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The Class of '57

I'm taking the rest of this week off from blogging. If there is ever going to be a new Elderbloggers List and some other fixes needed to the backend of Time Goes By, this is the only way to get it done – relieve myself of turning out daily posts for awhile.

Everything at The Elder Storytelling Place is new this week and I'll leave you a little something here to keep it all going until I get back.

Today, it's song Peter Tibbles sent. The Statler Brothers singing The Class of '57 - one year before me – recounting what happened to the members of that class.

Statler Brothers - The Class of '57

When did you graduate from high school? Do you know what happened to your classmates?


At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Arlene Corwin: Even Pain Takes a Rest


Elder Meetup?

As noted yesterday, I'm on hiatus until Saturday to get some blog housekeeping done.

As filler today, I'm repeating a story from 2010 about a blog meetup here at my home. It was loads of fun to spend the day with online friends old and new that I had met through Time Goes By.

I'm thinking it might be fun to do it again this year and although I don't have a count, I think there are quite a number of relatively local people – bloggers and readers – who I would, perhaps, like to meet one another.

So here's the story from the 2010 meetup that was then titled, Ollie the Cat's Nightmare Elder Meetup Day. Let us all know what you think about a repeat this year.


Ollie

For a cat who, aside from the human who feeds him, is a misanthrope, Saturday was his worst nightmare.

Beginning at 10AM people continued to arrive for a couple of hours until there were 18 of them between Ollie, under the bed, and his food bowl in the kitchen. And so it remained - to his utter disgust - until way past dark, a giant interruption in his routine.

Too bad for him because for the rest of us, it was a most entertaining and companionable eight-plus hours.

I had thought we could walk over to the park together along the Willamette River in the afternoon, but the day dawned so rainy and wet that it nearly killed the helium balloons I used to mark the path from the parking area to my home.

Dead Ballons

We have remarked here in the past how comfortable it is to meet a blogger we have previously known only online. Mostly, it feels like seeing an old friend who hasn't been around for awhile, but I wasn't certain that would hold for a large group. I needn't have worried – it was like a bunch of old friends.

Aside from my brother Paul and his wife, Isa, the only guest I had met in person before was Raines Cohen when we both attended the Gnomedex conference in Seattle in 2007. Raines – more about him here - is an expert in co-housing and intentional communities, and wears a wonderful Mad Hatter hat everywhere he goes.

I felt like I knew Marion - who drove with her husband Duke all the way from Reno, Nevada - because we had spoken at length on the telephone about a year ago when she interviewed me for her Marion's Blog.

There are hardly any photos of my own from the meetup because I was having too much fun to take many and the few I have are mostly fuzzy, out of focus and awful. But Marion posted a terrific bunch at her Flicker site.

And Rain, of Rainy Day Thoughts who lives with her husband, Paul, on a farm about 50 miles south of me, brought a camera too so there is another excellent collection of photos on her Picasa page.

I had considered doing the cooking for us and ditched that idea as soon as it came to mind. There was a time when I could prepare all the food for 20-30 people or more while holding down a full-time job but these days, my body says no.

Lucky for me, there is a nice little catering place in town, Gourmet Productions, that supplied the chicken with apricot sauce, roast pork loin in tarragon sauce, raviolini along with a rice, arugula and corn salad. We did a lot of eating.

Food

Here is the table as we were beginning to dig into the beautiful patisserie from St. Honore Boulangerie in Lake Oswego.

Dessert

In the past, when I was younger, there always seemed to be a couple of wallflowers at parties who needed to be helped along to join the conversation, but not with our meetup group. For me, it was a lively, joyous, fascinating day. I can't begin to cover all the connections, interests and ideas shared among us.

I'm going to list first names of guests I haven't mentioned elsewhere in this post, but I'm concerned I'll leave off blog links. So please fill them in for us in the comments.

Celia of Celia's Blue Cottage
Jami and Dorothy
Lydia
Jan
Joy
Steve

One of the cool things I had forgotten about giving a party (which I hadn't done in six or seven years) is that people bring gifts so there was wine, cider, candy, tea, candles, a book from Raines, Audacious Aging, with a chapter written by him – a book that Gaea Yudron lists prominently on her blog, Sage's Play.

Gaea also treated us to a reading from the musical play, A New Wrinkle, that she is writing.

Kathe, who lives near me here in Lake Oswego, brought Ollie the cat a pot of live catnip. True to all toddlers and pets, he prefers the ribbon that was attached with cat toy at the end.

CatnipRibbon

Except for Ollie, who is much happier now that everyone has gone home, the meetup was a spectacularly good time and I think it would be good to do this again in the not too distant future.

NOTE TO SOMEONE: One of you here on Saturday left this hat behind – and a fine one it is. Let me know who you are and I'll arrange to get it to you.

Hat


At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Marcy Belson: The U.S. Grant Hotel and a Leather Coat


Hoagy Carmichael

I'm taking the rest of this week off from blogging. If there is ever going to be a new Elderbloggers List and some other fixes needed to the backend of Time Goes By, this is the only way to get it done – relieve myself of turning out daily posts for awhile.

Everything at The Elder Storytelling Place is new this week and I'll leave you a little something here to keep it all going until I get back.

For just such an eventuality, Sunday music columnist gave me a batch of single songs from a wide variety of musicians. Today, it's a singer/songwriter I grew up with and have always liked the sound of his voice. Hoagy Carmichael with Ol' Buttermilk Sky.

♫ Hoagy Carmichael - Ol' Buttermilk Sky


At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Sharon Ostrow: Silent No More


The President Puts Chained CPI in Writing

Last week, the incessant blame game between Republicans and Democrats was in full force over whose fault sequestration is and whether the president offered any deficit reduction items to Congress. That's all just noise - blah, blah, blah - but something important to you and me came out of it.

If you had been willing to give President Barack Obama the benefit of the doubt on whether he really would cut Social Security for current beneficiaries or if you believed it could not possibly be true that he would reduce the deficit on the backs of America's elders, you will have to give up your dreams.

At the White House website is a document named “The President’s Plan: $4 Trillion of Deficit Reduction Including the Last Offer to Speaker Boehner.” Click image for larger view [pdf].)

DeficitReductionTable370

The relevant line circled in red above reads: “Spending Savings from Superlative CPI with protections for vulnerable - $130 billion."

Keep in mind, that would be an immediate reduction in current benefits that would continue every year there is a cost-of-living increase and the reduction would be cumulative year over year over year.

AARP has posted a calculator that will give you a rough estimate of how much SSA benefit income you will lose over time if chained CPI is implemented.

Please recall that Social Security contributes not one penny to the deficit. Social Security is not bankrupt nor is it broke. It is solvent for about another 20 years and then, with no changes, it could continue to pay about 75 percent of benefits.

Small changes that would hurt no one can make Social Security whole for many decades beyond 2033, changes like removing the salary cap so everyone pays FICA on their entire salary just like the poor people do.

As it is, the U.S. Social Security benefit is the smallest in the developed world and if anything, should be increased. Even the consumer price index that is used now to calculate Social Security COLAs doesn't begin to reflect the real price increases elders bear year after year.

It is hard to believe that President Obama does not know all this. So what could be his reason, do you think, for making the chained CPI giveaway to Republicans, a move that would harm millions of elders who paid into Social Security all their working lives?


At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Susan Gulliford: Where's the Paper Boy?


ELDER MUSIC: Months

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.


After featuring hours (Rock Around the Clock) and days of the week (Week Days), it’s only logical to go with months of the year. Here it is.

I could have got this one over and done with quickly and easily just by playing Neil Sedaka’s Calendar Girl. That one mentions every month. Some of you may have said, “Is that all there is?” (quoting Peggy Lee). Others, “Phew, that’s a relief. I won’t have to scramble through all those songs.” I’ve decided to go for more than the single tune. It’s the full modo.

I’m doing every month in order, so I’ll start with January (as I’m not going for the financial year). There were fewer songs than I expected for this month but a couple of okay ones turned up. The one I’ve chosen is by STEVE FORBERT.

Steve Forbert

This is from his second album, “Jackrabbit Slim,” which came out quite some time ago now. Way back in 1979. I still think of Steve as one of the new, young, up-coming singers but given the date of that album, I guess that’s not the case anymore.

The song has the clunky title January 23-30, 1978.

♫ Steve Forbert - January 23-30, 1978

February is the difficult month. That’s probably because it’s so hot everyone just wants to sit around in the shade, vegging out, and not write songs. At least, that’s the way it is around where I live.

I only found two songs in my collection for the month and I’ve already used one of them in another column (not that that’s stopped me in the past). I’ve selected the other one by JULIE LONDON.

Julie London

Actually, I could have done the whole column using Julie’s songs because I have her album “Calendar Girl” which has a song for each month of the year, so hers is the default position if I get desperate. The song is February Brings the Rain.

