“About” Taking a Day Off

Life has intruded and for a day or two I need take a short break from writing that requires actual thought. So here are a couple of things that won't tax my brain and I hope will amuse you.

PIGS
As I was explaining to my friend Erin Read who is director of strategic planning at Creating Results, I like pigs almost as much as I like cats.

Also, I am a long-time connoisseur of television commercials. Except for people in the business of creating them, hardly anyone believes they are an art form, but they are and I keep an eye out for the exceptional ones. They are few and far between but they do exist.

One turned up recently that involves a pig. A blissed-out (stoned?) retired couple are walking their miniature pig along a waterfront. It's shot in moderate slow motion. The music is a bit odd and (to me) unrecognizable but catchy. The whole thing is a little off kilter, mysterious and strange.

And those are the reasons to stick around until the end to find out what it's all about. Take a look:

Did you catch the bewildered look, about halfway through, on that little boy's face? And the woman holding the pig in her arms like a small child at the end? In a bank?

I've watched this commercial about a dozen times and am still befuddled and charmed. It's beautifully done.

FINAL DAYS WITH A BELOVED OLD FRIEND
After frequent airings for a large part of 2015 and then disappearing, another commercial that is as brilliant in its way is in rotation again recently.

It's about a guy who is checking off items on his ageing dog's bucket list and I tear up a bit every time I see it. This is the long version that is rarely shown on television.

At our ages, we've all been there and not only with a pet. It's a great commercial.

NEW ABOUT PAGE
Now. About that “About” word in quotation marks in the headline today.

The link named About above the banner on every TGB blog page goes to another page where you will find links to Peter Tibbles' bio, the Photo Timeline and an About Time Goes By page.

Except, that last one has been a dead link since the blog was redesigned in 2015. The intention then was to rewrite the About TGB page and I didn't get around to it until now.

For those of you who keep asking why that page is missing, my apologies for the delay. You can go directly to it with this link, or click “About” at the top of this page for all three About choices.


A Surprising Media Respect For an Elder

Ageist language isn't confined to such obvious demeaning labels as geezer, coot, biddy, etc. - or to “elderspeak,” the belittling forms of address such a “dearie,” and “sweetie” or speaking to old people in a loud, slow voice.

Much more common is the offhand, everyday assumption among the media that old is always bad. Stephen Colbert and Jimmy Fallon use age jokes so frequently that I don't often watch their monologues anymore.

It's ubiquitous among comedians of all types and genders – almost all of them include ageist jokes in their routines.

Over the course of his two terms, Barack Obama has proved that had he not gone into politics, he might have made a pretty good living as a standup comic.

He was in impeccable form Saturday night as the main attraction at his final White House Correspondents Dinner. Great funny zingers at all the traditional media and politics targets with the timing of a professional comic, as we have come to expect from him.

However. When Obama was barely three minutes into his 34-minute routine, these self-mocking age jokes turned up:

”Eight years ago, I was a young man, full of idealism and vigor, and look at me now. (Laughter) I am gray and grizzled, just counting down the days ’til my death panel.(Laughter and applause)

“Hillary once questioned whether I’d be ready for a 3AM phone call — now I’m awake anyway because I’ve got to go to the bathroom. (Laughter and applause.”

The same old tired "humor" ensuring that the universal assumption old people lose all their faculties will continue. When the president, who would never malign an ethnic group, religion or women, turns being old into a hoary old stereotype for a cheap laugh, what chance is there of ever gaining respect for old people.

Not infrequently, the insult takes the form of the word “still” when a writer tells readers, for example, how amazing it is that John Smith, age 75, still walks the dog every day and cooks his own meals.

In fact, you can pretty well assume that the writer of any story about a person older than 70 or so – no matter what the focus of the story is - will reinforce the stereotype of infirmity by being amazed he or she can, for example, “still” get out of a chair unaided.

So it is shocking when a reporter has an obvious opportunity to throw in a couple of “still statements” to infantilize an old person but instead takes a higher road.

Last week, in The New York Times, Sarah Wildman did that. It was a feature story about Justus (pronounced YOO-stice) Rosenberg who, she explains, is probably “the last remaining member of an extralegal team” who helped Jewish cultural figures and anti-fascist intellectuals in Vichy France flee the Nazis in the early 1940s.

It's an exciting and amazing tale that is probably the best news story I read last week. Most impressive, particularly given the subject of my daily chronicles here, is the regard and respect Ms. Wildman pays Rosenberg. Take a listen:

”Officially, Dr. Rosenberg, who turned 95 in January, retired from teaching 20 years ago. Retirement didn't suit him.”

Wildman ignores every opportunity a lesser writer would take to tell us how “spry” or “feisty” Rosenberg is.

“'I think my life,' Dr. Rosenberg mused on a frigid February afternoon in the kitchen of his Rhinebeck, N.Y. home, 'as what the French call concours de circonstances – a confluence of circumstances.'”

Later in the story,

”'Have I mentioned it to you yet?' asked Dr. Rosenberg, picking up the narrative the next day as he drove from Bard's campus to his home in Rhinebeck.'”

And,

”Two years ago he and his wife of 20 years, Karin, started the Justus and Karin Rosenberg Foundation to fund efforts fighting hate and anti-Semitism.”

Sarah Wildman reports his age, tells us he teaches and drives, suggests he knows his way around a kitchen, can recall a conversation from the day before and lets us know in passing that he got married at age 75 – all without remarking that any of it is surprising at his age.

