Monday, December 1, 2014

jimjustselling . . .




(Actually, I'm not, but the good folks at HenschelHAUS and Amazon are):  


CELEBRITY ENDORSEMENTS

What they're saying about Jim's provocative blog:
--"Jim is obviously making a name for himself--Mr. Irrelevant!"--Don Rickles
--"Almost too entertaining!  (Well, sort of.)"--David Letterman
--"Blogaschizzle!"--Calvin Cordozar Broadus, Jr. (aka Snoop Dogg)
--"The one thing I DO read!"--Sarah Palin
--"About what you'd expect from a dopey, sniveling piece of execrable skunk vomit from Wisconsin!"--Don Imus
--"The most fun you can have with your clothes on (but DO take a shower afterwards)."--Dick Cavett

POPCORN

By Jim Szantor

Rhetorical questions, questionable rhetoric, and whimsical observations 
about the absurdities of contemporary life.
  • This Christmas season I'm going to send a calendar to every insurance agent and real-estate person I know (just to see if they have a sense of humor).  
  • What did they call a Napoleon Complex before they had Napoleon to name it after?
  • jimjustsaying's Name for Something That Doesn't Exist But Should: Fitting Persons Bureau:  
  • (Where you need to go to find out if your wife is trying something on when you can't find her anywhere in the women's clothing department of whatever store you are in.)
  • Peepola:  The gap in the dressing room curtain that can never be completely closed.--"Unexplained Sniglets of the Universe," Rich Hall & Friends
  • Women spit only at the dentist's office.
  • Of all the artists represented in my collection, I would really hate to lose Lautrec.
  • Overheard:  "What was the best thing before sliced bread?"
  • Q--What do Attila the Hun and John the Baptist have in common?  A--The same middle name.
  • Is the third time always the charm?
  • Jim's Party Ice-Breaker of the Week.  "Say [actual party-goer's name here], did you know that the cummerbund was first adopted by British military officers in colonial India as an alternative to a waistcoat and later spread to civilian use?"
  • What if there was a comeback and no one came?  I keep reading about the big resurgence in vinyl--as in phonograph records.  (What, you thought I meant auto upholstery?)  Start asking your friends and wait for the blank stares.  
  • Jargoneering: Nanojuice.  An ingestible fluid containing colored nanoparticles, administered to diagnose disorders in the gastro-intestinal tract.  The tiny particles, Wired magazine reports, vibrate when pulsed with laser light, creating pressure waves that reveal intestinal activity in real time.  (Kind of hard to work into a conversation, but there you have it.)
  • Fortune Cookie of the Month:  "One must dare to be himself, however frightening or strange that self may prove to be."
  • Would a veterinarian who specializes in elephants be called a pachydermatologist?
  • Tonight's highlights on TV Land/Iraq, according to jimjustsaying's vast network of sources: 
  • 7:00--"Husseinfeld"
  • 7:30--"Wheel of Fortune and Sanctions"
  • 8:00--"Mad About Everything"
  • 8:30--"Family Fatwah"
  • 9:00--"Veilwatch."
  • 9:30--"Allah McBeal."
  • 10:00--"Iraq's Wackiest Public Execution Bloopers"  
  • And, of course, all of this is always followed by the "No-Witness News" (except for viewers on the West Coast).  
  • Speaking of television, I've confirmed it:  The mute button was invented because of Larry King and Regis Philbin.
  • Obituary Headline Nickname of the month:  "Elevator."  As in Michael "Elevator" Burkhart, Kenosha (Wis.) News obituary, Oct. 23, 2014.
  • Today's Latin Lesson: Si ego operor non animadverto vos have a mirus feriae! ("If I don't see you, have a wonderful  holiday!")

THE QUOTE RACK

Fables from Ferguson
In a community where cops are feared, resented, or reviled, it’s almost inevitable that bad things will happen when cops try to do their job, even if they do everything by the book. Moreover, to simply say that the resentment of the police is unwarranted does nothing to solve the problem. 

