A TGB READER STORY: Off to Buy Vitamins

By Deborah Cavel-Greant who blogs at Simple Not Easy

I'm on Facebook, it's how I keep up with my friends and family members. But the "targeted" ads I am served are a hoot and some days are more entertaining than the FB posts.

My favourite is the one about a 50-year-old woman whose dermatologist hates her for her age-defying beauty secret which makes her look 25 (and which she is willing to sell me).

I’m not interested because if I looked 25 people would expect me to act 25 and if there's one thing I love about being old it's that you don't have to apologize for being slow anymore.

Another frequent ad thrown at me is from a dating service that laments the fact that their "senior men" can't find "faithful senior women like you Deborah".

Since I’ve been married to the same old fella for almost 55 years, if I answered that ad I'd not be the "faithful" woman they're looking for would I? Besides their "senior men" (hunky bare-chested models dressed as policemen and firemen and doctors) - are all about 35! My sons are older!

Still hoping they have a merry and potentially wealthy widow on their hands (I gave Facebook NO information other than my name, age and hometown I left at age 11), they offer to move me into a high-end retirement home, then try to entice me to join a single-seniors-only cruise. I sense frustration as they try to find something, anything that I might buy.

An interior designer will come to my home and make sure it doesn't have that "granny vibe" we all fear. Sadly, I do not care for their recommended $12,000 sofa that looks like three metal ironing boards welded together into an isosceles triangle and covered with shiny fuchsia-coloured Naugahyde.

They are flummoxed. Abandoning the hope that I am a high-rolling, world-cruising-cougar, they test the theory that I am a crippled-up, penny-pinching old party pooper and offer to sell me the secret of how to get $35,000 of free money from the government because I am infirm.

When I don't even want to know how to get $35,000 of free-for-the-taking-money, desperation sets in.

It's well known if you are over 65, you are either decrepit or an elderly Olympian so they abandon all semblance of targeting and simply go with alternating stereotypes. They begin rotating advertisements for medical aids with those for hair-raising experiences.

Do I need a new electric wheelchair? No? Do I want to go sky-diving? No? How about standing out in the geezer crowd with a hand-carved cane from Borneo? No?

Surely I'd enjoy a life-changing (I read this as "life-ending") sledding adventure down the North Face of the Matterhorn? NO? Perhaps I need a medical lift or a potty chair to sit beside my bed? NO?

An all-inclusive travel package to Mozambique to run in a marathon? NO???

When I don't pitch my credit card at the screen, I visualize them hunched over their keyboards with knit brows, shuffling ads like a deck of solitaire cards. One, gnawing his thumb knuckle, says tensely, "Pull back a little, offer her (long pause) square-dancing lessons."

They watch with nervous expectation as the ad comes and goes, all Madison Avenue ad agency sweat under the armpits as FB stock ticks lower by the second. A vein in a temple pulses visibly. One swears, and spits out, “The old dame is holding out. She's still not buying ANYTHING!”

In rapid succession they promise to hide my varicose veins, cure my diabetes, lift my sagging bosom, reduce my dewlap and “turkey-neck”, ease my painful gout. This gives me pause. I don’t have any of these problems; perhaps Facebook has a "Coming Afflictions" application I have inadvertently signed up for? Should I worry about this?

But I crumbled when I got a message from my cousin Mack this morning. Facebook has apparently developed an app that does what no other web application has ever done before; transcended that final curtain which we have never peered beyond.

My dearly loved cousin Mack passed away last December. However, I got a message on Facebook from him today recommending a well-known brand of senior's vitamins.

They finally have me. I'm off to buy some. If those vitamins can make Mack feel well enough to post to FB from where he's gone, they might finally make a square-dancer out of me.

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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 Throws a Grammar Fit

With increasing frequency, Crabby Old Lady finds herself in despair over the trajectory of the world on both the macro and micro levels.

For example, in terms of macro, the Australia fires are only the latest harbinger of even more horrific climate disasters to come. In the micro world, it is the word “they.”

As December comes to a close, quite a few organizations issue a “word of the year” and they rarely come up with the same one. This year, the Merriam Webster dictionary's choice got the most attention for “they”, and its derivatives “them” and “their”, with a new and additional definition as single pronouns.

According to those who advocate for the new usage, the point is to avoid the gender pronouns “he”, “she”, “him” and “her” so that people who do not identify themselves as male or female will not be forced to choose words that do not describe them.

Crabby's brief survey of responses to this new definition of they, them, their reveals that a variety of professional wordsmiths overwhelming applaud the change. Apparently they believe that a sentence like this one - “Crabby Old Lady and their friend Chris often have lunch at their favorite sushi place” - makes sense.

Molly Woodstock, who is host of a podcast titled Gender Reveal, spoke with NPR about the new usage:

”It makes a lot of sense to me because I think that they as a singular pronoun, as a pronoun for certain nonbinary folks is increasingly moving from only being talked about in queer and trans circles to the mainstream public consciousness.”

