Thursday, February 18, 2021


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.

The book is also available at:



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,
  • 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.”)



Will Biden’s climate-change agenda make a difference?

Executive orders can get Biden only so far.  To effect lasting change, we need new laws, but getting buy-in from Congress is likely to be extremely difficult.  With the filibuster still in place, new legislation will need 10 Republican Senate votes, not to mention the vote of West Virginia Democrat Sen. Joe Manchin, who in a 2010 campaign ad literally shot the last major climate bill with a rifle.

--Spencer Bokat-Lindell, New York Times

 If Biden wants new laws, he could try to build consensus.  Instead, he seems determined to handle climate change the way Democrats tackle all problems: by ramming through massive spending schemes without bipartisan support.

--Kevin Williamson,

 The politics of climate are changing.  Americans are witnessing and experiencing prolonged droughts and heat waves, rampaging wildfires, more damaging hurricanes, persistent coastal flooding and extreme weather of all kinds—just as climate scientists predicted. This is becoming an issue that the Right cannot ignore . . . .  Biden’s executive orders won’t by themselves make greenhouse gases go away, but they’re a clear statement of intent. Biden believes that breakthroughs in green technology should happen here in America, and that the jobs from those advances should go to U.S. workers.  Republicans will resist, if only for resistance’s sake.  But history is on Biden’s side, and history—eventually—always wins.

--Washington Post

Our China problem

President Biden’s biggest foreign policy “nightmare may be China.  In coming years, there is a significant risk of a military confrontation with the world’s most populous nation, because President Xi Jinping is an overconfident, risk-taking bully who believes that the United States is in decline.  Xi has been sending threatening signals about invading Taiwan, whose independence he finds galling; as a test, he could order China’s military to seize the Pratas and Kinmen islands now controlled by Taiwan, or a cyberattack on Taiwan’s banking system, or a blockade of its oil deliveries. That kind of aggression could draw the U.S. into perhaps the most dangerous confrontation with another nuclear power since the Cuban missile crisis. 


Even if Xi does not go that far, Biden has to contend with China’s oppression of Hong Kong, its genocide of the Uighurs, its contempt for human rights and its unfair trade practices.  Biden has recruited a tough-minded team of Asia experts who understand that China is an untrustworthy adversary. But a China policy that is too confrontational could lead to a dangerous escalation of tensions.  Let’s keep the cold war with Beijing cold.

--Nicholas Kristof, New York Times

Executing mentally ill prisoners

On its way out the door, the Trump administration went on a spree of lame duck executions of chilling injustice and inhumanity.  The administration killed three federal prisoners alone, for a total of 13 since July—triple the number of federal executions over the past six decades.  The overwhelming majority of state-sanctioned killings are of people suffering from intellectual disabilities, severe mental illness, and/or a disabling history of childhood abuse and trauma. 

 Consider Lisa Montgomery, executed in January: She was gang-raped at 11 by her stepfather and his friends, brain damaged by severe beatings and trafficked by her mother to pay bills.  She was delusional throughout her life.  Executed prisoner Daniel Lewis Lee also suffered severe childhood abuse that left him mentally ill.  Wesley Purkey, executed in July, was sexually abused by his mother and had schizophrenia and bipolar disorder.  Judges and juries often discount the role of severe childhood abuse and mental illness in serious criminal behavior, viewing disturbed and delusional people as more dangerous and deserving of execution.  It’s unconscionable—and it’s one more reason President Biden should end the federal death penalty and lead a campaign for nationwide abolition of capital punishment.

--Austin Sarat,

 Bigelow’s metaphysical explorations

Robert Bigelow has spent his life hunting for extraterrestrials and proof of an afterlife.  The Las Vegas real estate mogul, 75, believes these Holy Grail pursuits are related, with an interdimensional explanation.  “If we see a shadow going through one wall and through another,” he says, “we don’t know for sure if it was a discarnate human spirit or E.T.”  

 Growing up in Nevada, Bigelow became hooked on UFOs and aliens, after his grandparents had a close encounter with a glowing object.  He vowed to get rich so he could research UFOs.  His booming long-term rentals business, Budget Suites, allowed him to sink more than $350 million into Bigelow Aerospace, whose secret collaboration with the Pentagon to study UFOs was revealed in 2017.  Bigelow’s dueling obsession, the afterlife, began after the 1992 death by suicide of his 24-year-old son, Rod Lee.  After his wife of 55 years, Diane, died last June, Bigelow founded the Institute for Consciousness Studies to research life after death.  Bigelow’s institute is giving $1 million in prizes this year for research offering the best evidence that consciousness persists after death.  “I am personally totally convinced of it,” he says.

