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December 2018

ELDER MUSIC: A Good Year for the Roses

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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Roses

Recently, as I write this, the Melbourne Cup was run (in Melbourne, big surprise). This is a horse race and the good people of Melbourne actually get a public holiday for it. Imagine that, a public holiday for a horse race.

It’s held on the same day as America’s elections. I bring this up because each year Flemington race course (where it’s held) is awash with flowers and most especially roses.

To my eyes (not being a gambler) this is the best part of the whole thing. It inspired me to write this column.

ÉDITH PIAF remains the singer against whom every other French singer is judged.

Edith Piaf

Her songs became world-wide hits and this is one of them, La Vie en Rose. Édith wrote the song herself, but due to the arcane copyright laws at the time she didn’t profit from it.

♫ Edith Piaf - La Vie en Rose


BRODERICK SMITH is one of the best, if not the best rock singer Australia has produced.

Broderick Smith

He first came to general notice as the singer for the rock group, The Dingoes. They were a fantastic live band but the quality didn’t really transfer to their records. Pity.

I’ve met him a couple of times and in person he is retiring and modest to the point of shyness, quite unlike the persona he projects on stage. This is Faded Roses.

♫ Brod Smith - Faded Roses


EMMYLOU HARRIS has seven rose songs that are worthy of inclusion.

Emmylou Harris

I had to choose one, of course, and settled on I'll Be Your San Antone Rose. That was Norma, the Assistant Musicologist’s choice as well. The song was written by Susanna Clark, the wife of the great singer/songwriter Guy Clark.

♫ Emmylou Harris - I'll Be Your San Antone Rose


While we’re on roses from that area it’d be remiss of me if I didn’t follow that song by an obvious one from BOB WILLS.

Bob Wills

He recorded a song called San Antonio Rose and then later updated it as New San Antonio Rose. It’s this latter one we have today, as it’s superior to the first one. The singer, as he is on most of Bob Wills’s records, is Tommy Duncan. Bob just makes those irritating comments throughout.

♫ Bob Wills - New San Antonio Rose


Due east of San Francisco you’ll encounter San Joaquin County. It’s the home of the city of Lodi, referenced in one of Creedence’s best songs. We’re not interested in that one today. Someone who sings about that area (and many others) is TOM RUSSELL.

Tom Russell

Tom is one of the finest songwriters around at the moment, and there’d be few others in the last 30 years who could equal him. He also sings really well, as you’ll hear on Rose of the San Joaquin.

♫ Tom Russell - The Rose of the San Joaquin


Getting back to Texas, where we were earlier, we stumble across MICHAEL MARTIN MURPHEY.

Michael Martin Murphey

The Yellow Rose of Texas was almost certainly written by a black American soldier about his mulatto gal back in Tennessee. This man, whose name is unknown, was with Sam Houston when, along with an army of “Texians”, Tennesseeans and others, attempted a large land grab (of Texas) from Mexico.

Of course, the Mexicans had already accomplished a land grab of their own (as had the French and Spanish previously). The Texians were pitted against General Antonio Lopez de Santa Anna at the Battle of San Jacinto in 1836.

Surprisingly, we know the name of the Yellow Rose. She was Emily West, later adding Morgan after her slave owner. Although from Tennessee, or possibly Bermuda, she was brought to Texas by that owner, James Morgan.

Unfortunately, the town where he set her up was overrun by the Mexicans (James had skedaddled leaving her behind) and the comely Emily caught Santa Anna’s eye. Now, Santa Ana thought he was God’s gift to women; only two weeks earlier he had married another captive, in spite of having a wife back in Mexico.

A couple of days later, Houston was up a tree spying on the Mexican camp. I’ll give him the benefit of the doubt that this was military rather than voyeurism for Santa Ana didst sport with Em and a champagne breakfast was the order of the day that morning.

Houston ordered an attack and the Mexican army was caught with their pants down, literally in the case of Santa Ana as reports from the time attest.

The Texians won and Emily was granted her freedom for her crucial service and given a ticket to New York. This is the song about her, as close to the original as is possible these days.

Michael Martin Murphey - The Yellow Rose of Texas


I’ll continue the theme of the previous song with DAVE ALVIN. It could be called a companion piece.

Dave Alvin

To my ears Dave has about the finest (male) voice currently in country and roots music. Actually, some might suggest the previous two singers would be in the running as well and I wouldn’t disagree - after all, it was I who brought that up. Anyway, here’s Dave with Black Rose of Texas, a song he wrote himself.

♫ Dave Alvin - Black Rose Of Texas


At the time everyone was surprised when NICK CAVE had KYLIE MINOGUE along to sing on his album.

Nick & Kylie

That album was called “Murder Ballads” and the combination worked well for the song Where the Wild Roses Grow. You can probably guess from the album title that Nick bumps off Kylie. Just because he can, it seems.

♫ Nick Cave - Where the Wild Roses Grow


THE STATLER BROTHERS don’t perform any more, more’s the pity.

Statler Brothers

At their best, which was the entirety of their career, they were the finest harmonizing band around. Certainly the best in country music. Here they perform Bed of Roses (or Bed of Rose’s, take your pick).

♫ Statler Brothers - Bed of Roses


From out of left field, or to be more precise, out of the fifties, I give you FRANKIE LAINE.

Frankie Laine

Listening to the words of the song, I’m struck by the parallels between it and the story of Cio-Cio-San (Madama Butterfly). In this case we don’t know if Rose topped herself after Frankie left. We hope not. See what you think about Rose, Rose I Love You.

♫ Frankie Laine - Rose Rose I Love You


The BLACK SORROWS are the brainchild of, and yet another band started by that musical national treasure, Joe Camilleri.

Black Sorrows

Joe first came to most people’s notice as the main man in Jo Jo Zep and the Falcons; that is most people in Australia. Since then he’s started half a dozen bands, all of which he keeps going. I don’t know how he does it. The Sorrows are the best known of his groups, and Harley and Rose is their best known song.

♫ Black Sorrows - Harley And Rose


I’ll end as I began with an iconic (and I use the word advisedly) singer, PATSY CLINE.

Patsy Cline

As with Édith, she is the one every subsequent country (and many other) singer is judged, and most are found wanting in comparison. I know this is unfair, but it happens.

Fortunately, we still have a lot of music that Patsy recorded. One of those is A Poor Man's Roses (Or a Rich Man's Gold).

♫ Patsy Cline - A Poor Man's Roses (Or a Rich Man's Gold)




INTERESTING STUFF – 19 January 2019

This is an extremely short Interesting Stuff today. I don't know if the internet is just less interesting this week or I'm behind in my regular rounds to see what's out there. So here are three I like.