Eventually, thanks in large part to an influx of professional agitators, rabble-rousers, and opportunists--attracted to television cameras like ambulance chasers to a bus accident--the protests got out of hand again. But that moment was instructive.

If you’ve been following the news lately--and by lately, I mean the last several years, or even decades --none of this is particularly shocking. Friction between police departments and minority communities has been part of the national conversation on race (that liberals insist hasn’t been going on) for as long as I can remember. The New York Times has been regularly covering that beat for at least half a century. It’s a major theme of movies and music. It’s a huge profit center for Al Sharpton, who doesn’t lack for influence or microphones.

And while I have no respect whatsoever for Sharpton, I do think the issue is real. President Obama is right about that.

But what’s left out of the narrative that drives so much of the national conversation are the other real experiences of other Americans. On MSNBC, particularly last August, the discussion of Michael Brown--much like Trayvon Martin before him--has been almost entirely abstract. Brown wasn’t a person who allegedly robbed a convenience store. He was a stand-in for racial injustice. That’s what was so powerful about Brown’s (probably mythological) "hands up" gesture.

The outrage that followed when the convenience store robbery video was released and details from the grand jury were leaked was at least in part fury at having the narrative muddied. No one likes to see fresh gospel fact-checked. No one wants to hear that their martyr was in fact no angel. And, in the case of Wilson, no one wants to see their demon humanized.

My point here isn’t to "blame the victim"-- or even assign blame in this tragic nationalized game of Rashomon. It’s simply to note that there is a huge chasm between the way the talking heads and politicians talk about America and the way Americans actually live their lives. Most people aren’t lawyers or academic theorizers. The people we interact with on a daily basis aren’t abstractions, they’re normal human beings, which means they’re a mixed bag. In the nightly shouting match, for instance, we’re told immigration is all This or all That. But in our lives we see the good and the bad.

The national media--on the right and left--has an insatiable desire for storylines so clear-cut they might as well be allegories. The problem is that life isn’t allegorical. It’s messy.
--Jonah Goldberg

Wall St. needs a lesson from the DMV
Everyone remembers Arthur Andersen, the accounting firm that could not account for how it did not notice that one of its clients, Enron, was a fraud. Andersen, in fact, was convicted of obstruction of justice--later reversed--and the firm collapsed. The big guys were punished, but the firm had 30,000 employees and most of them had nothing to do with Enron. No matter. They were out on the street.

So criminal prosecutions, while immensely satisfying, have their downside.  But penalties alone don’t seem to work. In the first place, they are paid not by the miscreants but by the stockholders, many of whom were probably not shareholders when the vile deed was done.  In the old days, when most financial firms were partnerships, a penalty could really hurt.  But those days are gone.  The firms are publicly traded behemoths, both too big to fail and too big to jail. So, what to do?

To answer that question I refer you to Joseph S. Fichera, the chief executive of the financial firm Saber Partners.  In a stunning application of common sense, Fichera suggested in a New York Times essay that the Securities and Exchange Commission operate like any state’s motor vehicle department--fines, plus points.  This would mean that an infraction would cost the financial firm not only some money but some points as well.  

At first, the firm would not sweat it.  But as the points accumulate and its trading license (like your driver’s license) would be on the line, it would start to slow down, obey all regulations and oversee the corner-cutters because so much would be at stake.  The board of directors might even take an interest in how the firm is managed and not just the bottom line.

Like anyone else, I would like to see the occasional Wall Street hanging.  But more important, the application--or prospect--of severe penalties via a point system would surely deter unethical behavior.  Once those points start to add up, everyone in the firm would be on alert. As it is now, though, the penalties are announced on what seems like a monthly schedule, and the American people are entitled to think the old adage is wrong: Crime does pay. At these interest rates, saving doesn’t.
--Richard Cohen, Washington Post

Why the Fed needs more transparency
Officials at the Federal Reserve  don’t like having to answer to anybody.  They have long maintained that the central bank is the most sophisticated and enlightened of financial regulators, and they use that inflated self-portrait to justify operating in a  shroud of secrecy.
 But after being repeatedly taken to task by lawmakers [recently]--including for being unduly influenced by the very banks it is supposed to oversee--the Fed is now  embarking on a soul-searching campaign.  The Fed’s inspector general will soon investigate whether the Fed’s bank examiners have the tools they need to do their jobs  and whether they receive the support of their superiors when they challenge  questionable behavior on Wall Street. 


