Staying Sane in This Dark Night of the American Soul

It is no secret around here that I think John Oliver is the most brilliant of the bumper crop of smart, left-wing comedians we have now who help keep non-Trumpers a bit sane during this dark night of the American soul we are living through.

In keeping with that state of mind, I am taking a mental health break today and instead of a regular blog post that would require actual thought, I have for you Oliver's video essay broadcast last Sunday night on his HBO program, Last Week Tonight.

In it, he takes on Ivanka Trump and her husband Jared Kushner – something I've been itching to do but knowing I cannot possibly match Oliver's intelligence, wit and talent, I have not made the attempt. So thank god he has now done it for all of us and I don't have to.

Oliver is good every week but this one surpasses anything he has done so far this season. There are so many great, true and fall-down funny moments that to choose among them is impossible. But I do like this giggle a lot, referring to Ivanka: “The apple doesn't fall far from the orange.”

And by the way – here's a question for you: How come there are no right-wing comedians as funny as the ones who lean left?

Anyway, here is John Oliver from last Sunday. Enjoy, and I'll see you back here on Friday.


One Republican Plot to Destroy Social Security

If President Donald Trump follows through on his stated plans for this week leading up to his hundredth day in office, it will be a head-spinning time for those of us trying to keep up.

So let's take a look today at one of the nefarious ideas the Republicans are plotting for Social Security. We all know better now, don't we, than to trust anything Trump says on any given day. Just in case, here is a reminder of one promise from the campaign:

He said that about Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security over and over and over again at hundreds of rallies.

Then, about two weeks ago, AP reported that the Trump administration is mulling over tax cuts including a House Republican plan, proposed by “a GOP lobbyist with close ties to the Trump administration,” to cut the 12.4 percent Social Security payroll tax.

”This approach would give a worker earning $60,000 a year an additional $3,720 in take-home pay, a possible win that lawmakers could highlight back in their districts even though it would involve changing the funding mechanism for Social Security...”

Although the idea is short on details, it appears that the current Social Security funding via the payroll tax would be replaced with something like a VAT (value added tax) on imports that would be held in the general fund instead of in the Social Security trust fund.

Nancy Altman, the Social Security expert who works tirelessly to protect the program, calls the proposal a Trojan horse, as she explained at Huffington Post:

“[This proposal] appears to be a gift in the form of middle-class tax relief, but would, if enacted, lead to the destruction of working Americans' fundamental economic security...”

”Not only would the Trump proposal starve Social Security of dedicated revenue, it would ultimately destroy it. Social Security is not a government handout. It is wage insurance that the American people earn, as part of their compensation, and, indeed, pay for with deductions from their pay.

Let's back up a little. Here is a photo of President Franklin D. Roosevelt signing the Social Security bill into law on 14 Ausut 1935.

764px-Signing_Of_The_Social_Security_Act

This is what he said during the signing ceremony:

"We can never insure one-hundred percent of the population against one-hundred percent of the hazards and vicissitudes of life. But we have tried to frame a law which will give some measure of protection to the average citizen and to his family against…poverty-ridden old age.”

And so it does. Without Social Security, 22 million people it currently insures would be living in poverty.

The dedicated Social Security Trust Fund did not exist when FDR signed the original legislation so in 1939, he signed additional legislation creating it, he said,

“…to give the contributors a legal, moral and political right to collect their pensions…With those taxes in there, no damn politician can ever scrap my social security program.”

I guess Mr. Roosevelt didn't count on the damn politicians of the Trump regime.

[For an easily understandable explanation of how the Social Security Trust Fund works, see my post from December 2004.]

When this subject came up at a meeting I attended last week where all attendees were elders who receive a Social Security benefit, one said that it doesn't matter if the idea succeeds because any changes to the program will not affect current recipients.

I hear that way too often but I'm pretty sure that like me, most of you are ready to fight to maintain this program for your children and grandchildren and beyond – fewer and fewer of whom make enough money these days to save for their retirement.

So keep your eye on all Republican budget proposals to see what they're doing with the Social Security trust fund. That way you'll know what you're talking about when the time comes to call your representative and senators in Washington about this.

Here's is a last word on the subject of scrapping the payroll tax (for today) from the estimable reporter, Michael Hiltzig of the Los Angeles Times:

”Already, conservatives and budget hawks repeat as a mantra that the cost of Social Security is 'unsustainable.' That’s their claim even though the program runs a surplus today and ensuring its fiscal stability for the future would require a modest increase in the tax rate or removal of the cap on taxable wages ($127,200 this year).

“Scrapping the payroll tax would make it easier for Congress to cut Social Security benefits under the guise of saving the government money. And that’s just another way to funnel more money to the rich, at the expense of the working class. And who needs that, other than people who already have enough?”


ELDER MUSIC: Cats

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.

* * *

Cat

Continuing with the animal series of columns, today it's the turn of the engine that powers the internet – cats. Sorry, there are no cute cat videos today, just songs about them. Actually, checking what we have, there aren't many about the actual animal. Oh well.

I'll start with BOB CROSBY, brother of Bing (he probably got that all his life).

Bob Crosby

Bob was a band leader of a group known as The Bob Cats (ha ha, a little play on words there, Bob). I mention that because his song is all about it - March of the Bob Cats.

