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Is Death With Dignity the Same Thing as Suicide?

Last time on The Alex and Ronni Show, we discussed Oregon's Death with Dignity Act (I prefer the phrase, medical aid in dying or M.A.I.D), and my acquisition of the drugs that will end my life when/if I choose to do so. TGB reader Kate R left this question in the comments:

”I totally understand your whys of controlling when you decide you want to depart. You are fortunate to live in a state that supports this choice. I'm going to throw this in the conversation.

“My husband committed suicide by his own hand after many years of depression etc. I was shocked and not pleasant to witness. How is your choice not considered a form of suicide?”

The short answer is that it is not a “form of suicide”; it IS suicide, condoned and made legal in my case by the state in which I live.

Eight other U.S. states – California, Colorado, Hawaii, Maine, New Jersey, Vermont, Washington state - plus the District of Columbia also have death with dignity laws. In addition, no state law in Montana prohibits a physician from fulfilling a request from a terminally ill, mentally competent patient for medication to end his or her life.

Mostly, states and countries that allow medical aid in dying avoid the word suicide. I have no proof of this but I think they do so (as do I) because certain words are freighted with extra meaning beyond their basic definition, suicide being one of them. So we end up with such phrases as

Death with dignity
Freedom of choice at life's end
Medical aid in dying
Physician assisted dying
Right to die
Self-determined end of suffering

But they all mean suicide – that is, to die by one's own hand. Pains are taken in the words and meaning of the statutes where it is allowed so that the people who acquire the drugs to commit suicide are terminally ill as determined by physicians and are of sound mind.

Additional verbiage in the laws seeks to ensure that no one can be coerced by another person into taking the drugs and my doctor made a point to advise me that in choosing the day to use the medication, I must be physically able to lift the glass to drink from it on my own, without assistance.

A big feature of the medical aid in dying laws in the United States and most other countries is that the patient be terminally ill, usually with fewer than six months to live, according to physicians.

There is a case now in France of a 76-year-old woman who is is not terminally ill campaigning for her right to die just because she wants to.

In 2018, Jacqueline Jencquel, who has been vice president of the pro-assisted suicide organization ADMD (French language site), and a member of the Swiss right-to-die campaign group Exit (French language site), told Vice News:

”What really surprises people is that I'm not dying. In France, to get the right to die, you have to be on your very last legs and screaming in pain.

“We enacted the Léonetti law in 2005. This law was extended in 2016 to allow terminally ill people to be put to sleep with sedatives—to cut short their suffering before death. But it doesn't go far enough. It's a way of not really dealing with the end of life. The idea is to suffer first, then we'll help you bear it until your body just quits.”

Saying that she wanted to see another spring, Ms. Jencquel extended her first self-chosen “exit date” of January 2020 for six more months. Then she extended it again until the end of the year because, she said, she will have a new grandson in November.

“I am not in good health,} she recently told Euronews. “I have osteoporosis, I'm very fragile, and I have a stomach issue. And I know it's not going to get any better”.

“What's this taboo around death? I mean, we're mortal, aren't we? What is an option is the suffering before dying. And I don't really see any purpose and meaning in my life anymore.”

Dr. Vianney Mourman, a palliative care physician at Lariboisière Hospital in Paris, who rejects Jencquel's argument, told Euronews:

“'If she were very sick, and say “I suffer so much and nothing relieves me, by humanity, please help me kill myself.' The speech wouldn't be the same.'

“He insists that only once you've given the way to alleviate the suffering without success you could 'perhaps imagine that assisted suicide could be offered'. But for someone who is not sick and has a future, 'we can't, and we shouldn’t allow it: it's breaking a taboo that puts society at risk,' he reiterates.”

All the above is a wordy response from someone who believes that death with dignity, right to die, physician assisted dying, etc. are just other ways of saying suicide. I don't have trouble with the word but then, I've been reading and thinking about it for many years before I was in a position to consider it for myself.

Now I'm curious to read what you have to say.

If you are looking for more information about assisted suicide, here are three good organizations:

Death With Dignity
Right to Die Europe

ELDER MUSIC: Songs of Allen Toussaint

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.

* * *

Allen Toussaint

Allen Toussaint may be the best unknown songwriter of the last 70 years. Most of you will know these songs, but perhaps not realise that they were all written by him.

Besides being a songwriter, Allen was also a superb New Orleans pianist – that’s really a tautology as every New Orleans pianist is superb. He was also an arranger of note as well as a record producer and occasional performer himself.

He was characteristically modest about his talents, but he really didn’t need to be.

Allen produced most of the great New Orleans records, including those of The Meters, Dr John and all the ones mentioned below. He was also in demand by rock and pop musicians, such as Elvis Costello, Boz Scaggs, Robert Palmer, B.J. Thomas, Willie DeVille and many more.

Allen performed regularly at local haunts around the city as well as more formal concerts further afield.

He died in Spain in 2015 after performing a concert there. He was 77.

Coincidentally, CHRIS KENNER was born in Kenner, Louisiana.

Chris Kenner

It’s not just a town full of Kenners, it’s quite large (for Louisiana). He started singing gospel music in a choir and then worked as a longshoreman. Upon relocating to New Orleans, Chris encountered Allen and they formed a bit of a songwriting partnership.

One of the songs they wrote together is I Like It Like That, that Chris took to the pointy end of the charts.

♫ Chris Kenner - I Like It Like That

There are several performers with whom Allen had a long association, one of whom is LEE DORSEY.

Lee Dorsey

In spite of having several hits over the years, all written and produced by Allen, Lee didn’t give up his day job of running his own auto repair business. Of course, he took time off now and then to tour and record, but he always had that to fall back on.

One of his biggest songs was Working in the Coal Mine.

♫ Lee Dorsey - Working In The Coal Mine

And now for something completely different from all the rest of today’s music. Here is AL HIRT.

Al Hirt

Not completely different, Al was born and bred in New Orleans, as is the case of a lot of the musos today. It’s really that he is an instrumentalist and doesn’t sing on records, at least not on this one.

Oh, one day when he was having lunch with Ennis Marsalis (Miles Davis was there too) he gave the really young Wynton his first trumpet. This is Al’s biggest hit, Java.

♫ Al Hirt - Java

ERNIE K-DOE began his recording career under his birth name of Earnest Kador.

Ernie K Doe

He met with little success until he changed his name. I don’t know if that was the reason, but he certainly hit the charts with his nom de plume (nom de recording, perhaps).

One of the songs that became a hit with his new name is Mother-In-Law, a song that Allen’s mother-in-law was none too happy about. That is, until the royalty cheques started rolling in and she changed her mind completely.

♫ Ernie K-Doe - Mother-In-Law

A few performers have tackled the song Play Something Sweet, the pick of the bunch is MARIA MULDAUR.

Maria Muldaur

It was on her second solo album, “Waitress in a Donut Shop”, a terrific album, only overshadowed by her first. Three Dog Night had a hit with the song and others, notably Levon Helm and Allen himself, have recorded good versions. No one beats Maria’s though.

♫ Maria Muldaur - Play Something Sweet (Brickyard Blues)

BENNY SPELLMAN was the first (but far from the last) to record the song, Lipstick Traces (On a Cigarette). It’s a staple for soul, country, blues and even pop performers.

Benny Spellman

Benny later was first cab off the rank with another much-covered song of Allen's, Fortune Teller (not included today). Benny later retired from the music biz and worked in the beer industry. I won't say a word.

♫ Benny Spellman - Lipstick Traces (On a Cigarette)

Allen had a long association with THE BAND.

The Band

He did the horn arrangements for the concerts they gave in New York at New Year’s 1971 into 1972 that were recorded and released as the double album “Rock of Ages”. Most notably he arranged the music for their final concert known as “The Last Waltz”.

Some of the songs on “Cahoots” were arranged by him and The Band performed his song Holy Cow on “Moondog Matinee”. The song was first recorded by Lee Dorsey.

♫ The Band - Holy Cow

I don’t feature MILLIE JACKSON nearly enough.

Millie Jackson

I think it’s because many of her songs run into others making them double or triple songs (or more on some of her live albums). It’s often hard to split them and make them sound okay. That happened with the song today, but fortunately she recorded it several times so there is a standalone version.

The song is If You're Not Back in Love by Monday. Incidentally, she’s not related to the family of musicians with the same surname.

