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Elder Tweens

I just made that up: elder tweens.

The word “tween” is new since I was young and although the age parameters vary depending on who is talking, it is the name given to an unofficial stage of life somewhere between childhood and teen years.

This new phrase, elder tweens, refers to all the current oldest generations combined, those of us who are retired now or facing retirement in the next decade or so. Let's say it encompasses, generally, all people from about age 50 to dead.

We are the elder tweens and we have a job to do for future generations of old people.

The thought came to me while reading an article about finding meaning and/or purpose in an old age that is longer than it has ever been, a time now when millions of people commonly live into their eighth, ninth and even tenth decade.

”What do we want to do with an extra 30 years?” asks geriatrician Linda P. Fried. “How should we, as individuals and as a society, shape the trajectory of our longer lives?

“...Should we be designing new social policies that will foster these opportunities? How do we prepare young people for longer lives – and can these questions be answered in way that would be beneficial for all generations?

Good questions. Dr. Fried is not the first to consider them but answers, good answers, aren't easy to come by mainly because we have never had to think before about what is a whole new stage of life.

For millennia, we have known what childhood and youth are for. And the middle years too. Even retirement was easily defined for the past century or so since it was invented: a few years of leisure activity for the healthy and (by today's new standard) an early death.

But now that we live so much longer – and healthier too - can anyone really play golf for 30 years? Which brings me back to the elder tweens.

The phrase isn't meant as the name for a new stage of life. Instead, I see it as an era – and a temporary one at that. The idea being that we 50-plus people – the ones who now have a whole lot of time on our hands – should put our minds to figuring out the best ways people can find personal fulfillment and satisfaction during these 30 extra years.

Dr. Fried lays out the problem this way:

”The truth is that we have created a new stage of life but have not yet envisioned its purpose, meaning and opportunities and the space is being filled with our fears...”

I'm not sure I buy the “fears” part but otherwise that's a good starting point and Dr. Fried also underlines the need elders have to continue contributing in significant and positive ways but is generally denied to old people in the United States.

Her solution rests with such venerable volunteer organizations as (of which Fried is a co-founder) and Experience Corps along with the federal community service organizations Foster Grandparents, Senior Companions and RSVP (Retired and Senior Volunteer Program).

These are important and worthy organizations that do excellent work but, as Dr. Fried notes, these organizations (not including locally based volunteer groups) involve only 360,000 elders.

Also, volunteering is just one way to find meaning in life and not for everyone. I suspect there are as many paths to personal fulfillment as there are people but in all the ageing work I've done over these couple of decades, only volunteering is ever suggested as helping to meet these human needs of heart and soul in our late years.

Without in any manner meaning to slight Dr. Fried's real successes, it is time to look beyond volunteering and perhaps it is we, the elder tweens, who are the people to take a whack at figuring out how to create this new, long stage of life and make it our legacy for the generations coming up behind us.

Perhaps we can outline a way of living in the late years so that younger people might know as much about it when they get here as they do nowadays about – oh, say parenthood.

From those of us nearing retirement, to people like TGB readers Millie Garfield and Darlene Costner who are both past age 90, and the rest of us in the middle – we have wide and deep experience from a variety of perspectives and ages of figuring out our old age.

What if we, the elder tweens, tried to answer Fried's questions on a larger scale - come up with new ways for people think about growing old. To repeat Dr. Fried:

”What do we want to do with an extra 30 years? How should we, as individuals and as a society, shape the trajectory of our longer lives?

“...Should we be designing new social policies that will foster these opportunities? How do we prepare young people for longer lives – and can these questions be answered in way that would be beneficial for all generations?

This is the place in an essay where I should give you some concrete examples and direction to contemplate but I would like to keep this post to a reasonable length and anyway, there are hardly any parameters yet to inventing a new stage of life which is what I'm suggesting we do.

The one thing I know for sure is that as important to society and to the individuals who participate volunteering or, giving back if that phrasing works better, is not the only way to find meaning and purpose. Good works are admirable but there are many other ways to find meaning in life.

One quick example is how fulfilled I am doing the work to produce this blog. I am especially proud of having created the community in the comment section filled with thoughts, ideas and conversation that expand so well on the day's topic. I learn as much there as I do in my research and I know many readers do too. Not to mention that it astonishes and pleases me how many of you find TGB valuable.

That is NOT an invitation for more congratulations today and besides, it's too easy. Instead, I'm asking you for some hard work. Let's pretend for awhile that it is up to us to invent a new old age to leave behind for generations who may live even longer than we do.

We elder tweens who remember what retirement used to be and find ourselves in a brand new kind may be the best positioned to start this crucial conversation. How does society need to change to accommodate all these extra years? What are the many ways we can expand the choices?

Brexit and Old People

You might not think that the Brexit vote in the United Kingdom last week falls under the purview of a blog about growing old. And on the face of it, you would be correct. But not this time.

If you've been under a rock for the past 80 hours or so, the U.K. held an advisory referendum last Thursday on whether the country should withdraw from (“leave”) or stay with (“remain”) the 28-member European Union. It was a one-question ballot:


Hardly anyone expected the outcome so it was a shock heard 'round the world when the Leave vote won, by just under four percent.

Stock markets plummeted. Uber investor Warren Buffet was said to have lost $2 billion, my financial consultant (much grander-sounding than the amount of money involved warrants) emailed an early morning briefing and Donald Trump, whose first concern is always personal gain, said the vote is will increase profit at his Scotland golf courses where he was visiting that day.

The defeat was so crushing that Prime Minister David Cameron, who had lead the Remain faction, resigned Friday morning.

Reporters worldwide spent the rest of the day speculating on the dire economic consequences of a UK withdrawal from the EU and by Saturday morning, more than 2 million Britons, harboring second thoughts about their Leave votes, had signed a petition to hold a second referendum.

Over the weekend, two TGB readers emailed each quoting the same New York Times Op-Ed written by a 42-year-old German reporter, Jochen Bittner. Like those petition signers (now up to more than 3 million) he is furious about the outcome of the vote.

Although a Times editor and not Buttner probably wrote it, the headline reads “Brexit and Europe's Angry Old Men.” One TGB reader asked, “How's this for old people bashing?” and both objected to the word “sclerotic” Bittner uses in this context:

”These politicians — men and women, to be sure — are young enough not to have experienced world war,” he writes, “but they are old enough to idealize the pre-1989 era and a simpler, pre-globalization world.

“At the same time, they are obviously too sclerotic to imagine how democratic institutions can adjust to the new realities. With their aggressive posturing, these Nigel Farages, Marine Le Pens, Geert Wilderses and Donald J. Trumps are driving the debate — and possibly driving the West off a cliff.”

By inference, Bittner is denouncing not just the politicians but the old people of the UK and when you look at this chart, you know the reason:


As the BBC further reported, “Of the 30 areas with the most old people, 27 voted to leave the EU.”

Another British journalist, Felix Salmon, writing at Fusion, pointed out reasons for the clash of generations:

”This vote is also the grimmest of reminders of the power still held by the older generation, not only in the UK but around the world. Young Britons—the multicultural generation which grew up in and of Europe, the people who have only ever known European passports, voted overwhelmingly to remain. They’re the generation that just lost its future.

“Meanwhile, Britons over the age of 65, fed a diet of lies by a sensationalist UK press, voted by a large margin to leave. Most of them did so out of a misplaced belief that doing so might reduce immigration, or make them better off, or save them from meddling bureaucrats.

“In a couple of decades, most of those voters will be dead. But the consequences of their actions will resonate far beyond the grave.“

Among those lies was this audacious one made by former London Mayor (and Donald Trump lookalike) Boris Johnson and the leader of the UK Independence Party (UKIP), Nigel Farage: that leaving the EU means the £350 million a week Britain has been paying to Brussels would be rerouted to ailing national health care services.

Here is how Mr. Farage tried to wiggle out of that promise the morning after the vote with host Susanna Reid on Good Morning Britain:

Please indulge me for one more quotation – this one from my favorite lefty political pundit, an American who writes for Esquire, Charlie Pierce:

”Some of the Oldest and Whitest people on the planet leapt at a chance to vote against the monsters in their heads. They may have tanked their economy in the process.

“It was quite amusing to follow along on the electric Twitter machine as members of The Political Revolution on this side of the pond rejoiced at the result as some kind of ensemble rejection of the globalized financial system that indeed nearly did blow up the world.”

All the charts and commentary about the influence of the British elder vote in their referendum remind me that here in the United States we have a similar kind of oldest generation.

Over all the 20-odd years I've been studying ageing and keeping an eye on the cultural zeitgeist of old people in the US, the majority of them always vote against not only their own best interests but more reprehensibly, against those of their children and grandchildren.

Here's how: In every congressional and presidential election over these years, most people 65 and older have voted overwhelmingly for the candidates who want to cut or kill Social Security and Medicare. Every election, in the two decades I've been keeping track, they do this.

I spend a lot of time on these pages defending elders against the slurs that (usually) younger people sling our way. In addition, it is impossible to miss the many faces of ageism and I do my best to chronicle those, to call for change. But that doesn't make me blind to the more repugnant qualities of my generation.

One of those is the tendency of some to become “sclerotic” in their beliefs or opinions – that is, if you accept the dictionary definition of the word as “rigid, losing the ability to adapt.”

It seems to me that applies quite well in the case of the Brexit vote of those who in Britain are often called the "oldies," which has blown up the world economy.

I don't mean to be flip, but we didn't have enough problems in the world before now?

This week's Monty Pythonesque New Yorker magazine cover about Brexit by artist Barry Blitt pretty well tells the story in one picture.


ELDER MUSIC: Seasons - Spring

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 one of my pics, taken in Daylesford (Victoria, Australia).

This is the first of a series about the seasons. There will be five of them, not five seasons so don't try to call Vivaldi, although some say that Melbourne has at least that many, often in the one day.

No, it just means that summer had so many good songs that it deserved two columns.

Okay, let's start. I really, really, really hate spring. I cannot abide it. From September to November (for that is when spring is in my part of the world) my eyes water and itch, my nose runs, I'm sneezing all over the place, my face is puffy.

It's wall to wall hay fever for the entire time. Spring! Bah, you can have it.

There have been several years when I avoided it by visiting San Francisco and Portland for the duration. That works a treat but it is an expensive option that I can't afford too often. Well, that's my rant out of the way, let's have some Spring music.

I had a number of choices for the first song – musical heavyweights Ella Fitzgerald and Sarah Vaughan, Red Garland and Roland Kirk, not to mention Deanna Durbin, Joni James and Anita O'Day. So if you're a fan of any of those (and you probably are), I'm sorry. I've gone with my favorite, JULIE LONDON.

