbert for the two weeks of the political conventions.

And wait till you read the rest of the lineup according to Esquire:

While it's still unclear what Stewart's contribution to the show will be, Colbert's live convention coverage will also include Elizabeth Warren, Anthony Weiner, Jeff Daniels, Allison Janney, Keegan-Michael Key, and John Oliver.”

Can't wait. I'll be glued to Colbert's coverage.

TURNING DESERTS GREEN

Water or, rather, the lack thereof is an increasing global problem and if not a disaster yet, may well become so before long, turning once fertile land into deserts.

So this was some small amount of good news. First the background:

”...many once-fertile lands are turning into desert, and a significant amount of agricultural land is lost every year. What’s more, when governments and nonprofit organizations try to bring back grasslands, forests, and other ecosystems destroyed by agriculture and other human uses, they are often disappointed: Restoration can take decades. It sometimes fails altogether.

A new study comes from E. R. Jasper Wubs, an ecologist at the Netherlands Institute of Ecology who spread soil from healthy heathland – hills dominated by heather – or from grassland, to stripped ground, added seeds from 30 plant species and waited six years.

”Plots with heathland soil were covered with heather and gorse, whereas plots with grasslands soil were overflowing with a variety of grasses. The added soil made the existing land richer...”

Here is the before and after photo:

DesertGreening

Everyone involved is encouraged by the success and tests continue on reclaiming “dead” lands:

“This approach could yield new ecosystems in a matter of years, not decades, Wubs says. 'Natural succession takes much, much longer.'”

More details at Science.

FIREFLY EXPERIENCE

Amazingly, when I lived in Manhattan, my small backyard produced a large supply of fireflies at certain times of the year that came out at dusk, just the right time of day to see them at their most magical.

This week, a gorgeous video of fireflies by a photographer, Radim Schreider, came to my attention. He explains:

”In this short movie, I tried to capture my feelings and experiences with fireflies in the woods near my house in Fairfield, Iowa. I wanted to document not only their beauty and magical glow, but also behavior in their natural environment.

“I have chosen not to do any digital manipulation to the video itself, so the footage came straight from the camera.”

He recommends that we watch this video at night, full screen with all the lights off:

Radim Schreider is an award-winning nature photographer. You can see more of his work at his website.

HOW THE DUTCH BUILT A TUNNEL IN ONE WEEKEND

In an extraordinary feat of engineering and hard work, this 70-meter tunnel was built in The Netherlands over one weekend, people working day and night AND in the rain.

Here's the time-lapse video that Darlene Costner forwarded.

GOOD NEWS ON MEDICAL MARIJUANA AND ON DISEASES OF AGEING

According to a new study from the University of Georgia, the use of medical marijuana in states where it is available is reducing the cost of the Medicare Part D prescription drug program:

”The savings, due to lower prescription drug use, were estimated to be $165.2 million in 2013, a year when 17 states and the District of Columbia had implemented medical marijuana laws. The results suggest that if all states had implemented medical marijuana the overall savings to Medicare would have been around $468 million...

“The researchers will explore these consequences further in their next study...which will look at medical marijuana's effects on Medicaid, a joint federal and state program that helps with medical costs and typically serves an older population.”

You can read more at Medical News Today.

In another medical development that affects elders, it appears that the traditional diseases of age are in decline. Take a look at the graph for colon cancer, the rate of which has fallen by nearly 50 percent since the 1980s:

ReductioninDiseasesOfAgeing

Scientists say there are a number possible reasons for the reduction in cases of cancer, heart disease, stroke, etc. but they can't be certain yet which ones contribute to the health gains, and consider it to be, for now, a mystery:

”...it looks as if people in the United States and some other wealthy countries are, unexpectedly, starting to beat back the diseases of aging. The leading killers are still the leading killers...but they are occurring later in life, and people in general are living longer in good health.”

Read more about this good news at The New York Times.

TAKE ONE LONELY PUPPY, ONE LONELY KITTEN AND...

This short video from the Jo Linn Pet House, forwarded here from TGB reader Ali, may be the cutest thing you'll see all week.

* * *

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.


Old Age: What's Not to Enjoy?

