Old and Young Having Fun Together

Three or four years ago, I was invited to a “Brownie Day” at the Adult Community Center (ACC) – the name my town gives the senior center.

The nine-year-old members of a local Brownie troop (young Girl Scouts) each made a batch of brownies herself from a family recipe as refreshments for an afternoon of board games with members of the ACC, elders all.

At first, we were a little shy with one another; after exchanging names we were not sure what to talk about. But the ACC manager, who knows what she's doing, soon had us settled down at tables for the games.

By the end of the afternoon, thanks to the silly board games we played together with the sugar high from the brownies that had us all laughing and giggling together as if we were drunk, we actually shared some real conversation about our lives.

[You can find out more about that afternoon in this post from 2014.]

There is, in recent years, a lot of conversation around the need for more intergenerationality. That word is a mouthful and it sounds dull as hell. In most cases, it is.

Meetings are held, studies are done and with a few excellent exceptions, nothing happens beyond bureaucratic-sounding checklists of items that don't produce much substance. Like this one:

Get local foundations to support intergenerational projects
Lobby local government to make intergenerationalism a core value
Ask organizations that work with the young to collaborate with the old

You can't say anything is wrong with those ideas except that there is nothing specific to hang on to, nothing that says, “Hey, let's give this a try.”

What if people whose hearts and minds are moving in the right direction talked about, instead – oh, say

Young folks helping elders with technology
Young and old making music together
Playing games – silly ones and, for example, chess too
A hike and picnic with one another
Cooking meals together

I'm sure you can come up with more activities that old and young can participate in equally – the kinds of things that grease the wheels of conversation among age groups that don't get to spend much time together, and especially that lead them to laugh with one anther.

Something close to that has been happening recently in and around the U.S. Capitol.

GTG tech three girls

Last week, the Washington Post published a story about three 17-year-old high school students - Hannah Docter-Loeb, Kaela Marcus-Kurn and Aviah Krupnic - who started a group they named GTG Tech which, they say, stands for Generation to Generation and Grandkids to Grandparents and Giving the Gift.

”...they hold free training sessions at libraries, senior centers and community halls once a month [in the Washington, D.C. area]. It’s a nonprofit, volunteer group that’s growing as their friends join in to help.

“But it’s not like they’re trained computer experts, the girls reminded me. They’re working on the simple, everyday tasks that digital natives take for granted.

“'We just grew up in this, so we know how to do it,' said Kaela, a junior at Bethesda-Chevy Chase High School.”

Here's a short video produced by One News Page about GTG Tech:

A whole lot more is going on than showing an 80-year-old how to text her boyfriend, or helping an 87-year-old who didn't understand how to use Wi-Fi:

”...there is also something magic about the formula, the intergenerational exchange that happens when young and old interact, especially when they aren’t related.

“'It’s like a blood transfusion. It’s about more than computers,' said Renee Dunham, 78, after the teens helped her with text messaging. 'I learn a little bit about their lives. How they organize their lives, their phones. What they’re listening to or what tech they’re using.'

“And, Dunham observed, it came with no strings attached. No long debates with her granddaughter about her hair and make-up, no reminders to tell her grandson not to slouch.

“'Like you can’t teach a family member to drive. That never works,' Dunham said.”

GTG tech one-on-one teaching

I'm not a sociologist nor a child psychologist, but those clauses I bolded strike me as right on the money with families. GTG Tech has been wildly successful both in terms of popularity and what young and old are getting out of it which is much more than instruction.

”Although it might be easy to make fun of Grandpa when he brings in his three maxed-out Hotmail accounts and isn’t sure how to delete emails,” writes the WaPo reporter, Petula Dvorak, “the teens have learned that he was once a hottie who flew warplanes. Or the lady walking with a cane used to be a ballet dancer.

“On a recent rainy Saturday at the Chevy Chase library, every GTG Tech slot was full. And for three hours, the teens gave digital advice to many interesting seniors: a retired linguistics professor, a pioneer FORTRAN programmer, a former wire service reporter.”

Grandchildren notwithstanding, few of us have opportunities to spend real time with people of a generation so different from our own, nor do many young people have reasons to hang out much with elders unrelated to them.

But in the case of GTG Tech, everyone is getting an up close and personal insight into what each other's lives are like - which is what happened to me with Brownie troop.

Do they give you any ideas? (The photos in this story are from the GTG Tech website which you will find here.)

Wide shot GTG Tech teaching


ELDER MUSIC: Soul Men

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

* * *

It surprised me that I haven't done a column completely dedicated to male soul singers, as I've already done one on the females - quite some time ago. Thus today I'm going to rectify that oversight.

Naturally, with today's title it's axiomatic that I begin with the soul men themselves, SAM AND DAVE.

Sam & Dave

That not only describes them, it's also the name of the song. Well, nearly, it's actually Soul Man.

♫ Sam & Dave - Soul Man


OTIS REDDING is guaranteed to be present today.

Otis Redding

There are scores of his songs that I'd be happy to include but I'll go with the first one he recorded. This was after some other performer's session had ended and there was still time on the clock and Otis pretty much said, "I have a song, could we do it?"

First take, cut, released and a classic was created. He was backed by the band in the studio, Booker T and the MGs. It was far from the last time they performed together. These Arms of Mine.

♫ Otis Redding - These Arms Of Mine


The next song is indelibly associated with Otis but others have performed it too. One of the best of those is ARTHUR CONLEY.

Arthur Conley

Arthur is best known for his song Sweet Soul Music where he name checks the best of the soul singers. Naturally, he left himself off the list, but perhaps he should have been included.

Let's see what he does with I've Been Loving You Too Long (To Stop Now), a song written by Otis and Jerry Butler.

