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The Alex and Ronni Show and Some New Old Photos

Here is the most recent Alex and Ronni Show.

In the video above, Alex and I recall a midnight supper with counterculture satirist Paul Krassner who died last week. Not long after that meal, a friend from Alex's and my time in Houston in the mid-1960s came to visit us in New York City.

Karen Hirschfeld Hendley's parents became good friends and in 1970, and she – a teenager by then - flew to New York to visit us for awhile. Just last week, she tracked down these photos of me she took during her time in the Big Apple.




My god, to me now, I look impossibly young, although I was 29 that year. It's fun to have these photos after 49 years. Yes, I'm smoking a cigarette in the first photo and that's Shabbas the cat in the third photo.)

A TGB READER STORY: Minding My Own Business

By Fritzy Dean

I was meeting a friend for lunch and I was early so I decided to stop for a cup of coffee. The McDonald’s was crowded but it was on my way and I did find a place to sit - a small booth near the front door.

I was reading on my Kindle, minding my own business when a voice said, “Want some company?” Before I could say, “Not really”, a tiny neatly dressed woman sat down across from me.

She started by telling me that this was her regular seat. I understand that feeling of ownership. We humans love to claim our territory, so I smiled. I may have asked her if she lived nearby but I don’t remember saying much after that. This lady was a prolific talker.

Here are some of the things I learned:

She was 90 years old. (I was surprised. at that.)

She intended to go back home and iron. She HAD to iron because she could only wear cotton, everything else made her skin break out.

She did not like the “new fangled” clothes with a hem dipping down on one side and “hiking up on the other. OOPs, she will have an opinion when I stand up.)

She had to buy her clothes at thrift shops because cotton things are hard to find, and she had to iron because cotton wrinkles real bad.

She knows she is almost the last ironer left.

But she has to look presentable because she is a volunteer. (I tried to murmur “Good for you”, but I don’t think she heard.)

She has met all THE BIG SHOTS because of her volunteering.

She mentioned a local business man who does TV commercials, and that woman who used to be our mayor, (we have had two women mayors, but I never learned which one she met), the business man again and “ALL them big shots.”

She volunteers at “a place over on Fulton,” and teaches crocheting - mostly Mexican ladies, but they can learn. They catch on real quick, because she is a good teacher.

Then she goes to a senior center and volunteers to teach crafts. And she’s member of The Eagles, but she doesn’t attend very often any more 'cause all they want is her money. They money her to death.

Just like the ambulance people. She had to call the ambulance to take her to the hospital; she felt she was dying, but the doctors said it was bronchitis. When she got the bill for the ambulance ride it was $1,000!

She told them she could not pay that; she is on fixed income. They said she could pay $30.00 a month and she said, “no, she couldn’t” and they can harass her all they want to but you can’t get blood from a turnip.

And besides, she has called the City of Houston many times to tell them they need to get rid of the standing water on Heights Boulevard, right where she gets off the bus and that water is still there.

She rides the bus anywhere she wants to go; it’s free, you know, because she is 90 years old. One of the perks of getting old.

I had finished my coffee and I got up to leave. As I did, she got up, too, and moved to the other side of the table. Seems like I was sitting in her place, all along.

I kept thinking about the woman and the experience all that day. I had a mixed bag of impressions. I was really aware that at 90 she is sharp, lives alone, takes care of herself, seems to keep herself active.

I also felt she is lonely (she captured a total stranger to talk to), she worries about money and she has no one to call when she needs help - except 911.

I see her as an example of the best and the worst aspects of aging in America in the 21st century. Parts of me are inspired by her and want to emulate her. Parts of me are profoundly grateful I don’t have to. Getting old sure ain’t for sissies.

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

This Week in TGB Land

I have more obligations than usual over the next several days so I'm taking some time off from the blog.

This, what you are reading now, is today's post. There will be a Tuesday Reader Story and on Wednesday, a short post with more pictures than words.

Publishing will resume to normal beginning with Saturday's Interesting Stuff.

I could just leave the days blank that I don't publish but given my cancer diagnosis that has been going on now for two years, I don't want to scare any readers by just disappearing. So when I do take time off, I'll let you know.

Just so you're not left completely empty-handed on a Monday morning, here is something sweet and comforting to clear your palette of last week's disgusting behavior in certain quarters of the federal government.

Raymond Crowe is an Australian entertainer described as a mime artist, magician and cabaret performer. His act also includes shadow play using only his hands and arms. This one is a tribute to Louis Armstrong from about 10 years ago:

ELDER MUSIC: Goffin and King

Goffin & King

GERRY GOFFIN AND CAROLE KING were one of the most successful song writing teams of the fifties and sixties. They managed to get more than 100 of their songs on the Billboard Top 100, which isn’t a bad effort in anyone’s language.

Carol Klein went to school with (later) fellow songwriter Neil Sedaka. They were a bit of an item for a while and he wrote his first hit, Oh Carol for her. Later she wrote an amusing answer song called, Oh Neil.

She began using the nom de plume Carole King and met budding songwriter Gerry Goffin in college. They started writing songs together and were soon married and became fixtures at the famous Brill Building, song-writing central in New York at the time. These are just a few of their songs, some of which I was surprised that they wrote.

THE BYRDS performed two Goffin and King songs on their album “The Notorious Byrd Brothers”.


Both songs appear today, the second below by a different artist. When you talk about rock and roll harmony singing, there’s none better than The Byrds. This is a prime example, Goin' Back.

♫ The Byrds - Goin' Back

THE SHIRELLES don’t seem to be spoken of in the same league as The Supremes and The Ronettes, which is a real shame as I think they are up there with the best.


Apparently they had several hits before I noticed them with the song we have today. Will You Love Me Tomorrow reached number 1 pretty much everywhere that had hit parades.

It was ranked as the number 1 song of 1962. As a trivial aside, the flip side of the record was the song Boys, recorded by The Beatles a couple of years later.

♫ Shirelles - Will You Love Me Tomorrow

GENE MCDANIELS was a jazz singer who became successful singing a bunch of non-jazz songs.

Gene McDaniels

I didn’t know this at the time; I just thought he was a terrific singer. I hope his success meant that he was set up so he could do what he wanted to do. Getting back to those pop songs that hit the top of the charts, one of them was Point of No Return, written by our couple today, of course.

♫ Gene McDaniels - Point of No Return

I can’t think of any group from the late fifties, early sixties who were as good as THE DRIFTERS.


Particularly during the rather short period when Ben E. King was singing lead for them, and incidentally writing songs for which he didn’t receive credit. They sang our couple’s songs as well, one of which is Up on the Roof.

♫ Drifters - Up On The Roof

Here is the other song, mentioned above, that was performed by The Byrds. I have to admit that I prefer The Byrds’ version, but DUSTY SPRINGFIELD does it pretty well too.

Dusty Springfield

Dusty was born Mary O’Brien and she first came to my notice as part of a folk group with her brother Dionysius O’Brien, who took the name Tom Springfield. They were joined by Tim Field initially, and later Mike Hurst and called themselves The Springfields. Dusty left and became a successful solo artist. One of her songs from that career is Wasn't Born to Follow.

♫ Dusty Springfield - Wasn't Born To Follow

BOBBY VEE was the recipient of quite a few of Gerry and Carole’s songs.

Bobby Vee

Bobby has always been lumped in with the early sixties pretty boy singers who were created by opportunistic record companies. I think he has more substance than he’s been given credit for. He mostly didn’t write his songs, but he was an astute chooser of them. One such is Take Good Care Of My Baby, a big hit for him.

