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Ageism at the Oscars

category_bug_ageism.gif Did you watch the Academy Awards ceremony Sunday night? Not having seen most of the movies, I hadn't intended to do so plus, it feels like a anachronism these days, watching famous rich people applaud themselves.

But then I recalled reading that an old friend I had worked with for many years, Don Mischer, was one of the new executive producers and the director of the show this year. So I tuned in.

From a strictly production point of view, I thought it was fine, as glamorous as it is expected to be, well shot and produced (hurray, Don!). What I could not abide were the non-stop remarks and bad jokes about the age of the presenters, winners and historical settings of the nominated films.

Host Billy Crystal, age 63 himself was the main offender. His ageism was showing throughout the entire program with “jokes” disparaging age. Eighty-two-year-old Christopher Plummer "has a tendency to wander off," said Crystal. And, "next year this'll be called the Flomax Theater." Then, after Plummer won the Supporting Actor award, Crystal was on him again:

“Congratulations to Mr. Plummer; the average age of the winners has now jumped to 67.”

There are contexts in which that could be funny, but not from Crystal Sunday night. He repeated the joke, upping the average age when it was announced that Woody Allen had won the writers award.

There was more but I wasn't taking notes but surprised at what felt like an assault, a devaluation of anything and anyone older than about 25.

And it wasn't just the show. “Even the Jokes Have Wrinkles” was the title of a New York Times morning-after Oscar story by Alessandra Stanley who started off with this knee slapper,

“The whole night looked like an AARP pep rally, starting off with Morgan Freeman...”

Ms. Stanley then larded her report with a string of paragraphs written to disparage anything of age – classic movies for being old, period movies for correctly depicting the cultures of their eras and then went on to blame age for any or all of the show's failings – Billy Crystal's flat delivery and old writers for his tired jokes.

The anti-age theme was taken up in another New York Times Monday morning story written by Michael Cieply and Brooks Barnes. “Nostalgia ruled the night,” they sniffed (and that was just the movies themselves). The whole affair was less than stellar apparently because it just seemed – well, oldish. Even comedian Chris Rock did not escape their disdain:

“Chris Rock followed with a racial joke, about black men getting lousy roles even in animated films. It may have been in questionable taste, but it jarred the show closer to modern times. [emphasis added]

About which, of course, old people know nothing, you see. (By the way, The Chris Rock joke was really funny.)

After all these years of keeping track, I am still surprised sometimes at how much casual ageism is tossed around every day in any context without anyone being called out for it. If the same attitudes were as regularly aimed at people of color or women, heads would (figuratively) roll.

It must be said that the show was flat and lacked excitement, but that's not the fault of the older actors. A lot of blame can be placed at the feet of the Academy which keeps tight control over the length of winner's speeches, what they can say and how they must behave so nothing startling or interesting ever happens.

There was a small, unexpected moment I liked when William Joyce and Brandon Oldenburg won the Oscar for Short Film (Animated). Not being actors, their joy was delightfully unrehearsed and real.

One described themselves as “two swamp rats from Louisiana” which was a great, good surprise given that their film is such a charming and elegant, completely non-swamp-rat-style creation. I posted it here for you in the Saturday Interesting Stuff a few weeks ago. Here it is again, The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr. Morris Lessmore.

If the video becomes locked out of replay, you can get a bit of sense of the film from the trailer here.


At The elder Storytelling Place today, Claire Jean: Chihuahua Anyone?


Santorum's Extremism

category_bug_politics.gif One of the nicest things that has happened in response to The New York Times story I was quoted in last week is that I have heard from about a dozen old friends I had not been in touch with for a long time.

Today's post came about when I thought over a two-hour-long phone conversation I had with one of them on Sunday.

Do you get a sinking feeling in your stomach when you consider the possibility of President Rick Santorum? I sure do. Although some of his detractors' half-jokey suggestion that he would return the U.S. to the 13th century is amusing, hatred of President Barack Obama runs so deep and strong in certain circles of the population that it's not a laughing matter.

Here is a shorthand overview of Santorum's atavistic positions: He has labeled a college education “indoctrination” and thinks President Barack Obama is a “snob” for promoting higher education.

He said reading President John F. Kennedy's speech on the separation of church and state made him want to “throw up.” He would, he says, outlaw abortion in all circumstances, end all use of birth control and most pre-natal testing.

He equates homosexuality with bestiality, questions Obama's “phony theology,” wants federal and state government out of education (thereby, I suppose, abolishing public schools altogether).

He would cut crucial safety net programs – Medicaid, food stamps, unemployment benefits. He believes intelligent design is a legitimate scientific theory that should be taught side-by-side with evolution.

He would privatize Social Security, he thinks global warming is “junk science” and he supports a “drill everywhere” oil policy.

If all that is not enough to frighten the bejesus out of anyone listening, he has also invoked Hitler/Nazi imagery in an attack on Obama thereby proving that Godwin's Law is not confined to the internet.

More, it is not the first time Santorum has casually made such analogies. He himself says he has done it “hundreds” of times – and apparently does not understand how offensive, repugnant, contemptible and noxious – not to mention, stupid - playing the holocaust card is.

If you don't count a major supporter's awful aspirin joke, Santorum mostly stayed out of the recent attack from legislators and religious leaders on women's bodies and health but if you think that means he is not in agreement, back up and read that list of positions again.

As frightening as the idea of a Santorum presidency is, so is the media treatment of him. It is baffling that they accept him as a serious contender and not as a member of the tinfoil hat brigade where at any other time in American history, he would have been consigned – and ignored.

Today, there are primaries in Michigan and Arizona. As of Monday, Santorum and Mitt Romney were essentially tied in the Michigan polls, 37 to 35 respectively. Arizona Governor Jan Brewer has endorsed Romney and latest polls show him ahead of Santorum 43 to 27 percent in that state where the winner takes all the delegates.

The Republican nomination will not be decided tomorrow although it may happen next week on Super Tuesday when ten primaries are held in Alaska, Georgia, Idaho, Massachusetts, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, Tennessee, Vermont and Virginia vote.

Back when Santorum was at the bottom of the Republican pack behind Rick Perry, Michele Bachmann, Herman Cain, Jon Huntsman, Ron Paul, etc. I found him, like most of them, laughable - just another self-important yahoo out of his depth.

It's different now that his turn as front runner is lasting longer than that of those who have dropped out.

It is hard to respect anyone in the Republican field of candidates but there is one, Santorum, to be feared because he is an extremist, a religious zealot and given power, they are always dangerous.

That and the deeply embedded hatred of Obama among tens of millions of Americans mean no one should be dismissive of Rick Santorum's possible nomination.

UPDATE 6:30AM: President Bill Clinton's Labor Secretary, Robert Reich, has also published a blog post about Santorum today. Or, rather, the imminent danger from the "loony right" that Santorum represents. Reich believes the Republican Party will end up on the "dust heap of history." Eventually.

"In the meantime, though," writes Reich, "we are in trouble. America is a winner-take-all election system in which a party needs only 51 percent (or, in a three-way race, a plurality) in order to gain control.

"In parliamentary systems of government, small groups representing loony fringes can be absorbed relatively harmlessly into adult governing coalitions.

"But here, as we’re seeing, a loony fringe can take over an entire party — and that party will inevitably take over some part of our federal, state, and local governments.

"As such, the loony right is a clear and present danger."

I agree. Go read more here.


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


Updates to the Elderblog List

I was shocked to find out that the last update to the Elderblog List had been done more than a year ago, January 2011. It is time consuming to do by hand – most of one day - and I'll need to figure out an easier way before next time.

However, the treat was that I visited every blog on the list which is way too long these days for me to do often and did some catching up on what you've all been doing.

Too bad that some bloggers have disappeared with no explanation. What's interesting is that the largest number of those had been sitting on the waiting list since I found them. So it is true, I believe, that a lot of people who start blogs do not realize how much dedication it takes to keep them up and soon drop out. That is the reason I wait until new blogs are at least three months old before adding them.

What stands out, however, is how many of us have been blogging for years and years and years – a lot of whom I haven't “spoken” to in a long time and was so glad to see you're still there doing terrific things on your blogs.

Five blogs have changed names and are now in their new places in the alphabetical list:

• 1 Woman's Vu is now Nikki Stern
• Autumn Cottage Diary has been renamed One Mindful Moment
• Fried Okra Productions became Claudia Snowden
• ImagineOmit is Just Ask Judy (again)
• Joe's Place has become Elmer's Place

There are a lot of new blogs or, rather, new to the Elderblogger List and for their first appearance, they get a shoutout below. I hope you will visit some of them today and welcome the newcomers.

The entire Elderblog list can be found here and there is always a link to it in the left sidebar. If you find any errors, bad links, etc., let me know in the comments below.