♫ Julie London - February Brings the Rain

SUSANNAH MCCORKLE had everything to live for.

Susannah McCorkle

She was proficient in many languages – indeed, she once considered a career as a translator at the U.N.  She was fêted in Europe and New York as one of the finest and most interesting jazz singers of her generation.

Unfortunately, she suffered from severe depression and took her own life. Here is Susannah with The Waters of March.

♫ Susannah McCorkle - The Waters Of March

April is the opposite of February: I have far too many songs and good ones at that. You can probably come up with several without trying. I’ve decided to include one that may not be in your list. It’s one by JOHN PHILLIPS.

That’s Papa John of The Mamas and The Papas. The rest of the group were miffed when John released the album “John the Wolf King of LA” from which this track is taken. They thought it should have been a group album as it really was pretty good.

John Phillips

All that probably hastened the demise of the band which was already on very rocky ground by this stage (1970). Mama Cass had already done some solo work and she was recording with Dave Mason from Traffic and the others were off doing their own things.

Here’s John’s song, April Anne.

♫ John Phillips - April Anne

May always seems to me to be one of those throwaway months, one where nothing much happens at all. It’s not really autumn (well, it is) and not yet winter. It’s not hot and it’s not cold. The few songs seem to reflect that as well.

I decided to go with the BEE GEES in their early incarnation.

Bee Gees

This is from when they were a really good pop band before they accidentally discovered disco and made themselves a fortune in the process. The song is First of May. I don’t know what Christmas trees have to do with May, but there you go.

♫ Bee Gees - First of May

VAN MORRISON gives us Evening in June. There’s really nothing more to add to that statement.

Van Morrison

♫ Van Morrison - Evening In June

I originally had Bruce Springsteen in here with his 4th of July, Asbury Park, however, Bruce got the flick when I played DAVE ALVIN covering pretty similar territory. At least in its title, the songs are really quite different in sound and content.

Dave Alvin

Dave’s public musical career began when he and his brother Phil along with a couple of others formed the group The Blasters. They weren’t hugely successful except for those who actually managed to see and hear them.

Dave left the group and played on various other groups’ albums before recording his own solo albums. These are really very good indeed and worth checking out. This is Dave with Fourth of July.

♫ Dave Alvin - Fourth of July

Okay, I’m really desperate here. Only two songs for August, one by MICKEY NEWBURY and the other by Julie London, of course.

Mickey Newbury

I originally dismissed Mickey’s as it was far too long, way over 10 minutes.

However, I played it and found it was really two songs jammed together. Mickey had a habit doing that sort of thing. I split them as the second had nothing to do with August anyway, and wasn’t a great song either. Here is 33rd of August.

♫ Mickey Newbury - 33rd of August

We have a lot of September songs. My first thought was Carole King’s It Might as Well Rain Until September. However, the songs today seem to be rather downbeat so I thought I’d continue in that vein and go with September Song.

Of course, choosing which particular version to include became a bit of a headache – there are more of them than most of the other months had songs. In the end I went for the obvious, and classic, version by FRANK SINATRA.

Frank Sinatra

♫ Frank Sinatra - September Song

October really is the laid-back month, no matter which hemisphere in which you happen to live. The songs seem to reflect this, particularly the one I’ve chosen. Here is ROSEMARY CLOONEY with When October Goes.

Rosemary Clooney

♫ Rosemary Clooney - When October Goes

The music is this week’s column couldn’t really be classified as a cheery bunch of tunes. This next one though really takes the cake. It’s from one of my old favorites (well, I have a lot of those), TOM WAITS.

Tom Waits

His song is simply called November and it does have some interesting instruments playing along. Check out the musical saw.

♫ Tom Waits - November

I would have thought that December would have thrown up more songs than I found. There really were only half a dozen or so. Before this I’d have thought it would have been on a par with April or September. Just goes to show.

Anyway, looking through my short list I decided to end with a bit of country music, indeed, the finest male singer in that genre, MERLE HAGGARD.

Merle Haggard

His song is If We Make It Through December. However, he doesn’t sing of a December that I know. I wonder if I can make it through December without major sun burn, whether my apartment can cool down just slightly so I can sleep at night and whether I have enough chilled chardonnay to get me through the month (let alone January and February which are worse).

Anyway, here’s Merle.

♫ Merle Haggard - If We Make It Through December


INTERESTING STUFF – 23 February 2013

1969 INTERNET PREDICTION
The video doesn't mention the word “internet” but that's what it is predicting.

Note how the wife's role is consigned to childcare and shopping still in 1969, and the assumption that the husband pays the bills. But aside from those cultural tropes of the era and the gigantic array of machines – you'd need a whole room – it is amazingly accurate.

LIFE OF PI DIGITAL ARTISTS
One of the films up for a bucket full of awards tomorrow night at the Oscars is Life of Pi. I haven't seen it but I sure did enjoy this video showing a little about how the special effects were done.

WHERE YOUR REPRESENTATIVES STAND ON GUN CONTROL

Gun Control Congress

The Daily Beast has compiled a multimedia presentation of all 535 Congress members' positions on gun control. Click here, scroll down just a little and enter your street address. There will be results for all three of your representatives including their National Rifle Association grade.

Scroll down a little more for expanded information about each rep's stand.

SINGLE CATS ON VALENTINE'S DAY
Okay, maybe it's a little late, but I think you'll like this video about how some cats without a sweetheart spent Valentine's Day. (Hat tip to John Starbuck of For a Dancer)

ELIZABETH WARREN'S FIRST SENATE HEARING
By the grace of the gods, Elizabeth Warren, in her first term as U.S. Senator, was assigned to the Senate Banking Committee. In her first committee hearing, she questioned top bank regulators showing the rest of the Senate how it's supposed to be done.

DRONES FOR AMERICA
It's not as though American citizens are not already surveilled through a variety of means just about 24/7. Now there is talk of police departments using drones to fly around and watch us even more.

Seattle illustrator Drew Christie created this animated satire in which a former K.G.B. agent welcomes such a future.

EXERCISE REALLY DOES IMPROVE BRAIN FUNCTION
The other day, a friend of mine who began a 90-minute, three-day-a-week gym exercise routine several years ago when he was past age 70, said, “I don't believe there is anything regular exercise does not make better.

He's not an expert in this kind of science but such experts as University of Illinois psychology professor Art Kramer, a nationally recognized expert on the role of physical fitness on cognition, agree:

"Increased physical activity also has direct, and relatively rapid effects on cognition and brain health," he said. "Such results have now been reported, over the course of several decades, in animal studies of physical activity.

“Studies in humans, many conducted in Kramer's lab, also show that regular exercise, such as walking three times per week, also increases brain power.”

This is just a small report about a talk Kramer gave recently, but I thought I would use the opportunity to give you a reminder to get up and away from the computer now and then.

LOUIS CK ON GEORGE CARLIN
From past postings of George Carlin on this weekly compendium of stuff, I know many of us here are still big fans of comedian George Carlin. He died in 2008, but his routines feel as fresh as if he had written them yesterday.

Still, I often wish I could hear what he would be saying about Barack Obama's presidency, the deadlocked Congress, the tea party and a whole lot of other events. The closest anyone has come, in my mind, to replacing Carlin's particular kind of genius is comedian Louis CK and now I know why.

In 2010, a tribute for Carlin was held at the New York City Public Library. In this clip, Louis CK explains what he learned from Carlin and how it changed his life.

You can see the entire tribute here - an hour and 40 minutes of many other comedians speaking about Carlin hosted by Whoopi Goldberg.

HAPPIEST BABY ELEPHANT IN THE WORLD
Norma, the Assistant Musicologist who contributes to Peter Tibbles' Sunday Elder Music column here, sent this video. If you aren't smiling through the whole thing you need a heart tune-up.


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.


Why Medical Prices are Sky High

I had no intention of spending the entire morning yesterday reading a 24,000 word report on medical costs while filling 11 pages with notes. Come on, it's Time magazine, for god's sake. I stopped reading it years ago due to its terminal irrelevance.

The story, titled Bitter Pill: Why Medical Bills are Killing Us, is reported and written by Steve Brill, the founder of Court TV and American Lawyer - another black mark to me; I met Brill a couple of times many years ago, once in a job interview - he didn't hire me and he wasn't polite about it.

Nevertheless, “Bitter Pill” is the best damned report about the sorry state of the U.S. Health care industry I've ever seen (and I read a LOT about health care).

What makes it so good is its clarity. It is filled with case and interview details, comparisons among costs, charges and profits, and written not for lawyers, doctors or policy wonks with the intention to obfuscate, but for you and me, the average reader.

Plus, it reads like a good novel in the sense that you can't wait to get to the next paragraph, the next page. By the end, Brill shows what we old folks already know – that in health care delivery and in cost control, Medicare beats private coverage every time.

