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The TGB Interview: BETTY WHITE

Category_bug_interview About 25 years ago, when I was working on The Barbara Walters Specials, we interviewed actor Betty White at her home in Los Angeles. The first thing you notice is that needlepoint is everywhere – pillows, cushions, seat covers, wall hangings – all of it Betty's doing.

Since then, I've often repeated to friends a favorite moment from that interview:

Regularly, at the end of their workdays, Betty and her husband, Allen Ludden, relaxed with their favorite drink, vodka on the rocks with lemon, while Betty worked on a needlepoint project and they discussed what had happened at their respective television shows that day.

As Allen told an interviewer and Betty told us, one evening he looked around the room and, struck by the multitude of accumulated needlepoint, thought, “My god, we must drink a lot.”

Jacket Art - IF YOU ASK ME.C Kwaku Alston.design by Lisa Amorososmall On Tuesday this week, I spent some time on the telephone with Betty White. She has recently published a new memoir, If You Ask Me (And of Course You Won't), that is, like Betty herself, funny and wise and wonderful.

In preparation for the interview, I watched several of her recent television interviews during which she often warmly recalls her life with Allen Ludden who died in 1981. I asked if she marks the day each year, 10 June, that would have been their wedding anniversary.

”Yes, I celebrate quietly with myself. Allen is never far away. It's been 30 years since he died and he is still so prevalent in my home and in my life.”

The death of a wife or husband is a life crisis many people face in later years so I wanted to know what she has learned that might help others to get through it.

”I get a lot of fan letters with this question; it's one I always answer,” said Betty. “'You've been there, how did you manage?' they ask. There's no formula. Keep busy with your work and your life. You can't become a professional mourner. It doesn't help you or others. Keep the person in your heart all the time. Replay the good times. Be grateful for the years you had.”

You undoubtedly know that Betty has starred in a winning string of hit television shows throughout her more than 60 professional years. I'm sure a lot of TGB readers are old enough to remember Life With Elizabeth in the 1950s.

There have also been her bawdy role as the neighborhood nymphomaniac, Sue Ann Nivens, on The Mary Tyler Moore Show; the naïve Rose on the now-classic Golden Girls; and on her latest, the pot-smoking Elka in Hot in Cleveland. This is from the premier episode two seasons ago.

Many television actors rely on cue cards, but Betty has always memorized her scripts except, when she hosted Saturday Night Live (for which she won an Emmy in 2010), that wasn't possible:

”I can't stand cue cards,” said Betty. “People are always looking slightly off from the person they are talking to. But there are so many skits that are always changing during the week of rehearsals that I can't memorize them on Saturday Night Life. It drives me crazy.

“But they have a wonderful cue card man, Wally, who told me – if I'm with Tina Fey, for example – to look just over her head at him. 'Don't look at Tina and your eyes won't move and you'll be fine,' he said. 'Trust me.' I did, and it made all the difference.”

On other shows, she memorizes, and perhaps this helps: “I do a lot of crossword puzzles,” Betty told me. “I'm an addict. It keeps your mind limber.”

Betty has boatload of awards stretching back to her shows at the beginning of the television era. I asked if there are favorites among them.

”I really loved the Emmys from The Mary Tyler Moore Show. I got the first Emmy on Golden Girls and I thought the first should have gone to Bea Arthur. I don't think there was any way to single out one of us. It was awkward.”

In January, the Screen Actors Guild gave Betty their Lifetime Achievement Award. Her acceptance speech stole the show - heartfelt, funny and a little bawdy. In other words, quintessential Betty White:

For more than 40 years, Betty has been an animal activist, working with the Los Angeles Zoo, the Morris Animal Foundation and other organizations, so you can't talk with Betty White without talking animals.

I was intrigued to read in her book – and jealous too – that she is friends with Koko, the famous chimpanzee who has a vocabulary of more than 2,000 words.

”Oh, my beloved Koko. I've visited her several times. What a lady she is," Betty said. "She named me Lipstick. She rubs her fingers across her lips and her trainer explained that is her sign for lipstick. She doesn't have many visitors who wear lipstick.”

Betty has talked about how elephants – or, at least, the ones she knows personally – like to have their tongues slapped.

Because I'm a patron of the [Los Angeles] zoo, I have backstage privileges with 'contact elephants.' I go walking with my buddy Gita and the keeper. No chains. No nothing. We all just walk around the whole zoo together.

“I say, 'Trunk up, Gita,' and when I slap her tongue, [it's like Gita is saying], 'Oh, she speaks my language' or...'Oh, are you from the same small town I'm from.'”

Betty will be 90 next January and is obviously way too busy to think much or be frightened about death. I asked her to repeat what her mother had told her about dying.

”That is the most comforting thing...I'm not looking forward to death; it's important to live while we are here. But those who have died, my mother said, now they know the secret. And someday we all will.”

“Now they know the secret.” I'm tucking that away in a special memory drawer to pull out when I want to think about it from time to time.

As we wound up our conversation, she recalled that The Barbara Walters Special I'd worked on so long ago had been scheduled to be broadcast at Christmas time.

”So your crew brought in some beautiful logs for the gas fireplace that would be seen on camera burning in the background. They're still there 25 years later,” Betty told me. “I tell friends they are the Barbara Walters logs.”

In any medium - on the telephone, in her television appearances and in her charming, funny memoir - Betty White is a delight, nothing less than a national treasure. Speaking with her is a lot like spending time with an old friend you haven't seen in awhile; you feel like you've always known her.

Best of all, she's is a fantastic ambassador to the world for elderhood.


At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Terry Hamburg: Europe on $5 a Day


GAY AND GRAY: When It's the Parents Who Grow Up and Come Out

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.]


When I heard an interview by NPR's Terry Gross with filmmaker Mike Mills about his new film Beginners, I knew I'd run across a topic for this month's column.

This movie - still in quite wide theatrical distribution - is the charming story of an early middle-aged man (Oliver) whose 75 year old father (Hal) bursts out of the closet after the death of Oliver's mother.

The son always knew there was something a little off about his parents' 44 year marriage. Now he watches Hal, played by Christopher Plummer, blossom within a new circle of gay friends. Getting to know each other anew is not always a smooth process and Oliver has plenty of his own difficulties achieving an intimate relationship - hence the film's name.

The father soon develops cancer and eventually succumbs surrounded by his gay buddies. Viewers are left to wonder whether the son can engage in more complete relationships than the father achieved during most of his life.

Apparently the story of Hal closely parallels Mike Mill's actual experience. He told Terry Gross both how truthful that aspect of the script is and how challenging it was to live through.

”... the dad's part, I do like to call it a portrait because I feel like the word 'portrait' sort of implies this subjective nature of it, you know, and it's sort of my version of my dad.

“...so when he came out, it wasn't totally a surprise to me and you know, he was an art historian who wore cravats and bought all my mother's clothes. So on some levels, you know, it's not totally shocking.

“But yeah, wanting to have sex. It's just weird to think of your parent that way...You know, this is a man who sort of defused himself, who tamped down his desires and was very sweet, very kind, very conscientious father but kind of vague and distant.

“And when he came out, it was the beginning of his becoming so much more vivid and hot and like really present, which was all quite often messy but always wonderful.

I found the portrayal of Hal bursting out of the closet extremely believable. The raw joy with which the Plummer character leaps into gay culture is very much how coming out often looks. Within a short time, he is dancing the night away when not earnestly promoting a gay candidate for office and insisting that his son appreciate gay culture.

All that is very sweet. Also all too believable are the scenes in which his gay friends support Hal as he is dying. That generation of gay men has seen a lot of death; they were winnowed by AIDS. They often know how to nurse the sick and how to keep laughing in the midst of pain and inevitable decline.

Developments like New York State's recent legalization of gay marriage probably mean that we're in the last generation in which stories like this - stories of gay parents of either gender coming out to their children - will continue to be lived. As stigma and practical obstacles to our relationships are overcome, there will be fewer heterosexual marriages undertaken by people whose core orientation is to their own sex.

We live today in a moment when such stories are quite commonplace. I've known people in the midst of at least half a dozen of these jarring changes. Sometimes the younger generation takes the gay eruption well, but sometimes it can be terribly painful to envision their parents in such a different way.

What seems to make all the difference is whether the parents are able to reach an amicable, respectful parting and re-orientation. If one of them feels deceived or wronged, it can be awfully hard for their (usually adult) children. If, on the other hand, when there had been honesty throughout the relationship (and I've known a couple of those), the younger generation may be less surprised and more able to welcome the sight of their parents maturing in their full selves.

It's not just kids who "grow up." I believe we're all still at it until the day we die! At least that's how I want to live.

Here's the trailer for Beginners. If you don't enjoy anything else about the movie, I'll wager you like the dog!


At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Joanne Zimmerman: Tissue Issue


A Trip to Ford Motor Company – Part 2

(Part 1 is here.)

At the Forward with Ford 2011 conference I attended in Dearborn last week, one of the hottest topics of conversation among attendees – many of whom were old hands at tech conferences – was how well organized it was. Ford made everything easy.

Cars and buses with color-coordinated signs arrived on time to haul us to and from our sessions. There were plenty of helpers, every one of whom had answers to questions or found the person with the answers.

Breakfast tent

Meals, served in large halls or in a tent, were tasty, healthy and well prepared and although there were speakers at each meal, there was time to get to know some of my seat mates.

And, you know how pictures on hotel room walls usually range from so garish they keep you awake at night to so bland they melt into the walls? This hotel went for Ford history. Much more interesting.

Hotel Photo

In preparing for the conference, my biggest question was this: What are you doing to help keep elders driving safely for more years?

