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Frittering Time Away

category_bug_journal2.gif For the 47 years I worked, free time was precious. I devoted Saturday mornings to chores and errands that had to be done: cleaning the house, laundry, any needed repairs, shopping for food and other necessities, banking, etc.

The goal was to finish by noon and I usually did - I was a whirlwind in those days - so there would be nothing nagging at me for the rest of the weekend. I'm slower now, but I operate each day pretty much the same way: get the obligations, commitments and onerous chores done so the time remaining is free for me to choose what to do with it.

At about 5PM yesterday, when Ollie the cat alerted me that it was his dinner time, I realized that I'd not written a blog post for Wednesday (today, as you read this).

It had completely escaped me and there wasn't a thought in my mind – unless I ranted on again about how House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) now wants TRILLIONS in immediate budget cuts in exchange for raising the debt ceiling. (By the way, that cannot be done without savaging Medicare and Social Security.)

Ugh. Late afternoon is no time to work on something that so disgusts me and there was nothing else in mind to write about. What had I done all day? I wondered. Well, it went something like this:

Read a lot of news, blogs and websites in the morning

Answered some email, though I'm still behind

Sorted some of the loose papers and general detritus on the desk, but did not finish

Played with Ollie the cat

Puttered around in the kitchen and then went to the store with a short list of items

Made a salad for lunch

Planted some trilliums (trillia?) that had arrived on Monday, which took all of five minutes

Shuffled through some magazines that have piled up, without reading much

Tried to pet the cute, little, stray cat I feed and got whacked on the hand

Re-read the instructions for my internet radio to refresh my memory for a couple of functions

Took a short walk when the sun came out in mid-afternoon – short because the temperature was chillier than it looked

Watched part of Chris Matthews show

Tried to figure out why my email seemed to have stopped working and gave up after 10 minutes (maybe it will fix itself)

Went out to get the mail. Nothing but junk and another magazine for the pile

Watered the orchid plant I got for my birthday last month which is, miraculously, still living and abloom

Started thinking about dinner after feeding Ollie the cat

That looks like a long list, doesn't it. But take note – I did absolutely nothing. The best that can be said for my day is that at least I showered and got dressed in the morning.

If I wasn't going to write a blog post, I could have read one of the books that are stacked up. I might have done some gift shopping for a couple of upcoming birthdays.

It would not have hurt to run the vacuum cleaner around. Or wash the window where Ollie the cat's nose marks it up. Or visited the Portland Japanese Garden that's on a “wannado” list. Or even just watched a movie. There are a zillion things I could have done.

But, instead, I frittered away the day. I almost never do that and I'm kind of embarrassed about it. It's a long way from how I used time during that half century of work.

I'm wondering if you who are retired have such days and if so, I'm hoping you have more interesting fritter activity than I do.


At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Johna Ferguson: Stress



Elderbloggers Pioneering the Future of Aging

In a story at boston.com about the future of aging, reporter Leon Neyfalkh concludes:

”...one thing we can definitely count on is that the old people of the future will have been young once — and the lives they were accustomed to then will, more than anything else, determine the lives they expect to lead later. Here’s hoping the iPad 15 plays cat videos.”

Although there are points in Neyfalkh's story with which I take issue, those like the one above referencing the fact that elders in 2040 or 2050 and beyond will have been using forms of computer technology all their lives, are spot on.

By then, that technology will allow remote monitoring of vital signs and other clues to an elder's health and well-being that will allow physicians and family members to keep watch from afar and intervene quickly when necessary while allowing future elders to live longer independently.

This struck me as such a smart observation:

“'Many of the problems of aging are evanescent — they come and they go,' said Tracy Zitzelberger, the administrative director of the Oregon Center for Aging and Technology at Oregon Health & Science University, which is developing a number of monitoring devices.

“'There are good days and bad days. When we only see our doctors on a good day because that’s when we don’t cancel our appointments, we get a very skewed assessment of our functioning. And that doesn’t get at the heart of the challenges of aging.'”

Not only that, I sometimes don't mention problems to my doctor because they don't seem important enough or, more frequently, because whatever it is hasn't bothered me for awhile so I forget.

As Neyfalkh notes, monitoring and observation that to you and me seem intrusive and even invasive will be commonplace to the elders of tomorrow, having been accustomed all their lives to tracking one anothers' locations via GPS and sharing every jot and tittle of their lives through Facebook or whatever will eventually replace it. (Yes, Facebook will become old fashioned and fade – probably sooner than we think.)

One of the biggest problems of old age is isolation. When we retire, we lose the daily camaraderie of the workplace. Old friends move away or die. For varieties of reasons, we ourselves move, leaving friends of many years behind. Children take up residence in faraway states and even countries.

Age can bring physical limitations too, keeping many from getting out and about. When the day comes to give up driving, we are further confined, and loneliness is serious business. It leads to depression, illness and sometimes, early death.

For all those reasons and more, I believe blogging – doing it oneself or as a reader and commenter – is an almost perfect pastime for elders. We have discussed in the past the importance of the friends we make and how they become, even at a distance, integral to our daily lives.