♫ Arthur Conley - I've Been Loving You Too Long (To Stop Now)


CLARENCE CARTER was born blind but he didn't let that set him back.

Clarence Carter

After achieving a degree in music, he began singing professionally with Calvin Scott as Clarence & Calvin later shortened to the C & C Boys (a bit unfortunate, that name).

He began a solo career when Calvin was seriously injured in a car accident. Clarence has recorded a bunch of songs and has had several that crossed over on to the pop charts, including Patches, Too Weak to Fight and the one we have today, Slip Away.

♫ Clarence Carter - Slip Away


Z.Z. HILL, like many soul singers, began his career in a gospel group, in his case The Spiritual Five.

Z. Z. Hill

Later he performed in clubs around Dallas until Otis Redding caught his act and encouraged him to record. Z.Z. went to Los Angeles and joined his brother, who fortuitously, was a record producer.

Z.Z. brought a more blues sound to his soul music, which is no bad thing. You can hear that, as well as some gospel, in Ain't Nothing You Can Do.

♫ ZZ Hill - Ain't Nothing You Can Do


I've stated before that James Brown learnt pretty much his entire act from DON COVAY.

Don Covay

He wasn't particularly grateful as he tried to shoot Don once (he missed).

I've always preferred Don as a performer, which might be the reason I keep mentioning that story. As well as singing, Don was a writer of songs, both for himself and others – Aretha Franklin, Gladys Knight, Wilson Pickett, the Rolling Stones and Solomon Burke are only a few who have covered his songs.

Here, he gets a bit of a surprise in his song I Was Checkin' Out She Was Checkin' In.

♫ Don Covay - I Was Checkin' Out She Was Checkin' In


The life of Overton Vertis Wright, generally known as O.V. WRIGHT rather parallels that of Z.Z. Hill.

O.V. Wright

In O.V.'s case, he was from Tennessee and the gospel groups he fronted were The Sunset Travelers and later The Harmony Echoes. He was in the latter group with James Carr, one of the all time finest soul singers.

O.V.'s first recorded song was That's How Strong My Love Is, later covered by Otis Redding, The Rolling Stones, Percy Sledge and many others. Today he sings He Made Woman For Man, that sounds rather gospelly to me.

♫ O.V. Wright - He Made Woman For Man


Okay, this next one isn't entirely a soul man – we have both genders here today. This song has always tickled me but I know others don't like it. You can make up your own mind.

In the eighties one of the more interesting soul singers was RICHARD FIELDS. He generally went by the nickname Dimples because he had (and I bet you can't guess) dimples.

Richard Dimples Fields

One of his most interesting albums from that time was called "Dimples" which I have on vinyl, but I haven't seen on CD (but it's probably out there somewhere).

From that record is a song I think is a real hoot called She's Got Papers on Me. Listening to it the first time, you think that it's just another conventional soul song until towards the end when we get a bit of a swerve to the left when BETTY WRIGHT joins the party.

Betty Wright

♫ Richard Dimples Fields - She's Got Papers On Me


JAMES & BOBBY PURIFY were James Purify and his cousin Robert Dickey. In later years Ben Moore took over as the second Bobby Purify.

James & Bobby Purify

Most of us are probably familiar with the song, Shake a Tail Feather, particularly the version by Ray Charles, even if just from the "Blues Brothers" film. He wasn't the first to record it though, that was The Five Du-Tones.

Some years later James and Bobby tackled the song and did a really good job of it. See what you think.

♫ James & Bobby Purify - Shake A Tail Feather


JOE SIMON may not be a household name but he's had dozens of hits that made both the pop and R & B charts over the years.

Joe Simon1

I won't even try to list those, or even the most significant ones. I'll just play the song I selected, Message from Maria.

♫ Joe Simon - Message from Maria


Here is a very late bonus track. I only learned about this band last Saturday as Norma, the Assistant Musicologist and I were driving to the South Melbourne Market.

This song came on the radio and we wondered who it was, it was so good. Several different people were suggested by us but we were wrong because it turned out to be someone we hadn't heard of. They are THE TESKEY BROTHERS.

Teskey Brothers

These are young folks from Warrandyte, an outer suburb of Melbourne, home of great wines, gorgeous scenery and now, terrific music in the form of Pain and Misery. It demonstrates that the young folks are still producing wonderful music.

♫ The Teskey Brothers - Pain and Misery



INTERESTING STUFF – 20 May 2017

PORTRAITS OF A CENTURY

As Senior Planet explains it, Czech Republic photographer, Jan Langer

”...has spent some time comparing images of people when they were young with their 100-year-old selves. His meditation on age is the basis for a thoughtful, impactful and deeply moving photo project, Faces of Century.

First example is Antonin Baldrman at age 17 and 101:

AntoninBaldrman

And here is Marie Baresova at age 23 and 101:

MarieBurwsova

See more at Senior Planet and even more at Mr. Langer's website.

HISTORY OF THE CHOCOLATE CHIP COOKIE

There aren't many of us who have not eaten chocolate chip cookies or even baked them too. Mental Floss recently published a history of the chocolate chip cookie. Apparently, they say, there are many versions of the origin story.

But I thought the story screamed for video and I found several at YouTube. Here is one of the many I found on this topic.

A more detailed story is at Mental Floss.

VERTICAL FARM IN NEWARK

Vertical farms aren't new but this one, AeroFarms, is said to be the largest in the world that grows produce indoors without sun, soil or pesticides. Here's a short video:

There is a much more thorough story about it at The New York Times.

NET NEUTRALITY UPDATE

Last Saturday, I posted John Oliver's essay on Net Neutrality along with a link to the website he had set up to make it easy for all of us to tell the FCC what we think about the director, Ajit Pai's intent to kill equal access to the internet.

