Saturday, 25 October 2014

INTERESTING STUFF – 25 October 2014


According to the story at The New York Times,

”Knots are an ancient technology. They predate the axe and the wheel, quite possibly the use of fire and maybe even man himself: Some scientists have speculated that the first knotters were animals, gorillas who tied simple 'granny knots,' interlacing branches to construct nests.”

The Times made a little film of Des Pawson, one of the world's few experts on knots. Who knew knots are so fascinating.

You can read more about Mr. Pawson and knots here.


President Barack Obama stopped by his home voting precinct in Chicago last Tuesday to mark his early ballot. In the booth next to him was Aia Cooper. Her boyfriend, Mike Jones, was nearby. Hilarity ensued. Watch.

It turned out well for everyone. Aia and Mike had a voting experience they'll never forget and Obama got a light moment that must have been a relief from the grief he gets from all sides these days.


As interesting as the rope story was, this one is awful. You would think the newspaper of record could get something as simple as this right:

Headline: Anti-Agism Is the Problem; Plastic Surgery is the Symptom

Huh? Actually, “anti-ageism” is the cure. And it would be good if the paper could spell ageism correctly. Their version makes it seem that the story has something to do with farming.

[UPDATE AT 8AM: TGB reader Pat Trimple emailed to note that The Times has changed the headline, removing the word "Anti-" and correcting the spelling.]

In addition, the “debate” itself is less that illuminating. Could that have something to do with how the issue was mis-named in the headline? See for yourself here.


Ever since the 2008 crash, the economy has been front and center in the news. But how much do you really understand about what economists are talking about – the economy, money itself, banking and all?

If you're anything like me, not much. But now, a company called We the Economy has produced 20-odd short films explaining how money and economies work in words and pictures anyone can easily grasp.

Here is Chapter 6 called That Film About Money that cleared up a lot of fuzzy thinking I've had:

That video is from the second section called What is Money? There are four other sections titled as follows. Each contains several videos:

What is the Economy?
What is the Role of Our Government?
What is Globalization?
What Causes Inequality?

I haven't watched the entire series yet but I've already learned plenty from the ones I've seen. Here is the second part of the video above titled, oddly enough, Second Part of That Film About Money:

You can find out more about the work of We the Economy at their website where you can also watch all the videos, or you can find the collection on the YouTube page.

Trust me, the videos are smart and compelling. You'll learn a lot and be better prepared to evaluate what economists, politicians and others tell you about the economy.


Bob Mankoff is the cartoon editor of The New Yorker which is, undoubtedly, the premier source of great cartoons in the United States.

Last week he published a video that is the first of a new weekly series, The Cartoon Lounge, he will present about some of the cartoons in that week's issue of the magazine.

In this first outing, he considers several cartoon cliches - like desert islands, for one - and finishes up by answering a couple of questions about cartooning from readers.

Take a look:

You can read more about Mankoff's new series here.


The people who produce We the Economy videos (above) do an excellent job of making a tough topic more clear. So does John Oliver but he's also funny about it - even with painful topics which often makes his points more illuminating.

This time he tells the terrible story of how the United States treats the foreign nationals who provide crucial translation services in war zones, risking their lives and those of their families for U.S. soldiers.


Peter Tibbles, the TGB musicologist whose column appears here on Sundays, emailed this true little tale. It is about Brian Schmidt who ran afoul of airport security in Fargo, North Dakota on his way home to Australia.

An excerpt would ruin the story so here is the whole thing as it appeared in Scientific American:

”When I won this, my grandma, who lives in Fargo, North Dakota, wanted to see it. I was going to visit so I decided I’d take my Nobel Prize.

“You would think that carrying around a Nobel Prize would be uneventful, and it was uneventful, until I tried to leave Fargo with it, and went through the X-ray machine.

“I could see they were puzzled. It was in my laptop bag. It’s made of gold, so it absorbs all the X-rays—it’s completely black. And they had never seen anything completely black.

“They’re like, 'Sir, there’s something in your bag.'

“I said, 'Yes, I think it’s this box.'

“They said, 'What’s in the box?'

“I said, 'a large gold medal,' as one does.

“So they opened it up and they said, 'What’s it made out of?'

“I said, 'gold.'