Benjamin Dreyer is vice president, executive managing editor and copy chief of Random House, and the author of Dreyer’s English: An Utterly Correct Guide to Clarity and Style. Writing in the Washington Post, he too embraces the new usage because, he says, it is the right thing.

Jane Noll, an instructor and coordinator of undergraduate affairs in the University of South Florida Department of Psychology, told WRLN Radio,

“'We have to remember, for many of us, it's been difficult all along to use ‘he’ or ‘she,’ she said. 'To be respectful of people who don't identify as he or as she, I think we need to put forth the effort and it is going to be an effort for some people.'”

Respect doesn't appear to be an issue for another advocate, Merriam-Webster editor-at-large, Peter Sokolowski, who has no trouble sneaking in a dig at old people:

“Many Americans,” he told The New York Times, “especially older ones, stumble over the use of 'they' as a singular pronoun. For those who haven’t kept up, their complaint is” that “they” as a singular pronoun is ungrammatical.”

You betcha it is, Mr. Sokolowski, and grammar is essential to clear communication. Can you, dear reader, translate this short bio from The New York Times?

”Farhad Manjoo became a Times Opinion columnist in 2018.

“Before that, they wrote The Times’ State of the Art column, covering the technology industry’s efforts to swallow up the world. They have also written for Slate, Salon, Fast Company and The Wall Street Journal.

To their chagrin, their 2008 book, True Enough: Learning to Live in a Post-Fact World, accurately predicted our modern age of tech-abetted echo chambers and 'alternative facts.'

“Farhad Manjoo was born in South Africa and emigrated with their family to Southern California in the late 1980s. They live in Northern California with their wife and two children.”

(For the record, Manjoo's Wikipedia entry notes that, “A cisgender (look it up) man, Manjoo prefers to be referred to with singular they pronouns.”)

Crabby Old Lady is still cross-eyed trying to translate that bio from from its mangled English. Not that she can't do it, but untangling those pronoun references just about halves reading speed.

English is one of the richest languages on Earth. We add new words all the time. Others fall out of use and some change meaning. That's all to the good.

At its best, language clarifies and makes it possible, when used well, for us to understand both one another and complex ideas. At its worst, as with the current American president and his sycophants who lie with abandon, it sows confusion, divides people and nations, and can bring us to the brink of war.

Does an additional meaning of they, them, their matter in such a world? Maybe not but instead of unifying people, in this case it divides them. If you think that's overstating it, read this piece from a conservative columnist who agrees with Crabby Old Lady but for very different reasons.

It would be useful to have a word for non-gender people. But it would be better to have one that doesn't poach a perfectly good word that does the heavy lifting in between more glamorous ones.

“They” is right up there in the top 20 most common English words like the, of, to, and, a, in, it, etc. Surely it couldn't be hard to invent a new word for non-gender people.

ELDER MUSIC: Ricky Nelson

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.

* * *

Ricky Nelson

RICKY NELSON had many advantages that most of the other first generation of rock and roll singers (and later ones as well) didn’t have. First off, he was good looking. Okay, quite a few of the others were as well.

He had a father in the business who knew the ropes, so Ricky wasn’t screwed over by record companies and managers as virtually all the others were, so he managed to keep his hard earned money.

He was on television every week so he kept his name and face prominent for many years, and he had the best lead guitarist around at the time – James Burton. He also had considerable singing talent and he wrote quite a few songs, something only a few of the others did.

Ricky was also a favorite of mine, so he’s the featured artist in the column today. It might be a bit boring if you’re not a hard core Ricky fan. Most of the songs are from early in his career.

I’ll kick off with It's Late. This was written by Dorsey Burnette. The song did pretty well for him all over the world. Okay, you can say that about most of the songs I’ve included today.

♫ It's Late


Keeping the songwriting in the family, the next one, Just a Little Too Much, was written by Johnny Burnette, Dorsey’s brother. They both had decent performing careers of their own, together in the Rock & Roll Trio, and separately under their own names.

♫ Just a Little Too Much


Probably the best known of Ricky’s songs is Hello Mary Lou. This was the B-side of a 45 that had Travelin’ Man on the obverse. It was a double sided smash. The record has some particularly fine guitar playing by James Burton.

♫ Hello Mary Lou


One of my earliest purchases (or gifts) was the single Never Be Anyone Else But You. It was about the time I left my small country town for the big smoke and I was leaving my girl friend behind. Oh well, we both got over that.

♫ Never Be Anyone Else But You


Be-Bop Baby was written by Pearl Lendhurst for Ricky. Ricky’s output to this time was mostly ballads, so he wanted to show that he could rock as well. The guitar player wasn’t James, but Joe Maphis, which was unusual for his records at the time.

♫ Be-Bop Baby

Sharon Sheeley wrote the song Poor Little Fool when she was only 15. She managed to get Ricky to listen to it and record the song and it became a number one hit for him.

Sharon went on to have a career in songwriting for such people as Glen Campbell, Brenda Lee and most especially Eddie Cochrane, to whom she was engaged until his death in a car accident.

