Not Like Them – Those Other Old People (Again)

[EDITORIAL NOTE: This week has been too busy and I ran out of time to write today's post. But that's okay – I could use a day off - and this one, a rerun, caused a good deal of introspection and some differences of opinion in the comments when it first appeared here nearly three years ago.

Let's see how it goes this time.

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Hardly a week goes by that I do not receive a press release or reader email alerting me to a photography exhibit of elders. So much so that it is hard not to conclude that it is becoming a growth industry.

The two most common categories are closeups of wrinkled skin and old people participating in sports - or, sometimes, both in the same series.

It is always better, I believe, so see more portrayals of old people, in any medium, than not. But too many of the photographs are just ordinary and stand out only for having been shot in harshly lit black-and-white which, as any denizen of the internet and certain galleries knows, is the signal that you are in the presence of “art.”

You can choose to reject that designation if your judgment tells you otherwise particularly, in my case, when it seems the photographers' goal is to shock us with the apparent ruin of 90-year-old bodies.

In June, Lillian B. Rubin died. She was 90 years old, a sociologist, a psychologist and author of several useful and well-received books including, in 2008, 60 on Up: The Truth About Aging in the 21st Century.

In reading Rubin's obituary, I was reminded of the opening line in that book,

“Getting old sucks. It always has, it always will.”

Anyone who has been reading this blog for longer than a day or two know that I disagree. But I do know what she was getting at and some of that is contained in an article she wrote for Salon in 2011:

”...old age - even now when old age often isn't what it used to be – is a time of loss, decline and stigma.

“Yes, I said stigma. A harsh word, but one that speaks to a truth that's affirmed by social researchers who have consistently found that racial and ethnic stereotypes are likely to give way over time and with contact, but not those about age.

“And where there are stereotypes, there are prejudice and discrimination – feeling and behavior that are deeply rooted in our social world, and consequently make themselves felt in our inner psychological worlds as well.”

In a short but remarkable section of that Salon article, written when Rubin was 87, she admits to her own prejudice against old people. As she recalled the interviews with elders that she conducted for 60 on Up,

”...I found myself forced back on myself, on my own prejudices about old people, even though I am also one of them.

“Even now, even after all I've learned about myself, those words – I am one of them – bring a small shock. And something inside resists.

“I want to take the words back, to shout, 'No, it's not true, I'm really not like them,' and explain all the ways I'm different from the old woman I saw pushing her walker down the street or the frail shuffling man I looked away from with a slight sense of discomfort.

“I know enough not to be surprised that I feel this way, but I can't help being somewhat shamed by it.”

My own “small shock” and “surprise” and “shame” is that sometimes I catch myself, when I pay attention, feeling like Rubin. Because even though I am hyper-aware, thanks to the work I do for this blog, that I am one perilous fall or terrible diagnosis away from disastrous need of part- or full-time care, I feel different from those who do.

But what Rubin was getting at when she wrote that getting old sucks is not so much the physical manifestations as the emotional and spiritual changes that our culture does not acknowledge even as it is the major source.

Rubin and I share a disdain for the relentless focus on youth, the anti-aging industry, the dubious value of brain games, elders who pretend they are not old.

It is the less than artful photography of ancient bodies I mentioned above that comes to mind when I read part of Rubin's conclusion in her Salon piece:

”...we're living in a weird combination of the public idealization of aging that lies alongside the devaluation of the old. And it isn't good for anybody.

“Not the 60-year-olds who know they can't do what they did at 40 but keep trying, not the 80-year-olds who, when their body and mind remind them that they're not 60, feel somehow inadequate, as if they've done something wrong, failed a test.”

Until we, as a society, find a way to value the late years of elders' lives – all the years, in all their manifestations - there will continue to be old people like Lillian Rubin, me and a certain percentage of you who are ashamed to know that sometimes we feel “not like them.” Until we are forced, one day, to admit, finally, that we are.


Travel While Old (and Resistance Notes)

[EDITORIAL NOTE: These travel complaints have been on my mind for a couple of weeks but they aren't wildly important unless you feel as I do. The Resistance Notes at the end are important.]

Greece2

During my working life, I traveled a lot, sometimes hopping on a plane at a moment's notice to go across the country or across an ocean. I loved visiting places I'd only read about or seen in movies and the airlines, in those days, made getting there and back a pleasant, even glamorous, experience.

The 1970s and 1980s were prime time for airline travel. Plenty of room even for people with long legs, reasonably good meals served hot (even special ones if you ordered ahead), aisles wide enough that you could get up and stroll around to stretch your legs without banging into people who were napping.

Remember 747s? The middle rows were five seats wide and when I was traveling between Los Angeles and New York, there were often a few that were entirely empty so I used one as a full-length bed and slept the whole way. No objections from the flight attendants who even gently woke me when it was time to buckle up again for landing.

Best of all, the price was the price. Whatever was quoted to you was what you paid. No surprise charges for an aisle or window seat or food or checked baggage or carry-on items or, maybe soon, oxygen.

Unless you can afford first class, air travel has become torture and I don't think I need to recount all the ways it is now made so terribly difficult, even painful.

Full-aircraft-xlarge

Therefore, I was surprised to read the results of an AARP survey about baby boomers' travel plans for 2016:

”Most respondents (97%) planned at least one domestic trip and nearly half (45%) planned international ones,” reports Irene S. Levine in MarketWatch (reprinted from Next Avenue).