To even ask such questions--and to publicly reveal that it is doing so--is an extraordinary  about face for the central bank. Yet the move toward more transparency is  absolutely justified. The secrecy that veils the Fed’s monitoring of Wall Street serves only to protect the big banks and  disadvantages investors who try to understand whether firms are financially healthy. If the Fed did its regulatory work out in the open, we could all be more confident that the Fed was doing its job.
--Gretchen Morgenson, New York Times

Justices who deny their own biases
The U.S. Supreme Court has become a frighteningly elitist institution.  All nine sitting justices attended either Harvard or Yale law schools, with limited work and life experience outside the practice of law. The court’s four hard-core conservatives claim to judge cases wholly on impersonal readings of the Constitution. When liberal Justice Sonia Sotomayor spoke of her personal experience as a beneficiary of affirmative action, Chief Justice John Roberts coldly chided her for indulging in "policy preferences."  But "all of us import our values and experiences into our decision making." In case after case, members of the court’s conservative wing invent rights for corporations, religious business owners, and wealthy Republican influence seekers with whom they clearly identify "while gutting protections for women, minorities, and workers." This insular worldview produces decisions like Citizens United, the 2010 ruling in which the conservative majority insisted that unlimited campaign contributions would have no corrupting influence on politics. Inside its columned temple, this is a court dangerously out of touch with everyday reality.
--Dahlia Lithwick, NewRepublic.com

A pill that hunts for cancer
Imagine taking a pill that identifies whether you’re in the early stages of cancer or have advanced heart disease. 

Google has begun work on this futuristic melding of technology and medicine, using nanoparticles that would spread throughout a patient’s blood. The nanoparticles, roughly 10,000 times smaller than the width of a human hair, would combine magnetic materials with antibodies that attach to and detect early markers of disease inside the body. A wearable sensor, such as a wristwatch, would monitor the findings of the nanoparticles and alert doctors if something amiss was found.

"These little particles go out and mingle," Andrew Conrad, head of Google X Life Sciences, tells Wired.com.  "We call them back to one place and ask them, ‘Hey, what did you see? Did you find cancer?' " The project is still in its early stages, and Google scientists say they are looking for partners in the medical industry to help turn their idea into real devices.
--The Week

An antibiotic alternative to kill ‘superbugs’
There’s new hope in the fight against antibiotic-resistant superbugs. Dutch biotech company Micreos announced last week it had cured five out of six patients whose skin had been infected with methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus—better known as MRSA--a bug that had previously proved immune to even the most powerful antibiotics. 

Each year, such superbugs cause at least 23,000 deaths and 2 million illnesses in the U.S. alone and are now threatening to undo more than a century of progress against infectious diseases. Traditional antibiotics need to get inside bacteria to work, but bugs like MRSA, as well as some strains of tuberculosis and salmonella, have adapted to this threat by developing thicker, impenetrable membranes.

The new drug, called Staphefekt, latches onto this outer cell wall and releases an enzyme known as endolysin, which breaks down the membrane and kills the bacteria. Scientists think bacteria won’t be able to evolve to defend themselves against the enzyme because endolysin tends to adapt along with its host cell. Unlike conventional antibiotics, the new drug can also be targeted to destroy only harmful bacteria, and not the good bacteria that live in and on the human body. "The results are exciting," said Dutch microbiologist Bjorn Herpers, "and demonstrate the potential this technology has to revolutionize the way we treat certain bacterial infections."
--Washington Post

THE LINK TANK*

The nihilist in the White House
Current administration doesn’t build, it divides and tears down
http://online.wsj.com/news/article_email/SB12103449752359043832504580289211865301360-lMyQjAxMTI0MTIwMjMyNDI0Wj?mod=wsj_share_email