That headline is what legendary television producer Norman Lear says about ageing. He will be 94 on the 27th of this month, one of the top examples we have right now for fighting entrenched ageism for two reasons:

  1. He is as productive as he was when All in the Family et al dominated prime-time television.

  2. He has been on the receiving end of Hollywood ageism for at least the past several years.

Given his many successes in the genre, no one can deny that Norman Lear is the master of sitcoms. Five years ago, he began shopping a script for a new one titled, Guess Who Died? set in a retirement community and he has gotten nowhere with it.

“I heard from everybody," he told an an audience at the Austin Film Festival last fall. "They laughed, thought it was funny, but didn’t have a problem saying, ‘It’s just not our demographic.'”

Further on that topic at the Festival:

“As I got upwards in my 80s and into my 90s, the networks behaved like one Betty White covered a whole demographic. I love Betty White, but she is not the entire demographic. They are in retirement villages across the country.”

For those who believe ageism is unimportant, that it can be dismissed as a few derogatory words or jokes that are not worth paying attention to, consider this: the only difference between Normal Lear trying to find work and any other 60- or 70- or 80- or 90-year-old in the same situation is that Lear happens to be famous. It is so ubiquitous even a man who was one of the biggest money makers in Hollywood is ignored.

Although still without a contract for the show, Lear decided to hold a casting session for Guess Who Died? anyway. Film producers Heidi Ewing and Rachel Grady were there to make a short video of it for The New York Times. As one of them wrote:

”...we were mesmerized by the parade of actors that came through the door to audition. Mostly septo- or octogenarians, none of them exhibited the nerves or the vanity we’ve come to expect from hopeful thespians. Instead they read their lines with a humor and emotional nuance that was deeply felt and wonderfully lived-in.

“Suddenly, there in that casting room, I saw my grandmother again, then my favorite uncle and my chatty neighbor down the hall — all real people who walk among us, have so much to offer and are ready for their close up. All we need to do is look.”

Now you take a look and particularly note Norman Lear's commentary at the end:

Let's not allow that important, short speech at the end float off into the ether. Here it is in writing:

“Aren't you expected to grow? Learn more about yourself? About the world? You are when you're young. Why would you be less expected to grow when you're 80?

“The culture dictates how you behave and maybe the elderly buy into it the way they grow old. My role here now is to say, 'Wait a minute. That's not all there is. There's a good time to be had at this age.'”

Which is exactly what I've been trying to say here for the past 12 years.

Lordy, would I like to see that Guess Who Died? sitcom. Remember how sharp and relevant All in the Family, The Jeffersons, Maude and the rest of Lear's shows were? Imagine if he were allowed to bring that talent and expertise to a show starring old people.

The Mses Ewing and Grady have also produced a full-length documentary titled, Norman Lear: Just Another Version of You. Here is the official trailer:

The documentary has not been widely distributed but may be playing in a few theaters around the U.S. now. In October, you can watch it on the American Masters program on PBS and it will be available on Netflix beginning in November.

Even in his frustration with ageism in general and in getting Guess Who Died? produced, Norman Lear brings a joy to his old age. Everyone should.


What to Expect From the Free Medicare Wellness Visit

The Affordable Care Act (ACA), or Obamacare, includes several benefits for Medicare beneficiaries including a Welcome to Medicare Wellness Visit.

This is not a substitute for a more extensive physicial exam but a way for your physician to ask some questions about your health and work with you to develop or update a plan to prevent disease.

I was reminded of this recently when my internet friend, Chuck Nyren, published a report at his Huffington Post blog (where he describes himself as “Writer, Gadfly, Troublemaker”) about his first wellness visit.

It was a good reminder to me to tell you about it but on second thought, why reinvent the wheel, I thought. Besides, Chuck is a funnier guy than I am and he gave me permission to reprint his story titled Welcome to Your Welcome to Medicare Visit. Here's Chuck.

* * *

I didn’t ask if it was mandatory when this lady called, I just said, “Yeah, yeah, I’ll do it.” A free exam of some sort because you’re now sixty-five was what she wanted me to schedule. I did.

She said it wouldn’t be with my doctor but with a health care professional. I was only half listening. “And the best part is you can spend a whole hour with her! Not like with your Provider where you’re only allowed fifteen minutes.”

