Last Week’s Links

The best books on Critical Thinking

I’ve been concerned that schools are not adequately teaching critical thinking skills since I first started teaching writing to college students back in 1971. Since then my concern has turned into alarm as I’ve seen the results of the lack of these skills pervade modern culture. 

Here philosopher and writer Nigel Warburton lists five books to help us learn about topics like straw man arguments and weasel words.

What Role Should Work Play in Retirement?

Behavioral scientist Utpal Dholakia, Ph.D., explains that “the idea of retiring as not working may need to be reconfigured for our times.”

Can Bullet Journaling Save You?

I keep reading about the benefits of bullet journaling, a process touted as not only the best productivity tool but also as many people’s favorite creative outlet (just search Instagram to see all the fancy bullet journal layouts pictured). “Bullet journaling has taken off as a kind of mindfulness-meets-productivity trend that equates organized journaling with an ordered interior life.”

Here Anna Russell writes about her discussion with Ryder Carroll, the thirty-nine-year-old digital designer who invented the Bullet Journal. Carroll offered Russell this parting advice: “You’re not doing it right, you’re not doing it wrong, you’re just figuring it out as you go along.”

On planes, adults have tantrums too. Here’s how to handle bad behavior at 38,000 feet

Writing for The Seattle Times, travel writer Christopher Elliott declares, “The worst behavior on a plane? It’s often adults.” And doesn’t it seem that we’ve heard and read of lot of examples that prove him right on news broadcasts and Facebook lately? Elliott has some concrete suggestions on how to deal with bad adult bahavior if it should happen near you on your next flight.

And as you’re crammed into your ever-shrinking coach-class seat, console yourself with this fact: “The worst behavior on a plane often happens in the first-class section. It’s the super-elite frequent flyers who behave as if the plane belongs to them.”

Tina Turner Is Having the Time of Her Life

I was lucky enough to watch Tina Turner perform at Harvard Stadium in the summer of 1970.

Here Amanda Hess reports on the retirement life of Tina Turner, “the symbol of rock ’n’ roll stamina for 50 years.” Now 79 years old, she has been retired for 10 years in now lives in Switzerland in a home she calls the Chateau Algonquin, with an unobstructed view of Lake Zurich. 

© 2019 by Mary Daniels Brown

Last Week’s Links

‘Murder, She Wrote’ & Me

Crystal Arroyo writes in The New York Times that, as a child, she never understood the appeal the TV show Murder, She Wrote held for her mother. Then, as an adult, she discovered the series airing on Netflix and immediately became a superfan. “I soon recognized that the entire series, which aired for 12 seasons, was very forward-thinking, with episodes about abortion, women in male-dominated careers and prisoners’ rights.”

But here’s what she really appreciated about the series:

What really drew me to the show, however, was Jessica herself. Brilliantly embodied by Lansbury, she is a sassy, smart and funny older woman who — despite not knowing how to drive — is totally independent. As she travels the world, she seems as comfortable in Cairo as she does back home in Maine. While she has many admirers, she doesn’t have any interest in moving on from her dead husband Frank. She has no children. This is not as sad as it sounds; she’s genuinely happy with life.

Girl, You’re a Middle-Aged Woman Now

With tongue firmly in cheek, Wendi Aarons and KJ Dell’Antonia imagine some upcoming “original TV programs, books, and movies that offer new perspectives on what it means to be ‘a woman of a certain age.’” Examples include The Middle-Aged Woman on the Train, The Middle-Aged Woman with the Dragon Tattoo, and Gone Middle-Aged Woman.

Accept The Awkwardness: How To Make Friends (And Keep Them)

When we retired, we moved 2,000 miles away from where we had spent our entire adult lives. Making new friends (and nurturing older friendships) can be just as difficult for older adults as it is for the junior high student entering a new school after a relocation. Here, from NPR, are some suggestions from experts on how “to make new friends, as well as to take better care of the friendships you already have.”

Home health aides care for the elderly. Who will care for them?

Subtitle: “One of the fastest-growing jobs in America is also one of the hardest.”