“While most research about over-50 travelers focuses primarily on boomers, data on the Silent Generation (those born between 1925 and 1945) suggests that with improved health and increased longevity, these folks, too, are opting to travel...”

[DISCLOSURE: Ms. Levine interviewed me for this travel story.]

The report goes on to discuss how boomers are willing to spend more money than younger people to avoid hassles, they demand better service, plan trips far in advance and are intent on checking items off their bucket lists, among other changes from their youth.

Bora-Bora

From the quotations in the article, they are gung-ho about getting out and about to seeing the world as often as possible by air.

“We take ourselves less seriously because we have lost loved ones and realize what really is important in life.”

“Life is unpredictable and I think we need to do as much as we can while we can.”

“Loving every minute of travel even when it isn’t so great. Aren’t we lucky to be able to go?”

Well, not me. Can it be that I am alone in finding being crammed into a plane seat that doesn't accommodate even my five-foot, two-inch size? Or enduring flight delays of many hours (happened on my last three flights in a row with the worst food on earth at airports)?

Crowded-terminal_Editorial

How about the literal mile and more that must be walked between flights? Worse, once you finally get to the gate, you find it's been changed to another gate half a mile from where you are standing and none of those little jitneys airports used to have to carry people from here to there are anywhere to be found.

I've turned into such an old fart that it's just too much work to contemplate a plane trip and because there isn't anywhere I want to go that isn't at least six hours from where I am, it's a full day trip when you count to and from airports which means I'll be exhausted for at least a day after I arrive.

In addition, there is something else in play that I haven't entirely worked out. I just like being home. We have mentioned here that even after too many social engagements in a row (in my case, two days worth does it), we need some down time to recharge.

For me, it's not just dinner with friends or a meeting or other kind of gathering that psychically exhausts me. Being in the vicinity of hundreds of other people for several hours, even if I don't know them or speak with them, is exhausting. I don't entirely understand but it seems to be related to the normal hubbub of being surrounded by a huge group.

Or not. I haven't sorted that out yet but the bottom line is that I'm quite happy at home and my nearby environment. And I'm amazed, given those AARP statistics, at how many people put up with what I find too odious to suffer through.

What do you think?

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RESISTANCE NOTES
There is a lot going on in Washington, D.C., enough to give me a major headache AND heartburn. Here are two items that I'm sure you're aware of.

First Item: Tomorrow, unless the Republicans change their mind, the full House of Representatives will vote on Trumpcare. Or, as it is more formally known, The American Health Care Act (AHCA).

The bill devastates Medicaid, harms people age 55-64 in other ways too and undermines the financial stability of Medicare. You'll find more detail about all that at this two-page Justice in Aging fact sheet [PDF].

It would be a good thing for you to call your representative today and tell him or her what vote you prefer.

Second Item: Last week President Donald Trump released his budget plan but it's not his alone. The budget contains many of the cherished draconian dreams of Republicans.

Instead of me, let's have John Oliver, host of the HBO show, Last Week Tonight, tell you about the bill's troubling priorities:


When Your Whole World Feels Empty

Grieving

Fairly regularly, we discuss loneliness at this blog mainly due to the oft-repeated cultural belief that all old people who live alone are lonely. The general media pick up this idea from startling research reports that loneliness in elders leads to early death, as much as by seven-and-a-half years.

I've read that research and it has convinced me. What I do not agree with, however, is the extent to which the media apparently believe all people older than 50 or 60 who live alone are lonely.

Certainly some people are generally lonely all the time but I think for most of us it is a sometime thing that comes and goes depending on circumstances – that for most of us it is not a permanent condition.

That said, I'm here today about a singular aspect or type of loneliness that I don't believe we have mentioned.

A week or two ago, I ran across a quotation credited to a man I had never heard of, Phillipe Aries, a French medievalist and historian of the family and children (according to Wikipedia), who died in 1984 at age 69.

Probably because we do talk about the difference between loneliness and being alone fairly often here, the quotation has been rolling around in my head ever since I first saw it:

”A single person is missing for you and the whole world is empty. But one no longer has the right to say so aloud.”

With each re-reading, my mind, my heart went straight to the handful of times in my life when, as I walked own the street, people were rushing to and fro, couples kissing, car horns honking, panhandlers begging, dogs sniffing at each other, music pouring out of a bar, a cop car's siren wailing and I wanted to scream: "What are you doing being so normal, doing everyday things? Can't you see that my world ended yesterday? That nothing will ever be the same?"

Not only was my world suddenly empty because someone I love died, I wanted the rest of the world to be empty around me.

The quotation is often mis-attributed to Joan Didion who referenced it in her book, The Year of Magical Thinking but is actually from Aries' book, Western Attitudes toward Death: From the Middle Ages to the Present, published in 1975.

In addition, having now looked into the quotation fairly extensively, too often only the first sentence is quoted. It may be true on its own but it is a much richer, more important with both sentences.

Time was when people grieved the deaths of loved ones for a year or more. Widow's weeds and a circumscribed social life especially for widows - not so much widowers - and other rituals to help assuage the loss.

Nowadays, only the most religious Jews sit shiva for seven days. At memorials I've attended for people with other or no religion, we are expected to tell funny stories and, as the quotation shows, get on with life afterwards as though nothing has happened.

We have, beginning in the 20th century, deprived ourselves of our grief. There are any number of psychological treatises on death and grieving but I think those short two sentences from Aries are enough to know that we probably should rethink our reserve about expressing grief.

