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February 2012
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PeterTibbles75x75This Sunday Elder Music column was launched in December of 2008. By May of the following year, one commenter, Peter Tibbles, had added so much knowledge and value to my poor attempts at musical presentations that I asked him to take over the column. He's been here each week ever since delighting us with his astonishing grasp of just about everything musical, his humor and sense of fun. You can read Peter's bio here and find links to all his columns here.

This has nothing to do with a Tom Hanks film from some time ago. This week, the music is mostly jump blues, rhythm & blues, straight blues.

This is somewhat inadvertent as I was looking through my music on the computer and noticed quite a number of artists whose first name seemed to be “Big” and saw there were more than enough for a column, so I went with it.

It just so happens that most of them belong in the categories mentioned. That’s fine with me. You’re probably ahead of me, but I wondered if I could do the same with “Little.” There were even more of them. That’s for another time.

I knew I had to include this track, however, I have finally found someone who has pretty much stumped me. As it turns out, she won’t be the last to do this.

BIG BERTHA HENDERSON made four recordings in the fifties. The first two were with Al Smith's Band in Chicago in 1952. Her last two were made with an unknown band in New York the following year. She may have retired to New Orleans.

That’s all I know about her and that’s thanks to the CD insert. I think this is her on the cover, but I’m not sure.

Bertha Henderson

The track is one she made with Al Smith in 1952, and it’s his composition - Rock Bertha, Rock.

♫ Big Bertha Henderson - Rock Bertha, Rock

BIG WHEEL was the brain child of Jim Conway.

Big Wheel

Jim, along with his brother Mic, founded the much-loved band, Captain Matchbox Whoopee Band, who were big in the seventies and were one of the most entertaining groups I’ve ever seen.

Jim is considered the finest of Australia’s blues harmonica players and amongst others, has toured with the great Brownie McGhee, taking over the Sonny Terry role.

Big Wheel isn’t a straight blues band. It includes elements of thirties’ swing and boogie, forties’ and fifties’ rhythm and blues, Caribbean, Latin and New Orleans styles of music. Anything else they feel like as well. This is Better Make the Most of It.

♫ Big Wheel - Better Make the Most of It

I’ve featured BIG JOE TURNER several times in these columns as he’s a favorite of both mine and Norma, the Assistant Musicologist.

Big Joe Turner

Joe started his musical career when, as a teenager, he became a bartender in Kansas City. Playing there was a pianist called Pete Johnson and Joe would sing along to the music Pete played. The patrons loved it and a musical career was born along with a life-long friendship as well between Pete and Joe. Pete played on many of the records Joe recorded.

Here, Joe sings Around The Clock Blues, a definite precursor to Rock Around the Clock, with Pete playing piano of course. It could almost be called Roll Around the Clock.

♫ Big Joe Turner - Around The Clock Blues

Janis Joplin and Big Brother and the Holding Company had considerable success with this next song. They’ll be featured down there a bit with a different tune. Here we have the woman who recorded the song first, BIG MAMA THORNTON.

Big Mama Thornton

Willie Mae Thornton was from Montgomery and she made her singing debut in a local church. Her mother died when she was 14 and she joined the Hot Harlem Revue where she stayed for seven years. This gave her grounding on most aspects of show business.

Later she recorded Hound Dog some years before Elvis. That song hit number one on the charts and the flip side was called, They Call me Big Mama which gave rise to her nickname. Here she is with Ball n' Chain.

♫ Big Mama Thornton - Ball N' Chain

The BIG BOPPER was Jiles Perry Richardson, often known as J.P. (or Jape) Richardson.

Big Bopper

Jape was a Texan and most of his career was spent as a disk jockey in that state. He was also a songwriter and wrote for his friends and recorded some himself.

You all know his biggest hit and how he came to be on that plane. I’ve gone for another of his tunes, Big Bopper's Wedding.

♫ Big Bopper - Big Bopper's Wedding

As mentioned above, we have BIG BROTHER AND THE HOLDING COMPANY just to bring a bit of rock & roll into proceedings.

Big Brother and the Holding Company

This is the group that first brought Janis Joplin to a wider audience, particularly their appearance at the Monterey Pop Festival and more especially the fine film that was made of that event.

This led to the group being signed by a major label. However, before that, they had recorded an album with an obscure label that maybe a dozen people bought. Here is a track from that early record, Turtle Blues.

♫ Big Brother and the Holding Company - Turtle Blues

BIG BILL BROONZY was born in either Mississippi or Arkansas in either 1893 or 1903. His birth name was either William or Lee Bradley or William or Lee Broonzy or some combination of all of them.

Big Bill Broonzy

The family was certainly in Arkansas when he was young where Bill made himself a fiddle from a cigar box. He used this instrument to play spirituals and folk songs. He took up the guitar and was taught the instrument by a medicine show man.

Bill took a bunch of different jobs but he also performed at rent parties and other gatherings. A friend of his got him an audition at a record company and he recorded several songs, some successful, others not.

His reputation gained ground and he was asked to fill in at the Spirituals to Swing concerts at Carnegie Hall to replace Robert Johnson who had met his demise in interesting circumstances.

From there he had a great influence on the folk and blues booms of the forties and later in the sixties. Alas, he died 1958 from cancer of the throat. This is Bill with Lonesome.

♫ Big Bill Broonzy - Lonesome

Now to someone even more mysterious than Big Bertha Henderson, BIG MAC. We don’t even know his real name. Apparently he was a truck driver from Arkansas who recorded only one song that anyone knows about.

He had the help of the great guitarist, Hubert Sumlin on that track. After recording it, he left the studio and was never heard from again. The record was released in 1967 with an instrumental version of the tune on the flip side.

Here is Big Mac with Rough Dried Woman. On the basis of this one, it’s a shame he only recorded the one song - Rough Dried Woman.

