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December 2011

Payroll Tax Cut Ambivalence

category_bug_politics.gif It tells you a lot about our corrupt politics that when Congress passed the payroll tax holiday in December 2010 in the same package as the extension of the Bush era tax cuts primarily benefiting the wealthy, the former was for a period of one year and the latter for two years.

So the rich folks are secure in their tax cuts for another year. But now that Congress has returned to Washington following the Thanksgiving recess, the payroll tax holiday that benefits the middle and working classes must be renewed by the end of December or return, in January paychecks, to the full 6.2 percent Social Security withholding - up by a third from the 4.2 percent in force during 2011.

On Monday, with President Barack Obama's imprimatur, Senate Democrats introduced a bill not only to extend the payroll tax holiday through 2012; it would also increase the cut to 3.1 percent or half the full deduction of 6.2 percent.

But wait, there's more.

This new bill would also reduce the employer half of the payroll tax on the first $5 million of taxable payroll to the same 3.1 percent as employees.

The bill proposes to pay for the tax holiday with a 3.25 percent tax on gross income above the first $1 million. I don't need to tell you how Republicans feel about a tax hike, any tax hike, on rich people.

In case you are wondering, Social Security is held harmless from lost revenue in this tax holiday as the money not collected and therefore lost ($67.2 billion in 2011) is recouped from the federal government's general fund.

And that's where I get ambivalent about this.

What bothers me is that until this tax holiday, Social Security funds have always been held in an account separate from the general fund. They still are. But now, with the shortfall due to the tax holiday being replenished via the general fund, that wall between the two has been breached and I don't find it hard to imagine/believe that Congress – Republicans in particular – would just refuse to reimburse Social Security in whole or in part.

This, obviously, would put Social Security at great risk for further attack from the political right.

More than at any time since Social Security's inception, it is a crucial factor for retirement. Real wages have not increased for more than a decade and will not do so any time soon.

Additionally, workers collectively lost trillions of dollars from retirement accounts in the 2008 crash, millions more have disappeared as home are foreclosed upon or drastically reduced in value and many unemployed will never recoup either their careers or salaries.

For more people than ever before, Social Security is crucial to workers' old age and it should not be put at risk by making it easy for politicians, many of whom have tried to kill the program for decades, to raid it.

President Obama supports continuation of the “tax holiday” and will be speaking in support of its extension and expansion in Scranton, Pennsylvania today.

Congressional Republicans at first rejected renewal of the cut, but are now mostly supporting it except for the part about taxing incomes larger than $1 million. (What else is new.)

Senate leader Harry Reid may bring the bill to the floor for a vote by Friday.

It is damned difficult in this horrid economy with a real unemployment rate above 16 percent, to argue against an additional $1500/year that the proposed 2012 holiday would provide an average family, up from an average of $1,000 in 2011.

But with each payroll holiday, each increase in it, each extension and each time the reimbursement is coupled to the general fund, Social Security is at greater and growing risk.

At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Johna Ferguson: Visitors

Another Reader, Another Age Dilemma

Exactly 55. That is the age at which I learned I am not immortal. I've told the story many times:

I scanned the newsroom one day to locate a writer I needed to speak with and was stunned, gazing over two or three dozen fresh, unlined, eager, young faces that I was older by decades than everyone in the room.

After a lifetime of being the youngest kid in the crowd, I had to acknowledge that while I had been otherwise engaged, it had ceased to be true. That revelation was the genesis of my research into what getting old is really like and, eventually, this blog.

I was reminded of that life-changing moment when a drop-by reader named doug left a comment on an old post from April 2010, titled The Courage to Grow Old. In part, he wrote:

”While I may not be considered elderly by many, the subject is of course increasingly important to me, and I am glad I got up this morning at 2 a.m. from yet another nightmare about old age and dying.

“I am 55 years old, and have always fancied myself as a person who didn't fear these things. I guess it's because I am single now and wondering about mating versus not; about the prospect of ever finding anyone; about who might care for me; and the fact that I spend more time in my life (due to various factors ranging from friendships of choice to family to customer base) with the elderly, that I find myself often with repeated nightmares about a subject which philosophically has never 'scared' me.

“I must be vulnerable here, as I am in total agreement about the healthy need to embrace all things rather than escape them, and admit that these dreams indeed frighten me.”

Although I'd had my first nightmares about dying when I was eight or nine years old, it was that “55 years” in doug's note that caught my eye matching, as it does, the age at which the loss of my youth was rudely presented to me. Is there some beast, do you think, on our trek to the grave that our 55th birthday triggers?

doug, in his message, takes a side trip from his main subject to inform us that “people in their 30s are my equals physically” and “I have the body of a 20 year old.” I don't mean to be unkind, doug, but you are fooling yourself. However fit a person may be, no 55-year-old in the history of the world has ever looked 30 or 20 - especially to anyone not staring in a mirror.

What bothers me about that and has always been one of the many subtexts of this blog, is that any of us, after having lived more than half a century, cling to such nonsense. That we do (my version was believing I was still the youngest kid in the crowd) can be laid at the feet of a popular culture that from the cradle insists youth is the gold standard of life.

It is not and 55 is just about the right age, I think, to begin rejecting the youth mantra repeated in the majority of marketing and media to ask ourselves, as doug is doing, what the rest of our lives can be and what we want it to be. His comment continues:

”My heroes in life are the elderly who keep on going. Some of these are the late Jack Lalanne, Dolly Parton, Tina Turner, William Shatner, and my stepmother; and the age peers who are remarkable in their own right such as that man who climbs skyscrapers at my age.

“I have no desperate question here (or maybe I do and just don't realize it). I am simply responding to an obvious finding that this subject is important, something I want to take the time to explore. Thanks everyone for your interest and participation in blogs such as these. I am eagerly listening.”

My question at 55, since the culture generally refuses to be honest about it, was: “what is it really like to get old,” now reflected in this blog's banner above. Maybe that is what doug is asking too.

At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Jacqueline Herships: Waugari Muta Maathai Has Died at 71 and the Trees Will Mourn

Kisses in the Rain

UPDATE: Some people reading this post seem to think I'm sitting here in Lake Oswego pining for a man to sweep me off my feet. So I would like to be clear:

I am not. The couple kissing in the rain last week was like a lovely movie moment. It reminded me of another way things are different in old age that I thought was worth commenting upon.

Yes, some old people find love and romance. But not many. And it's not something I am out searching for or feel lonely for not having. At the same time and unlike a few of you, if he turned up I wouldn't mind sharing the TV remote with the right person.

But there are so many new things I'm discovering and learning in these later years that I'm mostly relieved the urgent yearnings of youth are gone.

Doesn't mean I can't have a moment or two of sweet/sad memory now and then.

category_bug_journal2.gif No one would mistake them for young, but they were not old yet either. At least, not as old as I am at 70. They were about 50 – closer to 55, I think, than 45 - and a handsome couple they were.

It was drizzling rain and they stood close, bodies touching slightly while he held her face gently in both his hands, gazing into her eyes.

He kissed her eyelids, one then the other. She tilted up her head slightly as he moved his lips to her mouth. It was not a passionate, sexual, eager kiss although I knew they had shared those too. And would again. Soon.

Right now, on a cloudy, late afternoon the kiss was about tenderness and love and assuring her that she means more to him than anyone else alive.

As I watched from inside the car, my eyes misted over. A tear slipped down my cheek. In my time, I had been kissed like that and now, waiting for the traffic light to change, an ache as gray and damp as the day appeared near my heart.

Grief, no doubt, for the kind of romance that will not pass my way again.

At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Lyn Burnstine: Daddy's Girl

ELDER MUSIC: Some More Pianists I Like

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.

I wasn't going to do a follow up but I had such a good response to my first Pianists I Like post in January that I decided to do another.

I imagine, even after this one, you'll suggest others I've omitted. However, this is about what I like. More to the point, it's about what's in my collection (although that's pretty much the same thing, really). So, let's go with a bit more ivory tinkling.

One who should have been in the first column, but I completely forgot about him, is BUD POWELL.

Bud Powell

Bud was yet another classically trained jazz musician who couldn’t get a gig in the classical world at the time so turned to jazz. He was one of the most important figures in the development of bebop. The only other pianist doing that was the great Thelonious Monk, a good friend of Bud’s.

He led a colourful life; you can see a version of it in the film, Round Midnight although the main character, played wonderfully by Dexter Gordon, was a saxophonist.

