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ELDER MUSIC: 1951 Again

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.


What happened in 1951?

  • Bob Geldof was born
  • Australia celebrated its 50th birthday as an independent country by shrugging its collective shoulders
  • The Catcher in the Rye was published
  • Elizabeth Taylor obtained her first divorce
  • Strangers on a Train was released
  • Geelong were premiers

Irving Gordon wrote Mister and Mississippi which was a big success for PATTI PAGE.

Patti Page

Because of its popularity, Irv decided to write more songs based on states' names the most successful of which was the pun-filled Delaware, a hit for Perry Como.

It's the Mississippi we have today though.

♫ Patti Page - Mister And Mississippi

CHARLES BROWN would certainly be considered the smoothest blues singer around.

Charles Brown

Although he was too mellow a performer to survive the rock & roll surge, paradoxically, he was a great influence on Chuck Berry whose earliest records were quite similar in style to those of Charles.

In the eighties and nineties he made a comeback and produced some fine albums. His song is Seven Long Days.

♫ Charles Brown - Seven Long Days

Another pianist, but quite a different one, BUD POWELL.

Bud Powell

He was influenced by Thelonious Monk, who became a friend of his, and he became a key figure in the development of BeBop. Unfortunately, he suffered from schizophrenia and he was in and out of mental institutions all his life. It's probably this that has stopped him gaining the recognition he deserves.

This is his own composition, Un Poco Loco.

♫ Bud Powell - Un Poco Loco

EDDIE FISHER makes his first appearance here but not yet in Elizabeth Taylor's life.

Eddie Fisher

Eddie gained a degree of local stardom singing around his native Philadelphia. He was discovered there and gained some success elsewhere until he was drafted.

After his stint, his star rose nationally and he had a number of hits in the first half of the fifties. This is one of them, Turn Back the Hands of Time.

♫ Eddie Fisher - Turn Back the Hands of Time

Thankfully, LOUIS ARMSTRONG is still around in 1951.

Louis Armstrong

This tune didn't change jazz history, as many of his past tunes did, but it's a really nice one, A Kiss to Build a Dream On.

♫ Louis Armstrong - A Kiss to Build a Dream On

ELMORE JAMES was one of the best slide guitarists ever. He also liked to pump up his amplifier as far as it could go. You could say he pretty much invented heavy metal.

Elmore James

Brian Jones was a big fan of his and emulated his slide style on the early Stones' records. Dust My Broom was written either by Elmore or Robert Johnson, nobody is really sure. Probably neither of them, like most blues songs it evolved over time.

What is certain is that it's been recorded by more musicians than we have all had hot breakfasts.

♫ Elmore James - Dust My Broom

JO STAFFORD has the unenviable task of following Elmore.

Jo Stafford

Shrimp Boats was written by Paul Howard and Paul Weston. The latter Paul was married to Jo so she had first call on the song. There are other versions but this is the one with which I'm familiar.

♫ Jo Stafford - Shrimp Boats

BILLY ECKSTINE had one of the smoothest voices around.

Billy Eckstine

In the forties, Billy formed his own band and, my goodness, did he ever nurture some talent. Dizzy Gillespie, Dexter Gordon, Miles Davis, Art Blakey and Charlie Parker have all had gigs in his band.

He's most remembered these days for his singing, and what a singer. This is I Apologize.

♫ Billy Eckstine - I Apologize

Now we go to the other extreme with HOWLIN WOLF.

Howlin' Wolf

The Wolf was another favorite of The Stones, they even covered his song, The Red Rooster. That's for another day, though, today it's How Many More Years.

♫ Howlin Wolf - How Many More Years

CHARLES TRENET has written a song about writing songs.

Charles Trenet

The song is L'Ame Des Poètes (Longtemps, Longtemps, Longtemps) which pretty much means The Poets’ Soul (for a long time). It's about how a song can have a life independent of its creator, or even of his original intention.

We see that all the time but it's seldom expressed so beautifully.

♫ Charles Trenet - L'Ame Des Poètes (Longtemps, Longtemps, Longtemps)

You can find more music from 1951 here.

1952 will appear in two weeks' time.


INTERESTING STUFF – 10 May 2014


U.K. CELL PHONE ADVERT FEATURES ELDERS

Take a look at this commercial promoting the use of Vodaphone's 4G mobile to listen to Spotify's music streaming service.

How do you feel about that – all those old folks having a good time listening to the music? One commenter on a marketing website featuring the ad had this to say:

”I can't help but feel that it is somewhat condescending to elderly people. Why must the songs that are used be, for the most part, ones with provocative, innuendo-laden lyrics...

“It's clearly a deliberate attempt to make the adverts funnier as its more ironic to have elderly people singing along to implicitly sexualised songs.”

Apparently I'm not up on current pop music because I didn't catch that part. (Hat tip to TGB reader Anne Brew)


ELDERS TEACHING ENGLISH LONG DISTANCE

John Starbuck of From a Dancer sent this video. Nothing to say about it except watch and think about how this wonderful idea could be expanded.

You can read some more here.


