Profanity and Crabby Old Lady

EDITORIAL NOTE: Ted Carr, who worked in the tech industry during some its most exciting years, retired about six years ago. He now hosts a podcast called Retirement Journeys – Real-Life Experience that Informs, Engages and Inspires and in February, he invited me to be a guest on his show.

We had a wonderful time talking about growing old, ageism, retirement, my career before that and much more. Ted has now posted the podcast at his website which you can listen to here. It's about 21 minutes long and there are more such podcasts you might find interesting.

Thank you, Ted. I am pleased and honored to have been asked.

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Every now and then, Crabby Old Lady has been known to publish words in these pages that in her youth were never said in “polite company” and certainly not used in newspapers and magazines targeting general audiences.

When TimeGoesBy was new, back in 2004 and for some years beyond, she would never use “dirty words” any more than The New York Times or the Washington Post or The New Yorker would do so those days.

But time passes, tastes change and those venerable publications along with TGB sometimes allow such “profanities” as shit, fuck, cock, etc.

Crabby is certain that those titans of mainstream print have codified editorial guidelines for the approved use of such informal language. Crabby? She just goes with what feels right at the moment. Quotations, of course, are acceptable. And on rare occasions – particularly when a politician has said something exceptionally stupid or loathsome – she'll let fly a “What the fuck.”

What Crabby can be sure of when she does that is that a cluster of unsubscribe notices will arrive indicating “offensive” as the reason for canceling. So be it.

A week ago, in his monologue, Late Night host Stephen Colbert ran afoul of people with similar pristine sensibilities and before the show ended, #firecolbert was trending on Twitter.

Here is his transgression prompted by President Trump having dissed Colbert's CBS coworker, John Dickerson:

Crabby is pretty sure you can figure out what he said. If not, here is how Inside Edition published the remark on their website including their coy abbreviation:

“You attract more skinheads than Rogaine... You have more people marching against you than cancer. You talk like a sign language gorilla who got hit in the head. In fact, the only thing your mouth is good for is for Vladimir Putin’s c*** holster."

The usual suspects, mostly those of the conservative persuasion, erupted as expected and it didn't take long for FCC Chairman Agit Pai (you know, the guy who wants to gut net neutrality so the big internet providers can make more money) to threaten Colbert with “appropriate action.”

”The FCC's response will depend on whether Colbert’s remarks are considered 'obscene,'” Pai said according to The Hill.

“'We are going to take the facts that we find and we are going to apply the law as it’s been set out by the Supreme Court and other courts and we’ll take the appropriate action,” [Pai] told Talk Radio 1210 WPHT Thursday.

“'Traditionally, the agency has to decide, if it does find a violation, what the appropriate remedy should be,' he said. 'A fine, of some sort, is typically what we do.'”

To do that, the FCC will need to meet the U.S. Supreme Court's test for obscenity and blah, blah, blah.

All this had Crabby Old Lady assuming that, based on nothing more than conventional wisdom and her experience with blog unsubscribers, old people are a large percentage of those taking umbrage with Colbert's somewhat unusual choice of words.

But maybe not. A quick (very quick, no big-time research involved) trip around the internet turned up this, for example, from a 2011 report about a then-new Broadway show. From the New York Post [their abbreviations, not mine]:

”Standing under the marquee for Broadway smash The Book of Mormon, 92-year-old theatergoer Gloria Lewis is shocked by the musical she just saw. Packed with profane lyrics, such as 'F – – – you, God, in the a – -, mouth and c – – – ’' and characters with names like 'General Butt-F – – – ing Naked,' you can hardly blame the sweet little old lady for being a bit ruffled.

“But Lewis isn’t agitated in any negative sense. In fact, she’s blown away by the 14-time Tony-nominated musical, which is drawing enthusiastic, raving crowds of seniors just like her nightly.

“Very brilliant!” says the feisty senior citizen from Queens, who is a retired investigator for the Department of Labor and laughs in the face of anyone who thinks she or either of her octogenarian pals might be offended by the language.

“As her girlfriends, 85 and 88, smile and giggle by her side, Lewis says matter-of-factly: 'F – – – is a very common word today. Offended? Not at all.'”

Last fall, Stanford University published a widely reported study titled Frankly, We Do Give a Damn on the relationship between profanity and honesty. The researchers concluded:

"On the one hand, profane individuals are widely perceived as violating moral and social codes, and thus deemed untrustworthy and potentially antisocial and dishonest.

"On the other hand, profane language is considered as more authentic and unfiltered, thus making its users appear more honest and genuine.

"These opposing views on profanity raise the question of whether profane individuals tend to be more or less dishonest..."

"We found a consistent positive relationship between profanity and honesty; profanity was associated with less lying and deception at the individual level, and with higher integrity at the society level."

The study did not differentiate among age groups but Crabby Old Lady now feels free to assert that when she lets loose a long string profane invective after having banged a toe or includes a mild “what the fuck” on this blog in reference to a latest political idiocy, she is being authentic, genuine and honest.

Anyone who disagrees is free to unsubscribe.

Meanwhile, last Wednesday, Stephen Colbert issued on his show, a non-apology while including an acknowledgement to the overly sensitive who believed his original comedic tirade was homophobic. (Oh please):

And so go the culture wars. What do you think?



ELDER MUSIC: Classical Gas - Part 6

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've run out of snappy titles for this series, named initially by Norma, the Assistant Musicologist, that I use to highlight lesser known composers who are seldom heard on radio or in concert.

The only thing PIERRE RODE seems to be remembered for these days is that Beethoven wrote his last violin concerto especially for him to play, as he was a great violinist according to reports, at least until later in life when his right hand was affected by an infection which reduced his prowess.

Rode

Pierre, however, was also a composer and not surprisingly, most of his compositions were for the violin. He was influenced by his teacher (Viotti) and he also later taught violin method at the Paris Conservatory. Here is the third movement of his Violin Concerto No 7.

♫ Rode - Concerto No. 7 (3)


Speaking of GIOVANNI VIOTTI, he deserves inclusion as well.

Viotti

Although born in (what's now) Italy he spent most of his life in Paris and London. He was once booted out of England because people thought he favored the revolution in France, however, the (English) king's daughter at the time, along with several of the upper crust spoke in his defence and he was invited back.

He became a British citizen later on and spent the rest of his life in that country.

The circle goes round and round - Gio was also a violinist of note and wrote a number of violin concertos that greatly influenced Beethoven's style in this genre. However, as we had one of those just above, I'll go with something else.

In this case it's one of his string quartets, the first movement of his String Quartet Op 3 No 3 in F.

♫ Viotti - String Quartet Op 3 No 3 in F (1)


I have a couple of complete sets of Chants d'Auvergne (Songs of the Auvergne) by JOSEPH CANTELOUBE. These were folk songs from the region he collected and orchestrated.

Canteloube

The one I've had for quite some time is by Kiri Te Kanawa, however, the recent one is rather interesting by SARA MACLIVER.

Sara Macliver

Sara is an Australian soprano from Perth and she's hot property in the opera world – look out for her if she comes your way. I've decided on pretty much the most famous, and popular, of the songs, Baïlèro.

♫ Sara Macliver - Chants d Auvergne Baïlèro


I saw (and heard) Josef Suk perform many years ago here in Melbourne; he played the violin (superbly). However, it's a different JOSEF SUK we have today.

Suk

Today's Joe is a composer and was the grandfather of the violinist. He was taught by Antonín Dvorák, whom he admired greatly, and Joe's compositions show the influence of Antonín. He also married Antonín's daughter.

Apparently they were very happy, but alas she died before turning 30. He never remarried. Besides composing, Joe played violin for many years as part of the Czech Quartet. Here is his Seranade for Piano and Cello, Op 3 in A Major.

♫ Suk - Serenade in A cello & piano Op 3 No 2


To my ears, the violin concerto by GIUSEPPE BRESCIANELLO sounds if it was written by J.S. Bach.

Brescianello

It's certainly possible that they listened to each other's music as their lives pretty much coincided, and although he was Italian, Giuseppe spent much of his life in Stuttgart.

However, I've not found any mention of their having met (but I haven't really searched diligently). You can judge for yourself with his first movement of the Violin Concerto in E Minor, Op. 1 No. 4.

♫ Brescianello - Violin Concerto in E Minor Op. 1 No. 4 (1)


VASSILIS TSABROPOULOS is a Greek composer and classical pianist, and just a whippersnapper – younger than anyone reading this column.

Tsabropoulos

He greatly admired the pianist Vladimir Ashkenazy who became his mentor and for whom he wrote a set of preludes. One of his most famous (and best selling) compositions is called Melos, here performed by him on piano, Anja Lechner on cello and U.T. Gandhi on drums.

Tsabropoulos

♫ Vassilis Tsabropoulos - Melos


LUIGI CHERUBINI was yet another composer who was really famous in his lifetime but is largely forgotten today.

Cherubini

Indeed, his contemporary Beethoven claimed he was the greatest composer alive at the time. This was after Haydn and Mozart had both died. I imagine that Ludwig added a silent asterisk footnote saying, "except for me, of course". We'll never know.

Luigi was most noted for his operas of which he wrote dozens. Later, he turned to church music. He also wrote some orchestral works and a number of rather fine string quartets. However, from his opera “Amida abbandonata” we have MARIA GRAZIA SCHIAVO performing the aria Qual da venti combattuta.

Maria Grazia Schiavo

♫ Cherubini - Armida abbandonata - Qual da venti combattuta


I decided to include this next gentleman purely for his splendid name: FERRUCCIO DANTE MICHELANGIOLO BENVENUTO BUSONI.

Busoni

I guess it's a case of judging a book by its cover, however, old Ferruccio was a pretty decent composer as well. He seems to have had the ultimate pushy parents, both of whom were musicians, dad a pianist and mum a clarinet player. He was taught both instruments and was a child prodigy.

He was pushed to perform from age seven by his folks and later claimed he didn't have a childhood. He toured all over the world and was in great demand as a pianist. He also wrote music, which is good for us.

One of the things he wrote is the Suite for Clarinet and String Quartet K.176. This is the first movement.

♫ Busoni - Suite for Clarinet and String Quartet K.176 (1)


Another good name is JEAN-JOSEPH CASSANEA DE MONDONVILLE.

Mondonville

J-J was born into an aristocratic family in Narbonne in south west France who had fallen on hard times. I can't find any reason for this; it was probably one of the usual ways of that happening.

Anyway, he moved to Paris and caught the eye and ear of Madame de Pompadour who was Louis XV's main squeeze. Through her he got a bunch of decent jobs. He was a violinist by trade but wrote music in many genres.

This is his Sonata for Harpsichord and Violin in C.