To get through it without much fuss – preferably briefly (see you tomorrow at work) – is our oh-so-modern way of a loved one's death. To repeat:

”A single person is missing for you and the whole world is empty. But one no longer has the right to say so aloud.”

image

A few weeks ago I met a woman near my age who is becoming a friend. As we are gradually exchanging life stories and episodes so to come to know and understand one another, I learned that she is a widow of about two years.

What did not happen in that conversation is that I did not say something like, “Tell me about him.” No one ever told me to skim right past such information but I know that it is sort of expected – I've seen it often and I've done it before.

Many of you know this personally and although I was married for only six years many decades ago, I don't I have any difficulty imagining emptiness when a husband or wife of 20 or 30 or 40 or more years dies. I have no trouble imagining that it will be a long time before you feel anything like having a full life again.

One of loneliest thoughts I had when my mother died was that no one was left alive who knew me when I was a little girl. Fortunately for me, I had two or three weeks to clean out her home with my step-brother who was staying with me.

We were together in our grief with plenty of time to talk, without reservation – or sit silently together sometimes - and my emptiness was partially relieved by spending those weeks with Joe. It was a good and healthy and fine time together for us.

It has not been like that when cherished friends have died.

One thing that happens is that other friends and acquaintances who know what happened verbally tiptoe around you for a few days but they don't make room for conversation about your devastating event beyond “Sorry for your loss” and then they move on.

I understand that people often don't know what to say but maybe we're just out of practice. Having given it some thought now – spurred on by a new friend and a quotation from a 42-year-old book – maybe we just need to say something as simple as “tell me about him” or “what do you miss most.”

And if it's too soon, undoubtedly the person will tell you and you can let it go for awhile. But I'm pretty sure the time comes when each of us wants to talk about a person who, when they died, made the whole world feel empty.

What do you think?


ELDER MUSIC: More Hooked on Classics

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.

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The name was suggested by Norma, the Assistant Musicologist, and has nothing to do with that dreadful bunch of records that came out some decades ago.

This is the second in the series; it's a sister to the columns called "Classical Gas" (another lot named by the A.M.). In this case, I feature more well-known composers, unlike the other ones which are devoted to lesser knowns.

Let's begin with one of the most important composers in history, JOSEPH HAYDN.

Haydn

Papa Jo is most noted for his symphonies, string quartets and other instrumental music - however, he wrote quite a lot of vocal music as well. Actually, he wrote quite a lot of every sort of music.

While he was in the employ of Esterhazy (father and son), he not only wrote and produced his own music, he also staged operas by other composers. One of those was Guiseppe Anfossi and his opera La Metilde Ritrovata. However, it needed something extra so Jo wrote the aria “Quando la Rosa non ha più Spine” for inclusion in it.

Here we have NURIA RIAL performing that aria.

Nuria Rial

♫ Haydn - Quando la rosa


CAMILLE SAINT-SAËNS was best known for his symphonies, particularly the Organ Symphony as well as works like The Carnival of the Animals, Danse Macabre and so on.

Saint-Saëns

These really don't float my boat. He wrote smaller works like string quartets, piano trios, violin sonatas and the like. One smaller piece I particularly like is his Romance for Horn and Piano, Op 36. This is for French horn and piano obviously.

♫ Saint-Saens - Romance for Horn and Piano Op 36


I was lying in bed the other morning listening to the radio (which is how I get inspiration for quite a few of these tracks) and they played a beautiful piece of music. That's obviously MOZART, I said to myself but I don't recognise it.

Mozart

Fortunately, they told me what it was and naturally I searched my music and there it was (several times). A version I have was even better than the one they played, not surprisingly it's by RENÉE FLEMING.

Renee Fleming

The aria is L'amerò, sarò costante from one of Wolfie's lesser known operas, “Il Rè Pastore” or The Shepherd King. K 208 for those who are interested in such things.

♫ Renée Fleming - Mozart Il re pastore K.208 - L'amerò sarò costante


Not too long after they played the previous piece of music, they featured this one. I could lie in bed and have my column organised for me I thought at the time. This one was by LUIGI BOCCHERINI.

Boccherini

Old Boccers is another favorite of mine and he had a string quartet augmented by another instrument, in this case a guitar. Actually, two instruments - there are some castanets towards the end of it. Not really needed, but I suppose they add color and movement.

This is the third movement of his Guitar Quintet No. 4. It has the name Fandango (thus the castanets, I suppose).

♫ Boccherini - Guitar Quintet No. 4 (3)


CARL PHILIPP EMANUEL BACH was the second son of the great J.S. Bach to go into the family trade.

Bach-CPE

He was hugely successful in his time and his music is still played today, probably more so than his brothers'.

I want to play for you what is called a Symphony for Strings. It's an interesting amalgam of baroque (although it's gone somewhat beyond baroque) and classical (it isn't quite a fully fledged classical piece). It's as if Vivaldi and Haydn sat down and wrote it together, although that would be unlikely as Haydn was only nine years old when Vivaldi died.

Anyway, here is the first movement of his Symphony No 2 in B flat major.

♫ CPE Bach - Symphony no 2 in B flat major (1)


I think that VINCENZO BELLINI ranks just behind Puccini and Mozart as an opera composer.

Bellini

Vince is not only a favorite of the public; other composers admired him as well. Verdi raved about his compositions and Wagner, who pretty much didn't like anyone but himself, said he was spellbound by his works. Liszt and Chopin were both fans.

