The Alex and Ronni Show – 4 December 2019

Here we are again, my former husband Alex and I in another Skype chat recorded on Wednesday.

We covered a whole lot of territory this week. Thanksgiving. Meeting the son this late in life that I gave up for adoption 50-odd years ago. My sometime resemblance to the actor Shirley MacLaine and a funny story about that.

Then there's Alex's hypochondria which, he says, has driven all his wives nuts. (I'll confirm that – at last in my case.) Of course we got round to cancer, Medicare, some thing stuff and Alex's upcoming 80th birthday.

Some of you are kind enough to tell me you enjoy these chats. I think they are maybe a bit much. But hey, we live in the age of the internet where everyone is center stage.

You can find Alex's show – Alex Bennett's Ramble – on Facebook and Apple Podcasts.




Attitudes Toward Old Age

PaulGrahamMotherWaPo

This photograph, one among many, was taken by Paul Graham for his recent book, Mother.

The photo and some others of Graham's mother are included in a Washington Post story written by Keith Dickerman who had recently visited his own mother:

”From my newfound perspective,” writes Dickerman, “Graham’s book looks like a loving meditation on his own mom. The photos are soft, delicate, quiet and, ultimately, reflective. Paging through the book, I felt an affinity for how Graham seems to feel about his mother.”

More portrait than photograph, they led me with each viewing to wonder about her life, the lives of all people who reach a great age and the stillness that seems to accompany many of the oldest old.

Perhaps I have been spoiled by TGB's brilliant comment section, but I hardly ever read comments elsewhere on the internet – so many are stupid, vulgar, mean and therefore time-wasters.

This time, however, I took a glance at them and was not disabused of my opinion:

“I understand this is art," wrote one, "whose purpose is to capture a poignant moment in time. And it is familiar to me as I was there for my mother to her last, when she was a withered shell of herself.

“But I choose not to remember her like this. It is not relevant to who she was. I have several 'snapshots' of her sparkly, vibrant, somewhat incorrigible self in mind, when she was getting the biggest bang out of life. And that is what she would want.”
“Withered shell of herself?” “Not relevant to who she was?” Really? All those late years don't count for anything?

Here are two more:

“I hope to god my children have more kindness and sense than to take and publish photos of me when I am in this state. I’m sure this woman would be horrified to know he has done this.”
“I have raised my children to be kind and I know they would never take pictures of me like this. I don’t want to be remembered as a young woman but as a good mother.”

It is obvious the people who wrote these comments do not believe there is any value to old age. With such apparent loathing of aged bodies, how do they tolerate looking at their mothers? Are they repulsed? Do they tell their children not to photograph their grandmother? Do they not love their old mothers as much as when they were younger?

And will they like themselves less when they are “in this state"?

At the risk of breaking an arm while patting myself on the back, I've made it a point to watch myself age since my mid-fifties when I first realized I am not the world's one immortal. After all those years, my response to changes in my body is generally neutral.

Vein-y hands. Eye crinkles. Forehead lines. Crepe-y neck. Those two smile/frown lines around my mouth – I've watched them deepen over many years and they're still doing it. Plus, as I once wrote in these pages, where did my butt go?

I don't compare myself now to what I looked like as a young or mid-life woman. I look at myself as an old woman now and isn't it amazing the changes that keep happening.

The people who wrote these comments are not outliers. They're just more honest than many others.

But how is it, do you think, that Americans hate old age so much, so deeply? And how is that any different from hating old people themselves?

There are more photos of Paul Graham's mother here. His book is available here and here.




A TGB READER STORY: How to Write a Good Obituary

EDITORIAL NOTE FROM RONNI: Thank you for all your story contributions this past week. We now have a good collection to keep us going for three or more months.

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By Kath Noble of Postscript by Kath

Someone you love has died. Suddenly you have a million things to take care of, and you don’t know where to start. I can help by sharing some tips on writing a good obituary.

