ELDER MUSIC: A Good Year for the Roses

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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Roses

Recently, as I write this, the Melbourne Cup was run (in Melbourne, big surprise). This is a horse race and the good people of Melbourne actually get a public holiday for it. Imagine that, a public holiday for a horse race.

It’s held on the same day as America’s elections. I bring this up because each year Flemington race course (where it’s held) is awash with flowers and most especially roses.

To my eyes (not being a gambler) this is the best part of the whole thing. It inspired me to write this column.

ÉDITH PIAF remains the singer against whom every other French singer is judged.

Edith Piaf

Her songs became world-wide hits and this is one of them, La Vie en Rose. Édith wrote the song herself, but due to the arcane copyright laws at the time she didn’t profit from it.

♫ Edith Piaf - La Vie en Rose


BRODERICK SMITH is one of the best, if not the best rock singer Australia has produced.

Broderick Smith

He first came to general notice as the singer for the rock group, The Dingoes. They were a fantastic live band but the quality didn’t really transfer to their records. Pity.

I’ve met him a couple of times and in person he is retiring and modest to the point of shyness, quite unlike the persona he projects on stage. This is Faded Roses.

♫ Brod Smith - Faded Roses


EMMYLOU HARRIS has seven rose songs that are worthy of inclusion.

Emmylou Harris

I had to choose one, of course, and settled on I'll Be Your San Antone Rose. That was Norma, the Assistant Musicologist’s choice as well. The song was written by Susanna Clark, the wife of the great singer/songwriter Guy Clark.

♫ Emmylou Harris - I'll Be Your San Antone Rose


While we’re on roses from that area it’d be remiss of me if I didn’t follow that song by an obvious one from BOB WILLS.

Bob Wills

He recorded a song called San Antonio Rose and then later updated it as New San Antonio Rose. It’s this latter one we have today, as it’s superior to the first one. The singer, as he is on most of Bob Wills’s records, is Tommy Duncan. Bob just makes those irritating comments throughout.

♫ Bob Wills - New San Antonio Rose


Due east of San Francisco you’ll encounter San Joaquin County. It’s the home of the city of Lodi, referenced in one of Creedence’s best songs. We’re not interested in that one today. Someone who sings about that area (and many others) is TOM RUSSELL.

Tom Russell

Tom is one of the finest songwriters around at the moment, and there’d be few others in the last 30 years who could equal him. He also sings really well, as you’ll hear on Rose of the San Joaquin.

♫ Tom Russell - The Rose of the San Joaquin


Getting back to Texas, where we were earlier, we stumble across MICHAEL MARTIN MURPHEY.

Michael Martin Murphey

The Yellow Rose of Texas was almost certainly written by a black American soldier about his mulatto gal back in Tennessee. This man, whose name is unknown, was with Sam Houston when, along with an army of “Texians”, Tennesseeans and others, attempted a large land grab (of Texas) from Mexico.

Of course, the Mexicans had already accomplished a land grab of their own (as had the French and Spanish previously). The Texians were pitted against General Antonio Lopez de Santa Anna at the Battle of San Jacinto in 1836.

Surprisingly, we know the name of the Yellow Rose. She was Emily West, later adding Morgan after her slave owner. Although from Tennessee, or possibly Bermuda, she was brought to Texas by that owner, James Morgan.

Unfortunately, the town where he set her up was overrun by the Mexicans (James had skedaddled leaving her behind) and the comely Emily caught Santa Anna’s eye. Now, Santa Ana thought he was God’s gift to women; only two weeks earlier he had married another captive, in spite of having a wife back in Mexico.

A couple of days later, Houston was up a tree spying on the Mexican camp. I’ll give him the benefit of the doubt that this was military rather than voyeurism for Santa Ana didst sport with Em and a champagne breakfast was the order of the day that morning.

Houston ordered an attack and the Mexican army was caught with their pants down, literally in the case of Santa Ana as reports from the time attest.

The Texians won and Emily was granted her freedom for her crucial service and given a ticket to New York. This is the song about her, as close to the original as is possible these days.

