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Regrets and Old Age

category_bug_journal2.gif About a month or so ago, there was an excellent discussion here about whether those of us who are childless elders have any regrets. If you missed it, you ought to go read the comments – it is a terrific, wide-ranging conversation.

Since then, I have occasionally pondered whether there are things I might now regret and I come up surprisingly empty. Am I overlooking something? I wondered. Am I too shallow or superficial to have regrets?

For as long as I've been old enough to philosophize a bit, I have believed that regret is waste of energy and haven't spent time considering it. When things didn't turn out well, I fixed what I could, moved on to something else or made the best of what I couldn't change.

Still, I don't think anyone can live for six or seven or more decades, as I have, without a few regrets. There must be something. Poking around the web for inspiration, I found there are at least two people who equate regret with old age:

“Regrets are the natural property of grey hairs.”
     - Charles Dickens

“Youth is a blunder; manhood a struggle; old age a regret.”
     - Benjamin Disraeli

Hmmph. Maybe it had something to do with the time and place they lived in; they were contemporaries in England in the mid-19th century. But no one can convince me that regrets are a normal accompaniment to age.

Do I wish I had traveled more? Learned another language? Married again? I suppose so, but none of them loom large as holes in my life now.

I do wish I had asked my parents more questions about themselves, their childhoods, their families. That's a common regret of many people.

And it would be better if I had not wasted so much time concerned about my appearance or spent so much money on expensive shoes. But who can take those things seriously as an old age regret? That was then; I eventually outgrew both of them.

There are some things I have done and said to people that hurt them – more than I like to recall and that still bothers me. On the other hand, there are many more times I should have spoken up and was too timid. Those, I think, are greater failings.

But again, I don't categorize such behavior as regretful. Not always, but mostly through the years, I have done the best I could at the time.

Maybe I don't have regrets because everything I have done, everywhere I have been, every experience I've had brought me to where and who I am today. Unless I'm fooling myself, I am content with that.

What about you?


At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Jeanne Waite Follett” Putting Dreams to Rest


2012 Social Security Benefit

category_bug_politics.gif In the past few days, an AP story has been circulating among newspapers reporting that in 2012 there will be a small cost-of-living adjustment (COLA) to Social Security benefits. But the kicker is that an increase in the Medicare Part B premium will probably be larger.

I doubt there is a TGB reader alive who does not know the COLA has not increased for the past two years. The reason given is that there was no inflation during 2009 and 2010. You and I know better, but that's how it goes.

Currently, the average Social Security benefit is $1,077. The Medicare Part B premium for about 75 percent of beneficiaries (people whose incomes are less than $85,000) $96.40, is deducted leaving an average payment of $980.60.

So far this year there has been a small uptick in inflation which, the Social Security trustees project, will result in a 1.2 percent COLA for 2012. Assuming inflation comes in at the trustees' guess, that average benefit would increase to $1090 ($13.00 per month or $156 for the year).

But wait. Don't start planning a European vacation with it yet.

The Medicare Part B premium for 2012 will be $113.80 – an increase of $17.40 per month, reducing the 2012 Social Security average benefit to $976.20. $4.40 less than the current average.

Fortunately, there is a “hold harmless” clause that prevents Medicare premium increases from reducing the Social Security benefit, so the 2012 average payment would remain at $980.60.

So much for a cost-of-living increase next year. That should please the Republicans who think elders are living too high on the hog sucking on what Alan Simpson calls the “government tit.”

In an attempt to forestall cuts to Social Security in Congress, Senator Bernie Sanders (I-VT), on 15 March, introduced S.582 – The Social Security Protection Act of 2011.

In brief, the bill (full text here) would make it out of order in both the Senate and House of Representatives to consider any legislation that

• increases the retirement age or the early retirement age for individuals receiving benefits under title II (Old Age, Survivors, and Disability Insurance) (OASDI) of the Social Security Act on or after the enactment of this Act;

• reduces cost-of-living increases for them;

• reduces benefit payment amounts for them; or

• creates private retirement accounts for any of the OSADI benefits they receive. Makes waiver or suspension of this Act out of order in the House or Senate.

According to opencongress.org, as of yesterday, there has been zero news coverage of this bill. There are nine co-sponsors, all Democrats, of course:

Senator Daniel Akaka [D, HI]
Senator. Mark Begich [D, AK]
Senator Richard Blumenthal [D, CT]
Senator Barbara Boxer [D, CA]
Senator Sherrod Brown [D, OH]
Senator Frank Lautenberg [D, NJ]
Senator Barbara Mikulski [D, MD]
Senator Debbie Ann Stabenow [D, MI]
Senator Sheldon Whitehouse [D, RI]

You need to call your senators today to tell them to vote for this bill. Dave Johnson, writing at Campaign For America's Future, gives simple instructions:

“Call your Senators RIGHT NOW at 1-866-251-4044. You’ll be given a choice of which of your state’s two senators to be connected with. Call BOTH if you have the time. It only takes a minute each. Tell the person who answers the phone:

• I am a voter/constituent living in [your state]. I am calling to tell the Senator:

• I oppose all cuts to Social Security and

• I urge them to vote yes on the The Social Security Protection Act of 2011.

“Please take the time for this very important effort today. This is for all of us who depend on Social Security. Call today: 1-866-251-4044.”

On 16 March, Representative Anthony Wiener introduced the same bill in the House, H.R.1118. Co-sponsors are:

Rep. Ted Deutch [D, FL-19]
Rep. Bob Filner [D, CA-51]
Rep. Alcee Hastings [D, FL-23]
Rep. Jesse Jackson [D, IL-2]
Rep. Sheila Jackson-Lee [D, TX-18]
Rep. Frederica Wilson [D, FL-17]

Undoubtedly you are getting tired of hearing about all this from me, but we must remain alert and do everything we can to preserve Social Security not just for ourselves, but for our children and grandchildren and beyond.

It may not seem right that a cost-of-living adjustment disappears into Medicare and then some, but without Social Security, many elders would have no income and destroying the program is high on the Republican agenda. Please pick up that phone again.


At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Mary B Summerlin: Retirement


Our Broken Country

category_bug_politics.gif Even while my critical faculties were in retreat for the past week, between naps I've read the news and opinion online, listened the officials and pundits on television, and now that I'm feeling less sick and just tired, it struck me more clearly than ever: we-the-people are completely screwed.

Everything we have learned in the past two years since the crash comes down to this: Corporations and the government are in collusion against the rest of us and having rigged the system in their favor, they are within an inch of winning it all.

Name one thing in the past two years that Congress or the president has done to improve the lives of anyone but the rich.

The FICA tax holiday, you say? That's just stealing from Social Security – one-sixth of its annual revenue. And it would be a sucker's bet to put money on the holiday expiring as planned at the end of this year.

The Affordable Health Care Act? Please. During the health care debate, 45 million people were without coverage; now 52 million are.

Millions have lost their homes to foreclosure, often on fraudulently created mortgages for which no one has been prosecuted.

For those who still own their homes, housing prices have dropped by an average of 30 percent, but my property tax bill – and undoubtedly yours too – has increased each year.

For the past week, innumerable news stories report that the largest corporations with billions in profits pay no taxes and often get refunds from the government too.

I just learned in the past couple of days that corporations are given subsidies from the government for sending jobs overseas.

In the endless budget battle in Washington, there is not a word from either side of the aisle about helping people in dire need - it is ONLY about cutting funds for programs that benefit average people and the poor: schools, health care, teachers, police, firemen. And, of course, cutting Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid.

They call all these cuts “shared sacrifice,” but the only word about tax revenue is that cutting corporate taxes to zero will lead companies to hire again. Huh? They're sitting on $2 trillion in cash now and aren't hiring.

Meanwhile, as they insist the country is broke, we have started a third war in the Middle East. They can call it a “no-fly zone” all they want, but when it is Tomahawk missiles that are flying, I call that war – and so should you.

In defiance of a court order, the Wisconsin governor has implemented the new law destroying collective bargaining. How is that legal?

And someone – I've forgotten who – wants to deny food stamps to any family in which a member participates in a workers' strike.

In Maine, the tea party governor tore down a mural at the Department of Labor because it was, he said, not business-friendly. Hul-lo, LePage – it's called the Department of LABOR, not the Department of Business.

A whole lot of people who have participated in all these attacks, and some others who can't wait to go even further, want to be the next president:

Michele Bachmann, Sarah Palin, Donald Trump, Rick Santorum, Newt Gingrich, Mike Huckabee, Haley Barbour, Herman Cain and the rest. Every one of them is ignorant, racist, a freak or all three - and all are in bed with corporations.

Meanwhile, President Obama's top White House advisers are corporate titans busily securing their future. This from Chris Hedges yesterday:

”The corporate elite achieves its aims of greater and greater profit by weakening and dismantling government agencies and taking over or destroying public institutions.

“Charter schools, mercenary armies, a for-profit health insurance industry and outsourcing every facet of government work, from clerical tasks to intelligence, feed the corporate beast at our expense.

