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ELDER MUSIC: Toes Up in 2011 - Part 1

[EDITOR'S NOTE: There is no "Interesting Stuff" this week to make room for Peter's end-of-year Toes Up. I.S. will return next Saturday.]

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.

Because of my age, and I imagine that of most readers of this column, the musicians I like are getting on in years. So much so that too many of them are dying. Alas, this will only continue.

This year so many musicians who should be noted have died that I’ve had to spilt Toes Up into two parts. This is the first, the second is here.

Steve Prestwich

STEVE PRESTWICH was the drummer and main songwriter for the iconic rock group, Cold Chisel, one of the hardest working and most successful bands in Australian music history. The Chisels were at their peak from around 1978 to about 1984, and pretty much blew everyone else off the stage during that period.

Steve was diagnosed with a brain tumour only days before his death. He didn't regain consciousness from surgery. This is a song he wrote called Flame Trees. It’s sung by Jimmy Barnes, the singer for the Chisels and the other members kept Jimmy in check for this song and he’s produced a restrained version, something for which he’s not noted. (Age 56)

♫ Cold Chisel - Flame Trees

Joe Morello

Not a good year for drummers. JOE MORELLO was a jazz drummer best known for his work in the Dave Brubeck Quartet when this group was at the height of its powers and popularity.

Joe was a classically trained violinist who had many concert appearances under his belt while still a teenager. He said that he gave up the violin after hearing Jascha Heifetz play and realising that he could never play that well.

He switched to percussion and his teacher suggested he concentrate on jazz rather than classical work. In his later life, he taught drumming and published books and instructional videos. Here’s Joe with the Dave Brubeck Quartet and Bru's Boogie Woogie. (82)

♫ Dave Brubeck - Bru's Boogie Woogie

Pinetop Perkins

PINETOP PERKINS, or Joseph William Perkins to his mum and dad, was born in Mississippi and performed with such luminaries as Muddy Waters, Robert Nighthawk, B.B. King, Sonny Boy Williamson, Earl Hooker and many others. He also taught Ike Turner how to play boogie woogie piano.

Pinetop started his musical career as a guitarist but after injuring tendons in his arm in a fight with a choir girl (those choir girls are tough in Arkansas), he switched to piano. He continued performing throughout his life, indeed, he had several concerts scheduled at the time of his death.

He received a Grammy for best traditional blues album in 2008 making him the oldest Grammy recipient ever. Pinetop had a brief appearance in The Blues Brothers film. He was only 97 when he died. Here is Pinetop with Blues After Hours.

♫ Pinetop Perkins - Blues After Hours

Jerry Leiber

JERRY LIEBER along with Mike Stoller wrote hits for just about everyone in the fifties and sixties. That’s Jerry on the right with Mike on the left and some little known singer in the middle for whom they wrote a bunch of great songs.

Their first successful song was Hound Dog for Big Mama Thornton. This was even more successful later for Elvis.

The partnership was nearly cut short as Mike was on the ship Andrea Doria that was struck by another causing severe damage and considerable loss of life. The Stollers were among those saved and were greeted at the dock by Jerry who told them, quite excitedly, that Elvis had recorded the song.

Over the years, more than 500 of their tunes made the charts. I could fill a column just listing them.

One of the rare songs Jerry wrote without Mike is Spanish Harlem. He had the assistance of Phil Spector on that one. This is the famous version by Ben E King. Fortunately, Ben is still with us. (78)

♫ Ben E. King - Spanish Harlem

Josef Suk

JOSEF SUK was a Czech violinist and conductor. He also played the viola. He was gifted from the beginning and made his concert debut at age 11. He had a great love for chamber music and often appeared with the Smetana Quartet and the Prague Quartet.

Later he formed his own group, the Suk Trio. He was the grandson of the composer of the same name and the great grandson of Antonín Dvorák. Josef plays the third movement of Brahms’ Violin Sonata No 2 in A maj Op 100, with Julius Katchen playing piano. (81)

♫ Josef Suk - Brahms Violin Sonata No 2 in A maj Op 100 (3)

Gene McDaniels

GENE McDANIELS was born in Kansas City but grew up in Omaha. He started out singing in a gospel choir but developed a love of jazz. Besides being a gifted singer, he was also proficient on the saxophone and trumpet.

After singing in jazz clubs, he got a recording contract where he mostly sang pop songs but with an edge, with considerable jazz influences. Gene had a bunch of hits in the late fifties and early sixties and any of these would be worth including, but I’ve gone for Tower of Strength. (76)

♫ Gene McDaniels - Tower of Strength

Charlie Louvin

CHARLIE LOUVIN was half of the Louvin Brothers. His brother died in 1965 when a drunken driver hit his car. Charlie continued as a solo artist right up until he died.

The Louvins were a huge influence on country rock musicians, particularly Gram Parsons and Emmylou Harris. The Everly Brothers had also obviously listened closely to them. Here are the Louvin Brothers with Cash on the Barrelhead. (83)

♫ Louvin Brothers - Cash on the Barrelhead

The Coasters

CARL GARDNER (being carried in the photo) was the tenor singer for the DooWop group, The Robins. When that group dissolved, he and a fellow Robin formed The Coasters. Carl was the lead singer on their most famous hits, Youngblood, Down in Mexico, Yakety Yak, Charlie Brown, Little Egypt, Poison Ivy and on and on.

The last of the original group alive, he kept the Coasters name going into the 21st Century until throat cancer stopped his voice. He was replaced in the group by his son, Carl Jnr. This is Carl singing lead in one of those big hits by The Coasters, Yakety Yak. (84)

♫ The Coasters - Yakety Yak

Ronnie Hammond

The Atlanta Rhythm Section started life as the Candymen, Roy Orbison’s backing group. They next became the house band for the recording company, Studio One, and they pretty much backed everyone who recorded there, the cream of southern rock & roll and soul musicians.

From there, they morphed into a rock band in their own right. RONNIE HAMMOND was the vocalist for the group and here he is singing Georgia Rhythm with the group. (60)

♫ Atlanta Rhythm Section - Georgia Rhythm

Gerry Rafferty

GERRY RAFFERTY was a Scottish singer and songwriter who initially earned money from busking and singing in a band with Billy Connolly. He came to notice in the band, Stealers Wheel, who had a hit with Stuck in the Middle With You.

On going solo he cut an album called "City to City" that contained the huge selling song Baker Street. Later albums were moderate successes but nothing approached the popularity of his first hit. He was a little too fond of the demon drink. Here is Baker Street. (63)

♫ Gerry Rafferty - Baker Street

MARGARET WHITING was destined for music. Her father was a songwriter, he wrote The Good Ship Lollipop, Ain’t We Got Fun and many more. Johnny Mercer was a friend of the family and when her dad died unexpectedly, he took care of the young Margaret.

He knew what a fine singer she was and when he founded Capital Records, he signed her as one of its original artists. She wasn’t quite the success they hoped but she sang some fine songs – the original version of Baby It’s Cold Outside (with Johnny), It Might as Well be Spring, Time After Time and others. (86)

GEORGE SHEARING was born in London, the ninth child in the family. He was born blind. He was a bright kid and was offered several scholarships but opted to play piano in a local pub as it offered more money.

