Breeding Fear of Growing Old

As far as I can see there is a concerted effort, perhaps even a cabal when I am feeling fanciful, to scare the bejesus out of old people and keep it that way unto our graves.

There is no escaping it – it's everywhere you look: television, movies, books, magazines, internet, billboards and definitely the popular medical literature.

On the one hand, they remind us how wonderful it is that we are living decades longer than at any previous time in history. But that is exactly as far as the good news goes. After that, it is all about inducing terror, anxiety, distress, fear and dread.

You may think they are benign, those advertisements for things that some old people need – walk-in bathtubs, chair lifts for stairs, electric scooters and medical alert devices.

There would be nothing wrong with those adverts except that if you don't count dubious life insurance, they are all that is advertised in the AARP magazine and its ilk which is otherwise filled with stories about toe fungus, incontinence and smelly feet.

With such icky disorders as those, how are elders to go about all that online dating the same media tells us is all the fashion these days.

And it doesn't stop there. Everywhere you turn there are medications for yucky problems connected to every known body part: constipation, hair loss, low testosterone, insomnia, erectile dysfunction along with dry mouth and dry vaginas.

But these are the least of it. In recent years, Alzheimer's and the other dementias are the most popular scare stories. Something like 50 percent of elders, they daily surmise, will wind up in the back room of a care home staring vacantly into space as each body function slowly disintegrates.

Other reports warn that even that minor dignity, someone to change our diapers, may soon not be available for everyone who needs it. (I'm not so sure. Not so sure there will be that many of us in the dementia wards and not so sure there won't be enough caregivers. But we'll tackle that another day.)

Following dementia in the big-deal, diseases-of-age category are, of course, the old favorites that refuse to be cured or even treated with much success: cancer, heart disease, arthritis, diabetes, Parkinson's, etc.

Old people have seen enough of these in family, friends and others to worry about them all by ourselves without the all-too-frequent reminders in the media.

And it doesn't stop with recitations of the diseases and decline. According to stand-up comics and the daily stream of ad hominem jokes in all media, old people are guilty of a range of sins from being ugly to walking or driving too slowly, eating dinner at 4PM, being tech ignorant and, of course, for having all those icky conditions mentioned above.

But humor is an age-old method of facing our fears and Crabby Old Lady* has trouble blaming those comedians and the audiences who laugh at their jokes when they hardly ever see anything except the most distressing portrayals of growing old.

The fact is that the majority of old people make it to their deaths living independently with (and without) afflictions they adapt to and manage while enjoying as great a variety of interests as young people have. Different, maybe. Less athletic in many cases. But just an individual.

The reason hardly anyone knows this is that the cultural fear mongers drown out the real story of growing old, breeding fear and making it harder for everyone, young and old alike, to know what a valuable and worthwhile time of life elderhood is.

* UPDATE: Ha! I originally wrote this in my Crabby Old Lady guise, then changed my mind but obviously missed removing this one Crabby reference. Oh well.

LAGNIAPPE: A Woman's Solution to Gun Violence

On Saturday I asked if readers would be interested In a single “interesting stuff” item on Tuesdays and Thursdays since I no longer write full blog posts on those days and I often have more interesting stuff than there is room for.

One person said no. Two others liked it. Simone suggested calling it “And Another Thing.” S.C. Jones suggested “Lagniappe” which is, as she noted, “Louisiana French for something given as a bonus or extra gift."

After some thought and a particularly wonderful thing I want to show you today, I have decided on a compromise:

When I have something that is especially worth it or is time sensitive, I will post a single item on Tuesday or Thursday. I might go weeks without a special post. Or it might be more frequently depending on when good “stuff” shows up. I'll play it as it lays.

As to title, “And Another Thing” certainly fits who I am. “Lagniappe” is a bit fancy for me but I like it equally; it doesn't hurt that it comes from one of my favorite U.S. cities.

Sometimes choices are made for pragmatic reasons and I am going with Lagniappe because it's short. There you have it and here we go.

* * *

In response to last week's horrific massacre in Roseburg, Oregon, yesterday we spent our time here responding to John Gear's suggestion for a sensible gun control program that just could be workable if anyone in power in the U.S. is serious about controlling gun deaths.

Here is another suggestion that I found Sunday at Digby's blog. She found it here. See what you think.


A Practical Gun Control Solution

Below is a repost from December 2012, right after the Sandy Hook shootings, and at first I hesitated to publish it again. Then I changed my mind.

With yet another god-awful massacre, I think that we in our little community surrounding this blog should have a chance to talk about this uniquely American kind of slaughter. That we elders may have a different kind of take - or not. We'll see today.

This time it happened in my own backyard or, anyway, state. Oregon is deeply divided on gun control. Urban populations mostly take the liberal view of more laws; rural areas like Roseburg where these latest shootings occurred generally reject any attempt to legislate gun ownership.

The proposal below is from another Oregonian, and TGB reader, John Gear. He sent me this that he wrote back in 1999.

John is a second-career attorney in solo practice in Salem, Oregon, who focuses on serving consumers, elders and nonprofits. He wrote this after a young man killed his parents and some classmates in Springfield, Oregon.

After each mass killing since then, he has tried to spread his idea in hope of breaking the stalemate on guns in America caused by absolutists more interested in argument than in reducing carnage.

I know John's essay is kind of lengthy, but it is highly readable and I think you will find the idea to be workable and worthy of wider consideration.

If you do, it would be good for you pass it along far and wide - even your legislators. You can link to it here or at this website.

* * *

We can fix the gun problem. We can make America safer without limiting our right to bear arms. And we can do it without an expensive, dangerous and futile "War on Guns."

To solve the real problem (keeping guns out of the wrong hands without restricting other people), we must use an idea that has worked to limit losses from many other hazards: insurance. That's right, insurance, the system of risk-management contracts that lets people take responsibility for choices they make that impose risks on others.