“The decimation of labor unions, the twisting of education into mindless vocational training and the slashing of social services leave us ever more enslaved to the whims of corporations.

“The intrusion of corporations into the public sphere destroys the concept of the common good. It erases the lines between public and private interests. It creates a world that is defined exclusively by naked self-interest.”

Hedges is, of course, correct. The question is, how do we change it?


At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Ann Favreau: Death Tide and Tsunami


Old Age Cold (and More)

category_bug_journal2.gif Email back-and-forth with friend last Friday while conducting some boring, but necessary personal business:

FRIEND: How are you feeling?

ME: Awful. Many years ago, a cold remedy company used the slogan, “A summer cold is a different animal.” Hah! NOT summer cold. An old age cold is what's really a different animal. Like the worst flu you ever had.

FRIEND: How are you treating it?

ME: Nyquil and sleep around the clock unless I need to be awake like now to talk with you – then Dayquil.

FRIEND: I hate Nyquil. It knocks me out like I'm in a coma.

ME: Funny, that's what I like about it – oblivion - so I don't know how awful I feel.

(This is not, of course, dear readers, a recommendation. Deal with a cold in whatever way works for you.)

Sometime in the past few days, I woke up enough to turn on TV for a bit and watched Pretty Woman again, still one of the most charming, romantic fairy tales ever (or it seems that way when I'm drugged).

At another time (another day?), turning on the tube produced the perfect antidote to that make-believe - She Devil in which Roseanne Barr conducts a wonderfully nasty campaign to destroy the husband (Ed Begley) who cheats on her with Meryl Streep.

I would never have sought out those movies, but I was too sick to change the channel and they turned out to be just the kind of fluff that took my mind off my misery.

and More
Today begins a week-long “Hands Off Social Security” campaign to impress on Congress that the program has nothing to do with the deficit and must not be cut.

Sponsored by the National Committee to Preserve Social Security and Medicare, today's event is a news conference with Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid who has been a staunch defender of Social Security. (More information here)

Tuesday, a radio ad campaign begins to remind Congress tens of millions of Americans depend on Social Security which did not cause our financial troubles:

There will be more activities during the rest of the week. If you have not signed the petition to protest cuts to Social Security yet, you can do so here.


At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Celia Jones: The Day I Became a Mosquito


ELDER MUSIC: 1951

PeterTibbles75x75You never know who you're going to meet on the internet and I came to know Peter Tibbles (bio here) via email over the past couple of years. His extensive knowledge of most genres of music and his excellent taste became apparent only gradually (Peter's not one to toot his horn) but once I understood, I knew he needed his own column at Time Goes By - or, better, that TGB needed his column - which appears here each Sunday. You can find previous Elder Music columns here.


This is an on-going series featuring the music of a particular year. These aren't the Top 10, Top 40 or Top anything - they're just tunes I selected from the year with no apparent logic behind it.

What happened in 1951?

  • Well, I was in first grade.
  • Winston Churchill was elected Prime Minister of Britain.
  • Truman told MacArthur to take a flying leap.
  • Burgess and MacLean defected to Russia.
  • The African Queen premiered.
  • Australia won the Davis Cup (again).
  • Fanny Brice died.

1951 is the difficult year of the decade as far as I'm concerned. 1958 was difficult as well but for the opposite reason.

For 1951, finding enough songs that I'd be interested in playing and listening to was a real chore. There are a few gems, but very few, and it was unlike other years where I was wondering which to leave out. Here are the songs I selected for the year.

There are five singers who appear three times in my decade of music. Fortunately, they all appear in 1951 or I’d’ve really been in trouble and these next five artists are they. There could have been a couple more but quite a number of songs I considered I've already used previously in other columns. There is a link to those at the end.

Every year in the Fifties should have some NAT KING COLE in it. They probably did but I can't play all of them.

Nat King Cole

By 1951, Nat had already had a successful career as a jazz pianist with his own trio. He occasionally sang in this group. By now, though, the singing was beginning to be the central part of his act, a bit of a pity as he was a great jazz pianist.

Not too much of a pity, though, as he was a great singer. This song is really on the cusp of the change he made; he still used his trio but it is augmented by studio strings and the like. A pity about the latter but it's a fine song, Too Young.

♫ Nat King Cole - Too Young

JOHNNIE RAY became partially deaf in his left ear due to a childhood accident. Later, doctors tried to fix the problem. They succeeded in unblocking his ear but in doing so he lost all hearing in that ear.

Johnnie Ray

It's been suggested that Johnnie's singing style, the over-enunciation of words and the like, is due to the deafness. Maybe. We'll never know.

Unlike the singers from the Forties, Johnnie took the microphone off its stand and prowled, danced, ran around the stage. He may have been the first singer to do this sort of thing. He certainly wasn't the last, just check in at any rock & roll show.

His second release was a two-sided hit, the other side being The Little White Cloud that Cried. The first side is Cry. At last count this has sold more than 35 million copies.

♫ Johnnie Ray - Cry

FRANKIE LAINE is probably mostly remembered these days as a singer of film and television western soundtracks.

Frankie Laine

He certainly did those, or my first sentence would be pointless. Other songs of his sounded as if they could be soundtracks or, at least, appear in a film. However, that's not his only style. Way back, none other than Hoagy Carmichael heard him singing one of his (Hoagy's) songs and was so impressed got him a steady job in a club where he had influence. I imagine Hoagy had influence in any club at the time.

This led to bigger things, a recording and acting career, both of which continued for decades. Here he sings a most un-western song, you could probably call it an eastern: Rose, Rose, I Love You.

♫ Frankie Laine - Rose, Rose, I Love You

ROSEMARY CLOONEY may be remembered these days as George's auntie. However, to people of a certain age, us, she was a singer of some renown in the Fifties.

Rosemary Clooney

Rosemary first hit it big with a song called Come On-a My House written by William Saroyan and Ross Bagdasarian. Later in the decade, Ross would go on to fame, if that's the right word, under the name of David Seville. He gave us The Witchdoctor and all those Alvin and the Chipmunks "songs.”

Anyway, this one isn't a novelty song, although the last verse is a little suspect. It's Beautiful Brown Eyes.

♫ Rosemary Clooney - Beautiful Brown Eyes

In spite of the dearth of good songs generally in 1951, GUY MITCHELL had a stellar year with four I could have included. I have made it a policy to restrict myself to one song per year for any artist.

Guy Mitchell

Guy's songs this year were My Truly, Truly Fair, Sparrow in the Treetop, Belle Belle, My Liberty Belle and The Roving Kind. My job now is to choose one of those.

Guy sang from a very young age and he was a child star in films and on the radio. However, after leaving school he worked as a saddle-maker. I can’t imagine there’d be a great deal of call for that sort of work so he went back to singing.

He caught the ear of Mitch Miller who is reported to have said, “My name is Mitchell and you seem a nice guy, so we'll call you Guy Mitchell.” So, Al Cernik was no more.

He went on to record a number of fine tunes. Quite arbitrarily, I’ve decided on My Truly, Truly Fair.

♫ Guy Mitchell - My Truly, Truly Fair

PATTI PAGE could have joined the previous five but I’ve featured her quite a bit in the past so those tracks aren’t included.

Patti Page

I really don't know what to say about Patti that hasn't been said before, or will be said again (as I haven't written these columns in order and I've already said things about her; of course you don't know that).

This song was also a hit for Les Paul and Mary Ford, and maybe others as well. It's Mockin' Bird Hill.

♫ Patti Page - Mockin' Bird Hill

BILLY WARD was born in Georgia and grew up in Philadelphia. His mum and dad knew him as Robert Williams.

Billy Ward and the Dominoes

He was somewhat of a child prodigy on the piano and studied music in Chicago and at Juilliard. He worked as a vocal coach and arranger on Broadway and then used some of his students to form a vocal group.

This evolved into Billy Ward and the Dominoes. A couple of singers who graced the group are Clyde McPhatter and Jackie Wilson. Billy obviously had a good ear for talent.

Their most famous song is the one I'm playing today. This has Bill Brown singing lead (although he usually just sang bass) with a song that was often removed from radio playlists at the time, Sixty Minute Man.

♫ Billy Ward - Sixty Minute Man

DINAH SHORE was from Tennessee. She was known to her folks as Anna, as that was her birth name.

Dinah Shore

Dinah contracted polio as a young girl but mostly recovered although she had a limp for the rest of her life. Encouraged by her mother who had operatic aspirations, Dinah always liked to sing. Her father would take her along to his shop to entertain the customers.

After finishing her degree in sociology from Vanderbilt University, she decided to do this singing thing for real. After being rejected by Benny Goodman and both Dorsey brothers she decided to go solo and gained a spot on the radio.

Occasionally she'd sing with another little-known vocalist called Frank Sinatra. Many radio (and later television) gigs ensued as well as a long career as a recording artist. This is one of her songs, Sweet Violets.

♫ Dinah Shore - Sweet Violets

LES PAUL AND MARY FORD had many hits in the first half of the Fifties.