He emigrated to the United States in his 20s where his mixture of classical and bebop piano playing became popular with listeners and musicians alike. This mixture continued throughout his life and he was equally at home on the classical stage and in jazz clubs. He’s probably best known outside these milieux as the composer of Lullaby of Birdland. (91)

HARVEY JAMES was an Australian rock guitarist and a member of several iconic Oz bands – Mississippi, Ariel and most famously in these parts, Sherbet. Most of the members of Mississippi went on to form the even more famous, Little River Band - however, Harvey went in a different direction, “progressive rock” with Ariel. He later joined Sherbet after their original lead guitarist left. The Sherbs were at the time (mid seventies) this country’s biggest band. (58)

DON KIRSHNER was a music publisher and record and television producer. From this column's point of view, he was most famous for selecting the men for, and putting on the TV program, The Monkees.

Later, when that group got a bit stroppy, he created The Archies, a cartoon series with session musicians playing the music. He wanted a group “that didn’t talk back.” Early in his career he published the works of songwriters such as Carole King, Gerry Goffin, Neil Sedaka, Barry Mann and others. (86)

JOHN BARRY was a composer and songwriter who won five Oscars, four Grammys and wrote the scores for eleven James Bond films (amongst many others). John Barry Prendergast was born in York, England where his father owned a chain of cinemas in the north.

Young John became obsessed by films. His mother was a concert pianist and she taught him piano. He later played as a jazz musician and backed many pop artists in the fifties and sixties until the film work came along. There’s a lot more to his life but little space left. (77)

GARY MOORE was an Irish guitarist best known for his time in the group Thin Lizzy. He was also an accomplished blues guitarist and has shared the stage with B.B. King, Albert King, George Harrison and many others. He died of a heart attack while on holiday in Spain aged 58.

EDDIE SERRATO was the drummer for the group ? and the Mysterians (generally pronounced Question Mark and the Mysterians). He played on the hit 96 Tears, a number one song in the sixties that was later hugely influential in the grunge/underground scene. (65)

SUZE ROTOLO wasn’t a musician; however, she was the muse for the most important songwriter of the second half of the 20th century, Bob Dylan. You can see her on the cover of “The Freewheelin’ Bob Dylan."

Bob was influenced by her politics early in his career and wrote songs about her that appeared on the Freewheelin’, “Times They are a’Changin’” and “Another Side” albums. She later became an artist and remained a political activist all her life. (67)

ROBERT TEAR was a Welsh tenor and conductor who began his career singing in the chorus of the Welsh National Opera. Boy, I bet that chorus sounded great.

He made a career of performing in works by contemporary British composers, particularly Benjamin Britten and Michael Tippett as well as Elgar, Vaughan-Williams and Butterworth. He also sang roles from as diverse a bunch of composers as Berg, Offenbach, Bach, Monteverdi, Stravinsky, Mozart and Messiaen among a bunch of others. (72)

This really is a bad year for drummers. PAUL MOTIAN was one of the finest jazz drummers around. He first came to notice when was the stick man for the Bill Evans Trio. Later he worked with Keith Jarrett, Thelonious Monk, Stan Getz, Oscar Pettiford, Coleman Hawkins and many others.

He really liked playing and he didn’t restrict himself to jazz as he also backed Arlo Guthrie and appeared at the Woodstock festival with anyone who needed a drummer. (80)

GLADYS HORTON was the lead singer for The Marvelettes who topped the charts around the world with the song, Please Mr Postman. The Beatles thought so much of the song that they recorded it for their second album.

The Marvelettes won a competition in Detroit, the prize for which was a recording contract for Motown. The song they recorded was the one mentioned. Gladys is on the right in the photo. (65)

JEAN DINNING was a songwriter and singer who appeared with her two sisters as the Dinning Sisters in the thirties and forties. Jean wrote a song that became a huge hit for her younger brother Mark that was one of those angst songs that were big around the turn of the fifties into the sixties, Teen Angel. (86)

OWSLEY STANLEY made LSD for the San Francisco groups in the sixties, particularly the Grateful Dead. He managed the Dead for a while producing and recording their live shows. Some of these were turned into official live recordings.

He emigrated to far north Queensland in Australia in 1980 as he feared the imminent ice age. Boy, was he wrong on that one. He was killed in a car accident during a storm near Cairns. (76)

HUGH MARTIN was a songwriter who composed such songs as The Trolley Song, The Boy Next Door and other tunes from the musical “Meet Me in St Louis.” He also wrote Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas and many others. (96)

MARV TARPLIN was the guitarist for Smokey Robinson and the Miracles. He co-wrote one of their best songs, Tracks of my Tears, as well as several other of their hits.

Marv started his professional life backing the Primettes who later became the Supremes. This brought him to the notice of Smokey who lured him away to form his group. He stayed with the Miracles for about as long as Smokey did and later wrote, with Smokey, songs for such artists as Marvin Gaye , the Temptations and the Four Tops. (70)

BERT JANSCH was a Scottish guitarist and a founder member of the group Pentangle. He was a leading figure in the folk revival in Britain in the sixties and was a respected guitarist whose playing influenced a generation of folk and rock musicians. (67)

PETE RUGOLO, or Pietro to his folks, was born in Italy but his family went to America when he was five years old. He started his music career playing piano and French horn. He studied composition and gained a masters degree in music.

During the war he was in the army band along with Paul Desmond. Afterwards, he joined Stan Kenton’s band as an arranger as well as a performer. He arranged many hits for jazz and pop artists in the fifties and sixties and also worked on film musicals. (95)

SENA JURINAC was a soprano who had a long time association with both Glyndebourne and Covent Garden. She was born Srebrenka Jurinac in what was then Yugoslavia and made her debut singing Mimi in La Bohème with the Zagreb Opera at age 21.

She later joined the Vienna Opera and from there she went to Britain where she had her greatest success. She spent the last 30 years giving master classes in Vienna and London. (90)

BOB FLANIGAN sang lead tenor for the group The Four Freshmen. He also played trombone and bass. The other members also played various instruments so, unlike most of their ilk, they were self sufficient in supplying their own backing music. Bob is second from the left in the photo. (84)

Welcoming the Brand New Year 2012

We're doing this a day early because over the holiday weekend there will be a special, end-of-year, two-part Elder Music from Peter Tibbles on Saturday, tomorrow, in addition to his usual spot on Sunday.

New Year 2012C

Before we leave the holidays behind for another year, there is one more seasonal video I can't resist showing you. It is the Glass Duo from Poland playing Tchaikovsky's Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairy from The Nutcracker. You can find more Glass Duo recordings at their YouTube channel.

At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Johna Ferguson: Snow Princess - A Chinese Children's Story

Giving NASA Proper Credit

If I didn't write this blog about aging, I think I might write one about all the amazing, interesting things there are on the internet. Stuff like what I post in Saturday's Interesting Stuff and like this today that I'm indulging in because this is such a lazy, unfocused week. No matter what others - more scientifically informed than I – might say, I would mark the beginning of our modern technological era at just over half a century ago: 25 May 1961.

I am pretty sure most of us - the elders, I mean - can summon up from our memories the collective promise, hopes and dreams we had when President John F. Kennedy, in office just four months on that day, uttered these words at a joint session of Congress:

And we did it. By god, we really did it – in 1969. Well, NASA did it; we watched. I recall the thrill of seeing that fuzzy, black-and-white moon landing as clearly as if it were today. It was the most amazing thing to happen in my lifetime up until then.