Neyfalkh acknowledges this and goes further:

”The people who will be facing these challenges in 40 years will be people accustomed to amusing themselves digitally, and creating a social life for themselves without another person physically present.

“To put it bluntly, the people who turn 70 in the year 2050 will be people who grew up playing video games. And the digital environment that now seems like a recipe for distraction — a constant feed of personal messages, links, and updates on one’s friends — starts to look a lot like a way for even a housebound person to stay engaged with the world.”

But you and I know that already, don't we? The kids of today will arrive at old age as natives to digital culture, but we are the pioneers, having taken it up in mid- and even late life and made it our own.

Were there no computers or internet, I have no doubt I would have found ways to keep myself as engaged as I do with this laptop. But I am assured now that if the day comes when I am stuck at home most of the time, I will never be lonely thanks to all of you.

And speaking of cat videos and iPads - oh, all right, it's an iPod:


At The Elder Storytelling Place today, William Weatherstone: Comparison of a Royal Wedding and a Commoners'



Elder Unemployment

Superficially, the latest unemployment numbers showed some good news for workers age 55 and older: 203,000 more of them were employed in April than in March and the unemployment rate for the group remained steady at 6.5 percent.

The improvement doesn't tell us what kind of jobs these are or how much they pay; nevertheless, let's hope the uptick continues.

The bad news is that the average duration of unemployment for this age group is now up to 53.6 weeks compared with 39.4 weeks for workers younger than 55. Remember, that's “average.” Many job seekers go much longer without employment and business surveys show that some employers refuse to hire the unemployed.

Also, these statistics do not count the number of part-time workers who want full-time work, nor the full-time under-employed at dramatically lower salaries than before, nor discouraged workers who have stopped looking for jobs, nor the number of 62-year-olds who, during our three-year recession, have been forced into taking early, lower-paying Social Security.

What other problems afflict the age 55-plus unemployed?

Unemployment insurance does not, nor is it intended, to cover all living expenses and many have used up whatever life savings they had that was not depleted in the 2008 crash.

In looking for work elders face age discrimination. Yes, it is illegal but it is widespread and “failure to hire” is pretty much impossible to prove even if there were money for an attorney.

An indication of age discrimination's prevalence are the numbers from the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC). In 2007, there were 16,134 age discrimination filings; in 2010, the number was 23,264.

Pre-2008, some elder unemployed could have sold their homes to extract the equity they had built up over years but, of course, most mortgaged homes are under water now and that is not an option.

And there is no telling how many 55-an-older unemployed lost their homes to foreclosure – even those with standard, pre-subprime mortgages - because they could not keep up payments while unemployed. I wonder how many have become homeless.

All these facts and numbers can be numbing and worse, they don't tell us anything about the real people behind them. Not long ago, I received an email from a Time Goes By reader who places his wife and himself among what he calls the “mobile homeless.”

When “John” - a renter, not home owner - lost his PR business representing builders due to the housing crash, he and his wife paid cash from their small savings for a used mobile home, a fixer-upper. “My wife called it 'depression housing,'” says John, “and she wasn't far off the mark.”

”We still thought we'd rent (too) and I'd make it on Social Security plus a few PR accounts. But when everything crashed in real estate, that became a problem. When we checked the papers in the Chicago area, nothing was within our affordable rent range with just Social Security as income.”

A realtor told John about an RV park in central Illinois,

”...a little campground nestled in a nice forest with a private lake. It had single family homes all around the lake; there was an RV park attached and a group of homes that were basically trailers with additions built onto them.

“This was more in our price range and...before we knew it, we had bought a [trailer] home for $16,000 that didn't need much fixing up.”

Because the camp ground does not want to be classified as a trailer park, people in that RV park can live there only from April through November. So John and his wife travel to RV parks for the rest of the year. John continues:

”We moved into the campground last April 2010 and have completed one 'rotation' as what we laughingly refer to as mobile homeless since we can't live in our home all year and don't want to live in the RV as a full timer, though many do, thanks to the economy.

“With no mortgage or RV payments to make, we can meet our regular food, gas and repair and utility bills, although it's still a tight squeeze sometimes. So there's one way a couple coped with the penny-pinchingness of Social Security.

It seems to me John is remarkably upbeat about his unexpected, unplanned downsizing.

Which brings me to another difficulty 55-and-older workers face thanks to long-term, high unemployment or underemployment: their Social Security benefit will be reduced – permanently - due to needing to enroll early at 62 or to years with zero income.

I have a lot of sympathy for young people just out of college, eager to begin their careers but unable to find work in their fields of interest or any work at all. But they do have 40 or more years ahead of them to build a nest egg for their future retirement.

Elders, however, have not only been forced from the workplace too young, it has happened during their prime saving years when, with the children grown, they should have been able to put aside more for their retirement while building up – or, at least, maintaining - their salaries for their Social Security benefit.

One-third of Social Security recipients rely on the program for 90 percent of their retirement income. Sixty-three percent depend on Social Security for half their income.

A generation of elders, many who planned well for their old age, will be penny-pinching until they die through no fault of their own. Meanwhile, the bankers and other corporations have recovered to pre-recession levels and still our leaders in Washington refuse to utter the word “jobs” - only “shared sacrifice.”


