Sunday, July 7, 2019

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
  • I recently heard someone say, in response to a lame policy proposal: "That's like putting lipstick on a pig!"
  • Ergo, what shade of lipstick looks best on a pig?  (I'd go with a frosted purple, but, hey, that's just me.)
  • jimjustsaying's Favorite June Headline:  "More Labs Retiring Apes as Studies Finish"
  • (Does that mean that the Social Security Administration is going to run out of money even sooner?)
  • I was hoping President Trump would wear a camou tie for his July 4 Tank and Pony Show, but no such luck.   (I was also hoping for a rerun of "Picknicking with the Gingriches" to highlight my Independence Day television viewing, but there again, no such luck.)
  • No surprise that Mad Magazine finally gave up the ghost.  The world has gone madder and wackier to the point of almost being beyond satirization.   I'd prefer a saner society in which Mad would stand out and thrive, but not much chance of that anymore.  
  • I see where "Real Time" host Bill Maher has an ownership stake in the New York Mets.  No truth to the rumor that he's lobbying for a team made up entirely of left-handed pitchers and left-handed hitters.  
  • (Memo to Bill:  Your monologues would be just as funny without the "f-bombs" and the other vulgarities.  I guess "working clean" isn't hip and is therefore out of the question for some of these folks.  Another charming feature of cable TV.)
  • Drudging Around:  Gonorrhea May Be Transmitted Through Kissing . . . Couple Films Sex Tape in Driverless Tesla . . .  Average American Hasn't Made New Friend in 5 Years . . .  DIY Coffin Clubs Take Sting Out of Death . . . Cops:  Suspect Had 7 Syringes Hidden in Body Cavity . . . Frat Busted for "Hazing" Dog . . . Study:  Men Think About Sports More Than Sex! . . . Navy Releases Probe in "Sky Penis" Drawing . . . Chimpanzees Spotted Cracking Open Tortoises for Meat . . . Men:  Sex Dolls Way Better Than Women . . . Alabama Warns Drivers Not to Eat Chicken Tenders Spilled on Highway  . . . Rare Penny Found in Child's Lunch Money Could Auction for $1.7 million . . . Women Can't Hear Men's Voices Due to Rare Condition . . . Humans Wearing "Teledildonic" Suits Can Have Sex With Each Other Over the Internet.  (Thanks to Matt Drudge and his merry band of aggregators for these entertaining morsels.)
  • "Anvils appear 1,000 percent more in cartoons than in real life."--Demetri Martin 
  • Redundancy Patrol:  "Each and every," "natural habitat," "end result," and a fairly new one that boggles the mind:  "price point."  What does "point" add that "price" doesn't already say?  
  • jimjustsaying's favorite Media Words (words you only encounter in print or electronic news media and never hear a real person use in everyday life):  Debauchery, retinue and gambit.
  • Do animals get their blood pressure taken?  Is high blood pressure a "silent killer" for them too?
  • James Woods on working with Robert De Niro and other Method actors:  
  • "It's just a bunch of old s---.  If it's a great script and you're working with good people, what's the problem?  I'm tired of the Actors Studio bull---- that has ruined movies for 40 years.  All these guys running around pretending they're turnips--they're so  annoying.  It's 4 a.m. and you're trying to get some shot done, and they're with a coach moaning about how they can't feel this, can't feel that.  Just say the lines and get on with it!"
  • Broadcast blather:  "We'll talk more about that 'on the other side of traffic.' "  Let's see: "On the other side of"--five words.  "After"--one word.  Do they get paid by the word?  
  • I keep reading and hearing more and more about celebrity chefs.   Celebrity  busboys?  Not so much.  That's next.
  • Memo to producers of newspaper advertising inserts:  “WOW! doesn’t work for me anymore next to a loss-leader price tag.  I think we’re all pretty much "WOWed out" by now.  (A recent insert for Walgreen’s had 36 WOW! items.  Enough already!)
  • Tell you what, advertisers:  Just tell me the product and the price, and I'll decide whether it's a WOW! for me or not.
  • (Better yet, why not come up with some more novel wording, something more attention-getting, such as:  HOLY SHIT!  Duracell AA's, 4 pack, 99 cents!!!" . . . Or, "JESUS H. CHRIST!  Snickers 2-pack, 89 cents!!! Now we're talkin' "grabbers," are we not?!)
  • Three things no one has ever had a craving for: Water chestnuts, bean sprouts and Worcestershire sauce.
  • There will never be a Richard Belzer Lookalike Contest.  (Love "The Belz," though.  He gets my vote for best comic/serious actor combo platter.)
  • My favorite all-time Ring Lardner line:  “Shut up,” he explained.
  • Would anyone be surprised if PETA objected to the rating of engines in horsepower?  Who knows, perhaps they already have! 
  • jimjustsaying's Catty Comment of the Month:  Barbra Streisand was recently quoted in the London Daily Mirror as saying she can't stand the sound of her own voice.  Really? What took her so long?
  • Today's Latin Lesson:  Ut res orator. ("That being said . . .")

