INTERESTING STUFF – 13 February 2016

WHAT JOHN KASICH TOLD ELDERS IN NEW HAMPSHIRE

The Ohio governor is not the mild-mannered moderate the media has been promoting since his surge into a second-place win in New Hampshire last Tuesday. Clare Malone, writing at fivethirtyeight.com is representative:

"With the ascendance of Trump, the Republican Party is facing a simmering anger in its electorate, and as it turns out, Kasich is connecting fairly well with those who aren’t full-on raging but are more civilly disagreeing with the state of the nation."

What the pundits and reporters who see Kasich as mellow-yellow to Trump's red-faced rage are not telling you is what Brad Wright of the National Committee to Protect Social Security and Medicare (NCPSSM) stopped by here to let us know in the comments last Tuesday:

"...John Kasich, the Governor of Ohio...has said to seniors in New Hampshire that they 'will have to get over it,' when it comes to his plan to cut Social Security benefits. "Everyone who thinks this guy is pragmatic should keep this in mind," wrote Wright.

Aside from New Jersey Governor Chris Christie who has now dropped out of the race, Kasich is the hardest hard-liner in the Republican campaign field.

It's hard for me to spit this out but among the Republican candidates remaining in the primary race, only Donald Trump has said unequivocally that he opposes both raising the retirement age and any cuts to Social Security.


THE BALLAD OF THE MALHEUR PATRIOTS

After six long weeks, the standoff at the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge near Burns, Oregon came to a close this week. My friend Jim Stone sent this song which I think puts the perfect button on what was a confused, stupid and hateful protest.

Listen for the wonderful line at about 1:15 - "stormin' a building surrounded by ducks."


BORED ENGINEERS

This video has racked up nearly 51 million views on YouTube so some of you may have seen it. I hadn't and I thank Darlene Costner for sending it.

As you watch, it gets sillier and sillier and funnier and funnier and “bored engineers” is a perfect label. I'd say stoned and drunk too except it took some meticulous thought and carry-through to get this right.


HIDING BANK ACCOUNTS FROM SPOUSES

According to a survey by CreditCards.com reported in Fortune magazine, an estimated 13 million people in the U.S. have bank accounts they keep secret from their significant others.

”...19% admitted to spending more than $500 without telling their significant others, but men are almost twice as likely to have done so. Twenty-four percent of men said they had spent over $500 without telling their partners, compared to just 14% of women.

“...seniors felt the most strongly about complete disclosure when it came to spending money. Almost a quarter of those over 65 years old—24%—said their partner should spend only $25 or less without telling them, the highest percentage among all age groups.”

You can read more and see how other age groups responded at Fortune magazine.


LAST WEEK TONIGHT – THE SERIES RETURNS TOMORROW

After a long hiatus, John Oliver's HBO program, Last Week Tonight returns in a week, on Sunday 14 February. Here is the new season show promo:

As in the past, I will post Oliver's essays here in Interesting Stuff on Saturdays.


STATE OF THE STATES 2015

Last week, Gallup Analytics released its annual State of the States report with hard numbers covering data on political trends, the economy, religion and well-being all sortable by individual topic and state.

Here's a glance at the Nation map on the topic of Obama approval:

GallupNation

And here is the same map for my state, Oregon:

GallupOregon

Of course, all the maps and information are interactive at the Gallup Analytics website and all of it is easy-to-use, clear and informative. You can do it all here.


3D DRAWINGS OF STEFAN PABST

The 3D drawings I've featured in the past have been chalk on streets and buildings. These are on paper and are at least as equally amazing. In this video, artist Stefan Pabst shows how he does it:

Thank Darlene again for this one and you can see many more Pabst videos at his YouTube page.


PENGUINS – LOTS OF WONDERFUL PENGUINS

In celebration of Penguin Awareness Day which was 20 January, Bored Panda posted an excellent collection of penguin photographs.

Peter Tibbles who writes the Sunday Elder Music column let me know about this and he says penguins are way cuter than kittens. Here are a couple of examples:

Penguin-awareness-day-photography-101

Penguin-awareness-day-photography-21

You can see all the rest of the terrific photos at Bored Panda.


FOR CROSSWORD PUZZLE MAVENS

For many, many years I worked The New York Times crossword puzzle every day and came to know many of its quirks and secrets. I've long since given that up but I know many TGB readers do these word puzzles.

Last week, The Times published an interesting story about how their puzzle clues have changed – mostly simplified – over the years.

”Since the 1990s, puzzlers were occasionally asked to recognize “Burkina ____” but over the last few years, they were given additional help, “Burkina ____ (African land)” and “Burkina ____ (Niger neighbor)” (the answer is “Faso”).

There have been a lot of shifts among languages over the years too:

“'Dit' used to be clued as French for 'said'; since 1974 it refers almost exclusively to telegraphy. 'Hora' shifted from Latin (hour) to Spanish (hour) to Hebrew (dance). Uber (a car service) is no longer clued as a German preposition (over or above).”

There is a whole lot more of interesting information here about how the clues have changed over the years since The Times crossword puzzle first appeared 74 years ago.


DONALD TRUMP MEETS THE HONEYMONERS

Even though today's Interesting Stuff list is already longer than it should be, this is too good to leave out. As with Malheur above, Jim Stone found this one. The YouTube page explains it is

"a fan-made parody imagining if Mr. Trump was running for the 1952 Presidential Election."

And well done it is. Enjoy.

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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” in the 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.


Contest Winners and Crabby Old Lady

WINNERS OF THE WHAT WE GAIN BOOK GIVEAWAY
What an amazing response to the Wednesday drawing for a copy of What We Gain as We Grow Older: On Gelassenheit by the well-known German philosopher, Wilhelm Schmid.

We heard from a lot of people who have never commented before and one woman asked if she, living in Scotland, is eligible. Yes. About 20 percent of TimeGoesBy readers reside in countries other than the United States and everyone has an equal shot at winning.