The Accidental Blogger
Aging Online
Aging, Parkinson's and Me
Aging Us
Annie Joy's Letters
Another Old Woman
Between Two Rivers BevO's BlogO
Bobba Caps Doxology
Celeste Bergin
Cruisin Over Sixty
Decrepit Old Fool
Dirty Laundry
Djan-ity
Evelyn's Thoughts
Fat Man on a Keyboard
Frost Bottom Days
Gamboling Grace
Go Ask Alice...when she's 94
Grossblogger
Help! Aging Parents
HiddenMahala
I've Been Mugged
The Jaundiced View
Jim's Journal
Journey into Elderhood
The Little Old Lady Stays Put
Live and Learn
Manorisms
MerrilyMarylee's Blog
MovingoutGranni
Ms Graysea
A Nest on Feather Lane
The Next Stage
Nilknarf
Passage des perles
Pied Type
Pilgrim's Moon
Post Work Savvy
Retired English Teacher
Retirement: A Full-Time Job
Rock the Silver
Rubye Jack
RWNorman's Beer, Food and Politics
Satisfying Retirement
Senior Contentment
Simple Not Easy
Six Decades and Counting
So Many Years
wherestherain
The Wild Hare
Wu Wei


At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Linda Carmi: I'm a (Senior) Rockette


ELDER MUSIC: Cajun and Zydeco

PeterTibbles75x75This Sunday Elder Music column was launched in December of 2008. By May of the following year, one commenter, Peter Tibbles, had added so much knowledge and value to my poor attempts at musical presentations that I asked him to take over the column. He's been here each week ever since delighting us with his astonishing grasp of just about everything musical, his humor and sense of fun. You can read Peter's bio here and find links to all his columns here.


For those who are not too familiar with these styles of music, a rough and ready guide is that Cajun music was performed by the white folks in southern Louisiana and it incorporated elements of country music and occasionally polkas.

Woops, I think I’ve just lost a bunch of you with that polka business.

Zydeco was performed by the black folks in southern Louisiana and it incorporated elements of blues. Both of these were usually sung in French, or at least, a Creole version of that language and both had the piano accordion as a dominant instrument.

Woops, I think I just lost the rest of you. Never mind, I’ll plough on.

Over the years, as various strands of music influenced each other, it became increasingly difficult to tell the styles and performers apart and as far as I can see, there’s little difference these days.

Probably the most famous Cajun song is Jole Blon and the biggest selling version to that time was by HARRY CHOATES in 1946.

Harry Choates

Harry’s wasn’t the first version, the song had been around since the 1920s in recorded form and probably for a lot longer as a song. A year later, Moon Mulligan also recorded it and it sold ever more copies. However, we’re concerned with Harry today.

Harry was born in southern Louisiana - it’s not entirely certain where exactly and he moved to Port Arthur as a teenager. He had little schooling but learned to play the violin by listening to music on the jukebox.

He was in several bands but died at age 29 after slipping into a coma caused by his continuously hitting his head against the bars of his cell after being banged up for failure to pay child support.

♫ Harry Choates - Jole Blon

The most famous Zydeco artist would have to be CLLIFTON CHENIER.

Clifton Chenier

Clifton started performing in the mid-1950s playing blues and music from New Orleans. He was soon noticed and signed to Chess records (and later to Arhoolie, another fine blues label). He probably did more than anyone else to bring Zydeco music to a wider audience (not very wide, but somewhat).

Clifton also took the old washboard and turned it into a musical instrument made of aluminium, these days called a frottoir (ooo err) – just means a rubbing thingie.

He died in 1987 but his son, C.J. Chenier, continues playing the music to this day. Here is Clifton with Baby Please.

♫ Clifton Chenier - Baby Please

JO-EL SONNIER is equally at home in Cajun and country music. Various other forms of music as well.

Jo-El

Jo-El started young, mastering the accordion by age three. By the time he was six, he was a regular performer on radio and made his first recording when he was 11. By the time he reached early adulthood he was much in demand as a studio musician.

He has recorded albums both in the country vein, with some elements of rock & roll, as well as Cajun music. Jo-El’s songs have been recorded by many others but probably his most famous single is a cover of Richard Thompson’s Tear Stained Letter. Today, however, it’s Cajun we’re interested in and the tune is Cher Big Mamou.

♫ Jo-El Sonnier - Cher Big Mamou

BEAU JOCQUE or, as some would have it, Beau Jacques, was known as Andrus Esprit to his maman and papa.

Beau Jocque

Unlike many in this column, he wasn’t destined for a musical career. He spent many years in the air force and later worked as an electrician and welder. When an industrial accident put him in bed for some time he learned to play the accordion.

He discovered he was quite proficient at it and decided to form a band with his wife on the wash board. I don’t think we should read anything into that because, as I mentioned earlier, it is a regular instrument in Zydeco bands.

He brought serious rhythm and blues influences to his playing. He died of a heart attack in 1999. Here he is with his band, the Zydeco Hi-Rollers, with Give Him Cornbread.

♫ Beau Jocque & the Zydeco Hi-Rollers - Give Him Cornbread

Possibly the most famous and successful performer in Cajun music over the years is the “Ragin’ Cajun,” DOUG KERSHAW.

Doug Kershaw

Doug can play pretty much any instrument you hand him. He started his musical career with his brothers Rusty and Peewee. Peewee left early and the others continued as a duo for some considerable time.

In spite of his busy career, Doug also completed a degree in maths – I like him even better.

Doug has performed with many musicians, probably most notably Johnny Cash and Eric Clapton. He continues making fine music well into his seventies.

Doug’s songs have been covered by many artists, foremost among them would be the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band who had possibly the best known version of this song, Diggy Diggy Lo. This is Doug’s version.

♫ Doug Kershaw - Diggy Diggy Lo

EDDIE LEJEUNE is the son of noted Cajun musician, Iry LeJeune (who, unfortunately, was killed by a hit and run driver at the age of 26). Eddie learnt to play the accordion from his grandma when he was about six years old.

D.L. MENARD or Doris Menard to his folks. No wonder he goes with his initials – what were his parents thinking? – has been called the Hank Williams of Cajun music. D.L. plays guitar and was influenced by the playing of David Bromberg (and you could do worse than emulating David).

KEN SMITH is a champion Cajun fiddler who often appears with the Savoy Doucet Cajun Band.

Eddie Le Jeune

These three got themselves together and recorded an album of Cajun music called “Le Trio Cadien,” and a pretty nifty album it is too. They play as if they were sitting around on the front porch, perhaps a glass of something at hand and just going with the flow. From that album is the song, Bayou Pon Pon.

♫ Eddie LeJeune, D.L. Menard & Ken Smith - Bayou Pon Pon

Hailed by those in the know as the best Cajun band in the world, BEAUSOLEIL formed in 1975 and are based in Lafayette, Louisiana.

Beausoleil

The members are Michael Doucet, his brother David, Jimmy Breaux, Mitchell Reed, Tommy Alesi and Billy Ware. Although they play music that’s as authentic as possible to their Cajun roots, they also branch out into blues, jazz, Tex-Mex, folk and rock & roll. However, today we’re sticking to the more traditional Cajun style with the tune, Madame Sosthène.

♫ Beausoleil - Madame Sosthène

BUCKWHEAT ZYDECO was born Stanley Dural but acquired his nickname as a boy because his resemblance to the original film character.

Buckwheat Zydeco

Although officially his band’s name is Buckwheat Zydeco and Ils Son Partis Band, the shortened form of the name is what they usually use.

Stanley learned to play various keyboards as a youngster, particularly the organ, and backed people like Joe Tex and Clarence Gatemouth Brown. After that he formed an R&B/funk band called Buckwheat and the Hitchhikers that had some local success around Louisiana.

Clifton Chenier asked him to join his outfit as an organist and Stanley discovered how popular Zydeco music was. He quickly learned to play the piano accordion and after some success with Clifton he went out and formed the band we’re talking about today.

His is one of the few Zydeco groups to have considerable crossover success, perhaps because he doesn’t restrict his repertoire to traditional Zydeco music as we will see today with his version of Bob Dylan’s On A Night Like This.

♫ Buckwheat Zydeco - On A Night Like This

Michael Doucet, mentioned above in Beausoleil, performs in other bands as well. One of these is The Savoy Doucet Cajun Band. The Savoys in this band are Marc and ANN SAVOY. Ann got together with her friend LINDA RONDSTADT to record an album of tunes called “Adieu False Heart” that included several Cajun songs.

Linda and Ann

Regular readers of this column should know about Linda. If not, keep reading them.

Like Michael Doucet, Ann performs in several bands besides the one mentioned – The Magnolia Sisters, an all women band, another with her husband and sons in the Savoy Family Band, and one called Ann Savoy and her Sleepless Knights. She plays guitar, accordion and fiddle besides singing.

Here are Ann and Linda with Plus tu tournes.

♫ Linda Ronstadt & Ann Savoy - Plus tu tournes



INTERESTING STUFF: 25 February 2012

ONE OF THE REASONS I MISS NEW YORK CITY
When I first moved to New York in 1967, a taxi driver told me that the best thing about the city is that if you're one in a million, there are seven more people in town just like you.

And so it is – a city with odd, wonderful, interesting people on every block. Below is one of them in a video titled, This is My Home. But before you watch, let the filmmaker explain:

”On an unseasonably warm November night in Manhattan on our way to get ice cream, we stumbled upon what appeared to be a vintage shop, brightly lit display window and all.

“As we began to walk in, a man sitting out front warned us that we were welcome to explore, but nothing inside was for sale. Our interests piqued, we began to browse through the collections the man out front had built throughout his life. This is a story of a man and his home.”

