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INTERESTING STUFF – 31 December 2016

THE NEW YEAR THAT IS UPON US

Here we are today at the end of another year. This is the final Interesting Stuff and the final post overall for the year of 2016, which passes into history tonight.

My first inclination was to collect information we will need to pursue our resistance next year. We have a lot of serious work to do in 2017 and need to keep ourselves well educated and up to date.

But then I had a second thought, a better one I think: How about some items that please or amuse me for a variety of reasons - nothing too serious; just a group of things I like that you might enjoy too.

Before we begin, however, here is a thought to keep in mind during all of 2017: It is possible to live in terrible, even frightening political times and still delight in the pleasures great and small of day-to-day life.

Happy New Year, my friends.

240 GREEN LIGHTS

When I first moved to New York City in the late 1960s, my husband and I lived in Riverdale, just beyond the northern tip of Manhattan, and he hosted an all night talk show at a radio station in midtown.

Sometimes, when I would need the car first thing in the morning, I would drive him to his job late in the evening and on my way home, in an almost empty city, I would play a game with myself: how many green lights could I get through on Park Avenue without being stopped by a red one.

The best I ever did was nine in a row.

Noah Forman, the YouTube page tells us, is now a New York City ride-share driver who previously drove a yellow cab. In this video, he attempts a record run at hitting consecutive green lights while driving in Manhattan.

He gets an estimated 240 of them. The video is, in its own way and unrelated to the game, quite mesmerizing. Take a look.

PHOTOGRAPHS OF THE YEAR

Many publications publish the best-phofos-of-the-year at during this final week. The New York Times is no exception and they posted some stunning news photographs that together tell a pretty good story of the 2016.

WASHINGTON, D.C.
In January, the seat for Justice Antonin Scalia was draped in black at the Supreme Court after his death on 13 February. (Stephen Crowley/The New York Times)

ScaliaChair

PALMYRA, SYRIA
In April, after nearly a year under the brutal control of Islamic State forces, the city’s celebrated ancient ruins sustained significant, irreparable damage. (Bryan Denton for The New York Times)

Palmyra

ALEPPO, SYRIA
In August. Can anyone forget this now-iconimc Omran Daqneesh, age 5, who was rescued after an airstrike. (Mahmoud Raslan/Aleppo Media Center)

Omran

You can see many more of the news photographs at The Times.

DR. HEIMLICH DEAD AT AGE 96

More than 20 years ago, maybe even 30, in a restaurant, a friend saved me from a choking death with the famed Heimlich maneuver. By now there are thousands of stories like mine, maybe millions. Surely we all know how to do it:

Earlier this month, Henry Judah Heimlich died at age 96. The New York Times explained in graphic terms how important his maneuver is:

”In the 1970s, choking on food or foreign objects like toys was the sixth-leading cause of accidental death in America: some 4,000 fatalities annually, many of them children.

“A blocked windpipe often left a victim unable to breathe or talk, gesturing wildly to communicate distress that mimicked a heart attack. In four minutes, an oxygen-starved brain begins to suffer irreversible damage. Death follows shortly thereafter.”

Not many of us get to make such an important contribution to the wellbeing of humankind. Hail Dr. Heimlich and godspeed.

You can read the full obituary here.

THE WORLD'S LONGEST TUNNEL JUST OPENED

In the Alps – 35.5 miles which translates to 57 kilometers. It is called the Botthard Base Tunnel. Here's the story:

If you want to know or see more, here for more video choices. And you can read more at the BBC.

THE ART OF ROCK BALANCING

This is from the Weather Channel and it is lovely. As it explained:

”In the placid creeks of Boulder, Colorado, you may find alien-looking stacks of rocks, seemingly defying gravity in their precarious carriage. These cairns could be the work of Michael Grab, a Yoda-like master of the art of rock balancing.

“Grab isn’t alone in his craft—a growing global community of like-minded artists are mastering rock balancing with a zen-like discipline that will surely boggle the mind.”

ICE SKATING IN THE STREETS OF MONTREAL

On Boxing Day last Monday, Montreal was hit with a freezing rain that left behind layers of ice coveriing the streets.

One of TGB's Canadian readers, doctafil, who blogs at Jive Chalkin', emailed links to some videos showing how people took good advantage of the rare street freeze.

(Be patient – this is an amateur video and there is a black gap beginning at 12 seconds that lasts until about 30 seconds. It's a nice video and worth the wait.)

THE SNOWFLAKE PHYSICIST

Dr. Kenneth Libbrecht was a consultant on the wildly successful movie, Frozen. He is also a physicist at CalTech who studies that most ephemeral of nature's beauty – snowflakes.

POLAR BEAR CUBS PLAYING IN THE SNOW

I no longer read beyond the headlines of stories about the ravages to nature of climate change. If I did, I would never stop weeping. Maybe I'll write about that here one day.

What I cannot avoid, however, are the oft-repeated photographs of polar bears stranded this winter with no snow in their ranges. They will die in this circumstance.

Here is something wonderful for us to keep in our mental library about these magnificent creatures:

”In March of 2010, nature photographer Thomas D. Mangelsen traveled to Hudson Bay in northern Manitoba to photograph polar bears and their young emerging from their winter dens. Watch as these tiny, months-old cubs play and wrestle while their mother keeps a close eye on them from the den.”

There is more video at Mengelsen's YouTube page.

WINTER: TONIGHT: SUNSET

The Writers Almanac website tells us that poet David Budbill

”...has lived on a remote mountain in norther Vermont for more than three decades writing poems, reading Chinese classics, tending to his garden and, of course, working on his website.”

Budbill's work has been read by Garrison Keillor on The Writers Almanac more than any other poet. TGB Reader Tom Delmore sent this one. Winter: Tonight: Sunset. which you can also listen to it at the website.

Tonight at sunset walking on the snowy road,
my shoes crunching on the frozen gravel, first

through the woods, then out into the open fields
past a couple of trailers and some pickup trucks, I stop

and look at the sky. Suddenly: orange, red, pink, blue,
green, purple, yellow, gray, all at once and everywhere.

I pause in this moment at the beginning of my old age
and I say a prayer of gratitude for getting to this evening

a prayer for being here, today, now, alive
in this life, in this evening, under this sky.

(This poem is from David Budbill's 2005 collection, While We've Still Got Feet.) His website it here.

Happy-New-Year-Best-Wishes680

* * *

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” at the top of any Time Goes By page to send them. I'm sorry that I 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 include the name of the blog and its URL.


Inspiration for Our Resistance in 2017

...or, How His Excellency * Stole America.

As I explained on Wednesday, I had been down with a virus since last Friday. I'm much better now – you could even say I'm well. But one of the hardest lessons of my old age is that it takes much longer to recover from a setback than when I was young.

Now, at last, I have learned this truth and am giving myself time to get up to speed again. Hence, another post today on which I don't need to expend a lot of effort.

This comes from TGB reader Richard Hannigan who says he received it from a friend. It is a poem titled How the Trump Stole America, written by one John Pavlovitz who is a minister at the North Raleigh Community Church in North Carolina. He has a personal website here.

JohnPavlovitz250As Richard pointed out in his email to me, given where Mr. Pavlovitz lives and works, making this poem public takes a lot of courage and so it does. But I also see it as an inspiration for our coming work to resist “his excellency” and the Republican Party in the new year.

Here then, as our quadrennial interregnum proceeds on course, is John Pavlovitz's How the Trump Stole America with as he says, “many apologies to Dr. Seuss”.

In a land where the states are united, they claim,
in a sky-scraping tower adorned with his name,
lived a terrible, horrible, devious chump,
the bright orange miscreant known as the Trump.
This Trump he was mean, such a mean little man,
with the tiniest heart and two tinier hands,
and a thin set of lips etched in permanent curl,
and a sneer and a scowl and contempt for the world.

He looked down from his perch and he grinned ear to ear,
and he thought, “I could steal the election this year!
It’d be rather simple, it’s so easily won,
I’ll just make them believe that their best days are done!
Yes, I’ll make them believe that it’s all gone to Hell,
and I’ll be Jerk Messiah and their souls they will sell.
And I’ll use lots of words disconnected from truth,
but I’ll say them with style so they won’t ask for proof.
I’ll toss out random platitudes, phrases, and such,
They’re so raised on fake news that it won’t matter much!
They won’t question the how to, the what, why, or when,
I will make their America great once again!”

The Trump told them to fear, they should fear he would say,
“They’ve all come for your jobs, they’ll all take them away.
You should fear every Muslim and Mexican too,
every brown, black, and tan one, everyone who votes blue.”
And he fooled all the Christians, he fooled them indeed,
He just trotted out Jesus, that’s all Jesus folk need.
And celebrity preachers they all crowned him as king,
Tripping over themselves just to kiss the Trump’s ring.
And he spoke only lies just as if they were true,
Until they believed all of those lies were true too.
He repeated and Tweeted and he blustered and spit,
And he mislead and fibbed—and he just made up sh*t.
And the media laughed but they printed each line,
thinking “He’ll never will win, in the end we’ll be fine.”

So they chased every headline, bold typed every claim,
‘Till the fake news and real news they looked just the same.
And the scared folk who listened, they devoured each word,
Yes, they ate it all up every word that they heard,
petrified that their freedom was under attack,
trusting Trump he would take their America back.
From the gays and from ISIS, he’d take it all back,
Take it back from the Democrats, fat cats, and blacks.
And so hook, line, and sinker they all took the bait,
all his lies about making America great.

Now the Pant-suited One she was smart and prepared,
she was brilliant and steady but none of them cared,
no they cared not to see all the work that she’d done,
or the fact they the Trump had not yet done thing one.

They could only shout “Emails!”, yes “Emails!” they’d shout,
because Fox News had told them—and Fox News had clout.
And the Pant-suited One she was slandered no end,
and a lie became truth she could never defend.
And the Trump watched it all go according to plan—
a strong woman eclipsed by an insecure man.

And November the 8th arrived, finally it came,
like a slow-moving storm but it came just the same.
And Tuesday became Wednesday as those days will do,
And the night turned to morning and the nightmare came true,
With millions of non-voters still in their beds,
Yes, the Trump he had done it, just like he had said.
And the Trumpers they trumped, how they trumped when he won,

All the racists and bigots; deplorable ones,
they crawled out from the woodwork, came out to raise Hell,
they came out to be hateful and hurtful as well.
With slurs and with road signs, with spray paint and Tweets,
with death threats to neighbors and taunts on the street.
And the grossest of grossness they hurled on their peers,
while the Trump he said zilch—for the first time in years.

But he Tweeted at Hamilton, he Tweeted the Times,
And he trolled Alec Baldwin a few hundred times,
and he pouted a pout like a petulant kid,
thinking this is what Presidents actually did,
thinking he could still be a perpetual jerk,
terrified to learn he had to actually work,
work for every American, not just for a few,
not just for the white ones—there was much more to do.

He now worked for the Muslims and Mexicans too,
for the brown, black, and tan ones, and the ones who vote blue.
They were all now his bosses, now they all had a say,
and those nasty pant-suited ones were here to stay.