--Ralph Blumenthal, New York Times

How to fix social media

With former President Trump banned from Twitter, Facebook, and several other sites, the siren calls for social media regulation will soon become deafening, said Andy Kessler.  Most would-be reformers want to rewrite Section 230 of the 1996 Communications Decency Act, which largely exempts social media companies from legal liability for what users post on their sites.  But attempts to fix Section 230 would massively backfire, forcing Twitter, Facebook, et al., to heavily censor on their sites all controversial posts, lest they be sued into oblivion.  We often forget, however, that Section 230 doesn’t forbid suing users of social media for libel or holding them accountable.  The problem is anonymity: The nastiest and most irresponsible posters hide behind fake names and handles. Forcing users to register with, say, a credit card or other ID and use their real names might cut the sites’ user bases in half, but advertisers would rejoice and it would limit the need for tens of thousands of content moderators.  If you post threats or libelous attacks on people, you will risk getting sued.  Post about buying zip ties and invading the Capitol, and the FBI knocks on your door. Ending anonymity would put an immediate damper on today’s worst offenders.

--Andy Kessler, Wall St. Journal

It’s not all better

The Biden era presages a return to typical presidential dishonesty, without the cult of personality that defined the Trump era.  But presidential lies were destructive long before Trump appeared, so the press and the public should resist the temptation to assume that the Biden administration will always be on the level, or that its dishonesties can be forgiven because Joe Biden’s predecessor wielded falsehood with such abandon.  There will be moments when the public interest conflicts with the political interest of the White House, and during some of these moments, the president will lie. All presidents do.”

--Adam Serwer,

 LGBTQ rights: Did Biden go too far?

President Biden has already achieved the most sweeping expansion of LGBTQ rights in American history.   In a historic executive order, Biden directed all federal agencies to interpret civil rights laws as prohibiting discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity.  The order—which extends the Supreme Court’s landmark Bostock ruling on employment—will ensure equal protection for LGBTQ people in housing, education, health care, and more.  Biden also reversed Trump’s ban on transgender people enlisting in the military.

--Mark Joseph Stern,

 The new president has given gay and transgender people something precious—hope for the future.  After Trump’s overt hostility toward transgender people like me, Biden’s empathetic actions, and his inclusion of LGBTQ people in his administration, make me want to dance in the streets.

--Allison Hope,

Biden’s order goes too far and undoes decades of feminist progress. By embracing the fashionable woke notion that gender is purely a matter of identity, unrelated to biology, it will force female athletes to compete with biological males, who will unjustly claim titles, trophies, and scholarships.  Trans girls who go through puberty as males retain huge natural advantages over girls and women, with greater bone density, muscle mass and lung capacity.  That’s why a pair of trans track-and-field athletes in Connecticut were able to easily dominate girls’ competitions, sparking a lawsuit on behalf of several girls whose athletic dreams were crushed.

--Ramona Tausz, New York Post

 Transgender advocates say these fears are exaggerated.  Gillian Branstetter of the National Women’s Law Center notes that 16 states already allow transgender students to compete as women and says girls’ athletics did not vanish as a result.

--Samantha Schmidt, Washington Post

Still, this culture war aggression isn’t the act of a president who’s seeking unity.   Biden has adopted the radical view that the law must treat trans women as absolutely indistinguishable from biological women.  The impact will be felt well beyond sports.  Consider a battered women’s shelter where traumatized women do not want to be around biological males, or a high school locker room, where blending naked trans girls and biological girls is asking for trouble.  Dividing the country along these deep and inflammatory issues of identity is Biden’s first big mistake.

--Andrew Sullivan,

 Kiss the office goodbye?

As a general rule of human civilization, we’ve lived where we work. But nobody will forget the lesson we were all just forced to learn:  Telecommunications doesn’t have to be the perfect substitute for in-person meetings, as long as it’s mostly good enough. For the most part, remote work just works.

Remote work could do to America’s residential geography in the 2020s what the highway did in the 1950s and ’60s: spread it out. The past 12 months have offered a glimpse of the nowhere-everywhere future of work. We’re only beginning to understand just how strange that future might be.

--Derek Thompson,

Should it be easier or harder to vote?

Republicans failed to help Donald Trump steal the 2020 election, but they’re already trying to steal the next one.” Horrified by the record turnout that powered Joe Biden’s narrow victory in swing states, GOP lawmakers in 28 states have introduced 106 separate bills restricting citizens’ access to the ballot box.  If enacted, the bills would curtail early and absentee voting; impose more stringent voter ID requirements; reduce the number of polling places and ballot drop-boxes; eliminate automatic and same-day registration programs; and make it easier for Republican officials to “purge” voter rolls of Democrats.

--Ari Berman,

 As always, Republicans are justifying their voter-suppression efforts in the name of “ballot integrity.”  But that’s hard to square with a proposed Arizona bill that would empower the state’s (Republican) legislature to simply decertify unfavorable election results and let them choose their own electors.  Republicans are keenly aware that their base of white, rural, mostly male voters is being steadily outnumbered by minorities, young progressives, and educated suburban women.  As Alice O’Lenick, a GOP election official in Georgia put it, new voting restrictions are needed so that we at least have a shot at winning

--Washington Post editorial

We’re at a fundamental crossroads in American politics.  Democrats can’t block these anti-democratic measures at the state level—17 of those 28 states are under full Republican control.  But the House is poised to pass H.R.1, or the For the People Act, which would mandate automatic voter registration in every state, along with unlimited absentee voting and 15 days of early voting. The bill would also prohibit extreme gerrymandering and so-called dark money campaign funding, while restoring voting rights to ex-felons.  Republicans will no doubt filibuster the bill, so unless Democrats can persuade all of their 50 senators to abolish the filibuster, expanded voting rights is dead on arrival.  That will have enormous consequences for the future balance of power between the parties.