You can watch three bonus clips of the man and his home here.

FCC ENDS TELEMARKETING ROBOCALLS
I get twice as many as personal calls – those auto-dialed, recorded messages telling me my credit is in dire need of repair or some such that eat up mobile phone minutes. Now it ends. Last Wednesday, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) banned them.

”Companies will no longer be able to point to an established business relationship with a consumer to justify the automated pitches.

"'Consumers have complained to us by the thousands about annoying robocalls,' said FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski during the agency's monthly open meeting.

"'The order we adopt today will require written opt-in, and it will make it easy for consumers to opt out. We're closing loopholes that have allowed robocallers to sneak through,' Genachowski said.”

Robocalls from charities, political campaigns and a few other types are still allowed. You can read more about the new rules here and find out all you need to know about unwanted telephone calls at this FCC webpage.

SENATE CANDY DISH
It has come to my attention that there is a candy dish – well, desk - in the U.S. Senate. It's been in existence since being started by California Senator (and former movie dancer) George Murphy in 1968, located in the back row of the Republican side of the room near the most high-traffic door.

Candy_desk_location

Since Murphy, other senators have kept the desk full of sugary treats including Rick Santorum from 1997 to 2007.

Candy_drawer

Democrats, who do have their own, less well-known candy desk, also use the Republican supply. You can read more here.

MORE PRESIDENTIAL SINGING
This clip from an In Performance at the White House: Red, White and Blues television show that will air next week on PBS has been shown everywhere and you've probably seen it.

Too bad. I love it too much. It's just great, so I'm posting it here – B.B. King, Buddy Guy, Mick Jagger and bunch of other blues legends who coaxed President Obama into joining them on Sweet Home Chicago.

Later, the president said this about life in the White House:

“Some nights when you want to go out and just take a walk, clear your head, or jump into a car just to take a drive, you can’t do it. Secret Service won't let you. And that’s frustrating. But then there are other nights where B.B. King and Mick Jagger come over to your house to play for a concert. So I guess things even out a little bit.”

ICE HOTEL
I don't have a bucket list. Aside from living in New York City again which I can't afford, the things I want to do before I die are smaller and more personal in nature than are convenient for a list.

Except this: it would be fun to spend a night or two in an ice hotel. There is one each winter in Quebec and a few other places. This one is in Sweden about 400 miles north of Stockholm. You can read about more about ice hotels here.

WHEN REPUBLICANS ARE AT THEIR WORST...
Jon Stewart is at his best. From early this week:

AMAZING COMPUTER FUN
From Nancy Leitz, who is a regular contributor to The Elder Storytelling Place, comes this computer, internet silliness. Yes, it's an advertisement and more, it's for a product we don't need anymore at our age, but still, it's still silly fun.

LeitzInternetGame

Go try it here. Just type in your first name and wait about ten seconds to see what results.

GERMANY'S BEST ENGLISH LOANWORD
A jury of linguists in Germany has selected the best English-language word import to their country and language. Are you ready for it? Shitstorm.

”Anatol Stefanowitsch, who headed the jury, said Monday that shitstorm 'fills a gap in the German vocabulary that has become apparent through changes in the culture of public debate.'”

Sounds like their politics are even more contentious than in the U.S. You can read more here.

TWIN BABY MOOSE PLAYING IN THE SPRINKLER
Did I ever tell you my personal moose story? Never mind – some other time. This video shows that even the most ungainly animals have cute babies.


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.


Elders Living Alone

There was a lot of response yesterday at The New York Times about the living alone story where I was mentioned and many commenters there said that none of us who were interviewed were particularly “quirky” as the headline claims.

They are correct but the difficulty lies with the headline writer trying to make the story “sexier” than it is and failing. Other than that distraction, I enjoyed reading about the other people in the story and the responses in the comments. Oh, wait. I do want to call out the ageism of a Times reader named Shannon from Raleigh, North Carolina who wrote,

“For the 70-year-old lady, forgetting to close the bathroom door when she has guests over seems to be a product of old age, not living alone. I would die of embarrassment.”

First, I do not “forget” to close the bathroom door. It's a choice; I don't see the point of closing it when I'm home alone. But always, in our culture, anything slightly out of the ordinary in old people is identified up as a failing. Shannon's assumption is that I leave the bathroom door open because I'm stupid, demented or at best, addled just because of my age. I'm so tired of this kind of stuff.

But that's not why I'm here today.

It was nice, as Susan Pope noted in a comment yesterday, for a 70-year-old to be included in a story with younger adults because we share an attribute, living alone, that is unrelated to age. It is a rare occurrence in human interest stories to include an elder in the sampling of examples and the writer, Steven Kurutz, is to be complimented for doing so.

There is, however, an aspect of living alone that did not pertain to his story and I would like to follow up on with you: in old age, we are more likely than young and mid-age people to be forced into single living after the kids are grown and/or a spouse dies.

If in our youth or mid-years we become single, most of us expect to find another permanent relationship, and many do. But when it happens after 60 or 70, it is usual for the majority, especially women, to be single until we die.

Widows and widowers come in all flavors. After a lifetime of daily shared experience, some have a terrible time overcoming newfound loneliness. But there have been more than a few, too, who have told me that as much as they loved their spouses, they are happy have these alone years and relish being on their own.

Happiness can't be generalized. What works for me, won't for you and it will be entirely different for others. I not only tolerate a lot of time alone, I crave it. Always have. When too many social engagements get crammed together in a short space of time, I get cranky and seek out quiet places where I can be by myself.

On the other hand, when friends come to stay, for a few days or a few weeks, I enjoy every minute of it. It is a precious gift to spend enough time together to relax into comfortable camaraderie and not rush through our stories and expand our understanding of one another.

Their visits are never a burden partly, I suspect, because even with long visits, the end point is known and then I like being alone again when the time comes.

On the other hand, I know people who love to have lots of people and lots of noise around all the time. It would drive me crazy but they thrive on it.

So, when we are young, such people might be stuck alone in between relationships but they can probably count on finding another loving companion to share a home with.

At our ages, we probably cannot. For me, I have no doubt that if I did find myself sharing living space again – either romantically or as a roommate – I would adapt without much fuss. (Yes, I'd learn to close the bathroom door again.) Others might not feel that way.

As Steven Kurutz noted in his Times story, one-quarter of Americans overall now live alone. That percentage is, necessarily, much higher for elders and this post barely touches on many points we might want to discuss about living alone at our age.

So how about you? If you live alone, do you like it? Do you indulge in ways you would not if you did not live alone? What's good and what's not about it?

If you are married, what do you make of all this living alone chitchat? Do you ever envy us? Do you think we're being silly when we cling to our "quirks"? Or...

Oh, wait. One more thing: The terrific, young woman, Leah Nash, who photographed me for the Times, sold me the rights to a different shot from the session which I've used for a new, updated photo in the TimeGoesBy banner above. I'm much happier with this new one.


At The Elder Storytelling Place today – Jeanne Waite Follett: Sunshine Chimera


ELDER POETRY INTERLUDE: Written in a Carefree Mood

[PERSONAL NOTE: I am mentioned, with a photo, at The New York Times today in a story about living alone by Steven Kurutz.]


WRITTEN IN A CAREFREE MOOD

Old man pushing seventy,
In truth he acts like a little boy,
Whooping with delight when he spies some mountain fruits,
Laughing with joy, tagging after village mummers;
With the others having fun stacking tiles to make a pagoda,
Standing alone staring at his image in the jardinière pool.
Tucked under his arm, a battered book to read,
Just like the time he first set out to school.

      - Lu You - 1125AD–1210AD

Detail-of-Poet-Lu-You

[The image is taken from a personal blog, Bill's Chengdu Journal, written by Bill Hawkins. It has not been updated since 2007. According to Bill, this detail is from a statue of Lu You in the Plum Blossom Garden of a park in Chengdu, Sichuan Province in China. It is said that Lu You wrote 10,000 poems.]


At The Elder Storytelling Place today, L.B. Woodgate: Hey. I Worked Hard for This Look – No Shame in Growing Old


Latest Awful Medicare Privatization Plan

category_bug_politics.gif The Republicans will not ever give up their goal to kill Medicare. Not ever. Whatever they call it, however they dress it up, it's really privatization designed to kill Medicare.

(By the way, they've got a new name for it this time around - "premium support" but it means vouchers and that means privatization.)

Last year, it was Republican Senator Representative Paul Ryan's draconian voucher program. A few months after that plan died on arrival Ryan tried a second voucher idea, hooking up with Democratic Senator Ron Wyden (embarrassingly, of my own state) to make it look kinder and gentler.

That one died too.

Now, in less than one year, there is a third variant on the idea of Medicare voucher programs – this one from Senators Tom Coburn (R-Ok) and Richard Burr (R-NC) who gave it the Orwellian title of Seniors Choice Act.

