The New President's First Official Act

FIRST, A NOTE FOR INTERNATIONAL TGB READERS: The outpouring of protest at the Saturday Women's March in cities across the U.S. turned out to be much larger than anyone anticipated – certainly me.

USWomensMarchesNYT

And what surprised me most - in the best possible way - is that more millions of people in cities around the world joined the protests.

WomensMarchesWorld

(Both images from The New York Times.)

Something big is happening, it is worldwide and we all need to nourish it, encourage it and keep it moving forward for all the reasons the marchers took to the streets on Saturday.

I mentioned this not long ago but it bears repeating: when necessary and reasonable, Time Goes By will be part of that resistance because our democracy, my democracy (I had no idea I was so patriotic until now) may depend upon it.

First and foremost, this blog has always been about “what it's really like to get old” as it says up there on the banner, and that will never change.

Time Goes By benefits greatly from readers and commenters who live in other countries and I have always been careful to write about ageing in a general sense, for all of us wherever we live.

But by necessity now, sometimes TGB will need to be America-centric to address both threats to all Americans, and to American elders specifically (as today) which other media too often overlook. I apologize to international readers but I don't see any other way for the foreseeable future.

There will still be plenty of good conversation about growing old – just please bear with me while I try to work out a balance.

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FIRST TRUMP EXECUTIVE ORDER COULD GUT OBAMACARE
On his first day in office, President Donald Trump signed an executive order (which has the force of law without Congressional approval) that will scale back parts of the Affordable Care Act.

Here is the new press secretary, Sean Spicer, making the announcement to reporters in the White House briefing room:

Well, that certainly was vague while being ominous too. Did you hear the reporters in the room asking, “What does that mean?” as Spicer left the room? Me too.

Before I get to that, let me remind you that there are a few important elements of the Affordable Care Act – Obamacare – that benefit elders specifically.

There is a full list of ACA Medicare benefits here.

In addition, Obamacare opened Medicaid to low-income adults with incomes up to 138 percent of the poverty line in states that opted to expand their Medicaid programs – so far, about 15 million people in 31 states and the District of Columbia have benefited.

What we do not know now is how this first presidential executive order (full text), signed on Friday, will affect Obamacare provisions for Medicare.

Politico calls the order “sweeping” and wrote that it

”...encourages federal agencies to dismantle large parts of Obamacare, possibly including the hugely unpopular mandate requiring most Americans to purchase insurance.

“While only Congress can repeal the law, the nine-paragraph order effectively tells the federal government to take as much leeway as possible to 'ease the burdens' on individuals, states and the health industry.”

The Washington Post offered some additional ideas of what the order may mean:

“'Potentially the biggest effect of this order could be widespread waivers from the individual mandate, which would likely create chaos in the individual insurance market,' said Larry Levitt, senior vice president at the Kaiser Family Foundation.

“In addition, he said, the order suggests that insurers may have new flexibility on the benefits they must provide.

“'This doesn’t grant any new powers to federal agencies, but it sends a clear signal that they should use whatever authority they have to scale back regulations and penalties. The Trump administration is looking to unwind the ACA, not necessarily waiting for Congress,' Levitt said.”

In a bit more detail, The New York Times suggests that the executive order should be seen more as a “mission statement” more than an “edict that can instantly change the law.”

”Mr. Trump has sent a strong signal that he intends to fight the health law...And the order, crucially, notes that agencies can act only 'to the maximum extent permitted by law.' (How the Trump administration interprets those permissions, of course, is yet untested.)

“The order spells out the various ways that a Trump administration might fight the parts of the health law until new legislation comes...Regulations can be changed, but, as the order notes, only through a legal process of 'notice and comment' that can take months or years.

“How much of the order is bluster and how much it signals a set of significant policy changes in the pipeline is unclear. The order was not specific and did not direct any particular actions.”

In other words, the order urges agencies of the federal government to try to destroy Obamacare by chipping away at provisions without actually have to use the word “repeal,” while giving them plenty of time to come up with a replacement.

There is no reason to believe that provisions for Medicare recipients won't be among the ones changed or removed. And there is nothing we can do about it. According to Wikipedia,

”...executive orders are subject to judicial review, and may be struck down if deemed by the courts to be unsupported by statute or the Constitution.”

Unlikely. We will need to use our resistance tools elsewhere.


ELDER MUSIC: Name Dropper Hummel

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.

* * *

That heading is rather scurrilous because there's no evidence whatsoever that JOHANN NEPOMUK HUMMEL engaged in that sort of thing but, my goodness, he could have been the greatest name dropper in musical history if he'd wanted to.

After all, he was taught by Joseph Haydn; he lived for a couple of years with the Mozarts; he was a good friend of both Beethoven and Schubert and he taught Mendelssohn.

He was also good friends with Goethe (but he wasn't known for his musical accomplishments, although a lot of his poems have been set to music by several of the finest composers). Besides all that, Jo had a serious influence on the works of Schumann, Chopin and Liszt.

He really could have given up the composing lark and made a career appearing on TV talk shows chatting about all those. So, it's Hummel and the others today, which gives me a good excuse to play some of my favorite composers (and some others).

I'll start with the man himself, JOHANN HUMMEL.

Hummel

Jo was born in Pressburg which these days is called Bratislava in what we now know as Slovakia. Back then it was in the Austro-Hungarian Empire.