I was reminded of all that a couple of days ago when I read a story by Matt Ryan at Lockergnome about what NASA and the space program made possible in our everyday lives. Remember Tang, that powdered orange drink you mix with water? I always thought NASA invented it for the astronauts. Not so:

“While it was made famous by astronauts taking it with them into space during a 1962 mission, various products were tested, including Tang. The company that can be credited for inventing this delicious beverage is General Foods in 1957.”

I also thought NASA invented Teflon but it was DuPont, way back in 1930s. NASA just popularized the product by applying it as heat shields so space ships wouldn't burn up upon re-entering earth's atmosphere.

However, there are other common products used by millions of people every day that NASA did develop itself or contribute heavily to their development. Five of them are scratch-resistant eye glasses, the joystick, the computer mouse, memory foam and water filtration.

NASA has also been instrumental in the development or use of barcodes, Velcro, even cordless power tools. Further, writes Matt Ryan,

”Firefighters use an improved breathing apparatus made possible by NASA, weather satellites are more accurate, and satellite communication is made possible thanks to the ingenuity of a handful of brainy scientists working at various NASA facilities.

“Next time you put on your glasses, play your favorite console game, or enjoy a clean glass of filtered water, keep the fine folks at NASA in mind.”

You can read much more about all this at Lockergnome.

You might also enjoy this interview conducted by chief Gnomie, Chris Pirillo, with the head of NASA's open source software development group that Ryan attached to his story.

At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Kris Scholz: Star Crossed

The Evolution of Old Age

category_bug_journal2.gif Because I'm too lazy this week to do any actual work, you're getting cat videos or undeveloped thumb suckers (like this) of stuff that's been rolling around in my head.

Today, it's the evolution of individual life. It seems to me that aging is similar to Darwin's theory in that as the years go by, we move from simple in infancy (food, sleep) to complex in old age - health management, time trade-offs, money shuffling, life review, grief and more. That is, big deal stuff that takes a lot of effort and attention.

This came to mind over recent weeks as I sorted through the choices for next year's prescription drug plan, tried to decipher some proposals for potential investments (amazingly difficult for such a small amount of money), juggled available personal energy against meetings, shopping trips, house cleaning, blog writing, cooking, holiday preparation, etc. and tried to figure out why my electric bill is twice the amount it was last year at this time.

Speaking of that, although we get a raise in our Social Security benefit next year, so many of my other bills have increased that it's mostly a wash and I've been running numbers to see where I can cut back.

In addition, there are some life problems of age 70 that, because I have no experience with them, require huge amounts of time. The one I mentioned a year or two ago – dramatically thinning hair - has progressed far enough now that some kind of decision must be made soon so I'm doing a whole lot of research.

Whatever I choose to do, it's going to mean more time doing something boring every day of my life – no way to avoid that, but I intend to bitch about it anyway.

There is also a long list of updates and additions I want to make to this blog and teeth are coming up again soon. On that, there's not much to decide; just a lot of money to spend.

And, I've been making notes about some end-of-life directives I want to change. Geez, it's bad enough that we have to die, but we also have to plan it ourselves. That doesn't seem fair.

Do you see what I mean about complexities of old age? With each passing year, it gets harder to check every item off the to-do list to earn some guilt-free time for myself. In the first year of life no more than a bottle, a burp and a clean diaper come close to describing nirvana.

At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Claire Jean: Hair Today/Gone Tomorrow

Week of Suspended Animation

category_bug_journal2.gif It's an odd little season, this week between Christmas and the new year. A feeling of disconnect, a neutral period between past and future, a hanging moment for a few days when our concerns – personal and public – are held in abeyance while our planet's most recent circumnavigation of the sun winds down and the next begins.

Even when I was still working, work seemed futile. Many people save vacation for this week so that phones and email go unanswered, meetings evaporate for lack of attendance and information for pending decisions can't be found.

Although retired now, I feel a similar sense of suspension and a strong disinclination to do anything of substance. I feel a whiff of melancholy about this period but I couldn't tell you over what and anyway, it's not serious; it will pass.

Most of the world is on hold for a week or ten days and the media spend this time adding up the events of the passing year, putting them in a semblance of order and, of course, predicting the events of the coming year.

I always mean to go back and see how last year's predictions turned out – I thought about that as I started writing this post – but I am too lazy today to make the effort. Maybe next year.

Newspapers fill a lot of space with – well, filler they have undoubtedly written well in advance of this politically becalmed week. My favorite this holiday was a delicious story at The New York Times on the chocolatieres of Brussels:

Credit: Jock Fistick for The New York Times

The reporter delivered about 2300 words on the chocolate district of Brussels and included a handy map of the dozen or so shops along with a spectacular slide show of all things chocolate in the Belgian capital.

The political air is relatively quiet. According to Roll Call's calendar [pdf], the second session of the 112th Congress will not convene until 17 January, the day after Martin Luther King Day, and I was further surprised to see that the Senate will meet for just seven days in January; the House for only six.

That seems too few by a large margin considering the important issues on the table including (among others) the short extensions of unemployment insurance and the payroll tax holiday that expire again at the end of February.

The first New Yorker cover of 2012 is equally dispiriting to contemplate...


...but I am feeling too lethargic to work up any high dudgeon over it or Congress right now. Even so, it makes one long for some warm and fuzzies, so from my friend John Brandt, here is Spike the Pit Bull vs. Visa the Kitten.

At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Mickey Rogers: Women

The Day After Christmas 2011

Here it is at the end of Christmas Day and I didn't get around to writing a blog post for today, Monday. All I can say is thank god for you, readers, specifically right now, Cathy Johnson who sent the video below.

Yes, I know, Peter Tibbles gave us his definitive Christmas music post yesterday - and if due to your family festivities you missed it, do go there now). But this one, too, is good in a whole different way and it's a long time to wait until next year to show it to you.

This the Kuinerrarmiut Elitnaurviat 5th Grade class from Quinhagak, Alaska (say that three times fast) and wait till you see what they have done with the Hallelujah Chorus.

Now wasn't that worth extending Christmas a little?

At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Ralph Lymburner: Air Raid Warden

ELDER MUSIC: Christmas 2011

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.

On the 25th of December, a saviour was born.

• He revealed eternal truth, bringing enlightenment to millions.
• He astonished the world with his command over nature.
• He changed history forever.

Happy birthday Isaac Newton, the most important person in history born on this day.

Isaac Newton

I couldn’t find any songs written for Isaac - more’s the pity - so I’ll just have to go with more traditional songs - well, what passes for traditional in my household. I want to play a few tunes that probably won’t be played at your local shopping mall or most radio stations.

Christmas in Oz

The first time I did one of these, two years ago now, Norma, the Assistant Musicologist, said, “You have to include CHARLES BROWN." I ignored her at the time as I had already chosen who I wanted; I believe I used an Elvis version of the suggested song. Finally I’m taking her advice.

Charles Brown

Charles was classically trained on the piano but switched to blues when he couldn’t get a job in that area. His style of singing was more akin to Nat King Cole than the usual blues at the time. His piano playing also was like Nat’s. Both of those features are okay by me. Here he is with Merry Christmas, Baby.