Quite a few of his operas are regularly performed today. However, what I've selected is far from his most famous and is not often performed. It's the opera "Adelson e Salvini" and the aria is Dopo l'oscuro nembo sung by LENA BELKINA.

Lena Belkina

♫ Bellini - Adelson e Salvini Dopo l'oscuro nembo


PYOTR TCHAIKOVSKY sure could write a good tune.

Tchaikovsky

Actually, he wrote a whole bunch of good tunes, many of which have become the most popular works in classical music (and some of the best – I'm thinking of his fifth symphony)

Besides writing ballets, symphonies and concertos he also wrote operas, the best known of which is "Eugene Onegin". From act two of that opera is the Waltz, often performed as a stand-alone orchestral piece, as it is today. This is a real earworm. Sorry.

♫ Tchaikovsky - Eugene Onegin - Waltz


It's difficult to say what is BEETHOVEN's most famous composition, more than a dozen could fit the bill.

Beethoven

The one I've selected today certainly makes the short list. I had not thought about it for a long time until I was reminded of it by my sister, and that was enough for me to include it today.

It's a solo piano work, officially called Bagatelle No 25 in A Minor, and it was probably written for Therese Malfatti, a student of Ludwig whom he wished to marry. She turned him down.

Over the years, Ludwig's original title of Für Therese got lost along the way and these days it's known as Für Elise. The pianist is Gerard Willems.

♫ Beethoven - Für Elise (Bagatelle in A minor) WoO 59


GUSTAV MAHLER wrote nine and a half symphonies – that half, the tenth was incomplete when he died.

Mahler

These are quite long and are considered, by those who dwell on such things, to be important. "Important" is always in implied capital letters. All except number 4, which is shorter and considered of lesser note  That one's my favorite of his.

Like Beethoven's Ninth, it has a vocal final movement, in this case a single soprano, not a choir. One of the versions I have has KIRI TE KANAWA performing that role.

Kiri Te Kanawa

So, here is the fourth movement of Symphony No 4.

♫ Mahler - Symphony No 4 (4)



INTERESTING STUFF – 18 March 2017

IMPEACHABLE

Remember the music group, Peter, Paul and Mary? They were important protest singers back in the Sixties. Now, Peter Tibbles, who writes the Sunday music column here, has forwarded a new song from Noel Paul Stookey.

Stookey's musical colleague, Peter Yarrow, wrote this about his new song:

Impeachable is an example of Noel’s extraordinary ability to write a super-funny, very surprising yet also, highly nuanced, lyric. He is, and has always been, an amazing songwriter.

“In its first public performance last weekend Impeachable brought the audience at our concert in Thousand Oaks, CA to its feet with a prolonged standing ovation. There were screeches of delight the likes of which I have never before heard at a Peter Paul and Mary concert.”

Read more at Reader Supported News.

CHOCOLATE MUSEUM

Mmmm. Yummmm. There are chocOlate museums in such places as Orlando, Cologne, Barcelona, Bruges and more. For quite awhile there have been Jacques Torres chocolate museums in other boroughs of New York City, but finally one opened in Manhattan recently.

The Manhattan Jacques Torres Chocolate Museum is located around the corner from where I lived for 25 years. It is the single good reason I have found to not still be living there – way too easy to overindulge.

Here's the Chocolate Museum website and you can read more here.

COLBERT MOCKS MADDOW - DESERVEDLY

It's been several months since I stopped watching Rachel Maddow on MSNBC. Far too regularly, she stretches 20 minutes of information into 60 minutes of program by repeating everything she says five and even six times. I'd had a enough when I stopped tuning in.

A friend who knows I ignore Maddow called on Tuesday evening to tell me to tune in – that she had some Trump tax returns.

Nothing different happened. She spoke about what she was going to show us for more than 30 damned minutes before holding up the paltry two pages that mean next to nothing in terms of new information. It was a total waste of my time and of her show's time.

Plus, she took credit for them landing at her show when the pages actually had been sent anonymously to Pulitzer Prize winning journalist, David Cay Johnson.

The next night, on The Late Show, host Stephen Colbert performed a near-perfect parody of that Maddow show and her well-known mannerisms. Thank you, Colbert – she deserves calling out on this. Here it is.

HEINZ USES MAD MEN AD IN REAL LIFE CAMPAIGN

If you were a Mad Men fan, you might recall an episode in season 6 when Don Draper (played by Jon Hamm), serves up a proposal for a deceptively simple ad campaign for Heinz ketchup. Here is the scene:

Now it is about to become a real-life print advertising campaign almost entirely as it was shot for the TV show:

”Per Adweek,” reports Vanity Fair, “Heinz just greenlighted the ads—and will run them almost exactly as Draper intended, beginning today, in print and out-of-home executions in New York City.”

Adweek reports that 'the ads are officially being credited to Heinz’s current agency, David Miami, and to Don’s fictional 1960's firm, Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce.'”

What's that old saying about life imitating art? You can read more here.

CAN YOU GUESS THE VOICE of THE YELLOW M&M?

As long as we're talking about commercials, listen to this one starring the yellow M&M:

Do you know which popular actor has been the voice of the yellow candy for 21 years? Scroll to the bottom of today's post for the answer.

IMPEACHARA

Here's a tongue-in-cheek "commercial" about a drug for what ails you, maybe all of us. Journalist Irene S. Levine was the first of several readers to send it to me. It's subtle – be sure to stick around for the ending.