Michael Martin Murphey - The Yellow Rose of Texas


I’ll continue the theme of the previous song with DAVE ALVIN. It could be called a companion piece.

Dave Alvin

To my ears Dave has about the finest (male) voice currently in country and roots music. Actually, some might suggest the previous two singers would be in the running as well and I wouldn’t disagree - after all, it was I who brought that up. Anyway, here’s Dave with Black Rose of Texas, a song he wrote himself.

♫ Dave Alvin - Black Rose Of Texas


At the time everyone was surprised when NICK CAVE had KYLIE MINOGUE along to sing on his album.

Nick & Kylie

That album was called “Murder Ballads” and the combination worked well for the song Where the Wild Roses Grow. You can probably guess from the album title that Nick bumps off Kylie. Just because he can, it seems.

♫ Nick Cave - Where the Wild Roses Grow


THE STATLER BROTHERS don’t perform any more, more’s the pity.

Statler Brothers

At their best, which was the entirety of their career, they were the finest harmonizing band around. Certainly the best in country music. Here they perform Bed of Roses (or Bed of Rose’s, take your pick).

♫ Statler Brothers - Bed of Roses


From out of left field, or to be more precise, out of the fifties, I give you FRANKIE LAINE.

Frankie Laine

Listening to the words of the song, I’m struck by the parallels between it and the story of Cio-Cio-San (Madama Butterfly). In this case we don’t know if Rose topped herself after Frankie left. We hope not. See what you think about Rose, Rose I Love You.

♫ Frankie Laine - Rose Rose I Love You


The BLACK SORROWS are the brainchild of, and yet another band started by that musical national treasure, Joe Camilleri.

Black Sorrows

Joe first came to most people’s notice as the main man in Jo Jo Zep and the Falcons; that is most people in Australia. Since then he’s started half a dozen bands, all of which he keeps going. I don’t know how he does it. The Sorrows are the best known of his groups, and Harley and Rose is their best known song.

♫ Black Sorrows - Harley And Rose


I’ll end as I began with an iconic (and I use the word advisedly) singer, PATSY CLINE.

Patsy Cline

As with Édith, she is the one every subsequent country (and many other) singer is judged, and most are found wanting in comparison. I know this is unfair, but it happens.

Fortunately, we still have a lot of music that Patsy recorded. One of those is A Poor Man's Roses (Or a Rich Man's Gold).

♫ Patsy Cline - A Poor Man's Roses (Or a Rich Man's Gold)




INTERESTING STUFF – 19 January 2019

This is an extremely short Interesting Stuff today. I don't know if the internet is just less interesting this week or I'm behind in my regular rounds to see what's out there. So here are three I like.

HUSKY LOUDLY OBJECTS TO GETTING OUT OF BED

Zeus is a Husky. He doesn't want to get out of bed. As the YouTube page says,

”He likes to sleep in, which isn't always a bad thing, but when it's time to get up and go outside, he protests. He generally likes going outside in the morning and smelling for any critters that might have passed through the yard during the night. But this morning, he struggled to get motivated to get up. Can't we all relate?!”

TWO 17 YEAR OLDS TRY TO USE A ROTARY PHONE

Chuck Nyren of Advertising to Baby Boomers sent this video. Technology has come a long way in our lifetimes and what's obvious to you and me, isn't so to two teenagers.

EVEN A CAT HAS A WIFE

My friend Hank Berez sent this kitty video:

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

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




Fighting Cancer

Is cancer, do you think, the most dreaded word in the English language? If it's not, surely it is in the top five.

Nobody wants to hear that – cancer - about themselves or anyone they love and in my case, when they first told me about my pancreatic cancer in June 2017, it took awhile for me to believe it.

People may not have noticed before but once they are diagnosed and weighing potential treatments they hear a lot about “fighting” cancer. On television commercials, at websites for support groups, on teeshirts and from other patients too. “I'm going to fight this thing,” they say. “I'm going to beat it.”

A year and a half later I'm still wondering what that means, to “fight” cancer. I can't punch it in the nose. Or chase it out of town. Perhaps I'm supposed to be extra vigilant in some secret way to keep it from killing me.