THINGS YOU DON'T OFTEN SEE

Darlene Costner sent an email with a whole bunch of photos as surprisingly wonderful as these:

Seagulls

You'll probably have trouble recalling the last time you saw a woman in a fur coat running a vacuum cleaner on grass.

Grass vacuum furcoat

And wouldn't you have been pleased to have shot this basketball sunset.

Basketball sunset

I wish I had room for all the images in the email. Instead, I found this website that has most of them.


TWO VEEPS HAVING FUN MESSING AROUND

Maybe you caught last weekend's White House Correspondents Dinner. Or maybe you didn't. President Barack Obama was funny and so was the hired comedian, Joel McHale, although a few critics thought some of his jokes were tasteless.

I enjoyed the two men but I also liked the video skit of Vice President Joe Biden and Julia Louis-Dreyfus who plays Vice President Selina Meyer on the television series, Veep. First Lady Michelle Obama makes an appearance too.


ALZHEIMER'S DISEASE AND MAN'S TRULY BEST FRIEND

Lisa Abeyta made this video of her father and the family dog, Roscoe. That's all you really need to know before watching this don't-miss video.

There is a bit more information about the video here.


LOOK UP FROM YOUR SMARTPHONE OR TABLET

A lot of people complain about how social media does more to separate people than bring them together. Usually they are older people who say this.

Sometimes, however, it's a young person and this one does it quite eloquently. (Hat tip to lilalia of Yum Yum Cafe)


UNIVERSAL HEALTH CARE SAVES LIVES

You probably remember that Obamacare, the Affordable Care Act, has a lot in common with Romneycare, a similar program Mitt Romney instituted in Massachusetts when he was governor there and which took effect in 2006.

That is long ago enough that a study could be conducted to see if mandated coverage has made any difference in health outcomes. Just such a study was released last week.

”The study tallied deaths in Massachusetts from 2001 to 2010 and found that the mortality rate — the number of deaths per 100,000 people — fell by about 3 percent in the four years after the law went into effect.

“The decline was steepest in counties with the highest proportions of poor and previously uninsured people. In contrast, the mortality rate in a control group of counties similar to Massachusetts in other states was largely unchanged...

“A national 3 percent decline in mortality among adults under 65 would mean about 17,000 fewer deaths a year.”

You can read more about the study at The New York Times.


I HAVE THIS KIND OF TROUBLE KEEPING UP TOO

Time Goes By's Sunday music columnist, Peter Tibbles, sent this Zits cartoon by Jerry Scott. All too true for me these days.

Zits

You'll find more of Jerry Scott's Zits cartoons here.


THE SQUIRREL AND THE PUSSY CAT

The YouTube page tells us that these folks had a baby pet squirrel who, once he was full grown, ran away. But every now and then he returns for visit and this time got reacquainted with an old friend.


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.


Elder Vampires in Our Future?

A few days ago, this headline dropped into my mailbox:

Young Blood Reverses Age-Related Brain Impairments in Old Mice

Who could resist clicking that link? Don't tell me you are not, right now, envisioning Bill Nighy as the vampire Viktor in Underworld. (Or something similar.)

Ever since the oldest baby boomers hit age 60, journalists have been predicting a generational war between young and old. This is one ghoulish way it could happen:

”New research finds infusing aging mice with the blood of young mice appears to recharge the brain so it functions more like a younger one.

“...senior author Tony Wyss-Coray and colleagues...found [the old mice] performed better in spatial memory tests than older mice that had received plasma from other older mice, or none at all...

“This part of the brain [hippocampus], Prof. Wyss-Coray explains, is the part you use when you are trying 'to find your car in a parking lot or navigate around a city without using your GPS system.'”

Professor Wyss-Coray says they do not yet know if this will work in humans but hopes to set up trials soon. You can read the full report of the research study at Medical News Today.

Undoubtedly some enterprising screenwriter has the movie script halfway finished. I wonder if Bill Nighy is up for another go at playing Viktor the vampire.


At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Cassie Rogers: Dessert in the Afternoon


Some Rituals of Life are Better In Person

A story in the Baltimore Sun on Saturday reported that a memo from the Social Security Administration reveals they are considering moving almost all services to the internet and closing thousands of field offices.

”The document, drafted by an independent nonprofit as part of the agency's effort to develop a long-term strategic plan, envisions Social Security using websites 'as [a] primary service channel' by 2025, which the writers conclude would ultimately result in a smaller workforce...

“About 28,000 employees work in those offices, and nearly 180,000 people visit them every day.”

As anyone who reads this blog is aware, I am no Luddite particularly in regard to the internet. The ease of use and time-saving qualities for such chores as shopping and banking and communication are modern miracles and that's not even adding in the value of information and entertainment that are available.

To be freed from travel and static business hours for these tasks is a time-saving relief. But there are some events too important to be sucked into the soulless maw of the internet in the name of efficiency.

When I was thwarted in trying to sign up for Social Security online, it changed what would have been just one more routine form to fill in into something unexpectedly special. I wrote about it here in 2006.

