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Physical Damages

category_bug_journal2.gif Do you think watching too much television can give you a cold? As I've mentioned here the past two days, I've been captivated by (or is it a captive of) several seasons of the TV series Damages.

Then yesterday, I woke with a massive cold, virus, bug, whatever it may be and I'm as miserable as if it were a flu. Sleep is about all I'm good for right now.

There will be nothing useful from me here until this subsides.

At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Judith Cooper Eton: Watershed Birthdays

Continuing Damages

category_bug_journal2.gif How nice to hear from so many of you that I'm not alone in falling off the deep end slothdom by spending nearly every waking hour in a #$%^&* television series.

Unlike some (yes, even some likable people who comment here), I don't disdain television. I have a low boredom threshold but that still leaves more excellent programming on the tube than you might think.

On the other hand, there are so many other good ways to spend one's time that I miss a lot of the best stuff – as my current Damages marathon attests.

This obsession continued Sunday night and is still going on Monday. Early in the day, in an effort to leave a little something here for you, I put together this picture show.

It came about a few days ago during an email exchange with a New York City friend, Annie Gottlieb, whom you can find at Facebook and at Ambiance where she blogs with a bunch of friends.

Annie lives in Greenwich Village a few blocks from where my home was and she keeps me up to date on what's happening in the neighborhood. I mentioned to her that I've somehow made my new home on the left coast into a bit of a shrine to the city I miss so much.

Perhaps it is beginning to get out of hand, but as I told Annie, I'm old now and I'll do what I want.

Marilyn Kaplan collage

This is a collage by Marilyn Kaplan that I bought at the spring Greenwich Village Art Fair in 1972. This is a poor photo of it, but in person it captures the feel of the city for me – at least, how it felt then, 40 years ago.

Carnegie Poster

In 1991, Carnegie Hall celebrated its hundredth anniversary and I spent a couple of months working on the production of the day-long PBS television show to celebrate the event. They actually paid me money to spend a whole lot of time in preparation for the show learning details of the history of the Hall, its architecture, the musicians and artists who played there and all the stories that go with that.

This is the poster from the celebration and you can find out more about it here.

In this photo, you get three for one:

Zito Twin Towers

Zito's had been turning out the best Italian bread in New York City for more than 80 years. You could find it in the best restaurants but it was also my neighborhood baker. Then, around 2003 or 2004 or so, while I was still living in New York, it suddenly closed after the landlord quadrupled the rent.

On the last sale day, I bought half a dozen loafs to freeze for myself and had one of the paper bags framed. I'm still looking for bread that good.

The brown bag on the lower right of the photograph is from Porto Rico coffee company in the Village. Its been there on Bleecker Street since 1907 and I've been buying my coffee there since – oh, at least 1980. I still do.

I have it shipped to me every few weeks. It's the blend it took me years to settle on, so I'm not going through that experimentation again and even with shipping charges, it costs less than the best local brands. It is also a full pound of coffee; everyone else these days charges more for 14 and even 12 ounces sometimes.

A friend brought me the photo of the twin towers on 12 September 2011. He purchased it from a street vender on his walk to my place and it's not the best likeness of the two buildings I've ever seen but it's still a worthy reminder and besides, it is a gift.


Speaking of Porto Rico coffee, this is the calendar that arrives with my first order after January 1 each year. It's big, easy to see and one of those terrific, old-fashioned calendars with mentions of all sorts of obscure occurrences on every day of the year. And, of course, it also reminds me of home.

NYC Cushion

This is the most recent addition to the shrine – sent by a friend. You can see that it is embroidered with the names of Manhattan locations. It's not the most comfortable pillow I've ever owned but I like seeing all those names.

And now, having knocked off this post in under an hour, I'm off to walk to the grocery (all the exercise I'm going to get today) for a couple of needed items and then – more Damages here I come.

At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Joanne Zimmermann: North to Alaska

Sunday Damages

category_bug_journal2.gif The Saturday to-do list was longer than usual. Not that I ever finish even short ones; there are always plenty of items to carry over to the next day. And the next.

At the same time, the weather here (sorry to break this to you who live in the midwest, east and south) was glorious: high 50s Farenheit in the early morning - with blue, cloudless skies and the occasional riffling breeze - rising to 75F or 80F or so by evening when it drops down again to the 50s overnight.

Early, 6AM, I threw open all the windows for several hours to clear out the inside dead air, stayed overtime at the farmers' market to enjoy the cool, bright morning and then, back home, attended to the to-do list I'd planned for the day.

It was mostly the deeply boring stuff – dusting, polishing, floor washing, tub and sink cleaning, vacuuming, laundry and some cupboard reorganizing - the stuff I really dislike so much that I always put it off for too long until it's a full day's work, maybe two.

By late afternoon I was pooped. I figured I would read a few pages of one of the books I'm in the middle of, maybe watch a movie and have an early lights out. But I had not counted on Damages.

Among the stuff sitting in my Netflix queue for many months is that TV series starring Glenn Close. Obviously, since it premiered in 2007, I'm several years behind but isn't that what Netflix is for? We don't have to tie ourselves down to weekly television anymore.