When I began my business writing obits, Postscript by Kath, I read a TON of obituaries from all over. Many are full of trite phrases and lists of people, places and careers, probably assembled by staff at a funeral home.

Every once in a while, there was one that was obviously written by a family member or friend that made me smile or tear up. That’s the kind I try to write and teach others to write.

Writing a good obituary begins before the person dies. My mom and I sat at her kitchen table over the years before she died at 92, with me writing as fast as I could and her telling me stories, names, dates.

I used questions from A Grandmother’s Book but you can make up your own or just ask them to tell you their life story. Be sure and ask about spelling for names and places. You may end up doing a “G-rated” version for immediate sharing and an “X-rated” version for sharing later with intimates, as I did.

Alternatively, you can talk to someone else who knew the person well, and take good notes. Ask them about stories the person used to tell, what made them laugh or cry, and what they cared about the most in life.

Did they have a favorite joke? What were the high points and low points in their life? Did faith play a role in their life and how did that change over the years? What issues did they care most about? What role or job did they love the most? How did their friends describe them? Do they have a favorite charity in case others want to donate in their name?

Must you compile a list of dates, parents’ names, siblings, spouses, children, jobs, places lived, and so on? Yes, if you can, but not necessarily to include all of it in the obituary. This important information can be given to the survivors for their own use.

How about birth dates? A friend’s mom really did not want others to know her age, so she wrote, “Mary was born sometime in the 1920s!”

But there is another reason to avoid using exact birth dates. Identity theft often happens using data from obituaries, so consider using the birth year and place, but not the date. And NEVER list a home address.

Most obituaries include the cause of death. If a person died in an accident or by suicide, some families may wonder if they should leave out the cause. If they don’t, some readers may read the obit and wonder, “Well, what happened?”

This is a very personal decision, however, and satisfying readers’ curiosity should not be the deciding factor. Much of the stigma attached to suicide has diminished, though, and perhaps we can acknowledge that by being honest and saying “died by suicide.”

What should you actually include in the obituary? It doesn’t need to be a play-by-play of the person’s entire life nor a list of accomplishments. The obits that make me smile give a glimpse into a real person, not a saint.

Consider the obit for Mary “Pink” Mullaney.

“We were blessed to learn many valuable lessons from Pink during her 85 years, among them: never throw away an old pair of pantyhose. Use them to tie gutters, childproof cabinets or hang Christmas ornaments.“

If you are thinking about writing your own obituary, start writing now. Your family will be so grateful to have one fewer thing to deal with when you die and to have your story told the way you wanted it to be told. They can write eulogies and tell stories about you at the memorial service.

Decide what style of obituary you want to write for yourself: a traditional one written in third person or a more personal one, telling some of your life story in first or third person.

See my Facebook page “Postscript by Kath” for examples or search for “great obituaries” online. Read a lot of these so you can steal their ideas and style. Decide if you want help writing or editing your obituary and where to get it.

Just make sure you give several copies of your obit to your family and let them know your wishes about editing it and where to have it published - in the newspaper, on the funeral home website, and/or on a Facebook Memorial Page.

The latter two choices are free, whereas hard newspaper obits can run into hundreds of dollars and may not reach as many people.

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[EDITORIAL NOTE: Reader's stories are welcome. If you have not published here or not recently, please read submission instructions. Only one story per email.]




My $45,000 Per Month Inhaler

It shouldn't be this way, but every year between 15 October and 7 December, Americans who use Medicare for their health coverage, most of whom are 65 and older, can change their coverage for the coming year during the “open enrollment” period.

That sounds accommodating but the real reason is not for insureds' benefit; it is for insurers and big pharma. Not to mention that it has always been a teeth-grinding, boring task each year to compare current coverage to what is available for the next year, but at least it was close to accurate.

Not so this year.

It has never been a good idea to just go with the coverage you've got because insurers are allowed to and may have:

• Raised premiums
• Raised deductibles
• Raised co-pays
• Changed the prices of drugs you use
• Removed some of those drugs from the formulary
• Limited the size of prescriptions

To make it even more adventurous, they might also move drugs around among the four “tiers” which can change the price too.