At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Jeanne Waite Follett: Why We Celebrate



ELDER MUSIC: 1954

PeterTibbles75x75You never know who you're going to meet on the internet and I came to know Peter Tibbles (bio here) via email over the past couple of years. His extensive knowledge of most genres of music and his excellent taste became apparent only gradually (Peter's not one to toot his horn) but once I understood, I knew he needed his own column at Time Goes By - or, better, that TGB needed his column - which appears here each Sunday. You can find previous Elder Music columns here.


This is an on-going series featuring the music of a particular year. These aren't the Top 10, Top 40 or Top anything, they're just tunes I selected from the year with no apparent logic behind it.

What happened in 1954?

  • Well, I was in 4th grade
  • The U.N. called for elections in Vietnam. Eisenhower thought this was a bad idea
  • Marilyn Monroe married Joe DiMaggio
  • Footscray won the premiership (Yay!!!!)
  • Godzilla premiered in Tokyo
  • The first Hyatt Hotel opened in L.A.
  • The first Burger King opened in Miami
  • America won the Davis Cup (oh dear)
  • Lionel Barrymore died

By 1954, the music was starting to get a little interesting. Not to the extent that it did a couple of years later but by now, there were a number of songs really worth including.

That doesn't mean there wasn't rubbish around, but finally the good stuff, if not in the majority, was at least in a reasonable enough quantity to raise its head above the mire. However, that said, I'm going to start with a more traditional Fifties' song.

I bet when The Gaylords came up with the name for their group they just thought it would suggest they were a bunch of fun guys and weren't thinking of the way language can change over time. They originally called themselves The Gay Lords but decided they didn't like that name.

The Gaylords

They actually had a number of hits in the early half of the Fifties, Isle of Capri, The Little Shoemaker, Ramona and others.

They were Ronald Fredianelli, Bonaldo Bonaldi and Don Rea. Later Ron changed his name to Ronald Gaylord and Bon changed his to Burt Holiday. Don left the group and the others continued as Gaylord and Holiday.

I would have liked to have seen Ron and Bon, but that's just me. Naturally, it goes without saying - but of course I'm going to say it anyway - that I think their original name should have been Ron, Bon and Don.

Ron died in 2004 but Bon continues performing with Ron's son, also named Ron. The Hilltoppers also had a hit with the song but it's the Gaylords today with From the Vine Came the Grape.

♫ The Gaylords - From the Vine Came the Grape

The Chordettes really owed more to the Andrew Sisters than they did to any of the DooWop groups with whom they were often lumped.

The Chordettes

The group began in 1946, originally singing folk songs but settled on a female version of a barbershop quartet. There were a few changes of personnel over the years but the four who sang on this track were Carol Buschmann, Lynn Mand, Margie Latzko and Janet Bleyer.

They had several hits, the other notable one was Lollipop. The song we're interested in today is Mr Sandman. This song has been covered often, most notably by Emmylou, Linda and Dolly. Here is The Chordettes' version.

♫ The Chordettes - Mr Sandman

The Chords formed in 1951 but had to wait until 1954 to be discovered when they were busking in a subway.

The Chords

Jerry Wexler, honcho for Atlantic Records, in a reversal of the usual process, got them to cover a song by Patti Page. On the flip side was a DooWop number called Sh-Boom. This is the song that got played and became a hit.

In the normal way of these things, the song was covered by a white group, The Crewcuts, who, as was normal for the time, outsold the original. Here is The Chords' version.

♫ The Chords - Sh-Boom

Kitty Kallen was born in Philadelphia and was a gifted mimic of other singers when she was a girl and won several talent shows.

Kitty Kallin

She appeared on radio as a teenager and began singing with several important bands, Artie Shaw, Jack Teagarden and most famously, Tommy Dorsey. After the war she had a solo career and an interesting sidelight is that at the height of her popularity there were several impostors passing themselves off as Kitty Kallen.

One of those died which led to a rumor that Kitty herself had died. Nope. She's still with us as I write, however, she pretty much retired from singing in the early Sixties. This is her most famous song, Little Things Mean a Lot.

♫ Kitty Kallen - Little Things Mean a Lot

The Penguins had only one hit in their career.

The Penguins

However, that song is a rock & roll classic. More likely a DooWop classic if there's a difference between the two genres. The leader of the group, although not its lead singer, Curtis Williams wrote the song, perhaps with the help of Jesse Belvin, a singer of some renown at the time. Others have also claimed authorship. I'll leave that to the lawyers.

As often happened back then, this was the B side of the record but a lot better than the intended hit. The other members of the group were Cleveland Duncan, Dexter Tisby and Bruce Tate.

They were never again to duplicate the success of the song, Earth Angel.

♫ The Penguins - Earth Angel

Someone who has already appeared twice before in this series is Rosemary Clooney.

Rosemary Clooney

Rosemary had an awful childhood. She was born in Kentucky and her mum went to California with her brother leaving Rosemary and her sister with their alcoholic dad. He eventually skedaddled leaving them to fend for themselves.

They entered talent shows and landed a job on the radio (as the Clooney Sisters). They later joined a band and Rosemary stepped out in front as the lead singer.