He showed great promise early on, such that he caught the ear of Mozart who decided to take him on as a pupil, and also invited him to live with the Mozart family for a while (that turned into two years).

The musical piece I've chosen isn't from that early period living with the Mozarts; I'm going to jump ahead and play something from later on, his Cello Sonata in A Major, Op. 104, the second movement.

♫ Hummel - Cello Sonata In A Major, Op. 104 (2)


As I mentioned, Hummel lived with the Mozarts (from the age of eight to ten). WOLFGANG MOZART was impressed with his talent and gave him lessons during that time. I imagine Wolfie's father was possibly in the mix as well as he was considered one of the finest music teacher at the time (or since, for that matter).

Mozart

Wolfie probably taught him a thing or two about piano playing as that turned into the main instrument for which he wrote. I thought that, as all the other selections here are instrumental, I'd have some vocal work from Wolfie who was a master at producing great music for the voice, particularly for female singers.

This is the first movement from his Exsultate, jubilate, K. 165, sung by KIRI TE KANAWA.

Kiri Te Kanawa

♫ Mozart - Exsultate, jubilate (1)


After Wolfie, MUZIO CLEMENTI was the next to give Jo some music lessons.

Muzio Clement

The Muz was born in Italy but spent most of his life in England which is where he met Jo and taught him. He was a teacher to several of the next generation of composers. Besides all that he designed and built pianos and was also a music publisher, which probably paid more than composing.

However, it's his compositions we're interested in, and the one I've chosen is the Violin and Piano Sonata Op.2 No.3 in G Major, the first movement.

♫ Clementi - Sonata Op.2 No.3 In G Major (1)


All up, Hummel spent about four years in London and he was there when the French Revolution broke out. His next gig was going to be a tour of France but he changed his mind about that.

Coinciding with his stay, JOSEPH HAYDN was on one of his regular London visits.

Haydn

Papa Jo composed a piano sonata for him and Hummel gave the first performance of it for which Papa Jo thanked him and gave him a guinea (a reasonable sum at the time). They both returned to Vienna after that and more lessons eventuated.

Around this time, the keyed trumpet was invented and Haydn, being an adventurous soul (musically), wrote some music for this new instrument. Here is the third movement of his Trumpet Concerto in E flat major.

♫ Haydn - Trumpet Concerto in E flat major (3)


Hummel was a bit of a one for lessons, as he also received some more from JOHANN ALBRECHTSBERGER.

Albrechtsberger

He must have been the most educated musician around and considering who gave the lessons, oh my goodness. Besides being a teacher, Albie was a composer of some note as well, demonstrated by his Partita No. 2 in C major, the first movement.

There's some harp in there as well as flute and keyboard.

♫ Albrechtsberger - Partita No. 2 in C major (1)


ANTONIO SALIERI has had the worst press of any composer in history what with all the books, films and plays about him and Mozart.

Salieri

So, let's set the record straight – he did not murder Mozart, he had no hand in his death. Indeed, they quite liked and supported each other in their musical endeavors. I'm sorry that the truth is a lot less interesting than all that plotting, but that's the way it was.

He's in the mix because he's another who taught our man of the day. So, I'm quite happy to play his music, in this case the first movement of his Chamber Concerto for oboe, two violins, viola and cello in G major. That's really just a string quartet plus oboe.

♫ Salieri - Chamber concerto for oboe, two violins, viola and violoncello in G major (1)


LUDWIG BEETHOVEN was a friend of Hummel for many years but it probably won't surprise you to learn that they had a falling out.

Beethoven

It's conjectured that this occurred because Ludwig didn't like Hummel's piano transcriptions of his symphonies and other works. This might not have been entirely an artistic difference because copyright didn't exist then and Ludwig didn't see a penny for these.

It might also have to do with the singer Elisabeth Röckel, who was a friend of Beethoven's. More than a friend from his point of view but Hummel raced her off and married her.

Much later, on hearing of Ludwig's serious illness, Hummel rushed to Vienna and visited Ludwig several times before he died. Apparently they reconciled in the last days of Beethoven's life.

Here's something from Beethoven that's a little off the beaten track for him, the sixth movement of his Sextet for 2 horns & string quartet in E flat major, Op. 81B.

♫ Beethoven - Septet for strings & woodwinds in E flat major, Op. 20 (6)


FRANZ SCHUBERT dedicated his last three piano sonatas to Hummel. They have the Deutsch numbers 958, 959 and 960.

Schubert

Some say that these are derivative of Beethoven and who could blame him in the sphere of piano sonatas? However, if you listen with open ears, they are distinctly by Franz. See what you think.

Here is the great Daniel Barenboim playing the third movement of hisPiano Sonata No. 21 in B Flat, D.960.

♫ Schubert - Piano Sonata No.21 In B Flat, D.960 (3)


As I mentioned in the introduction, FELIX MENDELSSOHN was one of his pupils.

Mendelssohn

Admittedly it was only for a short time. Robert Schumann thought of becoming a pupil too but didn't, although he did practise a lot of Hummel's piano pieces.

Franz Liszt also wanted to become a pupil but his dad wouldn't pay the tuition fee (which was fairly high by all accounts). So, we're left with Felix and his Violin Concerto in E minor, Op. 64, the third movement.

♫ Mendelssohn - Violin Concerto in E minor, Op. 64 (3)


I'll end with the man himself again. HUMMEL is the only person who has ever come close to matching Mozart for writing music for the clarinet.