My egoism got the better of me. A whole hour talking about me, and if I’m not talking about me the other person is talking about me. That sounded great.

On my way to the appointment I tried to think of things to talk about. My arthritic knees had been overly achy lately but for the last few days had been fine. Other than that, I felt pretty good. It was weird going to the doctor when there was nothing wrong with you.

A nurse called my name. I was weighed, had pounded up a bit over the winter. I’ll lose it. Blood pressure was high a tad, lungs and heart sounded good. She shook out an octopus array of wires and I had a quick EKG. Heart = Fine. The nurse left and I spent a few minutes yanking off the stickies from crannies on my torso I never knew existed.

Marlene knocked and entered. “Welcome to your Welcome To Medicare Wellness Exam!”

“Thanks!” I said. I was chipper. She was chipper. We were chipper.

“Over the weekend I spent some time looking over your medical history,” she said.

“So that’s why my ears were burning!”

She readied herself to type. “Is there something wrong with your ears?”

“Ummm, no. A little wax, maybe.”

She typed something.

After documenting the faux affliction, we got to the real ones. I’d had some issues over the last few years, mostly one-offs like an episode of gout, shingles, a fainting spell (documented here on Huffington Post), some panic attacks years ago that still ambush me every so often.

The rest were namby-pamby boring stuff — none worthy of even a mention in a TV medical drama. A kidney stone fifteen years ago, psoriasis on and off. With every affliction mentioned, she typed and typed.

“It says you have cancer in your family.”

“Yes. Here and there.”

“Any family history of heart problems?”

“No.”

“Diabetes?”

“A brother and a grandmother. You probably see there that I took a bunch of blood tests a few months ago and everything was normal except my triglycerides were a bit high.”

We went through my medications. “Do you still take Cialis?”

“...Sure, when needed. Although I don’t really need it. If I take it it’s only a nick off the pill to counteract the very small, daily dose of Zoloft. If a hotsy-totsy night is planned, it just makes things a lot easier for, you know...everyone involved.”

She typed something.

There was talk about my thyroid. This was the first I’d heard of it. (A blood test was ordered, the next day it came back in the normal range.)

We said our goodbyes and I was out the door with a few pages of hard-copy in my hand. I imagined it read, You’re fine, go home.

I don’t remember exactly where I was when I actually looked at the first page — either outside the car and about to open the door or already in the driver’s seat. It’s all a blur now. Manually highlighted in blinding yellow was this list:

You Were Seen Today For
History of Adenomatous Polyp of Colon
Spondylosis Lumbosacral Region, unspecified spinal osteoarthritis complication
BMI 32.0-32.9, adult
Thyroid Mass of Unclear Etiology
Diverticulosis
Pre-Diabetes
Hypertriglyceridemia
Anxiety Disorder
Insomnia
ED (erectile dysfunction)
Essential Hypertension
Gout
Cerumen Impaction
Syncope
Risk for falls
History of Nephrolithiasis

I have no memory of driving home. I’m surprised I made it home at all because I’m obviously dying.

That was a week ago, and I’m still miraculously hanging on. I’m afraid to move, to breathe. If I do either, it’s done cautiously. Any wrong move might kick in one of my conditions, and I’ll kick.

I walk into the doctor’s office with bad knees. I walk out with a Death Sentence.

My new take on medical visits: Fifteen minutes is much too long. Who knows what could happen during such an excruciating amount of time. From now on I want my appointments to be no more than thirty seconds, maybe less. They’d go something like this:

Doctor walks in. “What’s wrong?”

“Sore throat.”

“Open and say “Aahhh.”

“Aahhh.”

“I’ll write up a prescription and you can pick it up at the front desk. ‘Bye.”

“Later.”

The less I know, the healthier I’ll feel.

* * *

Ronni here again. I'm pretty well in sync with Chuck about how to deal with doctor's visits but there is a serious point to this too – that you should take advantage of these free wellness visits.

Anyone with Medicare Part B is eligible. It is free to almost everyone as long as your physician accepts assignment, and the Part B deductible does not apply although if the doctor orders tests not approved for the visit, you may owe a co-pay.