The National Committee to Preserve Social Security and Medicare (NCPSSM) carefully explains that the Burr/Coburn plans would provide seniors a voucher for their health care, a plan that would

• shift a growing share of Medicare costs to beneficiaries without reducing overall costs in the program

• undermine traditional Medicare

• leave millions of seniors without health coverage in retirement

• raise premiums for middle-class retirees

Richard Eskow of Campaign for America's Future, says the same thing more bluntly:

“Burr and Coburn want you to believe that they can raise the Medicare eligibility age, make you pay more in premiums, turn your health care over to the same insurers that are bankrupting you before you're sixty-five (if you're lucky enough to have insurance) - and that somehow you'll save money!”

More from Max Richtman, president and CEO of NCPSSM:

“This latest Medicare privatization scheme is nothing more than the GOP/Ryan plan on steroids,” he writes. “Not only does it promise savings that most private insurers have never achieved in providing coverage to seniors, it also delays health care coverage to age 67, and raises premiums for millions of American retirees...

“This legislation would take us back to the days when America’s aged and infirm were forced to find health insurance in a private marketplace that wouldn’t serve them because it simply wasn’t profitable.”

If you are interested, there are many more details and explanations at those links above. But I have two important things to say about this latest “kill Medicare” bill.

First, Republicans keep picking away at Medicare, making it more acceptable with each assault to talk out loud about reducing the amount of health care elders can have. Their plans include the same two, tired, unworkable ideas about how to do this: turn coverage over to private insurers (we all know how well that has succeeded with more than 50 million uninsured) and by pricing coverage out of elders' reach.

Meanwhile, Democrats are complicit by doing absolutely nothing.

They do not push back against Republican plans. They do not offer ideas of their own to reign in health care costs. And they do not promote single-payer, universal care for everyone that works quite well in all other developed nations.

They, the Democrats, do nothing.

Second, all these Republican plans involve giving elders vouchers with which to purchase private coverage. In addition to the economic problems with this approach, it adds a layer of difficulty that for some elders is insurmountable because it works like the prescription drug plan (Part D). Here's what I mean:

Because I do not take any prescription drugs and because there is no way on earth to predict what prescription drugs I might need in the future, I purchase the cheapest Part D plan each year and hope that should I need one or more prescription drugs in the year, it will be in my insurance carrier's formulary.

If not, I will have to pay full price until the next January when I can purchase a new Part D plan.

Even so and even with the spread sheet of possible policies provided at medicare.gov, it is a time-consuming chore trying to compare premiums, co-pays and deductibles to make the most economical choice.

And that is only drugs. Overall health coverage has maybe a hundred more variables to consider and they are always hard to match up against one another.

And what if you're sick? Or what if you are the caregiver for an ailing parent or spouse? Or what if you're just a little bit slower to catch on these days that you used to be?

Choosing then becomes a terrible, time-consuming, frightening burden that makes the title of the Coburn/Burr plan - Seniors Choice Act – a demonic, sick joke.

This plan won't go any further than the first two from last year, but I tell you about it because we must pay attention. If we don't, they will slip one of these past us one day.

Now, because you've been good enough to sit through this rather dry diatribe, here is your reward: Jon Stewart of The Daily Show Monday night taking on the Catholic bishops and birth control.


At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Marcy Belson: For the Love of a Cousin


Dr. Krauthammer's Excellent Doctor's Visit Tips

category_bug_journal2.gif My friend John Brandt sent me the excellent list below. It is the advice of retired cardiologist, Martin Krauthammer, that will help us get more out of office visits with our doctors.

Some items seem obvious, but we don't always follow our best instincts and it's easy to forget. You might want to print out this list for yourself and keep it somewhere that you'll be sure to consult before your next physician visit.

  1. Keep an up-to-date list of all your medications on your computer, including drug name, dosage and frequency. Print several copies and carry one with you to the doctor and have one in your pocket at all times, just in case.

  2. Call the doctor’s office before your visit to ensure that your test results are in. No need to see the doctor if he doesn’t have your results.

  3. If you have more than one physician, make sure they all have your full, current medical profile.

  4. Write down your questions for the doctor before an office visit and remember to take the list with you.

  5. At your office visit, if you have questions or new symptoms, volunteer them first. The doctor can address them before appointment time gets short at the end.

  6. On the list of questions, leave room for the answers and write them down, particularly instructions on medications. Who can read doctors’ prescriptions?

  7. Because writing answers to your questions during an office visit isn’t always easy, bring a significant other or a trusted friend to be another pair of ears so you don’t forget important instructions. You might even record the answers.

  8. If you’re treated while traveling or away from home, get copies of all pertinent records for your home doctor. It’s more efficient to extract them from a medical practice in Athens face-to-face than to request them by email, fax or carrier pigeon later.

  9. The night before your office visit, put all your information and questions for the doctor in the car. That way, in the morning, when who knows what happens to distract you, you won’t leave the important stuff on the kitchen table.

  10. Establish rapport with the doctor’s office staff. You always want to be known as the person you are rather than your disease or your chart number.

Are there others you would add to the list?

Dr. Krauthammer gave his list during a talk at the Y's Men of Westport/Weston Club in Connecticut and it was posted on the ctnews.com blog.


At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Barbara Sloan: Snow Birds


What Elders Know About Sexual Politics

category_bug_politics.gif Wow. After the sexual politics of last week, is there anything more to say about contraception, abortion, women's right to choose, perceptions of religious liberty and coerced female penetration - not to mention the widespread male anxiety about female sexuality that all this has made apparent?

Yes, indeed. I think we elders need to remind others what is at stake.

Although some (definitely not all) fundamentalist women go along, it is mostly men taking part in this argument about control of women's vaginas.

Not to overdo since it has been published in about ten million places by now, let's start with the photo of all those men and no women testifying at a Congressional hearing about insurance coverage of birth control last week:

Congressional Birth Control Panel

At the risk of overdoing it twice in one day, let's also take one more look at the statement on the subject of contraception from one of presidential candidate Rick Santorum's largest contributors:

After this video went viral (in about six seconds), Santorum tried to disavow his connection to Foster Friess but that's an embarrassingly disingenuous move from a man whose super-PAC accepted $331,000 from Mr. Friess in 2011 and who has famously said elsewhere, "I think [contraception is] harmful to women; I think it's harmful to society.”

Women of all political and religious stripes responded swiftly and loudly against the troglodytes who would move the nation into Handmaid's Tale territory. But it's about a lot more than just who pays for birth control.

With the many local attacks on women's health throughout the nation, it is going to be a battle just to maintain what we've already won and thought had long been settled.

Now, you might think that a blog by, for and about elders - which includes, of course, post-menopausal women - would not have a dog in this fight. If so, you would be monumentally wrong.

We elders are the first generation to benefit from reliable birth control and legal abortion. Now, decades later, we are the only ones alive who can testify to what life was like before: a zillion unwanted babies, lethal backstreet abortions and not much chance for college or careers beyond motherhood. (Remember the jokes about MRS degrees?)

If we do not prevail over right wing fundamentalists who would keep women barefoot and pregnant (I had thought that phrase was buried forever), we will be the last generation to control our own reproduction.

All the sexual antagonism last week comes on the heels of a frightening number of state initiatives to limit women's health access. Just a few:

• Already on Kansas, there are only three abortion providers. Now, recent proposed legislation would, among other restrictions, require women seeking an abortion to undergo a sonogram and also require doctors to tell women of a long discredited link between abortion and breast cancer.

Most unbelievably, the bill would exempt doctors from malpractice suits, according to Alternet, if they

”...withhold information from patients that might lead those patients to seek an abortion. In other words, a physician could choose not to tell a woman something important about her own health if the doctor thought the woman might seek an abortion because of that information.”

• The Virginia legislature has passed the now infamous vagina bill that will require women seeking an abortion in the first 12 weeks of pregnancy to undergo a transvaginal ultrasound procedure - that is, coerced and medically unnecessary vaginal penetration.

• Oklahoma appears to be on the verge of passing a personhood bill. According to Reuters [emphasis added],

”The Republican-controlled state Senate voted 34-8 to pass the 'Personhood Act' which defines the word person under state law to include unborn children from the moment of conception.

“The measure now goes to the state House where pro-life Republicans outnumber Democrats by more than a 2-1 margin.”

• And in Iowa, proposed legislation outlaws abortion entirely:

”The bill, House File 2298, introduced by Rep. Kim Pearson, R-Pleasant Hill, is an outright ban on abortion, and includes criminal penalties of up to life in prison for those who perform abortions.”

(An Alternet story by Sarah Seltzer and Lauren Kelley is a good overview of the most outrageous local initiatives to limit women's reproductive rights.)

This all looks to me like a coordinated attack on women by, mostly, men but also the women who blindly follow them, and their success is not impossible. Don't forget that the defeat of the Equal Rights Amendment was due largely to a woman, Phyllis Schafly, and her Eagle Forum.

My sense is, however, that women are not going to allow anyone to undermine the reproductive rights we have. As has been pointed out in relation to the Catholic bishops' objection to President Barack Obama's quite reasonable compromise on insurance coverage for contraception, 98 percent of Roman Catholic women in the U.S. have used birth control at one time or another along with 99 percent of women overall.

However, as the inroads against abortion in individual states indicate, we cannot be complacent nor think other women will handle this for us. We must all speak up and speak out again and again until this is over.