♫ Poor Little Fool


Although the next song references the film Rio Bravo, it didn’t actually appear in it. Ricky did though, as one of the main characters named Colorado, also mentioned in the song.

He and Dean Martin sang a couple of songs in the film though. The tune I’m talking about is called Restless Kid. It sounds like a Johnny Cash song, and it’ll come as no surprise that he wrote it.

♫ Restless Kid


In 1971, Ricky performed at a rock & roll revival concert with Chuck Berry, Bo Diddley and others. As he recounts in his song, he sang his hits but also performed new music which upset the audience who didn’t want to see their favorites evolve.

One reference in his song about the concert that evaded me until recently is “Mr Hughes”. He was a neighbor and good friend of Ricky’s: George Harrison. The song is Garden Party.

♫ Garden Party


A single I had as a kid is Ricky’s cover of the Hank Williams song, I Can't Help It (If I'm Still in Love With You). I didn’t buy it for the song, it was the flip side of the one I wanted – I think that was Just a Little Too Much, but I could be wrong.

It was also on the album “Ricky Sings Again”, which I also later had. It’s one of my favorite Hank songs, and I think that Ricky does it really well. He has the Jordanires helping him with the singing.

♫ I Can't Help It (If I'm Still in Love With You)


On a visit to Australia he heard Mike McClellan sing his song, Rock and Roll Lady. Ricky was so impressed that he recorded it as soon as he returned home. Alas, that was shortly before he died so it didn’t get the exposure that it deserved.

Ricky’s version is really good, but Mike really nails it. You should seek it out (that’s easily done; it’s on one of my previous columns).

♫ Rock And Roll Lady

INTERESTING STUFF – 11 January 2020


Forty-five years ago, science fiction writer, Arthur C. Clarke, made “the bold claim that one day computers would allow people to work from home and access their banking records.”

Take a look at this 1974 news story about that.


The Netherlands began the new decade by announcing that the country be called The Netherlands, not Holland:

”The Netherlands actually consists of 12 provinces, two of which combined make up Holland, so referring to the Netherlands as a whole as Holland is just wrong,” reports Business Insider.

“The rebrand hopes to manage Amsterdam's over-tourism, which has already been addressed by the country in the form of a ban on guided tours of the Red-Light District, as well as the removal of the famous 'I amsterdam' sign.”

Read more at Business Insider and at Mental Floss.


As the Vimeo page explains,

”When wolves were reintroduced to Yellowstone National Park in the United States after being absent nearly 70 years, the most remarkable 'trophic cascade' occurred.

“What is a trophic cascade and how exactly do wolves change rivers? George Monbiot explains in this movie remix.”


Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg announced last week that after treatment for a recurrence of pancreatic cancer, she is now cancer free:

”The 86-year-old justice, one of the oldest to serve on the Supreme Court, offered the health update to CNN in an interview in her chambers Tuesday evening.

“'I’m cancer free. That’s good,' Ginsburg said, with CNN reporting that she was 'sounding energized and speaking animatedly.'

"Ginsburg’s intensive radiation treatment for a malignant tumor on her pancreas in August had followed a diagnosis of lung cancer at the end of 2018 that resulted in the removal of part of her left lung and forced her to miss oral arguments for the first time in 25 years on the bench.”

You can read more at the Washington Post.


According to the YouTube page,

”Don McMillan is an engineer and a comedian so he has the brains to utilize fancy charts and graphs to make his point. He makes some good points about the everyday technology that we use like printer ink and usb devices.”

And I laughed out loud. You probably will too.

There is more comedy from Don McMillan at his YouTube page.


2020 marks 150 years since the Metropolitan Museum in New York City opened its doors. Not to take anything away from other marvelous museums, The Met was one of my most favorite places in the city over the 40 years I lived there.

The Youtube page tells us that the anniversary will be celebrated

”...throughout 2020 with exhibitions, events, and new ways to connect with art. Highlights include Making The Met, 1870–2020, the reimagined British Galleries, and a three-day celebration in June.”

Here are three people – a Museum employee, fashion guru Tim Gunn and a ballet dancer – on what The Met means to each of them:

The Met's website is one of the best on the web. You'll find it here.


I love this story – about social media pages where UPS drivers throughout the world post photographs of the dogs (and some other animals) they meet on their delivery rounds.

In Olympia, Washington:


In Louisville, Kentucky:


In Ottawa, Canada:


There are many more photos at Bored Panda and, of course, at Facebook and Instagram.


David Zinn (not to be confused with the costume and set designer of the same name), has been delighting people in Ann Arbor, Michigan, for many years.

The are quite a few good chalk artists on the internet, those clever folks who make it look like you're about to fall into a chasm if you take one more step forward on the sidewalk.

Zinn can do that too, but his work usually involves funny little characters and a sense of whimsy I haven't see before. Take a look:

Lordy, it must be fun to walk around Ann Arbor.

There are many examples of his work online – video and still photos: Try this YouTube link or his Zinnart website, Facebook or Instagram. Or just google his name.

Thank TGB reader Joan McMullen for this.