♫ Mondonville - Sonata for Harpsichord & Violin in C



INTERESTING STUFF – 6 May 2017

PRESIDENT OBAMA ON CRITICISM AND FERVOR

Shortly before he left the presidency, Barack Obama sat down for an extensive interview with Ta-Nehisi Coates to discuss what it is like to be a symbol of power and the recipient of people's anger and excitement.

This short excerpt stands out, in contrast to our new president, for its thoughtfulness, charm and intelligence.

Read Coates's full interview at The Atlantic.

HOUSE OF CARDS SEASON 5 TRAILER

The latest season of House of Cards starts streaming at Netflix on Tuesday 30 May. Is it possible that Kevin Spacey's president is scarier than the one we have? It seems so in this trailer.

AGRICULTURE ROLLS BACK SCHOOL LUNCH NUTRITION GUIDELINES

Most of you, and certainly I, are old enough to remember the guffaws when the administration of President Ronald Reagan tried to name ketchup a vegetable in nutritional regulations for school lunches.

Now there is the Trump Department of Agriculture under Secretary Sonny Perdue lowering nutritional requirements put in place at the behest of First Lady Michelle Obama:

”As his first major action in office, Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue said the Agriculture Department will delay an upcoming requirement to lower the amount of sodium in meals while continuing to allow waivers for regulations that all grains on the lunch line must be 50 percent whole grain.

“'By forgoing the next phase of sodium reduction, the Trump administration will be locking in dangerously high sodium levels in school lunch,' Wootan said.”

You can read more at the Washington Post.

In other political food news, a Republican Representative Mo Brooks of Alabama offered an amendment to the American Health Care Act that would ”...require sicker people to pay more in insurance costs than people 'who lead good lives,'” whatever that means.

Who ARE these people? Talking Points Memo has more detail.

IT'S NOT JUST OLD PEOPLE – THE DOORWAY EFFECT

Pretty much everyone complains about walking into a room and forgetting why they are there. It's mostly old folks who get tagged with that shortcoming but this research contends that memory isn't the difficulty, doorways are. See what you think.

Thank laura and her daughter Sara for this item.

FINLAND'S WEIRD HOBBY HORSE REVOLUTION

My friend Wendl Kornfeld sent this – a very strange teenage girl fad from her ancestral homeland. Take a look:

Did you watch until the end? Did you see that his video is a trailer for the a full-length movie? There is even a whole website about it – the fad, not the movie. I do not know what to say about this. You can read a little more here.

TRICORDER BECOMING A REALITY?

If you were and/or still are a fan of Star Trek: The Next Generation, you certainly recall the tricorder, a hand-held medical instrument used by those future fictional physicians to diagnose disease and collect health information by just waving it over ther patient's body.

Now, there may be something similar for us in the not too distant future. It's called DxtER (pronounced Dexter) and is, according to a story in Salon,

”...a tablet-based system that uses several biological sensors and analytic software that can track vital signs and uncover medical conditions — 34 in all, from diabetes and pulmonary diseases to tuberculosis and Hepatitis A.”

The inventors, a seven-member team of friends and relatives from Pennsylvania, just won a Qualcomm international contest that gives them

The “tricorder” is even more impressive than I have indicated. Take a look at this:

You can learn a lot more about it in the Salon story.

LAST SILENT PLACE ON EARTH

As the YouTube page explains, Gordon Hempton, a “soundtracker” is on a personal quest to preserve silence in nature. Twelve years ago, Hempton resolved to find the quietest place in Washington's Hoh rainforest, itself a haven of silence. Take a look:

THE DEPRIVATIONS OF THE PRIVILEGED

You may have noticed that a book by First Daughter Ivanka Trump was published this week. It has been pretty well trashed in many reviews and this item was every critic's favorite revelation:

"'During extremely high-capacity times, like during the campaign, I went into survival mode: I worked and I was with my family; I didn’t do much else,' Trump writes.

"'Honestly,' she continues, 'I wasn’t treating myself to a massage or making much time for self-care. I wish I could have awoken early to meditate for 20 minutes and I would have loved to catch up with the friends I hadn’t seen in three months, but there just wasn’t enough time in the day.'"

You can find the quotation all over the web including here.

BABY LAMBS AND BUNNIES AND PIGLETS

What could be better, especially after that last item:

Edgar’s Mission is a not for profit sanctuary in Australia for rescued farmed animals that seeks to create a humane and just world for humans and non-humans.

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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” at the top of any Time Goes By page to send them. I'm sorry that I 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.


How Elders and Their Physicians Might Collaborate

patient-doctors-office

The U.S. geriatrician population has been hovering around 7,000 for several years without much change. At the same time, the elder population grows by about 10,000 a day. You see the problem.

One reason is that geriatrics is at the bottom of the pay scale for doctors and one reason for that is the time-consuming nature of the field wherein patients' needs are more complex than younger adults. As U.S. News reported in 2015:

”Unlike other physicians who might specialize in one organ system or disease, geriatricians must be adept at treating patients who sometimes are managing five to eight chronic conditions...

“Geriatricians also 'pay special attention' to a person’s cognitive and functional abilities, including walking, eating, dressing and other activities of daily living, McCormick says. 'Geriatricians take a holistic approach. We look at how we can help patients to be as functional as possible and exist in the community in the best way possible,' he says.

“For example, older adults may have a hearing or visual deficit that impacts their physical health and quality of life. Something as simple as eye glasses or hearing aids can make a world of difference.

“'We look for little things that can improve quality of life and surprisingly enough you can often make things quite a bit better,' McCormick says.”

Because there are far too few geriatricians to go around, most elders, like me, wind up with a family physician or internist for their primary care. These men and women do their best to help but they are hindered by time constraints and by the less than adequate education they receive in medical school about old people's health issues:

”Despite the diverse range of knowledge and skills required to appropriately care for older adults, the median time devoted to geriatric education in medicine in 2005 was still only 9.5 hours,” according to a 2012 report published in The Gerontologist.

“A survey of medical schools in the United States revealed that less than half (41%) of responding schools have a structured geriatrics curriculum and less than a quarter (23%) require a geriatric clerkship.”

(As you can see in the quotation, these statistics are dated which is due, according to the report, to “an absence of more contemporary information” - common in healthcare related to elders – we are too often not included in studies or, as in this case, the studies are not conducted frequently enough.)

Eighteen years ago, Dr. Edward Ratner, a geriatrician and associate professor in the University of Minnesota’s Department of Medicine in Minneapolis started a senior mentoring program that had medical students spend a series of afternoons with older people as their mentors.

That worked well enough but students were reporting a lot of loneliness and isolation among the elders. So, according to an article at Next Avenue, he changed the program:

”Students moved into the Augustana Apartments in downtown Minneapolis, where their mentors lived — some of them very independently, some with a few support services. Augustana residents got new neighbors and companionship.

“The building, run by the senior housing and services nonprofit Augustana Care, filled several apartments that were standing empty. Augustana’s social services director got volunteer help from students with recreational activities and other needs that residents had.

“And the students gained more learning time with elders, a place to live near the university and a discount on rent in exchange for their volunteer work.”

Dr. Ratner goes on to explain the problem with the limited amount of geriatric study in medical schools – which is so bleeding obvious once someone says it:

”The trouble with traditional medical education isn’t just that it gives students only episodic glimpses of older adults or that it leaves out all the context of seeing them in their homes and communities. It’s also that every older adult the students see is sick, Ratner says.

“'That’s a terribly negative stereotype because most elderly aren’t sick most of the time,' he explains. 'If students think that elderly are always sick and disheveled and confused — because that’s how they look when they see them — they won’t appreciate that [older adults] can be a lot better after treatment and they’ll discount the value of even trying.'”

I've been thinking about elder medical care all week as an appointment with my primary care physician, not a geriatrician, was scheduled for this morning.

We are to check up on the “mystery malady” that is still with me, though less so than a few months ago, and I want to discuss with him why I am not taking his recommendation for a certain, well-known drug to treat osteoporosis or, in my case, osteopenia.

My physician is young – there are reasons this is good. But he also has little experience with the medical issues of old people yet so since I first met him late last year, I have made myself a mentor to him.

I haven't told him this and I probably won't. But I speak with him differently than physicians I had when I was younger and in the past decade of my elderhood because I believe we share responsibility for my wellbeing.

I know a lot more about my body than all the tests he schedules can reveal and because of what I do (this blog), I read a great deal more about the health and medical needs of old people than he has time for.

So gently, carefully and as it pertains to what is on our schedule on any given visit or phone call, I share my knowledge, my life experience as an old person and sometimes what I have learned from you, TGB readers, over the years.

It's not a lecture or a lesson; I make sure it is a conversation – short, to the point and not to get in the way of the expertise he has that I need to know.

This doctor is a good guy, I like him. But given the medical school deficiencies in geriatrics and, as we have discussed here many times over many years, no one really knows what it's like to be old until they get here.

So maybe my little project will help my physician not just with me but with future elder patients.

Stethoscope


Making a Good Life in Retirement

WorkRetireSign

An acquaintance, looking to discuss his recent unsought retirement, emailed to arrange lunch. His efforts to deal with retirement, he said, have been “futile” so far and he hopes my “advice will inspire” him.

Oy vey. Advice is not an item on my resume.

Two or three weeks ago I published a story here about how retirement is a good time to discover being in a world that prizes doing. It was a useful enough post but it doesn't cover the larger, existential shift from career to the next stage of life.

I'm probably not far off to say that about 99 percent of the 21 million results in a Google search, “planning for retirement,” is about finance and almost all of those are aimed at people who have both money to save or invest and many more years to do it.

But there are a lot more ways to arrive at retirement than planning for it. I'm one of them, one of the people who was age-discriminated (is that a verb?) out of the workforce long before I had intended.

And that was five years before 2008 when tens of millions of U.S. workers much younger than I were laid off 15, 20 or more years before their expected retirement date. Millions of them have never again worked in their fields nor for anywhere near the salary they had been making before the crash.

Retirementburlapbag

So they were forced to retire only halfway through their expected career span living now on god knows what money or are eking out their years at minimum wage jobs until they are old enough for Social Security.

(An excellent piece of reporting on the latter circumstance can be found in a story titled “Too Poor to Retire and Too Young to Die” at the Los Angeles Times.)

But today, I'm concerned with the people in the middle, people like the friend I'm having lunch with next week and me and a lot of TGB readers: that is, people who may or may not have been surprised at finding themselves retired one day, who likely had to cut back expenditures but are not in dire monetary straits.

As I've related here more than once, I was lucky. I had begun this blog a year or so before I was laid off. It wasn't all smooth sailing – I flailed around working out money and living arrangements, and how to order my days without an outside schedule. But essentially I glided from a writing/editing web job with a four-hour, round-trip commute to a writing/editing web job with a two-minute commute, and it is still satisfying after 13 years at it.