I didn't need to ask. Having noticed that all those baby boomers are gradually entering old age, Ford is developing a multitude of design, safety and infotronics innovations to meet those needs in their cars.

One of their aids is what Ford calls the “third age suit,” much like the AGNES suit the MIT Age Lab invented, so that young designers can know what the physical difficulties of old age are.

Age Suit

AGING SESSION
The session on aging opened with a Q&A hosted by a Ford executive with an “expert” in boomer marketing. Although the questioner gets an A for effort, I've never before heard more generalizations, banalities, psychobabble and misinformation in one 20-minute period of time.

According to the woman, boomers are responsible for everything in the past 60 years including “the Sixties” (hullo – they weren't old enough. The civil rights movement, women's movement and anti-Vietnam War movement leaders were all born in the 1920s and 1930s.)

Inexplicably, three times, maybe four, she referenced disposable diapers as a meaningful boomer gift to the world (ask an environmentalist about that) and according to her, boomers are not going to tolerate the “wasteland of elderhood.”

Wasteland.

Uh-huh.

You will be glad to know that as difficult as it was, I restrained myself from interrupting every 30 seconds to correct her.

I did, however, buttonhole the Ford executive who conducted the interview when the presentation ended explaining that boomer is not a synonym for old and that there are more than 35 million of us who are older than boomers. We buy cars too, but we are nothing like boomers or, at least, nothing like what is attributed to them by the media and uninformed opportunists like this “expert.” (Of course, she had a book to flog.)

I corrected some of her mis-statements and suggested that Ford might benefit from better research about marketing to boomers - and to those of us who are older than they.

He and I had a good conversation and perhaps, since Ford is making many good efforts to develop elder-friendly cars, I was heard.

HEALTH-RELATED TECHNOLOGY
There is a large amount of health-related technology being incorporated into Ford cars that will be of use to anyone, but particularly old people. Here are just a few being developed by Ford with outside partners:

• a multi-rocking seat to keep blood moving during long rides

• a heart-rate monitor built into the seat

• connectivity via Bluetooth for medical devices

• apps to monitor such things as pollen levels and air quality for people with asthma and allergies

• diabetes monitoring

I was surprised to learn that 20 percent of all health dollars are spent on diabetes management, and that some states in the U.S. require physicians to report hypoglycemic events to the Department of Motor Vehicles.

(Which makes me wonder how long it will be until these smart cars automatically report such events. Now there is something – safety notwithstanding - to give one pause in terms of privacy.)

INFOTAINMENT
In addition to health monitoring, there is, or will be soon, a large amount of infotainment through Ford's SYNC technology which was launched in 2007 and continues to expand. There is a three-part “apps ecosystem.”

Sync Slide

Built In to the cars are such services as 911 and vehicle health.

Beamed In are SYNC services such as weather, stock information, hotels, Pandora, horoscopes. etc.

Brought In apps via the driver's iPhone or Android, iPod and other gadgets.

Ford engineers explained that devices change so quickly that their platform is constantly updated. The goal is to make the car always adaptable and upgradable to what is new.

Now you may wonder, as I did, how a driver is expected to keep his or her “eyes on the road, hands on the wheel,” as Ford puts it, with all this activity in the car. That's where advanced voice recognition comes in.

VOICE RECOGNITION
I tried that several years ago with a past cell phone to be able to call by voice. It took way too much training of the phone to know what I was saying, it mostly failed and I've ignored voice recognition since then as not ready for prime time.

That is no longer so.

A Ford voice control engineer, Bridget Richardson, explained that the company's voice recognition system now understands 10,000 commands. What's intriguing about those 10,000 is that many are synonyms so that drivers no longer need to memorize commands.

In the past, for example, if the gas gauge was alarmingly low and you hadn't seen a service station for miles, you would need to say a system-specific word, like “fuel.” If you said “gas” or “petrol,” the software would not recognize what you want.

Now, close to real-life human speech can be used. So you can ask, “Where is the next gas station?” Or “Where can I eat?” In a demonstration of the speech recognition system, several of us asked the same question each in our own way and got the answer we needed. Work continues to further improve voice recognition.

Most important, with so many in-car services, is that drivers can interact with nearly all of them via voice. In one intriguing experiment, engineers tested searching for a particular song on a handheld device and on the Ford SYNC system. It took 50 seconds with the handheld; 4.9 seconds with SYNC.

This post has gotten way too long and I've omitted most of what I learned.

The two days were enlightening and enjoyable. We were kept moving from session to session, but never felt rushed. The Ford helpers, scientists and developers were smart, informative and friendly folks. The conference was extraordinarily well organized and I met a number of interesting people among the attendees.

Well, except for one. At breakfast on the last morning, a woman veered from her path toward me, peered at the name on my credential and said, “You're Ronni Bennett? You and I are enemies,” and stalked off before I could catch her name. I never saw her again so I'm left to wonder indefinitely what I did to her.

The only thing I am sorry about is that there was not time to visit the nearby Henry Ford Museum.

Overwhelmingly, it was a WOW experience. None of what I saw was pie-in-the-sky, someday, Jetson stuff. All of it exists now, is being improved upon and/or will be available soon.

If I have some reservations about all the “fun” apps and entertainment Ford is stuffing into their cars, it is likely because I have never experienced the love affair so many Americans have with driving; I just want to get there.

But millions of people will enjoy them - nothing wrong with that - and I believe the safety and health monitoring advances along with such helpful technology as the park assist I showed you yesterday will help give elders additional years of precious personal freedom we all fear losing.


At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Ralph Lymburner: Filling a Void


A Trip to the Ford Motor Company – Part 1

Last week, at the invitation of Ford Motor Company, I attended a two-day media conference at the company's world headquarters in Dearborn, Michigan.

Billed as Forward with Ford 2011, futurists and trend spotters along with Ford's designers, scientists and product specialists gave us insight into the consumer and development issues the company is working on to meet the needs of the future.

There were about 150 attendees – automotive and eco journalists, technology reporters and influential bloggers of many stripes – for whom Ford covered all travel, accommodation and meal expenses. Aside from hotel tips, I didn't spend a dime.

Cynic that I am about all corporate public relations, I was nevertheless sucked in - happily. What Ford did for two days was show us a lot of fascinating innovation – some currently available in their cars and some still in development – and I learned a lot.

Who knew the company has a smell lab in which they test for and correct offensive odors from components?

Smell Tester

Or that they use the same motion sensing technology as animated film makers to understand how people move within automobiles. (Note the sensors on this guy's head, legs and arms.)

Motion Detector

Or that there is an entire department devoted to studying and developing the sound of horns for different kinds of vehicles which includes, in addition to safety, incorporating cultural influences that inform Ford about the audio preferences of people in different countries.

In an effort to reduce the weight of cars for fuel efficiency and for eco-sustainability, they are also working with soybeans, coconut, hemp and other natural substances to replace or partially replace plastics.

Before this conference, the only thought I'd ever had about car manufacturing was a mental image of someone on an assembly line bolting one part to another. But, of course, that was a personal failure of imagination.

Anyone who reads this blog can easily guess that the session I was most interested in was on aging in relation to cars and I'll tell you about that tomorrow. Today, it's the test track where we got hands-on experience driving cars.

First, the track is enormous – the size of many football fields - and in fact, it once was an airport. Ford uses the control tower to monitor weather for people testing their vehicles.

Control Tower

There were seven demonstrations including some contests for which prizes were awarded – a target challenge, power challenge, an off-road course, an eco-driving challenge and all-season driving skills challenge. Me? I went straight for two others.

The connected car demos were fascinating, showing how sensors can save lives. In the one pictured below, the safety brake technology is able to detect another car, hidden from view, coming too fast toward an intersection and it stops your car soon enough to prevent a collision.

Safety Brake

How many times in your driving life has a car appeared from nowhere and you slammed on the brakes missing a crash by inches and nearly giving you a heart attack in the aftermath. This was amazing demonstration not to mention important and useful technology.

But from the moment I first read about the conference, the one hands-on experience I wanted was the “park assist.”

According to a Ford-sponsored poll, nearly a third of Europeans suffer from “parkophobia” - the nerve-wracking experience of trying to parallel park. I have no doubt that at least an equal number of Americans suffer from it too; I have friends who will park half a mile from where they are going to find diagonal parking.

You have probably seen the television commercials for Ford cars (another manufacturer has a similar feature) in which the car parallel parks by itself. I have watched that commercial a dozen times and did not believe it.

I shouldn't care; it's not even technology I need because one of my (few) weird little talents is that I am a world-class parallel parker. People on sidewalks have actually applauded me for getting into tight spaces in one try.

So I was fascinated to see if the car is as good as I am. Can it do it in one go? Does it park close enough to the curb but not too far away? Does it even itself out between the two cars front and back?

When it was my turn to try out park assist, a Ford videographer – a terrific, interesting man named Mike Wood – asked if I would allow him to record my test drive from the back seat. Well, of course, and here it is:

As I said in the video, is that cool or what. The hard part is keeping your hands off the wheel as it turns itself. The natural, human instinct from all our years of driving is to grab it – the wheel should not be turning on its own. Except that in park assist, it should and must.

Did you notice that I never look behind? This is an excellent elder feature when, in our old age, it sometimes becomes difficult to turn our heads far enough to see behind us.

Tomorrow, I'll tell you more about the conference in general and particularly the session on aging.

Part 2 of this post is here.


At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Jeanne Waite Follett: Ask and Ye Shall Receive – Whatever


ELDER MUSIC: Al Kooper

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.


AL KOOPER was one of the more interesting musicians from the Sixties who, fortunately, is still with us today.