And the Trump he soon realized that he didn’t win,
He had gotten the thing—and the thing now had him.
And it turned out the Trump was a little too late,
for America was already more than quite great,
not because of the sameness, the opposite’s true,
It’s greatness far more than just red, white, and blue,
It’s straight, gay, and female—it’s Gentile and Jew,
It’s Transgender and Christian and Atheist too.
It’s Asians, Caucasians of every kind,
The disabled and abled, the deaf and the blind,
It’s immigrants, Muslims, and brave refugees,
It’s Liberals with bleeding hearts fixed to their sleeves.
And we are all staying, we’re staying right here,
and we’ll be the great bane of the Trump for four years.
And we’ll be twice as loud as the loudness of hate,
be the greatness that makes our America great.
And the Trump’s loudest boasts they won’t ever obscure,
over two million more of us - voted for her.


Some New-ish Quotations About Growing Old

Well, new to me. Some of them are old.

Since last Friday I've been under the weather with some strain of virus involving the usual symptoms. I've been mending since then but without the mental energy yet to put in the time necessary to write anything much more complicated than this.

So here are a few quotations about growing old which is my habit to collect as I find ones that interest me. Whether we agree with them or not, good ones leave us a lot to ponder and it's been a long while since I've published any. So I will share these few with you today. It seems proper to begin with the Bard. See what you think.



“With mirth and laughter, let old wrinkles come.”
       - William Shakespeare


“What could be more beautiful than a dear old lady growing wise with age? Every age can be enchanting, provided you live within it.”
       - Brigitte Bardot
“To know how to grow old is the master work of wisdom, and one of the most difficult chapters in the great art of living.”
       - Henri Frederic Amiel
“The older I get the more I distrust the doctrine that age brings wisdom.”
       - H.L. Mencken
“Some people die at 25 and aren't buried until 75.”
       - Benjamin Franklin
“I've reached the age where my brain has gone from 'You probably shouldn't say that' to 'What the hell, let's see what happens.'”
       - Unknown

From Peter Tibbles who writes the Sunday TGB Elder Music column and says this from a recent movie (February 2016):

“The difference between young and old is that it takes courage to be old.”
      - Unknown

And one last quotation that is not exactly about age but is important to the political time in which we find ourselves now. It is something most of us at this website are old enough to know but that too many who mold public opinion were ignorant of during the past inglorious 18 months.:

“When someone shows you who they are, believe them; the first time.”
       - Maya Angelou


Some Good News About His Excellency

When the Republican candidate won the U.S. November election for president, I vowed to never utter his name in these pages again (aside from quotations) and to reference him as just an asterisk: *.

I have changed my mind.

There is a remarkable letter from Russian President Vladimir Putin that formally addresses our president-elect as "Your Excellency." (Can you hear me laughing again even though I've read it a dozen times by now???)

When he released the letter to the media, his excellency described it as "A very nice letter from Vladimir Putin; his thoughts are so correct." (You can read the entire letter here - scroll down.)

Of course such a man would crave such an exalted title. So until something better comes along, in this space * will become "his excellency." In a post-ironic world such as ours, how could I resist.

Here is what Russia expert Nina Khrushcheva, who is professor of international affairs at New York University, had to say about the letter and the response to his excellency in Russia on an MSNBC News panel a couple of days ago:

On Christmas Day, The New York Times published a big story telling us that although his excellency still insists there are no legal conflicts of interest between his businesses and his new position, he and his family have announced the will close foundations and end some development deals.

In the past few days, he has also ended a long-running labor dispute in a Trump hotel in Las Vegasv ending his demand for a 15-foot fence at an ocean-front golf course in Ireland. Ivanka is said to be "looking at" donating proceeds from an upcoming book to charity and Eric Trump announced he will no longer attend administration meetings. These are among a fairly lengthy list of divestitures. However,

"While the family may be removing some of the most obvious problems," reports The Times, "critics say Mr. Trump will still know what properties his family owns and which policy decisions will benefit them, no matter how careful he is.

"The portfolio of assets might influence his interactions with leaders in nations such as Turkey and the Philippines, where Mr. Trump has prominent marketing deals.

"In places where he has allowed the use of his family name and even his image, Mr. Trump will soon be confronting foreign policy decisions, such as how to confront human rights violations or fight terrorism.

"The family, at least so far, has not announced how it will resolve other issues, such as the lease at the Trump International Hotel in Washington, which was issued by the federal government’s General Services Administration, an agency Mr. Trump will soon oversee."

This is good news but perhaps not for the reason you may think. As The Times makes clear, this is a start but the changes get nowhere near clearing the table of his excellency's conflicts. But here is what this news otherwise tells us:

His excellency (or his lawyers, I suppose) responds to public pressure that, in this the case of conflicts, has been non-stop since he was elected.

Keep that in mind: he responds to public pressure if it is loud and unrelenting. That means that on any upcoming issue, enough noise, enough media attention, enough commotion, uproar and outcry can make a difference.

It's not just Congress we will need to repeatedly and resolutely lobby in the coming year(s). Add the White House to our list of Congressional representatives because on so many issues, nothing can become law without the signature of the president.

That is what makes even this puny divestiture good news - news we can use in our fight against the coming Republican onslaught against the virtues and values of our country.


ELDER MUSIC: Christmas 2016

Tibbles1SM100x130This 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.

* * *

ChristmasOz

Oh dear. Here we go again. Let's see what heartwarming Christmas tunes I can come up with this year. I like songs that you won't hear in your neighborhood mall, so let's see what Santa has packed in his bag this year.

We'll start with the most famous reindeer of them all. You know the one, or at least you probably think you do. We have JUSTIN WILSON performing Randolph, the Rouge Nosed Reindeer.

Justin Wilson

Okay, it wasn't quite the one you thought it was, but it's more entertaining than the other one and sounds rather like it.

♫ Justin Wilson - Randolph, The Rouge Nosed Reindeer


ROOMFUL OF BLUES is a blues and swing band who formed in the unlikely blues state of Rhode Island.

Roomful Of Blues

They began way back in 1967 and are still going strong. One of their founder members is the great Duke Robillard, who's not with them anymore. Some other interesting performers have been in the group – Ronnie Earl, Lou Ann Barton, Ron Levy amongst them.

The current incarnation of the group wonders: Santa Claus, Do You Ever Get the Blues?

♫ Roomful Of Blues - Santa Claus, Do You Ever Get The Blues


AMOS MILBURN is a regular in my columns.

Amos Milburn

He's a particular favorite of Norma, the Assistant Musicologist. Amos made a career performing songs about drinking, partying and generally having a good time. Well, at this time of the year he has it all covered.

This one is rather a slow song, but his heart's in the right place: Let's Make Christmas Merry, Baby.

♫ Amos Milburn - Let's Make Christmas Merry, Baby


LORD BEGINNER was from Trinidad and was known to his mum and dad as Egbert Moore. Egbert? No wonder he took a pseudonym.

Lord Beginner

Lord (or Egbert) emigrated to England in the late forties where he established his musical career based on the sound of his native land. It seems he imbibed a little too much, as he says that Christmas Morning the Rum Had Me Yawning.

♫ Lord Beginner - Christmas Morning The Rum Had Me Yawning


EDDIE CAMPBELL was from Mississippi but like many who were musically adept from that state, he moved to Chicago (in his case his family did the moving, Eddie went along as he was quite young).

Eddie Campbell

He was another cog in the wheel that invented Chicago blues, one of the finest genres of music from the twentieth century. He played in the bands of musicians such as Howlin' Wolf, Little Walter, Jimmy Reed and others before striking out on his own.

Eddie thinks that Santa's Messin' With the Kid.

♫ Eddie Campbell - Santa's Messin' With The Kid


Continuing in the heavy blues vein, we have TEXAS PETE MAYES.

Texas Pete Maye

You can probably guess whence Pete hails. He was also called T-Bone Man, as he played guitar rather like T-Bone Walker (but not nearly as well, in my opinion. Of course, no one played guitar as well as Mr Walker did). Pete's contribution today is Christmas Holidays.

♫ Texas Pete Mayes - Christmas Holidays


Okay, we're on a roll here with some more blues. It's pretty much the theme of the year, after all. Next up is HARRY CRAFTON with the Doc Bagby Orchestra.

Harry Crafton<

Harry is rather upset as his baby has nicked his Cadillac, apparently on Christmas Eve. That's not a good thing to do and he is asking her to Bring That Cadillac Back.

♫ Harry Crafton With Doc Bagby Orchestra - Bring That Cadillac Back


A slight change of pace. MARCIA BALL is also known as a blues performer, and a really good one too, but she does something a little different today.

Marcia Ball

She's channelling some Zydeco music. Not too surprising as she's from Louisiana, so she knows all about that type of music. Here is Christmas Fais Do Do. This will get you all up rocking around the Christmas tree.

♫ Marcia Ball - Christmas Fais Do Do


Back to the blues – I couldn't keep away from them this year. FLOYD DIXON is really laid back and rather resigned to being alone on Christmas day.

Floyd Dixon

Floyd was another Texas blues man, in his case the piano was his main instrument. He took over from Charles Brown when he left the Three Blazers, one of the great cool blues groups.

Floyd eventually tired of the performing life and retired to Texas, emerging now and then to play a concert or two. Floyd has the Empty Stocking Blues.

♫ Floyd Dixon - Empty Stocking Blues


I'll end with my traditional moment of couth. This is SEQUENTIA.

Sequentia

They recorded an album of Christmas music from Aquitanian Monasteries from 12th Century. The composers of this music are long forgotten but the music lives on. This is really gorgeous so get a glass of Champagne or eggnog and listen. O Maria, Deu mai.

♫ Sequentia - O Maria, Deu maire

ChristmasOz


INTERESTING STUFF: 24 December 2016

SHORT IMPORTANT UPDATE: On Wednesday I linked to an excellent guide for resisting the Trump agenda. Now, the group producing the the guide, all former Congressional staffers, have posted a "prettier" version in pdf format at their brand new website, Indivisible Guide.

You can download the full document here and you can enter your email address there to receive updates as they are added.

* * *

Most of the western world uses the Gregorian calendar based on the solar year. Because the Hebrew calendar is based on the lunar year, Hannukah can occur almost anytime between the U.S. Thanksgiving holiday in late November and early January. More or less. It's complicated.

But this year, 2016 on the Gregorian calendar and 5777 on the Hebrew one, Christmas Eve and the first night of Hannukah (which begins at sundown), fall on the same day. This is only the fourth time this has happened since 1900.

An excellent reason to wish everyone both Merry Christmas and Happy Hannukah as they both begin this evening.

So here is a combined Interesting Stuff today for the two holiday celebrations including a couple of old favorites and some new stuff too.

STEPHEN COLBERT CHRISTMAS SHOW

Let's start with a Christmas reality check specific to this year from Stephen Colbert – I promise, it gets better from here.

SAINSBURY'S 2016 CHRISTMAS COMMERCIAL

I mentioned in last week's Interesting Stuff that I have come to appreciate Christmas commercials from some large advertisers. Not all, but most seem to be from Merry Olde England. I wish they were as creative at telling good stories the rest of the year.

A TRAVELING CHRISTMAS FROM H&M

The Swedish retailer engaged actor Adrian Brody and director Wes Anderson for this terrific Christmas tale.

HOW THE GRINCH STOLE CHRISTMAS

This wonderful story was first published too late (1956) to be part of my childhood holiday memories but I've read it many times so it's fair for me to pretend that it's part of my youthful history.