Big Mac

♫ Big Mac - Rough Dried Woman

BIG MAYBELLE, or Mabel Smith, was from Jackson, Tennessee and sang gospel music as a youngster before switching to blues.

Big Maybelle

Maybelle’s career began in 1936 as a member of Dave Clark’s Memphis Band. She later toured with the International Sweethearts of Rhythm, an all female band.

Maybelle made her recording debut as a member of Tiny Bradshaw’s Orchestra where she also played piano. Initially, she released records under her given name but a producer gave her the name, Big Maybelle.

Maybelle died in a diabetic coma at the age of 47, no doubt exacerbated by her penchant for food and drugs. Here she performs Gabbin' Blues (Don't Run My Business), the first of her recordings released under the name Big Maybelle.

♫ Big Maybelle - Gabbin' Blues (Don't Run My Business)

BIG MACEO MERRIWEATHER was a self taught pianist who was born in Atlanta.

Big Maceo

He moved to Detroit when he was in his twenties and played in clubs there as well as performing for rent parties and the like. He always had an inkling to go to Chicago, so he did.

There he met Tampa Red, master of the slide guitar, and they became firm friends as well as recording partners. His music had a huge impact on just about every post-war blues pianist and his songs were also influential on the blues revival in the sixties.

Unfortunately, he suffered a stroke in 1946 that put paid to his performing career and years of hard living caused a heart attack that killed him in 1953 at the age of 47. Here, with the help of Tampa Red, is County Jail.

♫ Big Maceo - County Jail


Don't forget to move your clocks forward tonight one hour. Well, everyone except for Hawaii and most of Arizona.

Daylight savings clock

Just before you go to bed Saturday night is a good time to do it.

2012 is the Diamond Jubilee of Britain's Queen Elizabeth and there is a national project to celebrate by planting six million trees before the end of the year. Here is a favorite actor, Dame Judi Dench, doing her part for the cause. (Hat tip to Nikki of From Where I Sit)

I just hate that I am terrible at writing headlines and captions. Good ones make an ordinary image compelling and, often, funny - like this one. (Stolen from Judy Carrino's Facebook page)

Book Suicide

Before his recent demise, right-wing provocateur, Andrew Breitbart, promised he had a video that would bring down President Barack Obama.

When the footage was broadcast on Fox this week by a credulous Sean Hannity, it became an instant Twitter joke. There is nothing the least controversial about Obama's introduction of Professor Derrick Bell.

And, the video is not the exclusive Hannity claimed. A longer version aired on Frontline on PBS in 2008.

All this much ado about nothing aside, it is interesting to see the young Obama 22 years ago. See what you think.

Some of them have more than one, says a new Harris Interactive poll and here's a surprise (to me, anyway): women are more likely than men to have a tattoo by 23% over 19%.

Old folks are fairly well represented with 11% of those 50-64 having tattoos and 5% of people 65 and older. I think Maxine has a good point about tattoos:

Maxine on Tattoos

From intense interest to boredom. Either way, it's fun to watch.

I haven't bought Oreo cookies in years. They are way too fattening and one or two are never enough for me – especially after the Double-Stuf variety was introduced. But even though I don't eat them anymore, let's mark Oreo's 100th birthday this year as an iconic American snack.


There are some fun facts here and although I do not recall ever seeing an Oreo TV commercial, you'll find more than 60 of them here where they have their own channel in YouTube.

You know the story: three pigs, three houses, a wolf, huffing and puffing and in the end, boiled wolf. Last week the Guardian UK released a video commercial for the newspaper showing how they would cover the story from first headline to social media conclusion.

The video went viral prompting a whirlwind of critiques – good and bad. See what you think.

Last week I told you about a proposed underground garden for New York City called the Low Line Delancey Underground.

Low line

The creators have been seeking funding through Kickstarter and it was announced this week that they surpassed their goal of $100,000 – by a third so far – and will be funded by the deadline on April 2. I am so eager to see how this develops.

About a year ago in this column, I featured Pam Peterson singing Memories rewritten with some funny elder lyrics. Now, reader Cathy Johnson sends along the information that Pam is one half of a singing group, the Boomer Babes.

So here she is with her partner, Jan Slavin, singing another elder spoof, this one set to a medley of Beatles songs.

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.

Young at Heart? Not Me

category_bug_ageism.gif Strolling around the interwebs the other day, I landed at a blog (new to me) by a 50-something woman who described herself thusly:

“Nowadays, as I find myself getting older in body, I am trying to stay young in spirit.”

The widespread use of such phrases as “young in spirit” - young at heart being the most common - tick me off because they set up a false comparison between young and old in which the only takeaway possible is negative - that old spirits and hearts are simply unacceptable.

Whenever I discuss this, I get a good deal of pushback from readers who like those phrases or, at most, find them mildly annoying and easy to ignore. This only helps to prove that we have been so brainwashed since childhood by pejorative language about being old that we no longer even recognize it – dangerous because it makes us complicit in our own stereotyping.

In Media Takes: On Aging [pdf], a handbook on ageist language for journalists from the International Longevity Center, it is noted that just when the aging of the huge baby boomer generation is causing closer examination of what getting old is really like,

“...we continue to have embedded in our culture a fear of growing old, manifest by negative stereotypes and language that belittles the very nature of growing old, its complexities and tremendous variability.”

One of my pet examples of the belittlement that is rarely recognized as such is found at an idiom website defining the phrase, young at heart:

”To have youthful outlook, especially in spite of one's age. For example, She loves carnivals and fairs; she's a grandmother but she's young at heart.”

Inclusion of “in spite of one's age” means there is no way to misconstrue the meaning: at its most crude - young hearts good; old hearts bad.