In no way, when I started TimeGoesBy, did I have an inkling that it would become my main retirement interest - it was simple luck - and most people hit with unexpected retirement aren't even that well prepared.

Before settling into a new life, there are the practical realities, of course: money, location, healthcare. Once those are arranged, however, what comes next? What do I want to do with my time now? What will get me out of bed each morning? The questions are mostly short but hardly simple. Here are a few:

What gives me pleasure?
What do I most care about?
Can I use my career experience in new ways now?
What's been missing from my life?
What have I always dreamed about doing?
What gives me a sense of purpose?
What and who are most important to me?
What does an ideal day look like?

There are many others and the hard part is that no one can answer for you.

So for those of you who have already navigated to a satisfying life in retirement, how did you do that? And for those of you who haven't got there yet, how are you thinking about it? Or, maybe, what questions are you pondering?

Remember, this isn't about whether to move to a new city, state or country. Or whether to sell your home or what are the best investments for old people.

Instead, how did you or will you address these existential or life questions. How did you decide how to live these last years – maybe decades – in the most satisfying way for you?

This is important stuff for all older people and there may be hints in your thoughts for the rest of us.


The Republican Plan to Nuke the Internet

[I copied that headline from vanityfair.com because I'm lousy at headlines and “net neutrality” - which is what this is about - sounds boring. But it's important and depending on what happens, it could ruin your internet experience while also costing you more money for access.]

* * *

Here is a clear and concise, two-minute explanation of net neutrality from Armand Valdez at Mashable:

That was 2014. It is now three years later and this next video is an interview that was broadcast last week on the PBS Newshour with the new chairman of the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), Ajit Pai, about his plans to trash the net neutrality regulations that took effect in 2015.

Yes, it is seven-and-a-half minutes of two talking heads but it will save you 4,285 paragraphs written by me and give you some insight into this Trump-appointee:

Oh, man, this guy Pai is smooth. That alone should worry us all but don't forget, too, that like the rest of the Trump cabinet and agency heads, his first inclination is to trash the organization he now leads.

Since his appointment in January, Commissioner Pai has, according to billmoyers.com, already

”... moved aggressively to roll back Obama-era consumer protections and other regulations. He has undermined a program that provided low-cost broadband service to poor customers; eased FCC limits on shared service agreements between TV stations in the same market; reversed a rule that limited the number of airwaves any one broadcaster can own throughout the country; and removed caps on fees that ISPs could charge hospitals, small businesses and wireless carriers in markets where there is little competition.”

Further, in March, President Trump signed a bill that overturned a regulation requiring that internet service providers ask consumers' permission before collecting data from them about online activities. So that's gone now.

“'Recent weeks are prologue, and I am fearful that we are moving in a direction that will unravel and undo some incredible gains we’ve made for consumers,' Mignon Clyburn, the sole Democratic commissioner at the FCC, told The New York Times>.”

Since Mr. Pai's appointment in January, telecom and cable companies have flooded the FCC and members of Congress with requests to kill net neutrality. In addition, however,

”About 800 tech start-ups and investors, organized by the Silicon Valley incubator Y Combinator and the San Francisco policy advocacy group Engine,” reports The New York Times, protested the unwinding of net neutrality in a letter sent to Mr. Pai [last week].

“'Without net neutrality, the incumbents who provide access to the internet would be able to pick winners or losers in the market,” they wrote...”

Columbia University law professor, Tim Wu, is the man who coined the term “net neutrality.” Last Friday, he spoke out forcefully in The New York Times against Commissioner Pai's intention to make net neutrality voluntary (read: “eliminate”).

He notes that the change would raise prices on everyone and that net neutrality is wildly popular; a few years ago, four million people wrote the FCC to demand stronger controls of the cable industry “while those who took cable's side would have fit in the commission's lobby,” wrote Wu.

Here is some more of what he wrote:

”In analyzing the attack on net neutrality, one looks in vain for the problem that needs to be fixed...

“...it has sheltered bloggers, nonprofit organizatin like Wikipredia, smaller tech companies, TV and music streamers, and entrepreneurs from being throttled by providers like AT&T and Verizon that own the 'pipes'.”

Not to put too fine a point on this, it would mean that TimeGoesBy (and any of your blogs) could take so long to load onto your screen that readers would give up and never return.

More from Wu:

”Make no mistake: While killing net neutrality may be rolled out with specious promises of 'free video', there is nothing here for ordinary people. Lowering prices is just not something that cable or phone companies will do except under pressure.

“Instead, the repeal of net neutrality will simply create ways for cable and phone companies to tax the web and increase your broadband bill. Raise your hand if that sounds enticing.”

As vanityfair.com reports, the proposal will go up for a vote at the FCC's open meeting on 18 May. If it is approved (it will be), the public will have 60 days to file comments at the FCC website.

When that happens, I'll be reminding you of the need to make yourself heard and with this post today, you have the information we need to understand this crucial fight - and it is a fight, as Commissioner Pai himself made abundantly clear in a speech last week:

”Make no mistake about it,” he said. “This a fight that we intend to wage and it is a fight that we are going to win.”

Oh yeah?


ELDER MUSIC: Dogs

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 had Cats last week, so of course we have to have dogs,

Scragger

That's Scragger (or Sid, depending on who you ask), mascot for the Footscray (aka Western Bulldogs) Football Club. They won the flag for the first time in a hell of a long time (Yaaaaay, Whoopee!).

Australians from the real football states will know what I'm talking about (and where my allegiances lie). Americans can glean a little understanding from the analogy of the Chicago Cubs winning the pennant. Those who aren't interested in sport (Hi Ronni) can just ignore this bit.

One of Elvis's early big hits was Hound Dog, but his wasn't the first recording of the song. That honor went to Willie May Thornton, better known as BIG MAMA THORNTON.

Big Mama Thornton

The song was written by the prolific, and excellent, songwriting team of Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller. It was only the second or third of their songs that made the charts.

♫ Mama Thornton - Hound Dog


BOB DYLAN recorded a couple of rather quirky albums in 1970.

Bob Dylan

There was the poorly regarded (by critics, but I liked it) "Self Portrait". This was quickly followed by the much better received "New Morning". For some reason this one has somewhat fallen out of favor over the years. I don't know why, I think it's terrific (and it's Norma, the Assistant Musicologist's favorite of Bob's).

From that one comes the very un-Bob-like If Dogs Run Free.

♫ Bob Dylan - If Dogs Run Free


As with Big Mama, RUFUS THOMAS had a bit of a hit only to see someone else, in this case The Rolling Stones, take it to the top of the charts.

Rufus Thomas

Rufus was a disk jockey, singer, songwriter and many more things besides. He wrote Walking the Dog and of course, was the first to record it.

♫ Rufus Thomas - Walking the Dog


Although not their first hit, Bird Dog was very early in the EVERLY BROTHERS' canon.

Everly Brothers

At the time, pretty much everything they released made the charts, often going to the top. This is no exception. I had no idea at the time what a Bird Dog was (apart from one that retrieves birds). I've just googled the term and found that it's American slang that didn't reach Oz at the time (or since).

♫ Everly Brothers - Bird Dog


RONNIE SELF performed one of the greatest of early rock & roll songs with Bop-A-Lena.

Ronnie Self

From the same session that gave us that song we have his dog song. This isn't as frantic (as they used to say back then) as the other song, but it fits the bill today. Ain't I'm a Dog.

♫ Ronnie Self - Ain't I'm a Dog


This is a variation on the Sherlock Holmes' story about the dog that didn't bark in the night. We have a song by HOWARD TATE, rather than a story.

Howard Tate

It's the same principle, of course and Howard wonders: How Come My Bulldog Don't Bark. I could suggest that it's a very well behaved bulldog, but I think Howard thinks otherwise.

♫ Howard Tate - How Come My Bulldog Don't Bark


JESSE WINCHESTER's first album was a masterpiece.

Jesse Winchester

Most of his other albums weren't far behind either. All I can say is go out and check them all, particularly that first one. From that we have Black Dog.

♫ Jesse Winchester - Black Dog


NOEL COWARD is here to perform his best known song.

Noel Coward

Noel claimed that he wrote the song without the aid of pen, pencil, paper or piano while he was driving between Hanoi and Saigon. Actually, he was passenging, not driving, and he'd sing it to his driver so he wouldn't forget it before he could write it down.

The song is, and I know you're ahead of me, Mad Dogs and Englishmen.

♫ Noel Coward with Ray Noble & His Orchestra - Mad Dogs and Englishmen


The previous song was the inspiration for The Mad Dogs And Englishmen Review, a rock package and tour overseen by LEON RUSSELL and headlining Joe Cocker back in 1970.

Leon Russell

Leon's contribution is a song about that tour. It's called The Ballad Of Mad Dogs And Englishmen. From all reports, mad dogs and Englishmen was an apt description of what transpired.

♫ Leon Russell - The Ballad Of Mad Dogs And Englishmen


PAUL SIMON manages to come up with the most enigmatic song title today.

Paul Simon

That's not too unusual; he rather liked doing that sort of thing, particularly early in his career. He also liked to parade his erudition but I won't fault him for that as I've been known to get a bit up myself in these columns.

Anyway, here is Rene and Georgette Magritte with Their Dog After the War.

♫ Paul Simon - Rene and Georgette Magritte with Their Dog After the War



INTERESTING STUFF – 29 April 2017

AGEING TO THE BEAT OF THEIR OWN DRUM

From one to 100. Let me quote Aeon page:

”An extraordinarily simple premise deftly executed, this video arranges a diverse group of 100 people in ascending order from age one to 100. With a snare drum to mark the progression, the resulting short film, People in Order: Age, is imbued with humour and humanity.

“In the words of the filmmakers, the project is ‘like a list of government statistics where the citizens […] have broken out from behind the figures on the page. The people on the screen stop us from seeing them as numbers. Even in single-second bursts there are worlds of personality stretching out in front of us.’”

Thank reader Tom Delmore for this. More information on the Vimeo page.

TRUMP'S ONE-PAGE TAX PLAN

It was just one page with no explanations (see it here). This is how AP broke down some details:

TrumpTaxPlanGraphicAxios

Nobody knows what the “plan” means except one obvious point - that billions in taxpayer money will flow to rich people like President Trump. On Friday, Paul Krugman had this to say in his New York Times column:

”So why would the White House release such an embarrassing document? Why would the Treasury Department go along with this clown show?

“Unfortunately, we know the answer. Every report from inside the White House conveys the impression that Trump is like a temperamental child, bored by details and easily frustrated when things don’t go his way; being an effective staffer seems to involve finding ways to make him feel good and take his mind off news that he feels makes him look bad.”

If you're keeping score, here is some more of the opposition commentary: Axios. Reich.

