Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Marian McPartland -- Happy 90th Birthday

Jazz pianist Marian McPartland, born 3/20/1918, celebrated her 90th birthday at New York's Lincoln Center the evening of the 19th. Variety's Sunday, March 23rd issue noted in Robert L. Daniels' review of the celebration:

"The grand doyenne of the keyboard still plays boldly assured piano. Her approach resonates with a rare, studied blend of elegance and subtlety that must be the envy of younger musicians."

Excerpts of the event include this National Public Radio link to a slide show; also you can listen to McPartland performances as Norah Jones sings "Yesterdays," jazz violinist Regina Carter's rendition of "Georgia On My Mind." This NPR account then describes (Wynton) "Marsalis and the Grand Dame of Jazz sparred in a conversational improvisation. The trumpeter strolled the stage, bouncing notes off McPartland's piano strings." Highlights of the birthday celebration performances will be featured later on her jazz radio program.

I first became aware of Marian McPartland's music in the early 1960s from a man (he later became my husband) whose avocation was as a professional jazz musician. Most of the jazz musicians were male with few females other than vocalists or, "girl singers" as they were generally called. When he and his musician friends assessed the talents of any local female jazz musicians, some of the discussions I heard left me wondering if perhaps there might be a gender bias. There were two or three women that when named were said to be "pretty good...for a girl."

There was one female jazz pianist, Marian McPartland, who came to town fairly often whose piano playing elicited only admiration from all the musicians. Her talents crossed whatever gender barrier there might have been. In an effort to understand what it was about how she played that placed her in a talent category far superior to any other female jazz musician, I repeatedly tried to get an explanation from my husband as to what it was about her playing that made her better. His explanation always came down to "She plays like a man." He's no longer here to combat my teasing about his possible sexism or to enjoy her earthly music, but maybe some heavenly notes find their way to him. I'll content myself with continuing to enjoy her music as I always have since I first heard her play.

An interesting interview by Gene Seymour with McPartland is featured in the Salt Lake Tribune in which she reveals having fractured her pelvis this past Christmas holiday season. That event may have slowed her a bit, but she's back at the keyboard as her birthday celebration photo attests. She's also continuing with her radio show.

Marian McPartland's National Public Radio, Piano Jazz is the longest-running national performance program on public radio and was called "an oasis of intelligence and grace and probably the best hour of jazz on the airwaves" by The Washington Post. She features a combination of conversation and music with a variety of performers from jazz legends to newer artists. A schedule for her program's weekly broadcast in all areas can be easily accessed at the NPR link by providing your location.

Currently, you can listen to the March 21st program featuring her husband, cornetist Jimmy McPartland, to whom she attributes much of her music success. He was in the Army, Marian was from England and they met in Belgium entertaining World War II troups. They came to the U.S.A. in 1946, divorced in 1970, remained good friends, re-married a few weeks before his death from lung cancer in 1991 Wikipedia reports.

A Ted Kurkland Associates biography of Marian McPartland contains detailed information noting that she was

"...born in a small English village near Windsor Castle.." but went on to "...become one of the leading proponents of America’s Great Musical Idiom..." jazz. She's a composer, writer "...helped to develop and participated in a jazz education program for Washington, D.C. schoolchildren that ended up becoming a model for similar endeavors around the country." She "...supplied Down Beat with some concert reviews back in 1949, took up the pen occasionally to write witty and prescient appreciations and remembrance-filled essays for different magazines, which were collected in a volume titled All in Good Time in 1987. The book was reissued by the University of Illinois Press in February 2003 as Marian McPartland’s Jazz World with new postscripts from the author.

Marian McPartland has a new album, "Twilight World," a mixture of "...familiar standards and original material..." released March 11, 2008. Her Concord label notes "Twenty-one albums in 29 years at one label is a feat unto itself ..." They write "Pianist and frequent Piano Jazz guest Bill Charlap has said that, "MM is a harmonic genius. Her singular musical voice encompasses the past, present and future of jazz." Her facile touch is present throughout this sumptuous ballad-centric program."

She says, ""I'm so happy to have done this album...It's nice to have something you're this happy with at this stage of life."

I'm just happy that at 90 years of age she's still playing and recording music, continuing her weekly radio show -- truly a "...musical voice encompassing the past, present and future of jazz," as Charlap said.