MOST SEARCHED FOR OUT-OF-PRINT BOOKS

OldBooks2

Online used book seller, Abebooks, published the Bookfinder list of most searched for out-of-print books for 2016.

What came in first? The 1974 novel, Westworld a companion book to the movie starring Yul Brynner, both written by Michael Crichton. Abebooks explained that the sudden interest in the 43-year-old book was due to

”HBO's revival of Michael Crichton's science fiction thriller Westworld was one of the best things on TV in 2016...The 10-part series premiered on October 2 and concluded on December 4.”

Here are the rest of the top five most searched for out-of-print books:

Sex by Madonna
Permaculture: A Designer's Manual by Bill Mollison
Unintended Consequences by John Ross
Encyclopedia of Pieced Quilt Patterns by Barbara Brackman

You coulda fooled me. See the entire top 30 list at Abebooks with links to those that are available at their website – including a few that you'll recognize.)

JAPANESE CONFECTIONERY KNOWN AS WAGASHI

The art of wagashi goes back hundreds of years in Japan. As the YouTube page explains:

”These ornate sweets, meant to reflect the delicate beauty of nature, were traditionally created to accompany the Japanese tea ceremony. They are often shaped to resemble traditional flower motifs, and change with the shifting seasons.

“At Fukushimaya, approximately 200 different types of sweets are created throughout the year, with daffodils and camellia blossoms ushering in spring.

Take a look:

WHY ARE CATS THE WAY THEY ARE?

Like me, you may know a lot of what is explained in this TED-ed video but I learned a few things and maybe you will too.

Full lesson is here:

ANSWER TO THE VOICE OF THE YELLOW M&M

JK_Simmons_2009 It is the likeable actor, J.K. Simmons, star of stage, screen, television and even video games. Not to mention the ubiquitous Farmers Insurance commercials: (“We know a thing or two because we've seen a thing or two.”)

There is more than you probably ever wanted to know about him here.

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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 Trumpcare Tells Us About Social Security

If you want to know what the Republicans in Congress will soon try to do to Social Security, pay attention to today's post.

Socialsecuritycard

As we have discussed in these pages many times over the years, Republicans have wanted to kill Social Security and Medicare since they were enacted in 1935 and 1965, respectively.

Republican House Speaker Paul Ryan is well known for his past attempts (so far failed) to kill Social Security, and the Robin-Hood-in-reverse American Health Care Act (aka Trumpcare) being debated now is a good indication – whatever happens to it – of what he and other Republicans will soon attempt with Social Security.

You have probably heard this widely reported premium nightmare people not yet old enough for Medicare will face if the ACHA becomes law:

"A 64-year-old earning [$26,500] will get sticker shock...Under the Republican plan, health insurers would be free to charge the senior more, raising that person's premium to $19,500.

“But the tax credit would be only $4,900, and the 64-year-old's share of the premium would then be $14,600 — about 10 times higher than the 21-year-old's."

You can comfortably assume that draconian changes of this kind will be adapted to fit Social Security when the Republicans move on to attack that program.

Ezra Klein, who is editor-in-chief at Vox and one of most knowledgeable policy journalists we have, made this video with a clear, easy-to-understand explanation of Trumpcare. It's worth five minutes of your time, keeping the future of Social Security in mind as you watch.

Late last year, Representative Sam Johnson (R-TX), chairman of the Social Security Subcommittee at the House Ways and Means Committee introduced H.R.6489 - Social Security Reform Act of 2016 - which he described as a "plan to permanently save Social Security."

At the time, estimable Los Angeles Times reporter, Michael Hiltzik called foul on that description:

”Followers of GOP habits won’t be surprised to learn that it achieves this goal entirely through benefit cuts, without a dime of new revenues such as higher payroll taxes on the wealthy.

“In fact, Johnson’s plan reduces the resources coming into the program by eliminating a key tax --another way that he absolves richer Americans of paying their fair share, while increasing the burdens of retirement for almost everyone else.”

To move forward, the bill needs to be reintroduced in the new 115th Congress which has not been done yet but undoubtedly some form of those changes will show up in future Social Security legislation.

In January, Social Security guru, Nancy Altman, wrote about another, more secretive way Congress may try to cut, if not entirely kill, Social Security (and Medicare). It's complicated, involving back-stage rules changes, but here is Altman's short explanation: Congress would transform the programs avoiding personal accountability by

”Using changes in the arcane rules of the budget to force through subsequent cuts...By the time the American people realize what’s happening, the rules that usher in the changes are in the past, and those voting for the cuts can claim that they have no choice, for budgetary reasons.

“The rule that has been adopted was telegraphed shortly after the election when Representative Tom Price, Chairman of the House Budget Committee and Donald Trump’s nominee to be Secretary of Health and Human Services, proposed changes to the budget rules, which, if enacted, would end Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid, as we know them.”

As you know, Tom Price was confirmed as Secretary of Health and Human Services and Medicaid “as we know it” is already on the chopping block with Trumpcare.

One way or another, the Republicans will try to kill Social Security and as the president has made evident already with other campaign promises, we cannot depend on his repeated statement not to cut Social Security and Medicare to hold.

In fact, former South Carolina Congressman Mick Mulvaney who was recently confirmed as director of the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) has said that the president promised only to “save” Social Security. Nancy Altman had a few words to say about that:

“Mulvaney and other Republican elites, who hate Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid, are now claiming that Trump was simply promising to 'save' these programs.

