Monday, 29 June 2015

Does Hollywood Ageism Have Anything To Do with You and Me?

In recent weeks there has been a minor flurry of media information – tidbits, mostly – about age and work in relation to female movie stars. I had been sitting on a quotation from actor Maggie Gyllenhaal, wondering what I might do with it until TGB reader Jim Hood mentioned it in an email:

“I’m 37,” Gyllenhaal said in an interview with The Wrap, “and I was told recently I was too old to play the lover of a man who was 55. It was astonishing to me. It made me feel bad, and then it made feel angry, and then it made me laugh.”

A couple of weeks later, the same website asked 69-year-old actor, Helen Mirren, about Gyllenhaal's experience:

No, you're not imagining it. Mirren did say, “fucking” outrageous. And so it is.

At the same time, however, I am a bit queasy about well-off movie stars complaining about the kind of roles they get. Especially Mirren who continues to make three or four films a year, more than most actors get at any age.

Is it wrong that 50- and 60-something male movie stars are most frequently paired romantically with ingenues? About the only time we see old male actors in movies with age-appropriate love interests are when one of the two is dying. Of recent vintage, Amour comes to mind along with Still Mine.

Okay, maybe The Second Best Marigold Hotel but what a disappointment that movie was with Richard Gere shoehorned in for no apparent reason than his good looks.

Maybe I should mention the most famous reverse age movie, Harold and Maude. But I've always thought there was something mildly creepy about it – the movie, not their age difference - and anyway, one movie in 45 years with an old woman and young man does not balance hundreds of the opposite.

This isn't a new problem for older women in Hollywood. They have been complaining forever about lack of roles in general, let alone not being cast as a romantic interest when they have passed an imaginary use-by date.

In 1972, I produced a television interview with Bette Davis (of “old age ain't for sissies” fame) in which she lamented that back then, no one was writing movies for women actors of a certain age. It hasn't changed much since then, certainly not in the realm of romance.

So is this important? Does it matter that female movie actors - especially stars who make zillions of dollars compared to most of the rest of us - don't get to kiss the leading man after age 35 or 40?

I'm only half convinced that it does – in the sense that celebrities are role models for the rest of us, especially young people who emulate their hair styles, fashion, even behavior. (Cosmetics, automobile and fashion companies don't pay movie stars to shill for their products for no reason.)

If we, the public, repeatedly see movies and TV shows in which old men only pursue 20-something women, I'm pretty sure that has at least as much effect on beliefs about who is attractive and worthy of attention as the commercials starring those same actors enhance the bottom line of the products.

And that in turn may have a great deal to do with your and my lives. If we hardly ever see, in our entertainment, older women as worthy – whether as sex objects or responsible adults – might not we, for example, be refused jobs after age 50 or 60 like those female actors are?

And if I buy this idea, I think it affects men too because for at least the past decade, more than half the movies released in the United States are about bionic, humanoid, Borg-like heroes more suited to video games than real life and against which no human male – of any age - can compete.

Based on all that, Maggie Gyllenhaal's lost movie role with a 55-year-old man might not be as funny as she thinks.

Or maybe it is. I'm not sure. What I'm trying to work out is whether the fact that Maggie Gyllenhaal, Helen Mirren and Bette Davis don't get to make love to an actor their own age on screen has anything to do with the fact that I couldn't get anyone to hire me after age 62.

Posted by Ronni Bennett at 05:30 AM | Comments (22) | Permalink | Email this post

Sunday, 28 June 2015

ELDER MUSIC: They Wrote the Songs

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.


Today I'm devoting a whole column to a topic I occasionally rabbit on about, and that is the original writer of songs made famous by others.

I'm sure that you'll know all of the selections today but perhaps you won't be quite as familiar with the original versions by the people who created them in the first place.

In my not too humble opinion, the versions by these folks are superior to the famous covers. You may disagree with that - after all, the first version of a song is usually the one that gets implanted in the brain. That happens to me all the time.