She eventually went solo and was a great success in the early Fifties until rock & roll put paid to her style of music. This is Hey There from the musical, “The Pajama Game.”

♫ Rosemary Clooney - Hey There

If a song could be said to have changed the world, it's this next one. That's not an idle boast. Without this song, that made the charts several times over the years, the world would be a different place.

I'll leave it to you whether this is a good thing or not. The singer is Bill Haley and this is the tune's first appearance on the charts.

Bill Haley and the Comets

Okay, it's Bill Haley and his Comets. The song was written in 1952 and Bill's wasn't the first version; that was Sonny Dae and his Nights (or Knights – there seems to be some conjecture about the name), but who remembers them? I didn't, but I have heard their version since and it certainly lacks the impact of Bill's.

Bill's version was issued as a B-side and neither it nor the flip did anything really. That was until it was used over the opening credits to the film, Blackboard Jungle and smasheroonie. Number 1 all over the world. There was no looking back after that. Here's Rock Around the Clock.

♫ Bill Haley and the Comets - Rock Around the Clock

Sarah Vaughan is a particular favorite of the A.M. (Assistant Musicologist) and I think she’s pretty good too.

Sarah Vaughan

It’s not just us either; she was generally regarded in the top echelon of singers along with Billie Holiday and Ella Fitzgerald.

Growing up in Newark, Sarah sang in the local choir as a kid and took piano lessons and she became proficient with that instrument. Sarah would often go to the amateur nights at the Apollo Theater and accompany a friend on the piano.

One day she decided to sing herself and through that got a week’s gig there opening for Ella. Through that she joined Earl Hines’ band and the only way from there was up. I’ll leave out the rest.

Sarah’s big hit this year is Make Yourself Comfortable.

♫ Sarah Vaughan - Make Yourself Comfortable

Hank Ballard was born and bred in Detroit. His birth name is John Kendricks.

Hank Ballard

His father died when Hank was young and he and his brother were brought up by his aunt and uncle in Alabama. He returned to Detroit in his teens and organised several DooWop groups, some of which contained such later stars as Jackie Wilson and Levi Stubbs.

One of these groups eventually became The Midnighters. Hank and The Midnighters' song is Work With me Annie. This was an answer song to Annie had a Baby. Hank's song in turn led to its own answer, Dance With Me Henry. Several more Annie and Henry songs ensued, most written by Hank.

Another song that Hank wrote is The Twist, nice little earner that one. Hank recorded this song in 1958. The story is that some time later he heard the song as he was driving in his car. "Whoopee," he said, or something like that.

He was somewhat deflated when the announcer said it was Chubby Checker. Chubby's version is virtually identical to the original one Hank recorded, even when played back to back.

♫ Hank Ballard - Work With Me Annie

It's a cliché to end with this song but I'm going to anyway. The group is The Spaniels.

The Spaniels

They first performed at high school in Gary, Indiana as The Hudsonaires, named after the lead singer. They renamed themselves The Spaniels rather than use yet another bird name as was the fashion at the time.

The line-up changed often enough that I won't mention anyone except Pookie Hudson, the lead singer and creator of the group. The song is Goodnight Sweetheart Goodnight. The McGuire Sisters covered this song in a really dreadful white-bread version, but we'll ignore that one.

♫ The Spaniels - Goodnight Sweetheart Goodnight

In past columns I have already used some of the songs from this year. If you'd like to hear more you can find them here.

Joe Turner – Shake Rattle and Roll
Elvis – Good Rockin' Tonight
The Four Lads – Skokiaan

1955 will appear in two weeks' time.



INTERESTING STUFF – 7 May 2011

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

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


FAVORITE BABY NAMES FOR 2010
The Social Security Administration has released its annual list of most popular baby names in 2010.

”Jacob and Isabella are king and queen of the crib for another year. This is the twelfth year in a row on our list for Jacob and the second for Isabella, although 2010 has a new number two for girls, Sophia.

“The only new name to crawl into the top 10 on either list this year is Aiden, which replaces Joshua on the boys’ side."

You can see the entire list here where you can also check on favorite baby names by year going back to 1880 (scroll down).

MEDICARE.GOV CAREGIVING SECTION
Medicare has launched its revamped caregiving site that is packed with information and resources caregivers need.

You'll find help locating care facilities, physicians, services and health plans along with answers to hundreds of questions, videos from caregivers and sources of help for caregivers themselves.

This is an excellent, trustworthy compendium you should bookmark and/or pass on to caregivers you know.

$3.2 MILLION IPHONE
If you had any doubt that people at the top of the economic heap are getting too much of the money pie, take a look at this.

$3.2 million iPhone

According to the website Mogulite, that is a $3.2 million iPhone containing more than half a pound of 22-carat gold and more than 200 embedded diamonds including a 7.2-carat diamond home button. If this is not a hoax, it is obscene. Read more here.

A FINAL BLOG POST
On 4 May, these words appeared at the top of the blog, penmachine:

”Here it is. I'm dead, and this is my last post to my blog. In advance, I asked that once my body finally shut down from the punishments of my cancer, then my family and friends publish this prepared message I wrote—the first part of the process of turning this from an active website to an archive.”