♫ Millie Jackson - If You're Not Back in Love By Monday

Allen’s music is not restricted to soul and R&B performers. His influence covers most styles of music. I’ve mentioned several alternate versions of some of the songs I’ve included, and here’s one well away from the others, GLEN CAMPBELL.

Glen Campbell

Glen heard Allen’s version of the song Southern Nights and it struck a chord with him. Allen wrote it about visiting relatives in the backwoods of Louisiana and it reminded Glen of his growing up. He took the song to the top of the charts.

♫ Glen Campbell - Southern Nights

IRMA THOMAS is generally known as the soul queen of New Orleans.

Irma Thomas

Although not as well known as her contemporaries Etta James and Aretha Franklin, she’s certainly their equal. Her songs have been used in films and TV series, particularly the one we have today, It's Raining.

♫ Irma Thomas - It's Raining

We have ERNIE K-DOE again because I really wanted to include this song, and his was the best (and first recorded) version.

Ernie K-Doe

It’s a little bit silly, but I really like it. Ernie boasts of his new (or not so new, if you listen to the words) gal, but won’t tell anyone who she is. The song is A Certain Girl.

♫ Ernie K-Doe - A Certain Girl

You could have guaranteed that the Neville Brothers, either as a group or individually, would be present today. I listened to all their recordings of his songs (that made for a pleasurable time) and decided to use AARON NEVILLE quite early in his career.

Aaron Neville

Okay, not all that early, it’s from 1973. However, this was before the brothers organised themselves into the great band they later became. The song in question is Hercules.

♫ Aaron Neville - Hercules

We’ve had everyone else, here’s the man himself ALLEN TOUSSAINT.

Allen Toussaint

He performs Just a Kiss Away, not to be confused with the Rolling Stones’ song with a similar title.

♫ Allen Toussaint - Just A Kiss Away

INTERESTING STUFF – 29 August 2020


Here is what the Youtube page tells us about this 2016 video:

”We asked three unique and lovely centenarians what their most valuable life lessons were, and also their regrets.”


This is the cutest thing. The YouTube page tells us:

”This barn owl chick has never heard thunder before. At just two-and-a-half months old, the young owl is only just learning about the world when a deafening thunderstorm passes overhead. This owl only took its first flight two weeks before this moment and is still using the nest for shelter.”

The footage is from British wildlife artist Robert E. Fuller whose Facebook page is here. His website is here.


The Guardian reports that the government of Danbury, Connecticut is going to rename a sewer plant after the host of the HBO program, Last Week Tonight, John Oliver. The brouhaha came about when the

“...British-born comic explored racial disparities in the jury selection process, citing problems in Hartford and New Britain.

“'If you’re going to forget a town in Connecticut,' he said, 'why not forget Danbury? Because, and this is true, fuck Danbury!'”

Soon thereafter, Danbury Mayor Mark Boughton announced the renaming:

“'We are going to rename it the John Oliver Memorial Sewer Plant,' the Republican mayor said. 'Why? Because it’s full of crap just like you, John.'”

All of which gave me a good laugh. You can see the offending Last Week Tonight segment here or read about it here.


TGB reader Joan McMullen sent this video of a monkey giving a young tiger a hard time. I wish the video quality were better but it's still fun to watch.


I thought there was only one person in the United States who is this stupid but apparently not.

”Public health officials are warning Texans not to drink bleach after the North Texas Poison Center fielded 46 calls within the last month related to people drinking bleach,” reports Insider and other news outlets...

“The Texas Poison Center Network also said in a statement it's seen a 71% uptick in calls involving bleach products, and a 63% uptick in calls involving other household cleaners.”

Most of the cases did not result in serious injury and several of the 46 calls referred to the coronavirus. To be clear, bleach does not and cannot prevent, treat or cure COVID-19.


We learned this week that Lincoln Project co-founder is leaving that post at the same time his wife, Counselor to the President, Kellyanne Conway, is leaving her White House job.

Simultaneously, or close enough, on Tuesday 1 September, a new documentary titled, Unfit: The Psychology of Donald Trump will be released on all digital/streaming and cable video-on-demand platforms. Here is a clip from the film with George Conway:

Beginning 1 September, you can rent the film for $5.99. If you watch on cable or satellite, you will not incur a charge now; it will be added to your next bill.

You can find out more about the film here.


The Smithsonian National Zoo announced on their webpage,

”Giant panda Mei Xiang (may-SHONG) gave birth to a cub at Smithsonian’s National Zoo today, Aug. 21. Animal care staff witnessed the birth at 6:35 p.m.

“Mei Xiang picked the cub up immediately and began cradling and caring for it. The panda team heard the cub vocalize and glimpsed the cub for the first time briefly immediately after the birth.”

Here is a video of the amazingly tiny panda when Mei Xiang went out for a moment for a drink of water.

You can get the latest panda news and follow the cub's growth on the National Zoo Panda Cam.


Almost always I leave the music chores at this blog to the inimitable Peter Tibbles who publishes here on Sundays. But this turned up, Cheryl Crow and Willie Nelson with a song that seems perfect for our time.

Crow said in Rolling Stone magazine:

“'I wrote the song, “Lonely Alone,” with Willie in mind...It’s was written as kind of a barside cowboy noir with romantic Spanish inflections, but the song has taken on new meaning during these times. I hope people find the same comfort in this song that I have always found in Willie.'”

This recording is from Crow's most recent album, “Threads” released last year and posted to YouTube last week.

* * *

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.

Old? No Problem. Live Like You're 20

In the past couple of weeks my email inbox has been filling up with a rash of self-help books for old people.

Before I go a word farther, you should know that I despise self-help books. My animus goes back to the 1970s when I worked on local morning TV shows in New York City where staple guests were the authors of this sort of twaddle.

Over those few years I read dozens of self help books but it doesn't take reading more than two or three to see that they are all the same, sometimes dressed up in either exotic-sounding metaphors or standard-issue aphorisms.

If a book is not the seven keys to life found in an African jungle, it is the stairway to heavenly personal success or the magic of thinking big (or little). They all guarantee that nothing will ever go wrong again in your life if you will follow their prescriptions for happiness AND you'll get rich too if you will just buy the book.

While I'm on that point, a whole lot of self-help books are not about enriching your life but about getting rich, as in dollars – about half of them, I'd judge. Before I would read even one more, I'd want to see proof of the author's net worth.

A fairly recent trend in self-help tomes is advice for old people. Someone in the publishing industry apparently got wise to the fact that the U.S. is graying, our numbers are increasing and now writers can't wait to explain to us how to live.

Usually, when these book promotions arrive in my inbox, I hit “delete” but occasionally I scan the message and a few days ago I came upon a book written by a woman whose mother suffered a stroke at age 92 and who then

”...helped her mother achieve and log 93 new activities between her 93rd and 94th birthdays, just to show you’re never too old to have fun.”

Really? Ninety-three brand new activities to match her age? Unless the author is counting rearranging the silverware drawer as a new activity, I doubt it. (Millie Garfield, feel free to chime in here).

This sub-genre of self-help books – self-help for old people – is not any more about SELF help than the self-help books for younger adults. They are all about the authors' way of life – each one of them convinced that theirs is the answer to all man- and womankind's troubles.

Invariably, the main piece of “wisdom” to be gained from these books is for old people to behave like younger people. Oh, they don't say it as baldly as I have. They tell you to be active, take up running, learn to play an instrument, run for political office in your town. Or, as above, find 93 new activities to do in one year because younger, mid-life people think they know all about how old people should behave.

These writers are people who are not yet afflicted with arthritis, rheumatism, emphysema, heart disease or other ailments of age that catch up with most of us eventually. Or, if not disease, we just get tired out, maybe from all the activities of those over-active mid-years.

It's has been awhile, but as I have often said in these pages over many years, individuals age at different rates of change. Unlike babies who can be expected to speak their first word and take their first step at a specific week of life, old age hits some people earlier than others or later than some others.

Either way, there comes a time when, like it or not, we must curtail some of the activities we have enjoyed for years or give in to nap each afternoon or realize we have already climbed a ladder for the last time or, on some days, just want to sit and let our minds wander around.

There is nothing wrong with any of that although many of the self-help gurus spend 300-odd pages in their books telling us otherwise.

