Tuesday, June 6, 2017

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. And they're now offering FREE SHIPPING IN THE CONTINENTAL U.S. 
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
  • Morning in America:   Maniacs are driving into crowded sidewalks, the prison population is way up, church attendance is way down . . . and people are still sneaking into the express lane of the supermarket with more than 12 items.  (Which of these problems is easiest to eradicate?  Not so sure it would be the third one.)
  • I was talking to an African-American friend recently, and I used the most explosive word  in the English language these days:  "Pre-existing."
  • jimjustsaying's advice to all 2017 graduates:  Work hard, be honest, and never let failure go to your head!
  • (And if you still have your high school graduation tassels hanging from your rear-view mirror, you are most likely a danger to yourself and others.  Counselors are standing by.)
  • I'm always amused by people--and we all know some--whose most ultimate expression of  praise, delight or satisfaction--whether they've just sampled a wine that they instantly love, or tasted a dish they're going to order again, or sampled a snack food they're going to be addicted to--is . . . "Hey, that's not bad."  Or its slight variant:  "Hey, that's not too bad . . . ."  (Hey, folks, try to curb your enthusiasm.  Control yourselves!)
  • Sad commentary on our society:  How do we describe a person who has achieved great fame, achievement or prominence?  As a statesman?  A great humanitarian?  An upstanding public servant?  No--as a rock star!  As in, "Bill Clinton achieved rock-star status. . . ."  (I know he did the sex part of it, but trashing hotel rooms?  Not so sure.)
  • "You can either grow old gracefully or begrudgingly.  I chose both."--Roger Moore
  • Why are prosecutors' feet rarely held to the fire when DNA exonerates a wrongfully imprisoned man, as has happened quite often in the recent past?
  • According to the Wall St. Journal, they enjoy broad immunity from civil suits and a measure of professional courtesy that discourages defense lawyers and judges from filing complaints,  attorneys say.
  • "That is as it should be," according to Scott Burns, executive director of the National District Attorneys Association.  "If prosecutors could easily be sued or sanctioned in the rare instance of a mistake, they may then err on the side of caution in bringing charges, to the detriment of society." 
  • (Does that sound as self-serving to you as it does to me?)
  • Smoking is a leading cause of statistics.
  • According to "The end of sand," a recent story in the New Yorker,  not only is sand in shorter supply than previously thought, but there are other factors involved as well.
  • Ordinary beach sand, the article says, tends to be too firm for [professional] beach volleyball; it would cause players who dive into it to break fingers, tear hamstrings and suffer other impact injuries.
  • Thus, for the final event of last year's world tour in Toronto, special sand had to be trucked in, because the sand at a nearby public Toronto beach didn't meet the Federation Internationale de Volleyball's strict standards.  Thirteen hundred and sixty tons from a nearby quarry, housed in 35 tractor-trailer loads, provided the sandy surface at a temporary stadium that was erected for the event.
  • More sand:  Think the biggest challenge in building a golf course in Dubai would be creating fairways and greens in a desert environment?  Actually, the New Yorker piece by David Owen informs us, the hard parts are the areas that are supposed to be sandy, because, it turns out, deserts make lousy sand traps.  "The wind-blown grains are so rounded that golf balls sink into them, so the sand in the bunkers on Dubai's many golf courses is imported."
  • Whatever happened to Martin Mull?
  • One difference between Walmart and Target:  No motorized wheel chairs (or motorized shopping carts, or whatever they're called) at the latter.  At least I've never seen one there.
  • You didn't hear it from me, but I've heard that mountain-climbing is going to be banned before long because mountains don't conform to the Americans With Disabilities Act.
  • You can tell a lot about a guy the way he plays poker, eats his soup and how often he checks his cellphone or his tire inflation.  
  • What if:  An endangered animal was eating all the endangered plants?  A dairy cow was lactose intolerant?  A baby eagle was afraid of heights?
  • Good word, long overdue.   Merriam-Webster announced it is adding “sheeple” to its official dictionary.  A combination of “sheep” and “people,” the derogatory term is used to describe "people who are docile, compliant, or easily influenced."
  • jimjustsaying's Party Ice-Breaker of the Week:  "Say [actual partygoer's name here], did you know that researchers in the U.K. found that shouting expletives during physical exertion can boost strength, especially during tasks that require short, intense bursts of power like opening a tight-lidded jar?" 
  • ( “We have yet to understand the power of swearing,” one researcher concluded.)
  • Newspaper Obituary Headline Nickname of the Month:  "Happy Bob." As in Robert "Happy Bob" Madoche,  Door County (Wis.) Advocate, May 27, 2017.
  • jimjustsaying's Word That Should Exist But Doesn't:  "Gladhandling:  v. To attempt with frustrating results to find and separate the ends of a plastic sandwich or trash bag."--from "Sniglets," Rich Hall & Friends.
  • Today's Latin Lesson:  A calida pulmentum.   ("A hot mess.")  

