Sunday, January 21, 2007

Living Large On Line

Have you ever "Googled" yourself? I've heard that a Google(TM) search is a good way for the online dating crowd to check out new poeple, but I've also discovered that we ordinary folk often have on-line lives more impressive than the real thing. I found this out by searching for my own name.

I found at least one hundred references, although many of them are duplicates, and some are not about me at all. There are a few other people named Marlys, most notably Lynda Barry's comic character (no relation as far as I know, although there are a few unflattering similarities to a much younger me). There are famous Stynes in the music field, too--also no relation to me or to my late husband.

The references that are actually about me begin with links to my and profiles. Of course I contrubuted those and a few other profiles myself in the hope of selling my book. My name also comes up on the publisher's book-selling site,, and on other book selling sites such as and Information by and about me also appears on AuthorsDen, OnceWritten, Reader Views, and a few other sites for writers. You can even listen to me on line: a reading at and a podcast interview at My Eons groups are listed, too: "Retirement Life," "Eons Writers," "70 & 80 plus," and "70+ and Still Living Well".

I'm also on the web sites of the organizations I belong to: Illinois Womans Press Association, Chicago Writers Association, Authors Marketing Group, and Story Circle Network, as well as on the Secretary of State's Illinois Writers site. There's even something on the site of StoryCircle Chicago, where I sometimes participate in writing workshops. There are references to this blog as well.

Book reviews, interviews, a press release: they're all on line. You can even find my name on contributors' lists for the Tribune's McCormick Fund and the Greater Chicago Food Depository, but that requires more searching than anyone is likely to do. They were small contributions anyway.

Unfortunately, some of the references to me are outdated. I'm still listed as a Wright College department chair, even though I retired in 1999. There are references to some minor articles I wrote during my teaching years, one a review of a simple word processing program that a solved a problem that no longer exists: students entering college with no knowledge of computers. That review was published in the 1980's. Things change fast in the computer world. Finally, there's a link to that ridiculous book review that calls me "Dr. Stone" and gets other basic facts wrong (see "Unknown Authors and Internet Reviewers" in the November archives of this blog).

While I'm not really a personal publicity hound (hey, I wouldn't mind getting on the Oprah Show, or even getting a ticket for it, but that's not going to happen), I hope all this minor hype gets my book and this blog noticed. Most of us want our fifteen minutes of fame. Mostly, I'm just having fun learning the ins and outs, the plusses and minuses, of the Internet--and all of this publicity is either free or inexpensive. Who needs a press agent? It just takes a lot of free time.

Copyright 2007 by Marlys Marshall Styne.

Thursday, January 11, 2007

Senior Concerns: Things we Need to Think About

According to the web site ("50 Plus Everything") longevity calculator, I'm expected to live to age 98. I doubt that, and the idea brings concerns about quality of life at such an advanced age (case in point: my 95-year-old mother, but that's another story). Anyway, the idea of such a long life made two articles in the January 2007 AARP Bulletin catch my attention.

"Forced from an apartment to a double room--is this fair housing?" by Barbara Basler tells about Sally Herriot, a retired math teacher, whose California retirement community is trying to move her from her apartment to a "hospital-like room in its assisted living section." Sally, "an active 88-year-old who often goes to the opera and subscribes to Economist magagine," admits to hiring private help with a few unspecified tasks, but strongly objects to moving from a comfortable one-bedroom apartment to a small double room (both are pictured, and the difference is obvious). She has filed a law suit to stop the move.

Could this be me in fourteen years or so? If I move into my new high rise two-bedroom retirement community apartment in two or three years, as planned, can I be forced into the community's assisted living section before I need major help?

According to Herriot's lawyer, federal law lets people hire the aides they need to live independently without fear of eviction. "Hiring help is not a signal that a resident is ready for assisted living or a nursing home."

In Sally Herriot's case, the community can gain about $500,000 in new fees by placing someone else in her apartment. Is this fair? How often does this happen? I need to find out more about lifetime care communities before I move into one. Who makes these difficult decisions?

In "Who Will Care for You?" Robert N. Butler, M.D., president of the International Longevity Center--USA, discusses another scary problem. "By 2030 the United States will need between 5.7 million and 6.6 million caregivers." In 20 years, one-fifth of all Americans will be over 65. With hard work, low pay, no health care benefits, unpleasant working conditions, and little chance for advancement, who wants caregiving jobs?

In the unlikely case that I'm still alive in 2030, and probably earlier, I may need major help. I'm not worried yet, but we definitely need to think about upgrading those important caregiving jobs. Most of us are likely to need help some day. Who will care for us?

Wednesday, January 03, 2007

In the Shadow of "Mama Etna": Travel Notes from 2006

I've been asked whether I included accounts of my extensive travels here on "Never too Late!" That started me thinking about why I haven't done so. I did mention my short trips to special events in Canada and in Pennsylvania, but not my April-May trip to Sicily and southern Italy, which occurred before I began this blog.

I realized that I returned from that wonderful trip (my first to Sicily and the Amalfi Coast but one of many trips to Italy) to do the final editing of my book, begin my volunteer job, and become generally much busier than I had been earlier. The traveler who takes one great "trip of a lifetime" usually remembers every detail, but we frequent travelers can get forgetful. My book includes one separate chapter on my motorcycle trip to the Soviet Union in 1990, but my quest to visit all seven continents, completed in 2005, was covered in just one chapter. One of my New Years resolutions for 2007 (in addition to the usual "lose weight," etc.) is to keep a journal on my next trip (to Ireland next spring).