Obama's choices
How the Democrats can save their agenda
http://link.email.washingtonpost.com/r/8VXTM7/3053TI/LNQVVS/QFHMUMK/SUPMCB/AZ/h 

Why we should care about Syria
Bringing the headlines to life--body part to body part
http://ee.usatoday.com/Subscribers/LandingPage/LandingPage.aspx?href=VVNBLzIwMTQvMTEvMTE.&pageno=Mg..&entity=QXIwMDIwMg..&view=ZW50aXR5

Time for Clinton to stop dithering
Hillary fatigue turns to Hillary exhaustion
http://www.suntimes.com/news/simon/31424473-452/hillary-should-stop-dithering.html

The case for a national service year
Time for the slackers to contribute to the cause
http://link.email.washingtonpost.com/r/VP6EHT/5VWIN6/3ZOJJC/C5EUPZA/HIDJD3/UP/h

Makers and breakers
The Internet's use or nonuse weighs heavily on today's international relations
http://www.nytimes.com/2014/11/09/opinion/sunday/thomas-l-friedman-makers-and-breakers.html

Job outlook: Lousy
Half of today's occupations won't exist in a decade
http://www.business-standard.com/article/pti-stories/50-of-occupations-today-will-no-longer-exist-in-2025-report-114110701279_1.html

Our machine masters
Will we master the age of artificial intelligence, or will it master us?
http://www.nytimes.com/2014/10/31/opinion/david-brooks-our-machine-masters.html?partner=rssnyt&emc=rss

In praise of things that don't change
You can always count on corruption, late trains and pricey granola
http://online.wsj.com/articles/joe-queenan-praises-things-that-dont-change-1416498394

Maxims that are never really true
It’s time to ignore those beloved old pearls of 'wisdom'
http://online.wsj.com/articles/joe-queenan-on-maxims-and-why-they-are-never-true-1417027963

*Every effort is made to ensure that all links are accessible.

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

POPCORN

By Jim Szantor

Rhetorical questions, questionable rhetoric, and whimsical observations 
about the absurdities of contemporary life.
  • If Norman Rockwell were alive today, do you think there's anything he'd want to paint?
  • I don't care what anyone says, we didn't have Viagara ads in prime time when Mr. Rogers was alive!
  • jimjustsaying's catty comment:  What shade of lipstick looks best on a pig?
  • Does Anderson Cooper have two first names . . . or two last names?  Discuss!
  • Political speech I'd love to hear (but probably never will).  "Win or lose, I promise to have all of my campaign signs and posters taken down the day after the election."
  • "I don't mind that I'm fat. You still get the same money."--Marlon Brando in 1996
  • Go Figure Dept:  According to various sources, Marlon Brando was a longtime close friend of Michael Jackson's and paid regular visits to his Neverland Ranch, resting there for weeks at a time.  (No truth to the rumor that Robert De Niro hangs out at Pee-Wee Herman's "playhouse" between films.)
  • Jim's Party Ice-Breaker of the Week: "Say [actual fellow party-goer's name here], did you know that the new president of Indonesia is a former cabinet maker named Joko Widodo.  Yeah, really.  His friends call him Jokowi."
  • Always remember:  You can't break an egg without making an omelet.
  • Headline on Ebola virus story: "Blanket travel ban ruled out."  (No word yet on sheets and pillow cases.)
  • Best fortune-cookie message in eons:  "An artist is not paid for his labor but for his vision."   
  • The newest endangered species:  Customers.  Now we're all "clients" or "guests."  And there are no more clerks: They're "associates."  I'm sure that makes them feel better about their minimum-wage compensation and absence of benefits.
  • I keep reading about all these doofuses who get arrested for not wearing a seatbelt and can't help but wonder:  How does this happen? My eyesight is still pretty good but I can't tell whether someone is wearing one or not, so how can people, the police, make this determination?  So often!  It's not like a warning light goes off!  (Full disclosure:  Never a violator or an arrestee.)
  • Memo to anyone who purchased the "Leave it to Beaver" boxed set:  You either have too much time on your hands or too much money or too little taste in pop culture.
  • The answer:  Wampire, Zola Jesus and The Dead Milkmen. The question? Name three groups that released CDs the first week of October.   (The temptation to say "Never heard of them" is tempered by the reminder that at one point, I had "never heard of" Elvis Presley or The Beatles . . . .  Not that The Dead Milkmen are destined to attain that level of immortality.
  • Why don't people just say "He (or she or they) is (are) new to me" instead of "Never heard of him (or her or them)?"
  • Redundancy Patrol:  "Free bonus," "absolutely free," "icy cold."
  • Classified Ad of the Week (under  Good Things to Eat, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel):  "Our family raises and breed all organic goat, lamb, pork and eggs! FREE dozen eggs with any $20 purchase!"
  • Who decided the frog legs were a potential edible?  Prediction: NOT the next fast-food novelty item craze.   (You'll see the occasional Joe's Crab Shack but never Joe's House of Frog Legs.  That I know of.  In all likelihood.)
  • A pox on all makers of "name brand" apparel who charge premium prices and put flimsy zippers in their products.  They're cutting corners and ruining their reputation at the same time.
  • jimjustsaying's Faded Household Staple of the Past:  Linoleum
  • Favorite Lenny Bruce assertion:  "We're all as honest as we can afford to be."
  • Newspaper headline:  "House fire kills 200 snakes."  Must have started in the serpents' quarters!
  • Three TV shows I never watch:  "Project Runway," "Total Divas," and "Babe Winkelman's Outdoor Secrets."
  • Obituary Headline NIckname of the Month:  "Happy."  As in Mary E. "Happy" Maloney, Green Bay Press-Gazette obituary, Sept. 9, 2014.
  • Today's Latin Lesson:  It's nostrum parum specialis.  ("It's our little secret!")