Hallelujah. Sarah Wildman allows Justus Rosenberg to be just a person - as if he were 30 or 40 or 50 years old - and that is exceptional in as ageist a world as ours so we should take note when it happens.

If the media followed Ms. Wildman's lead, we would not need to notice and instead concentrate on what is a fantastic story, well told. It's titled “The Professor has a Daring Past” and you can read it at The New York Times. I recommend it.


ELDER MUSIC: Even More Classical Gas

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 started this series of columns (named by Norma, the Assistant Musicologist) to highlight lesser known composers who often don't get much of a look in on concert stages and the radio. Just doing my bit in my little corner of the world to keep interesting, little heard music alive.

Oops, that sounds a bit pretentious, just ignore it and listen to the music.

BERNHARD CRUSELL was (and I think still is) the most significant composer born in Finland (take that Jean Sibelius).

Bernhard Crusell

Besides composing, he was a clarinetist of great note and a translator. He was born in Uusikaupunki (I just threw that in because it's such a great name) but the family moved to Sweden when he was eight and that's where he spent much of his life.

He was so in demand that after various visits to France, Germany and England, the King of Sweden pretty much dragged him back (refusing to extend his visa and other underhand shenanigans). Naturally, much of his work involved the clarinet in some way or another and this is no exception, the third movement of Divertimento in C major.

♫ Bernhard Crusell - Divertimento in C maj (3)


Here is an interesting string quartet but it's not like all the other string quartets that consist of two violins, a viola and a cello. This one has had all the instruments take one step to the right, as it were.

Now we have two violas, a cello and a double bass. It gives the music a deep mellow sound. The gentleman who performed the shift is GEORG WAGENSEIL.

Georg

Although he wrote a bunch of operas, he was instrumental in the development of the symphony – Haydn took special notice of his compositions. He was an organist and harpsichordist and taught those instruments.

One of his pupils was Marie Antoinette. I presume it was the harpsichord in her case, but you never know about these things. He was one who straddled the divide between baroque and classical idioms.

This is the first movement of what he calls a sonata but is really a string quartet. It's number 2 in F.

♫ Georg Wagenseil - Sonata in F (1)


ANTONIO ROSETTI was born Franz Anton Rösler but figured there'd be more cachet in the composing biz with an Italian sounding name.

Antonio Rosetti

Besides composing, he was a dab hand on the double bass but he didn't really write music for that instrument – most of it was symphonies, concertos and various forms of vocal compositions.

This is one of his concertos, the first movement of the Concerto for two Horns & Orchestra in F major.

♫ Antonio Rosetti - Concerto for 2 Horns & Orchestra in F major (1)


You could say that JOSEPH WÖLFL studied under Mozart and Haydn and you'd be right, but all isn't as it seems. They were the more famous Mozart's father (Leopold) and the more famous Haydn's brother (Michael).

Joseph Wolfl

Joe was a bit of a prodigy and made his first concert appearance at the age of seven (playing the violin). He later became a pianist and had huge hands which meant he could span many more keys than most.

At one stage he challenged his rival Beethoven to a cutting contest on the piano which proved to be a bit of a mistake as Ludwig bested him in no uncertain terms. After that, Joe lost popularity and hived off to England where he became hugely successful with the public (but the critics didn't like him).

I'm with the public, especially in his Duet for Piano and Cello in D minor, the third movement.

♫ Joseph Wölfl - Duet for piano & cello in D minor (3)


I'm rather ambivalent about the music of the harp. Whenever I hear it on disk, my usual reaction is along the lines of, "Ho hum, that's less than ordinary.” However, hearing it played live it seems to sparkle with life and is shimmeringly gorgeous.

I'm going to include some harp music but it'll have to be from a disk because I can't really come around to each of your places and play it for you. The harp's too heavy to lug around, and besides, I can't play it, so we'll just have to make do with what we have.

And what we have, or who we have more to the point, is HENRIETTE RENIÉ.

 Henriette Renié

Henriette was a composer for the instrument as well as a teacher of it - Harpo Marx was one of her students. She started out on piano but saw and heard a harp player and she was hooked. Indeed, the person she saw, Alphonse Hasselmans, became her teacher.

Henriette composed and played at a time when it wasn't the done thing for a woman to do – late 19th and early 20th century. However, she persevered. This is the second movement of her Harp Concerto in C minor.

♫ Henriette Renié - Harp Concerto in C minor (2)


JOSEPH EYBLER was a Viennese composer who was contemporaneous with Mozart and Haydn.

Joseph Eybler

Indeed, he was some sort of distant cousin of Haydn's. Joe had lessons from Johann Albrechtsberger who also taught Beethoven, Mozart's son Franz, Anton Reicha and many other budding musicians. He (Eybler) was a good friend of (Wolfgang) Mozart and was asked to complete his Requiem but declined.

Joe was another of those composers who were very famous in their lifetime but have almost vanished from sight since. Let's resurrect his reputation a little with his beautiful second movement of the Clarinet Concerto in B-flat major.

♫ Joseph Eybler - Clarinet Concerto in B-flat major (2)


Speaking of JOHANN ALBRECHTSBERGER, let's have him as well.

Johann Albrechtsberger

He learned his trade in Vienna and one of his classmates was Michael Haydn, younger brother of the more famous Haydn. As mentioned above, Jo was a teacher of music as well as a composer. He must have been good as Beethoven praised his teaching (and Ludwig wasn't one for lavishing praise willy-nilly).

