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Democratic Convention: Social Security and Medicare

category_bug_politics.gif Did you watch the Democratic Convention last week? I did. There were some damned good speakers leading up to the main event but most viewers didn't get to see them, even on MSNBC and CNN which favored uninformed pundit chatter over letting us see the speeches. You had to be watching CSPAN for full coverage.

Pretty much everyone was terrific - Duval Patrick, Rahm Emanuel, Tammy Duckworth, Sandra Fluke, Julian Castro among them.

Representative John Lewis of Georgia, one of the original 1960s Freedom Riders and an unimpeachable icon of the civil rights movement, is the only one who spoke up against voter ID laws. He correctly compared them to the poll taxes and literacy laws that were outlawed by the Voting Rights Act of 1965 thanks to his courage and other people like him.

It was an important and beautiful and touching speech lost to almost all TV viewers but you can watch it here, right now. And you should. You should hear this great, good man tell us that our “vote is precious. It is almost sacred.”

Did you happen to see former Michigan Governor Jennifer Granholm? Wow! She wiped the floor with Mitt Romney on the auto industry issue - a speech for which the phrase "barn burner" was invented. She is fantastic. Take a look, it's only six minutes.

Visit for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy

There were other terrific speakers including, of course, former President Bill Clinton on Wednesday evening. But what I was waiting eagerly to see and hear were the candidates for the executive branch – Vice President Joe Biden and President Barack Obama.

What I most wanted to hear them talk about were Medicare and Social Security that the Republicans want to kill. Romney and Paul Ryan have made no bones about it – right out there in the open they've said they would give us coupons for Medicare and privatize Social Security.

Here are the short portions on those two topics from Joe Biden's speech and Barack Obama's:

Biden's was a good set-up for the president but what is not in that particular clip is the president's approving reference to the onerous Simpson-Bowles (cat food) commission. He did that later during a recitation of his goals for a second term:

“Now, I'm still eager," he said, "to reach an agreement based on the principles of my bipartisan debt commission."

With that in mind, let's repeat here in print where we can see exactly what the president said in the clip above about the two programs that affect mostly elders:

”...I will never turn Medicare into a voucher. No American should ever have to spend their golden years at the mercy of insurance companies. They should retire with the care and dignity they have earned.

“Yes, we will reform and strengthen Medicare for the long haul, but we’ll do it by reducing the cost of health care – not by asking seniors to pay thousands of dollars more.

“And we will keep the promise of Social Security by taking the responsible steps to strengthen it – not by turning it over to Wall Street.”

Two important statements to keep in mind are no Medicare voucher and no Social Security privatization. The whole thing sounds encouraging but digby over at Hullabaloo notes that “there is a lot of wriggle room

” there and quite a few straw men, but if you read it literally, he specifically promised not to slash those programs in exchange for tax cuts. What he didn't do was promise not to cut those programs in exchange for tax hikes - which is what the Democrats are seeking.”

Ryan Grim at Huffington Post lays out the background and reasons to be suspicious of Obama's and Biden's apparent reassurances about Medicare and Social Security:

”The White House, contrary to media carping, did, in fact [in the past], desperately pursue a 'grand bargain' that would dramatically trim the deficit, the sort of deal Alan Simpson and Erskine Bowles were pursuing,” writes Grim.

“In so doing, the Obama administration was willing to raise the Medicare retirement age and agree to a host of other cuts to social programs that would have caused real pain, in exchange for a disproportionately small amount of tax hikes.”

And, when you pay close attention to the statements made in Charlotte, there is no reason to believe anything is different. At the end of his Huffpost story, Grim quoted Adam Green, head of the Progressive Change Campaign Committee:

”Mitt Romney must not become president," said Green. "But it's unacceptable for a Democratic president to pull the wool over supporters' eyes by talking blandly about a 'bipartisan commission' that actually proposed extreme cuts to Social Security and Medicare benefits - and lowering corporate tax rates.”

Exactly. It is unthinkable, in terms of Social Security and Medicare, to elect Romney/Ryan. But we – elders and anyone younger we can recruit – must push back with all our might against the Obama/Biden propensity to gut these two programs.

At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Marcy Belson: Lunch in Paris, Dinner in Rome

ELDER MUSIC: Louis Armstrong

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.

Louis Armstrong

LOUIS ARMSTRONG was the most important popular musician in the first half of the twentieth century.