Over time, I had read a lot of good reviews of the series so with nothing else queued that I was eager to see, I gave the first episode of the first season of Damages a try. I was tired and it if didn't grab me in the first 10 minutes or so, I'd turn it off in favor of sleep.

Dear god was I wrong. I don't have any memory of the last time a program, characters, writing, plot, production etc. so sucked me in and refused to let go. I'm not here to review the show and anyway, because it's been ongoing since 2007, many of you are probably familiar with it. The show is stunningly good. I watched four – count them, four episodes before forcing myself to stop and turn off the tube.

Sunday arrived with more on the to-do list plus the need to write a post for today, Monday. I read the morning papers, checked a few more things off the to-do list, thought about a TGB story but my heart wasn't in any of it.

So I did something I've never in my life done before. Ever. Beginning at about 10:30AM, I watched episodes of Damages. One after another after another after another.

People call this kind of activity - or lack thereof - vegging out. Not so in this case. The series engages the mind on so many levels almost any other drama on television will be a disappointment now. I was in pig heaven.

Oh, I got up to fix a bit of lunch at one point. A couple of hours later enough guilt at my sloth descended that I went outside and walked around for 30 or 40 minutes but I was thinking about the show the whole time and had to force myself to keep walking.

Late in the afternoon, I remembered I had a TGB story due and maybe I should think about dinner too – not that I'd done anything to work up an appetite. But since there are about 30 more Damages episodes on Netflix and they are all calling me back to the television, this is what you get today - space filler that takes no more effort than a diary entry.

But while writing it, I've begun to wonder if this isn't a feature of this stage of life. After 35, 40 or 45 years of squeezing one's every interest, pleasure, amusement, hobby, pastime and silly fun, too, into evenings and weekends with hardly any time for sloth, it's finally all right to gratify a minor obsession, as mine with Damages, that will be over soon anyway.

Am I alone in this kind of indulgence? What has so engaged you that everything else stopped until you'd had enough or it ended?

No promises that you'll see much of me on these pages until I've finished episode number 39. (Uh-oh, I just read that season 4 will be available on DVD later this month.)

At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Dani Ferguson Phillips: D.O.G.

ELDER MUSIC: Silly Songs

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.

category_bug_eldermusic This topic came up one evening after copious wine was drunk when Ronni, the Web Mistress, mentioned Mairzy Doats and soon after, Bibbidy Bobbity Boo. It was that sort of night.

The Web Mistress, Norma, the Assistant Musicologist, and I quickly came up with another half dozen nonsense songs, or songs with nonsense lyrics. We wondered if we could fill a column. Of course we could.

Indeed, there are several contenders that didn’t make the cut. In a Gadda Da Vida was mentioned but I couldn’t cope with 17 minutes of the most dreary “heavy” guitar and interminable drum solo, so it got the flick. As did Zip-A-Dee-Doo-Dah as I already had my quota before I got around to including it.

I considered Mel Tormé and/or Ella Fitzgerald performing scat singing but that didn’t really fit in with the others, so they’re out as well. The Beatles’ Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Dah was originally included but was dropped for something better (better in the sense we’re talking about today).

Quite a number of the tracks were big sellers. I don’t know what that says about music buyers and I’m not going to pursue that further. So, in the spirit of that evening, here are some really silly songs or more to the point, songs with nonsense lyrics.

We’ll start as we did on that night with Mairzy Doats performed by the MERRY MACS.

The Merry Macs

The song was written by Milton Drake, Al Hoffman and Jerry Livingston. It had several versions that made the charts before this one actually made it to number 1 in 1944. There have been a bunch of versions since then as well.

The Merry Macs were Judd, Joe and Ted McMichael and Mary Lou Cook. There have been other female singers but this is the most famous personnel for the group. However, Marjory Garland was the singer when this song was recorded.

♫ The Merry Macs - Mairzy Doats

A song that sends up this whole genre, as if it could be sent up, is Who Put the Bomp by BARRY MANN.

Barry Mann

Barry was mostly known as a songwriter particularly in partnership with his wife, Cynthia Weil. These two wrote scads of songs for artists in the fifties and sixties (and later), but the earlier ones are those you’d probably recognize.

They also wrote songs and themes for TV and films. Here is (I believe) the only record Barry recorded. It’s certainly the only one that made an impact on my ears.

♫ Barry Mann - Who Put the Bomp

PERRY COMO was the son of Italian immigrants. His father was a singer of some skill and organized music lessons for his kids, of whom there were many, even when he could barely afford this luxury.

Perry Como

Perry learnt the organ, guitar, trombone and other instruments. He didn’t have any vocal lessons. Well, he really didn’t need them, did he?

Perry could have been included today for several songs. Maybe he had a penchant for silly lyrics. I’ve saved him for Hot Diggity (Dog Ziggity Boom).

♫ Perry Como - Hot Diggity (Dog Ziggity Boom)

The next song has already been mentioned by Barry Mann in his contribution. Here you have the opportunity of listening to the original. I give you Rama Lama Ding Dong by THE EDSELS.

The Edsels

The Edsels were originally named The Essos, after the oil company. When Ford brought out their new car model they changed their name. They obviously had no idea what a clunker that would turn out to be.

They recorded today’s song in 1957, and it sank without a trace. Well, not quite because in 1961 a disk jockey in New York started playing it in high rotation and this revived the song and it became a (bit of a) hit.

