Monday, August 22, 2016


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Do you think as Baby Boomers we­ are more of a target for thieves and scammers? Are we really that vulnerable? One thing I do know is that it is the most stressful part of travel if it happens to you.
It is something that I have been pondering for the last couple of years on our travels around the world. We have had our passports and credit cards stolen in Ecuador and we thwarted a pickpocket last month in France. Both times the helpful gentleman in question turned out not to be too helpful in the end.
Let me elaborate further so that you will not fall into the same trap.
Passports and Half Our Credit Cards Stolen in Quito, Ecuador
The old scam is to distract the husband or partner, put our luggage underneath the bus and then create chaos at the bus door. Next, one nice bus employee (who turned out not be an employee) guides me to my seat. Ever so helpful, he even assisted me to place my daypack under my seat. Bus regulations you know! We hope he enjoyed doctoring our passports, and trying to use our quickly cancelled credit cards. We also hope he was really angry as there was no cash.
Did We Learn Our Lesson from This?
Our next experience was to thwart a would be pick pocket from helping himself to our credit cards and cash in Nice, France. This story involved another helpful gentleman! There are plenty of them around the world! Here is the scene.
Imagine Nice Riquier Train Station. A packed train pulls in on a busy Sunday morning. People are pushing to get in and climb a 2-foot high step. A nice man reaches down, grabs my elbow and helps pull me up, whilst pushing my husband out of the way. Click here to continue reading.

Why Snoring Gets Worse with Age and What You Can Do About It

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“Laugh and the world laughs with you, snore and you sleep alone,” British novelist Anthony Burgess reportedly said. Who hasn’t either been robbed of a night of peaceful sleep or been banished to another room because of snoring?
It is one of the most common sleep problems, at least occasionally affecting about 90 million Americans, according to the National Sleep Foundation. And while the subject of jokes, snoring can indicate a serious medical problem.

Why Snoring Increases As We Age

What’s more, snoring often worsens as we get older.  There are several reasons for that, says Dr. Raj Dasgupta, a sleep specialist and an assistant professor of clinical medicine at the Keck School of Medicine at the University of Southern California:
  1. Loss of muscle tone  As we get older, we tend to lose muscle tone, including in the  upper airway. The soft palate in the back of the roof of your mouth, for instance, becomes more susceptible to vibration. And the movement of those tissues, including the uvula, is what we hear as snoring. 
  2. Weight gain  Aging, and the increasingly sedentary lifestyle that often comes with older age, frequently results in extra pounds. Being obese or overweight — particularly in the neck area — goes hand-in-hand with snoring, Dasgupta says. 
  3. Alcohol  That nice glass of wine or beer at night, which you may indulge in more often as you get older, makes snoring worse, since it relaxes the muscles even more.
  4. Medications  Many people take an increasing number of medications as they age. In what may seem a cruel twist of fate (at least for your bed partner), an attempt to cure insomnia by taking a sleeping aid can also increase the propensity for snoring. That’s because insomnia medication causes muscles to relax and depresses the respiratory drive, Dasgupta says.  
  5. Hormonal changes for women  Post-menopausal women have lower levels of estrogen, which helps with muscle tone. But losing the estrogen means softer muscles, including in the upper airways. 

When Is It More Than Snoring?

Tomato and Spring Onion Baked Egg for One

Recipe for Tomato and Shallot Baked Egg

Maybe it was the periwinkles villages my cousins and I would build on the sandbars every summer in Connecticut that made my childhood so special. We’d dig away the warm, brown top layer of sand, revealing the blue-grey, cool layers beneath. And we’d dig it away, piling and shaping and dripping into walls, homes, fortresses and passageways. Though my cousins would only visit our beach a few times each summer and our creations would wash away with the tide, those memories of castle building and moat digging are among my most vivid.
Or maybe it was the sheer freedom of my summers. I’d roam and explore our neighborhood and beach freely, on bike or foot. I made friends of our mail person, neighbors and the renters who’d move in and out all summer long. And with or without friends, I would adventure through the world my own tales and stories weaving through my mind, begging to be written down. But it wasn’t without any learning — it just wasn’t the workbook kind. On those summers, I learned to swim in the Long Island Sound with my grandmother as a teacher, and fell in love with reading thanks to Sweet Valley Twins books consumed on my family porch. I learned about money returning bottles and cans for deposits and budgeting for candy and writing supplies.  Click here to continue reading.

