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ELDER MUSIC: Never Talk to Strangers

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

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That's what our parents told us when we were kids. Actually, mine didn't because we knew everyone in the country town where we lived.

The point of this is that I was sitting idly at my computer playing some songs and The Stranger Song came up. Not at random; I select what I listen to. That got me thinking.

I know a few songs about strangers, maybe half a dozen or so. There may be more; if so, I could make something of this, so I performed a search.

Lorks a’mercy, more than 100 songs appeared with stranger in the title. This will be easy, I thought. Then I realized I had to cull them down to a manageable column’s worth. In the end, The Stranger Song didn't make the cut. Sorry Lennie.

Kicking off the strangers we have GORDON LIGHTFOOT, one I definitely had in mind before the search.

Gordon Lightfoot

The original title of his most famous album was “Sit Down Young Stranger.” After the song, If You Could Read My Mind, became a big hit, the album was retitled after that song.I still think of it with its original name.

Here is the song after which the album rightfully was named.

♫ Gordon Lightfoot - Sit Down Young Stranger

I think that MERLE HAGGARD has the best male singing voice in country music. That’s a big call – cop that, George Jones. Norma, the Assistant Musicologist, goes for Willie. He's in this column too.

Merle Haggard

I really only discovered Merle after I had read Larry McMurtry’s book, All My Friends Are Going to be Strangers, and discovered that Merle had a song of the same name.

Okay, that was some decades ago now. That got me hooked on Merle (and Larry as well). This is Merle with (My Friends Are Gonna Be) Strangers.

♫ Merle Haggard - (My Friends Are Gonna Be) Strangers

TOM WAITS takes the title of the column to heart with his song, I Never Talk to Strangers. On this one, he has the able assistance of BETTE MIDLER.

Tom Waits & Bette Midler

It's from his fine album "Foreign Affairs" and they may seem an odd pairing but it works really well. Hear for yourself.

♫ Tom Waits - I Never Talk to Strangers

JOAN BAEZ didn't start writing songs until about ten years after she started performing professionally.

Joan Baez

However, once she started she came up with some rippers. This is one of her best - in my opinion it's number one. Love Song to a Stranger. It's from her often overlooked, and underrated album "Come from the Shadows.”

♫ Joan Baez - Love Song To A Stranger

JIMMY BUFFETT is a musician who appreciates irony, indeed his career has been built around it.

Jimmy Buffett

I don’t know if this song fits into that category but I find it amusing, and that's enough for me. Who's the Blonde Stranger?

♫ Jimmy Buffett - Who's the Blonde Stranger

Doo-be-doo-be-doo. You knew this song was going to be here when you read the opening paragraph. I wouldn’t want to disappoint you, so here it is. This is FRANCIS ALBERT SINATRA from Hoboken, New Jersey.

Frank Sinatra

I really don’t think I need to say anything about Frank as his life is so well known. Strangers in the Night was written by Avo Uvezian, a musician from Lebanon who later emigrated to America. There he studied piano and composition at Juilliard.

The song he wrote was called Broken Guitar. Charles Singleton wrote English lyrics to that song and Bert Kaempfert was involved somehow or other, but I don’t know how.

Eventually it got to Frank and he recorded it. It sold squillions. Frank hated the song (although I imagine he didn’t mind the royalties).

♫ Frank Sinatra - Strangers in the Night

WILLIE NELSON recorded a whole album about a stranger; it was called “Red Headed Stranger” and it should be in the collection of anyone who is serious about music.

Willie Nelson

He performed the title song a couple of times on the album. Here is the first and longer version.

♫ Willie Nelson - Red Headed Stranger

Occasionally I’ve selected a track that I thought may be rather challenging just to see what the reaction will be. I’ve been surprised with the positive result. However, now and then, things turn out as expected.

This happened when I last included NICK CAVE. Then he sang his rather eccentric version of Stagger Lee (in the column of the same name). Here he is again with a stranger song.

Nick Cave

The song is taken from his really interesting album called "Murder Ballads" (as was Stagger Lee), so you know what to expect. The title of the song has a nod to Tennessee Williams; it's called The Kindness of Strangers, and Nick has a little "help" from Anita Lane.

♫ Nick Cave - The Kindness of Strangers

Don’t go to Strangers has been recorded by many jazz, and a few blues, singers over the years. It's a matter of selecting one of them. The one that caught my ear is by ETTA JAMES.

Etta James

Etta can fit into both those categories and many more besides.

♫ Etta James - Don't Go To Strangers

I'll finish with another song you could pretty much guarantee would be present. All I have to say is TONY BENNETT.