♫ The Edsels - Rama Lama Ding Dong

Even when LITTLE RICHARD sang real words in his songs, it was difficult to understand what they were. It didn’t matter, and it still doesn’t - this is rock & roll at its best.

Little Richard

This is undoubtedly the most famous song from the fifties with nonsense lyrics. It’s so famous, it’s such an icon of rock & roll, that its first line has been used as the title of at least one book, numerous magazine articles and who knows what else. The song is Tutti Frutti. Okay everyone, “A whop bop” (etc).

♫ Little Richard - Tutti Frutti

Bibbidi-Bobbidi-Boo came from the Disney film of Cinderella and really should have remained there. However, it got loose and inflicted itself upon our poor unsuspecting ears. The version I remember from when I was knee high to a wombat was by JO STAFFORD and GORDON MACRAE, although possibly not at the time of its release.

Jo Stafford & Gordon MacRae

There were other versions around the same time – Perry Como, The Fontane Sisters, Ilene Woods and others. I don’t know what they were thinking of. Here it is.

♫ Jo Stafford & Gordon MacRae - Bibbidi-Bobbidi-Boo

Having well and truly trashed the previous song, you’d think that I should do the same for the next one. However, I can’t – it always brings a smile to my face. Maybe it’s because my initial musical education was from the fifties not the forties. So, we have THE RIVINGTONS.

The Rivingtons

The Rivingtons had a couple of hits in the early sixties, Poppa Oom Mow Mow and The Bird’s the Word. A group called The Trashmen released a single called Surfer Bird which was really an amalgamation of both those songs.

I don’t know if legal problems ensued as they didn’t credit The Rivingtons but today we’re interested in Poppa Oom Mow Mow.

♫ The Rivingtons - Poppa Oom Mow Mow

DAVID SEVILLE had hits both under that name and his birth name, Ross Bagdasarian.

David Seville

He’s the one who was responsible for all those Alvin and the Chipmunks records (and I guess, TV programs, but I’m not familiar with those, thank goodness). He was also a minor actor who appeared in several Alfred Hitchcock films and quite a few others as well.

He bought himself a variable speed tape recorder (rather unusual for the time) and a recording career was born - initially with Witch Doctor and then those damn chipmunks.

♫ David Seville - Witch Doctor

JAN AND DEAN were Jan Berry and Dean Torrence.

Jan & Dean

Jan was the songwriter, producer and arranger of their music and it was their music and his production that inspired Brian Wilson to do the same thing for the Beach Boys. Indeed, Brian and Jan collaborated on many songs for both groups.

In a case of life imitating art, Jan was severely injured in a car accident very close to Dead Man’s Curve, the title of one of their biggest hits. Despite severe brain damage and partial paralysis, he persisted and they eventually continued as a duo, if in a rather sporadic manner. Dean was also a successful commercial artist. Here’s their contribution to today’s nonsense, Baby Talk.

♫ Jan & Dean - Baby Talk

The final song doesn’t actually have any nonsense lyrics; they are all perfectly clear to every Australian who listens to it. I’ve included it as I suspect that those not from this country – most of our readers and listeners – might think otherwise.

The song is I’ve Been Everywhere which was a huge hit for LUCKY STARR in the early sixties.

Lucky Starr

The song was written by Geoff Mack in the fifties. Geoff was staying in a motel at the time and he only had a map of three Australian states – Victoria, New South Wales and Queensland – and he used this to write the song. The other states missed out.

Since this original, there have been versions about other countries. Hank Snow and Johnny Cash amongst others, have performed an American one. They don’t achieve the speed of Lucky’s performance and they lack the tongue twisting place names.

This wasn’t a recording studio trick either, I've seen him perform it live, word perfectly (and just as fast).

♫ Lucky Starr - I've Been Everywhere

If you’re unable to understand what he’s singing, here are the places mentioned:

Tullamore, Seymour, Lismore, Mooloolaba, Nambour, Maroochydore, Kilmore, Murwillumbah, Birdsville, Emmaville, Wallaville, Cunnamulla, Condamine, Strathpine, Proserpine, Ulladulla, Darwin, Gin Gin, Deniliquin, Muckadilla, Wallumbilla, Boggabilla, Kumbarilla.

Moree, Taree, Jerilderie, Bambaroo, Toowoomba, Gunnedah, Caringbah, Woolloomooloo, Dalveen, Tamborine, Engadine, Jindabyne, Lithgow, Casino, Brigalow, Narromine, Megalong, Wyong, Tuggerawong, Wanganella, Morella, Augathella, Brindabella.

Wollongong, Geelong, Kurrajong, Mullumbimby, Mittagong, Cooranbong, Grong Grong, Goondiwindi, Yarra Yarra, Bouindarra, Wallangarra, Turramurra, Boggabri, Gundagai, Narrabri, Tibooburra, Gulgong, Adelong, Billabong, Cabramatta, Parramatta, Wangaratta, Coolangatta.

Ettalong, Dandenong, Woodenbong, Ballarat, Canberra, Milperra, Unanderra, Captains Flat, Cloncurry, River Murray, Kurri Kurri, Girraween, Terrigal, Stockinbingal, Collaroy, Narrabeen, Bendigo, Dorrigo, Bangalow, Indooroopilly, Kirribilli, Yeerongpilly, Wollondilly.