He pretty much defined how jazz would be played with his improvisation and virtuoso soloing. He established the size of a jazz combo, usually somewhere between five and seven musicians, rather than large conglomerations as was the previous norm and he showed that you didn’t need a “good” voice to be an effective and popular singer.

Louis was born in New Orleans on the 4th of August 1901, not the 4th of July 1900 as legend has it. He was the grandson of slaves. Louis was born into a poor family and his father left while he was still a tacker. He almost certainly was exposed to music while still at school.

After leaving school, he’d often get into trouble but he also learnt to play the cornet, most probably from Joe Oliver.

He went to work for a family named Karnofsky who treated him as one of the family. He said that he discovered then that it wasn’t just black people who were being discriminated against. He paid a glowing tribute to them in his memoirs.

He developed his cornet playing in the “New Orleans Home for Colored Waifs” where he was often sent for being exuberant (that’s how I interpret it). He played as often as he could in street parades, of which there were many in New Orleans, and in brass bands and on the river boats.

In 1919, Joe Oliver left Kid Ory’s band. Louis replaced him and his professional career was off and running. His musicianship developed apace and he was soon seen as the star of the group, taking extended solos and the like.

The band left for Chicago where Louis started living the life of the star that he was. After much success there, his (second) wife, the pianist Lil Hardin, suggested he leave and form his own group. Thus the Hot Five and Hot Seven and all the others were born.

Louis pretty much single-handedly created the role of the jazz soloist taking what was essentially a collective folk music and turning it into an art form with tremendous possibilities for individual expression.

Miles Davis, who was not one for needless praise, said in his autobiography, and I’m paraphrasing a little, that nobody can play anything on the trumpet that doesn’t come from Louis, even the most modern sounds. He’d done it all before anyone else.

Miles intimated that Louis was probably the best trumpet player who ever was. So, let’s get to the music.

Louis Armstrong

I’ll start and end in a similar vein, with the band being introduced. The first one Louis introduces the players, several of whom played with him for quite some time. It’s a most appropriate way to begin proceedings.

The tune is called Where the Blues Were Born in New Orleans. This was recorded in 1946.

♫ Louis Armstrong - Where The Blues Were Born In New Orleans

Louis Armstrong

Getting back to the early days, or at least the early days of recordings, we have the classic Hot Five – Louis, Kid Ory, Johnny Dodds, Lil Armstrong and Johnny St Cyr.

The group was formed at the instigation of Lil, Armstrong's wife at the time, to showcase Louis’ talent at improvisation. As I mentioned, he had up until this time been a member of other bands and she thought he needed to show the world what jazz could really accomplish. This is Hotter Than That from 1927.

♫ Louis Armstrong - Hotter Than That

2:19 Blues was recorded somewhat later than the previous track, in 1940 to be precise. It includes Sidney Bechet on saxophone and clarinet.

Although it’s a lot later and even though I really have no knowledge, it seems to me that this track personifies early jazz. I could be wrong, looking through rose-colored, backwards glasses, but I guess there’s no one around anymore to contradict me.

♫ Louis Armstrong - 2:19 Blues

Louis Armstrong

Another with the Hot Five - well they weren’t called that for nothing - also from 1927, is Struttin' With Some Barbeque. This track has the same personnel as the previous Hot Five track and is probably the real thing in spite of what I said on the previous track.

♫ Louis Armstrong - Struttin' With Some Barbeque

We’re now in 1946 with a large group and Velma Middleton singing with Louis. This is pretty much a big band, not usually to my taste, but it’s pretty good nonetheless. There’s some nice guitar work early on by Elmer Warner. Back O` Town Blues.

♫ Louis Armstrong - Back O` Town Blues

Louis Armstrong

I wondered if I should include this next tune as it’s so familiar to everyone. It started out as Die Moritat von Mackie Messer, written by Kurt Weill and Bertolt Brecht for the music drama “Die Dreigroschenoper,” or in English, “The Threepenny Opera.”

The version by Louis bears little resemblance to the original but it really swings and that’s what’s important. Here is Mack The Knife.

♫ Louis Armstrong - Mack The Knife

Louis Armstrong

Louis played with pretty much everyone in jazz or, perhaps more to the point, they played with him. DUKE ELLINGTON is no exception. This track is an interesting amalgam of Duke’s modern cooler sound with Louis’ more traditional mode of playing.