Early on in my cancer odyssey, I rejected the ubiquitous vegetable diets that promise to cure cancer, along with suspicious clinics in other countries. (Do not ever forget: if there were a cure for cancer, we would all know about it.)

I was (and still am) being treated at a world-class cancer center and I figure these doctors, nurses and surgeons know a whole lot more about cancer than I could ever learn on the internet.

So I listened to them. I still do. And I do what they tell me.

The massive Whipple surgery gave me about 10 cancer-free months before two new cancers showed up. There is nothing to help, the doctors tell me now, except chemotherapy that may delay the growth of the cancers for awhile to give me some more healthy time.

So as long as the chemo gives me more good days than bad, I'll continue with the doctors' advice. But “fight” cancer? Not me.

I still don't know what it means I should do but it sounds like it would wear me out or make me unhappy. I feel healthy still most of the time and I want to live the time I have in the best possible ways. Fighting doesn't fit that.

I'm still curious, however, about what people mean when they say that.




Reasons to Visit Australia

By Peter Tibbles, the TGB Elder Music Columnist

In this country we don't have any mammals that'll do you any damage. Okay, none that'll eat you, at least. No lions or tigers or leopards or bobcats. No bears. Nothing like that. Although, I wouldn't want to take on a big red kangaroo in a fair fight, or any fight if it comes to that.

There are some birds, though. Well, a bird. The cassowary. It's related to the emu, but it has a 6-foot long spike on each foot it uses to disembowel anyone it doesn't like. Mainly dogs and feral pigs, but people have been known to be attacked.

Then there are the snakes. This is probably what we're most famous for.

There are the prosaically named black snake and brown snake (but don't let their boring names fool you), the brown snake is especially venomous. Or the wonderfully (and appropriately) named death adder.

These all pale next to the tiger snake. People always say about animals that they won't attack you if you leave them alone. Not so with this bugger. They're just naturally aggressive.

They are also the most dangerous snake on the planet (talking about the venom), although some say the Taipan (another one of ours).

In the interest of this missive I looked up my book on dangerous things. It said there are more than 85 varieties of venomous snakes in the country (and 27 known venomous sea snakes). It's a wise thing to treat any snake as dangerous (even if you encounter one of the rare ones that isn't) as most of them are.

Okay, a topic I like to avoid – spiders. There's the red-backed spider and the funnel web spider that have both caused fatalities. And there's the white-tailed spider, which, although it doesn't cause fatalities, I believe those bitten by it wish it had.

There are others but I don't want to dwell on them.

There are many species of box jelly fish. They're all very nasty (and virtually invisible). Some can cause cardiac arrest in about 15 minutes. They've recently found another jelly fish that doesn't take anywhere near that amount of time to do the same.

Fortunately, for us folks down south, these only occur in northern waters, off the coast of Queensland, Northern Territory and the north part of Western Australia. It means you can't go swimming there between about November and April. Well, you can but you'd be pretty stupid.

We folks down south don't have that problem. Okay, there are sharks (and sting rays) down here, but they don't attack too many people so it's all right (apart from the people they gobble up, of course).

Let's not forget the stone-fish. These are found all around the coast and, as their name suggests, look like stones. They like shallow areas of the sea and remain stationary on the bottom until someone steps on them.

I defer to the book again. It says

"The stone-fish is the most venomous fish known. It immediately causes fearful pain and a person can become almost demented and thrash around in agony. A number die."

It also says that they can live out of the water for surprising lengths of time.

There’s the blue-ringed octopus which is very pretty. Its bite is painless and may seem harmless. However, the neurotoxins begin working immediately causing muscular weakness, numbness, cessation of breathing and death. This happens in minutes. There is no antidote.

Then there are the irukandji, sometimes known as “killer jellyfish”. There’s a good reason for that nickname. The problem with these is that they are tiny and essentially invisible. According to reports, irukandji jellyfish's stings are so severe they can cause fatal brain haemorrhages.

I won’t dwell further, you can look them up if you’re so inspired.

There are crocodiles, of course. Again, only in the north. It's only the salt water crocodiles that are a problem. They are protected, so they're having a fine old time breeding like mad.