What I think is that if self-help books for old people are necessary (a questionable premise), it is old people who should be writing them. Unless a younger writer is a geriatrician, gerontologist or hospice worker, for example, what does a 30- or 40- and 50-year old know about getting old?

The correct answer is: nothing.


This hardly ever happens to me, that I don't have a blog post ready to publish, but it's happening now.

However, I do have a good reason. Yesterday morning, my son's wife came to visit. We had planned it for an hour starting at about 10AM. I had some cheese and crackers and fruit ready for us and coffee, but Kathy brought her own – coffee, that is.

And then we talked. And we talked. And we talked some more. We forgot about food or anything and together, I think we solved all the problems of the world. Well, that's an exaggeration but we covered most of the important ones.

And we did not finish until 4:30PM.

I'm telling you this because of my predicament. I don't want a blank page to give anyone reason to think something happened to me. I'm fine, more than fine after a great day with a lovely friend I don't see often.

Maybe I'll post something tomorrow, Thursday, which is usually a day off. Or not. Meanwhile, if you are so inspired, you are welcome to talk among yourselves in the comment section below.


By Henry Lowenstern

I have always been surrounded
by family and friends.
As a child, I had an older brother
who after me would tend.
When I came to America,
I lived with my cousin
who taught me to speak English
and to avoid anyone who doesn't.
In the Army, I was never alone,
nor in college, on my own.
Then, came a lovely love affair,
marriage, children and a home where
for 67 years, I was never on my own,
until Marki passed away
and left me alone
and lonely.

* * *

[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.]

Two Topics : M.A.I.D. Drugs and Sitting

I will get to Sitting in a moment but first:

Answers to Two Questions About Medical Aid in Dying Drugs

On Friday's post, there were two more questions about these drugs in the comments:

From dkzody:
Do your death drugs have an expiration date as so many of our compounds seem to have, and if so, and you don't use them before their expiration date, can you get a refill? I hope this doesn't sound crass.

Not crass at all, dkzody. Yes. The expiration date is one year. I hadn't thought to ask, if I live that long, about a refill. Just out of curiosity, I will do that. If I do need a new batch, I would expect to pay full price again as it was a straightforward commercial transaction between me, the customer, and the pharmacy.

From Martha K. Backer:
As I'm listening to you and Alex, I found your 8/12/19 Man Plans and God Laughs as part two today, you had said the cost is between $3,000 and $4,000 and doubted if Medicare Part D pays, a privilege to those with the funds.

I was operating on old information when I wrote that post a year ago, Martha, relying on what I had been told in 2017 or 2018. Since then, the drugs used have been changed as has the price. I paid $600 plus a delivery fee for the drugs this month and no, Medicare does not cover them.

If It Fitz, I Sitz


This meme, always written in that peculiar spelling, is a long-time feature of the internet and it still makes me laugh. It is such a cat thing to squeeze into the smallest available container to snooze. Why do they do that?

You don't need to answer. I mention it only because it is the image that first came to mind when I was considering the time I spend sitting these days - although not in seats too small for me.

Recently, I became a bit alarmed when I realized that I sit nearly every waking moment. At the start my day, after I've attended to morning ablutions, I fire up the computer, read the news and answer some email while sitting at my desk.

That can last for up to a couple of hours as I fuel myself with coffee for a long day of sitting.

After that, I'm on my feet for a short awhile to shower, dress and go through some light (sitting again) exercises. Then I'm upright again to make breakfast and, after sitting to eat, wash up the dishes. But soon I'm back to the computer (in a chair, of course) and then I move to another chair for a session with the nebulizer before I'm back at the desk for blog and other kinds of work (or play) involving the internet.

Throughout the day, I sit for meals and I sit to read or talk on the telephone or watch a movie in the evening. In between, I take a pass at dusting and other light housekeeping chores but it is easy to overdo (gasp!) by moving around to fast and I am finally convinced that I need help so will soon hire a regular cleaning service.

My major health difficulty is not cancer, the only symptom of which is (so far) is pain that is being well controlled with over-the-counter medications on a schedule set by my hospice nurse.

The hard part, and it is a big one, is living with advanced COPD. I have good days and bad ones but either way, walking anywhere much farther than the next room can leave me heaving for breath if I'm not careful. And I am not careful a lot of the time, forgetting that I have a serious lung disease and walking too fast.

Taking out the trash, a trip to the mail box or the one flight of stairs to visit a neighbor are undertakings akin to a 10-mile hike. I move through these “journeys” v-e-r-y slowly as I do the supermarket every 10 days or so.

The excellent nurses at pulmonary rehab last year taught me about preparing myself both mentally and physically while planning expenditures of energy – which is just about anything I do except sit. They gave me an entire binder full of tricks and tips on managing COPD.

Even so, I often forget. After all, for 75 years I led a remarkably healthy life mostly on bodily autopilot. When I said go, my body went, so it makes sense that I now stall sometimes due to over-confidence.

Which is not to say that it doesn't annoy the hell out of me. It's not for nothing that I still miss the pace of New York City.

Sometimes when I overdo (which to a healthy person can look like an extremely lowl level of exertion), it can take four or five minutes of heaving for air, even with the rescue inhaler, to be right again. When that happens it goes beyond annoyance to fear even though I always survive those bouts of breathlessness.

As I ruminate on this, I realize how lucky I have been that nothing serious happened to my health until these late years. It is frequently said that the common maladies of age – cancer, stroke, diabetes, heart disease, etc. - begin to appear in large numbers among people during their 60s.

So, compared to a lot of others, I come to this physical extremity later in life, just lucky to have had so many years free of health issues.

For the 20-odd years or so that I've been studying ageing – while watching myself age from my mid-fifties to now – I have never wished to be younger than I am. There is no pride to be taken from that, only that I have been my own best guinea pig in tracking changes through the years.

So it is for the first time now that I occasionally long for my younger, healthier body that existed not all that long ago: when I could walk to the trash bins and mail box without pacing myself. Shove the vacuum cleaner around the house without needing to stop for breath every few feet. Carry ALL the groceries in from the car in one trip instead of three, short, slow ones.

The thing is, COPD never gets better so unless I want to be annoyed to death - ahem, I need to take a cue from the cats: I sitz.


ELDER MUSIC: Together at Home 3

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’ve previously published two columns with musicians at home performing during lockdown. Here’s another one, this time featuring classical musicians. It would be considerably harder for them as there are generally quite a few more to corral. The ones below do a good job though.

The self-titled JERUSALEM STREET ORCHESTRA play the first two thirds or so of the first movement of Mozart’s Eine Kleine Nachtmusik, K 525, which technically means “a little serenade”, not what most people (including me) think it means.

The Jerusalem Street Orchestra doesn’t seem to be actually out on the street, they’re safely tucked up at home.

Famed pianist LANG LANG is joined by his wife GINA ALICE REDLINGER to play the Chopin Nocturne op.9 No.1. Gina is an excellent pianist in her own right and I wish this had been longer.

Here is part of an even more famous symphony from the most famous composer who ever lived, Beethoven. Musicians from the ROTTERDAM PHILHARMONIC ORCHESTRA play the famous “Ode to Joy”, a small part of the fourth movement of his Symphony No 9.

In spite of its seemingly frivolous name, the ARCTIC PHILHARMONIC is a real orchestra based in Norway. Naturally they play something from Norway’s most famous composer, Edvard Grieg. That something is the “Preludium”, which they subtitle “á la Quarantine”, from his Holberg Suite.

The next is a made-up group calling themselves THE SWAN PROJECT, consisting of 24 cellists in 24 different cities around the world, accompanied by Inah Chiu on the piano.

The cellists don’t play together, they are featured separately via some impressive editing. They perform “The Swan” from the suite, The Carnival of the Animals composed by Camille Saint-Saëns.

The SOCIALLY DISTANT ORCHESTRA is another where many disparate musicians get together to play, and play beautifully on Dvořák’s Symphony No 9, the New World Symphony. This is the second movement, the theme of which was adopted for the song, Going Home.

The much acclaimed TRIO ZADIG consists of childhood French friends who play violin and cello and an American pianist. They all got together in Paris and clicked immediately (okay the French two were already playing together). They have played all around the world.

Today they play from their homes the Gabriel Fauré Cantique de Jean Racine, arranged for Piano Trio. This was originally written for a choir and organ, but it sounds fine this way.

