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Amazing Pumpkin Carving


Normally, I ignore Halloween on this blog. I mean, what's to say? Boo? But I can't resist showing you these pumpkins. Holiday jack-o-lanterns have come a long way since I was a kid - as Darlene Costner made me aware via an email on Saturday.


The artist is Ray Villafane. He's won a bunch of awards, appears on television a lot, particularly during the month of October, of course, and sculpts comic book characters too. But today, let's stick with his astonishing pumpkins.

According to his website, Villafane's pumpkins have been spotted in the White House. Which president, he doesn't say, but he has carved an Obama.


Here's a little segment from CBS News about Villafane and his pumpkin sculptures.

You'll find many more photos of pumpkin carvings on Villafane's Facebook page and you can read more about him at his website.

Happy Halloween, everyone. Don't eat too much candy.


At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Richard J. Klade: Boo! and Poo

ELDER MUSIC: Classical Chain

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.

Today I have a classical chain. This is a matter of who knew whom through the years. I thought this would be a piece of cake, that each would know the next one, but upon further research I was proved wrong in a couple of instances.

Some of the links in the chain are a little weak but we’ll skate over those for the purpose of having some great music.

I have an arbitrary starting position with J.S. Bach and a similarly arbitrary finish in Schubert. I could have gone back further or continued on probably to the present day but we have to draw the line somewhere. Besides, within these limits are the finest composers who ever lived, and my favorites as well.


I originally was going to start with Vivaldi as he had a great influence on Johann Sebastian BACH’s works. Indeed, Jo transcribed a number of Vivaldi’s works for other instruments (they were both proficient on different instruments).

They overlapped to a considerable degree as well, but they didn’t meet. Old Jo was a stay at home sort of person, even if Vivaldi wasn’t so we’re skipping him and he’ll appear in another column.

Incidentally, I initially tried for a link between Bach and Handel. I thought that it would have been easy. Just goes to show how wrong I can be.

It’s odd that they didn’t meet as they were born in the same year and only 80 miles apart at that. Handel studied at the university in Hamburg and then hightailed it to Italy.  After a bit of composing there, and some hanky panky as well, he moved to London where he spent the rest of his life.

Bach pretty much hung around where he was born, finishing up in Leipzig. At one stage, Bach’s work took him to Halle, Handel’s birthplace where by coincidence he was also visiting. Alas, Handel left the day before Bach arrived.

You wouldn’t read about it. Well, you would, you just have. They apparently tried to meet again some time later but nothing came of it. In spite of their not meeting, they certainly knew each other’s works.

Let’s begin with the first movement of Bach’s Concerto for 2 violins in D minor BWV 1043.

♫ Bach - Concerto for 2 violins in D minor BWV 1043 (1)


Georg Philipp TELEMANN was an early starter, learning to play keyboard instruments by the age of 10. He also taught himself to play the violin, recorder and zither. The zither? Not much call for that any more. He and Bach certainly knew each other.

Getting back to Handel, he and Georg met in Leipzig when he, Georg, was about 20. He admired Handel’s work greatly. While in the city he was offered a post as cantor but he turned it down.

After a couple more rejections the post eventually went to Bach. Telemann and Bach became friends. Indeed, Georg was godfather to one of Bach’s sons, Carl Philipp Emmanuel.

This is the first movement of the Sonata for Trumpet.

♫ Telemann - Sonata for Trumpet (1)


We’ve already established that Telemann and HANDEL met. They remained friends for 50 years or so. Meeting with Telemann spurred Handel’s operatic ambitions and he said that he "wrote like the very devil."

This ability proved valuable as so many demands were put upon him during his lifetime. Of course, he was royally rewarded for it all and died one of the richest composers whoever put quill to paper.

I’m not using one of the operas today though, maybe another time. This is the Sonata for Flute in D major, HWV 378.

♫ Handel - Sonata for Flute in D major, HWV 378


There’s a bit of a gap here. Handel and HAYDN overlapped by 27 years but there is no evidence that they ever met. I thought with all the “Handel and Haydn Societies” that are around there would have been some connection, but I was wrong.

Haydn certainly knew of Handel’s works; his great oratorio, The Creation, was inspired by such works by Handel. We’re not going there, though; it’s a part of one of his symphonies that interest us today. Well, interests me, I hope it does you as well.

Haydn’s Symphony No 45, the “Farewell Symphony,” was written as a protest when his patron, Prince Nikolaus Esterházy, had brought Haydn and the court orchestra to the prince's summer palace leaving their wives and families back home in Eisenstadt.

The stay was longer than expected so Haydn wrote this one as a subtle protest wherein during the final movement each musician stopped playing, snuffed out the candle on his music stand and left in turn.

At the end there were just two violins left (played by Haydn himself and the concertmaster, Alois Tomasini). Old Nik apparently got the message and the court returned to Eisenstadt the next day. This is that final movement.

♫ Haydn - Symphony No. 45 (4)


We have two links now, Haydn was a close friend of Mozart’s and MOZART wrote some string quartets in the style of Haydn called the Haydn Quartets. Clever title.

Haydn was also Beethoven’s teacher for a while but they had a falling out. Not unusual for Beethoven; later he claimed that he learned nothing from Haydn. After he stopped being his pupil, they were on fairly good terms, well, as good terms as anyone could be with Beethoven.

Haydn, though, was generally on good terms with everyone. Getting back to Mozart, and for something a little different from the rest of the tracks today, here is the marvelous Cecilia Bartoli with the aria Batti, batti, o bel Masetto from his opera Don Giovanni.

♫ Mozart - Batti, batti, o bel Masetto


Did Mozart and BEETHOVEN meet? This is uncertain. There are only six weeks when they were both in the same place at the same time. This was in Vienna in 1787 when Beethoven was 17.

Beethoven returned to Bonn after that time as his mother was seriously ill. There are a couple of accounts from the 19th century that suggest a meeting but they give no provenance for such a claim. Beethoven was a great admirer of Mozart’s work so it’s not beyond possibility that he sought him out. He was a headstrong lad.

The Grove Dictionary of Music suggests that there “seems little doubt that he met Mozart and perhaps had a few lessons from him.” That’s good enough for me.

This is the first movement of his Sextet in E flat major, Op 81b for 2 violins, viola, cello and 2 French horns.

♫ Beethoven - Sextet Op 81b (1)


In 1822, Beethoven made the acquaintance of SCHUBERT but little came of it. Some say that Beethoven recognized the younger man's gifts but this is probably legend because he could not have known the real scope of Schubert's music as so little of it was printed or performed in Beethoven's lifetime.

However, Schubert did dedicate one set of works to the master and presented them to him. It seems he was so nervous in his presence he completely lost his composure, particularly when Beethoven pointed out a minor error in the work.

On his deathbed, Beethoven is said to have acknowledged Schubert as his likely successor but again, this is probably made up. However, as mentioned, they certainly met and knew each other’s works to some extent.

It’s pretty obvious listening to Schubert’s compositions that he was influenced by Beethoven. The next piece is, to my ears, definitely Schubert though. It is the second movement of the Piano Trio No 2 Op 100 D 929.

♫ Schubert - Piano Trio No 2 Op 100 D 929 (2)

INTERESTING STUFF: 29 October 2011

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.

Although young people get most of the media mention, a large contingent of #Occupyeverywhere are elders. A week ago on 21 October, 92-year-old activist Pete Seeger led an evening parade of demonstrators to Columbus Circle in New York City. Also participating are Arlo Guthrie and Tom Chapin among others, all singing, This Little Light of Mine.

I can't tell you why, but I love it when cats choose human toys over their own. Since I don't own an iPad, I didn't know there are apps invented especially to engage cats.

It's been 25 years since Art Spiegelman's two cartoon books about his father and the holocaust were published and won the Pulitzer Prize. Now Spiegelman has published a followup book, MetaMaus about why he chose to portray Jews as mice and the Nazis as cats.

You can read an interview with Mr. Spiegelman here. Below is a video for the new book.

I'm not old enough to recall cylinder recordings but in my 70 years, I've been through 78s, 45s, 33s, 8-tracks, cassettes, CDs and now MP3s. If there is a newer format for music, I don't want to know about it. I'll go to my grave listening to my MP3s.

Which may be why I liked reading a story in last Sunday's New York Times about the growing cult of vinyl records and Gotta Groove Records in Cleveland – one of only 20 plants or so that still press vinyl records.

“'All these kids getting into vinyl for the first time — I think it’s a reaction to the constant interruptions in our life,' [owner Vince] Slusarz said. 'We’re used to instant everything. But to listen to a record, you have to put it on, you have to turn it over. It engages you more.'”

He makes me kind of sorry that I gave away all my vinyl many years ago. You can read more here.

Political leaders are famous the world over for airbrushing unwanted people out of official photographs. Lots of others alter photos for many reasons. Time magazine has a terrific slide show of what they call the “Top 10 Doctored Photos of All Time” going as far back as the dawn of photography with Matthew Brady and the U.S. Civil War.