♫ Charles Brown - Merry Christmas, Baby

MABEL SCOTT really deserves to be better known.

Mabel Scott

She had a powerful voice and could hold her own against all comers. Mabel was born in Virginia but her family moved to New York when she was six. As a teenager she went to a local theatre and told them she could sing.She was put on in the amateur afternoon program and hired on the spot after they heard her.

Over the years, she played with Ethel Waters, Bessie Smith, Lena Horne and many others. In the 1930s, Mabel toured Europe and England where she was a great success. She stayed there for several years until war broke out.

Oh, to keep it all in the family, I should mention that she was married to Charles Brown for a couple of years.

Mabel had a big hit with Boogie Woogie Santa Claus in 1947. Patti Page recorded it as the flip side to Tennessee Waltz. Unfortunately, due to record company shenanigans, Mabel didn’t receive the considerable royalties due to her.

♫ Mabel Scott - Boogie Woogie Santa Claus

BILL EVANS was one of the musicians who played on the seminal Miles Davis album “Kind of Blue.” Each of those players went on to become legends in the jazz world and all of them became leaders of their own groups.

Bill Evans

Miles, who was not one to praise unnecessarily, considered Bill the finest pianist he’d ever played with. Here’s Bill with Santa Claus is Coming to Town.

♫ Bill Evans - Santa Claus Is Coming To Town

The most unlikely musician I found to perform a Christmas song this year is LOU REED. I always try to find a surprising one.

Lou Reed

Those who know Lou’s work realise they are not going to get mistletoe and holly in his song. Indeed, listening to it will probably bring your festive celebrations to a grinding halt. Just take a good stiff drink before you listen, some eggnog perhaps or chilled chardonnay or riesling if you live around my neck of the woods. Here is Xmas in February.

♫ Lou Reed - Xmas in February

NINA SIMONE's track really has nothing to do with Christmas unless you listen to her piano playing, of course.

Nina Simone

There are far too many interesting details about Nina’s life than I can cover in a short piece like this. She deserves a column of her own (mental note to self).

Nina sings the Rodgers and Hart song, Little Girl Blue and plays something else. This is a really good example of a quodlibet.

♫ Nina Simone - Little Girl Blue

Long time readers of this column, at least those with a good memory, would know that my all time favorite band is the appropriately named group, THE BAND.

The Band

They produced one Christmas song on their throw-away album, “Islands”. This one is closer to a traditional festive tune than most of the others today, but hey, it’s The Band. That’s good enough for me. It is Christmas Must Be Tonight.

♫ The Band - Christmas Must Be Tonight

I’m indebted to the A.M.’s brother-in-law for this next track. The A.M., however, looked somewhat askance that I’d really like to have a collection of WILF CARTER's music.

Wilf Carter

Wilf was Nova Scotia’s (and probably Canada’s) first singer/songwriter. He was born in 1904 and was inspired into the music biz when he saw the Swiss performer, “The Yodelling Fool,” when he toured Canada. There’s quite a bit of yodelling in his music, but not in today’s tune.

He became a huge hit in his native country and moved to New York in 1935. He was generally known as Montana Slim in America. He spent the rest of his life moving between the two countries (and others as well, including my own). Wilf’s song is The Night Before Christmas (In Texas, That Is).

♫ Wilf Carter - The Night Before Christmas (In Texas, That Is)

Here is a fellow countryman of mine, TIM MINCHIN, encapsulating how Christmas is celebrated here in Australia.

I really can’t add anything to his song. This is Drinking White Wine in the Sun which is what we generally do at this time of the year. Okay, I try to stay out of the sun as I have pale skin and freckles, but the sentiment still holds.

And for a bit of a counterpoint because like Tim, I quite like the music, here is my now traditional ending, if three of these could be considered a tradition: some fine music. This year’s bit of couth is by J.S. BACH.

J.S. Bach

It’s taken from his cantata “At the 3rd day of Christmas BWV133.” I don’t know if today is the first, last, 3rd or whatever day of Christmas, but I’ll use it anyway. This is Coro Ich freue mich in dir.

♫ J.S. Bach - Coro Ich freue mich in dir

Christmas in Oz

Strange Holiday Costume, Christmas Movie Montage and a Fun Surprise

Ollie the cat, snoozing on the desk next to the laptop yesterday morning, woke suddenly – and grumpy about it, too - when I burst into laughter at this image that arrived in an email message:

Christmas tree lady2

Clearly a Christmas tree costume but with a star of David on the top rather than the usual five-pointed Christian star.

It was sent, in response to my Hanukkah greeting, by TGB reader, John Baeder. John doesn't know what the provenance of the photo is – just something he had tucked away for amusement value sometime in the past. Whatever do you suppose it could be about.

John's name seemed familiar to me and when I poked around the web, I found that he is an artist associated with the photo-realist movement well-known for his paintings of roadside diners and I must have recognized his name because I have his 1980's book, Gas, Food and Lodging.

This is one of John's paintings of the Empire Diner where I ate lunch fairly frequently over the years in New York City and now, sadly, gone.


There's no telling who you can meet online via a Hanukkah greeting or a funny Christmas costume. You can find out more about John and his work here and here.

Television, this week, is devoid of nearly everything except Christmas movies so I checked out montages of them at YouTube. Most aren't very good and they all include clips of Will Ferrell as Elf and that creepy Home Alone kid. Am the only person in the U.S. who can't stand either one of them?

Anyway, here is one that is tolerable.

Having nothing to do with Christmas, this is way too good to pass up - Republican presidential candidate Jon Huntsman playing keyboards - Johnny B Goode with the Letterman show band Wednesday night. And he's pretty good, too. Take a look:

At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Barbara Sloan: Christmas Tradition Survival

The Legends of Santa Claus

In the past on this blog, I have ignored big holidays except on the date itself. For some reason this year, that seems hard to do – maybe it's the seasonal videos and other stuff I've been finding - so it's Christmas all the way until next week.

Santa Claus is a legendary, mythical, folkloric figure of many cultures under many different, although mostly similar names. It follows, then, that the details of his origin are contradictory, confusing and fascinating.

There is a documentary titled The Legends of Santa I discovered recently and am delighted with. Narrated by Sir Richard Attenborough, it is beautifully produced and stuffed (like a Christmas stocking?) with a whole lot of information about how the jolly fat man came to be.

Here is Part 1 of 4. You can watch the other three here at YouTube.

At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Herchel Newman: No Appreciation

Happy Hannukah 5772

Hanukkah began last evening. It's not that I do much about being Jewish but if nothing else, I enjoy the candles for eight nights. And I like the story.


Not to mix the holidays (oh go ahead, Ronni, mix 'em up) here's a wonderful Christmas video of an elder flash mob in Lawrence, Kansas, singing along with Last Christmas by the cast of Glee. Gotta love it. (My apologies - I've forgotten who sent this to me and have deleted the email.)

At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Marcy Belson: The Neighborhood Christmas Party

HBO Tackles Aging

[WHERE ELDERS BLOG: There are two new entries in the Where Elders Blog feature. You can see the page for MissKriss here and for MizBonnie here. Here are instructions for submitting your own blog writing or reading workplace.]

category_bug_ageism.gif Anyone who has been reading TimeGoesBy for awhile knows my feelings about cosmetic surgery and other medical interventions that attempt to camouflage age by make the person appear to be younger than he or she is.