It also has Barney Bigard playing clarinet and Trummy Young on trombone. Trummy is a long time player with Louis. There’s a touch of the C Jam Blues in this track if my ears don’t deceive me. It’s called Duke’s Place and was recorded in 1961.

♫ Louis Armstrong & Duke Ellington - Duke’s Place

Louis Armstrong

A Kiss To Build A Dream On was written in part by Oscar Hammerstein, however, in this case, the other part wasn’t Richard Rodgers. It - or they is more appropriate - were Bert Kalmar and Harry Ruby.

The song has been recorded by many people from Mickey Rooney and William Demarest (really) to Richard Chamberlain (really again) and Rod Stewart. Louis’ version trumps them all.

♫ Louis Armstrong - A Kiss To Build A Dream On

Louis Armstrong

Louis appeared in a bunch of films during his life, but none as notable from this column’s point of view as High Society. This film was an inferior remake of the earlier Philadelphia Story. BING CROSBY was no Cary Grant and Grace Kelly no Katherine Hepburn. It did have Louis though, and Bing was a better singer than Cary, who was not noted as a warbler.

It also had Frank Sinatra but he’s not relevant to today’s column. One of Bing’s songs introduced the various members of the band that Louis led in the film. That song is Now You Has Jazz.

♫ Bing Crosby - Now You Has Jazz

Louis Armstrong

INTERESTING STUFF – 8 September 2012

For many years, I have been bitching that the majority commercials with and for elders advertise only products to treat icky conditions. But this is a terrific exception and a clever appeal to both young and old. (Stolen from Jan Adams' blog, Can It Happen Here?.)

And there is, apparently, a song just for the celebration. I'm not sure I like it all that much – but so it is.

Here is a whole lot of information about Grandparents Day.

Now that Todd Akin has delivered unto our culture the phrase “legitimate rape,” it is time for pushback and this one is fantastic:

(Thank you to Susan Gulliford of Hillsborough NJ Journal)

This, sent by TGB reader, Elizabeth, should be a bumper sticker:

Womens reproduction

I have a sense that women all across the political spectrum are aghast and repelled by the attempt by Republican men to take control of our bodies and to turn our reproduction back to the days of coat hangers and back alleys. This video (another from Jan Adams) gives me some hope.

I'm a sucker for complicated silly contraptions. Since this video has been seen by more than 37 million people, I'm probably the last to enjoy it.

The video was made two-and-a-half years ago to promote a song, This Too Shall Pass by an alt rock band from Chicago. It is delightful. (Thank you, Darlene.)

Here's another from Darlene. Ignore the language barrier. I promise you'll understand perfectly.

Very cool, don't you think. If you try this, do stop back here and let us know how it goes for you.

For many elders uninterested in texting or in reading, playing games or watching TV on smartphones or in the astronomical price of these devices, a company in England has come up with the OwnFone. Take a look:

As the video shows, it's also good for kids and several other uses. I've been in touch with the company and they will be branching out from Britain to other countries including the U.S. I'll let you know when that happens. Meanwhile, you can read more here.

(Hat tip and thank you to Steve Garfield of Off on a Tangent)

The website tells us this:

”A mongrel dog has become stepfather to a rare white lion born in captivity in Germany that was rejected shortly after birth by his mother. Pointer mix Lejon, two, and three-week-old [white] lion cub Jojo are inseparable since meeting at the Safari Park in Stukenbrock in north-west Germany.”

White lion cub and dog

You can read a lot more about Lejon and Jojo here along with Many more so-cute-to-die-for photos.

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.

The History of Old Age – Old Women

My new project on the history of old age is moving forward slowly. Mostly, right now, I'm researching sources, deciding how deep or scholarly I want this to be and gathering materials.

It would be good for me to be more orderly than I am but as I search out books and papers and reports, I get distracted by fascinating material. I thought you might be interested in some notes I've made from the early pages of The Long History of Old Age, edited by Pat Thane.

We are all familiar with the role of wise old men in the literature of ancient Rome and Greece and, often, in their art. Images and the position of women, on the other hand, were mostly negative.

“...a great deal of ink was spent on stereotypical aged females, not uncommonly portrayed in the most virulent and obscene terms as sex-crazed witches or alcoholics.”

So the accusation of witchcraft against old women is thousands of years old.

“Old women were dangerous – a curious belief founded partly on mistaken medieval idea, partly on the guilty knowledge that they generally had a just grievance against society.”