Les Paul and Mary Ford

Every guitarist in the second half of the century who took up the electric guitar learnt everything they know about playing from either Les Paul or T-Bone Walker, and those two have both said they learnt from the other.

Given his superb talent and the fine singing voice of Mary, there's no way they could fail. This year alone they had three songs worthy of note, The World Is Waiting for the Sunrise, Mockin' Bird Hill and the one I'm playing, How High the Moon.

♫ Les Paul and Mary Ford - How High the Moon

THE WEAVERS were blacklisted at this time by the ratbags of the House Un-American Activities Committee (HUAC). In spite of this, they sold many records and topped the charts with some of their songs.

The Weavers

The Weavers were Pete Seeger, Lee Hayes, Ronnie Gilbert and Fred Helleman. They formed in 1948 from the remains of the Almanac Singers. This latter group was a loose conglomeration who occasionally had amongst them Woody Guthrie, Josh White, Cisco Houston, Sis Cunningham and others.

The song, Kisses Sweeter Than Wine, was based on a Leadbelly version of an old Irish folk song. Once again, the folk process in action.

HUAC was pretty much determined to destroy The Weavers' career. The success of their campaign is ambiguous. They certainly kept them from appearing on television and out of major venues. In the process they made martyrs of them ensuring a following in universities, union halls and other progressive venues.

Here is the decidedly subversive, according to HUAC, Kisses Sweeter than Wine.

♫ The Weavers - Kisses Sweeter than Wine

In past columns, I have already used some of the songs from this year. If you'd like to hear more you can find them here. (Jo Stafford - Shrimp Boats and Patti Page - Mister and Mississippi)

1952 will appear in two weeks' time.


INTERESTING STUFF: 26 March 2011

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

You are all encouraged to submit items for inclusion. Just click “Contact” in the upper left corner of any Time Goes By page to send them. I'm sorry that I probably 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 have one.


CENTURY-OLD REMINDER
It is particularly important, during these times of union busting state governors, to remember that yesterday was the 100th anniversary of the Triangle Fire in New York City.

During the years I lived in the Village, when I walked past that building location just off Washington Square Park, which was on my usual rounds, I always paused a bit to think about those 146 people – mostly young, immigrant girls – who burned or jumped to their deaths.

Triangle Fire Building

Two years before the fire, Triangle's owners had hired thugs to beat up the workers when they picketed for better conditions and refused the seamstresses' union demands for sprinklers and unlocked stairwells.

The fire was an important impetus in the young union movement in those days and we should honor these women who died. The best online source for information about the fire is here at Cornell University.

TECH SUPPORT FOR ELDERS
Many old people who retired before computers were ubiquitous in the workplace have had to teach themselves the intricacies of these machines or rely on children and grandchildren.

I recall that I learned a lot of tricks and shortcuts from my young colleagues when I was still working and I often wonder what new stuff I haven't picked up because I no longer have their expertise.

Now there is a website from Google called Teach Parents Tech with a whole bunch of short videos covering the basics of computer and web use. For those who are proficient, these may seem simplistic, but I learned a couple of new things and you might too.

ONLINE SMITHSONIAN TOUR
Darlene Costner of Darlene's Hodgepodge finds the most wonderful interactive websites. Did you know you can take an online virtual tour the entire National Museum of Natural History at the Smithsonian Institution – almost as though you are there in person.

Smithsonian

You'll need Adobe Flash Player, version 9.0.28 or later. Give it a try – you'll be amazed. This little image doesn't begin to show you the detail you'll see full screen.

AVOID TELEPHONE TREES
I despise telephone trees. There is almost never a choice that fits my need when I call and it is nearly impossible to find out how to reach a live person.

This week I learned of two websites with lists of hundreds of corporations and the numbers to reach a human. I can't guarantee they always work, but you might want to give them a try next time you need customer service.

Dial a human

Get a human

OLD FASHIONED TECHNOLOGY
Love this paragraph from Sam Grobart in a New York Times story about which electronic gadgets are worth keeping and which can be tossed:

“[C]onsider this about a book: It has a terrific, high-resolution display. It is pretty durable; you could get it a little wet and all would not be lost.

“It has tremendous battery life. It is often inexpensive enough that, if you misplaced it, you would not be too upset. You can even borrow them free at sites called libraries.”

That doesn't mean my Kindle isn't useful, but I'm not giving up books either.

HOW MANHATTAN STREET GRID GREW
I just love playing around with the interactive maps that The New York Times creates. A recent one allows viewers to gradually overlay the changes in the street map of Manhattan over a period of 200 years. This is a portion of the 1811 map:

Manhattan 1811

You can move the zoom tools around the several maps comparing today's streets to old ones that have been renamed or disappeared. Try it out here.

2010 CENSUS MAP
Another new New York Times interactive map shows the population of racial and ethnic distribution throughout the U.S. down to the county level.

2010 Census Map

Information boxes for each state and country show the percentage change among these groups since the 2000 census. You can play all day with this map here.

THE DEATH OF A SIXTIES ICON
Depending on your proclivities during the 1960s, you may or may not have heard of Augustus Owsley Stanley III. I hadn't heard his name in decades when I read of his death in Australia a couple of weeks ago at age 76.

He was an eccentric who dabbled in many things, was an early supporter of the Grateful Dead but he is most famous for producing superlative LSD – to which I can personally attest - referred to by some as Purple Owsley.

One by one, touchstones of my generation are leaving us. If you are interested, you can read more about Owsley here and here.

IMITATION, THEY SAY, IS THE SINCEREST FORM OF FLATTERY

Angry Cat


GAY AND GRAY: Meet David

JanAdams75x75Gay and Gray is a monthly column at Time Goes By written by Jan Adams (bio) in which she thinks out loud for us on issues of aging lesbians and gay men. Jan also writes on many topics at her own blog, Happening-Here, and you will find her past Gay and Gray columns here.]


category_bug_gayandgray.gif When I think about topics for these Gay and Gray columns, I always worry a little about whether I'm failing to look adequately for material about or of relevance to gay male elders.

In my generation of LGBT people - a generation in which most of us began our lives in the closet and many of us emerged in public only in mid-life - there's often a pronounced cultural separation between the genders, perhaps especially in larger cities.

Many old lesbians know mostly other old lesbians; they have made intentional families with other lesbians and evolved a woman-centered culture. Old gay men have their own sub-culture; many saw their friendship networks devastated by the AIDS epidemic; they spent a life in peril and sometimes hiding and tend to stick with their own.

I feel very lucky that I happen to belong to a church community where we have quite a few of both genders of gay people - and lots of straight people too. Truly mixed communities are somewhat rare in our age group. That's too bad. We can enjoy each other.

So thinking about this month's column, I went looking for something from a gay male elder to share. I think you'll enjoy David. At 70, this expressive, British, working-class man decided his life story might be something younger people, especially gay men, could appreciate.

He got a lot of positive responses to this introductory piece, so he made four more video clips, carrying forward the story of how he grew up, joined the Royal Air Force (RAF), voluntarily left the service so he could be more open about his sexuality and in retirement has apparently taken full advantage of the protected legal status gays now enjoy in the United Kingdom.

They are way ahead of the United States. Britain long ago allowed gays to serve openly in the military, protected us from employment discrimination and the police campaigned against gay bashing.

In Part 2 of David's story, available here, he talks about his early youth, about realizing at age 12 that he was different. By 15, he was out of school and working.

He had some encounters including in movie theaters and "people [men] took an interest in me; I was always particular and very careful."

David

Yes, the young David was a looker. In Part 3 (here), he describes joining the Royal Air Force and realizing for the first time that he was not alone.

"There were thousands of airmen and among them, there were 100s and 100s and 100s of gay men, like me...it was instant dismissal if you were caught...but we lived in huts, sometimes there was movement between beds at 2 and 3 in the morning...it happened."

David loved the RAF. He served in various isolated Middle Eastern posts in an all male environment. He thrived. No one asked any questions because there were no women on the posts. He had one or two serious affairs, but the guys were always posted away and the romances died.

In Part 4 (here), David follows up with the story of his civilian life - the United Kingdom had decriminalized homosexuality and he was able to do the same job he'd done for the RAF as a civilian! He urges gay men to come out.

"If you are wondering how to approach your friends -- if someone asks you if you are gay, just tell them...I say that because, once you come out, you will then find out who your friends are!"

He discovered he had a lot of good friends.

Finally David recorded what he calls a Postscript. He thanks all the people who have thanked him - and speaks directly to young people who have been sending comments. "You'll be okay...you will start to believe in yourself..."

This wonderful sequence of videos makes me wish that more elders of all sexual orientations would record their stories. David is saying very much the same sort of thing as the folks who recently responded to bullying of gay teens by recording "it gets better" messages.

Even though these times are hard and sometimes frightening, I suspect that most readers here can agree that we've more and more lived into the solid essence of ourselves as we age. We've got life wisdom to share with younger folks. Maybe we should record more of it.


At The Elder Storytelling Place today, William Weatherstone: Alzheimer's - Our Final Chapter?