Members of the TORONTO SYMPHONY ORCHESTRA get together to perform Aaron Copeland’s Appalachian Spring, one of his most performed and loved pieces of music.

This is a real hoot. Here is a string quartet, the UCELI QUARTET playing in Barcelona’s Gran Teatre del Liceu opera house to an audience of plants. It was the first concert in the opera house since their shutdown.

Instead of people we have the plants, all 2,292 of them – one for each seat in the house. They applaud wildly at the end, although that reminded me somewhat of triffids, which was a bit disturbing. The quartet play Puccini’s I Crisantemi (Chrysanthemums, singularly appropriate).

Here are some musicians from the MILWAUKEE SYMPHONY ORCHESTRA performing Edward Elgar’s Variations on an Original Theme Enigma, Op. 36 - Variation IX (Adagio) called “Nimrod”. This is from his famous Enigma Variations.

You knew this one had to be here somewhere. Here are some musicians from the NEW YORK PHILHARMONIC to play a shortened version of Ravel’s Bolero.

INTERESTING STUFF – 22 August 2020


The Youtube page tells us:c

”The Pantanal: the largest tropical wetland on earth. Located mainly in Brazil, it’s home to a number of iconic species – like the giant otter, an enormous member of the weasel family.”


Here's a video of World War II fighter airplanes making a low – very low – pass over a canal. Youtube says further,

”These four fighter planes are part of the Breitling Fighters and are flown by some of the most experienced pilots in the world. The first plane is a P-40 flown by Ray Hanna, the second is a Mustang piloted by Nigel Lamb, the third plane is a Corsair flown by Cliff Spink, and the last plane is a Spitfire MH434 piloted by Lee Proudfoot.

“The canal is next to an airstrip in Yverdon-les-Bains, Switzerland so they had a safe place to land if they lost power.”


The testimony from U.S. Postmaster General Louis DeJoy on Friday did nothing to clear up the mess of the postal delivery slowdown and its threat to the November election.

Now, Axios is reporting that sports teams are investigating using their arenas and stadiums (stadia?) as voting centers. The idea seems to have sprung from More Than A Vote, a voting rights organization launched by LeBron James and other Black athletes:

”The goal is to connect teams with local elections officials and convert arenas into voting sites,” reports Axios, “leveraging their size (good for social distancing) and location (easy to access/find on a map)...

“The Atlanta Hawks, Detroit Pistons, Milwaukee Bucks, Sacramento Kings and Charlotte Hornets are among the NBA teams that have already established such partnerships...

“NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell encouraged teams to "consider allowing their stadiums or indoor practice facilities to be used as election centers on Election Day."

Read more at Axios, at The Guardian and elsewhere around the web.


From my friend and attorney John Gear:


In case you had forgotten the Texas official who called for old people to sacrifice themselves to COVID-19. Sent by TGB reader Nana Royer:



There weren't any recording devices in the 13th century so it's always interesting to me when I get to hear what something sounded like that long ago. Here's what this YouTube page tells us:

”They’re the Icelandic folk group Árstíðir. On this particular night, they had just finished a concert in Wuppertal, Germany, and were making their way back to their lodgings when they were struck by the station’s perfect acoustics. Its arched, stone ceiling created a cathedral-like environment.

“Despite the fact that this song, Heyr himna smiður, dates to around 1208 and the Wuppertal Hauptbahnhof station was built in the mid-19th century, the sound and the space seem perfectly suited to one another.

“At one point a public announcement is piped over an intercom. Instead of ruining the music it magically weaves a new voice into the harmonic tapestry.”

You can read more at Atlas Obscura.


”...because 22 August 2020 is the centennial of Bradbury's birth. A reading of his classic, Fahrenheit 451, begins streaming at 4:30PM eastern daylight time. The readers include writers, actors, librarians and young people such as William Shatner, Neil Gaiman, Susan Orlean, Carla Hayden, Marjorie Liu and many more. Here is a taste:

The read-a-thon will be streamed through 5 September 2020 on YouTube, Facebook, Instagram and elsewhere around the web.

You can read more about the event at Rolling Stone.


I have come to believe that even though there are people who consider cat videos the dregs of the internet, for me – and I think many others – they are a solace in the face of despair - or just a good laugh.

I've posted videos about cat thieves before but this one – well, if you live in Altoona, watch out for Jordan, the feline cat burglar who has a very specific fetish:

More about Jordan the shoe thief at Bored Panda.


When mainstream media continues to report on the president of the United States in normalizing language, political blogger Digby tells it like it is. For too long I have thought I was the only person not afraid to say this.



I take back what I said above about cat videos being a solace. So are pretty much all wild animal videos. This is a live stream brought to us by

”Brooks Falls in Alaska's Katmai National Park is the best place in the world to watch brown bears feasting on salmon as they swim upstream to spawn,” reports the Youtube page.

Find out the best time to watch live and learn more about Katmai and its brown bears (and choose from many other wild animal cams) on


* * *

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 – 21 August 2020

Any of you looking for a respite from this week's discussion of medical aid in dying will need to find another website today. My former husband, Alex Bennett, and I discussed it again on Wednesday.

There is one followup I want to make today from the questions and answers we did on Wednesday. At the end of that post, in regard to ageing, death and dying, I wrote that the subject should be less a secret in the culture of the United States and more a part of living.

I ended with, “Keep the conversation going.” TGB reader Shirley Thompson used a much better phrase, “Pay it forward.” If you haven't seen the movie of that name from 20 years ago, you can probably surmise what it means.

Here is this week's Alex and Ronni Show reshuffling some of the same thoughts as the two blog posts on Monday and Wednesday.

You can check out Alex's online talk show here.

Answers to Your Questions About Medical Aid in Dying Drugs

There was a lot of interest in last week's post about the medical-aid-in-dying (M.A.I.D.) drugs that were delivered to me and quite a few questions so I am going to answer them as best I can in this blog post.

If you have additional questions, please leave them in the comments below and I will check throughout the day and respond in the comments.

From Wendl:
”I must add that the first thing I thought when I saw the photo was, 'Uh-oh, how difficult will these caps be to take off when it's time?'”

Ronni: Exactly, Wendl. When the pharmacist asked me the question about child-proof or easy-open caps, I had a sudden vision of myself ready to go, weak, tired or maybe in terrible pain struggling to get the caps off - maybe dropping a bottle in the process and spilling the contents.

A related issue was that I might forget where I stored them. It happens to me all the time in my dotage that I put something in a place I think I am certain to recall and then can't find it later. So I've written down the location of the M.A.I.D. drugs in a notebook I use every day and have told two people where they are.

From Bonnie:
"Just looking at those bottles is scary to me. I would have thought, one, maybe two, but good grief what is in that large bottle? Something to make a cocktail?”

And from Irma:
“4 bottles?? Is there a certain order to it?

Ronni: Yes, there is an order to taking the drugs. The first two are anti-nausea drugs, the others are the M.A.I.D. drugs all taken in a certain sequence with a specific amount of time between each that adds up to a total of an hour.

The powders are mixed with water or apple juice or whatever liquid I choose.

Oregon law requires that I must do the mixing personally and be able to drink the mix without assistance.

From Kate R:
”Will someone with hospice be with you assuming there is a sequence in taking the drugs? Does this insure a quick death? You've been very frank in sharing your journey Ronnie, so my questions are also very frankly asked.”

From Mary Smythe:
”Can you proceed to just take the drugs (I assume the instructions are there), or do the three people you refer to have to be present as witnesses?”

Ronni: There is no requirement that anyone be with me when I take the drugs but as I noted in the original post about the M.A.I.D. drugs, I do want three people with me – my good friend, my palliative care provider and, probably, my hospice nurse.

According to my doctor and the pharmacist, after drinking the final mixture (the big bottle), I will fall asleep within a couple of minutes. In fact, it is so quick my doctor advised me to be sure I have said my good-byes before I drink the last dose. Death usually takes place a few minutes to an hour later.

From Yellowstone:
”Question now is, what degree of pain will allow you to 'pull the trigger?' Who will be there to decide for you when you can't? What suffering or remorse will we all have once we have lost you?

Ronni: I can't answer your third question, Yellowstone, but I surely hope no TGB readers will suffer or feel remorse. You have no reason for that. I even hope you won't be too sad. Death comes to all of us and we here at TGB have already had a long goodbye.