Hummel

As an example here is the fourth movement of his Clarinet Quartet.

♫ Hummel - Clarinet Quartet(4)



INTERESTING STUFF – 21 January 2017

A SENSE OF PURPOSE

This is a video about what happened when the U.S. Department of Labor stepped in to enforce their employment regulations against piece workers in a retirement home.

It was produced last year by students in The Academy of Integrated Humanities and New Media (AIM), a two-year film program for juniors and seniors at Tamalpais High School in Mill Valley, California, which happens to be my alma mater.

What do you think?

Each semester AIM students produce short documentaries and other projects. You can find a collection of their videos at their YouTube page.

WOMAN DIES WHEN NO KNOWN ANTIBIOTIC WORKS

We have been hearing about antibiotic resistance for years but until now, the variety of antibiotic medicines we have seemed to keep us from catastrophe. No more.

”Public health officials from Nevada are reporting on a case of a woman who died in Reno in September from an incurable infection,” reports STATnews.

“Testing showed the superbug that had spread throughout her system could fend off 26 different antibiotics.

“'It was tested against everything that’s available in the United States...and was not effective,' said Dr. Alexander Kallen, a medical officer in the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s division of health care quality promotion.'”

After being treated for a broken femur in India where drug-resistant infections are more common than in the U.S., the 70-year-old woman was found in Nevada to be infected with

”CRE — carbapenem-resistant enterobacteriaceae. That’s a general name to describe bacteria that commonly live in the gut that have developed resistance to the class of antibiotics called carbapenems — an important last-line of defense used when other antibiotics fail,” explains STATnews.

“CDC Director Dr. Tom Frieden has called CREs 'nightmare bacteria' because of the danger they pose for spreading antibiotic resistance.”

Terrifying.

There is additional information on this deadly infection at Huffington Post.

FOLEY ARTISTS

Maybe you've seen that phrase during movie credits. They are the sound artists, an amazing and important part of all television and movie crews.

When I was producing television shows, it was one of my favorite parts of the process, getting together with men and women who tweak and even create needed audio, sometimes from nothing.

Once, I needed to add the missing sound of two tap shoes hitting the floor simultaneously – one each for Bing Crosby and Fred Astaire - to punctuate the end of their dance routine in a movie clip. The Foley artists didn't have anything appropriate in their library so they set about inventing the sound.

They tried slapping a piece of metal on wood. It didn't sound right. They tried the various shoes among all of us in the room, each one on different surfaces. All wrong.

After about an hour, one of the guys went into the sound booth and tried slapping his hand against his thigh. Amazingly, it was close but still short of what it should be. So another guy, wearing denim jeans instead of whatever the first guy was wearing tried. Voila!

We had a good tap sound for Crosby and Astaire that had somehow been lost from the clip.

As the YouTube page for this video explains, when you are immersed completely in a movie much of that is due to the magic of Foley artists. When the work is done right,

”...you won’t be able to tell that the 'natural' sounds on screen are manufactured with studio props. That's the challenge for Warner Bros. Foley artists Alyson Moore, Chris Moriana and mixer Mary Jo Lang. Theirs is a practice in recreation, one creative element at a time.”

Enjoy this little little documentary about how they do their work.

AN AGE-OLD ARGUMENT BETWEEN SPOUSES

And a great, good laugh, too.

BEN FRANKLIN'S FIRST PRINT JOB

Long before he became a founding father, young Ben Franklin went into the printing business.

What appears to be his first piece of printing at age 17 went on exhibit this week at the University of Pennsylvania after not being seen for nearly 200 years.

”Penn Libraries recently acquired the only known surviving copy of a 1723 Franklin broadside, showing an elegy for a Philadelphia poet and printer named Aquila Rose, and topped with a bold skull and crossbones motif.”

BenFranklinFirstPrintJob

The scrapbook in which the broadside was found will also be on display at the Van Pelt-Dietrich Library Center until February 10 – if you happen to be in the area. You can read more at The New York Times.

SWEAR MORE, FEEL BETTER

I've known that for most of my life. When I've stubbed my toe or cut my finger in the kitchen – particularly anything that hurts, a long string of #$%^&*() always makes it feel better.

Now there may be some scientific backup for my belief:

There is more than you ever wanted to know about how and why swearing is good for you at the BBC.

EVOLUTION OF THE DESK

Before computers, printers and the internet came a long, our desks looked a whole lot different than they do now. Darlene Costner found this video that shows how our work spaces have changed since 1980:

(I found the background music on this really annoying – you might want to turn down your audio.)

They're right, of course, except that apparently I didn't get the memo.

RBdesk2017January

And that's after I cleaned up a few days ago.

WHITE HOUSE GLAM ROOM

According to Us magazine, the White House will be renovated to include what they call a “glam room.”

"'There will absolutely be a room designated for hair, makeup and wardrobe,' [Nicole] Bryl, who has worked with [Ms.] Trump for more than a decade and helped 'soften' her look during her husband Donald Trump's presidential campaign...

"'Melania wants a room with the most perfect lighting scenario, which will make our jobs as a creative team that much more efficient, since great lighting can make or break any look,' she said.”

Bryl also tells the magazine that

”...that each makeup session takes 'about one hour and 15 minutes of uninterrupted focus. If you want the look to be flawless and have it last [throughout the day], you do have to take a little extra time to make that happen.'”