♫ Bobby Vee - Take Good Care Of My Baby

Eva Boyd was a babysitter for Gerry and Carole. They had seen her dancing around and singing while performing her tasks and wrote a song for her. Friends of theirs said that was a really bad idea because while good singers are rather easy to come by, good babysitters are worth their weight in gold.

In spite of this advice, they went ahead anyway. The song was The Loco-Motion, and Eva recorded it under the name LITTLE EVA.

Little Eva

The song was later also recorded by Kylie Minogue, but Eva’s version is far superior to Kylie’s. Sorry Kylie.

♫ Little Eva - The Loco-Motion

Even when this next song was around, I thought that it was a bit creepy. After all these years I haven’t changed my opinion. You may be surprised to learn that the singer is STEVE LAWRENCE.

Steve Lawrence

Yes, he of Steve and Eydie fame. The song is Go Away Little Girl which sounds pretty good until you listen to the words. It was first recorded by Bobby Vee, which would make it slightly less creepy. Donny Osmond had a go at it later too. He’d have been about the right age.

♫ Steve Lawrence - Go Away Little Girl

Perhaps the song of which Carole and Gerry are most proud is (You Make Me Feel Like) A Natural Woman. That’s almost certainly because ARETHA FRANKLIN recorded it.

Aretha Franklin

Aretha nailed it and turned it into one of the finest records of the twentieth century. Nothing more needs to be said, here it is.

♫ Aretha Franklin - (You Make Me Feel Like) A Natural Woman

THE MONKEES don’t get any respect from critics of popular music.


We know they were created by nefarious TV executives to cash in on the success of The Beatles. However, at least three of them were good musicians before they came together. They grew in that role to become quite a decent band in their own right.

Before that happened, they were given songs to perform from established song writers. One of those from our couple is Pleasant Valley Sunday.

♫ Monkees - Pleasant Valley Sunday

I imagine that pretty much everyone reading this knows that CAROLE KING herself recorded an album called “Tapestry”.

Carole King

This was hugely successful, one of the biggest selling albums of all time. Possibly as a result of that, she went on to have a career as a singer/songwriter (she and Gerry were divorced by then). However, before that, way back in 1962, she recorded a song that became a big hit for her.

Again, Bobby Vee first recorded it, and the record company was a bit dubious about releasing Carole’s version as she only recorded it as a demo for other artists. Don Kirshner (later producer of The Monkees) really liked it and had it released. The song is It Might As Well Rain Until September.

♫ Carole King - It Might As Well Rain Until September



Because I raised no children, the TV show, Mr. Rogers' Neighborhood, wasn't much on my radar but I watched it now and again. It was broadcast from 1968 to 2001.

Even in the earliest days of the show, I thought Mr. Rogers was an anachronism, a gentle, kindly, loving presence in the midst of a much cruder world. It felt to me that he was of another time and certainly moreso now.

His show was popular, won numerous awards and Mr. Rogers himself was named one of the 50 Greatest TV Stars of All Time by TV Guide.

Now there is an upcoming feature film about Mr. Rogers who is played by Tom Hanks. Is that perfect casting, or what? Here's the trailer for the movie:


In 1987, there were only 22 wild condors left in North America. Conservationists and others stepped in to try to save the birds, breeding them in captivity and in May, they recorded the 1,000th chick born of this project.

Here is a short documentary (8 minutes or so) about the recovery of the California condor made by the Oregon Zoo and released five years ago. It's a good history of the work these did and others continue to do.

You can read more at the Washington Post.


Early last week, I received by mail the new book by the great historian, Robert Caro, titled Working.

I had read several reviews and the book came up in conversations with a number of people via email. I was thinking over whether to order it or not – there are already too many books here - then a British copy arrived via a bookseller affiliated with Amazon.

But – big but – there is no card telling me who is being so generous and the two people I actually recall emailing with about the book say they did not send it. Both the seller and Amazon, when I called, refused to tell me who sent it. Privacy issues, apparently.

So if you're reading this and you are the one who sent it, 'fess up please. I would like to send you a thank-you note.


That headline is not a joke. A man built a flotation device that operates as a sort-of wheelchair for a goldfish. The video explains:

There is more about this at Bored Panda.


We all know that Australia has some strange and scary animals but mostly we see the cuter ones – koalas, wombats, etc. Bored Panda published a whole bunch of photos of the awful kind of Australian animals. Here's a sample:




Peter Tibbles, who writes the Sunday music column here and lives in Melbourne, tells me he hasn't run into many of the scary animals. You can see a lot more of them at Bored Panda.


I may have posted this video a year or two ago but it has become more pertinent every day. This is one teacher's struggle to teach a young student and his parents the solution to a simple math problem everyone should know.

As the YouTube page asks: “See if the school and parental beliefs and attitudes remind you of someone.”


Here is an extraordinary adventure story, not in the good sense, about a U.S. Marine Corp pilot, William Rankin, who was forced to eject from his F8 Crusader 47,000 feet above Earth.

”He had a very bad day that summer of 1959 by any pilot’s standard as not only did his engine fail but his parachute deployed in the middle of the thunder storm.”


I know I've seen this before but can't recall if I posted it. YouTube tells us:

”When a gust of wind blew a feather-light canoe away from the gravel bar and into the river, two dogs ran and jumped inside it. Labs will retrieve anything, but what's amazing here is that one of the dogs in the canoe takes the rope and places it over the side and into the water for the Labrador to grab ahold of.”

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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.

Decoding Medical Bills

Medicare does a decent job of making their statements of what Medicare paid, what the a patient's supplemental coverage paid and what the patient him/herself may be billed. But that's mostly for people who are 65 and older.

I know that a lot of TGB readers haven't yet reached Medicare age and that non-Medicare medical bills can be nearly impossible to decipher. Now there is some help.

It's called Your Go-To Guide to Decode Medical Bills, a project of NPR and Kaiser Health News to create the “Bill of the Month”. It is

”...a crowdsourced investigative series in which we dissect and explain medical bills you send us. We have received nearly 2,000 submissions of outrageous and confusing medical bills from across the country.

“Each month we select one bill to thoroughly investigate, often resulting in the bill being resolved soon after the story is published.”

The fact that KHN/NPR can't possibly explain all the bills they receive led to this helpful series – a user-friendly toolkit, as they put it – to help patients understand “some of the ins and outs of medical billing.”

The first section of the most recent “Bill of the Month” contains checklists for what to do before seeking medical care; how to use an itemized bill; common mistakes that might be on your bill; and more.


There is also a glossary section with definitions of old familiars like copay. Some of them I'd never heard of such as Chargemaster, and apparently there is a difference between outpatient services and outpatient clinic. All explained in non-medical terms so people like me can understand.

You can find this latest in the free series at Kaiser Health News.

On Wednesday, Reuters reported that President Trump is considering an executive order

”...that would cut prices on virtually all branded prescription drugs sold to Medicare and other government programs, according to two industry sources who had discussions with the White House.
”The White House declined to comment,” reports Reuters, “and it was unclear how far along the any such plan was from being undertaken. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, also declined to comment.

“Americans pay the highest prices for prescription drugs in the world as most other developed nations have single-payer systems in which the government negotiates drug prices for its people.”

Since we have learned that the president changes his mind from hour to hour and even, sometimes denies having said things we all saw him say on the video tape, there is no way to tell how real this is. You can read more at Reuters.

M*A*S*H in Old Age

You may think a 40-odd-year-old TV show has nothing to do with growing old. I would have said that too until I took a new look at M*A*S*H, as a 78-year-old. Let me explain.

Before I settle down to sleep, I have now and then been watching a rerun of the 1970's sitcom M*A*S*H. They're short, 30 minutes, just the right length to take me out of the concerns of my day before falling off into limbo until morning.

