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The Pope and the U.S. Congress

If, like me, you spend a lot of time with the cable TV news channels, you overdosed on the Pope last week. Whatever else of note happened during the eight days of Francis's visit to North America, it was not reported in these venues.

He had not reached the halfway point of his trip, when it began to feel like overkill. Yeah, yeah, yeah. Enough, already. I got it.

But with a little distance now from the hoopla, it occurs to me that the most important thing Francis said is entirely contained in the second paragraph of his first speech, the extraordinarily expansive address to the joint session of Congress.

After his greeting to that gathering of all the American lawmakers, he defined their job (perhaps in case some in attendance have forgotten):

”Each son and daughter of a given country has a mission, a personal and social responsibility," he noted. "Your own responsibility as members of Congress is to enable this country, by your legislative activity, to grow as a nation.

“You are called to defend and preserve the dignity of your fellow citizens in the tireless and demanding pursuit of the common good, for this is the chief aim of all politics.”

Everything else he said is commentary on that job definition and I have been wondering since then, in regard to his followup list of the many terrible issues of “the disturbing social and political situation of the world today,” if any in Congress are even a little bit shamed at their neglect of the common good.

The Pope admonished Congress about the money that has overtaken the American political system:

“If politics must truly be at the service of the human person,” he said, “it follows that it cannot be a slave to the economy and finance.

“Politics is, instead, an expression of our compelling need to live as one, in order to build as one the greatest common good: that of a community which sacrifices particular interests in order to share, in justice and peace, its good, its interests, its social life.”

Following on, the Pope had something pertinent to say about terrorism, middle eastern refugees, America's immigrants, the death penalty, poverty, wealth inequality, war, climate change and, for us at this blog, elders too.

Below, are some short excerpts on each of these topics from the Pope's speech to Congress. As you go through them, recall what this and past Congresses have - and in particular, have not - said or done to address these urgent problems.

On terrorism:

”Our world is increasingly a place of violent conflict, hatred and brutal atrocities, committed even in the name of God and of religion. We know that no religion is immune from forms of individual delusion and ideological extremism.”

Refugees and immigrants:

”Our world is facing a refugee crisis of a magnitude not seen since the Second World War. This presents us with great challenges and many hard decisions...

“...the people of this continent are not fearful of foreigners because most of us were once foreigners. I say this to you as the son of immigrants knowing that so many of you are also descended from immigrants.”

On poverty, wealth and its relationship to war:

“I would encourage you to keep in mind all those people around us who are trapped in a cycle of poverty. They too need to be given hope. The fight against poverty and hunger must be fought constantly and on many fronts, especially in its causes.”


“It goes without saying that part of this great effort is the creation and distribution of wealth. The right to use natural resources, the proper application of technology and the harnessing of the spirit of enterprise are essential elements of an economy which seeks to be modern, inclusive and sustainable.

“Business...can be a fruitful source of prosperity for the area in which it operates, especially if it sees the creation of jobs as an essential part of its service to the common good.”


“[We must be] truly determined to minimize and, in the long term, to end the many armed conflicts throughout our world. Here we must ask ourselves: Why are deadly weapons being sold to those who plan to inflict untold suffering on individuals and society?

“Sadly, the answer, as we all know, is simply for money, money that is drenched in blood, often I innocent blood.”

The Pope visited a prison on Sunday. In the address to Congress, he had urged

” abolition of the death penalty. I am convinced that this way is the best since every life is sacred, every human person is endowed with an inalienable dignity, and society can only benefit from the rehabilitation of those convicted of crimes.”

On climate change, he said that the common good he repeatedly referenced “includes the earth...our common home.” And then he quoted from his May 2015 Encyclical Letter about the environment titled, Laudato Si':

”We need a conversation which includes everyone, since the environmental challenge we are undergoing, and its human roots concern and affect us all...

“I call for a courageous and responsible effort to 'redirect our steps' and to avert the most serious effects of the environmental deterioration caused by human activity.

“I am convinced that we can make a difference and I have no doubt that the United States – and this Congress – have an important role to play. Now is the time for courageous actions and strategies...”

I understand that Pope Francis's address to Congress and his other speeches are inspirational in nature. But they are deadly serious yet I cannot recall when either the Senate or House of Representatives last spoke of these problems with anything but a glancing phrase now and then.

There are many things about which I disagree with the Pope. But his discussion and enumeration of these grave issues is more than Congress has done by magnitudes.

Essentially, Congress has abdicated the job they were each elected to, the job that Pope Francis defined so well at the top of his speech: “the tireless and demanding pursuit of the common good, for this is the chief aim of all politics.”

If that does not change, I believe we – humanity, that is – are doomed due to climate change alone. If I am wrong about that (or not) and the current political climate in Congress is permitted to continue, our way of life is as equally doomed.

Maybe you have to be Catholic to maintain the kind of expectation the Pope evinced. But in fact, although I am nominally Jewish, I practice no faith.

With that, however, I recognize that the Francis's influence carries – or can carry - beyond the 1.2 billion Catholics of the world. I would like to believe that the many days of Pope Francis in America will change the political behavior of enough people in power to make a difference.

As I said, though, I doubt it. More likely, all his fine words, counsel and urgings have already faded from the minds of those who were elected "to defend and preserve the dignity of your fellow citizens in the tireless and demanding pursuit of the common good."

It is worth reading Pope Francis's entire address to Congress. You will find it here.

Elderblogger List Updated for 2015 – At Last

Little by little, this blog is getting a face lift. First, there were some overall design changes, the new banner, a bit of simplification and now this.

Some readers have been nagging me about it for quite awhile and I have now finally got around to updating the Elderblogger List. It has been nearly two years - 21 months to be exact - since the last one.

Last week, I spent some hours each day visiting every blog on the previous list. First, I was surprised at how few have been abandoned. That's the good news. The uncomfortable part is wondering what happened to those who have disappeared or not published in six months, a year and more.

Did they get bored and just stop? Did they pick up their marbles and move to another address without telling readers? Have they fallen too ill to keep up? Have they died?

In almost all cases there is no way to know, adding to the mysteries of life in general and the internet in particular. (I'll discuss this soon in a different post.)

There is one blog that is no longer published but remains on the updated list. Although we never met in person, Mort Reichek and I became internet friends in the earliest days of our blogs.

He was a former journalist, a brilliant thinker and writer who died in 2011, at age 87. I don't want his blog, and I don't want Mort, to disappear. So Octogenarian stays on the list.

In between updates, I keep a running list of elderblogs I discover during web travels along with others that readers have emailed asking me to include. It's been long enough since the last update that even a few of those have disappeared or no longer publish but in the end, there are about the same number of new blogs on this list as ones that have been deleted.

So here is the shiny, new, up-to-date list (for a short while, anyway). You can always find it by clicking the Elderblogger List link under the header, Features, in the right sidebar.

Below are links to the blogs that are being listed for the first time:

The Aging Generalist
Antonia's Senior Moments
Aunt Beulah
Bohemian Coffee Club
Cathy @ Still Waters
Clearing the Space
Here there be musing
Home Town Tales

I've Landed
Jane's Journals
Jane Stillwater's Web Log
Monk's Progress
Musings of a Retiring Person
The Next Chapter
The Slithy Tove
Still the Lucky Few
The Summerhouse Years

Tess Abroad
Things Could Be Worse
Writing to Myself

If you have a blog you want added (your own or someone else's), use the Contact link above the banner at the top of each page and send me the URL. A couple of things to remember:

The blog must be at least three months old
It must be a personal blog, not commercial, retail, etc.
It must be free of advertising
It should publish a new story, poem, photo, etc. at least once a week

ELDER MUSIC: Music of New Orleans Part 4

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.

* * *

"I’m not sure, but I’m almost positive, that all music comes from New Orleans."
       – Ernie K-Doe

New Orleans

For those who came in late, be sure to check out Part 1, Part 2 and Part 3 for the music (if not the deathless prose).

JELLY-ROLL MORTON (or Ferdinand LaMothe to his mum and dad) was an early jazz pianist, band-leader and composer.

Jelly Roll Morton

He had the very first published jazz tune (Jelly Roll's Blues) and he showed that the essentially improvised music could be notated without losing its verve and spirit.

He wasn't a shy, retiring type and claimed to have invented jazz much to the derision of others at the time (and since). This is one of his compositions, Dr Jazz.

♫ Jelly-Roll Morton - Dr Jazz

From a jazz pianist to a blues piano player (or a barrel house player, as he terms himself in the song), CHAMPION JACK DUPREE.

Champion Jack Dupree

He was orphaned at age two, and spent his early years in the New Orleans Home for Colored Waifs which is also where Louis Armstrong called home a few years earlier.

While he was there, he taught himself to play piano. He later lived in Chicago and later still went to Europe where he spent the rest of his life. In spite of that, here's a paean to his hometown called Hometown New Orleans.

♫ Champion Jack Dupree - Hometown New Orleans

Yet another pianist - well, New Orleans turns them out by the truckload. This time it's JAMES BOOKER.

James Booker

Even with all these great pianists, all the others think that James was the best of the lot. To quote Dr John, he was "the best black, gay, one-eyed junkie piano genius New Orleans has ever produced.”

To show us what he's made of, here's a medley of Tico Tico; Papa Was a Rascal; So Swell When You're Well.

♫ James Booker - Medley

The man with the voice of an angel, AARON NEVILLE, is next. Actually, I think the angels would be jealous of him.

Aaron Neville

Aaron's song Hercules was written and produced by Allen Toussaint (now that's a surprise) and the backing band is The Meters, Aaron's big brother Art's band.

With all that talent, there's no way they could produce a dud (and they didn't, of course).

♫ Aaron Neville - Hercules

To the man himself, ALLEN TOUSSAINT.

Allen Toussaint

Allen was involved in one way or another with the majority of the music I've featured in this series. As I've already mentioned, he was a producer, songwriter and musician. He also made records himself. This is one of them, Solitude.

