Last Week’s Links

What Were People Reading in the Summer of ’69?

cover: Valley of the Dolls

We’re seeing a lot of articles this summer about that pivotal summer of 50 years ago. This one informs us that, in 1969, The Love Machine by Jacqueline Susann was the #1 novel, The Godfather by Mario Puzo was #2, Portnoy’s Complaint by Philip Roth was #3, and The Andromeda Strain by Michael Crichton was #4.

Do you remember reading those novels? I don’t think I’ve ever read The Love Machine, although I did read Valley of the Dolls. I do remember reading both The Godfather and Portnoy’s Complaint, both of which I enjoyed but wasn’t particularly affected by. But I vividly remember throwing the hardcover edition of The Andromeda Strain across the room as soon as I finished it because the cop-out ending so infuriated me.

It’s All Greek to You and Me, So What Is It to the Greeks?

In a wide-ranging number of languages, major and minor, from all different branches of the language family tree, there is some version of “It’s Greek to me.” These idioms all seek to describe one person’s failure to understand what the other is trying to say, but in a particular, dismissive way. It’s not just, “Sorry, I can’t understand you.” It’s saying, “The way you’re speaking right now is incomprehensible.” And it specifically compares that incomprehensibility to a particular language, a language agreed upon in that culture to be particularly impenetrable.

A wide-ranging exploration into the many different forms of the idiom “It’s all Greek to me.”

ZERNA SHARP, 91, DIES IN INDIANA; ORIGINATED ‘DICK AND JANE’ TEXTS

cover: Dick and Jane

Last Monday, August 12 (1889), marked the birthday of the woman who developed the Dick and Jane books that many of us learned with in our early school years. This article is a digitized version of The New York Times obituary that marked her 1981 death.

Miss Sharp did not write the books, but worked with an illustrator, Eleanor B. Campbell, and several others to produce the texts. In the books, only one new word was introduced on each page and no individual story introduced more than five new words. The illustrations showed the characters carrying out the action of the words.

Liz Weston column: Will you be a scam artist’s next target?

Since people age 50 and older control 83% of the wealth in the U.S., they are often the target of scammers. Business writer Liz Weston offers some specific suggestions on how to become less susceptible to scammers’ efforts.

Weston advises that, since overconfidence can make us part with our money unwisely, we should get a second opinion on financial decisions “from a trusted adviser or money-smart friend.” She also has some advice on steering clear of romance scams, which loneliness can increase our susceptibility to.

11 Groovy Books That Will Transport You Back to the ‘60s

Since we began with books from the 1960s, it seems right to end with the same topic. This article, as the title suggests, references both books originally from the 1960s—such as Helter Skelter by Vincent Bugliosi, The Graduate by Charles Webb, and Slouching Towards Bethlehem by Joan Didion—and books written later about that era—such as 11/22/63 by Stephen King, The Girls by Emma Cline, and The Road to Woodstock by Michael Lang.

© 2019 by Mary Daniels Brown

Last Week’s Links

On Keeping a Notebook: A Reading List

A lot has been written on the why and how of keeping a notebook or journal. Here writer, editor, and translator Jeanne Bonner explains, “You can always write in a notebook — on a plane, in the car, even while out on a lake in a canoe. It’s almost never a breach of etiquette to pull out a notebook.”

She provides a list of, with links to, eight in-depth articles that “explore the joys of keeping a notebook and the art of writing longhand.”

Study finds guns automatically prime aggressive thoughts — even when wielded by a ‘good guy’

Since the 60s, studies have tested whether the presence of a gun increases measured aggression in participants. The results of these studies have confirmed that the presence of a gun does indeed prime aggressive thoughts, a phenomenon referred to as the “weapons effect.”

This article discusses the results of a recent study published in Social Psychological and Personality Science.

Binge drinking is increasing among seniors, study finds

I unthinkingly associate binge drinking with young adults, so this article caught my eye. 

A report published July 31 in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society found that more than 10% of people over age 65 engage in binge drinking, defined in the study as consumption of five or more alcoholic drinks at a time. 

Moreover, the study found that such binge drinking among older adults is on the rise. The study’s lead researcher, Dr. Benjamin Han, assistant professor of geriatric medicine at NYU Langone Health in New York City, theorizes that the increase may be occurring because older women are catching up to older men, whose rate of binge drinking remained relatively stable between 2005 and 2014.