If you don't recognize Milton Glaser's name, here are a couple of his iconic design images to remind you.


He is one of the most accomplished and prolific designers of the 20th century. Five years ago, when he was 83, he talked about his work, his life and his continuing astonishment. TGB reader Tom Delmore made the video possible for us.

I'm betting not many of you noticed but last Saturday, the world's timekeepers added one second – a “leap second” - to our 24-hour day. The adjustment was needed, say the scientists, to account for the slowing of the rotation of Earth which is gradually increasing the length of the solar day.

Earth is slowing at a greater rate than I would have guessed; the timekeepers have added a second on 25 occasions since they began in 1972.

Did you know that in the era of the dinosaurs, Earth's day was only 23 hours long? Also, some scientists worry that adding the second to the official day every now and then will eventually crash the world's computer networks.

There is whole lot more interesting stuff about the leap second at this New York Times story.

I suspect that TGB's Sunday musicologist, Peter Tibbles, is somewhat allergic to cute kitten videos. That may have something to do with his sending this cute red panda video.

Merle Hazzard bills himself at his website as

”The first-and-only Nashville country artist to sing about derivatives, mortgage-backed securities and physics.”

In this video, he provides a much-needed, if too short, respite from political stupidity. Here's Merle's Fiscal Cliff song, surfer style.

You can find more of Hazzard's songs at his YouTube channel – such titles as Greek Debt, H-E-D-G-E, Quantitative Easin' and more.

Over at the GuardianUK, they've been holding a literary landscape series with videos, author and reader writings about books, and especially information from readers and owners about that supposedly endangered species, bookshops.

But take a look at this screenshot of the paper's interactive book store map:

UK Bookshops

Check out that number in the lower right corner of London and its environs: 643 shops. Even Liverpool with only one-sixteenth the population of London has 293 book stores. I could be wrong but I don't believe New York City, with similar population to London, comes anywhere near the British capital's total and might not be much more than Liverpool's.

The map also includes literary locations such at Beatrix Potter's holiday home, The Jane Austen Centre and the farm house that was the inspiration for Wuthering Heights.

Spend some time with the whole section. It's terrific fun.

Ever heard of Matt Harding? I sure hadn't until Nikki of From Where I Sit emailed this video.

It seems that Matt is making a career – literally – out of traveling the world to dance with people in as many countries as possible and then edit videos of it all for the internet.

There is a new video every year or two for a total so far of five. You can see the previous four and find out more than you ever wanted to know about this web phenom at Matt's website.

TGB reader, Laura Gordon sent this video made by award-winning cinematographer, director and producer, Louie Schwartzberg. It is some gorgeous closeup and slomo images of nature reproducing itself from his much longer film, Wings of Life. It is awesome – in the old-fashioned, real meaning of that word.

Schwartzberg says that the mystery of disappearing bees in the world is terrifying because we depend on pollinators for one-third of the fruits and vegetables we eat. It's worth watching his full TED Talk on this subject here – it's only eight minutes including, at the end, the video you just watched.

The Republican Party of Texas released its platform about a week ago and it is frightening in its stupidity. Some jaw-dropping excerpts:

“We urge that the Voter [sic] Rights Act of 1965 codified and updated in 1973 be repealed and not reauthorized.”

You know, the legislation that finally made it possible for blacks to vote in the south without poll taxes and all. Here's another brilliant plank in the platform:

“Corporal punishment is effective and legal in Texas,” and teachers and school boards should be given “more authority to deal with disciplinary problems.”

Right-o. Let's beat the ABCs and multiplication tables into their little noggins. And while we're at it, let's see if we can make the kiddies as stupid as we are:

”We oppose the teaching of Higher Order Thinking Skills (HOTS) (values clarification), critical thinking skills and similar programs that are simply a relabeling of Outcome-Based Education (OBE) (mastery learning) which focus on behavior modification and have the purpose of challenging the student’s fixed beliefs and undermining parental authority.”

Talkingpointsmemo asked the Texas Republican party if they really, really, really meant to oppose the teaching of critical thinking skills:

”[Communications Director Chris] Elam said the members of the subcommittee 'regret' the oversight, but because the mistake was part of the platform approved by the convention, 'it cannot be corrected until the next state convention in 2014.'”

God help us all. You can read more from TPM here and download a pdf of the entire platform here (filled with more additional stupidities than can be imagined without reading it).

After that Texas Republican Party item, I think we need to cleanse our palate, so to speak, with something beautiful.

The person who shot this video on a whale watching cruise in Nova Scotia says he did not realize what he had captured until watching the pictures much later.

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.

New Information on Elder Care

category_bug_journal2.gif Did you know this? I didn't:

”Every day, Bureau of Labor Statistics interviewers ask Americans to detail how they spent the previous 24 hours, how many minutes and hours they devoted to everything from shopping to child care to phone calls. The results, culled from 12,500 respondents, make up the American Time Use Survey.”

I mean, I knew the BLS regularly collects information about what Americans are doing, but I didn't know they did it so frequently. And, The New York Times tells us, only last year did the BLS begin asking about the amount of time people spend on elder caregiving.