♫ Bob Crosby - March Of The Bob Cats


The LOVIN' SPOONFUL's song Nashville Cats is about the studio musicians in that city.

Lovin' Spoonful

The story is that the Spoonful were headlining a concert there and afterwards went to a bar where there was a pick-up band of those musicians. John Sebastian said they played music that the Spoonful could only dream about. However, he wrote a good song about it that became a hit for them.

♫ Lovin' Spoonful - Nashville Cats


If ever there was a cool cat among the British musicians of the sixties who made a splash on popular music, it would be GEORGIE FAME.

Georgie Fame

Georgie's music owed more to jazz than rock & roll and blues. He was especially influenced by Mose Allison, and it shows in his music. Georgie performs Cool Cat Blues.

♫ Georgie Fame - Cool Cat Blues


GENE VINCENT was a serious contender in the early days of rock & roll until he was badly injured in a car accident in London that killed fellow performer Eddie Cochrane.

Gene Vincent

He didn't ever fully recover from that and an earlier motorcycle accident. However, in his short career he wrote and performed many songs that defined rock & roll and are still sung to this day. One of those is Wild Cat.

♫ Gene Vincent - Wild Cat


MUDDY WATERS has featured in several of these animal columns, and today is no exception.

Muddy Waters

He brings some serious blues into what is otherwise a rather frivolous column. In the mid-seventies, Muddy's career seemed to be going nowhere. He left Chess records and Johnny Winter produced a new album (as well as playing on it) for a new record company.

The album, "Hard Again", was a critical and popular success and it revived Muddy's career. From that album comes Crosseyed Cat.

♫ Muddy Waters - Crosseyed Cat


Like Gene Vincent, CARL PERKINS was another early serious contender whose career sputtered out due to a serious car accident. In Carl's case it was while he and his band were headed for New York.

Carl Perkins

However, Carl went on to have quite a successful career as a country musician. From his early days when he was recording at Sun Records next to Elvis, Jerry Lee Lewis and others, Carl suggests that you Put Your Cat Clothes On.

♫ Carl Perkins - Put Your Cat Clothes On


TOM JONES started out as a soul/R & B/blues singer and then morphed into a middle of the road, Las Vegas type performer.

Tom Jones

In recent times, he seems to have discovered his roots again and is making really interesting music. However, that's neither here nor there as he gives us one of his early hits, written by Burt Bacharach, What's New Pussycat.

♫ Tom Jones - What's New Pussycat


We hope that the ROLLING STONES only sang about under age groupies.

Rolling Stones

Musicians and writers often write about what they know but I won't delve further into that sordid business. I'll just play Stray Cat Blues, from their finest album "Beggars Banquet".

♫ Rolling Stones - Stray Cat Blues


If ever there was a swinging cat it was LOUIS JORDAN.

Louis Jordan

Louis started as a bandleader in the big band era as well as a songwriter and musical arranger. He then led small rhythm and blues combos which were really rock & roll bands in everything but name. His song today is from the early period, 1939 to be exact, At The Swing Cats Ball.

♫ Louis Jordan - At The Swing Cats Ball


BENNY GOODMAN was involved with some short films, cartoons, made by Walt Disney during the war.

Benny Goodman

These were fragments of longer works that weren't completed as most of his staff were drafted. They decided to release them (the films, not the staff) as a series of shorts, and set them to music.

This is one where Benny was featured, and along for the ride is PEGGY LEE.

Peggy Lee

All The Cats Join In is the name of the song and the feature.

♫ Benny Goodman - All The Cats Join In



INTERESTING STUFF – 22 April 2017

HOW SMALL WE ARE IN THE SCALE OF THE UNIVERSE

Of course, you have intuited how small we are on the scale of the universe. But this TED Talk brings it home is a big – uh, make that small way.

A CHEESE BANK – SERIOUSLY, A REAL BANK

For cheese farmers, there's a bank in Italy that will literally accept cheese as collateral for loans. Take a look:

BECAUSE EVERYONE KNOWS WE DON'T HAVE ENOUGH SPORTS

A few weeks ago, the Washington Post reported that Museum of Natural History of The University of Louisiana at Monroe must move its collection to make room for an expanded sports track:

”The curators were given 48 hours to find a new place on campus to store the collection — something they weren't able to do. Now they must get another institution to take their several million specimens.

“Their hard deadline is July, when the track renovations are slated to begin. And if the collection isn't moved by then, curators said, it will be destroyed.”

As the Post further reported, the collection

”...includes some 6 million fish collected by ULM ichthyologist Neil Douglas, one of the leading experts on the fish of Louisiana, as well as half a million native plants. It is an important record of biodiversity in northern Louisiana — a region that stands to see significant environmental impacts as a result of climate change.”

What can possibly justify this move by the university.

You can read more at the Washington Post. The university's museum website is here.

THE TRUMP KLEPTOCRACY ROLLS ON

On 6 April 2017, Ivanka Trump was sitting next to the Chinese President Xi Jinping and his wife at a formal state dinner at Mar-a-Lago. That was the dinner, as you no doubt know, where chocolate cake was served as President Trump told the Xi that the U.S. had just fired a bunch of missiles at Syria.

Or was it Iran? Trump wasn't certain which country had been targeted when he discussed it on a TV news program later. The interviewer had to correct the president.

