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A TGB READER STORY: Rings and Things

By Kay Richard

A couple of months after sidling through the doors of the local junior high school, I was still trying to remain as inconspicuous as possible. My locker was side-by-side with Brenda, an eighth grader known mostly for her sarcasm and lack of empathy.

Always trying to fit it with my peers, I begged for sling back loafers to replace my Buster Brown lace ups, headbands instead of barrettes and pierced ears (no!).

For Christmas that year, I was given a white, three-ring binder with the profiles of the Fab Four on the cover. Suddenly, I was the envy of all the girls including Brassy Brenda. I sashayed the halls in my fabulousness.

It was short-lived, however, when I made a rookie faux pas. I’d been noticing that many of the cool girls were suddenly sporting a tie clip on their blouses. Ever wanting to join their ranks, I stopped at my Aunt Evelyn’s house on the way home from school and asked if my uncle might have an old tie clip I could have.

The next morning I arrived at my locker wearing Uncle Nere’s gold and rhinestone tie clip on my Peter Pan collar. Brassy Brenda was on me like a magnet to the North Pole.

“Whose tie clip is that”?

I turned and smugly replied, “I got it from my uncle”.

She crowed, turned to Cruel Candy on her right and said, “She’s going steady with her uncle”! They walked off in hysterics as I tore the tip clip off and ran to the bathroom where I spent homeroom period getting my tears under control.

The following spring, the school hosted a Friday evening dance in the cafeteria. Patty and I were sitting on the sidelines when the cutest boy in all of the junior high schools in central Massachusetts asked me to dance to the Beatles song, If I Fell.

I saw Brenda’s jaw drop into her glass of punch as Joey and I swayed to the music and when school convened on Monday, I was sporting his black onyx ring on a chain around my neck.

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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.]


Crabby Old Lady Cuts Loose

Crabby Old Lady has had enough. She has lost all patience with age denial.

If you've had a face lift or Botox, get out of Crabby's way. She doesn't want to know you.

If you shave five or ten years off your age, who do you think you're kidding? You have made yourself ridiculous.

If you say things like “age is just a number” or “you're only as old as you feel” or “gee, you don't look that old”, stop insulting Crabby's intelligence. Anyone who uses those phrases is, by definition, old. Get over it and enjoy your great good fortune at still being upright. Many people don't get the chance.

Old women (and some old men) rightly complain of becoming invisible to people around them. Workers older than 50, and even 40 sometimes, are often fired in favor of 20-somethings and just as frequently, aren't hired in the first place.

More, old people are almost never included in drug trials which makes your physician's prescriptions a by-guess and by-god proposition. And don't even ask Crabby about abuse of elders.

So hear this now: There are more than enough people willing to treat elders badly. We don't need our own kind piling on.

Although it is not an excuse, Crabby understands that your behavior may stem from having lived your entire life in a culture that dislikes old people so much that comedians, greeting cards and even television commercials routinely debase and devalue old folks without objection from anyone.

Facebook, for example, bans hate speech. Here is how they explain the policy on their community standards page:

”We define hate speech as a direct attack on people based on what we call protected characteristics — race, ethnicity, national origin, religious affiliation, sexual orientation, caste, sex, gender, gender identity, and serious disease or disability.”

So you can't say anything nasty about Jews or women or people of alternate gender on Facebook but age is fair game. What else is new.

In truth, Facebook is just one of hundreds, or likely, thousands of publications that publish or allow to be published every day material that maligns old people.

None of this is good in general nor for old people, but for Crabby the worst aspect of ageism is the old themselves who are complicit in the disparagement of elders.

They laugh at the mean jokes and refuse to join their local senior center because, they say, it is full of old people. Mostly, they are supremely unhappy about being old and infect anyone nearby with their sour feelings.

A couple of months ago while discussing aging, a woman Crabby had just met asked how Crabby seemed to be so easy with growing old when she lives with cancer and COPD.

Crabby will tell anyone who wants to listen that limitations caused by old age health issues can be time-consuming, exhausting, irritating and frightening. But when were they not so? At any age?

Crabby doesn't recall childhood being a bed of roses, and teen years? Does anyone really want to go through adolescence again?

There have always been obstacles great and small in life. There is no reason old age should be different.

Worse for Crabby Old Lady are certain of her contemporaries - the people who take all the fun away explaining how old age is a constant misery. And it is little consolation to learn they have always been with us.

Greek tragedian Euripides knew the measure of these folks about 25 centuries ago:

”Old men's prayers for death are lying prayers, in which they abuse old age and long extent of life. But when death draws near not one is willing to die, and age no longer is a burden to them.”

ELDER MUSIC: Toes Up in 2019

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.

* * *

It seems to me that increasingly, each year is a bad one for musicians dying. I suppose it’s probably these are the ones with whom we grew up.

Jessye Norman

JESSYE NORMAN was one of the two or three finest singers of the 20th century; I would put her at number one.

She took piano lessons from an early age, but once exposed to opera music she was an instant convert and devoured the recordings of Marian Anderson and Leontyne Price (and Nat King Cole). She proved to be a talented singer from an early age.

Later she studied at a couple of universities and gained a Masters degree in music from the University of Michigan (Ann Arbor).

Jessye went to Europe to establish herself and made her debut in Wagner's “Tannhäuser” in Berlin. There was no holding her back.

From a song cycle called Les Nuits D'Été (Summer Nights) by Hector Berlioz, Jessye sings Villanelle. (She was 74)

Jessye Norman - Berlioz - Les Nuits D'Ete ~ Villanelle


MICHEL LEGRAND was a French pianist, conductor, arranger and most especially, a composer. He composed music for both French and American films, winning a couple of Oscars along the way. He was also a fine jazz pianist and made a couple of dozen albums. (86)

PETER TORK came to prominence as a member of the Monkees. He was the bass player in the group that first became TV stars and then a real rock group in their own right. (77)

PAUL BADURA-SKODA was a classical pianist who was noted for his Mozart and especially Schubert piano works. He also played Beethoven and Chopin exquisitely. He and his wife wrote books on the interpretation of Mozart and Bach. (91)

DICK DALE pretty mush invented “surf music”. He was an excellent guitarist and had custom made amplifiers and speakers that wouldn’t distort when he turned up the volume (unless he wanted them to). (81)

Art Neville

ART NEVILLE was a keyboard player and singer. He cofounded The Meters and the Neville Brothers, probably the two most important bands to come out of New Orleans.

He joined The Hawketts when he was still a teenager and later formed his own group that consisted of several musicians who would later become The Meters, as well as two of his brothers. The Meters became the house band for record producer Allen Toussaint and can be heard on many records from New Orleans from that time.

Later he joined his brothers and he kept both groups going for decades. From very early in his career, Art sings the Mardi Gras Mambo. (81)

♫ Hawketts - Mardi Gras Mambo


STEPHEN CLEOBURY was an organist and musical director most notably for the Choir of King’s College, Cambridge. He held that post for 37 years until his death. (70)

TONY GLOVER was a folk, blues and rock harmonica player. He was mostly associated with the sixties group Koerner, Ray and Glover, but also toured with the Doors and the Rolling Stones. He was later a music writer of note. (79)

JACK SCOTT was a singer and songwriter who had several big hits in the cusp of the fifties and sixties. He performed rock & roll, gospel, country and just about anything else he set his mind to. (83)

PAUL BARRERE was the guitarist for the rock band Little Feat. He also performed with Taj Mahal, Jack Bruce, Carly Simon and others. He wrote songs that Little Feat and others performed. (71)

FRANK BUSSERI was a founding member and singer for the harmony group The Four Lads. They had several hits in the fifties and sixties. (86)

Andre Previn

ANDRÉ PREVIN won four Oscars and ten Grammies for his music as a composer, arranger, adapter, conductor, pianist, and music director. He was a classical pianist and conductor, a jazz pianist and composer and adaptor of stage musicals for the big screen.

He wrote musical scores for films, not just musical ones, but dramas as well. He composed chamber music, orchestral works, solo piano and operas. He was just about as complete a musician as we’ll see in our lifetime.

Here is André playing piano, with a little jazz, along with Herb Ellis, Shelly Manne and Ray Brown. The tune is Don't Sing Along. (89)

♫ André Previn - Don't Sing Along


DARYL DRAGON was “The Captain” in the group Captain and Tennille. He came from a musical family (both parents and two brothers were professional musicians) and he was originally a studio piano player. Along with his wife Toni Tennille they had a number of pop hits in the seventies. (76)

CHUCK BARKSDALE was a founding member and bass singer for the doowop (and later soul) group The Dells; one of the finest and longest lived such groups. (84)

MIKE WILHELM was the guitarist, singer, songwriter and founding member of the influential sixties rock group The Charlatans. He was later in another band, The Flamin’ Groovies. (77)

Although American, IRVING BURGIE was best known as a songwriter using the Caribbean as a theme. Harry Belafonte in particular recorded many of his songs, including Jamaica Farewell and Banana Boat Song. He also set up a publishing company and a magazine. (95)

JACQUES LOUSSIER was a French keyboard player who became very successful with jazz interpretations of the music of J.S. Bach. (84)

Greedy Smith

GREEDY (ANDREW) SMITH was songwriter, singer and keyboard player for the Australian band Mental as Anything. As can be judged from their name, the Mentals didn’t take themselves too seriously. They were popular from the late seventies until the end of the nineties.

