Cancer and an Altered Self-Image

We don't much think about – or, perhaps, it is I who has not done so – who we are. What descriptions we have of ourselves accumulate, I think, over our lifetimes and we hardly notice it happening: doctor, lawyer, Indian chief, mother, father, brother, sister, fat, skinny, young, old, married, single and so on.

For example, since in the United States we mostly identify ourselves with what we are paid money to do, I am a former radio producer, TV producer, internet news managing editor, New Yorker morphed now into a retiree who blogs about what it's like to be old and who, way near the top of the list, thinks of herself as healthy.

No more. Last June, “cancer patient” was added to my list of personal descriptors, something I see in retrospect was an easier change to make than I would have thought.

All it takes is a massive surgery and lengthy recovery period accompanied by pain, pills and doctor visits to self-identify as a sick person Or, at minimum, no longer healthy.

I didn't see it coming, didn't even notice, consciously, that the switch had happened until this week. One way I suspect that happens is the medical checklist.

When you have a serious ongoing disease, you are asked to fill out a lot of forms. They are mostly identical and involve checking yes or no on long, long lists of diseases, conditions and symptoms. I've checked off no in all of them all my life. And then eight months ago, I had to check yes on cancer.

I was not healthy anymore. As I may have related to you in the past, a more light-hearted take on the issue was spoken by my primary care physician: “Ronni,” he said, “except for the cancer, you're very healthy.”

Riiiiight – and other than that, Mrs. Lincoln, how did you enjoy the play. That doctor and I have had several good laughs about his bon mot gone awry.

Who we are in our minds, in our bones, affects how we understand ourselves, present ourselves to the world and informs many of the choices we make. Cancer patient is not what I want to be part of my self-image but it happened.

Then, this week, another change took place. On Monday, I had a CT scan, a more definitive test for cancer cells than the test I told you about a couple of weeks ago. Like that first test, this one came back with the best news any cancer patient can hope for:

“CT looks good,” wrote my medical oncologist in her test results analysis. “There is no sign of the cancer at this time.”

That's two tests two weeks apart with the same great, good news. Only a tiny minority of pancreatic cancer patients get this far so I should be ecstatic.

How come I'm not, then?

Intellectually, I'm over the moon but the the thought lacks the emotional joy I expected, the urge to dance around the house, for example, to Joe Cocker's Cry Me a River at full volume.

Instead, even if I am not shrugging off the news, my mind slipped straight into anticipation of the apprehension I felt this time as I waited for the test results that will be repeated every four months or so when they continue to check for cancer. What is the matter with me?

Here's what I think happened:

That added definition of sickly person crept up on me so quietly I hardly noticed it these past months. Even as I have felt increasingly better physically, the daily pills, the chemo treatments, the blood tests, the transfusions along with the many doctors, nurses and other healthcare providers all became silent markers of my new status which I internalized without any thought, made part of my self-image.

While I wasn't paying attention, I became a different person than I have known for my 76 years, someone identified by a terrible disease, and I suspect I am not alone in this phenomenon.

Major life events, good and bad, are stressors that can alter our self-image. There is even a scale for it called the Holmes-Rahe Life Stress Inventory on which my recent life event, “Major personal injury or illness,” is listed at number six out of 43 items.

Since Monday when I received the good test news and recognized that I wasn't feeling like a kid on Christmas morning, I realized I need another change in self-image – from sickly to healthy again or, perhaps, in the more familiar vernacular of the cancer world, survivor.

It may take awhile to make the switch back, but at least I am doing it consciously this time instead of it sneaking up on me while I wasn't paying attention.

Does this resonate with you? Have major life events changed your sense of yourself? For better or worse?



Crabby Old Lady on Advertising Drugs to Old People

To many television and print advertisers, poor health is the essential and most noteworthy characteristic of old people. As far as Crabby Old Lady can tell, it could be the only thing advertisers know about elders.

Diabetic nerve pain, rheumatoid arthritis, heart arrhythmia, blood clots, insomnia, hepatitis C, osteoporosis, dry eye, dementia, COPD, shingles and cancer – lots of cancer: cervical, breast, melanoma, lung and more.

So familiar is the constant barrage of television commercials for drugs to treat those diseases, conditions and more, Crabby was able to make that list off the top of her head. She's betting you could do that too.

No prescription drug commercial can end without a recitation of the often horrendous side effects, delivered at the verbal speed of an auctioneer and almost always ending with “death.”

Like Crabby Old Lady, you may have noticed that none of these drugs, at least as described in television commercials, actually cure any of the ailments they were created for.

That is because (here is Crabby at her most cynical) the pharmaceutical companies know there is no profit in making people healthy. Treatment – ongoing, lifetime treatment – is the business of big pharma that keeps the big bucks rolling in via refill after refill after refill for a patient's lifetime.

Did you know that New Zealand and the United States are the only countries in the world that permit advertising to consumers of prescription drugs? There is a reason the other 191 countries disallow it: only doctors have the training, knowledge and understanding of an individual patient's medical issues to choose appropriate medications.

If that isn't a good enough reason, think of how much money all that TV advertising adds to the price of prescription drugs.

All those are just the straightforward, direct-to-consumer drug commercials. But Crabby Old Lady's cyber-friend, Chuck Nyren, who blogs at Advertising for Baby Boomers and has written a book with that title, has noticed a new, more insidious development in drug advertisements aimed at old people.

Not long ago, Chuck titled a blog post We're All Sick and led with this:

”No matter what the product or service, when Mad Ave tries to ‘reach’ us we’re always sick. Or something’s horribly wrong. Even if they want us to buy a car we have to be sick first:

This commercial takes the universally-assumed poor health of elders to a whole new level: Lookee here, it says - we the car company have a cure for whatever ails you. Chuck continues:

“What happened to this lady? Did she have a heart attack? The doctor says she has to ‘go slow’. Well, whatever her affliction is, she’ll get better if she buys this car. And exercises. And is looked after by her daughter.

“According to most ads selling stuff to Boomers, we have to be sick before we can buy anything. Or, we’re naturally ill all the time and the only reason we’d buy anything is to make us well...When you’re old, you only buy products for medical reasons.

“I googled the car and it’s a pretty good car. But the spot tells me nothing about the car. Of course, why would I want to know anything about the car? All I need to know is that it has healing powers.”

You can read more of Chuck at his blog.

There is a kind of awful genius to deliberately portraying old people as sick and vulnerable to sell them an expensive car. Or how about laundry detergent. Or a new sofa. "Game changer," as the actor says in one home furnishings commercial.

Expect to see more, many more sick old people portrayed in all kinds of commercials. In December, The New York Times reported on the enormous increase in the number of television prescription drug commercials. Some excerpts:

”According to Kantar Media, a firm that tracks multimedia advertising, 771,368 such ads were shown in 2016, the last full year for which data is available, an increase of almost 65 percent over 2012.

“'TV ad spending by pharmaceutical companies has more than doubled in the past four years, making it the second-fastest-growing category on television during that time, Jon Swallen, Kantar’s chief research officer, said.”

As The Times also points out, it is old people who use the majority of prescription drugs and that's why big pharma saturates TV with commercials for diseases of age:

“'In the old days, it was allergies and acid reflux and whatnot, [Thomas Lom, a consultant and former senior executive at several health care ad agencies] said. 'Now, it’s cardiology issues. It’s cancer.'

That, of course, reflects the medical issues facing audiences that skew older.

“'The drug companies aren’t generally marketing to people in their 30s; they’re marketing to the 65-plus, and that’s the population that tends to still be watching television,' said Allen Adamson, a brand strategy consultant.”

Certainly they will have no trouble figuring out other media buys for commercials as younger generations age.

Now that Ford has broken the ice by implying their car can cure a sick old person of an unnamed malady, Crabby Old Lady has no doubt other non-medical consumer products will soon follow suit, possibly sharing commercial production costs by partnering with the manufacturer of a brand-name prescription drug. (Oh, is Crabby being too cynical?)

What this means for Crabby and all elders is that the main description of old people as sickly will be perpetuated indefinitely in the minds of everyone.



ELDER MUSIC: Secrets

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.

* * *

Even in this age of Facebook and Twitter, there are still some secrets out there. Mostly by governments, although less so as time passes, but people like to keep them as well.

Those secrets really make the basis of many books, films, TV shows and the like. Fortunately, there are a lot of them in songs too. Here are some (from a very long list).

Back in the early sixties, LEROY VAN DYKE made a career of recycling the same theme. Perhaps not recycling, building on the previous song would be a better description.

Leroy Van Dyke

Not the same songs, they were different, but it seems that from his first big one, Walk on By, through If a Woman Answers (Hang Up the Phone), he was trying to tell us something.

He kept that going with How Long Must You Keep Me a Secret. I said the songs were different, but they were all distinctly Leroy.

♫ Leroy Van Dyke - How Long Must You Keep Me a Secret


Once upon a time ROSEMARY CLOONEY was the most famous Clooney in show biz.

Rosemary Clooney

Her nephew has sort of usurped that position, but she was the better singer. Actually, she's better than most. Here she lets us in on the Secret of Life.