A physician who lived in south Germany writing in the 17th century explained why old women were so often accused of witchcraft:

“'They are so unfairly despised and rejected by everyone, enjoy no one's protection, much less their affection and that it is no wonder that, on account of poverty and need, misery and faint-heartedness, they often...give themselves to the devil and practise witchcraft.'

“A 70-year-old woman said at her trial: 'The children call all old people witches.'

“Special knowledge possessed by older women, for example about the cure of sickness, might be valued by the community as the characteristic wisdom of the old, or vilified as further proof of witchcraft.”

It wasn't bad for women at all times in all places. Chaucer, writing in the 14th century, portrayed the post-menopausal Wife of Bath as a strong older woman who, after four failed marriages with men her own age, found happiness with a man 20 years younger than she.

The condition of women varied widely not only over time but among cultures. It is interesting to note the differences but we should be careful not to judge prior behavior by today's standards.

Recall, too, that until the 19th and 20th century, Europe was divided into many small political units and custom could be very different from nation to kingdom to city state, etc. Plus, there were not a lot of social scientists in history to report the conditions of elders so we are stuck in many cases with gleaning what we can from surviving materials.

Thane tells us that

”In medieval and early modern Europe and, perhaps, in ancient Greece and Rome, women might gain more independence after menopause, sometimes more public responsibilities, as midwives, chaperones or adjudicators in community conflicts about sexual or other delicate matters.

“Rich widows had control over their wealth which married women lacked in all societies before the 20th century and some of them wielded it formidably.”

So there you are. A taste of what I've found so far about how old women lived and were treated through the past 2500 years. This is nowhere near complete nor is it meant to be. There will be more as the project moves along.

At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Barbara Sloan: When is War Real?

Elders and Hunger in America

category_bug_politics.gif A Gallup survey released last month found that one-quarter of Mississippians at least once in the preceding 12 months did not have enough money to buy the food they needed.

”In 15 states, at least one in five Americans say they struggled to afford the food they needed at least once during the past 12 months,” reports Gallup.

“Nationwide, 18.2% of Americans so far in 2012 say there have been times when they could not afford the food they needed, on par with the 18.6% who had trouble affording food in 2011.”

A year ago, research funded by the AARP Foundation reported on hunger issues with a segment of baby boomers age 50-59:

”Because they are typically too young for Social Security and Medicare and too old to qualify for programs designed for families with children, this age group can be hit particularly hard in bad economic times. In 2009, 4.9 million 50- to 59-year-olds were at risk of hunger, representing a staggering 38 percent increase over 2007.”

On Tuesday, the federal government reported that participation in the U.S. food stamp program (SNAP) was at an all-time high in June – 46.7 million citizens.

"'Too many middle-class families who have fallen on hard times are still struggling,' Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack said in an emailed statement Tuesday. 'Our goal is to get these families the temporary assistance they need so they are able to get through these tough times and back on their feet as soon as possible.'"

And according to the latest of annual studies sponsored by the Meals on Wheels Research Foundation, in 2010, 8.3 million Americans age 60 and older faced the threat of hunger. What is stunning about this number is that it is up 78 percent in a decade and the proportion has increased from one in nine elders in 2005 to one in seven in 2010.

Overall, nearly one in six Americans sometimes goes hungry including 20 percent of children.

And yet, vice-presidential candidate Paul Ryan's budget includes a cut of $133.5 billion to SNAP, more than 17 percent over the next ten years (2013-2022).

I was reminded about all this when, yesterday, I received a donation request from one of the local groups that feeds the area homeless to which I regularly contribute.

In following up, I discovered that September is Hunger Action Month and a good time for us to pay attention and to do what we can. There are many local food banks and other organizations you can participate in to help either as a volunteer or with funds. You can find yours via zip code here.

In times of great financial crisis, the last budget item that should be cut is food. What could possibly be going on in Paul Ryan's mind?

At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Johna Ferguson: Feet

Being Old is Time Consuming

Crabby Old Lady is worn out and it's not because she has been extra special busy lately. It's just ordinary living that takes up more time than it did when she was younger. Or, maybe, it's the consequences of ordinary living that weren't there years ago.

Take grocery shopping. Except for rare occasions when Crabby is cooking for guests, you would think her food needs would be minimal. For most of her life – in New York City – she carried her purchases home without a problem and gained some walking exercise in the bargain.