Oh please. These next four years are going to be even harder to get through than I had imagined.

If you must, you can read more here.

SNOW DAY AT PORTLAND ZOO

As you might have noticed from my photos in last Saturday's Interesting Stuff, we had a big snowstorm in the Portland, Oregon area about ten days ago. Much more than happens in most winters.

That made some of the animals at the Portland Zoo really, really happy. Thank my friend Jim Stone for this video:

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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” 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.


What are You Doing During Today's Inauguration?

Civil Rights hero John Lewis has been the representative for the state of Georgia's Fifth Congressional District since 1987. He has taken a lot of tweet vitriol from the new president for announcing that he is boycotting today's inauguration.

Me too (along with several dozen additional federal legislators) which, since I live about 3,000 miles from Washington, D.C., just means I will not be watching on television.

In no way is that meant to scorn or disparage the office of the president nor do I believe – even with possible Russian interference in the November election and FBI director James Comey's reprehensible behavior toward Hillary Clinton – that Donald Trump should not be sworn in.

Alternately, Democratic Representative Elijah Cummings of Maryland takes a different view. Yesterday, he told CNN reporter Chris Cuomo that while he believes others should boycott the inauguration if they want, he is attending the because he wants to be a witness to history.

Further, however, he told Cuomo that if the public knew what he and some colleagues had heard in the classified briefings about Russian interference in the election and other information, they might not attend the inauguration themselves. This six-minute exchange is a more informative interview than we usually get on cable television:

Note that Cummings says the information from those classified hearings will come out later.

We, the citizens of the United States, can respect the office of president while generally opposing the man himself – which is the intention of my personal boycott.

To tell the truth, however, I have a long-standing appointment and several errands that will take me away from home today for all but the oath of office so I didn't put a whole lot of thought into my boycott. I would not have missed President Barack Obama's inaugurations for anything; this one doesn't matter to me beyond the fear I feel for the future of our country and for us, the citizens of America.

Besides, what am I really missing. There will be more reporting than anyone needs of the inauguration address and since Trump disavows or changes his mind about everything he says faster than anyone can parse it, it doesn't really matter what he tells the nation today.

Apparently, a lot of people feel as I do about today's event. One website I ran across asked readers how they planned to spend the day, offering these four choices:

Watching the ceremony
Protesting
Avoiding the spectacle
Moving to Canada

I do recall reading news stories about how tens of thousands of Americans, on the day following the election in November, were Googling what is required to immigrate to Canada.

Remember when, a few weeks ago, I posted a Dr. Seuss parody titled How the Trump Stole America written by a North Carolina minister named John Pavlovitz?

He's had some thoughts about what dissenters can do on this inauguration day to resist. Here's the short version:

Serve someone
Financial activism
Get your hands dirty
Reach across a divide
Read
Pray
Reassure your children
Cultivae gratitude
Be visible
Create
Rest

You can read Pavlovitz's full post with explanations of his 11 points at his website.

Resist200Since I am already committed for several hours today, I like the last one in that list for us - for elders - so we can store up a lot of energy for the long resistance we need to undertake starting now.

What are you doing today?



The First Sneak Attack on Medicare, Social Security Has Already Happened

And we didn't even know it.

Social Security Medicare Cards

Remember, back on the morning of 3 January when the new 115th Congress convened, Republicans had already voted in secret the night before to shut down the Office of Congressional Ethics (OCE)?

And how, when word got out, so many thousands of furious citizens phoned Congress that the House was forced to rescind that clause? Before noon?

It was a jubilant win for the good guys that day but there is more in the new rules package that got lost in the hubbub and celebration:

”Unnoticed by most was an additional provision, which is one part of the Republican game plan to destroy Social Security and Medicare,” writes Nancy Altman at Huffington Post last Saturday...”

This is slightly complicated (as the Republicans intend) but not something we can't understand if we pay attention – and it is crucial that we do.

Start with this from Altman:

Social Security...and Medicare...do not go through the appropriations process because, as monthly pension payments and medical insurance, they must pay what is owed, not what Congress chooses to spend.

“If Social Security and Medicare were subject to the whims of every Congress, they would be radically transformed. No one could count on the benefits they had earned.

For this reason, Social Security and Medicare are unique among most federal agencies and departments whose work can be hobbled and even destroyed with funding cuts during the appropriations process by representatives who don't like those departments.

As Altman explains, Republicans have an almost religious belief that the private sector can do anything better than government can and because Social Security and Medicare bypass the appropriations process, the GOP has hated those two programs from the moment they were each enacted.

So here is what the House Republicans wrote into the new rules package that will be in force for the next two years. Altman again:

“...the new rules require the relevant committees to make 'recommendations for changes to existing law for moving [unspecified] programs...from mandatory funding to discretionary appropriations, where appropriate.'

“Note the vague language,” writes Altman. “Republican politicians understand how popular Social Security and Medicare are.

Yet they desperately want to destroy the programs, which put the lie to their anti-government agenda by illustrating clearly that there are some tasks that the government does much better than the private sector.”

Now, here is the stealth part that the Republicans hope will slip by and/or mystify other politicians, the press and citizens (emphasis mine):

”The solution? Cut and radically transform Social Security and Medicare, but do it in a manner that avoids political accountability.

“Using changes in the arcane [new] rules of the budget to force through subsequent cuts fits that bill perfectly.

