Modern-Day Phossy Jaw and Osteoporosis Drugs

Today's post is a good deal lengthier than usual but I believe it's worth it. I hope you think so.

Like many people about my age (76 now), it did not occur to me when I was young to question my physician. If he or she said this pill or that treatment was good for what ailed me, I believed, I followed the instructions.

Life goes on and things change. For many years now, when I am unfamiliar with drugs, treatments and therapies that are recommended, I do the research first. You probably do that too.

Here is a personal story about how important this can be.

THE HISTORY
In the 19th and early 20th century, phosphorus necrosis of the jaw was a deadly condition particularly affecting people who worked in the matchstick industry (often children and young women) as a result of their exposure to yellow (now called white) phosphorus.

It was a horrible disease, eating away teeth and jawbone before, if left untreated, moving on to brain damage, organ failure and death. Not that the treatment was all that helpful. It largely involved removal of the jawbone which made eating difficult and patients then sometimes died of malnutrition.

The popular name for this disease, in England, was phossy jaw and it generally disappeared when, in the early 20th century, phosphorus matches were outlawed in most countries of the world.

Then, a century later, this:

But how can someone younger than me
have osteoporosis, and sit
googling up a substance that might
help it, or give her phossy jaw?

That is from a contemporary poem (2013) titled Match Girl by British poet, Fleur Adcock, indicating, with the reference to osteoporosis, that phossy jaw has returned to plague some people in the 21st century who use a certain prescription drug.

The only reason I know this is that I have lately been “googling up a substance that...might give ME phossy jaw.”

THE DIAGNOSIS AND PRESCRIPTION
A couple of months ago, after a bone scan, my physician noted that the results indicate that I have osteopenia (early osteoporosis) and would benefit from taking a certain bisphosphonate drug.

If you don't know that word, you undoubtedly know some of the brand names of bisphosphonates that are ubiquitously advertised in magazines and on television: Fosamax, Boniva, Actonel and less frequently, Aclasta, Aredia, Binosto, Didronel, Reclast and Zometa among a few others most of which have generic counterparts. They are common treatments for osteoporosis.

Brand name bisphosphonates

The doctor continued. Among a long list of lesser side effects, he said, between one and six percent of patients using these drugs suffer osteonecrosis of the jaw - that is, phossy jaw which is also known in the medical community shorthand as ONJ.

Even though I had not yet learned the nickname “phossy jaw,” the more medically correct designation, osteonecrosis (bone death), was frightening enough when I heard it that even without yet knowing details, I declined the prescription that day, telling the doctor I would do some homework and get back to him.

For something as ghastly as phossy jaw, one to six percent possibility does not strike me as insignificant. And there is the pesky chance, too, of spontaneous femur breakage that can result from bisphosphonate usage that the doctor had not mentioned.

THE RESEARCH
Once again, thank you Tim Berners-Lee for inventing the internet. I cannot imagine how I could have tracked down all the information I wanted without it and it took only a couple of hours to amass enough for a good overview of osteoporosis treatment.

Among the statistics for bisphosphonates is the warning that “invasive dental work” apparently increases the incidence of phossy jaw.

Invasive dental work. You might recall, as I mentioned in February, that for more than two years I have undergone tooth extractions, procedures to grow new bone in my jaw, subsequent dental implants and an over-denture.

There is no question all that qualifies as “invasive” so I emailed my dentist who is also a bone and implant specialist. He wrote back:

”I would like to chat about this with you - very complicated answer...Bottom line - my answer is no way - you grew great bone during our treatments.”

Later, we spoke on the telephone for more than an hour. I got a terrific education in bone growth and phossy jaw, and he reiterated that my new bone growth was "exceptionally successful."

Osteoporosis

He also believes that physicians overprescribe bisphosphonates to women 70 and older (far fewer men are at risk for osteoporosis) and that everyone should be asked if they have had or are expecting to have invasive dental work before deciding on the drug.

Back on the internet, I tracked down some statistics on bisphosphonate (BP) prescriptions (it isn't easy to find). As of 2014, there were 46.2 million women in the United States age 65 and older. According to the U.S. National Institutes of Health,

”...an estimated 30 million BPs prescriptions are written every year in the United States alone, and more than 190 million prescriptions are written annually worldwide.

There is no information about how those prescriptions are counted but even if they are off by a few million, somewhere in the vicinity of 65 percent of the affected age group with scripts for bisphosphonates seems wildly excessive to me.

Statistics on the incidence of bisphosphonate-related phossy jaw are even harder to come by. The apparent standard that is widely quoted - 1 in 100,000 for oral bisphosphonate and 1 in 10,000 for intravenous bisphosphonate - is sketchy.

There have been no randomized, controlled trials of long-term use of bisphosphonates (commonly prescribed for a five-year span) so claims for their safety in regard to phossy jaw are indeterminate, whatever drug companies claim.

In a paper about bisphosphonates and the risk of osteonecrosis of the jaw, the British Journal of Medical Practitioners published what is the smartest list of recommendations for all medical and dental practitioners I have seen in all my research. Before beginning a bisphosphonate regimen,

”All patients should undergo a routine dental exam to rule out any dental source of infection.

“All medical practitioners also should perform a baseline oral exam.

“Invasive dental or/and oral surgical procedures should be completed before initiating therapy.

“Practice preventive dentistry, involving procedures such as oral prophylaxis, dental restorations, and endodontic therapy, and check dentures for irritational foci.

“Schedule routine follow-up every 3 months to check for any signs of developing ONJ (osteonecrosis of the jaw).

“The risks associated with oral surgical procedures such as dental implants, extractions, and extensive periodontal surgeries must be discussed with the patient and weighted against the benefits.”

The only recommendation I question is the one about completing invasive dental work before initiating therapy because the researchers tell us in the same breath to schedule dental followups every three months after use of bisphosphonate treatment begins, strongly implying that they believe there can be continued risk of phossy jaw after dental work is finished.

There are breathtakingly long lists of other side effects ranging from sniffles to phossy jaw and broken thighs for all the bisphosphonate drugs. You can find good side effect information for brand name drugs at drugs.com or rxlist.com.

Some pharmaceutical companies that produce brand name bisphosphonates try to play down the possibility of phossy jaw and spontaneous thigh fracture by saying that occurrences are “rare.” But there are no definitive statistics and "rare" depends entirely on a patient's characterization of the word, not the drug company's.

THE DECISION
Bisphosphonates slow bone loss, strengthen bones to a degree that helps prevent further weakening and people who take a bisphosphonate are less likely to break a bone (well, if you don't count those thigh breaks that are associated with the drug).

I understand all that. I also understand that when old people break a bone, they often do not recover well or at all in too many cases, which are good reasons to think hard about this class of drugs for osteopenia and osteoporosis. (They are also used to treat certain cancers and Paget's disease.)

Osteoporosissymptoms

Nevertheless, even though I have been diagnosed with osteopenia, I have declined the drug and it was the recent dental work along with my dentist's strong caution that tipped the scales for me.

According to an article by respected science and medicine reporter, Gina Kolata, in The New York Times last year, I am not alone:

”Reports of the drugs’ causing jawbones to rot and thighbones to snap in two,” she wrote, “have shaken many osteoporosis patients so much that they say they would rather take their chances with the disease.

“Use of the most commonly prescribed osteoporosis drugs fell by 50 percent from 2008 to 2012, according to a recent paper, and doctors say the trend is continuing...

“Lawsuits over the rare side effects resulted in large jury awards and drew widespread attention.”

The decision about use of any risky drug is entirely personal, dependent on diagnosis, other medical factors, a thorough discussion with one's physician and on personal inclination. I can easily imagine, if my bone density were worse than it is now, making the opposite decision.

Many people, undoubtedly millions of them, have been saved from the worst effects of osteoporosis due to bisphosphonate drugs and god knows I am not lobbying against their use. However, what strikes me about these particular drugs is that it is mostly old people who need them and old people usually have a lot more invasive dental work than younger people.

Yet, I had to find out about the possible connection between bisphosphonates and phossy jaw only because that word "necrosis" my doctor uttered, went off in my head like a fire alarm. Bone death is worth paying close attention to.

So. All potential adverse effects should always be clearly made to patients, and we patients should always be ready with questions when a recommendation is something with which we are unfamiliar.

Although my doctor mentioned osteonecrosis, he was dismissive of the one to six percent chance of it occurring - “only,” he said of the gamble. He may believe those numbers are negligible but that is a personal calculation, different for each of us.

I'm not blaming him for not mentioning the dental work connection. Doctors cannot possibly keep up with every contraindication for every drug. But I'm sure happy that word “necrosis” leapt out at me when he was speaking or I might not have “googled a substance that might lead to [modern-day] phossy jaw” and that important discussion with my dentist who has more experience with the results of the drug than most internists would.

[NOTE: I have left off photographs of phossy jaw (osteonecrosis of the jaw, ONJ) in this report because they are really gruesome. If you are interested, here is a link.]


Retired. Hobbies. Being More Than Useful.

A long time ago on this blog, 2006 to be precise, I wrote about the difficulty I'd had in those days with the word “retired.” Here is part of what I wrote:

”I choke on the word 'retired.' On the rare occasions I have used this term to describe myself, I’ve seen the same kind of veil come over the eyes of people who ask what I do as I saw on the faces of young interviewers (before I gave up looking for full-time work)...

“Now, when I use the word, it is amusing (or would be if it weren’t so infuriating) to watch the other person searching for a way to politely extricate him- or herself from our conversation.”

The problem with the word is that to be retired in the United States is to be perceived as irrelevant, uninteresting and quite possibly stupid. Even the late, eminent geriatrician, Robert N. Butler, had personal experience with the word being synonymous to others with “over the hill” which at age 80, he definitely was not.

Retirednotexpired3

Recently I had cause to choke on another word that in most situations should not provoke that response: hobbies. Actually, it took more than the word alone; it was the lead-in sentence to a list of hobbies that left me feeling gloomy about attitudes toward old people.

”Here are 11 healthy hobbies your aging loved one might want to consider.”

First, there is the tone of condescension, as though an old person doesn't already have his/her own interests. Then there is the dismissive word itself, hobbies, which sounds a lot like the idea is to just fill time until the “aging loved one” kicks the bucket.

Here are the 11 items.

  1. Creating Art / Doing Crafts
  2. Volunteering
  3. Swimming
  4. Walking
  5. Playing Games / Cards
  6. Dancing
  7. Gardening
  8. Practicing Yoga
  9. Golfing
  10. Caring for a Pet
  11. Family and Friends

There is nothing wrong with anything on that list except that elders already know about them and each one is much more than a mere pastime. Tens of millions of people, old and young, participate in numbers 3, 4, 8 and 9 for enjoyment and to help keep themselves fit.

Numbers 5 and 6 are among the many ways we have to socialize with others. And I would file 2, 7, 10 and 11 under the category not of hobbies, but of living.

In fact, the only one that could possibly be labeled a hobby is number one. Maybe. In some circumstance. But usually not, I think.