Julie London

Julie sings Spring Will Be A Little Late This Year.

♫ Julie London - Spring Will Be A Little Late This Year

The DAVE BRUBECK QUARTET turns up for the first, but far from the last, time in this series.

Dave Brubeck

Taken from their album Jazz Impressions of New York we have Spring in Central Park.

♫ Dave Brubeck - Spring In Central Park

We may have missed SARAH VAUGHAN in the first song, but we have her now.

Sarah Vaughan

Her song is really very well known, It Might as Well Be Spring, a Rodgers and Hammerstein song from "State Fair.” She wasn't the only person to record the song (that's thrown in for a bit of understatement).

♫ Sarah Vaughan - It Might as Well Be Spring

As you'd expect, the BEACH BOYS have a bunch of summer songs, but they have something for spring as well.

The Beach Boys

The members of the group had long since left school but they still remembered their Spring Vacation.

♫ Beach Boys - Spring Vacation

I'm going to slip a little bit of country amongst the jazz and standards today. The first of these is IAN TYSON.

Ian Tyson

Ian writes excellent songs and is a terrific singer. He started professionally in his native Canada and moved to New York as part of the folk boom with his then wife and they performed as Ian and Sylvia.

Besides that, Ronni informs me that he was far and away the most handsome of the folkies. Well, let's see if he can live up to all that with Springtime in Alberta.

♫ Ian Tyson - Springtime In Alberta

WILLIAM TABBERT played Lieutenant Joseph Cable in the original Broadway production of the musical "South Pacific."

William Tabbert

He didn't get to play the part in the film; that went to John Kerr, but I have the Broadway cast album so we have Will singing Younger Than Springtime.

♫ William Tabbert - Younger Than Springtime

MICHAEL MARTIN MURPHEY takes a familiar song and changes it radically.

Michael Martin Murphey

That song is Springtime in the Rockies. I was a bit unsure about using it at first but playing it several times changed my mind. I like what he's done to the song. Here it is with a little help from Carin Mari.

♫ Michael Martin Murphey - Springtime In the Rockies

FRANK SINATRA's spring song is from his excellent album from the fifties called "Only the Lonely.” This was one of the first albums as we know them today - that is, not just a few hits and a bunch of fillers.

Frank Sinatra

In spite of its rather cheerful sounding title, Spring Is Here, the song is more in line with the rest of the album as suggested by its title.

♫ Frank Sinatra - Spring Is Here

When it's Springtime in Alaska it's probably not very warm at all. As JOHNNY HORTON tells us in the song, it's 40 below at that time (that's the one temperature when Celsius and Fahrenheit are the same).

That doesn't sound very spring-like to me.

Johnny Horton

Johnny had a couple of Alaskan songs around this time. Perhaps he didn't like the California climate (although I can't imagine why he wouldn't). Probably it was his songwriters' idea.

♫ Johnny Horton - When It's Springtime In Alaska

MARK MURPHY was one of the most interesting of the jazz singers.

Mark Murphy

He learned from Lambert, Hendricks and Ross and ran with what they did. He thinks that Spring Can Really Hang You Up the Most. Given what I said about hay fever, I totally agree with him.

♫ Mark Murphy - Spring Can Really Hang You Up the Most



Annys Shin is an editor at the Washington Post. She is working on a story for the newspaper's magazine about ageism and is looking for real people's stories about their experiences with ageism and their observations about it.

If you live in the Washington, D.C. area and are interested in being interviewed for the story, email Ms. Shin at annys DOT shin AT (change the DOT to a period, change the AT to the @ sign and remove spaces. Remember, you need to live in the environs of Washington, D.C. The deadline is end-of-day on Monday 27 June.


Tom Delmore sent this short film showing 90-year-old Razie contemplating defying the rules of her religion to eat a bacon sandwich for the first time in her life.

As the YouTube page notes, “Bacon, atheism, the internet, Julia Child and Christopher Hitchens all converge in the Razie's intellectual awakening.” The documentary premiered at the 2015 Toronto International Film Festival.

And they say old people can't change. Hmmph.


After more than four decades, Garrison Keillor is retiring from Prairie Home Companion. The last broadcast will be performed at the Hollywood Bowl in Los Angeles on Friday 1 July.

As The New York Times reported, Keillor, who is 73, has retired before but this time he said

”...he means it. He has named a successor and lined up meaty post-Prairie projects, among them columns for The Washington Post, a screenplay and a book.”

He also has a solo tour planned through this year, along with a Prairie-esque Labor Day weekend show at the Minnesota State Fair.

If you're a fan, check your local listing for the final broadcast because some public radio stations delay the show. Mine will air it on 2 July.

The New York Times published a terrific profile of Garrison Keillor last week. After more than 40 years, it really is the end of an era.


There are hundreds of more substantive reasons to dislike Donald Trump but this one, a spur-of-the-moment, “diamond and platinum” wedding gift, exposes bedrock character.

It's actor Charlie Sheen telling the story on a recent Graham Norton Show:

It's such a stupid, little lie that any fool could guess would be found out and I wouldn't have featured it today except that two days after I watched the video, a story in The New York Times about Donald Trump's relationship with his late attorney Roy Cohn, turned up this nugget. Mr. Fraser was Cohn's long-time companion.

”After one Cohn coup, Mr. Trump rewarded him with a pair of diamond-encrusted cuff links and buttons in a Bulgari box...Years later, Mr. Fraser had them appraised; they were knockoffs, he said.”

Anything further I would like to say is probably actionable.


A link to this story appeared in an email Darlene Costner forwarded so I checked it out.

You would think the White House comes free for a president, but no. He (or she) is billed for private meals, personal items such as toothpaste, cologne, etc. and “use of waiters and servers and setup and cleanup crews” for private events.

Each month, the president is provided with an accounting and bill to reimburse the government for such expenses.

”Gary Walters, who was chief White House usher for many years, said the payment rule dates back to 1800 when the White House was first occupied by President John Adams and there was no staff. Presidents brought staff with them and paid for everything.

“Congress gradually began spending money to maintain an official White House staff to oversee operations and maintenance, but presidents continued to pay for personal expenses.”

There are more details at The Guardian.


Maybe we really are heading into a post-literate era. As the Chicago Tribune reported last week,

”On June 4, the satirical news site the Science Post published a block of 'lorem ipsum' text under a frightening headline: 'Study: 70% of Facebook users only read the headline of science stories before commenting.'

“Nearly 46,000 people shared the post, some of them quite earnestly — an inadvertent example, perhaps, of life imitating comedy.

“Now, as if it needed further proof, the satirical headline's been validated once again: According to a new study by computer scientists at Columbia University and the French National Institute, 59 percent of links shared on social media have never actually been clicked: In other words, most people appear to retweet news without ever reading it.”

More at the Chicago Tribune.


I'm pretty good at grammar and more than a bit of a nitpicker about it. For example, sometimes I think I am the last English speaker on Earth know knows the difference between fewer and less – and I'll leave it at that for today lest I start ranting.

Mary Norris, who is a long-time copy editor at The New Yorker magazine, appears in a regular video column about grammar called “The Comma Queen” and recently she explained the answer one grammar problem that I have never been able to keep in my head; I always have to look it up.

Here is Ms. Norris on the difference between which and that.

If you are interested in more grammar advice from the Comma Queen, there is a collection of such videos at her YouTube section.


On Thursday, Britain voted to leave the European Union and you cannot have missed news of the ongoing turmoil since then along with concern about the many ways the exit will affect the rest of the world (as if a big-time, world-wide drop in the stock markets is not enough in itself).

But before that happened, on his HBO show Last Week Tonight, John Oliver made his case for voting against Britain's exit from the European Union. That makes this video way out of date now but let me state my case to you for spending 15 minutes watching it.

It will make you smarter. You will learn a lot about Britain's relationship with Europe. It will give Americans plenty to think about our own foreign policy as Secretary Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump vie to be elected president.

Oh, and thanks to Oliver's best comedy style, you will laugh like crazy over the song at the end.


Amazon opened its first bricks-and-mortar book shop in Seattle last November. The second will open this summer in San Diego. And guess what? The third will open come fall at Washington Square, a mall that is about a 20-minute drive from my home.

And I can't wait to have another book store nearby to wander around in. And get this:

”None of the books have prices listed. This forces customers to download the Amazon app to look up prices, or to use an in-store scanner, Business Insider reported.

“Amazon has said it will charge the same price for books in-store as it does online, but the lack of physical price tags could enable Amazon to change prices for the books at any time.”

You can read more here.


Darlene sent this April news report from a CBS affiliate in California about a strange and heartwarming friendship.

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

You are all encouraged to submit items for inclusion. Just click “Contact” at the top of any Time Goes By page to send them. I'm sorry that I won't have time to acknowledge receipt and there is no guarantee of publication. But when I do include them, you will be credited and I will link to your blog IF you include the name of the blog and its URL.

Easing End-of-Life Pain

Ask pretty much any old person and he or she will tell you that dying quietly in their sleep is the way they want to go. It's sure true for me.

Unfortunately, dying isn't always that easy. Sometimes it is painful and some of those times it is excruciatingly so or, equally terrible, it involves constant breathlessness. In fact, Joseph Andrews, a physician at a Connecticut hospice, says that breathlessness is the worst thing.

But there is a drug, a strong, often misused drug we have all heard of that can alleviate much of this kind of suffering at the end of life. It's called morphine:

Morphine is seen by many physicians and laypeople as a sort of single-purpose, liquified grim reaper, and understandably so: It is dangerous and addictive,” reports STAT.

“Older physicians in particular were typically not trained to use it, Andrews said, and can resist recommendations to use morphine even for cancer patients with severe bone pain, for fear of killing them.”

End-of-life patients can also be denied this drug because, according to Dr. Andrews, there is a myth that hospice care uses the drug to send the terminally ill on their way a bit faster than nature intended.

That doesn't happen in hospice, Andrews says, but the myth keeps physicians from prescribing morphine or family members from allowing it.

Fortunately, that was not true of my mother's physician when I was caring for her during her final months of life in 1992. We had a good-sized bottle of liquid morphine he had prescribed and I don't recall any warnings from him about how lethal it can be. For a long time she only chose the other pain pills that, although I couldn't be sure, did not seem to alleviate the pain as much as the morphine might.

When I finally had the wit to ask her why she refused to use it, she said she might become addicted and do something illegal.

This, from a woman who perfectly well knew she was dying and who was no longer ambulatory. “Ma, I said, I really don't see you running down the road to rob the candy store; you can't even get out of bed. And who cares if you become addicted.”

