Posts Tagged ‘age’

Democrats worry their presidential frontrunners are too old for 2020

November 1, 2018

 Former Vice President Joe Biden was a crowd pleaser at a St. Louis County union hall during a rally for Sen. Claire McCaskill, D-Mo., Wednesday night, but even his most ardent supporters are divided on whether Democratic leaders his age represent the future of the party.

Image result for Joe Biden, 2018, photos

Joe Biden

Many of the current top-tier 2020 Democratic presidential hopefuls would be in their 70s if elected to the White House in two years. Biden would be 77, Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., 71, and Sen. Bernie Sanders, a Vermont independent who caucuses with Democrats and sought the party’s presidential nomination in 2016, 79.

Image result for bernie sanders, photos

Bernie Sanders

That didn’t perturb Alicia Daly, one of the younger members in the crowd that gathered Wednesday in Bridgeton, Mo.

“I think he should run,” Daly told the Washington Examiner of Biden. “He’s more centralized and he’s authentic, and that’s what we need at this very moment when the rhetoric is getting more and more ugly on both sides. Both parties like him. And he doesn’t have to serve both terms. He could just do one term, so we regain some of the ground we’ve lost.”

Her friend, Marc Randolph, disagreed.

“He’s not a bad guy, but I think we need fresh blood,” he said. “Millennials are one of the biggest voting groups we have in our political system, and I don’t know whether they would come out for him.”

Lynn Jegle, attending her first political rally despite casting ballots for Democrats for years, said Biden’s tendency toward faux pas could also derail a hypothetical campaign.

“But then look at what [President] Trump has gotten away with, so maybe it won’t matter,” she said. “If he’s the candidate, I’d support him. I’m hoping the Democratic Party has a panel of people to consider and vet before the convention.”

Two of the best on the party’s bench of talent were Warren and former Democratic Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick, according to Tom Bauer, another St. Louis County voter.

“Elizabeth Warren has the fire in her gut, stands up to Trump, and represents that side of the spectrum that has the momentum,” Bauer said, adding Patrick had a “spotless record.”

“Deval Patrick may be young, but Elizabeth Warren might as well be young,” he continued. “I was a huge Bernie Sanders supporter, and his age didn’t bother me at all. I think he was right on all the issues,” he added.

Biden himself admits age is a “legitimate” concern for voters.

“If I were to run, I think they would judge me on my vitality,” Biden told CBS News in October. “Can I still run up the steps of Air Force Two? Am I still in good shape? Do I have all my faculties? Am I energetic? I think it’s totally legitimate that people ask those questions.”

Biden joined McCaskill in the stronghold of Missouri Democrats Wednesday as she fights for her political future against Republican challenger Josh Hawley, the state’s attorney general. A Fox News poll released earlier in the evening found the pair were tied with less than a week until Election Day.

McCaskill addressed concerns about the perceived lack of Democratic party-building during her brief remarks.

“People who don’t think we have young stars coming up in the Democratic Party in Missouri, how about Cort and Wesley?” she said, referring to Missouri’s 2nd Congressional District candidate Cort VanOstran and Wesley Bell, who is running to become St. Louis County prosecutor.


China: Former chief technology officer of Alibaba now on a new path as a venture capitalist — Sees service robots, artificial intelligence and automation as the new bright spots that have huge growth potential

August 26, 2016

By Daniel Ren
South China Morning Post

Image may contain: 1 person, eyeglasses

Elderly Chinese have traditionally lived with, and been looked after by, their children. (Photo : Reuters)

John Wu, an engineer who is treading a new path as a venture capitalist, has faith in matters of a cyclical nature despite feeling queasy about the mainland’s intimacy with thriving internet-related businesses.

A former chief technology officer of Alibaba, Wu now sits at the head of FengHe Fund Management as chairman. He contends that China’s path-breaking experiment to enact economic and financial reforms should be based on expectations of a shrinking workforce, not just by raising its bets on the new online-to-offline (O2O) commerce models sweeping across the country, models he has some qualms about.

FengHe focuses on early stage start-ups.

“Internet technologies have proved to be a great thing to make the world better for people, but not all models based on them are well founded,” he said. “In China, business success hinges on the capacity to overcome the looming labour shortage ahead.”

The size of China’s workforce, those aged between 16 and 59, is likely to fall more than 23 per cent by 2050, according to the Ministry of Human Resources and Social Security.

By that date, the working population in China will fall to about 700 million from the current 911 million, increasing pressure on the world’s second-largest economy to enhance productivity to deal with the problem of age.

“It’s obvious that ageing will be the enemy within facing China’s economy in the coming decades,” Wu said. “The potential tremendous demographic change means that a new cycle is taking shape and investors must adapt to the changes to sniff out opportunities.”

Wu singles out service robots, artificial intelligence and automation as the new bright spots that have huge growth potential in the world’s most populated economy.

His views add a layer of divisiveness at a time when debates over the prospects for the world’s second-largest economy are escalating.