THE BEST SQUARE SQUARE IN NEW YORK CITY

Australian Matt Parker is a math obsessive and comedian and in this video he goes to extremes to measure such places as Times Square, Washington Square, etc. to see if they are as actually square as publized by their names.

Parker is funny and so is his obsession. This may be a bit too New York-centric for many readers but I had a good laugh and if you do, thank Peter Tibbles (another Aussie) who is in charge of TGB's music Sundays for sending it.

NEW MEDICARE CARDS DUE IN 2018

As anyone old enough to have a Medicare card in the U.S. knows, our Social Security number is right there in the middle of the card, not something that does a lot to curb identity theft.

Finally, in 2018, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) will be issuing new cards with different kinds of numbers:

”The new cards will begin being shipped out in April 2018, [and will reach] approximately 60 million beneficiaries by April 2019.”

Security experts have been warning us for years not to carry our Medicare cards in our wallets which can be an inconvenience. It will not be too long now before that warning is unnecessary. You can read more here.

A FABULOUS NEW WILLIE NELSON ALBUM

Today is Willie Nelson's 84th birthday and it must be to celebrate that event, don't you think, that he has released an album titled “God's Problem Child” this week. And look at this, there are three fantastic songs that are all about growing old.

Here is one called It Gets Easier. (If the video does not play, you can listen to the entire album at NPR.)

Thirty-odd years ago, I produced an interview with Willie Nelson for The Barbara Walters Specials at his then-home in the Hill Country near Austin, Texas. I had many weeks to do the research and what I discovered - that others who followed Willie's work confirmed - is that if you could string together all the songs he has written in their proper order (that's the hard part) you would have a close chronology of his life. No need to write a biography; just listen to lyrics and know what he has been going through at those times.

So it makes sense, at age 84, that he is writing and singing about growing old. Here is another track, called Still Not Dead. (As above, if the video doesn't play, you can listen to the entire album at NPR.)

I was alerted to this new Willie album a couple days ago by my good internet friend, Erin Read, who is director of strategic planning at Creating Results where she spends her days advising corporations how to not insult old people they market to.

The third song about being old is called, Old Timer and Willie is as wonderful as he has always been on the rest of the 13 songs too.

There is a track-by-track guide to the album at Rolling Stone.

ENGLAND'S FIRST EVER COAL-FREE ENERGY PRODUCTION DAY

At a time when the new administration in Washington, D.C. is rolling back environmental protection regulations, this is a bittersweet milestone: On 21 April, Great Britain recorded its first ever coal-free day of energy production.

”The UK has had shorter coal-free periods in 2016, as gas and renewables such as wind and solar play an increasing role in the power mix,” reported The Guardian. "The longest continuous period until now had been 19 hours – first achieved on a weekend last May, and matched on Thursday.

“A National Grid spokesman said the record low was a sign of things to come, with coal-free days becoming increasingly common as the polluting fuel is phased out.”

Here's the graph:

GreatBritainEnergyProduction

POLAND'S FOREST OF CROOKED TREES

This short video offers three explanations (guesses is more realistic) for the trees with unnaturally crooked trunks in a Polish forest. Pay special attention to the third possibility for a small giggle today:

Read more at The Times.

A CROW BEFRIENDS A KITTEN

This is a really old video that I recall watching years ago. According to Youtube it was shot in 1999 and posted to their pages in 2007. Whatever its provenance, it's fascinating look at cross-species friendship. I loved seeing it again and thank reader Nana for that.

* * *

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” at the top of any Time Goes By page to send them. I'm sorry that I 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.


Are Old People (and Everyone Else) Sleeping All Wrong?


Edouard_Vuillard_-_In_Bed_-_Google_Art_Project

ITEM 1: Everyone knows that insomnia is a common condition of growing old; it just comes with age, like wrinkles.

ITEM 2: We also know that the proper and natural way to get a good night's sleep is to bed down in a dark, dedicated room sometime in the evening either alone or with a spouse, sleep for seven or eight hours straight and wake refreshed in the morning.

Well, not so fast. Item 1 is definitely wrong. Statistics for insomnia are about the same among all age groups. And there is growing evidence that Item 2 has been the “norm” for only the past 200 years or so, and much to our detriment according to a new book.

AtDaysCloseBack in 2012, I told you about the interesting thesis of British historian Roger Ekirch. Until the invention and widespread use of artificial light in the 19th century, he reported, people in Europe had generally slept in two shifts – first sleep and second sleep.

From Ekirch's book, At Day's Close – Night in Times Past,

”...fragments in several languages...give clues to the essential features of this puzzling pattern of repose.

“Both phases of sleep lasted roughly the same length of time, with individuals waking sometime after midnight before returning to rest...Men and women referred to both intervals as if the prospect of awakening in the middle of the night was common knowledge that required no elaboration...”

“After midnight, pre-industrial households usually began to stir. Many of those who left their beds merely needed to urinate...Some persons, however, after arising, took the opportunity to smoke tobacco, check the time, or tend a fire.”

More evidence for the second sleep idea has emerged since Ekirch's book was published in 2005.

When I first read about this phenomenon five or six years ago, it seemed to explain my difficulty with sleeping: regularly waking after three or four hours and unable to return to sleep for an hour or two or even three sometimes.

It's not a nightly occurrence but happens more often than not. Now and then I try to find ways to sleep through the night but mostly I just live with it. Now I may embrace it. Read on.

However sleeplessness manifests itself from individual to individual, a good night's sleep is widely difficult to achieve and the billions of dollars a year spent by millions of people on physicians, medications, nostrums, self-help books, products and clinics in an effort to get a full night of restful sleep don't help anyone much.

WildNightsNow, in a new book titled Wild Nights – How Taming Sleep Created Our Restless World – Benjamin Reiss, while acknowledging that Ekirch's thesis that electric lights reordered our sense of time and, perhaps, evolutionary rhythms, another at least equal contributor to widespread disordered sleep is the industrial revolution.

Before then, for many centuries in many countries, sleep was a social event involving adults and children together and even visitors:

”For starters, the notion of sleeping in a private bedroom, out of view of strangers or even most other family members, turns out to have shallow roots,” writes Reiss...

“Historian Sasha Handley reveals that even the idea of a 'bedroom,' denoting a room primarily associated with sleep, is rather new.

“Throughout the eighteenth century in England, most homes had rooms with overlapping functions depending on the time of day; and well into the nineteenth century, it was common for travelers to share beds with strangers.”

Sleeping-beauty-painting

Reiss writes that along with gas and then electric lighting, the arrival of the railroad with speeds no one in history had experienced before contributed to loss of sleep, he attributes it mostly to the migration of workers from farm to factory.

When employers needed to count on employees arriving on schedule to keep production humming, they even used wake-up bells to rouse the people in the factory towns:

”Time itself became a chief product of the industrial age,” Reiss continues, “and when clock time did not correspond to natural rhythms, artificial lighting could enforce it.

“Despite, or perhaps because of, the factory system's role in creating havoc with sleep schedules, the idea of a standard model for healthful sleep – eight unbroken hours – took hold.”

The change was helped along in no small manner by do-gooders who didn't like adults, children and strangers of both sexes mixing it up all together under one blanket.

Benjamin Reiss explains up front that his goal with his book was to unravel the reasons for our current sleep-obsessed society with ”a blend of literature, the social and medical history of sleep, cross-cultural analysis, and some brief forays into science...”

It is a fascinating read revealing that our current definition of “normal” sleep is far from being so, and our relentless pursuit of that norm may even be a, if not the, culprit in our widespread cultural insomnia.

The story is much more complex than I have space to explain, but below are a few more quotations that may help you, as I have, think about reordering your beliefs about sleep.

And who has more time than retired people who no longer need to waken to an alarm to try out different ways of finding satisfying sleep.

“...those who argue that there is no single way to sleep naturally or correctly give us license to be more forgiving of our own sleep patterns, to stop thinking that there is a 'right' way that we're failing to achieve.”
“...it's arguable that when sleep began to be shut off from social life, walled away behind closed doors, it became less pleasurable, more pressurized, more fragile, and more subject to the vagaries of individual psychology.”
“Other scientific research gives the lie to the notion that humans are wired to sleep the same way every night...

And one more thing:

“...ducks sleep in a row, with the ones on the edges keeping an outer eye open.”

Did you know that? I didn't know that.

Sleepinginpark1


Staying Sane in This Dark Night of the American Soul

It is no secret around here that I think John Oliver is the most brilliant of the bumper crop of smart, left-wing comedians we have now who help keep non-Trumpers a bit sane during this dark night of the American soul we are living through.

In keeping with that state of mind, I am taking a mental health break today and instead of a regular blog post that would require actual thought, I have for you Oliver's video essay broadcast last Sunday night on his HBO program, Last Week Tonight.

In it, he takes on Ivanka Trump and her husband Jared Kushner – something I've been itching to do but knowing I cannot possibly match Oliver's intelligence, wit and talent, I have not made the attempt. So thank god he has now done it for all of us and I don't have to.

Oliver is good every week but this one surpasses anything he has done so far this season. There are so many great, true and fall-down funny moments that to choose among them is impossible. But I do like this giggle a lot, referring to Ivanka: “The apple doesn't fall far from the orange.”

And by the way – here's a question for you: How come there are no right-wing comedians as funny as the ones who lean left?

Anyway, here is John Oliver from last Sunday. Enjoy, and I'll see you back here on Friday.


One Republican Plot to Destroy Social Security

If President Donald Trump follows through on his stated plans for this week leading up to his hundredth day in office, it will be a head-spinning time for those of us trying to keep up.

So let's take a look today at one of the nefarious ideas the Republicans are plotting for Social Security. We all know better now, don't we, than to trust anything Trump says on any given day. Just in case, here is a reminder of one promise from the campaign:

He said that about Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security over and over and over again at hundreds of rallies.

Then, about two weeks ago, AP reported that the Trump administration is mulling over tax cuts including a House Republican plan, proposed by “a GOP lobbyist with close ties to the Trump administration,” to cut the 12.4 percent Social Security payroll tax.

”This approach would give a worker earning $60,000 a year an additional $3,720 in take-home pay, a possible win that lawmakers could highlight back in their districts even though it would involve changing the funding mechanism for Social Security...”

Although the idea is short on details, it appears that the current Social Security funding via the payroll tax would be replaced with something like a VAT (value added tax) on imports that would be held in the general fund instead of in the Social Security trust fund.

Nancy Altman, the Social Security expert who works tirelessly to protect the program, calls the proposal a Trojan horse, as she explained at Huffington Post:

“[This proposal] appears to be a gift in the form of middle-class tax relief, but would, if enacted, lead to the destruction of working Americans' fundamental economic security...”

