Sunday, October 27, 2019


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
  • Few things in life are more satisfying than an easily peeled hard-boiled egg or plugging the charger into your device the right way the first time.
  • I love it when I get a flier or a catalog addressed to James Szantor or Current Occupant.  Nice to know I'm interchangeable with somebody who doesn't exist.  Makes me want to send a blank check to THAT company.
  • As for the other kind of mail:   I'm seeing more and more legitimate e-mails winding up in my Junk or Trash folder; e-mails that never went there before.   (Where is Occupant when I really need him?)
  • But the tech "support" people--a most peculiar lot, oftentimes--will probably tell me it's something I'm doing wrong.   (Or else they trot out that catch-all copout--the proverbial "glitch"-- and hide behind that.)
  • Will self-driving cars have to pass a driver's test?  By a person or  . . . .?
  • And what if a self-driving car bought in Miami is "driven" to Minnesota in January.  Will it suddenly know how to drive on snow and ice?  (If you're thinking, as I am, that this idea hasn't been thought through fully enough . . . .)
  • Memo to all stores selling vitamins and OTC products of all kinds:  Stop placing bar code stickers and the like over vital product (such as Directions) information.   Look for a better place; there usually is one.   Obviously the lowly paid clerks don't know better or, even worse, don't care, so they slap them on any old place. 
  • “Some problems are so complex that you have to be highly intelligent and well informed just to be undecided about them.”--Educator Laurence J. Peter
  • Drudge Report Link of the Week I:  "Psychopaths make the best doctors."
  • Drudge Report Link of the Week I:I: "Controversial fecal transplants gain traction."
  • Overheard: If you suddenly discover that you're the smartest person in the room, you're in the wrong room!
  • “An artist’s job is to bite the hand that feeds him, but not too hard.”--Artist Nam June Paik
  • jimjustsaying's  Media Word of the Week (a word you rarely if ever hear a real person use in real life):  "Presumptive."
  • Q--What do Abe Lincoln, Woodrow Wilson and FDR have in common?  A--They were all nominated in brokered conventions.
  • (A brokered convention is not likely these days, experts say, because a Johnny Come Lately candidate would have a mere 10 weeks to organize and raise funds against a well-fortified incumbent president with a two-year head start. )
  • Speaking of politics:  "We always want the best man to win in an election.  Unfortunately, he never runs."--Will Rogers, quoted in
  • A dozen internet "click bait" items you may have missed:
  • These '70s child stars are unrecognizable now/30 Frank Sinatra lovers you've probably forgotten about/15 outfits Mom needs to stop wearing/10 worst-looking cars of 2019/Why millennials aren't having any sex/Mafia holds Rome hostage--with garbage/6 things your earwax says about your health/What going gray early can tell you about your health/10 foods that zap your energy/6 things psychologists know that you might not/Do you really need to cover the toilet seat with paper?/What to do if your car doesn't fit in your garage.
  • Redundancy Patrol:  "Component parts."  "Free gifts." "Foreign imports."
  • jimjustsaying's Consumer Tip of the Month:  Drinks are higher at a "lounge" than they are at a "bar," "tavern" or "saloon."
  • (And If you're having as much fun as the people in the beer commercials, you're having a great life.)
  • Which kind of pasta eater are you:  A twirler or a cutter?  (I cut my spaghetti but twirl my meatballs!)
  • jimjustsaying's Party Ice-Breaker of the Week: "Say [actual party-goer's name here], did you know that the average American flushes the toilet five times a day, which comes to 5.7 billion gallons of clean drinking water down the toilet every day?"
  • All-Over-rated Club:   Paul Simon, Rod Stewart and Mick Jagger (Lifetime Achievement Award).
  • Eighty-sixth Wisconsin Town I Didn't Know Existed Until I Saw It Mentioned in a Green Bay Press-Gazette Obituary:  Rothschild, Wis.. (R.I.P., Phyllis M. Van Lieshout, , Green Bay Press-Gazette obituary, Aug. 18, 2019).  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,  Mountain, Ledgeview, Lunds, Suring, Lakewood, Beaver, Cloverleaf Lakes, Krakow, Pella, Townsend, Vandenbroek, Coleman, Spruce, Armstrong Creek, Lake Gogebic, North Chase, Navarino, Pequot Lakes, Buchanan,  Rio Creek, Humboldt, Mill Center, Carlton, White Potato Lake, Lark, Scott,  Newal,  Biron,  Menchalville and Underhill.
  • jimjustsaying's Product Name Suggestion of the Week:  For a weight-watcher variety of dairy product:  Not-So Cheese.
  • Overheard:  "It's "i" before "e," except after "c" and, of course, after "w," as in Budweiser."
  • Today's Latin Lesson:  Quis pessimus ut could venio? ("What's the worst that could happen?")