The country’s leadership predicted that China’s economy would move in an “L-shaped” trajectory for a long time following three decades of breakneck growth buoyed by cheap labour and massive asset investment.

As the economy slows, the central government will have to embark on a productivity-led growth pattern to ease economic and financial stresses.

 John Wu, chairman of FengHe Fund Management, says China’s shrinking workforce needs to be dealt with. Photo: SCMP Pictures

To this end, Beijing has highlighted the Internet Plus strategy, hoping to capitalise on the internet’s rapid penetration into people’s lives to bolster domestic demand and enhance business efficiency.

However, some analysts are forecasting a hard landing for the mainland economy, citing high leverage ratios, mounting bad debts and excessive product stockpiles as the main forces of drag on the economy.

“The mainland economy will continue to grow on a relatively fast track for 10 years,” Wu said. “After that, the shrinking size of the workforce will have to be dealt with to combat a woeful slowdown.”

To illustrate his point: Wu uses a food delivery analogy to shed light on the coming impact from the labour shortage.

“Customers order food via their mobile phones, but restaurants find that they have no manpower to deliver the food,” he said. “This model will hit a dead end when the working population dries up.”

Wu, 49, earned a bachelor degree of computer science at Michigan State University in 1989.

As an information technology engineer, he worked for companies including Yahoo and Oracle before joining China’s e-commerce giant Alibaba and assuming the role of chief technology officer in 2000.

Alibaba owns the South China Morning Post.

In 2008, Wu moved on to join Northern Light Venture Capital as a partner with the fund house.

Two years later, FengHe Fund Management came into being.

“I wanted to be my own boss,” Wu said. “Doing investment will be my last job.”

Today, FengHe’s portfolio includes companies such as Huazhu Hotels Group, online cosmetic retailer Jumei, housing data provider and online medical consultancy

“Cyclical is a key word that venture capitalists should fully understand,” Wu said. “The next wave of investment opportunities lie in businesses that can give customers greater convenience.”

He likened venture capital investment to surfing, underscoring the importance of catching the wave to make all the right moves.

“It’s not about having the technology chops that hold the key to success,” he said. “On the contrary, it’s about demand from the people that leads to necessary technological innovations to create successful businesses and new lifestyles.”

I wanted to be my own boss. Doing investment will be my last job

The search for innovation led FengHe to invest in Israeli robot maker, Robotteam.

Wu said that robots for household use costing less than 10,000 yuan would be launched by Robotteam in China next year.

However, it is about peer-to-peer (P2P) lending and O2O food delivery services where he sounds notes of caution despite the enthusiasm surrounding the businesses amid an influx of investment funds.

Venture capital funds focusing on China suffered a setback this year following a fundraising and investment spree in 2015, with dozens of start-ups facing liquidation amid business failures.

Customer-focused O2O models were greeted with fanfare and enthusiasm in the past three years as investors and entrepreneurs gravitated to e-commerce, car-hailing and food delivery businesses in order to tap the rising demand of China’s populace for decent food and services.

Typically, an O2O business uses internet and mobile internet technologies to reach out to a wider range of potential customers while delivering their goods and services off-line.

China’s economy expanded at the slowest pace in 25 years last year, battered by dwindling external demand and slowing infrastructure building.

 A P2P website Online screen display at p2p website in China. The boom did not live up to expectations. Photo: SCMP PIctures

Global consultancy McKinsey said China was shifting to a new approach centred on productivity after a 25-fold expansion of the economy since 1980 through investment-led growth amid urbanisation and industrialisation.

The transformation of China’s economy will add US$5.6 trillion to the country’s gross domestic product in 2030 with household incomes increasing US$5 trillion, according to the consultancy.

Digitalisation is unanimously seen as the gold standard by which China will sustain its growth and upgrade people’s living standards.

Premier Li Keqiang is pinning his hope on internet technologies to help redraw the mainland’s economic and financial landscape as state-owned juggernauts have for too long played a dominant role in the mammoth market.

Meanwhile, P2P lending was an area that drew huge amounts of funds and rave reviews with its potential to technically break the monopoly of state-controlled banks – many of which were reluctant to extend credit to small firms and individuals.

Peer-to-peer lending is the practice of lending money to individuals or businesses where a company acts as a matchmaker between borrowers and lenders.

However, the boom in P2P businesses – there were about 3,000 players across China – did not live up to expectations.

Indeed, dozens of players collapsed under alleged fraudulent fundraising, leaving thousands of investors to lick their wounds.

Wu was blunt about such lending.

“Without an asset pool like the banks have, P2P operators won’t be able to cover the risk of default even if no fraud is involved,” he said. “This is the business that FengHe resolutely shuns.”

At present, FengHe manages combined capital of US$300 million.

Wu said FengHe was not the kind of company that chased fund-size growth because having a large pile of capital in hand is one of the things that can lead to reckless investments, wrong bets and possibly even ruin.