“Like the infamous comment about destroying the Vietnam village to save it, they argue that cutting or even dismantling these programs 'saves' them. In this twisted logic, Trump can cut these vital benefits, and not break his campaign promise not to cut them!

“The American people are not going to be fooled. If Mulvaney succeeds in convincing Trump to sign on to cutting Social Security, Medicare, or Medicaid, or even worse, ending them as we know them, Trump voters will know that they have been betrayed.

“And all Americans will know that the Republicans in Washington, including Trump, are working for Wall Street, not Main Street.”

Oy. This administration is sure going to keep us busy. You can listen to a 10-minute interview with Nancy Altman about Trumpcare here - from fair.org.


Hot Flashes and a Resistance Note

EDITORIAL NOTE: If you are a guy or a woman who's not interested in this topic, scroll down past it for today's Resistance Note.

At first I rejected this topic when a reader suggested it. Most women who read this blog are well past that annoying life event but “Jessie” kept pestering me so I looked into it. Surprise, surprise.

The most common age range, the experts tell us, that women experience the beginning of menopause is between 48 and 55. That it lasts up to ten years or so means a lot of TGB readers may be sweating through this week's east coast blizzard.

It shocked me at age 42 when the doctor told me my period was three weeks late because menopause had begun. My reaction was one part relief that I wasn't pregnant and one part, ”Wha-a-a-a-a-a-a-t? At my age?”

Okay, I was a little young for it but obviously it's not something I could control so I moved on. We've discussed this before but “Jessie” said it was worth redoing, so here goes – on the menopause subtopic of hot flashes.

Hot-flashes1

Here's a piece of useless information about it from medicinenet:

“About 40% to 85% of women experience hot flashes at some point in the menopausal transition.”

With a range 45 percent, that tells us nothing. And i'm probably not the person to consult. I know only three or four things – anecdotes, actually - about hot flashes that may or may not be widely pertinent:

  1. It is AMAZING that your body can go from dry to soaked in under a minute. That's impressive. It frequently happened as I was just finishing my makeup before work while also soaking my hair. So I began my morning routine all over again with the hair dryer.

  2. I learned to keep a beach towel in bed with me so that when night sweats woke me, soaking the sheets, I could roll over onto the towel and go back to sleep on a dry surface.

  3. My mother dyed about 10 pieces of lace, each to match the color of a sweatshirt. She sewed the lace pieces onto the shirts, an elegant solution which became my standard top under suit jackets for work so that when I broke out in a sweat, the shirts soaked it up without showing much. My mom could be quite clever sometimes.

Real_women_dont_have_hot_flashes_they_have_power_surges_sign

During that period of hot flashes, I had a first appointment with a new gynecologist, a highly respected woman who also taught at the one of the top medical schools in New York City.

After the exam, she said she would prescribe HRT (hormone replacement therapy) to ease my hot flashes. I declined, citing a recent, widely-noted study about risks of various cancers connected with HRT.

The doctor argued with me, even raising her voice. I explained I didn't believe a few sudden sweat episodes were worth risking cancer. She argued. As I left her office, she said to me – I have never forgotten: “You'll be sorry when your face gets wrinkled before its time.”

So here I am decades later all wrinkly in the face and elsewhere but (knock wood) cancer free so far. It's a crap shoot what causes cancer in one person and not another but this a tradeoff I would make again in a – well, New York minute.

Maxinehot-flushes-sat

A lot of women complain about hot flashes but fewer are using HRT rhese days. And really – the hot flashes are only an inconvenience, not life-threatening and personally? I found them kind of funny.

The Mayo Clinic has a smart, easy section about hot flashes. (Hint: they don't mention the vinegar, secret herbs, teas, vitamins and supplement “cures” some people suggest.)

What's your experience?

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RESISTANCE NOTES – OLIVER ON TRUMPCARE

(To catch up newcomers, Resistance Notes is an occasional section appended to the main story of the day to help keep track of what happens, these days, at such high speed in Washington. Even large news organizations are having trouble keeping pace so what's a little one-women website supposed to do?

The answer is now and then when the day's topic relates to ageing but I want to pass on some short, resistance-related information, I will post it here at the bottom of the main story. Extraordinary times require extraordinary measures.)

Today it is the most recent main video essay from John Oliver on his Saturday HBO program, Last Week Tonight, about the American Health Care Act (AHCA) this week.

Colbert doesn't hit a home run every week but it happens more often than not and when he does, it is magnificent. For me, it is a crime to wait seven days to show it to you as I usually do.

So here is the brilliant analysis of Trumpcare from John Oliver and his crew – serious and funny all at once, as they are so good at doing.


Ben Carson's Geezer Surgery (and More)

There is no dearth of reasons to rant, rail and rage against the new president for the disgraceful caliber of people he has placed in positions of power throughout the departments, offices and agencies of the federal government.

Even a few Republicans have been embarrassed by the obvious lack of experience or knowledge of some nominees. Think Betsy DeVos, Rex Tillerson, Rick Perry, Scott Pruitt, among others.

In some cases, however, a person who is given high political office is deeply unqualified in more disturbing ways: ideologically, ethically and morally.

Carson

On Saturday in these pages, I mentioned that Dr. Ben Carson, in his first official speech as the new secretary of the department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), equated the men and women who were taken from their homes by force and shipped off to America to become slaves - with “immigrants.”