Most of his compositions follow conventional instrumentation but he did write seven concertos for Jew's harp, for heaven's sake. To the best of my knowledge these haven't been recorded, so I'll go with something else, the second movement of his Divertimento in G.

♫ Johann Albrechtsberger - Divertimento in G (2)


Here's a striking combination of trumpet and soprano. The author of the work is JAN DISMAS ZELENKA.

Jan Dismas Zelenka

The soprano is RUTH ZIESAK, and the trumpeter is REINHOLD FRIEDRICH.

Ruth Ziesak & Reinhold Friedrich

Jan was a Czech baroque composer who went to Dresden to further his career. They must have liked him there as they kept increasing his salary such that he became one the best paid musicians of his time. After that he got about a bit – Vienna, Venice (possibly), Prague, back to Dresden.

Bach and Handel both took note of what he was doing. One of the things he was doing is Laudate Pueri, and this is one of the movements (it's uncertain which as parts of it are missing).

♫ Jan Dismas Zelenka - Laudate Pueri


JEAN-BAPTISTE BARRIÈRE was a French Baroque composer.

Jean-Baptiste Barriere

He started out playing the viol but switched to the cello when that instrument became popular. Contemporary accounts say that he was a fantastically good cello player.

Most of his compositions were for that instrument, the rest for viol and harpsichord. J-B liked to show off his prowess and many of the compositions are fiendishly difficult to play, I'm told.

I don't know if this is one of those, the fourth movement of his Sonatas No 6 in C minor for Cello & Bass Continuo.

♫ Jean-Baptiste Barriere - Sonatas for Cello & Bass Continuo (4)


When I say that we will finish with Mozart, you might wonder what he's doing in a column whose purpose is to highlight lesser known composers. However, it isn't the famous Wolfgang. It's not even his father Leopold, who is fairly well known.

No, it's Wolfie's son FRANZ XAVIER MOZART.

Franz Xavier Mozart

Wolfie and Constanze had six kids, only two of whom survived into adulthood – Karl, who although considered to be an excellent pianist, became a public servant in the Viennese government, and Franz, the youngest child born the year his dad died.

Unlike his father, Franz (or Wolfgang junior as he was universally known) was introverted and very self deprecating. Naturally his music was overshadowed by his father's but it's really very good.

There wasn't much of it as he only wrote 30 compositions; he spent most of his time giving concerts and teaching. The musical Mozart line stopped with him as he never married (nor did his brother).

Here is the third movement of his Piano Concerto No. 2 in E flat major, Op 25.

♫ F. X. Mozart - Piano Concerto No. 2 in E flat major, Op. 25 (3)


INTERESTING STUFF – 30 April 2016

STILL DREAMING

This documentary follows some of the residents of the Lillian Booth Actors Home in New Jersey as two young theatrical directors rehearse them for a performance of A Midsummer Night's Dream.

As we come to know the elders actors, the worlds of their retirement community and of the play's enchanted forest seem more similar than you might have anticipated. Here is the trailer:

In addition to the drama of pulling the comedy together for presentation, Still Dreaming is one of the more honest looks at life with elders who require help, each to varying degrees, to get by day-to-day.

Although the doc was first released in 2014, the DVD has been made available for purchase only recently at all the usual online outlets. You can also watch it online for $4.99 here.

MAGICIAN DELIGHTS BRITAIN'S GOT TALENT JUDGES

It's fun being fooled when it doesn't make you look foolish and I have always preferred the small tricks of magicians to their big-deal extravagant illusions.

Not long ago contestant Richard Jones charmed the Britain's Got Talent judges with my kind of magic.

JOHN OLIVER – PUERTO RICO'S BANKRUPTCY

On 1 May, that's tomorrow, Puerto Rico owes its creditors a payment of $422 million. It is unlikely the U.S. territory can make full payment and Congress has been sitting on its hands.

On last Sunday's HBO program, Last Week Tonight, host John Oliver explains the territory's massive debt crisis better than any newspaper, magazine or TV show I've read/seen with some signature laughs thrown in.

Puerto Rico native Lin-Manuel Miranda, the man who just won the Pulitzer Prize for his smash-hit Broadyway musical, Hamilton, joins Oliver toward the end in a rap calling for debt relief for the island.

WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENTS DINNER TONIGHT

The reporters who cover the White house are holding their annual White House Correspondents Dinner tonight. Comedian Larry Wilmore is hosting for the first time. The dinner is a chance each year for the press – and the president – to give one another a gentle roasting.

Although sometimes, it is not so gentle. Undoubtedly this year, Donald Trump will be a yuuuuge presence as he was in President Barack Obama's speech in 2011. Take a look:

This is Obama's last appearance as president so I doubt he'll pull too many punches. You can watch the program on C-SPAN, CNN or MSNBC beginning at about 9PM eastern time, 6PM Pacific. Check your local listings or just wait for the highlights on YouTube tomorrow.

MENSTRUAL MAN

Now don't squinch up your nose and be put off by that headline. In a world full of dreadful news 24 hours a day, this is a great good news story about a quest of many years by an amazing man.

To start, you need to know that Arunachalam Muruganantham's

”...interest in the state of menstrual hygiene in India began in 1998 when he discovered that his wife was using dirty rags in place of sanitary napkins to save money for food.

“According to the BBC, [reports Utne magazine] nearly 70 percent of all reproductive diseases in India are caused by poor menstrual hygiene.”

