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Is All This Talk About Aging Getting OLD?

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As Peter Attia, Canadian-born physician whose medical practice focuses on the science of longevity, asks in his lectures:

What is the greatest risk factor for atherosclerosis (deposition of plaques of fatty materials on arteries inner walls?“) …

… the answers from students and laypersons alike rebound back at him in rapid fire: smoking!… high blood pressure!… apoB!… LDL!… inflammation!…

These are all good logical answers.

And then he responds, “… the number one cause of atherosclerosis is age, hands down.

Yup, aging kills.

Welcome to Part 3 (Parts 1 and 2 are here and here) of my occasional dive into the science and maybe… science-fiction-like discussion of AGING, LIFESPAN, and HEALTHSPAN.

Yes, aging, and what we can do to slow it down. Or heaven forbid and glory be… reverse it!

We’re in the opening innings of a long game versus the profound effects of aging that could go well past the 9th inning before we declare something resembling a winner.

But this doesn’t mean we shouldn’t take a few swings of the bat when some tempting pitches come floating across our plate that auger well for a single or a double, ie. a potentially longer lifespan and healthspan.

So, this week, I’m cherry-picking another one of the 9 Hallmarks of Aging that I find particularly interesting.

Please remember, this is written in very simplistic terms. This topic is a very deep hole with exhausting complexity.

But first, as always… the fine print.

(I spent my professional life working in the sciences, but I am not a scientific expert. I am an interpreter with an interest in this stuff, so I’ll share with you what I’ve found and provide some links for you to follow if you have a deeper interest too. Also, science by its nature is incomplete and evolving, meaning that what I share today may be replaced tomorrow by newer research that sounds different. It’s science but it’s not omnipotent… )

Part 3, let’s go…

Senescence… my name is Cellular Senescence

It’s like we live in the world of The Walking Dead except internally, in our guts and cells, we have The Floating Dead… yes, Zombie cells…

Cellular senescence … way back in 1961, a couple of researchers by the names of Hayflick and Moorhead tried an experiment (here) to see if human cells could multiply over and over indefinitely in a lab dish.

The answer? Nope, these cultured human cells do not replicate forever but start to slow their divisions and just kind of nod off into a Zombie Zone. This is called cell senescence (the term senescence comes from the Latin “Senex”, which means “old man” in Latin).

But these cells don’t actually die.

In fact, they have an increased resistance to cell death by finding pathways that allow them to escape our immune system clearance and survive. They also begin to do some weird things, like changing their shape and size as well as secreting inflammatory molecules, which, in turn, can cause other cells to become senescent.

Scientists suggest that one of the main reasons that our cells have gained the ability to cause cells to stop dividing and doing their “job” is that senescence prevents the replication of cells that contain damaged DNA. This serves a critical function in preventing cancer and limits tissue damage by stopping the multiplication of faulty cells.

The link between aging and senescence has been well established. Simply, as we get older, our cells continue to be exposed to a cumulative stress (of many internal and external forms), which, ultimately, leads to an increase in the number of cells that become senescent.

On the bright side, Cellular senescence may play an important role in tumour suppression, wound healing, and protection against tissue fibrosis…

… but, there’s increasing evidence that the accumulation of senescent cells as we age may produce harmful effects and can contribute to tissue changes, biological aging, and many age-related diseases.

Senescent cells secrete hundreds of factors that include pro-inflammatory cytokines, chemokines, growth factors, and proteases (Kuilman and Peeper, 2009), some helpful, while others are nasty.

So, do senescent cells actually cause us problems as we grow older? It would seem, yes, according to this summary in December 2020 from the journal, Aging Cell.

Senescence is likely a double-edged sword.

Can we do something about this to increase our lifespan and healthspan? Anything?

There is really only a little we can actively do right now… but… we also have a lot to look forward to as research lifts the cover off some of these aging mysteries.

Strategies against cell senescence that can be used as “therapy” in humans can be classified into the following 3 groups:

  • non-drug interventions that prevent the accumulation of senescent cells, such as avoiding excessive UV radiation, and healthy dietary habits that include foods with anti-oxidation activity. Also, calorie restriction would appear to be beneficial as restricting calories is known to suppress oxidative stress (here), a major cause of DNA damage and cancers.
  • pharmacological therapies aimed at reducing the amount of inflammatory molecules secreted by already existing senescent cells.
  • pharmacological therapies aimed at reducing the number of senescent cells (or what researchers call senolytics). In early studies, senolytics appear to delay, prevent or alleviate frailty, cancers and cardiovascular, neuropsychiatric, liver, kidney, musculoskeletal, lung, eye, haematological, metabolic and skin disorders, as well as complications of organ transplantation, radiation and cancer treatment (Journal of Internal Medicine, 2020.)

LAST WORD: If you intend to participate in the Centenarian Olympics, your and my chances should be significantly increased if the quandaries of cellular senescence can be better understood and alleviated.

While you’re waiting for this to happen, maybe try working on your handstands!

Jagmeet Singh (Canadian NDP Party Leader) can walk on his hands at 42… will he still be able to do this at 100??

Are You In The Prime of Your Genes?

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A few weeks back I wrote a post about Aging, Lifespan, and Healthspan.

… at least I think I did. Or did I? Yes I did… (here it is)

I’m so forgetful these days.

How we can stay healthy as long as possible is a HUGE topic (War and Peace HUGE) and I merely skimmed the surface of this story of how and why we age.

How are you aging, would you say?

Every day there is more and more talk and research into aging as science-based technology thrusts us forward into a future with a promise of healthful longevity.

There are a number of reasons you or I might be interested in understanding aging, but for me, it’s all selfish.