The response of viewers of the essay on Oliver's HBO show, Last Week Tonight, broke the FCC website which then announced it would not accept comments until after the FCC commissioners vote on the proposal. They did that on Thursday, voting 2 to 1 to end net neutrality.

"The agency is now inviting public comment on whether it should indeed dismantle the rules," reported the BBC yesterday. "Americans have until mid-August to share their views with the FCC.

"This call for comments is likely to attract a huge number of responses. Prior to the vote, more than 1 million statements supporting net neutrality were filed on the FCC site."

As I told you last Saturday, Oliver posted a web-only update which is well worth your time to watch – it's shorter than his usual essays, about six minutes:

As of late Friday, the Oliver link to the FCC comment page was not yet functional. I'll update here when it is. Meanwhile, here again is the procedure to leave your message to the FCC. Even if you left a comment before the website broke, please do it again as the FCC has announced that it will not count those earlier comments.

Again, here is the procedure – Oliver had made it easy:

  1. Navigate in your browser to gofccyourself.com
  2. Click the word “express” on the right side of the page
  3. Fill in the form to support net neutrality and Title 2

When the comment page is available, do it, please, to help save the internet for everyone.

SOME GREAT ROCK AND ROLL DANCING

I used to be able to do this. Quite well. Many decades ago. This video calls it the lindy hop but when I was young, we called it swing dancing. It seems to me to be the same thing or close enough. Enjoy.

This video was recorded at International Lindy Hop Championship in 2014. The Lindy Hop Championship organization has a Facebook page here.

PRETTY, BIG AND DANCING

Oh, let's go ahead and have two dance stories this week. This one is a whole different kind, 21st century dance, with an important goal beyond the joy of dance itself. The YouTube page explains:

”Akira Armstrong started dancing at 8 years old and never looked back. She even landed a featured appearance in two Beyonce music videos, but when she decided to pursue dance professionally, she faced rejection from agencies because of her body type.

“She didn’t fit the physical mold of a typical dancer. So, Armstrong took matters into her own hands and started a plus-size dance company, Pretty Big Movement. “

Take a look – it's a terrific mini-documentary about what Ms. Armstrong is doing.

AHCA: HOW DID YOUR REP VOTE?

You wouldn't know it from the news coverage of all things Trump this week but the Senate Republicans insist they are working on a rewrite of the American Health Care Act (AHCA).

If you don't already know how your representative voted on the House version of AHCA, AARP has posted a list showing how all 435 member voted laid out alphabetically by state.

You'll find the list here.

DIALYSIS – JOHN OLIVER

As John Oliver admits at the top of his HBO show, Last Week Tonight, you might think you don't care about a 24-minute video essay about dialysis.

He says – and so do I – that you would be wrong. This is an stunning expose of the for-profit dialysis business, deadly serious but as he always can, Oliver finds a way to make us laugh while educating us.

NATURE'S GREATEST ARTIST

Okay, it's not as cute as the animal videos I usually post at the end of each Interesting Stuff column but it sure is amazing.

Thank TGB reader Joan McMullen for this one.

* * *

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.


Age Activated Attention Deficit Disorder

Earlier this week, I received this email note from Peter Tibbles, he who runs the Sunday Elder Music column and is a handful of years younger than I am:

”This morning I decided to take some cardboard down to the recycle bin (and yes, they were empty wine boxes). So with laden hands, I unlocked the door and attempted to pull the key out of the lock (I have a deadlock and I leave the key in the lock when I'm home).

“It wouldn't come out. I tried and tried, but nothing. Well, the door was open so I decided to take the cardboard downstairs and check it later, making sure that the downstairs door was snibbed open.

Lock

“Well, I got back and the key still wouldn't come out of the lock no matter what I did. Then it occurred to me that it should be aligned at 3 o'clock to come out, not 6 o'clock as I was trying to do.

“Thirty years I've been here.

“I offer these mitigating circumstances: the lock on the other side of the door requires the 6 o'clock orientation to remove the key. Perhaps I didn't know if I was inside or outside.”

Oh, I know all about such a memory lapse. They happen to me all the time. It takes a good deal longer than necessary to get blog posts done because I frequently have to hunt for the feature I want in OpenOffice or paint.net or my email.

Peter has his 30 years using that lock. I have two decades using these computer programs; I should be able to function with them in my sleep. But nooooooo.

A few days ago, my Kindle needed charging. I opened the drawer where the cable lives and – oops, nothing there. I stared in disbelief; I'm good at returning items to where they belong.

It took a few hours for me to recall that a month or two ago I had moved the cable to a drawer in another room.

Dumb, dumb, dumb. I had broken one of my own long-standing rules for being old: never, ever change the place where you have stored a tool for a long time because the first storage place will stick in your mind forever and you might never find the tool again.

These – Peter's and my own memory-related mistakes – will not be unfamiliar to most of you who read this blog. I have dozens of other examples and I'm sure you do too.

Yesterday, I heard from cyber-friend and fellow New Yorker, Esther Harriott. You may remember her name from the story here two years ago about her excellent book, Writers and Age: Essays on and Interviews with Five Authors.

Esther included a link to a video that has a load of fun with the topic of today's post. It may be as vaguely familiar to some of you as it was to me yesterday. I was surprised find that it had been posted in these pages as a written joke in 2007, and in 2011, this self-same video - which further underlines the transitory nature of elder memory - or, at least, mine. Enjoy.

I'm no doctor or medical researcher but I'm pretty sure none of these incidents should be read as incipient dementia. It's just, as the video says, age-activated attention deficit disorder. Nothing to do but live with it.