Now, a group of PhD candidates have created software that makes manipulation of photos and video so easy, I can do it and you would never know. Disingenuously, the inventors state on the website that “Our system has applications in the movie and gaming industry, as well as home decorating and user content creation, among others.”

Oh, right. No on would ever alter current events or history with this software. Here's a video showing the simplicity.


It would not surprise me if I'm way behind the curve on this and you already know about it, but I'm knocked out that henceforth I can give up my war with removing corn silk – mostly unsuccessfully. (Hat tip to Darlene Costner)

When the Massachusetts Hospital Association joined the national American Hospital Association to advocate raising the age of eligibility for Medicare from 65 to 67, Boston elders took to the streets in protest.

Credit: Jeremy C. Fox

This is not the first group wanting to raise the eligibility age and won't be the last. Whenever and wherever we can, we must resist. The immediate result, if the age were raised, would be thousands of elders with no coverage at all because private insurers would make it unaffordable. Read more about the Boston protest here.

By now you have probably read about Siri, the newest iPhone's virtual personal assistant slash artificial intelligence agent that quite successfully uses natural language to carry on what is almost a human conversation with users.

At the price Apple charges, an iPhone is not on my shopping list, but that hasn't stopped me being intrigued with Siri. Best of all, Apple developers have a terrific sense of humor in giving her (him?) answers to unanswerable questions that owners inevitably ask.

Jonathan Mann has created a duet with Siri. Example:

JONATHAN: What's the meaning of life?

SIRI: 42

Teehee. Here's the whole song with a lot more of Siri.

I always think I don't care about ventriloquists and then I get caught up in them – well, in really good ones like Terry Fater – and can't stop watching their mouths NOT move. This arrived via Darlene Costner.

Two Elder Fashion Failures

On Wednesday, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton took a bashing from a member of the self-appointed fashion police at a website called Stylite. “This is just not OK,” screamed the headline.

Hillary Clinton

Geez, I think she looks quite elegant in this photo from a recent meeting with the prime minister of Peru. What do you suppose could cause such a rude critique?

“Yes, a scrunchie,” screeches Justin Fenner, “the universally unflattering elastic vice grip of tonsorial doom, designed specifically to make people look like they have bad taste — or worse: no taste at all. Surely this accessory has no place on the head of one of the most powerful people in the world?

“And yet, there it is, glaring at us with no sense of irony or shame whatsoever.”

All this over a scrunchie? Oh, please. And since I put zero credence in, one of Dan Abrams' several websites that mostly trades in gossip and specializes in cheap shots (just my opinion, of course), the story and writer can be dismissed as nothing more than a gnat bite.

But it has raised the general question of fashion for me. Having recently lost a good deal of weight, I am in the market for a new wardrobe. All my pants but one pair either won't stay up or make me look like I'm wearing a clown suit. Sweaters and shirts could easily hold two of me now.

I don't need much, but so far I can buy nothing. In stores of moderate price range, I find nothing that warrants the price on the tags.

Fabrics are cheap and flimsy. Stitching is weak and loose, often with gaps. Sizes on one label bear no resemblance to those on another. Petite for short people no longer has meaning; one pair of pants so labeled was six inches longer than my legs.

Apparently, there is no standard sizing anymore. When I stopped in Chico's, which is not a place I have shopped much, I found that their smallest pant size is zero which turned out to be too large and trust me, there is not a chance in hell I am as small as what size 0 used to mean.

After a couple of weeks of sporadic attempts to find clothes that fit, I also don't know what size blouse or shirt I wear because of several labeled the same, one is too tight, another too loose and not one has been just right.

As to fashion (as in, style), there is none. What there is plenty of are chintzy, machine embroidery; too many flouncy sleeves that are sure to drag in the soup; a lot of low-cut necklines even in heavy sweaters; and large amounts of gauzy translucency.

It didn't help to increase my price range. At that level, clothes are almost exclusively work-related suits or glitzy evening wear, neither of which I need, so I'm giving it a rest for awhile. Except for food, I've never much liked shopping anyway.

So here I sit in my baggy pants and shapeless sweater with (wait for it) a scrunchie holding back my hair. I guess that makes two elder women to offend Justin Fenner's discriminating fashion taste.

At The Elder Storytelling Place today, wisewebwoman: Might

Book Day Among the TGB Elders

When, yesterday, I read Jan Adams' review of Empire of Liberty: A History of the Early Republic 1789 - 1815 by historian Gordon S. Wood, I immediately bookmarked it to buy for my Kindle. This grabbed me:

“The title phrase - 'empire of liberty' - is an expression used more than once by Thomas Jefferson without irony, in fact with vast enthusiasm and hope,” writes Jan.

“...I did want to highlight a theme that has implications for current struggles. “Woods portrays those early years of the nation as the era when the idea of a 'middle class' society superseded European notions of class stratification.

“Until perhaps the immediate present, the belief that this was a middle class nation in which hierarchies were fluid, most people lived neither at extremes of wealth or poverty, and industrious people had a chance formed part of the national psyche. It is interesting to read how this looked back then.”

You can read more at Jan's blog. Our “current struggles,” as she labels them, are also what I have been reading about these past few of days. Well, sort of - the book was published in 1940.

Since Yesterday – The 1930s in America September 3, 1929-September 3, 1939 is by magazine editor and popular historian Frederick Lewis Allen (whom you might know due to his somewhat more popular book, Only Yesterday – An Informal History of the 1920s, a great contemporaneous account of that era).

Although I am only as far along as FDR's election in 1932, the similarities between the first three years of the Great Depression and the same period of our great recession are startling, even eerie.

The arrogant bankers and Wall Streeters then are indistinguishable from today's. There were corporate bailouts with taxpayer dollars then too. The same inertia and failure by the federal government to address the people's unemployment, hunger and growing homelessness.

There is even that decade's equivalent of the Occupy movement in the form of Hoovervilles and the Bonus marches. Those encampments, like the ones this week in Atlanta and Oakland, were broken up and destroyed by government forces which, in 1932, involved one death.

The more I read of this book, the more find myself gasping in disbelief. Every mistake leaders have made in our current financial mess appear to be a duplicates of the mistakes during the early years the Great Depression. Does no one ever learn anything from the past? Many since 2008, have invoked the similarities to the 1930s, but no one has applied the lessons.

If you are interested, Jan's book recommendation has just been released in paperback and is reasonably priced in that format and Kindle at Amazon and undoubtedly at all the other book sellers.

I paid $5.00 for a Kindle edition of Since Yesterday, but I have now discovered that it can be read free online at the Universal Library. There, you will find several e-reader versions for downloading, an html edition and a pdf.

Now it's your turn. What book are you most absorbed in right now or do you most want to recommend. Try to keep it to one so that we are not overwhelmed with too many choices. And don't just give us a title; tell us why you chose it, something about it and why you're recommending it.

I'm eager to see what you're reading.

At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Johna Ferguson: Friendship

Contemplating My Death

category_bug_journal2.gif Last Saturday on the Interesting Stuff post, I suggested an episode of the BBC World Service radio program, The Forum, about contemplating one's own death.

Since listening to it (you can do that here), I haven't been able to let go of the show and the ideas expressed therein but perhaps that is because I have thought about my own death almost every day since childhood. Diana Athill's “money quote” from the program is not new to my experience:

"I don’t think you have to think very deeply about it [death] but I do think you have to think about it fairly regularly. Someone said, ‘You ought to think about death for about 15 minutes every day.’ I think that’s overdoing it, but I do think that saying to yourself, ‘What do I think about death?’ fairly regularly, familiarises you with the idea so that you’re no longer frightened about it.

That has worked for me.

I recall lying in bed one particular night at about age nine or 10, heart beating a zillion miles per minute and barely able to breathe so great was the fear in knowing that someday I would no longer exist.

It was not the first nor the last time I was caught in that waking nightmare as a kid. It was a constant worry, terror really, and I determined then that somehow I would rid myself of the fear of my death because there was no way I could live an entire life (yes, I understood the irony/humor in saying that) so deeply frightened every day about dying.

Those were the years of my religious instruction but even as a kid, I never bought the idea of heaven and hell. If, as they told me, god made us in his image and loved us unconditionally, I did not see how he would consign his children to the fires of hell no matter what sins they had committed. And no loving god would make heaven as boring as it sounded either. Where would I go swimming or ride my bike?

Such thoughts pretty much ended my religious belief in general and that of an afterlife.

Since childhood, I have mostly taken my cues about life and death from the world around me – we all see it every day. A seed is planted, a flower blooms spectacularly, fades and dies. A carrot grows, passes on its life-giving properties and thereby fulfills its destiny.

The animals, too, return to the earth in the end and as I worked through these and a thousand other thoughts about dying through the years, I saw and see no reason to think it is different for humans.

