Tuesday, April 4, 2017

CELEBRITY ENDORSEMENTS

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

--"Now that I've got a lot of time on my hands, I've started binge-reading Jim's remarkable blog."--Bill O'Reilly
--"Jim's a funny guy, but he's no Yakof Smirnoff!  Nyet!"--Vladimir Putin
--"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
  • Heady stuff:  Donald Trump once bragged about how he "screwed" Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi in a real estate deal.  That means the guy with the world's worst hair outfoxed the guy with the world's worst hat! 
  • I don't think there are as April Fool's Day shenanigans these days, but no matter, we do have the Trump Administration!
  • The next time a politician backpedals on an earlier pronouncement, you could say he's trying to save both his faces.
  • Oxymoron for the Ages:  Political science.  
  • Speaking of politics,  about 40 percent of U.S. teachers said fears of backlash from parents and administrators made them hesitant to teach about the 2016 election.--The Atlantic.com
  • The untold health-care story in America:  If you haven't already noticed, there are no more hospitals--they have all become "medical centers" or "clinics."  I don't know how great the Mayo or Cleveland Clinics really are, but they were way ahead of their time in the nouveau name game.
  • If I were to diagnosed with glaucoma, I think I'd worry little about the "glau" and a lot about the "coma"!
  • It has been said that there is nothing sadder than an old baseball writer.  Or, one might add, a rainout on Opening Day!  (White Sox hosting the Tigers on April 3--didn't happen.)
  • Speaking of sportswriters, whatever happened to the old "No cheering in the press box" dictum?  You'll see these ESPN "reporters", or local guys, breathlessly interviewing the game's hero, with head bobbing and ear-to-ear grinning, as if they were the player's wife or agent.   Doesn't look like reportorial objectivity on display, does it?   Softball questions, lots of wet-kiss rhetoric. 
  • And as far as the players' postgame behavior is concerned, shouldn't the game's goat get the bath or the pie in the face, instead of the hero?  I'mjustsayin'.
  • Speaking of reporters (real ones, that is), every time I see  Carl Bernstein on CNN, I can't help but think of his partner, Bob Woodward, both of them of "All the President's Men"/Watergate fame.   I think of them as the Simon and Garfunkel of journalism.  
  • Our Wide But Crazy World of Sports:  Box seats cost $150, hot dogs are $7, the players and owners are all multi-millionaires, but the taxpayers pay for the stadiums where all this takes place.    How did we let this happen?  
  • With all the drug offenders, wife beaters and other miscreants in professional sports, isn't a Hall of Shame way overdue?
  • "Don’t trust a brilliant idea unless it survives the hangover."--Jimmy Breslin
  • Has anyone besides me had rotten luck in trying to "unsubscribe" from various unwanted e-mail sources?  And in this age of advanced and amazing technological derring-do, why does it take "30 days" to do the deed?   They can charge your credit card in a nanosecond, but unsubscribing you?  Not so fast.  
  • jimjustsaying's Party Ice-Breaker of the Month:  "Say [actual partygoer-s name here], did you know that killer whales, short-finned pilot whales, and humans are the only animals that experience menopause?"
  • "I use the word 'totally' way too much. I need to change it to something that’s different, but means the same thing.  As in, 'Mitch, do you like submarine sandwiches?' 'All encompassingly.'--Mitch Hedberg
  • Regarding those folks who (all due respect) have no children but have beloved pets, we all recognize in many cases that the pets are sort of surrogate children.  Or, as I look to call them, "furrogates."
  • I guess you could say I grew up in a rough neighborhood.  Our parish priest was also a licensed bail bondsman.  And the town's head librarian was a juice loan collector! Whew!
  • Another in a series of jimjustsaying's Stupid Warnings on Actual Products:  On a New Zealand insect spray:  "This product not tested on animals."
  • Three TV programs I never watch:  "Dancing With the Stars,"  "America's Funniest Home Videos" and anything hosted by or featuring Alec Baldwin.
  • Skiing never appealed to me.  I think it's what wine snobs do for recreation.   (All skiers are wine snobs . . . but not all wine snobs are skiers.)  I'mjustsayin'.
  • Going down hill at 70 m.p.h. on two thin boards doesn't make you an athlete.  It makes you an adrenalin junkie--at best--or, if it really goes awry--an organ donor.  
  • " 'I’m sorry' and 'I apologize' mean the same thing.  Except at a funeral."--comedian Demetri Martin
  • Newspaper Obituary  Nickname of the Month:  "Popcorn Bob."   As in, Robert J. “Popcorn Bob” Mazurek, Kenosha News obituary, Dec. 4, 2016.  R.I.P., Mr. Mazurek.
  • jimjustsaying's Term That Doesn't Exist But Should of the Month:  Simultaneous Doorgasm:  When two people open a car door from opposite sides at the same time and startle each other.  (Thanks to e-mailer douglas@gmail.com)
  • Today's Latin lesson:  Ego sententia nos erant in haud dico album! ("Hey, I thought we were on the no-call list!")