Jane Fonda at Age 76: “I have become so wonderfully, terribly aware of time, of how little of it I have left”

February 25, 2014

By Colette Fahy

She may not look anywhere near her 76 years but Jane Fonda says she is well aware of her age.

The Hollywood legend – who has made her career in an industry which isn’t exactly kind to aging actresses – admits she has been brought to tears on more than one occasion recently as she comes to terms with her own mortality.

In a thoughtful blog post entitled ‘Crying’, which has since been removed, Jane wrote: ‘[I’ve been thinking], how come my tears are so close to the surface? And I’ve come to feel it has to do with age. I have become so wonderfully, terribly aware of time, of how little of it I have left; how much of it is behind me, and everything becomes so precious (sic).’

Age-defying: Jane Fonda may look years younger than 76 but she says she can't stop crying lately as she comes to terms with her mortality

Age-defying: Jane Fonda may look years younger than 76 but she says she can’t stop crying lately as she comes to terms with her mortality


Despite Jane worrying about her mortality, she believes getting older has its advantages, namely allowing her to appreciate the beauty in the world.

She said: ‘With age, I am able to appreciate the beauty in small things more than when I was younger perhaps because I pay attention more.

‘I feel myself becoming part of everything. I seem to be super sensitive to people’s joy and pain. I ache for unwanted children in the world, for polars bears, and elephants, and Monarch butterflies, and dolphins, gorillas and chimpanzees (sic).’

Taking stick: Jane admitted she is worrying about her mortality as she gets older

Taking stick: Jane admitted she is worrying about her mortality as she gets older

Most recently Jane found herself becoming emotional at her friend Kerry Washington’s baby shower on Sunday.

She wrote: ‘Today I was at Kerry Washington’s baby shower. She’s 7 months pregnant and looking radiant.

‘It was a wonderful party with guests  being asked to go into a photo booth and take 6 different poses that  were then mounted on a black paper where we could write a message;  signing a diaper (I wrote “I hope everything comes out alright!”),  putting signed thumb prints onto a drawing of a tree – I had no idea  there could be so many nice ways to commemorate the up-coming event and  leave loving memories for mom and baby.

Sensitive: While she is not happy about getting older, Jane loves how it has made her more sensitive to the world around her

Sensitive: While she is not happy about getting older, Jane loves how it has made her more sensitive to the world around her


‘I hadn’t seen Kerry since she was pregnant and as soon as I saw her with her gorgeous belly I starting crying.

‘Then Kerry’s mother spoke, giving words of wisdom to Kerry and the rest of us about how to raise a baby to be a happy, fully realized, person. I started crying again (and it wasn’t  because I wanted to go back and do my own raising of my own kids all  over again with more wisdom, though that did press in on me) . . . it  was because her words moved me (sic).

Celebrations make Jane cry too: At Kerry Washington's baby shower with [L-R] Kerry's sister-in-law Chisara Asomugha, Jane, Cicely Tyson, Kerry's sister-in-law Udo Asomugha (in red), Kerry, Diahann Carroll and Kerry's mother-in-law, Dr. Lilian Asomugha

Celebrations make Jane cry too: At Kerry Washington’s baby shower with [L-R] Kerry’s sister-in-law Chisara Asomugha, Jane, Cicely Tyson, Kerry’s sister-in-law Udo Asomugha (in red), Kerry, Diahann Carroll and Kerry’s mother-in-law, Dr. Lilian Asomugha


‘I’ve listed sad things but what startles me even more is how I get emotional about nice things, like Kerry Washington’s belly and her mother’s words of wisdom and Elizabeth Lesser telling me about the new book she’s writing. Maybe because I’m older my heart is wider open, like a net that wants to catch all the things that matter (sic).’

The thrice-married prolific blogger, who has three children, also joked she is becoming so weepy these days that she can ‘only wear waterproof mascara from now on’.

Putting younger stars to shame: The youthful actress looks years younger than 76

Putting younger stars to shame: The youthful actress looks years younger than 76

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Since He Was Diagnosed with Alzheimer’s Disease; Doctor Says He Has Remarkably Experienced ‘One of the Happiest Periods in [his] Life’

April 2, 2013

Illness: David Hilfiker was diagnosed with Alzheimer's disease in September 2012 and in the months since, says he has remarkably experienced 'one of the happiest periods in [his] life'

Illness: David Hilfiker was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s  disease in September 2012 and in the months since, says he has remarkably  experienced ‘one of the happiest periods in [his] life’

By  Hayley Peterson

David Hilfiker was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s  disease in September 2012 and in the months since, remarkably says he has  experienced ‘one of the happiest periods in [his] life.’

The 68-year-old  retired physician and renowned author has been writing about the experience of  losing his mental capacity in his blog, ‘Watching the Lights Go  Out.’

‘We tend to be scared of Alzheimer’s or  embarrassed by it,’ Hilfiker writes. ‘We see it as the end of life rather than a  phase of life with all its attendant opportunities for growth, learning, and  relationships.

