Previous month:
August 2012
Next month:
October 2012

ELDER MUSIC: Bagpipes

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.


category_bug_eldermusic I’ve contemplated over the time that I’ve been doing these columns that if I ever got tired of writing them how I’d finish it all.

I decided that the way to go would be to produce a column that would so alienate everyone that no one would want to read them again. This is that column.

Let me hasten to add that it’s not my last one; I’ll be back next week (unless Ronni pulls the plug, and who would blame her after this one?)

I contemplated what would be the contents of such a column. I thought of the works of Captain Beefheart or maybe some of the more esoteric outings of Frank Zappa. Ornette Coleman perhaps, or Sun Ra. Or even some 12 tone classical music.

Then I hit on something more universal – bagpipes. I know there are people who like the instrument. My sister Pam, for example, so I know that I’ll have at least one reader.

I’ve pulled my punches, so this isn’t wall-to-wall bagpipes. It’ll be tunes in which the instrument appears.

I’ll start with probably the most famous example. If the thought of bagpipes hasn’t already made you go elsewhere, this one is sure to send you to sleep. It may be the most tedious song ever recorded by a major musician: PAUL McCARTNEY performing Mull of Kintyre.

Paul McCartney

♫ Paul McCartney - Mull of Kintyre

Bringing us back to some kind of musical normality or, at least, something a lot more enjoyable, here is GLEN CAMPBELL.

Glen Campbell

It’s certainly more sprightly than Paul’s offering. Glen was not only a great guitarist and a pretty good singer, he could also play the bagpipes (although not very often). That’s him playing them on this track where he overdubbed the instrument. Bonaparte’s Retreat.

♫ Glen Campbell - Bonaparte's Retreat

Jazz and bagpipes are two words that seldom occur in the same sentence. I’m going to rectify that. Here is the greatest jazz bagpiper the world has ever seen. Of course, to the best of my knowledge he’s the only one.

He’s renowned (if that’s the appropriate word) not just for his playing but for always appearing in a kilt, not necessarily made from a tartan material either – some of them looked rather like skirts to me.

I give you RUFUS HARLEY. Thanks a lot, I can hear you say, can we give him back?

Rufus Harley

This track sounds quite a lot like Coltrane on the alto sax to me. I know that comment will get the jazz folks offside (if there are any left reading), but that’s the way I hear it.

Here is the old pop song, Sunny, in a way you’ve never heard it before.

♫ Rufus Harley - Sunny

Now we have the rather optimistically named group, THE SENSATIONAL ALEX HARVEY BAND.

Alex Harvey Band

They were part of a movement in the late sixties and early seventies that produced “progressive rock” (they had dropped the “and roll” by this stage because that denoted entertaining music). Whenever you see something like that phrase, you can substitute “boring” in its place.

This is a tune called Anthem and just the title would be warning enough. I thought of giving a prize to anyone who made all the way through this track but decided against it. That also should be a warning to you.

♫ Alex Harvey Band - Anthem

AC/DC are probably Australia’s biggest selling performers, although The Wiggles might give them a run for the money.

ACDC

They produced a great video of the track featured today way back before videos were common. They had the band (and pipers) on the back of a flatbed truck and drove along Swanston Street in Melbourne - then the city’s main thoroughfare - to the consternation and delight of passersby.

To this day, this clip is a regular on TV and it’s one of the best ever produced.

The song is officially called, It’s Long Way to the Top. However, it’s generally known by pretty much all Australians as, “It’s a long way to the shop if you want a sausage roll.”

♫ AC_DC - Its A Long Way To The Top If Ya Wanna Rock And Roll

Classical music and bagpipes don’t normally go together although there’s actually an opera called “Schwanda the Bagpiper” by the Czech composer Jaromír Weinberger (who later emigrated to America to escape the Nazis). This opera is completely silly even by opera standards.

Otherwise, there was a bit of music from medieval times that occasionally featured a forerunner of the bagpipes but these are pretty boring (even considering the low threshold of boredom we’ve set for today’s column).

I have found a piece by Mr HANDEL that he didn’t originally write for the instrument but various modifiers of music have come up with a bagpipe version of the Largo from his opera “Xerxes.” It’s performed by the Royal Scots Dragoon Guards amongst others.

♫ The Royal Scots Dragoon Guards - Handel, Largo (Xerxes)

WIZZARD was a good-time rock group out of England from the early seventies.

Wizzard

It was the brainchild of Roy Wood who was a member of The Move, a serious but underrated group from around that time. Most of the members of this group, and others, later became Electric Light Orchestra.

Roy was frequently at odds with another member of that group, Jeff Lynne. Jeff somewhat later was one of the Traveling Wilburys whose other members were some lesser known musicians – Tom Petty, Bob Dylan, George Harrison and Roy Orbison. Nobody you’d have heard of; I’m surprised they managed to get a record deal.

Anyway, Roy left ELO and created Wizzard where he sang, wrote the songs, played guitar and often appeared on stage with a couple of ventriloquist dummies. This wasn’t your average rock band. This is Wizzard with Are You Ready to Rock?

♫ Wizzard - Are You Ready To Rock

JOHN FARNHAM is probably the most popular singer in Australia and has been for a few decades. He’s not my cup of tea but who can gainsay success?

John Farnham

He started his performing career as Johnny Farnham with a song called Sadie the Cleaning Lady which was a huge hit here in the sixties.

He’s moved on from that and is now engaged in an endless round of retirement concerts. He’ll soon pass Nellie Melba in this regard.

In spite of my rather negative views, from all reports he’s a really nice, generous guy. A true gentleman. Here he sings almost certainly his biggest hit, You're The Voice.

♫ John Farnham - You're The Voice

I’ll finish with some “real” bagpipe music, possibly the most famous tune for this instrument in recent times, Amazing Grace. Here are the GORDON HIGHLANDERS.

Gordon Highlanders

♫ Gordon Highlanders - Amazing Grace

Anyone still here? Well, I hope to see you next week, in spite of the above.


INTERESTING STUFF: 29 September 2012

ATTENTION SUBSCRIBERS: TGB readers who subscribe via email or rss, please note that you cannot watch videos in the feed that arrives in your inbox. This is how email is. I cannot change it. Please stop asking.

To view the videos, click the title of the of the story directly above. It will then open in your browser at the blogsite where you can see the videos.

EDITORIAL NOTE: You guys send me so many good ideas for Interesting Stuff that I'm way behind in posting them and there is lately an abundance on one topic that apparently engages us all – animals.

So today is almost all animals except for a short political interlude in the middle.


AMAZING ELEE THE SHIBA INU
I had never heard of the Shiba Inu breed of dog before. If they have a tricks repertoire as large a Elee's, they are astonishing.

THE BIRTH OF A DOLPHIN
It happened on 17 September at Dolphin Quest in Hawaii that a baby girl dolphin was born to her 12-year-old mother, Keo. Trainers were in the water during the birth.

A GOOSE LOVE STORY
Claire Jean sent this video. I saw it a long time ago and don't remember if I posted it them. If I did, it doesn't matter. It's still an odd and sweet love story.

MUDD THE TRAMPOLINE DOG
Sometimes people get hooked on repetitive bahavior. Do you suppose animals do too? But Mudd is clearly enjoying himself. (Hat tip to Norma Hall.)

A MITT RAP
87-year-old World War II veteran, Stuart Hodes wrote and delivers this rap – a short history of Mitt Romney from his British grandfather to presidential candidate.

Mr. Hodes blogs at Reality Check where you can read the lyrics. (Hat tip to Naomi Dagen Bloom of A Little Red Hen.)

SARAH SILVERMAN ON VOTER ID LAWS
It's Sarah Silverman so you know this is not safe for work or possibly the grandchildren. But it's really good, so watch and then visit Let My People Vote 2012. (Hat tip to Larry Beck of Woodgate's View.)

I COULD PEE ON THIS
said the cat. Sorry the text is so small. You can see a larger version of the photo and text here.

Cat-pee-poem-2

And another:

Lick-cat-poem

These are from a book titled, I Could Pee on This and Other Poems by Cats by Francisco Marciuliano. You can find out more about it here and see more of the photos and poems. (Hat tip to reader Tony Sarmiento.)

MARU THE JUMPING CAT
In three years, this video has been viewed more than 8 million times. It doesn't seem like much but it grows on you.

PROOF THAT CATS ARE SUPERIOR TO DOGS
Pam Gallagher of Costa de la Luz Gardening sent this video. I hope it doesn't set dog and cat owners against one another. Whether or not it does, it's really funny (or maybe I think so because I'm a cat owner.)


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.


Large Medicare Part D Premium Increases for 2013

category_bug_journal2.gif Did you receive your Medicare & You 2013 handbook this week? If you didn't, it should arrive soon. Or, you can view it online.

As you know, the annual Medicare enrollment period begins in about two weeks, 15 October. Both the physical handbook and the Medicare website are well designed, useful and easy to understand. It's one of the things the federal government is good at and you should take full advantage.

On the day my Medicare handbook arrived, so did another booklet about renewal of my Medicare Part D (prescription drug) plan. Now back in August, a Medicare press release was headlined, Medicare Prescription Drug Premiums To Remain Steady For Third Straight Year. It began:

”Average basic premiums for Medicare prescription drug plans are projected to remain constant in 2013, Health and Human Services Secretary (HHS) Kathleen Sebelius announced today.

“The average 2013 monthly premium for basic prescription drug coverage is expected to be $30. Average premiums for 2012 were projected to be $30 and ultimately averaged $29.67.”

Remain constant? Oh, yeah?!

When I checked my Part D booklet for the 2013 premium, I was shocked to see that has increased by 22.5 percent. Did you get that? Not 2.25 percent. It's not a typo. It's 22.5 percent.