The members of the group met at art school and they are/were all accomplished artists in their own right. Although all members of the group sang, Greedy was the unofficial front man when it came to giving interviews and the like. He was inducted into the Australian songwriters’ hall of fame a month before his death.

Here is Greedy singing He’s Just No Good for You. (63)

♫ Mental as Anything - He's Just No Good For You


GARY DUNCAN was a guitarist and singer for the rock group Quicksilver Messenger Service. The complex interplay between him and fellow guitarist John Cipollina did much to define the San Francisco sound of the sixties. (72)

MICHAEL JAFFEE was an expert on medieval and Renaissance music, and played several early instruments. He cofounded the Chamber Music America and the Early Music America associations. He and his wife (and others) toured with the early music group the Waverly Consort. (81)

ROBERT HUNTER was a songwriter, guitarist and occasional singer. He was best known for collaborating with Jerry Garcia to produce some of the Grateful Dead’s best known tunes. (78)

JOHNNY CLEGG was a British born white South African singer, songwriter and guitarist who was a fierce opponent of the appalling Apartheid regime in that country. He played with, and encouraged black musicians and toured extensively. (66)

DICK BOCCELLI was the drummer in Bill Hailey and his Comets. He played on most of their big hits, including Rock Around the Clock. He was also a stage and TV actor. (95)

Leon Redbone

Born in Cyprus, LEON REDBONE first came to general notice in Canada when Bob Dylan caught his act and spread the word about him. Leon specialised in songs from the early years of the 20th century, and he performed them as they were originally written, often with introductions that most of us hadn’t realised they had.

He was a quirky, entertaining and talented singer and guitarist and he is sadly missed by those who managed to catch his performances (including me). Leon’s song is Are You Lonesome Tonight. (127, or so he claimed; probably 69)

♫ Leon Redbone - Are You Lonesome Tonight


JIM GLASER and CHUCK GLASER were both members of the Glaser Brothers, a country music singing group, whose best known member was Tompall. Both also had solo careers. They died within a month of each other. (81 & 83)

J.R. COBB was the guitarist for The Atlanta Rhythm Section, one of the finest groups composed of session musicians. He also wrote songs and played guitar on many hit singles. (75)

RAYMOND LEPPARD was an English conductor, harpsichord player and composer who specialised in Baroque music. He was instrumental in getting Baroque operas on to the world’s stages. (92)

PHIL MCCORMACK was the singer for the hard rock band Molly Hatchet. (58)

GUY WEBSTER was a photographer whose pictures adorned the album covers of The Doors, The Byrds, Simon and Garfunkel, the Mamas and the Papas, The Rolling Stones and many others. (79)

Doris Day

DORIS DAY started as a singer in the late thirties and became a big hit in the forties and continued her success for several more decades. She was also one of the biggest film stars of her generation, often in rather fluffy films, but she made a number of interesting gritty ones as well.

Her wholesome persona on screen was quite at odds with her personal life, but we won’t go there. Today, Doris is singing Perhaps Perhaps Perhaps. (97)

♫ Doris Day - Perhaps Perhaps Perhaps


HEATHER HARPER was a soprano best known for performing the works of Benjamin Britten, but was equally at home with the standard operatic and concert repertoire. (88)

KENT HARRIS was a Soul and Rhythm and blues songwriter who wrote hits for The Coasters, Bo Diddley, The Platters and others. (88)

JOE TERRY and DAVID WHITE were both founding members of the doowop, rock and roll group Danny and the Juniors who had several hits in the fifties. David wrote or co-wrote many of their hits. They died within weeks of each other. (78 & 79)

REGGIE YOUNG was one of the finest session guitarists who ever picked a note. He has appeared on records of blues, country, soul, rock & roll, you name it. Anyone with more than a record or two will have him playing somewhere. (82)

ETHEL ENNIS was a jazz singer who sang with Benny Goodman, Duke Ellington, Louis Armstrong, Miles Davis, Wynton Marsalis and many others. (86)

Dave Bartholomew

DAVE BARTHOLOMEW was one of the (many) towering figures in New Orleans music. He was a producer, composer, trumpeter, arranger, and songwriter, who wrote many hits for others, especially Fats Domino.

He was a trumpeter in several bands before he started producing and writing music. Besides Fats, he also produced T-Bone Walker, Smiley Lewis, Chris Kenner and many others. Dave performs one of his own songs, later a big hit for Fats, Four Winds. (100)

♫ Dave Bartholomew - Four Winds


LES REED was an English songwriter who wrote hits for Tom Jones, Herman’s Hermits, Engelbert Humperdick and many others. (83)

GEOFF HARVEY was an Australian jazz pianist and saxophonist who went on to be a mainstay in television as a musical director for decades. (83)

GEORGE CHAMBERS was one of the four original Chambers Brothers who started out as a soul/gospel group and later added other members to become a full tilt rock band. (88)

Although American, SCOTT WALKER found fame in Britain as a member of the Walker Brothers (none of whom were named Walker, including Scott). He later veered into experimentalism, producing music that few wanted to hear. (76)

HAL BLAINE was a session drummer, one of the famous “Wrecking Crew” who were responsible for many hits in Los Angeles, notably under the direction of Phil Spector, and occasionally Brian Wilson. (90)

Chris Wilson

CHRIS WILSON was an Australian blues musician who was most famous for playing harmonica and singing, however, he also played guitar and saxophone.

For 20 years he was a school teacher until he decided to give music a try. From then on he was one of Australia’s most respected musicians. He was featured, usually playing harmonica, on the albums of many performers. From his album “Live At The Continental” here is Face In The Mirror. (62)

Chris Wilson - Face In The Mirror


FRED FOSTER was a music producer who founded his own record company that was home to several later well-know country artists. He launched the careers of Roy Orbison and Dolly Parton, and co-wrote Me and Bobby McGee with Kris Kristofferson. (87)

JOHN STARLING was the guitarist and co-founder of The Seldom Scene, one of the most influential bluegrass bands around. (79)

KOFI BURBRIDGE was the keyboard player for the Tedeschi Trucks Band. He was also a noted flute and organ player, as well as any other instrument he could pick up. (57)

VINNIE BELL was a session guitarist who worked with Simon and Garfunkel, The Four Seasons and others. He was also noted for his technical innovations and invented the first electric 12 string guitar and an electric sitar. (87)

IAIN SUTHERLAND was the singer, guitarist and songwriter for the Sutherland Brothers and Quiver who were quite successful in the seventies. He also wrote songs for others, most notably Rod Stewart. (71)

Russell Smith

RUSSELL SMITH was the singer and main songwriter for the fine southern rock group The Amazing Rhythm Aces. He also had a solo career. Quite a few of his songs have been covered by other performers, but his were generally the definitive versions.

This is Russell out in front of the Aces with one of his most popular songs, Third Rate Romance. (70)

Amazing Rhythm Aces - Third Rate Romance


GERALD ENGLISH was a British tenor who spent much of his career in Australia. He specialised in modern works – Britten, Stravinsky, Berg, Janácek and others. He also recorded early music successfully. (93)

RIC OCASEK was a co-founder, lead singer and guitarist for the late seventies and eighties new wave rock band The Cars. They had more than a dozen charting songs. (75)

JOHN COHEN was a guitarist, photographer and film maker amongst other things. He was a founding member of the influential acoustic group The New Lost City Ramblers. (87)

DONNIE FRITTS was a songwriter and session musician as well as a performer in his own right. He also played keyboards for Kris Kristofferson for more than 40 years. (76)

João Gilberto

JOÃO GILBERTO was a Brazilian singer, guitarist, and songwriter who, pretty much single handedly, brought Bossa Nova to the outside world.

Besides making dozens of records in Brazil, he also performed with several famous jazz and pop musicians, most notably Frank Sinatra and Stan Getz. It’s the albums he made with Stan that brought him to worldwide notice.

From the first of these (“Getz/Gilberto”) we have probably his most famous song, The Girl from Ipanema. João sings and plays guitar and is later joined by his then wife Astrud Gilberto singing the second part. Also along for the ride is Antônio Carlos Jobim playing piano, and of course, Stan on tenor sax. (88)

♫ João Gilberto - The Girl from Ipanema


LARRY TAYLOR was the original bass player for Canned Heat. He also worked with Tom Waits, John Mayall and the Monkees. (77)

D.A. PENNEBAKER was a documentary film maker who filmed some of the best moments of music from the sixties and seventies. These include “Monterey Pop”, “Don’t Look Back” (about Bob Dylan’s tour of Britain; the last gasp of his acoustic period), a Jimi Hendrix concert, some John Lennon, David Bowie, Little Richard and others.