HUSKY LOUDLY OBJECTS TO GETTING OUT OF BED

Zeus is a Husky. He doesn't want to get out of bed. As the YouTube page says,

”He likes to sleep in, which isn't always a bad thing, but when it's time to get up and go outside, he protests. He generally likes going outside in the morning and smelling for any critters that might have passed through the yard during the night. But this morning, he struggled to get motivated to get up. Can't we all relate?!”

TWO 17 YEAR OLDS TRY TO USE A ROTARY PHONE

Chuck Nyren of Advertising to Baby Boomers sent this video. Technology has come a long way in our lifetimes and what's obvious to you and me, isn't so to two teenagers.

EVEN A CAT HAS A WIFE

My friend Hank Berez sent this kitty video:

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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.




Fighting Cancer

Is cancer, do you think, the most dreaded word in the English language? If it's not, surely it is in the top five.

Nobody wants to hear that – cancer - about themselves or anyone they love and in my case, when they first told me about my pancreatic cancer in June 2017, it took awhile for me to believe it.

People may not have noticed before but once they are diagnosed and weighing potential treatments they hear a lot about “fighting” cancer. On television commercials, at websites for support groups, on teeshirts and from other patients too. “I'm going to fight this thing,” they say. “I'm going to beat it.”

A year and a half later I'm still wondering what that means, to “fight” cancer. I can't punch it in the nose. Or chase it out of town. Perhaps I'm supposed to be extra vigilant in some secret way to keep it from killing me.

Early on in my cancer odyssey, I rejected the ubiquitous vegetable diets that promise to cure cancer, along with suspicious clinics in other countries. (Do not ever forget: if there were a cure for cancer, we would all know about it.)

I was (and still am) being treated at a world-class cancer center and I figure these doctors, nurses and surgeons know a whole lot more about cancer than I could ever learn on the internet.

So I listened to them. I still do. And I do what they tell me.

The massive Whipple surgery gave me about 10 cancer-free months before two new cancers showed up. There is nothing to help, the doctors tell me now, except chemotherapy that may delay the growth of the cancers for awhile to give me some more healthy time.

So as long as the chemo gives me more good days than bad, I'll continue with the doctors' advice. But “fight” cancer? Not me.

I still don't know what it means I should do but it sounds like it would wear me out or make me unhappy. I feel healthy still most of the time and I want to live the time I have in the best possible ways. Fighting doesn't fit that.

I'm still curious, however, about what people mean when they say that.




Reasons to Visit Australia

By Peter Tibbles, the TGB Elder Music Columnist

In this country we don't have any mammals that'll do you any damage. Okay, none that'll eat you, at least. No lions or tigers or leopards or bobcats. No bears. Nothing like that. Although, I wouldn't want to take on a big red kangaroo in a fair fight, or any fight if it comes to that.

There are some birds, though. Well, a bird. The cassowary. It's related to the emu, but it has a 6-foot long spike on each foot it uses to disembowel anyone it doesn't like. Mainly dogs and feral pigs, but people have been known to be attacked.

Then there are the snakes. This is probably what we're most famous for.

There are the prosaically named black snake and brown snake (but don't let their boring names fool you), the brown snake is especially venomous. Or the wonderfully (and appropriately) named death adder.

These all pale next to the tiger snake. People always say about animals that they won't attack you if you leave them alone. Not so with this bugger. They're just naturally aggressive.

They are also the most dangerous snake on the planet (talking about the venom), although some say the Taipan (another one of ours).

In the interest of this missive I looked up my book on dangerous things. It said there are more than 85 varieties of venomous snakes in the country (and 27 known venomous sea snakes). It's a wise thing to treat any snake as dangerous (even if you encounter one of the rare ones that isn't) as most of them are.

Okay, a topic I like to avoid – spiders. There's the red-backed spider and the funnel web spider that have both caused fatalities. And there's the white-tailed spider, which, although it doesn't cause fatalities, I believe those bitten by it wish it had.

There are others but I don't want to dwell on them.

There are many species of box jelly fish. They're all very nasty (and virtually invisible). Some can cause cardiac arrest in about 15 minutes. They've recently found another jelly fish that doesn't take anywhere near that amount of time to do the same.

Fortunately, for us folks down south, these only occur in northern waters, off the coast of Queensland, Northern Territory and the north part of Western Australia. It means you can't go swimming there between about November and April. Well, you can but you'd be pretty stupid.

We folks down south don't have that problem. Okay, there are sharks (and sting rays) down here, but they don't attack too many people so it's all right (apart from the people they gobble up, of course).

Let's not forget the stone-fish. These are found all around the coast and, as their name suggests, look like stones. They like shallow areas of the sea and remain stationary on the bottom until someone steps on them.

I defer to the book again. It says

"The stone-fish is the most venomous fish known. It immediately causes fearful pain and a person can become almost demented and thrash around in agony. A number die."

It also says that they can live out of the water for surprising lengths of time.

There’s the blue-ringed octopus which is very pretty. Its bite is painless and may seem harmless. However, the neurotoxins begin working immediately causing muscular weakness, numbness, cessation of breathing and death. This happens in minutes. There is no antidote.

Then there are the irukandji, sometimes known as “killer jellyfish”. There’s a good reason for that nickname. The problem with these is that they are tiny and essentially invisible. According to reports, irukandji jellyfish's stings are so severe they can cause fatal brain haemorrhages.

I won’t dwell further, you can look them up if you’re so inspired.

There are crocodiles, of course. Again, only in the north. It's only the salt water crocodiles that are a problem. They are protected, so they're having a fine old time breeding like mad.

They've been known to turn up in swimming pools in Darwin. That'd rather startle you, I imagine: wandering out of the house, diving into the pool and half way down thinking, "Oh shit".

The fresh water ones are vegetarians (okay, not really, and smaller – the salties are BIG buggers) and won't attack unless you annoy them, unlike the salties. Now, of course, who in their right mind would think "Lordy, I'm bored, I think I'll go out and annoy a crocodile"?

Ah, let's consider the plant kingdom. Not those poisonous berries and the like that every country has. No, we'll travel north (yet again) to FNQ (far north Queensland), somewhere around Cairns. I didn't know about these until about 20 years ago when I was up there.

We went for a trek through a national park. This had to be with a ranger. She pointed to a plant and said "Take a good look at this and don't touch it. I mean it. DON'T TOUCH IT".

It seems that it's an interesting evolutionary product. Its leaves are covered in tiny silicon barbs and you only have to touch them and they stick into your skin. They are apparently extremely painful. As they are silicon based rather than carbon they don't rot away and over time some people have been known to have them stuck in their skin for years, driving them crazy with the pain.

It's been said that it's a wonder that any Australians manage to live to adulthood.