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Movie Review—Captain Fantastic

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by Peter J. O’Connell

Captain Fantastic. Released: July 2016. Runtime: 118 mins. MPAA Rating: R for language and brief graphic nudity.

A deer is feeding in the forest. Suddenly, a teenage youth, his features smeared with mud, leaps out and slashes the deer’s throat. He then cuts out the animal’s still beating heart and devours a piece of it. His father, also smeared, appears and commends the youth as the boy’s younger siblings—three sisters and two brothers—of ages six to 16, all smeared, look on. Thus we are introduced to the Cash family., the subject of Captain Fantastic, written and directed by Matt Ross.

The family’s name is rather ironic, for Ben, the patriarch of the tribe, is a latter-day eco-hippie/survivalist who, contemptuous of consumer society and concerned about the health of Leslie, his wife and the kids’ mother, took the group “off the grid” ten years before. Since then they have lived in the forests of the Pacific Northwest in a hunter/gatherer lifestyle, dwelling in tepees, tents and lean-tos.

The rugged Ben (Viggo Mortensen) is a loving but demanding father. He has many skills, a fact that has led him to be dubbed “Captain Fantastic.” He teaches both survival skills and scholarly ones to his home-schooled kids. However, despite Ben’s emphasis on family unity, tensions are starting to emerge in the group. Bodevan (George MacKay), the deer hunter, wants to experience the wider world, and Rellian (Nicholas Hamilton), injured while climbing a sheer cliff face, is beginning to resent the rigors of the Cash lifestyle outside the money economy. And all the family is concerned about Leslie (Trin Miller), whose physical and emotional problems have led her to be hospitalized in Sacramento, where her sister lives with her husband and kids.

Ben and his brood have to leave their forest home when they learn that Leslie has committed suicide. A t this point the movie shifts from being a sort of study of survivalism to something reminiscent of the “road movies” of the 1960s and 1970s, the era when the ideals that Ben would later follow flourished.

As they proceed to Sacramento in an old school bus, Ben’s kids see much that bewilders or disgusts them. “Why is everyone so fat?” they ask at one point. Some things interest them, though. At one stop Ben uses a faked slip-and-fall as a distraction so that the kids can loot a store. On the way the Cashes also celebrate their version of Christmas—Noam Chomsky Day, in honor of the left-wing linguist.

Arriving in Sacramento, the Cashes stay at Leslie’s sister’s house. The sister (Kathryn Hahn) and her husband (Steve Zahn) are concerned about the way that Ben is raising his and Leslie’s kids, but they can’t help but be impressed by such things as—in contrast to their own kids—the Cash kids’ academic knowledge and their indifference to electronic gizmos.

The movie enters yet another phase, one of family conflict, when Ben and the kids travel from Sacramento to New Mexico. There Jack (Frank Langella), Leslie’s father, a judge, has taken charge of the funeral arrangements for Leslie. He plans a funeral service in a Catholic church, followed by interment of Leslie’s body in a casket in a cemetery. Ben objects, claiming that Leslie was a Buddhist, who wanted to be cremated and have her ashes flushed down a toilet.

Jack’s tightly controlled ferocity in defense of the conventional makes him into, in a sense, a Captain Fantastic, too, as he clashes with Ben, the unyielding defender of the unconventional. The stakes are high and so is suspense as Jack moves to have the kids taken from Ben because of “abuse”—and Bodevan and Rellian grow even more restless. Who will win the struggle for the future of the family? Or can some kind of compromise emerge? What might that be?

Captain Fantastic is, wait for it, a fantastically well done and fantastically enjoyable film—unusual, provocative, satirical yet moving, and fair to all its colorful contending characters. Kudos are owed to writer/director Matt Ross. His cast is remarkable. Veteran thesps Mortensen and Langella just seem to get better and better with each movie that they are in. And the young actors who play the kids are clearly on the road to stardom; they are that good.     


Thursday, August 11, 2016


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When it comes to what old people are like, everyone has an opinion, especially younger people. Perhaps because they’re afraid of aging, the young and middle-aged tend to stereotype older people as grouchy, frumpy, slow, forgetful. Yes we do change as we age, but not in stereotypical ways. What’s more, because these ideas are ingrained in the culture — in the language we use and the images we see daily — it’s easy for us to buy into them. But even if you’re mostly able to resist the mythology, it’s hard to make a case against it if you don’t have the facts.
So we talked to gerontologist Joan T. Erber, co-author with Lenore T. Szuchman of “Great Myths of Aging” — a book that mixes rigor and humor in smashing 37 myths about growing older — to find out which myths are the most common and why they’re not true.
Here are her top eight.