He was also involved in the filming of the Woodstock Festival. (94)

JIM PIKE was the cofounder and lead singer of The Lettermen a vocal group who were successful in the sixties. (82)

GINGER BAKER was the drummer for rock’s first supergroup Cream. He admired great jazz drummers and he brought elements of that style to what was ostensibly a blues/rock genre. (80)

Dr John

It’s been a bad year for New Orleans musicians, and DR JOHN, born Malcolm Rebennack, is the latest. Mac, as he was universally known to his fellow musos, started out as a guitarist but switched to piano when he had a finger shot off during an altercation.

Besides his own concerts and records, he was greatly in demand as a session piano player. His music was darker and moodier than most, and a lot more interesting.

The good doctor plays with the guitarist Johnny Winter, in a jam session they had together, the song You Lie Too Much. (77)

Dr. John & Johnny Winter - You Lie Too Much


There were considerably more, but I had to draw the line somewhere.



INTERESTING STUFF – 28 December 2019

RAM DASS DIES AT 88

Lost amid Christmas hubbub and never-ending Trump chaos, was the death of Ram Dass (born Richard Alpert) last Sunday at his home in Maui, Hawaii.

He started out as a Harvard professor, shared 1960s fame promoting psychedelics with fellow Harvard professor Timothy Leary and after a trip to India, spent the rest of his life as spiritual leader beloved by millions.

In September, a biographical film, Becoming Nobody, was released. Here is the theatrical trailer:

The film will become available on DVD on 20 January 2020 here. His many books are available at most of the usual places.

I met Ram Dass once, briefly, in the 1970s, and greatly respect him. There are a bunch of good obituaries online. Here are three of them:

New York Times
Huffington Post
Rolling Stone

POLAR BEAR TWINS WITH MAMA

A couple of polar bear cubs rolling around in the the snow and crawling all over mama on a cold winter's day.

MAKE EARTH COOL AGAIN

Take a look at this guy's hat – I want one:

SteveGhanHat

Steve Ghan is a climate scientist. Here's what The Los Angeles Times says about him:

”He spent 28 years at the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory in Richland, Wash., building the complex climate models that — together with many other lines of evidence — helped confirm humanity’s role in warming the planet. Advocacy was not part of his portfolio.

“'We naively thought, Well, OK, we’ve done our job, now the politicians are going to make decisions,’ he said. 'But that’s not the way it worked.'

“So Ghan bucked tradition and began speaking publicly about the risks of climate change. And these days, more and more scientists are making the same choice.

“They are rejecting the idea that researchers should stick to the data and let others figure out what to do with it. Driven by the lack of climate action, they are marching in the streets, signing on to manifestos and even getting arrested — all in the name of avoiding the worst effects of global warming.”

The thing is, I really want one of those hats. I think every one of us who understands that climate change is anything but the hoax the president says it is should wear one of these blue hats. Imagine if they became an ubiquitous as those red hats. I wish I knew where to get one.

Your can read more – and please do – at The Los Angeles Times.

HAND ART

Or, as it is also called, handimals. TGB reader and Reader Story contributor Jack Handley sent this item and wait until you see what he is talking about.

The artist is Guido Daniele of Milan, Italy. (Just hit the pause button on your browser if you want more time with an image):

There is a lot more about Mr. Daniele at his website and still images of more handimals here.

WHY DON'T CHOCOLATE CHIPS MELT IN THE OVEN

Good question. Here is part of what Mental Floss tells us:

”Unlike baking chocolate, chocolate chips differ in that they tend to have a lower amount of cocoa butter, which makes them more resistant to heat. Some chips also have stabilizers and emulsifiers like soy lecithin to help them maintain their shape—the chips are essentially engineered to resist attempts to turn them into liquid.

“Chips like Nestlé's Morsels do, in fact, melt when baked. But because the cookie dough has firmed up around them, the chips retain their shape. After the cookie has cooled, the chocolate solidifies once more, giving the appearance of a chip that has been unaffected by the heat.”

There is more detail and some background on chocolate chip cookies at Mental Floss.

PRONOUNCING THE ENGLISH LANGUAGE

People who learn English as a second language often complain about confusing way it is spelled and pronounced.

A Dutch writer, traveler and educator named Dr. Gerard Nolst Trenité took the pronunciation complaint seriously and wrote a poem titled The Chaos about it. Mental Floss (again) explains:

“...a poem written in 1920 perfectly encapsulates the baffling nature of English. In fact, it's so tricky that even native English speakers with college degrees may struggle to get through it without botching a word...

“It starts out easy, then gets progressively harder.”

You can follow along in this video:

There is an even longer version written by The English Spelling Society published in 1990s – 274 lines compared to the original 146 lines in the video. You can read that here [pdf] – sorry, no audio or video that I can find.

More information at Mental Floss.

CATS IN SNOW FOR THE FIRST TIME

Apparently the weather this weekend on the east coast of the United States is more like spring than winter. On the other side of the world, Australia is suffering horribly with the hottest temperatures on record and accompanying wild fires.

Here is something to cool off to from TGB reader Cathy Johnson. (I found the music really annoying so I hit the mute button.)

MAKING FRIENDS

I promise this is the last Christmas video of the season but it could take place at any time of the year. It's a bit treacly for my taste but I like it anyway.

* * *

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.



Maya Angelou – On Aging

In the five or six years before I started this blog 15 years ago, when I was doing my early research into aging, there were hardly any books about the subject. The few that existed were mostly academic tomes, popular instructions on how to appear younger and collections of jokes about how awful getting old is.

That changed at just about the exact moment the oldest baby boomer turned 65 in 2011. I don't mean the books necessarily got better. Only that the passage of those earliest boomers into elderhood begot a tsunami of books on ageing.

From that point forward, anyone who lived to be 60 or more, with or without discernible English language skills, wrote a book about growing old. (Near illiterates were, apparently, as ticked off about incessant disparagement of growing old as I was/am.)

No one writes about other ages of life while they are living them. Teenagers don't. Nor do young adults. And the only person I know who wrote about middle age was my late friend, Eda LeShan. It is titled The Wonderful Crisis of Middle Age, a book Eda approached from her professional perspective of family counselor.

Books about ageing – good, bad and mostly indifferent – now pour forth annually, so many that I no longer bother with them unless I can discern their relative value before reading.

I know. I miss some good ones but what's an old girl to do – there is only so much time.

Sometimes years later I catch up with a book I ignored when it was first published (I'll be telling you about one of those soon). Other times, I turn to shorter pieces which, depending on the writer, can be as knowing and wise as book-length thoughts occasionally are.

An important one came to mind over the past week or so.

It has been more than five years now since author, editor, college professor, truth-teller Maya Angelou died in 2014. Undoubtedly, I don't need to tell you how wise a woman she was and she found her way to writing about age now and then.

Her slim 2009 volume, Letter to My Daughter, is packed with her charm, insight and warmth including this:

"I am convinced that most people do not grow up. We marry and dare to have children and call that growing up. I think what we do is mostly grow old.

“We carry accumulation of years in our bodies, and on our faces, but generally our real selves, the children inside, are innocent and shy as magnolias."

Isn't that splendid: “our real selves, the children inside, are innocent and shy as magnolias."

She also said this:

”The most important thing I can tell you about aging is this: If you really feel that you want to have an off-the-shoulder blouse and some big beads and thong sandals and a dirndl skirt and a magnolia in your hair, do it. Even if you're wrinkled.”

She sure did get a lot of good use out of magnolias.

Maya Angelou wrote an entire poem about being old and snippets from it have been bubbling up in my mind frequently enough that I had to track it down.

I posted it here when Ms. Angelou died and since there is nothing I can say about this extraordinary, inspiration of a woman that others have said well, here is the poem again, On Aging.

When you see me sitting quietly,
Like a sack left on the shelf,
Don’t think I need your chattering.
I’m listening to myself.

Hold! Stop! Don’t pity me!
Hold! Stop your sympathy!
Understanding if you got it,
Otherwise I’ll do without it!

When my bones are stiff and aching,
And my feet won’t climb the stair,
I will only ask one favor:
Don’t bring me no rocking chair.

When you see me walking, stumbling,
Don’t study and get it wrong.
‘Cause tired don’t mean lazy
And every goodbye ain’t gone.

I’m the same person I was back then,
A little less hair, a little less chin,
A lot less lungs and much less wind.
But ain’t I lucky I can still breathe in.



Merry Christmas, Everyone

And now for what has become a Time Goes By tradition, the eighth annual playback of Penelope Keith's marvelous reading – as Miss Cynthia Bracegirdle – of And Yet Another Partridge in a Pear Tree: A Cautionary Tale for Christmas Showing That it is Better to Give than to Receive.

It was originally broadcast on the BBC (Radio 4) on 25 December 1977 – and is wickedly funny. From Soundcloud.