Insurance is what lets society accommodate technology. Without it, we would have few autos, airplanes, trains, steamships, microwaves, elevators, skyscrapers and little electricity because only the wealthiest could accept the liability involved.

When people are accountable for risks imposed on others, they act more responsibly. Insurance is what enables this accountability.

Rather than trying to limit access to or take guns away from law-abiding adults, we must instead insist that the adult responsible for a gun at any instant (maker, seller or buyer) have enough liability insurance to cover the harm that could result if that adult misuses it or lets it reach the wrong hands.

Who gets the insurance proceeds and for what? The state crime victims' compensation fund, whenever a crime involving guns is committed or a gun mishap occurs. The more victims, the bigger the payout. The greater the damage (from intimidation to multiple murders and permanent crippling), the greater the payout.

The insurers will also pay the fund for other claims such as when a minor commits suicide by gun or accidentally kills a playmate with Daddy's pistol. This will reduce such mishaps.

Insurance is very effective in getting people to adopt safe practices in return for lower premiums.

When a crime involving a gun occurs, the firm who insured it pays the claim. If the gun is not found or is uninsured (and there will still be many of these at first), then every fund will pay a pro-rated share of the damages based on the number of guns they insure. This will motivate insurance firms - and legitimate gun owners - to treat uninsured guns as poison instead of as an unavoidable byproduct of the Second Amendment.

Thus, insurance will unite the interests of all law-abiding citizens, gun owners and others against the real problem with guns: guns in the hands of criminals, the reckless, the untrained and juveniles.

Like other insurance, firearm insurance will be from a private firm or association, not the government. Owners, makers and dealers will likely self-insure forming large associations just as the early "automobilists" did. Any financially-sound group, such as the NRA, can follow state insurance commission rules and create a firearms insurance firm.

That's it. No mass or government registrations. Except for defining the rules, no government involvement at all. Each owner selects his or her insurance firm. By reaffirming the right to responsible gun ownership and driving uninsured guns out of the system, we use a proven, non-prohibitionist strategy for improving public safety.

Each insurance firm will devise a strategy for earning more revenue with fewer claims. Thus gun owners - informed by the actuaries - will choose for ourselves the controls we will tolerate and the corresponding premiums. (Rates will vary according to the gun we want to insure, our expertise and claims history.)

Some will want a cheaper policy that requires trigger locks whenever the gun is not in use; others will not. Hobbyists will find cheaper insurance by keeping their firearms in a safe at the range.

Newer, younger shooters and those who choose weapons that cause more claims will pay higher premiums. That way other owners with more training and claims-free history will pay less. (Insurance companies are expert at evaluating combined risks and dividing them up - in the form of premiums - with exquisite precision.)

Soon, the firms will emphasize cutting claims. That means promoting gun safety and fighting black market gun dealers which is where many criminals get guns. And every legitimate gun owner will have a persuasive reason – lower premiums -- to help in the fight.

We need to start discussing this now because it will take several years to enact. Gun-control advocates will hate this because it forsakes the failed prohibitionist approach. But the evidence is clear: there is virtually no chance that prohibiting guns can work without destroying our civil liberties, and probably not even then.

And the organized gun lobby will hate it too because most of their power comes from having the threat of gun prohibition to point to. But again the evidence is clear: we have the current gun laws - ineffective as they are - because we have neglected a right even more important to Americans than the right to bear arms: the right to be safely unarmed.

Naturally, many gun owners will resent paying premiums because they resent assuming responsibility for risks that, so far, we've dumped on everyone else. So be it. It is only by assuming our responsibilities that we preserve our rights.

Some will note that the Second Amendment doesn't include "well-insured." But just as the press needs insurance against libel suits to exercise the First Amendment, we must assume responsibility for the risks that firearms present to society.

The problem is real, even such prohibitionist strategies are doomed to fail, even if passed. Sadly, some pro-gun groups have already revved up their own mindless propaganda, blaming Springfield on liberals, TV, Dr. Spock, "bad seeds," you name it - anything but the easy access to guns that made massacres like Springfield so quick, so easy and so likely.

This won't work instantly but it will work because it breaks the deadlock about guns and how to keep them away from people who shouldn't have them without stomping on the rights of the rest of us. Thus it changes the dynamics of this issue and ends the lethal deadlock over guns.

It's time for everyone, people seeking safety from guns and law-abiding gun owners alike, to work together to fight firearms in the wrong hands, and it's time to fight with FIRE: Firearm Insurance, Required Everywhere.

ELDER MUSIC: More Classical Gas

Tibbles1SM100x130This Sunday Elder Music column was launched in December of 2008. By May of the following year, one commenter, Peter Tibbles, had added so much knowledge and value to my poor attempts at musical presentations that I asked him to take over the column. He's been here each week ever since delighting us with his astonishing grasp of just about everything musical, his humor and sense of fun. You can read Peter's bio here and find links to all his columns here.

Norma, the Assistant Musicologist, named the original Classical Gas post and I thought I'd keep the title for this second round. This column, like its predecessor, is just some lesser known composers whose works I like that I'd like to share with you.

FÉLICIEN DAVID was a French composer who lived in the 19th century.

Felicien David

When I first heard this piece I was struck by how similar it sounded to the quartets of Alexander Borodin but on further investigation, I discovered that Félicien had died before Alex had written his so no hanky panky there.

Unless it was the other way round, of course, but I don't wish to imply anything. See what you think with the first movement of his String Quartet No. 2 in A major.

♫ Felicien David - String Quartet No. 2 in A major (1)

MADDALENA SIRMEN was born Maddalena Lombardini in Venice to a poverty-stricken family in the middle of the 18th century.