♫ Rosemary Clooney - Secret Of Life


The song that inspired this column was by THE BEATLES.

The Beatles

Not too surprising, I'm sure they've inspired many columns (and other things) over the years. The song is from very early, indeed, their first album "Please Please Me". It is Do You Want To Know a Secret, not surprisingly, a Lennon/McCartney song (although they were still recording a few by other writers at that stage).

♫ The Beatles - Do You Want To Know A Secret


I bet you imagined that Doris Day was going to be present with one of her biggest hits. She certainly made the short list and then I discovered that someone else had recorded the song you were expecting.

Normally, I'd go with the original, but I was so taken with this one by FREDDY FENDER that I thought I must include it.

Freddy Fender

Some of you, probably most, will disagree, but it's interesting to get a different perspective on a song you know so well. Freddy doesn't call it Secret Love. For him it's Amor Secreto.

♫ Freddy Fender - Amor Secreto (Secret Love)


JIMMIE RODGERS always seemed to be on the charts when I was growing up. That's Jimmie the folk/pop singer, not the country/blues singer. They weren't related.

Jimmie Rodgers

Jimmie's career continued until the end of the sixties when he had a car accident and an altercation with police, the mob or someone else. It's not entirely clear. As I write this Jimmie is still with us although he's suffered several health-related problems in recent years.

His song is Secretly, one of his big hits from the fifties.

♫ Jimmie Rodgers - Secretly


When I was searching for songs I found this one by ERIC ANDERSEN.

Eric Andersen

I thought: I really like Eric, that will probably be included. When I played it I thought, "Hang on, that's a Fred Neil song", and I'm a big fan of Fred's too. Then I thought longer and remembered that it was also an Elizabeth Cotton song, from considerably earlier. I was on the horns of a dilemma about which to include.

In the end I went for the first one I encountered. I've Got a Secret. It's also sometimes called Didn't We Shake Sugaree.

♫ Eric Andersen - I've Got A Secret


There's always room for PATSY CLINE in just about any column.

Patsy Cline

The song is interesting in that it's not like her country or pop songs. Rather, it seems to hark back a decade or two in its style. It's still really good though. How could it not be, it's Patsy. Too Many Secrets.

♫ Patsy Cline - Too Many Secrets


It seems that many of my favorite performers have secrets, and here's another, Z.Z. HILL.

ZZ Hill

Z.Z. was a fine soul singer who didn't get the recognition that others did, although he certainly deserved it. His song is I Don't Want Our Love To Be No Secret. Upon listening to it, Norma, the Assistant Musicologist suggested that "it was turning into Midnight Train to Georgia, which, of course, is no bad thing".

♫ Z.Z. Hill - I Don't Want Our Love To Be No Secret


WILLIE NELSON seems to be channelling his inner Brokeback Mountain with his song.

Willie Nelson

I'd forgotten about this one but when I listened to it I knew it had to be present. Willie suggests that Cowboys Are Frequently Secretly Fond of Each Other.

♫ Willie Nelson - Cowboys Are Frequently Secretly Fond of Each Other


When I saw the name GORDON MACRAE, I thought: ah good, he'll bring some quality singing, maybe something from a musical.

Gordon MacRae

Imagine my surprise when I listened to it. He sounded like any old pop singer from the fifties. I was ready to throw it out, but thought that perhaps you all are unfamiliar with this aspect of his career (as was I).

It wasn't all “Carousel” and “Oklahoma”. Gordon tells us The Secret.

♫ Gordon MacRae - The Secret



INTERESTING STUFF – 3 February 2018

SOME OF THE OLDEST IN U.S. IN 1929

My friend Jim Stone, who has been visiting from Massachusetts, sent this fascinating video of some of the oldest old in the U.S. talking on camera about their lives in 1929.

ONE DAY IN TRUMP CORRUPTION

The Washington Post, now famously, posted Donald Trump's 2000 lies during his first year as president.

At New York magazine this week, Jonathan Chait wrote about Trump's four newest corruption stories that broke in just one day. One example:

”A report yesterday found that Trump’s infrastructure council is filled with business owners who stand to benefit from the policies Trump is advancing. For instance, Richard LeFrak, one of the developers on Trump’s

“The plan writ large would steer public funding toward privately owned infrastructure projects that would benefit the developers on Trump’s committee, as well as potentially members of his own family.”

You can read more here.

WHAT IT TAKES TO BE A LONDON CABBIE

London cabbies famously study for several years before they are allowed to get behind the wheel of a London taxi. As the YouTube page explains, they

”...must pass The Knowledge, universally regarded as the world’s toughest taxi test. Applicants often take two to four years to prepare for the infamous exam, memorizing over 25,000 street names and 20,000 points of interest.

“Only one in five applicants pass the test, giving The Knowledge the same success rate as the U.S. Navy SEALs.”

Take a look:

STRANDBEAST

TGB reader Pat Trimbell sent this video of artist Theo Janzen's Strandbeast creations.

”Not pollen or seeds but plastic yellow tubes are used as the basic materials of this new nature. I make skeletons that are able to walk on the wind so they don't have to eat,” writes the artist on his webpage.”

WHAT WOLVES BROUGHT TO YELLOWSTONE PARK

Although this video about wolves' return to Yellowstone Park was made four years ago, it is still valid. I wonder if the changes will survive Trump.

VOTING AT HOME INCREASES TURNOUT

When I moved to Oregon in 2010, I was pleased to discover that all voting is done at home and submitted via snailmail. Now there is some research showing what Oregon has known since they began this kind of voting:

”The study found that vote at home increased overall turnout by 3.3 percent, and by even more among young and low-propensity voters. The implication is clear: Anyone who cares about improving turnout should make expanding vote at home a top priority.

“...Turnout rates in the states where everyone can vote at home — Oregon, Washington and Colorado — have increased since the system was adopted, and they’re now among the highest in the country.”

The issue is a bit more complex than that excerpt makes clear and you can read more here.

A DAY IN THE LIFE OF A DOG PHOTOGRAPHER

Many years ago, I produced a TV segment about dog photographer William Wegman and have been delighted with his work every since. (Long before his stint began on the Today Show, a young Matt Lauer was the interviewer on that program.)

As the YouTube page explains:

”Welcome to Wegman’s Wild World of Weimaraners, where dogs bake cakes and lounge like royalty. Known to the world as the 'dog photographer,' William Wegman has spent the past 45 years dressing and posing his canine muses in elaborate ensembles, finding whimsy in the absurd.”

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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.



The Question of a Loneliness Epidemic

Just last week, British Prime Minister Theresa May created a new government position: Minister for Loneliness.

According to a 2017 report, more than 9 million people in Britain often or always feel lonely. May, quoted in The New York Times, said in announcing the new ministry,

“For far too many people, loneliness is the sad reality of modern life.”

“I want to confront this challenge for our society and for all of us to take action to address the loneliness endured by the elderly, by carers, by those who have lost loved ones — people who have no one to talk to or share their thoughts and experiences with.”

(More about how the Ministry will tackle the problem is reported at gov.uk.)

It's not just a British problem. According to a U.S. study of 218 studies, loneliness is not only a social problem, it is harmful to our health:

"They discovered that lonely people had a 50 per cent increased risk of early death, compared to those with good social connections. In contrast, obesity raises the chance of dying before the age of 70 by around 30 per cent,” as reported in The Telegraph.

As the American Psychological Association [APA] reported on the same study:

”Approximately 42.6 million adults over age 45 in the United States are estimated to be suffering from chronic loneliness, according to AARP’s Loneliness Study...

“'These trends suggest that Americans are becoming less socially connected and experiencing more loneliness,' said [researcher Julianne] Holt-Lunstad.”

I do not doubt for a moment that there are millions of old people who are lonely but I think there is something else at work on this topic that the researchers won't understand until they are old: that many old people voluntarily withdraw from social life to greater or smaller degrees as the years pile up.

I can't prove that and I haven't seen a single study that addresses it, let alone agrees. But a growing body of anecdotal evidence, just in my own small circle, seem to indicate something the loneliness researchers don't know.

A reader named Albert Williams left this note on a TGB post about making friends in old age. It's a bit lengthy but worth it:

”Whew! I'm glad I found this site,” wrote Williams. “I was beginning to think that I was the only person with such problems, and that, perhaps, there was something wrong with me.

“However, after a bit of introspection, I realize that this is not completely true. (Completely? Try old, ugly, curmudgeonly, short-tempered, cynical, and a few more applicable adjectives...)

“Time has, indeed, taken its toll. I am now an old man. Most of my life-long friends are gone. I've never had any kids; I've outlived two wives; and almost all of my family on both sides have already died.

“I find it very easy to make new acquaintances, but these seem to never develop into the deep, trusting, abiding friendships I had when I was young. Loneliness, apparently, has become a permanent part of my remaining days, and my best friends nowadays are my dogs and my computer.”

In addition, a long-time internet/blog friend, Cowtown Patty, recently wrote in an email:

”Found that as I age, while I enjoy people to a degree, I am happier when I am at our 'farm' out puttering in the 'garden' or in the house somewhere alone. Even Kent, who is the easiest person in the world to get along with, can be an irritating intruder sometimes.