December/May Romance

When I was in my twenties, I came to know for awhile a couple in which the wife was 18 or 20 years older than her husband who was about my age.

Although I enjoyed meals, day trips and other get-togethers with them, I was still young enough to feel some discomfort hanging out with a woman who was closer in age to my mother than to me.

My failing, but I was young then without much experience with people a good deal older than I was who by definition were intimidating: parents, teachers and employers.

Many years later, I dated for a year or so, a man who was 14 or 15 years younger than I was. He was 27 when we met and I was in my early 40s. Most of my friends thought there were far fewer years between us than there were because, I suspect, we were in our middle years – 30-ish and 50-ish - when it is often easy to be way off when guessing a person's age.

While it lasted, it was a lovely romance and our breakup had nothing to do with age.

Undoubtedly you have heard by now that the new French president, Emmanuel Macron, age 39, has been married to Brigitte Macron (nee Trogneaux) since 2007, and that she is 64 years old.

That age difference has made for fascinating reading in newspapers and magazines. First, here is a short backgrounder:

This December/May marriage has generated a large amount of commentary in France and abroad, and unlike the same age difference – 24 years - between U.S. President Donald Trump and his wife, Melania, some of it has been quite mean.

Town and Country magazine reports that
”News outlets snidely pointed to her deep tan, thin frame, and honey blonde hair, calling her a 'menopausal Barbie.' Some said he was 'hot for teacher,' or had mommy issues, and rumors flew that he was gay and theirs was a marriage of convenience.”

Others portrayed President Macron “as a 'mummy’s boy' who needs Mme Macron to wipe his mouth or give him 'a smack' for misbehaving.”

Glamour magazine reports that Macron has no patience with what he sees as the sexism and homophobia behind the attacks and has criticized the double standard

”... that allows men to marry much younger women while treating older women who do the same thing as deviants—or as covers for homosexuality. 'If I had been 20 years older than my wife, nobody would have thought for a single second that I couldn't be [an intimate partner],' he said.

"'It's because she is 20 years older than me that lots of people say, 'This relationship can't be tenable.'"

On Sunday, Brigitte Macron's youngest daughter from her first marriage, Tiphaine Auzière who is an attorney, defended her mother from those sexist and ageist remarks:

”'I find it totally outrageous in France in the 21st century to make such attacks...These are attacks that we wouldn’t direct at male politicians or at a man who would accompany a female politician. So I think there’s a lot of jealousy, and that this is very inappropriate.'”

No kidding.

The Telegraph in the U.K. saw the December/May romance in a lovelier light:

”The French want their women to be chic, witty, have charm; all characteristics that have little to do with youth; in fact which require experience.

“In fact, there are few more powerful words to a young Frenchman than 'une femme expérimentée'. Literature abounds with stories of young men 'déniaisés” (literally: made less stupid) by women who know what they are about.”

On the U.S. side of the Atlantic, Roger Cohen refused to acknowledge any French ageism, sexism or mysogyny in his New York Times column, and saw nothing but grace in the French reaction to the Macrons' age difference:

”People come to France for its beauty, but what finally beguiles them is its civilization, at once formal and sensual, an art of living and loving. I have been thinking of this non-judgmental French gift as the newly elected president, Emmanuel Macron, and his wife, Brigitte, prepare to move into the Élysée Palace next week.

“They are an unusual couple. He is 39; she is 64. They met, as everyone knows by now, when he was a teenager and she was his drama teacher, a married woman with three children. Macron, through her, now has seven grandchildren whom he embraces as his own.

“To all of which the chief French response has been: Who cares?”

Well, maybe not quite but certainly as it ought to be.

Here in the U.S., it has always been acceptable for old men - often with a wink and a nod toward their masculinity - to take beautiful women young enough to be their daughters as their girlfriends and wives. (Some of those men have been known to turn in those wives for younger models when the first ones don't look quite as fresh and nubile as they once did.) But any woman who does the same is almost always viewed, in the words of Macron himself, a deviant or a beard.

I'm hoping that President and Madame Macron, who appear from outside to be as happy together as newlyweds, will help move women toward parity with men in romance because love isn't all that easy to find at any stage of life and no one should let age get in the way of it.


Saturday Night Live Elder Bashing

Anyone reading this blog is likely to be familiar with ageism, defined in brief as the stereotyping and discrimination of old people based entirely on their age.

It occurs in all areas of life. In the workplace, healthcare, entertainment, finance, advertising, language, movies, books, even greeting cards, old people are maligned, dehumanized and made fun of mostly with impunity.

It never changes. It never gets better. In fact, during 13 or 14 years I've been regularly inveighing against ageism, it seems to be increasing. I could be wrong about that but it feels so and it certainly is not diminishing.

image

One of the biggest ways ageism is perpetuated is through the media and today, I am particularly incensed about a certain time segment of television that has made elder bashing a staple of its repertoire.

It's the late night comedy shows. Hosts Jimmy Fallon, Jimmy Kimmel, Stephen Colbert and Seth Meyers are the ones I see most frequently and every one of them makes it a regular practice to demean old people. It is always off-handedly as though it carries no more more social freight than the weather forecast and it always gets them a laugh.

Jimmy, Jimmy, Stephen, Seth and the others (even, now and then, John Oliver) - that is, comedians - are among the worst purveyors of ageist hilarity, falling back on this handy kind of cheap humor whenever their or their writers' creativity fails them.

The jokes are pervasive, turning up at least once a week on each of the shows usually in the monologue but even during interviews and they use these jokes with abandon because - well, everyone knows that it is wrong, for example, to make fun of the disabled but mocking old people's failings and foibles is just good fun.

