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Medicare MEGO

I stole that – MEGO – from my friend Joyce Wadler who, these days, writes the weekly I Was Misinformed column in The New York Times.

Eons ago when she was a reporter at a different paper, she used that acronym in a story I don't recall. But the acronym stuck - MEGO: My Eyes Glaze Over.

I know that for many of you, when you see the words “Medicare” or “Social Security” in the headline of this blog, your eyes glaze over.

You should get over that because there are powerful forces at work in the United States that want to take those programs away from you, from everyone. It is only by remaining informed and following through when it's called for that we can prevent that from happening.

Since early this year, the health insurance industry has spent millions of dollars lobbying Congress and broadcasting videos to scare elders in an effort to rescind the subsidy cuts to the private Medicare Advantage (MA) program that are required by the Affordable Care Act (ACA, i.e. Obamacare).

And this week, they won. Instead of reducing the payments to the private insurance companies by 1.9 percent as stipulated by the ACA, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) increased the subsidies by .4 percent for 2015.

As the National Committee to Preserve Social Security and Medicare (NCPSSM) reported:

”These subsidies were supposed to be gradually trimmed in order to expand benefits and improve the quality of care for all seniors in Medicare.

“However, each year the insurance lobby threatens to cancel coverage or charge more to seniors in MA plans rather than accept a reduction in their overpayments or reimbursement rates.”

As the NCPSSM goes on to explain, all Medicare recipients, including the majority not enrolled in Advantage plans, pay higher premiums to help fund the subsidies to the private Medicare Advantage providers.

”Over the years, as much as 14% more per beneficiary has been paid to MA plans than is paid to cover individuals enrolled in traditional Medicare.

“It’s a wasteful federal boondoggle that was rightfully corrected by passage of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) in 2010. Additionally, thanks to the ACA, growth in health care costs have been decreasing which means that reimbursement rates also go down. As reimbursement rates have decreased, MA plan enrollment has increased.”

The insurance company lobby keeps telling people that if those subsidy cuts are allowed to go into effect, they – the insurance companies – would need to cut benefits, raise premiums, restrict access to physicians or even cancel coverage, among other dire predictions.

The NCPSSM again:

”Let’s be clear, contrary to the health insurance industry’s massive lobbying campaign claims, Medicare doesn’t make the decision about cuts to seniors’ MA coverage, including increasing premiums or reducing access to doctors.

“That decision rests squarely in the board rooms of the nation’s private insurance industry, which is unwilling to give up a penny of their government giveaway in favor of continued threats of diminished coverage and higher premiums for seniors.”

In case you think the big insurance companies would be forced to cut services due to subsidy cuts, read this from the respected Kaiser Health News:

”At UnitedHealth Group, one insurance giant, Medicare Advantage plans account for a fourth of all profits, said Ana Gupte, an industry analyst for Leerink Partners. Another, Humana, owes two-thirds of its profit to Medicare Advantage, she said.”

The entire story at Kaiser Health News is worth your time to read.

Getting back to MEGO, if you had not waded through the Medicare information above, you would not have arrived here for two pieces of good Medicare news.

ONE: For many years, Medicare patients have been denied further physical therapy treatment if they were not improving. Holding steady and not backsliding was not enough to continue payment for treatment.

”No more,” The New York Times and others recently reported. “In January, Medicare officials updated the agency’s policy manual — the rule book for everything Medicare does — to erase any notion that improvement is necessary to receive coverage for skilled care.

“That means Medicare now will pay for physical therapy, nursing care and other services for beneficiaries with chronic diseases like multiple sclerosis, Parkinson’s or Alzheimer’s disease in order to maintain their condition and prevent deterioration.”

As good as this news is, patients can still lose coverage under certain conditions or be subject to a therapy cap. The Times story has details and links to other sources for additional information.

TWO: Following on President Barack Obama's efforts to make the U.S. healthcare system more transparent and affordable, yesterday CMS released the most detailed data ever made public since Medicare began about physicians and payments to them.

As The New York Times reported, the data, all from 2012, covering more than 800,000 physicians and other healthcare professionals,

"...provides an unprecedented look at the practice of medicine across the country, shedding fresh light on the treatment decisions physicians and other practitioners make every day.

"It will also provide consumers with an ability to compare doctors and treatments in a way they have never had until now."

This is a big deal. You can get the data from the CMS website in tab deliminated or Excel files. Or you can use The Times' nifty interactive presentation of the same data by simply searching a provider's name, specialty and city or Zip Code.

The Times story also gives a thorough grounding in the importance of the data and how it is likely to be used in America's ongoing healthcare debates. You'll find The Times search tool here.


At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Henry Lowenstern: Personality Split?


A New York Day with Granddaughter Hannah

There is a lot I want to accomplish in today's blog post so I hope you will stick with me until the end – it will be immensely worth it, I promise.

First, a big thank you and many warm thoughts for all your kind comments on my birthday Monday. You say the nicest things about TimeGoesBy – enough to make me blush - and there were additional wonderful surprises.