Al Kooper

Alan Kooper (the family name was once Kuperschmidt) was born in Brooklyn in 1944 and grew up in Queens. He was a sideman, a front man, a session musician, a creator of bands, a producer, a discoverer of talent, a songwriter and he played on the most important song recorded in the Sixties.

He styled himself the "Zelig" of popular music as he turned up at all the critical points of its development and fitted in as if born to it (as he probably was).

Al Kooper

Al's first professional gig was with a group called the ROYAL TEENS who had had a hit with the tune Short Shorts.

The group had to tour in the New York area but needed a new guitarist. Al happened to be in the office of their manager that day and said, "What about me?"

He needed his parents' permission as he was only 14 at the time. They gave it with strict provisos, often broken by Al. Hey, he was a teenager. Even though he doesn't play on it, here's Short Shorts.

♫ Royal Teens - Short Shorts

Later, after his stint with the Teens, Al drifted into song-writing in the famous Brill Building. There he met and became friends with Gene Pitney, Burt Bacharach, Paul Simon and others. He also attended college in music programs but these were very formal and it wasn't a success.

He continued writing songs, one of which, This Golden Ring, roared up the charts for Gary Lewis and the Playboys.

Al Kooper

Into 1965. Al was a friend of record producer Tom Wilson who was producing BOB DYLAN's next album. This was definitely the place to be and no one was allowed in without an invitation.

Tom asked Al if he wanted to come along and see what's going on. Naturally, Al accepted as he really wanted to play on that record, but he didn't mention that.

Al arrived early, unpacked his guitar and tuned up, determined to play. Sometime later, Bob walked in with another scruffy looking musician who had a guitar over his shoulder, no case, just exposed to the elements.

This person brushed the snow off the guitar, plugged in and started to play. Al knew immediately he wasn't getting the guitar gig on this record. That went to Michael Bloomfield, for indeed, that's who it was.

At that point, the organist left his instrument and went to play piano. Al took his place. Although he was proficient at the piano, this organ was unfamiliar to him and he had to ask the producer how to turn it on.

When the recording began Al played along on organ as best he could, mostly playing guitar chords. During playback Dylan said, "Turn up the organ."

Tom said, "That's just Al, he's not an organist."

"It doesn't matter, turn it up," was Bob's reply. And a rock organist, later much in demand, was born.

I won't play Like a Rolling Stone, the track I'm talking about, because it's so well known. Instead I'll go for another from around the same time also with Al on organ, a song where Bob lets loose with his razor blade tongue, Positively Fourth Street.

♫ Bob Dylan - Positively 4th Street

After playing at the famous Newport gig and touring briefly with Bob, Al quit as he was getting tired of the extraordinary reaction of the audience to Bob's full on blast of energy. Besides, he was much in demand by then as a session musician.

One of these sessions was for a group called the BLUES PROJECT. After playing with them, he was asked to join. Not too long after that, their lead singer quit and Al was left to perform that duty as well as playing the organ.

The Blues Project was a very influential band but they only recorded one studio album (and several live ones).

The Blues Project

Here's the Project with Wake Me Shake Me.

♫ Blues Project - Wake Me, Shake Me

After the Blues Project's demise, Al decided he'd like to form a full tilt band, not just another rock band but one with horns and such so a full musical color range could be realised. Taking Steve Katz with him from the Project, he formed BLOOD SWEAT AND TEARS.

Blood Sweat and Tears

That first album of theirs, "Child is the Father to the Man," is a particularly interesting listen. The horns aren't as prominent on this album as they were to become later. The track from this is I Can't Quit Her.

♫ Blood Sweat and Tears - I Can't Quit Her

It's probably a rare event that the person who creates a band and is its main guiding light is sacked by the other members of that band after only their first album but that's what happened to Al. The others brought in David Clayton-Thomas to sing lead.

Now Al thought that if jazz musicians could get together and jam and in the process, produce some of the finest albums around, why couldn't great rock musicians do the same? So he contacted his now good friend MICHAEL BLOOMFIELD and suggested it to him.

Mike thought this was a good idea so the spark of "Super Session" was born. With other hand-picked musicians they laid down several tracks that are among the finest examples of rock music ever recorded.

They were set to record again the following day but Mike was nowhere to be seen. He was a chronic insomniac and more than a little dabbler in drugs. The recording time was paid for so Al contacted Steve Stills and he agreed to step in.

The Stills tracks are okay but compared with those of finest white blues/rock guitarist of all time they pale just a little.

Al Kooper

This is Al and Michael with Stop.

♫ Kooper and Bloomfield - Stop

Al and Michael decided to take their show on the road. Well, the road being The Fillmore in San Francisco and the Fillmore East in New York.

The San Francisco gig was recorded and a record released called, "The Live Adventures of Mike Bloomfield and Al Kooper." It had a cover painted by Norman Rockwell and that painting graced the walls at CBS for many years but has mysteriously disappeared.

If anyone knows where it is, Al would like it.

Al Kooper

This was a looser arrangement than "Super Session" and lacked the quality of those tracks. Nevertheless, some good music was produced. Here they are with their slow bluesy take on Paul Simon's 59th Street Bridge Song.

♫ Kooper and Bloomfield - The 59th Street Bridge Song

Al Kooper

The New York performance was recorded as well but it was thought the tapes were lost until quite recently and they have also been released as "The Lost Concert Tapes". As this is similar to the other album I'll skip over it.

About a year after Super Session was released Al recorded a similar album called "Kooper Session.”

Kooper-Session

On this one he had Shuggie Otis playing guitar. Shuggie is R&B great Johnnie Otis's son. Back when I bought the vinyl copy of this and played it, our jaws dropped when we heard Shuggie let rip the guitar solo in the second half of this song.

Not just this track either; his playing throughout the album is exemplary. I have scratched my head wondering why this fine album has never been released on CD (except in Japan).

Since this was recorded, there have been several teenaged guitar prodigies but none has had the impact of Shuggie. He was 15 when this album was made. Here is Lookin' for a Home.

♫ Al Kooper - Lookin' for a Home

After this, Al released a series of albums under his own name, the first, "I Stand Alone," is probably the pick of them. These contained a mixture of his own songs and famous and obscure rhythm & blues tunes.

Al Kooper-Alone

This is the title track from that album, a song he wrote, I Stand Alone.

♫ Al Kooper - I Stand Alone

This leaves the story only half-told. Al continues making music, producing others, discovering talent to this day. I could have included more of his later work but the music he produced in the Sixties and early Seventies is of such quality I thought it had to be included and I've run out of room.

He discovered Lynyrd Skynyrd and produced their first three albums. He's produced albums for many artists including The Tubes, Nils Lofgren, Ray Charles, B.B. King, The Staple Singers, Lorraine Ellison, Bob Dylan and Joe Ely.

Al Kooper


INTERESTING STUFF: 25 June 2011

Category_bug_interestingstuff I'm back from Michigan, had a terrific time and I'll tell you all about it next week. Meanwhile, thank you for such an overflowing response to my request for help with Interesting Stuff this week.

There were so many that I've had to set some aside for possible future use. Here are this week's offerings.


TECHIE MAGIC
At a certain point technology becomes indistinguishable from magic. This video is from Marko Tempest, a man who deliberately exploits the magic. Prepare to be amazed.

Hat tip to Darlene Costner for this, and you can find out more about Marko Tempest at his website, The Virtual Magician.

PARAPROSDOKIAN SENTENCES
I had never heard that word before TGB reader Bill Griffiths sent along this item. According to Wikipedia, a paraprosdokian is a figure of speech in which the second half is surprising in a way that forces the reader to rethink the first half. Comedians often use this construct. Some examples:

• You're never too old to learn something stupid.

• Why do Americans choose from just two people to run for president and 50 for Miss America?

• A bank is a place that will lend you money, if you can prove that you don't need it.

• Politicians and diapers have one thing in common. They should both be changed regularly, and for the same reason.

You can find many more examples here and also at Wikipedia.

GIVING A DOG NEW LIFE
Carol of Co send along this video. Here's the explanation from YouTube:

”Nakio is the first dog to be fitted with a complete set of bionic paws that work naturally to allow him to run, jump and even swim. Nakio received the paws after his own were severely hurt from stepping into an ice puddle as a puppy. The prosthetics were designed and fitted in a pioneering procedure by Martin Kaufmann, founder of Orthopets.”

NOW THAT'S A TREE
From my friend JoAnn Goldberg and nothing more needs to be said than that headline.

That's of tree

ANOTHER WAY TO DEAL WITH AARP CARDS
In the comments following my rant about AARP's support of cuts to Social Security, many readers said they intended to burn their cards. Retired teacher from Long Island, Jay H. Broad, emailed with a different suggestion you might want to consider:

”for all who want to drop membership in AARP that is better than just destroying their card - send the card back with a letter stating that AARP has betrayed its members and demand that your dues be refunded.

“I did this in 2003 when they did the same re the Medicare part D debate. I received a check not long afterward. They need to be put on notice that they can't get away with this without consequences. A flood of letters demanding money might do the trick.”

I can't guarantee you will get the same result Jay did, but it might make you feel a better.

WHEN THE GOING GETS TOUGH, THE TOUGH
...rob banks. At least that's what this man did when he couldn't afford needed health care. Even with the Affordable Care Act, 40 to 50 million people are without health coverage. Take a look at this man's extreme solution. (Hat tip to chlost who blogs at Just My Life)

GOOD OL' GEORGE BURNS
George was a national treasure who in his last decade or two often said he intended to keep working until he was 100 years old. And he did, dying at age 100 in 1996.

Nancy Leitz who contributes a lot of wonderful stories at The Elder Storytelling Place sent along this song from George, I Wish I was 18 Again.