There are five books available and therefore five winners. I'm listing the names you used to sign your comments, not email names. Here goes:

Terre
Nana Royer
Arby
Wendl Kornfeld
Carol Killian

Each of you should use the “Contact” link at the top of this page to send me your name for snailmailing and your postal address. I will then get the books out to you forthwith. If, perchance, I do not hear from a winner by noon Pacific standard time on Monday 15 February, another winner will be chosen.

Congratulations all. I know you will enjoy the book.

This was fun. I wish we could do it more often but that's up to publishers and to my willingness to read a bunch of books to find ones I believe are worth recommending. Also, thanks to so many of you for your kind words about this blog. I feel abashed when I read them. Now to today's post...

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There's a rumor going 'round – well, it's been around for as long as Crabby Old Lady can remember – that with old age, men get grumpy. You know, the “get off my lawn” stereotype.

Some people blame this phenomenon on lower testosterone that comes with age. Crabby questions that theory since in other circles, testosterone is said to be the cause of much male belligerance. But for the purpose of Crabby's next sentence, let's just go with it. Two recent events lead Crabby to wonder if women suffer a similar affliction for the same reason – low estrogen in their case.

Two venerable old women - both worthy of our respect and admiration for groundbreaking accomplishments that have paved the way for all women - strayed into grumpy old man territory last week.

First, Madeleine Albright, the 78-year-old who served as the first female U.S. Secretary of State, tried to shame young women into voting for the second female former Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton:

“Special place in hell for women who don't help each other?” Hunh? She has angered this Crabby Old Lady and embarrassed herself.

The clamor over that had not settled when, according to Katie Dreyer at Huffington Post, 81-year-old, feminist icon, Gloria Steinem, told HBO talk show host, Bill Maher,

”...that younger women were selling out by supporting [presidential candidate] Bernie Sanders, a sad phenomenon that can apparently be explained by young people's desire to impress the opposite sex: 'When you're young, you're thinking: “Where are the boys? The boys are with Bernie,"' [said Steinem].

In Crabby Old Lady's view, that contradicts everything Gloria Steinem has stood for over the past half century and is nowhere near, to Crabby's knowledge, how young women today behave on issues as important as who the next president will be.

Crabby understands that these two strong, committed, hardworking women who have done more than most to improve women's rights would like to see a woman president in their lifetime. So would Crabby. But not by belittling young women.

Following near universal condemnation for her outburst, last Sunday Ms. Steinem took to Facebook to publish what has become the standard-issue political apology - “misspoke” - of anyone who lets slip what he or she really thinks. She wrote, in part,

”In a case of talk-show Interruptus, I misspoke on the Bill Maher show recently, and apologize for what's been misinterpreted as implying young women aren't serious in their politics.”

Misspoke? Misinterpreted? How? It was hardly a nuanced argument that might be difficult to make clear, and Crabby doesn't believe it for a moment. Here is Steinem's full Facebook statement:

SteinemFB

Crabby Old Lady feels betrayed by these towering feminist pioneers. Ms. Albright and Ms. Steinem have diminished themselves which may diminish their legitimate and important accomplishments for those young women they have maligned who were not, like you and me, there when the earliest hard work for women's rights was being done.

Worse, this is not only a setback for women but for old people, adding crabby old woman to the long-time grumpy old man stereotype. Elders don't need this.

Crabby is giving Katie Dreyer, the young woman from Huffpost quoted above, the last word today. She says it well:

”If I ran for President of the United States, I would want people to vote for me based on my views, my experience, my approach to debates and negotiation, and not because I happen to have been born a certain sex.

“I am a woman, but I am also a human being. This is what Steinem and Albright have taught me in their admirable fight for gender-equality.

“Whether I support Bernie Sanders or Hillary Clinton is ultimately unimportant; what is important is my right and ability to choose in the first place. Of all people, Steinem and Albright should have understood this.”

[EDITORIAL NOTE: It has been a long time since Crabby Old Lady has made an appearance in these pages. For those who are unfamiliar with her, she is the third-party alter ego I use to give me some distance when I'm really angry and sometimes (not this one) when I'm trying to be funny about something irritating but not necessarily significant.]


What We Gain as We Grow Older - Book and Contest

That is the title of a new book by German philosopher Wilhelm Schmid. I quoted from it last June when I wrote about the value of habit; Schmid includes an entire chapter on that.

I was reading an advance copy then and told you that when an English translation became available in the U.S., I would let you know. That time has arrived.

WilhelmSchmidCover150 The subtitle of the book is “On Gelassenheit” and the definition of that word is critical to enjoying this lovely little book. Schmid begins by explaining that there is no directly equivalent word in English. It combines, he says, such meanings as serenity, equanimity, mellowness, calmness, tranquility and other related ideas.

The goal of his book, translated into English by Michael Eskin, is to show us how to bypass the ageist, forever-young culture that diminishes every one of us (yes, in Germany too) when we cross that invisible threshold into old age, and by aspiring to gelassenheit, live with and embrace growing old.

”It may actually be the case,” writes Schmid in the preface, “that gelassenheit only becomes possible as we grow older.

“After all, it is easier to be gelassen when no longer everything is at stake, when our hormones are no longer raging, when we have a lifetime's worth of experience, a broadened outlook and a time-tested sense for people and things to rely on.”

Toward this end, Schmid provides us with 10 lessons in 10 chapters that are thoughtful, inspiring, enjoyable, educational and fun.

I wouldn't be writing about this book if it were not all those things and more - Schmid and I agree on almost everything about ageing and I'm eager to share some of it with you.

As old hands at this blog know, I do not review books. I write about ones I like and this time, it makes sense to let Schmid do the talking.

He quickly walks us through the first three quarters of life and then discusses the final one, pulling no punches. Like me, many of you will be familiar with items in this passage:

”I myself tend to impatiently hurry past the elderly on the street, they are simply too slow for a 'junior senior' like me...I simply cannot imagine that before long I will be one of them...

“But I have also noticed of late that I have taken to keeping my hand close to the banister when walking up and down stairs, on the off chance that I might trip...

“I fumble in my pockets for keys that I never put there...I now have to hold the newspaper at arm's length...