To understand how everything came together, there are three facts you need to know:

No. 1: It has been just about four years since I moved to Oregon. I have settled in, made some friends, joined several local projects to help improve my community for elders and I like it here.

Equally true is that I miss New York City – more precisely, Manhattan – every single day. This does not mean I am unhappy.

A couple of Oregon friends tell me I should not tell anyone that I miss New York, that I shouldn't talk about liking another place more than Oregon. I disagree.

I may have been born in Portland, Oregon but from about age five or six, I dreamed of living in New York someday and my dream came true. I lived there for 40 years. It is the city where my heart will always be. My real home.

There are many people whose life circumstances have taken them away from the place where they feel most grounded, most engaged and most themselves. There is no reason friends should not know this about them. Or about me.

No. 2: Millie Garfield is one of the oldest elderbloggers on the internet – 88 and blogging at My Mom's Blog since October 2003. She may be my earliest and longest-running internet friend – we've met in person too – and we keep in regular touch by telephone in addition to email.

As you will see, Millie, who lives near Boston, knows how I feel about New York City.

No. 3: Near my home in Clackamas County, Oregon is Faustine's Bakery. They make cookies – the most amazingly decorated cookies you've ever seen. (Well, they make cupcakes and cakes too, but it is the cookies that charm me most.)

So combine those three facts and let us recall Monday last, my birthday.

I returned from lunch in the early afternoon to find a delivery box at my door. The card on the ribbon noted that it was from Faustine's and inside, the sender revealed herself to be Millie Garfield.

After I plowed through the tissue paper and other protective wrapping inside the box I found, of course, cookies. I knew that's what there would be, but what cookies they are. Take a look:

Cookies Big Apple

The iconic I ♡ New York teeshirt, the Big Apple apples and if it's hard to tell in my poor camera shot, a zebra striped high-heeled shoe with a red lining.

Woo-hoo! Millie had Faustine's make a special order just for me. And a perfect one it is. Fan-Tas-Tic!

I may just frame them and not eat them – well, besides being so greatly decorated, the cookies actually taste good too so take that statement under advisement.


If you have read this far, you must be wondering if I gave today's post the wrong headline: A New York Day with Granddaughter Hannah.

Another old friend, John Brandt, who I have known for about 35 or 40 years sent me on Monday the charming, true story of a recent day trip with his granddaughter to Manhattan.

That would have been reason enough for me to publish it. But when I got to the last several paragraphs, I was left weeping for more personal, bittersweet reasons: what I have left behind and what John so perfectly understands about me and New York City that he gave his story this subtitle:

For Ronni in Exile on the Wrong Coast
By John Brandt

It started last week with an ad for a film about a member of the New York City Ballet Company who contracted polio at the height of her career and how it changed her life and the lives of those around her.

My granddaughter, Hannah, has been taking ballet class since she was three and now, at 13, is starting to show signs of real promise. So I decided to take her into New York and see the film.

The trip had a second agenda. Hannah auditioned for and will be studying at The Joffrey Ballet in New York for a week of intensive, all-day classes this summer. I wanted to see how intimidated she would be by the city. She won’t be alone, but still.

Our day was geared to exposing her to as much of the “New York state of mind” as possible in just a few hours. Happily it worked.

We drove in from Connecticut, very close to where the subject of the film lived with her mentor and ex-husband, George Balanchine, to west 30th street, where we parked. My son’s apartment is at 30th and 8th Avenue where Hannah will be staying during her Joffrey intensive week in June.

Next was the subway from Penn Station to 95th street and Broadway. After the $2.50 a ride sticker shock at the subway ticket booth (it’s been awhile), we boarded the local, per instructions from one of New York’s finest.

At 42nd street, we jumped across the platform to the express. Hannah was wide-eyed. “Can you do that?”

Sure, and lots more.

The 96th street station was right across the street from the theater so we got our tickets and a recommendation for lunch from the ticket lady.

She sent us to the Manhattan Diner, across Broadway at 95th. What a find. So much more than a diner. French toast with candied apples and cinnamon for her and salmon benedict for me. Heaven!

We were still a little early, so we walked up Broadway to see what we could see.

First stop was the Westside Market, a combination of deli, supermarket and gourmet food haunt of the Westside cognoscenti. The selection of food, both prepared and to cook, was quite overwhelming. The smell was pure France, or Italy, or Spain, or China, depending on the aisle.

I’d weigh 300 pounds if the Market, as the locals call it, was in my neighborhood. Of course, I’d also be bankrupt but for a good cause.

Then, 16 Candles yogurt shop caught Hannah’s eye. It’s a make your own kid’s fantasy story. She got a frequent visitor card for the one in her town. Mom’s gonna love that.

The film was next and well worth the trip. Narrators who knew and danced with Tanaquil Le Clercq told her story and theirs in touching detail, illustrated by archival stills and early kinescopes of New York City Ballet dancers and choreographers in the 1940s and 50s.

After absorbing 90 minutes of her journey, we are far more aware of how dance can move the lives of the dancers and their audiences.