♫ Allen Toussaint - Solitude

IRMA THOMAS is the "Soul Queen of New Orleans," an accolade bestowed upon her by the local officials.

Irma Thomas

Unfortunately, she's not as well known outside the city. Well, she should be. I'll try to do a small part in helping that along, starting with the song Anyone Who Knows What Love Is (Will Understand) that's been used in several films and TV series. It's not her best song but it's not bad.

♫ Irma Thomas - Anyone Who Knows What Love Is (Will Understand)

Some time ago, before Katrina, Norma, the Assistant Musicologist, and I were wandering along Bourbon Street and discovered a hole in the wall, about the size of my living room, that was a music club. It was owned by CLARENCE (THE FROGMAN) HENRY.

Clarence Frogman Henry

We were pretty excited about that as there was music coming from inside. Alas, it wasn't Clarence. Apparently he often performed there but not that day. Oh well.

Here's Clarence with one of his big hits, Ain't Got No Home. This is the song that inspired his nickname.

♫ Clarence (Frogman) Henry - Ain't Got No Home

Lawdy Miss Clawdy was written by Lloyd Price who had a hit with it. After that, just about everyone else recorded the song, including LARRY WILLIAMS.

Larry Williams

Larry wrote songs as well: Bony Moronie, Short Fat Fannie, Dizzy Miss Lizzy and many others. However, like Byron, he was mad, bad and dangerous to know.

I won't go into details but there's always the web for those who wish to investigate further.

♫ Larry Williams - Lawdy Miss Clawdy

SHIRLEY AND LEE were Shirley Goodman and Leonard Lee.

Shirley & Lee

Shirley was a teenager when she was going to cut her first record and the producer thought another singer would be advantageous. He brought in Len who, as it turns out, had gone to school with Shirl.

The musical partnership clicked immediately and they recorded a number of songs that did well on the charts. This is one of them, Feel So Good.

♫ Shirley & Lee - Feel So Good

We have come full circle. The first track in this series was by King Oliver. It's only fitting that we end with a tribute to him. The tributer (I just made up that word) is WYNTON MARSALIS.

Wynton Marsalis

The Marsalis family is full of musicians but Wynton is the best known to the general public. He not only plays jazz, he has performed and recorded classical works as well. Here is In The Court Of King Oliver.

♫ Wynton Marsalis - In The Court Of King Oliver

INTERESTING STUFF – 26 September 2015


Maybe you don't recognize the name. Back in the 1950s, he played the young Daily Planet reporter on TV's first Superman show starring George Reeves. I'm pretty sure it was the first television show I watched regularly.

You can read more about Jack Larson and his later career here.

Two other early television icons died this month. Martin Milner, who starred on Route 66, was 83. The sock-it-to-me girl on Laugh In, Judy Carne, age 75. You can read about them here and here respectively.


It's no fun if I tell you about it before you watch the video:

The groom is magician Justin Willman. The bride is photographer Jllian Sipkins. This was their first dance at their wedding in Malibu on 6 September 2015.


In Tokyo, there is a book store that sells only one book at a time, for six days each week.

”It’s called Morioka Shoten Ginza (Morioka Bookstore in Ginza)...Every evening an event is organized to discuss the book and connect its author with readers...

“The bookshop opened in May 2015, on a quiet street in Ginza, a popular shopping area of Tokyo. It’s located on the ground floor of the Suzuki Building from 1929, included in the list of the historical architecture of Tokyo.”


You can more photos and read about the store owner's philosophy of one book at a time here.


Jon Stewart's hand-picked Daily Show replacement, South African comedian Trevor Noah, begins as host of the Comedy Central show on Monday.

The first week's guests have been announced: Kevin Hart, Whtney Wolfe, Governor Chris Christie and Ryan Adams.

That I recognize only one of those names makes it apparent to me that it's a whole new world out there these days and I'm not plugged into it anymore. Doesn't mean I won't give the show a good chance though.

Here's a cute little promo Noah recorded with some hold-over Daily Show correspondents:

If you want to know more about Trevor Noah, there is a good print profile/interview with him at GQ.


A guy's just walking down the street in Saudi Arabia when – WHAM! He's knocked to the ground by a huge pane of glass falling from above. A surveillance camera caught the whole thing:

There are a few more details at Huffington Post.


Until a judge finally intervened last week, it cost a LOT of money to use the copyrighted Happy Birthday song on TV or in movies. That's why you've often seen people sing For He's a Jolly Good Fellow in birthday party scenes.

I learned this the hard way back in the early 1970s when I was an associate producer on one of the the first TV shows I worked on. We used Happy Birthday on a live show and were barely back at our desks afterwards when the copyright holder phoned demanding payment.

Here's a further report:

For the record, it was never a violation to sing Happy Birthday at a party. The copyright applied to recordings, radio, TV, etc. You can read more about the song becoming public domain here.


Danish writer Mikael Wulff and cartoon artist Anders Morgenthaler are the creative duo known as Wumo. Darlene Costner sent the link to their series, Painfully True Facts of Everyday Life. A sampling:




Wumo are constantly adding more painfully true facts along with other cartoon humor at their website, Kind of Normal.

It has been a big week for animal videos. Lots of them. So I'll end with three and include some of the others in future Saturday posts.


Subway rat bringing home dinner got a lot of play on the internet and evening news programs so you may have seen it but that doesn't make it any less fun. Nell Casey's commentary at Gothamist gives it the proper Manhattan vibe:

”Who among us can't relate to this determined rat, who just needs a slice of pizza to make it home on the subway after a long night pounding shots of Fireball?

“Do you recognize yourself in the glassy, unfocused eyes? The stumble and recovery that almost costs that precious pizza cargo? The realization that, yes, I will eat this slice even though I have dragged it along the steps to the L train?”


This video is as popular as subway rat and there are several versions of it floating around. This one is an interview on the local news with the home owner who explains:

”This silly raccoon...will just knock on the door - FOR HOURS...She is adorable and has lived in my yard for years.”


I don't think Jelani, the silverback at the Louisville Zoo in Kentucky, has gotten quite as much play as subway rat and Rocksy and he should. The video maker explains:

”I stumbled upon the boy sharing pictures with Jelani touring the zoo with my one-year-old daughter. The boy was scrolling through gorilla pictures and Jelani would motion with his hand to move to the next photo. Both seemed to really enjoy sharing the experience.”

You can read more about the encounter 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” in the 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.

Personal Rituals of Age

The big rituals of life – you know, religious, social, community, rites of passage, family, even some political events - serve to initiate, transform or reaffirm the philosophies and values by which we live.

But I have nothing that grand in mind. Today I'm interested in the individual rituals of daily life, the personal routines that could be called simply habits except, depending on the relevance we assign to them, help define our days and give meaning to our lives.

If I had any of these before I got old I don't recall or, perhaps caught up in the whirlwind of midlife and career, I didn't pay attention to their importance. Now I am surprised to see what a nice little collection I have been putting together and how they arrange my days.

They are simple things: That it would feel wrong, for example, to have my first cup of coffee before ten minutes spent greeting the day with the cat. He is insistent on the timing, the routine and its duration, and I have come to agree with him about its significance.

That no matter what I'm doing, I end it and turn off the computer for the day at 4PM.

And this: The last morning chore before starting the day's work or play is to make the bed. I can't follow through on any plans until that is done because I know that at the end of the day, returning to an unmade bed makes me feel slovenly. There is no other word for it, slovenly - quite unpleasant and so easily avoidable.

That particular ritual, and some others, came to mind recently when I ran across a poem by Peggy Freydberg who died in March at the age of 107, just as her latest book was being published.

The poem is titled, Chorus of Cells and I think you will see how it sent me down the path for this post.

"Every morning,
even being very old,
(or perhaps because of it),
I like to make my bed.
In fact, the starting of each day
is the biggest thing I ever do.
I smooth away the dreams disclosed by tangled sheets,
I smack the pillow's revelations into oblivion,
I finish with the pattern of the spread exactly centered.
The night is won.
And now the day can open.

"All this I like to do,
mastering the making of my bed
with hands that trust beginnings.
All this I need to do,
directed by the silent message
of the luxury of my breathing.

"And every night,
I like to fold the covers back,
and get in bed,
and live the dark, wise poetry of the night's dreaming,
dreading the extend of it improbabilities,
but surrendering to the truth it knows and I do not;
even though its technicolor cruelties,
or the music of its myths,
feels like someone else's experience,
not mine.

"I know that I could no more cease
to want to make my bed each morning,
and fold the covers back at night,
than I could cease
to want to put one foot before the other.

"Being very old and so because of it,
all this I am compelled to do,
day after day,
night after night,
directed by the silent message
of the constancy of my breathing,v that bears the news I am alive."

The mindfulness in this simple act of making the bed.

Chorus of Cells is the first from Freydberg's collection titled, “Poems from the Pond,” published by Hybrid Nation this year.

There are six or seven earlier collections from Peggy - although most are out of print - that were published under her full name, Margaret Howe Freydberg.

Welcome to Fall...

...that is, the beginning of autumn today. And welcome again to the annual Time Goes By falls prevention blog post.

I know I bang on about this, but it is important, crucial even, and besides, if I don't do it I will feel diminished in having ignored one of the few health issues over which we have a large amount of direct control.

In case you think this is small potatoes, here are some facts about old people and falling:

Every 29 minutes, an older adult dies from a fall. That's EVERY 29 MINUTES.

Falls are the leading cause of fatal and non-fatal injuries in elders. Nothing else comes close.

One-third of Americans 65 and older fall each year. ONE-THIRD OF US.

21,000 die each year as a result of falling.

This is serious stuff, folks but a huge number of falls can be prevented. All we need is some vigilance which is the point of the annual Falls Prevention Awareness Day as designated by the U.S. National Council on Aging (NCOA).

Here is a nifty infographic from the NCOA with an overview of six important steps to falls prevention:


The NCOA website has a large section about preventing falls and the National Institute on Aging has a detailed list of all the things you can do to falls-proof your home. Please go read these pages and follow up with fall-proofing your life.