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Political Campaign Fatigue -- Already?

An authority whose words of wisdom
I first read in the 1950s
is alleged to have said:

"How come we choose from just two people for President,
and fifty for Miss America?"

"Crime does not pay... as well as politics."
Alfred E. Neuman

Fatigue with this U.S. presidency political campaign is creeping up on me quite rapidly. I restrained myself earlier this year from writing the annoyance I felt when so many states started playing musical chairs rescheduling their primary/caucuses dates. Yet -- this change seemed to stimulate increased interest resulting in greater voter participation. Or, would there have been just as much interest by virtue of the historically unique variety of candidates?

Yes, I know the real campaign hasn't started until one political party with two still vying candidates decides on just one, as the other party already has, and that may not occur until -- August (?) Maybe that's good to lessen the time for that final race toward November.

I'll tell you one thing, if I lived in Michigan (have family there) or Florida, I'd be mad as you-know-what that my party officials (local and/or national) prevented my opportunity to vote in the countdown earlier this year, and now can't figure out how to give me a voice.

I'd also be angrier than you-know-what if the "Super Delegates" of this party play games with their votes come the national convention. What is this "super delegates" stuff? Sounds real democratic to me -- reminds me of a quote from George Orwell's novella Animal Farm:

"All animals are equal but some are a little more equal than the rest."

Meanwhile, I just hope those two wanna-be candidates still vying for their party nomination don't destroy each other and their party in the effort to determine which one becomes the actual final candidate.

When I stop to think about this election, I realize we have individuals from different races, even opposite genders competing for the Presidency. Surely, by now these are known facts. How much more time, print and talk needs to be spent by candidates, Fourth Estate, others (including us bloggers) repeating that information, then contaminating those facts with all sorts of innuendo and speculation?

Also, we've whittled our candidates down to a rather wide age spread -- at least, wide enough that all too many writers, comedians, talk show hosts, political pundits take the easy way out for getting a laugh with repartee that is insultingly ageist, and cheapens a viable point as they angle for a laugh. I think we now know the age range of our candidates. Just how much more time, print and talk needs to be spent repeating that information, then contaminating those facts with all sorts of innuendo and speculation?

What do I want to hear? These are largely broadly framed topics about which a President needs to be aware and knowledgeable I think. Some can be and need to be discussed with some specificity. These are just some of my concerns which have readily come to mind that I have quickly written down here. I want candidates to address by offering possible solutions to:
  • resolving this interminable war
  • correcting the grave state of our economy
  • eliminating health cares' serious inadequacies
  • solving Medicare's weighty issues
  • upgrading and repairing our nation's infrastructure
  • certain foreign policy issues today
  • improving our world image, approaches to take, demonstrate ability and knowledge to talk about other countries intelligently
  • protecting our citizen rights by stating positions on currently pending legislation since as Senators they may need to vote on some of these bills anyway
  • eliminating politicization of Homeland Security and other law enforcement,
  • defending citizens rights and that definitely includes all women, minorities, socially oppressed
  • immigration problems by describing plans, with utilization of modern technology and termination of wall building on our borders
  • enable recognizing California's right to establish our own environmental laws stronger than the EPA that is trying to dilute them
  • prevent vehicles from entering this country if they and their drivers do not meet all requirements U.S.A. drivers and trucks have to meet, including border states (especially California) vehicle pollution limitations
  • re-establish the rights of American citizens which have been dramatically stolen
  • assure and demonstrate to American citizens the Executive Branch of government will immediately cease usurping the people's and legislative branches powers, and corrupting our justice system

-- and that's just the beginning.

What did I leave out? I'm sure plenty, because an over-abundance of issues exist.

Tuesday, March 04, 2008

Living In Place

Independent Living Option

Healthcare System Need

Living In Place is my retirement plan, if the support system I need is present and my circumstances are such that I am able to enjoy living independently in my home, or smaller private living quarters for my remaining years. The Los Angeles Times regular weekly Health Section attracted my attention this Monday, March 3, 2008 when I saw the front page titled "Not leaving home -- Older Americans want to live out their days in familiar comfort. Increasingly, they can" by Shari Roan. This is what I want to know about. What support systems are available now? What services are available? I certainly hope there's more support available than twenty years ago when I was trying to fulfill my mother's desire to live independently in place.