To your second question, the entire point of the medical-aid-in-dying law is that the patient and only the patient decides when the time is right to take the drugs. In fact, a physician had to certify that I am of sound mind before they could be dispensed. And the reason only I can mix the drugs with liquid and lift the glass to my mouth on my own is to help ensure that I have not been coerced.

Your first question, how will I know when the time is right, is important. I have discussed that with two doctors and a nurse all of whom have been present at patients' deaths by this means.

Each of them have told me that I will know. All of them said that with each person whose death they attended, they believe the patient chose the time well.

I don't believe the timing is about pain necessarily. It might be that I can no longer care for myself, am bed-ridden or can no longer do the things I enjoy like writing this blog.

I'm just going to trust that like all the patients they discussed with me, I too will know when the time has come.

Many commenters on last week's post mentioned my willingness to share what I'm going through. I made that choice soon after diagnosed in 2017 not quite sure, then, that it was the right thing to do.

But now I think it is important and that I have been able to contribute to the conversation around cancer, other ailments of old age and the inevitable end we all face.

That's not common – the conversation - at least not in the United States. Many people refuse to discuss death and dying so that when they are confronted with it – their own or a loved one's – they have no knowledge or understanding or even, I have noticed sometimes, a place to start.

Maybe these pages, ongoing for as long as possible, will help in that regard.

Nine states – California, Colorado, Hawaii, Montana, Maine, New Jersey, Oregon, Vermont, Washington state - and the District of Columbia allow medical aid in dying.

You can find local information by searching “death with dignity” and a state's name. Compassion and Choices is an excellent organization whose website is packed with good information about the subject.

From Tim Hay:
”How can we Thank You? We cannot.”

Ronni: You are right, Tim, you cannot thank me and there is no need. I get as much out of reader comments here as you do so things go both ways. What you can do is continue the conversation elsewhere when it is appropriate.

We need to make death and dying part of living, to not let it continue to be a secret. Medical aid in dying is not for everyone but it should be available to everyone which seems to slowly be happening in the United States.

Keep the conversation going.

A TGB READER STORY: Disposable! Where is the Outrage?

By Carole Leskin

I am a 75 year old woman. I am smart, a life-long learner and curious. I have a good sense of humor and love to laugh. I work hard to be kind, a patient listener and open minded. I am a valued friend. I love animals and the outdoors. I am a writer and photographer. I have health challenges, especially in the last two years, that have changed my physical abilities.

I have seven decades of experiences, both good and bad, and life lessons that I am happy to share and make me a helpful mentor. There is more to me too. But you would find that out as you got to know me.


I am frightened, horrified and sickened by the growing movement, spurred by the pandemic, that my age renders me useless. Somehow, I am a burden to society. I am a costly, time consuming old person, of little if any value, who should be allowed, even encouraged, to die in order to make room for younger people.

We have become a nation afraid of growing older. We hate what "old" is (whatever age that is - it differs for everyone). We do everything we can to avoid or delay it. Hundreds of products, commercials, seminars, political speeches, cartoons and memes are dedicated to the elimination of "oldness". But since it is inevitable, we try to make it go away.

We hide the elderly in segregated housing, encourage "villages" for the over 60 and use nursing homes as the last resort when we have no other alternatives. We avoid intergenerational interaction. Comedians and politicians make jokes about it, some of which are crude and worse – cruel.

And now - we have elected officials, those running for office and "bioethics" folks openly saying WE ARE DISPOSABLE!! Some go so far as to say it is our duty to give up our place in the world to make resources and room for the younger among us! After all, they say, we are going to die soon anyway.

But perhaps the worst is, we allow this to happen! Where is the outrage? The protests? The articles and media saying NO!! Where do we find intelligent people talking and writing about being old and it being okay and normal? Where are the busloads of old people driving to their state capitals, calling their elected officials, flooding their inboxes with emails?

And why, oh why, do we, the old people, post cartoons and memes mocking ourselves! You see them everywhere - those nasty, disrespectful bits that create the impression that being old is pathetic and ugly. That old is useless.

Until growing old is recognized as normal and a source of valuable experience and expertise - until what we have to offer is respected and welcomed - nothing will change. And worse yet, who comes next? The disabled? The homeless! The poor?

It begins with us. It is our moment, our time to raise the banner that proclaims Old Is Good! When was the last time you heard someone talk about it with pride and exhort it's value?

2020 will be a historic year. Citizens will address and demand change. Racism. Social Justice. Sexual Harassment. Equal Opportunity For All. And more.

Where is our outrage? Our voices? Our activism? When will ageism be added to the list? Isn't it our time too?

* * *

[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.]

Wow – Happy 95 Years, Millie Garfield

Okay, Millie's birthday is not until tomorrow, 18 August, but why not celebrate early and long. It's not everyone who gets to have this birthday so we should celebrate a lot.


I've known Millie almost as long as we have both been blogging which is going on 20 years.

We've even met in person which doesn't get to happen often with so many of our internet friends. Our friendship all this time has meant everything to me. We live on opposite coasts now so we keep in touch by telephone.

For many years, Millie wrote My Mom's Blog - her son Steve set it up in 2003, (hence the name) – one year ahead of me. I just found out from her blog that according to The Ageless Project, she is the world's fourth oldest blogger.

For a long time, she gained fame for her video feature, I Can't Open It. Here is one of them with a BIG container of animal crackers. The other voice you hear is her son, Steve, who is running the camera.

Back in April during the earliest days of the pandemic lockdown, Steve invited me to a Zoom meeting with Millie on the top left, Steve to her right, me in the middle row and few other people. Here's a screenshot:

ASK MILLIE Zoom Meeting

Millie and Steve keep in touch via video calls and these days Millie can be found on her Facebook page more than her blog. For her birthday this year, she is holding a fundraiser for the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute.

”I've chosen this nonprofit,” writes Millie, “because their mission means a lot to me, and I hope you'll consider contributing as a way to celebrate with me.”

You can get further information and do that if you wish on Millie's Facebook page.

For many years, we have played a silly, little game here on Millie's birthday. I add her age (95 this year) and my age (79) which, this year, gets us to 173.

Now you get add your age to the total, add it up and post it in the comments. Then the next reader can add his/her age and so on to see how high we can get the number of years we have collectively lived.

Of course, because comments pass in the ether the total is never really quite correct but that's part of the fun and it's close enough.

Meanwhile, let's all sing Happy Birthday to Millie and her amazing 95 years. I love you, Millie.


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.

* * *

Guy Clark

GUY CLARK was born in Monahans, Texas, which is famous for producing Guy Clark.

Guy was the focus around whom many other fine singers and songwriters congregated. The most notable being Townes Van Zandt, Jerry Jeff Walker, Steve Earl, Rodney Crowell, Nanci Griffith and a couple of others.

As Ian Crouch said in a tribute to Guy in The New Yorker when Guy died,

”It's tough to pin down precisely what made his songs so distinctive. He wasn't a poet genius like Townes Van Zandt, or a blazing, righteous performer like Steve Earle. He never enjoyed wide popularity like Willie Nelson or Waylon Jennings. Mostly his songs were strong and steady, projecting a deep, indisputable, and ultimately persuasive confidence and sense of self.”

There are many really good Texas songwriters, and there three great ones. They are Guy, Willie Nelson and Townes. I’d also like to include Buddy Holly (and wonder how much better he might have been). However, today it’s Guy’s turn.

Guy Clark & Susannah

The first song of Guy’s that I heard was L.A. Freeway. That encouraged me to buy his first album “Old No. 1”, on which the song appeared.

That album encouraged me to buy every album Guy recorded from then on, so we have all his music from which to select wonderful songs. One of those is that first song.

♫ L.A. Freeway

Guy Clark

Rita Ballou was a song that appeared twice on Guy’s albums. The first time was on that first album. The second was from my favorite album of his, “South Coast of Texas”. I’ll use the latter version, just for a bit of change of pace.

♫ Rita Ballou

Guy Clark

Quite independently, Norma, the Assistant Musicologist and I both came to the same conclusion and that is that Dublin Blues is each of our favorite Guy Clark song. This is in spite of all the other superb songs of his, many of which are here today. Here it is, with Nanci Griffith singing harmony.