A TGB READER STORY: Christmas Elves

By DJan Stewart of Djan-ity

One year when I was home visiting my parents and siblings for the holidays, my sister Norma Jean and I went to Midnight Mass on Christmas Eve. I think I had been married for some time and away from home for awhile, but I really don't remember when it was for sure.

My parents had two distinct families, and the youngest three children were all six or under at this time, while Norma Jean and I were adults.

When we went out the door, Mama and Daddy had begun the Christmas Eve preparations for the young ones in the house (my brother and sisters) who had finally gone to bed. Daddy had begun to assemble a bicycle for our brother Buz, while Mama had to finish wrapping and putting Santa's gifts under the tree. It was a warm and happy scene. Off we went to Midnight Mass.

When we returned, the scene was anything but happy. The entire living room was scattered with glasses half-covered in salt (from partially consumed margaritas), and the bike was still only half assembled in the living room. The entire scene was, in a word, a nightmare. And our parents had stumbled into their bedroom and crawled into bed.

Apparently in the midst of their tasks, some friends had come over to visit and our parents had gotten quite drunk and forgotten what tonight meant to their young children.

We were aghast. For a few minutes we wandered through the living room and kitchen and wondered what to do. We decided that we would be Christmas elves and fix things.

Norma Jean set to the task of reading directions on how to assemble the bicycle and I began to clean things up. We toiled for several hours before inspecting our work and calling it good.

Norma Jean had learned how to follow arcane directions and actually put the bike together! (I was more impressed by this than I let on at the time.)

Well, in the morning the kids came downstairs to find that Santa had indeed come during the night and that his elves had done their work quite well.

It is one of the more satisfying Christmas memories that I share with my sister. We still smile about it. I had to write to Norma Jean to see if my memory of the event matched hers, and it pretty much did. She said,

”Maybe that's where I got the start of loving the feeling of accomplishment when I read directions and put things together...We cleaned up and set up the living room to be a real Christmas when everyone got up the next morning. It was certainly memorable.”

Over the years, Christmas has lost much of its magic for me. I don't like what I see happening to Christmas these days, but I am sure that there are still many parents, and Santas, and elves, making things happen for others.

(Oh, and by the way, I have forgotten what our parents' reaction to all this was, even though I am sure they appreciated the visit from the elves.)

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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.]



British Christmas Adverts – Part 2

(Part 1 is here.)

Following on from a week ago, today we have Part 2 of the 2019 British Christmas Adverts survey. It's not all of them, but a whole lot. Some are just okay and some are spectacularly good. All enjoyable.

In the videos below, the top line, in bold caps, is the title of the video. The second line is the name of the sponsor. Enjoy.

WHERE YOU SHOP MATTERS
Visa

In our online shopping era, people need to be reminded about their local stores. There are 13 real-life shopkeepers in this advert including a bookseller, greengrocer, antique dealer and café owner.


NICHOLAS THE SWEEP
Sainsbury's

To quote the YouTube page:

”150 years ago Sainsbury’s opened their first store and Christmas changed forever. Coincidence? Almost certainly - ho ho ho.”


LET'S MAKE CHRISTMAS EXTRA SPECIAL
ASDA

Jack and Tilly spread Christmas magic around their town.


THE AMAZING ALDI CHRISTMAS SHOW
Aldi

Witness the Flying Tra-peas, a guest appearance from bad guy Russell Sprout and of course, the star of the show - #KevinTheCarrot.


MORRISON'S COLLEAGUES
Morrison's

Many of the Christmas adverts are expensive extravaganzas. This low-budget video is just as heartwarming.


SILENCE THE CRITICS
Ikea

This is the company's first Christmas advert.


GET MORE OUT OF GIVING
Very.co.uk

From the YouTube page.

”Very's Christmas advert tells the story of a community that comes together to give Sidney, a lonely man, a Christmas that he’ll never forget.”


HOLIDAY CHILL
eBay

This year, eBay promised no holiday promotions until November.


GIFT DIFFERENT
TK Maxx

The goal, they say, is to break the monotony of gifting.


That's it – all the British Christmas adverts I have. Oh, except for this one that I posted on it's own about three weeks ago. It's my favorite of the year – maybe the best reunion ever – and worth a second viewing. Or third. Or fourth.

A HOLIDAY REUNION
Xfinity/Comcast

Merry Christmas, everyone.



ELDER MUSIC: Christmas 2019

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.

* * *

ChristmasOz

It’s getting hot so that means that Christmas must be near, so it’s time for my usual collection of dreadful Christmas songs. Actually, looking over my selection this year, they’re not as bad as in the past so you probably won’t have to skip the column this year.

Round about now we are also regaled on TV by a plethora of Christmas films, all of which are dreadful. As far as I’m concerned there’s only one good Christmas flick (well, two, but most people won’t consider the other a Yule time movie).

The one is We’re No Angels with Humphrey Bogart, Aldo Ray, Peter Ustinov and Leo G. Carroll.

No Angels

In case you’re wondering, the other is Three Days of the Condor.

Condor

I know that a lot of you are going to say, what about...? Sorry, I don’t think that one is very good. Enough of that, let’s get to the music.

I try to avoid songs that are straight on this topic, but when you have

THE BLIND BOYS OF ALABAMA and TAJ MAHAL performing, I don’t care what they sing.

Taj & Blind Boys

The Blind Boys have been making great music since 1939 and Taj has also done that since the sixties. With their vocal prowess and his skill on pretty much any instrument, they were a natural fit. Here, from an album called “Talkin' Christmas!” they perform Who Will Remember?

♫ Blind Boys & Taj Mahal - Who Will Remember


Goodness me, two tracks in a row that could be played on the better radio stations. In this case we have the wonderful RENÉE FLEMING.

Renee Fleming

Renée gets away from her usual opera gig to perform The Christmas Waltz. This is pure jazz and it shows that she could have made a decent living singing this style as well. Personally, I’m glad she went the classical route, but I’m sure there are others who might disagree.

♫ Renée Fleming - The Christmas Waltz


Okay, it’s time for Christmas on my side of the world, and who better to inform you than the national living treasure PAUL KELLY?

Paul Kelly

What a terrific, unsentimental song this is: How to Make Gravy. No more needs to be said, just listen to it and hear about Christmas in summer from a slightly unusual narrator.

♫ Paul Kelly - How To Make Gravy


It wouldn’t be one of my Christmas columns if I didn’t have a jail song. Actually, the previous one also touched on that a little. I have no idea why there are so many of them, but it’s good for my column.

In this case it’s JONATHAN COULTON and JOHN RODERICK.

Jonathan Coulton & John Roderick

From their album of alternate Christmas songs (a good resource for me) called “One Christmas at a Time” we have Christmas in Jail.

♫ Jonathan Coulton & John Roderick - Christmas in Jail


Most of my songs over the years have been about dysfunctional Christmases, as I think they make the best songs on this topic. I’m probably in the minority here, but I get to choose the songs so you’ll have to go along with them. One singer you probably wouldn’t expect in this category is JOHN DENVER.

John Denver

He recorded it twice, once with the heavenly choir and once without. Here’s the one with them all chortling along. The song is Please Daddy.

♫ John Denver - Please Daddy


After Oscar McLollie was drafted during WWII, he played USO shows to some considerable success. Later, he continued doing what he did so well, jump blues – a precursor to rock & roll. He and his group, OSCAR MCLOLLIE & HIS HONEY JUMPERS perform a Christmas song in that style.

Oscar McLollie

That song is Dig That Crazy Santa Claus. Oscar remained popular wherever jump blues was appreciated into the 21st century.

♫ Oscar McLollie & His Honey Jumpers - Dig That Crazy Santa Claus


Whenever there’s a new dance craze, there’ll be songs written about it covering all sorts of situations, including Christmas. The next song fits into that category; it’s performed by BILL DARNEL AND THE SMITH BROTHERS.

Bill Darnel

The dance craze in this case is the mambo. The song is (We Wanna See) Santa Do The Mambo.

♫ Bill Darnel & The Smith Brothers - (We Wanna See) Santa Do The Mambo


JOAN BAEZ recorded this song before the current incumbent was in the White House and she was already anxious about the situation.

Joan Baez

I wonder if she still sings the song and, if so, how it’s changed. Probably doesn’t need much tweaking. Here is Christmas in Washington.

♫ Joan Baez - Christmas In Washington


JIMMY RUSHING was the singer for the COUNT BASIE band for thirteen years.

Count Basie & Jimmy Rushing

Jimmy was more a jump blues performer than a big band singer, but he fitted in really well nonetheless. He later had a solo career. Here are the Count and his band with Jimmy out in front performing Good Morning Blues (I Wanna See Santa Claus).

♫ Count Basie - Good Morning Blues (I Wanna See Santa Claus)


I’ll end with my traditional moment of couth. In this case moments as I have two of them, beginning with MICHAEL PRAETORIUS.

Michael Praetorius

Mike was born Michael Schultze but adopted the Latinized version of his name. He spanned the late 16th and early 17th century and was a prolific composer.