It was more than a story about one dancer’s challenge. It was the story of how the interaction of talented artists and the people who handled them shaped ballet in New York in the 20th century. Some of what we learned was disappointing but all of it clarified our knowledge of and love for the dance.

But more than the dance aspect of our day, it was New York that moved us the most.

The city has a rhythm, a texture, a smell, a special interplay of light and darkness that exists nowhere else on Earth. Okay, maybe Paris, but it’s different and they talk funny.

You begin to feel it as you cross the bridge into Manhattan, drive the streets, walk shoulder to shoulder with people you would never meet anywhere else and breathe its intoxicating air.

It’s been 40 years since I worked in the city, commuting each day and taking for granted all that the city has to offer a willing supplicant. I’m reminded that it feeds creativity with a myriad of experiences and offers limitless stimulation. It is impossible not to yield to its visceral seduction. What one minute seems inconsequential evolves into a life experience that elevates everything that follows.

Yesterday, in the space of five hours, I was reminded that life isn’t routine or measured in years. New York reminded me that life is minute-to-minute, a banquet of delights set for all who dare to venture outside the ordinary.

Being one with the city is extraordinary on so many levels. It is a booster shot for mind and body, one that must be renewed from time to time. It sets the day-to-day in proper perspective. It is, down to the core, what makes everything else move forward “con brio.”


Ronni here again. So you see, my birthday on Monday came together in the most remarkable and unexpected ways: New York, cookies, two old friends who know me well doing such lovely things for me on my birthday.

JohnBrandt)HannahNutcracker2013_150 It would probably make John's story even better for you to know that in his younger days he was a ballet dancer too and he still appears each year at Christmas time in The Nutcracker as Herr Drosselmeyer. This photo is from the Connecticut Dance School's production last December with Hannah, who danced in the corps de ballet, standing with John.


At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Arlene Corwin: Too Old to be Self-Conscious


How to Post Blog Comments

Last week's post asking where TimeGoesBy readers live got an amazing response. There are 231 comments as of early this morning.

In ten years of this blog, that many comments on one story has never happened and I had not coded the template to display such a high number which mean many were not visible.

I fixed that on Saturday and now there are an unlimited number of comments allowed broken into pages of 100 with links at the bottom of each page for Next and Previous so all the comments are now posted.

It was fun to see where everyone lives, particularly names of regular commenters I recognize. I was surprised to see at least ten people signed in from Australia (as of Saturday). There were four each from Paris and from Canada. I didn't check to see if every U.S. state was represented but there were a lot of different ones.

In no way is this a scientific count of readers. It's just those who took the time to leave the name of their city or town.

Of course I counted comments from my own state, Oregon, and there were 11 including a reader from Troutdale who wrote of that town, “Gateway to the Columbia River Gorge.”

Yeah, I know that all too well. I always, ALWAYS get lost in Troutdale trying to find the old highway to Multnomah Falls. Maybe next time you can direct me.

Although 231 comments is impressive, there were three or four DOZEN more that you can't read because they did not show up due to user error.

Which brings me to the title of today's post: How to Post Blog Comments.

Those additional 30 or 40 or so comments were not published because they were not submitted to the blog in the online form. That happens when readers who subscribe to TimeGoesBy via an RSS feed or email click “Reply” to leave a comment.

When you “reply” to a blog post you have received in that manner or in any aggregator you may use, it is no different from replying to an email.

Your “comment” arrives in my email inbox (the email address from which each day's blog post is sent out to subscribers) and cannot be posted to the website any more than any other email would automatically post to a website.

Depending on how busy I am, I sometimes send a return email with instructions on how to post comments to the blog but as far as I can tell – over many years of doing this – hardly anyone pays attention and the “reply” comments keep landing in my inbox.

Also, it leaves me to wonder if people who “reply” to TGB blog posts perhaps have no idea, because they don't visit the website, that many readers carry on fascinating conversations in the comments section that are often more compelling that the blog post itself.

All this is too bad because so many of the misdirected comments are excellent, thoughtful, funny and add good information to the day's conversation.

So today, I am going to teach people who don't know how, to post comments so other readers can read them. Here goes.

If you have something you want to say, click the name of the blog at the top of your email or rss. The TimeGoesBy website/blog will open in your browser.

Scroll to the bottom of the story where you will find the “footer.” It looks like this:

Comments Footer

The number in parentheses to the right of the word “Comments” indicates the number of comments already posted. Click on the word “Comments.” The page will reload with all the comments showing.

At the bottom of the last comment, you will see the comment form. It looks like this:

Comment Form

Because I took a screenshot on my computer, you see my name, email address (blurred to help foil scrapers) and the URL of my blog. On your computer screen, those fields will be blank if you are commenting for the first time. After you have posted comments a few times, you may see your own information there.

First, write your comment. This is the internet with unlimited space so you can write as much as you want. However, do yourself and the rest us a favor by leaving an empty line space between short paragraphs. I don't read long chunks of unbroken text and most other people don't either.