No dummy, my mother, she thought this over for a moment and switched to liquid morphine.

Dr. Andrews says he has seen a small amount of morphine completely change the last days or weeks of life for his patients when they or their family agree to it use.

In the case of one of his hospice patients, a man who could barely breathe and had been told his heart would fail within three days, decided to try the drug. Soon after he began using a small dose,

”...the man’s breathing eased, he started a new routine. Twice a day he’d ask his children or grandchildren or nurses to bring his cap and his overcoat and they’d wheel him to the waterfront with his oxygen tank.

“He’d stay as long as the gathering cold and darkness allowed. He saw the tides flow and the leaves fall and gulls and boats pass. In early December he began sleeping more, and then he slept entire days away, and then he died.

“But that November reprieve, 'It was one of the best morphine stories I can remember,' Andrews said. 'He had a great run.'”

You can tell your physician, family members, medical proxy or, better, all of them what your wishes are about such drugs for pain at the end of life. I'm doing that and if circumstances make morphine usable in my case and if it works as Dr. Andrews describes, I have a better chance of dying in my sleep.

It's worth your time to read the short report on this at STAT.

Empowering Old Women via Fashion Models?

You can count on it these days, that every two or three months there will be feature story about a fashion model who is 60 or 70 or even 80. The thing is, they are featured because there are so few of them.

I was reminded of this while catching up on some online reading. In May, the Senior Planet website published a story headlined, Older Models: Empowering or Not?

The story continues a topic begun at about fashion and ageism reporting that although fashion shows have been featuring a bit more diversity in skin color, gender and size recently, there aren't many models over the age of 20:

”Fashion’s never-ending pursuit of the latest, newest, and coolest extends into the hunt for models, which often results in casts comprised solely of women between the narrow window of 16 to 26, wrote Jenelle Okwodu.

“The issue extends far beyond catwalks,” she continued. “It isn’t uncommon for models in their 20s to serve as spokeswomen for anti-aging creams, or for magazines to completely ignore the existence of older women in their editorials.”

When Senior Planet asked their readers if seeing older models is “empowering” to them, the 13 responses were all in agreement: “Yes!” “Absolutely.” “Refreshing.”

Huh? I don't understand that at all.

Here are photos of three of the top older fashion models. From left to right, Carmen Dell-Orefice is 85, probably about 82 or 83 when this photo was made. Cindy Joseph is about 65 and Yasmina Rossi, about 60.


Gorgeous, all three of them, aren't they? And no wonder.

Whatever their natural beauty, each one is wearing a few hours and several thousand dollars worth of professional makeup and hair work, and god knows what the lighting director is paid but he or she doesn't come cheap.

If someone spent as much time and money on me, I'd look that good too. But should you and I feel empowered by looking at these beautiful old women? Empowered how? What is it I would believe I could go out and do now that I've seen them?

In the Vogue piece, Ms. Okwodu timidly suggests that perhaps fashion runways should include a few more old women, and most of the commenters on her story took the magazine to task for not living up themselves to such an easy remedy – regularly include more older fashion models in Vogue magazine.

Ya think?

I could feel empowered as an old woman if elders were fully integrated into American life. Yes, if we showed up in fashion magazines and on runways more often it might help a little. But also in TV shows and movies - and not only as demeaning jokes.

If we were allowed to compete equally in the workplace, in clinical trials of medications, were not subjected to a constant barrage of anti-ageing products demanding that we do everything possible to pretend we are young.

It is good that a few older women can get work in the fashion industry but do they empower me? I don't think so. Who empowers me is someone like the late Gray Panthers founder, Maggie Kuhn:

”Only the newest model is desirable,” she explained. “The old are condemned to obsolescence; left to rot like wrinkled babies in glorified playpens – forced to succumb to a trivial, purposeless waste of their years and their time.”

Eliminate SHIP? This is Important, My Friends

At lunch last week with a friend who turns 65 early next year, we spent a great deal of time discussing Medicare choices. It's not an easy program to sort out, particularly when you are first signing up.

Serendipity is an amazing thing - when I got home from that lunch, there was an email from The National Committee to Preserve Social Security and Medicare (NCPSSM) notifying me that

”The U.S. Senate Appropriations Committee has approved a Fiscal Year 2017 budget appropriations bill that completely eliminates the $52.1 million in funding for the Medicare State Health Insurance Assistance Program (SHIP).

This is just another attempt by mostly Republicans in Congress to chip away at Medicare any way they can. Yes, it IS a Medicare cut – if passed, it will take away your one way to get free, informed help with sorting out your Medicare questions.

Do you know what SHIP is and why it is needed? Here is how the press release [pdf] from the NCPSSM and three other Medicare rights organizations explains it:

”Today’s Medicare beneficiary must choose among more than 20 prescription drug plans, an average of 19 Medicare Advantage plans, as well as various Medigap supplemental insurance policies — all with different premiums, cost sharing, provider networks, and coverage rules.”

I remember my own confusion 10 years ago when I faced signing up for Medicare, and the weeks it took me to sort out my choices worrying all the way that I was making mistakes that would cost me later either in money or healthcare because I misunderstood something.

New to Medicare then, I did not know about SHIP and how it could have helped me. Here's how SHIP works:

”For more than 24 years, SHIPs have advised, educated, and empowered individuals to navigate their state-specific Medicare choices. In addition, SHIPs help beneficiaries resolve fraud and abuse issues, billing problems, appeals, and enrollment in low income health assistance programs,” explains the release.

“In 2015, SHIPs provided assistance to more than seven million individuals with Medicare.”

Medicare is complicated but there is a network of 3,300 local SHIPs serving each of the 50 states plus Puerto Rico, Guam, Washington, D.C. and the U.S. Virgin Islands with a total of 15,000 counselors.

The service is free. You can find your local SHIP here (which stands for State Health Insurance Assistance Program and find out more about the services they offer.

Eliminating funding for SHIP - as the powerful Senate Appropriations Committee proposed budget does - will kill the service leaving Medicare beneficiaries with nowhere to go for help.

A friend in Washington who knows a thing or two about how Congress works tells me that some Republicans have said that the Medicare 800 number and online plan choosers make SHIP unnecessary when, in fact, those services often refer people to their local SHIP.

I know from personal experience that the 800 Medicare number is so busy sometimes your cell phone battery can die before it's your turn to speak with someone.

And your need for help doesn't end once you've signed on to Medicare. Questions will come up for the rest of your life. Not to mention that baby boomers are becoming eligible for Medicare at the rate of 10,000 a day. Does anyone think an 800 number is enough to help all them?

Kaiser Health News reports that

”The full Senate is expected to vote on the budget bill in the fall, and then it would have to be reconciled with a version from the House, which has not yet drafted its bill.”

It's worth knowing too, that the $52.1 million allocation for SHIP in last year's budget amounts to a miniscule .23% of the FY2017 budget cost of $22.4 billion. That's less than one-quarter of one percent.

It is interesting that the Senate Appropriations Committee, on their page with highlights from their budget, does not list killing SHIP funding.

Maybe they don't want us, the public, the people who need this service, to know what they are doing.

You can call or email your Senators and Congressional representative and let them know how you feel about doing away with SHIP. Maybe one of your senators is on the committee. You can find out here and click the link to their “official website” where you can send an email.

Otherwise, is the easiest way I've found to email Congress people. Just enter your street address, city and Zip Code and you'll get a page listing all three of your reps. You can send them all the same message or write to each one individually.

PLEASE DO THIS. Aides to senators and representatives keep a count of constituent opinions on legislation and do take those totals into consideration. Get your friends to do that too.

The press release quoted above is sponsored, in addition to the NCPSSM, by three other organizations working hard to stop the defunding of SHIP. They are the Center for Medicare Advocacy, the Medicare Rights Center and the National Council on Aging.

Follow those links to read more about what they do individually and what is happening with this budget bill.

ELDER MUSIC: Hooked on Classics

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

* * *

This column has absolutely nothing to do with the dreadful series of records that came out some time ago with that name. I played these for Norma, the Assistant Musicologist, and asked her what I should call the column and that was her reply.

There's no linking theme today; these are just some pieces I've saved over time that I thought might interest you, or appeal to you. I liked them, that's why I saved them.

I was lying in bed listening to the radio this morning (when I wrote this) wondering when would be a good time to get up (not for a while, I decided) when they played this next piece of music.

"Gee, that's nice," I thought. My facility with words is not at its peak at that time of day. The announcer said that it was GIOACHINO ROSSINI.


I was somewhat taken aback as I haven't been a fan of that composer. I might have to start listening to some of his other works (that don't involve themes for imaginary western characters).

They played the entire piece but I'm only going to give you the first movement, the one that really took my fancy. Wind Quartet No 1 in F major.

♫ Rossini - Wind Quartet No 1 in F major (1)

Henrik Ibsen wrote his famous work Peer Gynt initially as a verse drama, but then he decided to turn it into a play. He contacted his old mate EDVARD GRIEG and asked him if he'd like to write some music for it.


Eddie was enthusiastic about the idea but after a while, as time went on and the work dragged on as well, it became a real chore for him. He finished it but kept rewriting it over the years.

The finished work is not only for orchestra but for a chorus and solo singers as well. Because it's so long and requires a whole bunch of people, it's seldom performed in its entirety.

Eddie himself pulled out what he thought were the best tunes and turned them into short orchestral suites (Peer Gynt No 1 and 2). These became hugely popular and are still so today.

However, I thought I'd go back to the original and play a part of it with the full trappings. This is Arabisk Dans (Arabian Dance) from Peer Gynt, Op. 23, with Barbara Bonney and Marianne Eklöf singing.

♫ Grieg - Peer Gynt Arabisk Dans

JIŘÍ DRUŽECKÝ, also known as Georg Druschetzky (and various other spellings of his name) was a Czech composer, drummer and oboe player.


He studied the oboe in Dresden and then joined the army where he became a handy drummer. Later he moved to Vienna which was where he started composing proper music (he created some drum stuff when he was in the army).

His work mainly centred around the oboe and other blowing instruments although there were some operas and ballets. This is the first movement of his Quintet in C Major for Oboe, 2 Violins, Viola and Cello.

♫ Druschetzky - Quintet in C Major for Oboe, 2 Violins, Viola and Cello (1)

ALESSANDRO ROLLA was an Italian virtuoso on both the viola and violin.


He also wrote music, mainly for those instruments, and he was a teacher as well. Perhaps his greatest claim to fame is that he taught Paganini how to play. He obviously taught him well.

