Last Week’s Links

The Real History Behind The Sound of Music

My husband’s and my first date was a trip to the movie theater to see The Sound of Music, released in 1965. (Yes, we were high school sweethearts.) Here’s the story behind that movie, which, according to the article, “became one of America’s highest-grossing films of all time” and is “probably the main reason that generations of non-musicians can effortlessly spout off the notes of the tonal scale.” 

Anyone even half as nostalgic as I am about this movie will enjoy this article.

Locked down elderly in rural French village find some parallels with World War II

Jim Bittermann reports for CNN on how isolation and social distancing are affecting the normally social and affable French. 

“Out here in rural France, the 15-day confinement period is generally scoffed at. The lockdown could go on far longer than most everyone believes. Just like during World War II, there is no real idea about what the world will look like afterward.”

As Life Moves Online, an Older Generation Faces a Digital Divide

I’m assuming that anyone reading this blog (anyone?) does not fall into this group. However, you might be able to help some of your less tech-savvy friends and neighbors: “Seema Verma, the administrator of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, urged people this month to help the elderly set up technology to talk to medical providers.”

There’s information here on some of the tools helping people stay connected during this time of isolation.

Book sales surge as self-isolating readers stock up on ‘bucket list’ novels

If you’re searching for some “silver lining” news to this pandemic cloud, this might qualify: According to the U.K.’s Guardian, “Book sales have leapt across the country as readers find they have extra time on their hands, with bookshops reporting a significant increase in sales of longer novels and classic fiction.”

Ageist “Triage” Is a Crime Against Humanity

The question of whether older people are expendable apparently became an internet meme after some politician or other commented that we needed to stop isolation and social distancing so that we can get people back to work to rev up the economy, even if doing so meant that some older people (the most at-risk demographic for this virus) might get sick and die. 

Here Margaret Morganroth Gullette takes a philosophical approach to the large ethical question of how older people might fare if medical triage becomes necessary.

My cohort of over-65 people are supposed to be enjoying the new Age of Longevity. But do some younger people still associate us older folks with dying — however unconsciously — so that our premature demise may come to seem — sadly — normal? These questions arise with more gravity because the pandemic Covid-19 may become an atrocity-producing situation for older persons. Will anxiety, which already runs high, come to be focused on the figure of an old person who is seen as expendable? This depends on how panicked different nation-states become, and how discourse about victims is structured by governments and the media.


© 2020 by Mary Daniels Brown

Last Week’s Links

Does Retirement Hurt, Rather Than Help, the Aging Process?

This excerpt from Extra Time: 10 Lessons for an Ageing World by Camilla Cavendish examines the Silver Centre movement in Japan. “By providing part-time work, the Silver Centre movement restores purpose and connection to older citizens.”

Life expectancy over 65: big differences based on geography, urban vs. rural

Seniors in urban areas and on the coasts are surviving longer than their counterparts in rural areas and the nation’s interior, according to an analysis from Samuel Preston of the University of Pennsylvania, one of the nation’s leading demographers.

The study found that these “differences emerged around 1999-2000 and widened from 2000 to 2016.” 

The real Charles Lindbergh behind ‘The Plot Against America’

HBO is currently airing a new series, The Plot Against America, based on a 2004 novel by Philip Roth. In this fictional version of history, Charles Lindbergh defeats Franklin D. Roosevelt in the 1940 election.

In addition to being a famous aviator, the first airplane pilot to fly solo across the Atlantic Ocean, Lindbergh “also had an interest in politics, campaigning for the United States to stay out of the war and supporting the anti-Semitic, pro-fascist America First Committee.” 

This article takes a look at what might have happened if Charles Lindbergh had become President in 1941.

ON THE MURDER OF WESLEY EVEREST AND THE BLOODY HISTORY OF THE LOGGING INDUSTRY

This article hits two of my personal sweet spots: crime fiction and Washington State focus.

Melissa Anne Peterson explains how she used her family’s history in the logging industry to write her debut novel, Vera Violet. The book tells the story of “a crime America couldn’t admit to, a crime based in economics.”

Convincing Boomer Parents to Take the Coronavirus Seriously

I was quite surprised to come across this article in which Michael Schulman describes the difficult time he had convincing his mother and father (ages 68 and 74, respectively) to take the coronavirus seriously and follow guidelines for self-isolation and social distancing. Schulman adds that, as he spoke to his peers, “I realized that I wasn’t alone. A lot of us have spent the past week pleading with our baby-boomer parents to cook at home, rip up the cruise tickets, and step away from the grandchildren.”