And indeed, the double-digit premium increases for Part D based on a report from Avalere Health are all over the media this week.

Here are the increases according to Avalere for seven of the most popular drug plans:

  • Humana Walmart-Preferred Rx Plan (23%)
  • First Health Part D Premier (18%)
  • First Health Part D Value Plus (17%)
  • Cigna Medicare Rx Plan One (15%)
  • Express Scripts Medicare-Value (13%)
  • HealthSpring Prescription Drug Plan (12%)
  • Humana Enhanced (11%)

Even so, not every plan is increasing its premium so dramatically. The Washington Post notes:

”The administration’s [$30 average monthly premium] number is accurate as an overall indicator for the entire market, but not very helpful to consumers individually since it doesn’t reflect price swings in the real world.”

The Post also reports that the increases are not due to the Affordable Care Act which is saving elders money by gradually closing the infamous donut hole. If you reach the coverage gap in 2013, you will pay 47.5 percent for covered brand-name drugs and 79 percent for generic drugs.

Further from the Post:

”...the price hikes appear to be driven by market dynamics, and some insurers are introducing new low-premium options to gain a competitive advantage on plans that are raising their prices.”

If your premium is increasing as much as mine, it would behoove us (90 percent of Medicare beneficiaries purchase drug coverage) to compare drug plans and choose a less expensive one that meets our needs. More from the Post:

”...a major new low-cost plan entered the market. Premiums for the AARP MedicareRx Saver Plus Plan will average $15 a month nationally, although it won’t be available everywhere. That’s $3.50 less than the current low-cost leader, the Humana Walmart plan, whose premiums are rising to $18.50.”

(It's not available in my area.) Keep in mind that if the AARP plan makes sense in your case, you must be a member to purchase that coverage - $17 per year – and some people have policy/political reasons for not joining AARP.

For other choices, even now before the official enrollment period, you can see what plans are available to you with the Medicare Plan Finder.

Some elders' drugs are covered by their Medicare Advantage programs and those premiums are expected to remain steady for 2013.

For most Medicare beneficiaries, traditional and Advantage members, that leaves one more question mark for health coverage prices next year – the Part B premium which is currently, for most of us, at $99.90.

The federal government has not yet made an announcement but those who prognosticate on such things predict an increase of between $7 and $10 per month.


No story at The Elder Storytelling Place today. New stories will appear again next week.


ELDER POETRY INTERLUDE: Haiku

Certainly you know haiku, the elegant Japanese form of short poetry, tiny gems usually about nature but not always. From Jokun:

Ah! I intended
Never never to grow old
Listen: New Year's Bell!

Translated into English, classic Japanese haiku consists of three lines, usually involving a reference to one of the four seasons, each line divided into a specific number of syllables: 5–7–5.

There are many other acceptable styles such as 3-5-3 and even 2-3-2. The number of lines also can vary and seasonal references are not mandatory. One style of haiku called senryu is meant to be about human foibles, sometimes cynical or humorous.

We could discuss all the complexities in detail, but I would rather leave that to scholars and just enjoy.

Because haiku is of Japanese origin, you can imagine that cats make frequent appearances. One of the most famous haiku from 17th century master, Basho, is the first I memorized back in my teen years:

Why so scrawny, cat?
starving for fat fish or mice -
Or backyard love?

The thoughts of another revered master, Issa, who lived about 150 years after Basho, ran in a similar direction:

Arise from sleep, old cat,
And with great yawns and stretchings -
Amble out for love

Both Basho and Issa wrote of age:

A man, infirm
With age, slowly sucks
A fish bone.
   - Basho

This autumn
As reason for growing old
A cloud and a bird
   - Issa

Jane Reichhold is a well-known American poet and translator who has published several books about haiku in general and Basho in particular. She also writes haiku:

WRITING HER MEMOIRS
THE AGED POETRESS READS
HER FIRST HAIKU

HOT FLASHES
BLUSHES OF YOUTH
GETTING OLD

Sometimes capitalization matters in haiku so I've left Jane Reichhold's two haiku as I found them online.

You have probably noticed by now that aside from the cats, I have chosen haiku only about aging. That's because I think it might be fun for us to try our hand at writing some.

Let's see what haiku we can create about the nature of growing old: what is good or bad or funny about it, how it changes us, what it feels like or perhaps you can capture a single moment in time, as so many haiku do, that seems to hold a universe of meaning.

Use any style or number of syllables you like. Try to keep to the exquisite nature of such minimal, delicate poetry, but don't get hung up on form. Have fun with it and post yours in the comments below.

I cannot write any kind of poetry. None. I am just rotten at it. But it doesn't seem fair to ask you to take a stab at it and not me. So here's what I came up with:

Benumbed and annoyed
Struggling to retrieve lost thought -
Damn, old memory

Now if I'm willing to stick my neck out in public with such awkward piffle, surely you can take a chance too.


There is no new story at The Elder Storytelling Place today. They will return on Monday.


Romney: Emergency Room Health Care

category_bug_journal2.gif I missed the Mitt Romney and Barack Obama twin interviews on 60 Minutes last Sunday but these days we can rely on clips online to bring us the highlights. This one grabbed my attention (transcript below the video):

TRANSCRIPT
SCOTT PELLEY: Does the government have a responsibility to provide health care to the fifty million Americans who don't have it today?

MITT ROMNEY: Well, we do provide care for people who don't have insurance, people -- we -- if someone has a heart attack, they don't sit in their apartment and -- and die. We -- we pick them up in an ambulance, and take them to the hospital, and give them care. And different states have different ways of providing for that care.

PELLEY: That's the most expensive way to do it.

ROMNEY: Well the...

PELLEY: In the emergency room.

ROMNEY: Diff -- different, again, different states have different ways of doing that. Some -- some provide that care through clinics. Some provide the care through emergency rooms. In my state, we found a solution that worked for my state. But I wouldn't take what we did in Massachusetts and say to Texas, “You've got to take the Massachusetts model."
END TRANSCRIPT

Ronni here. That makes no sense – particularly it makes no fiscal sense, the kind Romney keeps harping that the nation needs. A couple of years ago, he said he was for a single-payer system so it's another of those Romney 180-degree flip-flops.

Most of us at this blog are old enough for Medicare and we know the comfort – the comfort all people in every other developed nation know – that our health care needs will generally be taken care of without pushing us into bankruptcy.

Everyone in the United States should have this peace of mind.

At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Johna Ferguson: A Big Problem


What Plutocracy Looks Like

category_bug_politics.gif Yes, as I mentioned yesterday I'm taking today off too – and maybe tomorrow – but I want to leave you with something to chew on while I'm ignoring the computer screen for awhile.

Among the crop of young pundits MSNBC has hired over the past couple of years and given programs titled with their names, one stands out for his insight (way beyond his years), knowledge (astonishingly wide and deep) and his enthusiasm for politics and policy (unbounded).

Chris Hayes has his shortcomings too. He talks too fast, he talks too much and crams too many compelling guests into each show so that as a listener, one is always left wanting more from this one or that whom Hayes too often cuts short just when they are getting interesting.

(That last item is good weekly TV drama technique and terrible news/commentary technique.)

The too-many-guests issue is probably not Hayes's fault since all MSNBC programs except for Rachel Maddow (who could use a few more guests to temper her endless periods of word salad) suffer from it. So it is undoubtedly a management edict.

Well, I got carried away. I didn't mean to say all that.

On Saturday morning, Hayes held forth for about seven minutes on the subject of What Plutocracy Looks Like and what it shows is that he gave the “secret” Romney tape from the $50K dinner a lot more serious, useful thought than most of the other left-leaning pundits I saw who were generally on autopilot.

Give it a listen. It's worth your time. The transcript is below the video.

TRANSCRIPT
The video of Mitt Romney talking to donors that Mother Jones posted last week is an incredible artifact from an entire culture and civilization that exists in our midst, but which we hardly ever get to see: the world of the high-end donor. And, whoo boy it is not pretty. The first thing that jumps out is that a lot of the questions are really inane.

In fact, I almost feel sorry for Mitt Romney having to sit there and politely smile and nod as donors pick through their salad and tell him that what he really needs to do to win is "take the gloves off" or "show your face more on tv"—something he's been doing more or less non-stop.

The folks in the room all but advise Romney to simply tour around the country reading passages of Ayn Rand novels out loud at his campaign rallies and hectoring the idiotic masses to bow before their obvious superior. Romney, who is many things, but not a total fool, gently explains that that probably is not the best way to go about attempting to win over the Obama voters he needs to be elected. Almost none of the advice Romney gets during the tape is very good, some of it's terrible.

That's not novel, of course, everyone who watches politics closely thinks they have the secret insight that will win the election. Unlike the millions of other political junkies and backseat drivers, this small coterie of folks, by sole virtue of their wealth, gets to impose their invaluable insights on the actual candidate. It would be like the head coach of the Giants, Tom Coughlin, having to spend most of the week between games meeting with the opinionated fans who call into sports talk radio with their theories about how the Giants should be blitzing on every down, or lining up two quarterbacks under center.

This is the power of money not just in politics, but in society more broadly: the power to make people listen to your ideas no matter how dumb or uninformed. The other thing that stood out to me was just how under siege, persecuted, and victimized these extremely wealthy people appear to feel.

Keep in mind we're talking about a fundraiser that cost $50,000 a plate. Fifty thousand dollars also happens to be the median household income in the U.S. So the kind of wealth you need to have to be in the room with Romney is the kind of wealth that means you can just pony up as much money as many Americans make in a year to listen to Mitt Romney trash talk the very people who make in a year the same amount you just ponied up for dinner.

And what you hear from them is the same kind of whining that was the central theme of the Republican Convention: we're away from our families five days a week. I'm away from my four girls five days a week and my wife. Which made me think of this from Reservoir Dogs:

Steve Buscemi: You know what this is? It's the world's smallest violin playing just for the waitresses.