What infuriates me beyond the ageism itself is that it is perpetrated day in and day out from otherwise talented performers who help keep me sane in this dark era of America's political crisis.

And that brings us to this: Throwaway lines that take five or six seconds to toss off are bad enough. A protracted attack including just about every stereotype known of old people is quite another.

In Saturday's Interesting Stuff column, I posted the wonderful video from NBC-TV promoting actor Melissa McCarthy's appearance as host of Saturday Night Live that evening.

McCarthy's Sean Spicer segment was not brilliantly written this time but okay, likewise Alec Baldwin's Trump impersonation and Weekend Update was one of Colin Jost's and Michael Che's best this season. There were other good moments. And then there was a skit about the Amazon Echo.

It is only 2:40 minutes long but it feels, while watching it, as if it will never end – on and on and on and on.

Perhaps it is understandable for young comedians steeped in unchallenged ageist humor from birth to believe this is acceptable, even funny. But I doubt they would agree to perform in a similar take down of, for example, brown people, women, Jews, Muslims or LGBTQ people.

And get this: Each week, SNL produces more skits, recorded and live, than they can use in one show and the final choice of which ones to include is made at dress rehearsal by producer, Lorne Michaels.

Lorne Michaels is 72 years old. Apparently he sees no personal irony in this week's Amazon Alexa skit choice.

It's everywhere on late night television, elder bashing is, and that spreads continued acceptance of ageist behavior far and wide particularly among young adults who are the main fans of late night humor shows which are further distributed through YouTube.

As gerontologist and Professor Emeritus of Medical Sociology at Duke University Erdman B. Palmore admitted in an article in the Encyclopedia of Ageism, humor may be a less serious form of ageism than, for example, employment or criminal discrimination. However, he continued:

”...because negative humor is so frequent and insidious, it may well be a root cause of the more serious forms of ageism...

“Just as racist and sexist jokes support negative attitudes about race and sex, most jokes about old people are ageist. Most tellers and listeners are probably unaware of their ageist effect, which may even increase the joke's impact on the listener's unconscious attitudes.”

For the record, I have two Amazon Echos and use them as easily as any young person. So do many other elders.


ELDER MUSIC: Singing Sisters

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.

* * *

The best harmony singing, with only rare exceptions, comes from siblings. There are many examples in the male singing world, but it holds just as well for females. This is the basis for today's column. Let the singing commence.

VIKA AND LINDA BULL are Australia's foremost female singing duo.

Vika & Linda

They have appeared on hundreds of records (besides their own) and been in quite a few bands. If you need some female backup singers or some lead singers, they are the go-to people. Here, from one of their own records, is Love is Mighty Close.

♫ Vika & Linda - Love is Mighty Close


The trio called the DINNING SISTERS were Lou, Jean and Ginger Dinning.

Dinning Sisters

Jean and Ginger were twins. There were nine kids in the family, all of whom sang really well. There was a young brother named Mark who was a bit of a pop star in the fifties for whom Jean wrote the song Teen Angel.

The trio was some record company's attempt to emulate the Andrews Sister but they were more restrained than their more famous rivals. They perform Better Not Roll Those Blue, Blue Eyes.

♫ The Dinning Sisters - Better Not Roll Those Blue Blue Eyes


THE ROCHES were Maggie, Terre and Suzzy Roche from New Jersey.

The Roches

Maggie and Terre performed as a duo for some years until Suzzy joined them and they became The Roches, as you will hear. Maggie wrote most of their songs with Terre contributing a few. Alas, Maggie died early this year. The group introduce themselves with their song We.

♫ The Roches - We


KATE AND ANNA MCGARRIGLE were not only performers, they wrote terrific songs as well.

Kate and Anna McGarrigle

There's also an older sister, Jane, who occasionally wrote songs and performed with them. Some of the songs that Kate and Anna wrote have been covered by the cream (as well as the milk) of singers.

It was difficult choosing just one song, but I finally decided on You Tell Me That I'm Falling Down.

♫ Kate & Anna McGarrigle - You Tell Me That I'm Falling Down


I could have continued the previous two a further generation. Loudon Wainwright III was once married to Kate McGarrigle and they have a daughter Martha (and a son Rufus). After their divorce, he married Suzzy Roche and they have a daughter Lucy. Martha and Lucy have played and recorded together. However, I thought their contribution was for another column.

Probably the most famous singing sisters were the ANDREWS SISTERS.

The Andrews Sisters

Readers of the column probably don't need to be told that they were LaVerne, Maxene and Patty Andrews. Rather than use one of their famous (and thus too well known) songs, I thought I'd use one I didn't know until I discovered it on my database. Of course those who know them better than I do might be familiar with it. Alone Again.

♫ The Andrews Sisters - Alone Again


THE MCGUIRE SISTERS were sort of the Andrews Sisters of the fifties.

The McGuire Sisters

Christine, Dorothy and Phyllis McGuire had a bunch of hits in that decade until they stopped performing because of (apparently quite founded) rumors that Phyllis was seriously involved with the mobster Sam Giancana.

Anyway, getting back to music, their biggest hit was Sugartime, which might be considered an answer song to Jimmy Rodgers' song Honeycomb. It certainly references that song.

♫ The McGuire Sisters - Sugartime


Whew, this next one brings back memories but I'm not going into details. Here are the POINTER SISTERS.

The Pointer Sisters

The group started out as June and Bonnie Pointer. Later Anita joined them. Later still Ruth turned them into a quartet. The group that was most successful consisted of June, Ruth and Anita. Later, after June died, Ruth's daughter Issa joined the clan.

These days Ruth's grand-daughter Sadako is in the mix. Okay, from the most famous of the various combinations is their most famous song, Slow Hand.