(There is no law against reducing the prices of drugs. Someone tell me why it is that I doubt that would happen.)

When the new Medicare materials arrived in the mail from the federal government this year, I was appalled to see that there are 28 Part D (prescription drug) plans available in my area for 2020. Count them: 28.

(Am I the only person who knows that too many choices is no choice at all?)

There are also just as many Medicare Advantage programs in case I want to switch from traditional Medicare. No thank you.

What this means is that I needed to look at each of the 28 drug plans on Medicare's website, figure out the cost of each and compare them to my current plan.

The process of finding a reasonably priced plan is so tedious it could make you cry. But this year is worse than previous ones. Truly awful, I would call it, because it turns out the Medicare website is broken this year. ProPublica reports:

”The federal government recently redesigned a digital tool that helps seniors navigate complicated Medicare choices, but consumer advocates say it’s malfunctioning with alarming frequency, offering inaccurate cost estimates and creating chaos in some states during the open enrollment period.”

Inaccurate? You want inaccurate? How about $45,000 per month for an inhaler? Yes, I really meant to put all those zeroes on the price.

(I spoke about this recentlyi on The Alex and Ronni Show. If you really care about additional details, you can view the show here.)

No matter which plans I tested, the same price came up for the inhaler. $45,000.

Well, that's just a joke, isn't it. Even if it were correct. But I didn't believe all 28 providers would just happen to assign an identical price. Okay, I only checked six or eight plans before I sought outside help. But still.

It took several days of calling around to Medicare, insurers and others – all useless - until I found a savior, an extremely well-informed woman who told me to change the number of doses per month on the Medicare website chart from 60 to 1, and explained what Medicare had got wrong:

The Medicare website assumed that each dose, two-a-day in my case, was a separate inhaler so that according to them, I needed 60 inhalers a month instead of one inhaler containing 60 doses.

Whew! But why didn't the customer service representatives know this when I telephoned?

ProPubica goes on to report that Nebraska shut down a Medicare network of 350 volunteer telephone helpers because the website is so problematic. One insurer sent a warning email to insurance brokers nationwide because Medicare's online tool was producing too many errors, reports ProPublica, and

”Minnesota’s Association of Area Agencies on Aging said in a news release on Nov. 14 that the Medicare Plan Finder 'continues to produce flawed results,' including inaccurate premium estimates, incorrect prescription drug costs and inaccurate costs with extra help subsidies.”

Medicare told ProPublica that they tested the redesigned site before its launch. Really?!?

AARP has also written about the mistakes on the Medicare website. Their advice is to call the insurer to double-check the website prices, drug availability and

”For people who have already picked a plan and thought they were finished with open enrollment, advocates say they too should go back, call the plan they have selected and make sure the prices and other information on the website were correct.”

Been there, done that and all I got was, “If that's the price on the website, that's the price.”

I'm sorry that I have no other suggestions for you.

Being old is hard enough. Reading pages and pages of fine print online, mostly numbers, while trying to sort out what one's healthcare will cost in the coming year and then having to wonder if it is accurate is really unkind – even nasty.

The holiday got in my way last week and I'm late posting this story. Open enrollment is in effect only through next Saturday, but that still leaves time to double-check your plan selection for 2020.

I'm going to give the insurer I selected for next year another call and then hold my breath until January to see if I am charged $90-something for that inhaler instead of $45,000.

You should probably do that too – the phone call, I mean, not hold your breath. Good luck.




ELDER MUSIC: I’ve Told Every Little Star

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

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Here is another “variations on a single song”. This one I remember as a pop song from my last years in high school.

However, looking more closely at its history, I find that the song goes all the way back to 1931, and there have been many versions over the years, and enough of those are good enough to include in this columns (there are a bunch that got thrown out pretty much immediately).

One day in 1931, Jerome Kern heard a bird singing outside his window. The bird returned the following day and Jerry was so taken by the tune he wrote it down.