He was chief conductor at La Scala for some time and besides conducting operas, he played the works of Haydn and Mozart as well as introducing new compositions from Beethoven. All the while writing his own music.

This is a bit of that, the third movement of Duo for Violin and Cello in B flat major.

♫ Rolla - Duo in B flat major (3)

Speaking of BEETHOVEN, here he is with something unusual. Actually, there are a number of unusual things in his canon that seldom get played.


In 1806, Ludwig was somewhat lacking in the loose scratch department so he trawled through his old works to see what he could put out there to earn him a bit of loot.

One of the things he found was his Trio for 2 Oboes and Cor Anglais in C Major. This was something he wrote many years earlier when he was still under the influence of Haydn and Mozart.

Of course, if you're going to be influenced by anyone those two are at the very top of the tree; Ludwig wouldn't admit that influence, of course.

Naturally, he was dissatisfied with his youthful work so he tinkered with it before it was published. Here's the finished product, the second movement.

♫ Beethoven - Trio for 2 oboes & cor anglais in C Major, Op. 87 (2)

People often take the music of JOHANN SEBASTIAN BACH and put their own stamp on it, or try to anyway.

JS Bach

This was initially a sonata for harpsichord and violin but we have the piano instead (the piano wasn't around back when old J.S. was performing). I'm including it because of a new album with MICHELLE MAKARSKI and KEITH JARRETT that I really like.

Michelle Makarski & Keith Jarrett

Keith is a jazz pianist but he was classically trained and has released several classical albums in the past. It's interesting to get a jazz player's interpretation as J.S. was essentially a jazz musician himself. He was renowned as one of the finest improvisers of his time, particularly on the organ but other instruments as well.

Michelle plays the violin and as far as I know doesn't play jazz. They perform the second movement of the Sonata for Violin and Piano No 1 in B minor, BWV 1014.

♫ JS Bach - Sonata No. 1 in B minor, BWV 1014 (2)

Continuing with the baroque, GEORG TELEMANN was a composer almost the equal of the great J.S.


Actually, they not only knew each other, they were good friends. Georg was the godfather of one of J.S.'s sons (C.P.E. Bach, probably the best known of the sons). He was also a friend of Mr Handel who will appear a little further down.

Georg was one of the most prolific composers in history with more than 3,000 known works (and his awful wife destroyed many others besides taking lovers and spending all of Georg's money).

Out of his many compositions, I've gone with the third movement of the Sonata in D for Trumpet, strings and continuo. This is essentially a trumpet concerto as far as I'm concerned.

♫ Telemann - Sonata in D (3)

I rather agree with MOZART when he once said, "I become quite powerless whenever I'm obliged to write for an instrument which I cannot bear.”


Okay, I don't compose music; it was about the particular instrument he had in mind. He was talking about the flute. However, he couldn't help himself and wrote an exquisite piece.

Similarly, I think, "Well, that's not too bad at all". Okay, it is Mozart. Make up your own mind while listening to the Andante for Flute and Orchestra C major K315.

♫ Mozart - Andante for flute & orchestra C major K315

SLAVA and LEONARD GRIGORYAN are the best guitarists to come out of Australia since John Williams.

Slava & Leonard Grigoryan

From their album of various baroque guitar works I've chosen something from GEORGE HANDEL.


That something is the first movement of his Concerto in B-flat for two guitars.

♫ Handel - Concerto in B-flat for two guitars (1)

IGNAZ PLEYEL was the most successful and popular composer of his time, and considering that his time overlapped with Haydn, Mozart and Beethoven that's a big call.


He was also a music publisher and because of that, he was easily the richest composer of the era. Besides that, he made and sold pianos. This man was a serious workaholic.

Unfortunately, since then he has rather dropped below the radar, undeservedly so, I think. His compositions didn't match those of the previously mentioned composers but they are pretty good and really should be played more often.

Here is one of them, the first movement of the Octet in E flat-Major.

♫ Pleyel - Octet E flat-Major (1)



When John Oliver's most recent Last Week Tonight show on HBO was broadcast last Sunday night, fewer than 24 hours had passed since the attack at the Pulse nightclub in Orlando.

Very little was known about the attacker or the victims yet but Oliver opened his show with a short, moving reference to the amazing and immediate reaction of the people of Orlando.

HBO, for unfathomable reasons, does not allow embedding of that one-and-a-half minute video but you can see it here.

On the other hand, Oliver's former colleague on The Daily Show, Samantha Bee, had a few choice words about the Orlando horror on her new TBS television program, Full Frontal - a response that took the internet by storm.

It's not safe for work or children (well, I'd show to kids but that's just me). It is, however, okay for the grownups who read this blog:


At the end of his commentary on Orlando last Sunday, John Oliver referred to his “stupid show.” I don't often disagree with him but he is wrong about that. His show is never stupid - even in the wake of such a terrible event as Orlando - and this one, about retirement plans, is of particular import to people who read TGB.


Darlene Costner sent this commercial for Evian with the note that it's the “cutest ad ever.” That's true. But it is also really, really funny. I laughed my ass off through the whole thing.

Keep your eye on the teen's face, put yourself in his place as he walks along the beach. Like he's landed in an alternate universe.


Not long ago, the driver of a Tesla car claimed that his car had crashed into a building because it had accelerated on its own.


However, Tesla automobiles are constantly in touch with the manufacturer via the internet. As a company statement noted:

"Data shows that the vehicle was traveling at 6 mph when the accelerator pedal was abruptly increased to 100 percent...Consistent with the driver’s actions, the vehicle applied torque and accelerated as instructed."

MIT Technology Review, where I saw this story, explains that although the majority of new cars sold in the U.S. now have data recorders (“black boxes”), they don't record as much information as Teslas to. But they will do so before long:

”Only about a quarter of new cars have the necessary technology today, but that's expected to reach over 90 percent by 2020. Companies such as GM are open about their interest in expanding the range of data they collect on driver actions to open up new business opportunities.”

Apparently auto manufacturers want to get into the insurance business. You can read more at MIT Technology Review.


Yes, this is an extended commercial for a brand of athletic shoes but it's nice anyway. Thank reader Ali.

You can read more about the desert trek here.


There is a company named SRI International that is developing a robotic suit called Superflex that may allow old people (and anyone else) to ditch their walkers. If it does what they say and is as affordable as they claim, wow. Take a look at the this video.

This, if it works out as well as SRI expects, is an extraordinary development for elders and think of how cool everyone who uses it will look – like a movie superhero.

You can read more details at MIT Technology Review.


Hurray, hurray, hurray. It's been a long time coming and it will probably be challenged in court by the cable carriers. But for now, we – the good guys – won one last week when an appeals court upheld net neutrality. Take a look at a clear explanation from The New York Times.

Read more at The New York Times.


I get them all the time – email that appears to be from friends (and blog readers too) with a link to a news story about a product. It's all a fake. The Federal Drug Administration (FDA) explains:

”...they sent millions of people illegal spam emails that were made to look like they came from someone familiar. Their goal? To generate sales. The FTC says the emails linked to fake news sites with fictitious articles and phony endorsements – even, supposedly, from Oprah.

“What’s more, says the FTC, there’s no solid science backing the defendants’ claims about the pills.”

This story from the FDA website is specifically about weight loss pills, but there are plenty of other fake stories emailed in the same way about other kinds of phony products.

Certainly you know by now what kind of links to not click on. But you might want to pass these tips from FDA on to friends who may not know:

Don’t click emailed links or open attachments, even if you think you know the sender. Emails that seem to be from a friend might not be.

Intrigued by weight-loss claims? Anyone saying they lost more than a pound a week without diet and exercise is probably lying.

Learn how to spot a fake news site, which often include fake celebrity endorsements. These actually are elaborate ads created by marketers.

File a complaint with the FTC if you ever spot a scam, or get sold on phony product promises.

You can read more the FDA's consumer information website.


The YouTube page explains that the Republic of Molossia is not officially recognized by the United States as a sovereign nation, however, it has 32 residents,

”...its own post office, bank and space program. Its president (and benevolent dictator), Kevin Baugh, has found the perfect way to combine politics with a sense of humor.”


Reggie, a three-year-old Staffordshire bull terrier, can’t contain his excitement as the ice cream van pays a visit to his neighbourhood captured by smartphone. Keep your eye on Reggie's tail.

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

You are all encouraged to submit items for inclusion. Just click “Contact” at the top of any Time Goes By page to send them. I'm sorry that I won't have time to acknowledge receipt and there is no guarantee of publication. But when I do include them, you will be credited and I will link to your blog IF you include the name of the blog and its URL.

When are Aches and Pains Serious?

Long-time TGB reader Jean Gogolin emailed recently with this query:

”I have a good friend who's 75 and has been practicing yoga for years. The other day she was complaining to her yoga teacher about her various aches and pains - she takes very good care of herself and practices diligently - and the instructor responded, 'How did you expect to feel in your mid-70s?'

“That response would make me furious,” wrote Jean. “What do you think?”

My first thought? Get a new yoga instructor - and that's not a joke. Pain of any kind is a message from our bodies: “Hey, pay attention here,” it is saying. “This might be a problem.” Or it might not be, but it cannot be dismissed based on age.

Jean's note is a good excuse to talk about these aches and pains that accompany growing old. I don't mean pain from arthritis, rheumatism, osteoporosis along with other conditions, diseases or injuries. I mean the odd pain, usually temporary, that wasn't around in younger years, is often transient and has no explanation.

In my case, a variety of pains come and go but I still have two that I complained about seven years ago in a post about minor aches and pains of age:

”Every few weeks or so, a stabbing pain attacks the second toe of my left foot. I mean, horrendous, teeth-grinding, wanna-scream pain. It is intermittent – each stab doesn't last long – but it repeats every few minutes for an hour or so and then disappears until next time, maybe a month or two. What's that about?

“And here's a strange one: once in awhile, one of my earlobes aches horribly, although not for long.”

Those two weird pains have been going on for years so I'm going to continue to assume there is nothing important about them, they won't kill me.

Getting back to Jean's friend, a lot of pains – especially following exercise, sports or yoga, for example – are explainable by overuse of muscles. It happens even to long-time active people.

For nearly four years, I have stuck with a daily 45-minute fitness workout that involves exercises for flexibility, strength, balance and endurance. I skip the weights on alternate days.

When, these past several months, I was not sleeping enough, I couldn't do it – not every day and when I managed to get started, I couldn't last for more than the lightest flexibility and balance training, and I wasn't doing them to capacity.

For awhile, I did not connect the difficulty with lack of sleep. Now that I'm back to full daily routines, I am making up for a lot of lost ground and that has caused a some muscle aches.