“A hearing aid? Never! I don't mind no longer hearing everything – in fact, it is a relief not to have to respond to everything all the time.

“What is annoying though, is the impatience of those around me, who begrudge me this newfound freedom.”

There are joys in old age, explains Schmid, humble pleasures we hardly took time to appreciate in the hubbub of youth and middle age. The smell of freshly mown grass, a good cup of coffee, a glass of wine. Memories to be indulged in too and written down for oneself and others. Along with sex and conversation:

”...our libido changes with age: the length we used to go to placate our raging hormones is something we no longer understand, jumping each other doesn't happen that often anymore...

“...which means that sex could finally be purely a medium of communication, inspiration and exultation. More and more, though, conversation takes over that role.”

Yes. I didn't know that has been happening to me until I read that passage. Schmid continues:

”Our waning potency can be elegantly glossed over: 'I'm just not interested in it anymore!' Certainly there are pills that will reignite desire, but do we really want this if it doesn't happen on its own?...

“Sex becoming less important may even contribute to more relaxed friendships between the sexes.”

I'll attest to that.

In another chapter, Schmid takes on the related issue of touch, that although we don't discuss it much, it is a source of energy and strength throughout our lives but the opportunity for it diminishes in old age.

”The truth is: our culture, which promotes and idolizes the fragrant and unblemished complexion, turns old people into 'untouchables', as though touching them would lead to 'contracting' old age and consequently, death.”

Hardly anyone touches old people and as I related here in the past, touch is so powerful that when I booked a massage to help alleviate the lack of touch in my life, it was all I could do to not burst into tears in relief - it felt so good.

Schmid suggests massage as an antidote to so little touch in elders' lives along with the company of pets and paying attention to the touch of water in the shower or when swimming, etc. But he returns then to conversation, to enriching our spirits and our souls with this other kind of touch that contributes to gelassenheit:

”... the touch of minds in thought. When we engage in conversation, for instance, we are touched by others' thoughts and can in turn touch them with our thoughts.

“And not only in conversatioin, but in silence as well: thoughts can be exchanged without a single word being uttered.”

I have hardly scratched the surface of this engaging and, I think, important little books. “Little” because it measures only about four inches by seven inches but is packed with intelligence, compassion and learning.

What We Gain as We Grow Older: On Gelassenheit is available at bricks-and-mortar book shops, the usual online book purveyors and the American publisher, Upper West Side Philosophers, Inc., has made five copies available to give away to TGB readers.

As in the past, we will do a random drawing. Here's how it goes:

Leave a message in the comments section below (no emails). That's it. If you have something to say about What We Gain as We Grow Older, that's good – we like lively discussions here - but not required.

The only requirement is that you state your interest in winning one of the books. “Please enter me in the drawing,” works. Or typing, "Me, me, me" will do it, too. I'm not fussy.

The contest will close tomorrow night, 11 February 2016, at midnight U.S. Pacific standard time. The five winners will be chosen in a random, electronic drawing and their names will be announced on this blog on Friday 12 February 2016.


The 2016 Election and Social Security

As stated clearly in a new, 2016 report from the Economic Policy Insitute (EPI),

Social Security is a pillar of the American economy. It is the most effective anti-poverty program in the United States. For more than half of the over-65 population it is more than half of their income.”

Throughout this year – that is, the remaining nine months of the election campaign – you will hear a lot of talk about how Social Security is broken, bankrupt and needs to be cut or ended. None of that is true. Here is the short version of why from that EPI report:

”Social Security is self-sustaining and solvent; it is neither broken nor bankrupt. It faces a manageable shortfall over a 75-year actuarial window that is a reflection of long-term trends in the economy, whether they be good (increased life expectancy), bad (increased inequality), or simply a change from the past (declining fertility rates).”

As the campaign moves forward, first the primaries and then the general election, Social Security will become a debate football, as it always is. So, to begin, here is what the major Republican candidates have said about the program so far:

Jeb Bush wants to raise the retirement age and “encourage” 401(k) plans for young people.

Ben Carson appears to be in favor of raising the retirement age for Socia Security.

Chris Christie would raise the retirement age, cut Social Security for the wealthy and otherwise institute means testing for anyone who makes more than $80,000 per year. He says Social Security is bankrupt.

Ted Cruz would raise the retirement age and cap cost-of-living (COLA) increases. He has also suggested allowing workers to save up to $25,000 a year in special accounts.

John Kasich hasn't said much about Social Security but in a book ten years ago he appeared to believe that Social Security was insolvent.

Marco Rubio would gradually increase the retirement age, reduce the rate of growth for upper income recipients and “strengthen” the program for low income elders, but no details yet.

Donald Trump opposes both cuts to Social Security and raising the retirement age.

Just in case you don't trust me in regard to the viability of Social Security or that EPI rerport, here is another statement, this one from an expert on financial security of elders who writes for CBS Moneywatch.

”Doomsday statements about never receiving anything from Social Security or calling it a Ponzi scheme are simply off base and don't reflect the reality of how Social Security is financed.”

As you might imagine, the two remaining Democratic candidates for president have a stronger grasp than many of the Republicans on the realities of Social Security:

Hillary Clinton, on her campaign website says she opposes “closing the long-term SSA shortfall on the backs of the middle class, whether through benefit cuts or tax increases.” Some progressive groups believe this is not a strong enough statement against cuts or increases.

Bernie Sanders stands in long-time opposition to any and all SSA benefit cuts and has proposed legislation in the Senate to expand Social Security across the board.

Undoubtedly, as the field of candidates in winnowed down, the candidates will all be asked to provide more detail about their proposals on Social Security, and Medicare too.

What often amazes me – and many of you, also, if comments here over time are an indication – too many elders vote against their own best interests. So as we move deeper into election year, here are some resources for you to keep informed on Social Security. (I'll add information on Medicare in time.)

The National Committee to Preserve Social Security and Medicare (NCPSSM) has just launched a new campaign website called Senior Vote 2016 where they will keep readers up to date on all candidates' positions and other news in regard to Social Security and Medicare.