It took Muruganantham, a poor and uneducated man, many years, a lot of goat's blood and heaps of ridicule to invent an inexpensive machine that manufactures affordable sanitary pads for women in poor, rural communities. Then someone made a documentary about him titled Menstrual Man. Here is the trailer:

”The machines are typically bought by self-help groups and NGOs. Each one provides jobs for ten rural women, who produce and sell the sanitary pads for self-determined prices,” reports Utne.

Read the Utne story here. See a Ted Talk by Mr. Muruganantham here. Watch the full documentary for $3.99 here. The man is a genuine hero.

AZULEJOS PUZZLE

According to Wikipedia, Azulejo is a form of Spanish and Portuguese painted, tin-glazed, ceramic tilework. Here are some classic examples.

Azulejo

Although this puzzle, sent by Darlene Costner, is titled Azulejos, it uses plain, undecorated tiles which doesn't make it any less – well, puzzling. I can't figure it out, can you?

GRACE AND FRANKIE REDUX

Last year, many of us enjoyed binge watching Grace and Frankie, the original Netflix comedy series about two women coping with an old age quite different from what they had imagined when their husbands announce they are in love with each another.

It stars Jane Fonda, Lily Tomlin, Sam Waterston and Martin Sheen and it is back for season two beginning next Friday, 6 May. Here's the trailer:

INFREQUENT FLYER

Before I discontinued The Elder Storytelling Place, the companion website to TGB, Henry Lowenstern regularly contributed amusing doggerel, often on timely news topics.

As summer approaches now, I have been vaguely considering a trip that would involve an airplane.

Just in time to bring me to my senses, Henry sent a rhyme titled Infrequent Flyer.

Now that airline seats are smaller,
and legroom disappears,
luggage is costing extra,
good meals are yesteryear's,
air travel is becoming a pain
from which I try fervently to abstain.

THE CALIFORNIA TOWN OF THE DEAD

According to the YouTube pae for this video,

”For 75 years, Colma, Calif., has been steadily collecting bodies, and it's constantly getting ‘deader.’ As of 2009, there were 1,500 living residents and 1.5 million marked graves in the city.

“Seventy-three percent of the land belongs to the dead with the rest occupied by people who have a great sense of humor. The town's motto is, 'It's Great To Be Alive In Colma.'”

SIMON'S CAT: CAT LOGIC

Simon's Cat creator has inaugurated a new series about cat behavior and logic. Oh yeah, like anyone can explain that.

This first episode is about why cats always want to be on the other side of the door. The real-life Simon appears briefly in this mini-documentary.

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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 IF you include the name of the blog and its URL.


Trump's “Woman Card” is Similar to the “Old-Age Card”

Earlier this week, Republican presidential candidate, Donald Trump, snidely attacked the Democratic presidential candidate by saying that Secretary Hillary Clinton has nothing more going for her than the “Woman Card."

Ms. Clinton's response to Trump's ignorance was perfection. Take a listen:

Trump, who has an ingrained need to debase every adversary (or, at least, try), further embarrassed himself the next morning when the Morning Joe show on MSNBC apparently lifted their self-imposed ban on his phone calls to the program.

Sounding as though he'd been out too late the night before, Trump slammed Clinton for the volume of her response to his jibe:

”I haven't quite recovered from her shouting that message...” he said. “I guess I'll have to get used to a lot of that over the next months.”

Of course, this is all standard behavior for the loutish Trump but I often wonder these days if there has ever been a public person who dared to express his mysogyny as openly and repeatedly as Trump.

My friend John Gear forwarded a link to me with Washington Post blogger Alexandra Petri's delicious take on Trump's Woman Card barb. A sample:

”Ah yes, the woman’s card. I have been carrying one of these for years, proudly.

“It is great. It entitles you to a sizable discount on your earnings everywhere you go (average 21 percent, but can be anywhere from 9 percent to 37 percent, depending on what study you’re reading and what edition of the Woman's Card you have.)

“If you shop with the Woman Card at the grocery, you will get to pay 11 percent more for all the same products as men, but now they are pink.”

Petri's a funny woman. Here's some more from her about how the Woman Card works:

”Present the Woman Card to a man you have just met at a party and it is good for one detailed, patronizing explanation of the subject you literally got your PhD in.

“Offer it to someone on the red carpet and, instead of any substantive questions about your work, you will get a barrage of inquiries EXCLUSIVELY about what you are wearing.”

Well, to be fair, men on red carpets get the fashion questions too, but we get the point – and welcome it is.

As I was working my way through Ms. Petri's skewering of Trump, I realized that much the same could be written about an “Age Card.” And then, lo – I discovered she was way ahead of me:

”Hook up the Woman Card to your TV,” wrote Petri, “and you will get a barrage of commercials telling you that you did something wrong with your face and must buy ointment immediately so as not to become a Hideous Crone.

“Also, you are now expected to spend your whole life removing hair from your body, except for the areas of your body where your hair must be long and luxurious. (Do not get these two areas confused!)

“Unlike Man Cards, Woman Cards do not increase in value as they age. In fact, they depreciate. Do not collect Woman Cards. Even in mint condition, they are worthless.”

By god, Petri is on to something. It is hard to recall exactly, but I think I was issued my Old-Age Card about 12 or 14 years ago, just past by 60th birthday.

It comes with the advantages Ms. Petri lists except that when it's plugged into the TV, you are provided with the full range of “ointments” to fix society's litany of icky old-people flaws – you know, constipation, acid reflux, toe fungus, erectile dysfunction, constipation, COPD, overactive bladder, incontinence and vaginal dryness.