“And they’re like, 'Uhhhh. Who gave this to you?'

“'The King of Sweden.'

“'Why did he give this to you?'

“'Because I helped discover the expansion rate of the universe was accelerating.'

“At which point, they were beginning to lose their sense of humor. I explained to them it was a Nobel Prize, and their main question was, ‘Why were you in Fargo?'”


The more high tech our world gets, the more I seem to appreciate old-fashioned, low-tech things. This one, from Darlene Costner, fits my interest fantastically. And I don't think I've ever seen such an accomplished puppeteer. You will be amazed.


Alan Goldsmith who blogs at Eldersparks sent this video about another new use for 3D printers – an amazingly wonderful one. The Youtube page says,

”Touchable Memories is a social experiment where we gave technology an innovative application, testing it in an unexplored field and achieving incredible results, making people aware of the endless possibilities of using technology to make our lives better.”


Here's the latest lesson from the Friskies chief house cat to the newly arrived kitten.

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 include the name of the blog and its URL.

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Friday, 24 October 2014

Old People Want More From Life than Safety

On Wednesday this week, I told you about Dr. Atul Gawande's exceptional new book, Being Mortal: Medicine and What Matters in the End. The post prompted a friend I'd not heard from in awhile to email.

Suzette Boydston is director of the Department of Auxiliary & Volunteer Services of Samaritan Albany General Hospital in Albany, Oregon, the Samaritan Pacific Health Services Senior Companion Program and serves on a number of boards related to elder services including the Governor’s Commission on Senior Services.

Whew! That is to say, she knows what she's talking about.

Suzette wrote to recommend a documentary to me. She said that she had screened it for one of her advisory boards and that “The discussion following was lively and very interesting.”

No wonder. The Thin Edge of Dignity is a powerful statement from Dick Weinman, who wrote and delivers the script on camera, about what his life is like in an assisted living facility (ALF), and it immediately reminded me of Gawande's book.

(Duh. That is, of course, exactly why Suzette sent it to me.)

Weinman is a retired professor of broadcast communications at Oregon State University, an author and former radio personality. The 20-minute documentary contrasts his life as it is today in the ALF with how he lived before a terrible auto accident left him disabled and without the ability to take care of daily needs.

The Thin Edge of Dignity is a powerful companion piece to Gawande's indictment of the way ALFs and nursing homes in America are commonly run. In Being Mortal, Gawande tells of an 89-year-old woman who decided on her own that it was time for a nursing home.

”She picked the facility herself. It had excellent ratings and nice staff...She told me she was glad to be in a safe place – if there's anything a decent nursing home is built for, it is safety. But she was wretchedly unhappy.

“The trouble was that she expected more from life than safety. 'I know I can't do what I used to,' she said, 'but this feels like a hospital, not a home.'

“...The woman had left an airy apartment she furnished herself for a small beige hospital-like room with a stranger for a roommate. Her belongings were stripped down to what she could fit in the one cupboard and shelf they gave her.

“Basic matters, like when she went to bed, woke up, dressed, and ate, were subject to the rigid schedule of institutional life. She couldn't have her own furniture or a cocktail before dinner because it wasn't safe.”

Gawande goes on to say that some elders refuse to succumb to the rigid routine of nursing homes or ALFs and have their ways of fighting back.

As he relates in his book, when one resident called for help to the bathroom too often to suit the staff, they put her on a set schedule every two hours to match their rounds. When she resisted by wetting her bed, they put her in diapers.

“Another resident,” reports Gawande, “refuses to use his walker and takes unauthorized, unaccompanied walks. A third sneaks cigarettes and alcohol.

“A woman with severe Parkinson's disease keeps violating her pureed diet restrictions, stealing food from other residents that could cause her to choke. A man with Alzheimer's disease hoards snacks in his room, violating house rules.

“A diabetic is found eating clandestine sugar cookies and pudding, knocking his blood sugar levels off his target.

“Who knew you could rebel just by eating a cookie?”

As the 89-year-old woman stuck in the ALF proclaimed to Gawande, people want more than safety as they approach the end of their days.

With all that in mind, please take the time to watch Dick Weinman's documentary, The Thin Edge of Dignity. It will be a well-spent 20 minutes.

