Wednesday, August 12, 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
  • Never make eye contact with someone with a nauseatingly goofy ring tone. 
  • One problem with home schooling/virtual or remote learning:  No yearbook.
  • No sooner did I finally start to feel comfortable in my own skin when the wrinkles decided to show up.  (And when my hair stopped growing, my toenails never got the memo.)
  • Yes, I love the Red-Eye Reduction feature you find on photo-editing software, but why did they stop there?  Where's the Double Chin Reduction button?  The Wrinkle Eraser? The Crow's Feet Eliminator?  The Bald Spot Coverup feature?  The Fountain of Youth dial?  There's room for improvement here!
  • More of jimjustsaying's series of Words You See in Print But Never Hear Anyone Use in Normal Life:  Emollient, mucilage and dentifrice.
  • Why don’t astrologers ever say the day is unfavorable about reading about astrology (or buying astrology books, DVDs, etc.)?  Ever get the impression that the astrologers are making it up as they go along? 
  • Three of the most unused items in any kitchen:  Pasta makers, fondue pots and any one of those items that's supposed to make peeling an egg easier but doesn't.
  • Speaking of food stuff: “I like rice. Rice is great if you’re hungry and you want 2,000 of something.”—Mitch Hedberg (R.I.P.)
  •  H20 no! Americans spend almost as much each year buying bottled water ($21 billion) as they do maintaining the nation's entire water system ($29 billion), even though bottled water is often just a refiltered version of municipal tap water. 
  • What does “Obey your signal only” mean?  That you can’t turn right on red?  On green?  That you have to turn off your radio? Is it possible to obey two signals at once?  Sometimes I’m not sure what my signal actually is?
  • "A [Chicago] crime scene was blocked off Sunday morning on Wacker Drive from Wabash Avenue to Michigan Avenue. A second area was blocked off on and near the Wabash Avenue bridge."—recent news report
  • That's one thing police excel at--blocking off things and diverting traffic. The larger the area the better. That, and overreacting: One person shot in an alley? 11 squad cars.  I wouldn’t be surprised if crime-scene tape was one of the largest budget items in any police department.
  • Which would be all well and good if they ever caught anyone--which they rarely do. The "clearance rate" on homicides is--from what I've read--appallingly low.  Most of the “collars” are due to someone dropping the proverbial dime.  (Or, more currently, because of a surveillance camera.)  
  • jimjustsaying’s Party Ice-Breaker of the Month: “Say [actual party-goer’s name here], did you know that the reason people sometimes confuse left and right but seldom confuse up and down is because the corresponding parts of the body are neurally wired to move in sync, for the sake of coordinated action. They mirror one another, which is why it's hard to pat your head and rub your belly at the same time. That mirroring of the movement bleeds over into our perception of space so left and right are easily confused.” 
  • “Almost everything will work again if you unplug it for a few minutes, including you.”--Author Anne Lamont in CountryLiving.com
  • jimjustsaying’s Media Word of the Week (a word you never hear any actual person hear in real life):  Hustings. 
  • Memo to producers advertising flyers: “WOW! doesn’t work for me anymore next to a loss-leader price tag.  I think we’re all pretty much "WOWed out" by now.  (A recent insert for Walgreen’s had 36 WOW! items.  Enough already!)
  • Tell you what, advertisers:  Just tell me the product and the price, and I'll decide whether it's a WOW! for me or not.
  • Better yet, why not come up with some more novel wording, something more attention-getting, such as:
  • "HOLY SHIT!  Duracell AA's, 4 pack, 99 cents!!!" . . . Or, "JESUS H. CHRIST!  Snickers 2-pack, 89 cents!!! Now we're talkin' "grabbers," are we not?!
  • Baseball blooper: “Callison opened the ninth with a single . . . and scored after being punted into scoring position by Ruben Amaro.”—Terre Haute (Ind.) Tribune, via “Still More Press Boners,” by Earle Tempel 
  • jimjustsaying’s Word That Doesn’t Exist But Should of the Month:  Furbling. n. Having to wander through a maze of ropes at an airport or bank even if you are the only person in line.—“Sniglets,” Rich Hall and Friends
  • New construction puzzler: When was the last time you saw a new funeral home going up?   With the population explosion over the last decades, you'd think you would see a new one being built occasionally.  Are the existing ones just busier or . . . . What am I missing here? 
  • More cremations?  The deceased still have to go through the funeral home process. People living longer?  They still die eventually . . . and then there is the off-setting phenomena of the global pandemic, the growing number of young people dying of gang violence, drive-by shootings, AIDs, drug overdoses . . . .)
  • Newspaper Obituary Headline Nickname of the Month: Mrs. Santa Claus.  As in Jaclyn M. “Mrs. Santa Claus” Brockman, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, July 12, 2020.  R.I.P., Mrs. Brockman..
  • Today's Latin lesson:  Ubi est persona tua?  ("Where's your mask?")