And endurance? Where I easily did 50 pushups before (the girly kind on my knees), I couldn't get past 20 when I restarted the full routine and now, three weeks later, I'm still only up to 30 and I ache most days from the strength work.

It took me a long time to build up to those 50 pushups and number of reps of other exercises so it will take awhile to get back there and it is obvious why my muscles hurt. No worries.

My point in relating this personal experience is that in assessing pain, we need to listen to our bodies and I mean that especially when nothing hurts at the moment so that when something does hurt one day, we have a comparison.

Here are some common-sense things to keep in mind:

When you feel pain while exercising, stop or slow down. If later, it still aches, cool it down with ice packs wrapped in a towel for a few minutes several times a day. If muscles are still sore two days later, switch to heat to help healing.

I know recent research tells us that stretching before exercising doesn't help. I don't buy that but even if it's true, stretching can't hurt and it helps maintain flexibility.

Experts say that muscle soreness tends to be symmetrical and unless you're pushing yourself too hard, should go away in a few days.

If an ache is not symmetrical and does not get better with a week of rest, it should be checked out by a physician.

If pain wakes you in the night or doesn't go away within a week, see your physician.

Of course, a swollen joint or the inability to bend or straighten a joint is an alert. There may be an injury and you should see a doctor.

When I was researching that blog post seven years ago about aches and pains of age, there was hardly any useful information online and even at the best health and medical websites, that hasn't changed much. Those items above are the best I could glean and they have worked well for me.

As to Jean's friend's yoga instructor, she or he should know better. It is wrong to dismiss pain out of hand based on age. Maybe in this case it is only a sore muscle or two but that instructor doesn't know that without asking some questions.

This is yet another case of stereotyping old people: “She's 75, of course she hurts.”

No. Old people are not expected or required to suffer pain just because they are old and an instructor of any kind of physical activity who is indifferent to a client's pain because she is old is not just ageist, she or he is negligent.

Music Festival Age Discrimination

Were you at Woodstock? I was – but that was only the largest among other music festivals and concerts I attended, each packed with crowds, camaraderie, plenty of weed and most of all, great music.

If, sometimes, performances in that setting were less than ideal, no one cared. It was great just to be spending a weekend in the sun with friends rocking out to favorite bands and performers.

After a few years, music weekends gave way to careers, mortgages and children but summer music festivals rolled on as younger generations took our generation's place.

Now, in what may be a final curtain call for music fans of our age, in October the three-day Desert Trip festival – also dubbed Oldchella – will be held over two weekends at the Empire Polo Club in Indio, California. And look at the lineup:


The 75,000 tickets were pricey, ranging from $399 to $1599 each – and that's before scalpers got their hands on them.

As you might expect for a festival featuring performers who are all older than 70, many of their audience have some physical issues with knees, hips and backs but the festival producer posted on its website that ticket holders could bring their own seating.

Then things changed. After the event had sold out (in four hours), according to a story at Alternet, this bait-and-switch was posted on the website:

”No chairs or blankets will be allowed in the show."

The event promoter, a behemoth called AEG Live - also known as Anschutz Entertainment Group – offered refunds to ticket holders who cannot or do not want to stand for three days straight but of course, that is not the point.

Fans were willing to shell out big, big, big bucks for one last-chance-in-a-lifetime to see favorite rock and rollers they have been enjoying for half a century. For them, it's not the money, it's the concert.

Now, Peter Thiel, who wrote the Alternet story, is calling for the generation who all but invented the sit-in to take themselves to the Los Angeles mansion of the AEG chairman, Jay Marciano, in protest. He has even supplied the street address:

” would be entirely within boomers’ protest comfort zone to haul their folding chairs and occupy the area in front of Marciano’s home at 9369 Lloydcrest Drive in Beverly Hills.

“It’s a 3,174-square-foot mansion that he purchased in 2013 for $3.7 million and is now worth more than $5 million. It has, according to Zillow, 'breathtaking panoramic views of [the] ocean and city,' so the peaceful protesters could enjoy the vista while making a statement about consumers’ rights.”

Noting that in 2014, Marciano told Billboard magazine that his company needs to get people to go out more often, Thiel suggested that picket signs at Marciano's home could read: “We Want Our Seats” and “Let’s Sit Down and Talk.”

Cute, and if I lived in Los Angeles, I'd be there. But it is also a serious issue.

In recent years, there has been a growing, worldwide movement to create age-friendly cities with a wide variety of small changes that, in actuality, improve daily life for people of all ages.

Such things as curb cuts to make it easier for people with walkers and wheelchairs. More benches to take a load off people's feet for a few minutes. Longer lights at crosswalks make it safer for slower walkers. Improved signage for old eyes. And so on.

If cities can make such permanent changes - and they do - there is no reason temporary ones could not and should not apply to outdoor entertainment events. After all, AEG's blanket and chair ban is meant to squeeze more people into the space to earn more millions for a company that netted north of $1 billion in revenue last year. They can afford to reduce attendance by a few and still return a sizeable profit.

Theaters built or renovated in the last 25 years or so all include spaces for wheel chairs. Why shouldn't old people (not to mention disabled people too) similarly be accommodated at a music festival? Why is an outdoor setting different from any other performance space in this regard? And why is it all right to advertise a type of seating and withdraw it after the money is collected?

It takes a lot of negotiation to get all the musicians of this stature in the same place at the same time and it is likely that the dates are the only time this year their schedules could be arranged to make it happen.

Even so, wouldn't it be a terrific message if the festival stars - Bob Dylan (age 75), Paul McCartney (73), Mick Jagger (72), Keith Richards (72), Roger Daltrey (73), Pete Townshend (71), Neil Young (70) – in recognition of their fans' lifelong devotion - refused to perform unless the no-chair ban is rescinded.

You can read more at Alternet and at The Los Angeles Times.

Everyday Ageism

This year-long, presidential primary has given Americans (and the world) an education in what brazenly overt racism looks and sounds like.

Until this election campaign, it bubbled under the surface hiding behind euphemisms (that we all recognize but too often ignore) and on disreputable white nationalist websites.

Donald Trump changed that. It's all out in the open now. Anyone can call people rapists based only on the color of their skin and actual members of Congress acknowledge Trump's racism, then say they will vote for him anyway. Think of it: it is fine with them if a person they believe is a racist sits in the Oval Office.

After that intro, some will not see a connection when I tell you that today's post is about the ageism that is played out in hundreds of little ways every day, all day in our media apparently, since no one calls it out, with approval or, at least, without disapproval.

A lot of people do not believe in ageism. In fact, a lot of readers of this blog do not believe in ageism, yet it is the biggest impediment to fair treatment of elders that exists.

But when I write about it, invariably there are comments invoking the kiddy “sticks and stones” argument. Here is the simplest definition of ageism from the geriatrician, Robert N. Butler, who coined the term in 1969. It is, he wrote,

”...a systematic stereotyping of and discrimination against people because they are old.”

That definition can be further explained but that one line is the stone, cold bottom line. If you think it doesn't amount to much, isn't important, try re-reading it and replace the last word with "African-American" and see how you feel about it.

It can be said that ageism is a greater prejudice than all the other -isms because it eventually afflicts everyone – if you live long enough it will be directed to you.

Last week, while I allowed the cable news channels to bray in the background to keep up with so much political news, this commercial came up repeatedly throughout the day:

Does that opening statement bother you: "Delicate skin on your neck can show age? Gold Bond has used ageist language in skin cream commercials for years. Here is another from 2012:

"My dry hands used to give away my age but not any more," she says.

Let's not pick only on Gold Bond. Here's a typical Olay commercial:

"What's your age giveaway?" Right - because god knows you're a loser if you look a day older than 25.

For more years than I can remember now, everybody's favorite daytime talk show host, Ellen DeGeneres, has been the pitch woman for Cover Girl's (now part of Olay) ageist message: "Don't buy makeup that settles into lines," she warns in one commercial. "It ages you." Take a look:

The phrases are repeated day after day, week after week, year after year:

Can show your age
Give away my age
Age giveaway
It ages you

When these commercials are in rotation during a company's marketing campaign - usually two or three periods a year each - that is brazenly overt ageism.

Do you really believe people seeing and hearing messages this frequently about how awful it is to show your age - and hearing it thusly from youngest childhood – don't come to despise old people? Don't think everyone abhors people who look old and that it's okay to do so? It's worse than that because this is only one kind of commercial that sells fear of old age and contempt for old people to make a buck. It's repeated with many other products.

And no one ever complains. Or, if they do, not enough that these companies stop demonizing old age.

By the way, I am not picking on skin cream itself nor do I think it is wrong to suggest it might make your skin more beautiful - that's just commercial hyperbole used by advertisers for everything from fast food to fast cars.

The only reason skin cream is featured today is that first commercial above was repeated last week until I wanted to smash in the TV screen. The good creams help keep skin moisturized (no, they do not remove wrinkles) and there are a few manufacturers who sell their products without resorting to ageist words and images. Here's an Aveeno commercial with actor Jennifer Aniston:

See? How hard is that?

Ageism is a pernicious prejudice that nobody takes seriously. One of the discouraging conclusions from the Frameworks Institute report titled, Gauging Aging: Mapping the Gaps between Expert and Public Understandings of Aging in America, is this:

"Across the full breadth of our interviews with members of the public, the topic of discrimination against older people did not emerge as a topic.

"The reality that many older Americans find themselves consistently marginalized from participation and opportunities - in employment, civic life, recreational activities, housing, commerce and other arenas - is simply not part of the public's thinking about aging and older Americans."

Gee. Do you think maybe that's because the only thing the public ever hears about old age is to avoid it at all cost? Could that have something to do with the survey results?


ELDER MUSIC: Wedding Bells

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

* * *

The selected songs might suggest a rather jaundiced view on my part but no, I had a really good wedding way back in 1971. It's just the marriage that didn't work out so well.

Peter's Wedding

Norma, the Assistant Musicologist is no help in this regard today – she's never been married or ever wanted to. Incidentally, for lovers of gossip, she was a guest at my wedding.

I'll start on a positive note with a song I know very well. This was the B-side of Yes Tonight Josephine by JOHNNIE RAY.

Johnnie Ray

My sister had this one when we were quite a bit younger than we are now. Because we had so few records when we were that age we got to know them all really well. This one is No Wedding Today.

♫ Johnnie Ray - No Wedding Today

Another one we had and it was another flip side, possibly of A White Sport Coat, but I could be wrong. I'm not wrong in saying it's MARTY ROBBINS.

Marty Robbins

Marty sings Just Married, but it's not him that's tying the knot.