Maddalena Sirmen

She started studying violin at an orphanage and was noticed by the famous composer and violinist Giuseppe Tartini who taught there occasionally. He was so struck by her talent that he paid for her tuition.

When she grew up, she toured with the noted violinist Ludovico Sirmen whom she later married.

Maddalena composed a number of works for violin: concertos, string quartets, sonatas and trios. She was a considerably better composer than her husband and reports from the time suggest that she played the violin better than he did as well.

Here is the first movement of her Violin Concerto No. 1 in B flat major.

♫ Maddalena Sirmen - Concerto No. 1 in B flat major (1)

FRANZ TAUSCH apparently was a great virtuoso on the clarinet, one of the first as it was a rather new instrument at the time. He was taught by his father starting at a very young age.

It seems that Mozart heard them both playing the instrument and was really taken by it. So much so, that he started using it in orchestral works including the most beautiful piece of music ever, his clarinet concerto.But we're not here to discuss Mozart, this is Franz's turn.

Franz Tausch

He wrote a number of concertos and quartets for the instrument including this one, a Double Clarinet Concerto, which I assume that means two people are playing the clarinets and not just a single person with two in his gob, Roland Kirk style.

The official title is Concerto No 1 for Two Clarinets, Op 27. It's the third movement.

♫ Franz Tausch - Double Clarinet Concerto No 1 (3)

ENGLEBERT HUMPERDINCK is mostly known for one thing (well, two, if you include having his name pinched by a sixties pop singer) and that is the opera "Hansel and Gretel.”

Englebert Humperdinck

There was more to old Engle, though. Besides a number of other operas, he wrote some string quartets but we already have some of those today so we'll ignore them.

I'm going with his Minuet for Piano Quintet in E flat major. I think he lent a close ear the works of Felix Mendelssohn.

♫ Englebert Humperdinck - Piano Quintet in E flat major, EHWV 18 ('Menuet')

JAN BAPTIST VANHAL was a pupil of Dittersdorf and a friend of both Haydn and Mozart. These four would get together and play string quartets – the first super group I suppose.

Jan Baptist Vanhal

Like the others, Jan wrote string quartets but as much as I like them, it's time for something else. I'll play a flute quartet instead.

It consists of flute, violin, viola and cello. I used not to like flutes but they're growing on me – they are still far from my favorite instrument but I can listen to them without grinding my teeth. I'm not alone, Mozart didn't like them either.

Anyway, here is the fourth movement of the Flute Quartet, Op. 7, No. 2.

♫ Jan Baptist Vanhal - Flute Quartet, Op. 7, No. 2 (4)

CARLO TESSARINI was born in Rimini and early on played violin in a chapel in Venice and taught that instrument as well.

Carlo Tessarini

He learned of the opportunity to make money publishing his compositions so he hightailed it to Paris and did just that. He also went to Holland and England to play and write music. He got around as he was recorded as doing the same in (what's now called) Germany and Belgium.

This is the third movement of his Violin Sonata in C Op.3 No.1.

♫ Carlo Tessarini - Violin Sonata in C Op.3 No.1 (3)

I see there's an international "Save the Bassoon" movement afoot. It seems that few new musicians choose the instrument to play and the ranks of bassoonists are thinning alarmingly.

So, to help inspire people to take up the instrument (assuming that there are any young players reading this) I'll play some bassoon music. There's actually quite a repertoire and I had fun playing them all. Well, not all. When I found this one I stopped, otherwise it would take days).

It's by JOHANN FRIEDRICH FASCH who was born towards the end of the 17th century near Weimar.

Johann Friedrich Fasch

He was important in that he was a link between the earlier baroque and the later classical periods. You can pretty much hear the transition between the two in his music but probably not in the single piece I've used today.

It's the third movement of the Bassoon Concerto in C major.

♫ Johann Friedrich Fasch - Bassoon Concerto in C major (3)

The brothers CARL HEINRICH GRAUN and JOHANN GOTTLIEB GRAUN had such similar style of composing that these days it's difficult to determine who wrote what. A lot of their works are just attributed to Graun.

Carl Heinrich Graun and Johann Gottlieb Graun

However, the probability is that Carl wrote this next piece as he was known to have written trio sonatas. We'll go with that but if any descendants of Jo are around and know better, please let me know. The second movement of Trio Sonata B flat major.

♫ Carl Heinrich Graun - Trio in B flat major (2)

ERNST GOTTLIEB BARON was a composer and a master of the lute and the theorbo, which is a member of the lute family and has bass strings as well as the normal ones.

Ernst Gottlieb Baron

He traveled a lot, he was always on the go, wandering from court to court (as that's where the paying customers were). He ended up being the head musician for Frederick the Great in Potsdam when Fred moved everyone there.

Ernst wrote a whole bunch of music for the lute but there were other instruments in the mix as well. It's one of those other instruments I've selected, the second movement of Oboe Sonata in D minor. This has some theorbo backing the oboe.

♫ Ernst Gottlieb Baron - Oboe Sonata in D minor (2)

GEORGE ONSLOW was born in France but his father was English and was rolling in money, it seems. However, dad was a bit of a naughty boy and had to flee to France.

George Onslow

George was educated in both France and England and as he had inherited all that lovely loot, he didn't have to work. He turned his hand to composing and he found he was pretty good at it.

He was very fond of chamber music and wrote many string quartets, quintets and the like. I've selected his Cello Sonata in F major, Op.16, No.1. The third movement.

♫ George Onslow - Sonata in F major, Op.16, No.1 (3)

INTERESTING STUFF – 3 October 2015

EDITORIAL NOTE: I try to keep this weekly links post to nine items or fewer because I believe that too much choice is no choice at all.

Even so, I've gone overboard today but there was just so much interesting stuff this week – and I omitted as many as I have included.