Monday, May 29, 2017

THE QUOTE RACK

Would Pence be an upgrade?
President Mike Pence?  The investigations and scandals surrounding President Trump have created a growing buzz in Washington about a potential Pence presidency--both from Republicans wistful for the days of a functional White House and from Democrats hoping for the lesser of two evils.  Clearly, the vice president would be far more competent and would make the country safer.  A former congressman and governor with 16 years in government, Pence is sane, thoughtful, and infinitely less likely to blunder into a nuclear war; unlike the president, he has also read the Constitution.  Granted, he’d be  the most conservative president of modern times, an evangelical Christian fiercely opposed to abortion, gay marriage and the expansion of LGBT rights.  But given the risks of an unstable, authoritarian Trump, I’d opt for President Pence--the sooner the better.
--Doyle McManus,  Los Angeles Times

Is Mueller Trump's worst nightmare?
[Special Counsel] Robert Mueller’s bipartisan credibility is a double-edged sword.   If he finds no evidence of collusion or crimes, the country is likely to accept that conclusion as "unbiased, fair, and factual."  But if he does, it will be damn near impossible for this administration to pretend it was a partisan smear.  That means Republicans--from Trump on down--will now live or die by what Mueller finds out.  It’s always possible a panicked Trump could decide to fire Mueller just as he fired Comey, said The New York Times in an editorial.  But the last president to fire a special prosecutor was Richard Nixon--and we know what happened to him.
--Chris Cillizza, CNN.com. 

Manchester musings
--This was a gruesome reminder from ISIS that it remains a relevant force.  The group has lost 66 percent of its territory in Iraq and half its land in Syria to U.S.-backed forces.  But it still has the manpower to stage atrocities in the West:  An estimated 5,000 European jihadists, including 800 Britons, have headed to Iraq and Syria in the past three years.  Even if these extremists stay in the Middle East, they can still inspire attacks or ask friends back home to take part in operations.
--Robin Wright, NewYorker.com

--The West has become too comfortable with terror.  We could reduce the danger by radically increasing our combat presence in failed states where the terrorists train--Libya, Syria, Yemen--and by reducing immigration from jihadist regions.   But we’re not prepared to pay the necessary price in blood or political capital. So there will be more Manchesters, more Parises, more Nices, and more Orlandos, and every few months, we’ll put memorial ribbons up on Facebook and Twitter.
--David French, NationalReview.com. 

--For now, there’s little that authorities can do to improve security at music venues and other crowded places.  Many American and European stadiums and venues already use metal detectors, bomb-detection technology, and armies of security guards inside their facilities. But terrorists can render those safeguards moot by attacking crowds before they ever reach security--outside a concert or inside an airport arrivals hall. There is always somewhere to hit.
--Richard Winton,  Los Angeles Times

Why everyone thinks they’re losing
One of the strangest aspects of the Trump era is that nearly everyone seems convinced their side is losing.  Liberals, of course, are morose because a man they view as a racist, a sexist, a crook, and perhaps even a traitor occupies the White House, while his fellow Republicans control Congress and a majority of state legislatures.  Traditional conservatives are unhappy that the GOP has become unmoored from their small-government, respectable ideology, that a charlatan" of incoherent views now rules the party.  Even the right-wing populists feel like they’re losing, because a clique of elite Manhattan Democrats, including Jared Kushner and Ivanka Trump, have pushed aside fire-breathing nationalist Steve Bannon.  Besides, Trump can’t get any legislation passed because of a hopelessly fractured congressional GOP.  

The widespread sense of panic and loss is probably responsible for the fact that the militant left and Trumpists both now justify censoring opposing views.  It’s a remarkable, and perhaps unprecedented, moment in our history.  Everyone--regardless of ideology--has a sinking feeling that in the battle for the nation’s soul, we’ve already lost.
--Will Rahn, CBSNews.com

Net neutrality is already dead
I’m sorry to be the bearer of bad news:  The internet is not a fair place.   Net neutrality advocates were alarmed [recently] when the Federal Communications Commission began scrapping rules that required internet service providers like Comcast and AT&T to treat all web data equally.  We’re likely to see years of fighting over this decision, though it won’t be of much use.