Now if only a squad of them could be trained to do the driveway.

* * *

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.

How Old Age Shrunk My Life and Why That is a Good Thing

On Monday's post, long-time TGB reader Salinda Dahl made reference to one particular way her life has changed:

”My life, though so much 'smaller' than in the past...I stand smiling, befuddled, feeling somehow less-than. But when my secret life is in sway, oh the inexplicable wonder and beauty, and sometimes terror! Big, very big.”

(I'm inviting her to expand on that thought in the comments below today.)

Although I'm not certain, I think I know some of what Salinda means. My life has become smaller for reasons that can all be filed under one header, “You Got Old.”

Even before the cancer diagnosis in 2017, I had begun slowing down my life. It's not that I made a decision to change my activity level exaxtly; mostly I just followed inclinations as they appeared.

Fewer social evenings out. Internet purchases and delivery instead of shopping trips. And I generally gave up entertaining at home and on holidays because my energy and stamina began going south in relation to my intentions.

I had some earlier practice at cutting back social life after I took a job that involved a four-hour, round-trip commute which. If you've never done that, you might not realize that although you can get a lot of reading done, it is all about work and sleep during the week and chores catch-up all weekend.

There is no time for much else when you lose 20 waking hours from a week.

During my three years at that job, I think I became accustomed to having a smaller social life and some friends disappeared when I so regularly declined invitations because there was simply no time for a social life beyond a quick coffee date, for example, among weekend chores.

But that's not an excuse anymore. All kinds of things change as old age settles upon us. Certainly less energy in general leaves me tired but there are other reasons too.

Sleep overtakes me much earlier now. It's hard for me to follow a conversation let alone participate after 6PM. My brain seems to stop parsing language by then. Mostly, nowadays, I see friends for lunch.

For some reason too (I think we've touched on this one previously in these pages), more than one trip out of the house per day is all I can handle. If I've done the grocery shopping, stopped at the pharmacy and driven to the cannabis dispensary, I'm done for the day.

Sometimes I'm stuck doing all those things in addition to rehab or seeing a doctor. On those days, there is not a chance of budging me from home once I get back there.

Another important contribution to a smaller life: Old age is greedy – it wants all the time it can steal from you and even more if you plug in a disease or ailment.

Our bodies are wearing out as we reach late life and force us to slow down almost everything we do. Household chores I once did for myself require a handyman or specialist – more time gone. For decades, I cleaned the house on Saturday morning. The goal was to finish by noon and most of the time I did. Now? It's a joke. I do a little every day but I don't finish everything every week anymore.

More doctor visits. Weekly pill counting into little boxes. If you don't live in a big city and give up driving, trade in that half-hour trip to the dentist for 60 or 90 minutes each way on public transportation.

COPD has cut my normal walking speed at least in half. Something in my condition or perhaps a medication has weakened my hands so I cannot carry as much weight – e.g. groceries – as I did not long ago. More time gone. And so on.

There is no telling how many books I haven't read, movies I haven't seen and blog posts that are not written because life's boring maintenance, which I hardly noticed for 70 years, takes so damned much time now.

I feel the walls of my life closing in, making the room - life itself – smaller.

But here's the great surprise: For all this shrinkage, my life doesn't feel small. It feels huge, much larger than all those years I worked in a glamorous media business, traveled the world and was always on the go when I was home.

Let it be said that I'm no stranger to lots of time alone. I've always needed more of that than many people but now my inner life is so much richer, filled with new curiosity, understanding and insight to life and to myself almost daily discovering my truths, if not universal ones.

Maybe that's the purpose of old age, to slow us down just so we can have the time to savor and delight in the realizations that become available to us now if we pay attention. To quote Salinda again,

”Oh the inexplicable wonder and beauty, and sometimes terror! Big, very big.”

What a splendid thing to have happen when all the rest of the world believes old age is a bummer. This has become the best time of my life – just as I believed every earlier time was the best when I was living them.

2020 Blog Housekeeping

On the first day of this new year, I was poking around the internet while making some notes about potential future blog posts when I landed on a column from one of my favorite New York Times columnists, Farhad Manjoo. It was right on point with one of the stories I was doodling around with.

”I enter the new decade with a feeling of overwhelming dread,” wrote Manjoo. “There’s a good chance the internet will help break the world this year, and I’m not confident we have the tools to stop it.”

He enumerated some of the many things that can make the internet a horror and offered some suggestions about how we – ordinary users - can avoid a personal run-in with them. I'll get back to that in a moment but first:

I've been doing this blog for nearly 16 years. You, dear readers who comment, make it a joy. But every six months or so it becomes necessary for me to repeat some of the rules of the road. It's a short list and then you'll see why I've dragged Mr. Manjoo in to this.

At the top of every page just under the banner are four links of which one is Contact. That is how you can send a private message directly to me that is not a comment on the topic of the day.

This is useful if you have suggestions for blog posts or have items that might be good for Saturday's Interesting Stuff post, etc.