However, I think it's always instructive to hear how the writer intended the song to sound.

Let's get started with a sadly neglected singer and songwriter, TOM JANS, and the song that really inspired me to write the column.

Tom Jans

Tom made a bit of a name for himself in the seventies in singer/songwriter circles as a performer and writer of fine songs. Not only as a solo artist, but he teamed up for a while with Mimi Fariña, Joan Baez's sister.

Alas, he had a serious motorcycle accident and died not too long afterwards, almost certainly due to serious injuries sustained to his kidneys.

His most famous song would have to be Loving Arms, covered really well by Dobie Gray and also recorded by Elvis and a whole bunch of others. Here is Tom with his song.

♫ Tom Jans - Loving Arms

What annoys me is those people who claim to be knowledgeable about music and then claim that, because he's a songwriter himself, Harry Nilsson wrote Everybody's Talkin'. No he didn't.

EmoticonAngry1

Sorry, I've calmed down now that I've got that off my chest. It, of course, came from FRED NEIL who did a far superior version of the song some years earlier.

Fred Neil

♫ Fred Neil - Everybody's Talkin

HANK BALLARD, along with his band mate Cal Green, were inspired by a gospel song by The Sensational Nightingales. They put new words to the tune and came up with a song that rather inspired a new dance craze. They called it The Twist.

Hank Ballard

Hank and his band The Midnighters recorded the song and it was moderately successful. It came to the ears of Dick Clark who wanted to feature them on American Bandstand but the group was unavailable at the time.

Dick loved the song and got his friend Earnest Evans to record it. Earnest was a great admirer of Fats Domino and changed his name to Chubby Checker as an homage. As you know, this new version went through the roof.

Today, though, I'm playing Hank and The Midnighters' original. I think Chubby studied this one very closely.

♫ Hank Ballard - The Twist

JOHN STEWART was a fine singer and songwriter who first came to prominence writing songs for, and then eventually joining, the Kingston Trio.

John Stewart

Later, as a solo performer, when he wasn't on the road, he'd spend time writing songs. Well, that was his job after all.

One day he wrote Daydream Believer and he thought the day a total failure as that's all he produced and he didn't think much of it. His good friend Chip Douglas heard the song and thought it would be good for The Monkees. Chip was a producer on their TV program.

The Monkees really loved the song and wanted to record it but the record company demanded that they change the word "funky" to "happy.” John replied that meant that the song made no sense at all and he wouldn't let them.

Well, came the reply, they won't be able record it. John decided that "happy" was really growing on him. He said that the song set him up for the rest of his life. Here it is.

♫ John Stewart - Daydream Believer

Pretty much everyone featured today are known to some degree but we come to someone who isn't, at least not by me. He was certainly a writer of famous songs, but I imagine few people who listen to music know his name. He is MARK JAMES (or Francis Zambon to his mum and dad).

Mark James

The person who covered his song, in complete contrast, was the most famous person on the planet, Elvis. As you'll hear, Elvis not only listened to the song but the arrangement as well and copied it pretty much exactly. Suspicious Minds.

♫ Mark James - Suspicious Minds

BRENDA HOLLOWAY had the help of her sister Patrice, Frank Wilson and Berry Gordy in writing her song.

Brenda Holloway

Brenda was going to be the next big thing at Motown after a couple of well-charting singles. However, The Supremes, who had done nothing much at all before, suddenly had a worldwide number one hit and Berry concentrated on them from then on.

Back to Brenda and the song she co-wrote, You've Made Me so Very Happy, a big hit for Blood Sweat and Tears a couple of years later.

♫ Brenda Holloway - You've Made Me So Very Happy

Okay, I'll admit that Ray Charles did a wonderful cover of I Can't Stop Loving You, even better than the one by DON GIBSON whose version is pretty good.

Don Gibson

Don was a writer and singer of the saddest, lonesome-est songs ever recorded. Here's his take on his own song.