The BLS just released its elder care report for the year 2011 and Paula Span at The Times has some understandable problems with the agency's numbers:

”The survey, we should note,” writes Span, "uses a very broad definition of 'caregiver.' You qualify if you provided unpaid care of any kind (including simple companionship or 'being available to assist when help is needed') more than once in the past three months, regardless of how long you spent at it.

“So a 17-year-old who paid two 20-minute visits to her grandmother since mid-April is, to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, an elder care provider.

For me, such loose definitions make it hard to make sense of the entire survey. You can let us know your sense of what an elder care provider is below.

Many Time Goes By readers have been or are full-time caregivers. When it's been discussed here, that has mostly meant round the clock. My personal definition of caregiving is having complete responsibility - whether full-or part-time, living in the same dwelling or apart - being the primary overseer of whatever the care recipient needs.

Among other difficulties with the survey is the interesting statistic that only 56 percent of caregivers are women. I say “only” because it is so unexpected that nearly half are men. But it is either a good development that men are taking a larger part or, like the 17-yeaer-old example above, they're show up for 20 minutes once a month. We have no way to know.

Another statistic that sounds way off to me and I'd like to know more about is that only 4.3 percent of elder care providers are doing so for a spouse or unmarried partner. I'm guessing that number should be much higher and Paula Span agrees:

“If spouses are just doing what they think of as normal household chores — shopping for groceries, preparing meals, doing laundry — they won’t necessarily categorize this as providing unpaid help to someone over age 65. 'It’s hard to distinguish what you’ve always done for someone from elder care,' Ms. Denton acknowledged.”

The entire New York Times story is here. The Bureau of Labor Statistics is here. Take a look and let us know what you think, especially those of you who have experience as caregivers.

At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Johna Ferguson: For Real – Part 2


By Donald M. Murray

“My fear of aging was not loneliness but bingo. I was terrified of the loss of aloneness, of being driven to a senior center where I would confront a huge jigsaw puzzle, a class in square dancing, and find myself taking part in a community sing: 'Just a song at twilight - '.

“I celebrate the aloneness of age. I like being alone with Minnie Mae and I like being alone with myself. Looking back, I am grateful for the sickly, lonely only-child-life that forced me to explore solitude, to discover how to live within my own mind, encountering worlds far greater than the horizons I could see. As I have aged, I have spent more and more time alone, and that is one of the reasons these years have been the best of my life.

“I sit in a restaurant across from Minnie Mae and study an elderly couple who have not spoken since they ordered. They seem strangely content with having nothing to say. There is no sign of tension between them. It is as if all has been said, shared, resolved, understood. They seem happy to be alone together.

“I remember how I scorned such couples when I was young. I thought how awful it would be to become them and realize that the waitress is picking up our dishes, packing our leftover liver and onions into a doggie bag for us who have no dog, that we have eaten dinner without speaking. We are also one of those old married couples who eat wrapped in companionable silence, content to be together without speaking.”

* * *

“As we age we talk more freely about death than our children want us to. We may say who should inherit what, what kind of service we want, where we keep the living will, and how we do not want to be kept alive as a vegetable. I say I refuse especially to be broccoli, in an effort to lighten the topic. It doesn't.

“But please allow us, children, to talk about what makes you uncomfortable. It is one way we deal with the inevitable. We need to talk about our not wanting to end up in a nursing home, whether we want cremation or burial, when to pull the plug. Denial works only so far, then reality, usually in what happens to friends or neighbors of our age – or younger – strips away the illusion of immortality.”

* * *

“When the young politely look away from the old lady with the three-pronged cane, the man in the wheelchair, the woman with the walker in the doctor's waiting room, the radiation center, at the drug store, in the restaurant, I look them in the eye and speak.

“We are comrades in the battle to survive. The response is usually surprise, followed by pleasure. They are suddenly individuals again, not a category. We share a wry smile, an ironic look, sometimes a touch, usually a line or two of black humor, 'Oh, to be seventy again.'

"These momentary encounters remind me of the wartime conversations I had with my comrades on the troop train, shipboard, or in a foxhole. We shared a companionship of common terror with a black humor, and I often find myself today trying a similar tactic with comrades heading toward the battles of aging. 'I'm in good shape for the shape I'm in.'”

My Twice-Live Life book cover

Just a short while before he died in 2006, Donald M. Murray wrote in his Boston Globe “Now and Then” column:

"Each time I sit down to write I don't know if I can do it. The flow of writing is always a surprise and a challenge. Click the computer on and I am 17 again, wanting to write and not knowing if I can.”

Murray's motto was nulla dies sine linea which translates to “never a day without a line” and he arose every day at 5:30AM to start writing.

He was born in 1924, and won a Pulitzer Prize for editorial writing at the Boston Herald before he was 30. He taught writing for 24 years at the University of New Hampshire while turning out more than 20 books, many of them about how to write.

Although he had begun his weekly “Now and Then” column in 1986, I didn't discover Murray until 2004, and I am so sorry I missed all those previous years reading him. His books, however, make up for it.

