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. A pair of Willie Nelson’s braids is worth $37,000. (Learn more at NY Times) 2. A thin, million-mile-long cloud of solar material is suspended above the sun. (Learn more at NASA) 3. Some of London’s iconic red phone booths are becoming solar-powered charging stations for mobile devices. (Learn more at Gizmodo) >> 10 Best U.S. Train Trips to Take This Fall 4. Paul Revere, the rock star from the 1960s and ’70s who dressed in …

This Week in Boomer History: Che … ‘Cats’ … ‘SNL’

Bolivian soldiers execute Ernesto “Che” Guevara on Oct. 9, 1967, a day after capturing Fidel Castro’s collaborator in the Cuban revolution. In an attempt to win back territory lost during the Six-Day War of 1967, Egypt and Syria launch a coordinated surprise attack on Israel Oct. 6, 1973, during the Jewish holiday of Yom Kippur. The fighting ends in less than three weeks; five years later, Israel and Egypt normalize relations. Inspired by T.S. Eliot’s Old Possum’s Book of Practical …

11 Things We Didn’t Know Last Week

News, discoveries and … fun 1. Marmosets can learn useful behaviors, like unlocking a box of food, from watching videos of other marmosets. (Learn more at NY Times) 2. Colognes newly created to honor Che Guevara and Hugo Chávez are a “serious error,” according to the Cuban government. (Learn more at BBC) 3. Swedish scientists compete to hide the most Bob Dylan lyrics in their scholarly papers. (Learn more at Rolling Stone) >> 12 Foods That Sabotage Sleep 4. At 20 percent, …

How the Pope Celebrated Older People Around the World

[View the story “Pope Francis Celebrates Wisdom of Elderly” on Storify]   Storify summary: With some 40,000 people gathered Sept. 28 in Vatican City to honor grandparents and the elderly, Pope Francis started with his predecessor, Emeritus Pope Benedict XVI, who made a rare public appearance. Benedict, 87, still lives at the Vatican, and Francis, 77, emphasized that Benedict’s wisdom and experience have been invaluable, like having a “wise grandparent” at home. Also of Interest Who You Callin’ Grandma? Cool …

This Week in Boomer History: ‘Joy of Sex’ … Disney World

Notable events from our shared experience Cheekily taking its title from The Joy of Cooking, The Joy of Sex is published Oct. 1, 1972. Although the first edition is sexist by today’s standards and concentrates almost exclusively on heterosexual activities, it popularizes the idea that whatever gives both partners sexual pleasure is OK. The Soviet Union’s launch of the beach ball-sized Sputnik I on Oct. 4, 1957, ushers in the Space Age. Just a month later, Sputnik II launches the …

11 Things We Didn’t Know Last Week

News, discoveries and … fun 1. Burger King in Japan sells a burger with all-black fixings (cheese, bun, sauce). (Learn more at USA Today) 2. It’s possible to rob a store armed with nothing more than a banana. (Learn more at Buzzfeed) 3. Four out of five heart attacks can be prevented. (Learn more at AARP) >>10 Strange Destinations to Visit 4. “Multidisciplinary analysis” tops a recently declassified list of the CIA’s most-hated cliches. (Learn more at Washington Post) 5. …