They are convering not just presidential contenders, but congressional races in all the states. You can also sign up for a regular email newsletter from them. This looks to grow into a good, one-stop-shop for Social Security and Medicare election information.

Here is the home page of Senior Vote 2016.

As a couple of the Republican candidates' statements reveal, there is still a lot of belief that Social Security is on its last legs. President George Bush started this rumor back in 2005 when he barnstormed the country trying to “privatize” Social Security.

Whoever the Republican presidential candidate is, along with many Republican (and some Democratic) congressional candidates, will try to convince voters that privatization or something similar is necessary to “save Social Security,” as they like to say.

Nothing could be further from the truth. If you would like to create your own list of talking points about that, I have two more excellent sources for you.

That Economic Policty Institute report I mentioned at the top of this post is specifically written to explain and demystify Social Security to young people – too many of whom believe it won't be there for them. You can read and download it here for free (PDF). It's just as good for old people who need a refresher.

My old friend, Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist, Saul Friedman, who died in 2010, wrote for this blog twice a week during the last couple of years of his life. I'm so proud to have hosted his words and thoughts and his posts are as relevant today as they were then.

Here is one from Saul about Social Security that tells you in easy-to-digest chunks everything you could want to know.


ELDER MUSIC: Australia's Classic 100 Opera Arias (10-1)

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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As I mentioned last week in the countdown from 20 to 11, Australia's ABC Classical station had a listeners' poll on their favorite opera arias. These are the big cheeses, so counting down from 10 to 1.

10. RICHARD STRAUSS - Der Rosenkavalier - Hab' mir's gelobt, ihm lieb zu haben

StraussR4

Rich isn't related to the Strauss family who wrote all those waltzes. He's probably best known for the tone poem Also sprach Zarathustra because the initial part of that was used at the beginning of the film "2001, A Space Odyssey.”

“Der Rosenkavalier” was wildly successful when it was premiered in 1911 and has remained popular ever since. The trio Hab mir (etc) is towards the end of the opera when the main bloke has to decide between the two women in his life (one of them saw the light and left him to the other).

Today we have ELISABETH SCHWARZKOPF, ANNELIESE ROTHENBERGER and SENA JURINAC playing those roles.

Elisabeth Schwarzkopf&Anneliese Rothenberger&Sena Jurinac1

♫ Richard Strauss - Der Rosenkavalier ~ Hab mir's gelobt, ihm lieb zu haben


9. CHRISTOPH GLUCK - Orfeo and Euridice - Che faro senza Euridice

Gluck1

“Orfeo and Euridice” belongs to the genre of the azione teatrale. Ah ha. Dr Google informs me that that means an opera on a mythological subject with choruses and dancing. Okey doke, it looks as if everything is covered there.

From that we have the contralto MAUREEN FORRESTER performing Che Faro Senza Euridice or What shall I do without Euridice?

What he does is to decide to top himself – a lot of that goes on in opera – but his mate Amore talks him out of it. In spite of Orfeo being a bloke, his part is usually sung by a woman. Strange things, operas.

MaureenForrester2

♫ Gluck - Orfeo and Euridice ~ Che Faro Senza Euridice


8. GIUSEPPE VERDI - Rigoletto - Bella figlia dell'amore (Act III quartet)

Verdi7

We have the big guns now, Giuseppe with the opera, and JOAN SUTHERLAND and LUCIANO PAVAROTTI as Gilda and the Duke. Sounds like a TV program from the eighties.

Luciano&Joan4

They perform Bella figlia dell'amore, which is called a quartet on the CD, but I don't know who the other two are.

♫ Verdi - Rigoletto ~ Bella figlia dell'amore


7. RICHARD WAGNER - Tristan and Isolde – Liebestod

Wagner2

Rules are meant to be broken and I'm about to break one of my own self-imposed rules that has held sway for the entire life of this column until now. That is, I wasn't ever going to play any Wagner. Oh well, the good burghers of Australia have ensured that that's gone by the wayside.

The only thing that has made this palatable to me is that I have the incomparable JESSYE NORMAN performing Liebestod from “Tristan and Isolde.”

Jessye Norman

♫ Wagner - Tristan and Isolde ~ Liebestod


6. GIACOMO PUCCINI - Madame Butterfly - Un bel dì (One fine day)

Puccini9

Just about every soprano worth her salt has had a crack at this one. I have quite a few versions of this particular aria but I'm rather fond of RENATA SCOTTO's version.

RenataScotto1

Okay, I'm rather fond of them all but Renata's is the one you're getting (just to vary the singers a bit).

It's mostly known as One Fine Day, or Un Bel Dì Vedremo in Italian. Cio-Cio San sings about how Pinkerton is going to return one day and take her back to America as his wife. Is she in for a surprise.

♫ Puccini - Madama Butterfly ~ Un Bel Dì Vedremo


5. HENRY PURCELL - Dido and Aeneas - Thy hand, Belinda… When I am laid in earth (Dido's Lament)

Purcell4

Dido and Aeneas was Henry's first opera and one of the first operas written in English. It was initially performed around 1688 at a girls' school in London.

It is based on Virgil's Aeneid (or part of that work, anyway). JESSYE NORMAN is on hand to sing Thy hand, Belinda, When I am laid in Earth.

Jessye13

♫ Purcell - Dido and Aeneas ~ Thy hand, Belinda - When I am laid in earth


4. WOLFGANG MOZART - Così fan tutte - Soave sia il vento

Mozart

My favorite operas of Wolfie's weren't selected but I can't quibble because any from him is worth listening to.

Actually, this aria is sublime and it's performed by MONTSERRAT CABALLÉ, JANET BAKER and RICHARD VAN ALLAN. It's Soave sia il vento (or May the wind be gentle).

Montserrat&Janet&Richard1

♫ Mozart - Così fan tutte ~ Soave sia il vento


3. LÉO DELIBES - Lakmé - Sous le dôme épais (Flower Duet)

Delibes2

This aria is hugely popular so it's no surprise that it came in at number three. It's been used in other settings – in films, TV and (alas) advertisements.