Then I found my one journal entry from my 2006 trip. I called it "In the Shadow of Mama Etna." Here it is:

Much of eastern Sicily lives in the shadow, either literal or figurative, of the volcano and mountain many there refer to as "Mama Etna." Etna is considered a good or friendly volcano, despite its fairly frequent eruptions. Through the centuries, only about seven lives have been lost. Villiages have been wiped out as lava hurried to the sea, but somehow, Etna always has given enough warnings so that no one going about his or her daily activities has been overcome suddenly or buried, ala Pompeii.

Scientists study Etna's rumblings, and they always seem to have some idea of where or when an eruption will occur. Their knowledge is not perfect, and they cannot control Mama Etna. Still, the many who live nearby are confident enough to enjoy the volcano's "light shows" and puffs of steam (some of which I saw), and Etna is a tourist attraction where destroyed facilities are quickly rebuilt and functioning, as is the lift or train that takes visitors near the summit.

I learned that Etna is not just a single cone-shaped mountain with one crater, but that there are at least four craters almost in a line, as well as several on the flanks all around the mountain. An eruption can occur almost anywhere. The black lava paths from the mountaintop to the sea are clearly visible, at least those from recent eruptions, but gradually nature emerges--in about one hundred years, I was told--if man does not interfere. In reality, man plants trees and hurries up the rehabilitation process at times.

On the north-northwest side of Etna, the one least populated by tourists and souvenir shops, tall pines grow near the summit just below the black lava in white snow strips nearest the top. Among the green trees and other vegetation on the slopes, skeletal gray-white remains of burned trees appear as constant reminders of nature's power.

To this American midwesterner, a volcano--any volcano--brings thoughts of danger and destruction, but to the Sicilians living near Mama Etna, she is a towering presence that excites and entertains and provides income. They build on her slopes without the comfort of property insurance. The majestic black and white and green presence serves as a backdrop for the breathtaking views and lush orchards and vineyards below on the shores of the Mediterranean. Thanks, Mama Etna. You were one of the highlights of my trip.

Copyright 2007 by Marlys Marshall Styne

Tuesday, January 02, 2007

The Dancers Next Door: A Review of A Leap Across the Atlantic, by Christine Du Boulay Ellis

For me, this book, subtitled "The Memoirs of Two Ballet Dancers," presents an unfamiliar international world of glamor, dedication, and hard work that I was pleased to enter through its pages. Christine Ellis dedicates her book "to Richard--the other ballet dancer, my love and partner in life." She also quotes W.B. Yeats' "The Fiddler of Dooney": "For the good are always merry, / Save by some evil chance, / And the merry love the fiddle, / And the merry love to dance." This is a book by and about people who love to dance.

Christine Du Boulay was born in London in 1923, the daughter of a Royal Air Force pilot of Huguenot descent and an Irish mother with a distant ancestral connection to poet William Butler Yeats. She developed interests in and studied both painting and dance, and was accepted by the Sadler's Wells School of Ballet.

Richard Ellis was born in London in 1918. He began dancing at the age of about six or seven at a ballet school in the basement of the Crystal Palace Hotel. In 1933, he joined the Vic-Wells Ballet, which later became the Sadler's Wells Ballet Company. To avoid being drafted in World War II, Richard enlisted in the Royal Navy, and he commanded a flotilla of landing craft on D-Day--surely an unusual assignment for a dancer.

After the war, Richard returned to the Sadler's Wells Company, of which Christine was by then a member. Sadler's Wells, later the Royal Ballet, featured many names familiar even to non-balletomanes: Frederic Franklin, Anton Dolin, Margot Fonteyn, Moira Shearer, Robert Helpmann, and many, many others. "We were fortunate to have so many fine artists in the company and to be a part of that golden era: an era created by Ninette de Valois," wrote Christine.

Christine Du Boulay and Richard Ellis fell in love, married, and shared the rigors and travel/sightseeing opportunities of ballet company tours, eventually touring America in 1949-50 and 1950-51. Both liked the United States, including Chicago. Richard suffered some back problems and decided to try teaching, so they accepted an invitation to open a ballet school in Chicago, the Allegro School of Ballet. Then came the Ellis-Du Boulay School of Ballet, which they operated at several Chicago locations from 1954 through 1994.

They also created and directed the Illinois Ballet for twelve years, performing in Chicago and surrounding states and on WTTW-Channel 11. They published Partnering. The Fundamentals of Pas de Deux (London: C.W. Beaumont) in 1955. In 1995, Richard celebrated his 25th year in the role of Herr Drosselmeyer in Ruth Page's The Nutcracker in Chicago.

During their long dancing and teaching careers, the Ellises met and/or formed friendships with ballet, theater, and film icons from both sides of the Atlantic, including Sir Frederick Ashton, Robert Joffrey, Alec Guiness, Danny Kaye, Audrey Hepburn, and far too many others to mention here.

Christine and Richard are now retired, with a home in Sawyer, Michigan, and a condo in Chicago. Christine continues to paint and hold exhibitions of her water colors.

Christine Du Boulay Ellis wrote this book to record two fascinating lives, mainly for ballet historians and their many friends and former students. However, it should also appeal to ballet lovers, Anglophiles, students of World War II-era history, and admirers of senior citizens who have led fascinating lives. Although the extensive celebrity name-dropping may sometimes seem tedious to outsiders, it is personal and sincere and approprate within the context of this book. I am proud to call Christine and Richard Ellis my neighbors and my friends.

A Leap Across the Atlantic, published by Gorski Advertising and edited by Lucia Mauro, is a large hard-bound limited edition book, illustrated with many photographs. It is not for sale on line. However, if you are interested in purchasing a copy, contact the author at 1515 N Wells Street, # 5 D, Chicago, IL 60610.

Photo: Christine and Richard Ellis at home in Chicago, 2006
(with a visiting friend)

Copyright 2007 by Marlys Marshall Styne
Cover photo by John Reilly; 2006 photo courtesy of Christine Ellis