♫ Marty Robbins - Just Married

PATTI PAGE has to be present as she was the queen of these songs. I was going to include Go on with the Wedding but it was too much even for me. Far too much talkie stuff and the A.M. would have gagged at that one, not that that would have stopped me.

Patti Page

So, we have the better known song, I Went to Your Wedding.

♫ Patti Page - I Went To Your Wedding

JEAN KNIGHT had several options I could have used. I wonder about her personal life.

Jean Knight

One I considered was The Last One to His Wedding which is just as you'd expect, and like the others today. She also had several other songs where she was not going to get anywhere near the altar.

The one I chose is Don't Break My Heart. I think Jean's just a tad too optimistic for her own good – he's not coming back, Jean.

♫ Jean Knight - Don't Break My Heart

LLOYD PRICE turned up for his wedding but it seems that his intended decided she had something better to do that day.

Lloyd Price

It's a bit odd because if you listen to the words he apparently said "I do" anyway. What? "Do you take this empty space for your wife?" or something like that. Beats me.

To learn all about it, listen to Lloyd singing Where Were You on Our Wedding Day?

♫ Lloyd Price - Where Were You on Our Wedding Day

AL TERRY seems more pragmatic about the whole thing than Lloyd.

Al Terry

Actually, more so than just about everyone present today. Very sensible. Let's Postpone Our Wedding, he sings, after the ex-boyfriend returned and rang the bride-to-be, and she's getting a bit dithery about it all.

♫ Al Terry - Let's Postpone Our Wedding

It's a bit hard to tell if THE BIG BOPPER went through with his wedding or not.

Big Bopper

Okay, the last line gives the game away. Even if he did, I wouldn't give it much of a chance to succeed. Here is Big Bopper's Wedding.

♫ Big Bopper - Big Bopper's Wedding

Anyone who listens to this next song and doesn't burst out laughing must have a heart of stone. The singer is KITTY WELLS.

Kitty Wells

I Gave My Wedding Dress Away sings Kitty. Now it's interesting that when there's a male cad in these songs (there some females ones as well – cadettes perhaps), he always seems to be named Jim. Not just the ones today but many of the others I auditioned.

If you're thinking of marrying someone, I'd steer clear of anyone named Jim. Here's Kitty.

♫ Kitty Wells - I Gave My Wedding Dress Away

ETTA JAMES gets a little overwrought here because she wants to Stop the Wedding.

Etta James

I've always wondered if anyone has ever spoken up when asked if there was anyone present who... well, you know the drill. It's not happened at any wedding I've been to, not that there have been many of those.

Etta decided to do just that.

♫ Etta James - Stop The Wedding

The only way I can end this column is with this next song. The Drifters had the original and it's a really fine version. However, for once I'm going with a cover by NICOLETTE LARSON.

Nicolette Larson

I really like the way she did this song. She recorded a couple of really good albums in the seventies, and some others a little later.

Actually, looking back over the songs today, I don't think that a Mexican Divorce will be necessary, as none of them actually seemed to have become hitched. Oh well.

♫ Nicolette Larson - Mexican Divorce



At a fundraiser last Monday night for New York City's Shakespeare in the Park, Meryl Streep impersonates Donald Trump. There is not nearly as much video as you would like and it's terrible quality. Still worth seeing:

You can read more about the show at The New York Times and see another clip. (The clip may be on autostart. Sorry.)


I found this at Buzzfeed in a bunch of photos of “perfect things.” The rest are pretty, but this one is so clever that I would buy it just to have the packaging and never open the boxes. I might even frame them and hang them on a wall.

I suspect, however, it is a European brand not available in the U.S.

Pasta Packaging


John Oliver returned to his HBO show, Last Week Tonight last Sunday exposing the disturbingly immoral business of debt buyers in the U.S. And wait until you see what he did in a not-so-small act to help set things right a little bit.


A short documentary titled Concrete Royalty about a young drummer, Joseph Wilson, who plays with the Brooklyn United Marching Band. Watch:

You can find out more about the band at their website.


Among other definitions, pwn is a synonym for hack, as in computer hacking. There is a relative new website called Have I Been Pwned?


Site creator Troy Hunt explained that Have I Been Pwned? is

I ran my email address and found that I have been pwned twice, once in 2013 when the Adobe website was hacked and last month when LinkedIn was breached.

In the first instance, email addresses, password hints, passwords, usernames were taken. In the second case, email addressed and passwords were take.

You can check for yourself at Have I Been Pwned?


Anyone who can create a tornado in a bubble has probably perfected the art of blowing bubbles. Magician Denis Lock has done that and concludes this performanc,e earlier this year at the London Palladium, with what he calls “Castle in the Sky.” It is charming, beautiful and amazing.


This animated essay was published on YouTube ten years ago in 2006 but it's hard to tell it wasn't done yesterday. It's a parable about how xenophobia, greed and indifference create the injustices around us. And yes, that is the late Orson Welles narrating.

I found this video at one of my favorite websites, OpenCulture, a wonderful, wide-ranging, smart, interesting place.


You may have already seen them at your local mall, in a parking lot or taking inventory at a supermarket. Take a look:

Inventory robot:


Package delivery robot:


Security guard robot:


MIT Technology Review website explains that a

”...small but growing number of human-scale mobile robots...are finding employment outside the confines of industrial settings like factories.

“They’re invading consumer spaces...alongside human staff members for a fraction of the price of employing people to do a variety of typically unexciting tasks. The machines come with navigation capabilities and safety features to allow them to perform simple jobs autonomously without putting people at risk.”

You can find out more at the MIT Technology Review website where there are also links to the companies that make these robots.


There are a lot of compilation videos of the astonishing, breathtaking, amazing beauty of our Earth. They are all gorgeous and worth our time. Darlene Costner sent this one.

* * *

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

You are all encouraged to submit items for inclusion. Just click “Contact” at the top of any Time Goes By page to send them. I'm sorry that I won't have time to acknowledge receipt and there is no guarantee of publication. But when I do include them, you will be credited and I will link to your blog IF you include the name of the blog and its URL.

A Historic Week for Women's Equality and Our Generation Did It

Are you as thrilled as I am? For the first time in the history of the United States a woman is representing one of the two major political parties in the election for president. Wow. Are you grinning as much as I am?

It is you and I who made this possible – the women (and a few men who were enlightened early on) of our generation, the second wave of the feminist movement, who began the journey that finally got us to this week.

And it's about damned time. The U.S. is coming quite late to this kind of equality. Many modern democracies have elected women to their highest office going back to the first, Sirimavo Bandaranaike, who became prime minister of Ceylon and Sri Lanka in 1960.

Some others who have served as their country's leader since then are Indira Gandhi of India, Golda Meir of Israel, Margaret Thatcher of the United Kingdom, Vigdis Finnbogadottir of Iceland and more, clear up to the current chancellor of Germany, Angela Merkel.

And those are only the most well known. There are at least a couple of dozen more plus those who were appointed, rather than elected to the post.

Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has five months of hard work before election night but her nomination by the Democratic Party for the office of president of the United States is still a milestone.

That makes it worth taking a look at what had to be overcome.

When we were young, just starting out, the only jobs available to women were secretary, waitress and if we were allowed to go to college, nurse or teacher. The few “girls” - we were called that then, whatever our age – who did attend college were commonly dismissed as pursuing their MRS degree.

Generally, it was understood without any discussion that if you were a girl, you were to get married, have some children and no one said what came next. That was it for life: wife, mother, housekeeper.

Then something happened that would turn our world, our culture upside down.

In 1963, a lefty journalist and union activist named Betty Friedan published a book, The Feminine Mystique, in which she identified and described what she called “the problem that has no name” - that women of the 1950s and 1960s were increasingly unhappy with being confined to home.

The Feminine Mystique was not an instant hit. But over the next few years, it made its way from woman to woman to woman, often one at a time, until it had struck a nerve with millions.

Remember consciousness-raising groups? I was married and living in Houston in 1965 when I began attending a weekly meeting with half a dozen women to talk about what we were reading.

Two or three of my group lied to their husbands about where they were going (and were always nervous that their husbands would find out) because if the men had known what they were doing, they would have forbidden their wives to attend.

Imagine if a husband tried to forbid anything today?! We're not all the way yet but “We have come a long way, baby.”

Here are a few of the other ways women's lives were restricted until the 1970s when it began to change for us:

A woman could be fired or not hired if she were pregnant

There was no recourse for sexual harassment in the workplace or on campus

Women could not run in the Boston Marathon

Women could not refuse sex with their husbands

Women could not have credit cards in their name

Abortion was illegal in any circumstance until Roe v. Wade in 1973

There was no requirement that women be paid the same as men for the same job (we still aren't in practice but at least there is legal recourse)

Those are just a few of the many ways we were lesser citizens than men. But you were there. You remember.

I tried to do my part. I was producing radio and then television shows where I often booked leading feminists of the day – Friedan herself, Gloria Steinem, Helen Gurley Brown, Germaine Greer, etc . etc.

I marched, I attended rallies and meetings and organized and signed petitions and voted for women when they were on the ballot and we talked, we women. Oh god, how we talked.

What we were doing with all that conversation was empowering ourselves, supporting one another as we and millions of others took the steps necessary to grow out of the cultural straight jackets we had been born into. And slowly, slowly, slowly, a little at a time, lives changed.

So here we are this week, 96 long years after having been granted suffrage, with a woman presidential candidate at last. I lived to see it. I actually lived to see it.

I didn't realize until writing that sentence how much it means to me, how much it means to me to have been a part, however small, of making it happen. Even if you don't like Hillary Clinton, even if do not support her, certainly you must realize that this event is a historical milestone for women, for equality, for our country.

If Hillary Clinton is elected president in November, I wonder if Congressional Republicans will obstruct her administration as much as they have President Barack Obama's. If she is not elected president in November, god help us. And god help the world - due to the nature of the opposing candidate, it is bigger - even this first time - than just electing a woman.

Meanwhile, let us rejoice.

Here is Hillary Clinton's acceptance speech at the Brooklyn Navy Yard on Tuesday evening. If you missed it, it is worth every one of the 18 minutes to mark this significant event in American and women's history. (It happens to be a great speech too.)

The Terrible Consequences of Sleep Deprivation – Part 2

As I explained in Part 1 on Monday, for four months this year, I tried to function on two to three hours of sleep a night. This was due to the sudden onset, sometime in January, of a nightly crescendo of horribly loud noise from the apartment adjacent to mine.

The snoring was operatic in scale, volume and duration and there was nowhere in my home to escape it.

My life and routine became disjointed. I was exhausted pretty much every waking moment and lack of time became a big issue.