“By the time the American people realize what's happening, the rules that usher in the changes are in the past [voted in on 3 January 2017], and those voting for the cuts can claim that they have no choice, for budgetary reasons.”

Representative Tom Price, current chairman of the House Budget Committee, proposed other changes to the budget rules which if enacted, says Altman, “would end Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid as we know them.”

Price is the president-elect's nominee to become Secretary of Health and Human Services where he will have direct control of Medicare and Medicaid and will be a trustee of Social Security.

Nancy Altman understands more about Social Security and Medicare and the politics thereof than just about anyone on the planet. She is founding co-director of Social Security Works and and a regular contributor on these issues at Huffington Post.

Along with Josh Marshall and his reporters at Talking Points Memo, she is the foremost defender and topnotch explainer of the sometimes cryptic issues around these programs.

Please read Altman's entire story on the stealth attack at Huffington Post. We need all the education we can get to be articulate enough to effectively resist the upcoming Republican attempts to dismantle these programs.

In some ways, the Republicans in Congress are more dangerous to the American way of life that the president-elect and you can expect additional stealth attacks in almost any area Congress controls. We're all going to be busy for the foreseeable future.


A Delicious TGB Extra

Time Goes By does not usually publish on Tuesday but this is too delicious to hold back especially because it does have a sell-by date - Friday 20 January – after which it is not as rich.

It happened Sunday in Scotland's Sunday Herald newspaper where Damien Love is the television columnist. You will find his review of President Trump: The Inauguration about halfway down the the online listings here.

And this is how it appeared in the print edition's featured highlights:

SundayHeraldTrump

The Twitterverse has had a fine ol' time passing this around and you'll find some commentary on the "preview" at the BBC. A few people object; I think they have no sense of humor - we need to remember to laugh about our predicament now and then, even if darkly.

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FYI: You will find the cabinet nominee hearing schedule for this week here.


How Do You Want to Live the Rest of Your Life?

EDITORIAL NOTE: Here is an old-fashioned word for you: nonplussed (to be surprised and confused so much that you are unsure how to react). That's how I feel.

There is such a gigantic amount to be said following the nominee hearings, the Russia-related political events of last week and Trump's attack on John Lewis on Martin Luther King weekend that I don't know what to say first. Or second. Or third.

I am politically speechless for the time-being so even though I think there ought to be a discussion about our collective political nightmare, we'll do something else today.

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When I first started this blog 14 or so years ago, hardly anything was published in the popular press about ageing. When old people were mentioned at all, it was sure to be ageist, negative or both - often something about how awful life after 40 is.

That changed with a vengeance beginning in 2006, when the entire media took notice at once that the oldest baby boomers were turning 60 that year. Suddenly, ageing was lucrative, if not “cool.”

Every magazine did a cover story that year about the don't-trust-anyone-over-30 generation's crossover into old age.

A torrent of books followed, along with a slew of articles in print, on brand new old-age websites, and right behind all of that a sudden upsurge in the number of people self-identified as “senior life coaches” - apparently for those of us who need instruction on how to grow old.

All that and more are still around - a now well-established corner of the lucrative personal advice market - so much so that I receive half a dozen press releases in an average week about new books, sometimes a television show, magazine or online articles whose writers I am told I should interview.

The thing is, however, they all have the same advice. After you translate the psychological or academic jargon of many and plow through the filler, each expert boils it down “empowerment” - bumper sticker wisdom ready-made for embroidering on a pillow, or the internet equivalent thereof, that we've known for most of our lives:

Be positive
Be true to yourself
Be who you truly are
Age gracefully
Successful ageing

That last one is a common promise of age gurus that leaves me wondering what the opposite looks like. Some time ago, one “expert” I was being asked to interview believed that decluttering the house was all anyone needed to “empower” their old age.

Nothing wrong with cleaning up but let's not overstate its transformational “power” of throwing out old knick-knacks.

You don't have to go far to find old age advice but these banal prescriptions, a lot of them from the flourishing life coach industry, sound flimsy, inadequate and ineffective. And anyway, why can't we just let life happen?

After we got past the fireman and princess stages, hardly any kids I knew in school had an inkling of what they wanted to be when we grew up and only a handful of the few who were passionate about becoming a doctor, lawyer or Indian chief actually did it.

Although teachers regularly asked us to write essays about our career goals, I never could come up with an answer.

After high school with adulthood looming, I didn't need a teacher to goad me into thinking about what to do with my life although by then, in keeping with the predicable stage of development I was passing through, it seemed more an existential question than the need to choose an occupation.

Pondering what might bring me personal satisfaction didn't get me any closer to to finding a worthwhile or interesting way to pay the rent than high school essay assignments so I made a deliberate decision to not make a decision.

I clearly recall thinking it through when I was 20 or 21: I would just keep on keeping on, putting one foot in front of the other and see where it would lead me - starting out with my single marketable skill, typing.

And you know what? It worked. It worked out amazingly well for me: several related careers producing radio, then television, then being part of the team creatiing one of the first news websites in the mid-1990s which gave me an internet career for the decade until I retired.

Without exception, it was compelling, satisfying work thaty expanded my knowledge of the world every day while giving me the chops to do this blog which has extended the same pleasures and rewards into my later years.

How lucky is that for someone without a plan?

No small part of the ongoing research for this blog has been paying enough attention to the senior life coaches and other old-age gurus (as distinct from medical and health information) to keep up with what they prescribe.