Brill's conclusions about what to do to rein in health care costs appear to me to be weak but I want to spend more time considering them. What's important, however, is that he gives us plenty of information to use as a basis for an honest, public conversation about how to change American health care.

Not that I'm holding my breath given the power of the medical industry lobby.

Since it can't be summarized, I'm going to quote a handful of passages to pique your interest and hope you will go brew a cup of tea or coffee, sit back and absorb the whole thing. You may not be surprised – you probably suspected this all along – but now you have the facts and figures.

OVERALL COSTS

”According to one of a series of exhaustive studies done by the McKinsey & Co. consulting firm, we spend more on health care than the next 10 biggest spenders combined: Japan, Germany, France, China, the U.K., Italy, Canada, Brazil, Spain and Australia.

“We may be shocked at the $60 billion price tag for cleaning up after Hurricane Sandy. We spent almost that much last week on health care.

“We spend more every year on artificial knees and hips than what Hollywood collects at the box office.

“We spend two or three times that much on durable medical devices like canes and wheelchairs, in part because a heavily lobbied Congress forces Medicare to pay 25% to 75% more for this equipment than it would cost at Walmart.

OVERBILLING – WAY OVERBILLING
(Note: “Chargemaster” is each hospital's internal price list which, according to Brill, has no rationale nor is anyone willing to explain it.)

”Because she was 64, not 65, Janice S. was not on Medicare. But seeing what Medicare would have paid Stamford Hospital for the troponin test if she had been a year older shines a bright light on the role the chargemaster plays in our national medical crisis — and helps us understand the illegitimacy of that $199.50 charge.

“That’s because Medicare collects troves of data on what every type of treatment, test and other service costs hospitals to deliver. Medicare takes seriously the notion that nonprofit hospitals should be paid for all their costs but actually be nonprofit after their calculation.

“Thus, under the law, Medicare is supposed to reimburse hospitals for any given service, factoring in not only direct costs but also allocated expenses such as overhead, capital expenses, executive salaries, insurance, differences in regional costs of living and even the education of medical students.

“It turns out that Medicare would have paid Stamford $13.94 for each troponin test rather than the $199.50 Janice S. was charged.”

MORE WAY OVERBILLING

Medicare pays $11.02 for a CBC [complete blood count] in Connecticut. Hospital finance people argue vehemently that Medicare doesn’t pay enough and that they lose as much as 10% on an average Medicare patient.

“But even if the Medicare price should be, say, 10% higher, it’s a long way from $11.02 plus 10% to $157.61.”

INTRIGUING INFORMATION
The United States has more hospital beds that it can fill. And...

“In 2008, Gregory Demske, an assistant inspector general at the Department of Health and Human Services, told a Senate committee that 'physicians routinely receive substantial compensation from medical-device companies through stock options, royalty agreements, consulting agreements, research grants and fellowships.'”
“MD Anderson’s charge of $7 each for “ALCOHOL PREP PAD.” This is a little square of cotton used to apply alcohol to an injection. A box of 200 can be bought online for $1.91.”

MEDICARE COSTS V. PRIVATE COSTS

”Medicare made quick work of the $268,227 in bills from the two hospitals, paying just $43,320. Except for $100 in incidental expenses, Alan A. paid nothing because 100% of inpatient hospital care is covered by Medicare.

“The ManorCare convalescent center, which Alan A. says gave him 'good care' in an 'O.K. but not luxurious room,' got paid $11,982 by Medicare for his three-week stay. That is about $571 a day for all the physical therapy, tests and other services.

“As with all hospitals in nonemergency situations, ManorCare does not have to accept Medicare patients and their discounted rates. But it does accept them. In fact, it welcomes them and encourages doctors to refer them.

“Health care providers may grouse about Medicare’s fee schedules, but Medicare’s payments must be producing profits for ManorCare. It is part of a for-profit chain owned by Carlyle Group, a blue-chip private-equity firm.”

MEDICARE PRESCRIPTION DRUGS

”More than $280 billion will be spent this year on prescription drugs in the U.S. If we paid what other countries did for the same products, we would save about $94 billion a year.”

MEDICARE EFFICIENCY

The process is fast, accurate, customer-friendly and impressively high-tech. And it’s all done quietly by a team of nonpolitical civil servants in close partnership with the private sector.

“In fact, despite calls to privatize Medicare by creating a voucher system under which the Medicare population would get money from the government to buy insurance from private companies, the current Medicare system is staffed with more people employed by private contractors (8,500) than government workers (700).”
“'I was driving through central Florida a year or two ago,' says Medicare's [deputy administrator Jonathan] Blum. 'And it seemed like every billboard I saw advertised some hospital with these big shiny buildings or showed some new wing of a hospital being constructed…

“'So when you tell me that the hospitals say they are losing money on Medicare and shifting costs from Medicare patients to other patients, my reaction is that Central Florida is overflowing with Medicare patients and all those hospitals are expanding and advertising for Medicare patients.

“'So you can’t tell me they’re losing money…Hospitals don’t lose money when they serve Medicare patients.'”

For the next few months, the Republicans and some Democrats along with such privatizers as Alan Simpson and Erskine Bowles and the insurance industry will be pressuring Congress to turn Medicare into some kind of voucher program and gut Obamacare.

Brill's report reinforces more vividly what others before him have shown many times over – that what is wrong with our health care system is not Medicare, it's the private sector.

Go read this story and be armed for the coming fight.


At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Marc Leavitt: On Driving in Retirement


Mr. Rogers For Grownups

My brother and I were too old for Mr. Rogers Neighborhood. We were adults already when the children's program began in 1968, and since neither of us had kids, we had no reason to see it.

That doesn't mean I know nothing of the gentle, soft-spoken television host. A friend worked on his program for a time and Rogers appeared once or twice on a television program I produced.

Earlier this week, TGB reader Carmen Silva emailed a video with a short clip of Mr. Rogers speaking with poet Kenneth Koch.

According to poetryfoundation.org, the video is part of a longer conversation between Rogers and Koch that back in the day was broadcast on a prime time show, Old Friends, New Friends, Rogers created for adults.

”[He] interviewed people about their search for meaning in life. Notable guests included Milton Berle, Hoagy Carmichael, and William Sloane Coffin, plus lesser-known figures like Lesley Frost (second child of Robert and Elinor Frost) and Rogers’s own barber.”

Now, on behalf of The Fred Rogers Company, artist and writer Paul Zelevansky is producing from these conversations a series of 60-second videos called Mr. Rogers for Adults that, he says, address

“...psychological, philosophical, and epistemological concerns of social life and personal responsibility,”

At least one of them, the one with Koch, which was recorded at a senior center many decades ago, speaks to a condition that is particularly poignant in regard to elders. Take a look:

“...all people,” says Koch, “like to feel that they are a necessary part of life, necessary in the world or as you said, life would be poorer if they weren't in it.”

That's not too difficult during our primary midlife activities, raising the next generation who will carry on the work of the world and contributing (hopefully something useful) through our jobs, careers and professions.

It gets harder to believe about ourselves as we grow old. Just about everyone who lives past age 50 or 60 knows what it is like to become invisible to those around us. Age discrimination in the workplace is a painful example of no longer being necessary or wanted that becomes worse, affecting larger numbers of older workers in hard economic times, as now.

The snippet of conversation in the video is too short to even hint at what Rogers and Koch said about having or finding that sense of feeling necessary so let's do it ourselves today.

One obvious solution is volunteering and that certainly works for people who are capable. But what of those are no longer are? What other ways can people feel needed and wanted?

I was still working when I began this blog nearly a decade ago and that it would, in time, give me a strong sense of purpose – which is, of course, a large part of what feeling necessary is – did not enter my mind.

At first, I used it as a place to write down what I was learning about aging from my research and while I wasn't looking, it turned me into an advocate for old people. I am happy with that and for the foreseeable future, the blog gets enough attention from readers and elsewhere that I feel I contribute something.

Without TGB, I would undoubtedly find something else to do that would fulfill me (I'm just that way) but I strongly suspect this need of the ego for purpose and recognition declines as we get closer to death. Or, rather, it should.

(To take a bit of a detour here), in her book of five essays on the mysteries of age titled, Old Age, Helen M. Luke speaks to this in a section about Prospero's epilogue spoken to the audience at the end of Shakespeare's The Tempest:

”We are made aware of a startling paradox,” she writes. “The moment of letting go, of daring to stand alone, stripped of power and prestige, bereft of any sense of worth or superior knowledge, is at the same time the moment when such a man or woman becomes conscious of his absolute need of 'the other' both in the this world and in the Beyond.

“A choice between two ways then lies ahead. We may either continue in our last years to cling to our past achievements and worn-out values, thus sinking eventually into complete dependence on others, on collective opinions, demand and attitudes; or we may confront our growing weakness and loss of energy, together with out past rejections, sins and blindness (the “Caliban” within), and so approach that kind of free dependence on 'the other' which brings us to the meaning of forgivemess and to kinship with all things.”

