Saturday, February 3, 2018

CELEBRITY ENDORSEMENTS

What they're saying about Jim's provocative blog:

--"Джим - забавный парень, но он не Яков Смирнов!" (Jim's a funny guy, but he's no Yakof Smirnoff!  Nyet!")--Vladimir Putin
--"Я думаю, мы могли бы использовать такого парня, как Джим."  (I think we could use a guy like Jim!)--Sergey Kislyak, Russian ambassador to the United States.
--"He's from this country, Mexicans don't read him, so that's good enough for me."--Donald Trump
--"The one thing I didn't delete from my private server."--Hillary Clinton
--"Jimaschizzle!"--Calvin Cordozar Broadus, Jr. (aka Snoop Dogg)
--"The one thing I DO read!"--Sarah Palin
--"The most fun you can have with your clothes on (but DO take a shower afterwards)."--Dick Cavett

jimjustselling . . .


(Actually, I'm not, but the good folks at HenschelHAUS are. And they're now offering FREE SHIPPING IN THE CONTINENTAL U.S. 
https://henschelhausbooks.com/product/lol-i-gags/


The book is also available at:

POPCORN

By Jim Szantor

Rhetorical questions, questionable rhetoric and whimsical observations about the absurdities of contemporary life
  • Olympian observation:  Curling is a pastime in search of a nation. For what it's worth, Wikipedia says "Curling was one of the first sports that were popular with women and girls," so there's that. (Kind of hard to work into a conversation, but there you have it!)
  • Olympian observation II:  Many of the "sports" featured in the Games aren't.   Figure skating?  That's not a sport, that's an activity . . . as are the luge, the hammer throw, bobsledding, ski jumping, snowboarding, the canoe sprint, gymnastics, the trampoline and weight lifting.   A sport is played with a ball (or a facsimile of, as in hockey), involves teams, organized leagues, beer sponsors, mascots and, for many years, Chris Berman.  Some of these events are as sportslike as the annual July 4th hot-dog eating contest.
  • You're an old-timer when you can remember when coal was delivered to your house, when electric trolleys showered the air with sparks, and when no one ever dreamed there'd be something called a Geek Squad.  (There was no need; who needed a techno-nerd to plug your radio or TV into an outlet?  And the rabbit ears weren't all that difficult to install either.)
  • Memo to those roboted out of a job:  Start your own business, one that will fulfill a need in today's Amazonian world, such as: A Package-Opening Service.  "Bring your thick-cardboarded, thick blister-packed, heavily Syrofoamed or heavily packaging-peanuted overly wrapped box to us, and we will open in for you and dispose of all the overpackaging material."  (Void where prohibited.)
  • jimjustsaying's Party Ice-Breaker of the Week:  "Say [actual partygoer's name here], did you know that Uma Thurman's father, Robert, is a Buddhist professor of Indo-Tibetan studies at Columbia University who thinks Uma is a reincarnated goddess?"  (Thanks to Maureen Dowd for this priceless tidbit.)
  • negu8im scy4lw9z.  (Those  were the most recent CAPTCHA "words" I had to type to access a site I was about to enter.  No need to adjust your computer or your eyeglass prescription.)
  • Untruth in Advertising dept.:  Things you never see (or saw):  A beer gut in a beer commercial, someone coughing in a cigarette commercial or someone constipated in a pain pill commercial.
  • Shouting at the TV Dept.:  I'm certainly no fan of Donald Trump's immigration views, but I want to talk back every time I hear a Democratic politician or southpaw TV commentator intone, "We're a nation of immigrants."   Yes--but initially, at least--a nation of LEGAL immigrants.  My grandparents didn't sail from Eastern Europe to Mexico and sneak in over the border.  They sailed to New York, went through Ellis Island, and didn't apply for entitlement programs as soon as they unpacked.  And yes, they were fleeing terrible conditions too.
  • Memo to so-called "Dreamers":  I sympathize, but the American government didn't put you in your current plight--your parents did.  Blame the dysfunctional government that made your "homeland" a living hell.  Better yet, why not go to your homeland and help fix that?  But when do you hear that?  Or see that sentiment expressed on protest march signs?  In other words, let the guy who spilled his water glass at the next table clean it up himself.  Why did that become my job?  