In the latest version of the Old-Age Card, you might even get all these remedies in one commercial break.

Among its other merits, the Old-Age Card allows you to be called geezer, coot, biddy, fogey and fossil along with honey, dearie and/or sweetie by all who are too rude to ask your name.

And unlike the Woman's Card, you may have noted that the Old-Age Card is issued to both sexes, doubling the cultural opportunities to malign 35 million people without consequence.

Best of all, it contains an amazing magical property: it makes you invisible to any and all who don't want to be reminded that they too will one day be issued an Old-Age Card.

It's a lot like the Woman Card but even more potent.


So How's Retirement Going for You?

There is a new survey of 1,583 retirees about what makes them happy in their post-employment years. In general, I don't find the the poll useful for several reasons:

All the respondents are long-time customers of a financial services company, TIAA, that commissioned the report

The respondents disporportionately hold advanced education degrees

74 percent have made only “minor or no financial adjustments” in retirement

That certainly does not reflect the real world and most of the 100-plus questions in the survey are about satisfaction with TIAA products – retirement planning and financial packages. That makes a good sales tool for the company but not much interest ordinary folks.

Nevertheless, in reading the survey, I realized that I have never, in 12 years since my last paid employment, given any thought to how life is for me now in comparison to before. Apparently, I just slipped into retirement, kept going and here I am.

At first, I intended to show you a couple of charts from the TIAA survey – one about lifestyle changes and another on activity levels - but for reasons in that list above, it doesn't seem useful and I'm more interested in how you, dear readers, whom I suspect are a better cross-section of elders than the survey respondents, are enjoying your retirement.

Me? I never decided to retire. In fact, I didn't think about it when I was working even into my sixties. I just assumed I would work until I didn't want to anymore, whenever that came about in some indistinct future.

And so it was. Until it wasn't. I was 63 when I was laid off and even giving it a year of intensive searching, I never found another job.

However, during my last year of employment, I was already publishing this blog so I just kept at it. It is what I do now quite similarly to my life when I once produced TV shows and websites, and I am no less engaged with the blog than that other kind of work.

The worst of retirement is that I couldn't afford to remain living in Manhattan where I had been for 40 years. It is the only place I ever felt at home and not being there means that I am not living in the right place, always feeling slightly off-kilter.

But so what. Shit happens in life. There's nothing to do but deal with it and god knows I try in a hundred little ways.

Since this blog bridged my working and non-working years, it is almost as though I haven't retired – except that I luxuriate in the freedom now to schedule time at my whim and not an employer's.

Aside from TGB, the days are filled with fitness workouts, community activities, friends online and in person, reading, cooking, keeping up with politics and a couple of other areas of interest, a weekly current affairs discussion group, and the boring parts of life – shopping, cleaning, etc.

What I have come to appreciate now is something I had not anticipated – time to be. Time with no purpose. Time be quiet and alone with myself. I recall having that kind of time as small child, lots of it, but it got set aside for the most part in the mid-years and I am pleased to have it back.

Life is more fluid and open-ended these days. Without demands from employers, the only obligations are those I choose to make and although “happy” is not in my personal vocabulary, I am essentially content with life as it has come to be now.

So that's how retirement is going for me. How about you?

ADDENDUM: I finished this before realizing that even though I read the entire TIAA survey which is concerned almost mostly with money, that subject didn't occur to me while I was steeped in writing this.

Certainly money is important in retirement. It takes on greater meaning in old age, I think, because most people are stuck with whatever we've got – it's never going to change much, and far too many elders live in poverty. (We'll talk about that here soon.)

For now, do I wish I had more money? Sure. Are there things I go without for lack of money? Yes, but nothing crucial.

I budget carefully, I put aside money for emergencies and worry that it's not enough. And in a world economy as volatile as the one we live in, I wonder what might go wrong before I die that will leave me in financial dire straits.

And then I remember that there is no point in buying trouble, particularly the kind I cannot control.

With that, we're back to the end again: How's retirement going for you? And if you are not retired yet, what do you expect or anticipate from it when the time comes.

(If you are interested in the TIAA survey, the executive summary is here [pdf], the full report is here [pdf].)


The Century-Old Quilt – Like New

The weather has warmed enough where I live that it was time this weekend to put away the winter bed quilts for something lighter.

As there are a number of color and style choices on my shelves, I can pick and choose depending on – oh, who knows or cares. It's not a decision that matters much.

Except for that quilt.

Usually I ignore it. In fact, I've been shoving it aside each spring for (quick head calculation) 32 years. Wow. I had no idea it's been that long.

My grandmother made that quilt. My father's mother. Dad was 10 years old when he saw her for the last time. I met her once, in 1968, at her home in St. Paul, Minnesota. She died in 1984, which is how the quilt came to be in my possession.

It is not an exaggeration to say that part of my family and/or their behavior, can be described as gothic. But I didn't truly understand that until quite recently.

The dawning of that realization came about when a New York City police officer knocked on my door one day in December 1984, to give me the news that my grandmother had died. As I explained in a 2009 story in these pages,

”A St. Paul attorney, whose telephone number the police officer had given me, told me my name and address had been noted among my grandmother's papers marked, 'in case of emergency.' She had been found in her home, he said, frozen to death.

“It got worse from there.”