Peace: Hilfiker (right) says he's experiencing a new sense of inner peace and a renewed love for his wife (left) that has vastly enriched his life.Peace: Hilfiker (right) says he’s experiencing a new  sense of inner peace and a renewed love for his wife (left) that has vastly  enriched his life

‘We see only the suffering and miss the joy.  We experience only the disappearing cognitive abilities and ignore the beautiful  things that can appear.’

Anyone who has known or read about the  horrors of Alzheimer’s must be stunned to hear Hilfiker’s  perspective.

How could anyone possibly enjoy the gradual  loss of their mental faculties? The sudden inability to recall the names and  faces of their family members? The slow decline in their capacity to feed or  dress themselves?

Hilfiker is a physician and cofounder of Joseph’s House. He’s the author of Not All of Us Are Saints: A Doctor’s Journey with the Poor and Urban Injustice: How Ghettos Happen.


But Hilfiker explains that he sees the  disease as an opportunity to adopt a new outlook on life; to learn how to ‘let  go’ – something his personality before Alzheimer’s could never do. 

As a result, he says he’s experiencing a new  sense of inner peace and a renewed love for his wife that has vastly enriched  his life.

Before the onset of Alzheimer’s,  Hilfiker  explains how his own  mistakes ‘devastated [him] emotionally.’

Exercise: David Hilfiker exercises at his home in Washington, D.C., where he lives with his wife.Exercise: David Hilfiker exercises at his home in  Washington, D.C., where he lives with his wife

But now that mistakes are part of his  everyday life with Alzheimer’s Hilfiker says he is finally able to forgive his  own shortcomings.

‘My helplessness is unavoidable,’ he writes.  ‘I am not going to get better no matter what I do; my capacities will decline  further. This is not my fault.’

He says the disease has also forced him to  cope with the terrifying feeling of helplessness.

‘Especially in our country, it seems to me,  feeling helpless is not culturally acceptable and frequently occasions shame,’  he writes. ‘We disparage the “learned helplessness” of the poor, for instance,  as almost the worst of all sins and blame for their own poverty.

‘Our native optimism convinces us that  people aren’t really helpless: There’s always some way out, and it’s  their job  to figure it out.’

Mistakes: Before the onset of Alzheimer's, mistakes 'devastated [Hilfiker] emotionally.' Now that errors are part of his everyday life with Alzheimer's, Hilfiker says he is finally able to forgive his own shortcomings.Mistakes: Before the onset of Alzheimer’s, mistakes  ‘devastated [Hilfiker] emotionally.’ Now that errors are part of his everyday  life with Alzheimer’s, Hilfiker says he is finally able to forgive his own  shortcomings

By accepting his helplessness, however, he is  able to avoid the frustration that comes with his inability to perform simple  tasks, he says.

He’s also learned to lean on others when he  needs help – something his former self was ashamed to do.

‘None of us is independent; all of us have  deep needs that can only be met by other people,’ he says.

Hilfiker lives in D.C. with his wife.  After  17 years of practicing as a physician in a rural area in Minnesota and then in a  low-income part of D.C., he founded a home in 1990 for  homeless people with  AIDS and cancer.

From the Washington Post:

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Are social factors tied to hospital readmissions?

October 20, 2012

Beds lie empty in the emergency room of Tulane University Hospital in New Orleans February 14, 2006. REUTERS/Lee Celano REUTERS

Beds lie empty in the emergency room of Tulane University Hospital in New Orleans February 14, 2006. REUTERS/Lee Celano

NEW YORK (Reuters Health) – There may be several non-medical factors outside of hospitals’ control that are linked to how heart and pneumonia patients fare once they’re discharged, according to a fresh look at past research.

Beginning October 1, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) started using readmission rates and patient outcomes as a way to determine how much money hospitals should get paid.

But CMS does not consider so-called social factors, such as a patient’s living situation or low income, when profiling the quality of a hospital’s care.

By Andrew M. Seaman | Reuters

In the new study, published in the Journal of General Internal Medicine, researchers analyzed data from 72 previous papers examining the reasons people died or were readmitted to the hospital, and found that age, race, employment status, living situation, education and income levels are just some of the factors that may play a role.

“We don’t yet know how to accurately measure (the factors), but I think we found enough information to say that they are important and that they should continue to be studied and accounted for,” said lead author Dr. Linda Calvillo-King, an assistant professor of internal medicine at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center in Dallas.


Calvillo-King said she decided to look this topic when she noticed that patients at her hospital were readmitted because of issues like not being able to take their medication or being unable to get to doctors’ offices.

So she and her colleagues gathered research that examined social factors and hospital readmissions in heart and pneumonia patients over about 30 years.

Overall, the researchers were able to pull information from 20 studies looking at pneumonia and 52 looking at heart failure.

For pneumonia patients, among the factors linked to the risk of being readmitted to the hospital were being older and not white. Having a low level of education, low income and being unemployed were also tied to a higher risk of going back into the hospital.

Being older and being a man were each associated with a greater chance of dying within the 30 days after being released from a hospital, as was being a nursing home resident.