Except, you know, instead of waitresses insert busy plutocrats. Because these same plutocrats are enjoying possibly their best run ever since the financial crisis, nay since, perhaps, the roaring twenties! The Dow is way up, corporate profits are near record highs, taxes are near record lows, wages are stagnating, unions are fighting for survival and 8% unemployment means that employers have a constant ready supply of excess labor, which keeps wages and demands down. More or less a capitalist paradise.

The Koch brothers, to choose just one example, have seen their own net worth nearly DOUBLE, from $32 billion to $62 billion under the tyrannical, socialist, re-distributive regime of Barack Hussein Obama.

And yet despite the fact that Obama has managed a recovery that has been exceptionally good to them, Wall Street is incensed that anyone would call them fat cats or sign new financial regulation. In almost every way conceivable they inhabit an alternate universe. And everyone's pretty frank about that.

For instance, they ask him several questions about foreign policy, and Romney complains that voters in general don't care about foreign policy, so he doesn't get to talk about it that much on the campaign trail. This is probably because middle class voters are so concerned about economic security it crowds out nearly everything else.

But that's the point. Extremely wealthy people are not a very good representation of the voting population at large. They have very different politics, positions and priorities than the mass of voters. This cashes out in a very concrete way that profoundly affects our politics.

Political Scientists Benjamin Page, Larry Bartels and Jason Seawright have been studying the divergence between public opinion in general and the opinions of the wealthiest 1% and found that—surprise—they diverge on most issues. For instance, on this statement: "The federal government should spend whatever is necessary to ensure that all children have really good public schools they can go to" 87% of the general public agrees, while only 35% of the wealthy do. "Our government should redistribute wealth by heavy taxes on the rich." 52% of the general public agrees, only 17% of the wealthy do. "Favor cuts in spending on domestic programs like Medicare, education, and highways in order to cut federal budget deficits." 27% of the general public does, while 58% of the wealthy do.

And this gets us to what I've become convinced is the most pernicious effect of big money on our politics. It's not that lots of money can buy elections, though sometimes that's true. It's not that campaign contributions function as a quid pro quo, chits to be cashed in when legislation is being considered, though that's also often true. It's that every single person running for high office in America is forced to spend the vast majority of their time around one group of people and one group only: wealthy people. That's who they talk to, and listen to all day long, day in and day out, every day for months and years and decades. It's an incredibly warping effect.

Imagine a world in which every minimum wage worker in America is given a golden ticket, like the ones in Willie Wonka's Chocolate Factory. And imagine a law that required TV stations to only take those golden tickets as payment for campaign advertising time. A world in which candidates would have to spend all the time they now spend with the folks on that video with the people who work at drive-throughs and clean bathrooms. And imagine the kinds of questions they would get, the stories and jokes they would hear. Many hours a day, day in and day out. The world that the candidate would be forced to inhabit. Imagine what our politics would look like as a result. Maybe things would be radically different, maybe they'd be more similar to the status quo than I'd like to admit. But one thing is for sure.

Mitt Romney sure as hell wouldn't get up in front of a room of home healthcare workers, people who are, in many states, making minimum wage or just a little more to change bed pans and clean up blood and vomit—and tell the people in front of him that they're a bunch of indolent, shiftless moochers who won't take responsibility for their lives becuase they don't pay income taxes. I don't think even Mitt Romney is that politically inept. END TRANSCRIPT


At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Marcy Belson: Saturday Night on Main Street


Farmer's Market Photos

category_bug_journal2.gif Everybody needs a break now and then and it's time for me to take one – a day or two or three. We'll see how it goes.

Meanwhile, here are a few photos that have been taking up space in my ancient digital camera.

There were bunches and bunches of these purple thistle things at the farmer's market a few weekends ago. I had no idea what they were. Do you?

Artichoke

It's what happens to an artichoke if you don't pick it when it's ripe for eating. I'd never seen one before and it is so odd and interesting that it was worth $3 a stem to look at it at home for awhile. A little like something you'd find in the little shop of horrors, don't you think?

There are many fine foods at the farmer's market. In addition to local fruit and vegetables, there are two cheesemakers, an excellent Greek baklava stand and a woman who makes hot pepper jellies – strawberry pepper, habenero, pine-a-peno.

They are all good and I miss them during winter but I'm like a homing pigeon for the mushroom lady and her gorgeous array.

Mushroom lady

Oh, the elusive, earthy, mysterious mushroom – a favorite food. Mushroom hunting is a chancy business and there were none of my favorite – morel – the day I was taking photos. But she did have these matsutake:

Matsutake

Alas, at $36/pound they are not in my budget. I did buy a half a pound of these chanterelle that day at $18/pound.

Chanterelle

And I bought a whole lot of these shitake, only $10/pound. You can see that my paper bag is full.

Shitake

I like to make a wine mushroom sauce that I use over mushroom ravioli. No such thing as too many mushrooms.

Ollie the cat has no interest in mushrooms or, for that matter, artichokes or anything else I bring home from the market. He even disdains fish. This is his most usual position around the house and he was grumpy that I snapped his picture.

Ollie


At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Mickey Rogers: Ghosts


ELDER MUSIC: Hail, Hail Rock & Roll

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.


category_bug_eldermusic Okay, put on your blue suede shoes, your tangerine or turquoise socks and anything else you think appropriate and get up and rock. Or, perhaps, given the demographic of the column, sit in your rocking chair and rock. I’ll be doing just that.

Here are some very particular rock & roll songs from the fifties. I could produce a whole year’s worth of columns on this topic and still have vast amounts left over, so I’m going to go with particular favorites of mine, ones I noticed at the time and even bought a 45 of some of them, maybe most of them.

For anyone whose first musical consciousness was that of the early fifties, rock & roll hit like a laser beam. It turned a grey musical world into Technicolor (sorry about the mangled metaphors).

Here are rock & roll songs that mean a lot to me. There are others by several of these artists, probably all of them, that could have been included but I’m restricting myself to one from each. All the usual suspects are here today.

I’ll start with maybe the most frantic (as we used to say back then) record from that time, Bop-A-Lena by RONNIE SELF.

Ronnie Self

There may have been others more so but I can’t think of them. I really liked this one and wanted a copy. I couldn’t afford it as I was quite young and it couldn’t have been around my birthday or Christmas otherwise I’d have made a request.

Perhaps I did and mum had heard the track and decided to get me a Dinky toy or something instead. I have since rectified the omission.

Ronnie looked like a really nice sort of a lad but when started singing, look out. Just when you think he has given his all for the song and milked it for what it’s worth, he rams it up another notch that you didn’t think was possible. What a performance.

♫ Ronnie Self - Bop-A-Lena

Little Richard

The family who lived next to us in the small country town where I was born and bred went elsewhere in 1957. The father returned a couple of times in the next year or two for a visit – he was a Lands’ Department inspector so that was part of his job.

Once I remember very well indeed, as he brought an EP of LITTLE RICHARD for me. He said that his son really liked it.

It is one of the greatest EPs in the history of EPdom, with Long Tall Sally, Rip It Up, Tutti Frutti and Ready Teddy on it. I don’t know what mum’s reaction was but I thought it was great.

That gesture of bringing this EP stays with me to this day as another small step on my musical education. Any of those songs would have worked but I’m going with Long Tall Sally. I still have trouble with the words of the song even though I look them up every now and then to check what they are.

♫ Little Richard - Long Tall Sally

BUDDY HOLLY’s place in the sun lasted only 18 months.

Buddy Holly

In that time he established himself as one of, if not the, most important artists in the first ten years of rock & roll. I’ve used his songs several times previously including this column dedicated entirely to him. This is one of the 45s I bought of his way back in 1958, Oh, Boy!.

♫ Buddy Holly - Oh, Boy!

There’s really nothing more to be said about ELVIS PRESLEY.

Elvis Presley

You all know about him and I’ve already done a couple of columns on him as well. If you’re interested, you can find them here and here.

I decided to use a song today not featured on those two columns, so here is I Need Your Love Tonight. One of many I could have chosen, as I was a big fan back then. Well, that’s the point of this column.

♫ Elvis Presley- I Need Your Love Tonight

Rock & roll was pretty much a male sport. The female artists tended towards ballads and the like. But not always, and foremost among these was WANDA JACKSON.

Wanda Jackson

The song of hers I’m including was actually released in 1960. However, from a mathematician’s point of view (and I’m one of those, or at least I used to be), that is technically part of the fifties.

Wanda started out in country music and drifted into rockabilly. She drifted back into country when rockabilly faded from the scene. She’s still rocking with the best of them. Let's Have A Party.

♫ Wanda Jackson - Let's Have A Party

FATS DOMINO has been making rock & roll records since 1949, when he had his first gold record with The Fat Man, another contender for “first rock & roll record.”

Fats Domino

From that time to about 1962 he had more than 40 songs that made the charts. Most of you would recognize most of them. Here is one such, I'm Walkin'.

♫ Fats Domino - I'm Walkin'

CHUCK BERRY was one of the two great singer/songwriters from fifties’ rock & roll. Buddy was the other one, of course.

Chuck Berry

Chuck, however, was the greatest guitarist of the decade (and some would say, the best rock guitarist ever). His licks are still being pinched by anyone who picks up a guitar even now and plays rock & roll.

This is one of dozens I could have chosen, but this I remember with fondness, School Days. Perceptive listeners will determine where I pinched the title of the column.

♫ Chuck Berry - School Days

RICKY NELSON had an advantage over the other rockers back then because we got to see him each week on TV, yes even here in Australia.

Ricky Nelson

I don’t know if it was this or perhaps his resemblance to Elvis that caused him to be generally downgraded at the time as a performer. It was only later when people checked his back catalogue that they realised what an important artist he was.