Thursday, October 16, 2014

POPCORN

By Jim Szantor

Rhetorical questions, questionable rhetoric, and whimsical observations 
about the absurdities of contemporary life.
  • You know you're dealing with an incompetent fraudster if the Web address ends with dot.con.
  • Drudge Report headline (Oct. 16):  "People have sex in airports to pass time." Comment:  Well, you've already got your shoes off . . . .
  • Three things I've never done:  Put something in mothballs, put all my eggs in one basket, put on the dog.
  • I'm not surprised about the gradual acceptance of same-sex marriage.  The fortunate people who have jobs but little job security look at the wobbly economy, the mounting terrorism threats, the do-nothing Congress, the latest health (Ebola) crisis, our crumbling infrastructure, the hacking of credit and debit cards, child sex abuse by the clergy, child porn scandals every week, commercial airplanes being shot out of the sky, and say, "Well, there are worse things than Joanne and Claudette or Brian and Wilbur getting married."  
  • For perspective on the Ebola virus and the widening Mideast war(s), we turn to the late philosopher Albert Camus:  
  • "Everybody knows that pestilence has a way of recurring in the world; yet somehow we find it hard to believe in ones that crash down on our heads from a blue sky. There have been as many plagues as wars in history; yet plagues and wars always take people equally by surprise."--"The Plague, Part 1"
  • Anybody besides me see the parallels between Bill Clinton and Bob Hope?  Been there, done that, as famous as it's possible to be . . . and yet . . . can't get off the bleeping stage!  I'm getting as sick of the one as I was of the other!
  • When did the word "playoffs" become anathema in baseball and other sports?  To me, the "postseason" starts the day the World Series ends.  
  • Speaking of sports, the New Orleans team excepted, there are no saints in the National Football League.
  • People with Ph.D. degrees who list it after their names at all times whether relevant or not are truly pathetic human beings.  (How many of them of the proverbial certain age were basically "professional students" who stayed at school just to avoid the draft?  I'm just emphatically sayin'.)
  • Why has everyone started using the word "dystopian" all of a sudden?  It's either in a newspaper or magazine headline, a movie or play description or something or other seemingly on a daily basis.  
  • "There are worse crimes than burning books. One of them is not reading them."--Poet Joseph Brodsky
  • Redundancy Patrol: "Close proximity," "pool together," "serious crisis."  
  • There are three kinds of people:  Facebook fanatics, people who "do Facebook"  out of sheer conformity and those, like me, who don't see the need and get along just fine without it.  
  • Starting Oct. 10, only 76 shopping days until Christmas.
  • Sudsorian Calendar:  The calendar used on soap operas that allows one day's events to be stretched over a three-week period.--Rich Hall, "Unexplained Sniglets of the Universe"
  • Bang, buzz, chirp, clang, cling, clunk, grinding, hiss, knock, ping, rattle, rumble, scraping, squeal and whine--some of the words that can be useful in describing to a mechanic what's wrong when your car is making funny noises (says Chicago Tribune auto columnist Bob "Motormouth" Weber).