For example, in one study from 2002 that was included in the analysis, researchers found that about 17 percent of nursing home residents died after being hospitalized with pneumonia, compared to about 10 percent of other Medicare patients.

For heart failure patients, the risk of being readmitted to a hospital was tied to being elderly, African American or Hispanic.

The type of insurance a person had, their marital status and economic status were also among the factors tied to heart patients’ risk of being readmitted to a hospital – as were risky behaviors, such as smoking and cocaine use.

Many of the same factors were linked both to a heart failure patient’s risk of death after being hospitalized and the risk of readmission to the hospital.

Some studies also found that living far away from a hospital and feeling cold at home were linked to an increased risk of dying for heart failure patients.


Although Calvillo-King and her colleagues were able to look at a large number of studies, they were all vastly different, she noted.

One study analyzed data for as few as 54 patients, while another looked at more than 8 million.

The studies also included diverse populations and different kinds of social factors, Calvillo-King said.

For example, she told Reuters Health that only some of the studies included details of a patient’s social environment, such as their living situation, medications, smoking and substance abuse.

The researchers cannot say for certain that the risk factors identified are what cause a patient to die or to be sent back to the hospital.

But they note in their report that this kind of information could be used by doctors, case managers and discharge planners to flag patients at high risk of readmission because of certain non-medical vulnerabilities, and “Different and more intensive follow-up strategies will likely be necessary in these high social-risk patients….”

Future studies should focus on which factors are the most important, how they should be accounted for and how to address them, Calvillo-King said. “As a physician, these are things that should be taken into account or publicly reported. There is not a lot of research about how that would be done, or what social factors to focus on.”

Particularly since CMS compares hospitals “according to 30-day readmission and mortality rates,” the researchers write, identifying the social factors that affect patient outcomes and yet are beyond a hospital’s control could make assessments of the care patients actually do get in the hospital more accurate.

The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services did not provide a statement by press time.

SOURCE: Journal of General Internal Medicine, online October 6, 2012.


No Man is Perfect: We Must Accept God and Accept Ourselves (The Riddle Of Suicide)

August 22, 2012

The recent deaths by suicide of men with money, talent, and fame makes one again wonder: Why Suicide?

Tony Scott seemed to have it all.

Tony Scott decided to kill himself for reasons unknown to us. But the psychiatrist told me, “Well, he wasn’t feeling well or he would be with us today — doing what he loved: making movies.”

File photo of director Tony Scott posing in Paris

Above: Tony Scott in happier days

Junior Seau also seemed to have it all. Professional excellence in football: America’s hard knocks sport. Wealth, entrepreneurship (he owned a restaurant), even women falling at his feet.

Above: Junior Seau in happier times.


The tragic deaths of Junior Seau and Tony Scott brought to mind Ernest Hemingway and this great essay from John Walsh…

Being Ernest Hemingway
By John Walsh

The Independent
June 11, 2011

Fifty years ago, in the early hours of Sunday 2 July, 1961, Ernest Hemingway, America’s most celebrated writer and a titan of 20th-century letters, awoke in his house in the Sawtooth Mountains of Idaho, rose from his bed, taking care not to wake his wife Mary, unlocked the door of the storage room where he kept his firearms, and selected a double-barrelled shotgun with which he liked to shoot pigeons. He took it to the front of the house and, in the foyer, put the twin barrels against his forehead, reached down, pushed his thumb against the trigger and blew his brains out.

His death was timed at 7am. Witnesses who saw the body remarked that he had chosen from his wardrobe a favourite dressing gown that he called his “emperor’s robe”. They might have been reminded of the words of Shakespeare’s Cleopatra, just before she applied the asp to her flesh: “Give me my robe. Put on my crown; I have immortal longings in me”. His widow Mary told the media that it was an unfortunate accident, that Ernest had been cleaning one of his guns when it accidentally went off. The story was splashed on the front page of all American newspapers.

(photo via )

It took Mary Welsh Hemingway several months to admit that her husband’s death was suicide; and it’s taken nearly 50 years to piece together the reasons why this giant personality, this rumbustious man of action, this bullfighter, deep-sea fisherman, great white hunter, war hero, gunslinger and four-times-married, all-round tough guy, whom every red-blooded American male hero-worshipped, should do himself in. How could he? Why would he? Successive biographers – AE Hochtner, Carlos Baker, KS Lynn, AJ Monnier, Anthony Burgess – have chewed over the available facts, his restless travelling, his many amours, the peaks and troughs of his writing career. But eventually it took a psychiatrist from Houston, Texas, to hold up all the evidence to the light and announce his disturbing conclusions.