One other thing I don't recall reading anywhere: Don't be vain about using a walker or a cane or a scooter or a stick or a quarterstaff or walking as slowly as is comfortable. Whatever helps keep you balanced and on your feet. It is better that if others see you as an old man or woman than risk a broken hip.

Remember what your mother repeatedly warned you: “Watch where you're going.”

Here's a little video clip I now consider ritual for this annual falls prevention post adapted from the old TV show, Hill Street Blues.

How to Improve Daily Life for Elders (and Everyone Else Too)

One of the most important people in the ageing “business” is Joseph F. Coughlin. He is the founder and director of the MIT Age Lab in Cambridge, Massachusetts, that since 1999 has been working to improve the quality of life for elders and their caregivers.

Working with governments, business and NGOs worldwide, the Age Lab exists to

”...invent new ideas and creatively translate technologies into practical solutions that improve people’s health and enable them to “do things” throughout the lifespan,” explains the website.

“Equal to the need for ideas and new technologies is the belief that innovations in how products are designed, services are delivered, or policies are implemented are of critical importance to our quality of life tomorrow.”

As Coughlin has said, “Old age is quite new.” Until well into the 20th century, few people lived much past 50 so there is little history about what old age is like and what is needed to navigate it.

Last week, CityLab, a website of The Atlantic, published a story reported by Amy Crawford about the Age Lab's work to make cities more habitable and friendly for old people.

AgnessuitcrawfordAt the Age Lab, Ms. Crawford was fitted out on the Lab's AGNES (Age Gain Now Empathy System) suit that simulates for young people the experience of being old: impaired vision, simulated arthritic hands, unsteady footing, weights to simulate muscle decline.

”After stumbling down a hallway,” writes Crawford, “I labor to open a stairwell door. A slight wave of panic arises as I think about how easy it would be to lose my footing and tumble down the concrete steps...

“The lab’s researchers...use the suit to test products and environments for age-friendliness, wearing AGNES around the lab’s busy Cambridge neighborhood and even down into the subway, which, it turns out, is a much more treacherous environment than the young and spry might believe.”

Coughlin says AGNES has been useful because

“'It gives you that ‘aha’ moment to feel the friction, the fatigue and the frustration of what it might feel like to be older, with multiple chronic conditions.'”

(You can see Coughlin show the AGNES suit in a TEDx video I published in a story about the suit four years ago.)

And so, one of the Age Lab's long-term, ongoing projects is to figure out how to make cities more age-friendly since in just 10 years, 25 percent of the population of the U.S. will be 60 and older.

Coughlin notes that autonomous robotic wheelchairs, home monitoring, self-driving cars and other technology innovations will eventually be useful, but they won't be here fast enough to help most people who are old now.

So the Age Lab is working with elders themselves to figure out how to make cities and towns work better for today.

It's important to work with elders because, says one Age Lab researcher,

”...older people often have concerns that conflict with the ideals of contemporary urbanism.

“'They have a very different kind of view,' she says. “We say, ‘Make the streets narrow to slow down traffic,’ but they’re worried about snow piling up and blocking their paths.

“'We want everyone to ride bikes, but they are afraid of bikes.' (Cyclists seem frighteningly quick and unpredictable, especially to people who came of age in a car-centric society like the United States, she explains.)"

As we used to say, Right on! I agree with the old folks on both of these issues.

Perhaps you have heard of the Age Friendly World Project from World Health Organization (WHO) and its worldwide network of Age Friendly Cities.

After a training class, I worked with the local Age Friendly group last year surveying retail businesses to rate them for their age friendliness. That is only one small aspect of what it takes to become certified an age-friendly city and it can take years to get there.

A lot of U.S. cities are actively committed to becoming age-friendly/age ready, but few have made it yet. Here is the AARP list of the ones that have made the commitment.

Amy Crawford's story is one of the best overviews I've seen of the kinds of things cities need to accomplish to be prepared for large numbers of elders ageing at home.

”Better lighting and more street-facing businesses would be a good start, [the same researcher] says, noting that older people are more concerned about their physical safety than younger people.

“Meanwhile, more benches and shade would help them cope with the fatigue that often prevents them from walking long distances. 'We need to be more aware of how much effort it takes for people to move,' she says. 'And if you think about older people, you keep everyone in mind.”

“Flashier ideas - like replacing Meals on Wheels with drone delivery, or building robots to care for the sick - might get more attention, but much of what we’ll fairly simple and, in some ways, more difficult,” Crawford writes.

Joseph Coughlin wants to be clear that he is not talking about taking from the young to give to the old:

“The fact of the matter is, with any luck, all of us get to be old. So I don’t want us to be age-friendly. I want us to be age-ready. And then we’ll be ready for everyone.”

And don't forget. Any innovation that makes living in and getting around a city or town easier for old people is always – always – equally beneficial for people of every other age.

How is your city or town doing on being age ready?

ELDER MUSIC: Music of New Orleans Part 3

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.

* * *

"I’m not sure, but I’m almost positive, that all music comes from New Orleans."
       – Ernie K-Doe

New Orleans

As this is Part 3, it might suggest to you that there have been Part 1 and Part 2. You'd be correct in that assumption.

KID ORY was a member of King Oliver's band, one of the earliest jazz groups.

Kid Ory

Edward (as his mum and dad knew him) started out playing banjo as a kid – that being still in the 19th century (he lived until 1973).

Kid switched to the trombone and became hugely influential on the instrument, not just as the lead instrument but also as playing rhythm, a skill he took from his banjo days. Here is Ory's Creole Trombone.

♫ Kid Ory - Ory's Creole Trombone

JOHNNY DODDS was an early jazz clarinet player. He was also proficient on the saxophone.

Johnny Dodds

He played with all the early great jazz musicians – King Oliver, Jelly Roll Morton, Louis Armstrong and pretty much everyone who was performing in this style back then. In spite of his favoured instrument, the track today is called Blue Piano Stomp.

♫ Johnny Dodds - Blue Piano Stomp

ALVIN ROBINSON was a singer, guitarist and songwriter. His style was more blues oriented than many we've featured.

Alvin Robinson

Besides his own records, Alvin was much in demand as a session musician. He played guitar on several of Dr John's albums and also graced albums by Jesse Hill, Carly Simon and King Floyd.

His own records didn't sell well, which is the public's loss. Here is I've Never Been In Love.

♫ Alvin Robinson - I've Never Been In Love

Here's the biggest of the lot, not just in physical size, but in musical stature as well. FATS DOMINO.

Fats Domino

Fats and the Neville Brothers are the heart and soul of New Orleans' music. That's all I need to say about him, except here is Ain't It A Shame.

♫ Fats Domino - Ain't It A Shame

JOHNNY ADAMS was one of the finest singers around. He sang jazz, blues, rock & roll and pop with equal facility.

Johnny Adams

He wasn't the first to record the song Release Me but he was certainly one of the early ones. Many have attempted this song but no one has done it quite like Johnny, or as well.

♫ Johnny Adams - Release Me

Now the man whose quote begins each of these columns. Ernest Kadore recorded a number of songs under his birth name that didn't do very much. He then assumed the moniker ERNIE K-DOE and became a lot more popular.

Ernie K Doe

His most famous song would be Mother-in-Law but we're not using that one. Instead here is A Certain Girl.

♫ Ernie K-Doe - A Certain Girl

LONNIE JOHNSON was an extremely influential guitarist.

Lonnie Johnson

He also played violin, piano, mandolin and many other instruments. He was also a songwriter and singer. However, his guitar playing is considered in the same realm as Charlie Christian and T-Bone Walker - that is just about the best ever.

Lonnie performs Why Should I Cry.

♫ Lonnie Johnson - Why Should I Cry

By an amazing coincidence, CHRIS KENNER was born in Kenner, Louisiana. What are the odds?


Chris wrote and first recorded the song Land of 1000 Dances that's been much covered over the years. However, the first time his name came to my notice was with the song I Like It Like That he wrote with Allen Toussaint.

♫ Chris Kenner - I Like It Like That

THE METERS were mostly an instrumental group.

The Meters

Their front man is Art Neville and the rest of the group consists of Leo Nocentelli, George Porter Jr and Joseph "Zigaboo" Modeliste. Besides their own work, they have often backed other New Orleans singers, in particular Lee Dorsey, Robert Palmer, and Dr John. Look-Ka Py-Py is one of their most famous compositions.

♫ The Meters - Look-Ka Py-Py

DR JOHN came into this world as Malcolm Rebennack.

Dr John

Besides changing his name, he also changed instruments. He started out as a guitarist and was a session musician for many other artists. However, he had a finger shot off in a gun fight and switched to the piano.

This is just one of numerous colourful stories about the Doctor. Such a Night is easily his most famous song.

♫ Dr John - Such A Night

INTERESTING STUFF – 19 September 2015


The bazillion Republican presidential candidates are tripping all over themselves trying to be “Reaganesque” when in truth, as my friend Jim Stone emailed, they apparently know little about him. Take a look:

Nicely done.


Pew Research recently looked into the bad manners of people using cell phones in public. No surprise, I guess, that the younger are the least mannerly.

Here's the graph. If you are having trouble reading the age divisions, they are in top-down order: 18-29, 30-49, 50-64, 65+. The world is changing right before our elder eyes:


Read more here and a hat tip to Erin Read at Creating Results Mature Marketing Matters.


There is a big, fat commercial at the end of this video for a paid service but before you get there (and it's easy to skip), there are six nifty internet tricks at least one of which will be worth your time to learn.


John Oliver returned from hiatus to his HBO show, Last Week Tonight. Last Sunday he took on the public defender system in the U.S. - it's bad for defendants and not much better for the lawyers.

In another John Oliver development: remember not long ago when he created his own church? A real church just like the televangelists have? He shut it down this week and you can read his reasons here.


I think my favorite Rolling Stone, 71-year-old Keith Richards, has the greatest old person's face on Planet Earth. The TV show, Naked City used to tell us years ago, “There are 8 million stories in the naked city.” There are undoubtedly as many in Richards's face.