Han also says, “‘Many organizations, such as the U.S. National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism [NIAAA], recommend lower drinking levels as people get older or have more chronic diseases.’”

Novels That Explore the 1970s

Over time, I’ve posted a lot of articles, mostly nostalgic, about the 1960s, the decade during which I came of age. But I was a new adult in the following decade, the 1970s, and was therefore continuing my maturing process.

If the ’60s had been a decade in which young people focused their attention on making changes in their society, the ’70s has often been called “the me decade,” as individuals turned their attention inward in hopes of finding peace from outside chaos. The enormous social problems people had protested in the 1960s didn’t disappear, but for a variety of reasons, social issues didn’t seem as compelling to many people as the need to change themselves. Self-help became big business.

Here’s a list of novels set during that time:

  • The Summer of Ellen by Agnete Friis  
  • Daisy Jones & The Six by Taylor Jenkins Reid  
  • Drop City by T.C. Boyle  
  • Beatlebone by Kevin Barry  
  • Surfacing by Margaret Atwood  
  • The Bluest Eye by Toni Morrison  
  • A Brief History of Seven Killings by Marlon James  T
  • he Interestings by Meg Wolitzer  
  • City on Fire by Garth Risk Hallberg  
  • Everything I Never Told You by Celeste Ng  
  • All the Beautiful Girls by Elizabeth J. Church  
  • Motherless Brooklyn by Jonathan Lethem  
  • Unworthy by Antonio Monda  
  • Rusty Brown by Chris Ware  
  • Sons and Daughters of Ease and Plenty by Ramona Ausubel  
  • Hippie by Paulo Coelho

More older adults die from cancer despite high screening rates

A recent report published in CA: A Cancer Journal for Clinicians found that “the fastest-growing age group in the United States, adults older than age 85 have higher incidences and death rates from cancer than those between ages 65 and 84.”

“The purpose of our study was to provide a comprehensive review of cancer in the oldest old using the most up to date national data,” Carol Desantis, a researcher at American Cancer Society and study author, told UPI. “We hope that these data spur additional research on cancer in this vulnerable and rapidly growing population.”

© 2019 by Mary Daniels Brown

Last Week’s Links

Want To Feel Happier Today? Try Talking To A Stranger

I always wear my noise-cancelling headphones on planes, even though I don’t always switch them on. I unabashedly admit that I do this to discourage the person—any person—crushed into the seat next to me from trying to strike up a conversation with me. Many of us also fool around with our phones to avoid actual interaction with people around us in any public place.

But this article might change our behavior, with its discussion of research suggesting that even “seemingly trivial encounters with the minor characters in our lives — the random guy at the dog park or the barista at our local coffee shop — can affect feelings of happiness and human connection on a typical day.”

Why a Thriving Civilization in Malta Collapsed 4,000 Years Ago

When we visited Malta in 2018, we toured the site of an ancient temple that had been discovered and excavated in the late 20th century. Now the site is protected by a canvas awning as excavation continues, but our tour guide told us that her grandmother remembered playing as a child on what was then thought to be just a pile of rocks.

ancient temple, Malta
ancient temple, Malta

This article therefore caught my eye. The temple on Malta, among the earliest known free-standing buildings, preceded Stonehenge by about 1,000 years but apparently lasted only about 1,500 years before disappearing. Scientists believe that studying the rise and fall of the early culture on this island nation can help with “understanding change in the wider world.”

Surviving Woodstock

If you happen to have an extra $800 burning a hole in your pocket, “On the fiftieth anniversary of the festival, a thirty-six-hour boxed set reveals some truths behind baby-boomer myths.”

Woodstock almost immediately became a myth. Shortly after the festival, Abbie Hoffman speed-wrote and then published “Woodstock Nation,” giving texture to the idea that those who had been at the event constituted a new generation: “I took a trip to our future. That’s how I saw it. Functional anarchy, primitive tribalism, gathering of the tribes. Right on! What did it all mean? Sheet, what can I say, brother, it blew my mind out.”

Bonus: If you’re looking for information that’s a bit more accessible, Publishers Weekly has you covered with a long list of books celebrating the 50th anniversary of Woodstock.