The Welcome to Medicare Visit can be done anytime during the first 12 months after you've joined the program. You do not need to have done the Welcome Visit to take advantage of the annual wellness visit.

There is more information about both visits – which are not the same thing as more extensive physical examinations – at medicare.gov.

UPDATE: A reminder for all medical/health posts. In the comments you may not recommend any specific kind healthcare, treatment, physician, medication, etc. or link to any website related to those areas or to any commercial product.


What is Old People's Voice and Why Does It Happen?

A few days ago, TGB reader and my good friend Wendl left a comment wondering about her recent vocal changes:

”...weaker, cracky, hoarse, reedy, phlegmy, etc. I think my vocal cords actually started changing when I retired and stopped talking all day. Use 'em or lose 'em?”

We all know what Wendl is talking about – I call it old people's voice - and she has done a good job of describing it in almost the same words as the medical professionals do. They call it presbyphonia which just means “changes associated with the ageing voice.”

I spent way too much time online looking for an audio example for us and found mostly actors doing impressions of old people's voices so that will have to do.

Here is a pretty good one titled: Older Woman: Voice Acting. There are three variations. The closest to what we're discussing today is the first and it ends at :45 seconds. You can skip the rest of the video.

Geriatric otolaryngology is the study of the ear, nose, mouth, throat, larynx and pretty much anything else from the neck and above as it relates, in this case, to old people.

Otolaryngologists used to be called “ear, nose and throat doctors: or ENT for short.

The Australian website entwellbeing is remarkably consistent with Wendl's description of this condition of the voice,

”...the inability to produce adequate sound using the vocal mechanism. People with presbyphonia may experience:

Occasional or frequent breaks in their voice
A breathy vocal quality
Laryngeal tension
Sudden interruptions in the normal flow of speech – stoppages in phonation
Reduced pitch and loudness

NBC News explains the underlying causes:

”When we age, our vocal chords weaken and become drier...Weakened and dry vocal chords become stringy, which prevent normal vibration, causing higher pitched voices that sound thin.

“And the transformations in the respiratory system and chest mean we have less power behind our voices. Even the joints in our vocal chords can become arthritic, contributing to problems.”

There are good descriptions of the five ways our voices change at the verywell website. Here's their take on how pitch changes:

”According to Clark Rosen, professor of otolaryngology at the University of Pittsburgh and director of the University's Voice Center, a woman's pitch typically drops over time, whereas a man's pitch actually rises slightly with age.

"'We don't know exactly why this occurs,' says Rosen. 'Like other vocal shifts, changes in pitch may also be due to atrophy of the muscles in the vocal folds, and in women it may be thanks in part to hormonal changes leading up to and past menopause. We do know there's quite a consistent pitch change by gender.'"

You will find equally clear explanations for the other four changes at verywell.com.

Although benign vocal changes are common as we age, Rosen says they can occasionally be a warning:

”If you're hoarse for more than two weeks - especially without a trigger like a cold or flu or if you are a long-time smoker - seek out the advice of your doctor since you may be at risk of a more serious problem like vocal cord nodules or even laryngeal cancer.”

Disease aside, there are treatments for “old people's voice.” Otolaryngologist and Director of the Johns Hopkins Voice Center Lee Akst says that “Good vocal hygiene, such as staying well-hydrated and not yelling or screaming is a must,” and speech therapy can be effective:

”Akst notes that most patients improve with voice therapy alone. While they may not sound like they did when they were 40, voice therapy helps promote a stronger voice.

“For those still struggling to be heard, a procedure called vocal cord augmentation involves injecting a synthetic filler into the deepest muscle layer of the vocal folds. This more invasive therapy can last from just a few months, to a permanent change in the case of a surgical implant.

"'It's an uncomfortable procedure, with a risk of side effects like bleeding,' says Akst. 'It works best in conjunction with voice therapy, and if you were to choose only one course of treatment, you'd do better with just voice therapy.'”

Or, unless people really cannot hear you, you could just live with it. I know quite a few people with presbyphonia and have no trouble understanding them.


ELDER MUSIC: Seasons - Summer Part 2

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.

* * *

(Seasons - Summer Part 1 is here.)

Summer

This is the second of the summer columns and you might think that I have the leftovers in this one. However, checking out the musicians present, that's far from the case. You might even accuse me of saving them up for this column. Not really; it's just the way it all worked out.