THE QUOTE RACK

The global fear of 'too few young people'
A new concern is taking hold across the developed world: rapidly aging populations that scare policymakers.

Why it matters: Population growth is key to maintaining demand for housing, filling jobs yet to be automated, and paying into pension systems pressed by demographic realities and slowing economic growth.

"You basically have a very large portion of mankind that is aging and then the workforce is shrinking. But I would say the G20 in particular are aging faster," said Angel Gurria, secretary general of the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development.
The big picture: Some countries--like the U.S.--are feeling these issues less thanks to immigration. Others--like China and Japan--are more restrictive, and feeling the bite in projected growth.

As societies get richer and women get more rights, they work more and have increased access to contraceptives.  While Europe and East Asia are already projected to lose population by 2050, the Western Hemisphere will mostly add people, and Africa's population is projected to soar, per UN projections.  The developing world is predicted to bear the brunt of climate change impacts, including potential political instability, meaning many more people might want to move to developed countries.

As we've seen in Europe and the U.S. in recent years, that isn't going well.
The bottom line: Earth has plenty of workers to do the jobs we need, just not in the countries where the jobs are right now. Fixing that mismatch is shaping up to be a central political challenge for the upcoming decades.
--Axios PM
Trump is right about China
Nearly all of the United States presidents and foreign policy experts have been wrong about China.  But President Trump has gotten this one right: The U.S. and China “are locked in a competitive struggle” that may define the 21st Century.  In recent decades, Beijing has proved that its state-run economy is at least the equal of the West’s capitalism:  “Beijing has lifted more than 850 million people out of poverty and sustained the fastest economic growth in human history.” 

Most experts believed that growing wealth and modernization would inevitably liberalize Chinese society. But when the Soviet Union fell and communism went into retreat, “the ‘end of history’ skipped China.” Instead of succumbing to the liberal international order, Beijing exploited it to create “unfair trade advantages for its favored domestic corporations.” China also stole so much intellectual property from the West that former National Security Agency Director Keith Alexander called it “the greatest transfer of wealth in history.”

 Trump’s determination to address these unfair practices “doesn’t get the praise or attention it deserves.” Forging a more realistic China policy will be difficult, but it must start with recognizing that our interests are “at odds” with theirs.
--Amy Zegart, TheAtlantic.com
When your eyes and ears lie to you
Deepfakes are coming , and  we can no longer believe what we see.  Several weeks ago, pro-Trump online activists circulated a doctored video of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi that appeared to show her “drunkenly slurring her words.”  The video was created by taking a real clip, slowing it down, and adjusting the pitch of her voice to make her seem drunk and incoherent.  We are now entering an era when knowing the origin of an internet video is crucial, because anyone can doctor videos with easily available tools--while highly skilled dirty tricksters can create “full-body animations,” making politicians or famous people “appear to say things that they’ve never said at all.” 