Most obviously, the injections and surgeries don't work. Botox, etc. might fill in a wrinkle for a period of time and a nip/tuck might smooth out a line temporarily, but it always must be redone again and again. It fools no one because those procedures cannot reinvent the amazing, dewy complexion of a teen or early 20-something which is the greater hallmark of youth.

At their worst, those injections freeze the face into something like rigor mortis and the surgeries turn people into mid- and late-age grotesqueries. Several aging television personalities who had a too much enthusiasm for the knife in the past are on the verge of slipping into that latter category any day now.

But my number one objection is that all attempts to appear younger than what is naturally written on one's face are ageist. And more, every person who makes the attempt is telling the world that growing old is the worse thing that can happen.

You may think that has nothing to do with you. After all, you are perfectly comfortable in your aging self, right? But you would be mistaken to think you are unaffected.

The attitude and belief that old age must be avoided even at the cost of dangerous surgery and poisonous injections is the reason for the social invisibility of elders. It gives certain politicians' cover to repeatedly try to cut programs elders have spent their lives paying for and it causes age discrimination in the workplace that shortens the careers of thousands every year long before they are ready to retire.

All this came to mind recently when I ran across a reference to a new HBO documentary, About Face (clever title). From what the short, teaser trailer shows, the film addresses the topic of aging and facelifts with a bunch of older fashion models such as Paulina Porizkova, Carmen Dell’Orefice, Jerry Hall, China Machado and Isabella Rossellini. Take a look.

Isabella Rosselini notes the truth that as we get old, “we don't count anymore,” and another of the women points out that the “whole society makes us want to stay young.”

Yale psychologist Becca R. Levy has been studying aging for more than 20 years. Her research shows that the constant bombardment of negative stereotypes about age increases blood pressure – ageism can literally make old people sick.

Levy told the Washington Post:

“[W]e have found that when we activate negative age stereotypes, older individuals tend to show a decline in memory performance, self-confidence, will to live and handwriting,” said Levy.

“In contrast, we have found that when we activate positive age stereotypes we tend to find beneficial changes in these same areas.”

Good luck finding any of those “positive age stereotypes” anywhere in your day-to-day life.

It remains to be seen if HBO's About Face has a point of view on ageism. The doc will premiere at the Sundance Film Festival in January 2012.

It is Christmas week and readers have been laying some fine, fun seasonal videos on me in the past few days. Because they tend to get stale when festivities are finished, I'll include as many as possible during the rest of this week.

Here is the first from Nancy Leitz, a long-time contributor to The Elder Storytelling Place. The blurb at YouTube from pet owner Paul Ciampanelli of Paw Nation, says this:

”Cat owners know that setting up and decorating the holiday tree may be made into an infinitely more harrowing ordeal than usual if there's a curious cat around. It turns out that whether or not that cat can see makes little different.”

So here is Oskar the Blind Kitten and the Christmas Tree.

At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Stroppy: Old Kitten on the Keys

Democrat Sells Out Elders on Medicare

category_bug_politics.gif Worse, it's MY Democrat.

Last week, Oregon Senator Ron Wyden joined Wisconsin Republican Senator Paul Ryan in unveiling an awful proposal to preserve privatize Medicare.

Although the proposal is, as yet, short on details, here's the general idea of the Ryan/Wyden Plan as reported in the Washington Post last week:

”...a framework that would offer traditional, government-run Medicare as an option for future retirees along with a variety of private plans.

“Seniors would still receive a set amount of money from the government to buy insurance, as they would under the Medicare proposal Ryan included in the budget blueprint that passed the House last year.

“But the new approach would let that subsidy, known as premium support, rise or fall along with the actual cost of the policies — creating more protection for seniors and saving potentially far less in the budget.”

In a word: bullshit.

Medicare would “subsidize premiums charged by private insurers that care for beneficiaries under contract with the government.” The New York Times explained further:

”Congress would establish an insurance exchange for Medicare beneficiaries. Private plans would compete with the traditional Medicare program and would have to provide benefits of the same or greater value.”

In other words, it would turn Medicare into a public option and, eventually, destroy the program which has always been Ryan's and Republicans' goal. Paul N. Van de Water reports for the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities:

”The proposal for Medicare premium support by House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan (R-WI) and Senator Ron Wyden (D-OR) differs in key respects from how many media reports are describing it.

“Despite claims to the contrary, it likely would shift substantial costs to beneficiaries rather than protect them from such cost increases, could lead to the demise of traditional Medicare over time rather than preserve it, and likely would produce few savings.”

The Ryan/Wyden proposal is just another privatization scheme notes the National Committee to Preserve Social Security and Medicare, “coupon care for seniors” in which the only winners would be private insurers who would be given permission to cherry pick the healthiest elders. The NCPSSM continues:

• “Beneficiaries would be forced to pay more for Medicare benefits because premiums would be indexed to the gross domestic product, plus 1 percent, which historically has risen far more slowly than health care costs.

• “The Ryan-Wyden plan could actually increase Medicare costs because it expands private Medicare plans that cost an average of 10 percent more than what the same coverage would cost in traditional Medicare.

• If younger retirees enter the new program and the oldest and sickest remain in traditional Medicare, the program will be faced with a pool of increasingly costly beneficiaries. Medicare spending would go up and seniors who remain in traditional Medicare would see their costs go up as well.”

Look, we know that for-profit medicine does not work. We have decades of experience culminating now in more that 50 million Americans with no health coverage along with higher infant mortality and lower life expectancy than all other developed countries. A 2010 study from Families USA reported in The New York Times estimated that

"...currently 68 adults under age 65 die every day because they don’t have coverage. Absent a significant change in coverage, the figure will climb to 84 by 2019, the study projects."

If the Ryan/Wyden proposal succeeds, we will be adding people older than 65 to that terrible statistic.

Senator Wyden, as you can imagine, is possibly the least popular member of his political party at the moment. As TPM reports:

”...the reaction from Democrats — both nameless, and on the record, has been severe.

“Two White House spokesmen — Jay Carney and Dan Pfeiffer — rejected the plan outright. Carney claimed the plan would 'end Medicare as we know it.'

“Leaving Wyden’s name out of it, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi said, '[Paul] Ryan’s latest Medicare plan is another example of GOP’s desire for Medicare, as Gingrich described, to wither on the vine.'”

“Rep. Pete Stark (D-CA) — a top Dem on health care issues — lashed out: 'despite Wyden’s claims otherwise, the Wyden-Ryan plan ends Medicare as we know it, plain and simple.'”

Elders are getting it from all sides in Congress this season since Medicare is not the only elder program a Democrat is willing to sell out. Many more of them support the extension of the payroll tax holiday that weakens Social Security by tying its revenue to the general fund thereby making it possible for Congress to not reimburse the shortfall.

The one percent have no need for Social Security and Medicare. This is just another case of their handmaidens in Congress sticking it to the 99 percent – the oldest and most vulnerable of them this time.

Wyden is not up for re-election this year, but does he really believe we'll forgive this come 2016? I won't.

At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Johna Ferguson: My Mornings

ELDER MUSIC: 1970 Part 2

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.