If you are curious, that 2009 story in four parts titled, The Terrible, Lonely Death of an Old, Old, Woman, can be found here. Until this past weekend, I had not read it in nearly seven years and it's an amazing yarn, if I do say so myself. And by “yarn,” I do not mean to say it is untrue. It is not.

Nor was it my intention on Saturday to dredge up that event along with the the rest of the family history it recalls. I will deal with that in my way but today's post is about a teeny, tiny part of that yarn, Grandma Hazel's quilt.

While closing up her St. Paul home in 1984,

”In another drawer, I found a never-used, hand-made, patchwork quilt, probably sewn by Grandma Hazel in her teens, as girls born a hundred years ago did for their trousseaux.

“It is a remarkably modern design for its time (Hazel was born in 1892), and I've kept it. Early on, I thought I'd use it on my bed, but cats and antique quilts are not a good mix. So, as in Hazel's home, it sits folded in a drawer.”

Not “probably sewn.” Definitely sewn by Hazel and if we arbitrarily choose to have “teen” in her case mean 15, that quilt is now about 110 years old.

Two days ago, while rummaging around through the bedding, I decided to take a look at Grandma Hazel's quilt. I hadn't done so since at least 2010 when I moved here and that's all it took for the terrible story of the death of an old, old woman to come flooding back.

It's a tough story. Harrowing. Sad. Disagreeable. Embarrassing. Enraging. Wretched. The odd thing is that it seems even worse as I recall it now than it did when it happened and when I last wrote about it.

But it has also brought me one small piece of clarity that I am quite pleased with.

The quilt is lovely and as much like new as if it were finished yesterday. As I spread it out on the bed, here is what else I thought in addition to the memories:

So what if it's 110 years old. Who cares if the cat's claws get caught in it. What difference does it make if you spill ice cream on it while watching old movies in bed. What are you saving it for. You're 75 years old and you don't even like that woman. Use the damned quilt.

And here it is. Sorry fat, old Ollie the cat is in shadow but I'm glad he thinks it's a nifty place to sleep.

GrandmotherBedspreadwithOllie2016_680


ELDER MUSIC: Planes

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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Snoopy the Red Baron

Although a few people in this country, like Norma, the Assistant Musicologist and I, know this, it's not generally known outside Oz that the first powered aeroplane flight in Australia was performed by Erik Weisz.

Ho hum, I can hear you say. However, when I mention that Erik's stage name was Harry Houdini that might put an interesting light on the circumstances.

This took place at Diggers Rest, a suburb of Melbourne. Naturally, there are people from Sydney who claim an earlier flight in their city. That rivalry continues to this day.

Australians are among the most travelled people on the planet. We think nothing of hopping a plane to Asia, Europe, the Americas, Africa even. However, suggest to someone in America or Britain that perhaps they might visit us, it’s “Oh no, it’s too far. It takes too long.”

Get a grip, people.

There are many songs about trains. Indeed, I’ve already done a column with a few of them that barely scratched the surface. It’s time for another mode of transport, this time planes.

It’s not as easy as trains. A lot more songs have been written about trains than about planes. I imagine it’s because, as GORDON LIGHTFOOT put it in one of his great songs, “You can’t jump a jet plane like you can a freight train.”

That’s as good a place as any to start the ball rolling. This is Gordie with Early Morning Rain.

Gordon Lightfoot

♫ Gordon Lightfoot - Early Morning Rain


There was quite an interesting album released a couple of years ago called "The Beautiful Old Turn-of-the-Century Songs" where modern artists performed Turn-of-the-Century Songs.

One of those was WILL SEXTON. He had the help of SIMONE STEVENS on his song, Come Josephine in My Flying Machine.

Will Sexton & Simone Stevens

This was a song from 1911, a little past the turn of the century but we won't quibble.

♫ Will Sexton - Come Josephine in My Flying Machine (1911)


THE BYRDS seemed to have been fascinated by flight, not just jets but space ships as well.

The Byrds

Fortunately for us, they sang about these so I can include one of their songs.

Gene Clark was the first of the original group to leave. He said it was he was afraid of flying. McGuinn said that you can’t be a Byrd if you can’t fly. A good line, I hope it’s true.

I wonder about that as after The Byrds called it quits, for a time there was a group called McGuinn, Clark and Hillman, bringing together three of the original group.

I saw them in Melbourne, and that’s a mighty long jet plane ride so maybe Gene got over his fear of flying, or maybe the original story was made up.

The Byrds’ song is Eight Miles High, a song that the wowsers of the sixties said was about drugs but then they said that about a lot of innocent songs (a few of the guilty ones too).

McGuinn said that he wrote it on a plane about flying and if you listen to it it’s a reasonable explanation. Decide for yourself.

♫ The Byrds - Eight Miles High


MERLE HAGGARD employed rather superfluous strings on his song or, more likely, they were foisted on him by the record company. Nonetheless, it's still one of his finest.

Merle Haggard

It is Silver Wings, one of the great country songs.

♫ Merle Haggard - Silver Wings


THE BOXTOPS had a song ostensibly about a letter, indeed it was called The Letter. However, listening to the words you’d think it was about trying to catch a plane. Well, except for the letter bit of the song.

The Box Tops

This song probably epitomizes the frustration of trying to catch a plane these days - even though it was written 50 years ago - better than any of the others that tend to romanticize flying somewhat.

♫ The Box Tops - The Letter


TRUCKSTOP HONEYMOON are husband and wife duo Mike and Katie West.