After all this, I can see you packing your bags, ringing Qantas and winging off to try the wonderful adventures in the land of Oz.




In the Space Between Life and Death

Leafing through the notebook where I record information from meetings with various physicians and nurses, I found several estimates of the time I have left on earth. They have different shadings of meaning.

One tells me that if I had rejected the chemo I now take every two weeks, I'd have nine to 12 months. Another says six to eight months WITH chemo. A third thinks the chemo will give me up to a year. And so on.

Of course, these are guesses. But they are based on these professionals' experience with many cancer patients and the differences come in because each patient's body is different as is each cancer.

This only points out that however much we want to believe we have control over our lives, we do not. (Leaving physician-assisted suicide available in a few U.S. States and other countries aside), death will find each of us when he or she decides our time here is done.

Following my terminal cancer diagnosis, I have gradually come to spend my time now in a middle space between life and death. Or, sometimes, in both places at once.

Living has become both larger and smaller. Smaller in the sense that I don't much want to go anywhere. I have no bucket list and unless someone is paying for a first class ticket, I'm never getting on an airplane again – it's inhumane the way the airlines pack people into coach.

At home, I love spending time with friends and soon, with my newly-found son and his family when they move to a new home near me. I am also dismayed in the best possible way by the people who have offered to help. So far, I haven't needed it, but the time will come when I will.

Small pleasures I've enjoyed for much of a lifetime have become even more precious. Letting hot water flow over my body in the shower for longer than I should. The way the morning sun shines through the living room windows. The murder of crows (or ravens or blackbirds; I don't the difference) who yell at each other in the parking lot here most days make laugh every time.

I smile and laugh at a lot more things now than I did before this happened.

On a much larger scale, I am spending time with the greatest mystery of humankind, the one we try to ignore for most of our lives: that we all die.

Although the sense of peace about dying along with the understanding I gained in my psilocybin session that death is sort of like the other side of life and not something to fear has stuck with me, my mind sometimes wanders to the idea of my no longer being here.

“I” live in this particular building. “My” stuff is gathered in this space. “I” move around, “I” talk to people, “I” go places, “I” have an impact on others as they do on me. Can that “I” just disappear?

As hard as I try, I cannot imagine a world without me. The morning after my psilocybin session, I asked my guide over breakfast if s/he can imagine the world without being in it.

The guide thought carefully about this for several minutes and said no, couldn't do it. And this is a person who has been using hallucinogens and guiding others through sessions with them for a couple of decades.

I have dark periods when I think about the day I die and sometimes the thought gets really stupid. Don't laugh, but if I choose to use Oregon's physician-assisted suicide law, I have wondered what I would wear that day. What clothes do I want to die in.

Do I want to be in bed or in a chair or lounging on the sofa? Oh, come on, Ronni. Where do these thoughts come from? It's usually on the couple of days that heavy fatigue kicks in after chemotherapy.

Even with all that, what I have noticed about myself in the three weeks since the psilocybin session is that the peacefulness I now have in relation to dying has extended to daily life.

It shows up in that old phrase about taking time to smell the roses. I feel like an idiot saying that but I've mostly been in a hurry all my life. I'm not anymore. I'm more comfortable day-to-day than I've felt in most of life and its not too much of a stretch to say that this space where I am now between life and death is among the happiest of my life.




ELDER MUSIC: 1950 Yet Again

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

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Here I am, turning five years old this year and starting to take an interest in music.

The GUY MITCHELL song, The Roving Kind is the first song I can consciously remember having heard.

Guy Mitchell

Naturally, I'd've heard other songs before, but this is the one that has stuck in my memory. I was visiting the next door neighbors, the Harringtons, and we were in their kitchen and the song came on the radio.

As I mentioned, I turned five in 1950, but that was later in the year, so statistically it's most likely I was four when this occurred.

♫ Guy Mitchell - The Roving Kind


I certainly didn’t notice MEL TORMÉ at the time.

Mel Torme

It took a little while for his style of music to seep into my brain, but it eventually did. Back in 1950 though, we have Mel singing Careless Hands.

♫ Mel Torme - Careless Hands


Anticipating what was going to happen in only a few years, AMOS MILBURN seemed to be quite prescient.

Amos Milburn

Perhaps it was something else entirely, as back then rock and roll meant something else from what it later became. See what you think with Let's Rock a While.

♫ Amos Milburn - Let's Rock A While-2


I’ve always associated the next song with Bing Crosby, but I thought I’d try a different version for you. This time it’s DINAH SHORE.

Dinah Shore

I really liked this song until I listen to the words, and then it creeps me out. It sounds as if she’s singing about the Midwich Cuckoos or the Stepford Wives. Maybe that’s just me; make up your own mind about Dear Hearts and Gentle People.

♫ Dinah Shore - Dear Hearts and Gentle People


When I saw the name of this song I nearly gagged. However, I noticed that it was the INK SPOTS, so I'll forgive them.

Ink Spots

It's still a cheesy song but the group just about makes it listenable. The song is Who Do You Know In Heaven (That Made You The Angel You Are). I don’t always include songs I really like.

♫ Ink Spots - Who Do You Know In Heaven (That Made You The Angel You Are)


Band leader JOHNNY OTIS discovered Esther Jones in a talent show when she was 14. He was really impressed and made a recording of her and added her to his traveling troupe, renaming her LITTLE ESTHER.

Esther later took the name Esther Phillips. The song we have today is a duet with Esther singing with MEL WALKER, backed by Johnny’s band, of course.

Esther, Mel & Johnny

The song, Cupid's Boogie, made the top of the R&B charts.

♫ Little Esther - Cupid's Boogie


LESTER FLATT AND EARL SCRUGGS were a bluegrass duo who also fronted the band The Foggy Mountain Boys.

Flatt & Scruggs

Some of you may think you’re unfamiliar with their music, but I bet you know at least one of their songs: they recorded the theme for The Beverly Hillbillies TV program. That’s not what we have, that one came much later.

Instead is probably their most famous tune Foggy Mountain Breakdown. Anyone who wants to play this style of music must know how to play this one. It has also been used in TV programs and films, most notably in “Bonnie and Clyde”.

♫ Lester Flatt and Earl Scruggs - Foggy Mountain Breakdown


Around this time, Doowop was very popular. For some reason, many of the groups had bird names, and the one we have today is no exception. THE RAVENS were formed a few years earlier by Jimmy Ricks and Warren Suttles.

Ravens

The group was considered the standard against which all other similar groups were measured, particularly Jimmy, their bass singer. Count Every Star was the group’s biggest hit.

♫ The Ravens - Count Every Star


Although he thought of himself as a jazz singer, to most of us FRANKIE LAINE seemed to make a career singing themes to western movies and TV programs, and songs of a similar bent.