He took it along to his friend and lyricist Oscar Hammerstein II. Oscar said something along the lines of, “What the hell can I do with this?” Eventually he put words to it and it became the song`, I’ve Told Every Little Star.

This is far from Norma, the Assistant Musicologist’s favorite song, and she wondered why I devoted an entire column to it. I’ll let you decide if she’s right.

The first recording of the song was by JACK DENNY AND HIS ORCHESTRA.

Jack Denny

To be a bit more accurate, that is Jack Denny and his Waldorf-Astoria Orchestra, featuring Paul Small on vocal refrain. That’s a bit of a mouthful, so I went with the short name.

You can tell by the long name where Jack and company played mostly. I’m informed that they played at both the old location (Fifth Avenue near 34th Street) and the new (Park Avenue between 49th and 50th Streets). Here’s what it sounded like in 1932.

♫ Jack Denny & his Orchestra - I've Told Ev'ry Little Star (1932)


Bringing things right up to date, here is DIANA PANTON.

Diana Panton

Diana is a Canadian jazz singer who also teaches French literature. She performs under the guise of Diana Panton Trio + 1. There’s some nice guitar work by Reg Schwager. Her version is from an album called “If the Moon Turns Green”.

♫ Diana Panton - I've told ev'ry little star


Going backwards again, nearly to the earliest recordings, is MARY ELLIS, from 1933.

Mary Ellis

Mary gives us the full introduction to the song that’s missing from most versions. She was an opera singer who appeared on every medium known – records, radio, stage, films, TV and any others you can think of (even YouTube).

She also lived for the entirety of the 20th century, dying at age 105 in 2003. She is the epitome of elder music. This is the full rendition of the song.

♫ Mary Ellis - I've Told Ev'ry Little Star


BRAD MEHLDAU brings us an interesting jazz version of the song.

Brad Mehldau

Brad is not just one of the finest jazz pianists around at the moment, he also writes classical music including song cycles for Renée Fleming and Anne Sofie Von Otter as well as longer orchestral works.

However, getting back to our song, this is a live recording with a quartet rather than his usual trio.

♫ Brad Mehldau - I've Told Every Little Star


You knew that BING CROSBY had to be here as he recorded pretty much every song known to man (and woman).

Bing Crosby

Bing needs no introduction from me, so I’ll just play his version, recorded in 1945.

♫ Bing Crosby - I've Told Every Little Star (1945)


Although MARION MARLOWE was coached in the classical repertoire, she’s best known as a cabaret style singer. This was mostly on TV, especially Arthur Godfrey’s programs, and later Ed Sullivan. Her version seems to me to be the quintessential fifties’ style.

Marion Marlowe

♫ Marion Marlowe - I've Told Ev'ry Little Star


I was surprised that MARIO LANZA had recorded our song.

Mario Lanza

I suppose I shouldn’t be as he sang many pop songs, but they were usually Italian in origin or were related to the classical repertoire in some way. I’ve waffled on enough about Mario’s choice of songs (a prime example of padding out the column), so sing it, Mario.

♫ Mario Lanza - I've Told Every Little Star


Another who gives up the full introduction is JOAN MORRIS.

Joan Morris

Joan and her husband, WILLIAM BOLCOM, who is a pianist, composer and arranger, specialise in songs of the first half of the twentieth century. They perform them as they were originally written, as is evident from this version.

♫ Joan Morris - I've Told Ev'ry Little Star


Anything that SONNY ROLLINS performs is well worth a listen, and this is no exception.

Sonny Rollins

Indeed his is easily the pick of the bunch today, as it doesn’t sound much like the song. Sonny goes off on an interesting improvisation and only touches the tune now and then. There’s some nice piano work by Hampton Hawes.

♫ Sonny Rollins - I've Told Every Little Star


I’ll end with the one I mentioned in the introduction. It’s by LINDA SCOTT, probably my first musical crush (well, I was a teenager).