I’m a one-note singer…. *Me me me me!

First of all, my parents died quite young by today’s longevity standards: Mom at 61, Dad at 73.

This would have been considered old, generations back… from the book Ageless: A 20-year-old today has better odds of having a living grandmother than a 20-year-old in the 1800s did of having a living mother.

Secondly, as an atheist who believes that an afterlife for me is a very remote possibility, I’d really like to make my life last a bit longer (no guarantees, I know) so that I can bug my family – esp. grandkids – and friends for longer, as well as see the monumental and exciting (and scary) changes coming to our world for as long as possible.

Yup, I like living.

Now, to understand the concept of aging is interesting, but truly, the bottom line is that I want to know how it can be slowed (or gasp, even reversed) so that I can have a longer lifespan than I might otherwise. Critical also is to have an increased HEALTHSPAN… the ability to live all my days in reasonably robust physical and mental health.

(OK, before I jump into this, here’s the fine print: I am not a scientific expert, but rather an interpreter. I have an interest in this stuff, so I’ll share with you what I’ve found and provide some links for you to follow if you have a deeper interest too. Also, science by its nature is incomplete and evolving, meaning that what I share today may be replaced tomorrow by newer research that sounds different. It’s science but it’s not omnipotent… )

… only I AM OMNIPOTENT (*oh Larry, get off your high horse…)

Today I thought I’d skim a level deeper by delving into just ONE of the Hallmarks of Aging.

Do you recall that I mentioned the 9 HALLMARKS OF AGING in my earlier post? NO? OK, here’s a quick summary:

  • 1. genomic instability
  • 2. telomere attrition
  • 3. epigenetic alterations
  • 4. loss of proteostasis
  • 5. deregulated nutrient sensing
  • 6. mitochondrial dysfunction
  • 7. cellular senescence
  • 8. stem cell exhaustion, and
  • 9. altered intercellular communication

This is enormously complex stuff but what the hell, let’s just leap off the cliff and dive into GENOMIC INSTABILITY as it relates to aging.

WHAT IS GENOMIC INSTABILITY?

At its simplest, it’s all about damaging our DNA (the stuff that makes up our genes) daily, monthly, yearly.

There are a lot of ways for DNA to become damaged. Just a few examples of these “gene damagers” are things like sun exposure, X-rays and CT scans, exposure to chemical toxins and carcinogens, tobacco use, and internal virus interactions with our genes.

We have lots of fix-it crews running around our bodies 24/7 replacing and repairing all the wear and tear in our genes and cells, but genomic instability is damage that the crew just can’t seem to get to for various reasons, like aging ie it’s not repaired.

David Sinclair, author of the book: Lifespan:Why We Age- and Why We Don’t Have To, states:

DNA damage accelerates epigenetic aging and the loss of information at the epigenetic level and the genetic level [causing genomic instability]. We know that breaking a chromosome is the best way to accelerate aging. We’ve done this in mice and it’s not pretty. Even just a few DNA breaks can accelerate aging. To avoid breaking DNA, try to avoid using microwaves, don’t have too many x-rays done unnecessarily, or CT scans; I think CT scans are essential, but don’t have CT scans done every year just because you’re curious what’s going on inside. That’s my view. Avoid radiation of the type that will break DNA.

The odd dysfunctional cell inside of us is not really a huge problem. But, as we get older, an increasing number of cells succumb to DNA damage and begin to accumulate.

Eventually, the number of these damaged cells reaches a point where they can compromise our organ and tissue function.

Normally, the body removes these problem cells via apoptosis (normal programmed cell death). Unfortunately, as we age some cells evade apoptosis. These rogue cells take up space in our tissue and send out harmful signals that damage the local tissue.

All these forms of DNA alterations may result in dysfunctional cells that, if not eliminated by apoptosis or senescence (loss of a cell’s power of division and growth), may jeopardize tissue and the body’s stable equilibrium. (Jones and Rando, 2011; Rossi et al., 2008)

Another possible outcome of damaged DNA is cells that mutate but do not destroy themselves. If a mutation damages the systems that regulate cell division, or disables the tumour suppression, cancer is the result.

The unchecked and rampant cell growth of cancer is probably the most well-known consequence of DNA damage.

Even chemotherapy agents designed to kill cancer can potentially damage DNA.

Finally, even if we craftily sidestep all the external threats to our DNA, the body still damages itself.

Oxidative stress produced by our metabolism can damage our DNA and mitochondrial DNA. Double strand breaks are often the result of this metabolic damage and can be lethal to the cell.

This is where the clean-up crews play their part. Humans have evolved a complex network of DNA repair mechanisms and enzymes that are collectively capable of dealing with most of the damage inflicted to nuclear DNA (Lord and Ashworth, 2012).

Unfortunately, this repair process is not perfect, and, sometimes, our DNA is not repaired. This can lead to the cell replication machinery misreading the information contained in the DNA, causing a mutation.

Many studies have demonstrated all of these genomic “damages” accompany aging.

Less DNA damage hopefully = less aging.

But here’s the big question for you and me:

What reasonable steps can we take to minimize this damage to our genes?

The simplest things are avoiding risks, such as: excessive sun exposure, industrial chemicals, too frequent X-rays, and smoking; also, stay away from radioactive waste, as there are no comic book superpowers from these mutations!

Beyond this, no drugs or therapies are definitively shown to prevent or repair DNA damage. The good news is human trials for DNA repair are well underway.

Example: there is a good deal of evidence to suggest that caloric restriction (CR) can help combat DNA damage, along with other beneficial effects.