Okay, I'm getting carried away. But that's where the tiny, little video clip of Fred Rogers and Kenneth Koch sent me – to pull out Luke's book and re-read, reconsider some of that particular essay.

Now it's your turn. What do Rogers and Koch have you thinking?


At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Joyce Benedict: Books Saved My Life


What Sequestration Means for Elders

In nine days, on 1 March, the so-called “sequestration” - also known as the Budget Control Act - will take effect meaning automatic and immediate across-the-board cuts to federal spending in the amount of $85 billion for 2013.

That is, it will happen unless Congress passes new legislation that would forgo the sequestration or, at least, postpone it for awhile. But as usual with Congress when one of their regularly-scheduled and manufactured crisis deadlines is imminent, they're out of town and off the job until next week.

Meanwhile, some Congressional Republicans are saying (with barely concealed glee), let it happen and damn the consequences, while President Barack Obama sticks his nose in front of a camera every day predicting terrible things if sequestration is not stopped.

So I was wondering what happens on 1 March, what concrete changes take place in Americans' lives and particularly in the lives of elders. It's harder to find out than you would think. My knee-jerk tendency for such lack of information is to blame the media for not doing their job and I am not absolving them but even the government doesn't seem to have details.

The OMB – Office of Management and Budget – is responsible for interpreting the law of the Budget Control Act and they aren't saying much. So here's what little I did dig up.

WHAT DOES “NOT” CHANGE
There are cuts to both mandatory and discretionary spending in both defense and domestic budgets. Domestic discretionary spending takes the biggest hit although certain federal programs are exempt. These include but are not limited to:

  • Social Security
  • SNAP (food stamps)
  • Pell Grants
  • Veterans Administration
  • CHIP (children health insurance)
  • Military pay

Medicare and Medicaid are exempt except for a two percent cut to providers only. So the three major programs that affect elders are preserved. But you and/or your families are certain to be otherwise affected.

WHAT DOES CHANGE
I'm not supplying links about the sequestration because there would be one for nearly every word in this post. For the small amount of information I feel confident about giving you, I read dozens of websites, news stories and opinions along with reports from government agencies, Congress, the White House, NGOs, and other organizations. Nobody knows much and they all use too many such words as maybe, perhaps, could, might.

Here is what I could glean. Where I cite dollar amounts, I am repeating what I've read and can't be certain they are correct but they seem sensible enough to mention.

First, there will be almost immediate layoffs and/or temporary furloughs of federal employees. Generally, the cuts are about ten percent of budget so some agencies will meet that obligation with temporary furloughs and then bring their people back.

That is what will probably happen with the Social Security Administration - some employees will be furloughed for a few weeks which, of course, will slow down new applications and other customer service.

A direct hit on elders will be the Meals on Wheels program. Probably not right away, but in time it could mean four million fewer meals delivered.

By various estimates, permanent layoffs throughout the federal government could account for between hundreds of thousands and two million jobs which would have, of course, a negative affect on the unemployment rate which could jump to 9 percent.

In no particular order, here some of the funding reductions that will take place:

  • Head Start
  • Treatment for the severely mentally ill
  • Fewer food inspections
  • End to FEMA grants for firefighters and EMTs
  • Furlough of 1200 to 2200 air traffic controllers
  • TSA cutbacks
  • 24,000 Homeland Security jobs affecting ongoing disaster relief
  • Nutrition programs for women, infants and children would lose $543 million
  • Rental assistance for the poor would lose $2.3 billion
  • Layoff of 6,000 federal corrections officers
  • Decreased clean air regulation enforcement

...among many others.

ELDERS AND THE DEFICIT
While Obama turned up pressure on Congress yesterday to act before the 1 March deadline, he repeated what has become his let-elders-pay-for-the-deficit mantra, saying that he has

”...laid out specific reforms to our entitlement programs”

By which we have come to understand that he means enacting the chained CPI for calculating cost-of-living increases to Social Security.

Again, for the zillionth time, Social Security is a closed system. It does not contribute a penny to the deficit. Beneficiaries paid into this program all their working lives and to cut benefits is stealing money from old people who have no means to make up the difference.

Anyone who says he or she is willing to give up some of their Social Security benefit, please ask yourself if you are willing to give up the earned interest in your savings account. The principle is the same however meager bank interest is these day.

And to what purpose would you give it up? To whose benefit would this be agreeable to you? You can be damned sure no rich person is giving up either his Social Security or his tax loopholes.

While you think this over, consider that most Social Security beneficiaries are much more poor that you probably are. Those who receive the average of about $1200 a month need every penny.

And that's average. Millions whose employers never offered them a pension, who earned too little to save anything or who lost what little they had set aside in the 2008 crash live on far less than $1200.

Please do not be so quick to give away the money of people less well off than you who scramble to barely get through each month.

As to means testing? Social Security is already means tested. Beneficiaries whose total income exceeds only $25,000 for singles ($32,000 for couples), pay taxes on their benefit. Additional means testing would turn Social Security into a poverty program vulnerable to every cost-cutting whim of Congress (see sequestration cuts to poverty programs above).

There is no way to know yet if President Obama will try to give away elder's COLA in any budget agreement before or after sequestration. If he does, I know Senator Bernie Sanders will be fighting tooth and nail to prevent it and so will I. I hope you will be too.


At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Arlene Corwin: A Nose in My Ear


No Happy Endings

Remember last year's Marigold or, more formally, The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel? It was a joyful romp of a film with a cast of long-lived, professional actors who can't be beat – the best of the best of the Brits - that gave us a few easily palatable truths about old age without threatening the movie's upbeat intentions.

Marigold was nominated for a fair number of awards but won few.

A new, old people movie, Amour, has already won a slew of lesser awards and is up for five Oscars next Sunday – all top tier: best picture, best actress, best director, best screenplay and best foreign language film. (It is in French with subtitles.)

With Lincoln and Argo in the mix this year, it is doubtful that Amour will pick up statuettes for any of those big categories except, perhaps, foreign film.

Too bad. But it may be that Amour needs no awards. The film already feels like it will – or already has – become a classic to be viewed now and again over a long period of time.

I had been counseled by some that it might be too hard to watch and just about every reviewer, while praising the film, also warned off their readers: “shocking,” they wrote, “scary,” “disturbing,” “a true horror story.”

Au contraire. It is life. The movie is exactly right about what often happens at the end. Anyone who has cared for a loved one knows there is no way writer/director Michael Haneke could have made this film without having experienced it.

Certainly, Haneke has lived Georges' aching, exhausting devotion to his beloved whose body and mind are failing until she becomes no more than a mewling infant in an adult's worn-out shell. And yet Georges goes on because – because that is what amour is until, in his case, he can no longer endure.

I watched Amour over this past long weekend three times – twice back-to-back in four hours and again after letting a day go by. It is no less searing for being repeated in that time frame while it also grows more haunting, more beautiful, more important.

Many of us at this blog have lived this story with a spouse sometimes or with a parent or someone else we love deeply. For me, it was my mother, and I cannot know how it is different for those with the private, shared history of decades of marriage, each such relationship unique unto itself, something outsiders cannot understand.

What I do know is that every moment of the daily details of Amour are true and real and honest. I was not shocked, as some critics, with the subject. What surprised me, though, was Georges doing exactly the things I did when caring for my mother as she was dying.

It is stupid, of course, but somehow I had imagined those were individual to the two of us - cutting meat for her, tolerating her when she lashed out at me, her asking to see the photo albums, assisting her on the toilet.

Like what I came to feel then, the film portrays the banality of ordinary life that continues even at this tragic juncture that you want to be more meaningful. But as weary as you become, there are the bed to change and shopping to do while somehow tolerating the ceaseless despair that for this person you love with all your heart, this person who gives your own life meaning in ways you cannot count or maybe even know, there is only one overpoweringly grievous outcome.

It must be for that reason that some I have read say they “hate” this movie. But one, then, might as well hate birth for, without getting all existential on you, we each move through time and our mortality will not be denied.

The best of art – paintings, books, poems, plays, movies – help us stretch our consciousness beyond the conventional and simplistic. With Amour, Michael Haneke and his two stars, octogenarians Jean-Louis Trintignant and Emmanuelle Riva, have done that and I am grateful to them.


At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Stroppy: The Park Bench


Spring? In February?

Don't tell the grandkids but when I was little, instead of President's Day, we had Abraham Lincoln's birthday AND George Washington's birthday – both of them holidays. Now school children get just one day off in February.

Most of “official” U.S. shuts down today – if you count all local, state and federal government offices, banks, the Postal Service and schools. So I'm taking off today too or, at least, writing something that takes zero intellectual effort.