The show had been a favorite when it was first broadcast way back when (1972-1983) and it is no less so now. It's great fun watching Hawkeye, BJ, Hot Lips, Klinger, Radar, Frank Burns, Trapper and all the rest of the cast again. Not to mention some of the best writing in the history of television.

Until this new viewing, I had not realized how much I identified – and still do - with Hawkeye.

The show specialized in my kind of gallows humor, and I don't get tired of Hawkeye's and Klinger's efforts to escape the horrors of a war neither of them believe in while tending to the often gruesome medical needs of the wounded and dying young soldiers.

The reason I'm writing about a TV show that's nearly half a century old is that it struck me a week or two ago that there is not much daylight between Hawkeye and me. Klinger too.

We each find ourselves in an impossible predicament over which we have little control and is likely to kill us at any time. North Korean bombs in the case of Hawkeye; a nasty disease in mine.

Of course, anyone's instinct is to get out of the way as fast as possible but both of us are trapped having to make the best of that predicament. Hawkeye resorts to women, pranks, mordant jokes, his beloved martinis conjured from homemade gin in the tent he shares with BJ along with a strong sense of decency and compassion.

My defenses include never pretending that my disease won't kill me, doing my best to follow my doctors' instructions, keeping myself honest about the cancer by writing about it here, some mordant jokes along with a strong sense of moral outrage aimed at the current U.S. administration.

What struck me a few nights ago after watching a M*A*S*H episode is that the sitcom is an excellent course in coping with dread in the face of Hawkeye's and my individual predicaments.

It is easy with a diagnosis of terminal cancer to feel despair, wishing even that the wait for the end be over soon. But after watching M*A*S*H, which I do two or three times a week, I feel empowered to persevere, that there are people I love I want to spend more time with, books to read and this blog where you, dear readers, allow me to hold forth on whatever crazy ideas I have.

No matter how discouraged Hawkeye and his M*A*S*H cohorts become, they rely on each other to keep going in frightening circumstances and do you think the writers and actors imagined that even 50 years later, they could inspire me to do the same in my own predicament.

Or, maybe you already know this and I am just a very slow learner.

As I was winding up writing this, I checked the web to see if anyone else had ever found such inspiration in the show. Lo, on exactly this day one year ago, Howard Fishman, writing in The New Yorker (how did I, a lifelong subscriber, miss it), was a year ahead of me.

The piece is titled, “What M*A*S*H Taught Us” and Fishman concludes:
“In 1968, the notion that our true enemy could be the callousness, hypocrisy, and small-minded ignorance of our own leaders was fashionable. Fifty years later, it’s become evergreen.”

Let's end with a fine monologue from Hawkeye, a eulogy when a nurse is killed by a landmine following a date with him, that is more explicit about the show's goals beyond exquisitely rendered entertainment.

A TGB READER STORY: Aaah, the Good Old Days

By Melissa Martin

I think that’s why some people like antique stores, flea markets, auctions, yard sales and eBay. Items from the past are attached to memories. We remember happy holidays along with what food was served, hairstyles and clothes of the era, television programs and music. Some hanker for the good old days.

The good old days had bad old days as well. Some memories are probably not accurate and are based on how each person remembers it.

But individual perception becomes our reality. It seems easy to remember only the good parts of the past and forget about the challenges and struggles. Just like the times we live in now, good days and bad days and in-between days. Each generation looks back on their good old days.

Some like to look back and reminisce about the good old days and others do not. “I don't do nostalgia. The phrase 'the good old days' never passes my lips,” writes Nicholas Haslam.

Maybe it’s an aging thing - the older I get the more I like to listen to and tell stories about yesteryears; the funny, cheery, and goofy memories. Stories are able to transport our mind back to another time and another place.

Philip Pullman declared, “After nourishment, shelter and companionship, stories are the thing we need most in the world.”

Aaah, the good old days. And the good old stories.

I met with my aunt and cousin for lunch recently. And of course, we got around to reminiscing about some of the humorous happenings during the good old days of childhood and beyond.

We laughed over grocery store stories. My mom and aunt piled the cousins into one vehicle and drove to town to stock up on food. The grocery carts would be crammed full of bargains.

Before being squashed into the car to go home, the moms opened a loaf of bread and slapped a slice of trail bologna on it (without condiments) and we ate lunch in the parking lot.

Then the two hurry-scurry sisters squeezed the kids in the car and packed grocery bags into the trunk and every crevice. Each kid held a bag of something with bags at their feet, over their heads and in-between each other.

“Don’t mash the bread!” yelled one mom. “Don’t you dare open that bag of cookies!” yelled the other mom.

“I don’t have enough room!” yelled one kid. “Move over!” yelled another one. And you hoped nobody passed gas, burped or picked their nose.

We rushed home before the frozen food had a chance to melt. And then the boxes, cans and cartons had to be separated. And again we heard, “Don’t mash that bread!” How many times did I hear that phrase growing up? Hundreds.

Aaah, the good old days.

My mom and aunt shopped at the secondhand shoe store in the downtown area. Pairs were different sizes - that’s why they were so cheap. The right shoe would be size 6 and the matching left shoe would be size 6 1/2 or 7. And searching through the boxes and bins of shoes was comical.

Buying shoes for a bunch of kids can be expensive. Nonetheless, our feet survived. And this story is one of my favorite narratives.

We tell stories about the times of yore with affectionate ears and eyes. And with chuckles. Any embarrassment has long since faded.

Every generation has their own hometown memories. Every family abounds with tall tales and embellished anecdotes. Homemade humor - that’s how some people made it through the good old days during the not so good times.

“Nostalgia is a file that removes the rough edges from the good old days,” writes Doug Larson.

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

How Many Mistakes Can Crabby Old Lady Make?

Prompted by some of your comments, last Friday evening Crabby Old Lady re-read that day's post and even being home alone, she cringed. Big time. She was appalled and embarrassed at what she had published.

In one 700-word essay, Crabby found a minimum of five glaring errors. Let her show you:

AS PUBLISHED: As I of write here, the few news stories about elders, a large number are about those, even 80 and older, who climb mountains, jump out of airplanes, run marathons and otherwise outdo even much younger people at physical challenges.

What a horrible mess. First, that “As I of write here” should be “As I OFTEN write here”.

The rest is much worse. Here is rewrite that is not wildly wonderful but not as terrible as the original: “the few news stories about elders emphasize age 80-plus people who climb mountains, jump out of airplanes, run marathons and...”

It doesn't end there. Here's another which, like the first example, is a twofer:

AS PUBLISHED: What important today is that In many cases it is not just a preference, it is all we are capable of. On Wednesday, New York Times columnist Frank Bruni, noting that “energy in an arc, and it bends over a lifetime toward depletion”, wrote...”

Where the hell is the “is” that should be second word? Worse, apparently Crabby typed the Frank Bruni quotation rather than copy and paste it so that part of the sentence should read, “noting that “energy IS an arc...”

(“Is” does seem to be a particular bete noire of Crabby's.)

Crabby always proof-reads her posts, sometimes more than once and she tries to do that after several hours have passed so that she comes to the copy with a relatively fresh eye. She often catches such errors as these but not this many at one go.

How did she miss them on Friday's story? Crabby has no idea.

When she first noticed all this on Friday, she thought to correct them but the post had been online most of the day and many people had read it so that didn't seem fair. Better to just let her errors stand.

What's amazing is how polite all of you, dear readers, are. Not one of you mentioned the mess Crabby made of a post she considered – and still does – one of the more important in her recent thinking about what it's like to grow old.