From a 2007 American study (here): Over the last three decades, numerous laboratories have examined the effects of CR (Caloric Restriction) on the integrity of the genome and the ability of cells to repair DNA. The majority of studies performed indicate that the age-related increase in oxidative damage to DNA is significantly reduced by CR. Early studies suggest that CR reduces DNA damage by enhancing DNA repair.

Practically, cutting back our calorie consumption by about 30% through dieting or intermittent fasting is difficult, and for many, nearly impossible. as we know from all the failed diets out there.

A lot of research is ongoing into “magic pills” that have the ability to fool our bodies into thinking that CR is happening.

A 2020 Canadian study sums up much of this discussion. Compounds such as Resveratrol, Metformin (common diabetes medication), and Rapamycin show a lot of promise, but further human-based research is still needed.

(Disclosure (but not a recommendation): I take 600 mg of resveratrol daily. This is a personal choice for me based on my age and my family history. In concentrations below 1,000 mg, resveratrol exhibits anti-oxidant properties, but above 1,000 mg. may actually be a nasty pro-oxidant. It’s all about risk vs reward).

That was a lot to absorb. Are you still awake? Are you still alive?

Maybe… just maybe… you’ll cross the finish line after your Centenarian Olympics, eh?

In a future post, I’ll likely strike out into another of the Hallmarks of Aging.

Are your genes singing a song of longevity? Hopefully your inner genes are as tough as your blue jeans!

You Have The Right to Live, But Do You Have The Fight to Live?

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Take a deep breath… smile… there, that’s a good beginning… Namaste…

I’m aware that most of my blog followers and readers are of an age demographic that resembles me… near or at Senior’dom.

This post will be skewed towards your world, ie. the elder demographic’s area of interest, but I also want to stress to you younger “kids” that now is the real time to pay attention to the stuff I’m talking about here today.

You might think this post is a bit nerdy, yeah yeah, but hang tough, because it’s worth it for you, and those you love.

Today it’s all about Aging, Longevity, and perhaps most importantly, Healthspan.

In the past year or so, I’ve developed a greater and greater interest in the process of aging and the science of how it happens, and what can be done to delay aging, and yes, ultimately, death.

Aging is very complex stuff because our biological humanity is enormously complex, filled with millions of internal actions and interactions. We know so much, but in reality, we know so little.

Both of my parents died at relatively young ages – unnecessarily young in my opinion – from heart conditions that were, at a minimum, partly a result of lifestyle choices they made.

… the rate of aging is controlled, at least to some extent, by genetic pathways and biochemical processes conserved in evolution.” Journal – CELL

Yes, for my parents, genetics played a part in their too short lives as well, but I should learn from their choices and CHOOSE to make better decisions, based on what science tells us today.

I was cosmically lucky to be born, and I should choose to honour that luck and life with grace and effort.

Critically, achieving a greater age and lifespan is almost meaningless without a longer healthspan, life without major physical or mental infirmities.

This is what we all want for ourselves and our family, and unfortunately so often fail to achieve.

First off, as I talk about these topics, I’ll acknowledge that I’m not an expert.

BUT. I think the topic is important enough to us all to at least attempt a greater understanding.

I’ve often discussed “good science” (peer-reviewed, reproducible, double-blind where applicable) in my posts, and I’ll be paying close attention to this as I go along, while also bearing in mind that scientific knowledge, like technology, is CONSTANTLY EVOLVING.

What’s the bottom line here?

A longer, healthier life.

The end result of my curiosity is to tap into the truly limited knowledge that we possess on aging, lifespan and healthspan, and extract some useful guidance to increase my chances of breathing, in a healthy state, just a bit longer than I might have otherwise.

I’m merely scratching the surface on this today, so expect to see more posts that address this important topic as weeks and months go along.

Sound good to you? No?? Let’s jump in anyway! …

Much of the research and discussion that I draw from is originating from the bright minds of three scientists (although there are so many more out there whose work is equally valid and important).

The first is David Sinclair, PhD, an Australian biologist, Professor of Genetics and co-Director of the Paul F. Glenn Center for Biology of Aging Research at Harvard Medical School. He is known for his research on aging with a focus on epigenetics. He is the author of a 2019 book titled, Lifespan: Why We Age – and Why We Don’t Have To. The book has some complexity, but he does a pretty fair job of making it understandable to the lay person.

Second up is Dr. Jennifer Doudna, PhD, an American biochemist who has done pioneering work in CRISPR gene-editing. Dr. Doudna received the 2020 Nobel Prize in Chemistry, with Emmanuelle Charpentier “for the development of a method for genome editing.” She is a professor in the Department of Chemistry and the Department of Molecular and Cell Biology at the University of California, Berkeley. Her discoveries are hugely exciting for a number of reasons related to aging and other diseases which I’ll get to eventually, today or in the future.

Finally, Dr. Peter Attia is a Canadian-born physician whose medical practice focuses on the science of longevity. Attia received his M.D. at Stanford University, then spent five years at the Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore as a general surgery resident followed by two years at the National Cancer Institute (NCI) at National Institutes of Health as a Surgical Oncology Fellow. In 2014, Attia founded Attia Medical, PC, a medical practice focusing on the applied science of longevity and optimal performance. His in-depth and well-communicated podcasts on aging and longevity can be found here.

OK… AGING…

Eight years ago, a landmark article was published in the science journal CELL that outlined the 9 hallmarks of aging…

These hallmarks are:

  1. genomic instability
  2. telomere attrition
  3. epigenetic alterations
  4. loss of proteostasis
  5. deregulated nutrient sensing
  6. mitochondrial dysfunction
  7. cellular senescence
  8. stem cell exhaustion
  9. altered intercellular communication.