Back then, the Social Security website was not as well-run and organized as today. Here's what happened:

”...when I tried to sign up online – twice – the link to that page was broken.

“That didn’t give me a lot of confidence that the enrollment, if I could catch the webpage on a day it was working, would happen without a glitch, and as time went by, I began thinking that becoming a Social Security beneficiary is too important an event to toss off with an online form.”

That broken link allowed me the time to realize that I was not filling out a routine form, I was was crossing a border into new territory that was mostly foreign to me. Now I wanted to mark the moment, make it a rite of passage, to create something memorable about moving into a new stage of life.

So I gathered up the required papers and hied myself to the Social Security office in the town where I was then living, Portland, Maine.

“After a 30-minute wait, I was called to the counter. 'Social Security number?' the woman asked. Then, instead of 'what is your name,' she asked, “Who are you?” Since I am more than my name, I liked that and decided on the spot that it was an auspicious beginning for my little ritual.

Soon thereafter, I was invited into the cubicle of a Mrs. Ortiz who, like me, was a transplanted New Yorker and we had a fine ol' time reminiscing about our previous home and what we did and didn't miss about it.

”It was nearly an hour we spent together looking at my papers and leisurely filling out forms while I swore to the facts that I’m not a felon or a fugitive, am not lying about anything and understand my rights.

“Except that the Social Security office is as drab and dull and gray as all government agencies and, oddly, neither Mrs. Ortiz nor any other employee I could see had a single personal item in their cubes – not even a box of Kleenex – it was the best experience I’ve ever had with a bureaucracy.

”As the final step in our ceremony, we shook hands to affirm that my new status had been ritually achieved. I was now a Social Security beneficiary and, in the lights of the U.S. government, I had become an official old person.

“Aside from whatever number of additional birthdays the gods grant me and unless I marry again, this was the final rite of passage before my funeral. Mrs. Ortiz may or may not have realized it, but she made it feel like the ritual I wanted. And to celebrate my "coming of age," I had a glass of wine with dinner. Whooeee!”

If I had been able to sign up online, it would have felt – and actually been – little different from checking the balance on my credit card or paying bills on my banking website. No big deal.

But making that passage should be a big deal, it was a big deal to me and thanks to the excellent Mrs. Ortiz who seemed to understand the significance of the moment to me, I can recall that hour as clearly as if it happened yesterday.

The plans for shutting Social Security offices are connected to cost cutting. You remember, I'm sure, the Republican sequestration demands? Yes, some of those cuts are already in effect and more are required of the federal government. I have no doubt that most Social Security offices will eventually be closed.

And that's too bad. We lose a little piece of our humanity when we can't mark an important milestone with a live person and not just a screen.


At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Janet Thompson: Whew, Some Smell!


How It is to Be Old

Having fallen asleep with the television on a few nights ago, I woke a couple of hours later to the fragment of a sentence just before a commercial began: “...young people wondering how it is to be old.”

Sleep for me is a fragile thing easily lost to wakefulness so I quickly turned off the TV and did, for once, get back to sleep.

When I woke the next morning, it was with that phrase, “young people wondering how it is to be old” rolling around in my head and I am now dumping it on you, dear readers, with a couple of thoughts to go with it.

There are old people who insist they feel the same as they did when they were 20 or 30 or 40 or whatever younger year they choose. Although I've never said it out loud before now, I don't believe them.

If that were true, it would mean they have learned nothing in their decades of life. That their worldview remains as it was at 20. That they have endured no heartbreak or unbounded joy, are still befuddled with youthful self-doubt and have no experience to inform their choices.

Which cannot possibly be true. Of course old age is different from youth and it should be. It is meant to be.

As I considered that sentence fragment, I did some wondering of my own: perhaps I missed a crucial lead-in to it because I don't believe the young give much thought to what it's like to be old. I didn't get around to it with any seriousness until I was into my fifties.

Recalling this set me in mind of something Penelope Lively writes in her 2013 memoir, Dancing Fish and Ammonites [emphasis is mine]:

”...not only do you know (even if it is getting a bit hazy) what it felt like to be in your twenties, or thirties, but you remember also the relative unconcern about what was to come.

“You aren't going to get old, of course, when you are young. We won't ever be old partly because we can't imagine what it is like to be old, but also because we don't want to, and - crucially – are not particularly interested.”

Lively goes on to explain that as a teen she spent a lot of time with her 70-ish grandmother who acted as a mother substitute [this time the emphasis is Lively's]:

”I was devoted to her,” she writes, “but I don't remember ever considering what it could be like to be her. She simply was; unchangeable, unchanging...

“I never thought about how it must be to be her; equally, I couldn't imagine her other than she was, as though she had sprung thus into life, had never been young.”

Although Penelope Lively is a – (sorry, can't help myself) lively and interesting writer, I don't always agree with her about aspects of aging. In this, however, I think she is correct.

When I make the effort to inhabit my younger mindset - in school days and my twenties - I recall being surprised to think of the old people I knew as my own age. When they spoke of events in their childhoods, it was impossible for me to picture them as young.