I could start writing about Bud but it would fill this column. Just listen to his music. This is Bud with the jazz classic, On Green Dolphin Street.

♫ Bud Powell - On Green Dolphin Street

KEITH JARRETT has recorded some extraordinarily fine solo works, however, a lot of these are very long pieces – indeed, whole CDs long.

Keith Jarrett

Keith can swing both ways, as it were, both jazz and classical. He was born in Allentown, Pennsylvania, and began piano lessons before he was three. That’s three!

He made his debut on TV at five playing Bach, Mozart and Beethoven. He continued his classical training until his late teens when he discovered jazz. His mum wasn’t too pleased about that.

Over the years he has played with Art Blakey, Miles Davis, Charles Lloyd and others. These days he plays solo and with his own trio with Gary Peacock and Jack DeJohnette.

Instead of his solo or group stuff, I’ve gone for a duo. This is One Day I'll Fly Away with Charlie Haden playing bass.

♫ Keith Jarrett - One Day I'll Fly Away

There were many “professors” in New Orleans last century and probably earlier. These were pianists who played in clubs, brothels, house parties, anywhere at all really where there was a piano. Most of them have been forgotten, but some are known to us - mainly because they were recorded, I suspect. The most famous of these is PROFESSOR LONGHAIR.

Professor Longhair

Fess, as he was generally known to his contemporaries, or Henry Byrd to his mum and dad, was from Bogalusa, Louisiana, and he learned to play on an old piano that had many keys missing. This gave rise to his distinctive style.

He had a huge influence on such artists as Fats Domino, Dr John, Huey Piano Smith and probably Allen Toussaint as well as many others. His most famous tune is Tipitina, named after the club in New Orleans but I’m going with Crawfish Fiesta. I can hear echoes of several other tunes in this one.

♫ Professor Longhair - Crawfish Fiesta

JIMMY WEBB has written some of the best pop songs around. These are usually covered by other people, most notably Glenn Campbell, although the soul singer Al Wilson did my favorite version of one of his songs with Do What You Gotta Do.

Jimmy Webb

Jimmy has also recorded albums over the years and not too long ago he had one called “10 Easy Pieces” where he recorded some of his most famous songs with just him playing piano (and an occasional other instrument for color).

His earlier albums have a band or orchestra backing him but I like the stripped back approach of this album and it’s what I’m using today. The song was one of the many hits for Glen, Wichita Lineman.

♫ Jimmy Webb - Wichita Lineman

In a similar vein to Jimmy is another songwriter/pianist who performs as well, RANDY NEWMAN. Randy has also rerecorded some of his songs where he revisits his back catalogue just accompanying himself on the piano.

Randy Newman

The album is called “The Randy Newman Songbook, Vol 1.” I guess he thought he’d do another and that has turned out to be true. Volume 2 was released this year. I’ve selected two tracks from the first.

Randy likes writing biting songs with a message, but subtle ones that are often taken at face value. Look at the kerfuffle over his song, Short People. People thought he was serious. I often shake my head about people. Oh well.

I’m playing two of his tunes, the first is a short piece, just Randy play piano called When She Loved Me.

♫ Randy Newman - When She Loved Me

The next is another where he heaps it on himself, Lonely at the Top.

♫ Randy Newman - Lonely at the Top

DUKE ELLINGTON was a band leader, a composer, a legend and a pianist, of course.

Duke Ellington

There’s really nothing new I can tell you about Duke and that’s good because I’m pretty lazy and it would mean I’d have to do some serious research and write about him. I’ll just play this track, a duet piece with Billy Strayhorn, called Drawing Room Blues.

♫ Duke Ellington - Drawing Room Blues

A few years ago GERARD WILLEMS recorded all of Beethoven's piano sonatas. These were released in a beautiful 9 CD box set.

Since then, he's recorded every other piano work of Beethoven as well as those from Mozart and others. I don't have those others yet, there's only so much time (and money). The first recordings were played on a specially commissioned piano from Stuart and Sons who make hand-crafted pianos here in Australia.

Gerard Willems

Gerard was born and bred in Tilburg in The Netherlands. His family migrated to Australia when he was a teenager. He graduated from the Sydney Conservatorium of Music and he did post-graduate study in London and Munich.

He has toured extensively, both in this country and elsewhere and is still out there touring and tinkling.

We know that Beethoven was way ahead of his time but this sounds to me a bit like a jazz solo. I’m thinking of Keith Jarrett. It’s the first movement from his Piano Sonata No. 28, Opus 101.

♫ Gerard Willems - Beethoven Piano Sonata No. 28 (1)

VLADIMIR ASHKENAZY was born in Gorky in the Soviet Union.

Vladimir Ashkenazy

He showed great talent and was accepted to the Central Music School at age eight. He met and married his wife, Þórunn Johannisdottir, in 1961. She was from Iceland and was touring at the time. When they married they had to say they would remain in Russia. However, eventually on a tour of the west they decided not to return, moved to Iceland and Vladimir became a citizen of that country.

Vladimir has recorded all the great piano works and has since become a conductor, these days as the baton twiddler for the Sydney Symphony Orchestra.

It's difficult to choose what to play but I've gone with a composer I haven't played before. This was a surprise to me, but there you go. Here Vladimir plays the third movement from Chopin's Piano Sonata No.3 in B Minor, Op. 58.

♫ Vladimir Ashkenazy - Chopin Sonata No.3 (3)

Oops, missed Liberace again. Missed Elton too and Billy Joel. Also Otis Spann, Nat King Cole and Oscar Peterson.

INTERESTING STUFF: 26 November 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.

Perhaps to make up for last week's lapse in cute animal stories, this week they take up about half the items so let's get started.

When I mentioned in last week's Interesting Stuff that I had forgotten to find an animal video, TGB reader laura left a link to this one.

In case you didn't click it, here it is. I am in complete agreement with a commenter at the video's YouTube page: “How the hell am I supposed to live without an owl now?”


Occupy Oakland Poster

The Occupy movement is producing some compelling and beautiful poster art of which this is just one. You can see many more at Occuprint.

This is just take-your-breath-away amazing. A fascinating, marine biology lesson in cephalopod camouflage.

There aren't many hard facts yet about this 40-inch, multi-touch computer from EXOPC which will debut at the Computer Electronics Show in Las Vegas in January and I WANT ONE. RIGHT NOW.

Unlikely to happen, since the price is $1299. Still, I love it and you'll see why in this teaser video. You can read a bit more about it here.

Most experts say that internet voting is an idea whose time is not yet here but voting by iPad may work. It was tested with elder and disabled voters in a recent Oregon primary election and will be tried again in a January election.

”...these voters used iPads, brought to their homes or nursing homes by election workers, to call up their ballots, mark them on-screen and print them out on a portable wireless printer,” wrote Katharine Q. Seelye in The New York Times.

“The voters or assistants then either mailed in the printed ballots or dropped them off at election stations.

“One woman, who has impaired vision, was able to enlarge the print on her ballot so that she could see the names of candidates. A man with arthritis who could not hold a pen was able to touch the screen with his finger and mark his ballot.”

The program is expected to expand statewide and at least six other states are considering vote by iPad. It is a terrific idea for elders but, as everyone should remember, any innovation or improvement that works for old people is always good for people of every other age too. You can read more here.

I picked up this video from James Fallows' blog at The Atlantic magazine website. Here's how he, also a pilot, explains:

“Courtesy of my friend (and glider pilot) Michele Travierso in China...If you watch even a little of this, you will see what an incredible feat it is. The pilots' comments are in Italian, but even if you don't understand that, it doesn't matter. This is another in the category of things I would be afraid to attempt myself but am amazed to see someone else do.”

The flight took place on 13 April 2011. Gorgeous.

There's nothing to do when you have a Carlin attack but bring up one of his marvelous old routines which all hold up well. This one is on the advantages of getting old. Carlin is his usual, profane self and if you are offended, please don't mention it.

Odd little story out of London. Apparently Larry, the official Downing Street cat or “mouser-in-chief,” has fallen down on the job. A rodent was seen in Prime Minister David Cameron's residence:

”Earlier this week, Cameron was dining with Work and Pensions Secretary Iain Duncan Smith and Northern Ireland Secretary Owen Paterson when a mouse was spotted scurrying across the floor. Larry was nowhere in sight, and so the Prime Minister did the only thing he could: throw a fork at the blasted thing...” (He missed.)