Using the word hobby for any of these is dismissive. But such an attitude is a pattern in regard to elders. Many people, apparently including the writer of this article, think that because you are retired, whatever you do with your time is not valuable or useful.

Really? Tell that to volunteers. To caregivers. To docents. To people who knit, crochet and quilt for the homeless and other charities. And tell that to others who spend their time learning, keeping fit, reading, relaxing, catching up with what they had no time for during their working years - and one more - an important one: "just" being.

Speaking of hobbies, too many people who believe they know a lot about old people and write about them make it their own hobby to exhort old people to do, do, do. God forbid any elder should spend some quiet time with themselves.

LivingForYourself

Which brings me to an important idea about which TGB reader, Rosemary Woodel, emailed.

She included a link to an essay by Parker J. Palmer, one of the contributors to Krista Tippet's On Being website. It is titled Being More Than Being Useful.

”I work hard at what I do, and I bet you do too. So maybe you need the same reminder I do: while my work is important, it is not a measure of my value or worth,” writes Palmer.

“Who we 'be' is far more important than what we do or how well we do it. That’s why we’re called human beings, not human doings!

“We pay a terrible price if we value our doing over our being. When we have to stop 'doing' — e.g., because of job loss, illness, accident, or the diminishments that can come with age — we lose our sense of worthiness.”

Okay, he's more flip than I would be about his idea but that doesn't make him wrong. He's talking about being centered, accepting of your own self, understanding your intrinsic worth.

The people who who make lists of hobbies for old folks, advise us to walk faster, find new friends and pick something from a list to do have forgotten - or perhaps, because they are usually much younger - have not realized yet that growing old is also an important time to, in addition to everything else, do less - to be.

Growing old is a perfect time to learn or re-learn that we are, each one of us, worthy just by the fact of being here. Being old and retired from the workforce does not diminish that worthiness even if some others think so. We should not allow them to disregard us by assuming we aren't busy enough and need help to figure out how to use our time.


Dining Out With the Opposite Sex While Married

This issue has been creeping into my mind unbidden for the two weeks or so since it happened. I can't seem to shake it.

At first, I didn't believe it was a topic for a blog about ageing. Then I recalled that a whole lot of us who hang out here spent a great deal of time and effort in our youth taking part in marches and other activities to promote equality for women. So we certainly do have a stake in this and maybe today's post will clear my head.

The eye-opening revelation was buried in a short paragraph halfway into a lengthy profile of Second Lady Karen Pence by reporter Ashley Parker in the Washington Post.

”In 2002, Mike Pence told the Hill that he never eats alone with a woman other than his wife and that he won’t attend events featuring alcohol without her by his side, either.”

VP Mike Pence

Before that one small sentence blew up the internet for a day or two, I thought it was fairly medieval but consistent with what I have come to know of Vice President Mike Pence which, that morning, led to a joke-y email exchange with a friend about Pence's apparent inability to trust himself sexually without his wife by his side.

We weren't the only ones to have that thought as the one-liners flying around the Twitterverse showed. But then the subject took a turn toward the serious. Some examples:

PenceTwitter5

PenceTwitter2

PenceTwitter1

PenceTwitter

Maybe I'm slow but it had not occurred to me that there would be a Republican/Democratic divide on the issue. A lot of the Republican pushback carried a hysteria that is hard to fathom, as this one from Katie Pavlich at the conservative website and print magazine, Town Hall:

”This, somehow, has been twisted as 'extreme,' with some on the left comparing his actions to Sharia Law. In actuality Pence is smart and does a service not only to his wife, but to professional women working inside the Beltway. His decision to err on the side of respect has certainly paid off...

“Washington D.C. is often a sleazy, filthy town. The stories you hear about smoky backrooms are true. Go to any D.C. restaurant at happy hour and you'll see scores of married men surrounded by and engaged inappropriately with younger women who are not their wives.

“This city is a place where a small, but vicious and significant population of men and women crave power. They will stop at almost nothing to get it, which includes breaking up marriages.”

Is Ms. Pavlich trying to say that without his wife at his side, Vice President Pence would succumb to the sexual wiles and aggression of a power-hungry woman? Is that what she's telling us?

This whole thing is sexist from so many retrograde angles that it can hardly be untangled. Let us repeat what is really at stake here. This from Olga Khazan at The Atlantic:

”A cheesy bon-mot popular among lobbyists goes, 'in Washington, if you’re not at the table, you’re on the menu.' In other words, if you don’t schmooze, you lose — and so does the agenda you’re pushing. If Pence literally won’t sit at the table with women, where does that leave women’s issues?”

Exactly. And further, while this debate was at its most heated, I heard a woman who described herself as an evangelical Christian tell a cable TV news host that she was taught from childhood that once people got married, they could not have friends of the opposite sex, and that is how it should be.

What a cramped, impoverished view of life that, worse, results in discrimination against half the population. This is not, as the political right would have it, a moral issue. It is a women's issue.

Over the years, I worked, traveled, shared meals and drinks with married male colleagues sometimes in groups and sometimes alone with one. We each brought our areas of expertise to the job we were responsible for and I felt lucky, too, that my life was enriched by knowing these interesting, smart people. I do not recall a single instance of sexual suggestion or discomfort and I had no idea until now that there could be any question about it.

One of the best overall critiques of the Pence family meal policy and its consequences I've found is by Jessica Valenti at The Guardian.


ELDER MUSIC: Life on the Road

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.

* * *

There are a lot of good (and many not so good) songs about musicians' life on the road. Some say that this is sheer self indulgence but I disagree because I guess the songwriters write about what they know, which is what all writers are told to do.

After I collected the songs I realized that the baby boomers will love these songs. I know I do, but I'm technically not one of them (just a bit too old).

I'll start with the man who knows all about life on the road. WILLIE NELSON has written several songs on this topic.

Willie Nelson

You probably know the most famous of these but I'm not using that one. Instead, here's an earlier one, written when Willie wasn't so well known as a performer, but my goodness he was already a great songwriter.

This is Me and Paul, the Paul mentioned is Paul English, Willie's long-time drummer (and occasional bodyguard).

♫ Willie Nelson - Me And Paul


I don't know if CREEDENCE CLEARWATER REVIVAL had problems on the road, but they certainly had possibly the best song about such things.

Creedence Clearwater Revival

I know they had serious problems with their record company as they were screwed out of royalties for many years. That sort of thing was not uncommon in the early days of rock & roll, but a few nasty people continued it for far too long. Anyway, here is Lodi.

Creedence Clearwater Revival - Lodi


It's one thing to be on the road when you're the headliner. However, things aren't so good when you're just the opening act. The DRIVE-BY TRUCKERS tell us all about it.

Drive-By Truckers

They regale us with tales of sleazy bars and crowds who aren't interested in the music and such like. I'm pretty sure everyone today experienced that sort of thing when they were starting out. Today, the Truckers are The Opening Act.

♫ Drive-By Truckers - The Opening Act


I know of four excellent songs (all different) called On the Road Again. The best of those is by Tom Rush. Willie Nelson and Bob Dylan both have good ones but the one today, just for a bit of change of pace, is by CANNED HEAT.

Canned Heat

My goodness, we're into sixties' hippie mode with this one. Although not their first single, it was the first to make a dent in the charts, paving the way for their better known Going Up The Country. Here we are, On the Road Again.

♫ Canned Heat - On The Road Again


Several of the songs today are about performers who aren't very successful. GORDON LIGHTFOOT takes that another step further in his song.

Gordon Lightfoot

His performer decides to chuck it all in and give up the game. Perhaps because he's at Boulder Dam and it's 10 Degrees & Getting Colder. That'd dampen anyone's enthusiasm.

♫ Gordon Lightfoot - 10 Degrees & Getting Colder


JACKSON BROWNE really went all out to provide us with the full on the road experience.

Jackson Browne & David Lindley

His album "Running on Empty" was all about that. Several of the songs were recorded on his tour bus between gigs and others were recorded live at various concerts, including this one.

It's really two songs: The Load Out and Stay. Featured is the fine guitar of DAVID LINDLEY as well as his stratospheric falsetto on Stay.

♫ Jackson Browne - The Load Out~Stay


Now we have Norma, the Assistant Musicologist's favorite steering wheel thumper. People who know about such things could probably guess that's it's by the ALLMAN BROTHERS BAND.

Allman Brothers

They had a few songs that would fit that category but the champion in the A.M.'s estimation is Ramblin' Man, written and sung by their guitarist Dickey Betts.

♫ Allman Brothers - Ramblin' Man


On the evidence of his song, Paul Simon got jaded rather early in his career. This is one of the early hits for SIMON AND GARFUNKEL.

Simon & Garfield

Rather than touring, it seems that they would prefer to be Homeward Bound.

Simon & Garfield - Homeward Bound


If any band would know about life on the road it's the GRATEFUL DEAD.

Grateful Dead

Their song is not just about the normal life on the road but the perils of that existence as well. As with Willie's song that opened these proceedings, you have to be careful what you leave in your clothes (and elsewhere). They describe all that in Truckin'.

♫ Grateful Dead - Truckin'


JERRY JEFF WALKER sums up all that's gone before with his song, and he also supplies the title for the column.

Jerry Jeff Walker

Jerry Jeff knows what he's talking about as he's been doing this for, well, forever. Okay, not literally, but he's been on the road since the sixties (or maybe earlier). He tells us about Life on the Road.

♫ Jerry Jeff Walker - Life on the Road



INTERESTING STUFF – 9 April 2017

FIRST A PERSONAL NOTE: Thank you all for your many birthday greetings yesterday. They came through all kinds of sources - Facebook, LinkedIn, the blog and email - well, until the power went out at about 9:30AM and didn't return for nearly 10 hours. So I still have more to read this morning. You are the best and let me give one more shout out to the TGB music guru Peter Tibbles for his delightful column just for my birthday. I am now officially 76 years old.

* * *

WILLIE NELSON IN 1965

In 1965, I was 24 years old; Willie Nelson was 32 and as far as I can recall, I hadn't heard of him yet.

Back then, he was a long way from what we've come to know and love - at least in terms of presentation. Take a look at his medley at the Grand Ole Opry that year.

Anyone who heard him then would have no trouble knowing he'd be around for a long, long time. Then and now, I always end up smiling when I'm listening to Willie.

HOW TO CONTACT YOUR CONGRESS PEOPLE ON FACEBOOK

We haven't discussed it for awhile but I assume you are regularly contacting your senators and representative in Congress to let them know your opinions and thoughts.

Now there is an additional way to do that – Facebook. Here are the basics:

Visit facebook.com/townhall by looking under the "Explore" section of your News Feed on a desktop, or by looking in the menu of your Facebook app on your phone.

“After submitting your street address (will be used only for civic engagement – not advertising – purposes), you will get a list of your local, state and national representatives...”

“From there, Facebook will let you contact your elected representatives directly with a single click, by calling the first number listed on the official's Facebook page (if you're on the social network's mobile app) or by sending an email or a Facebook message.”

There are more instructions and explanation as the Washington Post.