I live in an independent-living unit in a retirement community in Tacoma, WA, about 30 miles south of Seattle. It was right around here that the first confirmed cases of coronavirus in the U.S. appeared. No one I know took much convincing about the need to follow recommended guidelines. My husband and I are 70 and 71, and most people who live in our community are older than we are, many in their 90s.

Also, the stories I had been hearing about people not following the emergency guidelines involved young people flocking to southern beaches for spring break. I believed these stories because young people are notorious for thinking that they are invincible and invulnerable.

While we baby boomers weren’t around during the flu epidemics of 1918, we did live through the polio epidemic of the 1950s. Most of us remember being lined up in the corridor at school while the school nurse went down the line giving each of us a polio shot. We also remember not being allowed to go swimming because that’s how (we were told) the virus spread. And we remember seeing pictures of large rooms filled with giant metal tubes known as iron lungs, the ventilators that kept polio-paralyzed patients alive.

So yes, I’m surprised by this report. Perhaps Schulman’s experience and mine are so different because he’s been hanging with his demographic (children of baby boomers) and I’ve been hanging around, albeit at a socially safe distance, with mine (baby boomers themselves). 

How about you?

What has been your experience with handling this new reality?


© 2020 by Mary Daniels Brown

Last Week’s Links

A Washington author renovates a Port Townsend house, and her life

This is “an edited excerpt from the new book, “House Lessons: Renovating a Life,” © 2020 by Erica Bauermeister.” 

“Because here’s the thing — we aren’t looking for a house; we’re looking for a home. A house can supply you with a place to sleep, to cook, to store your car. A home fits your soul.”

This is a local-interest for me, as Port Townsend is a vibrant arts community within an easy day trip from where I live. And the book is a memoir about the search for community, or home, as much as the story of the remodeling of a historic old house.

12 Reasons Why The World Wouldn’t Be The Same Without Washington

And OK, this one is pretty frivolous, but I’m still in love with my new home state.

ON THE JOY OF MAKING A SCRAPBOOK

About 20 years ago I went through a prolonged period of scrapbooking. It was relaxing and fulfilled my need for a creative outlet. It also put important photos into an accessible format. It’s so easy, and often comforting, to pull a scrapbook off the shelf and dust off old memories.

And I was reminded recently of the advantage of scrapbooks when my external hard drive labeled “Mary’s Photos” went off line. The device is apparently dead, and unless I can find some techie service to try to rescue its contents, some of my photos will be lost forever.

Sebastian Barry: ‘Family stories mean a whole different thing in your 60s’

When art imitates life:

The story behind all his novels – beginning with The Whereabouts of Eneas McNulty in 1998 and including Annie Dunne, the Booker-shortlisted A Long Long Way and The Secret Scripture – is one of the deliberate and careful construction of a family that would at some level stand “in place of the kind of disaster of the family I was accidentally part of originally. I mean utter disaster.”

How to reduce ‘attention residue’ in your life

“Mundane chores take up our time and headspace. Bundling life admin into specific time slots – known as GYLIO – might be the ultimate act of self-care.”

A discussion of GYLIO (get your life in order) practices being developed in some Australian universities: “Essentially, GYLIO is about bundling tasks into a single morning, day or week in order to clear your mind; learning to prioritise and find focus so that you can enjoy guilt-free downtime.”

Madeleine Dore explains her experiment with this approach to life’s inevitable chaos.

Stop Telling Older Women to Step Aside

Leslie Bennetts reviews and discusses the book In Our Prime: How Older Women Are Reinventing the Road Ahead by Susan J. Douglas. Bennetts calls the book:

a clarion call for older women to “rip off the invisibility cloak” and reinvent the world they live in so it stops cheating them. Aside from the title, it’s hard to find anything here that a fair-minded reader could dispute — and also impossible to deny the political, economic and cultural potential of what Douglas describes as an incipient demographic revolution, albeit one that is “underappreciated” and “undercovered” to date.

Bennetts writes that Douglas’s book performs a valuable service in describing how and why change must occur in a society that continues to ignore the needs and underestimate the value of older women.


© 2020 by Mary Daniels Brown

Some of the Less Obvious Effects of the Coronavirus Pandemic

We’re all a bit frazzled about the current health pandemic and the mammoth amount of information out there for us to process. Like you, I’m concerned about the health of my friends and neighbors here in the retirement community where I live, as we’re all over 60.