I'll start with the two best singer/songwriters to come out of Canada. What do Canadians know about summer? I could ask. Of course, that could retort: What do Australians know about winter? Okay, fifteen all.

People who read these columns regularly will probably know of whom I speak. First off, and there's no prize for guessing, GORDON LIGHTFOOT.

Gordon Lightfoot

Gordie had a couple I could have used and I went back and forth between them. Finally I settled on Summertime Dream from the album of the same name.

♫ Gordon Lightfoot - Summertime Dream


The second is IAN TYSON.

Ian Tyson

Ian made an appearance in Spring as well but if it's a good song it deserves to be included is my philosophy for the column. Until I wrote that I didn't realise I had a philosophy. You live and learn.

Ian's song is Summer Wages, one of his best (and that's saying something).

♫ Ian Tyson - Summer Wages


Now we have a family affair, starting with FRANK SINATRA, who also made a spring appearance.

Frank Sinatra

This was Frank in the sixties when he was recording slightly different songs from previously. People who were listening to him then will know the song I've chosen. Summer Wind, originally a German song was given English lyrics by Johnny Mercer.

♫ Frank Sinatra - Summer Wind


Keeping the family together, NANCY SINATRA is next.

Nancy Sinatra & Lee Hazlewood

There's only a single letter different from her father's song. Nancy's is Summer Wine, written by LEE HAZLEWOOD who sang along with her on this record (and quite a few others).

♫ Nancy Sinatra - Summer Wine


MARIO LANZA sang the soundtrack for the film The Student Prince.

Mario Lanza

He was originally supposed to act in it as well but due to all sorts of shenanigans that didn't happen. From that film we have him singing Summertime in Heidelberg with a little help from ANN BLYTH.

Ann Blyth

♫ Mario Lanza - Summertime in Heidelberg


For a complete change of pace, here is the NITTY GRITTY DIRT BAND.

Nitty Gritty Dirt Band

The Nittys celebrated their 50th year as a group in 2015 and still sound as good as ever – probably better with all that practice they've had over the years. They are equally adept at playing electric rock music and acoustic country and bluegrass, as well as everything in between.

Here, they're acoustic with Sarah in the Summer.

♫ Nitty Gritty Dirt Band - Sarah In The Summer


Another abrupt change to JO STAFFORD. I just want to keep you on your toes.

Jo Stafford

The Things We Did Last Summer was written by Sammy Cahn and Jules Styne. Many people have recorded the song but Jo had the biggest selling version taking it into the charts in 1946.

♫ Jo Stafford - The Things We Did Last Summer


Jumping forward a couple of decades to the middle of the sixties, CHAD & JEREMY.

Chad & Jeremy

That's Chad Stuart and Jeremy Clyde. Like a lot of their compatriots, they had quite a few hits on the coattails of The Beatles, so to speak. They were far more successful in America than in their native country. This is one that hovered around the top of the charts, A Summer Song.

♫ Chad & Jeremy - A Summer Song


Ronni and I both have a soft spot for JOHN HARTFORD.

John Hartford

Besides being a singer, songwriter and player of several instruments, John had a love of riverboats to such an extent that he managed to get a pilot's licence and worked on the Mississippi, Illinois and Tennessee Rivers.

When he wasn't piloting, he entertained the passengers with his music. Alas, he died in 2001. John performs Empty Afternoon of Summer Longing.

♫ John Hartford - Empty Afternoon Of Summer Longing


TOWNES VAN ZANDT wrote some of the best songs around and some of the saddest you've ever heard. They were often the same ones.

Townes Van Zandt

A good example is Like a Summer Thursday, but I could have chosen any really.

♫ Townes Van Zandt - Like a Summer Thursday


INTERESTING STUFF – 9 July 2015

90 YEAR OLD STRIPPER ON AMERICA'S GOT TALENT

Her name is Dorothy Williams, she is 90 years old and she appeared last week on America's Got Talent.

You might think this is a joke. Or maybe you think it is tasteless. Or maybe, like the audience and the panel, you think it's a great thing to fulfill a dream at any age.