He started out composing secular music, but later switched to religious music at the behest of the bigwigs who paid his salary. One such is from his Christmas Vespers called “Apollo’s Fire”. It’s the hymn Queen Pastores.

♫ Praetorius - Hymn ~ Queen Pastores


You could pretty much guarantee that J.S. BACH would be present.

Bach-JS

He wrote quite a bit of Christmas music (well, he wrote quite a bit of other music too), and we have something from his “Christmas Oratorio”. That something is Herr, dein Mitleid, dein Erbarmen.

♫ J.S. Bach - Herr dein Mitleid dein Erbarmen

Christmas in Oz



INTERESTING STUFF – 21 December 2019

THE PIANO GUYS RIG A PIANO TO CONTROL 500,000 CHRISTMAS LIGHTS

It's fun to watch things like this but I always wonder who has the patience to put it all together.

A VERY COOL VERSION OF WHITE CHRISTMAS

The Youtube page tells us the cartoon is by Joshua Held. Also,

White Christmas, an Irving Berlin song...was first performed by Bing Crosby in 1941. The Drifters featuring lead singer Clyde McPhatter and bass vocalist Bill Pinkney recorded this cover in 1954.”

RESURRECTING CURSIVE WRITING

In the comments on Wednesday's post, several readers mentioned the loss of cursive writing, lamenting that it is no longer taught.

As it turns out, all is not lost. Many states still teach it and more are joining in. In fact, a 10-year-old just won a state and national cursive competition.

Cursive-samples-slide-E4SM-superJumbo

The New York Times tells us that

”Kathleen Wright, who worked for Zaner-Bloser, a company that publishes cursive workbooks and sponsored the national competition, said 24 states now required some form of cursive instruction, including seven that had adopted policies since 2013.”

Of course there are at least as many people who oppose cursive as those who realize it ought to be taught. And there are a lot of jokes about cursive too. If you have a New York Times subscription, the article is worth a read.

LET'S TALK ABOUT SIZE...

...comparative size, that is, of objects in our Galaxy. Astonishing.

DON'T IRRITATE THE RHINOCEROS

TGB reader Joan McMullen sent this video of a really angry rhinoceros. India Today reports on this incident that took place at Serengeti Park in Germany last August:

”...the zookeeper suffered minor injuries and managed to escape somehow. In fact, she is ready to begin working as well. 'She is very experienced, with us for 25 years. She has a concussion and bruises, but wants to work Friday again,' Fabrizio told German newspaper Bild.”

MAMA KOALA RESCUES HER BABY

That headline is all you need to know – just enjoy.

OPERA FROM THE ANIMALS

Conducted by a squirrel. From TGB reader Nana Royer.

Here are the music details: Squilla Il Bronzo Del Dio - Guerra, guerra Composed by Vincenzo Bellini, Performed by The Orchestra of the Welsh National Opera, Dame Joan Sutherland, Samuel Ramey. Conducted by Richard Bonynge.

* * *

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 Alex and Ronni Show: A Birthday, Software Update and a Lot of Laughs

It was a big day Wednesday when Alex and I recorded this week's episode of The Alex and Ronni Show - it was Alex's 80th birthday. That's no small thing.

We had a good laugh about how, in our old age, the medical community wants to update us regularly, like a software update. It sure does seem that way sometimes.

Then we laughed some more about being one another's oldest living friend – oldest, that is, in terms of how many years we have known each other.

Actually, we laughed pretty much all the way through this video. About new year resolutions, technology, politics, old age, how childhood has changed and we also talked a little about the new-ish opening Alex cut for his online show.

It's just beautiful – a montage of gorgeously shot New York City scenes that, for me, catches the essence of the city, and it made me a bit weepy missing it. Take a look:

Later in the day I wondered how long we've been doing The Alex and Ronni Show. When I checked, I was surprised to see that Alex did an interview with me for his show way back in September 2017. That's only three months after my cancer diagnosis.

We began the bi-weekly show we do now in February 2018. I had no idea it had been that long – it is true about how the passage of time seems to go faster and faster the older we get.

Anyway, below is the latest episode. You will find Alex's show on Youtube. Or, it is also on Gabnet or on Facebook.

You can find Alex's show – Alex Bennett's Ramble – on Facebook and Apple Podcasts.


Goals and Resolutions for 2020

It's that time of year again. You know, the gazillions of 10 Best lists, although many of them, when I wasn't looking, seem to have morphed into 50 Best and 100 Best.

Are there even 100 airlines in the world? I'll repeat what I said here a few days ago: Too many choices is no choice at all.

(There is even a list of 50 New Year's Resolution Ideas. Do you suppose there really are people who can't work that out on their own?)

New Years Resolutions are a long-time, annual ritual for many people, a chance for a clean slate to put a plan in place to improve one's life in some way. Back when I did such things, I mostly thought about finding a new job I would like better or getting married or losing 15 pounds.

Nowadays, at age 78, resolutions don't seem to apply as much in old age. After all, how much time is left for me to enjoy whatever fix I might manage to accomplish after I've struggled to achieve it. Plus, old age often brings restrictions to what is possible.

That is certainly true for me.

Unless it's totally flat ground, I don't walk there. And I don't do stairs anymore without thinking about each step and breath. I almost never accept nor plan evening activities now. Dinner at 9PM? Are you kidding? That's bedtime.

But there are still all kinds of other things one could resolve to try in a new year: run for local office, for example. Or learn a language. Volunteer. Start a book club or discussion group.

Another choice is to skip the whole idea and keep doing what you've been doing if that's what you enjoy. That's my decision this year.

I'm not making resolutions or setting new goals for 2020 because I have no memory that I every achieved the ones I made. Why would that change now.

These days, I live with two incurable diseases, cancer and COPD, which limit my life each in its own way. Outside of following doctors' instructions and doing what I can to remain otherwise healthy, I'm stuck with the limitations they impose.

Many TGB readers have their limitations too. It is true that few of us get to the end of long lives without some impediment, great or small.

So my interest in the new year – and perhaps yours too – has changed. It has less to do with accomplishment and more about hope and curiosity.

For me, it involves first, the result of the impeachment trial and second, whether President Donald Trump is convicted and removed from office or not, the November election.

Either way - with Trump as the Republican candidate or someone else – it will be an election like no other we have seen. With more at stake than we have ever contemplated in a previous election.

If Trump wins election, I believe we – humankind, the planet – are doomed. If the Democrat wins (I hardly care which), humankind might eke out a chance. A small one, but a chance nonetheless.

In this bright, shiny new year that is almost upon us, I hope to live long enough to see that outcome. I have no idea if, in my health condition, it is reasonable to have that hope. But it's my goal for the year 2020.

What are your resolutions or goals or hopes for next year?



A TGB READER STORY: The Data Dilemma

By Susan Remson

Every day we read, hear or see something about privacy and how our lives, and the specifics of it, seem to be watered down into one word. DATA.

Where I shop, what I eat, how I spend my money, who I phone, what I watch on TV, and who I vote for and so much more about me is reduced to numbers. DATA.

Everything about me is out there for lobbyists, candidates, marketers, insurers, health care providers and researchers of every shape and discipline to find out all about me. Easily, I am told. DATA.

DATA is my Permanent Record. Remember permanent records? If you’re as old as I am, you went through grade school and high school being told that everything you did would be on your Permanent Record (in my mind it was always capitalized).

From the time you started school you were told that your PM would haunt you for the rest of your life. Every third grader trembled at the thought that every mistake she ever made would follow her for the rest of her life!

Well, now my PM is DATA. Every time I pick up my phone or go to the bank or purchase a banana, my DATA is recorded, although if I don’t want the sale price on bananas, maybe not.

I have been hesitant to get those digital coupons that the grocery offers because I know they are recording my purchasing preferences. And selling my phone number which will lead to more calls from unknown phone numbers that I don’t answer.

I’ve only recently given in to online shopping – maybe that’s because all the stores in my neighborhood are closing and I don’t know where to go to for my basic needs except online. But I am still spooked by those pop-up ads that know exactly what I have searched for and what I might want to buy. And I’m not just talking about buying bananas.

But here’s the thing. Maybe I shouldn’t mind so much. After all, how different is that DATA to my school PM? Okay, maybe it’s more telling, more invasive, more revealing of my personal habits, but when I think about it, I was never very concerned about my PM.

The reason I wasn’t concerned is because I hardly ever did anything wrong in grade school, and in high school I was a meek, shy, obedient student with mediocre grades and few extracurricular activities.

If you were to track down my PM and read it, you’d be pretty bored. If you do want to read it, go ahead. I’ve nothing to hide – nothing of interest anyway, except that I was boring.

So what about that DATA that the world now seems to have on me? Well, I think it’d be pretty boring too. Does the world care that I do my banking mostly at the ATM, that my credit is good, that I have had one speeding ticket in the last 50 years and that I prefer bananas to oranges?