In Wednesday's post, I mentioned that the PBS documentary series, Frontline, is producing a program based on Atul Gawande's book, exploring the relationships doctors have with patients who are nearing the end of life.

The broadcast premier is scheduled for 13 January. Be aware, however, that PBS channels often shift dates around so check your local listings. Here is a trailer for the show:

At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Wendl Kornfeld: Nirvana, As We Define It

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Thursday, 23 October 2014

Social Security COLA for 2015

Yesterday, the Social Security Administration announced the amount of the annual Social Security cost-of-living-adjustment (COLA) for 2015. It is a minor uptick of 1.7 percent.

For the average monthly benefit of $1191.70, that means a $20.25 increase. Woo-hoo.

Although my increase is higher than that $20, when I account for the increases in my Medigap premium and my Medicare Part D premium, I come in at almost exactly the average increase: $19.65.

The only good news in this is that the Medicare Part B premium remains unchanged from 2014 at $104.90, deducted from the monthly Social Security benefit. (A few people pay more than $104.90 – there are charts for that here.)

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

“For the fifth time in six years the annual cost of living adjustment will be at an historically low level. Over this time, under the current formula, seniors have consistently received less than 2% in COLA increases with two years of zero COLAs even though their expenses continue to rise beyond that rate.”

When you include increases in normal monthly expenses (electricity, cable TV and internet, heating, auto insurance, homeowners insurance and/or HOA, etc.) it is unlikely that anyone who relies on Social Security for the majority of his/her income will not fall behind in 2015. I certainly will.

One reason the COLA is inadequate to keep up with inflation is that elder spending differs dramatically from how the Consumer Price Index (CPI), on which the COLA is calculated, determines the rate of inflation. The NCPSSM again:

”The typical person on Medicare pays about $4,700 out of pocket in premiums, cost sharing for Medicare-covered benefits, and costs for services not covered by Medicare.

“Seniors spend 14% of their budget on health expenses which is nearly three times the share of spending in non-Medicare households.”

As we have discussed in these pages in the past, because elders' spending differs from the average working family, there ought to be a different price index for old consumers. And there is one as, again, the NCPSSM reminded us yesterday:

”The experimental CPI-E was developed in 1987 to reflect the different spending patterns of consumers age 62 and older. This formula acknowledges that health costs represent a much larger percentage of seniors’ monthly spending than is the case with other demographic groups.

“A fully developed CPI-E would more accurately measure the real-world expenses retirees’ face than the current COLA formula and would be far more accurate than the proposed Chained CPI which would cut projected benefits over time.”

You can read details of the CPI-E here. So far there has been no traction in Congress for adopting it.

Although Republican lawmakers in Washington have been trying to cut Social Security benefits for decades – recall President George W. Bush's pressure to privatize the program in 2005, among others – there are organizations and people trying to improve Social Security.

Keep your eye on Senators Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders who support expanding Social Security and vehemently oppose cuts. With few resources, the NCPSSM works hard for us – you might want to donate a little to help in their efforts.

Social Security Works also does an excellent job for elders. Just recently, they reported that their polling shows remarkable public support across party lines for adding a caregiver credit to Social Security. You can read about that here.

And here is an informative video reminder of how important Social Security is to all Americans.

You'll be reading more from me about Social Security during the 2016 presidential campaign (which begins in earnest the day after the 4 November midterm election) when, over the next two years, more proposals to cut Social Security and Medicare will, without doubt, be offered from certain kinds of candidates.

Meanwhile, enjoy your 1.7 percent COLA.

At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Bettijane Eisenpress: When the Time Comes

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Wednesday, 22 October 2014

A Super-Important, Amazing New Book on End-of-Life Care

For the past couple of days I've been reading Being Mortal: Medicine and What Matters in the End from Atul Gawande, the Harvard Medical School professor who is also a surgeon at Brigham and Women's Hospital in Boston and a staff writer at The New Yorker.

When a new issue of that magazine arrives containing Gawande's byline, I usually stop what I'm doing to sit down right away and enjoy a new essay by one of the most brilliant, sensitive, thoughtful people writing today.

