A TGB READER STORY: The Pier, the Birds and the Moment

By B. Henry

An airplane sneaks through the fog over Lac St. Louis.

Canada geese sing homecoming harmonies.

I'm in my car, staring at the lake where we swam as kids.

The lake ice has melted.

The water is high.

Another plane tiptoes in.

A man sits in his car, reading.

We're two cars, side by side, on the pier.

He looks at me, nods and smiles.

I smile and nod back.

I sip my coffee and think about a jumble of senior words overheard at the local coffee spot.

Words like this:

"My friend is in the hospital. She can't move from the neck down. She may never walk again. The doctors are doing tests. I call her every night. A nurse puts the phone by her ear."

"He's 94 years old, driving without a license. His doctor refused to sign the paper. I should notify the police. He's going to kill himself or someone else. If the cops pull him over, it's gonna be game over. Maybe it's just gossip. What should I do?"

"Her world has become smaller since she moved into that senior home."

"No car. No visits. No garden."

"Everything is in the past."

v"So listen to this: My three neighbours help each other, even though they are not related. One woman cuts lawns, the other one cooks and the boyfriend repairs stuff. They found a way to age in place."

"Ah, I know who you mean. She walks the ILR halls and knocks on doors. Sometimes she puts her thumb over the peephole so you can't see who is there. She's losing it."

A ship passes. It's going somewhere.

But where are we going?

More words:

"I'm not sitting there."

"I don't like that man."

"I want to bop him one."

"Now Sam, you know a bop too far becomes a boom."

"Yeah, I know that."

* * *

[EDITORIAL NOTE: This feature, TGB Readers' Stories, appears every Tuesday. Anyone age 50 and older is welcome to submit a story. You can do that by clicking the “Contact” link at the top of every TGB page or at the Guidelines/Submissions page.

Please be sure to read and follow the guidelines before submitting a story. It will save me a lot of time.
]




Making Dying Part of Living

Two or three or four weeks ago, a reader commented that I should not tell anyone about my terminal cancer diagnosis because I would then be identified only by that fact instead of all the other descriptions that could be said of me.

Two assumptions come with that reasoning: (1) that I care if people know I am dying (I do not) and (2) that dying or, at least, talking about it is taboo.

The second item is all too true. In the U.S., we hide dying from friends, neighbors, co-workers, even family sometimes so that death, when it arrives, is a shock to everyone left behind.

Certainly, everyone who finds him/herself in my position has the right to play it out any way they want. But I think keeping it secret does a disservice to the person, to the people who know and care about him or her and to the culture at large.

It makes the great final act of life too much a mystery and more frightening than it needs to be.

Did you know that only about 20 percent of deaths occur at home? That wasn't always so. Until 100 years ago, give or take, most people died in their own bed surrounded by family and loved ones. When the dying was extended, everyone, including the children, were involved in the caregiving.

When I was kid, about half my friends had one or two grandparents living with them. Some were healthy, some were not and it was not uncommon for a friend to tell me that she couldn't go bike-riding that morning because she was taking care of Gran while her mom was shopping.

An ailing grandparent was such a commonplace that we kids accepted it and, when it sometimes happened, the grandparent's death was – well, part of life which, I believe, is as it should be.

We are born, we live, we die. But we too often omit the third act from view.

It is the dying, rather than death itself, I am concerned with, and I become more convinced every day now, as I live with this death sentence, that it is a gift.

A gift of time that allows me to say the things I always ought to have done but too often have not. Of time to remember. Time to wonder at the great unknown. And time to talk. Oh god, yes. To talk and and talk and talk with those who will do so with me, about everything under the sun.

We are doing that here in these pages and your comments, thoughts and stories are enriching my final days.

Even though I have met only a few of you in person, we've been friends of a certain kind for a long time. Imagine how you would feel if, when the time comes, someone posted a note saying I died yesterday of cancer, and you had known nothing about it until then.

Would you feel betrayed? I think I would. Would you wonder why the disease had been kept a secret? I would. And I think I would feel cheated to be able to leave only a note of condolence rather than having had this wonderful conversation we are carrying on now.

No one wants to die but I cannot see the point in pretending my death is not visible on the horizon. In accepting that, I can surrender to life in full, keep moving forward and be as much in the here and now as humanly possible.

Dying is as much a part of living as birth. We should treat it with as much significance and honor it during every last day we have.




