Sunday, September 13, 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

  • Why all of a sudden have so many people started saying “No worries” instead of “No problem”? Who flipped the switch . . . and why?
  • I have an income idea for people robotted or Covid-19'd out of a job: Start your own business, one that will fulfill a need in today's Amazonian world, such as: A Deluxe Package-Opening Service. "Bring your thick-cardboarded, densely blister-packed, heavily Syrofoamed or overly packaging-peanuted/cottony padding-laden container to us, and we will open it for you and dispose of all the overpackaging material (recycling where possible). No muss, no fuss, no paper cuts! You'll be glad you did!"
  • Remember when the only part of voting that you worried was the result?  . . . When California was considered a cool place instead of red-hot fire zone?   . . . When you couldn’t remember the last time you wore a mask?
  • I think I'd vote for a politician who'd say:  "I'm gonna lie--all politicians do it.  But I promise, if elected, that I'm gonna hold it to a minimum.  I'm not going to lie as much as that other guy!"
  • Sometimes I feel like a Polaroid in the Instagram of Life.
  • jimjustsaying’s Quiz Question of the Month: What do Russia, India, Mongolia, Myanmar, Kazakhstan, North Korea, Vietnam, Nepal, Kyrgyzstan, Pakistan, Bhutan, Laos, Tajikistan and Afghanistan have in common?  (Answer below.)
  • Eeriest quote ever, considering: “Everything’s going to be okay in the end.  If it’s not okay, it’s not the end.”—John Lennon
  • jimjustsaying’s Party Ice-Breaker of the Week:  "Say [fellow partygoer's name here], did you know that Robert M. Pirsig, author of the best-selling  "Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance: An Inquiry into Values," once wrote technical manuals and ads for the mortuary cosmetics industry?"
  • Drudging Around: Welcome to hell: “Sex slave” priest found dead at New Jersey home . . . Fluffy the human slayer?  FORD unleashes robot dogs . . . Scientists accidentally create new kind of fish . . . Nursing homes keeping residents’ stimulus checks for themselves . . . Cigarette smoking makes comeback during pandemic . . . Man who stole lottery tickets tries to cash winning ticket at same store . . .Extreme-tattoo addict has ears removed to look more like a skull . . .Study finds sperm quality worse for men using smart phones, tablets at night . . . Urinating woman seen performing “sex acts” on street . . . Professor confesses she lied about being Black: “I cancel myself” . . . Woman glues up own vagina in attempt to frame husband for crime . . . Woman sentenced to 30 years for taking, sharing nude photos of 1-year-old . . . Cop receives lifesaving transplant—from woman he saved . . . Man spends hours in box filled with ice cubes . . . Mafia leader swallows guard’s finger in jail fight . . . Mexican who wrote about crime found beheaded . . . 1 sperm donor, 36 children—mess of lawsuits . . . Vegas turns ghost town where even strippers put up signs saying, "Sorry, we're clothed."  (Thanks as always to The Drudge Report’s merry band of aggregators for this month's batch of forehead-slappers.)
  • jimjustsaying’s Word That Doesn’t Exist But Should of the Month: Laminites. n. Those strange people who show up in the photo sections of new wallets.--“Sniglets,” Rich Hall and Friends
  • All those who thought Channing Tatum was a woman, raise your hands?
  • I was saddened to hear how mean and abusive Ellen DeGeneres is/was to her staff.  But not surprised.
  • Whatever happened to John Boehner?
  • Redundancy Patrol:  Absolutely necessary, depreciate in value, fuse together.
  • jimjustsaying’s Media Word of the Week (a word you only see in print or hear on radio/TV and never hear a person use in real life):  Spearhead ("The attorney general will again spearhead the investigation.")
  • Overheard: “The first computer can be traced to Adam and Eve. It was an Apple with limited memory, just one byte. And then everything crashed.”
  • “I'm against picketing, but I don't know how to show it.”—Mitch Hedberg
  • Quiz Question Answer: (All 14 of those countries border China.)
  • “Neither of the youths was insured enough to require hospitalization.”—Seattle Times, via “Still More Press Boners,” by Earle Tempel.
  • Product Choice Explosion Tip:  After you find a toothbrush (or similar item) you really like, buy a few more soon because if you wait, the packaging will have changed and you'll never be able to find it again.  Or if you can, the "new and improved" version will be new but not improved.  In fact, it may not be half as good.
  • jimjustsaying’s Obituary Headline Nickname of the Month:  Hoot-Hoot. As in Gary “Hoot-Hoot” Vandenhouten, Door County Daily News, Aug. 21, 2020.  R.I.P., Mr. Vandenhouten.
  • “No two persons have read the same book.”—Edmund Wilson
  • Once I have a key, I can't bear to throw it away, no matter how long it's been since I used it and can only hazard a guess as to what it unlocks.  (You, too?)
  • Today’s Latin Lesson:  Non curarum.  (“No worries.”)