While Crabby was pondering all those errors – she found yet another in Saturday's post, in a headline: IS THE DUNNING-KRUGER EFFECT EXPLAIN THE WIDE SUPPORT OF TRUMP?

Obviously the first word should be DOES.

Crabby doesn't recall that she made very many of these sorts of errors throughout the years and decades before now. So is this some quirk of an old brain, do you think? Or could it be that the media emphasis on Alzheimer's stories and drug advertising for that terrible disease has a lot of us – Crabby Old Lady, for example – wondering if these mistakes are signs of incipient dementia.


And Crabby isn't sure she even found all the errors in that Friday post. If you find others, please let her know in the comments. Also, is any of this familiar to you? Not just writing, necessarily, but other small things that creep into daily living?

As we all discover in time, it's hard to get old but there doesn't seem to be anything to do but get a laugh out of the parts that we can and move on.

Classical Predilections 5

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

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Here is some more interesting and entertaining music.

MARIE JAËLL was born Marie Trautmann in Alsace and learned the piano when she was six.

Jaell Marie

She was only ten when she was admitted to the Paris Conservatory and within months she won first prize for piano. At 20 she married Alfred Jaëll, once a pupil of Chopin, and they performed together throughout Europe and Russia.

Marie also started writing music and getting it published. Her compositions weren’t just for piano, but covered the full range of music. An example of this is the third movement of her Concerto for Cello and Orchestra in F Major.

♫ Jaëll - Concerto for cello and orchestra in F Major (3)

I’m not a fan of FRANZ LISZT’s rather bombastic compositions, which seems to be most of them as far as I’m concerned.


Check that picture, talk about the original rock star. Getting back to what I was saying, every now and then he came up with a beautiful, lyric piece and I have one of those today. It is Au lac de Wallenstadt (At Wallenstadt Lake). The pianist is Lazar Berman.

♫ Liszt - Au lac de Wallenstadt

NICOLÒ CORRADINI was an Italian composer of the early Baroque era.


Not a great deal is known about him except that he was the organist of the Cremona Cathedral. He later became a Kapellmeister to a local noble who liked to put on music around town.

Nic wrote music suited to the times, mostly religious. What we have today is a motet called Spargite flores. It’s performed by BRUCE DICKEY, who plays the cornetto, which I know of as an ice cream, but in this context is an instrument totally unrelated to the modern cornet, as you’ll see below. Along for the ride is the soprano HANA BLAŽÍKOVÁ.

Bruce Dickey & Hana Blažíková5

Corradini - Spargite flores

FRIEDRICH KALKBRENNER was born in a carriage traveling between Kassel and Berlin and because of that it caused all sorts of problems registering his birth.


But born he was. In spite of being German, he attended the Paris Conservatoire, and spent the rest of his life in France, mostly in Paris (well, who wouldn’t?) Although living mostly in the nineteenth century, he thought of himself as a throwback to the days of Haydn and Mozart, and he composed in the classical style, rather than the rather bombastic (to my ears) romantic that was the vogue at the time.

Besides being a composer, he was a teacher of piano and he made them as well. Getting back to his compositions, here is the third movement of the Piano Sextet in G major, Op. 58.

Kalkbrenner - Piano Sextet in G major Op. 58 (3)

IGNAZIO ALBERTINI lived in the middle of the seventeenth century. Iggy doesn’t seem to have stood still long enough to have his photo taken.

As far as we know he was born in Milan but the first real mention of him was in Vienna. It was in this city that he spent the rest of his life, all 41 years of it, as he was murdered in suspicious circumstances (stabbed by persons unknown).

All that’s known of his music is a collection of twelve sonatas for violin. This is one of them, his Sonata for Violin & Bass continuo in F major.

♫ Albertini - Sonata for violin & bass continuo

FLORENCE PRICE was born Florence Smith in Little Rock, Arkansas in 1887.

Price Florence

She was taught piano at a very young age and gave her first performance when she was only four and was publishing music when she was eleven. She was head of the music department at an Atlanta university where she married Thomas Price and they moved back to Little Rock.

After a number of nasty racial incidents in that city they decided to move to Chicago. After her divorce from Tom, Florence made ends meet by playing for silent films. She later won (monetary) prizes for some of her compositions, which helped a bit.

Florence was the first African-American woman to have a symphony performed by a major orchestra. A lot of her compositions were thought lost, but a large number have been found in an abandoned house in Illinois. One of those is Tropical Moon, from a series called “Dances in the Canebrakes.”

♫ Florence Price - Dances in the Canebrakes II. Tropical noon

Very little is known about NICOLA FIORENZA, who was from Naples.

Fiorenza Nicola

He was a cellist in the Neapolitan Royal Chapel Orchestra. Later he was up for a job as the head of the string section at the local conservatory. There were four in the running and they drew lots. Nic won.

It seems that he wasn’t the best teacher around – he used to beat his students and otherwise mistreat them – so he was eventually fired from that position. Only about 30 of his compositions are known to exist. One of those is his Cello Concerto in B-flat major. This is the second movement.

♫ Fiorenza - Cello Concerto in B-flat major (2)

GEORGES BIZET is best known for his operas (Pearl Fishers, Carmen and so on).


However, that’s not all he wrote – there were symphonies, many compositions for piano, vocal works and so on. Here is the third movement of his Symphony in C. I must admit that it does sound as if it wouldn’t be out of place in an opera.

♫ Bizet - Symphony In C (3)

CHRISTOPH GLUCK was a German composer who specialized in French and Italian operas.


Chris spent some time at university in Prague, but for a while after that he seemed to have vanished until he popped up in Vienna some years later. He traveled quite extensively: Italy, London, back to Prague and Paris.

He made radical changes to the prevalent opera style of the time – sort of left over from its Baroque origins – and turned it into the now familiar style. He spent some considerable time in Paris, but spat the dummy and returned to Vienna, where he remained for the rest of his life, when one of his operas received a poor reception.

From his most famous opera, Orfeo ed Euridice, Wq. 30, from Act 3 we have Orfeo singing “Che farò senza Euridice.” This is performed by countertenor PHILIPPE JAROUSSKY.

Philippe Jaroussky

♫ Gluck - Orfeo ed Euridice Wq. 30 Act 3 Che farò senza Euridice (Philippe Jaroussky)

JOSEPH EYBLER was born in Schwechat, which is near Vienna.


His dad was in the music biz and the family was good friends with the Haydn family, indeed they were distantly related. It was through Joseph Haydn that he was introduced to Mozart, another of Haydn’s friends.

They got along famously, such that he was (eventually) asked by Mozart’s widow to complete Mozart’s unfinished Requiem. He thought that task was beyond him, but he did conduct that work (finished by Franz Sussmayr) some years later.

Alas, he suffered a stroke while he was doing that, but lived for another 13 years. He wrote about 250 works, one of which is the Clarinet Concerto in B-flat major, this is the third movement.

Eybler - Clarinet Concerto in B-flat major (3)



Some young people took two elders to their first Pride. After he watched the video on Twitter, Chris Evans says, he was sobbing. Me too. And maybe you. Thank my friends Jim Stone and John Gear for this.


It's a toss-up whether I like baguettes or croissants more but either one, if made well, is better than other breads. Well, for me, anyway.

Here is a guy who won first prize in a 2018 contest for best baguette in Paris.


As The Guardian tell us,

”Alexis has a life-threatening disease. She spends her time in the wooded expanse of northern Scotland where she takes care of dozens of others who are also sick, wounded or dying.

“Some have terminal cancer, some were about to be killed because of their disabilities, some were saved from slaughterhouses. Alexis provides palliative care for animals.”