The one from which today's quotations are taken, published in 2001, is subtitled, “A Memoir.” I like the subtitle on the first edition dust jacket better, “A Memoir of Aging,” and that it certainly is, weaving together observations of his later years and those of earlier events with fierce candor and eloquence.

There is will be more quotations from Murray's memoir in future posts in this series.

At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Johna Ferguson: For Real – Part 1

Independence Day 2012

Several things for this holiday so let's get started.

The Fourth of July traditionally means lots of sunshine and outdoor activity - a day of parades, backyard barbecues and fireworks. But for about 90 percent of the U.S., I'm pretty sure that's not as inviting this year as it usually is.

In fact, take a look at this report last week from meteorologist Aaron Justis of CBS 6 News in Richmond, Virginia, keeping his viewers informed about the Armageddon weather in his part of the country.

And he did it all with a straight face. Fantastic.

(Okay, the further joke is that this was done off air in the studio a year ago and it never was broadcast. Doesn't matter - it's still fun.)

Even if you don't count the continuing forest fires in Colorado and the terrible storms in the east that felled trees, smashed homes and killed at least 22 people, the unremitting high temperatures over the past ten days or two weeks would be likely to keep people indoors next to the air conditioner today – that is, if they have power.

I don't mean to rub it in (well, maybe I do), but take a look at this July 4 temperature forecast map from Accuweather:

July 4 Temperature Map

See that yellow part with a smattering of green in the upper left corner? That's my part of the country, near Portland, Oregon, and we haven't yet had more than two or three days when the thermometer reached higher than 70. Since my personal temperature preference is between 65F to 75F, I'm in high clover.

Since 2010, the fourth of July has taken on an additional significance for me. Today is the second anniversary of the death of a giant among elder advocates, Dr. Robert N. Butler.

Dr. Robert M. Butler

You could call him a mentor to aging in general – the man who coined the term ageism giving that idea substance and force it did not have before. A man whose 1975 Pulitzer Prize-winning book, Why Survive? is still required reading for anyone intent on understanding what getting old is really like. And the man who created the first department of geriatric medicine at Mt. Sinai Hospital in New York.

Dr. Butler was a visionary who radically changed for the better what aging is like in America and in large swaths of the world. Among his many accomplishments was founding the International Longevity Center (now a part of the Mailman School of Public Health at Columbia University).

Each year, the Center holds the Age Boom Academy, a five-day, intensive seminar to educate a dozen journalists about today’s most challenging issues and new research related to aging and longevity. In 2009, I was honored to be invited to attend and hardly anything I have written here since then has not informed by what I learned.

So, on the fourth of July, I celebrate our country's founding and I honor the memory of Dr. Butler.

Of course, it's not the fourth of July without fireworks. Yes, I know this is the 2011/12 new year's display in London and maybe it's a little weird, on the U.S. national holiday, to have Big Ben in the foreground, but it's just so damned beautiful. And anyway, our countries have been friends now for a long time.

At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Marcy Belson: A Quilter at Heart

Elder Abuse – What is It?

category_bug_journal2.gif You think you know the answer to that, right? Well, not so fast. I did too until I started looking into elder abuse for us. There are a zillion definitions, several kinds of abuse, no useful statistics and differing laws in every U.S. state.

It's amazing how many ways people can find to hurt others and although I feel I've only scratched the surface, I already know more than I want about this shameful problem that should be of concern to everyone. I'll try not to overwhelm you with too much information all at once.

Over time, I'll break down a complex phenomenon into something resembling coherence. Let's begin today with getting the terminology and basic facts straight.

There are many definitions of elder abuse. This one is from the National Center on Elder Abuse (NCEA), a program of the U.S. Administration on Aging. It is particularly simple and clear:

”[A]ny knowing, intended, or careless act that causes harm or serious risk of harm to an older person – physically, mentally, emotionally, or financially.”

Elder abuse generally falls into three categories – domestic, institutional and self-abuse which are self-explanatory. Domestic refers to maltreatment caused by someone with a special relationship with the elder - a spouse, a sibling, a child, a friend or a caregiver.

Institutional abuse refers to that which occurs in residential facilities – nursing homes, group homes and varieties of care facilities where the abuse is usually perpetrated by people who have a contractual obligation to provide for elders.

Here, in no particular order, is a breakdown of types of elder abuse. I had no idea there are so many possibilities:

Physical abuse - inflicting physical pain or injury such as slapping, bruising, restraining by physical or chemical means.

Emotional abuse - inflicting mental pain, anguish or distress through verbal or nonverbal acts such as humiliation, intimidation or threats.

Financial abuse - some call this exploitation but I don't think that makes the point strongly enough. It is the illegal theft, fraud, misuse, concealment or neglect, or use of undue influence to gain control of an elder's money or property for another person's benefit.

Sexual abuse - non-consensual sexual contact of any kind.

Neglect - failure by caregivers to provide food, shelter, health care, physical safety or emotional needs.

Desertion - desertion of a vulnerable elder by anyone who has assumed the responsibility for care or custody of that person.

What is horrifying to realize is the detail of this list could not exist if these acts did not regularly occur.

In addition, there is “self-neglect” described as the inability of an elder to understand the consequences of action or inaction to such an extent that it will lead to harm or endangerment. For now, I am assuming this item is included because people who should notice and do something sometimes do not.