BeingmortalgawandeThis new book, his fourth, is a cri de coeur against the “medicated mortality” treatment that is the norm in the United States for elders in the last stages of life. In explaining what is wrong with current healthcare for the aged and dying, Gawande writes in the introduction:

”You don't have to spend much time with the elderly or those with terminal illness to see how often medicine fails the people it is supposed to help. The waning days of our lives are given over to treatments that addle our brains and sap our bodies for a sliver's chance of benefit.

“They are spent in institutions – nursing homes and intensive care units – where regimented, anonymous routines cut us off from all the things that matter to us in life.

“Our reluctance to honestly examine the experience of aging and dying has increased the harm we inflict on people and denied them the basic comforts they most need.

“Lacking a coherent view of how people might live successfully all the way to their very end, we have allowed our fates to be controlled by the imperatives of medicine, technology and strangers.”

He is, of course, exactly right and it takes nothing away from Gawande to say that many – probably even most – of us on the patient side of the treatment equation have known these things forever.

However, unlike you and me, Gawande has solutions and as with brilliant answers to problems in other realms of life, his are deceptively simple – of the “I've always known that, why didn't I know that before” variety. It's just that no one else saying them is as widely read or respected as Gawande.

With the help of stories about his aging patients, his own father's last years, interviews with geriatricians and studies that illuminate needed changes, Gawande spends the rest of the book telling us what it will take to change end-of-life care into something humane.

This is the most important book on aging and dying in a long, long time. As it deserves, it is being widely reviewed and discussed, and Frontline is preparing an entire show about it for broadcast in January.

Meanwhile, Gawande is currently doing the book tour circuit to promote Being Mortal and a lot of those interviews turn up on YouTube. Here is a short excerpt of Gawande with Amy Goodman on her Democracy Now television show:

You can see the full interview here where there is also a transcript.

Being Mortal is a watershed book. It will change end-of-life treatment. It won't happen overnight, but it will happen. The book is that important.

At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Vicki E. Jones: The Last Hummingbird

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Tuesday, 21 October 2014

Crabby Old Lady v. the Cable Company

Crabby Old Lady does not like using her blog for rants about personal issues but every couple of years something so egregious happens that she cannot help herself.

This one is about trying to reduce her cable/internet costs and let Crabby say up front that if any of you are intending to flaunt your supposed virtue by telling her you have better things to do than watch television, don't.

Crabby likes television. She spent more than a third of her life producing network TV shows. It's in her blood.

She watches a lot of news and politics on television and, as she has maintained for the past four or five years, she believes we are living through a golden age of television drama - of much higher quality that most feature movies which Crabby hardly ever attends.

Now. Moving on.

Crabby's internet and television services are supplied by Comcast which is, according to the most recent annual American Customer Satisfaction Index (ACSI) from the University of Michigan, the second most hated company in the U.S., besting Time-Warner by one whole point.

When the new figures were released in May, ACSI noted,

”High prices, poor reliability, and declining customer service are to blame for low customer satisfaction with pay TV services.”

Crabby can attest to that, having had many arguments with the company's so-called customer service representatives (CSR) over the past four years mostly about unexplained and unexpected price increases every six months.

Not to mention, if your cable/internet service is anything like Crabby's, the monthly statement is so cryptic that it may as well be written in Martian; there is no way to tell what the prices are for individual services.

This month, the new bill arrived with an increase of 9.5 percent – for this discussion, let's just round it up to 10. It's not like Crabby has noticed any enhanced service.

As far as she can tell, the increases are arbitrary – maybe when the company wants a new jet? Who knows? This time was more than Crabby could stand.

She called to see what could be done to lower her bill.

Because all the CSR's speak the same Martian language in which bills are written, Crabby doesn't understand how it happened but by the end of her first conversation with Comcast yesterday, the CSR told her that with the new “bundle,” she would be charged “only” a price that was - wait for it - six dollars higher than the new bill.

Did you get that? Higher.

There was no point in continuing so Crabby, with an immoderate comment or two, hung up. (Crabby just hates how CSRs turn people into raging harridans.)

So Crabby spent an hour looking into cutting the cord, dropping Comcast altogether. However, in her area, it is the only real broadband internet provider so she decided to see about keeping the internet but finding another source for television.