Here is a video about Alexis and a neglected sheep she takes in. It is longer than I usually post – 15 minutes - but is peaceful and loving and uplifting.

You can read an article written by Alexa about her animal hospice here, and The Guardian story is here.


As reported in the Washington Post,

”Lizzie Daly was diving Saturday off the coast of Cornwall in Britain when she saw something large in the distance and did a double take. Daly had seen a barrel jellyfish before but nothing of this size.

“Daly, a biologist and broadcaster, swam up to the peach-colored creature gliding through the water, as cameraman Dan Abbott captured the encounter.

“'We weren’t expecting anything,' Daly said. 'It was an absolute delight to get that experience.'”

No kidding. Take a look at the video:

You can read more about the giant jellyfish encounter here.


Comedian Jeff Allen shares some thoughts on how America is a lot different today than when he (not to mention you and I) was a kid.


I'm no psychologist so I can't evaluate this explanation for the widespread support (35-40 percent) for Trump by the American people but I think Psychology Today might have a handle on it.

”The [Dunning-Kruger] effect is a type of cognitive bias, where people with little expertise or ability assume they have superior expertise or ability. This overestimation occurs as a result of the fact that they don’t have enough knowledge to know they don’t have enough knowledge.

“This simple but loopy concept has been demonstrated dozens of times in well-controlled psychology studies and in a variety of contexts. However, until now, the effect had not been studied in one of the most obvious and important realms: political knowledge.

“A new study published in the journal Political Psychology carried out by the political scientist Ian Anson at the University of Maryland Baltimore County, not only found that the Dunning-Kruger effect applies to politics, but it also appears to be exacerbated when partisan identities are made more salient.

“In other words, those who score low on political knowledge tend to overestimate their expertise even more when greater emphasis is placed on political affiliation.”

The fuller explanation is clear and easily understood. You can read it here. Thank TGB reader Naomi Dagen Bloom for the tip.


TGB reader Joan McCullen sent this one. What a good story about how a beautiful blue butterfly has escaped extinction thanks to one young biologist in California.


This video has been all over the web this week and sent to me by many readers (thank you). Cats are well known to be perverse. Maybe this one thinks the point of golf is to keep the ball OUT of the hole.

* * *

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.

The Heroism of Elders

I didn't plan it this way but today's post has turned out to be the natural continuance of all this week's previous posts, my two and the Reader Story on Tuesday.

As I of write here, the few news stories about elders, a large number are about those, even 80 and older, who climb mountains, jump out of airplanes, run marathons and otherwise outdo even much younger people at physical challenges.

These super-achieving old people are always portrayed as heroic, as the ideal, and that the rest of us should be out there biking the brutal Tour de France or its equivalent.

The result is, of course, a not-so-subtle pressure for all elders to keep doing, keep achieving and push, push, push ourselves to be like 30- and 40-somethings until we're dead.

What those reporters, young 'uns themselves, don't know is that the old people they are interviewing are the aberration. A large majority of us are quite happy to stick closer to home and take our exercise, and our lives in general, in lighter form.

What important today is that In many cases it is not just a preference, it is all we are capable of. On Wednesday, New York Times columnist Frank Bruni, noting that “energy in an arc, and it bends over a lifetime toward depletion”, wrote

”I’m 54 now, and aging is the hardest thing I’ve ever done. It’s also the greatest blessing that I’ve ever been given: I’m not just still around, but I also savor the wisdom of greater perspective and the freedom of letting many of the demands I once made of myself fall by the wayside.

“The hell of aging is limits. But that’s the heaven of it, too. Sometimes to have the parameters of your life shrink is to be unburdened of too many decisions and of indecision itself...” *

All true and it may be the first time I know of that a reporter wasn't giving us the usual “but...” about running at least a half marathon or starting a new business from scratch.

Those limits Bruni mentions? Whether a result of illness or “just” old age, they are impediments even to everyday, ordinary tasks as my most recent mystery malady has made clear.

Without going into detail, it is mostly joint and body pains that come and go and move around my body. An over-the-counter pain killer makes them mostly tolerable but leaves some everyday activities difficult to do.

I can't reach the microwave without a sharp pain in my arm. Getting in and out of bed produces shots of pain from neck to knees. Sometimes my hands hurt so much I can't hold the toothbrush. You get the idea and compared to some I know, I'm doing well.

Yet as difficult as it can be, most old people keep going. Maybe slower, maybe not getting out and about as frequently as they once did and taking more rest breaks but as much as possible, they are doing the things that need getting done along with the pleasures, old and new, they can accommodate.

As Frank Bruni understands, they can “...savor the wisdom of greater perspective and the freedom of letting many of the demands I once made of myself fall by the wayside.”

Yes. Old people know a lot about how unimportant are the things that once seemed crucial. And even as physical demands become more difficult, that “perspective” of which Bruni speaks comes into great play in old age, just when we need it most.

How lucky for us.

It is the patience, creativity and persistence of old people, largely without complaint, that allow them/us to adapt to the one thing that is constant in everyone's life: change. There is just more of it coming at us faster when we are old.

For all that, to me it is not the elder mountain climbers who are heroes to be held up as paragons of old age. It is the majority of old people, the millions who take the lemons life gives us and make the best lemonade we can in our individual circumstance.

They are the ones who deserve our hero worship and hurray to all of us.

* The Frank Bruni quotations are from his weekly, email newsletter which is not yet available online.

What Elders Really Want, and The Alex and Ronni Show

Every day, my email box fills with half a dozen, often more, newsletters urging me to do, do, do. (AARP and Next Avenue are particularly prolific at this.)

Walk 10,000 steps, they tell me, volunteer, get a part-time job, take a class, declutter my home and much more depending on what a new book or media star is recommending this week.

One important thing about these messages: I can't prove it of course, but I believe they are written by younger adults (let's call them pre-elders for now) who haven't a clue yet what old age is like.

This idea has been rolling around in my head for awhile now. I had intended to write about it but TGB reader Ann Burack-Weiss beat me to it in a TGB Reader Story that I published on Tuesday titled My Comfort Zone.

”You’d think they’d let up by the time you reach your 80s,” writes Ann. “That all you need do to keep yourself going is to keep yourself going. But no; everything you hear or read pushes you toward new horizons...

“Old folks are repeatedly told to heed the siren call of the untried that, from the beginning of time, has lured humans from their caves into the sun of enhanced existence...”

After giving a bunch of good reasons to reject this kind of thinking about elders, Ann concludes:

”So I’ll stay right here. Comforted by the familiar, buoyed by memories. Relaxing? Lolling? No, wallowing – that’s the word I’m looking for, wallowing, in my comfort zone.”

The comments on Ann's post, with only one demur as I write this on Tuesday, join me in enthusiastically supporting her point of view.

These days, I like being home. One trip per day out the door is about all I can tolerate now – to the grocery store, lunch with a friend, and in my particular case, doctor visits. I love it when friends come to my home for a visit. Home is my comfort zone and I “wallow” in the days I don't need to go somewhere – no matter what the pre-elders think I should be doing.

If you missed Ann's story yesterday, check it out.

* * *

On The Alex and Ronni Show this week we covered a bunch of topics that are in the news this week. Alex emailed to say the picture freezes at some point but the audio is okay, then the video comes back. Sorry. As he says, "I'm getting to hate all technology."


By Ann Burack-Weiss

You’d think they’d let up by the time you reach your 80s. That all you need do to keep yourself going is to keep yourself going. But no; everything you hear or read pushes you toward new horizons.

That thrill of completion that I feel when finishing the Sunday crossword puzzle (well, all but three small words) is meaningless. It does not spark those neurons or create new pathways in the brain; all it does is deepen familiar ruts.