The Last Magnificent Movie Queen

The worst part of being sick with a cold is that my brain stops working. And although my body keeps saying, sleep, sleep – sometimes you just gotta get out of bed for awhile.

Certainly you know by now that Elizabeth Taylor died yesterday. Huh. How odd that feels. I don't remember a time when she wasn't part of the American zeitgeist. Well, maybe not much in the last decade but for me, born in 1941, all my life she was a larger-than-life, celebrity presence regularly popping up with a new film, a new life-threatening illness, a new husband, a new jewel fit for a caliph or a new scandal.

For pure entertainment value, I miss that. We live in time now when there are no standards and therefore no scandals so it is not in the least shocking when an actor drugs himself into a stupor or a politician is caught with his pants down.

That's no fun. Today's celebrities can't wait to confess every dirty detail of their sins to Oprah and there is nothing left for those of us in the bleachers to imagine; they all sound like any ordinary family with a son or daughter in trouble. To be a real star requires some distance. Elizabeth Taylor understood that.

I liked gossip better in Taylor's (and our) heyday when there was still a modicum of mystery. Is she, do you think, the last of the great, gorgeous movie queens, the ones who wore magnificent, stunning gowns in public instead of raw meat?

And let us not forget that when the AIDS epidemic was new, she was first among her peers to speak up and then to follow through, raising millions of dollars over the years in support of patients and for research.

Rest in peace, Elizabeth. You gave us a rollicking good time, plenty of glamour and some good films too.

[Okay, that's all I can manage today and now it's back to bed to nurse this cold. Thank you for your sympathy and virtual chicken soup. It is most appreciated.]


At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Jeanne Waite Follett: Bob, The Night Visitor


Down with a Cold

category_bug_journal2.gif I'm sure I've mentioned this before but just because I feel sick and whiny: when I was kid and had a cold, my mother handed me a couple of extra handkerchiefs and sent me to school. Aside from the annoyance of a constantly runny nose, I felt fine.

Old age changes that – at least for me. Although years can go by between colds, during the past decade or so, when I do get one it feels like a flu – achy, tired and just plain miserable.

I'm too fuzzy-brained to think so today's post a place holder - something to link to today's Elder Story. Now I'm going to crawl back into bed and feel sorry for myself.


At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Vicki E. Jones: I'm Going to Let My Hair Go Gray


The War on Elders (and Everybody Else) – Part 1 of ?

It's been an exhausting few weeks: the earthquake in Japan, a new U.S. military venture in Libya, the ongoing demonstrations and fighting in almost every middle eastern country, the ominous silence from Israel, the crucial protests in Wisconsin, Michigan, Indiana and several other states and the stepped-up budget attacks from government and corporate elites on Social Security and Medicare. Have I left out anything big?

President Obama has decamped to Latin America and Congress is in recess so maybe they can't do too much damage for awhile. It's a good time to step back and survey the big picture.

Since its inception about eight years ago, this blog has been concerned with the lives of elder issues large and small. I try to have some fun with it while lobbying for better treatment of old people, passing on practical information, addressing the difficult issues of illness and mortality and above all, adhering to Time Goes By's bedrock principle: contrary to what western culture generally tells us, there is nothing wrong with being old.

When, in these pages, I have indulged my second passion – politics – I have sometimes felt guilty about straying from the blog's purpose. Now I have come to see that in our politics, everyone of every age is at risk.

We are not supposed to say so (“all men are created equal” and blah, blah, blah) but I am sure you have noticed that there is a class war going on in the United States. Actually, it is global.

Here, it started the moment the New Deal was in place. That era's oligarchy had lost their battle against President Roosevelt's progressive legislation, but by steady increments since then, they have just about won the war now.

Over the years, the elites have used many tactics and strategies to steal all the wealth of the nation. One is the classic, divide and conquer. Let's look at that as it is applied to a crucial elder issue: Social Security.

I noticed it for the umpteenth time yesterday in an Op-Ed in The New York Times by a 24-year-old complaining about the lack of jobs and opportunity for his age group of recent graduates [emphasis is mine]:

”I fear that the young will bear the brunt of the pain:” he wrote, “taxes on workers will be raised and spending on education will be cut while mortgage subsidies and entitlements for the elderly are untouchable.

You and I know, of course, that “untouchable” no longer holds, but so deeply held is this belief among the young (old people benefit to the detriment of youth) that in the context of the young man's entire essay, his elder smackdown hardly stands out.

Why do the young believe this? Because it has been an argument repeated by the right for several decades in their ongoing offensive against Social Security and Medicare – an unrelenting propaganda machine pounding out the notion of “greedy geezers.”

That doesn't absolve a 24-year-old from doing his homework to find out how Social Security actually works but in his defense, colleges have dumbed down their courses for the past two generations and grade inflation has been flagrant for as long. So we cannot expect much critical thinking from our expensively “educated” youth.

The result, however, is an army of young people out to cut grandma's and grandpa's “entitlements” at the behest of an obscenely wealthy elite that is no more interested in the well-being of the young than they are in the current crop of “greedy geezers.”

What the young Op-Ed writer and his cohorts do not realize is that in blaming elders (instead of the wealthy elite) for their economic predicament, they deeply endanger their own futures.

How can it be otherwise? Salaries have been stagnant for more than a decade and there is no reason to believe that will change. Private pensions have been disappearing for even longer.

Any 401(k)s and IRAs that have recovered their value from the 2008 crash will be decimated again in the next crashes – certain to happen once or twice or more again over the next 40 years until the time that young man is ready to retire.

And who is to say he can even contribute to those programs. With low, flat salaries, huge college loans to repay, children to educate at astronomical tuitions, food and energy prices that are sure to rise dramatically in coming years, not to mention the cost of health care that unless we enact Medicare for All (doubtful), will be – already is - beyond the financial reach of most people.

So cuts or elimination of our “entitlements,” which many young people are convinced are necessary, will – if successful - doom their generations to an even more impoverished old age than so many of our own live with now.

The war on elders is also a war on youth - on everybody. More about all this tomorrow.


At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Johna Ferguson: Mycology


The New Telephone Culture

One of the most dramatic cultural changes in the lifetimes of those who read this blog is the fading of the telephone from our lives – at least for its original intended use.

I had been thinking about how little I use it these days when, yesterday, in The New York Times, Pamela Paul reported how the phone has fallen into disuse as a voice instrument:

“It’s at the point where when the phone does ring — and it’s not my mom, dad, husband or baby sitter,” she writes, “my first thought is: 'What’s happened?' 'What’s wrong?' My second thought is: 'Isn’t it weird to just call like that? Out of the blue? With no emailed warning?'”

She had me hooked right there because I've had precisely that thought on the rare occasion my phone rings.

It used to be so much simpler. When I lived here in Portland, Oregon, as a kid, our telephone number was FIllmore 2039 – just six digits. When we moved to Marin County in 1956, there were not even dial phones. To speak with anyone – in town or across the country - I picked up the receiver, an operator asked for the number I wanted and she connected us.

How quaint. When I was talking at teenage length with a girlfriend in those days, I remember my mother hounding me to get off the telephone so she could use it. Phones and teenagers – then and for many decades following – were a big bone of contention in families.

Today, each family member has his and her own cell phone but we hardly speak with one another.

Skipping over the many years when all professional business was conducted by telephone and I spent many long hours keeping up with friends by phone, nowadays there are only half a dozen people I call without first arranging an appointment to do so via email.

No one told me this is the new telephone etiquette; it just kind of fell into place over the past few years. In Ms. Paul's Times story, Miss Manners says we have finally caught up with her point of view:

“'Thank you for noticing something that millions of people have failed to notice since the invention of the telephone until just now,' Judith Martin, a k a Miss Manners, said by way of opening our phone conversation.

“'I’ve been hammering away at this for decades. The telephone has a very rude propensity to interrupt people.'”

I see her point and I seem to recall sometimes being irritated with the ringing telephone but my long-distance friendships thrived on lengthy phone conversations. There is also a lot to be said for near daily phone calls with closest friends even when we live in the same cities. I kind of miss that.

Even so, cell phones – mine, anyway – are so irritating that I'm almost grateful few people call. The damned clock is always 11 minutes behind real time, voice mail notification is often a day late and the phone is rarely in the room where I am when it rings.

(Actually, I blame that last item on women's clothing designers. If you can find a pair of pants in the color, style and fabric you want that also fits, there are no pockets.)

Most people use their phones now almost exclusively for texting, email, web surfing and games. Not me.

I don't have anything to say to anyone in a text message that I would bother using that teeny, slow keyboard. I don't need to check email so frequently that it can't wait until I get to my laptop. I don't want to read websites on a miniature screen and in general, computer games don't interest me.

Maybe it's a case of getting old and not keeping up. So be it.


At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Mickey Rogers: Music


ELDER MUSIC: On Charlie Christian's Shoulders

PeterTibbles75x75You never know who you're going to meet on the internet and I came to know Peter Tibbles (bio here) via email over the past couple of years. His extensive knowledge of most genres of music and his excellent taste became apparent only gradually (Peter's not one to toot his horn) but once I understood, I knew he needed his own column at Time Goes By - or, better, that TGB needed his column - which appears here each Sunday. You can find previous Elder Music columns here.