”Not only would the Trump proposal starve Social Security of dedicated revenue, it would ultimately destroy it. Social Security is not a government handout. It is wage insurance that the American people earn, as part of their compensation, and, indeed, pay for with deductions from their pay.

Let's back up a little. Here is a photo of President Franklin D. Roosevelt signing the Social Security bill into law on 14 Ausut 1935.

764px-Signing_Of_The_Social_Security_Act

This is what he said during the signing ceremony:

"We can never insure one-hundred percent of the population against one-hundred percent of the hazards and vicissitudes of life. But we have tried to frame a law which will give some measure of protection to the average citizen and to his family against…poverty-ridden old age.”

And so it does. Without Social Security, 22 million people it currently insures would be living in poverty.

The dedicated Social Security Trust Fund did not exist when FDR signed the original legislation so in 1939, he signed additional legislation creating it, he said,

“…to give the contributors a legal, moral and political right to collect their pensions…With those taxes in there, no damn politician can ever scrap my social security program.”

I guess Mr. Roosevelt didn't count on the damn politicians of the Trump regime.

[For an easily understandable explanation of how the Social Security Trust Fund works, see my post from December 2004.]

When this subject came up at a meeting I attended last week where all attendees were elders who receive a Social Security benefit, one said that it doesn't matter if the idea succeeds because any changes to the program will not affect current recipients.

I hear that way too often but I'm pretty sure that like me, most of you are ready to fight to maintain this program for your children and grandchildren and beyond – fewer and fewer of whom make enough money these days to save for their retirement.

So keep your eye on all Republican budget proposals to see what they're doing with the Social Security trust fund. That way you'll know what you're talking about when the time comes to call your representative and senators in Washington about this.

Here's is a last word on the subject of scrapping the payroll tax (for today) from the estimable reporter, Michael Hiltzig of the Los Angeles Times:

”Already, conservatives and budget hawks repeat as a mantra that the cost of Social Security is 'unsustainable.' That’s their claim even though the program runs a surplus today and ensuring its fiscal stability for the future would require a modest increase in the tax rate or removal of the cap on taxable wages ($127,200 this year).

“Scrapping the payroll tax would make it easier for Congress to cut Social Security benefits under the guise of saving the government money. And that’s just another way to funnel more money to the rich, at the expense of the working class. And who needs that, other than people who already have enough?”


ELDER MUSIC: Cats

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.

* * *

Cat

Continuing with the animal series of columns, today it's the turn of the engine that powers the internet – cats. Sorry, there are no cute cat videos today, just songs about them. Actually, checking what we have, there aren't many about the actual animal. Oh well.

I'll start with BOB CROSBY, brother of Bing (he probably got that all his life).

Bob Crosby

Bob was a band leader of a group known as The Bob Cats (ha ha, a little play on words there, Bob). I mention that because his song is all about it - March of the Bob Cats.

♫ Bob Crosby - March Of The Bob Cats


The LOVIN' SPOONFUL's song Nashville Cats is about the studio musicians in that city.

Lovin' Spoonful

The story is that the Spoonful were headlining a concert there and afterwards went to a bar where there was a pick-up band of those musicians. John Sebastian said they played music that the Spoonful could only dream about. However, he wrote a good song about it that became a hit for them.

♫ Lovin' Spoonful - Nashville Cats


If ever there was a cool cat among the British musicians of the sixties who made a splash on popular music, it would be GEORGIE FAME.

Georgie Fame

Georgie's music owed more to jazz than rock & roll and blues. He was especially influenced by Mose Allison, and it shows in his music. Georgie performs Cool Cat Blues.

♫ Georgie Fame - Cool Cat Blues


GENE VINCENT was a serious contender in the early days of rock & roll until he was badly injured in a car accident in London that killed fellow performer Eddie Cochrane.

Gene Vincent

He didn't ever fully recover from that and an earlier motorcycle accident. However, in his short career he wrote and performed many songs that defined rock & roll and are still sung to this day. One of those is Wild Cat.

♫ Gene Vincent - Wild Cat


MUDDY WATERS has featured in several of these animal columns, and today is no exception.

Muddy Waters

He brings some serious blues into what is otherwise a rather frivolous column. In the mid-seventies, Muddy's career seemed to be going nowhere. He left Chess records and Johnny Winter produced a new album (as well as playing on it) for a new record company.

The album, "Hard Again", was a critical and popular success and it revived Muddy's career. From that album comes Crosseyed Cat.

♫ Muddy Waters - Crosseyed Cat


Like Gene Vincent, CARL PERKINS was another early serious contender whose career sputtered out due to a serious car accident. In Carl's case it was while he and his band were headed for New York.

Carl Perkins

However, Carl went on to have quite a successful career as a country musician. From his early days when he was recording at Sun Records next to Elvis, Jerry Lee Lewis and others, Carl suggests that you Put Your Cat Clothes On.

♫ Carl Perkins - Put Your Cat Clothes On


TOM JONES started out as a soul/R & B/blues singer and then morphed into a middle of the road, Las Vegas type performer.

Tom Jones

In recent times, he seems to have discovered his roots again and is making really interesting music. However, that's neither here nor there as he gives us one of his early hits, written by Burt Bacharach, What's New Pussycat.

♫ Tom Jones - What's New Pussycat


We hope that the ROLLING STONES only sang about under age groupies.

Rolling Stones

Musicians and writers often write about what they know but I won't delve further into that sordid business. I'll just play Stray Cat Blues, from their finest album "Beggars Banquet".

♫ Rolling Stones - Stray Cat Blues


If ever there was a swinging cat it was LOUIS JORDAN.

Louis Jordan

Louis started as a bandleader in the big band era as well as a songwriter and musical arranger. He then led small rhythm and blues combos which were really rock & roll bands in everything but name. His song today is from the early period, 1939 to be exact, At The Swing Cats Ball.

♫ Louis Jordan - At The Swing Cats Ball


BENNY GOODMAN was involved with some short films, cartoons, made by Walt Disney during the war.

Benny Goodman

These were fragments of longer works that weren't completed as most of his staff were drafted. They decided to release them (the films, not the staff) as a series of shorts, and set them to music.

This is one where Benny was featured, and along for the ride is PEGGY LEE.

Peggy Lee

All The Cats Join In is the name of the song and the feature.

♫ Benny Goodman - All The Cats Join In



INTERESTING STUFF – 22 April 2017

HOW SMALL WE ARE IN THE SCALE OF THE UNIVERSE

Of course, you have intuited how small we are on the scale of the universe. But this TED Talk brings it home is a big – uh, make that small way.

A CHEESE BANK – SERIOUSLY, A REAL BANK

For cheese farmers, there's a bank in Italy that will literally accept cheese as collateral for loans. Take a look:

BECAUSE EVERYONE KNOWS WE DON'T HAVE ENOUGH SPORTS

A few weeks ago, the Washington Post reported that Museum of Natural History of The University of Louisiana at Monroe must move its collection to make room for an expanded sports track:

”The curators were given 48 hours to find a new place on campus to store the collection — something they weren't able to do. Now they must get another institution to take their several million specimens.

“Their hard deadline is July, when the track renovations are slated to begin. And if the collection isn't moved by then, curators said, it will be destroyed.”

As the Post further reported, the collection

”...includes some 6 million fish collected by ULM ichthyologist Neil Douglas, one of the leading experts on the fish of Louisiana, as well as half a million native plants. It is an important record of biodiversity in northern Louisiana — a region that stands to see significant environmental impacts as a result of climate change.”

What can possibly justify this move by the university.

You can read more at the Washington Post. The university's museum website is here.

THE TRUMP KLEPTOCRACY ROLLS ON

On 6 April 2017, Ivanka Trump was sitting next to the Chinese President Xi Jinping and his wife at a formal state dinner at Mar-a-Lago. That was the dinner, as you no doubt know, where chocolate cake was served as President Trump told the Xi that the U.S. had just fired a bunch of missiles at Syria.

Or was it Iran? Trump wasn't certain which country had been targeted when he discussed it on a TV news program later. The interviewer had to correct the president.

You probably also know that on the same day, as the AP reported,

”Ivanka Trump's company won provisional approval from the Chinese government for three new trademarks, giving it monopoly rights to sell Ivanka brand jewelry, bags and spa services in the world's second-largest economy...

“The scenario underscores,” reported the AP, “how difficult it is for the president's daughter, to separate business from politics in her new position at the White House.”

Difficult? Or just deliberately flouting the law, custom, the Constitution and countless conflicts of interest? The Trump family kleptocracy rolls on.

OOHO – WATER YOU CAN EAT AND MUCH MORE

Ooho is the name of an edible substance that can eliminate plastic pollution. The website says The aim of Ooho is to provide the convenience of plastic bottles while limiting the environmental impact. Take a look:

Although being used in some small venues, the inventors are still developing the container:

”Their goal isn’t to add another brand of water to an already crowded market but instead to offer a new packaging technology. They envision a range of products so, for example, there would be one version with a very thin membrane suitable to hand out to runners in a race,” explained The Independent.

“For the retail market, there would be another with a thicker outer layer that you could peel off and discard, making it more durable and hygienic.”

Read more about this hopeful possibility at the website and at The Independent. It might help save the Earth.

JOHN OLIVER ON TOMORROW'S FRENCH ELECTION

Don't go thinking tomorrow's election in France doesn't affect you or the United States or the future of the world because it does.

In fact, the election has shaped up to look almost eerily like the U.S. election last November – the same kind of candidates opposing one another.

On his HBO program, Last Week Tonight, John Oliver shows us the similarities and what is at stake as only he can. The end is brilliant but can't be appreciated if you fast forward – you need to see the entire lead-in.

DID YOU KNOW PIZZA IS A SPORT?

Neither did I. Take a look at the World Pizza Games. Go ahead – it will make you laugh.

AMAZING DRAWINGS ON DIRTY VEHICLES

Here is what they tell us about this at Bored Panda:

”Where one person sees a dirty car, the other one sees a blank canvas. And if you live in Moscow, your car can also become the ‘target,’ doesn’t matter if you want it or not!

“It’s thanks to the Russian illustrator Nikita Golubev, who brings out the full artistic potential of dirty cars by turning them into amazing pieces of art.”

Here are a couple of examples:

Dirty-car-art-proboynick-nikita-golubev-9-58f45eaae219c__880

Dirty-car-art-proboynick-nikita-golubev-8-58f45ea8c3122__880

You can see more at Bored Panda and even more at the artists' Facebook page.

THIS SQUIRREL LOVES HER ICE CREAM CONE

Ice cream shop owners Scott and Pam Martin have adopted a squirrel named Putter as a mascot who seems to love vanilla ice cream enough to show up nearly every day for her scoop. They even make squirrel-size cones for her.

* * *

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” at the top of any Time Goes By page to send them. I'm sorry that I 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.