Oh, and one more thing: unless you want these attacks to continue through at least 2016, pray, light candles or whatever it is you do to summon the gods that Rick Santorum is the Republican nominee; I don't believe anyone this sanctimonious can be elected:

"The whole sexual libertine idea; many in the Christian faith have said, well, that’s OK, contraception is OK. It’s not OK, because it’s a license to do things in a sexual realm that is counter to how things are supposed to be."

At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Ellen Younkins: Happy Valentine's Day


ELDER MUSIC: Elvis - Part 2

PeterTibbles75x75This Sunday Elder Music column was launched in December of 2008. By May of the following year, one commenter, Peter Tibbles, had added so much knowledge and value to my poor attempts at musical presentations that I asked him to take over the column. He's been here each week ever since delighting us with his astonishing grasp of just about everything musical, his humor and sense of fun. You can read Peter's bio here and find links to all his columns here.


Elvis Presley

Last week we had my selections of Elvis tunes. Today is the turn of Norma, the Assistant Musicologist. The A.M. says about our choices:

“Well, we picked some from the same genres (Sun Sessions, Jailhouse Rock), just different tracks. And I threw in several of the big dramatic numbers because I figured you’d go for the rockers.”

We’ll start with the same record as last week, only the other side. The side that was the big hit. The song that changed music forever.

Heartbreak Hotel sounded like nothing else we’d ever heard when it came out," says the A.M. "But then, I didn’t like much of Elvis’s following pop period. It was only years later that I finally came across the early Sun Sessions – more to my taste.

♫ Elvis Presley - Heartbreak Hotel

Elvis Presley

Speaking of the Sun Sessions, here is a track from that period. The song is one Junior Parker recorded earlier, also at Sun records. I imagine Elvis had heard Junior’s version but he rocked it up; it’s quite different from the original. It is Mystery Train.

♫ Elvis Presley - Mystery Train

Elvis Presley

A song from one of his later films. Not a great flick – well, none of them were - but better than a lot of them. There are hints of acting talent in this one that was evident in his first few films, however, it was never allowed to blossom. Also, there weren’t many songs in it either but there was Flaming Star.

♫ Elvis Presley - Flaming Star

Now to one of our common genres, Jailhouse Rock. It seems my family wasn’t the only one with the EP of music from that film.

"In my case," says the A.M., "I was staying with cousins during school holidays when Jailhouse Rock came out and we played their copy of the EP to death for those few days."

Elvis Presley

The way we’re going it looks as if we might get to play all the songs on that EP. Here is I Want to Be Free.

♫ Elvis Presley - I Want to Be Free

A change of pace.

"I had to throw in a couple of tracks from his high melodrama period," says the A.M.

High melodrama indeed. That would certainly apply to a song based on the song O sole mio. It was written some time ago, 1898, by Giovanni Capurro and Eduardo di Capua. The English words were written by Aaron Schroeder and Wally Gold.

It seems that when he was in Germany, Elvis heard Tony Martin sing There’s No Tomorrow, another song based on O sole mio. He rather liked it and told his publisher. The publisher got the aforementioned gentlemen to write new words and we have another hit, It's Now or Never.

♫ Elvis Presley - It's Now or Never

From high melodrama to perhaps low melodrama. Al Jolson had a hit with this song many years earlier and Elvis seemed to like that sort of thing. I was rather surprised when the A.M. chose it. The song is more like something I would have picked (but didn’t). Are You Lonesome Tonight?

♫ Elvis Presley - Are You Lonesome Tonight

Next are two songs that could be described as Americana although there may be some arguments about the first of these but that’s okay. That one is one of the biggest of his later hits, In the Ghetto.

♫ Elvis Presley - In The Ghetto

The next is attributed to Mickey Newbury, a writer of fine, if rather dolorous songs. He didn’t write the songs but he had the idea of putting three of them together to make an interesting whole. Elvis obviously heard Mickey’s version as he does a note-perfect imitation of An American Trilogy.

♫ Elvis Presley - An American Trilogy

Million Dollar Quartet

Here is some Gospelabilly music. If that term sounds unfamiliar to you, I wouldn’t be surprised as the A.M. coined it just today for this very track. It seems so obvious, we wondered if someone else might have thought of it already, but we don’t think so.

Back in 1956, five singers happened to be at Sun Records all at the same time and they gathered round a piano and started singing. One of them, Roy Orbison didn't stay, leaving what has now come to be called the Million Dollar Quartet.

They are Jerry Lee Lewis, Carl Perkins, Johnny Cash and, of course, Elvis. Sam Phillips had the foresight to have the tapes rolling and this improvised session was captured so we can all hear what went down that day.

Here they are with the old gospel song, I Shall Not Be Moved.

♫ Million Dollar Quartet - I Shall Not Be Moved

I’ll finish as I did last week with the common song, the one on both of our lists, His Latest Flame.

"We obviously think it’s good enough to listen to twice," says the A.M.

♫ Elvis Presley - His Latest Flame


INTERESTING STUFF: 18 February 2012

YAAKOV KIRSCHEN'S DRY BONES
There are days in my life when I find it so painful that friends live so far away I can hardly allow myself to think about it.

In the past, I have shown you some work of my artist friend, Sali Ariel. Today, it is her husband, Yaakov Kirschen, the creator of Israel's Dry Bones cartoon that he has been writing and drawing for nearly 40 years. He is terrific in this recent video:

You can follow Yak's work at his Dry Bones Blog.

THE PERILS OF COMPUTER TRANSLATION
From Guardian UK:

”According to Sahil Anand, who first posted the photo to Facebook: 'A contract company out here [in Egypt] was asked to stencil on the side of a fuel tanker: Diesel Fuel in Arabic and No Smoking in Arabic. This is what came back.' If only we knew the Arabic word for 'fail.'”

Translation mistake

WHAT BREAST CANCER IS
Tarzana sent the link to this stunning video made, in the wake of the Komen/Planned Parenthood debacle a couple of weeks ago, by a breast cancer patient named Linda. She is to be congratulated for her openness and honesty along with every good wish for a speedy recovery.

PONY TAIL SCIENCE
“Rapunzel number helps scientists quantify ponytails” says the headline on a story that has received a lot of play on tech websites and solves a puzzle they say Leonardo da Vince pondered:

”The Rapunzel Number provides a key ratio needed to calculate the effects of gravity on hair relative to its length.

"'That determines whether the ponytail looks like a fan or whether it arcs over and becomes nearly vertical at the bottom,' Goldstein said in a telephone interview.”

And this is important because??? It will have, so sayeth scientists,

”...resonance with the computer graphics and animation industry, where the representation of hair has been a challenging problem.

Uh huh. You can read more here.

TUSKEEGEE AIRMEN VISIT WHITE HOUSE
The Tuskegee Airmen were a segregated group of pilots who fought in World War II. Recently, they were honored by President Barack Obama and the first lady at the White House for a screening of a new film, Red Tails, about them.

You can find out some more about the Tuskeegee Airmen at this Wikipedia page that has a lot of external links with more information about them. Here is a trailer for Red Tails. The film was released in January.

TEEN ROMANCE RESUMES AFTER 70 YEARS
Betty Hove, 85, and John Grosch, 87, lost track of each other during World War II and more than half a century of living went by. Now they are reuniting. The video covers it pretty well but you can read a little more here.

video platform video management video solutions video player

TAKE YOUR CAT TO WORK DAY
Actually, The “first and last” take-your-cat-to- work day. I found this at Jan Adams blog and like she says, it “rings true.” (It may be originally from this Flickr site or just posted there.

Takeyourcattoworkday

WOMAN'S NEW JAW MADE WITH 3D PRINTER
Last July, I showed you what, to me, was an amazing, eye-popping video about 3D printers that make – well, 3D objects with about as much ease as a paper copier.

This is even more – um, jaw-dropping. It was announced earlier this month that a woman's jaw has been replaced with a new one made with a 3D printer. Here is a short, animated explanation of the technology:

The printed jaw is made from titanium powder. The patient is an 83-year-old woman whose own jaw had become infected. She is now able to speak, eat and function normally again. This holds amazing possibilities for the future. You can read more here and here.

AW – SWEET, TENDER AND WONDERFUL BABY LIONS
At least half a dozen readers sent this too-cute-for-words video. It was lion keeper Douglas Hamilton's last day with the cubs.


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.


How This Blog Operates

blogging bug image Because there have lately been a lot of new subscribers, I thought it might be useful (maybe for long-time readers, too) to know the “rules” I use to produce Time Goes By and, where applicable, its sister blog, The Elder Storytelling Place.

“Rules” in quotation marks because sometimes I break them and they are subject to change for reasons ranging from fairness to personal whim.

So maybe these should be called guidelines or guiding principles - the conventions and standards I use to help keep Time Goes By on track.

COPYRIGHT, FAIR USE AND CITATIONS
Every possible effort is made to follow copyright and fair use regulations. You will not see entire articles or stories copied here. When a newspaper, magazine, website, blog, etc., is quoted, it is the shortest portion possible to make the point with a link to the source.

That's not to say I don't screw up, but I correct as quickly as possible when errors are pointed out and unlike some “rules” below, this one is not changeable.

FACT CHECKING
There are publications and writers who are trustworthy and there are those who are not but generally, I trust no one and seek out at least two sources for any fact I publish.