THE QUOTE RACK

 Don’t make a vaccine mandatory

The surest way to create fear and resistance to a coronavirus vaccine is to make getting it mandatory. That’s what Virginia Commissioner of Health Dr. Norman Oliver said he plans to do, if and when a vaccine becomes available, under state law that can be invoked in a public health crisis. I personally believe the Food and Drug Administration and other authorities will not approve a vaccine before it is carefully tested for effectiveness and possible side effects. Still, it’s not surprising that people would be at least a little wary about a new vaccine that will be the fastest-developed one in human history.  These skeptics will be not reassured if they’re told that a giant pharmaceutical company says it’s safe and government bureaucrats demand they line up for a shot. It would be far wiser and more effective to engage in a campaign of public persuasion and let those eager to be vaccinated go first. Their experience and testimonials will be powerful endorsements during the many months in which the country is producing enough vaccine doses to immunize anyone who wants one. So why coerce people? We’ve got enough public paranoia out there already.

--Jim Geraghty, nationalreview.com

 What a Biden economy would look like

*****If you’re wondering what a Biden presidency would mean for the economy, look to Biden’s last financial crisis. In 2009, as vice president, Biden approached the crisis from a middle-class, Rust Belt viewpoint, aggressively pushing for an auto bailout while championing tighter restrictions on banks and arguing against Wall Street in key debates. While today’s situation is obviously different from the Great Recession, Biden sees “common threads” that could help him pursue an agenda focused on addressing income inequality and promoting public works. His top priority is a massive $3.5 trillion infrastructure, manufacturing and clean-energy program that appears likely to grow substantially if he is elected. He plans to pay for the program by raising the corporate tax rate from 21 percent to 28 percent and increasing taxes on wealthy real-estate investors. In the wake of the pandemic, Biden has edged away from the moderate economic approach he advocated last year, but he is still not likely to embrace punitive demands from the Left.

--Jeffrey Taylor, Bloomberg.com

*****There is nothing moderate about Biden’s tax plan.  For taxpayers with income above $1 million, Biden wants to tax capital gains as ordinary income. Combined with an upper-income tax increase, that would make top capital gains tax surge from the current 20 percent to 43 percent, exceeding the rate in every one of the 10 largest economies. We are not going to compete with China by adopting tax policies that discourage those who are best able to invest, take risks, and start companies.

--Mark Bloomfield and Oscar Pollock, Wall Street Journal

*****Certain industries are sure to be in Biden’s crosshairs. Trump’s fight to lower drug prices will likely be carried on, meaning potential headwinds for Big Pharma. And energy and environment-sensitive industries such as oil and gas production could underperform under a Democratic administration. But the naming of Kamala Harris as his vice-presidential nominee might actually be good for Big Tech because of her ties to Silicon Valley.

--Anne Sraders, Fortune​.com

*****For the first time in a decade, Wall Street donors are actually giving more to Democrats than to Republicans.  Trump still has friends in finance, but many investors have soured on his management style, which makes it hard for them to make long-term plans.

--Jim Zarroli, NPR.org

Deliberately accelerating climate change

Trump administration officials know they may only have a few months left in office so they’re doubling the pace of their efforts to despoil the environment and accelerate climate change. Interior Secretary David Bernhardt [has] announced he will open the pristine wilderness of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge to oil and gas drilling—a goal long sought by the oil industry. The week before, the administration removed regulations on oil and gas companies’ leaks of methane—a very potent greenhouse gas—at drilling sites. These pro–carbon emissions policies come at a time when Earth’s climate is getting undeniably hotter, with soaring temperatures setting new records from Phoenix to Washington, D.C.