“Do you think we 'cocoon' as we age? Protection? Preparing? Insulating ourselves from a world grown too noisy?”

That may be true for me. Although I have always seemed to need a lot more alone time that many people I know, in recent years I've purposely chosen fewer social engagements in exhange for time alone (reduced energy may be a contibutor too).

It's not that I don't like people or don't enjoy time with them. I do. But as I follow my innate nature these days, I am eager for less of that than during most of my adult life and as far as I can tell, the biggest change that would bear upon the desire for fewer social engagements is that I've grown older.

Which doesn't sound too far off from Patty's “cocooning” idea – perhaps even subconsciously, we begin separating ourselves from a world we know we will be leaving much sooner than people who are younger than we are.

There is an interesting entry at the Wikipedia Old Age page on this subject (emphasis added):

”Johnson and Barer did a pioneering study of Life Beyond 85 Years by interviews over a six-year period. In talking with 85+ year olds, they found some popular conceptions about old age to be erroneous.

“Such erroneous conceptions include (1) people in old age have at least one family member for support, (2) old age well-being requires social activity, and (3) 'successful adaptation' to age-related changes demands a continuity of self-concept.

“In their interviews, Johnson and Barer found that 24% of the 85+ had no face-to-face family relationships; many have outlived their families. Second, that contrary to popular notions, the interviews revealed that the reduced activity and socializing of the over 85s does not harm their well-being; they 'welcome increased detachment.

The researchers spoke only with people 85 and older. I strongly suspect that if they talked with 60- and 70-somethings, the trend would be there already.

Certainly there are millions of old people yearning to make connections with others who are having trouble doing that.

But as with all things related to elders, I don't believe you can bundle all of us into one handy explanation for any issue and it could be that what looks like loneliness to younger researchers is a personal choice some elders make.

What do you think?



Elder Job Search: What Should Be Versus Reality

I have been banging on against ageism in general and age discrimination in the workplace for nearly 15 years on this blog without making even a minor dent. But neither has anyone else, even people with a much longer reach than I have.

So instead of living in a culture that accepts and welcomes elders into the the mainstream depending on their capabilities (like people of every younger age), old people (age 50 and even 40 in many cases) are dismissed, hidden, ignored and at best, patronized.

How wrong this is came to mind a couple of days ago when I read a story on the AARP website titled, Over 40? 7 Things Never To Say in a Job Interview.

You can probably guess they are all related to not revealing your age – as if the 20- to 30-something job interviewer can't tell that you look like their parent or grandparent. Some of the seven things you're not supposed to say, according to AARP:

“I’m ready for a change.”
“'It gives the impression that he was bored,” says an expert, that “'his experience was growing stale, and he was unmotivated. Otherwise, why would he stay in his field so long?'”

Really? I loved the field(s) I worked in and still had half a dozen jobs over 45 years I wanted out of for other reasons. This may not be the most politic thing to say in an interview but the objection to it itself is uninformed and stupid.

“I've got 25 years of experience.”
“What the interviewer hears is 'I'm so bogged down in what I believe I already know that I'll be difficult to work with,'” says Rosemary Hook, a recruiter in Austin, Texas. “You paint yourself as unfriendly to learning new things.”

Huh? Is the interviewer listening? What employer in his right mind wouldn't want someone with years of experience, who has solved expected and unexpected problems as they came up over the long term and learned on the job from dozens of people he or she has worked with.

Old people are hated so much in our culture that their experience and knowledge have been turned into a disadvantage.

“I see myself staying in this job until I retire.”
“While you might think such a statement demonstrates your commitment, avoid putting the r-word in their heads,” says another expert. “Employers rightfully want applicants with plenty to give, not someone looking to coast through the last few years of their career...”

How does “until I retire” translate into “someone looking to coast...”? Who thought that up? They're wrong. Or should be.

“Tell me a little about the benefits.”
“'Think of a job interview like running for the Presidency,'” says Hook. “'You must appear vibrant and healthy, able to bring energy to the job regardless of your gray hair.'”

How does asking about benefits make someone appear less vibrant? If it is apparent toward the end of the interview that you have not been rejected, you have a right to know the benefits – it's part of what any applicant needs to know to make a decision about taking a job.

These are among the many ways employers have of getting away with not hiring 40- and 50-somethings, and certainly not anyone older than that.

Make no mistake: eliminating a candidate for saying “I see myself in this job until I retire” is wrong but it is a fact of job search life if you're older than 35 or so.

And that is the dilemma: having a meaningful conversation about the job and what you could bring to it versus the grim reality of finding a job after a certain age, as reported in this AARP story, by demeaning oneself with carefully worded answers designed to offend no one and reveal nothing.

It shouldn't be like this. Old people should not be required to tie themselves in verbal knots to keep from appearing as old as they are. It's not like the interviewer cannot estimate a person's age by just looking.

As a long-time, close observer of the media and culture at large, it appears to me that the only people allowed to work in old age at what they are experienced and good at are rich white males who own the company: George Soros, Rupert Murdoch, Warren Buffet come to mind - all currently in their mid-80s.

But not thee or me. I was forced out the workplace at age 63, years before I was eligible for full Social Security and more personally important, when I had a lot of knowledge and experience I was still eager to use.

And here's the most disheartening part. It's not going to change in the lifetimes of most of us who hang out at this blog. Which doesn't mean we shouldn't continue making noise about it.



How Old is Old?

Almost universally, surveys reveal that people believe old age begins at some time beyond the age they are at the moment. This is particularly so of age deniers but many of the rest of us congratulate ourselves, if only privately, on our youthfulness.

Other surveys ask how old people feel compared to their current age. A common answer is, “I feel 10 years younger than I am.” You can substitute 15 or 20 years which turn up regularly in those polls.

Here's my perennial response that: This makes no sense. It is an unanswerable question because whatever you feel at your current age is how that age feels – at least, for you.

And a lot of how old people feel depends on their health.

Some gerontologists and geriatricians divide old age into three (or four) general age groups. The Wikipedia page on old age (which is a good overview) reports several such definitions including these two:

Young old – 60-69 years
Middle old – 70-79 years
Old old – 80 plus

Young old – 65-74 years
Middle old – 75-84
Old old – 85 plus

There are more such divisions, but you get the idea. Personally, those few years of difference among the categories don't amount to a hill of beans but although ageing is not an exact science, the categories are useful in medicine for identifying life changes that are generally expected if you live long enough.

Still, we age at dramatically different rates. Some people at 60 are in severe decline; others at 90 are robust. But that doesn't make either of them young.

The age at which people are considered old is important socially, commercially, politically and governmentally. Retirement age is set depending on a culture's perception of old age which determines access to social security benefits, health care and allows legislators to set public priorities and spending for elders.

(It has occurred to me that if the age deniers I've met controlled the definition of old age, none of us would have Social Security benefits or Medicare – and that's only halfway a joke.)

Then there are the young young's definition of old. In my reading around the web over many years, I have seen uncounted blog entries by 29-year-olds terrified of their impending 30th birthday when, they say, they will be over the hill, unattractive and unsexy.

That tells you a lot about what young people think of their parents and grandparents. I recall that when I started dating at about age 16, I was appalled – and embarrassed - that my mother, recently divorced from my father, was starting to date too, at age 40. To my teenage self, she was way past the age when a person could fall in love.

My experience with a cancer diagnosis over the past seven or eight months has reinforced how much one's health has to do with accepting old age. My age is 76, 77 in April, and as noted above, that is the age I feel. I've always felt to be whatever age I am at the moment.

But I am more aware now of decline. These days, I plan my activities carefully because I tire more easily than before the surgery last June. One event a day is about all I'm willing to undertake and “event” can mean even a longish telephone conversation with a friend.

A visit to the doctor is usually enough for one day or dinner out with a friend or a shopping trip with more than one stop, etc. Recently, I invited neighbors for dessert with some cheeses and ice wine because I couldn't face cooking a whole dinner. (Yet. Maybe soon.)

A young person with a serious health problem can, in most cases, expect to bounce back to full capacity. Most old people won't. And if you are lucky enough to escape a terrible and/or debilitating diagnosis, gradual decline is your future. That is the difference between old and young.

Lots of people like to say that age is only a number. Oh yeah? I don't mean to be harsh, but you will die and most of us die because we are old. That is the nature of life.

Our job in old age (whatever number you put on it) is to make peace with that inevitable which doesn't mean there are not a lot good things about growing old.

When did you (or will you) accept that you are old?



ELDER MUSIC: Tony Bennett

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.

* * *

Tony Bennett

Frank Sinatra said in a 1965 Life magazine interview,

"For my money, Tony Bennett is the best singer in the business. He excites me when I watch him. He moves me. He's the singer who gets across what the composer has in mind, and probably a little more."

Frank knew of what he was talking, and it's Tony who gets our attention today.

The first song I can remember Tony Bennett singing is this next one. My sister had the 45 of it so it's imprinted on my brain. It's not really like all the other songs today. In the Middle of an Island.