One of my most useful talents is having excellent radar for questionable facts; they jump off pages at me as though they are printed in 48-point, red type. Sure, I make mistakes. If you find one, let me know and it will fixed.

NO ADVERTISING
The most successful blogs in terms of traffic are almost entirely about politics, celebrities or technology so given such an un-sexy topic as aging, Time Goes By does well and has never stopped growing.

Nevertheless, it gets nowhere near the half million and more page views a day needed to make the hassle of carrying advertising worth the effort. I tried for a while in the early years of TGB; the return was too small for the attention required and it junked up the pages.

So Time Goes By is delivered to you ad-free. Relatedly, for those who subscribe via email and rss, you get the entire story instead of the first paragraph or two with a link to the online webpage as many feeds supply. If I did the latter, I could probably double the blog's page views. Many sites do this and it is irritating as hell.

Please, please note however – all who subscribe via rss and email - that you cannot see comments or leave a comment without going to the website which you do by clicking the title of the story in the feed. When, instead, you click “reply” in your feed reader or email program, your comment goes only to me via email.

I explain this to half a dozen readers via email every day. It would free up some of my time if you would take a moment to understand how this works.

PRODUCTS, SERVICES AND GUEST POSTS
These days, Time Goes By receives about 50 or 60 requests per week to write about commercial (and non-profit) products and services. I reject each of them.

That does not mean they are all of the late-night, infomercial variety. Some appear to be valuable to elders, but I would never recommend anything to you that I have not tried myself and I do not have time to test-drive all this stuff.

One exception is books. Ever since the media realized the gigantic baby boom generation is getting old, the number of new books on aging, anti-aging and everything related has exploded – thousands per year.

About 98 percent are awful, looking to make a quick buck with a clever title and no useful content. But a few are worth the the time and money. I do write about some of those.

With increasing frequency, publicists for commercial products and services offer to have their “experts” write columns for Time Goes By – for free, they tell me, if I will link to their website. They get a polite rejection letter too, as do authors who want to promote their books by adapting them into a TGB post.

CONTESTS
For many years, I refused to hold contests. I have forgotten the reason. Lately, I have loosened up on that and there will be the occasional contest but with this caveat:

The contest must be exclusive to Time Goes By which gives a reasonable chance of a regular TGB reader winning.

COMMENTS
I consider comments the lifeblood of a blog. They are where the important conversation goes on and my post is meant to be the day's jumping off point.

I ride the comment flow as carefully as I have time for each day. Spam is removed as quickly as possible and I am particularly adamant about deleting those who think they are oh so clever by leaving a complimentary note then linking to a retail website. For some reason, Vuitton (undoubtedly knock-offs) shows up frequently.

On a few occasions, legitimate commenters taking part in the discussion leave links to their sites that sell products or services. Those comments remain, but I remove the link. That's just the way it is here; you don't get to use the comments at TGB for free advertising.

I also monitor for personal attacks on me or commenters but it has rarely been a problem. Everyone here is quite good at making their points, disagreeing, arguing and more without crossing the line. I'm pretty sure I don't really need to say that when it does happen, the entire comment is deleted.

Oh, and comments too far off topic are deleted too. Outside links in comments are allowed as long as they are related to the day's topics but I sure would appreciate it if you would learn to make a proper html link and not just copy in an endless (or even bit.ly) string of letters.

Finally, language. Lots of four-letter words not only muck up blogs and sometimes offend, they detract from reasonable conversation. But we are all grownups here and god knows sometimes it take an f-bomb or a “horseshit” to make a point forcefully. Just be judicious.

PERSONAL INFORMATION
One of the things that sets off a blog from many other types of publication is personal information about the blogger in the about page and in posts. Bloggers and blog readers can become mightily offended when they discover someone is not who they say they are.

(Do not paint all pseudonyms with this brush. There are some very good reasons not to use one's real name.)

Here, I use my real name and any stories I tell about myself and my life are true to the best of my knowledge and – ahem – memory (we all know how that goes at our ages).

When I use readers' or friends' names, it is only with their permission; otherwise you get “a friend” and “a reader.” And since ownership of the content in email (like physical letters) remains with the writer, I never use quotations from email without permission.

Whew! This is wordier than I intended but I think covers some recent email questions I've received and some other information that is related. You can leave any questions in the comments.


At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Dani Ferguson Phillips: Never Underestimate the Power of a Good Book


ELDER POETRY INTERLUDE: Forgetfulness

Now and then on Thursdays, particularly when I need some extra time, I will post a poem I like related to aging.

Today, it is from Billy Collins - Forgetfulness

The name of the author is the first to go
followed obediently by the title, the plot,
the heartbreaking conclusion, the entire novel
which suddenly becomes one you have never read,
never even heard of,

as if, one by one, the memories you used to harbor
decided to retire to the southern hemisphere of the brain,
to a little fishing village where there are no phones.

Long ago you kissed the names of the nine Muses goodbye
and watched the quadratic equation pack its bag,
and even now as you memorize the order of the planets,

something else is slipping away, a state flower perhaps,
the address of an uncle, the capital of Paraguay.

Whatever it is you are struggling to remember
it is not poised on the tip of your tongue,
not even lurking in some obscure corner of your spleen.

It has floated away down a dark mythological river
whose name begins with an L as far as you can recall,
well on your own way to oblivion where you will join those
who have even forgotten how to swim and how to ride a bicycle.

No wonder you rise in the middle of the night
to look up the date of a famous battle in a book on war.
No wonder the moon in the window seems to have drifted
out of a love poem that you used to know by heart.


And this is the poet himself, reading Forgetfulness:


At The Elder Storytelling Place today - Joanne Zimmermann: Communications Way Back Then


Elders and Washington Politics (This Week)

UPDATE: In the time since I wrote this post on Tuesday, Congress has reached what is being called a "tentative" deal to extend not just the payroll tax holiday but unemployment benefits and make the "doc fix" which prevents a cut in reimbursements to physicians who accept Medicare. A vote tentatively set for Friday. Here's one news story about it.


category_bug_politics.gif Two relatively big pieces of news out of Washington this week: President Barack Obama's budget and the Republican so-called “cave” on extension of the payroll tax cut. There are aspects of each that affect elders so let's take them one at a time.

PRESIDENT OBAMA'S BUDGET
On one hand, there is hardly any point in parsing Obama's budget since it will be mangled by the Republicans in Congress. So why not wait until some of the dust has settled? Well, because it gives us a bit of a sense of his positions on important issues although they may be politically motivated.

Overall, within this new budget, the president is on the side of elders in regard to Social Security and Medicare. There are no cuts to the two programs but it does call for means testing and increasing Medicare premiums for higher income recipients.

This is a dangerous game because there is always downward income creep due to inflation so that lower and lower income levels are subject to the higher premiums and it's awfully hard to change such regulations once they are in place.

There are some other good and bad points for the two big elder programs in the proposed budget and I'll go over those in coming days. But considering that Republicans want massive cuts to both programs, the president has held fairly firm and I appreciate this statement on page 195 of his budget:

”The president realizes that Social Security is indispensable to workers, retirees, survivors, and people with disabiilities and that it is one of the most important and most successful programs ever established in the United States.

“Although current forecasts maintain the solvency of Social Security paying full benefits until 2036, the president is committed to making sure that Social Security is solvent and viable for the American people now and in the future.

“He is strongly opposed to privatizing Social Security and looks forward to working on a bipartisan basis to preserve it for future generations.”

Good statement of philosophy for an important program but he really needs to get over that bipartisan stuff with this Congress and find alternative means of reaching his goals.

EXTENSION OF PAYROLL TAX CUT
You will recall that when the two percent payroll tax cut was up for renewal just before the holidays, a last-minute agreement to a two-month extension got the Congress out of Washington for their extended break into the new year. But the extension expires at the end of this month and, if not renewed, will result in an average of $40/week increase in paycheck deductions.

Personally, I am opposed to this tax cut. Workers are not penalized and get full credit toward their future Social Security benefit and the lost revenue to the Social Security trust fund is replaced from the federal government's general revenue fund.

But, as we have discussed here in the past, that is a breach in the previously airtight lock on the trust fund door giving Congress, which holds the budget purse strings, the possibility to withhold the replacement funds. Scary.

Since hardly anyone else seems to care about that except me, let's get on with this week's issue. It was expected that Republicans in Congress would hold extension of the tax holiday hostage to budget cuts elsewhere. But here's a shocker: as noted in The New York Times yesterday, on Monday

”After months of partisan confrontation that left the tax break hanging in the balance, Republicans suddenly offered to extend the two-percentage-point cut while continuing to haggle over added unemployment benefits and a measure to prevent a drop in fees paid to doctors by Medicare.”

I'm sure you noticed the second part of that sentence. Unemployment benefits are due to expire at the end of this month too and what is called the “doc fix,” extending the current fee schedule paid to physicians by Medicare. The first is crucial to the feeble but possibly burgeoning economic recovery and the second would help keep doctors in the Medicare system.

Therefore, what some reporters referred to as a “Republican cave” on Monday wasn't a cave at all which caused the president to keep up the pressure yesterday:

“'They need to do it now — without drama and without delay,' he said. 'No ideological sideshows to gum up the works. No self-inflicted wounds. Just pass this middle class tax cut. Pass the extension of unemployment insurance. Do it before it’s too late.'”