“So, naturally, there have been questions as to whether Larry should officially step down from his post and hand the torch over to a younger, more charismatic feline. The Prime Minister’s spokesman only had this to say on the issue: 'Larry brings a lot of pleasure to a lot of people.'”

Larry the Downing Street Cat

According to another news story on this crucial event, Larry's

”...first confirmed kill was in April, when he was also seen slinking around the cabinet table wearing a Union Jack bow tie to celebrate Prince William's wedding.”

You can read both earth-shattering stories here and here.

This wonderful, tongue-in-cheek promotional video comes from marketing services agency, Creative Results, that specializes in elders. Of course, it is designed to promote a client, but who cares. You're gonna love this and laugh like crazy. Well, I did.

Post-Thanksgiving Stuff

category_bug_journal2.gif Not to stretch out this holiday for days and days – oh, right; I just did.

Well, here's a holiday surprise. I woke at my usual hour yesterday, 5:30AM. Fed the cat, started the water for coffee, booted the computer and, because it was Thanksgiving, turned on the little, desk TV to be ready for the Macy's parade that would start at 6AM – 9AM eastern.

Did I miss something last year? Who thought it was a good idea to delay the west coast broadcast until 9AM my time? A recording after the parade is long finished. Isn't part of the fun being there, even via TV, as it's happening?

And when, three hours later, it finally began in my location, nobody at NBC thought to change the first voice-over at the top of the hour that announced, “LIVE from New York City...”

Bah! My first humbug of the season.

Nevertheless, I enjoyed the marching bands – I always do – and some of the production numbers from Broadway shows I'll never see. But how had I not noticed before how many commercial balloons there are: The Pillsbury doughboy, the Aflac duck and others.

The rest of my day was as warm and comfy as it should be. The food and company were good, the fire was cozy and all was well. I hope the same was true for your day.

Today is kitchen cleanup and this afternoon, I'm going to the movies - J. Edgar is at my little, local theater.

This is a good time to thank you for being so generous with your compliments about this blog. Hardly a day goes by without a comment or email telling me how much you enjoy it. And it's always a bit of a shock – a good one – to hear that TGB is among the first things some of you do each day.

It's about eight years since I started this and there is not a chance I would have lasted this long without your comments, emails, suggestions, questions, arguments, discussions and all the rest you contribute. I look forward to it every day and because of you, this blog is what centers me and gives focus to life.

There is no way I can express how much I appreciate you. Thank you all so much.

At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Nancy Leitz: Now You Tell Me!

Special 2011 Thanksgiving

category_bug_politics.gif With Congress into its second or third year of dysfunction, with mainstream media, elected officials and their police enforcers working overtime to discredit the 99 percent movement, there isn't much to be thankful for in our world at large – except one extraordinary thing:

Let us praise the outstanding contribution of the Occupy protesters. Arrests, beatings, pepper spray, arrogant “let them eat cake” mayors and all, in two months they have changed the national debate, turned it on its head.

Before OWS, the public conversation was about deficits and “shared sacrifice” in which the poor and middle class pay and the rich (“job creators” dontcha know) reap the rewards.

OWS changed that. Now we are talking about mounting inequality, stagnant unemployment, hungry people and the declining middle class.

Two weeks into OWS, the media asked how long it would/could last. They predicted cold winter weather would end it. City officials across the land did their part to fulfill that prophecy by confiscating tents, personal belongings and shutting down encampments – sometimes violently.

And still, OWS continues. Still, the conversation continues to be about social inequality and justice. Glory be, how long has it been since those two words have been uttered seriously in the public square?

That is an astonishing achievement for a bunch of “dirty hippies” who, according to the most Marie Antoinette of them all this week, Newt Gingrich, should take a shower and get one of those non-existent jobs.

But he is wrong to scorn them. Wrong about what and who they are. And on the wrong side of history too. The OWS protesters, mostly young folks, are going to change everything. Oh, not completely (you can never sink the oligarchs, but you can control them a bit until next time) and certainly not quickly.

Or so I predict. What the powers that be gathering their forces against the demonstrators don't understand is that it has passed a tipping point now. Every photograph of baton-wielding riot police, every injured war veteran demonstrator, every pepper-spray viral video makes every posturing politician denouncing the movement look more ridiculous.

And each one of those instances gains the Occupy movement a few more supporters.

Cold weather and more state-sponsored violence may change the demonstrations, but I don't believe they will stop. These “kids” have proved their resilience and creativity in face of all attempts to silence them.

So as we sit down to our holiday dinners tomorrow, let us be certain to include in our gratitude lists the OWS protesters. Each one of us and the country at large will all benefit from their work.

At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Johna Ferguson: Shopping

The Varieties of Thanksgivings

category_bug_journal2.gif It really is the nicest of our holidays, isn't it. It is quiet as opposed to noisy (Independence Day). There are no gifts to obsess over (Christmas) unless bringing dessert counts. And you don't have to stand outside freezing your butt off waiting for THE moment (New Year).

Family and food are the centerpieces of Thanksgiving and I have always liked the preparation. Some years, living far from relatives, I held the dinner at my place for other lost or stranded souls. We always had a good time. From the late 1980s until about five years ago when I left New York, I always spent Thanksgiving with friends in rural Pennsylvania – a huge family – most years there were 30 or more people for dinner covering four generations.

This year, as last, my brother and his wife are coming to dinner for the second Thanksgiving in a row. After a lifetime living on separate coasts, we are creating some new family rituals.

President Barack Obama will not be the only person pardoning a turkey. I've settled on a leg of lamb this time and readying the dinner has been underway for several days.

On Monday, I took my knives to Carl, the man who sharpens them at Wizer's market two or three times a year and I hard boiled the eggs for the chopped chicken liver I'll make on Wednesday.

Today, I'll do the last-minute shopping including fresh crab (the season is just beginning here) for a dip, fresh mint for the sauce and fresh rosemary for the lamb.

Tomorrow it gets busier. First, I'll prepare the marinade and set the lamb in it for 24 hours. Then there are the crab dip and the chopped liver to make so the flavors have a day to blend. I can also cook the pureed, minted peas so I need only to heat them on Thursday – they, too, will benefit from a night in the fridge.

I'll go through my checklist to see that I really do have the Brussels sprouts, potatoes, carrots, wine and anything else I want to go with the lamb. Then I'll shop for what's missing and write out a cooking/preparation schedule for Thursday.

Finally, on Wednesday afternoon, I will polish the silver, choose the necessary serving dishes and set the table. That part always pleases me.

There isn't much to do on Thanksgiving Day except follow the prep schedule so everything is ready at about the same time. Plus – watch the Macy's parade on television although now that I'm on the west coast that happens earlier in the morning than it does for east coast people.

Many years ago, in the 1970s, I was assigned by the TV show I worked for to produce some live interviews at the parade starting point near the American Museum of Natural History on Central Park West. I recall that the morning was cold, rainy and miserable and that the most famous celebrity I could find was Big Bird.

And yes, I actually carried on a conversation with him – or is it her? I've definitely moved up in the world since then.

Tell us about your Thanksgiving – now or in the past.

At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Lyn Burnstine: Alone at Last!

Help - Old Woman Lost in Cyberspace

category_bug_journal2.gif Many years ago, in 1989 or 1990, a computer game named SimCity was released for IBM PC computers which at the time still ran on DOS – no Windows yet. By today's computer graphics standards, SimCity was primitive then, almost pre-historic, but no one knew yet what was to come and I was thrilled. It was magical.

I have no memory of how I discovered SimCity. I had no interest in computer games in general and it seems odd now that I would have noticed it but somehow it came into my field of vision, I bought it and was hooked.

For the uninitiated, SimCity was (and still is) an urban planning game that allows a player – as mayor - to build cities with industrial, commercial and residential zones, hook them up to utilities, supply other urban necessities, handle the budget and watch the cities grow – unless you screw up and the city becomes blighted.

(Much later, the company released a Sims life simulation game sequel based around activities and relationships rather than urban planning. That one held no charms for me.)

When Windows came along, I upgraded SimCity and in subsequent versions, the cities became animated. When you built roads, cars ran on them; when you bulldozed a lot to make room for new buildings, puffs of debris floated up. There were sound effects now. It was delightful.

Although I never got bored with SimCity, my life got busier and there was little time for games. After a long absence from it, about 12 or 15 years ago I opened SimCity one work evening thinking I'd fool around for an hour or so before going to bed.