I was even more interested in reading this section of my paper when I discovered Shari had written additional articles in that section, "A network of helping hands," one called "Health tactics that pay off," another "Older caregivers help make up for shortage of home aides," and "Resources for those aging in place." I've found these articles quite informative and would urge anyone who is interested in living independently in their own living accommodations, whether an apartment, town house, condominium, or house, read these articles. You can access some of them by clicking the links on their titles including this "Guide to Retirement Living" with independent living reference.

Following is a brief summary of her front page article I mentioned above, "Not leaving home..." This article offers some dollars and cents figures for comparison purposes of costs for living in settings other than home and that of some supplemental services costs that would be incurred should an individual choose to remain in their home.

The more aging data, informative specifics I can gather the better. Some of us may be quite familiar with some of the figures and additional elder issues from ongoing aging articles by other bloggers, especially Ronni Bennett at "Times Goes By." (An increasing number of bloggers and readers have come to refer there as a primary source for current overall aging information.)

I think Shari Roan's articles are definitely of interest to bloggers and newspaper readers (older folks, their children, caregivers desiring to offer services.) She provides cost of care dollar amounts obtained from MetLife, AARP for accommodations in more institutional type settings ranging from the

* "Average national cost per year of private-room nursing home care: $77,745* (*100,000in Southern California)" to

* "Average national base rate per year of assisted-living care: $35,628** (**As much as several hundred dollars a month may be added for..."special services of fairly routine need by many i.e. diabetics and others she describes.

She discloses details about costs associated with home health aide care for one hour per day with a base of $6,916 per year, but notes additional costs with additional services you can read about in her article.

A possibility for living independently in place on which she focuses in her article is described with the acronym "LIFE : started in 2005 as a federally funded pilot project designed to see if such communities -- called naturally occurring retirement communities...could help people remain in place as they age. Loosely defined, the communities are neighborhoods in which a large segment of the residents are older adults."

The program Shari Roan describes is located in Park La Brea where more than 500 residents are 60 and older. She says they have developed a unique network of volunteers to facilitate continued success of LIFE (Living Independently in a Friendly Environment.) "Susan Alexman, director of senior services for Jewish Family Service of Los Angeles, which operates the LIFE program..." says, "You know the saying, 'It takes a village to raise a child'? Well, it takes a community to support an older adult."

Most exciting to me is Roan's report "About 80 supportive services programs have sprung up in naturally occurring retirement communities in recent years in the United States" with "about half...funded by Congress as pilot projects" according to Peter Notarstefano, director of home and communities-based services for the American Assn. of Homes and Services for the Aging in Washington, D.C. Roan reports other Southern California elderly programs, mentioning one of the first in the Beacon Hill neighborhood in Boston in 2000 as examples of nonprofit corporations but the latter "operates with annual membership fees that give people preferred access to vendors who have been pre-screened." She says some programs "are springing up in affluent areas of the country that operate with dues paid by members."

The subject of independent living for elders has been close to my heart since the 1980s when my mother expressed the desire to continue living on her own through her elder years. My mother had lived independently for many years, coping quite competently with being legally blind, remaining active in her community with no other family members there. Eventually my family settled in California, and she came to visit. Previously, she and I had periodically considered the pros and cons of her moving closer to me. For the first time when we talked of living so far apart I could hear her increased uncertainty, hesitations about the desirability of having so many miles separate us.

She was reluctant, but I suggested we explore various types of accommodations for her consideration, just to see what might be available. Serendipitously we located living accommodations that pleased her and proved to be quite ideal for many years. As her needs gradually grew, we also discovered the challenges facing elders trying to remain independent living in place, a loved ones difficulty in meeting the need to provide increasing care and the stresses to obtain the necessary assistance to supplement what family and friends could offer.

I am aware that locally many more services are available now and I can only wish that had been so when my mother was living. Some in the U.S. and other countries may have systems in place to more readily facilitate living in place. Other people may have a serious need for more services. I am very interested in knowing what options and services exist elsewhere for possible integration into some sort of overall plan beneficial to all elders who desire to live in place. Surely, whatever health care plan any system change in our country brings should incorporate provisions enabling elders the option of independent living in place.