I always knew; I liked Ricky from the start. Here’s another 45 I had, Just a Little Too Much.

♫ Ricky Nelson - Just a Little Too Much

The first and best of the Australian rock & rollers was JOHNNY O’KEEFE.

Johnny O'Keefe

Johnny’s (very appropriate) nickname was The Wild One. He even wrote a song called that. It was also known as Real Wild Child. This came out 1958 and several visiting singers liked the song so much they recorded it themselves - Buddy Holly and the Everly Brothers in particular, but others as well.

Johnny led the full rock & roll life with all that implies – living fast and dying young. Well, youngish, he was 43 when he finally succumbed in 1978. Here is The Wild One.

♫ Johnny O'Keefe - Wild One

To ease you out of this Sunday I’m including THE PLATTERS even though they don’t quite fit in with the others. But I really liked them back then. I still do.

The Platters

I’ve mentioned before in my series on “years” that there have been many versions of The Platters over the years, often several at the same time. This is the original and best version of the group with Tony Williams singing lead.

This is probably the closest they came to rock & roll, The Great Pretender.

♫ The Platters - The Great Pretender


INTERESTING STUFF: 22 September 2012

NEW RANDY NEWMAN PARODY SONG
Maybe I haven't been paying attention, but it seems to me it's been a long time since we've heard a political parody from Randy Newman. There is a a new one now, I'm Dreaming, that he told Rolling Stone is, in part, his reaction to the Republican Party and:

”Newman noted how the song was partially inspired by the racial undercurrents he saw in the intense vitriol directed at Barack Obama during his presidency. 'Still, it's clear that there are lots of people out there who are uncomfortable [with a black president],' he said.”

Personally, I think this one falls a little short compared to some of Newman's past work of this kind, but see what you think:

The song is available for free download here (I don't know for how long) where you can also read the lyric.

FRANKENFOOD FOOD FIGHT IN FRANCE
It's not just France anymore. The argument has circled the globe as countries and activists watch developments in France. Here is a sequence of events:

A newly released study announced the finding of tumors, organ damage and premature death in rats fed with genetically modified corn from Monsanto.

In a long-standing argument with the European Union that had found no evidence of risk from the corn, France upholds its ban on GM crops.

Other researchers announce their skepticism of the findings. Many use the old "flawed methodology" argument.

A spokesperson for California Right to Know, working for passage of Prop. 37 in November which would require labeling of genetically engineered foods, jumped on the story saying that the most

"...important and shocking part of it is that this is the first available long-term study on GMOs, which have been in the food supply for the better part of 20 years.”

On Thursday, the French government ordered a rush food-safety review of the study and Monsanto GM corn.

Where do you stand on genetically modified or engineered food?

TO PHOTOGRAPH THE ELUSIVE BOBCAT
Michael Forsberg is an American wildlife photographer. This video is an excerpt from his presentation which was part of a full program about the American Great Plains from the California Academy of Sciences.

You can view the entire American Great Plains video at fora.tv.

SUPERHERO VICTORY GARDEN
I continue to be charmed by the daily email offerings from the Retronaut website that I've mentioned before and will undoubted do again.

One day this past week, they sent a collection of U.S. government posters from World War II promoting victory gardens to reduce pressure on the food supply.

Super Hero Victory Garden

You can see more Victory Garden posters here.

IMAGINATIVE COAT SALE IN DENMARK
See, I told you I'd mention Retronaut again. This photo is from a 1936 coat sale in Copenhagen.

1936 Coat Sale Copenhagen

As the news clipping at Retronaut explains:

“Overstocked with a large supply of men's spring and winter coats, a clothier...erected a scaffolding around his store building and completely covered it from roof to sidewalk with more than a thousand overcoats. The novel display attracted prospective customers in such droves that police were summoned.

“Although the police ordered the proprietor to remove the display, he succeeded in selling all the overcoats.”

OLIVER SACKS' EXPERIENCE WITH HALLUCINOGENS
You probably know of neurologist Oliver Sacks from his fascinating books reporting on the oddities of some of his patients. Books like Seeing Voices, The Man Who Mistook His Wife For a Hat and Awakenings about the doctor's work with L-Dopa which was made into a film starring Robin Williams and Robert DeNiro.

His latest book, due in November, is Hallucinations and in this video, he talks about his personal experience with LSD and other hallucinogens.

Hmmm. Sounds pretty close to my own experiences with LSD, mescaline and such back in the day.

CHARLES BLOW ON ROMNEY'S SPEECH
For months, people have been opining that Mitt Romney's reactionary positions on issues were only for the rabble Republican base and that if elected, his moderate roots would resurface.

I've never believed that and so among the piles and piles of commentary on Mitt Romney's “secret” speech to high rollers in Florida that was revealed this past week, the number one best for me came from New York Times Op-Ed columnist, Charles Blow.

It is titled, “I Know Why the Caged Bird Shrieks" and Blow begins like this:

“'When people show you who they are believe them; the first time.' That comes from the inimitable Maya Angelou (via the equally inimitable Oprah). And I agree. So I’m inclined to take Mitt Romney at his word when he disparages nearly half the country to a roomful of wealthy donors on a secretly recorded tape.”

Blow finishes with this:

”One doesn’t have to operate with great malice to do great harm. The absence of empathy and understanding are sufficient. In fact, a man convinced of his virtue even in the midst of his vice is the worst kind of man.

“Mitt Romney keeps showing America who he is. When will we start to believe him?”

Now go read the middle part of Blow's column. It's worth it.

9/11 BOAT LIFT FROM MANHATTAN
Although this video says no one knows about the ad hoc boat lift on 9/11 that ferried half a million people off Manhattan island in nine hours, I knew about it. I heard a lot about it in New York City and that must have been via the newspapers and TV. Maybe only local news covered the story - I have a strong memory of the video - and it didn't get reported outside of the city.

Anyway, someone did a wonderful thing by making this little documentary and it's just as terrific whether you knew about the boat lift or did not. Tom Hanks narrates and don't be put off by its 11-minute length. You won't even notice the time going by. (Hat tip to Veronica Mulqueen)

THE HAWKING GLOVE OF HENRY VIII?
I've recently finished reading the first two books of what will be a trilogy about Thomas Cromwell during the reign of Henry VIII.

They are written by Hilary Mantel and the first, Wolf Hall, won the 2009 Man Booker prize – as well it should. Mantel is brilliant and these are the best historical fiction I've ever read – page turners all the way even though you know what happens next.

One of the reasons museums are important and enthralling is that they bring the past alive with historical artifacts that help us imagine the lives of people from a few hundred and even thousands of years ago.

So, put those two things together – Mantel's books and artifacts from the past - and you'll see why I was thrilled to run across a photo of a hawking glove that possibly belonged to Henry VIII while I was reading Mantel's books which mention the king's falconry.

Henry VIII Glove

It is probable that this particular glove was owned and used by Henry VIII and seeing it knocks my socks off. You can read about the glove's provenance at this museum website.

JASMINE THE GREYHOUND HEALER
Darlene Costner forwarded the email story of Jasmine, the starving, mistreated greyhound who became a healer to other lost and ailing animals. It has been making the email rounds for two or three years and is – oh, never mind. Just take a look at this animated video:

Among those who only read the email and don't track down the video, there have been plenty of skeptics – enough so that Snopes looked into it and pronounced the story true. You can read the original email and see some photos here.

I checked around the web some more and found this live action news story about Jasmine:


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.


National Falls Prevention Day

category_bug_journal2.gif Here's a nice little pun for you: tomorrow, 22 September which is the first day of fall, has been declared by U.S. Senate Resolution 553 to be National Falls Prevention Awareness Day.

That's not really news. The Senate votes the Resolution every year but even though it's routine, it is a good annual reminder to be sure we have done all we can to prevent falling. Here is why this is so important to us personally and collectively:

One-third of all Americans age 65 and older fall each year.

More than 95 percent of hip fractures are caused by falls.

Men are more likely than women to die from a fall. After taking age into account, the fall death rate in 2009 was 34% higher for men than for women.

HUMAN COST
In 2010, 2.3 million nonfatal fall injuries among older adults were treated in emergency departments and more than 662,000 of these patients were hospitalized.

Falls are the leading cause of injury deaths among elders.

In 2009, about 20,400 older adults died from unintentional fall injuries.

In 2007, there were 281,000 hospital admissions for hip fractures among people age 65 and older. Twenty percent of hip fracture patients die within a year of their injury.

COST IN DOLLARS AND CENTS
In a study of people age 72 and older, the average health care cost of a fall injury totaled $19,440, which included hospital, nursing home, emergency room and home health care but not doctors’ services.

In 2010, the direct medical costs of falls, adjusted for inflation, was $30.0 billion.

Most falls can be prevented but we need to make some adjustments to our lives to keep ourselves and others safe. Here is a good general list:

  1. Exercise. It makes you stronger and improves balance.

  2. Get up slowly after you have been sitting or lying down which can sometimes make you dizzy.

  3. Have your vision checked every year. If you can't see well, you have a higher risk of falling.

  4. Ask your physician or pharmacist about the drugs you use – prescription and over-the-counter. Some can cause sleepiness and dizziness that can lead to falling.

  5. Do a safety assessment of your home.

There is a long list of measures you can take to help fall-proof your home. Among them:

Increase the lighting; no dark areas or corners

Two secure railings on all stairways

Grab bars in the tub, shower and next to the toilet

Always wear shoes with non-skid soles – even indoors

Remove all throw rugs

Immediately wipe up all spills

Install nightlights to lead you to the bathroom

Use non-skid mats in the shower and on the bathroom floor

Remove clutter from floors to prevent tripping

That list is nowhere near complete. There is a thorough section on fall prevention at the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and here is the home page of their excellent section of elders and falls.