Just this one note: it surprises me but spring is making itself known already. Green shoots are in evidence around my place and last week, pink blossoms started popping out on this bush:

Pink blossoms

Then, after weeks and weeks and weeks of chilly, gray overcast, with and without rain, this is what it looked like chez Bennett last Friday – bright, early morning sun foretelling of more to come.

Morning Sun


At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Ellen Younkins: Cabin Fever


ELDER MUSIC: Unusual Instruments

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.


Today’s column will demonstrate some unusual instruments, or some instruments in unusual settings. I’ll start with the double bass.

Now, I can hear you say that it’s not an unusual instrument. Indeed, it features in all forms of music. However, how many compositions are there for double bass? There are a few jazz pieces but I’m going with classical music here.

There are none. Well, not quite, but very few. There were a couple of brave souls who wrote music for the instrument.

One of those was CARL DITTERS VON DITTERSDORF.

Dittersdorf

Carl was born simply August Carl Ditters. However, Philipp Gotthard von Schaffgotsch, the Prince-Bishop of Breslau, was so impressed by his music he vonned him (or whatever the process is to become some grandee) in an attempt to keep Carl for himself, as it were.

Carl was good friends with the other musicians of the time, some of the greatest who ever lived. He used to jam with Haydn and Mozart playing string quartets. The fourth member was Johann Vanhal, a pupil of Carl’s who, unlike the other three, didn’t set the world of composing on fire.

Carl wrote two concertos for double bass, and rather interesting they are. This is the third movement of his Concerto for Double Bass No. 1 in E flat major.

♫ Dittersdorf - Concerto for Double Bass No 1 (3)

Like the double bass, the mandolin is not at all an unusual instrument either. It turns up all the time in blue-grass music and it’s heard in other genres as well. However, it doesn’t rear its head very often in classical music.

Vivaldi was fond of the instrument and wrote quite a few works for it. Apart from him, nothing really. Well, not quite.

There is another unlikely composer who wrote some music for it and that is (envelope please) BEETHOVEN (gasps all around the auditorium).

Beethoven

Ludwig and mandolins are not a natural fit you’d think but he did all sorts of things that are rather unexpected. That’s what made him so great. This is the Sonatina in C major for Mandolin and Piano N°1.

♫ Beethoven - Sonatina in C major for mandolin & piano N°1

I don’t think I’ve ever seen a tuba in any symphony concert I’ve been to - at least, not the comic, big-horned version that is normally associated with the instrument. Indeed, my knowledge of it comes from listening to Tubby the Tuba as a whippersnapper. A very young whippersnapper.

As with the double bass, the tuba doesn’t get a look in when it comes to serious composition. The only one I have in my collection is a Tuba Concerto by RALPH VAUGHAN WILLIAMS.

Vaughan Williams

Ralph was an English composer noted for his symphonies and other orchestral works. He also wrote settings for many folk songs. Today, though, we have the second movement of his Tuba Concerto in F minor. It had its premiere in 1954.

♫ Vaughan Williams - Tuba Concerto (2)

The composition by JOHANN SEBASTIAN BACH, BWV 1055, is a concerto for the beautifully named instrument the oboe d’amore (the oboe of love).

JS Bach

This is a transcription of a harpsichord concerto, however, to complicate things, and to bring us full circle really, it’s now considered that that work was itself based on an earlier concerto of his for oboe d’amore (now lost).

Naturally, people these days have recorded both versions and here is the “reconstruction” of the first movement of Concerto for oboe d'amore BWV 1055 in A major.

♫ Bach - Concerto for oboe d'amore BWV 1055 (1)

The anvil doesn’t appear much in music of any sort. Only once to my knowledge, and that was by GIUSEPPE VERDI in his opera “Il Trovatore.”

Verdi

The anvil doesn’t really have much of a range of sounds. I suppose you could get a bunch of them of different sizes but I’d imagine the roadies would rather object to that. Anyway, here is The Anvil Chorus (le fosche notturne soglie).

♫ Il Trovatore - The Anvil Chorus

MARIN MARAIS was a French composer from the seventeenth and early eighteenth century.

Marin Marais

He studied composition under Jean-Baptiste Lully and the bass viol with Jean de Sainte-Colombe. Jean would give concerts in his home accompanied by his two daughters which generally got rave reviews from those who attended.

However, although he was a teacher, he wasn’t too happy about showing Marin the tricks of the trade and he built himself a tree house in a mulberry tree in his back yard where he’d play the viol.

Marin was a bright lad and he’d sit under the tree and figure out what Jean was doing. So much so that he eventually became the world authority on viol playing. His books on the subject are still the source that current players turn to.

Here is his composition for bass viol called Sonnerie de Ste Genevieve du Mont-de-Paris.

♫ Marais - Sonnerie de Ste Genevieve du Mont-de-Paris

This is a piece by LEOPOLD MOZART, Wolfie’s dad, that employs several unusual instruments.

Leopold Mozart

There’s a bit of conjecture about whether he actually wrote it. Joseph Haydn was once considered its author but that was rather quickly dismissed. Then his brother Michael was suggested. Mike got the boot too. Edmund Angerer has been a serious contender as well.

However, the weight of evidence, from what I’ve read, points to Leo, so I’ll go along with that.

This work has a bunch of things for the orchestra to play with, various toys really, a toy trumpet, ratchet, nightingale, cuckoo and drum. It’s all very silly. Here is the first movement of the Toy Symphony in G major.

♫ Leopold Mozart - Toy Symphony (1)

Now for something to put you to sleep or maybe drive you insane. I give you the weirdest instrument of them all, the glass harmonica (nothing to do with the little blowing thing you’re familiar with).

It’s also known as bowl organ, hydrocrystalophone or simply the "armonica." The word hydrodaktulopsychicharmonica is also recorded and isn’t that a great word? Use that in a sentence today.

The various words refer to any instrument played by rubbing glass or crystal goblets. You can get the same effect by wetting your finger and rubbing the top of a wine glass and who hasn’t done that? Here’s a picture of one based on a design by none other than Ben Franklin.

Glass Harmonica

The instrument was a passing fad, popular in the eighteenth century. Some say, or some said back then, that it lost popularity because the instrument “excessively stimulated the nerves, plunging the player into a nagging depression and hence into a dark and melancholy mood leading to self-annihilation.”

You have been warned.

Many of the great composers of the time wrote music for this thing, one of whom was WOLFGANG MOZART. Here is the second movement of his Adagio and Rondo in C, K. 617 for Glass Harmonica, Flute, Oboe, Viola and Cello.

♫ Mozart - Adagio And Rondo K. 617 (2)


INTERESTING STUFF: 16 February 2013

SILVER, GRAY OR WHITE HAIR
Whatever color name you prefer, P.G. Wodehouse had this to say about those who don't like having it:

”There is only one cure for gray hair. It was invented by a Frenchman. It is called the guillotine.”

To help prove that gray hair is not to be despised, Vicki Topaz photographed a whole bunch of old women with gray hair and and produced a video too.

I have one question: Where do these women get so damned much thick, long hair? Or, conversely, how many are wearing wigs and don't tell us?

You can see many still photos of a wide variety of gray-haired elder women at Vicki Topaz's website.

11-POUND GOLD NUGGET
Amazingly huge gold nuggest was found in Australia recently – 11 pounds. Reports say it is worth $300,000. Geez, I would have guessed more. Take a look at it:

You can read more here.

COUNTING CALORIES
I have no idea how many cities, like New York, require certain restaurants to post calorie counts of their food. Filmmaker Casey Neistat noted that the NYC health department does not require the count to be accurate. So he checked on several restaurants. Here is the result:

I have never believed the calorie count on any package of anything which is one reason (among others) I stick almost entirely to fresh food. You can read more about Casey Neistat's experiment here.

PANHANDLER PARTY ON THE NO. 4 TRAIN
My friend Kent McKamy sent this video of panhandlers on the No. 4 train in New York City. From my 40 years of subway travel, I recognize every type – well, except for the Ferrari guy.

WHAT WOMEN (AND MEN WHO CARE ABOUT THEM) SHOULD KNOW ABOUT THE U.S. SENATE
On Tuesday, the Senate passed the Violent Against Women Act by an overwhelming margin, 78 to 22.

If there were any decency, it would have been 100-0. You should memorize the names of the 22 senators, all men, all Republicans, who voted against VAWA because they are not on the side of women:

John Barrasso - Wyoming
Roy Blunt - Missouri
John Boozman - Arkansas
Tom Coburn - Oklahoma
John Cornyn - Texas
Ted Cruz - Texas
Mike Enzi - Wyoming
Lindsey Graham – South Carolina
Chuck Grassley - Iowa
Orrin Hatch - Utah
James Inhofe - Oklahoma
Mike Johanns – Nebraska
Ron Johnson - Wisconsin
Mike Lee - Utah
Mitch McConnell - Kentucky
Rand Paul - Kentucky
Jim Risch - Idaho
Pat Roberts - Kansas
Marco Rubio - Florida
Jeff Sessions - Alabama
Jeff Thune – South Dakota
Tim Scott – South Carolina

The House says it will have it's own version of VAWA in a few weeks. I can't wait to see what that vote will be like.