But what is different about us is that unlike the plants and animals, we know of our future destruction - although sometimes I'm not so sure. Perhaps in ways we cannot conceive, they do understand - and accept.

In 1996, my cat Beau Bennett, just a few months shy of 20, died in my arms of old age. He had no interest in food during his final week and he could no longer walk, but he had no trouble making it clear that he wanted to be with me.

In those few last days and nights, we sat quietly together as much as possible, me remembering all our wonderful good times and who is to say that is not what Beau was doing too. I don't know, but I choose to believe that he understood and accepted that he was at the end of his life.

On the BBC show, poet Paul Muldoon related a story of the “sense of repose” he felt when, once, he was on an airplane that, it seemed for a bit, would crash. In the face of certain death, he said, his death became “okay.”

Something similar happened to me; I wrote about it on this blog a few years ago:

Talking with my friend Sandy as we walked down Bleecker Street in New York City, I gestured widely with my arms to make a point as I stepped backward. Instead of pavement, there was the emptiness of an entrance to a store cellar - a large, square hole in the sidewalk.

As I fell backward, I managed to brace myself against the building with one arm and could see below that it was a deep cellar with many, steep concrete steps. I would surely die as my body crashed to the floor.

Sandy caught my other arm and tried to pull, but she was wearing new, smooth-soled sandals that kept slipping so that she could get no purchase on the ground. My arm against the building was slipping too and in a span of no more than ten seconds, I went from blind, paralyzing fear (oh, shit, I'm going to die right now) to perfect calm and acceptance (it's okay, I can do this).

Then I deliberately let go of the wall to fall to my death.

But a miracle happened. (I don't believe a god is necessary for miracles.) Two strong hands caught me in the middle of my back and gently lowered me, unharmed except for a scraped elbow, to safety and continued life.

What often comes to mind now when I ponder death is the memory of that perfect calm and acceptance. I have no idea if my lifelong work to overcome my fear of dying helped me reach that acceptance, and knowing I am not alone in such feelings in the face of imminent death leaves it an open question.

The BBC show is important in that almost no one talks about the greatest tragedy of human existence. It is a social faux pas to bring up death with others. We go to great lengths to hide it from public view. Hardly anyone dies at home anymore and few families hold wakes, certainly not with the corpse in attendance as in the past.

In the U.S., funeral directors who, in more honest times, were called morticians and undertakers, are now grief counselors effectively removing the dead person from the event.

So congratulations to the BBC for bring this subject front and center and with such thoughtful participants. Me? I'm going to keep thinking about death every day and hope that when my time comes, I will muster the courage I felt on Bleecker Street.

At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Claire Jean: Seasons

An Open Letter to Arthur S. Brisbane at the NYT

This letter has been sitting on my to-do list since at least last January. I finally settled down yesterday, got it written and emailed it to Arthur S. Brisbane who is the public editor at The New York Times.

Dear Mr. Brisbane:

I am writing to ask you to use your influence as the public editor at The New York Times to end the use of the word “elderly” as the paper's default synonym for old. It is offensive and helps perpetuate the ageism of American culture yet is used in thousands of Times' stories day in and day out.

Let me explain with some examples:

Functions Make Phones Easier for the Elderly
This headline, and the story, suggest that old people in general are cognitively impaired. Most elders are not and often these sorts of telephones are useful for eyesight problems (a difficulty for many young people too) and arthritis. Neither of these afflictions diminish one's mental powers as that word in the headline implies.

The shingles vaccine may be even more effective than first thought, scientists said on Tuesday. So why aren't more of the elderly getting it?
This was the blurb in an RSS feed from the Times' New Old Age blog. "Elderly" again, implying frailty and suggesting that elders might be too stupid to get the vaccine.

Social Security provides the primary support for nearly half the elderly population.
That's another from the New Old Age blog making it sound like everyone 65 and older is frail, sickly and maybe not capable in some manner.

All it takes to remove the pejorative nature of that headline is to change one word: Social Security provides the primary support for nearly half the elder population.”

See how respectful that headline becomes without changing the meaning in the slightest?

Yet, “elderly” is the go-to word at The New York Times for nearly every reference to old people. Past-7-Days searches for the word “elderly” on 7 August and 24 October each returned 10,000+ results. Try that search yourself - you'll be amazed at how many times "elderly" is used inappropriately. The paper even has an entire “Times Topic” titled “Elderly” so you see the pervasiveness – and, in my contention, the ageism.

Yes, ageism. And it is not just single words. What makes The New York Times think this is acceptable from a Gail Collins column some months ago [emphasis added]:

“There is something about Romney that causes people to want to change the channel; or, if they are in a senior center in Florida listening to a candidate forum, wander off in search of a second helping of Jell-O.“

Ms. Collins (or an editor) was careful to protect the Jell-O trademark by capitalizing the product's name but perpetuated the persistent prejudice against elders by depicting them as demented, drooling infants. Tell me, how is that sentence different from describing black people with fried chicken or watermelon references?

There is one more headline I cannot resist including: Employment of Elderly: Supply or Demand. Now really. Who would hire anyone described as elderly? Certainly that headline did its part in contributing to elder unemployment.

It is important to understand that unlike childhood during which developmental benchmarks can be predicted to the month and even week, people age at dramatically different rates. Some 50-year-olds are already in decline while some 100-year-olds are as sharp and active as people decades younger.

These show up in your own newspaper. Just two examples here and here. The point is that advanced age is not the equivalent of frail or sickly as elderly implies.

Eight years ago, when I started my blog about aging, I made a carefully considered decision to never use any kind of euphemism for old age - certainly none of the deeply offensive like geezer, biddy or crock nor cutesy terms like golden ager. I don't like senior or senior citizen much either with their dated whiff of such stereotypes as early-bird dinners.

So I settled on “old” and “elder.” Old is as good a descriptor as young or youth are for that other end of life and elder embodies respect and dignity that the extra -ly at the end of the word destroys.

There already is a long tradition for using elder over elderly. Elderlaw has been a specialty practice for many decades. Elder abuse is universally used to describe that terrible crime. Eldercare is commonly spoken of everywhere.

Several states have adopted the word too. The name of the agency on aging in the state of Massachusetts is Executive Office of Elder Affairs. Florida calls its agency on aging the Department of Elder Affairs. And the Wisconsin Bureau of Aging & Disability Resources uses “elder,” “old” or “old person” as required in its publications saving “frail elder” to describe an old person in need of services from the department.

As you certainly know, language is powerful and how we choose words can make all the difference in how people are perceived.

The word “elder” is as simple, neutral and descriptive as child, youth and adult. Replacing elderly with it would remove the dismissive language that has been allowed to describe old people for too long and as the paper of record read by editors the world over, The New York Times could go a long way to conferring the dignity and respect elders deserve as much as anyone else.

Please consider this suggestion.

Ronni Bennett

A few minutes after I sent this message to Mr. Brisbane, I received an automated email reply stating that although they read every message, they respond only to those that deal with the “journalistic integrity” of the Times. I think this issue meets that requirement and I'll let you know when/if I receive a reply.

At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Lyn Burnstine: Home

Distracted on Sunday Afternoon

category_bug_journal2.gif The intention was to write about something else for today, but there were other obligations on Sunday and the time set aside for writing today's post was, instead, spent with The New York Times - in particular, the newspaper's extensive collection of slide shows.

It had been three or four weeks since I had indulged this mini-passion so I lost more than a couple of hours and enjoyed every second of it. Still shots give us time to contemplate in a way that video doesn't allow.

My intrigue with this Times feature began some years ago with Great Homes and Destinations – the real estate section. I like peeking into people's homes and so every couple of weeks I catch up with such slide shows as House Hunting in Ireland – in this case, a grand home in northern County Cork.

(All links in this post will open on the first photo of each slide show at The New York Times website.)

Credit: Derek Speirs

An ongoing home series is What You Get For $380,000 (or some other price) which usually involves six or seven photographs each of three different kinds of homes in three U.S. cities.

Credit: Alison V. Smith

Yesterday, there was a fascinating series of photos of an eight-bedroom home that is currently a hotel and restaurant, for sale in Romania.

Credit: Scott Eastman

Links to slide shows other than real estate began showing up a few years ago and nowadays, I'm almost an addict.

They are well designed for easy interactive use. When there is a accompanying news story, there is link to it labeled “Related” to the right of the photos. You can click forward and backward through the photos one by one and at the end, there is always a link to the first slide.

Some good ones I enjoyed yesterday included candids taken with hidden cameras from a global study of at risk wild mammals. This is an ocelot from Costa Rica.

Credit: Organization for Tropical Studies/Tropical Ecology Assessment and Monitoring Network

In the world of fauna, there is a slide show on carnivorous plants to go with a story about how increasing numbers of people are using them in their gardens.

Credit: Ken Druse

And I liked seeing this series of photos about how college students are dressing up in more formal styles than in many years. This young woman is from Columbia University.