When you are done with your comment, fill in your name. Then fill in your email address. Both are required to help keep spam to a minimum.

Your email address is never published. You do not need to use your real name. You can make up any name you want but the email must be a functioning address correctly typed.

If you have a blog of your own, enter the URL and then, when your comment is published, your name in the comment footer magically becomes a link to your blog. You may link only to a personal blog. Links to commercial websites of any kind are deleted.

(That's not an internet rule; that's my rule for this advertising-free blog.)

When you are finished writing your comment and filling in the rest of the form, it will look like this:

Comment Form Filled In

Notice that the words at the bottom, “Preview” and “Post,” are now hot – that is, clickable. You can click Preview to see how your comment will look and make changes if you want before posting, or just post your comment by clicking “Post.”

Within a few seconds, your comment will be appended at the bottom of the other comments. Don't panic if it takes a bit longer. Internet technology is not an exact science and sometimes there is a glitch that slows things down for awhile.

With only minor variations, this is how comments work on all blogs and websites that allow comments.

It is immensely gratifying when one's blog traffic keeps increasing as it does at TGB. But there is a downside too: much more housekeeping. So as of today, I will no longer be able to respond to blog comments that arrive in my inbox via the email or RSS “reply” button. They will be automatically deleted.

I hope you understand and I look forward to continuing to read the fine commentary that has always been hallmark of TimeGoesBy - just in its proper place.

A few days ago, someone expressed surprise that I read all TGB comments. I really do. They are of equal importance with the day's story.


At The Elder Storytelling Place today, William Weatherstone: The Greaet White Hunter


Today I am 73 Years Old

That well-known phenomenon of time speeding up as we get older is in full force for me; it feels like yesterday was my 72nd birthday.

Neither one of them – 72 or 73 – is remarkable in any way. Not a big round number with a zero at the end. Not even a half-decade with a five at the end. No big deal today unless you count that I'm still alive.

Worse, I have nothing of note, nothing pithy and certainly nothing profound or even thoughtful to say about this day in my life. So I'll just meander around for a few paragraphs.

When I was a little girl growing up in Portland, Oregon, my mother asked me every year what I wanted for my birthday. My answer was always the same: an outdoor birthday party.

And Mom's answer was always the same: “Certainly. If it doesn't rain.”

It always rained. Every damned year.

Today, there is no rain in sight. The weather service says it will be sunny and the warmest day of the season so far – about 70F. Where's mom when I need her to throw me a party.

Did you know that the traditional song for this day, Happy Birthday to You, is copyrighted and the owner charges a lot of money to license it. That's why you usually hear For He's (She's) a Jolly Good Fellow in movie and TV birthday scenes.

Through all the decades I produced radio and television shows, no one ever used the song on air because the copyright owner was (and apparently still is) zealous in following up to get their money from any use that had not been paid for up front.

It's easy, particularly for young people new to the broadcasting business, to make the mistake. After all, the song has been around since the mid-19th century. Why would it still be under copyright. (If you really care all that much, Wikipedia has it covered.)

But it is and I've known one or two or three producers who have been slapped with a shocking bill for unauthorized use.

Last year on my birthday, TGB reader Cile, who blogs at Cile's Fine Line, left a link to a video of what appears to me to be a trio of Martian Teletubbies singing Happy Birthday.

It is a strange and kind of wonderful performance and in honor of the non-descript, boring birthday number I have this year, I'm going to show it to you today.

Just one thing, however. Although I feel safe since the video, posted by Grey Worldwide advertising, has been on YouTube since November 2005, if Warner-Chappell Music (the owner) comes after me, you all have to chip in to help me pay the licensing fee.

Okay? Is it a deal?


At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Marc Leavitt: Death Plan is Always Fair


ELDER MUSIC: Celebrate the Curves

Tibbles1SM100x130This Sunday Elder Music column was launched in December of 2008. By May of the following year, one commenter, Peter Tibbles, had added so much knowledge and value to my poor attempts at musical presentations that I asked him to take over the column. He's been here each week ever since delighting us with his astonishing grasp of just about everything musical, his humor and sense of fun. You can read Peter's bio here and find links to all his columns here.


I would like to say at the outset that the name of this column was suggested by Norma, the Assistant Musicologist. Not just the name of the column, she chose the music as well. For a change, she’s also written some of it too. Not a great deal of it, mind you, I had to write most of it.

As she says in her opening statement:

“I started out thinking of this column as a bluesy follow up to our earlier selections of blues women where we heard some early blues singers, then newer interpretations of the old songs.

“But as I listened to some favourite blues and R&B artists, some of the songs that said, "Play me, play me!" tended more towards the ballads or soul-tinged efforts. “So be it. The bluesier set is still in the works.

“Once again, I've had the fun of selecting the tracks, leaving Peter to fill this out with facts and photos.”

Peter here again. We'll kick off today with LOU ANN BARTON, another of the many musicians out of Texas. Way back in the seventies, she worked with blues bands like Double Trouble and Roomful of Blues.