♫ Tony Bennett - In The Middle Of An Island


Okay, I was a little hasty in my previous comment, this next one is somewhat unusual as well. It may be a Hank Williams song, but Tony turned it onto a Tony Bennett song.

He was rather reticent about recording this one, but his producer, Mitch Miller, convinced him. It's a bit heavy on the strings for me, Hank wouldn't have done that, but it's still worth a listen, Cold, Cold Heart.

♫ Cold Cold Heart


Tony Bennett

Well, that's got the silly ones out of the way, now let's get to the good stuff, starting with Rags to Riches. This was a considerable hit not too long after the first couple of songs.

♫ Rags To Riches


Tony recorded a couple of albums with the great jazz pianist BILL EVANS.

Tony Bennett & Bill Evans

On one of those he sang one of Bill's compositions, Waltz for Debby. This was a tune that Bill wrote as a musical portrait of his niece. Gene Lees put words to it. Several people have sung this but none has done it better than Tony.

♫ Waltz for Debby


Tony has always been able to perform and record with the finest musicians. If you're looking for an orchestra to back you, why go past Count Basie? I Guess I'll Have to Change My Plans.

♫ Tony Bennett With The Count Basie Orchestra - I Guess I'll Have To Change My Plans


Tony Bennett

I wondered whether to include this next song. It's far from a favorite of mine, but I decided to include it as a bit of a contrast to all the good ones, besides someone must like it as it sold reasonably well. The Boulevard of Broken Dreams (Gigolo And Gigolette).

♫ The Boulevard Of Broken Dreams (Gigolo And Gigolette)


Now to another of his famous songs. I don't have to say anything about I Wanna Be Around, except just enjoy listening.

♫ I Wanna Be Around


Tony Bennett

We folks in the southern hemisphere have a bit of a problem with songs that mention months. What's so good about May? It's approaching winter. And what's wrong with December – lovely weather. It's the usual northern hemisphere bias. There's quite a bit of that going on in When Joanna Loved Me.

♫ When Joanna Loved Me


I'm sorry Tony, but Dooley Wilson is still the top of the tree when the song As Time Goes By is under consideration. However, given that, if you want someone else to perform it Tony would be my next choice. He even sings some extra words that Dooley omitted.

♫ As Time Goes By


Tony Bennett

I confess that my preference is a small group or even just a piano backing Tony. We have that here with Last Night Where We Were Young. Not surprisingly, this isn't the only song I included where that is so.

♫ Last Night Where We Were Young


You could guarantee this next song would be here today, but it's not the version with which you are most familiar. This was recorded at the White House in 1962 when there was a real president in residence.

Tony has the assistance of DAVE BRUBECK and they performed his most famous song I Left My Heart in San Francisco.

Tony Bennett & Dave Brubeck

♫ Tony Bennett & Dave Brubeck - I Left My Heart In San Francisco (Live)


Tony Bennett



INTERESTING STUFF – 27 January 2018

URSULA K. LE GUIN DIES AT 88

How odd that in the past couple of weeks, we discussed Ursula K. Le Guin's most recent book of essays. Her family announced this week that she died at home in Portland, Oregon, on Tuesday, 22 January:

LeGuin Tweet

Her son said she had been in poor health in recent months.

Margaret Atwood, author of The Handmaid's Tale, had this to say in her farewell to Ms. Le Guin at The Guardian:

”Right before she died, I was reading her new book, No Time to Spare, a collection of trenchant, funny, lyrical essays about everything from cats to the nature of belief, to the overuse of the word 'fuck', to the fact that old age is indeed for sissies...”

And in this following excerpt, she convinced me that my next big read will be Le Guin's The Earthsea Trilogy:

”But political thought and activity was just one facet of this astonishingly talented woman’s multifaceted life and work. The Earthsea trilogy, for instance, is a memorable exploration of the relationship between life and death: without the darkness, no light; and mortality allows all that is alive to be.

“The darkness includes the hidden and less pleasant sides of our selves – our fears, our pride, our envy. Ged, its hero, must face his shadow self before it devours him. Only then will he become whole. In the process, he must contend with the wisdom of dragons: ambiguous and not our wisdom, but wisdom nonetheless.”

A documentary film titled Worlds of Ursula K. Le Guin will be released this year. You can find out more about it at Le Guin's website.

SWEDEN'S ICE HOTEL

In the time since I discovered there is such a thing several years ago, I've been fascinated with ice hotels that spring up in various places around the world when winter arrives and melt away in spring.

Here's a video about the original ice hotel in Sweden:

You can find out how the ice hotel rooms are cleaned at Mental Floss and visit the hotel's website here.

HACKERS STOLE $172 BILLION IN 2017

That's right 172 billion dollars with a B. Here are the key findings about this kind of cybercrime, according to the 2017 Norton Cyber Security Insights Report [pdf],

• 978 million people in 20 countries were affected by cybercrime in 2017. The most common cybercrimes experienced by consumers or someone they know include:

• Having a device infected by a virus or other security threat (53%)

• Experiencing debit or credit card fraud (38%)

• Having an account password compromised (34%)

• Encountering unauthorized access to or hacking of an email or social media account (34%)

• Making a purchase online that turned out to be a scam (33%)

• Clicking on a fraudulent email or providing sensitive (personal/financial) information in response to a fraudulent email (32%)

Fortunately for us this is more than just a survey. On page 9 of the report, you'll find good advice on how to prevent it.

IS COFFEE A HEALTH RISK OR IS IT GOOD FOR US

Every few years, “they” tell us that certain common foods are not good for us. Salt, of course, many fats, red meat and so on. Coffee comes up on that list now and then and I've never paid attention.

In this video, recorded in 2015, Dr. Aaron Carroll affirms research showing that drinking five cups of coffee a day is associated with a lower risk of disease, compared to drinking none.

I don't go quite as far as five cups a day, but I do like having my biases confirmed:

15 REASONS TO APPRECIATE SQUIRRELS

I've never had any trouble appreciating squirrels but these reasons are new to me.

Squirrel

They are Very Organized: A recent study found that eastern fox squirrels living on UC Berkeley's campus cache their nuts according to type. When given a mixture of walnuts, pecans, almonds, and hazelnuts, the squirrels took the time to hide each type of nut in a specific place.

Their Forgetfulness Helps Trees Grow: Though they may be careful about where they bury their acorns and other nuts, they still forget about quite a few of their caches (or at least neglect to retrieve them). When they do, those acorns often sprout, resulting in more trees.

They Can Lie: Gray squirrels know how to deceive. They can engage in what's called "tactical deception...When they think they're being watched by someone looking to pilfer their cache of food...they will pretend to dig a hole as if burying their acorn or nut, but tuck their snack into their mouth and go bury it elsewhere.”

You can read about the other 12 reasons to appreciate squirrels at Mental Floss.

BEST, FUNNIEST AND MOST POWERFUL SIGNS AT WOMEN'S MARCHES

Well, certainly not all all the signs – it was a big, big march in every U.S. state and many other countries as well last weekend. Here are a few samples:

Midterms

HarryPotterMarchSign

Toddler

You will find more at Raw Story.

23-YEAR-OLD FINGERBOARD ENTREPRENEUR

Who knew you could make a living at something like this. Obviously Michael Schneider does but his facial expressions seem to say that he's as surprised as I am at the success of such a silly thing:

CAN U.S. STATES RESCUE NET NEUTRALITY?

Some states are suing the federal government to restore net neutrality rules that were rescinded by the Trump administration in December 2017.

Taking a more immediate step is Montana Governor Steve Bullock who signed an executive order requiring internet service providers to accept net neutrality rules for contracts with the state. Take a look at a local news report about it:

Read more at Huff Post.

INGO THE DOG AND HIS OWL FRIENDS

Thank reader Kathleen Noble for these astonishing photos of a German shepherd hanging out with his tiny (compared to him) owl friends. Images are by animal photographer Tanja Brandt:

Ingo3

Ingo1

Ingo4

A lot more of Ms. Brandt's photos of Ingo and his owl buddies at Bored Panda.

* * *

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.



Senior Discounts: A Rite of Passage Redux

EDITORIAL NOTE: This week got so busy I couldn't find time for today's story so I have resurrected a post from the second year of TGB, 11 November 2005, about senior discounts.

In the penultimate paragraph, I mention that I was then working on becoming as comfortable with being an elder as I was for so many decades as an adult. Now, 13 years later, I have no doubts. I am an old person and that knowledge has come to rest easily on my shoulders.

* * *

Earlier this week, Colleen of Loose Leaf left a comment about having recently received a ten dollar senior discount.

As serendipity in timing would have it, last Sunday I got my first senior discount too – at a movie theater. I had never asked for one before – hadn’t even thought about it - so I don’t know what possessed me to say at the ticket window, “one adult and one senior, please.” (ASIDE: I wish I’d said “elder.”)

It turns out that discount is no small change in New York City where movie tickets go for $11 a pop. The “elder” ticket cost only seven dollars, a savings which almost covered a grossly overpriced small bag of popcorn.

Colleen, who is about ten years younger than I, admitted to being a bit shaken by her first discount for age. I, on the other hand, sailed right through it without a quiver and have been wondering since then what other discounts I’m missing.