Saturday, October 26, 2019


A universal flu vaccine?
The holy grail of flu research is a universal vaccine that would provide lasting protection against all forms of the virus, but it remains elusive. There have been clinical trials in the past, with the National Institutes of Health beginning a new round of tests on humans this year.  The hope is to train the immune system by targeting the stem of a protein on the virus, which varies little from strain to strain.

However, our bodies don’t generate many antibodies to target this part of the virus, instead focusing on the frequently changing head.  Because of a process called “imprinting--in which the immune system learns how to fight viruses based on the first encounter--it’s difficult to teach the body new habits.  “I don’t think we’re that close at all,” says Michael Osterholm, director of the University of Minnesota’s Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy.  “I think the kind of work that’s gone on has been critical and important, but it’s only the first 5 feet of what would need to be a 100-foot rope.”
--The Week
Corruption that’s legal is still corrupt
When did “whatever federal law allows” become the standard for ethical behavior among the D.C. elite?  Hunter Biden didn’t break any laws in taking a lucrative sinecure with a Ukrainian natural gas company, but he obviously traded on his position as the son of a U.S. vice president. Unfortunately, his behavior is typical of circles in which America’s leading lights use their connections and access to insider policy information to enrich themselves.
Cofer Black, George W. Bush’s CIA counter-terrorism chief, joined Biden on Burisma Holdings’ board.  Paul Manafort worked for Ukrainian president Viktor Yanukovych, a Moscow-linked kleptocrat ousted from power in 2014.  

So did Gregory Craig, President Obama’s White House counsel. Former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright founded a hedge fund that took a stake in an energy company that does business with a U.S. government entity closely linked to the State Department.  In fact, scratch into the bios of many former U.S. officials who were in charge of foreign or security policy in administrations of either party, and you will find "consulting" firms and hedge-fund gigs monetizing their names and connections.  How did we ever convince ourselves that this was not corruption?

--Sarah Chayes,
The backlash to the techlash
It’s fashionable to complain about technology, but the evidence suggests we love our devices as much as ever.   Smart-home tech such as the Ring video-doorbell system continues to fly off shelves; Amazon says it has sold 100 million Alexa devices.  Last quarter, Twitter added 5 million new daily users, while Snapchat grew by 7 percent.  Even Facebook added 8 percent to its daily user base, growing it to 1.59 billion people worldwide, even though it’s hard to imagine a more backlashable company.  The fact is that we really, really like much of what technology has to offer, and most of us are willing to overlook significant potential downsides in exchange for rather trivial payoffs.
--Rob Walker, New York Times
Court packing: A good or bad idea?
Democrats might beat President Trump at the ballot box in 2020, but unless something changes, they’re going to lose to Trump in the courtroom for decades to come.  Thanks to the hardball tactics used by Senate Republicans in blocking President Obama’s appointments, Trump has already appointed more than 150 lifetime federal judges and two Supreme Court justices.  Most Americans, not incidentally, voted against Trump in 2016.  Even if Democrats regain the White House and Senate in future years, his judges will entrench minority rule for a generation because they’re almost certain to overturn ambitious progressive legislation.  That’s why Democrats should play hardball back by expanding the number of federal and Supreme Court justices—yes, packing the courts.  All it takes to change the number of federal judges is an act of Congress. We are a democratic republic, not a judge-ocracy.
--Jamelle Bouie, New York Times
The imperial Trump presidency
President Trump’s lawyers want the courts to declare that the president is above the law.  Trump [recently] asked a court to block New York prosecutors from requiring an accounting firm to turn over his personal and corporate tax returns.  Trump’s lawsuit claims the president is constitutionally protected “not just from indictment but also from investigation.” That’s squarely at odd  with the Supreme Court’s landmark ruling in U.S. v. Nixon, which rejected President Nixon’s claim that he was protected by absolute privilege and ordered him to comply with a subpoena in the Watergate probe.  