The usual dictionary definitions of young include:

  • Being in an early period of life, development, or growth
  • Newly begun or formed; not advanced
  • Inexperienced or immature
  • Having the appearance, freshness, vigor, or other qualities of youth

At nearly 71, I left behind my early period of life, development and growth many years ago. I'm a long way from newly begun or formed. It pleases me to think I have advanced a good deal on many levels. I am experienced now and mature. After seven decades, I would be embarrassed to have it any other way.

Although I do not believe "freshness and vigor" are necessarily confined to the young, I definitely no longer have the appearance of youth and feel no lament about that. All the years I have accumulated have been well used. They fit nicely and are comfortable.

I am old in spirit and at heart and that is a good thing to be.

At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Stroppy: Losing Things No 2

ELDER POETRY INTERLUDE: Lines on Retirement, after Reading Lear

By David Wright

Avoid storms. And retirement parties.
You can’t trust the sweetnesses your friends will
offer, when they really want your office,
which they’ll redecorate. Beware the still
untested pension plan. Keep your keys. Ask
for more troops than you think you’ll need. Listen
more to fools and less to colleagues. Love your
youngest child the most, regardless. Back to
storms: dress warm, take a friend, don’t eat the grass,
don’t stand near tall trees, and keep the yelling
down—the winds won’t listen, and no one will
see you in the dark. It’s too hard to hear
you over all the thunder. But you’re not
Lear, except that we can’t stop you from what
you’ve planned to do. In the end, no one leaves
the stage in character—we never see
the feather, the mirror held to our lips.
So don’t wait for skies to crack with sun. Feel
the storm’s sweet sting invade you to the skin,
the strange, sore comforts of the wind. Embrace
your children’s ragged praise and that of friends.
Go ahead, take it off, take it all off.
Run naked into tempests. Weave flowers
into your hair. Bellow at cataracts.
If you dare, scream at the gods. Babble as
if you thought words could save. Drink rain like cold
beer. So much better than making theories.
We’d all come with you, laughing, if we could.

David Wright

David John Murray Wright was born in South Africa in 1920. He became deaf at age 7, a result of scarlet fever. At 14, he emigrated to England. He worked during his life as a translator, editor, biographer, freelance writer and published eight books of poetry. He died in 1994.

At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Lyn Burnstine: My Eightieth Year

How to Survive a Hospital Stay

category_bug_journal2.gif Way back in 1977, on the day I was to begin an exciting new job, I instead wound up in a hospital with, among other symptoms, a high fever and unbearable abdominal pain.

Soon after my arrival, I lay on a gurney in a hall with a drip line in each arm as medical personnel scurried about ignoring me now that I was in no danger. Then I noticed that one arm was blowing up like a balloon. I tried to get the attention of one of the white coats but for some reason I couldn't speak above a whisper.

Okay, I thought, I better rip this thing out myself before my arm explodes. But my other arm wouldn't move much - I was weak as a newborn kitten - so that wasn't a solution. As hard as I tried, I couldn't yell but eventually, an orderly noticed that my arm was alarmingly enlarged and ripped out the line. (I'm betting he got it trouble for that, but I'm grateful.)

I don't recall much of the next 10 days – it's a blurry image of people around my bed, needles being stuck in my bottom, a lot of vomiting and horrific abdominal cramping that never let up.

Then I woke one morning with fever gone, a clear head and free of pain – unless you count muscle soreness from 10 days of constant cramps. When I asked, the doctor admitted that he had no idea what had been wrong (where's House when you need him?), but I happened to get well.

After a week-and-a-half in la-la land, the only thing on my mind was food and the doctor prescribed small amounts of strained fruits and vegetables to start off. As hungry as I was, I couldn't disagree given the residual muscle pain that made even sitting up a difficult maneuver.

Hospitals being what they are, it took several hours for a tray to arrive but instead of mashed bananas or peaches or whatever, the plate held slices of overdone roast beef, boiled potatoes and string beans. God, I wanted to dig in, but the absence of pain felt tentative and I wasn't willing to risk setting it off again.

When I tried to explain that I was on a different diet, the delivery person pointed to my name on the tray, Bennett, and refused to believe a mistake had been made as she dashed off to finish her rounds.

My stomach was growling, but I only stared at that gray roast beef - maybe drooling over it. Ten minutes later, the delivery woman came running into my room. “You didn't eat that, did you?” she asked, explaining that she had confused my tray with another Bennett down the hall.

I had mostly forgotten that hospital adventure when, in 1999, I read of the Institute of Medicine's now famous report titled, To Err is Human [pdf] about preventable hospital deaths. The statistics are shocking:

”At least 44,000 people, and perhaps as many as 98,000 people, die in hospitals each year as a result of medical errors that could have prevented...” states the report. “Even using the lower estimate, preventable medical errors in hospitals exceed attributable deaths to such feared threats as motorcycle wrecks, breast cancer, and AIDS.”

With numbers like that, it was easy to see that the report was well named, and I had only to recall my own minor hospital errors to know how easily they can happen. People make mistakes; there is no reason to believe doctors and nurses don't make them and in their case, unlike you and me most of the time, it can be a matter of life and death.

I made a mental note to stay as far away from hospitals as possible.

Several years later, surgeon and writer, Atul Gawande, caught my attention in a December 2007 issue of New Yorker with an article titled, “The Checklist,” in which he related the story of a Johns Hopkins critical care specialist and the experimental medical checklist he put into practice at one hospital over a year's time in 2001 for just one kind of hospital procedure:

”The results were so dramatic that they weren’t sure whether to believe them: the ten-day line-infection rate went from eleven per cent to zero.

“So they followed patients for fifteen more months. Only two line infections occurred during the entire period. They calculated that, in this one hospital, the checklist had prevented forty-three infections and eight deaths, and saved two million dollars in costs.”

A few years later, the results of a similar experiment with hospital checklists were even more amazing:

”Within the first three months of the project, the infection rate in Michigan’s I.C.U.s decreased by sixty-six per cent. The typical I.C.U.—including the ones at Sinai-Grace Hospital—cut its quarterly infection rate to zero.

