Saturday, May 23, 2020

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.
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
  • You know you were living a humdrum existence if the stay-at-home orders just validated your regular lifestyle.
  • Not too long ago, somebody would have called 911 if you entered a store—or especially a bank—wearing a mask.  Now you could be physically attacked (or even arrested) if you aren’t wearing one.  
  • jimjustsaying’s Party Ice-Breaker of the Month: “Say [actual partygoer’s name here], did you know that the earliest pandemic on record occurred during the Pelopennesian War in 430 B.C.?  It was believed to be a form of typhoid fever."
  • Speaking of World Topic A:  Hardly a day goes by in hearing or reading the latest political blather that I don't recall the sage words of H.L. Mencken, who said:  “For every complex problem, there is a solution that is neat, simple and wrong.”

  • Once baseball starts, why don’t they put the “coaches' boxes” where the coaches actually stand? For whatever reason (not to be clobbered by line drives?), they are rarely anywhere close to them.  (Same goes for the batters who seem to remove the batter's box outlines with impunity.)

  • Baseball without fans In the stands is a plus in my book.  Think of all the images we are spared of obese, besotted guys with team logos painted on their torsos!  Of all the cheesy, misspelled signs we won’t have to see . . . not to mention the goofy hats or the sight of “fans” with their heads down on their phones oblivious to the action or taking pictures of their nachos.
  • Soccer, now that’s different:  I could never understand why there were any fans in the stands in the first place.
  • Drudging Around:  New TV show sees 15 men compete to impregnate 41-year-old woman . . . Dean Martin to return as a hologram? . . . Colombian company creates bed that can double for coffin . . . Sex and dating to get even more complicated as lockdown continues . . . Virtual Biden campaign speech drowned out by honking ducks . . . Cops: Thieves wore watermelons on their heads as disguises . . . Incredible dog can perform CPR after being taught by owner . . . Study: People happier making major life decisions on a coin flip . . . Ruff Years: Canines go through “teenage angst” just like humans . . . Back to normal: Couple caught having sex on vacant New York City subway platform . . . Sex robot shop can’t keep up with lockdown demand . . . Corpse lay on street in Rio for 30 hours . . . Artificial intelligence can guess personality from “selfie.” . . . SNAP: Man stabs father to death in front of 20 people on video chat . . . Planes spray city [with coronavirus] at night: Conspiracy theories in Mexico. (Thanks, as always, to Matt Drudge and his merry band of aggregators for these recent nuggets.)
  • jimjustsaying’s Newspaper Obituary Headline of the Month: Lucky. As in Michelle ”Lucky” Schweiger, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, May 21, 2020.
  • jimjustsaying's  Lifestyle Tip of the Week:  Never enter a relationship with someone who has his bail bondsman’s phone number tattooed on his wrist!  
  • Strike up the bandwidth! Not only has our dollar slipped along with our world standing, but we rank 22nd, at last account, in the world in Internet connection speed. Deplorable. (And probably worse than that in rural areas.)
  • You can tell you're an old-timer if you sometimes refer to a train as "the iron horse." Or a jail as “the hoosegow.”
  • Does Larry The Cable Guy show up a day late for his concerts? 
  • I consider myself the poor man's Joe Piscopo.  My best impression is Frank Sinatra Jr!
  • Confession: I was born without the dancing chromosome. When I have to go somewhere where dancing might break out, I always take my personal-injury attorney! That way we can negotiate a settlement right on the spot.
  • Redundancy patrol: "Continue on," "convicted felon," "pre-order."
  • Redundancy patrol, TV Meteorologist Division:  “Rain event,” “evening time,” “sunshine” and “drop down” (as in “temperatures will ’drop down’ into the 20s.”)
  • There will never be a Mitch McConnell Lookalike Contest.
  • Favorite T-shirt message from the What on Earth catalog:
  • "I only do what the voices in my wife's head tell her to tell me to do."
  • How come you never see anyone with a pencil behind his ear anymore?  (One possible reason: Harder to do it if you’ve shaved your head and have no hair to help keep it in place.)
  • Why is it that a woman can wear any piece of men's clothing (pants, suits, ties, pajama tops, whatever) and nobody bats an eye . . . but if a man wears any article of women's clothing, people think he's deranged? (I'm just sayin'.)
  • jimjustsaying’s Word That Doesn’t Exist But Should of the Month: Keyfruit. n. The one apple, pear or tomato in the pile that, when removed, causes all the others to tumble forward.--"More Sniglets," Rich Hall and Friends
  • “Dogs may be left without muzzles for ten days after having been vaccinated against rabbis.”—from “Still More Press Boners,” by Earle Tempel
  • Today’s Latin Lesson: Si hoc signum legere potes, operis boni in rebus Latinus alacribus. ("If you can read this, you can get a good job in the fast-paced, high-paying world of Latin!")