That was written by Derek K. Miller who in recent months had been blogging about his battle with cancer – a fight he finally lost. You can read his entire post here. It is beautiful and heartbreaking and important.

Derek reminded me of my own post on this subject that I published back in 2006, and is worth re-reading. You'll find it here and I hope you bloggers will take the time to write a final post and arrange for someone to publish it when you are gone.

FROZEN GRAND CENTRAL STATION
Back in 2008, more than 200 Improv Everywhere Agents froze in place at the exact same second for five minutes in the Main Concourse of Grand Central Station.

Since this video is more than three years old and has been viewed more than 26 million times at YouTube, I may be the last person standing who hasn't seen it. Just in case you also missed it, give it a watch. It is amazing.

WHERE ARE YOU IN THE POLITICAL SPECTRUM?
Pew Research Center has posted a 20-question quiz to find out where you place in the political spectrum. Undoubtedly, you already know, but what the hell – give a try.

In case you are wondering, I came in as far left as the chart allows. You can read more of Pew's take on America's political diversity in this report.

THE CANINE NAVY SEAL
One member of the Navy Seal team that killed Osama bin Laden was a dog.

”Little is known about what may be the nation’s most courageous dog,” reports The New York Times. “Even its breed is the subject of great interest...

“Gen. David H. Petraeus, commander of United States forces in Afghanistan, said last year that the military needed more dogs. The capability they bring to the fight cannot be replicated by man or machine,' he said.”

Six hundred dogs are currently serving in Iraq and Afghanistan. One, who was killed in action in 2009, was posthumously awarded the Silver Star. Read more about our brave military dogs here.

THE CATS OF WAR
As curious as we might be about military dogs, they are not a surprise. But military cats are. In a slide show presentation, the online magazine, Slate, reports that the Covert Anti-Terrorism Stealth program (CATS) has been active since at least World War II when they landed with our troops at Normandy.

According to the report, cats were with the Navy Seals at the bin Laden compound and here is a whiskered white CATS adviser with President Obama and his other top aides in the White House Situation Room during the raid at Abbottabad.

Cat Adviser in Situation Room

You can read about and see the entire CATS program slide show here.



Republicans Wobbling on Cutting Medicare

category_bug_politics.gif According to Lori Montgomery, writing in the Washington Post, Republicans began backtracking Wednesday on the draconian changes to Medicare contained in Wisconsin Republican Paul Ryan's Pathway to Prosperity budget proposal:

”On the eve of debt-reduction talks led by Vice President Biden,” wrote Montgomery, “House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (Va.) said Republicans remain convinced that reining in federal retirement programs is the key to stabilizing the nation’s finances over the long term.

“But he said Republicans recognize they may need to look elsewhere to achieve consensus after President Obama 'excoriated us' for a proposal to privatize Medicare.”

Ryan appeared to echo Cantor's conclusion:

“'We’re not going to get a grand-slam agreement [Ryan said]...because of just the political parameters' set by Obama. But Ryan said his budget offers a “menu of options...that I think we could get that are not necessarily the global agreement on, say, Medicare or Social Security.'”

That was on Wednesday. By Thursday, there appeared to be some disagreement among the Republicans. Although Paul Ryan stood by his statement from the day before, House Speaker John Boehner told reporters that “entitlements” are still at issue:

“'Let me make this clear: When it comes to increasing the debt limit and the need to have reductions in spending, nothing is off the table except for raising taxes,' Boehner said.”

Cracks in the Republican facade are good news for those of us who oppose turning Medicare into a voucher program. It is times just like this when it is crucial to write your Congress people. Here is one place you can do that. Enter your Zip Code in the right sidebar and email links to your representatives will appear.

For those who think it's no use to write because your representatives are tea party members, if they get enough mail and phone calls rejecting their stands, they will change their votes. All House members are up for re-election next year along with one-third of the Senate.

Wouldn't it be a terrible shame if tea party representatives refused to budge because they didn't hear from enough constituents who disagree with them.


At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Mary B Summerlin: The Stone Connection



How Did the Women's Movement Affect Your Life?

[EDITORIAL NOTE: Regarding the link about face aging technology showing up on the Facebook walls of some of you yesterday: that most definitely was not from me. It was spam. Being Facebook illiterate, I have no idea how it happened or how to prevent it. (I gather, from the news media, that Facebook is frequently subject to these attacks.)

The only reason I have a Facebook account - and the only thing I use it for - is as a secondary distribution point for this blog for Facebook users who asked. I'll be rethinking that now.


Inequalities remain – women still lag in the paycheck, for example – but overall, “we have come a long way, baby.” I think, sometimes, we forget that.

For at least 30 years, young women have known from the cradle that they can grow up to be doctors and lawyers and corporate chiefs just like men.

That wasn't so for us who are elders now. We are the last generation to know what it was like for women before the dramatic changes resulting from the mid-20th century women's movement.

When I started working in the late 1950s, women had few choices beyond teacher, nurse and secretary. I could not get a credit card in my own name, buy a house or sign most contracts.