This time it is read by NBC News correspondent Keith Morrison with plenty of great and familiar drawings from the book.

YET ANOTHER PARTRIDGE IN A PEAR TREE

This is the fourth year I have featured Penelope Keith's marvelous reading, as Miss Cynthia Bracegirdle, of And Yet Another Partridge in a Pear Tree: A Cautionary Tale for Christmas Showing That it is Better to Give than to Receive.

In the comments on last year's posting of the story, the writer, Brian Sibley, left a note for us about the recording:

”You might like to know that I wrote this piece and that it was first broadcast on the BBC (Radio 4) on 25 December 1977.

“You can hear the original recording on my Soundcloud page here. You can read the script here.

And it seems only fair to let you know that Mr. Subley blogs here.

He also let us know that Timothy Bateson appears as Mr. Graball of Graball, Twister and Fleesum, and it was directed by John Theocharis. Here then is the marvelously funny Penelope Keith “Partridge.”

Penelope Keith - And Yet Another Partridge in a Pear Tree

ANOTHER CHRISTMAS COMMERCIAL

This one from Temptations cat treats.

FRANKIE'S HOLIDAY COMMERCIAL

And one more, this from Apple: Open Your Heart to Everyone.

THE STORY OF HANNUKAH

It really is a terrific story of a wonderful miracle and like so many holiday stories, it doesn't matter if it is true. Here's a short version from the History Channel:

A DRY BONES HANNUKAH

My Israeli friend, Yaakov Kirschen, has been writing and drawing his Dry Bones cartoon for more than 40 years. (You can follow him at The Dry Bones Blog.) This is his entry for Hannukah from last year.

YaakovHannukah

FESTIVAL OF LIGHTS

Hannukah is also called the Festival of Lights. The Atlantic magazine this month has published a gorgeous series of photographs of Christmas lights from cities around the world.

The title, Festivals of Light gives the presentation a nice ecumenical feel for the double holiday this year.

The illuminated Christmas tree stands at the Christmas market behind the Astronomical Clock at the Old Town Square on November 28, 2016 in Prague, Czech Republic.

PragueClock

People release floating lanterns during the festival of Yee Peng in the northern capital of Chiang Mai, Thailand, on November 14, 2016.

ChiangMaiThailand

Christmas lights are seen illuminated on Oxford Street in London, Britain on December 9, 2016.

OxfordStLondon

These photographs are much more beautiful full size. See them and many more at The Atlantic.

HELEN MIRREN'S CHRISTMAS WISHES

We began up top with Stephen Colbert and let's end with my most favorite elder actor, Dame Helen Mirren. On a recent Graham Norton Show, she was asked to deliver an inspirational Christmas message of hope for the audience. Here is what she said:

Whatever you celebrate this time of year, Ronni, Crabby Old Lady and Ollie the cat wish you

Happy-holiday680

* * *

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” at the top of any Time Goes By page to send them. I'm sorry that I 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 include the name of the blog and its URL.


A Special Elder Music: Time Goes By

Due to bad weather where I live for most of last week, a whole lot of appointments got pushed into this week and it has been difficult for me to keep up with the blog.

Not long ago, Peter Tibbles, who writes the exceptional Elder Music column you read here each Sunday, sent this special Elder Music that I'm posting today. I'll let Peter take it from here.

* * *

For many years Ronni and I have missed the most bleeding obvious category for a music column and it's this one. After all that time the light bulb finally flickered on above our heads and now we have it.

To some it was a pretty obvious category to consider. Norma, the Assistant Musicologist, for one, waited patiently without saying anything for the two dummies to catch up.

So, it's a column about the column (as it were). I hope you'll forgive the self-referencing. Anyway, there are a couple of songs with the same title. And a couple of others, including the most famous one, that are quite similar. Then there are others.

I'll start with the column's title by CHIP TAYLOR.

Chip Taylor

Chip started out as a song writer – Wild Thing and Angel in the Morning are both his – before giving it away to earn a living as a professional gambler.

About 20 years ago he returned to music and has released some interesting albums, several with Carrie Rodriguez. As a trivial aside, he's the brother of actor Jon Voight but he can't help that. Here's Chip with Time Goes By.

♫ Chip Taylor - Time Goes By


Okay, here's the famous one, with the version that film lovers prefer. You know I'm talking about DOOLEY WILSON.

Dooley Wilson

For those who have been on Mars for the last seventy years, this is from the film Casablanca. Dooley was an actor, a singer and a drummer but not a pianist. He just played one in the film. You must remember this:As Time Goes B.

♫ Dooley Wilson - As Time Goes By


MARTY ROBBINS recorded a song with the column's title, a different one from Chip's.

Marty Robbins

Marty was one of the finest live performers around and he was a great singer and decent songwriter (name any of his hits and it's pretty certain to be one he wrote). This is one of his, far from his best, but it fits today's criterion. Time Goes By.

♫ Marty Robbins - Time Goes By


For a complete change of pace, here is SHIRLEY HORN.

Shirley Horn

Shirley was a jazz pianist and singer and she performed with all the greats in that field – Miles, Dizzy, Toots, Carmen, Wynton and on and on. Shirley seems a little surprised about the passing of time (she's not alone) or perhaps just resigned. As she says: My, How The Time Goes By.

♫ Shirley Horn - My, How The Time Goes By


CHAD AND JEREMY have a different song with the same title as the last one.

Chad & Jeremy

C & J were a duo who hung on to the coattails of the Beatles and had quite a successful career at the time, more so in America than in their native country. It doesn't matter, as they were quite good at what they did.

One of those things is a song calledMy How The Time Goes By.

♫ Chad & Jeremy - My How The Time Goes By


Who Knows Where the Time Goes is the name of a rather good album by JUDY COLLINS.

Judy Collins

The song of the same name was written by Sandy Denny, from Fairport Convention. She did a fine version as well, but today it's Judy's turn.

♫ Judy Collins - Who Knows Where the Time Goes


CHRIS HILLMAN from The Byrds and HERB PEDERSEN from The Dillards have been recording together for quite some time. Initially it was in the Desert Rose Band, but lately just as a duo.

Chris Hillman & Herb Pedersen

Both of their bands were notable for their harmony singing. Chris and Herb continue that tradition in their current incarnation. For them, Time Goes So Slow.

♫ Chris Hillman, Herb Pedersen - Time Goes So Slow


Getting slightly away from the actual name of the column, but still with the same basic concept is a song written by Willie Nelson. Willie's wasn't the first version I heard way back; that was by JIMMY ELLEDGE.

Jimmy Elledge

Most of the time the first one you hear is the one that sticks in the brain and is the one you prefer. So it is with me, sorry Willie. Funny How Time Slips Away.

♫ Jimmy Elledge - Funny How Time Slips Away


In their first album, CROSBY, STILLS AND NASH recorded several songs that have become classics of the genre.

Crosby, Stills and Nash7

It depends on your point of view whether this is one of those. It's a bit rockier than the other tracks on the album – Stephen obviously pulled out his electric guitar for this one. This one being Long Time Gone.

♫ Crosby, Stills and Nash - Long Time Gone


I'll end with a song we had earlier, the most famous one today. This is the first recording of that one, it's by RUDY VALLEE.

Rudy Vallee

Besides singing, Rudy played clarinet, saxophone and drums and he is considered to be the first pop star, as we know that concept today. He used the microphone the way others who followed in his wake (Bing, Frank, Elvis) did. He sings As Time Goes By, from 1931.

♫ Rudy Vallee - As Time Goes By

* * *

Tibbles1SM100x130This 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.


Practical Guide to Resisting Trump

Yes, I'm using the president-elect's name today instead of an * because we are getting down to brass tacks now and we need to be certain about whom we are resisting.

A personal note: I am 75 years old. I have been interested in politics since I was in grammar school. I don't make a fetish of it, but I follow American politics closely, have read a variety of histories of the beginnings of our country and believe deeply in the genius of our founding fathers and, as they pointed out, the fragility of our democracy that must be carefully tended to survive.

Certainly I have disagreed with some of our past presidential administrations but never before in my three-quarters of a century have I worried about the potential destruction of our American values, beliefs and way of life.

Statue-of-liberty3

All right. That's where I am and perhaps you too. Actually, I am alarmed for the future of my country and not incidentally, for elders and others who depend on Social Security and Medicare.

In the past couple of weeks, I have written about how we can resist the alarming changes the new president, his shocking cabinet appointments, the Republican-controlled Congress and soon, far-right-leaning Supreme Court can wreak on us.

My suggestions are good as far as they go but now I have found the bible, if you will, of political resistance for our 2017 circumstances. I first read about it at Talking Point Memo last week in a story titled Ex-Hill Staffers Put A Spin On The Tea Party Playbook In Anti-Trump Guide:

”In an online guide made public Wednesday night, a number of...onetime Hill staffers say that the best way for individuals to derail the policy agenda of Trump and House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI) is to organize locally and badger their own congressional representatives to vote against individual pieces of legislation.

“The guide contains tips on getting members of Congress to listen to their constituents’ voices, such as showing up in groups to town hall meetings and looking 'friendly or neutral' to ensure staffers will call on them and allow them to ask pointed questions.

“The authors also recommend flooding lawmakers’ offices with calls on specific issues and targeting weak Republican candidates ahead of local elections.

“The emphasis is on consistent, coordinated, grassroots action that focuses on nitty-gritty policy specifics and individual elected officials.”

As the authors note, the Tea Party was effective. It

changed votes in Congress and defeated legislation
it radically slowed federal policymaking
it forced Republicans to reject compromise
it paved the way for the Republican takeover in 2010 and, now, Trump.

We can learn a lot from the Tea Party strategy and tactics these former Congressional staffers are telling us about and after reading their Guide, I believe them.

What is hard for you and me is that like many old people, some of us cannot get out of the house as easily as we once did, may not drive anymore or readily travel distances for demonstrations.

(That's one of the reasons for the depth of my anger about the war on Medicare and Social Security. It is really nasty to target people no longer as physically capable as the ones who are intent on killing the programs we rely on and earned.)

Over the next four years, we must make the effort to attend demonstrations and town halls when we can. But we have the internet and we can organize at home. As I mentioned last week, when I wrote about telephoning Congress, you are free to forward, copy, reprint, email and distribute these stories to other who you believe will be helpful.

The Practical Guide for Resisting the Trump Agenda has been posted online and these former progressive congressional staffers who wrote it tell us on the front page:

”You should use this guide, share it, amend it, make it your own, and get to work.”

Yes, and mine too. We're supposed to be retired now but we elders are nearly 60 million strong and we need to do our part (and more) to save Social Security and Medicare - even our country – for ourselves and for future generations . It's going to take all of us working together to do that.

You will find the Guide in a Google document here. It is long, 23 single-spaced pages. I printed it out to read the whole thing carefully and highlight what is important and useful to me. You might try that too.

Not all of it will apply to all of us. It is a step-by-step guide for individuals, for groups and for organiations to, as they write, “replicate the Tea Party's success in getting Congress to listen to a small, vocal dedicated group of constituents.”

Perhaps in your free time over the coming holidays, you can make yourselves familiar with the Guide and after the new year, we will be prepared for the work we need to do.