Continuing from last week, I’m playing something from the great albums that were released in 1970.

VAN MORRISON was really on a roll around this time. He’d already produced two of the best albums ever in the previous 18 months or so and he came up with another one, nearly as good. Two in one year that should be in everyone’s collection is not a bad track record. This one is “His Band and Street Choir.”

Van Morrison - His Band and Street Choir

Like the album that The Band released this year, featured last week, this one has been downgraded somewhat merely because of the two albums that preceded it. I think the critics need to listen with open ears and judge it without preconceptions. Yeah, as if that’s going to happen.

I like it a lot, that’s why it’s here today. The track I’ve chosen is Virgo Clowns.

♫ Van Morrison - Virgo Clowns

I picked up EMITT RHODES' first, self titled, album just by chance.

Emitt Rhodes

I put it on the turntable back then in 1970, and discovered the best Beatles album for some time. This was a one man Beatles at that. I looked at the credits and found that he not only wrote the songs, sang them as well but also played every instrument on every track.

He also produced the album and was its engineer. This was the solo album Paul McCartney should have recorded.

I got a couple of his other albums when they came out and then, nothing. It seems he quit show biz at the age of 24 after being ripped off, burned out and generally bitter about the whole process. He has not recorded another album since those first few and doesn’t perform in public any more.

His first album was beautiful unabashed pop music that can hold its head up in the exalted company of the other albums from 1970. This is She's Such a Beauty from that first album.

♫ Emitt Rhodes - She's Such a Beauty

Ian and Sylvia were already a successful folk duo from Canada when they decided to form a band to extend the range of the music they were playing. That band they called GREAT SPECKLED BIRD. This is also the name of the album we’re considering today.

Great Speckled Bird

Many folks who went to see them at that time thought they were getting a nice gentle Ian and Sylvia folkie concert and were shocked when confronted with a full tilt rock band.

It rather echoed what happened with Bob Dylan a few years earlier. The Bird wasn’t very successful because of this. Several members of the band left not too long after, and Ian and Sylvia’s marriage disintegrated and they went their separate ways.

I’ve heard this vinyl album is a collector’s item so if someone wishes to send a wheelbarrow full of money in my direction, I’ll certainly part with my copy. I’m not holding my breath. Here is Calgary.

♫ Great Speckled Bird - Calgary

TONY JOE WHITE released his finest album this year. This is not to denigrate his others, which are excellent; it’s just that this is a ripper (that’s Oz talk).

Tony Joe White-Tony Joe

The album was called “Tony Joe.” However, it’s been reissued under various other names. The album consisted of his own songs and some covers of classic soul and blues tunes.

It’s rather unusual for Tony Joe to have strings on his tunes, however, he does on this one. They don’t overwhelm it so that’s sort of okay with me. This is High Sheriff of Calhoun Parrish and, judging by this song, the residents of Calhoun Parrish are well versed in grammar.

♫ Tony Joe White - High Sheriff of Calhoun Parrish

KRIS KRISTOFFERSON was already in his thirties and had been writing songs for some time, trying to get others, particularly Johnny Cash, to record them when he became an overnight success with the release of his first album called “Kristofferson.”

Kris Kristofferson-Kristofferson

This is the album that introduced Me and Bobby McGee, Help Me Make It Through the Night, For the Good Times and Sunday Morning Coming Down to the world. Just for those four it’s worth a place in album royalty.

Kris didn’t have much of a range as a singer and he has even less these days, however, his knowledge of his songs brings an authenticity and a nuance to them that’s often lacking in other versions.

I was going to choose another song rather than one of those four but upon playing them they are so good so I’m going with For the Good Times.

♫ Kris Kristofferson - For the Good Times

JUDY COLLINS was already turning from a folk singer into a singer of art songs and even classical pieces by 1970. The album, “Whales and Nightingales,” reverts a little to her folk singing roots.

Judy Collins - Whales and Nightingales

Judy started out learning classical piano and had her debut at age 13 playing a Mozart concerto. Her music teacher was somewhat miffed at her growing interest in folk music and playing guitar rather than piano.  Decades later, when Judy invited him to one of her concerts, apparently he said to her, “Little Judy – you really could have gone places.”

Anyway, here she is singing a cappella, except for a bunch of humpbacked whales supplying a bit of counterpoint, with Farewell to Tarwathie.

♫ Judy Collins - Farewell to Tarwathie

GORDON LIGHTFOOT’s best selling album came from this year. It was called “Sit Down Young Stranger.”

Gordon Lightfoot - Sit Down Young Stranger

This had a couple of songs that also sold well as singles, most particularly

If You Could Read My Mind. Later editions of this album had its name changed to that song. It also had the first version I heard of Me and Bobby McGee. It’s what prompted me to buy Kris’s album; I figured if Gordie could cover someone else’s song, that person would be worth investigating, and so it proved.

However, this is Gordie’s moment and his song is Your Love's Return.

♫ Gordon Lightfoot - Your Love's Return

Easily the best of the solo albums released by the various Beatles after the group split is the first one by GEORGE HARRISON.

George Harrison-All Things Must Pass

Upon hearing the album, you can understand why George was frustrated when John and Paul didn’t allow more of his songs on the group’s albums. There are many that could gain a place in this column, but I’m going for Beware of Darkness.

♫ George Harrison - Beware of Darkness

JOHN SEBASTIAN was the main songwriter, singer and leading force behind the Lovin’ Spoonful. You may also remember him from Woodstock or more likely, the film of that event, as the hippy dippy performer with the tie-dyed denim jacket.

After the Spoonful split he made a bunch of solo albums. The one this year is the first of his and it’s called, “John B Sebastian.”

John Sebastian-John B Sebastian

He made several albums later that were superior to this one, but it’s the one from 1970 we’re considering. There were a few good tunes and one extremely fine song on the album. That one was How Have You Been?

♫ John Sebastian - How Have You Been

DELANEY AND BONNIE Bramlett seemed to be mixed up with everyone in 1970. They were on the Joe Cocker, Leon Russell tour of “Mad Dogs and Englishmen” and they were friends of Eric Clapton, indeed it was mostly their backing band that gave rise to Derek and the Dominoes (another album that was short listed for this year but just failed to make the cut).

Also, they were friends of Bob Dylan’s and it was his feet that poke out from the car on the cover of their “On Tour” album. The one from this year is called “To Bonnie from Delaney.”

Delaney and Bonnie

The track is The Love Of My Man. It’s mostly Bonnie singing and is a fine example of blue-eyed soul.

♫ Delaney and Bonnie - The Love Of My Man

An honorable mention must go to Frank Zappa and the Mothers’ “Weasels Ripped My Flesh” not for the music but because it has the best album cover ever.

Frank Zappa-Weasels

Okay, Linda Ronstadt’s “Hasten Down the Wind” may be better, but for a different reason. It wasn’t from 1970 so I won’t feature it.

Well, that’s it for the “years”. Just normal waffling on about whatever musical topic that catches my fancy from here on. The same as it was before I started this series.

INTERESTING STUFF – 17 December 2011

War reporter, polemicist, atheist, essayist, troublemaker and all-around brilliant wit who, whether you loved or hated him, was more fun to read than any of the next 250 best writers we have died Thursday in Houston of pneumonia although the underlying cause was esophageal cancer.