No matter what happens at the FCC, the ideals behind net neutrality are essentially dead already.  The Obama-era regulations now being rolled back prevented internet providers from charging companies like Netflix and YouTube for special "fast lanes" into consumers’ phones and computers, and from slowing down competitors’ content.

In theory, these rules let the internet’s little guys compete on an equal footing with the titans.  In practice, however, tech giants already have plenty of perfectly legal tools to steer customers toward their preferred content.  Netflix and Facebook, for instance, pay internet firms to connect directly into the providers’ broadband plumbing, which speeds their path into consumers’ homes.  That’s allowed even under the rules now being dismantled.  Telecom companies can also give preferential treatment to their own services without slowing down rivals.

It just goes to show that stricter government regulations probably won’t change America’s broadband reality: The rich and powerful dictate the internet’s winners and losers.
--Shira Ovide, Bloomberg.com

Apple won’t stay on top forever
Apple just became the first U.S. company with an $800 billion market capitalization.  Yet even from such a lofty position, the company looks vulnerable to being eclipsed in the years ahead.   Apple’s business model is dependent upon the success of its hardware.  That makes Apple more like the manufacturing giants of the 20th Century than like the software and digital players of the 21st, and plenty of those earlier giants have all but disappeared.  Just 12 percent of the companies on the 1955 Fortune 500 list are still on the list today. . . .

Smartphones and other devices are getting cheaper and more interchangeable. Most apps and data now live in the cloud, so it’s easy to switch between device makers.  One need only look at BlackBerry, which went from 20 percent global market share in 2009 to roughly zero percent today, to see how fast things can change.  For the near future, Apple is likely to grow and stay dominant, but even a trillion-dollar vote of confidence now hardly portends business immortality.
--Zachary Karabell, Wired.com

THE LINK TANK

Time for Priebus to go
Trump needs a "first among equals" if his presidency is to survive
https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/trumps-presidency-hinges-on-this-choice/2017/05/15/2ae84534-343d-11e7-b373-418f6849a004_story.html?utm_term=.198ab7d5ff25&wpisrc=nl_opinions&wpmm=1

The unfreeing of American workers
Creeping along the road to serfdom
https://www.nytimes.com/2017/05/22/opinion/american-workers-noncompete-agreements.html 

Make kids work harder
A Nebraska senator advocates hard physical work for young people to build the "scar tissue of character"
https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/the-way-to-restore-american-self-reliance-make-kids-work-harder/2017/05/26/70026b12-4168-11e7-8c25-44d09ff5a4a8_story.html?wpisrc=nl_opinionsA&wpmm=1

Globalization’s ill effects have been wildly exaggerated
What’s good politics is bad economics, and vice versa
https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/globalizations-ill-effects-have-been-wildly-exaggerated/2017/05/14/06d12334-3724-11e7-b373-418f6849a004_story.html?utm_term=.c40adbe48bff&wpisrc=nl_opinions&wpmm=1

Where did the great Hollywood baseball movie go?
In an era of analysts and HD broadcasts, audiences don't see players as larger than life anymore
https://www.nytimes.com/2017/05/23/magazine/where-did-the-great-hollywood-baseball-movie-go.html?rref=collection%2Fsectioncollection%2Fmagazine 

Words, wonks and Washington
On safety nets, swamp-draining, pump-priming and other misleading metaphors 
https://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/post-partisan/wp/2017/05/25/on-safety-nets-swamp-draining-pump-priming-and-other-misleading-metaphors/?wpisrc=nl_popns&wpmm=1

America's internet delusion
The "Internet of things" is also the "Internet of hazards"
http://link.washingtonpost.com/click/9667484.82706/aHR0cHM6Ly93d3cud2FzaGluZ3RvbnBvc3QuY29tL29waW5pb25zL2FtZXJpY2FzLWRhbmdlcm91cy1pbnRlcm5ldC1kZWx1c2lvbi8yMDE3LzA1LzIxLzFkM2RkZjMwLTNjOTgtMTFlNy04ODU0LTIxZjM1OTE4M2U4Y19zdG9yeS5odG1sP3dwaXNyYz1ubF9vcGluaW9ucyZ3cG1tPTE/5483c2293b35d0de428f8e75B02a0e797