If someone would like to think up a good name for it, perhaps I could post just one Interesting Stuff item on Tuesdays and Thursdays – days for which I have stopped writing full posts. Or not – just a stray idea for now.

* * *


Can you tell? Look closely at these Bostonians waiting to see movie stars arrive for a film premiere.


As Alan Goldsmith said in his email with this photo, “There is something to be said for analog born.” If you couldn't tell, catch the elder woman in the front row. She's the only one enjoying the moment without a cell phone in front of her face.

More at Huffington Post.


Actually, Grace Brett, at age 104, is the world's oldest “yarn bomber.” It's a thing, yarn bombing. You can look it up. Here's a little video of Grace – be sure to note the phone booth cover:

I first saw this at Senior Planet. If you are interested in knowing more, google “yarn bombing” for additional video and stories about this phenomenon.


In recent years, a worldwide meme has developed in the physical world to scare the pants off everyone with transparent walking areas. Here is one of the latest, a glass-bottomed suspension bridge in China. Take a look (if you dare):

There are more facts about the bridge at the YouTube page (scroll down).


According to the Wall Street Journal:

”...the campaign of Democratic presidential hopeful Bernie Sanders said it reached its goal of one million individual online contributions.

“He is the first candidate of the 2016 campaign to announce it had reached this number – and he reached it faster than President Barack Obama did in 2008 and 2012.”

Alternet notes that Bernie's campaign

“ not supported by dedicated Super PACs, as are all of his opponents on the GOP side and Martin O'Malley and Hillary Clinton on the Democratic side.”

In addition, the amount of Sanders' contributions almost matches Clinton's. From Politico:

”Clinton’s operation raised more than $28 million in the third quarter after a grueling fundraising schedule, compared with about $26 million for the Vermonter — who raised his money largely from online donations, and few in-person fundraising events.”


Trevor Noah has weathered his first week in the Jon Stewart chair at Comedy Central's The Daily Show. Quite a number of critics were – well, critical. I watched all four shows. Sometimes jokes fell flat. He was obviously a bit nervous. But overall, I think he's doing fine.

Do remember that it took a good while for Stewart to get his groove when he took over the show in 1999, so let's give Trevor Noah room to grow. Here is his first opening monologue:

You can watch all Daily Shows online at Comedy Central.


Have you realized that four(!) alumni of The Daily Show are now holding forth on late night television? Stephen Colbert on The Late Show on CBS-TV, Larry Wilmore at The Nightly Show on Comedy Central, Trevor Noah also on Comedy Central and John Oliver on Last Week Tonight at HBO.

That makes Jon Stewart quite a successful talent spotter.

John Oliver returned from hiatus last Sunday. An immigrant himself to the U.S., he took at sharp look at the current migrant and refugee crisis:


Oliver's long essays are uniformly brilliant – or damned close. But he also produces a short video each week which I rarely post here. This one, however, is irresistible.

It was reported, without corroboration, that British Prime Minister David Cameron had an interesting episode in college between a private part of his anatomy and a dead pig.

Of course this is something that Oliver could not resist. Look at the video and if you're not laughing out loud as much from Oliver's delight with the story as from the segment itself, you are probably no longer breathing.

For the record, Cameron has denied the episode although it took him a week to do so.

MY APOLOGIES: that the short Oliver video has been removed. It was really funny. If you want to know what it was about, just google "david cameron pig" and you'll get the explanation.


On Thursday, the State of Alabama stopped issuing drivers licenses, which are required to vote, in counties where 75 percent of registered voters are black.

”Due to budget cuts,” reports Raw Story, “Alabama Law Enforcement Agency said that 31 satellite DMV offices would no longer have access to driver’s licenses examiners, meaning that residents will need to travel to other counties to apply for licenses. The move comes just one year after the state’s voter photo ID law went into effect.”

As John Archibald wrote at

”It's not just a civil rights violation. It is not just a public relations nightmare. It is not just an invitation for worldwide scorn and an alarm bell to the Justice Department. It is an affront to the very notion of justice in a nation where one man one vote is as precious as oxygen.”

I don't understand why this is allowed to happen – again and again and again.


Holograms are kind of strange and wonderful but in all the years we have had them, I've never figured out if they are good for anything besides resurrecting fuzzy images of Abraham Lincoln. Now comes a really good hologram idea from Russia. Take a look.

Thank my friend Jim Stone for that video.


My favorite astrophysicist (well, okay, the only one whose name I know but you have to admit he's a cool guy), Neil DeGrasse Tyson, interviewed Pepper the robot at the annual meeting of the Clinton Global Initiative last week:

There is more about Pepper at Technology Review and Gajitz. and you can find other videos from the Clinton Global Initiative meeting here.


Filmmaker and artist Yann Arthus-Bertrand said this:

“I dreamed of a film in which the power of words would resonate with the beauty of the world. The movie relates the voices of all those, men and women, who entrusted me with their stories. And it becomes their messenger.”

The film is titled Human and Mr. Arthus-Bertrand

”...spent three years collecting real-life stories from 2,000 women and men in 60 countries.

"Working with a dedicated team of translators, journalists and cameramen, Yann captures deeply personal and emotional accounts of topics that unite us all; struggles with poverty, war, homophobia, and the future of our planet mixed with moments of love and happiness.”

Of all the many choices, my friend Jim Stone sent the video below and that's the one I'm showing you too, Francine's Interview:

The goal of the filmmaker was to investigate

“...what it is that makes us human - that Human the movie – many interviews looking into what it is that makes us human? Is it that we love, that we fight? That we laugh? Cry? Our curiosity? The question for discovery?”

There are three feature-length parts to this monumental, amazing, ambitious project. You can see them all for free on YouTube.

Human the movie Part 1
Human the movie Part 2
Human the movie Part 3

* * *

Interesting Stuff is a weekly listing of short takes and links to web items that have caught my attention; some related to aging and some not, some useful and others just for fun.