Linda Scott

At the time, Linda seemed to have the market cornered on songs about stars, probably because this one was such a big hit, and if you’re on a good thing... So, here we are with the first version I heard (or that I can remember hearing).

♫ Linda Scott - I've Told Every Little Star




INTERESTING STUFF – 30 November 2019

TIME LAPSE OF LAST WEEK'S SNOW IN BOULDER

There was some heavy weather in the U.S. over the Thanksgiving holiday. My friend Stan James sent this short, time-lapse, Reddit video of a backyard in Boulder, Colorado, a few days ago.

(Click the image twice to replay.)

from r/boulder

THE WORLD IS RUNNING OUT OF – WAIT FOR IT - SAND?

Sand-gravel__medium

The BBC is reporting that people are dying in disputes over sand. Sand? Are they kidding? Apparently not:

Trivial though it may seem, sand is a critical ingredient of our lives. It is the primary raw material that modern cities are made from,” says the BBC report. “The concrete used to construct shopping malls, offices, and apartment blocks, along with the asphalt we use to build roads connecting them, are largely just sand and gravel glued together.

“The glass in every window, windshield, and smart phone screen is made of melted-down sand. And even the silicon chips inside our phones and computers – along with virtually every other piece of electronic equipment in your home – are made from sand.”

They also explain that desert sand does not work.

”The sand we need is the more angular stuff found in the beds, banks, and floodplains of rivers, as well as in lakes and on the seashore. The demand for that material is so intense that around the world, riverbeds and beaches are being stripped bare, and farmlands and forests torn up to get at the precious grains.”

Read more at the BBC.

CONSTRUCTION WORKER TRAPPED ON A BURNING BUILDING

TGB reader Joan McMullen sent this video of a construction worker trapped on a fiercely burning building. From 2013:

COFFEE AROUND THE WORLD

Coffee is my morning lifeline. Without it, it can be hours before I am fully functional. Here is a survey of how coffee is served in five areas of the world:

LEONARD COHEN ON PREPARING TO DIE

Shortly before his death in 2016, singer/songwriter Leonard Cohen spoke with The New Yorker editor David Remnick. This excerpt was published to YouTube by the magazine a couple of weeks ago.

FUNNY CAT PHOTOS

There is a whole bunch of fun and funny cat photos in an article at Bored Panda. Here are two:

Cat-SnapchatsBoredPanda2

Cat-SnapchatsCowBoredPanda

There are plenty more at Bored Panda to lighten your day.

A COTTON CANDY LOBSTER

A fisherman caught this cotton candy lobster near Casco Bay in Maine recently. Isn't he – she? - beautiful:

You can read more at Mental Floss.

ROADSIDE AMERICA MUSEUM

I suspect there are several such museums scattered on the roads of the United States. This one is jampacked with nostalgic items that many TGB readers will recognize from your childhoods.

E.T. CHRISTMAS COMMERCIAL

Thank all 6,000 TGB readers who sent in this commercial. Okay, not 6,000, not even close. But a lot of you, too many to mention.

It pains me to promote this company that has caused me grief with every phone call I've needed to make to them over the years, but wow – what an excellently crafted update of E.T. The Extra Terrestrial 37 years after its original release.

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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.




Happy Thanksgiving 2019

HappyThanksgivingFINAL

There is a lot in my life to be thankful for this year. First of all, I didn't think I would still be here for what is my third Thanksgiving since they told me I have cancer.

Who could have guessed? Not me. There are not enough words in the English language for me to properly thank the many medical people who have helped keep me going - from the surgeon to that wonderful man Keith who brought me a perfect cup of coffee each day I was in the hospital, and these too – so many:

Nurses, medical assistants, certified nursing assistants, doctors of various specialties, schedulers, phlebotomists, physicians assistants, medical technicians and all the other professionals I have forgotten to list.

To my friends and neighbors and even a former husband who all, living far away and near, keep in regular touch and are always caring and understanding as I navigate through this end-of-life journey.