JOHN OLIVER ON MARIJUANA LAWS

A whole lot of U.S. states have legalized or decriminalized the use of marijuana in various forms. But there is that pesky federal law against any use of it.

President Barack Obama and his Justice Department chose to ignore that law as more cannabis dispensaries opened across the United States. Now, our new Attorney General, Jeff Sessions, has indicated that the federal law will be enforced. Given the billion dollar industry cannabis has become, that should be interesting to watch happen.

Last Sunday, on his HBO program, Last Week Tonight, host John Oliver took on that topic in his usual brilliant and funny way.

UNDERGROUND DESTINATIONS

I couldn't tell you why but I have a fondness for the amazing underground living and working spaces people have created. Here is one in Fresno, California.

Around the turn of the 20th century, a Sicilian immigrant named Baldassare Forestier didn't like the heat in Fresno so, explains Mental Floss:

”...he began digging himself underground caverns in which to stay cool, and kept digging for the next 40 years. Along the way, Forestiere developed methods to deliver enough sunshine so that he could grow fruit trees and grapevines in his underground home.

“The result of his digging is now Forestiere Underground Gardens, where some of his original trees are still thriving 100 years later.”

1forestiere_underground_gardens_at_5021_west_shaw_avenue_fresno_california_lccn2013634995

The Wieliczka Salt Mine near Krakow, Poland produced salt from the 13th century up until 2007. Now it is a national historical monument.

“The natural resource has figured prominently in Poland's history over the centuries, and miners created an underground world that includes chapels and artworks carved into the walls, with more added by modern artists.”

800wieliczka_kopalnia_soli_xiii

You can find out more about the Wieliczka Salt Mines here. More about the Forestiere Underground Gardens here. And you can see a dozen or so more underground destinations at Mental Floss.

REMARKABLE OWL RESCUE

A Great Horned Owl was stuck sitting on a dead tree trunk in the middle of what looks like a swamp. He/she had been there all night and into the day because a wing was caught in fishing line.

Enter a perfectly named guy, Craig Loving, who took matters into his hands when no wildlife rescue professionals were available. This is – well, loving.

HE PLAYS THE TENOR SMITH CORONA

For some people of a certain age – like me – it is fun, in our computer age, to recall the “click,” “clack” and “ding” of the mechanical typewriters on which we learned to type. Now, The Boston Typewriter Orchestra is, as the YouTube page says, “making these old machines “sing” again:

”Since 2004, this six-man ensemble has been playing a range of covers and original songs on both desktop and portable machines from years past. And if you thought all typewriters emitted the same sounds, think again. This orchestra's sonorous symphonies have captivated crowds all over New England.”

Perhaps you noticed at about six seconds from this top of the video a certain style of typewriter under the opening credit, “The Typewriter Orchestra.”

I love that old typewriter style – those particular keys - so much that about three months ago, I splurged on a treat for myself, this computer keyboard:

Keyboard

It's called a Qwerkywriter. It is a fully functional Bluetooth keyboard that does everything a standard plastic computer keyboard does but it uses old fashioned keys, is made of sturdy metal like the old-timey typewriter I learned on – with those same keys - and is gorgeously designed. Here's a little video:

I use mine mostly with my desktop computer but it also works well with a tablet that you can slip into the slot where we once rolled paper into the machine. You can find out more about it at the Qwerkywriter website and read a review at Engadget.

LA TIMES EDITORIAL SERIES ON TRUMP DISHONESTY

Last Sunday, The Los Angeles Times began a daily series written by the editorial board that pulls not a single punch in regard to President Donald Trump in his first 70-something days in office. From the first installment:

”What is most worrisome about Trump is Trump himself. He is a man so unpredictable, so reckless, so petulant, so full of blind self-regard, so untethered to reality that it is impossible to know where his presidency will lead or how much damage he will do to our nation.”

Whether you are fan or foe of the 45th president, this is a must-read series. It begins here.

MELTING CANDY AND CLASSICAL MUSIC

All the YouTube page tells us is that Erwin Trummer made this short compilation video of melting candies set to classic music. It's quite beautiful.

COCKATOO LOVES HIM SOME ELVIS

Thank my friend Jim Stone for digging out this two-year-old video for us. I promise you will laugh out loud.

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.


Happy Birthday, Ronni

Cake20

This is Peter, the Sunday person. I've been selected as the DJ for the party today, which was probably a mistake.I think I was chosen as I'm really cheap, actually I'm free.

Everyone knows you get what you pay for and I've checked my records, a bunch of old 45s and maybe a tattered album or two in boxes from down behind the sofa, and that's what it'll be today.

Some might say that I'm only doing this so I don't have to go out and buy a card (some could be right), then think of something to write in it. Then try to find a stamp or try to find a post office (or both).

Then wait for about six months for it to arrive, thus ensuring a quizzical look when it pops up in the letter box some time around September. So, let's get this pretend birthday card under way.

Delving deep into that box of 45s, quite at random, I came up with a birthday song. What are the odds? Okay, I could bore you with that as I used to be a mathematician but I'll spare the details.

Let's just say it was that hugely successful artist BROOKS ARTHUR.

Brooks Arthur

Okay, that might have been a bit of an exaggeration. I've never heard of him and I don't know why he's in my box but he does sing The Birthday Card, rather appropriate giving all my ramblings above.

Norma, the Assistant Musicologist, would probably say this is a country music song as it has talkie bits in it. Who knows?

♫ Brooks Arthur - The Birthday Card


Continuing the way we started, next up on the old turntable is DALE & GRACE.

Dale & Grace

It sounds as if Grace might have gate-crashed Dale's party, probably after the cad dumped her. Although, listening to the words, it could have been the other way round. Who knows? Anyway, Happy Happy Birthday Baby.

♫ Dale & Grace - Happy Happy Birthday Baby


Gee, it's been a whole year for DIANE RENAY and she's still not over him.

Diane Renay

He dropped her on her birthday. Dear oh dear. I hope you're not as downcast as Diane seems to be. Happy Birthday, Broken Heart.

♫ Diane Renay - Happy Birthday Broken Heart


Well, the COOKIES seem to know what they want as a present.

Cookies

I hope someone can oblige them. I Want A Boy For My Birthday is what they are telling everyone who might want to give them a present. I hope they get their wish – Diane's ex seems to be free, and so does Dale.

♫ The Cookies - I Want A Boy For My Birthday


JOHNNIE RAY asks When's Your Birthday Baby?

Johnnie Ray

Well duh, of course we know when it is. It's just that Johnnie seems to be a bit in the dark about it all.

♫ Johnnie Ray - When's Your Birthday Baby


Well, that's got the rubbish out of the way (except for Johnnie Ray, of course), now for some decent stuff, starting with DON MCLEAN.

Don McLean

Don's song wasn't one I knew until I raided the box of records behind the sofa. He called it Birthday Song.

♫ Don McLean - Birthday Song


I hope you don't have the birthday blues today, but B.B. KING seems to.

BB King

That's okay, when B.B. has the blues he makes the rest of us happy. Let's get up and start dancing around to Happy Birthday Blues.

♫ B.B. King - Happy Birthday Blues


JERRY LEE LEWIS seems to be channelling the spirit of Chuck Berry, in particular his song, My Ding a Ling.

Jerry Lee Lewis

It's not surprising, they often appeared together in the early days, each vying for the coveted final spot. Today, Jerry Lee urges us to Keep Your Hands Off It (Birthday Cake).

♫ Jerry Lee Lewis - Keep Your Hands Off It (Birthday Cake)


I'll end with a bit of couth from GEORG HANDEL.

Handel

Old Georg has a birthday ditty called Ode for the Birthday of Queen Anne, HWV 74, and the two performers out in front of everyone else are WYNTON MARSALIS and KATHLEEN BATTLE.

Wynton Marsalis & Kathleen Battle

♫ Handel - Ode for the Birthday of Queen Anne HWV 74


Anyway, happy birthday, Ronni.

We'll raise our glasses to you (the ones with Champagne in them, not the ones I look through).

Champs


A Few Things I've Learned About Growing Old

It has been more than 20 years since I began reading, writing and thinking about old age nearly every day. Some things have changed: there is a whole lot more to read nowadays than in the mid-1990s, and there is some improvement in cultural attitudes toward elders. But not nearly enough.

Some things have stayed the same: too many of the boring old stereotypes remain in books, movies, TV and online, in journalism, schools, even in science and medicine and certainly in the workplace.

Over these 20-odd years where I've spent so much time in the world of what it's like to grow old, it's been a lot like “the more things change, the more they stay the same.”

Here then are a few – only a few - of the random conclusions I've reached about old age in which I have some confidence. (Well, some confidence until new information requires revision.)

⚫ Stereotypes are usually mean and often unfair but they are not always without merit. We do not suddenly become sweet, little old ladies or get-off-my-lawn, curmudgeonly, old men on a certain birthday. If we do exhibit these characteristics, we were likely that way all our lives.

⚫ Cultural perceptions of old age have not changed much in the nearly 50 years since Simone de Beauvoir described them in her 1970 book Coming of Age:

”...we have always regarded [old age] as something alien, a foreign species.”

⚫ Contrary to a minor trend among some writers and self-appointed gurus on the subject, old age is not more special than any other time of life. But it is equally significant – it's just that our culture doesn't see it that way. Yet.

RSG-Aging_in_America

⚫ The old are granted less cultural power even than children.

⚫ Movies about old people still fall mostly into two categories: (1) old folks making fun of themselves while laughing hysterically and (2) old people dying in extremis. You will find more varied and honest portrayals of elders occur in supporting roles.

⚫ No matter how much sentimental types try to tell us otherwise, wisdom is not an automatic attribute of old age.

⚫ No two people age in the same way and they grow old at entirely different rates. Elderhood is more diverse than any other stage of life.

Thebestage

The truest thing I know about growing old is that it never stops being fascinating and there is always something new to know:

“The moment one gives close attention to anything, even a blade of grass, it becomes a mysterious, awesome, indescribably magnificent world in itself.”

- Henry Miller


Crabby Old Lady and the Surprising Aggravations of Age

One of younger adult's favorite rebukes of elders is that we talk about our health, or lack thereof, too much. This is not always an unfair stereotype but Crabby Old Lady has had a revelation about it:

No one told us that in old age we would be condemned to constant noise in our ears, a new mole or other kind of skin eruption just about every week and that our ability to sleep through the night would go all to hell.

Eyedoctor

Most of these changes are merely annoying and don't rise to the level of medical intervention or even discussion in the short period of time most people are allowed with their physicians these days.

Recently, a 78-year-old friend told Crabby about this conversation with his doctor who had just finished examining a tender spot at the base of one of his thumbs:

DOCTOR: Arthritis.

FRIEND: Anything we should do?

DOCTOR: (Shrugging) Pain meds. [Pause] If it spreads to other joints, I can refer you to a rheumatologist. [Another pause] Some conditions arrive with age..."

Yes, some things in old age don't warrant much attention - at least, not professional attention.