You are all encouraged to submit items for inclusion. Just click “Contact” in the at the top of any Time Goes By page to send them. I'm sorry that I won't have time to acknowledge receipt and there is no guarantee of publication. But when I do include them, you will be credited and I will link to your blog IF you include the name of the blog and its URL.

How Low (or No) Inflation Affects Elders' Income

Have you noticed that it's bill increase season? It is for me – the time of year when notices of an uptick in price arrive from the companies that provide products and services one cannot cancel or do without.

My auto insurance goes up 3.25 percent in November. If I stay with the Medicare Part D provider I have now, the premium will increase by 17.2 percent in January. The Medicare Supplemental premium goes up by just over 5 percent in November.

And one of those top two companies Americans love to hate the most has just increased my internet access fee by 6.6 percent – that would be without any additional speed (which is abysmal) or other services. It's just an arbitrary increase - they do it every year.

These percentage figures don't include the annual property tax bill that will arrive in a week or two. For the past year, the local news has overflowed with reports about how much housing prices have increased in the Portland area, so that assessment is liable to be a shocker this time.

3.25 percent and 6.6 percent don't sound like much but foreshadowing the point of today's post, 6.6 percent here, 3.25 percent there, another 17.2 percent – each of them every year – and pretty soon you're talking about real money.

The system is rigged, my friends, rigged to, over time, impoverish elders along with anyone else on a fixed income. It's the income that is fixed, but everything else is flexible – always upward.

Hang on to your hats: for those of us who rely largely on Social Security, it is all but official that there will be no cost-of-living adjustment (COLA) for 2016. The announcement will be made in a few days.

The COLA is determined each year by comparing the CPI-W (Consumer Price Index for Urban Wage Earners) in the third quarter of the current year to the prior year's third quarter and this year (2015), it is below the 2014 inflation number.

(There is ample evidence that the CPI-W does not reflect elders' spending as compared to wage earners' spending and if inflation for elders were calculated more fairly, there would be a COLA increase because the kinds of items we spend more money on go up in price more each year than workers' average expenses. But that's an argument for another day.)

As I often note, I am not unique. If it is happening to me, it is happening to thousands, millions of other people and here is how it has been with me: even in past years where there has been a cost-of-living adjustment, I have lost financial ground. Every year since I became a Social Security recipient in 2006, the total increase in my expenses (however small each individual one is, sometimes) is greater than the COLA.

Since it has been that way now for ten years, I can't help but ask in what year the outgo line in my budget will overtake the income line. Especially since I have no way to increase other income. Where can I get a Walmart greeter application.

All right – that last sentence is an exaggeration (for now) but one still must ask how it is that in a year in which, according to the people who do that kind of bean counting, the price of so many items increases enough to cut into what little I have left after paying the monthly bills?

I don't think TGB readers have a right to know details of my finances, but here are some examples of what has changed since 2006:

Social Security benefit increased by 21.5%
Supplemental Medicare premium has increased by 70%
Condo HOA has increased 17.5%
Part D premium increases next year by 17.2%

I can look for a lower Part D premium when the tables are published later this month at Although the percentage is high, the increase is only two or three dollars but for me, it is the principle.

You will recall that early this year, I cut way back on cable television. In fact, I would have ditched it entirely except that (absurdly) it is cheaper to subscribe to internet AND the lowest-level, basic TV service than internet alone. That cut my monthly expenses by about 10 percent.

Plus, to indulge in a little black humor, the upside to global warming where I live is that it doesn't cost as much to heat the house in winter these days so that bill is down a little lately.

My point in this list of one person's expenses is that all elders except those lucky enough to have a reasonably good pension (that has not been taken away), in addition to Social Security, go through this same fiscal dance each year: where and what can I cut down?

How many elders live so close to the bone that they live in fear of – oh, say an old appliance finally dying (have you seen the prices on stoves and refrigerators lately?) or a big veterinarian bill or major dental work?

And in what year do the annual increases in premiums, utilities, food, homeowner's dues, household repairs, etc. cut so far into stagnant income, that there is no more room to dance?

In case you hadn't noticed, we are in an election year for president, all representatives and one-third of the Senate. Every year congressional Republicans try to cut Social Security and this year will be no different, including whichever Republican finally grabs the Republican nomination.

The Republican party has a long-term goal of eliminating Social Security by whatever means - privatization, reduction of COLA, cutting the benefit, raising eligibility age, etc. They have been trying to do so for decades and so far they have been beaten back by the Democrats in Congress.

Which is why it is crucial to keep at least as many Democrats in Congress as we have now.

Presidential candidate, Senator Bernie Sanders [I-Vt], has spent years pursuing a change in the CPI to better reflect elders' expenses in Social Security COLA increases. This year, he and others are pushing for a straight increase in the Social Security benefit. (He also knows all the smart ways to raise Social Security revenue that is needed.)

But even on the off-chance Sanders is elected president, his only power to change any of this is the bully pulpit.

Because of Republican gerrymandering, it is probably impossible to elect a Democrat in Republican districts. But we can work to make sure that Democrats hang on to the seats the have and, possibly, increase them in the Senate.

Even if you're not all that interested in politics, please pay attention to whom you are voting for next year. I don't know about you but I can't afford to have the Social Security benefit we all paid for over many years chipped away at anymore than it has been.

* * *

ADDITIONAL WONKY (BUT IMPORTANT) NOTE: Without a COLA, the Medicare Part B premium, currently at $104.90 (which is required to be deducted from the Social Security benefit), will not change for most of us.

But for certain individuals and couples in higher income brackets and for new Medicare enrollees in 2016, there will be higher Part B premiums. Substantially higher.

It's complicated and explaining it is not the point of today's post but if you think you fall into one of these categories, you can read a good explanation of what to expect here.