Perhaps, but I’ve really nothing to hide and actually I might even benefit from someone knowing my fruit preferences.

This past week I got an envelope in the mail from the store where I do most of my grocery shopping. It was filled with coupons and each and every coupon was for an item that I have purchased in the past and will probably purchase again. The DATA that the grocery store collected is actually good for my bottom line.

Really, how can I resist a dollar off on toilet paper and a free pound of butter? Not easily!

Maybe the real bottom line is this: If you live your life with nothing to hide, you don’t have to worry about the DATA. It’s not DIRT. It’s just DATA.

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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.]



British Christmas Adverts – Part 1

In November and December each year, some of Great Britain's oldest and most well-known retail establishments spend gobs of money on Christmas commercials that can warm your heart, make you laugh and even, sometimes, force an unexpected tear or two from your eye.

In past holiday seasons, I have sometimes posted one of the adverts that caught my eye but this year I did a survey of all that are out there. Whew! A lot. Some are fantastic. Others are only so-so. But it's been fun checking them out.

There are so many that I'll share these with you in two batches – today and next Monday. This is not every British Christmas advert but it's a large enough number for me. In the videos below, the top line, in bold caps, is the title of the video. The second line is the name of the sponsor. Enjoy.

BE A KID THIS CHRISTMAS
Hafod Hardware

Just to prove that you don't need to be a big, rich corporation to make a terrific holiday advert, here is one from the hardware store in the small town of Rhayader, Wales, population 2,000.

The little boy is Arthur Lewis Jones, age 2.


EDGAR THE EXCITABLE DRAGON
John Lewis and Partners and Waitrose and Partners

About a little girl and her friendship with an excitable young dragon who almost derails festivities with his fire-breathing excitement.


GRETA THUNBERG AND DONALD TRUMP
Parody of the Edgar/John Lewis video

I know – some people think we should leave politics out of the season but this is worth it. Some guy named Joe with a YouTube channel fashioned this video from the John Lewis dragon vid above.


TOO GOOD TO SHARE
Walkers

Also titled All Mariah Carey Wants This Christmas, this is what happens behind the scenes when Mariah Carey and a Christmas elf discover the last bag of Walkers Pigs in Blankets.


DELIVERING CHRISTMAS
Tesco

A Tesco delivery driver takes an unexpected detour through time, embarking upon 100 years of Delivering Christmas in one magical night. Loaded with a van full of ‘food from the future,’ he might just make a few historic deliveries along the way.


THE MAGIC OF FROZEN
Iceland Foods

Iceland Foods teamed up with the Disney film Frozen 2 for this advert. Three words: Perfect Christmas Dinner.


THE BOOK OF DREAMS (Extended Version)
Argos

Argos renames the catalogue ‘The Book of Dreams’ as a dad’s childhood dreams are awoken when he sees the drumkit his daughter has circled.


THE ELIXER
Disneyland Paris

How Disneyland in Paris came to be.


THIS IS NOT JUST FOOD...
M & S Food

It's M&S Christmas Food – that's what they tell us. The M&S Food Christmas Market – where good food and festive fun collide to create a magical Christmas experience.


KEEPING YOUR WHOLE FAMILY CONNECTED
Sure Petcare

Once upon a time, in a happy, comfortable home, the Bell Family were preparing for Christmas. On Christmas Day, Mrs Bell left the house before dawn to go to her job as a nurse. Though she was sad to leave on such a special day, she knew that even in her absence she would still feel connected to her pets.

Part 2 of British Christmas Adverts is here.



ELDER MUSIC: Several Symphonies

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

* * *

I hope you’re up for some hard core music, because that’s what you’re getting today.

Joseph Haydn is considered the father of the symphony. I don't know who the mother was. I doubt it was Mrs. Haydn as they didn't get on at all well. It could have been Luigia Polzelli with whom old Jo got on very well indeed (nudge nudge wink wink).

The symphony was around before Jo's time but it was a teeny weeny little thing, a bit like the original mammals that were about the size of a mouse and scurried around under dinosaurs' feet.

After the great extinction of 65 million years ago they grew to become zebras and wombats and whales and us. We know who the whale is in the context of symphonies, don't we Gustav?

Enough of this stretching a metaphor to its breaking point, let’s get to the music.

I’ll start with one of the mouse-like symphonies. WILLIAM BOYCE was considered at the time to be the finest English musical talent of the 18th century.

William Boyce

Perhaps that should be native born talent as he had the misfortune to overlap somewhat with Mr. Handel. He also overlapped at either ends of his life with Bach, Haydn and Mozart, so no wonder he's been relegated to the back shelves in our music stores (if he even manages to get in there in the first place).

Will wrote eight symphonies, all of which fit on a single CD, so he's my mouse for the day. Here is his complete Symphony No. 1. It’s shorter than the single movements of everyone else today.

♫ Boyce - Symphony No. 1


This naturally brings us to JOSEPH HAYDN. Although he didn't invent the symphony, he made it his own. He wrote more than a hundred of them, any one of which is a worthy contender for inclusion.

Haydn

A number of his symphonies had really good names, mostly attached to them after Jo had kicked the bucket. Some of those are The Surprise (94), The Clock (101), Drumroll (103), The Bear (82), The Hen (83), Philosopher (22), Palindrome (47), The Schoolmaster (55) and so on.

No 45, The Farewell, is interesting. I originally had that as the musical track, but I decided to include it in my column devoted to Haydn. You can read about it there.

So, another named symphony, No 31, Hornsignal, the second movement. This one sounds to me rather like a string quartet (something for which Papa Jo was world champion) with a French horn thrown in for good measure.

♫ Haydn - Symphony No. 31 (2)


WOLFGANG MOZART took what Haydn had done and ran with it, but not very far. His last several are considered his masterpieces in this category.

Mozart

The last three he wrote, numbers 39, 40 and 41 all deserve inclusion. Number 41 has gained a name over the years, the Jupiter. However, I'm very partial to number 40, and that’s the one we have today – the first movement of his Symphony No.40 in G minor K.550.

♫ Mozart - Symphony No.40 (1)


LUDWIG BEETHOVEN raised the stakes even further; probably so high that no one else could match him although many tried. A few came close.

Beethoven

All but the first couple of his could be included today. Number 5 especially, that's one you all know (da da da dum). I'd like to do number 9, his masterpiece, but it's a bit long. Number 7 is worth listening to, as is number 3.

Number 6 is my favorite, it's different from the others and is usually referred to as The Pastoral and it shows Ludwig at his most mellow. I wanted to use one of the middle movements but he decided to run them all in together so that was out.

So, I've gone for the one that seems to be the least performed (apart from the first two) and that is number 8: the Symphony No.8 in F, Op.93. The second movement.

♫ Beethoven - Symphony No.8 in F Op.93 (2)


FRANZ SCHUBERT learnt a lot from Beethoven. Mozart and Haydn too.

Schubert

He certainly knew Ludwig, but Wolfie died too early for them to have met. Papa Jo died when Franz was 12 so they may have met but probably not. It doesn’t matter in the scheme of things.

I would have liked to include number 9, generally known as “The Great”. Alas, that not only describes the quality of the music, but the length of the work as well.

There are a couple in the middle, 5 and 6, that are worth a listen (well, they all are really). I’ve chosen the first movement of Symphony No. 5 in B flat major, D. 485.

♫ Schubert - Symphony No. 5 in B flat major D. 485 (1)


Continuing into the middle of the 19th century brings us to FELIX MENDELSSOHN.

Mendelssohn

Felix went on an extended tour of Europe from 1829 to 1831. This inspired him to write music about places he had been – his Symphony No 3, called the “Scottish symphony” and The Hebrides Overture, also from that country. Italy also inspired him to write a symphony, not too surprisingly called “The Italian”. That was Symphony No 4 in A Major Op 90.

Felix conducted the premier performance of this one in London. He wasn’t satisfied with it and kept tinkering with it throughout his life such that it wasn’t published until after he died. He didn’t touch the first movement, as he was happy with that. Here it is.

♫ Mendelssohn - Symphony No 4 A Major op.90 'Italian' (1)


PYOTR TCHAIKOVSKY is generally relegated to the reserves bench by the classical buffs, although that seems to be changing a bit lately.

Tchaikovsky

He’s considered a bit lightweight, possibly because his music is so popular with those who may not go to concerts regularly. I must admit to ambivalence about a lot of his works, but I really like his symphonies, especially number 5.

This is up there with the rest of the compositions today. It's the second movement of the Symphony no 5 Op. 64 in E minor that we have today.

♫ Tchaikovsky - Symphony no 5 Op.64 in E minor (2)


While we're on the subject of Russians, someone who’s not generally considered in this category, especially given the heavyweights we’ve already played, is ALEXANDER BORODIN.

Borodin

Alex is mostly known for the couple of string quartets, the second in particular that gave rise to the music that was usurped and used in the musical Kismet. His opera Prince Igor also added more music to that.

Alex’s main gig was Professor of Chemistry and he was also a doctor and a surgeon, and he championed women’s entry into university to study such things decades before that was generally so.