♫ Don Gibson - I Can't Stop Loving You

DAN PENN was another who had someone cover one of his songs better than he did it.

Dan Penn

Not just better than his but better than anyone else who has tackled the song and there have been quite a few of them. I'm talking about James Carr who did the terrific version of one of the great soul songs, The Dark End of the Street.

However, here is Dan.

♫ Dan Penn - The Dark End of the Street

BOBBY CHARLES wrote a number of songs you'd recognise immediately.

Bobby Charles

He was a New Orleans native and wrote songs for various musicians from that city but most notably for his friend, Fats Domino. This is one of Fats' biggest hits but it's Bobby's take we're interested in today: Walking to New Orleans.

He has a little help from the great man himself on this version.

♫ Bobby Charles - Walking to New Orleans

JIMMY WEBB has written songs for a whole bunch of people but he's probably most associated with Glenn Campbell.

Jimmy Webb

I could have chosen a dozen (or more) from Glenn's repertoire, however, I have a previous column devoted to Jimmy so I've decided on one I didn't include in that one. Well, not Jimmy's version anyway.

Here is Wichita Lineman.

♫ Jimmy Webb - Wichita Lineman

Posted by Ronni Bennett at 05:30 AM | Comments (3) | Permalink | Email this post

Saturday, 27 June 2015

INTERESTING STUFF – 27 June 2015


ELDERS BENEFIT FROM SUPREME COURT DECISION TOO

It was an important win for the American people on Thursday when, in a 6-3 decision, the Supreme Court upheld Obamacare subsidies. A loss could have meant the destruction of the entire law.

And it's not just people under age 65 who benefit, you know. There are Medicare provisions in the law too. Here is what Max Richtman, the president and CEO of the National Committee to Preserve Social Security and Medicare (NCPSSM), emailed right after the Thursday Court decision was announced:

”Seniors in Medicare...will save, on average, about $5,000 over the next 10 years due to lower drug costs, preventive services with no out-of-pocket cost and reductions in the growth of health spending.

“Since passage of Obamacare, more than 8.2 million people with Medicare saved over $11.5 billion on prescription drugs. These are real people who will face real threats to their health security if the quest to dismantle Obamacare is ever successful.

“No doubt the enemies of health care reform will continue their zealous mission to roll back Obamacare’s successes but today we have reason to celebrate. Tomorrow we’ll resume our fight to ensure seniors continue to benefit from the enormous savings Obamacare provides them and their families.”

JON STEWART'S DONALD TRUMP GIFT

Last week, we mentioned that although Donald Trump said he is running for the Republican nomination for president, it was not official because he had not yet filed the required documents with the Federal Election Commission (FEC).

Well, he did that this week and there is no happier person in the land than The Daily Show host, Jon Stewart. Trump's candidacy is any comedian's wet dream – the joke fodder is endless. Take a look, from last Tuesday's show:

AND THIS: beginning today at 12N EDT and running until 6 August when the last new Daily Show is broadcast, Comedy Central is streaming a 42-day, online marathon of every episode of the program since Jon Stewart took the reins in 1999.

They are calling it Your Month of Zen and you can follow it here.


THE SILENCE OF OWL FLIGHT

What makes owls deadly to rodents and other small animals is how quietly they can fly. Now, scientists are studying owl flight to see how they can apply it to help reduce the noise wind turbines produce:

”...by using a 3D-printed material meant to mimic the surface of owl wings, he and his colleagues were able to lower the noise level of a wind turbine blade by about 10 decibels,” reports Grist.

Nice to know but I'm pretty sure Jan Adams of Can It Happen Here? emailed the story because of this amazing video. Enjoy.


GOOD NEWS ABOUT CORONARY HEART DISEASE

According to a story in The New York Times, the death rate from coronary heart disease has dropped 38 percent in just ten years. A big reason is increased speed of treatment:

”With no new medical discoveries, no new technologies, no payment incentives — and little public notice — hospitals in recent years have slashed the time it takes to clear a blockage in a patient’s arteries and get blood flowing again to the heart..."