For me, Lively states it exactly as it felt for me then – they always had been as they were. And I don't think we elders should go about trying to convince young people we were once their age. Like us, they will get to it in due time.

Because I have the book off the shelf and just for fun, here is some more from Lively that speaks to me:

”Certain desires and drives have gone. But what remains is response. I am as alive to the world as I have ever been – alive to everything I see and hear and feel...

“I think there is a sea change, in old age – a metamorphosis of sensibilities. With those old consuming vigors now muted, something else comes into its own – an almost luxurious appreciation of the world that you are still in.

“Spring was never so vibrant; autumn never so richly gold...People are of abiding interest – observed in the street, overheard on a bus.

“The small pleasures have bloomed into points of relish in the day – food, opening the newspaper (new minted, just for me), a shower, the comfort of bed. “It is almost like some kind of endgame salute to the intensity of childhood experience, when the world was new.”

Exactly as it is for me these days.


At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Chlele Gummer: Treading the Boards


Elders and Marijuana

As you undoubtedly know, last year the U.S. states of Washington and Colorado voted to legalize marijuana for recreational use.

In 14 other states, it has been decriminalized to varying degrees and 20 states plus the District of Columbia allow marijuana, also to varying degrees, for medical purposes.

The use, sale and/or possession of cannabis is outlawed by the federal government under the Controlled Substances Act of 1970 although last August, it the feds announced they would no longer pursue prosecution of such offenses that take place in states that have legalized cannabis.

As to the general public's view of pot, a 2013 survey by the Pew Research Center found that

”For the first time in more than four decades of polling on the issue, a majority of Americans favor legalizing the use of marijuana. A national survey finds that 52% say that the use of marijuana should be made legal while 45% say it should not.”

PewPotSurvey2013

Even as the United States moves toward acceptance and legalization, there remains a large amount of ignorance about cannabis that impedes progress. For the record,

Its success in relieving such symptoms as inflammation, nausea, insomnia, chronic pain, anxiety, depression and much, more are well known in the modern medical community
It has been a legitimate remedy for many conditions for thousands of years
No one has ever died from using marijuana

For many elders, cannabis works better for many conditions than prescription drugs and in 2013, Dr. Sanjay Gupta, who had publicly opposed legalization of marijuana since 2009, reversed his position and then produced an hour-long documentary on the beneficial uses of marijuana.

This is a short interview about his change of mind just prior to the documenatary broadcast on CNN last year:

As to recreational use of marijuana, as Gupta notes in that clip, dependency is about 9 percent compared to 15 percent for alcohol and it's difficult to find any serious harm to adults who use pot.

I'll testify to that. I've been smoking weed for nearly 60 years with no ill effects. None.

Oh wait. There is a downside but only if you choose to categorize it that way. Many years ago, a friend expressed this issue when he told me why he'd stopped smoking pot:

He described sitting around one evening with half a dozen friends as they listened to a new, highly anticipated album from a well-known rock group (this was the sixties) while passing around a few joints.

One of the guys pointed to another sitting across from him and said, “Wow.”

Some time went by as the music continued until the second guy pointed back at the first and said, “You're right.”

My friend realized that is what had been passing for communication among his group for a good while and he wanted more than that.

So, yes, anyone who has ever been stoned knows about distraction, forgetfulness and the tendency to mistake a splendid high for profundity.

But those are certainly not reasons to have incarcerated millions of (mostly) young people over the years particularly compared to alcohol that actually causes thousands of deaths a year.

Even in states where medical marijuana is legal, it is difficult to qualify for a prescription and/or expensive. But it actually works. Weed helps alleviate symptoms that plague elders without subjecting them to the terrible side effects of harsh and, often, addictive prescription drugs. Millions more could benefit with legalization.

As I have mentioned here in the past, I live with a disorder that deprives me of sleep and for which there is no treatment. When I get too far behind, I smoke a joint which allows me to stay asleep for a more normal period of time and feel better rested.

Although my affliction is far less serious than that of most elders who could benefit from a little THC, all of us should be able to use this proven substance to help alleviate what ails us.

Personally, I don't like making the distinction, in the question of legalization, between medical and recreational marijuana. If it relieves pain and other debilitating symptoms, it should be available. Period.

But pot is also a load of fun - at least as much fun a having a few drinks with friends - and my occasional indulgence is not confined to a need for sleep.

Then there is the public benefit to legalization. Nationwide, it would bring in billions of dollars in taxes that states need, reduce the prison population, free up law enforcement officers to chase real criminals and create new jobs.

Not to mention that it would make an effective treatment for many conditions more easily available to elders. What could possibly be wrong with all that?


At The Elder Storytelling Place today, William Weatherstone: Little Billy Weatherstone's Tonsillitis, Age Five


Crabby Old Lady Laments the Future...

...at least as The New York Times reports it.

In the past, predictions have usually usually appeared as science fiction fantasies of life 50 or a 100 years hence and it's always fun – and funny - when such prophecies are dredged up and compared to what really happened.