50 MUST-READ FICTION BOOKS FEATURING OLDER WOMEN

In my other life I blog about books. And as I have gotten older myself, I’ve become interested in how older adults, particularly older women, are portrayed in literature.In my other life I blog about books.

Heather Bottoms had a similar experience when she turned 50 last year and now as she approaches 51. Here she offers a substantial list of novels featuring older women as characters. “The women in these stories range in age from age 50 to 110 and represent a wide variety of experiences, personalities, and genres. All these novels feature older women as crucial characters.”

Although she lists many books that I haven’t read, I heartily second her recommendation of the following books:

Cover: Lillian Boxfish Takes a Walk
  • The Stone Diaries by Carol Shields  
  • Still Alice by Lisa Genova  
  • Lillian Boxfish Takes a Walk by Kathleen Rooney  
  • Olive Kitteridge by Elizabeth Strout  
  • The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo by Taylor Jenkins Reid  
  • Broken for You by Stephanie Kallos  
  • Breathing Lessons by Anne Tyler

Bonus: Her opening paragraph contains a link to the list she compiled last year around her 50th birthday.

© 2019 by Mary Daniels Brown

Last Week’s Links

Why Creepy Neighbors Are Perfect for Domestic Thrillers

How many times have you read a good thriller or mystery novel involving the new neighbors next door? Novelist Allison Dickson, author of The Other Mrs. Miller, explains why neighbors are such good novelistic material.

the one thing that might make your neighbors more interesting fodder for a thriller than family is that when relations turn sour on the other side of the street or fence, there’s no easy way out. You can usually hang up on problematic family member and ignore their calls for a few days, but the dwelling next door and your new mortal enemy living in it isn’t going anywhere. Whether by lease or mortgage, you’re both invested for the long term and have staked your claim. You have to find a way to resolve things, or risk of becoming a prisoner in your own home.

SLOBS, REJOICE: WHY YOU SHOULDN’T CLEAN YOUR MESSY DESK

I had heard quite a while ago that a messy desk is often a sign of creativity, but it’s always nice to have my excuse for a messy desk reinforced.

Experts say disorder stimulates creativity because physical artifacts can trigger people to draw connections between separate ideas — ones already in your head and seemingly unrelated — to generate novel solutions. It’s a process known as “psychological bricolage,” according to Jeffrey Sanchez-Burks, a professor of management and organizations at the University of Michigan.

Is the Internet Making Writing Better?

As a former English teacher, I was appalled when textspeak such as “where r u?” entered everyday speech. But in this article Katy Waldman reviews Because Internet: Understanding the New Rules of Language by linguist Gretchen McCulloch. 

“It’s only with the rise of the Internet that a truly casual, willfully ephemeral prose has ascended—and become central to daily life,” Waldman writes.

It’s only with the rise of the Internet that a truly casual, willfully ephemeral prose has ascended—and become central to daily life.

And do you know the difference between lol and LOL? It’s a subtle but real difference, according to McCulloch.

Electric Reads Set in the ’60s

For those of us who came of age in the 1960s:

November Road by Lou Berney

In these 16 historical fiction novels set in the ’60s, authors tackle some of the decade’s transformations and predicaments, its quandaries and triumphs. Each read is a great place to begin untangling the decade’s legacy.

I would add to this list November Road by Lou Berney.

ARE YOU CLIMATE HOMESICK? HE’S GOT A WORD FOR THAT

Solastalgia describes the feeling of distress caused by environmental change, and it was coined by Australian environmental philosopher Glenn Albrecht. “It was important to give that feeling a name because it was missing from our language,” Albrecht says from his small farm in Australia’s Hunter Valley region in the eastern state of New South Wales.

Bonus: See also Every Day is Earth Day: 365 Books to Start Your Climate Change Library

© 2019 by Mary Daniels Brown

Last Week’s Links

Margaret Hamilton’s sister shares her memories as Seattle’s seniors celebrate the 50th anniversary of the moon landing

Seattle resident Katherine Heafield is the younger sister of Margaret Hamilton, who developed the flight software for the Apollo program. She was one of many who gathered at a moon landing commemoration party at the Greenwood Senior Center on Friday to reminisce.

Immune cells invade aging brains, disrupt new nerve cell formation

Stanford researchers have found intrusive immune cells in a place in the brains of humans and older mice where new nerve cells are born. The intruders appear to impair nerve cell generation.