The few women who attended college then were said to be there for their MRS. degree and that was a joke only the first time you heard it. Many of those young women dropped out as soon as they married part way through their four years.

For those of us who went to work instead of college, it was legal for employers to pay us less for the same jobs men did. Men needed more money, the reasoning went, because they had families to support. Sometimes employers did not hire qualified, young married women because they might become pregnant before long and in those days, most women became full-time mothers.

If a woman wanted or needed to end a pregnancy, there was nowhere to go but a back-alley abortionist who was, with rare exceptions, not a physician operating in unsanitary conditions. Many women died.

You all know the story of how it began to change for women. In 1963, the publication of The Feminine Mystique by Betty Friedan kicked it off. It astonishes me now, given what a turgid read the book is, how many of us read it and how inspired we were.

Thousands of women joined ad hoc study sessions with friends (remember consciousness raising groups?) often in secret because husbands, in those days, had the power to control what their wives read.

Life didn't change overnight. Even though my husband and I would surely have been bankrupt if we had relied on his financial skills, he got the credit rating when we divorced in 1971, and no company would give me a credit card although it was, by then, legal for me to have one in my name alone.

It took a long time for the language to change too. As late as 1975, women of all ages were still called “girls” and the honorific, Ms., for those brave enough to use it, remained suspect.

During the long years of transition, there were impassioned arguments about whether men should open doors for women and if they should still walk next to the curb (or was it the building?) when with a woman – uh, girl, whatever. It seems so silly now.

I clearly recall the first time I actively stood up for one of my new-found rights. At the local television show where I worked in New York, I had been asked to train a man who had been promoted to producer.

A few days later, quite by accident, I saw our show's paychecks laid out on a desk in the production manager's office as he prepared to distribute them that week. The producer-in-training's check was about a third larger than mine.

I was livid. What came rushing to mind was a similarly unfair situation when I was 18, working at an insurance company and heading up a small department of four people.

One day I was called into the company president's office and told to train a new girl for my job. Oh, no, he said, there was nothing wrong with my work, but the new girl had a college degree.

Later I learned that she was also the president's daughter's best friend. If you were a girl in those days, 1959, and if you were as young as I was then, you didn't argue with your boss, especially if he was a man.

But I immediately took the week of vacation I was owed and found another job within a couple of days leaving the new girl on her own. (I told you the other day I can be mean.)

Back to that TV show in the mid-1970s. I took my fury home with me that night to ponder my options. Then, in a closed-door meeting with the production manager, I calmly explained what I had learned about our salaries, noted that I was far more experienced than the new producer and that I expected an adjustment in my weekly check.

It was amazing how quickly my salary was raised and not only that, my next check contained an additional amount equal to six months of the raise.

Although the federal equal pay act was a decade old at the time, it was still widely ignored and women had only recently begun to sue in situations such as mine.

I was immensely proud of standing up for myself this time instead of skulking off without a word of protest at being wrongly treated. It was one thing, within the women's movement, to write letters, to march, picket, carry signs – all important in reaching the goal. This, however, was personal and I had done it myself, for myself. And I had won.

But it was bigger than that too. Mine was only one small act of resistance to the status quo of women (more politely and quietly, by the way, than I would handle it today). But in cities all across America, millions of others were standing up too for their own and others rights and each one helped make a difference in changing the world we live in.

Nowadays, our personal physician or lawyer is as likely to be a woman as a man. Women today can be soldiers and astronauts and truck drivers and anything they can imagine. The number of women CEOs and senators and representatives is growing - not enough yet, but we are gaining on parity and any woman can aspire to be president, even ones who are unqualified – just like men.

That wasn't true when we were little girls, but because of us, our generation, little girls today can grow up to be anything they want to work for. Sometimes I am awed when I think about what we accomplished. It's never easy going against entrenched culture.

So here's today's assignment: Tell us about your experiences with the women's movement. How did you become aware of it? How did it impact your life in the early days? How do you think your life has been changed because of it?

Men aren't off the hook for this today. Many of you did join us and certainly your lives have been changed too.


At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Johna Ferguson: Shao Zhu



The People's Budget – A Sane Third Way

category_bug_politics.gif As legislators returned to Washington from their two-week recess on Monday, the death of Osama bin Laden provided a rare moment of bipartisan collegiality. Even Republicans praised President Obama for a job well done.

Now, there are a budget, a deficit and a debt ceiling to hash out and it ain't gonna be pretty.

A bunch of ignorant Republicans, some – but not all - of them inexperienced neophytes at governing say they are ready to vote against raising the debt ceiling risking, for the first time in the history of the republic, “the full faith and credit of the U.S. government.”

For many reasons, that should scare the pants off you. I'll leave most of the unthinkable consequences for another day, but since this is a blog about getting old, let's just mention two things it would mean for elders: It wouldn't be long before Social Security and Medicare payments would be drastically reduced or stopped because the government could spend no money except incoming cash on hand, and interest on the debt would necessarily need to paid first.

Congress is returning with two main budget proposals on the table. One of them, Republican Senator Paul Ryan's Path to Prosperity, calls for “shared sacrifice” to reduce the deficit by further reducing taxes on the wealthy. How does he do that? With some magical thinking (many economists have said his numbers don't add up), and by all but eliminating Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid and other programs that help the poor.