Elder Cosmetic Surgery

Turtleplastic surgery

A few weeks ago, TGB reader Momcat Christi sent me a link to a news story about how growing numbers of old people are undergoing elective cosmetic surgery.

”According to the American Society for Aesthetic Plastic Surgery,” reports Tara Bahrampour in the Washington Post, “the number of people 65 and older getting facelifts and cosmetic eyelid surgeries has more than doubled over the last two decades, with much of that increase occurring over the last five years.”

It's a trend, old people getting plastic surgery going back at least to 2006 when a study published in Clinical Interventions in Aging concluded:

”...much advertising and social pressure is specifically aimed at trying to get people to pay money to stop themselves from looking old. It seems our Western society increasingly denigrates rather than reveres the elderly.

“We need to try to ensure that the pressures on the elderly to look young do not create unrealistic expectations and lead to older people spending significant proportions of their savings on procedures that cannot turn back time.”

No kidding.

Apparently, there is no one too old for cosmetic surgery. In an undated story at About Plastic Surgery, Gregory Borah, MD, Professor and Chief Division of Plastic Surgery at Robert Wood Johnson Medical School in New Jersey reports that

“The oldest patient I’ve had was 92... She came to me wanting breast augmentation. She had always wanted it but her husband wasn’t in favor of it. When he passed, she spent the insurance money on it. She said she wanted to look good.”

That's one thing about plastic surgery – health care insurance does not pay. It's a cash-only business with prices as high as the traffic will bear.

Another thing about plastic surgery is risk. Even a quick tour around the internet of plastic surgeon's websites reveals almost no mention of risk for people of any age let alone old ones. I finally tracked down this concern in a news story at nhmagazine.com:

“It’s not the patient’s age that’s a limitation. It’s the co-morbidities, the other illnesses and medical conditions about the person,” says Dr. Bruce Topol, who also practices in Manchester as a board certified plastic surgeon and is a Fellow of the American College of Surgeons.

“If someone has to be on aspirin because they’ve had a stroke, have had a heart attack, have a stent in their heart or had corroded arteries surgery, that’s a risk for bleeding. If somebody is on blood thinners, it is contraindicated to do any type of cosmetic surgery because the risk of bleeding is very high. Diabetes is another high-risk factor.”

Which means, of course, that more older people are at greater risk than those who are younger.

image

Many people twist themselves in knots trying to pretend their cosmetic surgery has a greater purpose than looking younger, but it really comes down to that. From the Washington Post story:

“I’m 60 and I remember when my grandfather and grandmother were 60 and it was like they had a foot on a banana peel and the other in the grave - and now (people their age) are skiing,” said Dan Mills, president of the American Society for Aesthetic Plastic Surgery.

Increasingly, as Americans remain more physically fit later in life, they often see a disconnect in how they look versus how they feel.”

Personally, I don't get the “disconnect” he's talking about. Is there anything about being physically active that is impinged upon by looking one's age?

Some people believe a face or eye lift will help them get a job. I've had personal experience with age discrimination in the workplace and believe me, a large number of 20-something hiring managers have no interest if you're older than 35, let alone 65, and no amount of surgery will make a 65-year-old look 30.

Back at the Washington Post article, eminent geriatrician, Bill Thomas, is quoted:

“'People are making a calculated decision, trying to escape the stigma of aging and buy a little time, be in the world and not be sidelined because of their appearance,' said Bill Thomas...who is trying to push Americans toward accepting old age as a welcome stage of life.

“It’s the age equivalent of 'passing' Thomas said. “You’re actually in this cohort but can you get everybody to believe you’re in a different cohort?”

Of course not. I have never seen a 65-plus-year-old person who has had cosmetic surgery who looks younger than a 65-plus-year-old person. Yet they fool themselves about it all the time. I've heard many say something like this woman from the same news story:

“'I’d lost the looks of men...I’d walk by men and men would probably go, 'Yeah, there’s a cute grandma.' So in February, after months of wrestling with the decision, she got a neck lift.

“I got so excited about the difference that it made that I was like, ‘Oh my god, I want more”...Now, she said, “No 30- or 45-year-old guy is going to ask me, ‘Hey, what’s your number, honey?’ But a 60-year-old will.”

Let me just say, there is a reason there are no “before” photos in the WaPo story.

Also in that article, Ashton Applewhite, writer of This Chair Rocks: A Manifesto Against Ageism who likes to say she is an old person in training, told the reporter

“I really, really get the reasons why people dye their gray hair, lie about their age, and have cosmetic surgery...But it’s not good for us, because it’s not authentic and it gives a pass to the underlying discrimination that makes those things necessary.”

Good for Applewhite but I think the case should be made much more strongly: every person who is doing anything to try to make others believe they are younger is (beyond fooling themselves) harming every other old person, not to mention every young person who will be old one day. Yes, they do contribute directly to ageism and age discrimination.

The goal is – or should be – to change the way our culture treats old people, to make elders as wholly human and acceptable as people of every other age, and no amount of plastic surgery, hair dye or lies will do that. They only make old people look foolish and that redounds on all other old people.

Not long ago, I saw this exchange on some television show:

CHILD: Am I going to die, Daddy?

FATHER: Yes. But not until you're old [pause] and ugly.

When you hear or read such casual ageism, such easy dismissal of the worth of old people several times a day, seven days a week from the cradle (as much as I appreciate some of them, the late night comedians are particularly guilty of this on a weekly basis), no wonder people are terrified of growing old.

But until we stand up in numbers large enough to be noticed and insist on our dignity and value just as we are, nothing will get better for us.

Yes, I know I'm beating my head against a brick wall and this is not going to change in my lifetime (pity). But I'll keep at it because it is the right thing to do and I wouldn't like myself much if I didn't.

2011-04-22-doctor-cat-performs-cosmetic-surgery


ELDER MUSIC: Listen to the Lions

Tibbles1SM100x130This 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.

* * *

Lions

This column started out as something completely different from the way it turned out. I thought I'd show the evolution of the song Mbube and got about halfway before I hit a brick wall.

Norma, the Assistant Musicologist suggested that instead of just that, have a column about lions (all will be revealed). She's pretty smart, the A.M. So this is it, a column of two parts, the first five songs are from that original concept. I'll start with the one that set me on this path.

SOLOMON LINDA wrote and recorded a song that might sound vaguely familiar to you. That song is the aforementioned Mbube.

Solomon Linda

That's Solomon on the left; his group is called The Evening Birds. Solomon was South African and worked as a cleaner at a record company. One evening he was allowed to record this song with his group.

Over the years the song and its variants have sold millions but Solomon received a pittance. Recently, and far too late for him, a settlement was made to provide royalties to his descendants (but not nearly enough, it seems). Here is the song that started it all.

♫ Solomon Linda & The Evening Birds - Mbube


Most readers will probably know that THE WEAVERS recorded a version of Wimoweh.

The Weavers

I imagine, if you're like me, you'd think their version to be a cappella, or perhaps just a guitar or banjo backing them. We'd all be wrong. Well, not entirely – that's the way they performed it live, most notably in the Carnegie Hall concerts.

However, their original recording wasn't like that. That was back when their record company insisted on putting over-blown orchestral arrangements (devised by Gordon Jenkins) behind them.

Being a perverse sort of musical columnist, I decided to include that one. Here it is.

♫ The Weavers - Wimoweh


Returning to South Africa we have MIRIAM MAKEBA who was a fierce opponent of the appalling apartheid regime in that country and after leaving in 1959, was not allowed to return until democracy came to her country.

Miriam Makeba

Miriam performs a variation on the original Mbube.

♫ Miriam Makeba - Mbube


By far the best selling version of the song was by THE TOKENS.

The Tokens

They called it The Lion Sleeps Tonight. The Tokens were from Brooklyn and were founded in 1955 and have had a dozen or more members over the years (including Neil Sedaka at one time). They had quite a few hits, but who remembers any of the others?

♫ The Tokens - The Lion Sleeps Tonight


Thanks to Paul Simon featuring them on his album “Graceland” and the subsequent tour in support of it, LADYSMITH BLACK MAMBAZO became know around the world.

Ladysmith Black Mambazo

The group was formed by Joseph Shabalala in 1960 and included brothers and cousins, and later on sons as well. As of this writing Joseph is still with the group. They perform the original song Mbube, updated somewhat from the original.

♫ Ladysmith Black Mambazo - Mbube


Well, that's got that out of the way, now we have some other songs. The A.M., since she changed the concept of the column, insisted the next track should be present. It's one her favorites by HOYT AXTON and LINDA RONSTADT.

Linda Ronstadt & Hoyt Axton

It's a pity they didn't record more songs together as they did it so well. As far as I can determine this is it. Lion in Winter.

♫ Hoyt Axton & Linda Ronstadt - Lion In Winter


A lot of lion songs seem to be from reggae musicians, which is interesting as there seems to be a dearth of lions in Jamaica. One such musician is Winston Rodney, better known to the musical world as BURNING SPEAR.

Burning Spear

Mr Spear, or Burn to his friends (okay, I made that up), has a song with the simple title of Lion.

♫ Burning Spear - Lion


IAN TYSON continues to write wonderful songs, and record them as well. Alas, the years have taken their toll on his wonderful voice but I'll keep buying his albums as long as he keeps putting them out.

Ian Tyson

From his recent album "Yellowhead To Yellowstone" Ian gives us a female perspective of our category today, with the song Lioness.

♫ Ian Tyson - Lioness


CARLOS SANTANA got together with ZIGGY MARLEY (son of Bob) for this next song.

Carlos Santana & Ziggy Marley

Also along for the recording was the Colombian hip-hop group CHOCQUIBTOWN.

ChocQuibTown

I included this one, again, at the suggestion of the A.M. There were several I considered for this spot and played them for her and this was her choice. The song is Iron Lion Zion.

♫ Santana - Iron Lion Zion (feat. Ziggy Marley & ChocQuibTown)


People who are familiar with oeuvre of the Belfast Cowboy will recognise the (approximate) title of the column. I'm referring to VAN MORRISON, of course.

Van Morrison

Van recorded the song Listen to the Lion for his album "Saint Dominic's Preview", which was the fifth in a row of a string of albums that were as good as anyone has ever made. Listen to the lion for the next eleven minutes.

♫ Van Morrison - Listen to the Lion


INTERESTING STUFF – 17 December 2016

POLISH GRANDFATHER LEARNS ENGLISH FOR CHRISTMAS

Here is another of those heartwarming holiday television commercials. Thank TGB reader Heidi for this one.

Too bad TV advertisers aren't this good at storytelling year round.

PROTECT AND STRENGTHEN SOCIAL SECURITY

Last Monday, I posted a story about the latest Republican attack on Social Security. You'll be hearing a lot more about this but for now:

One of the people I quoted is Nancy Altman who knows more about Social Security than almost anyone and has fought fiercely to secure and expand it for many years. She is relentless in working for all American old people.

This video is from September where she is speaking about a nation-wide coalition that works to protect the program. There is nothing new in this video; I just thought you should see a few moments with this tireless, fine woman – a hero to all Social Security recipients.

MONKEYS COULD TALK IF THEY WERE SMARTER

Or so says at least one researcher.