1. Older people are suckers — easy prey for scam artists

Before you assume that older people are suckers, consider how many affluent, supposedly well-informed young and middle-aged people fell for Bernie Madoff’s Ponzi scheme. Yes, people today in their 80s and 90s may be more trusting, having grown up in a time when trusting someone was the polite thing to do. But on the whole, older people don’t so much fall for scams more than younger people, but are targeted more often — possibly because, as the FBI reports, we’re less likely to report a fraud. We may be ashamed of being conned or afraid that relatives will think we’re losing cognitive abilities (another myth). Also, con artists know that older people are likely to have profitable nest eggs ripe for targeting. Despite all this, Erber and her co-author point out, AARP and other organizations that serve seniors are forever trying to “educate” us about how to protect ourselves. And that’s infantilizing.

2. If you live long enough you’ll wind up in a nursing home

In fact only a small minority of old people wind up in nursing homes. In 2011, only 3.6 percent of people aged 65 and older lived in institutional settings: 1 percent of people 65 to 74; 3 percent of people aged 75 to 84; and only 11 percent of people 85 and older. The odds of dying in a nursing home do increase as you age, but those stats have started decreasing recently as more and more people “age in place” and choose to die at home.

3. Older people are grouchy

This stereotype is so pervasive that a film like “Grumpy Old Men” doesn’t seem politically incorrect. A study of Disney characters found that 25 percent of the older characters were angry, grumpy or stern. Actually the opposite is true. According to one study, if you were agreeable to start with, you’ll only grow more so, despite any physical or health challenges you might be faced with (although chronic pain can make us grouchier). Furthermore, older people tend to focus on the sunny side of things more than younger people do. We pay more attention to positive than negative information — the opposite of many younger people. In fact, if you’re looking for grouchiness, look no further than your latest interaction with tech support.

4. Older people would rather live with kids or grandkids than alone  

The assumption here is that older people are lonely and given a choice, they would move in with adult children or grandchildren. Being away from family means being incomplete. Not true! In previous generations, this was a common arrangement, but surveys show that older people today place great value on maintaining separate households, even in different cities, as long as they’re in good enough health to be independent and can afford it. Many of us would like to spend time with our network of friends while sustaining family relationships at a distance, especially now that technologies like email and Skype make it easy to stay connected. The exception is if you belong to an ethnic group with a tradition of multigenerational households. Click here to continue reading.

Tony Bennett Is 90: 5 Great Things He Just Said

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Tony Bennett had a pretty good week. The legendary crooner, who turned 90 on Wednesday,  talked to Billboard magazine about his upcoming projects, including a memoir (Just Getting Started) and another album with Lady Gaga. As we’ve come to expect, Bennett breezed through it all with his usual grace and class. 

“I feel like I have so much more to learn yet,” he told the Today show, while expressing interest in collaborating with Beyoncé. Here are just a few of the other great things he said this week:

5 Great Tony Bennett Quotes

On Twitter: “@itstonybennett: It feels great to be 90! Thanks for all the birthday wishes. I’m just getting started. #Tony90.”

On his next project with Lady Gaga: “She’s busy right now, but at the beginning of next year, we’ll start doing an album. The first one went way over a million, and it’s still selling.”

On his memoirJust Getting Started, co-written with NPR Weekend Edition host Scott Simon and due out Nov. 15: “The whole book is about different performers and just my experience about meeting them and the different things that happened and why they were so popular internationally throughout the world.”

On how he does it all: “Well, I have to pace myself; I’m 90, but I’m in top shape. … I believe the public deserves that.” Click here to continue reading.

Tuesday, August 2, 2016

Movie Review—Hillary's America: The Secret History of the Democratic Party

Hillary's America: The Secret History of the Democratic Party
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by Peter J. O'Connell                                                                                                                                                   

Hillary's America: The Secret History of the Democratic Party. Released: July 2016. Runtime: 106 mins. MPAA Rating: PG-13 for some violence, thematic elements and smoking.

Hillary's America: The Secret History of the Democratic Party ends with Dinesh D'Souza being asked by a member of a class of immigrants that he is teaching: “How do I know when I have become an American?” D'Souza replies: “When you become a Republican.”