These two little rites of passage remind me that we don’t become old – or seniors or elders – in our minds overnight or on a certain birthday. Our perception of time is flexible, moving along at different rates of speed depending on circumstances, and minds can be hard things to change. We back into new definitions of ourselves slowly, I think, becoming accustomed to them gradually as other people and traditional markers outside ourselves – like photographs and senior discounts - reflect to us our passing years.

In the 20 months I’ve been writing Time Goes By, I’ve accepted my status – at least on paper – as a person of age, as an advocate for ending ageism and age discrimination, and for exploring what getting older is really like.

But what I had not done is feel that status of elderhood viscerally. I have yet to make it my own, so a part of my being that I don’t need to discuss it anymore - what Jill Fallon of Legacy Matters says Buddhists call “the ever-present awareness” of our inner selves.

I sense now, however, that I’m beginning to close in on it. Asking for the senior discount without a hiccup and taking pleasure in Elisa Camahort’s redefinition of me as “ElderBlogger Ronni Bennett” seem to be indications that acceptance in the wings. It took a long time in my youth to get past the feeling I was play-acting at being a grownup. The goal now is to become as certain an elder as I became an adult for so many decades.

Meanwhile, I think I’ll look into what other senior discounts are available. Saving a little money is a powerful incentive to attitude adjustment.



A Funny Little Health Remedy that Actually Works – For Me

ATTENTION PLEASE: As I first noted at the bottom of this post, commenters may not recommend any medications including over the counter meds. I have just removed all references to magnesium - in a couple of cases, the entire comment regarding how magnesium works on cramps. It very well may work, but there are side effects depending on dosages and it can interact negatively with other meds. So the rule for this blog stands: you may not recommend in any way, any medication. It will be deleted.

Surely you have been hit with a charley horse more than once – that sudden muscle spasm in a leg, arm, foot, hand, fingers or toes that can cause excruciating pain.

According to the Mayo Clinic, age increases risk of muscle cramps because as old people lose muscle mass, remaining muscle can more easily become overstressed.

From time to time throughout life I've been afflicted with horrible muscle cramps. If in my legs and/or feet, I've found that walking heavily, putting a lot of extra pressure on my feet as I walk will help to a degree.

Most of all, however, the best remedy has been a hot bath – really irritating when a cramp has wakened me in the middle of the night and I just want to sleep.

Last Friday, I spent an entire day fighting cramps in my hands and fingers, toes and feet, arms and lower legs – all at once. It was the biggest, longest bout of muscle cramps I can recall enduring. The two hot baths I took helped for about ten minutes each.

The pain was terrible – it was towel-biting time to avoid screaming and it sent to me to the internet to look for information.

At the Mayo Clinic, Harvard Medical School, Medical News Today and some other reputable healthcare websites I learned that no one in the medical community takes muscle cramps seriously (“most muscle cramps are harmless”) nor do they know much about them.

Cramps can be related to rheumatoid arthritis, muscle overuse, dehydration and might be associated with such diseases as diabetes and nerve, liver and thyroid disorders, they say.

Assuming no underlying medical cause, the suggested remedies were nothing I didn't already know – stretch the muscles, drink more water, low-impact exercise and use correct hand tools.

Oh, please. By the time you have a cramp it's too late for any of those. I was screeching in pain so I expanded my internet search beyond the reputables. Here's one I found:

Pickle juice? Although I have a couple of jars of pickles in the refrigerator, I took a pass. Then I discovered the website of Dr. David Williams who is, according to the About page:

”A medical researcher, biochemist, and chiropractor [who has a reputation] as one of the world’s leading authorities on natural healing.”

Mainly, however, the website exists to sell his supplements and like the guy in the video, he touts pickle juice to stop muscle cramps within 60 seconds. I still wasn't convinced. (The link to Dr. Williams's website is for information only and does not endorse his products.)

He also says he believes a calcium deficiency causes cramps so recommends trying a different brand of calcium, and he also suggests DMSO. But I was in extreme pain as I read his webpage and I needed help right away so this caught my eye:

”A doctor by the name of Donald Cooper discovered a technique you can use to put a stop to a sudden cramp or spasm,” writes Dr. Williams. “He says it works 90 percent of the time. Dr. Cooper describes the technique:

"'At the first sign of muscle cramping, take a good, firm hold on the upper lip between the thumb and index finger, maintaining constant pressure. The cramping will stop or fade away, usually within 20 to 30 seconds, although sometimes it may take longer. I often pinch for a total of two or three minutes. Don't knock it until you've tried it.'”

“Oh pshaw,” she said to herself. But even though the cramps had been going on for several hours, I firmly grabbed my upper lip with thumb and forefinger.

And folks, to my utter shock and dismay, it worked. In less than a minute the cramping had stopped. When, ten or 15 minutes later, it started up again the lip grab did the job once more. And there was no more cramping that night.

To give you an idea of how severe the cramps were, my bicep and calf muscles still ache four days later although they're steadily improving.

I know this remedy sounds crazy. I don't want to believe it and part of me still thinks it is a coincidence or some kind of self-suggestion born of horrendous pain. But as weird as it appears to be, the cramping did stop, essentially immediately.

So strange.

IMPORTANT NOTE: I suspect some of you will have some odd home remedies for minor health issues that have worked for you. That's good, include them below.

But you may not claim cures for diseases or conditions, nor recommend any medication, prescription or otherwise, nor link to any websites.



Great Big Fat Good News About Cancer

At first, I wrote this post with a long and winding introduction to the news – this great big fat good news - but that doesn't seem fair so I'm redoing it and adding what had been intro material as an addendum below. Here is the news:

On Friday, my Whipple Procedure surgeon said that the many tests given during my hospital stay 10 days ago showed – and I quote - “no current evidence of cancer”.

Just for fun, let's repeat that: no current evidence of cancer. Isn't that amazing.

One of the surgeon's nurses who I've come to know a bit relayed his statement to me via phone message and added, “so go celebrate.”

I started with a good cry. When I tapped the phone off, the tears just flowed on their own. There turns out to be a nice symmetry too: the day after this overwhelming and unexpected news was given to me – that is, 20 January – was the seven-month anniversary of the Whipple surgery last June.

This definitely is a grace – defined by Christians as an unearned, unmerited, undeserved favor from god. If like me, god is a tricky concept for you, think of it as the same kind of gift but from the universe.

It is a grace because it's a big deal and I certainly did nothing to cause it. The doctors and nurses and other healthcare people at OHSU did all the work – the surgery, help with recovery, chemotherapy, hand-holding, question answering, etc.

All I did was follow their instructions to the best of my ability.

And then there are all of you – the wonderful TGB readers who every day have left encouraging notes, stories, prayers and thoughts. Can anyone prove they don't work? I can't, and they helped keep me going especially on the most difficult days.

Friends and neighbors belong on this list too – the people who have served as chauffeurs to and from the doctors, shoppers before I could drive again after the surgery, cat care when I couldn't bend to clean the litter box, among so much more including unending moral support.

Thank you seems too puny but it is deeply heartfelt.

Even with this great good news, however, there is more medical stuff to come. As I mentioned last Monday, I have a small, internal bleed that, if it does not heal on its own, will require surgery which will be extensive enough to result in a recovery period almost as difficult as the Whipple. What helps make it tolerable for me is that it is a mechanical problem – sort of a loose connection – unrelated to pancreatic cancer.

The decision about the surgery will be made in early February.

Unfortunately, I can't just relegate this bout of cancer to a minor interruption in life and get on with everything else. Tests will be needed every few months for as long as I live to check for any recurrence or new cancer. Too bad about that but after these past seven months, I'm pretty sure I can manage it without too much anxiety.

As the old song says, “whatever will be, will be,” but for today, let's imagine I've shipped off a bottle of champagne to every one of you and together let's toast the universe, its occasional gifts and my incredible, great, good luck.

Champagne

Thank you all so much for helping me through this ordeal. You are the best.



ELDER MUSIC: Classical Gas Part 9

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.

* * *

Next in the series of columns, first named by Norma, the Assistant Musicologist, to highlight the music of possibly lesser known composers.

I'll start with something that might be familiar to some of you. It's by OTTORINO RESPIGHI.

Respighi

Perhaps it's just me, because the music I selected was used as the theme for a program on my local classical station.

Although he was from Bologna, Otto seemed to have an inordinate fondness for Rome (he's probably not alone in that), witness his tone poems The Fountains of Rome, The Pines of Rome and Roman Festival. I'm not using any of those, however, instead it's the fourth movement of his other famous work, Ancient Airs and Dances. This is Suite 2, arranged for orchestra.

♫ Respighi - Ancient Airs and Dances Suite No. 2 (4)


ELENA KATS-CHERNIN was born in Tashkent, Uzbekistan and studied in Moscow.

Kats-Chernin

She emigrated to Australia when she was 18 and continued her musical studies in this country. She's written half a dozen operas, the usual concertos, symphonies and the like and considerable music for the piano. She's currently one of Australia's most important composers. One of her piano works is called Dance of the Paper Umbrellas.