So far, there has been nothing useful to pass on to you that the ancient Greeks hadn't already told us (see above list).

Although it is not their purpose, what these “experts” have convinced me is that I should live the rest of my life as I did during the preceding half century – just keep moving and see where it takes me. After all, it worked well then; why not now?

What about you? Do you have a plan for how to live the rest of your life? Did you ever have a plan or, like me, did you just let it happen?

Makeyoursoulhappy1


ELDER MUSIC: Tom Rush

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.

* * *

Little Tommy Rush from New Hampshire (as he once called himself on record) started out as a folkie and an interpreter of blues songs. He began his career in Boston, as he majored in English at Harvard. He became a regular on the folk circuit of the time and is still performing to this day.

Tom Rush

Way back, there was a train that ran between Chicago and New Orleans that had no name, or maybe it was called “The train that ran between Chicago and New Orleans”.

In 1911, in honor of the anticipated opening of the Panama Canal, this train was named the Panama Limited. In 1974, this train had a name change to the City of New Orleans (named after the song).

However, it's the Panama Limited we're interested in and it was still called that when Tom recorded the song early in his career. Tom actually got the source of the train wrong in the song – he said it was Washington rather than Chicago. That doesn't spoil a good song.

♫ Tom Rush - Panama Limited


Tom Rush

Way back in the sixties, some time before Bob Dylan went electric, Tom recorded a (semi-) rock album that nobody commented on at the time except me who thought it was brilliant. I still do.

The album was "Take a Little Walk With Me". If you don't have it, search it out; it's one the finest albums ever recorded.

Side one had Tom backed by a rock band and side two was more traditional, except that he had Bruce Langhorne playing very tasteful lead electric guitar behind him.

So, putting on side one, we find that Tom covered songs by Chuck Berry, Bo Diddley, Buddy Holly and others, as well as one of his own in the same vein. I've chosen Who Do You Love.

This has been recorded many times over the years. One of the interesting ones was by Ronnie Hawkins and The Hawks (The Hawks later left Ronnie and became The Band).

Another was by Quicksilver Messenger Service who devoted a whole side of an album to the song. As much as I like Quicksilver, that was a tad too much. There was also the original by the great Bo Diddley.

Norma, the Assistant Musicologist, says that Tom's is the best version because she can understand the words. I don't know if that's a good thing in a rock song but we're going with it.

♫ Tom Rush - Who Do You Love


Tom Rush

Turning the record over we have several contenders for inclusion. The one I've chosen is Joshua Gone Barbados written by Rick Von Schmidt.

♫ Tom Rush - Joshua Gone Barbados


I can't help myself; I'm flipping the record back to side one. The song that Tom wrote is called On the Road Again. There have been quite a few songs with that title but this is the best of them.

♫ Tom Rush - On the Road Again


Tom Rush

As a youth I decided to teach myself to play guitar. I learnt the chords, even some of the more esoteric ones - diminished, thirds, sixths and so on. I even managed to change chords without hesitation.

However, whenever I played an album of Tom's, instead of it inspiring me to practise harder and get better, I'd say, "Oh, I'll never be able to do that" and not play for a month or two.

That's why I'm writing this column rather than heading the bill at some guitar fest or other.

Recently (recently in terms of most of the readers of this column), Tom brought out an instructional DVD showing how he played a dozen or so of his best known tunes.

I bought it, not because I wanted to play them - by that stage my arthritis had reached the stage where I couldn't play for more than five minutes or so before it got too painful. No, I bought the DVD because Tom also played those songs right through just accompanying himself on guitar.

I've now given up entirely trying to play guitar. Fortunately, Tom hasn't. From that DVD we have a song and a tune he originally recorded on his "Circle Game" album, No Regrets and Rockport Sunday, joined into a single track.

♫ Tom Rush - No Regrets ~ Rockport Sunday


Tom Rush

Tom was a discoverer of talent before anyone else. He was the first to record songs by Joni Mitchell, James Taylor and Jackson Browne even before they had recorded albums themselves. It's been said that Tom is the only male who should be allowed to record any of Joni's songs.

I originally had a couple of hers penciled in but alas, hers got the chop. As did Jackson's. James managed to survive with one of his earliest songs, Something in the Way She Moves.

♫ Tom Rush - Something in the Way She Moves


Tom Rush

I gather from what Tom says about it that Child’s Song is one of his favorites. It was written by Murray McLauchlan and Tom's version first appeared on an album called "Tom Rush" that was the one that came out in 1970 - there was an earlier album with the same name.

♫ Tom Rush - Child's Song


Tom Rush

Like quite a few others, Tom recorded a country(-ish) album called "Ladies Love Outlaws" that included that song, but I won't. A more enjoyable one from my point of view is one called Jenny Lynn.

♫ Tom Rush - Jenny Lynn


Tom Rush

Getting right up to date, I'll finish with a couple of songs from his most recent album "What I Know" and after all this time in the business, Tom should know quite a bit.

One of those songs is East of Eden, which as far as I can tell has nothing to do with the Steinbeck novel or the film.

♫ Tom Rush - East Of Eden


Tom Rush

Another song from the album, and one very appropriate for this website, is What an Old Lover Knows.

♫ Tom Rush - What An Old Lover Knows


Tom Rush

These days I've noticed that new albums occasionally have a bonus track. I think that rather strange.