Christopher Hitchens was only 62 and I sure will miss him. There are obituaries and tributes all over the web and there are sure to be more. Two of them are here and here - well worth reading.

Good old, reliable has given us an end-of-year list of the internet rumors they have most frequently been asked to confirm or debunk. You know, stuff that shows up in your inbox like:

• Will the Obamas do away with the White House Christmas tree?

• Did President Obama have his dog, Bo, flown to Maine in his own private jet for the family vacation?

• Is the ACLU suing to have cross-shaped headstones removed from military cemeteries?

You can find the answers to these and whole bunch more at

Those Wisconsin voters don't give up. Remember last winter in sub-zero temperatures when day after day up to 100,000 citizens marched to protest Governor Scott Walker's busting of the public workers union.

The demonstrators vowed to mount a recall of the governor and this week, they announced that they have neared the required number of petition signatures, collecting more than half a million in just 28 days. Look at these stats from from Politiscoop:

• 8,007 signatures or 128% of Walker’s 2010 vote total in Douglas County

• 22,365 signatures or 124% of Walker’s 2010 vote total in Eau Claire County

• 21,558 signatures or 91% of Walker’s 2010 vote total in Rock County

• 7,375 signatures or 84% of Walker’s 2010 vote total in Oneida County

• 6,972 signatures or 81% of Walker’s 2010 vote total in Grant County

Now that's a Wow. Only 540,208 signatures are required to trigger a recall election, but they're going for 720,277. Here's the announcement of the petition's success from earlier this week (hat tip to Bev Carney).



The big guy in a red suit IS an elder, you know, and the folks at Creating Results have compiled some little-known facts about St. Nick that, of course, apply to you and me too. Such as:

• Co-habitation among people 65 and older has tripled in the past decade

• Seniors drink the largest proportion of daily wine drinkers

• Half of Americans 65 and older have arthritis

You can read more Santa/elder facts here.

Thanks to TGB reader Elsa Louise, I now know about a fantastic blog called Ephemeral New York where I have been spending many hours reading, looking and following links.

Like this story about the Women's House of Detention. When I first lived in Greenwich Village, the prison was still on the corner of Sixth Avenue and Greenwich Avenue.


”Modern and bright (WPA murals lined the walls), it focused on reforming the inmates, often charged with prostitution.

“There were some illustrious inmates, held for other crimes, like Ethel Rosenberg, Angela Davis, and Valerie Solanas, who shot Andy Warhol in 1968,”

writes the anonymous “magazine editor from the West Village” who runs the blog. It is packed with priceless information, stories and images about my favorite city. If you too love New York, you'll fall further in love after hanging out at this website for awhile.

LanguageLog is a terrific blog I subscribe to about, well, language, written by a dozen or more mavens. This week, one of the founders, Geoffrey K. Pullum, took up the topic of the word in this headline as a strong candidate for word of the year from the American Dialect Society.

”I had been talking to Calvin one day about the ghastly crew of obnoxious multi-millionaires who dominate the newspapers,” write Mr. Pullum, “and how they keep threatening to achieve success even in the political arena.

“Calvin pointed out to me both that we need a new political term for the concept of being ruled by such men, and that there already is such a term. We are living, he observed, in the age of the assholocracy.”

“Such men,” Mr. Pullum goes on to explain, include Donald Trump and I'm sure we can all agree that in the U.S. at this moment in political history there is a bumper crop of others for whom the word assholocracy was invented - “a terse and valuable addition to the vocabulary,” as Pullum asserts.

You can read more of this story at LanguageLog.

I had no cat videos for Interesting Stuff last week but today we are making up for that omission thanks to three TGB readers who have filled the void magnificently. This first one from Jan Heigh fits the season. (No way would my Ollie the cat sit still for this.)

Luke looks a lot like Ollie so he's probably a Savannah cat. The breed is supposed to like water, but no one told Ollie about that. (You might want to turn off the audio; the music is awful.) (Hat tip to Sandra Mosley)

No explanation needed. Just watch. You'll love it. (Hat tip to Marian Van Eyk McCain of elderwomanblog)

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.

A Sane Proposal for Jobs and the Economy

category_bug_politics.gif Even through there is nothing more important to citizens of the U.S. than the economic crisis in general and jobs in particular, as of yesterday afternoon you could not read the news I have for you today anywhere in mainstream media.

To find it, you needed to be reading thinkprogress, firedoglake, Hullabaloo, Huffington Post, even The Hill - and today, thanks to all those good websites - moi.

On Tuesday, the Congressional Progressive Caucus led by its chairman, Arizona Representative Raul Grijalva, introduced H.R. 3638, the Restore the American Dream for the 99 Percent Act.

The Economic Policy Institute says the bill would create 5 million jobs over the next two years and reduce the budget deficit by $2 trillion over the next decade.

H.R.3638 contains the kinds of provisions that would get the country moving forward again. You know, stuff Congress should have been enacting during these past four years instead of lining the pockets of the already rich while American family budgets are circling the drain. And it aligns with much that the #occupy movement has brought to the nation's attention.

I want to say that this bill is brilliant, creative and forward thinking, but it really is not. In an economy this bad for this long, it is only common sense and it is pretty much exactly what many Democrats and progressives have been calling for all along while being pointedly ignored by the people who can do anything about it.

Although it's fairly long, this summary of the bill's of provisions is a quick read (or, the pdf is here). And there is a related holiday surprise/treat for you at the bottom of this post.

After repeated efforts by conservative Washington politicians to reenact the same failed policies, Members of the Congressional Progressive Caucus (CPC) took action. CPC Members traveled across the country listening to the American people.

Americans told us they want work and that cutting Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, unemployment insurance and education is unacceptable; they want big banks to clean up the mess they made and millionaires and billionaires to pay their fair share.

Emergency jobs to put America to Work: creates 2.2 million jobs through on-the-job training and direct hire programs for cops, teachers, firefighters, construction and maintenance workers for schools, parks and public land workers, work study jobs for students, health providers including nurses and assistants and a new Community Corp to take care of our neighborhoods.

Buy America: requires materials for government contracts are manufactured in the U.S.

Infrastructure bank: creates an infrastructure bank that will allow private sector partnering with regions, States and localities to create infrastructure projects

Protection of our wounded veterans: ensures that our veterans are not discriminated against in the workplace for time spent receiving treatment for injuries

Investment in infrastructure and transportation: provides $50 billion to fix our crumbling roads, bridges, rail lines, sewer systems and to upgrade power lines and mass transit systems

Fairness in taxation: requires people that make over $1 million a year to pay their fair share, raising $800 billion

Defense spending: A rare consensus has emerged among a wide range of policymakers, deficit reduction plan must tackle Defense spending. Ending unnecessary programs saves $280 billion

Unchecked war spending: restricting spending in Afghanistan to planning and executing a responsible troop withdrawal saves ≈ $1.2 trillion

Oil and gas industry and polluter taxes: the oil and gas corporations are among the most profitable on Earth; ending tax giveaways and requiring polluters to clean up their mess will raise over $60 billion

Wall Street and speculators tax: The financial sector shattered the global economy – this 0.03 percent tax disincentivizes dangerous speculation by slightly raising the cost to trade which raises $350 billion

Making Work Pay Tax Credit: this progressive tax refund that would put money into the pockets of those that need it most to boost the economy would be extended for 2 years

Public option: allowing a public option to operate with private in the health care exchanges saves $88 billion

Negotiate drug prices: allowing Medicare to negotiate drug prices with pharmaceutical saves $156 billion

Enhancing Medicaid rates: the fastest way to support state governments would be to restore the increased federal Medicaid matching rates

Scrapping Social Security cap: Social Security by law cannot contribute to the deficit; however people making over $106,800 do not pay taxes on the additional income. To ensure long-term solvency, this requires anyone making over $250,000 to pay the normal social security tax on their upper income

There is much more detail about how all this would be accomplished here.