And last though never least, as they say, you dear readers of Time Goes By. You help give shape and order to my days, you let me bang on about anything that's on my mind and are always politely receptive to (and sometimes even enthusiastic about) my meandering thoughts. Every day I am thankful for your stories, your experience, your advice and your humor.

You fill in useful information I've left out, and you teach me things I doubt I could learn in any other way. For all of you I am thankful and my greatest wish today is that you have as much to be thankful for as I do.

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone.

[I am away for the holiday but will be back here with a new Interesting Stuff on Saturday.]




On Thanksgiving Eve 2019

Thanksgiving week reminds me that quite a long while ago – 12 or 15 years I would guess, or more – I spent a five-hour drive home from visiting a friend for the holiday in the company of a person who had planned each step of his life.

He worked it all out on a gigantic graph he updated as events and plans came to be. It started at graduations from college and law school, then career goals, financial goals, when to marry, when have children and how many, etc. all on a timeline with target dates to be met.

It got more granular than that but I have forgotten the particulars. What I recall is thinking (then and now) what polar opposites we were – his pre-planned, methodical roadmap through life as opposed to my more free-wheeling, lets-see-what-happens, laissez faire, meandering path.

It was always that way for me. Maybe it started when I was a kid, when parents make all the big decisions, and I never outgrew it. Or, perhaps I had a commitment problem. If I don't make a firm choice – my thinking might have been - I can't blame myself or regret what goes wrong.

Never having known what I wanted to do in life, I have mostly just let things happen, leaving necessary choices until timing required them. It's not that I was a ditherer, unable to make up my mind. Never that.

But I am lazy and, for example, when I needed a job as after a TV show I was working on was canceled, I put off doing the legwork until, more often than not, work turned up from out of the blue.

Not every time but frequently enough that you could call it a pattern, someone I knew telephoned: “Hey, Ronni, are you working? I've got a job to talk with you about” or something thereabouts and my problem was solved.

Back then I made light of such occurrences by attributing them to a guardian angel watching out for me even if she or he too often waited to deliver until the wolf was scratching at the door.

That angel probably has had something to do, too, with my personal life going well most of the time. Or smoothly enough to not complain much. (Don't take that statement as gospel, though. Old age seems to have provided me with a sunshine filter on my past that screens out a lot of the bad and bitter stuff.)

But it is hard to fault the angel for this end-of-life journey I have been on since mid-2017. I expected to be dead of cancer before now yet here I am. I expected to be in pain of the debilitating sort. Not so, so far.

I am acutely aware of my great, good fortune and not just in regular and interesting employment. I've been blessed with health, enough money to get by without too much effort and wonderful friends. After that, the smaller stuff is only an annoyance.

Even with my playing it so loose, life has turned out remarkably well and I really ought to remind myself of that more often than just on Thanksgiving.

Enjoy the holiday, my friends.




A TGB READER STORY: Scary Movies

EDITORIAL NOTE: The queue of reader stories has gotten extremely low. If you are so inclined, this would be a good time to forward your stories for publication. Instructions are at the bottom of this page. I don't like begging for contributions, so if participation continues to decline, I will bring this feature to a close.

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By Jackie Davis

When I was a child in the ‘50’s and early ‘60s, there wasn’t much in the way of children’s programming nor was it necessary. We had many things other than screens to entertain us, particularly on the farm.

However, there were movies on television, old and not so old. By the late 1950s, as most of you may remember, major studios began making movies available to be broadcast on television. Some were older films, some had finished their theatrical release more recently.

In 1961, NBC began broadcasting Saturday Night at the Movies. That was a must-see at our house.

However, the first disturbing movie I watched was an older afternoon movie, shown by one of the local independent stations, The Sullivans. I remember running outside into the yard sobbing at the end it, and my mother so helpfully pointed out, “You know that really happened?” There are no words.

I can’t say just what year it was that I watched The Diary of Anne Frank (made in 1959) on Saturday Night at the Movies but I would have been eight or nine years old.