Yesterday, he released his first solo album in 25 years, Crosseyed Heart. John Pareles wrote in The New York Times,

”It’s a straightforwardly old-fashioned, rootsy album that could have appeared 20 years ago. The instruments are hand-played, the vocals are scratchy growls, and the songs revisit Mr. Richards’s favorite idioms — blues, country, reggae, Stonesy rock — for some scrappy storytelling.

“The album was recorded on analog tape. 'I love to see those little wheels go around,' Mr. Richards said.”

Also released yesterday is a Netflix documentary about the guitarist, Under the Influence.

I haven't listened to the album yet nor did I have time yesterday to watch the doc, but I will this weekend. It is from the filmmaker of the wonderful 20 Feet From Stardom that won the Academy Award for documentary feature in 2014. Some have called this new one “brilliant” and “mesmerizing.” Here's the trailer:


As reported at, the first use of that most (in)famous Anglo-Saxon profanity may have been discovered and it's pretty funny:

”An English historian has come across the word ‘fuck’ in a court case dating to the year 1310, making it the earliest known reference to the swear word.

“Dr Paul Booth of Keele University spotted the name in ‘Roger Fuckebythenavele’ in the Chester county court plea rolls beginning on December 8, 1310. The man was being named three times part of a process to be outlawed, with the final mention coming on September 28, 1311.

“Dr Booth believes that 'this surname is presumably a nickname. I suggest it could either mean an actual attempt at copulation by an inexperienced youth, later reported by a rejected girlfriend, or an equivalent of the word dimwit’ i.e. a man who might think that that was the correct way to go about it.'”

You can


Pizza Hut says this may be in their restaurant future:

I wonder how long it will be until we never speak with another human in public places, only computer screens. Hat tip to Darlene Costner.


Brand new late night host, Trevor Noah, takes over The Daily Show on Comedy Central in a week. Stephen Colbert, in the second week of his new gig hosting The Late Show on CBS, is still in his freshman outing.

The two men got together Thursday night at Stephen's place and if you missed the marathon Republican debate on Wednesday, Trevor did a pitch perfect, 25-second synopsis of what it took 11 Republicans more than three hours to say. Take a look:


An 11-minute mini-doc about “cats of the urban wild” in New York and the people who look after them. There is some controversy about this kind of care as the video briefly explains. See what you think.

* * *

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” in the 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.

Incontinence Underwear

Ten days ago or so, TGB reader Linda C left a comment following my mention of attractive incontinence products. This is the photo of such undies at a fashion show in New Zealand:


And here is what Linda wrote:

”Please repeat or post new articles on incontinence. I am trying to get up nerve to wear my first protection. And how does one decide on which brand and size? I might [want] to walk down the mall in my leak proof undies like they do in commercials.”

Since Linda mentions the commercials, here is a recent one from Depend brand. I like this series of TV ads because it helps remove the stigma attached to wearing incontinence underwear.

We first discussed urinary incontinence at TGB in 2009, with followups in 2011 and 2014. Mostly, those were about causes of old, leaky pipes and the possible medical or treatment solutions. Today, let's go with Linda's question.

My personal introduction to incontinence underwear was when caring for my mother in 1992, during her final months of life. When it became necessary to use adult diapers, as they were called then, I was way too busy to consider brand and even price choices. I went to the store, found the right aisle, guessed at her size and brought them home.

By then, my mother had already lost a lot a weight and the smallest size I chose fit her well. Even so, the diapers were bulky, thick and not anything that could be worn under normal clothing without being apparent.

But that was 23 years ago and with the ageing of America since then, the purveyors of incontinence underwear (no longer called diapers) have come a long way.

I am surprised at how many brands there are. Depend is definitely the most well known undoubtedly due to their more aggressive advertising campaigns. But there are also Always, TENA, Poise, Prevail and several lesser known brands.

The underwear comes in two types, panties and pads. Because our plumbing is arranged differently, there are different panty/shorts styles for women and for men. Most of the underwear are meant for one-time use but there are a small number of washable panties.

Another choice you need to make in addition to style and size, of course, is the amount of absorbency – small, medium, maximum – and at least one brand labels a style over-overnight.

Today's survey is nowhere near thorough or complete. The reason, to a large degree, is that the websites of these products don't explain much of what you want to know, but I hope will give you a starting point.

Keep in mind that although we are dealing in brand names, I recommend none of them. What I am providing here is a survey of what you will find online of the best known brands, but no recommendations.

The Depend website has sections for women and for men. Both have two overall styles – what are called “underwear” and “briefs.” As far as I can tell, the briefs are a little more stylish than the the underwear but I could be wrong.

The site provides sizing information by weight and waist size.

There is a free sample page, one for men and one for women, that includes a package of two sizes of panties/briefs and a $2 coupon. However, two of the three choices on the women's page are currently unavailable.

In general, Amazon has clearer descriptions of each product than any of the brand websites discussed her today and in the Depend section, there is a “Fit Kit” for $3.22 that includes all three women's underwear sizes to try. I couldn't find this on the Depend website.

Always appears to be for women only. They sell mostly liners and pads with two styles of panties. There is a free sample page but all offers are unavailable right now.

(For two days, while I was writing this, the TENA website was a technical mess, too difficult to navigate so I didn't try to survey it. You can better read about TENA incontinence products at Amazon.)

Also for women only, Poise sells pads and liners, not panties. There is a free sample page.

There are products for both men and women at the Prevail website – pads/guards and underwear or briefs along with unisex belted shields. I have to say that it is a difficult website to navigate, there is no easy size information nor free samples.

It may be, too, that this is a product mostly for professional caregiving organizations, but that's hard to tell.

There you have it. I wish there were more to tell you but these websites are, in general, poorly thought out and designed.

Depend is way beyond their competitors in number of products, explanations and clarity. That doesn't make the others less effective or useful and in fact, at the Amazon website, there are products with each of the brands I've covered that are ranked with four or more stars.

In most cases, it is easier to find product information at Amazon than the individual websites. At the Amazon search box, just enter one of these:

depend incontinence
poise incontinence
prevail icontinence
always incontinence
tena incontinence

As I said above, I am not recommending any specific brand or product, not even Amazon beyond their good descriptions. But this is some of what you will find out there that can help you make your own decision.

Happy 70th Birthday, Peter Tibbles


As you know, around here we like to celebrate a few of those big, round-number birthdays. Today, 16 September, it is Peter Tibbles.

In case you have not been reading the TGB Sunday Elder Music column Peter has been writing since 2009, let me introduce you.

He first came to my attention a year earlier with smart, funny, informed, interesting comments on my poor attempts to write a weekly music post. He was so good, so well informed that I roped him into contributing several music columns for publishing while I was out of town.

One thing led to another and now we have what I believe is the best, most informed and informative, not to mention fun music column anywhere on the internet.

Peter lives in Melbourne, Australia, and that comes through in his columns. In addition to getting a great education in most genres of music, you learn a bit about his country, meet some great musicians from Down Under you may not have heard of and I personally enjoy following his language idioms.

That old line about the U.S. and England, “two countries divided by the same language,” is equally applicable to the U.S. and Australia and it always gives me a laugh when they turn up in Peter's columns.

As we have discussed here in the past, making internet friends is one of the best things about blogging and sometimes we even get to meet those friends who live so far away.

This is Peter perusing the menu on the open balcony of a local restaurant in my town last year when he and the “assistant musicologist,” Norma, spent several weeks visiting the United States - some of them with me.


Not only is Peter an excellent cook, he knows a lot about good wine so I always eat and drink well he and Norma are in town.

Now, since this IS Peter's big seven-oh birthday, let's take a little bit of a look at what the world was like in and around 16 September 1945.

World War II had finally come to an end that year. Germany surrendered in May, Japan in August. Here's what the front page of the Sydney Morning Herald looked like on 17 September 1945. I couldn't find an image for the exact date, Peter, but the argument could be made (and I'm making it) that the headlines reflect the previous day - your day of birth.


Because Peter is such a brilliant and well-informed music maven, we should find out what popular musical hits people were listening to when he was born. I can't find a list anywhere online for an Australia top ten but since the U.S. can be so embarrassingly dominant in the world, I assume Aussies were listening to some American music in 1945. Such hit tunes that year as

Sentimental Journey by Les Brown and Doris Day
Rum and Coca-Cola by The Andrews Sisters
Till the End of Time by Perry Como
On the Atcheson, Topeka and the Santa Fe by the composer, Johnny Mercer

There were a lot more movie musicals in those days than now. Three biggies in 1945 were Anchors Aweigh, Duffy's Tavern and The Bells of St. Mary's.

Bing Crosby, who starred as the priest in The Bells of St. Mary's was also named Top Male Vocalist of 1945 by Motion Picture Daily magazine.

Some other big musical names are associated with your birthdate and/or birth year, Peter. Blind Willie Johnson died two days after you were born and you have featured him twice in your column: Nobody's Fault But Mine and Dark was the Night.

Did you know that Dave Bromberg is one day younger than you, and Jessye Norman is one day older?

There are a whole bunch of well known artists of various kinds born the same date as you, although not the year – some are dead, some are not and here are a few, in no particular order:

B.B. King
Lauren Bacall
Charlie Byrd
John Knowles
Peter Falk
Ed Begley, Jr.
Amy Poehler

Pretty, good company, I'd say. Peter reads about as much as he listens to music and his birth year is bursting with what are now classic works from esteemed writers and thinkers:

Animal Farm - George Orwell
The Glass Menagerie – Tennessee Williams
Cannery Row - John Steinbeck
Stuart Little - E.B. White
Age of Reason - Jean-Paul Sartre
Berlin Stories Christopher Isherwood

So that's a little of what the world was like in 1945. Happy 70th birthday, Peter, and because parties should always be full of fun and laughter, here is comedian Bill Maher's closing "New Rules" monologue from his Real Time show last Friday.