The idealised life of Ernest Hemingway, the one the writer himself wanted the world to buy, was simple: he was the perfect man, the perfect synthesis of brain and brawn. Driven by a thirst for adventure, he was a swashbuckling, hard-drinking pugilist who loved being in the thick of the action, whether in the front line of battle or within charging distance of a water buffalo. He also happened to be the finest writer around, disdaining the grandiose wordiness of Victorian prose for a clean, stripped-back simplicity, conveying emotion by what was not said as much as by what was. Wounded on the Italian front in the First World War, he was a handsome convalescent who fell in love with a pretty nurse and wrote A Farewell to Arms as a result. In the 1920s, he was at the forefront of American writers and artists who hung out in Paris, “being geniuses together”. They included F Scott Fitzgerald, who (according to A Moveable Feast) once showed Hemingway his penis and confessed his worry that it was too small to satisfy his wife Zelda; Hemingway kindly reassured him it was OK.

In the 1930s, he went to Spain to fight for the republic against Franco and wrote For Whom the Bell Tolls, in which a brave American hero falls in love with a peasant guerrilla called Maria. In the Second World War, he was at the Normandy landings and the liberation of Paris. After the war he retired with his fourth wife to Cuba, where he fished for marlins and wrote The Old Man and the Sea, won the Nobel Prize, was lionised wherever he went – but was killed in an unfortunate firearm accident.

That’s the official story. In the years after his death, however, the jigsaw pieces of a counter-life gradually began to emerge. His war record, for instance. Hemingway was only 18 when he signed up for the First World War – but it was as a non-combatant. He had a defective left eye, inherited from his mother, which kept him out of battle. He went to Italy to man the Red Cross canteens and evacuate the wounded. Helping a wounded man to safety one evening, he was shot in the leg and hospitalised in Milan, with three other patients and 18 nurses. Though his dalliance with Sister Agnew von Kurovsky was unconsummated, he fell in love with European culture and manners, swanned about in an Italian cloak, drank wine and affected a clipped delivery borrowed from a British officer, Eric Dorman-Smith.

Hemingway's last visit to Pamplona in 1959. (photo via )

In Paris, where he enjoyed a temporary idyll with his first wife Hadley and their baby John (or “Bumby”), Hemingway started to make his name as a writer – but also to display dangerous mood swings, irascibility, spite and a compulsion to turn against those who helped him. He dumped Hadley and the baby and took up with Pauline Pfeiffer, a decision for which he was racked with nightmares of guilt, and moved to Key West, Florida.

For some reason, he became obsessed with bullfighting: the glorification of blood, the spilt horse-guts, the matador’s passes with the cape and sword, the art of killing. In Death in the Afternoon, Hemingway seemed to be working out some personal philosophy about death, but it was hard to follow. The critic Max Eastman complained that his prose style had become the equivalent of “false hair on the chest”. Unable to participate directly in killing bulls, Hemingway decamped to Mombasa where he could legitimately blaze away at lions and kudu. Not content with land-based mayhem, he bought a 38-foot cruiser called the Pilar to fish, in Key West and Havana, for marlin and other aquatic creatures twice the size of himself. Between 1928 and 1936, he seemed to spend months posing beside up-ended fish trophies, the self-burnished image of the muscular man of action, handsome, tanned, drinking with the sailors in Sloppy Joe’s bar.

He went to Spain during the civil war, not to fight, like George Orwell, but because he was commissioned to report on it for the North American Newspaper Alliance – and because his new love, Martha Gellhorn, was going there. He stressed many times that he wasn’t taking sides, and didn’t want to see the USA embroiled in a foreign war. In Madrid, despite the bombardment, he had the time of his life – enjoying caviar and vodka at the Gaylord Hotel, the Russian HQ, making a movie called The Spanish Earth and supplying its gravelly commentary, writing his broadly fictional dispatches for newspapers that criticised them as “very inefficient”. He looked the part of a hunky warrior, but he was a lucky dilettante, who could have left Spain any time he liked. He wrote a play about Madrid in 1936 called The Fifth Column, about Dorothy, a plucky female journalist, who falls for Philip, a tough, intrepid, hard-drinking spy masquerading as a war correspondent. Self-projection turned into self-parody.

"An intelligent man is sometimes forced to be drunk to spend time with his fools." (Ernest Heming...

When America entered the Second World War in 1944, Hemingway got himself to England on “priority war business” – writing pieces about the RAF for Collier’s magazine. It was a tough assignment. He took a room at the Dorchester, where he held court as the Great American Writer and went to parties, receiving compliments on his beardy, macho wonderfulness.

When he was concussed in a car accident that followed a drunken party with Robert Capa the photographer, Martha Gellhorn – who’d travelled to England in a ship packed with high explosives – visited him in hospital and laughed at his footling mock-heroics. As though stung into action, he headed for the war, joining the invasion fleet to Normandy and, later, General Patton’s armoured divisions. He was a so-so war correspondent who was simultaneously a sort-of-warrior. At the liberation of Paris, he was found in a hotel with a small private army. When asked to leave by a French general, he liberated the Traveller’s Club and the Ritz, taking a room at the latter to entertain his new love, Mary Welsh…

It’s easy to be spiteful about Hemingway. All his posturing, his editing of the truth, his vainglorious fibbing can obscure his undoubted bravery. He loved being in the thick of the war – the tank advance through the Ardennes, the Battle of the Bulge – dodging bullets, watching men being shot to hell all around him. But it’s hard to shake off the feeling that what he was doing wasn’t bravery, but psychotic self-dramatisation. And when you inspect the image of Hemingway-as-hero, you uncover an extraordinary sub-stratum of self-harming. You discover that, for just over half of his life, Hemingway seemed hell-bent on destroying himself.