♫ Kats-Chernin - Dance Of The Paper Umbrellas


FRIEDRICH FESCA was a composer and violinist from around the turn of the eighteenth century into the nineteenth century.

Fesca

His parents were both in the music biz, so he had a head start in his career such that he performed quite challenging piano pieces when he was only four. Later in life he was court composer for various kings, dukes and such like.

Fred wrote symphonies and some sacred music, but his chamber music, the string quartets in particular, are of the first order. Here is the first movement of his Flute Quartet No. 2 in G major, Op. 38.

♫ Fesca - Flute Quartet No. 2 in G major Op. 38 (1)


In the past I've devoted a column to FRANZ HOFFMEISTER and his friends but I think he deserves another listen.

Hoffmeister

Franz's column was concerning his business as a music publisher. Today it's just about his music. There are many violin concertos in the world, but far fewer viola concertos. I've always found this instrument more to my taste. Here's Franz's version, the Viola Concerto in D major, the third movement.

♫ Hoffmeister - Viola Concerto in D major (3)


CHARLES IVES once famously asked, "Are my ears on straight?" because nobody seemed to like his music.

Ives

Anyone who has more than a passing knowledge of it would be tempted to ask the same question of him. His music is, to put no fine point on it, challenging – he was especially fond of dissonance. He anticipated 20th century musical developments but most of his own was ignored and not played during his lifetime.

Charlie was a great supporter and champion of other composers' music and often financed them anonymously – he was very successful in business. If spite of his music's reputation, there is the occasional piece that I'm quite happy to lend an ear to.

One of those is his String Quartet No. 1, which is subtitled for some reason "From the Salvation Army". This is the second movement. His ears were properly aligned when he composed this.

♫ Ives - String Quartet No.1 (2)


JOHANN BACKOFEN was a virtuoso player of the clarinet, harp, flute and Bassett horn.

Backofen

It's not surprising that he wrote mostly for those instruments. Today we have two of them – the harp and Bassett horn, two instruments you seldom hear together, particularly in a solo setting.

The Bassett horn, incidentally, is a member of the clarinet family, a bit bigger than that instrument, and has a bend at the top or down the bottom or both. The first movement of his Duo Concertante for Bassett Horn & Harp in F major.

♫ Backofen - Duo Concertante for Bassetthorn & Harp in F major (1)


OSVALDO GOLIJOV has the soprano DAWN UPSHAW as his composing muse these days.

Golijov & Upshaw

Os is an Argentinean composer and professor of music. Although he writes other styles, vocal music is his forte. Dawn is an American soprano who specialises in modern classical music. Os's song cycle Ayre was written with her in mind.

From that work we have the wonderfully named Una Madre Comió Asado (A Mother Roasted her Child).

♫ Golijov - Una Madre Comió Asado (A Mother Roasted her Child)


LOUISE FARRENC was born into a Parisian family of successful sculptors – her father and brother were both notable in that field. She was born Louise Dumont.

Farrenc

Louise had a reputation during her lifetime for being a fine composer, a virtuoso pianist and one of the country's best music teachers such that she became Professor of Piano at the Paris Conservatory.

Her most famous composition is her nonet which was so successful that she demanded, and received, pay equal to the males at the Conservatory. Here is the second movement from that work, the Nonet for Strings and Wind in E-Flat Major, Op. 38.

♫ Farrenc - Nonet for Strings and Wind in E-Flat Major Op. 38 (2)


JOSÉ DE TORRES was the king's director of music at the Chapel Royal in Madrid at the beginning of the 18th century. The king being Philip V.

De Torres

A duty of his position was to compose music for all religious services, which were a lot. A considerable amount of his music survives, possibly helped by his being also a music publisher, the first in the country. This piece of music is called Arpon que glorioso (Villancico al Santisimo), and it's performed by Al Ayre Español.

♫ Joseph de Torres - Arpon que glorioso (Villancico al Santisimo)


MARIA SZYMANOWSKA was born Marianna Wolowska in Warsaw.

Maria Szymanowska

She was one of the first professional pianists in Europe and toured extensively throughout. This was a decade or two before Liszt, Chopin and Clara Schumann did the same sort of thing.

Maria eventually settled in St Petersburg, then the Russian capital, where she composed music and played the piano for all who wanted to hear (which was just about everyone). A lot of her compositions are for piano, not unexpectedly, and we have Waltz No 1 in E-flat major from her “Three Waltzes for Piano.”

♫ Szymanowska - Waltz No 1 in E-flat major



INTERESTING STUFF – 20 January 2018

LIVE JAZZ EVERY SUNDAY IN HARLEM APARTMENT

Every Sunday, Marjorie Eliot and Rudel Drears open the doors of their Harlem apartment to anyone in the mood for jazz. At first, this was a way for Marjorie to honor her son’s passing, but the concerts soon began attracting visitors from all corners of the world, according to the YouTube page.

Today, Marjorie’s matinees have become iconic, continuing to restore, renew and unite people all through the magic of music. Take a look:

Without missing a single Sunday, the music has been going on for 25 years.

DNA CHECK

I'm not much interested in genealogy but as Christmas approached last year, there were a lot of commercials for discounted DNA checks so just for fun, I decided to see what my DNA says about me. I got the results this week. Here's how it breaks down:

Scandinavian - 19.7%
English - 19.4%
Irish, Scottish, Welsh - 19.4%
South Europe, Iberian - 10.9%
South Europe, Greek - 9.3%
Eastern Europe - 19%
North Africa - 1.1%
Nigeria - 1.1%
Middle East - 1.1%

The Scandinavian surprised me but the rest is pretty much what I expected. I had been told my maternal ethnic background was Spanish and Welsh. Period. They are there in this analysis, but not in as big a percentage as I had thought. Mildly interesting...

CAT VERSUS OCTOPUS

According to the YouTube page, this is a cat meeting an octopus for the first time. I doubt there is much opportunity for this kind of encounter so take a look:

A PAPER AIRPLANE LIKE YOU'VE NEVER SEEN

The detail that Luca Iaconi-Stewart has incorporated into this model of a Boeing 777 aircraft made entirely of manila folders is astonishing.

I'm pretty sure this takes an amount of obsession I'm unfamiliar with.

A PENCIL FACTORY IN PHOTOS

Photographer Christopher Payne, The New York Times reports, has visited the General Pencil Company factory in Jersey City, New Jersey dozens of times where he has been documenting every phase of the manufacturing process.

It is a beautiful and compelling photo essay. Here are some samples:

GraypencilsA

PencilMachineB

EditiingPencilsC

Because it is published at The New York Times not all of you will be able to see the rest of the photos, but you may enjoy reporter Sam Anderson's final paragraph. I did:

”In an era of infinite screens, the humble pencil feels revolutionarily direct: It does exactly what it does, when it does it, right in front of you. Pencils eschew digital jujitsu. They are pure analog, absolute presence. They help to rescue us from oblivion.

“Think of how many of our finest motions disappear, untracked — how many eye blinks and toe twitches and secret glances vanish into nothing. And yet when you hold a pencil, your quietest little hand-dances are mapped exactly, from the loops and slashes to the final dot at the very end of a sentence.”

More at The New York Times.

A COFFEE TABLE HARRY POTTER WOULD LOVE

The craftsman in this video built a “magic” coffee table full of hidden compartments and artwork. I've always loved hidden compartments and had one in the floor-to-ceiling bookshelves I had built in my Maine apartment. Take a look at this:

A CHAIN REACTION WITH MORE THAN DOMINOS

A YouTube contributor who calls himself DoodleChaos synchronized his chain reaction to Tchaikovsky's Waltz of the Flowers. The chain reaction includes not just dominos as usual, but also marbles, magnets and janga blocks. Here is what he said about doing that:

”After listening to parts of this song hundreds of times to match things up I went a bit crazy.”

I have no doubt nor will you when you see this final amazing video.

COLDEST PLACE ON EARTH

Oymyakon, a remote Siberian village, is considered to be the coldest permanently inhabited settlement in the world. BoredPanda reports:

”The official weather station at the 'pole of cold' registered -59°C (-74°F), but the new electronic thermometer claimed the weather was -62°C (-80°F). In fact, it even stopped working after reaching the painful mark. Some of the 500 locals go beyond that, claiming the temperatures are as low as -68°C (-90°F).”

Here are some sample photos:

FreezingVillageA

FreezingRussianTownB

Worlds-coldest-village-oymyakon-siberiaC

More photographs at BoredPanda.

MURMURATION OF STARLINGS

A short film that follows the journey of two girls in a canoe on the River Shannon and how they stumble across one of nature's greatest phenomenons; a murmuration of starlings.

There is an explanation of the science behind starling murmurations at Wired. Thank TGB reader Ruth-Ellen B. Joeres for the video.

* * *

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

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



Crabby Old Lady and Protest/Donation Fatigue

But first – we have a winner in Monday's random drawing for a book of essays by Ursula K. Le Guin titled No Time to Spare. The random number generator spoke and Karin Bendel's name came up.

The book has been mailed off today. Congratulations Karin, and thank you Lynn Lawrence for providing the giveaway book.