You probably also know that on the same day, as the AP reported,

”Ivanka Trump's company won provisional approval from the Chinese government for three new trademarks, giving it monopoly rights to sell Ivanka brand jewelry, bags and spa services in the world's second-largest economy...

“The scenario underscores,” reported the AP, “how difficult it is for the president's daughter, to separate business from politics in her new position at the White House.”

Difficult? Or just deliberately flouting the law, custom, the Constitution and countless conflicts of interest? The Trump family kleptocracy rolls on.

OOHO – WATER YOU CAN EAT AND MUCH MORE

Ooho is the name of an edible substance that can eliminate plastic pollution. The website says The aim of Ooho is to provide the convenience of plastic bottles while limiting the environmental impact. Take a look:

Although being used in some small venues, the inventors are still developing the container:

”Their goal isn’t to add another brand of water to an already crowded market but instead to offer a new packaging technology. They envision a range of products so, for example, there would be one version with a very thin membrane suitable to hand out to runners in a race,” explained The Independent.

“For the retail market, there would be another with a thicker outer layer that you could peel off and discard, making it more durable and hygienic.”

Read more about this hopeful possibility at the website and at The Independent. It might help save the Earth.

JOHN OLIVER ON TOMORROW'S FRENCH ELECTION

Don't go thinking tomorrow's election in France doesn't affect you or the United States or the future of the world because it does.

In fact, the election has shaped up to look almost eerily like the U.S. election last November – the same kind of candidates opposing one another.

On his HBO program, Last Week Tonight, John Oliver shows us the similarities and what is at stake as only he can. The end is brilliant but can't be appreciated if you fast forward – you need to see the entire lead-in.

DID YOU KNOW PIZZA IS A SPORT?

Neither did I. Take a look at the World Pizza Games. Go ahead – it will make you laugh.

AMAZING DRAWINGS ON DIRTY VEHICLES

Here is what they tell us about this at Bored Panda:

”Where one person sees a dirty car, the other one sees a blank canvas. And if you live in Moscow, your car can also become the ‘target,’ doesn’t matter if you want it or not!

“It’s thanks to the Russian illustrator Nikita Golubev, who brings out the full artistic potential of dirty cars by turning them into amazing pieces of art.”

Here are a couple of examples:

Dirty-car-art-proboynick-nikita-golubev-9-58f45eaae219c__880

Dirty-car-art-proboynick-nikita-golubev-8-58f45ea8c3122__880

You can see more at Bored Panda and even more at the artists' Facebook page.

THIS SQUIRREL LOVES HER ICE CREAM CONE

Ice cream shop owners Scott and Pam Martin have adopted a squirrel named Putter as a mascot who seems to love vanilla ice cream enough to show up nearly every day for her scoop. They even make squirrel-size cones for her.

* * *

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.


Books Today, Just Books, No Ageing

Bookstore

A friend said to me in an email that a certain non-fiction book is one of a shelf full that makes you understand why books have mattered for so many thousands of years.

People who are life-long readers instantly understand the truth of that. Which, of course, doesn't mean everything we read is so profound as to evoke such recognition.

But it sent me scurrying through my own shelves to track down a book I had set aside some years ago, The Book Lovers' Anthology, from the Bodleian Library at the University of Oxford.

It is a compendium of quotations about books and about reading from more than 250 authors through hundreds of years. One of my many favorites is this:

”The advice I would give to any one who is disposed really to read for the sake of knowledge is, that he should have two or three books in course of reading at the same time. He will read a great deal more in that time and with much greater profit.” (Robert Southey)

True. True. True. Except that too often it takes so long for me to get back to one I've laid down for another I am eager to begin that I must start over. Right now there are – among the ones I can easily locate:

Wild Nights - Benjamin Reiss
City of Dreams - Tyler Anbinder
If Our Bodies Could Talk - James Hamblin
Weirdo Parfait - (friend of TGB) Brenda Henry
The Lonely City - Olivia Laing
The Genius of Judaism - Bernard-Henri Levy

Books3

When I was a little girl, younger than school age, on Sundays my father read the funny papers to me. As he did so, his finger followed the words and I remember still the exact moment and the thrill when I could suddenly read one of the word bubbles without his help.

Since then there has been no stopping me. Here is how Samuel Johnson explains the lure of reading, from the Bodleian anthology:

”It is difficult to enumerate the several motives which procure to books the honour of perusal: spite, vanity, and curiosity, hope and fear, love and hatred, every passion which incites to any other action, serves at one time or another to stimulate a reader.

“...but the most general and prevalent reason of study is the impossibility of finding another amusement equally cheap or constant, equally independent of the hour or the weather.” (Samuel Johnson)

Reading-cat

It has been clear from the beginning of this blog 13 years ago that TGB readers, or at least those who comment, are readers too and I suspect you will enjoy a few more quotations from the Bodleian:

”Much reading is like much eating, wholly useless without digestion.” (Robert South)

”In hours of high mental activity we sometimes do the book too much honour, reading out of it better things than the author wrote, - reading, as we say, between the lines. You have had the like experience in conversation: the wit was in what you heard, not in what the speakers said...