Books Today, Just Books, No Ageing

Bookstore

A friend said to me in an email that a certain non-fiction book is one of a shelf full that makes you understand why books have mattered for so many thousands of years.

People who are life-long readers instantly understand the truth of that. Which, of course, doesn't mean everything we read is so profound as to evoke such recognition.

But it sent me scurrying through my own shelves to track down a book I had set aside some years ago, The Book Lovers' Anthology, from the Bodleian Library at the University of Oxford.

It is a compendium of quotations about books and about reading from more than 250 authors through hundreds of years. One of my many favorites is this:

”The advice I would give to any one who is disposed really to read for the sake of knowledge is, that he should have two or three books in course of reading at the same time. He will read a great deal more in that time and with much greater profit.” (Robert Southey)

True. True. True. Except that too often it takes so long for me to get back to one I've laid down for another I am eager to begin that I must start over. Right now there are – among the ones I can easily locate:

Wild Nights - Benjamin Reiss
City of Dreams - Tyler Anbinder
If Our Bodies Could Talk - James Hamblin
Weirdo Parfait - (friend of TGB) Brenda Henry
The Lonely City - Olivia Laing
The Genius of Judaism - Bernard-Henri Levy

Books3

When I was a little girl, younger than school age, on Sundays my father read the funny papers to me. As he did so, his finger followed the words and I remember still the exact moment and the thrill when I could suddenly read one of the word bubbles without his help.

Since then there has been no stopping me. Here is how Samuel Johnson explains the lure of reading, from the Bodleian anthology:

”It is difficult to enumerate the several motives which procure to books the honour of perusal: spite, vanity, and curiosity, hope and fear, love and hatred, every passion which incites to any other action, serves at one time or another to stimulate a reader.

“...but the most general and prevalent reason of study is the impossibility of finding another amusement equally cheap or constant, equally independent of the hour or the weather.” (Samuel Johnson)

Reading-cat

It has been clear from the beginning of this blog 13 years ago that TGB readers, or at least those who comment, are readers too and I suspect you will enjoy a few more quotations from the Bodleian:

”Much reading is like much eating, wholly useless without digestion.” (Robert South)

”In hours of high mental activity we sometimes do the book too much honour, reading out of it better things than the author wrote, - reading, as we say, between the lines. You have had the like experience in conversation: the wit was in what you heard, not in what the speakers said...

“Our best thought came from others. We heard in their words a deeper sense than the speakers put into them, and could express ourselves in other people's phrases to finer purpose than they knew.” (Ralph Waldo Emerson)

“I would rather be a poor man in a garret with plenty of books than a king who did not love reading.” (Thomas Macaulay)

Today's headline notwithstanding, I can't end this without one good bookish reference to ageing:

”Alonso of Aragon was wont to say, on commendation of Age, that Age appeared to be the best in four things; Old wood best to burn, old wine to drink, old friends to trust, old authors to read.” (Francis Bacon)

Books1


It is Such a Relief to be This Old

In more ways than you might think, getting old is a huge relief. Stepping off the up elevator of professional life is one of them.

Just about every day I get an email or two promising to show me how I can increase my income by growing my blog audience on Twitter or Facebook.

Almost as often, emails arrive from website service companies offering “free” articles or infographics that are certain to grow my audience and of course, they all link back to a commercial enterprise. In the real world, this is called advertising, although they never mention that word.

10-tips-for-growing-your-social-media-audience

A variation on that theme are those who offer to write the friendlier-sounding “guest post” for TGB that, they say, will grow the audience while requiring a link back to their website that sells something or another.

Mostly, I hit the “delete” key. If the sender has made the effort to track down my name (most don't), I might hit “reply” and send a polite no-thank-you note.

Not too long ago, an interviewer asked what my future plans are for Time Goes By, how it will change and how I will – all together now, that same phrase: grow my audience.

In that case, I was was stunned into silence for a few moments and then confessed that I had no idea, that I have never thought of Time Goes By as a business that would require making the effort to find more readers.

Lots of people make a living with their blogs (or podcasts or Facebook pages, etc.) – some modestly, others moreso. But when I began TGB back in 2004, no one was doing that yet and it wasn't the point. It still is not my point.

And, anyway, I'm way too lazy. It would be more work and take more time than producing the blog itself to market, market, market it – because once you start, it never ends.

Spend-0.00-And-Grow-Your-Audience

My goals are different. Somehow, I am still fascinated with the subject of growing old. There is always more to discover, more to learn and think about and, importantly, to reassess previous stands I've taken as the years pass and I come to see things differently.

I like the need to keep up, to do the necessary research and especially I like writing – putting together what I want to say in what is, I hope, readable, interesting form.

And I always look forward to reading comments because somehow, without my planning it or working at it much, many of you, dear readers, are apparently as interested in what this growing old stuff is all about as I am and are willing to share your thoughts and experience.

What I am NOT interested in and am so relieved not to be required to think about it, is how to grow the audience. It is gratifyingly large now without being anywhere near – oh, say Huffington Post size. Actually, it is minuscule compared to HuffPo and that's fine.

There was a time in my life when I had to weigh everything that went into a website I worked on or a television show I produced in relation to ratings which, of course, translated into revenue.

It was important to be able to do that back then, to balance creativity with business. But I never, ever liked the business part – still don't – and it is such a relief to have left that behind. I can't be the only one who is happy to be old enough to give up the pressures of business and to measure success by something other than numbers of dollars.


High Stakes for Elders (and Some Others)

It's hard to keep up with the federal government these days, isn't it. Every day brings news of so much legislation passed and so many executive orders signed that it all blurs together.

But there are serious things going on that can dramatically change how we live and cost us a lot of money too. Here are three recent events of importance to elders you should know about.

TRUMP DEFUNDS PLANNED PARENTHOOD
And he did it in secret last week. We all know how much he likes to show off his signature, but he signed this bill behind closed doors with no cameras present.

Here's what the bill is about:

As an aside, both President Trump and Jake Tapper in that clip get it wrong when they imply that Planned Parenthood is only for younger women. Aside from birth control information, pregnancy-related services and abortion (which is somewhere between three and 10 percent of Planned Parenthood's services), most apply to both men and women of all ages. Here are some examples:

⚫ Breast cancer, cervical cancer, colon cancer screenings
⚫ Testicular cancer, prostrate cancer clinics
⚫ Cholesterol, diabetes, high blood pressure screenings
⚫ Flu vaccines
⚫ Vasectomies

FYI, Vice President Mike Pence made the tie-breaking vote when this bill passed in Congress and Speaker of the House Paul Ryan called the legislation “a major pro-life victory.”

According to a Government Accountability Office report [pdf] released in March 2015 that looked at data from 2010 to 2012, 80 percent (of Planned Parenthood clients) had incomes at or below 150 percent of the federal poverty level.

Most now have nowhere affordable to go for these medical services.

MICK MULVANEY AND SOCIAL SECURITY DISABILITY
Remember when then-candidate Trump repeated at many rallies that he would protect Social Security without cuts? He may or may not stick with that because he appointed South Carolina Representative Mick Mulvaney to be director of the Office of Management and Budget.

Mulvaney, who is a fierce advocate of deep spending cuts, was a member of a conservative bloc that pressed for slashing federal spending more deeply than House Republican leaders preferred, and established himself as one of the most outspoken of the anti-Washington movement in Congress.

Here is what he said to host John Dickerson on the CBS Sunday show Face the Nation last month:

Let me repeat that for us in print:

“Do you really think," Mulvaney said, "that Social Security disability insurance is part of what people think of when they think of Social Security? I don’t think so.”

Tell that to the 17 percent of Social Security beneficiaries who are disabled workers or their dependents – 10.6 million in 2016.

Apparently, the president shot down any of Mulvaney's proposed changes to Social Security but a couple of weeks later, Mulvaney told CNBC reporter John Harwood in an interview:

”I continue to look forward to talking to the president about ways to fix that program. Because that is one of the fastest growing programs that we have. It's become effectively a long-term unemployment, permanent unemployment program.”

Oh, I see now. Mulvaney believes disabled workers are lazy deadbeats. Social Security could use some fixing and there are years of research with some excellent choices. Mulvaney's is not one of them.

MICK MULVANEY AND MEDICARE/MEDICAID
In that same interview, Harwood asked if it will be possible in a Trump administration, given Trump's vows to protect Social Security and Medicare, for Congress to “go after” Medicare:

”I think the message to the House and Senate is, 'Look, you go do what you think is best,' said Mulvaney. “And I voted for Medicare premium support in the past when it was part of the Ryan budget. My guess is the House will do either that or something similar to that. [emphasis mine]

“Premium support” is Republican code for voucherizing which is the same thing as privatizing. As Trudy Lieberman explained in the Joliet Herald-News last week:

”The amount of 'support' and how well it would keep pace with medical inflation would be buried in the details Congress would hash out.

“Today, the government provides the benefits for hospital and physician care for most Medicare beneficiaries, but that could change with more privatization. There already is a lot of privatization in Medicare...

“In a totally privatized arrangement, there may be no standardized benefits, and seniors would choose from a menu of insurance company options much the way drug plans are sold today.”

All of which - the Planned Parenthood legislation already in place and the Mulvaney Social Security and Medicare plans - means money out of the pockets of the poor, middle class and elders transferred directly into rich people's pockets.

The president has reversed himself on so many campaign promises already that we would be foolish to trust him on Social Security and Medicare. When it is expedient, he will embrace the mainstream Republican philosophy: more for me, less for you.

Meanwhile, your senators and representatives are in their home states for the rest of this week. It would be good to give their local offices a call and let them know how you feel about Director Mulvaney's plans.


ELDER MUSIC: 1945 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.

* * *

From my point of view 1945 is the most important year in the history of the universe because it's when I popped out and greeted the world. A few of you will agree with me, but I suspect most of you won't and that's okay. Well, let's see what people were listening to at the time.

Some of them were listening to CECIL GANT.

Cecil Gant

Cecil was in the army during the war and for some of the latter time he performed at war bonds rallies. It was around this time that he recorded the song I Wonder, which became quite a hit for him. Here it is, with him playing the piano as well.

♫ Cecil Gant - I Wonder


The backing for FRANK SINATRA is a bit overblown for my taste but I suppose that was par for the course back then.

Frank Sinatra

Perhaps not though, as we'll see with Bing down a bit. Anyway, this is one of Frank's famous songs, Saturday Night (Is the Loneliest Night of the Week).

♫ Frank Sinatra - Saturday Night (Is the Loneliest Night of the Week)


LUCKY MILLINDER was an odd sort of a band leader – he couldn't read or write music, he didn't play an instrument or sing. However, he was a great showman and he could pick talent and many influential musicians began their careers thanks to him.

Lucky Millinder

One who started with him is WYNONIE HARRIS.