"LOIS LANE" DIES AT AGE 95

When I was a kid, I loved going to Saturday afternoon movie matinees. What a smorgasbord: newsreels, coming attractions, usually two features and one or more serials. One of my favorites was Superman and of course, I identified with his coworker at The Daily Planet, reporter, Lois Lane.

Noel_neill_and_kirk_alyn_2

Noel Neill played Lois Lane to Kirk Alyn's Superman (pictured above) in one 15-episode movie serial and then moved on to the same role in the television show when George Reeves played Superman.

Later, she was cast as young Lois Lane's mother when Christopher Reeve debuted as Superman in the 1978 movie. You can read more about her life and career in The New York Times.

YOU PROBABLY DON'T NEED TO SHOWER – THEY SAY

Some people think we're too clean, that we bathe and shower too often and that it's making us sick. Take a look at this video from James Hamblin, a physician and senior editor at The Atlantic and see what you think.

You can read more about this at The Atlantic.

VOLTE FACE

Volte-face, loosely translated means “about face.” As the Bored Panda wesite explains, the photographer is Oliver Curtis:

“His inspiration came in 2012 when Curtis was visiting the Pyramids of Giza. 'In the mid-distance I saw a newly constructed golf course, its fairways an intense green,' he said on Creative Boom.

“'I found this visual sandwich of contrasting color, texture and form intriguing...because of the oddness of my position; standing at one of the great wonders of the world facing the ‘wrong’ way.”

Here's that Pyramids of Giza shot:

Pyramid at Giza

And here's another shot at the Louvre in Paris – the reverse direction from the Mona Lisa.

Mona Lisa

There are a lot more of Curtis's' Volte-Face shots at Bored Panda.

WHY PRESCRIPTION DRUGS ARE SO EXPENSIVE

This is a pretty good explanation of drug costs from Bloomberg News. It leaves a lot of question unanswered but it's a start:

ELDERS BECOMING THE BACKBONE OF CONSERVATIVE POLITICS

Harry R. Moody is a widely respected thought leader in the area of ageing, the author of many books and articles on the subject, a teacher and, in 2008, he was named by Utne Reader Magazine as one of “50 Visionaries Who Are Changing Your World.”

Not long ago, he wrote a piece titled The Elephant in the Room that “gerontologists and aging advocates don't want to talk about.” But, he says,

”...we must...talk about it. We need to recognize how far our own views (typically liberal or progressive) are opposed by the very same older people we claim to represent.”

No kidding. I've been noticing that for the entire 12-plus years I've been writing this blog. Moody goes on:

”...as we all know, opponents of the ACA [Affordable Care Act] spread misinformation (e.g. “death panels”). Sadly, many older people believed the misinformation. As a result, older voters, more than any other age group, favored repeal of the ACA...

Moody goes on to explain that 30 percent of members of the tea party were 65 and older in 2012. He includes more statistics of older voters in many states casting well over 50 percent of their cohort's votes for Republicans, again 2012 numbers.

”The aging, white electorate is dying off, but is fighting a battle as it goes down. The last-ditch response of the conservatives in power is voter suppression; essentially, working to destroy the Voting Rights Act and other measures to promote democracy in America.

“The other response is to pour vast sums of money into politics as the Supreme Court Citizens United decision makes easier. In 2016, we have already seen the impact of such 'dark money' in the political process...”

Moody continues, calling for open discussion among ageing advocates about the conservative values of so many older voters and stepping up efforts to educate them.

It's important insight to our age group. Go give it a read at Aging in Place.

SIR PATRICK STEWART SINGS COWBOY CLASSICS

My favorite Star Trek captain, played by Sir Patrick Stewart, has recorded a western music album. Or has he?

There is a video, a kind of parody of those cheesy, late-night commercials for compilation albums of long-ago hits. Stewart sings snippets of such cowboy classics as Rawhide, Buttons and Bows, Don't Fence Me In and a whole lot more.

But if you go to the website, you find that the album, priced at a discounted $29.99, is sold out – if it actually ever existed and I don't believe it did.

I think he's having us on but it's a load of delicious fun and he's pretty good singer, too. Take a look.

WHY OUR HAIR THINS AS WE AGE

It may be enough to know that our hair does thin as we get older and explanations don't matter. I suppose that depends on one's mindset.