They've been known to turn up in swimming pools in Darwin. That'd rather startle you, I imagine: wandering out of the house, diving into the pool and half way down thinking, "Oh shit".

The fresh water ones are vegetarians (okay, not really, and smaller – the salties are BIG buggers) and won't attack unless you annoy them, unlike the salties. Now, of course, who in their right mind would think "Lordy, I'm bored, I think I'll go out and annoy a crocodile"?

Ah, let's consider the plant kingdom. Not those poisonous berries and the like that every country has. No, we'll travel north (yet again) to FNQ (far north Queensland), somewhere around Cairns. I didn't know about these until about 20 years ago when I was up there.

We went for a trek through a national park. This had to be with a ranger. She pointed to a plant and said "Take a good look at this and don't touch it. I mean it. DON'T TOUCH IT".

It seems that it's an interesting evolutionary product. Its leaves are covered in tiny silicon barbs and you only have to touch them and they stick into your skin. They are apparently extremely painful. As they are silicon based rather than carbon they don't rot away and over time some people have been known to have them stuck in their skin for years, driving them crazy with the pain.

It's been said that it's a wonder that any Australians manage to live to adulthood.

After all this, I can see you packing your bags, ringing Qantas and winging off to try the wonderful adventures in the land of Oz.




In the Space Between Life and Death

Leafing through the notebook where I record information from meetings with various physicians and nurses, I found several estimates of the time I have left on earth. They have different shadings of meaning.

One tells me that if I had rejected the chemo I now take every two weeks, I'd have nine to 12 months. Another says six to eight months WITH chemo. A third thinks the chemo will give me up to a year. And so on.

Of course, these are guesses. But they are based on these professionals' experience with many cancer patients and the differences come in because each patient's body is different as is each cancer.

This only points out that however much we want to believe we have control over our lives, we do not. (Leaving physician-assisted suicide available in a few U.S. States and other countries aside), death will find each of us when he or she decides our time here is done.

Following my terminal cancer diagnosis, I have gradually come to spend my time now in a middle space between life and death. Or, sometimes, in both places at once.

Living has become both larger and smaller. Smaller in the sense that I don't much want to go anywhere. I have no bucket list and unless someone is paying for a first class ticket, I'm never getting on an airplane again – it's inhumane the way the airlines pack people into coach.

At home, I love spending time with friends and soon, with my newly-found son and his family when they move to a new home near me. I am also dismayed in the best possible way by the people who have offered to help. So far, I haven't needed it, but the time will come when I will.

Small pleasures I've enjoyed for much of a lifetime have become even more precious. Letting hot water flow over my body in the shower for longer than I should. The way the morning sun shines through the living room windows. The murder of crows (or ravens or blackbirds; I don't the difference) who yell at each other in the parking lot here most days make laugh every time.

I smile and laugh at a lot more things now than I did before this happened.

On a much larger scale, I am spending time with the greatest mystery of humankind, the one we try to ignore for most of our lives: that we all die.

Although the sense of peace about dying along with the understanding I gained in my psilocybin session that death is sort of like the other side of life and not something to fear has stuck with me, my mind sometimes wanders to the idea of my no longer being here.

“I” live in this particular building. “My” stuff is gathered in this space. “I” move around, “I” talk to people, “I” go places, “I” have an impact on others as they do on me. Can that “I” just disappear?

As hard as I try, I cannot imagine a world without me. The morning after my psilocybin session, I asked my guide over breakfast if s/he can imagine the world without being in it.

The guide thought carefully about this for several minutes and said no, couldn't do it. And this is a person who has been using hallucinogens and guiding others through sessions with them for a couple of decades.

I have dark periods when I think about the day I die and sometimes the thought gets really stupid. Don't laugh, but if I choose to use Oregon's physician-assisted suicide law, I have wondered what I would wear that day. What clothes do I want to die in.

Do I want to be in bed or in a chair or lounging on the sofa? Oh, come on, Ronni. Where do these thoughts come from? It's usually on the couple of days that heavy fatigue kicks in after chemotherapy.