Each of these hallmarks was intended to meet the following criteria:

  1. it occurs during normal aging
  2. increasing it experimentally speeds up aging
  3. slowing it experimentally changes the normal aging process and increases healthy lifespan.

Every one of these 9 hallmarks is a long story unto itself. I give you these points so that you can do your own investigations should you choose.

There are a plethora of investigators (3 of whom I mention above) that are burning midnight oil to uncover interventions to alleviate the changes that occur with aging – some are practical and relatively simple, others are looking at medical and pharmacologic approaches that show promise.

Yada yada yada… your job and mine… is to attenuate, not stop totally, each of these aging processes and reach out to eventually participate in the Centenarian Olympics, a term used by Peter Attia to describe reaching the age of 100 with the ability to be mobile and mentally competent.

Here is how Attia describes the functional requirements of participation in the Centenarian Olympics: When you’re 100, you should be able to: 

  • Get up off the floor under your own support
  • Pick up a child that’s running at you (or, similarly, do a 30-pound goblet squat)
  • Walk up and down 3 flights of stairs with 10 lbs. of groceries in each hand
  • Pull yourself out of a pool
  • Lift a 30 lb. suitcase over your head (i.e., when you’re putting your luggage in an overhead bin on an airplane)

These requirements can be difficult for a 75 year-old in reasonable health. It will take consistent and determined effort to do it at 100!

One of the best and most effective ways that science shows we can take control over almost all of the hallmarks of aging come in one recipe ingredient: exercise. This is a great starting point on the journey to successful aging.

From a 2018 article in the Frontiers of Endocrinology, the authors write: “… regular physical activity in the older population—especially aerobic and resistance training—plays an important role at a multisystem level, preventing severe muscle atrophy, maintaining cardiorespiratory fitness and cognitive function, boosting metabolic activity, and improving or maintaining functional independence.”

Further: “… physical exercise is free, reduces the risk of many potentially lethal diseases, and helps strike the increasing sedentary behavior and physical-inactivity pandemic. Within this line, although exercise does not mitigate the aging process, it attenuates many of the deleterious systemic and cellular effects and improves the function of most of the mechanisms involved in aging” 

Over and over, research demonstrates that exercise “exercises” a positive influence over metabolic syndromes – described as those who have:

  • Large waist
  • Low levels of HDL (“good”) cholesterol
  • High levels of triglycerides
  • Elevated blood pressure 
  • Elevated fasting glucose (blood sugar) levels.

Beyond exercise, avoiding tobacco use is easy pickings, but one more area that we have control over and that also contributes to longevity is good dental hygiene and care. Periodontal disease can impact us in a number of negative ways.

Right. These are the ideas that I’ll leave you with today to think and ponder over.

Ask yourself: Do I have the desire to join in the Centenarian Olympics?

I’m asking myself a lot of questions and deciding which paths I’m willing to take to get there and where the risk/reward falls in my favour.

Within my own wheelhouse, the beast for me to tame is my lifelong sugar addiction… my personality should be sweet, but my oral consumption? Not so much!

Time to go… I’ll return in a future blog post to talk about promising medical and pharmacologic means of dealing with the 9 hallmarks of aging.

Grab your flashlight and let’s go on a fun search for the Fountain of Longevity and Healthspan.

On The Road To Becoming a Dinosaur…

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I’m not fully there yet … but, for God’s sake, just send in the meteor now to decimate me totally like the real dinosaurs.

Actually, I’d suggest shoving me off on some northern ice floe but those are mostly melted away now, replaced by Arctic yachts, Inuit bikinis and palm trees, yes?

WHAT? That sounds a bit desperate Larry.

So, am I correct in thinking that I’m losing my power, cracking open the door to irrelevance… to dinosaur’dom?

First, the glaringly obvious – yes, my arms are growing shorter (actually, it might be my spine *measure myself against the wall* … yes, it definitely IS my spine that is shorter)… my skin is getting scaly and rough… and when I get up to pee in the night (dinosaurs always got up to pee in the night, yes?), I sort of wobble back and forth on my legs like a T-Rex or a human toddler, until I feel my balance sensors kick in.

But not all the signs of dinosaur’osity are so undisguised.

It’s taken a few years for me to realize and understand this transfer of “power”, but it’s growing clearer to me that a transformation is underway and will likely develop more completely in years to come.

Sometimes, it takes a while to understand that small changes add up to a larger shift. Only when we look back afterwards, is it blindingly obvious.

OK, I sense your confusion. It might not be clear what I’m getting at, so let me go into more detail. I’ll give you 3 examples in today’s TedTalk… er.. LarryTalk!

1. PROFESSIONAL Work. I was a medical lab technologist for 37 years, most spent in the Microbiology trenches, hunched over agar plates, identifying bacteria, parasites, and fungi that cause infection and then informing doctors which antibiotics or other therapeutics would most likely be successful in eradicating the little microscopic buggers.

It was only in the last 5 years or so of my career that I became truly cognizant of the rapidity of change in knowledge and best-in-class treatment options. The pace was scary. I began worrying about my ability (and honestly, desire) to keep current.

When the fateful day came that I stayed awake at night worrying if I had provided the “best” treatment advice available, I knew that I had to make a MAJOR effort to regain/retain currency, or get the hell out of the way for those with the drive and energy to take it on. I was shape-shifting into a dinosaur.

Instead, I morphed into a happy computer database geek for the last few years of my working career and left the agonizing worry behind. I probably saved a few lives in making this change which kind of makes me a SuperHero, right? (No Attaboy‘s needed here!)