Anyway, the STAT website explains that the mechanism that causes hair loss has not been known before.

”Now, two new studies point a finger at the scalp’s constantly-renewing stem cells. Mutations in these cells appear to make hair follicles shrink, causing regular hair to be replaced by thin wisps. Understanding the genes at work in this process may allow scientists a way to prevent such hair loss.”

Until then, remember: no matter what the snake oil salesmen tell you, nothing known to man regrows hair. If it did, believe me, we would all know about it.

There's a whole lot more about how the studies were done at STAT.

THE BIRD THAT FLIES FOR TWO MONTHS WITHOUT TOUCHING GROUND

The frigate bird (if I've heard of it before, I don't recall) is amazing. They fly for week and even months over tropic seas without ever touching down.

”Their large, lightweight wings...allow them to take advantage of the slightest breezes. They soar upward on thermals, much the way hang gliders do, and then glide back down gradually over the course of many miles.

“Unlike gliders, they also take advantage of the air currents within clouds to rise even higher when they need to; inside a cloud, they can ascend as fast as four to five meters per second. Few other birds and even most planes wouldn't attempt this because of the potential for turbulence.”

Here's the video:

You can read more about frigate birds here.

* * *

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.


How to Combat Ageism

Did you see the Fourth of July public service announcement (PSA) about patriotism that John Cena released for this holiday? The one-minute video that is a masterpiece of how age should be treated?

Ha! If you read Wednesday's post in which I admitted to having zero interest – and that means zero knowledge, too – in any sport, you're probably thinking I don't know who John Cena is. Amazingly, even to me, you would be wrong.

I know that John Cena is a superstar in the professional wrestling world. I know that because for many years some of my favorite television shows have been broadcast on the USA cable channel where the WWE Monday night wrestling show has been a fixture over the same period of time.

That means I have been saturated with promotional videos featuring Cena. Although I never bothered to watch a wrestling match, it is hard not to notice, even in short promos, that he is charming, attractive and not so scary as most other wrestlers look.

After seeing the PSA I have referenced above and which I will get back to in good time, I consulted Google about what else there is to know about John Cena. It turns out he's a multi-talented guy who co-wrote his own wrestling theme song, is a rapper, has appeared in several movies, not to mention a lot of non-wrestling TV shows and last year he became the first celebrity to have granted 500 wishes for the Make-a-Wish Foundation.

Who knew? Not me - not any of it until now.

Recently, Cena appeared on the new NBC-TV sketch show, Maya and Marty, which was developed by Lorne Michaels – you know, the guy who has kept Saturday Night Live relevant for more than 40 years and is no schlub at spotting talent.

So take a look at this professional wrestler, John Cena, holding his own quite admirably with some professional comedians:

My point is that Cena's celebrity reaches beyond the world of pro wrestling and I am guessing that he is deliberately expanding his professional horizons because – hey, how long can a body hold up to being pounded on the floor of a fight ring.

His growing range and the fact that he's really likeable onscreen made him a good choice to reach a wide variety of people for this Fourth of July “Patriotism” PSA, produced for the Ad Council by the R/GA Agency. Take a look and take special note of how age is treated:

If you missed it, scroll back to :31 seconds from the top where Cena says, “This year, patriotism shouldn't just be about pride of country. It should be about love, love beyond AGE, disability, sexuality, race, religion and any other labels.”

Did you notice how he just slips in "age" there with all the other ways to describe people as though we old folks are as worthy as everyone else? I cannot recall last time I saw, heard or read an instance of such perfect inclusion of elders.

Hurray for John Cena and all the people at the R/GA Agency who created this PSA. Great work!


Growing Old in a New World

Last Saturday afternoon, I listened to the final episode of Garrison Keillor's Prairie Home Companion, ended now after 42 years of weekly broadcasts.

The show had been recorded the evening before at the Hollywood Bowl and President Barack Obama called in live to mark the moment. It was funny that Keillor did most of the talking, hardly letting the president speak at all.

I wasn't a particular fan of the program nor, as some, did I dislike it either. I tuned in now and then and over those many years I became familiar, of course, with Lake Wobegon, Guy Noir, Lives of the Cowboys, commercials for Powdermilk Biscuits, the townsfolk at the Chatterbox Cafe and all the rest.