“Michigan’s infection rates fell so low that its average I.C.U. outperformed ninety per cent of I.C.U.s nationwide...The successes have been sustained for almost four years—all because of a stupid little checklist.”

It's an astonishing story that Dr. Gawande expanded into a book, The Checklist Manifesto, but the New Yorker story will give you the essence of it.

As Dr. Gawande explains, it is an uphill battle to get physicians and hospitals to adopt something as “unscientific” as a checklist and, in a recent story at their website, AARP reports that for the 37 million Americans who are hospitalized each year, the problem of medical mistakes has only grown since the 1999 To Err is Human report:

”A report released in January on Medicare patients found that hospital staff did not report a whopping 86 percent of harms done to patients. If most errors that harm patients aren't even reported, they can never be tracked or corrected, the Health and Human Services Department report pointed out.

“This latest study built on an earlier HHS study of Medicare patients that found one in seven suffered serious or long-term injuries, or died, as a result of hospital care. Researchers said about 44 percent of the problems were preventable.

“In another key study published last spring in the journal Health Affairs, researchers examined patient charts at three of America's leading hospitals and found that an astounding one in three admissions included some type of harm to the patient.”

Types of "harm" are not defined and certainly some number are as minor as mine were but it is still shocking and a warning for anyone requiring hospital attention. You can read the AARP story here.

A companion piece has been posted at the AARP website with – wait for it – a checklist of things you can do to help ensure safer medical care when you, a friend or relative is hospitalized.

Print it out for yourself. It is an highly useful list. From it, two items stick out that are of paramount importance:

  1. Never, ever allow any hospital personnel (or visitor) – that means your physician too – to touch you without first washing their hands. If they approach you without having done so in your presence, politely ask them to please wash before touching you. Also, wash your own hands frequently.

  2. Have an advocate with you as much as possible. Most of the time, whatever reason you're in the hospital means you are probably not thinking clearly. You need someone to be your eyes, ears and brain when yours are not functioning at full capacity.

When someone cannot be with you, rely on that “stupid little checklist," as Dr. Gawande calls it. It saves lives.

At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Johna Ferguson: Elder Problems in China and the U.S.

AARP's Position on Social Security

[NOTE FROM RONNI: A new poll of 2056 adults from Harris Interactive shows that only 12 percent of Americans favor cutting Social Security. When broken down by political party, it doesn't change much: 9 percent of Democrats favor cuts and 13 percent of Republicans.

Below is a letter sent to AARP CEO A. Barry Rand from TGB reader Jim Newman objecting to Rand's support of “strengthening” Social Security by adopting the Chained-CPI method of calculating cost-of-living. As Jim explains, this calculation would dramatically reduce COLA increases to Social Security especially for those most in need.

Undoubtedly, in this year's budget debates, Republicans will try to cut Social Security one way or another and AARP has a lot of clout in Congress.

Jim, who will be 66 on Thursday, is a retired engineer living in Colorado where he is politically active serving on various boards and commissions. His passion is road biking and in winter, he says, he skis and “moves snow.”

Please read Jim's excellent letter. It behooves all of us to understand who is making the maneuvers to cut Social Security and how they are doing it.

Dear Mr. Rand:

I read your op-ed piece, "Social Security: We're Listening" in The January-February 2012 issue of the AARP Bulletin and am shaking my head over your recommendations to "strengthen" our Social Security system.

You are echoing the recommendations of The National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform, the "blue-ribbon" panel of 18 that President Obama established last year to come up with recommendations for reducing the deficit. As you know, this panel of experts could not gain agreement among themselves on their own recommendations.

Although I feel that some of the recommendations made by the Commission may have merit, others are very troublesome - particularly the one for shifting from the present method of calculating Social Security cost-of-living adjustments to a new and improved method termed the Chained-CPI. This is the one advocated by you - but not described in any detail - in your article.

Shifting to the Chained-CPI has been justified by some on the grounds that it is merely a technical change - a more accurate way of measuring changes in the cost of living. However, when examined in detail the Chained-CPI fails miserably in its claim to be a more accurate way of measuring changes in the cost of living for Social Security beneficiaries.

What it succeeds admirably in doing is lowering Social Security benefits for all current and future beneficiaries with the added kicker of producing deeper cuts the longer an individual receives benefits.

Rather than focusing on the elderly to pay the price for deficit reduction through reduced cost-of-living benefits, we should be advocating for a hands-off approach on this issue, if not an increase in these benefits.

There is strong evidence that the current method for determining cost-of-living adjustments understates rather than overstates the effects of cost-of-living changes on older individuals because it does not account for older individuals' greater health care spending compared to consumers overall.

This is generally attributable to the fact that health care costs are rising more quickly for older Americans than those of other items in the typical American’s budget.

For people 65 to 75, their share of health care spending is estimated to be twice as large as for consumers generally. For those 75 and older, health care expenditures are a whopping two-and-one-half times greater than the typical consumer.

It also has to be pointed out that these health care expenditures do not include health costs paid by employers or by federal government programs. Therefore, even with Medicare, out-of-pocket health care expenses are a greater burden on the budgets of older households than on consumers generally.

(See Brian W. Cashell, Congressional Research Service, A Separate Consumer Price Index for the Elderly? [pdf] and the Congressional Budget Office, Different Measure of Inflation [pdf].)

Furthermore, because the impacts of the Chained-CPI are multiplied each year, the cumulative effects on individuals who rely on Social Security as their major or sole means of existence can become unbearable in a very short time.

For example, a benefit cut of $56 per month or $672 per year (the cut at age 80 from the reduced cost-of-living benefit for an individual with an initial monthly benefit of $1,100), is equivalent to more than a week’s worth of food each month or 13 weeks of food annually.