TGB reader Harold, who blogs at The Way I See It, acknowledged this in a comment when some irritations of old-age were discussed here more than a year ago:

”When I do go in for my annual check ups someone always asks if I have any complaints, and I don't know what to say. Since I've never been this old before I don't know what it's supposed to feel like, but maybe it's supposed to feel like this.”

Exactly. Through most of Crabby's life, the ailments of old age didn't come up much in conversation and when they did, if she was as dismissive of her elders' health conversation (a not unreasonable, if shameful, assumption) as today's children and grandchildren are of current elders', why would she know what old age feels like, what is normal and what is not?

Bonesarteries2

Recently, Crabby Old Lady had a mild disagreement with her doctor. What he called a cough that might need treatment Crabby calls throat-clearing that comes and goes throughout the year.

Some time ago Crabby was relieved to find an explanation online: glands that secrete lubricating mucous around vocal chords decrease with age. Drinking water helps reduce the throat clearing so Crabby has filed this one with her growing list of (mostly) ignorable ailments.

There is hardly any end to these petty annoyances: general aches and pains with no explanation, constipation, sore muscles, stiff joints, insomnia, excess gassiness, spontaneous nose bleeds, hair loss where we want to keep it, new hair where we don't want it, fading vision, fading hearing, weight gain, dry skin, dropping things, minor forgetfulness and...

Recently, another of Crabby's complaints was confirmed:

Netflix sent a message announcing that The Manchurian Candidate had been added to the service's movie list for April. Crabby assumed it was the remake starring Denzel Washington and she was not wrong about that. But she was sure surprised to see that it had been released in 2004.

If you had asked Crabby, she would have said it had been in theaters a couple of years ago, not THIRTEEN years ago.

This is a change that hardly anyone places in the aggravation column (but Crabby does) – that time slips by at such an accelerating rate of speed now, everything from a decade or two ago feels like yesterday. Crabby no longer trusts any time estimate she makes that is older than a month or so and even then, she can be off by a year or two sometimes.

It's no wonder old people talk about their health a lot: it's because no one warned them about these surprise, minor but irritating manifestations of age. No one said that if you live long enough, here is how your life will change.

Crabby would like to have had some advance notice. But would she have paid attention? Would she even have remembered the notice when her time arrived? Probably not.

Now, however, Crabby Old Lady gives herself permission to ignore all the mean jokes about the afflictions of age and talk about them anytime she wants – at least among her peers.

20extrayears


ELDER MUSIC: Where's Phil Ochs When We Need Him?

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.

* * *

Back in the day, if there was a protest in the offing, you could guarantee that Phil Ochs would be there. Even in Chicago, at the Democratic Party convention when the police riot exploded and all the performers chickened out, Phil was there (as were the MC5).

Today, thanks to you-know-who, there's an upsurge in protest music. It's not just the usual suspects either - there are many young performers getting involved. Alas, I'm not really familiar with these new voices so I'll write a column about the ones I remember.

Naturally, I'll start with PHIL OCHS.

Phil Ochs

He was renowned for his in your face protest songs but he wrote others as well. However, just about everything Phil wrote was a protest song but no one outside a small circle of friends realized that.

Sorry to disappoint you, it's not that song either. It's The Party. You might scratch your heads over its inclusion. I don't mind.

♫ Phil Ochs - The Party


MALVINA REYNOLDS would be best known for writing Pete Seeger's biggest hit, Little Boxes.

Malvina Reynolds

Back then, and again these days, the powers that be say that they recognise the right to protest (they're probably just saying that for the cameras) but why not do it so it doesn't inconvenience anyone.

Malvina saw through that gambit and sang about it in her song It Isn't Nice.

♫ Malvina Reynolds - It Isn't Nice


TOM PAXTON was one of the earliest to write about ecological concerns.

Tom Paxton

Of course, Tom was the first to write about just about everything. In fact, he's really the first of the modern singer/songwriters. He was doing that even before Bob got out his trusty typewriter. Tom asks Whose Garden Was This?

♫ Tom Paxton - Whose Garden Was This


I was nearly overwhelmed with choices for JOAN BAEZ.

Joan Baez

I spent most of a morning playing her songs, trying to decide which one to include. I whittled it down to half a dozen, most of which you'd know. However, I finally chose one you may not be familiar with, from out of left field.

I decided on it as it's singularly appropriate for these times. The Trouble with the Truth is that there's not enough of it around these days.

♫ Joan Baez - Trouble with the Truth


Unless you're really familiar with his oeuvre, you probably weren't expecting SAM COOKE today.

Sam Cooke

We all hope fervently that Sam is correct when he sings A Change Is Gonna Come. Well, we hope it's a good change, not the ones that are already taking place.

♫ Sam Cooke - A Change Is Gonna Come


As with a couple of songs today, I wondered if the next one really fits the bill. I decided that it did so I've left it in. It's not as if JUDY COLLINS didn't have many songs that would fit today, but this is the one I've chosen.

Judy Collins

The song is The Coming of the Roads, another subtle protest song.

♫ Judy Collins - The Coming of the Roads


Norma, the Assistant Musicologist said, "I suppose you have to include Bob." I suppose she's right, here's BOB DYLAN.

Bob Dylan

You're probably not expecting this one. I played all the obvious songs and rejected them as I didn't think they fit the mood of the column - just a bit strident. So, after doing all that, but not checking all my Bob tracks (that'd take months), I settled on Percy's Song, a more personal protest song than the others.

♫ Bob Dylan - Percy's Song


A long time before any of the other songs today had popped into the mind of the various musicians, BILLIE HOLIDAY had recorded a song that set the tone for the next 60 or 70 years.

Billie Holiday

You all know that I'm talking about Strange Fruit. This is not just here for historical purposes. Rebecca Ferguson was asked to sing at the inauguration and she said she'd do so if she could sing this song. It probably won't come as a shock to you that she was refused.

In her place, however, they had Toby Keith performing a song about lynching what he considered to be ne'er-do-wells. Really! You can't make this stuff up. Well, you can, but it wouldn't be as outrageous as reality.

♫ Billie Holiday - Strange Fruit


I'm about to be inconsistent. I was talking about the mood of the column up there in Bob's contribution and this certainly is at odds with that, but I thought it really had to be present. CROSBY STILLS NASH & YOUNG.

Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young

It's included not just because it's a great protest song, written in a blaze of white hot fury by Neil Young and then recorded and released in a couple of days when the Ohio National Guard shot and killed four students at Kent State University in 1970.

It's also present because Ohio Republican official Dan Adamini said in a tweet: "I'm thinking another Kent State might be the only solution protest after only one death. They do it because they know there are no consequences yet."

I won't even comment on that, not even about the mangled syntax.

Even Trump himself weighed in during the election saying how he liked the old days because protesters would be carried away on a stretcher (I'm paraphrasing a little, but that's the gist of it).

Ohio.

♫ Crosby Stills Nash & Young - Ohio


It's essential that we have another song from PHIL OCHS.

Phil Ochs

The A.M. said that this was her favorite of Phil's (her second was the one we started with). Certain people, especially the buffoon in the White House, should take heed of this one (yeah, as if that's going to happen). There But For Fortune.

♫ Phil Ochs - There But for Fortune


It wouldn't be a protest column if we didn't have a singalong. To supply that we have HOLLY NEAR.

Holly Near

Besides the audience, Holly has some help from Ronnie Gilbert, Arlo Guthrie and (it goes without saying) Pete Seeger. This was recorded back in 1984, but it continues to be relevant. It might be the song for the next four years, Singing For Our Lives.

Holly Near (etc) - Singing For Our Lives



INTERESTING STUFF – 1 April 2017

GOOD DAY, EVERYONE

This is April Fool's Day. God knows I tried but I couldn't come up with any jokes to play on you that I actually like so instead, here is a small departure for Interesting Stuff – an all-animal show.

I read somewhere that watching cat videos (meaning all cute animal vids) is good for our mood and well-being. True or not, I hope you'll enjoy these. If not, at least it clears out a bit of the backlog for me.

UPDATE at 7:30AM: I just ran across Amazon's 2017 April Fool's Day video - about a special Amazon Echo skill for your pet:

* * *

BACK FROM EXTINCTION

The North American River Otter – a cute little bugger – has been brought back from the edge of extinction.

There is a lot more information about the North American river otter at the National Wildlife Federation website.

A SMALL REPRIEVE FOR ELEPHANTS

According to a story in The New York Times this week,

”...the ivory boom may be over. According to Save the Elephants, the wholesale price of an elephant tusk was $2,100 a kilogram in 2014. Last month, it was $730.

“This may be a sign of how a sustained global advocacy campaign can actually work...Last December, China responded, announcing it was shutting down all ivory commerce by the end of 2017. It seems the price of ivory has dropped in anticipation of the ban; many analysts believe it will soon drop further.”

Here's the video and you can read more at The Times.

THE AMAZING TARDIGRADE

This microscopic creature with a bunch of cute nicknames such as water bear, moss piglet and pudgy-wudgy are found everywhere on earth from the tippy-top of the highest mountains to the bottom of the seas and they are remarkably resilient. Take a look:

A GOOD DAY FOR HANK THE DOG

Cats are terrific but when you need a laugh or want to be reminded of what fun life can be, it's a good thing to watch a dog at play.

DIRTY DOGS

Cats are fastidious creatures. They spend a great deal of their waking hours “doing the laundry” and in the case of my Ollie, just a short pet on my part requires 10 minutes of licking to clean up whatever mess he thinks I've made of his fur.

Dogs, on the other hand, think getting dirty is one of the joys in life:

SOME FERAL CATS GET A JOB

TGB reader Cathy Johnson sent this video about how some feral cats got a job and with it, a safer life:

And everyone is happy. Read more at the I Heart Cats website.

AMAZING MIMIC, THE LYRE BIRD

Somehow I never heard of this bird before. About halfway through the video, he gets really amazing in his mimicry. The human in the video is the wonderful Richard Attenborough.

ALL CREATURES GREAT AND SMALL – YOU AND ME TOO

As the YouTube page explains:

”RSPCA is and always will be for all creatures great and small. However, we thought it important to remind us all that humans are included in the 'creature' list. So to create more empathy for our animal friends, it's integral we remember we are not so different!

“Thank you to Engine Group for helping to make this ad happen and a huge thank you to Geoffrey Rush, who is the voice for animals on this clip.”

More about the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Queensland is 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.


Resisting Tyranny: It's Up to You and Me

No ageing stuff today. I think we need some time here to talk America's national predicament. The dangers to our liberties, our freedoms, our country and democracy itself grow day by day and if you are not frightened for our future - even near future - you are not, as they say, paying attention. So

”The Founding Fathers tried to protect us from the threat they knew, the tyranny that overcame ancient democracy.

“Today, our political order faces new threats, not unlike the totalitarianism of the twentieth century. We are no wiser than the Europeans who saw democracy yield to fascism, Nazism, or communism.

“Our one advantage is that we might learn from their experience.”

- Timothy Snyder in On Tyranny (2017)

Following the defeat of the frightful healthcare bill last week (of which the president made clear he is as ignorant as he is about, for example, foreign policy, the reasons a government cannot be run like a business or the threats of climate change), Democrats seem to believe Trump has been soundly defeated and it is smooth sailing from now on.