Further,

”Disparities that used to exist, with African-Americans, Hispanics and older people facing the slowest treatment times, have disappeared, Dr. Harlan Krumholz, a cardiologist at Yale, and his colleagues said in a paper in Archives of Internal Medicine."

And,

The improvements in treatment have spilled over into the care of stroke victims. Neurologists watched with envy as cardiologists slashed their times...The payoff from the changes has been breathtaking, experts say.

“'Heart disease mortality is dropping like a stone. This is a reason why,' said Dr. Eric Peterson, a cardiology researcher at Duke. 'And stroke has fallen to fifth as a major killer. This is a reason why.'”

It's good news and this is equally good reporting of it at The New York Times.


ROCK STAR BERNIE SANDERS

The crowds at Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders's campaign speeches grow larger with each appearance. So unexpected was the attendance at last Tuesday's speech in Denver (estimated at 5,000) that many had to be seated in an outdoor sports arena nearby where they could hear but not see him.

This is what just the indoor crowd looked like there:

SandersDenverAudience

In an appearance on last week's Real Time with Bill Maher TV show, Sanders received a standing ovation from the audience almost worthy of a rock star. Wow! Take a look.

Whatever the outcome for Senator Sanders campaign, the growing support for his progressive agenda can only be good for the United States.


LITTLE PIGGY SUE

Yes, I know. It's emotionally manipulative and it's a commercial for Vodaphone in New Zealand. And it worked on me.


HUGE LIST OF SENIOR DISCOUNTS FOR YOU

TGB Reader Steve Kemp sent a link to the largest list I've ever seen of senior discounts. There is not a single restaurant I go to or ever would, but that might not be true for you. And there are a lot of other stores and services included.

It's posted on the Facebook page of someone named Jim Ryan. What a whole lot of work he put into this.


JOHN OLIVER ON ONLINE HARRASSMENT

I'm beginning to feel foolish each week carrying on about how impressive John Oliver and his crew are at the essays they produce for HBO's Last Week Tonight. But they haven't failed me yet: useful, excellent, important and funny.


WATCHING CAT VIDEOS IS GOOD FOR YOU

Do you ever lose yourself down a rabbit hole of cat videos (if that's not mixing metaphors) only to find when you climb out that you've lost an hour, even more, of your life to them?

I have and not infrequently, I'm appalled at how I've wasted an evening.

Now, a woman who is an assistant professor of media at Indiana University undertook an online “exploratory survey” of 7,000 (self-selected) respondents about who watches cat videos and why.

Publishing a story about her results in The Conversation, Jessica Gall Myrick reports that her findings

”...suggest that certain people are, in fact, more likely than others to view copious amounts of internet cat videos. It also showed that cat videos can positively influence the emotions of viewers.

“According to my study, if you currently own or have previously owned a cat – or if you’ve volunteered to assist pets in the past year – you’re more likely to watch cat videos...

“People in my study reported experiencing more positive emotions and having higher energy levels after watching cat videos than before. They also reported lower levels of negative emotions after viewing online cat-related content.

“In short, most of us get a little psychological 'pick-me-up' when we watch Lil Bub climb the stairs or view a hilarious Grumpy Cat meme.”

You can read more of Ms. Myrick's survey results here. Meanwhile, I'm interpreting her study to mean I can post as many cat videos as I want. Such as this one:

You've heard of Snakes on a Plane? Here's a cat on a plane. Thank reader Cathy Johnson for this.


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 upper left corner 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.

Posted by Ronni Bennett at 05:30 AM | Comments (8) | Permalink | Email this post

Friday, 26 June 2015

House Calls, Telemedicine and Medicare

Medicare is in the third year of testing its Independent at Home demonstration project to see if it can improve care and cut costs for some of its more frail patients with house calls. The idea is to test

”...how well a house call approach really works and how to pay for it. About 8,400 frail seniors with multiple chronic conditions — Medicare's most expensive type of patient — are receiving customized home-based primary care from 17 programs around the country,” according to a story at Yahoo! News.