Through the years, I have tried to answer all those messages but the number has increased in recent years at the same time that living with cancer and COPD have cut my energy and increased the maintenance time they require leaving me with fewer useful hours in a day.

So sometimes I just run out of steam and can't sit at the keyboard for one more moment in a day. I usually leave the unanswered email in my inbox thinking I will get to it tomorrow. Yeah, right.

So when the inbox items number more than a thousand (including many messages unrelated to TGB) and I can't stand seeing them all anymore, I just hit delete. I'm sorry about that but it happens.

If you receive this blog via email, you cannot comment by clicking “reply.” That just sends your comment to me, personally. It arrives by email in my inbox.

To comment, you must go to the blog online. You do that by clicking the title of the story (in the email you received) that you want to comment on. Then scroll to the bottom of the story online, click the word “comments” and a new page will open where you can write your comment.

Hitting the reply button to comment suggests that perhaps some people don't know there are comments. If that is you, you are often missing the best part of this blog: what readers have to say.

Some of you follow TGB on Facebook. Some of you leave comments on Facebook. Some of you send me notes, links and such on Facebook.

The thing is, I don't use Facebook, I never look at it except to be sure the day's blog post is there for readers who use the service. I accept “friend” invitations only to clean up the page. That's all I do there. I do not read anything on Facebook.

If you read TGB on Facebook and leave comments there, know that the number of readers at the website vastly out-numbers Facebook readers and is much more of a community where commenters relate to one another.

Plus, for a variety of reasons, I am considering closing the Facebook page. I haven't decided yet and I'm slow at that sort of thing, but it may happen relatively soon.

You are not allowed to include links in your comments. I delete all of them. Reason: people who do not read this blog leave comments that are meant to sound flattering about the blog but exist only to leave a link to their commercial website. It's just advertising.

I don't have time (nor inclination) to check each and every link so I delete them all. Occasionally, if I recognize a name on the comment, I will remove only the link. But it's time consuming and I don't always feel generous so I delete the whole comment for sanity's sake.

If you want to direct people to somewhere else online (not a personal, commercial or retail website), just tell us within your comment what to google to find it. (You can link to your own blog by including the URL in the footer of a comment where there is a line for it.)

See, that wasn't too bad – just four items. Here is the nut of what Farhad Manjoo has to say about avoiding the dystopia that large swaths of the internet have become.

”It can sometimes seem as if all the internet is deep fakes and culture wars, Trump tweets and influencer scams. It’s not, of course,” he writes.

“The internet still abounds in lovely, wholesome niches — the fantasy sports circles, the YouTube and Instagram communities devoted to any kind of craft, the many subreddits where strangers come together to help one another out of real problems in life.

What distinguishes the productive online communities from the disturbing ones? Often it’s something simple: content moderation. The best places online are bounded by clear, well-enforced community guidelines for participation.

“Twitter and Facebook are toxic because there are few rules and few penalties for flouting them. A Reddit community like r/relationships, meanwhile, is a haven of incredible, empathetic discussion because its hosts spend a lot of effort policing the discussion toward productive dialogue.”

Thank you, Mr. Manjoo. I've been saying that for almost 16 years. It works.

You can read Farhad Manjoo's entire story at The New York Times.


By Kay Richard

In the grainy black-and-white film of Aunt Evelyn’s home movie camera, Maureen and I are doing our version of the hippy hippy shake. I’m wearing cut-offs and a button-down collared blouse, along with the ever present headband.

The camera pans over to the kitchen table where Georgette, still wearing her white Henri’s School of Hair Design uniform, is teasing mom’s hair into a beehive French roll while mom plucks her eyebrows.

When her transformation is over, Aunt Evelyn asks me to stand behind mom for a family shot. I’m blowing bubbles with my wad of pink Bazooka and giving mom rabbit ears with my fingers.

They left for their night out on the town to celebrate mom’s 35th birthday. Soon the camera is spanning the club and the musicians are mouthing words to songs we can’t hear. There’s mom, crossing the dance floor with her drink and settling into one of the booths along the side wall. Cigarette smoke rises from ashtrays on every table.

I hear the front door open and close and get up to ask Mom if she had a good time. She is lying on the sofa, her left arm elevated on the back, her right hand in a fist sitting on her chest, creases between her eyebrows.

I asked her if she was alright and she told me to go back to bed. Kissing her on the cheek, I told her I loved her and returned to my room.

When I woke the next morning, Aunt Evelyn was sitting at the table. She’d been there for awhile, waiting to tell me that mom had been taken to the hospital during the night. She’d had a heart attack, but was stable in the newly constructed ICU.

A few days later, Aunt Evelyn drove me to Heywood Hospital. I wasn’t allowed to see mom because the age requirement was 14 and up, so we stood in the parking lot outside her room and she waved to me from her window. I blew her a kiss and we headed home. It was the last time I saw her alive.

If I could ask her any question, it would be, “Were you glad that you kept me”? An unwed pregnancy doesn’t elicit so much as a blink of an eye these days, but in the 1950’s she must have faced shame and ostracism.