As Huffington Post explained the bit, the host decided to give Donald Trump a taste of the racism he has been spewing:

”Maher channeled the real estate mogul-turned-reality TV host-turned presidential candidate and called for Americans to rally against the growing number of Australians 'taking our jobs.'”

It is wonderful and hilarious and, at the very end, important:

To readers: you will find Peter's music column at this blog every Sunday. A list of all previous columns is here or you can always find it by clicking the name "Elder Music" in the category cloud in the right sidebar.


Keeping Up with Daily Life While Old

Once upon a time, depending on how early I left the house, I could drop off the dry cleaning, pick up a package at the post office, finish the Times crossword puzzle on the subway, sneak in a half-mile speed-walk and stop for coffee all before arriving at the office.

Midday, I might shop for birthday gifts, meet a friend for lunch and stop by the library on my way back to office to drop off a book.

After work, it wasn't uncommon for me to have a drink with a couple of colleagues, go home to feed the cat, have a quick shower and then meet my current significant other for dinner. Use your imagination about what followed our meal.

Just reading that list now sounds exhausting but I did it all back then without skimping on work or even breathing hard. No big deal.

It's been a long time since I crammed that much into a day. It's not just that I don't fill up eight-plus hours with work; it's that nowadays a schedule that busy even without a job too is beyond my capability.

But sometimes I screw up. One morning last week, after the usual 40 minutes of exercise, began with an 8:30AM dental appointment. Then I dropped off some test results at a medical office half an hour away, met an acquaintance to show her the new elder playground in another part of town, picked up the cat's prescription food nowhere near where I had been and then attended a two-hour lunch meeting in another town.

Whew! By the time I got home in mid-afternoon, I needed bed rest for day or two.

Okay, I exaggerate but not by much. That day was an anomaly. I usually make sure I'm far less busy, especially out of the house. It's easy: when an appointment is already scheduled, I don't book anything else for that day.

I discussed this over the weekend with a friend who lives in New York City. When described that day, he laughed knowingly. He too limits his outside activity to one event a day and when that is sometimes impossible, he's as sorry as I was.

This is hardly an earth-shattering difficulty but I think it falls into that category of things no one tells you is going to happen when you get old. With the possible exception of a short grocery run, one outside event per day is my limit and several other friends with whom I've discussed this – all healthy but like me, older than 70 - agree.

Is it that I CAN'T do that many things in a day anymore or – let's consider this: that I don't want to be that busy?

It has been fashionable for a long time for mid-age working people to humblebrag about what long hours their jobs entail. Like the Mad Hatter, they speak: “I'm late, I'm late. For a very important date. No time to say hello, goodbye. I'm late, I'm late, I'm late.” (I'm pretty sure that's Disney and not Carroll but you get the idea.)

Like so many mothers, mine had dozens of sayings and quotations she used repeatedly to pass on her wisdom. One of them was, “Too young we're old, too old we're wise.”

I don't recall now but perhaps in my career days I bragged about how busy I was as much as today's workers do. And perhaps one of the minor bits of wisdom we gain in old age is how much nicer (and, probably, healthier) it is to stop and smell the flowers – as they kept trying to tell us back then in books and song.

Have you slowed down – particularly out of choice – as much as I have?

ELDER MUSIC: Music of New Orleans, Part 2

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

* * *

"I’m not sure, but I’m almost positive, that all music comes from New Orleans."
       – Ernie K-Doe

New Orleans

If you haven't already, be sure to listen to the fine music in Part 1.

I'll start today's column with the most important musician of the 20th century, LOUIS ARMSTRONG.

Louis Armstrong

Louis took the music of King Oliver, featured in the previous column, and ran with it. He ran so far and fast he outstripped the pack. He took the music from New Orleans first to Chicago and New York and then the world.

Louis performs Blues in the South with some fine clarinet playing by Barney Bigard as well as Louis' great trumpet playing and singing.

♫ Louis Armstrong - Blues In The South

The doyen of New Orleans piano players is undoubtedly PROFESSOR LONGHAIR (Henry Byrd to his mum and dad).

Professor Longhair

Apparently when he was young, Fess (as other musicians knew him) liked to collect old pianos that had been abandoned and fix them up. Before fixing them, he'd play them to see how they sounded. If there were missing keys, he'd just play around those which led to his often somewhat strange chord structure.

Others tried to emulate him but none came close. This is Crawfish Fiesta. I can detect bits of Rum and Coca Cola at the start of this one and a few other tunes as it progresses.

♫ Professor Longhair - Crawfish Fiesta

LLOYD PRICE had a hit with his first record. That was Lawdy Miss Clawdy, in 1952, a song he wrote himself and has been recorded by just about everyone with a toe in rock & roll.

Lloyd Price

I'm not going to use that song though. The one today is from late in the fifties, and another he wrote himself, I'm Going to Get Married.

♫ Lloyd Price - I'm Going to Get Married

EDDIE BO was yet another New Orleans pianist. There must be something in the water that produces so many great pianists in the city.

Eddie Bo

Although not as well known as the others, Eddie has released more records than anyone else playing in New Orleans except Fats Domino. This is one of them, I'll Keep On Trying.

♫ Eddie Bo - I'll Keep On Trying

The NEVILLE BROTHERS, as individual performers, in various bands and together as a unit have pretty much been the heart and soul of New Orleans for fifty years.

Neville Brothers

We'll start with the brothers and some of the individuals will pop up later in this series. Here they are with Hey Pocky Way from their excellent album "Fiyo on the Bayou.”

♫ Neville Brothers - Hey Pocky Way

The song Lipstick Traces (On a Cigarette) was written by the prolific songwriter and producer Allen Toussaint who was responsible for many hits out of New Orleans. BENNY SPELLMAN was the first (and far from the last) to record the song.

Benny Spellman

Benny later was first cab off the rank with another much-covered song of Allen's, Fortune Teller. Benny later retired from the music biz and worked in the beer industry. I won't say a word.

♫ Benny Spellman - Lipstick Traces (On a Cigarette)

THE DIXIE CUPS were in the studio one day and after one recording they were just sitting around doing nothing much.

Dixie Cups

Barbara Hawkins, one of the Cups, said that she heard her Granny sing a song called Jock-a-Mo and the three of them started singing it. She recalls, "We were just clowning around with it during a session using drumsticks on ashtrays. We didn't realize that Jerry and Mike had the tapes running.”

Jerry and Mike were the famous songwriting and production team of Leiber and Stoller. They overdubbed bass and percussion, and released it. It was The Dixie Cups' fifth and last hit. They called it Iko Iko.

♫ The Dixie Cups - Iko Iko

SMILEY LEWIS's contribution is a song that Elvis recorded and took to the top of the charts.

Smiley Lewis

Actually, Elvis's version was modified for family listening. These days, with complete recordings being released, I've found that Elvis also recorded the original version but naturally the record company didn't put that one out at the time. Here is One Night.

♫ Smiley Lewis - One Night

SONNY LANDRETH is one of the most under-acknowledged guitarists in the world today, and one of the best.

Sonny Landreth

Sonny has performed and recorded with a diverse bunch of musicians over the years – Clifton Chenier, John Hiatt, John Mayall, Jimmy Buffett, Eric Clapton (and a lot more – that just gives a taste of the range of styles he can play).

He really must like the song Congo Square as he's recorded it a few times.

♫ Sonny Landreth - Congo Square

The Marsalis family certainly are a talented bunch of musicians. We have a couple of them in this series, starting with BRANFORD MARSALIS with his quartet.

Branford Marsalis Quartet

Branford is the saxophone playing member of the family. He started out playing in Art Blakey's band and later with Lionel Hampton and Clark Terry. These days he leads his own quartet and here they are with Treat It Gentle.

♫ Branford Marsalis Quartet - Treat It Gentle

INTERESTING STUFF – 12 September 2015


CNN produces a series titled CNN Heroes about ordinary people, non-celebrities, who do good things.

They are all inspiring but now and then one leaps out at me - like this woman, Inez Russell, who has built an organization in Texas called Friends for Life that specializes in helping elders who live alone. Take a look.

You can find out much more about Inez and her organization here.


It undoubtedly marks me as NOT one of the cool kids but I have subscribed to National Geographic for as long as I can remember – certainly before I was 20.

In 1988, I produced a television show to mark the one hundredth anniversary of Society's founding. And now I read that this week the non-profit since its founding in 1888, has been sold to a for-profit organization connected to Rupert Murdoch.

”In exchange for $725 million, the National Geographic Society passed the troubled magazine and its book, map and other media assets to a partnership headed by 21st Century Fox, the Murdoch-controlled company that owns the 20th Century Fox movie studio, the Fox television network and Fox News Channel.

“Under the terms announced Wednesday, Fox will control 73 percent of the operation, called National Geographic Partners, with the balance held by the National Geographic Society.”

Like some others, I wonder what will happen to the iconic publication. As the Washington Post reported, already the Society's 18-year connection with Fox TV is not always a comfortable fit:

”Some of the programming on the National Geographic Channel has been a source of embarrassment to people at the society and its namesake magazine.

“Series such as Doomsday Preppers (about survivalists) and Banged Up Abroad (featuring 'holiday horror stories') have proved relatively popular but have caused discomfort within the organization because they are unlike the magazine’s high-minded articles and photography.”


Continuing his tradition of short, internet-only takes while on hiatus from his HBO show, Last Week Tonight, John Oliver explains what students will NOT learn in class this year.

Oliver returns to his program tomorrow night on HBO.


You must have noticed it too – that after you've lived a good long while, you keep running into things the media announces as though they are revelations that you know have been settled fact for the better part of a century.

In the past few months, I have bumped into no fewer than three and maybe four reports of “scientific” inquiry into the five-second rule. Huh?

Actual people who call themselves scientists spend real money to determine if it is safe to eat food dropped on the floor as long as it is picked up within five seconds. And then, real people who call themselves reporters write about it as though the scientists are on to something new.