Today's track, Brand New Lover, is from her album “Old Enough” which apparently didn't sell all that well, but the A.M. liked it. So did I.

Lou Ann Barton

♫ Lou Ann Barton - Brand New Lover

MARCIA BALL got together with IRMA THOMAS and TRACY NELSON to produce an album called “Sing It!”

Marcia Ball-Sing It

Why settle for one great singer when you can have three of them? Not only that, we also have the best of Memphis and New Orleans session musicians backing them on the album.

The three women have said that they were fans of each others' music but their paths had rarely crossed before this album. That’s a bit of a pity; imagine the great music that could have been made.

However, we have this terrific album. The track is Love Maker.

♫ Marcia Ball et al - Love Maker

The first of our “Australian content” tracks today is the effervescent LIL' FI.

Lil Fi

Lil' Fi is a fine blues/roots musician from Queensland. Unusually, for a front person, Fi is a drummer. She doesn’t lug around the full modo; just a basic setup plus feather boas, is all she really needs.

Fi co-founded The Flannelettes, a large a capella group. She is also the co-founder of the East-Coast Queen Bees which brings together Australia's finest women blues musicians all in the one band.

This is Lil' Fi with Celebrate the Curves and I can now see where the A.M. got the name for the column.

♫ Lil' Fi - Celebrate The Curves

What can I say about BONNIE RAITT that hasn’t been said before? She’s a fine singer and a great guitarist, especially when she plays slide guitar, something she learnt from Fred McDowell, the master of this musical form.

Bonnie Raitt

After more than 20 years of performing, Bonnie became an overnight success in 1989 with the release of the album “Nick of Time.” The fans knew her long before that.

I remember seeing her in Albuquerque way back playing to a packed house. The rest of the world finally caught up. Here she performs Home.

♫ Bonnie Raitt - Home

ELLEN MCILWAINE often gets a guernsey in the A.M.’s selected columns.

Ellen McIlwaine

Like Bonnie, Ellen plays a mean slide guitar. Born in Nashville, she grew up in Japan where she was exposed to Japanese and other international music as well as a variety of American rhythm and blues and country music.

Back in the US, she spent a while in the 1960s playing in Greenwich Village with the young Jimi Hendrix and opening for a number of the older bluesmen. These days she lives in Canada and is still performing and recording.

Here she is with Steal Him Away.

♫ Ellen McIlwaine - Steal Him Away

Ah, now we have someone who really does live up to the promise of the title of this column, KATE CEBERANO. However, she’s actually been included because she’s a terrific singer.

Kate Ceberano

We've played Kate here before, and on this track she is joined by another Oz singer, DEBRA BYRNE. Debra started out on a junior talent show on TV, then was a teenage pop star, but has moved on to a broader career on stage and TV, both singing and acting.

Debra Byrne

They sing You've Always Got the Blues.

♫ Ceberano & Byrne - You've always got the blues

MARCIA BALL again, this time on her own or, to be more precise, without Tracy and Irma.

Marcia Ball

Marcia was born in Texas but grew up in Louisiana and it’s the music from both those areas that influence her playing and singing.

She started playing the piano when she was only five years old and was, not unnaturally, hugely influenced by Fats Domino, Professor Longhair and other New Orleans pianists.

Irma Thomas was an inspiration on her vocal style and since recording the album mentioned above, they have collaborated on several projects. Here is Marcia with Why Women Cry.

♫ Marcia Ball - Why Women Cry

JANIVA MAGNESS was unknown to me until recently, I’m ashamed to admit, because she’s a wonderful singer. It seems I’m not the only one who thinks that. The A.M. happened upon a CD several years ago.

Janiva Magness

Janiva’s from Detroit with influences from Motown, blues and country music. She has a right to sing the blues, having had a tough early life.

She has said she was saved by music when, upon seeing an Otis Rush blues show, she knew that’s what she wanted to do. Fortunately, she had the talent to carry this through.

This is Slipped, Tripped and Fell In Love.

♫ Janiva Magness - Slipped, Tripped And Fell In Love

It's been quite a few years since we first heard Susan Tedeschi with her rootsy singing and guitar. These days, with marriage and kids, she and hubby guitarist Derek Trucks have combined to record and tour together as the TEDESCHI-TRUCKS BAND instead of separately, and what a good idea that has been.

Derek learnt his guitar style in the Allman Brothers Band where his uncle was one of the original drummers. From their first joint CD, “Revelator,” we'll hear Midnight in Harlem.

Tedeschi Trucks

♫ Tedeschi-Trucks Band - Midnight In Harlem

TONI PRICE took her performing name when she entered a local talent quest as a kid. When the compere asked her name, she said Toni, after the advertisements for Toni home perms. The A.M. says she remembers the ads in women's magazines, but doesn't know of anybody who used the product.

Toni Price

Toni took her musical inspiration from Bonnie Raitt. Well, you could do a lot worse. Then she went back to the source and found Victoria Spivey, Sippie Wallace and others, and came in the other direction to check out Aretha Franklin, Emmylou Harris, Linda Ronstadt and Patsy Cline.