BETTER THAN SUPER BOWL ADS
I don't watch any kind of ball games, but I had been known to read a book during the Super Bowl and look up to see the commercials. That was back in the day when they were really clever and I haven't paid attention in recent years.

This year I checked out some of the commercials online, the few that got the most praise and wasn't much impressed. Instead I was reminded of a current “regular” commercial, so inventive and utterly charming that it still delights me after two months of frequent viewing. Take a look.

Don't you love the look on the lion's face when he stops at the teller's cage.

ACADEMY AWARD NOMINATION FOR ANIMATION
Given the gray hair video, the lion commercial above and now this animated short that is in contention for an Oscar this year, a case could be made that I just like black-and-white films. Hat tip to Bev Carney for sending this titled, Paperman.

MINORITY LEADER PELOSI OPPOSES RAISING MEDICARE AGE
It was good to see House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, in a news interview last week, emphatically oppose raising the eligibility age for Medicare. Take a look:

We are going to need a lot more than Pelosi to help protect elders' earned benefits especially since President Barack Obama thinks chained CPI for Social Security is just a “technical change.”

It is much more and definitely worse than that. What can you expect from a person who still believes Social Security is an “entitlement.”

PUPPY VERSUS STAIRS: MAMA TO THE RESCUE
Nikki Lindquist of From Where I Sit sent this adorable puppy video:


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

You are all encouraged to submit items for inclusion. Just click “Contact” in the upper left corner of any Time Goes By page to send them. I'm sorry that I probably won't have time to acknowledge receipt and there is no guarantee of publication. But when I do include them, you will be credited and I will link to your blog if you have one.


Elders and Loss

When our culture at large is not ignoring old people, it celebrates us in an especially demeaning manner by holding up as paragons the freaks of old age - the ones who climb Mt. Everest at 80 or deep sea dive or jump out of airplanes.

Responses from younger people to these extreme accomplishments of age are universally out of proportion. “Wow,” they say. And “awesome.” “Risks are what growing old is all about,” they exclaim while barely concealing their disdain for the rest of us who don't or can't emulate a 40-year-old.

What those of us who are actually old know, however, is that our time of life, whatever else its pleasures and joys may be, is a time of loss. That cannot be denied and it is something we must make peace with as we pile up the years.

We may find ourselves with a chronic disease or two that limits us. Our mobility can become a challenge. Old friends move away. If you live long enough, they die.

The small things add up too. Forgetting words that were on the tip the tongue. Standing in a room wondering why we are there. Misplacing the keys. It takes longer to do chores we once raced through and when we're finally finished, we're too worn out for the fun activity we'd planned – if we can recall what it was.

Pieces of our lives, large and small, fall away one by one and in addition, we must, when our careers are done and children gone, figure out what our purpose is now at this time of life. There is rarely anyone to help with that one; we're on our own.

But the amazing thing about living with all these losses is how good we are at it and how resilient. Instead of succumbing to hopelessness, we devise systems to help us remember. We fold the necessary routines to monitor our health conditions into daily life. We pace ourselves to husband our strength and energy. We adjust, adapt and accommodate.

But best of all, we find, almost naturally, the silver linings in the difficulties that appear in these late years. We trade old pleasures for new ones. We make time to serve others. We each invent the best possible way to navigate the changes and losses we encounter and we make jokes. My god, how we laugh at ourselves even if it is rueful sometimes.

To those very few elders who become heroes to young people by swimming the English Channel or driving race cars, more power to them. But they are not typical.

The majority of elders face their inevitable losses as they appear without much fuss. They do it with courage, too, and perseverance and humor. They do it day in and day out and then they do all over again when something new lands in their laps. That should be honored at least as much as bungee jumping off a bridge at age 80.


At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Susan Gulliford: The Sledding Hill


Valentine's Day, Social Security and Darlene Costner

DARLENE COSTNER
As many of you are aware, Darlene Costner is a reliable supplier of terrific items for Saturday's Interesting Stuff posts and she often comments here at TGB, at The Elder Storytelling Place and on other elderblogs. (Until last August, she also kept a blog – Darlene's Hodgepodge – which she may yet return to.) Many of us consider Darlene close friend.

However, for awhile you may not see her name so frequently. Not long ago, her son suffered a terrible accident resulting in serious burns to his face, hands and arms that will take a good while to heal.

He was released from the hospital a few days ago and on Saturday, Darlene traveled from her home in Arizona to California to care for him until he further recovers and is able to drive again.

At first, Darlene was led to believe her son's care would involve several months of full-time nursing from her. Fortunately, that is not so. He is doing well and Darlene will mostly be lending emotional and motherly support for a much shorter period of time. Let's wish her well and wish her son a speedy recovery.

SOTU AND SOCIAL SECURITY
Did you see the State of the Union address on Tuesday evening? Because President Barack Obama so frequently waffles on whether he supports the chained CPI to calculate COLAs (lately the answer is, unfortunately, yes), I was paying special attention for mentions of Social Security and there was one although it was not planned.

Thanks to digby at Hullabaloo, we know the president inserted an “apparently spontaneous” departure from the original text:

”PREPARED TEXT:
After all, why would we choose to make deeper cuts to education and Medicare just to protect special interest tax breaks? How is that fair? How does that promote growth?

“ACTUAL TEXT:
After all, why would we choose to make deeper cuts to education and Medicare just to protect special interest tax breaks? How is that fair? Why is that deficit reduction is a big emergency justifying cuts in Social Security benefits, but not closing some loopholes? How does that promote growth?”

As Digby comments:

”...we know that cutting SS and Medicare in exchange for some illusory tax reform is the president's patented 'balanced approach.' It's telling, however, that he put Social Security in the speech when it wasn't in the text.

“I'd have to guess that they had haggled over whether it was smart to include it and he changed his mind at the last minute. Maybe that indicates some tension among his advisers about this. I hope so.”

Roger Hickey at Campaign for America's Future gives us this note on the SOTU (god I love when all these other good people do my work for me and all I have to is quote them):

”The President reminded his State of the Union audience that he has put forward proposals for 'entitlement reform' in his quest for a 'grand bargain' to achieve that $1.5 trillion target of additional deficit reduction.

“The fact is that President Obama has never taken off the table his very draconian offers: to impose the so-called chained CPI that would cut the benefits of current and future Social Security recipients...

“Tonight the President talked in general terms about reforming Medicare – including some good reforms, like reducing 'taxpayer subsidies to prescription drug companies.' But also still on Obama’s table is his proposal to raise the eligibility age for receiving Medicare from 65 to 67. (He hasn’t talked much about this lately, but he hasn’t repudiated it either.)

“And tonight he mentioned the possibility of 'asking more of the wealthiest seniors,' a phrase that is usually cover for reducing Medicare benefits that middle class retirees really need.”

There are only a few weeks until the deadline for the “sequestration” otherwise known as devastating cuts across the board. I'll get back to you before then on all of this.

VALENTINE'S DAY
Meanwhile, it is also Valentine's Day and I send loads of love and appreciation to all Time Goes By readers for your continuing support for this blog. You have no idea how much it means to me every day.

Since it's hard to pass out roses and chocolates via the internet, here is a charming little video of 25 tykes answering questions about love, marriage, dating, kissing and where babies come from produced by the Small Fry blog.


At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Marie Campbell: Mothers – Unsung Heroes


Another Minor Affliction of Age

God knows big-time health issues commonly accompany old age – cancer, heart disease, diabetes, dementia, hypertension, Parkinson's and much more. According to one source, 88 percent of people older than 65 have at least one chronic disease.

So, every day of my life I am grateful (knocking wood loudly as I type this) that I have so far escaped these and other serious health problems.

But that doesn't mean I gracefully accept the minor afflictions of age; there is a reason my alter ego on this blog is named Crabby Old Lady. Among these irritations are:

  • Whiskers that repeatedly appear on my chin
  • Hair disappearing from where I want it to remain
  • Regular eruption of new toad spots
  • Eye floaters
  • Tinnitis
  • Muffin top waistline
  • Incontinence
  • Cataracts

The only one I have resolved is incontinence. Losing 20 pounds fixed that (but not, as one might think, the muffin top). And if the cataracts in both eyes continue to grow at their current glacial pace, it will be some years before I need the surgery.

Which is good news in the overall scheme of elder health. But certainly you realize that not all is hunky dory chez Bennett and of course, there is something I'm here today to bitch about.

I have another affliction that has been getting worse over the past six to eight or maybe even 10 years and just recently, I accidentally discovered that it has a name and that scientists spend time and money researching it: ASPD or Advanced Sleep Phase Disorder.