“Our best thought came from others. We heard in their words a deeper sense than the speakers put into them, and could express ourselves in other people's phrases to finer purpose than they knew.” (Ralph Waldo Emerson)

“I would rather be a poor man in a garret with plenty of books than a king who did not love reading.” (Thomas Macaulay)

Today's headline notwithstanding, I can't end this without one good bookish reference to ageing:

”Alonso of Aragon was wont to say, on commendation of Age, that Age appeared to be the best in four things; Old wood best to burn, old wine to drink, old friends to trust, old authors to read.” (Francis Bacon)

Books1


It is Such a Relief to be This Old

In more ways than you might think, getting old is a huge relief. Stepping off the up elevator of professional life is one of them.

Just about every day I get an email or two promising to show me how I can increase my income by growing my blog audience on Twitter or Facebook.

Almost as often, emails arrive from website service companies offering “free” articles or infographics that are certain to grow my audience and of course, they all link back to a commercial enterprise. In the real world, this is called advertising, although they never mention that word.

10-tips-for-growing-your-social-media-audience

A variation on that theme are those who offer to write the friendlier-sounding “guest post” for TGB that, they say, will grow the audience while requiring a link back to their website that sells something or another.

Mostly, I hit the “delete” key. If the sender has made the effort to track down my name (most don't), I might hit “reply” and send a polite no-thank-you note.

Not too long ago, an interviewer asked what my future plans are for Time Goes By, how it will change and how I will – all together now, that same phrase: grow my audience.

In that case, I was was stunned into silence for a few moments and then confessed that I had no idea, that I have never thought of Time Goes By as a business that would require making the effort to find more readers.

Lots of people make a living with their blogs (or podcasts or Facebook pages, etc.) – some modestly, others moreso. But when I began TGB back in 2004, no one was doing that yet and it wasn't the point. It still is not my point.

And, anyway, I'm way too lazy. It would be more work and take more time than producing the blog itself to market, market, market it – because once you start, it never ends.

Spend-0.00-And-Grow-Your-Audience

My goals are different. Somehow, I am still fascinated with the subject of growing old. There is always more to discover, more to learn and think about and, importantly, to reassess previous stands I've taken as the years pass and I come to see things differently.

I like the need to keep up, to do the necessary research and especially I like writing – putting together what I want to say in what is, I hope, readable, interesting form.

And I always look forward to reading comments because somehow, without my planning it or working at it much, many of you, dear readers, are apparently as interested in what this growing old stuff is all about as I am and are willing to share your thoughts and experience.

What I am NOT interested in and am so relieved not to be required to think about it, is how to grow the audience. It is gratifyingly large now without being anywhere near – oh, say Huffington Post size. Actually, it is minuscule compared to HuffPo and that's fine.

There was a time in my life when I had to weigh everything that went into a website I worked on or a television show I produced in relation to ratings which, of course, translated into revenue.

It was important to be able to do that back then, to balance creativity with business. But I never, ever liked the business part – still don't – and it is such a relief to have left that behind. I can't be the only one who is happy to be old enough to give up the pressures of business and to measure success by something other than numbers of dollars.


High Stakes for Elders (and Some Others)

It's hard to keep up with the federal government these days, isn't it. Every day brings news of so much legislation passed and so many executive orders signed that it all blurs together.

But there are serious things going on that can dramatically change how we live and cost us a lot of money too. Here are three recent events of importance to elders you should know about.

TRUMP DEFUNDS PLANNED PARENTHOOD
And he did it in secret last week. We all know how much he likes to show off his signature, but he signed this bill behind closed doors with no cameras present.

Here's what the bill is about:

As an aside, both President Trump and Jake Tapper in that clip get it wrong when they imply that Planned Parenthood is only for younger women. Aside from birth control information, pregnancy-related services and abortion (which is somewhere between three and 10 percent of Planned Parenthood's services), most apply to both men and women of all ages. Here are some examples:

⚫ Breast cancer, cervical cancer, colon cancer screenings
⚫ Testicular cancer, prostrate cancer clinics
⚫ Cholesterol, diabetes, high blood pressure screenings
⚫ Flu vaccines
⚫ Vasectomies

FYI, Vice President Mike Pence made the tie-breaking vote when this bill passed in Congress and Speaker of the House Paul Ryan called the legislation “a major pro-life victory.”

According to a Government Accountability Office report [pdf] released in March 2015 that looked at data from 2010 to 2012, 80 percent (of Planned Parenthood clients) had incomes at or below 150 percent of the federal poverty level.

Most now have nowhere affordable to go for these medical services.

MICK MULVANEY AND SOCIAL SECURITY DISABILITY
Remember when then-candidate Trump repeated at many rallies that he would protect Social Security without cuts? He may or may not stick with that because he appointed South Carolina Representative Mick Mulvaney to be director of the Office of Management and Budget.

Mulvaney, who is a fierce advocate of deep spending cuts, was a member of a conservative bloc that pressed for slashing federal spending more deeply than House Republican leaders preferred, and established himself as one of the most outspoken of the anti-Washington movement in Congress.

Here is what he said to host John Dickerson on the CBS Sunday show Face the Nation last month:

Let me repeat that for us in print:

“Do you really think," Mulvaney said, "that Social Security disability insurance is part of what people think of when they think of Social Security? I don’t think so.”