♫ Dublin Blues

Guy Clark

As mentioned, I really like South Coast of Texas. Any song that mentions swimming snakes, shrimp boats, whooping cranes and Gilbert Roland is okay as far as I’m concerned. Here is the title song.

♫ South Coast of Texas

Guy Clark & Rodney Crowell1

Guy was really happy to collaborate with other songwriters. He thought that if they could make the song better he was for it. One person he wrote with several times is Rodney Crowell. One of those songs is from “South Coast of Texas”, and it’s called She’s Crazy for Leavin’. Rodney has also recorded this song. It’s not really a deep song, but lots of fun.

♫ She's Crazy for Leavin'

Guy Clark

Another song that lacks gravitas but is a lot of fun is Crystelle. This is yet another from “South Coast of Texas”. If nothing else, I would urge you to check out that album (and the first one as well). It seems to me to be a song about someone who is just out of reach.

♫ Crystelle

Another of the fine songs from his first album is Desperados Waiting for a Train. This is about getting old, something that fits in our website. However, Guy was young when he wrote it, I think he always had an old soul. Rather than the version from that album, here he is performing it live.

♫ Desperados Waiting for a Train

Guy Clark

Another song about one of his relatives is New Cut Road. In this case it was someone he didn’t ever meet, but had heard stories about. It’s about his fiddle-playing great-uncle who stayed in Kentucky when Guy’s grandmother boarded the family’s covered wagon and headed for Texas.

It’s yet another song from “South Coast of Texas”. I could have done an entire column on this album if it weren’t for all the other good songs.

♫ New Cut Road

The next song is generally known by Norma, the Assistant Musicologist and me as The Train Song. That’s not its title though. Its official name is Texas 1947.

When I was selecting songs for the column, the A.M. noticed this one and asked what it was. “That’s the Train Song”, I said.

“Oh, so that’s what it’s called”, she replied.

So, here is The Train Song. Oops, sorry, Texas 1947. To get an idea of what Guy was like in person, here’s a video clip from one of his concerts.

Guy Clark

It might seem to be an aberration to write a song about Picasso, but Susannah, his wife, was an artist (as well as a serious songwriter in her own right) and they both had an appreciation of art. It’s a bit of a throw-away song, but entertaining. It’s Picasso's Mandolin.

♫ Picasso's Mandolin

“My Favorite Picture of You” was Guy’s final album.

Guy Clark-Picture

The title song, My Favorite Picture of You, Guy sang to Susanna (the "you" in this case) who was seriously ill and she seemed to like it, he said. She died not much later.

The story of the song is that Susanna had been away for a weekend and returned to find Guy and Townes drunk (again). She packed her bags and was going to leave.

When she came out of the house, someone took that picture. She didn't leave, but things were a bit tense at the time. The song has some lovely harmony singing by Morgane Stapleton.

♫ My favorite picture of you

INTERESTING STUFF – 15 August 2020


...when Carl tied a bunch of helium balloons to his house and sailed away?

”Jonathan Trappe does that in real life,” the YouTube page tells us. "He attaches helium balloons to office chairs, gondolas, boats, even little houses, and he goes flying. Trappe has crossed the English Channel and soared over the Alps. He’s witnessed spectacular sunsets and glorious moonrises.

“Here’s how a guy who is an IT consultant by day made his wildest childhood dream a reality.”


Last Monday, we talked about pandemic loneliness and how we try to mitigate it. TGB reader Rosemary Woodel explained in a comment what she does:

”I started a ukulele band. We have zoom lessons weekly. We also meet once/wk with folks who sing or play weird instruments (kazoo, washboard, washtub bass). We record funny songs (or inspirational songs) using Acapella so we can maintain 6 ft distances apart but apparently be together.”

She posted this one to YouTube:


You read that right - 600 years. Take a look:

Since the video was made, three chicks have been born. You can read more at The Guardian and see a still photo of them.


Have you ever heard of this weather phenomenon? I hadn't. But it happened in the midwest of the U.S. last Monday. According to Wikipedia, a derecho is

”...a widespread, long-lived, straight-line wind storm that is associated with a fast-moving group of severe thunderstorms known as a mesoscale convective system.

“Derechos can cause hurricane-force winds, tornadoes, heavy rains, and flash floods...the wind remains sustained for a greater period of time (often increasing in strength after onset), and may exceed hurricane-force. A derecho-producing convective system may remain active for many hours and, occasionally, over multiple days.”

In addition to toppled trees, damaged homes, power outages, flooding and even an overturned semi-trailer on a highway, there is major crop damage:


The headline is all you need to know. Take a look.


Home Depot is selling a 69-inch-high (that seven inches taller than I am) dragon suitable to leave out on the lawn to scare the kiddoes on Halloween. It sells for $399 and if you spring for an extra $70, you can get a fog machine so that it spits smoke.

Here's the best (not very good) video I could find:

This still photo is much better:


Wow. I love it. If I had one, I'd plunk it down right in my living room. Maybe it would scare away the grim reaper.


Take a look at this cute little guy. Hardly dramatic – just a hamster eating carrot sticks from its purse. Betcha can't watch it only once.


A lovely story of connection and understanding between a man and herd of elephants.

The Youtube page tells us,

“The Elephant Whisperer, wrote a book about them, a book that appealed to animal lovers worldwide. The original herd of 7 Elephants has now increased to 29 Elephants, the maximum sustainable capacity of Thula Thula...”

More at the youtube page.


A tale for our time. Meir Kay writes on the YouTube page,

”What We Can Learn About Life From A Potato, Eggs, And Coffee is a story I read a couple months back and thought how good it would be bring this story to the 'big' screen. I had the pleasure to team up with my good friend, Jay Shetty to bring this powerful lesson to life.”

* * *

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 Cures? Do Not Presume

In the past, I've written about fake cancer cures and it is time now to do it again. Except. EXCEPT, this one is not fake. It is a real treatment for pancreatic cancer that is still in development.

In the past few weeks, four or five emails have arrived telling me I should look into this treatment.

It is no surprise that these messages have arrived now. In the same time period there have been several news stories about Jeopardy! host, Alex Trebek, former U.S. Senate Majority Leader, Harry Reid, and their treatment with the drug, Abraxane.

As Michele R. Berman, MD and Mark S. Boguski, MD, PhD wrote at Medpage Today on 28 July 2020,

”Reid was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer in May 2018. He underwent surgery at Johns Hopkins University, followed by chemotherapy and radiation treatments. However, his cancer worsened.

“Fearing he was near death, he got in touch with Patrick Soon-Shiong, MBBCh, inventor of the protein-bound paclitaxel suspension sold as Abraxane. Soon-Shiong was working on a combination treatment that he refers to as a 'triangle offense' for refractory metastatic cancers such as breast, lung, and pancreas.

“Reid became one of four patients in his compassionate use program. Reid traveled from his home near Las Vegas to Soon-Shiong's office in Los Angeles.

“After six months of treatment, no evidence of cancer was found on Reid's scans. A June 2020 article in the Washington Post confirms that Reid is still in remission, nearly two years after his diagnosis.

“Trebek also seems to be showing improvement on the regimen.”

Patrick Soon-Shiong is an intriguing man. The short version from Wikipedia tells us he was born 29 July 1952,

” a South African-American transplant surgeon, billionaire businessman, bioscientist, and media proprietor. He is the inventor of the drug Abraxane, which became known for its efficacy against lung, breast, and pancreatic cancer.

“Soon-Shiong is the founder of NantWorks, a network of healthcare, biotech, and artificial intelligence startups; an adjunct professor of surgery and executive director of the Wireless Health Institute at the University of California, Los Angeles; and a visiting professor at Imperial College London and Dartmouth College.

“Soon-Shiong has published more than 100 scientific papers and has more than 230 issued patents worldwide on advancements spanning numerous fields in technology and medicine.

Oh, wait. In his spare time he is the owner and executive chairman of The Los Angeles Times and The San Diego Union-Tribune.

Soon-Shiong's biography isn't really important to what I'm here to say today but I have included this brief excerpt because I didn't expect something so interesting when I was tracking down the information I needed about Reid's and Trebek's pancreatic cancer treatment.

What I really came here to say is that with the arrival of each email telling me I should look into treating my pancreatic cancer with Abraxane, I became angrier and like so many other things in my life, I suspect I'm not alone in my resentment of the intrusion and the assumption I would run right out and get me some.