Okay, if they rerelease an old album there may be some songs that weren't originally included that deserve seeing light of day. However, if it's a new one why call it a "bonus" rather than another track? Well, if they can do it so can I.

Here's a bonus track, suitable for all of us reading this called Remember Song.

♫ Tom Rush - Remember


INTERESTING STUFF – 14 January 2017

SOMETHING SPECIAL HAPPENED AT THE SUPERMARKET

Between an old person and a four-year-old kid.

MY GOD, I WILL MISS BARACK AND MICHELLE OBAMA

On 6 January at the White House, Michelle Obama gave gave her final speech as First Lady. In case you missed it, here it is:

You will find the full 20-minute version here.

Then, on Tuesday 10 January, President Barack Obama gave his farewell speech in Chicago. You can watch that at full length here.

99 MILLION YEAR OLD BABY DINOSAUR TAIL FEATHER

When the words “feather,” “dinosaur” and “baby” are in the same phrase, how can you not pay attention.

There is additional information at NPR.

TRUMP ODDITY FROM 1958 TV SHOW

My friend Jim Stone sent this video from a TV series titled Trackdown that was broadcast in 1958. See what you think:

The video doesn't look tampered with to me but I didn't quite believe it either. So I checked around to web to see what I could find. Here's what Snopes says:

”The television series Trackdown really did produce an episode featuring a 'Trump' character who came to town claiming that only he could prevent the end of the world by building a wall (and also sold special force propelling umbrellas to deflect meteorites).

“The episode (S1, E30) aired on CBS in 1958 and was titled 'The End of the World,' featuring actor Lawrence Dobkin playing the role of 'Walter Trump.'”

Weird, huh?

ANSWERS ABOUT POTENTIAL CHANGES TO MEDICARE

With threats from the Republican Congress and president-elect Trump to repeal Obamacare and voucherize Medicare there are a lot of questions. AARP answered five of the most important. Here is one:

“Q: I’ve heard about the voucher-type plan that House Republicans hope to implement soon. How would this plan change Medicare?

“A: (in part)...opponents — including AARP — say the amount of the voucher may not be enough to keep up with health care inflation, so older adults could end up paying more for care and for insurance that has fewer choices of doctors and other providers>”

You can read the entire answer to this question and the other four questions and answers at AARP. They are clear, concise and to the point.

AN 18-CARAT GOLD TOILET

I'm late to this story. It first turned up last September when a new show from Italian artist, Maurizio Cattalan opened at the Guggenheim Museum in Manhattan. According to a page at the museum's website, it is

”...the first piece the artist has exhibited since his 2011 retrospective at the Guggenheim...a working toilet cast from gold that has been installed in a bathroom on the museum’s fifth floor.

“Cattelan intends visitors to use the toilet just as they would any other facility in the building.”

Cattelan-America_ph003_870

The artist gave his piece the title, “America”, and explains that

“'...the title came after [the work], and it was a matter of trying to deconstruct the object,' says Catallan. Separately, he said, the title and piece didn’t mean anything. 'Together, it has meaning.' Come spend a little alone time with 'America,' and you can ponder that meaning for yourself.”

More information here.

TOO BIG FOR A BUMPER STICKER

Bumper stickers are a long-time American communications medium – most frequently, I think, for political statements. You see a lot of them during election seasons.

Sometimes, however, a good pithy statement is still too long for a bumper sticker as my friend Jim Stone pointed out about this one so let's give it a day of life on this blog post.

Quotation2

MY WINTER WONDERLAND

It has been more than six years since I last woke to that special kind of hush there is after an overnight snowfall. But that happened Wednesday morning. Here is the first photo I shot in the dark.

Snow 1

It was a big-deal snowstorm which doesn't much happen in this part of Oregon. Depths ranged from three or four inches to more than a foot in some places. About seven or eight inches in my neighborhood.

This was the first snowfall worthy of the name since I moved here in 2010, and I hadn't realized how much I miss a "real" winter storm as in New York and Maine where I lived before. This is what it looked like as I was leaving my apartment.

Snow 2

It was still snowing at that point so I decided to wait before sweeping my walkways but when I suited up to do that, I was amazed to see that some good Samaritan had got there before me and done a beautful job. Here is the gorgeous winter wonderland from another window.

Snow 3

MARTIN LUTHER KING DAY

Monday the 16th of January is Martin Luther King, Jr. Day. My friend Richard Lombard sent this video a couple of days after the holiday last year so I saved it for this year.

Certainly you know that Lin-Manuel Miranda is the genius behind the ground-breaking and fantastic Broadway show, Hamilton: An American Musical. Manuel attended Hunter College Elementary School in Manhattan when he was a kid and as he explains on the YouTube page:

”Our elementary school music teacher, Barbara Ames, wrote THE BEST Martin Luther King song so that her students would have something to sing in January, in addition to We Shall Overcome.

“It's a crime that the world doesn't know this song. So I put out a call, and over 50 alums spanning 15 years showed up to sing it with me.

“Huge thanks to Arthur 'The Geniuses' Lewis on piano, Lisa Siegmann and Danny San Germano at Hunter, and Jennifer Raab, president of Hunter, for letting us go back home to make this.”

I'm pretty sure you will want to clap along with them. That's Lin-Manuel Miranda in the lower right of the screen giving the introduction.

* * *

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” 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.


The Long, Slow Winding Down of Old Age

Lately, I have made a few choices to do something or not do something because – well, it seems to be connected to my time dwindling down. Or, at least, that's the reason I “think” I am doing and (mostly) no longer doing some things.