 

2. YOUNG folks begin to talk “around” me. My road to invisibility is slowly being built as kids in their 20’s, 30’s and 40’s no longer view me as a source of infinite wisdom, knowledge and authority. Omnipotence Lost.

I can see it coming at me in my world because I know a few decades back, I began looking at my elders in a similar way. I found myself viewing them as pseudo-dinosaurs who deserved respect, but bit-by-bit I realized that I wasn’t putting as much weight or blind belief in their words. The new world was passing them by.

Akin to my first point above, the younger generation(s) can see that older people are struggling to keep up with the humongous social and technological changes that are overtaking us. I’m pretty sure the earthquake – the massive turning point – was when we found seniors’ living rooms filled with VCR’s that flashed 12:00 incessantly.

 

3. INVESTMENT tenets. I’ve been an amateur “investment analyst” for decades, developing a toolbox of skills that have helped provide me and my family a reasonable standard-of-living despite a relatively small income.

It has been a stimulating hobby that just happened to have a financial payday attached. But… big but (not BUTT, not yet at least!)… these investing tools I relied on for decades are slipping because of rapid technology change.

For sure, the principles and tenets of analysis are still valid, but they reflect a world of much slower change. As I’ve told my own kids, ten years ago I could, for example, count on big banks and large industries that were well-managed to produce good returns to me as a shareholder for many many years to come.

Now, because of disruptive technology and logarithmically fast research efforts, the strongest of the strong can be knocked off their pedestal overnight. We are making buggy-whip makers of almost every “old” company in weeks and months instead of years and decades. We can only guess who the winners and losers might be.

The only solution I can come up with at this moment is to hold a large, diversified bag of well-run “new age” companies, knowing that it will only require a couple of winners to make a successful portfolio. 

……………..

So my friends… I’ve got my eyes wide open, bobbing like a prize boxer, as I (Yoda) try to dodge the meteor that threatens my relevant existence.

We’re all in the same ring, floating like butterflies, doing the magic dance of keeping up.

It’s fascinating and dizzying, exciting and scary.

Do you think the real dinosaurs saw the meteor before it finally hit?

The Best Place and Time to Die… Nowhere and Never…

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funeral on ganges

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The idea is to die young as late as possible”

Ashley Montagu

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The sunshine in our days is growing shorter and I’m growing longer in morbid thoughts. It’s an annual tradition I celebrate with hot roast turkey and cranberries while giving thanks.

Death is a part of my DNA… literally.

It is for you too, and so we all think about it, some more than others.

My own “bible” says that if we lived in a world with 16 hours of daylight every day no matter the season or time of year, we’d smile and never die and never know anyone who has died. That’s the power of sunshine.

This would be my Garden of Eden. No apples of temptation, no sneaky serpents, but the running around naked part stays put. I’m convinced.

The notion of death is easy to come across these days not only because of the COVID virus but also because there’s huge amounts of scientific data spewing from research labs that are shining spotlights on the aging process (eg. stem cell treatment, senescent cell removal, CRISPR technology and others) and how we can reset the epigenetic clock and delay the onset of “not living”.

With each passing month, scientists are driving us closer to a length-of-life that more closely resembles the biblical ages of such well-known celebs as Moses and Job (or Ibrahim in Islamic faith) who reportedly lived well beyond 100.

……………

John Green: “You die in the middle of your life, in the middle of a sentence”

Isaac Asimov: “Life is pleasant. Death is peaceful. It’s the transition that’s troublesome.”

Dylan Thomas: “Do not go gentle into that good night,
Old age should burn and rave at close of day;
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.”

Benjamin Franklin: “Most people die at 25 and aren’t buried until they’re 75.”

Woody Allen: “It’s not that I’m afraid to die,
I just don’t want to be there when it happens.”

“I have a very low threshold of death.
My doctor says I can’t have bullets enter my body at any time.”

…………….

So while I’m hopeful that we all surpass the century mark of aging (while remaining healthy), death is our lifetime companion, like a child’s imaginary friend that we all have but can never truly share with another.

We all must die alone in the sense that we pass through the door one at a time, like a turnstile at a sporting event.

Given its inevitability, what is THE best way to die?

Death… rapid-onset, or slowly drawn-out is shocking. There is NO good way to die because the end result is that you’re no longer alive.

There’s no easy or right answer.

I bump into folks all the time who opine on the best way to die. It’s great party chatter.

I wanna just drop dead on the sidewalk… BOOM!

A lot seem to think that a sudden demise- maybe a bullet to the head-  is the perfect solution to life’s thorniest conclusion.

It’s uncomplicated and “painless”. It’s like an “Irish goodbye”, leaving quietly out the side door of a party or bar without saying goodbye to anyone.

dead chalk outline

Others prefer the more drawn-out ending where you are conscious of your final days. The downside here is that longer deaths are often wrapped part-and-parcel with agonizing pain or discomfort, sometimes a foggy confusion.

Let me lay on my death bed for weeks, get my affairs in order, and tell my loved ones how much they’ve meant to me…

Yup, there’s no happy or easy answer, and much like the unknowable question of whether a God does or does not exist, in the majority of cases, we aren’t allowed the decision.

For me, given a game-show choice – Door A or Door B – as part artist, part-scientist… I’d take the hybrid highway, Door C… no express check-out, but also no long, drawn-out painful plod to the finish line.

My own wish is for a (lucid and relatively painless) week or two to wave from the deck of my personal Titanic.

Perhaps our aging-research scientists will be the artists that one day allow us all to become the “forever 21” Dorian Gray.

Until then, I’m going outside to do my Sun Dance for a few more hours of delicious Vitamin D.