These days she drives but on many trips she can't carry the groceries into the house in one go. It's two and, occasionally, three trips to and from the car. Okay, she'll admit there is the walking itself and that's not a bad thing but Crabby usually has better uses for her time than hauling bags from the car.

Sleeping or, rather, lack of it is another time eater. Because many days Crabby Old Lady wakes after only four or five hours without a chance of going back to sleep, she is up at ungodly early hours and wears out by 2PM or so.

A nap eats up another couple of hours and then – and THEN, it's twice in one day she needs an hour to get mind and body functional again. Plus, here's a catch: without a nap, Crabby would fall asleep at night by 7PM and be wide awake at midnight. It's happened. Oy.

We have discussed here how our stamina and energy are not what they once were. For decades, Crabby whizzed through weekly house cleaning finishing by noon on Saturdays. Now she spreads it over an entire week – kind of never-ending cleaning, one room a day – but even so, she often needs to stop and rest between chores.

Cleaning house is boring enough. It's worse not being able to finish in the time Crabby has been accustomed to all her life until now.

And walking. As she mentioned, Crabby has always been a walker although in New York, it is just the way one lives and not “exercise.” But these days, Crabby's feet ache if she walks for more than about an hour, even leisurely as in window shopping and browsing a book store.

It's not pain and Crabby is not afflicted with bunions, corns and her feet are not deformed (just lucky, she guesses) from decades of high-heeled shoes. It's just that her feet get tired so she must stop and sit for awhile when she would rather be moving and getting things done.

Hair too. For most of Crabby Old Lady's life, shampoo and a brush were all she needed to keep her hair looking nice. A couple of minutes in the morning and she was out the door.

Now that her hair has become so thin in front and at the crown of her head, it takes a good deal of arranging to be presentable without looking like a female version of a guy's bad comb over.

Crabby loses the most time, however, to elder forgetfulness. You know, the same old stuff of finding yourself in the bedroom – or kitchen, or bathroom – wondering why you're there. Or being halfway through telling a story to a friend and losing the point.

And way too frequently, Crabby forgets the third item she wanted at the grocery, goes home without it and THEN remembers what it is and that the recipe won't work without it.

Back to the store. More time gone.

So far, Crabby doesn't have a condition or disease in need of regular attention that for many elders requires additional physician visits; prescriptions filled, counted and taken; treatments required; special diets, etc. But she can empathize with what must be frustration at the time taken up with care and maintenance.

There are dozens of other elder time eaters that may not consume more than a couple of minutes each but add up over a day or week.

[EDITORIAL NOTE: There is - well, was - an additional thought Crabby intended to insert here, but she's forgotten it. If it comes to mind, she will enlighten you in an update.]

There is no earlier era of Crabby's life that she wants to relive or return to. Through no effort on her part – it just happens – she has found each new period, decade, year to be more compelling than the previous one.

But Crabby doesn't think many people consider how damned much more time it takes just to be old and sometimes, just living an ordinary day wears her out.

At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Joanne Zimmerman: Hair Today

Belly Fat

category_bug_journal2.gif According to a study released last week by the Mayo Clinic, having a pot belly, even if you are otherwise of normal weight, produces a higher risk of death than being obese.

“The risk of cardiovascular death was 2.75 times higher, and the risk of death from all causes was 2.08 times higher, in people of normal weight with central obesity, compared with those with a normal body mass index and waist-to-hip ratio...

"'The high risk of death may be related to a higher visceral fat accumulation in this group, which is associated with insulin resistance and other risk factors...' says Karine Sahakyan, M.D., Ph.D., a cardiovascular research fellow at Mayo Clinic in Rochester.”

The study involved 12,785 American adults 18 and older over 14 years. In that time, 2,562 participants died, 1138 of which were cardiovascular related.

Did you note that phrase, visceral fat in the quote just above? It turns out there are two kinds of fat. Subcutaneous is the stuff that hangs over your belt, gives you a muffin top and you can squeeze between your fingers.

Visceral fat doesn't show on the outside of our bodies. It surrounds our abdominal organs and it is the kind that is really dangerous. Here is a diagram of the two kinds of fat. (Yes, the drawing is a woman's body, but the fat surrounds internal organs the same way in men.)

Belly fat

Visceral fat is more harmful than the fat that accumulates on hips because it can lead to heart disease, high blood pressure, type 2 diabetes, stroke, and several kinds of cancer.

The new finding that slim people with excess belly (visceral) fat are at greater risk doesn't let the rest of us off the hook. We are talking about beer bellies here too, my friends, and muffin tops that plague our later years.