Tony Bennett

Also, all I have to say is Stranger in Paradise.

♫ Tony Bennett - Stranger In Paradise



For a long time I've believed that anyone who develops products, services, government programs or anything else meant for elders' use should be required employ elder advisors because only old people can make adequate evaluations.

TGB reader C Lostetter sent this story about two millennial generation technology entrepreneurs who obviously agree. Al Baker and Ahmed Douad moved into a retirement home for a week to help them learn what elders need and want in tech products.

Reemo tech developers_1459197771937_1225928_ver1.0

You can read more here where you can also see the video with the two young men and the elder residents.


Oliver's HBO show, Last Week Tonight, went dark last Sunday for Easter but produced this short web exclusive for fans like me who don't like Sunday without John Oliver.

As TGB reader Olga who blogs at Confessions of a Grandma said in the comments last week:

“I know that John Oliver would not pass the birther test so he can't be president, but the world is a better place with him in it.”


It's spring in the northern hemisphere and in the United States, festivals are busting out all over. Consumer Reports warns about some fake food festivals:

”The advertisements appear genuine and the ticket prices are mouthwatering: A Facebook invitation to a food festival touted $49 tickets for all-you-can-eat crab, salad, pasta, bread, and desserts at a recent “Hot Garlic Crab Feed Houston” or $99 for VIP tickets that offered an additional helping of steak.

“Food festival fans clicked on the link to buy tickets and tapped in their credit card number. But when they showed up at the 'location' of the food festival, there was nothing there: no event, no festival, and no explanation. The only sign of the 'food festival' was a crowd of similarly confused ticket holders. Refunds? Forget about it.”

Be warned and read more here.


Undoubtedly, many of you are as tired and bored as I am by the 24/7 coverage of Donald Trump. I mention this because the next three items today are all about Trump.

But each one of them made me laugh or cheer – each in its own particular way. I hope you enjoy them too.


Certainly you know that Trump's favored medium of communication is Twitter and that he uses it primarily to trash women and his opponents.

What we have here is brilliant. Mean girls reading real Trump tweets and it fits so perfectly you wonder why no one had thought of it before. Donald Trump: the ultimate mean girl:


This is produced by the producers of the classic 1967 film, The Producers, and first aired on Jimmy Kimmel in February. I can't think why I didn't show you this when I first saw it. So here it is now.


A lot of people wanted Senator Elizabeth Warren to run for president this year. It is more than conceivable that she is needed exactly where she is as this clip shows.

On the other hand, it could make an interesting election if Hillary Clinton or Bernie Sanders chose her as his/her vice presidential running mate.


Like me, you have certainly spent a whole lot of time in your life updating storage media. Just for music, we have gone from 78rpm to 45rpm to long-playing vinyl albums, 8-track, cassettes, CDs, streaming, cloud storage and now – are your ready, 5D Nanodot Data Storage Discs.

I don't understand what it is for a minute, but here's an explanation of how it operates from the Gajitz website:

”The medium can hold a stunning 360 terabytes per disc and withstand temperatures of up to 1,000 degrees Celsius, but kept in ideal conditions have a shelf life of 14 billion years. Human-readable etchings at larger scales allow the discs to be marked for future identification.”

Here's a photo:


Professor Peter Kazansky from the University of Southampton's Optical Research Center said in a statement.

“It is thrilling to think that we have created the technology to preserve documents and information and store it in space for future generations.”

“This technology can secure the last evidence of our civilisation: all we’ve learnt will not be forgotten.”

Read more here.


Ukuleles don't get much respect but this video, sent by TGB reader Patricia Read, shows why they should.

The Ukulele Orchestra of Great Britain plays the well-known theme from the Clint Eastwood film, The Good, the Bad and the Ugly.

As it says on the orchestra's website, they've been playing for “30 plucking years.”


What infants and cats have in common is they both prefer to play with box the toy came in rather than the toy itself.

Now we know that the big cats – lions and tigers and cougars and a whole lot their brethren - also like boxes.

The video comes from the Big Cat Rescue website.

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

You are all encouraged to submit items for inclusion. Just click “Contact” 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.

A Good Death

For most of my life, talking about death and dying has been taboo.

Death has always been scary. For centuries, humans have tried to mitigate that fear with ghost stories, with goblins and skeleton costumes on Halloween and the popularity of vampires in books and film, all of which have in common the possibility of some form of continued consciousness of self after death.

Just recently, the taboo against death talk has begun to loosen and it appears to me to be connected, in part, with the realization that for the foreseeable future there are going to be a whole lot more old people, in relation to the entire population, than has ever been seen on earth.