I've done a couple of columns on guitarists I particularly like – that's the guitarists I like, not necessarily the columns. Now Norma, The Assistant Musicologist, has decided to do one too.

Hers, unlike mine, is a thoughtful, well-structured enterprise - not like my random collection. In the way of these things, she's selected the tracks and I'm to write the column. I'm not completely on my own today as the A.M. has made some notes, so it's sort of a joint effort.

She writes: Today's title is from a comment about how much influence Charlie Christian has had, directly or indirectly, on later guitarists who are "standing on Charlie Christian's shoulders". But we also have to give credit to a couple of other significant guitarists.

Charlie Christian wasn't the first guitarist to use amplification or to play as a lead instrument, but he did play in a new style which influenced so many later guitarists across jazz, blues and R&B.

However, in the best tradition of making a sweeping generalisation and then stepping sideways and back a couple of years, we'll start with another influential guitarist – the immortal Django Reinhardt.

Django Reinhardt

Across the Atlantic (well across the Atlantic from you, not us), Django had added jazz to his gypsy musical roots and His Quintet de Hot Club de Paris was playing up a storm in that city.

After a caravan fire left the young Django with a badly crippled left hand, he developed a new playing technique to compensate. And that is what we'll hear with Stéphane Grappelly on violin (Stéphane changed the spelling to Grappelli somewhere along the line).

Django died in 1953, at only 43, but Stéphane was still performing into his eighties. Here they are playing H.C.Q. Strut.

♫ Django Reinhardt - H.C.Q. Strut

Now back to the brief and brilliant career of Charlie Christian.

Charlie Christian

He had been playing around the clubs in Oklahoma, etc. before John Hammond was told about him and arranged an audition with Benny Goodman. Apparently Benny was not interested in even hearing this scruffy-looking character play – he could be a bit snooty, the old Ben – but one of the band slipped Charlie onto the bandstand during a break, and the rest, as they say, is history.

Sadly, a short history, as Charlie only played professionally for five years before succumbing to tuberculosis and hard living at only 24.

On this track, Breakfast Feud, that's Count Basie on the piano.

♫ Charlie Christian - Breakfast Feud

Charlie's influence can be heard in the playing of Barney Kessel.

Barney Kessel

Barney played with Charlie who encouraged Barney to go to Los Angeles. Charlie played considerably louder than Barney and when he mentioned this, Charlie said that he liked to hear himself.

Sounds like the start of the volume war that has gone right over the top with rock guitarists.

Barney is an actual Okie from Muskogee but he was a member of many prominent jazz groups in his early days, including the Oscar Peterson Trio and Artie Shaw's group. He was also a session man of note, particularly as part of Phil Spector's "Wrecking Crew" who performed on many hits in the Sixties.

In the 1970s and 1980s, Barney, Charlie Byrd and Herb Ellis formed the touring group, The Great Guitars, that performed jazz standards. Here he is on a Lester Young track during his time with Oscar Peterson, Back Home Again in Indiana.

Okay, there's not a great deal of Barney on the track, but it is typical of his sound and the A.M. likes it.

♫ Lester Young - Back Home in Indiana

Another of Charlie's obvious disciples is Herb Ellis.

Herb Ellis
Photo: Vernon Hyde

Herb was born and bred in the suburbs of Dallas and he took up the guitar after hearing various artists on the radio. He majored in music as a bass player as there were no programs for guitarists at the time. After that he had many jobs in various groups and orchestras, including, as with Barney, Oscar Peterson.

He was also another session musician most notably in the house band of Norman Granz's Verve Records where he played with Ben Webster, Stan Getz, Dizzy Gillespie, Buddy Rich and many more. He was in the band of the duet albums of Ella Fitzgerald and Louis Armstrong. He toured with Ella for some time.

As mentioned in the previous paragraph, Herb often teamed with other guitarists. Here he is with Joe Pass. Boy, they sure play a lot of notes on this track. Not as many as Albert Lee (or Alvin Lee either), but a lot.

This is Seven Come Eleven (a Goodman-Christian tune).

♫ Herb Ellis & Joe Pass - Seven Come Eleven

George Benson is probably the current player whose debt to Charlie is most obvious in his playing.

George Benson

George has said that Charlie was his biggest influence and he recalls having seen Charlie when he was a lad. George was the lad, not Charlie. There are also some elements of Django in his playing.

George is from Pittsburgh and started out playing the ukulele on the streets there to earn some loose scratch. At age eight, he was already playing guitar in the local clubs (that were often shut down by the police).

After finishing school, he continued his guitar playing in various jazz groups around town. Eventually he was discovered and he recorded a number of albums. He even recorded with the master, Miles Davis. Then came Breezin and everything changed.

This is George with Myna Bird Blues.

♫ George Benson - Myna Bird Blues

Kenny Burrell is from Detroit.

Kenny Burrell

He has said that his major influences were Charlie Christian, Django Reinhardt and Wes Montgomery. So, we have two of our shoulders here today. I'm surprised the A.M. left Wes off her list. Maybe she's keeping him for another day.

Kenny's recording debut was with Dizzy Gillespie and he's yet another guitarist who has been in Oscar Peterson's group. He's known more as a side-man than a leader but his own music is certainly worth a listen. This is one of them, Midnight Blue.

♫ Kenny Burrell - Midnight Blue

T-Bone Walker is our third influential guitarist after Django and Charlie. Best known as an R&B performer, he also spent time in swing bands so there are some jazz influences in his style.

T-Bone was a few years older than Charlie; indeed, he arranged for Charlie to take over his position when he left for Los Angeles.

T-Bone Walker

Aaron Thibeaux Walker was born in Linden, Texas, to a couple of musicians. He learned his craft on the streets of Dallas and Blind Lemon Jefferson, who was a family friend, would often drop in and teach T-Bone a thing or two about performing.

T-Bone always made it a policy to perform with the best musicians. At the suggestion of Lemon, he went to Los Angeles where, in the late forties, he recorded most of his finest works. Later great guitarists like Chuck Berry and Jimi Hendrix name him as their main influence.

This is probably his most famous track, which he recorded in the forties, Stormy Monday.

♫ T-Bone Walker - Stormy Monday

Stuff were a band from New York who were active in the late seventies and the eighties. They could best be described as jazz-funk, a term that might put your teeth on edge but I can't think of a better description.

The main man in this group was yet another Texan guitarist, Cornell Dupree, who cites T-Bone as a major influence.

Cornell Dupree

Before Stuff, and after, he was mostly known as a session musician and has played with Donny Hathaway, Aretha Franklin, King Curtis, Miles Davis, Lena Horne, Archie Shepp, Brook Benton and so many others. This is Cornell with Stuff playing Looking for the Juice.

♫ Stuff - Looking for the Juice

And to wind up today, who else but, arguably, the finest guitarist of them all. What can I say about B.B. King? Well, a hell of a lot, but most of it would be known by regular readers.

A lifelong student of music, he's absorbed many influences, but made the music his own.

B.B. King

So, I'll just introduce his tune, appropriately named, Blues Boy's Tune.

♫ BB King - Blues Boys Tune


INTERESTING STUFF – 19 March 2011

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

You are all encouraged to submit items for inclusion. Just click “Contact” in the upper left corner of any Time Goes By page to send them. I'm sorry that I probably 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 have one.


BETTE DAVIS AND HER FAMOUS PILLOW
It always annoys me when people misquote Bette Davis's most famous utterance or mis-attribute it to someone else. Now we have the lady herself holding the pillow on which it was embroidered.

Bette Davis and her Pillow

FURTHER PROOF THAT BILLIONAIRES ARE $%^&*
A good friend overheard a conversation among Wall Street investors last week as one of them made reference to the Japanese earthquake and tsunami:

"Well, I'm back in the city. I had to cut short my family spring break vacation to come back to the office because of this market mess."

BABY ELEPHANTS
This week's Interesting Stuff is heavy on cute animals. Maybe it's that I just need to wallow for a bit in something totally apolitical that no one can complain about.

IT'S NOT OVER IN WISCONSIN
Yesterday, a Wisconsin judge issued a temporary restraining order on the publication of the anti-collective bargaining law that Governor Scott Walker rammed through the legislature while the Democratic member were out of town.

A lawsuit has been filed questioning the legality of the speeded-up vote. You an read more here.

A DOG WORTH $1,623,514?
Or 1 million British pounds. He's a Tibetan mastiff named Hong Dong. Here's what else, according to the Guardian UK writer who has a mighty good sense of humor about this:

A million! What's it made of? It's a dog. It's made of dog.

Age: As a breed, ancient; in dog years, incalculable.

Appearance: Oversized Aslan plush toy, fresh from being washed and dried with a Manchester United jersey.

Funny looking lion: That's because it's a dog.

Red Tibetan Mastiff

Go read the rest of the story – it's really funny.