The opera is set in India and all the bigwigs go off to the temple to do whatever they do leaving Lakmé behind. She goes down to the river to gather flowers with her servant and they sing this as they collect them.

Performing those roles are ELINA GARANCA and ANNA NETREBKO who sing together quite a lot.

ElinaGaranca &AnnaNetrebko1

♫ Delibes - Lakmé ~ Sous le dôme épais


2. VERDI - Nabucco - Va, pensiero (Chorus of the Hebrew slaves)

Verdi4

Va, pensiero/dm (or Chorus of the Hebrew slaves) gives choral music a good name. It makes you want to sing along or conduct along as I was doing as I played this piece of music.

The choristers are the Ambrosian Opera Chorus. Be warned: there are three really loud chords about 30 seconds in.

♫ Verdi - Nabucco ~ Va pensiero


1. GEORGES BIZET - The Pearl Fishers - Au fond du temple saint

Bizet1

The voting public got this right. There are many duets in opera but none of them are better than this one.

Georges is better known as the creator of "Carmen" (which was a total flop when first performed) but I prefer “The Pearl Fishers” as does the listening public here in Oz it seems.

Again, I had several versions from which to choose, and settled on JUSSI BJÖRLING and ROBERT MERRILL performing Au fond du temple saint (or In the depths of the temple).

JussiBjörling&RobertMerrill3

♫ Bizet - The Pearl Fishers ~ Au fond du temple saint



INTERESTING STUFF – 6 February 2016

THE ULTIMATE CAT LADY

Except when I was married for awhile half a century ago and we had four cats, I have always had one cat at a time. There is a reason for that: I'm pretty sure if I starting taking in more cats, I wouldn't stop and I'd become the crazy cat lady on my block. I have never wanted to be that.

But this lady, 67-old Lynea Lattanzio, does. She has 1100 cats (that is not a typo). This is her story:

Learn more about the Cat House On The Kings at the website.

JOHN OLIVER ON THE TONIGHT SHOW

John Oliver's HBO program Last Week Tonight returns next weekend.

Meanwhile, a week or so ago, he visited Jimmy Fallon on The Tonight Show to explain why interviewing Edward Snowden in Russia was much less legally safe than founding his own church - both of which he did last season:

FASTEST RUBIK'S CUBE SOLVING ROBOT

”They” keep telling us that the robots will conquer the world, take over everything and eventually rule humanity.

Perhaps a step toward that outcome happened a couple of weeks ago when, for the first time, a computer solved Rubik's Cube faster than any human has.

Two friends, Jay Flatland and Paul Rose, built the robot that solved Rubik's Cube in 1.04 seconds. The human world record is 4.904 seconds.

Here's the video. I don't understand a word these guys are saying but it's worth sticking around to the end to see the speedy robot solve the cube.

CIA RELEASES SECRET “X FILES” DOCUMENTS

Maybe you know that after 25 years or so, The X-Files TV show has returned for a six-episode reprise.

I watched the old series now and then. I was not a diehard fan in those days but for some reason, I've made this go-round a must watch and I am thoroughly enjoying the update. It may be that the CIA is also enjoying it. As Raw Story reports:

”Prior to the relaunch of Fox’s supernatural and conspiracy series The X Files, the normally secretive Central Intelligence Agency became less publicity shy, releasing documents and photos detailing their own top secret investigations into UFO sightings.

“On their blog, — yes, the CIA has a blog — the agency invited the world to 'take a peek into our X Files,' providing photos and links to documents dating back to the early 50’s.”

For some reason I find this charming. You can read more at Raw Story and check out the CIA documents here.

THE U.S. ELECTION FROM ONE EUROPEAN POINT OF VIEW

There was a lot of response here last Monday when I broke with precedent and wrote about our presidential election campaign.

A few commenters said they were not paying attention, or not close attention. On Thursday, a TGB reader in Germany, Freya, explained why she wants all Americans to keep a close eye on the campaign. A couple of excerpts:

”Believe it or not, I followed the Iowa caucus live on TYT Network online, staying up all night till 5 in the morning. I found it very exciting. My heart goes out to Bernie Sanders.

“Why would I be interested?

“Who will be the next POTUS is relevant and important to the whole world, not only to the US alone.

“Enough is enough, quoting Mr.Sanders, appears to be right on so many fields, not only wealth distribution, but also regarding messing up the Middle East and up to a certain extent, the whole world...

“Please do not walk away from being interested in politics, your decisions matter for all of us. Greetings from good old Europe!”

Freya has a lot more good reasons for wanting us to pay close attention to the campaign. You can read her full comment here.

UPDATE: After preparing this post, Freya left another note about the importance of political news coverage and compares U.S. (she lived in the U.S. in the past) and German news. It's interesting to have an informed European perspective and worth your time to click over and read.

BERNIE SANDERS ON RELIGION

Speaking of our presidential campaign, last Thursday evening CNN held a Democratic Town Hall with candidates Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders.

Personally, I don't believe a candidate's religion should be anyone's business, including voters, but that's not the way the U.S. works these days.

So CNN anchor Anderson Cooper asked Mr. Sanders this question:

“You’re Jewish, but you’ve said that you’re not actively involved with organized religion. What do you say to a voter out there who says - and that who sees faith as a guiding principle in their lives, and wants it to be a guiding principle for this country?”

You can't ask for any better answer than Bernie Sanders gave – better than any politician of any party or religious leaning I've ever heard:

“I believe that, as a human being, the pain that one person feels, if we have children who are hungry in America, if we have elderly people who can’t afford their prescription drugs, you know what, that impacts you, that impacts me.

“And I worry very much about a society where some people spiritually say, it doesn’t matter to me, I got it, I don’t care about other people. So my spirituality is that we are all in this together and that when children go hungry, when veterans sleep out on the street, it impacts me. That’s my very strong spiritual feeling.”

Yes. We are all in this together, folks, and I don't understand why so many political candidates and voters, too – often the ones who proclaim their faith most vociferously - don't believe that.

100 YEARS OF CARS

You would think that I, as someone who didn't own a car for nearly half a century and sees them still as nothing more than a means to get from here to there, wouldn't care but this video. But you would be wrong.