Just the word, cancer, is fraught – at least in the United States – so much so that when I was a young woman, it was only whispered when a friend or relative was diagnosed. No one said it aloud.

We have gotten away from that in recent years as a few cancers have become treatable or curable, but it is still the number two killer in the U.S. (after heart disease) and is 23.1 percent of all deaths.

This disease doesn't fool around.

Although I am prepared to think that those people who sent the news stories meant well, they have no idea about my pancreatic cancer or, apparently, cancer in general. They don't know that I also have peritoneal cancer, lung cancer and probably a few others by now - it has been on the move in my body at least since early this year.

COPD, diagnosed more than a year ago, throws another complication into the mix. My doctors undoubtedly know about the trials with Abraxane, but no oncologists like telling patients there are no more treatments available and they don't do it on whim.

We all want to live and to do it for as long as possible so it is cruel for know-nothing strangers to forward links to stories based only, as far as I could tell, on the fact that they have the word “pancreatic” in them.

I have worked long and hard over the past three-plus years to come to terms with my cancer and where it is leading. Most of the time I am doing well at that but it is a delicate balance.

Even someone like me who takes pains to always concentrate on what is real and true can, for a moment, be sidetracked into a fairy tale for awhile, and then must claw her way back to sanity.

Did any of the people who sent those emails bother to read the part of those stories explaining that ONLY FOUR PEOPLE are in the COMPASSIONATE USE TRIAL? Did any of them bother to see if those two celebrities have COPD and two other kinds of cancer?

Maybe Abraxane will turn out to be a successful cancer treatment, something new that will give many patients many more years than most can expect now. God, I hope so.

But would you take an unproven COVID-19 vaccine that only four people have been given? I didn't think so.

It's a better idea to help a friend or relative with cancer get through the activities of daily life than tantalize them with a false hope.

My Medical Aid in Dying Drugs

It could not have been a more fitting time for the delivery. My palliative care provider and I were on a video call when they arrived via courier this morning (Tuesday): the medical aid in dying (M.A.I.D.) drugs.

My journey to receipt of this box of lethal drugs began in earnest in May when I spoke via Zoom with a physician at the medical center where I had been treated for cancer and COPD for the past three years. Our conversation began the legal process that culminated in that delivery.

So here they are and it is no small thing to live next to this box of certain death. Not that I would take the drugs on a whim or just because I'm having a bad day. That's not who I am.

But I suspect that more often now I will take up the questions that have both buoyed and bedeviled me from time to time and even, in a couple of cases, made me laugh:

Will I have breakfast on the last morning? If so, how will I choose? Cheerios? Scrambled eggs? Maybe just a muffin with jam? Should I wash the dishes or leave them for someone else?

And what does one wear to one's own death, especially when you know you are dressing for the final time? To whom should I look for inspiration? Anne Boleyn? Marie Antoinette? Lady Jane Grey?

Certainly not a convicted American woman in orange prison garb.

People will be here, less than a handful – three seems right. Should I arrange snacks? Wine? At least some wine, I think.

Do you find this morbid? I don't, and it's not like I control the thoughts that pop into my head. There are bigger, more important issues but these will do for the time being.

Every day now I can tell that my life is waning. There are good days and bad. Sunday night I slept no more than two hours and lost most of Monday to fatigue.

Even with a full night's sleep, I tire so easily that my productive time has been reduced to about six or eight hours.

Quite a lot of those hours is taken up with with medical activities - pills and inhalers at certain times, oxygen, nebulizer, managing refills, telephone calls and home visits with the hospice people.

Not that I am complaining. These and other medical professionals prolonged my life way beyond the year expected when I was first diagnosed, and the majority of it was much easier than now.

I have been with people during the last months of their lives and so far I experience fewer difficulties than they did. And don't think I'm not grateful for both the extra time and the terrific medical people who find ways to smooth my way as much as possible.

Because I really, really like being alive.

My job now is to find a way to make peace with dying. I've come a long way toward that goal in the last three years but the arrival of the drugs puts a whole new reality to it.

Until that box was in my hands, M.A.I.D. drugs were mostly theoretical. Now they are fact. In my home. There for my use. Or not. There is no rule saying I must take them. But I suspect the only reason I will not is if I die in my sleep or get hit by a truck.

I thought you might like to see what the drugs look like. Quite ordinary, don't you think? Until you remind yourself what they are for.


A TGB READER STORY: Love Thy Neighbor, Over the Fence

By Barrie Levine who blogs at Into the 70s – 72 is the New 72

When our children were grown and my husband Paul and I moved to our current home, our new neighbors welcomed us with a huge tray of homemade eggplant parmigiana.

Carmela and Tony (not their real names), a brother and sister in their early 80s, had never married. Tony, a retired engineer, loved Italian opera videos and made his own red wine. Carmela had formidable expertise in the traditional domestic arts of cooking, baking, and sewing. She knitted colorful afghan blankets for each of our four granddaughters.

Tony confided in us about the hardships he endured as a prisoner in World War II. They emigrated from Italy to the United States after the war and loved their new country with every fiber of their being.

Befriending neighbors was in my DNA. In my childhood, my mom Rose and her neighbor Madge waved through their kitchen windows while washing breakfast dishes. After sending the children to school, they met outside in their aprons and spent the morning chatting over the picket fence.

My husband tended a prolific garden and regularly took over baskets of vegetables and herbs for Carmela’s use. She returned the favor by sharing a platter of antipasto or a jar of homemade spaghetti sauce.

But one year we were plagued by woodchucks who invaded the garden and ruined it often. On an August afternoon, Paul went outside to survey the rows of corn, his pride of the growing season, to find them massacred, the cobs torn off the stalks and strewn on the ground, half-eaten.

He researched his options and bought a Have-a-Heart cage, with the intention of relocating the culprits to a distant wooded area. When Carmela spotted a woodchuck trapped in the cage, she called and screamed into the phone - branding us killers - and that she wanted nothing more to do with “people like us.”

After she slammed down the receiver, I stood there with the phone in my hand, speechless.

Early the next day, a crew appeared to measure the property lines. I knew what that meant - a spite fence would go up along the three hundred foot boundary between us. Whenever the panels blew down in snow or wind storms, Carmela sent for the fence company to repair the damage or replace the sections, keeping the wall intact.

When I heard that Tony passed away, I sent her a condolence card. But Carmela held her grudge and never looked our way to say hello.

Four or five years later, I received another surprise phone call from Carmela - she no longer wanted us to be enemies. I welcomed her kind words and the feeling of connection I had missed.

But by then, my husband was gravely ill. I was his caregiver, trying mightily to keep him out of a nursing home and simply did not have the energy to pursue a neighborly relationship. She may have thought that I didn’t care, but the truth is, my life was in shambles. I had no emotional reserves to welcome anything or anyone into my life - or even to explain.

And our garden suffered from neglect. My husband could no longer figure out how to handle his tools or equipment. We had to sell his tractor with the rototiller attachment. I remember that unbearably sad day when I wrote up a bill of sale and the buyer drove the Kubota onto his trailer and hauled it away.

Last year, I saw Carmela’s obituary in the local newspaper. I mused on both Tony and Carmela, brother and sister immigrants from Italy who lived their American dream together in a brick ranch house on two acres in Massachusetts after losing everything under the Mussolini regime.

I’m sad to lose my next door neighbors, and for my aborted friendship with these good people based upon a silly misunderstanding.

But not everything is possible in life and I had to let it go.

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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.]

Elder Loneliness in the Era of Pandemic

Whatever fairy tales the president of the United States repeats about a vaccine, the world has only three imperfect defenses against the COVID-19 virus: wear a mask, keep your distance, wash your hands.

What that means for millions of old people - the age cohort that dies in the largest numbers from the virus - is to stay home alone.

”I try to remember that I’m one of the lucky ones in all this,” 75-year-old Gloria Jackson who lives in Minnesota, told the Washington Post in May. “What do I have to complain about? I’m not dead. I’m not sick. I haven’t lost my job or gone broke.

“I’m bored and I’m lonely, and so what? Who’s really going to care about my old-lady problems? Lately, when I see people talking about the elderly, it’s mostly about how many of us are dying off and how we’re forcing them to shut down the economy.