LAGNIAPPE


Comedy under quarantine: How standup has survived

*****Comedy is changing before our eyes. When the Covid-19 outbreak ended routine social gathering, comics adjusted quickly to the new normal, and the entrepreneurial innovations they and their producers have dreamed up should have an impact on the culture long after the lockdown ends. If you’re a fan of comedy, you probably miss live stand-up and laughing alongside other members of an audience gathered in the same room. But besides lapping up short Instagram videos by character-based performers such as Meg Stalter, the audience for standup is buying tickets and showing up for various livestreaming substitutes. Certain popular shows have pulled in revenues and profits from tickets that far exceed what a night at the club used to bring in.

--Jason Zinoman, New York Times

*****As for the style of Covid-era comedy, it’s the Wild West out here. Knowing that viewers’ attention is more likely to drift, performers are taking new chances. Everything that used to feel slightly gimmicky at a stand-up show—visual props, a PowerPoint presentation—is now a welcome wrinkle. So the co-hosts of “Butterboy” (butterboycomedy.com), which had been Brooklyn’s hottest weekly comedy show, might be seen doing a tarot reading for a guest. Scott Rogowsky, host of “IsoLate Night” (isolatenight.com), sometimes plays Rolodex Roulette, calling his contacts at random. Every host has had to grapple with how to provide the comics with the instant feedback of audience laughter without exposing the show to disruptive hecklers. But the format has not been a comedy killer. Ben Gleib and Steve Hofstetter’s Nowhere, a new venture that bills itself as the first exclusively digital comedy club, has packed its calendar with headline talent and sells about 300 tickets to each of its weekly shows on Zoom.

--Joe Berkowitz, Fast Company

*****The choices for comedy fans don’t end there. For months Jim Gaffigan has been roping his wife and five kids into “Dinner With the Gaffigans,” which streams live almost every night on YouTube. As you’d expect, the whole clan is pretty darn hilarious, especially when responding to user questions in the open chat feature. Cat Cohen is meanwhile “churning out truly stellar Instagram content” for her Wednesday show ‘Cabernet Cabaret”—which, yes, often involves singing. And don’t forget about Paul Feig. “The Bridesmaids” director hosts a daily cocktail hour on Instagram Live, where he lounges with his wife, his dog, and a drink in hand. It’s an easy-breezy program that feels like a lazy afternoon with a good ol’ pal.

--Cody Gohl,TheManual.com


THE QUOTE RACK


Hopes for vaccine breathrough

If there is a breakthrough, we’ll have to decide “who gets the vaccine first.  Frontline health-care workers will have priority, but deciding which high-risk groups (the elderly, pregnant women, grocery clerks) come next is fraught with ethical dilemmas and ripe for political power plays.” Then there’s the worry that the wealthy or politically connected will jump the line, as they did with Covid-19 tests. If the administration’s ham-fisted distribution of ventilators and medical masks is any guide, this could get ugly fast.

--Sarah Owermohle in Politico.com
Covid-19’s possible legacy

The coronavirus has already had a huge and potentially enduring impact on everyday life. Our work and social lives have gone virtual, with even G-7 leaders conducting their meetings via videoconferencing. Movie studios, gyms, musicians, and karaoke bars are streaming their content straight into our homes. The outbreak has revived impassioned debates about the U.S. health-care system, possibly offering a boon for those in favor of universal coverage. And it may have an even wider geopolitical legacy. The Spanish Flu and the economic depression that followed led to a wave of nationalism, authoritarianism, and another world war. Science journalist Laura Spinney says the same could happen in the aftermath of the coronavirus, reversing the tide of globalization and fueling xenophobia at a time when countries should be united sgainst a common viral enemy. “We’ve forgotten a lot of the lessons that we learned after the Spanish Flu and other pandemics,” Spinney says. “We may be about to learn them again.”