Even with all that, what I have noticed about myself in the three weeks since the psilocybin session is that the peacefulness I now have in relation to dying has extended to daily life.

It shows up in that old phrase about taking time to smell the roses. I feel like an idiot saying that but I've mostly been in a hurry all my life. I'm not anymore. I'm more comfortable day-to-day than I've felt in most of life and its not too much of a stretch to say that this space where I am now between life and death is among the happiest of my life.




ELDER MUSIC: 1950 Yet Again

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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Here I am, turning five years old this year and starting to take an interest in music.

The GUY MITCHELL song, The Roving Kind is the first song I can consciously remember having heard.

Guy Mitchell

Naturally, I'd've heard other songs before, but this is the one that has stuck in my memory. I was visiting the next door neighbors, the Harringtons, and we were in their kitchen and the song came on the radio.

As I mentioned, I turned five in 1950, but that was later in the year, so statistically it's most likely I was four when this occurred.

♫ Guy Mitchell - The Roving Kind


I certainly didn’t notice MEL TORMÉ at the time.

Mel Torme

It took a little while for his style of music to seep into my brain, but it eventually did. Back in 1950 though, we have Mel singing Careless Hands.

♫ Mel Torme - Careless Hands


Anticipating what was going to happen in only a few years, AMOS MILBURN seemed to be quite prescient.

Amos Milburn

Perhaps it was something else entirely, as back then rock and roll meant something else from what it later became. See what you think with Let's Rock a While.

♫ Amos Milburn - Let's Rock A While-2


I’ve always associated the next song with Bing Crosby, but I thought I’d try a different version for you. This time it’s DINAH SHORE.

Dinah Shore

I really liked this song until I listen to the words, and then it creeps me out. It sounds as if she’s singing about the Midwich Cuckoos or the Stepford Wives. Maybe that’s just me; make up your own mind about Dear Hearts and Gentle People.

♫ Dinah Shore - Dear Hearts and Gentle People


When I saw the name of this song I nearly gagged. However, I noticed that it was the INK SPOTS, so I'll forgive them.

Ink Spots

It's still a cheesy song but the group just about makes it listenable. The song is Who Do You Know In Heaven (That Made You The Angel You Are). I don’t always include songs I really like.

♫ Ink Spots - Who Do You Know In Heaven (That Made You The Angel You Are)


Band leader JOHNNY OTIS discovered Esther Jones in a talent show when she was 14. He was really impressed and made a recording of her and added her to his traveling troupe, renaming her LITTLE ESTHER.

Esther later took the name Esther Phillips. The song we have today is a duet with Esther singing with MEL WALKER, backed by Johnny’s band, of course.

Esther, Mel & Johnny

The song, Cupid's Boogie, made the top of the R&B charts.

♫ Little Esther - Cupid's Boogie


LESTER FLATT AND EARL SCRUGGS were a bluegrass duo who also fronted the band The Foggy Mountain Boys.

Flatt & Scruggs

Some of you may think you’re unfamiliar with their music, but I bet you know at least one of their songs: they recorded the theme for The Beverly Hillbillies TV program. That’s not what we have, that one came much later.

Instead is probably their most famous tune Foggy Mountain Breakdown. Anyone who wants to play this style of music must know how to play this one. It has also been used in TV programs and films, most notably in “Bonnie and Clyde”.

♫ Lester Flatt and Earl Scruggs - Foggy Mountain Breakdown


Around this time, Doowop was very popular. For some reason, many of the groups had bird names, and the one we have today is no exception. THE RAVENS were formed a few years earlier by Jimmy Ricks and Warren Suttles.

Ravens

The group was considered the standard against which all other similar groups were measured, particularly Jimmy, their bass singer. Count Every Star was the group’s biggest hit.

♫ The Ravens - Count Every Star


Although he thought of himself as a jazz singer, to most of us FRANKIE LAINE seemed to make a career singing themes to western movies and TV programs, and songs of a similar bent.

Frankie Laine

We have one of those today, Mule Train. This was featured in a film (“Singing Guns”) but was performed by Vaughn Monroe in that one. Frankie’s version took it to the top of the charts.