THE QUOTE RACK


Filling a high court vacancy
Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s announcement that she is being treated for a recurrence of cancer raises a major question. What will happen if the 87-year-old justice is forced to leave the Supreme Court before January? President Trump and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell would surely “insist on filling any vacancy.” McConnell has already stated he will ignore the precedent he set when he refused to allow hearings on President Obama’s nominee to fill Antonin Scalia’s seat, Merrick Garland, for 10 months in 2016. Trump, meanwhile, would love a confirmation fight before Election Day “to rouse the Republican base.” The GOP’s elimination of the filibuster for Supreme Court nominees means Democrats couldn’t stop confirmation of a new, Federalist Society–approved justice, but “it would be holy war for both sides.” And what if the vacancy occurred after Joe Biden was elected president, but in the lame-duck session between November and January? Conservatives “would howl at Trump and McConnell to ram through a confirmation.” But if Democrats hold a Senate majority in January, they will react by expanding and packing the court with liberal justices. For the sake of our already divided country, Justice Ginsburg needs to hold on.
--Ed Kilgore, NYMag.com

Biden shouldn’t duck out of debate
Should Joe Biden skip the presidential debates? Many Democrats are suggesting he do so, on the ground that debates serve as a poor test of who would make a better president. What a terrible year to make this argument. The pandemic has severely limited in-person appearances by the candidates, and both parties’ conventions will be mostly virtual. Biden has ignored interview requests by Chris Wallace of Fox News and is keeping a low profile. He’d take office at age 78, becoming the oldest president ever on Day 1, and needs to prove that President Trump’s claims that he’s all but senile are false.

During the primaries, Biden had numerous memory lapses, including referring to Britain’s prime minister as Margaret Thatcher, who left office 30 years ago. If he ducks debates, voters will have every right to conclude that his handlers are trying to protect him from doubts about his cognitive capacity. In addition, Biden needs to explain and defend his leftist policy proposals for tax increases and rapidly reducing the use of fossil fuels. Biden can’t ask Americans to elect him president unless he’s willing to take on Trump face-to-face.
--Wall St. Journal editorial

The meaning of baseball
Baseball is never just about baseball. It is called our national pastime for a reason. The virus has dealt a serious blow not just to the league’s operation but, in some sense, to the nation itself: Our confidence has been shaken, our helplessness reinforced, our anxiety and caution ramped up yet again. Baseball was entering the war against the pandemic. The league, armed to the teeth with power and privilege, access to testing, cash flow, precision data collection, and high-powered, lower-risk athletes playing outdoors, was supposed to prevail. Baseball’s success, then, will be our success; its failure, our failure.”
--Former major leaguer Doug Glanville, New York Times

The Pentagon’s secret UFO study
*****Are aliens real?. Believe it or not, the Pentagon has a shadowy unit that is still studying this question by examining a series of unexplained UFO sightings, The New York Times recently reported. In a story buried on page 17, the Times said earlier claims that the Pentagon had completed its study were not true. One former contractor, astrophysicist Eric Davis, said he briefed officials in March on “retrievals from ‘off-world vehicles not made on this earth,’” suggesting “the possibility of little green men” might, in fact, be real. And all of this comes on the heels of the Pentagon declassifying in April three videos of Navy pilots encountering strange objects capable of flying at huge speeds, stopping on a dime, and banking at seemingly impossible angles.
--Matt Novak, Gizmodo.com

*****Many UFO enthusiasts, understandably, see these new developments as a sign that we are on the brink of full disclosure about visitors from outer space. The Times reported that the Senate is requiring the Pentagon to release a public report on its UFO findings within three months. But I think the believers are in for a big disappointment. The Pentagon group is focused on threats to national security, rather than on spacecraft or possible alien visitors, and questions have been raised about Davis’ legitimacy, honesty, and close ties to UFO crusaders. One of the Times story’s authors, Ralph Blumenthal, has since backed away from the supposed extraterrestrial origin of recovered materials. “He didn’t say aliens,” Blumenthal said, “and neither do we.”
--Greg Eghigian, Slate.com

*****It’s not likely the many unexplainable UFO sightings—including the ones recorded by Navy pilots—represent alien visitations, But this is “a global phenomenon,” and UFOs deserve a serious and transparent “interdisciplinary scientific investigation,” not just a questionable study by the Pentagon. In the past, mainstream scientists have shied away from the study of UFOs out of fear of being considered kooks, but we should all approach this topic with open minds.
--Ravi Kopparapu and Jacob Haqq-Misra, Scientific​American​.com

*****If extraterrestrials really are visiting us, this year would bethe perfect year” to find out. After the pandemic, the murder hornets, and other bizarre events, humanity is finally psychologically ready to handle alien contact. In 2020, an alien invasion just feels right, somehow.
--Glenn Harlan Reynolds, USAToday​.com

Hunting for life on the Red Planet
NASA’s biggest and most sophisticated rover blasted off from Cape Canaveral for Mars recently, the first stage in a decade-long mission to search for traces of ancient life on the Red Planet. After traveling through space for seven months, the car-size Perseverance rover should descend to the Martian surface on Feb. 18, 2021—Mars probes launched earlier in July by China and the United Arab Emirates are expected to reach the planet at the same time. NASA is aiming to land Perseverance on the floor of the 28-mile wide Jezero Crater, which some 3.5 billion years ago was the site of a lake and river delta. Using a suite of advanced instruments, the plutonium-powered Perseverance will scour the basin for rocks that might bear chemical signatures showing that microbes inhabited the long-gone waters. It will store those samples in titanium tubes that will later be collected by a European rover and flown to Earth.