ELDER MUSIC: Everything

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.

* * *

We’ve had Nothing and Something. I imagine it’s time for Everything, and here it all is, and I think we cover just about every genre of popular music today. Well, every one worth considering.

Well, everything I’ve ever said about BILLIE HOLIDAY still holds true today.

Billie Holiday

She was unique, and I use that word advisably. Often given second rate material to record, she made them into polished gems of songs. And when she tackled great songs Billie made them even greater.

Billie suggests that Everything Happens For The Best. I don’t know about that, but let’s hear what she sings.

♫ Billie Holiday - Everything Happens For The Best


KEITH JARRETT made a couple of albums with the late great jazz bassist CHARLIE HADEN which are really fine if you like elegant stripped back jazz.

Keith Jarrett & Charlie Haden

Charlie’s swinging bass playing gives an added dimension to Keith’s lyrical piano playing. Everything Happens to Me.

♫ Keith Jarrett - Everything Happens to Me


With her contribution CATHERINE RUSSELL sounds like a throwback to the thirties.

Catherine Russell

She isn’t from that era, of course. Catherine is quite up to date. From her recent album “Strictly Romancin'” she sings in her inimitable style, Everything's Been Done Before. I can see her singing this in a Paris club, backed by Django and Stéphane.

♫ Catherine Russell - Everything's Been Done Before


PAUL KELLY is unusual in the ranks of male songwriters because he writes many songs from the female point of view.

Paul kelly

He took a short story by Raymond Carver and turned it into the song, Everything's Turning to White. The story was called “So Much Water, So Close to Home”, which is the name of Paul’s album from which the song is taken.

♫ Paul Kelly - Everything's Turning to White


JOHNNY ADAMS had a multi-octave singing voice that he used often to great effect.

Johnny Adams

He was yet another talent from New Orleans and was quite at home singing soul, jazz, blues, gospel and rock & roll. Today’s song, I Want To Do Everything For You, is mostly in the soul genre.

♫ Johnny Adams - I Want To Do Everything For You


The BELLAMY BROTHERS are a successful country duo whose music has crossed over into the mainstream pop arena.

Bellamy Brothers

This isn’t confined to the obvious places – America, Australia, the UK – they’ve had charting songs in Europe, Japan and several African countries. The song today is from a rather fine album called “Rebels Without a Clue” called When The Music Meant Everything.

♫ Bellamy Brothers - When The Music Meant Everything


You don’t hear whistling much in songs anymore, it used to be quite common. The whistler today, okay, it’s quite short, is CHRIS SMITHER.

Chris Smither

Chris is a blues/folk/singer-songwriter of renown. His life performances, usually just him and an acoustic guitar, are really worth catching. Here he sings (and whistles) Everything on Top.

♫ Chris Smither - Everything on Top


I could have done without those strings on the next song. After all, when you have NAT KING COLE and THE GEORGE SHEARING QUINTET, that should be enough. It certainly is for me.

Na King Cole t& George Shearing

Nat and George and friends (and those damn strings) give us Everything Happens To Me.

♫ Nat King Cole and George Shearing - Everything Happens To Me


SAM COOKE should need no introduction from me for the readers of this column.

Sam Cooke

It’s generally considered that he invented soul music, along with Ray Charles, but he didn’t live long enough to see its full blossoming. Such a pity. He sings I Lost Everything. I guess that’s a little prophetic.

♫ Sam Cooke - I Lost Everything


I like to throw a song from left field into columns now and then, and today’s contribution is from the LOUVIN BROTHERS.

Louvin Brothers

The Louvins were an influential duo whose songs were taken up by later country and rock performers, most notably The Byrds and Emmylou Harris. It seems they have Plenty of Everything but You.

♫ Louvin Brothers - Plenty of Everything but You




INTERESTING STUFF – 10 November 2018

EDITORIAL NOTE: Again this week, my selections are heavy on animals. I hope you enjoy them.

* * *

YOU THINK THREE RIBS ARE GOING TO STOP JUSTICE?

That's what Bryant Johnston, long-time physical fitness trainer to 85-year-old Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg told a reporter after RGB fell last week and broke three ribs:

"To all the stressed out people in America," Johnson told The Cut, "remember that the justice is TAN. Now, I always use that acronym: TAN. She’s tough as nails. You think three ribs are going to stop Justice?