He was an accomplished pianist and a composer of considerable facility. That he only did in his spare time. His compositions are noted for their charm and wonderful melodies. He’s not taken very seriously because of that, however, I disagree with the critics because I like him very much. That’s why he’s here today.

A lot of composers left unfinished symphonies; Schubert is the most famous of those who did so. He wasn’t alone; Mahler’s number 10 has been “finished” by several people over the years.

Likewise, Alex only completed the first two movements of his Symphony No.3 in A minor. This is the first movement.

♫ Borodin - Symphony No.3 in A minor 'Unfinished' (1)


Speaking of heavyweights, here's the world heavyweight champ. I know that a lot of people think that GUSTAV MAHLER is boring. I used to be one of them.

Mahler

The first time I encountered him was back in the early seventies when there was the Melbourne equivalent of the Prom Concerts at the Melbourne Town Hall. We sat on the floor (because we couldn't afford the seats). We were urged to bring cushions along, which we did, but it still wasn't enough.

It was one of his long symphonies; okay they're all pretty long, but it was one of the really long ones, and I said at the time that that was the last time I'd bother with him. I’ve changed my mind over the years when I heard them in a more comfortable setting.

I am now a fan, particularly the fourth, which is quite un-Mahler like and rather dismissed by hard-core Mahler fans. In that symphony, taking a leaf out of Beethoven's book, old Gus made the fourth movement a vocal one – not choral like Ludwig, a single soprano (and an orchestra as well, of course).

It's not the only one where Gus introduced vocals, but it's what we have today. The fourth movement of Symphony No.4 in G. The wonderful Renée Fleming is the singer.

♫ Mahler - Symphony No.4 In G (4)



INTERESTING STUFF – 14 December 2019

DIFFICULTY WAKING UP?

Through many of my working years, I often needed to be up at 4:30AM or 5AM. No big deal. I hit the floor running in those days and was out the door on schedule.

These days, in my dotage, I wake up more like this poor guy. I know exactly how he feels.

JESUS, MARY AND JOSEPH AS REFUGEES

People all over the internet have been discussing (arguing about?) this nativity scene all week so you may have seen it. As the CNN.com Wire Service reports,

”The Claremont United Methodist Church, about 30 miles east of Los Angeles, posted the photo on its website showing [Jesus, Mary and Joseph] held in separate cages topped with barbed wire. The baby Jesus is wrapped in a silver foil blanket.”

Here is some video about it from the local ABC News affiliate including an interview with Lead Pastor Karen Clark Ristine.

You can read more here.

HOW BIG GOVERNMENT CAN HELP

In 2017, two weeks before the enrollment period ended, the U.S. Internal Revenue Service (IRS) sent out letters to more than 3.5 million households suggesting they sign up for health insurance coverage. Then they watched what happened.

As HealthCareDive explains:

The study shows that with a simple nudge in the form of a letter, people were more likely to obtain coverage, which highlights the positive effect outreach can have on increasing insurance enrollment...

“This new evidence raises questions about the wisdom to cut outreach efforts. President Donald Trump's administration previously has slashed advertisement and outreach budgets that were meant to spur enrollment in health insurance coverage through the ACA exchanges.”

The Los Angeles Times continues with additional news from the research:

”...it’s the most statistically valid study showing that mortality rates are lower for people with coverage. Indeed, the study found that among those 49 to 64 years old, acquiring health insurance showed up in lower death rates within a year or two.”

Big government does important things for the people of the United States, but the Trump administration continues to cut funding for many federal agencies.

THE SURGEON WHO PERFORMED MY PANCREATIC CANCER SURGERY

I was poking around the website of the medical center where I have been and continue to be treated for cancer and COPD. Here is a short video with the surgeon, Brett Sheppard, who performed my Whipple procedure at the Oregon Health and Sciences University (OHSU).

He's every bit as smart, dedicated and caring as he appears to be in this video.

THE OLDEST PHARMACY IN THE U.S.

There are lots of complaints lately about what a scary place YouTube is but I spend more time there than I would like to admit and haven't run into anything objectionable except too much awful video production among the good stuff.

Just this week I discovered some videos about the oldest pharmacy in the United States - in New York City, Sixth Avenue between Eighth and Ninth Streets in Greenwich Village – MY pharmacy for the 40 years I lived there.

Here's one of those videos:

GARDEN PARTY

That headline is the title of a 2017 CG animated film directed by Illogic Collective, six French 3D artists during their studies at MoPA, animation school in France.

This short film (7-plus minutes) – another of my random discoveries on YouTube this week - is their graduation film. Think of it as a froggy horror movie that takes place in a deserted villa. The film won a slew of awards and was nominated for an Academy Award.

HOUSE PASSES BILL TO LOWER DRUG COSTS FOR MEDICARE ENROLLEES

Remember last Monday when I told you about H.R. 3, a bill in the U.S. House of Representatives meant to reduce the price of drugs for Medicare subscribers?

Amidst their marathon impeachment sessions, the House passed the measure on Thursday. As The Center for Medicare Advocacy explained afterward:

”Today the U.S. House of Representatives passed H.R. 3, The Elijah Cummings Lower Drug Costs Now Act, by a vote of 230 to 192 [along party lines]. This bill, if enacted into law, would lead to a significant reduction in prescription drug costs.

“The resulting savings would be reinvested into a critical expansion of Medicare benefits (vision, hearing, dental), low-income protections, and Medigap rights expansion.”

That is, if it passes in a Senate vote. For awhile, President Donald J. Trump publicly supported the bill but seems to have backed off now.

Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has a strong history of burying bills he doesn't want to pass.

Read more at the Washington Post.

WHERE DOES ALMOND MILK COME FROM?

Meet an almond milk farmer – whose tongue is firmly in his cheek.

KINDERGARTNER INVITES HIS WHOLE CLASS TO HIS OFFICIAL ADOPTION

This is the best story you'll see all day. Maybe all week.

”Michael Orlando Clark Jr. [age 5] invited his entire kindergarten class to attend his adoption hearing,” reported 13 on Your Side, in Grand Rapids, Michigan...

“Thursday marked the 23rd annual Adoption Day in Kent County. The event is put on by the Family Division of the Circuit Court in Kent County...”

Let's go to the video tape – prepare to have your heart warmed.

* * *

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 Limits of Longevity

”An American biotech company has launched clinical trials in Colombia to test a new therapy designed to reverse the aging process, and in turn, treat age-related diseases...” reports Live Science.

Here's the catch: it will cost you US$1 million to participate and you will need to travel to Cartagena, Colombia, where the trial is being conducted.

According to reports, the new treatment focuses on lengthening telomeres, structures found at the tips of chromosomes that become shorter after each cell division until they either stop dividing or perish.

The theory is that if telomeres are repaired, ageing will reverse. I can't prove this but I'm pretty sure the pertinent literature is littered with failed experiments based on that telomere theory – I certainly have read of several such studies over the years.

Announcements of new longevity treatments have been dropping into my inbox a couple of times a month for as long as I've been writing this blog (15 years), never to be heard from again. But this is the first time I know of that researchers are charging people money to participate in the clinical trial.

What intrigues me with every announcement of a possible longevity treatment is the unspoken assumption that lengthening human life beyond the ancient four-score-and-seven is always a good thing.

But is it really?

Let's play with that idea today. Something like how would life change without death looming or, at least, if an average life span extended to – oh, let's say 200 or 250 years.

My practical side always kicks in first: if people lived that long, where would we put everyone? We have already overpopulated our planet, perhaps beyond our ability to save ourselves. There are people in Hong Kong right now who make their homes in cubicles not much larger than a coffin.

Would ageing continue as it is now with our bodies slowly losing vitality as now or would good health necessarily need to be built in to treatment for increased longevity? (And does that put a monkey wrench in even the idea of life extension?)

If the trial mentioned above were successful, what would reversing the ageing process look like? Would a person treated for extended longevity look younger and younger by the day? How far back would people's ages reverse?

No one yet has come up with any way to extend human life. In fact, in the United States, life expectancy has been dropping in the past three years. So since this is fantasy today so go as wild as you like with predictions.

And let's not forget the cultural questions.

If life stretched out in front of us for two, three or more times the current life expectancy, would we still fall in love, have children, form families? Or would that become less important? Or...

How would work and its meaning change?

If you were the age you are now and knew that barring accident, you would have another 150 or more years, how would that affect your daily life? Your goals?

Does death give life meaning that it would not have if we could double or triple humans' current life span? How so?

Don't take this too seriously – have some fun with it today. Or, if you've got an extra million dollars lying around and you're thinking you might spend it in that clinical trial, let us know and be sure to send us updates from Cartagena.



Thinking Out Loud: Shifting Perspectives Toward the End of Life

Perhaps it is the time of year. Or maybe it is my natural bent in life. Or something else. It doesn't really matter why, in the past month or two or so, I have been taking stock of these past two-and-a-half years living with a fatal disease.