In fact, a couple of days ago this headline appeared in the Washington Post: “Democrats, Once Threatened by Trump, See Little Reason to Worry.”

Oh, for god's sake, the Dems are going to blow it again. Have they not noticed that although the healthcare bill was pulled, much more continues:

Paul Manafort. Steve Bannon. Steve Miller. Vladimir Putin. Does anything need to be said about their goals?

Both houses of Congress just voted to repeal internet privacy rules. The president has said he will sign the bill and then broadband providers will begin selling any and all of the personal information they collect about our activities online (which is vast) to whomever they want.

Don Jr. and Eric Trump announced that they regularly speak with their father, keeping him apprised of the doings of the family business. Does anyone really think this information does not affect the president's governing agenda or that he is not participating in decisions for the family business?

Ivanka Trump has been given a White House office and security clearance. She is taking no salary but says she is abiding by the conflict of interest requirements of all federal employees. Uh-huh. Just like her father, I suppose. Also, no one understands what her job is or what possible expertise she might have about anything.

Donald Trump and his bootlicker, Sean Spicer, continue every day to insist that up is down, left is right, day is night, black is white and - let me not pull any punches – lie without shame.

And now, General Flynn has asked for immunity in exchange for testifying about Trump/Russia connections. This is monumental on the order of Watergate.

Even so, What a puny list I've made compared to the large number of stupid, ignorant, frightening and potentially illegal actions from the president and the Republicans who are in control of the entire Congress. Whether it is dirtier air now for everyone or continued attempts to defund such important institutions as Planned Parenthood or collusion with foreign states, it is impossible to keep up.

The Democrats are not going to protect the country, nor is Congress and the media isn't helping as they chase each day's new shiny object of no value. Many non-governmental organizations are working hard against the onslaught from Washington but they cannot do it without us – you and me.

Last weekend, Yale University Professor of History Timothy Snyder appeared on Bill Maher's HBO program, Real Time to discuss his new book, On Tyranny: Twenty Lessons from the Twentieth Century.

Here is that interview. (I couldn't find a video copy that is not visually distorted so just go with it – listen to the words and ignore the video. Also ignore all of Maher's mishigas during the interview and especially in the last two minutes or so. As he tends to do, he just refuses to let interesting people be interesting but Snyder is more than worth your time.)

OnTyrrany Professor Snyder's On Tyranny, published last month, explains how easily tyranny can come creeping in on silent feet and destroy democracy before we notice what has happened. He also shows us what to watch for and what we must do to fight back.

On Tyranny is an inexpensive, small-format book that is available at Amazon and most other online and offline retailers. Each chapter, only four or five pages long, is one of the 20 lessons we need to know.

Somehow in that small space, Snyder has packed in the history he calls on to make the connections between the past and today, and shows how we can use that knowledge to craft our responses.

You can easily read the book in an hour. Please do that. Then re-read it. And then re-read it a third time while you highlight or make notes on what you want to remember.

If enough of us do this and put Professor Snyder's lessons to use, it might save our democracy.


Elder Orphans' Documents

Back in 2015, I wrote about elder orphans – old people who have no family or are estranged from their family and, either way, have no one they feel comfortable asking to handle health, legal and financial issues on their behalf if they become incapacitated or when they die.

Definition of Elder Orphan
In 2016, I carried on at some length here about a definition of elder orphans which is more complex for some people than can be obvious but has also been made more complicated than it needs to be.

Plus, some people who write about elder orphans – even some medical professionals who weigh in - are quite hysterical about how awful being an elder ophan is. That just is not true and I wrote about that last year. It's still worth a glance.

For today's purposes, the first paragraph above will do as a definition.

Lastwill

The Witnessed Documents
I have been remiss in not following up further on this issue. But a TGB reader recently emailed explaining that she, like me, is an elder orphan, that she had read the 2015 post in which I admitted to having made almost no arrangements for someone to make decisions for me or for my final wishes. She wondered if I have made any progress.

Happily for me, I have. I'm not finished but I've completed work on the major documents and, thanks mostly to my excellent attorney, John Gear, who pressured me in the kindliest way to get these documents done, it was not too painful.

I now have, duly executed:

Last Will and Testament
Durable Power of Attorney
Oregon Health Information Release Authorization

The documents, in order, (1) distribute my assets upon my death, (2) give my named agent (who, in my case, is also my heir) permission to act on my behalf in legal and financial matters, and (3) is an authorization to release my health information to my health care surrogate (same person).

POLST
Having recently found a new physician, I have also completed and signed a POLST, a Physicians Orders for Life-Sustaining Treatment laying out what medical interventions I do and do not want in an extreme or end-of-life situation, and naming my surrogate so that medical professionals, in whatever condition I'm in, can contact her.

A POLST is a state-specific document in the U.S., called a MOLST in some states, that can be updated and/or revoked or changed, etc. if you choose. It is registered with the state for easy access by medical professionals.

That sounds like it should cover everything, but no. There are financial documents I have now completed too.

Ducks_in_a_Row

Financial Documents
At my death and upon presentation of my death certificate, my named beneficiaries will have full access to my accounts as if they were me. Both my local bank where I keep a checking and savings accounts and my investment advisor supplied the forms which I have executed and they now have in my records.

If your money matters are larger and more complex than mine there could be more to do. Consult your attorney and/or financial person.

Letter of Final Instructions for Survivors
This is a big deal - at least in size. It is an enormous document. It includes wishes for handling of remains, memorial service or funeral and complete list of property, various kinds of accounts, online assets, passwords, personal and family information and much more.

Although I have a file in which I'm collecting information, I haven't done this yet and I will probably break it up into two or three documents. (In my first draft of today's post, I made some lists of the items needed but it went on for several pages.

So instead of that, take a break now for a moment and follow this link [pdf] to the website of a financial consultant who posted a sample letter of instruction form.

Although it is nearly 20 years old – no spaces for email addresses or online information - it is amazingly thorough otherwise and extremely useful as a guide for collecting all the information your survivors will need and want.

According to my attorney (and many others), the final instruction letter should NOT be kept with your will which itself should not be in a safe deposit box because the bank will not release the contents of box until they have a death certificate. (A lot of people keep their will and other important documents in the freezer, sealed tightly in plastic.)

However you choose to store these documents, be sure the people you have selected to handle your end-of-life needs have copies or can easily get to them.

Also, you should review all your documents every year or so and update them as necessary. Your birthday a good reminder to do this.

Finding Your Surrogate
This blog post does not and is not meant to cover everything. There are other kinds of documents and an amazing array of different end of life choices.

Also, I understand that the biggest difficulty for elder orphans can be finding the person(s) to rely on to handle your affairs at the end. That's part of what took me so long and I have no advice to help you on that – only my personal experience.

My choice is an old friend I have known since she was a child who is now a mother. It is not ideal that I am on the west coast and she is on the east coast but I trust her completely and she has agreed to take this on for me.

My one worry is how difficult it might be to disrupt her life when I die or, moreso, if I am incapacitated and she needs to make life and death decisions as my health surrogate.

In just the past couple of weeks it occurred to me that there is one person nearby who I have come to know over three years who I would trust completely to make the right medical decisions for me and who is, like my east coast friend, enough younger than I am to probably outlive me.

Perhaps, I have been thinking, I could name him to be my health surrogate, leaving the rest to my friend on the east coast. However, he is also one of my various professional healthcare providers so even though we've become almost friends, it might not be appropriate to even ask him about doing this. I don't know. I continue to ponder it.

Meanwhile, writing this post has lit a fire under me to get that letter of instruction done. That will take awhile. An easier task is to arrange and pre-pay my green cremation. My east coast friend knows what to do with the ashes.

Hourglass


A Creepy Vampire Story About Anti-Ageing

UPDATE 1:30PM: I just noticed that the 3 April edition of The New Yorker has a story on this topic titled, "Silicon Valley's Quest to Live Forever," written by Tad Friend. If you have access to the magazine online, you can read it here.

* * *

It's pretty hard to go wrong investing in anti-aging products. According to a report released in 2016 by Zion Market Research of Sarasota, Florida:

”...global demand for anti-aging market was valued at USD 140.3 billion in 2015, is expected to reach USD 216.52 billion in 2021 and is anticipated to grow at a CAGR [compound annual growth rate] of 7.5% between 2016 and 2021.”

In case, like me, you wonder what the “anti-aging market” products actually are, Zion Market Research supplies a handy list of some of the most common ones:

Botox
Anti-Wrinkle Products
Anti-Stretch Mark Products
Anti-Pigmentation Therapy
Anti-Adult Acne Therapy
Breast Augmentation
Liposuction
Chemical Peel
Hair Restoration Treatment
Microdermabrasion
Laser Aesthetics
Anti-Cellulite Treatment
Anti-Aging Radio Frequency Devices

And that doesn't begin to cover the products and services that fall into categories that sound like science fiction.

Cryogenics, for example – freezing your body or even just your head to be defrosted later when, presumably, new techniques will give you additonal life although I always wonder what people who chose only to freeze their heads would do for a body to go with it.

Aubrey de Grey, a well-known British computer scientist and age researcher believes that in the not-too-distant future, medical advances will stop aging in its tracks.

Several technology billionaires are spending a lot of their money on research intending to end death entirely. Google has backed a project called Calico with the ambition of “curing death.”

As the Washington Post reported two years ago, Peter Thiel, the billionaire co-founder of Paypal

”...and the tech titans who founded Google, Facebook, eBay, Napster and Netscape are using their billions to rewrite the nation’s science agenda and transform biomedical research.

“The entrepreneurs are driven by a certitude that rebuilding, regenerating and reprogramming patients’ organs, limbs, cells and DNA will enable people to live longer and better.

The Washington Post also reported that Oracle founder Larry Ellison

”...has proclaimed his wish to live forever and donated more than $430 million to anti-aging research. 'Death has never made any sense to me,' he told his biographer, Mike Wilson. 'How can a person be there and then just vanish, just not be there?'”

Ellison says outright what other tech billionaires don't quite say aloud, that they are really looking for immortality and some of them are convinced their money will actually purchase it for them.

I'm not going anywhere near the moral, ethical and philosophical questions that raises.

Instead, after all that background, I want to tell you about the creepiest anti-aging project in existence, something I can only think of as the Vampire Project. As so much medical research does, it started with mice.

Mice

Two years ago, Nature reported how some scientists were rejuvenating old mice with the blood of young mice in a procedure called parabiosis:

”By joining the circulatory system of an old mouse to that of a young mouse, scientists have produced some remarkable results. In the heart, brain, muscles and almost every other tissue examined, the blood of young mice seems to bring new life to ageing organs, making old mice stronger, smarter and healthier. It even makes their fur shinier.”

Or so it seemed and it is not a stretch to imagine, if this research is successful, young people selling their blood to rich old folks because it certainly would not go cheap.