Credit: Elizabeth Lippman

It is no secret to anyone who knows me that I miss living in New York City. I miss it every day.

I miss it when I walk the equivalent of 10 or 12 city blocks to the grocery store here and see five other people along the way rather than hundreds. When there are four or five store fronts to peer into instead of 80 or 90. When I hear no voices in the street instead of 10 different languages.

So I particularly like slide shows about the city. They remind me of what I'm familiar with and show me the changes that are taking place.

Chess hustlers are a long New York tradition. I used to stop to watch when I walked through Washington Square Park.

Credit: Eric Michael Johnson

There are always amazing new things to see in New York City. One slide show tells of an exhibit in Times Square for fans of the TV show, CSI where visitors can analyze three crime scenes themselves.

Credit: Piotr Redlinski

Over the years, I've looked at several slide shows that reveal how New York is big and densely populated enough to support the very smallest of businesses like this niche one, a violin shop where the owner opens only by appointment and caters to finding just the right size violin for young, small students.

Credit: James Estrin

A Paris photographer, Yann Arthus-Bertrand, has published a book titled New York From the Air about the geometry of the city. The slide show gives us a sampling including these houses in Long Island City, Queens.

Credit: Yann Arthus-Bertrand

After more than two years, Sam Sifton recently closed out his tenure as the Times' restaurant critic with a “last meal” at Per Se. His story included a slide show of this fantastic and fantastically expensive eating establishment in the Warner Center at Columbus Circle. I'll never have a meal there, but I enjoyed the photos.

Credit: Daniel Krieger

There are poetry slams in bars, restaurants and dedicated clubs every night of the week in New York as shown in a recent slide show about this kind of nightlife. This club isn't far from where I lived.

Credit: Hiroko Masuike

This last one about cheese got really personal. Most of the photos are from Murray's Cheese Shop on Bleecker Street where I was a regular customer for 25 years. The slide show is mostly of the cellar where the cheeses are aged.

Rob Kaufelt in the photo below has owned the shop for the past 20 years, but Murray's goes back the early part of the 20th century and was housed in two smaller, more intimate and homey places before it moved to its current location.

Credit: Erin Baiano

Maybe these slide shows are a pleasure peculiar to me. Maybe other people look at them only in relation to reading an accompanying news story but in my case, it often works in reverse; I read a story I previously ignored because the slide show piqued my interest.

If you haven't discovered these slide shows, you might find them a pleasant and informative distraction too. The homepage of the main multimedia section lists the newest slide shows along with other image features and you can search topics of interest going as far back as the year 2000.

At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Ralph Lymburner: Child Labor Laws


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.

What happened in 1966?

  • Well, I was hanging around Melbourne University drinking coffee in the caf, playing music, checking out the chicks, wondering what the hell one did with a degree in pure maths
  • Bob Dylan released “Blonde on Blonde”
  • Star Trek debuted on TV
  • The Beatles released “Revolver” and played their last ever live concert
  • The Toyota Corolla rolled off the assembly line for the first time
  • John Lennon met Yoko Ono
  • Australia won the Davis Cup (again)
  • Buster Keaton died

This was the year of...

19th Nervous Breakdown
Day Tripper
Homeward Bound
Nowhere Man
Paint It Black
Good Vibrations
Rainy Day Women #12 And 35
Paperback Writer
Strangers in the Night
The Sound Of Silence
We Can Work It Out
Yellow Submarine

None of which will be featured here today.

Like a lot of other groups, THE LOVED ONES started in 1965 in response to The Beatles and other British acts.

The Loved Ones

They were unusual though; they weren’t a bunch of amateurs picking up guitars and learning three chords, thinking they could conquer the world. These were all seasoned musicians coming out of the jazz scene that was huge here in Melbourne in the early Sixties.

With the decline of jazz and the rise of rock & roll, they switched focus and became a rock group. Probably the most iconic group in the history of Australian music helped, no doubt, by having an extraordinary lead singer in Gerry Humphreys, they blazed for a year and a half and disintegrated.

They had several singles that hit the top of the charts, recorded an album that was as good as any around at the time and that’s it. Anyone who saw them knew they had that certain something that set them apart from all the other pretenders of their day. This is their first hit, The Loved One.

♫ The Loved Ones - The Loved One

THE STATLER BROTHERS had two brothers in the mix but the others were unrelated. None of them was called Statler. They were Harold Reid, his brother Don, Phil Balsley and Lew DeWitt.

The Statler Brothers

When they didn’t let their rather excessive religious sensibility intrude on the music, they were a fine harmony group - as good as any around. They started as a backing group for Johnny Cash and eventually went out on their own.

This is probably their best known song, Flowers on the Wall.

♫ The Statler Brothers - Flowers on the Wall

Oh, this song resonates with me from this year. I won’t go into details about that. This is the LOVIN' SPOONFUL, one of the most entertaining bands from the period.

Lovin' Spoonful

The main man from the Spoonful was John Sebastian who, as a solo act later, made some of the most enjoyable albums from the Seventies. I treasure all of them and they feature a bit on my CD player as do those from the Spoonful.

John wrote lyrics of wit and intelligence and they were also nuanced, which often wasn’t noticed at the time. The others in the group were Zal Yanoksky, Joe Butler and Steve Boone. This was a great year for the group, besides the song today, they also had Daydream and Summer in the City.

Here is the resonant song, Did You Ever Have to Make up Your Mind?

♫ Lovin' Spoonful - Did You Ever Have to Make Up Your Mind

THE BOBBY FULLER FOUR sounded more like a throw-back to the rockabilly of the Fifties rather than any music that was around in 1966.

Bobby Fuller

This wasn’t the Mersey sound of The Beatles and others of their ilk. It wasn’t something to dance to from The Supremes or any Motown act. They had a sound of their own.

Bobby was from Texas and spent his youth in El Paso. He was hugely influenced by Buddy Holly and, like Buddy, recorded in independent studios around Texas.

The Four consisted of Bobby, his brother Randy, Jim Reese and Dalton Powell. The group recorded this song in Los Angeles and just after it was a hit, Bobby was found dead in his car. The official cause of death was accidental asphyxiation, but rumors of murder continue to this day.

This is his most famous song, I Fought The Law.

♫ The Bobby Fuller Four - I Fought The Law

Okay, here’s the real thing, one of the most famous soul tracks ever and one of the best. I only need to say PERCY SLEDGE and you’ll know what I mean.

Percy Sledge

Percy was from Alabama and took a job in a hospital there during the day. In the evenings and weekends, he’d be out singing. One of the patients was a record producer and he invited Percy to audition at his record place. He was signed immediately.

This is the first song he recorded and where would you go from there? It’s been a hit several times over the years and is one of the most recognizable songs around. It’s pretty much the epitome of soul music, When a Man Loves a Woman.

♫ Percy Sledge - When a Man Loves a Woman

THE MAMAS AND THE PAPAS were really on a roll. They could do no wrong and pretty much everything they recorded became a hit. Of course, most of them were fine songs, written by John Phillips.

Besides John, the group consisted of his wife Michele, Cass Elliot and Denny Doherty. Alas, Michele is the only one still alive. That’s a fairly serious attrition rate, even for a Sixties group.

Mamas and Papas

With the song today, I Saw Her Again, there’s a false start in the final chorus but the group decided to go with it anyway. Paul McCartney was rather snippy about it: "That has to be a mistake. Nobody's that clever," was his response. See what you think.

♫ Mamas & Papas - I Saw Her Again Last Night

LEE DORSEY was yet another great musician from New Orleans.

Lee Dorsey

The family moved to Portland, Oregon when he was 10 years old. He eventually served in the navy and after that worked as a motor mechanic. He met producer Allen Toussaint at a party and he recorded a song, “Ya Ya,” that went to number one.

After a couple more songs, the record company folded and Lee went back to the car repair biz. After a bit, Allen searched him out and recorded Lee again and had another hit with Working in a Coal Mine.

Lee has been influential and his songs have been covered by a lot of folks. He died at 61 from emphysema – too many ciggies, probably.

♫ Lee Dorsey - Working In A Coal Mine

THE MONKEES were better than they should have been. They started in a TV series after the producer Don Kirshner put them together in response to The Beatles and especially their film, A Hard Day’s Night.

The Monkees

The chosen ones weren’t musically talentless, but that wasn’t the priority of TV; they went with appearance. Davy Jones was a competent drummer. However, he’s short in stature and couldn’t be seen behind the drum kit so he was put out in front playing the tambourine.

They put Micky Dolenz, who was the tallest of them, on the drums even though he’d never played them before. Peter Tork was a very good guitarist so he became the bass player. Michael Nesmith was an excellent bass player so he played the guitar (he was a reasonable guitarist).

They learned their chosen instruments quite quickly, much against the wishes of the TV producers who wanted complete control over them.

Initially, their music was played by studio musicians with one, or some, of them singing. Eventually they began playing the music themselves and railed against what they were forced to play on the show.