People-imagining-the-future-transportation1

Nowadays, the next future arrives even before the current one has come to fruition so that a peek just ten years forward can be awe-inspiring (or terrifying, depending on your point of view).

That's what The New York Times did on Saturday in a gigantic infographic of “what far-off technology will be commonplace in a decade” based on the predictions of seven people the paper says are “driving this transformation” of technological change.

Here's a little piece of that graphic.

NYTInfographic

Let Crabby Old Lady say at the outset that the infographic, with its simplistic images and soundbite text, is enough for her to worry about where The Times newspaper itself is heading. Why didn't they write a traditional news story, Crabby wonders, with words and paragraphs and, oh you know, old-fashioned news virtues like context and perspective?

Crabby was immediately reminded of Jan Adams' comment last week in a story on this blog about elders and technology:

”My concern about the direction of technology is that providers of consumer tech goodies seem to be leading us away from using devices with keyboards.

“Since I use a computer to write...I don't like a future in which a tablet or a smartphone becomes the expected appliance and what I consider a 'real computer' becomes a rarity. I sure don't see myself communicating in videos.”

For a long time now, Crabby too has been concerned about disappearing text and, therefore, actual thought.

In addition to those faddish, facile infographics that pop up all over the web in place of writing, increasing numbers of news websites are posting video without providing a written version of the report.

Is Crabby Old Lady the last person who understands that in an era when virtually everyone complains of too much information to plow through, it is three or four or ten times faster to read a narrative than to watch a video?

Or, of greater concern, that the medium of video does not allow for detail and nuance and that even at their best, video reports are only as good as the reporter, and there aren't many good ones these days, especially online.

Harumph, says Crabby.

Among The Times' infographic predictions are, unfortunately, these:

“The computer mouse will be replaced. Think touch, swipe, rich hand gestures."

“What technology will seem antiquated in a decade? Email, computer keyboards, cash, handheld phones.”

"...people will wear computers in the form of contact lenses, bracelets or clothing and walk up to any wall and instantly have full access to all of your cloud data and services.”

Just how, as Jan asks, is anyone going to write anything without keyboards?

Crabby might settle (reluctantly) for voice-to-text (if they'd ever improve it enough to work as well as keyboards). But no, we've got texting on teeny cellphone screens so that spelling and grammar and – again – actual thought beyond “how r u” is already disappearing.

To be fair to The Times, there are a few intriguing predictions that Crabby wants to see earlier rather than later. Before she dies would be good:

“Personalized medicine. Imagine a unique drug that’s printed for you and your condition based on your individual gene sequencing.”

"Getting a top-end college education without going to a physical campus."

"Cars driven by computers instead of humans.”

That last one, if the cars are generally affordable, could permanently remove elders' understandable fear of giving up their car keys.

On the other hand, for some reason The Times lists this one under the header, The Era of Progress:

“Ubiquitous video recording and surveillance.”

And do you think The New York Times in this infographic edited by David Leonhardt (yes, Crabby Old Lady intended to call him out) really meant to place this prediction, too, under The Era of Progress:

”Women are only 25-percent of the tech industry. As it grows in stature and wealth, women risk losing their influence in our society.”

But it strikes Crabby that 24/7 surveillance and decreased influence of women are beside the point if people stop knowing how to write because if you cannot write, you cannot think and god knows our world needs some smart thinking.

Crabby is perfectly aware that every generation of elders believes that younger ones are going to hell in a handbasket and she is more than eager to learn that her fears for the future have been a misuse of her time.

She just hopes she dies before they take away her keyboard.


At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Marcy Belson: Butch, the Easter Chicken


ELDER MUSIC: The Beethoven Obsession

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.


Beethoven

The Beethoven Obsession is a book about three men - well, four if you include Ludwig. It was written by BRENDAN WARD.

Brendan Ward

Brendan's mum was a trained pianist and played to concert standard. Most days began with her playing, usually Beethoven, and young Brendan grew up loving this music and became a decent pianist himself.

When he grew up he moved to Sydney from country New South Wales and naturally went to concerts there. It was at these he discovered pianist GERARD WILLEMS.

Gerard Willems

Gerard was born in The Netherlands and his family came to Australia when he was a boy. He learned the piano, both in the country of his birth, and with some difficulty it must be said, in his new country.

After some time he began a career playing the piano and teaching. He discovered a piano made by WAYNE STUART and was taken by the instrument.

Wayne Stuart

Wayne was a cabinet maker in Tasmania and he was fascinated by pianos. As a boy, youth and adult he'd like to take old pianos apart and put them back together again, both to repair them and to see how they worked.

It was through doing this that he discovered that standard pianos lacked something at the extremes – the very high and very low notes didn't ring as clearly as those in the middle.

Eventually he found a way of overcoming this and built his own pianos (that also had more keys such that it spanned a full eight octaves).

Brendan noticed that no Australian had ever recorded the complete piano sonatas of Beethoven. Indeed, few anywhere had done that. He thought that Gerard would be the man for the job and suggested it to him.

Gerard realized it was a big undertaking but agreed to do it; but it had to be using the Stuart piano.