Since Crabby doesn't subscribe to premium channels, there ought to be a way with her smart TV, to work out television via internet apps. And there is. But it is complicated and Crabby doesn't have time this week to learn the details and make the best choices.

So she called Comcast again telling the recorded voice that she wants to cancel her service. (That statement always gets a better class of CSR.)

Crabby's intention was to give up the DVR on which she records programs so that she can watch them on her schedule and to reduce the service on her main TV set to what she has on the 10-year-old, 15-inch TV near her desk for news and political programs.

Her goal was two TVs each with only the most basic number of channels and no HD, no DVR, no On Demand viewing.

Just internet at the mid-level speed offered and the smallest number of basic channels on two sets.

But that was not possible. Not in the world of monopoly Comcast. The company does not allow anyone to buy these services individually; we are all forced to buy a “bundle.”

To have any television at all, Crabby is required to get a new box that doesn't record (DVR) or supply shows in HD but does give her the onscreen listing service and On Demand viewing (no other choice allowed) along with that intermediate level broadband for internet.

Now take a moment and see if you can figure out how much money Crabby saved. Here are the differences:

  • She gave up all those extra channels on her main TV in exchange for about 20-25 basic channels.
  • She got rid of HD and the DVD recorder.
  • She kept her little “news TV” at her desk for the same $2.99 per month.
  • She gave up TV altogether on the extra TV in the guest room. It can be used now only for DVDs.

Are you ready? The saving is approximately 20 bucks – 15 percent below the newest jacked-up price – about five percent lower than last month's bill before that increase. It doesn't seem worth the time - the CSR's or Crabby's.

According to several sources, about 19 percent of U.S. television customers have dropped cable altogether. Most are replacing it with combinations of indoor or outdoor rabbit ear antennas (remember those? they're back) along with Roku, Tivo or similar boxes and streaming services via smart TVs.

Crabby will soon join them but it shouldn't be this way. There shouldn't be only one premier TV/internet service per city but if we must, prices should be regulated.

Better would be other television providers and my town is one of half a dozen nationwide being considered by Google for their new fiber service for TV and internet. Maybe we will get it. Maybe at an affordable price. Or maybe not.

Meanwhile, it's a lot harder to set up television independent of the cable company so any experienced advice on handling the transition will be happily received by Crabby Old Lady.

At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Karen Zaun Kennedy: I Am From (take two).

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Monday, 20 October 2014

It's That Time Again - Medicare Enrollment

(EDITORIAL NOTE: International readers can take the day off – most of you live in countries with more sane health programs than the United States has and don't suffer this tedious, irritating annual ritual.)

Last Wednesday, 15 October, marked the start of the Medicare Open Enrollment period which lasts until 7 December. During this time, people 65 and older may, if they choose, make changes to their Advantage programs and their Part D prescription drug plans.

Oh joy.

If you currently have traditional Medicare, you are allowed to change to a private Advantage plan – or vice versa. Traditional Medicare does not provide drug coverage so you need a separate plan (Part D) for that.

Some Advantage plans cover drugs and others do not, so if you choose a plan without drug coverage you will need a stand-alone drug program as traditional Medicare enrollees do.


  • Part A covers inpatient hospital care, skilled nursing, hospice and home health care. It is free.
  • Part B covers preventive care, outpatient services and doctor visits. The monthly premium is deducted from your Social Security benefit.
  • Optional Medigap (or Supplemental) coverage pays for the “gap” between what Parts A and B cover and your out-of-pocket costs. You MAY NOT CHANGE this coverage during the 15 October-7 December open enrollment period.
  • Part C is another name for Advantage plans. These take the place of original Medicare (Parts A, B and Medigap). Premiums are usually lower, they often cover drugs but physician choice is limited to the company's network and physicians are allowed to drop out of the program mid-year.

Here is some good news. The monthly premium for Medicare Part B will remain unchanged for the second year in a row: $104.90 for most people which is deducted from your Social Security benefit.

Certain people pay higher Part B premiums. There are charts at the Department of Health and Human Services website where you can see if you are among them.

In past years during the open enrollment period, I have covered the possibilities in a lot of detail without even scratching the surface of all there is to know about Medicare.