Wynonie Harris

It was with Lucky's band that Wynonie first performed the song Who Threw The Whiskey In The Well at the Apollo Theatre. However, due to the shortage of shellac, they didn't record the song until 1945. Here it is.

♫ Lucky Millinder (Wynonie Harris vocal) - Who Threw The Whiskey In The Well


Until I researched this year, I didn't know that BING CROSBY had recorded with LES PAUL. Just goes to show that I learn from these columns as well.

Bing Crosby & Les Paul

This was Les and His Trio, and it was a nice simple arrangement – just two guitars and bass backing Bing. Couldn’t do much better than that. The song is It's Been a Long, Long Time. Naturally, we have the wonderful guitar lead by Les.

♫ Bing Crosby - It's Been A Long Long Time


Although it was considerably later than 1945 (because I wouldn't remember), my sister used to sing this next song to me. She seemed to like these silly songs when she was a kid. Well, I think we all did. In this case the performer is SAMMY KAYE, not my sister.

Sammy Kaye

I believe that's NANCY NORMAN singing along with Billy Williams and the Kaye Choir (which I assume is Sammy's own).

Nancy Norman

If you thought songs in the fifties had silly lyrics (well, that's what the adults told us at the time), clap your ears around this one. Chickery Chick.

♫ Sammy Kaye - Chickery Chick


TONY PASTOR wasn't the biggest name in the Big Band era, at least not to me.

Tony Pastor

He started as a singer and saxophone player in various bands until one evening Artie Shaw walked away from his gig and Tony was roped in to cover for him. This lead to regular gigs in New York that included radio broadcasts.

What he and his orchestra perform is Bell Bottom Trousers with "vocal refrain" by Ruth McCullough and Tony himself.

♫ Tony Pastor (Ruth McCullough & Tony vocal) - Bell Bottom Trousers


DINAH SHORE was around for a long time in the entertaining business.

Dinah Shore

Way back, she auditioned for spots in Benny Goodman's band as well as Jimmy and Tommy Dorsey. No one wanted her so she went out on her own and became a huge success as a solo singer; one of the first to do this.

Her personal life was really interesting but I won't go into that; it's freely available to anyone who's interested. This year her song is My Guy's Come Back.

♫ Dinah Shore - My Guy's Come Back


Around this time, jump blues was just starting to emerge from big band music. This was essentially music performed by a small group that led eventually to rock & roll. There were still elements of the big bands and jazz at this time. One of the best of the genre was LOUIS JORDAN.

Louis Jordan

Louis is a semi-regular inclusion in these columns and his song today (or this year, if you will) is Mop Mop.

♫ Louis Jordan - Mop Mop


Because of my age, the first time I heard the song Twilight Time was the great version by The Platters. They weren't the first to record it, however. It was originally an instrumental by THE THREE SUNS.

Three Suns

Buck Ram was a songwriter and manager of The Platters and he wrote the words for it. We're not interested in that today. The Suns were brothers Al and Morty Nevins and their cousin Artie Dunn. They recorded the tune again a couple of years later, but this is the way they first put it down.

♫ Three Suns - Twilight Time


Like Dinah, PEGGY LEE also had a long career in show biz.

Peggy Lee

Her career began when Benny Goodman's wife caught her act and got Benny to come along and listen. He hired her on the spot.

Besides being a fine jazz and pop singer, she also wrote many songs (and added verses to existing ones), as well as acting and supplying voiceovers for films. The song Waitin' for the Train to Come In isn't one she wrote; it's by Jule Styne And Sammy Cahn.

♫ Peggy Lee - Waiting For The Train To Come In



INTERESTING STUFF – 15 April 2017

TRIBUTE TO DAVE LETTERMAN'S MOM

Surely you remember how Dave Letterman made his mom a star during the 30-year run of his Late Show. Dorothy Mengering died Tuesday at the age of 95. Here is a montage of some of her appearances on her son's show.

Read more at the Tampa Bay Times.

WI-FI SEX TOY YOUR NEIGHBOR CAN OPERATE

This was the best “oops laugh” I had all week. You've heard of IoT, the Internet of Things, right? Your refrigerator will order milk for you, start the toaster or turn on the lights and so on.

Well, someone may have gone a mite too far with this idea – a Wi-Fi sex toy AND it can be hacked:

”This week, U.K. cybersecurity services provider Pen Test Partners shed light on a particularly prurient internet of things vulnerability in the Svakom Siime Eye, a $250 sex toy equipped with an internet-connected camera that lets users stream a dildo’s eye view of masturbation via the internet to another person’s smartphone.

“Because of the way the Siime Eye’s software was designed, anyone within Wi-Fi range could potentially hack his or her way into the system and watch footage right along with the person the feed was intended for.”

And here is the kicker that sent me into gales of laughter:

”With a little extra work, a hacker could also take control of the firmware and even broadcast the feed to the web for anyone to see.”

Read even more about this at Salon. Tee hee.

OLIVER ON GERRYMANDERING AND DEMOCRACY

As you undoubtedly know by now, the Republicans have so deeply gerrymandered the voting districts of the United States in the past decade that in many places it is, without some gigantic change of political leaning of millions of voters, impossible for Democrats to increase their numbers on the Senate, the House and in state houses.

The wonderful John Oliver looked into that on his HBO program, Last Week Tonight. As with almost all his video essays, this one, too, is not to be missed.

BOSTON TYPEWRITER ORCHESTRA UPDATE

Remember last week when I showed you a video about the Boston Typewriter Orchestra? Friend and well-known videographer, Steve Garfield (who is also the son of our own Millie Garfield), emailed to let me know that he had interviewed these guys way back in 2008.

So here's Steve's video with the orchestra members and some additional information we didn't get the last week's item.

You can find out about all kinds of other video work Steve does at his website.

WHEN I DIDN'T CLICK THE LINK

Sometimes when people demean elders with their words, they are just ignorant; there is a good chance they can be educated.

Then there are organizations whose actions are so deviant from their stated purpose, are beyond the pale. Take this headline from, of all places, an AARP newsletter.

“The inspiring women of Allure's ageless beauties video series prove that growing up doesn't have to mean growing old.” [emphasis is mine]

I immediately hit the delete button. Let us say this all together now: There is nothing wrong with being old.

DAVID FARENTHOLD WINS PULITZER PRIZE

Perhaps, last year, you followed the work of Washington Post reporter David Farenthold who, over many weeks spoke with more than 300 charities that then-candidate Donald Trump said he had contributed money to.

Farenthold couldn't find any that Trump had actually given money to while also discovering illegal use of his foundation funds for personal purchases.

That kind of investigation, telephone call after call after call, is deeply tedious and deeply important to keeping public people honest. This week, he won a Pulitzer Prize for his effort and here's a video of the celebration with his colleagues at the paper.

Congratulations on a well-deserved award. You can read more at the Washington Post.

CONGRESS MADE IT OKAY TO KILL HIBERNATING BEARS

Two weeks ago, President Donald Trump signed a bill that had been passed by Congress making it legal to kill bears while they are hibernating and other wild animals too.

Orso-bruno

The law also allows people to kill cubs in their dens and target animals from helicopters. The Humane Society had condemned the law before it had passed the Senate and was sent to the president's desk.

“'What the House did today should shock the conscience of every animal lover in America,' said Humane Society CEO Wayne Pacelle in a statement. 'If the Senate and president concur, we’ll see wolf families killed in their dens [and] bears chased down by planes.'

“Rep. Don Young (R-Alaska), who introduced the measure, argued that states’ rights were being infringed upon by the rule.

“'We have to recognize this is not about the little polar bears, the little grizzly bears or wolves on television, this is about the state’s right to manage — not allowing the federal government to do so.'”

Unh-huh. But the animals are just as dead. Find out more at Huffington Post.

THE MAN WHO CREATED MICROSOFT WINDOWS SOLITAIRE

Unless you're an Apple/Mac kind of person, you have undoubtedly played Microsoft's solitaire game that was included with every computer running Windows for many years.

Someone created that video game and it was an intern at Microsoft in 1988, named Wes Cherry. As the Youtube page explains:

"...out of sheer boredom, Cherry created Solitaire. With the approval of Microsoft founder Bill Gates, the company decided to include the game as part of its Windows program. And thus commenced countless hours of wasted time. From procrastinators everywhere, thanks, Wes.”

Yeah, Wes – thanks a lot. Here's the story from Wes Cherry himself and wait until you see what he's doing these days, nearly 20 years later.

LITTLE GIRL MISTAKES DISCARDED WATER HEATER FOR A ROBOT

And it's this week's most adorable thing.

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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” at the top of any Time Goes By page to send them. I'm sorry that I 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.


Modern-Day Phossy Jaw and Osteoporosis Drugs

Today's post is a good deal lengthier than usual but I believe it's worth it. I hope you think so.

Like many people about my age (76 now), it did not occur to me when I was young to question my physician. If he or she said this pill or that treatment was good for what ailed me, I believed, I followed the instructions.

Life goes on and things change. For many years now, when I am unfamiliar with drugs, treatments and therapies that are recommended, I do the research first. You probably do that too.

Here is a personal story about how important this can be.

THE HISTORY
In the 19th and early 20th century, phosphorus necrosis of the jaw was a deadly condition particularly affecting people who worked in the matchstick industry (often children and young women) as a result of their exposure to yellow (now called white) phosphorus.

It was a horrible disease, eating away teeth and jawbone before, if left untreated, moving on to brain damage, organ failure and death. Not that the treatment was all that helpful. It largely involved removal of the jawbone which made eating difficult and patients then sometimes died of malnutrition.

The popular name for this disease, in England, was phossy jaw and it generally disappeared when, in the early 20th century, phosphorus matches were outlawed in most countries of the world.

Then, a century later, this:

But how can someone younger than me
have osteoporosis, and sit
googling up a substance that might
help it, or give her phossy jaw?

That is from a contemporary poem (2013) titled Match Girl by British poet, Fleur Adcock, indicating, with the reference to osteoporosis, that phossy jaw has returned to plague some people in the 21st century who use a certain prescription drug.

The only reason I know this is that I have lately been “googling up a substance that...might give ME phossy jaw.”

THE DIAGNOSIS AND PRESCRIPTION
A couple of months ago, after a bone scan, my physician noted that the results indicate that I have osteopenia (early osteoporosis) and would benefit from taking a certain bisphosphonate drug.

If you don't know that word, you undoubtedly know some of the brand names of bisphosphonates that are ubiquitously advertised in magazines and on television: Fosamax, Boniva, Actonel and less frequently, Aclasta, Aredia, Binosto, Didronel, Reclast and Zometa among a few others most of which have generic counterparts. They are common treatments for osteoporosis.