BMI BASED ON YOUR BOOTY
I'm not kidding. There was a story in my local paper this week about how the size of your booty may be a more accurate measurement of body fat than the traditional body mass index.

Called the Body Adiposity Index (BAI), it is said to be “quite accurate” when compared to the dual energy x-ray absorption method. The formula is rather complicated and must be done in metric, but if you want to try it, you can read more here.

A PENGUIN'S MIGHT LEAP
Some of the people commenting at YouTube think this video is a fake. I have no idea, but it's sure worth a look.

ELDER EMERGENCY ROOMS
The New York Times reported this week about an emerging trend in emergency rooms suited to the needs of elders, like this one is Ann Arbor:

”Handrails line each wall, and a nonskid floor resembling hardwood reduces the risk of falls. Every bed has a thicker, pressure-reducing mattress and can be set to sound an alarm if a patient prone to wandering gets up.

“Room lighting is softer, and the clocks are larger. Each room comes furnished with a walker; patients can request reading glasses or hearing devices.”

Every time I read about improvements with elders in mind, I am struck, without exception, by how the changes would be good for everyone. You can read more about the coming emergency rooms here.

IT'S BEEN A LONG, HARD WINTER
William Weatherstone – The Diesel Gypsy – sent along this photo. If you have trouble reading the sign, it says, “If you have had enough cold and snow, please raise your hand.”

Raise your hands Canada


Your Money Saving Tips

Even though prices for food (particularly produce), energy, clothing and other products have gone up, Social Security recipients are into their second year without a cost-of-living increase in their monthly benefit.

Further, premiums for Supplemental Medicare and Part D (prescription drugs) increase every year with or without a COLA.

The average monthly Social Security benefit is just $1,076 and 25 percent of elders rely on Social Security for 90 percent of their income. For 55 percent, it provides more than half their income. Take a look at this chart:

Social Security Income

So saving money where we can is crucial.

When I was buying my new home in Oregon last year, the previous owner provided electric bills showing an average monthly cost of $108. In the weeks between signing the contract and closing the sale, new vinyl windows (planned and paid for before I agreed to the purchase) were installed throughout the apartment.

So far, based on eight months of electric bills, my monthly average is $57 – a nearly 50 percent drop. It undoubtedly helps that I am fairly fanatical about keeping lights off in rooms I'm not using and I keep the temperature (this place is heated with electricity) at 60 degrees at night, 67 during the day, which is lower than many people want to live with (I wear sweaters.)

Yesterday, I received the monthly newsletter from PGE, the local power company that includes some surprising information:

”Washing dishes in a new Energy Star-qualified dishwasher rather than washing dishes by hand can save $40 per year on utility costs by saving water and energy. They estimate it costs about 9 cents to 12 cents to wash a load — even less when air-drying the dishes.”

That's a surprise – and it applies to my dishwasher which, only two years old, is Energy-Star qualified. Even more surprising is this:

”Running the water for two minutes in the sink can use as much water as a single dishwasher cycle. So any savings you achieve through hand washing may just be running down the drain.”

Unless I have company for dinner, I hand wash all my dishes and I definitely run the water each time for more than two minutes. I certainly have enough dishes to let them pile up in the dishwasher until it's full, so that will be my new procedure.

There is no way to calculate how much power it saves, but I no longer leave appliances like the toaster, blender, rice cooker and electric tea kettle plugged in. It took awhile to remember to unplug them when I'm done, but now it's habit.

For as long as there have been home computers, there has been a running argument about whether to turn them off at night. Some say it can damage the hard drive so it should never be turned off unless rebooting is necessary. Others insist there is no harm. Since there is no consensus, I opt for saving power.

We've discussed money saving tips in the past but I assume we all continue to learn and find new ways to cut expenses. Power saving isn't the only area to consider so the question today is, what are your best money saving tips?


At The Elder Storytelling Place today, William Weatherstone: An Early Experience


President Obama and Social Security

TWO EDITORIAL NOTES: Marie Favre, who lives in Casablanca, Morocco, has added her photo to the Where Elders Blog feature. You can see it here and if you haven't done so, you can submit a picture of your own blogging space. Instructions are here.

Pissed Grandma Sign Remember this great sign on Monday's post from the protests in Madison? Now we know who she is. Nancy Rathke stopped by Time Goes By yesterday to leave a comment on that post:


"Thanks, I love my sign too!" she wrote. "I tell them 'Grandmas United Can Never Be Defeated.' And now let's make it so!"

category_bug_politics.gif On Tuesday, the right-leaning Washington, D.C. publication, The Hill reported that President Obama's advisers are split on what to do about Social Security and that Obama is being pulled in two directions.

The economic team - Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner, National Economic Council Director Gene Sperling and Sperling’s deputy, Jason Furman among them – want to cut benefits, reports Alexander Bolton in The Hill, quoting an unnamed source.

The political team, led by David Axelrod, David Plouffe and Jim Messina, says the source,

”...would prefer not to be accused of being the party that cuts

Social Security in those ways. Some political people would like to see the president out there defending the program and making the case that it has nothing to do with the deficit.”

Yesterday on his New York Times blog, economist Paul Krugman chimed in on the story:

”So what on earth is going on here?” [he asked].

“All I can think is that Obama advisers are still trapped in the Beltway mindset in which doomsaying about Social Security is regarded as a badge of seriousness, when in fact it’s just a sign of being caught up in the wrong game.

“I wish I trusted the president not to give in to the reported desire of some of his advisers that he immolate himself and his party for no good reason.”

Me too – I wish I trusted the president. What have we gotten from him in a little more than two years?

  • A transfer of untold riches from the citizens to banks and corporations
  • Collapse of housing values, impoverishing millions of non-rich people
  • Refusal to prosecute the perpetrators of this transfer of wealth
  • Continuation of senseless wars at the cost of trillions of dollars and thousands of lives
  • Reduced taxes for the rich
  • Elimination of public unions

And now he will not speak out to assure today's and future elders that he will defend the most successful social program in the history of the United States (probably the world), one the people have paid for from their wages and has nothing to do with the deficit.

Worse, it will not surprise me if the president signs a budget bill that includes those $1.7 billion in Social Security cuts.

Obama entered office at an extraordinary moment in American history when the people of the nation were in dire need, hurting nearly as much as during the 1930s. He could have used his office, his power, his bully pulpit to hold fast against Republicans and tea partiers and thereby have become one of the great presidents.

Instead, he bowed to the wealthy, leaving everyone else to fend for themselves.

No way do I believe that McCain/Palin would have done better. And I don't see a single person on the Republican roster whom I could vote for in 2012, even holding my nose.

That leaves only one recourse: constant, unrelenting protest via phone, email, blog posts, urging friends and relatives to do so too and, when the time comes, showing up for demonstrations in our cities and states.

We are mostly a bunch of grandmas (and grandpas) at this blog and let's take a page from Nancy Rathke's playbook and show everyone that "Grandmas United Can Never Be Defeated.” We simply must ensure that Social Security is there for our children and grandchildren.


At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Jeanne Waite Follett: Identity Crisis as the World Turns


The Slipperiness of Age and Time

category_bug_journal2.gif This isn't a real blog post today – I'm just kind of ruminating on something that's been on my mind, but isn't wildly clear to me yet.

Time's passage is a slippery thing that, I think, gets more interesting as we age.

Remember when you were a little kid and you thought your parents were ancient? They were probably in their thirties then, maybe even their twenties – barely grownups from my current perspective.

When we were learning about – oh, say World War I in school, it seemed to me to be so long ago that it might as well have been the Pleistocene Age.

Recently, however, while reading the stories of Sherlock Holmes that took place at the end of the 1800s, I get so immersed in the ordinary details of daily life in London then – like sending a telegram across town instead of telephoning (or emailing) knowing there would be an answer within an hour or two - that I can easily imagine living in those times.

Long ago isn't so long ago to me anymore. When I was very young, I shook the hand of an old, old man who, when he was a boy, had shaken the hand of Abraham Lincoln. The older I get, the more impressed I am with that event – that there is a direct, physical connection between me and our 16th president.

One of my favorite possessions is the handle of an amphora from the coast of what is now Israel that is 2500 hundred years old. My thumb fits comfortably into the impression of another person's thumb, undoubtedly of the one who crafted the jar that once held olive oil or grain or water.

Isn't that amazing? Another connection to the long ago past that seems a little closer than if I had never touched something so old. Although the food was not all that good, when I lived in New York, I liked to eat occasionally at Fraunces Tavern and imagine George Washington standing in that same room giving his Farewell Address.

Old people are often accused of living in the past. I say “accused” because it is usually said in a pejorative tone of voice. I don't live in the past, but I like playing around in it - to recall a moment from childhood or picture myself wearing a long dress while hailing a horse and carriage in London or wondering who that person was who made the amphora in Judea.

It had been 30 years or so since the end of World War I when I was first studying it - an eon to a 12-year-old. Now I have a cast iron frying pan I bought more than 50 years ago in San Francisco – and I can remember the act of buying it as clearly as if it were yesterday.