The National Council on Aging (NCOA) also has a good section of falls prevention.

If you think you might be at risk for falling and particularly if you live alone, don't be shy (or stupid) about subscribing to a medical alert service. There are many of them and they are becoming more sophisticated and useful all the time. Just Google “medical alert services” for a large list of links.

One important caveat: not all such services are as reliable as you would want. Before you choose one, use the internet to find reviews and recommendations from other users.

If you think I'm making too much of this (I post a similar story here at least once a year), scroll up to the top and read those statistics again.

At our ages, a couple of seconds of inattention or lack of preventive measures can lead to a fall that would leave us crippled and dependent or even kill us. Common-sense precautions can save our lives.


There is no story at The Elder Storytelling Place today. New ones will resume on Monday


Elder Technology Experts

For as long as there has been a technology industry, it has been hard for IT people older than 40 to find work. It is, somehow, believed that after that birthday, they suddenly forget all their computer knowledge and skills (not that this doesn't doesn't infect other industries, but in the tech field, particularly so).

However untrue it may be, those beliefs are even more common about “real” elders – people much older than 40 - but now and then I run across heartening news.

It may be only a dent in such wrong-headed ideas but for more than a decade, HP has heavily relied on elders age 50 and up as expert contributors to their online support forum.

"HP's Consumer Support Forums simply could not exist without the incredible contributions of our volunteer Expert base, many of whom are retired individuals with vast experience and a desire to help others," said Lois Townsend who is HP's Global Manager of Social Media Support.

Another reason older customer support contributors are good at what they do is that they are more patient and take more time with customers than young helpers.

Yesterday, I spoke with 63-year-old Cheryl Gilliam of Seneca, South Carolina who has been one of HP's top support experts for nine years. She answers questions on the website for at least two hours each day of the week.

Cheryl has no special training. She says she just “got it” about computers after a young friend talked her through installing additional memory in her first computer in 1998.

When she was fearful she'd break the machine, her friend urged her on. “You can do it,” said her friend, and that's the line Cheryl uses nowadays to encourage customers who are panicked, for example, about losing the family photos.

In New Orleans this weekend for the AARP Life@50+ conference, today Cheryl is joining 250 of her HP Experts colleagues in a marathon, 24-hour, live, “support fest” on the HP website.

It begins at 7AM Pacific time today and the collective goal of these 250 HP customer helpers is to flood the forums with as much useful information as possible and by the end – 7AM tomorrow - leave no question unanswered. Given the popularity of this event in the past (it is held by HP several times a year) and the anticipated flood of questions, that's a big order to fill.

Attendees at the AARP conference will be able to visit the HP booth to try out the program and see if they have what it takes to be an HP contributing expert.

Anyone can register to answer technology questions at the HP online support forum, but the cream does rise to the top as customers rank the quality of the answers and although no one is paid, experts at Cheryl's level are lent new HP equipment annually and they attend such conferences as AARP's as guests of HP.

Obviously, the online forum is intended to be and is about HP equipment – desktop computers, laptops, printers, etc. But I was surprised at the number of answers to general computing and web questions that can benefit people with other brands of hardware too.

It is not my purpose to promote HP products here but instead to report on a company who discovered that contrary to conventional wisdom, old people have a vast store of knowledge and expertise they are eager to share and the company has made the age-50-and-up crowd the “heart and soul of their support forum from the beginning."

Whenever a lot of old faces are mixed together with the young, it is a good thing in the world.


At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Ross Middleton: Machiavelli


What Romney REALLY Thinks of Elders

category_bug_politics.gif You must have heard about all this by now – Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney's remarkably candid statements about his disdain for half the U.S. population:

On Monday, David Corn writing in Mother Jones released several clips from a recording of an hour-long, private fundraiser Romney held with a some fat-cat Florida donors in May. More clips followed on Tuesday, but that first video above is the most devastating – both for the country and (I do hope) for Romney too.

Here is a partial transcript of the clip:

“There are 47 percent of the people who will vote for the president no matter what. There are 47 percent who are with him, who are dependent upon government, who believe that they are victims, who believe the government has a responsibility to care for them, who believe that they are entitled to health care, to food, to housing, to you-name-it, that that’s an entitlement. And the government should give it to them...

“These are people who pay no income tax...[M]y job is not to worry about those people. I'll never convince them they should take personal responsibility and care for their lives.”

What is shocking about Romney's comments is that they are not shocking. I suspect that everyone in the U.S. who is not a member of the rabid, far-right variety of Republican already knew this about him – that he disdains and scorns everyone who is not rich. We just didn't expect him to say it out loud so clearly.

Nevertheless, more elders support Mitt Romney's candidacy than any other single demographic. In the latest American Research Group poll, voters 50 and older prefer Romney to President Obama 52 percent to 43 percent.

Can that possibly continue after this contemptible and repugnant video? Romney's loathing for anyone he sees as below his station in life is disgustingly obvious not to mention – if I may steal a Republican trope – unAmerican.

Aside from that, Romney's numbers reveal that he has zero knowledge of the culture and circumstances of Americans who are not wealthy. Here is a tax graph of the U.S. population from the Tax Policy Center:

Breakdown3-06-17-11

28.3 percent of taxpayers have enough deductions to zero out their federal tax obligation. But they still pay FICA and Medicare deductions which Romney, without a salary, does not.

6.0 percent earn too little - $20,000 or less - to pay income tax or payroll taxes.

That leaves the 10.3 percent of the U.S. population labeled “elderly” - the ones Time Goes By is concerned with – who pay no income tax nor payroll deductions but certainly have paid their share over a lifetime of employment.

As the Center for Policy and Budget Priorities explains:

“Most of the people who pay neither federal income tax nor payroll taxes are low-income people who are elderly, unable to work due to a serious disability, or students, most of whom subsequently become taxpayers.

"(In years like the last few, this group also includes a significant number of people who have been unemployed the entire year and cannot find work.)”

However, all the employed groups who pay no federal income tax usually pay state and local taxes and everyone, no matter how poor, pays sales tax. No one in these groups is shirking tax obligations.

Oh, wait. There is one group who is shirking. New York magazine enlightens us:

”...the most egregious members of the 47 percent are the 3,000 people who made more than $2,178,866 in 2011 (putting them in the top 0.1 percent of taxpayers), and yet paid no federal income taxes.”

Do you suppose Mr. Romney's contempt for people he thinks are freeloaders includes these 3,000? The ones who likely stash their cash in the Cayman Islands and other tax havens? Like Romney himself?

Now that I've done all this explanation of who doesn't pay taxes, I feel a little foolish because Romney's speech in Florida was not about facts and figures. It was the most elite put-down of the riff-raff since Marie Antoinette.

In practical terms, what it tells us is that the Republicans are running for president an amoral man of contemptible character who, if elected, will do everything he can to throw elders under the financial bus along with the rest of the 47 percent.

Are you ready for the work house?

Like I said above, I hope this Romney speech will waken his elder supporters to switch sides in disgust at his condescension toward them. But, probably not. Here is what infuriates me about my own age cohort – from a comment at firedoglake:

”My Mom is one. A 75 year old widow whose singular reason for voting for Romney is to get rid of Obamacare to save her medicare. That’s the simple truth and you will not change her mind. The mind control by Fox News is stunning.”

I have no doubt that is true and that millions of elders are equally uninformed, ignorant and closed-minded and that scares the bejesus out of me for the entire 99 percent of every age if Romney is elected.


At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Johna Ferguson: What is Age?


Retirement Blues

A lot of attention was paid last week to a New York Times editorial about how little money has been saved by people who are approaching retirement age even before the recession and moreso now.

”The economic downturn and its consequences — including losses in jobs, income, investments and home equity — have made that bad situation much worse,” the editorial states.

And furthermore, says The New York Times, neither side in the presidential campaign is even mentioning the fact that most Americans cannot afford to retire.

”Medicare, of course, is an issue [in the campaign]. But Social Security, a critical source of income for most retirees, is barely mentioned, though the parties have sharply different views on how to improve it,” states The Times.

“The Democratic platform correctly acknowledges that it can be strengthened and preserved, implying that a modest mix of tax increases and benefit cuts is needed. The Republican platform vows to 'give workers control over, and a sound return on, their investments.' That sounds like privatization, which would be cruel folly.”

[I disagree about the Social Security benefit cuts cited by The Times, but that's for another day.]

Like many other stories I have read about the shortfall of personal savings for retirement, this editorial blames the decline of traditional employer pension plans along with an astonishingly low number of 401(k) plans available to workers.

So what's The Times' prescription?

”...the 'Automatic Individual Retirement Accounts' that President Obama has proposed in recent budgets, which would require companies that did not offer retirement plans to automatically divert 3 percent of an employee’s pay into an I.R.A., unless the employee opted out.”

That's it? Does anyone reading this blog post believe in that? Is there any reason to think automatic IRAs are any different from opt-in IRAs when the next crash happens (and it will)?

But there is a bigger reason so few have saved enough for retirement, a reason never mentioned by anyone with the power to influence: NO ONE IS PAID ENOUGH TO SAVE FOR RETIREMENT.

Sorry to shout, but this is so obvious that the silence about it is deafening. Just look at income statistics.

As we discussed here a bit last week, the latest Census Bureau report [pdf] revealed that the median household income in the United States fell for the fourth straight year in 2011 to $50,054. After hitting $54,489 in 2007 (inflation adjusted), median household income has dropped by nearly $4,500 or 8.1 percent.

[“Median income” is the center point of the spread; half earn more and half earn less.] And before that, income had been essentially flat for the previous 20 years.

So by the time taxes are paid, rent or mortgage, food, clothing, health insurance, auto expenses and saving for the kids' college, there cannot be anything left in the lower half of the mean income scale for even a modest vacation let alone savings for retirement.