Worse, it is a solitary pursuit. Surely dementia and social isolation are brewing in the toxic waters of my comfort zone.

Old folks are repeatedly told to heed the siren call of the untried that, from the beginning of time, has lured humans from their caves into the sun of enhanced existence.

Learning Chinese in the company of elderly peers would be just the thing.

Or I could put aside the knitting of one color, one pattern scarves that I’ve enjoyed since the age of 18 – an activity that is especially pleasant on long winter evenings cuddled on the couch listening to the classical music I’ve enjoyed just as long.

Better to join a class in needlepoint. It takes lots of different colored threads to construct a tapestry – you must keep your wits about you in order to keep them sorted, threaded and hitting just the right spot all the while chatting with others engaged in the same task.

They mean well, the young dears. It is just that they are afraid of their own senescence. Neuroscience offers hope. And yes, I’ve seen the graphs, read the papers. I know enough about research to agree that the findings are statistically significant.

But it’s a long way from statistical significance to my apartment, to my life, where I have to say that the findings are not significant at all.

* * *

You see, we are often afraid. The unknown is only filled with wonder if you feel power within you to grab out to it and turn it to your uses.

We are afraid as young children are afraid – so much in life they don’t understand, can’t control. The things that hide out in the shadows and can pounce at any time are particularly scary when they are alone in the dark. So they ask for glass after glass of water, ask to hear the same story the same way over and over. Skip a page in the book, change a few words and they get upset.

Ours is not a second childhood – for we know full well the names and workings of what is hiding in the shadows. We do not imagine animals escaped from the zoo to hide out under our beds (as I remember doing at the age of four) but the bed itself springing steel sides pulled up high over which tubes ferry fluids in and out of our bodies.

We do not imagine that our screams won’t be loud enough to reach powerful adults who can come to our aid. We know the limits of the powerful adults no matter how caring they might be.

So like children, we cannot see change as a learning opportunity, a chance to face our fears and triumph over them. Instead, change strips us of all sense of certainty, of control, leaving us quaking in its wake; strips us of our memories and the sense of self that they reinforce within us.

The Sunday crossword puzzle I am working on today holds vestiges of every puzzle of my life, everyone who was around me on those long ago Sundays – the places I carried it with me during the week to fill in a clue or two; the people – so many no longer here – with whom I exchanged passing references to its difficulty or ease or cleverness of theme.

The long scarf on which I rip and redo as often as I move ahead, and the music that accompanies it, go all the way back – first, my room at home, then a college dormitory room filled with smokers and bridge players where, doing neither, I found my place and many happy hours with the knitters.

Those last months of pregnancy with each of my now middle-aged children when I surprised myself by branching out to blanket, sweater, and bootie sets – enough even to gift to others.

So I’ll stay right here. Comforted by the familiar, buoyed by memories. Relaxing? Lolling? No, wallowing – that’s the word I’m looking for, wallowing, in my comfort zone.

* * *

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

Old Folks Set in Their Ways

It's a joke, that headline phrase, isn't it? And not a good one. In fact, it's ageist in its assumption that old people cannot or will not change, and most of all, it is wrong.

That is not to say there aren't plenty of stubborn people in the world, but they come in all ages. And in the case of old people, the nature of ageing makes change a requirement if you are going to navigate these advanced years.

We'll get back to that in a moment but first, what about our life-long habits? Are they necessarily bad? Do people who believe all old folks are “set in their ways” should change things just because they've been doing them for many years? (I'm not talking about smoking cigarettes and other dangerous undertakings.)

The web has only a skimpy amount of useful material on the subject and with a few exceptions they want old people to change. At least one even has a numbered list of instructions on how to get others to adopt your way of doing things.

But consider where we old folks are in life: We have decades of trial and error in pretty much all aspects of our lives along with sometimes cherished habits that over years turned into favored rituals.

A couple of weeks ago, a friend mentioned that she wouldn't want one of those machines makes a single cup of coffee from the insertion of a little pod. Aside from the environmental disaster they cause, she said, she prefers the ritual of a French press.

I'd never thought of it that way, but I now embrace the idea of ritual with my own French press I've been using for going on 40 years. I like that routine first thing in the morning. It feels comfortable and after all this time, it doesn't require thought (if you don't count the recent morning when I measured the coffee into the cup.)

The other thing about coffee is that even after more than 14 years, I have my favorite blend sent from the shop where I bought it in New York City. A bonus was when I figured out that even with shipping costs, it is cheaper than buying coffee where I live now - particularly so when you know you're getting a full pound (16 ounces) rather than the 10 or 12 ounces at the market.

These are good habits to be set in my ways about – they reliably bring me pleasure and I get to do it every morning. How terrific is that and why would I change?

By the time we reach old age, we have made hundreds, maybe thousands of decisions so we have a lot of practice at making good and not-so-good choices to inform new ones that come along.

If, as some say, a portion of young people do change their minds more frequently than old people, it is because they are just starting out. There's a lot to learn about living, much of it through trial and error.

But it is in old age where willingness to make changes becomes crucial to well-being. Linda Breytspraak of the Center on Aging Studies, University of Missouri-Kansas City (quoted at explains more succinctly than I could:

”The majority of older people are not 'set in their ways and unable to change,'” she writes. “'There is some evidence that older people tend to become more stable in their attitudes, but it is clear that most older people do change.

“'To survive, they must adapt to many events of later life such as retirement, children leaving home, widowhood, moving to new homes, and serious illness.'”

She's right that survival depends on our ability to accommodate our changing circumstances as we grow old.

I've learned a lot about adapting in the past two years since I was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. In one case, I eat what I consider a terrible high calorie, high fat diet nowadays to help keep my weight up so I don't become frail.

As the chief oncology nurse said to me when I objected, “The cancer will kill you long before the diet will.”

And so I eat a lot of the foods I shunned for most of my life and it has kept on the weight. If I skip even a single meal, I lose a pound or so overnight so I am diligent about eating as I never was when I was younger.

In another bid to have a healthy life for as long as possible in my predicament, I sleep a full night every night. For the past year, I've been using cannabis, an edible or tincture) to help ensure a full six to seven hours if not always eight hours. It works and, cancer notwithstanding, I feel a lot better than all those years I woke after only three or four hours of sleep.

Did I mention recently that I made a new rule? No more climbing ladders. Thanks to chemotherapy, I am shaky on my feet sometimes and I surely don't want a broken hip or back or neck from a fall.

For the same reason, I look down when I walk around my apartment complex so that I don't trip on one of the pine cones that are everywhere.

It is doubtful that we will convince others that being “set in our ways” is not a bad thing and can even be a life saver for old people. But we can embrace our habits and rituals and enjoy them. We spent a lifetime learning these lessons, often the hard way.


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.

* * *


After The Beatles, The Kinks were probably the most important British band from the sixties. Like the Fab Four, they vastly expanded the topics about which pop and rock song could be written.

They were formed by brothers Ray and Dave Davies in Muswell Hill, North London. Ray was the songwriter, singer and rhythm guitarist and Dave played lead guitar and sang backup.

They were completely different personalities: Ray was a quiet intellectual who preferred the home life, and Dave was the quintessential sixties, rock-star party animal. What could possibly go wrong?

They were joined by Pete Quaiffe, a school friend of Dave’s on bass, and Mick Avory on drums. They were a volatile mix, especially the brothers, often arguing and fighting – even on stage. Pete has said that performing with the brothers was like being on stage with Jimi Hendrix on one side and Noel Coward on the other.

Ray and Dave were constants throughout with changes in the other members from time to time. They later added a regular keyboard player.