The producers of this video have chosen one glorious auto design example for each decade of the last hundred years and lovingly photographed them. Beautiful.

FIRST U.S. AIRPORT EXCLUSIVELY FOR THE RICH AND FAMOUS

Los Angeles International Airport (LAX) has won approval to build a new terminal. But you'll never get to use it. The plan is

”...to redevelop a cargo hangar into the US’s first terminal dedicated to the rich and famous. The airport said the Los Angeles Suite, which will allow celebrities and diplomats to avoid paparazzi, or protesters, by allowing cars to drop off guests behind closed doors...

“It will cost [passengers] $1,500-$1,800 per trip to use the new terminal, which will include exclusive lounges, dedicated catering and separate security and border checkpoints.

“Deborah Ale Flint, executive director of Los Angeles World Airports which operates LAX, said allowing celebrities a private route through the airport will also make travelling more pleasant for the general public, who have often been caught up in media scrums.”

Yeah, right. You can read more at Raw Story.

TEEN CLIMBS GREAT PYRAMID OF GIZA

Eighteen-year-old German tourist Andrej Ciesielski got a view that few people ever see - Egypt from the top of the Great Pyramid of Giza.

Climbiing the ancient pyramids is forbidden and he was caught by police when he reached the bottom. It took only eight minutes to get to top, says Ciesielski, but 20 minutes to get back down. Here's part of the video he shot.

The police released Ciesielski after questioning. You can read more at Gizmodo and the full eight-minute video is here.

THE ELEPHANTS THAT CAME TO DINNER

As the YouTube page explains,

”At [Mfuwe Lodge] a five-star lodge in Zambia, a bizarre phenomenon is stumping wildlife experts and delighting tourists. An elephant family, led by a matriarch named Wonky Tusk, is overtaking the lobby.

“Though elephants can be violent in the wild, here they climb the stairs of Mfuwe Lodge and grace past reception without bumping a chair.”

You'll see immediately why the matriarch is called Wonky Tusk and it is a fascinating story. (I keep thinking I've posted this before but it's such a good story, who cares.)

* * *

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” in the 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.


Reporting From the Country of Old Age

As I've told you ad nauseum here, I started studying ageing 20-odd years ago because the received wisdom everywhere in those days was that getting old is awful, the worst thing that could happen to anyone.

It consists, they all said, of decline, debility, disease and death but I just couldn't or wouldn't believe it and I still don't.

So in addition to keeping up with ageing as it relates to health, medical research, social issues, discrimination, politics, entertainment, news reporting, humor and more at Time Goes By, I have also made it a point to discuss the everyday indications of growing old that no one younger (you know, the people who do the most writing about age) have any experience with.

We don't shy away here from frank talk of female baldness, incontinence, memory lapses, muffin tops, disappearing butts, sex in old age, becoming invisible to the world, losing old friends, fear of dementia, plus the biggest one of all, facing death – and that list doesn't begin to cover it.

For today's post, I had been fussing with an essay about the difficulty of telling the difference between age-related slowness versus laziness. I was getting nowhere useful or worthwhile until an email arrived from my friend, Ken Pyburn, with this quotation from British writer and Booker Prize winner, Penelope Lively, who is currently 82 years old:

“One of the few advantages of age is that you can report on it with a certain authority; you are a native now, and know what goes on here...Our experience is one unknown to most of humanity, over time. We are the pioneers."

- From Dancing Fish and Ammonites – A Memoir (2013)

Exactly! I thought. That is exactly what I do here, “report on old age with a certain authority” - as do other elders, you in the comments, for example – because we are living it, this country of elderhood, as no one can until they get here.

In regard to that reporting, a large part of what I do to produce this blog is keep an eye on myself as the years pass, to watch the changes and compare them to what I read and hear from others about this experience of growing old.

Ms. Lively's quotation being a native now of this land clarified my thinking on the original topic I had planned so I can now shorten it from 15 or 20 rambling paragraphs I was working on to three or four. It boils down to this:

Whether it is household chores like vacuuming and dusting or outside events – a meeting, lunch or dinner with a friend, a movie, a day trip to the coast or a winery – I seem to be doing fewer of these.

It breaks down to one planned event a day that I find tolerable. If I have a dental appointment - come on, it's only an hour - I won't book a social engagement. If this is the day I choose to clean the bathrooms, vacuum, do the laundry and scrub floors, I won't go to lunch.

And, whenever I do plan a day with others, I go to great lengths to be sure I am free of engagements on the days before and after to be alone.

Compared to most people I've known, even in youth and middle age I needed more time alone. But I seem to need much more now of what I think of as a psychic renewal period after being with others before I'm ready to face the outside world again.

Since I've noticed this phenomenon, the puzzle has been whether desiring more quiet time is common to growing older or if I am just being lazy. Or maybe I want to slow down life itself – that is, even if my walking pace doesn't appear to have changed, perhaps my life pace might be slowing, taking more time to move from one activity to the next.

Most of the literature on age and social life is concerned with people who are isolated and lonely which doesn't shed much light on what I'm talking about.

So today, let's take Ms. Lively's assertion that we are pioneers in this country of old age, that we know a bit of what we speak, and take a crack at this question of laziness or natural slowing of daily life. Have you noticed this? What do you think?


An Elder's Life – A Little Masterpiece of a Movie

There is a burgeoning industry of media about being old. The past few years have seen an increase in the number of movies - theatrical and TV - starring old people, a large amount of the daily health reporting is related to old age issues and there are hundreds of new books each year about old people.

Most of this explosion in age media is dreck. Trust me. I wade through way too much of it for this blog. But maybe that is what makes it so thrilling when a gem comes along.

Last week, The New Yorker released online the latest short film in its Screening Room series titled “Mend and Make Do.” In the magazine's discussion of it, reporter Sarah Larson explains that in the opening,

”...we see images of a real-life living room—old framed photographs, doilies, sewing baskets, a lace-covered window, a spoon stirring sugar into a cup of tea—and hear the voice of an elderly woman with a vigorous Merseyside accent.