Given all that, Toni's a bit hard to categorise, not that I like doing that sort of thing, so I find that refreshing. There's country in there, definitely some blues and some raunchy rock & roll. Something for almost everyone.

Toni's song today is Richest One.

♫ Toni Price - Richest One


INTERESTING STUFF – 5 April 2014


LE WEEK-END

This British film is the story of Nick and Meg Burrows, a pair of academics, who spend the 30th anniversary of their no-longer-wonderful marriage in Paris.

Le Week-End is funny and sad and poignant and lovely – think of it as an elder romcom. Here's the trailer:

It's a wonderful relief to watch a good movie about elders that does not involve Alzheimer's disease. The actors – including the couple's American friend played by Jeff Goldblum – are sublime and Le Week-End has won a slew of film festival awards. You can see it now playing in cities throughout the U.S.

Read more here and check for theaters near you here.


FROST FLOWERS

In all my nearly 73 years, I had never heard of frost flowers until Darlene Costner sent an email with a whole bunch of photos.

Frost Flower

They are made of fragile ice and from the information I tracked down, it is a rare phenomenon that requires an exacting combination of just the right temperature, humidity, wind and other natural particulars. Here's another photo:

Frost Flower2

I found a video from a man who was lucky enough to have an entire field of frost flowers bloom a few years. It is gorgeous.


LIBERTARIAN POLICE DEPARTMENT

Jim Stone alerted me to this story – well, satire – at The New Yorker website this week. A small taste:

”I put a quarter in the siren. Ten minutes later, I was on the scene. It was a normal office building, strangled on all sides by public sidewalks. I hopped over them and went inside.

“'Home Depot™ Presents the Police!®' I said, flashing my badge and my gun and a small picture of Ron Paul. 'Nobody move unless you want to!” They didn’t.

“'Now, which one of you punks is going to pay me to investigate this crime?' No one spoke up.

“'Come on,' I said. 'Don’t you all understand that the protection of private property is the foundation of all personal liberty?'

“It didn’t seem like they did.

“'Seriously, guys. Without a strong economic motivator, I’m just going to stand here and not solve this case. Cash is fine, but I prefer being paid in gold bullion or autographed Penn Jillette posters.'”

Go read the whole thing. It's frighteningly funny.


LOUIS CK HOSTS SATURDAY NIGHT LIVE LAST WEEK

Nothing to say about this except that he always tells the truth and you will laugh out loud.


DOES ANYBODY HERE REMEMBER THE MONKEES?

I haven't thought of them in several decades. Never thought there was a reason to remember them even though there was a year or two a long time ago when you couldn't avoid them on radio and TV. We'll forgive you if you skip the video.

However, if you ARE a believer in the Monkees, they are on tour again this spring. You can believe it. Find out more here.


WORKING CLASS FASHIONISTAS

About a year ago in Interesting Stuff, I showed you some still photos of men in Congo and some other African countries who, for more than a 100 years, have dressed themselves in classic elegance. They are glorious looking.

daniele-tamagni photo 1

As I explained then, many if not most work in menial jobs and their de rigeur haute couture labels don't come cheap.

Now, thanks to TGB reader Laura Gordon, we have a mini-documentary about these “sapeurs” made by the Guinness folks who explain:

”[The men's] bold choice to live an unexpected lifestyle is a source of celebrated originality and positivity. Their life is not defined by occupation or wealth, but by respect, a moral code and an inspirational display of flair and creativity.”

Take a look. You won't be sorry.

You can find out more about these men here.


FREE EXERCISE VIDEO AND BOOK

The U.S. National Institute of Aging is a division of the government agency, the National Institutes of Health (NIH). There is a lot of good information for elders at their website.

Just this week, I discovered they are offering an exercise Guide and an exercise DVD designed for elders. Both are free, available in English and Spanish and you can order them here.

I ordered copies this week but there has not been time for them to arrive yet.


FORD DESTROYS RICH GUY CADILLAC AD

My general attitude toward all giant corporations is to distrust everything about them. Here's one morally repugnant reason from Cadillac:

And here is what Ford Motor Co. did in response:

I'm not saying this makes Ford necessarily superior – but the commercial buries Cadillac and it's good to see a humane point of view from one of the big guys. Also, it's clever, a very well done comeback.

Hat tip to Marian Methner who I think blogs at MovingoutGranni but I screwed up my notes and there is no name at the blog so maybe I'm wrong.


THE CAT AND THE DUCKLINGS

It's been a while since we had a really good cat video but today, thanks to readers Ali and Darlene Costner, we've got an adorable one.


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.


Opening Day of the Second Wind Tour

[EDITORIAL NOTE: Not long ago, I told you about the new book, Second Wind, from geriatrician Dr. Bill Thomas and two TGB readers won tickets to the tour he is conducting throughout the United States that extends the ideas he presents in the book to change aging.

Today's post is a report from the tour by Wendl Kornfeld who attended its premier in New York City on Monday.