The Monkees TV program lasted three years and produced some pretty okay music. Michael Nesmith later became a fine country rock musician. The others have re-formed over the years without Michael who had no more interest in the group.

The song Last Train To Clarksville was actually released before the program went on air as a sort of promo for the show.

♫ The Monkees - Last Train To Clarksville

Here is another great soul singer, one of the best, WILSON PICKETT.

Wilson Pickett

Wilson was one of the major soul singers; there were few better than he was. He was born in Alabama but went to live with his father in Detroit at a young age as his mother scared him, he said.

He joined a gospel quartet called the Violinaires who accompanied such groups as the Soul Stirrers and the Swan Silvertones – all the best ones. Wilson noticed that singers from those groups went out on their own and started raking it in, as it were. He thought that would be a good idea and so it proved.

Initially he joined a soul group called The Falcons whose members included Eddie Floyd and Mack Rice. He then went out on his own and became probably the most enduring and best of the soul singers, at least of those who didn’t die young.

1966 was an extraordinary year for him as he released Mustang Sally, Land of 1000 Dances, Ninety-nine and a Half Won’t Do, and the one I’m featuring, 634-5789 (Soulsville USA).

♫ Wilson Pickett - 634-5789

I can only describe DONOVAN Leitch as fey. He recorded a whole bunch of albums that I would generously describe as rubbish. However, in amongst that, he produced a reasonable number of songs as good as any around in the mid Sixties, and a better percentage of those than a lot of his contemporaries.


Donovan was from Scotland and started out as a Dylan wannabe. You can see him in some scenes in the film, Don’t Look Back about Bob’s tour of Britain around the time he was plugging in.

From then, Donovan’s style was rather hippy dippy and after the Sixties, he pretty well fell out of view. However, around this time he recorded a few really fine songs. This may or may not be one of them, Mellow Yellow.

♫ Donovan - Mellow Yellow

INTERESTING STUFF: 22 October 2010

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.

Amazing slow-motion approach of an owl...


BBC emily_picture_webSMALL

That drawing by Emily Kasriel, which asks the question, “Should doctors help us contemplate our own death?” is the programme image for today's episode of the BBC World Service show, The Forum on just that topic.

Among the guests is 93-year-old Diana Athill who I know some of you are familiar with from her most recent memoir, Somewhere Towards the End. Here is Ms. Athill in an excerpt from the show (transcript below the audio):

BBC The Forum - Diana_Athill Excerpt

"I don’t think you have to think very deeply about it [death] but I do think you have to think about it fairly regularly. Someone said, ‘You ought to think about death for about 15 minutes every day.’ I think that’s overdoing it, but I do think that saying to yourself, ‘What do I think about death?’ fairly regularly, familiarises you with the idea so that you’re no longer frightened about it.

“I never have been, for a very long time. I haven’t been frightened by it. And getting it into your head, that it’s a part of life.

"And now I live surrounded by old people in a house, with I think 40 old people, well I haven’t taken a vote from everybody, but those who I know well, none of them are scared."

Also on the programme are U.S. surgeon Pauline Chen who says,

“I would like to change the way doctors, nurses and other caregivers approach death. When a patient dies, most caregivers, and particularly doctors, tend to scatter, if not in presence, then in mind. My idea is that across the world…there be a mandatory five-minute moment of silence when a patient dies.”

The third guest is poet Paul Muldoon who speaks of his sister's early death:

“She bought a grave, and realised that it wasn’t the right grave…she needed a bigger grave, so she bought a queen size grave as it were or maybe king size. But she also asked me to write something to put on her headstone. And I wrote a little couplet:

“'She stood where you stand, bright eyed, brave, and took the measure of her grave.’”

You can read more about this thoughtful, 45-minute programme here and you can listen to the entire show here. I highly recommend it.

With all the #occupy news, there is a lot of talk about the 99 percenters. The Wall Street Journal this week posted a calculator that computes where you fall in the income scale of the 99. You can try it here.

The one that most caught my attention is this Fredric J. Baur who designed the original Pringles can and in 2008, was laid to rest inside an empty, original-flavor can, per his dying wish.

You can read about the other nine weirdest possibilities for yours or a loved ones ashes – melt them into a diamond, tattoo them on someone's skin, etc.

After posting a Simon's Cat video here last week, I wondered if there are others I've missed since I last checked in with this cartoonist several months ago. Sure enough – and something like this happens almost every day at my house.

Claude of Photoblogging in Paris has been traveling again and she posted this photo from Venice.

Claude Venice Old Woman

“Once,” writes Claude, “I asked an old lady for directions, (when I say old, old she was, she told me she was 89) and she said she would walk me wherever I was going. So I immediately protested, in my broken Italian, explaining that I did not want her to get tired because of me, and she told me that walking was life.

“As I wondered whether all those steps were not too much for her, she said that living in Venice kept you going, as no matter what you did, you had to cross all those bridges. She told me she went shopping every day.”

You can read more at Claude's blog.

My friend Stan James of wanderingstan sent this clip of a tribal chief from New Guinea visiting London for the first time who is completely befuddled by the western practice of not keeping elder parents at home.

This clip is from a documentary series titled, Return of the Tribe about the trip to London by the chief and five of his subjects. I'm part way through watching the several hours and it's fascinating. You can watch it here.

It is being reported that a company named Pegasus Global Holdings will build a town called The Center in New Mexico. It will be large enough to house 35,000 people but will remain entirely empty. According to Engadget:

“'ll be rented out to companies wanting to test their technology in a real urban environment, rather than just testing it out in a real urban environment.

“Companies can examine things like residential solar panel efficiency, smart traffic systems or the best way to secure wireless networks in dense areas.”

I lean more toward Occam's Razor for explanations than conspiracy theories, but this announcement about the reasons for an empty town in the middle of a desert seems particularly lame to me and I'm not the only one who is skeptical/suspicious/etc.

You can read more here and here and here or just Google “pegasus ghost town” for more than three million results.

More charming than what you are expecting. Raymond (no, not Russell) Crowe at the Royal Variety Show - from Darlene Costner.

Aging as an Extreme Sport

Although I have never met him, one of my favorite people in the “aging business” (if you will) is Joe Coughlin. He is the founder and director of the MIT AgeLab in Cambridge, Massachusetts.

I've mentioned the AgeLab from time to time particularly in regard to AGNES, the aging suit the AgeLab invented to help young designers understand the physical needs of elders. The AgeLab is a place, as is explained on their website, that

”...was created in 1999 to invent new ideas and creatively translate technologies into practical solutions that improve people’s health and enable them to 'do things' throughout the lifespan.”

Besides running the AgeLab, Coughlin spends a great deal of time evangelizing for elder innovation on the smart theory that if it works well for old people it undoubtedly helps young ones too - and his enthusiasm always energizes me.

I'm taking a day off from blogging so in my place, here is a 12-minute TED talk from Joe Coughlin about aging as an extreme sport. I hope you will take the time to watch it. You won't be sorry.

At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Barbara Sloan: Bionic Geriatrics – The Brave Old Age

Uncertainty in Old Age

category_bug_journal2.gif Just some stuff that's been floating around in my head.

Among the mantras of our recession that has been annoying me is the insistence from bankers, Wall Street, CEOs, right wing politicians and pundits that the economic climate will not improve until there is certainty in the corporate world.

What they want us to believe is that if the realm of commerce were made more predictable, they would hire millions of workers and everything would be hunky-dory again.

Of course that's not true and it is hardly a secret that their call for certainty is nothing more than a lobby effort aimed at Congress to reduce regulation and taxes on their businesses – preferably to zero.

Christian Dorsey of the Economic Policy Institute stated it clearly on Tuesday:

”They absolutely want government to stay out of their business when profits are soaring, but absolutely plead for taxpayer funded bailouts as soon as the system collapses. It is fundamentally wrong that they want to rig the game so that it's heads they win and tails we all lose.”

Wouldn't it be nice if there were certainty in life? When I was young, I wished I could be certain that everyone would like me; that I would not be alone on Saturday night; that I would not lose my job and that I would find someone to love.

Now that I am old, my personal uncertainties are more serious and frightening. Will my mind turn into Swiss cheese? Will I become physically disabled? Will I be able to adapt if I cannot drive anymore? What if I run out of money before I die?

It is a blessing of old age that I am able to continue daily living with these worries much more easily than the sillier ones of my youth.

After she had suffered a stroke, a double mastectomy and a broken collar bone all within 13 months, the actor Bette Davis famously said, “old age ain't for sissies.” No kidding. No one plans on such things as befell Ms. Davis in quick succession and unless one has great wealth, there isn't much to do to mitigate the disasters life may or may not inflict upon us. Mostly, it's a wait and see game.

Uncertainty has been the way of human life from time immemorial. Pliny, a Roman philosopher who lived at about the time of Christ, seems to have been the first (we know of) who said the only certainty is that nothing is certain.