“'There is no embarrassment! Nothing like that today, about asking a man to go to bed with you, or get in the hot tub with you,” she says. “It wasn’t done when I was young.' As she remembers the past, objects in the room come to life.”

Well, I was hooked.

It is an eight-minute biographical documentary about 87-year-old Lyn Schofield who relates episodes from her life as the stop-motion animation illustrates them. The 25-year-old filmmaker, Bexie Bush, is as compelling as her film:

”...her main influence was working at Betty’s, a hairdressing salon that her grandmother opened in the fifties. 'All the ladies are still going there now, so it’s quite a sweet place to work,' she said.

“She listened to their stories while shampooing, brushing up, making tea, cleaning the windows, mopping the floor. It was very much a Cinderella job...

“Bush’s grandmother died several years ago, and her aunt now runs Betty’s. 'That generation of women is changing, too,' Bush said. We’re seeing the last of the era of 'blue rinses and perms and hair in rollers.'

“Bush admires not just the people but the aesthetic; she wants to capture them as they are while they’re here. 'I kind of dress like them as well,' she said. 'I do my hair like them. Victory rolls, and I sleep in rollers. I love everything about it. Making the most of what you’ve got. Making your own clothes.'”

Before I introduce “Mend and Make Do,” take a look at this delightful two-minute animation that Ms. Bush made about Betty's hair salon four years ago. That's four years ago- when she was 21.

Bexie Bush's films are such unique charmers that I couldn't resist tracking down more information about what she is like. Here is a short interview with her last April when she was showing “Mend and Make Do” at the European Independent Film Festival:

Finally, without further ado, here is “Mend and Make Do.” I'm pretty sure you're going to be as enchanted as I am.

TGB reader, Tom Delmore, brought this film to my attention. You can read more about it at The New Yorker and more about Bexie Bush and her work at her website.


Am I Exhausted From the Campaign Because I'm Old?

Or is it something else?

[RONNI HERE: As the subtitle says in the banner above, Time Goes By is about “What it's really like to get old.” That's what I cover here, ageing, and that's what it will continue to be.

But when it came time to write today's blog post, I was in such a bad mood about U.S. campaign politics and the news coverage of it, that was all I could think about. Maybe it's an opportunity for us all to vent for a day (it is for me).

Our regularly scheduled programming will resume on Wednesday.

* * *

The Iowa caucuses take place today. At last. It seems to me that the lead-up has been going on for at least a year (it feels like 10) and I wasn't sure this day would ever arrive. I cannot be the only person who is suffering from campaign fatigue, worn out, sapped of the strength to care about any of them anymore.

But the gawdawful thing is that today's caucuses won't stop or even slow the 24/7 campaign and so-called news coverage of it.

The New Hampshire primary is hard on the heels of Iowa, then South Carolina, Nevada is in there somewhere and not too far down the road Super Tuesday, etc.

I am seriously worried that my mind will not survive intact from the useless mush being fed us by the candidates themselves and the media.

The only question left is what good this constant avalanche of campaign coverage is for voters? It's gone on for so long already that anyone who has only vaguely heard some news in the background a couple of times a week pretty well knows where every candidate stands on every possible issue.

Well, except for Donald Trump who has no issues but his poll numbers. Even on that one, the media has spent so many millions of words supposedly to explain him that you would think it's difficult. It is not.

I knew a couple of braggarts exactly like Mr. Trump when I was in fourth grade. The rest of us just ignored them then and they soon shut up. Apparently the news media didn't learn that trick when they were in school.

That's who I blame for my brain having reached meltdown – the news people. It's not like they have used the 24/7, two-year campaign to educate us about the crucial issues facing the U.S. and the world.

Just like Mr. Trump, they are concerned only with poll numbers and fill the time between each new survey with a bunch of uninformed talking heads whose abilities are better suited to covering the Kardashians.

It hasn't always been like this, you know. I spent a great deal of my working life in news and related media and I'm proud of the job my colleagues and I did in those days.

A big part of the deterioration since then is that there used to be time to research the story, do all the homework, track down the facts, check rumors against reality, find real experts on the subject and put it all together in a coherent package people could understand, while aiming for as little bias as can be achieved. We didn't always reach all the goals but we generally did a better job than now.

Today, with the internet and 24-hour TV news, the requirements are different and simple: fill the time - all 24 hours of it each day. It doesn't matter if what you say (or read what someone else wrote for the TelePrompTer) makes any sense or illuminates the story.

There are rare exceptions with a few reporters but the operative word is “rare.”

Simultaneously, the individual campaigns have become full-time, perpetual “shows." That's what they are now, entertainment designed to please and pander this constituency or that, and the candidates have long figured out that they must campaign full time, all the time - no respite for them or us for a day or two now and then - to become well known enough to reach the Oval Office.

I remember the exact moment I came to understand this. It was the evening of election day in 2008. While speaking with a friend on the telephone as we each watched the returns on television in our respective homes, as Barack Obama's win was announced I said, “Well, the 2012 election begins tomorrow.

I was half kidding. I thought so, anyway. But when I turned on the news the next morning, two or three politicians had already announced they would be running against Obama in the 2012 presidential election.

And the worst of that is that I'm pretty sure now that the never-ending, no-break presidential campaign had been going on for a long time by then and I had only just noticed.

I believe the biggest reason Donald Trump leads the other Republicans in the Iowa and New Hampshire contests (and some national polls) is that unlike the other candidates, he is already a reality TV star so no one has work at getting to know him.

But back to the perpetual campaign - how can any president – doesn't matter which party – possibly govern in any effective manner if before he or she is inaugurated, the next campaign has begun? And how is that good for the U.S.? Or in the 21st century connected world?

This 2016 episode of the campaign show feels even worse than in the past because of the boredom induced by the mind-numbing repetition of Trump's poll numbers, his fourth grade braggart's constant attacks on any- and everyone, and his profoundly simplistic solutions to problems he apparently does not grasp.

But that doesn't let the others off the hook.