Many voters, especially old ones, are not fooled by Ryan. He took a lot of flak for his budget during the Congressional recess at town halls in his home state of Wisconsin. Take a look at this one:

Scenes like that one occurred at many of the town halls Ryan (and other Republicans) held - so much so that Ryan refused to face angry voters in the parking lot, sneaking out the back door:

President Obama's budget leaves Social Security alone, lowers Medicare spending by reducing growth partially by negotiating drug prices, but includes provisions that would increase taxes on many of the poor and middle class.

Neither Ryan's nor Obama's budget plan creates new revenue and both plans leave the defense budget largely intact: a $400 billion cut over 10 years years is chicken feed for a current $680 billion annual defense budget.

So while Obama's proposal looks a bit better for ordinary Americans than Ryan's, neither addresses the horrendous wealth and wage gaps between the rich and the middle class.

But there is a much better, third way. It is called The People's Budget and was introduced by the Congressional Progressive Caucus. I could list its points and advantages here, but some other people have already done a terrific job of that with a couple of videos. Here is a short version which Jan Adams of Happening Here alerted me to:

If that went by a bit too fast for you Thom Hartman, building on Paul Krugman's column ten days ago, took a little longer on his television show last week to explain the proposal with more detail and clarity. [7:23 minutes]

With the angry responses to the Ryan budget proposal at town hall meetings, there is the beginning of a groundswell for a different way. There is no reason The People's Budget should not be discussed equally with the other two.

So pass this around. Post it on your blogs. Tell your friends. Write your Congress people and your local news outlets. Make a lot of noise about this.

Here are some links to help you out:
• An overview of The People's Budget
• The People's Budget full text [pdf]
Analysis from the Economic Policy Institute [pdf]
Embed code for Thom Hartman clip


At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Dani Ferguson: My Ma Ma's Cousin Wanda



Killing Bin Laden

category_bug_politics.gif I had other plans for this blog today, but it seems there is nothing else to think about but the death of Osama bin Laden.

It was almost funny early Monday morning when I checked the day's headlines. The first one I saw said nothing more than “Bin Laden Dead” and I briefly wondered if he had died of that mysterious illness it was speculated he suffered from several years ago. Or that maybe he fell off one of those Afghan or Pakistani mountains where he is so frequently shown walking.

Of course, it took only one click to find out how wrong I was.

When I turned on television news – it was 5AM here, 8AM in New York – I was surprised to see that large numbers of people had been gathering overnight in Times Square, the World Trade Center site and other places waving American flags and chanting, “U.S.A. U.S.A. U.S.A.”

Given the tragedy of 9/11 and the legacy of that infamous date, bin Laden's death is hardly lamentable. But celebrating a killing as for a sports championship - a killing of choice in particular, even if it seems justified - leaves me a bit queasy. Something to do with guillotines and Madame DeFarge with her knitting.

I doubt mine is a popular view so - moving on...

The raid in Abbottabad was, apparently, one of those spectacular special forces missions about which heroic movies are made. I'm sure we will have one soon (along with many books) and I'm incredibly curious about the intelligence gathering, secrecy, training and planning – including President Obama's participation - that made it a success. I suppose we will have to wait years for the definitive story.

Bin Laden's death must certainly be a relief for the families of the nearly 3,000 victims of the 9/11 attacks and of the rescuers who have become ill and some who have died as a result of their selfless work at ground zero. When anyone is deliberately killed, justice requires that someone pay.

Still, I wish he had been captured alive and tried in a court of law. But I've always been mean that way. I oppose capital punishment not so much from an ambivalence about state-sanctioned murder (although I feel that way), but more from a belief that people who commit heinous acts should be made to suffer. Death is too easy.

In this case, however, it doesn't really matter. We are rid of man who was a potent symbol to terrorists. And in the long-term scheme of things, isn't it remarkable it happened during the inspiring uprisings of this Arab spring.


At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Mary B Summerlin: Animal Kingdom



Playing Blog Hooky

category_bug_journal2.gif This was the gorgeous view out my dining room window at about 7AM yesterday, Sunday morning.

Window 2011_05_01

The weatherman predicted bright skies all day and 70F degrees – the first time the temperature has been that high since sometime last fall. I couldn't stay indoors on such a day as this so I played hooky from blogging for Monday.

Therefore, in place of an actual post about anything...

On Saturday night, the annual White House Correspondents Dinner was held in Washington, D.C. It's not just reporters who attend. The president and vice president are usually there too and anyone the correspondents' news organizations want to invite to sit at their individual tables.

In recent years, that has meant a lot of politicians and even more celebrities. I read somewhere that Bristol Palin was among the latter on Saturday evening so the star quotient was, perhaps, not as stellar as – oh, say the Oscars.

The speeches take the form of roasts and this year, Seth Meyers of Saturday Night Live was the headliner. That is, if you don't count President Obama himself.

The jokes are rude, as they are expected to be, and this year Donald Trump, who was in the audience, took the brunt of them – from Seth Meyers and the president.