Frankie Laine

We have one of those today, Mule Train. This was featured in a film (“Singing Guns”) but was performed by Vaughn Monroe in that one. Frankie’s version took it to the top of the charts.

Frankie Laine - Mule Train


1950 was the year that my grandmother from England came out to visit us. She arrived by ship as people did back then. We lived in a country town about 400 kms from Melbourne and she was dumbstruck about the distance we traveled to return home (by train).

"We're still in the same state", we told her, "and it's the smallest one on the mainland".

Anyway, her name was Lucy and there was a song popular at the time called Put Your Shoes on Lucy that my sister and I would sing to her. Well, you know how kids are. The singer on record (rather than us) was RUSS MORGAN.

Russ Morgan

When I noticed this song on the 1950 list, I knew I had to include it, if only for my sister and me (and gran).

♫ Russ Morgan - Put Your Shoes on Lucy




INTERESTING STUFF – 12 JANUARY 2019

NEW OLD PEOPLE ARE GOING TO SUCK

At least that's what comedian Lachlan Paterson says. Some of his routine made me laugh – ageism is a tricky business. What do you think?

LATEST IN THE NYT OLDEST OLD SERIES

For several years years, one of the finest reporters at The New York Times, John Leland, has been hanging out with six old, old people in New York City to report on their lives in a series of excellent stories. (Here is a page with links to the individual stories).

The series also resulted in a book, Happiness Is a Choice You Make: Lessons from a Year Among the Oldest Old.

Leland's latest update on his subjects was published last week. One of them, 95-year-old Ruth Willig,

”...gave thanks for larger gifts this year: as she stayed mostly the same, her family changed around her.

“'I dare not talk about not surviving,' she said one afternoon in her apartment, where balloons in the shape of a 9 and 5 held their last whiffs of helium. 'My children, my son especially, say, “Oh, Ma, you’re going to keep going forever.” 'The thought of my passing is very upsetting to him.'

“Ms. Willig could not help noting the passage of time, especially the absence of her three siblings. Once the youngest, she was now the last of her generation. 'It’s weird to be the only one left, it really is,' she said. I can’t really call anyone: do you remember this? It was not easy at first. I’m getting used to it.'”

Here's a short video from early 2018 of John Leland explaining what he has learned about facing death from his series subjects:

SOMETHING TO ENTERTAIN THE GRANDKIDS

TGB reader, Celia Andrews sent this video of some ideas to get the grandkids off their tablets and other screens:

U.S. FERTILITY DROPS FOR SEVENTH YEAR IN A ROW

...and way too many places are reporting this change as a disaster: From The Daily Beast:

“It may not be all doom and gloom, said Donna Strobino, a professor at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health. 'I think it may stabilize once women who have been postponing pregnancy have the births they are planning to have.'”

Doom and gloom? It's a huge part of climate change that there are way too many people for our poor ol' stretched-to-the-limit planet to support.

U.S. CANCER DEATH NUMBERS DROP

...since its peak of 215.1 American deaths per 100,000 people in 1991, the cancer death rate dropped steadily by about 1.5% per year to 156 per 100,000 people in 2016, an overall decline of 27%.

The is good news for individuals but also probably wipes out the gains from lower birth rate. A more detailed report at CNN.

HISTORY OF THE WORLD ACCORDING TO CATS

Well, the headline is a bit of a misnomer – it's more just a history cat and human interaction through the eons.

VANCE HINDS' AMAZING WEIGHT LOSS

Wow. And I thought it was a struggle to lose 40-odd pounds in one year a few years back. This guy had lot further to go than I did and his progress is remarkable. Take a look:

BENJAMIN FRANKLIN INVENTED THE ROCKING CHAIR

I knew Ben Franklin invented a lot of things we still use today but when I bought my new rocking chair, I had no idea that Ben Franklin invented it.

You can read a list of lot more interesting stuff he invented at Mental Floss.

BABY DEER RESCUE AND RELEASE

This video is longer than I usually post – 17 minutes – but I think it's worth your time. It will make you feel good.

There is a follow-up video one year later here..

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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.




Some Things I'm Finished With Forever

It's not just shopping, as I mentioned on Wednesday, that I can give up with this terminal cancer diagnosis. There are a bunch of other things I never need to think about again and I'm pleased as punch to let them go.

Back in early October my oncologist, the chief hematology nurse and a social worker gathered in a room to tell me that my two new cancers could not be cured but that certain chemotherapy might extend the amount of “healthy” life I would have before symptoms of the cancers begin to take over.

My first thought then was, “A-a-a-ll R-i-i-ight! I just went through my exercise routine for the last time ever this morning.”

For years and years, at least five days a week, I had hated every moment of every workout and I'm happy to be done with it.

Here are some of the other things I have ditched:

I don't need to worry about getting dementia anymore.

I can eat anything I want. In fact, that chief hematology nurse has impressed on me more than once that I need to keep my weight up to avoid frailty.

So I can eat all the high calorie, high fat food I want and in fact, she told me not to worry that it may be unhealthy, that the cancer will kill me long before the diet would.

No need to bother to learn the metric system now.

I can stop feeling guilty about not texting. It's just not my thing.

No more major dental work.

I can stop worrying that I am hopelessly behind in keeping up with new music and movies. I have no reason to care now.

Think of all the time that list frees up. If you've got any suggestions of what else I might give up, I'm eager to hear and will consider them all.




Shopping With Terminal Cancer

It's impressive, I've discovered, how a terminal diagnosis simplifies one's life. Today's little change in how I now spend my time was a surprise. It snuck up on me having been in effect for awhile before I realized it.

In fact, it might not even be worth mentioning except that I think it could be one of the ways people in my predicament (and possibly others) begin to disengage from the world around them in increments to be able to leave peaceably when the time comes.

For starters, in the past few weeks I've been clearing out my email subscriptions so that many fewer show up in my inbox.

One category is news and politics. Do I really need four newsletters from The New York Times and an equal number from the Washington Post? Hardly. Headlines are enough.

That applies to 40 or 50 other publications I've now pared down to one email each and unsubscribed altogether from about three-quarters of them that are duplicate points of view.

It was a shock to find out that I had 103 Google Alerts on a variety of political and ageing topics, each one of which dropped an email on me at least weekly and often daily. I certainly didn't read most of them.

I've kept only 11.

Gone too are computer- and internet-related newsletters. I don't need to know that stuff anymore. Also music, TV and movie promotions. I don't spend much time with those now. Besides, I have access to more than enough to keep me entertained.