Richard Russo: On the Moral Power of Regret

One of the most memorable novels I’ve ever read is Richard Russo’s Empire Falls (2001). When I came across this essay by Russo, I knew I had to stop and take the time to settle in with it. I hope you learn from it as much as I did.

Can Alzheimer’s be stopped? Five lifestyle behaviors are key, new research suggests

Recently researchers reported at the Alzheimer’s Association International Conference that people—even those with a genetic risk for dementia—may be able to stave off cognitive decline by following at least four of these five lifestyle behaviors:

  • not smoking  
  • exercising at a moderate to vigorous level for at least 150 minutes a week
  •  consuming a brain-supporting diet  
  • consuming only light to moderate amounts of alcohol  
  • engaging in cognitive activities

The article includes suggestions for healthy eating.

ON THE LONGEVITY OF ADRIENNE RICH

Holly Genovese wonders why Adrienne Rich “has stayed relevant when other writers of the ’70s feminist movements have not.”

But I think, if I could guess, that Rich’s continuous appeal over the last 50 years is more about her absolute certainty that politics and art were intrinsically linked, that art was meaningless without political consciousness, that nothing could exist within a vacuum, and that choosing not to take a stand was in fact choosing the side of the oppressor.

And Rich continues to be relevant because “In the last few years, since the election of Donald Trump, it has become impossible not to be political. To be apolitical is to support the growth of fascism, white nationalism, and the downfall of the republic.”

As always, the personal is political.

A hospital introduced a robot to help nurses. They didn’t expect it to be so popular

In the face of a long-term nursing shortage, the Austin-based company Diligent Robotics has developed a robot to reduce nurses’ work load by performing tasks “that don’t involve interacting with patients, like running errands around the floor or dropping off specimens for analysis at a lab.” 

But the company was unprepared for one result of the robotic trial run:

the Diligent team was surprised to find that patients were fascinated by the robot and wanted to interact with it during their beta trials. Patients ended up being so infatuated with Moxi that they would ask for selfies with the robot; one child even sent Diligent Robotics a letter asking where Moxi lived.

The robot was so popular that the Diligent team programmed superfluous activities for Moxi to do once an hour so that the robot would wander around the floor and flash heart eyes at people.

© 2019 by Mary Daniels Brown

Last Week’s Links

A sampling of some of the most interesting items that caught my eye over the last week.

KODAK GOT THE DIGITAL PICTURE TOO LITTLE, TOO LATE

Here’s an interesting article on how Kodak, author of all those famous “Kodak moments,” missed the boat by refusing to accept and adapt to the advent of digital photography.

6 EASY HOW-TO COMPUTER BOOKS FOR NEW TECH USERS

Two books on this list are aimed specifically at us older folks:

  • Computers for Seniors: Email, Internet, Photos, and More in 14 Easy Lessons by Chris Ewin, Carrie Ewin, and Cheryl Ewin
  • Computers for Seniors For Dummies by Nancy C. Muir 

Don’t let the title of that second one get your goat. The For Dummies series is well known and even somewhat loved. When you need information on a subject you know absolutely nothing about, the For Dummies guide is often a good place to start.

Study: Retirees lose by taking Social Security at wrong time

Sarah Skidmore Sell reports for The Associated Press on a new study revealing that many older Americans aren’t maximizing their retirement income from Social Security, which “accounts for about one-third of all income annually received by U.S. retirees.” The study concludes that “optimizing Social Security would improve the lives of millions of retirees,” but there is very little information here about how individuals can figure this out for themselves.

HOW SMART TECH IS HELPING DOCTORS BATTLE DEMENTIA

Mention “dementia research” and most people will probably think of scientists looking for biomedical ways to diagnose, treat and eventually cure degenerative brain diseases. But there is also a burgeoning research program that aims to improve care for the increasing numbers of people living with dementia — estimated at 850,000 in the United Kingdom and 50 million worldwide.

Half of women over 40 say older women in fiction are clichés, survey finds

A recent survey by Gransnet, the UK’s biggest social media site for older people, and publisher HQ (HarperCollins) found that 51% of women over 40 “feel older women in fiction books tend to fall into clichéd roles.” Here are some of the most interest findings from the survey:

  • 47% of women over 40 say there are not enough books about middle-aged or older women.
  •  “when older characters do appear in fiction, half of women (50%) say they’ve seen them being portrayed as baffled by smartphones, computers or the internet – and think it’s insulting.”
  • 75% buy their books online.