What one normally accomplishes in a full 12-14 hour day, I needed to cram into the morning hours before I ran out of what little steam I had. You can imagine that I never got anywhere near completing the goals of my daily to-do lists.

Looking back now, I think that for a long time I was so mentally impaired that I did not recognize how distorted and diminished my life had become.

Also, it seemed to be something I wanted to keep a secret although I don't know why. But I didn't tell anyone except two or three good friends and then only toward the end of the ordeal.

Finally by May, it felt like my world was falling apart. I was desperate for relief, desperate to sleep.

One afternoon about two weeks ago, I spoke with the condominium association. I explained my situation and asked if there was anything that could be done about the epic snoring.

After a week, they got back to me. Apparently, I was told, anyone can make as much noise within their home as they want. There is no recourse. However, neighbors of this snorer were approached, my problem was explained and it was hoped that they would then get the message back to him.

Maybe that worked. About six or seven days ago, the snoring stopped. Well, I don't know if stopped but it is no longer being transmitted through the wall into my apartment.

That first night with no snoring, no being shocked awake after a couple of hours or so, I slept for an uninterrupted 10 hours and nearly as long in the days since then.

The difference in my physical and mental capabilities now is amazing. I would almost call it euphoria from just being normal again. I'm thrilled at how I good feel and from this point forward, I will never again take being rested for granted.


There is an additional bit of complexity to my sleep problem that pre-dates the snoring issue.

It took me years to find out why I couldn't stay awake later than about 7PM or 8PM. It is called Advanced Sleep Phase Disorder or ASPD and I first wrote about it here.

It is rare, it affects mostly old people, one percent of us, they say, and it means I irresistably fall asleep in the early evening (which does make dinner with friends difficult). Then, of course, I would wake at ungodly early hours – 2AM, 3AM or thereabouts.

Some time after I discovered what ASPD is, I began waking after only three or four hours – wide awake, ready for bear, no going back to sleep. I struggled to do so but after awhile, I gave in and read a book or watched TV for awhile or puttered around the house until I felt sleepy again in a couple of hours.


I recalled having read somewhere about second sleep and found it again in a book, At Day's Close – Night in Times Past, by A. Roger Ekirch.

There is growing evidence, Ekirch explained, that for centuries, maybe thousands of years, the normal sleep pattern for humans was in two parts:

“Both phases of sleep lasted roughly the same length of time, with individuals waking sometime after midnight before returning to rest...Men and women referred to both intervals as if the prospect of awakening in the middle of the night was common knowledge that required no elaboration...”

“After midnight, pre-industrial households usually began to stir. Many of those who left their beds merely needed to urinate...

“Some persons, however, after arising, took the opportunity to smoke tobacco, check the time, or tend a fire. Thomas Jubb, an impoverished Leeds clothier, rising around midnight, 'went into Cow Lane & hearing ye clock strike twelve' returned 'home & went to bed again.'”

Since Ekirch's book was published in 2005, more references to segmented sleep have turned up. The earliest (so far) is from the Greek poet, Homer. In The Odyssey, he wrote, “In his first sleep...”

A Harvard website on sleep notes a contemporaneous report that Napoleon (1769-1821) slept

”...just a few hours at night before rising at about 3AM to work. He then typically takes a hot bath and returns to sleep for a few hours in the late morning.”

Most researchers I've read recently are coming to believe that this was the norm until the advent of electric lighting allowed people to be active much later in the evening than ever before and humankind switched to one long sleep cycle.

Since nothing I had tried kept me from falling asleep much later than early evening, I made segmented sleep my own. Until the snoring problem, it had worked quite well for me.

I would wake sometime around midnight, read for a while or get up to write or watch a movie until getting sleepy again within 90 minutes or a couple of hours.

As I mentioned above, I am currently sleeping much longer, presumably making up for the long deprivation. But as soon as is practical, I will try to get back to my routine of a segmented sleep schedule. Oh, wait. And lose those damned 10 pounds that was so hard to do as part of my 40-pound loss two years ago.

Thank you all for your commiserations on Monday and your concern and those who pretended to not notice the fall-off in the quality of posts here. I appreciate you all.

Not that I am out of the woods yet: I'm keeping my fingers crossed that the snoring guy isn't just on vacation.

The Terrible Consequences of Sleep Deprivation – Part 1

There is a reason sadists keep sleep deprivation in their torture arsenal. As Dr. Kelly Bulkeley writes at Psychology Today online:

”...prolonged sleep deprivation is an especially insidious form of torture because it attacks the deep biological functions at the core of a person’s mental and physical health.

“It is less overtly violent than cutting off someone’s finger, but it can be far more damaging and painful if pushed to extremes.”

For the past four months or so I have rarely slept more than two, sometimes three hours a night and often fewer. It is only for the past week that I have been able to return to a normal amount of sleep and can now make some sense of the distress I have been living with since January.

It is hard to overstate the misery one suffers during the other 21 or 22 hours of the day with only two or three hours of sleep at night.

During those months, it took days, even weeks, to work up the energy for the normal chores of daily life. Mopping the kitchen floor, vacuuming the carpet, doing the grocery shopping required such effort that I skipped them for long periods of time.

I shortened fitness workouts from 45 minutes to 30 to 15 and then none although I did manage the shortest time once or twice a week. I stopped walking any farther than the car and trash bins. Physical exhaustion along with a deep, aching ennui was ever present.

The mental fatigue was even worse. It did not seem unreasonable to me when I found myself thinking (frequently) that every news writer online had lost the ability to put a coherent sentence together.

My brain was so foggy that I couldn't always follow a simple news story on television and it was hard to pick up the thread of what I was reading after turning the page of a book.

Writing this blog came to feel impossible; I thought about quitting. There is a growing list of stories I have wanted to do that take a good deal more research and other work than, for example, writing something like these descriptive paragraphs of a personal event.

But I could not concentrate enough to gather the information, let alone organize it along with my own thoughts into a coherent form to write it. Even keeping track of the URLs of links to include with the stories seemed unachievable.

None of the above symptoms are news to sleep researchers. Here are some of the consequences of sleep deprivation from WebMD's section on the topic:

Significant reductions in performance and alertness
Memory and cognitive impairment: inability to think and process information
Inability to sustain attention such as to watch movies

And those are just the short-term effects. Here is WebMD's list of some of the long-term consequences of chronic sleep deprivation:

High blood pressure
Heart attack
Heart failure
Psychiatric problems, including depression and other mood disorders
Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD)
Mental impairment
Injury from accidents

In regard to blood pressure, throughout my life I have sometimes been rejected from donating blood due to low blood pressure. Now, for the first time in my life, it is higher than normal.

Certainly my attention has suffered, there is no doubt my cognitive ability has waned and although no one would label me a happy-go-lucky sort of person, my world view has been much darker than usual.

Even the obesity consequence has affected me. Without changing my diet (exercise has next to no impact on weight), I've gained eight or nine pounds since January. That doesn't sound like much unless, as with me, it is tacked on to my 120-125-pound average.

Further, according to WebMD,

”Studies show an increased mortality risk for those reporting less than either six or seven hours per night. One study found that reduced sleep time is a greater mortality risk than smoking, high blood pressure, and heart disease.”

Having lived with another, less destructive sleep disorder, I'm not unfamiliar with this information but only as research material until now.

Here is what happened:

One night in January, I was shocked out of a dead sleep by a huge, loud noise that sounded like it was next to me in bed. For a few seconds, I was frightened that someone was in the room with me but no. It was thunder-like snoring coming through the wall from the apartment behind mine. The best I can describe it is that it's what walruses sound like. As it turns out, that's a close match which you can listen to here.

I've lived in this apartment for six years. In that time, never once – not ever – have I heard a peep through that wall. Not music, not TV, not people talking, nothing. Suddenly, it was as though someone had torn down the wall – it was that loud and felt that close to me.

After 15 or 20 minutes of the din that night, I dragged my blankets to the living room to the sofa. I discovered sleeping there might work when you're 25, but maybe not at 75; I woke in the morning unable to turn my head to one side due to a pain - probably from sleeping crooked – that took two weeks to heal.

Meanwhile, I returned to my bedroom. Not a single night went by that the snoring did not wake me. I tried sleeping in the guest room but even with the doors closed, the godawful snorts and groans wakened me.

I began to go to bed each night in a mental crouch, waiting for the roar to begin. It never failed. I tried to get to sleep before it started, which was usually about 2AM, but the rescheduling didn't work because my entire circadian rhythm was now screwed up.

I no longer had a wake/sleep schedule. Mostly, I had an awake schedule without a sleep section to it and as far as I could see, no recourse.

If there were a loud party disrupting my sleep, I tried to reason, I would let it go for one night. If it continued a second night, I would say something. But what do you say about someone snoring? It's not something they can control.

Twice in the ensuing months, I knocked on the door of the apartment without a plan – just hoping I would figure out what to say when I met the neighbor. No one answered the knock.

You may ask why I did not take further steps and I ask myself that question now. This is a condo, after all, and there are rules but I don't know why it took me so long to act.

It's certainly possible the problem was my cognitive impairment from so long without sleep. It was difficult to concentrate on anything, I was easily distracted and I know now that throughout winter and into spring my brain, even on simple tasks, was not working properly. Most of my days were spent in a hazy mental cloud of distraction.

Although I tried hard to compensate, I wasn't successful and for four months, I dragged myself through every day like a zombie. Only now that I am recovering nicely, can I see how debilitated I was.

Part 2 is here.

ELDER MUSIC: Romeo and Juliet

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.

* * *

Old Will Shakespeare created the most famous lovers in history. Of course, things didn't end too well for them.

It's instructive that Juliet was 13 years old, or "she hath not seen the change of fourteen years" to be exact. Romeo's age is not stated so there seem to be conflicting ideas about this; everywhere between 13 also and mid twenties. That latter age sounds a bit creepy to modern audiences.

The thing about this is that, in spite of her age, Juliet is easily the most mature character in the play. Not just more so than Romeo and his friends, but all the adults as well who carry on their silly vendetta.

So, songs about them separately and together.

This column came about when Norma, the Assistant Musicologist, and I watched a vid of a DIRE STRAITS concert.

Dire Straits

We saw the Straits way back, both as the original quartet and their later incarnation as a somewhat bombastic big band. We preferred the original, stick-in-the-muds that we are (well, I am. I wouldn't categorize the A.M. that way).

Naturally, they played one of their most popular and entertaining songs, Romeo and Juliet. "Ah," we said, and a column was born.

The song came from their third album, "Making Movies," when they were a trio as David Knopfler had left by then. This was just before their big band era.