Tell that to the 17 percent of Social Security beneficiaries who are disabled workers or their dependents – 10.6 million in 2016.

Apparently, the president shot down any of Mulvaney's proposed changes to Social Security but a couple of weeks later, Mulvaney told CNBC reporter John Harwood in an interview:

”I continue to look forward to talking to the president about ways to fix that program. Because that is one of the fastest growing programs that we have. It's become effectively a long-term unemployment, permanent unemployment program.”

Oh, I see now. Mulvaney believes disabled workers are lazy deadbeats. Social Security could use some fixing and there are years of research with some excellent choices. Mulvaney's is not one of them.

MICK MULVANEY AND MEDICARE/MEDICAID
In that same interview, Harwood asked if it will be possible in a Trump administration, given Trump's vows to protect Social Security and Medicare, for Congress to “go after” Medicare:

”I think the message to the House and Senate is, 'Look, you go do what you think is best,' said Mulvaney. “And I voted for Medicare premium support in the past when it was part of the Ryan budget. My guess is the House will do either that or something similar to that. [emphasis mine]

“Premium support” is Republican code for voucherizing which is the same thing as privatizing. As Trudy Lieberman explained in the Joliet Herald-News last week:

”The amount of 'support' and how well it would keep pace with medical inflation would be buried in the details Congress would hash out.

“Today, the government provides the benefits for hospital and physician care for most Medicare beneficiaries, but that could change with more privatization. There already is a lot of privatization in Medicare...

“In a totally privatized arrangement, there may be no standardized benefits, and seniors would choose from a menu of insurance company options much the way drug plans are sold today.”

All of which - the Planned Parenthood legislation already in place and the Mulvaney Social Security and Medicare plans - means money out of the pockets of the poor, middle class and elders transferred directly into rich people's pockets.

The president has reversed himself on so many campaign promises already that we would be foolish to trust him on Social Security and Medicare. When it is expedient, he will embrace the mainstream Republican philosophy: more for me, less for you.

Meanwhile, your senators and representatives are in their home states for the rest of this week. It would be good to give their local offices a call and let them know how you feel about Director Mulvaney's plans.


ELDER MUSIC: 1945 Again

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.

* * *

From my point of view 1945 is the most important year in the history of the universe because it's when I popped out and greeted the world. A few of you will agree with me, but I suspect most of you won't and that's okay. Well, let's see what people were listening to at the time.

Some of them were listening to CECIL GANT.

Cecil Gant

Cecil was in the army during the war and for some of the latter time he performed at war bonds rallies. It was around this time that he recorded the song I Wonder, which became quite a hit for him. Here it is, with him playing the piano as well.

♫ Cecil Gant - I Wonder


The backing for FRANK SINATRA is a bit overblown for my taste but I suppose that was par for the course back then.

Frank Sinatra

Perhaps not though, as we'll see with Bing down a bit. Anyway, this is one of Frank's famous songs, Saturday Night (Is the Loneliest Night of the Week).

♫ Frank Sinatra - Saturday Night (Is the Loneliest Night of the Week)


LUCKY MILLINDER was an odd sort of a band leader – he couldn't read or write music, he didn't play an instrument or sing. However, he was a great showman and he could pick talent and many influential musicians began their careers thanks to him.

Lucky Millinder

One who started with him is WYNONIE HARRIS.

Wynonie Harris

It was with Lucky's band that Wynonie first performed the song Who Threw The Whiskey In The Well at the Apollo Theatre. However, due to the shortage of shellac, they didn't record the song until 1945. Here it is.

♫ Lucky Millinder (Wynonie Harris vocal) - Who Threw The Whiskey In The Well


Until I researched this year, I didn't know that BING CROSBY had recorded with LES PAUL. Just goes to show that I learn from these columns as well.

Bing Crosby & Les Paul

This was Les and His Trio, and it was a nice simple arrangement – just two guitars and bass backing Bing. Couldn’t do much better than that. The song is It's Been a Long, Long Time. Naturally, we have the wonderful guitar lead by Les.

♫ Bing Crosby - It's Been A Long Long Time


Although it was considerably later than 1945 (because I wouldn't remember), my sister used to sing this next song to me. She seemed to like these silly songs when she was a kid. Well, I think we all did. In this case the performer is SAMMY KAYE, not my sister.

Sammy Kaye

I believe that's NANCY NORMAN singing along with Billy Williams and the Kaye Choir (which I assume is Sammy's own).

Nancy Norman

If you thought songs in the fifties had silly lyrics (well, that's what the adults told us at the time), clap your ears around this one. Chickery Chick.

♫ Sammy Kaye - Chickery Chick


TONY PASTOR wasn't the biggest name in the Big Band era, at least not to me.

Tony Pastor

He started as a singer and saxophone player in various bands until one evening Artie Shaw walked away from his gig and Tony was roped in to cover for him. This lead to regular gigs in New York that included radio broadcasts.

What he and his orchestra perform is Bell Bottom Trousers with "vocal refrain" by Ruth McCullough and Tony himself.

♫ Tony Pastor (Ruth McCullough & Tony vocal) - Bell Bottom Trousers


DINAH SHORE was around for a long time in the entertaining business.

Dinah Shore

Way back, she auditioned for spots in Benny Goodman's band as well as Jimmy and Tommy Dorsey. No one wanted her so she went out on her own and became a huge success as a solo singer; one of the first to do this.