The study was created by The Affordable Care Act and legislation is pending in Congress to extend the project another two years. Meanwhile, Medicare has released an analysis of the project's first year. Results so far?

”...it saved an average of $3,070 per participating beneficiary.”

Meanwhile, in Cincinnati,

”Donna Miles, 68, awoke on a wintry February morning and the pain had not subsided, she decided to see a doctor,” reports Kaiser Health News.

“So she turned on her computer and logged on to www.livehealth.com, a service offered by her Medicare Advantage plan, Anthem BlueCross BlueShield of Ohio. She spoke to a physician, who used her computer’s camera to peer into her mouth and who then sent a prescription to her pharmacy.

“'This was so easy,' Miles said.

These two developments, small as the trials are so far, are crucial to the future of elder healthcare and here's why. The 65-plus population the United States has grown dramatically since President Lyndon B. Johnson signed Medicare into law 50 years ago.

In 1965, there were approximately 18 million people age 65 and older in the United States. Today, there are about 41 million and in 2050, there will be more than 88 million.

This is a problem. There are few enough doctors to go around now and it is becoming well known that remaining in our homes, where nearly 90 percent of elders want to be as they age, is less expensive than living in care residences but for some, getting out and around becomes problematic.

Telemedicine and house calls will make remaining home more feasible and can save time (for physicians and patients) and save money too. Not to mention that it makes getting care for people with mobility problems a whole lot easier.

And, house calls these days are a far cry from what I remember as a kid 65 years ago. According to the Yahoo! News report:

”Forget the little black bag of yore. Today's house calls can result in an EKG in the living room, and on-the-spot tests for infections. Providers can use portable X-rays, check medicine bottles to tell if patients are taking their pills, spot tripping hazards, and peek in the kitchen to see if healthy food is on hand.

"'It helps you avoid the emergency situations,' said Naomi Rasmussen, whose 83-year-old father in Portland, Oregon, is part of Medicare's Independence at Home study.”

Videoconference technology has been available for 20 years and I've read dozens of reports over the years of how it will revolutionize healthcare but it has been incredibly slow to get going. Hardly anyone can use it yet.

”...fewer than 1 percent of Medicare beneficiaries use it,” reports Kaiser. “Anthem and a University of Pittsburgh Medical Center health plan in western Pennsylvania are the only two Medicare Advantage insurers offering the virtual visits, and the traditional Medicare program has tightly limited telemedicine payments to certain rural areas.

“And even there, the beneficiary must already be at a clinic, a rule that often defeats the goal of making care more convenient.”

Nevertheless, the innovation is moving forward, if slowly. Many more younger, non-Medicare, patients have access to telemedicine, the number of insurance providers that offer the service is increasing and Medicare is tiptoeing toward change too:

”Medicare Advantage plans have the option to offer telemedicine without the tight restrictions in the traditional Medicare program because they are paid a fixed amount by the federal government to care for seniors. As a result, Medicare is not directly paying for the telemedicine services; instead, the services are paid for through plan revenue.

“Republicans and Democrats in Congress are also considering broadening the use of telemedicine; some of them tried unsuccessfully to add such provisions to the recent law that revamped Medicare doctor payment rules and to the House bill that seeks to streamline drug approvals,” reports Yahoo! News.

To me, telemedicine and house calls are such a no brainer – for patients of all ages - that it is frustrating to see how slowly they are developing. It's not like there is any doubt; they ARE going to happen.

Posted by Ronni Bennett at 05:30 AM | Comments (11) | Permalink | Email this post

Wednesday, 24 June 2015

Decisions About Being Old and Single

Letters. We get letters. This one from a reader (let's call her A) who has been thinking about how she will live – or might like to live – if she winds up single in her late years after the “very long relationship” she is still enjoying now.