The Kinks burst on the scene with a song that contained snarling vocals and snarling, dirty, distorted guitar achieved by slashing the speaker cones with a razor blade. This one made all the other bands at the time sit up and take notice. Its influence on punk, grunge music, heavy metal and garage bands of all sorts is incalculable. That song is You Really Got Me.

♫ You Really Got Me


After three or four top 5 hits in the original style, the Kinks completely changed direction in their music. This is because of Ray’s song writing ability. The songs became more observational, many of them mini-short stories in song form. Some biting or sarcastic, some affectionate, others merely reflections. One rather pointed song is Dedicated Follower of Fashion.

♫ Dedicated Follower Of Fashion

Ray has said that he was really depressed when he wrote Sunny Afternoon, on the surface a quite happy song. Not so if you listen to the words.

It gave the impression that the group was really rich and they were complaining about trivial things. The reality was quite different as, along with a lot of performers of the time, their managers ripped them off so they saw virtually nothing of what they had earned.

♫ Sunny Afternoon

Ray’s songs aren’t nostalgia exactly, more a celebration of times gone by and things that are lost to the modern world. Picture Book really is a photo album, but I imagine that the title scans better in a song.

♫ The Kinks - Picture Book


The Kinks came up with a couple of what would later be called “rock operas” some time before The Who did the same thing. One of these is called “Arthur (Or the Decline and Fall of the British Empire)”, which is rather self explanatory about its subject.

From that is the song, and a reasonable hit for them, Victoria. This one really rocks out, in spite of its subject.

♫ Victoria


Sorry about going back to the beginning for those who aren’t really into heavy rock and roll, but here’s their second hit, All Day and All of the Night. I can see an influence for the Oz rock band The Easybeats in this song.

♫ All Day And All Of the Night


It’s pretty amazing that the band that had a huge influence on punk and grunge music also produced indubitably the most beautiful song from the sixties. Certainly the most beautiful by a rock group anyway. That song is Waterloo Sunset.

There’s a long-standing story that Terry and Julie, referenced in the song, are Terence Stamp and Julie Christie who were an item at the time the song was written and recorded. Ray has said repeatedly that this is not so, it’s about his sister (and presumably another Terry).

He and Dave had six older sisters some of whom have made an appearance in other songs, so I’m inclined to believe him.

♫ Waterloo Sunset

This is just a silly throw-away song, but we need some of those now and again. This one is Apeman. I think it was just an excuse for Ray to play his National steel guitar, also used in the final song today.

♫ Apeman


It’s really admirable, astonishing really, that for young men, just in their mid-twenties, to observe that things were changing really quickly and asking are we losing something valuable?

Well, they might notice the first part, but it was unusual for them to reflect upon the second. It’s generally years later that people gain that insight. There was an album (actually more than one) devoted to this concept, and from that we have The Village Green Preservation Society.

♫ The Village Green Preservation Society


Also from “Arthur”, mentioned above, is the song. Australia. You know I couldn’t resist a song with that title. It’s about the Oz government’s campaign to induce British people to emigrate to Australia back in the fifties and sixties. It was rather successful. This one gives Dave a good workout on the guitar.

♫ Australia


Ray wrote Come Dancing as a tribute to his sisters who were all older than he was. They used to go out dancing at the weekends and the music they danced to was from an earlier period – big band and the like. He and Dave absorbed that music as they were growing up by listening to their sisters’ records.

♫ Come Dancing


I’ll end with an example of the idea that songwriters often don’t know the quality of their own songs. This one is probably their biggest seller (okay, that’s not necessarily a guide to quality), and Ray has said, “It’s a nothing song, not really important”.

The song is Lola. It’s based on a real event that happened to their manager at the time. Dave has said that Ray is brilliant at compressing small details into a song and making them come alive. He certainly did on this one.

♫ Kinks - Lola




Remember a couple of weeks ago when I included a slow motion video of dogs shaking water off their coats?

Here's a slowmo of hummingbirds so we can actually see their wings.


For most of my life I've been collecting speculations on the near universal experience of time seeming to speed up as we grow older. Here's the latest sent TGB friend, Chuck Nyren.


On 21 July, it will be 50 years since Buzz Aldrin, Michael Collins and Neil Armstrong stepped foot on the moon.


Mental Floss has made a list of 50 interesting things you might not know about the first manned moon landing. Among them:

President Richard Nixon had a speech prepared in case the Apollo 11 astronauts never came home.

Your toaster is more advanced than Apollo 11’s command module computer.

Pieces of the Wright Brothers’ first aircraft were onboard Apollo 11.

You can read the other 47 facts at Mental Floss.


As the website tells us,

”This awesome dog sanctuary for mutts was created by Lya Battle who has a passion for animals and homeless dogs in particular. It’s easy to see that these dogs think they have already gone to heaven as they run free in the lush green hills of the sanctuary.

More at Territorio de Zaguates.


Yes, beautiful - at least I think so. The Atlas Obscura website tells us that

”English pastry chef Annabel de Vetten crafts what may be the world’s most fantastically morbid confections. Her Birmingham studio and cooking space, the Conjurer’s Kitchen, is filled with feasts of macabre eye candy rendered with ghoulish precision.”

Here are two.



De Vennen's nickname is “Annabel Lecter.” There are more images of "morbid" cakes and additional information at Atlas Obscura.


Remember last week when I posted a video of some magnificent birds of paradise?

Well, this week I ran across another video – this one of BBC program host, David Attenborough, trying to do his standup for the show while one of the birds of paradise keeps interrupting him.


Sometimes, when there is no or no useful remedy for a terrible disease, people opt for participating in a clinical trial. There is a lot to know before making that choice and the U.S. National Institute of Aging has just published a booklet that answers questions.

It is titled, Clinical Trials and Older Adults and is a free PDF download here.

Even if you don't need this information now, it might be good to file it away in case you or someone you know can use it in the future.


There is a fascinating story at the Los Angeles Times about a man who has spent years creating a secret habitat for sea horses. A short excerpt:

”The visitor confirms that she did see Bathsheba, an 11-inch-long orange Pacific seahorse, and a grin spreads across Hanson’s broad face.

“'Isn’t she beautiful?' he says. 'She’s our supermodel.'

“If you get Hanson talking about his seahorses, he’ll tell you exactly how many times he’s seen them (997), who is dating whom, and describe their personalities with intimate familiarity. Bathsheba is stoic, Daphne a runner. Deep Blue is chill.

“He will also tell you that getting to know these strange, almost mythical beings has profoundly affected his life.

“'I swear, it has made me a better human being,' he says. 'On land I’m very C-minus, but underwater, I’m Mensa.'”


Read the whole story here – it's fascinating.


Anyone who has been reading this Saturday post for even a short awhile knows that I have a fondness for odd or unusual animal friendships and other connections. Here is my latest find of a cat who adopted a bunch of ducklings.

* * *

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.

Cancer, Old Age or Something New?

It's been a rough couple of weeks here with unexplained body and joint pains keeping me from doing much of anything except this blog and sleeping. Finally yesterday morning, I got out of bed without wincing and it feels now like I'm on the mend.

However, I'm really, really tired. Too tired to write a new blog post and I need a nap. Because I have no idea what caused this extended period of pain, I'm going to re-publish a related story from only a couple of months ago that a lot of you seemed to enjoy and caused a few laughs among you.

On first publication, it was titled “Cancer, Chemo or Old Age?" - comments here. I'm not currently taking chemo so this time, maybe it should be “Cancer, Old Age or What the Fuck now?” (Sorry if I offended anyone.)

I'll be back tomorrow with the Saturday Interesting Stuff.