But the biggest category of email I've dropped is shopping. Undoubtedly you know how that works: every place you ever bought anything online, even once 20 years ago, emails adverts forever and sells your email address to a bunch of other retailers who also email you and sell your address and so on – it piles up over the years.

Worse, retail may be the biggest category of website I've noticed where many do not honor unsubscribe requests. I got fed up trying and now I just label them all junk so they don't land in my inbox.

Here's what I've learned about shopping while terminally ill:

The only things I need to purchase now are food and bathroom tissue. You can quibble over such items as toothpaste but you get the idea: Necessities only. I've never liked shopping in general and now I've lost all interest.

I don't need to buy clothing ever again. Books too, unless wildly compelling; there are already too many unread ones in my house that won't get read before I die.

The computer and related paraphernalia will last until I'm gone. There is no reason now to replace bedding, towels, kitchen equipment, worn furniture, carpeting or any kind of decorative item.

I'm done with all that and happily so while thinking it would have been smart to have applied some of these measures for the past 40 or 50 years. Oh well – too late now.

But wait. My shopping abstinence is not total and I cannot explain why this happened:

Long before my cancer diagnosis – maybe four or five years ago – I saw a rocking chair online I wanted. Then I thought better of it. Until I didn't and I stared at it on my computer screen from time to time. Years went by in this manner.

The rocking chair came to mind again shortly after the doctors told me there is no treatment for my cancer. For reasons I haven't worked out, I still wanted it – strange when your personal sell-by date is imminent - but there you are; we humans are nothing if not inconsistent.

And so it arrived yesterday.

Matilda+Rocking+Chair

And now, having reduced my computer screen time by ridding myself of hundreds of emails a day, I'll have plenty of time to use the rocker of an evening by the fire.




A TGB READER STORY: After Hours

By Mary

My husband turned 78 in the spring and as the weather warmed and the garden burst into bloom he got weaker and weaker. He was a man of great accomplishment.

He was illegitimate, born to a poor orphan who often couldn't take care of him and so would leave him with her older sister. Then she married an angry alcoholic who beat her and her children.

My husband longed for his real father to come save him from his poverty, from his loving but incompetent mother, from his shame at being a bastard, but to this day we don't know if his father even knew he was born.

So my husband battled his circumstances and used his sharp intelligence and his strength of character to drive himself through college and graduate school and into the Senior Executive Service of the Federal government.

But his family history took its toll, and he was a heavy smoker and at times a compulsive eater. After two sons and a divorce, he decided to take a diet drug that ended up damaging one of his heart valves. And so began over 20 years of surgeries and worsening health.

Almost 10 major and minor surgeries and steadily worsening COPD and heart symptoms led to many hospitalizations and even more trips to the emergency department over the years. He started using oxygen all the time. His judgment showed some deterioration.

He refused home health care. He refused to discuss hospice. He hid worsening symptoms from me and his doctors. He developed occasional incontinence. Then he began to fall.

He wouldn't use a cane, much less a walker. "I don't want to look like some poor old guy", he said.

"But you ARE a poor old guy", I replied. He was not amused.

So he fell, and fell, and never hurt himself much until one night he hit his back on a wall on his way down. He had dreadful pain, but wouldn't go to urgent care until over 24 hours later when he just couldn't stand it any more.

We were the last ones in urgent care when they took him to be x-rayed and by then all the offices were closed. I sat in that huge waiting area watching a housekeeper empty trash and wipe off tables in front of the various departments. And I thought about what was coming.

I try not to cry in public. But I put my face in my hands and wept in that empty, echoing room. I tried not to make much noise so the housekeeper wouldn't know, but when she got close to me she said, "Señora, you ok?".

I answered her, saying for the first time, "My husband is dying". A few minutes later a man came by and asked if he could help me. I told him no, my husband was going to die a miserable death from COPD. He said that I was probably right.

My husband and I went home that evening and I tried to help him get comfortable in bed. The doctors would not give him any opiates for the pain of his broken vertebrae because they might adversely affect his breathing.

And so he suffered, and I suffered, and after two more ER visits he ended up in a nursing home, terrified that he would be neglected. But they took very good care of him there, fortunately. And I went to see him twice a day. He never wanted me to stay long.

He had another ER and ICU stay while he was in the nursing home, and then went back. In less than a week he called me saying he had begun to bleed rectally. I told him I would meet him at the ER.

As I stood outside the entrance waiting for him, I heard sirens as they drove up with him. They had never used them on any of his other ambulance trips. I stood aside as they unloaded him and told him I would see him inside.

Ten hours later he was dead.

EDITORIAL NOTE: You are a prolific bunch of writers and there is now a backlog of reader stories to carry us almost to summer. So for awhile, I am not accepting new stories until we work through some of the ones already on the list.




Magic Mushrooms, Cancer and the End of Life – Part 2

[Part 1, a backgrounder on psilocybin – aka magic mushrooms - is here. If you have not done so, I urge you to read that before this post.]

* * *

On the day before Christmas last month, I traveled to the home of a guide who would, the next day, be at my side during the five or six hours of a magic mushroom session.

In the years before I was diagnosed with cancer, I had followed reports of research into psilocybin therapy for terminally ill patients and determined that if I ever found myself in that predicament, I would seek to participate.

And so the predicament came to pass.

By December, I had been searching for a magic mushroom guide for a month or two – not an easy trick as psilocybin is illegal, designated a Schedule 1 drug (along with heroin, LSD, ecstasy, etc.) by the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA).

I had been anticipating having to muck about in the illicit drug market, of which I have no useful knowledge, but the universe smiled on me when out of the blue, an old friend with whom I had never discussed such matters asked if I was interested in end-of-life psychedelics.

How does something like that happen? And at just the right moment? It's a mystery to me but one of several things recently for which I have no explanation.

My friend put me in touch with a guide and after a long and interesting telephone conversation, the guide and I arranged the time and place for my session.

Over dinner, we spent the first evening discussing how the session would work the next day and the guide asked what my goal was, what I wanted to learn during my “trip.”

As I explained then, I was seeking relief from the fear and terrors that has been plaguing me since my terminal diagnosis in early October. I wanted to find acceptance of death as a normal part of life, gain some peace with the inevitable along with, if possible, some insight to the meaning of life and death.

The next morning, I ingested a measured amount of dried, crushed psilocybin mushrooms mixed with a small amount of ice cream and we moved into a large, beautiful, serene room overlooking a woods in which the background music the guide had selected seemed to me to be just right.

And here is where I get into trouble trying to tell you about what happened over the next five or six hours. It is impossible to do that without sounding like a hippie dippy doofus out of the 1960s.