BREAKING NEWS for MEN: 8 Tricks to Look Like George Clooney Beyond Middle Age…

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WELCOME to my

DIY Handsomeness Course

Last week I mentioned that I stopped aging at 19, but that was only partly true.

The rest of the story is below…

Full disclosure: I stopped MATURING at age 19… ie. my mental maturity got stuck in the mud like peanut butter on the roof of my mouth (this happens to men a lot). Bad news.

The physical side of me – my face and body – felt left out by the process, so in nasty retribution they went into a hyper-speed zone after I chronologically traversed the teenager divide into adulthood (this also happens to men a lot). More bad news.

Having the V-shaped physique that marks a virile, stud-muffin man can be a problem if the apex of the V begins at your neck and hits full wide-open stride at your waist. Yes, this too is bad news.

So here I am now, stuck with a juvenile mentality and looking for a physical reversal and rejuvenation, sort of a Benjamin Buttoning of my outward appearance.

For sure it’s an ego trip, a full-fledged vanity expedition, probably resulting from the unintended ingestion of too many late-night infomercials.

It’s akin to when I was a kid, when I believed the comic book ads, the cunning tripe that tried to sell me the magic scope that would allow me to see through women’s clothing… creepy stuff that flared a pre-hormonal boy’s wistful dreams. Boob city for only $1.00 + $ .25 S+H?

Sucker born every minute, right PT Barnum?

This week I’ve been doing a little extra GOOGLE research into male anti-aging solutions that will offer me more Sean Connery and less Mystical Connery.

Here are a few things I’ve been reading about and will sift to determine which I should try so that my face and body match my juvenile mentality.

*The Small Print Disclaimer*: Please don’t try ANY of these “solutions”- no one wants to look like me!

  1. NECK TAPE – my turkey neck syndrome is solved with this clear medical-grade tape that is placed on the back of the neck. The instructions are simple: Grab your neck skin at the nape, pull it back, tape it in place, and then cover the evidence with your hair. The result is a fairly slim and firm-looking neck. Maybe I can make this a part of my daily “manly” routine in addition to SSS (S*&t, Shower & Shave). Unintended positive side effect: ripping off the tape at the end of the day gets rid of the unwanted hair on the back of my neck… DOUBLE SCORE!
  2. URINE DRINK – Brit Harry Matadeen, 32, leaves his urine for up to a month, before drinking a glass every day and massaging it into his skin every morning. The health coach says the ‘free and powerful medicine that can cure all manner of diseases’ has made him healthier and smarter than ever before – and claims he now gets mistaken for a man in his 20’s thanks to its anti-aging qualities. I’m only sad knowing that I poured thousand of litres of urine down the sink in my career as a lab technologist. I could have had the skin of 6 month-old baby with early knowledge of this miracle drink! Forget those “green smoothies”, yellow has the power.
  3. BIRD POOP FACE MASK – Nightingale droppings have been used in facials since ancient Japanese times. The guano from the nightingale has a high concentration of urea and guanine. Because birds excrete a fecal and urine waste from a single opening, called the cloaca, the fecal-urine combination gives the droppings a high concentration of urea. Urea is sometimes found in cosmetics because it locks moisture into the skin. The guanine may produce shimmery, iridescent effects on the skin. It’s speculated that because of the short intestine of the nightingale, the droppings have protein, a fat-degrading enzyme, and a whitening enzyme that acts on fat and scurf to whiten skin and even out blemishes. Holy Shit… Sign me up!
  4. PONYTAIL or COMB-OVER?– OK, what dude doesn’t look great with a youthful ponytail, or better yet, a comb-over? I won’t even go into detail here because we all know that a semi-balding fella always looks more lusty and fertile with one of these age-defying trendy do’s.
  5. VIAGRA CREAM – Sagging jowls and eyelids got you down? Forget BOTOX. Forget the ED use of this solid wonder product. Viagra enhancement cream liberally smeared on the face daily will stiffen and engorge the skin with huge blood flow to bring a man’s face to attention in no time. Sure, it’s an off-label use, but I’ve heard it’s on the White House list of effective COVID treatments too. What could go wrong? Visit a doctor if your face goes stiff for more than 4 hours.
  6. WEAR A “BRO” – This is a no-brainer friends. No one wants to look at a cute older couple walking along the ocean boardwalk on a warm evening and try to determine if the man or woman has saggier hooters. If your 100 pushup per day routine just isn’t firming up those masculine pecs, then it’s time to try out the 2020 WonderBro. No separation, just lift. Keep the female eyes on your (Viagra’d) face and not your chest, boys.
  7. FULL BODY WAXING – Steve Carell had the right idea in The 40 Year-Old Virgin *cue the screams*. In today’s world, any body hair below the neck is too much body hair. Believe me, I know. Immersion in a warm, syrupy wax tank followed by a full body rip is the ultimate solution to the question “why haven’t I cried lately“?
  8. JAW CHISEL SURGERY – ever watched hip replacement surgery? It’s a joy to see the Home Depot saws and hammers and chisels emerge from Operating Room drawers after the patient is comatose. Those same miracle tools can be put to good use on your chin by all the Dr. Michelangelo’s out there. There’s no way that Clooney and Connery came by those chiselled chins naturally. The DAVID statue and Mount Rushmore had less work done than either of those two.

So guys, you should be feeling pretty pumped and well-equipped now to send your face and body into reverse gear.

You’re gonna love being a teenager again (except for the acne)!

The Flight of Wisdom to the Centre of the Universe and Back…

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Centre of the universe

Please fasten your seatbelt. Your adventure begins…

When you’re a really little kid, you’re the Centre of the Universe.

You can do anything you want, and Mommy will still wipe your messy bottom and call you the BEST and CUTEST, right?