--Ronald Brownstein,

The Democrats’ bill isn’t about defending democracy  .  . It’s about cementing Democratic political power.  The bill is designed to auto-enroll likely Democratic voters, such as food-stamp recipients, while enshrining in law fraud-susceptible practices such as ballot harvesting and same-day registration.

--Wall Street Journal editorial

All while making it harder for Republican candidates to raise money.  Banning anonymous political donations may sound neutral, but the Left routinely shames, ostracizes and organizes boycotts of Republican donors. H.R.1 might be better named the “For the People Who Are Not Conservatives Act.”

--Jack Fowler,

Both parties assume that making it easier to vote helps Democrats.  But that’s hardly certain. The massive turnout in 2020 no doubt helped Biden, but the predicted “Blue Wave” did not materialize:  Republicans flipped 15 House seats and won big in state elections.

--Bill Scher,

 The GOP needs to start thinking long-term.  If Republicans double down on restricting voting rights, they might squeeze out another decade of power before being crushed by the demographic tide.  To stay competitive, the GOP needs to nominate moderates who can win elections without voter suppression, gerrymandering and the other anti-democratic dark arts. By forcing the Republicans to evolve sooner rather than later, H.R.1 is the long-term rescue package they desperately need.

--Lee Drutman, Washington Post

The Cassandra of the 'attention economy'

Michael Goldhaber is the prophet of the internet era.  A former theoretical physicist, he foresaw in the 1980s how the nascent world wide web would rewire our attention spans and reshape the social order.  With a 1997 essay in Wired, he helped popularize the term “attention economy,” warily eying a future in which anyone can now have a crack at the global audience.  In subsequent articles he predicted online influencer culture, the coarsening of political discourse, and terrorists using the web to recruit and communicate.  


“It’s amazing and disturbing to see this develop to the extent it has,” said Goldhaber, 78, who lives quietly in Berkeley, Calif.  He sees the rise of Donald Trump—who rose to power by paying attention to people who felt starved of it—as a perfect emblem of an era in which attention is power.  He frets that rational discourse is drowned out by the loudest and most ridiculous.  The Capitol insurrection, driven by conspiracy theories promoted online and on cable TV networks that generate nonstop outrage, only deepened his worry that the attention economy and a healthy democracy may be incompatible.  “It felt like an expression of a world in which everyone is desperately seeking their own audience and fracturing reality in the process,” he said.  “I only see that accelerating.”

--Charlie Warzel, New York Times

The real divide in politics

American politics is longer a conventional fight between the Left and Right.  Politics has become a fight between those who are willing to respect evidence and those who aren’t.  Donald Trump’s radical presidency ushered in a new era of ruthless, relentless, denialist propaganda at a scale we used to see only in dictatorships.  He persuaded tens of millions of Americans that Covid-19 was nothing to fear, that masks were useless and finally that the election was stolen—inciting a violent insurrection.  To regain sanity, address our nation’s many problems and resolve political debates, we need a common standard for judging truth.  That standard must be evidence.  Science has used the evidence standard with spectacular success—to devise vaccines, cure diseases, and unravel many of the mysteries of the universe.  It requires revising your theories and beliefs when the evidence shows they’re wrong.  Politicians prefer to deny reality rather than admit they are wrong, but for our country to remain a functioning democracy, the press, the public and rational conservatives and progressives must create a fact-based alliance that crosses party lines.  Relying on evidence is our only way to solve our problems and escape paralyzing polarization.

--William Saletan,

Evidence of long-lasting Covid immunity                             

Most people who survive Covid-19 retain a robust immune response to the disease for at least eight months, and potentially much longer, a new study has found. Since the start of the pandemic, there have been isolated reports of people being reinfected with the coronavirus.  But a new study of blood samples from 188 Covid patients suggests that about 90 percent of people who recover from the disease retain stable immunity. This is in part because antibodies aren’t the only weapon in the immune system’s arsenal: The samples revealed that T cells and other defensive elements were ready to pounce on the virus if it reappeared.  Because the immune system targets hundreds of different parts of the virus, the findings should apply to the new, more transmissible coronavirus variants that first appeared in the U.K. and South Africa.    “There’s a lot of different arms of the immune system recognizing the virus,” co-author Daniela Weiskopf, from the La Jolla Institute for Immunology, tells The Washington Post.  “If you have a mutation, it wouldn’t evade all these different arms.”  The researchers believe immunity likely lasts longer than eight months, because at the time of the study it had shown no signs of decay.  They are unsure why 10 percent of people see their immune response degrade. Given that uncertainty, says co-author Alessandro Sette, “If I’d had Covid, I would still not throw away my masks.”

--The Week


God bless Trump for blowing up the GOP
Principled Republicans will always have a place

Trump might fade away faster than people think
Don't bet on the outgoing president holding sway over the GOP



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!