”Would I stay in the big house?” she writes. “Would I downsize? Would I move nearer my children? Would I stay in my city? I waver daily and at times each option seems to be the obvious one.

“My sister is certain she will make no change. My sister-in-law is certain she will downsize...

“I know decisions will be made for us in the event of our own decline in health but [my] question supposes we are still hale and hearty. “

The only thing I know about this question is that no one can answer it for anyone else. And that, obviously, is not much help.

Plus, although “hale and hearty” is a requisite in A's consideration of staying put or changing housing, I think any of us would be negligent not to give at least a nod to the fact that health becomes an iffier proposition in late life than when we were younger.

Among the unknowables of old age, the certainty I keep in mind is that healthy as I am right now at age 74, at any moment of any day, something can happen that will require changes to my living arrangement if not entirely disable me.

Not that I have take steps to incorporate that possibility into my decision making. Yet. It's on my agenda.

But there is nothing wrong, too, with pondering possible changes while assuming good health. Of course, one's financial position will affect what choices are available.

If you have little idea of how you want to live when single and old, there are a lot of basic questions: Do you like your community? Do you have friends there you are comfortable with? Do you like the climate or are you looking for a change? Are you happy in the house you have or is it too big for you now?

If change is on the agenda, the questions multiply. Will a single-family house or apartment in a new place work? Do you like urban or suburban or rural? How will you choose a new location? What are your criteria?

In addition, there are many kinds of housing options only – or mostly – for old people. Age restricted communities; NORCs, that is Naturally Occuring Retirement Communities; retirement communities defined by interests, activities and income; Continuing Care Retirement Communities (CCRC) that can take you from independent living to assisted living and finally, nursing care.

Co-housing is another option and don't forget the Golden Girls option – a group of three or four or five friends sharing a big house together.

Not to mention that if after all the homework you decide to stay where you are, there are many kinds of remodels, renovations and adjustments that can be done, especially in the area of universal design, to make a home comfortable and convenient for growing old.

This is a bare overview of possibilities. One reason is that as the baby boomers inch further and further into old age, the 65-plus generation is becoming larger in proportion to the entire population than it has ever been and there is a lot of experimenting going on.

This is a good thing and also confusing. So to get to A's specific question:

”What do your readers plan to do? Do any of them, like me, change their minds regularly?”

Although A doesn't mention it, obviously it would be useful if those of you who have already weathered this life passage told us something of how you made decisions and how they have held up over time.

I know there is a deep and rich body of knowledge on this subject among TGB readers.

Posted by Ronni Bennett at 05:30 AM | Comments (41) | Permalink | Email this post

Monday, 22 June 2015

A Conversation App Just For Elders?

Perhaps you have noticed that young people don't talk on the telephone anymore. So widely true is this that it probably wouldn't make much difference - except to thee and me - if manufacturers just ditched the voice function on those mini computers we still call phones.

Not long ago, the thank you for a box of gifts I'd mailed to a young friend's toddler arrived via text message: “He loves it,” typed 30-something Mom. I'm still don't know which “it” - there were several - he loves.

It's a new world. Even friends in their forties and fifties prefer texting or just checking in with one another's Facebook, Instagram and Twitter feeds. I know a lot of you live on such services which is why I distribute TGB and The Elder Storytelling Place posts to them. But for me, it's not the same thing as a conversation.

Remember all those years in the past when the phone rang (we didn't know back then who was calling until we answered) and most of the time we settled down for a chat, long or short, with a friend?

In those days, I spoke with my closest friends and relatives several times a week. With no email then, we used the telephone to plan social engagements but even when the point was only to set a time and place to meet for brunch or dinner or a movie, we took a few minutes to catch up on our lives.

Nowadays, we use email (or texts, I suppose, for some) to make appointments for phone calls – those few of us who still like to hear the voices of people we care about. Are we all really so busy – especially now that many of us are retired – that it has become rude to interrupt anyone by calling without a previous agreement as to time?