--The Week
Cities:  Will the great exodus be permanent?

*****“Get me out of here!” That’s the cry of many residents of America’s biggest cities as they respond to the coronavirus pandemic by loading up their SUVs and heading for the hills.   Real estate brokers say they’ve had a surge in requests from city dwellers looking for rentals elsewhere, and in New York City alone, the data shows that at least 420,000 have moved out—mostly from the wealthier ZIP codes. A national poll found one-third of city folk are mulling a move to the suburbs, small towns, or rural areas. College professor Lee-Sean Huang, 39, has lived in New York City for 14 years, but grew weary of being caged in a small apartment as lockdowns shuttered the restaurants, bars, clubs and cultural venues that made city life worthwhile. Now that he can work remotely, he’s moved to a rental 90 miles away on eastern Long Island. “It’s a shift in priorities,” he said, “to having space.”

--Jessica Menton, USAToday.com

*****Big cities such as New York, Los Angeles, and Chicago had already been losing population before the pandemic.  Now Americans may have reached “a turning point” in where most prefer to live. Many workers have been liberated from offices, and employers may not require them to come back. Workers who’ve temporarily relocated to smaller towns are finding they like the space, access to nature, and cheaper cost of living. So why return? As Silicon Valley venture capitalist Balaji Srinivasan put it in a pithy tweet, “Sell city, buy country.”

--Parag Khanna and Kailash Prasad, Politico.com

*****History suggests they’ll be back, After 9/11, 4,500 people fled Lower Manhattan, which was shrouded in the twin towers’ toxic dust. But residents returned in droves in the ensuing years amid a housing boom in Lower Manhattan.

-- Catherine Schoichet and Athena Jones, CNN.com

*****Disease outbreaks don’t end cities, but they do transform them. The fear that “bad air” caused malaria inspired New York’s Central Park and Boston’s Emerald Necklace. Already, Seattle, San Francisco, and Oakland have turned miles of roads “into public promenades.” This is smart not just now, but permanently. More wide-open public spaces will enhance the health, welfare, and equality of our cities for decades to come.

--Nicholas de Monchaux, New York Times

The ‘ebitdac’ profit fiction

Some companies are tweaking their earnings reports to include profits they would have made without the pandemic,  Many corporations have long reported “ebitda”—earnings before interest, tax, depreciation, and amortization. Now they are adding “coronavirus.” A Chicago-based manufacturer, Azek, raised $325 million of junk bonds and “included a term that would allow it to add back ‘lost earnings’ as a result of Covid in the future.” Don’t be fooled by the rosy “ebitdac” figures, said one adviser. “These revenues will never come back,” she said. “It’s fiction.”
--Nikou Asgari, Financial Times

The infodemic and the 5G theory

One of the most popular conspiracy theories holds that the pandemic was actually caused by radio waves from that new mobile technology, noting that it was deployed in Wuhan shortly before the outbreak. In Britain, arsonists torched at least 20 cellphone towers and engineers have been harassed. In one clip, viewed more than 2 million times, a British woman asks telecom engineers why they are laying what she believes to be 5G cables, saying the cables are going to “kill everyone.” In her video, book, and tweets, Mikovits promotes even more bizarre ideas, including that sheltering in place, washing your hands, and wearing a mask can increase your likelihood of getting Covid-19. These protective measures, she says, are “literally killing people.” In the scientific community, Mikovits is known as a quack who was fired from a research institute and arrested for stealing equipment. But in the social media era, said Renée DiResta, who studies disinformation at the Stanford Internet Observatory, what millions of people believe “is essentially determined by whoever runs the best marketing campaign.”