jimjustsaying's Annual Baseball Special

 Ten Favorite Oddities of the 2016 Season

April 2--Chasen Shreve is the first pitcher in a decade to allow a home run on each of the first two pitches he throws in a game.

May 30--The Cubs bullpen provides seven perfect innings — the most in a game since 1917, when Red Sox starting pitcher Babe Ruth was ejected and Ernie Shore completed a no-hitter.

June 1--Exactly one-third of the way into their season, the Cardinals whack their 10th pinch-hit home run, matching their total in the previous four years combined.

July 12--In an All-Star Game managed by Terry Collins of the Mets, none of the four players on his own team appear.

July 1--The lone run of a game scores on a passed ball for the first time since 1986, as the Reds edge the Brewers.

July 23--Red Sox TV analyst Jerry Remy is knocked out of a game when a TV monitor in the broadcast booth falls on his head.

July 28--Jeurys Familia of the Mets blows his second save in less than 24 hours after converting 52 in a row over the previous 360 days.

Aug. 31--In a major-league first, rookies on opposing teams hit grand slams, as Stephen Cardullo and Andrew Toles connect.

Oct. 7--Elias Sport Bureau notes that, for the fourth time in five years, a left-handed batter who didn’t homer against a southpaw in the regular season did so in the playoffs.

Nov. 2--Three different Cubs catchers drive in a run as Chicago wins Game 7 of the World Series.

Chicago Cubs firsts (in addition to winning their first World Series in 108 years)--Third baseman Kris Bryant, en route to being named the National League's Most Valuable Player, became the first ever to homer multiple times in a 5-for-5 performance more than once in a season.  And also: he became the first ever to homer three times and hit two doubles in one game. His teammate, center fielder Dexter Fowler became the first ever to hit lead off a World Series Game 7 with a home run.

AND FINALLY:

The heroics of Cubs catcher Miguel Montero (reflecting bad strategy by two opposing managers):

Game One of 2016 NLCS:  Although it was his walk-off homer that clinched the division crown in September, he was hitting just .216 in that Game One when in the 8th inning, 3-3 tie, runners on first and second with two out and the pitcher due up, the Dodgers, presumably to get ace smoke-throwing reliever Aroldis Chapman out of the game, elected to buck tradition by loading the bases by intentionally by walking lefty swinging Chris Coghlan.  Montero--the lone left-handed bat left on the bench--foiled the Dodgers strategy by hitting an 0-2 pitch from Joe Blanton for a grand slam.

Then, in Game 7 of the World Series, Cleveland elected to walk Addison Russell on purpose to load the bases and bring up Montero, who singled to left field to score what proved to be the winning run!

(Thanks to Athlon Sports, my favorite baseball annual, for these nuggets.)

THE QUOTE RACK

Can Kim Jong Un's weapons be destroyed?
The U.S. and South Korea frequently war-game a strike on North Korea, and Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said recently that if Kim keeps ratcheting up his threats,  "military action" would be an option.  But the risks are high.  North Korea’s full military capabilities can’t simply be bombed away.  Western intelligence doesn’t know where most of the regime’s weapons systems are concealed, and some are hidden underground or inside mountains.  But even if a pre-emptive strike somehow took out all the nukes, it could not immediately destroy the thousands of artillery units.  North Korea could still retaliate by firing tons of shells and chemical weapons into the center of Seoul, killing hundreds of thousands of people.  "There is no South Korean leader," says South Korean analyst Suh Choo-suk, "who thinks the first strike by the U.S. is OK."
--The Week

The Supreme legislature?
The reason [the Neil Gorsuch] nomination is so politically fraught,  is that Supreme Court justices are not impartial arbiters of laws and facts.  The country’s highest court has essentially become a super-legislature, with the power to strike down laws based on its members’ own moral and political values.  That’s why Republicans were so desperate to keep the seat vacant until after Election Day--and why Democrats were so infuriated.  It’s time we acknowledged the power these unelected officials wield--and had honest hearings about the moral and political views of the nominees.
--Brian Leiter, Washington Post

