Hot Topics: The Long Goodbye
The Long Goodbye: Los Angeles Times columnist Steve Lopez, who was so memorably portrayed by Robert Downey Jr. in The Soloist, offers this painful but moving account of his family's agonizing wait for his 83-year-old father to die in hospice care. I've been a huge fan of Lopez for years, but this may well be the finest piece he's ever written, and it's sure to resonate powerfully with any middle-aged person who's been in a similar situation. It did with me.
Wake-up Call? Two weeks after the death of pop singer Whitney Houston, some see the premature demise of a superstar as a catalyst to trigger some self-reflection. Huffington Post writer Ann Brenoff offers this provocative post, "Was Whitney Houston Doing What a Lot of Post 50s Do?" Brenoff notes that the apparent cause of Houston's death -- mixing prescription anti-anxiety medication with alcohol -- is a habit that other people in their forties and fifties undoubtedly indulge in as well. "Having wine with dinner, followed by a prescription sleeping pill as a nightcap is all too common, especially among those 50 and older -- a demographic whose overall use of illicit drugs has been increasing," she writes. Along the same lines, Mark Kemp, a music critic for the Atlanta-based alternative paper Creative Loafing, writes a moving tribute to Houston as a pop-culture icon whose struggles pointed a mirror at her generation. Forbes, meanwhile, has this thought-provoking article on how Houston's demise followed a tragic template established 50 years ago by Marilyn Monroe.
Apple Targeting Middle-Aged Women? ZDNet columnist Ken Hess, in a piece that's being widely picked up by other tech sites across the web, writes that Apple's soon-to-be-released Mountain Lion OS X is targeted at a new demographic in lieu of the arty younger hipsters, who've been Apple's hardcore audience. Hess argues that the newest operating system is designed to appeal to stylish, active, sexy middle-aged women. (He refers to "Moms I'd Like on Facebook.) One major allure may be the new operating system's increased inter-connectivity with iPhones and iPads, which seem to be a favorite device among nontechie 40- to 55-year-old women.
The Life and Death of a Journalist: Though she wasn't as well known as pop diva Whitney Houston, war correspondent Marie Colvin -- who was killed during an artillery bombardment this week in Syria along with photographer Remi Ochlik -- had a significant impact on the world. Colvin, a 56-year-old American who wrote for the UK's Sunday Times, spent her career documenting the terrible toll of conflict on civilians, particularly women and children. Here's a New York Times article in which Rosemary Colvin, the writer's mother, explains how a Yale course taught by famous author John Hersey changed her daughter's life.
Colvin had a striking trademark: She wore an eye patch as the result of a 2001 injury sustained while covering a conflict in Sri Lanka. Coupled with her wavy tresses and angular face, the patch gave her a fearless yet glamorous ambiance that hearkened back to mid-20th century war correspondent Martha Gellhorn. But the similarities went beyond appearance, to the raw, searing prose and outrage over war's senseless cruelty that both women shared. The Sunday Times has released Colvin's final dispatch, entitled "We Live in Fear of a Massacre."
Too Much Treatment? The Washington Post has an interview with Dr. Nortin Hadler, a UNC-Chapel Hill medical school professor and microbiology researcher who is the author of Rethinking Aging: Growing Old and Living Well in an Overtreated Society. Hadler is a critic of the state of medical care for people in middle age and beyond, and contends that a lot of what doctors are prescribing to 50-year-olds -- from coronary bypass surgeries and angioplasties to arthroscopic knee surgery -- may be doing more harm than good to us. One of the problems, he says, is doctors' inclination to "over-medicalize" normal age-related changes that don't always need to be fixed with surgery, when other effective but less invasive and less risky methods of dealing with them are available.
Alternatives to the Elliptical Trainer: The Washington Post reports on "five weird workouts to put the fire back in your routine." Possibilities include kangaroo jumps, anti-gravity yoga, something called ZenGo Cycling, and Rebounding, which apparently involves bouncing off wall-mounted trampolines. Sounds like fun.
Last Word: "Remember, John, this was built by the low bidder." --retired NASA engineer Norm Beckel Jr., who ribbed astronaut John Glenn about the space-worthiness of his rocket, moments before Glenn became the first American to orbit the earth on Feb. 21, 1962. Glenn honored Beckel and the other members of his team in a ceremony this past week.
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