Oy, my head hurts from so much of the same old, same old in Washington.

So – let's lighten our load today. There were so many other things to talk about last week that Crabby Old Lady didn't get a chance to speak her mind on the contraceptive/Catholic church controversy. As it happens, however, Jon Stewart of The Daily Show returned from a week-long hiatus in excellent form on this topic.

Stick with it to the end. It gets funnier and funnier.


At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Lyn Burnstine: I Miss My Lips


Elder Effort for Medical Marijuana

The guy in the video looked to be near my age and he was talking to a group of other people as old or older than I am.

”We invented marijuana,” he said. “We're the Woodstock generation.”

Well, that got my attention and he's right, you know – sort of. Before us, weed - or pot, maryjane, ganga and the hundred other names for it - was mostly the province of jazz musicians – or so it was said.

The man in the video I saw is Robert Platshorn and he served more time in prison on a marijuana charge than anyone else in history - nearly 30 years. He was convicted of smuggling an extremely large quantity – half a million pounds over a six-month period - into the U.S. from Colombia. But still – 30 years?

Now that he's a free man again, Mr. Platshorn has turned cannabis activist. As the founder of The Silver Tour, he is working to enlist elders to pressure legislators to legalize marijuana or, at least, to provide safe, legal access to it for medical purposes. Take a look at this CNN story.

It is true that marijuana is well known to relieve symptoms of arthritis, glaucoma, cancer, nausea from chemotherapy and many other conditions when legal drugs do not or cannot.

Nevertheless, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration claims it has no medical use, and the federal government classifies marijuana as a Schedule I drug up there with heroin and LSD, and claims the right to supersede state law. According to Wikipedia:

”The United States Supreme Court has ruled in United States v. Oakland Cannabis Buyers' Coop and Gonzales v. Raich that the federal government has a right to regulate and criminalize cannabis, even for medical purposes.

“A person can therefore be prosecuted for a cannabis-related crime even if it is medical cannabis that is legal according to the laws of this state.”

That claim causes some amount of jurisdictional difficulty when an agency in Washington decides from time to time to make a federal case of it in any of the 17 states and District of Columbia that have legalized medical marijuana. There's a story here of a federal raid of a legal (under state law) pot farm in Oregon last fall.

It's not funny for the people arrested and prosecuted, but all the fuss and bother and fear and misunderstanding about marijuana tend to make me laugh. I've been smoking pot off and on for 55 years – since I was introduced to it at age 15; it hasn't harmed me and it has sometimes helped me when nothing else could.

I still wonder, all these years later, if I would have healed from the breakup with my husband as well as I did without getting stoned every night after work; more evenings than not, I rolled a joint before I had my coat off.

It kept me from having to think about the mess I'd made of my life when I didn't want to, let me zone out to music or books or daydreams. I slept like a baby with no hangover in the morning which wouldn't have been the case with alcohol.

After about six months, I emerged from my cannabis cocoon ready to face the world and begin again. No harm, no foul and I returned to smoking now and then mostly with friends.

And now, we've got a president who used to smoke pot. Here's a mini-history lesson from Chris Matthews back in2006 about pot and politicians:

Yes, of course, that's the point. Getting high is fun, as the president – got that, the president - of the United States acknowledges.

Mr. Platshorn wants to see marijuana legalized for medical uses, and good on him for making the effort. God knows, not having found a way obtain pot since I moved to Oregon, I miss a night's deep sleep I can get after smoking a joint.

But it is a hypocrisy for me to say only that. I also miss getting high now and then, particularly for listening to music. Or not. Just enjoying the high, getting silly, giggling with some like-minded friends.

And it is stupid beyond all reason that alcohol is legal – you know, just for fun, for conviviality, for social occasions or even to get falling down drunk if that's your idea of fun – and marijuana is not.

The Silver Tour of Mr. Platshorn is a terrific idea - an elder crusade to legalize pot, at least medically. That would be a start. Read more about his effort here.)

I'll let Lawrence O'Donnell on MSNBC last November have the last word:


At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Johna Ferguson: Schools in China


Carrying High School Prejudices into Old Age

Undoubtedly, you remember cliques in high school where students divided themselves into the jocks, brains, rich, preppies, druggies, etc. and the most privileged groups tended to be mean. If you were among the excluded, it could be painful.

It is expected that we outgrow these arbitrary divisions and certainly so by the time we reach our 60s and older. But last week in The New Old Age blog at The New York Times, this turned up:

”...last spring, managers declared the River Terrace and two other dining facilities at the community off limits to anyone but independent living residents. Assisted living residents were told to use their own small dining room; nursing residents were restricted to theirs.”

To get our terminology straight, River Terrace is a “gracious” dining room in a continuing care retirement community (CCRC) called Harbor’s Edge in downtown Norfolk, Virginia. It is, as is the definition of CCRCs, divided into the three sections mentioned in that quote. Residents move among independent, assisted and nursing care living through the years depending on the requirements of their health and needed care.

As you can imagine, many residents object to the new dining policy not only because it is discriminatory in general but for a lot of other good reasons:

”...longtime friends — and several married couples — who lived in separate parts of the facility could no longer share meals in the main dining room. Those in assisted living or nursing care also were also barred from community events like the Fourth of July celebration...

"The Hodgeses had been eating together nightly, though he lived in the nursing unit and she was in independent living. Lindsay Bilisoly sometimes escorted his 90-year-old father, Frank, to dinner with his wife, Indie, 85, who remained in the independent living unit they’d originally moved into together.”

Other residents support the segregation:

“Martha Haycox, 80, past president of the Resident Advisory Council...took pains to point out that three independent living residents with health problems are also excluded from the dining room, while many who do use it require wheelchairs or walkers.

“'It happened to me twice in one week that somebody at the next table threw up,' requiring hasty clean-up by the maintenance staff, she said. Another time, she said, someone’s wheelchair got tangled in a tablecloth at Sunday brunch and nearly pulled all the food off the buffet table...

“'It’s a very upscale community,' said Mr. Volder. 'When someone comes in wearing a coat and tie, with guests, they want an ambience of fine dining.'”

In other words, we don't want no crips sullying our lovely upscale meals.

Vomiting at the dinner table is hardly pleasant, but hey – shit happens and more than most places, it should be expected sometimes in a retirement community. It's hardly a big deal – you clean up and move on. I seem to recall such an event with a president of the United States at a state dinner in Japan.

Let us not forget too that, healthy or sick, residents at Harbor's Edge pay dearly to live there. The grown son of one resident:

“'Ninety-five percent of the time he’s perfectly capable of eating dinner,' Mr. Bilisoly said. 'I can take him to any restaurant in Norfolk or in the state of Virginia, except the one in the building he paid $600,000 to move into.'”

In high school, students who considered themselves better than everyone else prevented lesser beings from eating lunch at certain cafeteria tables. Fifty and 60 years later, nothing has changed.

Sometimes I am deeply embarrassed by my contemporaries. The full Times story is here and it's worth reading some of the comments.


At The Elder Storytelling Place today: I.S. Kipp: Trinkets and Treasures


ELDER MUSIC: Elvis – Part 1

PeterTibbles75x75This Sunday Elder Music column was launched in December of 2008. By May of the following year, one commenter, Peter Tibbles, had added so much knowledge and value to my poor attempts at musical presentations that I asked him to take over the column. He's been here each week ever since delighting us with his astonishing grasp of just about everything musical, his humor and sense of fun. You can read Peter's bio here and find links to all his columns here.


When I started writing these columns, I said to myself that I wouldn't do any on the big four of 20th century music – Elvis, Frank, The Beatles and Bob. The big five really, Louis as well. This was because they are so well known, what could I come up with that was new?

So much for that as I've already done The Beatles and Frank and sort-of Bob, thus that idea is well and truly gone by the board.

Elvis Presley

Recently, when there was nothing on TV - something that occurs quite regularly - I put on some music, as is my wont. This time it was Elvis. There was quite a bit of his music as I have a five-CD changer.

That got Norma, the Assistant Musicologist, and me thinking about which tracks we'd select for an Elvis column. We took up pencils and papers and each wrote a column's worth of tracks we'd include.

To my surprise, there was only one song that was common to both our lists. Okay, Elvis has a lot of songs to his name, but the A.M. and I have roughly similar tastes in music so that was a bit of a surprise. I guess our tastes are probably more roughly than similar.

However, it means there are two columns for Elvis. It also means I have to come up with twice as much interesting stuff about him. I know that there's a lot of information out there but most of it is pretty well known, so I'll have to go to the books, particularly those by Peter Guralnick and Elaine Dundy.

Both of these books, or more than one book in the case of Guralnick, have hundreds of pages so I probably won’t bother. I’ll just say something about the songs.

These are my selections. I’ll start this off by turning the record over. The flip side of the single of the A.M.'s first choice was my first choice. I know that because my sister bought the record, she’d play one side (the A.M.’s side, but you'll have to wait till next week to find out which one it is unless you bought that record as well back then) and I'd play the other, the one that wasn't a hit.

That song is I Was The One.