"We probably won’t train at least for another week or so just to give the ribs a chance to heal because the ribs are just very sensitive areas that you just gotta give them a chance to heal. And then we’ll pick back up just like we usually do, and I’ll take in account for the ribs and we’ll just kinda ease and move in a little bit easier around ‘em."

Thank god she is TAN. We need that woman on the Court.

WHAT ANIMALS DO WHEN WE'RE NOT LOOKING

Julien Tabet is a young French artist who says he likes to surprise people.

”...imagining the improbable fascinates me...,” he says. “My works deal mainly with animals for a lot of reasons. Animals are different from humans because they are so much more humble and innocent.

“But what I like the most is that they can be mysterious due to their anonymity. I love to dream up the way animals act when we aren't watching them, kind of like Toy Story.

I think his work is magic:

ElkWithHarpHorns

LionWithWings

SwanWithPenguinsandPolarBear

There are more fantastical images at Bored Panda and at Tabet's Instagram page.

HOW CONGRESS STOPPED WORKING

We may have elected a Democratic-majority House of Representatives on Tuesday but that doesn't mean Congress will suddenly function.

The Washington Post and ProPublica got together to produce a short animated video, How Congress Stopped Working, that includes some predictions about whether it will soon get better.

Warning: This is not encouraging:

You can read more at the Washington Post and at ProPublica.

ONE TOUGH LITTLE RAT CHASES OFF A SCAREDY CAT

The YouTube page tells us:

”An inquisitive cat in the Luxembourg city of Esch-sur-Alzette, saw something move across the street and immediately trotted over to investigate. Upon discovering it was a rat, the cat began the chase.

“This tough little rat, however, turned right around and instead became the chaser...nipping at the poor kittie’s heels all around the streets.”

GERMAN SHEPHERD WATCHES OVER TEENY TINY BABY QUAIL

This is so cute:

”A noble German Shepherd named Thorin,” says the YouTube page, “very gently sniffed out a bevy of baby quails who were chirping away while crawling around on a comfy shag rug. After meeting these little birds, Thorin sat down and stood guard over them, remaining completely affable even when they climbed upon him.”

A SMALL AMOUNT OF GOOD CLIMATE NEWS

I may have mentioned that I can no longer read stories about climate change. Just the headlines make me weep for our beautiful big blue marble home in space.

Then there is this from the BBC. It won't change much, but it's good to read:

”The ozone layer, which protects us from ultraviolet light, looks to be successfully healing after gaping holes were discovered in the 1980s. The Northern Hemisphere could be fully fixed by the 2030s and Antarctica by the 2060s.

“A new United Nations report says it's an example of what global agreements can achieve.”

Read the entire story at the BBC.

MERCATOR MAP ANIMATED GIF

Undoubtedly you know that maps made for a flat surface distort the size and shape of land masses. Climate data scientist and interactive mapmaker, Neil Kaye, has made an animated gif to show the differences in the size of countries between flat and globe-shaped maps.

”Because the Mercator Map distorts land size in accordance with increased distance from the Equator, countries like Greenland, Russia, Canada and the United States look so much larger than much of the rest of the world.”

World-Projection-Actual-Size-Animation

Read more at Laughing Squid.

HISTORY OF CEMETERIES

A succinct little video about the way humans bury their dead has changed from the earliest days of humankind to the present.

HOW TO RID YOURSELF OF EARWORMS

Most of us get stuck with annoying earworms from time to time, a tune stuck in our brain that won't go away.

Susana Martinez-Conde, writing at Mental Floss, has five suggestions for banishing them. One of them is to listen to a “cure tune”:

”The same study also found that some subjects used competing songs, or 'cure tunes,' to control their earworms. The researchers identified 64 such tunes, with six of them named by more than one person.”

Another suggestion is to chew gum:

”Chewing might hinder the motor programming involved in speech articulation, and therefore could keep people from subvocalizing (saying the words to the songs in their heads). They found that vigorous gum-chewing did reduce the number of unwanted musical thoughts, but...”

Read the rest at Mental Floss. I have no idea of any of these work.

COMEDY WILDLIFE AWARDS

The Comedy Wildlife awards are back again this year with some of the funniest animal photography you've ever seen. A sampling of finalists:

Flyinghyena

SplitSquirrel

WildlifePhotogrbear

The 2018 winners will be announced next Thursday, 15 November, in a ceremony at Foyles in Charing Cross, London.