  • Made all of your President’s Day plans yet?  There’s still time.
  • Maybe we should have a Vice President’s Day too.  You’d still have to show up at work, but you wouldn’t have to do anything.
  • President’s Day is nice and all, but who really looks forward to it--aside from government workers?  I propose a holiday that would hold more satisfaction for the rest of us: Turnabout Day, based on "turnabout's fair play."  A way to correct a power imbalance we all endure.
  • On Turnabout Day--and you’d get to pick your own date each year--your doctor would have to get naked in front of you, and your accountant or financial adviser would have to show you his or her tax return!
  • "A book read by a thousand different people is a thousand different books."--Director Andrei Tarkovsky, quoted in TheGuardian.com
  • Why is a shoehorn so-called?  It doesn't look like a horn.  Why not call it a shoe-in?  I'mjustsayin'.
  • I love when the pill directions say to "best taken after a meal."  Which meal?  It's always "after" a meal--unless you've never eaten before.  So if I ate lunch at noon, can I take the pill at 3 and still be in "after a meal" mode.  What's the cutoff?  Two minutes?  Twenty? Two hours?  Down with unnecessarily vague product instructions.
  • New feature: Honoring the Comedian.  Today:  The late Mitch Hedberg.  Here is one of his best:
  • "I bought a doughnut, and they gave me a receipt for the doughnut.  I don't need a receipt for the doughnut, man, I'll just give you the money, and you give me the doughnut--end of transaction.  We don't need to bring ink and paper into this.  I just can't imagine a scenario where I would have to prove that I bought a doughnut.  Some skeptical friend:  "Don't even act like I didn't get that doughnut! I got the doc-u-men-tation right here.  Oh, wait it's at home . . . in the file . . . under 'D' . . . for doughnut."
  • Three of the most unused items in any kitchen:  Pasta makers, fondue pots and any one of those items that's supposed to make peeling an egg easier but doesn't.
  • WD-40 Safety Tips:  Never use WD-40 to clean your contact lenses . . . as a nasal decongestant . . . or to clean your ear canal."--"The WD-40 Book," by Jim and Tim--the Duct Tape Guys.
  • Just wondering:  What happened to WD-1 through 39?  And I've always wondered how Vicks Formula One tasted.
  • Newspaper Obituary Headline Nickname of the Month:  "Ding."  As in Robert G. "Ding" Miller, Kenosha (Wis.) News obituary, Jan. 15, 2017.
  • Eighty-second Wisconsin Town I Didn't Know Existed Until I Saw It Mentioned in a Green Bay Press-Gazette Obituary:  Newald, Wis.. (R.I.P., Joan J. Cleereman, Green Bay Press-Gazette obituary, Jan. 10, 2018).  Previous entries: Athelstane, Walhain, Duck Creek, Breed, Anston, Sobieski, Amberg, Osseo, Angelica, Brazeau, Waukechon, Sugar Camp, Kossuth, Lessor, Kunesh, Pulcifer, Cato, Florence, Greenleaf, Eaton, Poygan, Hofa Park, Hilbert, Hollandtown, Beaufort, Glennie, Harshaw, Bessemer, Crooked Lake, Tigerton, Goodman, Readstown, Dousman, Butternut, Montpelier, Cecil, Red River, Gillet, King, Laona, Kelly Lake, Glenmore, Tonet, Stiles, Morrison, Dunbar, Askeaton, Wild Rose, Neopit, Ellisville, Pickett, Flintville,  Forest Junction, Thiry Daems, Black Creek,  Mountain, Ledgeview, Lunds, Suring, Lakewood, Beaver, Cloverleaf Lakes, Krakow, Pella, Townsend, Vandenbroek, Coleman, Spruce, Armstrong Creek, Lake Gogebic, North Chase, Navarino, Pequot Lakes, Buchanan,  Rio Creek, Humboldt, Mill Center, Carlton, White Potato Lake, Lark and Scott.
  • "I got the bill for my surgery  Now I know why those doctors were wearing masks."--James H. Boren
  • Today's Word That Doesn't Exist But Should:  "Gapiana."  The unclaimed strip of land between "You Are Leaving . . ." and "Welcome To" signs seen when crossing state lines.--"More Sniglets," Rich Hall and Friends.
  • "Sheep from Mrs. Madison Sayles' farm will be part of the scent at Wilton's Christmas Carol Sing."--"Still More Press Boners," Earle Tempel
  • Today's Latin lesson:  Ut Volo vestri sententia I'll quaeso is.  ("When I want your opinion, I'll ask for it!")