Not that I planned to do that. Such thoughts bubbled up from somewhere and now I feel like I've been tagging along for the ride while another part of me examines how I've been dealing with my predicament.

For most of the first six months after diagnosis – June to December 2017 – I was recovering from the massive Whipple Procedure surgery. As the doctor explained then, it takes that long to be fully functional again and I have few memories of those six months beyond resting, healing and learning the daily practicalities of navigating such an unexpected reality.

Almost no one with pancreatic cancer lives longer than a year after diagnosis so even as I regained strength, I began planning for an imminent demise. Looking back from today on that period, I see that I was irising down my life to the basics.

End-of-life documents had been completed before my health issues came to be. I had no bucket list or, at least, no travel I wanted, no big experiences to arrange before I die. I wanted just to live my normal daily life in my home, spend time with friends near and far, ponder the great unknown, and most of all, read books.

That's what I do, what I have always done going back to when I first learned to read: I do it to find out what other people know, what the world is like in its many of its permutations, how others have interpreted life, what great lessons endure and the pleasures of a good story well told.

Overall, I am quite indiscriminate in what I read. Nearly half a century ago, a woman I worked for said to me, “Everything is interesting if you pay attention.” It is one of the truest things I know.

Weekly doses of chemotherapy over three rounds of it during 2018 and early 2019, left me tired to the bone. Concentration on anything was difficult, sometimes impossible for several days after each session but then I was fine. Or so I thought. I see now after six or seven months without those chemicals that I was good way from being mentally functional. I'm much better now.

In early spring of this year, a CT scan showed no cancer. Doctors are careful about how they say that: “no visible cancer.” I remember my surgeon telling me that day, “Go,” he said, “enjoy your life.”

Just a few weeks earlier, I'd had a psilocybin (magic mushroom) session with a guide to deal with my fear of dying. It worked well and to a reasonable degree, remains so.

Since then, the aftermath of that drug and the CT scan may have had something to do with my loosening the restrictions I had imposed on myself in reducing the size of my life.

So I've been watching myself this year. Even while my physical life becomes more difficult due to the COPD, I have been broadening my horizons again, feeling more attached to life than I had been, eager to keep up with a fast-moving world.

Each day I worry more about the political future of the United States while looking in nooks and crannies of the internet for an explanation of the apparently large right-wing rush to authoritarianism, some say fascism.

How can that be? I ask. And no one answers. At least, not satisfactorily.

And then I worry that in addition to terrible outcomes we know such a political movement creates, we will have lost the fast-shrinking window in which we might be able to stave off at least some of the terrifying results of climate change.

What a pickle Earth and the United States are in – and I don't mean that lightly. That heavy, heaving word, “existential,” was invented for such a time as we are living in not to mention, for the age group that mostly reads this blog, end-of-life issues that must be faced in the natural order of the cosmos.

Elderhood is often thought of as a time to take stock, to make peace, to tie up loose ends. Most of us slow down a good deal in these late years, rarely by choice, but it comes with old age, with bodies wearing out. Supposedly, life gets simpler but we, early boomers and late silent generation, got plopped down in one of the most frightening and dangerous periods in modern human history. Oh, goodie for us.

For a large part of this year, as much as a diagnosis like mine isn't ever far from one's mind, I have become more attached to life again.

Back and forth I travel: life, death, life, death. Maybe I am learning something about Viktor Frankl's belief that the one thing no one can take away from anyone else is the ability “to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances.” I can't say mine has been a conscious choice. Mostly, I'm just watching what happens as these days and months and years pass by.



A TGB READER STORY: The Redemptive Power of Sunsets

By Lynn Bechtel of Write on Harlow

I don’t have a full view of sunsets from my house but I can see a faint rosy glow, the edge of the sunset, through the branches of the evergreens at the back of the yard. Sometimes that faint glow draws me out of the house and down the block to a field where I can watch the full display across the valley.

My mother loved sunsets. She kept a journal beginning in 1966 – she would have been in her late fifties then. She wrote in it sporadically, an entry or two and then a gap of years before another entry. The last entry was dated 1976.

She wrote several times about the sunsets she could see from the kitchen window. In the first entry, written on a January afternoon, she describes a sunset that was a delicate rose in color with black tracing of tree branches.

She goes on to say how frustrating it is that my father and I didn’t see this beauty: “I say, ‘Look at the sunset – it’s fabulous.’ They say ‘yes, very nice’ and they don’t really see. It’s so beautiful it hurts.”

And she’s right. As a teenager I didn’t see the sunsets – or at least I didn’t see what she saw – the painful beauty of them.

I wrote about sunsets in my own journal once a few years ago. I’d had a string of conversations with friends who were dealing with illnesses of various kinds. I wrote about driving home from work along the river one winter afternoon.

The sun was setting behind the hills across the river and it took my breath away - the hills, the scarlet sky, the reflection in the river. I wrote that I wanted to give this sunset to my friends as an antidote, a balm, something to hold onto when all else seemed to be giving way. The redemptive power of sunsets.

Maybe that’s what my mother saw in sunsets those many years ago. I wish I could come up behind her, circle my arms around her waist where she stands at the sink, rest my chin on her shoulder and see the sunset along with her. Yes, it’s gorgeous, I’d say.

* * *

[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.]



House Vote on Medicare Drug Prices This Week

What with “All Impeachment All The Time" news on television, in newspapers and the internet, it's hard to know there are other things going on in Washington, D.C. But I did come across one last week that is important to most of the people who read this blog.

According to a press release at the House website of Speaker Nancy Pelosi, the U.S. House of Representatives this week will vote on H.R. 3, the Elijah E. Cummings Lower Drug Costs Now Act. The legislation will give Medicare

”...the power to negotiate lower drug prices and make those prices available to people with private insurance [Part D]. No longer will Americans have to pay more for their prescriptions than what Big Pharma charges in other countries for the same medicines.

“We are reinvesting the more than half a trillion dollars the federal government alone saves from lower drug prices to expand Medicare to cover vision, dental and hearing for the first time. We add billions to the search for breakthrough cures and treatments, confronting the opioid epidemic, strengthening our community health centers, and more.”

There are 106 co-sponsors of the bill, all Democrats. Text of the bill is here.

The White House opposes the bill primarily on grounds that it will prevent drug companies from creating new life-saving drugs. You can read the White House response here.

On the other hand, The Journal of Clinical Pathways reports

”Republicans in Congress have expressed concerns with the legislation citing, like the White House, that it would discourage innovation in new pharmaceutical product development, but the President has nevertheless praised Pelosi’s plan.”

Neither the publication nor I have a source for the president's praise.

Meanwhile, under current regulations, Part D costs to enrollees will increase next year. According to a Kaiser Family Foundation (KFF) analysis of changes for the year 2020:

”...Medicare Part D enrollees are facing a relatively large increase in out-of-pocket drug costs before they qualify for catastrophic coverage.

“This is due to the expiration of the ACA provision that constrained the growth in out-of-pocket costs for Part D enrollees by slowing the growth rate in the catastrophic threshold between 2014 and 2019; in 2020 and beyond, the threshold will revert to the level that it would have been using the pre-ACA growth rate calculation.

“For 2020, the out-of-pocket spending threshold will increase by $1,250, from $5,100 to $6,350.”

Here's the chart:

KFFPartD

Further increases for Part D enrollees, according to KFF, include

”...higher out-of-pocket costs in 2020 for the deductible and in the initial coverage phase, as they have in prior years.

“The standard deductible is increasing from $415 in 2019 to $435 in 2020, while the initial coverage limit is increasing from $3,820 in 2019 to $4,020 in 2020.

“For costs in the coverage gap phase, beneficiaries will pay 25% for both brand-name and generic drugs, with plans paying the remaining 75% of generic drug costs—which means that, effective in 2020, the Part D coverage gap will be fully phased out.”

There are additional changes (what else is new) that you can read here.

H.R. 3 is not the only proposal in Washington to modify Part D costs. There is a bill from the Senate Finance Committee (SFC) and another from the Trump administration's fiscal 2020 budget (TAdmin). They would cap enrollees' out-of-pocket spending as follows:

H.R. 3 – at $2,000 out-of-pocket
SFC – at $3,200 out-of-pocket
TAdmin - Unknown

Here's the chart:

CatastrophicPartD

Whew. I'm nearly cross-eyed from sorting out all this information and trying to translate it from the government-ese. With that, I've left out a lot but you now have the general idea. You can get more detail from the links above.

Even given that no House Republicans signed on as co-sponsors, H.R. 3 is likely to pass in the House this week.

Over the past three years we have learned what happens to Democratic sponsored bills when they get to the Senate. But if you think this is a good proposal, you should urge your representative to vote for the bill – even if you already know he or she will do so. At least their offices will have tallies of constituents' leanings.

The Congress telephone number is (202) 224-3121, then ask for your representative's office by his/her name. Or, go to the House of Representatives website and enter your Zip Code to reach your representatives page.