News, Culture, Sights and Sounds

Steve Mencher writes about culture, politics, the news and other subjects for AARP. He's also a jazz musician with the Willis Gidney Quintet. He has worked for Carnegie Hall, NPR and the Library of Congress as an audio, video and multimedia producer.

11 Things We Didn’t Know Last Week

News, discoveries and … fun 1. The world’s shortest man and tallest man both have struggled with being unique. (Learn more at Guinness World Records) 2. Iowa City, Iowa, is the most age-friendly small town in the United States. (Learn more at AARP) 3. Your physically accurate digital avatar can be used to get custom-tailored clothes.  (Learn more at Wired) >> 10 Foods to Avoid Before Boarding a Plane 4. Japan’s new bullet train travels up to 311 mph, about …

The Most Age-Friendly Places to Live

What are the best places to live if you’re age 65 or older? Of the 100 most populous American cities, these lead the list: Madison, Wis. Omaha-Council Bluffs, Neb.-Iowa Provo-Orem, Utah Boston-Cambridge-Newton, Mass.-N.H. Salt Lake City Of small towns, these are on top: Iowa City, Iowa Sioux Falls, S.D. Columbia, Mo. Bismarck, N.D. Rapid City, S.D. All of this is according to the Best Cities for Successful Aging report released Nov. 18 by the Milken Institute, a nonprofit, nonpartisan, California-based think tank. …

This Week in Boomer History: Jonestown … ‘White Album’ … JFK

Notable events from our shared experience After followers of cult leader Jim Jones ambush an investigative delegation, killing five (Rep. Leo Ryan, left, among them), more than 900 inhabitants of the cult’s Jonestown settlement in Guyana die in a mass suicide/murder on Nov. 18, 1978. On Nov. 18, 1966, American Roman Catholic bishops declare an end to meatless Fridays, except during Lent. That’s after the practice has given rise to countless fish lunches in school cafeterias and the Filet-O-Fish at McDonald’s. >> 10 Essential …

11 Things We Didn’t Know Last Week

News, discoveries and … fun 1. Nearly half of people surveyed wrongly believe that their dogs are as smart as 3- to 5-year-old children. (Learn more at Time) 2. A big white rat is the newest star on Broadway. (Learn more at NY Times) >> 12 Foods That Sabotage Your Sleep 3. People do a terrible job of predicting how long they’ll live. (Learn more at Discovery) 4. Sixty-five percent of women say they favor sleep over sex. (Learn more from Today) …

This Week in Boomer History: ‘Sesame Street’ … ‘Catch-22’

Notable events from our shared experience Published Nov. 10, 1961, Joseph Heller’s antiwar novel Catch-22 over the years spawns a catchphrase for paradoxical futility. Alan Arkin, Martin Balsam, Richard Benjamin and Art Garfunkel star in a 1970 movie version. Carl Stokes becomes the first black mayor of a major American city when he takes the reins in Cleveland on Nov. 13, 1967. After two terms, he becomes New York City’s first African American TV news anchorman in 1972. >> 10 Essential Boomer Books On Nov. 10, …

11 Things We Didn’t Know Last Week

News, discoveries and … fun 1. For $50,000, the Dallas Zoo will sell you naming rights for a baby giraffe. (Learn more at CBS DFW) 2. More than $2 billion in lottery prizes went unclaimed in 2013. (Learn more at Yahoo! Finance) 3. Some male hummingbirds use their sharp, curved beaks to stab rivals’ throats. (Learn more at University of Connecticut) >>  Best Small Towns in America 4. Carlos Santana became a guitarist because his first instrument, the violin, sounded like an “alley …