Wednesday, March 24, 2021

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

  •   Whoever thought we’d be checking a box stating “I am not a robot” several times a week (or day)?
  • ·Gardeners: Don’t fret if your stuff doesn’t come up looking like the pictures in the seed catalog.  Those pictures were posed by professional vegetables. 
  • ·Speaking of that rite of spring, whatever happened to the Garden Weasel?  Do they still make it?  Will they double my order if I act now and just pay extra postage and handling? 
  •   It had to happen: The pandemic has caused a surge in the number of men wearing makeup, The Week magazine reports.  With men spending hours scrutinizing their faces on Zoom calls, Google searches for “men’s makeup” have soared nearly 80 percent from 2019.  Sales of men’s cosmetics are booming.       
  • Count me among those who were surprised to see Dr. Seuss in the Cancel Culture lockup.  Who’s next?  Winnie the Pooh?  
  • Faded Phrase of the Week: “He’s got bats in his belfry.” 
  • Redundancy Patrol: Added bonus, completely annihilate, join together. 
  • Sometimes I feel like a Polaroid in the Instagram of Life. 
  • There will never be a Rudy Giuliani Lookalike Contest.
  • ·“Having your book turned into a movie is like seeing your oxen turned into bouillon cubes.” John le Carré, quoted in The Economist
  • · Newspaper Obituary Headline Nickname of the Month: Muffin, as in Elsbeth “Muffin” Knutson, Door County Daily News, Jan. 7, 2021. R.I.P., Mrs. Knutson.
  • ·Three things I don't pretend to understand:  Bitcoins, Snapchat and RSS feeds.  (Close behind:  Instagram, Buzzfeed and virtually the appeal of any “rapper,” all due respect.)
  • ·Let's see if I've got this right:  Mass shootings re on the rise, our climate concerns are largely ignored, yet the premier issue these days seems to be where the minuscule percentage of the population that is transgender can go to the bathroom.   Whatta country!
  • ·Speaking of sports:  This ever happen to you?  You turn on a game and don't recognize either of the teams?
  • ·Remember when your favorite baseball team had two uniforms:  White for home games and those "gray traveling uniforms," as announcers used to call them?   Now they've got 5 or 6 sets, from "throwback unis" to camouflage outfits (for all you veterans out there) to this and that and whatever.   You turn on a game and are a bit puzzled about who really is playing.  Why don’t the teams use some of the money spent on what has to be expensive haberdashery and give it to a food bank or any other worthy cause?  But apparently this diamond fashion show takes precedence.
  • · And then there's April 15, when every player on every team wears No. 42 in honor of Jackie Robinson.  What they should be wearing:  Number  9.2, to reflect the appallingly low actual percentage of black players on Opening Day rosters this season (69 out of 750, if you do the math).   Jackie would approve, no doubt about it.
  • · jimjustsaying’s Word That Doesn’t Exist But Should of the Month:  Squanderprint.  n.  Directions that try to make you use up a product faster than you normally would.  (Example:  Lather.  Rinse Repeat.)—“More Sniglets, Rich Hall and Friends.
  • ·All Over-rated Club:  Chris Cuomo, Meghan McCain, Wolf Blitzer
  • · "Mr. Ferguson will be removed to All Saint’s Hospital for the rectal operation.  While he is there, his gas station will be closed for an indefinite period.”—Worthington (Minn.) Times, via “Still More Press Boners,” by Earle Tempel.
  • · Jim's Dine-Out Tip O' the Week:  At Mexican restaurants, always ask to be seated in the No Guitarist section.
  • · Why do people eat out at "home-style" restaurants?  When I eat out, I want a "restaurant style" restaurant. 
  • · Jim's First Law of Dining:  $5 is the point at which a hamburger or a plate of spaghetti are as good as they're going to get.
  • · Common Advertising Pitch of Our Times:  "You can now pre-order [name of gizmo or gadget or Harry Potter book here]."  Pre-order?  You can either order something, or you can't.  "Pre-order” is modern market-speak for a company wanting your money now for something that either (a) doesn't exist yet or (b) if it does, is mired somewhere in a cargo hold docked in the South China Sea.
  • ·Next time you get an e-mail pitch to "pre-order" something you have no intention of ordering anyway, please reply with a notice of "pre-indifference" or "pre-refusal" to their request.  I'm not sure they would "pre-appreciate" it, but "pre-do" it anyway.  (I "pre-thank" you!)
  • Today’s Latin Lesson: Is dico may exsisto recorded pro palaestra voluntas.   ("This call may be recorded for training purposes.") 