That idea has some background in my life. Let me tell you about my great Aunt Edith who was born in 1895.

She left her home in Chicago at age 15 to join a traveling dance troupe.

Edith1911dancer250

A few years later, the troupe left her behind in Portland, Oregon, when she was laid up with pneumonia so she found a job in an office, eventually becoming the manager.

Those of you who live in the Portland area might like to know that in 1923, my great aunt Edith was queen of the Rose Festival. In those days, they were not chosen from high schools but more or less appointed from suggestions made to the Rosarian organization.

Here she is with her “court” from a book, Portland Rose Festival, written by George R. Miller.

QueenEdthandhercourt1023

Until she retired at age 70 in 1965, Aunt Edith worked all her life in various corporate executive positions at a time in history when hardly any women worked out of the home. Here she is at age 68:

Edithage68

In addition, she cared for her ageing and sick parents when they could no longer rely on themselves and she raised her sister's son, my father, from age 10, among other family obligations she took on as need presented itself – and there was plenty. It was always something in my family and Aunt Edith handled it all.

She was my favorite relative.

By the time she retired, I was long gone from Portland, in New York City then, and every week we spent an hour or so on the telephone together discussing cooking, books, the news, politics, telling each other funny stories and we also regularly wrote letters – remember those?

She included her recipes (she called them receipts) in those missives along with New Yorker cartoons and sometimes entire articles clipped from newspapers and magazines.

She knew everything that was going on in the world and had an opinion on all of it in addition to being funny, especially, in her later years, about the minor physical irritations of growing old. She was just great.

By the mid- to late-1970s, the letters still arrived mostly on schedule but they were shorter and there were fewer enclosures. In our phone calls, she didn't have as much to say about world affairs and increasingly repeated the same stories from her childhood in Chicago that I had heard many times.

(Thank god for telephones without video in those days: you could make faces to help yourself get through the one hundredth telling of the story about Fluffy the cat without the speaker knowing how impatient you were being.)

I don't mean to suggest that these changes were sudden. Aunt Edith's disengagement was noticeable in the beginning and it increased only gradually over a decade or more. At one point she said that she had given up reading books because her eyes tired so easily now and she lamented the fact that most of her friends were dead, even many who were younger than she.

When she made a joke about not being able to stand up after scrubbing the kitchen floor on her hands and knees (“Hello, Aunt Edith,” I said. “There is the newfangled thing called a mop with a long handle.”), my brother, who lived in Portland, arranged for a regular house cleaner.

Over time it felt to me as if, perhaps, interest in her own world and in the world at large was diminishing because they were becoming fuzzier, less clear - metaphorically, not physically - and she paid less and less attention.

Her time to leave was coming nearer and she did that in 1984, at age 89 after what was to my eyes, decade long period of preparation, an unwinding if you will, and a letting go of her attachment to the world.

Ever since then, I have believed that if Aunt Edith's “preparation” is not how it happens for everyone who doesn't die suddenly or unexpectedly, it happens to some, maybe quite a lot and without making a big deal of it, I've watched for those signs in myself.

In just the past year or so, there have a few small but, I think, telling changes. Examples:

The 2016 presidential campaign notwithstanding, I watch much less cable news which is to say political news since that is about 90 percent of what those channels cover. I'm slightly embarrassed to admit that it has taken me this long to become tired of the repetition (which was around long before Trump) and know that if anything important happens, it will be hard to miss.

Similarly, I have unsubscribed from a large number of news and commentary email newsletters. Again, it is the repetition that has made them irrelevant. Aside from a handful of commentators and columnists I respect and look forward to reading, I don't feel I need to keep up in as much detail as I did during the 40 years that it was my job to know what was going on in every area of news, politics and culture and have continued in the decade since retiring.

This applies too to a lot of reporting and commentary about ageing – I've eliminated about half of what I was reading or, lately, not reading and feeling guilty about it. (There's no more guilt if they don't show up in the inbox.) Ageing news tends to be even more repetitous than political news - if that's possible.

And I'm not proud to say that I've let the frequency of email correspondence with friends decline. It just seems that there is not as much to say as there once was. I get up, I work on the blog, I attend a couple of meetings or lunches each week, I shop, cook, read and sleep. Maybe in my old age my thinking has slowed and I use up all that kind of energy writing TGB. Or not. I don't know. But something has slowed me down.

As much as I find certain technology advances captivating, I have been hesitating for a long time before making new purchases. Most recently (for a year or more) it's the Amazon Echo Dot. I just love it. I read every new report about it and it costs only $49 - that's not a stretch for me. But I still haven't bought one.

There are some other purchases I've put off and may never make because at my age, how much will ever use them seems to be my reason although I can't be certain and it could be, unrelated to usage, that I'm simply in the earliest stages of what we might call, today, great Aunt Edith syndrome.

Not even collectively can a case be made that this list of minor changes represents the early stages of preparing to shuffle off this mortal coil, as they say. But then, maybe they are.

Maybe I am at the very earliest stages of following in Aunt Edith's steps toward the end. I wouldn't mind if that's what I'm doing now because I am going to be big-time pissed off if I die while I'm still interested and curious. I want to feel done with this life when it's time to leave and Aunt Edith's gradual letting go seems to be a good way to make that happen.

I'll update you when/if there's more to say about this.