Nowadays, obesity experts believe that the size of your waist is a better risk indicator for these conditions and diseases than BMI and it's easy to figure out at home.

The Mayo Clinic says that for most women, a waist measurement of 35 inches (89 centimeters) or more indicates an unhealthy concentration of belly fat. For most men, a waist measurement of 40 inches (102 centimeters) or more is considered cause for concern. Here is, according to the Mayo Clinic, how to measure:

Place a tape measure around your bare abdomen just above your hipbone.

Pull the tape measure until it fits snugly around you but doesn't push into your skin.

Make sure the tape measure is level all the way around.

Relax, exhale and measure your waist — no sucking in your belly!

That's the easy part, measuring. If you come up short – well, let's say wide - you know there is only one way to lose weight that works: burning more calories than you consume.

For many people that means low-calorie although I am surprised by how many (reputable) sources accept low-carbohydrate as an alternative. But that's a personal choice for each of us with, perhaps, input from our physicians.

Of course, you should be exercising too but unless you are running or biking several miles a day or pounding out an hour or more of high-impact aerobics daily, it won't make much difference to weight loss. I don't mean that let's you off the hook, only that it's better to use your exercise routine to tone, strengthen and maintain flexibility.

If you ask Dr. Google, you'll find all kinds of exercises promising to reduce belly fat. Mostly, they recommend abdominal exercises and they are wrong. Spot exercises such as situps, crunches, etc. are good for building specific muscles but they have little or no effect on fat in that area of the body or on the body's distribution of fat.

So there you are – the story of belly fat which, up until a few days ago I thought was all that excess stuff on my abdomen and waist. It's that too, but now I've learned it means visceral fat around my organs and that it is really not good for me. Big time.

I know this all seems like just one more damned thing to worry about. But it's really the same old, same old weight stuff with an important, new reason to keep up the good fight.

Useful Links:
Mayo Clinic: Belly Fat in Women
Mayo Clinic: Belly Fat in Men

At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Ralph Lymburner: The Associate's Rebuttal

Holiday Art Tour – Year Two

Unbeknownst to me when I moved to Lake Oswego two years ago, the town has a large and rich commitment to public art – in particular, sculpture in the Gallery Without Walls program. And by god, it shows on nearly every street corner, in every park and in odd little nooks and crannies that surprise pedestrians.

A year ago on Labor Day, I gave you a small tour of some of these sculptures and this year, I am expanding on it.

The Lake Oswego Arts Council arranges for new sculptures to be installed throughout the city for two-year rotations. From time to time the public is asked to vote for favorites that are then purchased for the permanent collection.

The most recent people's choice winner is Vincent by Keith Jellum that I showed you last year:

Vincent by Keith Jellum

Throughout this blog post, the artists' names link to their websites. These works are a mixture of those in the permanent collection and currently on loan.

Here are two from artist, Devin Laurence Field. The first is Swoop II followed by Zephyr:

Swoop II by Devin Laurence Field

Zephyr by Devin Laurence Field

From George Tobolowsky, there is The Road Through Texas:

The Road Through Texas by George Tobolowsky

Life on the Bubble by David Middlebrook:

Life on the Bubble by David Middlebrook

Now a couple of people. This is Dancer by Ken Turner:

Dancer by Ken Turner

This is Family from Katy McFadden:

Family by Katy McFadden

I haven't counted, but I would guess there are more sculptures depicting animals than any other subject. This is Bearly About by Steve Tyree.

Bearly About by Steve Tyree

Here is Heron from Bud Egger:

Heron by Bud Egger

I like the usability of Rams' Head Bench from Ken Patechy:

Rams Head Bench by Ken Patecky

It changes over time but right now my favorite is Kissing Toad by Jim Demetro:

Kissing Toad by Jim DeMetro

The Elder Storytelling Place is taking a day off for Labor Day. It will return tomorrow.

ELDER MUSIC: Some Bits From Opera

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 Although I’ve been to quite a number of opera performances over the years, I must admit that I prefer to put on my CDs and listen that way.

I know I miss the spectacle but it’s the music for me. Besides, I can get a cup of tea or coffee, or more likely, a glass of wine, stretch my legs when needed, read a book during the boring bits. I’ll be scoffed at by purists because I’ll miss the live music but that’s the way it goes.