LAGNIAPPE

jimjustsaying's 
 Internet Click-bait Items of the Month
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  2. Hidden features on airplanes you never knew existed
  3. Ask for these secret menu items at your favorite restaurants
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  9. What your sleep position reveals about your personality
  10. 38 secrets your hair stylist won't tell you
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  12. Hairstyles for gray hair
  13. Remember Fabio?  Try not to gasp when you see him now
  14. Newest dog breeds you've probably never heard of


THE LINK TANK

Nunes Memo shoots itself in the foot
The Trump-Russia investigation didn’t start with the Steele dossier
https://www.motherjones.com/politics/2018/02/the-nunes-memo-proves-one-thing-and-its-the-opposite-of-what-it-tries-to-prove/

The Left’s rage and Trump’s peril
The Democratic base is even worse-tempered than the president.  But Mueller could still harpoon him
https://www.google.com/url?sa=t&rct=j&q=&esrc=s&source=web&cd=2&cad=rja&uact=8&ved=0ahUKEwjEmfqsvYjZAhXppVkKHUwJAUMQFgguMAE&url=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.wsj.com%2Farticles%2Fthe-lefts-rage-and-trumps-peril-1517530358&usg=AOvVaw2f1YRNR9AO_rvbzGPLCnZz

When protectionism is not about protecting America at all
No bad deed goes unrewarded
https://www.google.com/url?sa=t&rct=j&q=&esrc=s&source=web&cd=1&cad=rja&uact=8&ved=0ahUKEwjo6P7bvIjZAhWNo1kKHXRyDisQFggpMAA&url=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.washingtonpost.com%2Fopinions%2Fwhen-protectionism-is-not-about-protecting-america-at-all%2F2018%2F01%2F26%2F74cd11be-01fd-11e8-9d31-d72cf78dbeee_story.html&usg=AOvVaw2MoRFX8jMkYQz-mWgNUpnQ 

Dollars, cents and GOP sadism
It's more about bullying than budgeting
https://www.nytimes.com/2018/01/11/opinion/dollars-cents-republican-sadism.html

THE QUOTE RACK

The Colombia you probably don't know about
Drug cartels in Colombia now make more money through illegal gold mining than through cocaine trafficking, the Miami Herald reported [recently].  Intelligence officials estimate that the country’s illicit mining industry generates some $2.4 billion a year, three times more than Colombia’s cocaine industry.  That gold is sold to dealers in the U.S. and Europe, and used in everything from jewelry to cellphones.  The environmental damage and human misery are on par with Africa’s blood-diamond industry.  Illegal mining destroys lush rain forest and poisons the soil with mercury and cyanide--used to extract gold from or--while villagers are forced into sex trafficking and child labor.  Miners who try to go the legal route and refuse to pay protection money to the gangs, said security consultant Ivan Díaz Corzo, are killed "just for show."
--The Week

A YouTube tipping point
In retrospect, it’s amazing that YouTube has lasted this long.  The legal, moral, and ethical problems that come with allowing anyone to upload video to the Internet would seem to make the site’s demise inevitable.  Instead the 13-year-old YouTube has cemented its place in the web firmament.