You are golden stardust, a Princess or Prince.

This is the perfect time of life to make your hit-list and murder anyone you hate and walk away with an impish smile. You have a short-term Get Out of Jail Free card. Congratulations!

Time and timing are everything… yes…

Time is a beautiful gift that’s lost on the young and naive.

Time is forever. Time has no bounds or borders.

But we mortal humans do.

No one tells you this but… for the next 40, 50, 60, 100 years… you’re just a tiny dot of a planet surrounded by infinity and black holes.

It’s a f*&%ing shocker when all that golddust sloughs off and responsibility is in your own hands. No one will wipe your bottom anymore. What’s with that?

Nobody will offer to shave your face in the morning, or insert a tampon on your behalf (if they do, get out your can of bear spray).

You’re adrift in a world of others who are also tiny planets. Try killing someone now – even accidentally – and you’re sporting a stylish orange jumpsuit before you can say Dead Man Walking.

The “adrift” shock wears off, evolving into a sense of independent power when you feel your muscles grow strong and agile and energetic. Your mind absorbs and synthesizes and swells like an empty sponge in a full bathtub.

Like the universe, you expand and expand and learn incalculable facts and lessons until after a long period of decades and trial, you begin to understand the meaning of the word wisdom.

Wisdom’s not a mere jumble of letters in a dictionary anymore, but something that is earned and real. You’re now a Guardian of the Universe. Congratulations again!

guardian

Time, which has always been an endless renewable resource, somehow sheds its disguise and begins to have real meaning too. You can almost touch it and gaze at it with wonderment, and perhaps… even a germination of fear.

Wonderment because important stuff (physical, emotional, spiritual) can only be acquired through the passage of time, and fear because time soon becomes an hourglass of diminishing sand.

And one day… one day… hopefully far off in the future…. your universe slowly and then more rapidly, begins to draw back, picking up speed, and shrinks.

Days are passed searching for reading glasses and keys and removing body hair that surely no caring god would ever inflict on his/her/their worst enemy.

Little owies become daily companions, like a hot morning latte.

Seriously, in my younger days, when some wise senior said “life is pain” I thought it was metaphorical; not, like, “everything from the neck down is arthritis and joint replacements.”

If you’re fortunate, your ability to shave yourself, and slip on your own absorption pads, will last until you’ve squeezed the last droplets of time from the sponge, the final grains of sand from the hourglass. This is my wish for me and for you.

Now, with the wisdom – the mystical treasure you finally possess – you see yourself slipping back into a time and space where once again, you’re the Centre of the Universe. Congratulations on completion of your roundtrip adventure.

All that wisdom sits proudly on a revered library shelf in your head, waiting for an inquisitive young mind seeking guidance in their daily challenges.

A young mind that knows what it is to be the Centre of the Universe, and is heading out on the great journey to the stars building their own bookshelf of wisdom.

wisdom bookshelf 2

 

The Magic of Fingers and WHY

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30

My youngest daughter turned 30 last week. Not oldest… youngest!

I turned 30 just the week before. OK, maybe 2 weeks ago.

No, I’m not a time traveller, but the sensation of time is a fluid, rapid thing like warm sand slip-sliding between your toes at the beach.

Being 30 means you’re not middle-aged yet, but you’ve definitely boarded the ocean liner that carries you over the seas from childhood and the orbit of your parents into the grown-up world with most of the trappings of adulthood.

Job. Home. Maybe kids.

You should can wander around your house naked if you want to and your Mom won’t scream at you.

It’s mostly fun and exciting but scary and jammed with worries too.

I worry about my kids because I’ve lived through the years that are to come for them.

The time between say, 30 and 60, is where you strap on your seatbelt and buckle in for the bumpy ride. Some cope well and fly to the stars, others flounder and drown beneath the weight.

Either trip is filled with challenges.

Family, jobs and responsibilities grow and multiply, and then somewhere in there… most of us exchange the solid ground that is our parents beneath us, and find we’re freefloating with a parachute attached to nothing but cool, thin air.

It’s like we’ve thrown away our diaper now and hope like hell we don’t sh*t our pants.

why.jpg

After 30 is also when we begin to discover if the directions we’ve chosen are where we truly saw our dreams… our WHY… or perhaps if it’s someone else’s dream we’re pursuing.

We all develop a definition of success – in it’s myriad forms – in our heads… the WHY is hopefully what leads us down that path.

WHY is a million questions, but it’s the answers that tell us who we really are.

A small example… I ask myself WHY do I write a blog post every week with no attempt or hope of ever making a livelihood from the effort expended.

My readership (thank you for being in that group) is small and swamped in a expansive world of words and thoughts from every direction.

The voice that ponders and then answers my WHY question is the one that finds expression in writing where it can’t seem to find it in spoken words.

Things happen when I sit to write, just as they do when I sit and play my guitar.

I THINK IT’S ABOUT MY FINGERS.

There are guidelines, understanding, and points of view that reside somewhere deep inside me and refuse to come to the surface until my fingers are moving… it’s like my brain and fingers have a mystical connection… I don’t even try to look behind the curtain for the Wizard, because a wizard, a muse if you prefer… is magic.

Perhaps you find that same wonder through your religious beliefs, or it could be that you have a connection between your brain and your tongue that I lack.

I like the illusion of magic and wonder so I don’t question. I accept. It’s pretty childlike really.

Maybe that’s why I like children’s books.

They engage our imagination and sense of wonder whether we’re 3 or 30 or even 60-something.

Writing this blog draws out my own wonder about myself, you, and the cosmos surrounding us.