Farfetched? By last fall, this was reported in Time magazine:

”In the new study, the scientists created a way to exchange the blood of young and old mice so that the mixture was 50-50. They found that old mice had some improvements in muscle repair and liver fibrosis, but young mice experienced worsened cell formation in the brain and impaired coordination, and the declines happened rapidly.

“'The big result is that a single exchange hurts the young partner more than it helps the old partner,' says study co-author Michael Conboy of UC Berkeley. 'That means the negative stuff in old blood is more potent and overriding than the good stuff in young blood, at least in the short term.'”

Mouse rejuvenation

That sounds like it would put a crimp in the young/old blood transfusion theory of immortality but we would be wrong. At a private clinic called Ambrosia in Monterey, California, right now people can pay $8,000 to have blood plasma from teenagers and young adults pumped into their veins.

Ambrosia owner, Jesse Karmazin says that

"...within a month, most participants 'see improvement' from the one-time infusion of a two-liter bagful of plasma, which is blood with the blood cells removed,” MIT Technology Review reported in January.

Of course, there is a big difference between studies with plasma and studies with blood and MIT has strong reservations.

”Several scientists and clinicians say Karmazin’s trial is so poorly designed it cannot hope to provide evidence about the effects of the transfusions. And some say the pay-to-participate study, with the potential to collect up to $4.8 million from as many as 600 participants, amounts to a scam...

“Over the last decade or so, such studies have offered provocative clues that certain hallmarks of aging can be reversed or accelerated when old mice get blood from young ones. Yet these studies have come to conflicting conclusions.

“An influential 2013 paper in Cell showed that a particular component in young blood, GDF11, increased muscle strength, for example, but other researchers could not replicate the finding.”

There is a lot more science explanation in these articles than I've subjected you to but if you are interested, follow the links above. And there is more here and here and here

Mainly, I am interessted in the elitest conceit of a bunch of billionaires who fund these vampire projects for their own ends when their almost unlimited resources could be put to such great good uses in the world. Here's a video about one of these guys who ran for president last year.


ELDER MUSIC: Send More Chuck Berry

Tibbles1SM100x130This Sunday Elder Music column was launched in December of 2008. By May of the following year, one commenter, Peter Tibbles, had added so much knowledge and value to my poor attempts at musical presentations that I asked him to take over the column. He's been here each week ever since delighting us with his astonishing grasp of just about everything musical, his humor and sense of fun. You can read Peter's bio here and find links to all his columns here.

* * *

The spacecraft Voyager 1 and 2 have now left the solar system (or not, depending on how you define it, but we won't go into that) and both have a gold record attached that have sounds of the Earth, people speaking and so on.

There is also music – Bach, Beethoven, Mozart, Blind Willie Johnson, Louis Armstrong and more. CHUCK BERRY was on there as well.

It seems that at least one of these has been intercepted by aliens and a message they sent back has recently been decoded and it read, "Send more Chuck Berry". Alas, there is no more Chuck but there's plenty of his music in the vaults.

You all probably think you know Chuck's music: Johnny B. Goode, Maybellene, Roll Over Beethoven, Sweet Little Sixteen, etc.

I'm not here to prove you wrong. After all, those songs and many like them were the template for rock & roll and the world of music would be the poorer without them. Today I hope to show there was more to Chuck than those famous songs.

Chuck

Chuck started out playing the blues and he got together with fellow blues-man Johnnie Johnson. Indeed, Chuck pretty much took over Johnnie 's group, who became his backup band for some years. Johnnie can be heard playing piano on Wee Wee Hours.

♫ Wee Wee Hours


Chuck

I'm not completely eschewing his famous songs; I've included two of them (a couple more if you're really familiar with Chuck's oeuvre). You Never Can Tell was always a bit of the odd one out when it came to his biggest hits. It's one I really like.

♫ You Never Can Tell


Decades early, Chuck seems to be anticipating dub and reggae as well as hip hop all in the one song. Cuban music too, given the title: Havana Moon.

♫ Havana Moon


Chuck

An interesting combination of classic blues style and DooWop with Chuck's lyrics pertaining to school days, young girls and the like. Make of this what you will, Childhood Sweetheart.

♫ Childhood Sweetheart


Chuck

Chuck as lounge singer, with some tasteful guitar playing it goes without saying (even though I've done just that). This was from a rehearsal for a record where someone left the tape rolling. It only surfaced when, as with many other artists, just about everything has seen the light of day. The song is I'm Through With Love.

♫ I'm Through With Love (Rehearsal 1986)


Chuck seems to have had an excessive interest in Brenda Lee in the song named after her. I'm not going to comment further.

♫ Brenda Lee


Now a rare cover song. Drifting Blues was written by Charles Brown, who Chuck, at least initially, sounded awfully like in his singing. Norma, the Assistant Musicologist, wouldn't think that's a bad thing as she's a huge fan of both performers. Here it is.

♫ Drifting Blues


Chuck

Too Much Monkey Business is one of his songs that's rarely covered, probably because it's such a tongue twister. You really have to be on your mettle to perform this one. Lots of the phrases from the song have been usurped for other purposes over the years.

♫ Too Much Monkey Business


Chuck regrets that he can't be understood in Spanish, at least according to this next song. Of course, all he had to do was plug in his guitar and start playing and he'd be understood immediately. I suppose that the guitar might get in the way of what he seemed to be trying to achieve. We'll never know. The song is Lajaunda (Espanol).

Lajaunda (Espanol)


Chuck

I'll end with one of his hits, one of the famous one. I just have to say "Hail, Hail Rock and Roll" and quite a lot of you will know that I'm talking about School Days.

♫ School Day (Ring! Ring! Goes The Bell)


Not quite the end. Chuck deserves an extra, one that pretty much defined him and all he stood for: Brown Eyed Handsome Man.

♫ Brown Eyed Handsome Man



INTERESTING STUFF – 25 March 2017

ODE TO FORGETFULNESS

This is all too familiar to me and probably to many of you too.

Comedian Mack Dryden, who used to write for Bill Maher, has a whole lot more videos and his website is here.

SURPRISINGLY COMPLICATED PROP MONEY

Not just anyone can make fake money for movies and TV shows. As the YouTube page explains, it is a

”...highly regulated endeavor that is closely watched by federal authorities, so Rappaport has to be extra careful to ensure his fakes never make it into circulation. Still, when your prop money is the go-to for rap videos and has been featured in over 175 films and shows, we think it's safe to say that your cash is king.”

Take a look:

THREE NEW MONOPOLY TOKENS ANNOUNCED

Remember last month when I told you that Monopoly planned to kill the thimble token and a couple of others. Now they have done it. Here's the story:

The T-rex, ducky and and penguin tokens will be available in a new release of the game in the fall. In a statement, Jonathan Berkowitz, a senior vice president at Hasbro Gaming, said,

“The next generation of tokens clearly represents the interests of our fans around the world, and we’re proud to have our iconic game impacted by the people that feel most passionate about playing it,” according to The New York Times.

ELMO GETS FIRED

It's a long time – probably fall – until President Trump's budget will become final and many changes can happen between now and then. However, in the first draft, funding for PBS is being cut which means - Sesame Street's Elmo would be fired:

WHO SAID IT – STEVE BANNON OR VOLDEMORT?

Buzzfeed recently published a little quiz: Ten quotations about which you are asked to choose whether White House Chief Strategist Steve Bannon said it or if the Harry Potter character, Voldemort, said it.

BannonVoldemort

I've read all the Harry Potter Books, I closely follow American politics in Washington, D.C. and I thought this would be slam dunk for me. But nooooo. I correctly identified only four out of ten.

You can test yourself here.

EXPERT INTERRUPTED DURING LIVE TV INTERVIEW

This video took the internet by storm last week. Watch what happened when Professor Robert Kelly was being interviewed by a BBC reporter about South Korea:

It was too delicious for Jono & Ben not to wonder what would have happened had it had been a mommy who was interrupted instead of a daddy. Here's their take:

Thank my friend Jim Stone for sending this.

THE PHYSICIST WHO MAKES AMAZING ORIGAMI

As the YouTube page explains:

”Twenty five years ago, physicist Robert Lang worked at NASA, where he researched lasers. He has also garnered 46 patents on optoelectronics...

“But in 2001, Lang left his job in order to pursue a passion he's had since childhood: origami. In the origami world, Lang is now a legend, and it's not just his eye-catching, intricate designs that have taken the craft by storm.”

I think you'll enjoy this:

EATING FOR A HEALTHY OLD AGE

One of the major cuts in President Trump's budget is to the National Institutes on Health of which the National Institute on Aging is a part.

The website has a terrific section on healthy eating in old age, what changes are needed and how to make them.

“...as you age, some foods may be better than others for staying healthy and reducing your chance of illness,” they explain.

NIH healthy eating old age

There are sections on important nutrients, shopping, changes in healthy choices as we get older. And much more. Take advantage of this while you can. Such information is likely to be the kind that is canceled and disappears with the Trump budget.

You'll find the NIA healthy eating in old age section here.

THE CUTEST THING: QUOKKAS

I only recently heard of quokkas – a marsupial native to Australia (home of Sunday's music columnist, Peter Tibbles). And it is the cutest thing you've ever seen. They call it the happiest animal in the world. Apparently it's friendly too. Take a look:

Bored Panda recently published a whole batch of cute quokka photos. Here's a mama with her baby:

Quokka with baby

And another:

Cutequokka

How's that for leaving you today with big, warm hug? You can see more cute quokka photos 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.


Not Like Them – Those Other Old People (Again)

[EDITORIAL NOTE: This week has been too busy and I ran out of time to write today's post. But that's okay – I could use a day off - and this one, a rerun, caused a good deal of introspection and some differences of opinion in the comments when it first appeared here nearly three years ago.

Let's see how it goes this time.

* * *

Hardly a week goes by that I do not receive a press release or reader email alerting me to a photography exhibit of elders. So much so that it is hard not to conclude that it is becoming a growth industry.

The two most common categories are closeups of wrinkled skin and old people participating in sports - or, sometimes, both in the same series.

It is always better, I believe, so see more portrayals of old people, in any medium, than not. But too many of the photographs are just ordinary and stand out only for having been shot in harshly lit black-and-white which, as any denizen of the internet and certain galleries knows, is the signal that you are in the presence of “art.”

You can choose to reject that designation if your judgment tells you otherwise particularly, in my case, when it seems the photographers' goal is to shock us with the apparent ruin of 90-year-old bodies.

In June, Lillian B. Rubin died. She was 90 years old, a sociologist, a psychologist and author of several useful and well-received books including, in 2008, 60 on Up: The Truth About Aging in the 21st Century.

In reading Rubin's obituary, I was reminded of the opening line in that book,

“Getting old sucks. It always has, it always will.”

Anyone who has been reading this blog for longer than a day or two know that I disagree. But I do know what she was getting at and some of that is contained in an article she wrote for Salon in 2011:

”...old age - even now when old age often isn't what it used to be – is a time of loss, decline and stigma.