Plus, I'm willing to bet that the three percent automatic deduction The Times endorses would leave a lot of families hungry.

We need a better plan like – how about paying people a living wage? How about creating a policy that penalizes companies that send jobs overseas? In the past couple of decades, salaries have been cut to the bone, pensions, IRAs and 401(k)s have been eliminated, and the majority of new jobs pay a pittance.

Here is what The New York Times itself reported about that recently:

”Lower-wage occupations, with median hourly wages of $7.69 to $13.83, accounted for 21 percent of job losses during the retraction. Since employment started expanding, they have accounted for 58 percent of all job growth.

“The occupations with the fastest growth were retail sales (at a median wage of $10.97 an hour) and food preparation workers ($9.04 an hour). Each category has grown by more than 300,000 workers since June 2009.

“Some of these new, lower-paying jobs are being taken by people just entering the labor force, like recent high school and college graduates. Many, though, are being filled by older workers who lost more lucrative jobs in the recession and were forced to take something to scrape by.

“Scrape by” never leaves room for retirement or any other kind of savings. In case you were wondering, that median wage for retail sales, $10.97 per hour, amounts to $22,818 per year.

On this blog, I almost never tackle gigantic, systemic problems like this one because I don't have an answer. And, apparently, all the smart people who are supposed to have answers - like presidential candidates - either don't care or don't know any more than I do.


At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Jo Ann Mann: Family Political Differences


Age Quotitis

Everyone likes quotations, right? The ones we like best are usually those that confirm our prejudices. A whole lot of others allow us to believe we have learned something important or useful or wise or clever but are so banal that we soon forget them.

And every now and then we come across one that in a few remarkably well-chosen words speaks a truth or crystalizes a previously muddy thought we've had or even shows us the way forward.

Quotations, I think, are always personal; what thrills or delights me can mean nothing to you and vice versa because we necessarily bring our own experience, beliefs and feelings to them.

I've been perusing a book of quotations collected by Kathleen Cannon titled, She Said What? Quotable Women Talk Aging and subtitled, “More than 1000 quotes on aging, youth and growing old.”

The inclusion only of women is stultifying. The book is divided into such sections as retirement, wrinkles, reflections, growing up, etc. and with every page I wondered what men have said on that topic – whether they are generally in agreement with women or see the world of aging differently.

In addition, a heavy reliance on quotations from actors (I'm guessing about 50 percent) gives the quotations a certain sameness coming from the point of view of women whose livelihoods depend upon their physical attractions.

Nevertheless, there is no such thing as a quotation book that is not at least entertaining and what I said above about actors notwithstanding, here are two who speak harshly but true:

“There are only three ages for women in Hollywood – Babe, District Attorney, and Driving Miss Daisy.” - Goldie Hawn
“I have no romantic feelings about age. Either you are interesting at any age or you are not.” - Katharine Hepburn

This, from Diane de Poitier who is described as a French patroness who lived between 1499 and 1566, reminds me of Gore Vidal's famous bon mot: “It's not enough to succeed. Others must fail.”

“She was born in the year of our Lord only knows. The years that a woman subtracts from her age are not lost. They are added to other women's.”

Someday, somehow, I will find a way to use “the year of our Lord only knows." It's too good not to and Ms. de Poitier won't know I've stolen it.

Not infrequently, I take off in these pages about how ageist language perpetuates the stereotyping that dehumanizes elders. In efforts to make my point, I have been known to carry on at great length - and then along comes a writer named Elaine Bernstein Partnow doing a much better – and more succinct - job of it:

“Language is a boxing match in which we must spar daily, warding off the negative suggestions that age is our worst enemy. Indeed, it is our best friend.”

Contrary to the zillions of messages that bombard us day in and day out about creams and pills and surgeries to make us appear young again, a lot of women have embraced their old age each in their own way:

“It is a mistake to regard age as a downhill grade toward dissolution. The reverse is true. As one grows older one climbs with surprising strides.” - French novelist, George Sand
“Don't deprive me of my age. I have earned it.” - American poet, May Sarton
“She had settled down to age as if she found it very pleasant company.” - British novelist, Phyllis Bottome
“What a wonderful life I've had! I only wish I'd realized it sooner.” - French novelist, Colette

And I could not agree more with this from the women we all cheered when she said, “This is what 40 looks like these day.”

“Remembering something at first try is now as good as an orgasm as far as I'm concerned.” - America activist, Gloria Steinem

To end on a political note:

As you know, I am in the earliest stages of a long project researching the history of old age. In that regard, I am reading French philosopher, Simone de Beauvoir's treatise, Old Age, published more than 40 years ago. I had recently marked the following when it turned up in the quotations book:

“Society turns away from the aged worker as though they belong to another species...old age exposes the failure of our entire civilization.”

In light of one political party whose 2012 presidential and vice presidential nominees would kill the social programs that sustain elders in the U.S. and keep them from sleeping under bridges, here is a beautifully poignant statement for us all to ponder from an American writer, Margaret Willour:

“Old age needs so little but needs that little so much.”

At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Joanne Zimmermann: The Cat Cowboy


ELDER MUSIC: September 16

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.


Here are some people whose birthday it is today. Not a bad lot of musicians who were born on this date. You may wonder why I’ve decided to highlight folks whose birthday it is today (but you’ve probably already figured it out).

The first, foremost and the king of them all for today, is B.B. KING. He turns 87 today.

B.B. King

What more can I say about B.B. that I haven’t said before? Really all that needs to be said is that he is one of the greatest blues musicians ever, an influential guitarist, fine singer and nothing else need be said. Here he sings and plays Early Every Morning, a very early track from the master that seems to presage rock & roll.

♫ B.B. King - Early Every Morning

JON HENDRICKS is almost certainly the best male jazz singer ever. He’ll be blowing out 91 candles.

Jon Hendricks

He’s probably best known as a member of the group Lambert Hendricks and Ross who invented vocalese, a form of jazz singing that they made their own. However, here’s Jon solo with the great Thelonious Monk performing In Walked Bud.

♫ Jon Hendricks and Thelonious Monk - In Walked Bud

Lauren Bacall

A great trio for this day are the two I’ve already mentioned and LAUREN BACALL. Although Betty sang in one or two films she’s not known as a musician, so I’ll move on.

CHARLIE BYRD is not a bad addition to the ranks of this day’s birthday alumni.

Charlie Byrd

Charlie was born the same day as B.B. King, what a fine day that was for guitarists. Charlie’s dad played the mandolin and guitar and taught young Charlie to play very early. He went on to have formal training in classical guitar and composition.

He later became a pupil of Andre Segovia. Charlie saw Django Reinhart perform in Paris and his life’s work became apparent to him. Here’s Charlie playing some fine guitar licks along with Stan Getz with some equally good sax. Desafinado.

♫ Charlie Byrd and Stan Getz - Desafinado

Peter Falk

I always enjoyed watching Columbo. I know, the plots had holes through which you could drive a truck, but PETER FALK was always a hoot. Not forgetting the big stars who would line up to play the guest murderer. Peter’s another one for today.

LITTLE WILLIE LITTLEFIELD is yet another great blues musician from Texas. He’s a mere slip of a lad at 81.

Little Willie Littlefield

By the age of 16 he was already well known in town and had recorded some songs in Houston. These caught the attention of a record producer from Los Angeles and Willie moved there and became an attraction on the west coast. Initially influenced by artists such as Amos Milburn and Charles Brown and other singer/pianists, Willie developed his own style.

Like many blues and jazz musicians he moved to Europe where his music was more appreciated. In the last decade he’s made something of a comeback and is still playing around the traps as of this writing. Here he plays Mellow Cats.

♫ Little Willie Littlefield - Mellow Cats

Jack Kelly

Another favorite TV program when I was even younger was Maverick. JACK KELLY played brother Brett in the series, although he always seemed to be overshadowed by James Garner as Bart.

David Copperfield

Not the Dickens character, DAVID COPPERFIELD is an illusionist. He’s another blowing out candles today.

ELĪNA GARANČA is a mezzo-soprano from Riga in Latvia.

Elina Garanca

Here Elīna sings a marvelous duet with ANNA NETREBKO, who isn’t a birthday girl, but my goodness she came close, seeing the light of day on the 18th of September.

Anna Netrebko

They sing The Barcarolle (Belle nuit, o nuit d'amour) from “The Tales of Hoffmann” by Jacques Offenbach. I have a number of versions of this and this one is by far the best I’ve heard.

♫ Anna Netrebko and Elina Garanca - The Barcarolle

Janis Paige

JANIS PAIGE was known as an actor but she was also a trained opera singer. I have none of her music but she deserves a mention on her day.

BERNIE CALVERT was a member of the group The Hollies. He’s not the most famous of that group, that’d be Graham Nash, although a few hold-outs might suggest Allan Clarke. However, Bernie is the one whose birthday it is today.

Bernie Calvert

Bernie started as a pianist, but his original group, The Dolphins, lacked a bass player so he took over the instrument. When the original bassist for The Hollies left Bernie was recruited for the position and remained for a couple of decades. He was really chuffed when the famous jazz bassist Ray Brown approached him and praised his bass playing on Bus Stop. Hear for yourself.

♫ The Hollies - Bus Stop

Anne Francis

ANNE FRANCIS was an interesting actor, both on TV and in films. She deserves a mention.

KENNEY JONES was the drummer for The Small Faces, The Faces and later he took over the drumming role in The Who when that group got themselves back together again after Keith Moon dropped off the twig.

Kenney Jones

The Small Faces were reasonably successful and produced some fine music in the sixties. At the end of that decade they split up when Steve Marriott left to form Humble Pie with Peter Frampton.