Each additional year you are fortunate enough to live will result in a consequent reduction in ability to feed yourself due to the multiplier effect. If you are one of the now unlucky millions of individuals who must depend on Social Security payments to feed yourself in the future, get ready to go hungry.

(Information is based on national data from the Elder Economic Security Standard Index developed by Wider Opportunities for Women and the University of Massachusetts, Boston.)

A change to the Chained-CPI is not a position that you as CEO of our nation’s largest and most influential senior’s organization should be advocating. Let’s call it what is and what it is not.

It is not a simple technical change that some of our Congressional leaders would have us believe. It is a fundamental and substantial cut in Social Security benefits, one that will reel with negative impacts to the millions of Americans who rely on it just to make ends meet.

In conclusion, you should be using your influence and leadership to question not only the proposed change to the CPI but also the greater issue of why some of our elected leaders are using Social Security benefits as part of a package to reduce the federal deficit.

Social Security is not an entitlement program as many elected officials propagandize.

It is a social insurance program.

It is financed by workers and their employers.

It has not contributed one single dime to the federal deficit, and quite to the contrary has allowed the ”balancing” of our federal books in years past by the lending of a substantial portion of its $2.6 trillion reserves to the Congress to cover its spending binges.

I expect more from you than what you have so far given to us in your article.

At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Ronni Bennett: An Important Message For All Blog Subscribers

Much Ado About Rush Limbaugh

On Saturday, a reader named Barbara left a comment saying she had hoped I would have something to say about Rush Limbaugh's attempted smackdown of Georgetown Law student, Sandra Fluke. Half a dozen others emailed with a similar request. So because there has been hardly any other news to read, see or hear, this is what I think (in way too many words).

Let's get the Constitution out of the way up front. Aside from a handful of exceptions recognized by the courts, in the United States all speech is allowed without government restriction or penalty. I am a First Amendment absolutist and I would, if necessary, defend Rush Limbaugh's statements in regard to Sandra Fluke.

That doesn't mean his words were not awful, contemptible, fetid, grotesque, loathsome, monstrous, odious, repellent, repulsive, repugnant, scummy, sexist, unspeakable and vile (shall I go on?) as is the man himself. But that's not new information.

(I am not going to repeat what Mr. Limbaugh said in regard to Sandra Fluke. If you've been under a rock since last Thursday, just Google Limbaugh.)

What enrages me as much as Limbaugh, however, is the tepid response from Republican leaders. A spokes person for John Boehner (not Boehner himself) said the House Speaker

“...obviously believes the use of those words was inappropriate, as is trying to raise money off the situation.”

The best presidential candidate Mitt Romney could come up with was, “it’s not the language I would have used.” (I cannot resist asking if that means Romney thinks the misogyny okay, only the words were poorly chosen.)

Here's what Rick Santorum told Wolf Blitzer on CNN:

“Well, he's taking - you know, he's being absurd. But that's, you know, an entertainer can be absurd. And - and he's taking the absurd, you know, the absurd - absurd, you know, sort of, you know, point of view here as to how - how far do you go? And, look, I'm - he's - he's in a very different business than I am.”

Newt Gingrich allowed as how Limbaugh was “wrong” to call Ms. Fluke a slut and a prostitute.

Ron Paul thought Limbaugh's words were in poor taste:

"It sounded a little crude the way it came across to me," Paul said. "I don't know why it has to be such a political football like this, so you have to ask him about his crudeness."

Inappropriate? Absurd? Entertainer? Wrong? Crude? Good god. The men who want to be leader of the free world are all brushing off a recitation of profound hatred of women like it's a social faux pas.

Personally, I think their responses show that they rank Rush Limbaugh's imprimatur of them way above the status and stature of women. If I were inclined to vote for any of them, these answers alone would disabuse me the notion.

Many liberal and progressive groups along with various social media called for Limbaugh sponsors to withdraw their advertising from his radio show and by the weekend, many had done so: Sleep Train, Sleep Number, Legal Zoom, Citrix, Quicken Loans among them.

I'm not impressed. Rush Limbaugh has a long history of vicious bullying, accusations and degradation of people he doesn't like. My question is why any company pays money to be associated with him. I guess 20 million “dittohead” listeners trump honesty, integrity and principle.

However, pressure on Limbaugh – or his advertisers – apparently gathered enough strength that by Saturday, the man issued an apology – if you can call it that. Here it is as it appeared on his website – every self-serving word of it:

“For over 20 years, I have illustrated the absurd with absurdity, three hours a day, five days a week. In this instance, I chose the wrong words in my analogy of the situation. I did not mean a personal attack on Ms. Fluke.

“I think it is absolutely absurd that during these very serious political times, we are discussing personal sexual recreational activities before members of Congress. I personally do not agree that American citizens should pay for these social activities. What happened to personal responsibility and accountability?

“Where do we draw the line? If this is accepted as the norm, what will follow? Will we be debating if taxpayers should pay for new sneakers for all students that are interested in running to keep fit? In my monologue, I posited that it is not our business whatsoever to know what is going on in anyone's bedroom nor do I think it is a topic that should reach a Presidential level.

“My choice of words was not the best, and in the attempt to be humorous, I created a national stir. I sincerely apologize to Ms. Fluke for the insulting word choices.”

“Chose the wrong words?” “Absurd? “Humorous?” Don't you believe it. Rush Limbaugh said exactly what he intended to say and he and his 20 million believe it is acceptable to talk in this manner about women. This was no apology.

By the way and as an aside, it irritates the hell out of me that almost everyone in the punditry class makes a big deal of the million women in the U.S. who use oral contraceptives for conditions unrelated to birth control - as though that makes such use more acceptable or honorable than when used to prevent pregnancy.

There is nothing wrong with women engaging in sex as often and with as many partners as they want; frequency and slutitude are not synonymous and who cares if they are.