BOTTLE CAP FARMING

Bottle cap farming

It's hard to know right away that these are what must be the ultimate urban garden - teeny-tiny plants grown in bottle caps. Here's another photo.

Bottle Cap Farming Kit

You can find out a little more about them here and if you live in Japan, you can buy a kit at the Merry Shop. (Thank you again to JoAnn Goldberg.)

AAADD
We've all heard of ADHD; this one stands for Age-Activated Attention Deficit Disorder. I've read several versions of this over the years as text only. Now Cile of NightMonkeyShines found a video version and it's even better.

UPDATE: First thing this morning, Colleen Skinner of Meanderings emailed a link to an opinion piece in The New York Times today titled On the Art of Puttering - a perfectly timed companion piece to this video.

HOW TO STOP A PISSING CAT (OR SEVERAL OF THEM)
One of the most interesting and personable people I met at the Ford Motor Company event I attended in Dearborn this week is Smythe Richbourg. We shared several meals and a lot of good conversation.

Smythe, who blogs about gadgets and tech toys and tech magic and other such stuff at The Gadgeteer, forwarded this cat video.

Yes, it's longer than most. It is also funnier than most and as the story unfolds, I think you'll laugh as hard as I did. You will also understand why a tech gadget guy loves it.


Life Beyond Adulthood

category_bug_ageism.gif Somehow, the video chats here between geriatrician Bill Thomas and me have gotten lost in our busy lives. When I return from this trip, I'll see about resurrecting them.

Meanwhile, I have from him something excellent for you. On 4 June, Dr. Thomas spoke at the TEDx conference in San Francisco on the topic of baby boomers and the problem of adulthood.

Thomas as been a personal hero of mine since I first read his book, What Are Old People For? in 2004 (I regularly re-read it), and he keeps growing. Each time I hear or see him speak, he further refines his message which is – to put it less elegantly than he does – contrary to popular belief, there is nothing wrong with being old.

And, in fact, we need to make elders more a part of the mainstream of life.

Watch Dr. Thomas in his TED speech. I promise you will be inspired.


At the Elder Storytelling Place today, Johna Ferguson: Desires


Help Needed For Interesting Stuff

blogging bug image Some of the items I run on Saturday's Interesting Stuff post come to me from friends and readers. Others arrive via email or I find them in my wanderings around the internet in the days leading up to any given Saturday.

Between airplanes and the conference in Michigan this week, there has not been time for my usual web surfing so I'm calling on you, dear readers, to help out.

If you've got anything that you believe would be a good addition for this Saturday, please send it along via email. You can click the Contact link at the top left of any TimeGoesBy page for an email form.

It doesn't matter if the items have been published on your own blogs; although some of our readers may overlap, others do not. Subject range is wide – serious or light but mostly tending toward fun. And always, there should be at least one kitty item.

I'll need these by Friday morning. Sorry for the last minute request, but I'll be home late this evening and will put together the Interesting Stuff tomorrow for Saturday publishing.

Thank you so much in advance.


At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Jim Kittelberger: ELDERLY-MAN: An Adventure


Online Town Hall Tonight for Social Security

category_bug_politics.gif This evening, the good folks at the Strengthen Social Security organization and Brave New Films are co-hosting a live, online town hall to premier a new film.

”The short and gripping video from Brave New Films, Social Security Echo Chamber, traces the origins of...Koch-funded lies about Social Security and how Fox News serves as a mouthpiece for those out to hoodwink the public and dismantle the program.”

In addition to the film premier, Social Security champion, Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders (I), along with filmmaker Robert Greenwald and Strengthen Social Security co-chair Eric Kingson will hold a live chat.

Unfortunately, I am otherwise engaged in Dearborn, Michigan, and will probably not be able to attend. But you can.

The town hall is being held at 8:30PM eastern U.S. time - remember, tonight. Visit the Strengthen Social Security website here and scroll down to register to attend. You will then receive instructions on how to ask questions.

Given the announcement last Friday from AARP in support of cuts to Social Security, events like this are even more important that they might be otherwise.

You will be doing me a personal favor to attend and then come back to leave a report about it in the comments – or on your own blog and leave a link to your post in the TGB comments.


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


Being Sick With Fear

EDITORIAL NOTE: As most of you are reading this, I am winging my way to Dearborn, Michigan, to attend a two-day “futuring and trend” conference for 100 bloggers sponsored by Ford Motor Company at their world headquarters.

Promising “interactive sessions featuring interesting expert futurists and key trend-spotters, and fun behind the wheel experience on the track,” it is a packed two days.

Among the presenters are Malcolm Gladwell on looking for the “subtle, hidden and unspoken” in life; Ed Begley on eco-friendly lifestyles; Dr. Stewart Wang on the future of car safety which, I hope, will include thoughts on helping elders drive safely for longer; and Carol Orsborn on adult development beyond mid-years.

Ford is paying for transportation, food and accommodations. According to the agenda, I won't have much time for this blog, but I've prepared daily posts for you for the rest of this week and I'll check in when I can. Next week, I'll report back to you on what I learn at the conference.


I meant to write this follow up to last week's Republican Agenda rant for Monday, but on Friday, AARP's support for Social Security cuts took precedence, so that's what you got. Now, I can get back to this.

First, a housekeeping note. I redacted two comments on that story last Thursday for advocating crime and violence. I'm pretty sure those two people just got carried away with understandable anger and fear and I empathize with that. But let's all watch our language as the election season heats up.

In case you missed it last week, the most recent fright news (aside from AARP's new stand on Social Security) is that the housing crisis – however these things are measured - is now worse than it was in the Great Depression and still sinking. One more item added to a three-year-long list of bad economic news that leads to the kind of widespread fear for the future voiced in many comments on this blog.

I have no doubt that a good part of my rant was a reaction to my own sickening fear for the future as I consider the Republican acts that got us into our nation's epic mess and listen to the same party's demands for drastic cuts to or elimination of programs that are the only things standing between many people and hunger or homelessness. Many elders live on less than $10,000 a year; they depend on services that Congress wants to cut.

Here are two or three thought exercises for you.

First, contrast Republicans insistent demands to dramatically lower taxes on corporations and wealthy individuals with their refusal – individually and collectively - to acknowledge the nation's widespread suffering. In their public statements it is as though all of America is doing as well as Wall Street CEOs. That's a lot of cognitive dissonance – and more fear - for the rest of us.

Now think for a moment of Franklin Roosevelt's fireside chats during the Great Depression and his reassuring dictum, “We have nothing to fear but fear itself.”

Also recall King George and Queen Elizabeth who remained living in Buckingham Palace during the London Blitz even through nine direct hits from German bombs, along with their regular walkabouts among the people huddled in underground shelters during bombing raids.

These leaders understood that their positions required them, whatever their private fear and doubt, to support and inspire the people to find the courage to endure through terrible times of daily dread.

What do we have now in America's time of need? A Marie Antoinette moment from the wealthiest person running for the Republican nomination for president, when last week Mitt Romney told a group of jobless Americans that he, too, is unemployed.

Joke? No. It was more of the same tone deafness to the country's woes. Romney's breathtaking elitism coupled with AARP's announcement last Friday and every Republican politician's determination to further impoverish the American people makes me gasp. With fear. For all of us.

Here is my point: No politician should ever, ever scare the crap out of the people. Leaders used to know that. No politician who does scare the crap out everyone can be defined as a leader. No politician who scares the crap out of us should ever be elected to public office.

Is there no potential leader in America who will level with us, take the hard road against his or her corporate underwriters to represent we the people and lead us out of the deepening sinkhole we are in? I'm exhausted from feeling sick from fear and being helpless to change anything.


At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Steve Kemp: Surprise


AARP Supports Cuts To Social Security

category_bug_politics.gif It was a shocker early Friday morning when, in a front page Wall Street Journal story*, AARP reversed its long-standing opposition to cuts in Social Security. According to WSJ reporter Laura Meckler,

"AARP now has concluded that change is inevitable, and it wants to be at the table to try to minimize the pain...The shift, which has been vetted by AARP's board...is now the group's stance...”

The response was thunderous even here on my laptop. Alerts and messages from other newspapers, advocacy groups, websites, blogs, friends and TGB readers were coming in so fast that my inbox wouldn't hold still long enough for me to click on any of them.

Undoubtedly, AARP's inbox influx was even heavier and by afternoon the CEO, A. Barry Rand, issued a press release characterizing the WSJ story as “misleading,” stating that AARP's position on Social Security had not changed but he did not deny that the group is open to cutting benefits.

Further, in his statement, Mr. Bond repeated that most egregiously insulting “selling point” touted by Republicans who want to gut Social Security and Medicare:

“It has also been a long held position [of AARP] that any changes would be phased in slowly, over time, and would not affect any current or near term beneficiaries."

I just don't get how anyone believes elders in vast numbers would sell out their children and grandchildren as long as they get to keep Social Security (or Medicare) for themselves. I also don't understand why no one – from the media to the best, most fierce advocates for Social Security and Medicare - don't point out this hateful assumption about old people.

A February Wall Street Journal poll found that 84 percent of Americans 65 and older are opposed to Social Security cuts. Other polls come up with similar numbers. Nevertheless, as the WSJ story points out, AARP is now williing to alienate a large portion of its 37 million members. To win them over to the group's new point of view, reported Mecker in her story,

“AARP is preparing coast-to-coast town hall meetings to explain the problem and the possible solutions.”

Cuts should not be part of the solution. For too many elders, a cut as small as five or ten dollars makes a negative difference in their lives. As Jared Bernstein pointed out Friday on his blog,

“You might get the impression from this debate that Soc Sec benefits are chump change to seniors. But in fact:

“…for recipients age 65 and up on, Social Security is about two-thirds of their income and that share grows with age—for the old-elderly, it’s closer to 70% of their income. Other data show that for a third of those over 65, Social Security accounts for at least 90% of their income.”