Prairie Home Companion has been a part of my personal cultural landscape for most of its existence. Even though, sometimes, a year or two or three went by since I had last heard the show, it was a familiar presence each time I returned, one of the small pleasures I could count on that defined the times during which I have lived.

On the same day as Keillor's last show, I read with my early morning coffee that Elie Wiesel had died at age 87. Elie Wiesel? The Auschwitz survivor who dedicated his life as witness for the 11 million slaughtered in the Nazi Holocaust?

Elie Wiesel, the teacher, the writer, the humanitarian, the Nobel Peace Prize recipient dead?

“Wiesel is a messenger to mankind,” reads his Nobel citation. “His message is one of peace, atonement and human dignity. His belief that the forces fighting evil in the world can be victorious is a hard-won belief.”

It is, I guess, such an homage – and there have been many others - that made me think that somehow Elie Wiesel was immortal.

I was barely out of high school – just three or four years - when I read his first book, Night, a powerful memoir of his teen years in the Nazi camp at Auschwitz-Berkenau, a book that once read can never be forgotten.

As my introduction to the Holocaust, Night was so hard to read, such a horrible shock to learn what had taken place at the camps (they skipped over those details in my school) that I could hardly keep reading. And I couldn't not keep going either.

It's been nearly 60 years now and I haven't stopped reading Holocaust literature, always returning to Elie Wiesel. He's been with me all these years and it never occurred to me that he would die.

About a month ago another cultural icon died, the boxer Muhammad Ali. He was 74, having lived for many years with Parkinson's syndrome.

I worked with him twice, many years ago. Once over a period of a couple of days at his home in Chicago for a television interview and again for another TV show about American sports legends recorded at Constitution Hall in Washington, D.C.

It is difficult for me to explain to other people how little I care about sports. It is so central to the American experience that people have trouble believing me. But it is true; I have zero interest – as though I am missing a gene.

And that makes me an almost perfect example of the reasons for Muhammad Ali's universal fame. Not celebrity, that describes something too fleeting and unimportant for Ali. It is his fame – in every corner of the world.

Even I care about Ali. As Robert Lipsyte explained in The New York Times obituary:

”In later life Ali became something of a secular saint, a legend in soft focus. He was respected for having sacrificed more than three years of his boxing prime and untold millions of dollars for his antiwar principles after being banished from the ring; he was extolled for his un-self-conscious gallantry in the face of incurable illness, and he was beloved for his accommodating sweetness in public.”

I got to see that sweetness up close when working on the sports show. When he walked through a public area, people of all ages – kids, teens, grownups, old men and women – wanted to shake his hand, to hug him, to bask in his aura of humankindness. He was bigger than life and eminently approachable.

Like Elie Wiesel, Muhammad Ali came along in my life when I was just a few years out of high school and he has been there ever since floating around edges of my consciousness.

Garrison Kiellor, Elie Wiesel, Muhammad Ali. They are more than cultural icons, they are embedded in my worldview, contributors – with thousands of other people, events and things – that define for me the era through which I have lived.

And now they are gone.

It keeps happening these days as the actors in the mise en scene of my life drop away to be replaced with the newer people, events and things that help define the later, different eras that people younger than I inhabit.

Of course, this is as it should be and has been since the beginning of time. Still, that doesn't mean I'm not a bit discomfitted when, as with the departure of these most recent three, the narrative of my era becomes a little bit emptier.

It's not that I am a stranger in a strange land. Yet. But I am feeling somewhat forlorn today living in a world that is a little less my own.


Independence Day 2016

Each year we celebrate the The Declaration of Independence with parades, backyard barbecues and fireworks. All good things but it is also a good thing now and then to re-read or re-listen to the words of this powerful document that has inspired people the world over.

Back in 2009, a bunch of well-known actors got together at Independence Hall in Philadelphia for a live reading of the Declaration, prefaced by a magnificent introduction from Morgan Freeman.

There is a video of the event produced by Norman Lear and Rob Reiner and it is worth your time to listen on this, the 241st anniversary, to one of the greatest documents in the history of humankind.

Happy Fourth of July, everyone.