I like how slippery time has become for me.


At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Dani Ferguson: Mentors


Help Save Social Security Today

category_bug_politics.gif I know some of you, certainly those outside the U.S., are may be frustrated that I keep banging on about Social Security and I promise we'll do something fun here before the week is out.

But there is also serious business to be conducted in regard to Social Security. If Congress does not reach a budget agreement or another continuing resolution, a government shutdown is looming again (already!) for midnight Friday.

Either way, Social Security is in dire jeopardy. Early last week, I laid out what that means to current recipients, new applicants and those who need to do business with the agency. You can read it here.

Another continuing resolution will hold Social Security administrative funding at 2010 levels. Worse, however, a majority of Senate Republicans last week supported the $1.7 billion in cuts to the program – below 2010 levels - in the budget being argued in Congress and there are indications that it may pass before the Friday deadline.

The National Committee to Preserve Social Security and Medicare (NCPSSM) alerted me to this footage from a hearing on 9 March where SSA head, Michael Astrue (a Bush appointee), testified before the Senate Appropriations subcommittee. Please listen to him carefully:

The biggest threat to Social Security is in Congress and we need to tell those members that they must protect this program from any cuts. The most effective way to do this, I am told by all the people I speak with in Washington, is by telephone.

That is because Congressional offices are required to tally all the calls they get. And of course, the biggest threat to Congress members – keep this is mind particularly for Republicans – is our vote. The NCPSSM has a toll-free number you can use to contact your senators' offices.

800-998-0180

You will hear a short message from the NCPSSM about the proposed cuts to Social Security and then you will be asked to enter your five-digit Zip Code to get to your senators' numbers.

Please do this. It won't take long and if it's easier for you, you can write out your message and read it. It's okay to do that. I've done it myself so that I don't ramble on until I bore the poor aide to death.

Secondly – I've mentioned this before too – Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders, who may be elders' best advocate in Congress, has set up the Defend Social Security Caucus. You don't need to be a Vermont resident to join and you can do that here. Of course, it's free.

While you're at his website, be sure to take his poll about which programs you would be willing to see cut – or not – as a way to reduce the deficit. This helps Sanders and others in Congress in crafting legislation.

I have often asked you to write or phone Congress but the threat to Social Security still exists and like the people who showed up to protest every day for three weeks in Wisconsin no matter what the weather, we need to to keep telling Congress what we want and what we reject.

This is not just for those of us who are current beneficiaries of Social Security. A lot of the people who read Time Goes By – our friends here – will not reach the age of eligibility for another decade and we need to do everything we can so they will have benefits as good as ours.

And don't forget too, that our children and grandchildren will need this program. So please make those phone calls and then come back here and leave a message in the comments about the response you got. That could help encourage others to phone.


At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Lyn Burnstine: Writer's Block


On Wisconsin

Several readers emailed on Saturday asking why I had not mentioned Japan in Interesting Stuff that day. The destruction from the earthquake, tsunami, nuclear meltdown, etc. is almost unfathomable.

The reports are horrifying and heartbreaking, but I did not write about it because I'm pretty sure none of you have missed that news and there is nothing I can add that is helpful.

In addition to watching the Japan news, I spent a lot of time over the weekend following the protests in Wisconsin. This is my favorite tweet:

”If u live in Wisconsin, don't forget 2 set your clock back 50 yrs this weekend”

As you know, in a dubious legislative move, Governor Scott Walker and Republican state senators defeated three weeks of protests along with unanimous polls showing majority support for collective bargaining rights. He signed the bill busting the public worker unions on Friday.

Having lost, you might think the protesters would pack up their signs and go home. But not these Wisconsin folks. They are serious, dedicated and, I hope, a harbinger of what is to come across the U.S. Here's my favorite protest sign:

image

In what police say was the largest gathering yet in Madison on Saturday, 85,000 to 100,000 people massed in the capitol to cheer the “Wisconsin 14,” the Democratic state senators who fled the state to protest the onerous bill. About 50 farmers drove their tractors to town to join the protesters. There were no arrests according to the Wisconsin State Journal:

"'We had 85,000 to 100,000 people, 50 tractors and a donkey, and it all went well from a police perspective,' said Madison Police spokesman Joel DeSpain, who again thanked people for their peaceful exercise of democracy and their patience.”

Actor Tony Shaloub, whose sister who is a teacher in Wisconsin, was there. Another actor, Susan Sarandon, spoke too. One of the Wisconsin 14, state Senator Chris Larson said,

"'Every step of the way they used the process to shut out the public' [and] people will soon be 'trading in rally signs for clipboards.'”

So many right wingers seem always to have their facts wrong (see this from Michele Bachmann), and a lone supporter of the governor and the bill had this to say at Saturday's rally:

"This is not what democracy looks like," Jacobsen said. "Democracy happens in November."

The man seems not to have heard of “freedom of speech...or the right of the people to peaceably assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances” enshrined in the First Amendment.

Redress in Wisconsin is taking the form of legal challenges to the vote on the bill and of recall petitions for the 16 senators eligible for that process. Governor Walker's turn will not come up until he has been in office for 12 months next January.

In another, very smart, protest move, Wisconsin firefighters along with other consumers, made a show of closing their accounts at the M & I Bank which was a large money supporter of Governor Walker's campaign:

“One by one they closed their accounts and withdrew their life savings, totaling approximately $190,000. After the last customer left, the bank quickly closed its doors, just in case the spontaneous 'Move Your Money' moment caught fire.”

Let's hope that good idea does catch fire all across the U.S.

There have been protests in other states already which the news media is mostly ignoring. Here is a map of states with pending legislation that would restrict collective bargaining or affect unions in other ways.

Union_map

Go here for an interactive version of this map with details about activities in each of the red and yellow states.

Wisconsin's moment of real democracy should be an inspiration, a beacon of light, a wakeup call to every one of us. Just look at them all on Saturday (Photo: Michael Sears).

Madison Crowd

We can honor these remarkable people, who kept at it day after day in the freezing cold, by following up in our own states when the time comes. Michael Moore had it right when he appeared at a Madison rally last week:

"America is not broke. Not by a long shot. The country is awash in wealth and cash. It's just that it’s not in your hands. It has been transferred, in the greatest heist in history, from the workers and consumers to the banks and the portfolios of the uber-rich...

“The only thing that's broke is the moral compass of the rulers. And we aim to fix that compass and steer the ship ourselves from now on."

Returning to the subject of the catastrophe in Japan, here is what one of the supporters of the uber-rich, CNBC's Larry Kudlow, said on television Friday when the disaster did not adversely affect the stock markets as some expected:

“The human toll here,” he declared, “looks to be much worse than the economic toll and we can be grateful for that.”

A slip of the tongue? Perhaps only in the sense that these folks are not usually so honest.


At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Steve Kemp: Secrecy


ELDER MUSIC: 1950

PeterTibbles75x75You never know who you're going to meet on the internet and I came to know Peter Tibbles (bio here) via email over the past couple of years. His extensive knowledge of most genres of music and his excellent taste became apparent only gradually (Peter's not one to toot his horn) but once I understood, I knew he needed his own column at Time Goes By - or, better, that TGB needed his column - which appears here each Sunday. You can find previous Elder Music columns here.


I'm starting an experiment today, a series featuring the music of a particular year. There will be ten of these, the years from 1950 through 1959 and the music from those years.

These aren't the Top 10, Top 40 or Top anything, they're just tunes I selected from the year with no apparent logic behind it.

What happened in 1950?

  • Well, I hadn't started school yet.
  • North Korea invaded the south.
  • Peanuts was first published.
  • The great Brinks robbery in Boston.
  • Australia won the Davis Cup (again).
  • George Bernard Shaw died.

As a mathematician, I know that 1950 was actually the final year of the Forties but I've pretty much bowed to the inevitable and common usage and say that here's where the Fifties begin.

Musically, the Fifties probably didn't really begin until 1956 (and ended around 1963) but I won't go with that argument. Let's just play some music.

The legend is that Carol Reed, the movie director, was in Vienna filming his masterpiece, The Third Man, and came across Anton Karas playing in a club. He hired him on the spot to perform the music for his film.

Anton Karas

This isn't quite the way it happened. Filming had finished and Carol and the rest of the crew were at a post-production party and Anton was playing at the gig. The rest of the story is pretty much the same.

Initially, he was hired merely to play over the opening credits but Carol decided to use him throughout the film. He kept him at it for three months working 12 to 15 hours a day. He was a bit of a taskmaster was the old Carol.

It paid off in the end with one of the most recognisable scores for the best film ever made. Anton Karas with The Third Man Theme played on a zither.

♫ Anton Karas - The Third Man Theme

Guy Mitchell could be considered the first major artist whose career was crafted in the recording studio. Before that, singers had to make it big singing with bands, going on the road and so on.

Guy Mitchell

I don't know if that is a positive or negative thing but Guy recorded some of the most enjoyable songs of the Fifties. There are a couple of negatives though - covering some of Marty Robbins' songs and selling more than Marty's (superior) versions.