We never had the opportunity to have the conversations that would answer so many questions about the circumstances of my birth but I like to think that beyond the fear, she felt that maternal love that made her carry me out the hospital door and into the large French-Canadian family that I grew to love.

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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.]

When Breath Becomes Air by Paul Kalanithi

“The tricky part of illness is that, as you go through it, your values are constantly changing. You try to figure out what matters to you, and then keep figuring it out...Death may be a one-time event but living with terminal illness is a process.” - Paul Kalanithi

This is not a book review. It is not a synopsis nor an abstract, a digest nor summary. It is one person's response to a remarkable memoir by Paul Kalanithi, a brilliant neurosurgeon and neuroscientist cut down at age 38 by metastatic lung cancer.

After a disappointing survey awhile ago of a handful of books written by people with a terminal illness, I tossed them and the genre itself aside. Perhaps I chose poorly but each book in its own way was inarticulate, treacly, vague, sentimental and – particularly odd for such a fraught topic – boring.

It would have been smarter of me to start with When Breath Becomes Air which has been lying around my home unread, until last month, since it was published in 2016, a year after Kalanithi died.

This was a man driven from childhood to understand what it means to be human, to find out “what makes human life meaningful.” In his earliest years and in college, he turned to literature for clues and throughout his medical education and practice, he never stopped working on that question.

Most of us give up on existential mysteries as unanswerable. But Kalanithi kept pecking away at them throughout his short life from as many angles as were made evident to him. Two snippets from his book in this regard:

“...to understand how the brain could give rise to an organism capable of finding meaning in the world.”
“...direct experience of life-and-death questions was essential to generating substantial moral opinions about them.”

And in terms of the accumulated losses that inevitably accompany a terminal disease,

“What makes life meaningful enough to go on living?”

There has hardly been a day, after I underwent the Whipple procedure for pancreatic cancer in 2017, learned later that the breathing problems I had been having are due to COPD, and gained a couple of other chronic but minor ailments, that I haven't asked myself when enough will be enough.

The world lost more than a brilliant physician/surgeon when Paul Kalanithi died; we lost a philosopher – perhaps we could say a philosopher of medicine – too. Much in his book is conditional – he was still working on those unanswerable questions until he couldn't anymore and I wonder what more he could have enlightened us with if he had not died so young.

I've met a lot of doctors and other medical professionals since cancer so dramatically changed my life. I like and respect them all, and I hope they have put the kind of thought to their work that Kalanithi did. He writes that neurosurgery “compelled and awed him.”

“Before operating on a patient's brain, I realized, I must first understand his mind: his identity, his values, what makes his life worth living, and what devastation makes it reasonable to let that life end.

“The call to protect life – and not merely life but another's identity; it is perhaps not too much to say another's soul – was obvious in its sacredness...

“Those burdens are what make medicine holy...”

I want now to believe that all medical professionals believe medicine is holy because, says Kalanithi,

“...the physician's duty is not to stave off death or return patients to their old lives, but to take into our arms a patient and family whose lives have disintegrated and work until they can stand back up and face, and make sense of their own existence.”

Hardly any healthy person can conceive of his or her own death in any real way. Even though physicians spend more time around death than most other people, Kalanithi comes remarkably close, at various points in his book, to the kind of dissonance I have felt about having a terminal disease:

“I knew that someday I would die, but I didn't know when. But now I knew acutely. The problem wasn't really a scientific one. The fact of death is unsettling. Yet there is no other way to live.”
“I hadn't expected the prospect of facing my own mortality to be so disorienting, so dislocating.”
“...the shadow of death obscured the meaning of any action.”
“The future, instead of the ladder toward the goals of life, flattens out into a perpetual present. Money, status, all the vanities the preacher of Ecclesiastes described hold so little interest: a chasing after wind, indeed.”

All those things and more? Me too. Every day.

But my god, life is powerful. You might even say that life has a life of its own. Even when you're old, even when you know this thing eating your body from the inside cannot be stopped, life insists that you pay attention to it.

“...seeing death as an imposing itinerant visitor but knowing that even if I'm dying,” wrote Kalanithi, “until I actually die, I am still living.”

And so he did. After his diagnosis, Dr. Kalanithi and his wife Lucy literally made a new life together - they had a daughter before he died.

There is value without measure from reading the journey through terminal disease of such an articulate, thoughtful person. Not that he can explain the ineffable, but he opens up the internal dialogue to new places, new ideas.

The kinds of things Kalanithi writes about in When Breath Becomes Air are the same ones that nip at the edges of my consciousness almost daily, wondering when cancer or COPD or both will catch up with me for good. It's just that he states them better than I can.

Meanwhile, like Paul Kalanithi quoting Samuel Becket,

“I can't go on; I'll go on.”

ELDER MUSIC: Songs of Shel Silverstein

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.

* * *

Shel Silverstein

I mostly know SHEL SILVERSTEIN for the songs he wrote for Dr Hook, but there was more to him than that.

He was a cartoonist for Playboy, a children's songwriter, a writer of children's poetry and fiction, an adult fiction writer, playwright, journalist, adult songwriter (humorous and serious), singer, artist and general polymath.