* * *

That's the question I spend some of my time trying to figure out. A new pain in my elbow. Nausea if I eat one more bite. A nose so runny I use up one-and-a-half boxes of Kleenex in a day.

I'll go with old age as the cause of a pain in an elbow. Nausea is probably from the chemo. And who knows (nose?) what's causing my constantly running nose.

I suppose it doesn't matter. Cancer, chemo or old age doesn't change the fact of whatever is bothering me. But it might be helpful to know which does what so that perhaps a medication can be adjusted - although I'm not pretending that symptoms at this simplistic level can in any way be compared to pancreatic cancer.

When I was first diagnosed two years ago, my idea was to follow the instructions of my various physicians and nurses while making preparations for my death. The statistics tell the irrefutable story: fewer than 10 percent of pancreatic cancer patients live beyond one year after diagnosis so I've already won this lottery.

Time went by. It took nearly a year to entirely recover from the 12-hour Whipple surgery. The pain I experienced then was anything but a mystery: 22 surgical staples along with the removal and/or rearrangement of several organs.

Some chemo followed but was stopped when it was deemed ineffective. Eventually, my current chemo regimen began and so far, as I have reported here, it is working well and – amazing – with each treatment the side effects have lightened or disappeared.

Just like not knowing what is responsible for my improved chemo side effects, I have no idea how long this situation of such a good response to the chemo will last. It will end at some point; I just don't know when.

The only thing I think I know about living a reasonably untroubled daily life with such a noose hanging over me is that I must find a way to make peace with it. Which is pretty much the same thing as making peace with dying.

The psilocybin session I underwent in December, the benefits of which so far are holding strong, get me partway there. The rest is one of the passages people in my predicament have to deal with several times.

It's doubtful that any of this is unique to me. I'm just surprised that no one I can find talks about it. Does anyone reading this know what I am not too clearly trying to say?

Is Laughter the Best Medicine?

EDITORIAL NOTE: A couple of weeks ago, Andrew Soergel, who is is studying aging and workforce issues as part of a 10-month fellowship at The Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research, interviewed me about retirement and a whole bunch of other topics. We had a lively time together, the story has now been published and you can read it here.

"Andy tells me that when he's got some time, he pull together some of the other things we talked about for another story. I'll let you know when that is published.

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Last week, my oncologist told me that I look much better, much healthier than when he canceled my chemotherapy two months ago. I was surprised; I hadn't realized I didn't look well.

He also said that I had hardly laughed at all when we met that day. Laughed? I asked. He said I'm big laugher - about my cancer, about all kinds of things - and he particularly appreciates my sarcasm.

He went on to tell me that he believes there is a connection medical science doesn't yet know much about or understand between good humor and health.

There has been some research about this possible connection which Washington Post reporter Marlene Cimons summarizes:

”Laughter stimulates the body’s organs by increasing oxygen intake to the heart, lungs and muscles, and stimulates the brain to release more endorphins, according to the Mayo Clinic,” [she writes].

“It also helps people handle stress by easing tension, relaxing the muscles and lowering blood pressure. It relieves pain, and improves mood. Laughter also strengthens the immune system.

“'When we laugh, it decreases the level of the evil stress hormone cortisol,' [professor of medical oncology at the Mayo Clinic College of Medicine and Science, Edward] Creagan says.

“'When we are stressed, it goes high and this interferes with the parts of the brain that regulate emotions. When that happens, the immune system deteriorates and becomes washed in a sea of inflammation, which is a factor in heart disease, cancer and dementia. Cortisol interferes with the body’s immune system, putting us at risk for these three groups of diseases.'

“For sick people,” writes Cimone, “laughter can distract from pain and provide them with a sense of control when they otherwise might feel powerless, experts say. Moreover, it’s often the patients themselves who crack the jokes.

“'Some of the funniest patients I have ever met were those dying of cancer or struggling with alcoholism,'” Creagan says.”

Sven Svebakis, professor emeritus at the Norwegian University of Science and Technology, has studied the health impact of humor for more than 50 years. Referencing a large study of more than 53,000 participants he and colleagues conducted, Svebakis told WaPo's Cimons,

”Humor also seems to stimulate memories and improve mental acuity in the elderly, especially among those with dementia.

“The therapeutic benefits of 'clown therapy' for hospitalized pediatric patients is well-established, but elder clowns are now also helping seniors in residential settings, says Bernie Warren, professor emeritus in dramatic arts at the University of Windsor and founder of Fools for Health, a Canadian clown-doctor program...

“He has seen Alzheimer’s patients engage with clowns 'and become lucid and aware', Warren says. 'There’s anecdotal evidence that suggests clowns help greatly with memory, language and communication and awareness of self in the present.'”

Personally, I find clowns to be more creepy than funny but if it helps others, that's a good thing.

All of this makes sense to me and even if it eventually proves not to help much, laughing always feels good. So I'll just go on making (mostly) mordant jokes about my predicament and be happy to have some of my doctors laughing along with me – while sometimes making the jokes themselves:

When I saw my primary care physician for the first time soon after I was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer two years ago, he flipped through a printout of my recent test results and said:

“You're very healthy, Ronni, except for the cancer.”

That was my first cancer joke and I've been finding a lot more to laugh at about cancer ever since.

A TGB READER STORY: Furry Manipulation

By Karpagam “Jeeks” Rajagopal

It is a near-perfect day, with a benevolent sun and a gentle breeze riffling the surface of the pond. A couple of hundred geese mill about on the shore, perforating the ground with their beaks.

A tattooed young man carries a Frisbee as he walks his dogs off-leash. He seems torn between tossing the frisbee for the dogs and finding someone with whom he can play. One of the dogs is a rambunctious golden retriever, the great weather a catalyst that kicks his natural exuberance into high gear.

He does his business on the grass, and earns a “Good boy” from his dad who bends down to scoop it with a plastic bag. He is fit to explode with pride at his accomplishment and a gleam appears in his eye.

While his dad is distracted, he spots the geese and the progression of his thoughts is evident. He charges down the gentle slope towards the smallest gaggle of geese, convinced that even the landscape has every intention of enabling his escapade.

Warned by their lookout, the geese take flight in an explosion of feathers and squawks, indignantly levitating and splashing down in the water. I hear his dad telling him, “Don’t go in the water”, and he reins himself in, braking hard on the verge, caught on the wings of this dilemma.

The gears are clicking fast as he assesses his distance from his dad and the expanse that separates him from the remaining scores of geese. He sees a shining opportunity and seizes it. He runs headlong towards them, euphoric, his fur flying, his tongue a pink flag declaring his exultance. Almost as one, they take off en masse as he chases them into the pond.

This time around, he doesn’t even pretend to stop. He splashes in with abandon, paddling after the geese. Heedless of his dad’s whistles, he tries to herd them to the center of the pond. Now that the geese have quieted down, he can clearly hear his name and the command to return to shore.

Reluctantly, he turns around and it is clear that his heart is not in it. Or maybe he is using the time to strategize. Even though there is no current to battle against, he slowly makes his way back to shore, sodden and chagrined.

As he emerges from the water, it is clear that he knows what to do. He skulks out, tail drooping, the very image of abject chagrin, regret and apology. To see him you would think he had been forced into the pond under duress. He shuffles towards his dad, trying to ingratiate himself by crawling on his belly.

A few feet along, he can sense forgiveness and the change in his posture is so marked as to be unrecognizable. He has realized that apology is far better than permission, and that he does not need to sacrifice fun for good behavior.

The tail springs back up, redemption is at hand, and life is good once again as he goes tearing off through the park, unbridled joy in his every muscle. Through the rest of my walk, I have a smile in my heart and a spring in my step.