But once we get past all the health information and necessary decisions, there are some less obvious effects of everything that’s happening that I hadn’t originally considered. 

Chief among those effects is ALL THIS TIME of hunkering down at home in self-isolation. As an introvert who likes nothing better than curling up with a good book, I feel I’ve been preparing for this situation my whole life. But some others are already exhibiting signs of cabin fever after only one week of a three-week-or-longer period of “social distancing.”

Right now my biggest annoyance is bandwidth strain caused by all the students and employees working remotely. But if you need something to distract you, here, to ease that discomfiture, are 10 interesting articles I’ve collected over the past week. 

‘An Eviction Notice’: Chaos After Colleges Tell Students to Stay Away

Colleges and universities were some of the first educational institutions to cancel classes to minimize individuals’ potential exposure to the virus. But, at least initially, those plans caused problems for students unsure of whether they’d return to campus later to finish the semester. Especially hard hit were students with financial aid who didn’t have extra funds to cover out-of-dorm living or storage expenses or travel expenses for an extra trip home. Also hard hit were foreign students, especially those whose visas require in-person rather than online classes. This article from The New York Times reports how some of these problems worked out.

A Week at the Epicenter of America’s Coronavirus Crisis

Seattle-based writer James Ross Gardner provided this look at the first week of response to the influx of the virus in my local area, around Seattle, WA. 

As coronavirus spreads in 2020, here’s how Seattle handled the 1918 flu that killed 1,513 people

his story from The Seattle Times provides informative context for the current situation. It’s likely that other papers, at least those in large metropolitan areas, produced similar local-interest pieces, but I’m linking to this one because it’s in my local area.

The 25 Best HBO Series of All Time, Ranked

If you subscribe to HBO and are stuck at home wondering what to do, Esquire magazine offers this ranking of the best HBO series you might want to catch up on.

Some streaming television services (such as Hulu and, I think, Netflix) offer free one-week trial subscriptions. Now might be a good time to sign up, but don’t forget to cancel after the trial time is up if you don’t want to continue.

Your coronavirus reading list: reader suggestions to bring joy in difficult times

The U.K.’s Guardian has some reading suggestions to help fill the time. Even though many libraries are now closed, check your local library’s website to see what ebooks or audiobooks are available for download.

kid with stack of books

On Pandemic and Literature

Ed Simon in The Millions provides this historical look at literary representations of the 14th century’s Black Death and other pandemics, both real and imaginary.

The Infectious Pestilence Did Reign

In a similar vein, Ben Cohen explains in Slate “How the plague ravaged William Shakespeare’s world and inspired his work, from Romeo and Juliet to Macbeth.”

The Best Books to Elevate Your Reading List in 2020

Though not created specifically for the purpose, these recommendations for the year’s best books so far from Esquire offer some suggestions to supplement the Guardian list.

Coronavirus cleaning tips for your iPhone, Android

Originally from the Chicago Tribune, this article provides instruction on how to clean something we all probably touch more often than our faces, our phones.

In a Pandemic, Musicians Play in Empty Halls for Audiences Online

Anthony Tommasini, chief classical music critic for The New York Times, describes an eerie experience:

I was watching on my computer at home on Thursday afternoon as the Berlin Philharmonic finished a streamed performance of Luciano Berio’s “Sinfonia.” The cameras panned over rows of seats. No one was there. The musicians, dressed in their black-tie best, seemed not to know quite what to do. Finally, they began greeting each other cheerily, then stood and faced the empty hall.

It was one of the most disorienting yet profound views of a performance I’ve ever had.

Tommasini writes that his local (New York City) public radio station provided a listing of available streaming classical music resources, so you could check to see if your local station is doing the same. He also includes a few direct links in the article.


© 2020 by Mary Daniels Brown

“Coronavirus is mysteriously sparing kids and killing the elderly”

I usually try to avoid current news stories, but this article from the Washington Post caught my eye:

Obviously, this one article does not tell the whole story about this medical emergency, and you should read about COVID-19 as widely as you need to. But the emphasis here seems relevant to those of us on the upper end of the age spectrum.