The entire film, written and directed by D'Souza and Bruce Schooley, has been heading like a laser for this partisan point. D'Souza, the movie's main auteur, is a conservative intellectual, an immigrant from India, who first garnered attention when, along with Laura Ingraham, he battled political correctness while a student at Dartmouth in the early 1980s. 

Several years ago D'Souza apparently decided to become a right-wing version of leftist filmmaker Michael Moore, who brought forth Fahrenheit 9/11 (2004) and other works of a type that has been labeled “propumentaries”--a mixture of propaganda and documentary. In 2012 D'Souza brought forth the film 2016: Obama's America and in 2014 America: Imagine the World Without Her

Hillary's America begins with a lively animated credits sequence set to a rollicking “Crappy Days Are Here Again.” It then moves to a reenactment of D'Souza's conviction and incarceration for a donation that violated campaign finance laws. D'Souza, playing himself, feels that his offense was minor, his prosecution politically motivated, and his punishment excessive. However, he decides to learn what he can from his fellow inmates. 

A kind of imagined or pseudofactual sequence follows in which D'Souza learns how scams are carried out. He begins to ask himself what if the Democratic Party were a vast scam operation using claims of  supporting racial equality, social justice and economic opportunity as a cover for a continuing attempt to gain control of America's wealth and freedom? D'Souza goes to a postulated “Democratic Headquarters” to investigate this point, and there in a basement he comes across the “secret history of the Democratic Party.” 

A series of dramatic reenactments follows, with amateurish acting and cheesy costuming and makeup (those wigs!, those beards!) in prominent display; nuance, not. The aim is to shatter Democratic icons, from Andrew Jackson, described as the founder of the party, to John C. Calhoun to Stephen A. Douglas to Preston Brooks to Woodrow Wilson to Ben Tillman to John W. Davis to Margaret Sanger to FDR to Richard Daley. 

To a greater or lesser degree, according to D'Souza, such figures either supported or refused to take action against such evils as slavery, segregation, lynching, the Ku Klux Klan—described as the “military wing of the Democratic Party.” When leading Dems, such as LBJ, did take action it was out of hypocrisy and political calculation. The Democratic aim throughout was to get Native Americans onto reservations, African-Americans onto rural plantations or into urban ghettoes—described as “poverty plantations”--and immigrants into barrios or similar tough neighborhoods.

D'Souza's demonization of Democrats is contrasted to his depiction of the “truly democratic” actions of such GOP figures as Abraham Lincoln and Ida B. Wells, a noted anti-lynching activist described as a “gun-owning, black, Christian, Republican woman.” The Civil War, according to D'Souza, was not a war between North and South but a war between Republicans and Democrats. No Republican owned slaves, and Republican legislators overwhelmingly supported civil rights legislation following the war. Democrats overwhelmingly opposed such legislation. This situation continued well into the 20th century. 

The tone of the film's reenactments is reminiscent of Victorian melodrama, but the “secret history” becomes more powerful when it simply quotes facts, such as those on slaveholding and legislative votes. And it is perhaps most powerful during its least heated sections, such as the interviews with the impressive Carol M. Swain, an African-American professor of law and political science, who shifted from Democrat to Republican, and Jonah Goldberg, author and commentator. These interviews are interspersed among the reenactments. 

When Hillary's America finally gets to Hillary Clinton herself, it presents a mix of reenactments, newsclips, and an interview with Peter Schweizer, author of Clinton Cash. The reenactments depict Saul Alinsky, “father of community organizing” in Chicago and a great influence on both Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton, as a sleazy character linked to gangsters. Reenactments also depict the Hillary of the 1960s as a squirrelly left-liberal. The newsclips present a familiar array of what Clinton critics allege to be shady financial dealings by Hillary and husband and coverups of Bill's sexual shenanigans. 

An array of patriotic scenes reminiscent of calendar art, accompanied by familiar patriotic music, follows the film's sequence on the Clintons and leads to the dialogue quoted at the beginning of this review.

Hillary's America: The Secret History of the Democratic Party is not in the realm of “fair and balanced.” It is more like the experience that many men have had of being lambasted by a wife or girlfriend, who then says, “I'm overstating in order to make things clear.” Does D'Souza's lambasting of Democrats lead to a clarity beyond conventional fairness and balance? See the movie and judge for yourself.