Suddenly, a contact lens fell out of one eye onto the keyboard and with a glance at the clock I could see that I'd been playing for four hours. If you had asked me how long I'd been at it, I would have guessed about an hour.

On only four hours of sleep, I was miserable at work the next day. I now understood why parents could not pry their children from Tomb Raider, Super Mario Brothers or any of the others. With modern-day graphics, the immersion is total.

It was scary that so much time could go by without my noticing. Nevertheless, as tired as I was at work, I was eager to get home to the game and that was even scarier.

Thinking it over on the subway, I had no difficulty imagining myself clicking away at my cities night after night, obsessing about them at work, rushing home to stuff myself with deli takeout while living inside SimCity instead of New York as my body gradually came to resemble that of Jabba the Hut.

Other people have crystal meth, heroin, oxycodone and various club drugs. I had SimCity.

So I banned the game from my life. I erased it from my hard drive. I forgot about it. Oh, now and again over the years, I checked out the graphic advances in the game. It was getting better and better. But I fended off temptation.

Until Saturday when somewhere online I ran across a reference to the game.

It had to my evil twin because it was not me who downloaded the latest SimCity that evening (now only $10). Of course, it is so changed and improved since I last played (it's gorgeous, fabulous, fantastic) that I had to work through some tutorials to get the hang of the controls. I did that and went to bed.

All the above is by way of telling you that I spent most of Sunday afternoon deep inside SimCity and literally forgot that I had not written a Monday blog post until just now.

Someday, when it is recalled that there once was an elderblog called Time Goes By and someone asks whatever happened to Ronni Bennett...

At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Madonna Dries Christensen: It's Been a Long, Long Time


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 1968?

  • The Prague Spring flourished and was then crushed by tanks
  • The Olympic Games were held in Mexico City
  • Students were revolting all over the world (insert joke here)
  • Led Zeppelin performed for the first time. Ears will never be the same again
  • Laugh In debuted on TV. Say goodnight Dick
  • America won the Davis Cup (oh dear)
  • John Steinbeck died

This was the year of...

The Weight
Street Fighting Man
Voodoo Child
Hey Jude
White Room
Sympathy For The Devil
Lady Madonna
Jumpin' Jack Flash
Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da
All Along the Watchtower
Yummy Yummy Yummy, I’ve Got Love in my Tummy
While My Guitar Gently Weeps
In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida (yeah, as if I’d play that one)

None of which will be featured here today.

This is the last song OTIS REDDING recorded and it was his biggest hit. He wasn’t to know that.

Otis Redding

Otis had recently performed at the Monterey Pop Festival to great acclaim and he was back at Stax to record a song he’d written with Steve Cropper. It’s claimed that Steve had written a rap that Otis was to speak as the song faded. Otis forgot the words and whistled instead.

Another version is that he whistled as a substitute for a sax solo that would later be recorded. Whichever is the case, they decided to leave it as it was. A good decision, what a fine track it is. Here’s (Sittin' On) The Dock of the Bay.

♫ Otis Redding - (Sittin' On) The Dock of the Bay

In spite of its name, FLEETWOOD MAC was started by guitarist Peter Green.

Fleetwood Mac

Its initial incarnation consisted of Peter, Mick Fleetwood, Jeremy Spence and Bob Brunning. After a few weeks, and by the time this record was released, Bob had been replaced by John McVie. Later they also added Danny Kirwin.

The band at that time was mostly blues oriented but this tune is different from their normal output and is very atmospheric and one of the best rock instrumental tracks ever. Albatross.

Okay you boys in the back row; that’s enough Monty Python impersonations for the present.

♫ Fleetwood Mac - Albatross

HERBERT KHAURY was born in 1931 in New York.

Tiny Tim

He learned to play guitar and ukulele at a young age and developed an interest in early popular music, that from the 1890s to the 1930s. He started playing this music professionally, originally under the name Larry Love, mainly around Greenwich Village in the early Sixties.

His folks were none too happy about this initially, but relented when they saw him perform. He developed a cult following and appeared on TV in such programs as Laugh-In and Johnny Carson’s Tonight Show.

He had a surprise hit in 1968, and here is Herbert with that song under another of his stage names, Tiny Tim - Tiptoe Through the Tulips.

♫ Tiny Tim - Tiptoe Through the Tulips

Okay, from the ridiculous to the sublime. Here’s MARVIN GAYE.

Marvin Gaye

Marvin Gay was born in Washington, D.C. and he added an e to his name so his father, who was a minister in a very strict church, wouldn’t realize who it was. Dad was also named Marvin Gay.

Marv senior was a domineering person who would truck no departure from what he thought was right and correct and he would often beat his kids for trivial offences. He eventually shot Marvin Jnr dead when he returned to celebrate his birthday.

In spite of that appalling upbringing, Marvin made some of the best music around in the late Sixties and early Seventies. This is one of the best, I Heard It Through The Grapevine.

♫ Marvin Gaye - I Heard It Through the Grapevine

I remember back in the Seventies mentioning the group, DAVE DEE, DOZY, BEAKY, MICK AND TICH to an American friend and she thought I was making them up. There was no way I could convince her that they were real.

Dave Dee, Dozy, Beaky, Mich and Tich

They were all friends from Wiltshire, England, and were known to those who knew them as David Harman, Trevor Ward-Davies, John Dymond, Michael Wilson and Ian Amey.

The group’s name is taken from each of their nicknames. David, that’s Dave Dee, was once a cop and he attended the scene of the car accident that killed Eddie Cochran and seriously injured Gene Vincent.

They all gave up their day jobs to become recording artists. Their first try at this wasn’t very successful. The producer wanted them to play at half speed, then he’d speed it up and add tricky bits to it. When they said they couldn’t do that he exploded, threw coffee over them and stormed out.

Eventually they got a real producer, or at least one who was marginally sane, and recorded an album or two. This song, The Legend of Xanadu, was a million seller for them.

It’s a bit odd. To me Xanadu suggests stately pleasure domes, Kubla Khan, Alph the sacred river and so on. However, they seem to think it should be in Mexico judging by the music. There’s also a talky bit which always means country music to me. See what you think.

♫ Dave Dee Dozy Beaky Mick & Tich - The Legend of Xanadu

THE BEE GEES are generally considered a threesome, consisting of the Gibb brothers, Barry, Robin and Maurice. However, at this stage they were a bit of a rock band and had two other members – Colin Peterson, who started his show biz life as a child actor in Australian films, on the drums and Vince Melouney on lead guitar.

The Bee Gees

As I mentioned in 1967, they were really good at producing fine pop songs in this early period. This track resonates with me as it was rather apposite for my life around 1971, but we won’t go into details. I’ll just play the song, I Started a Joke.

♫ The Bee Gees - I Started a Joke

Ocie Smith thought he’d disguise his name by taking the moniker, O.C. SMITH. Works for me.

O.C. Smith

O. C. was born in a small town in Louisiana, but the family moved to Little Rock when he was young. He and his mother later moved again, this time to Los Angeles after she and hubby divorced.

O. C. got a degree in psychology and joined the air force where he entered various talent contests. Later he was seen on TV in another talent program and offered a recording contract.

He made a number of records that went nowhere until he had a hit with, “The Son of Hickory Holler’s Tramp, later also a hit for Kenny Rogers. O. C.’s next song hit the top of the charts; it was Little Green Apples.

♫ O.C. Smith - Little Green Apples

Before 1968, RICHARD HARRIS was known as a fine actor but not renowned as a singer. Since then, he probably still isn’t renowned as a singer.

Richard Harris

However, he had a huge hit with a song and subsequent album written by Jimmy Webb - a song that completely mystified anyone who listened to the words but that really wasn’t important as it was the sound that mattered.

This wasn’t Richard’s only musical venture. He played King Arthur in the film, Camelot. He played the same part in a TV production of Camelot as well. Of course, the “singing” in that role was more talking-singing along the lines that Rex Harrison performed in My Fair Lady.

We’re not here to talk of kings and things though; we’re here to listen to MacArthur Park.

♫ Richard Harris - MacArthur Park

GARY PUCKETT was born in Hibbing, Minnesota, the same town that gave us Bob Dylan, but grew up in central Washington (the state).

Gary Puckett

Gary went to college in San Diego and there he started playing guitar and singing in various rock bands. He eventually joined a group called the Outcasts consisting of Kerry Chater, Gary Withem, Dwight Bement and Paul Wheatbread. Their manager suggested they change their name to the UNION GAP.