If only Congress would take this seriously. So sad that it will not.

Now for that surprise I promised. This Halleluijah Chorus with new lyrics written especially for our economic predicament. It is titled Hallelujah - A Musical Tribute to Corporate Excess. The YouTube page states:

Hallelujah was conceived, rehearsed and filmed in Tamworth, NH, a small town with a population of 2556 that has as its backdrop Mt Chocorua, the most photographed mountain in America. Tamworth is part of Occupy The Mt Washington Valley. Tamworth was the summer home of President Grover Cleveland.

At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Mary B Summerlin: Wounded Woodpecker

The Lonely Job of Saving American Democracy

category_bug_politics.gif I started this post several times yesterday with a long list of what is wrong with our country, our culture, our politics, our government and the terrible direction in which it is all taking us. But if I know TGB readers as well as I think I do, you're up on this stuff; the list would be repetitious.

And anyway, it was only in introduction to telling you about two recent political moves that are beautiful, romantic, starry-eyed ideas of how America should conduct its public affairs.

When you read about them, you will say, “I thought that's how the country is supposed to work,” and you would be correct. But as we know, our politicians, business titans, media, other leaders and a lot of voters too have fallen into a moral and ethical morass out of which we cannot seem to climb.

So let us today, praise one of these good people who are doing some wonderful windmill tilting for us. (Tomorrow I'll tell you about the second one.)

“Corporations are people, my friend,” says Republic president candidate Mitt Romney and against all reason, the Supreme Court backs him. They invented it with the Citizens United decision of 2010 giving corporations an unfettered, First Amendment right to spend as much money as they want on election campaigns without disclosure.

In his or her bones, any sane person knows this is crazy, truly crazy but sanity has been suspended. Enter Vermont independent Senator Bernie Sanders who has introduced a joint resolution in Congress calling for an amendment to the Constitution to overturn Citizens United. As he explained on the Senate floor earlier this month:

”When the Supreme Court says that for purposes of the First Amendment, corporations are people, that writing checks from the company's bank account is constitutionally-protected speech and that attempts by the federal government and states to impose reasonable restrictions on campaign ads are unconstitutional, when that occurs, our democracy is in grave danger.”

No shit. The proposed amendment states:

• Corporations are not persons with constitutional rights equal to real people.
• Corporations are subject to regulation by the people.
• Corporations may not make campaign contributions.
• Congress and states have the power to regulate campaign finances.

Actually, all four of those statements should be self-evident and once upon a time in America, they were. That they are no longer should worry everyone a great deal. The people's voice – yours and mine - has been stolen by the Supreme Court and handed to the highest bidder.

You can watch Senator Sanders' speech introducing the resolution below or read it here [pdf]. And the full text – three pages - of the resolution is here.

At Sanders' Senate website there is a petition in favor of the amendment. Of course, it is a lost cause – a beautiful dream of a lost cause. But that does not mean we shouldn't give it our whole-hearted support.

It is an elder in Congress – Senator Sanders turned 70 in September – who refuses to let this terrible Court decision stand unchallenged. We old folks need to keep reminding the young what is worth fighting for even when the odds against it are high. In fact, that is when it is most important to fight back.

Tomorrow I will tell you about another bit of crazy, wonderful windmill tilting in Washington, D.C.

At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Kristine Scholz: Only Hearts Make a Home

More Hooky

category_bug_journal2.gif Still taking a break for another day. I'll be back tomorrow. Meanwhile, did you know that YouTube has a whole bunch of full-length movies to watch? For free? (There are others for a small fee.)

I'm probably way behind the curve on this and you've already discovered it. I found it just yesterday when I ran across a list at Buzzfeed of 74 Great Films You Can Watch on YouTube from someone named Dorsey Shaw.

Okay, most on the list appear to be movies only a young man – which is what Dorsey appears to be – could like. But scattered among them he has found some some terrific old noir films, a few great classics and some newer ones too – like Synecdoche New York with Philip Seymour Hoffman that's been on my to-see list for a long time.

That one will have to wait a little longer because I got delightfully sidetracked when, on Dorsey's list, up popped Fantasia which I had not seen in many decades. Now I have again. If you've got a couple of hours, you too can see it here.

Or check out the entire YouTube movie section.

At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Lyn Burnstine: A New World for It

Playing Hooky

category_bug_journal2.gif Somehow Monday just disappeared without my getting around to writing a post for today. I guess I needed the time off and maybe I'll take tomorrow too. Well see; I don't know yet.

Meanwhile, I ran across this small item from one of our more intelligent actors. Julianne Moore, prepping for her role as Sarah Palin in the upcoming HBO miniseries, Game Change, has “read every single thing” she could, she says, and “watched every interview.”

A New York Daily News reporter asked Ms. Moore if, after all her homework, she has developed a new respect for the former vice presidential candidate.

”...the actress, 51, raised an eyebrow and sighed deeply. 'No,' she said quietly.”

Nicely done, Ms. Moore.

At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Mollie Hazen: His Sweet and Cherished Life

Isabelle Johnston - A One-Woman Show

category_bug_journal2.gif Did I ever tell you that my sister-in-law, Isa, is an artist – a sculptor and painter? Of course, I didn't because – well, what did I have to show you. But now I do. On Friday evening, I attended the reception for her one-woman show which opened last week in Portland, Oregon.

I laughed when I saw this “bowling ball” head of Keith Richards. It was right on schedule for me as I'm just finishing up reading the Rolling Stones guitarist's memoir, Life.


There are two other guests and me reflected in the glass which you can't think about too much without getting bogged down in an existential moment.

Here is Venus in two media...


Isa spent a number of years living in Afghanistan and in India which shows up in a lot of her work. When I stayed with her and my brother for a week last year while waiting for my furniture to be delivered to my new home, Isa was just beginning this one:


Here are women herders riding camels...


When I saw this one, I was transported back to my visit to The Alhambra in Granada years ago. Lots of similar architectural detail in the Moorish palaces there.


When Isa first moved here from Switzerland two-and-a-half years ago or so to marry my brother, they lived in Lake Oswego. I have forgotten the details, but when Isa researched some history of the town, she discovered something related to synchronized swimming and thus...


Cats figure large in Isa's work. This one, sitting on a lotus blossom, looks a bit like my Ollie with those spots.


Not to take anything away from the rest of Isa's work, this bronze cat has been my favorite since the first time I saw it.


This is only a small representation of Isa's show, titled From East to West. There is much more to see and if you live in the vicinity, you can drop by at the Multnomah Arts Center, 7688 S.W. Capitol Highway. It is open through 4 January 2012.


At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Joanne Zimmermann: FUNerals