Talk about magic in my fingers… ABRACADABRA

 

guitar magic

Let’s Bake You A Banana Cake

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beatle bananas

Remember a couple of weeks back when I said I’d be using you to help me work on songwriting? You do?

Fabulous!

‘Cause this is where we are today and I’ve got a few lyrical lines to share.

They’re pretty simple ones… nothing too flowery or poetically profound … but heartfelt and melancholy for me … and for others in my family.

I confuse myself. There must be a fatal flaw inside me because when I sit to write lyrics I almost always begin with the thought that … “this one I want to be light and fun and maybe even silly”

… and then this shade of darkness bubbles to the surface out of nowhere… maybe I’m the Nowhere Man I mention in the song … maybe …

Anyway… here are some song lyrics I’ve written about my older brother – diagnosed with Alzheimer’s about 7 years ago.

He rides the amusement park rollercoaster where he’s stuck on the downhill slope with no chance for an uphill boost.

Screenshot_2019-06-08 Louis Tomlinson Helps 83-Year-Old Man Whose Wife Died from Alzheimer's Check Things Off His Bucket List.png

Today he’s far removed from the erudite, quirky intellectual – a PhD chemist, Monty Python lover – his family and friends knew for many decades. He lives in a care facility where he slowly dwindles but retains his easy smile and gentle demeanour.

It’s such a common scenario for so many …

If you have any suggestions or ideas for improvement, fire them at me.

Let’s go my friends:

Let’s Bake You A Banana Cake

VERSE
I called my brother the other day
when he answered I knew he wasn’t there
his voice held up strong but
the same world we didn’t share
at least not anymore.

VERSE
It’s funny that you can hear a smile
though the sound travels a thousand miles
the words are a salad, they even sound sane
Do you think you can remember my name?
No, not anymore

VERSE
Books linger hushed on your shelf
framed photos pretty your little room’s walls
with blue summer skies and childhood smiles
are prairie breezes sharing your favourite waltz?
I don’t think so anymore

CHORUS


Maybe you’re Lennon’s Nowhere Man
so let’s bake you a banana cake
’cause you’re kind of already there
there’s a batter of sorts
all mixed up of course
And you don’t know what you’re missing

VERSE
So let’s chat lightly for a bit mon frère
I’ll ask the questions, make the chatter
You’re pretty cheery so does it really matter?
We’ve sipped some wine, skied some trails
but, perhaps, not anymore

BRIDGE
There’s a thief in the house
taken the marbles and flown
the halls echo empty where you once roamed

CHORUS


Maybe you’re Lennon’s Nowhere Man
so let’s bake you a banana cake
’cause you’re kind of already there
there’s a batter of sorts
all mixed up of course
And you don’t know what you’re missing.

banana cake.jpg

The Carousel of Cardio & Pain*

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MoS2 Template Master

Is there anything better than waking up to the screaming voices of tortured muscles and limbs?

Don’t answer that … yet!

You know, the body parts that have been stretched and run and twisted and pushed to a moderate degree beyond comfort while exercising.

It’s no secret that I’m a goal-oriented dude who, paradoxically prefers nothing better than hours and hours of slackadaisical repose… unless… a venture lays before me in the near future that requires a steady simmering build-up of energy.

I met a guy my age – Cary – at the gym the other day, he said… 10 years ago, I ran 10 kilometres in about 42 minutes.

I told him that my “younger” man goal had been to run a 40 minute 10k. I came up short by 21 seconds in 1990 and was never able to get my running fitness to that level ever again.

Cary had a pulmonary embolism 7 years ago and now pushes hard to run a 55 minute 10k.

I didn’t have a pulmonary embolus and I have to run hard now to make a 55 minute 10k.

Training for those runs as a young guy was stimulating … and also came with a modicum of pain. But back then, my mental stamina was strong and pushing hard through the pain was a price I happily paid to myself to compensate for the payoff of attaining my goals.

The training needed to run a 10k in 55 minutes or a half marathon in 2 hours now leaves me with about the same physical pain I experienced in 1990 with 40 minute 10k’s and 1.5 hour half marathons.

tough mudder

What has changed for me, above and beyond the natural aging process, is my mental strength. I can’t crush the gas pedal the way I once did.

Like a cascading river washing over rocks for centuries and millennia, the smoothing and wearing down over time has worked the same process on my mental stamina and grit.

The mere act of physically pushing over decades has polished down the keen edge of mental competitive spirit that once filled my head and body.

It’s kind of funny to me because the mental edge of sharpness that was present for running (and swimming and cycling) has more recently transferred – transformed – into an eager mental edge for improvement on the musical side of my character.

Today, I’m willing and passion-filled to push myself to refine and enhance my guitar skills – skills where I tended towards laziness in years’ past.

Do you find something similar happening to you in the areas of your world where you embrace an enthusiasm and zest – are you too morphing from the ardour of one facet of your life and experiencing a surge in another?

I watch the ripples change their size
But never leave the stream
Of warm impermanence
And so the days float through my eyes
But still the days seem the same…

Ch-ch-ch-ch-changes
Turn and face the strange
Ch-ch-changes
Don’t tell them to grow up and out of it
Ch-ch-ch-ch-changes
Turn and face the strange

David Bowie

I’ve changed … I’m always changing but …

I still love pushing myself and feeling a bit of muscular pain in the morning.

I still love crossing the finish line of a running race.

I still love the rush of endorphins when I strum the last chord of a song and I hear the whoops of the audience that felt a tiny river of joy … or memory … or love … that my song gave them.

The carousel that sometimes gives us pain may also leave a beautiful aftertaste of pleasure in its wake.

* with thanks to Margot H for the blog title.

carousel.jpg

 

 

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