They were signed to Columbia Records who were impressed by Gary’s singing voice, and had a number of hits. They usually appeared in civil war outfits at their live gigs to go along with the group’s name. This is one of their songs that went to number 1 on the charts, Young Girl.

♫ Gary Puckett And The Union Gap - Young Girl

This year saw the start of a run of extraordinarily good albums by VAN MORRISON. The one this year was “Astral Weeks.”

Van Morrison

Over the next couple of years, Van produced several albums as good as any from the rock era. That’s damning them with vaguely faint praise; these are superb. You’ll be hearing from a couple more of them when we get to 1970.

Van is from Belfast and listened to his dad’s record collection consisting of blues, jazz, folk and country music when he was growing up. His dad bought him a guitar and Van started playing around the traps.

He later became proficient on saxophone as well. Eventually, and I’m leaving out a lot here, he was the singer for the group Them who had a world-wide hit with Gloria.

Going out on his own, Van recorded a couple of forgettable albums and then came up with the album mentioned above. By this time, he had become one of the finest musicians of his generation. Here is Cyprus Avenue from that album.

♫ Van Morrison - Cyprus Avenue

INTERESTING STUFF – 19 November 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.

Last week, I posted a message from a reader named Lucy who, at age 59, feels that her life has passed by and she has nothing to look back on. I asked if readers had any wisdom to share and you generously responded.

Yesterday, Lucy left a thank you on that story but maybe you won't get back to see it. So, I'm posting it here:

"I want to thank, firstly, Ronnie Bennett for putting my story/comment on her blog the way she did. I was so caring and nice the way she did it So, thank you Ronnie, so much. Secondly, thanks so much to all the people who left their comments and words addressed to me. I have read and reread them all. Thanks you so much to all of you for taking the time."

Most TGB readers know the wonderful Millie Garfield of My Mom's Blog. On 10 November, her equally wonderful son, Steve, was on a panel in Boston at the WBZ Business Breakfast. He told a story about his mother and along the way mentioned moi and Claude of Photoblogging in Paris. Here's the clip:

Steve is a well-known, online business guru, video blogger and indefatigable promoter of elderblogging. He emailed to say this about his clip:

”Some of the speakers were talking about old people as if they had no brains, i.e. not digital natives or even digital immigrants. Crazy talk. This was my subtle way to say that anyone can blog.”

Steve is all over the web and you will find one of his blogs here.

Last Monday, the European Union announced a ban on the use of controversial x-ray body scanners at airports in all 27 Union countries “in order not to risk jeopardizing citizens’ health and safety.”

At the time of the announcement, the U.S. Transportation Security Administration refused to comment. Then, two days later, the head of the TSA, John Pistole, canceled a public commitment to conduct an independent study on the safety of the x-ray machines:

“'My strong belief is those types of machines are still completely safe,' Pistole said. 'If the determination is that this IG study is not sufficient, then I will look at still yet another additional study.'”

You can read more about each story here and here.

Once again, he said she said. Who are we supposed to believe.

At Occupy Seattle on Thursday's Day of Protest, an 84-year-old, life-long activist was pepper-sprayed by police. She wasn't injured and what is really interesting about Dorli Rainey is that protest is anything but new for her.

The Austrian immigrant was a teenage fighter with the German-Austrian resistance, the anti-fascist Democratic underground during World War II.

Here is Dorli's interview, following the pepper spray incident, with Keith Olbermann. She is inspiring.

I love this story about Saranac Lake, New York residents who lost their only department store in 2002 and then resisted a planned incursion of Walmart that would have put locals out of business. Instead, they raised the money to start their own store:

”Shares in the store, priced at $100 each, were marketed to local residents as a way to 'take control of our future and help our community,' said Melinda Little, a Saranac Lake resident who has been involved in the effort from the start. 'The idea was, this is an investment in the community as well as the store.'”

Photo Credit: Heather Ainsworth

On 29 October, they opened their cooperative department store. You can read more about how the town did it here.

This is astonishingly beautiful photography. According to Gizmodo, photographer Gerald Donovan took “2880 shots over 24 hours, one ever 30 seconds, starting at 4AM local time on 11/11/11." The Burj Khalifa, at 2700 feet, is currently the tallest building in the world.

A young man named Ari Cohen runs a wildly successful blog, Advanced Style, about elder fashion which has been on the Elderbloggers List here for several years.

I had not realized he has been including videos and interviews with his elder fashion plates until Marion Dent let me know this week. Here is one of the videos:

This kind of extreme fashion doesn't interest me personally but it's fun to look at now and then. Ari Cohen also contributes to Nowness website.

Two Real Clear Politics reporters, Tom Bevin and Carl M. Cannon, have released the first of three ebooks about the presidential campaign, Election 2012: The Battle Begins. Too early you say? David Corn of Mother Jone explains:

”[The first ebook] starts with a detailed history of the improbable origins of the tea party movement and ends with the bursting of the Chris Christie bubble and the tainting of Herman Cain.”

And it is stuffed with delicious dish to give us a rueful laugh now and then:

”Bevan and Cannon have dug up some good lines about the wannabes,” writes Corn. “The moderate incumbent Minnesota Republican state senator defeated by Michele Bachmann in a 2000 race says of her, 'Bachmann is the most dishonest, most deceitful person I've ever met in my life. She truly is a girl scout with a switchblade knife.'"

If this sort of thing interests you, there are links here for purchase. Kindle and Nook versions are just $2.99 and there are other editions for the iPhone, iPad and iPod Touch via iTunes.

Nobody was doing this stuff back when I was hanging out in bars. I had never heard of bar olympics until Darlene Costner sent this video. It's just for silly fun and also just amazing. Or, maybe most amazing that anyone has time to perfect these tricks.

THE FRENCH SURE KNOW HOW... get women to exercise. It's Darlene Costner again who sent along this video and you're gonna love it.

Somehow I got clear to the end of the Interesting Stuff list for today without an animal video which has become tradition now. Okay, no video this week but here's a clever photo I like.


Mort Reichek – Octogenarian

One of the hardest things about writing a blog for and about old people is that by definition readers, acquaintances and friends sometimes die. Ten days ago, on 8 November, my friend Mort Reichek died in Florida after a two-week illness. He had just turned 87.

Mort called his blog Octogenarian – which is what he had recently become when he began blogging in February 2005. I don't recall how we met, but it was near that time and in addition to reading one another's blogs, we exchanged a lot of email about getting old, current events, blogging, New York City and whatever else came to mind.

Mort was one of the people who taught me early on how important and close online friendships can be.

In October 2009, Mort's wife Sibyl reported on Octogenarian that Mort had been severely injured in an auto accident:

”It will take months of rehab,” she wrote, “before he's back writing on his beloved blog. I wanted to thank everyone for all of their wonderful comments over the years. They have meant the world to him and you have brought much joy to his later years. My family and I look forward to the day when he can return to working on his blog again.”

I didn't hear from Mort for a long, long time. Then, in September, he emailed with an archived story from his blog for The Elder Storytelling Place saying it was a way of getting his feet wet before returning to write for his blog.

In October, he sent another story from his archive and I believed there would soon be some new stories for Octogenarian. It was not to be.

I am so sad.

When I launched The Elder Storytelling Place, Mort was among the earliest people to send stories. You can read his first one here. He also contributed magnificently to "The Oldest Old Project” in 2008.

Before both of those, he was featured in a 2006 New York Times story titled Elderbloggers Stake Their Claim that included this great photograph of Mort by Barbara P. Fernandez.

Mort Reichek_Credit: Barbara P. Fernandez

Mort told the Times reporter:

"I'm 81 years old and this blog has opened up a whole new world to me. And I'm not doing this because I'm a lonely old man. I don't lack for social interaction. I find it a fascinating hobby, and a fruitful one."

It certainly was – not only for Mort but for his many blog fans and friends. He had a wonderful way with words – as he should have; he had spent a lifetime making his living as a writer. Here is the notice of Mort's death from The New York Times last Saturday - I always wish I knew this kind of stuff before people die:

“Morton A. Reichek, a senior editor and senior writer for Business Week magazine, died November 8, 2011. He lived in Boynton Beach, Florida and was 87 years old.

“During his retirement, Reichek became one of the most prolific and well read elderbloggers, writing about politics, his childhood, Israel and his war experiences. His blog, Octogenarian, was highlighted in The New York Times, the Wall Street Journal and AARP magazine.