The other three remained together and hired a couple of journeymen musicians to round out the group. You may not know these two, Rod Stewart and Ronnie Wood, and as they were considerably taller than the others, the group dropped the “Small” from their name.

From their classic album, “Ogdens' Nut Gone Flake,” often included in the best British albums of the sixties, here are The Small Faces with Lazy Sunday.

♫ Small Faces - Lazy Sunday

JC Penney

You may not admit it, but I know you’ve bought something at the store that was started by J.C. PENNEY.

DAVID BELLAMY is one of the BELLAMY BROTHERS. They gave us such immortal songs as If I Said You Had a Beautiful Body (Would You Hold It Against Me).

Bellamy Brothers

They gave us other songs as well, better ones. That’s David on the right, incidentally. They have had considerable success in country music and the brothers released a rather good album back in the eighties called “Rebels Without a Clue” that had several songs worthy of inclusion.

I checked the other albums but kept coming back to that one. The song I’ve chosen is called When the Music Meant Everything.

♫ Bellamy Brothers - When The Music Meant Everything

Jennifer Tilly and Mickey Roarke

A couple more actors to finish off, JENNIFER TILLY and MICKEY ROURKE. There are more I could mention but I’ve already gone a bit overboard.

HILDEGARD OF BINGEN was a real all-rounder. She is also 914 years old today.

Hildegard

Hildegard was an author, counsellor, linguist, naturalist, scientist, philosopher, physician, herbalist, poet and all-round polymath. Not bad for a woman from the 12th century.

She was also a nun, actually the head nun at the nun place where she worked. This is probably how she managed to do so much at that time when most women didn’t get much of a chance to do these things. Most men too, I imagine.

Her musical works have come down to us and they are sublime. This is one of them, or a bit of one of them, O Ecclesia, performed by Sequentia with Barbara Thornton out in front.

♫ Hildegard - O Ecclesia

Yes, it’s my birthday as well as the previous musos and the others mentioned (along with about 19,000,000 other people on the planet). If you’re thinking of presents, I’m rather partial to Romanée-Conti and La Tâche wines.


INTERESTING STUFF: 15 September 2012

CHEVY'S AWFUL CAR COMMERCIAL
TGB reader Marc Leavitt left a link to this Chevy Malibu commercial recently. It is exactly why ageism and age discrimination exist.

So-called “funny” presentations of elders like this one happen thousands of times across the U.S. every day and no one believes there is anything wrong with consistently portraying a certain group of people as dim, irritating and out of step with the world.

MARS CURIOSITY DRIVERS
Take a look a this image and in particular, check out the tire tracks left in the dirt recently on the red planet by the Mars rover Curiosity:

Mars rover tire tracks

Tire tracks are boring, right? Well, not if you think about who put them there. Sixteen guys working on the Mars project have the coolest job in the whole wide world: they get to drive Curiosity:

”...the driving is not done in real time: during the Martian night, the team plans where to send Curiosity next and sends instructions via radio transmission as the Mars day begins. Then the drivers go home, back to life on Earth, with all of its “don’t forget to take out the garbage” mundanity.

“'You have to try not to think about what’s happening out there, which is, of course, completely impossible,' Vandi Tompkins, 39, one of the drivers, said with caffeinated exuberance.

“'The rover may be executing a successful drive based on your instructions,' she said, 'or you may have just sent a national asset over a cliff.'

“Or, as Mr. Heverly put it, 'Last night I drove on Mars, today I mowed the lawn — it’s completely surreal.'”

Go read the whole story at The New York Times. The drivers are thrilled with their jobs and you will be amazed and – oh, just go read it.

UNDERWATER GARDEN
In Cancun, there is a large underwater sculpture garden that scuba divers are allowed to visit.

”The main goal of English artist Jason Decaires Taylor’s work is conservation. Each of the more than 400 life-sized sculptures are made from ph neutral clay in order to promote the growth of coral reef and marine life.”

Take a look:

Lonely Planet has some more information. Thanks to John Starbuck of For a Dancer for the heads up about this.

GOOD NEWS FOR 2013 MEDICARE PART D
Paula Span at The Times' New Old Age blog did my homework for me and reported earlier this month that although there are many Part D (prescription drug) plans to choose from, premiums for 2013 will remain “basically level.”

You can read more about it here and when the annual Medicare enrollment period begins on 15 October, I'll have more general Medicare information for you.

PUTTIN' ON THE RITZKY
February 2012. Snow. Cold. Wet. And hundreds of Muscovites enjoying every minute of it. If, by 20 seconds in, you're not smiling, you're dead inside. (A second hat tip today to John Starbuck)

ADVERTISEMENTS FOR THE TITANIC
For a few weeks in 1912, maybe even a few months, the RMS Titanic was not a tragedy. It was the newest, biggest, fanciest steamship in the world and the White Star Line needed to sell tickets for her maiden voyage.

Titanic ad

No television commercials in those days but plenty of newspaper and magazine ads. Here's another:

Titanic ad

These are from the terrific nostalgia (or historic – take your pick) website, Retronaut, where you can see more Titanic ads.

JAY LENO AND THE 100-YEAR-OLD LADY
It happened this year back in February when a funny and charming centenarian named Dorothy Custer appeared with Jay Leno on the Tonight Show.

She was born in 1911 and lives in Twin Falls, Idaho. (Thanks to doctafil of Jive Chalkin' who sent this along for us)

SOME DAYS I JUST DESPAIR
According to Mother Jones which supplies all sorts of caveats on this story, Public Policy Polling asked

”...Ohio Republicans who they thought 'deserved more credit for the killing of Osama bin Laden: Barack Obama or Mitt Romney.'”

Here are the results as reported by Mother Jones: 15 percent gave Romney more credit and 47 percent said they were unsure.

Depending on your point of view, that's either awful or funny. However, it's not true. If you visit the PPP website to confirm the results [pdf] of the question (No. Q15), you find that only 6 percent chose Romney and 31 percent were not sure.

Even with the smaller numbers, I despair for the choices some voters make. How dumb, do you think, are those 6 and 31 percent?

MISSION IMPOSSIBLE SQUIRREL
I have a feeling that I've run this video before but I don't feel like looking for it and anyway, I enjoyed it as much this time as if it were brand new to me. (Hat tip to Darlene Costner of Darlene's Hodgepodge)


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.


Annual Census on Earnings, Poverty and Health Coverage

One of the first things the U.S. Constitution mandates is a national census. Article I, Section 2 states that an

”...enumeration shall be made within three Years after the first Meeting of the Congress of the United States, and within every subsequent Term of ten Years, in such Manner as they shall by Law direct.”

There was some other language included back in 1789 about who was and was not considered a citizen to be counted and we got rid of all that with the 14th Amendment.

But the Census Bureau does a whole lot more than count noses every ten years. In between, they issue all sorts of useful reports on a variety of national statistics. This week, we got the annual Income, Poverty, and Health Insurance Coverage in the United States: 2011 [pdf] report.

The overall bottom line is this: Income isn't doing well for most Americans, poverty is holding steady and there is some progress with health insurance coverage. Some details.

EARNINGS
Median household income, $50,054 in 2011, declined 1.5 percent from 2010. It was the second consecutive annual decline. That is now 8.1 percent lower than in 2007, when the recession began late that year.

Women are still earning only 77 percent of what men do. Real median earnings of both men and women who worked full time, year-round declined by 2.5 percent between 2010 and 2011.

The income gap between the richest and poorest is now the largest it has ever been: based on the Gini index, income inequality increased by 1.6 percent between 2010 and 2011...The Gini index was 0.477 in 2011. (The Gini index is a measure of household income inequality; zero represents perfect income equality and 1 perfect inequality.)

POVERTY
In 2011, the family poverty rate and the number of families in poverty were 11.8 percent and 9.5 million, respectively, both not statistically different from the 2010 estimates. (The poverty line is currently at $11,702 for a single person under age 65 and $23,201 for a family of four.)

In 2011, 13.7 percent of people 18 to 64 (26.5 million) were in poverty compared with 8.7 percent of people 65 and older (3.6 million) and 21.9 percent of children under 18 (16.1 million).

The biggest reasons elders – 65 and older – show a lower percentage of poverty than other age groups is directly attributable to Social Security and to Medicare which we have discussed here in the past.

2011 poverty graph

HEALTH INSURANCE COVERAGE
In 2011, the percentage of people without health insurance decreased to 15.7 percent from 16.3 percent in 2010. The number of uninsured people decreased to 48.6 million from 50 million.

The improvement shows especially among young adults who, due to a provision of the Affordable Care Act, can now be covered under their parents' policies until age 26.

Of course, the entire report is much more complex than these headlines, breaks down the statistics into a much greater number of categories and is stuffed with charts and graphs. For those of you like that stuff, it's worth a read.

Coincidentally, yesterday the Pew Research Center released a new study [pdf] showing that one third of Americans now identify themselves as lower-middle or lower class compared to 25 percent four years ago.

Pew_Lower-Class self-identified

During an election year in which economics in general and Republican zeal to cut anti-poverty programs are playing a large role, Pew's chart of which ideologies have suffered greater falls into the lower classes over the past four years is useful:

09-10-12-Pew_Lower-Class-Political

All respondents in the survey self-identified their positions on the economic scale. From the Pew report:

”About eight-in-ten people in the lower class (84%) cut back their household spending, compared with 62% of the middle class and 41% of the lower class.

“Six-in-ten lower-class adults (64%) had trouble paying their bills, more than twice the rate of the middle class (29%) or the upper class (13%). Fully 45% had difficulty paying for medical care for themselves or their families.

“Just two-in-ten (18%) middle-class adults and one-in-ten upper-class adults (11%) faced a similar problem.”