Her personal life was really interesting but I won't go into that; it's freely available to anyone who's interested. This year her song is My Guy's Come Back.

♫ Dinah Shore - My Guy's Come Back


Around this time, jump blues was just starting to emerge from big band music. This was essentially music performed by a small group that led eventually to rock & roll. There were still elements of the big bands and jazz at this time. One of the best of the genre was LOUIS JORDAN.

Louis Jordan

Louis is a semi-regular inclusion in these columns and his song today (or this year, if you will) is Mop Mop.

♫ Louis Jordan - Mop Mop


Because of my age, the first time I heard the song Twilight Time was the great version by The Platters. They weren't the first to record it, however. It was originally an instrumental by THE THREE SUNS.

Three Suns

Buck Ram was a songwriter and manager of The Platters and he wrote the words for it. We're not interested in that today. The Suns were brothers Al and Morty Nevins and their cousin Artie Dunn. They recorded the tune again a couple of years later, but this is the way they first put it down.

♫ Three Suns - Twilight Time


Like Dinah, PEGGY LEE also had a long career in show biz.

Peggy Lee

Her career began when Benny Goodman's wife caught her act and got Benny to come along and listen. He hired her on the spot.

Besides being a fine jazz and pop singer, she also wrote many songs (and added verses to existing ones), as well as acting and supplying voiceovers for films. The song Waitin' for the Train to Come In isn't one she wrote; it's by Jule Styne And Sammy Cahn.

♫ Peggy Lee - Waiting For The Train To Come In



INTERESTING STUFF – 15 April 2017

TRIBUTE TO DAVE LETTERMAN'S MOM

Surely you remember how Dave Letterman made his mom a star during the 30-year run of his Late Show. Dorothy Mengering died Tuesday at the age of 95. Here is a montage of some of her appearances on her son's show.

Read more at the Tampa Bay Times.

WI-FI SEX TOY YOUR NEIGHBOR CAN OPERATE

This was the best “oops laugh” I had all week. You've heard of IoT, the Internet of Things, right? Your refrigerator will order milk for you, start the toaster or turn on the lights and so on.

Well, someone may have gone a mite too far with this idea – a Wi-Fi sex toy AND it can be hacked:

”This week, U.K. cybersecurity services provider Pen Test Partners shed light on a particularly prurient internet of things vulnerability in the Svakom Siime Eye, a $250 sex toy equipped with an internet-connected camera that lets users stream a dildo’s eye view of masturbation via the internet to another person’s smartphone.

“Because of the way the Siime Eye’s software was designed, anyone within Wi-Fi range could potentially hack his or her way into the system and watch footage right along with the person the feed was intended for.”

And here is the kicker that sent me into gales of laughter:

”With a little extra work, a hacker could also take control of the firmware and even broadcast the feed to the web for anyone to see.”

Read even more about this at Salon. Tee hee.

OLIVER ON GERRYMANDERING AND DEMOCRACY

As you undoubtedly know by now, the Republicans have so deeply gerrymandered the voting districts of the United States in the past decade that in many places it is, without some gigantic change of political leaning of millions of voters, impossible for Democrats to increase their numbers on the Senate, the House and in state houses.

The wonderful John Oliver looked into that on his HBO program, Last Week Tonight. As with almost all his video essays, this one, too, is not to be missed.

BOSTON TYPEWRITER ORCHESTRA UPDATE

Remember last week when I showed you a video about the Boston Typewriter Orchestra? Friend and well-known videographer, Steve Garfield (who is also the son of our own Millie Garfield), emailed to let me know that he had interviewed these guys way back in 2008.

So here's Steve's video with the orchestra members and some additional information we didn't get the last week's item.

You can find out about all kinds of other video work Steve does at his website.

WHEN I DIDN'T CLICK THE LINK

Sometimes when people demean elders with their words, they are just ignorant; there is a good chance they can be educated.

Then there are organizations whose actions are so deviant from their stated purpose, are beyond the pale. Take this headline from, of all places, an AARP newsletter.

“The inspiring women of Allure's ageless beauties video series prove that growing up doesn't have to mean growing old.” [emphasis is mine]

I immediately hit the delete button. Let us say this all together now: There is nothing wrong with being old.

DAVID FARENTHOLD WINS PULITZER PRIZE

Perhaps, last year, you followed the work of Washington Post reporter David Farenthold who, over many weeks spoke with more than 300 charities that then-candidate Donald Trump said he had contributed money to.

Farenthold couldn't find any that Trump had actually given money to while also discovering illegal use of his foundation funds for personal purchases.

That kind of investigation, telephone call after call after call, is deeply tedious and deeply important to keeping public people honest. This week, he won a Pulitzer Prize for his effort and here's a video of the celebration with his colleagues at the paper.

Congratulations on a well-deserved award. You can read more at the Washington Post.

CONGRESS MADE IT OKAY TO KILL HIBERNATING BEARS

Two weeks ago, President Donald Trump signed a bill that had been passed by Congress making it legal to kill bears while they are hibernating and other wild animals too.

Orso-bruno

The law also allows people to kill cubs in their dens and target animals from helicopters. The Humane Society had condemned the law before it had passed the Senate and was sent to the president's desk.