The songs today were all written by Shel, and most of them were first recorded by Dr Hook, but we have other versions for most of them.

It seems that everything in the song Sylvia's Mother is completely true, except for Sylvia’s surname, changed not to protect the innocent but so the song scans better. I’ve seen interviews with both Sylvia and her mother and they confirm this.

Shel was so smitten with her that he didn’t ever marry. He later spent a considerable amount of time at the Playboy mansion and this might have helped him overcome his disappointment a little.

The most famous version of the song, the one that most of us know, is by DR HOOK & THE MEDICINE SHOW.

Dr Hook

This is their version of this tale of woe.

♫ Dr Hook - Sylvia's Mother

The Ballad of Lucy Jordan was first recorded by Dr Hook, but it was memorably sung by MARIANNE FAITHFULL on her extraordinary album “Broken English”.

Marianne Faithfull

This is a tough, gritty, no holds barred song, particularly Marianne’s interpretation. She was no longer the pretty waif-like dolly bird from the sixties who was involved with Mick Jagger for a while. She had indulged in the full sex, drugs and alcohol life of the clichéd rock singer and was just getting her life back together when she recorded this song and album.

♫ Marianne Faithfull - The Ballad of Lucy Jordan

Both Waylon Jennings and WILLIE NELSON have recorded the song A Couple More Years.

Willie Nelson

As you can see and will hear, I’ve gone for Willie’s version, for no reason except that I have Waylon performing another song.

♫ Willie Nelson - A Couple More Years

EMMYLOU HARRIS’s album, “Pieces of the Sky,” was a real beauty, but you could say that about most of her albums.

Emmylou Harris

This is the record that launched Emmy’s solo career and on it she performs Queen of the Silver Dollar, with a little help from Linda Ronstadt.

♫ Emmylou Harris - Queen of the Silver Dollar

HANK WILLIAMS JR has a reputation of living life to the edge and then going over. His records tend to reflect this.

Hank Williams Jr

However, he recorded an excellent album that was gentle and reflective that I think is his best (but I haven’t listened to all of them). It’s called “Hank Williams Jr and Friends”. Even people who don’t like country music should appreciate this one. From that album, here is On Susan's Floor.

♫ Hank Williams Jr - On Susan's Floor

LORETTA LYNN could easily have written One's on the Way as it seems to be about her life.

Loretta Lynn

She certainly wrote other songs about herself and people around her, so that’s not inconceivable. However, it’s one of Shel’s songs. Loretta certainly made it memorable and it remains one of her best known songs.

♫ Loretta Lynn - One's On The Way

Around about 1970, Mick Jagger starred in a film about Australia’s most famous outlaw, Ned Kelly. The film was dreadful. Shel wrote the soundtrack for the film which was performed by Kris Kristofferson and WAYLON JENNINGS.

Waylon1 Jennings

The music is far superior to the film (that wasn’t hard) and the song, Ned Kelly, appears early in the film and only touches a little of his early life.

There’s much more than appears here, culminating in his being hanged in Pentridge Prison, ordered by Redmond Barry, a judge who had a proclivity for hanging those who appeared before him.

♫ Waylon Jennings - Ned Kelly

Speaking of KRIS KRISTOFFERSON, here he is with a song he co-wrote with Shel.

Kris Kristofferson

From his fine second album, “The Silver Tongued Devil and I”, he sings The Taker, with some help from Joan Baez who was uncredited on the album.

♫ Kris Kristofferson - The Taker

Here is a song from out of left field, given all the others we have today. It’s sung by JUDY COLLINS.

Judy Collins

It’s about the aftermath of the Civil War, in particular the Battle of Shiloh or the Battle of Pittsburg Landing. It produced the largest number of casualties in the war to that point. Of course, this was later surpassed by other battles.

The song is In The Hills of Shiloh.

♫ Judy Collins - In The Hills Of Shiloh

There have been a couple of problematic songs today. I think it goes with the territory when Shel’s involved. However, I think TOMPALL GLASER takes the cake with his one.

TomPall Glaser

It was Tompall’s biggest selling record and I’ll play it without further comment. The song is Put Another Log on the Fire.

♫ Tompall Glaser - Put Another Log On The Fire

I’ll end as I began with DR HOOK & THE MEDICINE SHOW. Their song is a satire of the music business about a band that lives the full rock & roll life style, but in spite of that can’t get their picture on The Cover of Rolling Stone. Sometime later the magazine did feature the band on its cover.

Dr Hook

♫ Dr Hook - The Cover of Rolling Stone

On the cutting room floor: A Boy Named Sue.

INTERESTING STUFF – 4 January 2020


Let's have the YouTube page do the intro:

”Faster than a speeding bullet, more powerful than a locomotive, cooler than a cucumber in a bowl of hot sauce, it’s Piper the Aviation Bird Dog, ready for duty.

“Alongside his handler Brian Edwards, the dynamic duo protects the planes at Cherry Capital Airport from bird strikes. Birds can pose a huge threat to flight safety, but when they see Piper on his way, geese, ducks and gulls flee the runways.