These will be mostly arias as they are the most entertaining bits of operas but there will be other things as well. I’m not going for obscure pieces today; if you are even vaguely familiar with opera you will know all these. That’s because they are good and have stood the test of time.

Also, you needn’t worry that I’ll slip in something challenging like “Lulu,” “Einstein on the Beach” or “Nixon in China”. Even I can’t get through those in one sitting, even with several glasses of wine. Also, there’s no Wagner.


Norma, the Assistant Musicologist, says her favorite opera is "Norma" by VINCENZO BELLINI. It’s not just because of the name she says, but anyway “I’ve got an opera named after me and you haven’t. Nyah, nyah, nyah, nyah, nyah.”

Be that as it may, this is a fine piece of work - that final act especially; just when you thought it had finished, it gets even better (and does that yet again, and again).

Anyway, it gives me an excuse to play the great MARIA CALLAS singing Casta Diva.

Maria Callas

♫ Norma - Casta Diva


Nessun Dorma has to be present. This is from "Turandot" by GIACOMO PUCCINI.

I have several versions of this so I thought I might play someone other than Luciano Pavarotti as he pretty much made it his own and everyone knows what he does with it. So, instead of the great man we have JUSSI BJOERLING.

Jussi Bjoerling

This is from the actual opera rather than a concert recording. I chose it because there’s more going on in the background than you get in a stand-alone piece. I prefer it because the chorus singing is quite lovely.

♫ Turandot - Nessun dorma


WOLFGANG MOZART has to be present but picking something of his took some time. I would normally have selected something from "Don Giovanni" or "Ideomeneo," as they’re the ones I listen to most. However, in the interest of variety, and besides I got to listen to others of his for a change, I’ve gone for "Le Nozzi di Figaro" (The Marriage of Figaro, of course).

Here is Cherubino, sung by YVONNE MINTON warbling away at Voi che sapete. The great Jessye Norman is part of this recording but she missed the cut this time. Darn.

Yvonne Minton

♫ Le Nozze di Figaro - Voi che sapete


LÉO DELIBES produced quite a few well known operas, several of which are still in the canon today. However, due to its use in all sorts of other areas, this piece of music has made sure that "Lakme" is the opera that first springs to mind when his name is mentioned.

The piece of music I’m talking about is Dôme épais le jasmin à la rose s'assemble. This may well be familiar to you, it’s often called The Flower Song. The singers are MADY MESPLÉ and DANIELLE MILLET.

Mesple and Millet

♫ Lakmé - Dôme épais le jasmin à la rose s'assemble


This one is mandatory as well because it may be the most famous aria in opera history. Okay, Nessun Dorma has probably overtaken it these days but it’s still very popular, and very good.

It is Un Bel Dì Vedremo, or One Fine Day or something similar, from "Madama Butterfly" by PUCCINI.

I know I’ve used Puccini up above but he deserves a second go. Here we have poor Cio-Cio-San (Butterfly) lamenting about that cad and bounder Pinkerton, who put her up the duff (and she was only 15), wondering if he’ll return to her.

Of course he did, bringing his wife and son along for the ride. Things ended badly for Cio-Cio-San. She is sung by RENATA SCOTTO.

Renata Scotto

♫ Madama Butterfly - Un Bel Dì Vedremo

I’m going overboard on Butterfly because it’s the one I play most often so there’s going to be something else from it. That something is Coro A Bocca Chiusa, known generally as the humming chorus.

♫ Madama Butterfly - Coro A Bocca Chiusa


I’m not a fan of GIOACCHINO ROSSINI but I seem to have acquired some of his music over the years, mostly due to it having been recorded by the marvelous CECILIA BARTOLI.

Cecilia Bartoli

I like this one as it doesn’t sound much like Rossini. It’s from "Otello," and he’s not the only composer who’s made this into an opera – Verdi did, and certainly better, but we have him elsewhere.

Here is the aria, Assisa a piè d'un salice.

♫ Otello - Assisa a piè d'un salice


GIUSEPPE VERDI had to be in here somewhere and here he is. Instead of one of his many arias, I’ve gone for a general piece that’s pretty familiar anyway. This is Le Fosche Notturne Soglie from "Il Trovatore." It’s more generally known as The Anvil Chorus.

♫ Il Trovatore - le fosche notturne soglie

Alfredo Catalani

"La Wally" by ALFREDO CATALANI is an okay opera but not one to write home about. It’s worth a listen but maybe not too many times.