A 20th century philosopher, Bertrand Russell, believed that certainty, while desirable, is an intellectual vice. Voltaire declared certainty to be absurd - and of course, he is correct.

Life is filled with uncertainty. Doubt. Indecision. Ambiguity. Insecurity. Precariousness. Suspense. Fear. Risk.

I see no reason corporations should be granted any more immunity to these conditions than you and I.

At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Jackie Harrison: Eyes to Behold

Social Security COLA and Medicare 2012

category_bug_journal2.gif Summer is gone, the first of fall/winter holidays will be here in 10 days or so (Boo!) and that means it must be time to think about finances for 2012. Herewith an update for elders.

UPDATE: It was announced this morning that the 2012 Social Security COLA will be 3.6 percent.

As I write this on Tuesday, it is expected that on Wednesday – today – the Social Security Administration will announce a cost-of-living-adjustment (COLA) to the SSA benefit. It is expected to be about 3.5 3.6 percent and will be the first increase since 2009.

Now before you run out and spend that money (at 3.5 percent, $37.70/month on the average benefit of $1077) remember that for beneficiaries enrolled in traditional Medicare, with the COLA comes an increase in the Medicare Part B premium which is deducted from most people's Social Security payment.

Due to a “hold harmless” provision in the federal law, Part B withholding cannot be increased if there is no COLA so most people's Part B premium has remained at $96.40 (some are higher for various reasons) during 2010 and 2011.

Meanwhile, however, in the background the Part B premium has been increasing in the past two years even if it was not applied. The actual 2011 premium is $115.40 and the new rate for 2012 has not been announced. Perhaps it will be today with the COLA announcement.

The hold harmless provision still applies; whatever the Part B premium is for 2012, it cannot be larger than your Social Security COLA.

It is important to note that the dates for the annual Medicare open enrollment season have changed this year. Although it has been extended from six to seven weeks, it began earlier – last Saturday, 15 October.

Unlike the past, it DOES NOT RUN UNTIL THE END OF THE YEAR. It ends now on Wednesday 7 December, so mark your calendars.

During this period, here is what you can do:

  • Enroll in a Part D (prescription drug) plan

  • Change from your current Part D plan to a different one

  • Return to traditional Medicare (Parts A and B) from a Medicare Advantage plan)

  • Enroll in a Medicare Advantage plan

  • Change Medicare Advantage plans

You can research and make these changes at the Medicare website or by telephoning 1-800-MEDICARE (1-800-633-4227).

If you are happy with your Advantage or Part D plans, you need do nothing to keep them. But I highly recommend that you compare your current coverage to others available in your state. Premiums and deductibles change year to year as do drug formularies and Advantage plans might have changed their benefit packages, copays and network providers.

For more information:
• The 2012 Medicare & You Handbook [pdf]

State Health Insurance Assistance Program (one-on-one help)

The Medicare Rights Center (information on your rights and benefits)

At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Deborah Greant: Operator!

Awakening: Occupy Everywhere

category_bug_politics.gif I spent a lot of time last weekend watching the #Occupy protests around the world but especially here in the U.S. With the number of demonstrators steadily increasing over the past four weeks and Wall Street titans whining to the press, it is clear a chord has been struck - an idea that however messy and disorganized it seems right now, resonates deeply with the world's 99 percent.

Not to mention with the one percenters too. You know something important is afoot when the elite deign to notice the rest of us. Listen to their attempted ridicule:

“'Most people view it as a ragtag group looking for sex, drugs and rock ’n’ roll,' said one top hedge fund manager...

“'It’s not a middle-class uprising,” adds another veteran bank executive. “It’s fringe groups.'”

Of course that is demonstrably not so. Actually, cartoonist Tom Tomorrow nailed it well (click here for larger image):

Tom Tomorrow

The traditional media – that part that shows a modicum of serious interest in what's happening - keeps wringing its hands over the #Occupy movement having no leader and no list of demands, which only means they are too attached to the elites to understand.

It is enough, for now, as #Occupy is still gaining steam, to say that it opposes the corporate takeover of the economy. There will be specifics when the time is right." (It is helpful in this regard to read this from Mike Konczal of the Roosevelt Institute.)

With all public institutions now owned by the elite (big example: against all rational thought, the Supreme Court granted personhood to corporations) and so many rights removed from the rest of us, the traditional channels of democracy are no longer available. That leaves street occupation the only avenue available for the people to right a wrong.

It certainly cannot be done through the ballot box any longer as state after state institutes restrictions on registration and voting. When a friend pointed out that when the only way to win is to rig elections you have already lost power, I realized how desperate the elite is and how dangerous that could become for the demonstrators.

But that means too, I think, that we are poised in a moment of promise. I worry that colder weather might shrink and dilute the demonstrations. I worry (and almost expect) that the protests, one way or another, will be crushed by the elite. But I also sense that, setbacks or not, this is not going away.

It's important to remember that success will take not weeks, nor even months, but a long, long time. What needs to change is too big and too complicated to not cause a lot of disruption and discomfort all around. All struggles for social and economic justice are hard to do and hard won.

But watching all those demonstrations over the weekend and reading the internet and twitter feeds from the protests and watching videos of the gatherings, chants and arrests, I felt some hope for the first time in several years.

So often since 2008 and even before, many asked when there would be an uprising, an awakening. The time, finally, is here.

It was terrific, as I watched, to see the gray hairs scattered at the barricades. This is a young person's movement, but there is plenty of help and support for elders to provide.

At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Mickey Rogers: No Respect

Exercise is a Net Good – Always

category_bug_journal2.gif Over the weekend, an old friend in New York City emailed to tell me about his recent thalium stress test.

”I forgot to those mornings at the gym have paid off.

“There I was on the treadmill. As the cardiologist keep raising the speed and incline, I kept going - like an elderly Energizer Bunny.

“Finally, the doctor got frustrated and jacked up the numbers so I was running up a 15-degree slope which didn't exhaust me but hurt my feet because of a condition called fat pad atrophy, which is self-explanatory.”

Wow. That's astonishing especially when you know that my old friend is also old – 73 years. It's not that he hasn't exercised through the years, but it has been haphazard and without intention. Early this year, he set out to get serious about the exercise aspect of staying healthy.

Because the the stress test results are so impressive, I asked my friend if he would tell TGB readers about his regimen.

“Of course, anything to help my fellow-dodderers,” he said. “First, a routine:

“I'm at the gym three mornings a week. I do 20 minutes on the elliptical to work up a sweat. To avoid boredom - which leads to laziness – I do three minutes each at ever increasing levels starting at level 1 and ending with level 6.

“I do 60 minutes on various resistance machines, especially those that strengthen the core. I do three sets of eight reps at each machine. (Obviously, this isn't actually 60 minutes since I take breaks between sets.)

“Twenty minutes on the treadmill. Again, to avoid boredom, I do three minutes at ever increasing levels (inclines). Start at, say, Incline 1 and aim for Incline 5. At first, it's best not to raise the speed along with the inclines; start at 2.8 mph and go no higher than 3.3 mph, especially if you have food-pad atrophy).

“Every Monday, I bump everything up a notch. So, for example, if you did three sets of eight reps, at 10 pounds resistance on an abdomen machine, you should bump that to 15 pounds resistance, and so on, week after week. Same with the elliptical and treadmill: bump the levels and inclines.

“As you can see, this is NOT an easy routine and the lazy or undisciplined will quit pretty soon. But for anyone who stays with it, after three months (which is only 36 sessions) he or she will be in much, much better shape than when he/she started.”

Ronni here again. My friend recommends (and I agree) that before you begin a new exercise regimen, it is good to print out the recommended exercises at the Mayo Clinic website and of course, check with your physician. And here's some more good advice from my friend:

“If you suspect your doctor is basing his recommendation on your temperament and not your actual condition, repeat the question this way: 'If you didn't know me personally, what exercise routine would you recommend for somebody at my age and in my state of health?'

“I might add that this routine won't do you much good if you (1) smoke; (2) drink heavily; and/or (3) eat badly.”

Ronni here. I didn't ask for suggestions about gyms, their ambience, cost and such but my friend included some interesting information about all that. Some of it may be New York City-centric, but it's worth checking out in your area:

“Money: in the past few years, several of the major gym chains have opened discount subsidiaries which offer miraculous specials - Planet Fitness is advertising a promotion for $10 a month. Blink Fitness has been offering a $20 a month deal.

“These places are not at all shabby. They're usually only a couple of years old and they have more equipment that you'll ever need. What they don't offer are bells and whistles: showers, but no towels, no shampoo, no conditioner; no classes or individual instruction.

“However, there are usually professional trainers around working with clients, and they're glad to add to their client lists.

“Because of the low prices, the customers tend to be working class or destitute students. At Blink on East 4th Street in New York City, it's an exhilarating mix of male, white, black, Latino and Asian bodybuilders; expectant mothers of all colors and nationalities; incredibly strong female athletes (my occasional trainer is a 20-year-old former gymnast from Ukraine - we communicate in mime and grunts); and a handful of old farts like me.