I am exhausted by the petty and naive nature of this campaign. I don't believe the international community has ever faced such a dire and complex set of issues as there is now, any one of which could change the world as we know it. It frightens me that no one in the field for president seems to know this. Even if they do, I don't think any one has any answers (in fairness, who could?) but at least there should be a reasoned debate in the campaign and there has been none.

FRIENDLY REMINDER: I'm taking a big chance with this post. One good reason not to do politics on a blog is to avoid nasty trolls and other vitriol from commenters against one another. Let me remind everyone today, none of that is acceptable here.

Certainly disagree - with me or any commenter. Argue, in the best sense of the word, with one another too. But the rule here remains the same: keep it civil. No one gets a second chance. If you cross the line, your comment will be removed and you will be permanently banned from this blog.


ELDER MUSIC: Australia's Classic 100 Opera Arias (20-11)

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.

* * *

Once in a while Australia's ABC Classical music station (networked throughout the country) has a listeners' poll on the favorite pieces of music in various categories.

This time it was opera arias and that gives me a chance to play some terrific singers and not worry about which piece of music to include as the selection has been done for me.

We're doing the Top 20, the first half today and the rest next week. Here we go, counting down from 20 to 11.

I could very well rename this "The Puccini Column" as he makes six appearances. He's also in next week (but only once). I'll start with him and one of his lesser known operas “Gianni Schicchi,” but hardly a lesser known aria.

20. GIACOMO PUCCINI - Gianni Schicchi - O mio babbino caro

Puccini

This is one of a trio of one-act operas Gia released around 1917, is the only one of those regularly staged these days and that's probably only due to this aria which is more often performed as a concert piece.

Here is the wonderful RENÉE FLEMING performing O Mio Babbino Caro (or "Oh My Beloved Father").

Renee Fleming

Puccini - Gianni Schicchi ~ Mio Babbino Caro


19. PUCCINI - Madama Butterfly - The Humming Chorus

Puccini

Gia again with one of his famous pieces. Actually, all the ones included are famous because of the selection method. Just the chorus, no individual singers. The Humming Chorus or Coro A Bocca Chiusa.

♫ Puccini - Madama Butterfly ~ Coro A Bocca Chiusa


18. WOLFGANG MOZART - The Magic Flute - Der Hölle Rache

Mozart

Wolfie is sadly under-represented in these columns, only one today and one next week. If I were choosing... (yeah, yeah, yeah, I hear you say).

Wolfie wrote this originally for his sister-in-law (Josepha Hofer) to sing in the premiere. She must have been quite the performer because those who have tackled the role of Queen of the Night since have complained about its difficulty.

This is the Queen of the Night aria or Der Hölle Rache kocht in meinem Herzen, performed today by SIMONE KERMES.

Simone Kermes

♫ Mozart - The Magic Flute ~ Der Hölle Rache kocht in meinem Herzen


17. GAETANO DONIZETTI - Lucia di Lammermoor - Mad Scene

Donizetti

There are a number of mad scenes in opera, some of them even on the stage. This is the most famous of them.

JOAN SUTHERLAND made this one her own over the years; she performed it many times. It's Il dolce suono or just "the mad scene" from Lucia di Lammermoor.

Joan Sutherland

♫ Donizetti - Lucia di Lammermoor ~ Il dolce suono


16. PUCCINI - Madame Butterfly - Vogliatemi bene (Act I love duet)

Puccini

The love duet is performed early on in the opera by Cio-Cio San and the American Pinkerton expressing their undying love for each other. Poor old Cio-Cio is in for a big disappointment.

RENATA SCOTTO and CARLO BERGONZI play those roles today.

Renata Scotto & Carlo Bergonzi

♫ Puccini - Madama Butterfly ~ Vogliatemi Bene, Un Bene Piccolino


15. PUCCINI - La Bohème - Che gelida manina

Puccini

Now for two in a row from the same opera, La Bohème, one of the most famous in the repertoire and one of the most performed. First off it's the turn of LUCIANO PAVAROTTI who made a bit of a name for himself as a singer.

Luciano Pavarotti

He performs Che gelida manina (or "What a cold little hand").

Puccini - La Boheme ~ Che gelida manina


14. PUCCINI - La Bohème - O soave fanciulla

Puccini

There was a terrific production of this opera by the Australian Opera some years ago. Fortunately, it was preserved on DVD (and CD). The two singers are DAVID HOBSON and CHERYL BARKER.

Norma, the Assistant Musicologist selected the photo of David as she's a bit of a fan.

David Hobson

I chose the picture of Cheryl as the same applies for me with her.

Cheryl Barker

The aria is O soave fanciulla (or "Oh lovely girl", the famous love duet).

♫ Puccini - La Boheme ~ soave fancuilla


13. VINCENZO BELLINI - Norma - Casta diva

Bellini

“Norma” is the A.M.'s favorite opera and it's not just because of its name. Or so she says. It's all to do with that final act where the singing just builds and builds and just when you think they can't do any more they up the ante.

The selection today, though, is from early in the opera and we have the incomparable CECILIA BARTOLI performing Casta Diva.

Cecilia Bartoli

♫ Bellini - Norma ~ Casta Diva


12. PUCCINI - Turandot - Nessun dorma

Puccini

LUCIANO PAVAROTTI makes a return visit with almost certainly the most famous aria in opera, Nessun dorma ("None shall Sleep").

Luciano Pavarotti

He performed this as a stand-alone piece numerous times, however, here he is from a recording of the complete opera – that way we get all the extra background stuff usually missing when it's performed on its own.

Because of that, the ending is a bit abrupt as the opera continues without a break.

♫ Puccini - Turandot ~ Nessun dorma!


11. ANTONIN DVORÁK - Rusalka - Song to the Moon

Dvorák

Antonin is better known as a composer of instrumental music, especially symphonies, however, he wrote a few operas. Only one of these is regularly performed these days and it's this one.

From that we have the aria Měsíčku na nebi hlubokém (generally known as "Song to the Moon") performed by LUCIA POPP.

Lucia Popp

♫ Dvorák - Rusalka ~ Song to the Moon


The top 10 of Australia's Classic 100 Opera Arias will appear here next week.