Brendan approached the ABC (Australian Broadcasting Company) and they thought it was a good idea. However, they had doubts about the piano as some visiting pianists had tried it (notably Christopher Hogwood, who insisted on a Steinway) and didn't like it much.

They were unused to the clear sound all the way along the keyboard. The ABC suggested they used a different piano. Gerard said he would only do it if he could play the Stuart.

The ABC asked Brendan if he could think of someone else but he said he'd only be involved if Gerard was the one playing.

Stalemate.

Eventually it was all sorted out the way it was originally intended to be and the box set was released to universal acclaim (including by me). That was some years ago.

Brendan wrote the book about the experience (and much more) and it was released recently. In the mean time, some previously little-known Beethoven piano works were discovered and Gerard recorded those as well as the piano concertos and the Dirabelli variations.

The original works were remastered and released in an even bigger boxed set along with the new works, again to overwhelming acclaim.

I'm going to play some music from the box as well as some other pieces of Beethoven for a bit of variety.

The three "new" sonatas (I'll be playing parts of two of them) Ludwig wrote when he was 11 and 12 years old.

Beethoven

We're used to prodigies in classical music – Mendelssohn, Schubert and Mozart in particular – but we don't usually lump Beethoven in with them. Perhaps we should rethink that.

This is the first of the pieces. Just think what you were doing when you were 11 years old.

The first movement of the Piano Sonata in E-flat major, WoO 47, No 1.

♫ Piano Sonata in E-flat major, WoO 47, no 1 (1)

The Duo for Two Flutes in G Major, WoO26 is the final work Ludwig composed while he was still in Bonn (where he was born and raised). He left for Vienna soon afterwards.

He wrote it for a friend of his to play and it wasn't intended for public performance, and wasn't published in his lifetime. It has two movements and we'll hear the first of these.

It has the great Jean-Pierre Rampal and the not quite so well known Alain Marion playing the flutes.

♫ Allegro & Minuet for 2 flutes, WoO26 (1)

Beethoven

Ludwig composed five sonatas for cello and piano. He pretty much invented the genre as the cello had only recently come into its own as a solo instrument. It had been around in string quartets of course (thanks to Haydn) but no one had thought to bring it to the fore.

Although this one is called number two, it's actually the last of the five that he wrote. So, to the third movement of the Cello Sonata in D major Op.102 N°2. Heinrich Schiff plays the cello and Till Fellner the piano.

♫ Cello Sonata in D major Op.102 N°2 (3)

Beethoven

Back to the piano sonatas. The sonata No 4 was dedicated to the Countess Babette Keglevich, who was his pupil at the time. Ludwig apparently had the hots for Babette (this wasn't unusual for him), but as normally happened, nothing came of it.

Not quite nothing. We got this piece of music, generally considered the first of his great sonatas. The fourth movement of the Piano Sonata No 4 in E-flat major, Op. 7.

♫ Piano Sonata No 4 in E-flat major, Op. 7 (4)

To mix things up a bit, here is some singing. We have something from an oratorio called Christus am Ölberge, or Christ on the Mount of Olives. It was the only oratorio that Ludwig composed and he was very dissatisfied with it, revising it several times both before and after it was first performed.

He remarked at the time that he'd much prefer to set secular works to music than religious ones. Here is a duet called So Ruhe Denn, sung by Maria Venuti and Keith Lewis.

♫ Christus am Ölberge, Op. 85 (9)

Beethoven

Another work that wasn't published in his lifetime, indeed, it wasn't finished – only two movements were written. It's a Duo for Viola and Cello in E flat major WoO 32. It has a subtitle by Ludwig "With two eyeglasses obbligato.”

It's pretty well established that he played this with his friend, the amateur cellist Nikolaus Zmeskall, who apparently lent his glasses to Ludwig at the time. Alas, we don't have those two to play for us, instead it's a couple of members of the Zurich String Quintet.

The CD doesn't specify which two are playing.  It's the second movement.

♫ Duet for Viola & Cello in E flat major WoO 32 (2)

Yet another composition Ludwig wrote just before leaving Bonn. He wrote most of his works for wind instruments when he was quite young, possibly he was still overawed somewhat by Haydn and didn't yet have the confidence to tackle Papa Jo's domain of symphonies and string quartets. He certainly overcame that reticence.

Anyway, here's the first movement for the Octet for 2 oboes, 2 clarinets, 2 bassoons & 2 horns in E Flat Major, Op.103.

♫ Octet for 2 oboes, 2 clarinets, 2 bassoons & 2 horns in E Flat Major, Op.103 (1)

The third of the very early sonatas – Ludwig was all of 12 when he wrote (and presumably played) this one. It's the first movement of the Piano Sonata in D major, WoO 47, No 3.

♫ Piano Sonata in D major, WoO 47, No 3 (1)

Beethoven

Everything else I've included today is for small ensembles or a single instrument. However, Ludwig's most famous works (except for the piano sonatas) involve full orchestra so I've decided to include a token one of those, a part of one of his symphonies.