This year, because it is such a gigantic, complicated program, I'm cutting down my reporting to the minimal you must know, and then provide a little context along with good links to help you through the ordeal – um, I mean process - of changes to coverage you might like to make.

Remember, even if you think you are happy with your current coverage, prices change, deductibles are added, subtracted, increased, etc., and drugs are added and deleted from companies' formularies. So it is just good sense to review your plans each year.

The website is not perfect but it gets better and easier to use each year. You can check your current enrollment, premiums, drugs list and find all sorts of general health information.

The steps to find your current coverage information are straightforward: fill in Zip Code, Medicare number, surname, the effective date of your initial Medicare enrollment and your birthdate. Medicare number and initial enrollment date are both on your Medicare card.

From there you can follow instructions to compare your current coverage to what is available in your state for 2015, be it Advantage plans or drug coverage. You can sort the lists by, among other criteria, deductible, star ratings, monthly premium and plan name.

Each listing tells you that information in addition to any restrictions, co-pays and for drugs, estimated annual cost. You can select several plans to compare them side-by-side.

When you have made a selection, you can follow a link to enroll online or you can enroll by telephone. If you want to keep your current coverage, do nothing and it will continue – well, except for a premium increase in most cases.

One of the best things about the selection tool for drug coverage is that if you take the time to enter all your prescriptions and their dosages, you will get a list of plans that cover what you need and you can then compare other criteria to select what works best for you.

In my case, I use no prescription drugs and since there is no way to guess what might happen to me and what kind of drugs I would need, I punt.

I choose the least expensive plan and hope (how's that for healthcare planning?) that whatever happens to me, I will be able to afford whatever drugs I need until the next year when I can select a different plan based on the drugs I need.

There were 28 prescription drug plans in my state, the least expensive of which would mean a premium increase of more than 104 percent. Huge. My current insurer is increasing the premium by “only” 25 percent with a slight increase in the deductible – so it's a no brainer.

I assume this is one method by which insurers keep current customers. Apparently, I am supposed to be grateful for such a “low” increase but I have trouble reconciling 25 percent compared to what will be about a 1.5 percent increase in the Social Security benefit for next year.

The annual open enrollment period is open season for scammers. You will likely receive many snailmail advertisements for Advantage and drug plans, and phone calls too. Be smart.

  • Never give out personal information such as Medicare and Social Security numbers, account numbers, etc. to anyone who has telephoned you. Ever. Medicare representatives never call to ask this kind of information.
  • If you are due a refund for any reason from a private insurer, it will be sent to you via postal mail. If anyone calls asking for personal information to receive your refund, it is probably a scam. Hang up.
  • Many legitimate companies are offering a variety of health coverage plans during this period. But some are not who they say they are or will employ high pressure tactics to try to sell you coverage you don't need. Be aware.
  • Many offers of “free” medical supplies or checkups via postal mail are excuses to extract personal information from you. Check them out carefully before agreeing to them.

Medicare website
Medicare telephone: 1-800-Medicare

Medicare and You
By now, Medicare enrollees will have received your annual Medicare and You booklet. If you have not received it, or misplaced it, there is an electronic version [pdf]. Note that only the print version has a list in the back of plans available in your state.

Medicare Find a Plan
Here is a direct link to the Medicare Find a Plan main page.

My Medicare Matters
The National Council on Aging (NCOA) maintains a good educational website with lots of trustworthy information about Medicare and how it works.

Medicare Rights Center Roadmaps
Another website with lots of helpful information from the Medicare Rights Center.

The State Health Insurance Assistance Program (SHIP) is a national program that offers one-on-one counseling and assistance to people with Medicare and their families. Search for your local SHIP website and counselors.

65 and Signing Up For the First Time
If you are new to Medicare, Kaiser Health News has a succinct one-pager to get you started with a lot of links to additional online information.

At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Trudi Kappel: Love by Gefilte Fish

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Sunday, 19 October 2014

ELDER MUSIC: States – South Dakota to Wyoming

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.

We're in the home stretch now. Here are the last of the states (alphabetically).

SouthDakota125It seems that whenever a town or city is mentioned in these songs, I have been there.

Not too unusual except that I live in a country on the other side of the world.

Rapid City is one place where I spent some days waiting for a radiator to be fixed. It came into close contact with a deer. I hasten to add that I was a passenger at the time, not the driver.