There are none. No one knows how many elders are affected. Estimates range from half a million to five million people annually and most experts believe that the majority of elder abuse, maybe as much as 80 percent, goes unreported.

Laws and penalties for elder abuse vary widely across states. There are criminal penalties for some forms of elder abuse and where there are not, a growing number of prosecutors are using other kinds of criminal and civil laws to bring abusers to justice. Perhaps, as this series continues, we can get the TGB elderlaw attorney, Orrin Onken, to address some of this for us.

The U.S. Administration on Aging (AoA), the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) and the Department of Justice (DoJ) provide information and some funding to state and area agencies in support of their prevention activities and victim assistance programs.

But although federal laws on domestic violence and child abuse provide federal funds and shelters for victims, there is no comparable or direct federal assistance for elder abuse victims.

The Affordable Care Act, just upheld by the U.S. Supreme Court last week, includes the Elder Justice Act which, when enacted, will “help prevent and eliminate elder abuse, neglect, and exploitation.” Or so says the White House [pdf].

”Specifically, the law requires the secretary of HHS, in consultation with the Departments of Justice and Labor, to award grants and carry out activities that provide greater protection to those individuals in facilities that provide long-term services and support, and provides greater incentives for individuals to train and seek employment at those facilities. It also requires the immediate reporting of suspected crimes to law enforcement officials.”

The ACA also establishes uniform reporting standards along with a nationwide program for national and state background checks for employees who have direct contact with patients in long-term care facilities.

I suppose that's a start, but it does not address domestic abuse at all.

Here is a short video I would like you to watch. It is from Alberta, Canada and the government intervention does not necessarily apply in the U.S. states. But it gives a good picture of how elder abuse can develop.

So. That's a general overview of elder abuse in the United States. Future posts will deal with warning signs, prevention, local resources, how to report abuse and whatever else I think we should know.

Elder Abuse Part 2: Institutional Abuse Overview

At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Stroppy: Daintree Country, Ozzie Style

The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel

I won't recount the the plot of this British movie about seven old folks who retire to Jaipur, India. If you haven't seen it, there are at least a million places online you where can find out about it.

It's a surprise hit – well, surprise to Hollywood types who don't believe movie goers want to see old people onscreen. But read this from Hilary, a woman so young – in her twenties – that she says actor Maggie Smith will never be anyone to her but Professor McGonagall:

”I was pleasantly surprised with this movie. I didn’t expect to like it as much as I did – I think I assumed it would be boring...but I truly found it uplifting more than anything else.

“Of course, the Indian landscapes and scenes desperately made me want to travel, but more than that it made me want to experience, if that makes sense. It made me want to believe in possibilities again.

“As a twenty-something, I feel like possibility shouldn’t seem so far off. But it does, nowadays. Maybe it always did once you get to a certain age. I’m already locked into leases and contracts and payments. Already settled into something, though I didn’t realize I was doing so until now.

“All I can say about the Best Exotic Marigold Hotel is that it will remind you of the way you plan to live, and the ways you should embrace that plan immediately.”

Doncha just wanna grab Hilary, give her a hug and say, You go, girl. In the space of half a dozen, short sentences, we learn of her doubts, her change of heart, her dreams, her disappointments, inklings of a possible truth, her circumstances and the rekindling of hope.

Who knows if she will act on her realizations, but she has a lot more to work with now after giving a bunch of old people in a movie she thought might be a bore a chance to inspire her.

The best fiction – print or film – has the power to transform us if we are open, as Hilary, to seeing beyond the literal plot and facile applause lines. Which is more than another blog reviewer, someone much older, bothered with:

“'Everything will be all right in the end, and if everything is not all right then this is not yet the end,'” the blogger quotes Sonny Kapur played by Dev Patel. “Words to live by,” writes the blogger. “Get up! Get out! Make the most of your day! Above all do something you love!”

THAT's your bottom-line takeaway from the movie?? THAT's what you want elders to know about The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel? For god's sake. Nothing new there. First, the movie is better than that. Second, the character quoted is 22 years old and even he learns, thanks to Evelyn/Judi Dench, that he needs a lot more than his platitudinous drivel to get on with his life.

For those of you who have not seen Marigold, Evelyn becomes an elderblogger when she moves to Jaipur chronicling the experiences and transformations of her little gang of strangers in a strange land.

Old age isn't easy. Among the satisfactions are the inevitable discontents, afflictions and sorrows. Acknowledging such toward the end of the movie and summing up a bit, Evelyn writes on her blog:

”The only real measure of success is how we cope with disappointment...We get up in the morning and do our best.”

That's what I would like you to know from the film. That and what Hilary said.

ENDNOTE: Until someone takes it down, you can watch Marigold online here in English with subtitles of what looks like an eastern European language I can't identify.

At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Herchel Newman: Change for a Twenty

ELDER MUSIC: Motown Top 20 - Part 2

[Part 1 – songs numbered 20 through 11 – is here.]

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.

category_bug_eldermusic Today we come to the pointy end of the Motown hit parade as defined by Mojo magazine. As I said last week, I may not agree with the placement of some songs but I’d probably include all the artists.

So here we have what the magazine thought were the best songs ever to come out of that great record company. Counting down from 10 to 1.