However, it does contain one terrific aria and that is Ebben? Ne andrò lontana. This version is by RENATA TEBALDI. You can find another version by Wilhelmenia Fernandez in ELDER MUSIC: Divas.

Renata Tebaldi

♫ La Wally - Ebben? Ne andrò lontana


I’ll end with almost certainly the best duet in opera. This is from GEORGES BIZET’s "Les Pecheurs de Perles" (The Pearl Fishers). The duet is Au fond du temple saint.

I have several versions of this opera including one as Bizet originally conceived it. He later changed it considerably and that altered one is the version that’s generally played these days. I thought it’d be interesting - well interesting for me - to go with the original.

Fortunately for us, this piece wasn’t altered too much although you can hear the differences if you’re familiar with the standard one. I’ve also included a bit of a lead up to that duet as well as the bit after it.

The tenor is ALAIN VANZO and the baritone GUILLERMO SARABIA, two gentlemen of whom I’ve not heard apart from this recording. The revamped version is better than this one, but not by much.

Vanzo and Sarabia

♫ Pearl Fishers - Au fond du temple saint

I’ve just scratched the surface here; there’s a lot more out there. Another time.

INTERESTING STUFF: 1 September 2012

EDITORIAL NOTE: This the Interesting Stuff post meant for last Saturday when, instead, I had a mini-fit over Mitt Romney's apparent birther conversion. Events move quickly in our 21st century world and one or two of these may be slightly outdated not to mention the glaring omission of Neal Armstrong's death. But that's no reason to trash an otherwise good post that is already written.

Unless Tropical Storm Isaac derails the Republican convention next week, the party faithful will be greeted with this billboard in Tampa (via Hullabaloo):

Tampa billboard

Mage Bailey of Postcards sent this video of 80 people aged 65 to 92 creating a flash mob in Auckland, New Zealand earlier this month.

This flash mob was fun but the larger purpose was to raise awareness of the need for a lot more accessible housing to meet needs as the aging population grows.

”The Lifemark is an independent seal of approval awarded to homes that meet a set of design criteria to ensure that a home is adaptable and accessible for all members of your family now and into the future.”

You can read more about it here.

Susan Heath from New York City was the first of half a dozen TGB readers to suggest this political parody of our election year for Interesting Stuff. The music is, of course, the well-known One Day More from the show, “Les Miserables.”

You can find out more about the production and read the lyrics here.

No video with this item. No political message or any oh-so-cute babies or animals. Just an American icon of genius in his – wait for it – fuzzy slippers. I love it and thought you should see it too.

Einstein Fuzzy Slippers

This image turned up from the Retronaut newsletter, a recent find of mine that daily publishes vintage photos and other images. The website subtitle is “The past is a foreign country. This is your passport.”

Diller hit her stride during an interesting period of cultural transformation and for a long time, with husband “Fang” as her foil, she mined the comedic divide between the bored housewife era of the 1950s and the explosion of the women's movement a short time later.

I can't be certain, but if she was not the first woman standup comedian, she was close. And I always liked her cackling laugh. Here's a clip of her from 1969 on The Ed Sullivan Show.

You can read more about Phyllis Diller's life here.

Cartoon political commentary on how we got into our economic mess and what any sane person knows needs to happen to make things better. (From Larry Beck who blogs at Woodgate's View).

There is more information at the Center for American Progress.

The event went right past me when it happened in May. Maybe you missed it too. The fireworks anniversary celebration of the Golden Gate Bridge is spectacularly beautiful with this video produced by Michael Coleman. (Thanks to John Starbuck of For a Dancer)

Most of us are more familiar with Edward Hopper's brooding, nighttime urban images, but he also painted a lot of houses along the ocean in Massachusetts. Photographer Gail Albert Halaban, of the Edwynn Houk Gallery, has been tracking down the original buildings Hopper painted as they look today.

Recently, The New York Times posted a slide show of the paintings/houses. Here is one set.

The Hopper painting:

The original house:
Hopper House Photo

You can see the entire series of original houses/paintings beginning here.

Researchers keep working on it but none have yet figured out why cats purr. It has been said that our purring house cats can sooth frazzled nerves and lower blood pressure.

Even though it's not news to me, I can still be surprised a bit when I'm reminded that the big cats purr too. This is a cheetah named Caine with linguist Robert Eklund at the Dell Cheetah Centre in South Africa:

You can find out pretty much everything science so far knows about purring at this website.

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.