Celebes_crested_macaque680

You probably know the story of the the gorilla Koko who is so proficient at sign language. That is remarkable but the ultimate would be to actually speak with another species, to have a real conversation.

Now, according to The New York Times, it has become known that various kinds of primates have the vocal equipment for speech, but their brains are not up to the task:

”The two researchers argue that the key to the acquisition of speech lies somewhere in the brain.

“'If they had the brain, they could produce intelligible speech,' Dr. Ghazanfar said.

“Our ancestors may have evolved special brain circuits that allowed them to learn new sounds as babies. Humans also developed a special set of nerves for the fine motor control of their vocal tracts.”

Other researchers disagree, believing that primates do not have the necessary vocal equipment to speak. You can read the whole story here if you are interested.

HOW LONDON'S BIG BEN CLOCK WORKS

Everything you every wanted to know about the inner workings of London's Big Ben clock on the Parliament Building. From Darlene Costner.

HOW YOUR BODY KNOWS WHAT TIME IT IS

For most of my life, you could wake me from a deep sleep and I could tell you within a few minutes what time is was. I'm not so good at that in my old age. But during waking hours, I don't often need a clock to know what time it is.

According to the YouTube page,

”Being able to sense time helps us do everything from waking and sleeping to knowing precisely when to catch a ball that’s hurtling towards us. And we owe all these abilities to an interconnected system of timekeepers in our brains....Marco A. Sotomayor details how human bodies naturally tell time.

PHONE CALLS BETWEEN PRESIDENT OBAMA AND *

Late night talk show host, Conan O'Brian, says he somehow obtained audio recording of telephone calls between President Barack Obama and the president-elect. TGB reader Alan Goldsmith who blogs at Pixietera, sent us this:

There are several more “recordings” here.

EARTH AT NIGHT FROM THE INTERNATIONAL SPACE STATION

This video is a gorgeous time lapse of earth as seen at night from the Internatiional Space Station. Here's what NASA says about it:

“Many wonders are visible when flying over the Earth at night. A compilation of such visual spectacles was captured recently...and set to rousing music. Passing below are white clouds, orange city lights, lightning flashes in thunderstorms, and dark blue seas.

“On the horizon is the golden haze of Earth's thin atmosphere, frequently decorated by dancing auroras as the video progresses. The green parts of auroras typically remain below the space station, but the station flies right through the red and purple auroral peaks.

“Solar panels of the ISS are seen around the frame edges. The ominous wave of approaching brightness at the end of each sequence is just the dawn of the sunlit half of Earth, a dawn that occurs every 90 minutes.”

There is a list of locations at the YouTube page.

ANONYMOUSE

Tiny, little mouse-sized stores and restaurants have been popping up on the streets of Malmo, Sweden. Here is one to give you the scale:

Malmorestaurant1

Here is another of the same mouse restaurant in closeup.

MalmoRestaurantCU

According to Huffington Post, these are being created by an artists' group called Anonymouse:

“'It’s just too darn charming to imagine a world where mice lives parallel to ours but just slightly out of sight,' said one representative of the artist group Anonymouse MMX, who wishes to remain anonymous. (The group has no connection with Anonymouse.org, a site devoted to online privacy.)”

There is even a mouse-sized menu on the wall next to the restaurant:

Mousesizemenuposted

And here is another photo of a mouse-sized charcuterie with a movie poster on the wall.

MalmoMousePoster

You can find out more and see additional mouse-size locations at Huffington Post, Bored Panda and the Anonymouse Instagram page.

SIMON'S CAT'S GUIDE TO WINTER

A large portion of the United States is living in frigid temperatures this weekend with piles of snow. We even got a small amount of snow here in northwest Oregon.

Simon's Cat is here to show us how to survive winter.

* * *

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” at the top of any Time Goes By page to send them. I'm sorry that I 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 include the name of the blog and its URL.


TGB Blog Community Housekeeping

Blog4

There is so much to distract us this December - well, me anyway. The holidays (even though I don't do much beyond Hannukah candles), too many rescheduled appointments due to weather recently and most of all the frightful events in Washington, D.C.

I mean Kanye West? Carly Fiorina? Rick Perry? Even Bill Gates has been seduced by *. God help us.

As behind in daily life as I am or feel (I don't know which), there is one issue that you, dear readers, can help with. In recent weeks, there has been a sizeable uptick in the number of TGB readers with dozens of new email subscribers, Facebook followers, LinkedIn connections, etc.

Certainly this is a good problem to have but it means that newcomers don't necessarily know some of the guidelines that old-timers are familiar with. So as I do once every year or so, here is a reminder of the rules of the road at Time Goes By.

Mostly, these involve the Comments section. I've worked hard over the 12-plus years of this blog to make it not just interesting but a safe place for old people and others interested in ageing to hang out.

With the help of people who take part in the conversation, the comment section is often a more compelling read than my posts and has become - without much help from me - a comfortable community where, metaphorically, we can sit around over a cup of tea and have good chat. Here are the customs and practices that help keep it that way:

• No ALL CAPS. On the internet and in email, writing in all caps is considered shouting. It is also difficult to read. So watch your capslock key except when you need to emphasize a word or short phrase.

• No long blocks of text. Leave a line space between short paragraphs. All that takes is hitting the "enter" key twice at the end of the last sentence in a paragraph. No one bothers to read long blocks of uninterrupted text. You put an effort into what you write so make it readable.

Remember – hit the "enter" key twice to make an empty space between paragraphs.

• No links. I spend a great deal of time removing links to retailers, advertisers, even web pornographers and general trolls who write comments they think sound real (they don't) and then link to their store or x-rated material.

I do not have time to check each and every link in the comments and, frankly, legitimate links are often broken anyway, leading nowhere or to 404 error pages.

So, no links. I no longer bother to check them, I just delete them along with the reference to them in the comment.

• No off-topic comments. When comments unrelated to the post's topic appear, it interrupts the conversation. One of the things that makes TGB comments so exceptional is that people respond to one another and it is not uncommon for some to return during the day and follow up again on other people's comments.

In doing this, you all help make the comments at this blog a richer, more compelling conversation than at many other blogs. I know that I learn from you who give me a lot of interesting ideas to think about.

• No personal attacks. If you disagree with what I have written or what a previous commenter has written, by all means let us know.

Explain why you disagree but keep your comment within the bounds of the ideas and thoughts and not a personal attack. You get no second chance at this. If it happens, you are permanently banned from commenting.

• No religious, ethnic, racist, gender, LGBTQ, etc. slurs. Ever. No second chances and no recourse.

• Your comment signature. A name and email address are required information on the comment form. You may use any name you want; it does not need to be your real name. But the email address must be real. It is used for confirmation purposes only and is never published.

The third information box on the comment form is labeled “Web Site URL.” You may insert the URL of your blog if you have one or your Facebook page or Pinterest, etc. Your name (whatever you use) will then become a link to that URL.

However, only personal blogs and pages are allowed. If you have a retail or commercial or product/service promotional website, you may not use that URL. There is already too much online advertising and TGB does not accept any form of advertising.

• How to comment. A lot of the email I get is from people who don't know how to comment. Invariably they read this blog via email and maybe Facebook. You cannot comment directly from those platforms. You must go to the blog post in your browser. To do that, just click the title of the story and it will open in your browser.

Scroll to the bottom of the story and click the word "Comments." The story will reopen with a form at the bottom of the comments that have already been posted. Write your comment, fill in the form as described above and click "Post." It will be published at the bottom of the comments.

• Contacting me. Above the banner at the top of every page here is a “Contact” link. It opens a form to send me a private email that is not published. Mostly, readers use it to send me suggestions for Saturday's Interesting Stuff post or other blog-related information.

For a long time I have tried to respond to every message and have mostly done that. But now, there are so many that I can no longer make that a goal and still have a life.

What will not change is that I read every email from you, dear readers, and when I use the information – in Interesting Stuff or a blog post – I do my best to give proper credit. Undoubtedly, I've screwed that up now and then but I don't think it's happened often.

So, there you are. These are the practices I follow at TGB. They - and you following the guidelines - have kept this blog vital and viable for more than a dozen years. I look forward not just to producing it – and I do enjoy that – but to finding out what you have to say about it every day.

I am so lucky to have discovered this project for my old age. Even better I had no idea when I began that it would give me the opportunity to meet and come to know so many interesting people. You make my day. Every day.

Blog1


Coming Soon: Over-the-Counter Hearing Aids

There was a lot of movement in Washington, D.C. last week about making certain hearing aids more available and more affordable. First, some facts. According to statistics published recently by the White House:

30 million Americans suffer from hearing loss

The average cost of a hearing aid is $2,300 – twice that for two ears

Only 20 percent of Americans who would benefit from hearing aids have them, mostly due to the price

The reason for the White House interest in hearing aids was this announcement last week from the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) which on 7 December

”...issued a guidance document explaining that it does not intend to enforce the requirement that individuals 18 and up receive a medical evaluation or sign a waiver prior to purchasing most hearing aids [and]

“...also announcing its commitment to consider creating a category of over-the-counter (OTC) hearing aids that could deliver new, innovative and lower-cost products to millions of consumers.”

In addition, last week Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-Massachusetts) and Senator Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) introduced the Over-the-Counter Hearing Aid Act of 2016 [pdf] in Congress. The bipartisan legislation would make certain types of hearing aids available over the counter.

A press release posted on Senator Warren's website notes that the Act would

”...allow hearing aids that are intended to be used by adults to compensate for mild to moderate hearing impairment to be sold over the counter, and would eliminate the requirement that people get a medical evaluation or sign a waiver in order to acquire these hearing aids...

“The bill is supported by the Hearing Loss Association of America (HLAA), the American Association of Retired Persons (AARP), the Consumer Technology Association, Bose, and the Gerontological Society of America.”

There are additional consumer-friendly provisions in the Warren/Grassley bill not included in the FDA changes.

All this is, essentially, a done deal. Before too long, under the conditions laid out above, we will be able to buy hearing aids at a reasonable price.

As I explained a couple of months ago in a post on hearing loss and Medicare – which does not cover hearing aids - this news is important to me personally. It has been decades since I could easily hear a conversation in a noisy restaurant and beginning earlier this year, the audio on certain television shows sounds like gobbledegook to me.

Well, listen to this: about three weeks ago, during a visit to the doctor, the assistant who recorded my vitals said that the wax (also known as cerumen) in my ears was impacted but they could fix that.

And wow. At the risk of indulging in too much information, I would not have believed before that the amount of wax removed could even fit into an ear. But more, I could instantly hear better.

It's not that it was hard to hear in most circumstances before but that everything was instantly more crisp. And all that gobbledegook from the teevee? Except for one show I watch fairly regularly, Elementary, I can hear the audio clearly now.

(This revelation is specific to me. It is not necessarily an answer for anyone else with mild hearing loss.)

What I have noticed since then is that although I can hear clearly, I need to work harder, pay closer attention than I remember doing for most of my life when hearing was automatic and that is why I am so happy to have the news about over-the-counter hearing aids before too long because there is no way I could afford an average price of $6400.

Of course, there are types of hearing loss that require treatment by an otolaryngologist or an audiologist and sometimes involve surgical treatment and/or aids that are more complex that what will be available over the counter.