“Yes, I said stigma. A harsh word, but one that speaks to a truth that's affirmed by social researchers who have consistently found that racial and ethnic stereotypes are likely to give way over time and with contact, but not those about age.

“And where there are stereotypes, there are prejudice and discrimination – feeling and behavior that are deeply rooted in our social world, and consequently make themselves felt in our inner psychological worlds as well.”

In a short but remarkable section of that Salon article, written when Rubin was 87, she admits to her own prejudice against old people. As she recalled the interviews with elders that she conducted for 60 on Up,

”...I found myself forced back on myself, on my own prejudices about old people, even though I am also one of them.

“Even now, even after all I've learned about myself, those words – I am one of them – bring a small shock. And something inside resists.

“I want to take the words back, to shout, 'No, it's not true, I'm really not like them,' and explain all the ways I'm different from the old woman I saw pushing her walker down the street or the frail shuffling man I looked away from with a slight sense of discomfort.

“I know enough not to be surprised that I feel this way, but I can't help being somewhat shamed by it.”

My own “small shock” and “surprise” and “shame” is that sometimes I catch myself, when I pay attention, feeling like Rubin. Because even though I am hyper-aware, thanks to the work I do for this blog, that I am one perilous fall or terrible diagnosis away from disastrous need of part- or full-time care, I feel different from those who do.

But what Rubin was getting at when she wrote that getting old sucks is not so much the physical manifestations as the emotional and spiritual changes that our culture does not acknowledge even as it is the major source.

Rubin and I share a disdain for the relentless focus on youth, the anti-aging industry, the dubious value of brain games, elders who pretend they are not old.

It is the less than artful photography of ancient bodies I mentioned above that comes to mind when I read part of Rubin's conclusion in her Salon piece:

”...we're living in a weird combination of the public idealization of aging that lies alongside the devaluation of the old. And it isn't good for anybody.

“Not the 60-year-olds who know they can't do what they did at 40 but keep trying, not the 80-year-olds who, when their body and mind remind them that they're not 60, feel somehow inadequate, as if they've done something wrong, failed a test.”

Until we, as a society, find a way to value the late years of elders' lives – all the years, in all their manifestations - there will continue to be old people like Lillian Rubin, me and a certain percentage of you who are ashamed to know that sometimes we feel “not like them.” Until we are forced, one day, to admit, finally, that we are.


Travel While Old (and Resistance Notes)

[EDITORIAL NOTE: These travel complaints have been on my mind for a couple of weeks but they aren't wildly important unless you feel as I do. The Resistance Notes at the end are important.]

Greece2

During my working life, I traveled a lot, sometimes hopping on a plane at a moment's notice to go across the country or across an ocean. I loved visiting places I'd only read about or seen in movies and the airlines, in those days, made getting there and back a pleasant, even glamorous, experience.

The 1970s and 1980s were prime time for airline travel. Plenty of room even for people with long legs, reasonably good meals served hot (even special ones if you ordered ahead), aisles wide enough that you could get up and stroll around to stretch your legs without banging into people who were napping.

Remember 747s? The middle rows were five seats wide and when I was traveling between Los Angeles and New York, there were often a few that were entirely empty so I used one as a full-length bed and slept the whole way. No objections from the flight attendants who even gently woke me when it was time to buckle up again for landing.

Best of all, the price was the price. Whatever was quoted to you was what you paid. No surprise charges for an aisle or window seat or food or checked baggage or carry-on items or, maybe soon, oxygen.

Unless you can afford first class, air travel has become torture and I don't think I need to recount all the ways it is now made so terribly difficult, even painful.

Full-aircraft-xlarge

Therefore, I was surprised to read the results of an AARP survey about baby boomers' travel plans for 2016:

”Most respondents (97%) planned at least one domestic trip and nearly half (45%) planned international ones,” reports Irene S. Levine in MarketWatch (reprinted from Next Avenue).

“While most research about over-50 travelers focuses primarily on boomers, data on the Silent Generation (those born between 1925 and 1945) suggests that with improved health and increased longevity, these folks, too, are opting to travel...”

[DISCLOSURE: Ms. Levine interviewed me for this travel story.]

The report goes on to discuss how boomers are willing to spend more money than younger people to avoid hassles, they demand better service, plan trips far in advance and are intent on checking items off their bucket lists, among other changes from their youth.

Bora-Bora

From the quotations in the article, they are gung-ho about getting out and about to seeing the world as often as possible by air.

“We take ourselves less seriously because we have lost loved ones and realize what really is important in life.”

“Life is unpredictable and I think we need to do as much as we can while we can.”

“Loving every minute of travel even when it isn’t so great. Aren’t we lucky to be able to go?”

Well, not me. Can it be that I am alone in finding being crammed into a plane seat that doesn't accommodate even my five-foot, two-inch size? Or enduring flight delays of many hours (happened on my last three flights in a row with the worst food on earth at airports)?

Crowded-terminal_Editorial

How about the literal mile and more that must be walked between flights? Worse, once you finally get to the gate, you find it's been changed to another gate half a mile from where you are standing and none of those little jitneys airports used to have to carry people from here to there are anywhere to be found.

I've turned into such an old fart that it's just too much work to contemplate a plane trip and because there isn't anywhere I want to go that isn't at least six hours from where I am, it's a full day trip when you count to and from airports which means I'll be exhausted for at least a day after I arrive.

In addition, there is something else in play that I haven't entirely worked out. I just like being home. We have mentioned here that even after too many social engagements in a row (in my case, two days worth does it), we need some down time to recharge.

For me, it's not just dinner with friends or a meeting or other kind of gathering that psychically exhausts me. Being in the vicinity of hundreds of other people for several hours, even if I don't know them or speak with them, is exhausting. I don't entirely understand but it seems to be related to the normal hubbub of being surrounded by a huge group.

Or not. I haven't sorted that out yet but the bottom line is that I'm quite happy at home and my nearby environment. And I'm amazed, given those AARP statistics, at how many people put up with what I find too odious to suffer through.

What do you think?

* * *

RESISTANCE NOTES
There is a lot going on in Washington, D.C., enough to give me a major headache AND heartburn. Here are two items that I'm sure you're aware of.

First Item: Tomorrow, unless the Republicans change their mind, the full House of Representatives will vote on Trumpcare. Or, as it is more formally known, The American Health Care Act (AHCA).

The bill devastates Medicaid, harms people age 55-64 in other ways too and undermines the financial stability of Medicare. You'll find more detail about all that at this two-page Justice in Aging fact sheet [PDF].

It would be a good thing for you to call your representative today and tell him or her what vote you prefer.

Second Item: Last week President Donald Trump released his budget plan but it's not his alone. The budget contains many of the cherished draconian dreams of Republicans.

Instead of me, let's have John Oliver, host of the HBO show, Last Week Tonight, tell you about the bill's troubling priorities:


When Your Whole World Feels Empty

Grieving

Fairly regularly, we discuss loneliness at this blog mainly due to the oft-repeated cultural belief that all old people who live alone are lonely. The general media pick up this idea from startling research reports that loneliness in elders leads to early death, as much as by seven-and-a-half years.

I've read that research and it has convinced me. What I do not agree with, however, is the extent to which the media apparently believe all people older than 50 or 60 who live alone are lonely.

Certainly some people are generally lonely all the time but I think for most of us it is a sometime thing that comes and goes depending on circumstances – that for most of us it is not a permanent condition.

That said, I'm here today about a singular aspect or type of loneliness that I don't believe we have mentioned.

A week or two ago, I ran across a quotation credited to a man I had never heard of, Phillipe Aries, a French medievalist and historian of the family and children (according to Wikipedia), who died in 1984 at age 69.

Probably because we do talk about the difference between loneliness and being alone fairly often here, the quotation has been rolling around in my head ever since I first saw it:

”A single person is missing for you and the whole world is empty. But one no longer has the right to say so aloud.”

With each re-reading, my mind, my heart went straight to the handful of times in my life when, as I walked own the street, people were rushing to and fro, couples kissing, car horns honking, panhandlers begging, dogs sniffing at each other, music pouring out of a bar, a cop car's siren wailing and I wanted to scream: "What are you doing being so normal, doing everyday things? Can't you see that my world ended yesterday? That nothing will ever be the same?"

Not only was my world suddenly empty because someone I love died, I wanted the rest of the world to be empty around me.

The quotation is often mis-attributed to Joan Didion who referenced it in her book, The Year of Magical Thinking but is actually from Aries' book, Western Attitudes toward Death: From the Middle Ages to the Present, published in 1975.

In addition, having now looked into the quotation fairly extensively, too often only the first sentence is quoted. It may be true on its own but it is a much richer, more important with both sentences.

Time was when people grieved the deaths of loved ones for a year or more. Widow's weeds and a circumscribed social life especially for widows - not so much widowers - and other rituals to help assuage the loss.

Nowadays, only the most religious Jews sit shiva for seven days. At memorials I've attended for people with other or no religion, we are expected to tell funny stories and, as the quotation shows, get on with life afterwards as though nothing has happened.

We have, beginning in the 20th century, deprived ourselves of our grief. There are any number of psychological treatises on death and grieving but I think those short two sentences from Aries are enough to know that we probably should rethink our reserve about expressing grief.

To get through it without much fuss – preferably briefly (see you tomorrow at work) – is our oh-so-modern way of a loved one's death. To repeat:

”A single person is missing for you and the whole world is empty. But one no longer has the right to say so aloud.”

image

A few weeks ago I met a woman near my age who is becoming a friend. As we are gradually exchanging life stories and episodes so to come to know and understand one another, I learned that she is a widow of about two years.

What did not happen in that conversation is that I did not say something like, “Tell me about him.” No one ever told me to skim right past such information but I know that it is sort of expected – I've seen it often and I've done it before.

Many of you know this personally and although I was married for only six years many decades ago, I don't I have any difficulty imagining emptiness when a husband or wife of 20 or 30 or 40 or more years dies. I have no trouble imagining that it will be a long time before you feel anything like having a full life again.

One of loneliest thoughts I had when my mother died was that no one was left alive who knew me when I was a little girl. Fortunately for me, I had two or three weeks to clean out her home with my step-brother who was staying with me.

We were together in our grief with plenty of time to talk, without reservation – or sit silently together sometimes - and my emptiness was partially relieved by spending those weeks with Joe. It was a good and healthy and fine time together for us.

It has not been like that when cherished friends have died.

One thing that happens is that other friends and acquaintances who know what happened verbally tiptoe around you for a few days but they don't make room for conversation about your devastating event beyond “Sorry for your loss” and then they move on.

I understand that people often don't know what to say but maybe we're just out of practice. Having given it some thought now – spurred on by a new friend and a quotation from a 42-year-old book – maybe we just need to say something as simple as “tell me about him” or “what do you miss most.”

And if it's too soon, undoubtedly the person will tell you and you can let it go for awhile. But I'm pretty sure the time comes when each of us wants to talk about a person who, when they died, made the whole world feel empty.

What do you think?