Term limits for the Supreme Court
It’s time to end the Supreme Court Lotto.   Dumb luck dictates currently whether presidents, who serve eight years at the most, have the power to shape the court and therefore the country for 30 years or more.  With rising life expectancy, appointees like 49-year-old Neil Gorsuch could serve on the Supreme Court until 2050.  That’s bizarre.  Lifetime appointments are distorting our democracy in troubling ways, with Democrats and Republicans treating each high court opening as a titanic, life-or-death struggle.

Last year Senate Republicans wouldn’t even grant a hearing to Obama nominee Merrick Garland for 10 months.  Now Gorsuch heads toward a contentious and polarizing Democratic filibuster that could poison the Senate even further, making compromise impossible on a host of crucial issues.  There’s a simple solution: Limit justices to a single 18-year term, and stagger the appointments so that two new justices are nominated in each presidential term.  After 18 years, the court would turn over entirely. This plan would reduce partisan infighting and give presidents an incentive to appoint the very best justices in the prime of their careers, while constantly reinvigorating the court and our democracy. No one in America should have a guaranteed job for life.
--James Tisch, USA Today

Make America great again?  Promises, promises
--So much for that Return to Greatness. If the budget plan President Trump released is any guide, his new goal is to make the nation "dumber, dirtier, hungrier, and sicker."  Predictably titled "America First," this brutal document calls for a 9 percent boost in annual defense spending, paid for with deep cuts to almost everything else.  Trump is proposing a staggering 31 percent cut in funding to the Environmental Protection Agency and a 28 percent cut to the State Department (see Talking Points), and would also deeply slash funding for foreign aid, medical and scientific research, and anti-poverty programs that provide free meals to schoolchildren and the elderly.  Trump would entirely eliminate funding for National Public Radio, the Corporation for Public Broadcasting and the National Endowment for the Arts, thus sticking it to those "fancy-dancy 'elites' " that Trump and his supporters so despise.
--Eugene Robinson, Washington Post 

--The good news is that Trump’s dystopian budget is going nowhere. Congress, the Senate in particular, will never approve such cataclysmic cuts to popular programs.  But this is a useful document nonetheless.  It tells us everything we need to know about the cruel, heartless man sitting in the Oval Office.
--Michael Cohen, Boston Globe

How Trump’s policies are succeeding
Perceptions matter,  and in much of the country, the perception is that President Trump’s policies are working.  During Trump’s first full month in office, in February, the economy added 235,000 jobs--more than expected. More important, most of the jobs were in the private sector, with construction jobs up 58,000 and manufacturing jobs up 28,000.  At the same time, the stock market has broken records, with the Dow near 21,000.  It sure looks as if job creators are feeling optimistic because of the president’s plan to eliminate regulations and cut taxes.

At the southern border, meanwhile, apprehensions of people crossing illegally in February dropped 36 percent from the previous year.  Why?  The northward flood from Central American nations of children and some adults seeking asylum has slowed dramatically, because people from these countries know that "things are different now." Under President Obama, people caught at the border were usually released, pending further legal action.  But Trump has told immigration officials to send people caught at the border back quickly.  It’s still very early, but so far, the "wisdom of crowds" suggests that Trump is a far more effective president than his critics would insist.
--Micheal Barone, WashintonExaminer.com

Big fees for student loan defaulters
Borrowers who can’t pay their student loans  could find it even tougher to dig out of debt now.  The Department of Education recently reversed an Obama administration policy that barred guaranty agencies from hitting borrowers with hefty fees, as long as they began repaying their debt within 60 days of a default.  The fees, which could amount to 16 percent of the outstanding balance and accrued interest, apply only to loans taken out under the Federal Family Education Loan Program, which hasn’t issued new loans since July 2010.  It’s a harsh reminder that borrowers should do everything they can to keep up with their student loan repayments.  If you default, you will be subject to collection charges and wage garnishment, and the government can seize your income tax refund.
--Susan Tompor, Detroit Free Press

The real problem with retail
Don’t blame all of the retail industry’s woes on Amazon.  While there’s little doubt the internet giant has disrupted brick-and-mortar chains, a bigger problem is that American stores are simply too big, boring, and expensive.  America’s 7.3 square feet of retail space per capita is the most of any nation’s; compare that with 1.7 square feet per capita in Japan and France.  The number of U.S. shopping centers has actually grown by more than 23 percent since 1995, while the population has grown by less than 14 percent.