Truckstop Honeymoon

The reason they called themselves that is that they spent their honeymoon at a truck stop. There's a long and involved story about why that came to pass. They write songs about each other and about their kids. This is one of the latter, Lego Aeroplane.

♫ Truckstop Honeymoon - Lego Aeroplane


The song Outbound Plane was co-written by NANCI GRIFFITH and Tom Russell. They both do fine versions of the song. However, rather than deciding which to use, I noticed that on an album of Tom’s he performs it with Nanci.

Unfortunately, all Nanci seems to do on the track is some oooing and ahhing in the background, so it’s still a toss up. We seem to be overloaded with blokes this week, so Nanci it is.

Nanci Griffith

Tom first heard Nanci when she was playing and singing around a campfire at a festival in Kerrville, Texas and began championing her cause. The story is they wrote this song together sitting at Tom’s kitchen table.

♫ Nanci Griffith - Outbound Plane


When I mentioned this topic to the A.M. she immediately suggested this one.

“Oh, really?” was my reply, looking at her a little sideways.

“You have to include it”, she reposted. So, with her recommendation ringing in my ears, here are THE ROYAL GUARDSMEN with their one and only hit.

The Royal Guardsmen

The group started life as The Posmen, and that’s not a typo, at least not on my behalf. They may have mistyped it on their application for a group-name form, or whatever it is you have to do to create a name.

After the Beatles and other English groups hit it big, they decided to go for something a bit Britisher. This was their second song and the only one to make the charts, Snoopy vs The Red Baron.

♫ The Royal Guardsmen - Snoopy vs The Red Baron


The original CHAD MITCHELL TRIO consisted of Chad Mitchell (naturally), Mike Kobluk and Mike Pugh. After a while, Chad left the group for a solo career but the group retained his name and he was replaced by an unknown writer of songs called John Denver.

The Chad Mitcell Trio

The group performed some of those including one of his best known, Leaving on a Jet Plane. John later recorded the song (a few times) but it first became to my notice with a terrific version by Peter Paul and Mary.

However, I've decided to use the Mitchell Trio's version as I wasn't as familiar with this one as I am with the others. It's not all that different from John's version.

♫ The Chad Mitchell Trio - Leaving On a Jet Plane


KEVIN JOHNSON is an Australian singer/songwriter who is not widely known to the outside world, but should be.

Kevin Johnson

If anyone knows his name, it's usually through his song, Rock & roll I Gave You the Best Years of My Life. There's a lot more to him than that. For example, The Next Plane to New Mexico.

♫ Kevin Johnson - The Next Plane To New Mexico


I resisted the temptation to include a gratuitous song from Jefferson Airplane just because of their name.

Even The Beatles got into the act. Well, sort of. They have a tune called Flying - however, this is an instrumental apart from a few la la las, so it didn’t make the cut.


INTERESTING STUFF – 23 April 2016

LIVING BONE TO BONE

Remember my blog post last week responding to a letter to the editor in The New York Times about a new age-suit? The letter was written by Ann Burack-Weiss who is also the author of recent book, The Lioness in Winter.

Ann and I have been in email touch and she directed me to a guest post titled, Living Bone to Bone she wrote in February for the Columbia University Press blog.

It is so good, so right, so true that it gave me an terrible case of writerly envy. Which means, obviously, that you need to know about it too. Here is an excerpt:

”The Palliative Care experts solemnly drape the Death with Dignity banner over the coffin that awaits us. Get your affairs in order! Have that family conference! Sign those Advance Directives! We comply and here we sit: all papered up and no place to go. At least not yet.

“We listen to the Wellness advocates. Cheerleaders of Successful Aging, they are filled with statistics and inspiring personal stories. Learn a new language! Start a second or third career! Civic engagement! We’ve been there. We’ve done that. And still do. When we’re feeling up to it.

“What no one talks about is the experience of living in the middle stage, the 'bone on bone' stage that occurs somewhere between jazzercise and hospice care. What I want to see is recognition of what it takes to hold our own without the insulating padding that once buffered us from assaults of the outside world.”

That does not begin to give you an inkling of the depth and breadth of this lovely rumination. Go read the whole guest post. You will be glad you did and you will probably print it out for yourself.

FANTASTIC BEASTS AND WHERE TO FIND THEM

Oh my. I can't wait for November. I so enjoy the Harry Potter stories – books and movies – and now there is an extension of them.

Here is a preview trailer of the new movie. It sure doesn't hurt that it stars the great Eddie Redmayne and is set in 1920's New York. The script is written by Harry Potter creator herself, J.K. Rowling, from her 2001 book.

Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them is the first of a trilogy of films. Find out more here.

HOW TO WASH YOUR HANDS

Don't laugh. It's important. And you've probably been doing it wrong all your life.

TRUE NEW YORKER I AM, I AM

Of course, I am - the internet told me so.

Actually, it's a quiz about New York slang - and I aced it.

TrueNewYorkerImage

They're wrong about me being born there. I am/was a transplant but I knew from age five it was my real home (and it still is). Marian Van Eyk McCain of elderwomanblog sent the quiz. You can take it too at women.com.

JOHN OLIVER – LEAD POISONING

Last Sunday on his HBO program, Last Week Tonight, John Oliver showed his viewers that the mainstream media hasn't begun to tell us the whole story of Flint, Michigan and the extent of the lead problem in all our 50 states.

WORKING MODEL OF THE U.S. GOVERNMENT

After Oliver's evisceration of Congress on lead in the video above, you really do need to see this working model of the U.S. government sent to us by Darlene Costner.