♫ The Pointer Sisters - Slow Hand


The KIM SISTERS were born in South Korea but made their name in America in the fifties and sixties.

The Kim Sisters

They were Sook-ja and her sister Ai-ja Kim and their cousin Minja Kim. Their parents encouraged them to learn instruments and each played several. American soldiers stationed in Korea were impressed with them and would encourage them by giving them records so they could learn the latest songs.

After arriving in America they were featured on many TV shows, most notably on Ed Sullivan's and Dean Martin's programs. They sing Going Back Together.

♫ The Kim Sisters - Going Back Together


The PARIS SISTERS started out in San Francisco and are best known for recording with Phil Spector.

The Paris Sisters

They were Albeth, Sherrell and Priscilla Paris. Priscilla, the youngest, was the lead singer in the group. They had one song that made the top five and several more that tickled the charts a bit lower down. Their big one was I Love How You Love Me.

♫ The Paris Sisters - I Love How You Love Me


Martha, Connee and Vet, known to us as THE BOSWELL SISTERS were all classically trained on piano, cello and violin.

The Boswell Sisters

However, by that stage they were living in New Orleans and the jazz scene there won them over. It also meant they got to experience the best musicians of that style which influenced them considerably.

Although not the first, they were one of the earliest to record the now evergreen song, I'm Going To Sit Right Down And Write Myself A Letter. They also sing verses that generally aren't heard these days.

♫ The Boswell Sisters - I'm Going To Sit Right Down And Write Myself A Letter



INTERESTING STUFF – 13 May 2017

REPUBLICAN HEALTHCARE DISSOCIATION

Jonathan Chait in New York magazine tried to explain the reasons many Republicans believe women should pay more for healthcare than men:

”Women have, on average, higher lifetime medical costs than men, which means a market-based insurance system, where every individual plan is priced based on that person’s expected medical costs, will charge women on average higher premiums.

“Republicans have been dancing around this implication for years with their argument that people who don’t need prenatal care should not have to buy insurance that covers it.”

And, of course we all know men having nothing to do with the reason women need prenatal care. Right?

You can read more here.

THE MOST EXPENSIVE SPICE IN THE WORLD

You can probably guess which spice it is but even if you can, the video is still enlightening.

OWLS AND THE NAPA VALLEY VINEYARDS

According to the YouTube page, one of the best-kept secrets of Napa Valley wineries is that they rely on barn owls rather than chemicals and pesticides to keep rodents at bay.

”Wildlife biologist Carrie Wendt has spent years learning how these majestic nocturnal creatures can have productive, working relationships with winemakers. So the next time you take a sip of that California pinot, take a moment to thank our feathered friends who helped make that glass possible.”

217 REPUBLICANS REFUSE JOY REID'S INVITATION

I realize that the firing of James Comey has buried news of the Republican healthcare bill this week but that hadn't happened yet last Saturday – it was still hot news then.

MSNBC weekend host, Joy Reid, reported that she and her staff contacted all 217 Republicans who voted in favor of the execrable American Health Care Act (AHCA), asking each one to appear on her program. Not a single one said yes.

Could it be, maybe, shame?

SHOULD WE REQUIRE INTELLIGENCE TESTS FOR CONGRESSIONAL CANDIDATES?

Moving right along on the subject of Congress, on 5 May, Republican Representative Raul Labrador of Idaho had this to say at a town hall meeting with constituents:

If you missed that or can't play the video, Representative Labrador said, "Nobody dies because they don't have access to healthcare."

Who ARE these people who supposedly represent American citizens?

MELISSA MCCARTHY'S SEAN SPICER SINGS I FEEL PRETTY

Actor Melissa McCarthy began her impossibly wonderful impersonation of White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer on Saturday Night Live in February. Tonight, she is hosting that show and here is how the producers are promoting her appearance.

Don't skip this. It is funny, wonderful (and short):

SOCIETY AT ITS BEST AND WEIRDO PARFAIT

For the past week there has been severe flooding throughout Canada. Although I expect Canadians everywhere are good Samaritans, this story from reporter Tyler Dawson gives new faith in humanity:

”There were no soldiers filling sandbags or heaving them into trucks on rue Saint-Louis on Monday morning. Just regular people, of all sorts and of all ages, shoveling from two big piles of sand into green bags and hefting them into the backs of pickup trucks.

“Civil society at its best.

“Before I’d even got my boots on, someone drove by, asking if this was the spot to help out. A steady stream of people, some lugging shovels, made their way to loading area to help. An efficient passing line had sprung up to lift the bags into the trucks, a sort of organized chaos that seemed absent any particular leader or organizer.

“Somehow, everyone seemed to know where to go.”

You can read the rest of the story at the Montreal Gazette and view the video there.

Thank doctafil of Montreal for sending this item. You probably recognize her moniker, as she has been a frequent contributor in the comments at this blog for many years.

Weirdoparfait2But today I have the pleasure of revealing her real name – Brenda Henry – as she has just published her third book of short stories which is titled Weirdo Parfait.

Almost all of Brenda's short stories are based on incidents in her life in Montreal and her frequent travels to Florida and other points of the world. She has a wonderful way with words - when she writes about how much her feet hurt, you feel it too.

”I removed the bonfires. I mean shoes...” she writes in The Shoes the Bus and the Music. “I should have snapped their necks like stale bread sticks, tossed them into the a dumpster, and gone home barefoot...But I had to squeeze the monstrosities back on...”

Of course, she had me with her story, New York City Walk, in which she perfectly describes the energy of the city that I miss so much:

”...New Yorkers doing their usual walking, shopping, looking, buying, arguing, laughing or playing. The city is crazy busy with people wearing oddball outfits, weird hats.”