Brand name bisphosphonates

The doctor continued. Among a long list of lesser side effects, he said, between one and six percent of patients using these drugs suffer osteonecrosis of the jaw - that is, phossy jaw which is also known in the medical community shorthand as ONJ.

Even though I had not yet learned the nickname “phossy jaw,” the more medically correct designation, osteonecrosis (bone death), was frightening enough when I heard it that even without yet knowing details, I declined the prescription that day, telling the doctor I would do some homework and get back to him.

For something as ghastly as phossy jaw, one to six percent possibility does not strike me as insignificant. And there is the pesky chance, too, of spontaneous femur breakage that can result from bisphosphonate usage that the doctor had not mentioned.

THE RESEARCH
Once again, thank you Tim Berners-Lee for inventing the internet. I cannot imagine how I could have tracked down all the information I wanted without it and it took only a couple of hours to amass enough for a good overview of osteoporosis treatment.

Among the statistics for bisphosphonates is the warning that “invasive dental work” apparently increases the incidence of phossy jaw.

Invasive dental work. You might recall, as I mentioned in February, that for more than two years I have undergone tooth extractions, procedures to grow new bone in my jaw, subsequent dental implants and an over-denture.

There is no question all that qualifies as “invasive” so I emailed my dentist who is also a bone and implant specialist. He wrote back:

”I would like to chat about this with you - very complicated answer...Bottom line - my answer is no way - you grew great bone during our treatments.”

Later, we spoke on the telephone for more than an hour. I got a terrific education in bone growth and phossy jaw, and he reiterated that my new bone growth was "exceptionally successful."

Osteoporosis

He also believes that physicians overprescribe bisphosphonates to women 70 and older (far fewer men are at risk for osteoporosis) and that everyone should be asked if they have had or are expecting to have invasive dental work before deciding on the drug.

Back on the internet, I tracked down some statistics on bisphosphonate (BP) prescriptions (it isn't easy to find). As of 2014, there were 46.2 million women in the United States age 65 and older. According to the U.S. National Institutes of Health,

”...an estimated 30 million BPs prescriptions are written every year in the United States alone, and more than 190 million prescriptions are written annually worldwide.

There is no information about how those prescriptions are counted but even if they are off by a few million, somewhere in the vicinity of 65 percent of the affected age group with scripts for bisphosphonates seems wildly excessive to me.

Statistics on the incidence of bisphosphonate-related phossy jaw are even harder to come by. The apparent standard that is widely quoted - 1 in 100,000 for oral bisphosphonate and 1 in 10,000 for intravenous bisphosphonate - is sketchy.

There have been no randomized, controlled trials of long-term use of bisphosphonates (commonly prescribed for a five-year span) so claims for their safety in regard to phossy jaw are indeterminate, whatever drug companies claim.

In a paper about bisphosphonates and the risk of osteonecrosis of the jaw, the British Journal of Medical Practitioners published what is the smartest list of recommendations for all medical and dental practitioners I have seen in all my research. Before beginning a bisphosphonate regimen,

”All patients should undergo a routine dental exam to rule out any dental source of infection.

“All medical practitioners also should perform a baseline oral exam.

“Invasive dental or/and oral surgical procedures should be completed before initiating therapy.

“Practice preventive dentistry, involving procedures such as oral prophylaxis, dental restorations, and endodontic therapy, and check dentures for irritational foci.

“Schedule routine follow-up every 3 months to check for any signs of developing ONJ (osteonecrosis of the jaw).

“The risks associated with oral surgical procedures such as dental implants, extractions, and extensive periodontal surgeries must be discussed with the patient and weighted against the benefits.”

The only recommendation I question is the one about completing invasive dental work before initiating therapy because the researchers tell us in the same breath to schedule dental followups every three months after use of bisphosphonate treatment begins, strongly implying that they believe there can be continued risk of phossy jaw after dental work is finished.

There are breathtakingly long lists of other side effects ranging from sniffles to phossy jaw and broken thighs for all the bisphosphonate drugs. You can find good side effect information for brand name drugs at drugs.com or rxlist.com.

Some pharmaceutical companies that produce brand name bisphosphonates try to play down the possibility of phossy jaw and spontaneous thigh fracture by saying that occurrences are “rare.” But there are no definitive statistics and "rare" depends entirely on a patient's characterization of the word, not the drug company's.

THE DECISION
Bisphosphonates slow bone loss, strengthen bones to a degree that helps prevent further weakening and people who take a bisphosphonate are less likely to break a bone (well, if you don't count those thigh breaks that are associated with the drug).

I understand all that. I also understand that when old people break a bone, they often do not recover well or at all in too many cases, which are good reasons to think hard about this class of drugs for osteopenia and osteoporosis. (They are also used to treat certain cancers and Paget's disease.)

Osteoporosissymptoms

Nevertheless, even though I have been diagnosed with osteopenia, I have declined the drug and it was the recent dental work along with my dentist's strong caution that tipped the scales for me.

According to an article by respected science and medicine reporter, Gina Kolata, in The New York Times last year, I am not alone:

”Reports of the drugs’ causing jawbones to rot and thighbones to snap in two,” she wrote, “have shaken many osteoporosis patients so much that they say they would rather take their chances with the disease.

“Use of the most commonly prescribed osteoporosis drugs fell by 50 percent from 2008 to 2012, according to a recent paper, and doctors say the trend is continuing...

“Lawsuits over the rare side effects resulted in large jury awards and drew widespread attention.”

The decision about use of any risky drug is entirely personal, dependent on diagnosis, other medical factors, a thorough discussion with one's physician and on personal inclination. I can easily imagine, if my bone density were worse than it is now, making the opposite decision.

Many people, undoubtedly millions of them, have been saved from the worst effects of osteoporosis due to bisphosphonate drugs and god knows I am not lobbying against their use. However, what strikes me about these particular drugs is that it is mostly old people who need them and old people usually have a lot more invasive dental work than younger people.

Yet, I had to find out about the possible connection between bisphosphonates and phossy jaw only because that word "necrosis" my doctor uttered, went off in my head like a fire alarm. Bone death is worth paying close attention to.

So. All potential adverse effects should always be clearly made to patients, and we patients should always be ready with questions when a recommendation is something with which we are unfamiliar.

Although my doctor mentioned osteonecrosis, he was dismissive of the one to six percent chance of it occurring - “only,” he said of the gamble. He may believe those numbers are negligible but that is a personal calculation, different for each of us.

I'm not blaming him for not mentioning the dental work connection. Doctors cannot possibly keep up with every contraindication for every drug. But I'm sure happy that word “necrosis” leapt out at me when he was speaking or I might not have “googled a substance that might lead to [modern-day] phossy jaw” and that important discussion with my dentist who has more experience with the results of the drug than most internists would.

[NOTE: I have left off photographs of phossy jaw (osteonecrosis of the jaw, ONJ) in this report because they are really gruesome. If you are interested, here is a link.]


Retired. Hobbies. Being More Than Useful.

A long time ago on this blog, 2006 to be precise, I wrote about the difficulty I'd had in those days with the word “retired.” Here is part of what I wrote:

”I choke on the word 'retired.' On the rare occasions I have used this term to describe myself, I’ve seen the same kind of veil come over the eyes of people who ask what I do as I saw on the faces of young interviewers (before I gave up looking for full-time work)...

“Now, when I use the word, it is amusing (or would be if it weren’t so infuriating) to watch the other person searching for a way to politely extricate him- or herself from our conversation.”

The problem with the word is that to be retired in the United States is to be perceived as irrelevant, uninteresting and quite possibly stupid. Even the late, eminent geriatrician, Robert N. Butler, had personal experience with the word being synonymous to others with “over the hill” which at age 80, he definitely was not.

Retirednotexpired3

Recently I had cause to choke on another word that in most situations should not provoke that response: hobbies. Actually, it took more than the word alone; it was the lead-in sentence to a list of hobbies that left me feeling gloomy about attitudes toward old people.

”Here are 11 healthy hobbies your aging loved one might want to consider.”

First, there is the tone of condescension, as though an old person doesn't already have his/her own interests. Then there is the dismissive word itself, hobbies, which sounds a lot like the idea is to just fill time until the “aging loved one” kicks the bucket.

Here are the 11 items.

  1. Creating Art / Doing Crafts
  2. Volunteering
  3. Swimming
  4. Walking
  5. Playing Games / Cards
  6. Dancing
  7. Gardening
  8. Practicing Yoga
  9. Golfing
  10. Caring for a Pet
  11. Family and Friends

There is nothing wrong with anything on that list except that elders already know about them and each one is much more than a mere pastime. Tens of millions of people, old and young, participate in numbers 3, 4, 8 and 9 for enjoyment and to help keep themselves fit.

Numbers 5 and 6 are among the many ways we have to socialize with others. And I would file 2, 7, 10 and 11 under the category not of hobbies, but of living.

In fact, the only one that could possibly be labeled a hobby is number one. Maybe. In some circumstance. But usually not, I think.

Using the word hobby for any of these is dismissive. But such an attitude is a pattern in regard to elders. Many people, apparently including the writer of this article, think that because you are retired, whatever you do with your time is not valuable or useful.

Really? Tell that to volunteers. To caregivers. To docents. To people who knit, crochet and quilt for the homeless and other charities. And tell that to others who spend their time learning, keeping fit, reading, relaxing, catching up with what they had no time for during their working years - and one more - an important one: "just" being.

Speaking of hobbies, too many people who believe they know a lot about old people and write about them make it their own hobby to exhort old people to do, do, do. God forbid any elder should spend some quiet time with themselves.

LivingForYourself

Which brings me to an important idea about which TGB reader, Rosemary Woodel, emailed.

She included a link to an essay by Parker J. Palmer, one of the contributors to Krista Tippet's On Being website. It is titled Being More Than Being Useful.

”I work hard at what I do, and I bet you do too. So maybe you need the same reminder I do: while my work is important, it is not a measure of my value or worth,” writes Palmer.

“Who we 'be' is far more important than what we do or how well we do it. That’s why we’re called human beings, not human doings!

“We pay a terrible price if we value our doing over our being. When we have to stop 'doing' — e.g., because of job loss, illness, accident, or the diminishments that can come with age — we lose our sense of worthiness.”

Okay, he's more flip than I would be about his idea but that doesn't make him wrong. He's talking about being centered, accepting of your own self, understanding your intrinsic worth.

The people who who make lists of hobbies for old folks, advise us to walk faster, find new friends and pick something from a list to do have forgotten - or perhaps, because they are usually much younger - have not realized yet that growing old is also an important time to, in addition to everything else, do less - to be.

Growing old is a perfect time to learn or re-learn that we are, each one of us, worthy just by the fact of being here. Being old and retired from the workforce does not diminish that worthiness even if some others think so. We should not allow them to disregard us by assuming we aren't busy enough and need help to figure out how to use our time.