That's not as easy as it seems as the movements of most of them are really too long for a column such as this and the shorter movements from my favorite (number 6) actually flow into each other so there's no distinct cut off point.

I turned to Symphony No 8 in F, Op 93 and have included the third movement.

♫ Symphony No 8 in F Op 93 (3)

I'll finish with one of the most famous piano sonatas - and one of the most beautiful. The first movement of the Piano Sonata No 14 in C sharp minor, Op. 27, No. 2, usually known as the Moonlight.

♫ Piano Sonata No 14 in C-sharp minor, Op. 27, No. 2 (1)

Declaration: I was sent the book, The Beethoven Obsession by the author. However, I was going to buy it when I heard about it (or perhaps get it from the library). If you're interested in the book or the disks of Gerard playing the piano sonatas you can find out about them here.

Gerard Willems & Brendan Ward


INTERESTING STUFF – 3 May 2014


GRANDFATHER SURPRISE

The man you see in this video is an only child. So is his grown son. Watch his reaction when that son and his daughter-in-law tell him he is going to be a grandfather.


THE RACE HORSE ARTIST

Metro Meteor is a retired race horse. A very successful race horse. Like many humans do in retirement, he has taken up oil painting.

Metro Painting

Metro Meteor got a big story in The New York Times this week and he's been featured on the Today show. Take a look.


ELDERS GIVE GOVERNOR SCOTT AN EARFUL

It is no secret that Florida Governor Rick Scott doesn't like Obamacare and he likes to tell anyone who will listen how it will hurt them.

Last week, he went to a senior center in Boca Raton to collect horror stories about the Affordable Care Act. It didn't quite work out the way he expected.

There is no video from the meeting so John Iadarola of The Young Turks online news service (TYT Network) read some of what the old people told the governor as quoted in the Sun Sentinel.

Tom Delmore was the first reader to tell me about this one.


EPIC BOOK OF MIND BOGGLING TOP 10 LISTS

I am such a sucker for this kind of thing. It is pure, deep silliness, piles of useless information. Wonderful stuff.

Everyone likes lists and this two-inch thick paperback has a load of the funniest, oddest, weirdest ones around – 164 of them. Okay, a few have only eight items but who's counting.

One I like is “Classic Toys and Games That are Older Than You Think.” Did you have any idea that the ancient Greeks played with yo-yos? I didn't. And that there was a version of paintball called wax dueling that involved pistols and wax bullets in the early 20th century?

Another list I like is the “Top 10 Criminals Caught Thanks to their Own Stupidity.” In one case, a pair of men in Colombia used the computers in an internet cafe for awhile then pulled out guns and robbed the place. They were nabbed because one of them forgot to sign out of his Facebook account.

ListverseBookCover125 This stuff is addictive and I'm going to spend way too many hours (days?) going through it all. The title is Listverse.com's Epic Book of (Mind-Boggling) Top10 Lists by Jamie Frater and it is available at all the usual book outlets.


CYBERSENIORS DOCUMENTARY

If you've been reading this blog for more than a couple of days, you know how much I believe in the internet for old people. Now there is an upcoming documentary from some people who feel just like I do. Here is the trailer:

A screening of Cyber-Seniors is being held at the local theater in my town in late May or June, is being shown in a variety of places throughout the U.S. and more venues are being added.

You can find out if it will be available near you at the website.


DOVE MAGIC

Darcy Oakes is a magician who uses a lot of doves. He appeared not long ago on Britains Got Talent. That's all you need to know. Prepare to be amazed.

(I cannot remember how I found this video so if I owe anyone a hat tip, do let me know.)


DAVID BLAINE AND HARRISON FORD MAGIC

Let's have some more magic – this time of a smaller scale but no less amazing.

For reasons we are not privy to, magician David Blaine was visiting at actor Harrison Ford's home. In the kitchen, Blaine pulled off some fruit magic and Ford reacted. Take a look.


CATS THINK HUMANS ARE JUST BIG CATS – DUMB ONES

The New York Times reported on a book titled Cat Sense from British biologist John Bradshaw which, says the Times, “provides the best answers that science can give for the time being” about what cats are thinking.

In the book, Bradshaw explains that unlike dogs, cats have not been bred for domestication so they have not changed as much as dogs from their wild ancestors.

And in fact, according to Bradshaw, 85 percent of all cat matings (presumably in England anyway – the NYT doesn't say) are arranged by the cats themselves between ferals and housecats.

”As for cats’ attitudes toward their owners, Dr. Bradshaw thinks they regard them not as kittens but as a combination of mother-substitutes and larger, nonhostile cats.”

You can read the entire review here.


DEEP SEA DIVING – IN A WHEELCHAIR

This video has been all over the interwebs this week and there is a good reason. The footage of performance artist, Sue Austin, is mesmering.

Here is her TEDtalk that includes her video of her underwater exploration in her wheelchair.


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.


What You Can Do at the Medicare and SSA Websites

[NOTE TO NON-U.S. READERS: You can safely skip reading today's post. It's all about the American system of Social Security and medical care for elders.]