Brenda volunteers a lot, especially with old people, so there are several stories about that including a lovely one titled, Everything Nothing Something, about a 90-plus year old woman that will break your heart in the best possible way, and reveal the best of Brenda too:

“'The truth is [says Bella], I don't want to leave my home, but you think I have options, huh?'

“'Bella' [says Brenda], 'as long as you have your marbles and can afford to live in your home, you've got this covered.'”

Weirdo Parfait is available at Amazon in paperback and a Kindle edition.

JOHN OLIVER ON NET NEUTRALITY

On May 1, I wrote about the newest attack on net neutrality and what it means for internet users (less access, higher charges). Now, the brilliant John Oliver and his staff to the issue.

When he did this last time net neutrality was threatened three years ago, so many of his audience followed his instructions to tell the FCC to keep net neutrality, they broke the FCC website.

That happened again this week (this episode was broadcast last Sunday night). Take a look at it – Oliver is serious and as always, so funny about it.

As Oliver explained in the video essay, the FCC made it so difficult and obscure to navigate to the page where citizens can leave their thought, he bought the URL, gofccyourself.com.

It is up and running as I write this on Saturday. To get to the FCC comment page, go to that URL, click on the word, “express” after which a new page will open where you can fill in the form and let them know that support net neutrality and Title 2.

Again, here is the procedure – Oliver had made it easy:

  1. Navigate in your browser to gofccyourself.com
  2. Click the word “express” on the right side of the page
  3. Fill in the form to support net neutrality and Title 2

Do it, please, to help save the internet for everyone.

UPDATE: 7AM PDT: As Nana Royer notes in the second comment below, the FCC is not taking comments for a week or so. Here is the explanation from Oliver at that URL:

Hello!

​Because of a procedural quirk, the FCC will not be considering any comments on the issue of net neutrality that are submitted over the next week or so.

​ We'll update you when the comments are officially open again. In the interim, you’ll have to find something else to be mad about on the internet.

Best of luck with that.

Ronni again: I'll remind you when it's up and running again.

FRANKIE, THE TRUCK DUCK

This video is nearly 10 years old so perhaps you've seen it. I hadn't and it is so cute, so funny and so nice that it is worth resurrecting.

* * *

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.


The Importance of the Comey Firing

If, earlier this week, the friend to whom I said I believe the U.S. is in the midst of a slow-moving coup had called me out for being hyperbolic, I would not have disagreed. That is, until I ran across this nearly identical headline at Salon:

Americans are witnessing a slow motion coup.

The article is written by journalist, novelist and screenwriter, Lucien K. Truscott IV who has covered some of the biggest news stories of our lifetimes, here and abroad. (Disclosure: I knew him slightly half a century or so ago when we were both starting out.) I'll get back to his Salon piece shortly.

There hasn't been much in these pages about the dying of American democracy because who can keep up. Any one person could write 24 hours a day, seven days a week and not cover all the outrages being inflicted almost daily by the president and the Republican Congress upon the citizens of the United States.

Besides, plenty of other people - in print, online and on TV - have more than enough to say - too much of it unhelpful and even wrong. And it is not within the mandate (see banner above) of this blog.

Even with all that, this week's firing of FBI Director James Comey, the fact of it along with the shameful haste, lies and crudeness with which it was done, is unprecedented. In the 240 years of our country's history, it has happened only once before that a president fired the person investigating his own election campaign.

Comey

Some reporters are making the comparison to President Richard Nixon's “Saturday night massacre” and that is not inapt. What is different for me and for people who are older than about 55 now is that we were there in real time.

For nearly a year, we lived through the daily dispatches from Woodward and Burnstein, became familiar with Deep Throat's leaks and followed the accusations and denials that pretty much unhinged the country for nearly a year.

When, at last, Nixon resigned, you could almost hear the collective sigh of relief of millions of citizens throughout the land. It was an unprecedented moment in our history.

And so is this one.

For all the millions of words already spoken and written about the Comey firing, what appears to me to be most true is that the letters the White House released were outright lies. It is becoming increasingly clear to any sentient being that the real reason Trump fired Comey is that he was getting too close to whatever connections there may be between the Trump campaign and/or administration and Russia.

The reason I bring it up today, instead of the age-related post I had planned, is that I am worried, maybe even panicked, that as the Republican Congress has ignored every Trump administration transgression so far, they will do it again with this one.

Because he closely echoes my own thoughts and is more concise, I will let Mr. Truscott explain:

”All political power is being concentrated in the office of the president. All law enforcement power is being concentrated in the office of the attorney general and, when it comes to enforcing the law regarding the Trump campaign and its contacts with elements of the Russian government, in the office of the deputy attorney general.”

“They have turned their offices into black holes into which things are meant to disappear without investigation or enforcement.

It sure does seem that way to me. Further, Truscott tell us, unless these three men decide otherwise, there are no ways to enforce U.S. law without which we do not have a government and our democracy is crippled.

”What we have (then) instead is an authoritarian regime run by a few men for the personal and political benefit of one man, President Trump.

“No one else benefits — not the citizens, not the systems by which we have until now governed ourselves, not the people who staff those systems, not the people occupying the other elective offices of the government. Only Trump.”

If I may stray slightly from the main topic, let me mention a related disturbing development – the escalating war on free speech in general and journalists in particular.

Without that First Amendment civil guarantee, an open society cannot exist and although there are plenty of other Trump administration attacks on journalists, ponder just these three that took place within just the past two weeks:

A woman, Desiree Fairooz was convicted of laughing during Jefferson Beauregard Sessions' Senate confirmation hearing in January.