This retail construction boom now looks woefully out of step with consumer tastes.  Sport shopping, retail therapy, and conspicuous consumption offer less prestige today than they did in the 1990s.  Today’s consumers want experiences more than just "stuff."  A few savvy retailers have learned this lesson.  Consider the Apple Store, which moves more goods at retail than any other store in the world, some $5,500 in annual sales per square foot.  The same iPhones and iPads can be purchased at Best Buy, or even on Amazon, but more than 1 million visitors still trek to Apple Stores worldwide every day.  We’re seeing a "generational realignment" in how consumers spend money. The bad news for retailers is that we are probably closer to the beginning of that transition than the end.
--Barry Ritholtz, Bloomberg.com

Sunday, March 5, 2017

POPCORN

By Jim Szantor

Rhetorical questions, questionable rhetoric and whimsical observations 
about the absurdities of contemporary life
  • Artificial Intelligence (AI) is all well and good, but I say . . .  let's leave Real Stupidity (RS?) well enough alone.
  • jimjustsaying's take on the Electoral College:  There's no tuition, but the cost to the country can be devastating.
  • Did Hillary Clinton really "win the popular vote"?  Or was she just the default recipient of the votes of people who really didn't like her all that much but will always vote Democratic no matter what?   So no one really "won" the popular vote, Donald Trump lost it.  (And there are those who think he has really lost it!)
  • I hate it when I come up with what I think is a brilliant idea only to find (or be told) that it's already been done/said/debunked, whatever.  So I thought of a good name for a girl: Pristine.  (I'll hate it when somebody tells me they know someone who already has that name!)
  • Speaking of which, here are some words of wisdom from computer programmer Grace Hopper: "If it’s a good idea, go ahead and do it. It’s much easier to apologize than it is to get permission."
  • Butt-dialing is something that happens accidentally.  Fortunately, no known instances of butt-answering!
  • "The trouble with telling a good story is that it invariably reminds the other fellow of a dull one."--Sid Caesar
  • I'm getting to the age when discovering a pimple is almost a joyous occasion--an occasion that deludes me into thinking my youth hasn't totally abandoned me yet.  ("Bring on the acne, Lord--I can handle it now!")
  • Why do companies keep sending me updates to their "privacy policies"?  Isn't that an invasion of privacy?  (If you're the type of person who has the time or makes the time to read privacy policies, you're probably the type of person who wouldn't mind having your privacy invaded!)
  • jimjustsaying's Party Ice-Breaker of the Week:  "Say [actual partygoer's name here], did you know that the factory that makes York Peppermint Patties moved from York, Pa., to Mexico  in 2009, taking 300 jobs with it?"
  • Get ready--you're going to be hearing a lot this month about March Madness (as if the rest of the year is totally sane).
  • Madness musing:  Isn't the NCAA tournament played largely by a bunch of juniors and seniors who weren't good enough to get megabucks offers and jump to the pros?
  •  "Maybe this world is another planet’s hell."--Aldous Huxley
  • About that near-universal "Momily" to "always wear clean underwear . . . because you never know when you’ll be in an accident.”  
  • Chances are if you're  in an accident bad enough to be taken to the hospital, nobody's going to be taking note of your underwear. And when’s the last time you read a story about an auto accident that said:
  • "The injured driver comma who arrived at the emergency room in ragged underwear comma and without a clean handkerchief comma . . . . "  
  • Newspaper Obituary Headline of the Month:  Nu Nu.  As in Marcell David "Nu Nu” Brice , Kenosha (Wis.) News obituary, Feb. 12, 2017.  R.I.P., Mr. Brice.
  •  jimjustsaying's Word That Doesn't Exist But Should of the Month:  "Obstinut:  The pistachio that is impossible to open."  (Thanks to "gap@gmail.com.")
  •  "Last week I helped my friend stay put.  It’s a lot easier than helping someone move."--Mitch Hedberg
  • Good news and bad news department:  My blog got a huge plug from a prominent newsmaker the other day.  The bad news?  It was from Kim Jong-un.  (That's what I get for Friending him on Facebook.)
  • Today's Latin Lesson:  Hoc quoquo transibit.  ("This, too, shall pass.")

Saturday, March 4, 2017

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.