They all take this seriously and in the latest go 'round, the beginnings of the “rule” are attributed to celebrity chef Julia Child. Or something like that.

Now just a damned minute. I am 74 years old. When I was no more than 10 or 11, my friends and I knew that the five-second rule was a joke. It was handed down from our slightly older peers.

In jest, we claimed to one another and to our parents that it was true but we all knew not to eat food dropped on the floor. It was a joke. (Not that we didn't cheat sometimes but we knew we shouldn't.)

You'll find the latest waste of money on long-known and understood facts here.


If you have trouble falling asleep at night, take a look at this video. I'll leave its “prescription” as a surprise for you to watch and say only that without knowing it, I've used this trick for many years when awakened in the middle of night. Now I'll try it at bedtime too.

You can read more here but honestly, all you need to know is in the video.


Not directly but I was surprised to learn this:

”Shingles cannot be passed from one person to another. However, the virus that causes shingles, the varicella zoster virus, can be spread from a person with active shingles to another person who has never had chickenpox.

“In such cases, the person exposed to the virus might develop chickenpox, but they would not develop shingles.

“The virus is spread through direct contact with fluid from the rash blisters caused by shingles. A person with active shingles can spread the virus when the rash is in the blister phase.

“A person is not infectious before the blisters appear. Once the rash has developed crusts, the person is no longer contagious.”

There is more information at the National Institutes of Health senior health website.


I had lost track of one of the internet's favorite cats, Henri. Here he is again on the subject of his cat sitter.


Readers complain to me all the time although never with the conviction to do it publicly.

They don't like this, they want that changed, I'm an idiot about something else and so on. Maybe they're right, maybe not but now and then, one arrives that is so off the mark and so impugns my integrity that it requires a public response – just in case anyone else is as stupid.

Last week, on a story about Medicare, I noted that TGB is, as it has been for most of its 11-year life, an ad-free internet zone:

”Not only do I not accept advertising, partnerships and sponsored posts,” I wrote, ”I rarely report on or recommend commercial products and services.”

Then this arrived via email from a reader I've never heard from before:

”In your article you say that you [are an] ad-free Internet zone. You do know that using Feedblitz means that what we receive has ads blasted all over it. Usually there are a minimum of 3 very large ads at the beginning and at the end of every email that you send out.”

Oh, geez, I didn't know that (not!) about a service I've used for eight or nine years and to which I subscribe so that I can check every morning that posts are sent successfully to thousands of readers.

Do I like those ads? Of course not. But because it is the most reliable email service around and because I am grandfathered so that it is free to me, I use it. For those reasons, I don't begrudge Feedblitz their ads.

Perhaps the writer, who appears to think this makes me a liar about being an ad free blog, believes I share in the revenue from those ads. I do not. Further, it would cost me about $600 a year to offer email subscriptions without this service.

So here is my suggestion for the grossly misinformed reader/writer and anyone else who believes those email subscription ads compromise me in some way: unsubscribe immediately.

Whew! It feels good to get that off my chest.


An abused dog. A good Samaritan. And that brings us full circle from today's first item at the top.

* * *

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” in the at the top of any Time Goes By page to send them. I'm sorry that I won't have time to acknowledge receipt and there is no guarantee of publication. But when I do include them, you will be credited and I will link to your blog IF you include the name of the blog and its URL.

Old Age Regrets?

Due to several reports around the web, it came to my attention this week that this question, thrown out at Reddit, got quite a bit of attention: “Older users...what are some of your biggest regrets in life?”

Before I get further into this subject, keep in mind this caveat from the writer of one story about the query:

”The definition of being 'older' in Redditland apparently can mean anything from being close to retirement to being in your late-20s.

“As someone who, in her early 30s, is apparently ancient, I would like to emphasize that life doesn’t end when you turn 25, or 35, or 45, or ever, really, at least until you are actually dead.”

Having read widely on the web and elsewhere about ageing for the past 20 years, I can confirm there are thousands upon thousands of 20-somethings out there who lament the arrival of their 30th birthday, even their 25th birthday, certain they become on those dates, over the hill.

One of the interesting things on Reddit, among a lot of such serious stuff as staying in an abusive relationship for many years and excessive drinking, is the high number of people 30 and under who regret not marrying younger, expressing a sense that the “good ones” are already taken now.

Maybe a requirement to participate in a discussion of regret is that you be at last 50 years old.

A recent specialist on this topic is Karl Pillemer, professor of human development at Cornell University and the author of 30 Lessons for Living: Tried and True Advice from the Wisest Americans, published in 2011 to many rave reviews.

Pillemer asked more than a thousand older Americans about their advice for living, especially the big issues - love, marriage, children, work, happiness. Apparently the idea was for the respondents to avoid regrets but it's hard to talk about life advice without referencing what people would change if they could.

According to Professor Pillemer writing in Huffington Post in 2011, the most surprising regret among the very old was this:

“Over and over, as the 1,200 elders in our Legacy Project reflected on their lives, I heard versions of 'I would have spent less time worrying' and 'I regret that I worried so much about everything.'”

Worry must be widespread or it wouldn't be worth its elevation to most surprising. It's a puzzle to me, something I have never understood.

When there is a problem, I do what I can to solve it and move on. If it is something over which I have no control – you're off to climb Mt. Everest at your age, for example, and I think you're an idiot - there is nothing I can do but shrug.

So, worry is a big deal to old people. Others chose this as the most important advice from the book:

”You know those nightmares where you are shouting a warning but no sound comes out? Well, that’s the intensity with which the experts wanted to tell younger people that spending years in a job you dislike is a recipe for regret and a tragic mistake.

“There was no issue about which the experts were more adamant and forceful.”

With these two - worry and not staying in a job you dislike – at the top of the advice list, it could be that I'm not the person to lead a discussion on regret. I certainly stayed in jobs I didn't like. Maybe not years but long enough.

There are such things as bills, rent, mortgage, food, etc. that if you're not rich require a steady paycheck. And I would have stayed longer had nothing better finally come along.

Even so, I have never seen the point of regret. I did the best I could at the time. Looking back, some of my behavior was really stupid. But I repeat, I did the best I could at the time and I won't waste a moment on regret - which feels way too much like worry to me [see above].

The closest I come to regret is recalling bad behavior toward other people. That's painful but wallowing in it doesn't change it. Sometimes an apology helps; and sometimes, way too often, it's not possible.

So for me, it is better to acknowledge what I've done, do my best not to repeat it and move on, understanding too that I will find all kinds of new ways to screw up. Just not too many, I hope.

However much commentators changed Professor Pillemer's survey into regrets from his original notion of advice from elders to young people, the public perception became regrets.

I understand the impetus for old people to warn younger ones of the pitfalls on the road of life, but I never heard of any young person heeding that advice, so I don't offer any. (Undoubtedly, not being a mother informs that decision.)

Back in 2012, the Daily Mail reported on a German study about how old people who let their regrets go seem to be happier in old age.

”If you have had a few regrets, it might be best to let them go, as dwelling on what might have been makes for a miserable old age, a study suggests.

“German scientists say regrets naturally decrease as we get older – as we try to make the most of the time we have left and have fewer opportunities for second chances...

“They wrote in the journal Science: ‘As opportunities to undo regrettable situations decline with age, a reduced engagement into these situations represents a potentially protective strategy to maintain well-being in older age.”

You will find the current Reddit thread on regret here. Karl Pillemer's Legacy Project website (Lessons for Living from the Wisest Americans) is here.

Any regrets?

Elders' Own Universal Health Care Program

That headline is not an announcement of anything new. It is just a reminder that unique among Americans, people 65 and older do have a universal health care program. I'll get back to that at the bottom of this post. Meanwhile -

This is the fourth annual National Medicare Education Week. That designation comes from a coalition of for-profit corporations, mainly United Healthcare. (You can see the rest here.)

As you know, this blog is an ad-free internet zone. Not only do I not accept advertising, partnerships and sponsored posts, I rarely report on or recommend commercial products and services. This is different.

Even though Medicare Education Week and the associated website are a marketing project, it is worth paying attention to in this case.

That's because the product of this commercial coalition – the website called Medicare Made Clear - is, as the name states, clear. Amazingly so for one of the most complicated programs of the U.S. federal government.

And, it has arrived (as planned) just in time for us to do our homework because a month from now the annual, seven-week Medicare Open Enrollment Period begins (15 October – 7 December) when elders can, if they wish, change their Medicare coverage.

Whether you are a long-time Medicare member, recently joined or will soon be eligible (or the caregiver of someone in those categories), there is smart, useful, easy-to-digest information for you at Medicare Made Clear.

There is a self-guided tour of the Medicare basics.

An explanation of Medicare parts – A, B, C, D and Supplemental.

Medicare costs including premiums, deductibles, copayments and coinsurance with a handy comparison chart.

There are thorough sections on preparing for your initial enrollment, how and when you can change plans, reviewing your current coverage, along with downloadable PDF guides to a dozen aspects of Medicare.

Within each of the sections are videos, FAQs, QandAs, worksheets and more to help get you through the maze of Medicare.

In past years, as the Open Enrollment Period approached, I have spent dozens of hours preparing explanations and information for you. It was lengthy and dense, and none of it has been as thorough as this Medicare Made Clear website.

Here's the link to the main page. Use it with those others above and follow the pages to the information you need for your circumstances. It is as complete as anything else you can find although don't forget that starting next month on 15 October, you will also need to find this year's plans and prices.

* * *

While we're thinking about Medicare and what a big, positive difference it makes in elders' lives, let me leave you with a suggestion for a simple way to bring universal – or single-payer, if you prefer – coverage to all Americans: each year, lower the Medicare eligibility age by five years.

That would eliminate the need to reinvent the wheel for a universal healthcare program while bringing younger and younger people into the program, and in 13 years, everyone would be covered.

(This is not my idea. It has been around from a variety of sources for quite awhile; it just doesn't get much attention.)

Yeah, yeah, I know this bunch of readers well; some of you will have all kinds of reasons proving this to be unworkable. Why not, this time, put your mind to the details that would be needed to give the idea the best possible chance to succeed.