Of the barely half dozen friends I still regularly talk with on the phone, there is only one I call or who calls me without prior arrangement via email.

TGB reader Tom Delmore sent me a link to an essay at the Wall Street Journal suggesting something the writer, David Gelernter, calls Talknet:

”It will run like any app, on a tablet or a laptop right beside you. When you turn on Talknet, you hear a jumble of voices in your favorite language.

“You see five upright rectangles in a row on-screen, in five bright colors. These are 'featured conversations,' like a diner’s daily specials, but they change regularly: You see a whole new set every five minutes, and they are selected with your tastes in mind.

“Each rectangle is labeled with a topic. Tap or click one—Rubio v. Bush, schnauzers, wisteria in zone 6, grandchildren’s weddings, school board election in Woodbridge, Conn. You hear the conversation you’ve chosen: 10 people at most, anywhere in the world, chatting.”

Gelernter, a Yale computer scientist, tells us that unlike everyone else online, elders want to talk so his idea for Talknet is “inevitable.” He knows this, he says, because

”I said the same about the rise of the Web (which I called the 'mirror world') in 1991 and Twitter-type streams (which I called 'lifestreams') in 1996, so this is no wild prediction, I hope.

“Talknet has large implications. But its first task is to help the elderly. They need it, and we owe them.”

Whew. All that grandiosity is a bit much and it's that paternalistic tone in his voice that ticked me off at the start of his story:

”No group needs social network software more than the elderly,” he starts out. “We have built a frenzied society full of shriek TV, shriek music, shriek movies, shriek ads. Texting and phone-fondling go on ceaselessly. None of this welcomes the elderly, who were often lonely even before we turned up the volume on American society.

“So it’s too bad that today’s social networks are virtually useless to them. The elderly don’t want to type; they want to talk. And if they can’t make sense of new software in 10 seconds, they move on.

“Audio is our first requirement. Losing dexterity is part of aging, and arthritis is not exactly rare.”

There is both truth and not in that lead-in but either way, his tone is irritating.

On the other hand, he is right about elders generally being more comfortable with speech than other modern means of communication and god knows, for a decade I've been promoting the internet as a great invention for elders to reach out, make new friends and keep in touch.

Maybe Talknet would be an excellent extension of what we have been doing these past two decades.

Galernter describes his idea of Talknet in great detail that includes scheduling regularly chats during TV shows for example, creating new topics, taking conversations private and more all done with speech.

The problem for me, however, is that I want to talk with friends, not strangers and it's my younger friends who don't want to. Plus, it sounds, in his description, that there would be so many conversations to choose from it would come down to no choice at all.

But I could be wrong. You can read Gelernter's whole essay here. If for some reason it won't display because you don't have a subscription to the Wall Street Journal,” here is the trick to getting it:

Copy this headline, with the quotation marks, into a Google search: “A Social Network for Talkers”

On the Google return page, click on the link to the newspaper (usually the one at the top) and it should open

(If you're wondering, the trick is not a secret. It's been available since the newspaper went behind a paid firewall and without doubt, the Wall Street Journal is aware of it. So far, they have chosen not to block it.)

After you've read the full idea for Talknet, come back here and let us know what you think.

Posted by Ronni Bennett at 05:30 AM | Comments (26) | Permalink | Email this post

Sunday, 21 June 2015

ELDER MUSIC: Unchained Melody

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.


The prison film Unchained made in 1955, had only two things going for it. One was the appearance of Dexter Gordon as a jazz saxophone player (he was serving time for drug offences in Chino where the film was shot) and the other was for the theme song written by Alex North and Hy Zaret, called Unchained Melody.

The song really had little to do with the film but it scored an Oscar nomination and has become one of the most recorded songs ever, and that's what we're featuring today.

Two performers who deserved inclusion but missed out are Marty Robbins and Roy Hamilton. They only missed the cut because they were too similar to some already present. In an ideal world they'd be included as they are easily the third and fourth best versions of the song.