That is only the most obvious of the offensive moments in Carson's speech a week ago. Here is a short transcript of another, when he spoke about his previous work as a neurosurgeon:

”With a kid, you can operate 10, 12, 18, 20 hours and if you're successful, your reward may be 50, 60, 70, 80 years of life.

“Whereas with an old geezer, you spend all that time operating and they die in five years of something else. So I like to get a big return on my investment.”

I'll pause for a moment to let the potential consequences of that perspective on housing and related civil rights sink in.

Most days, I record the Late Show with Stephen Colbert so I can watch his monologue the next day. One of the “rewards” for my effort is way too many ageist jokes (although no more than the other late-night hosts).

But this time, to his great, grand credit, Colbert called out Carson.

This is that segment with the two parts from the secretary's speech I've highlighted along with two others that deserve equal piles of scorn:

You'll find some of the instant Twitter reaction to Carson's slave/immigrant comment at Huffington Post.

It's not that Secretary Carson is more ideologically or ethically challenged or any less knowledgeable about his new position than some other appointed leaders in this most reprehensible federal administration in my lifetime.

But he does appear to be the most candid about his shortcomings; whether by accident or design is hard to know.

What I do know is that there is so much double-dealing, overreach, hubris, lying, ignorance, secrecy, possible criminality and even treason along with open disdain for the Constitution, the rule of law and the citizenry itself that we must recognize every instance we see.

That isn't easy because there are several new ones every day. But we must not allow the bizarre beliefs of Secretary Carson and those of everyone else in the Trump administration to become so normal and ordinary that we are no longer shocked.

Do not let that happen to you or the people you know.


ELDER MUSIC: Put a Tiger in your Tank

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.

* * *

Tyger Tyger, burning bright,
In the forests of the night;
What immortal hand or eye,
Could frame thy fearful symmetry?

William Blake, of course, something we learnt at school, and wondered about rhyming eye with symmetry at the time. Still do.

Tiger

The column on Lions seemed to be pretty popular so naturally when you're on a good thing = thus, tigers today.

I thought of other big cats but there weren't enough songs for any but tigers. In my opinion, the lions' songs were more interesting than these but they're not too bad. I'm sure you'll find something to tickle your fancy.

LEE HAZLEWOOD wrote many, many songs that others have covered but he also recorded quite a few, both on his own and with Nancy Sinatra.

Lee Hazlewood

Lee's on his own today; he wants A House Safe from Tigers. I know that will fit the bill as a song but I wonder where Lee lives if that's what he requires. Actually, I believe there are more tigers in Texas than in all of India so maybe that's what he had in mind.

♫ Lee Hazlewood - A House Safe from Tigers


I haven't featured much DJANGO REINHARDT, a grievous oversight.

Django Reinhardt

I'll make partial amends today because he has a tiger tune. Django, of course, was one of the most influential guitarists in history. He usually played with violinist Stéphane Grappelli, as he does on Django's Tiger.

♫ Django Reinhardt - Django's Tiger


RICHARD CLAPTON (no relation to another musician with the same surname) is an Australian singer, songwriter and guitarist.

Richard Clapton

He had a couple of hits in the seventies and quite a few albums that did well. He's still out there performing and recording. Goodbye Tiger is one of the songs from back then that did okay for him.

♫ Richard Clapton - Goodbye Tiger


Also in Oz, but a bit earlier, from the trad jazz revival of the late fifties, early sixties, FRANK JOHNSON'S FABULOUS DIXIELANDERS were one of the premier performers of that style.

Frank Johnson

When I was looking for tiger songs, I found that this one could have filled two or three columns on its own. You probably don't need me to tell you that it's Tiger Rag.

♫ Frank Johnson's Fabulous Dixielanders - Tiger Rag


MUDDY WATERS has probably performed songs about just about everything under the sun so I wasn't surprised when he turned up here.

Muddy Waters

Indeed, he supplies the title for the column (which of course came from a petrol commercial some time ago – yes, we had it here in Oz too). Muddy wants to put a Tiger In Your Tank. I don't think he's talking about filling up the car.

♫ Muddy Waters - Tiger In Your Tank


APRIL STEVENS had a solo singing career before she teamed up with her brother Nino Tempo. Together they had several really good songs that made the pointy end of the charts. She then went back to singing solo.

April Stevens

One of her hits, which she recorded a couple of times, is Teach Me Tiger.

♫ April Stevens - Teach Me Tiger


Although born in Texas and brought up there and later in Arizona, BUCK OWENS is mostly associated with Bakersfield, California.

Buck Owens

He's credited with creating the "Bakersfield sound", a stripped back form of country music rather akin to honky tonk. Much more interesting than the sausage-factory country music out of Nashville. Buck's song is I've Got A Tiger By The Tail. As long as he keeps away from the other end.

♫ Buck Owens - Ive Got A Tiger By The Tail


Here's one for those of us who grew up in the fifties. There's some dialogue in Stan Freberg's The Old Payola Roll Blues that goes like this when they decided they needed a teenage idol for their record...

"Hey kid."

"Who me?"

"Can you sing?"

"No."

"Good, come with me."

That's Stan's idea of how FABIAN (or someone like him) became a recording artist.

Fabian

He possibly became a film actor the same way, or maybe because he was already a pop idol. Anyway, good luck to him, I say. He had a hit with a song called Tiger.