As good as this song is, there are others of theirs I’d have included ahead of this one. However, this is Mojo’s choice.

This is a Holland-Dozier-Holland song as are a lot of tunes from this label - those that weren’t written by Smokey Robinson, that is. I know, I already said that in Part 1 but coming up with something new to say about their songs or those of The Supremes is a bit difficult.

I’ll just play Stop! In The Name Of Love.

♫ Supremes - Stop! In The Name Of Love


Jimmy Ruffin

Jimmy Ruffin was the older brother of David, the great lead singer for The Temptations. Jimmy was originally going to sing lead for the Temps until Berry Gordy heard his brother and the rest is history. I guess Jimmy was destined for a solo career.

The song today is easily his most successful, What Becomes of the Brokenhearted.

♫ Jimmy Ruffin - What Becomes Of The Brokenhearted


Marvin Gaye

Marvin’s wasn’t the first version of this song. It was written by Norman Whitfield and Barrett Strong and had already been a bit of a hit for Gladys Knight and the Pips. Others also attempted the track – The Temptations, the Isley Brothers and even Smokey and the Miracles. Eventually Marvin’s version caught on and it became a hit.

His is the definitive version, with him wavering between pride and paranoia. A masterpiece. Here is I Heard It Through the Grapevine.

♫ Marvin Gaye - I Heard It Through the Grapevine


Smokey & the Miracles

Now to the song that I would probably have put in first place. The Assistant Musicologist disagrees as she’s not such a big fan of Smokey. “He sings like a girl” (but not like a frog – musical joke to amuse myself).

Smokey Robinson was the second most important person at Motown. He was an executive for the company, a record producer, wrote many songs for others (as well as his own group) and was one of their best singers. Here he is with the Miracles with the great song, The Tracks of My Tears.

♫ Smokey Robinson and the Miracles - The Tracks Of My Tears


Barrett Strong

Another song The Beatles covered in their early days. Barrett was mostly a songwriter, usually in collaboration with Norman Whitfield. However, he recorded a few songs himself. This one was particularly successful for him as dozens of prominent artists besides The Beatles recorded it. A nice little earner I’d say.

Here is Money (That's What I Want) and how appropriate is that.

♫ Barrett Strong - Money (That's What I Want)


Stevie Wonder

I think I would have included Living for the City or any track from Stevie’s “Innervisions” album. However, this is Mojo’s gig so they have the final say.

This song was recorded round about the same time and is taken from his “Talking Book” album which immediately preceded “Innervisions”. The song, Superstition, was a big hit. That’s Jeff Beck playing guitar as he did on the rest of the album.

♫ Stevie Wonder - Superstition


The Temptations

By 1972, various artists were breaking the Motown mold, especially the Temps (but so were Marvin Gaye and Stevie Wonder). Also, there had been some changes in the group. David Ruffin and Eddie Kendricks had both left, as had Paul Williams who, unfortunately, was found to be suffering from sickle-cell anaemia.

These were replaced by Richard Street, Damon Harris and some others who came and went. It didn’t affect the sound of the group though and in this year, that created their magnum opus, Papa Was a Rolling Stone.

This was initially written as a normal length song but with Norman Whitfield producing, they came up with a 12-minute version. This was popular in clubs and discos and a single version of only seven minutes was released and became a huge hit. This is it.

♫ The Temptations - Papa Was a Rolling Stone


The Four Tops

Here we have another Holland-Dozier-Holland composition. It’s different from the type of songs the Tops had previously performed; there’s almost a blues element present in the way Levi Stubbs sings/shouts the words. I also like the rolling gait of the backing.

This is the Tops’ signature tune. Reach Out (I'll Be There).

♫ The Four Tops - Reach Out (I'll Be There)


Marvin Gaye

After seeing anti-war protesters attacked by police in San Francisco, Marvin, along with Obie Benson of the Four Tops, wrote the song What’s Going On. Berry Gordy didn’t release it initially as he thought there might be a backlash against the company with this one and privately said that it was the worst record he’d ever heard.

Eventually it did see the light of day with no fanfare at all. In spite of that, it sold millions. An album was requested, probably demanded, but Marvin wasn’t returning to the standard Motown sound and recorded it outside the company with no input from anyone at Motown.

Berry hated this one too, however, it’s generally considered one of the finest albums ever recorded. It also produced several million-selling singles. I imagine Berry wasn’t unhappy about that. What’s going on, indeed.

♫ Marvin Gaye - What's Going On


Martha and the Vandellas

This is one with which the A.M. heartily agrees. She’s not a huge fan of the Motown sound, preferring more blues oriented music, but she surprised me by saying that she’s going to come up with her own Motown Top 10, the ones that should have been there (apart from this track, of course).

That will be coming your way soon. We thought we wouldn’t have three weeks in a row devoted to this single topic.

So, Martha and the Vandellas. Great song. I’d have put it a couple of notches lower, but that’s just me. The song has been covered successfully by a bunch of others, notably the Mamas and the Papas and Mick Jagger and David Bowie.

None of them are anywhere as good as this one. Dancing in the Street.

♫ Martha & the Vandellas - Dancing in the Street

Now, if you disagree with these, don’t blame me, blame Mojo. How’s that for a cop-out?