♫ Elvis Presley - I Was The One

Elvis Presley

When I was a whippersnapper, not too long after the previous record, we had the EP (remember EPs?) of Jailhouse Rock. I say we because I can’t remember whether this belonged to my sister or me. We both would have claimed it no doubt, but as she is older it was probably hers as I wasn’t buying much at that stage.

This one had five songs on it, the five best from the film. Come to think of it, there were only five songs in the film anyway. This was the best film Elvis made, but that really doesn’t say much. Naturally the title song has to be here.

♫ Elvis Presley - Jailhouse Rock

Although the quality of his songs, but not his singing, fell off somewhat after he returned from his stint in the army, there are still a number of them I like from that early sixties period.

The reduction in quality had a lot to do with the “Colonel” refusing to use any more songs from Leiber and Stoller after they chatted to Elvis without first clearing it with him. I won’t say any more about this complete waste of space of a person.

Here is one of the songs from that period I really like, She's Not You.

♫ Elvis Presley - She's Not You

King Creole was probably the last of the (rather few) decent Elvis films. He stopped trying after this one.

It started life as a book by Harold Robbins, A Stone For Danny Fisher. James Dean had already signed a contract to play the main character, however, due to circumstances, he was unavailable.

The film produced a couple of good songs, and I’ll start with the title track. However, I’m not playing the hit version, it’s an alternate take with the Jordonaires’ ooh and ahhing way in background instead of the prominence they had in the released version - a bit more stripped back, the way I like it.

It also has some fine guitar playing that’s closer to jazz than rock & roll.

♫ Elvis Presley - King Creole

Another song from that film tries to marry rock & roll and traditional jazz. Rock & roll won in this case, and the track is one of his hardest rocking numbers ever, Hard Headed Woman.

♫ Elvis Presley - Hard Headed Woman

Elvis Presley

Back to the beginning, to the “Sun Sessions.” These are the songs he recorded with Sam Phillips at Sun Studios in Memphis that started him on his way to becoming the most famous person on the planet.

Elvis turned the old Wynonie Harris R&B classic into a rock & roll classic, Good Rockin' Tonight.

♫ Elvis Presley - Good Rockin' Tonight

Don't was another Leiber and Stoller song that came out in 1958, backed with I Beg of You. Most of Elvis’s singles in the fifties were double sided hits.

♫ Elvis Presley - Don't

I mentioned Jailhouse Rock up above. Here’s another song from that film, You're So Square.

♫ Elvis Presley - (You're So Square) Baby I Don't Care

Elvis Presley

Just Tell Her Jim Said Hello was yet another Leiber and Stoller tune recorded in 1962. Without their song writing, Elvis’s music would have been the poorer as was shown later on when, as I mentioned, his manager kept them away.

I may be going over the top here, but this is one of his forgotten masterpieces. Okay, that’s a bit excessive, but it’s really good and it’s seldom mentioned whenever top Elvis songs are discussed. If only they could have dropped that annoying bell or whatever it is.

♫ Elvis Presley - Just Tell Her Jim Said Hello

To finish, and in case you're curious about which song made both lists, here it is, His Latest Flame.

♫ Elvis Presley - His Latest Flame

Elvis Presley

Recently, I heard on the radio almost certainly the worst song Elvis ever recorded. This is Yoga is as Yoga Does. If you’re unfamiliar with that one, and I admit I was until I heard it, it’s from almost certainly his worst film (and that’s saying something), Easy Come Easy Go.

That’s the general consensus. I haven’t actually seen it that I can recall. Fortunately for you all, I don’t have that song in my collection. Joe Bob sez check it out. Not.


INTERESTING STUFF: 11 February 2012

SONG FOR ANDREE GEULEN
My neighbor Bill Pederson, who spends winters in Arizona, sends along this video made in celebration of a remarkable woman's 90th birthday.

During World War II, Andree Geulen joined an underground group in Belgium to rescue Jews from the Gestapo. For more than two years she took in Jewish children and hid them in Christian homes and monasteries under assumed identities.

Throughout the war, she kept track of the children, keeping a secret record of their original names and other details about them in a diary. At the end of the war, she returned as many as she could to their surviving relatives. Some say she saved 3,000 children. Here is the song and more of the story.

In 1989, Andrée Geulen was recognized at the Israeli Holocaust memorial, Yad Vashem, as a Righteous Among the Nations. There, at a special ceremony in 2007, she was awarded honorary citizenship of the State of Israel. You can read more about Ms. Geulen's work and life at the Yad Vashem website.

PLAY ROCK, PAPER, SCISSORS AGAINST A COMPUTER
It says at The New York Times, that “computers mimic human reasoning by building on simple rules and statistical averages.” So the paper created an interactive game of Rock, Paper, Scissors to play online.

RockPaperScissors

It comes in two modes - novice, and veteran in which the computer uses its database of 200,000 previous games. I tried novice and still lost nine out of ten games. You can try it here.

SENSATIONAL PORTRAITS OF OUR PRIMATE COUSINS

BonoboFrankfurtZoo

Can you stand it? So human and so not human all at once. A hat tip to Carol Wasteneys for sending the link to this page at the Daily Mail with a more gorgeous primate portraits from the Frankfurt Zoo by German photographer, Volker Gutgesell.

A DAY MADE OF GLASS - 2ND GENERATION
Most of the glass on smart phones and tablets is specialized to do amazing things. This video shows what this glass - or new generations of it - will do for us in the future. It is astronishing, but most of us reading this blog are unlikely to live long enough to see it in real life.

Not to mention that I question some of its usefulness. Nevertheless, it is a wonder to watch.

There is another version of this video, longer at 11:30 minutes, explaining it all.

REPUBLICANS STILL BELIEVE OBAMA IS NOT AMERICAN BORN
Now you would think that when President Barack Obama called Donald Trump's bluff and released his long-form birth certificate, that would be the end of the birther phenomenon. Not so.

Last year, a survey of Republicans asked if Obama was born in the United States. After the release of the birth certificate, the number of those agreeing jumped from 30 percent to 47 percent – still shameful but an increase.

In January this year, the question was asked again of Republicans. This time 27 percent agreed. Huh?

The chart is too small to reproduce for this post. You can see it and read more here.

MEET A BLACK PERSON
This is an old prank from 2006, but I had not seen it and it's pretty funny. The prank collective, ImprovEverywhere, put comedian Colton Dunn in an empty hot chocolate kiosk at the foot of a mountain in Aspen to greet people as they came down from the slopes. Take a look. (Hat tip to Nikki)

WAYS TO RE-USE OLD BOOKS
Carol from CO alerted me to these photos of ways people have found to use old books they aren't going to read anymore. I think the library counters are perfect (originally from here).

Book-furniture-library-counter

And this one (originally from here) sure does save on cleaning up pine or fir needles after the season.

Booktree

The Two Butterflies blog has collected a whole lot more images of new/odd/interesting uses for old books.

NIGEL FOTHERINGTON CYBORG
That's what a British company, CNFX Workshop, named this little bundle of electronic joy and it is so real - or will be when it gets its skin - that it creeps me out. See what you think:

The Gajitz website, where I found this video, says the animatronic baby

”...will allegedly be used for some sort of television show...

“...according to the creators of this terror, the clients it was built for were completely fooled once the creepy thing got its skin: they thought little Nigel was a real, human baby until they were told differently.”

KITTY/KID WRESTLING MATCH
After that animatronic baby, I think a real, live, human one is in order. According to the date on this video, it's 11 years old but age has not diminished the fun at all.


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.


Beer Delivery from the Post Office

category_bug_politics.gif That's just one of Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders' ideas to “save” the post office from draconian cuts that would, probably, destroy it.

Well, it would not need saving except that six years ago during the Bush administration, Republicans in Congress forced the U.S. Postal Service into unnecessary pre-funding of its' retiree health benefits that some say was deliberately done by Republicans so that the post office could be privatized.

I could detail all this to you, but I'm trying to take a day off from blogging and on Thursday evening on MSNBC, Ed Schultz did a pretty good job of it. So take a look at this video – Ed's explanation of the post office crisis and his guest, Bernie Sanders:

Here are some documents with further information that I would usually digest for you but don't have the time today:

Information on the Senate Bill from The Hill

Sanders' Explanation of Unnecessarily High Pension Reserves

American Postal Workers Union Statement to Members

U.S.P.S. Inspector General's Analysis of Proposal [pdf]

The Post Office is Not Broke from The Nation

As to those beer deliveries, Sanders said at a press conference on Monday that he wants a blue ribbon commission to give the Postal Service ideas about how it can substantially increase revenue by offering far more services than today.

"Let's be clear: these short-term accounting efforts will not solve the long-term financial problems facing the U.S. Postal Service,” said Sander. “In order to do that, the Postal Service needs to adopt an entirely new business model which makes it much more entrepreneurial, pro-business, and pro-consumer compared to where it is today.”

If the postal service cuts go through, many small and rural communities will lose their post offices altogether taking a terrible toll on small and home businesses.

This is a good thing to call your Congressional representatives about because many Republicans represent those rural communities so appear to be willing to join Sanders in stemming the cuts. As always, you can contact them via Open Congress and many other online locations.


At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Dani Ferguson Phillips: Bare Bottomed Betty