But I digress.

It appears to me that this ado will blow over. For reasons that are a mystery to me, Republican politicians grovel at Limbaugh's feet and do not dare to cross him. In 2008, then-Republican Party chairman Michael Steele apologized profusely to Limbaugh after criticizing him. Others have crawled up to lick his boots after their own transgressions.

Plus, take the case of Don Imus. In April 2007, he made terrible remarks of a racial nature against the mostly black players of a women's basketball team.

Sponsors pulled out of his show. Like Limbaugh, Imus apologized dishonestly and inadequately. Within days, he was suspended and then his show was canceled. But by December, eight months later, Imus was back on the air where he remains today.

If Clear Channel Communications, the company that syndicates Limbaugh's show, cancels him, I have no doubt he will be back on air long before the end of the year with, undoubtedly, many of the same advertisers. (By the way, it amuses me that Clear Channel is owned by Mitt Romney's Bain Capital.)

If you have watched any of Sandra Fluke's media appearances, you know she will be fine. She is a smart, level-headed woman imbued with a natural dignity who, I have no doubt, instinctively understands that Rush Limbaugh stepped in it this time and he cannot, did not harm her.

UNRELATED NOTE ON TOMORROW'S SUPER TUESDAY PRIMARY: Thanks to once-a-decade redistricting by a Republican state legislature in Ohio, two worthy Democrats are in a bitter fight against one another for their party's nomination for Congress from the 9th District.

There will be only one winner between Dennis Kucinich and Marcy Kaptur and that is a terrible loss for Congress.

At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Lyn Burnstine: What Makes Me Laugh


PeterTibbles75x75This Sunday Elder Music column was launched in December of 2008. By May of the following year, one commenter, Peter Tibbles, had added so much knowledge and value to my poor attempts at musical presentations that I asked him to take over the column. He's been here each week ever since delighting us with his astonishing grasp of just about everything musical, his humor and sense of fun. You can read Peter's bio here and find links to all his columns here.

I thought I’d do some BOB DYLAN. “What took you so long?” I can hear my friends saying.

Bob Dylan

These won’t be the songs for which he is renowned though; I thought I’d select some tracks you may not have heard unless you’re a Bob freak like me. Here are some songs that might get you asking the question, “Is that really Bob?” If you do, my mission has been accomplished.

For this I’ll lean heavily on two or three of his albums that are generally not well-regarded, but I don’t care about that – I like them.

For the first tune you’d be justified in asking “Is that Bob?” because it isn’t. It was the first track on his “Self Portrait” album but he didn’t actually sing on it (this track, that is). He played guitar and that’s about it. The tune is called All the Tired Horses.

♫ Bob Dylan - All The Tired Horses

There are going to be several from that album. It’s the one that hardcore Bob fans love to hate. Except me. I would put myself in the hardcore category but I have a sneaky admiration for it and for his reason for releasing it, which I believe really boiled down to “Up yours” to all those who insisted on trying to turn him into something he wasn’t and didn’t aspire to be.

“I’m just a song and dance man,” he once said. Here is a cover of the Everly Brothers song, Take a Message to Mary.

♫ Bob Dylan - Take A Message To Mary

Bob Dylan

This song is quite recognizably Bob singing but I thought I’d include it as it’s a little different and that’s what we’re about today. The song, Spanish Is the Loving Tongue, was based on a poem written by Charles Badger Clark in 1907. It was set to music by Billy Simon in 1927, and many people have recorded it over the years. Bob’s just one of them.

♫ Bob Dylan - Spanish Is the Loving Tongue

Norma, the Assistant Musicologist, has already had her say on her favorite Bob tracks, pretty much all of which were versions by other people. She had a token track from the man himself and I’m going to include it as well because it’s such a hoot. If Dogs Run Free.

♫ Bob Dylan - If Dogs Run Free

Some time ago, an album was released with various artists performing the songs of Jimmie Rodgers. Bob was one of them. His song is My Blue-Eyed Jane.

♫ Bob Dylan - My Blue-Eyed Jane

On a recent album, Bob teamed up with legendary bluegrass picker RALPH STANLEY, once of the Clinch Mountain Boys and later the Stanley Brothers until his brother died.

Ralph Stanley

After Carter, his brother, died Ralph resurrected the Clinch Mountain Boys and this group has seen the beginning of many modern players in this genre. However, today it’s Bob and Ralph with The Lonesome River.

♫ Bob Dylan and Ralph Stanley - The Lonesome River

Bob Dylan

Another track from “Self Portrait”. Bob claims to have been amazed at the vitriol that accompanied the release of that album. He said that if Elvis or the Everly Brothers had released, it no one would have batted an eye. He also claimed that it was a meant as a serious release - however, we can’t see his cheek to determine where his tongue is. This is Belle Isle.

♫ Bob Dylan - Belle Isle

Bob and JOHNNY CASH recorded an album together that never saw the light of day.

Bob Dylan and Johnny Cash

One of the tracks surfaced on the “Nashville Skyline” album. After listening to that unreleased album, it’s easy to see (or to hear) why this album didn’t eventuate; they spend most of the time trying to find a common key in which to sing, rarely succeeding.

Here is an example, one of Johnny’s biggest hits, I Walk the Line.

♫ Bob Dylan and Johnny Cash - I Walk the Line

A lot of Bob’s early songs are really tall tales. Around this time, he liked to affect a persona that was somewhere between Woody Guthrie and Charlie Chaplin. Here is an example of a tall tale, Rambling Gambling Willie.

♫ Bob Dylan - Rambling, Gambling Willie

I’ll finish with a quite recent song. This is from the “Tell Tale Signs” album, subtitled “Bootleg Series Volume 8” sub-subtitled “Rare and Unreleased 1989 – 2006”. With all those titles it’s amazing there was any space left for a cover photo.