I am always suspicious of new disorder and syndrome acronyms. All too often, it seems, the medical establishment is eager to turn aspects of ordinary life or minor disturbances into pathologies. But in this case, the medical literature perfectly matches my experience and Wikipedia has a good, succinct description:

”...a condition in which patients feel very sleepy and go to bed early in the evening (e.g. 6:00–8:00PM) and wake up very early in the morning (e.g. around 3:00AM).”

Although I try mightily to fight off the sandman (I must be his first stop each night), it is almost impossible to stay awake much past about 7:30PM. And most nights, too, I wake around midnight or 1AM not because I've had enough sleep, but because the book I was reading is weighing down my chest or the television is flickering at me with a godawful infomercial.

Sometimes I can fall back asleep right away but just as often I'm awake for an hour or two until sleep returns and then I reawaken at my “normal” time of 4AM.

An attribute of the disorder is that even if one manages to postpone sleep several hours in the evening, you still waken at your usual ungodly early hour so sometimes I stumble through the day in a sleep-deprived stupor.

Because I can't stay awake for TV shows I like, I record them. It might be kinda funny if it were not so pathetic that in trying to watch in the early evening, I fall asleep halfway through. Sometimes it takes three or four viewings before I make all the way to the end of a program.

When I have houseguests, I can usually push myself to stay awake until a near-normal bedtime for the first couple of evenings but I then revert to early bed. The sleepiness is irresistible. I haven't been to an evening movie in years because there is no point. It doesn't matter how compelling the film is, I fall asleep partway through.

Researchers say that ASPD is a rare disorder affecting hardly more than one percent of the population most of whom are elders. There is a genetic link, it tends to run in families (I don't recall any of my relatives going to bed in the early evening) and there is no treatment that can be said to work.

Bright light therapy might help some and chronotherapy (gradually moving one's bedtime later each day in tiny increments). Both have had limited if any long-term success so I don't try because it's not a serious condition unless you have a compelling reason to be up late.

In my case, it is a continuing annoyance because when I am most energetic (the first three or four hours of “my day”), there isn't much I can get done away from home and I don't think the neighbors would appreciate the vacuum cleaner at those hours.

Since nothing can be done about ASPD and it doesn't cause serious difficulties, none of this matters but I like having an explanation now and knowing that it isn't anything to be concerned about in terms of health.

(An opposite condition, Delayed Sleep Phase Disorder (DSPS), has also been identified.)

If you are curious to know more, here are some webpages that expand on what I've told you today.

American Sleep Association
National Institutes of Health
University of California, San Diego [pdf]


At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Marcy Belson: Earthquake!


A Young Man's Poem

EDITORIAL NOTE: This evening, President Barack Obama delivers his 2013 State of the Union address to a joint session of Congress at 9PM eastern time. Although there are other important issues too, listen for what he says about what he calls "entitlements" - Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid.

Unfortunately, the City Council in my town has scheduled an important town hall meeting that conflicts with the president's speech so I'll be playing catchup on the SOTU tomorrow and will have something to say on Thursday.


As most of you who read this blog know, we meet the most amazing people on the internet. For me, all of you are an example.

If you recall, on Saturday I mentioned at the top of Interesting Stuff that my 2012 interview with Cynthia Friedlob who hosts Experience Talks was being rebroadcast on radio station KPFK-FM in southern California at 9AM Pacific time.

Sometime shortly after that broadcast I received an email from Tim Caffrey who said he had heard the interview, that Saturday 9 February was his 35th birthday and that he wanted to “start my new life this way, right here.”

There followed a poem he said I am free to use as I choose.

I checked around the web and found that Tim has been writing poetry since he was a kid and that he grew up in what he calls “rampant poverty.” That and other circumstances of his upbringing taught him, he says, that

“...one can take as small a topic possible and make it as big as their fears or dreams allow them. I have learned that poetry is forged in fear or anger, at least in me, but the fear melts away with challenging it and skill is developed.

“My goal is to write poems that are absent of all fear or restrictions. I know that if I can develop this type of ability, all my poems will be beautiful - or transformative.”

Here is the one he emailed, Untitled Poem, that feels like it is just for us, you and me.

Look at the great cedars of
Lebanon or the Redwoods of
The Pan Pacific coast

What marvels you?

Look into the in carved depths
Of a great diamond severed
From its womb of coal

What marvels you?

Look deeply, as deeply as possible
Into the soul of the Grand Canyon's
Broken beauty upon Earth's face

What marvels you?

Look up at the twinkle of the stars
That reflect the wished of our hearts

What marvels you?

Look through the moments of
Civilization, that tell the tales
Of our struggle to know ourselves

What marvels you?

Look upon the faces of our elderly
Those grand great parents
Thick with experience
Rough & dim with struggle
Carved with refined beauty
Shining monuments of our dreams
Trophies of our existence

What burdens you?

Lovely gift to receive on a Saturday morning, don't you think? And from a stranger across the internet. You can read more about Tim Caffrey here and find a many of his poems here.


At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Mickey Rogers: Seeing Things Differently


A Son's Effort to Find His Father a Job

Last Friday, we held a forum that was primarily about TGB reader Joan's brother who had recently been laid off work at age 55, and the awful consequences of losing one's job if you are older than 50.

(If you missed it, Joan's brother responded to your comments and you can read that here.)

Then, over the weekend, Mage Bailey of Postcards blog forwarded the story of a young man and his father – also age 55 - who has been unemployed for way too long.

It is hard to cover all the things I want on this blog and one that has fallen through the cracks is the relationship between us old folks and younger people.

It often seems that young and old don't know one another well enough or that not much empathy passes back and forth. American popular culture doesn't leave a lot of room for elders, most especially not a lot of room for interaction between young and old.

But it's there, it happens, it's going on in real life every day and Mage passed on one of those stories.

It's a father/son tale that the father posted on his Pedestrian Wanderings page at OpenDiary.

The father titled the story, Unbeknownst to Me and prefaced the entry with, “Unbeknownst to me, N [the son] posted this ad on Craigslist:”

”Hire my dad!

“The company he worked for folded last year and he's been pounding the pavement (and Internet pavement) looking for a job ever since. He's done plenty of interviews but hasn't managed to land anything and I'm beginning to suspect it's because he's in his 50s.

“Maybe they're worried he won't understand or adapt well to new technology, which is total bullshit. For example, he has a QR code on his résumé. You know those squarish barcodes from Japan? Yeah, one of those. It links to his LinkedIn profile. I don't even have that and I'm a hip Millenial! Also, he checks his Google Analytics every night to see who's visiting his art website. If you've got tech, he can use it.

“Maybe they're thinking he's planning on coasting to retirement or will feel entitled to a higher position. Wrong! The man hasn't coasted a day in his life. You hire him and he's your guy, no matter what. Kind of like Ryan Gosling in that movie Driver, only with less head smashing. (And by less, I mean none, I swear.)

“Maybe they think he's too set in his ways to operate in a dynamic environment. Wrong again! He's done lots of different jobs: newspaper photographer, worked in a printshop, as a delivery driver, admin assistant for fundraisers.

“The man is the face of being adaptable in dynamic circumstances. He even shot a rattlesnake in our garage once, though I suppose that wasn't really a job.

“He's also funny, personable and has no tattoos, piercings or felony convictions.

“So if you might want to hire my dad, e-mail me.”

Just wonderful, don't you think? If I had any jobs to hand out, I'd sure email the son.

I suspect other acts of kindness – between relatives such as this one and among friends and even strangers of disparate age – go on every day that we will never know. It's good to read one now and then.

The father mentions at the end of the post that his son had already forwarded a response to the Craigslist ad. Maybe by now there are more.


At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Joanne Zimmermann: Abby Tabby


ELDER MUSIC: Millions

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.


Million Dollar Bill

I was once a multi-millionaire. Let me tell you about it.

Some time ago, quite some time ago, I was at the bank to deposit a cheque into my account. I handed over my passbook (that’s how long ago it was) and tap tap tappity tap tap tap.

"Uh oh.”

"Uh oh?" I echoed.

"I entered the wrong amount," came the reply.

"Well," I suggested, "Just reverse it and start again." Mr Practical.

"It’s not that simple. I entered 20 million dollars."

It seems that government regulations, even then, said that they (the government) had to be notified whenever moolah of more than some amount or other was deposited. They especially had to be notified if that same amount was pretty much immediately removed from said account.

"This may take some time," she suggested. Forms to fill in, all that sort of thing.

"That’s okay," was my reply, "Take a couple of days, even a week or two. I promise not to touch the money."

I did a quick mental calculation of the daily interest (as the bank prided itself on calculating it daily). It was around about five and a half thousand bucks a day at the time.

It took about half an hour (not the many days I’d hoped for) but they gave me a coffee (a really good one – Melbourne is a great coffee city). Then I was back to my normal semi-pauper status.

Today’s column involves millions of all sorts.