♫ Dire Straits - Romeo and Juliet

STEVE FORBERT has made an honest living singing and writing songs for several decades now.

Steve Forbert

I always thought he could be a contender, achieve more than he has, however, he seems to be doing okay. Early on he had a hit with his song, Romeo's Tune. The distinctive piano playing on that track was by Bobby Ogdin, who used to play in Elvis's band.

There's a warning to this one but not your usual one. No, I find that this song is a real earworm. You'll be singing it for a week; well I will be. Actually, the previous song is a bit earwormy as well.

♫ Steve Forbert - Romeo's Tune

The story is a favorite of opera composers. For this first selection in that vein, I had considerable choice - Maria Callas, Joan Sutherland, Diana Damrau and more. After playing a bunch of them, including those mentioned, this version was next.

The A.M. came in and said, "That one.” I was leaning towards it too. When I checked out NICOLE CABELL's photo, it was a done deal (so sue me, I'm a bloke).

Nicole Cabell

Here we have the aria Je veux vivre from "Roméo et Juliette" by CHARLES-FRANÇOIS GOUNOD. Nicole sings (as Jules) that she would like to live inside her dream where it is eternally spring, rather than think about marriage.

♫ Nicole Cabell - Gounod ~ Romeo et Juliette ~ Je veux vivre

CAB CALLOWAY gained a whole new generation of fans when he had a prominent role in the Blues Brothers film.

Cab Calloway

Cab gives his song the standard Cab treatment. It's called Hi-De-Ho Romeo.

♫ Cab Calloway - Hi-De-Ho Romeo

I wasn't going to include the next track but the A.M. came in and said, "Play that again, it sounds like Bob Wills" - that's a good enough reason for her. The singer is GARTH BROOKS.

Garth Brooks

I hadn't really considered Garth and western swing to be synonymous, but I suppose he can do anything these days. Garth's song is Rodeo and Juliet.(Ho ho).

♫ Garth Brooks - Rodeo And Juliet

For a complete change of pace, I give you TOM WAITS.

Tom Waits

Tom gives his song a nice gentle romantic treatment. Okay, that's a bunch of lies, it's standard Tom and that's good enough for me. Romeo Is Bleeding.

♫ Tom Waits - Romeo Is Bleeding

THE REFLECTIONS had only one big hit and it's this one, (Just Like) Romeo and Juliet.

The Reflections

They had a few others that rattled around at the bottom of the charts. They kept on trucking though and are still performing today with a couple of their original members still present.

♫ The Reflections - (Just Like) Romeo & Juliet

For some reason the critics don't seem to like ELINA GARANČA very much. It's their loss, I think. The public loves her. I'm with the public.

Elina Garanca

She is a mezzo-soprano and I prefer the deeper tones of her singing to standard sopranos - Cecilia Bartoli sings in the same range. Here from the opera "I Capuleti ed i Montecchi" by VINCENZO BELLINI, is the aria, Se Romeo t'uccise un figlio, sung by the lovely Elina, without the usual (rather intrusive) chorus in the background.

♫ Elina Garanca - Se Romeo t'uccise un figlio

I really know nothing about PAUL PERRYMAN.


The lack of a booklet in the CD didn't help, and Dr Google let me down. I'll just play his song, Teenage Romeo.

♫ Paul Perryman - Teenage Romeo

LOU REED is an unlikely romantic.

Lou Reed

However, with Lou anything is possible including Romeo and Juliet. Actually, his song is called Romeo Had Juliette, which sounds more like the Lou we know and love.

♫ Lou Reed - Romeo Had Juliette



Several times during budget negotiations with Congress during his administration, President Barack Obama supported and even suggested cuts to Social Security:

”The cut Obama came closest to passing,” Huffington Post reminds us, “would have come from changes to the formula used to calculate annual cost-of-living adjustments that help benefits keep pace with inflation. The White House repeatedly offered it to congressional Republican leaders during fiscal cliff talks at the end of 2012.”

Apparently, he has now changed his mind. In a speech on Wednesday in Elkhart, Indiana, Obama backed the movement to expands Social Security. Take a listen:

More at Huffington Post.


Nowadays, it is widely known that for all kinds of health and safety reasons, astronauts cannot have loose food in the weightless conditions of spacecraft. That wasn't entirely clear to at least one astronaut in the earliest days of our space program:


According to Raw Story, there is a lot of anti-Trump election paraphernalia being sold. The website recently highlighted one such item:


”The toilet paper rolls, which have been given the brand name 'Dump With Trump,' are being manufactured by Chinese company Qingdao Wellpaper Industrial Co Ltd, which says it started experiencing a spike in sales in mid-February this year.

“'At the start, orders were for around 100 rolls a time, but now we’re getting orders for 5,000 rolls,' a saleswoman told China Daily.”

The company also produces Hillary Clinton bathroom tissue but Trump is outselling that one six to one. Read more here.


John Oliver's HBO show, Last Week Tonight was off for the Memorial Day holiday last weekend but as has become a happy routine now, Oliver provided a short, Web-only exclusive.

This one is things that aren't things that ought to be things. You wonder about the kind of minds that can think up this stuff like this but I'm sure glad they exist.


That's what they call falcons and some people are using the ancient art of falconry to protect airplanes and birds from one another. Take a look:

In a related story, eages are being trained to catch drones. As you have undoubtedly read, a lot of stupid people fly their personal drones near airports and other people are using them for nefarious purposes. Now, in The Netherlands, eagles are being trained to snatch drones right out of the sky:

”The birds of prey learn to intercept small, off-the-shelf drones — unmanned aerial vehicles — of the type that can pose risks to aircraft, drop contraband into jails, conduct surveillance or fly dangerously over public events,” reports The New York Times.

You can read more about this at The Times.


As the Youtube page explains:

”Bernie Krause has been recording wildlife sounds, or 'soundscapes,' for over forty years. He's amassed the largest archive in the world, and in doing so, can chart how wildlife sounds have changed over the course of climate change.

“Listen for yourself: the rising silence speaks volumes.”


Even if we do not own an iPhone, most of us have heard of Apple's Siri, the disembodied personal assistant who answers questions in that device.

For the past year or so, Amazon has been selling a device called Amazon Echo that is operated by voice, connects to the internet and various devices around your home. Like the iPhone, Echo involves a personal assistant, this one called Alexa.

Perhaps the device has not been selling as well as Amazon desire because they have now created a web app that let's anyone talk with Alexa and ask her questions.

There is a full description of all that the Amazon Echo does here. You can try out the Alexa part of the Echo here.

You will, of course, need a microphone and speaker in your computer and you will also need an Amazon account – ID and password.

Be sure, when you are done playing with the Alexa app, to click off the microphone image so that you are not broadcasting everything you say over the internet.


Too often, I find myself weeping for what we, humankind, have done to the environment of our one and only planet, at the immensity of the disaster we have wrought and that my puny efforts at recycliing are, in relation to the catastrophe, almost useless.

Some people, however, instead of wringing their hands like me, do something.

“A beer brewery in Florida,” explains the Gajitz website, “has created a set of 3D-printed edible and biodegradable can rings that double as food for sea turtles and other susceptible species known for getting their necks trapped inside of rings.”

Take a look at video:

Read more at Gajitz.


When I was a kid, I loved tongue-twisters. Surely you remember them too:

Peter Piper picked a peck of pickled peppers. How much wood would a woodchuck chuck if a woodchuck could chuck wood. Which wristwatches are Swiss wristwatches.

It turns out that one of my favorites is about a real person. Check out this about Sally sells sea shells by the sea shore.

* * *

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.

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As Forgetfulness Sneaks Up

As you will see from today's post, I had such a good time recently re-reading a 35-year-old collection by American poet laureate, Billy Collins, that I couldn't resist a second post (see Wednesday). Collins and I both turned 75 this year - a kind of mid-point in the progression of old age - and he often seems to be dogging my path - or I his - on that journey.

But before I get to today's poem, I am I'm going to make you wade through a story or two from me. (Or, you could just scroll down.)

Old people often reference our age-related memory slips – with or without humor - particularly, I think, in an attempt to fend off worry that forgetfulness may foretell future dementia.

I long ago stopped using the phrase “senior moment” when it happens and I've moved on now, too, to ignoring the kind of glitches that attack in the middle of a sentence, when I lose all notion of what I was trying to convey.

You see, I realized that I have always done that - forgotten the point exactly when I was explaining it. Here, however, is what has changed: when I was younger, I just kept talking, fumphing around the issue until I caught the thread again and could finish.

Nowadays, that doesn't happen or, when it does, not in time to complete my thought during that conversation. It usually hits me hours and, sometimes, a day later.

Oh well. No point in sweating dementia, I have decided, until it gets here.

In the past couple of years, I have come to see that there is an advantage to at least one kind of memory loss: TV program plots.

Okay, sometimes I watch old episodes of, for example, NCIS (especially those with Cote de Pablo) – even when I can remember them just because I happen to like the show and it's too much trouble to mine Netflix for something worth seeing.

But often as not – with NCIS as well as The Good Wife and a few others – I have no idea what the storyline is. None. Not even when I'm watching just a few weeks after the first (or second) time I saw it. Might as well be a new episode to me.

How handy is that, getting to watch favorites again as though they are new?

In the case of Billy Collins's 1991 collection, Questions About Angels, every poem was like new to me when I re-read the book this month even though I certainly read it all when it was new and several times since then.

In many instances, forgetfulness is an annoyance but it is a good thing, I have come to see, to be able to read old favorites with the same kind of surprise and pleasure as when they were new. Some kinds of forgetfulness come with their own rewards.

Billy Collins:

The name of the author is the first to go
followed obediently by the title, the plot,
the heartbreaking conclusion, the entire novel
which suddenly becomes one you have never even heard of,

as if, one by one, the memories you used to harbor
decided to retire to the southern hemisphere of the brain,
to a little fishing village where there are no phones.

Long ago you kissed the names of the nine Muses goodbye
and watched the quadratic equation pack its bag,
and even now as you memorize the order of the planets,

something else is slipping away, a state flower perhaps,
the address of an uncle, the capital of Paraguay.

Whatever it is you are struggling to remember
it is not poised on the tip of your tongue,
not even lurking in some obscure corner of your spleen.

It has floated away down a dark mythological river
whose name begins with an L as far as you can recall,
well on your own way to oblivion where you will join those
who have even forgotten how to swim and how to ride a bicycle.

No wonder you rise in the middle of the night
to look up the date of a famous battle in a book on war.
No wonder the moon in the window seems to have drifted
out of a love poem that you used to know by heart.