I feel particularly fortunate that retirement allows my husband and me to stay safely ensconced at home most days. We live in the independent-living section of a retirement community, and all meetings and social activities here have been canceled until further notice. I’ll be sorry to miss book group in a couple of weeks (for discussion of The Language of Flowers by Vanessa Diffenbaugh), but that’s a small price to pay. Grocery shopping is the only reason for which we venture out, and we are doing that as infrequently as possible.

Please, everyone, take care of yourselves and each other.

(Feature image by Mircea Iancu from Pixabay )

© 2020 by Mary Daniels Brown

Last Week’s Links

Retiring Retirement

“Society may still view able, competent, sound-of-mind seniors as happy curiosities. But the fact is we are quickly becoming a sizeable demographic.” 

Linda Marsa, a contributing editor at Discover magazine, argues that a growing number of people are living into their 60s, 70s, and 80s without debilitating conditions. These older people have both the physical stamina and the desire to continue working. “The question is whether society will adapt to make the most of this new labor pool.”

Marsa reports here on “some innovative companies [that] have already started to cater to their elderly personnel.” She concludes, “I’m hopeful that in the coming decades, the American workplace will shed its legacy of ageism to embrace a more diverse and equitable culture—one that blends the energy and inventiveness of youth with the wisdom and experience of maturity.” 

‘Tiny Habits’ Are The Key To Behavioral Change

We know we should quit smoking, eat better, exercise more, but adopting better habits like these can seem overwhelming.

Here’s some help, an interview with B.J. Fogg, a behavioral scientist at Stanford University and author of Tiny Habits: The Small Changes That Change Everything. Fogg suggests starting small, with “tiny behaviors that can become habits.”

A New Monument Will Celebrate Nellie Bly’s Undercover Reporting, Right Where It Happened

IN THE LATE 1880S, THE reporter Nellie Bly faked her way into an asylum on Blackwell’s Island, in New York’s East River. . . . On assignment for the New York World newspaper, Bly, who was was born Elizabeth Cochran Seaman and became one of America’s earliest and most intrepid female investigative journalists, reported on the people who were housed there by playing a patient herself.

Sculptor Amanda Matthews is designing a monument to Bly on the site where Bly endured the research that went into her piece “Ten Days in a Mad-House.” The momument is scheduled to be installed in summer 2020. This piece from Atlas Obscura features photos and drawings of the monument.

With An Election On The Horizon, Older Adults Get Help Spotting Fake News

Recent research “found that Facebook users 65 and over posted seven times as many articles from fake news websites, compared with adults under 29.” Here NPR reports on a recent class held at a senior enter in suburban Maryland that helps seniors recognize fake news.

“Researchers say classes like this one should be more widely offered, especially with the 2020 election approaching.”

Meet the mystery woman who co-founded Krusteaz in Seattle … and whose story has been lost to history

Jackie Varriano, Seattle Times food writer, takes a deep dive into local history to try to find the name and story of the woman who invented Krusteaz pie crust, which first hit grocery-store shelves in the early 1930s.

“It’s not easy to find histories of ‘regular’ women from the 1930s,” Varriano writes. Thanks to this dogged reporter for her effort in recovering one woman’s story.

How Old Is Too Old to Work?

And we’re back where we started with this article about understanding the lives of older Americans. Isaac Chotiner interviews Louise Aronson, a geriatrician, a professor of medicine at the University of California, San Francisco, and the author of Elderhood: Redefining Aging, Transforming Medicine, Reimagining Life.

“During our conversation, which has been edited for length and clarity, we discussed why so many Americans over sixty-five are entering the workforce, whether the Presidency is the wrong job for someone over seventy, and why we tend to view older Americans as a single, distinct group.”

© 2020 by Mary Daniels Brown

Snow Day!

about 1/2 inch of snow, Tacoma, Washington, USA, January 14, 2020

Well, not really, but this is about as close as we usually come here in Tacoma, WA  USA to a snow day. Although snowfalls just a bit east of us, on the other side of the Cascade Mountains, can be epic, here at sea level we seldom get any more than this.

However, last year (I think it was in January) our area had something like 7 inches of snow all at once. We were traveling in the balmy Caribbean and missed it. In fact, we traveled in the early winter of both 2018 and 2019, so it’s been a while since we’ve seen snow of any amount—except on top of mountains way off in the distance.

We grew up in New England, so the sight of a real snow accumulation still warms my heart. One of the benefits of being retired is that, when risky weather strikes, we can just stay inside and admire it instead of having to brave it.

© 2020 by Mary Daniels Brown