I’ll begin with maybe the most famous million song, at least to readers of this column, and the singer is BING CROSBY.

Bing Crosby

Der Bingle needs no introduction from me (which is good as it saves me waffling on about things you already know). So, I’ll get straight into the music with I Found a Million Dollar Baby.

♫ Bing Crosby - I Found A Million Dollar Baby

Now for something completely different, here are BOB DYLAN and THE BAND.

Bob Dylan and the Hawks

This is from the time after Bob had his motorcycle accident in 1966. He retired to Woodstock with the members of the band who supported him on his galvanic world tour, The Hawks (who later became The Band).

A couple of members of the group rented a big pink house (thus the name of their first album) which had a large basement that they used to play music in – old songs, new songs, made up bits, just about everything. They recorded much of these, mainly to see how they sounded.

In the way of things, some of these recordings reached the outside world and became some of the most famous bootleg albums ever. Some years later, a number of the tunes were released on an official album, “The Basement Tapes.” From that we have Million Dollar Bash.

♫ Bob Dylan and The Band - Million Dollar Bash

THE FIVE SATINS had one of the great Doowop songs from the fifties, or ever really, with In the Still of the Night.

The Five Satins

That’s not relevant to today’s topic; we’re going with one of their others. The Satins had a rather revolving bunch of singers but one was there for most of the time and he was Fred Parris. He started the group and was the lead singer. Their song is A Million to One.

♫ The Five Satins - A Million to One

THE INSECT TRUST was a really interesting band out of New York in the late sixties, early seventies.

The Insect Trust

They had a cult following which means they didn’t reach the mainstream with their concerts or album releases, one of which, “Hoboken Saturday Night,” was an underground classic. From that album we have Ragtime Millionaire.

♫ The Insect Trust - Ragtime Millionaire

HARRY ANGUS is the trumpeter, singer and songwriter for the fine band the Cat Empire.

Harry Angus

I think of the Cats as a really good new band but they’ve been around for 15 years or so. How time flies.

All of its members came from the Melbourne jazz scene but that didn’t restrict them; they are proficient in rock & roll, ska, blues, funk and Latin music as well as jazz.

Harry recently released a really interesting solo album which pretty much consisted of him singing and playing acoustic guitar. All the songs were his. This one is Daddy's Millions.

♫ Harry Angus - Daddy's Millions

TOM RUSH’s contribution was written by Jim Garland in the thirties.

Tom Rush

Tom recorded it in the sixties but it was a song from the depression and is still relevant today, unfortunately. I could go into editorial mode, but all you need to do is listen to the lyrics. I Don't Want Your Millions Mister.

♫ Tom Rush - I Don't Want Your Millions Mister

If I mention FRANK SINATRA in the context of today’s column you’ll probably think Who Wants to be a Millionaire? That was my initial selection as well but I’ve decided not to use it and have something completely different.

Frank Sinatra

This is Frank with I Haven't Time To Be a Millionaire. A little touch of irony there.

♫ Frank Sinatra - I Haven't Time To Be A Millionaire

THE PLATTERS were by far the best of the vocal groups from the fifties.

The Platters

They had a considerable run of success with many fine records. This isn’t one I remember from back then but it’s the one for today. The song sounds to me a bit like The Great Pretender but if you’re going to steal one of your own songs, that’d be the one. One in a Million.

♫ The Platters - One In A Million

There was an interesting recent album that had various country artists performing some unreleased songs by Hank Williams. One of the tracks featured RODNEY CROWELL and VINCE GILL.

Rodney Crowell and Vince Gill

Rodney is one of my particular favorites and Vince is a pretty decent singer as well. The song they performed is unmistakably Hank Williams. It’s also a country song as it has talky bits in it. This is the way that Norma, the Assistant Musicologist, can pick country songs, she says.

That’s Rodney doing the talking and Vince most of the singing. Unfortunately, it’s far from the best song Hank ever wrote but it fits the category today. I Hope You Shed a Million Tears.

♫ Rodney Crowell & Vince Gill - I Hope You Shed a Million Tears

And speaking of not the best song, this one is far from ELVIS’s best but it has million in its title so it’s included.

Elvis Presley

Actually, the title is an appropriate way to end this column today, For The Millionth And The Last Time.

♫ Elvis Presley - For The Millionth And The Last Time

It should be noted that the million dollar bill at the top is not real. The United States government has never released a million dollar bill (nor has the Australian government). Of course, many countries have, due to hyper-inflation. Fortunately, we haven’t needed to do so.


INTERESTING STUFF - 9 February 2013

[EDITORIAL NOTE: Cynthia Friedlob, host of Experience Talks, a radio interview program with and about elders, tells me that the interview she and I did last year will be broadcast this morning on the KPFK-FM in the Los Angeles area at 9AM Pacific time. You can also listen on the KPFK website or in the archives at the Experience Talks website.]


THE MOST CRUCIAL NEWS OF THE WEEK
The company that owns the Monopoly game has ditched an old token for a new one.

It's about time there's a cat since there has always been a dog, but I'll miss that little iron.

DOONESBURY ELDERS
Hat tip to Steve Garfield and my recent house guest, Jim Stone for alerting me to this Doonesbury cartoon about hiring elders:

Doonesbury Elderly

THIRSTY KOALA BEAR
While on her morning walk in Adelaide last week, Woo-Hyang Sun encountered a overly friendly koala:

"She kept looking at me and looked like she wanted something, so I poured some water in my palm, and the koala drank it at once."

“But that was not enough.”

635852-koala

Before long, the koala had drunk three bottles of water:

"'At times she grabbed the bottle to tip it higher, just like humans, and as if she's done it many times before,' Mrs Sun said. 'After she finished the whole bottle, she was waving her hand, I guess, for more water.

"'She followed me for an hour and ended up drinking three bottles altogether - definitely the friendliest koala I've ever seen.'”

TGB's Sunday musicologist, who emailed this item, also explained why this story is (beyond its cute factor) noteworthy:

”The thing about koalas is that they don't drink water. They get their water needs from the eucalyptus leaves that are their diet...The only times it's been recorded that they've drunk water is after major bush fires. It didn't seem to be the case this time so it's particularly unusual.”

You can read more here where there are also more way-too-cute photos.

WORLD HISTORY IN TWO MINUTES
My friend and neighbor Bill Pederson sent along this video made by Marc Brecy who is said to be a high school student. It is terrific:

GENTLEMEN OF BACONGO
This caught my eye this week, a subculture in Congo and surrounding countries that's been going on for more than a hundred years:

"It's the fetishization of fashion - they are the worshippers of fashion, it's their god, it's powerful," says Didier Gondola, author of "History of the Congo," who has extensively researched the Sapeurs.

daniele-tamagni photo 1

It's all about classic elegance to these men, many of whom work at menial jobs and the de rigeur haute couture labels don't come cheap.

”Once dressed in their finery, Brazzaville's Sapeurs will often head to Le Main Bleu, a favorite bar, where they have informal contests. Each tries to out Sap each other with their combination of style, comportment and designer labels -- known as 'griffes.'"

-daniele-tamagni 2

In today's small space I'm not doing this story justice. You can read more here along with more colorful photos. (Photographs by Daniele Tamagni)

END OF SATURDAY POSTAL DELIVERY
The U.S. Postal Service announced Wednesday that Saturday delivery will end later this year.

You may think this isn't important in the age of email, FedEx and UPS but surprise: rural citizens and business people often have poor or no access to the internet and get this: Fedex and UPS often farm out package delivery to the Postal Service because it's cheaper for them to do it that way.

The Postal Service is the only agency of the federal government established in the Constitution – in Section 8 of Article 1:

”Congress shall have the power...To establish Post Offices and Post Roads”

It is important that you know why the Postal Service is in such terrible money trouble. Although it is more complicated, this is the simplest explanation [emphasis added]:

”...in 2006 [Congress] passed a law that requires the Postal Service to pre-pay its health insurance fund by depositing an additional $5 billion a year for the next 10 years into the insurance fund to offset for the phantom accounting deficit under the unified budget. No other public or private agency is required to do anything remotely comparable.

You can read a longer and more detailed explanation here, and understand that this law is intended to eventually kill – read: privatize – the postal service if something is not done to stop it from happening.

SOCIAL SECURITY – JUST THE FACTS
Another federal agency Republicans want to privatize is, as we all know, Social Security. Here is a short, succinct video about all the things SSA does and how successful it is from the National Academy of Social Insurance. I'm pretty sure some of it will surprise you.

DOONESBURY RE ALIENS
Garry Trudeau was on a roll this week. This one, sent by elderlaw attorney, John Gear, is about “illegal aliens” from last Sunday. Here are the first and last panels.

Doonsbury1start

[...]

Doonesbury2end

Go read the whole panel here. It's worth it.

A NEW SIMON'S CAT
Thank Bev Carney for keeping us up to date with the latest from Simon's Cat.


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.