“People come to Blink (and Planet Fitness) to exercise - nobody wears Spandex, and there's very little socializing (or even chatting) while people are doing routines. These joints are not for Carrie Bradshaw and her pals.”

Ronni again: Well, that cuts the intimidation level way down and erases one more excuse.

Week after week, year after year, the research studies pile up with unanimous results: regular exercise is crucial to maintaining both our physical health and cognitive abilities as we age. By now, we all know that, but few of us do much about it.

My friend tells me he has been going to the gym three days a week since March with fewer visits over the summer and he's been back to the full three-per-week for about a month and a half.

In that time he has not doubled or tripled his capabilities. He says he is in five times better shape that when he began his gym routine – as his stress test confirmed. It's amazing how far we can improve even at our ages.

Maybe his regimen is too much or too strict for you, but I'll bet you could do more than you are doing and as he says: exercise is a net good – always.

At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Mort Reichek: The Bronx County Courthouse vs. The Taj Mahal


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.

Charlie's Angels

This may seem an unlikely topic from this old skeptic. I’ve always thought that angels were a particularly silly construct from the various religious figures who thought them up.  I imagine drugs or alcohol were involved when they came up with the idea.

Given that, though, they have inspired some rather good songs. A lot of these are country songs or, at least, in a country style but if there are enough interesting songs, that’s good enough for me. Fortunately, there are.

I’ll start with the singer who inspired this column, MERRILEE RUSH.

Merrilee Rush

When I heard her song I thought, “My goodness, I haven’t heard that for a long time,” and wondered if there were enough angelic songs out there for me to start tippy tapping away. It turns out there were far too many and I probably should have dropped her but as she’s the inspiration, Merrilee is in.

To the best of my knowledge, this was her only hit and it’s not bad. It’s not great, but it’s not bad. The song was written by Chip Taylor whose real name is James Voight, brother of the actor Jon and uncle to Angelina - she of the lips, for those interested in such things.

This is Angel of the Morning.

♫ Merrilee Rush - Angel of the Morning

THE CRESTS were a DooWop group from New York, best known for the song 16 Candles that has already been featured, rather memorably, in a column but is unrelated to the topic at hand.

The Crests

They had a few other songs that did a bit on the charts but only one that was anywhere as successful as that first one. That song is The Angels Listened In which fortunately for us, is about our topic today.

♫ The Crests - Angels Listened In

My favorite of the songs today is by the late, great, brilliant, tragic GRAM PARSONS.

Gram Parsons

Gram was the main influence on The Byrds’ greatest album, “Sweetheart of the Rodeo.” that sold about seven copies when it was released. I’ve always wondered who bought the other six.

Gram founded, along with Chris Hillman, another ex-Byrd, one of the most influential bands, The Flying Burrito Brothers. He next recorded two solo albums, only one of which was released while he was alive, and he introduced Emmylou Harris to the world.

He died at 26, just a couple of months short of the traditional rock & roll death age. This is Return of the Grievous Angel with Emmylou singing harmony.

♫ Gram Parsons - Return of the Grievous Angel

Angel Eyes has been used as the title, or part thereof, for a number of songs – Willis Alan Ramsey has one, Emmylou Harris another as does Curtis Lee. There’s one that was a surprise for me and that was by FRANK SINATRA.

Frank Sinatra

Frank’s tune is from one of his greatest albums, “Only the Lonely.” This one had nothing to do with Roy Orbison and preceded Roy’s song with the same name by quite a few years. There was another angel song from Frank, A Sinner Kissed an Angel from early in his career but I decided to go with the later one. Here’s Frank with Angel Eyes.

♫ Frank Sinatra - Angel Eyes

Sweet Little Angel is a staple of B.B. King's live shows.

B.B. King

I don’t know if he plays it every time he performs but I wouldn’t be surprised. I’ve already featured one of those live versions in a previous column so today I’ll go right back into the past and play his original studio version.

♫ B.B. King - Sweet Little Angel

This next is the most unlikely angelic tune of all. It’s by BOB DYLAN.

Bob Dylan

Bob has written so much that it’s not unusual that there’s an angel in there somewhere; indeed there are least three from him that I know about. It’s just that this is a most un-Bob like song. It’s taken from his most under-rated album, “New Morning” - Three Angels.

♫ Bob Dylan - Three Angels

THE CLOVERS started when several students at a high school in Washington D.C. got together in the mid Forties and started singing together. Over the years, there have been more than 30 members of the group; this is just one of the versions.

The Clovers

Their big break came in the early Fifties when they signed up to Atlantic Records and had quite a few hits throughout that decade for the company. Their biggest hit, however, came after they left Atlantic, Love Potion No. 9.

That’s nothing to do with the topic at hand. The one we’re interested in came earlier, back at Atlantic. It is Devil or Angel.

♫ The Clovers - Devil or Angel

I was originally going to include John Prine’s version of his own song but hearing it back to back with BONNIE RAITT's version, I decided I prefer Bonnie doing it.

Bonnie Raitt

Bonnie was destined to be a musician. Her father was the stage, occasional film and Broadway actor and singer, John Raitt and her mother was the pianist, Marjorie Haydock. Bonnie received a guitar for Christmas when she was eight and hasn’t looked back.

Later, she’d hang around blues clubs and gig with various blues legends when she should have been studying. The hanging around paid off in the end as she’s one of the world’s great slide guitarists. This is Angel from Montgomery.

♫ Bonnie Raitt - Angel from Montgomery

It’s no surprise that the LOUVIN BROTHERS have the most traditional look at angels today.

Louvin Brothers

They did rather wear their religion on their sleeves as it were. Their secular songs are some of the best country songs from the early Fifties but the others leave a bit to be desired.

Here is one of those others, The Angels Rejoiced Last Night.

♫ Louvin Brothers - The Angels Rejoiced Last Night

Last, the person who seems to divide readers, IRIS DeMENT.

Iris Dement

I really like her, although I’ll admit that I didn’t when I first heard her. She’s an artist that sneaks up on you if you give her a chance.

Iris is youngest child of Pat DeMent and his second wife, Flora Mae. She is Pat's 14th child and Flora Mae's eighth.  Heavens, there must be DeMents all over Arkansas.

In nearly 20 years of recording, she has only produced four albums. Three of them are real gems though. Her angel song is from her first album and it’s the title song, Infamous Angel. That’s the ubiquitous Jerry Douglas on the dobro on this track.

♫ Iris DeMent - Infamous Angel

I reluctantly had to exclude Eliza Gilkyson’s Calling All Angels, a terrific song. Also just missing the cut were The Penguins, Earth Angel; Curtis Lee, Pretty Little Angel Eyes; and the Stanley Brothers, Angels Are Singing in Heaven Tonight. More than a dozen more were considered.

INTERESTING STUFF: 15 October 2011

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.

It was a set up, a wonderful surprise set up for this girl taking part in a spelling bee when her dad returned home after many months. Take a look.

It was announced this week that Harvard Law professor Elizabeth Warren – running to become the Democratic candidate for senator from Massachusetts – raised twice as much money as current Senator Scott Brown.

That's good news for progressives who support Warren. There's a terrific profile of her in Vanity Fair. You can read it here.

You and I, of course, are smart and informed enough to know these, but most Republicans are not. You can read the seven at Huffington Post or watch Reich's video.

And expensive too.

Hail the flush toilet. For a century or more, it has served one of mankind's most urgent needs well and with few moving parts, most of the time it's so easy to fix even I can do it.

Not one to leave well enough alone, however, Kohler has created the $6,000 toilet operated by computer. Take a look.

Recently, a Florida judge imposed the longest sentence ever in a Medicare fraud case – 50 years for fraud, money laundering and conspiracy that cost U.S. Taxpayers $205,000 in losses to the program.

However, that's a tiny drop in the bucket. The federal government estimates that fraudulent pharmacies, clinics and medical supply companies, many based in south Florida, cost the program $60 billion annually.

I wish I could try this but it is undoubtedly not as easy as it looks. (I'm pretty sure I owe someone a hat tip for this video, but neglected to make note of the name – sorry.)

Mainstream media keeps asking what the Occupy Wall Street demonstrators want. What are their demands, ask pundits, what do they stand for. It is enough, I believe, for the protesters to point out the problem; it is legislators' duty to supply solutions – it's what we pay them for.

Of course, it is one of the few grownup, serious people in Congress who has stepped forward to do this. This week, Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders published six Wall Street proposals he is working on – first supplying his rationale [emphasis added]:

”More than three years ago, Congress rewarded Wall Street with the biggest taxpayer bailout in the history of the world. Simultaneously but unknown to the American people at the time, the Federal Reserve provided an even larger bailout.

“The details of what the Fed did were kept secret until a provision in the Dodd-Frank Act that I sponsored required the Government Accountability Office to audit the Fed’s lending programs during the financial crisis.