ELDER MUSIC: More Hooked on Classics

Tibbles1SM100x130This Sunday Elder Music column was launched in December of 2008. By May of the following year, one commenter, Peter Tibbles, had added so much knowledge and value to my poor attempts at musical presentations that I asked him to take over the column. He's been here each week ever since delighting us with his astonishing grasp of just about everything musical, his humor and sense of fun. You can read Peter's bio here and find links to all his columns here.

* * *

The name was suggested by Norma, the Assistant Musicologist, and has nothing to do with that dreadful bunch of records that came out some decades ago.

This is the second in the series; it's a sister to the columns called "Classical Gas" (another lot named by the A.M.). In this case, I feature more well-known composers, unlike the other ones which are devoted to lesser knowns.

Let's begin with one of the most important composers in history, JOSEPH HAYDN.

Haydn

Papa Jo is most noted for his symphonies, string quartets and other instrumental music - however, he wrote quite a lot of vocal music as well. Actually, he wrote quite a lot of every sort of music.

While he was in the employ of Esterhazy (father and son), he not only wrote and produced his own music, he also staged operas by other composers. One of those was Guiseppe Anfossi and his opera La Metilde Ritrovata. However, it needed something extra so Jo wrote the aria “Quando la Rosa non ha più Spine” for inclusion in it.

Here we have NURIA RIAL performing that aria.

Nuria Rial

♫ Haydn - Quando la rosa


CAMILLE SAINT-SAËNS was best known for his symphonies, particularly the Organ Symphony as well as works like The Carnival of the Animals, Danse Macabre and so on.

Saint-Saëns

These really don't float my boat. He wrote smaller works like string quartets, piano trios, violin sonatas and the like. One smaller piece I particularly like is his Romance for Horn and Piano, Op 36. This is for French horn and piano obviously.

♫ Saint-Saens - Romance for Horn and Piano Op 36


I was lying in bed the other morning listening to the radio (which is how I get inspiration for quite a few of these tracks) and they played a beautiful piece of music. That's obviously MOZART, I said to myself but I don't recognise it.

Mozart

Fortunately, they told me what it was and naturally I searched my music and there it was (several times). A version I have was even better than the one they played, not surprisingly it's by RENÉE FLEMING.

Renee Fleming

The aria is L'amerò, sarò costante from one of Wolfie's lesser known operas, “Il Rè Pastore” or The Shepherd King. K 208 for those who are interested in such things.

♫ Renée Fleming - Mozart Il re pastore K.208 - L'amerò sarò costante


Not too long after they played the previous piece of music, they featured this one. I could lie in bed and have my column organised for me I thought at the time. This one was by LUIGI BOCCHERINI.

Boccherini

Old Boccers is another favorite of mine and he had a string quartet augmented by another instrument, in this case a guitar. Actually, two instruments - there are some castanets towards the end of it. Not really needed, but I suppose they add color and movement.

This is the third movement of his Guitar Quintet No. 4. It has the name Fandango (thus the castanets, I suppose).

♫ Boccherini - Guitar Quintet No. 4 (3)


CARL PHILIPP EMANUEL BACH was the second son of the great J.S. Bach to go into the family trade.

Bach-CPE

He was hugely successful in his time and his music is still played today, probably more so than his brothers'.

I want to play for you what is called a Symphony for Strings. It's an interesting amalgam of baroque (although it's gone somewhat beyond baroque) and classical (it isn't quite a fully fledged classical piece). It's as if Vivaldi and Haydn sat down and wrote it together, although that would be unlikely as Haydn was only nine years old when Vivaldi died.

Anyway, here is the first movement of his Symphony No 2 in B flat major.

♫ CPE Bach - Symphony no 2 in B flat major (1)


I think that VINCENZO BELLINI ranks just behind Puccini and Mozart as an opera composer.

Bellini

Vince is not only a favorite of the public; other composers admired him as well. Verdi raved about his compositions and Wagner, who pretty much didn't like anyone but himself, said he was spellbound by his works. Liszt and Chopin were both fans.

Quite a few of his operas are regularly performed today. However, what I've selected is far from his most famous and is not often performed. It's the opera "Adelson e Salvini" and the aria is Dopo l'oscuro nembo sung by LENA BELKINA.

Lena Belkina

♫ Bellini - Adelson e Salvini Dopo l'oscuro nembo


PYOTR TCHAIKOVSKY sure could write a good tune.

Tchaikovsky

Actually, he wrote a whole bunch of good tunes, many of which have become the most popular works in classical music (and some of the best – I'm thinking of his fifth symphony)

Besides writing ballets, symphonies and concertos he also wrote operas, the best known of which is "Eugene Onegin". From act two of that opera is the Waltz, often performed as a stand-alone orchestral piece, as it is today. This is a real earworm. Sorry.

♫ Tchaikovsky - Eugene Onegin - Waltz


It's difficult to say what is BEETHOVEN's most famous composition, more than a dozen could fit the bill.

Beethoven

The one I've selected today certainly makes the short list. I had not thought about it for a long time until I was reminded of it by my sister, and that was enough for me to include it today.

It's a solo piano work, officially called Bagatelle No 25 in A Minor, and it was probably written for Therese Malfatti, a student of Ludwig whom he wished to marry. She turned him down.

Over the years, Ludwig's original title of Für Therese got lost along the way and these days it's known as Für Elise. The pianist is Gerard Willems.

♫ Beethoven - Für Elise (Bagatelle in A minor) WoO 59


GUSTAV MAHLER wrote nine and a half symphonies – that half, the tenth was incomplete when he died.

Mahler

These are quite long and are considered, by those who dwell on such things, to be important. "Important" is always in implied capital letters. All except number 4, which is shorter and considered of lesser note  That one's my favorite of his.

Like Beethoven's Ninth, it has a vocal final movement, in this case a single soprano, not a choir. One of the versions I have has KIRI TE KANAWA performing that role.

Kiri Te Kanawa

So, here is the fourth movement of Symphony No 4.

♫ Mahler - Symphony No 4 (4)



INTERESTING STUFF – 18 March 2017

IMPEACHABLE

Remember the music group, Peter, Paul and Mary? They were important protest singers back in the Sixties. Now, Peter Tibbles, who writes the Sunday music column here, has forwarded a new song from Noel Paul Stookey.

Stookey's musical colleague, Peter Yarrow, wrote this about his new song:

Impeachable is an example of Noel’s extraordinary ability to write a super-funny, very surprising yet also, highly nuanced, lyric. He is, and has always been, an amazing songwriter.

“In its first public performance last weekend Impeachable brought the audience at our concert in Thousand Oaks, CA to its feet with a prolonged standing ovation. There were screeches of delight the likes of which I have never before heard at a Peter Paul and Mary concert.”

Read more at Reader Supported News.

CHOCOLATE MUSEUM

Mmmm. Yummmm. There are chocOlate museums in such places as Orlando, Cologne, Barcelona, Bruges and more. For quite awhile there have been Jacques Torres chocolate museums in other boroughs of New York City, but finally one opened in Manhattan recently.

The Manhattan Jacques Torres Chocolate Museum is located around the corner from where I lived for 25 years. It is the single good reason I have found to not still be living there – way too easy to overindulge.

Here's the Chocolate Museum website and you can read more here.

COLBERT MOCKS MADDOW - DESERVEDLY

It's been several months since I stopped watching Rachel Maddow on MSNBC. Far too regularly, she stretches 20 minutes of information into 60 minutes of program by repeating everything she says five and even six times. I'd had a enough when I stopped tuning in.

A friend who knows I ignore Maddow called on Tuesday evening to tell me to tune in – that she had some Trump tax returns.

Nothing different happened. She spoke about what she was going to show us for more than 30 damned minutes before holding up the paltry two pages that mean next to nothing in terms of new information. It was a total waste of my time and of her show's time.

Plus, she took credit for them landing at her show when the pages actually had been sent anonymously to Pulitzer Prize winning journalist, David Cay Johnson.

The next night, on The Late Show, host Stephen Colbert performed a near-perfect parody of that Maddow show and her well-known mannerisms. Thank you, Colbert – she deserves calling out on this. Here it is.

HEINZ USES MAD MEN AD IN REAL LIFE CAMPAIGN

If you were a Mad Men fan, you might recall an episode in season 6 when Don Draper (played by Jon Hamm), serves up a proposal for a deceptively simple ad campaign for Heinz ketchup. Here is the scene:

Now it is about to become a real-life print advertising campaign almost entirely as it was shot for the TV show:

”Per Adweek,” reports Vanity Fair, “Heinz just greenlighted the ads—and will run them almost exactly as Draper intended, beginning today, in print and out-of-home executions in New York City.”

Adweek reports that 'the ads are officially being credited to Heinz’s current agency, David Miami, and to Don’s fictional 1960's firm, Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce.'”

What's that old saying about life imitating art? You can read more here.

CAN YOU GUESS THE VOICE of THE YELLOW M&M?

As long as we're talking about commercials, listen to this one starring the yellow M&M:

Do you know which popular actor has been the voice of the yellow candy for 21 years? Scroll to the bottom of today's post for the answer.

IMPEACHARA

Here's a tongue-in-cheek "commercial" about a drug for what ails you, maybe all of us. Journalist Irene S. Levine was the first of several readers to send it to me. It's subtle – be sure to stick around for the ending.

MOST SEARCHED FOR OUT-OF-PRINT BOOKS

OldBooks2

Online used book seller, Abebooks, published the Bookfinder list of most searched for out-of-print books for 2016.

What came in first? The 1974 novel, Westworld a companion book to the movie starring Yul Brynner, both written by Michael Crichton. Abebooks explained that the sudden interest in the 43-year-old book was due to

”HBO's revival of Michael Crichton's science fiction thriller Westworld was one of the best things on TV in 2016...The 10-part series premiered on October 2 and concluded on December 4.”

Here are the rest of the top five most searched for out-of-print books:

Sex by Madonna
Permaculture: A Designer's Manual by Bill Mollison
Unintended Consequences by John Ross
Encyclopedia of Pieced Quilt Patterns by Barbara Brackman

You coulda fooled me. See the entire top 30 list at Abebooks with links to those that are available at their website – including a few that you'll recognize.)

JAPANESE CONFECTIONERY KNOWN AS WAGASHI

The art of wagashi goes back hundreds of years in Japan. As the YouTube page explains:

”These ornate sweets, meant to reflect the delicate beauty of nature, were traditionally created to accompany the Japanese tea ceremony. They are often shaped to resemble traditional flower motifs, and change with the shifting seasons.

“At Fukushimaya, approximately 200 different types of sweets are created throughout the year, with daffodils and camellia blossoms ushering in spring.

Take a look:

WHY ARE CATS THE WAY THEY ARE?

Like me, you may know a lot of what is explained in this TED-ed video but I learned a few things and maybe you will too.

Full lesson is here:

ANSWER TO THE VOICE OF THE YELLOW M&M

JK_Simmons_2009 It is the likeable actor, J.K. Simmons, star of stage, screen, television and even video games. Not to mention the ubiquitous Farmers Insurance commercials: (“We know a thing or two because we've seen a thing or two.”)

There is more than you probably ever wanted to know about him 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.