Monday, May 1, 2017

POPCORN

By Jim Szantor

Rhetorical questions, questionable rhetoric and whimsical observations about the absurdities of contemporary life
  • Vanishing Americana:  When is the last time you saw a doghouse?   They seem to have gone the way of the outhouse.
  • New policy: I'm not subscribing  or resubscribing to any magazines that arrive in plastic bags.  New Yorker--safe; Vanity Fair--history. Publishers, take note.
  • Internet Click Bait Item of the Month:  "Does it really matter which time of day you shower?"
  • (Runnerup:  "The one thing you never noticed about Jackie O's shoes!")
  • jimjustsaying's Taco Bell Breakfast Menu Suggestions:  Eggs Over Queasy, Trash Brown  Potatoes, Tijuana Omelette, Borderline Pancakes, Goatmeal Chalupa, Enchilada e. Coli,  Tex-Mex Gasserole, Soft Shell Surprise and Cereal Killer Grande.
  • Has anyone ever asked to have their favorite painting or sculpture on display at their funeral or memorial service?  Music rules!
  • Best description yet of the "NPR voice" we all know but not all of us love (via James Wolcott in Vanity Fair/Teddy Wayne in the New York Times):
  •  " . . . that self-consciously offhand microphone intimacy where the ellipsis-dot pauses, wry curlicues of irony, and indecisive stammer project collegial sincerity instead of the traditional vocal-god authority of postwar radio announcers or former fashion plates of enunciation such as William F. Buckley Jr. . . .  The 'NPR voice' adds coy inflections and Frappuccino foam . . . and it's proved equally spry, versatile and civic spirited.  It's also become a shtick, proving yet again that imitation is the sincerest form of self-flattery."
  • Why are there hockey teams in cities that have never seen snow or ice?  They don't have beach volleyball teams in Siberia!
  • Speaking of sports, the Super Bowl and the NBA Finals brought into sharp focus the vast number of what I call "athlete impersonators" in this country.  Wearing a team's shirt or cap is one thing; wearing one with some player's name on it is another!  I greatly admire the pontiff, but I wouldn't dream of walking around wearing a sweatshirt that said Pope Francis on the back! (And, shouldn't his number be retired by now?)
  • Sometimes I feel like a Sony Mini-Disc in the Spotify of life!
  • Depressing note:  According to The Atlantic.com, the only United Nations member state that hasn’t ratified the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child is . . . the United States. There's your "American exceptionalism" for you!
  • jimjustsaying's Media Word of the Month (a word you encounter only in print and never hear a real person use in real life):  Miscreant.
  • Speaking of words, tailgating is a strange one. It can mean either (a) a rambunctious motorist following a vehicle too closely, or (b) cooking bratwurst or some other fatty meat in a stadium parking lot three hours before the actual sports event is to take place.
  • Take some polyester, wax, carbon black and fumed silica, Yellow 180, Red 122 and Blue 15:3, charge control agents, and what have you got?  Laser printer toner, Wired magazine reports.  (Kind of hard to work into a conversation, but there you have it.)
  • "Americans who overslept invented the word brunch."-- Joan Crawford
  • jimjustsaying's Cultural Note of the Month: How did yoga spread to the U.S.? Hindu monk Swami Vivekananda first introduced Americans to yoga in 1893, eventually starting an ashram in Los Angeles, The Week reports.
  • On the East Coast, an early populizer was Pierre Bernard, known as "The Great Oom," who taught yoga to society women. When it emerged that he had seduced several of them, he was dismissed as a charlatan.  (At least we now know how the yoga mat came into being!)
  •  "The future is already here; it’s just not evenly distributed yet."-- Novelist William Gibson
  • Newspaper Obituary Headline Nickname of the Month:  Smoke John. As in John C. "Smoke John” Johanowicz. Kenosha (Wis.) News, March 7, 2017.  R.I.P., Mr. Johanowicz.
  • jimjustsaying's Word That Doesn't Exist That Should of the Month: Percalevate.  n. To levitate oneself while trying to straighten out the sheets underneath."--"Unexplained Sniglets of the Universe," Rich Hall & Friends
  • What is the tipping point between being reluctant to admit how old you are . . . and being proud of how old you are? 
  • We 've all known people in both camps, but when do they cross over from being sheepish about their advancing age . . . and proud of how far they've made it ?
  • Beer bellies can be seen all around us, unless you're watching a beer commercial, wherein all imbibers look like Ironman Triathlon contestants.  
  • Overheard:  "He was dressed to the eights!"
  • Today's Latin Lesson: Quid est?  Ego te cogitavi in tesseras!  ("What? I thought you had the tickets!)

Sunday, April 30, 2017

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.