“A journalist with very wide interests, Reichek wrote about topics ranging from business to military affairs to Yiddish literature. He was with Business Week both in Washington, DC and New York for 31 years, retiring in 1988. Prior to joining the magazine in 1952, he was a press officer and editor for the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service.

“During two periods of absence from Business Week, he was a Washington correspondent for the Newhouse newspaper chain, an associate editor of Forbes magazine and director of editorial services for Gulf & Western Industries, Inc.

“Reichek contributed articles to The New York Times, The New York Times Book Review, The New Republic, The New Leader, and the Columbia Journalism Review. He was a former member of the National Press Club, the National Book Critics Circle and the American Society of Journalists and Authors. He is also listed in the Who's Who in America.

“He was born in the East Harlem section of Manhattan and raised in The Bronx near Yankee Stadium. He attended DeWitt Clinton High School and earned a B.S. in journalism from New York University using the GI Bill. During WWII he served as a staff sergeant in the U.S. Army Signal Corps and was based for more than two years in the China-Burma-India theater of operations.

“He is survived by his wife of 58 years, Sybil, a daughter and a son, and three grandsons. Another daughter, predeceased him.”

My heart goes out to Mort's family and also to many of you. I know his blog was important to a lot of TGB readers and that he's been missed during his long absence.

When she feels up to it, sometime soon, Mort's daughter will write something at Octogenarian for us about her father. I'll let you know on this blog when that happens. And here is a list of all his stories published at The Elder Storytelling Place. Reading them now and then is an excellent way to keep him in our hearts and minds.

At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Jim Kittelberger: Wilted Garden

Age, Weight and Leaky Pipes

category_bug_journal2.gif It has been more than two years since we last spoke of urinary incontinence. As I explained then:

”[L]ately, when I laugh, sneeze or cough with too much force, I leak. Or, more bluntly, I pee in my pants. Not a lot, a few drops, and it happens not just when I need to visit the bathroom; it can happen even when I have just peed.”

Although I included some useful medical information I'd tracked down, the best part was, as is usually so on this blog, in the comments. Cop Car (“I'm not dressed without a Maxipad”) made me laugh out loud and I immediately adopted her remedy.

Celia too made me laugh with an observation that seems all to true:

”At a family get together (mostly women) the topic came up after a conversation about leaking house plumbing. We thought it seems like women's lives are spent with some body part leaking.”

doctafil told a really funny story which is too long to repeat today but you can read it here (and it's worth the mouse click).

But Jan Adams hit on the reason I am resurrecting this topic today [emphasis added]:

”I find the degree to which I am leaky correlates with general fitness. But leaking happens, especially when I'm exercising.”

doctafil's story also addresses the exercise/leak correlation, but the “fitness” point most stands out for me today.

Over this past year, I have lost a lot of weight – at least 50 pounds, maybe 60 (I don't use a scale) – and a couple of months ago, it hit me that Cop Car's Maxipad remedy had been irrelevant for quite a while. I had stopped leaking.

For my leaky pipes story two years ago, I checked out only incontinence in general. This time, I looked for weight-related leak information. It turns out that some researchers at the University of California at San Francisco released a study on just this subject in 2009.

As reported in The New York Times and elsewhere, weight loss significantly reduced incidences of stress incontinence.

“'Our hypothesis is that increased weight puts increased pressure on the bladder and pelvic floor, and when you raise that pressure, you have less of a margin for increased pressure — through a cough, for example — before you lose your urine,' Dr. Subak said. 'If you lose weight, you have less pressure on the bladder.'”

We already knew that, didn't we? Anyone who's ever been pregnant can extrapolate that conclusion as another physician quoted in the Times story acknowledged:

”Dr. Elaine Waetjen, an associate professor of gynecology at University of California, Davis Health System who studies incontinence, said the results of the new clinical trial support what many women seem to know intuitively.

“'A number of my patients will come in, and if you ask when their incontinence started getting worse, they will say, “Well, I guess it was about the time I started gaining weight,’” she said.”

From the moment I hit puberty, I've fought creeping excess weight. Not much – 10 pounds or so that I lost many times and then, after menopause, it became much harder to keep the gain to a low roar so I just let it go. After a certain age, it sometimes feels like we deserve to eat all the ice cream we want.

But I had no idea when I made a plan to lose a lot of weight that it would solve my leaky pipes problem. What a terrific surprise. It won't work for everyone, but if the shoe fits (or doesn't), you might want to discuss this with your physician.

At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Mary B Summerlin: Raccoon

Chained CPI and the Super Committee

category_bug_politics.gif A person could lose her mind over the past three months paying too much attention to what is said in the media about the the super committee's work on deficit reduction – something I have, unfortunately, been doing so anything you read in this post is suspect.

Nevertheless, it seems important for this blog to at least give a try to keeping you up to date.

The biggest problem in knowing anything is that the meetings of the 12 members have been held in secret and what has been published – even from usually trustworthy sources – are deliberate leaks and trial balloons or guesses and fairy tales.

Even House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi said Monday in regard to potential job proposals in the final agreement, "I don’t really know because I’m not in the room."

At the same time, Pelosi told reporters that the deficit reduction committee must wrap up its work by Friday because although the deadline is Wednesday 23 November, "effectively the rest of us are gone after [Friday]."

And the Congressional Budget Office says it must have the proposal by Monday to have time to score it for the Wednesday deadline.

So it's down to the wire now and aside from predictions that the committee will fail to reach an agreement, the most consistent leak/guess/whatever is that the committee will propose changing the mechanism for calculating the Social Security COLA from the CPI-W used now to the chained CPI.

Of course, that is terrible for Social Security recipients and it would apply not just to future beneficiaries 10 or 15 years down the road (which all politicians seem to believe – erroneously - makes it acceptable to the rest of us), but to you and me – all current beneficiaries too.

The chained CPI harms the lowest level beneficiaries the most as Social Security expert Nancy Altman explained last July:

"Over the next 10 years alone, the chained CPI would take $112 billion directly out of the pockets of beneficiaries, with cuts growing larger each year and pushing many of the oldest old — primarily women — into poverty.

"The COLA cut would reduce benefits by 3.7 percent after 10 years, 6.5 percent after 20 years and 9.2 percent after 30 years. For a typical senior who retires at age 65, their Social Security benefits would be $1,000 less by the time they are 85—on a benefit of just $16,000 a year.

"That’s a big loss of income that may be affordable for politicians in Washington but not for most people across the country.

"Adopting the chained CPI goes in the wrong direction. Most people who depend on Social Security devote a much larger share of their income to health care, and these costs are increasing at a much higher rate than other living costs. They need a more accurate formula that reflects these higher costs, which would result in a cost-of-living increase, not a cut."

Although Ms. Altman is correct about the need for an increase beyond an annual COLA, I don't expect Congress will ever do so but if members had anything except their own and their corporate benefactors' interests in mind, they would at least maintain the status quo especially in light of persistent and repeated poll numbers.

In a recent Politico Battleground Poll, this question was asked:

"Tell me if you would favor or oppose changing the way in which increases in Social Security benefits are calculated in order to lower program costs and lower future benefits."

56 percent somewhat or strongly oppose. 38 percent somewhat or strongly favor.

Just FYI, here is another question from the same poll that affects elders:

"Tell me if you would favor or oppose making hundreds of millions of dollars in spending cuts to Medicare and Medicaid through increasing beneficiary costs."

76 percent somewhat or strongly oppose. 19 percent somewhat or strongly favor.

And the public supports "increasing taxes on the wealthy and corporations" 66-31 percent with a majority, 52 percent, strongly supporting such increases.

Even with polling numbers like these, if the super committee does reach an agreement I fully expect it will be good for the top one percent and terrible for the rest of us. Why? Because Democrat or Republican, that's what Congress members do whether or not there is an Occupy movement, 99 percent demonstrations and a zillion such polls as this one.

In response to one of the many leaks from the super committee, New York Times economist Paul Krugman wrote on his blog:

"I thought I had worked out all the worst-case scenarios for the supercommittee (there was never a best-case). But this is even worse than my worst imagining: a deal to undermine key social insurance programs in return for a promise that Congress will come up with a plan for raising revenue at some future date.

"If you think that promise has any credibility whatsoever – if you have any doubts that the end result would be to gut Social Security and actually cut taxes for the wealthy – I have this Nigerian bank account that can be yours if you send me $100,000 in expenses.

“The worst of it is that Democrats might actually go for it.”