“'What the House did today should shock the conscience of every animal lover in America,' said Humane Society CEO Wayne Pacelle in a statement. 'If the Senate and president concur, we’ll see wolf families killed in their dens [and] bears chased down by planes.'

“Rep. Don Young (R-Alaska), who introduced the measure, argued that states’ rights were being infringed upon by the rule.

“'We have to recognize this is not about the little polar bears, the little grizzly bears or wolves on television, this is about the state’s right to manage — not allowing the federal government to do so.'”

Unh-huh. But the animals are just as dead. Find out more at Huffington Post.

THE MAN WHO CREATED MICROSOFT WINDOWS SOLITAIRE

Unless you're an Apple/Mac kind of person, you have undoubtedly played Microsoft's solitaire game that was included with every computer running Windows for many years.

Someone created that video game and it was an intern at Microsoft in 1988, named Wes Cherry. As the Youtube page explains:

"...out of sheer boredom, Cherry created Solitaire. With the approval of Microsoft founder Bill Gates, the company decided to include the game as part of its Windows program. And thus commenced countless hours of wasted time. From procrastinators everywhere, thanks, Wes.”

Yeah, Wes – thanks a lot. Here's the story from Wes Cherry himself and wait until you see what he's doing these days, nearly 20 years later.

LITTLE GIRL MISTAKES DISCARDED WATER HEATER FOR A ROBOT

And it's this week's most adorable thing.

* * *

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.


Modern-Day Phossy Jaw and Osteoporosis Drugs

Today's post is a good deal lengthier than usual but I believe it's worth it. I hope you think so.

Like many people about my age (76 now), it did not occur to me when I was young to question my physician. If he or she said this pill or that treatment was good for what ailed me, I believed, I followed the instructions.

Life goes on and things change. For many years now, when I am unfamiliar with drugs, treatments and therapies that are recommended, I do the research first. You probably do that too.

Here is a personal story about how important this can be.

THE HISTORY
In the 19th and early 20th century, phosphorus necrosis of the jaw was a deadly condition particularly affecting people who worked in the matchstick industry (often children and young women) as a result of their exposure to yellow (now called white) phosphorus.

It was a horrible disease, eating away teeth and jawbone before, if left untreated, moving on to brain damage, organ failure and death. Not that the treatment was all that helpful. It largely involved removal of the jawbone which made eating difficult and patients then sometimes died of malnutrition.

The popular name for this disease, in England, was phossy jaw and it generally disappeared when, in the early 20th century, phosphorus matches were outlawed in most countries of the world.

Then, a century later, this:

But how can someone younger than me
have osteoporosis, and sit
googling up a substance that might
help it, or give her phossy jaw?

That is from a contemporary poem (2013) titled Match Girl by British poet, Fleur Adcock, indicating, with the reference to osteoporosis, that phossy jaw has returned to plague some people in the 21st century who use a certain prescription drug.

The only reason I know this is that I have lately been “googling up a substance that...might give ME phossy jaw.”

THE DIAGNOSIS AND PRESCRIPTION
A couple of months ago, after a bone scan, my physician noted that the results indicate that I have osteopenia (early osteoporosis) and would benefit from taking a certain bisphosphonate drug.

If you don't know that word, you undoubtedly know some of the brand names of bisphosphonates that are ubiquitously advertised in magazines and on television: Fosamax, Boniva, Actonel and less frequently, Aclasta, Aredia, Binosto, Didronel, Reclast and Zometa among a few others most of which have generic counterparts. They are common treatments for osteoporosis.

Brand name bisphosphonates

The doctor continued. Among a long list of lesser side effects, he said, between one and six percent of patients using these drugs suffer osteonecrosis of the jaw - that is, phossy jaw which is also known in the medical community shorthand as ONJ.

Even though I had not yet learned the nickname “phossy jaw,” the more medically correct designation, osteonecrosis (bone death), was frightening enough when I heard it that even without yet knowing details, I declined the prescription that day, telling the doctor I would do some homework and get back to him.

For something as ghastly as phossy jaw, one to six percent possibility does not strike me as insignificant. And there is the pesky chance, too, of spontaneous femur breakage that can result from bisphosphonate usage that the doctor had not mentioned.

THE RESEARCH
Once again, thank you Tim Berners-Lee for inventing the internet. I cannot imagine how I could have tracked down all the information I wanted without it and it took only a couple of hours to amass enough for a good overview of osteoporosis treatment.

Among the statistics for bisphosphonates is the warning that “invasive dental work” apparently increases the incidence of phossy jaw.

Invasive dental work. You might recall, as I mentioned in February, that for more than two years I have undergone tooth extractions, procedures to grow new bone in my jaw, subsequent dental implants and an over-denture.

There is no question all that qualifies as “invasive” so I emailed my dentist who is also a bone and implant specialist. He wrote back:

”I would like to chat about this with you - very complicated answer...Bottom line - my answer is no way - you grew great bone during our treatments.”

Later, we spoke on the telephone for more than an hour. I got a terrific education in bone growth and phossy jaw, and he reiterated that my new bone growth was "exceptionally successful."

Osteoporosis

He also believes that physicians overprescribe bisphosphonates to women 70 and older (far fewer men are at risk for osteoporosis) and that everyone should be asked if they have had or are expecting to have invasive dental work before deciding on the drug.