Meanwhile, you can see a lot of more of the finalists at Bored Panda (click through for the entire five pages of entries) or at Comedy Wildlife Photos.

* * *

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.




Writing and Coping Until the End

EDITORIAL NOTE: Judith Graham, who writes the Navigating Aging column at Kaiser Health News and who I've known for several years, interviewed me about my cancer diagnosis along with my decision to write about it for this blog. It was interesting for me to try to answer her wide-ranging questions as best I could and she pulled it all together in her usual excellent manner.

Oddly, although I wrote today's blog post yesterday before I read Judith's story, they turned out to be sort of companion pieces. You can read Judith's story here.

* * *

One of my oldest blog friends sent an email earlier this week noting:

”...it's heartening to know that you're not going to turn your blog into a 'Watch me die,' fiasco but continue it as a 'Watch me live' play-by-play.”

My thought was then and still is, “Oh god, I hope he's right. I'm not sure.”

In this final life predicament of mine, I'm flying blind. No one is prepared for this and in my case, I am unwilling to read about how others, knowing their approximate expiration date, have navigated the remaining time.

Writing is how I help myself figure out things. I was doing it a long time before there were blogs, even a long time before there was an internet and when I decided to let you, dear readers, in on my cancer diagnosis, I also declared to myself that I would write whatever was on my mind - or as close as I can determine - as if I were writing in one of my old analog journals.

What is new on Time Goes By now is that there will be fewer reported and researched posts. Most will be like this one, conjured from the thoughts and feelings flitting around the synapses of my brain.

These are easier to write, less time consuming and I need the extra hours in a week now. One thing I have learned in this first month is that knowing death is relatively imminent means there is a lot to do to be ready. When not procrastinating, I am busier than before this happened.

My end-of-life documents are long-since prepared and appointments with medical people are arranged for the next couple of months.

But there is homework to do and decisions to be made about palliative care issues and assisted dying, cremation to arrange, many last letters to write, visits with beloved friends, cleaning out my home of what will become useless detritus when I'm gone and much needed quiet time with myself.

Surprises eat up time too – more time, it feels like, than when such things happened “before.”

A week ago, hot water disappeared from my pipes and it was determined that a new water heater was required. Wh-a-a-a-a-t? At this particular moment in my swiftly shortening life, when I have a last chance to ponder my soul's relationship (or not) with the universe, my water heater dies? Before I do? Who thought that was a good idea?

And dear god, have you noticed what it costs to replace a water heater these days? Geez.

A day or two later, while carrying a big bundle of dirty laundry to the washing machine, I tripped on a dragging towel or bed sheet and crashed to the floor, banging my knees and my forehead horribly.

Although I quickly determined that nothing was broken or bleeding, the pain was terrible - throbbing away. I lay on the floor for a bit catching my breath and after a couple of minutes burst into tears – heavy, deep, uncontrollable sobs that went on and on.

My wits were still enough with me that I could tell right away, it being my first cry since this diagnosis, that my weeping was not at all about the pain in my knees and head.

While I lay there and in keeping with my slighlty off-center sense of humor, a cartoon I had seen recently came to mind of a woman lying on her floor. Parodying that awful TV commercial, she says, “Help. I've fallen and can't think of a reason to get up.”

Nor could I. For awhile.

After 15 or 20 minutes that old, impossibly cheerful Jerome Kern/Dorothy Fields song intruded on my misery: “Pick yourself up, dust yourself off and start all over again.” Really? At this point in my life I've turned into that much a Pollyanna?

Apparently so.




The Day After the U.S. Midterm Election

On the morning after the 2008 presidential election, the first thing I heard on the news was an announcement of who intended to run for president in 2012.

And so it has been ever since. If we have not heard yet today who will run in 2020, we soon will (they can't help themselves, these politicians), thereby continuing what has become the perpetual 24/7/365 political campaign.

There is no governing in the U.S. anymore - just campaigning.

Except for issues that affect old people in particular, Time Goes By is not a political blog. But yesterday's election is different.

As many have said, it is a referendum on President Donald Trump and probably by the time this post is published today or you are reading it, we will know whether he succeeded in helping the Republican party maintain control of the entire federal government or if the Democrats managed to take the House and/or the Senate.