The National Committee to Preserve Social Security and Medicare (NCPSSM) has sent a letter to Congress urging them to block this massive premium increase. You can read it here [pdf].

The Pope and the U.S. Congress

If, like me, you spend a lot of time with the cable TV news channels, you overdosed on the Pope last week. Whatever else of note happened during the eight days of Francis's visit to North America, it was not reported in these venues.

He had not reached the halfway point of his trip, when it began to feel like overkill. Yeah, yeah, yeah. Enough, already. I got it.

But with a little distance now from the hoopla, it occurs to me that the most important thing Francis said is entirely contained in the second paragraph of his first speech, the extraordinarily expansive address to the joint session of Congress.

After his greeting to that gathering of all the American lawmakers, he defined their job (perhaps in case some in attendance have forgotten):

”Each son and daughter of a given country has a mission, a personal and social responsibility," he noted. "Your own responsibility as members of Congress is to enable this country, by your legislative activity, to grow as a nation.

“You are called to defend and preserve the dignity of your fellow citizens in the tireless and demanding pursuit of the common good, for this is the chief aim of all politics.”

Everything else he said is commentary on that job definition and I have been wondering since then, in regard to his followup list of the many terrible issues of “the disturbing social and political situation of the world today,” if any in Congress are even a little bit shamed at their neglect of the common good.

The Pope admonished Congress about the money that has overtaken the American political system:

“If politics must truly be at the service of the human person,” he said, “it follows that it cannot be a slave to the economy and finance.

“Politics is, instead, an expression of our compelling need to live as one, in order to build as one the greatest common good: that of a community which sacrifices particular interests in order to share, in justice and peace, its good, its interests, its social life.”

Following on, the Pope had something pertinent to say about terrorism, middle eastern refugees, America's immigrants, the death penalty, poverty, wealth inequality, war, climate change and, for us at this blog, elders too.

Below, are some short excerpts on each of these topics from the Pope's speech to Congress. As you go through them, recall what this and past Congresses have - and in particular, have not - said or done to address these urgent problems.

On terrorism:

”Our world is increasingly a place of violent conflict, hatred and brutal atrocities, committed even in the name of God and of religion. We know that no religion is immune from forms of individual delusion and ideological extremism.”

Refugees and immigrants:

”Our world is facing a refugee crisis of a magnitude not seen since the Second World War. This presents us with great challenges and many hard decisions...

“...the people of this continent are not fearful of foreigners because most of us were once foreigners. I say this to you as the son of immigrants knowing that so many of you are also descended from immigrants.”

On poverty, wealth and its relationship to war:

“I would encourage you to keep in mind all those people around us who are trapped in a cycle of poverty. They too need to be given hope. The fight against poverty and hunger must be fought constantly and on many fronts, especially in its causes.”


“It goes without saying that part of this great effort is the creation and distribution of wealth. The right to use natural resources, the proper application of technology and the harnessing of the spirit of enterprise are essential elements of an economy which seeks to be modern, inclusive and sustainable.

“Business...can be a fruitful source of prosperity for the area in which it operates, especially if it sees the creation of jobs as an essential part of its service to the common good.”


“[We must be] truly determined to minimize and, in the long term, to end the many armed conflicts throughout our world. Here we must ask ourselves: Why are deadly weapons being sold to those who plan to inflict untold suffering on individuals and society?

“Sadly, the answer, as we all know, is simply for money, money that is drenched in blood, often I innocent blood.”

The Pope visited a prison on Sunday. In the address to Congress, he had urged

” abolition of the death penalty. I am convinced that this way is the best since every life is sacred, every human person is endowed with an inalienable dignity, and society can only benefit from the rehabilitation of those convicted of crimes.”

On climate change, he said that the common good he repeatedly referenced “includes the earth...our common home.” And then he quoted from his May 2015 Encyclical Letter about the environment titled, Laudato Si':

”We need a conversation which includes everyone, since the environmental challenge we are undergoing, and its human roots concern and affect us all...

“I call for a courageous and responsible effort to 'redirect our steps' and to avert the most serious effects of the environmental deterioration caused by human activity.

“I am convinced that we can make a difference and I have no doubt that the United States – and this Congress – have an important role to play. Now is the time for courageous actions and strategies...”

I understand that Pope Francis's address to Congress and his other speeches are inspirational in nature. But they are deadly serious yet I cannot recall when either the Senate or House of Representatives last spoke of these problems with anything but a glancing phrase now and then.

There are many things about which I disagree with the Pope. But his discussion and enumeration of these grave issues is more than Congress has done by magnitudes.

Essentially, Congress has abdicated the job they were each elected to, the job that Pope Francis defined so well at the top of his speech: “the tireless and demanding pursuit of the common good, for this is the chief aim of all politics.”

If that does not change, I believe we – humanity, that is – are doomed due to climate change alone. If I am wrong about that (or not) and the current political climate in Congress is permitted to continue, our way of life is as equally doomed.

Maybe you have to be Catholic to maintain the kind of expectation the Pope evinced. But in fact, although I am nominally Jewish, I practice no faith.

With that, however, I recognize that the Francis's influence carries – or can carry - beyond the 1.2 billion Catholics of the world. I would like to believe that the many days of Pope Francis in America will change the political behavior of enough people in power to make a difference.

As I said, though, I doubt it. More likely, all his fine words, counsel and urgings have already faded from the minds of those who were elected "to defend and preserve the dignity of your fellow citizens in the tireless and demanding pursuit of the common good."

It is worth reading Pope Francis's entire address to Congress. You will find it here.

Elderblogger List Updated for 2015 – At Last

Little by little, this blog is getting a face lift. First, there were some overall design changes, the new banner, a bit of simplification and now this.

Some readers have been nagging me about it for quite awhile and I have now finally got around to updating the Elderblogger List. It has been nearly two years - 21 months to be exact - since the last one.