 

        

THE QUOTE RACK

 Daylight Time is the least worst option

Daylight saving time is a problem we shouldn’t fix.  Most people gripe when setting back their clocks and losing an hour every spring, as we did last week.  New legislation introduced by Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) would address this irritation by making daylight saving time (DST) permanent.  But of our three “imperfect alternatives”—permanent DST, permanent standard time (ST) and our current combination—the status quo “remains the best available compromise.”  Daylight saving time was designed to align the hours of daylight with the hours that people are awake, particularly in the summer. Permanent DST would mean that during the winter months, the sun wouldn’t rise in many cities before 8:30 or 9 a.m., forcing people to commute to work or school in nighttime darkness.  During the 1974 oil crisis, Congress moved the country onto permanent DST for two years, but an angry backlash over dark winter mornings ended that experiment after one. 

Permanent ST, on the other hand, would mean hours of wasted sunshine on summer mornings, with earlier summer sunsets. Yes, changing the clocks can have sleep and health costs.  But eight months of getting an extra hour of sunshine while we’re awake is better than the alternatives.

--Binyamin Applebaum, New York Times

The filibuster: A crossroads for Congress

Democrats face a choice--democracy or the filibuster. It’s no exaggeration to say that this single Senate rule will determine the fate of President Biden’s agenda and the future of U.S. majority rule. Republican-controlled states are now racing to pass an avalanche of new restrictions on voting to prevent the massive 2020 turnout from ever happening again, so they can win back Congress and the White House.  The Senate is considering two landmark voting rights bills that would establish national standards for access to the polls, but passage would require 60 votes to overcome an inevitable GOP filibuster.  To eliminate or reform the filibuster, Democrats need all 50 of their senators to sign on.

--Ezra Klein, New York Times

***Centrist holdouts Sens. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) and Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.) claim the filibuster fosters bipartisan legislation.  Like what?  For two decades, the filibuster has led to nothing but legislative gridlock.

--Paul Waldman, WashingtonPost.com

***Gridlock is preferable to the tyranny of the majority. Allowing just 50 Democrats, with Vice President Kamala Harris casting the tiebreaking vote, to ram through their “hyperpartisan” wish list would be a nightmare.  Without a single Republican vote, Democrats would ban states from checking voters’ IDs at the polls and force through new gun restrictions.

--Robert Verbruggen, NationalReview.com

***Under pressure, Manchin may not stand up to the Democrats’ radical agenda.  Democrats will try to convince him to reform the filibuster by exempting the type of legislation they most want to pass, such as their voting bills or granting statehood to the District of Columbia.

--Marc Thiessen, Washington Post

***Let’s remember that the modern filibuster isn’t actually a tradition.  Only in the last two decades has a single senator been able to block legislation without even getting on the floor. That change turned the filibuster from a rare, difficult delaying tactic to an automatic legislation-killer used 263 times in 2020. Now all legislation must get a supermajority of 60 votes to pass—which was never the Framers’ intent.  Senate rules should be changed so that the filibuster would return to the limited role it had through most of the 20th Century. That would really be a way of respecting long-standing Senate traditions.