I'm going to top and tail the column with the two best and everyone else will be between those.

Leading the charge today is AL HIBBLER.

Al Hibbler

Al's version is the first that I can recall from my childhood. He released it back in 1955, just when music was seriously being imprinted on my brain. It still holds up as number two (it was number one for about ten years).

♫ Al Hibbler - Unchained Melody

BRENDA HOLLOWAY was a real contender on Motown records.

Brenda Holloway

Unfortunately, just when she was about to break out as a real star, someone like the Supremes had a mega-hit that put her somewhat in the shade. It's a real shame because she deserves to be much better known.

Her version is a bit string heavy for my taste but she's a good enough singer to overcome that.

♫ Brenda Holloway - Unchained Melody

The odd man out today is CHET ATKINS.

Chet Atkins

That's because his is an instrumental version of the song. Naturally it's played on guitar, Chet's natural environment (as it were). He was one of the original guitar heroes - he backed many country and rock & roll performers from the fifties.

Of course, that's not all he did. For one thing, he recorded our song.

♫ Chet Atkins - Unchained Melody

About this time, DooWop performers liked to take classic songs and give them the full DooWop treatment. The Marcels were past masters at this sort of thing but it's not their turn today. Instead, I present VITO AND THE SALUTATIONS.

Vito & the Salutations

They consisted of Frankie Fox and Sheldon Buchansky with other members who came and went over the years, including Vito Balsomo, after whom the group was named.

The group had a minor hit with Gloria and a marginally less minor hit with our song today.

♫ Vito & The Salutations - Unchained Melody

The most unlikely presence is that of JONI MITCHELL.

Joni Mitchell

Hers isn't a conventional reading of the song. That's not at all surprising. It's two songs stuck together really. They are Chinese Café and Unchained Melody.

Joni Mitchell - Chinese Cafe~Unchained Melody

THE FLEETWOODS perform an interesting a capella version.

Fleetwoods

They started out in high school as a female duo of Gretchen Christopher and Barbara Ellis. They added fellow student Gary Troxel as a backup singer.

Once they became successful the record company wouldn’t go with the bloke in the background in spite of all of them insisting that's the way it should be. Threats ensued and, well, you know how that came out.

Here, however, are The Fleetwoods as they wanted to be.

♫ The Fleetwoods - Unchained Melody

If you're wondering what the original version in the film sounded like, wonder no further. Here it is, sung by TODD DUNCAN.

Todd Duncan

Todd's not like the other kiddies included today. He was a trained opera singer who had music degrees from several universities. He was also an actor of some renown, and was chosen to play Porgy in the original stage production of Porgy and Bess.

He had a long successful career in opera and as a concert performer and was a music teacher as well. He appeared in the film mentioned above and sang the song as part of the plot (rather than just over the credits).

♫ Todd Duncan - Unchained Melody

From the sublime to the ridiculous, here's PETER SELLERS.

Peter Sellers

Peter liked to record his own take on popular songs of the time and this one is no exception. Those familiar with the Goon Show will know what to expect.

♫ Peter Sellers - Unchained Melody

On his continuing quest to sing every song in the world and perform with every singer as well, here's WILLIE NELSON (although that latter isn't in evidence today).

Willie Nelson

You could pretty much guarantee that he would be here. He gives the song the full Willie treatment (and that's not a bad thing). It's from his period when he was releasing albums of old classic songs.

♫ Willie Nelson - Unchained Melody

Okay, here we are at the end. It doesn't get any better than THE RIGHTEOUS BROTHERS.

Righteous Brothers

Actually, this is only a Righteous Brother: Bobby Hatfield sings the song and Bill Medley is nowhere to be found. It doesn't matter, it's one of their best known songs, and no one does it better.

♫ Righteous Brothers - Unchained Melody

Posted by Ronni Bennett at 05:30 AM | Comments (6) | Permalink | Email this post