Now, though, Trump has revived Nixon’s argument and seems to be using this case to ask the Supreme Court to nullify U.S. v. Nixon.  The newest justice may well be on board: In 2009, Brett Kavanaugh urged Congress to enact a law overruling Nixon, thereby shielding sitting presidents from investigation.  Should Kavanaugh and the other four conservative justices take that matter into their own hands, Nixon’s long-mocked claim that when the president does something, that means that it is not illegal  would actually become true.

--David Lurie,
A lost continent in the Mediterranean
Geologists have discovered the location of a long-lost continent, the remnants of which can still be seen throughout the Mediterranean today. The continent of Greater Adria formed some 240 million years ago when a Greenland-size chunk of continental crust broke off from North Africa. That new continent was mostly covered by shallow seas and was shortlived—about 100 million to 130 million years ago, tectonic shifts caused it to slide beneath Southern Europe. 

Most of Greater Adria disappeared into the Earth’s mantle, but its top layers of sedimentary rock were scraped off, creating Italy’s Apennine Mountains, parts of the Alps, Turkey’s Taurus range, and mountains in the Balkans and Greece.  The only remaining intact piece of the lost continent is a strip of land running from Turin, in northern Italy, to the heel of Italy’s boot in the south—a strip that geologists had already named Adria. 

Scientists had known for some time that another continent must have existed in the Mediterranean, because of the region’s tangled geology. Researchers at Utrecht University in the Netherlands untangled that history with advanced software that reconstructs the movement of tectonic plates, reports Using geological data from more than 30 countries, they were able to piece together what the continent looked like and how it had moved away from Africa. “Forget Atlantis,” says lead author Douwe van Hinsbergen. “Without realizing it, vast numbers of tourists spend their holiday each year on the lost continent of Greater Adria.”
--The Week
Democracy?  What's that?
The word “democracy” appears nowhere in the two most fundamental founding documents of our nation--the Declaration of Independence and the U.S. Constitution.  The founders had utter contempt for democracy. James Madison, the acknowledged father of the Constitution, wrote in Federalist Paper No. 10, that in a pure democracy “there is nothing to check the inducement to sacrifice the weaker party or the obnoxious individual.”

John Adams said: “Remember, democracy never lasts long. It soon wastes, exhausts, and murders itself. There was never a democracy yet that did not commit suicide.” U.S. Supreme Court Chief Justice John Marshall observed, “Between a balanced republic and a democracy, the difference is like that between order and chaos.”

The U.S. Constitution is replete with anti-majority rule, undemocratic provisions.  One provision, heavily criticized, is the Electoral College.  In their wisdom, the framers gave us the Electoral College so that in presidential elections, heavily populated states could not run roughshod over sparsely populated states.  In order to amend the Constitution, it requires a two-thirds vote of both Houses, or two-thirds of state legislatures, to propose an amendment, and requires three-fourths of state legislatures for ratification.

Part of the reason for having a bicameral Congress is that it places another obstacle to majority rule.  Fifty-one senators can block the wishes of 435 representatives and 49 senators. The president, with a veto, can thwart the will of all 535 members of Congress. It takes a two-thirds vote, not just a majority, of both houses of Congress to override that presidential veto.