A journalist was arrested for asking a question of Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price.

U.S. news organizations were entirely shut out of the Oval Office during Trump's visit with the Russian foreign minister and ambassador while Russian news agency Tass was allowed access.

Our government, our institutions, our founding documents and therefore our country are being snatched away from us and the Republicans controlling Congress have made it evident that they are going to allow this to happen.

Lucien K. Truscott IV again:

”it will take enormous outrage by the citizenry, and an act of enormous political will by their representatives, to bring a halt to this this authoritarian madness.

“Our government belongs to us — not to [Trump]. Unless we teach him this lesson, we deserve everything he does to us with the power he has so nakedly and corruptly seized in this slow-motion coup.”

The whole reason for this post is that I'm deeply curious if TGB readers who are mostly old enough to remember Watergate think I am being hyperbolic to say I believe there is a coup underway, and what other thoughts you have about the astounding government and political events of this week.

Reminder: There probably are not a lot of Trump supporters among us to provoke unseemly argument in the comments but as always, whatever you have to say, keep it civil.


Sex and Old People

On Monday we talked about language, certain words that are offensive to some people, so why not move right along to talking about sex today, elder sex, and see how it goes.

Up movie still

When I began this blog in 2004, the words “old people” and “sex” almost never appeared in the same sentence in general-interest publications, especially when young adults were doing the writing. It was just too “eeew” for them to think about mom and dad or their grandparents doing the nasty.

In the years since then, this has changed. Google it and you'll get more than 30 million returns ranging from scientific studies to videos of actual sex acts with old people.

Before we go any further and so you know where I'm coming from, let me confess that the latter of those extremes is problematic for me. I get ootchy – always have at every age - viewing even the most artistic presentations of sex in movies whether the actors have gorgeous young bodies or wrinkly old ones.

However, do not let that lead you to believe that I find sex distasteful in any way. We'll leave my history out of this beyond saying that it has been joyful and abundant. Sex is a wonderful thing. I just think it's better in private – at least for me.

As that Google search indicates, there is little reticence in any media these days about elder sex. Everybody seems to be talking about it and the idea that old people don't get it on after some certain, unspecified age has been fading. As Huffington Post reported in January,

”...The New England Journal of Medicine...surveyed 3,005 men and women, between the ages of 57 and 85 and living in the US, about their sex lives. It found that the majority of older adults who were married or had intimate partners remained sexually active well into their 80s.

“In general, sexual activity tended to decline with age, but a significant number of men and women reported engaging in intercourse, oral sex and masturbation even in their eighth and ninth decades.”

That's one of the better surveys that didn't cut off the age range at about 70 as so many others do. Another study, reported in the Daily Beast a couple of years ago, revealed similar results:

”...sex among the senior set is important, with 46 percent of men and 33 percent of women over 70 reporting that they masturbate, and 43 percent of men and 22 of women in the same age bracket saying they engage in sexual intercourse.”

I'm not so sure these studies are not undertaken so much for general knowledge as to reassure young people that sex won't stop when they get old – or doesn't need to, anyway. What isn't often discussed, however, is that the urge diminishes over time.

For 10 or 15 years, in my case, it has felt like my hormone level must have dropped by about 90 percent. Even so, I continue to believe that if the opportunity presented itself, I would be as eager as at any previous time in life.

Not that anyone has lately given me a reason to test that theory which, according to one report (HuffPo again), may limit my libido:

"Janet Gibbens, MD, a gynecologist at Providence Health Systems in Portland, OR, says: 'Use it or lose it’ has to do with the fact that regular sexual acts bring more blood flow, and therefore more oxygen, to the vagina and to the penis.

"It promotes healthier sexual organs and improves lubrication and elasticity, particularly for women. Non-intercourse forms of sex are helpful with this as well.”

As wonderful as sex is, what I miss these days of living alone is what a friend calls "skin hunger" – the deep human desire to be touched, not necessarily sexually. In answer to that need, my birthday present to myself this year was an hour-long, full-body massage which I now schedule once a month.

Lovely Still movie

It is affordable for me because the local senior center provides a masseuse at a much reduced price compared to commercial services. A highly recommend it if you aren't already way ahead of me.

Another issue with old people and sex is that it may become physically difficult depending on health conditions. The internet's long-time guru of sex in old age, Joan Price, had some nice suggestions about that at Senior Planet last year:

“Explore each other’s entire bodies,” she writes. “Our skin is our largest sex organ. Invite your partner to touch your body all over—no goals, just pleasure. On a different day, switch to exploring your partner.

“Whether you’ve known each other for a long time or just a little while, this is the body you live in now, and there’s plenty to discover about how it looks and responds.”

Just about any article you read about old people and sex includes a reminder sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) have been on the rise among elders in particular for a few years, and practicing safe sex is essential.

That makes it good to know that since 2012, Medicare Part B has allowed for free annual screenings for senior citizens for chlamydia, gonorrhea and syphilis and/or hepatitis B.

It's been awhile since I checked around the web for what it is saying about old people and sex and it has changed mostly for the better. There is little reticence about it now even when the language is sometimes ageist or too cutesy.

What shows nowadays is that old sex is a lot like young sex if you don't count frequency or athleticism, as U.S. News reported last year:

”One of the biggest misconceptions about older adults is that they lack passion, Foley says. 'Some people have had this extraordinary long-term partnership where they remain very passionate,' she says.

“'And other people who are widowed or divorced, when they fall in love and they’re in their 70s or their 80s, they feel the same way as people who fall in love in their 20s. They’re gaga for the person. And their sex is great.'”

As I've always said (and forgotten who I'm quoting), sex is the friendliest thing two people can do.

Vicious TV show