Although AARP was an ally in the fight against President George W. Bush's campaign to privatize Social Security in 2005, and I greatly respect the organization's research arm in particular, I have always questioned their dedication to elder issues. After all, the majority of their revenue - $1.4 billion in 2010 – comes from insurance and financial products sales and royalties, not membership dues.

I'm not alone in that concern and now, with the group's support of benefit cuts, some Social Security advocates who are far more important that I am suggest it is time to burn our AARP cards.

One of them is Eric Kingson, a professor of social work at Syracuse University, former adviser to President Barack Obama on Social Security during the 2008 campaign and co-chair of Strengthen Social Security:

“[S]adly and with respect for many good people associated with AARP,” he said, writing at FireDogLake, “I have decided to make the supreme sacrifice and 'burn my AARP card' and recommend that others consider doing so as well.

“No more AARP discounts, free Magazines with Katie Couric, Sally Field, Michael Fox, Goldie Hawn, Condoleezza Rice, Robin Williams, Robert Redford, Harrison Ford and others emblazoned each month on its cover – all fine people but hardly typical of the nation’s very diverse population of boomers and elders. Oh well.”

It would be best if large groups of elders did this together but there is a glitch in my participation. The least expensive and most comprehensive Medicare Part B coverage for me is sponsored by AARP and requires membership, so I'm stuck. For now.

But unless AARP renounces its Social Security benefits cut policy, come renewal time at the end of the year I will find another provider. It will undoubtedly cost more, but adding the price of my AARP membership to the budget will help.

*NOTE: The Wall Street Journal is behind a paid firewall. If you are not a subscriber, you can read the original story by typing these exact words (with the quotation marks) into Google: "Key Seniors Association Pivots on Benefit Cut”. Then click the link to the story that will show up at the top of the search results.


At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Ann Favreau: Tornado


ELDER MUSIC: 1957

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 1957?

  • Well, I was in 1st form (year 7)
  • Eisenhower sent paratroopers into Little Rock
  • Sputnik 1 was launched
  • Elvis bought Graceland
  • John Lennon and Paul McCartney met for the first time
  • Jack Kerouac's On the Road was published
  • Gordon Gould invented the laser
  • Australia won the Davis Cup (again)
  • Oliver Hardy died

By 1957 rock & roll was really kicking in, so I'll start with one of those kickers.

DANNY AND THE JUNIORS were Danny Rapp, Dave White, Frank Maffei and Joe Terranova.

Danny and the Juniors

They all met at high school in Philadelphia and started a singing/dancing group called the Juvenairs. They were discovered when playing around town wherever they could get a gig.

The record producer asked if they had any songs and one that Dave had written called Do the Bop was suggested. This didn't quite make it but they worked on it and it evolved into At the Hop just as they evolved into Danny and the Juniors.

♫ Danny and the Juniors - At the Hop

Now we have the first record of BUDDY HOLLY's I bought. A 45, of course.

Buddy Holly

This was a really good deal as it had Not Fade Away on the flip side. There's really not a lot I can add as I've discussed Buddy several times before (and will again). I'll say that the second 45 of Buddy's I bought was Rave On.

They were the only records I had of his before he died. I've made up for that small collection since. Here is Oh Boy!.

♫ Buddy Holly - Oh, Boy!

Another Buddy, in this case BUDDY KNOX. This Buddy also recorded at the same studio as Buddy Holly; that was the one run by Norma Petty in Clovis, New Mexico.

Buddy Knox

Buddy learned to play guitar as a boy in his native Texas and formed a band with some school mates. They played one day with Roy Orbison before Roy was a success. He suggested they go down to Clovis where he'd recorded after he left Sun records.

Buddy's songs were an instant success, first with Party Doll and then Hula Love, the song we're playing today. He had others as well.

♫ Buddy Knox - Hula Love

GEORGE HAMILTON IV should not be confused with a certain tanned gentleman with a similar name.

George Hamilton IV

George was from Winston-Salem and while still a student at the university there, he recorded A Rose and a Baby Ruth, written by John D. Loudermilk.

After the success of that song, he recorded more of John's tunes, most notably the song Abilene. Later, his output moved towards writers such as Gordon Lightfoot and Joni Mitchell. He liked Canadians, I guess.

George toured extensively and just last year he was joined by many country greats to record a new album. This is his pop hit from 1957 (and 1958 as it was late in the year), Why Don't They Understand?

♫ George Hamilton IV - Why Don't They Understand

I suppose I should include PAT BOONE somewhere in these columns and I guess this is a good a time as any.

Pat Boone

Goodness, Pat's trying to look like Paul Newman in that photo. Pat seemed to make an early career of making insipid covers of other better versions of songs, particularly those of Fats Domino and Little Richard. Unfortunately, these generally outsold the originals.

However, he did perform other songs that aren't too bad. Quite a few of them really. This is one of his biggies, Love Letters in the Sand.

♫ Pat Boone - Love Letters in the Sand

In a field dominated by male artists, THE BOBBETTES were one of the first female groups to make an impression in rock & roll.

Bobbettes

The Bobbettes were Emma and Jannie Pought, Laura Webb, Helen Gathers and Reather Dixon. They first met, well apart from the sisters, at their school's glee club. From there they performed at amateur nights at the Apollo Theater in Harlem.

There, they caught the ear of a manager for Atlantic records and went on to record Mr. Lee, easily their biggest seller. They had a few more minor hits, including a follow-up called I Shot Mr. Lee. Atlantic were loath to promote this one but it sold quite well nonetheless.

I think its main problem was that it sounded too much like the song we have today, Mr. Lee.

♫ The Bobbettes - Mr. Lee

I'm always carrying on in these columns about the superior original versions of songs but for once, I'm going against that policy. This is yet another record my sister had and I rather liked it, even though I think Charlie Gracie's the superior version.

It's not a case of which version I have as I possess both. This is ANDY WILLIAMS, no mean singer himself.

Andy Williams

Charlie's version sold a couple of million and Andy covered it and it gave him his only number one record. That rather surprised me, but who can argue with the intertube?

The word is that Andy was trying to imitate Elvis on this record, but I can't hear it; he still just sounds like himself. However he sounds, here is Andy Williams with Butterfly.

♫ Andy Williams - Butterfly

Speaking of ELVIS, I guess with a series on the music from the Fifties, he should be included and here he is.

Elvis

As in most years in the second half of the Fifties, Elvis appeared with several songs this year but only once in this column today. I figured you'd know all his hits from the period but he really should get a look in somewhere, and this is it.

Besides the one I'm playing, Elvis also had Teddy Bear, Jailhouse Rock, and Too Much. Any year that included those is worth a listen. Here is All Shook Up.

♫ Elvis Presley - All Shook Up

It seems to me that the forgotten man from the Fifties, even though he had many hits, is JOHNNY MATHIS.

Johnny Mathis

Not just singles, but his greatest hits album spent a squillion years on the charts. It might even still be there. It won't come as a surprise to those who've heard him to learn that Johnny studied opera and was nearly lured into that undertaking.

However, he was taken by such singers as Nat King Cole, Billy Eckstine and Lena Horne and thought that'd be the career for him. To help pay his way through university he worked as a singer around the clubs of San Francisco where he was heard and signed to a record deal. He didn't look back.

Unfortunately, he came under the wing of Mitch Miller so some of his songs can be a bit treacly. His voice shines through it all though. Here's one of his many hits from this period, The Twelfth of Never.

♫ Johnny Mathis - The Twelve of Never

I'll finish this year with the great FATS DOMINO.

Fats Domino

The song is one Fats co-wrote with his long-time producer, Dave Bartholomew. It's not one of his biggest hits but I've always liked it, especially as it had a really good cover version by Buddy Holly. That was unusual for Buddy as he wrote most of his own recordings.

Anyway, here's Fats with Valley of Tears.

♫ Fats Domino - Valley of Tears

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.

Tony Bennett – In the Middle of an Island
Buddy Knox – Party Doll
Jerry Lee Lewis – Whole Lotta Shakin' Goin' On
Sam Cooke – You Send Me

1958 will appear in two weeks' time.


INTERESTING STUFF: 18 June 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.


THE FABULOUS TONY AWARDS SHOW OPENER
I skipped watching the Tony Awards last Sunday and if the rest of the show was as much fun as this musical opener starring host Neil Patrick Harris, that was a mistake.

But thanks to the magic of the internet and a tip from Jan Adams, we can all enjoy. Trust me, it's a boatload of fun.

ARKANSAS LAWMAKERS ARE THE LEAST EDUCATED
According to the Chronicle of Higher Education, Arkansas wins the prize for the highest number of state legislators with the least education. Twenty-five percent have no college experience.

You know what? I didn't go to college either and aside from specialized fields such as law, science and medicine, I'm at least as knowledgeable as many college graduates and often more so. I'm tired of being maligned for lack of an often questionable piece of paper, but that's a rant for another day. Read more here.

CHOOSING THE KIND OF COUNTRY YOU WANT
On the same day I posted my Republican Agenda rant last week, Chris Matthews made some of the same points on his MSNBC Hardball program – and in less than two minutes. Take a look.

Visit msnbc.com for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy

HOW OUR ECONOMY GOT THIS WAY
Thanks to moveon.org, we have this tidy, two minutes-plus explanation from economist and former Labor Secretary Robert Reich clearly laying out how the U.S. got into our epic mess and who caused it. (Hat tip to Kathleen Noble of The Dassler Diaries)

THE OCEAN
Without Darlene Costner, I would miss a lot of amazing things on the internet. Most recently, astonishing ocean images from photographer, Clark Little.