Back on the internet, I tracked down some statistics on bisphosphonate (BP) prescriptions (it isn't easy to find). As of 2014, there were 46.2 million women in the United States age 65 and older. According to the U.S. National Institutes of Health,

”...an estimated 30 million BPs prescriptions are written every year in the United States alone, and more than 190 million prescriptions are written annually worldwide.

There is no information about how those prescriptions are counted but even if they are off by a few million, somewhere in the vicinity of 65 percent of the affected age group with scripts for bisphosphonates seems wildly excessive to me.

Statistics on the incidence of bisphosphonate-related phossy jaw are even harder to come by. The apparent standard that is widely quoted - 1 in 100,000 for oral bisphosphonate and 1 in 10,000 for intravenous bisphosphonate - is sketchy.

There have been no randomized, controlled trials of long-term use of bisphosphonates (commonly prescribed for a five-year span) so claims for their safety in regard to phossy jaw are indeterminate, whatever drug companies claim.

In a paper about bisphosphonates and the risk of osteonecrosis of the jaw, the British Journal of Medical Practitioners published what is the smartest list of recommendations for all medical and dental practitioners I have seen in all my research. Before beginning a bisphosphonate regimen,

”All patients should undergo a routine dental exam to rule out any dental source of infection.

“All medical practitioners also should perform a baseline oral exam.

“Invasive dental or/and oral surgical procedures should be completed before initiating therapy.

“Practice preventive dentistry, involving procedures such as oral prophylaxis, dental restorations, and endodontic therapy, and check dentures for irritational foci.

“Schedule routine follow-up every 3 months to check for any signs of developing ONJ (osteonecrosis of the jaw).

“The risks associated with oral surgical procedures such as dental implants, extractions, and extensive periodontal surgeries must be discussed with the patient and weighted against the benefits.”

The only recommendation I question is the one about completing invasive dental work before initiating therapy because the researchers tell us in the same breath to schedule dental followups every three months after use of bisphosphonate treatment begins, strongly implying that they believe there can be continued risk of phossy jaw after dental work is finished.

There are breathtakingly long lists of other side effects ranging from sniffles to phossy jaw and broken thighs for all the bisphosphonate drugs. You can find good side effect information for brand name drugs at drugs.com or rxlist.com.

Some pharmaceutical companies that produce brand name bisphosphonates try to play down the possibility of phossy jaw and spontaneous thigh fracture by saying that occurrences are “rare.” But there are no definitive statistics and "rare" depends entirely on a patient's characterization of the word, not the drug company's.

THE DECISION
Bisphosphonates slow bone loss, strengthen bones to a degree that helps prevent further weakening and people who take a bisphosphonate are less likely to break a bone (well, if you don't count those thigh breaks that are associated with the drug).

I understand all that. I also understand that when old people break a bone, they often do not recover well or at all in too many cases, which are good reasons to think hard about this class of drugs for osteopenia and osteoporosis. (They are also used to treat certain cancers and Paget's disease.)

Osteoporosissymptoms

Nevertheless, even though I have been diagnosed with osteopenia, I have declined the drug and it was the recent dental work along with my dentist's strong caution that tipped the scales for me.

According to an article by respected science and medicine reporter, Gina Kolata, in The New York Times last year, I am not alone:

”Reports of the drugs’ causing jawbones to rot and thighbones to snap in two,” she wrote, “have shaken many osteoporosis patients so much that they say they would rather take their chances with the disease.

“Use of the most commonly prescribed osteoporosis drugs fell by 50 percent from 2008 to 2012, according to a recent paper, and doctors say the trend is continuing...

“Lawsuits over the rare side effects resulted in large jury awards and drew widespread attention.”

The decision about use of any risky drug is entirely personal, dependent on diagnosis, other medical factors, a thorough discussion with one's physician and on personal inclination. I can easily imagine, if my bone density were worse than it is now, making the opposite decision.

Many people, undoubtedly millions of them, have been saved from the worst effects of osteoporosis due to bisphosphonate drugs and god knows I am not lobbying against their use. However, what strikes me about these particular drugs is that it is mostly old people who need them and old people usually have a lot more invasive dental work than younger people.

Yet, I had to find out about the possible connection between bisphosphonates and phossy jaw only because that word "necrosis" my doctor uttered, went off in my head like a fire alarm. Bone death is worth paying close attention to.

So. All potential adverse effects should always be clearly made to patients, and we patients should always be ready with questions when a recommendation is something with which we are unfamiliar.

Although my doctor mentioned osteonecrosis, he was dismissive of the one to six percent chance of it occurring - “only,” he said of the gamble. He may believe those numbers are negligible but that is a personal calculation, different for each of us.

I'm not blaming him for not mentioning the dental work connection. Doctors cannot possibly keep up with every contraindication for every drug. But I'm sure happy that word “necrosis” leapt out at me when he was speaking or I might not have “googled a substance that might lead to [modern-day] phossy jaw” and that important discussion with my dentist who has more experience with the results of the drug than most internists would.

[NOTE: I have left off photographs of phossy jaw (osteonecrosis of the jaw, ONJ) in this report because they are really gruesome. If you are interested, here is a link.]