Yet after a "grotesque" viral video of YouTube star Logan Paul finding a dead body in Japan’s "suicide forest," we need to start reckoning with how vast, influential--and potentially dangerous--the site is.   Although YouTube has recently endured controversies over white supremacists and creepy videos aimed at children, the Paul video feels different--less like an aberration than an inevitability. The 22-year-old vlogger, who has 15 million followers, is emblematic of YouTube’s attention-seeking culture, embracing ever-crazier stunts to attract more viewers.

Indeed, YouTube’s ad system incentivizes such boundary pushing, and the site’s business model partly depends on it, with YouTube keeping 45 percent of the ad money generated.  The company has said it will work harder on moderation, but 65 years’ worth of video is uploaded daily, making the site’s full contents unknowable.  This vastness, and YouTube’s prominence, means the worst, scariest stuff can reach millions before it’s taken down. That’s a problem not only for YouTube but also for society, and it portends a coming YouTube backlash.
--Brian Feldman, NYMag.com

A powerful, under-policed industry
"[T]he online ad machine is . . . a vast, opaque and dizzyingly complex contraption with under-appreciated capacity for misuse--one that collects and constantly profiles data about our behavior, creates incentives to monetize our most private desires and frequently unleashes loopholes that the shadiest of people are only too happy to exploit.  And for all its power, the digital ad business has long been under-regulated and under-policed, both by the companies that run it and by the world’s governments.

In the United States, the industry has been almost untouched by oversight, even though it forms the primary revenue stream of two of the planet’s most valuable companies, Google and Facebook.
Why it matters:  Socially, politically and culturally, the online ad business is far more dangerous than I appreciated.
--Farhad Manjoo, New York Times "State of the Art" columnist

The Doomsday Clock:  Apocalypse soon? 
Alarmed by increasing nuclear tensions with North Korea and Iran, climate change, and the belligerence and unpredictability of President Trump, the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists moved its metaphorical Doomsday Clock ahead 30 seconds last week.  It’s now set at two minutes to midnight, marking the closest humanity has theoretically been to annihilation since 1953, when the U.S. and the Soviet Union tested the first hydrogen bombs.  The clock is set by the Bulletin’s science and security board, which weighs existential threats to humanity, including nuclear war, a global pandemic and malevolent artificial intelligence.   The group includes experts in cybersecurity, nuclear policy, and environmental science, with multiple Nobel laureates among them.  And they’re very worried.

Trump’s "fire and fury" rhetoric is admittedly alarming, said Michael Cohen in The Boston Globe, but the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists is overreacting.  Are we really closer to Armageddon than we were during the Cold War, when the U.S. and the Soviet Union had tens of thousands of nuclear weapons on hair-trigger alert?  The reality is that the chances of nuclear war with North Korea remain incredibly small, because Kim Jong Un knows that any use of his nuclear arsenal would result in a devastating counterattack.  The Doomsday Clock is more a public relations device than a calculation of real-world probabilities, and it does no one any service by exaggerating and oversimplifying the risks we face.
--The Week

The future of banking
Banking isn’t what it used to be.  The industry is fast on its way to being even more futuristic.  Experts say most credit and debit cards will soon be able to be turned on or off instantaneously via an app.  For instance, to protect your card’s security, you could leave it "off" most of the time and simply activate it only when you’re buying something.  Cards will also soon know your smartphone’s location and will use it to verify that you are making a purchase.   Cardholders can also expect to see more bank branches evolve to feature a community center feel.  Some branches will incorporate coffeehouses to appeal to Millennial customers, while others will offer yoga classes, wine tastings, and knitting sessions.
--Geoff Williams, USNews.com

Where the recession endures
The Rust Belt isn’t the only region left behind by the economic recovery.  A large cluster of economically distressed communities in the American West--especially in suburban areas in Southern California, Arizona, and Nevada decimated by the housing crisis--are battling an ugly new reality of pervasive crime and poverty.  Burdened with some of the highest foreclosure and unemployment rates in the country and cut off from the benefits of the modern economy, these suburbs demonstrate how the geography of poverty has changed in America. Formerly middle-class neighborhoods are becoming poorer.  Gated communities, once considered luxury developments, are increasingly dilapidated and susceptible to theft and crime.