ClarkLittleWave1

Here is another one:

ClarkLittleWave2

You can see more of Mr. Little's ocean photographs and other subjects too at his website.

NAVIGATING THE MEDICAID MAZE
Medicaid is the only government program that pays for long-term, nursing home care. Its intricate rules and regulations to qualify are a nightmare to sort through – a jumble of federal complexities further modified by 50 differing sets of more regulations in the various states.

Elderlaw attorney, K. Gabriel Heiser, who specializes in elder care and estate planning, has spent more than 20 years guiding people through the Medicaid maze and his book, How to Protect Your Family's Assets From Devastating Nursing Home Costs, is densely packed with information for almost any contingency.

It's one of those books you will want at your fingertips when you or a family member needs a nursing home whether for rehab or permanent care. You can find out more about the book here and it is available at the usual book sources.

NOTE: Mr. Heiser is a relentless, online self-promoter which can be off-putting but I found his book to be a valuable resource.

AN AMAZING PUPPETEER
I don't know who this guy is, but he and his marionette are amazing. Enjoy, with thanks to Darlene Costner.

SWITCHING FROM WATTS TO LUMENS
After 2012, traditional incandescent light bulbs will go the way of the dodo. If you're like me, you're having a helluva time trying to figure out what size CFL bulb matches up with an old-fashioned 100-watt or 60-watt or 25-watt bulb.

Here's the U.S. Federal Trade Commission (FTC) to help. Their consumer instructional videos are always useful and this one clears up a lot of confusion.

There is more detailed information at the FTC website.

REPORTER RESCUES TREE-D CAT
Even the fire department gave up on this little fellow who was stuck in a tree for eight days. Then a Channel 4 Action News reporter saved the day – and the cat.


Keeping Track of Medications

category_bug_journal2.gif I need to come down from yesterday's mad Republican rant so let's do something mundane but important today.

As reported yesterday in The New Old Age blog at The New York Times, a study was conducted with 464 Chicago-area adults between the ages of 55 and 74 asking how they would take seven medications.

”About a third didn’t think to take two of the drugs together, even though the instructions on their labels were identical. When one drug was supposed to be taken with food and water and another carried no such instructions, half the study participants didn’t plan to take them at the same time, though they could have.

“And two-thirds wouldn’t take pills together if one label specified 'twice daily' and the other said 'every 12 hours,' though those phrases mean the same thing.”

My initial thought was to wonder if they had checked IQs of the study subjects before accepting them. Then I recalled that until a year or so ago, I had taken two of the three supplements I use in the early morning and saved the third for later with breakfast even though I had several times read the label that states it is not necessary to take it with food.

Returning to earth...

I was surprised to learn that “the average adult over age 55 juggles six to eight medications daily” and dosage is a jungle of confusing instructions.

According to the researcher, Dr. Michael Wolf, who studies medication safety at Northwestern University,

“A review of thousands of prescriptions revealed, for instance, that pharmacists use literally dozens of different phrases that all mean: Take one tablet each day.”

Of course, this results in missed and/or double or triple dosages affecting the health of elders (or anyone younger too). One solution, according to Wolf, is to standardize the language of dosage instructions

“...to four times of day: morning meds, noon meds, evening meds, bedtime meds.”

Although this idea has been floating around for several years, a big problem is that pharmacists answer to 50 different state regulators who each have their own rules. Standardization bills are pending in two states, reports The Times, but that is no more than a toe in the water.

Like other physicians, Dr. Wolf suggests people regularly review their medications with their physicians, particularly when more than one doctor are doing the prescribing. Further, he has a prescription himself for patients. Talk to your physician and

”...ask for help in simplifying our schedules. His suggested script: 'Help me reduce the number of times I have to take these medications, so that over months and years, it doesn’t become a drag.'”

How do you organize your prescriptions or help your parents with theirs?


At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Marcia Mayo: My Name is Marcia and I'm an Internet Addict


The Republican Agenda

category_bug_politics.gif On Tuesday morning, my first thought upon waking was this:

I hate John Boehner, Paul Ryan, Michele Bachmann, Herman Cain, Rand Paul, Ron Paul, Tim Pawlenty, Newt Gingrich, Ron Scott of Florida, Scott Walker of Wisconsin, Rick Perry of Texas and with the possible exceptions of Tom Coburn, Saxby Chambliss and Mike Crapo, every other Republican in Congress and in the states along with their unelected accomplices such as Alan Simpson, Rush Limbaugh and Grover Norquist.

It's not that their faces, voices and words never fail to sicken me. It's much more than that.

I don't just hate them. I HATE THEM. I hate them so deeply and viscerally as to wish on each and every one of them unto the end of their days the trials of Job and every disgusting plague recounted in the Christian Bible they pound so sanctimoniously. And I want to be present at their suffering too.

Uncharitable, you say? Over the top? Mean? Destructive to my own mental health? I don't think so.

I think it is a perfectly reasonable response to people who want to kill me – after, of course, they and their gluttonous, corporate sponsors bleed me dry of my home and my entire puny bank account for their personal use.

It's hardly an exaggeration to say they want me – and every other person who receives benefits from Social Security, SSI, Medicare, Medicaid and the military – to die for lack of those benefits we pay for with our tax dollars.

And while they are at it, they will include all workers who ever tried to afford private health coverage and feed their kids at the same time or to organize themselves against the corporate overlords who continue to cut their salaries and fire them.

You don't need to trust me on this. They are completely open about it. On any given day, read any newspaper or listen to sycophant, media enablers on every television news program.

Every proposal and demand that falls from Republican lips is designed to lead the rest of us to an early grave and without fail, the media gives them a pass by not pointing out their lies. This, in 21st century newspeak, is called “fair and balanced reporting” and it's not only on Fox News.

Undoubtedly, I woke on Tuesday with these hate-filled thoughts because the last input I had from the outside world the night before was the Republican “debate” in New Hampshire. Okay, only 45 minutes of it; I turned off the television then in lieu of throwing the remote through the screen.

That was no debate, a concept that implies – or in a less extreme political world, would deliver - thought and an exchange of constructive ideas. Instead, it was a bunch of grandstanding egotists shrill in their consistent Republican talking points.

The general commentary the next day was that Republicans are not as batshit crazy as some people expected. Oh, yeah? Weren't those pundits listening? Newt Gingrich, who is repeatedly held up as the intellectual star of the Republican Party, was unintelligible. Even Sarah Palin makes more sense. The rest spent their time giving mini stump speeches – none too coherently.

If I can go all sane for a moment, Republicans universally believe government should be run as a business. Hello! Government is not a business; it cannot possibly be run like businesses which, by law, are required to maximize profit for their shareholders. Profit is not the purpose of government.

And anyway, that's not what Republican candidates mean when they tout their – usually non-existent - business credentials. What they want is to zero out taxes on corporations and wealthy individuals and make up the difference by destroying every good thing in the United States.

Here's something we all need to think about: if the Republican agenda succeeds, the United States will become a third world nation. Already, we don't produce anything except fraudulent Wall Street paper. Give India and China another ten years and the world won't need us anymore.

If Republicans gain control of both houses of Congress and the White House, Social Security, Medicare, etc. will be gone. No government money will be spent on roads and bridges and climate change and police and firefighters and education and national parks. All business will be deregulated. Every job possible will be sent to India and China. The wingnut religionists will post the Ten Commandments in every government office and school in the land.

Most of the mechanisms needed to support Republican goals are already in place, one of the most important being the Supreme Court Citizens United decision allowing unlimited and unreported corporate funding of political advertising not connected to individual candidates.

Those ads don't need to support Republican candidates by name; they need only to demonize opposition ideas and there are enough dumb people in the United States to believe them.

This isn't your father's Republican Party - even Barry Goldwater must be spinning in his grave. These people want to rescind the First, Second, Tenth and Twelfth Amendments and undoubtedly a few others.

And watch out, women. When Sarah Palin and Michele Bachmann are no longer useful to them, they will abolish the 19th Amendment too.

Republicans are hell bent on returning the United States to some mythical past when, they believe, everything was perfect. You know, back before there was a middle class; when municipalities didn't pick up garbage; when couples had 12 kids because only one or two survived; before government tested food and water for safety; before it provided help in natural disasters; before there were public schools; and life expectancy was 45.

The Republican mainstream is now so far right, they would scare ol' Attila. The United States is in terrible, terrible trouble and it is getting worse. Republican ideas and acts got us here, they want to take it further and when everything crumbles, the wealthy will be fine – they've already squirreled away all our money – yours and mine - offshore. They deserve my hatred.

Whew. It feels good to get that off my chest. These are the things that keep me up at night.


At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Steve Kemp: Manuel and Lily


Thanks for the Link, But I'll Stick With Elderblogging

blogging bug image It's always nice when someone links to your blog, something Jamie Carracher of the PR firm Edelman Digital did on Monday in a post titled, Elderblogging and When a Senior Gets a Tumblr.

Noting that there are 152 million blogs in the world, she he posted this chart from Sysomos showing that in 2010, 7.1 percent or about 10.8 million of those blogs are written by people age 50 and older.

Info-viz-blogs-age-demographics.gif.scaled500

Using TimeGoesBy's Elderblogger List for her his own overview of elders' blogs, Curracher concludes that most use the “easy” platform of Blogger, write on a wide range of topics making “older bloggers a lot like younger bloggers”.

”Also interesting is how well written and how long many of the posts are — it’s clear these folks spend a lot of time carefully telling their stories.”