Last week, I spent some hours each day visiting every blog on the previous list. First, I was surprised at how few have been abandoned. That's the good news. The uncomfortable part is wondering what happened to those who have disappeared or not published in six months, a year and more.

Did they get bored and just stop? Did they pick up their marbles and move to another address without telling readers? Have they fallen too ill to keep up? Have they died?

In almost all cases there is no way to know, adding to the mysteries of life in general and the internet in particular. (I'll discuss this soon in a different post.)

There is one blog that is no longer published but remains on the updated list. Although we never met in person, Mort Reichek and I became internet friends in the earliest days of our blogs.

He was a former journalist, a brilliant thinker and writer who died in 2011, at age 87. I don't want his blog, and I don't want Mort, to disappear. So Octogenarian stays on the list.

In between updates, I keep a running list of elderblogs I discover during web travels along with others that readers have emailed asking me to include. It's been long enough since the last update that even a few of those have disappeared or no longer publish but in the end, there are about the same number of new blogs on this list as ones that have been deleted.

So here is the shiny, new, up-to-date list (for a short while, anyway). You can always find it by clicking the Elderblogger List link under the header, Features, in the right sidebar.

Below are links to the blogs that are being listed for the first time:

The Aging Generalist
Antonia's Senior Moments
Aunt Beulah
Bohemian Coffee Club
Cathy @ Still Waters
Clearing the Space
Here there be musing
Home Town Tales

I've Landed
Jane's Journals
Jane Stillwater's Web Log
Monk's Progress
Musings of a Retiring Person
The Next Chapter
The Slithy Tove
Still the Lucky Few
The Summerhouse Years

Tess Abroad
Things Could Be Worse
Writing to Myself

If you have a blog you want added (your own or someone else's), use the Contact link above the banner at the top of each page and send me the URL. A couple of things to remember:

The blog must be at least three months old
It must be a personal blog, not commercial, retail, etc.
It must be free of advertising
It should publish a new story, poem, photo, etc. at least once a week

ELDER MUSIC: Music of New Orleans Part 4

Tibbles1SM100x130This Sunday Elder Music column was launched in December of 2008. By May of the following year, one commenter, Peter Tibbles, had added so much knowledge and value to my poor attempts at musical presentations that I asked him to take over the column. He's been here each week ever since delighting us with his astonishing grasp of just about everything musical, his humor and sense of fun. You can read Peter's bio here and find links to all his columns here.

* * *

"I’m not sure, but I’m almost positive, that all music comes from New Orleans."
       – Ernie K-Doe

New Orleans

For those who came in late, be sure to check out Part 1, Part 2 and Part 3 for the music (if not the deathless prose).

JELLY-ROLL MORTON (or Ferdinand LaMothe to his mum and dad) was an early jazz pianist, band-leader and composer.

Jelly Roll Morton

He had the very first published jazz tune (Jelly Roll's Blues) and he showed that the essentially improvised music could be notated without losing its verve and spirit.

He wasn't a shy, retiring type and claimed to have invented jazz much to the derision of others at the time (and since). This is one of his compositions, Dr Jazz.

♫ Jelly-Roll Morton - Dr Jazz

From a jazz pianist to a blues piano player (or a barrel house player, as he terms himself in the song), CHAMPION JACK DUPREE.

Champion Jack Dupree

He was orphaned at age two, and spent his early years in the New Orleans Home for Colored Waifs which is also where Louis Armstrong called home a few years earlier.

While he was there, he taught himself to play piano. He later lived in Chicago and later still went to Europe where he spent the rest of his life. In spite of that, here's a paean to his hometown called Hometown New Orleans.

♫ Champion Jack Dupree - Hometown New Orleans

Yet another pianist - well, New Orleans turns them out by the truckload. This time it's JAMES BOOKER.

James Booker

Even with all these great pianists, all the others think that James was the best of the lot. To quote Dr John, he was "the best black, gay, one-eyed junkie piano genius New Orleans has ever produced.”

To show us what he's made of, here's a medley of Tico Tico; Papa Was a Rascal; So Swell When You're Well.

♫ James Booker - Medley

The man with the voice of an angel, AARON NEVILLE, is next. Actually, I think the angels would be jealous of him.

Aaron Neville

Aaron's song Hercules was written and produced by Allen Toussaint (now that's a surprise) and the backing band is The Meters, Aaron's big brother Art's band.

With all that talent, there's no way they could produce a dud (and they didn't, of course).

♫ Aaron Neville - Hercules

To the man himself, ALLEN TOUSSAINT.

Allen Toussaint

Allen was involved in one way or another with the majority of the music I've featured in this series. As I've already mentioned, he was a producer, songwriter and musician. He also made records himself. This is one of them, Solitude.

♫ Allen Toussaint - Solitude

IRMA THOMAS is the "Soul Queen of New Orleans," an accolade bestowed upon her by the local officials.

Irma Thomas

Unfortunately, she's not as well known outside the city. Well, she should be. I'll try to do a small part in helping that along, starting with the song Anyone Who Knows What Love Is (Will Understand) that's been used in several films and TV series. It's not her best song but it's not bad.

♫ Irma Thomas - Anyone Who Knows What Love Is (Will Understand)

Some time ago, before Katrina, Norma, the Assistant Musicologist, and I were wandering along Bourbon Street and discovered a hole in the wall, about the size of my living room, that was a music club. It was owned by CLARENCE (THE FROGMAN) HENRY.

Clarence Frogman Henry

We were pretty excited about that as there was music coming from inside. Alas, it wasn't Clarence. Apparently he often performed there but not that day. Oh well.

Here's Clarence with one of his big hits, Ain't Got No Home. This is the song that inspired his nickname.