Fake news will be far more powerful when gullible millions see and hear with their own eyes and ears what partisans or foreign hackers want them to believe.  That’s why it’s legitimate for journalists to start tracking down creators of mysterious web content” and publicly identifying them. To know whether a disputed video is real, we’ll need to know who made it”--and why.
--Regina Rini, New York Times
White meat’s cholesterol risk
Eating white meat may raise your cholesterol levels as much as eating red meat.  Scientists at Children’s Hospital Oakland Research Institute recruited 113 adults, ages 21 to 65, to eat three rotating month-long diets: one centered on lean cuts of beef, the second on lean cuts of chicken and the third on plant proteins.  Half the participants’ diets--irrespective of their main protein source--were high in saturated fats, found in foods such as butter and cheese, while half were low.  At the end of each month, researchers measured the participants’ levels of LDL cholesterol, the so-called bad cholesterol that clogs arteries.  They found that white meat raised LDL levels just as much as red meat, even when saturated fat levels were equal.  Only the plant-based diets produced healthy cholesterol levels. 

Study author Ronald Krauss cautions that his research does not rule out the possibility that other effects of red-meat consumption could contribute to heart disease.  Further research is needed, he said.
--NBCNews.com
No need to walk 10,000 steps
If you rarely walk your daily step target, don’t sweat it. New research has found that the 10,000 steps–a-day standard--a popular benchmark for adequate fitness and the default goal for many popular wearable activity trackers--is on the high side.   Harvard researchers gave fitness trackers to 16,000 women ages 62 to 101, recorded their step counts for seven days, and then monitored their health for a roughly four-year follow-up period. After adjusting for diet, lifestyle and other factors, the researchers found that the women who walked about 4,400 steps a day had a 41 percent lower risk of premature death than the least active, who logged about 2,700 steps.  Walking more than 4,400 steps further decreased the risk level only moderately--and the benefits plateaued at around 7,500. 

Lead author I-Min Lee says the 10,000-step goal should be lowered to encourage more people to get walking.  “If you’re someone who’s sedentary,” she says, “even a very modest increase brings you significant health benefits.”  She found that the 10,000-step target isn’t actually based on research--it stems from a 1960s marketing campaign for a Japanese pedometer that played on the fact that the Japanese character for 10,000 resembles a man walking.
--The Atlantic.com
The 100-day smell test
A wave of startups are designing clothes for people who loathe doing laundry.  Countering decades of marketing from the cleaning industry that have conditioned many people to overwash their garments, several brands are extolling the virtues of recycling your attire--without the odoriferous consequences.  Unbound Merino “creates wool travel clothes that can go weeks without being washed.”  A brand called Pangaia boasts “$85 seaweed-fiber T-shirts that are treated with peppermint oil to keep the shirts fresher between washes.”  

Mac Bishop, founder of Wool & Prince, another no-wash outfitter, said he wore one of his company’s shirts for 100 days without washing it. The company offered a free $128 dress to women who would do the same with it--and received such an influx of women eager to take the challenge, it had to limit the free dresses to 50.
--Elizabeth Segran, Fast Company
Trump fires up base for 2020
Don’t be fooled by Trump’s theatrics.  This is not the ham-fisted Trump campaign of 2016. The president’s team has spent 2 1/2 years building “a robust, modern, professional operation” with operatives in nine regions.  He had a $40 million war chest even before the kickoff and raised $24.8 million on his first day running.  Plus, this time he has the Republican Party behind him. Don’t forget the moment in history we’re at, either, said Jon Gabriel in the Arizona Republic. If you think America will dump Trump, consider the tide of like-minded politicians in Australia, Britain and Brazil who have triumphed.  “Take a look around the globe. Trump is the new normal."
--Gabby Orr, Politico.com
The reverse reference check
Too many hiring managers lie to job candidates about what a job demands.  It used to be easy to make a job sound better than it was.  No longer. In the era of Glassdoor and LinkedIn, savvy candidates will research the good, bad and ugly about your company before interviewing.  Lying results in hires who are likely to be disappointed with the job and leave.  To avoid that, one senior film executive, Vincent Szwajkowski, asks candidates if they would like to conduct reverse reference checks on him.  If they accept, he gives the names of two people who worked for him--usually including one person who did not work out.
--Atta Tarki and Jeff Weiss, Harvard Business Review