Bob has recorded so much over the years that these “Bootleg Series” are a revelation to Bobists. You play some tracks and wonder why they didn’t ever see light of day on an official release. This is one of those, Red River Shore.

♫ Bob Dylan - Red River Shore

Bob Dylan


After the squeaker of a vote in the Senate this week that did manage to defeat the horrific Blunt Amendment, we definitely need to blow off some steam and this video should do it for you. Send your thanks for the tip to Kavan Peterson, co-founder and editor of ChangingAging. Enjoy.

According to YouTube, filmmaker Jacob Sutton presents this electrifying dash across the French Alps using only a trusty Red Epic camera (whatever that is). You can find out more about how it was done here or, like me, just enjoy the amazing beauty.

Having vowed that I will drive my little, red, 2004 PT Cruiser until until it or I die, whichever comes first (preferably the latter), this doesn't affect me. But it's a really good idea:

"Federal regulators plan to announce this week that automakers will be required to put rearview cameras in all passenger vehicles by 2014 to help drivers see what is behind them. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, which proposed the mandate in late 2010, is expected to send a final version of the rule to Congress on Wednesday."

The more I think about it, this is an excellent move to help keep elders driving safely longer and it the sort of improvement - with others that are gradually be added to cars - that could get me interested in buying a new one. You can read more here.

This video was created by documentary filmmaker Jonathan Chong (also known as dropbear) as the official video for the song, Against the Grain by Melbourne indie-folk band, Hudson. It's amazing, colorful and fun – take a look.

These days, computers can do a lot of animation but there are still artists who, like Chong, do it by hand and I cannot imagine how they have the patience to shoot frame-by-frame such small increments of movement.

It doesn't explain that patience, but here's a short, behind-the-scenes look at the making of the Against the Grain video.

Did you know?

• The brain consumes a whopping 20% of the oxygen in your bloodstream

• On average, a single brain cell is connected with about 25,000 others

• It takes only about 10 seconds to pass out after the loss of blood flow to the brain

Brain Facts Image

Staff writers at have pulled together 25 fabulous facts about the brain. Go read them all here. It will give you renewed respect for taking good care of it.

Am I the last person in America who remembers that is wasn't all that long ago we did not use the word, "condom," in polite company? Laughable in 2012, huh? Nowadays, various phrases explicitly referring to government-required vaginal penetration are tossed around in the media like cotton candy and we've all become accustomed to it.

Me too, I suppose, until I bumped into this clip online of Joan Rivers and Barbara Walters who started out talking about conventional cosmetic surgery and somehow wandered into vaginal tightening territory. Oy.

video platformvideo managementvideo solutionsvideo player

Jan Adams of Happening Here, who is on hiatus from her Gay and Gray column here while working on an important political campaign in California sent along this link to the 88th birthday party celebration of pioneering gay playright, George Birimisa.

Said George:

"I’m still emotionally digesting my 88th birthday party. It used to be 99% queer but now I have 9 heterosexual the party of about 25.

"It was a humdinger. Such a change from the old-old days where everyone was getting drunk and dishing everyone else. And my 80-year-old sister was lovy-dovy with her 89-year-old boyfriend."

I'm pretty sure most of you don't track what goes on in New York City with the devotion I do but perhaps you have heard of the High Line, the amazing park built on a long-abandoned railway tressle on the west side of town. It even has its own website.

Nikki of Nikki's Place alerted me to a proposed new park for Manhattan, an opposite number to the High Line called the Low Line. And here's a video about what it might be like:

The designers are trying to raise money for the project from potential backers via Kickstarter. You can read about it here and, if you think it is a worthy idea, you can invest by pledging as little as $5. The deadline to reach the $100,000 goal is 6 April.

After 40 years of living in 800 square feet in New York City, I relish now having nearly twice as much space to spread out in. Nevertheless, I've always been interested in how well designed tiny living spaces can sometimes be on boats and small dwellings.

This is a video tour of the smallest legal living space in California – 160 square feet – a marvel of space-saving ideas. You can read a bit more information here.

Europe has suffered through an unusually cold winter this year and such weather is always particularly hard on old people. Claude Covo-Farchi has written a lovely essay titled, Getting Old in Cold Paris at her blog, Photoblogging in Paris. This is one of several accompanying photos.

Claude's Winter in Paris

A mother cat and her orphaned baby squirrels. Too cute.

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.


Before I get to today's poem, there are two items you should know about.

Do you remember a month ago when I told you about the dozen or so elders – all retirees older than 60 - who were occupying a median strip in Ravenswood, West Virginia?

They were protesting against their former employer, Century Aluminum, which had reneged on its promise to provide lifelong health coverage. Here is a photo of them from their Facebook page.

Occupy Century Aluminum

Yesterday, TGB reader James Files left a comment to let us know that Occupy Century Aluminum has finally prevailed. This is the initial announcement on their Facebook page Wednesday:

Occupy Century Aluminum FacebookThanks sooooooo much for your help!!!!!! We just won our battle and we are getting our health care back!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! I am so happy! Will let you know more later. Thanks.

And here are the follow-up Facebook posts with some of the details of the occupiers' success. Their pride and joy justifiably overfloweth:

”Late this afternoon, with the help of the USWA's Tom Conway, the unending support of Governor Earl Ray Tomblin and Senator Jay Rockefeller and many, many members of the West Virginia Legislature, the retirees were able to come to an agreement with Century Aluminum for restoration of benefits for the retirees.

“There are several other pieces of the puzzle that must come together before they will be effective, but we are confident that they will happen. The retirees are overwhelmed that the 'little people' could dance with the big boys and win the justice we were seeking.

“It is an amazing story of how all can unite behind a common cause and if you TRULY believe, you really can make a difference. The good Lord was our leader and he showed us the way because we were on the right side of this fight. The lesson to be learned is this, All things are possible if you only believe.' Never, ever give up, no matter how long the journey.”