It’s not that there aren’t jobs in these areas; it’s that most are low-paying and unstable, in fields such as retail, manufacturing, and warehousing--hardly the type to provide a family with a comfortable middle-class life. Residents feel the economic tide has turned against them, leaving no path back to vitality.  The cycle is vicious:  As poverty becomes more pervasive, businesses close, tax revenue drops and the quality of services such as schools and local police deteriorates further.  Then the area becomes even less able to attract new residents and businesses. While many of us only see the recession in the rearview mirror, distressed areas are still there, unable to move ahead.
--Alana Semuels, The Atlantic

Looking at the national debt
Like any credit card user, the government must pay interest on its debt.  For much of the past decade that hasn’t been a major problem, because of historically low interest rates.  Net interest payments on the debt represented 6.8 percent of the federal budget in 2017, or $276.2 billion, compared with more than 15 percent in the mid-1990s.  But with the Fed unwinding its post-recession stimulus campaign, interest rates are expected to rise steadily in the coming years.  As a result, the CBO estimates, the cost of servicing the national debt is expected to nearly triple by 2027--leaving the government paying more on interest payments than on national defense.

Is everyone worried?  No.  Economists point out that debt can be used to fund important investments, such as stimulating the economy during a recession or fighting unavoidable wars.  The nation’s debt is also wildly different from a household’s budget, because the government can print its own money and has a theoretically infinite life span to pay off its obligations. Some theorists even argue that deficits and the debt are mostly irrelevant. One emerging school of thought, known as Modern Monetary Theory, argues that inflation is the only obstacle standing in the way of the government creating and spending as much money as it wants.  "The national debt is not a national crisis," says economist Stephanie Kelton, a former adviser to Sen. Bernie Sanders. "The fact that 21 percent of all children in the United States live in poverty--that’s a crisis."
--The Week

jimjustplaying

THE SOCRATIC METHOD?

As Socrates famously wrote, "The unexamined life is not worth living." One would well posit  that the unchallenged life is not worth living.  Or, if it is,  not as satisfying.

Most of my music-related activity since leaving the Air Force Band in late 1969 has been as an author and critic, my playing restricted solely to playing along with records at home.

Soloist Jim Szantor as lead alto David Bixler gives the cutoff on the final chord.

But that changed on Aug. 11 when I performed as a guest soloist on clarinet with the fabled Birch Creek Jazz Orchestra, a big band made up of some of the best jazz players in the country, comprising as they do the faculty that teaches the students who come to Egg Harbor in Door County for two-week sessions of intensive training and performance opportunities.  It's sort of a musical boot camp but with kindly but highly decorated instructors.  

My feature spot was "Ballad for Benny" a tune written by the late, great jazz composer and saxophonist Oliver Nelson, who was commissioned by Benny Goodman to write new material for the band's historic 1962 tour of the Soviet Union.   It was such a  significant cultural/political event back then that Walter Cronkite often led the CBS Nightly News with the band's latest exploits.

The 17-piece Birch Creek Jazz Orchestra prior to my introduction.


This tune was recorded by the Oliver Nelson Orchestra (with the great Phil Woods in a rare outing on clarinet instead of his usual lustrous alto sax) but never performed publicly in this country--till now.  If you do an internet search on some of the illustrious players in the band behind me --Dennis Mackrel, Clay Jenkins, Doug Stone, David Bixler, Tanya Darby, to name a few--you'll see why I'm so proud to have been selected to perform with them.


Part of the evening's program.
It was an oppressively muggy night (close to 100 percent humidity) in the un-air-conditioned hall, making intonation more of a challenge than usual. It took some months of chipping away at the rust that had accumulated over the years on my woodwind chops, but I was determined to have one last dance, so to speak, with the idiom that I have loved for a lifetime.  To paraphrase the late Karl Wallenda of the famed aerial troupe The Flying Wallendas, "Life is the bandstand.  The rest is just waiting."  

Luckily for me, the wait is over.