According to estimates from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the U.S. is experiencing, and will continue to experience, a “surge in the need for workers to care for the sick and elderly in their own homes.” But such jobs, which require minimal training and no college degree, prey on an easily exploitable workforce:

Because of the job’s roots in slave labor, these workers have long been excluded from US labor laws. Live-in caregivers are not entitled to overtime pay or a minimum wage under federal law, or any other labor protections. Neither are caregivers who spend less than 20 percent of their job helping clients do basic tasks. None are protected from racial discrimination or sexual harassment. They have no right to a safe workplace, and in some cases, they have no collective bargaining rights. One of the fastest-growing jobs in the US is a really lousy one.

This article provides an in-depth analysis of how to improve working conditions for this large workforce and how such improvements will increase the quality of care available for the aging population.

One of the best places to grow old? Washington has 8th-highest life expectancy in U.S., study finds

We chose to retire to Tacoma, Washington, primarily because our only child lives in this area. But we also love the quality of life here. And here’s some validation for our choice.

While Washington gets a lot of attention for being a millennial magnet, it’s also a great place to grow old, according to a new study from Senior Living, which found that our state has the eighth-highest life expectancy in the nation. Washington residents can expect to live an average of 80.2 years, according to the study.

© 2019 by Mary Daniels Brown

Last Week’s Links

‘Holden Caulfield at 27’: Esquire’s 1968 Profile of Peter Fonda

Apparently prompted by the recent death of Peter Fonda, Esquire reprints its 1968 in-depth profile of the actor.

I consider myself part of the universe. The universe is a religion. Man is a religion. It’s all heaven, it’s all hell. Everything is everything. Death is just a change.”

The Misconception about Baby Boomers and the Sixties

Louis Menand declares in The New Yorker:

Thankfully, we are within sight of the end of the fiftieth anniversaries of things that happened in the nineteen-sixties. What’s left is mostly stuff that no one wants to remember . . . One reason to feel glad to be nearly done with this round of fiftieths is that we will no longer be subjected, constantly, to generalizations about the baby-boom generation. There are many canards about that generation, but the most persistent is that the boomers were central to the social and cultural events of the nineteen-sixties. Apart from being alive, baby boomers had almost nothing to do with the nineteen-sixties.

For his argument, he defines baby boomers as those born between July 1946 and December 1964; approximately 76 million people were born during those 18 years, he says, and the “expectations and potential life paths of Americans born in 1946 were completely different from the expectations and life paths of Americans born in 1964.”

Menand’s point is that baby boomers were consumers of significant social and cultural changes that were created by older people born before July 1946.

The idea that youth culture is culture created by youth is a myth. Youth culture is manufactured by people who are no longer young. When you are actually a young person, you can only consume what’s out there. It often becomes “your culture,” but not because you made it.

Our Brains Tell Stories So We Can Live

despite the verities of science, many of our most important questions compel us to tell stories that venture beyond the facts. For all of the sophisticated methodologies in science, we have not moved beyond the story as the primary way that we make sense of our lives.

Robert A. Burton, M.D., a neurologist and novelist, explains how and why our brains construct narratives to make meaning our of our experiences.

‘The Last Ocean’ Considers Dementia in All Its Uncertainty

The first, startling epigraph in Nicci Gerrard’s new book, “The Last Ocean,” comes from Emily Dickinson: “Abyss has no Biographer.” Gerrard sets out to tell the story of dementia, a disease that can appear to consume those it afflicts. After her father, John, died in 2014, the author — who writes best-selling thrillers with her husband under the name Nicci French — embarked on learning more about the disease as both a journalist and an activist. The result is a tender, inquisitive tour of a subject that can be raw and painful.

In an interview with John Williams in The New York Times, Nicci Gerrard talks about her latest book.

“I knew there was a book I could write about how mysterious it is to be human, really.”

“For three or four years, I spent my working days talking to doctors, nurses, carers and, above all, people living with the illness. I knew I had to find a way of making that into a book full of lots of different voices and stories.”

“I didn’t want to write a book that was certain and had answers. I wanted to write a book that was full of questions and feelings.”

“If I had to think of one thing that knocked me back: I became more optimistic and less scared about getting old, becoming frail, than I had been before I started.”

© 2019 by Mary Daniels Brown

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