“It’s an important job, but not one without its share of fun.”

I'm pretty sure I've featured a different aviation bird dog before. Maybe dogs working at airports is a larger phenomenon that I knew. And look at Piper's cool sunglasses.


That title is Portuguese for The Thursday Meeting (according to Google Translate). I don't know what that has to do with the film but it doesn't matter – just enjoy the story. The film maker is only 20 years old.

Thank my friend Jim Stone for sending this.


Wow, is all I can say.


I'm not convinced it is the best cartoon of the century but it certainly is a cartoon for our time. Thank TGB reader Joan McMullen.



With the burning of the Amazon, Australia and deforestation in general, increasing numbers of writers are telling us just how amazing trees are. Here is one short version of one thing they do.


Peter Tibbles is the proprietor of the music section of this blog whose column appears here every Sunday. But sometimes I drop in a music video or two.

This is a mini-documentary from Willie Nelson. I never tire of his warm, cozy voice and his gentle urging of us to do the right thing.


Reporter Geoffrey A. Fowler wrote an end-of-decade overview of tech changes during the past 10 years.

He says there were no break-out new products during this period like the iPad and Walkman in the past but our relationship with our various screens got stronger and we became more dependent on them.

Fowler enumerates these changes some of which were probably not good for us and mankind. Like this one:

“The voice assistants Alexa, Siri and rival Google Assistant also helped make us comfortable with the idea there is just one answer to a question. Remember when searching for information required sorting through Google links? Now a tech giant gets to decide.”

If you think about that in regard to small children who don't know it's not necessarily true that there is only one answer to a question, it is worrisome. You can read all the rest – good and not so good – that Fowler has rounded up at the Washington Post.


Reader Joan McMullen sent this item too. I've featured designer Andreas Wannerstedt in the past and his work is always mesmerizing. Each of the items in today's video is “based upon the idea to trigger some kind of odd satisfaction and that inexplicable feeling we all know,” he says.

If you want to see more of Wannerstedt's work, just google his name. He's all over the web.


Little mouse. Big cracker. Persistence.

* * *

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 – The First One of 2020

Here we all are having wound down the holiday season and starting a bright, shiny new year with nothing too awful yet to spoil it.

My former husband, Alex Bennett, and I recorded our bi-weekly Skype show on Wednesday, the first day of 2020.

Fair warning, the video is out of sync by about a second. If that annoys you - as it does me – you could just listen and not look at the screen. It's mostly a radio show with pictures anyway so no loss.

Alex and I got through a lot of material this time. Reacting to the media end-of-year compilations of events over the past 12 months, we talked about the sense that our individual worlds are shrinking as the touchstones of our generation die. Our world becomes less recognizable without them until we don't feel as much a part of the culture or the zeitgeist as we once did.

We moved on to how Alex's prostate cancer is being treated and how, also, after his lifetime of hypochondria over make-believe ailments, somehow it has been easier for him to come to terms with a real health threat than all those imaginary ones.

We segued from there into my little show-and-tell for Alex of the variety of edible cannabis products I use to be able to sleep a full night. Alex is a bit jealous that it's not yet legal in New York where he lives.

We followed that with some inevitable political/election chat. It appears that Alex doesn't think any of the Democratic contenders can beat President Trump.

And we finished up when Alex gave a shout-out to Time Goes By and especially to TGB's readers and their comments.

Here it is. Not the most flattering static shot but that happens sometimes.

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

Happy New Year 2020


It is good to have these few days at the end of an old year and beginning of a new one to reflect on what has been and wonder at what will come.

In my personal life, I gained a second disease, COPD, and just kept going anyway even though all the statistics say I should be dead of pancreatic cancer by now.

Obviously, I am not and am living in golden time – way past my life expectancy. I am grateful beyond measure.

Outside my personal milieu, there are only two stories that matter: Climate change and what fresh hell Trump will inflict upon us next. I think a lot about the immigrants, refugees and asylum seekers – especially the children snatched from those parents and scattered around the 50 states.

The Trump administration kept poor records and some of those families will never be reunited. America, the United States of America, made this happen and I am ashamed.

The big thing about a brand new year is that we have a clean slate upon which to imagine how we can collectively make things better. Maybe we're only dreaming but every great thing I ever heard of began with a dream.

As has been so in years past, I am deeply fortunately to have the best group of readers any blogger could wish for. You are here every day – smart, caring, thoughtful, compassionate, funny, and you say the nicest things.

As this new year makes it way through the universe, may every one of us have enough.

[This post will stay up through tomorrow and we will return with a new post as usual on Friday.]

Now, tell us about your 2019 and your dreams for 2020.

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.

* * *

[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


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


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


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


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.)


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.

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

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

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.


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.


To quote the YouTube page:

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


Jack and Tilly spread Christmas magic around their town.


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


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


This is the company's first Christmas advert.


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.”


This year, eBay promised no holiday promotions until November.

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.


Merry Christmas, everyone.