  • Another one in jimjustsaying's list of Occupations No Child Has Ever Fantasized About or Aspired To:  Snake-venom extractor
  • jimjustsaying's Product of the Month (from the Make Life Easier catalog):  Birdbath Protector, which uses "natural plant enzymes to break down organic contaminants. . . .Birds will love it . . . and so will you. So go green and keep your birdbath clean!"
     (Just the thing for that hard-to-shop-for person on everyone's Christmas gift list.)
  • What's the difference between an aroma and an odor?  An aroma and a fragrance? Between an odor and a stench?  You'd say "The aroma of freshly baked bread wafted through the house" but you'd say "underarm odor," not "underarm aroma or fragrance."  How does one calibrate the gradations of things odiferous?
  • Obituary Headline Nickname of the Month:  "Tiny."  As in Mary Jane "Tiny" O'Brien, Green Bay Press-Gazette obituary, Sept. 9, 2014.
  • Jargoneering:  Precrastinate:  Getting tasks done ahead of schedule with extra effort. Precrastinating, says Wired magazine,  might be as detrimental to productivity as procrastinating, especially when people precrastinate on trivialities like e-mail, mentally exhausting themselves before turning to greater challenges.
  • Drudge Report Headline of the Week:  "Shoplifter uses motorized Walmart shopping cart as getaway vehicle."  ("Made it two miles before cops pounce.")
  • Newspaper Headline of the Month: "White supremacist wants to play the violin in prison."  (Maybe he can pull some strings and get his wish?  Not that I have any sympathies toward white supremacists . . . .)
  • Multiple tattoos and  body piercings are a cry for help (and how, I wonder, does one go about providing that?) and a definite detriment at most job interviews.  Other than that, a good look and a wonderful career move.   
  • Why Richard Kiel, who died recently, always looked the way he did when portraying Jaws in two James Bond movies:  "The fake teeth were agonizing to wear.  They were made of chromium steel and went up to the roof of your mouth and would kind of gag you. The rather stoic look was me trying to keep from throwing up.”  (Kind of hard to work into a conversation, but there you have it.)
  • Fifty-seventh Wisconsin Town I Didn't Know Existed Until I Saw It Mentioned in a Green Bay Press-Gazette Obituary: Ledgeview. (R.I.P., Gladys Mae Bildings, Green Bay Press-Gazette obituary, Aug. 14, 2014).  Previous entries: Athelstane, Walhain, Duck Creek, Breed, Anston, Sobieski, Amberg, Osseo, Angelica, Brazeau, Waukechon, Sugar Camp, Kossuth, Lessor, Kunesh, Pulcifer, Cato, Florence, Greenleaf, Eaton, Poygan, Hofa Park, Hilbert, Hollandtown, Beaufort, Glennie, Harshaw, Bessemer, Crooked Lake, Tigerton, Goodman, Readstown, Dousman, Butternut, Montpelier, Cecil, Red River, Gillet, King, Laona, Kelly Lake, Glenmore, Tonet, Stiles, Morrison, Dunbar, Askeaton, Wild Rose. Neopit, Ellisville, Pickett, Flintville,  Forest Junction, Thiry Daems, Black Creek and Mountain.
  • Today's Latin Lesson:  Operor illa pardus planto meus tergum terminus vultus pinguis?  ("Do these pants make my rear end look fat?")