But for many of the 80 percent who have untreated hearing loss because they can't afford the aids, this new over-the-counter remedy will be a boon. And it is more than just improved hearing: untreated hearing loss leads to depression, loneliness and isolation which can lead to further health problems.

Over-the-counter reading glasses have been available without a prescription for decades and are so inexpensive that most people can afford to have several pair. There is no reason that a remedy for simple, mild hearing loss should not be available in the same manner.

In the coming months and years, we are going to need to work our fingers to the bone to protect Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid. This change is one simple but important thing will improve the lives of millions who cannot now afford hearing aids and millions more in the future too.


The First Salvo in the War on Social Security Has Been Fired

Is this attack on Social Security serious? Who knows, but we cannot afford to assume otherwise. This is a long and detailed post. Please try to read it anyway (if you're an American).

BackOffSocialSecurity

Last Thursday, Representative Sam Johnson, Republican of Texas and chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee's subcommittee on Social Security, released a plan to “preserve Social Security for generations to come, reward work, and improve retirement security” - as the first page of the bill states.

It does nothing of the kind. It is a nasty, vicious bill that would impoverish a majority of beneficiaries. Daniel Marans, reporting about the announcement of Johnson's bill at Huffington Post wrote that it

”...would drastically reduce benefits. The bill would make the program less of a universal earned benefit and more of a means-tested safety net that aims only to provide basic support to the poorest retirees and disabled workers.”

Here is the short version of the bill from the National Committee to Preserve Social Security and Medicare (NCPSSM):

”Johnson's bill

Cuts Social Security benefits by one third
Raises the retirement age from 67 to 69
Changes the benefit-computation formula in a way that cuts benefit amounts
Cuts Cost of Living Adjustments (COLAs)

“The resulting benefit cuts will affect Americans of all ages, at all income levels, including the middle class and those with very low incomes.”

Representative Johnson's goal with this legislation, to make the program more solvent, he says, does it entirely by benefit cuts - Draconian cuts. Democrats and progressives, including Senator Bernie Sanders, have for years proposed fixes to Social Security that not only avoid cuts but actually increase benefits.

Nancy Altman is a leading expert on Social Security, the founding co-director of Social Security Works and the co-author of Social Security Works!, the definitive, fact-based explanation of this crucially important program. Over this weekend, she wrote a clear explanation of what this legislation does. Pay close attention to this excerpt:

"Remember the ubiquitous mantra of those who propose to dismantle Social Security: no benefit cuts for those aged 55 and older?" asks Altman. "That is out the window. Every single one of the more than 57 million current beneficiaries will experience a cut, under the just-released Republican plan.

"And for some of them, the cut will be extreme. Take a worker who contributed to Social Security for 43 years and earned $118,500 just prior to retiring this year at age 65. At age 95, he will, under the Republican plan, receive a benefit that is less than half ― 48.7 percent, to be exact ― of the value of the benefit he is receiving today.

"And for tomorrow’s workers, it’s even worse. Today’s 45-year old worker with the same work history will receive, at age 65, a benefit that is 74.8 percent what today’s 65-year old receives. And, if he or she lives to age 95, the benefit will be about a third ― 34.6 percent ― of what it would have been under current law!

The Republican proposal raises benefits for long-term low-income workers who qualify for a minimum benefit, but don’t be fooled. It is window dressing, hiding what is really going on.

"Under the Republican plan, a 45-year old worker earning $12,000 a year, who has contributed to Social Security for twenty years and is able to hold off claiming his earned benefit until age 65, will receive a benefit that is twenty percent lower than current law. And that is if he or she can hang on until age 65!"

As Ms. Altman writes, this (along with the coming attacks on Medicare) amount to a war on elders. Please read her entire article here.

Nothing will happen on this bill before Congress shuts down for the year-end holidays on Friday and does not return until Tuesday 3 January 2017 – but Johnson will undoubtedly reintroduce it in the new 115th Congress early next year.

According to Talking Points Memo, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi issued a statement “slamming Johnson's bill”:

“Slashing Social Security and ending Medicare are absolutely not what the American people voted for in November," Pelosi said. "Democrats will not stand by while Republicans dismantle the promise of a healthy and dignified retirement for working people in America.”

Good for her but she cannot do it alone. This holiday hiatus is a good time for a first call to your two senators and congressional representative, as we discussed in this post a couple of weeks ago.

Tell them what you think of Representative Sam Johnson's Social Security bill. You will find phone numbers of local offices in your states here (Senate) and here (House).

Of course, if any of your representatives are retiring or were not re-elected, you'll need to wait until January to get phone numbers of the newly elected.

Here is a sample script you can edit to suit yourself. It's short, strong and to the point:

I'm [full name], a constituent calling to ask [Senator (name) or Representative (name)] to publicly oppose the Social Security Reform Act of 2016 from Representative Sam Johnson of Texas.

This bill would slash the program's benefit not just for future beneficiaries but for current ones too, and destroy Social Security. There are many other, well-known ways to preserve Social Security and I am asking the (senator or repressentative) to block this legislation with all (his/her) might.

It doesn't matter what party your representatives belong to. Make the call either way.

And ask everyone you know to do so too. If you have a blog or Facebook page, you have my permission to copy and post any of this you want without a link back if that is inconvenient. In this case it is much more important to get as many people calling as possible and as regularly as possible than worry about citations.

Thanks for sticking with this entire post. Your wellbeing in your old age is at risk as is that of your grown children and their children and beyond. We must not let this legislation happen.

Read the press release about the bill here

Read a short overview from Representative Johnson here [pdf]

Read the full bill here [pdf]

And here is another link to Nancy Altman's story


ELDER MUSIC: Water

Tibbles1SM100x130This 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.

* * *

The_Great_Wave_off_Kanagawa

Water is very problematic in this country (Australia, for those who came in late). The top half has far too much of it and the bottom half, where pretty much everyone lives, not nearly enough.

Someone should invent a really big jack to lift up the top bit so the water all flows down to where it's needed.

Of course, there have been plans to divert rivers and where that's occurred, disaster has happened so I'll just forget about that jack. Quite obviously, we're talking and singing about water today. I'll start with one of my favorite songs on the topic.

THE SONS OF THE PIONEERS were a very long lived group who had many songs over the years that made an impact on the charts and elsewhere.

Sons Of The Pioneers

One of the group's founding members was Leonard Slye who was their lead singer for some considerable time before he went off and made a (different) name for himself in films as Roy Rogers. The Sons often joined him in those flicks.

The song today doesn't feature Roy, he was long gone by this time. The lead singer is Bob Nolan and what a great job he does. There are many versions of the song Cool Water, but this is the original, written by Bob himself.

That's him in the centre of the photo.

♫ The Sons Of The Pioneers - Cool Water


WILLIAM BELL was one of the great soul singers from the sixties.

William Bell

William wrote this song and recorded it first (not surprisingly). Many others have covered it but who needs them when we have William.

Fortunately, at least as I write this, William is still with us and performing. You Don’t Miss Your Water.

♫ William Bell - You Don't Miss Your Water


PAUL KELLY was influenced by the great short story writer Raymond Carver and the song today is actually based on one of his stories, So Much Water, So Close to Home. It is also the name of the album from which the song is taken.

Paul Kelly

Paul is unusual in the ranks of male songwriters – he writes many songs from the female point of view. This is one of them, Everything's Turning to White.

♫ Paul Kelly - Everything's Turning to White


I had two songs by the SOUL STIRRERS but I couldn't decide which to include. I played them for Norma, the Assistant Musicologist, to get her advice. She said, "Use both of them". She's pretty smart.

Soul Stirrers

The first is Wade in the Water and it's a very old song that goes back to the Underground Railroad and gave instructions to slaves escaping and how to avoid capture.

Many have performed it over the years and there are many versions I could have included but I liked this one best of all. The Soul Stirrers is where Sam Cooke first made his name but that doesn't sound like Sam singing, although I could be wrong.

♫ The Soul Stirrers - Wade In The Water


The other song by the group definitely has SAM COOKE singing lead.

Sam Cooke

It's another song about Jesus and water, called Jesus Gave Me Water.

♫ Sam Cooke - Jesus Gave Me Water


There were two contenders for the song Pouring Water On a Drowning Man that stood out above the rest. The A.M. wanted Percy Sledge. I wanted JAMES CARR. I won because this is my column, and besides it's the better version (but not by much).

James Carr

James was the great unknown soul singer. He didn't like touring or performing. He wasn't all that keen on recording either. He was bi-polar so it's understandable.

The music we do have of his demonstrates what an extraordinary talent he was. Here is his version of the song.

♫ James Carr - Pouring Water On A Drowning Man


There are many versions of The Water is Wide out there and the pick of them is by KATHLEEN FERRIER. However, she calls the song O Waly, Waly.

Kathleen Ferrier

Kath was probably the finest singer of the 20th century - unfortunately, breast cancer brought her career and her life to a premature end in 1953. She was a great interpreter of the works of Bach and Mahler, but they're not what we're about today.

♫ Kathleen Ferrier - O Waly, Waly


HOWLIN' WOLF is an inspiration to all of us.

Howlin' Wolf

Functionally illiterate until his early forties, he went back to school to learn. Not just that, he went on to study accounting and business so that his band became really successful (it already was, but now it became more so).

He was able to pay his sidemen really well and offer them benefits not usually available in the world of touring blues musicians. Thus he attracted the best to perform with him.

He remained a faithful and loving husband for life. He was quiet and rather shy off-stage. His image is quite different from that, but image and reality often don't agree.

Wolf performs I Asked For Water (She Gave Me Gasoline).

♫ Howlin' Wolf - I Asked For Water (She Gave Me Gasoline)


Everyone reading will know THE WEAVERS.

The Weavers

They were a serious influence on folk and rock performers who followed in their wake. They perform Bring A Little Water Sylvie, a song written by Huddie Ledbetter.

♫ The Weavers - Bring A Little Water Sylvie


It's a good week for soul singers, and here's another, WILSON PICKETT.

Wilson Pickett

You Left the Water Running has been performed by quite a few soul singers (and others) and I had fun auditioning them. It surprised me that Wilson's version was better than Otis Redding's (and all the rest as well). Otis is usually my go to man in these situations.

Here is the Wicked Mr Pickett.

♫ Wilson Pickett - You Left the Water Running


BOB WILLS is synonymous with western swing music, although there were others as well, of course.

Bob Wills

Bob generally kept up a running "commentary" through his songs which irritates me somewhat, especially when Tommy Duncan was singing, which he did on most of the songs that are familiar to us. You can hear what I'm saying with Deep Water.

♫ Bob Wills - Deep Water


INTERESTING STUFF – 10 December 2016

HOME FOR THE HOLIDAYS – EPISODE 1

Yes, it's a television commercial. Yes, it's sentimental and it's sappy. But it's really cute too.

OAKLAND GHOST SHIP PHOTOGRAPHS

Undoubtedly you know of the terrible warehouse fire in Oakland, California that killed 36 of the artist residents last week. It is an unspeakable tragedy.

From news descriptions, I thought it must have been a sort-of indoor homeless encampment but then I saw a group of pre-fire photographs of the interior in Rolling Stone magazine. Here are a couple of them:

GhostShipWarehouse2

Ghostshipwarehouse1

Apparently, the fire was the result of unsafe electrical wiring but it certainly was a thousand times more beautiful than I imagined. There are more photos here.