At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Mickey Rogers: Cow Tipping

Crowdsourcing the TGB Elder Community

It was a long time ago, about six years, that an email arrived from a woman who said she had no stories to tell because her life had been so ordinary. In my response titled (Extra)ordinary Lives on Time Goes By, I ended with this:

”Everyone has dozens of stories, large and small, happy and sad, funny and painful, that shouldn’t be lost because you think your life is ordinary. It is not. Your stories will bring alive times past for your descendants and enrich their lives by knowing the family stories of their ancestors (that’s you someday).

“So let’s say it together one more time: No lives are ordinary.”

That was posted two years before the inauguration of The Elder Storytelling Place and now, after nearly five years of that blog with stories written by dozens of interesting elders, I believe what I said in 2005 even more. I was reminded of it yesterday morning when notification arrived of a comment on a different post – this one from January 2011 titled When Does Old Age Begin?

Lucy, a new reader or one who has not commented before, says she feels that her “life is gone (or a lot of it) and I have no memories, no experience. The time has just gone and I didn't even realize it.” She continues:

”I feel like I missed the boat on everything and that I have been sleeping my way through my life (I mean metaphorically, not being promiscuous) just being a housewife and getting divorced and remarried, dating and such. That is it.

“I have reached 59 years and have nothing to look back on. I had one son, but always feel and know I was not the best mother. Was in a bad marriage and such. No life experience though, I never just did anything, like I read about every one else who is older.

“I regret my past, and that is probably why I am so afraid of getting older. I even just got my driver's license last year at 58.”

(You can read Lucy's entire comment here.)

Whoa. There is a lot going on in those few sentences. On the downside: empty memories, insecurity, fear of aging, ennui, regret. But look at what else: a son raised, learning to drive at an age most people would not attempt it, being a housewife which is so much more that “just.” And all parents know they didn't do everything well.

And I wonder what else Lucy would like to have done that she did not? Sometimes our youthful dreams are overblown (that's why they're called dreams).

When I was in my early teens, I secretly decided that when I grew up I would cure cancer. I was serious about that and held onto it for many years. Please don't laugh. I wanted to make a difference to the world – to which Lucy alludes.

Well, to cure cancer, first you need to like math and science - the particulars of them, not just the oh, wow aspects and that was never going to be me. Plus, one of the things history teaches us is that there are only so many Jonas Salks per generation.

So of course, I disappointed myself. It took a long time – decades - but I eventually learned that we all make differences in other people's lives and if not on such a grand scale as landing a crippled airplane on water saving everyone on board (that's why we have heroes), in smaller ways that are equally great to the people they affect.

And where would the world be if we were not – each one of us – contributing to other people's well-being every day adding up to hundreds, even thousands of ways over a lifetime.

Sometimes we don't even know what good we have done until someone, years later, tells us as has happened to me a couple of times – much to my enormous surprise.

One thing I would suggest is that Lucy spend some time reading The Elder Storytelling Place. There are 1200 stories there now, every one of them written by “ordinary” people about their “ordinary” lives – drama, comedy, tragedy, reminiscence, history, life, birth, death, fears, triumphs, marriage, divorce, sacrifice, successes, failures and laughs – oh, so many laughs.

It is a brave thing Lucy did to leave this comment here among strangers and one of the few things I know for certain about life is that if one person knows, feels or believes something, so do many others.

Lucy is not the only one having these thoughts and I suspect some, like me, have been there and managed to work through it. So some crowdsourcing would benefit a lot of people. Here is what else Lucy wrote:

”I just do not know how to feel and I thought that maybe someone would read through this and offer some words of wisdom on how or what I could do and how to look at my life now.

“As I said everyone, I mean everyone has a life of experiences to look back on, some contribution made by their work and such. If I had that I probably would not mind getting older, and losing my looks and stuff. I could have felt that I had done something worthwhile in this world.

“Well, I am repeating myself now. I hope some one may offer their insight or opinions to me.”

There is a lot of wisdom among readers of this blog. Let's share some of it today.

At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Lyn Burnstine: Roses

Sunday at the Movies with Ronni

category_bug_journal2.gif I had a plan for Sunday to write a Monday post that would knock your socks off in its brilliance. Well, that's often the plan and I've yet to achieve it, but I did have a couple of important things to say.

Instead, I puttered around and read the papers and made a few lists of this and that. I chatted with some far-away friends on the phone. I sorted most of the paper on the desk and I played with the cat for a while. Then, previously unplanned and a surprise even to myself, I up and went to the movies.

Movie Theater

It's a ten-minute walk from home and this little theater here in Lake Oswego is the same one my mother took me to when I was a little girl – about 65 years ago.

When I got home two hours later, I didn't feel like writing, so here as filler for today are a few photos I've collected during the fall color season. You'll see that it doesn't take much to amuse me.

Each morning this time of year, I open my front window to a dazzling show of many shades of color – red, yellow, green, brown, orange and all.

Mixed Colors

Sometimes it is the abundance of one color that is spectacular. Yellow is nice.


And so is red.


More red with a touch of green and yellow.


Mushrooms pop up all over the place after a rain shower. I wish I knew what was edible.


There had been a bag of peanuts in the shell sitting around in the kitchen for too long so one morning, I put a few out on the patio table and look what happened.


No squirrel I've seen has ever visited that table before. I wonder how they know when something they like appears.

Oh, the movie. It was the early show, 1PM, with only about a dozen patrons. Not one of us was younger than 60 which I thought was strange. Since I was young, I've made it a habit to catch up with movies at early screenings on Saturdays and Sundays, especially on rainy days like yesterday and it was always a mixed-age crowd. But not here.

This was George Clooney's new picture, The Ides of March, with Ryan Gosling and a few other big names about a primary race in Ohio for the Democratic nomination for president.

Meh. It wasn't terrible but it sure did need some energy. The title is way too dramatic for such an underwhelming film. It would have been better to stay home and watch Bulworth again or The Best Man or Bob Roberts or a slew of more interesting political films.

At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Terry Hamburg: Sound the Alarm!


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.

Paul Simon’s father was a musician, a bass player who also played the violin. His mother was a school teacher who also taught music; she was also a trained musician. Given that background, there was probably little hope of Paul doing anything else.

He grew up in Queens in New York. It was there, as a whippersnapper, he met Arthur Garfunkel who would be his singing partner, off and on, for some time.

They had their first hit (as Tom and Jerry – the song was Hey Schoolgirl) when they were 16 years old. Paul continued recording through the rest of the Fifties and early Sixties under various names.

Simon and Garfunkel

He teamed up again with Art and recorded a folk album called “Wednesday Morning, 3 AM” which was a rather conventional guitar, two voices folk album. The album sold about a dozen copies and Paul hightailed it to England, somewhat discouraged.

Simon and Garfunkel

While in England, he recorded a solo album called “The Paul Simon Songbook.” Some say that this was released only in England at the time but naturally Australia is overlooked once again because we had it here.

On this album, Paul recorded songs that later were the basis for the next two or three Simon and Garfunkel albums. It’s instructive to hear them in their raw form before they became huge hits, particularly one of his most famous songs, The Sound of Silence.

The song had already appeared on “Wednesday Morning, 3 AM.” Tom Wilson, the producer of that album (and, incidentally, of Bob Dylan’s early electric albums), put a rock band behind the song and it was an instant hit.

Don’t get me wrong if you think I disapprove of the unscrupulous rock & roll producer meddling with a pure tune. I prefer it with the extra instruments; it’s just interesting to hear it the way Paul wrote it. Here it is from the “Songbook” album.

♫ Paul Simon - The Sound Of Silence

Paul Simon

Another song from “Songbook” turned up on the next S&G album, “Sounds of Silence”. No doubt it was called that to cash in on the hit as it contained the rock version of The Sound of Silence. However, I’m staying with the early album and going with the original Paul-only version of I Am a Rock.

♫ Paul Simon - I Am A Rock

Simon and Garfunkel

When I mentioned the topic, Norma, the Assistant Musicologist – a dedicated Paul Simon, Simon and Garfunkel fan – said, “You have to include The 59th Street Bridge Song.

I probably would have anyway but at her insistence it’s definitely in. Besides, it’s nice and short so it won’t take up too much space or time. It has the added bonus of having some members of Dave Brubeck’s group playing along.

♫ Simon and Garfunkel - The 59th Street Bridge Song (Feelin' Groovy)

Simon and Garfunkel

I once thought of doing a column about songs that don’t rhyme. I didn’t have enough for a column at the time, but then I didn’t really do any research, so there may still be one to come.