As I write this on Tuesday, I am worried about either outcome. If Trump prevails, it is frightening to imagine what legal and illegal acts his sense of empowerment will unleash on the country and the world. It will not be pretty.

And if the Democrats manage to wrest control of some part of the government, it is frightening to imagine what legal and illegal acts (in addition to his claiming victory anyway) Trump's sense of empowerment will unleash on the country and the world. It will not be pretty.

This election is my last. I was first allowed to stay up late to track the vote count in the 1952 election between Dwight Eisenhower and Adlai Stevenson - I was eleven years old – and I have been doing it in every election since then.

When Trump was elected in 2016, before I knew of my cancer diagnosis, I told anyone who would listen that whatever else happened, I would be pissed off big time if I did not live long enough to see how the Trump era ends (everything ends eventually).

Count me pissed off. And count me pissed off further that if special counsel Robert Mueller III drags his feet, I may not know that outcome either.

But at least I have seen this election and because nothing else today is as much on anyone's mind, let's see what we have to say about it in an open political thread below.




A TGB READER STORY: Practicing Patience

By Jane Seskin

I met up with a stroller in the lobby of a building, caught my foot on a wheel, twirled to stay erect, then fell to the floor.

My side a week later was a muted rainbow. I fractured a bone in my right wrist, was put in a cast ending below my elbow which hugged my thumb. I was told my hand would be immobilized for six to 10 weeks.

I didn’t realize in the moment the cast was applied to my dominant hand it would upend my life. Early on I knew I would need to inhale some of the skills I nurtured in others as a psychotherapist. My litany: be patient, acknowledge your feelings, allow yourself to be vulnerable, ask for help, practice self-compassion.

As an independent, type A senior single woman, I didn’t understand I would have to learn those lessons over and over again.

For the first week, I carry my arm around in a white sling. I’m apprehensive on the street. Feel vulnerable in crowds and by people walking toward me looking down at their screens. I’m nervous someone will bump into me and frequently call out: “Heads Up!”

A friend observes as we leave a movie that I’m listing to the right. At night I’m thinking pasta. I’m thinking sourdough bread and butter. Carbs - always a bad sign.

I cannot hold the ancient but still usable receiver from my landline, drink from a cup or mug (In restaurants: “May I please have my coffee in a takeout container?”), eat with a fork and knife, peel an orange or a hardboiled egg, apply lipstick, wash my face, brush my hair, carry a pocketbook, an umbrella, use my wallet or write with a pen.

I struggle to put my key in the door and then turn it to open. My everyday life has been compromised. I’m on leave from my Senior Aerobics class that has weekly energized me. My patience sits on a swing on a windy day and I am frequently seconds away from tears.

I’m frustrated opening a plastic bag of salad, cutting vegetables, unscrewing a jar of marinara sauce. I’m angry at my helplessness, tired from the efforts and sad to have to acknowledge - I am incapacitated.

In the third week I stop fighting the situation. Stopped being so angry with myself for feeling out of control. For being slow. I return to the scene of the accident, a large bustling lobby in a crowded shopping center. I pace up and down the marble floor where I fell. I’m grateful I didn’t crack open my head when I went down.

What I was living was my present experience. My moment in time. I began to answer “having a hard day,” if I was, when someone asked, “How’s it going?”

I have fleeting desires. I want to shop. I want to buy new clothes. I can’t get my arm through long-sleeve tee shirts and jackets. Putting on a coat requires major breathing and a little dance step. Can’t pull things over my head. I’m now wearing a diet of button down, snap-close shirts.

It takes additional time to get dressed in the morning. I often stop, just stand still. Count backwards from 100. Running shoes gone in favor of clogs and boots that have no laces to tie. The days are cold. My fingers chilled. I wear a sock on my hand and feel I will break into puppetry at the sight of a child.

Five weeks. I’m not in pain. There is an occasional feeling of heaviness in the hand, of throbbing in the wrist. I take no meds. Perhaps a cinnamon raisin walnut scone some afternoons with a cup of espresso.

To blunt the tedium I read murder mysteries and poetry, listen to Keith Jarrett, practice meditation and do my work which is engaging and stimulating. (This is an exploration for me and with clients on what it means to be hurt, to feel dependent, to ask for help. I reassure someone: “My arm is injured. My brain is intact.”)