I've known Wendl for about 40 years – she married the man I had lived with for several years in the early 1970s. I don't recall how we became friends – it's one of those lovely occurrences: one day you realize how important someone is to you and that you didn't notice it while it was happening.

Here is Wendl's report.


Billed as “live non-fiction theatre,” Dr. Bill Thomas and entourage opened a 25-American city tour in New York Cithy on 31 March, to publicize his latest book, Second Wind, Navigating the Passage to a Slower, Deeper, and More Connected Life.

The tour, the tagline of which is, “This changes everything,” was almost four hours (with intermission) of well-paced testimonials, slides, music, video, and audience participation.

I have been a huge admirer of Dr. Thomas and his message to the world ever since reading his book, What Are Older People For? How Elders Will Save the World. The Second Wind Tour continues his message of embracing the person we are yet to become.

Dr. Thomas, a self-described “ambassador from Elderhood,” painted a fanciful “What if?” scenario of how the world might look and act if we grew in height as we grow older, and told a wonderful anecdote about taking his medical students to a cemetery so they really understood the difference between being dead and being old.

Supporting Dr. Thomas were Dr. Janet Taylor, M.D., MPH, who discussed how latter-life brain changes are put to positive use in navigating life transitions along with David Farrell, Senior Director of The Green House® Project, which re-imagines soul-less, institutional nursing homes into an experience similar to a real home.

In addition, local musicians and personalities shared stories about how getting older, despite some serious setbacks, proved to be the key to a more satisfying and expansive life.

There was also a documentary, Alive Inside, about how an iPod experiment evolved and expanded to dramatically change the lives of North American dementia patients, their families and caretakers.

I had seen this film before at a New York City nursing home but it astounded me anew at what science has learned about how the human brain allows music to re-open memory paths where other interventions have failed.

The program ended with an interactive musical interlude with a charming Ugandan-born musician with profound life stories of his own before the entire “cast” came on stage to bid us farewell.

I introduced myself to Dr. Thomas at intermission and told him we were linked through Ronni Bennett and TGB which delighted him. He even asked my name; I don’t expect him to remember it but I will always remember that moment.

Presumably, a few members of the tour’s cast will change as it embraces local culture and personalities in each succeeding city but the core presentations are inspiring, moving, and often very funny.

The overall tone of the tour is upbeat and if you attend with an open mind, you may well leave changed in some way - just as they promised.

Ronni here again: you will find a list of tour cities and dates here.


At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Dan Gogerty: Happy Cows, Happy Cheese


Where Do TGB Readers Live?

Yesterday, I received a note from long-time TGB reader, Laura Gordon, with whom I've exchanged email now and then over quite a few years. I was surprised to learn that she lives in Florence. Florence, Italy, that is.

I had just assumed she lives in the United States and she never said otherwise. (I've now discovered that Laura and I did discuss her location in the past which tells you something about my old-lady memory.)

Even though I can tell from the stats that there are regular readers from several dozen countries, this is mostly a U.S.-centric blog. Still, I was surprised to see, when I checked yesterday, that only about 80 percent are American. Last time I looked – admittedly more than a year ago – it was more than 90 percent U.S.

The other top countries represented are U.K., Canada, Australia and France with a few readers each from Italy, Mexico, New Zealand and South Africa too.

So, because I booked way too many appointments yesterday, I was in need of a quick-and-easy blog post for today and thanks to Laura of Florence, Italy, I have a simple little assignment for you today:

Tell us where you live: city, state or province and country.

Since respondents are self-selected, it won't mean anything in terms of real numbers in each country or city but it will be nice to see where the people with names we recognize from the comments live.

Me? I'm in Lake Oswego, Oregon, USA.


At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Vicki E. Jones: The Miracle Dog


Retirement Investing Advice (?)

Undoubtedly you see as many financial services commercials on TV, in print and online as I do. In addition, I get dozens of pitches every year to review advice books about retirement investing or to interview so-called experts in the field.

The reason you have never seen any of that reported here and likely never will is that I ignore them all because they never address my two most persistent questions:

One, just who has enough money to do all this investing? According to the U.S. Census Bureau:

”Real median incomes in 2012 for family households ($64,053) and nonfamily households ($30,880) were [not] not statistically different from the levels in 2011.

“A comparison of real household income over the past five years shows an 8.3 percent decline since 2007, the year before the nation entered an economic recession.”

And two, what do these experts really know? After all, none of them warned us about the crash of 2008.

Sometimes I have wondered if I am not being too harsh in thinking that about 99 percent of all investing advice as suspect if not fraudulent. Who am I to make that judgment, I would ask myself. Money management is certainly an important part of aging, something that might be useful to cover on this blog.

So I was relieved to have my reservations confirmed yesterday by an economics blogger I respect and have followed for years. James Kwak is associate professor of Law at the University of Connecticut School of Law and co-founder, with Simon Johnson, of The Baseline Scenario blog.

Here is part of what he wrote yesterday:

”The underlying problem with financial advice - besides the fact that most of it is wrong, conflicted (in the conflict-of-interest sense), or covert marketing - is that, even in the best case, it rarely works.