Fortunately for me, I am not alone. The man who wrote How to Change Your Mind, last year's best-selling book on psychedelics, Michael Pollan, had the same difficulty, as he explained in an article in The New York Times a couple of weeks ago. Some excerpts:

”William James famously wrote that mystical experience — perhaps the closest analogue we have of a psychedelic trip — is 'ineffable': beyond the reach of language. I couldn’t count on a common frame of reference, since not all of my readers would be familiar with the exotic psychic terrain onto which I wanted to take them...”
“Taking notes during my journeys proved futile. I couldn’t summon the will, and the very effort seemed like a violation of my guides’ first commandment, which was to surrender to the experience.

“So instead I asked them to write down anything I might say. This yielded a handful of mostly useless notes, consisting of vague superlatives like 'Spectacular!' or gnomic utterances like 'I don’t want to be so stingy with my feelings.'”
”What do you do with an insight like 'love is everything'? I wondered aloud. 'Is a platitude so deeply felt still just a platitude?' No, I decided: 'A platitude is precisely what is left of a truth after it has been drained of all emotion. To resaturate that dried husk with feeling is to see it again for what it is: the loveliest and most deeply rooted of truths, hidden in plain sight.'”

I quoted all that so you won't think I am too much of a hippie dippy doofus – or, at least, not the only one. (There is an excellent interview with Michael Pollan about a lot of this at Fresh Air With Terry Gross.)

A portion of my trip – though I have no idea of the length of time, long or short - involved many doors into empty white rooms. It wasn't entirely that but I don't remember visuals so much as impressions and feelings and maybe some insights to my life.

There were moments of supreme beauty for which I have no words and a strong sense of wellbeing, of connectedness to all living beings and to the universe.

After passing through many doors, I came to one that seemed identical to the others but when I walked through it, a strong sense of peace and contentment enfolded me, and an understanding that dying and living are inseparable; that there is nothing to fear.

And that's the best I can do to tell you what happened.

The next morning, the guide took me through a period of integration guessing correctly that I, being who I am, would be prone to dismiss my experience as not real.

She brought me around to believing otherwise and I have been able to hang on not just to the sense of connection, but to the sense that dying is as normal as living – that they are the same.

So far, since returning home, I have not had any of the terror attacks I'd experienced before the magic mushroom session.

And none of that even begins to explain what happened to me with my guide that day.

Caroline Dorsen, an assistant professor at NYU Rory Meyers School of Nursing, in an interview last June had this to say about her research into guided psychedelic sessions. There is, she says,

”...an underground — and understudied — community of people...helping others to use plant-based hallucinogenic drugs. In guided sessions or ceremonies, facilitators administer drugs like ayahuasca or psilocybin to people looking to alter their consciousness and improve their mental health...

“...plant medicine use is all about facing life’s difficulties in a safe and supportive environment. Used in the context of community and ritual, ingestion of plant medicines (like ayahuasca and psilocybin mushrooms) is seen as a powerful healing modality.

“Ingestion of these plants is taken very seriously and the ability to use them is seen as a privilege.”

Yes. I consider my psilocybin session to be an extraordinary privilege that has redirected my end-of-life journey onto paths I could not have found on my own or without my guide. I am deeply grateful to the universe for dropping this experience into my lap when I had no idea where to turn, and I am exploring a whole new set of assumptions now about living and dying.

There is more than a bit of the sacred about this.




ELDER MUSIC: Classical Predilections 1

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

* * *

According to my dictionary (the Macquarie – the official dictionary of Australian English), predilection means a predisposition of mind in favour of something; a partially. That’s how I feel about this music.

Here is a nice sprightly way to start your day, and with, what is generally considered an “unsung” concerto. We’ll rectify that by singing it. The composition was written by JOHANN MATTHIAS SPERGER.

Sperger

Jo was considered quite a virtuoso and he often played the lead instrument during performances of his own works. It didn’t matter which instrument, he’d play it. Not only that, his works require great technical skill yet they remain cheerful and jubilant in character and temperament.

So, up on your toes and dance around to his Horn Concerto in E flat major, the third movement.

♫ Sperger - Horn Concerto in E flat major (3)


Some days I like to put on Gregorian Chants and let the sublime music waft over me as I read a book. I did that today and thought I’d share it with you - well not the whole CD, but some of it.

The term Gregorian Chants is often used to cover a wide range of early music to which it often doesn’t apply. In this case the term is correct. The music is from an album called “L'Arbre De Jesse” (The tree of Jesse), purportedly showing the family tree of Jesus. The track I’ve chosen is Sequencia sancti evangelii secundum Lucam. Sit back and let it wash over you.

♫ Sequencia sancti evangelii secundum Lucam


Although ANTONIO BRUNI was born and died in Italy, he spent much of his life in France.

Bruni

This was around the time of the French Revolution where he was appointed a Commissioner of Arts. One of his duties was to make a catalogue of all the musical instruments found in various noble households.

Among them it was noted that there were six hurdy-gurdies. That has nothing to do with his music today, I just found it interesting.

Besides listing instruments Tony was a bit of a composer, which is why he’s present today. He must have been a bit of an obsessive, because apart from a couple of compositions, everything else was in sets of six. From the viola sonatas here is the third movement of his Viola Sonata in E-flat major, Op. 27 No. 4.

♫ Bruni - Viola Sonata in E-flat major Op. 27 No. 4 (3)


JOSEPHA AUERNHAMMER had a couple of music teachers before she became one of Mozart’s earliest pupils.

Josepha Auernhammer

Mozart was taken with her piano playing and he also dedicated a couple of his own compositions to her. Besides composing and playing music she also worked for a publishing company (which may be why we know so much of her music).

One of those is her 6 Variations on an Hungarian theme. These are short pieces so I’ve included two of them. First the theme.

♫ Auernhammer - Theme


...and Variation 1...

♫ Auernhammer - Variation 1


Not a great deal is known about JOSEPH AUFFMANN. We also don’t have a picture of him. We know that he was a German composer and organist and once held the post Kapellmeister to the Prince-Archbishop of Kempten-Allgäu for seven years. He ended his days in Switzerland.

Few of his compositions are known but one that is is the Sinfonia in D major. This is the second movement.

♫ Auffmann - Sinfonia in D major (2)


You can’t beat a J.S. BACH cantata.

Bach-JS

This one tells you to wake up. It’s known in English as “Sleepers Awake”, and it’s one of his best known. I suppose it’s wise to wake up or you’d miss it entirely.

This is the first movement Coro Wachet auf, ruft uns die Stimme – the famous bit.

♫ Bach JS - Cantata BWV 140 ~ Coro Wachet auf ruft uns die Stimme


Keeping it in the family here is J.S.’s oldest son WILHELM FRIEDEMANN BACH.