Nine weeks. My cast comes off! I’m keenly aware this has been a transitory injury, a taste, a forewarning of frailties to come. I acknowledge the minefields in my day and will continue to make adjustments. I learn to practice patience.

* * *

[EDITORIAL NOTE: This feature, TGB Readers' Stories, appears every Tuesday. Anyone age 50 and older is welcome to submit a story. You can do that by clicking the “Contact” link at the top of every TGB page or at the Guidelines/Submissions page.

Please be sure to read and follow the guidelines before submitting a story. It will save me a lot of time.
]




Dying My Way

Today marks four weeks since the doctors told me cancer has reasserted itself and there is no treatment. That news was not a surprise. Although I had been pronounced cancer-free since last January, I knew it was more likely than not to return.

Right now my timeline is squishy. Chemotherapy begun last Wednesday is designed to slow the growth of the new tumors and thereby extend the estimated time during which I will feel healthy before cancer symptoms begin to kick in.

As you might imagine, a lot has been running through my mind, ping-ponging around as I explained in a post last week, on a wide variety of end-of-life-related thoughts and feelings.

Even so, I have found a lot to laugh about in all this. I've always had a well-developed sense of the macabre – so much so that it's been a long while since I've thought of it as black humor. To me it's just funny alongside every other kind of funny. (Unless I'm whistling past the graveyard and don't know it.)

In the interval where I live these days between the belief (shattered now, of course) that I am the one immortal and my ending, there are personal decisions to be made. An important one to work on has been about how I want to spend my final months.

The broad outline is already settled and I will write about that in time. But an issue came up Friday when I was approached about reviewing a book that, the editor wrote in an email, explains what's wrong with how we die these days and what people can do to die in a manner that is better – at least, according to the author, a medical professional who has worked with terminally ill people for some years.

If the book were a general critique of (to borrow an old phrase) “the American way of death,” I might not be as offended even if the title does read as too much a projection of the author's personal preference for end-of-life.

After 25-plus years of studying aging, death and dying I know that no one really understands growing old until they get there themselves. I have unlimited gratitude and admiration for caregivers of all sorts. They are special in ways I cannot match but they do not KNOW about old age in a real sense until it is their time.

Similarly, I have learned now that living with a death sentence cannot be imagined. No one can understand until or unless they are tagged with that verdict.

What puts me off is the evident certainty in the book title (particularly couched in its boomer-generation phrasing) and the description I received that the author knows what values and priorities should define a person's dying days.

Let me be clear about that: There is no right way to die. Equally so, there is no wrong way.

* * *

NOTE: I am not telling you the names of the book and the author for several reasons: I have read only a fairly thorough description of it in an email, it will not be published until next year and it contains information about navigating the medical establishment during one's last weeks or months that could be useful to people who have not researched this as extensively as I have.

Further, in the 15-year history of this blog, I have made it a rule to write only about books I can unequivocally recommend which is not something I want to change at this late date.

In these circumstances, it would be unfair to me to leave readers only with my personal objections. Hence, no title or author.

* * *

Making a choice about how to die - which is another way of looking at being given a medical death sentence - is highly personal, maybe the most personal act in a lifetime.

So I am going to rely on what I have come to believe from all the decades of study I've done to inform how I spend the remaining time of this last journey.

Most of all, I do not want to be influenced by anyone else's idea of what they believe is a good or right kind of death.

I am being careful to do some things - and just as careful not to do others - to ensure that my death (and the getting there in the interim) is my own. Among those things is not to read other people's advice about how to die.

Have you given this choice any thought?




ELDER MUSIC: Songs of Irving Berlin

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.

* * *

Irving Berlin

Israel Beilin (or Baline according to some) was born in Tolochin, in Russia and went to America when he was five. Somewhat later he acquired the name IRVING BERLIN.

Besides the hundreds of songs, Irv wrote the score of a couple of dozen Broadway musicals and 15 or so films. Pick the name of a singer out of a hat and she/he will have sung something of his songs. Here are just a few.

Alexander's Ragtime Band was one of his first hits, and one of his biggest. He wrote it in 1911 and he also performed it that year. Over time, many have recorded it, some several times. One (or two) is (are) BING CROSBY and AL JOLSON.

Bing Crosby & AlJolson

The version today was recorded in 1947.

♫ Bing Crosby - Alexander’s Ragtime Band


I Got Lost In His Arms was written for the musical “Annie Get Your Gun” and was sung in that by Ethel Merman. Ethel is a long, long way from being my favorite singer, so I’m glad the ROSEMARY CLOONEY recorded it.