--Eric Levitz, NYMag.com

 A drug to fight obesity

In what scientists say is a “game changer” for obesity, an appetite-suppressing drug has helped people lose up to 20 percent of their body weight.  The treatment, semaglutide, is already used for Type 2 diabetes.  It is a synthetic version of GLP-1, a naturally occurring hormone released by the body after a filling meal.  In a new trial involving 2,000 people in 16 countries, scientists administered a much higher dose of semaglutide to people wanting to lose weight.  Over 15 months, the participants who received the drug lost an average of almost 15 percent of their body weight compared with only 2.4 percent for those who got a placebo.  Almost a third of recipients lost 20 percent of their weight.  Those who lost weight also saw substantial reductions in risk factors for heart disease and diabetes, such as high blood-pressure and blood-sugar levels.  Lead author Robert Kushner, from Northwestern University, tells the New York Times the findings mark “the start of a new era of effective treatments for obesity.”

--The Week

When every white person is a racist 

To see how “woke” culture has transformed American universities consider a recent incident at Smith College. Student Oumou Kanoute was eating lunch in an empty dorm lounge when campus security told her to leave.  Kanoute alleged racism, saying in a Facebook post that started a national firestorm, “All I did was be black.”  A white janitor she blamed for summoning security was put on leave, the university president issued profuse apologies, and the college required staff to take anti-racism training.   

But as a story in the Times detailed last week, the narrative of racist harassment of a minority student at an elitist white institution turned out to be comprehensively false.  Kanoute had gone into a dorm that was closed for the summer, and security had been told to tell all unauthorized people to leave.  Nonetheless, anti-racism consultants hired by Smith pressed all white employees to confess their bigotry and asked them intrusive questions about their parents’ racial attitudes.  One administrator quit in protest.  Why have racial tensions boiled over at so many of the nation’s liberal arts colleges?  When students are steeped in “critical race theory” and “microaggressions,” it’s not surprising they see racism everywhere.

--Bret Stephens, New York Times

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.



55th High School Reunion Essay


From Red Devils to Gray Devils (or, 73 is the new 61)

By Jim Szantor

It has been a long and winding road that brings the Class of '61 to Reunion Weekend.   A time when we can take our noses out of our devices and communicate the best possible way--face to face.  We've come so far and seen so much, but on this occasion it's all about something that we can never get enough of--living in the moment with people who matter to us.  Some of us may say more to each other this weekend than we did when we were in the same building on a daily basis.  Reunions can be strange that way.

We've gone our separate ways in many ways, but there are bonds that can never be separated, and Mary D. Bradford was a big part of that.  Some of the connections we treasure started before that, some came after.  But we're so fortunate to have them.  There's no app for that.

Our birth dates and graduation dates were bookended by two presidents known mainly by their initials (FDR and JFK), with some of us then sent off to an unpopular war by LBJ.  (OMG!)  Somehow we survived anti-war and race riots, three high-profile assassinations and thought we were living in turbulent times then.  Little did we know.

We've reached the time of our lives when, as is often said, it seems as if we're having breakfast every 20 minutes and a doctor's appointment every 20 days.   And if our waistlines have expanded, so have our vocabularies.  Unfortunately, many of our new  words end in "itis," "oscopy" or "ectomy" (with a few "ograms" thrown in for good measure.)  Some of us are lucky enough to have original factory equipment, but others seem to be doing just fine with replacement parts.  Our mileage may vary accordingly.

Our lives since high school have had similar arcs (higher education, marriage and careers, exhilarating highs and devastating lows, medical battles won and lost), but no two narratives are alike, with their surprising and fortuitous twists, unexpected and unfortunate turns.  We'll talk about them, tell stories--funny and otherwise--we may have told before.  But underneath it all is something strangely and poignantly wistful that is easier to experience than to explain.  A tear or two may flow, but laughter will carry the day.  To borrow a title from my favorite song of those cherished Bradford years, "It's All in the Game."

We'll reminisce about the sweet used-to-be, a time when you could get on a plane without getting undressed, when mosquitoes were occasional nuisances instead of winged assassins, and a Christmas gift might be one of those wildly irresponsible vintage toys of our youth--the chemistry set--the better to conduct home experiments with the ammonium nitrate now prized by rogue terrorists.

Our first cars are quaint relics now (it's cringe-inducing to contemplate how crude and dangerous they really were), but how treasured they were then!  Apples were something we ate; Steve Jobs was just 6 years old on our Graduation Day and hadn't decided to change the world just yet.  Amazon was a river in South America, a tweet was a sound produced by a bird, and Google was the name of a comic-strip character whose first name, if you don't remember it, can be learned if you use his last name to find it, using a device probably within arm's reach.