Bach-WF

He was well trained in music, not just from his father but several other of the best musicians of the era. In spite of being acknowledged as one of the finest organists, composers and improvisers of his time he ended up in poverty, unable to secure a position.

Here is something from before things went awry for him, the third movement of his Symphony for Strings in F major.

♫ Bach WF - Sinfonia In F Major (3)


MARIE JAËLL was a French composer, pianist and teacher.

Marie Jaëll

She was born Marie Trautmann and married Alfred Jaëll, who was already an established concert pianist. It was through him that she met many musicians of the era, including Franz Liszt who described her as having “the brains of a philosopher and the fingers of an artist”.

Husband and wife often appeared together playing piano throughout Europe. Later, after tendonitis put paid to her performing career she took up writing about music and teaching. One of her pupils was Albert Schweitzer. This is the third movement of her Cello Concerto in F major.

♫ Jaëll - Cello Concerto in F major (3)


I’ll end with a shimmeringly gorgeous piece of music, and it will be no surprise to learn it was written by WOLFGANG MOZART.

Mozart

It’s the second movement of the Sonata for Piano Four Hands in D Major, K381. That means that two people sit at the one piano and try not to get tangled up.

The twenty fingers plinking away at the ivories belong to about the best in the business, DANIEL BARENBOIM and LANG LANG.

DanielBarenboim&LangLang1

Mozart - Sonata for Piano Four Hands in D Major (2)




INTERESTING STUFF – 5 January 2019

THIS IS SO SWEET

The Daily Show host, Trevor Noah, talks about his 90-year-old grandmother who lives in South Africa. It is lovely.

ONE MORE CHRISTMAS THING

Because I might not be here next year to include it, let's do this one more Christmas video - it's too good to miss. Posted to YouTube in 2015, it was

”A special holiday musical presentation from Union Station in Washington, DC celebrating the service and sacrifices of our nation's World War II veterans and commemorating the 70th anniversary of the end of the war.

“Featuring The USAF Band, Washington DC, an extraordinary dance troup from NYC (choreographed by Jessica Hartman), and a cameo appearance by Secretary of the Air Force Deborah Lee James.”

Thank Darlene Costner for sending it.

A RIDE IN A WW2 FLYING FORTRESS

Speaking of World War II, reader Mage Bailey sent this video of a ride in a Flying Fortress. Yes, I know it looks like a long video but actual take-off doesn't occur until about nine minutes in so you can scroll ahead if you want to skip the leadup.

50 TIMES CATS CRACKED US UP

...or made us say “awww.” Fifty photographs of cats doing the funny and cute things they do. Here is a taste:

LiquidCat

GangstaKitten

These are from Bored Panda where there are 48 more kitty photo to entertain you.

FOR ALL THE WONDERFUL OLD MEN I KNOW

TGB reader Joared who blogs at Along The Way, sent this song by the inimitable Nancy Wilson: An Older Man is Like an Elegant Wine. Lyric is the below the video:

Some things are worth waiting for
Some things improve with age
Like a vintage wine, growing mellow and fine
As you let it reach the proper stage
Well, wine is not alone in getting better with the years
A man is at his greatest when he's graying 'round the ears

Chorus:
Yes, an older man is like an elegant wine
He's had the time to mellow and refine
A youth, I'd say, is a Beaujolais
Attractive but light
While a man who's mature has the powerful allure
Of a robust Bordeaux, with a sumptuous glow

That's why the man whom I would like to call mine
Will be an older man, who's like an elegant wine
He'll be strong but sweet, just right to soothe my troubles away
And he'll warm like the glow that you feel head to toe
When you savor the sock of a grand Armagnac

That's why the man with whom I'd like to combine
Will be an older man who's like an elegant wine
And when I need him, I'll enchant him
Hug him, kiss him and decant him

Every night when we're home
And it's time for us to dine
There'll be that beautiful older man
Who's like an elegant wine

FACING FINITUDE

TGB reader Sulima sent this quotation from Maria Popova's miraculously wonderful Brain Pickings blog quoting her friend, Emily Levine:

”More than a century after James, Rilke, and Dickinson, a different Emily — the pathbreaking comedian, philosopher, steward of poetry, and my beloved friend — offers a brilliant, funny, bittersweet, largehearted meditation on the existential art of befriending our finitude as she faces her own terminal illness:

“'We don’t live in Newton’s clockwork universe anymore — we live in a banana peel universe, and we won’t ever be able to know everything, or control everything, or predict everything...

“'I love being in sync with the cyclical rhythms of the universe. That’s what’s so extraordinary about life — it’s a cycle of generation, degeneration, regeneration.

“'I am just a collection of particles that is arranged into this pattern, then will decompose and be available, all of its constituent parts, to nature, to reorganize into another pattern. To me, that is so exciting, and it makes me even more grateful to be part of that process.'”

POLAR BEARS AND THE BLIZZARD CAM

Can Blizzard Cam save itself from the curiosity of three teenage polar bears?

”In a fascinating clip from the BBC show Spy in the Snow, a trio of teenage polar bears kick a snowball shaped camera around in between playful bouts of fighting. The snowball cam was purposely left behind by the larger and much faster blizzard cam as a decoy.”

FAST TALKING GUY

The YouTube page tells us:

”If you were a kid in the ‘80s, you might recognize this man, or, at least, you’ll recognize his velocity of speech. John Moschitta Jr.’s motormouth dominated the airwaves with stints as the fast-talking FedEx guy, Mr. Testaverde on Saved by the Bell and the infamous Micro Machines Man.

“With the ability to say up to 11 words per second, Moschitta broke the world record and made a career out of his dizzying cadence. The Guinness-certified speed talker sat down to give us the whole scoop on his life in fast lane. Now, try to keep up. “

TWO DOGS AND AN OTTER AT PLAY

I'm pretty sure I've posted this video in the past but I had just as much fun with it the second time around. Too bad the dogs' owner didn't shut up and let them have fun playing tag and getting to know the otter.

* * *

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.




Magic Mushrooms, Cancer and the End of Life – Part 1

As you might imagine, a diagnosis of terminal cancer can and does produce high levels of depression and/or anxiety in a large number of patients. Not to mention freaking, mind-bending fear.

I have, over the past two months or so, had debilitating attacks of dread that seem to rattle every cell in my body and leave me terrified.

Such responses are so well-known that for some time now there have been research scientists who are working to find ways to relieve these fears and anxieties.

A few years before this cancer predicament presented itself in my life in 2017, I began tracking reports of these studies. Most of them involve a person's ingestion of psilocybin, known colloquially as magic mushrooms.

You might recall that psilocybin, along with marijuana, mescalin and a few other hallucinogens, are among the substances many of our generation who were interested in altering our consciousnesses experimented with in the druggie 1960s.