So why promote more emissions now? The lobbyists, grifters, and far-right ideologues who fill this administration’s top jobs are acutely aware they may be returning to oil companies and private industry come January, and are trying to do everything possible to advance their interests. If Trump loses, the 10 weeks between the election and the inauguration will probably bring a long list of horrors on the environment, as well as on immigration and health care. Reversing the damage done in this dark period may take a long time.

--Paul Waldman, Washington Post

QAnon: Now in the GOP mainstream

With racist conspiracy monger Marjorie Taylor Greene headed to Congress, Republicans are becoming the QAnon party, Greene won a House primary race last week in a deep-red Georgia district—making her a general election shoo-in—despite being an avowed follower of QAnon, an online “cult” that believes President Trump leads a secret effort to expose and imprison a network of “deep state” child sex traffickers. She’s spoken of a “global cabal of Satan-worshiping pedophiles” and calls Q, a supposed U.S. intelligence official who posts anonymous clues on far-right message boards, a “patriot.” More than 50 congressional candidates promoted QAnon this year, including Jo Rae Perkins, Oregon’s GOP Senate nominee. After Greene’s victory, Trump called her “a future Republican star” and “a real WINNER!”

                                                                                              --Max Boot, WashingtonPost.com

*****Most political parties have an outlandish fringe that marinates in paranoia. The spread of QAnon, however, “shows that the Trump-era GOP has weakened antibodies against kookery.” Q appeals to Trump supporters in particular because it promotes “a radical distrust of traditional sources of information.” Trump and his sons retweet QAnon accounts, and his former national security adviser Michael Flynn is a pledged member.

--Rich Lowry, Politico.com

*****Greene’s nuttiness goes beyond Q. She’s an Islamophobe who insists Barack Obama is a Muslim; traffics in anti-Semitic tropes; and claims no plane crashed into the Pentagon on 9/11. “Ultimately, Trump avoids disavowing QAnon fanatics” for the same reason liberals tolerate the anarchists attacking Portland and other cities: “They want the votes.”

--Jeremy Beaman, WashingtonExaminer.com

 “The Mystery of Charles Dickens”

*****Charles Dickens was a knot of contradictions.  In A.N. Wilson’s new book, a “sprightly work of reinterpretation,” the great 19th-century novelist comes across as a man who, cramming multiple lifetimes into one, continually maneuvered between different identities. He co-founded a women’s charity but was monstrous to his wife. He never forgave his mother for forcing him into child labor but hid that personal history from his own children. Wilson, a prolific author himself, paints Dickens as a cruel, oversexed egotist but focuses on that dark side with the ardor of a fan. His aim is an examination of the mysteries of Dickens’ character, and the fundamental mystery for Wilson is how a man he finds atrocious could have spoken to him so deeply.”

--Jeremy Beaman, WashingtonExaminer.com

*****As Wilson analyzes Dickens, he leads the reader by the hand, like one of the ghosts in “A Christmas Carol,” to visit various moments in the writer’s life. We see Dickens first on his dying day, which allows Wilson to build a circumstantial case that the 58-year-old’s heart failed during sex with his mistress before he was secretly transported home. We will also see him at 12, working in a shoe-polish factory while his parents are in debtor’s prison. We see him onstage at the height of his fame, ecstatically acting out the scene from Oliver Twist´when the burglar Bill Sikes beats a prostitute to death. Wilson invokes the term “a divided self” to explain Dickens, but the diagnosis is only partly satisfying.

 --Cordelia Jenkins, Financial TimesIIi

*****It’s the way the case is made that enthralls. In the final chapter, Wilson reveals that he first latched onto Dickens’ novels as a student regularly beaten by a sadistic boarding school headmaster who was aroused by the violence. Dickens wrote about such worlds, which made Wilson’s endurable. Because he has brought passion and a restless curiosity to this project, it often reads as more than a Dickens portrait; it reads often more like something written by Dickens.

--Robert Douglas-Fairhurst, Spectator (U.K.)


THE LINK TANK


America is a coalition of the worried
Everywhere you turn, angst and uncertainty rule

Dismantle the Department of Homeland Security
It 's now synonymous with unsympathetic government overreach, malevolence and dysfunction

The future of American liberalism
What Biden can learn from FDR

Pandemic hastens newspapers’ slide
Digital future extremely shaky
https://news.yahoo.com/virus-hastens-newspapers-slide-shaky-080216711.htmlhttps://news.yahoo.com/virus-hastens-newspapers-slide-shaky-080216711.html


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!