Culturally, a maverick from Mississippi named Elvis Presley was viewed as outrageous by some as the fabled Generation Gap reared its head, writ large.  No one envisioned such outre performers as Alice Cooper, Madonna and Sid Vicious and others of inexplicable popularity.  Thus, rap and hip-hop aren't likely to be heard at the Chateau on our special night; Snoop Dogg won't be making the playlist.  We'll hear many oldies and savor the memories they conjure up as the sound track of our youth plays on.

We'll survey the years and laugh about the clothes we wore, the "what were we thinking?" misadventures and the gasoline we burned going around in circles downtown.   We took ourselves perhaps too seriously at times but at least took no "selfies."  (And what about that sheepskin we worked so hard to get?  All we got was a piece of paper!   I, for one, still feel cheated and have thus given my graduation an Incomplete.  But that's just me.)

Our graduates include at least two doctors that I know of, perhaps a lawyer or three, but most likely no Indian chiefs.  Scanning the yearbook, some wonderful names pop out--a Jane Eyre and a Thomas Wolfe, whom I dearly hope can come home again.   The Annex may be gone but still stands tall in our memories.  It rained on our scheduled Graduation Day, a happenstance that turned out to be more of a innocuous oddity than an ill omen.

We'll share some of our epic Kodak moments, those occasions when someone was bound to say, "Great Grandma is probably looking down on us with a big proud smile."  (To explore the thought of other moments when Great Grandma was looking down on us is a thought too unsettling to pursue further in this essay, if you get my drift.  Who raises and lowers the celestial curtain?)

Those of us who have moved away can use this occasion to revisit old haunts (the ones that still exist) and scan the crowd for familiar faces (thank God for name tags) and lament the absence of those we fear we may never see again, trying to remember that, as a poet once said, people die but love doesn't have to.  The list of Missing Classmates numbers about 280 and leads one to wonder where those people are, and, if still living, why they have stayed in the shadows.  If by choice, we have to respect that; if for darker reasons, that's most unfortunate.  We may know the circumstances for a few, but for the others--whether they were good friends, casual acquaintances or names we hardly recognize--like a lot of life's mysteries, we may never know.  We can only hope that life has dealt them the best possible hand.

It has been said that the 25th is the best reunion--some liken it to life's mid-term exam--and say they only get sadder after that.  But most marathoners--those lucky enough to remain in the race--feel more exhilaration in the home stretch than they did at the halfway mark.  Granted, we know the trip is not going to last forever, but it's satisfying to toast the milestones we've achieved and humbly acknowledge our good fortune.  And who knows--the way research is advancing on the scourges of cancer and Alzheimer's, in five years 78 may be the new 61.  Let's drink to that!



Thursday, February 18, 2021

POPCORN

                            