It would be interesting to know if the mini-blogging platform, Tumblr, is an Edelman client because after this brief description of the world of elderblogging, Ms. Mr. Curracher spends the second half of her his post making a case for old bloggers to move to Tumblr.

”Tumblr is a little like a Twitter/blog hybrid. What makes it different is its focus on sharing rather than commenting, especially sharing of multimedia like photos, videos and website links.”

In other words, short derivative posts without added value or conversation. (I don't know anything about Tumblr, so I'm taking her his word for it.) Curracher ends by suggesting, “Maybe a few elderbloggers would be up for trying something new” - like Tumblr.

Here is what bothers me: Why, especially with technology, are elders always compared to young people as in, “a lot like younger bloggers” (wow, aren't those old folks clever for their age), and being urged to do what the kids do?

Why would it be better to “share” a video or a link “rather than commenting” with others on a “well-written” essay adding perspective, experience, knowledge, humor and reactions?

One of Ms. Mr. Curracher's goals is to get generations together online. One can hardly fault that, but like those who have come before her him in this endeavor, it is elders she he requires to adapt to the kids' way of doing things implying that because of their youth, their method must, necessarily, be better than ours.

As I've said here in the past, I believe blogging is a near-perfect pastime for elders. At a time in life when many of us have left the world of work behind, it provides daily interaction and camaraderie, opens up a world of new friendship and helps keep our brains nimble creating those well written stories.

Why would those of us who enjoy long-form blogging want to give that up?

I don't mean to pick on Jamie Curracher. She's He's not the first to see elders as deficient in the area of technology. And although she he is correct in assuming that young people are more likely to be the first to follow new online fads and trends, being one of the “cool kids” isn't high on most elders' must-do list.

Personal computers have been among us now for more than 25 years, the popular World Wide Web for nearly as long and the oldest baby boomers are already 65. It's time to lose the themes that elders are technology ignorant and that the kids always know best about these things.


At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Mickey Rogers: An Old Man's Favorite Movies


My Misplaced Location on the Planet

category_bug_journal2.gif When I'm reading a blog post or exchanging email or speaking on the phone with anyone, I like to know where they are, what state and city they live in so I can place them in relation to where I am.

If I know they are traveling, I ask where they are at that moment so to mentally plot the distance. I'm pretty sure many of us do this.

That's the reason I include location in the Where Elders Blog feature. If you don't know what that is – well, I haven't mentioned it in awhile. It's a section of this blog with pictures of the desks of elderbloggers and readers. There is a link to it in the Features section of the right-hand sidebar.

I just added a new one from Kathleen Noble (who lives in Arizona and Washington state) that you can see here. There are links to all the others along with instructions on how to add your own here.

When I was a little girl growing up on the west coast, Oregon and California, I dreamed of someday visiting the big cities of Europe – London, Rome, Paris, etc.

But from the vantage point of the western edge of the United States, that seemed an impossible distance to travel. Remember, back in the 1940s and 1950s, there were no jet planes yet. Air travel was much more time-consuming then and exotic too, an event to be remarked upon when anyone we knew flew to a far-away destination.

In the late 1960s, I moved to New York City and I recall the moment I realized – it was almost a shock - that Europe was not nearly as distant as it was from the west.

A year or so after our move, my then-husband and I were to travel to London to do an in-person interview with The Beatles for his radio show. At first I thought, god that's a long way to go. Then: Oh, wait. Not so far after all; I'm on the east coast now.

I lived there for 40 years and sometime after that first trip across the Atlantic, my personal, internal GPS locator repositioned itself to the longitude of the east. From that point forward, I thought of all other places on the map in relation to my new geographic point on the planet. Asia then came to feel impossibly far away.

Thirteen months ago, I moved back to the west coast but my damned mental map still puts me in the east.

When I think of Jan Adams, for a few moments I picture her w-a-a-a-y over there to the left in San Francisco. Darlene Costner is way over there too and a little south in Arizona. Marcia Mayo, on the hand, is just down the coast from me in Atlanta. Oops, not anymore.

Placement of Peter Tibbles, however, hasn't needed to change. Australia is on the bottom side of the world from either U.S. coast.

Recently, a friend here in Oregon told me that she and her husband are going to Japan for a couple of weeks. Sure enough, I thought of them on an endless flight of twelve hours or more until my new location asserted itself.

Thirteen months! And my internal GPS still refuses to reposition. I can almost hear that teeny-tiny woman in my car repeating ad infinitum, “Recalculating. Recalculating. Recalculating.”

Does this happen to anyone else?


At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Vicki E. Jones: What If God -


Follow Up On my Accidental Foray into Politics

category_bug_politics.gif Over the weekend, I was thinking about the story I told you last Friday about my short, accidental (almost) foray into politics in relation to Representative Anthony Wiener's (D-NY) recent debacle - along with those of the politicians who came before him and those who will be caught out in the future doing icky sexual things.

As I was writing it, that story was getting so long I omitted some salient points I would like to make today, points that contributed to my backing away from those political overtures and that, I think now, may have sunk Mr. Wiener.

When that state senator spoke at our block association meeting – as was true of other politicians who later visited our little group - it was one of several stops he was making that evening at three or four organizations in his district.

Over time with the block association, I learned that these people who held elective office at state, county, city and district levels spend many evenings and weekends glad-handing constituents. It was a constant, in-person outreach, week in and week out, never ending.

For that brief time, I had a small, but up-close window into some of the personal toll involved in being a politician.

Initially, I had been surprised that the state senator would bother to speak to just 120 or 130 people, shake some hands, listen to complaints and make notes about people's concerns.

Actually, their aides did the note taking, but attention was paid and I know from that experience there almost always were followups. (This up close and personal stuff at the local level pays off a bit better than the emails and phone calls we make to Congressional representatives.)

It further surprised me to learn that more often, it was just 25 or 30 people at the gatherings they attended. That is a lot of time-consuming effort from these guys, it seemed to me, for a small return.

And that's just at the lowest political level. Further up the ladder, there are more meetings - with party executives, political colleagues, business leaders, campaign staff, phone calls to potential big donors. There are committee meetings, speeches, study groups etc. - all in addition to doing the actual job the politicians are elected to do. (No wonder so little gets done for we the people.)

They would not be doing all this gallivanting if there were not a payoff in volunteers, donations and votes at election time. But until meeting some of these people due to the block association 20-odd years ago, I'd had no idea how busy the lives of politicians and their support teams are.

Certainly, I was intrigued and flattered when I figured out why I was suddenly so popular with the political types. But in the end, the enormous amount of time I was being pressured to contribute from the get-go made politics, even at that low level, a non-starter for me.

I would pretty much always rather spend evenings with friends or at home reading a good book and, as naïve as I was then about the non-stop effort behind public view in politics, I knew that if I had joined up with that political organization, they would never stop asking me for more time.

Which brings me back to Anthony Wiener and his fellow politicians in high places who get themselves into this kind of trouble.

By the time any of them work their way up to Congressional office, they have been doing all that I described above for many years. The higher they go, the more there is at stake and the more the work expands. They hardly have a moment for their families; less for themselves.

But their psychological makeup is different from mine. I need a lot of time alone; they are needier of attention, acclaim, influence and money and these are powerful drivers. So to fulfill their kind of need, they are highly motivated to forgo personal time – the kind that refreshes and grounds the rest of us.

With their success come sycophants who indulge their whims, large and small. They get their pictures in newspapers and on the internet. They are interviewed on television and their every utterance – even the most inane – is taken seriously. They know too that if, perchance, they should lose their office, someone among all the contacts they nurture at all those meetings will provide a lucrative job.

Their needs are being fed. They become more powerful. More people clamor for their attention.

Soon, except for the ones who manage to remain grounded in the real world, they believe they are entitled. To anything. Plus, power itself it an aphrodisiac but I suspect they are too busy shaking hands to indulge that most basic urge with any regularity.

So when a politician at this level of public stature, who has almost no time to himself, sends dirty emails to young aides or cheats on his wife or tweets lewd photos in off-moments of privacy, he thinks he is invincible. I doubt he even recalls those who have been brought down before him for similar acts.

And here's the not-entirely-silly reason I think so many high-level, male politicians' misdeeds are sexual in nature: anatomy.

The organ in question is a dual-use tool so on the few occasions he is alone for brief periods during the day, the politician is holding it in his hand. The mind wanders then to the other thing he could be doing with the tool and well – coupled with a belief in his entitlement and power, a politician is caught by surprise when someone leaks his own photo of the organ in question.

So given anatomy and the constant, long-term time pressure on politicians, I think there will always be, depending on personal proclivities, a certain number who just can't help themselves. I'm betting on at least two more before the 2012 election.


At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Ralph Lymburner: A Visit to the Recycling Company.


ELDER MUSIC: A Bit of Reggae in the Morning

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.


Even 30 years after his death, Bob Marley is still the poster boy (shouldn't that be poster man?) for reggae. However, he wasn't the first and in my opinion, he wasn't the best. He wasn't bad though.

DESMOND DEKKER was the first reggae artist to impinge upon my consciousness.

Desmond Dekker

Desmond Dacres (as his folks knew him) was born in St Andrews, Jamaica and grew up in Kingston. He worked as a welder for some time until his workmates suggested he audition at the local studio. They were unimpressed and Des went elsewhere.

These folks liked him and he eventually put out a record that did okay in his native country. Desmond recruited his four brothers for his backing band, The Four Aces. After realising there was already a rather successful group called that, they became The Aces.

They had a number of local hits and his was considered Jamaica's foremost singer for much of the Sixties. In 1968, he recorded Israelites and that became a worldwide hit and that's when I first heard of him.

Purists say that this song is actually an example of rock steady but I've never able to tell the difference between that, reggae and ska. It's all music anyway. Here it is.