--The Week
The rental crisis Wall Street loves

The next housing crisis is already here.  As tenants and landlords wrangle over next month’s rent, an approaching avalanche of evictions threatens to bury them both.  Half of the 43 million rental units in the U.S. are owned by small businesses, and their margins are dangerously thin. Only about nine cents for every $1 in rent gets returned to the owner, with the rest going toward the mortgage, property taxes, and the salaries of caretakers and maintenance workers. Their fate is tied to renters now urgently focused on their own self-preservation. Congress has yet to assist renters beyond the $1,200 stimulus checks and beefed-up unemployment benefits. But without a national rental-market bailout, the economic pain is likely to spread as efficiently as the virus that caused it.  Lenders will be caught up as “collateral damage,” with defaults on mortgages predicted to double from the last recession, and cities will lose crucial property tax payments. Renters might not shed a tear now. But if rent strikes and bans on evictions persist, smaller investors could be forced to sell their properties. Wall Street firms with deeper pockets will be waiting to pounce—in many cases, ready to squeeze struggling renters even harder, or push them out in favor of wealthier occupants.

--Prashant Gopal and Oshrat Carmiel, Bloomberg Businessweek

Accepting incompetence as normal

During the Monica Lewinsky scandal, 30 U.S. newspapers urged President Bill Clinton to resign. President Richard Nixon faced widespread calls for his resignation for months before he finally gave in. With 84,000 Americans dead in just two months from a virus President Trump kept insisting would just “go away,” and the economy collapsing, why aren’t there newspaper editorials and major political figures clamoring for him to resign and leave the leadership of the country in more competent hands?  Americans seem to have developed “a high tolerance for failure”—indeed, a weary expectation that political and business leaders will make catastrophic errors. In recent years, we’ve endured 9/11, the Iraq War, the 2008 financial meltdown, the Boeing 737 Max debacle, and Russian election interference. Trump’s epic mishandling of the coronavirus pandemic has been even more costly, with far higher death tolls than any other nation by far and no end in sight.  But his shamelessness—his unwillingness to express contrition—seems to have become a kind of shield.  He brazenly insists he has “no responsibility at all”—and people just wince. “The silence is yet another indication of how warped our politics has become.”

--Michael Steinberger, The Atlantic,com
Extreme-heat living

By 2070, as many as 3 billion people—a third of the world’s population—will likely live in areas considered too hot for humans. That’s the conclusion of a new study that analyzed data on historical global temperature and population trends, reports. Researchers found that for the past 6,000 years, humans, crops and livestock have thrived best in a “climatic envelope” where mean average temperatures are between 51.7 and 59 degrees Fahrenheit. Fewer than 25 million people, most of them in Saharan Africa, live in areas with extreme heat—defined as mean annual temperatures above 84 degrees. But the researchers found that if global warming continues on its current trajectory, such extreme heat would be felt in a much larger swath of Africa, as well as parts of India, the Middle East, South America, Southeast Asia, and Australia. Many of these areas are currently experiencing rapid population growth, the researchers note, and billions of residents could head north as the mercury rises. “The people,” says study co-author Marten Scheffer, of the Santa Fe Institute and Wageningen University in the Netherlands, “won’t stay where the trouble is.”

--Washington Post
Sniff test for brain injuries

Scientists at Cambridge University have found a simple way to determine whether unresponsive patients with severe brain injuries are likely to recover: wafting the scent of shampoo or rotten fish under their nose. Smell may be a good indicator of consciousness, because the olfactory system has a direct link to the brain. The researchers presented the scents to 43 patients who showed zero or minimal awareness of their surroundings, and measured how much air, if any, the patient inhaled. Every patient in a vegetative state who sniffed at the smells later transitioned to a “minimally conscious state,” having periods where they showed signs of awareness or responded to commands. About one third of the patients who did not sniff also eventually regained some consciousness. Overall, 91 percent of those who responded to the smell test were still alive 3½ years later, compared with 63 percent of those who didn’t. “In some cases this was the only sign that their brain was going to recover,” study leader Anat Arzi tells The Times (U.K.). “We saw it days, weeks, and even months before any other signs.”

--The Week

THE LINK TANK


How our shared Coronavirus experience will change us
Pandemic is first truly collective trauma in decades to affect every American
https://www.nationalreview.com/2020/04/shared-coronavirus-experience-will-change-us-in-countless-ways/


The age of coddling is over
Learning what hardship has to teach us

Surprising facts about everyday objects

From devilish forks to . . . .



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.