By Jim Szantor 

Rhetorical questions, questionable rhetoric and whimsical observations 
about the absurdities of contemporary life
  • I was a teenage philatelist.
  • Covid-19 Factoid of the Month: A British mathematician Kit Yates calculated that the 2 quintillion very tiny coronavirus particles in the world would fit inside a single Coke can.
  • Remember when it seems like people were always going to get things “notarized”? When a store (or real estate office, etc.) would have a little sign in a corner of the window that said “Notary Public”? Have these people gone the way of elevator operators? What changed?
  • jimjustsaying’s research associate, Rick Shaw, reports that these people still exist (you can find them even at some UPS stores) but they seem to have gone under the radar, so to speak. But they haven’t gone the way of the elevator operator or the guy who used to pump your gas.
  • Overheard: “It is better to waste one’s youth than do nothing with it at all.”--Writer Georges Courteline, in The Times (U.K.)
  • jimjustsaying’s Party Ice-Breaker of the Month: “Say [actual partygoer’s name here], did you know that the size of your eyes remains same after birth but your nose and ears never stop growing?”
  • Overheard: “When you empty the vacuum cleaner bag, you become a vacuum cleaner cleaner.”
  • I was walking down the street with my friend, and he said, “I hear music”--as if there is any other way to take it in. I said, “You're not special, dude--that's how I receive it, too. I tried to taste it, but it just didn’t work.’ ”—Mitch Hedberg
  • jimjustsaying’s Euphemism of the Month: Nestlé recalled more than 762,000 pounds of pepperoni Hot Pockets after receiving four complaints of “extraneous” materials in the frozen sandwiches, including pieces of glass and hard plastic.
  • Extraneous. How’s that for an elastic, all-encompassing term? Glass, hard plastic, rodent hairs, cyanide, strychnine . . . all would qualify as “extraneous,” I guess. The corporate brain trust obviously ruled out “hazardous” and “potentially fatal” and came up with “extraneous.” Good move.
  • (I guess they could recycle those hazardous Hot Pockets into a new product called Shrapnel Pockets. They would be a natural snack item for people with tongue and nose piercings and forehead and neck tattoos.)
  • I strongly suspect that people who are refusing to wear masks during the pandemic are probably the same people who routinely: Never give you a courtesy wave when you let them into traffic . . . or never let you into traffic.
  • “Progress would be wonderful—if only it would stop.”--Writer Robert Musil, TheBrowser.com
  • Drudging Around: Satanist sex robots, vampire dolls deemed “perfect” by customers . . . Gang of 100 monkeys raids farm after lack of tourists cut food supply . . . Girls post video of themselves killing 14-year-old in Wal-mart . . . Inside the “whites only” church sowing discord in Minnesota town . . . Man on mission to become “alien” has lip removed in latest body modification . . . Man caught directing flight traffic with radio . . . Huge piece of Highway 1 south of Big Sur falls into ocean . . . Man’s penis held for ransom after hackers took control of digital chastity belt . . . This is what happens when Buddhist nun joins a heavy metal band . . . Humans to set their own moods using brain chips . . . Warehouse orgy with 100 men and women raided in Paris . . . House of filth: 30 pit bulls, 5 pythons, 4 children removed—from mobile home . . . Hacked sex robots could be used to kill users . . . Pigs can be taught how to use joysticks . . . Fake officers with gun, badge detained South Carolinians during “traffic stops” . . . Poop could be new secret weapon against mutant strains. (Thanks once again to Matt Drudge and his merry band of aggregators for this month’s forehead-slappers.)
  • jimjustsaying’s Word That Doesn’t Exist But Should of the Month: Premail. n. Mail that is placed behind the visor in your car and left for several months before it is finally sent.—“More Sniglets,” Rich Hall and Friends
  • Memo to pundits and headline writers: Stop calling the members of the highest court in the land The Supremes! Because (a) doing so trivializes an important bulwark of our government, and (b) if there hadn't been a popular Motown group of the same name, you wouldn't be doing it. Sometimes there's such a thing as being too "clever" by half or overdone to the point of absurdity.
  • "Rome wasn't born in a day."--Former major-league baseball player Johnny Logan
  • I think it's time for an AILU--American Indecent Liberties Union.
  • Poker has become so popular, young people are even getting into it. What's next? The Little League World Series of Poker? ("I'll see your Skittles and raise you three M&M two-packs.")
  • Who really uses all that extraneous stuff on those elaborate watches they make these days? And how did I manage to lose 90 pounds and keep 80 of it off for 15 years without a Fitbit?
  • “Fearing the hotel was on fire, she grabbed her cat, which was hanging on a hook, flung it over her shoulders, and ran out into the night.”—Michigan City (Ind.) Press, via “Still More Press Boners,” by Earle Tempel.
  • jimjustsaying’s Newspaper Obituary Nickname of the Month: Andy Storm. As in, Andrew “Andy Storm” Burzynski, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, Dec. 27, 2020.
  • Today’s Latin Lesson: Scitis, sunt tempora, quando socialis distancing esset interpellatio me iustus teres. (“You know, there are times when social distancing would suit me just fine.”)