NOW THEY'RE CHARGING FOR OVERHEAD BINS

Yes, you read that right. United Airlines intends to start charging for space in overhead bins.

Overheadbin

As the Washington Post reports:

"As part of the company’s new pricing tier, Basic Economy, passengers who purchase the airline’s cheapest fares will only be allowed one personal item that must fit under a seat...

"The move marks the first time a large U.S. airline limits low-fare customers to one carry-on bag that fits under a seat, Reuters reported. The company expects such fare initiatives to add $1 billion to its annual operating income by 2020, as more customers pay to check luggage or select higher fares for two carry-on bags."

You know if one airline invents a new charge, others won't be shy to copy it. I think I'll stay home from now on if it involves a commercial airplane. You can read more here.

OH NO. AND NOW THIS

The U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) proposed Thursday that the ban on using cell phones on airplanes be lifted. Another agency, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has been making efforts to allow phone calls in flight since 2013. As USA Today reports:

"FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler argued the ban is obsolete because planes essentially carry their own cell towers, preventing cellphones from interfering with ground-based relay stations, which justified the original ban. But the availability of voice calls via Wi-Fi prompted the FAA's action."

If phone calls become permitted in flight, the prospective rules require that passengers be told if calls are allowed on flights before they purchase tickets. The DOT is soliciting public comment on whether this notification is sufficient or if calls should be banned on airplanes within, to or from the United States. You can do that here for the next 60 days.

Since I no longer need to fly for work this, along with fees for the overhead bins, is pretty much enough to keep me out of airplanes for the rest of my life because here is how I think it will go:

  1. Phone calls will be allowed on airplanes
  2. The requirement to tell passengers before they purchase tickets will stand
  3. The airlines will charge extra for flights will no phone calls

(The cartoon is by Bill Bramhall of The New York Daily News.

AirplanePhonesCartoon

JEANNE ROBERTSON ON THE STYLE IN NEW YORK CITY

It has been too long since I've included comedian Jeanne Robertson in these Saturday lists. This one came from Sunday TGB music columnist, Peter Tibbles.

FAKE NEWS FOOLS MAJORITY OF AMERICANS

According to a report in Buzzfeed about a new survey from Ipsos Public Affairs, fake news headlines fool Americans about 75 percent of the time:

”The results paint a picture of news consumers with little ability to evaluate the headlines that often fly toward them without context on social media platforms,” explains Buzzfeed.

“They also — surprisingly — suggest that consumers are likely to believe even false stories that don’t fit their ideological bias. And the survey calls into question the notion — which Facebook has reportedly begun testing — that consumers themselves can do the work of distinguishing between real and fake news.”

Perhaps I'm fooling myself, but I don't think I've ever believed a fake news story. But then, I rarely go far afield online from traditional news sources and well-known alternate news sources.

This new data comes from an online survey of 3,015 U.S. adults conducted between November 28 and December 1. You can read more about it at Buzzfeed.

Here's a video example of what some American grownups believe. This is an interview with some * voters conducted by CNN's Alisyn Camerata this week:

Dear god, how will our country survive.

HOME FOR THE HOLIDAYS – EPISODE 2

Yes, another sappy holiday commercial, this one from the German supermarket chain Edeka. But this old man is really clever about getting his family home for Christmas. (I think this is from 2015 and I may have posted it last year, but who cares.)

DO NOT DOWNLOAD ANDROID APPS OUTSIDE OF GOOGLE PLAY

As I alluded to above, I don't stray far from mainstream websites of any kind and I certainly don't download from anywhere that I don't believe is 100 percent safe. Not everyone is as careful as I am:

”For criminals, the malicious Android app business is booming,” reports Wired. “It’s easy for a hacker to dress software up to look novel, benign, or like the dopplegänger of a mainstream product, and then plant it in third-party app stores for careless browsers to find.

“Once downloaded, these apps may even seem normal (if a little janky) but they can spread ransomware or types of malware that exploit system vulnerabilities to steal data or take over a whole device.

“Don’t want this drama on your phone? The key to protecting yourself is staying away from sketchy app stores, and only downloading software from Google Play.”

Wired further reports that Google vets all the products in the Play store for safety. A few slip through but are usually caught quickly. Although the Apple store is much less severe, malware does sneak through sometimes.

You can read more here.

A MURMURATION OF STARLINGS

Once in my life I saw this phenomenon in person and it is awesome – in the best sense of that word. It is stunning to see.

This one was filed by wildlife cameraman and travel journalist Dylan Winter. When he shot this five years ago, says the YouTube page, he was sailing around the United Kingdom in an 18-foot boat. You can find out more about his journey here.

Meanwhile, besides being amazing and beautiful, I find this murmuration wonderfully calming to sit back and watch.

* * *

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” at the top of any Time Goes By page to send them. I'm sorry that I 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 include the name of the blog and its URL.


2016 Top Ten Time Goes By Blog Posts

Not many people can resist lists and this time of year there are dozens, maybe hundreds: best books of 2016, best movies, best TV shows, top ten albums, top ten apps, best new gadgets, etc. Even top ten top ten lists.

A few are based on actual statistics of something but most are someone's subjective idea of what was best over the previous 12 months or so – which doesn't take away from the fun of reading the lists.

On the many “Best Books” lists, I confess that I always compare which new ones I've read to the reporter's choices and sneer at selections that I believe don't live up to my (obviously) discerning tastes.

This year I wondered why I've never done a Time Goes By Top Ten list – never in all these 12 or 13 years. I'm changing that today.

There are dozens of reasons that my “best of” list might be different from each individual reader's best of list so instead, I have made it a popularity list in two forms:

  1. The Top Ten TGB Posts by number of comments
  2. The Top Ten TGB Posts by page views

Comments are a poor indication; there are many reasons people do and do not comment but as you will see, some reasons for a lot of comments are understandable.

Page views are slightly more indicative of popularity although there is no way to know how many people landed on the page and left right away, uninterested in the title.

Also, I've not included Facebook comments, likes, etc. I hardly ever visit my Facebook page; it is primarily a secondary distribution channel for people who don't want an email newsletter or RSS feed or don't want to visit TGB in a browser. The several hundred Twitter followers aren't included either.

So, take a look at these lists, see what you think and at the end, let us all know what you enjoyed here during 2016 whether on the lists or not.

Most Popular TGB Posts by Number of Comments
(In reverse order)

10. Happy Birthday Millie Garfield
I've known Millie for at least 10 years and it was her 91st birthday in August. All of you were sensational attendees at the online party.

9. Old People Talk About the 2016 Presidential Campaign
All the other Republican candidates had withdrawn from the primary race by early May and Donald Trump had just been name the presumptive nominee of the GOP so we had a go at discussing our thoughts and feelings about that. (The Maddow video has been withdrawn since this was published and is now unavailable.)

8. How's Retirement Going For You?
This was an an excellent and instructive conversation about how we came to be retired, what we've been doing since then and how we are getting by. It was a good one.

7. Am I Exhausted from the Campaign Because I'm Old?
It was only February, the day of Iowa Caucuses and I was already tired of the presidential campaign mostly, I think, because * sucks all the oxygen out of the room even through the televion screen. A lot of you agreed.

6. Have You Been Dropping More Things As You Get Older?
Wow. I found out fast that I'm not alone with this phenomenon.

5. One Elder's Notes on the New World Order
This was six days after the election and a large number of us, after nearly a week to think about what a * presidency might be like, had a lot to say.

4. The World is Utterly Changed Now
My first sentence on the day after the election was: “I am stunned, shocked, devastated, horrified and frightened. Nothing good will come of this but beyond that I am speechless.” I didn't have much more to say and with less than a handful of exceptions, neither did you, dear readers, among a huge number of comments. We were in shock.

3. I Will Be in Mourning For Awhile
Three days following the election, we were still mostly paralyzed but had a great deal to say.

2. Lighten Your Life Before You Kick the Bucket - Book and Contest and

1. What We Gain as We Grow Older - Book and Contest
These two, in the number 1 and number 2 positions were book giveaways. I guess I know now how to get you all to speak up. But it's not all that fascinating – mostly what you needed to say was something like, “count me in.”

The second list, as I mentioned, is slightly more indicative of actual interest in given blog posts.

It relies on page views – how many readers actually opened the page in their browser but doesn't include people who read the email, Facebook post or RSS feed without visiting the website – even so, these produced thousands of page views which is heartening for this old blogger.

Most Popular TGB Posts by Page Views
Again, the list is in reverse order.

10. Once Again for the Last Time
A conversation in March about the things we did when we were younger than we don't do anymore.

9. The Theme of an Old Woman's Life
My personal lament last January for the placethat is my spiritual home but where I cannot afford to live anymore.

8. Music Festival Age Discrimination
This was a slap-in-the-face piece of ageism in June. A giant two-weekend concert of our generations' top rock groups – The Rolling Stones, Paul McCartney, The Who, Bob Dylan, etc. Clearly a concert for old folks and then this notation: ”No chairs or blankets will be allowed in the show."

7. Interesting Stuff – 26 March 2016 and

6. Interesting Stuff – 2 April 2016
Two Saturday Interesting Stuff posts made this list – the first in March, the second in April. The collection of items did not seem better or brighter to me than most Saturdays but they sure drew a lot of page views.

5. “About” Taking a Day Off
I was particularly busy during the first week of May and gave you brief post of a couple of video commercials I liked. I guess you did too. (The second has been pulled from rotation now and can't be viewed.)

4. I'll Be in Mourning for Awhile
In this case, there is a corellation between the number of comments and page views. This was published in November, three days following the election.

3. How Time Flies – Or Not Sometimes
In May, a discussion that comes up regularly about how time appears to slow down as we grow old and what can speed it up. The third most viewed story of the year.

2. The Day After the First Presidential Debate
The was the second most viewed post of 2016, in September. Do you think, perhaps, that we were beginning to feel like it was not impossible for * to be elected?

1. A Century-Old Quilt – Like New
Well, this is a surprise. It was a easy post to write about the quilt my grandmother had made by hand a hundred years ago or so. Nevertheless, thousands of readers made it the number one most viewed post of the year.

I don't know what that means and if anyone is looking for a TGB quilting website – um, the answer is no.

But, it might be interesting for you to leave a comment about what you enjoy reading here, what interests you less or what you would like to see that doesn't show up.


That .3% Social Security COLA in 2017 Might be Zero for You

And it's not even the Republicans' fault.

This will be as short as I can make it today and still be clear because I can hardly speak, let alone type.

Social-security-card

If you are an American retiree, you know that sometime in December, you receive a mailing from the Social Security Administration (SSA) titled “Your Benefit Amount.”

This form shows your new full monthly SSA payment based on the cost-of-living (COLA) increase (when there is one) along with the new amount of the deduction for your Medicare Part B premium for next year.

(Some recipients may also have deductions for the Part D prescription drug premium and/or voluntary federal tax withholding.)

Because SSA does not date this annual mailing, I could not tell from previous years when it ought to arrive so on Monday, as I was working out a personal budget for 2017, I phoned Social Security to get my numbers for the new year.

Recall, please, that as announced a few weeks ago, Social Security recipients have been granted a miniscule .3 percent COLA for next year – the smallest in the history of Social Security.