Old Farts – Literally (Again)

HOLIDAY EDITORIAL NOTE: Lately, there have been two or three new comments on a three-year-old post in addition to several recent emails from readers with nice comments about how much they laughed while reading the same story.

I hope you are off somewhere enjoying this end-of-summer, long holiday but if you happen to stop by, I am republishing
Old Farts – Literally so we can all have another laugh – I had a load of fun writing it back in 2013.

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category_bug_journal2.gif Last week at The Elder Storytelling Place, Nancy Leitz told us about Uncle Arthur:

“It was a beautiful day and even Uncle Arthur had come to spend the afternoon. He was about 83 then and was not only hard of hearing but he had a flatulence problem that only got worse as he got older.

“I suppose it got worse because he not only could not smell his problem, he couldn't hear it either which, to him, meant there was NO problem.”

It appears that like Uncle Arthur, I am gassier than when I was younger. Or maybe not. Maybe I just let fly because I can, because I'm no longer surrounded by coworkers, fellow subway riders and others most of the time.

Nowadays, living alone with no one but the cat to offend, I allow myself to putt, putt around the house while reminding myself not to let it become a habit so that I remember to control myself when I am with people.

Still, I was not certain that the affliction has increased and I wondered if old farts really do fart more.

As it turns out, the answer is yes, we do get gassier in our old age. Before I explain why, let's get an – ahem, refresher – course in the reasons anyone farts.

The National Institutes of Health tell us that the “average person passes intestinal gas 14 times a day and produces about 1 to 4 pints of the stuff.” It is a normal occurrence and comes mostly from two sources: air we swallow and as a byproduct of digestion.

Culprits in the air category include smoking, chewing gum, drinking through a straw, hard candies, carbonated drinks, eating or drinking too quickly and wearing loose dentures.

As to digestion, the volume of intestinal gas is directly related to the amount of undigested food making its way through the intestines. When the small intestine can't absorb certain foods, the large intestine tries to help out by creating more gas.

The gases involved are hydrogen, oxygen, nitrogen, carbon dioxide and, according to WebMD, “in about one-third of people, methane.”

That, methane, is the stinky one.

You probably know most of these but for the sake of thoroughness, here is a list of some foods most likely to cause excess gas: Beans, of course, and

Brussels sprouts


Whole grains
Carbonated drinks
Fruit drinks
Foods with sorbitol (an artificial sweetener)

In regard to whole grains, here's a little anecdote I like from WebMD: “The word pumpernickel is believed to stem from Middle German and mean, roughly, 'goblin that breaks wind.'”

I have no idea if that's true but I intend to repeat it whenever an occasion arises because it's such a good story that if it's not true, it ought to be.

What definitely is true is that flatulence increases with age. The general reason is that like so much else about our bodies as we get older, digestion slows down and food moves through the gut more slowly creating more gas.

Some conditions and diseases that are more prevalent in old people contribute to excessive gas: diverticular disease, lactose intolerance, irritable bowel syndrome, Crohn's disease, colitis, some cancers and complications from diabetes can slow the movement of food through the intestines. Inadequate salivation may contribute to improper digestion.

Also, elders use more prescription drugs than young people and gas is a side effect of some antibiotics and blood-pressure medications, for example, and of course, flatulence often accompanies constipation.

So you see, there are reasons we're sometimes called old farts.

Is there any way to reduce the amount of gas we produce? Only sort of. It doesn't seem fair that the healthiest foods – certain vegetables, fruits, grains, etc. - are the worst offenders but we shouldn't stop eating them although cutting down a little could help.

We can also spend more time chewing. That allows enzymes in saliva to further break down food, making digestion easier.

Another suggestion is to try probiotics – that stuff Jamie Curtis advertises on TV. What it is, is gut-friendly bacteria you can find at the market in such products as yogurt, kefir and tempeh.

Try to stop doing the things that cause air to be swallowed – see the list above – and take your time eating meals. Slow down, relax while eating and take a short walk after each meal.

Not convinced that any of this will help much? Me neither. Some experts suggest antacids but then warn that they have limited effectiveness and results from such anti-flatulence products as Lactaid and Beano vary from person to person.

Farting has been on the minds of contributors at The Elder Storytelling Place recently. Just a couple of weeks before Nancy Leitz told us about Uncle Arthur, Johna Ferguson may have provided the only practical answer to this elder affliction in Gas Emissions:

“I find that occasionally I’ll let out a fart without thinking about it happening; it just does,” wrote Johna. “I look around in sheer embarrassment in case someone else heard it or gets a whiff of it. Oh I could die on the spot when it happens.

“I know one should drink more water and also eat slowly to prevent swallowing air but those I things I often forget. So please, if it happens when I am standing by you, don’t dash out the door for you may be the next one to join the symphony.”

ELDER MUSIC: Music of New Orleans, Part 1

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.

* * *

"I’m not sure, but I’m almost positive, that all music comes from New Orleans."
       – Ernie K-Doe

New Orleans

This is the first of four columns covering the music of New Orleans through a lot of my favorite musicians. There will be some I've left out but the city produces so many that it'd be impossible to include them all. Let's start at the beginning.

Twentieth century popular music pretty much began with KING OLIVER.

King Oliver

Joe, as his mum and dad knew him, was a cornet and trumpet player, bandleader and wrote many jazz tunes that are still in the repertoire today. He also mentored Louis Armstrong and gave him his first professional gig in his band.

That band also included Kid Ory who will be included in a later column (as will Louis). King Oliver plays Struggle Buggy.

♫ King Oliver - Struggle Buggy

SIDNEY BECHET didn't call what he played jazz.

Sidney Bechet

He preferred the older term ragtime and on occasions, hot music and ratty music. Whatever you want to call it, it's all music.

Maple Leaf Rag was written by Scott Joplin and was conceived as a march but the way Sidney plays it, if you marched to it, you'd be in the next state in no time at all.

♫ Sidney Bechet - Maple Leaf Rag

ROY BROWN was the first to record Let the Four Winds Blow, a song he wrote with Fats Domino, who also later recorded it.

Roy Brown

Roy was an unsung hero of rock & roll – in the 50s ,he successfully sued King Records for unpaid royalties, one of the few who managed to do that in that decade. He was probably put on an unofficial black list as a result as his career went into a slump following that.

♫ Roy Brown - Let the Four Winds Blow

Alan Toussaint, a man associated with quite a number of songs in this series, wrote the song Working in the Coalmine for LEE DORSEY.

Lee Dorsey

Lee's record was quite a reasonable hit and his version of the song has been revived several times over the years. It has been featured in a number of films which has kept its popularity rather high.

♫ Lee Dorsey - Working In The Coalmine

You Talk Too Much was written by Reginald Hall, who was Fats Domino's brother-in-law. Fats decided not to record it and JOE JONES did and took it to the top of the charts.

Joe Jones

Joe was a manager as well as a singer – he discovered the Dixie Cups, also featured in this series – and he later worked to garner rights for rhythm and blues artists. This was probably as a result of his not earning a bean from this song. He also worked with B.B. King for a while.

♫ Joe Jones - You Talk Too Much

BOBBY CHARLES was more a songwriter than a performer.

Bobby Charles

He made a few records over the years but not too many. He didn't have to; the royalties from his songs set him up nicely, thanks very much. You might recognise some of them – See You Later, Alligator; But I Do; Jealous Kind and the one we have today, Walking to New Orleans.

He has a bit of help from old friend Fats Domino, who made the song a hit, on this version.

♫ Bobby Charles - Walking to New Orleans

DAVE BARTHOLOMEW is a trumpeter and bandleader.

Dave Bartholomew

He's run the full gamut of New Orleans musical styles – R&B, big band, rock & roll, funk, traditional and modern jazz. He's also a songwriter, particularly in partnership with Fats Domino, and a record producer as well.

He even sings a bit. Here he does just that with The Monkey.

♫ Dave Bartholomew - The Monkey

The song Ooh Poo Pah Doo was a particular favorite of Australian rock & rollers, especially Johnny O'Keefe (whose version is better than the original) and Billy Thorpe (whose version was loud, long and unnecessary). The song was first performed by JESSIE HILL.

Jessie Hill

Jessie started out as a drummer and played with Professor Longhair, Huey "Piano" Smith and others before he formed his own group, The House Rockers.

After the success of his song, none of his other records clicked with the public and he moved to California to become a successful song writer. Here he is with his big hit.

♫ Jessie Hill - Ooh Poo Pah Doo

COCO ROBICHEAUX was a garrulous person who would talk to anyone or everyone who passed him as he sat outside (or inside) his local bar on Frenchmen Street.

Coco Robicheaux

He was one of the first musicians to return after Katrina and was instrumental in persuading others to do the same. Coco was more a live performer than a recorded one but he made some interesting records.

His best known is probably the album "Spiritland" from which St. John's Eve is taken.

♫ Coco Robicheaux - St. John's Eve

HARRY CONNICK JR's musical talent was noticed early. He started playing piano when he was three and he played one of Beethoven's piano concertos with the New Orleans Symphony at just nine years of age.

Harry Connick

Besides classical music, he's also a respected jazz musician and a talented rhythm and blues pianist. He's recorded sound track albums for films and written scores for musicals, not to mention occasionally acting in films as well.

With all that scope I've gone for a bit of jazz, It Had To Be You.

♫ Harry Connick - It Had To Be You

Next week: Music of New Orleans, Part 2.

INTERESTING STUFF – 5 September 2015


Gradually – I've been watching it happen over the past several years - as artists, musicians, writers, film makers and others realize how much the elder population is growing, they seem also to come to understanding what a rich, complex palette of life old people have that they can use to inform their work.

This video is a short-than-usual teaser for a short animated movie titled, Borrowed Time, from Andrew Coats and Lou Hamou-Lhadj, two of the semi-anonymous artists who toil behind the scenes at Disney’s Pixar studio. Here's the official synopsis of their film:

”A weathered Sheriff returns to the remains of an accident he has spent a lifetime trying to forget. With each step forward, the memories come flooding back. Faced with his mistake once again, he must find the strength to carry on."