In the eight years since I joined Medicare, my card has become not just smudgy but nearly in shreds. I have always wondered why it is issued on paper instead of plastic.

Even cardboard would be better. But no, and this photo doesn't show how fragile mine really is – that with the slightest mishandling it could easily disintegrate.

Medicare Card

Last week, I visited the Medicare website to see how to get a new card and it was easy – especially so because I had previously registered for My Medicare. A few clicks, no more than two minutes, and I was advised that it would soon be in the mail.

Because I recently had a physical exam and wellness visit with my primary care physician along with cataract surgery in both eyes and a foot problem that required some minor physical therapy, I've had more medical bills in two or three months than I usually have in that many years.

But all of the charges and payments are listed clearly for each physician and other specialists along with what I may or may not be expected to pay depending on my Medigap coverage.

Medicare has always snailmailed these healthcare documents but I like having them so tidy and available online – and not taking up the large amount of desk drawer space as in the past.

Also in My Medicare are my preferred providers (available if you've entered the information), current Medigap and Part D coverage details and there is a space for a remarkably thorough health summary if you take the time to enter all that information so it's all in one place.

Questions? In addition to the usual 800 number for Medicare, there is a button for a live online chat. And that is all in addition to the main Medicare website with databases of doctors, group practices and tons of other useful information.

Over at the Social Security website, there is another “my” service - My Social Security. You can check your benefit and payment details, change your bank deposit information when you need to, view earnings records, get a replacement card, a benefit verification letter and more.

Nearly 20 years ago when I was managing editor at the then-brand new cbsnews.com, everyone was new at making websites. At that time, CNN was the only other news site and we were stealing ideas from one another every day.

They, we and all kinds of other novices like us, many – also like us – at big-name companies, were making mistakes every day, learning while we were earning. The one place that was light years ahead of us was the Social Security website.

In those days, I used to exchange email with the woman (I'm so sorry I've forgotten her name) who was in charge of it and learned so much from her. Our website was almost as complicated as hers but in different ways so she and I traded ideas and I know I benefited much more than she did.

Now, all these years later (and the Affordable Care Act website debacle notwithstanding), the Social Security and Medicare websites are even better - models of user friendliness and efficiency.

If you haven't, you should explore them and sign up for My Social Security and My Medicare so they will be ready for you when you need them. Our tax dollars pay for these websites and they are worth every penny.


At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Norm Jenson: Now and Then


Favorite Childhood Foods

Writing this blog has its ups and downs. There are times when I am dry – not an idea in my head, nothing I want to write.

Other times, the future-topics list is so long that the problem becomes choosing. That's what I have now – certainly nothing to complain about.

But yesterday, as I was eeny, meeny, miney, moeing the list, I saw Wednesday's story from Mark Bittman, the lead food writer at The New York Times:

"The comfort food of others rarely appeals to us; it’s our own that matters. I know people who drool at the sight of a bowl of rice, who cannot possibly resist it and, almost needless to say, many people feel the same way about pasta...

"Last weekend I chatted with a third-generation Irishman whose wife is a vegetarian and does the cooking; he sneaks out once a week for meat, potatoes and gravy.

"My younger daughter seeks comfort in white beans with garlic, oil and greens, which I often made for her when she came home from school during a particularly poignant period of our lives.

"Your environment teaches you what comfort food is."

While reminiscing about how childhood Sunday mornings with bagels, lox and cream cheese persist as an adult craving, Bittman then turns his essay into a lament about unhealthy food traditions:

”...when childhood food preferences are formed around foodlike substances that were invented in the last 50 years by scientists and marketers looking to develop 'food' that appeals to that same comfort-craving part of your brain — without any consideration of tradition or quality — that’s a bad situation.”

There's no arguing against that but let's ignore Bittman's high-minded food fit for today and anyway, a whole lot of our homemade childhood favorites aren't much healthier than a bacon double cheeseburger.

Like, for example, macaroni and cheese – at least the way I make it.”

For most of my life, it was a homely, homemade dish that has, in recent years become a staple of supermarket deli departments and shows up even on the menus of a few higher end restaurants. That's cheating. If you don't make it yourself the way mom did, it's not worth eating.

Although Bittman's lox and cream cheese on a bagel is on my list of comfort food too, the one always at the top of my list is a peanut butter and jelly sandwich. And no, you really don't know what you're talking about if you call it a “PB&J.” (That's a modern innovation of the awful American need to reduce every phrase in the English language to an acronym.)

You gotta say the whole thing – peanut butter and jelly sandwich – and you can't use that nasty stuff that combines the peanut butter and jelly in a one jar. Wrong.

But that's just me.

I don't indulge in any of these three favorites often anymore but when I'm feeling down or blue or tired of living now and then, there's nothing like a big bowl of macaroni and cheese (homemade, my recipe), lox on a bagel or peanut butter and jelly – foods that have been making me feel good since before I can remember.

What about you? Our palates may become more sophisticated when we grow up but I'm betting that most of you, like me, go for the simple pleasures from childhood when you need a little TLC.


At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Henry Lowenstern: Artful Aging