However, there were a lot of songs he made his own. All that said, I really like Guy Mitchell. This is one of his earliest songs, My Heart Cries for You.

♫ Guy Mitchell - My Heart Cries for You

Frankie Laine, along with several other artists, feature several times in this series.

Frankie Laine

Born Francesco LoVecchio in Chicago, Frankie could sing in any style - country, of course, gospel, folk, rock & roll, popular standards. However, he considered himself a jazz singer, a style that's not usually associated with him.

He started recording in the mid-Forties and was rather a trail blazer for such artists as Johnnie Ray and Tony Bennett. He had many hits in the Fifties; this is just one of them, The Cry of the Wild Goose.

♫ Frankie Laine - The Cry of the Wild Goose

Nat King Cole is another artist who will be featured a bit in these columns.

Nat King Cole

Nat needs no introduction to anyone who is likely to read this column (unless you show it to your grandchildren, something I won’t do as I don’t have any). I’ll just talk about the song, Mona Lisa.

I was surprised to learn that this was a song from a film (Captain Carey, USA, about which I know nothing) and the song won an Academy Award. It also spent eight weeks as number 1 on Billboard. Well, it certainly deserved to do that.

Since then many people have recorded it. The ones I like are the Neville Brothers and a rockabilly version by Conway Twitty. Today we’re talking about Nat, though.

♫ Nat King Cole - Mona Lisa

Hank Williams was one of the greatest songwriters of the twentieth century. He pretty much invented modern country music, although you may not be able to tell that from all those hat acts that are prevalent in the genre.

Hank Williams

He was yet another of the live fast, die young crowd; he was only 29 when he died in the back seat of his Cadillac. Although they make a big deal of him now, when he was alive, the Grand Ole Opry really didn't want anything to do with him. He was too much of an individual and they couldn't control him.

Also booze and drugs had a bearing on that as well. Nonetheless, we are indebted to him for his fine songs and the recordings he left behind. This is one of them, Long Gone Lonesome Blues.

♫ Hank Williams - Long Gone Lonesome Blues

Nearly 50 years after her death, Édith Piaf remains the singer against whom every other French singer is judged. Naturally, they all come up wanting.

Edith Piaf

Édith was born Édith Gassion in Paris. Her parents abandoned her as a young girl and she lived for a time with her grandmother. She re-established contact with her father as a teenager and she sang with him as he performed as an acrobat on the streets.

Édith was discovered singing in those streets by a nightclub owner. It was singing there that she was discovered once again, this time by a record producer.

She led an extraordinary, interesting but extremely taxing life and there was far too much to mention here. Her songs became world-wide hits and this is one of them, La Vie en Rose.

♫ Edith Piaf - La Vie en Rose

For some reason The Weavers used an orchestra (conducted by Gordon Jenkins) for some of their songs this year rather than rely on their own playing.

The Weavers

I guess it worked as several of these songs topped the charts in spite of the obstacles put in their way. You probably know what they were but I expand on this a little in 1951, coming shortly to a computer near you.

The song is Goodnight Irene, a folk standard but it's often attributed to Leadbelly (Huddie Ledbetter) as he was the first to record it and also changed the words a bit, naturally.

Here are The Weavers in full orchestral mode with the song.

♫ The Weavers - Goodnight Irene

Hank Snow or Clarence to his folks was born in Nova Scotia, Canada. He ran away from home when he was 12 as his stepfather was a vicious tyrant.

Hank Snow

He joined a fishing boat as a cabin boy, bought a guitar and learned to play. In his teens he'd gig around the clubs and bars in Halifax. A successful radio spot got him a record deal in Montreal and on the basis of this, he started touring Canada and the country to its immediate south.

Hank settled in Nashville and became a successful singer. He was the man who persuaded the conservative folks at the Grand Ole Opry that they should allow a young singer named Elvis Presley to appear.

This is the song I remember Hank for, I'm Moving On.

♫ Hank Snow - I'm Moving On

As in every year, and particularly in the Fifties, there was certainly some rubbish around. This is today's piece, it's by Eileen Barton.

Eileen Barton

The daughter of vaudeville artists, she made her stage debut at age two-and-a-half in her parents' act. She was a child star appearing regularly on radio by the age of six. She had her own radio program when she was eight.

As an adult, Eileen had a number of minor hits but there is only one song for which she is remembered. The song apparently is "humorous"; I've also seen it described as "apostrophic.” A little ditty called (If I Knew You Were Comin') I'd've Baked a Cake.

♫ Eileen Barton - (If I Knew You Were Comin') I'd've Baked a Cake

The Ames Brothers were Joe, Gene, Vic and Ed Urick. They originally called themselves The Amory Brothers after Vic's middle name. This was shortened to Ames when they started performing for real.

The Ames Brothers

They were from Massachusetts and their parents brought them up listening to classical music and opera. They also read Shakespeare and other great works of literature to them and the other five kids in the family.

The boys won some talent contests and that led them a job in Boston. They were heard by a record producer and he signed them. Their first record was a smash and it's the one we have today, Rag Mop.

♫ The Ames Brothers - Rag Mop

In past columns, I have already used some of the songs from this year. If you'd like to hear more you can find them here: Patti Page – Tennessee Waltz and Guy Mitchell – The Roving Kind.

1951 will appear in two weeks' time.


INTERESTING STUFF: 12 March 2011

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

You are all encouraged to submit items for inclusion. Just click “Contact” in the upper left corner of any Time Goes By page to send them. I'm sorry that I probably 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 have one.


ORGANIZING THE BOOKSHELVES
As a commenter at YouTube said, this video maker has way too much time on his hands, but it's still a fascinating video. Keep your eye on the clock.

(Speaking of clocks, U.S. readers, don't forget to move your clocks ahead one hour tonight.)

THE FACE OF 7 BILLION
In its current issue, National Geographic magazine did a fascinating thing. It created the face of the most “typical person” on planet Earth who is – a 28-year-old Han Chinese male.

Face of 7 billion

This composite is made of 7,000 individual photographs, each representing one million of the seven billion worldwide population. You can see the full-size image here where you can also zoom in on it to see those individual photos.

MUBARAK'S EXTREME SUIT
Hosni Mubarak is gone from Egypt, but I'm pretty sure his “pin-striped” suit will live on as a unique example of a dictator's wretched excess.

Gonna run right out and get me one of those: RonniBennettRonniBennettRonniBennett

MORE WRETCHED EXCESS
This is hardly in Mubarak's league, but I was surprised when an advertisement for these flip-flops dropped in my inbox this week.

FlipFlop

They appear to be ordinary flip-flops with, according to the copy, “synthetic upper, man-made sole and rubber 'outsole'” but the price was the shocker: $30.

Maybe it is the name the manufacturer attaches to them, Cabo, that accounts for the sticker shock. I saw a similar pair at Rite-Aid recently for three bucks.

A PASSEL OF PANDAS
All right – all baby animals are cute, but this group of six or eight (I lost count) of roly-poly, baby pandas at play is irresistible. Have fun.

CATS LOVE US, THEY REALLY LOVE US
I cannot guess why anyone would spend money on research like this, but according to a report at DiscoveryNews,

“Cats attach to humans, and particularly women, as social partners, and it's not just for the sake of obtaining food...”

“The researchers determined that cats and their owners strongly influenced each other, such that they were each often controlling the other's behaviors.

“Extroverted women with young, active cats enjoyed the greatest synchronicity, with cats in these relationships only having to use subtle cues, such as a single upright tail move, to signal desire for friendly contact.”

I'm pretty sure any of us cat owners could have told the researchers this for free, but if you want to know more, you can find it here.

U.S. QUALITY OF LIFE MAP
The New York Times often delivers some excellent, informative, interactive graphics. They recently published a map with 20 quality-of-life points such as job satisfaction, diabetes, nighttime safety, learning, stress. This is the obesity distribution map.

Obesity Map

At the website, you can zoom into each of the 20 data points to the Congressional district level. Give it a try.

I AM SPEECHLESS WITH RAGE
Normally, I don't include anything as serious as this in these Saturday posts, but I cannot get this story and the video below out of my head. I did not know that 31 states outlaw abortion after 20 weeks of pregnancy. Nebraska is one of them and others are considering the same ban.

Late last year, Nebraska resident Danielle Deaver was told by her physicians that her 23-week-old fetus could not live:

“Her water broke early and, without amniotic fluid, the fetus would not develop lungs to survive outside the womb.”

Ms. Deaver and her husband made what I believe was the only reasonable decision – to end the pregnancy. But Nebraska law denied them because her physician would

“'...face criminal charges, jail time, and lose his medical license.' Her doctors told her 'she’d just have to wait.' So she did, in 'torture,' and gave birth to Elizabeth at 3PM, watched her gasp for breath, and then watched her die at 3:15PM on December 8, 2010.”

You can read the entire story here, but even though it is 12 minutes long, I urge you to watch this video of Ms. Deaver and her husband relating their horrible experience to the Des Moines Register.

It is unthinkable to me that this happens, but it does when religious zealots have control.