That means growing numbers who are concerned with and want to know more about how to control their deaths.

Death cafes, a bit shocking only a couple of years ago, now commonly attract people to neighborly discussions of dying without too much flinching from anyone.

My favorite mortician, Caitlin Doughty, not only keeps a popular blog titled The Order of the Good Death which demystifies all deathly things, her Ask A Mortician videos on YouTube are as much a hoot as informative.

Ms. Doughty, who is wont to say such things as, “Maybe we need to look and say, 'Wow, let's look at this beautiful, natural corpse,'” published a popular book in 2014, Smoke Gets in Your Eyes and Other Lessons from the Crematory that is fascinating, sometimes morbid and funny too.

I credit her continued efforts to explain the history, facts and details of dying and its aftermath with going a long way toward removing our taboo about speaking of death.

This all came to mind a few days ago when The American Journal of Geriatric Psychiatry in its April issue released a study titled Defining a Good Death (Successful Dying).

(My first thought was what in the world such an awful phrase as “successful dying” means. As opposed to what – unsuccessful dying? And what would that mean - sitting up after being pronounced dead and saying, “Sorry, just kidding”?)

Back to the report, the study is actually a review of 36 previous studies. Stakeholders in these studies included patients, family members and healthcare providers. Eleven core themes of good death were identified by the researchers:

preferences for a specific dying process
pain-free status
emotional well-being
life completion
treatment preferences
quality of life
relationship with the health care provider

A couple of these themes are obvious but how some of the others play into a “good death” is hard to know because I am working from the abstract and not from the study itself which is behind an expensive firewall.

The newswise website report tells us that lead researcher, Dilip Jeste, said the bottom line of their study is “ask the patient.”

(I understand that death is a touchy issue but I think I must be allowed to insert my response here: “Duh.” Jeste continues:

“Usually, patients know what they want or need and there is relief in talking about it. It gives them a sense of control.

“I hope these findings spur greater conversation across the spectrum. It may be possible to develop formal rating scales and protocols that will prompt greater discussion and better outcomes. You can make it possible to have a good death by talking about it sometime before.”

The doctor's heart seems to be in the right place but “formal rating scales and protocols” hardly sound like the care and thoughtfulness anyone wants when working out end-of-life issues.

And there already are at least two good services to help ease that conversation with family, physicians and other caregivers: The Conversation Project and Prepare For Your Care.

Over the next couple of months, I'll be discussing some practical information about end-of-life decisions that can help any of us to have a “good death” but anyone as old as most of us at this blog knows perfectly well how much can go wrong as the end approaches.

One kind of control is physician-assisted suicide. Four states currently allow what is also called “death with dignity” under very strict rules and California, later this year, is likely to join Oregon, Washington, Vermont and Montana with such a law.

Many people oppose this kind of legal suicide as a slippery slope that can lead to pressure on people, the old in particular, I suppose, to hurry along their journey to whatever comes next.

Recently, a TGB reader emailed to tell me of attending a talk at a senior center by a state employee who first discussed the importance of such end-of-life documents as advance directives and then, apparently, described in some detail the experience of dying by physician-assisted suicide.

Further, the speaker implied, according to the reader email, this is to the good because such a death would save the state money. Dear god. Has the id of Donald Trump already devolved onto the petty bureaucracy of state government?

Unlike the person who wrote to me, I welcome death with dignity laws and I even think the rules are too strict (a good conversation to have here another time). But the idea that anyone would suggest that a person end his/her life to save the government some money is disgusting and dangerous. Worse so coming from a state employee.

I'm not sure this incident actually goes well with the main discussion above about what are successful or unsuccessful deaths, but it's a good lead-in to a clip from the 1973 science fiction movie, Soylent Green I've been wanting to show you for awhile.

You remember that movie, don't you? It became notorious for what soylent green is revealed at the end to be. If you don't know, go find the movie or read the Wikipedia entry. I wouldn't want to be the spoiler.

The clip was sent to me by my blog/internet friend, John Michael Spinelli, a long-time independent reporter in Ohio who also contributes to the Plunderbund political blog that focuses on Ohio and national politics (hint: he knows a lot about John Kasich some of which you can read here).

John and I had been emailing about death with dignity laws when he included a link to this Soylent Green clip titled, “Levi Goes Home,” in which Edward G. Robinson (in his last film role) goes, as John explained in his email, “to the futuristic service center that caters to people ready to say goodbye.”

There are a lot of links above to a variety of websites about death and dying and end of life issues that I hope you will find useful or worth your time in other ways. And I know we are all eager to read what you have to say in the comments about good and bad deaths, physician-assisted suicide and related issues.