♫ Fabian - Tiger


Whenever I hear the name RUSTY DRAPER, I always think of the song Freight Train.

Rusty Draper

That song is hardwired into my brain and has been that way since the fifties. Rusty recorded other songs, of course, one of those is Tiger Lilly.

♫ Rusty Draper - Tiger Lilly


JOE HILL LOUIS was a one man band.

Joe Hill Louis

He sang, played guitar, harmonica and drums (and probably other things as well) all at the same time. He recorded for a variety of labels but most notably for Sun Records.

He had a few disks released under his own name and he also played guitar and/or drums on other people's records. One of his songs is Tiger Man which was also covered by Rufus Thomas and Elvis.

♫ Joe Hill Louis - Tiger Man


There's an extra song today and it'll be obvious why. Back in the late fifties and early sixties, answer songs were all the rage. This usually meant putting new words to the previous tune, always a big hit.

As this is an answer column to the Lions one, it's only fair that we have an answer song to one of those from that column. This is provided by THE ROMEOS.

The Romeos

We had The Lion Sleeps Tonight, so now we have The Tiger's Wide Awake. Answer songs were seldom anywhere as good as the original and that is the case today. Oh lordy, this one's bad.

The Romeos - The Tiger's Wide Awake


INTERESTING STUFF – 11 March 2017

FIVE-YEAR-OLD WINS SPELLING BEE

I would have lost to young Edith Fuller, at my age now, on the word she spelled correctly to win. As it is, she is the youngest spelling bee winner ever and she won against some students three times her age.

You can read more at the Washington Post.

CLEVER EXHIBIT OF FICTION GENDER GAP FOR WOMEN'S HISTORY MONTH

Loganberry Books in Cleveland, Ohio, made an important statement about the gender of fiction writers by reversing all the novels on their shelves written by men so we cannot see the titles and names. Take a look:

Loganberrybooks

Here's a close up:

Loganberrycloseup

You can read more at Huffington Post and you can visit the Loganberry website where there are more photos.

THE MAN WHO MAKES MAZES

Adrian Fisher is, they say, the world's pre-eminent maze de signer. In his career, he has created more than 700 mazes in 40 countries.

”...like all skillful mystery-makers,” notes the YouTube page, “Fisher's greatest talent in maze-making is knowing how to perfectly blend the intrigue of exploration with the satisfaction that comes from finding your way.”

HUD SECRETARY BEN CARSON SAYS SLAVES WERE IMMIGRANTS

You may have heard that last week, in his first speech to employees of the Housing and Urban Development agency (HUD) where he is now secretary, Dr. Ben Carson announced that slaves were immigrants. Here's the video with some Twitter reaction appended:

You can read more at the Washington Post and I'll have more to say about Dr. Carson's speech in these pages on Monday.

IT'S DAYLIGHT SAVINGS TIME AGAIN

Why don't we just give up daylight savings time; it's not like it has a purpose anymore and even with computers, WiFi and Bluetooth that do it automatically, I still have way too many clocks to change tonight.

Dst2

Tonight's the night – move your clocks AHEAD one hour. It will be darker when you wake on Sunday.

HOW SMALL ARE WE IN THE SCALE OF THE UNIVERSE

While we're considering the sun and daylight in relation to our clocks, how about this – human size compared to that of the universe. Here's a Ted Talk designed to make us feel deeply insignificant.

DRAGON'S BLOOD

Scientific journals have a penchant for publishing “maybe breakthroughs” that are no doubt of interest to fellow scientists but are not much so to the rest of us since it will usually be years (if ever) before discoveries are translated into useful results.

But sometimes they are just plain interesting. This is a komodo dragon, the largest reptile on earth. (Image from remotelands.com)

Komodo_7B

As an article in The Economist explained last week:

”Komodo dragons, which are native to parts of Indonesia, ambush large animals like water buffalo and deer with a bite to the throat. If their prey does not fall immediately, the dragons rarely continue the fight.

“Instead, they back away and let the mix of mild venom and dozens of pathogenic bacteria found in their saliva finish the job. They track their prey until it succumbs, whereupon they can feast without a struggle.”

As you undoubtedly have read, antibiotics are becoming less and less effective putting humans at risk we haven't encountered for decades. And that is where, perhaps, komodo dragons come in to save the day – as a “promising source of chemicals on which to base new antibiotics.”

Working with fresh komodo blood, a team of scientists in Florida,

”...identified 48 potential [antimicrobial peptides] that had never been seen before. Their initial tests were equally promising.

“Dr Van Hoek exposed two species of pathogenic bacteria, Pseudomonas aeruginosa and Staphylococcus aureus, to eight of the most promising peptides they had identified. The growth of both species of bacteria was severely hampered by seven of the eight; the remaining peptide was effective against only P. aeruginosa.”

A lot of Latin but with apparently good news although it may take years to see results for humans. Still worth knowing if only to read the phrase “dragon's blood” in real life, not a horror movie.

You can read more at The Economist.

A MOST SATISFYING VIDEO

This is a great video to watch when everything seems to be going wrong – in your personal life or in the world at large. It feels so good when things are done amazingly well, just right and, sometimes, even perfectly.

If you liked this here are two more: One. Two.

BALD EAGLES IN DUTCH HARBOR, ALASKA

Once almost extinct, bald eagles are back from the brink. So much so that there can be videos like this one of a fisherman sharing his catch with a whole, big flock of eagles.

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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.