Rosemary Clooney

Several more people have recorded the song including, rather surprisingly to me, Suzi Quatro.

♫ Rosemary Clooney - I Got Lost In His Arms


Blue Skies was written after Irv and his wife Ellin had had their first daughter. It’s an optimistic, forward looking song as befits that occasion. The song first saw light of day in a Ziegfeld production, and later Al Jolson performed it in the first talkie, “The Jazz Singer”.

It’s been recorded many times and been to the top of the charts quite often, including fairly recently when WILLIE NELSON recorded it (and other similar songs). Naturally, if Willie is around I’ll probably choose him.

Willie Nelson

♫ Willie Nelson - Blue Skies


There were several candidates for the song Heat Wave, but I narrowed it to two. I played them both for Norma, the Assistant Musicologist, and she instantly went with SOL K. BRIGHT & HIS HOLLYWAIIANS.

Sol Bright

I was leaning in their direction as well, so it was unanimous.

♫ Sol K. Bright & His Hollywaiians - Heat Wave


Change Partners is a song that Irving wrote for the film “Carefree” in 1938, where it was sung by Fred Astaire. Since then there have been quite a few versions that made the charts. The one I’m interested in today came from considerably later, 1967, from an album that FRANK SINATRA and ANTÔNIO JOBIM recorded together.

Frank Sinatra & Antônio Jobim

It’s lucky Frank sang, as otherwise it sounded rather like elevator music to me.

♫ Frank Sinatra - Change Partners


Apparently, I've Got My Love to Keep Me Warm is a Christmas song. It mentions icicles and snow and all that palaver. That doesn’t sound like Christmas where I live – all sunshine, shorts, T-shirts, drinking cool white wine in the shade. Anyway, I’ll just skip over that and let the MILLS BROTHERS warm you up.

Mills Brothers

♫ Mills Brothers - I've Got My Love to Keep Me Warm


Irv didn’t think the song Say It Isn't So was much good so he put it away in his bottom drawer. Somehow or other Max Winslow heard the song and took it along to Rudy Vallée who sang it on his radio program and made it a big hit.

Rather than a vocal version, I thought that the BENNY GOODMAN QUARTET captures it beautifully.

Benny Goodman

Like Nat King Cole down below, I’ve always preferred Benny in his quartet to the big band. Somebody must have liked the big band though, as they were very popular.

♫ Benny Goodman - Say It Isn't So


ROSEMARY CLOONEY makes a return visit, this time as a duet partner of GUY MITCHELL.

Guy Mitchell & Rosemary Clooney

Irv wrote You're Just in Love for his musical “Call Me Madam” where it was sung by Ethel Merman and Russell Nype. As mentioned earlier, I’ll skip Ethel if I get the chance.

Fortunately, several other versions made the charts. Rosemary and Guy’s was the biggest seller, and the one I prefer.

♫ Guy Mitchell & Rosemary Clooney - You're Just In Love


Irv was rather fond of counterpoint, or “double songs”. The previous one is an example of that, as is this next one, Play a Simple Melody. The version I’m using was originally attributed to “Gary Crosby and Friend with Matty Matlock's All Stars”. Of course it was immediately obvious who his “friend” was.

Here are BING CROSBY and GARY CROSBY with the song.

Bing & Gary Crosby

♫ Bing Crosby & Gary Crosby - Play a Simple Melody


It was difficult trying to select which version of What'll I Do to include, as several of my usual automatic inclusions were present; most notably Chet Baker and Julie London. In the end THE NAT KING COLE TRIO trumped them all.

Nat King Cole Trio

His trio is the way I like Nat best, and this is a beautiful version.

♫ Nat King Cole - What'll I Do


As an indication of his longevity, I’ll end with a tribute, a song Irv didn’t write. It’s by IAN TYSON.

Ian Tyson

The song is Irving Berlin (Is 100 Years Old Today), and it shows his incredible influence in all genres of music.

♫ Ian Tyson - Irving Berlin (Is 100 Yrs Old Today)


Irving Berlin




INTERESTING STUFF – 3 November 2018

DON'T FORGET – CHANGE THE CLOCKS TONIGHT

For most of the United States, it's time to change our clocks tonight to standard time – one hour back.