It was about the time he was finishing A Farewell to Arms, in 1928, when he learnt that his father Clarence had shot himself in the head with a Civil War revolver, that Hemingway’s life first began to crack apart. The most obvious external evidence was a succession of bizarre physical accidents, many of which were bashes on the head. One, in Paris, left him with a split head needing nine stitches, after he yanked the chain in the bathroom, thinking it was the lavatory flush, and pulled the skylight down on top of him. He became weirdly accident-prone. His car accident that occasioned his row with Martha saw him hurled through the windscreen, lacerating his scalp and requiring 57 stitches. Three months later, he came flying off a motorbike evading German fire in Normandy. He suffered headaches, tinnitus, diplopia, showed speech and memory problems for months. Back in Cuba after the war, he tore open his forehead on the rear-view mirror when his car skidded. Five years later, while drinking, he slipped on the deck of the Pilar, and concussed himself. Why, you’d almost think he was trying to emulate his late father, and his self-imposed head wound.

The most egregious injury, however, occurred in January 1954. He and Mary took off from Nairobi in a small plane, heading for the Belgian Congo. Near Victoria Falls it crash-landed in a thorn thicket and Ernest sprained his shoulder. As rumours of his death spread, he and his companions were rescued and put in a 12-seater De Havilland Rapide which – incredibly –

de Havilland DH.89

burst into flames on the runway. Finding the door jammed, Hemingway volunteered to use his head as a battering ram, butted the door twice and got out. He liked to present it as a classic example of superman pragmatism, but it nearly killed him. He fractured his skull and lacerated his scalp; cerebrospinal fluid seeped from his ear. In Nairobi he was diagnosed with grave overall concussion, temporary vision-loss in the right eye, deafness in left ear, paralysis of sphincter muscle, first degree burns on face, arms and head, sprained arm, shoulder and leg, crushed vertebra and ruptured liver, spleen and kidney. Astonishingly, he was at it again only a month later: helping to extinguish a small fire, he fell into the flames and suffered second degree burns on legs, belly, chest, lips, left hand and right forearm.

Hemingway’s taste for chronic self-immolation was matched by his prodigious feats of drinking: “The manager of the Gritti Palace in Venice tells me,” wrote Anthony Burgess later, “that three bottles of Valpolicella first thing in the day were nothing to him, then there were the daquiris, Scotch, tequila, bourbon, vermouthless martinis. The physical punishment he took from alcohol was … actively courted; the other punishments were gratuitous – kidney trouble from fishing in chill Spanish waters, a torn, groin muscle from something unspecified when he was visiting Palencia, a finger gashed to the bone in a mishap with a punchbag…”

The drinking got worse after his father shot himself. Ernest went to a doctor in 1937, complaining of stomach pains; liver damage was diagnosed and he was told to give up alcohol. He refused. Seven years later, in 1944, when Martha Gellhorn visited him in hospital, she found empty liquor bottles under his bed. In 1957, his doctor friend AJ Monnier wrote urgently, “My dear Ernie, you must stop drinking alcohol. This is definitely of the utmost importance.” But even then, he couldn’t stop.

What was bugging Hemingway? Why all the drinking, the macho excess, the manic displays of swaggering? Why was he so drawn to war, shooting, boxing and conflict? Why did he want to kill so many creatures? Was he trying to prove something? Or blot something out of his life?

Some answers were offered in 2006 by a long article in the American Psychiatry magazine, called “Ernest Hemingway: A Psychological Autopsy of a Suicide”. It was by Christopher D Martin, whose official title is Instructor and Staff Psychiatrist at the Menninger Department of Psychiatry and Behavioural Sciences at Baylor College of Medicine in Houston Texas. Martin had read widely in the 15 or so biographies and memoirs of Hemingway and offered his expert analysis – based, inevitably, at second hand, but still a convincing evaluation. He had no trouble in diagnosing the author as suffering from “bipolar disorder, alcohol dependence, traumatic brain injury, and probably borderline and narcissistic personality traits”. He notes that many in the Hemingway family – his father and mother, their siblings, his own son and his grand-daughter Margaux – were prone to manic-depression (Margaux’s was the fifth, or possibly sixth, suicide in four generations) and suggests that it was Ernest’s manic episodes that drove him to his astonishing feats of creativity. But he locates the writer’s trauma in two childhood experiences.