Frankie Laine - Mule Train


1950 was the year that my grandmother from England came out to visit us. She arrived by ship as people did back then. We lived in a country town about 400 kms from Melbourne and she was dumbstruck about the distance we traveled to return home (by train).

"We're still in the same state", we told her, "and it's the smallest one on the mainland".

Anyway, her name was Lucy and there was a song popular at the time called Put Your Shoes on Lucy that my sister and I would sing to her. Well, you know how kids are. The singer on record (rather than us) was RUSS MORGAN.

Russ Morgan

When I noticed this song on the 1950 list, I knew I had to include it, if only for my sister and me (and gran).

♫ Russ Morgan - Put Your Shoes on Lucy




INTERESTING STUFF – 12 JANUARY 2019

NEW OLD PEOPLE ARE GOING TO SUCK

At least that's what comedian Lachlan Paterson says. Some of his routine made me laugh – ageism is a tricky business. What do you think?

LATEST IN THE NYT OLDEST OLD SERIES

For several years years, one of the finest reporters at The New York Times, John Leland, has been hanging out with six old, old people in New York City to report on their lives in a series of excellent stories. (Here is a page with links to the individual stories).

The series also resulted in a book, Happiness Is a Choice You Make: Lessons from a Year Among the Oldest Old.

Leland's latest update on his subjects was published last week. One of them, 95-year-old Ruth Willig,

”...gave thanks for larger gifts this year: as she stayed mostly the same, her family changed around her.

“'I dare not talk about not surviving,' she said one afternoon in her apartment, where balloons in the shape of a 9 and 5 held their last whiffs of helium. 'My children, my son especially, say, “Oh, Ma, you’re going to keep going forever.” 'The thought of my passing is very upsetting to him.'

“Ms. Willig could not help noting the passage of time, especially the absence of her three siblings. Once the youngest, she was now the last of her generation. 'It’s weird to be the only one left, it really is,' she said. I can’t really call anyone: do you remember this? It was not easy at first. I’m getting used to it.'”

Here's a short video from early 2018 of John Leland explaining what he has learned about facing death from his series subjects:

SOMETHING TO ENTERTAIN THE GRANDKIDS

TGB reader, Celia Andrews sent this video of some ideas to get the grandkids off their tablets and other screens:

U.S. FERTILITY DROPS FOR SEVENTH YEAR IN A ROW

...and way too many places are reporting this change as a disaster: From The Daily Beast:

“It may not be all doom and gloom, said Donna Strobino, a professor at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health. 'I think it may stabilize once women who have been postponing pregnancy have the births they are planning to have.'”

Doom and gloom? It's a huge part of climate change that there are way too many people for our poor ol' stretched-to-the-limit planet to support.

U.S. CANCER DEATH NUMBERS DROP

...since its peak of 215.1 American deaths per 100,000 people in 1991, the cancer death rate dropped steadily by about 1.5% per year to 156 per 100,000 people in 2016, an overall decline of 27%.

The is good news for individuals but also probably wipes out the gains from lower birth rate. A more detailed report at CNN.

HISTORY OF THE WORLD ACCORDING TO CATS

Well, the headline is a bit of a misnomer – it's more just a history cat and human interaction through the eons.

VANCE HINDS' AMAZING WEIGHT LOSS

Wow. And I thought it was a struggle to lose 40-odd pounds in one year a few years back. This guy had lot further to go than I did and his progress is remarkable. Take a look:

BENJAMIN FRANKLIN INVENTED THE ROCKING CHAIR

I knew Ben Franklin invented a lot of things we still use today but when I bought my new rocking chair, I had no idea that Ben Franklin invented it.

You can read a list of lot more interesting stuff he invented at Mental Floss.

BABY DEER RESCUE AND RELEASE

This video is longer than I usually post – 17 minutes – but I think it's worth your time. It will make you feel good.

There is a follow-up video one year later here..

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

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




Some Things I'm Finished With Forever

It's not just shopping, as I mentioned on Wednesday, that I can give up with this terminal cancer diagnosis. There are a bunch of other things I never need to think about again and I'm pleased as punch to let them go.