“The underlying financial problem that most Americans have isn’t that they buy too many lattes or pick the wrong stocks. It’s that they don’t make enough money to begin with, at a time when many necessities like health care and education are getting more expensive.

I laughed at his line about “too many lattes.” I once saw a famous financial guru on television tell viewers in all seriousness that anyone could have enough money for retirement with just one easy change in lifestyle: make all their coffee at home.

Kwak is reporting on a book by Helaine Olen, Pound Foolish which, he says, is

”...a condemnation of just almost every form of personal financial advice out there, from the personal finance gurus (Suze Orman, Dave Ramsey) to the variable annuity salespeople to the peddlers of real estate get-rich-quick schemes to Sesame Street‘s corporate-sponsored financial education programs...

“A lot of what’s going on is just semi-sleazy entrepreneurs trying to make a buck, taking “advice” that is equal parts routine, wrong, and contradictory and packaging it into attractive-looking books, TV shows, and in-person events.”

Given all that, Kwak wonders why personal financial advisers are as ubiquitous as they are. He says Olen “suggests that we live in an age of stagnant real wages and rising inequality” and

”Add that to,” Kwak continues, “a culture that fetishizes individualism and rejects government support programs, and you have a market that is ripe for self-proclaimed gurus or self-interested advertising campaigns that claim that you can get ahead by (insert your choice) drinking less coffee, or going into more real estate debt, or buying a variable annuity, or picking the right stocks.

“The governments (state and federal) that promote financial education are like Marie-Antoinette advising people to eat cake; if they could eat cake in the first place, they wouldn’t need financial education.”

That and the rest of what Kwak reports of Olen's book is why you still won't be hearing about anyone's investing advice or seeing interviews with investing “experts” on this blog.

You can read Kwak's entire blog post here. I also recommend The Wolf Hunters of Wall Street by Michael Lewis from next Sunday's New York Times Magazine that is available online now.


At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Janet Thompson: Pearls and Princess Pumps


Wrinkles, We Have Wrinkles

It is, to me, the most offensive word there is about getting old: “anti-aging.” To be anti-aging is to be anti-life but even so, the word, the idea, is ubiquitous on the packaging of hundreds of brands of snake oil that promise to remove wrinkles and restore lost youth.

You know as well as I do that contrary to the claims of manufacturers, advertising, celebrity spokespeople and even some accredited physicians, nothing will make anyone young again or even young-looking.

So it would save a lot of heartache, not to mention money, to not only accept the physical signs of aging but to glory in them.

If you have been hanging around here for even a short while, you know that in the 12 months since March 2013, I have lost 40 pounds. Wanna know what happens to the skin of a 72-year-old who loses 25 percent of her body weight?

RBHand370

A year ago, my hands had about half as many wrinkles that were about half as deep as these. Nowadays I am the poster girl – well, poster old woman – for wrinkles.

And don't think this wrinkle explosion is confined to the parts of my body I'm willing to show you. There are now collections of fine lines, permanent ripples and a sag or two or three just about everywhere – arms, upper legs, belly and, certainly, face.

Yesterday, I had need of some photos for a story in the New York Daily News about self-written obituaries for which I was interviewed. (You can read it here and you can read another feature quoting me on the same subject at USAToday.)

I prevailed upon my friend Ann Adrian, a gerontologist and director of the Adult Community Center in Lake Oswego, to take a few shots for the Daily News piece. Here is one of the outtakes:

Ronni Bennett

See those three or four lines on the right side of my mouth? A year ago, there was just one. It was about five years ago when I first noticed that it was becoming permanent. (It had always been there when I smiled.)

In a private experiment on the progression of aging, I kept watch day-to-day over the ensuing years as it grew deeper. Even with that attention, it was a bit of a surprise when the additional lines arrived toward the end my of weight loss, as did those wrinkles and crinkles about my eyes.

The thing is, I like them all even if, the older I get, the more I look like my mother.

The most important reason I would not have cosmetic surgery is that I would never know what I really looked like in old age. Never know what all the living, good and not-so-good, had done to me and how it becomes written on my face.

And more, I would feel a fraud even if I had not spent 10 years advocating for elders just as we are, without surgical intervention.

You wouldn't know it from our popular culture, but there is nothing wrong with growing old nor with the accompanying wrinkles. Each era of our lives is unique unto itself and I want to live this one as thoroughly and authentically as the earlier ones without pretense to being something I am not – which, anyway, never fools anyone.

We laughed a lot, Ann and I, while she was clicking the camera for the shots I needed. She told me that like that line near my mouth I have monitored for several years, she (about 15 years younger than I) has been tracking one she first noticed just above her lip last November.

There is an ancient - more than possibly apocryphal - anecdote about the actress Delores Del Rio. It was said she believed that if she never smiled or laughed and slept 12 hours a day, she would not get wrinkles. Here, thanks to Ann's photography, is how I feel about that - the same photo used in the Daily News:

RBennett2014_03A370


At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Johna Ferguson: Just Another Challenge