♫ Clarence (Frogman) Henry - Ain't Got No Home

Lawdy Miss Clawdy was written by Lloyd Price who had a hit with it. After that, just about everyone else recorded the song, including LARRY WILLIAMS.

Larry Williams

Larry wrote songs as well: Bony Moronie, Short Fat Fannie, Dizzy Miss Lizzy and many others. However, like Byron, he was mad, bad and dangerous to know.

I won't go into details but there's always the web for those who wish to investigate further.

♫ Larry Williams - Lawdy Miss Clawdy

SHIRLEY AND LEE were Shirley Goodman and Leonard Lee.

Shirley & Lee

Shirley was a teenager when she was going to cut her first record and the producer thought another singer would be advantageous. He brought in Len who, as it turns out, had gone to school with Shirl.

The musical partnership clicked immediately and they recorded a number of songs that did well on the charts. This is one of them, Feel So Good.

♫ Shirley & Lee - Feel So Good

We have come full circle. The first track in this series was by King Oliver. It's only fitting that we end with a tribute to him. The tributer (I just made up that word) is WYNTON MARSALIS.

Wynton Marsalis

The Marsalis family is full of musicians but Wynton is the best known to the general public. He not only plays jazz, he has performed and recorded classical works as well. Here is In The Court Of King Oliver.

♫ Wynton Marsalis - In The Court Of King Oliver

INTERESTING STUFF – 26 September 2015


Maybe you don't recognize the name. Back in the 1950s, he played the young Daily Planet reporter on TV's first Superman show starring George Reeves. I'm pretty sure it was the first television show I watched regularly.

You can read more about Jack Larson and his later career here.

Two other early television icons died this month. Martin Milner, who starred on Route 66, was 83. The sock-it-to-me girl on Laugh In, Judy Carne, age 75. You can read about them here and here respectively.


It's no fun if I tell you about it before you watch the video:

The groom is magician Justin Willman. The bride is photographer Jllian Sipkins. This was their first dance at their wedding in Malibu on 6 September 2015.


In Tokyo, there is a book store that sells only one book at a time, for six days each week.

”It’s called Morioka Shoten Ginza (Morioka Bookstore in Ginza)...Every evening an event is organized to discuss the book and connect its author with readers...

“The bookshop opened in May 2015, on a quiet street in Ginza, a popular shopping area of Tokyo. It’s located on the ground floor of the Suzuki Building from 1929, included in the list of the historical architecture of Tokyo.”


You can more photos and read about the store owner's philosophy of one book at a time here.


Jon Stewart's hand-picked Daily Show replacement, South African comedian Trevor Noah, begins as host of the Comedy Central show on Monday.

The first week's guests have been announced: Kevin Hart, Whtney Wolfe, Governor Chris Christie and Ryan Adams.

That I recognize only one of those names makes it apparent to me that it's a whole new world out there these days and I'm not plugged into it anymore. Doesn't mean I won't give the show a good chance though.

Here's a cute little promo Noah recorded with some hold-over Daily Show correspondents:

If you want to know more about Trevor Noah, there is a good print profile/interview with him at GQ.


A guy's just walking down the street in Saudi Arabia when – WHAM! He's knocked to the ground by a huge pane of glass falling from above. A surveillance camera caught the whole thing:

There are a few more details at Huffington Post.


Until a judge finally intervened last week, it cost a LOT of money to use the copyrighted Happy Birthday song on TV or in movies. That's why you've often seen people sing For He's a Jolly Good Fellow in birthday party scenes.

I learned this the hard way back in the early 1970s when I was an associate producer on one of the the first TV shows I worked on. We used Happy Birthday on a live show and were barely back at our desks afterwards when the copyright holder phoned demanding payment.

Here's a further report:

For the record, it was never a violation to sing Happy Birthday at a party. The copyright applied to recordings, radio, TV, etc. You can read more about the song becoming public domain here.


Danish writer Mikael Wulff and cartoon artist Anders Morgenthaler are the creative duo known as Wumo. Darlene Costner sent the link to their series, Painfully True Facts of Everyday Life. A sampling:




Wumo are constantly adding more painfully true facts along with other cartoon humor at their website, Kind of Normal.

It has been a big week for animal videos. Lots of them. So I'll end with three and include some of the others in future Saturday posts.


Subway rat bringing home dinner got a lot of play on the internet and evening news programs so you may have seen it but that doesn't make it any less fun. Nell Casey's commentary at Gothamist gives it the proper Manhattan vibe:

”Who among us can't relate to this determined rat, who just needs a slice of pizza to make it home on the subway after a long night pounding shots of Fireball?

“Do you recognize yourself in the glassy, unfocused eyes? The stumble and recovery that almost costs that precious pizza cargo? The realization that, yes, I will eat this slice even though I have dragged it along the steps to the L train?”


This video is as popular as subway rat and there are several versions of it floating around. This one is an interview on the local news with the home owner who explains:

”This silly raccoon...will just knock on the door - FOR HOURS...She is adorable and has lived in my yard for years.”


I don't think Jelani, the silverback at the Louisville Zoo in Kentucky, has gotten quite as much play as subway rat and Rocksy and he should. The video maker explains:

”I stumbled upon the boy sharing pictures with Jelani touring the zoo with my one-year-old daughter. The boy was scrolling through gorilla pictures and Jelani would motion with his hand to move to the next photo. Both seemed to really enjoy sharing the experience.”

You can read more about the encounter here.

* * *

Interesting Stuff is a weekly listing of short takes and links to web items that have caught my attention; some related to aging and some not, some useful and others just for fun.

You are all encouraged to submit items for inclusion. Just click “Contact” in the at the top of any Time Goes By page to send them. I'm sorry that I won't have time to acknowledge receipt and there is no guarantee of publication. But when I do include them, you will be credited and I will link to your blog IF you include the name of the blog and its URL.