It won't amount to much even for those who receive the maximum, full retirement SSA benefit: the increase on the average payment of $1360 per month will be about $5. Only twice that for the maximum payment of around $2,600.

While I was on hold waiting to speak to someone at the Social Security office in Washington, a recording announced that the Part B premium for most beneficiaries would increase by about $30. I nearly dropped the phone – for me that's close to a 28 percent increase. Huh?

(There are several different Part B premium amounts depending on a bunch variables.)

When I was connected to the SSA representative, I asked for an accounting of three items: my new full monthly payment, my Part B deduction and the amount of the check I will receive each month.

Perhaps you know that there is a “hold harmless” clause in the Social Security regulations. It means that whatever increases such as Part B premiums are imposed each new year, a monthly benefit payment cannot be less than it was in the previous year.

That is what has happened to me: I will not be charged the actual new Part B premium because that would reduce my 2017 payment to less than what I receive now and, in fact, even less than I received in 2009.

So in such circumstances, the Social Security Administration jiggers with the Part B premium so that I will receive the same amount as last year - and not a penny more - while, of course, all fixed expenses have increased.

Now for sure I am not going hungry, I will not do without – so I do not mean this to be a personal whine.

But one of the few things I have learned in life, on my own, with no help from anyone else – as I mention here now and then - is that if it is happening to me, it is happening to thousands, maybe millions of other people.

And a whole lot of them – I know some personally - have a lot less than I do and not having even a small SSA increase for next year while faced with the usual increases in utilities, food, insurance, prescription drugs and other expenses they watch closely will become a further hardship in 2017.

As I said at the top, this is even before the Congressional Republicans start taking a hatchet to Medicare and Social Security. More reason we must fight with all we've got against threatened repeal and privatization of those programs.


The Republican War on Obamacare and Medicare

It's getting complicated, my friends - and hard, too - to keep up with the fierce Republican war on healthcare.

In that regard on Sunday, New York Times cartoonist Brian McFadden pretty well captured all you need to know about what happened during the past week. (For easier reading, click here for full-size strip).

Safety Net Cuts Cartoon

The amount of posturing, threat and pushback between Republicans and Democrats in Congress make it difficult to know what's real and what is bluster. I'm going to try to simplify what we know.

One thing is certain: we've heard more about Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security – what most of Washington falsely calls “entitlements” - more in the past week or two than in the past four years.

Democrats and media pundits spent their time denying that it is possible to get rid of Obamacare and Medicare as we know them without dire consequences, and they are probably right. But the constant drumbeat of "they won't be able to repeal or privatize" sounds an awful lot to me like "* cannot win the election."

What bothers me most about all the leftie predictions that it can't be done is that it allows the people – you and me - to relax, to think that everything will be okay. Well, don't you believe it.

So while Congress and the presidential transition team continue to cross swords on these issues, we need to educate ourselves for the coming onslaught – probably soon after the 20 January inauguration. I'll do my best to keep you up to date.

NOMINEE FOR HHS
Last Tuesday, the president-elect nominated Representative Tom Price (R-Georgia) to head the Department of Health and Human Services, the cabinet-level agency that oversees Medicare and other services for elders such as home delivery of meals.

Medicare_card400

If approved by the Senate, he will also manage the effort to dismantle of Obamacare.

Here is what the Washington Post had to say about Price, who is a physician:

”The 62-year-old lawmaker, who represents a wealthy suburban Atlanta district, has played a leading role in Republican opposition to [Obamacare] and has helped draft several comprehensive bills to replace it...

“Under his vision, [Medicare and Medicaid] would cease to be entitlements that require them to provide coverage to every person who qualifies.

“Instead, like many House Republicans, he wants to convert Medicaid into block grants to states...

“For Medicare, Price favors another idea long pushed by conservatives, switching it from a 'defined benefit' to a 'defined contribution.' With that, the government would give older or disabled Americans financial help for them to buy private insurance policies.”

With only slight variations, the Republicans are all singing from this playbook.

THE DOG WHO CAUGHT THE CAR
However, what the Republican lawmakers have finally realized is that it could be political suicide to repeal Obamacare and privatize Medicare without having reasonable replacements ready to go.

By Thursday, the Republican dilemma was becoming almost funny. Josh Marshall reported at Talking Points Memo (TPM):

”Both on repealing Obamacare and phasing out Medicare, Republicans are now realizing they have to ask Democrats for help, despite the fact that they control every branch of the federal government...

“One key reason is that on both Obamacare and Medicare, the GOP - especially the House GOP - is the dog who caught the car. What do they do now...

“Republican Senators are now telling pretty much everyone who will listen that they don't want to get dragged into phasing out Medicare this year...You can only push through so much at a time. But don't believe the hype,” writes Marshall. “They know that killing Medicare is toxic politically...

“They're getting a similar message on Obamacare.”

REPEAL AND DELAY?
At the end of the week, the latest word is that the Republicans have renamed their kill-Obamacare initiative Replace and Delay. As this new story goes, they would quickly vote to repeal it early next year but delay implementation for up to several years while they figure out what to replace it with.

Meanwhile, Texas Republican Kevin Brady who is chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee, is telling people he wants to “overhaul” Medicare in 2017. Another TPM story:

” While House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI) has boldly doubled down on his own proposals to privatize Medicare or what he calls 'premium support,' Brady was less clear about what he wanted to do.”

DOES THIS ADD UP TO ANYTHING?
Well, it's obvious the Republicans haven't got their act together yet. Now that they own all the federal government, “repeal” is their mantra but I think Josh Marshall nailed it: they're the dog who caught the car.

As messy as this political tap dance is, do not get complacent. The GOP will not let their ownership of the entire federal government pass without doing everything possible to seal their ideological advantage for years to come.

Due to the Republican disarray, right now is not the time for action from us, not the time to be badgering our representatives because there is nothing yet to aim at. Instead, we need to keep our eye on what is developing and do our homework.

As I mentioned in last week's Medicare post, the single best source of information about the Repubican war on healthcare is Josh Marshall's Talking Points Memo.

He covers it reliably, thoroughly and intelligently. So if you don't read anything else about this, TPM will keep you better informed than most people are.


ELDER MUSIC: Songs About Cities - Santa Fe

Tibbles1SM100x130This 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.

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Santa Fe

Santa Fe is the oldest capital in the United States (founded in 1610), but you all knew that - I just threw it in for something to say.

After California and Massachusetts, I've spent more time in New Mexico than any other American state. Indeed, I've spent more time there than any Australian state except Victoria.

Naturally, having spent all that time there, I've visited Santa Fe a number of times. Santa Fe is known for its arts and crafts and it was in there I first discovered the art work of R.C. Gorman, Georgia O'Keeffe and John Axton. John was the only one of those whose work I could afford.

An interesting insight into the geography of the two countries is that Santa Fe is higher above sea level than the tip of the highest mountain in Australia (Mount Kosciuszko). So, let's go with songs about Santa Fe (or ones that mention the city).

I first discovered ELIZA GILKYSON when I was in New Mexico quite some time ago. Eliza was living there at the time.

Eliza Gilkyson

That was through a very early album of hers called "Love From the Heart" (and she was calling herself Lisa Gilkyson back then). I still have that one (on vinyl); I'm not getting rid of if it as I've never seen it on CD (or any other format).

From later in her career she sings Lights of Santa Fe.

♫ Eliza Gilkyson - Lights of Santa Fe


THE SONS OF THE PIONEERS had several songs that were contenders. I guess they like Santa Fe.

Sons Of The Pioneers

The two most famous members of the group were Roy Rogers (who doesn't appear in the song today) and Bob Nolan. Bob wrote many of their songs, but not this one.

After playing them, including two different versions of the one I chose, I decided on Along the Santa Fe Trail. This one they recorded in 1947.

♫ Sons Of The Pioneers - Along The Santa Fe Trail (1947)


ARTHUR CRUDUP is probably best known these days for writing That's All Right Mama, the first song with which Elvis made the charts. He recorded several others of Arthur's as well.

Arthur Crudup

Arthur is one of the most important links between rhythm and blues (and straight blues) and rock & roll. Many early (and not so early) rockers have covered his songs. The one we're interested in today is Mean Old Santa Fe.

♫ Arthur Crudup - Mean Old Santa Fe


I find it amusing that probably the most famous railway in America, the Atchison Topeka and Santa Fe doesn't get to Santa Fe (and never has). I guess, because of that, technically, the song On the Atchison Topeka and the Santa Fe isn't about our city.

That doesn't stop me though. There are a bunch of versions of this song and I'm going for the one I like best by BING CROSBY.

Bing Crosby

You don't need me to tell you about Bing, I'll just play the song. That's Six Hits and a Miss supplying backing vocals.

♫ Bing Crosby - On The Atchison Topeka and the Santa Fe


After his motor cycle accident in 1966, BOB DYLAN went to Woodstock (in New York state) to rest and recuperate.

Bob Dylan

Coincidently (or perhaps not), the members of the band who backed him on that famous first electric tour were living just down the road. They were The Hawks but later became better known as The Band.

Naturally they couldn't help themselves and they started playing music together (in the big pink house a couple of The Band were renting).

They recorded a lot of these sessions as demos of new songs for other artists. This music made its way out to the general public and was later officially released as "The Basement Tapes". From that album Bob and The Band perform Santa-Fe.

♫ Bob Dylan - Santa-Fe


JIMMIE DALE GILMORE has two musical careers: as a solo artist and as a member of The Flatlanders with Joe Ely and Butch Hancock.

Jimmie Dale Gilmore

He's also a bit of an actor and has appeared in a number of films. However, we're interested in his music, and in particular, the song Santa Fe Thief.

♫ Jimmie Dale Gilmore - Santa Fe Thief


PAUL SIMON doesn't actually mention Santa Fe in his song.

Paul Simon

However, he does reference the Sangre de Cristo Mountains that are a backdrop to the city and that's good enough for me. The song is Hearts and Bones for the album of the same name.

That one is rather neglected in Paul's canon but I think it's a really fine and worth being in your collection if you like Paul's music.

♫ Paul Simon - Hearts and Bones


Although not a tribute band, THE SONS OF THE SAN JOAQUIN somewhat channel The Sons of the Pioneers.

Sons of the San Joaquin

Like their predecessors, they sing of life as cowboys (although they certainly didn't earn a living doing that).

These Sons are brothers Joe and Jack Hannah and Joe's son Lon. They have that sibling, or perhaps familial more to the point, harmony down pat, they make beautiful music together. Here they are with Santa Fe Lights.

♫ Sons of the San Joaquin - Santa Fe Lights


The Sons, just above, first came to notice singing backing on one of MICHAEL MARTIN MURPHEY's "Cowboy Songs" albums. He was so impressed he got them a recording contract.

Michael Martin Murphey

Michael has a few songs that could be considered today. I originally had him inked in performing Santa Fe Trail. However, going back over the others, I decided that I preferred Sante Fe Cantina, so that's the one you have today.

♫ Michael Martin Murphey - Sante Fe Cantina


VAN MORRISON is an unlikely contender today, but I'll use any excuse to include him.

Van Morrison

Van's song is really two for the price of one. They are Santa Fé and Beautiful Obsession.

♫ Van Morrison - Santa Fé ~ Beautiful Obsession