I don't know if KINKY FRIEDMAN has ever hit a deer but nothing would surprise me when it comes to the Kinkster.


Kinky is better known for being from Texas (and writing books about New York), but his song is about South Dakota. It's called Rapid City, South Dakota.

♫ Kinky Friedman - Rapid City, South Dakota

Tennessee125I don't know what it is about Tennessee that inspires waltzes, but there you go.

You probably think you know what's coming up given that introduction, but it's is not to be.

Anyone who knows the music of JESSE WINCHESTER has got it right though.


Jesse's song is The Brand New Tennessee Waltz.

♫ Jesse Winchester - The Brand New Tennessee Waltz

Texas125Another Texan, LYLE LOVETT, and his song is about that state.


To quote Tom Rush, "Lyle is not like the other children.” He has a really quirky attitude when it comes to writing songs but it's not too obvious in this one. It's called That's Right (You're Not from Texas). He performs it as if it's 1940 and Bob Wills is still the king.

♫ Lyle Lovett - That's Right (You're Not from Texas)

Utah125I couldn't find any songs about Utah, at least none with the state's name in the title.

I did find one where Utah was mentioned and that's good enough for me.With some of these I got a bit desperate. You might have noticed.

The song is sung by MARTY ROBBINS.

Marty Robbins

The song is Utah Carol, and it's taken from his terrific “Gunfighter Ballads” album.

♫ Marty Robbins - Utah Carol

Vermont125My choice for Vermont is Moonlight in Vermont.

There are many different versions of it, but one stood out as far as I'm concerned, and that is the one by BILLIE HOLIDAY. Regular readers are probably not surprised by that. I won't say anything else, just let Billie sing the song.


Billie Holiday - Moonlight in Vermont

Virginia125DAVE ALVIN first came to prominence in the band The Blasters with his brother Phil.


Since then he's had a solo career singing fine songs in his superb baritone voice. He mostly writes his own material, but he has released an album called "Public Domain" where he performed fine old songs, some dating back a century or more.

East Virginia Blues is one from that album.

♫ Dave Alvin - East Virginia Blues

Washington125Now to the hardest state of them all, Washington.

Oh, there are a lot of songs about Washington but they all refer to the city on the other side of the country.

I resorted to the intertube and there are some websites that suggest that there are no songs about Washington or, at least, none that mention the state in the title.

That was my unofficial criterion for these columns - that the name had to be in the title. Undeterred by that, I spent several days searching and finally found one. It's by M. WARD.

M Ward

M (his mum and dad weren't very imaginative in the naming department) has a song called Four Hours in Washington which I was assured is about the state. However, it isn't actually mentioned in the lyrics, but I'm desperate so it'll have to do.

♫ M. Ward - Four Hours in Washington

WestVirginia125KATHY MATTEA really was born in West Virginia.


So she's not lying when she sings West Virginia, My Home. Kathy was classically trained as a singer but discovered folk music and took up the guitar.

Since then she's ventured into gospel, bluegrass and has become a respected singer/songwriter. Anything she performs is well worth a listen.

♫ Kathy Mattea - West Virginia, My Home

Wisconsin125Thank heaven for GLENN YARBROUGH, he had the solitary Wisconsin song.


Readers with long musical memories know that Glenn started out as the lead singer for the Limeliters. He then went on to have a long solo career. Actually, the career is still continuing.

Glenn's song today is just called Wisconsin.

♫ Glenn Yarbrough - Wisconsin

Wyoming125Poor old Wyoming, always coming last alphabetically.

It never seems to be the thing to do something or other in reverse order. Even I haven't done that.

I could completely rearrange all these columns but that sounds like too much hard work, so I won't. Anyway, we have JOHN DENVER for this final state.


John's song is called Song of Wyoming.

♫ John Denver - Song of Wyoming

Well, that's it. Or is it? There's an obvious clichéd way to end this series and never let it be said that I'll always avoid the clichés.

So, an extra track from SIMON AND GARFUNKEL to sum up all that's gone before, simply called America.


♫ Simon and Garfunkel - America

Posted by Ronni Bennett at 05:30 AM | Comments (5) | Permalink | Email this post