To say it made an impression on me is an understatement; I clearly remember afterwards asking my parents, “Did that really happen?” I was horrified, though I didn’t understand the extent of the horror at that time.

I read the book as soon as I could get my hands on it. At some later point in my youth, my grandfather told me that our family was German. Again, I was aghast.

The end of WWII was in the recent enough past that I even I had a rudimentary understanding of the implications. But he fixed all that when he told us our family was Jewish before they came over to this country in the late 1800s. That was in junior high.

I began to doubt the veracity of that story when I was in college and had a Jewish boyfriend; he told me it was doubtful as our last name didn’t translate right. (We knew for sure that he made it up when, as an adult, my sister checked out a genealogy book from inter-library loan. They were Lutherans.)

The Time Machine starring Rod Taylor continues to be lodged firmly in my memory. However, when I saw it as a child, what stuck with me was that in that movie, the atomic war occurred in 1964. Every time I heard a sonic boom in 1964 I went running for the cellar, sure the end was nigh.

These days, the scenes that come to mind are when the time machine goes too far into the future, as the earth is winding down and the sunrises and sunsets go back in seconds as time continues to speed up.

The finale on my scariest movie list is Fail Safe. I would have been in the fifth or sixth grade when I watched it at home on a Saturday night. There was no discussion with either of my parents after that one. At least I was able to appreciate more of Dr. Strangelove when I watched it at an age too young to fully understand the satire.

And yet we were not allowed to watch The Twilight Zone as it was deemed too scary. Geesh.

And then there was the fact that my father made me watch some of the historic events that unfolded both live and on the news in the late 50s and early 60s. “It’s history in the making,” he would say. And it was.

And I have been watching and reading those scary stories ever since.

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[EDITORIAL NOTE: Reader's stories are welcome. If you have not published here or not recently, please read submission instructions. Only one story per email.]




How the U.S. Can Survive Trump

Only once before have I done this and only two weeks ago. On 11 November in a post titled This is Wrong and I am Exhausted, I let loose about the frightening, lawless government President Donald Trump and his henchmen have made for us in the past three years.

It was a popular post with both pro and con advocates. An extraordinary number of readers unsubscribed in anger, a few making their point to me (mostly via email instead of publicly) in impolite terms I could not miss understanding.

But what the hell, here I go again. Because it is that important for everyone, even people who don't agree.

This time it is not what I have to say. Instead, in is an interview with the brilliant and estimable Yale University historian, Timothy Snyder – he of two remarkable books about the times we now live in: On Tyranny about how democracies can succumb to authoritarianism and The Road to Unfreedom about how Vladimir Putin is destabilizing western democracies.

Recently, Chauncy DeVega, a staff political writer at Salon magazine, interviewed Snyder about the state of the United States after three years of Trump in the White house. A couple of not-so-random excerpts.

SNYDER: Mr. Trump must be opposed, because if unopposed his administration is capable of doing damage that future generations won’t be able to repair. That structural and moral damage will get in the way of making America a more just country.

SNYDER: What has to be normal instead is an America which can renew itself, because it’s capable of thinking about the future and drawing conclusions from the past. Donald Trump’s specific terrain is that there is no truth and there is no future. If you cannot keep yourself in a world where there is truth and therefore there’s a future, then Trump is actually winning.

SNYDER: But I think the harder question, and the one that I personally worry about most, is what to do when he loses. We need to think about catching up on all this lost time. These last three years are lost time, in terms of our survival as a species. We needed to have climate policy. Instead we just messed around.

SNYDER: I worry that the Democrats will win and not hit the ground running...If the Democrats do not hit the ground running it will seem as though they are not a real alternative to what came before. We’re going to need political leadership which says, “Yes, really good things have to happen really fast right now.”

Professor Snyder is so clear-headed, so clear-thinking, so informed that he should be required reading. Here is a great starter – DeVega's interview below. It is only 20 minutes long and more wide-ranging than my excerpts. Why not give it a whirl.

Or, there is a transcript of most of their conversation at Salon magazine.