As a result of the survey findings, Gransnet and HQ are launching a fiction writing competition for women writers over age 40. The article contains more information on both the survey and the writing competition. 

© 2019 by Mary Daniels Brown

Last Week’s Links

In preparing this post for publication, I realize that all these pieces revolve around remembrance.

On the Intoxicating Power of Forgetting Where You Came From

In this excerpt from the book A Primer for Forgetting: Getting Past the Past, author Lewis Hyde “explores the egoism of memory and self-making.” Hyde tells an anecdote about Larry Rosenberg, a teacher from the Insight Meditation Center in Cambridge, Massa­chusetts, visiting the Tenement Museum on the Lower East Side of Manhattan, a preserved building much like the one Rosenberg grew up in. What most caught my eye was this:

Rosenberg told this story in the context of a talk about a distinction he draws from Buddhist teaching between “real time” and “psychological time.” With real time, we do not dwell on (or dwell in) the past or the future but simply note them (saying, “I grew up in New York” or “When I retire I’m going to Florida,” and so on). With psychological time, on the other hand, past and future take over the present; we live in them, identifying with their pleasures and pains. As the Bud­dhists say, we “make self” out of them (as I might make self out of my pride in publishing a book or my shame over having flunked a chemistry exam).

This distinction between these two kinds of time describes the difference between mere facts, such as date of birth, and those experiences that we incorporate into our life story, the narrative of personal events we build up over time to help us make sense of the world and our unique place in it.

Where Are All the Books About Menopause?

Having undergone a hysterectomy at age 44, Sarah Manguso ponders how “For women, aging is framed as a series of losses—of fertility, of sexuality, of beauty. But it can be a liberation, too.”

The Clarks Originals You Didn’t Even Know You Needed (Until Now)

This is not an advertisement from me (although it is an endorsement from Esquire) but rather a reminiscence. 

Do you remember Clark Wallabees?

Clark Wallabee

First debuted in 1967, the Wallabee has more than a half-century of history behind it. Originally based on a German-designed moccasin, the style didn’t catch on in Clarks’ native Britain initially. But it enjoyed success in North America, and it was a runaway hit in Jamaica. See, Jamaican “rude boys” had already adopted the desert boot—which was launched in 1950—as part of their de facto uniform, and the associated criminal activity made the footwear a target for police. When Wallees came onto the scene, they were immediately brought into the fold.

The article goes on to explain that Wallabees became popular in the U.S. because of “the influx of Jamaican immigrants to New York in the ’80s.”

I bought my Wallabees in the early 1970s, on a trip to San Francisco. I had to learn not to tie them tightly, like sneakers, but more loosely to allow for the shoes’ lower fit on the foot. Once I learned that trick, I wore them all around San Francisco (although I did not wear accompanying flowers in my hair) and for a long time afterwards. 

I hadn’t thought about Wallabees for a long time. What a pleasant surprise to see them recommended as an acceptable fashion accessory for young adult males.

Apollo 11 at 50: Space program transfixed Americans, changed pop culture

UPI asserts that humans’ first walk on the moon by Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin on July 20, 1969, was the culmination of a craze that since 1961 “had influenced pop culture — entertainment, architecture, fashion, consumer goods and language.”

Words linked to space were everywhere, with American space explorers called astronauts and the Russian counterparts called cosmonauts. People found ways to use “liftoff,” “launch” and “rendezvous” for purposes other than space talk. And phrases “space cadet,” “it’s not rocket science” and “spaced out” became commonplace.

The article goes on to list how the space craze’s influence showed up in all kinds of ways: toys, candy, cars, television, movies, music, fashion, architecture, Disney World (Florida). In Houston, where the astronauts trained, the baseball team the Colt 45s was renamed the Astros. They soon had a new indoor home, the Astrodome, which opened in 1962.

The moon landing was “a demonstration of what the human species could achieve,” but in the next five to six years the “feel-good moments were gone,” replaced by “the 1-2 punch of Watergate and the end of the Vietnam War.”

How about you?

Do you remember Clark Wallabees, the moon landing, the Astrodome, or menopause?

© 2019 by Mary Daniels Brown