* * *

Now for something entirely different – no old age, no cancer, not even a book today.

It probably won't surprise you that Crabby Old Lady has email subscriptions – several dozen of them - to newsletters, announcements and daily mailings from a lot of newspapers, magazines, political organizations, resistance groups and some members of Congress.

They have piled up over the years as Crabby has added new ones she finds along the way and, of course, never deletes any.

At the same time, she has become adept at knowing what she needs to know – so much so that she has learned from experience what information need not be read beyond a headline (if the headline writer is any good) and which newsletters are worth drilling down into for a fuller story.

Nevertheless, Crabby spent a good deal of time this week unsubscribing from some of these missives for one reason: they write scary headlines often in bright red and then supply a link only to a donation or paid subscription page. (A frequent alternative is a request to sign a petition which then begs for money.)

In many cases, this happens from the same organizations every day. Every. Single. Day. And Crabby is fed up. So one-by-one she is ditching them.

She's sorry to do that and god knows she has contributed through the years. But these pleadings never have new or useful information and always imply that they are going to close their doors within a day or two if they don't get Crabby's $5.

For many years now they have been doing this in Crabby's inbox every day. Every. Single. Day.

For all the handwringing that goes on about how trashy the internet is nowadays – whether that refers to the plethora of pornography and various scams among other detritus – Crabby never runs into it. She is interested in news, politics, health and age-related information plus a few minor silly addictions, and she knows where to find them all.

What pisses off Crabby are the political organizations that trade on their perceived righteousness but give no discernable return on their begging for money – certainly no information that Crabby doesn't get on any number of other websites.

So Crabby is gradually cleaning up her inbox and she can't be the only person who, having suffered enough, is giving up their support for just this stupid reason: they overdid it.

And another thing: It's official, says Crabby: there are no longer any news, news-ish and commentary websites known to mankind that do not blast audio – usually attached to video – as soon as the page settles.

Plus, there are so many moving distractions next to the text Crabby is trying to read that she knows it distracts from her full comprehension, not to mention all the many interruptions for commercials between paragraphs of stories made to look like part of the story so, supposedly, she will read them.

Not, as we used to say. She just moves on, deciding that the hassle to read with all the interruptions isn't worth whatever she thought might learn from the article..

Somewhere this week, Crabby saw a headline about a survey of internet users reporting that there is so much distracting “stuff” on pages of the internet that people feel less informed now than before they had the internet.

Crabby didn't read that one either, in this case because the headline said all anyone needs to know about this topic and there is no doubt it is true.

For these reasons and more, Crabby Old Lady is aggrieved at these and all the other awful online stuff she hasn't even mentioned. It has become so hard to use the internet that Crabby is doing a lot less of it these days. How about you?



Encouraging News: U.S. Cancer Death Rate Has Dropped. Again.

Here's something I didn't know about cancer and I'll bet you didn't know either until now:

”...the lifetime probability of being diagnosed with the disease is slightly higher for men than for women, with adult height accounting for about a third of the difference. Studies have shown that taller people have a greater risk of cancer.

Hmmph. Being only 5 feet, two inches tall didn't help me.

It's still a great little factoid to have and it is from a story in the Washington Post about the annual report from the American Cancer Society - this year titled Cancer Facts and Figures 2018.

You're probably not surprised to know that since I was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer last June, I've become more interested in cancer generally so I've been looking at news stories more carefully.

The disease, in its many forms, has been frustratingly difficult to treat, let alone cure – physicians have been trying to do so since at least 2500 BC. In the four-plus millennia that have followed, science has been able to reduce the incidences of many childhood diseases, of tuberculosis and of small pox, for example, to almost none.

But cancer, the number two killer in the United States, continues to be intractable.

Even so and as excruciatingly slow as it is, there has been positive change. The Post again:

”Overall, the cancer death rate has dropped from 215.1 per 100,000 population in 1991 to 158.6 per 100,000 in 2015.

“The nation's overall cancer death rate declined 1.7 percent in 2015, the latest indication of steady, long-term progress against the disease, according to a new report by the American Cancer Society.

“Over nearly a quarter-century, the mortality rate has fallen 26 percent, resulting in almost 2.4 million fewer deaths than if peak rates had continued...

“Even so, an estimated 609,000 people are expected to die of the ailment this year, while 1.74 million will be diagnosed with it.

Here is a chart of the number deaths from certain cancers expected during 2018:

CancerDeathsChart

After heart disease, cancer is the second leading cause of death overall in the U.S. but there are disparities of varying degrees among racial and age groups. As the Post notes, the 2015 mortality rate was 14 percent higher in blacks than white, but was 33 percent at its peak in 1993. However,

”...that trend masks significant disparities among age groups. Among people 65 and older, the death rate for blacks was 7 percent higher than for whites, a smaller disparity that likely reflects the effects of Medicare's universal health-care access.

“Among Americans younger than 65, the mortality rate was almost a third higher among blacks than whites — with even larger disparities in many states.”

Eventually, cancer affects just about everyone in the United States. Forty percent of Americans will, in their lifetimes, be diagnosed with one form of the disease or another making it almost impossible for anyone but a hermit to not have a relative, friend or neighbor who is afflicted.

In my case, both my parents died of cancer – breast and liver for my mother; liver and pancreatic for my father. Although I'm grateful to have been extraordinarily healthy throughout my 76 years until the diagnosis, it's hard to see how I could escape the family fate especially since I smoked for many years.

When I underwent a simultaneous endoscopy and colonoscopy last week to determine the details of an internal bleed, I was asked – as I had been just prior to my Whipple surgery in June – to give permission for the doctors to remove some small pieces of tissue for study.

Of course, I agreed both times. It's the least I can do to help researchers coax this “emperor of all maladies” to give up its horrible secrets.

The full report from the American Cancer Society, Cancer Facts and Figures 2018, is available here.



Cancer Treatment: It's Always Something (and a Book Giveaway)

In a repeat from last November, I appeared at the clinic for my Wednesday chemotherapy infusion last week but when the usual blood tests came back, my red cell count was too low for treatment.

The infusion was canceled and like last time, the tram took me from the waterfront campus to the OHSU hospital up on the hill for an overnight transfusion of blood. Two units this time instead of four.

And because I now have an internal bleed, a whole lot of tests:

  • Repeated vitals: blood pressure, temperature, heart rate

  • The usual bloodlettings for the lab

  • EKG

  • X-ray

  • rectal exam

  • combined colonoscopy (including the infamous prep)/endoscopy

There were probably other tests I've overlooked. Later, to help combat the anemia, an infusion of liquid iron which, the doctor informed me, looks pretty much like motor oil – and so it does.

I've been home since Friday evening, mostly sleeping due to the truth of the old hospital joke about it being nowhere to get any rest.

As I've mentioned here before, the staff at every level at OHSU is excellent. This time there were more doctors than in the past – maybe eight or ten or more - each with his/her area of expertise in regard to the internal bleed that needs to be dealt with.

All of them and the nurses, the CNAs and everyone else who attends to patients, are smart, knowledgeable in their areas of expertise, kind, caring and just plain nice people.

Next steps are that this week, I have a bunch of medical appointments to see what the decisions or choices may be.

Meanwhile, I have some new medications to take and what an awkward schedule they require. There is one I must take an hour before each meal, another to take 30 minutes before breakfast and dinner but not lunch, a couple that cannot be taken in combination with certain others and so on.

I'm working off a brand-new, home-made chart to keep it all straight.

Remember way back when I said I would not allow myself to become a professional patient? What a crock. The pill schedule alone ensures that I need to be aware of time and medications all day every day.

The doctors tell me the bleed, small that it is, is at the site of a connection between hoses (or whatever other body part) made during the Whipple precedure in June. If my interpretation is correct this is, essentially, a mechanical problem not a cancer issue. I'll know more later this week.

This all came out of nowhere for me. You see, I thought for the time-being, my job was, to the degree possible, to withstand the side effects of chemo until it was done in March.

I didn't count on an all new, out-of-the-blue medical event. There is not much difference at my end (as opposed to the doctors') between this and being hit by a truck in terms of how it interrupts my life.

But that thought also is a reminder that to extent possible, I must go on living as I choose. I can complain about the pill schedule, about being tired too much, about additional medical appointments and about the next unexpected medical intrusion but there is no point in letting them take over my life completely. That would be a terrible mistake.

As far as I know, pancreatic cancer is random. It might have been you, but this time it's me and there is no point in being miserable about something I can't change. Just live. And laugh. And make the best of what I have.

I know that sounds like I've gone all Pollyanna on you but is there another choice? I don't think so.

* * *

About two weeks ago here, I told you about a book of essays, No Time to Spare, by Ursula K. Le Guin. A few days later, TGB reader Lynn Lawrence emailed to ask for my snailmail address to send me a book.

NoTimeToSpare225It arrived within a couple of days - the Le Guin book. Lynn had missed my posting about it but had read an excerpt somewhere else and thought it was perfect for me. So we decided together via email, that I would offer another book giveaway – just one this time and do thank Lynn for it if you win..