Retail pain means lost jobs, too
Retail continues to suffer--and the trade wars don’t help.  From January through mid-June, U.S. companies announced plans to close some 7,000 brick-and-mortar stores, more closures than in all of 2018.” Many of the dark or soon-to-be dark storefronts are household names such as Payless ShoeSource, Gap, J.C. Penney, and Family Dollar, and the industry has lost 160,000 jobs since 2017.  

Yet for some reason retail’s demise hasn’t inspired nearly the same level of sympathy as have similar challenges in other industries.  Perhaps it is because there’s no Rust Belt–like locus for presidential candidates to pander to.  Or perhaps it’s because retail isn’t as ‘manly’ as manufacturing: About half of retail employees are women. 

Unfortunately, President Trump’s tariffs are kicking these companies while they’re already down.  His plan to levy new duties on $300 billion worth of Chinese goods will stress already-thin profit margins and raise prices on cellphones, clothing, toys, shoes, and so on.  Retail companies, understandably, are freaking out.  They source much of their inventory from China and can’t reroute their supply chains easily, cheaply, or quickly.  Trump has cushioned the impact of the trade war for other industries through taxpayer-funded bailouts and subsidies.  But no such rescue seems in the offing for retail.  After all, how would you bail out nearly every taxpayer in the country?
--Catherine Rampell, Washington Post

Mega-farms get a sweet trade bailout
Rich farmers, not mom-and-pop farms, will be the big winners in Trump’s $28 billion tariff bailout.   Soybean exports have cratered, thanks to the China trade war, and pork, corn, grain, and dairy producers are all worried anew, now that the president has announced plans to impose tariffs on Mexican imports.  

To cover most of their losses, Trump issued a $12 billion farm bailout last year and an additional $16 billion bailout [recently].  But most of that money will go not to the small holdings that account for 89 percent of American farms, but to large industrialized operations.  Most of them are already major beneficiaries of federal crop support programs that steer billions in subsidies and low-priced crop insurance--including insurance that already covers some of their losses in the trade war.   
Meanwhile, reports from the prairie states indicate that the trade war is driving many small farmers out of business.  Trump tweeted recently that “our great Patriot farmers have been forgotten” for many years.  That’s not true:  U.S. agriculture has been among the most heavily subsidized sectors of the economy.  It’s just that with the tariff bailout, as with other farm subsidies, the biggest payments will go to those  who need them least.
--Michael Hiltzik, Los Angeles Times

THE LINK TANK

Democrats leftward turn clearly a response to Clinton
2016 loser still made history
https://www.google.com/url?sa=t&rct=j&q=&esrc=s&source=web&cd=1&cad=rja&uact=8&ved=2ahUKEwjzzs6L_qHjAhVPVc0KHVJmAtkQFjAAegQIARAB&url=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.nationalreview.com%2F2019%2F07%2Fhillary-clinton-democratic-party-leftward-turn%2F&usg=AOvVaw2bdsLd0eFkAhSDen_jIrbW

It's Nancy Pelosi's parade
'If the left doesn’t think I’m left enough, so be it'
https://www.nytimes.com/2019/07/06/opinion/sunday/nancy-pelosi-pride-parade.html?action=click&module=Opinion&pgtype=Homepage

To construe the Constitution, look to the Declaration
What the Founders intended is key
http://www.jewishworldreview.com/cols/will070419.php3

9 things that keep me up at night
Deepfakes and other horrors of the modern world
https://www.chicagotribune.com/columns/eric-zorn/ct-column-deepfakes-bitcoin-trump-fears-20190705-7jydakt2b5eeto5echzwdoba5y-story.html#nt=oft-Double%20Chain~Flex%20Feature~trib-voices-curated-chain~zorn-fri-330p~~1~yes-art~curated~curatedpage

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.



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!