“As a result of this audit, the American people have learned that the Federal Reserve provided more than $16 trillion in low-interest loans to every major financial institution in this country, huge foreign banks, multi-national corporations, and some of the wealthiest people in the world.

You can read the senator's six Wall Street proposals here.

chlost of Just My Life sent along the link to this video – well, tall paintings. I'm not sure what to make of it, but enjoyed watching.

It is just plain embarrassing what our political system is becoming. Now Joe the plumber is running for Congress against the estimable Marcy Kaptur who, as the longest serving woman in Congress, has been a reliable Democratic moderate since 1983.

Our own Saul Friedman wrote about Represenattive Kaptur here at TGB a year ago. If you're an Ohioan, you might want to do what you can to help out Ms. Kaptur in next year's election. We need her in Congress.

Among all the cat videos on YouTube, Simon's Cat is one of my favorites. I had forgotten to check in on him for awhile and this week discovered a new one – to me anyway.

Crabby Old Lady Wearies of Stupid Retail Tricks

By now, just about everyone who uses email can spot the infamous Nigerian scam and its imitators, right? We also know better than to give our Social Security and bank account numbers to strangers over the telephone or in an email. And Crabby Old Lady is pretty sure you would never fall for a “miracle cure” that lands in your inbox.

If you ever have doubts about a commercial offer, the Bureau of Consumer Protection at the Federal Trade Commission keeps up-to-date lists of scams, how they work and advice on avoiding them.

But today, Crabby Old Lady is more concerned with tricks than scams. It feels as though she has spent a lifetime being always on alert for someone who is trying to rip her off – even reputable retailers – and rather than ire, Crabby feels weariness and ennui.

Hardly a week passes that a catalog doesn't arrive with a blaring headline, “25 Percent Off Sale.” It fools Crabby every time.

Just when she thinks she can finally pick up an item she has been wanting at a reasonable price, she spies the teeny tiny print beneath the giant headline. It requires her magnifying glass for Crabby to see the catch: “On purchases of $200 or more.”

Crabby's item is never as much as the price limit and do you suppose those marketers really believe she will buy $150 of stuff she doesn't need to get 25 percent off? Do they think she is stupid?

This 25 percent off $200 trick is invariably from well-known, established retailers Crabby Old Lady has used all her life – in stores and online - but Crabby is less inclined to feel warm and fuzzy toward them each time this happens.

Then there are the online retailers – well known and otherwise, hundreds if not thousands of them – who make Crabby click through 12 pages to find the price of the item she is interested in. Who in their right mind believes making it hard to find a price will endear anyone to their products?

Crabby Old Lady lives on a budget. She knows how much she is willing to pay for any given item and she does not stick around through 10 or 12 pages to see if her price is a match with the store's. They have lost the sale no matter what the price by page three Crabby clicks.

Crabby cannot be the only person who shops – or not - in this way.

Although Crabby likes to think she's sophisticated in spotting tricks and scams, she got caught in one just this week. She had received an offer to try a “serum” that promises to erase facial wrinkles even in people older than 50.

Yeah, sure, like any of those things work. However, about once a year Crabby tries one with the idea of writing about it here – if she ever finds one that does what it claims. This offer required that Crabby pay only shipping costs.

The miniscule bottle arrived a few days later and as in the past, after a couple of weeks, Crabby's skin was no firmer and her wrinkles had not changed a whit. About then, an unexpected box arrived in the mail – another miniscule bottle of serum.

And sure enough, when she checked her credit card activity online – there was a charge from the serum company for $75. Oh, damn - Crabby immediately knew exactly what had happened.

In purchasing the sample, she had skimmed the 89-page terms and conditions where it undoubtedly states that she agrees to receive a new bottle of serum every two weeks at a cost of $75 each, but she missed it (or, perhaps, it's not there).

It's an old trick used by thousands of online retailers – especially cosmetics companies.

Crabby went ballistic. After a heated telephone discussion with the company, Crabby currently awaits a deduction from her credit card and if it does not appear by Monday, she will open an official dispute via her credit card company. No way will she ever pay those rip-off artists.

That happened on Wednesday. By Thursday, Crabby was again assaulted by lame marketers who believe withholding the price is a sure-fire way to make a sale.

In yesterday morning's email was an announcement of an “upgrade” for the brand of money management software Crabby uses – the new 2012 edition. $20 off, said the email without telling Crabby the price.

Like she said, Crabby feels less angered by such trickery than tired by the stupidity of marketers thinking customers are more inclined to make a purchase when the the price is hidden behind large numbers of mouse clicks.

On this one, Crabby will stick with her old edition and if the company cuts off her ability to sync with her online banking, there are alternatives.

There is no story at The Elder Storytelling Place today. There will be more next week.

Flu and Other Shots for Elders

category_bug_journal2.gif As you know, I was down for a week or so last month with a flu. Well, that wasn't a professional diagnoses - just my own based on aches, pains, a low-grade fever and feeling amazingly rotten.

After allowing a couple more weeks for complete recovery, a few days ago I hied myself off to my local pharmacy for the annual flu shot. It is covered my Medicare and just as I was thinking about posting a flu shot reminder to all of you who read TGB, a remarkably succinct and useful Tipsheet [pdf] on vaccines arrived via email from The American Geriatrics Society.

The Centers for Disease Control recommend that almost everyone age 65 and older get an annual flu shot. It saves thousands of hospitalizations and deaths and is especially important for those who live in a nursing home and have serious health conditions such as heart disease, diabetes, asthma, lung disease or HIV because they are at higher risk of experiencing serious, flu-related complications.

This year's flu shot protects against the three strains of the influenza virus that are most common worldwide including the 2009 H1N1 virus. There are three choices of how the shot is delivered:

  1. The regular shot delivered into muscle
  2. Regular shot delivered with a smaller needle under the skin instead of muscle still providing the same degree of protection
  3. A new, high-dose shot especially for people 65 and older that may provide a stronger immune response

It is not yet known if that third option results if greater protection, but “it is more likely to cause pain, redness and swelling at the injection site and mild, but temporary headache, muscle aches, fever and discomfort.” (I know that sounds remarkably like the flu but no, it is not possible to get the flu from a flu shot.)

Whichever you (or your physician) choose, be sure to get your shot soon so you are protected during the high flu season in January and February.

There are some people who should not take the annual shot: “People who are allergic to eggs, have had allergic reactions to flu shots in the past, or have been diagnosed with Guillian-Barre Syndrome.”

The Tipshit Tipsheet also contains information on other vaccines you may want to discuss with your physician – pneumococcal that protects against pneumococcal bacteria, Tdap and shingles.

Most of you probably know all this, but I would be remiss in not mentioning one of the most successful and easiest illness preventions we have.

At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Nancy Leitz: The Cat Who Loved Cosmo

“Enough” Money in Retirement

Except at the most abstract, we have hardly ever discussed retirement income at Time Goes By. One reason is that the amount each person lives on varies so widely that it's hard to find common ground or consensus. Another is that in the years since the financial crash, many retirees and near-retirees have been forced to change their expectations and/or living standards.

Many of us lost a large percentage of our life savings in the market crash. Others who expected to work for a few more years have run in to the twin difficulties of layoffs and long-term unemployment coupled with age discrimination. And some, who intended to cash out the equity in their homes and downsize, have instead found themselves stuck with underwater mortgages.

These past few years have not been an easy time to figure out how to retire.

Daily, my email inbox fills up with pitches from PR people urging me to write stories about a wide variety products and services. I generally ignore them, particularly the many from financial services “experts” each of whom has a secret system (usually in a book they are flogging) to make you rich in your retirement.

In a short glance before hitting the Delete button, I've recently noticed that they have something in common: almost all claim that to maintain the standard of living you are accustomed to, you will need 80 to 90 percent of pre-retirement income.

I think that would be nice to have, but I cannot imagine that many people – especially the non-wealthy – come anywhere near that amount. Or, more importantly, that such a high percentage is necessary.

Obviously, low income workers would need nearly 100 percent of pre-retirement income (I doubt many achieve that). I'm also betting that few middle-income retirees have anything like 80-90 percent of their pre-retirement earnings.

In my case, I live on about 24 percent of the last salary I earned before retiring. Although I can't take extravagant (or much of any) vacations, I get by relatively easily. Most of what makes that possible is not having a mortgage on my home and owning my car and I know how lucky I am about that. Like many people, however, any unexpected disaster would be – well, a financial disaster.

So I'm wondering today how you, dear readers who are retired or approaching that milestone, are doing? Do you agree that 80-90 percent of your pre-retirement income is needed? How much is enough for you? What, if anything, have you given up or expect to give up in retirement? How has the financial crisis and great recession affected your retirement or plans for it?

(If you'd rather discuss this anonymously, do feel free to not use your real or usual name in the comments.)

At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Johna Ferguson: A Few Small Changes