♫ Desmond Dekker - Israelites

Reggae and its antecedents came from the locals listening to the soul and R&B from America, particularly that from Stax Records, and putting their own stamp on the music.

The next artist, however, went in the opposite direction. JOHNNY NASH was born in Houston and began his musical career in the Fifties as a pop singer.

Johnny Nash

In the Sixties, he and a friend formed their own record label and signed The Cowsills before they were well known, or known at all really.

Johnny traveled to Jamaica and recorded some songs there. He also tried to popularize some of the Jamaican groups in America. One of these was a mob called The Wailers. However, success for them outside their own country had to wait a while.

One of the songs Johnny recorded was I Can See Clearly Now. This was later covered by Jimmy Cliff and many others. He has retired from music but to the best of my knowledge, is still with us. Here is his biggest song.

♫ Johnny Nash - I Can See Clearly Now

THE MAYTALS pretty much invented reggae. If not the music itself, certainly its name when they recorded Do the Reggay. Apparently this was just rock steady slowed down. It seems that it was cool for the "rude boys" to dance slowly rock steady was too fast for them.

The Maytals

That's not the song I'm going with though for The Maytals. The front man for this group was Frederick Hibbert, more usually known as Toots, and he'll also be featured later. Toots claimed that he made up the number 54-46 when writing this next song about his time in jail. He said that he was arrested whilst bailing a friend. The song is 54-46 That's My Number.

♫ The Maytals - 54 46 That's My Number

JIMMY CLIFF was already an established musical star in Jamaica when he came to the world's attention as the lead role in the film The Harder They Come in 1973. This is Jimmy in a shot from the film.

Jimmy Cliff

This film probably did as much as anything else to introduce reggae to the wider world and it still stands up today as worth watching. The sound track is about the best sound track record ever.

Jimmy was known as James Chambers to his folks. Like a lot of other performers, and also the character he played in the film, Jimmy was born in the country and went to Kingston to further his education and/or get a start in the music business.

He entered talent contests and sought out record producers in an endeavour to get them to record him. One day he convinced one of the producers to start his own record company and have him as his first artist. Surprisingly, that worked and he hasn't looked back since.

This is the title track from the film, The Harder They Come.

♫ Jimmy Cliff - The Harder They Come

THE UNIQUES formed, disbanded and reformed several times over their lifetime.

The Uniques

The incarnation that recorded their best work was Slim Smith, Lloyd Charmers and Jimmy Riley. Slim was the only constant throughout but his unfortunate death in 1973 brought an end to this group. My Conversation is the song for which they are most remembered.

♫ The Uniques - My Conversation

TOOTS HIBBERT was the main man in The Maytals and he seems to be the reggae singer most influenced by American R&B - to such an extent, he recorded an album called "Toots in Memphis" where he covered songs by Otis Redding and others. And a damn fine job he did too.

Toots Hibbert

In the way of these things, I'm not going with one of those songs. It wasn't just R&B that influenced Toots as this next song will demonstrate admirably. This is his cover of the John Denver song Take Me Home, Country Roads. I like it better than the original.

♫ Toots Hibbert - Take Me Home, Country Roads

THE MELODIANS consisted of Tony Brevett, Brent Dowe and Trevor McNaughton.

The Melodians

Their single claim to fame is a terrific song called Rivers of Babylon that was featured in "The Harder They Come". The song is based on Psalm 137 from the Bible.

It's a very pretty song and does its job well except that it leaves out the final verse from that psalm which reads, "Happy shall he be, that taketh and dasheth thy little ones against the stones."

Here is Rivers of Babylon without that verse.

♫ The Melodians - Rivers of Babylon

BOB MARLEY is still the most famous reggae artist.

Bob Marley

He took reggae and added a rock feel to his guitar playing. Before him, this aspect was still more under the stripped-back influence of Steve Cropper in most reggae music. I'm not complaining; I prefer Steve to Bob as a guitarist.

Bob started out forming a vocal group with his friends Bunny Livingston and Peter Tosh called The Wailers. Those other two members are pretty handy reggae artists themselves. Eventually Bob's talent shone through and the group evolved into a complete musical outfit with Bob as its focus as singer, guitarist and songwriter.

He died at age 36 after a melanoma had spread throughout his body. This is No Woman, No Cry.

♫ Bob Marley - No Woman, No Cry

Some more Jimmy Cliff, even though I'm leaving out dozens who should really be included.

Jimmy Cliff

Another song from the film is Sitting in Limbo. It isn't very reggae-like in its structure and has been recorded by many artists in other fields, the two best of which are by the Neville Brothers and John Sebastian. Of course, I'm going with Jimmy's original.

♫ Jimmy Cliff - Sitting in Limbo


INTERESTING STUFF: 11 June 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.


AN OLD FRIEND AND A NEW FRIEND MEET
Tamar Orvell, who blogs at Only Connect, spends half of each year in Atlanta and the other half in Tel Aviv. A couple of years ago, I sent Tamar an invitation to my old friend, Sali Ariel's, art show opening in Tel Aviv and asked that she get a photo of herself with Sali for me.

Circumstances prevented Tamar from attending and other attempts for the two women to get together since then didn't work out. Until now. Here are Sali and Tamar at the opening of Sali's latest show a week or two ago.

Sali and Tamar 2011

Those are Sali's Tel Aviv paintings in the background and here is another photo of Sali from the opening that better shows off her work.

Sali 2011

I've known Sali for about 40 years and Tamar via the internet for about three years. Isn't it amazing how these things work out these days. You can see more of Sali's paintings here.

JAPANESE ELDERS VOLUNTEER AT FUKUSHIMA
A group of more than 200 elders age 60 and older, many of whom are trained engineers and former power plant employees, have volunteered to work in the dangerously high levels of radiation at the Fukushima nuclear station.

“Volunteering to take the place of younger workers at the power station is not brave, Mr Yamada says, but logical. Mr Yamada has been getting back in touch with old friends, sending out emails and even messages on Twitter.

"'I am 72 and on average I probably have 13 to 15 years left to live,' he says.

"'Even if I were exposed to radiation, cancer could take 20 or 30 years or longer to develop. Therefore us older ones have less chance of getting cancer.'"

You can read more here, and a hat tip to Jan Adams of Happening Here for forwarding this story.

DECORATING TIPS FOR A GREENER WORLD
My friend JoAnn Goldberg has a knack for finding the strange and wonderful on the internet. These are (not entirely serious) designs for a greener, healthier environment:

Green Bed

Okay, it's an eye catcher, but probably impractical. This one maybe not:

One Pot Two Lives

This one didn't surprise me; I regularly saw a Volkswagen bug covered in grass cruising around Greenwich Village when I lived there.

Green Car

There are at least two dozen more photos of unusual uses for grass that you can see here.

AND WE WONDER WHY OUR KIDS DON'T LEARN
An enterprising, young reporter in Florida checked out fliers in Doral advertising high school diplomas – for a fee. To investigate, he pretended to be a student and after forking over some money, received

“...five tests that represent the school's entire curriculum: mathematics, earth science, English literature, government, and computer applications.”

He asked five grade school students to complete the tests of three questions each, handed them in as his own work and passed with flying colors.

“On Wednesday, I was informed I had graduated. Last Friday afternoon, exactly one week after first reporting to campus, I handed over the remaining $339 and accepted my diploma...

“I was also given a transcript covering four years of purported classes, many with no relation to the tests.”

The “degree” from this “school” is accepted at Miami Dade College among others. Read more here.

MARRIAGE EQUALITY IN NEW YORK
Any day now, the New York State Senate will vote on a marriage equality bill. Polls show an overwhelming support in the state for extending marriage rights to gays and lesbians, but you never know what those politicians will do.

To help along the cause, the Human Rights Campaign produced a video of ordinary folks in support of the bill.

If you are a New Yorker, you can easily send a message of support to your Albany representative here at the Human Rights Campaign page.

CELL PHONE RADIATION
Recently, there was yet another report that cell phone radiation may be a danger to us. According to a report at Computerworld,

”The FCC's legal limit for mobile phones is 1.6 Watts of radiofrequency energy per kilogram, using a measure called Specific Absorption Rate (SAR).”

Several factors besides SAR contribute to radiation levels. Computerworld has provided a nifty tool you can use to search their database for the SAR level of your phone. Just enter the make and model of your cell phone here.

TAXING MILLIONAIRES
We've all read the stories about millionaires and billionaires whose income is taxed at a much lower rate than working stiffs, and who are also helped along by the Bush tax cuts which just celebrated their tenth anniversary.

Republican Congresspeople are hell bent on further lowering taxes on the wealthy, but here are some of those people who see it differently:

You can read more about this here.

WOMEN PROTEST GLASS STAIRCASE
Apparently, the architects of a new courthouse didn't have women in mind when they designed a glass staircase. This explains the problem:

You can read more here.

SLEEPING NEWBORN KITTEN WITH MOM
Absolutely nothing happens in the video below that went viral this week - except the miracle of tiny life.

Since, for some people, cuteness alone is not enough, Discover magazine had to go all scientific on us about the instincts of cats:

”'As for that maternal cuddle', says Dr. Nicholas Dodman, director of the animal behavior clinic at Tufts Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine, it’s probably fair to call it a hug. Mother cats and human parents bond with their children via similar hormones, like oxytocin, so 'human analogies are not entirely inaccurate,' he says.”

“'To me it’s a perfectly natural example of maternal care and affection to a kitten who’s dreaming. They’re mutually bonded and I think they enjoy the presence of each other.'”

Anyone who's ever owned cats knows that. Okay, too many words, not enough video. I dare you to watch it only once.