It seems that it was his mother Grace’s habit to dress him, as a child, in long white frocks and fashion his hair like a little girl’s. It was a 19th-century custom to dress infants alike, but she took it to extremes. She referred to him, in his cute lacy dress, as “Dutch dolly”. She said she was his Sweetie, or, as he pronounced it, “Fweetee”. Once, when Ernest was two, Grace called him a doll once too often. He replied, “I not a Dutch dolly… Bang, I shoot Fweetee”. But she also praised him for being good at hunting in the woods and fishing in the stream in boys’ clothes. It was too confusing for a sensitive kid. He always hated her, and her controlling ways. He always referred to her as “that bitch”. He’d spend the rest of his life in a galloping parody of masculinity. Dutch dolly indeed. He’d show the bitch there was no confusion in his head.

“I shoot Fweetee.” The trouble was, he also wanted to shoot his father. Clarence Hemingway was a barrel-chested, six-foot bully, a disciplinarian who beat his son with a razor strop. Ernest didn’t retaliate directly. He bottled it up and subsumed it into a ritual, in which he’d hide in a shed in the family backyard with a loaded shotgun and take aim at his father’s head. Martin speculates that, when Clarence shot himself, Hemingway, aged 29, felt terrible guilt that he’d fantasised about killing him. Unable to handle this, he took to blaming his mother for his father’s death. “I hate her guts and she hates mine,” he wrote in 1949. “She forced my father to suicide.”

After Clarence’s death, Hemingway told a friend, “My life was more or less shot out from under me, and I was drinking much too much entirely through my own fault”. He suffered a chronic identity crisis. Henceforth he could be warm and generous or ruthless and overbearing. His friendships were often unstable (he could turn vicious or cruel, even with supposedly close pals) and his relations with women were full of conflict. He sulked like a child when, on his first safari, his wife Pauline shot a lion before he did. And he was pursued, for the rest of his life, by a colossal death wish – either to join his late father, or to expatiate his guilt at his father’s death by mirroring it.

Death took up residence at the heart of Hemingway’s life, a constant spur to his creative imagination, a constant companion, a dark, secret lover. Themes of violence and suicide informed his stories from the start. His letters are full of references to his future suicide. And when not contemplating his own death, he was putting himself into danger and combat as though to hasten it. Wars, rebellion, bull-running in Pamplona, big-game hunting in Africa, fishing in Havana – they were all his way of throwing himself before the Grim Reaper. “I spend a hell of a lot of time killing animals and fish,” he told Ava Gardner, “so I won’t kill myself.”

And of course writing was his way of evading the need to die. He could polish his real-life experiences at war, in Italy, Spain, the Ardennes, and burnish his life in hindsight. Being awarded the Nobel Prize in 1954 must have been a triumphant affirmation of his genius, but he worried that, after receiving the prize, most laureates never wrote anything worthwhile again. Luckily, after finding two trunks of notes from the 1920s in a Paris hotel, he was able to manage one more book: A Moveable Feast, his touching memoir of being young, poor and happy in the French capital, with his first wife and baby, before everything started going to hell.

After 1960, however, he found he could no longer write. The words wouldn’t come. Depression came instead, and with it (as we learn from AE Hotchner’s memoir, Papa Hemingway), paranoid delusions. He thought that the two men he saw working late in a bank were “Feds”, checking his bank account for irregularities. He thought his friends were trying to kill him. When his car slightly grazed another vehicle, he fretted that he’d be thrown in jail. It was a sorry thing, to see the epitome of “grace under pressure” succumbing to dementia.

He was given medication and, horribly, a course of electroconvulsive shock treatments. In the spring of 1961, he was asked to contribute a single sentence to a presentation volume for John F Kennedy’s inauguration. Hemingway couldn’t oblige. “It just won’t come any more,” he told Hotchner, and wept. In April, his wife Mary found him sitting with a shotgun and two shells. He was sent to hospital in Ketchum, Idaho, his birthplace, but he tried twice more to end his life, once by walking into the path of a plane taxiing on the runaway. There was a two-month period of hospitalisation and comparative peace and quiet, when he appeared sane to his doctor and deranged to his wife. He seemed to be acting, right to the end. He was released home one more time, had a picnic lunch with wine (he saw some state troopers and was sure they’d arrest him for possess of alcohol) and, the next morning, shot himself.

“The accumulating factors contributing to his burden of illness at the end of his life are staggering,” writes Martin, listing Hemingway’s bipolar mood disorder, depression, chronic alcoholism, repetitive traumatic brain injuries, the onset of psychosis. But it seems clear that the defining problem of his life was his experience of childhood. His confusion over gender, his Oedipal desire to kill his father for beating him, together led to what Martin calls “a retreat into a defensive façade of hyper-masculinity and self-sufficiency”.

Building and sustaining the myth of Hemingway the Man’s Man took courage and determination, but it was something he needed to do – and when it dwindled, along with the all-important capacity to write, he had no answer except to go the same way as his father. The image of his father, a moody, bullying, depressive man, but a role model none the less, haunted his life. He wanted to revivify him, in order to release himself from the responsibility for his death. He wanted to be the big, strong, heroic man that the world could call “Papa”.