So now, for your entertainment today, Seth goes first:

Oh. Wait. One more thing. SHOUTOUT TO MAGE BAILEY: Please check the far right photo in the banner above. At last.

Okay. Now Seth Meyers:

And, the president of the United States:


At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Jeanne Waite Follett: On the Semicolon



ELDER MUSIC: Joe, T-Bone and Otis

PeterTibbles75x75You never know who you're going to meet on the internet and I came to know Peter Tibbles (bio here) via email over the past couple of years. His extensive knowledge of most genres of music and his excellent taste became apparent only gradually (Peter's not one to toot his horn) but once I understood, I knew he needed his own column at Time Goes By - or, better, that TGB needed his column - which appears here each Sunday. You can find previous Elder Music columns here.


In 1969, three great blues men got together and recorded an album. This was done in the manner of jazz musicians as it was, essentially. a jam session.

Outside of jazz, these things seldom work but in this case, it was hugely successful - musically, that is, not financially. I imagine I wasn't the only one who bought that album, but I can't be sure.

These three were Big Joe Turner, T-Bone Walker and Otis Spann. The album was called "Super Black Blues" and I'll be playing two of the tracks today (there were only four, the others are way too long for this column) and featuring some other tunes by these gentlemen.

The album was recorded in 1969, and all three take turns singing, T-Bone plays the guitar and Otis tinkles the ivories and it is one of the two best blues albums I've heard (B.B. King's "Live at the Regal" is the other one).

I waited years, decades even, for it to appear on CD and it finally did a couple of years ago. You'd really have to search for it though.

This picture is taken from my old vinyl album, as the photo didn't appear on the CD. It is T-Bone, Big Joe, Otis and George "Harmonica" Smith.

T-Bone, Joe, Otis, George

I'll kick things off with Here I Am Broken Hearted from that album.

♫ Joe, T-Bone and Otis - Here I Am Broken Hearted

Big Joe Turner

It has been said, indeed I said it myself in a column on Early Rocking and Rolling, that rhythm and blues became rock and roll when Big Joe Turner recorded Shake Rattle and Roll in 1954. The next song was first recorded in 1938 and is yet another contender for the famous "first rock & roll record" trophy.

However, this is a later version from 1956. It was written by Big Joe and his life-long musical companion, Pete Johnson. Early rockers like Jerry Lee Lewis were obviously influenced by the music of these two.

As Pete is prominent on this track it's only fair you know what he looks like.  Here he is.

Pete Johnson

This is Big Joe and Pete with Roll 'Em Pete.

♫ Big Joe Turner - Roll 'Em Pete

Big Joe Turner

Here we have jazz meets R&B meets big band and the inimitable Joe pulls it off wonderfully. Unfortunately, the folks who compiled the album of Big Joe's from which I took this track don't know who's playing on it, except for Pete. Let's just listen to it, Feelin' Happy.

♫ Big Joe Turner - Feelin Happy

Otis Spann

Most of the personnel mentioned on the album of Otis Spann's look strangely familiar. Indeed, the guitarist is, and the quotes in the liner notes are "Dirty Rivers." I have no idea who that could be.

I'd just like to mention that besides his career as a solo artist, Otis was the piano player in Muddy Waters' band until shortly before Otis's death in 1970. Here, Otis has a bit of a boogie with Feelin' Good.

♫ Otis Spann - Feelin' Good

Otis Spann

Otis was born in Jackson, Mississippi. His dad played piano for his own amusement and his mum played guitar for Memphis Minnie, so he had the background to be a fine musician.

He started gigging around Jackson at age 14 where he caught the ear of Big Maceo Merriweather who took him under his wing. Otis moved to Chicago when his mum died and played there until he was noticed by Muddy Waters who grabbed him for his band.

Besides playing with Muddy he also performed with his own group and did session work for such performers as Bo Diddley and Howlin' Wolf. This is Otis with I'm Leaving You.

♫ Otis Spann - I'm Leaving You

T-Bone Walker

T-Bone Walker has made regular appearances in this column and, no doubt, will continue to do so. That's because he was one of the most important guitarists of the 20th century.

His influence on blues, jazz and rock musicians really can't be measured. Both the A.M. (Assistant Musicologist) and I have included him in our respective favorite guitarists columns. We're not alone in our acknowledgements. This is T-Bone Shuffle.

♫ T-Bone Walker - T-Bone Shuffle

T-Bone Walker

T-Bone was a self-taught guitarist but unlike most other similar bluesmen of the time, his talent and virtuosity was such that, in his early days, he toured with a band lead by Les Hite that included such musicians as Dizzy Gillespie, Lawrence Brown, Lionel Hampton and others.

T-Bone held his own in this exalted company. In his early days he also accompanied such greats as Ma Rainey, Ida Cox and Blind Lemon Jefferson. He died in 1975 after influencing the best of the rock guitarists. Here he plays Prison Blues.

♫ T-Bone Walker - Prison Blues

To finish off, back to the album that inspired this column and a genuine Blues Jam. This will set your toes a'tapping on this Sunday (or Monday if you live near me) morning.

♫ Joe, T-Bone and Otis - Blues Jam