It's complex, makes a lot of noise, is dangerous, needs lots of maintenance and does NOTHING useful.

"PSYCHO" HILLTOP HOUSE NOW A MUSEUM ROOFTOP HOUSE

Everyone here has seen the 1960 horror movie, Psycho, right? Probably more than once. And you undoubtedly remember the infamous Bates House. Here it is with film director, Alfred Hitchcock, on the set.

PsychoHousewithHitchcock

This year, a massive replica of the home...will be on display to transport visitors back to the ominous setting of this classic horror flick,” reports spoiledNYC.

“The piece was created by British artist Cornelia Parker and is constructed from reclaimed wood taken from an actual barn.”

PsychoHouseReplica

The house will be on display on the roof of the Metropolitan Museum of Art in Manhattan until 31 October – Halloween. There is a bit more information at the Met Museum website.

DEATH VALLEY SUPERBLOOM 2016

Death Valley, California, is the lowest, hottest, driest spot in the northern hemisphere getting, on average, less than three inches of rain per year.

Every now and then, however, the Valley gets more rain that usual and thisis one of those years creating what is called a “superbloom” of wildflowers. Here's a video:

IS THE ICEMAKER BROKEN?

A woman couldn't figure out why she never had any ice, then she shot this video. Clever puppies, these:

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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 IF you include the name of the blog and its URL.


Crabby Old Lady and the Internet of Junk

You've heard of the Internet of Things? Well, forget that.

This once-wonderful means of electronic communication that has become essential to our financial, health, family, civic, educational and social lives has deteriorated into such a deep morass of crap, it can only be called the Internet of Junk.

Crabby Old Lady has sung praises of the internet since she got her first 2400 dialup modem sometime in the mid- or late-1980s.

When the World Wide Web came along a few years later with the first, primitive, graphical browsers and Crabby saw her first webpage, she was hooked.

In 1996, she left behind decades of work in television, signed on as managing editor of cbsnews.com, helping to build one of the first two U.S. news websites ever to exist.

Now, 20 years later, the internet of junk is fraught with scams, viruses, identity theft, malware, data and privacy breaches, spam, stolen bank accounts, spyware, phishing, trojan horses, worms, keylogging, ransomware – shall Crabby go on?

Maybe it should be called the Internet of Scary Junk. But although privacy and security breaches can screw up people's lives for years, that's not what has pushed Crabby Old Lady into rage territory.

What has done that is the day in, day out, page by page, minute by minute onslaught against her eyes, ears and, most crucially, her brain. She is fond of her brain, relies on its proper functioning in old age more than ever and has become convinced that the internet is harming it.

Let Crabby count the ways for you:

Dozens, nay hundreds, of websites Crabby visits interrupt their text with moving gifs – those six- or seven-second repetitive videos going round and round and round - some supposedly "enhancing" the text, others advertising. Often there are even more on the same page flickering in the right column, a constant distraction to eye and mind.

Crabby can barely control her fury when within one or two seconds of arriving on a page, before she's even figured out what to do first, a pop-up covers most of the screen asking her opinion of the website. Let's be clear: this happens before she has even had a chance to glance at the page. Irritating to Crabby but from a business point of view, it's stupid.

Sometimes Crabby tells them what she thinks – in the most colorful language as she can muster.

Equally maddening are pop-ups breaking Crabby's concentration asking her to sign up for a newsletter which is - wait for it - how she got to the site in the first place.

Crabby has come close to putting her fist through the computer screen over this one: she is comfortably settled into reading, maybe three paragraphs in and getting a good feel for the story when suddenly an advertising pop-up covers exactly the paragraph she's reading.

Wait. It gets worse. Every one of the websites that do this - many - are experts at obscuring the X that allows the pop-up to be closed.

By the time Crabby can find the X hidden in a new corner or blending into the background color so it is almost invisible, she has forgotten not only where she was in the story, but even what the damned thing is about.

There was a time, back when Crabby worked on the internet, that it was verboten to assault readers' eyes and ears with autostart video. Now, it's ubiquitous. Every day, additional sites add this aggravation to their growing list of interruptions to one's mental health.

And here is the sneakiest part: sometimes a video, usually unrelated to the story Crabby is reading, buried miles down at the bottom of a page among a blizzard of unrelated images, blasts to life a minute or two into her reading and fries her brain before she can find it.

This is not to say that one or two of these abominations happens now and then. It is dozens, dozens of times every day from the best-known, otherwise most professional websites in existence as well as the shoddy ones. (For many good reasons - see above - Crabby Old Lady doesn't go far afield from generally secure websites so we're not talking sleaze, porn or ripoff webpages.)

The irritation factor is beyond tolerable now. Further, although Crabby is obviously not a neuroscientist or psychiatrist, she doesn't believe she needs to be one to know that constant audio and visual distraction damages the ability to think and reason.

As the The Telegraph reported earlier this year:

"According to scientists, the age of smartphones has left humans with such a short attention span even a goldfish can hold a thought for longer.

"Researchers surveyed 2,000 participants in Canada and studied the brain activity of 112 others using electroencephalograms.

"The results showed the average human attention span has fallen from 12 seconds in 2000, or around the time the mobile revolution began, to eight seconds.

"Goldfish, meanwhile, are believed to have an attention span of nine seconds."

Did you get that? Goldfish for god's sake.

This is not the only study to show vastly reduced attention spans. It cannot be good for humankind and it is certainly not good for Crabby Old Lady's mind.