We'll do it the same way as always with giveaways here:

Just tell me in the comments below that, “Yes, I want to win the book.” Or, you could say, “Me, me, me.” or anything else that indicates your interest.

The winner (you can live in any country) is selected by an online random number generator and I will have your email addresses from the comment form. I will then email the winner to get your snailmail addresses to send off the book.

The contest will remain open through 12 midnight Pacific Time on Tuesday 16 January 2018, and the winner will be announced on Friday morning's regular post, 19 January 2018.



ELDER MUSIC: Recent Discoveries

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.

* * *

Here are some recent discoveries of mine. "Recent" is a rather flexible term, it could mean six months (or more by the time this column is shown). However, it also means that none of these artists have been used in any of my columns before.

They are only my discoveries, some of you might be going, "Oh, I've known about him/her/them for quite a while now", but that's okay, you can hear them again.

It just goes to show that good music is still being made, as most of these are considerably younger than we are. So, here they are in no particular order.

MEGAN HENWOOD will probably be lumped into the "folk" category because she plays her own songs on acoustic guitar.

Megan Henwood

Also she sounds a little like Joni Mitchell. Like Joni, she doesn't restrict herself and adds elements of jazz to her performances as in this one where a trumpet pops up at the end that shouldn't work, but does so beautifully.

Megan performs mostly around Britain, whence she hails, and from her third album "River" we have Fresh Water.

♫ Megan Henwood - Fresh Water


Unlike most of the others today, SAMANTHA FISH can really rock out. Well, the others probably can if they wanted to.

Samantha Fish

Samantha's best known for playing blues and rock and roll but she has said that she doesn't want to be typecast and likes try all sorts of music. To demonstrate that, in the track I've chosen she backs off from her usual sizzling electric guitar work and adopts a softer, more country approach. The song is Belle of the West.

♫ Samantha Fish - Belle of the West


JARROD DICKENSON has the help of CLAIRE WARD (his wife) on his own song, Your Heart Belongs to Me.

Jarrod & Claire

Well, all the songs he records are his own. He's yet another singer/songwriter from Texas, although based in New York these days, at least when he's not touring Europe, especially Britain and Ireland.

Jarrod and Claire perform Your Heart Belongs to Me.

♫ Jarrod Dickenson - Your Heart Belongs to Me


I mentioned to Norma, the Assistant Musicologist, that the next artist is not who she thinks it is before I played this next track. "Not Emmylou, you mean?" she asked when it got rolling. "Correct, it's DORI FREEMAN".

"Who?" She replied. Sorry Dori – I said that these artists today are new to me, and the A.M. too, it seems.

Dori Freeman

Dori claims Peggy Lee and Rufus Wainwright as influences but perhaps her Appalachian upbringing made a contribution or the generations of musicians on both sides of her family. Whatever it is, here she is with Still a Child.

♫ Dori Freeman - Still a Child


Speaking of Emmylou, here is a song by that name. The performers are the rather prosaically named FIRST AID KIT, but don't judge a book, or a group, by its cover.

First Aid Kit

You wouldn't think, just by listening to them, that they are Swedish. They are sisters Klara and Johanna Söderberg. It shows how much anyone can miss: I first heard the soEmmylou this year (it may be last year by now), but it's been around for six years or so. Oh well, at least I've finally found it.

♫ First Aid Kit - Emmylou


I was first made aware of ANTONIA BENNETT thanks to my friend Ann.

Antonia Bennett

She suggested that I check her out, so I did, and because of that she's included today. I assume Antonia knows what she's doing as she is Tony Bennett's daughter. She also performs similar sorts of songs to those that her father sings, including Love is a Battlefield.

♫ Antonia Bennett - Love is a Battlefield2


Speaking of the offspring of famous musicians, LUKAS NELSON is Willie's son, and hearing him sing, he couldn't be anyone else's.

Lukas Nelson

Lukas performs in a band called Lukas Nelson & Promise of the Real, and their repertoire covers many genres – rock, folk, country, soul, R&B and anything else that catches their attention. I was trying to figure out what song this one reminded me of, but The A.M. cut to the chase: "He's channelling John Hartford. Gentle on my Mind".

She was right. It also reminded me a bit of Bob Lind. Could do worse than those two. The song is Just Outside of Austin. Lukas's dad plays some guitar on the track.

♫ Lukas Nelson - Just Outside of Austin


And now a singer who boggled my mind when I first heard her (and continues to do so). What power, but she keeps it under control, demonstrating that there's a lot more there when needed. She is LIZZ WRIGHT.

Lizz Wright

She started out singing gospel music and moved on to blues and jazz. Later she incorporated folk elements. It seems that she can sing anything she wants to. Today, she's rather gospelly with Seems I’m Never Tired Lovin’ You.

♫ Lizz Wright - Seems I’m Never Tired Lovin’ You


WILLIE WATSON first came to general notice as a member of the group Old Crow Medicine Show.

Willie Watson

Since going solo he's recorded a couple of albums called "Folksinger Vol 1" and "Folksinger Vol 2". On several of the songs on the second one Willie has the help of THE FAIRFIELD FOUR.

Fairfield Four

The Fairfields are not recent discoveries of mine, and the songs they perform with Willie are the best ones on the album. There are few better singing groups to have at your back than them. They all sing yet another song called On the Road Again.

♫ Willie Watson - On the Road Again


I imagine you're way ahead of me on my final choice. BEV GRANT is probably not new to you as she's been around for quite some time (sorry Bev). It's just that's she's new to me.

Bev Grant

Bev's from Portland, Oregon, where she began singing in a band with her two sisters. She headed out on her own to New York, there to write and perform her songs and became active in good causes. She is the founder and director of the Brooklyn Women’s Chorus.

From her recent album "It's Personal", she sings Small Town Girl, pretty much the story of her journey.

♫ Bev Grant - Small Town Girl



Sorry: No Interesting Stuff Today

It's Friday evening as I write this and I'm just now home from the two nights in the hospital. Cancer related, of course.

It was due to a repeat performance of November when I had extremely low red blood cell count. This time, more blood transfusions, plus an internal bleed that involved the necessity of a couple of procedures to figure out where it is and the cause.

I'll explain more next week but now I just need to go to bed. As I'm sure any of you who have been there know that there is no such thing as sleep in a hospital.

One thing for Celia Andrews and Yvonne Behrens-Waldbaum who each won a copy of Malcolm Nance's book: Yvonne blogs at Aging Us.

I didn't get the books in the mail before going to the hospital and probably won't get to the post office until early next week but I'll mail them as soon as possible.

There is so much email piled up that I may not be able to respond to it all. My apologies but there is only so much time in life. Thank you for your patience. I'm fine and be back to my usual self on the blog by Monday.



What It's Really Like to Get Old

Here are the two winners in the random drawing announced Monday for Malcolm Nance's book, Defeating ISIS: Who They are, How They Fight, What They Believe. Two days later, I rolled the handy-dandy, online random number generator and...

Drum roll please:

One of the winners is Celia Andrews who blogs at Celia's Blue Cottage. The other is Yvonne Behrens. Congratulations to you both - and books are on their way.

* * *

You may have noticed that the headline on today's post is the same as the subtitle up there on top in the banner of the blog. I've tried to make that thought a large component of Time Goes By even if not the entire purpose.

When I started this blog back in 2004, there was literally nothing good being written anywhere in the popular press about growing old. I've told the story here many times that the media – and the culture itself – made getting old sound so awful (and they still do) that I thought then I might as well shoot myself at age 62.

But I didn't really want to do that so I started TGB instead.

However, there was an error I've carried through these pages for too long: I've overdone the positive sides of ageing or, maybe, underplayed the difficulties. Or both. And I want to start fixing that.

Getting old is hard. Most younger people (including ourselves back then) have no idea what courage it takes to keep going in old age.

From simple aches and pains with or without a particular cause to the big deal “diseases of age” like cancer, heart disease and others that afflict elders in much greater numbers than young people to counting out medications, following special diets, exercises, etc., it takes a lot of work, a lot of gumption to grow old.

All this came to mind a few days ago when I ran across a list of tweets about a some changes that are common to most old people I know – and that's what makes them funny.

Some might think these are ageist but I think we need to reconsider how easily we (or I, sometimes) throw around that epithet.

I am beginning to see that such a judgment can require more nuance, as we are discovering is so with the accusations of sexual harassment and/or misconduct and/or abuse can be.

A lot of these were good. Here are my favorites:

  • I thought I was just really tired but it's been five years so I guess this is how I look now.

  • The older I get, the earlier it gets late.

  • I'm not saying I'm old but I just had to increase my font size to "Billboard."

  • Hey guys, remember when you could still refer to your knees as right and left instead of good and bad?

  • You know you're getting old when you pull out your high-powered back massager and actually use it on your back.

  • I'm so old, I can remember getting through an entire day without taking a picture of anything.

  • My daughter just asked why we say "hang up" the phone and now I feel 90.

  • I may be getting old but I'm not "let me call you, I hate texting" old.

  • You know you're getting old when you finger cramps up while scrolling down to find the year you were born on a website.

You can see more of them at Buzzfeed but feel free to add your own in the comments.