“I’m optimistic that when those samples come back, we will find compelling evidence for ancient life,” NASA’s Katie Stack Morgan tells National Geographic. And if we don’t, “that says something really interesting about the conditions in which life can actually exist.” Perseverance will also launch a 4-pound experimental helicopter named Ingenuity. If the craft can fly in the thin Martian atmosphere, similar featherweight helicopters could be used as scouts on future missions.
--The Week

Can a bike shop ride out the recession?
To understand how the pandemic is really affecting small businesses, I went to the guy who sells bikes to my family. Jon Hughes runs the Downtown Ferndale Bike Shop and Downtown Detroit Bike Shop. These days, his stores are packed with beat-up Schwinns, Treks and Bianchis in need of repairs. The fix-it jobs are helping his enterprise survive, but they are a Band-Aid for a broken business model. It can take a mechanic a full day’s work to earn as much as a single high-end bike sale, but the pandemic has made new bikes almost impossible to find. Supply-chain kinks and production delays in China, where most new inventory is made, have held up deliveries until 2021. One day recently, Hughes even discovered his store had exhausted its supply of 26-inch tire tubes, a popular size that has never been out of stock since he opened in 2010. “I’m running out of stuff to sell,” said Hughes, who received a $20,000 loan from the Paycheck Protection Program that quickly proved to be a drop in the bucket. He’s actually hired more mechanics. But shipping rates have gone up, margins on new products have gone down, and a busy bike shop without bikes to sell can only pay the bills for so long.
--John Stoll, Wall St. Journal

The 401(k) needs a big overhaul
We’ve reached point where 401(k)s no longer make sense for savers, The advantages of the tax-deferred, defined-contribution plan rested on factors that have changed dramatically since the 401(k) was created in 1978. Forty years ago, the tax deferral for a worker with 30 years to retirement—when the marginal federal income tax rate was 43 percent and interest rates about 15 percent—was equivalent to an additional investment return of 9.2 percent per year.

Today, for a median-income married couple with two children, the tax rate on income is the same as it’s likely to be in retirement, and the benefit a meager 0.6 percent—or worse, given the reasonable fear that today’s low tax rates will rise before participants retire. Meanwhile, investment fees in ordinary accounts have declined much faster than those for 401(k)s. Typical managed accounts now charge just 0.5 percent; 401(k)s are stuck at three times that. One fix for these accounts is to make withdrawals in retirement tax-free for households with below-median incomes. Another idea: Eliminate payroll taxes on contributions. Nobody wants to discourage workers from using 401(k)s and exacerbate the middle-class savings problem. But 401(k)s need some major changes before savers notice that they no longer offer much benefit and abandon them.
--Aaron Brown, Bloomberg.com


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


LAGNIAPPE

23 Shakespearean phrases we still use today
  • “Lie low” (from “Much Ado About Nothing”)
  • “Green-eyed monster” (“Othello”)
  • “Heart of gold” (“Henry V”)
  • “Fair Play” (“The Tempest”)
  • “Break the ice” (“The Taming of the Shrew”)
  • “Wild Goose Chase” (“Romeo and Juliet”)
  • “It’s all Greek to me” (“Julius Caesar”)
  • “Forever and a day” (“As You Like It” and "The Taming of the Shrew”)
  • “Good riddance” (“The Merchant of Venice”)
  • “Kill with kindness” (“Taming of the Shrew”)
  • “As good luck would have it” (“The Merry Wives of Windsor”)
  • “Love is blind” (“The Merchant of Venice”)
  • “The game is afoot” (“Henry V”)
  •  "Fair Play" ("The Tempest")
  • "Wear my heart upon my sleeve" ("Othello")
  • "Love is blind" ("The Merchant of Venice")
  • "Budge an inch" ("The Taming of the Shrew")
  • "Faint-hearted" ("Henry VI, Part 1")
  • "Dead as a doornail" ("Henry VI Part 2)
  • "Kill with kindness" ("The Taming of the Shrew")
  • "Good riddance" ("Troilus and Cressida")
  • "All's well that ends well" ("All's Well That Ends Well.")
  • “Knock, knock! Who’s there?" (Yes, Shakespeare is the father of the knock-knock joke. Uttered by the Porter in “Macbeth.") --from MSN.com

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.