Besides smoking pot regularly, I took three acid (LSD) trips back in those days. They were fascinating.

One of the most well-known, recent psilocybin studies took place at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine in Baltimore, Maryland. From the medical journal report's introduction (emphasis mine throughout this post):

”Cancer patients often develop a chronic, clinically significant syndrome of psychosocial distress having depressed mood, anxiety, and reduced quality of life as core features...In cancer patients, depression and anxiety have been associated with decreased treatment adherence...prolonged hospitalization...decreased quality of life...and increased suicidality...

And from the conclusion:

”The data show that psilocybin produced large and significant decreases in clinician-rated and self-rated measures of depression, anxiety or mood disturbance, and increases in measures of quality of life, life meaning, death acceptance, and optimism.

“These effects were sustained at 6 months. For the clinician-rated measures of depression and anxiety, respectively, the overall rate of clinical response at 6 months was 78% and 83% and the overall rate of symptom remission was 65% and 57%.

“Participants attributed to the high-dose experience positive changes in attitudes about life, self, mood, relationships and spirituality, with over 80% endorsing moderately or higher increased well-being or life satisfaction.

“These positive effects were reflected in significant corresponding changes in ratings by community observers (friends, family, work colleagues) of participant attitudes and behavior.”

If you have a tolerance for charts, statistics and scientific jargon, you can read the entire report here.

Another cancer-psilocybin study at New York University (NYU) concluded that a

”...single moderate-dose psilocybin (in conjunction with psychotherapy) was safely administered to a cohort of patients with cancer-related psychological distress (e.g. anxiety, depression).

“It produced rapid and sustained anxiolytic and anti-depressant effects (for at least 7 weeks but potentially as long as 8 months), decreased cancer-related existential distress, increased spiritual wellbeing and quality of life, and was associated with improved attitudes towards death.

You can read this entire report here (with similar statistics, charts and jargon as the Hopkins study). There have been and are ongoing other studies producing remarkably similar results.

Something big is going on with psilocybin. You may have heard of or even read Michael Pollan's 2018 book, How to Change Your Mind, about what he calls the “new science of psychedelics.” I don't want to bury you in long quotations, but here is part of his response to his psilocybin research, having also tripped on it himself:

In a follow-up to the NYU study, Pollan reports,

”A few key themes emerged. All of the patients interviewed described powerful feelings of connection to loved ones...and, more generally, a shift 'from feelings of separateness to interconnectedness.'

“In most cases, this shift was accompanied by a repertoire of powerful emotions including 'exalted feelings of joy, bliss, and love.' Difficult passages during the journey were typically followed by positive feelings of surrender and acceptance (even of their cancers) as people's fears fell away.

With evidence of such positive results piling up, you wonder why psilocybin is not made available to terminally ill cancer and other patients. The reason is that the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) lists it as a Schedule 1 drug: no prescriptions may be written and limited use is allowed for study.

That may be changing. Efforts are underway in Oregon and Denver to decriminalize magic mushrooms:

”Advocates with the Oregon Psilocybin Society received formal approval last week to move ahead with their language for a 2020 state ballot initiative that would reduce criminal penalties on psilocybin and allow for its use during 'guided sessions' at state-licensed facilities,” reports Vice News.

“Decriminalization efforts have moved a little further in Denver, where advocates have already started gathering signatures to put an initiative of their own on the municipal ballot in May 2019 that would decriminalize personal use, possession, and growth at the local level.”

Okay. Now you've got some background on magic mushrooms. Part 2 is here.




A TGB EXTRA: The Alex and Ronni Show

Yesterday, my former husband, Alex Bennett, and I sat down for our first Skype chat of the new year. Just two old friends who've known one another for about 60 years catching up with what's going on in our lives.

If you would like to see Alex's entire two-hour show with other guests following our chat, you can do that at Facebook or Gabnet on Facebook or on YouTube.




A TGB READER STORY: Market Dynamics

By Jack Handley - Diplomate, Curmudgeonology

I live in a small town facing a big river. Until the middle of the last century it had been a busy river port for timber schooners and barges carrying hay, grain, fruit and produce downriver from Sacramento to the big cities of Oakland and San Francisco.

It has escaped total dereliction only by also being the county seat. It's a fine, old American small town with alleys, vacant lots, an operating train station and barking backyard dogs.

It is also graced with a farmers' market held on blocked-off Main Street every Sunday (year-round, this being the West Coast).

I walk the town nearly every day and one Sunday several weeks ago while zigzagging between the double rows of market booths, I witnessed this interaction at a fruit stand. I suppose it was an exchange, of sorts. But not nearly a transaction, of sorts:

Old man: “I'd like a pound of the sweet peaches, please.”

Booth lady: “You choose them.” She points to the tray, and ducks down below the market scale to attend to something beneath it.

Old man stares at where she'd been standing. Looks at market scale. Looks at peaches, then walks off.

The booth lady rises into view, looks after retreating old man, then turns to her booth partner and mouthed, “Crazy old geezer.”

Me: “I suppose he wanted to buy some peaches.”

Booth lady: “Well, why didn't he, then?”

Me: “I mean, I suppose he wanted you to sell him some peaches.”

She stares at me. “Say what?”

Me: “Sell, sell. He was expecting you to sell him a pound of peaches. Like weigh out a pound of peaches and exchange them for his money.”

Booth lady: “This is a booth. You pick what you want — it's your choice, that's the idea — and put them in a plastic bag. I weigh the bag to find out how much, you pay, I hand you the bag, done, yes?” (pause) “I guess he was confused.”

Me: “I think he was just trying to simplify things. He wanted a pound of peaches, perhaps he only had two dollars, anyway the scale's on your side, so he can't weigh out a pound, he doesn't know how many peaches to a pound. So he thinks that, rather than put a bunch of peaches in a bag and hand them to you, and you weigh it and take out some, and then hand him the bag and take his two dollars, he'll just give you the bills and ask you to put two dollars-worth in the bag. Done.”

Booth lady: “Are you pulling my chain?”

Me: “No. Look. You go to France. You visit a local market square. You see a pile of nice peaches in a stall and decide to get a few to taste, not too many. You don't know French, you don't know a Euro from a franc, so you point to the peaches and hand the seller a one Euro note.

“He weighs out a Euro's worth, puts them in a plastic bag and hands it to you. See? Easy. No hassle.”

She rolls her eyes and makes a face to her partner. She turns back to me. “This ain't France.”

I walk away. I feel foolish. I sense her mouthing, “Crazy old geezer!”

* * *

EDITORIAL NOTE: You are a prolific bunch of writers and there is now a backlog of reader stories to carry us almost to summer. So for awhile, I am not accepting new stories until we work through some of the ones already on the list.