“I tell myself I should be more positive. I should be grateful. Sometimes I can make that last for an hour or two,” she says.

She is not being unreasonable. We are all stuck in this hard place for an unknown length of time to come.

Experts have been telling us for years that there is an epidemic of loneliness among old people due to social isolation. Among the health risks are high blood pressure, heart disease, obesity, a weakened immune system, anxiety, depression, cognitive decline, Alzheimer’s disease, and even death.

Now, the three rules of dealing with COVID-19 exacerbate those risks while increasing the number of elders who are vulnerable.

Solutions provided by experts in my admittedly limited survey are mostly what you would expect. Here are the most common with some personal commentary.

Regular Zoom (or whatever platform you prefer) visits with family members or friends.

Although it would not be considered a social visit, I like this for medical check-ins. I read of two women who, before the virus, had met at a coffee shop each morning to do The New York Times crossword puzzle together. They now continue on Zoom.

Last week, I joined my previous in-person current affairs discussion group via Zoom for the first time. It is a smaller group now – six or seven people. I thoroughly enjoyed it and felt more energized than usual when we were finished.

A drawback to computer-assisted visiting is that some elders do not use a computer or are not confident enough to set up an online meeting. But there is the old-fashioned solution for that:

Telephone visits. I regularly talk with east coast friends by telephone, which we have been doing for all the years since I left.

Some are regularly-scheduled appointments, others are more ad-hoc but frequent enough that it is not exceptional – more like we just haven't had time in the past week or two to get together.

Some organizations throughout the United States make a point to telephone their members regularly. Where I live, the Adult Community Center does that and in some towns and cities, people who deliver Meals on Wheels make time to stay and chat for awhile – at a distance from one another, of course.

If you shop for an elder, dropping off the groceries can be an opportunity to stick around and visit for a bit. During good weather, a porch, if it is large enough to keep a distance, can provide a nice spot to sit and talk.

Everyone likes surprises and another idea I found is to drop off favorite foods or candies or a jigsaw puzzle if that is an interest, and so on.

Schedule, personal care and exercise. These seem to me to be especially important in maintaining a positive attitude while living under virus restrictions.

Getting out of bed at the same time as BV (Before Virus). Showering regularly, exercising regularly. If you cannot get out and walk, there are many workout routines for various levels of capability to follow along on television and on the internet.

And it helps a lot to focus on the current moment. That's not always easy for me: what should I write about for Monday's TGB? Do I have all the notes I need for a video meeting with my palliative care provider? But I work on it.

Because I control pain (and general well-being) by taking medications at certain times of day, I'm unlikely to break the schedule. Pain – or, rather, avoiding it – is a great motivator.

In addition to all the video and telephone calls, I have hospice home visits at least twice a week in my home. We both wear masks, keep our distance and wash our hands a lot.

Also, once a week, my neighbor and I spend a couple of hours in the afternoon on her lovely deck sitting six or eight feet apart. A little wine, some cheese and crackers and good conversation.

All of that doesn't count daily emails from friends, blog acquaintances and a variety of inquiries regarding TGB.

Plus there are your comments – I read every one of them, almost always on the day they arrive. It is another form of conversation and I learn as much from you as I do from other sources. It has been more than 16 years and I cannot imagine my life without the blog and you.

Now it is your turn. What is your experience with loneliness during this terrible time and how do you deal with it? What recommendations do you have? The virus isn't going anywhere any time soon. We must learn to live as well as we can and as safely as we can.

Remember: Whatever else, wear a mask, keep your distance and wash your hands.

ELDER MUSIC: Boccherini

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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LUIGI BOCCHERINI was born in Lucca in Italy. His dad was a cellist and double bass player and he taught the young Luigi to play the cello from the age of five, and he turned out to be pretty good at it.

When Luigi was 14, he and dad went to Vienna where they were both employed in the court orchestra.

At the age of 25, Luigi went to Madrid at the behest of the Spanish ambassador whom he met in Paris. He remained in Spain for the rest of his life, being employed to play and compose music for various bigwigs around the place.

He became a cello maestro and many of his compositions feature the instrument to one degree or another. He was greatly influenced by the music of Joseph Haydn and a large percentage of his output consists of chamber music - trios, quartets, quintets, sextets and so on - as will be demonstrated today.

His compositions have been catalogued by Yves Gérard, hence the G number attached to each.

Luigi’s music has been characterised as warm, gentle and elegant but often with an undertow of melancholia - his two wives and three daughters died before he did.

Luigi’s string trios published as Opus 47 are mature works (he was 50 when he wrote them) and although still definitely in the classical mode, they rather suggest to me the coming Romantic style of music that was fast approaching.

This one is his String Trio Op 47 No 5 in D major (G 111), the second movement.

♫ String Trio Op 47 No 5 in D major (G 111) (2)


Although. as I mentioned, Luigi’s composition are Classical in style, this next rather seems to look backward to the Baroque era. It’s not a bad thing to mix the two styles and this is a delightful piece.

It’s his Octet in G (G 470), the first movement. It’s scored for oboe, bassoon, French horn, two violins, viola and two cellos.

♫ Octet G 470 (1)

Luigi wrote a series of arias called “Aria Accademica” based on texts written for operas by Pietro Metastasio. The complete set had 16 of these. He collected 12 of them and presented them to music publisher Ignaz Pleyel (who was also a fine composer as well as a piano maker).

These actually didn’t see the light of day until the 20th Century. One of those is G 549, also known as Care luci che regnate, sung by CECILIA GADIA.


♫ Care luci che regnate (Cecilia Gadia)

Besides chamber music, Luigi liked to write music for his favoured instrument, the cello. Joseph Haydn wrote the two finest cello concertos in music, but Luigi wasn’t far behind him with his 13.

His Cello Concerto No. 9 in B-Flat Major, (G 482) is the most popular and widely performed of his. It’s often used as a teaching tool for budding cellists. This is the first movement.

♫ Concerto for Cello in B-Flat No 9 G 482 (1)


Early in the 1770s, Luigi started composing for the flute. It was at this time he wrote a series of flute quintets, called “little quintets” at the time. These are in contrast to later ones where he was more adventurous.

One series was his opus 19 (which has had several number changes over the centuries) and from that we have his Quintet No 2 for flute and strings in G minor (G 426), the second movement.

♫ Quintet No 2 for flute and strings in G minor G 426 (2)

Another aria from the series “Aria Accademica”, mentioned above, is the G 557, Se d'un amor tiranno. This one is sung by MARTA ALMAJANO.


♫ Aria Accademica in B-Flat Major G. 557 Se d'un amor tiranno


Perhaps it was because he lived in Spain, but Luigi seemed to be fond of the guitar and he wrote a number of guitar quintets, that is a guitar with a regular string quartet. He “cheated” with some of them by using old string quintets or piano quintets and re-scoring them for guitar. It doesn’t matter, they still sound fine.

See what you think of the second movement of his Guitar Quintet No. 4 in D major (G 448). This one is nicknamed "Fandango".

♫ Guitar Quintet No. 4 in D major (2)

Luigi’s Quintet No.3 for Oboe and Strings in D major, Op 45 (G 433) is essentially a string quartet with an oboe plonked on top of it. A lot of his quintets are like that - just string quartets with an extra instrument. Nothing wrong with that, they all sound fine. Here is the second movement of that work.

♫ Quintet No.3 for Oboe and Strings in D major Op.45 (G 433) (2)


Known mostly for his chamber music, Luigi was “asked” by the King of Spain’s younger brother, Luis, Count of Chinchón, to write a liturgical work for him. He produced his Stabat Mater (G 532). From that we have the seventh movement sung by Michele Minne.

♫ Stabat Mater G. 532 (7)

Like all composers of his era, Luigi wrote symphonies. It seems it was a rite of passage for composers back then. He wrote 30 of them that are called symphonies and several more works that really are but under different names.

From his Symphony No 3, op 37 in D minor (G 517) here is the fourth movement.

Symphony G 517 (4)


I’ll end with his most famous, and popular, composition: the String Quintet Op 13, No 5 (G 281). In this case the third movement, a minuet, that is also quite often performed as a standalone work. It’s been featured in many movie scores, most notably the Ealing comedy The Ladykillers from 1955.

String Quintet No. 17 in A Major Op. 13 No. 5 G 281 (3)