As do we all, as the years go by. Here is the gorgeously animated trailer:

The film has an official website and a Facebook page.


Anyone who is a fan knew that neurologist Oliver Sacks' time on Earth was limited. He wrote about his cancer in several New York Times Op Ed pieces in the past few months.

I've been reading his amazing stories of the odd and fascinating mental accidents that can happen to us all my adult life, and of course most of you will recall the film, Awakenings from one of his stories that starred Robin Williams and Robert DeNiro.

Sacks died this week and it feels like I've lost a friend, a teacher, an inspiration. I have missed none of his books and few of his essays. Here is the Wall Street Journal video obituary:

The Times obituary is here. The wonderful British novelist, Hillary Mantell wrote another in the Guardian.

If you missed it in 2013, you should read Sacks' essay on The Joy of Old Age – No Kidding. And his final published work, an essay for The New York Review of Books where he was a long-time contributor, is available online and in the upcoming 24 September print edition – about a rare syndrome known as Klüver-Bucy.


Here's the thing about flu season and flu shots: they are both highly unpredictable. Will there be an epidemic this year? Who knows. Will this year's shot cover all the flu strains that will be floating around? Your guess is as good as the scientists' who formulate the flu shot.

The thing is, however, they are making highly educated choices in the formulation and even if you do get sick after having the shot, it is likely to be less debilitating.

The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) recommends that everyone age six months and older get the shot,

” is especially important for the following people to get flu shots because they are at high risk for having serious flu-related complications: anyone who is 65 years of age or older; nursing home residents; and people with serious health conditions such as heart disease, diabetes, asthma, lung disease or HIV. Caregivers for older adults should also get vaccinated to avoid spreading the flu.”

The vaccines are starting to become available now and, says the CDC, elders should get the shot by early October. You can find out everything you need to know at the CDC pages - heavy version or easy version and there is an infographic with the bare basics here.


After months of planning, on Tuesday this week, Stephen Colbert steps into David Letterman's shoes with the premier of The Late Show on CBS-TV. He's going to host this show not as the conservative character he played on his Comedy Central, but as himself. We'll have to wait and see what that is.

The guest lineup for the first two weeks looks amazing. Among them, former Governor Jeb Bush, Senator Bernie Sanders, Secretary-General of the United Nations, Ban Ki-Moon, comedians Amy Schumer and Carol Burnett, Vice President Joe Biden, Tesla Motors CEO Elon Musk and Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer.

In preparation, Colbert has been dropping short, little videos on YouTube. Here's one that has played in movie theaters:


In a big step toward neutralizing Depends jokes stigmatizing old people, the New Zealand underwear brand, Confitex, took to the fashion runway showing off incontinence lingerie for men and women. Take a look:


Wow. It won't be long until American brands start making them prettier too. And when younger people are wearing these underpants, the jokes about elders evaporate.

More runway photos here.


On its way to world domination, Google has paused to redesign its iconic logo. There's a lot of Google propaganda in this video, but it's fun to see the transition. The logo is so ubiquitous, I'm sure it won't be long until we can't remember the old one.


Before there were LOL and LMAO and ICYMI, there were TU, HI HI and SOS. Yes, that SOS we still use today for emergencies.

When Samuel B. Morse's telelgraph was released in 1837, abbreviation became necessary. The machine,

”...journalist Tom Standage argues in his book The Victorian Internet, mirrored the impact that the internet has had in modern times.

“The result was an entirely new way to wield language – one that, in a number of ways, resembles today’s textspeak.

That HI HI above was the LOL of its telegraph day. You can find out why and read more at The Conversation website.


John Oliver is on hiatus from his HBO program, Last Week Tonight and Sunday music columnist, Peter Tibbles, tells me via email that Oliver is performing his standup act in Australia during the break.

As usual when he's off, he recorded a short Web Exclusive – this one titled, History Lies. It's a keeper.

As Oliver notes at the end of the video, the show is taking off another Sunday and will return on 13 September.


This has been all over the web and even TV news this week so you may have seen it. Doesn't matter, it's still delightful.

The story is fleshed out a bit more 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” in the 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.

Is Science on Course to Reverse Ageing?

Ever since humankind climbed down from the trees, people have been looking for a fountain of youth along with its companion aspiration, immortality.

Many a myth is based on these yearnings including the Greek legend in which Eos, goddess of the dawn, falls in love with Tithonus and asks Zeus to make him immortal for her.

Zeus grants her wish but it isn't too long before Eos realizes that she forgot to ask for eternal youth to go with the immortality. The Alfred Tennyson poem, Tithonus, opens with these words from Tithonus himself:

The woods decay, the woods decay and fall,
The vapours weep their burthen to the ground,
Man comes and tills the field and lies beneath,
And after many a summer dies the swan.
Me only cruel immortality
Consumes; I wither slowly in thine arms.

You see the problem, and it wasn't pretty According to the Homeric Hymn to Aphrodite,

”...when loathsome old age pressed full upon him, and he could not move nor lift his limbs, this seemed to her in her heart the best counsel: she laid him in a room and put to the shining doors. There he babbles endlessly, and no more has strength at all...”

The phrase, “Don't mess with Mother Nature” comes to mind.

Some scientists in Palo Alto, California, have been studying the brains of old mice after infusing them with the blood of young mice. And vice versa:

”Old mice that received young blood experienced a burst of brain cell growth in the hippocampus. They had three to four times as many newborn neurons as their counterparts," reports the Guardian.

“But that was not all: old blood had the opposite effect on the brains of young mice, stalling the birth of new neurons and leaving them looking old before their time.”

That was seven years ago and it led researchers to wonder if, instead of trying to find treatments for the diseases of ageing individually (heart disease, arthritis, cancer, Parkinson's, Alzheimer's, etc.) as many have been doing for decades, they should work toward reversing the ageing process itself so that people are less likely to get those diseases in the first place.

These researchers siphoned blood from young mice, extracted the plasma which they then injected into old mice:

”Each mouse had one injection every three days for 24 days. The plasma came from three-month-old mice, the equivalent of human beings in their 20s, and went into 18-month-old mice, the equivalent of a human in their 60s.

“The results were dramatic. Old mice given young plasma jabs aced the water-maze test, and quickly remembered the cage where they had earlier received an electric shock. They performed like mice half their age. 'That time, I showed Tony the data one-on-one,' Villeda told me. 'I was freaking out. I said: “I have to see this again.’””

And they did. Enough so that human trials infusing Alzheimer's patients with young people's plasma have been underway at the Stanford School of Medicine since October 2014. Results are expected by the end of this year.

One of the researchers suggests that if this treatment becomes a usable breakthrough,

”An elderly person having surgery might get an infusion to help them heal like a teenager. 'Let’s say it works. If you can target tissues and improve wound healing in older people, that would be a feasible approach.

“'It would not be about making 90-year-olds younger, or having people live to 150. It’s about healthy living, not longer living,' he said.”

Oh, come on. You've got to be kidding. You cannot imagine that once the genie is out of the bottle, application can be restricted. Physicians regularly find off-label uses for prescription drugs now. That won't change in this case.

This is a small, blind trial of just 18 people with mild to moderate Azheimer's, some of whom receive units of saline, others the young plasma. Even if patients receiving the plasma improve, obviously there is much more work to be done before the treatment could be deemed effective and safe.

But let us not downplay the potential of the success, should it happen. As a lead researcher, Tony Wyss-Coray, notes,

“This opens an entirely new field. It tells us that the age of an organism, or an organ like the brain, is not written in stone. It is malleable. You can move it in one direction or the other. It’s almost mythological that something in young organisms can maintain youthfulness, and it’s probably true.”

“Mythological.” As in the Tithonus legend?

We'll see. We'll see.

Meanwhile, when news of the study was published in Nature Medicine in 2014, immediately, (emphasis mine)

”...emails flooded in to Wyss-Coray’s inbox. Alzheimer’s patients wanted infusions of young blood. So did numerous aged billionaires. One, who flies around in a jet with his name emblazoned on the side, invited Wyss-Coray to an Oscars after-party this year. (He didn’t go.)”

(You're on your own figuring out which billionaire that is.) Further,

“Another correspondent wrote with a more disturbing offer: he said he could provide blood from children of whatever age the scientists required. Wyss-Coray was appalled. 'That was creepy,'”

Yes, definitely creepy. And to top up that bit of information, three days ago, the Atlantic magazine reported that there is already an unrelated, ongoing black market in plasma that is used as treatment for several serious diseases:

”Selling plasma is so common among America’s extremely poor that it can be thought of as their lifeblood...It’s a survival strategy, one of many operating well outside the low-wage job market.

“In Johnson City, Tennessee, we met a 21-year-old who donates plasma as often as 10 times a month — as frequently as the law allows.”

So if this research works out, do we envision a vampire world in which billionaires pay blood money to poor young people? Talk about class inequality.

The moral, ethical, philosophical and even environmental questions continue. Who gets this treatment? How will choices be made? Who will make those choices? How will it be paid for?

Lifespans will lengthen increasing the population and old women are already having babies; with this treatment, would they have even more throughout life? Where are we going to put everyone in world already crowded? Where will we get enough water? Food? Housing? Employment? We can't educate everyone now. The questions don't stop.

I am not saying these studies go too far. I am saying the consequences are dramatic and must be considered before it is used. Still, it is fascinating and, in its way, hopeful.

By necessity, I have greatly truncated the details. They are complex but Ian Sample, who wrote the Guardian report, has made it easy to read and understand. I suggest you do that. Along with the multitude of questions it raises, this might become a miracle even greater than that of the polio vaccine. Wouldn't that be something.

Even while saying that, I'm keeping Tithonus in mind.

(A big hat tip to Erin Read, internet friend and director of strategic planning at Creating Results LLC, who alerted me to the Guardian story.)