--Walter Williams, Creators Syndicate
Stuck in the slow lane
Driverless cars are arriving en masse in the streets of Silicon Valley neighborhoods, and residents aren’t pleased. As the tech giants try to sell the rest of the world on self-driving cars, their own neighbors are crowding community meetings to express their concerns.  They say the software that controls the cars still needs to be trained on real-life situations: left-hand turns, bikers, children running out into the streets.  Residents complain that the slow-moving self-driving vehicles continually clog up traffic. “They drive like either geriatrics or 17-year-olds who have very limited experience,” said one.

--Faiz Siddiqui, Washington Post
China and U.S. businesses:  The big sellout
***It’s not just the NBA.   Hollywood studios now routinely scrub films of storylines and images that China finds offensive.   U.S. airlines and hotel chains edit their maps to avoid describing Taiwan as a separate country.  ESPN even ordered its reporters not to criticize China while covering the Morey story.  If these craven corporations will self-censor even on U.S. soil to appease China’s autocratic rulers, then Americans owe them nothing but contempt.

--John Daniel Davidson,

***It may be too late.   Our two economies are so entangled at this point that the U.S. severing ties with China over its human rights abuses would “cause economic devastation to millions of workers,” not just in the U.S. and China but also around the world. Are Americans willing to give up their iPhones, TikTok, and a vast array of inexpensive consumer goods to punish China over its human rights violations?

--Derek Thompson,
The pigs that use tools
Researchers have spotted pigs using tools—a first for this animal, which is known for its intelligence.  Many wild animals, such as chimpanzees and dolphins, make use of tools. But until now, neither wild nor domestic swine have ever been seen doing the same. That changed when Meredith Root-Bernstein, an ecologist, observed a wild pig in a Parisian zoo picking up a piece of bark in its mouth and digging in the dirt with it.  Root-Bernstein hypothesized that the Visayan warty pig—a critically endangered species from the Philippines—was nest-building, something the animals do every six months to prepare for the arrival of piglets.

Colleagues who returned to the zoo the next spring confirmed her theory.  Three of the four pigs in the pen were using tools to create a homey nest: a pit filled with leaves. Subsequent visits yielded the same finding.  Root-Bernstein says it isn’t yet clear why the pigs use tools, given that their snouts appear better suited for the task. “Learned things and cultural things work that way,” she tells “Maybe it just feels like the right thing to do.”

--The Week
Ignoring the national debt
A decade ago, Americans clamored in outrage over the government’s growing mountain of debt.  Today, as debt explodes at the rate of $1 trillion a year to a total of $22.6 trillion, outrage has given way to . . . "crickets.”  The Tea Party movement that raised such fierce objections to President Obama’s profligate spending has gone silent; pitched battles over the government’s debt limit have ended.  President Trump promised to eliminate the national debt, but he and Congress have agreed to spend $4.7 trillion for the coming fiscal year, or $700 billion more than in 2017.  No one seems to care.

Democrats seeking to replace Trump, in fact, are promising to add trillions more in spending by wiping out student debt, providing guaranteed income to every American and replacing private insurance with Medicare for All.  The interest payments on our debt have soared to $400 billion this year, and when low interest rates inevitably go up, the U.S.’s interest obligations will skyrocket to $700 billion or more per year and probably surpass what we spend on national defense.   This is madness.   Americans can continue to pretend not to see what’s coming, but sooner or later, the bill for our irresponsible spending will come due.

--Jeff Jacoby, Boston Globe


The elephant in the room
GOP senators clam up as impeachment talk grows 

Indulging and rationalizing
The lies we tell ourselves about the virtues of food

Keep on truckin' . . . and killin'?
Long-haul drivers are a murderous lot

Locked up but locked out of health care
Inmate dies over insurance concerns

A Supreme decision
Court to decided if "sex" includes sexual orientation



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!