“...Soon, our occupy site will disappear, but our spirit will dwell here forever. God bless the greatest group of retirees I could ever have been blessed to meet and soon, maybe they can now be retired with the dignity they so deserve!”

They camped in tents on that median strip for three months during the depths of winter cold, ice and snow. Let us all keep that and the retirees of Occupy Century Aluminum in mind when we think it's too hard to write another letter to Congress, pick up the phone or do whatever else is necessary to make our voices heard.

You might want to stop by Occupy Century Aluminum's Facebook page to leave a note of congratulations.

We can also celebrate today the defeat in the Senate of the Blunt Amendment I told you about yesterday by an embarrassingly close margin of 51-48.

Undoubtedly, both Senate and House Republicans will have another go at allowing employers to limit health care they provide to their employees, but they will be up against some hard statistics. A Kaiser Family Foundation survey reports that 63 percent of Americans overall support the mandate to cover the cost of birth control.

And now – some elder poetry. In the comments on last week's poem, reader Dee asked for the sources of these poems.

There is no specific place. I have a file on the computer of poems I've collected from around the web for many years. I consult my collection of poetry books. I search such phrases as “poems about aging.” Sometimes readers or friends have sent me links to such poetry.

There is no rhyme (pun?) or reason to it, Dee. It's all serendipity.

Today, it is Czeslaw Milosz, the Polish Nobel laureate, translator and Berkeley professor who died in 2004 at age 93. The poem is Late Ripeness written when he was nearly 90.

Not soon, as late as the approach of my ninetieth year,
I felt a door opening in me and I entered
the clarity of early morning.

One after another my former lives were departing,
like ships, together with their sorrow.

And the countries, cities, gardens, the bays of seas
assigned to my brush came closer,
ready now to be described better than they were before.

I was not separated from people,
grief and pity joined us.
We forget—I kept saying—that we are all children of the King.

For where we come from there is no division
into Yes and No, into is, was, and will be.

We were miserable, we used no more than a hundredth part
of the gift we received for our long journey.

Moments from yesterday and from centuries ago—
a sword blow, the painting of eyelashes before a mirror
of polished metal, a lethal musket shot, a caravel
staving its hull against a reef—they dwell in us,
waiting for a fulfillment.

I knew, always, that I would be a worker in the vineyard,
as are all men and women living at the same time,
whether they are aware of it or not.

At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Mickey Rogers: Eating His Hat

Reject the So-Called Conscience Amendment

UPDATE 12N ET You can exhale now. The Blunt Amendment was just defeated in the Senate 51-48.

category_bug_journal2.gif There is a bill - S.1813 - America Fast Forward Financing Innovation Act of 2011 – coming up for a vote in the Senate soon. It is designed to protect 1.8 million existing highway jobs and create an estimated one million more. God knows the nation can use those jobs.

In normal times (which we have not seen in Congress since the election of President Barack Obama), the vote would be taken as a matter of course – little debate, no muss, no fuss.

But not this time.

That is because, in one of those instances that makes me crazy about how Congress works, Senator Roy Blunt (R-MO) has attached a completely unrelated amendment - in this case, a religious/health/cultural bill co-sponsored by Senator Scott Brown (R-MA).

The Blunt Amendment, also referenced as the “conscience bill,” takes the arguments on contraceptive coverage we have been enduring recently to an unheard of extreme: his bill would not just reverse the Obama administration's birth control mandate, it would allow employers to refuse to include coverage in their employee health plans of any health service they choose.

Supporters of the Blunt Amendment disagree with that interpretation so I will let you decide: here is the exact language from the Amendment (full text here [pdf]):

"...a health plan shall not be considered to have failed to provide the essential health benefits fail to be a qualified health plan or to fail to fulfill any other requirement under this title if it declines to provide coverage of specific items or services because -

“(i) providing coverage (or, in the case of a sponsor of a group health plan, paying for coverage) of such specific items or services is contrary to the religious beliefs or moral convictions of the sponsor, issuer or other entity offering the plan...

“Notwithstanding any other provision of this title, a health plan shall not be considered to have failed to provide timely or other access to items or services under this title...because it has respected the rights of conscience of such a provider...”

There you have it. Any business owner, CEO, etc. could decline coverage for his/her employees for contraception and – oh, how about childhood vaccines, treatment for HIV, STDs, prenatal care or anything else is it offends their personal religious or moral convictions - an extremely slippery slope that in this case includes anything under the sun.

It has become so controversial that Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) announced Tuesday he will allow a vote on the Blunt Amendment (not including the highway bill) today, Thursday:

"After discussing it with numerous senators," said Reid, "I decided we should set up a vote on contraception and women's health. Once we've put this extreme and distracting proposal behind us, I hope my Republican colleagues will stop living in the past and join us this year, 2012."

Senator Reid might have noted that the Blunt Amendment goes further than contraception and women's health which, alone, are awful enough. But it would permit denial of coverage for any health item or service whatsoever at a business executive's personal whim.

Many groups oppose the Blunt Amendment including The American Academy of Pediatrics, the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, the American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees, Easter Seals, Families USA, the March of Dimes, the Spina Bifida Association.

And so should elders. Because we are privileged to enjoy the closest thing to a single-payer system the U.S. has ever known (as much under assault as Medicare may be), our good fortune makes it imperative to help ensure that our children and grandchildren are not forced into even less health care than they have now before they are old enough for Medicare.

Although I have lately come to question the usefulness of online petitions, they can't hurt. I found three objecting to the Blunt Amendment:

Elizabeth Warren
DSCC – Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee

If you are reading this early enough in the day before the vote, it might be more effective to call your senators. You can telephone the U.S. Congress main number (202.224.3121) and ask to be connected to them by name.

At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Ron Figueroa: The Wayward Way