Back in early October my oncologist, the chief hematology nurse and a social worker gathered in a room to tell me that my two new cancers could not be cured but that certain chemotherapy might extend the amount of “healthy” life I would have before symptoms of the cancers begin to take over.

My first thought then was, “A-a-a-ll R-i-i-ight! I just went through my exercise routine for the last time ever this morning.”

For years and years, at least five days a week, I had hated every moment of every workout and I'm happy to be done with it.

Here are some of the other things I have ditched:

I don't need to worry about getting dementia anymore.

I can eat anything I want. In fact, that chief hematology nurse has impressed on me more than once that I need to keep my weight up to avoid frailty.

So I can eat all the high calorie, high fat food I want and in fact, she told me not to worry that it may be unhealthy, that the cancer will kill me long before the diet would.

No need to bother to learn the metric system now.

I can stop feeling guilty about not texting. It's just not my thing.

No more major dental work.

I can stop worrying that I am hopelessly behind in keeping up with new music and movies. I have no reason to care now.

Think of all the time that list frees up. If you've got any suggestions of what else I might give up, I'm eager to hear and will consider them all.




Shopping With Terminal Cancer

It's impressive, I've discovered, how a terminal diagnosis simplifies one's life. Today's little change in how I now spend my time was a surprise. It snuck up on me having been in effect for awhile before I realized it.

In fact, it might not even be worth mentioning except that I think it could be one of the ways people in my predicament (and possibly others) begin to disengage from the world around them in increments to be able to leave peaceably when the time comes.

For starters, in the past few weeks I've been clearing out my email subscriptions so that many fewer show up in my inbox.

One category is news and politics. Do I really need four newsletters from The New York Times and an equal number from the Washington Post? Hardly. Headlines are enough.

That applies to 40 or 50 other publications I've now pared down to one email each and unsubscribed altogether from about three-quarters of them that are duplicate points of view.

It was a shock to find out that I had 103 Google Alerts on a variety of political and ageing topics, each one of which dropped an email on me at least weekly and often daily. I certainly didn't read most of them.

I've kept only 11.

Gone too are computer- and internet-related newsletters. I don't need to know that stuff anymore. Also music, TV and movie promotions. I don't spend much time with those now. Besides, I have access to more than enough to keep me entertained.

But the biggest category of email I've dropped is shopping. Undoubtedly you know how that works: every place you ever bought anything online, even once 20 years ago, emails adverts forever and sells your email address to a bunch of other retailers who also email you and sell your address and so on – it piles up over the years.

Worse, retail may be the biggest category of website I've noticed where many do not honor unsubscribe requests. I got fed up trying and now I just label them all junk so they don't land in my inbox.

Here's what I've learned about shopping while terminally ill:

The only things I need to purchase now are food and bathroom tissue. You can quibble over such items as toothpaste but you get the idea: Necessities only. I've never liked shopping in general and now I've lost all interest.

I don't need to buy clothing ever again. Books too, unless wildly compelling; there are already too many unread ones in my house that won't get read before I die.

The computer and related paraphernalia will last until I'm gone. There is no reason now to replace bedding, towels, kitchen equipment, worn furniture, carpeting or any kind of decorative item.

I'm done with all that and happily so while thinking it would have been smart to have applied some of these measures for the past 40 or 50 years. Oh well – too late now.

But wait. My shopping abstinence is not total and I cannot explain why this happened:

Long before my cancer diagnosis – maybe four or five years ago – I saw a rocking chair online I wanted. Then I thought better of it. Until I didn't and I stared at it on my computer screen from time to time. Years went by in this manner.

The rocking chair came to mind again shortly after the doctors told me there is no treatment for my cancer. For reasons I haven't worked out, I still wanted it – strange when your personal sell-by date is imminent - but there you are; we humans are nothing if not inconsistent.

And so it arrived yesterday.

Matilda+Rocking+Chair

And now, having reduced my computer screen time by ridding myself of hundreds of emails a day, I'll have plenty of time to use the rocker of an evening by the fire.