It’s interesting that Paul Simon was prominent in the short list I came up with. Bridge Over Troubled Water, America and several others of his were there. One of those is my favorite Simon and Garfunkel song, America.

♫ Simon and Garfunkel - America

Paul Simon

I thought of including more of their songs. The Boxer is a good one, Overs is interesting in a depressing sort of way and, of course, there’s the aforementioned Bridge Over Troubled Water. That last song and its album sold so well that neither of them needed to work again if they didn’t want to.

However, just when Simon and Garfunkel were the biggest thing in the known universe they split. Art went on to an acting career and occasionally singing while Paul demonstrated there was more to his songwriting and musical career than the pretty songs he produced for the duo.

The first album alone, simply called Paul Simon, showed this admirably with such interesting songs as Mother and Child Reunion and Me and Julio Down by the Schoolyard bringing a wider and more interesting musical palette to the songs.

This is one of those, Me and Julio Down by the Schoolyard.

♫ Paul Simon - Me And Julio Down By The School Yard

This is the other one, Mother and Child Reunion.

♫ Paul Simon - Mother And Child Reunion

Paul Simon

The album, “Hearts and Bones,” was a commercial failure. Hardly anyone bought this one. I don’t know why as it’s a fine album. Okay, you can say that about all of Paul’s albums, so there’s no reason I can see why it didn’t sell. To give you a taste of it here is the title song, Hearts and Bones.

♫ Paul Simon - Hearts and Bones

Paul Simon

In contrast, his next album sold a squillion setting him up for life all over again. That was Graceland, and I could have played any of the tracks from it.

Paul had already included a small piece of South American music in the song El Condor Pasa from “Bridge Over Troubled Water”. On this album, he introduced South African music, especially that of Ladysmith Black Mombazo, to the world.

These musicians were largely unknown to the rest of the world at the time due to the appalling apartheid regime that ran that country. The title track doesn’t have Ladysmith on it but it does feature several other South African musicians.

♫ Paul Simon - Graceland

Paul Simon

The next is a late inclusion. I was listening to Paul’s music to see (or hear) if there were any others that deserve a mention and this one popped up. It’s from probably his least known album, “Songs from The Capeman.” The A.M. said that she’d never heard of the album but liked the tune when I played it.

The album contains music from a Broadway musical Paul wrote called, The Capeman that was a flop and cost him a bit of change. I guess he thought he might recoup some of it by recording the album.

The song is Killer Wants to Go to College. It’s not very long, that’s another reason I threw it in at the last minute.

♫ Paul Simon - Killer Wants To Go To College

Paul Simon

Paul suggested that there were 50 ways to leave your lover. However, I counted those he mentions in the song and came up with only six. I’ll leave it up to you to countenance the other 44. Anyway, it’s a good song and here it is, 50 Ways to Leave Your Lover.

♫ Paul Simon - 50 Ways to Leave Your Lover

INTERESTING STUFF – 12 November 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.

I guess it takes some practice before anyone can remain upright in one-sixth the gravity of Earth.

I liked this slide show from Time magazine showing the desks of important political figures. This is Massachusetts' Representative Barney Frank's.

Barney Franks Desk

The photographer, Tim Davis says,

“I’d say of all the offices I visited, only one — Barney Frank’s —felt like an actual working desk, found in flagrante politics,” Davis says. “The rest of the desks were there for show, as objects of portent or as displays arranged by handlers and PR people.”

That doesn't make the others, revealing in their studiedness, any less interesting and you can see them here.

Wherever we fall on the political spectrum, it's the little things that pile up, I think that drive us nuts – at least that's true for me.

Because people in groups are pigs and leave their trash anywhere they want, officials at the Grand Canyon made a plan to keep that national treasure cleaner:

”Weary of plastic litter, Grand Canyon National Park officials were in the final stages of imposing a ban on the sale of disposable water bottles in the Grand Canyon late last year when the nation’s parks chief abruptly blocked the plan after conversations with Coca-Cola, a major donor to the National Park Foundation.” [emphasis added]

Let not a clean environment get in the way of corporate profits. Grrrr. You can read more here.

Elderblogger doctafil wrote to tell me about her nephew's grand adventure of a canoe trip with a friend (also named Bryan) from Alberta, Canada, to New Orleans.

They filmed the trip and the result is now a series on Canada's Travel and Escape television Channel (#145) on Thursday evenings. It's not on U.S. television yet, but doctafil says it will be showing up on YouTube. Of course, these days, there is a Facebook page and the two Bryans can be found on Twitter too: @PaddlingBryans

Here's a video of the beginning of the six-month journey. doctafil's nephew is the one with the bum knee.

I thought this was new when I saw it but now it feels like it's not so new. Is it possible I could have posted this before? Oh, well. It's still funny and I dare you to not laugh out loud.

Some Mayo Clinic researchers may have discovered a kind of cell that hastens aging by causing low-level inflammation. As reported in The New York Times,

”...researchers have opened up a novel approach to combating the effects of aging with the discovery that a special category of cells, known as senescent cells, are bad actors that promote the aging of the tissues. Cleansing the body of the cells, they hope, could postpone many of the diseases of aging.”

The tissue of mice in the tests did not develop cataracts as they aged, avoided wasting of muscle mass and retained fat layers in their skin that usually thin out with age.

Of course, there is a long way to go before they know if this therapy is useful in humans but it is, I believe, what medical research into aging should be addressing rather than all those millions of dollars spent elsewhere on trying to extend life spans. You can read more here.

In honor, they say, of breast cancer research. I am at a loss, but here it is.

(...of the British Empire, that is). Lilalia of Yum Yum Cafe reminded me of an upcoming film starring Judi Dench and Maggie Smith, The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel. According to an online synopsis, the movie

”...follows a group of British retirees who decide to 'outsource their retirement to less expensive and seemingly exotic India. Enticed by advertisements for the newly restored Marigold Hotel and bolstered with visions of a life of leisure, they arrive to find the palace a shell of its former self.

“Though the new environment is less luxurious than imagined, they are forever transformed by their shared experiences, discovering that life and love can begin again when you let go of the past.”

“Marigold” is not due in theaters until next March. Meanwhile, here is a trailer.

I've had cats all my life and I've never seen one do this. Amazing. My cat, Ollie, ran to hide when he heard these cats yowling. Such a scaredy cat, he is. (Hat tip to Jan Heigh)

Elders and the Information Age

Analog Kindle

The title of this image, created by Jesse Lenz for a story in the November issue of Popular Science magazine, is The Analog Kindle.

I can't say I've seen a copy of that magazine in 30 or 40 years, but I leafed through it at the optometrist's office yesterday as I waited for my eyes to dilate for the retinal examination.

In the article that image accompanies, Lawrence Weschler writes about his ambivalence with the vast cloud of information we have now, mostly online, that grows exponentially and I felt a kinship. I love having so much information quickly available when I want it but like Weschler, I often feel overwhelmed with the amount of data flowing toward me all day every day.

I like my Kindle for certain things and it is more convenient to carry around than a heavy, hardcover book if that's what I'm in the middle of reading. But I want a real, printed book with covers for certain kinds of reading and information and I cannot imagine my home without my physical books.

I am grateful to Marcus Tullius Cicero who, in the first century B.C., articulated that feeling for me when he famously said, "A room without books is like a body without a soul."

Here a small bit I like from Weschler's story in Popular Science:

“[The Web and books] provide two fundamentally different sorts of experiences. Books are centripetal, whereas the Web is centrifugal. Books draw you in, whereas Web pages hurl you forth and out (by way of all those irresistible links).

“The Web, as we have seen, is immaterial (opening, as it now does, into a cloud). Books, in contrast, are not just substantial they are substantial in a particular way: They have a spine, which in turn implies a pair of outstretched arms and an enfolding embrace, or at the very least a dance.

“Books force you to enter into a kind of I-Thou relationship — approaching, as the poet Rilke once parsed matters, the 'more human love' that 'consists in the mutual guarding, bordering and saluting of two solitudes.'

“The Web occasions a sort of frenzy of rebound, a swirling frottage with the many (albeit one that is almost solipsistically onanistic).”

Okay, okay. The writing is unnecessarily excessive at the end but the comparison is a good one. I can't imagine now, after a couple of decades, living without the web. But I don't want to live without my analog Kindles either.

Perhaps, we are the last generation who will feel that way.

At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Madonna Dries Christensen: The Quiet Warrior