FallBack

Some of our tech clocks make the change on their own but I still have some old-fashioned analog clocks I need to do by hand. Just before bedtime.

DON'T FORGET – VOTE ON TUESDAY

Vote I happen to believe voting is not just a civic duty, but a moral one. Aside from laws that apply to everyone, voting is the only thing a democracy asks of all citizens. Please, please do it on Tuesday.

HUNDREDS OF YEARS OF HUMAN BONES

This is amazing, what reader Nana Royer sent. It is about the Sedlec Ossuary (The Bone Church) in Kutna Hora, Czech Republic. It is a world Heritiage Site containing the skeletons of between 40,000 and 70,000 people.

Wait until you see all the ways they are displayed.

TINY DRONES COOPERATE TO OPEN HEAVY DOOR

According to the YouTube page,

”Researchers from Stanford University and the Ecole Polytechnique Federale de Lausanne in Switzerland built small drones, which they call FlyCroTugs, that can move heavy objects by coordinating their actions.”

It takes these little, electronic critters a couple of minutes to get going but you sense them communicating with each other.

7TH GRADER WINS TOP SCIENCE PRIZE

My friend John Gear sent this item about a 13-year-old (!) who won an important prize for a new science invention. Business Insider reports:

A 13-year-old boy from Oregon has won the Young Scientist Challenge by inventing an artificial intelligence treatment for pancreatic cancer.

“Rishab Jain created an algorithm to improve cancer treatment by using AI to locate and track the pancreas in real time.

“A prime challenge in radiation treatment is locating the pancreas itself, which is often obscured by the stomach or other organs, resulting in healthy cells being inadvertently hit. Rishab's algorithm improves accuracy and increases the impact of radiation treatment, according to organizers of the competition.”

All I have to say about this is THIRTEEN? The rest of us might as well not bother. Read more at Business Insider.

NOTE FROM RONNI: All the remaining items are about animals. I had so many this week I could have done the entire post on animals. I restrained myself. Since I was told of my latest cancer predicament nearly four weeks ago, there is been a noticeable and fairly large uptick in my interest in the natural world.

TRACKING BIRDS OF PREY

The You Tube page tells us:

”On a remote mountaintop in Eastern Nevada, a dedicated team of conservationists has been keeping watch for over 30 years. Their mission? To count and record every single raptor and bird of prey that flies past to keep track of their populations.

“Over the years, HawkWatch International has counted over 13 million birds across their network of observation sites. Since hawks sit on the top of the food chain, any drastic changes in their populations signals problems with the balance of their eco-system.

“If these hawks start to disappear, HawkWatch is the first to blow the whistle so we can take steps to address the problem.:

REMY THE HARVARD CAMPUS CAT

Harvard University has communal cat.

091218_Remy_0008

The Harvard Gazette explains:

”Jessica Shires, department administrator in Harvard’s History and Literature Department, said that when she started the Facebook page 'Remy the Humanities Cat' with a couple of colleagues, she was surprised to learn how many fans the feline had made in his travels.

“'Little did I know how far his visits spread across campus,' Shires said. 'Occasionally I’m reminded by Law School, STEM, and museum friends of Remy that he’s not just a humanities cat. I suppose now I’d probably be more inclined to call him ‘Remy the Interdisciplinary Cat.’”

“Remy’s owners have known about his double life at Harvard for years now through the many phone calls they receive — up to 10 a day, as late as 2 a.m. — from across campus. 'We have picked him up from numerous Harvard buildings over the years,' Watton says.”

There is much more about Remy, including a recent disappearance and retrieval at the Harvard Gazette.

DOGGIE AMBASSADORS

Yes, this appears to be a sort of commercial for the Fairmont Hotels but it such a nice idea that I can't object to posting it. The Youtube page tells us:

”Since 2001, Fairmont Hotels around the world have been home to a highly esteemed (extremely adorable) fellowship program. Fairmont’s Canine Ambassadors aren’t just a hotel guest’s best friend and the perfect four-legged concierge—they’re family.

“These formally-trained pups know the halls of the hotels and the people who work there. They’re also experts in mountaineering, constantly exploring the landscapes surrounding Fairmont Banff Springs and Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise.”

GARY AND SEAL IN THE SCILLY ISLES

This is so adorable you will not help but kvell at underwater videographer Gary Grayson's encounter with a friendly seal:

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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.