As regards this week's Census Bureau report, Travis Waldron at Thinkprogress makes these important points:

”The data also noted that government benefits played a significant role in keeping millions of Americans — particularly women, children, and the elderly — out of poverty. Social Security alone kept roughly 21.4 million people out poverty, and unemployment benefits helped an additional 2.3 million stave off poverty last year alone.

“The Census Bureau estimates its poverty rate based on cash income and assistance, but many government programs, like the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) and certain tax credits aimed at combating poverty, aren’t included in its income estimates.

“Including SNAP, commonly known as food stamps, in the Census data would lift another 3.9 million Americans out of poverty, and including the Earned Income Tax Credit that helps low-income taxpayers would bring 5.7 million people above the poverty line.

“Other tax credits aimed at low-income working families, like the Child Tax Credit, would keep millions more out of poverty if they were included.”

These are, of course, exactly the programs the Republican candidates want to cut.


There is no story at The Elder Storytelling Place today. New stories will resume next Monday, 17 September.


Has Romney Disqualified Himself?

[NOTE: You probably know all this by now, but I wrote my response early on Wednesday and was away from home the rest of the day. There may have been developments throughout the day that make this obsolete. I'll update today if necessary.]

category_bug_politics.gif The period of 9/11 mourning had not yet ended Tuesday evening and no one yet knew the terrible extent of the attacks on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi and our embassy in Cairo before Republican presidential candidate, Mitt Romney, issued this denunciation of the Obama administration that included an accusation that the president supports the north African militants:

“It’s disgraceful that the Obama administration’s first response was not to condemn attacks on our diplomatic missions, but to sympathize with those who waged the attacks,” he said.

That so-called presidential sympathy was a reference to a statement from the U.S. embassy in Cairo condemning an America-made film denouncing Islam. But the embarrassment (for Romney) is that the embassy issued the statement before the attacks “in an effort to head off the violence - not after the attacks, as Mr. Romney’s statement implies," according to The New York Times.

But worse than mere embarrassment is that Romney issued this crude and cynical political criticism of the president during an ongoing assault on American property abroad when no one yet knew nature of the violence, who, if anyone, had been killed and whose lives might still be at risk.

The irresponsibility of such a statement in the middle of an assault against Americans far away is breathtakingly obscene.

It doesn't take a Stanford or Harvard education to know that you don't go off half-cocked throwing around accusations that will be blasted around the world before you have any idea what's happened and what is at stake for our citizens there or our country in general.

Even so, in the light of Wednesday morning when we knew that the U.S. ambassador to Libya, J. Christopher Stevens, and three other Americans had been killed, Romney doubled down on his political attack against Obama in a Jacksonville news conference:

"'It's their administration. Their administration spoke,' Romney said. "The president takes responsibility not just for the words that came from his mouth, but the words that come from his ambassadors, his administration, from his embassies, from his State Department.

“'They clearly sent mixed messages to the world and the administration, and the embassy is the administration and the statement that came from the administration is a statement that is akin to an apology and I think is a severe miscalculation.'"

Any presidential candidate – hell, any grownup - should know how (to borrow a term from Romney himself) severely stupid and dangerous it is to butt into an ongoing international emergency. Mitt Romney obviously does not.

There are many reasons to not vote for Mitt Romney and we at this blog have discussed the ones that most affect elders – that he wants to kill Medicare, Medicaid, Social Security and the Affordable Care Act while lowering taxes on corporations and the one percent.

Protecting these programs is important to the future of the country, to our children, grandchildren and beyond. I don't not dismiss those reasons to oppose Romney.

But now he has inserted himself into the administration's foreign policy in a violent and volatile part of the world that must necessarily be handled with one American voice and that can only the president's.

It becomes more clear day by day that Mr. Romney is not a serious person and in this case, he seems to be not rational; two U.S. missions attacked on the anniversary of 9/11, four Americans tragically dead and he believes an embassy press release somehow impugns Obama's patriotism.

It is bizarre behavior that calls into question Romney's judgment, character and responsibility. This episode should convince even diehard Republicans that this man is unfit to be president.


There are no stories at The Elder Storytelling Place today. Publication will resume on Monday 17 September.


ELDER POETRY INTERLUDE: As I Walked Out One Evening

By W. H. Auden

As I walked out one evening,
Walking down Bristol Street,
The crowds upon the pavement
Were fields of harvest wheat.

And down by the brimming river
I heard a lover sing
Under an arch of the railway:
'Love has no ending.

'I'll love you, dear, I'll love you
Till China and Africa meet,
And the river jumps over the mountain
And the salmon sing in the street,

'I'll love you till the ocean
Is folded and hung up to dry
And the seven stars go squawking
Like geese about the sky.

'The years shall run like rabbits,
For in my arms I hold
The Flower of the Ages,
And the first love of the world.'

But all the clocks in the city
Began to whirr and chime:
'O let not Time deceive you,
You cannot conquer Time.

'In the burrows of the Nightmare
Where Justice naked is,
Time watches from the shadow
And coughs when you would kiss.

'In headaches and in worry
Vaguely life leaks away,
And Time will have his fancy
To-morrow or to-day.

'Into many a green valley
Drifts the appalling snow;
Time breaks the threaded dances
And the diver's brilliant bow.

'O plunge your hands in water,
Plunge them in up to the wrist;
Stare, stare in the basin
And wonder what you've missed.

'The glacier knocks in the cupboard,
The desert sighs in the bed,
And the crack in the tea-cup opens
A lane to the land of the dead.

'Where the beggars raffle the banknotes
And the Giant is enchanting to Jack,
And the Lily-white Boy is a Roarer,
And Jill goes down on her back.

'O look, look in the mirror,
O look in your distress:
Life remains a blessing
Although you cannot bless.

'O stand, stand at the window
As the tears scald and start;
You shall love your crooked neighbour
With your crooked heart.'

It was late, late in the evening,
The lovers they were gone;
The clocks had ceased their chiming,
And the deep river ran on.

W.H. Auden by Van Vechten 1939

Wystan Hugh Auden was born in York, England, in 1907. He came to prominence as a poet in his early 20s. In 1939, he moved to the United States, eventually became a citizen and in later years divided his time between homes in New York City and Austria. He died in Vienna in 1973.

Auden is generally accepted to be one of the greatest English poets of the 20th century. Among his favorite subjects were everyday life, culture and politics which he pursued in just about every form of verse including haiku and limericks. Auden was also a noted essayist, editor, and playwright.

Here is a YouTube video of As I Walked Out One Evening read by Tom O'Bedlam. You'll find many more of his poetry readings here.


At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Diane Linch: Neil Young, Bridging the Gap


Elders and Time-Consuming Life Maintenance – Part 2

category_bug_journal2.gif Last week, we held a terrific conversation about how damned long the ordinary maintenance of living takes as we get older - the chores, errands, daily upkeep and other stuff that we hardly noticed in the past except, maybe, as a nuisance to be gotten through as quickly as possible.

I'm returning to this subject today because even though many readers had a lot to say about it, I cannot recall ever having seen it addressed in the serious literature of aging.

As far as I can tell, professional commentary goes straight from the total capability of midlife (zillions of magazine articles and books on efficiency) to frail elders (when incapacity requires the intervention of family and/or care agencies). No one talks about those in-between years.

In particular, there are two kinds of time eaters I'd like to expand on today. Celia mentioned one of them last week:

”Then there's the ruinous recovery time if you get sick or injured. The couple of days it used to take to snap back is now a couple of weeks or even months.”

Celia is right. It has been my experience for the at least the past decade (I'm 71 now) that a simple cold can last two or three weeks and feel as bad a flu virus. And then, cold or flu, when the main symptoms are finally gone, it can be weeks more before full energy returns.

And that's really irritating.

But beyond extra rest, there is little to do about the length of time involved to get over what were once minor illnesses. However, we (me!) and those around us need to be aware that we aren't the kids we used to be and to help out one another during those prolonged periods of recovery when, sometimes, it is just listlessness - not debilitating but tiring nevertheless.

Of course, more serious conditions and injuries take an even longer, more difficult recovery time and I'm sure some of you can speak to that.

Another old age problem I forgot last week is the time involved when routine is interrupted, and I'm guessing this is what young people mean when they say elders are “stuck in their ways.” There is a reason and it's about energy levels, not social or technology issues.

For many of us, sleep is a tenuous proposition. Can't fall asleep. Can't stay asleep. Too many bathroom runs at night. And even with enough sleep, sometimes we just need additional rest during the day.

One of the ways old people husband their energy is via a daily routine giving us the capability to predict what will happen and when it will happen. Certainly, we each plan our days and weeks differently but I'm pretty sure we have a lot of common ground.

When I have a two-hour meeting scheduled in the evening, I know I must nap in the afternoon. If I have a lot of driving to do in a day, I don't also plan to grocery shop.

During the week leading up to house guests, I do the extra cleaning so no one should think I'm entirely a slob, but I also plan ahead for the blog, for extra groceries in the house and make sure I rearrange meetings and other obligations that fall during the guests' stay so we can have as much time together as possible.

Even so, after they leave, I need some recuperative time – some quiet time to regroup and work myself back to my routine. Any activity too much out of the ordinary is more tiring than when was younger.

Example: Last week, I received an invitation to participate in a one-day, roundtable event on an elder health issue in New York City at the end of this month. I would like to attend but I am hesitating because these days it is so exhausting to fly – exhausting because airlines have made it deeply irritating, uncomfortable and awful - all the moreso because I'm old.

Then, of course, there is extra work up front to get the blogs in shape for my absence and catchup when I return. So I still haven't decided.

It is interesting that this elder need for recuperation from interruptions in routine seems to have been neglected in the aging literature. Perhaps the “experts” think it falls into the well-known category of tiring more easily as we age, but I think it is a separate condition or need.

There is no one more expert at the demands and constraints of aging than elders themselves. So let us know what you think.


At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Johna Ferguson: Metamorphosis